Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Sometimes Life Gives You a Lemon...

...and you have to stop everything you're doing to try to figure out what it is, exactly.

Is it an octopus?

Or a female elephant?

How about a male elephant? By the way, if this were an African elephant it could be either male or female, since both male and female African elephants have tusks. If it were an Asian elephant it could only be male, since Asian female elephants don't have tusks. I know it is definitely male, which means it is definitely either African or Asian.

Logic is so helpful.

Is it fire dancing in the daylight?

Is it a creepy, bony claw rising from the depths to snatch you?

Could it be a tulip?

Whatever it is, it is definitely the Wilbur of all lemons. I will not be cutting it up and eating or juicing it, because this lemon is special. It can do things. Crowd-drawing things. Money-making things. I could sell tickets to people who want to see the world's most versatile lemon. But I won't, because I have work to do. So I'll just save you some money and post pictures of the lemon freak show on here.
Thank goodness for blogs.

© by scj

Friday, January 27, 2012

Thursday Things, a Friday Edition: Girls Just Want to Have Fun

One of my dearest friends, Rachel, visited me this week. It's been years since we've been able to catch up like this, so we shared five days of non-stop talking. If the average woman says 7,000 words a day, then I'm pretty sure we each averaged at least 20,000.

I woke up hoarse the day after Rachel left.

We talked while we walked, sipped tea, slept (we're sleep-talkers, see), and munched on fries, more fries, and...more fries. Fries were a priority this weekend.

Naturally, it was a lovely, lovely week.

I give you some of the highlights from Gab Fest/French Fry Fiesta 2012:

1. First things first: we hit the beach and reveled in the fresh, salty air and winter sun. Then we went to a beachside cafe and ate a burger wrapped in bacon with, you guessed it: a whopping side of fries. It was a delight.

2. We loved investigating the tide pools.

This picture is so romantic with the sun slowly setting behind me, casting a golden glow over the tide pool with which I appear to be transfixed.

The truth is, I'm looking for a stick to poke sea anemones with.

Please excuse the fact that I ended a sentence with a preposition. Sometimes I like to rebel and let my prepositions dangle.

Doesn't this look like a donut with sprinkles?

Poking sea anemones is very satisfying. I imagine it's something akin to poking the belly button of the Pillsbury Dough Boy. Except that the belly buttons of sea anemones squirt water. This makes them the most satisfying thing to poke in the world. Truly. I dare you to think of something more fun to poke.

By the way, this is how I originally spelled 'anemones': anenmoies

I think I must have been typing with my eyes closed.

3. Another of the week's highlights was our spa day, compliments of Rachel's thoughtful boyfriend. After an hour-long massage we got our nails done.

We fell in love with our manicures. They were smooth and shiny, and we couldn't stop looking at them. Or conspicuously waving our hands in the air every time we talked.

We ended our day of lavish pampering with dinner at TAPS Fish House and Brewery where I enjoyed salmon and...fried potatoes. Which is to say I ate classy french fries.

All dolled up for dinner.

4. In between our excursions we watched girly movies and murder mysteries, enjoyed impromptu dance parties, and ate....more french fries. There are no pictures documenting these activities. It's hard to take pictures when your hands are full of fries.

5. On Rach's last day here we visited our old stomping grounds, about an hour up the freeway.

We drove past our old apartment and then sipped tea and coffee at the neighborhood coffee shop where our friend, M, dropped by to chat for a bit. The highlight of the conversation, for me, was being introduced by M to some colorful slang euphemisms—my favorite being "bubble gut." Look it up on urbandictionary.com. Or just know that this is what happens to you when you eat heaps and heaps of french fries.

6. The last trip we took down memory lane was a stop at our old college. We enjoyed the familiar stench of the cafeteria, and stopped by the track where I pretended to be in shape.

Rachel is in shape, so she doesn't have to pretend.

7. This is the part I don't like, because this is the part where Rachel goes home. She's planning another trip, though, so I imagine I will soon be presenting Gab Fest 2012 Part II: the return of the Killer Fries. In the meantime, you can find me on the treadmill.

Happy Weekend-Is-Almost-Here, everyone!

© by scj

Saturday, January 14, 2012

A Southern California Winter

This is why we Los Angelites put up with the smog. And the traffic. And the absurd amount of cement. Because, after all, living here isn't half bad.

© by scj

Monday, January 9, 2012

Love (could be) in the Air

If you are single and wouldn't mind a little romance in your life—or if you know someone single who's open to meeting that special someone—then keep reading, because I have discovered a sure-fire romance provider.

Is it online dating? you tentatively ask, with wariness in your eyes. No, my skittish-about-online-dating-friends, it's not—although some godly, gifted, and gorgeous friends of mine met online, and then they married. So I know it works.

Nooooo, it's not the matchmaker whose advertisement I just heard on the radio. Although her impressive success rate did have me belting "Matchmaker matchmaker, make me a match! Find me a man; catch me a catch!" for the rest of my car ride.

And no, I have not discovered love potion-laced chocolate truffles, for which you can be thankful. Ron Weasley can testify to the hazards of consuming those tantalizing treats.

I have, however, recently discovered this:

Romantic, delicious cake mix!

All you need is this cake mix, some eggs, oil, milk, and an electric fan and you'll find yourself a spouse in no time.

Why the fan?
You're surely wondering....

Perhaps you couldn't read the box's fine print, below its title:

"The sweetness and fragrance of the cake as well as its delicate feeling is like mild breeze spread in the air."

So you see, the fan is to spread the cake's intoxicating fragrance through the air more quickly, thus speeding up the twitterpation process between two potential lovers.

Sounds pretty foolproof, doesn't it?

So what are you waiting for?! Go check your local asian store for a romantic cake mix of your own.

And then go catch yourself a match.

You can thank me later.

© by scj

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Here's What Happens When I Wish I Had a Bullhorn

Last night I enjoyed a mid-winter barbeque with friends. This is how we roll in southern California.

As I rummaged through a bag of potato chips looking for the folded chips (double the crunch = double the taste), I found myself wishing I had a bullhorn. I was just bubbling over with the.best.news. and I wanted to share it—to shout it from the rooftops, proclaim it from the mountain peaks, announce it at a noisy barbeque.

As C.S. Lewis reminded us, "we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation." Nothing could have made my news better than to praise Jesus by sharing it with others.

But I didn't have a bullhorn, although goodness knows it is the kind of thing I would carry around in my Mary Poppins purse—along with a pair of pliers, a sock, a golf ball, hand cream, nail polish, three empty water bottles, a Spanish new testament, etcetera etcetera.

So bullhornless little me just kept crunching and munching until my fingers were coated in sour cream and onion powder, and I could turn my attention to the burgers fresh off the grill. And then I determined to tell all of you my.best.news.ever. Because a blog is even better than a bullhorn. ;)

My news:

I've had a big ol' hospital bill hanging over me the last few months. When it first arrived in the mail I gulped big and practiced lamaze breathing techniques. Then I begged God to take care of this whopping, burdensome bill by providing funds, or moving in the heart of someone at the hospital who could lessen my bill.

Then I waited. And prayed. And waited. And learned a bit more about stepping into God's Sabbath rest daily—even when big bills burden—by trusting that he is good, powerful, and with me, and that he cares about me more than I care about me.

Yesterday I got a letter from the hospital telling me they would cover almost all of my bill.

When I found out I whooped and did a little dance move I like to call "The Windmill." Ever since my soul has been popping with praise to a good God who gives good gifts.

The only thing that has made this gift better is telling you about it.

"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
-Jesus of Nazareth, in Matthew 11:29-30

© by scj

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The New Year's Post I Wasn't Going to Write

My mind is tired. I just finished reading a one-of-a-kind book. It used insects to resolve the problem of evil. My brain feels like my quadriceps do when I run up stadium stairs under a winter sky. Thrilled to be moving and flexing, very aware that it hasn't flexed in awhile.

My body is also tired. This could have something to do with the dance party I had this morning. Alone. While Little Brother ate breakfast and watched, his eyes wide with wonder at my ability to hula and do the running man simultaneously. Perhaps I should take up dance lessons in the new year. Nah. That sounds exhausting.

I'm tired from reading. I'm tired from dancing. I'm also tired from this last year. It was brutally hard. In this new year, I have absolutely no desire to review last year, to reacquaint myself with the thick and heavy darkness that settled over most of my days.

I don't want to look back on a year during which I spent most of my time in bed or on the lounge chair on my patio, too sick to participate in life.

I don't want to remember the way my broken engagement followed the onset of my sickness, knocking the wind out of my soul, leaving me deflated and stunned.

I don't want to revisit the subsequent nighttime dreams that chased me, pierced me, made me dread sleep; or the mornings when I woke up and wished I could just slip back into unconsciousness.

It feels like 2011 took its claws and tore into my soul, battering it with its savage blows. It feels like my soul is scabbing over now, heaving hard from the struggle. I think reviewing my year will be like examining my scabs, and then picking them open and watching the blood gush.

There is nothing in me that wants to dream up ways to try to make 2012 better than 2011. I think making resolutions will be like slapping Band-Aids on my freshly scratched soul scabs. Band-Aids keep the ugliness from view for awhile, but they're sure to peel off in the shower. And there will be more blood.

But I have a writer's impulse. An urge I can't restrain. It kicks at my soul, struggling to get out, like a bulldog in a gunnysack. I've got to release it. I have to write about the year, to try to make sense of it.

I used to write to get good grades. Now I write to discover. To figure out who God is and what he's doing with me, with this hard life. Each tap on my keyboard is like the blow of a chisel, chipping away at dense rock, reaching for a picture that lies buried within. Eventually a recognizable shape will emerge and I will sit back in relief and murmur, "Ah, now I see."

Tap. Tap. Tap. Chip. Chip. Whack. Scrape. Pound. The chisel does its work. Its blows sound familiar. Like the blows I've been dealt this year. And suddenly I remember a story about a boy who was turned into a dragon.

This boy was mean, surly, and selfish. He bullied younger kids, and complained about as often as he breathed. You may have heard of him? His name was Eustace.* Not the kind of kid you want to share a desk with. Or go on a road trip with. Or get stuck on a boat with.

But his cousins, Edmund and Lucy, did get stuck on a boat with him, and it wasn't pretty. Thankfully for them his greed and laziness got him turned into a dragon that couldn't talk. He could breathe fire, but he couldn't complain. A definite upgrade.

For the first time in his short life Eustace was humbled, reliant on his cousins' sympathy and help. His ugly exterior matched his monstrous heart, and he didn't like what he saw. He wanted to change, to be able to continue his sea-faring adventures with his cousins. He wanted to be human.

One night a fearsome Lion appeared to Eustace. He told Eustace to follow him into the forest, where they both arrived at the edge of a large well that looked a bit like a bathing pool.

The water was still and clear and the Lion knew Eustace longed to dive into it, to bathe his aching dragon's body.

"Undress first," the Lion told Eustace.

Perhaps he wants me to cast off my dragon skin, like a shedding snake, Eustace thought. So he scratched and tore until his dragon skin fell at his feet in a heap.

Joyfully, he turned to leap into the water but stopped when saw his reflection. He was still a dragon, covered in tough skin.

Two more times he scratched, desperate to free himself from his scaly prison. Two more times he failed to free himself.

"You will have to let me undress you," the Lion said.

Though afraid of the Great Lion's claws, Eustace laid on his back and let the Lion tear into his skin, so deep it felt as if it had gone into his heart. The pain pierced sharper than any pain Eustace had ever felt.

When the Lion's work was finished he scooped Eustace up and tossed him into the pool. Eustace's pain disappeared as he swam and splashed with delight, and then he saw his reflection in the pool: he was human.

Tap. Tap. Tap. Chip. Chip. Scrape. Pound. The picture is emerging. It tells the story of a girl. Her soul is twisted and stooped, gnarled as a result of the Fall of all humans. In every stooped soul lurks a dragon.

This girl, she hated that dragon. Hated the way its beady eyes sometimes glowered or its spiny back bristled at others, the way its fiery breath tended to scorch those around her. She didn't like what it did to the people she loved. She thought it made her soul unloveable, not as valuable. So she resolved to remove her tough dragon skin. This should take awhile. About a lifetime, she thought. But I can do it. So she strove and scratched for years, desperate to rid herself of her ugliness. Until one day she was wrestled onto her back, still and helpless. Broken. Too sick, sad and exhausted to keep scratching.

Sickness, sadness: sometimes they are a sword that slices deep. But an impersonal year is not wielding them; hands are. You'll have to let me undress you, their owner whispers. These hands, they are scarred, and they cut deep, until they are covered in blood. They have been covered in blood before.

I know what it is to be wounded so that you might know what it is to be free.

There is pain worse than this. It is the pain of being stuck in the coffin of my selfishness, the prison of my anxiety; of being trapped in dragon's skin forever, while it grows bigger and fiercer. The pain of striving, striving; of trying to earn favor and value by attempting to remake myself. This striving is like eating but never tasting, reaching but never feeling. A little bit like hell.

You'll have to let me undress you.

I never expected to look back on my year and feel pleasure. The pleasure of slowly, slowly being freed from a dragonish destiny, of watching Divine Hands steadily untwist my gnarled and stooped soul. I expected to look at this year and be burdened, affronted by my deep, brittle scabs. But those scarred hands, they do more than use the sword of suffering to slay dragons. Today they have tipped my head upward, outward, and I find I'm looking at a clear, still pool. I lean in close and I see my reflection. I am human.

I think I'll spend 2012 splashing in the water.

© by scj

*Read more about Eustace in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, by C.S. Lewis