Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Wisdom from the Kitchen


One important part of the American way of life is to really like a potential president while he's campaigning, vote for him, watch him get elected and sworn in, and immediately stop liking and supporting him after he's been in office for a year or so and hasn't solved all of our problems. Usually this is followed by statements such as "Yeah I knew we shouldn't believe all the hype." or "When something's too good to be true, it usually isn't."

As if we had any idea how to run the nation.

Of course, this pattern happens throughout life in many other situations. From new college courses, to new authors, to new soul mates, to new diets.

We're a culture of immediate gratification, easy ways out, and a victim of circumstances complex.

Nothing good comes instantly. Look at mashed potatoes.

Would you rather have the kind your grandmother spends all morning making? Peeling the potatoes, mashing by hand, adding sour cream and butter, and cooking over the stove? Or the 'Just add water!' kind that you find buried in the pantry, pour from a box, stir a few minutes, and serve? We all know which tastes better.

And for those of us that have spent the time peeling those potatoes, know the kind of satisfaction that comes from knowing and experiencing each step of the process. It is much more gratifying to me to know I am being complimented for a job well done than for knowing how to take shortcuts and still achieve a semi-positive outcome.

Although, considering typical human nature, I am probably just being complimented for the pleasant effect my potatoes have on the consumer's stomach, and the fact that he could achieve instant gratification by having the food placed in front of him instead of having to put in the time to make it himself.

It's a hard life.


Monday, June 21, 2010

Growing Up

My little sister is going to college this fall.


She and Kevin and I were all in the kitchen yesterday, milling around and making our dinners, and talking to Mom, and I had several flashbacks of the same picture, at different stages.

Kevin, Sarah, me, lined up at the kitchen counter, playing with tupperware and things, Sarah still a baby in a high chair, while Mom was on the other side, cooking...

Kevin, Sarah, me, lined up on our barstools - Kevin and me turned toward the center, sticking our feet on Sarah's chair because it drove her crazy...

Kevin, Sarah, me, teenagers, all too tall to sit at the kitchen counter to eat, all still doing it out of habit...

Maybe it's a weird thing to think about, but I was definitely struck by how different we looked in different stages... but there is a sense of similarity about it too.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Gambler

Last thing I learned from my summer internship:

Know when to quit.

Or, as the poet Kenny Rogers might say, "You gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em. Know when to walk away. Know when to run."

Now, don't get me wrong. I love my church. I love the internship. I love the people I was working with, and I'm excited about the relationships I've begun to form.

However, I knew from the beginning that I needed rest more than anything this summer, and I hadn't quite thought through and accounted for the depletion of emotional resources I always feel at the end of a school year, the intense emotional exhaustion I had gone through this year in particular, and my extensive solitude needs as an introverted individual. For me, it basically came down to either:

a) finish the internship and go into the next school year with no more resources than I ended it with, which is something like -9,000%.


b) quit the internship, but finish school.

Naturally, I chose option B.

So now I'm at home. I'm resting. I'm writing. I'm playing with my brother's 6 month old, 65 pound puppy. I'm going through my stuff and attempting to part with more of it (because I don't need most of it nor do I really have room for it in my dorm room...). I'm cleaning and doing stuff around the house. I'm helping my mom in the church nursery. I'm reading a whole lot of Sherlock Holmes stories. I would highly recommend them to the emotionally drained. There is absolutely zero emotion in Mr. Holmes. He analytically solves mysteries - the only person he cares about is Watson, and that sentiment even only presents itself in the most subtle ways in the stories toward the end of his life. Dear Watson. Kudos to him for not needing any indication of his best friend's affection to be assured of the importance of their friendship to him.

I'm also doing a lot of thinking, and believe you me, it is incredibly freeing to have time just to sit and think and pray and process. I have a lot of mixed emotions about the past school year to sift through, but I intersperse those processing times with Holmes and internet chess, so I am indeed, slowly beginning to recharge.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Paradoxical Beauty (pt 4)

Recently, I told the God of the Universe that I didn’t have any reason to trust Him.

I didn’t do that eloquently. No, no, no. I was curled up in a ball on my bed in my tiny, hot dorm room, on a Sunday afternoon, silently screaming because God kept insisting that He loved me, and kept sticking people in my life who also insisted they loved me. And I just didn’t believe it.

“I have no reason to trust them… people say all kinds of things they don’t mean, just to get what they want… I don’t want to trust them; better to go it alone… no chance of getting hurt if you stick to yourself and don’t let anyone in… oh God, wait… I feel this way about You too, don’t I?”

Brief pause.

“God… I don’t want to let You love me.”

Half-second pause.

“Oh my word – did I just tell GOD that I didn’t want to let Him love me?”

And then I recalled the scripture “I have promised never to leave or forsake you.”

“Well yes, you promise that, but how do I know that you’ll keep your promises?”

Another half-second pause.

“Oh my word – I just told GOD that I didn’t trust Him. I don’t trust Him! Can I say that? That’s awful! How can I say that or think that or… but I do!”

And as I calmed down, I began thinking about Old Testament stories, how God led the Israelites out of Egypt and captivity and to the Promised Land… and then I thought about Jesus. I thought about it in a new way though. My next statement was much less angst-filled, and more surprised…

“God… you impregnated a young teenage girl from the bad part of the country just to keep Your promise to Your people to bring them a Savior. Now… people probably had a lot to say about that… probably thought You went about it in a weird or bad way… thought that maybe it didn’t make sense… maybe even criticized you. Do something more socially acceptable… but You risked all of that. ALL of that. To keep Your promises to Your people.”

And then I sat up.

“God keeps His promises.”

I looked around my room, not really seeing anything, but thinking and feeling this truth in a way that I never had before, albeit hearing it hundreds of times growing up in Sunday school and VBS.

“I can trust You. You keep Your promises.”

It wasn’t anything spectacular or mystical or miraculous. But I know I was praying, talking with God, and He was the one that brought these thoughts to my mind. It had nothing to do with my own doing.

A few months ago, I was down to just this belief: God exists. The rest, I just wasn’t sure of. But now, as I have been honest with God about my doubts, and have been earnestly seeking to discover who He actually is… I have begun to build truth upon truth, that I have always been taught, but now believe in such a more real and genuine way.

Perhaps in order to have faith, I really do need to doubt?

Paradoxical, but then when has God ever made sense?

Trust vs. Understanding (pt. 3)

Christian College Myth #2: I’m going to find the good in every situation, because God makes everything happen for a reason, and God forbid it doesn’t make sense to me – I have to understand it all.

So I may have voiced this one in a little bit of an extreme way – I’ve been a very frustrated girl this semester. Now that it’s summer, and I am off campus, and sitting in the house I’m living in for the summer with the other Mercy House interns (shout out), I’m a little less urgently upset, though still frustrated enough with the attitudes I adopted this past year (and have since discarded) to finish what I’ve started.

Having a positive outlook is not a bad thing. I hold nothing against optimists.

Being instructed to discipline yourself in order to create a compulsion to find (or create) some tiny positive outlook in terrible situations is however, to my mind, destructive.

Feel free to make fun of me enthusiastically for my extreme love of this movie, but in Remember the Titans, there is a memorable quote, which I think is really quite profound:

“Sometimes bad things happen. For no reason at all.”

Or no reason that I will understand in this life. Or no reason more insightful than “There is evil in this world.”

Trust me, I know and believe that God is powerful, and that in the end, He wins, and we have hope in Christ. But I think we often forget the flip side, that Satan has power too, and though God wins in the end, evil can cause a whole lot of harm in the meantime.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11

We have a very ordinary desire for things to make sense. It also feels very good to think that we know what God is up to. But God will humble the proud.

Everytime we try to contain God inside a box of our limited human understanding, He’s just going to break out of it again and do something completely unexpected. The minute we think we understand Him, He will blow our minds away. And it won’t make sense any more.

If our faith is based on our understanding, where then will it be? Faith, by its very definition, involves believing without understanding, involves doubt.

So… perhaps the issue is more about trust. Do we trust that God knows what He’s doing? Enough to love Him and pursue Him even if He doesn’t let us in on the finer details of His divine plan?

Do we trust God enough to bring even our doubts to Him?

I’ve found that He’s big enough to handle it.