Sunday, July 15, 2012

Remarkable or Not..

           I don’t have any great loves. No notable tragedies. No memorable beauty or scarring deformity. Nothing of much notice. Just me. Me and my grey eyes, freckles, scars and brown hair. What is it about a human that makes them remarkable? Is it their beauty? Is it their talent for public command? Is it their mind or skills of invention? Is it the position they acquire that makes them remarkable? As far as I see it beauty is fleeting, talent is a gift as is mental capacity and positions could be filled by anyone. So what really makes a person remarkable? Is it their hobbies? Their quirks? Their creative instincts or their selflessness? The way they talk to children, or their philosophies about gardening? Is it their beliefs about God, or their loyalty to their country? I’m very keen to find out what exactly it is about a human being that deems them remarkable.
            I have spent a lot of time being unremarkable. Just shy of twenty years to be exact. I have no great stories of glory, or selfless kindness. No lives have been saved or ended by me. I have not turned any boy into a man, and I’ve not created any human life. I have earned nothing much, and given very little. Now I don’t mean to sound self-degrading, I am in a bit of a low spot, but that’s not the point. The point is I’ve lived nearly two decades and I’m not particularly proud of my life’s work so far. Even the fact that I’m typing this rather than hand writing it or pounding it out on a typewriter is a bit depressing to me. Not sure why. It’s wicked convenient. I can save it, delete it, edit it and not a minute has passed. But it isn’t Dickens. It isn’t Tolkien, or Lewis. I’m no Austen, that’s for damn sure. But­­—then again, no one except for Austen, was an Austen. I mean who decided that that was a fair and logical comparison? Of course I’m no Austen! I’m a Ewing! By God they’re different, of course they’re different, but who’s to say one’s better than the other. Was Jane Austen more remarkable than me?
            My mind immediately says “Absolutely. Don’t be daft.” I mean she is truly remarkable. Look at what she’s written! Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Emma. What have I written? A few journal entries and scraggly poems. Nothing published. Nothing award winning. But does that matter? Jane Austen is dust now, and someday I will be too. I will die and be buried in the Earth (or burnt in a ceremonial canoe, if I’m lucky) but either way we both end. Does she matter more than me? Who decides? What matters? What makes someone remarkable?
            I’ve got a damp room in a dark, humid garden apartment with ridiculous rent in a dodgy neighborhood in a city that doesn’t know me. Something doesn’t sit well with me. A women prayed for me today at church. She prayed for everything I need and everything I have on my mind. She prayed for companionship, and direction. She prayed against loneliness and sadness. She prophesied that God is changing the direction of things in me and the way I was living before won’t work with the new order of things (the old wine skins bit.) She said that God was shifting things and that being away from my family wasn’t necessarily against God’s will. She said it was a time to know myself so I can know His will. She asked what I was thinking.
            “Um. Well you prayed for everything I’ve had on my mind these days…” I said with tears trickling down my checks. “ This is weird but the whole time my eyes were closed and you were praying my hands felt really swollen. Like huge balloon hands. I don’t know what that is…maybe I’m crazy, or maybe it’s God, I can’t be sure.” A mild blush rose to my checks. She immediately bowed her head and began praying for clarification.
            “God is asking you to give everything to Him, and He’s going to give you something back that is so much bigger than you could ever dream. You were looking right here” and she put her hands up on either side of her face like horse blinders, “But His plans are out here.” She spread her arms wide out to each side. “Things are going to be very different than you planned.”
            Well that was a good word because my plans haven’t been working out so well (remember the bit about the dodgy garden apartment—and did I mention I’m lonelier than I’ve ever been in my life?) I used to dream of being a writer as a little girl. My mom always told me I was good at it. Words were sort of my thing. I can be quiet with words. Words can be chosen, rewritten or erased. Words have changed and stirred my heart. Words have shaped the way I view the world—even introduced me to God. I don’t know why exactly today I feel a return to words, but I’m not surprised. They’ve never left me. Even through these dark days in this lonely apartment words have been my companion. I’m not sure what the Lord is doing, I could never begin to guess. But I got a word about things changing, I questioned my life, trusted in God, prayed and cried, drank a cup of tea, and felt the urge to write. I think it’s pretty unremarkable start to something rather remarkable.  

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Grocery Store Paradox

Life is often times full of contradictions. At least my life is.

I am 19, living in my first apartment in Chicago, juggling two jobs, an internship, a sketch comedy show and two smal groups with my Church. I am quite young (I suppose I still fit the bill 'teen'), but some days I feel 100 years old. Maybe it's the product of a hard few years, maybe it's in my nature but I feel old. But not the silver haired, wise, earned old age I read about in books. I feel like a Mulberry fallen from the tree to soon only to bake and shrivel in the sun.

Dramatic imagery.

I don't really feel shriveled up all the time, but I do feel a sort of unfair ending of something fresh.
One minute I'll feel as tired and old as a fallen Mulberry—and the next I'll want to crawl up into my mom's lap, put my forehead against hers and tell her all about my day.
This particular contradiction (emotional, psychological or spiritual—I'm not sure), is extremely aggressive at grocery stores. Let me explain. I have become very familiar with the Grocery Store Paradox.

Two days after moving into my apartment I realized I needed food, or more correctly, I realized I needed to go buy more food. So I jumped on my bike and made the trek down to Jewel. I have since learned that Jewel is not the place to economically shop, but since this was my first grocery run bargin shopping wasn't even on my radar. I pulled up to Jewel sporting a fresh coat of sweat, locked my bike up and headed inside. When I cleared the two doorways and the automatic doors shut behind me, I froze.
I had no plan.
This place was huge.
What do people even buy here?!
I suddenly couldn't think of anything I eat or would like to eat in the future. My mind was flooded with memories of me as a small child trotting along behind my mom as she made her way up and down aisles with expert speed, checking items off her list as she threw them into the cart. Think Emily! What did she put into the cart?! My mind was blank.
I quickly realized I couldn't continue to stand in front of the entrance, so I stumbled my way up and down a few aisles. I found myself in the fresh produce section. This stuff was healthy...but how the heck do you eat it?!
My confidence and gusto swiftly vanished and I would give anything to be that little girl again innocently following my mommy up and down the aisles.
After 15 minutes of picking up boxes, reading the ingredients only to place them back on the shelf, the florescent lights became depressing. I gave up, leaving the store with a jar of peanut butter, whole grain bread, a bag of 'mixed greens' and low spirits.
I had set out on such an ordinary, non-threatening task and my old soul had cowered.

The next few grocery store trips were a bit more successful. I even remembered where a few of the essentials were (eggs, oatmeal, coffee). But the Grocery Store Paradox is still very present. Simultaneously feeling capable, independent, insecure and alone.
Wether I'm growing up too fast, or too slow I'm not sure. I don't think I'd like to do either.

I think I'll just grow deeper and forward.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

One Down

I just finished my first year of University. One down-three to go.
Everybody says that college flies by quicker than you realize...I never believed them until now. I remember move in day like it was yesterday. It was a blazing 90 degrees, I was breaking out, and my freshly straightened hair was grow larger and wavier by the minute (making for a rather unfortunate and lasting school ID photo).

My dorm was the size of a small closet but I came to love that place. My floor of girls became known around campus for our close knit friendships. I found my best friends on that floor. We all left our doors open and unlocked at all times. Admittedly, not the most secure situation but we trusted each other and we always had access to one another. I always had a friend to talk to, laugh or cry to and procrastinate with on that floor. I will miss those lovely women very much.

                                           The frist week. We bonded ridiculously quickly.

This year was full of discovery, growth, and maturity. I came into school with bright eyes and an open heart. I'm leaving this year with a slightly older heart, a bit tired from my travels, but very grateful for them all. I've certainly made mistakes, and I've undoubtedly met great grace. I've met people who inspire me, challenge me and love me. I've learned more of what it means to live in community and love others--even when it's hard. I'm still learning to love myself. I have known myself this year on a deeper level than before. I took risks (including but not limited to, cutting off all my hair!). I was sometimes honest and sometimes fearful. I found a new and vibrant passion for the theatrical arts and poetry. I was homesick often, and should have called my mom more frequently. I knitted more than I ever have, and I bought my first museum membership (worth every penny).

                                              My hair was even shorter than this in the fall!

I can't justly communicate the ramifications of this entire year, for they have been great in number and significance. But possibly the most important truth that I am beginning to see clearer because of this year, is the truth of God's faithfulness. He was faithful when I first moved into that closet dorm, my roommate and I affectionately named The Knook (pronounced 'nook'). He was faithful through every discovery of self, and He was faithful through every homesick night. He was faithful even when I turned away and even when I made mistakes. He has been faithful in every season of this year, and He is faithful to me now in this new season.

  Maybe I'm naively only remembering the good things about dorm life..but I really will miss this place!

I will miss a lot of things about my freshman year (the knook, my floor of girls, countless hotpot meals), and it really did fly by right before my eyes, but I accept that it's time for a new season. This year was not without it's fact it wasn't an easy year at all. But now is a time for resting, and what better place to rest than in the Lord!
God has blessed me, protected me and always been faithful to me.
My heart is full of gratitude, and that's a peaceful place to be.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Blooming on the ground.

There's a small red bud tree growing in the back yard of my childhood home. A few years ago my mom saw this red bud tree on sale at Sam's so she course brought it home. My father willingly planted my mom's impulse buy and the little tree began to take root. A year into the small trees life an unfortunate event occurred.

Our golden retriever Dolly was in the back yard on her lead when she unknowingly wrapped the leash around the delicate truck of the young tree. At that moment she spotted a squirrel in the neighbors yard and took off running. The little red bud's trunk was snapped in half and it fell haphazardly to the ground.
My mom was so sad. She loved red bud trees and the tree had been growing so well...but circumstances cut it's life short.
The little tree lay broken and lonely on the ground as the seasons changed. A year passed. One day as Spring was beginning to awaken the world, my sister looked up from her morning coffee, gazed out the kitchen window and exclaimed,
"Look! The tree is blooming on the ground!"
And sure enough, the tree was ablaze with vibrant red and pink buds.

Blooming on the ground.

My father went out and bound up the small tree's trunk and the tree grew back together-healed with the support of the binds.
I over heard my mom telling the story of the red bud tree to my aunt and I smiled to myself as I realized that I am just like that red bud tree.

It's been a hard month.
A friend took his own life.
I lost a relationship.
A good friend was in a bad accident.
Circumstances have broken me. I've found myself on my face in desperate prayer before the Lord more times than I can count. It's been hard. But still I have hope. The simple flowers on that small tree remind me there is victory and restoration.
I may be on the ground and broken for a while but that doesn't mean I'm not in bloom.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Underwater Living

For those living underwater.

I don't have all the answers. The fine print confuses me, and absolute truths frighten me. 

So I ignored the answers I did know. I submerged myself in my doubt and pride. I needed air. But things weren't always easy above the surface, and at least under the waves it was quiet. But I needed air. I built castles, not in the sky, but in the false security of my underwater foolishness. I needed air. 
My Father mercifully pulled me out of the water. As my head broke the surface I realized how deep my need for air was. Head reeling, I gasped and struggled for breath. My lungs burned as they fought to push and pull life into my body. I needed air-but it hurt. Everything was heavy and wet-not like the weightlessness of the silent underwater world I had created for myself. But that muted existence wasn't sustainable. I needed air. Suddenly my ears were opened and the sounds around me were overwhelming. Finally I could hear distinct voices instead of the distant, slow sounds I had grown accustom too. Maybe what they had to say wasn't easy or simple, but at least I understood again. Black spots burst in front of my eyes as my pupils adjusted to the sunlight. Everything was clear. Not warped and broken like in my water kingdom. 
Coughing violently I expelled water from my lungs, ridding myself of my former life. 
I needed air. 
I needed Jesus. 

I need Jesus. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

a former self.

I woke up this morning to the sound of Teddy (my soon to be brother-in-law) playing the guitar in the room next to mine. I realized that my subconscious had incorporated his music into my dreams--but that didn't ease the transition from sleep to awake. My throat was swollen, my nose was stuffy and the injury on my thumb was throbbing (the result of my poor cooking skills).
"Em, you probably want to get up. It's one." My sister Becca said softly.
"Actually, I'd like to stay asleep." I thought to myself and rolled over.
"There's coffee! Want me to bring you some?"
My head lifted from my pillow for the first time; aroused by the promise of caffeine. She knows me well enough to recognize that this slight movement in response was actually an enthusiastic affirmative.
I'm more of a silent communicator in the morning.
As I waited for Bec to bring me coffee I threw back the covers, welcoming the invigorating winter cold and the unforgiving light of the afternoon. I needed some help waking up today. The night before I had laid in bed for hours restlessly wrestling with countless distractions. Mostly relationships. My relationship with my new boyfriend which was going oddly well, yet was swiftly snow balling out of my control. My relationship with my sister which was about to change in two weeks when she marries the love of her life. My relationships with my old high school friends--how do I maintain friendships with people who knew me when I was a completely different person? The most unsettling of all were my thoughts and lack of feelings toward my relationship with God. All these other relational distractions had not only been disrupting my sleeping habits, but I had allowed them to keep me from focusing on the most important, most elusive and mysterious relationship of all--my relationship with Jesus.
For months my feelings and thoughts toward Jesus had been routine, lifeless and nearly painful. I hadn't heard from him and honestly I hadn't told him much either. I was busy. I was busy having new college experiences.
"Here you go sis." Becca's kind words interrupted the dark clouds of reflection that were gathering over my mind. The hot cup of coffee in my hands cleared my head and gave me the drive to leave my bed. I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror hanging on my wall--extreme bed head.
"A bath it is." I mumbled to myself, secretly thankful for any excuse to escape to the private, warm confines of a bubble bath. I gathered my towel and with coffee in hand I headed for the bath tub.
I'm not sure what made me do it, but as I was passing the book shelf in the hallway I grabbing one of my old prayer journals and took it with me. Reading in the bath is not unusual for me at all but reading any of my old journals is very unusual. It's a painful experience for me to relieve the past and I try to avoid it with all my might. And here I was seeking the past. I was having a very off morning.
With the hot water swirling and rising around me, my mind grew sharper as the final remnants of sleep washed away. With coffee in hand I opened my old journal, fully expecting waves of regret, angst and past trauma to come spilling out, ripping open old wounds, but that is not what I found. Instead I found page after page filled with praises, gratitude and beautiful emotion written out by my own hand. I had filled that journal a year ago. I had filled that journal when I was a young rebellious, immature high schooler...and yet...
And yet the words of my high school self were full of passion, life and gusto. As a college student searching for life, living for passion and experience I hadn't felt as much gratitude, joy or simple peace as this journal revealed I used to feel.
Panic rose in my throat as stark realization slapped me in the face--I wasn't necessarily moving forward just because I was growing up. I had assumed one equaled the other, but I saw this wasn't always true. The spiritual health of my younger, dependent high school self was healthier and more rewarding than the spiritual health of my seemingly mature and independent self. Who was I fooling? Did I think that because I set my alarm early on a couple of Sundays without provocation that I would be rewarded with spiritual growth? Was I really thick enough to assume my heart was in the right place because I chose to grace a campus Bible study with my presence once a week?
Not only was my heart not in the right heart was completely missing from my life. I had been living a life my high school self wouldn't be proud of. I had cracked open my chest, ripped the beating bloody life source from its home and placed it on ice; saving it for later. I didn't need it's pesky interference right now because I was having 'experiences'. I was exploring and searching and I knew my heart would only make it harder to enjoy myself; so I cut it out of the equation.
With this humbling awakening I hung my head and cried. Praying for forgiveness I asked God to thaw my heart out again. I knew it would be a painful process but I wanted to feel genuinely again. I invited conviction and rebuke and it did hurt. As I continued to read my old journal the tears continued to fall, mixing with the now lukewarm bath water. I came across an entry from the fall of my senior year that contained this line: Why should sweet Mrs. Smith have to hold her new born baby in her arms and watch it's precious life slip away? Why should millions of women feel so unloved and alone that they give themselves away to countless men? Why should thousands of children in my city live in slavery while I live comfortably?
I let my head slip under the water to muffle the cry that escaped from my lips. The words of my 18 year old self broke my heart, but I needed to be broken in order to feel again. These injustices that used to keep me up at night had been cut out of my consciousness when I had put my heart on the back burner. The words I had written over a year ago reminded me of the things that once moved me.
For months I have been so selfishly consumed with myself-my goals, my relationships, my needs, that I nearly lost who I was.
I laid in the bath till the water was cold, and I sobbed. Tears of repentance streaked my checks and were chased by tears of gratitude. Over whelmed and humbled by words written by a younger me.
I never saw the value in reliving the past. I never felt it was important to share my history with new friends because I was ashamed of the past, assuming that my present was far superior. I presumed that the past didn't exist outside my memory so it wasn't truly a part of me. But there I was, broken and brought back toward Christ by a memory. A shadow of a former self reminded me of my true self.
My fear and shame had blinded me from seeing the merit in my memories. Swallowing my pride I see how much there is to be gleaned from remembering. I'm grateful for the comforting and convicting words of the past me.