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Showing posts from 2015

I ain't ever lived a year better spent in love (2015 in review)

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[Three disclaimers: 1) The title is stolen from Mumford & Sons. 2) I know that it is, in fact, the 30th.  But I plan to be celebrating with friends tomorrow evening.  3)  There is a really gross picture from when my face met the sidewalk further down in this post.  If you're squeamish about such things, maybe don't keep reading.]

Let me be honest: 2015 had its rough spots.  Not measurable just in days, but in weeks and months.  (April, of course.)  There were funerals and near tragedies and conflict and drama, here in Btown and in the US and all over the world.  There was heartbreak.

And yet -- yet looking back on it, it was really a good year, and as I've flipped back through my journal and planner, it's incredible to me how much love and goodness and friendship and laughter and tangible evidence of the graciousness of God was crammed into a single year.

There was, to name one of the huge blessings, the Tautology Club, which sort of grew out of an evening where a …

Single in Church

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Recently I posted a link to this article, Why It Stinks to be Unintentionally Overlooked.  It echoed many other things that I've heard from friends and other pieces I've read.  It vocalized some feelings that I've had, but it also made me want to write a response and push back on it a little bit.

There is a danger of singles in the church falling into a mindset that they are victimized.  I'm pretty sure that everyone feels overlooked a lot of times.  Parents with little kids who really want to just sit and listen to the sermon, but instead are helping out in the nursery.  Families with kids with special needs that no one else in the congregation knows how to relate to.  Really, anyone.  You can think of times you've felt overlooked.  That's a common human condition, not special to singles.

The age bracket that me and a lot of my friends fall into really is just an awkward time.  We've graduated from college... but we don't really know what we're do…

Happiness and Courage

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Crumble is in its new space, and a lovely light space it is, full of windows and wooden tables.

Star Wars VII comes out in a few days.  The movie theatre had a warning on their site about what kinds of costumes would be permitted, which is probably equal parts funny and sad.  I'll probably go in sort of Han Solo-esque clothing, by default as much as by anything.  Boots, jeans, a vest -- but no blaster.  :)

George wants to eat everything always that may be food.  Especially if it's Laura's or mine.
Late on Saturday night, I got back to my apartment after a Christmas dinner with a few friends.  "You really are truly blessed in your social circle," a friend told me, and it is true.  It's almost an embarrassment of blessing, these friends who are so good that I feel like I've lived in Bloomington far longer than a year.  Having such a staggering abundance of friendships is incredible to me.  And since I moved to this place knowing only one person, I am simply …

Gaudete

This year when people have asked about my favorite Christmas carol, I've been telling them that I have a growing appreciation for I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day and its honesty.

In despair, I bowed my head
"There is no peace on earth," I said
"For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men."

Because yeah, when ISIS and abortion and racism and war and abuse and stomach bugs are all things, when the presidential candidates leave me wondering if maybe staying in China forever would be a good move, when everyone in the Greyhound station has their own stories of heartbreak and lost faith and what's wrong with the world --

The tidings of comfort and cheer can start to ring pretty hollow.  I can start questioning is this enough?  Is it okay to rejoice like crazy, to party with friends and sing Christmas carols and laugh and make new memories?  

Today, the third Sunday in Advent, is called Gaudete Sunday (because of the traditional liturg…

TR in review

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Although my reading of Theodore Rex did not go according to plans, thanks to new friends experiencing Greyhound with me, I did finish the massive volume.

I knew it was going to be a great read when I was reaching for a dictionary within the first few pages. Catafalque was not a word that I knew.  Now it is.  I love learning new words in English.

The entire book was like that -- leaving me wondering about new thought and concepts that I hadn't quite put together before.  I appreciate that it did not gloss over some of TR's serious flaws as a man and as a president, particularly in how he handled civil rights of African Americans.

"Theodore Roosevelt by John Singer Sargent, 1903" by John Singer Sargent - The White House Historical Association. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons
Here were a few things that really struck me.

TR made extensive use of his presidential powers.  I feel like we get pretty bent out of shape when a president now uses his powers to push h…

Those Best-Laid Plans (aka, the saga of my Thanksgiving)

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Two or three months ago, my sister Abbie and I began plotting how I could get home for Thanksgiving without letting anyone else in the family know ahead of time.  There were loads of texts, FaceTime, and calls going back and forth.  She sorted out her work schedule, I bought bus tickets; she made sure that our family was actually celebrating ON Thanksgiving, I made "plans" with a family from church and asked Mom for gluten free recipe ideas so that I could take a dish with me to their house...

We worked out every possible snag as well as we could.

Seriously.  We had such great plans.
Finally, on Wednesday morning, I was all set to take a few buses and get to Pittsburgh.  
And then.
The bus.
Was so late.
And there was nothing that I could do about it.
I've cried before in the Indy Greyhound station, but that was because I had to say goodbyes and there is not much in the world that I hate more.  I certainly didn't plan on crying there on this trip, but when I was told …

Currently (all the randomness)

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Today was my first day off in a while that there was nothing on my schedule that had to happen.  Consequently, quite a lot actually HAS happened, mostly from my list of jobs and errands that needed to be dealt with but that didn't have an actual deadline.

So here's a snapshot of the random happenings right now.

Monumental event:I got my driver's permit.  (Let's just celebrate and not discuss how I'm about a decade behind the learning curve on that one.)  (Ironic footnote: getting that permit meant that I used the Bloomington bus system for the first time.  That is also worthy of celebration, that I've lived here for over a year and never had to use the buses before...)

Thing(s) that I'm looking forward to:  Skyping my friend Emily (aka my China travel buddy) tonight. Watching Star Wars VI with friends tomorrow.  Church on Sunday.  ALL THE THINGS.

Other things taken care of today: Grocery shopping.  Emails.  Review of a solar USB charger (which is a cool produ…

In a Heavy Week...

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Encouragement.

(I would credit this... but I'm not sure the source exists anymore. :-P)

That's been showing up recently, in assorted and sometimes very unexpected ways.

There was the customer who came in on Saturday afternoon, ordering coffees, and then said, "Maybe I'll get a scone too."

"Oh, I've been eyeing them all day!" Gemma said.

"They look really great!" I added.  It was true, and the sort of friendly small talk that we try to make with customers.

He bought one and promptly cut it into three pieces.  "Here, so you can try it too."

Gemma and I were both floored.  This was a serious case of Never Have I Ever.  Never have I ever had a customer so spontaneously offer something to me.  Or, I guess I should say, never HAD I ever...

(I was, in fact, so shocked that I totally ruined the espresso shot that I was pulling for one of his drinks and had to restart.  Now there's a barista problem!)

Then there was small group this …

Truth in Tragedy: a few quotes

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When the news is full of explosions and violence and death, in America and across oceans, it is difficult to know how to respond.  Always, there should be mercy and heartbrokenness for the heartbreak of the world, but without falling into despair.

A friend recently shared a line from W. B. Yeats' poem Stolen Child:


And I am also thinking about J. R. R. Tolkien's words:

This is why I love stories, reading them and writing them and telling them.  Because, to steal a final quote from G. K. Chesterton, 

And the best of news is that, despite the thrashing of the dragon that continues in his dying throes, despite the havoc wrecked on the world, the victory has been won and full and final redemption is coming.

Post Plague Thoughts

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A brutal stomach bug (okay, calling it "plague" may be an exaggeration, but it was awful) is not the reason that I would have liked to take two days off from work this week, but I didn't get a great deal of option.

Now, on the other side of it, I've been thinking about the things that I appreciate about being so suddenly and stunningly (and briefly) sick.

It increased my compassion, at least for a while.  I am disgustingly healthy much of the time, despite the fact that, as Fezzik put it in The Princess Bride, "I don't even exercise."  (I do, however, drink hot water.  Take that as you will.)  I tend therefore to think that if everyone drank more hot water and ate more garlic and walked everywhere, they'd probably be fine too.



Needless to say, I am probably drastically more empathetic in the week or so after I've been sick than I am most of the rest of the time.

It forced me to rest.  And to stop doing anything.  And to stop somehow thinking …

Two Perfect Lines

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The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
(supermoon eclipse)
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil.

(From God's Grandeur, by Gerard Manley Hopkins)

About Women

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"So, Hannah, what should we know about women?"

(Young Girl at an Open Half-Door, Rembrandt.  Image from here.)

I was sitting in the back seat of the car, watching the road slip by on our long trip, and a bit startled by the question from the two guys in the front.  It was a serious question, and I took a few minutes to think about what I wanted to tell them.  I came up with four things.  Obviously, they're all generalities -- but that was sort of what the question was asking for.

1) Once a month or so, women feel less than awesome.

I feel like that one's pretty obvious, but worth remembering.  Especially since there isn't anything comparable for most men...  That being said, though, it infuriates me when women play that as an excuse to be a jerk to everyone around them.  You and all other women on earth, sweetie.

2)  We can think about multiple things at once.  And probably have trouble not.

Thus, if you ask me what I'm thinking about... chances are good that…

The Call to Come Home

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Two songs that I've been listening to lately and wanted to share, nothing profound to say about them, but both make me think of the story of the prodigal son and the more prodigal Father.



The first one is Home by Josh Garrels.  Listen here.

Come on home, home to me
And I will hold you in my arms
And joyful be.
There will always, always be
A place for you at my table
Return to me.
The second one is If You Ever Come Back by The Script.  Listen/watch the music video here.

I'll leave the door on the latch
If you ever come back, if you ever come back
There'll be a light in the hall and the key under the mat
If you ever come back
There'll be a smile on my face and the kettle on
And it will be just like you were never gone
There'll be a light in the hall and the key under the mat
If you ever come back, if you ever come back now.
This is an amazing sort of love, and it amazes me how many places we get to see it -- in God, but also in human relationships.  It's a kind of love that …

When I'm More Baggins Than Took

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I find myself feeling very hobbit like as summer ends and fall rolls in, as the leaves change colors and there are more overcast days (and winter is coming, to mix my stories) and I keep finding that I love Bloomington and Hope more than I did the week before.

(art by Jian Guo... some of my favorite LOTR fan art!)
I'm hobbit like not in the sense of wanting so many meals a day (though I don't object) but in the sense that I don't want adventures, not big ones anyway.

I don't want to go.  I want to stay here, to get a dog and get married and buy a house and have children, to walk these sidewalks that are not crowded with bodies.  I want to stay through the familiar cycle of seasons, year after year.

I don't want to juggle airline tickets and languages and never having enough time to say all the goodbyes, never being able to fade into an afternoon of easy invisibility in the grocery store.

My heart wants to cocoon itself in a safe shell of familiar comfort.  I love …

Unreservedly.

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This Sunday was a baptism Sunday for the baby of some dear friends of mine and a part of one of the vows caught my attention.



Do you now unreservedly dedicate your children to God?

Those words seem too hard to hear, the promise heavy to bear, when I look at the baby in front of us and think of how much we all love him.  How we love all the children of this congregation and...

Unreservedly?

In this world that's full of bullies and ISIS, where 9-11 is a chapter in the history books and kids don't even blink at the mention of terrorism?  (They know what it is; they've grown up in a world full of it, I realized the other day when the boys I was babysitting were totally unfazed by the short documentary they watched about 9-11. )

Unreservedly?

Now, when millions of refugees wait and die without homes?  When abuse and corruption and disasters abound?  When all of us in this sanctuary know that the children's hearts will be broken and their bodies will wear out and there is so…

Memories

Three random memories that came to mind today, God's faithfulness in the past, affecting the present and stretching out into the future.

A customer and Laura and I were talking about drinking hot water, and I was thinking back to when I first remembered enjoying hot water, and decided that it was probably the semester I studied abroad in China.  When we were on a service project on a chilly mountain top in Guizhou, and suddenly the silly, cheap water bottle that Tim carried everywhere and kept filling up with steaming water became a prized object, something that would warm our hands for a moment.  It was in that freezing place, on a night when the generator wasn't working and we were sitting around in the main building, telling stories by candlelight, that I looked around at my group mates and thought, Wow.  This is exactly where I'm supposed to be right now, and there is no where I'd rather be.  That was probably the point at which I was hooked on China.  And oh, tha…

The Refugee Crisis and the Imago Dei

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If we really see the image of God reflected in the humans around us --

How can we close our doors and hearts and laws to refugees?


image from wewelcomerefugees.com, check them out for ways to get involved

How can we ignore the atrocities of abortion?
I woke up this morning and those thoughts were beating at my mind.  It's such a simple concept in some ways, the imago Dei, that we bear the image of God Himself.  And such a very hard one to live out.  
If I truly believe that God's image is stamped into every person I interact with --
How can I be impatient and annoyed with others?
How can I think that what I'm planning to say is more important than listening?
I'm longing to have a heart after God's heart, one that is deeply full of love and grace, so that living with grace and love is a natural outflow, spilling into interactions with customers at Crumble and kids from church and people in Bible study and the cashiers in Kroger and the homeless people on Kirkwood and …

Quote fest!

One of my favorite things about having a kindle is the way it assembles everything I've highlighted (highlit?) for me.

So without further ado, here are some quotes that I marked up, for one reason or another, in past months.

"To become a disciple of Jesus is to accept now that inversion of human distinctions that will sooner or later be forced upon everyone by the irresistible reality of his kingdom.  How must we think of him to see the inversion from our present viewpoint?  We must, simply, accept that he is the best and smartest man who ever lived in this world, that he is even now 'the prince of the kings of the earth' (Rev 1:5). Then we heartily join his cosmic conspiracy to overcome evil with good." (The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard)

"We ought to be spiritual in every aspect of our lives because our world is the spiritual one.  It is what we are suited to."  (Divine Conspiracy)

"Jesus, by contrast, brings us into a world without fear.  …

the flip side of how I feel about going back to China

Usually when people ask about what I'll be doing in the future, about China-things, I give them very happy and excited answers.  Because I am excited, thrilled, to have the chance to go back.  But also partly because it is hard to hold onto too many emotions at once and deal with that conflict, let alone try to express it to others.

Tonight though that came up in conversation with some friends from church, and I decided I should write about it -- the deep sadness that accompanies my plans to go back -- since I've been thinking about it anyway.

As summer turns to fall, I'm constantly reminded of how grateful I am to be in Bloomington for a second year.  It is beautiful and good to get to know a place and to build deep relationships, to discover short cuts and favorite houses and breath taking gardens.  And the thought of saying goodbye to it breaks my heart.

A baby is going to be baptized soon at Hope, and that is a deep joy to me.  Because I've known his family since …