When you ‘Office-Space’ your Salary.

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They’re in a field. Drop kicking office supplies – copiers and printers if my memory serves me well. And they feel free.

I was in a nook. Wiping the drool off my lower lip – sweating and half-cussing. And I felt panic.

Why?

Because in processing paperwork and new orders on Tuesday, I had just managed to get six years salary stuck in the copy machine. Six Years. Somehow, in my mind, feeding tiny little checks through the paper eating monster sounded like a good idea. Why would I use the scanner on top? BUSH LEAGUE. No, I had to surpass all logic and try to Superman the order. FAIL.

Thoughtless, I drooled for a few, after I heard the tears and beeps from the machine at my waist. Once I regained consciousness, I began to think clearly and realized it was far more rational for me to break the copy machine in retrieval of my livelihood, than allow the equivalent of six years wages to be shredded by my incorrigible lack of common sense.

No worries, my friends. I was able to retrieve the checks, apply some TLC and scotch tape, and run to the bank before my employer could see the ramifications of any of the irrational choices I had just made. (I told him about it afterwards; because, well, I’m a shoe-in for the “dundies”).

Happy humpday. Here’s to Almost-shredding the Benjamins.

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Poetry.

cheezy and mando

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I wrote a poem for this guy a couple Christmases ago. I wasn’t a deep poem, or a crazy gushy – romance filled song; but it was true at its core, and heartfelt. And it marks, for me, the night that guy told me he loved me for the very first time. Thinking back over that year, and the ones that have followed, I can recall specific feelings and emotions at page turns and road curves, and memories of a sunset over a mountain of rocks – and each little bit fills my heart’s tank with a more full gratefulness to be known by one this man.

His name is Tyler Sullins. At one time I thought he was flawless. Almost. Now I know he is not. But I still think he is amazing. He is honest and brave, he cares deeply and knows how to surrender. He is teachable, which is one of my favorite things about him (today), and he is not afraid to tell you (or me) how he feels.

When I met him, I saw a Southern boy with dimples. Ones that were accentuated at each rise and fall of his under-the-breath witty comments. Now I look and see dimples that tense up when I disappoint him, but grind a little deeper and wider into his face when we get those moments of synced up rhythm, a rare precious same page-ness that I think is called oneness, but I’m still trying to figure out. He is a warrior, one who fights for authenticity and freedom. One who has experienced love, just as I have, but in far different ways. He hears rebuke and feels love. I hear rebuke and choke back tears. He is imperfect, and quick to react at times, and some days lazy. He is opinionated, gracious, prefers frank communication, and I think will always bleed a little Crimson come football season.

And then there’s me, who dreams of slow sweatshirt days spent exploring outside or in the world of a good book, who excels at appreciating and celebrating, but missed the bus when it drove by with the “details, thorough work ethic, and standard common sense” sign. And although the mister specializes in all of the above, we somehow find ourselves devoting our lives to one another’s good. And I am a better person for it.

Some time ago, I read Jonathan Edwards prayer, that God would “Stamp eternity on our eyeballs.” So far, marriage has been a playing field of opportunities to reach up and hold out for this perspective. Somewhat like trying to build a chicken house in the middle of a twister, grabbing two by fours as they fly by above us, and nailing them down as quickly as possible.

Maybe at some point I will put pen to paper and remember the identity he spoke to me the night he proposed. The weighty freedom he bestowed on us in asking me to share his forever. The lessons learned in a period of “hopefully doing without,” or waiting as the dictionary defines it. But for now, I am chewing on the gift it is to be known and loved, and to build the chicken house in a storm – not alone. More than that, even if it weren’t for the boy from Alabama that stole my heart, I am known, loved and not alone. He just gives me a pretty good picture of what it’s like most days. And if that doesn’t make me want to write a poem, I don’t know what does.

rocking horses.

rockinghorse2

It is difficult to know where to start.

A lot of life happens in a day, a month, years. Since I wrote last, I met, married, moved, hurt, “jobbed”, forgot, grew, failed, cried, remembered, then forgot again.

Writing has been healing for me. Initially, it is a second skin that stops scrapes from bleeding profusely. But eventually, the writing pokes around where it shouldn’t. It digs up plaque, pulls back layers, then shows me where stitches were/are needed.

Some hurts have these really cool stories behind them; actions that merit scars and SHOULD be told around the happy hour table. Other hurts, though, they aren’t all that exciting. Actually they are lame, boring, mostly embarrassing, and quite unappealing to talk about, regardless of whether food is involved. Its the difference between explaining a skydiving bruise and a “woops I ran into the rocking horse” kind of bruise. Lately, my eyes have seen life like a rocking horse, and I have been waiting for a skydiver.

So that is where I have been. On the bench, waiting for some epic plays to happen so I could make my comeback. Or just write something. Anything. I have waited on a nasty bruise, a lot of extra time, a kick in the pants and a life-breath through the lungs to jolt me. Maybe then I would regain verbal skills, remember how my favorite authors would explain a scenario, AND feel like writing something “worthy enough for sharing.” For no real reason, I have felt a little bit like a benched player. Like the adventure I was a kin to had stopped, and the 9-5 kind of adventure started, where I hadn’t yet learned to flourish, or really, write at all.

So I am writing. And I am calling it a comeback. And it is going to be epic. eventually. maybe. Sometime I will fill you in on my grand harangue, bringing you to tears, changing your life and making mine. But today – TODAY – I am going to walk my dog, meet my neighbors, and work my 9-5, hopefully. And write. Just a little. After I run into yet another, stinking, rocking horse.

donuts.

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I havent eaten anything but fruits and veggies for five days. This is not a huge deal for a lot of people, I realize, but it has been a challenge for me. Never in my life have I craved MEAT like I have this past week. Chocolate – in any form – pulls at my heart strings. The thought of a fresh, hot cinnamon-butter slathered roll from Texas Roadhouse makes me shiver. I am salivating just typing about it, let’s be honest. I have even craved foods that I generally find repulsive. Never in my life have I had or wanted a “S’morgasbord”, but this morning, the chocolate-iced-custard-filled-sprinkles-on-top-glazed donut had my attention.

It was a dumb move, choosing Dunkin’ Donuts to be my place of study first thing in the morning, but one that was premeditated. After seeing how powerful hunger has been in my choosing to do without some things for I while, I became curious. I wanted to experience – physically and emotionally really experience – temptation and to then choose to obey something (or someone) greater. And what better place is there for a fruit and veggie constricted wanderer to enter into battle than a donut shop?

Hence, I found myself at 6:30 this morning, sniffing deep down through my lungs in the middle booth. I walked to the counter and stared at the velvety consistency of the different colored sugars, I sat directly across from one woman who ordered four different varieties and ate every last one of them, slowly, right in front of me.

For two hours I watched. It was miserable.

You wanna know something sick? The longer I stayed, the more rationally I justified why I needed a donut.

The deeper my desire grew, the easier it was to feel entitled to satisfaction.

So I left. Really, I left because I was late for work, but that constraint came in the nick of time. Inside of me was a creature shouting, “I want a donut so friggin bad, I DONT CARE about any reason that says I CANNOT.”

And how many times do we say that – all donuts aside – about our own pleasure seeking? My mind doesn’t have to jump many hoops to put myself in the exact same thought process regarding physical intimacy. Even emotional boundaries are easily tested when forced to reckon with a long period of waiting, like my time in the donut shop. After a while, my mind totally inverts itself, throws caution to the wind, and says, “GET WHAT’S MINE.” That is scary, yall.

So no, I didn’t eat a donut. But my exemption from indulging was not due to any amount of will power. Fighting temptation, as I experienced this morning, is far less about will power than it is about will resignation.

You connect the dots as I trust you can. And afterwards, sit in awe with me that God chooses to make us – weak, temptation seeking, self absorbed humans – the objects of His eternal, redemptive love. Woah.

covenants and affection.

Dallas Willard alludes to the truth that character is not necessarily grown in adversity, rather it is revealed. The opposite could be accurately said of affection, however. Either side of the coin you look at, conflict (or adversity in this case) might produce negative feelings toward a person in the heat of it all, only to reveal deep affection and appreciation after the storm calms. Conversely, affection might be grown directly in the midst of conflict, especially if one or both parties deal with the issue at hand in an appealing manner. Either way, affections are grown and revealed in times of intense heat, so to speak. There have been plenty of times when my emotions have not matched up with rationale, or because of a conflict, I have not felt the way my mind suggests toward a person or situation. We can vacillate between ups and downs faster than light, yet grow frustrated in the confusion, forgetting that it is in our nature to experience undulation (Insert gratefulness that we serve a God who is steadfast and unchanging in his affection toward us. In fact, his grace is predisposed to meet us, to extend to where we are, because of who He is).

So what resolve can we find in the inbetween? What rationale answers our problem of unmet expectations in mirrored emotions stemming from circumstances?

 Scripture has plenty to say. One truth evident through the Lord’s relationship with his people however is this…

 

Covenant often precedes affection.

 

We serve a God, as we have already discussed, that remains faithful in any circumstance. His relationship with his people does not change based on performance, feeling or reciprocation. We, as his people, however, have historically been blind to see the full picture of his plan, his love, even his workings in our lives. And for this reason, we often require experience to bolster the truth to which we have already been predisposed. For instance, my Father tells me he loves me, but I often don’t really believe that until I experience an act of love, or enter into an emotional experience of his thoughts toward me. My brother might tell me he is proud of the way I deal with difficult children, but I don’t really believe him until he praises me in front of others for that same fact.

This taught me, today, to praise God for loving his people (ME) with a covenant love that changes not based on performance. In the same vein, I learned to hear and obey, regardless of understanding or feeling. Authority, respect and identity dictate my followership. Hopefully, my obedience will stem from a love of my authority. But even there, I appeal to my Father, my authority, to move my heart to feel, to obey, to mold to his own.

 

Covenant often precedes affection. Obedience often precedes understanding.  And my own failure often precedes redemption. Well then, BRING IT ON.

emotions.

I wiggled. In a fit of jig-pulling overwhelming excitement, I exclaimed, “I got a jooooo-o-ooo-o—ooo-b!” I was, in one moment, a dichotomy of extreme emotions, my own little microcosm of what 10 junior high girls might communicate to one another right after one of their first hand-holding experiences. Hysteria, some might say. It was difficult to maneuver through the many nooks and crannies of feelings that manifested themselves as I spoke on the phone Wednesday morning. After hanging up from the conference call in which I had just accepted my first full time job, I felt two things, decidedly: eager and sad.

This posed a problem for a moment. I was pumped to have [not only a job in general, but] a job that is right up my alley as far as passions and giftings are concerned. I was immediately sad, simultaneously, because of what saying yes meant I might be “losing.” While celebrating the coming of a new season with challenges and joys all the same, I found myself mourning the perceived loss of what could have been: the comfort of living with some of my best friends in Dallas, the familiarity of life and routine in a place I knew, the possibilities that might have come from choosing to have a physical presence in the lives of so many of the people I care about…

{Side note, here, at this point, is where I found the fear. I knew it was hiding somewhere. Fear is in someway a motivating factor for the majority of people’s decision-making processes. I have resolved, rather than buck the principle of being motivated by fear, to dive wholeheartedly into what it would look like to make decisions based almost solely on fear – just not in the way you might think. With fear in proper perspective, assigning the right amount of value to the right things/people/dreams, all of my decisions can and should flow from fear in its proper perspective. If fearing the Lord, walking in His ways, observing His laws and faithfully serving Him, fear might be the perfect motivator for behavior (Joshua 22:5). }

But there I sat, eager and sad at the same time, unsure of what the mixed emotions rightly looked like when fleshed out.

This most recent phase of waiting has given me much fodder on which to chew regarding what role emotions play in our lives. I have been told that if our lives can be pictured as trains, truth drives us, actions follow, and our emotions hold up the caboose. In other words, our emotions don’t determine our actions, rather they trail after in support of the activating trigger (everyday happenings in our day to day routine). I wholeheartedly agree, however, here was my problem:

WHAT DO I DO WITH MY MASSIVE CABOOSE?

It was as if I had this 5 foot-long tail dragging behind me, everywhere I went, knocking over shelves in a manner similar to my brother’s dog in his fits of excitement. I felt … cumbersome, clunky, like I was a burden.

Emotions aren’t bad. They aren’t evil. We often give them the power to make us feel burdened, or like we might be a burden ourselves, but they hold no inherent value. They are meant to reflect a beautiful facet of God’s character and ultimately, point us to worshipping Him. Really, scripture screams what many know as the Westminster catechism: “the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” We glorify God by displaying His unique image. How much more so do we glorify Him by submitting to his will alone, rather than our own [will, emotions, pleasure]?

So what does it look like, as a Christ follower, to properly steward our emotions? How do we simultaneously and appropriately validate their placement, but treat them as simple feelings rather than huge road signs that determine our future directions?

Truths I am learning in and about emotion:

1.    God is an emotional being.

(Ephesians 1:11, Phil. 2:13, Hebrews 10:38, just to name a few)

2.    We are made in the image of God, and are therefore, emotional.

(Genesis 1:27)

3.     Emotions alert us to something.

Our emotions are a result of our beliefs. If we feel scared, there must be some activator/trigger that spurred on that emotion. What we believe about that activator will determine what emotion we experience. Validate the belief and the proper emotion will follow.

4.    We must recognize that God is sovereign. Always.

Regardless of how we feel, our hearts can remain steadfast, because of WHO GOD IS (Psalm 57, 73).

5.    We can praise God that He is Creator of all things, Holder of all things (including our affections), and Sustainer of all things.

6.    After all of this, don’t be afraid to feel.

I don’t have a 3-step process of how to deal with emotion, but I do continually rest in the habit of trusting in the Lord to reign, not me.  Put simply, in storms of any kind of emotion, I find myself recognizing how I feel, deciding why I feel that way, testing whether or not that is valid, choosing to feel that way, and eventually choosing to be done with the feeling. C.S. Lewis, in The Silver Chair says this: “Crying is all right in its own way while it lasts. But you have to stop sooner or later, and then you still have to decide what to do.”

There’s that. I praise the Lord for giving us emotions, even if they simply act as more fodder with which I can surrender to Him in obedience. While I am still (and will continually) be learning the roads to walk regarding righteous living according to the Spirit, it is my want to praise Him for who He is, remember what He has done, and heed His text in faithful obedience (Deuteronomy 4). Praise. Him.

zakar {continued}.

A few more reasons to be thankful as I remember this past year…

Snow Cones. Enough said.

We ate copious amounts of the goodness. Sweet Carolines, JJ’s, Fire and Ice… It might have become a problem. I don’t hate it.

Then I spent some quality time with GrandBoo, the most gracious women I have ever been privileged to live life alongside. We were sorting through some of her old things when we came across her BOOK OF JOSEPHUS. Who just comes across one of those?!? Time with GBoo has taught me more than one pericope can host, but for brevity’s sake, and the greater good of my memory, I will resolve to remember the manner in which she encouraged me to extend grace horizontally to those in my life – as a direct result of the grace we receive vertically on a daily basis from the Lord. She is a gift.

Then, on a lighter but slightly more potent note, I learned that radiator caps do, in fact, blow when pressure is released; and boiling anti-freeze does, in fact, singe hair. My scalp has since healed and Maxwell, the Farrar Xterra, has fully recovered. A word to the wise – if it’s hot to the touch, just let it chill.

3 cheers for family mustaches.

Then we celebrated my grandparents’ birthdays, complete with mustaches, 5 part harmonies and Mexican hat dances.

Then we made a music video. Scratch that, my mom rapped what must be close to her platinum debut of celebratory flows for significant people in our lives. One of our closest friends got engaged, which merited many stops along our road trip to Colorado in order to film the many segments of her medley. The end product was what some have called masterpiece.

Then we ran the Austin 10/20. Twenty bands in ten miles is the way to go, people. In terms of enjoyable foot races – this one falls into my top 5. Where else can you enjoy the unique stylings of a washerboard along your trek? I won’t forget that proximity proved to define nothing in friendships this year. The Lord preserved what He planned – we simply rejoiced and followed in sharing life together – all different seasons.

Then we road tripped. We climbed Pinnacle Mountain, sprinted the Big Dam Bridge, crashed a few weddings and crossed off numerous bucket list items including conquering the mechanical bull at the Wild Beaver Saloon in downtown Nashville (props to Terry for having conditioned muscles and an iron will). I won’t forget that together we learned: it is when we are most lonely that we are least alone [for it is then that we are more aware of the Lord’s constant presence].

In a time of transition, I have recently been made more aware of my innate tendency to crave comfort. This most often comes in the want of familiar people and fleshes itself out in my attitude – which just so happens to be one of entitlement and impatience when failing to wait for what the Lord might have next, or dare I say RIGHT NOW. I am grateful that remembering brings about praise. What. a. gift.

More to come on remembering. Over and out.

zakar.

All throughout Deuteronomy the Lord tells his people to remember what He has done, lest they forget who their God is. Last night found me rewinding over a few memories of this past year that seemed monumental at the time, but have since lost their luster. In taking care not to forget His goodness though, I did my best to remember just a few happenings: big and small: that the Lord used to teach me more of his authority, goodness, and faithfulness.

Around this time last year I found myself in Kijabe, weeks without a shower, mourning the stench that wafted its way from the celebratory goat slaughter downhill to my front door, and anticipating the end of my adventure in African soil. I don’t ever want to forget that Africa taught me the Lord makes desolate lands into those of the garden of Eden (Ezekiel 36).
{Forgive me if you have a gag reflex, I at one time did as well. This goat slaughter did the trick…}

Then a 5th summer at Pine Cove happened.

Missing: Sarah Axmann

August saw the completion of Baby Ruths at Pine Cove Camps. After weeks of washing countless dirty Sysco pans, pulling copious amounts of weeds in the 100 degree heat, finding my belongings mailed to me through inner cam mail, the discovery of Paciugo frozen yogurt, and the forever bond of sisters who meet each other in love through conflict, my seven “daughters” and I got to celebrate the fact that we get to: {hear. obey. serve. pursue. know. rejoice. and proclaim: freedom and salvation in Jesus Christ alone}. Remember, don’t forget.

Then I “moooooved” to College Station. (I can’t help it).

I had the privilege of finishing my senior year of college with this girl (and some awesome others). It was udderly ridiculous. I won’t forget that Amy Huff taught me to be honest, bold and fearless.

Then, we had book club.

Jared Sexton taught me the enjoyment of reading Shakespeare out loud by the fire, the pleasure of sharing insights from various intellectual dead people much more verbose than we, and the art of making fire dance with a little all purpose flour. It was magic.

Then, this one moved to Austin and changed jobs. She taught me the art of a good road trip {from Texas to Tennessee with a big dam bridge in-between}, the beauty of a long distance friendship, and the saltiness of ten miles of sweat caked on your lips after running/hopping fences to get gold medals. Terry taught me to live recklessly.

Then, this one moved to Plano and started her new job.

yes, her eyes REALLY are THAT blue.

Lindsay taught me the relief that comes with choosing to charge conflict right in its face. She communicated when it was hard, was my partner in asking for forgiveness time after time, and reminded me of how faithful God is through her loyal character. We ate a lot of cupcakes, too.

Then, we went camping.

There’s lots going on in this picture right here. I won’t forget being blessed with coffee and bagels from the boys in the morning, or being third in line for the REI garage sale. I certainly won’t forget the epic team strategy we employed to rake in literally half of the sale items all for our one group (my apologies if you were a fellow sale sniper, the spoils just seem to go where the team does – and every time I enjoy my new sleeping bag, thermarest, Eno and flannel shirt I think,” God bless teamwork.”).

Then, we picked up some old habits.

Confession: something within me DEMANDS I hang bikes in trees.

How could you walk past this and NOT laugh. Lindsay, forgive me for repeat offenses. 

And that is just December. What do YOU want to remember?

Found Poetry

She stepped slowly, carefully, as to not break the already slivered glass underneath her feet. It was cold, a frightening chill, due more to the weight of the heavy silence than the weather itself. She drew her arms up into each other, tucked her fingers into the crevices and exhaled. It wasn’t the first time anger had made the house shake. When she was little, and still able to curl up in a ball beside her dresser, she would hide from it all until her dad passed out on the couch, or left to stock up on more insatiable dependence. This time though, more than just a hall mirror broke in the storm of rage that made its way in and out of her childhood home like a rock band on a headliner night. He never stayed long, and when he left, there trailed behind him a slough of words that pierced as deep into her heart as his roots became shallow. . . Until the same anger that once sliced her will in two, seemed to seer the surface of her once tender spirit; until no scratch or prod could break through the sealed surface.

So she walked carefully, as to not break what was beneath her feet. Scared not that she would break it, or that more damage would be caused, but scared that she might hurt. Scared that one tiny shard could wedge its way in between the stitched up second skin that laid waste her havocked heart and remind her of the pain.

For where pain lives, there also you will find sorrow. And sorrow seems to keep company with love, though many do not make it to his door. There are far too many shards along the way.

Found Poetry is a movement to expand and encourage the practice of wordsmiths across the country by celebrating the poetry from the everyday. Check it out. This piece was found in the conversation of the women next to me in a coffee shop discussing: recipes, weekend festivities, and Jillian Michael’s workout tips.

What have you found lately?

 

chapter eight.

Chapter Eight.

Of Screwtape Letters, that is (C.S Lewis). Chapter 8, as it refers to the Law of Undulation, is a masterfully crafted reminder of the purpose that lies behind the ups and downs that we are subject to as emotional human beings.

The Law of Undulation precedes our emulation of roller coasters. We have days of elation and glee that land us on a mountain top – only to find that the next day may begin in the most shallow of valleys. Lewis reminds us, in a quite veiled and indirect manner, that it is this nature of change that begs for our belonging to an unchanging Lord. I have heard people suggest that is only in the valley that the undergrowth flourishes. In the valley, we are watered, we are quenched, we are cultivated. My friend Lindsay has often reminded me that It is simply on the mountaintops that we are able to see the life from above.

Take this further: it is in the valley that we are more closely apt to search for a breath, a streak of sunlight, a relief from the deep South Texas humidity that chokes at the throat… It is in the valley, not the mountain top that the Lord still calls to us in our (often times more keenly aware) desperation. It is the depth of struggle that allows us to be reminded of the gospel. We are saved and saved again each time we admit our desperate need.

If we can learn anything from remembering our friends, the Israelites, and their times in wandering, it is this: God speaks in the desert.

Just last year I found myself hiking across the Mahktesh through the Western side of the Negev Desert. It was a place of utter lack. There was no life (foreseeably), no water, no shade, no relief, and no end. Fancy this, there was also no noise. It blew my mind that a place that seemed so void of anything good would be the area the Lord would choose to give Moses the words of the Pentateuch. But, in an ironically perfect way, in the most desperate of all places, God spoke. And I must believe He still does the same.

This Law of Undulation is more of a proclamation of need, in my book. Now everytime I am aware of my cycling: up or down or stagnant or in circles: I preach the gospel to myself. In the midst of the dark valley, I quite literally and out loud remind myself that I was once a wicked and depraved child of wrath in complete separation from the Father; but because of HIS mercy, and in my most desperate state of need, He spoke – he claimed me as His own, he cleansed me, and He made me new.

Praise God with me next time you find yourself in a valley. He is far bigger than any undulating desert-to-mountain trek we find ourselves on; and His gospel brings light to the darkest of valleys.

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