Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Put Your Hands Above Your Head

I hate surrender.

I loathe submission.

To me, these words are synonymous. To accept one, you must accept the other. Frankly, I am not too fond of that idea. There is no way that I’m going to accept surrender if that means I have to accept submission.

My mother called me “stubborn” and “obstinate” as a child. She was kind not to call me “pig-headed.” I am surprised that she did not. Once I decided upon something, I stuck to it be it right or be it wrong.

Some people describe my obstinacy as tenacity. Somehow that is supposed to make the entire idea better. Tenacity is a nice way to dress up my ornery characteristics. I don’t mind being cantankerous. However, it frustrated others that I never permitted anyone to care for me. To me, that was weakness and surrender. While others learned community, I willfully held onto the lonely picture of the little engine that could. Never would I give up.

In my head, I associated surrender and submission to women who were abused. Submissive women were cowed. Surrendered men would allow the world to walk all over them. They had no strength - no backbone. Surrender meant leaving myself open to hurt.

Surrender is a difficult thought for me because I do not trust that surrender is good. I do not trust that people won’t take advantage of me. I do not trust the motivation of others to care for me for no reason except that they desire to do so. When I open myself to surrender, I risk allowing people to see me in my most weakened state and to reject it. Rejection is worse than surrender in my mind.

A couple months ago, I was chatting with a friend. He told me, “You don’t trust.” This took me by surprise because although I know that I don’t trust well, I didn’t expect a guy to be able to see that so quickly. That conversation stimulated a lot of thinking on my part. I came to the conclusion that I didn’t even trust God. In word, it was easy. In action, I chose to depend on myself. As long as I was capable of caring for myself, there was no need to trust God.

I did not trust God. I did not trust friends. I might have trusted my family because they had already proved themselves to be worthy of trust, but only so much.
This brought into my life a pursuit of trust. I was determined to learn trust. Appalled at my inability to trust God, I began to seek to trust.

No wonder I hated surrender, I loathed it because I did not trust God to be good or want the best for me. Surrender is a serious thing. I grew up in the church. People use the word surrender all the time, but rarely do they mean it or put action behind their words. It was disgusting to me to see this type of insincerity. I vowed to myself that I would not use that word unless I meant it. After living with myself for twenty years, I know that I cannot fully surrender to anything. As soon as I surrender one thing, something else jumps up. Therefore, I was unwilling to give surrender a chance because I didn’t trust myself or God.

During the summer, I picked up a book called Absolute Surrender by Andrew Murray. It took me about three months to read through a book that I would have normally finished reading in 3 days. Murray wrote that it was that one thing that keeps a person from absolute surrender. At first, I didn’t understand. I munched on the statement with the questions swirling about in my head “what one thing? What does he mean? What is that one thing?”

Suddenly, I knew what Murray meant. Absolute surrender meant continually surrendering these things as they popped up. It was a “one step at a time” statement.

Here I believed that I had to absolutely surrender once and for all. However, I knew that I would fail because I knew that I didn’t know how to surrender everything. Surrender is a minute by minute process. It requires a re-focusing on God. My un-surrendered moments are when I forget that Jesus is the focus of my life.

I still fail at surrendering. I still fail at trusting God. Yet, I am learning.

Surrender is bittersweet.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

My Haunt

I took a walk once. Deep in the darkest hours of the night. My feet carried me away to my haunt of waters. Fog rose off the waters like dancing goddesses. The silence reigned supreme. Yet, it talked with my heart. I felt at home in the quiet. In the darkest of shadows, I found a friend. Darkness is frightening to some. To me, it welcomes. We understand each other.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Birthday Thoughts

“How has your birthday been?” One of my friends asks. I smile softly because I know that my 21st birthday has not been like any that others would expect. It wasn’t wild. It wasn’t crazy. It was and it is still currently. In reply to my friend’s question, I say, “It was pleasant. My day went along happily.” Although this isn’t the answer they are expecting, it is perfect.

To any other, this day is just another January 20th. It’s a date that shows the month is almost over. Some have work. Some have school. I have school! Actually, I had a lot of classes. The monotony of life continues. Yet, there is an exception.

This morning when I awoke, I slipped a suit of moon dust on under my skin. No one sees it. However, I feel it. The glow permeates my being. In the quiet moments of my day and there have been many, I feel the tickle of the moon dust and I remember that twenty-one years ago today I was born. My heart swells with gratitude that I am alive - that I can feel the crisp wind cut through my coat.

My birthday has been spent in the presence of God. When I woke in the morning, I chose to wake about an hour and half earlier than I would usually wake so I could be with Jesus. To me, mornings are a holy time. He deserves my beginnings as well as my endings with everything in between. When I walked to class, I gazed in awe at the silhouette of the trees against the early morning sky.

This day, I have appreciated the little things of life. I have gloried in the wind when it races through my hair. The sprinkling of snow on me as I walked across campus with a caramel steamer clasped between my mittens brought a feeling of fantasy to my evening. Never did I question that I was loved. When people have expressly approached me to only wish me a happy birthday, I have felt loved. It seemed to me that God was whispering through their well-wishings His love for me. My heart is full.

I have no patience for birthdays when they scream, “Look at me! I am the Birthday Girl and I deserve your attention.” Honestly, I deserve nothing. My day has been fulfilling because I was able to serve others. Those moments of service are made holy in the quiet places of my heart because I served happily.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Aspiring Snowflake

A thin vapor curled and froze. From the innermost part of this frozen vapor, growth began in a geometrical shoot. The form crystallized. With the intricacies that bloomed in this winter creation, the cold breathed purpose into this small fragile piece of ice. Although heat or a careless hand could ruin the crystal, the snowflake continued to explode into a million nuances of ice sculpture smaller than a centimeter. Before long, the cloud nursery could no longer contain the silver crystal. It fell.

Terrified, this intricate sliver of ice plummeted from the life that it had known. Searching for its parachute, the snowflake desperately fought the fall. A zephyr flipped by and this softly screaming crystal gripped the tail of the zephyr and spun out of control. It seemed as though the wind played hot potato as it passed the crystal from zephyr to zephyr. The tiny flake of ice cavorted with others of its kind as the wind rushed through the snowflakes playing a winter game of tag.

Life blurred in a world of white. With an army of a million playful slivers of ice, the crystal blew by misshapen oddities rooted in the ground that seemed like huge skeletons reaching towards the snowflakes. Some ice flakes chose to soften the unsightly angular arms with their own intricate forms. These lovely cold soldiers sprinkled themselves across every surface that presented itself. Some crystallized vapors were called to their own kind in the cemented form of ice. Others did not choose their destination before the ground finished their fall. A few snowflakes chose clumsy moving masses that emanated heat.

If this tiny ornate crystal had a heart, it would have been beating in nervous anticipation as it looked to choose its resting place. The wind tossed this lovely sparkle of ice through the air. In the distance, a willowy mass emanating heat moved toward this small glittering messenger as it flew with its winter companions. As the snowflake flitted nearer to this ungraceful mass, the girl breathed deeply surveying the wintery white about her. With a step and a twinkling, the ornate snowflake made its decision.

A point of glittering cold slammed onto the girl’s closed lips. Her eyes widened and her lips broke into a grin. She had been kissed by a snowflake. The warmth of her mouth had been the snowflake’s demise. Yet, this crystallized ice melted the ice in the heart of the girl. Snowflakes flocked to the girl and draped her in their own winter finery. Even if one in a million, the girl accepted purpose from the crystal kiss.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Inhale Grace, Exhale Gratitude

“When I create my exams, I always make them with the intent that no student can get an ‘A’.” stated my eccentric professor. Dr. Scott Johnson paced about the quiet classroom of his new Speech students while he explained his teaching style. Unfortunately distracted by his ostentatious tie and this statement, I found it difficult to fathom these words that came from his mouth. Furiously, my mind screamed, “What is he saying?! He has no right to make failure his students’ only option. That’s a ridiculous! If I can’t get an ‘A’, why should I try??”

Upon exiting Johnson’s class, I called my mother and ranted to her over this strange way of teaching. Finally, I gritted my teeth and I said, “Mom, I’m going to get an ‘A’. I’m not going to just roll over and give up.” That first semester in Dr. Scott Johnson’s class was a struggle. His spontaneity and flexibility in class schedule was something that I was taken aback by. Sure, homeschooling had required a certain amount of flexibility and spontaneity. However, I had never expected to find a teacher who taught his class with such a real world focus.

As Johnson’s style of teaching befuddled college students, cancer re-attacked Johnson’s life. Even during Johnson’s most difficult days, he always chose to reflect Jesus. Johnson clung to the phrase, “Inhale grace, exhale gratitude.” I never understood the weight of that phrase. It sounded nice and it was concise. The phrase sat well on the tongue. Of course, there were many days where Johnson close to tears would inhale a deep trembling breath and then slowly exhale. As he did, Johnson would whisper those accompanying words. Thinking about it now, I think those words helped Johnson to refocus on Jesus Christ rather than himself.

For the past three years, I have participated in a class in which Johnson taught speech, oral interpretation, or persuasion. None of those classes fit the mold of an ordinary class. Often, the syllabi were represented solely by the necessary Bethel rules of no plagiarism and cell phones. By my third class with Johnson, most of his shock factor had worn off and had been replaced by a knowing smirk every time he threw the class a curve ball. While other students would not show up for class or complain about Johnson’s odd teaching, I considered myself to be similar to Old Faithful. On days that class was cancelled, I would enter the empty classroom and stare silently at the blank white board with the class cancellation scribbled across the board. My heart mourned. Each class cancellation signified an emergency or scheduled chemotherapy treatment. Although thankful for some extra time to myself, I could never celebrate those cancelled class times.

On my midterm, Johnson gave me a full hundred points. Two years earlier in utter frustration with a professor, who made success seemingly impossible, I chose to work hard. Every class that I took with Johnson challenged me. Not only did Johnson have a propensity to the strange and the weird, he valued challenges. Johnson continually wanted his students to be inspired to thought. He did that on a daily basis. Never have I been so excited to receive a full one hundred points on an exam. I almost pasted this hard earned “A” exam on my refrigerator like a proud five year old.

On January 3rd, 2011, Dr. Scott Johnson passed into eternity. He left a Legacy.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


The bouquet of yellow roses wrapped in plastic faced the floor as the man attached to the dozen flowers stood in rapt attention to the football game on television. A male relation said something to him and he tore his attention away from the screen. People were crowded about them with some in movement and some still as they checked their phones or frantically searched the crowds for a familiar face. Not far away, the rumble of an air plane taking off sent small shivers through the floor of the building. Still the man waited with his yellow roses and his television screen.

In a small college dorm, a cell phone crooned a tune from the 1940s. A confused student glanced at the caller I.D. and groaned, “Why is she calling?” With a begrudging sigh, the student answered cheerfully, “Hello?” To her chagrin, the voice answered, “Wanna hang out?” That was the last thing that this particular college student wanted. Carefully, she maneuvered her way out of hanging out with the voice on the other side of the cell phone. Excuses leapt to her lips. As soon as the conversation ended, the student held her cell phone in her hand and felt guilty.

No one wants to be alone. In college, this is reflected in the mad dash for marriage and companionship. Even amongst friends, one can feel totally alone. No one understands. With dexterity of mind, we buy into the ideas that we are alone in this world with no one caring or wanting to know about our lives. Isolated by our very own will, we blame everyone else for their failure to care. Fingers are pointed. Before long, the loneliness of the entire human population is unveiled. The best thing about loneliness is that it makes everyone feels as though they are the only lonely person. However, this lonely person is probably sitting right next to a person who is equally as lonely.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Learning to Trust

In Braveheart, William Wallace continually trusts over and over again. Half of the time that Wallace would trust, he would be betrayed. Yet, he always was willing to trust again. Wallace gave second chances. In the movie, he is presented as the ultimate man. Not only is he a sweet and soft lover, Wallace is a strong thinking warrior. Most of all, he was willing to trust.

The magnitude of Wallace’s trust astounds me. I have never been good at trusting. Lately, I have come to the conclusion that I do not know how to trust at all. I would rather cynically approach the world and people than expose myself to betrayal and hurt. Wallace makes no sense to me. He fought, but found no pleasure in war. He desired a simple farm with a wife and children. Did he get any of that? No. By our standards, Wallace should have been a bitter and angry. He was angry, but Wallace was never portrayed as bitter. He should have been bitter and distrustful. Instead, he was willing to trust and he was thankful for life.

In my search for learning to trust, I have found that trust is founded in thankfulness. It is founded in being filled with gratitude at the simple things in life. Wallace was thankful for life. He was thankful for the men that fought alongside of him. Wallace has become a legend. He is considered a man among men. Through wit and cunning, he routed Britain from Scotland.

Trust can be found in the most unlikely places. When I watched Braveheart, I was not watching with the intention of learning about trust. And yet, I did. Once the movie was over, the prevailing question in my head was, “How could Wallace continue to trust even after being betrayed multiple times?” People have been scarred by betrayal in modern life. Most people tend to stop extending such willing trust. I am even slow to trust. However, I respect Wallace for his ability to continually trust even in the face of betrayal. Even if this is only a movie version of the real man, I think this message of trust should be studied.

How does one not embrace bitterness? How does one continue to trust? Is it possible? In pain and difficulty, trust becomes hard. Wallace chose to think beyond himself. He fought for his country, his dead wife, and the children. He gave second chances because he believed in the people of Scotland. Wallace lived with a focus of others. Hollywood may not have meant to weave this message of trust in their movie, but they did. May I continue to learn from it.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Hair Today (continued)

A year ago, today, I shaved my head. Well, I was only able to shave my head with the aid of my friends. The shaving of my head stirred up many negative feelings within loved ones and worried others. At the time, I had many reasons as to why I should do this. I thought it would help me fight my vanity. I thought it would be a good growing experience. I thought I would have a better understanding of what women go through who lose their hair through illness or cancer. I’m a person who likes reasoning. Therefore, I had reasoning. Well, within the hours of shaving my head, all those reasons seemed to fly out the window. I was hairless and reasonless. I had nothing to cling to except my resolve. My hair was gone.

Perhaps, some of my reasons still hold. Yet, honestly, I cannot say why I shaved my head. I hesitate to claim that God might have placed that thought in my head so that I could further learn to trust and surrender to Him. Whether it was wrong or right, it’s what I did. As my hair has grown, God has challenged me to further trust and surrender to Him. God has used this situation for growth.

Shaving my head has taught me many things. I still find long hair beautiful and I look forward to having my long hair back. Yet, I definitely appreciate super short hair that women sport occasionally. I’ve been there. Shaving my head exposed many areas in my life that needed working on. Suddenly, I became aware of relationships that were not as good as I believed them to be. I had an almost tangible example of how actions and words can influence close relationships. In my desire to shave my head, I deeply wounded some of the dearest people to me. Most of that wounding came from miscommunication and lack of communication. I cannot be proud of that.

And yet, shaving my head was like a rebirth. My lack of hair put me in a new place of trust. Some days, it was very hard to get up and go out into the world. As I began considering options for the summer, I knew that my lack of hair would not aid to my interviewing process at all. So I prayed. I had to trust that God was going to give me direction. As summer approached and time shortened, my summer possibilities became less and less. I still trusted that God would provide summer plans. He did. During the summer of 2010, I went on The Experience with Kingdom Building Ministries. The picture that I sent in to them with my application showed me with about 2 cm of hair.

Shaving my head also began me on an obvious pathway of surrender. When I shaved my head, I surrendered myself to many stereotypes and negative thoughts by people of every age. I was at the mercy of their prejudices. In those moments, I had to trust that Jesus would shine through my life. In those moments, I had to surrender to Jesus my pride and desire to look good. I had to stop putting stock in what other people thought of me. That is never an easy process. In those first couple of weeks, I had to learn to cling to the promises of God and His thoughts about His children.

It’s been a hair journey. It has been a joy to watch my hair grow back in. I’ve discovered that my hair has some leanings towards loose curls and waves. It pleases me to watch my hair slowly curl around my face. A couple of days ago, I got my hair trimmed so I would lose the mullet. I’ve got a nice sleek bob. No one would guess where I was a year ago in hair length.

Through all of this, I am thankful. I am thankful that hair grows. I’m thankful that I have learned more about trusting and surrendering. I am thankful for the people that stood by me through the difficult times with encouragement upon their lips even if they didn’t really understand why I had shaved my head. Through the pain of those times, I learned many things. I’m sorry for hurting those who I love and even those I might not love. I’m sorry for the confusion that I caused. I’m sorry for not communicating like I should have. I am thankful, though, for this time in my life because I have learned so much about healing relationships and loving people.

I also figured out that I adore short hair. Give me a couple of years after I’ve had my fill of long hair and I’ll probably donate those long locks to Locks of Love again in exchange for a short pixie cut. Just as hair grows, we grow in our understanding of the world and the people around us.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Bathroom Publicity

A public bathroom is either a place of relief or disgust depending on one’s viewpoint. If one has been crossing their legs for seemingly hours in hopes to make it to the nearest bathroom and preserve the splendor of their pants, a public outhouse consisting of a hole in the ground would be sweet relief. And yet, if one has an intense dislike of public facilities, every way will be endeavored to avoid the use of the public restroom. Of course, we mustn’t forget those who have an impish amusement about them while using these oh-so-public bathrooms. No matter what your perspective, a public bathroom offers a world of adventure where most everyone exits conqueror and survivor.

To those who use the public restroom solely out of intense necessity, the experience is generally rejuvenating and refreshing. In utter panic, one rushes into the bathroom and without a second glance dashes into the nearest stall. Oblivious to surroundings and others, this person finally untwists their legs, does their business, washes their hands as is the common social norm, possibly primps momentarily, and leaves the restroom in a cloud of relaxed euphoria. Now, they can progress in their shopping, traveling, working, etc.

To those who find the public restroom to be a nightmarish and terrifying place, the moments spent in this germ infested facility feel like long hours. Upon entrance into this public bathroom, the need to pee or poop has fled them. In a relieved state, they exit only to return momentarily when they find that their previous need has resurfaced immediately. This person scans the surroundings and awkwardly nods at anyone who happens to be inside the bathroom. Once in the stall farthest away from people but one over from the wall, this person coats the toilet seat in layers upon layers of thin toilet paper. Their frantic sanitary efforts are for not since this person won’t even deign to place their bum on this common public toilet. Then with an apologetic air, they relieve themselves trying to not make a sound but failing miserably. The flushing of the toilet fairly makes this person leap up in terror as the public monstrosity of a toilet tries to eat them. Rushing to the sink, they scrub their hands and only breathe easily as they exit the public facilities.

To those who have impish delight in the use of public restrooms, the time spent in the bathroom although for a specific purpose is found rather amusing. These are the kind of people who could probably coax a laugh from the angriest of poops. They have no problem with the intimacy of a public restroom. When those in their neighboring stalls are peeing in a simultaneous melody and harmony, they join in the bathroom music with vigor. Instead of waiting for a neighboring toilet to flush so the passing of gas can be masked in the roar of the toilet, this person will most likely defiantly fart as loudly as possible in the pure silence of the restroom and act like nothing out of the ordinary has happened. Of course, they are most likely secretly desiring to hear a laugh escape their neighbor. This imp most assuredly leaves the public bathroom with a smirk plastered on his or her face.

A public bathroom is a strange place since it combines something as intimate as the relieving of one’s self with the thought of others all doing that same action together. Public bathrooms, restrooms, and toilets are very important in our society. Yet, rarely do they ever show up in movies or in books. It’s just taken for granted that people use these things. Oh, we know that they are used because we’ve got terms such as ‘bathroom humor’ and ‘potty mouth.’ Bathrooms are one of those awkward things that everyone has but tries to ignore - so common place that it’s forgettable except when you need to use it.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A Love Affair

I have a love affair with winter
His breath puts color in my cheek
And sends a shiver down my spine
His character is anything but meek
Coolly, he states, “All this is mine.”

I have a love affair with winter
He stalks every being with ice
Lean deer frantically race away
For winter is anything but nice,
As we all perceive within a day.

I have a love affair with winter
On the coolest eve, he’s at his best
Demandingly, he reigns with white
His temperament allows no rest
He glories in his very might

I have a love affair with winter
And yet, when he loses his hold
I am glad to be free of his grasp
His weakness comes; I am told.
Spring, my friend, I clasp