Tuesday, July 31, 2012

An Offer You Can't Refuse

The Siders House Rules is not one of those blogs that gives away free stuff all the time. I'm just not that kind of girl (yet, maybe?). 

But I've been doing this thing over at the 365 Dream Project every day for almost a month - and I have about 11 more months to go. Goodness. The deal is, I write a new dream for each day and post it there. It's really incredible that day after day, they keep coming to me. I didn't know that I could come up with all these ideas. 

Most of them are intangibles, like always having a glut of good ideas, swimming in creativity, nurturing love in my household, etc. Some have skin and latitude/longitude, like the dream about having another baby, or my longing to visit the ocean once a year until I'm dead. 

But I have 365 days here, and I've dreamed up so many of the things I want for myself and my little life already. I have lots more room to dream, of course, but I want to invite you in.

So here's my giveaway, my invitation:
I invite you to share your dream with me, and I will place a post on the blog dedicated to your dream. You don't have to share your name, but you can share your dream, your deepest, hugest longing that you're afraid to ask or wish for. Come on, you know you have one. One you forgot about from childhood, maybe. Or one you just think isn't for now because of the kids and the mortgage and the excuses you've created. 

For years, mine was a husband, children, India, writing. Some of these have come true; others wait in the wings. But they're mine for the dreaming - and the doing has to start there. 

So be brave. Dream on with me. Dig out your biggest, most unwieldly, impossible dream, dust it off, and share it. As in, write it, whisper it, yell it, sing it. But get it to me some time during the months of August or September.  

Mini disclaimer: Rest assured, if you share your dream with me, you're not giving it up. It's not going to be mine. I'm just going to dream it with you, give a little more umph as it launches into the sky. 

This is going to be fun!

[Now for some legal-ish babble: I am not dreaming about just anything over here; I have standards: The Siders House Rules and all affiliates reserve the right to select only appropriate dream entries that align with SHR values. Inappropriate or otherwise invalid entries will not be considered. Thank you.]

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Sacrament of Trying

I woke up this morning later than usual. I won't say what time, but there were double digits on the hour hand. First time in months, maybe a year since that's happened. It was so good. Thank you to my husband for that. 

As I rubbed my eyes and adjusted to light, I scanned my email for the usual ennui that makes its way in. Delete. Delete. But today, one caught my eye, a post by Randy Bohlender: The Sacred Try

I read, gobbling up the abbreviated version of his successes and failures. And what he thinks God thinks about all the trying we do down here. These words brought me to tears:

"I have come to think of starting things – of trying – as almost sacramental.  It is a sacred    thing to hear from God and go for it.  I actually even think it’s sacred if you heard wrong.  Your try is that honorable to Him."

This healed me, a cool, refreshing water of truth over the wound of failure and the belief that trying and not getting it right was not being right. That down there at the bottom of me, something was just wrong. 

The sanctity of the attempt is powerful. It is pleasing to God, makes him happy that I'm here doing something, dreaming, imagining, figuring it out alongside his spirit. 


Failure and success are funny things. I mean, I've seen all the trying and failing as such a curse. But what if I succeeded at everything I started? I would never have married Josh. I would've married that kid I dated when I was 15. Or the guy I dated in fifth grade. Oh boy. 

If I never failed at anything, I would have way more than one child. I would have written several books. I would have hundreds of friends. I would have multiple jobs. I would fall over dead from all the success. And I would never be able to do anything new because I would constantly be managing the couple things I started back in childhood that went viral in a day. Succeeding at everything, now that would be a real curse. 

Just for posterity, and because I like to laugh, here are a few of my sacred trys from history:

My friend, Rochelle, and I started a neighborhood newsletter when I was seven or eight. The idea was to interview our families and neighbors and get a pulse of what was happening locally. We created one, on paper, hand-written. It took hours. Got old quickly. The second edition never came out.  

At eight or nine, another friend and I were driving in the car with my grandmother and we overheard her talking about a crime that happened recently, a crime which was still an unsolved mystery. My friend and I decided for a few minutes to start a detective agency to get to the bottom of it. 

When I was eleven, I designed a placemat with my name on it, had it laminated and brought it to school for lunches. My friends liked it and wanted their own designed. Aware of the fiscal limitations of fifth graders, I set a low start-up price of $1 and began taking orders. Until my neighbor who laminated my placemat design said he wouldn't be able to do it anymore. I never gave those kids their money back - still feel bad about that. 

When we were 14, I could sing like Alanis and Jazzy could sing like TLC. She learned the guitar and I, well, I just sang. We decided to call our band NAVY, which I ripped off a popular perfume I saw on her dresser. Don't know if I ever told her that. We wrote a few songs, from what I recall, but I didn't read music so they were just words. Not set to music, that's all songs are anyway. And that's what they stayed.

These ideas feel like gold to me when they come. There are so many all the time. I've always been that way. These days, ideas often come to me as websites. They are usually places people can gather to interact and talk, share life stories of a certain idea, swap resources and support each other. I have yet to figure out how to actually create an interactive forum like this. But I need to get it quick.

I also think of neighborhood projects where I will meet all my neighbors. Because going up to them and introducing myself is too dull, apparently.  

Last fall it was the "Get to know your neighbor project," a plan in which I would meet three neighbors a week by baking them cookies and taking an hour to just chat with them. Josh wouldn't let me do it since I was too maxed. He was right.

A few weeks ago I thought of giving one of my neighbors an award mug that said "Good Neighbor Award". The idea is that every week, the person with the mug pays it forward to another "good neighbor" until it gets around the city. I wanted to plant at least 15 of them within theWELL and see what happened. This idea is not out of commission yet. On the side burner, if there is one. 

At the end of the year I bought a website as an experiment. It was supposed to be resource for soldiers on the issue of sleep, something I'm becoming quite well-versed in with my work with this population. Then I discovered a brilliant website that was doing everything I wanted to do, times 50, with prettier graphics and better sponsorship. I sidelined the project, naturally, and redirect people to the really good website when needed. Makes me smile now, the absurdity of it. 

And of course, my friend, Jessica, and I have been meaning to write this book on, um, relationships, and a particular complicating and little understood aspect to them. I'm starting to develop a survey on it now. It could bring healing to so many, to be able to share their stories and meet other women in the same situation. Ah, the magnitude of it is exhilarating and terrifying. As it always is. 

I'm gonna need a cool name for the book. And an interactive website. 

See, this is how I think. It's a wonder I get anything done at all. I just bought a website today because it sounded cool. The Colour of Justice (.com). It is cool, isn't it? What will I do with it? I have no idea. But I'm sure I will get one. 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Liberty is Superior

I am a human rights snob. And it's all Jesus' fault.

Two thousand some odd years ago, he was walking around, a respected teacher and itinerant preacher, a man of kindness and compassion. But rather than hoarding all the honor everyone bestowed on him, he overflowed it into the lives of everyone he met. He crowned them with the grace he carried and the esteem that others gave him. He just bounced it back out to others. 

To the chagrin of the Religious Right-All-The-Time, he notoriously elevated the status of every person he came into contact with. [How irritating.] 

There were the prostitutes, or women with shoddy pasts, to whom he restored dignity and gave the right of access to him in friendship and support. Healing and forgiveness.

There was the guy formerly known as crazy out in the hills and caves, running around naked, slashing himself with sharp objects. He left his encounter with Jesus cleaned up and with "a sound mind". 

There was the Samaritan woman, ethnically "inferior", per the Jewish line of thought, whom he was discovered chatting with, telling her her own life story, and converting her heart out of love and the draw of redemption.

There were those uneducated, teenage fishermen he befriended at the local seashore. He gave them 24/7 access to himself, taught them everything he knew, well, as much as they could handle, and commissioned them to wreck the world for the sake of beauty and reconciliation. And wreck the world, they did.

Everyone he looked at, spoke to, touched was better for the interaction. Can you imagine what it would be like to be this way? Of course everyone wanted to be around him. That kind of love gave him an incredible power because he had no plans, no desire to abuse it. He was nothing like the Pharisees, the legalistic, power-hungry leaders of the day, who sought to maintain control over the people by interpreting God's words in ways that gave them more authority. Jesus had no room for this type of thinking, this flagrant abuse of power. 

I've lived under the acceptance of Jesus and his honor toward people, particularly women, my whole life. I took it for granted for much of that time. But over the years, I've grown to understand just how counter-cultural his worldview was. Now, America and sadly, even the Church in America, has a ways to go in accepting women as equals to men, and even for women to understand that inherently because of their humanity, and no other qualification, they have destinies, callings and rights bestowed on them by a Creator who will hold all people accountable for their interactions with each other. However, I am overwhelmingly grateful for the rights women do have here. 

I am going to work today. I am going to drive my car there. I have a Bachelors and a Masters degree in fields of study that I chose. I selected my husband - well, we chose each other - and I married him on a date that I set in a location I chose. I am a co-owner of this home, a co-pastor alongside my husband in our church. I have so many rights, I don't know what to do with them. 

Saudi women playing soccer. It's not really a sport there since women are playing. [Photo courtesy of Amnesty International]

So when I see women in Afghanistan or Saudi Arabia struggling to obtain basic literacy, living completely covered as if to say "We are ashamed of you", without the right to drive, receive medical care or select a life partner of their own choosing, I am outraged. If you must oppress women, then you are giving away your fear of them. What would happen if these women had educations and drivers' licenses? What if they could vote? Or wear pants? Yes, be afraid. Women are a force to be reckoned with. Why else would history have enslaved us? 

Ah, but I digress. 

It is Jesus' way of life that has earned for me, for all women, the rights that we have. Jesus knows our destinies, and he honors them. He sets us up to succeed in them. He and Father God are the ones who have given us each a call on our lives that can only be lived out and fulfilled by each, individual one of us. In the skin we were given, male or female. He certainly would not want to repress us out of living in the beauty and creativity he himself designed us to live in. 

Christianity lived out as it was taught by Jesus permits not only this creativity and innovation of a unique person, but also true free will and freedom of choice for all people, yes, even women. I long to see these nations come to know this Jesus who will give them freedom from oppression in their government, relationships, and most importantly, in their hearts. Their interactions with Jesus will elevate them for a mentality of a slave, a fearful child without a voice, to an adopted, accepted, beloved daughter. A human of such worth that God was willing to send his only Son to redeem her. 

Yes, we have the best God. I will brag about him all day. The more I talk about him, the more rights, liberty and the pursuit of joy will be released in the world. 

If you want to do something really practical with me though, join up with Amnesty International and take a bit of real-life action by signing this petition to allow women to drive in Saudi Arabia. It's a small thing, but think of the access to the world they will have with this simple privilege. Please join me in sending this message to the people of Saudi. 

We see you, Saudi women. Because we love Jesus and we know how much he loves you, we cannot help but honor you and stand with you in your fight for civil rights.

The Invaluable Value of Real

Writing about authenticity over at the 365 Dream Project today.  As I wrote, it struck me, just how much I love this place of real, the people who can reside in the place of fearless transparency. It's so inviting. So beautiful. Here's a portion of the post. You can read more by visiting the post - the link is below.

I've only met one, two people who have it. Maybe five tops. 

It's authenticity. The rare, personality trait that doesn't seem to hate itself. Enjoys itself, in fact. The quality that has room for self and others, for foibles and genius and idiosyncrasy. Authenticity lets its gut hang out, but it doesn't mind too much. And when you're in its presence, you can too. And you don't mind much either.

Around the authentics, I feel this strange peace. My heart rate slows, and so does my tongue. I stop over-thinking everything. I am not about to lose a game of wits; there are no games to play. I get a chance to just say what is true, not what seems eloquent or intelligent. There's no competition. Just raw honesty, with real emotions, souls and selves out there for the viewing. But authenticity protects us from the world's clobbering competing, creates a safe place for hearts, whole or wounded. 

Lets us all just. be. {Click here to continue reading.}

Monday, July 23, 2012

Sometimes Babies Are Rude

I just let my son borrow my phone. He asked, so I obliged. It's locked so all he can really do is make pretend calls while listening to the iTunes feature that pops up automatically, and take pictures of himself. (I’m always a little concerned about the fact that he could theoretically make an emergency call, but hey, every kid has to accidentally call the cops at least once in their lives, right?) So I’m sitting here being super benevolent with this $400 piece of technology, letting him run up and down the hall, and of course he needs to taste the phone, and let the dog have a lick too. And I’m tolerating all of these gross bodily fluids rather well. But then he’s trying to come over to the laptop where I’m writing, and he’s tapping on the caps lock and so suddenLY I’M WRITING LIKE THIS before I realize it, and I change it back. Then he sneaks in a bit of punctuation ‘’’’’’’’’’’’ before I notice, and then I pause, again, to try to distract him.

At this point, I’m feeling guilty because this is probably a sign that he needs a sibling or that I am not being the most attentive mother. But hey, it’s also a sign that my child is not terribly socially intuitive. In other words, rude. 

This morning we ate Cheerios for breakfast. Well, I did. I ate them neatly and didn’t spill a one. John, on the other hand, was inspired. He joyfully slapped and spun a Jackson Pollock with gusto, scattering the hapless Cheerios to the four winds. Soon, the tiny oat circles carpeted the kitchen floor. His attention span for clean up lasts approximately 34 seconds, so I would be the one cleaning it up. I’m sure it was intentional. As my brother and I chatted on Skype today, I gave him a survey of the kitchen floor. He laughed. “Babies have no morals,” I warned. He should know the truth. Sometimes I think, “Where is your mother?” And then, you know, I realize the obvious. That I am the mother, and I really should do something about these tantrums and selfish behavior that would never work on a playground or in a boardroom.

Yes, this is someone else's kid. But don't you love that this is a universal baby activity. [Photo credit: onenjen.com]

Babies are indeed rude. And sometimes, I get upset. A little flustered, frustrated, flabbergasted at the situations I find, we find ourselves in. Rightfully so, I think. There are a couple reasons for this. The foremost, I think, is that I’m simply not used to being treated this way by regular humans in my daily life. Usually my roommates do not run off with dirty dishes, stolen from the dishwasher, begging me to chase them. Most days I am not being assaulted with a spatula or attacked from behind for a hug or piggie back ride. But I never see it coming. Most people do not want to drink out of my beverages, stir the insides or pour them on the hardwood (laminate) and splash in them. It’s absurd behavior. I’m not used to it.

The second reason for my more frequent bouts with anger is just the inconvenience of it all. If I’m honest, sometimes it’s out of the frustration for the fact that I am stopping my perfectly reasonable activity to pull an electrical cord out of a mouth, prevent a nose dive off the couch into something thick, solid piece of plastic. Or try to reason with this little wonder about how that toothbrush is yours, not that dogs, and there should be no sharing.

First world problems, I know. But these moments of domesticity can try the most patient and peaceable maternal instincts. They bring out the deeply rooted anger and impatience we didn’t know was in us. Really. I had no idea I was an angry person until 1) I got married and 2) I had a child. Parents and married people always said this to each other and nodded knowingly in return. I stared at them from a distance in disbelief. “You people are really screwed up.” It was incredible they didn’t know they needed therapy.

But alas, it is true. The rudeness and absurdity and inconvenience of the mess is annoying and angering, but thankfully, I see my true self in it. I would have no idea of these character issues if it were not for my son, and my husband, here to point them out. Thank you, Boys.

The hardest, hardest part of all this is not the mess though. It’s realizing that I am the problem. Because indeed I am. My selfishness and small-minded laziness gets me in trouble. They are not pretty, the worst ugly sides of me. My impatience and anger are there in a moments notice when I need them, or rather want them, and where is my patience and grace? Well, I am only now starting to make a practice of using them. This refining process is slow and searing, but it is good. All these little deaths leading me into the reflection of Christ. I know it’s worth it.

{And perhaps because God loves a chuckle, and I know I do, I had to stop this blog temporarily here at the end to clean up milk from my cereal bowl that I spilled. I’m sure it had nothing to do with the fact that I was writing in the dark. Very funny, God. But I get the point.}

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Going All Freudian On Myself

This afternoon in a sleep-deprived semi-stupor, I thought it would be a good idea to try that Sigmund Freud psychology thing on myself, you know the free association bit he had people do in treatment when he was hopped on cocaine and jittering on about how men are obsessed with their mothers and all that gobbledy-gook. But maybe the drugs helped because I think this exercise can be very telling. You may be about to learn more about me than you bargained for. Or perhaps not.

Now, I am not trying to dig into the recesses of my mind here to uncover any hidden weirdness. I'm pretty confident most of that is already out of the closet, for lack of a better phrase. But I have a point here. Really. I’m going to write down all the words and pictures that come to mind when I think of certain topics, and theoretically, this will help me understand my brain, make better connections when I write, and be a generally more interesting person. 

The two words that just came to my head to work are ship and love, in that order.

And so we begin.

Perfect graphic, huh? [Found at stevensheets.com]
Blue sky
Gentle waves

Eh, not that interesting. My brain is tired. I should probably do this when I am not mostly asleep. To be honest, I'm bored reading it. I think that was about the most muted, dull version of word association I know of. Absolutely nothing about how I really think sailing is a metaphor for my mother or my marriage or laundry or some other obscurity. Let's try it again.


Death together

Manhattan, huh? That's kind of cool. Does that mean I love Manhattan? I'm glad to know this combination of ideas is what I think about love. Kind of intense. Aggressive, forward, huh? Well, okay then. The banking word was in the context of "banking on" something, relying on something, leaning into it. Quite the punch to the face this love one has been. But I like it. 

Daring. I'll add that one to the list.

Will I do this again? I don't know. I have yet to see if it was helpful. I added two more concepts later, but didn't include them. I think this may be a good writing exercise, but it's also nice to just see what's going on inside my head. So you can try it too, if you like. I will give you two words. You can put them in the comment box, blog on them, or just keep them to yourself. I won't be able to see them if you do that. And I won't like that as much. But they're your words. I can respect your right to privacy. 

So here are your words:

1. Bandage
2. Window


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Dream A Little Dream With Me

The Siders House has been over at the 365DreamProject.com dreaming up big, new, crazy things every day. It's been a blast, a challenge I enjoy, and one I so desperately need. Getting less afraid every day. Granted, my imagination is being stretched like Silly Putty over here, wondering how far I can go. 

[Photo credit: www.usmb.org]

But I know this is worth it. Because what if just one of these dreams comes true this year? What if one of them lodges in my heart so deep I just can't shake it, and I have to stop everything and do something about it? What if the idea moves everyone around me, and we start something revolutionary? What if something huge happens and the entire world is never the same? One person has that kind of power, you know.

But even if it's small, it's still change. It's progress toward better. It's me leaving the earth a greener, more whole than it was when I got here. Dreaming is not just for children or people who smile a lot and paint their bedrooms pastel colors. Dreaming is for people who want something more for their lives than predictability, comfort and safety, who crave adventure, who love God and are not satisfied with being nice and not making anyone mad. 

And that's me. I have to do this, to dig myself out from underneath all the rubble of fear and doubt and the economic uncertainties of the times. So here I am, with 12 little dreams, and new ones cooking up every day. And this far into it, my head is poking out of the wreckage, and I can see a little blue sky. 

There's a lot left of me to get unstuck, but this is a great start.

This week's dreams: 

Dream 9: To visit the ocean once a year
Dream 10: To see Manhattan, KS, finally get that House of Prayer running 24/7
Dream 11: To have a house full of music
Dream 12: To adopt my rainbow family

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Vital Signs

Was thinking about doing a thorough pulse check on myself today, so I did. I was breathing. That's a good day. The second check requires a bit more time and reflection, and doesn't show up on a blood pressure reading. This set of vitals is a spiritual one. 

The Bible is graciously concise on its medical analysis of alive vs. not alive. Because knowing if you're breathing or not really should be a quick and dirty assessment, right?  As in, I should be able to tell just by looking at you. And you at me. 

Truth is, you can tell from just a glance. And so can I. Jesus and Paul are the ones who gave us some pretty clear definitions. 

Jesus says, "You will know them by their fruit. A good true = good fruit; bad tree = bad fruit." 

Paul elaborates a bit in Galatians 5. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." And then I love what he says after that: "Against such things there is no law." LOL, Paul. But I suppose it's good to put it out there. There is, in fact, no law against love, no regulation outlawing goodness, no celestial legislation coming through putting the kabosh on kindness and gentleness. Good thing. But then, I have a ways to go in all these areas. Hmmmm.

This is the vitals check for me. How am I doing in these areas? 

  • Am I growing in love for God and for others? (After all, Jesus said love fulfills the law.)
  • Am I more joyful than I was on July 11, 2011? (That's last year at this time in case you don't have a calendar handy.)
  • Do I live my life with greater peace than two years or even two weeks ago? 
  • Does my life overflow goodness and kindness to those around me?
  • Am I hospitable, making time and space for ones who need it most?
  • How is my patience? Or am I an angry person? (Sad face. Being a mom made me realize how impatient and short-fused I really am.
  • Or am I developing a gentle heart and way toward ones who push my buttons? 
  • Am I quick to forgive or am I holding grudges?
  • Do I keep the disciplines of reading and meditating on the Word, talking to God, enjoying him? 
  • Do I have a muzzle on my gossip and my bad talk or am I spewing venom about people I don't like?
  • Do I value rest and quiet or am I persistently spazzing out with an endless agenda?
  • Do I prioritize the people who are closest to me? 
  • Does John and Josh know they are so terribly dear to me, loved more than my heart can contain?
  • Do I make my atmosphere cleaner, healthier and happier with my speech and my presence, or am I just wacky or worse, negative and clouding up the space with gunk?

Fortunately, Holy Spirit is in us and around, serving with such humility as our gentle teacher when we ask for help. And we really need it. I really need it. But the point here is, we're not on our own. This is not a self-help plan. This is life with God, a promise that we're never alone to work out our salvation. He is the one who starts the work, and he will finish it. As long as we keep coming back.

So plug in and take your vitals. How are you feeling? How are you doing? Ask the Spirit to show you where you low or need to grow. He would love to help.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

How To Know You're Not Pregnant

[Pregnant or think you might be? Visit the resource listing on this site for help.]

It wasn't long after I wed my knight in shining armor that I realized something new and strange about myself. I changed my mind - I wanted a baby. 

This was a complete 180 degree turn from the weepy meltdown I had in the car on the way home from premarital counseling in March 2008. That was back when I was a first-year baby protester. But at this premarital counseling session our pastors made a compelling argument against the pill, and we couldn't argue. That afternoon Josh and I decided that we were not going to use birth control pills, which was precisely the day I knew for sure we were going to have a baby on our honeymoon. And I was going to cry. It was all planned out. 

I proceeded to cry-whine uncontrollably for the hour between Kansas City and Topeka. It was a long hour...for Josh.

It didn't help that Cozumel, our honeymoon destination, was known as "the Mayan island of fertility". The airline attendant gleefully warned us of this as we boarded our final plane. I pondered the strong possibility that this "blessing" might also apply to non-Mayans. I rebuked it, just in case.

Not that anyone's asking, but one of the the details that matters a little here is Josh and I were not sexually active before we got hitched. So a baby was never a worry, never a thought. I had a vague thought that I wanted to wait at least a year, but never in my life had this been an issue. As the big day approached, I visited the doc and got a pill prescription, went to the pharmacy and picked it up. I remembering taking that little brown bag back to the apartment, and I knew I was a big girl now. 

Big girl pills. [Photo credit: scientificamerican.com]

Then the pastors told us their story about non-pill use and it was just terrible because we agreed with their logic. Something about how the pill makes the uterus unfriendly to a fertilized egg, which to Josh and I (because we're armed with archaic, fundamentalist science), is a human with a soul. And even though they weren't trying to convince us of anything, they did precisely that. I couldn't handle the thought of meeting a bunch of my kids in heaven. "Oh hey, I didn't know about you...um, this awkward. Nice to meet you." (For the record, I am still not really sure about when humanity begins, but do you want to be the one to find out you were wrong? I don't want to be.)

So anyway, the moral of the story is that in my pre-marriage opinion, the worst thing that could have happened to me would have been a pregnancy, a human life growing inside me, a (gasp!) baby. 

Then I got married and something changed. I had thoughts about babies that didn't involve me turning into a pool of disappointment and rage. This was new. I wrote about it here, about how I could feel the biological clock had turned on. And I could hear it ticking. It was making me want a baby. Darn you, Mayan Cozumel water. If they couldn't get you pregnant, they were going to make you miserable until you wanted a baby so bad you just went ahead and had one. 

I started investing in those little white sticks that tell you if there's a human growing inside of you, pregnancy tests I think they're called. (Right, like I don't know. In reality, I can tell you the ratings of most of them and which ones are most likely to give you a false positive. Or I can tell you where to find out.)

Every few weeks, I started paying attention to the symptoms they listed as pregnancy symptoms on WebMD. I quickly became convinced each month my symptoms indicated that if I didn't have a horrendous case of stage 4 uterine cancer with complications in my thyroid, that I was in fact pregnant. 

Cramping? Check.
Soreness in certain unmentionable locations? Check.
Cranky, irritability? Got that one on lock.
Nausea? Did you know you can make yourself nauseous on cue? Well I can. Special talent.
Fatigue? Um, sure.
Frequent trips to the bathroom? You bet.

So every month I was pregnant. Or almost pregnant. Some months I took more than one test, just to be sure. Those symptoms sure were tricky. You can get them almost any time, like after running a 10k, or drinking 2 gallons of water. Or eating week old pasta. So you just have to have a box or two of them around, just to be sure. 

I took a picture of it so I could show my friend. And myself. Yup,  this one was real.

Well, one day when I had quite given up, run out of tests in fact, my friend at work gave me her extra ones. She was pregnant and didn't need any more convincing. I took the freebie test one Saturday morning when Josh was at work, just for fun. Because at this time it was a hobbie like kayaking and scrapbooking are for some (normal) people. 

But this one was positive. And wouldn't you know it, being pregnant felt exactly the same as almost or not at all pregnant, which warranted a second test-taking venture four weeks later, just to be sure. 

The second moral of the story, because I can have two, is that I am quite adept at knowing when I am not pregnant. And darn right rotten at knowing when I am. So if I ever seem a bit off, a little wobbly perhaps, or a little snarky or rude, tired or glazed over, if it looks like I had one too many drinks the night before, you can assume that I am pregnant. Or that I think I am. 

But really, until I am, I am not.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Taking Back Dreaming

I don't watch horror movies. I refuse to. When people ask, I tell them there's enough in the world to be afraid of - why would I pay someone to scare me? I'm spending all my time trying to work up courage just to live life. But what I didn't realize was that I was contributing to my fear problem. 

I'm a news junkie. I like to know how the Euro is doing and read up on the elections in Egypt, the skirmishes and disturbance in Syria, the heroics of Chinese men and women who stand up to an evil government. But the news and rumors of bad things present and future were wearing at me, setting my heart on edge like a horror movie with no ending. I was obsessed with what I thought was knowledge of current events, but it was just fear in disguise. In my desire to be updated and prepared, however, I kept reading, devouring the latest, drawn to the headlines of terror and destruction like a moth to flame. 

Well, this camouflaged anxiety did its work on me, but it was so slow, I didn't realize the impact. I stopped dreaming, about simple things. I stopped thinking about a doctorate, about developing my career, about writing that book I've been meaning to write. I even stopped dreaming about a future for me and Josh, for my children, growing up and old together. Everything felt finite, and the end felt near. I just had to wait for it. I knew too much, so no sense in getting published or thinking of the next million dollar idea. The dollar's about to crash anyway. [Yes, I know: Debbie Downer, right? But this is the mind of the anxious apocalyptic. A sad place to live.]

The other day, my husband called me out. "If you won't watch horror movies, why are you reading all the finance and economy blogs? They have the same effect on you." And they were. It was like I was addicted to bad news, to the bizarre thrill of being in the know about all the doomsday proclamations. I would be ready when they came. But all this "knowledge" robbed me of my joy, my hope and my dreams. Only thing was, I let these burglars in the house. Didn't even stop them. 

Well, Josh's words resonated strong. (I know truth when I hear it...sometimes.) I knew something had to give. He told me, "It's time to start dreaming again. Take back your hope. You need one year to let yourself think anything is possible." That was his challenge - take a year to dream up anything like there's no end in sight. What he didn't know is I'd already been thinking of a 365 daily writing project. I just didn't know what to write about yet. Meanwhile, I recently mused on the pain and danger of hope here and tried to talk myself back into it. 

Dreams are like this: wide open spaces of beautiful possibility. [Photo credit: Sarah Siders, Flint Hills]

Now I have a vision. Dreaming: a whole year of non-stop idea-generating powered by hope- fueled imagination leading to creativity and innovation I'd never see with the news channels playing in the background.

I think I speak for many people in the defeat we feel from fear. If we're truthful, we know fear has beaten most of us. We learned how to be afraid a long time ago, and it changed our breathing, our thinking, chopped the legs off our risk, intimidated our dream-ability. We vacillate between apathy and obsessive control in order to manage our cowardice and figure out where we fit in the world.

I've been a fear victim most of my life, hesitating, failing, standing along the wall while letting others take their chances. Sitting out felt safe for a while, but now that I'm 30, it's dreadfully dull. The reason I'm bored is because I stopped dreaming. I've been waiting for the collapse of the world as we know it, and the books I meant to write, the languages I meant to learn, the trips I meant to take - I put them all on hold. Just so I could sit here and wait for the apocalypse.

The 365 Dream Project is me moving out of survival mode. It's the start of something, taking risks, maybe. But definitely hope for a future. It's me taking back the chance to talk with God and dream of what I want for my family, my career, my husband, child, house. To dream of a garden and another kid or three, dream of travel. And I want to dream not just for me, for the three of us, but for justice and freedom for the oppressed, sex-trafficking rings shut down, oppressive governments replaced, the church of American rising up to care for the downtrodden and marginalized. Radical living. Artistic permission. Worship everywhere. This dreaming is thrilling, but more than that, it's essential.

And that's what the 365 Dream Project is about. A daily word and picture of what could be. Because before anything revolutionary can ever happen, people have to dream. I, We have to dream. I give you permission to take your hope back and dream with me too, from 7-7-2012 to 7-7-2013. Let's go for it.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Danger of Hope

Hope is hard, isn’t it? I’m not sure if I can think of anything harder, except maybe faith and love. And they’re all supposed to go together so you can see the problem. I don’t know if I hurt more than when I want something. When I’m at the end of my tiny human powers and now I have to hope. For something good. Something wonderful. I can picture it, taste it, feel it, hear it, and it seems like it would be a lovely thing. But you’re right, Tom Petty, the waiting is the hardest part. It just is. And Solomon, I agree: hope deferred does make the heart sick. Weak, tired, and not brave at all.

Hope is dangerous. Tricky, confusing, misunderstood. And very dangerous. Just Google "Hope", search images and see what comes up.

A couple weeks ago I remembered how much I hated hope. The process of hoping for something that you absolutely cannot control. Wretched powerlessness. It’s so easy to see why most of us make friends with resentment and hopelessness and just go home. It’s too much.

Hope feels like this sometimes, so pretty but deceptive. Almost...got it, then Pop! and it's gone. {Photo credit: reblaura.com}

The truth is that we all know God doesn’t owe us. We don’t deserve the A/C in our houses or the jobs we complain about, the love from our families, the Christmas presents, lemonade on the porch, music in the park, the richness and excess of our lives. Just so much goodness. He doesn’t owe this one other thing. We know it. It’s like we’re just out here on our own on this one. We have to make it happen. Except we can’t. Hands tied; can’t do anything.

The last time I wanted something real bad, I tried to make peace with this. God doesn’t owe me anything. He’s already given me so much. Thankfulness. Lists of good things about my life. Moments of breathing deep, resigning and relinquishing, and then frantically reaching out to yank the dream back. It’s so scary to have no. control. at. all. 

Hah! I like to play brave. I like to act adventurous and thrill-seeking, but the secret is that sometimes I hide in the version of myself that knows life deserves a fearful and calculating approach. So hope is a decided risk. After some risk-benefit analysis, I'd chosen not to hope for about a year and a half or so. Little hopes with minimal risk and elevated possibility of return, sure, but not the big stuff. Not the heart-wrenching hopes. But then a longing hit me and I knew I had to try. Hope. Again. 

Tonight I’m here in the kitchen listening to Laura Hackett’s There’s a Gap on repeat. Because it’s true again.

            What do I do here in the waiting?
            What do I do with my unsatisfied heart?
            What do I do here in the waiting?
            Here in the tension of believing again and again and again?

What I’m supposed to do here in the waiting is the question, isn’t it? What should I do while I wait? I know you don’t owe it to me. But I know you’re an extravagant, jolly Father who loves loves giving good things. I know the feeling. I love going to the store and picking up a ball or some terrible motorized thing that I know John is going to just adore. He’s going to press all the buttons and drive me nuts, but he’s going to giggle and squeal with delight and it’s going to be so so so worth it. He’s kind of like that as a Dad, except way better. With more future insight, more perfect guidance, more wisdom, fewer conditions on his love and approval. Phew.

So all I’ve got to go on in these moments is this memory, this reality, that God is good. He is good. He is good. I know this because he’s healed me and saved me from myself. Repeatedly, as any good dad would.

I remember the summer I was 16 and decided to be a pothead because it seemed like those kids would finally accept me. God only knows why I went to a church pool party that June, but that was the night Katie Ferrell told her story about God coming into her life and giving her something to live for. And I could hear my story in hers so I burst into tears and stood up and told my story there too. A teenage, living room conversion. Long, stringy hair, swimsuit, and tears, with my sad, lonely heart finally knowing the place of belonging. 

I’ve remember the days my junior year of college where I walked to class in a cloud of overwhelming, lovedrunk euphoria when I realized that Father God loved me so much and he was with me, enjoying me all the time. I knew for sure I was loved.

I remember the freezing January night in Denver when he gently pulled on my mask to help me see who I really was, to put away this faux personality I’d constructed and to finally live in peace. Oh, that was really good.

And the afternoon after college when I finally got to give up all my fear and control and seduction and trade it in for love and the power of God. My roommate squinted at me and said, “You look different. You look nicer.”

Yes, I’ve been healed so many times over. And given so many of the desires of my heart. The hopes become dreams, then take on skin and move into my house. Five years ago, it was this man, this knight who fights for my heart and protects me with vigilance. And less than two years ago, this tiny warrior prince who dances and laughs and lives with all his might. And gives the best hugs. And the roommates, all eleven of them, or something like that, who have blessed me with their presence, their humor, their food, their prayer. My friends past and present who hug and squish me, lift me up, pray truth over me and shake off the lies, who sit with me when I am very hard to love. I have it good. Because he is good.

So that’s why I hope. I hope not in the situation, but in the man, Christ Jesus. My living hope who stands in heaven advocating for me to a Father who’s convinced of my adorableness and made certain of my innocence through a bloody sacrifice made on my behalf. I have a God who is good and loves me all the time. I don’t know what kind of things I can expect from the future. But I know I have a resurrected-from-the-dead, impossible-to-beat Hope who doesn’t know the meaning of disappointment. For me, that's something to believe in. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Birthday, Freedom

So thankful for the freedom we have to play in the muddy water, get sloppy puppy love, eat hot dogs and drink beer (or soda or whatever), and watch a spectacle of color explosions in the sky, at least once a year.

But even more thankful for safety and freedom from fear, for the right to vote stupid and smart, for the right to bear arms, and the ever-increasing progress of civil and women's rights. May our nation always make the sacrifices necessary to maintain freedom in our law, our land and our hearts and minds.

Here's to freedom. Real Freedom.