Friday, March 26, 2010

Transparencies, Second Part

I've discovered that, often, I can't take the same jokes I dish out.
That is something I'd like to change, and acceptance is the first step to recovery, right?

For example, Chris has been teasing me since he recently discovered I find Robert Downey, Jr. attractive.

 Here he is.

I poked fun back at Chris today. He benignly pointed out that if he were to rib me about an actress he found attractive, it would make me annoyed, pouty, or (depending on how the day had gone) mad.

Objectively, that's amusing, in a self-aware kind of way. However, I know that the small things that bother me diagnose underlying fears.

Jokes go a long way in unearthing insecurities and communicating messages for people to misinterpret as whatever they most dread to hear.

I'm not a proponent of "just getting over it." Proverbs 12:18 accurately states that "reckless words pierce like a sword." However, there must be some balance between utter apathy and deep hurt. As I've said before, black-and-white people like me don't take kindly to middle ground!

If you figure out what the balance is, dear reader, do let me  know. Once again, I encourage telepathic responses.

P.S. Chris, I love you...and you're hot.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Comment on the Book and its Cover

It's so easy to hide pain behind one's eyes, isn't it?

Things are always brewing in my head as I stroll down the South Oval.

The day's frustrations descend on me like "laughing fates" (Timothy Zahn phrase), adding to the weight of the unnecessary what-ifs and I-wish-thats already there.
In my head, I'm going on a tirade, and it's not cathartic. I "say" things I wouldn't say out loud when I'm ranting inside my brain. That just exacerbates the hurt.

I don't know why some things hurt me the way they do--I'm so aware that people are imperfect, and nothing distinguishes me morally from them except the grace of God.

I'm just thinking out loud, I suppose, letting my voice out of the confines of my brain. The point of this post was going to be that you can never know what people are feeling by looking at them. Even the most cool and collected person on campus has some wound that only God can heal. This is important--not easy!--to be aware of at all times, because we will inevitably face someone who hurts, annoys or even hates us. And, if we are obedient, we'll still love them.

Love is difficult, sometimes!

P.S. I hate enrollment.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Flannery Factor

“Ever since there have been such things as novels, the world has been flooded with bad fiction for which the religious impulse has been responsible. The sorry religious novel comes about when the writer supposes that because of his belief, he is somehow dispensed from the obligation to penetrate concrete reality. He will think that the eyes of the Church or of the Bible or of his particular theology have already done the seeing for him, and that his business is to rearrange this essential vision into satisfying patterns, getting himself as little dirty in the process as possible. His feeling about this may have been made more definite by one of those Manichean-type theologies which sees the natural world as unworthy of penetration. But the real novelist, the one with an instinct for what he is about, knows that he cannot approach the infinite directly, that he must penetrate the natural human world as it is.

-Flannery O’Connor, Mystery and Manners

I don't pretend to be a top-notch novelist who's got it all down--not even close. However, I whole heartedly agree with Ms. O'Connor. In the few short stories I've written, I've found that it is impossible to accurately portray real life without "getting your hands dirty."

I have standards about how far I will cross the line. It's inappropriate to spell some things out in detail for the reader, and not to detriment of the novel. Gratuitous anything is not how I roll (Some call this pusillanimity. Man, you really can't make everyone happy, huh?).

The moment I embraced this as my writing philosophy: I was plugging away at a short story about a young married couple torn between a life-and-death decision. Their views conflict. Both are convinced their side is right.

Since the story deals with two very difficult topics--abortion and cancer--I didn't want to water down the couple's emotions. As I composed the dialogue of their definitive, all-out fight, I came across a line in which my character would inevitably curse. I mean, really. It was big-time stuff, and my characters aren't southern baptist. Puzzled, I looked up at Chris and said, "Uh, my character needs to cuss, but I'm not sure if I should put it in there. I don't want to make anyone mad." Chris said something simple, along the lines of, "Well, that's real life, isn't it?"

It dawned on me, why, yes, it is. When people sugarcoat life and tell someone everything's going to be hunky-dory, and the truth is that it probably won't be, they become disillusioned, disappointed and bitter.

This real-life approach does not preclude purposeful and hopeful endings, no matter what Thomas Hobbes says. ;) I strive to close all my stories with hope, because I believe that hope always exists in reality.

So, there you have it: my potentially controversial writing philosophy. I'm not a fan of offending people, so I hope no one is offended. However, you can tell I've lived with Chris for eight months because I will not rescind even if someone is.

Anyhoo, dear reader, let me know what you think. If you don't want to leave a comment here, you may send it to me telepathically.

In fact, that might be a lot more fun...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

My song to anyone once shafted by love.

I pulled out my 6th grade journal yesterday--a detailed chronicle of my life from 2001 to 2005. It laughed hysterically at my melodramatic accounts of the rambunctious boys who called me "cutie" and put crickets in my locker to the girls I code-named because they were my tacit enemies or who drew comic strips with me and loved me like a faithful sister.

I'm an emotional person, so the stories resurrected vivid memories. It won't surprise you to know that the memories about disappointed love were most clear.

I revel in the love of my husband now. It's a more beautiful love than I had a concept of at age 12, that's for sure! Finding him wasn't the ending of a fairy tale like I thought it would be. Instead, it was the opening of an adventure more grand and awesome than any story my writer's mind ever contrived.

I have a background of heartbreak, but look where God has taken me.
This song is an example of where I used to be.
Hopefully, it will encourage anyone who is disillusioned and ready to give up on a God-sent love story.

This was penned in my journal after the final sentence of the entry: "Perhaps, one goodbye isn't good enough..."

What Went Wrong
written June 16, 2004

I thought that for sure all the wounds had healed up/and nothing would disturb me anymore
But I opened up my journal yesterday/finding that your name was written on the cover
I turn the page, and a picture that I drew/traces lines of adoration in your smile
I turn the radio on and music floods my mind/and it just happens to be our song!

Oh, quit haunting me, baby!/What have I ever done to you?
I'm dying to retrace our steps and find out
where we went wrong!
Oh, quit haunting me, baby!/Your eyes are more than I can bear
I'm dying to retrace our steps and find out
if you miss me!/Oh, where did we go wrong?
Where did we go wrong?

Viewing running commentaries everywhere that I alight/of lovers who are on the path we took
A passage strangely familiar to me as I read at night/is turning up in every single book
I close my eyes, maybe sleep will kill the pain/but I only get a vision of our stars
And when I open them, I daydream for an hour/of running into warm and open arms!

Oh, quit haunting me, baby!/What have I ever done to you?
I'm dying to retrace our steps and find out
where we went wrong!
Oh, quit haunting me, baby!/Your eyes are more than I can bear
I'm dying to retrace our steps and find out
if you miss me!/Oh, where did we go wrong?
Where did we go wrong?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Down with you, thou green-eyed fiend!

Oh, dear reader. Why is it so easy to compare oneself to other people in so many ways--spiritually, in particular?

I have seen a dark little plant growing in my heart over the past few years: an on-and-off stubbornness against rejoicing in God's work in others. Many stories I hear and things I see cause me to share praise, awe and joy with the people involved. However...

...when the plant sends out its nasty scent, my mind turns to my own inability to "do/be anything good," and it causes discouragement, despondence and spiritual jealousy. Turning my eyes toward myself is a dangerous game.

I will not pretend that my desire to do good justifies such an attitude. Jesus instructs the crowd in Matthew 6:1 to "beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them."

Also, a verse very meaningful to me in Galatians 3:2-3, as Paul speaks to the churches of, where else?, Galatia: "Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?"

My jealousy indicates two things.

1. I don't acknowledge that God loves me because he created me, not because I'm useful. He wants me to live for him, not live like him for others.

2. I see spiritual growth as a reward for having done something "right." I feel that if I'm not growing, or not "experiencing" God with strong emotions, I am doing something wrong (I'm sure I've blogged about this before). Those who are "more spiritual" than me must be God's favorites, right? :p

I really want this to end. How fruitless it is to strive before others to be everything to everyone. It's an impossible--and very tiring--feat! All the while, my King promises that if I seek him first, he will add things unto me, and not temporary earthly things. They will be much better than the things I thought I wanted as my will aligns with God's.

Heal my heart and make it clean, open up my eyes to the things unseen
Show me how to love like you have loved me!
Break my heart for what breaks yours
Everything I am for your kingdom's cause.
As I walk from earth into eternity


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Utterly Despicable!

My writing prof sent us this link today as an example of how we can use our skills to get the word out about these awful things.

I had marginal knowledge of this infanticide; this is the first time I've ever read an in-depth article about it. I think I stayed naive for longer than most people do, but let me tell you, my bubble burst awhile ago. Human nature is bad.

Even though--since my Sunday school days--I acknowledged that we were born into sin, I subconsciously held to what I call the "Diary of Anne Frank" principle. The last two lines of the well-known play are as follows:

Anne: In spite of everything, I still believe people are really good at heart.
Mr. Frank: She puts me to shame.

I try to give humans the benefit of the doubt, which very quickly turns into believing that humanity is overall decent. Call me a cynic (well, don't, if you can help it), but the world is not decent at all. Not like I thought as a child, or a teenager, or a freshman in college.

There really is a war raging underneath the realm of the visible, and it is in the heart of man. We are as capable of hateful hurt and violence as we are of profound and abiding love.

There is hope in the gospel, and really, that's all I have to lean on when it comes down to it.

"I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)

"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience." (Romans 8:15-26)

Saturday, March 13, 2010

First-Rate Worrier

Philippians 4:6-7 (emphasis mine) says,
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

It's so easy to say that I believe Scripture is true. When a first-rate worrier is told not to "be anxious about anything," the last thing they want to do is say, "Okay. You're right. I'm going to praise God and let it go!"

There's a backwards desire in me to want to be worried. If I'm not wringing my hands about something, I think I'm probably making a million hidden mistakes. For example, if I'm not hounding myself about doing better in school, I'm probably letting my grades go to pot. If I'm not chastising myself over completing some kind of Christian checklist (so very easy to make), I'm probably sinning left and right without even noticing.

Lately, I've been quoting this Philippians verse to myself whenever I feel that inexorable pull towards being paranoid.

I've found--unsurprisingly, I suppose--that when I do, God gives me a peace that I could never conjure on my own. Trust me, that's thorough proof that God does the impossible every day in the lives of "normal" people.

Well, as Chris will attest, I can't exactly classify myself as normal... ;)

Monday, March 8, 2010

You May Never Know...Which ROCKS.

Thinking about the Nicole Nordeman song "Finally Free" today, I realized that Nicole Nordeman wrote something that changed my life, and she'll never know that.

You know my opinion about lightning bolt moments--they don't often happen. At the end of a growing process, though, sometimes the culmination of understanding is a lightning bolt. The lyrics of this song gave me hope in a time when I, fallen and broken like David in the Pslams, cried out for rescue. It confirmed in the deepest part of my heart that "even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me" (Psalm 23).

It was a spiritual turning point for me--God showed himself trustworthy in a mighty way.

This whole thing came to mind for two reasons:

1. Last year, my friend and I led a Bible study that I considered a total disaster. However, little did I know, one girl in the group took away so much from it...enough that she requested another study! Now, I'm discipling her, and it's so awesome to see how God is working in her.

2. I've been working through Mark Robinson's (Wildwood's executive pastor) Bible study on John, "Vital Signs." Once again, my friend is learning so much through it. I can see both her and my eyes opening to new truths. Mark may never know this, but he was faithful to put the study together--a huge project--and God is now working through it.

If God calls you to something that seems pointless, remember this post. You may never know how He uses it, but He has holy reasons for the things He asks, and that's awesome.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Humbled. Dangit.

Funny quote of the day!

Katie: "How can the CDC website be down?!"
PJ: "It has a virus!"


Hello, everyone.

I've been a bit lax at updating this thing lately.

These last few weeks have been strange: they've been a test of humility and patience and trust for me.

First of all, it's that time of the semester when all my professors assign papers and midterms simultaneously. Though my junior year has been relatively easy (compared to physics majors, for example), there's a lot to do.

As much as I joy in writing stories, they take awhile, and the word count is starting to rise--which is, though nerdily exhilarating, a bit overwhelming in light of the other things that need to be completed. I took my first stab at a crime story this week, which I not only turned in 3 days late, but was told that I didn't write correctly.

The week before, I received a paper at the beginning of Book of Western Civilization II class with a grade that made me grumpy. At the end of that same class, I received back a paper...with another grade that made me grumpy. You must understand, as a writer and an anal type-A must-get-an-A student, this was way discouraging for me.

I also skipped class one Monday (shocking for me, I know) because I was getting sick, and just happened to miss the one class of Honors Understanding Drama (1000 level) where a handout explaining a future assignment was distributed. So I did the assignment wrong!

Needless to say, I was frustrated at myself and confused about what God was doing.

I am no longer frustrated at myself, though I'm still confused about what God is doing. I guess I don't need to know, as much as I'd like to. If nothing else, I'm learning--what else can I do?--that my worth does not come from accomplishment.

It's amazing what side lessons you can learn at school.