Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Fly or Starve

Allow me to be candid here (as if I’m not normally), but I’m not looking forward to graduation. Even though I’m a strong P (see Myers-Briggs types), I’m not resting well with the fact that I don’t have a clear plan for what comes next, aside from this foggy outline of a trip to Europe and taking my licensure exam at some point this summer. Most people I know are incredibly ready to kick the undergrad bucket and move on with their lives, but I still seem to be coming up short on the major symptoms of college senioritis. In short, like the majority human beings, I’m digging in my heels when it comes to significant life change.

Hoping for a little wisdom and empathy, I called my sister the other day to ask if she ever experienced this deep-seated anxiety over her impending graduation. Her answer was, “not really.” Awesome. (To her credit, she also had some words along the lines of, “I was nervous about what came next, but it all worked out.”) I know this is true, but it’s difficult to see from here.

In conversation with a few other senior friends the other day, I found some sympathetic voices, even among those who know where they’re headed after mid-May. I mentioned that we may have to be pushed out of the nest. And I’m willing to wager that we’re probably not that different from every other person in our current situation.

And really, even in our early twenties, we’re a lot like baby birds learning to fly. Fledglings obviously don’t fly right out of the egg. Until their wings have dried and their musculature has developed, the nest is their whole world. And yet, these aviary novices have an innate sense that flying is a natural act. “Parent birds begin to teach their fledglings the importance of flying by remaining a short distance away from the nest during feeding. If the young birds are to survive, they must step away from the nest. Frequently, this means a few hard falls to the ground followed a long trip back to the safety of the nest.” (wisegeek.com) Nobody said learning the art of flight was easy, but I imagine it’s probably also exhilarating and empowering.

Which brings me to my next thought (they’re always connected) – I started writing a song about this change adventure and the accompanying sense of I-suddenly-have-no-earthly-idea-what-I’m-doing. I used to write all the time. Ever since I churned out this little ditty about a sailboat in first grade, there were constantly ideas coming out on paper - up until college, when my writing became much more infrequent for a number of reasons into which I will not currently venture. But over the holidays this year, I got together with a friend and wrote a song. Not anywhere close to a high-caliber work of lyrical genius, but it was like a scab was pulled off and in the past month or so there’s just been this profusion of words pouring out of my head. So I’ll leave you with this little beginning of one…

Do we emerge
Just to fall to the earth
With our little wet wings
And no knowledge of things


Sunday, January 27, 2008

Do Justice, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly

Found this in some old sermon notes in one of my notebooks:

"When people's needs are met, they can hear a language they've never heard before. And when we're filled with the Holy Spirit, we can speak the language of anybody he calls us to."
-Jeanette Flynn

So true. This is why the gospel is good news for everybody, because it speaks a language of each individual need. The gospel looks different for everybody.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Pack Rat

At least once a week, someone in my relatively small neighborhood is throwing away furniture. I don't know if this is due to the transient nature of the living situations in my neighborhood (a good deal of the housing facilities are apartments) or if it's just the season for new furniture, but there are always piles of it on the side of the road.

Most people, I imagine, pass them by without a second look. I, on the other hand, have lost count of the number of times I've almost stopped my car and picked through the furniture to find a piece to carry home. Unfortunately, the Protege probably wouldn't take well to a sofa in its back seat (it barely survived the Christmas tree stuck through the back windows). There's also the problem of actually finding space for the new/old furniture in my apartment.

But I mean so much of this furniture is beautifully horrific vintage pieces. The kind with stories (that I may not want to know) and personality. The kind that people are lucky to find in a vintage or antique store, and that with some fixing up will leave guests asking "where on earth did you find that?" So many old chairs and sofas now strewn about some landfill, but stuck in my imagination.

And I want to sit on every one of them.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Expectations and Filled-In Spaces

*I apologize in advance if I go a little cerebral or Faulkner on you here

This morning as I was willing myself to crawl from between my sheets, promising myself only one more eight-minute interval before I hit Off instead of Snooze, there were some old thoughts casting about in my attic of a brain. Incidentally, our discussions at church related to and gave a bit more form to these musings.

The impetus for the first thought was a morsel of wisdom handed to me by a close friend a couple of weeks ago. Basically she said, “God doesn’t need good odds in order to accomplish His will.” I’ve been ruminating on that ever since. How tirelessly I work trying to orchestrate all the streams of activity in my life – putting myself in the right places at the right times for me to meet the right people and say the right thing – so that “God’s will” might have the perfect conditions in which to come to fruition. Like I’m trying to grow bacteria on an agar plate. I mean, surely God’s hands have to be awfully full trying to manage His will for the lives of every single human being, not to mention coordinating the rising and setting of the sun, the cleaving of cells to create life, the naming of stars, the counting of hairs, you know, all that jazz. He could use a little help, right? Ok, so maybe I misinterpreted the scripture where it says that God created Eve to be a helper.

Why am I still worried that things won’t work out if I don’t have my hand in them, that things could go horribly wrong if I choose one thing and not the other? A couple of examples (and, while you’re laughing at my absurdity, don’t forget you’ve been in my shoes):

I’m really tired, I don’t feel like going out with friends this evening, but what if my future husband is there and I don’t meet him, and he marries someone else, and I never find someone and then I end up being that old lady next door with all the cats?! And I don’t even like cats! Or….

Forgoing the nursing career for a couple of years to go to seminary. What if I can’t pay off my debt from nursing school and I end up in financial crisis?

When did God’s will become an arbitrary prayer we toss up, as if God decided “ok Abby, I think you’ve got it under control, call me if you need me.” I often forget that A) He’s no amateur, he’s been planning this since before time began, B) compared with history and eternity, my scope is not only limited, but frequently ridiculous, and C) He’s writing the story and making provisions for every event and outcome. I’m not going to make a move ever for which God hasn’t already made provision, for which there’s no next step. God doesn’t actually need me to create an environment which is conducive to accomplishing His will. He’s just nice enough to let me in on the story. Misery is not what God wishes for me, so why do I continuously choose it over peace? I’ll let you know when I figure that one out.

The second thought which kept surfacing is related to the way we go about forming relationships with other people. For every person who is going to become a part of our lives, we have carved out a space for them to fill in our hearts. The interesting thing is that people rarely, if ever, fit into the hollows we create for them. It may have something to do with the fact that we ultimately went about fashioning the space with our greatest knowledge about people (perceptions, preferences, rough edges) coming from our greatest well of information – our own selves. In other words, the margins I draw for other people look most like a space I could fill because I used myself as the type. Consequently, no one else fits exactly into that space. The beautiful thing, though, is that we have no power to change other people, to carve or mold them and make them appropriate. Instead, we unknowlingly change the shape and surface of our own hearts until the “lock and key” are suited to one another. In this way, we keep transforming ourselves, gaining perspective on one another, on our ability to adapt to, love, and forgive one another. We carry pieces of each other around, so we can never be truly alone.

“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not known until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.” –Anais Nin

Monday, January 7, 2008

so little time

I have so much to say lately, but not the initiative to get it down in words. Nor the time, for that matter, to get down as much as I want to get down in writing. I've been consuming books like food, however, over the holidays and liked this latest piece from Holy the Firm by Annie Dillard.

A blur of romance clings to our notions of "publicans," "sinners," "the poor," "the people in the marketplace," "our neighbors," as though of course God should reveal himself, if at all, to these simple people, these Sunday school watercolor figures, who are so purely themselves in their tattered robes, who are single in themselves, while we now are various, complex, and full at heart. We are busy. So, I see now, were they. Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place? There is no one but us. There is no one to send, nor a clean hand, nor a pure heart on the face of the earth, nor in the earth, but only us, a generation comforting ourselves with the notion that we have come at an awkward time, that our innocent fathers are all dead -- as if innocence had ever been --and our children busy and troubled, and we ourselves unfit, not yet ready, having each of us chosen wrongly, made a false start, failed, yielded to our impulse and the tangled comfort of pleasures, and grown exhausted, unable to seek the thread, week, and involved. But there is no one but us. There has never been. There have been generations which remembered, and generations which forgot; there has never been a generation of whole men and women who lived well for even one day. Yet some have imagined well, with honesty and art, the detail of such a life, and have described it with such grace, that we mistake vision for history, dream for description, and fancy that life has devolved.