The End of Things

I cried tonight.  I got an email from our kid’s school teacher.  She was thanking us for our gift and sharing that when she saw Eli and his best buddy getting their picture taken today, it hit her.  The kids won’t be there next year and she was really going to miss them and our family.

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We are leaving the school that we’ve loved, our community.  We are leaving the teachers, staff and families we’ve grown to love.  We are in the process of preparing to sell the house we’ve loved.

And all of it’s ending right before me at the same time.

Back in December we felt the Lord tugging on our hearts to ask him where the kids would attend school the following year.  As I picked out used uniforms from the tables in the lobby, excited to save money in the fall, I heard his voice,

“Ask me.  Ask me where they’re going to school next year.”

Me… [hands figuratively over ears], “LALALAALALALA” ignoring him the first time.  He prompted my heart again.

“Ask me where they’re going to school next year.”

“Ummmm, of course they are going HERE Lord, we LOVE it HERE.  Let’s be done talking about this.”

Then twice again I heard him prompt me.  And twice again I tried to ignore him.

Then on crisp January morning, Davin and I stepped onto a little field.

All of the sudden in the middle of the field, I felt sparkles, a pre-known-history and something electrifying all at the same time.  I’ve only felt a pre-known-history one other time in my life, and that was when Davin and I started dating.  Within a few weeks, I felt it.  We hadn’t been together but days, but future me had known and loved him all her life, and present me felt it and knew it.  I just couldn’t see it, because as humans, we are bound by time.  But it’s like God let my sprit in on a little glimpse of the past as though I was an old lady looking back on my life yet standing in the shoes of a twenty-something me.  I’m not sure of any other way to explain it.  And it was just the same while we were standing alone in this little field.

I looked at Davin and whispered,

“I think this could be IT.  The place.  I think this is where we are going to live.”

In my heart I thought, I think this is where we have lived, for many, many years.

We have looked at plenty of property over the years and had been looking at even more recently.  Davin has always wanted our family to grow up in the country, on some land.  It took me about eight years to ever warm to the idea of not having a suburb street to drive down at night and park my car in the garage with the streetlight warming us through the night.  I grew up in the suburbs, it’s all I’ve ever known or wanted.

The country has always seemed so remote and distant.  But not this place.

Not this field.

So, we took it to prayer.

The field isn’t even up for sale.  A guy owns it.  Our friends know him and he’s agreed to talk to us before he sells it to anyone else.  That was back in January.

It’s June.

We’ve been patiently waiting on him for over six months to contact us.  And he hasn’t.  Yet.

We’ve prayed.  We’ve written him a letter.  We’ve prayed.  We’ve stopped by and tired to get him to speak to us.  We’ve prayed again.

All without a response from him.  He won’t even take the time to speak to us.

Nothing.

But he’s not in charge.  God is.  And IF we truly belong there, then it will happen in God’s beautiful, triumphant, glorious and hallelujah timing.

Because he’s God, and nothing else, and he always gets the glory, because he is worthy of it all.  So we wait, mostly patiently, becuase God knows what is best and, “We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.”  Proverbs 16:9.

In February, we finally decided to stop ignoring the Lords prompting and take to prayer where the kids should go to school the following year.  We felt like God said to trust him and try to put the kids in public school, specifically the one near the field, even though we did’t live there.  Which meant we had to decide NOT to re-enroll our kids in the school we love.  We called our district for a transfer approval in the beginning of March, here is how the conversation went:

District: Do you have any evidence that you are moving?  Maybe a realtor, paperwork, contract?”

Me: No, we have none of that.

District: Well, then we can’t approve your request.

Me: Ok.

The school our kids attend is so popular, we both have to race to our computers at 8pm on the set date and rush to fill out the forms for each of our kids.  Then there is a waitlist.

It’s an amazing school.

8pm came on a cloudy, Monday night.

I had been in my closet, laying on the floor for the past hour.  Praying/whining/in anguish/thinking over what we felt God had put on our hearts.  We really felt like God said to pursue this field, put the kids in public school and be a light to our surrounding community.  To step out in faith that our kids would influence their un-churched friends and not the other way around.  To trust them with teachers who might tell them things that aren’t actually true.  Friends who don’t all know the Ten Commandments nor follow them.  To leave the beautiful, perfect safety net of their Christian school.

IT was HARD.  It felt like in the movie Indiana Jones when he takes the step of faith.

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I am not kidding.

We didn’t enroll them and we didn’t know where they were going to attend school.  The minutes passed, 8:03… 8:04… I kept checking my watch from the floor.  Our kids would have definitely lost their spots by now…  the feeling sunk in that we were trusting this thing that we thought God was speaking to us.  Davin was much more confident.  He was not on the floor of our closet.  He came in and pulled me off the ground and said it was like Abraham trusting God when he was about to sacrifice his son, and God provided the ram.  We had to take a step of faith, and that God would bless that.

The very next day after we chose NOT to re-enroll the kids, we got a call from the school district that the little field is in.  The cheerful woman on the phone was happy to tell me that our district HAD approved our request, and that we only needed to bring in the completed paperwork to finish it.  Our kids were enrolled in the public school near the little field.

It was less than 24 hours of wondering where our kids would go to school and we got that call.

It was pretty amazing.  Especially the timing of it all.  That was back in March.  We’ve heard nothing regarding the field since then.  We’ve looked at other properties.  Some that cost less and have more land and trees and are in better locations.  But none of them have felt right.

Now we are preparing our beautiful home to sell.  We are packing boxes and giving things away because we are planning on selling and hoping to move into a rental as close as we can get to the field.

The flesh part of me feels like this could literally be the dumbest thing we’ve ever done.

But my sprit answers with “or it could end up being the awesomest.”

Either way, when God calls us to do something we feel like he calling us to do, we have to do it.  Otherwise life is just boring.  I don’t like boring.  I’d rather go on the crazy, blindfold journey with Jesus, than walk the boring suburb sidewalk.  It’s not that he would ever leave me, I’d just be on the sidewalk, kinda bored and he’d be like, “Well, I had this cool adventure planned, and lots of it was a surprise, but you didn’t want to trust me, and that’s alright, so here we are, staring at rollie pollies, but those are cool too, I sure love you.  Do you want to roll one up again and watch it unfold?”

And I’d be like, “NO!  I did this when I was seven, and it was fun back then, but I’m a grown up now and I’m ready for a real BIG adventure!!  I want to go 4-wheeling in the dirt and get muddy and see the water splash around.  I want to run from the alligator and hide under the leaves of the tree with you until the rain passes.  It’s okay if I scrape my knee or get dirty, we’ll be together and I want to go with you wherever you’d take me.”

We could stay in our safe and beautiful home.  With no risk.  We could keep the kids safe and protected from some of the world in Christian school, less risk.

But we feel him calling us on an adventure.  At least we THINK we do, but there is a great risk.

And he didn’t give us the map.  Just asked us if we wanted to come.

He is calling us to dream.  To try and buy the field we are so drawn to, and then try to build a house we’d love our family to grow up in.  To have a garden, a small orchard of fruit trees and maybe even a few dogs to run around the place.

It all sounds so great in my imagination.  And when I’m in prayer or talking with Davin, it doesn’t sound crazy, not at all.

But when I see that we’re selling our gorgeous house that already has a garden, fruit trees, swimming pool and an upstairs patio… well.  When I think about leaving the school we love and not seeing the teachers, staff family and friends everyday… well.  When I consider that the guy that owns the field won’t even give us the time of day… well.  When I think about spending a rainy Christmas in a small rental in who-knows-where… well.

It all makes me want to cry.  To mourn the loss of the school we’ve loved.  To think our kids won’t see those friends, the teachers, staff and families.  I won’t see the beautiful, bright and cheerful school secretary who’s made me cry more than once from her sweet acts of kindness and Christ’s love well… it just makes me sad, and I just want to cry.

Because it’s hard.

It’s hard to leave the stuff I love.

It’s hard to give up so much of what I love on the hope that God has something else in mind even though so much of it is unclear.

So here I sit.  Finally processing all that’s gone on over the past six months, making decisions based on faith.  And I feel reminiscent of the past.  All the past we’ve had in this house.  Two of my babies came home from the hospital here.  This house was their first beginning.  I had three kids two and under here, day-in, day-out.  I remember crying, laughing and feeling exhausted.  Now the twins have lost teeth and look like young kids, not toddlers.  The baby is about to turn one.  Life just keeps going on and on, and my grounding points are being pulled up from under me.

To wrap it up:

  1. We have pulled the kids out of an amazing Christian school, and enrolled them into a public school.
  2. We are preparing to sell the house we love, get rid of things we love and pack up and move into a much smaller rental for an unknown amount of time.
  3. We have yet to hear ANYTHING from the guy that owns the field.

It felt good to cry.  To sit and look at all the memories we’ve had in this house.  To mourn the loss of all the lovely I am leaving and saying goodbye to.

On the hope of a new adventure.

 

So I went to Chicago all by my onesies

You all might think part of this story sounds kind of, “out there”.

But it honestly scared the crap out of me to write it out, so that probably means I should. Besides, I can never let this stuff go once it’s in my head, so there.

I recently went to Chicago.  All alone.  Like by myself.  I haven’t gone anywhere by myself to a place where I physically know not a soul since college.  I’ve grown accustomed to having Davin, or the kids or friends around all the time.  Apparently I like being surrounded by people.

I flew to Chicago to attend the Storyline Conference and Writer’s Workshop.

When I was 24 and lying by my parents pool one summer day with my best friend Jen, I read Donald Miller’s book, Blue Like Jazz in pretty much one sitting.  I remember telling the Lord that there were lots of authors I would love to meet, but that most of them were already dead, however, Donald Miller was still alive and if I could meet any author, it would be him.  That was over ten years ago, before authors were on facebook and twitter and were accessible.  For all I knew he was in a cabin in the woods and I had as likely chance of meeting him face to face as I did meeting a mermaid (yet another dream of mine).

So then Storyline comes up, like it did last year, except this time it’s different.  It includes a writer’s workshop – with Donald Miller as the main speaker.

One of my favorite authors is going to share his secrets on how he writes books and I could potentially meet him.

I was in anguish.  See, I’m not a hired writer, no one pays me, this isn’t a real job.  How in the world could I justify spending a bunch of money to fly to Chicago, pay for a conference, hotel and rental car, AND leave my kids for five days over Halloween when my actual main job is to be the stay at home, take care of the day-to-day life mom?  Writing at this point is just a hobby. This was crazy.  But there was a part of my heart that wanted it so bad.

Then I saw this talk by Shauna Niequest.

And I voxed two of my praying friends in tears.

“Why am I crying right now?  I’m literally crying over a video on the internet (and I wasn’t even pregnant then).  Why am I crying?”

Shauna had said something in her video that hit me deep to the core.  I’ll summarize as best as I can, although it’s worth watching the video if you have any dreams.

She essentially talked about what she’d learned from her mom who raised all the kids while her husband did full time ministry.  She dedicated everything to it, setting all her other dreams to the side, assuming she’d just pick them up when all the kids were grown.  They grew and she realized she didn’t know who she was anymore.  It took her two years to discover who she was again. ( I started crying at this point because I felt like I was on that path and it didn’t look so good for me come 20 years from now).

So, just because you’re a mom, doesn’t mean you have to let all of your dreams die or put them on hold for 25 years.  Dreams need to be kept alive, even if it’s just one hour a week because they are a part of who you are meant to be.  You’re not only a mom, a wife and a homemaker, you are a human whose other gifts are meant to bless the world.  Letting your dreams die will slowly kill you inside.

That was her message.

I took a brave breath and prayed.

Jesus, if I am meant be at this conference please make me not afraid to dream and pray about it.  I don’t want to scrape up my dead dreams at 50.  I want to live my whole life fully alive, even if it’s currently harder than letting my dreams die.

So I prayed.  For a while.

Then I got a little more brave and I straight cold asked God.  What happens if I go, and what happens if I don’t?  And that’s a little crazy to some of you but I really do ask God questions like that and I really do feel like he gives me answers sometimes.

I felt like He gave me two word pictures.  They were both long allegories, so I won’t tell them both.  In the first one, I go to the conference.  In the second one I don’t, and I wander for quite a long time before anything happens.  It was a little boring until the end.

I preferred the first one because of how I felt at the end of it.  In the second one, I end up in a dark cave full of riches, like Aladdin, but the road there was long and lonely and I had to meet a grumpy lady who didn’t like me.  57099205Meah.

Here is the first word picture, summed up.  I am outside of a huge warehouse, it’s night.  I go in the back door.  I wander through a long twisted hallway.   The kind where you walk and walk and think, where is this going?  Where is the end?  I finally get to another doorway.  It is blocked by two huge bodyguards.  They don’t want to let me in.  Inside is a dance club, a big party. Somehow, I get in, after a bit, past the bodyguards.  There is a table there for me, with my name on it, but the person who was scheduled to meet me there never shows up.  So I leave the table.  No one notices me.  I feel a bit lost.  Everyone is socializing and talking and I am just watching people.  I feel alone.  I walk to the dance floor and because I don’t know anyone there, I look down at the ground and see a coin.  It’s shiny.  A few people above on the second floor see me pick it up and are jealous because they didn’t find it.  All the sudden a giant chandelier drops down out of the ceiling and I can stand on it, it takes me up to the roof outside on the top of the building.  It is still night.  On top, the man who is in charge of the whole conference tells me all that I need to know about writing.  He shows me the entire landscape of the land. Every direction.  At this point I am overwhelmed with excitement.  I am bursting.  It’s as though I just learned everything I’ll ever need to know about writing, to finally just write without feeling like I’m missing something.  It is an amazing feeling.  I could explode.  Then all the sudden, I am somewhere else, like an Alice in Wonderland type of maze, except it’s morning now.  I walk through the landscaped walls and find myself at a dead end, with a boat to one side and a small stream.  It is set up for a party.  Creatures come and serve me a tea party.  It’s nice.  Then just like that it’s over, I get into the gondola next to me and sit in the stream for only a few seconds as it takes me past the dead end.  Then I get out.  It is still morning, so although I was deterred for a short bit, haven’t really lost any time.  I’m now out of the maze and completely free.  It’s totally open, the whole landscape.  Hills, trees, a sunrise the whole landscape is open for me to explore and I feel a complete sense of peace, satisfaction and capability to go anywhere.  It is like a crazy exhilarating feeling.

I wanted that feeling.  I wanted that end.

To me, that represented the feeling I would have in writing if I attended the conference.

So I talked to Davin and I’m pretty sure in the end we were both the bodyguards.  It was hard to justify leaving my kids.  It was hard not to feel selfish for taking a trip like this.  It’s not like we’re super loaded and can just drop two grand on a spur of the moment trip.  We researched, we prayed, I debated, I prayed.  I finally sorta-kinda committed.  I signed up for the conference.  I kept telling myself I could always back out if I needed to.  Then I reserved a hotel room.  All things I could still back out of.  Then two different rental cars.  We didn’t buy my flights until it was almost too late.  Now I couldn’t back out.

In the end, I knew I had to go.  Even though I was six weeks pregnant and beginning to feel the sharp pangs of morning (see: all day) sickness, and excessive sleepiness.  I told Jesus that he was going to have to help me A LOT on this trip.  When I travel, Davin takes care of everything.  He checks flights, carries my bags, drives the car.  All I have to do is walk next to him.  I’m like five years old in responsibility world when we travel together.  Now I had to do it all, with a preggo brain and uneasy stomach.  I put on my very tight big-girl pants and got on the plane.  I just took it one step at a time.

The conference was amazing.  I did walk away feeling like I’d finally gained the insight needed to just write confidently, not worrying that I’d be missing some obvious skill or rule that all the other writers knew.  I do feel more free to just write.  But I don’t think the whole process is complete yet.

My head was filled with so many good ideas and inspiration over those four days that I came home in a bit of a daze.  I’m still sorta in that daze.

One speaker told us to say yes to almost everything, just for the experience.  Some speakers told us to say no to almost everything, so we could say yes to only what was best.  I resonated with Shauna Niequist the most when she spoke about being very good at efficiency – getting everything done, while in the process only allotting a specific short amount of times for silly-play or fun with her family.  She shared how she’s become very good at managing everything and everyone in her life but not really living it.  I could have cried.  I know that person oh so well.  I’ve been working this past year and a half of blogging, to NOT be that person anymore. To slow down, to do less, to savor and enjoy the simple little moments more.  She talked about how we are always going to disappoint somebody, we just need to choose who.  This struck me. How many times have I chosen the wrong person to disappoint?  She also said, “only do as much as you can do in love.”  I’m not operating in love when I am rushing, getting to the next thing, or charging through a to-do list.  Shauna was inspiring and honest.

The way I’m going to apply what I’ve learned from Shauna is to start my days with Jesus.  I usually do this anyway, but I’m going to be a little more intentional about it.  Not just reading my bible like I’m pretty religious about, I want to also then spend time just talking to God.  I don’t mean praying to ask him for things which is still important, I mean praying to ask him his opinion about things, like what should my pace be today God, what’s on your heart today God? Maybe it will look more like me sitting and staring at the oaks in the field across our street and just thanking him for the beauty of the day, just resting in his creation.

In the writer’s workshop they talked all about using words, and only a few words, and only the best words… it all made me a bit intimidated to ever put a sentence on a page again.  They talked about how writing is a horrible, painful process.  By the end of it I was thinking to myself, “Why the heck do I want to be a writer?  This sounds miserable!”  But, these speakers do it for a living, and I get the pleasure of only doing it when I want, as a hobby.  So, I decided that it was okay that I still loved writing, and maybe that didn’t mean I was doing it wrong, maybe I just am just going to have the pleasure of loving it?  Let’s hope so:-)

And lastly, my favorite concept that I took from the entire conference was this: we are all telling a story with our lives, and your story matters.  They said we all have God given gifts and talents in us, and that if we are fully operating in those, we will be telling a meaningful story.  They had so many examples of people living their dreams, and changing the world in the process.  They were all unique, just a person pursuing their passion, and in the process doing something huge to help others.

So, along with me, let’s ask ourselves what truly lights us up?  What do we daydream about? Donald Miller said he daydreamed about making trails in his backyard.  He said he thought that was dumb until the life coach he was speaking to said that was exactly what J.R Tolkien and C.S. Lewis would do as they came up with ideas for Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia.

So, what do you daydream about?  It just may be the thing that helps you change the world.

Here are some obligatory photos from my trip (most of them were taken to send to Davin, and I have to say, I feel totally ridiculous taking selfies, by MYSELF.  It’s really awkward and embarrassing.  I had to keep myself from telling others around me, “these are for my husband, I’m not just in love with myself…”

Here is Portillo’s and the “meatless choices” they offer: halibut and tuna.  Not exactly what I’d call “meatless” ha!

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This idea actually makes me nervous… how do they get the food to stay fresh?IMG_4731

Full on pregnant lady meal.  A chocolate cake shake.  They literally blend chocolate cake INTO the shake.IMG_4732

The best view I actually had of Chicago – didn’t really get that close.

IMG_4746View of Shaumburg, where I was most of the time.

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Willow Creek is more like a campus, less like a church building.  Pretty cool concept.IMG_4670

Definitely sneaking pictures of Donald Miller and two directors… not really all that sneaky!
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The writer’s conference.IMG_4715

The only shot with Donald Miller, of course, it’s blurry;-)  Whateve’s I didn’t want to take up his time.  He had a looooong line of people waiting to talk to him.  Had there been time, I might have said, “Snap!  You are an amazing writer – thank you for introducing me to a type of writing that I actually felt like was a voice similar to mine.  I love your raw honesty and your writing has inspired me to write myself.  Thank you.”IMG_4734

Photo of Chicago taken in the rental car office.  IMG_4653

I love Coke slurpee’s!  At the film festival.IMG_4660

The toilets here have extremely high handles… maybe it has something to do with the cold?  It mystified me.  TMI?  Perhaps.IMG_4661Airplane ride!  I survived!!!  
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The end!

Thanks for reading!

What Really Matters

Today I came across a card I’ve had for years.  I love cards, and I collect them.  Mostly to give away, but this one I’ve kept because it has a glamorous picture of Grace Kelly on the front, and it was like over six bucks.  For years, I’ve always looked at it and thought of how she was such a beautiful woman, and how wise and gracious she always seemed.  Every time I’ve looked at the card, I’ve looked at her as though she were older and wiser than myself.

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Today I looked at it and realized she wasn’t older anymore.

When I looked at the card, closely, I realized that I am now older than the Grace Kelly on my card.  When did that happen?

I’m not in my twenties anymore.

I always thought once I was older, I would actually FEEL older, more confident of the decisions I made, more sure of myself, that I would know how to live my life and not mess up.  I would feel the way Grace Kelly looks on the front of this card.  Fully put together and wise, never letting an ungracious word come from my mouth.  Now, I know that no one is perfect, but this is just what I’ve thought.  I really believed that I’d reach an age where I finally didn’t feel like a little kid just trying to learn what I’m doing.

But I haven’t.

Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night, and wonder where the parents are in our house.  And then I realize that Davin and I are the parents.

I have another card, it’s from Hawaii.  I bought it because it reminded me of one of my best friends, mostly because there is a beautiful brown Hawaiian girl and a cute little blond girl on the cover, and whenever Jen and I take photos, I feel like we look like that, beautiful brown and pale precious blond together.

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When I looked into the eyes of the little girls, so sweet and young, hopeful, I realized something else.

We are still young.

We are so much like those little girls on the front of the Hawaiian card.  We don’t have all the answers, she and I make mistakes.  We try to cook dinners like my kids do in their pretend kitchen, we invent games to make life fun and try and go camping and have baby showers, and we have best friends that we look forward to seeing.  We are really just like children trying at life.  Especially in the areas of marriage and motherhood.

(Andrew Belle, Sister)

 

I think often times, Jesus looks less on us like adults who should have their lives together, and more like kids who are just playing at life, trying to learn and grow and explore.  I don’t think he throws up his hands in exasperation every time we do something wrong, like when I say the wrong words in a moment of frustration, or choose impatience when I should be stopping to rest in Him.  I think he sees that we are still learning and is gracious.  I think he loves that we are trying.

I think he loves that we are trying.

And when we don’t get it perfect, I think he still loves us with the same love that he always has and always will.

We don’t love our kids more when they win an award, we love them because we spend our days with them, because they are our children.  We are happy to see them succeed, mostly because it’s fun to see your own kid feel successful, but I love my kids because they are there with me in all the little moments of life, the dinners, the swim lessons, the getting ready for bed baths and brushing teeth.  We do life together, and just being around them makes them so very, very lovable.  I love them just the same at the end of the night whether they have made a million good choices or twenty bad ones.  I may be more tired or frustrated, feeling like I may have missed something or be failing them, but I never feel like I don’t love them with all of my heart.  And, since Jesus already knows how to do his job perfectly, he doesn’t get frustrated, wondering how he could possibly do it better.  Nope.  He just continues to love and chase after us with his fierce, unrelenting love.  I don’t think he’s he’s worried that he’ll loose us.

I think I beat myself up too much.  I give myself a hard time every time I don’t do something perfect.  And I imagine Jesus is thinking the same.  When really, instead of looking at myself and my mess-ups, I’d do better just to look at Christ, and see his deep love for me reflected in his eyes, in his real life actions towards me.  In the sunset he made to say, “I love you and I want you to have beautiful moments” in the surprise part of the day when my son comes running into the kitchen while I’m cleaning up breakfast and says, “Mama, I love you” and then gives me a kiss for no reason.  When I find myself with my head against my husband’s chest and his arms wrapped around me tight, thinking, this is how much God loves me, he loves me like this.  Or even in the quiet moments when I can hear him say to me, “Peace, be at peace.  You don’t need to rush in this life.”

When my toddler brings me a toy kitchen pan with a pretend apple in it and says with all the enthusiasm IN THE WOLRD, “MOMMY!!!!  I MAKE YOU A WOOSIE!!!! (smoothie), I don’t think to myself, “shoot, this girl doesn’t know an apple from a frozen beverage!”  No, she’s just trying, she’s playing and pretending.  It’s not the end of the world.

I think Jesus knows the whole picture.  I think he trusted us enough to give us free will, to get it wrong sometimes, but I think he knows that we are going to choose him.

One time I had a dream.  It was years and years ago.  I was at a point in my twenties where I felt like my life was a waste because I had everything physically that I wanted, but not relationally.  I wanted a husband and a family.  I had the house, the job, the car, the friends, but not what my heart truly, truly wanted and there was nothing I could see that I could do to make it happen.  I was so frustrated at God for not giving me what I thought was so important in that moment.

In my dream, I found myself in a completely white place.  It was nothing of this world that I have ever seen, the basic rules of science and gravity on earth did not exist in this place.  Every being was under God and his authority.  I couldn’t see him, but he was in front of me.  I was suspended in the air, and nothing looked familiar.  I knew that I knew, there was no way I could lie, or get around what was the ultimate authority in front of me.  I wasn’t getting out of anything here.  Everyone and everything was in agreement that God was the authority, and I felt very, very small.  He then called me into question, “What do you have to say for yourself?”

I thought of my whole life on earth.  Everything I’d ever done, good, attempts at good, any of it.

It all amounted to nothing in the place where I was.  NUUAAHHH-THING.

It was if I was the defending lawyer in the case of the century, the whole world involved, and I brought kindergarden coloring scribbles.  I was like, “Here, this is my evidence.”  That would be absurd.  It wouldn’t even begin to be close to anything even remotely helpful in my position as a defending lawyer.  I’d be laughed at.

That was what ALL of my life amounted to in front of God, kindergarden scribbles.

Then, I could feel someone standing behind me.  I recognized him.  It was Jesus.  I said, “He knows me!  He knows me!”  That’s all I could say of any value in that place.  He was the ONLY reason that I was allowed to continue standing where I was.  Because I knew Jesus.  I knew him well enough to recognize him standing behind me.

I say all this to remind myself about what truly matters in this whole life of menu planning, diets, exercise, sleep schedules, ironing clothes, sweeping the floor and trying to do everything right according to this world and Pinterest and Facebook and Martha Stewart and Pottery Barn catalogues.  And no, my house is not decorated for fall, and that’s okay.

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I still don’t even have a coffee table for our upstairs media room, for over two and a half years, we have held our cups and popcorn while watching movies.  We have unending projects and sometimes I just don’t want to cook dinner or sweep the floor, and I’m pretty sure I found a spider under the kitchen cabinets who’s been living there for the last four months.  My life is so messy, and it doesn’t really, really matter on the big scale of things.

But what really matters?

That I know the One who really matters.

Romans 12:2 The Message (MSG)

Place Your Life Before God

12 1-2 “So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”

As always, thanks for reading.

College Days

I woke up early from a weird dream, so then I lay there, praying for my family and what-not, and then my mind began to drift to days of long ago.

College days.

The main reason I’m actually writing about this, and not just putting it into my dear old diary, is that I tend to write better when I think other people are actually going to read it.  And, I know at least my mom will read this post, and that is more than enough fantastic audience if you ask me:-) Also, writing for others forces me to better concise my thoughts and reflect on them with purpose and intention rather than just letting my writing drift all over the place from one thought to the next.  And lastly, because when Pioneer Woman had nothing to blog on, she wrote about falling in love with her husband, which led her to write a delightful little book, so I’m taking her advice and writing on whatever flits my fancy because it’s fun to reminisce.

I graduated from UC Berkeley.

Normally when I tell most people this, they pause, and then look at me different, like “OHHHH, you’re SUPER smart and I had no idea.”

No, you actually had a pretty good read on the situation, I want to say… but I don’t say it, which is why I try to avoid telling people where I went to school.

Instead, I typically say, “I went to school in the Bay Area.”  It gets me off the hook from people thinking untrue things about me.  But since this post is about college, it would be weird not to state the school I went to.

When I got accepted, I didn’t know how to spell Berkeley correctly.

I wish I were joking.

But I’m totally not.

And I was slated to be an English major.

Fortunately they had invented the red squiggle line by then, so they weren’t any wiser to my terrible flaw.

I attended junior college near my home for the first two years of college.  It cost $1,000 a year to take a full load of classes and live at home.  And since I’d received a $1,000 scholarship from the Frozen Foods Foundation I figured it was a sign from the Lord.  I think I may have sworn to uphold the integrity of the frozen food business, and I feel I’ve fulfilled that dream by using a deep freezer in my garage and occasionally buying frozen pizzas and fruits and vegetables. Besides that, attending a public University at the time would have cost $11,000 a year, so it was 100% a financial decision.  The college counselors at my high school said that we could go to the local jc and then if we maintained good grades, transfer to a better University then we would have been accepted to straight out of high school, AND save a bunch of money.

I applied to Pepperdine, Cal Poly, and ON A WHIM, The University of California, Berkeley, because I thought since I applied to a CSU, I should even it out with a UC, and Berkeley seemed the least likely place to be accepted.  I wanted desperately to go to Pepperdine.  It is literally ON a beach.  I was going to be an au pair for a family friend.  It was all set.  It was going to cost $33,000 a year and I didn’t care, I at least had room and board covered.  The ocean was calling me, I was going to finally live my dream of becoming a surfer.

Because that is why you go to college.

To become a surfer.

I didn’t get accepted.  I had a 3.9 from my jc (stinkin’ art history!) and Pepperdine said NO.  I was crushed.  When I got the tiny envelope out of the mail and knew it should be thicker or bigger or look happier, and when I read the letters the said the words that told me I wasn’t good enough, or smart enough, I was crushed.  I remember following my dad around the Osh Home store, moping about among the outdoor plants section, contemplating the meaning of life.  I was sad for a whole 1/2 a day.

Then I got over it.

I found an apartment down in beautiful Cal Poly.  I put $400 down on it, and planned to live with three other christian girls.  In my mind, Cal Poly was lame, because all my friends were going there, and I wanted to make new friends, and do new things.  To go out on my own and not follow a bunch of the same christians around for the next two years.  Barf city!

You’ll have to forgive me, christians are fun and all, but I grew up in church, everything I did was saturated in church.  My dad was the pastor for goodness sake.  I started the bible club at my high school.  Two other kids and myself sat in the atheist principal’s office and stated that it was our legal right to start a bible club.  We had like 50-75 kids in that thing and we didn’t even have a CLUE about what we were doing.  There were no intelligent grown up’s leading us.  We led worship with one guitar and sometimes a cappella.  A CAPPELLA!  Can you imagine?  Who wants to come hang out with a bunch of christians over lunch and sing without instruments? WHAT WAS I THINKING?  But kids still came, and heard the gospel, and I think even a few kids might have considered that God was real, and maybe liked them, and perhaps it got them thinking about the whole thing.  Who knows, it kept me out of trouble and I was informally voted “most likely to marry a minister”, except the yearbook teacher wouldn’t allow that category, so it got nixed.

Needless to say, I’d hung out with enough christians to realize I wanted to start hanging out with people who weren’t like me – because I didn’t know anyone like that up close.  I had lots of friendly classmates who were non-christians but when I’d try and hang out with them outside of school they’d always say stuff like, “Oh, you don’t want to come to that party, it’s not your thing”, or “You should stay away from me, I’m a bad guy, I’m not good for you.”

Who says that?  People who maybe like you, but don’t want to screw you up I guess?  I say, thank goodness to that, because it was nice to be sheltered in high school, I left feeling happy about life and not addicted to anything, and feeling a bit like a nerd because I’d never kissed a boy – but I had a future husband I was waiting and praying for, so it was acceptable in my book.

Then I got a huge envelope in the mail from UC Berkeley.

My parent’s were so excited for me.

Well-meaning christians told my parents not to let me go there.  They said it would change me. They spoke words full of fear and good intention.  They were extremely hesitant about my parents decision to trust me.  To trust God.

But because I have parents who trust God at the base of who they are, they gladly helped me pack my bags and my mom even went with me to orientation day.

The pastor’s kid goes to UC Berkeley.

Scandal.

I was still in shock that I got accepted.  I was really wondering what God was up to.

The cover letter said the words, Congratulations with my name on it.  MY NAME. The folder was thick with information about financial aid and registering for classes.  It had flyers about clubs and parent day.  It had pictures of super smart kids sitting on lawns and talking.  I was in disbelief.

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The font of the folder had the beautiful words, “fiat lux”, which means “let there be light”.ucberkely

God was sending me to a liberal, non-christian school with the motto, “let there be light.”

God has a sense of humor, and apparently a lot of faith in a little bible club starting girl.

This is the school with the third tallest clock tower in the world.  

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photo credit: wikipedia

The Campanile, or Sather Tower plays the carillon every day at noon, challenging students to strive for academic greatness.  If you’ve never heard a carillon, it’s one of the most beautiful things in the world, especially surrounded by the history of this school, and the beauty of the Bay Area.  Go sit on the lawn in front of Doe Library and have a listen, and then get an expresso brownie from the Free Speech Cafe attached to Moffitt Library.  Yowza, you’ll be set for the next 36 hours of life excitement.  

This is also the school known for political protests and academic-amazingness.  Some of professors are Nobel Laureates, and fancy award getters.  There are 7 Nobel Laureates, 32 MacArthur Fellows, and 4 Pulitzer Prize winners among the current faculty.  Berkeley is known as the number one public university in the nation, last I checked.  What was I doing here?

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Cal crew (rowing) days, that’s me on the left and my bow partner, T on the right. It was the best of times!

When I was in 3rd grade, I was not a great student.  I have a vivid memory of a Monday night when I was forced to stay home from church baseball night and work on a report about dinosaurs.  This was sad to me and made me do some serious thinking.  Church baseball night was super fun as a kid, all the dad’s would play baseball, and all the kids would run around, and usually regardless if they won or lost, we would go out to ice cream and the kids would eat their weight in frozen dairy, and then I unfortunately would throw it up later that night, but that is another story entirely about my stomach not tolerating a bunch of sugar.

Needless to say, missing out on ice cream and fun gave me some time to ponder my future.  I always knew my dad wanted me to go to college.  When I was really mad at him, like SOOOO mad, I’d loudly announce to him, ‘FINE, then I’m NOT going to college!”  It was irrelevant, and he’d let me say it and mean it and he’d love me anyway and knew I wasn’t serious, but I knew he was serious about me going to school, so it was that night I decided it was time to think about my academic goals.

I sat and thought about who I was (in third grade, yes) and who I was going to be.  That night I decided I wanted to go to a really good college, the kind that was in the movies, the kind that was old, and had history and prestige.  I pictured myself on some carpeted old steps in a beautiful old library, walking down the stairs to go to my next class.  I can still see it now. That was a college where really smart kids went, and someday, I was going to walk up or down those fancy old steps and be apart of it.  I wasn’t just going to go to college, I was going to attend a really good college, one of the best.

I should share that the junior college I attended had fake bells, on a loud speaker.  And I’d walk up the steps to the library and hear them and think, someday I’m going to walk up steps to at a really good school, that has real bells, not fake ones over a loud speaker.  I’d think that every time I walked up the steps to the library.

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photo credit: UC Berkeley Website

When I walked onto the UC Berkeley campus for the first time, for the intro tour to the school I’d been accepted to but never set foot on, all my very forgotten 3rd grade memories came rushing back to me.  I saw the beautiful old buildings.  I could feel the prestige in the air.  I heard the real bells from the clock tower.  If you’ve ever been to the Bay Area, you might notice it has a beautiful smell, the smell of the ocean, the fog and the eucalyptus trees.  It’s refreshing on almost any day.

I remember standing there, but trying not to look like a fool, in a great amount of disbelief that it actually came true.  I couldn’t believe that God had remembered my 3rd grade dreams.  And I had forgotten them completely and attempted to trade them in for a surf board.  But he wouldn’t let me, and he didn’t forget.  Every time I heard the bells over those next two years, I’d stop and think and remember.  It was hard not to.  They sounded so beautiful, it was a reminder of my dreams coming true.  And I should say, every day there felt like a dream.  It literally felt like I was living in someone else’s graces.

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photo credit: UC Berkeley website

One time our professor put a paragraph on the board in Latin prior to class, and my friend next to me read it and knew what it said.  He learned Latin in his private school on the East Coast.  I knew how to make a skim board and slip around on the water in Santa Cruz.  I was completely out of my league and I loved every second of it.  Plus, no one knew I was a pastor’s kid, so people stopped treating me weird.  It was like an escape from my old life, I could be exactly who I wanted to be, and no one was going to judge me or care.  It felt like freedom.

Sometimes God puts ideas in our hearts when we are little, because that is when we will let them be deposited there.  Our hearts are still fresh and young, and not full of why-nots.  He planted those dreams in my 9 year old heart, only to make them come to pass ten years later.

I feel him attempting to plant new dreams in my heart now, but I so much more resistant.  I have all the arguments of why they aren’t possible and why they are selfish and why they are too good to be true.  Of why money should be spent elsewhere, as though God’s resources are somehow limited.  I keep hearing him say, dream.  Trust me and dream.  Dream.

A lot of my previous, seemingly ridiculous dreams (except for becoming a beach bum surfer) have come true.  So, now I’m starting to dream new ones.

I am doing this 5 day Storyline thing on the storylineblog.com.  So far I’ve completed day one, and it’s been like a month, so in a few months, I’ll have completed it.  I figured I needed some proper organization to my dreams.  I want to live life intentionally, and not be afraid to dream. I am still a bit afraid to dream, because it could mean really big things could happen, and what if I’m not ready, or good enough or smart enough?

But isn’t that the moral of my college days story?

I didn’t have to be smart enough, or good enough, or ready.  I just had to let God plant some dreams in my third grade heart and then say yes when the time came.

So much of christian religiosity and churchie-church talk is about surrender.  Surrender to God. Surrender of our hopes and dreams in place of God’s.  And it usually sounds like giving all the cool stuff up, choosing the road less traveled, taking the poor man’s path, carrying our cross. And I get that, because much of the christian life lived out is a surrender of our will – choosing to love when we want to hate, choosing to forgive when we want to hold on.  But sometimes I think we take it too far – like we think being a good christian looks like giving up all our dreams and living a mediocre life.  If I had taken the well intentioned advice of so many, many christian “friends”, I would have never attend Cal.  But I knew God had something more for me there and I wasn’t afraid to hope.  I learned WAY more about God’s love for the lost hanging out with a bunch of non-christians who liked me just the way I was then I ever could have at a mandatory skirt wearing christian college.  And it’s amazing to see how God showed up in such a crazy spiritually dark place!

What if God’s plan for your life looked super cool and awesome on the outside?  What if it looked more like surrendering YOUR lame ideas of boring-ness for God’s way better ones?  What if he really wants to you live out your 3rd grade dream?  What if churchie-church people won’t like it and it will make them frown?

Here is my favorite song about putting dreams out to the Lord.  I always ask him that I can sing it with 100% honesty, and then trust him to do the rest.  Sometimes I sing it out of giving something up, and sometimes I sing it out of accepting a big dream that scares me.

I’m giving you all my heart, and all that is within
I lay it all down for the sake of you my king
I’m giving you my dreams, I’m laying down my rights
I’m giving up my pride for the promise of new life

[Chorus]
And I surrender all to you, all to you
And I surrender all to you, all to you

I’m singing you this song, I’m waiting at the cross
And all the world holds dear, I count it all as loss
For the sake of knowing you the glory of your name
To know the lasting joy even sharing in your pain

Some of the dreams I currently have, scare the crap out of me.  They are way bigger and require much more than I have to offer.  But I feel myself being tempted to dream them anyway.  Because I never had what it took the first time, but God did.

Not to be super cheesy and leave you with a thought provoking question, but what dreams has God planted in your heart, and is there anything holding you back from saying yes?  If so, is that truly from the Lord, or is it’s motivation fear?  Because we know scripture says, “Fear is not from the Lord.” (Perfect love casts out fear – 1 John 4:18.)

Just a thought.

Or a kick in the bum to get you moving.

Come on already, if all us Christians were truly living the dream lives God has for us, this world would be a million times cooler already.  Get on it friend!  

As always, it means literally the world to me that you read this blog, and I know it shouldn’t but it does, and until God fixes that in me, it probably will.  Thank you so much for reading!