Friday, September 30, 2011

Ode to a Dying Earth

Today the mountain wears a golden burial shroud, welcoming winter’s death as a crown.
Autumn pine peer solemn and silent at the dying earth through her cathedral windows of deepest amber and caramel, framed by slender branches.
Aspen quake and shiver, death staining their leaves with brilliant orange,
And the meadows stand still and breathless,
Waiting for the mountain that once quivered with life to die
So that she can live again.
And I, I sit at her base and sup on bread and wine,
This once living food now dead, coursing through my dying body so that I might live.
This, a reminder of the only Living Food; the grain and the vine, the Bread and the Wine;
The One who died and then lived.
And in this communion with death surrounded by the dying I know it’s true what they say,
Beauty is the Resplendence of Truth;
For the colors ring and the silence sings of death that gives life,
Of the Living One,
Who makes all things new.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Thursday Things: A Colorado Adventure, Part I

1. I'm in Colorado.

2. I love it here.

3. I could move here.

4. Here's why:

4a. This is what it looks like when you decide to go driving in the Colorado mountains in September.
Saffron and Tangerine

Mustard and Caramel

Amber and honey

4b. The touristy section of Denver has a piano on every city block.

Middle C sounds like F and Chopin's Prelude in C# Minor sounds like pea soup on these inner-city pianos, but there's nothing quite like playing outside in the fresh mountain air.

One of my dreams is to play a grand piano in a mountain meadow surrounded by quaking aspen and towering pine. This is the closest I've gotten to that dream.

4c. This is what impromptu picnics are like in Colorado.

4d. This guy lives in Colorado.

Everyone, this is Dirk.

Everyone: "Hi Dirk."

Dirk's family and my family go way back: as kids we homeschooled together, camped together, communed over $5 "cardboard" pizza together, and explored, created, and got into trouble together.

Dirk is family, and eating Peruvian fare at the base of the Rocky Mountains with him felt like going home.

4e. There is lots of leather in Colorado. Soft, fragrant, turquoise-studded leather.

This is my best cowgirl face.

4f. Small mountain towns like Steamboat Springs, Colorado have drug stores with real live soda fountains and jukeboxes that play Elvis. This is me cuttin' a rug with some mad (i.e. "awkward string bean") moves.

I believe this photo has captured my inimitable "Sprinkler" move.

4g. Colorado is a great place to make new kindred spirit friends.

5. The fresh, clean Rocky Mountain air has been so good for my body, and the fellowship with new friends so good for my soul. The Lord has buoyed and bolstered my health the last few days and this is the first week in months and months that I feel like I've been able to really participate in life. I am loving it.

Monday, September 26, 2011

When I Wake Up Hungry

Last night I went to bed craving a bar of swiss chocolate—the kind that's loaded with so much cream it melts in my mouth before I have a chance to chew it. Today I woke up dying for a steaming, frothy latte and a thick slab of pumpkin bread, hot out of the oven.

When I quickly and hungrily climbed out of bed and almost blacked out from the exhaustion of the week I decided it would be nice to take a vacation to Italy where I'd eat loads of fresh bread and butter, heaps of cheesy pasta, and bucketfuls of gelato.

Then I remembered that I'm not allowed to put gluten, sugar, dairy, or caffeine in my body, and I concluded that heaven can't get here soon enough. Because I'll have a new body in heaven, and I'm pretty sure the lattes and chocolate there will be off. the. hook.

So I started dreaming about heaven, where my desires won't ever go unsatisfied, where my Jesus will fully fill all the empty cracks and hollows in my soul. I'm learning that letting my mind drift "further up and further in" to my heaven-home is the loveliest tour an imagination can take— it fertilizes my hope of future glory and helps me to center my heart on the place I belong.

Won't you join me as I muse?

1. I hope Turkish delight in heaven is as exquisite as Edmund thinks it is in
The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe.

When I tasted Turkish Delight for the first time I felt certain someone was playing a joke on me. To think this supposedly smooth, creamy, and divinely sweet Turkish Delight is really just chunky jelly coated in powdered sugar. Heaven will certainly rectify this egregious culinary blunder.

2. Boy but laughter is divine, and I cannot wait to have a deep belly laugh with God. If all of the truest, wholesomest, and rip-roarin' funniest humour is just a shadow of the kind of humor that flows from God's holy character, then we are in for some right good laughs, folks. Especially when you consider that our current belly laughs are facilitated by bellies in fallen bodies. What capacity must a resurrected and perfect body (belly) have for laughing?!

3. Have you ever hiked Half Dome in Yosemite in autumn? It's spectacular. The crisp air is perfumed with traces of summer pine. The mountains rise jagged and majestic on every side, a banner of deepest blue stretched wide behind them. The trail is dotted with fragrant wildflowers, and everywhere there are deciduous trees turning vibrant shades of saffron, amber, crimson, and caramel. Around some bends in the trail there are silvery looking-glass lakes; around others are undulating waterfalls, chortling as they tumble from heights to depths.

If an orchestral symphony could be translated into visual artwork it would look like Yosemite.

Each time I survey this staggering beauty I can't help but remember this land is cursed. This is an imitation of the real thing; it's but a shadow of our heaven-home. Can you imagine what it looked like before the fall of man? I think we will know in heaven. And I hope to find autumn in some corner of heaven. I think its colors and smells are too strong and alive for my senses now, but I sure can't wait

4. Oh how I yearn for the day that I feel really, truly known. In heaven all of my dingy facades and tarnished masks will melt away with sin's soul scars and stains and I will know what it is to stand before my Creator naked, known and loved. And the best part is I will know him fully, even as I am fully known.

What must it be like to hear the voice that spoke the stars into the sky, calls dead men to life, and courses with love say my name....

5. In that same vein, I am so excited to see and really know my dear friends and family in their truest form, uninhibited by fear and unfettered by insecurity; radiant in purity and splendor as they rule and reign with Christ, more themselves they've ever been before. I think I will stand in awe at their beauty.

6. A friend recently shared this by Charles Spurgeon with me: "You may look, and study, and weigh, but Jesus is a greater Savior than you think Him to be when your thoughts are at the greatest."

Now close your eyes and picture his eyes burning love into the darkest corners of your soul, speaking compassion to your withered heart, resurrecting your deepest dreams and desires and then satisfying every yearning you've ever known.

Let your imagination plumb the depths of his goodness and love, and then remember that the Savior is much, much greater than even this. It doesn't matter how far and wide you stretch that imagination of yours, you will never approach his great compassion and loving kindness.

This is the one who fights for you, walks with you, and lives in you. Blessed be his good and holy name.

7. Okay, now it's your turn: what do you hope for in heaven?!

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Saturday, September 24, 2011


Today, if I didn't have papers to grade, a presentation to prepare, and lessons to plan, I would curl up with this:

I miss Ramona Geraldine Quimby, her annoying big sister, Beezus, and their adventures on Klickitat Street. Work and bills and deadlines will do that to a gal. ;)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Thursday Things: Another Year Behind Me

1. Several days I ago absentmindedly opened my front door and almost walked face first into this:

If I were brave enough to hold the golf ball that I keep in my purse next to the spider for the picture, you would see that the spider. is. bigger. She is the BIG Bertha of Big Berthas; the mother of all spiders, getting cozy above MY front door.

Bertha was entirely too big for me to kill (I wasn't about to attempt a skirmish with her), and so I used a rake to carry her to the opposite side of my patio where I threw her over the patio wall. She landed with a very loud thud. I still shudder when I remember it.

The next morning I awoke to find this a few feet to the right of my french doors:

She's back folks, and I can't help but wonder if it's with a vengeance. Now, every time a wayward hair tickles my skin I do the spider dance (you know what I'm talking about).

Someone call the exterminator.

2. This is what we call a culinary success [finally]:

Admittedly they are a leetle brown, but these gluten-free, refined sugar-free, dairy-free apple spice muffins were totally edible. Welcome to Los Angeles, Autumn. (She's not really here yet, I'm just hoping that a warm welcome and the smell of cinnamon apple in the air will entice her to visit for a few months).

3. I turned 27 over the weekend.

My wonderful cousin made me these cupcakes. They were delicious!

This is the first birthday that's made me gulp big and wish fervently that time would slow down a bit. I figure 40 is just around the corner (because, my how the last eight years have flown), and although I hear the 40's are marvelous, there's so much I'd like to do before I get there (and so little time). This is a problem I will gladly embrace. I love that life has so much to offer.

To celebrate my big day, I enjoyed the L.A. Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl with some dear friends and family,

and went paddle boarding in Dana Point with my cousins.

Are there any paddle boarders in the house? If not, you must try it soon! There's nothing quite like being surrounded by the still, quiet ocean, the water lapping against your board, the sun warming your skin and the breeze at your back. It's pretty much impossible to do it without singing the Pocohantas theme song, that's for sure. It was the one time all week that my bodily aches and fatigue faded into nothingness. Glorious.

4. I love love love having a a vegetable garden.

5. Would you be horrified if I told I kill at least one cricket every week? I cannot, for the life of me, figure out how they keep getting into my bathroom.

I wish I had a more effective means of capturing and releasing them so I didn't have to squash them. There's something about their wagging antennae and chipper hopping that makes them kind of endearing.

On that note, a happiest of happy Thursdays to you, my friends!

Monday, September 19, 2011

When God is the One Writing

I've missed you this last week, Friends. It's been a hard health week for me which always makes it difficult for me to write. But today when God pulled the sun up over the horizon there was healing in its warm light, and I have a bit more energy to share something I discovered this last week and have tucked into the folds of my heart to carry with me through each challenging day.

I found it in the book of John, soon after Jesus rubbed spit and mud in the eyes of a blind man and in two strokes of his hand painted the man's world with light, color, and texture. A couple of chapters later this God-Man, whose fingertips bore unmatchable power, received word from his friends Mary and Martha that their brother Lazarus had fallen desperately sick.

The Gospel writer sets the scene for us: Lazarus's sisters know Jesus of Nazareth loves their failing brother (and won't he do something for him?), and Jesus knows that this story will end well—just you wait and see, he tells his disciples: God will be glorified in all this.

Then, just before the story really picks up, the Gospel writer pauses to tell us something very important:

"Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus."

Yes, yes he did. I nod as I read. This is the first thing I learned about Jesus when I was little tyke in Mrs. Doerschuck's Sunday School class, with her sweet smile, softly curling white hair and singsong voice: "Jesus loves us this we know..."

I go back and read it again.

"Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus."

"So when he heard Lazarus was sick," the Gospel writer continued.

My heart quickens. The English teacher in me knows that the word "So" means "to the great extent that," or, "for this reason." So I know the next words on the tissue-thin page will reveal the sort of thing God does when he loves people a lot—people like us, who need to be reminded of the ways Jesus shows us his love.

I lift my eyes and gaze for a moment at the pink geraniums smiling through my window. The muscles around my spine ache as I sit turning the first few verses of Lazarus's story over and over in my mind, thinking about all of the things that could follow that "So".

 My thoughts move slowly through my foggy mind (has it grown into a forest of cotton?), and I am aware that my limbs have fallen limp and exhausted at my side from the sensation of lead sitting thick and still in them.

My emotions are slumped with my body—a body that almost daily reminds me that it is dying, slowly and quietly.

 I remember realizing as an adolescent that we're all dying; that our bodies consistently deteriorate after childhood and that this is the effect of the Fall of Man. It's just that now it's hard for me to forget about this steady return to dust when my body so often aches and trembles with fatigue.

 And so I daily cry out to God, asking him to sustain and heal me, to keep my body from falling into even more severe illness; and I think, in a very small way, I may understand how Mary and Martha felt and hoped when they asked Jesus to come to Lazarus.

"So when he heard Lazarus was sick he stayed where he was two more days."

Two long days with seconds that passed so slowly the minutes felt like hours, and hours that crawled by slower than lifetimes. Just long enough for Lazarus' body to break and die.

There are tears in my eyes at this point, because this story is not turning out the way it did with the blind man, and I think Jesus shows us his love in ways I wouldn't have chosen.

I keep reading: Jesus makes his way to Martha and Mary's house where he knows Lazarus lies dead, and reminds his disciples along the way of what he'd said when he first heard about Lazarus's illness: "This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory....that you may believe."

I know the rest of the story well. Martha runs to meet Jesus as he nears their house, lamenting his late arrival. He promises her Lazarus will rise, and this Jewish woman remembers aloud another promise: the promise of resurrection at the last day.

 I think Jesus must have tipped her downcast, tear-stained face up toward his when he replied, "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die."

I think Martha's heart must have quaked and soared.

Together, Jesus walks with Martha into the village where they find Mary grieving among friends and family. Jesus looks at their heaving shoulders and contorted faces, hears their gutteral wails, and is deeply moved.

Even in the face of his transcendent plan to use Lazarus' sickness and death for God's glory, he enters their pain and weeps with them over their dead friend, Lazarus.

 Then he walks to the tomb and calls for Lazarus, telling him to come out into the arms of his sisters and friends. And Lazarus emerges from the tomb's darkened doorway, tearing off his grave cloths as his blinking eyes adjust to the piercing light.

And the resplendence of God's glory fills that brilliant light, and many of the people around Lazarus believed.  

My soul swells and sighs as I look up from my Bible and I know that I want God's glory to radiate from my weakness so that I and others might believe in his power, goodness, and unmatchable love in order that we might have life.

I also know that this is what God will give me. He is writing more of his glory and goodness into my story than I could ever write myself, and although the story he pens may look very different from the story I'd pen, he writes it this way because he loves me.

And so I try to see my story through his eyes, remembering that he is the God of Resurrection who douses our pain with his life-giving glory.

I thoughtfully close my Bible, set it on my cluttered kitchen table, and walk over to the sink where I begin to slowly wash my dishes, murmuring as I lather,

"Now Jesus loved Sarah Christine. So he allowed her a long season of illness...."

And I ask him to make sure that the story ends in his glory, even if it ends in sickness, because his glory is our greatest good.

How might your story change if you told it this way?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Thursday Things: Sometimes Even Corvettes Have Engine Trouble

Well folks, it's that time of the week again, and I'm sorry to say I'm still lugging around my station wagon computer and its impossibly long and bulky power cord, because of course station wagon computers have a battery life of about 3 minutes.

I did get my honda-turned-corvette back on Tuesday, and boy was she fast. That little baby blazed many a smokin' trail through my piles of work all evening, and then her engine starting acting up. So now she's back in the shop in the hands of an amazing tech guy named Jim Bob. Well, his name is James Robert, but at this point the IT guys and I are on a nickname basis, and Jim Bob is so much more fun to say. It makes me want to get on a pogo stick and start wildly bouncing. Try it. Say Jim Bob five times fast and see if you don't want to get your hop on.

Anyway, the absence of my trusty Mac means you're in for some real spacing/layout treats today. So, without further ado, I give you this Thursday's Things, the Thursday edition:

1. I was just trying to revive my wilting petunias (we've had a real scorcher of a week here SmogVille) and my heart started aching for this:

My family stayed in an old renovated castle in Austria during the summer of 2004 so my dad could utilize the castle's library while he worked on his dissertation. One of the highlights that summer was hiking down into the village where we'd walk along the river and admire the blossom bedecked balconies and windowsills. Ever since then my gardening skills have seemed a little...lacking.

2. Thinking about those walks along the river gave me a hankerin' for some fresh Austrian mountain air, and maybe a yodeling session or two.

I don't know if my brother and I are doing any yodeling in the picture below, but we are definitely bellowing, "The hills are aliiiiive with the sound of muuuuuusiiiiic!"
#36 on my bucket list: cheeeck.

3. Of course those hankerins gave me more hankerins:

For a jubilant Lithuanian polka around a dancing fire in the alps (there were quite a few Lithuanians staying at the castle):
And a hayride on a MidSummer's Eve:

According to Lithuanian tradition, we made flower crowns to wear in our hair for the longest eve of the year, and then rode through the Austrain alps before sunset. (My sister and my backs are facing the camera. She's in red and I'm to her right in denim, with my hair wrapped around my head like a fraulein).

4. Ahhh, such glorious travel memories. I even began to wish for another opportunity to travel like this:
(Because there's nothing quite like driving through the Alps, your face smashed against the window, not because you are eager to drink in the scenery (although you are) but because there are 12 suitcases bearing down on your gravity-compliant little body.)

And this:
This was at a truck stop in France (we took week-long trips to nearby countries that summer). It was a much, much better alternative to getting some shut eye in our stuffed little Puegeot van.

5. And of course thinking about France made me wish I could eat a strawberry tart at a picnic table surrounded by this:
6. But instead, I'm going to go watch this in preparation for the class I teach in two weeks:

I am hoping the foreign scenery and occasionally convincing French accent satisfy my travel craving.

It's amazing what wilted petunias can do to a person's Thursday, isn't it?

Salut mes amis!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Just Around the River Bend

This evening I huffed and puffed up the big hill in my neighborhood toward a horizon drenched in honeyed light. I stepped over scuttling baby lizards, past tall gates covered in climbing jasmine, and smiled at the lady watering flowers under the giant wooden cross that stands erect in her front yard.

As I walked through this peaceful quiet I noticed my deep thoughts were punctuated by even deeper sighs; my shoulders were rigidly tense and the muscles around my chest were slowly tightening around my steadily beating heart, and I realized I was waiting for something.

With this realization came a flood of realizations—that I'd been sighing deep yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that, and I've been living as if I am waiting for something.

It doesn't take long for me to identify the things I'm waiting for. I'm waiting for spring semester when I'll hopefully be healthy enough to resume my philosophy classes after taking this semester off; I'm waiting to finish my degree so I can get a Ph.D. so I have more teaching prospects; I'm waiting for the floor to get mopped so I can put my feet up, the papers to get graded so I can read a book, the weekend to end so I can resume teaching, and the work week to end so I can resume resting; I'm waiting for the day my body is healthy enough to go hiking at sunrise and running at sunset; and, if I'm honest, I'm waiting for the day I meet a man who makes my heart quicken and my soul stand in awe of a God who gives good husbandly gifts. And I know that what I'm really waiting for is a life that looks the way I think it should.

I didn't do this when I was a kid. When I was a kid I had a settled contentedness, and although I sometimes burst into a heartfelt rendition of Pocahontas' "Just Around the River Bend," I wasn't thinking about the bend in life's road—or river—that brings surprising, and sometimes jarring and undesirable changes. I was living in the here and now, soaking up the gifts of the present.

Sometime before I joined the ranks of the double digit folk I had a few adults tell me I'd grow into an adult and wish I were a kid again, and so I determined to live it up in my youth. I climbed the highest trees, ate the stickiest candy, explored the wildest corners of the neighborhood, and rollerbladed down the steepest hills. I enjoyed years of this childhood reverie, and then I stepped quietly into adulthood, my soul popping with over-the-top ambition and swollen with starry-eyed dreams, and I started to sigh deep heavy sighs.

The thing about ambition is it's elusive—our imaginations whisper of greater victories and more satisfying conquests; and the thing about dreams is they're not bound by time they way we are. And these grand imaginations and eternal dreams of ours, they're shadows of Another World that beckons our sighing souls; they are the signposts that declare "You're not made for here! are not made for here! are not made for here."

These heavenly shadows remind me that my life was supposed to look different than it does. My soul was created to delight in God's unveiled glory in a Paradise untarnished by human narcissism and rebellion. My imaginative mind was created to drink deep from the Fount of all Wisdom and Knowledge, and my heart was created to commune with the Creator God's in a state of deepest, eternal satisfaction. And so I know, when I sigh deep and restless, I am really longing for the home I haven't seen, for the place God is preparing for those who love him.

I think perhaps Pocahontas gives us an apt reminder as we journey toward our heaven-home (!). This home, whose earthly echoes awaken aching desires, is waiting unseen around a distant bend on the Way of Jesus. It is the culmination of this journey; the last and greatest destination on a thrilling and tiring pilgrimage. Heaven—seeing Jesus face to face—is not something we just sit around and wait for, and it's not something totally disconnected from and unrelated to the terrain we traverse today, and tomorrow, and the day after. It is something we move toward now, in this fleeting present.

Today we make it our greatest ambition to drink deep from the Fount of Wisdom so that we one day recognize his voice that roars like raging waters....

...We remember that the Object of our greatest and truest desire lives in us, walks with us, and fights for us; and He is the only one who can satisfy....

...We fix our eyes on the glorious truth that Immanuel, God with us, is preparing for us a home that is a Divine Kingdom, and this Divine Kingdom is being established among us, here on earth: Now, in this moment....

...Today we, the Saints, get to build this eternally victorious Kingdom in the power of the Spirit and the presence of Jesus. And when our bodies grow tired and our minds grow weak, when our days seem dull and understated and we're tempted to heave deep and heavy sighs, we let the Father teach our lungs to inhale grace and exhale gratitude, because these are the air of heaven.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Thursday Things: A Really Good Thursday

I woke up yesterday feeling good. Really good—like, normal good. My limbs didn't feel weighed down by lead, the deep fatigue had crept out of my body, I didn't ache all over, and all I wanted to do was whoop and twirl. Instead, I basked in the glorious feeling of renewed health all morning and I got. things. done. Really exciting things like investigating insurance claims, washing dishes, and taking my computer into the shop where it is currently undergoing some sort of rehabilitative surgery. I have high hopes that I will be blogging from the equivalent of a honda-turned-corvette come Tuesday.

In the meantime, I'm writing from a computer that reminds me of the clunky station wagon my mom drove for ten years--a car that was practically longer than our house, and had a gigantic rust spot on the side, back seats that faced backward (the most coveted seats in the cul-de-sac), and an engine that died at every other stop sign. It definitely took longer to get places in that thing. A lot longer.

Needless to say, I'm blaming this painfully slow computer for another Friday edition of Thursday things. (But it could just be that Thursday was so full of feel-good productivity and busyness that my Thursday burst of energy is to blame. Now that is my kind of excuse!)

And now, the Friday Edition of Thursday Things (My apologies for the weird spacing. Station wagon computers are not able to space things correctly):

1. I finally bit the bullet and bought one of these for work:

I'd written off the idea of a computer-carrying roller bag after my experience with this:

My principal gave one of these to me the week he hired me to teach third grade, and it would have worked out just fine if I were about ten inches shorter and enjoyed snapping together its flimsy plastic sides each time I used it. But I'm 5 '8 and I never had an affinity for K'NEX.

Anyway, after a year of walking across campus in 100 degree weather, sweaty high heels, and a pencil skirt that reduced my long stride to a timid waddle, with my arms full textbooks, my computer, the 40-60 papers I'd just graded and the 40-60 packets I was about to hand out, I'm just thrilled to have this handy dandy computer/book/paper carrier on wheels.

My juggling days are over.

2. Thanks to this new roller bag that is actually a carry on, I'm really looking forward to the next time I fly. Which, just happens to be this September.

Destination: Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

I'm going on a five-day "conversation retreat" with eleven other people from around the country. I can't wait to tell you about it.

3. My clinical nutritionist advised me to go organic on the following list of fruits and veggies. Apparently this produce is particularly drenched in pesticides, and, I'm learning, pesticides contribute to high levels of toxicity in our systems that make us tired and more susceptible to illness.

I give you the Dirty Dozen:

  1. Apples

  2. Celery

  3. Strawberries

  4. Peaches

  5. Spinach

  6. Nectarines

  7. Grapes

  8. Sweet bell peppers

  9. Potatoes

  10. Blueberries

  11. Lettuce

  12. Kale/collard greens

Happy organic shopping everyone!

And over and out.