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All shall be well. [09 Sep 2007|12:45am]
Home on a Saturday night, with all the lights on. I do not mind being home alone, (I love it, actually), as long as there are plenty of lights. The minute the shadows begin to fall far across the front yard and the golden sunset stops glowing on the leaves, I walk into the house and go through all the rooms, turning on every light. I suppose I am wasting energy, I am willing to be extravagant. It is good to be in lit up home, but I also do it for our neighbors, and for the people who will drive by tonight. It's much more beautiful to see a home lit up, than to see dark, lifeless windows. I am always encouraged when I drive at night and watch all the friendly windows and speculate over what activity is going on behind those windows...and so for the nights when I am not the one out driving, but the one home, I want to return the favor.

What a lovely Saturday full of sleeping, reading, babies, books, and bike rides...not to mention pizza and chips and salsa. It is so beautiful here. Yes, right here. In La Mirada, in our little neighborhood. I never want to fall under the delusion that I have to go elsewhere to find Beauty. I am always surrounded by it...and when I actually open up my eyes, it floods me, it overwhelms me. I walk around in breathless disbelief over the Beauty in the trees, in the neighborhood, in our front yard, the beauty of Gabriel's smile, and Bambi's one purple bow.

I don't know what to say. I've been searching for days, for weeks to find the right words to write about the beauty of a home. I love it all. I find my heart swelling over the wonderfulness of each seemingly insignificant detail. My heartbeat quickens at the sound of clothes flopping in the dryer. I am in love. Dirty dishes in the sink, I love you!

Things have become startlingly clear these past few weeks. I am passionate about family. It is the most important thing on this earth because it is the design God created for people to live in...whether it be the body of Christ on a large scale, or the nuclear family on a small scale. But my concept of family is changing...I have a vision for the family being a tool to minister to a hurting world--simply by accepting people into itself. Whatever my home looks like one day, I want the doors flung open. I want all the neighborhood kids in the front yard, and I want lonely neighbors over for dinner at night, above all there must be safety, laughter, and God's presence.

I am twenty years old. It has come time for me to take a hard, and honest look at myself. Who am I? Where am I going? What is important? What needs to be changed? I wince when I see myself for who I really am...more of the pain and damage from my girlhood is present in my life than I had hitherto thought. I look at myself in the mirror, "I am needy." I am hungry for love. I am still hurting. I am still wondering why I wasn't enough. I want to be treated correctly. I want to be healthy myself, and live in healthiness with others, and I want to be an instrument that God uses to bring light, and healing, and hope to our dark, broken world. I want all of this. I know it is possible. And yet I contend with the knowledge that I am broken, the people I love are broken. I will always be broken as long as the sun and the moon shall endure..."Even at our swiftest speed we couldn't break from the concrete..." But God brings healing on this earth, and our ultimate and perfect healing will happen on that joyous day of Christ's return. Personally, I cannot wait. "I want Jesus to come back right now!" I long for the perfection that I have never and will never experience on this earth. I long for the satisfaction I was made for, yet have never tasted. "Infinite longing...the desire of the moth for the star..." So even as I drove along the sweeping, lighted Californian coast with the homes of Laguna Hills shining "like broken glass" and the mighty Pacific pounding the shore, I find myself thinking, "If earth is this beautiful...this heart wrenchingly beautiful, then what will the New Heaven and the New Earth be like?" I used to be afraid that Jesus would return before I had lived my life. Now I don't care. Whatever comes in this life it is nothing compared to the perfect perfection, the flawless solace, the deepest satisfaction of God's presence.

I live in longing. "But let not our longing slay the appetite of our living," Jim Eliot wrote in a letter to Elisabeth. I am called to be a realist. I look about me and I am on earth. I love being a Christian because that means my life has purpose. I am here for a reason. Life is a long, painful, but quite beautiful journey home. I must embrace my purpose. ("I am a Sywulka, I must embrace my destiny!") But seriously. I echo the prayer of Warren Meyers who said, "Lord I put you in total control of my future--any place, any time, with or without anyone or anything." "He will be our guide even to the end."

I have been thinking so much lately of how I should live. What should my life look like? What does it mean to hate my own life? To be a living sacrifice? A drink offering? Alive in Christ?

One of my greatest fears is that God will call me to live in the suburbs or that God might dare to ask me to be "well-off", heaven forbid, rich. "Not suburbia, Lord!" But God is tempering my radicalness with His love. For where am I at this moment? In the suburbs of America. And there is pain, and darkness all around me. After all my headstrong and impassioned arguments last year about what living a life sold out for Jesus looks like...God is now teaching me, taming me, gently showing me the way. I am not saying where God is calling me for the future, but it is just as right to be in suburbia as to be in the inner-city, or overseas, as long as I am where He has placed me. Because it's not an extremity of geography that Jesus necessarily calls us to (although for some it is!), but at the root of it, it's an entirely different lifestyle, it's a different way of thinking, it's a new vision, a new way of walking, literally "a new way to be human" that makes us aliens, and strangers in a foreign land. It just dawned on me that as a Christian, I am a missionary on earth, no matter where I am...for I am not home here, and no city where I live will ever be my city. We are looking for a Heavenly City. This brings me no end of joy! Why? Because my somewhat easily pleased heart would be perfectly content living in San Francisco for the rest of eternity, and our Heavenly City will put San Francisco to shame. We are called to a living hope, a hope that does not disappoint us.

"Something brighter than money moves in our blood..." --Mary Oliver

What does all this talk of eternity have to do with the here and now? All I know is that it makes me happy to be alive. It enables me to love everything that my eyes see...because if the shadows are so beautiful, then I cannot wait to see the real things. And I throw my arms open to all of it, knowing that now is not the time for perfection, but for brokenness, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well. And so I love...I love broken people, and I have compassion on their weaknesses and I enter into their pain with all the strength of the Lord, and I love the beauty of the sun setting over our neighborhood, and the joys of listening to Jared play during his bath, and of holding a chubby, squirming, smiling baby, the joy of hugs, and driving with the windows down, and hands joined in prayer, and holidays, and beach trips, and cleaning the bathroom. God has made all things beautiful in their time. I love having friends over and talking for hours as only girls can do, and I love driving at night by the ocean, listening to music, growing sleepy, Scott gently playing the piano on my knee...

"But even at our swiftest speed, we couldn't break from the concrete in the city where we still reside..."

I know this truth all too well. To know it, means to be human. To be human is to be always bittersweet. Always longing, but always hopeful. It is to drive during the sunset, but to drive in tears, sobbing, everyone in the car sobbing. I am not just saying all this, it actually happens.

"Love is watching someone die."

I am trying to make sense of it all...the beauty and the brokenness, the comfort and the pain, the love and the longing...I try to make sense of arguing on the side of the road, and yelling, and crying...but also the pool at the front of the Laguna Riviera Resort, the painted murals in the hallways, the cool shadowy balconies, the brick walkway down to the ocean, the stars, the bubbling surf, the light that reminds me of camping, the feeling of being on a tropical island, the cars sailing down the highway, the lights in the hills, the planes, the land brushing against the sky, reading poetry on the beach with your favorite smell. How do these two things meet? Where do they meet? We live in the land of paradoxes, and sometimes I find myself confused. I think I am content, but I realize I am not content to live with these juxtapositions. I want one thing or the other, I fluctuate from depression to Idealism and never allow myself to see what I am supposed to see: Reality.

God wants us to look at Reality because when we do, we see our need for Him. It is that simple. But I am so glad that it is alright to be human. I am delighted, over-joyed, thankful, happy beyond belief to be human because to be human is to be loved by God. Or, as William Carlos Williams put it, "To be hungry is to be to great."
1 star| light the sky

Observations... [04 Sep 2007|03:55am]
Reading Oswald Chambers every day is like being beaten to a pulp and knowing I deserve it. He hits where it hurts, and what hurts is the power and conviction of truth.

Akon's song "Cause I Got You" actually brings tears to my eyes. Call me horribly naive, but I believe he really does love her.

And speaking of love, I do so enjoy driving at night with the traffic lights twinkling in the distance like Christmas lights...and I ponder the strangeness of being homesick for a place I have never been...

Even so, it is well with my soul.
3 stars| light the sky

Love in the crying baby Mama warned you not to wake. [01 Sep 2007|04:26pm]
Laughter, Service, Rest, Solitude, Prayer, Scripture, Right-relationships, Sleep, Peace, Nature, Exercise, Worship, Health, Family, Friends, Reading, Purpose, Good conversation, Meditation, Music, Beauty, Growth...

These are the things I want my life to be about. I long for simplicity, and wholesomeness; quality, depth, and most of all things that matter.

Service takes my mind off myself, which is quite refreshing for a change. Usually, I am at my worst when I think of myself...I grow conceited, worried, selfish, preoccupied, etc. When I serve, I realize how truly delightful it is to think of another person.

Henry V swishes his blue fins while I write.

For those who think there is no "Nature" to be had in Southern California: you are blind.
I rode my bike to the park this morning. I read in the sunlight and the clouds. I drove my car alone tonight in the evening with the sunlight and the clouds, and the sprinklers splashing on green lawns. I am in love.

I read in books about human heartbreak and pain. Why do I need books? I open my eyes and pain swirls all around me. Amber cries when she has to leave for work. Her baby's father is no support. She wants him out of the house, and yet she doesn't want to be alone. Connie's grandchildren are taken from her, living with the man who abuses them, and there is nothing she can do. I look these women in the eyes and they are dying of thirst, and I am convicted that perhaps I am the only one in their lives who knows where they can find water. So I pray.

Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus...

I went to dinner with a friend tonight and as I drove home I concluded that the world was just about perfect. The clouds soared celestially above me, air poured through my windows, I let my hand brush against the warm evening air, I reflected over my day with a sense of accomplishment...

But I came back to earth when I walked into my house. A big mound of bloody dog poop greeted me right on the floor. I wish I were joking. I am an imperfect person. I forgot to let Laddie out before I left. He also peed in the living room, and Bambi got into the trash and made messes of food all over the house. No matter how good my life on earth ever becomes, it will never be perfect. We live in a flawed world. Dogs will be making messes in the house until the Second Coming, and so will I.

Oh Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight.
light the sky

Do I dare disturb the universe? [01 Sep 2007|01:30am]
"Love is a tired symphony you hum when you're awake."

My professor told us a story in poetry class two days ago. The story took place is Russia during the time of the Soviets, and many young men had just been taken away and locked in prison, with little hope of ever being released. The mothers, and wives, and sisters of the men stood outside the prison weeping, and mourning, and grieving. A poet stood near by, watching the scene from a respectful distance when one of the women recognized him, and knowing him to be a famous poet she asked him, "Can you write about this?" "Yes," he said, "that is my job."

That is the question constantly asked to the writer, to the poet...Can you write this--yes, even this, down?

Writing is something I have always done, without ever much thinking about how or why I do it. It just seems natural. People come to college to study the things they have always done out of habit. With all these writing classes, I now found myself constantly assessing my own theory of writing. And I feel the weight of the poet, I feel the responsibility to write it down, to capture it, to face the challenge and to say with confidence, "Yes, I can even write about this."

The world taunts me sometimes with the seemingly impossible task. I hear the question whispered to me at the most insurmountable moments, and also voiced at the simplest of times. The sun sets in Long Beach, the stars come out, the moon rises, lights play on the surface of the water, homes light up along the shore, the guitar strums to a perfectly shaped hand, I rest with my head in the sand and the question comes, "Can you write about this?" I drive with no hands on the wheel in the night, with the black vastness of the Pacific pressing up against me, with no other cars on the road, and with freedom pouring in through the open windows, I am flying...Can you write this down? Do you dare? The smell of a person takes my breath away, the way one scent can fill me up and empty me out and sweep over me with an encompassing warmth...How does one write down such a thing? To love a person? To hold a baby? To watch the clouds? To make a phone call? To read a book? To see the tree with the lights in it? To fall asleep? To wash a dish? To hear running water? To eat a meal? To laugh? To share an inside joke? To look into another's eyes? To breathe the Californian air? To dream? To hope? To be alive? To know God?

I feel engaged in a ceaseless struggle to process what I find. Every moment of my existence is another battle, a perpetual call to meet the challenge, and to overcome it. Can I shrink myself small enough to let life pass through me? I am strong enough for life to provide an obstacle this Bully called Life? I don't want life to go over me, under me, or around me--I insist that it go through me I fight. I meet it head on. I call out to it. I demand it come to me. I will wrestle it all night, and claim a blessing from it by daybreak. Let no one ever say of me "life was too strong for her" ...It takes life to love life.

But the question persists: How am I to write it down?
1 star| light the sky

The man in the moon still plays a piccolo. [29 Aug 2007|01:26am]
For a moment, for a month, I had forgotten what it felt like to be happy.

I forgot that happiness consists in staring at a cross, filled with amazement and tearful joy that the God of the universe, a man named Jesus, crawled naked up onto that Cross for me.

I had forgotten.

Joy comes in the morning, joy comes with the realization, joy comes with the perfect blend of old words and new mercies. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound.

I count myself blessed. How many college students in the world come home after a 10 hour day of classes and leave the adult world behind at the door of a seven-year-old's bedroom? It felt good to leave all my burdens in my backpack, and put on my pajamas and hop on Jared's bed with him and pop a big bowl of popcorn and watch re-runs of America's Funniest Home Videos.

Is it wrong to love little things so much? Sometimes I feel that I would live and die for my silver pencil-sharpener of the Golden Gate Bridge, or my brightly colored San Francisco mug, my Amelie-inspired troll, or my dark blue Japanese tea cup. Yes, I love these things...but I mostly love what they all symbolize: life, a beautiful life.

And I love Henry V swishing his royal blue swirls right here on my desk, and the Two-Headed Boy who is growing silently as I type. Surely I am never alone.

The best days are when the Psalms roll off my tongue without effort and spring from my heart without thought.

"Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire beside you."

"My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."

"But as for me it is good to be near God."

"Earnestly I seek you, my soul longs for you in a dry and weary land where there is no water."

"By day the Lord directs my steps, at night his song is with me--a prayer to the God of my life."

"When can I go and meet with God?"

"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name's sake."

"O Lord, for the sake of your name lead me and guide me."

"Find rest my soul in God alone."

"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble."

"Some trust in chariots, and some trust in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God!"
light the sky

Do Remember Me. [19 Aug 2007|12:24am]
Lately I've felt the need to shoulder a rather daunting responsibility: carrying the weight of the entire world. I've been spending great amounts of time thinking about the most awful things imaginable...I start off by thinking of all the women in the history of the world who have never been loved...then I think of all the women in the whole history of the world who were beaten, or who never had children, or whose husbands died in war...then I think of all the men who starved to death, or who couldn't provide for their wives and children...Then I just start thinking of all the unbearable pain and suffering that have happened since the world began, and this stuff just tears me apart. It rips me to shreds. That's probably the most morbid paragraph I have ever written, but my mind is capable of experiencing so many horrors. I don't want to dwell on this stuff, but I'm appalled and amazed by the fact that all these unthinkable, unfathomable things have actually happened...are happening right now...This kind of extreme tragedy seems so far away from the soft and fluffy life I live...the life in which I decide I need new clothes so I go to the mall and have countless American Eagle bags advise me to "Live Your Life" --as if they have any idea what that actually entails. And for the most part I just felt super embarrassed today, for myself and for everyone else in the mall because I saw a bunch of greedy and needy people, grasping out at frivolous, cheap little trinkets to salve our hurting souls, and to answer our deepest questions and yearnings. I go to the mall and I ask it, "Am I beautiful?" And it doesn't even hear me amidst the din of buying and selling. Not that I don't want to buy pretty clothes and look nice...I just feel disgusted by the irony of so much prosperity in the presence of such desperate need.

But I did feel almost joyful tonight, in spite of the weight of the world strapped onto my shoulders, I felt almost light, almost happy, almost free in the rich, golden light of the setting sun...sitting between Cayla and Camie, swinging, and watching the light playing across our wooden fence and our lawn, and our home...watching the light reflecting on the magnicificent, billowing clouds. I love our skies here, and tonight I realized why. The clouds are so glorious here, resplendent in the light, our sky always looks like Jesus is about to come back. So like I said, I felt almost perfect swinging with my light heart, singing, "I've got a home in glory land that outshines the sun, look away beyond the blue..." Somehow the answer to all my longings, and all my questions lies in the vast and uncontainable sky.

"I'm carrying the weight of the world,
You're carrying me."

"Even so, come Lord Jesus."
light the sky

Perplexed, but not in despair... [17 Aug 2007|02:01pm]
Time and again God brings me to the place where I throw up my hands and say, "It's impossible."

I will not do do it; I cannot do it.

God whispers in my ear the words I know by heart, "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength."

With man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible.

I picture Jesus saying this with an enormous smile on his face as he breaks through all our human despair, and hands us hope--"a hope that does not disappoint us."

So many nights I have slept with my Bible under my pillow, clinging onto it as if it is my only hope--Oh wait, it is.

Chesterton's words pound repeatedly in my head, "In what does your only hope lie?" In a man I never saw.

Only I tend to forget this so frequently. I "lift my soul to another" no matter how many times I say that I won't.

And then God brings me to this place where he rips the ground out from under my feet, and strips the blinders from my eyes.

Paul writes,

"We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us." 2 Corinthians 1: 8-11

I read those words, and I know why God brings me here...so that I will know this, and fix my hope on Him.

I love being happy...which seems diametrically opposed to this world sometimes. How can I be happy here? I wonder...when even the people I love the most, and respect the most are imperfect, flawed, sinful...and their sin hurts me. Sometimes I feel like the only way to be happy is to be ignorant. I'd rather not go there and see poverty; I'd rather not listen to your personal struggles and have my image of you destroyed; I'd rather not read the Gospel and hear the high standard to which we are called; I'd rather not read another book have three hundred more pages of information that I am responsible for...

But this is not the way to happiness. Happiness involves seeing more, not less...It involves seeing more than just this world, more than just the way things are now, more than just the half-way developed people that surround us.

"Therefore we do not lose heart, though outwardly we are wasting away yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary struggles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 2 Corinthians 4: 16-18

Love is not blind. It sees more, not less.

I wondered as I prepared to go to Watts if I would still think the world a beautiful and happy place after seeing life there. I do. I believe that Christ brings enough hope and light to slay all darkness and despair. I believe there is no earthly situation that we can look at and not face with hope. I cling to this as my ideals cave in around me...things are not beautiful on their own, but everything is beautiful in the light by which we see.

"We have this treasure in jars of clay that this all surpassing power is from God and not from us."

We serve the God who raises the dead, oh let me never forget.
light the sky

Letters from Watts [27 Jun 2007|04:29pm]
June 26, 2007
Tuesday 11:01 p.m.

We spent a good four hours of today coursing our way through thick L.A. traffic on our way to and from The Oaks: World Impact’s camp outside of Los Angeles. We went there for team building…to be bonded together inseparably for the remaining six weeks here. Aside from the unbelievable moment of the magical tent pole rising up over our heads (a moment I will never forget and will always look back upon with absurd bursts of laughter), I have to wonder if we weren’t bonded a little more thoroughly by squishing seven people into two back seats, adding “dead baby jokes” (don’t even ask) into the mix and loosing us on the L.A. freeways for hours. That is what I will remember.

And I will remember swinging at The Oaks—the closest thing to flying. I will remember the moon taped up in the sky like a shy scrap of tissue paper, and the sun burning gloriously behind my shoulder. As I swung, lines from a hymn we had sung earlier that day kept reappearing in my mind…

”Holy, holy, holy, all the saints adore Thee,
Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea…”

I cannot stop looking forward to the community of heaven. I get continually excited about who will be there. I’ve decided that I’m going to give St. Paul a hug in the new Heaven and the new Earth. I imagined meeting up with Tolkien and asking him about Leaf by Niggle and confessing to him that I didn’t even know it was about death the first time I read it. Today I added a new hope—I hope Annie Dillard will be there. I want to walk with her through paradise, and I want her to show me the tree with the lights in it.

“Holy, holy, holy, though the darkness hide Thee,
Though the eye of sinful man thy glory may not see…”

I cannot erase the image of the sun setting of the roof and palm trees and smog of Los Angeles. What a mess lies here below, as man-made smog clouds up the sky—but the sky is still arched with an undestroyed beauty. The sunlight still filters through all the darkness and reigns supreme over a land of harshness and filth.

Last night I shared my testimony with our group, and my own words have been ringing in my ears as I hear myself recounting the wonders God has wrought in my life…an old, and wonderfully new realization sets in, “I have been redeemed.” It’s not just that I’ve laid down my life for God—It’s that God has saved my life! Sometimes it is necessary to look back on the despairing darkness of the black night of the soul in order to appreciate what we have been called to. We have been transferred from the reign of darkness into the kingdom of His beloved Son. I pray that will never grow old for me.

I know nothing. At best I hope my words are like broken shards of sea glass…tossed into deep, dark, swirling waters, and smoothed, refined, and beautified, before they wash up on shore and testify to the to the hope lying in the frightening, yet glorious depths.

”Deep water and drowning are not the same thing.”
light the sky

Letters from Watts [26 Jun 2007|10:23pm]
June 25 2007 10:23 p.m.

Today marked our first day of training. Apparently they want to take a week to prepare and strengthen us before they unleash us on the city…or perhaps more correctly, unleash the city upon us. Consequently I feel that I don’t have much to write about tonight except my own ignorance. Today we got a crash course on culture and life in the inner-city and the circumstance of the urban poor. “I had no idea…” doesn’t seem to cut it, but that’s about all I have to say. I just didn’t know that people lived in conditions like this. I still can’t fathom it, but it’s daily preached to us as a reality, and so I’m slowly coming to believe it. Do I need to have someone get shot before my very eyes to believe that stuff like this happens? The neighborhoods are unassuming enough. In some ways they remind me of Dixie Highway. I’m trying to understand what all this means…

A guy named Terry lead worship today and he talked about entering the summer with a open, receiving posture—and then he demonstrated by spreading his hands out in front of him. That is the position I am in. With my hands out stretched I ready and willing for God to take away and God to give. He can place things into my open hands and remove things out of them. It has become so powerful for me to worship with my hands outstretched because it is a way of aligning my physical and spiritual states…it is a way of illustrating physically the posture that I am in spiritually.

That is the thing that I am most excited for this summer…I am excited for God to act.

Tonight I watched the sunset in a blaze of glory over the roofs and roads of Los Angeles. Even over this broken, smoggy city the sun sets with an indescribable brilliance, and I love the feeling of community as I stand in my one, solitary window…but somehow I feel like a puzzle piece, small but significant, and part of something important, and beautiful. I love knowing that there are millions of windows, even the windows with bars over them. I suppose one can live anywhere in peace, and take happiness anywhere as long as we possess hope. And hope lies in no other name but the name of Jesus Christ. That’s all it comes down to.

I was so afraid to come to the inner-city because I thought I would starve for want of beauty. I thought I would be swallowed up in the ugly darkness of poverty and crime. But beauty is here, and hope makes nothing hopeless. And He has come to proclaim good news to the poor, and freedom for the prisoners.

Blessed be the name of the Lord.
light the sky

Letters from Watts, Sunday, June 24, 2007 10:25 p.m. [25 Jun 2007|09:06pm]
(I wrote this last night, but I had no internet so I'm just posting it now.)

Tonight is my first night in Watts. I'm sitting here in my third story apartment with my fan humming and Timmy Canoe reclining on my bed next to me. The projects border lie directly beneath us with their barred windows and tiny, square lawns. Ropes of freeways are knotted around us on all sides. I haven't heard any gunshots yet. Instead, something beautiful is happening as I type. Fireworks are bursting in the sky right outside my window--so close that I could reach out my hand and some colorful sparks might land gently in my palm. Julie (my new roommate) and I have been standing at the window speculating what it would be like if all the gunshots in Watts were turned into fireworks.

I don't want to say too much tonight. After all, I just got here. Tomorrow more will be revealed, but tonight I am content.

Still, I will never forget this afternoon as long as I live...driving east down the 105 with everything in my stomach quivering with fear, confusion, and nervous uncertainty. I felt like Daniel being tossed head first into the lions' den, or Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego plunging deep into the fiery furnace. There are time in my life which I look back on and all I can remember is the frightening emptiness in my stomach laced by an eggshell of fear...and only the words, "Father, help me to trust you," pouring from my mouth again, and again, and again. Those are the moments I live for...the moments when I know my life is not my own.
light the sky

"Are you the now or never kind?" [23 Jun 2007|11:53am]
I've been putting off writing for quite some time now, and I suppose I can't avoid it any longer. Everything inside me urges, "Say something." Yes, but what shall I say? That indeed seems to be the question. It's hard to say something when one feels right in the middle of it all. I don't pretend to understand everything that is happening to me right now. I feel like seeing is necessary for writing, and right now my eyes are closed, and I am walking (or more accurately: stumbling, tripping, and crawling) by faith. I could open my eyes and tell you what I see, but in so many ways that's only half the story...the silly part of the story that only fools consider to be of any importance. In some ways every detail seems so crucial, and my life feels incredibly complex. But more than all that, I know it to be quite obviously simple. Whatever my days look like, I am simply pressing on, further up and further in to the glory and drudgery of faith. It's such a beautiful thing, and such a painful, unnatural thing as well.

"We live by faith, not by sight."

And yet one day it won't be that way..."And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight."

One would think I would have plenty of things to say after spending three weeks at Berkeley, road-tripping through the state of California, babysitting (seemingly non-stop) for a week, road-tripping to Temecula Valley, and on the verge of leaving for inner-city Los Angeles tomorrow afternoon. One would think. There's plenty to say, and everything has demolished me so thoroughly that the words resist formation, and manifest themselves in images and memories. Everything is clustered together in my mind...one big sweep of beauty and life all tangled up in the simultaneously writhing and peaceful glories of summertime. The most magical time...the season of fireflies and long, warm evenings, and hot days, and sunshine, watermelon, and the ice cream truck. Berkeley is a collage of a million beautiful things in mind...two things stand out the most: the warmest and coldest nights I have ever spent in California. The coldest was at CalShakes, seeing Shakespeare performed live at an outdoor amphitheater, bundled up in coats, scarves, blankets, and comforters, and beanies, eating bread and butter sandwiches with the stars burning brightly overhead. The warmest night fell on us at Sarah's house, the night of the aliens, and I still see Scott, Andrew, Lizzie, and I playing foosball in their barn in the dead of night. Who am I to be worthy of such things?

I dreamed about The Man Who Was Thursday last night. In my dream, Lizzie and a bunch of her friends had joined Torrey and they all had to read The Man Who Was Thursday and they all hated it and no one wanted to read it. For some reason, I was there trying to explain it to them, and to encourage them as they read. Lizzie kept saying she didn't understand it, and I kept saying that Chesterton didn't really want anyone to understand it in the way that she was expecting to. He didn't write to unveil a mystery, but to show us the mystery of creation from a different angle, from another perspective. I said all this as we floated up and down the river in a gondola. Looking back, it was actually a lovely dream.

My best friend who happens to be the love of my life is in Vietnam right now...half a world a way, and the time difference is about fourteen hours, I think. So as Jared and I go about our days we're always trying to figure out what time it is in Vietnam, and what Scott must be doing, and then we laugh because of the absurdly enormous difference in time between California and Vietnam.

California is another thing that puzzles and amazes me every day. I step outside: I am standing in California. I watch the sunset: This is a California sunset I drive to church, the grocery store, Target, Lauren's house: This is a road in California. The entire drive to and from Lauren's house I basically just laughed as I experienced this weird, out of body sensation of watching myself manouver all the crazy freeways and traffic jams, and even the landscape adds to the hilarity of it all. What's most astounding is the peace I feel here. Gone is the girl from last summer who had a panic attack on her way to the airport because she thought she wouldn't make it there on time and thus miss her flight. No, by the grace of God I am staying here this summer, for the whole summer, and I am glad that I am.

"By the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me was not without affect."

I needed to write because I needed to say something. God must be praised, an he deserves it so gloriously. He is working a miracle in my life, even now, on this cool Saturday morning filled with the sound of running water, lawn mowers, and my fan. The Kingdom of God advances in my life and the lives of the ones I love, and into all the world. I stand and watch, bearing the enormous burden of praise, knowing that if I am silent, the very rocks will cry out.
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Laundry and Shakespeare and San Francisco... [06 Jun 2007|03:16pm]
Here is the dilemma: a free afternoon, and I'm pretty sleepy to tell the truth. In one sense, nothing sounds more appealing than a long, delicious afternoon nap...but Berkeley is calling, and the sun is sparkling. "I don't wanna miss a thing..."

Basically, I'm excited out of my mind right now. BECAUSE! We are going to see Shakespeare tonight. What a magical word. I'm out of my mind with excitement, and we're only seeing Richard III (although I'm not sure that there are "only's" with Shakespeare), but still, imagine how crazy I would be if we were seeing Hamlet, or King Lear, or Henry V! Scott says this will be preparation for Ashland (or BUST!). I've never seen Shakespeare done professionally before. Oh, I'm in love with Shakespeare, seriously. To pick up this play and start reading was like a comfortable coming home. His meter is like jewels in my mouth.

I've planned a thousand different lives for myself in the past two days. I am entirely too easily influenced sometimes. We spent yesterday driving around San Francisco (mostly lost), but I was too busy planning out how I'm going to spend the rest of my living in this city to even care that we were lost. I've fluctuated through about a hundred professions in the past twenty-four hours. One minute I'm convinced to spend my life ministering to the inner-city of San Francisco, the next minute I'm going to Berkeley for grad school, and minute after that I want to go to England and become a Shakespeare scholar...and then a little child walks into view and I'm ready to build an orphanage and mother a thousand lost children. The scary thing is that after tea at the Fairmont yesterday, I was even tempted to lose myself in the world of Jane Austen and gossip over high tea.

I am a beast--I drank all of the Two-Headed Boy's water yesterday. People are more important than plants.

This house that we're living in smells like laundry. I LOVE IT!

I basically only wanted to write this blog so that I could profess again and again my passionate love for the city of San Francisco...Sarah, Michelle, Alicia, Karissa, and I got so lost yesterday on our way to the Legion of Honor Museum because we started talking about weddings, and that was when we lost track of the directions. ;)

In case all this sounds like hyper-excited jibber-jabber, I will pause for a moment of serious reflection as I think about love....a cold, and a broken hallelujah. Emphasis on the word broken.

Lord, thank you for bringing me here.
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Chinatown!! [26 May 2007|03:54am]
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Welcome to California!!!

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Welcome to Chinatown--they have lanterns in the streets!

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And the street names are written in Chinese!

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This is a bank!!

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The TransAmerica Building...now we can buy the Peter Lee Brownlee postcard!!

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The happy couple in Chinatown!! (Scott looks like he's being tortured!)
2 stars| light the sky

I grow old. [23 May 2007|01:13am]
Children are the spice of life. I have come to the conclusion that being a parent will never be boring. And if God never gives me children, I'll just keep babysitting for the rest of my life...

The past few days have been sheer craziness.

Monday was a free for all, a three ring circus, an absolute mess of insanity that I hosted on three hours of sleep. My fan died the night before which was absolutely tragic, so I had to go to Wal-Mart and buy another one. So Scott and I packed Gabriel and Jared into my little car, and off we go into the wild blue yonder. Once we got to the store, Jared and Scott went off to play video games, and I took a sleeping Gabriel to locate a fan. All was fine until I smashed my big toe into the wheel of the shopping cart and split my toe nail down the middle and blood started pooling out everywhere. Then on the drive home, my car stalled in the middle of the road. It just wouldn't go forward anymore and the engine was making horrible sounds. "AH! SCOTT! WHAT DO I DO????" Scott was sitting in the backseat feeding Gabriel his bottle. "Turn the car off!" So I stopped the car right there in the midst of pouring traffic, and then started it again, and realized that, oh yes, the gas tank was on empty. Jared and I started praying fervently that we would make it to a gas station--which we did. We got home and Gabe started howling, we put on Connie's bootlegged copy of Spiderman 3 for Jared to watch and suddenly noise was booming throughout the house since they have surround sound. Then the tile men showed up looking for their money, and speaking to me rapidly in broken, incomprehensible English. Meanwhile, three burners are going on the stove as we're trying to make dinner, and Jared (inspired by the movie) is running through the house screaming and throwing pillows everywhere and jumping on all the furniture.

If this is being a mother, sign me up.

I could not be happier.

I am such a woman. Once everyone went to bed and Scott went back to Biola, I just laid down on the couch and turned on TLC. I eat this stuff up. The families, the drama, the emotions, the children....Gosh, I love it. I get so into it immediately. It's so funny because I beg Scott to watch all these shows with me, and he's interested sometimes, but he just doesn't get into it the way I get into it. I have become my mother. Now I, too, cry every single time I see a baby born on TV. It must be part of being a woman. I mean, I just flipped on the TV and five minutes later a baby is born, and I hardly had no idea what was going on, but I just sat there with tears running beautifully down my face. I'm so hormonally charged right now--I just laid there on the couch and cried for three straight hours as I watched Little People, Big World, Quintissential, and Raising 16 Children.... These sixteen children families inspire me. I'm probably super into all of this mothering, family, children stuff so much right now because of my recent thrust into the home, and suddenly I'm mothering two children four days of the week. And it's also probably because this is what I was made to do. I love it. It's right, and it fits. Anyway, I'm seriously ready to pump out about fourteen or fifteen children right now and start raising them.

I love being a girl.

It's hard to believe that school is done. As of 10:40 this morning, I am officially half way done with college. I survived the Sophomore Slump. I feel eons older and wiser. I feel old. "I grow old, I grow old, I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers roller..." Don't laugh at me, I feel like a woman--or at least closer to being a woman than I was at this time last year.

I swear, I must be exuding estrogen like a perfume right now.

Welcome, summertime!
5 stars| light the sky

The Curse of the Oakland Raiders [19 May 2007|04:56pm]
Alternate Title: "Humility Takes on Pride for the One Millionth Time"

The Oakland Raiders are the most vile team in football. Even a child knows that. So Scott has always joked about buying a Raider's jersey for me to where when I'm in a bad mood. That way it would be a signal for him, and he would know to be extra caring and sensitive around me. Well, we were at Savers a couple of weeks ago with Greg, Lauren, Jason, and Andrew, and while we were flipping through the T-shirts we found an Oakland Raiders Children's Christmas T-shirt. It only cost a dollar, so we couldn't resist. Scott bought it, and I took it home and added it to the messy pile of clothes on my dorm room floor.

I never wore it.

...Until Thursday night. I'd already been in a ornery mood for an entire day, and I guess Scott kept waiting for me to put on the shirt. When I walked out to the lobby to hang out with him, he was like, "Where's your Raiders shirt? You need to go put it on!" (Kind of defeating the purpose because the point was that the shirt would be a sign to him that I was in a bad mood, but whatever...) So I went and put it on.

That's when the curse came upon me.

First of all I completely unwittingly insulted Scott, and slapped him in the face. I don't know what possessed me to slap the best guy in the entire world in the face but I did. The worst part about slapping Scott is that he didn't get mad at me--which made me feel even worse. I spent the next hour alternately kissing his cheek to make it feel better and begging him to slap me back--which he didn't.

Then I decided to go to bed before I did anymore damage. So I crawled into bed wearing the fateful shirt. What followed was a night of the worst, most bloody, violent, sick, disturbing, haunting dreams that I have ever had in my life. For most of the night I was chased through an abandoned grocery store by a serial killer, and then towards morning I killed a woman by beating her to death with a baseball bat.

Needless to say I woke up in a pretty foul mood. So I went to Chapel. I went all the way over to Sutherland Auditorium because that's where they have second chapel, but it had been moved--to the gym. A minor frustration. What really got me going was when I went to check in with the English department about a signature for one of the classes I'm taking next year, and they told me that they couldn't add me to the class anymore (even though they already gave me permission weeks ago) because now a senior needed the class and I was getting bumped out. They never informed me about this, though, I had to go in and ask them myself. I wonder if they were ever planning on telling me.

With this piece of news, Scott and I set out for the bank and Wal-Mart. I'm ashamed to admit that I grumbled the whole way there, and once we reached the shopping center, I broke down into hysterical sobs for about twenty minutes and ruined Scott's nice dress shirt with black globs and streaks of eye-liner and mascara.

Then Scott bought me a fish--to surprise me and make me feel better. It's a blue and purple Beta fish with an obviously regal air so I named him Henry V. Since my car had been named Henry V previously, I was forced to then rename my car with the more appropriate title of "Robey".

I thought the day was brightening up. I really did. I had my new fishy, and I was getting a cute haircut that afternoon, and that night I was throwing the end of the year party for Ignatius at Amber's house.

So I walked over to Melissa's room for my haircut. She cut my hair last time right before Spring Break, and it was the best haircut I've ever had. Consequently, I just asked her to do the same thing again--only maybe a tiny bit shorter so that it could grow out over summer. So I was sitting there, blissfully noticing that more and more and more and MORE of my hair kept falling to the ground...but not really thinking a thing of it until Melissa said something along the lines of, "Oh...I hope you're not going to mind how short it is...." My hand flew up to my head. Nothing. I repeat, Nothing. It felt short--the way Scott's hair feels. There was no hair coming off my neck and falling down gracefully around my shoulders. I had BOY HAIR!!!!! I tried to keep my cool. I tried to tell myself that it could not possibly be that bad. I refrained from panicking until she unveiled me to the mirror. Gone. All my hair was GONE! I barely made it back to my room before bursting into tears. First I called Scott to ask him if he would still love me even with my butchered hair. He thought I was joking. Then I called home, and Dad answered. I love my dad, but I needed to talk to Mom. Unfortunately, I was hyperventilating on the phone and freaking out so bad that I nearly gave my dad a heart attack. I knew Greg and Lauren were out in the lobby so I crept down there and stood outside the door. "Lauren...? Lauren are you in there?" "Yes." "Something awful has happened, Lauren." "What?!" A great sob, and then, "Melissa chopped off all my hair!" By this time Lauren ran outside the door to see me. There I stood--shorn, bare, humiliated, laughing and crying simultaneously. Greg and Lauren tried to comfort me. Then I had to show myself to Scott, bless his heart. I'll never get upset over his haircuts again after this little episode.

Mom called me back, "Carolyn, this better be good. The whole family is worried about you, what is going on?? You've scared your father to death!" So I sobbed out the story to her. "That's all?! A bad haircut?! Carolyn, it can't be that bad!" That's when I hung up, and took a bunch of pictures on my phone and sent them to her. She called back. "Carolyn, we're all crying now too. WHO DID THIS TO YOU?!?!" I spent the next hour on the phone with my mom, sobbing, and wailing, and moaning, "I'm ruined!! Utterly ruined!!!!" The kicker of it all was that I was having people over to Amber's house in just a couple of hours...the last thing I wanted was to be seen.

And right in the middle of it all, I remembered a prayer that I had prayed in Chapel that very morning. A simple, but highly dangerous prayer: Lord, humble me. Lord, root all the pride out of me. That was it, but that was enough. Mom and Scott lost all sympathy for me once I shared that with them. "Now I know what not to pray," Scott remarked. (He doesn't know that I'm praying the same thing for him, hahaha!)

So I sucked it up--with much encouragement from Mom, Scott, and Cathryn. I took a shower, and put on make-up, and stood in front of the mirror for two hours pulling on my hair trying to make it look longer. Pride lies at the root of it all. I think I'm better than this. I think I deserve to look a certain way. I don't want people to see me looking less than my best. I don't want Scott to see me with silly-looking hair. I want to be poised and beautiful and presentable...and I'm usually able to preserve that in myself to a certain extent. But now that covering has literally been stripped away. Again I face the choice...to resist this, and fight it stubbornly--or to submit myself to this discipline, to this experience, to this lesson that I desperately need to learn.

Lord, help me. The Raider's shirt must be burned.
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Wednesday, May 16th, 2007 [17 May 2007|02:30am]
To live and die for anything other than Jesus Christ is to waste your life.

"All I have has come from love,
I am blessed to be someone loved,
Something good has got a hold of me."
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Tuesday, May 15th, 2007 [15 May 2007|09:06pm]
I found myself inordinately mad at God this morning. I was perfectly content until I talked to Camie, who informed me that Megan came over to the house last night to watch Little People, Big World and Jon and Kate: Plus 8 with Cayla and Cathryn. It's kind of embarrassing as I write this now because I realize how trivial it sounds--but this morning I felt distinctly mad at God for the way He's arranged things...for the fact that they can all get together and watch TV shows any night of the week, while I sit alone thousands of miles away, watching the same TV shows in solitude, and not a little bit of loneliness. I felt the need to point out to God the severe injustice of this situation--if anyone should be there, I should be there. And yet, who am I to think I am entitled to any of this? Am I entitled to anything?

Yesterday a little girl in my first-grade class named Brianna D. came back from foster care. She had been taken away from her parents for ten days because they'd just gotten busted for dealing drugs. Her and her nine month old sister were taken to Los Angeles to live with a foster family. Now, though, they are living with their aunt while their parents are under investigation.

This is a broken world. I look around and I see brokenness, and it's not far away and theoretical anymore. It lives and breathes and walks around in the forms of everyone I know. Somehow this brokenness concerns me. Somehow the purpose of my life is inextricably wrapped up in this brokenness. There is something greater that I am called to be concerned with...something more important than what TV shows I watch, and who I watch them with.

The Bible is sharper than a two-edged sword. And it is always slicing into me.

"For Christ's love compels us because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."

2 Corinthians 5:14-21

I am coming to love the word "reconciled" ...and I am longing to be part of this Ministry of Reconciliation. There is no other message to bring to this broken world.

And yet as my spirit longs for this, my flesh craves other things. My spirit and my flesh war against each other. I am learning to recognize a single-minded desire that so often controls me: the desire to save my own life. I live for self-preservation, while I pray that God will teach me to "lay down my life." The words catch on my lips. I am honest. "God, I don't want to pray this! Are you kidding me? This sounds horribly painful."

"Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."

I don't say this flippantly, but with an awesome sense of gravity and joy and fear and trembling: I pray for the privilege of losing my life for Christ's sake.
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Monday, May 14th, 2007 [15 May 2007|02:11am]
Summer comes slowly to Southern California, and I'm learning to love the evenings that I never expect to be cool. The air breathes with the scent of jasmine, heavy and sweet. The door is open, and through the torn screen all manner of life pours in...the fountain gurgles peacefully, the neighborhood kids laugh and play, dogs bark, cars drive by, and the breeze sweeps through the trees reassuringly. It's been a long day, and I've been constantly honed by the question, "Will I get everything done?" How does one make dinner, keep track of a crazy six year old who thinks he's at least thirteen and a wrestler, as well as take care of a crying baby? I stand convinced that motherhood is not and never will be dull. The moment came finally came, when Jared came in from playing, we took the steaming pots of Top Ramen off the stove and poured them into cavernous white bowls which we set on the black table. Sweet night air sifted in from the open door, and Jared and I sat together drinking apple juice and eating our piping noodles. Gabriel rested contentedly in my lap with his wide blue eyes searching our faces continuously. Home is where you make it.
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Home on a Saturday Night: [13 May 2007|12:30am]
I wept tonight--partly from self-induced loneliness, partly from the nerve-wracking cries of a fussy newborn, and mostly because of the depths of beauty and wondrous reality around which my life is wrapped. A fluffy mass of pink cotton candy clouds shone in the eastern sky tonight as I pushed Gabriel around the block in his stroller. The streetlights shone against the sky like lights rippling on water. Twilight fell in hushed, silvery silence on the street and the cool breeze gently brushed against my bare legs. It's Annie Dillard. Torrey Berkley is already worth it because it introduced me to Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. My heart always swells with the joy of recognition when I find a book that I've never read, and yet somehow I already know it. It's the delight of not only existing but being known. It's the thankfulness that someone took the time to put all my thoughts into words.

I started reading her book, and suddenly I wanted to write again. I still don't know what I want to write, but my soul once again craves the intricacies of language, and the art of lacing words together with silky threads. I feel as if each word I read raises the height of my accountability. "Oh, the danger of knowing this," I think to myself as I pick up a book on the hard teachings and spiritual disciplines of Christ. "Do I really want to make myself accountable for something this difficult?"
I have felt the emptying. Our lives are meant to be poured out, given up, laid down, lost, hated. What does it look like to give up one's life? How does one go out and lose one's life? I feel it here when I spend hours holding and feeding a baby who communicates through incessant crying, and who is too weak to even hold up his own neck. I have literally felt the pouring out of my own spirit...I have felt it physically, internally, painfully.
It's hard to sit still in solitude and quietness. It's hard to read instead of turning on the television, and hard to pray instead of picking up my cell phone. The Son of God experienced deep loneliness--I can't stop thinking about Jesus lately. The past found me doggedly resistant to change...inwardly troubled over endings, and changes, and things that would never be the same. Now I am propelled onward by the deepest force. "To live is Christ..."

I long for him more than anything, even as I beg, "Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner."

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My new favorite song: [03 May 2007|04:01pm]
"Father of my salvation and Giver of my Life,
Lord of Heaven, all creation sings of Love divine
So we come exalt with voices to sing
We're dressed in your love
And fit for a King...

Love so amazing,
Love so divine
We raise up our hearts to the Giver of Life
Grace undeserving,
Grace that is mine
We give up life for Love
For your Love is life

You the Teacher,
And you the Lover,
And you the Sacrifice,
We your people,
And we your children,
And we your patient bride...
We come exalt with vices to sing
We're dressed in your love
And fit for a King

Love so amazing,
Love so divine
We raise up our hearts to the Giver of Life,
Grace undeserving,
Grace that is mine
We give up life for Love
For your Love is life
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