enough is enough

i have unofficially given 2009 the title, the year of conquering irrational fears.

recently i've come to the conclusion that the longer that i allow myself to be held captive by things that i either fear justfiably, or fear because of the unknown elements, the stronger their hold becomes over me.

case in point: the dentist. until thursday, it has been a lifetime since i've been to the dentist. after the very brutal root canal {post the traumatic youth group tobogganning accident}, then a very ugly wisdom teeth extraction experience, i figured i had had all i could take with those in the dental field. i could take care of my teeth. i brush. floss. do all the things the people do to take care of their teeth...except regular dental visits.

then, at some point over the past few weeks, i started thinking how irrational it was that i am not afraid to travel alone in europe, but to sit for an hour in a dentist's chair renders me spitless. but seriously, how much harder could a visit to the dentist be than having to wait alone in the entrance of the kiev/borispol airport by myself for seven hours after only two hours of sleep?

so, i booked an appointment, and went. {BTW, no cavities!} and realized that all the evil, scary, lurking things were bigger in my mind than they were in reality.

our minds do that. they make the scary things scarier, and the longer we go without confronting these things, the stronger their power over us becomes.

hence the year of conquering irrational fears.

what are you afraid of?



the power of suggestion is really so much more potent that i usually give it credit for.

this weekend i was graced with a visitor, my dear friend angie, from michigan. she made the long trek north, in spite of the insane, arctic cold that awaited her, and we got to spend saturday together. we did some of the things that we usually do together, and some new ones, mostly due to the cold!

there is something so comfortable in a friendship that has lasted almost 20 years. angie has seen me at some of my worst moments, has listened to some of the stupidest things i've ever uttered, and has heard me confess some of my darkest secrets... and still she remains my friend. still, whenever we get together, regardless of how long it's been, i know we will laugh, we will share our lives and struggles, and at the end of the day, when we part, i know i will love her more than i did before.

angie is comfort food for my soul.

and since we are on the topic of comfort food, while walking around yorkdale mall, we wandered into williams sonoma {we both have small addictions to cooking stores... the difference between us is that angie actually cooks!}, and came across this. now, on a normal day, i am susceptible to the lure of comfort foods. but on a blustery, arctic, minus-a-million-degrees-with-windchill day, the idea of hot, yummy sloppy joes is just too much for this human girl to handle.

so, tonight i made myself a sloppy joe for dinner. and let me tell you, it was plenty yummy.

what are your comfort foods, for both your soul, and your tummy?


where it all began...

there are some beginnings that are firmly planted in my mind. the first time i met my niece and nephews. my first coffee {which happened to be an espresso}. the first time i went to a UofM football game. the first time i met my friend angie. i could go on...

but, for the life of me, i cannot remember the first time i was introduced to ranier maria rilke, who, for anyone new here, is my favorite poet. i don't remember when it was that i was introduced to the man watching, my very favorite poem in all of the world. i am happy, however, that i loved and appreciated rilke long before i knew that he was auguste rodin's personal secretary, and lived in paris...otherwise i may think that my admiration was partly circumstantial.

i've been thinking about rilke much of the day, partly because i've begun reading his diaries of a young poet, and partly because when i am in the midst of internal struggle, his words most seem to resonate what echoes inside. and since i have noticed that i don't believe i've ever posted my favorite poem, and because with unfailing certainty my heart goes back here, tonight i will leave you with this perfect gem.
the man watching
by rainer maria rilke

I can tell by the way the trees beat, after
so many dull days, on my worried windowpanes
that a storm is coming,
and I hear the far-off fields say things
I can't bear without a friend,
I can't love without a sister

The storm, the shifter of shapes, drives on
across the woods and across time,
and the world looks as if it had no age:
the landscape like a line in the psalm book,
is seriousness and weight and eternity.

What we choose to fight is so tiny!
What fights us is so great!
If only we would let ourselves be dominated
as things do by some immense storm,
we would become strong too, and not need names.

When we win it's with small things,
and the triumph itself makes us small.
What is extraordinary and eternal
does not want to be bent by us.
I mean the Angel who appeared
to the wrestlers of the Old Testament:
when the wrestler's sinews
grew long like metal strings,
he felt them under his fingers
like chords of deep music.

Whoever was beaten by this Angel
(who often simply declined the fight)
went away proud and strengthened
and great from that harsh hand,
that kneaded him as if to change his shape.
Winning does not tempt that man.
This is how he grows: by being defeated, decisively,
by constantly greater beings.


good intentions

when the weekend began, i had every intention to write. sadly, here it is, just after 8pm on sunday, and clearly, all the good intentions i had stored up did not produce so much as a sentence...until now. and the majority of this post will not be my words, but the words of someone else.

i don't seem to remember how it feels to not be tired. not the 'i didn't get enough sleep last night' kind of tired, but the bone-chilling, aching tired that seems to have become my constant companion. along with this tiredness, is the sinking feeling that i am simply a train wreck waiting to happen.

much of this, i know, is circumstantial, and once life returns back to some semblance of normalcy, much of the problem will right itself. but for tonight, i am left simply tired, and with little of any worth to say.

so, on that note, i will turn to walter brueggemann. a friend introduced me to his book, prayers for a priviledged people, and i have to say that it is fantastic.

there is one prayer that has struck me tonight, and here it is.
circled by mercy
(on reading 2 samuel 11)

we all know about being entitled
and then growing careless.

we all know about self-indulgence,
even amid work to be done.

we all know about being--for a moment--
beyond Torah requirement and
outside of your world of command.

we know about seasons of life not given over to us
and grief at being failed selves.

we also know that you circle back among us
in harshness and in mercy
in rigor and in generosity.

now our world has gone careless and
self-indulgent and
beyond Torah.

so, circle back, we pray--one more time,
among us with your mercy,
our only source of comfort,
for we belong to you in your faithfulness.
this is my prayer tonight... i belong to you in your faithfulness...


i am a shell full of dust...

walking away from tonight's small group, i am left feeling broken and very small... in a good way. in the way that recognizes that God is God and i am not.

even as we were driving away, the one thing that was on my mind was a prayer that i originally found in a chuck swindoll devotional about a million years ago. it is taken from a book of puritan prayers, and is what my heart is echoing tonight.

I am a shell full of dust,
animated with an invisible rational soul
and made anew by an unseen power of grace;

Yet I am no rare object of valuable price,
but one that has nothing and is nothing,
although chosen of thee from eternity,
given to Christ,and born again;

I am deeply convinced of the evil and misery of a sinful state,
of the vanity of creatures,
but also of the sufficiency of Christ.

When thou wouldst guide me I control myself,
When thou wouldst be sovereign I rule myself.

When thou wouldst take care of me I suffice myself.

When I should depend on thy providings I supply myself,
When I should submit to thy providence I follow my will,
When I should study, love, honour, trust thee, I serve myself;

I fault and correct thy laws to suit myself,
Instead of thee I look to man’s approbation,
and am by nature an idolater.

Lord, it is my chief design to bring my heart back to thee.

Convince me that I cannot be my own god,
or make myself happy, nor my own Christ to restore my joy,
nor my own Spirit to teach, guide, rule me...

Take away my roving eye, curious ear, greedy appetite, lustful heart;
Show me that none of these things
can heal a wounded conscience,
or support a tottering frame,
or uphold a departing spirit.

Then take me to the cross and leave me there.

This prayer is a modified version taken from: “The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions” by Arthur G. Bennett

it is this chorus that my mind will fall asleep to: take me to the cross and leave me there...


friday i'm in love

okay, so maybe i'm not actually in love, but the cure's 'friday i'm in love' was the only song i could think of with the word friday in the title. i'm sure there are others, but i couldn't think of one... especially one by a band as super-awesome as the cure!

anyway, it's friday night. i'm home, and as usual, i am tired.

today, for our new website, we put together a list of 16 questions that each staff member will answer to serve as their bio. for the most part, they are relatively easy. but the one i am torn about asks, 'what is my greatest challenge?' the rub comes not in not knowing an answer, but struggling between two!

i really cannot decide if my greatest struggle is:
  • getting out of my own way, or
  • being content.

the more i think about it, the more i go back and forth. craziness.

what is your biggest challenge?


what are you reading?

this is not a newsflash: i like books.

actually, that is an understatement...i don't just like books, i like looking at books, i like the smell of paper, like seeing books stacked on a table or on the bookcase...oh, and yes, i like reading them.

2008, regardless of whatever else it held, was a great book year for me. it introduced me to cecelia ahern, and when i finish reading her latest book, which i got for christmas, i will have read everything she's published. {note to cecelia: please write faster.} also, on one gloomy saturday in october, i read the whole of sundays at tiffany's, one of my favorite books of the year. jane austen was pretty prevalent in my reading this year, although she didn't write all the books i read about her & her writing. ian morgon cron introduced me to the world of saint francis of assisi, and last but not least, i have fallen in love with a book thief.

and that was just the fiction.

francis chan has {and still is} challenging me beyond belief. reading about the wild goose has helped me better see the areas that i've been stuck in, and still tend to get stuck. i was reminded that God still loves the french. and as carryovers from last year, i am learning how food and the city can help me grow closer to God.

realizing that not everyone sees books as i do, as friends that i have the privilege of knowing and spending time with, i still have to ask...
...what are you reading?
...do you have reading goals for this year?
my reading goal this year is that for ever piece of fiction that i read, i will read at least one non-fiction work. this should help even things out in the genre department.

you'll have to excuse me. all this book talk is making me want to do a little reading...


new questions

i've been thinking a good deal lately about why it is that at this time of year, we feel the need to change or improve our lives more than the other 51 weeks of the year. why do we need to wait until it's time to buy a new calendar before we are motivated to make the changes that we know all year long we need to make?

the thing that i keep coming back to is that we humans have a never-ending need for new beginnings. the possibility that we can start again, and maybe this time not mess something up. that maybe the next time we try, we'll do better, go farther, be stronger. i know that i have an unquenchable thirst to try again, especially on those days/weeks/years when i feel like all i have done is fail, fall down &/or disappoint.

2008 has definitely not been one of my favorite years. the month of january started off difficult, and ended with mom finding a lump in her breast...and in many ways, it went downhill from there. there were some great moments and occasions as well, but i know that in so many ways, i could have handled the year with more trust, obedience and grace than i did. i've seldom been so happy to see a year end.

but the reality is, that unless i do something about it, 2009 will be much the same. there will be struggles and pain ahead...there always is. Jesus didn't sugarcoat a life of discipleship, he said it would be hard...but that we would not be alone as we walk through it.

i love lamentations 3:19-26,

I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

God's mercy and compassion are new every morning. and ever year, thankfully.

i found these ten questions on Pink Haired Girl's blog yesterday, and am working through them in an effort to be a better disciple this year. they're not the easiest of questions to answer, and even less easy to act on, but, in my estimation, staying the same is not an option.

  1. what is one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?
  2. what is the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?
  3. what is the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year?
  4. in which spiritual discipline do you most want to make progress this year, and what will you do about it?
  5. what is the single biggest time-waster in your life, and what will you do about it this year?
  6. what is the most helpful new way you could strengthen your church?
  7. for whose salvation will you pray most fervently this year?
  8. what’s the most important way you will, by God’s grace, try to make this year different from last year?
  9. what one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?
  10. what single thing that you plan to do this year will matter most in ten years? In eternity?

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