Sunday, September 29, 2013


I have never been a morning person. Upon hearing my alarm clock, I've often told myself, I have absolutely no interest in getting up right now. My phone buzzes to remind me of the meeting I need to be at in fifteen minutes. But I'd rather be asleep.

Oddly, on the rare occasions I've gotten up earlier than strictly necessary, I like mornings. I like the feeling that I've discovered "extra" time and my day will be better because of it. I like the quietness and fresh new sunlight.

I made a haircut appointment for eight o'clock on Saturday morning (yesterday), to force myself to get up earlier than my normal weekend hour. After the haircut I went to Panera and bought a loaf of bread to bring home and a four-cheese soufflé for breakfast. I sat in my truck eating the flaky creation and watched a street market setting up across the parking lot.

Little treats like these make me want to be a morning person. To take that extra time to just BE.

Just being is what I think a quiet time should feel like. I would like to be that person who gets up early and reads the Bible with a cup of coffee and the whole day ahead. But instead I've been groggily grabbing my earbuds and listening to a couple worship songs with my eyes closed for a few more precious minutes.

At least I haven't fallen back to sleep yet. That's something.

Sunday, September 8, 2013


I began seeing this image and line from The Hobbit movie all over Pinterest. And because I'm me, I started overthinking it. People want to "go on an adventure." But what does that mean? I hear myself and others applying the term adventure to a hike or a drive to an unfamiliar part of town. And something in me is dissatisfied. Are those really adventures? Why do I describe relatively safe and normal activities as adventures? It seems adventure means "anything out of my routine."

Consulting the dictionary yields these definitions of adventure: "an undertaking usually involving danger and unknown risks," "an exciting or remarkable experience," or maybe most telling, "to expose to danger or loss."

Danger and loss. Unknown risks. Bilbo is running jubilantly, if somewhat naively, towards them. He is swept away and into a larger story. I think this is what I want, or want to want, in an adventure. Sometimes I feel like I should devise some expedition for myself, that the story I'm living in is too small and I need to do something about it. There is probably some truth to that urge. I read an article on calling from Relevant recently that speaks to this:
So many people wait for their calling. They complain about their lives, lamenting that God hasn't shown them the path yet. Others live agnostically, as if everything depends on them. Neither of these is particularly fulfilling.
What does seem true is that we have a choice. Not to make our lives awesome or dull, but to choose to courageously follow the path ahead of us or not. At times, it will feel like everything is riding on you, but it's not. At others, it will feel as if you don't have to do any work and can just submit to the process; that is also not true.
I can't "make my life awesome" by manufacturing adventures. That smacks of pride and exhibition. Look at me, I'm cool! But neither should I be content with danger-free existence. Can I find a way to wait expectantly and courageously? To follow well the path that lies ahead, whether it fits my definitions of adventure or not? (And maybe I'll find, like Bilbo, that adventures are "Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things!")

Whatever comes, I'm pretty sure there will be an appropriate Tolkien quote. What would I do without him?

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Back to Reality

Is a sense of contentment so rare that I feel compelled to blog about it? Maybe it's because this time of contentment was unexpected. I expected to be anxious and sad--anxious about the future and sad about my boyfriend returning to another state.

Just as our half a summer together was a gift, so too is the peace I feel now that it's over. Earlier this month, I considered buying a computer game to lose myself in after he left. But I haven't felt the need. Partly because I realized that as a Christian I don't numb pain. I walk through it. And I'm coming to see the ache of parting as something of a blessing. As Winnie the Pooh says, “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

I haven't figured out how to channel this unexpected peace. I know I should be delving more deeply into prayer, Bible study, and the other disciplines. I have several books left on my To Read in 2013 list and a workbook on handwriting improvement. For the moment, though, I am getting reacquainted with myself. By that I mean enjoying afternoons when I can settle in with a cup of tea or clean out my closet or have a long talk with a friend. It's good.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Goodbye, iPhone

Today we had a funeral for my boyfriend's iPhone.

Last Sunday we visited the pool, and he waded in with the unfortunate device in his swim trunks' pocket. It took a few minutes for him to discover the disaster. Or at least I thought it was a disaster; he was unfazed. When we got back to my apartment we stuck in in a plastic baggie filled with rice to draw out the moisture. 

After almost a week, he managed to turn it on long enough to download two hundred some-odd pictures. And today we drove to Best Buy to return the phone and order his replacement. But before we left the car we took a moment to say goodbye to the old iPhone.

We knew we were being silly. But there was a real sense of loss, I think because so much of our communication is mediated through this device. It is the physical representation of all those texts and phone calls that make up a long-distance relationship.

A slightly different example of the personalization of impersonal things: last week I faced a large service bill for my truck (a 2001 Dodge Dakota). Someone mentioned that I should think about  getting a new car. Quite aside from the hassle of car shopping, I realized I don't want to part with this truck. My dad drove it before me, and it has been my friend "through many dangers," if I may borrow Gandalf's line.

Thankfully, my boyfriend was able to replace his phone at no cost, and my service bill was much lower than estimated. But I realized that it's more than money that ties us to phones and cars. They become invested with part of our lives. I suppose it's a hazard of modernity.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013


I watched one episode of Downton Abbey tonight to de-stress, then felt guilty for neglecting Bird by Bird and my resolve to blog once a week. Earlier today I was trying to think of something to blog about. Several ideas came to mind, but I ruled them out as either too personal or possibly offensive. Offensive as in I wouldn't want to hurt anyone's feelings by saying too much. Too much of real life.

This self-editing hamstrings me. (I just had to look up hamstring to make sure it means what I thought.) I want to write about things that move me, but those things are better left to a private journal. I think.

Also I feel compelled to have a point to a blog post. A mini-essay with a theme and witty conclusion. Shades of English classes in college. I appreciate that discipline, but the purpose of a blog isn't to prove a thesis or wield vocabulary. It's not to show how literary I am. Not (gasp) to earn a grade. 

I guess one purpose of this blog would be to learn to write without those strictures. To get at that middle space between intimate detail and public persona. Or IS a blog simply an extension of a public persona?

Oh, questions...

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Rule Books

Yesterday I stepped into my neighborhood Barnes & Noble with a sense of excitement. Purpose! I came not to buy something for a friend, not to redeem a gift card, not to sip a mocha, but to lay down my cold hard credit card for a new book of my own. Something I almost never do. Though I work in publishing, nearly all my reading material comes from the library. As they say, why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? I'm too risk-averse to spend money on a book unless it's one I already love.

So it was with the feeling of breaking my own rule that I scanned the bookshelves, keeping my smartphone queued up to a photo of my "Books to Read This Year" list. I justified the rule breaking by telling myself I needed to keep up with my reading plan for the year and didn't have time to wait for the library's hold system. All these self-imposed rules around reading! Quite sad, now that I think about it.

And I am thinking about it. I walked out of Barnes & Noble with Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott. I probably first heard of it in a college English class, and since then it has floated around in the "one day I'll read this and be a better person" category.

I think I make reading lists for myself because I know I'm easily inspired. Bird by Bird not only has me blogging for the first time in nine months, but resolving to blog once a week. Not to satisfy a mass readership. If anything, working in publishing has wearied me of words. Not even for the sake of keeping another rule. But because, as Anne writes,
"Good writing is about telling the truth,"
"becoming a better writer is going to help you become a better reader, and that is the real payoff."

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Golden Year

After Christmas last year, I bought a daytimer in a moment of nostalgia for a similar one I had in Oxford. My Oxford one was purple, but this one was gold, which I thought fitting because, in my mind, 2012 was going to be a golden year. I think I expected this because 2011 was a time of transition and stress in various ways. I suppose I was trying to predict how God would work, that a year of pruning is followed by one of growth.

Yet, here in November, I am tempted to characterize 2012 by a list of its tragedies. I'm not trying to trivialize them down to a list of life lessons or try to find redemption where tears are more appropriate. But it is a human impulse, I think, to see a story emerge from disconnected pieces, and to reconcile expectations with reality.

The year started crumbling one April morning when I called my mom to confirm the news I'd found in my inbox: my fifteen-year-old cousin had committed suicide the night before. Even as I fought nausea, I understood, a little, why he did it. I remembered a day when that despair flickered across my own mind.

A few months later, I drove home from work with ashes falling on my truck as the smoke from the Waldo Canyon wildfire clouded my mind with fear. My roommate and I threw some hastily chosen belongings in our vehicles and drove to her family's house on the north end of town, where we watched the flames engulf homes. Not sure where they would stop. Helpless.

As Colorado was still recovering from the fire, the Dark Knight shooting made me wonder when will it end. When will life go back to normal? I remember thinking that the arrival of cold weather would make it safer. After the lethal summer, the rain and snow would blanket us in security again. Yet the fall brought another blow.

There had been rumblings of what was happening, bits of news and conversations. But when my dad called and said the doctors thought he might have cancer, that was no comfort. Lung cancer. Asbestos. Aggressive chemotherapy. All words I now need in this golden year. Good news now comes in pieces I seize like life rings. News that the cancer has not spread. That the chemo is working. While my dad's cancer is not always the first thought I have when I wake up, it's there by the time I hit the shower. The new normal.

A few days after I got the news, I was flipping through a gift catalog and saw a plaque with a quote from Winston Churchill: "If you're going through hell, keep going." And while it sounds irreverent, I think that's what God would say. He doesn't tell me this year's events are not so bad. He doesn't wave them off and tell me they're all for a greater purpose (even though they may well be). They are hell. They are the work of Satan on earth.

So why should I keep going? Why is it so tragic when someone doesn't keep going? It's easier to stop waiting for the golden year, for Tolkien's eucatastrophe, the sudden and unexpected turn for good.

I suppose what I'm trying to understand is that the eucatastrophe has already happened. Every so often I'll catch the faintest hint of an almost mythical joy trying to break through. As if the most beautiful story in the world has been true all along. Tolkien wrote that "the Birth of Christ is the eucatastrophe of Man’s history. The Resurrection is the eucatastrophe of the story of the Incarnation. This story begins and ends in joy."

Why do we keep going through hell? Because Christ already did. And while there is certainly cause for grief, there is none for fear. None. "We do not lose heart...for this light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison" (2 Corinthians 4:16-17).

I think I can still call 2012 a golden year (1 Peter 1:7).