May 18, 2010 § Leave a comment
>I spent nearly nine hours on Sunday in my new friend’s beautiful backyard. It was one of those perfectly Portland days when the forecast is all doom and gloom but the reality is warm and mostly sunny and very nearly perfect, and I spent hours watching people come and go through gates and doorways, chat on the lawn, meet, catch up, learn, laugh. These aren’t my usual folks, these Sunday night dinner gatherers, but they are lovely, and I love the chance to watch them and talk with them. I love figuring out the pieces we have in common, the birth of inside jokes, and the stirring of potential. Sometimes I think I’m happiest in these spaces.
The more I run with this crazy, ever-evolving crowd of Imago-ites and Mosaic-types, the more aware I become that we aren’t living life under the usual circumstances. Here we are, some of us single, some of us less so, but not one of us is alone. We are, old friends and strangers, wrapped up in and with each other, and we form this unbelievably beautiful tangle of vastly varied ideas, lifestyles, and hopes, knotted by one common love. Which results in my sitting on a blanket on a backyard lawn, laughing and watching relationships form and marveling at the gift we’ve been given. Because I have to believe that this is how we are intended to live, how we were created to live- of and with each other, around and for each other, speaking love into each other’s lives and helping one another draw closer to God in inches, in conversations, hamburgers, hoolahoops, laughter, in grace.
Spring, and community, and I am a blessed and happy girl. These spaces, these very nearly perfect Portland days, I will be grateful for the gift that is God being alive and so flawlessly evident. I will rejoice in His being easy to spot in blue skies, in flower-petal rain and clear nights. I will watch the beginnings of magic in first conversations, in new friends connecting and old ones checking in, in eyes-meet moments that make my heart skip and group sing-a-longs and simply being glad to be. I will be thankful for BBQs and backyards and blessings. I am wishing the same for you.
May 12, 2010 § 2 Comments
>I seem to be having a lot of conversations about prayer lately. We can talk about the theme-y nature of my life later – for now, let’s focus on the prayer thing. Would you think less of me if I told you I think I only really figured out how to pray this last year?
I mean, I’ve prayed through my entire life. I memorized prayers as a child, we prayed over meals, I prayed in Sunday school and in church. My parents and grandparents prayed with me at bedtime, I prayed for things I wanted or needed, I prayed for my friends. I went to camp and had prayer-filled mountain top experiences, I showed up for “See You at the Pole” in high school, and, on my more spiritual days, I woke up early and prayed over Bible passages. I went through a serious crying out phase, where I begged, argued, and pleaded in prayer, which led to a praying for forgiveness phase, during which I also begged, argued, and pleaded. Then came the years of praying to forget the life I might have had, praying for contentment, for new purpose, for resolution. And finally, I began to pray in gratitude, prayers of thanksgiving, prayers of praise, prayers that were maybe just a tiny bit less about me.
Yet in all of that praying, I’m not sure I ever felt like I was accomplishing anything. I spent years treating prayer like a monologue in which dramatic little me laments or just generally carries on about something and sure, I believed God could hear me, but it never felt like taking action. Prayer felt like the thing I did when I couldn’t think of anything to actually do. I could never really wrap my heart around the idea that praying, just praying, was better and more effective than any action my feeble brain and body could perform.
There’s a sermon I love by John Wimber of Vineyard Movement fame in which he shares the long, angsty story of his journey to Christ. In one part of the story, he’s estranged from his wife, and winds up on the side of the road desperate for answers. He’s not been a believer up until this point, but he prays “God, if you’re there, help me.” If I’m remembering correctly, there’s a message from his wife when he returns to his hotel, asking him to come home. “And I thought,” he says, “Hey! I’m in touch with a supernatural!” That’s sort of the way I’ve felt this year: in touch.
Because this year, I’ve been looking for answers. I’m not sure why this piece never clicked for me, why I’ve spent so much of my life believing that God is great and good and still throwing out random words and never expecting much to come of them. This year, I’ve vowed to pay attention. I’ve started to pray with intention, to write down the words, and to actively look for the response. Here’s the crazy, news flash to Karyn and obvious to everybody else part: God is all over this prayer thing. I love going back through my journal and reading past prayers and marveling over how perfectly and specifically those answers showed up. Before this year, I could probably count for you on one hand the number of times I’d noticed God really answering a prayer. They’re great stories, don’t get me wrong, but I wasn’t listening. God was always answering, but I wasn’t actually seeking answers so much as just throwing out ideas and complaints to the greater universe. It was as though I kept posting questions on some sort of cosmic message board and never coming back to check for a reply. Lame, lazy, irresponsible, and typical… but awfully easy to do.
Here’s the thing: I’d been treating prayer as though it were passive instead of active, as though it was the alternative to action instead of an action in its own right. I love that, after 27 years of being in this relationship, I’m still figuring out the basics, and I do mean basics, of life with God. This year, I’m trying to remember that prayer is a conversation, and that I have follow-up to do. The fantastic part is, when I do follow up – when I revisit my past prayers and spend some time thinking about how they were answered – I get to see how I am being heard. Heard! I mean, that’s sort of amazing, right? I’m in touch with a supernatural. Time to start acting like it.
It is good to have a God who listens, who responds, who engages. It is good to feel like prayer is action, and powerful action, and to watch it work. It is good to be loved, and good to learn to hear.
May 9, 2010 § 4 Comments
>When I was a freshman in college, I decided to dye my hair the hottest hot pink possible. Though there is simply no way my mother could have been in favor of this less-than-stellar decision, she set up a chair for me on the backyard lawn of our Los Gatos home. We laughed as she gently transformed the dirty blonde that had traveled genetically through generations, from her father’s head to hers and then to mine, into the most unnatural of comic book magentas. She worked the pink in patiently by hand, being careful not to drip or smear, warning me to keep my eyes closed, mindfully avoiding coloring my ears. We rinsed the dye out with ice-dagger water from the garden hose, giggling and shivering in early fall, because there was no way she was letting it get anywhere near the house.
This is the most perfect picture I can paint for you of my mother: her laughter and easy, judgment-free assistance in a project she can’t possibly have been behind combined with her quietly practical ability to never let my messes get too out of hand. From the very earliest of my memories, my mother has loved me and celebrated me for exactly who I am. Through successes that made her genuinely proud and failures and bad ideas that extend far beyond flamingo hair color, I have been first and always hers, a truth she has never allowed me to forget. I am aware that not everyone has been loved in this way. I wish that wasn’t true.
My mother has always treated me like an equal, like a friend whose opinion she values and whose company she covets. There has never been a secret too dark to tell her or an announcement that has kept her from loving me fiercely, relentlessly, and unmistakeably. She has made being our mother her life’s work, and she has done it with grace, creativity, beauty, and a whole lot of style. And I have had the privilege of growing up with a mom who has always shown up, always seen me through, and always been the person to whom I can return from any circumstance and be received with love.
I have been so very, very blessed.
The older I get, the more I am able to recognize the gift I’ve been given. I listen to stories from friends who rarely speak to their moms, or brides who can’t handle the pressure their overbearing mothers are applying, and I mutter prayers of gratitude under my breath. Gratitude because I will never understand what it feels like not to have my mom on speed dial, to have her be the first person I want to share news with and the only one I want to call in a crisis. Thank God, because without her, I have absolutely no idea what I would do.
I kept the pink hair for a few months, and most people I knew eventually got around to asking: “Geez, what did your mom say?” How I enjoyed telling them she had dyed it herself, with laughter, under a tree in our backyard, because I am loved in an extraordinary way. I hope she knows how loved she is in return.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. You know there aren’t enough thank yous. But thank you all the same.
May 6, 2010 § Leave a comment
May 3, 2010 § 1 Comment
>My co-worker Jennie is the most authentically enthusiastic person I’ve ever met.
For most of my life, I’ve been the girl that is on board for just about everything. I’ve been the kid that everyone is telling to calm down, quiet down, simmer down… and Jennie puts me to shame. Jennie makes me look mellow. Jennie makes me seem downright dull.
My other co-workers and I love to watch Jennie work. She is so relentlessly herself, and greets our brides in crazy voices with accompanying arm gestures in ways that often cause them to be momentarily stunned. When she first started, I think we all worried that people would be a little, well, concerned by her excitement. We’re idiots, because our customers fall in love with this girl. And it isn’t because she’s goofy, or funny, or full of character voices and inappropriately loud sounds and dance routines (though she is all of those things). It’s because she’s genuine. That enthusiasm, that big ball of hoopla that she chucks without hesitation at everyone who comes through the door, that’s the real thing. She is simply that happy, that happy in general and that happy for you, and brides and everyone else around her can’t help but drink it up.
What I love about Jennie is a quality that I doubt she recognizes. I suspect that, when considering her own personality, Jennie would tell you she’s a little much. What I doubt she realizes is that “little much” is one of the most fantastically Christ-like characteristics I’ve encountered. Jennie is a little ball of light because she sees reasons to rejoice all around her, and more importantly, in the people she interacts with. She looks at someone, anyone, and sees pieces that are beautiful and worth getting excited about. I wish I could snag a little of her magic. I can see great things in folks, but I don’t know how often I let them move me to the level of committed enthusiasm in which this girl lives her every day. People fall in love with her because she makes them feel loved.
I can’t help but think there’s a little bit of Jennie in our Creator (or, more likely, a whole lot of our Creator in Jennie.) Because, when we come before our God, I don’t think he phones it in or goes through the motions. I don’t think He’s bored, or annoyed, or tired from His big long day. I think He looks at us and sees the beautiful that is Him in us and us with Him, and I think He gets excited. I think He meets us with every ounce of His almighty enthusiasm, delights in us, and invites us to jump up and down along with Him.
I’m so grateful for Jennie, and for her constant reminder to celebrate who we are as individuals and the individuality of those we interact with every day. She challenges me to put more of myself into my conversations, and reminds me that there are things, so many things, worth getting excited about. Because the fact that we have a big God who gets bigtime amped up about hanging out with insignificant, lousy, lazy, smelly, barely average us is sort of a miracle. We are idiots with a magnificent, all powerful supernatural who knows our names, who delights in us. And that, my friends, is worthy of a little enthusiasm.
“The Lord delights in those who fear Him, who put their hope in His unfailing love.” Psalm 147:11
May 1, 2010 § 4 Comments
>…by making over my blog. Still squinting a little from the brightness of the whole thing, but I think I dig it. Thoughts?
You are lovely, the lot of you, and I hope you know how very thankful I am for you. I’m praying that blessings abound for you today. I hope God knocks your socks off.