Thursday, September 21, 2006

finest hour

a friend introduced me to nina simone two years ago during a period when we regularly swapped favorite cds. i wouldn't say it was love at first listen; i hadn't been brought up to appreciate ms. simone's type of jazz. but over time, her music became the companion i had until then only dreamed about, the kind of music that isn't simply a soundtrack for a memorable moment or the background noise that shuts everything out so you can record said memorable moment in your journal.

no, ms. simone's music is the kind that demands your attention, the kind you should listen to with your eyes closed, the kind that should usher out your own anxieties and worries and dance around in your head, the kind that should be really listened to. it's the kind of music appropriate for tonight.

after middle school youth group tonight, i was feeling worn out, my throat sore from the midwest's drastic changes in temperature in the past week, my head pounding, and my interaction abilities at an all-time low after a week of group activities. so while everyone else headed towards the union for drinks, i steered home in the quiet rain, eager for me-time.

typical me-time begins with candles. i am a candle-aholic. i love still flames. i love all the light just one little candle can make in a dark room. i have four lit now, two candlesticks and two pillars. i have a cup of hazelnut vanilla tea. and i have nina simone on the stereo. she's only singing out of one speaker since the other got busted in the move, but she sounds just as beautiful.

did you ever see "before sunset"? it's richard linklater's sequel to "before sunrise" with julie delpy and ethan hawke. towards the end, julie delpy invites ethan hawke up for a cup of tea, and plays nina simone. it's julie delpy's impression of ms. simone that i first see when i listen to this cd - she acts a little drunk, her arms bent at the elbow and her hands swinging like puppets from her wrists. she shuffles across the floor, murmuring a bit, lost in the music.

that's how i want to be tonight. just a little lost here under my covers, my candles lit, my tea soothing my throat, and my mind tuned in only to ms. simone.

let me know if you need a night like this. i'll send you my cd.

good night, all.

Friday, September 15, 2006

search and rescue

there are a tremendous number of little things on my mind, and they've begun to wedge themselves in the crevices of the deeper things. in one way or another, they seemed worthy of being remembered, but i'm afraid i'll lose them inside my head. here's my attempt at search and rescue:

- at my first-ever massage yesterday, my masseuse rachel told me that the number of ounces of water you should drink per day is determined by your weight divided by two.

- semantics definitely set first impressions, but how important are they? i've been discussing this issue with my roommate who has been a bit adverse to the idea of "megachurch," citing the lack of personal attention and intimacy that could be better found in smaller house churches. i argued for the importance, nay, the necessity, of life groups which offer that commitment and intimacy regularly, but i'm not sure she was buying it. then while searching the mars hill church website the other day, i discovered that they refer to their life groups as "house churches." excited, i brought it up to bethany later, and she agreed that that seemed like language she could get on board with ... i guess i have to wonder, how picky do we have to be? i understand the importance of language, but is this just a matter of being PC? or is this the new wave of Christianesely Correct?

- speaking of bethany, she made an excellent point the other day that's helped me better define how i feel about short term missions: "while long-term missions seem to be an investment in a people group or a place, short-term missions are an investment in an individual by those who financially and prayerfully support him or her."

- i've always been a little shy of mega churches, but i have to admit that The Volunteer Revolution by Bill Hybels of Willow Creek has certainly taught me to be less judgmental. I highly recommend it. A little highlight: "It must break God's heart when people come to church with a consumer mindset, content to eat and run. 'Serve me,' they say. 'Teach me. Pray for me. Fix my kids. Counsel my spouse. And if you don't do all of this up to my standards, I'll go down the street and see if another church will pay better attention to me.' I've learned that you can't possibly build a God-honoring church with a congregation full of consumers."

- in just one night of brief sharing, the 6th grade girls i get to volunteer with have changed my outlook on middle schoolers again. when everyone's turn at hot seat begins with the same question, "what boys do you like?" it's like you can almost see how quickly the next few years will go. i can remember liking tony kohmann in 7th grade and walking through the park by my house with him, his friend lenny smoking only yards behind us. and that feels like yesterday. it makes me so excited to get to walk through life with these girls, too.

- and speaking of junior high, i read a quote today about middle school ministry that i loved:
"when our junior high director tries to draft people into youth ministry, he doesn't say, 'i know all junio high kids have a frozen brain for 3 years and they dress weird and they're generally obnoxious. but they need adult supervision. so would you bite the bullet and give me a little help?' he says, 'i've committed my life to a group of people who are in the most crucial three-year period of life. MTV goes after them. most of the marketing for offbeat products and destructive lifestyles is directed toward them. they haven't yet developed the inner spine to make their own choices, so they're very impressionable. if you want to make a huge impact on vulnerable kids whose future hinges on the decisions they make today - if you really want to make a difference with your life! - then join our junior high ministry.'"

- on another note, jon suggested i record a list of all the unspoken rules i hold (and have had to break since dating him) regarding dating relationships. i've had to address them a couple of times, and really don't know where they came from. but here's my list thus far:
1. all couples should look alike.
2. all men should cry if they're really in love.
3. when standing across the room at a party, all boyfriends should find moments when they can wink at their girlfriends across the room ... if they're really in love.
4. even if it means being late for something else, boyfriends should make sure that their significant others never feel rushed ... if they're really in love.
5. giving up sleep for the sake of talking well into the night should be something men do joyfully for their girlfriends ... if they're really in love.
6. he should state regularly how lucky he feels to be dating his girlfriend ... if he's really in love.
7. he should be happy to watch chick flicks with you because it means he gets to cuddle with you while watching a movie ... if he's really in love.
man, just writing all of these out makes me laugh out loud and feel a little foolish. i think i watched way too many girly movies in all my years. and listened to diamond rio's "what a beautiful mess" one too many times. ah, well, i'm learning .... :)

anyway, that's it for now. i'm off to journal a bit. thanks for letting me clear my head.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

paid to drink

it's tuesday afternoon, it's beautiful outside, and i've just seated myself kitty-cornered from the wine-tasters at barrique's in middleton. whatever job that is that allows a group of three to sit around a table with six bottles of wine and body postures that suggest they have absolutely nowhere else to be is the job i want.

i am trying not to keep looking at them, but i so want to walk over there and ask how in the world they got to that place.

meanwhile, i am still in the midst of the job search. i spent two hours online this morning, scoping out the madison employment scene and discovering that i ought to have taken courses in nursing or urban and regional planning if i wanted to have an easy-in to the job market here. alas.

but wine-tasting, oh it so hard not to look at them. especially because i'm listening to fleetwood mac's gypsy and the song just makes me want to twirl around like a little ballerina dancer, but i feel that because i've already peeked at them a few times, their eyes are already on me if i move even a little in my seat.

as a side note, have you ever seen the cover of john denver's definitive all-time greatest hits? i mean, it's hard for me to feel like he understands what it means to "thank god [he's] a country boy" when he's posing with his shaggy hair, big, round glasses, and gold bling hanging down on his little skinny-boy bare white chest. unless that's the part of cowboy world i just haven't yet encountered ...

okay, i'm rapidly losing interest in my own blog. seriously, whoever this guy is over here at barrique's has maybe the sweetest job ever. i think he's on hi 7th glass of wine presented by yet another party of two who are trying to woo him to their wines. maybe i'll just start drinking at barrique's and see if i get paid for it, too.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

weekend details

it's been a busy weekend.

starting early friday morning (for a non-worker, that is), jon and i visited the pancake house with paul and kristi, two of the more well-traveled students i've ever met. they were on their way out of town, bringing paul back to bethel in st.paul after a summer in tibet and sending kristi off to swaziland for the year.

i've met paul only a handful of times and this was just my second conversation with kristi, but i so enjoyed hanging out with them that the idea of not seeing them for awhile is pretty disappointing. still - and even if this sounds cheesy - it's pretty incredible to get to meet people who you have such an easy time celebrating. that feels like a gift from god.

later that afternoon, jon and i drove to milwaukee to see our friends sara and matt. the last time i'd seen them was at new year's when they trekked down to chicago for my little bash, so a whole evening of finesilver fun had been long anticipated. i think one of the things i so appreciate about them as a couple is how prioritized their lives seem. what i mean to say is that their couple vibe, as i'll call it, seems fully nonjudgmental. for example, on the way out of madison, jon reminded me to grab a long-sleeved shirt just in case it got cold, so i picked out my favorite one, which unfortunately, must have been thrown in the same load chapstick-washed laundry and so has a couple of wax-y spots. but it's still my favorite. the thing is, i can wear a spotty shirt to dinner at my friends' house because i a) don't think they'd even notice and b) don't think they'd think twice. it may seem like a little thing, but i've spent a lot of time with people who might care (not that they're not allowed - i fully understand the idea behind dressing nicely), so just getting to be FULLY casual feels really fun to me. their non-judgmental-ness shows up in lots of other places too - in conversation about anything, really, when they just seem to appreciate people's thoughts. they're deep thinkers, and being in conversation with people who care about people even more than the things that they're really passionate about is a pretty unique thing. thanks, friends.

the next morning, we left early to have breakfast with laura at alterra. laura, as you know if you've read this blog for any length of time, was an old roommate of mine from college. i've known her for 8 years now, which seems absolutely crazy to me, and feel pretty dang lucky that our friendship has continued to grow and develop over these years. she's a published writer and has a life that should be recorded and sold and on the new york times best seller list. it's fun to be a part of her life.

afterwards, jon and i took a walk out on lake michigan where we learned again how to better argue with each other. i have to say that that may be one of the best signs of the growth in our relationship. i'd always rather avoid conflict, but unfortunately, i have the kind of personality that likes to initiate it (it's my flair for the dramatic, i think). anyway, there was something about our conversation on saturday that felt GOOD. even in the midst of minor conflict, i felt like, yes! this is how you argue! yes!

i just didn't know you could learn so much in one relationship, you know?

so we drove back to madison, and i tried to sleep in the car a bit since i still felt pretty exhausted. i think we've both been tired the last few days - due both to the lack of sleep and the lack of doing the things that energize us the most. like jon needs exercise - a good run or bike ride - to think, i need to journal. i actually like to think that you can tell if his head is clear by how much he's sweat the same way you can tell if my head is clear by how much i've written.

sunday afternoon, then, while jon went for a long bike ride, i drove out to the arboretum, threw down a blanket and spent some time journaling in the fellowship of crickets, ants, and butterflies.

it feels good to know what can make you feel like a whole person again.

while i was out, i read my little oswald chambers book. i've tried reading this devotional a couple of times, but his writing style has never been something i'd thought beautiful enough to stick with ... until sunday. so that's what i want to share with you:
"He that believeth in Me ... out of him shall flow ..." (John 7:38)
Jesus did not say - "he that believeth in Me shall realize the blessing of the fullness of God," but - "he that believeth in Me out of him shall escape everything he receives." Our Lord's teaching is always anti-self-realization. His purpose is not the development of a man; His purpose is to make man exactly like Himself, and the characteristic of the Son of God is self-expenditure. If we believe in Jesus, it is not what we gain, but what He pours through us that counts. It is not that God makes us beautifully rounded grapes, but that He squeezes the sweetness out of us. Spiritually, we cannot measure our life by success, but only by what God pours through us, and we cannot measure that at all.
i'm still thinking about this, still reveling in the beauty of how it's written and what it implies. i keep seeing that one sentence in my head, and it seems especially appropriate at this time of year, when wineries begin to welcome folks to their grape-stomping festivals. and i think about what violet beauregarde looked like, all big and blueberryish. i don't want to be a big round fruit. i don't want to soak it all in and never let it out. i want to be squeezed.

anyway ... seeing jon after we both felt refreshed was heavenly. i love learning that, too. he is kind to me in so many ways. when i'm exhausted and crabby, i just don't see that. clearing my mind is good on so many levels. i realize i probably can't go on and on about him here, but he is a good man. and i wish for the world's sake that there were more people like him.

that evening, we went over to sara's new apartment and had an awesome dinner with peter, kara, sara, and joanna. and then got to take all them and sara's roommates out to mini-golf.

i love that just writing those two lines makes my heart feel full. do you ever think about a night that just makes you want to whisper into god's ear and tell him how much you love people? and then he laughs, and whispers back to you how much he loves them, too? and then you just laugh with him because joy! you both love people!?

my dream of heaven looks a little like that. like throwing a big party where everyone dresses up and eats incredible food and dances to music and plays games and walks out on balconies over looking cities and gazes at stars. and me and god get to watch them and talk about them and feel like, yeah, look how much fun they're having!

okay, i realize i'm totally digressing. i really need to not drink so much coffee while i'm writing my blog ...

anyway, i hope your weekend was as wonderful.