More than you can handle

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I recently read a book – Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis.  (You can read all about her here on her blog or here on her ministry’s website.)  I wish I could tell you all about her in a sentence.  It’s impossible but here’s my best shot: she’s a young woman who went to Africa after high school and fell in love, decided to stay, and has adopted 14 Ugandan girls as her daughters while serving hundreds more children, orphans, widows, and elderly.  And while the whole book spoke to me, overwhelmed me – there was one particular passage that stands out above all the rest.  And I’d like to share it with you:

“Remember, God will never give you more than you can handle.”

People repeat this frequently; I heard it when I was growing up and I hear it now.  It is meant to be a source of encouragement, and it would be if I believed it were true.

But I don’t.

I believe that God totally, absolutely, intentionally gives us more than we can handle.  Because this is when we surrender to Him and He takes over, proving Himself by doing the impossible in our lives.         …

I have learned to accept it, even ask for it, this “more than I can handle.”  Because in these times, God shows Himself victorious.  He reminds me that all of this life requires more of HIm and less of me.  God does give us more than we can handle.  Not maliciously, but intentionally, in love, that His glory may be displayed, that we may have no doubt of who is in control, that people may see His grace and faithfulness shining through our lives.

And as I surrender these situations to HIm, watch Him take over and do the impossible, I am filled with joy and peace – so much more than I can handle.

Kisses from Katie, excerpts from p.135-137

If you’ve been a part of a Chrisitian community – you’ve probably heard that “comforting” phrase before.  If you haven’t, you might be wondering what the heck I’m talking about – but bear with me.  I think there is something in this for everybody.

I am totally with Katie on this one.  For much of my life, I’ve felt like I’ve had more to deal with than I possibly could deal with as one young, rather inexperienced person.  And yet, I’m well educated, I’m smart, I’ve been blessed (or maybe shielded) by resources that I didn’t personally earn – and so I’ve dealt with it.  I did in fact handle it.  And pretty independently.

But that background musical theme of my life has had it’s volume turned up again, and not by me.  It’s thundering, “More!  More!  Go deeper.  Go beyond the shallows that you can so easily handle.  Be willing to experience more.”  And I’m starting to wonder: am I really handling these life things all that well independently?  What if we all dug into life seeing challenges as impossible to face without the dying American arts of…  Family.  Community.  God.  Something beyond me.

Art of Honesty.  Art of Community.  Art of Life.  I keep coming back to the idea that these precious parts of my experience on earth are not sciences.  They cannot be managed and measured perfectly so as to be better prepared to answer the next question, conquer the next problem, do away with the next gut-wrenching pain.  Well, they can…  but at what cost?  What do we miss out on when we deal with our struggles in ways that never make a space for the impossible to happen?  If we never invite miracles to occur?

What if I seek challenge and contradiction – and depend on more than myself to learn, mature through hardship, and develop appreciation?  Instead of managing the chaos, never wandering so deep as to be pulled out with the tide without rock or sand to stand on… what if I dove in head first, asking with an open heart for more than I can handle?  What then?  Why not?

What am I so afraid of?

Mo(u)rning Poem

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like I do                                                                                                                                                                                                        Do you ever feel clever and good                                                                                                                                                           as if you’re a force in the world?                                                                                                                                                               that you make a difference                                                                                                                                                                     and it all makes sense –                                                                                                                                                                          “The Plan” tied with ribbons and curls.

like I do                                                                                                                                                                                                       Do you ever feel under attack                                                                                                                                                               with your intentions all blown to bits?                                                                                                                                                     you were on the right road                                                                                                                                                                         til all seams came unsewed                                                                                                                                                                   Now all you can think is “Well, shit.”

like I do                                                                                                                                                                                                       Do you ever alert the media                                                                                                                                                                        be it social or not?                                                                                                                                                                                       to share your pains                                                                                                                                                                                 and loss of gains                                                                                                                                                                                            And how it is all for naught.

like I do                                                                                                                                                                                                       Do you ever stand up and keep walking                                                                                                                                                     when it doesn’t even seem possible?                                                                                                                                                   it’s on you that they count                                                                                                                                                                         to be down but not out                                                                                                                                                                             ’cause all your problems should be “solvable”

like I do

 

Buttons

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I pushed somebody’s button last week.  Not on purpose… but I was telling them something true – something I was required to say.  Not fun.  Not enjoyable.  And boy, did I get lashed out at in response.  Not because of what I actually said… but because there was a button there.

Buttons scare me.  I don’t like pushing other people’s and I certainly don’t like mine being pushed.  I am a conflict avoider to the core.  If it’s fight or flight, you can win money betting on my flight.  Unless… you hit one of those buttons.  And then, I will verbally spar and cry my eyes out to the proverbial death!  I save up all my spunk and spit for these occasions – it’s not pretty.

My less serious buttons include:  college football (Please don’t be a pretend fan.  Or an uneducated yet irrationally passionate one.  I will most likely go off on you.), confusing Type 1 Diabetes with Type 2 (yes, I know I’ve already vented/blogged about this before), and cheating or being unsportsman-like during board and party games (i.e. Pictionary and Settlers of Catan…  don’t shout over my teammates guesses so they can’t hear themselves think or gloat when you cut off my potential for the longest road – I will probably glare at you and make snide comments).

My more serious buttons include:  accusing me of being intentionally insensitive, cruel, or unkind (I genuinely think very few people are as self-aware, self-conscious, or self-critical as I am – therefore, correcting me is best done gently…  then I’ll feel safe enough to admit I was wrong.  But if I feel attacked, I will defend myself to the bitter end.  Not saying this is an admirable thing – just naming a button.), being drunk (I have too much family history there… it freaks me out and I get upset and will react in a way that is most likely disproportionate to the situation), and any perceived child abuse or taking advantage of those who cannot fend for themselves (Sean made me stop listening to/reading about the Penn State fiasco because I legitimately could have popped a blood vessel).

What are your buttons?  Have you ever thought about why they exist and/or how they came to be your buttons?  When do they most get in your way?  How do you overcome it when other people push them?  Do you recognize when you’re reacting because of your button and maybe not because of what somebody actually did or said?

Just thought I’d share/question.  Happy Thanksgiving!

“Loving people is not efficient.”

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I was listening to Derek Webb’s The House Show on my way to work…  and on that album, it alternates each track: one is introducing the song – sharing the thought or message behind it, the story of how he came to write the song, and then one of the actual song itself.  It is extremely thought provoking and interesting.  (The next time you have a road trip by yourself, I recommend listening to it.  It’s best experienced the first time in one whole sitting.)

Anyway, I was listening to one of the “talk tracks” and this phrase jumped out at me:  “Loving people is not efficient.”  I have listened to this album many many times but this has never stood out before.  I didn’t really hear the rest of the track as I drove into the parking garage at work.  I was busy mulling this over in my mind…  when I drove back home, I went back to this track to re-listen, to see if I had missed something from the context of his talk.  But I hadn’t.  This was kind of a random aside that had a little bit to do with his main point, but not really.  But it was my main take-away.  I was intrigued.

Much of the time, I want loving to be efficient.  I want to see positive returns on my “investment” in people.  I expect to express myself to someone and for us to then be closer, more intimate, for our relationship to have grown and changed.  But sometimes loving someone is painfully inefficient.  And in the day and age of instantaneous communication, drive-through food, and out-sourcing to China – I can’t help but wonder if something as work intensive and non-instantly gratifying as true love is headed the way of the dodo.

Of course when anyone starts discoursing on love, I start to think about 1 Corinthians 13.  “Love is patienct, love is kind…” and all that.  After 3 1/2 years of marriage, a very broken family of origin, and many difficult friendships, I at times want to yell out at then end of the usually cliché quote, “THEREFORE, LOVE IS IMPOSSIBLE!”  Of course, it’s not.  It’s just inefficient.  Uneconomical.  Slow.  Love is hard work.

To piggy-back on something that Andy Stanley has said before, Love is wanting something for someone instead of wanting something from them.  Who are you trying to love right now?  Are you frustrated by the drudgery of it some days?  Are you wanting from or for?  Be encouraged by the fact that 1. You are not alone, and 2. By nature, love is not quick or easy or “cost-effective”.  Do it anyway.  It’s worth it.  Sometimes the very beginning of 1 Corinthians 13 is left out, but I think it is important:

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.  If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.  If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere.  So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

It may be the least efficient thing we do today, but let’s do it anyway.  Without it, we have nothing.  We are nothing.

Catalyst

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Catalyst:  noun \ˈka-tə-ləst\   An agent that provokes or speeds significant change or action

I attended the Catalyst Conference a few weeks ago, and I must say that the definition above is very fitting for my experience.  After a few hours in of listening to amazing people speak – like Jim Collins, Blake Mycoskie, and Cornel West – I was ready to turn my life upside down, to take on 7 million new goals, and change the world!  

But you know how you go to conferences or trainings and you think they’re fabulous and going to help so much and then 4 weeks later you can barely remember anything that anyone said?  I hate that.  Sean knows some smart people who say that if you can’t apply it to your everyday life within two weeks, then it’s gone.  If you can’t apply it personally very quickly, your brain has no reason to hold on to that information.  It is excess.  It is unnecessary.  It’s expired.

I don’t want this feeling to go away – this sense of purpose and direction!  This sense of knowing what I am called to and wanting to pursue it with everything I have.  So, I decided I needed some help.  There’s this cool tool called irunurun (“I Run, You Run”).  It allows you to list several goals, (“Write a Blog post”) and then how many times a week you want to do it each week (“Once”), and then weight it to how many points out of a 100 you’d like to value it (“30”).  So you can have 5 goals each valued at 20 points each, or two worth 50 points each, or if there is one thing that is WAY more important to you than all else, that can be 60 of the points for the week.  And each week, you use the website (or soon to be iPhone app) to log when you fulfill each of the tasks – or don’t fulfill them, as it may go.  This gives you measurable feedback on whether or not you are doing what you say you want to do.  The tag line for irunurun is: “Actions speak louder than goals.”  Isn’t that the truth…  Also, you can have “teammates” who can see your goals and how you’re doing on achieving them and – let’s be honest – if you’re doing “better” than them.  (A healthy dose of competition and a points ranking is just what a girl like me needs to stay on top of things!)  🙂

Anyway – I encourage you to check it out.  As I continue to unpack what Catalyst has meant to me, and as I keep up with my irunurun goal of blogging at LEAST once a week, I’ll be sharing more of my thoughts and experiences.  But for now – what do say you want to do, but you’re not actually doing?  Think about using this tool.  It’s great.  And with me, you’ll start off with at least one teammate.

Ron Weasley and He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named

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Have you ever noticed how intuitive mean people are?  Mean people shouldn’t be able to “get you” as easily as they do.  Somehow the meanest of meanies always know what barb to throw at you.

For those of you who are less fanatical than I am, Harry Potter 7, Part 2 came out a few weeks ago.  Due to a needed review of all the story-line details for my husband and because I just thought it was fun, we listened to ALL of the books on CD in the months leading up to this last and final movie.  One scene in the last book  particularly struck me.  (For those of you who aren’t Harry Potter fans, hang on…  I still think this is worth thinking about, even if you have no idea about House Elves, Horcruxes, or Hallows.)

A piece of Voldemort (a.k.a. He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named) has been incapsulted in an object that Harry Potter has set out to destroy, aided by his best friends – Ron and Hermione.  At this particular moment in the book, Ron is in charge of destroying this one piece of wretched soul, but it acts out in an attempt to protect and preserve itself.  It speaks to Ron:

“I have seen your dreams, Ronald Weasley, and I have seen your fears.  All you desire is possible, but all that you dread is also possible…  Least loved, always, by the mother who craved a daughter… Least loved now, by the girl who prefers your friend…Second best, always, eternally overshadowed…”

This mean soul knew what areas to strike at, where Ron’s fears made him most vulnerable.  Intuitively, it/he know how to be meanest to his victim.

In elementary and middle school, I was home schooled.  At one point around 6th grade or so, I made a pretty fancy science project and presented it at the Austin home schooler science fair.  It was about fungus… it was gross, but at least mildly impressive, and I got a blue ribbon.  All of the blue ribbon winners advanced on to the city-wide science fair with the blue ribbon winners from all the public schools.  We all gathered in this huge conference center, all the parents were locked out in the lobby, and we all waited for a couple of hours while the judges visited people popcorn style, talking to us seemingly randomly about our projects.  I vividly remember that the small boy to my left had the most impressive looking science fair project ever known to man.  I felt out of my league immediately.  And the guy on my right was the cutest guy I had ever been within 5 feet of (or at least, it felt that way at the time).  Again, out of my league.

The cute guy, however, was pretty friendly and, and struck up a conversation during our (for me) agonizing wait to be judged.  I have no idea what we talked about.  I was just glad not to be the only one in the entire giant hall that no one talked to and no one knew.  One girl from the same school/class as the cute boy boldly stepped away from her project, made her way through the maze of tri-folds and folding tables, and visited said cute boy.  As soon as she appeared, I disappeared into the book I had brought with me, though I mildly admired her audacious flirting from my peripheral hearing and vision.  I was genuinely reading, however, when suddenly she turned to me and asked, “Have you ever thought of shaving your head?”  I hadn’t tracked their conversation and I figured she was trying to make some point to him, so I answered honestly:  “No.”  Her response stunned and stung me, “Well you should.  It would match your face.”

Whaaaaaaaaat!?!?  In the moment, I couldn’t even process the fact that this didn’t make sense.  All I could feel was that I was so insecure, so lonely, and this girl point blank turned to a complete stranger and hurled an insult at me.  (Trust me – it was not intended as a joke.  If you had seen the snarl on this girl’s lips, you would have known.  She meant it.)  Later, I rationalized that she probably had a crush on the cute boy and was angry to see me talking with him when she walked up.  But even so, what threat was I to her?  I feel like she intuitively knew that I was scared, unsure, and that I would do nothing in return while she “fatally wounded” me.

I turned back to my book and tried to hold back the tears.  A little while later… the judges walked up.

I talked about my apples and their fungus, the procession of it’s growth, the remarkable protection that the skin of an apple provides… yadah-yadah-yahdah.  I felt it went pretty well.   I sighed with relief when it was over.  Then the smart guy struck up a conversation.  We talked, he seemed nice, I was relieved not to have to look in the direction of the cute guy or his female body guard.  Then he commented on my presentation, “You broke the cardinal rule.”  (Yes, he was smart enough to either imitate knowing about or actually know about cardinal rules in 6th grade.)  “What? What did I do?” I asked confused.  What rule did my rule-following-self not know about and totally dishonor in my talk about fungi?  “You said, ‘I don’t know.'”  I must have stared blankly.  He continued, “You always find a way to only talk about what you do know.  Or say you could hypothesize about that, but what your project really proved was THIS.”  I thought back.  I had answered one of their questions with “I don’t know.”  Did this spell catastrophe?  Not that I had expected to place with this many kids… although the thought of being invited to the state-wide competition had definitely crossed my mind, it wasn’t in a “I think it’s possible” kind of way.

When my mom was finally let into the hall, I’m sure I seemed off.  I felt completely deflated.  But before I knew it, it was time to go into the auditorium for the announcement of the winners.  I won 5th place in the “Biology” group.  When I walked up to the stage to receive my medal, cute boy and his body guard were sitting on the front row.  Cute guy waved at me.  I’m sure she was livid, but I didn’t look at her.  It turned out that Never-Say-I-Don’t-Know guy got first place out of the entire competition and got an automatic ticket to nationals.  I didn’t feel quite so bad about feeling intimidated by him after that…

But still.  I’m now 26 years old, and what two random strangers said to me in grade school one random day has stuck with me.  Later that night, I was most concerned with the girl’s comments.  I cried to my mom.  I imagined witty, harsh quips back to her, I punched my pillow remembering my demure tears…  I was much more hurt by her than him at the time, but looking back, I think I was much more impacted long term by what Smart Guy said to me…  I have a fear of not knowing what I’m doing, of looking like a fool, of failing.  Not just because of him, but I do sometimes feel as if I can’t say, “I don’t know.”  (Just ask my husband…  much of the time I’ll fight to the bitter end before saying I don’t know, or I was wrong, or I’m sorry.)

I wonder why meanness comes so intuitively while kindness is such hard work.    I think that this is a mark against the “people are naturally good” theory.  Whether you’re fictional He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named or a real life 6th grade girl, why is it so easy to pick up on people’s soft spots and exploit them?  Why can’t we see each other’s wounds and work to heal them?  Why is the world constantly working its way towards chaos?  And is there anything we can do to fight it?

After Ron hesitates, but successfully kills the wretched piece of soul in the horcrux, Harry speaks:

“After you left,” he said in a low voice, grateful for the fact that Ron’s face was hidden, “she cried for a week.  Probably longer, only she didn’t want me to see.  There were loads of nights when we never even spoke to each other.  With you gone…”

He could not finish; it was only now that Ron was here again that Harry fully realized how much his absence had cost them.

“She’s like my sister,” he went on.  “I love her like a sister and I reckon she feels the same way about me.  It’s always been like that.  I thought you knew.

Affirmation, love, encouragement, knowledge and understanding of the unfoundedness another’s fear – if these things are left unsaid, others experience life as if they don’t exist.  We cannot make decisions or believe truth for other people.  But, if you don’t tell someone their fear is irrational and without basis and the truth that you see that proves it, their fear grows and seems to become more and more rational.  We are intuitive creatures.  We know when and how to exploit fear.  We need to learn when and how to dispell it.  Don’t be mean.

Rest and Review

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I recently got to spend the weekend with precious friends…  friends that would probably be more accurately called family and who I hadn’t seen in a long time.  It was a weekend of rest and review – catching up on what life has brought around in the last two years or so, as well as just being with people who know me so well, and love me anyway.

They are people who have incredible intimacy with God, but still have fewer answers than questions.  They know his qualities, yet claim no understanding of his actions.  Instead of exuding self-righteousness or ego, they are filled with life’s pain… just like the rest of us.  There is no pretending that they’ve got the solution and are waitingfor the rest of the rich, white, American world to figure it out.  They’ve had their dreams crushed, they’ve had financial struggles, they’ve had painful and intimate relational conflict.  And even so, Jesus is at the kitchen table.  Seriously.  The way they talk about him, it’s like he’s the lovable, bachelor uncle that just ran out run errands right before I came into the house, but he’ll be right back.  He’s that real.  That present.

Needless to say, the weekend was refreshing and rest-filled.  I got to be, with all my damaged parts and answer to-the-point questions that would have been pointed questions except that they were completely empty of accusation.

You don’t become people like that living easily in private.  My favorite people in this world have experienced pain and have let someone else see them in it.  And pain doesn’t have to be traumatic to outside eyes to qualify as pain, but it does have to be entered into.  I feel that one of the problems with this culture/age/era is so much loneliness and hurt and nowhere to turn but your facebook wall or therapist.  (Which, don’t get me wrong – I love a good therapy session.  But.  It is not a replacement for community… for brotherly, sisterly, motherly, fatherly love.  For intimacy, genuiness, witheld judgment, and unconditional acceptance.)

I want to be one of these people – but sometimes I wonder if I have the pure guts it takes to become that way.  To choose the baring of my soul (in person and not just on the internet) instead of the safety of unknown-ness.  Opting to face the hurt, rather than find nooks and crannies of myself to stuff it in.  I am grateful for these friends and family in my life that make it so easy to be myself, to explore the fullness, and simultaneously, the broken-ness of this life.  I just wish they lived closer…