(smallish) Adventures in Adulthood

Once upon a time, I woke up before the sun with the express intent of doing responsible things all the day long. I showered and cleaned my room and spent time with God, and then ventured downstairs to eat a most grown-up breakfast of fried eggs with avocado while I waited for my laundry to dry. I finished up said laundry by 8 o’clock and left the house feeling entirely productive and generally good about the day.

Then there was traffic – a thing which I had entirely forgotten about until I sat still on the interstate for half an hour longer than anticipated. I did eventually reach the street where my coffeeshop is located and here found a new dilemma – parallel parking.

I can parallel park. My dad taught me how. I passed that portion of my driver’s test with flying colors. I’ve parallel parked before – beautifully, I might add, a parking job worthy of a gold star. Today? Today, I found a parking space that gave me plenty of space on either side so that I had room for error. I flipped on my turn signal, stopped when my steering wheel was aligned with the steering wheel of the car in front of my parking spot, and then, I realized a line of cars was waiting for me. I know this is okay – I know this is what happens when you parallel park, but I suddenly became aware of the fact that I was keeping all of those people from getting where they needed to be.

I could be the reason someone was late.

I felt like getting out of my car and personally apologizing to everyone. Of course, that would make them even more late, not to mention that it would be all around illogical. So, I just resolved to park as quickly and efficiently as I could. I slowly backed up, turned my wheel at just the right moment, and ran over the curb.

I then waited, with the back two feet of my car lodged on the sidewalk, watching, mortified, as dozens of cars glided past and I imagined everyone of them pointing and laughing. I’m pretty sure none of them even noticed,  the girl with her car on the sidewalk, or cared, for that matter, that she was there. My imaginings were vivid nonetheless.

The light up the street eventually turned red, the vehicles of mockery stopped, and I pulled out and re-parked my car. Twice.

This ordeal was followed by two rather uneventful and mostly productive hours at the coffeeshop. And from there, I went to Whole Foods, where I accidentally tried to buy the tester lotion.

I ended my morning with the carwash I’ve needed for a week. Dad told me about this carwashing-place… I guess it’s just called a carwash… near the house that does an excellent job for not a lot of money, so I stopped there.

Apparently, going to a car wash is an exercise in social skill. No one told me this.

I pulled up to the lot to find several little stations equipped with vacuums and other frightening looking tubes and spray bottles. I wanted something cheap. And generally, stations with frightening tubes do not translate to cheap. Unsure of what to do, I decided just to drive about 3 miles per hour around the lot until I found some clear direction. Then, fortune of fortunes, I saw the entrance to an automatic wash. Relief flooded as I drove up to the little box that takes your money, and dread flooded as I realized the box was taped off. Did this mean I had to face the expensive stations and their vacuums?

I backed up in dismay and was simply going to drive away with a dirty car, but just as I turned my wheel to leave, a worker jogged to my car. I felt increasingly awkward. First, because the poor guy had to jog to my car due to the fact that I do not know the rules of fancy car washes. Second, because it took him a ridiculous amount of time to jog to my car. He asked if I wanted a car wash. I was strongly tempted to say no and leave. Instead, I said I wanted something simple and cheap, he wrote something on a receipt, handed it to me, and directed me through the entrance I had tried to use before. “Just drive through,” he said, “then pull around, and you can pay inside while we dry it.” Sounded easy enough.

Wrong.

Before you get any sort of cleaning done to your car, there are these precarious tracks that you have to maneuver your tires into. There is a kind attendant to laugh at you as you try in vain to guide the beast that is your car onto those tiny tracks. Once you undertake that feat, that kind attendant pelts your car with a water gun and slaps pink, sudsy stuff all over it. Meanwhile, you sit in your car trying desperately to remember if the receipt guy had told you to stay in the car or not. About the time you’ve convinced yourself that he said not to stay in the car, it lurches forward and you’re sucked into a machine designed, I’m sure, to clean your car. What the machine actually accomplishes is making you feel like you’re going to throw up. And die. After this torture devices finishes its work, it spits you out into the middle of a lot without so much as an arrow on the ground to direct you. Here, I resorted again to driving 3 miles per hour as that seemed to work last time. Sure enough, the receipt guy spotted me in my confused state and waved me over to one of the frightening stations I had been trying  so hard to avoid.

I parked my car. What now? Pay. Pay is what you do now. How do I pay? Inside, he said go inside to pay. Okay. This is doable. I got out of my car… and left the door open – I still don’t know why I did that. Paying took all of five seconds. What now? No.Idea. I just hoped they’d be done and went back to my car. The door was still open. I’m an idiot.

Did you have a question?” asks one of the gentlemen wiping down my car.

Yes. What do I do? I’ve obviously never left my house before. Had I actually said that, they may have laughed. I didn’t say that though, I just held up my receipt, “She said you’d need this.” He took it and I looked around for a second, then got into my car, shut the open door, and immediately wished I’d chosen to do something else. I had to sit behind that finally closed front door for the three minutes it took them to finish drying my car. I had to sit there, and just keep thinking about how I could have done so many other, less awkward things instead. In those three minutes, however, I did come to the very important life decision to use the carwash at the gas station for the rest of my days.

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Choose.

Remember my grand Lenten plans? Remember how I was going to strip myself of everything I thought I needed and thus position myself to be filled only by God? Remember that? Remember also how I didn’t really do any of it? Because that happened too.

I think I managed to be faithful to my word for a week or so. And one day I stopped. And that day I decided I had taken on too much and I should re-evaluate and start again. I never re-evaluated, though, and I never started again.

God doesn’t think less of me because of it, he’s not disappointed because he can never be disappointed in me. He’s not shaking his head and sighing. I know this. I know it with my head and my voice.

Though, ever since I stopped and didn’t start again, I have not known it. Every time someone likes or reads that post that spelled out my desires for Lent, it acts a reminder that I didn’t do what I said I was going to. I didn’t do any of it. Questions rise and plague: Is this okay? Am I doing something wrong? Am I missing things in my relationship with God? Am I missing places where I am being apathetic? Am I just doing the minimum because I know I can get away with it? Is there a minimum?

They overwhelm. So, I stop thinking altogether. I avoid coffee and sugar and spending money, because they bring the same questions, and I stop thinking. I shut down my brain as best I can and the questions translate to a feeling on angst in my gut. My stomach has been in knots for weeks – and I couldn’t get it to stop.

I’ve been here before – I remember it. I remember asking those same questions and not knowing any answers and seeking refuge in God as much as I knew how.

And I remember what he said – you won’t miss anything. my love for you won’t allow me to stay silent when you’re hurting yourself or others – when you’re not choosing life. 

That was my fear, though – is God speaking and I’m ignoring it? Is that why I’m anxious – because I’m resisting God’s call?

Be still. Just for a second, be still, and listen to me.

I did. I fidgeted a bit, but I listened. And God said, “it’s okay.” He is working in me. He is undoing and recreating, and it rarely looks the same as last time.

Stop worrying about what you didn’t do and move now. Choose now.

This commandment that I’m commanding you today isn’t too much for you, it’s not out of your reach. It’s not on a high mountain – you don’t have to get mountaineers to climb the peak and bring it down to your level and explain it before you can live it. And it’s not across the ocean – you don’t have to send sailors out to get it, bring it back, and then explain it before you can live it. No. The word is right here and now – as near as the tongue in your mouth, as near as the heart in your chest. Just do it! Look at what I’ve done for you today: I’ve placed in front of you Life and Good, Death and Evil. And I command you today: Love God, your God. Walk in his ways. Keep his commandments, regulations, and rules so that you will live, really live, live exuberantly, blessed by God, your God, in the land you are about to enter and possess… and love God, your God, listening obediently to him, firmly embracing him. Oh yes, he is life itself” — Deuteronomy 30:11-16& 20 (the message)

Firmly embracing him, who is life itself.

Food for thought (lame pun, I know)

When eating is something that happens only three times a day (or two times, if you wake up at 11) it becomes a sacred thing.

It has only been two days since I started being intentional about eating meals and nothing in between, but my perspective on food has already begun to shift. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are objects of great anticipation. They have become a gift.

And because they are a gift, I savor them. They bring joy.

Better still, they become times of communion.

This was God’s instruction to his people when they entered the Promise Land:

“There, in the presence of the LORD your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the LORD your God has blessed you.” — Deuteronomy 12:7

What if we embraced that – and eating a meal became a way of claiming the Promise Land, a way of proclaiming God’s goodness?

Lent. Eden. Soil.

“Simplicity takes us back home, to the Garden of Eden. There, in our Eden-like life, everything is quiet, simple, and even. There is a little bit of pleasure, but not too much. There is a little bit of pain, but – again – not too much. We aren’t consumed by the need to have more, and we are able to be thankful for whatever comes our way, even if it’s hard. This quietness in our soul, this freedom from the loudness of fear and the boisterous noise of always watching out for ourselves, gives us a calm contentedness. … Live here. Live in Eden.” – – Winn Collier, Let God: the transforming wisdom of Francois Fenelon

That sounds like the life we were created for, don’t you think? My soul, tired as it is today, rises up in me and shouts that this is the life it was designed to have. I long for it.

And Christ tells me I can have it. Here and now. Not just when he returns to make everything new and right again. He says I’m seated now, in the heavenly realms with him (Ephesians 2:6), so seeking Eden is not in vain. Chasing this hope is not a fool’s race. I am designed for it. right now.

This is what I long for Christ to make manifest in me through Lent, this Eden-life. I am aware, however, that death comes before life. Lent is a season marked with ashes.

And I’ll embrace the ash, with my face set like flint.

“Plow up the hard ground of your hearts, for now is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and shower righteousness on you.” — (Hosea 10:12 – emphasis added)

It’s hard work, preparing hard, dry dirt for a seed. I’ve tried before – breaking up the hard, dead places with a shovel until sweat poured and my back ached. And the thing died after a week. It’s such a hopeful thing, though, to consider my heart this way. It’s such a hopeful thing to anticipate – after the pain and hard work of preparing the soil – sweet rain. Rain of pure goodness and delight, to sink deep down and make fruitful the hard work of preparation.

I made a list, on Wednesday, of all of the clutter I would remove, so that simplicity could enter. A list of all the hard work I would choose, to force the plow forward. A list to make way for Eden. 

And it will be hard. I know it will. But, I’m trusting it will also be sweet.

I’m sharing it with you so that I can have some sense of accountability, and so that you can pray for me and journey with me. I plan to expound on each piece more as time goes on, but for now, a list is all you get.

Removed:

  • No media outside of what’s absolutely necessary: including, but not limited to Facebook, Spotify, texting, internet, movie and television watching (outside of family time)
  • No spending outside of bills
  • No food that is not whole
  • No food outside of meals (essentially no snacks or desserts)
  • Only one cup of coffee or tea a day

Added:

  • Writing everyday. (prepare yourselves)
  • Exercise three times a week
  • Keep to the daily office (thank you Bloom)

The end. I’m eager to see where this leads, and I’m eager to share the road with you.

Tell me about your Lenten journeys – the hopes you have, the plans you have. I want to hear about them! I want to journey with you! I want to pray with you and for you! (comment, e-mail, etc.)

… home. to the Garden of Eden.

Whispers

The leaves here whisper and call through the windows. Wind came three nights ago and tried to carry the leaves and their unearthly words away, but it could not prevail. They are stubborn for dying things. I think if I were that close to dead and the wind came to take me away, I’d go – even if I didn’t want to, I’d go. They’re dipped in bronze too – the leaves that talk in tongues. And they shine and whisper to me from outside the kitchen window as I peel sweet potatoes. I smile at their whisperings for a second and keep peeling – gentle scraping the earthy skin off. Then I cut them. In the near silence, my mind digs and winds in circles.

I think of slavery, of how it’s still happening, of how girls are swept up, deteriorated, and never really put back.

And I cut deeper.

I think of myself, of how strange it is to suddenly not know who you are, of how long it takes to remember – and relearn.

Push harder.

I think of how I thought things would look. And how they really look. And how different the two are.

To break the potato into pieces small enough to cook down and consume.

I think of orphans and how much it must hurt to be alone like that. How much it must hurt to not know the beautiful truth of who you really are.

The knife smacks the cutting board and the sound echoes – hard.

I retrace conversations. Retrace the words I spoke and didn’t speak. The words they spoke.

Music is playing in the next room. And it fills me, like the hard echo of the knife. Fills me from deep down, and I feel like crying. But I don’t.

I think of how the Israelites had to relearn how to live.

I take an onion from counter and work the knife through that – it glides, easy. The onion’s potency stings my eyes and a single tear forces its way through the stinging to remedy it. And it feels good from the same deep down that the music fills, as it falls.

I finish the potatoes and onions and move to the room where the music plays. I let the swirling, filled-ness, overwhelm, overtake me. And I rest in its beauty. Its torn. Its heavy. Its promise.

We gather around the table, hold hands, thank God, and eat. Forks clink. We sigh in contentment. And I thank God again. And again. In the smiling stillness, the whispering leaves can be heard, “this is good.”

I realized the other day that I’m broken. And it’s okay that I don’t really know who I am right now – even if I did know before. It’s okay because Jesus came. He came and lived and was real and touchable and smellable and spoke with sometimes-breaking human voice, like me. So he could teach me how to live.

And then he died. So the curtain could be torn, and he could hold me and I could see him, he died.

Right before he died, he set meals aside for knowing. So we can taste the bitter. And we can know him the way a wife knows a husband. Because the invitation to eat his flesh and drink his blood, is an invitation  to know his pain – an invitation of deepest intimacy. When you love someone, and you can clearly see they ache, deeply, purely ache, don’t you want to know that ache with them – for them? Don’t you want to understand? Communion – the bread, the wine, or, the left over Challah, the water – is knowing that ache.

And then he rose.

He laughs, Jesus. I forget that he’s a joyful being. I forget that when music fills me and though it’s joyful, it hurts and wakens, that it’s good.  Until I eat and drink and I feel him – here, right here. He made meals for remembering. For knowing, and remembering.

Remembering, that he rose so I could get better. So my soul could stop its relentless coughing and sputtering. So the fever could break, and my thought could be clear and pure. And I could be whole.  And be swept up into the joy that is Father, Son, and Spirit here, right here. And so we could walk together. And so as we walk together, we could make others better too; because he came – he was fleshed out and here, right here.

And when his flesh went home – to our home, the one he’s getting ready for me – he left his spirit, to remind me.  He left his spirit to fill up meals and make them deep communion, where we know one another’s hurt. He left his spirit to shake the leaves of precious metal that wouldn’t be taken by the wind to remind me that “this is good.” When it’s hard and the cut won’t come quick enough, and I don’t want it anyway, “this is good.” When the break is smooth, but leaves me raw, “this is good.”

I’m in my room now, my window is open, and my curtain dances in the wind, pushes up against me as if to invite me into the wild adventure it knows. Then it breathes gently, whispering with the leaves, “this is good. because I am good.”