Sunday, October 06, 2013

I've become an artist...

There have been days in my life where I wondered what I would become. When I was a kid I won coloring contests and wished that I could grow up to color within the lines. So I became a teacher and did a lot of coloring in the lines. But never did I think that artist would be a title I could apply to myself. While I still don't consider myself an artist in the truly grand sense, I'm going to try to make a go of some of my "art". I doodle. I like it. So, today, here... is a pumpkin. Happy October!

Friday, October 04, 2013

Old Poem Found in a Stack of Papers

A desolate abandonment
A lightened shadow cast below
As greasy blackness fully spent
Its wrath upon its foe.
And eyes as teary as the sea
Gaze at the waves of woe.
But few of these begin to see
And even few know
Of those grand armies watching there
And of their glory glow.

And my eyes are filled with light
Please gently wrap me round
With scarlet-hued humility
Like him with thorny crown
Grasped not at which was his
But made the lost his found.
Instead he loved and lived and wept
And poured his blood upon the ground.
Oh, to be like him, Jesus mine,
That his glory would abound.

Dubai 2008

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Problems with Being a Writer...

People ask me what I do. I tell them I'm spending the next couple of months writing. And then they assume that I am a writer (which I am... because I write) but also assume a bunch of other things that make me feel like a failure (which I'm not--I'm just not a success... yet).

1. People ask how many books you've published. (Me: 0)
2. Then they assume you are a blogger. (Me: Well, I have a blog but I'm not a "blogger")
3. They assume you spend all day in a coffee shop. (Me: Not yet.)

Those problems come from other people perceptions. They are really very minor because if you are writing from home you don't actually meet very many people who will ask these questions. The bigger problems are more internal.

For me, the biggest problem  is--

You have to let your inner voice and creativity loose. (Me: Scared spitless.)

I have spent the last year and a half drowning my inner dialogue out as much as possible. Imagine the small child with its hands over its ears singing "la la la la la". Yeah, that's me.

At first I think it was the memories, the fear, the loss. All of that had to be quiet so that I could figure out how to just do the basics, like not getting lost in a new city. There's not much time for inner dialogue when you are still trying to figure out how people dress and what you can make for dinner using ingredients you haven't used in six years.

Then later on, those things became normal again. The produce section was no longer terrifying and the rest of the grocery store didn't wear me out for a whole day. (I do admit that I still avoid the cereal aisle and the laundry detergent aisle. I bought my laundry soap online last time.) At that point, there was enough space in my life. I could have stopped yelling. But I didn't. I was afraid.

I still am afraid. I'm a master escape artist. I know how to get away from myself; I've had plenty of practice.

So this is me... calling out the fears and lies for what they are. Nonsense. Sure--I'm weird, wacky, ugly-beautiful, and all sorts of other things on the inside. I will kneel down and meet face to face the monster that lives under the bed and helps to protest for the rights of dust bunnies. There are spiders in the attic and they are big enough to be heard at night. The floorboards creak and light bulbs flicker. But I am not alone.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

More on the Hats...

I spent the last couple of days photographing my hats for my Etsy shop. I liked some of the pictures so well I decided to post some of them here. I was having fun with the bokeh in some of them.

Friday, August 30, 2013


Two sticks of butter are sitting on the island in the kitchen. I must make sure they are not voted off by the press-pot and the coffee stir spoon before my roommate gets home to make cookies. They are safe there for now. The ant army hasn't made it that far yet and my assault on them this morning has been a considerable setback in their advances. There is still no sign of them returning through the front door so the only stronghold left appears to be around the kitchen sink. Any and all possible food supply has been cut off and a wintergreen scented foam was launched against them; we will gain victory in the end.

Final victory was accomplished one one front. It was against a large red wasp that had been  unwittingly caught behind enemy lines. The large purple fly execution device proved only partly effective. The insect managed to fall into the AC vent while in the throes of death so I am afraid that it's demise was rather more prolonged than I would wish, even for such an enemy as a large red wasp. I wonder if the AC is strong enough to regurgitate its carcass onto the carpet. I hope not.

With such  successful morning as a soldier of the realm of the house, I wonder if perhaps, just maybe a period of R and R may be allowed. But no! The butter must remain and so must I.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

I wake up and...

I'm on a train. The blur of greenish scenery catches in my peripheral vision. We're going fast, faster than I thought it would be. Is this an Express? I didn't mean to get on an express. No. These people seem nice. I like the train. I did get on this train, didn't I?

Back in college I was asked to teach two high school classes as a small non-traditional school. I hate speaking in front of groups. I planned to tell them no as politely as I could when I went in to meet them. I left the building with a stack of books and not remembering ever having said yes. Classes began in a month. Thus began my adventure into teaching. I love teaching.

This train though, it's nice. It makes my heart race and I smile. The rumble through the floor is familiar somehow and the jerking jostle constantly keeps you steadying yourself every other step. Where is this train going anyway? The blur is only getting blurrier. My eyes water. I blink.

There was less than a year between when I first heard about the teaching job in Iraq and when I was standing on the over 100 degree heat at 6am in the Middle East. I was interviewing teachers and prospective students within days of my arrival. My "expert" teacher's opinion was required for decision after decision. I remember praying asking God, "I don't know whether A or B is the best choice, but I'm being asked to choose right now. God, I'm going to choose at random as far as I can tell because I really have no idea. Please make the choice the right one."

The people on this train are nice. They seem to know where we are going so quickly. I like trains. I like adventure. But this, this is terrifying. I've been on fast trains. I can't tell how fast this one is going. The train is familiar, but the scenery has shifted and I don't know where I am. Is this ok? Should I pull the break cord? When is the next stop? Should I get off? Is this an overnight train for me?

This morning I walked up to a group of strangers, without my common contact. I was stretched. I walked with strangers. I chatted in the home of some super sweet Kurds. Struggling through my wrong Kurdish dialect, I was hugged and kissed by an old raisin of a woman and it made me want to cry with joy. I had to speak aloud to all the strangers, then sing in front of the strangers. Commitments are made. Appointments stack up. One week left of my "real job" and I see how my days could fill out into the future.

Will I stay on this train? I'm not sure. Part of me wants to. It's thrilling. Part of me is uncertain. Is this where God wants me? Part of me is scared. This is so moving dang fast.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

It's All About the Shoes

I read some question on an online survey today. I'm not sure what the questions were for, it was connected to a company I was researching. One of the questions was "How satisfied are you with your life?" Numbers one to five. Then right after "How much would you change about your life if you could?" Hmm... Wow. I am so happy. I am quite satisfied. I feel like I might actually fit into the idyllic clouds outside that look too much like a painting.

My teenage self would cringe at me now. Some of my hair is blue. I live in Nashville (with no aspirations of being a country music star!). I have lived in Iraq. I like wearing fake tattoos. One ear has a second piercing. I'm actually more like a picture of something much less traditional. But I'm ok with that.

But I may have gone a step too far the other day. I was at target and a pair of orange and grey and blue and black striped flats caught my eye. They were cute and I wear a lot of orange. I tried them on as well as I could, taking mini steps, crippled by the three inches of  stretchy elastic and the large tags. Those are my best excuses for what happened next. I bought them. They were comfortable and cute... I thought.

The next day at work I wore them into the office. About half-way through the day I rolled out my chair and stood, stretching out the kinks of too long at a computer. Sitting down I looked at my feet, admiring my the shine of the orange on my new shoes. Turning my foot to the side, I saw them. A whole row of them. Little grey skulls and crossbones grinned back at me, mocking me. I laughed out loud. Then I texted my sister. This sort of hilarity cannot be suffered alone.

Today I wore the shoes again. Ah. Why not?!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Learning In the South

1. What on earth does it mean when someone says they want to "hug your neck"? I know it's meant well but every time I hear the phrase I can't help but imagine them coming over and trying to strangle me in the crook of their elbow.

2. I was introduced as an official member of the church this morning. Afterwards I had several ladies (whom I had met before) welcome me to the "family" and say they were so happy to have a new "sister". This I found ridiculous. It frustrated me to the point of silence. Don't be mean to the well-meaning dears... Bless her heart. But really, people, I was a sister and part of the family before today, honestly. You'd have thought I was pagan before today when I did nothing more than stand in front of the church smiling. If only they cared that much about those who are actually pagans.

3.  Fireflies, or lightning bugs, as they are termed here, are just about the most enchanting things. I sit staring out the window and the outdoors sparkle in the night. How cool is that? When I drive home at dusk it's a fairyland of glitter floating and blinking in the air. Only the children have the sense to run about wild chasing the magic bits of light.

4. I laid on the grass in the rain last week. It was hot out. The rain was warm. This feels like a complete and total impossibility and yet it is true if my senses are not completely unreliable. Warm rain? Warm air while it's raining? God was brilliant to have invented this. I imagine children would want to run about in the rain, but I have never seen any so I think their parents must worry about them getting struck by lightning. I am not fazed by this possibility, but I still don't carry a metal umbrella.

5. I downloaded twenty-five podcast lessons in Spanish. Who knew that the South would inspire that in me, eh? But after being filled with joy at corralling a handful of four-year-old's who didn't speak English, I was in love. And in love with the possibilities. There's nothing like last minute fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants chaos filled laughter and snuggles and smiles to make life good and Spanish worth learning.

6. I like fresh honey.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Aborting Our Lives

The reason our culture accepts abortion so easily is that adults have ceased to live.

People are told that sex is life and when that doesn't satisfy there is nothing else to be done. Rather than having a kid who has a hard or even average life we say that abortion is better because it would be better for them never to be born. I think many people wish they had never been born. If we truly lived and were fully alive then we wouldn't look at even a hard life as something of no value.

Even Christians who fight abortion seem to have no answer to the suffering ache and grief of life. We stand useless, the screen door on the submarine, wondering at our own lives and failing to live. I know because I do the same more often than I would like. I forget to find the joy in the pain, the hope of God in the nauseating sorrow, and instead work to drown in all out with another book, TV show, or row of stitches. I am willing to seek numbness rather than face the sharp pain of joy. I am willing to trap myself in a small cocoon world and stay there instead of living life the way God has meant it to be, full of fire and glory.  

To see the God of the Universe is like Isaiah said it was: There was incredible pain and shame and humility at seeing his own sin in the presence of God's holiness. There was joy at being spoken to by God. There was pain at the fire of the hot coal being pressed to his lips. Then joy at being cleansed and ordered by God. And then sorrow at the sins of the people. And finally joy at the coming of the Messiah. 

One does not come without the other, they are inseparable. And when we choose to see only the pain, life itself feels unendurable. When we only listen to the sad part of the story and forget the parts of the story to come, we live without life. And in doing so, we abort our own lives, the gifts God has so graciously given us.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

How Dr. Who Helped Me Fall in Love with Jesus (More and Again)

I know, I know, it sounds crazy. Maybe I'm crazy. If so, I'm ok with that. I tell people that I don't suffer from insanity; I enjoy every minute of it.

Life gets hard sometimes. Sometimes, no matter how much God has given you, you go through a period of wondering where he went and whether or not you can make it for however many days God has you left on this earth. Sometimes nothing makes sense and God feels distant. I'm not saying he IS distant, I'm just saying it feels that way. And all the little lies (you'd see the big ones!) start to creep in, and like little bits of fog they cloud your vision of the Almighty. Yeah. Sometimes life is like that. And you need a reminder, a concrete picture to remind you of this father, king, lover, brother, husband God. And God uses different things, often the things we don't expect to show us that he's there and to remind us that he is who he's always been.

So, I've been watching Dr. Who. And there's an episode where (spoilers alert) the Doctor stands out as a
Christ figure. Shortly after coming back to life (sort of) the Doctor begins to speak to the criminal, called the "Master". Now the Doctor has been tortured for a year while this Master has been routinely slaughtering a large portion of Earth's population. And the Doctor says, "You know what happens now. Because you wouldn't listen. You know what I'm going to say."
            And the Master flees crying out, "No! No! It's not fair! No!" He cowers against a wall.           
            And the Doctor goes over, wraps his arms around this murderer and says, "I forgive you."
            The Master begs to know what will be done with him, and the Doctor says that he will come and live with him in the Tardis (his spaceship) and the Doctor would take care of him. When someone shoots the Master he has the choice to heal himself (regenerate) and live with the Doctor or to die. The Doctor pleads for him with tears. And the Master, refusing the forgiveness and the new life offered him, dies. And the Doctor weeps.

And in this, I see massively unconditional love. Forgiveness which is certainly not deserved. An offer to spend the rest of time with the healer and protector. I see Jesus standing over Jerusalem, weeping and saying that he has longed to gather them as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but they would not. If you've met that Love, how can you refuse it? If you've known it, seen it, felt it, not even a cloud can make you believe it's not there. Now, I'm not saying Dr. Who is Jesus. But here, he was a Christ figure. And when Dr. Who pointed, I saw more clearly whom he was pointing at. 

Monday, July 01, 2013


It was my little brother who first made me think that supporting a kid through Compassion International was a real possibility. After all, if a penniless college student could find a way to scrape together $38 a month, then anyone could.

Really, the decision was easy for me. I knew I wanted to give back. After all, so many people had given to me over the years, and I loved being able to give to kids. Here in Nashville that's one of the things I miss most: my kids. So signing up for a Compassion child was one of the first things I did after acquiring furniture. Like I said, the decision to do it was much easier than actually picking a child.

There's not enough to know about a child or who a child will be from the short blurbs. You know what they look like, how old they are, where they live, and how long they've been waiting. But with so many, how do you even begin? I visited the Compassion website multiple times over the course of a couple of weeks, praying. They don't have Iraqi kids.

Then I remembered. Firm dark hands, hope from a meal, a magic show on the spreading flat roof of the house, and trying to convince the watermelon man that I really did want ten watermelons, not 10 kilos of watermelon. The Bangladeshi workers were a poignant blip in my Iraqi time. Their slave trade in the country was largely inhibited through the influence of several NGOs drawing a bit too much attention to the workers. One of my teammates even visited Bangladesh and came back wearing the Bangladeshi man-skirts in a blue plaid that made everyone think of sheets.

Anyway, my thoughts traveled down those same paths and farther (because I let them), and then I knew. I also loved the Bangladeshis. I'd prayed for them for years. So, I picked a girl from Bangladesh. Her birthday is the same day as my man-skirt friend, so it will be easier to remember. Her name is Sushri and she's only five. I'm excited to see her grow and watch what God does in her life. I'm really happy and I've gotten a couple of letters from her.

But now? One is not enough... I'm not going to find another girl in Bangladesh with that birthday.

How would you choose?

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Favorite People

Have you ever had favorite people? I don't mean that you play favorites with them, or that they are necessarily "better" people. But that there are people in the world whose very presence can make life better because of the way their personality or behavior triggers some joy in yours. 

I'm not explaining this well.

I know a man, almost like a second father, who I can talk to, who, even if he doesn't give me any advice is just so mellow and ok with things that after I talk to him things are better. I am more at peace. I can sit with him in a corner of the lawn and we can say nothing, and it's  good. These are God qualities; God is like this. And so I appreciate these God qualities in him. 

There are also some boys I know that make me laugh with the antics they come up with. Who thinks of making a race out of drinking a whole Cream Soda and then running up and down the yard? It's almost as bad as the people who intentionally try to swallow cinnamon. And yet, that enthusiasm, thrill in the simple things in life, and the "what if", are all God qualities. God loves the creative and strange and, honestly, who else would have come up with giraffes and platypus and moose and hissing cockroaches. Can't you just see God's enthusiasm?   

There is so much to see and taste and, while I don't recommend drinking fish and creek water, how often do I miss the thrill of living the life God has put in front of me because I am unwilling to sit in silence with God? Because I am unwilling to revel in his creative enthusiasm? When I enjoy these qualities in others do I remember that God is maker and manifester of these qualities?

How about you? Do you have favorite people? How do they remind you of God?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Love in the Bamboo Forest

The tall young man had his arms wrapped around her, her back to his chest. He leaned over toward her ear and said, "You are so important to me, I love you." She didn't seem to respond and half a moment later she had broken free and skipped off to see something else, maybe the lights in the bamboo forest; he followed after. I was sort of disappointed in her. She couldn't just enjoy her place in his arms for a moment?

And then it hit me.

That's how I so often treat God. 

He speaks love to me, wraps me up in his love, cares for my every need, and instead of resting in that love I am always pushing on to something else. Sometimes it is even something good and beautiful I move towards. Its just that I forget to say thank you, I love you, too, or even acknowledge the lavish outpouring of his grace upon me. I have become so accustomed to his love that I take it for granted. And that's what I need to remember, that it has been granted to me, a great and precious gift, one meant to be enjoyed.

So, now what? A good reminder, sure, but how can I remember in the future? I'm sure it has to do with being thankful, seeing God's gifts. But I honestly don't know. I'm foolish. I will forget. But, for now, I remember and am grateful. God bends down to earth and tells me that he loves me and cares for me and I am so happy.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Hands Open, Face Up

Just over a year ago I was grieving on the beach in Turkey. Yeah, I know, if you've got to be grieving the Mediterranean is a pretty great place to be. But even in a great and lovely place I needed God to remind me of his presence and his love.

I sat and sifted sand and pebbles looking for sea glass. I prayed.

God? Can I find a piece of sea glass? I know you love me. But can you show me your love this way today? 

And I dug and sifted and spread out the warm rocks. And yes, I found a piece of sea glass. I rejoiced over that one piece of sea glass, but I didn't stop looking for more. It wasn't that the one piece of sea glass wasn't enough. I already knew God loved me. But I couldn't help asking for another.

God can I find more sea glass? Please?

And I did. And I reveled in each one and God and I were happy together. I was basking in his love and he was full of joy at my asking and at my joy in receiving his love. It was all so simple and found in little smooth bits of trash.

That love was a child-like, father trusting, contented love, the kind of love that is free and joyful and humble. There was no presumption, just trust.

I wish I lived like that always, hands open, face up.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Can the name “Jesus” be said out loud?

I was reading an article when I came across those words. "Can the name 'Jesus' be said out loud?" Wow, really? This is what some people are wondering these days?

The person was writing saying that "People of Faith Should Oppose Official Prayer at Graduation Ceremonies". And while I feel that that lie has circulated enough over the years, I felt that the earlier question was both more real and more poignant. She hit at the heart of the issue, the true core: Jesus. No talking to him, no talking about him. If we pretend really really hard, maybe he won't exist.

Lots of people are willing to talk about God, spirituality, or religion. Using these words we can easily assume whatever definition we want and put those concepts into our worldview puzzles like pieces of putty, forming them into shapes that fit the hole we think we have open. But once you mention Jesus, you are dealing with a concrete historical figure that made serious truth claims. You can't mold Jesus nearly as easily because he said things and did things that are pretty significant. You are limited by certain facts of history (although some try to change those, too). And the mention of Jesus also draws lines between religions, specifying down to Christianity itself, and our pluralistic society doesn't like that either.

As much as the people who are asking this question think they are preserving "secular" culture, they are really showing their fear. Even the name of Jesus has power. The name of Jesus cannot even be spoken without his power being made known in the world. We do not limit the saying of the names of other great men in the world. No one questions the naming of Einstein, Ghandi, Socrates, or Alexander the Great. But, Jesus, yes. Why? Because his name matters.

What do you think? Should people say the name of Jesus? Who do you say he is?

Friday, May 24, 2013


I am most afraid of forgetting.

I have learned so much. I have come so far. The Israelites saw the Red Sea parted as they walked through and yet, not so much longer they were wanting to turn back.

I've seen things like that.

How long will it take me?

May it not be so.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


My mini vacation was lovely.

The weather was perfect, the trees were evergreens, the hiking refreshing, and the company better than you can imagine.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Joy is a Chance to Die

(Skip to about half-way for the start of the song.)

I first heard this song this weekend. Wetfaced, my heart broke over my own sorrows sure, but even more so my sin. I was reminded of the truth that God's ways are not our ways and that sorrow and pain are not exclusive of each other. But in this I realized my own pride and how I had begun living according to a lie.

You see, the way of the world can be so alluring, so "reasonable". We are told to be assertive, confident, push for the best pay, the best situation, the best treatment. "You deserve it," is slyly whispered in the ear and I believed it. I traded the truth for a lie.

My thoughts had become consumed with what I wanted and what was best for ME. And I had become my own god. Death to my desires or wants was not even tickling the back part of my mind. And then suddenly opening before me like clouds parting to let the sun through... I remembered. I think it was her story of waiting for her father's faith and then the grief and pain and joy all rolling together that spoke to me of the truth I've known for years. God's way is not our way.

Our way is proud, happiness is based on circumstances, and we each should fight for our due, what we think we deserve for what we've put in. How drastically contrasted is that from the truth of the slave who works hard without thanks and says "I was only doing my duty." Far too many people live this lie and speak this lie to others.

There is more to this thought and how to apply this truth that I'm still working on. But I am reminded of one of my favorite books titled "A Chance To Die". This is what real life is, a chance to die to self. And it is in those moments that I find myself most happy because it is in those moments that I am most in tune with God's way rather than my own.

Monday, May 13, 2013

What If?

What if Christians really believed what they said they did? 

What if Christians regularly portrayed the truth that they had personally encountered the God of the Universe?

What if Christians treated other people as if they were made in the image of God, no matter what they said or did that we disagreed with?

What if Christian parents loved and raised their children to understand and engage in the world without sheltering them out of fear?

What if Christians prayed for their neighbors, expecting God to bring them in contact with each other, expecting God to bring up their needs and ways to serve?

What if Christians met Lisa, the chatty pack-a-day smoker with wrinkled hands and face and a missing tooth, and loved her in spite of themselves, and soon she, who hated all things churchy, came to church and came again and again?

What if Christians met Noni, their Iranian neighbor with a fluffy white dog, and talked to her even though they were going to have worse traffic because they'd be late. And they found out that Noni needed her lawn mowed because her mower guy was sick. And then were blessed by God to somehow to defy time and make it to work on time anyway?

What if Christians prayed in faith and then walked in faith, even when God called them to do uncomfortable things like talk to strangers about lawn mowers or Jesus? 

What if Christians really valued living and walking and talking with God more than any of the earthly good gifts God gives?

What if...

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Questions of American Identity

As much as we'd rather not admit it, we judge people. Everyone does. You can tell the criteria of that judgement by comments and questions both. Here in the U.S. it is first one's profession. The question is, "What do you do?" And even if you don't think less of a person necessarily for their job, you do form your ideas about what that person likes, dislikes, and is good at from what you've learned from their answer.

Even when not asked this question, Americans answer it because it is the standard. Sit in a room of strangers and tell each one to tell a little about himself. You'll get several things most often, where he is from, what he does for work, his marital status (he'll mention it if he's married), and, of course, his name. (And if you live in the South, you'll get both first and last name.)

Perhaps in Iraq these things are similar, although if you asked them where they were from they'd all give the same answer. But for me, being a blond, white, American female, it was these most obvious characteristics that shaped what people asked me about and how they perceived me. My profession occasionally came up, my marital status was responded to with shock and confusion, and where I was from was guessed at wrongly about half the time. (Do I look German to you all?) But those questions always came later. First things first, after all.

First was always, "How do you like Kurdistan?" Or for the less linguistically capable, "Hello, Goodbye, I love you!" Then came surprise and laughter at my Kurdish speaking. Lots of laughter and smiles. I would smile too if it were a woman, nod, chuckle a little, and then they would tell my I was beautiful and so white. Then the women would ask me what color of hair dye I used (sorry, ladies) and where I got it. Then they would tell me I was fat, which was a compliment to them (it took a while to get used to that one).

Then eventually we'd get to all the normal questions, but they would be passed over quickly to get to topics like picnics, the weather, beautiful places around Kurdistan, Presidents Bush or Obama, whether or not I liked Yaprax, tea with lots of sugar, and lots and lots of rice. I never felt isolated or separated by Kurdish families for my differences, for being single, for not having a prestigious job. To them, I was a foreigner first, and that meant a chance to show off the wonders of their world and inquire into the oddities of mine. It was good.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Morning Poem

Rubies streak across the black asphalt,
The other side glitters with crystals, crushed.
Tires run smooth over the sparkle,
Eyes squint seeking between the orbs
But blind to each diamond drip dropping.
Sheer misty multitudes obscuring
The far lands and closing us in 
To this immediate and momentary world where we
Slowly go, careful and afraid, cautious
To guard our plans from sliding on the shining slick
Roadway, all wet with plashy puddles and rain.
Ignoring the glory invisible to our dull eyes
Trapped in the bland gray clouded vision
Instead of being made free by the beauty
Of the silver-lined cloud itself.

Saturday, May 04, 2013

A Pile of Hats

I don't like doing nothing with my hands... or my mind... audio books and TV shows streamed online are an escape mechanism for me. But the hands...what will the hands do? They crochet or cross stitch. It's been more crochet for the last few months. This has meant that the pile of hats I've made has grown. I thought at first I could give them away as gifts. But, I don't have that many hat wearing friends and its getting on into summer here, so it's just not ideal. So, what's a girl to do?

Back in January I decided to set up an Etsy shop. I looked and poked and signed up, but then I never did anything with it. Until today. I finally photographed my hats. It felt like it took forever but I got five put up online. I think I have another eight or nine, but I figured I'd start there. You can see them at I have no idea if they are sale-able, but I figured if I even sold a couple that would both clear out space in my cupboard as well as buy a couple more skeins of yarn. Maybe I need a bigger project. Do people crochet blankets? I'll have to look into that.

Part of the kick in the pants was the fact that one of my dear friends also started up an Etsy shop. We've been telling her she should for ages! She is one of the most talented and creative young ladies I have ever known and her jewelry is stunning. I can't wait for her to post more things, but you should check out what she has at

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Pot "Luck"

The potluck is one of those unique cultural events in the United States that has a whole host of usually unspoken rules and expectations associated with it. The word originated in the 1590's and generally just meant a meal where there was no planned menu and so there was some level of "luck" or chance as to what might be in the pot.

The no planned menu fits in with our modern American concept of the potluck, where participants generally bring dishes without planning some sort of cohesive whole one with another. While there may be some discussion about what sorts of dishes might be brought, there is no proscriptive list of requirements. As a side note, this is where Kurdish potlucks differ, meaning that everyone organizes what food will be brought to a picnic so that there is always the yaprax, bryani, rice, kifta, and cake. There is no luck left in that pot unless you include the fact that it has sat warm on a bus for hours before you eat it.

The American potluck has just as many rules but all carefully cloaked in the filmy garb of individualistic freedom that we are so fond of. First, women bring the food. Single men are congratulated if they bring a 2-liter of soda or a stack of paper plates. Second, one must bring ample amounts of food, not merely enough to serve your own family but usually enough for at least 30 people. Third, everyone else will definitely be judging you on what you brought by both how well they liked it and by how much is left over when the meal is finished. Since everyone eats a lot at potlucks (another unwritten rule) if there is very much of your food left over, it must be a dud.

There are many more unspoken rules but some are based primarily on more local culture. I have noticed that here in the South, vegetables, unless done as a veggie platter, must have butter, whereas, in the Northwest, they must not have butter. Also along those lines, fried food is far more popular in the South. I had never seen anyone bring restaurant fried chicken to a potluck before until I lived in Nashville. Along with that, a lot of my friends are also seriously into various types of health food and healthy eating. No community is completely homogeneous. I'm sure if I went further south or to the Northeast other variations would appear.

Knowing that there are these unspoken cultural rules, while often a blessing, can also be a curse. I always felt like I knew what to bring to a potluck in the Northwest (we almost always had breakfast ones), now I can easily be paralyzed by all the unknown possibilities. How does one play the rules of this particular game? In this city? With these people? How does one serve the vegan, gluten free, butter loving, organic, almond milk, fried chicken people? And you wonder why I find this intimidating! (And I haven't even gotten to the pressure I've heard other single women talk about where they feel like their potential wife skills are being judged by what they bring to the potluck.)

I'll be honest. I have no idea. But I'll be going to the potluck this Sunday. And I'll bring something. Any suggestions?

Sunday, April 28, 2013

"Single" Minded Contentment

I don't remember where I first heard about it. I probably thought it was stupid or only for girls who were self-absorbed or something. Maybe they were a bit smarmy or sentimental. But, knowing myself, I had probably thought I'd never do that. But then years later, living in Iraq, when the budget allowed I started. It wasn't out of some claim to my self-worth, but rather out of the joy in it, I think. But over time is has come to mean more than that.

Some girls do the same thing in affirming their adulthood by buying a queen size bed, others go out to eat at a fancy restaurant, but I... I buy myself flowers.

Anyone who knows me for very long will know that I love flowers. In fact, even in high school I was told that I was "all about God and flowers". (Part of me was irked at being so easily defined, but alas, it's true.) So, I realized that buying something beautiful that I enjoy was not something relegated for the mystical world of marriage. God made beautiful flowers to be enjoyed and appreciated; God gave me money enough that I could spend on flowers; God gave me a love of flowers; God gave me flowers. It takes a step of confidence to decide that as a single woman you can still have nice things in your life.

I know that I've been graced with many friends who know my delight in flowers. The flowers pictured here were a gift, after all. But God has given us so much beauty in the world and I don't need a husband or a boyfriend to enjoy the good gifts that God gives.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A Year

It's been a year since I left Suly.

It's hard to comprehend.

It feels like I was there yesterday. I can imagine it all so clearly, the smell of kerosene in winter and the warm settling of dust over everything in summer. The chatter in the bazaar, the kisses on both my cheeks of wrinkled smiling women, several sets of small arms wrapped tightly around my waist hugging love, and so so much more.

It feels like a lifetime ago and sometimes I wonder if it was really real or all just a dream, a really good dream  with a nightmare at the end that caused me to wake with a start.

The wounds are real even though there is no external presentation of them. I have nothing to show to people to explain the hurt, no jagged lines on my skin to represent what's inside. And that's ok.

More and more I've begun to realize that everyone has a story. Most adults carry themes of pain from their past. Just because I can't see the scars doesn't mean that they aren't there.

I'd really like to tell these stories some day. People need to know that life is hard and real for people other than themselves... but in such a way as also speaks the truth of God's presence in suffering.

The health and wealth gospel people would like to say that God will give you a good life if you follow Him. Others look to Scripture and see only the suffering. The thing is, both are true. It's just that a "good" life doesn't look like what we think it does; and suffering doesn't mean that the rejoicing is ended.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Waking to Tears

All of us born into this world have cried ourselves to sleep. Generally this gets less as we get into adulthood; but it ebbs and flows a bit even then (at least in my experience). But I had a new experience this past week as I woke up crying. This is rather unusual for me. It was connected to a rather long and complicated dream that involved wandering around in a dimly lit church and peering through windows into various rooms. I think I was looking for where I was supposed to be and I didn't really have a clue where that "room" was nor did I know what it would look like when I got there. I finally ended up in a room with two of my dear friends where we watched some sort of video on a laptop that seemed to have no bearing on the rest of the dream except that by the end of it I was sobbing and begging my friends to let me go home and just to send me home.

It was this longing and anguish of heart that I woke with. I was surprised to find my face wet and my pillow wetter. It was strange because the intensity of the feeling was so strong that it feels almost foreign to me and detached from myself. I can feel it even now remembering the dream, but nothing in my life currently corresponds with that level of emotion. Sure, I miss Iraq and the people there, it feels a bit like home, but God hasn't sent me back there and most of the time I'm ok with that. It isn't my hometown because that hasn't felt like home in years. Where else could it be? 

I may be a bit of a mystic, I guess, but I think taken in context I want to go Home as in, with God. I don't know my purpose or my future here on Earth, I am tired of sin and corruption and evil and never fitting in anywhere. It isn't that my life here is difficult because it isn't. It isn't that I'm not loved and cared for, because I am. It's just that I know it will be so much better to be with God. I feel like I know the taste of Paul's words that he would rather be at home with the Lord. And yet, I also know that, for now at least, he has not chosen for me to be there, but here. So I must be patient even though I wake with tears. 
"For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.
So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil." ~from 2 Corinthians 5

Friday, April 19, 2013

Men in Suits

Someone was talking to me about singleness and finding a man the other day and I realized that I had suddenly become depressed. Now, this is a topic that hasn't made me sad in quite some time; enough other things have been going on that being single hasn't bothered me.

At first I couldn't figure out what it was about this conversation that affected it me. I went over each part... it was all fairly normal: having a career, not being in control, men attached to perpetual adolescence, trusting God. I've had this conversation before. Then it hit me. It all came down to a comment about how I should visit a certain church because the men there must be mature because they were the type who wear suits and ties to church. *Cough*


Now maybe it's true that they are mature... but they are also something else... the type that wear suits and ties to church! I'm no legalist, I realize that wearing a suit and tie to church certainly isn't a sign that they are stuffy, up-tight, overly concerned about... whatever. But is that the only way to find someone who's not a kid? And somehow in this Southern culture is that how you signal that you've grown up?

I mentioned this distressing conversation to some people who know me well and they laughed. It made me glad. They told me that it was ok because I wasn't a suit and tie kind of girl. That's not the only option left out there for me. And it's true, God knows me and knows what I will be attracted to and what I need, so there's no use getting glum about it all. Nothing is impossible for God so it's not impossible for God to have made a man who is both mature and doesn't wear a suit and tie to church.

Men's Tie by George Hodan

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

December 2, 2005

...But what all this comes to is being unsure about knowing God's will next for me. Right now I want to go to Iraq with a group that runs Classical Christian Schools. But how do I know if I should pursue it and what if I fail? I am so afraid. I am afraid because this opportunity looks so perfect~but other things have looked like a perfect fit too. I don't know if I am just doubting myself, doubting my ability to know God's will, or doubting God, his ability to give me direction. So many times I hear or read that God has a plan for my life... but so often I feel that he has plans for everyone else's lives and God tells me, "Okay, you get to make your own choices and do whatever you want and if it is terrible, too bad!" HA! It works! That was a majorly stupid thought. The lie is so much more obvious when it's on paper. But I do feel somewhat adrift all the same. 

Reflecting again on these things. It is good to see how God did direct me and did have a plan and still does, even when I don't feel it. It is still true that writing out thoughts often shows how foolish they are and the lies are easier to distinguish. But it is also encouraging to me that I haven't felt this way in a long time. I don't know what God is doing with me, but I do not feel adrift. I feel solidly planted on firm ground rather than all storm-tossed by the uncertainty of my future. God is good.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Journal -- November 29, 2005

This is the first time I mention going to Iraq in my Journal. I've been reading through it... tracing God's grace.

It is fascinating how fast things can change in my heart. But really, I had made the mistake of dwelling on the past and memories and could-haves. My heart is again with the Lord and free. It has been snowing today--the first real snow  and it is so magnificently beautiful that I have been dancing and singing all day. God is so good and even better when we are in tune with Him.

Most of my thoughts have been with where God might want me to go after I graduate in May. If I had my choice I'd go overseas. Right now, I am exploring a Classical Christian School in Iraq. There are dangers and I don't know what God wants me to do, but I am seeking. God has promised that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. I still don't know what god has for my future, but I become more and more excited as different possibilities arise. What next?

"Whatsoever Thou sayest unto me, by Thy grace I will do it. This is my vow." Amy Carmichael

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Personal Property

Americans can get very worked up about personal property. Those who have it don't want it taken away; those without want to get it from others but then not have it taken away from themselves. The government tries to holler over like an exhausted teacher from the other side of the classroom and solve things by making things "fair". And as noble as that all seems they fail miserably.

So one kid complains wanting the teacher to do more and the other kid less. The real problem is that the kids are fighting over something that never really belonged to either of them nor does it belong to the teacher.  Thus are Americans wrapped up in their ownership of the Earth instead of realizing that the Earth is the Lord's and we are merely stewards. Sure, there are economics involved, practical considerations governing earthly recognition of ownership. But how would we as people behave differently if we looked at material goods as a blessing instead of a right?

Friday, March 29, 2013

The South

I stopped by the bank this morning to drop off some checks.

It was like most bank experiences up until the small talk part of the deposit transaction. You know, that part where you talk about the weather or where you are from or any big non-controversial news items. But today, the lady flung a new question at me.

"So, what are your plans for Easter?"

Me? Plans for Easter? You're assuming I celebrate Easter. You're assuming I make plans for Easter. You asked me about a Christian holiday!

I think the lady probably thought I was insane as I sat there gaping in silence.

"Um... I'm just hanging out with some friends," I sputtered.

"Oh, that'll be fun!" she enthused.

This whole thing would never have happened in any other place I've lived.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

So much...

My mind has been crowded lately. A cluttered mix of thoughts swirl, crystallizing for moments only to be broken apart, caught and crushed by the turbulent movement of ideas, knowledge, words.

How do you create an argument, a full fabric, when your real skill is unraveling the knit and purl of worldview? When you see the flaw in each premise and statement that people produce. How do you choose not to be overly critical? How do you hold onto joy? Peace?

It's the peace that's hardest to grasp in my mental cacophony. There are too many tunes being played at once and I don't know how to shut it off.

So I pray.
I beg.
God be with me.
Create space.

Give me the ability to think one thought at a time--the thought You want me to be thinking. Help me to hold that thought and not be distracted by the idols of material goods, the dreams of the past, the conflicts of the present, or the fears of the future.

I take Ann Voskamp's advice (or rather, I try to). Slow down. "Life is not an emergency." I don't think it is. But my mind sometimes runs as if it is. Deep breath.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


The gay rights movement has not only co-opted the term freedom, but also placed before the people a concrete picture of that definition of freedom through the media. Both TV and movies help shape cultural and ideological identity because they hit us with STORY, and story is one of the ways God speaks to the deepest parts of who we are. If Christians want to reach culture they must tell good stories and not only draw people in with those stories, but also teach a fundamentally different worldview, a worldview that points to truth. 

Saturday, March 09, 2013


I went to a talk this week by Eric Metaxes, the author of the largest biography I have ever read. His book, "Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Prophet, Martyr, Spy" has sold hundreds of thousands of copies which is surprising considering that the book is a hefty six-hundred pages of non-fiction. Metaxes, however, is engaging both as a writer and as a speaker. Here in Nashville he had the whole crowd singing some sort of popular song of the Hee-Haw genre. As clueless as I felt, I appreciated his connection to the predominate culture of his audience.

What I really realized during his talk was that history has some incredibly uncommon heroes who countered culture with courage and bravery. The reason they fought for the weak and oppressed was they held certain truths to be more important than popular opinion and they were able to do that because of their faith in a higher power and a higher authority. Dietrich Bonhoeffer (part of the plot to assassinate Hitler) fought for the rights of Jews in Germany years before war was even a consideration. He opposed his polite culture and power-hungry government because his belief said that Jews and Gentiles were equal in the sight of God.  William Wilberforce's faith directed him to stand against the prevailing opinion that Africans were a subhuman people that should be exploited for British empire building.  Today we honor these men for their stances, whether or not they appeared successful. 

Today our culture sits in the same place, but in this case instead of picking a race that we can persecute we have picked our own unborn. And while there are still many people in the USA that oppose abortion, very few are willing to speak up in public against it. This should cause each of us to re-examine ourselves. Are we the kind of people that would allow Jewish Christians to be banned from the church if our government required it? German believers did.  As soon as we allow our own comfort to trump our convictions all is lost already. 

Monday, March 04, 2013

The Worth of People on the Internet

Who are these people?  Who are they really?

Each one has their own story, each young person has their own struggle with who they are and who they should be. Whether she survived a mother's suicide attempt in the womb or whether she was brought into the world with special attention and care, each girl is a miracle. Whether he turns into a world famous celebrity adored by children around the world or whether he only impacts the lives of thirty kids in a classroom, his life has meaning. This is the Christian view because how we came into the world or what we do with our lives is not what defines our worth. Our worth is based on the fact that each of us was made in the image of God.  And as bearers of that image we owe honor to men and women alike, because that image is of utmost importance. Therefore, when people destroy and pervert that representation of God's image, we cannot stand by idly. But neither do we have permission to degrade that image ourselves through vicious and unkind rhetoric.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Prayer and God's Favor

I was reading the blog of an atheist pro-life advocate. It was really interesting to see him approach a concept that most people associate with religious beliefs. But on one of his completely unrelated posts he said this:

"I don't understand what the fascination with prayer is. Is it not an arrogant practice? Is it not egotistical to think that I have a personal relationship with the creator of the universe who will give me anything I ask for?"

And I admit, it made me laugh because I identified with it. It certainly isn't true, because God won't give me anything I ask for. But I think I sometimes forget how amazingly wonderful and awesome it is that I can talk to the creator of the universe. It's a shocking truth and I should realize that with every encounter. 

There is a hang up with his thought of egotism. Aren't I awefully proud to say this is true, like someone who is friends with a celebrity and gets invited to walk the red carpet? But I didn't invite myself. He asked me. When the President personally invites you to the White House, you don't refuse.

I suppose he could say that the idea of the President having any clue who you are and inviting you... thinking that is true is thinking too highly of yourself. But that assumes that it is a delusion and not actually true. I could tell people that I was invited to the White House... and you could think I was crazy... as long as it wasn't actually true. 

Aside from his comments I've been working through some issues having to do with how much God loves me. Because, really, He loves me so much. It isn't fair. How come He doesn't seem to love others as much as He loves me? He takes such good care of me. It's insane to think that this is all true... not only can I talk to the creator of the universe but he talks back and sends good things and skiffs of snow in the morning and love. It's like a fairy tale with a princess who doesn't start out beautiful but rather begins as an old witch. But then, as the prince loves her she slowly turns into a princess. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Day God Told me to Pray for a Celebrity

Does God ever ask you to do strange things? Uncomfortable things? Inexplicable things? He does to me. I remember arguing with God in an English class about a goth girl he wanted me to talk to. He didn't really know what he was asking, did he? He didn't realize that this girl wanted nothing to do with this blonde girl dressed in pink and khaki. I remember other instances like that too. But you know, God was always right. So I've gotten in the habit of accepting what he says even if it feels totally off the wall. I thought I'd gotten used to his requests for me to talk to strangers, ask hard questions, and share honestly of my life. Then he told me to pray for Nicki Minaj.

Most of you probably don't have a clue who she is. And honestly, I don't know much either. I watched her briefly as a judge on American Idol and my friend Robin said she might be demon possessed. She's definitely odd with her hats and colored wigs and clamoring for attention. I didn't give her a second thought then. But several days ago I was researching and thinking about freedom and  how the truth sets free and how lies are a prison.  It all makes sense in my head and as I was working through the many facets I came across her song "Freedom" which I cannot recommend because the lyrics are rather explicit.

But her song made me cry. It wasn't supposed to. She didn't write it to do that. Suddenly I had a new vision of this young woman as she sang and rapped. The verses are all about how trapped she is by the expectations of others, by her own pride, by her comparisons of herself to a savior figure. Then the hook is all about how she feels free... she feels freedom. But the melody is so mournful. The combination is heartbreaking. She seems to be grasping for freedom so desperately and yet doesn't know where to find it. I am so blessed to have found true freedom!

And as I pitied her, grieved for her, God said, Why don't you pray for her? And again I was surprised by God's request. It feels silly to pray for someone so far off, so removed from anything in my life. But is it really any different from praying for the President? For foreign rulers? Do I really think that God's arm is so short that he cannot use my prayers in the life of this sad woman? Of course not!

So, I pray. I wait. I wonder if I'll ever see what God is doing in her life, because I have no doubts that he's doing something. 

Saturday, January 19, 2013


This has been my latest obsession... crochet hats. I'm so excited about the new patterns I've found that I'm going to try!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Signifigant.... Significant... Signifi...whatever...

I really enjoy words. I like to read strange dictionaries and I'm a stickler for good spelling. The spelling is part of a word's character and personality. But some words may be schizophrenic because I cannot remember how to spell them. My personal nemesis is significant. I always debate over whether that "c" is a "g" and if I'm writing on paper I may write it down both ways to see which one looks "right". All I can remember is that most times I pick wrongly. Which one do I usually pick? Is it that one? Or the other? Oh... fail.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013


Receive.... I would say that this is the core of what I've been learning here in the US these past few months. I've been learning to just receive love, receive care, and receive them with grace instead of protestations. I think we are all pressed to deserve what we are given... to be loved for our accomplishments. But God's love is not that way. And since I have been slid into a position where I have been loved and cared for by people who really don't know me, I have learned that sometimes that's the way God works. To deny these gifts would also be to deny His Gift of Himself. Undeserved love... it's a good thing. It is humbling, and that can make it hard. But when I see that it is really God who is providing it, it's okay, because it's hard not to be humble when faced with God himself. So, while I know this is a lesson I will have to work on and learn again, I am happy to have learned some small measure of it now. It is a blessing to receive God's love.