Tuesday, December 15, 2009

but you promised!

I've been thinking a lot lately about the concept of promise.

We have a God who makes a lot of promises to us. Seriously, the Bible is fulllllll of them! Promises of forgiveness, eternal salvation, peace, deliverance in days of trouble...He promises that he will never leave us or forsake us. Intense, huh? And we can be assured that he is an unwavering, good, and perfect God, and that his promises are finite and sound. They will not be forgotten. He will not fail to deliver those promises to each and every one of us.

So then I realized: People make a lottttttt of promises, too. In the form of spoken words, yeah...but they come from everywhere. A hug, a smile, a repeated action, a gift, emotional and physical intimacy. Stuff like this can feel like a promise, I think, even if that wasn't the intent. We're always making promises to family and friends, and to ourselves, and sometimes to God.

And so I'm wondering: How did we, human beings-- broken, faulty, flawed creatures-- create this concept of human promise? Because to be frank, our promises SUCK. They cannot even really be promises, can they? If, as the dictionary says, a promise is "a declaration that something will or will not be done; an express assurance on which expectation is to be based," then I'm wondering if humans even have the capacity to make promises. How can we declare that something WILL be done? How can we tell someone "I promise to..." or "I swear I will..." and ask them to base their expectation and hope on our word? We're imperfect, we're sinful, and we certainly aren't all-knowing or all-powerful. What can a promise be apart from God?

Human promises are shaky, shaky things. And we allow them have a lot of weight in our lives. We make serious decisions based on promises we've made and promises others have made to us. Relationships are the framework for pretty much every venture we'll ever make-- and each relationship inevitably springs from promises, whether they're stated explicitly or just implied. Somtimes, broken promises break relationships, and then entire lives can feel broken.

I don't think all this means we shouldn't make promises. It doesn't mean we shouldn't accept promises from others, either. People certainly merit our trust and optimism, and we have such great opportunity to glorify God when we do follow through on a promise. And I'm thinking it'd be hard to get through life without the web of human promises we're all involved in.

But I do think it means we realize the brokenness of people. I think it means we see God and his Godly standard for promise, but hold humans to human standards. It means we offer people grace and love and forgiveness when they break promises. And it means that if you have ever broken a promise, that Jesus offers never-ending forgiveness to you.

I think ultimately, it means that if we claim to follow Christ, then we acknowledge that he CAN and DOES make "a declaration that something will or will not be done; an express assurance on which expectation is to be based." We remember his promises, and we place every ounce of hope we have in him alone. And we absolutely rejoice in this. :)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

carrying capacity

So, this isn't the blog I want to be posting. Last week, I was finally writing one that I had been thinking about for about a month, when my beloved macbook, for the first time since we began our blissful and spotless relationship, FROZE! and restarted itself. Boooo. My blog was gone forever. I'll re-write it soon. But here's a thought I had today...

Earlier this fall, I had a conversation with the lovely Kelly Hamelin that continues to creep into my thoughts regularly. Both of us were feeling overwhelmed by the number of friendships we were attempting to develop, maintain, and enjoy. We were kind of lamenting the fact that humans have such a limited capacity for relationships. Think about how many people you know that you'd love to be able to share every day with. There are just too many stinkin' people, and they are all too fantastic!

So often, I have a brief interaction with someone and walk away thinking that I want to pursue a friendship with them. But I just can't. No one can. We just can't constantly add new besties while maintaining every other relationship. It's like we have a carrying capacity. We're kind of like a plane, or a boat, or...I think I'll be a rollercoaster. We're always adding and losing people, bringing some closer, watching some drift away. There's certainly no solid number, not even close...and things like jobs and school and seasons of life make the carrying capacity fluctuate.

We meet so many delightful and beautiful and broken people, and in the midst of running around trying to love everyone, relationships develop without even trying. This world is so temporary; the only things with eternal possibilities are human beings. Relationships have intense purposes in our lives here on earth, and the idea of being intentional in friendship is something I've really enjoyed learning about over the past year.

I don't really have a big grand final point or conclusion to this post. I just was struck again this week by how many wonderful people I know, and how badly I want to spend time with all of them. And that's all. :)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

irrational fears of foxes and ladders

In fourth grade, my teacher shared with the class that as a young girl, she had been terrified that a fox dwelled under her bed and lurked there in the dark, waiting to snap its teeth at her toes when she got into bed. She was, of course, telling us this to highlight the irrationality of this fear. But my 10-year-old mind couldn't shake the possibility that this was true, and so for the next year or so, I took a grand flying leap into bed every night.

Around that time, I was also terrified of mirrors in the dark. My friends loved to go in the bathroom, turn off the lights, and chant creepy songs in front of the mirror. I became convinced that Bloody Mary (and no, I wasn’t aware of the grimy history of King Henry VIII. I thought we were talking about Jesus’ mommy. No wonder I was disturbed) lived inside and was about to murder us or suck our souls out or something. This fear transferred to mirrors in my home, and at night, I would dart past the one in the hallway and cover up my bedroom mirror with a t-shirt before going to bed.

I’ve been thinking about this lately because a new irrational fear has been dominating my thoughts. My current sleeping situation involves a 9-foot high loft bed. Every night since August, I’ve climbed up the sturdy wooden ladder to go to sleep. And I’ve been just fine. But recently, I re-watched a YouTube video that I saw last fall…

Suddenly, I’ve become terrified that as I’m climbing up the ladder, my feet will slip between the wooden rungs, I’ll fall backwards, and my leg will snap in the middle of my shin. I almost think I’m worse off with this fear. It makes me nervous as I climb up the ladder, and my feet feel even closer to slipping off.

Sometimes irrationality is relative. Sometimes it’s absolute. Maybe my fourth grade teacher had legitimate reason to believe a fox was waiting under her bed to gnash at her toes. I probably did not. I could be wrong here, but I’d say it’s irrational for everyone to believe that evil spirits live inside of mirrors. Thankfully, my fear of the fox died out a while ago; although to be honest, I still hate mirrors at night. Additionally, I’m afraid of seagulls and spiders, and I hate driving over bridges. Like we decided at CTG a few weeks ago, every girl is afraid of “the man with a gun”…and I can’t even think about the expanse of the ocean without shuddering.

Unfortunately, the ladder thing might be kinda rational. I could break my leg as I cimb up to bed…there’s not a lot I can do about this fear. I think I’ll just be reaaaally happy when I don’t have to sleep 9 feet off the ground anymore.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

the panda says NO!

Have you ever read Eats, Shoots, and Leaves?

If you have, did you find it hilarious and wildly entertaining?

If the answer to either of those questions is no, you might not enjoy this post. Just a warning.

So, I just logged onto Facebook and, upon surveying the new and significantly creepier "Live News Feed", saw that a friend had joined a group called "Real Men Don't Lie To, Cheat On, or Abuse Woman." I imagined someone making this statement in a very adamant caveman-like voice and giggled...and then realized I was laughing at group for domestic abuse.

But seriously. This wouldn't necessarily be a group I'd join anyway, but if nothing else, I would refuse to join it because of the yucky grammar mistake. Grammar snob? I guess. Yup.

On a sidewalk in East Lansing, there's a silver electrical box that sports some very irritating graffiti. "Working hard or hadly working?" it asks. Now, author of this message: Were you perhaps going for a Boston accent? Fail. Pick a dialect! Either put an "r" into "hardly", or take the "r" out of "hard." I'm sorry, but you cannot have both. Watch out, electrical box. Someday my Sharpie and I will get you.

Last week, my resident mentor put up some cheery Halloween signs in our hallway. Nice glittery exclamations of "BOO!" and "HAPPY HALLOWEEN!" dotted our walls. And then there was one that said, "Quiditch anyone?" Mmm. Oh dear. I felt very disgruntled. I got out a marker and squeezed an extra "d" in there, and went back later to add the appropriate comma. "Quidditch, anyone?" Much better.

If I was a superhero, I bet my superpower (unfortunately, sadly, but truthfully) would have something to do with grammar. I felt like I was righting some massive injustice in the world with that Sharpie and my grammar knowledge.

But seriously, as I was writing this, I thought to myself, "Congratulations. You are CRAZY. Please just stop caring about this stuff! Please?" Without doubt, getting upset over the misspelling of Quidditch and being angry at electrical boxes points to some level of eccentricity. It's taken me a while to realize that I care about grammar in disgusting excess, and anger over misplaced commas just isn't prime conversation for most people. In an attempt at pleasantry, I'm learning to refrain from grumbling when I notice mistakes on fliers, menus, and street signs. And I just realized that there's a good chance that me correcting that sign made my RA feel bad. Eeeek.

But even if I learn to control my words with this one, I'll absolutely still be a stickler at heart. It's important sometimes, I swear! Life or death, even. I'll leave you with the example from the back cover of Eats, Shoots, and Leaves. (Which you should pick up, by the way, if you can at all relate to my grammar-snobbery.)

A panda walks into a café. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and fires two shots in the air.

"Why?" asks the confused waiter, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly-punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder.

"I'm a panda," he says at the door. "Look it up."

The waiter turns to the relevant entry and, sure enough, finds an explanation.

"Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots, and leaves."

Thursday, October 29, 2009

the internal struggles of squirrels

Sometimes, I am fully aware that I appear to be insane.

A few days ago, I was on my way to lunch after Spanish class. While I was walking, I realized it was colder than I had thought that morning, and I made a mental note to grab a coat after lunch. I was within sight of the cafeteria, making confident strides towards food, when I thought, “I’ll just get my coat now. It’ll be faster.” I pivoted and headed for my dorm. But I was starving! I wanted food ASAP. I turned around again and took a few steps towards the cafeteria, but just a few… my logic told me again to just save time and get my coat first, and so I turned abruptly towards my dorm. Repeat this spastic cycle a few more times...and it’s not like one or two people witnessed this obvious display of insanity. Nope, it was passing time; the sidewalks were flooded with students watching me march up and down my own invisible balance beam. Squirrels are supposed to struggle with issues like this, not people. You’d think the human capacity for decision-making would have gotten me through this one…

Yesterday, too, my brain kinda just quit on me. And also, I’m pretty sure every MSUFCU employee had me on their red-alert bank-robber radar. On our way to Meijer, Mallory dropped me off curbside so I could do some quick banking. To avoid paying for parking, she was just going to circle around the block-- but I was in line longer than expected, and I saw her drive past twice while I waited. After finally completing my transaction, I stepped back out to Grand River. I watched cars pass for about five minutes before deciding to check the back parking lot. (Walk-through #1.) It was empty, and Mallory’s blue station wagon was nowhere to be seen. (Walk-through #2.) Again, I watched afternoon traffic build up on Grand River, but didn’t see Mallory. I went to double-check the parking lot. (Walk-through #3.) No. Dumb idea. (Walk-through #4.) Cars pass. More cars. More. No Mallory. Maybe she parked in the alleyways? (Walk-through #5.) No Mallory. I turn around to head through again JUST in time to see her blue station wagon round the corner towards Grand River. Walk-through #6 turned into more of a sprint-through (I swear, nervous-looking bank teller, I’m not about to rob you!) and I made it through the doors to see Mallory flying past me. Luckily, the stop light turned red, and so I hightailed it up a block and jumped into the car just in time. After some really unnecessary craziness: mission accomplished!

As mortifying as these things felt while they were happening, I’ll admit, I love having a good story to tell at the end of the day. My roommate even humored me by laughing at my reenactment of the hunger vs. coat dilemma. The best ones are totally those that come at your expense, too. A regular dose of embarrassment betters the world around you...and either serves to humble you or feed your vanity, I haven't decided. :)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

a season to work

Searching for a job sucks so bad. The monotony of the application process feels much the same as re-learning the scientific method at the start of every science class..."Ugh, this again?" My employment history has been pressed into every corner of my brain- I couldn't tell you the home addresses of any of my close friends, but I could spout off the address and phone number of every place I've ever worked.

Besides the mass application I sent in to University Housing (which, hey, MSU-- I'm guaranteed employment...right?), I've applied at something close to 10 other stores. I was pleasantly surprised at the number of places that are already hiring seasonally. But I mean, I did hear Christmas music on the radio over the weekend, so...it's that time, I guess.

I don't know what I love so much about plain old customer service, but I really just want to be a cashier. Talking to people is so much easier than it seems sometimes, and I'd love the opportunity to grow in this even more. When I was younger, I always felt awkward and uncomfortable around store employees. Side note: this might have had more to do with me feeling awkward and insecure around everyone, but it was always heightened in stores. At some point, I realized that as the customer, I'm expected to have questions and need service, and some of that insecurity dissolved. Those experiences are part of the reason I want to work in a customer service arena. Working in a public environment is such an easy outlet for showing simple Christlike friendliness, care, and service.

Yesterday and today have been Phase 1: Apply. Tomorrow begins Phase 2: Follow up via el teléfono. I will probably take the first thing I can get...the time for being picky has passed. Prayers would be sweet. I need a job.

And, completely unrelated- but this blog thing! I'm not sure why I started it. I like to write. Sometimes I think about interesting things. Sometimes I think about boring things, like getting a job. But I thought I'd give writing about those interesting (and, like today, sometimes boring) things a shot. So this is it. :)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

a philosophy of apathy

I’ve never appreciated my nerdy childhood as much as I did yesterday afternoon.

I walk into philosophy just as class is starting. Immediately, I notice each student staring expectantly at the chalkboard, pencil in hand and paper waiting on each desk. Surprise! My sloppy academic habits strike again: a quiz I’m not prepared for. The professor scribbles two questions on the board comprised of several unfamiliar and perplexing terms. Dread and frustration wash over me, and I feel mildly annoyed with myself. By my own laziness, I wasn’t even aware we had new readings to do, and the only thing I know offhand about Aristotle I learned from Legally Blonde.

Several scenarios fly through my head. Perhaps I can draw a clever picture that will get me some pity points. Would a pithy, honest statement about my failings as a student suffice? But as I search for any part of the question that I can respond to, I notice that while my sleepy and unconcerned brain doesn’t recognize the terms themselves, I do recognize a Latin root or two in the words that conjure more familiar associations. And so I begin to compile what I know about philosophy and what I know these Latin roots refer to, and I manage to make some messy guesses about what the terms mean.

I am so convinced I’ll be receiving zero points for the garbage I’ve written that I feel an urge to write a cute apology to my professor. “Awful guesses from a lazy student who may or may not have done the readings! Sorry!” Maybe I’ll draw a sad face, too. She’s a nice lady who is clearly passionate about philosophy, and I feel kinda bad.

We hand our quizzes in. I picture the zeroes that will show up in my online grade reports and regret the time I’d spent socializing in my favorite coffee shop before class. I suppose I could have been preparing for- or at least finding out about- this quiz.

My professor walks to the front of the room and gives a quick rundown of the correct answers. I stare at the chalkboard in disbelief. Lo and behold! My horribly strung-together definitions are right on, even down to the wording.

I was amazed. Recently, I’ve gotten a lot of weird breaks like this in my academic life. Some have been more trivial, like my biology professor canceling class because of the swine flu, or discovering that my Spanish professor forgot his attendance book the morning I overslept. But more importantly, I keep noticing that whatever hangs out up there in my brain has made some very fortunate triumphs over my tendencies towards laziness and academic irresponsibility.

Most of my life as a student has been this way. High school consisted of lots of fluffy playtime, homework done ten minutes before class, and zero studying…all while receiving honor-roll grades. I finished my freshman year of college at a pretty great university in much the same manner.

Why am I able to do this? Why can I so easily skate my way through coursework with little or no actual effort? It can’t be any roots in mathematics or science. My mathematical caution tape goes up right around 2x=6, and the world of science interests me to the extent of NPR’s Science Fridays.

I think my valuable BS-ing abilities can only be reasonably attributed to the sick way in which I have consumed literature since kindergarten. It’s kind of far-reaching to claim that the books I’ve read are the sole reason I am even reasonably intelligent. I mean, maybe calculus and complex chemical equations would do me some good. And really? Reading all one hundred Boxcar Children books couldn’t have helped that much, could it? But I’m going to go ahead and make that claim, because it’s the only abnormal thing about my otherwise-uninteresting intellectual development. Thanks, Mom and Dad, for allowing me to be a dangerously bookwormish child! I’m certainly reaping the rewards in my adult life.

So yay! I can do almost nothing for almost any class and get satisfactory grades. But here’s the sad part of the story: this ends up encouraging the biggest failings of my flesh: laziness, apathy, idleness. My confidence in my ability to be a lazy “A” student is bolstered with each quiz I ace unexpectedly. Friends tell me about their 6-hour study days in the library and I wonder if I’ve done that much in a week. I don’t even know what study habits would look like in my life. Would I take notes in every class? Would I go home and study those notes? Multiple times, even? Would I bring out some old-fashioned flash cards before exams? Hey- what if I read what was assigned? I like the idea of being studious and diligent with my schoolwork, but I’ve never been that way, and I’m not even close to that now.

This bothers me. And to be honest, conviction has found me in this area of life before. The first thing that got me was the realization that my parents are paying for half of my college, and it seems like my habit of putting zero work out to get average grades is a really crappy way for me to honor my father and mother. And school is kinda my job right now- wouldn’t it be really glorifying to God if I could focus some energy into being attentive to my studies? Maybe it would be good if my professors thought I cared about their class, or if students sitting around me saw me taking notes and asking questions instead of doodling incessantly.

Gray areas. A 3.0 versus a 4.0 isn’t life or death. Nothing crucial. But if I’m really angling my life towards God, if I’m striving to glorify Him, then I think everything shuffles over a little bit towards “crucial.” And so perhaps I’d do well to re-evaluate the way I approach academia.

Ironically, I am scribbling these thoughts into my journal IN my philosophy class, immediately following the faux surprise quiz. I’m totally absorbed in my writing and am only hearing snatches of my professor’s lecture: ”…mainly claimed that knowledge…might be on the test…important concept to grasp…” I guess she’s preparing us for our next exam.

But hey, nothing crucial, right?