Wednesday, April 3, 2013

California Dreamin' (Spring Break Camping Trip)

Finally...arrived in Carpinteria. Chilling on the beach.

Enjoying the sunset.

Adrian ready to dig into smores at our next stop: San Simeon

Our lovely tent.

A lovely morning walk in Cambria

I think this might be on our way back from Monterey.
I seriously could not believe this was California.

A quick little hike/walk to see this little waterfall.

Next stop: Morro Bay. Another morning walk.

Why yes, folks, those are my blue sweats.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Here We Come

Being married is an adventure. It is one big, crazy aspect of the life-adventure. And it's wonderful. (Didn't the movie UP teach us this?)

My favorite part of being married is taking adventures together. I love date-adventures, late night boredom-adventures, stepping-out-into-the-wild-unknown-adventures, and exploratory-adventures. My husband is my best friend in the world. He is my partner in crime, my companion in silliness, and my adventure buddy. I hope we get to spend the rest of our days laughing and discovering together.

In these next few years, as we continue in our seminary-adventure, we've got a list of trip-adventures we'd love to make happen. We have no idea whether they will or not, because we have no idea what our master adventure planner has in store for us, but this week we're hoping to scratch one off the list.

We're heading out on a camping trip up the coast of California for Adrian's spring break, and though there are parts of me that are worried and somewhat terrified, Adrian's enthusiasm never fails to make me excited. So, whether or not the weather cooperates, we have all the food we need, and we have any idea what we're doing or where we're going, we're in it together. We're going to drive the coast and see what's waiting for us. Adventure is out there, folks. Here's to not being afraid of enjoying it!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Miserables

Like many others last week, I made it out to the theaters to see Les Miserables. It is one of my favorite stories. It was assigned to me as summer reading my senior year of high school, and like the high schooler that I was, I put it off reading it until 5 days before school began. I read it (abridged though it was) in 5 days.
Last year I was introduced to the musical of Les Miserables. I had seen the year before (so back in 2012) that Les Miserables would be performed in L.A. the next summer and somehow I convinced my fiancé to plan on going to see it in those first couple of months of our marriage. We bought tickets, bought the soundtrack, listened to all the music, had no idea what it was about, and went to enjoy our experience of Les Miserables LIVE.

This time around was different. I knew the story, knew the music, knew the way it was performed, yet still I found myself crying embarrassing hacking sobs in the middle of a packed out theater.

As I’ve been considering it the last few days, I realized that one of the most resounding aspects for me of the movie was the ending. Or rather, the lack of what I might consider typical happy ending. Fantine has died much earlier, now many young men have died in a revolution attempt, and instead of ending with the marriage of Cossette and Marius, the story moves to Valjean’s death. He enters the next life with the host of others who have gone before him in the story. The Miserables re-united is how I might sum it up. It is, in many ways, a confusing ending. Marius has just sung, “Oh my friends, my friends, don't ask me what your sacrifice was for.” Now Valjean joins those friends. He joins the ones who have died without bringing about any change. He joins Fantine, who was not even able to see her daughter before her death, though she gave her life for her. He joins Eponine, who dies for one who loves another. He joins the cast of the miserable ones, leaving you emotionally exhausted and perhaps confusingly hopeful.

They were all in heaven, you might think. So that’s a pretty happy ending. But the power of the ending is found in the final words, words easier to miss as you wipe your nose and prepare to leave the theater after nearly 3 hours of mind-numbing sadness.

It is quick. Fantine sings, “Come with me where chains will never bind you, all your grief at last, at last behind you.” And as he enters the chorus of the miserable, the triumph resounds from those with the saddest of beginnings and the most desperate of endings:

Do you hear the people sing?
Lost in the valley of the night
It is the music of a people who are climbing to the light
For the wretched of the earth
There is a flame that never dies
Even the darkest nights will end and the sun will rise

They will live again in freedom in the garden of the lord
They will walk behind the ploughshare
They will put away the sword
The chain will be broken and all men will have their reward!

This is the song of redemption, but it is the song of men who lived and died in misery. They carried their crosses and they felt no relief. They died without their children, with unrequited love, and with no hope of social change. They died in misery, in a bloodbath, conquered by those mightier than them.

The “dark night” you expect to end while the people live does not end. It claims lives. Yet somehow the people still sing, “Even the darkest nights will end and the sun will rise.” They did not live to see it, but they claimed it. They never saw freedom, they died fighting, in slavery, yet now they “live again in freedom…They will put away the sword. The chain will be broken and all men will have their reward.”

Marius has just sung, “Here they sang about `tomorrow' And tomorrow never came.” But here we see that “Somewhere beyond the barricade is there a world you long to see. Do you hear the people sing? Say, do you hear the distant drums? It is the future that they bring when tomorrow comes!”

We cry in Les Miserables because there is no respite. There is no reward. There is no hope. There is misery after misery after misery. This world seems to offer little joy and no real triumph. People die longing for “tomorrow” but tomorrow does not seem to come. They die fighting for a new world, but one does not seem to emerge. But there is a glimpse, a battle cry of relief, as the world they longed for arrives, as they enter into tomorrow.

The ending seems dissonant to our American sensibilities. We only know of good things fought for and gained. Victory seen and grasped. But this is our story. It is victory longed for, died for, not yet realized. It is victory when everything seems to have been lost, when we lose. It is victory after death. It is victory in death. It is redemption in its truest sense: a victory we do not now see and often do not feel; victory accomplished yet long awaited; victory we claim as our own as we join the cast of the miserable ones and look forward to raising the flag with them.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Life Today

I've decided I'm a horrible blogger when it comes to writing about my life. I just don't find it all that interesting. But, I also recognize that part of the reason I started this thing was so I could keep people (somewhat) updated on my life. So, here's a little snapshot of my life today.

I'm sitting on my couch in my PJ's right now, having just finished drinking English Breakfast tea with honey and reading my Bible. I'm almost done with Galatians, which has coincided perfectly with our church Bible studies on grace. We've been talking about the way we live under both God's law and the laws we make for ourselves (or think society makes for us) and are constantly condemned. Last time we talked about the glory of justification and how it really does free us each day from our bondage and fear and guilt.

Sadly, Adrian won't be able to go to Bible study tonight because he is in crazy paper writing mode. He already wrote the majority of one paper this semester, and is halfway done with the second one right now, but he has to finish them both up by Friday. So, I am doing my own thing this week. Last night I got a free movie from redbox and cuddled up in bed eating popcorn. Not exactly the most supportive or productive I could have been, but I quite enjoyed it. Plus, it kept me out of the way and Adrian got through 3 pages. (Side note: I watched Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, and I liked it. But then again, I love Steve Carell. I watch things just because he's in them. Anyways, I thought this had kind of a Dan in Real Life feel, though a bit darker, since, obviously, the world is about to be blown into oblivion.)

I finished my book yesterday morning, which is also partly what led me to my popcorn eating, bed cuddling, movie night. I feel a little crazy when I don't have a book with a strange bookmark in the middle of it because I've been reading it in strange places and at strange times, dying to know where it's going. My latest venture was A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle, and it was so lovely I immediately reserved the sequel at my library. Hopefully I'll make it there today. If you want to read about France, lovely and strange French food, and all sorts of  strange and wonderful French people, I completely recommend the book. It was interesting, charming, and often hilarious. It reminded me of a book I read a while ago by Jack Smith....I think it was called God and Mr. Gomez, unless he wrote other books about the same process of building a house in Mexico. That was hilarious also.

Well, I have to start work here in a few minutes. I'm working on the Christmas newsletter this week, so I'm quite busy, but I'm enjoying it more than usual :) Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to work I go.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Leaves of Glory

I can smell the damp musty decay of the leaves that reminds me of my childhood. It is the smell of ground seeping through sheets of colored glory, moving them towards disintegration. It is the smell of raking with my hands, patting and forming my perfect bed of leaves. It is the smell of lying face upturned, of autumn sky and sadness and dreams, and a cold wetness staining the back of my clothes.

 As I stand, surrounded by heights of orange, red, yellow—leaves slow-dancing in the breeze, gracefully poised in stillness on the ends of thin limbs—I am amazed that there can be so much beauty in the midst of decay. That it is the very process of decay that gives simple leaves wild color strokes. How is it that the decay of leaves is so glorious—so memorable that I can smell its mustiness and be transported back to my time as a girl rolling, leaves clinging to my hair and clothes, in a leaf-bed—while the decay of our own bodies is a slow, sad song? It is pain and suffering and grief. It is watching the person you love turn into someone you don’t recognize anymore. It is standing there wanting them back, yet wishing them forward. It is not knowing what to say and crying when you’re done not saying it. It doesn’t feel like there’s glory in our death.

At least, that’s what my grief told me. I feel like I have never really known grief until this year, and now I have known it twice. Death knocked at my door and grief opened, unknowingly, but quick and fast. Death is recognized in the same instant that grief overtakes. They share the same moment, becoming intertwined and inseparable as they meet at that open door. It is the moment when you too feel as though you are dying.

In spite of this, in a strange and incomprehensible way, there was one death—perhaps one of the most horrific deaths of all time—that was simultaneously glorious.

“So Jesus said to them, ‘When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I AM…” (Jn. 8:28)

“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (Jn. 12:32)

Christ was “lifted up” in a double sense: lifted up on the cross and at the same time lifted up in exaltation. For Christ, his death was his exaltation. It was in moment of his death that God himself was revealed—the one who is called “I AM” and who draws his redeemed to himself.

And this happened so that even though there doesn’t seem to be any glory in our death, there can be. It is a glory that we don’t see, and to be honest, that we don’t really understand. It is not colorful and musty; it is disheartening and painful. It is despair written on the brokenness of our bodies, sin carved in our decay. When we are close to Death, we see the Fall manifested and Glory feels far and unknowable. And that’s because the glory we ache for is not visible to us. It is, as yet, unseen, by those who remain here.

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Cor. 4:16-18).

These verses feel perhaps hopeful when we read them before we do laundry or pack our husband’s lunch. They feel weak when faced with the reality of the cold, stiffness of death. Eternal, unseen glory? Yet my grandma lies scattered, and I’ll never hear her voice on the phone again singing me Happy Birthday. She won’t make us pancakes and gracefully accept our gift-offerings of blooming weeds, displaying them in a vase for all to admire. She won’t send us a Valentine’s Day card signed with her shaky handwriting or make us all line up before we leave for a picture taken with her disposable camera. She won’t shuffle down the hallway, looking in drawers for that thing she meant to give me, but can’t remember now. Eternal glory seems weak because it is not what I know and what I know is now gone.

Thankfully, that does not make it any less true. The only thing I have learned this last year as grief has made its home in the corner of my house is this: We really need a Savior. We need to be saved from this decay of the body that is not glorious. We need to be saved from the wrenching apart of body and soul that was not intended. We need to be saved from the inescapable grief that comes when we have to live without the one we’ve always known, or the one we didn’t know we could love so deeply. Redeemer, we need you.

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’
And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ (Rev. 21:3-5).

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Poor Souls

My pantry is small; cans of tomato sauce stack on one another, somewhat precariously, waiting to tumble off the hidden corner shelf. My budget is tight; I touch the softness of sweaters and look and the brightness of colors and wish them for my own, but in the end I turn away wistfully. My house is simple; books double-line bookshelves and plaster cracks and moths wriggle through holes in window screens, and I want to fix everything, but I just live here.

This is my life--simple and sweet in many ways, but in the end, poor. It's different than what I've always know. What I've known and breathed was frugality--poorness by choice. Knowing you have money away in the bank, but choosing not to spend it, it's a different thing. Knowing your husband isn't working full-time anymore, but going to school, scouring textbooks, and your paychecks are small and the money in the bank is all there is, it's a scary thing.

I think many of us are under a false impression that once we graduate from college, we'll be set. We'll get a job with our degree and settle in and make money and pay off our car and go to restaurants and plays and support our church and save for rainy days. Then we get an entry level job, or get married and go back to school, or face mounds of debt and we find ourselves discouraged. Maybe it's not that we think money is all there is, just that we thought there would be a bit more of it. I find myself remembering high school days when my after-school job paid for movie tickets; today we buy a Groupon deal and save it for six months, waiting for a movie really worth going to see. I remember buying make-up and jewelry just for fun; now I look at the two pair of earrings I wear on a regular basis and kind of wish I had remembered to ask for some for my birthday. I don't feel like I need a lot of stuff, I just hate feeling restricted. And when I ache under those ties, I find myself feeling discontent, slowly allowing myself to be taken into a bondage of covetousness and idolatry.

Right now, I don't know how I'm going to get through the next four years of seminary living, and the years of kids and ministry after that. But this is what I do know:

I am united to Christ. I am quite literally, one with him. And if that is true, what I do have to worry about? Hudson Taylor wrote to his sister, "Oh, my dear Sister, it is a wonderful thing to be really one with a risen and exalted Saviour, to be a member of Christ!  Think what it involves.  Can Christ be rich and I poor?  Can your right hand be rich and your left poor, or your head be well fed while your body starves?" 
I will not be left alone. I will not go without. I will be cared for. As long as I am one with Christ, I have nothing to fear, no anxiety that is really legitimate. I am the body of Christ and my Savior will care for me in whatever way he sees fit. He was himself abandoned so I do not ever have to be. 

I have endless things to be thankful for. The more time I focus on what I can't have (which these days, seems to be quite a lot), the more I miss the small gifts of grace given to me each day. If only in the hum of my washing machine, the musty autumn breeze on my neck, the mud in my hands and under my fingernails, God is gifting me with more than I deserve. He sings his love song to me and twines my life with grace-gifts that I only need to receive. He says to me, "See, see, you are the one my soul loves. I am here. I am with you. I am caring for you. I am loving you." 
It is a sweet thing to thank him. It is bitter to begrudge him what I do not have.

Poverty is part of my identity. I found myself thinking the other night in the car as I drove a long drive home about Psalm 40, which ends: "As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me." I was surprised to remember that my condition is not "poor for a time" but "poor for all time." I am poor and needy. I have nothing to bring before my Savior. I have nothing to offer. I deserve nothing. I need everything. I am dependent on my Lord for salvation and life. Each day I breathe because breath is given to me. Each day I am saved because Jesus has claimed me. I cannot hope to ever be anything but humble, yet the Lord takes thought for me. How can I truly think I want for anything, when the riches of Christ have been given to me? And how can I think I deserve to live better, when my very soul is poor? I can only pray that God will give me humility to see myself for what I am and live in thankfulness that in spite of this, he has named me and made me his own. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Apple Picking!

On Saturday, we decided to spend our afternoon apple-picking. It was first time experience :)

Lovely apples

Our tiny bag for filling with as many apples as possible :)

Stunning Temecula sunset. Sat in our car on our street just to look at it.