Sunday, January 29, 2006

i may be strongly tempted to worship you

the best part about flying is when you leave a dreary, overcast day behind and break through the clouds to where the sun seems to have just been awaiting your arrival so he could burst into your narrow, little airplane window and warm you all over with his sunbeams. my heart feels free up there above the clouds, like the sun and i were meant to be traipsing around those pillowy mountains together, jumping from one to the other, warm and laughing.

when my plane landed in midway this afternoon, i came home to the same dreary, overcast weather i'd left in minneapolis. i took the orange line up to the loop, the wide, picture windows of the el showcasing the whole of the downtown skyline. a little man got on at pulaski, shorter than me and as skinny, too. he wore glasses too wide for his small face and his big red marlboro-emblazoned parka hung over the suit he wore neatly underneath. his cheeks were red and dry. he stared out the window solemnly. his appearance struck me as caricature-like and i did my best to conceal my staring.

i finished c.s. lewis' first essay in his book, "the weight of glory," on the plane this morning, re-reading pieces of it over and over again. as i stared at this man, the last page came alive:
it is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you say it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. all day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one of other of these destinations. there are no ordinary people. you have never talked to a mere mortal .... our merriment must be of that kind which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously - no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.

in that same way that i feel alive when the plane breaks through the cloudcover, when that little secret in me that hints at what more is yet to come than even this sings to my heart, when i feel i can imagine what real freedom looks like for even a moment, i wonder what makes this man feel freedom. feel comforted. feel the possibility of glory.

when i was in college, i couldn't stand guys with white hats (i know, it was a weird, unexplainable dislike), so, feeling once convicted about judging people so widely, i made an attempt to pick out those guys in crowds and imagine them as little boys. and i drew great big birthday parties around them with jesus standing just over their shoulders, or right next to them, or handing them presents. and i imagined what it was that jesus could be celebrating in them. that there was something valuable in those little hearts, in those big dreams, in those sky-high hopes. and if jesus thought it valuable, then i'd think it - and him - valuable, too.

it's still something i practice. honestly, i find i have to practice it more the older i get. i have more hurts built up, more memories of feeling slighted, attacked, patronized, and i'm quick to expect the worst now. what an ugly place. but if i really believe, as lewis says, that "next to the blessed sacrament itself, [my] neighbor is the holiest object presented to [my] senses," i can bear no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption against him. if i believe that "Glory Himself is truly hidden" in my neighbor, i must love - in all the fullness that LOVE is.

i hope i run into that man on the el in heaven someday and he turns out to be this beautifully handsome creature, fully glorified. meanwhile, i'll remember as i struggle against the impulse to snub, that someday, somewhere, i may be strongly tempted to worship that very person.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

room for more

after an absence of nearly 4 years, i got to have coffee with the woman whose sons i'd babysat for years growing up. the boys are 14 and 15 now, already a few years older than i was when i'd first gone to their house to watch them for an afternoon.

i swear she hasn't changed at all. she looks just the same as she did the first day i met her - dirty blonde hair just grazing her shoulders and a big smile, open and eager to laugh. she is really proud of her boys, talking about them as though they are heros in their own right. one is adopted; the other is biologically theirs. both are obviously enormously loved.

i remember the first time i found out the oldest was adopted. i had made a comment to lorilee that he seemed to look more like her husband every day. and then she told me that she and her husband were almost ready to tell him that he was adopted, so i should be prepared for any questions or any sudden changes in behavior. but there were none. robby didn't pay much mind to it.

evidently, he still doesn't. he's started to ref basketball games for middle school kids. he's too little to play the sport very well himself, but has found a way to channel his love for it into something active. lorilee, because she keeps in touch with his biological mom, recognized that this was the exact thing robby's birth mom had done with her love of basketball. so she'd asked robby if he wanted to know something about her. he said no.

i wonder what it's like to know you have a child and not have him in your arms. lorilee said that she and her husband see themselves often in their own biological son - how he makes decisions, what he likes to study, who he makes friends with. i think it's an incredible thing to know the biological parent(s) of your adopted child and to be able to watch for shared characteristics.

lorilee is an incredible mom. and she and her husband have raised two wonderful boys. i still think about robby's birth mom, though, and the choices she made. she never married or had children of her own. and yet, her flesh and blood, a little piece of her, is in the world.

what a big decision to make to entrust your child to someone else. i have all the respect in the world for anyone who's had to make that choice. i pray that god would be near to them. and i pray for peace and comfort in their hearts.

someday, if i ever get the chance, i'd really really like to adopt. i think our hearts were made to grow and expand to take in lots of people - adopted children or anyone - to love and care for. i hope i practice that now. i'd like to always be ready to take in more.

Friday, January 27, 2006

my baseball goiter

i admit it. i used to be just a little flattered when a bum on the street whistled and winked at me. of course, i'm not making excuses for people who like to objectify women, and i also know they don't do it because they think - with any serious rationale - that i have such a look to carry me to the heights of america's next top model, but it does nothing to harm a girl's spirits to hear a stranger audibly and non-derogitorily (yes, that's a word for today) notice something attractive about her. so yes, i really don't mind accepting those recycled compliments tossed out to me and every other girl walking down the street. it makes me laugh. and i like to laugh.

it had been a few days since i'd received those light words. since monday, i'd been holed up in my apartment, recovering from a full 4-wisdom-teeth extraction. by tuesday evening, i had developed a baseball-size goiter on the left-hand side of my face, making my other slightly plump cheek look gaunt in comparison. the doctors had told me that everyone healed in their own time, and i shouldn't panic if i was still swollen two days later.

well, i panicked. and don't roll your eyes - i had good reason!

sleeping on wednesday night was no lullaby dream. i couldn't move from my right side, my neck uncomfortably propped atop two firm pillows, and my left cheek throbbing methodically, musically almost: ICE. me. ICE. me. ICE. me. i woke up several times throughout the night, finally reaching for my alarm at 6:10 a.m. and discovering a cold, wet spot of bloodstained drool on my pillow. lovely. i know.

the bathroom mirror confirmed my suspicions: the swelling hadn't decreased over night, nor had the redness returned to my my now dearly-missed pale shade of white. i looked hideous. and yet work called. and my flight home to mpls called. and then shelly called.

"how are you feeling?" she asked sympathetically.
"good. no, not good. awful, actually. my neck is stiff, my cheek is the size of a whiffle ball and my eye is red and bruising. but i guess, other than that, good."

i had mentioned to jon, poor jon, the day before that 3 days at home eating soft foods and watching mindless tv was not the picnic so many had made it out to be. i grew restless at home. after erin left in the morning, i'd count the hours till katherine came home. and all day long, i'd wait for my phone to ring, just to hear something REAL, something not brought to be my Tyra Banks or Maury Povich or The Brady Bunch. i needed people. lots of people. interaction.

before i realized this, however, i had made sure to lay all the blame on jon during our phone call one evening. did he not care enough to call me more than 3 times a day? wasn't he concerned i might die?! did he even like me as a person?!?!

fortunately, jon is a patient man and has already learned that - though comprised of often even an ounce of truth - much, much of what i saw in my distress has been dramatized for effect (hello, can you blame me? i was watching soap operas all day long!).

i think i heard him exhale slowly when i'd hit the end of my rant and decided i - an extrovert - had been suffering from forced post-op exile. again, thank goodness he really likes me.

so when i told shelly thursday morning that i was good, i meant it. i'd be at work, surrounded by people who had filled in for me, checked up on me, missed me, and had weekend stories yet to share with me.

granted, the way to work was no fun. but i sucked it up and stared at the ground, not wanting to smile apologetically for looking how i did nor wishing to stare anyone in the eye and frighten them so badly i'd appear as the Creepy One in their dreams that night.

i'd made it all the way to the corner of my office's intersection, pleased that on one had run in terror from me or screamed and handed me their children in fear. then deborah, my favorite waitress in the city, stepped out of the diner where i was waiting at the stoplight to cross the street.

more later ...

Wednesday, January 25, 2006


i'll spare you the details of my wisdom teeth extraction, but suffice it to say i'm home for the third day in a row. i finally showered today, changed into new clothes and cleaned up the family room. i've been camping on our couch for the last two nights, partly because the tv there serves as good distraction from my discomfort, and partly because erin leaves her door open for me to call to her should i need her in the middle of the night.

i must say i'll be glad when the swelling goes down. right now, it's affecting only the left side of my face and throat and has recently climbed up just underneath my eye. and i'll be happy to eat real food - i've been so hungry for a hamburger, but the swelling only allows my mouth to open so far. instead, i've gotten a whole half of a pita down and 2 cups of applesauce. the nurses like to make things seem extra peachy when they tell you that getting your wisdom teeth out means you can watch movies and eat ice cream to your heart's content. hm. if you're lactose intolerant, eating ice cream is a bad idea. sad how it always takes me until AFTER i've eaten anything milky to learn that lesson.

it's been gorgeous out here the past few days, something i only notice through my windows. perhaps i'll take a walk today just to get some fresh air. i'd really like to go for a run since jon sent me a training schedule for the 8K i'm supposed to run in april. it started on monday but obviously i've been a little out of commission.

i'd also like to be at work since there's a lot going on and i feel like i just need to be there and get through it all. our big events are not even two weeks away. but it is what it is. maybe i'll write letters. i keep checking in to see who's blogging, but as laura wrote, everyone's been away from their computers recently, so i'll have to rely on something else to amuse me in my swolleness. bleh.

that's all. just thought i'd throw an update out there. thanks for thinking of me.


oh, and as a side note. the rash and tooth WERE related. it disappeared the same day i got my surgery done. sweet.

Friday, January 20, 2006

"malady mary" (or "maybe this is the end")

i started off the abbreviated week with a little ear & throat cold. no biggie. i OD'd on ricola (yes, it's possible. don't try it unless you're eager for serious gut rot) and hot beverages and gallons of water to eschew any possibility of trading in that little cold for something bigger and nastier, namely the flu.

i shouldn't have been so specific.

i should have said i didn't want to make any sort of trade, that i wanted to get 100% better, period.

two days later, on thursday morning, i woke up feeling much better, well enough, i thought, to pick out something bright and pink from my closet. i threw on the turtleneck and tried to smile like i felt like a million bucks.

my still-recovering self reflected its disapproval in the mirror. i sighed and went for something basic and black. a few minutes later after changing, my neck began to itch a bit. it's the winter season, right? it's crazy dry here in the city and i didn't think anything about it.

at work, i regretted not wearing a turtleneck. turns out i had developed some sort of rash along the left side of my face and down my neck.


but i couldn't spend too much time thinking about it since i - after losing my appetite to my cold, finally regained a healthy hunger - foolishly elected to eat the cafeteria's version of mexican enchiladas (read: velveeta "cheese" squeezed into crusty wraps). what can i say? when i'm really hungry, i forget that i'm lactose intolerant.

so after ridding myself of all that, my appetite returned again and i went for the thing closest to me. good ol' BBQ chips - a bite of which left me in pain way back in my mouth on the lower left side.

my wisdom tooth is coming in.

i mentioned it to a friend who told me to get it removed. i scoffed and pointed to the other wisdom tooth already in. "this one came in just fine. those dentists, they tell you you have to have your teeth removed just to make an extra dollar. my parents didn't have their wisdom teeth removed. so if it was good enough for them, then it's good enough for me."

i will have to swallow my words.

this morning, it hurt real bad.

i visited the school's nurse to ask her if benadryl (for my weird rash) and aleve (for my tooth) taken together would kill me.

"mary," she said gently, "i don't think those two things are separate issues. i think you've got an infection in your wisdom tooth and it's getting into your bloodstream." she placed a bunch of mirrors around me so she could get a better look at the back of my mouth. that seemed to confirm her suspicions.

tomorrow, i'm meeting with an oral surgeon.


at least it's not the avian bird flu. i guess that's good news.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

a nine pound hammer or a woman like you

if you haven't yet listened to ray lamontagne, please visit his site now. and make sure you tune into the song, jolene, which has quickly become the song on repeat in my office. it is beautiful.


Cocaine flame in my bloodstream
Sold my coat when I hit Spokane
Bought myself a hard pack of cigarettes in the early morning rain
Lately my hands they don't feel like mine
My eyes been stung with dust, I'm blind
Held you in my arms one time
Lost you just the same
I ain't about to go straight
It's too late
I found myself face down in the ditch
Booze on my hair
Blood on my lips
A picture of you, holding a picture of me
in the pocket of my blue jeans
Still don't know what love means
Still don't know what love means
Ah, La, La, La, La, La
Been so long since I seen your face
or felt a part of this human race
I've been living out of this here suitcase for way too long
A man needs something he can hold onto
A nine pound hammer or a woman like you
Either one of them things will do
I ain't about to go straight
It's too late
I found myself face down in the ditch
Booze in my hair
Blood on my lips
A picture of you, holding a picture of me
In the pocket of my blue jeans
Still don't know what love means
Still don't know what love means
La, La, La, La, La, La, La
La, La, La, La, La, La, La

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Nuclear Crisis

Evidently, India and Pakistan have begun their third round of peace talks. What's on the table? Discussions of the countries' nuclear arsenals and methods to reduce hostilities over the disputed Kashmir region. Earlier attempts at peace following the October earthquake at the Indian-Pakistani border have made little impact:
An Indian offer to provide much-needed helicopters to Pakistan's quake zone was turned down because Musharraf's government would not accept Indian military pilots flying them.Even the smallest gesture - the opening of five border points where Kashmiris could theoretically cross the frontier - has been mired in so much red tape as to be largely meaningless. Just 750 people have been able to cross, officials say.
I don't get it. It frustrates me so much that all of this is going on. I find myself particularly annoyed when I hear that an agenda includes the issue of nuclear arsenals. I mean, what? I just feel like nuclear weapons are maybe the stupidest things I have ever ever ever heard of. Who is that intent on killing? Obliterating an entire region of people? Why? And if you do it, it's not like you've cleared the land for your own use. So yeah, everyone you hated is now dead but so is the land. So you destroy your own world. I just don't get it.

I was playing that nobel prize peace doves game again this past weekend and it still sticks with me. Why do we even allow 5 states to have nuclear weapons? Is it necessary for ANYONE to have even one? No. No, no, no, no, no.

Maybe someday, someone will stop inventing things like chin pumps and create something REALLY useful - like nuclear weapon interceptors that completely and forever deactivate any and all nuclear weapons in the entire galaxy.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

pump the breaks

this is a good idea: celerbate adbuster's slow down week, january 15-21.

need encouragement? watch their slow down week flash spot here.

in honor of the week, i'm not posting anything new. actually, i had nothing new to say, but this "slow down week" is a good excuse to not write anything while simultaneously making me look like i'm on the cutting edge of confronting the man.


Wednesday, January 11, 2006

worth and value

i leave tomorrow morning for michigan with 25 high schoolers. we'll take the 4 1/2 hour train ride together east and spend the weekend at a conference at the university there. this is the fourth time i've taken this trip - and may very well be the last - so i look forward to it rather bittersweetly.

it's too late for me to be writing now. i have yet to pack, but i've just gotten home from dinner with annie and, as it always happens when i meet her, i have so much on my mind i couldn't possibly sleep. i made sure to order a drink so that my body would put me to sleep if my mind tried to argue against it. i'm sure my fingers will stop typing so quickly soon enough, but i figured i'd write while i've still got juice in me ...

i sit across from annie at uncommon ground. this is our meeting place. i haven't seen my favorite waiter there in ages, which i'm guessing means he's moved on to different things. i miss him, though i am learning to develop affections for the newest group of servers. change is good, i think.

annie agrees. after years of rallying against it, she's decided that change is, in fact, a good thing. the daughter of parents who dedicated their lives to improving the quality of life for people identified as disabled, annie has recently begun to see where activism and determination can potentially lead. she speaks with such passion, so that i am readily inclined to clap or shout her last name in repitition as she goes.

annie says that all she really wants is validation. she can do without praise or the like, but affirmation that, yes, she may indeed have a point? she craves it. i know i do.

someone tell me my thoughts are worthwhile, that i might be on to something, that i could offer something to the world, that my life isn't in vain.

what does it mean to validate someone's existence? to speak to their worth? to not have to agree with everything they think, say, do, but to acknowledge that they ARE?

i'm gonna practice it this weekend. 25 hormonal teenagers and me. wish me luck.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

forget abc's the bachelor

jamie slid off the bar stool and slipped slowly into his long, camel-colored wool coat. he patted the backs of the boys at the table and kissed the girls' cheeks, catching their gaze long enough to say goodbye and express how much he'd enjoyed seeing all of them. he sauntered over to me and asked if i'd be taking the brown line home, and, if yes, could he accompany me to the station. i agreed, and slid off my bar stool, which was followed by the echo of the seven others at our table getting on their feet carefully after an evening of sangria and tapas and throwing on their own coats.

i've known jamie for 3 and a half years. when i first met him, i had only heard of him through a friend of his (henry) who i'd enjoyed having a temporary crush on. i expected jamie to be much like henry, and so was surprised when jamie had turned out to be quieter, more formal and actually rather poor at conversation, relying more on looks that seemed to express his intent that no, i had it wrong, i would be the one to divulge all the details of my life, and he would be the one to ask all the questions.

whether my memory of that first encounter is correct or not (in all honesty, i had fallen asleep on my hand in my hotel room right before i'd met him and was particularly consumed with the fear he'd notice the fingerprints and ring designs imprinted on the right hand side of my face), my interactions with him since have better rounded out my impression.

at 5'11" with reddish-brownish hair and a well-groomed beard, jamie is handsome enough - especially with his glasses. he introduces himself as though you've already earned his respect, something you sense you've given him without ever even thinking about it. his haughty eyes can be forgiven, since his laugh and do-gooderness are quick to chime in and put you at ease. his education is outstanding, his family relations admirable, and his success is indeed enviable.

jamie is the perfect bachelor.

but here's the catch - i think he also knows he's the perfect bachelor.

since i've known him, jamie has seriously dated no fewer than 8 women. and oh yes, they're all a type. not his type, i'd argue, but a type nonetheless.

on our ride home together this evening, i spoke about a friend of mine who's probably the most outdoorsy woman i've ever met. as i described a recent adventure she'd taken, jamie's eyes lit up: "wow, she sounds exactly like the kind of girl i'd want to be with." absolutely. jamie LOVES all sports, all things outdoors, all volunteer work, all things that embrace life.

but has jamie ever dated a sporty girl? an outdoorsy girl? a volunteering girl? no. but every girlfriend of his who i've met has definitely had their intention on embracing something. it just happens to be him. he plays soccer? she (#7) cheers him on from the stands in a modern day laura ashley dress. he backpacks across the states? she (#4) resists accompanying him, but begs him to call her everyday from the road (don't ask me how i know this, but trust me). he dreams big? she dreams of simply being his.

in all honesty, it's a little heartbreaking.

i have to wonder, does he not want to try dating the girl of his dreams and find she's not all he hoped? is he really hoping the "opposites attract" philosophy will eventually land him the love of his life? has he possibly so grown to love his own charm that the ability to woo is stronger than the desire to love? just questions, just questions.

before jamie got off at his stop tonight, henry came up in conversation and i asked jamie if he'd met his new girlfriend yet. "yeah," he said, offering a disapproving look. "she's ok."

"and how are things going with you and your girlfriend?" i countered. "this is still the one from the soccer game, right?"

"no, that ended awhile ago ..." he paused and stopped to look out the window as we approached the platform. "so this is my stop."

i smiled.

he returned the smile. "yeah, new girl. she's great. we'll see." he kissed my cheek and winked at me. "so i'll see you soon, right?"

i laughed. yes, mr. charm-is-deceptive, and how i'd like to kiss your cheek goodnight, tell you that i have a soft spot in my heart for you, and then praise god that i'm not dating you.

"yeah, jamie," i said, stifling a loving chuckle. "see you soon."

Sunday, January 08, 2006

i love milwaukee

saturday night, rachel, joe, laura, kat and i piled into a dirty baby blue leather booth at a corner dive in milwaukee's bay view neighborhood. the place appears to have had no face lifts in the 41 years of its existence, its dark wood illuminated only by shallow candles and orange christmas lights decorating an island of seemingly dead brush surrounded by intimate sets of the same dirty baby blue leather booths we were in. at random, it's called, a name random indeed for a lounge that might better be called the 1970s time warp.

frank sinatra's moon river was playing when we entered the bar, so my heart was instantly hopeful to fall in love with this little at random bar. the 60-some gray-haired host, convinced of our legal drinking age because we told him plainly that we were all over 21, led us past table after table of couples sharing tub-like glasses of some huge tropical rum concoction. as we later learned, the "tikki love bowl" is brought to the table with a flame atop it, and can only be blown out by the couple together after they've looked deep into each other's eyes and made a secret wish. this is good marketing.

it reminded me a bit of a place i went to in LA a few years back, the stinking rose, i believe it was called. it had the same orangish lighting and dark wood and made me feel like tom selleck would be rounding the corner in a leisure suit at any moment.

rachel, kat and i all ordered the peanut butter cup ice cream drink (with a mountain of reddi-whip on top - i was sold from the first sip). i could have sat in that booth for hours, watching couples silently sip their bowls of island-flavor-infused rum and watching others whisper into each other's ears and get lost in their own private conversations. that's what i love. watching people love each other, and not caring one iota who - if anyone at all - notices them. i admire people like that. i want to be like that.

i don't want the show. i don't need to go the top-rated restaurants and i don't want to care who's being seen or doing the seeing or whatever that phrase is. i want to feel comfortable in my own skin, and accept other people in their own skin.

it never fails that whenever i go up to wisconsin, i see someone dressed as though they got up in the morning and thought it was still 1985. and to this person i say, thank you. thank you for making me laugh at myself and how caught up i get in where my jeans fall on my hips and how much time i spend thinking about how impressed everyone else would be if they saw i had such great "chicago style." to that person with bangs as high as the ceiling and tapered pants cut at the ankle and pastel esprit sweatshirts hanging down way past your hips, thank you.

and to this 1965 lounge tucked away in the middle of a quiet little neighborhood, thank you for making room for me in your time warp. i felt at home.

Friday, January 06, 2006

nobel prize fun

ok, you have GOT to visit before i head out with my friend abby tonight, i've been spending some time digging around the internet, checking out sites related to poverty and linked to an article by a nobel peace prize winner. besides being way readable, the site has these great simluation games inspired by prize-winning achievements.

so first, i got to be the trade ruler of the pink country in which i had to trade jeans and cell phones for the welare of my country. turns out i'm not very good at economics, and even though my people eventually appreciated the work i did on their behalf, they felt my trading skills were rather poor in the beginning. i probably should have listened better in econ

figuring that peace was more my thing, i played the peace doves game and succeeded in disarming seven countries of their nuclear weapons AND learned some super fascinating things along the way. can you believe there are 5 so-called "nuclear weapon states" who are allowed to have nuclear weapons according to the non-proliferation treaty of 1970? doesn't that seem wrong?

i also learned that there was an outer space treaty of 1967 which forbids stationing or possession of nuclear weapons in a space vehicle orbiting earth. i mean, for real? are we that crazed about killing each other? is that how you would go about protecting your family? creating missles? and, i mean this in a loving and forgiving way, but what psychopath spends his time creating nuclear weapons? hello! someone invite this kid to join in your intramural league games. or ask him over for dinner. seriously, at what point does some kid go from playing games with his friends to thinking about world domination? something is not right.

anyway, i'm in the middle of my lord of the flies game. i don't recommend it unless you really know the book. but man, is it challenging my memories of 11th grade british lit ...

Thursday, January 05, 2006


If you received the December issue of Sojourners Magazine, you couldn't have missed the article on sociologist Nelson Good. According to Sojo's editors, Good, who recently passed away, was "an apt example of incarnate grace in the world. The physical structures Nelson helped build will stand for some time, but it's what he built with his life that's instructive and inspiring. Nelson wasn't perfect by any means, but he was a tireless advocate for others, an accepting, generous person who was interested in what others had to say. He made people feel good about their contributions and about themselves, and he was deliberate about being in relationship with others."

Since reading the article many weeks ago now, one particular section has remained burned on my brain, and I find myself contemplating it many times a day:

Nelson and Betty bought their first house with another young couple and arranged the space to accommodate both families, with a shared living room. It was practical, but it also expressed their values—the arrangement "allowed community to happen," as Betty put it, but didn't force people into community. It saved money, but Nelson always had a larger vision for frugality. People who managed to live happily on less had more freedom. They could work at jobs that allowed room for family life, or for causes they believed in. It was all part of a strategy for building community, the web of relationships that starts with the family and extends outward.

In recent discussion with friends, we've talked about how our society has been set up to separate us. You have your single-family unit and I have mine. Here's where my yard ends and yours begins. See this fence? My property. Yours, mine, and very little ours.

Honestly, I've dreamnt of owning a huge house all my life. A house where every room is ready for guests at any moment, and where I can hold a ball for all my friends and neighbors in a room with floor-t0-ceiling windows and a spiraling staircase I can swoosh down in my beautiful gala gown, all the while balancing my glass of champagne in one hand while placing my hand on the back of a good friend to let her know I am fully immersed in her story. My backyard would provide acres of running room for my kids and the vineyard would provide my income.

And then a few months ago, I read a book that radically pushed me in another direction. Henri Nouwen writes in his book, In The Name Of Jesus:
The way of the Christian leader is not the way of upward mobility in which our world has invested so much, but the way of downward mobility ending on the cross. This might sound morbid and masochistic, but for those who have heard the voice of the first love and said yes to it, the downward-moving way of Jesus is the way to the joy and the peace of God, a joy and peace that is not of this world.

Here we touch the most important quality of Christian leadership in the future. It is not a leadership of power and control, but a leadership of powerlessness and humility in which the suffering servant of God, Jesus Christ, is made manifest ... Powerlessness and humility in the spiritual life do not refer to peole who have no spine and who let everyone else make decisions for them. They refer to people who are so deeply in love with Jesus that they are ready to follow him wherever he guides them, always trusting that, with him, they will find life and find it abundantly.

The Christian leader of the future needs to be radically poor, journeying with nothing except a staff. What is good about being poor? Nothing, except that it offers us the possibility of giving leadership by allowing ourselves to be led ....
I read that line over and over again: The Christian leader of the future needs to be radically poor. And I think about Nelson Good and communities like The Simple Way. Then I think about the things I buy, or the ideas I buy into. I think about the way I view other peoples' successes and how I measure in comparison. I've grown into an idea that says to be independent is the best way to be. It can't be! I'm not happy being this independent. I'm not happy getting everything I want. Not that it's even all about being "happy."

Sorry. I'll avoid tangents. Just been thinking a bit on dependency and money and spending and following Jesus. Okay, I'm thinking on it a lot.

Monday, January 02, 2006

why he makes my heart so full

i'm surprised at how full my heart feels right now. after the last of my new years guests left this morning, i expected a rather sudden shift of emotion south, but instead i'm here, basking in the white christmas lights strung all over my home, each ivory candle lit, a bouquet of yellow daisies in the middle of the table (sent to my poor, sick roommate kat to lift her spirits), and laura's 2005 mix cd in my speakers.

i am missing everyone, but am so happily savoring the moments of the past few days in detail tonight, closing my eyes and remembering the things i moved too quickly through in the last week.

christmas thrills seemed lacking this year, though i admit i didn't miss the hoopla much. i worked right up till christmas eve and barely made the gift-giving deadline for my own family (and yes, i'm still delayed in giving presents to some folks). december was a hard month for me in many ways, and i think my energy was so focused there that i had little left over for running through shopping malls or fighting the crowds on michigan avenue or sitting in front of a computer screen surfing for the "right" (i.e. last minute, this-will-have-to-do) presents.

i think christmas shopping annoys me the same way january at the gym bothers me. EVERYONE is there. i don't mind shopping; i just like it when there aren't as many people so you can people-watch peacefully without fearing you'll be blindsided by overzealous parents bent on scooping up anything, anything, to satisfy their children's need to compete with friends once school resumes in january. but i digress ....

this holiday wasn't accented by ornament-hanging or caroling or any sort of high school reunioning; there weren't any touching moments at manger scenes or any new revelations about the birth of the baby jesus.

but, oh! if you could have had this - cooking salmon for your family, eating dinner with adam go, visiting jon's family for an afternoon, spending time with jon and josh watching anne of green gables (thanks for indulging me, guys), grocery shopping for the new years soiree with laura, hearing shelly call me back to say that yes, she and mark and jonathan were coming to chicago, seeing and talking with the finesilvers, laughing at how funny jenny is, enjoying the haberls' sweet and easy company, spending real quality time with my boyfriend who i love steadily more every day, eating pancakes with erin, sarah and chris, waking up to thunderstorms this morning, understanding that god is sweet in his gift-giving ...

yes, i love that god became man in jesus. and i celebrate that. i love that he talked with people and walked with people. i love that he actually was here in flesh.

but i think the best thing as i think about it tonight is the holy spirit left with us like a gift. more real than my memories of friends playing games on new years and then dancing to my ipod's running mix after the ball dropped. more real than even the little things they left behind when they got in the car to drive back to minneapolis, madison or milwaukee.

more real is this holy spirit that keeps me company in the quiet of my home tonight. his presence so real i think my heart could burst as i relate all this to him. he is good company. because for all my excitement and joy over my friends, he feels it even more. and in telling him of all my joy, it almost feels like his presence swells in me, delighted that i caught just a bit of what it is about them that HE loves so much.

i think He is what is making my quiet home tonight so warm. and yeah, i think He is what is making my nervous heart tonight so abundantly full.