Monday, December 21, 2009

Dances with Wolves

And I am dancing with the wolves.

Disclaimer: I know this is going to sound a little ridiculous, but know that with every ounce of my being, it is true. No words on paper can fully describe the experience of being with the wolves.

At first, I was skeptical. My brother called me, so excited because he was going to go down to Wolf Creek Habitat and hang out with wolves for a day. I didn’t really understand the appeal, so I turned down his offer to bring me with him. And then he came back and showed me pictures, and I thought it was kind of cool that he had been so close with these wild animals, but I still didn’t get it.

But his excitement was contagious, and I found myself agreeing to go back with him, and our younger sister, the first day of Christmas break.

So we made the four hour drive, starting early in the morning, and arriving around noon. The wolf habitat is set back from the main road, down a winding, narrow road in the mounds, running parallel to a little creek, and surrounded by trees. When we arrived, we stepped into a little cabin with a wood-burning stove which served as the gift shop, to pay our fee to go in and meet the wolves.

At first, all I could think about was how cold my toes were in my ripped up old tennis shoes, and the first words of the woman who owned them wolves were not exactly encouraging.

“I know this sounds weird, but if one of them comes up from behind and grabs you around the neck, just reach back and push them off.”

We held our hands out for them to sniff before we went into the enclosure, and then stood with our backs against the fence door, so they would not knock us over with their enthusiastic greeting. And we carefully made our way to the center where we stood with our backs against a platform so that the wolves could come up from behind and greet us by licking our faces. And at this point, I was no longer thinking about the cold, or about my doubts. I was in a different place.

It is an incredible thing to be that close to something that God created to be wild, and I was on their territory, unfamiliar to me. It was entirely up to them how I would leave it. In a sense, I was powerless, but I was not afraid.

Dyami, the alpha female, was the most enthusiastic of the four. She greeted Sarah and I by nibbling at our noses and chins (which stick out like their snouts – it’s the way they would greet each other), and then she came to Kevin, who I think she must have remembered from his earlier visit. She had taken a special liking to him then, and wolves have very long memories. She at least seemed very pleased to see him again. Then the alpha male, Pejuta, and the beta male, Akki, came to inspect us. These first three teamed up to pull off my hat; they seemed to find it very interesting. I hung onto it though, and got it back. This all happened in a few moments, and just when I thought they were done, in my peripheral vision, I saw one suddenly appear next to my face and sniff at me. This was Tikaani, the omega female, sneaking up from behind after the larger wolves were finished.

Tikaani, though the most timid of the pack, seemed to like me (we think because I am the smallest), and would come to me and let me scratch her belly for long moments, and kept eye contact with me. Staring into those orange eyes was completely unreal. It was like we understood each other. It is so affirming to be chosen as a companion for a few moments by one of these incredible creatures. Each time one of them approached me to lick my face or lean against me to ask for a belly rub or grab the wrist of my sleeve to pull me along somewhere, I felt so privileged to be among them, that they would even want to interact with me.

Each of them had distinct personalities. Each of them had a clear place and order in their structured hierarchical society. Each of them had a sense of family. Each had an aura of intelligence around them.
Toward the end of the visit, each of us were given a piece of peppermint to put in our teeth, and the wolves would grab it out of our mouths with their teeth. They love peppermints! And they were so gentle. Over-enthusiastic Dyami knocked my candy back into my mouth on my tongue, and then Akki reach into my mouth and picked it up, and I barely felt a thing.

I cannot describe in words how incredible this whole experience was. I had been completely used up, at the end of my reserves, emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually, after a far too long semester at school, and I had no idea of how badly in need of healing I was.

But God did. And the wolves did. And I feel completely restored.

Friday, November 13, 2009

"Is This the Beginning of a New and Brighter Birth?"

In the past few weeks, I’ve learned more about giving praise to God than I ever thought possible. And it’s a painful and a beautiful thing, and I’m not going to get too in depth here. But God has stretched me and taught me more than I ever thought I could be capable of… though I guess that’s the point? That I’m not capable of it.

Regardless, tonight I’m reflecting on how good God is for my pride. As in, he’s been pretty incredible at breaking it apart and tearing it down since I started praying about it in high school. And at first, it was only in small pieces; I’d spent quite a long time building it up and shaping it. I wasn’t willing to let go of more than the littlest chunks.

But lately… in the past 6 months or so… it’s been coming down in waves. I could write a book about the lessons I’ve learned – painful ones – but I’m just beginning to really reflect on it, so I couldn’t put it all into words here. And of course I didn’t get it while it was happening; I’m much too stubborn and shortsighted for that. But looking back, I can see a little glimpse of how everything relates. And I can get small glances at the much more beautiful product that God is shaping in me than I was ever capable of creating myself.

So that’s all back story; what I really want to talk about is how I’ve watched one scene from the Prince of Egypt roughly 30 times today. The scene with the “Look at your life through Heaven’s Eyes” song. Mainly because they summed up in five minutes what has taken me 20+ years to learn. And I feel ridiculous, because I have watched this movie multiple times, and I never really ‘got it’ until now. And I feel ridiculous for being so moved from a cartoon that I’ve thought about it for hours, even while I was at meetings and such, and am still watching it and gaining more from the lyrics of the song and the images.

That is what I mean by God being good for my pride. Even in the littlest things, He’s constantly reminding me that I don’t have a clue, and when He does reveal things to me, it’s in the most basic of concepts and from the most unlikely sources – there is no chance of me turning it into bragging about how incredibly insightful and intellectual I am. And in that way, God is protecting me from my sinful tendencies. It blows my mind how perfect He is.

Okay, I’ve taken a long time to get to my original point… the whole idea of the song. Until very recently, I have spent my entire life trying to figure out why things happen and what God wanted in my life. The problem is that I was trusting in myself to discern that, and how can ‘a single thread’ see ‘the pattern of the grand design’? I can’t! Why even try? I would even say things intellectually about how we can never see things from God’s perspective, because we’re not capable of understanding it, but I didn’t really grasp the concept or apply it. And the things that I thought had value? Not important. It’s not important to be viewed as capable or intelligent or creative.

“So how can you see what your life is worth? Or where your value lies? You can never see through the eyes of man – you must look at your life through heaven’s eyes.”

And I’ve spent much of my life up to this point looking for answers. Praying for God to explain to me why each thing happens. And when He didn’t answer, I would decide why things were happening and project that onto Him. But God isn’t going to explain to me every detail of my life! That’s not the point.

“And though you never know all the steps, you must learn to join the dance.”

The whole point of faith is to trust and follow without knowing how it all turns out. Which is the most basic of concepts, but one that I’ve never really understood fully. And it’s all just a reminder. Of how I need to live my life, and what I’m striving for.

“So how do you judge what a man is worth? By what he builds or buys? You can never see through your eyes on earth. Look through heaven’s eyes.”

God is so freaking awesome!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Confession: I write notes to myself.

It’s been a while… I’m not sure that this will be a blog entry – it’s too unpolished. I just haven’t written to myself in quite a while, and I’d like to again.

I think I’m in a mood – I’m not sure what that mood is exactly. Something in which I don’t know what I want. Part of me wants to curl up on my bed and not get up for a long while. The other part is really craving human company. It would be so much simpler if I could just figure out whether I want one or the other.

And I know… ‘humans are complex’. We don’t make sense.

We don’t make sense to ourselves anyway… it’s kind of a comforting thought that I make sense to God… I’m not sure that I do to anyone else, including myself.

I don’t have any profound thoughts on life tonight. Just that I really take comfort in the thought that God knows my desires better than I do.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

An Unexpected Catharsis

Love others for the little love that they are able to give.

I exist to share God’s love in the imperfect way that I can, not to be God and to save people for him. If I do the saving, then they don’t need God. And how arrogant of an attitude is that in me?

God is teaching me volumes about love… and not in the way I would expect. Rather than giving me people to love, he’s taking people away from me – people that I have been inclined to ‘save’ rather than love, though before I couldn’t see the difference. Because of God, we are free to love without an agenda, to love others without needing to save them, because Jesus has already done that. It’s not our responsibility.

Granted, at the time of the tearing away, I couldn’t see the point. In any of it. I was hurting; I was upset; I couldn’t see a purpose. But the small distinction that I failed to note was that I couldn’t see my purpose.

I thought I knew what God was doing and why, and (go figure) I was wrong again.

And you know… I’m glad I was wrong. Because God is stretching me and helping me to grow in completely unexpected ways.

I like not being able to figure him out.

Monday, July 20, 2009

I Have Superhero Syndrome.

I want to save the world.

Save the cheerleader; save the world. There is a God, and there is a Heaven. Recycling. Throwing the damn starfish back in the ocean. Why does it work? Because we all have a need to believe that our actions, that events in our lives have a deeper meaning. That the little things that we do day-to-day matter.

So what do you do when the world sucks, and you know you can’t do anything about it?

Should I just close my eyes tight, ignore reality, and pretend that I can make the world perfect single-handedly?

Or should I completely drop the idea that I can make a difference, and just accept the world as the disappointing mess that it is?

I think either of those options would make life a lot easier.

But maybe finding contentedness in life is about reconciling those two ideas.

I would take any answer right now.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A Fine Day for a White Wedding?


The word looks scarier the closer I get to an age where I would be likely to achieve it.

My mom was married when she was 20. I’m 20. And it’s hard for me to imagine myself in her place.

Being at a Christian college, going into my junior year, I’m constantly hit with the idea of the ideal relationship… (meet freshman year, talk about dating over the summer, start dating sophomore year, break up junior year to spend some time getting closer to God, get back together at the end of junior year, get engaged senior year, get married summer after senior year). And while I tend to be tongue-in-cheek and laugh at that, I know that it has to have some effect on me.

My friends are getting married and those that aren’t are still planning their weddings. Sometimes it’s fun to imagine myself married – in my own house, holding a baby, playing with kids, coming home for Christmas with the whole crew… it’s the husband thing that’s harder for me.

The very concept of marriage sounds scary and impossible to me – how can you expect to find someone interesting enough to occupy you for the rest of your life?

Every part of me resists the idea of tying myself down to one person. It’d be really, really nice if it was attainable; it’s a pretty picture. And this isn’t one of those guy-bashing posts. I’m looking at myself and at my personality, and I can’t see it. I fill my life with a thousand different things, at a breakneck pace, and I like it that way. The idea of finding another person who can keep up with me, or who I would be willing to slow down for? A pretty picture, again. But attainable? I have no idea.

I can remember in high school, thinking that I would be married in college or right after, and I could easily see myself in that situation, and I would daydream about it… but now that I’m actually there… there is no way.

I want to be single. I want to have fun. I want to have adventures. I want to travel. I want to focus my energy on teaching. I want to have a rockin’ friendship with God. I want to be able to pick up and go whenever I want. I want to have strong relationships with lots of friends.

I’m not ready to settle down. Not nearly.

But see – I like the thought of romance. Does this mean I want love, but not commitment? Feeling more and more like a terrible person, the longer I think.

Does getting married mean the end of adventures? People claim not, but in my mind, I think it does. Mom keeps saying that I need to marry a guy that will keep me grounded. I want to marry a guy that will go on adventures with me. Forget being grounded. Life is too short.

And aside from all that, just thinking about it… he’s always there. He lives in the same space as you. He sleeps in your bed. He eats your food. He shares your bathroom. He watches your tv and uses your shampoo. He leaves his socks all over your floor.

And then there’s all this talk of belongings. You belong to him. He belongs to you. When do you stop being an individual? I feel like marriage means giving up a part of myself, of my personhood. And that thought makes me angry.

I think the idea of marriage shouldn’t evoke fear, anger, and resistance. Maybe several years from now I’ll feel differently. Maybe not. We’ll see.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Officer Dole is not as Nice as Officer May

This morning, my friend Melanie and I drove down to Anderson to attend the church that we go to during the school year – Mercy House. Which is awesome, by the way. It’s worth the two hour drive. I’m hoping to go a few more times this summer.

Anyway, the message was really thought-provoking. It was over Hebrews 3, with a focus on where the author says that Jesus is more important than Moses. Matt stressed that for that to be relevant to us today, we should fill in the blank with something that would be insulting to us if he claimed Jesus was more important than it. Jesus is more important than __________ (patriotism, family, consumerism, my hopes and dreams, etc). And he ended with a really beautiful comment about perspective that felt like it was meant just for me, so needless to say I had a lot to mull over.

I decided to be responsible though and wait until my highway driving was finished (taking Mel to Indy so she could catch her bus and then driving back up until I went off I-69).

So I turned onto state road 5 and turned off my music, thinking that now I could pray and reflect and tackle the message. After all, I had driven this road a million times, to and from Taylor, I knew the twists and turns and small towns. No big deal.

I had been very careful all day to follow the speed limit after my incident last weekend (see previous note), even highway driving. Vehicles were annoyed with me and passed me, but I stuck to 70. So I kept an eye on my speedometer while I was thinking and praying, making sure the needle stayed right around 55.

I was right in the middle of a catharsis of sorts when I looked in my rearview mirror and saw flashing lights.

Not wanting to even wonder about how long he had been following me, I pulled over. The officer stepped out of the car.

“Do you know why I pulled you over?”

“Was I speeding?”

“Do you know the speed limit through this stretch?”



Dang it.

“You were going 54! Give me your license and registration… you really didn’t see me by the side of the road?”

“No.” (I was able to find all the required objects more quickly this time since I had just had them out last Saturday)

“I was right there! The only way I could have been more obvious is if my lights were on.”

He was cranky.

The only reason I know his name is because of the signature on my speeding ticket.

Jesus is more important than my criminal record?


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Fast and the Furious

This past Saturday night, something happened that I never in my life thought would happen. I was pulled over for speeding.

I know what every single one of you who have ever ridden with me is thinking right now, especially the three of you who were with me on that record-breaking trip from Indy to Taylor – “Finally! She’s had it coming since she started driving at 18.”

And now, those of you that are wondering why I didn’t start driving till I was 18, just know that I tried at 16 – I had a very traumatic-at-the-time-hilarious-now automatic fail on the driving test. Ask my brother or grandpa about it – it’s one of their favorite stories.

But anyway, I had just started on my seven minute trip home from work, and turned onto Backwater Road… it has a real name, but I don’t know what it is – a number of some kind. For those of you who have never had the pleasure of driving on Backwater Road, the speed limit is 35 mph almost the whole way, even on the completely straight stretches. This is to avoid drivers flying off the treacherous curves and sinking forever into the backwaters.

Another thing about Backwater Road – my dad taught me from a very young age that everyone speeds on that road, so naturally, wanting to follow the crowd, I keep up a pretty steady 55 mph on the straight parts, slowing to 40 on the treacherous curves to avoid flying off the road and sinking forever into the backwaters.

So, back to Saturday night, I began acceleration, and just as I passed a car about to pull into the empty Dekko plant parking lot (who I assumed was a teenage couple wanting to make out or sell drugs), blue and red lights started flashing on top of the car, and a siren went off. Man. I need to work on my night vision.

So I stopped in my lane (there was no room to pull over), and not having had experience with this sort of thing, I unbuckled my seat belt to reach for my purse, figuring I should try to find my license. The officer walked up to my window, which I quickly rolled down (after turning off my music – I figured he didn’t want to hear the Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack while he was writing my ticket – M.I.A. would probably take away from the mood).

“Do you know why I pulled you over?” he asked, with a friendly smile.

“I was speeding,” I said matter-of-factly, never being one to successfully play dumb.

“Yeah… I clocked you at 46 in a 35. Now are you on your way home from somewhere?”

(I was sitting there in my black uniform pants and bright blue polo shirt, hair in a ponytail, waitress apron still on, and probably smelling strongly of pizza).

“Yeah from work,” I answered, trying to figure out how I was only at 46 mph.

“You’re probably really just wanting to be home,” the officer said understandingly, “And there’s about… oh three posted speed limit signs that you passed, but it’s so hard to go 35 there.”

I nodded in agreement. That was a good one.

“Well I am going to have to give you a warning – 46 in a 35 is a little much just for a verbal, but no ticket. You were wearing your seatbelt, right?”

I nodded.

“Well good! Now I need your license and registration…”

Stupid girl that I am, I opened the glovebox and the first thing I pulled out was a huge wad of napkins… next I found insurance cards. Then the officer found it.

“It’s that one there – in your left hand.”

Well spotted, officer. I then spent about ten minutes hunting through my purse for my pile of important cards, amongst which my license was (at least I really hoped it was in my purse…). In the meantime I found out the policeman’s name was Officer May and he lived in North Webster with his wife and two young kids. Nice guy. I finally found my license, and he wrote out my warning (which I thanked him for), and then sent me on my way (I drove 30 all the rest of the way down Backwater).

When I got home and told my family the story, Kevin and Jared were highly affronted.

“If that were me, he would have given me a ticket without stopping to ask questions!” Kevin grumbled.

Never have I been so thankful to be young and female. :-D

Regardless, I have decided to become a more cautious driver. Though highly inconveniencing – I now must leave three minutes earlier to make it to work on time, increasing my total driving time to ten minutes.

…and we may have to actually leave on time now on Sundays to make it for coffee before church starts.

Monday, March 2, 2009

How to Treat a Guest

I’m watching the sun set on my gmail inbox background and listening to Elliot Smith sing about refusing to ride into the sun and not doing a thousand things I should be working on. Instead… I’m thinking.

Last week, Brian McLaren came to our campus and gave an evening presentation, sponsored by IFC. A fair amount of Taylor students were there – the floor of the chapel was almost filled. I was excited to hear what he had to say – I had heard he was somewhat controversial, and I really enjoy listening to people who have different viewpoints than me… which sounds like a kind of ridiculous thing to say, but it’s true. So when I saw the full room, silly me, I thought that a huge percentage of our student body also wanted their worlds blown away and minds broadened.

To my surprise, Brian McLaren gave a very uncontroversial presentation about social justice – talking about the major issues in the world today and how we, as a church, should be talking about them and working to fight them. Like world hunger. And drinking water shortages. He then talked about our worldview, and the overarching story to how we approach Christianity, and how that fits into our understanding about what the church should be doing.

Then we had a Q & A session.

And all hell broke loose.

The first question that really captured my attention was one (or five) from a girl. She got to the mic, fired off a rapid stream of theological questions about the gospels, Jesus, and whether or not he believed there was a literal heaven or hell, and there was a brief pause. Then, roughly 75% of the student body seated in that room started clapping and cheering for her attack on his personal beliefs.

This was followed by a steady stream of people also questioning his beliefs, which he didn’t even address in the presentation. There was one professor who even did this, in a very insulting, belittling way. Though the one that put the icing on the cake was the last boy who “asked a question.” He basically got hold of the mic to give a public condemnation of the speaker, including his most sincere sentiments that the speaker would “have time to figure things out in the future.”

The irony of 18 and 19-year-olds telling a 58-year-old researcher that they had things figured out, and he didn’t know what he was talking about, did not escape me.

I was stunned and horrified at the picture of Taylor University we had given. At the way we had treated our guest.

If you ran into me that night, you probably were treated to a long vent and impassioned cry for change on this campus. Since then, I’m no less passionate about that desire, but after talking to multiple students from all over campus about it, and having a meeting with Randy Gruendyke (our campus pastor), to discuss my concerns, most of the anger has dissipated.