Sunday, March 19, 2017

Kiss

Yesterday during the weekly catnip distribution in my home, I rediscovered my Spanish New Testament copy of The Picture Bible. (My cat's little pile of special stuff is in the background of this photo, and my Bible bookshelf is very close by.) It's basically a huge comic-book version of the Bible, but it isn't a literal verse-by-verse translation; it's an artistic interpretation, I think with actual Bible verses thrown in here and there. We had an English one (with both Old and New Testaments) in our home when I was growing up; I think technically, it was my sister's book, but I remember reading it quite a bit. I loved the pictures, and sometimes they pop up in my head whenever I read a real Bible.

Unfortunately, my birth father wasn't fond of The Picture Bible. I think growing up in a Pharisee's house was kind of like growing up in Westboro Baptist Church, minus all the street-protesting, so the guy who raised me would always pounce on artistic interpretations of Bible stories. I remember I got my birth mother a DVD of the movie The Littlest Angel for Christmas one year, and Dad kept criticizing that movie (because it's not really biblical... it's art). Um, I didn't get that present for you, jerk. I got it for Mom, because I remembered her liking the story many years ago.

So, as I've maneuvered through the constant criticism of non-literal Bible art during the course of my life (or as I've endured the tirades of any purist who's criticized any movie version of any book), I've come to what I feel is an important conclusion: Not all art forms are supposed to accomplish the same thing.

The Bible in and of itself is art, and it is literature, and yet it's alive and sharper than any two-edged sword; it isn't just any other book. It's supposed to change me (even if I can't see what it's doing) every time I read it. It's God's Word. If I don't eat it, I'll starve to death.

And any other book is supposed to either stir your imagination or encourage a different way of thinking every time you read it. If you see a movie version of a book, it's supposed to be a 90-minute visual and audio representation of the book that's supposed to elicit emotion and bring to life the moviemakers' collaborative interpretation of the book. You can't stuff every little detail of the book into a movie (or you would make like a 10-hour snoozefest), just like you can't stuff every little Bible verse into a movie (or it would be like a 200-hour epic documentary).

But I did have a nice time reading un poquito de The Picture Bible yesterday en español. (I don't think I've read the whole thing yet because I think I got it some years ago from my late book-salesman grandfather.) I'll talk more about that in a little bit.

"Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him." (Psalm 2:12)

Earlier this year, I was having my "quiet" time one night and felt like God wanted me to read Psalm 2. So, I did, and the "Kiss the Son" part stuck out at me. I think maybe it was in the vicinity of Valentine's Day, and I was like, "Aww, kiss the Son," e.g., give Jesus some affection. But God showed me the word "Kiss" a different way: K.I.S.S.

I believe that's Texan for Keep It Simple, Stupid. Ah, ha ha.

That's consistent with other stuff that God has spoken to me about this year in particular: 1) rest 2) common sense 3) I'm going to be bored. And I have been.

I'm learning that when you're waiting for God to bring you into a different season in your life, there are plenty of mundane details to either take care of or wait for Him to take care of. Honestly, I think it's like watching paint dry.

But I think God sees it a little differently.

Recently during one "quiet" time, God showed me a picture of a child walking around a sandy beach. He told me that I've been through a crazy ordeal (e.g., 2016 was like me swimming to shore during a terrible night storm), and before He and I venture into the new territory (e.g., if we've just landed on a desert island), I need to hang out on the shore for a little bit. The child I saw in the picture was playing with some stuff on the beach. Of course I know that the child is me. And I also know how important it is to NOT wander off and play with things like jellyfish or seagull poop. (That would be gross and dumb. Common sense, right?) So, I should stick close to my Father. It's safe here in His presence.

So far this year, I've had to learn to settle down internally and just let the rest, common sense, and boredom happen. Since I grew up in an abusive home (per my previous stint in psychotherapy, this means that I'm addicted to turmoil), this has been challenging. But since I have a relationship with God, it's good that He's told me about it ahead of time so that I can know that it's coming. And so that I can enjoy it.

I think 2018 is going to be pretty accelerated and busy, so I should appreciate 2017 while it's here.

 
So, I've been doing things like settling into my new apartment and establishing mundane routines (and loving them). One thing that I've been doing for mealtimes is keeping those on a simple rotation: cereal for breakfast, whatever I can find for lunch, and usually re-refried bean burritos or egg tacos for dinner. For breakfast on the weekends, I've been making toast on Saturdays and oatmeal on Sundays. Above is a photo of my lunch for today. Instead of a fried-egg sandwich (which has become my typical weekend lunch), I decided to try Chicken à la King on toast. Minus the chicken, veggies, or sauce.

OK, so it was two eggs sunny-side up on toast. It was still a nice lunch.

 
Speaking of simplicity, I recently got new classes in lieu of contact lenses. By the time I got my eyes checked recently for the first time in 10 years (I was so overdue it wasn't even funny), I decided that I was done with contacts. I figured that since I have to read things a few inches away from my face now, and that I'll more than likely need bifocals in the near future, why fight it? I got the nerdiest-looking frames I could find, on purpose, because I'm a bona fide nerd. (I think they look awesome on me, but I've shared the most awkward selfie I could find. Because I'm like that.) Ain't no shame in being who I am.

I'm still getting used to them, but I love them. I can't really see my hair while I'm styling it anymore, so I kind of have to make a blurry educated guess as to how it looks in the mornings -- but I like doing that better than dealing with old, crusty contact lenses. That got painful and terrible toward the end.

Yesterday, I wore my new glasses to church for the first time, and OH, MY GOSH. Everything was so clear and colorful! The service that I usually attend always has a live sermon, except yesterday it was a pre-recorded video. The message was broadcast on huge monitors that I could see very clearly from way back in the balcony where I was sitting. Oh, 20/20 vision, where have you been all my life???

"Unto You I lift up my EYES, O You who dwell in the heavens. Behold, as the EYES of servants LOOK to the hand of their masters, as the EYES of a maid to the hand of her mistress, so our EYES LOOK to the Lord our God, until He has mercy on us." (Psalm 123:1-2)

The night after I picked up my new glasses, when I had my "quiet" time, I asked God where He would like me to read in my Bible, and He led me to Psalm 123. In the previous paragraph, I sort of highlighted the words that stuck out at me. Ah, ha ha. God is funny. And He knows exactly where I am and exactly what I need.

I have a natural tendency to overcomplicate things, and God knows that I need an extended season when I can simplify my life and learn how to appreciate the simplicity. For example, I no longer need to overcomplicate my life with contact lenses and all the time, energy, and expense of keeping them clean, coaxing them out of my eyeballs when they get stuck, and wiping the mucus from the corners of my eyes when they irritate my corneas. Now all I have to do is keep my glasses clean. Simple.

And all I have to do at home is keep my tiny little apartment clean and my tiny little cat healthy and happy. Simple.

Speaking of Chicken à la King on toast, yesterday while I was looking through my Spanish version of The Picture Bible, I came across the story of King Herod getting struck by God and dying. The art was so compelling that I cracked open my real Bible and read the real story in Acts 12. What happened was, King Herod persecuted people in the early Church, and then while his loyal subjects were basically singing his praises, God struck him -- The Picture Bible says with a disease, and the New King James Bible says with worms. Either way, gross, and either way, God got revenge for His persecuted people.

This reminded me of something else in the Book of Acts, so I flipped back to chapter 9 where Saul (Paul) got dramatically converted when Jesus appeared to him: "Why are you persecuting Me?" Then I like how Saul ended up answering his own question in verse 5: "Who are You, Lord?" Yeah, that's right. Jesus is Lord. Again I saw how God got revenge for His persecuted people (and since the body of Christ was being persecuted, HE was being persecuted). But this time, the guy doing the persecuting got to live -- he ended up repenting and being one of the biggest heroes of our faith.

So, I had a rather dynamic "quiet" time -- because I read a simplified version, an artistic representation, of the Bible. It didn't dumb down the Scriptures for me. It led me to them. It brought them to life, so to speak. It helped me.

What's so wrong with that? What's so wrong with keeping it simple, stupid?

I'll tell you what. Ain't nothin' wrong with that.


Sunday, February 26, 2017

Nestled

When I was a little girl, we bought Dad a present (I think for his birthday). It was an LP record of Barry Manilow's 1982 album Here Comes the Night (which was relatively new back then). It was a terrible album, but I didn't know that because I was only about 7 years old when we bought it. Dad barely ever listened to it, but my birth sister and I would listen to it over and over again. I particularly liked the first song on the B side (pictured here).

I studied that album when I was a little girl. It had liner notes, I think on the record sleeve, that had the lyrics and all the legal information for each song. I think my birth mother liked to help me read the lyrics. I listened to that album over and over again, especially after we figured out how to record from LP record to cassette tape, so the lyrics and melodies are embedded pretty firmly in my brain even to this day.

Unfortunately, the lyrics to these songs aren't appropriate for a little girl to listen to. (Wikipedia tells me that the album was released in the UK with the title I Wanna Do It With You.) Rather vulgar words were covered very neatly with easy listening, jazz, and blues melodies. Seriously, if you have this kind of thing in your home, at least try to hide it from your children. Thanks, Mom and Dad, for being excellent parents. #sarcasm

But since I had absorbed that music from that obscure album for years, it's never really left me. (Wikipedia also tells me that a couple of major music reviewers gave the album either 1 or 2 out of 5 stars. Heh. I knew it was a terrible album.) Recently, I prayed about it and felt like it was OK to download a couple of the harmless songs from iTunes recently (the one I mentioned above as well as Barry Manilow's beautiful rendition of "Memory" from Cats)... because I've never really been able to get the music out of my head. So, I'm hoping these two songs will stay harmless for me (song 1 from the B side has already been rather cathartic) and that something good will have come from something that was probably subconsciously disturbing for a musically impressionable little girl. Especially since she grew up to be a woman who has struggled with lust. Thanks again, Mom and Dad, for protecting me from all that. #sarcasm

Thankfully, I have a new Father who knows how to take the bad things that have been nestled into my life and turn them into something useful... and He also knows how to take His children and nestle them permanently into a destiny that nobody will ever be able to reverse.

"Let them shout for joy and be glad, who favor my righteous cause; and let them say continually, 'Let the Lord be magnified, who has pleasure in the prosperity of His servant.' " (Psalm 35:27)

The other day, I got to church a few minutes early and took a photo of the auditorium. I almost posted it on Facebook with a caption that would have said something like, "This is where I sit every week and pretend to not stalk the worship team, especially since I may or may not have a crush on a certain worship leader." I know. LOL. But then I got to thinking how wrong that was -- not wrong to have my eye on someone, but wrong to think that I'm like an outsider looking in. I'm involved in the worship department at my church. That means I belong with a bunch of worshipers. I don't have to stalk them like some creepy groupie.

I'm at a place in my life where I finally feel like I belong somewhere. I don't have a nervous churning in the pit of my stomach when I drive to work in the mornings anymore. I don't entertain out-of-control thoughts of trying to impress people when I'm at church anymore. I just show up and do my thang. I just show up and be myself. I feel like God has carved out a life for me. I have a place here. I'm settled here. I belong here.

At church this weekend, a pastor said something to the effect of, "As parents, our job is to show our kids that they're valued and loved." Unfortunately, I immediately thought of my birth parents. Because they did such a wonderful job raising me. #sarcasm

Actually, they flunked so badly that God told me to leave them permanently -- that He didn't want them in this part of my life.

I can see why now. They kind of had a knack for throwing a monkey wrench into the inner workings of my life. They breathed chaos, they criticized everything, and they stifled me almost completely. (In addition to neglecting and abusing me.) Last night when I read Psalm 35, the part about God taking pleasure in my prosperity stuck out at me. My birth parents took pleasure in advancing their own agendas, but I think my new Father takes pleasure in me prospering in the life that He's prepared for me. He wouldn't throw a monkey wrench into it. Why would He?

God designed me to be a worship pastor, and I didn't know it until recent years. As I've wrestled through that -- Lord, is this really what You want me to do with my life? -- He's shown me that it's a no-brainer. I'm artsy-fartsy, I'm gifted in shepherding, I'm motivated by relationship, I'm into music, I don't have a problem ripping demons' heads off with my bare teeth, and I need to consistently check my heart for obsessing over or worshiping things or people other than God. I'm a worship pastor, whether I get a paycheck for it or not. It's who I am. It's a no-brainer. I know that now.

In fact, it's nestled so deeply inside me that it's as hard to shake as a terrible 80s album that's been etched into the fiber of my being for life... OK, so that's probably a terrible thing to compare it to, but I hope you understand what I'm saying.

But my birth parents didn't know about my calling. If they had, they wouldn't have approved. (Or they would have accepted it only through the lens of their denomination... or maybe Mom would have tried to talk me into being a music secretary instead. Seriously.)

The truth is, I belong.

I belong in His church. I belong in His house. I belong in His family. I belong in the shadow of His wings. I belong between His shoulders. I belong smack-dab in the middle of His embrace. I belong there, and I get to remain nestled there forever. #sincerity

Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Christian life be like...


I took this photo about a year or so ago, during a time in my life when I was watching a lot of episodes of Chopped on YouTube. (That's Macho sitting next to my laptop.) Chopped is a very popular show on the Food Network; it's a competition in which four chefs each receive a basket of ingredients and are given 20 or 30 minutes to create a dish using those ingredients. There are three rounds, and the last chef standing will win $10,000. (It's kind of like Iron Chef with a shorter attention span.)

It's a fascinating show to watch, even if you're not a foodie, because it's a reality show in which anything can happen. The basket ingredients aren't always normal things like chicken, eggs, or tortillas; they're odd twists on normal things like game hens, ostrich eggs, or pastry dough (which you could maybe use like a tortilla... but would it cook in time?); or they're abnormal things like a butchered goat, durian fruit, or a giant jawbreaker (in that one episode, I think three jawbreakers rolled off the counter and landed on the floor while the contestants were trying to hammer them open, and one of the chefs ended up sharing their pieces with the other three).

Each competition has three judges (all experts in the culinary industry) who are watching the chefs' every move while they are cooking (sometimes yelling passionately, as if they're watching a football game on TV) and who offer very candid feedback in which their nitpicky comments contribute to the final outcome. And all of the four contestants have interesting life stories. Some of the chefs are underdogs who have a fighting spirit because they've had to fight for everything their entire lives; others are refined culinary artisans who have been honing their skills for years; and others are people who may not really be cut out for kitchen work after all. (One guy who dropped out of high school to pursue a cooking career ended up getting chopped after the first round, and one of the judges explained that he should at least get his GED.)

Each episode is predictably unpredictable, and yet I've noticed a few things:
1) Pretty much every contestant who flirts with any of the judges ends up getting chopped.
2) Almost every contestant who behaves like an arrogant jerk ends up getting chopped Proverbs 16:18-style.
3) Every contestant who gets lost in the details ends up forgetting something crucial such as a basket ingredient or forgetting to check on part of their dish that ends up burning or neglecting to adequately cook something that needs to cook for a long time.
4) The judges always have something nice to say about a contestant who works hard, works smart, and appears to do their very best, regardless of the outcome.
5) Anytime a contestant makes the best out of a bad situation (such as their entire dish burning and then they have to start over, or having to substitute an ingredient because they can't find what they're looking for in the pantry, or having to use a different piece of kitchen equipment because the other contestants are already using the equipment that they need, or finishing their dish despite cutting or burning themselves)... their episode is always a MacGyver-esque pleasure to watch. I have zero interest in the culinary arts, but I'm always inspired by the things that I see on this show.

So, initially I thought about writing about my adventures in watching Chopped and titling the blog post "Life on a plate," but I scrapped that idea because I found out that some band somewhere already gave one of their albums that title.

It's a catchy title, isn't it? Because it's true.

Similarly, we're all put on this earth with the expectation that we will live our lives to the fullest. The fullest way that I know how to live is hand in hand with God, in the arms of God, or clutching tightly to the ankles of God (depending on the situation I happen to be in). But we're not always given the best ingredients to work with. Sometimes we're handed something that makes us go, "Um, what am I supposed to do with this? I've never seen anything like this before," and we only have a certain amount of time to use it in. If we cut corners, or if we cheat, or if we step on people to reach our goals, or if we just give up and act like a baby because things aren't going our way, we will fail.

And the world is watching us to see how we respond to the situations we've been given. Will she make it? Will she accidentally injure herself? Why is she doing it that way? I've never seen anyone do it that way before. It's certainly a nail-biter.

And I've discovered that this life is similar to other things as well.


Almost a couple of years ago, God told me that I needed to play video games. I downloaded one version of Pac-Man onto my phone awhile back, and lately I've been playing it pretty regularly. This version is a bit different than the ones that I played when I was growing up. It uses power-ups (not just power pellets) that you can use to kill the ghosts that are chasing you, it rewards you for eating a certain number of dots, and you can earn coins and use them to upgrade your power-ups (or to continue game play without watching a video ad).

I've noticed a few other things about this version:
1) The blue ghosts basically go around in short circles, and their speed is slower than Pac-Man's, so you can discreetly follow behind them without them noticing you.
2) The orange ghosts are slightly smarter than the blue ones, but you should still avoid them because if they see you, they'll go after you.
3) The green and purple ghosts only go left/right, together, like a little military squad. They're not much of a threat unless they block you.
4) The gray ghosts are asleep until you get near them; then they will chase you. After they chase you for a while, they will fall asleep again.
5) The gray ghosts are always positioned near a pink ghost. The pink ghosts will start to chase you as soon as you move into their line of sight, and they move faster than any of the other ghosts.
6) The red ghosts are the most dangerous, I think, because they move quickly, are extra observant, and will even go backwards/upwards to chase you if they know where you are.
7) All the ghosts (except for the green and purple ones) are moving downward in the maze, into a hellish, electric ghost-graveyard of sorts. Pac-Man encounters the ghosts while he is moving upward in the maze, but if he lingers too long in the ghost-graveyard hell, he will die.

So, this game reminds me of spiritual warfare.

Just like the ghosts in the game have their own little quirks and specific behavior, our spiritual enemies (demons, iniquities, etc.) can be predicted, avoided, escaped from, and defeated straight to hell. If we linger in any hellish mire, we could be goners. The Holy Spirit is like a power-up that equips us to fight the enemy as we make our way through the maze.


Over the past several weeks, I've been dealing with an infestation of ladybugs in my apartment. I thought it was an adorable little infestation until I talked to some friends and did some research online. According to my findings, they're not just cute little ladybugs. They're also Asian beetles (or manbugs, as my birth sister used to call them) -- the orange ones that may or may not have those adorable little spots on their backs. In the wintertime, they hibernate in the walls, and in the late winter months (e.g., February), they come out of hibernation. The problem is, they forget how to get back outside, so they wander around my living room. They haven't bitten me or Choochie, but they potentially could if I don't get rid of them. If I hold one in my hand, and if I scare it, it could secrete a nasty-smelling substance on my hand (I guess it's pee that smells like poison?).

At my previous apartment, I only saw maybe two or three of them the entire time I was there, so I didn't think it was a big deal. But at this apartment, I've seen dozens. (Inside the track of my sliding door, I counted 11 ladybug/manbug corpses which I'm assuming got stuck there last winter.) At first, they started getting trapped inside a floor lamp that I keep in my living room. A few of them ventured onto my kitchen ceiling and window. But then many of them made it to my living room window or my dry bar.

Next year, I think I'll call the apartment office and have them send an exterminator. But this year, I decided to take care of the infestation myself. ('Cause I'm just like that.)

At first, I was amused by the little clusters of ladybugs/manbugs getting trapped in my stuff. Aww, poor little clueless insects. But then it started getting gross -- the fluttering of wings, the desperation of the doomed creatures, the constant appearance of bugs coming out of nowhere -- I mean, eww. I couldn't just ignore the problem anymore.

The Internet recommended either poison to kill the beetles or vacuuming them up so that you could help them get back outside. OK, I want to be helpful, but if they get too close to me or my cat, they're going to meet their Maker pretty instantly.

The entire situation reminded me of spiritual infiltrators (like demons or iniquities). If I cherish a sin or a problem in my life, or if I ignore it, I'll be in pretty big trouble, right? It's best to roll up your sleeves and just get rid of the problem.

But the deeper I got in my personal extermination process, I realized that the ladybugs/manbugs reminded me of ME. So, when I'm not exterminating the beetles, I'm shepherding them. Go figure.


Years ago, somebody gave me some plastic sandwich boxes (so you could carry a sandwich for lunch in a washable container instead of in a sandwich bag). I got rid of the boxes but kept the lids, which I've been using to transport the ladybugs/manbugs outside. (Kind of like a barge for beetles.)

So, when the weather gets warm and they come out of hibernation, I climb onto a chair or a stepstool, reach up, and coax the ladybugs/manbugs as gently as I can onto a little beetle-barge. Then I open either the front door or the sliding door and let them fly or scurry off to freedom. (Perhaps the neighbors have seen or heard me saying, "Bye! Have a nice life!" to a plastic sandwich-box top.)

The process isn't always smooth. Sometimes the bugs fly off the beetle-barge, and I have to chase them down again. Other times, I have to kind of force them off because they end up liking the beetle-barge. Still other times, I'm saddened to see that not all of them scurry away after I transport them outside. I wonder if either 1) some of them were already on their last leg or maybe 2) I accidentally scared some of them to death or perhaps 3) they had hibernation sickness. ("Who are you?" "Someone who loves you." (That's from Return of the Jedi.))

And other times, I don't feel like using the beetle-barge, so I'll grab a napkin or just use my hand (even if it ends up getting poison-peed on) instead. This morning, I was kind of sick and tired of the whole thing, so I was angrily flicking the bugs onto the beetle-barge with a paper towel, and I'm honestly surprised that I didn't exterminate any of them on the spot.

And during this entire process, I did end up transporting a mayfly back outdoors (and I'm hoping that I didn't accidentally hurt one of his legs). I killed a couple of spiders as well.

So, these forgetful, troublemaking little ladybugs/manbugs remind me a lot of myself.

If I lose my way for a season and get distracted by something that looks bright and shiny, and if it turns out to be a trap, I could be stuck there, and I could be a goner in no time. ("It's a trap!" Also from Return of the Jedi.) Seriously, if this happens, I need Somebody to come looking for me, to dig me out, and to transport me to freedom. Even if I end up poison-peeing in His hand.

God totally could have exterminated me a long time ago. He had every right to. I haven't always behaved in His home. But instead, He chooses to shepherd me to where I need to be, and it's for His name's sake. Sometimes He's gentle, other times He has to be a tiny bit more forceful, and still other times He has to really lay down the law until I finally realize that He's trying to help me... and that I can't make it without Him.

Just because I'll never join the dark side (Return of the Jedi) doesn't mean the dark side won't keep trying. Even though they know that my destiny is to stay with my Father forever.

But just like I'm shepherding a bunch of dumb little beetles back to where they need to be, I know that God will herd me as well. And just like I took care of Macho until the very end, I that know God will take care of me. And I know that I'm more important to Him than a cat or an insect. I'm His born-again daughter who He redeemed, loves, and still wants.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Open letter to all the ones that got away

Dear Prince Clueless,

About a month and a half ago, I met a lady at my apartment laundromat. She found out I was single, and she asked me if wanted to get married someday. I answered honestly: "I don't know."

So, this is what it's come to. All those years of wanting to meet you, date you, get engaged to you, marry you, have babies with you, and grow old with you have dissolved into a pitiful little "I don't know." This is what's happened after years of me waiting for you to come, looking for you, thinking I had finally found you, and trying to get over you when I finally discovered that you didn't want me the way I wanted you.

This post boiled and churned through my heart all day today, and I wrestled with whether or not I should even write this. Shouldn't we Christians forgive? Yes. Isn't it to one's glory, isn't it a sign of maturity, to overlook an offense? Yes, of course it is. Doesn't God forgive us? If we accept it, yes. But the God who removes our transgressions from us as far as the east is from the west... this same God is the One who also declared pages after pages in the Bible to His people Israel through the prophets: "You hurt Me. We had something good together, and you messed it up. You went after someone else instead of Me. Let Me show you how your actions affected Me, and let Me show you how the consequences of your actions will affect the future."

It is with a similar jilted-lover, botched-romance passion that I compose this.

I believed in you.

I believed that you would actually be a man who would come fully equipped with a backbone, a voice, and a pair. I believed that you would use them to pursue me, communicate your intentions to me, and win my heart in the way that any woman's heart deserves to be won. I believed that you would stand up for me, defend me, and protect my honor. I believed that you would respect me. I believed that you would be a real man.

Instead, you turned out to be a little boy. Little boys still expect their mama to do everything for them. Well, here's a newsflash, buddy: I ain't your mama.

I'm a woman who took a risk and actually allowed her heart to care for you. I'm a woman who repented long ago of controlling every relationship she had. I'm a woman who gave up manipulating the male species into wanting her. I'm a woman who finally began to be a woman.

But apparently, that wasn't good enough for you.

All those times that I tried to sit next to you or just be near you -- that was me expressing interest in you. All those times that I attempted to have a conversation with you and tripped over my words accordingly -- that was me expressing interest IN YOU. All those times that I embarrassed myself just so that I could connect with you -- THAT WAS ME EXPRESSING INTEREST IN YOU! How many times did I have to spell it out?

But I guess I wasn't good enough for you.

Instead of getting to know me and maybe letting yourself develop even a tiny little crush on me, you joined an online dating site. Or you married one of my friends. Or you developed a platonic friendship with me that got so deep that you felt comfortable enough to tell me that you only had your pillow for affection at night. And you ignored me when I told you how I felt about you.

The truth is, I don't talk to men unless I have to (or unless they're already married and I trust that they're going to stay married). I don't usually develop friendships with single men unless I want them to become more than just friendships. Most of the time, I don't let men into my personal space. Because men have hurt me.

But I guess you don't really care about that.

You were too busy talking to me because you were uncomfortable with the silence. You were too busy developing a friendship with me because it was something you wanted, and that was all you wanted it to be. You were too busy side-hugging me to see that I wanted to be close to you.

But even though reaching out to people isn't my style, I reached out to you because I wanted you. I wanted to belong to you someday. I wanted us to be together forever. But you rejected me. Whether it was directly or indirectly, you made it clear that you didn't return the feelings that I had allowed myself to become vulnerable and feel for you.

So, in case I still need to spell things out for you, it's over. That ship has sailed. That window of opportunity has closed. And I want to thank you. (Yes, I get sarcastic when I'm bitter.)

Thank you for the loneliness. Thank you for letting me spend evenings and weekends all by myself. Thank you for allowing me to keep hating Valentine's Day year after year -- each year feeling worse and worse. Yes, I was hoping to spend an entire day shining a spotlight on my singlehood and vomiting my bitterness onto a blog post. This is every woman's dream.

Thank you for not being there for me. Thank you for not defending me when my parents abused me. Thank you for not protecting me when two perverts preyed on me at church. Thank you for not being my boyfriend -- or specifically, thank you for not being my date at awkward social functions like that one wedding where that one guy shook my hand, creepily felt my hand, and asked me how I kept my hand so soft. "Lotion," I replied. Your absence helped to burn that special memory into my skull forever.

Thank you for rejecting me. I love explaining to people how a good-looking, young-looking, intelligent woman like myself has never been married -- how she has remained involuntarily single and could possibly die an old maid. Thank you for deferring my hope indefinitely, to the point where my heart is not only sick -- it's got chronic walking pneumonia. Thank you for never fulfilling my longing -- because who wants to eat from a tree of life?

Obviously not you. Otherwise, you would have me now. You would have overcome your fear and pursued me. You would have grown a pair and come after me.

Well, I'm sorry if I'm too good-looking for you. I'm sorry if I seem too young to you. I'm sorry if I'm too smart for you... or if I'm just too good for you, period. I guess it's my fault that I'm 40 and completely, involuntary available. And not to you.

And yet... (I will now switch from sarcasm to sincerity.)

Thank you for the loneliness. Because you never came after me, I've had to deal with this gnawing state that creeps up on me every Friday night, every weekend, every holiday, every time I'm invited to an event and asked if I'll bring a guest with me, or every time the word "family" is mentioned. Because you never showed up, I became a stronger person.

Thank you for not being there for me. Because you never came after me, I had to learn how to live my life by myself. I had to make the best of things. I had to break out of my shell, like a chick who needs to develop her strength unassisted while she's still hatching. I learned how to make boundaries, how to stick to them, and how to not feel guilty because of them. And I learned how to do adult things like buy furniture and pay people to deliver it for me, because I don't have a husband to lean on for that. But I also learned that there's no shame in that. Because you weren't there for me, I became a stronger person.

Thank you for rejecting me. Because you never came after me, I've learned how to talk to God more deeply than I've ever talked to Him before. Yes, I've had to learn how to relate to Him as if He were my Husband... because He is. Because He's the only One I've ever known. When I've felt like I've been cast into the reject pile of humankind, my Father is the One whose embrace I've melted into. He and I have had lots of slumber-party-style conversations about you. Like, lots of chats. Because you allowed me to remain single all these years, I know what it's like to be single at 40. I know what it's like for people at church to have very good intentions but not know exactly what to do with me, because very few people have made it this far and survived. Yes, because you rejected me, I became a stronger person.

Or... (Seriously, when will this dream finally just die once and for all?)

It's possible that what you've just read is all a pile of crap, and that maybe -- just maybe -- you really are going to be a man and come after me. Maybe you've just been waiting for the right time. (Maybe this rant was the kick in the butt that you needed.) If you are, I think there are some things that you should know.

In case you haven't noticed, I'm currently mad at you. Great way to start a relationship. (That last sentence was sarcasm.) But I won't stay mad. The quickest way to my heart is through my stomach... especially if it comes along with some face-to-face quality time. (Five-star restaurant, McDonald's, who cares? Just show up.)

God will always, always, always, always, always be Number One for me. He's my Friend who has always been there for me. I've developed the habit of running things by Him before anyone else, and I don't intend to break that habit. Ever. And He's in charge. Period.

Our bedroom would be a very happy place. That's all I'm gonna say about that.

Since I'm 40, I'm saggy, pudgy, stretch-marky, and joint-achy. Menopause is kind of around the corner, so there's no guarantee that you could still pursue me in time for me to bear any of your children. I'm honestly not sure if I would have enough energy to raise a child, or if I still want children anymore. But maybe we could cross that bridge when we get there. Or maybe we could adopt. Or maybe we could just enjoy a home all to ourselves.

My little mixed-Siamese cat and I are a package deal, no exceptions. If you're allergic to cats, too bad. (She's put up with 16.5 years of me crying over you, so deal with it.)

I'm fiercely loyal, ridiculously obsessive, incredibly artsy-fartsy, and I can be very stubborn. But I would be all yours.

I would support your dreams. I would offer you a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on (if you've already learned how to cry). I would stay with you forever, and I would insist on you doing the same for me, till death do us part.

Here's what I've learned while I've been waiting for you -- while I've pretty much given up waiting for you: I don't really need you. As you can hopefully see, I can survive without you, and I will continue to do so if that's what God wants (or if Prince Clueless never grows up and becomes Prince Charming). But I would want you.

Even though I don't need you, I will want you.

But if you never come after me, I will never believe in you ever again.

And I will still be me. I will still be good enough. I will still be strong.

Love (maybe),
Tirzah


Sunday, February 5, 2017

Faithfulness, golf carts, and dead horses

In this very long post, I thought I'd throw in some of the stuff that I've been learning lately into a big wok, stir it up, and create something that hopefully makes sense. Or maybe a casserole dish. Or a soup cauldron. (Warning: I might get so real that I may end up using rated PG-13 language.)

Speaking of soup, during our recent churchwide 21-day fast, I did a soup fast. In other words, I ate only soup (breakfast, lunch, dinner) for 21 days. This was the first time I'd ever done a soup fast. Frankly, it kicked my butt. I suspected that my meals wouldn't be all that filling, but I had no idea how hungry I would get. (Or how into McAlister's Deli I would become.)

 

I've fasted for about the past 22.5 years (as God has led me and/or as church people have told me to), but I think this was the first time that I didn't hide all of the non-fasting food in my home... so as to reduce the temptation to break the fast early. (Above, I've shared a photo of my pantry as my fast was winding down.) Which is strange, because I think I've only broken maybe one fast early in my lifetime. So, during this fast, God showed me that He trusts me and that I can be legalistic when I fast.

Dang it. I hate it when my ultra-religious past creeps up on me.

"Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness." (Psalm 37:3)

In this particular fast, I didn't really do much of the stuff that you're supposed to do during fasts. My schedule is extra busy, and I'm not really much of a one-hour-prayer-time intercessor, so I didn't spend oodles of hours in prayer. I proofread devotionals for a living, so the last thing I want to do when I get home is read another devotional; so I think I only got to like day 8 or 9 of our 28-day church devotional. I didn't get caught up in any deep visions or get visited by a swarm of angels.

But I did meet with God. And I also noticed that I cried a lot more easily than usual. Was it physical hunger? Was it spiritual hunger? Was it exhaustion? Not sure it really matters, because I feel like I obeyed my God, and He met with me.

He showed me that this particular fast was about faithfulness. It wasn't about me legalistically obsessing over whether or not I should have crackers or bread with my soup. It wasn't about me spending hours in prayer or combing through the devotional or becoming an excessively spiritual woman.

It was about me sticking to a fast for 21 days even though it was kicking my butt. And I'm OK with that.

I felt like I needed to furnish my new place during this fast. So, while I was out and about, getting acquainted with deli menus, I bought an ottoman. I visited a few stores and replaced some of the stuff that I had gotten rid of (like rusted silverware and dishwasher-ruined plastic bowls) when I moved. I bought some new cookware that I got to try out after I broke my fast.

See how practical God is? Since I grew up in an abusive, very codependent home, I'm still learning life skills at age 40. And I'm bonding with my Father in the process.

When I was in my 20s (that time of life when you're supposed to learn how to take care of yourself), I was way too busy being involved with a missions-focused, spiritually abusive church to understand that it's OK to take care of myself. Everything was always so melodramatic. We were taught that everything worldly (even if it was something as simple as watching TV by yourself on the weekends) was wrong. It was drilled into our vulnerable heads that we were supposed to do dangerous things for God all the time; otherwise we would be selfish. (One missionary spoke to us and told us that he wants his headstone to be engraved with the words, "He didn't play it safe.")

Um, OK, that's all nice for you. But what if God designed me to live a different life than what He designed you for?

He's been telling me that I'm a "home base" type of person. I ache to settle in one place, nest there, and just stay there forever. I'm a cat person, for crying out loud. Cats thrive best when you give them one territory to live in long term. I don't even think I've left the Metroplex for like the past 14 months -- not even for a day trip.

I'm happy here. There's nothing wrong with being happy. There's nothing wrong with obeying God when He wants you to "dwell in the land and feed on His faithfulness," like it says in Psalm 37:3.

One thing about 2017 that God showed me is that I would be bored this year -- but in a good way. One thing I've learned about faithfulness is that it's boring -- in a good way. Since I grew up in an abusive home, I'm addicted to turmoil (as I learned in my last round of psychotherapy). Chaos used to follow me around like seasonal tree pollen: I knew it was coming, and there wasn't much I could do about it, so I just learned to live with the stupid side effects.

But life doesn't have to be that way. I can stay close to my Father and enjoy life with Him, however He wants me to live it.

"As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds His people from this time forth and forever." (Psalm 125:2)

I'm a worship leader, so I constantly wrestle with the concept of leading people into God's presence, entering God's presence myself, the ceremonial aspect of it all, the genuineness of it all, whether or not I'm being a fake about it, etc., etc., etc. He's shown me that the reason I wrestle with it is because it involves relationship -- my relationship with Him and other people's relationships with Him. I'll be wrestling with this for the rest of my life, and I think it'll be healthy for me (and for the people I lead).

"Relationship" is complicated, and it's just supposed to be a complicated concept in general. Anytime you deal with people, things are going to be complicated, and that's OK. Otherwise, you'd be dealing with a robot. Who would want to have a relationship with a robot? "Do you love me, MachineMan?" "Yes. I. Do." "Hug me, please!" "That. Is. Not. In. My. Programming. Language." "You suck, you bucket of bolts!!" "Technically. I. Am. Not. A. Bucket. Have. A. Nice. Day."

I still wrestle with how to have a quiet time, and God still keeps my quiet times simple, short, and mellow. One thing He's been impressing on my heart lately is, "Don't rev up the Hummer if you only need a golf cart to get there." Hmm. He's right.

Why should I be all melodramatic about entering His presence if all I have to do is say, "Daddy?" and He answers with, "What do you need?" If my little cat meows (if I'm in a position to respond), I usually drop everything to see what she needs (which is usually some playtime or snuggletime). If I relate to a tiny little 6-pound feline like that, how much more does the Lion of Judah relate to me -- a chick who He went through all the trouble of choosing and adopting? (See Matthew 6:30-ish.)

"And He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.' " (2 Corinthians 12:9a)

Speaking of relationships, another thing that He's impressed on my heart lately is something to the effect of, "If the horse is dead, don't keep beating it; just let it decompose in the field and leave it alone."

I think there are several dead horses in my life that are still in the process of decomposing in my field... so I shouldn't beat those dead horses. (Even though it's hard not to.) Maybe after the painfully long decomposing process, the resulting new soil will let something else grow. Maybe it could help somebody else later.

For example, take my addiction to turmoil. God hasn't been eager to take that away. (Actually, I think He wants me to keep that emotionally volatile side of myself and use it on the demons from time to time.) So, I've had to just learn how to control it. Lately when I start my day, I've prayed, "Help me to not be a bitch today." That is a genuine petition, and I hope everyone around me is glad that God answers prayer.

I used to be a doormat. I used to be a people-pleaser. But in recent years, as I've worked through some stuff, I've become pretty rough around the edges. I'm a survivor; I'm a badass. And I think God likes me like that. If He puts me in charge of a group of people, I'm pretty fierce about protecting them, and any demonic forces that may try to come against them know that I don't have a problem sending their fallen-angel tails to hell.

But that's what God does. Sometimes He removes problems and obstacles, yes. But other times He uses them to shape you into someone useful.

The turmoil-addiction thing is a dead horse that's probably almost done decomposing. But there are other dead horses in my field that are taking forever to go away... and they've been there so long that they're pretty stinky... and I think my nostrils are finally getting used to the stench... because the rotting carcasses might actually stay there forever.

People make a big deal about how holidays can be difficult times for people -- specifically they mean Thanksgiving and Christmas. But I love those holidays; they really aren't hard for me. The holiday that I hate with a fiery-red passion is Valentine's Day. Forget politics, current events, or hot-button issues. If I ever hit the streets to protest something, it will be so that that stupid holiday would be obliterated from the calendar.

Every year, I think I'm going to keep my cool and not let it bother me. And every year, I get angry enough to rip out a person's esophagus from their throat. It's bad enough that I haven't had a date in 22.5 years. You're going to patronize me by mailing me a Valentine's Day card, even though you're related to me? Or by going out of your way to "love" me because I'm single? You've gotta be kidding me. My singleness is a huge source of bitterness for me, and I have to work my butt off just to keep my heart in check. Just don't mention that stupid holiday at all, and I'll be happy.

But let me put on the brakes here on my heart-rant. I've noticed that all those years of heartbreak, pain, and disappointment that I've endured have actually been pretty useful.

For example, in recent months I've been taking singing lessons. These lessons require me to emote -- to put some emotion behind what I'm singing instead of just spouting music like a little robot. Can you guess what type of songs are usually the easiest for me to emote with? Breakup songs.

I knew a guy named Juan for about 14 years. I fell in love with him, for real. But he broke my heart into a zillion pieces. God has healed me from that to a degree; but I still go back to my heart-pieces, like a morbid treasury, and use them. Every time I sing a breakup song, I'm able to draw from that experience. It's pretty cathartic and fun. (And I'm glad it's finally coming in handy.)

But that's life. Juan is never going to want me the way that I wanted him. People are always going to wish me a Happy Valentine's Day. That holiday will always be on the calendar.

My friends are always going to marry guys that I have crushes on and then wave their engagement rings in my face. People are always going to want to talk about my singleness and then offer ridiculous suggestions like 1) try online dating 2) try prayer or 3) be encouraged by the testimony of somebody who didn't get married until really late in life -- their 30s. That's life. It's a dead horse that I shouldn't waste any energy beating, because I have too much life to live. And that's OK.

"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea..." (Psalm 46:1-2)


I used to think God was boring. Then I got to know Him, and I discovered that He's pretty exciting. Then I got to know Him even more, and I discovered that He actually is very boring, but in a good way -- because He doesn't change. He's always there for me, like a mountain that faithfully surrounds me and who's always available to meet with me. He's always there to help me. He's always there. And that makes me happy.