Your 3:15 appointment with the Genius Bar

G:

This fall has been a trying time for Adam.

As his condition steadily grew worse to the point that he was rendered almost completely useless, I rushed him to the doctor fearful that I was going to lose him.

A young man in a bright blue shirt and light-washed skinny jeans hooked him up to life support as he listed off possible diagnoses to blame for his decline.

When it became clear that Adam needed to stay for at least 3-5 days in the hospital for surgery, the young man quieted his voice to signal concern and asked, “Have you backed him up recently?”

I scanned the sterile white walls of the large open room plastered in iPhone covers of various colors and patterns. Children and tweens played Fruit Ninja on various sizes of the iPad. And then there was the lady of questionable age and dress taking a selfie of herself with the new iPhone 5c.

I knew that when I picked up Adam in 3-5 business days after his new hard-drive transplant that he would be wiped out and restored.

I’m thinking I’m due for a restoration, too.

I’m sitting here half asleep with a to-do list that when unfolded could easily rival the length of the Great Wall of China. I’m thinking work and errands and Christmas presents and do you know how many days there are until Christmas? and the freshly fallen snow and if that will affect my morning commute and I should really be going to bed earlier than I have been and I’m pretty sure Adam’s battery is also failing and I’m tired and burnt out and overloaded that I’m rendered almost completely useless.

And then I’m thinking about: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want, He maketh me to lie down in green pastures, he leadeth me beside the still waters, He restoreth my soul” (Psalms 23: 1-6).

My soul needs to be restored. Needs to be returned to its original condition. Needs to be put back to where You intended it to be—with You.

Wipe my soul clean of everything that bogs me down. Renew, refresh, restore me to where my soul belongs, to its origins by Your side.

Consider this my Apple Store Genius Bar appointment request. I’m asking to be shipped back to the factory for a total soul restoration with my Creator.

Thankfully, your services are completely free.

Your child,

m

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Like a firefly in a jar

christmas

G:

I’m trying to be a person that relishes moments. Like catching a firefly in a jar, I want to take in the beauty of a fleeting experience by being fully present.

I’m thinking about this soak-up-experiences-like-a-sponge state of mind while the colors from a sunset streak across the sky like the atmosphere is your canvas and you’re the Master Painter. I’m thinking about this while I’m catching up with a kindred spirit through an invisible connection from my computer to hers on the other side of the world. I’m thinking about this as I’m visiting my parents’ home for the first time since Easter and we’re sitting on the couch together with no lights on except for the multi-colored glow of the Christmas tree reflecting off handmade ornaments decades old.

I’m savoring these moments as they are all special and fleeting and precious and I want to make time for them and do them justice. Because important things not only need to be remembered but need to be relished in the moment.

I’m thinking about all this on the first day of Advent, a time when we are preparing our hearts for the coming of your Son.

I’m thinking about how I usually relish the moment that is the Advent season—cookies stuffed with peanut butter cups, white lights that look like icicles, glass ornaments, music about sleigh bells and winter wonderlands, malls with 50% off bargains, movies about humans that think they’re elves and travel to New York City and fall in love with a blonde Zooey Deschannel.

I’m thinking about all this on the first day of Advent and wondering how I can be more fully present in these fleeting four weeks before Christmas.

I’m stuffing my firefly jar too full of meaningless activities and sugar and shopping that I forget to embrace fully the sole light, the sole reason, inside. I want to savor this season because it’s special and fleeting and precious and I want to make time for Jesus’ birthday and do it justice. I want to be the person that relishes in the anticipation of You coming to earth to dwell amongst us as a baby, Emmanuel, You are with us—the Light of the world.

Your child,

m

On hand turkeys, sweet potato casserole, and the obligatory thankfulness list

hand turkey 1

G:

For several years, I planned a Thanksgiving potluck feast for my young adult bible study. Before we commenced our hour and half of gluttony devouring sweet potato casseroles and two butterball turkeys the size of toddlers, I laid out a cornucopia of markers and crayons for which they were to create hand turkey drawings.

Beside each hand turkey was a list of things, people, or inanimate objects for which they were thankful. Some worked their way up Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, starting first with basic needs of food and shelter before expressing gratitude for relationships of family and friends. There were the techno-enthusiasts singing praises to their iPad or smart phone of their choice, and the dreamers who wanted to thank fall leaves for making that pleasant sound when crunched underneath their leather riding boots.

And then there were the handful that still remembered to be thankful for You and even fewer that listed out Christ by name.

I was always too busy preparing for the dinner to sit down and draw around the outline of my left hand with a brown marker, add some extra feathers in red, yellow, and that little jiggly red thing dangling from his neck like an awkward homemade scarf. But I know what I would say if called upon to list the top three things I was thankful for.

The obligatory: God, family, friends.

It comes automatically, without any real deep heart reflection. You come first, of course, because that is expected and commanded. Family and friends because it’s true even if it might sound cliché.

This list is certainly all well and good but it’s missing something.

As I was reading 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus,” the last part of verse 18 stuck with me. Usually we focus on the first three parts, the part about rejoicing, praying, and giving thanks, but the rest of the verse always trailed off in my mind. That little part about Christ always trailed off in my mind.

That little part about Christ’s sacrifice always trails off in my mind.

And it’s not a little part.

As we count our blessings, listing out all the things and people and food and shelter that we are thankful for, we forget the not-so-little-part about Christ’s sacrifice for us.

For me.

You call us to rejoice, to pray, to be thankful, all through the lens of Christ’s greatest gift of himself on the cross.

Why do I always forget that on my list?

Cultivate within me a heart that is thankful first and foremost for the gift of eternal life through your Son, Jesus Christ. By viewing my life through the lens of this truth, I won’t want to do anything but rejoice and pray and be thankful without ceasing. Christ’s sacrifice allows me to appreciate the little things because of the biggest thing he did for me.

Help me remember what should be first on my thankfulness list. And not just one day in November when my belly is full of food and that chemical in the turkey is kicking in and I’m sleepy and warm and nestled amongst the love of family. Help me remember that because of your love for me through the sacrifice of your Son, I’m nestled amongst the love of a Savior everyday of my life and for all eternity.

Your child,

m

Cite your source(s)

G:

I’m a plagiarist.

And the copy and paste shortcuts on my keyboard weren’t even utilized.

It started out innocently enough. I’m at work receiving praise from a colleague, and we’re not talking the throwing-flowers-at-my-feet-let’s-erect-a-statue-in-your-honor praise, we’re talking the one-pat-on-the- back-and-a-teeth-showing-smile praise.

And I received it without any hesitation.

No online websites or articles were copied and pasted (including Wikipedia), no one received $20 dollars from me in exchange for a B paper on sustainability in Eastern Europe, and no books from the library were harmed in the making of this act of plagiarism.

All I did was forget to cite my source. (Even after years of constant threats of expulsion from institutions of higher education and multiple copies of the MLA handbook.)

When someone comments on my seemingly chronic state of smiling, I receive it without any hesitation. When someone compliments me on a wise word I said, I receive it without any hesitation. When someone notices my personal contentment and joy, I receive it without any hesitation.

I receive it as if I am the one responsible. As if I, through personal hard work and perseverance, created within myself a content, joyful, and wise spirit. As if I manifested these characteristics of my own accord.

But I know full well that every good and perfect gift comes from You[1].

The hope I have in your grace and Christ’s sacrifice[2], gives me a joy that radiates. Your love[3] keeps me in a seemingly chronic state of smiling[4]. Your Holy Spirit grants me wise words in difficult conversations[5]. The promise of Christ’s power to give me strength in all situations cultivates contentment within my soul[6].

This is all a sign of Your hands at work—not mine.

I’m guilty of taking Your work and passing it off as my own.

I’m a plagiarist that needs to start citing her Source[7].

Your child,

m


[1] James 1:17

[2] Ephesians 2:1-10

[3] John 3:16

[4] 8+ hours of sleep helps. Also, peanut butter. Also, Youtube videos that involve fluffy puppies.

[5] Romans 8:26

[6] Phillipians 4:11-16

[7] God

The 7:45 PM train to Paoli/Thorndale

G:

Remember that time the 7:45 PM train to Paoli/Thorndale was running late and I was running early? Cold, tired, my backpack sat heavy on my shoulders.

He approached me like he had approached the other ten people waiting on the elevated outdoor platform. He apologized for the interruption, curious to know if maybe, just maybe, I could spare a few dollars.

“How much do you need?”

My soul stirred with some sort of Christian obligation, the paraphrased verse “whatever you do for the least of these you do for Me,” flashing through my mind. He didn’t look dangerous or homeless—he just looked like he wanted to go home.

“Just four dollars.”

You remember what I did next. I sneakily fumbled through my wallet using the wall of my purse as camouflage. My fingers flipped through a five, a couple twenties, and two one dollar bills.

I paused as my thumb and index finger tugged the five dollar bill, hesitated, then pulled out the two one dollar bills.

He thanked me, hoped that You may bless me, and walked further down the platform.

I figured he could easily get the last two dollars he needed for the $6 train ticket. After all, you know I had my own uses for that five-dollar bill. I saw him get at least one more dollar from a young girl with a ponytail and a duffle bag.

As the awaiting mass gravitated towards the doors of the approaching train, I saw him out of the corner of my eye asking for one more dollar. I grabbed my purse ready to unzip to get my wallet, but the elbows of impatient passengers propelled me through the open door like cattle into a pen.

You remember what happened next.

The western suburbs of Philadelphia blurred outside the moving car as I took the longest twenty-five minute train ride of my life. Cold, tired, my wallet sat heavy in my lap, the vision of the man standing on the platform as the train pulled away heavy on my mind.

He made me think of you.

You’d think I would have learned by now. You’d think I would remember that everything I have is because of You. But no, I’m holding onto my wallet, attempting to hide what you know too well I have in there saying, “How about two dollars?” Nodding to the girl with the ponytail and the duffel bag “I bet you she has a great job. Go bug her for more.”

It’s silly, really. I trust you in every other area of my life: career, potential marriage, you name it, but when my direct deposit comes in with my paycheck suddenly that’s off limits. Please step away. Please do not touch. You see that there aren’t any extra zeros added onto my available balance so why would you ask me to give you 10 dollars let alone 10%? Let’s be realistic here, let’s be wise. You know that if I give you 10% I won’t have enough money to pay for my food, gas, my Chickfila 8 count nuggets. Heck, don’t even mention my savings account with 4 cents in it. You want me to wise, right? But you also want me to trust. Why can’t I seem to trust you with my money?

I keep thinking about Jacob after his dream in Bethel when on his journey to meet his future wives Leah and Rachel. You spoke to him and told him you were going to be with him wherever he went to fulfill the promise you gave to Abraham—that his descendants would be blessed and would be more numerous than the stars. When he woke up, he took the rock he used as a pillow and propped it up as a pillar vowing that if you took care of him, gave him food, gave him shelter, and brought him back to his dad’s house, that he would give you a tenth of all that you gave him (Genesis 28:10-22). Fast forward to Malachi, and you ask me to test you in this by bringing my whole tithe into your storehouse. “Test me in this… and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it” (Malachi 3:10). Have you not provided me with a place to sleep, food to eat, a job that pays the bills? Why then do I continue to hoard what I have instead of bringing it into your storehouse?

I know you promise that I am more special than the birds of the air and the flowers of the field (Matthew 6:25-34). Like birds, like flowers, like Jacob, you promise to take care of me.

Me of little faith.

Forgive me for not being faithful with the little you have given me. For how can I be trusted with more if I haven’t been faithful with little? Forgive me for not having faith that you will take care of me financially. Forgive me for giving you two dollars when I should be giving you my wallet.

Everything I am, everything I have, is from you, and is Yours.

Here’s to bringing my 10% into your storehouse.

(Stay tuned for the opening of the floodgates.)

Your child,

m

Runaway Bride

runaweay bride

photo: smartrelationshipadvice.com

G:

I had my runaway bride dream last night. It’s been a while since I’ve had that dream. It used to be my reoccurring dream, along with the one where I’m driving down the highway and my brakes don’t work or the one where my teeth fall out and I’m screaming “but those weren’t baby teeth so I can’t even get a quarter for each!”

It’s always variations of the same dream—it’s the morning of my wedding and I don’t want to do it anymore. And I never know who the guy is. Never. Sometimes I get all the way to the front of the aisle, other times I don’t even get the dress on. And I’m filled with anxiety, a sense of dread that I’m not ready for this. It happened too fast, too soon. And who is this guy? Where is he? Why don’t I see him? The dream last night I remember looking at my phone wondering why I didn’t have a text from him saying he was excited to marry me that day. Jerk. So I told my parents who were sitting in the living room with me that I wasn’t doing it anymore and I apologized if the caterer wouldn’t be giving a refund but at least they could freeze everything and feast off it for the next 10 years.

I guess a Psychologist would say I have a latent (or blatant) fear of marrying the wrong person. I feel it is the biggest, most important decision I will ever make (aside from following You of course). We’re talking about spending the next 50-60 years with that person. Starting a whole new line of generations like you read in Genesis:

This is the account of M and [insert name of unidentified husband here] who themselves had sons and daughters four years after their travels around the world and attempting to pay off all their schools loans.

The sons and daughters of M:

Hayden, Alexandra, and Arden, Riley, and Jordan (triplets who were not planned but were “divine intervention”).

The sons and daughters of Hayden:

Nathan, Emerson, Caleb

The sons and daughters of Alexandra:

Robert, Roxanna, and Kayleigh

The one and only child of Arden who was spoiled rotten:

Edward

The sons of Riley:

Eric, Jonathan, and Brian

The sons and daughters of Jordan:

Madison and Matthew

 The region in which they lived stretched out from the Upper West side of Manhattan to just left of a bison in Wyoming. These are the clans of M and [insert name of unidentified husband here], according to their lines of descent, and within their United States of America.

No offense, but you know I just begin to glaze over those genealogies after a while. They just go on and on. Just like the generations I could create. That’s a lot pressure.

But there is no right person out there for me. They are all going to be wrong.

They are all wrong because they are all imperfect. Just like me. Because we’re human.

And that’s where you come in. I do believe you have given me the chance to choose, and I can choose to follow You and let You lead me to your best (Proverbs 3: 5-6). Including a husband. Especially my husband. He won’t be perfect, but he’ll be your best for me.

So how will I know? How long will it take of dating said unidentified husband before I know? Hearing about people who met, date, and get married all within a year of meeting each other seriously makes me feel like I’m going to throw up from anxiety all over this letter.

How can I make sure I won’t be running away and leaving my parents with an industrial size freezer full of stuffed chicken?

I’m not sure. Because I haven’t been sure before. Because it hasn’t been your best for me before. I’ve always been running away. So I’ll just wait. And be patient. And have faith you’ll let me know when I’m following your best for me. When it’s time for two imperfect people to come together as one. Preferably with a proposal where the ring is snuggled amongst 8 count nuggets from Chickfila.

Your child,

m

Beautiful vandalism

G:

I think we saw it at the same time. The giant rock beside the park trail shrouded in spray-painted graffiti. The five-year-old boy in front of me stopped in his tracks and gasped.

“Look, mother! Somebody wrote on that rock!”

I could sense his mother’s hesitation at beginning to describe what exactly he was seeing. The wheels in her brain churning, trying to concoct a kid-friendly word for vandalism. Before she uttered a word, he uttered something surprising.

“It’s—it’s beautiful!”

There were words in neon paint that only Urban Dictionary could give a detailed account of. Numbers and names of people and activities you hear about at 10 PM on your local news. His mother gently patted him on the shoulder, attempting to appease his sense of awe at something awful. No, this wasn’t a good thing. This wasn’t a good thing at all. But he put his hands on his hips and proclaimed defiantly:

“Well I think it’s BEAUTIFUL!”

His comment stuck with me—like a movie or book that makes you think even long after you’ve read the last word or thrown out your popcorn. It stuck with me not only out of humor or surprise, but also out of truth.

I’m like that giant rock along the park trail. Living in a fallen world where unfortunate circumstances and difficult situations and poor decisions have left marks.

I’m a rock that’s been vandalized.

But yet You come to me, and you find me, colored by the troubles and trials of this world all of which are clearly visible to You.

And I see you stop. And I heard you gasp. And I hear you say, “It’s—it’s beautiful!”

I don’t understand it. What good is there to come from the bad? What awe from the awful? No, these aren’t good things. These aren’t good things at all.

Yet you say, in all things you work for the good of those who love You (Romans 8:28). You take all I’ve been through, in any circumstance or situation, and you bring good from it all.

You make beautiful things from the bad.

You make beautiful things from the broken.

You make beautiful things out of spray-painted rocks.

You look at all that was and is and will be, and with your hands on your hip, you proclaim defiantly: “well I think it’s BEAUTIFUL!”

Your child,

m

I am NOT cool

G:

Remember that phase I went through in elementary school where I would wear a blonde wig around with a black beret? I’m pretty sure I also tried to convince people I was Australian.

This would have been cool except that I have enough red curly hair on my head to make wigs for every man, woman, and child in Northern Ireland with enough leftover for replacement fur for Scottish Highland cattle. Also, apparently all of my attempted accents sound French. Which would have made more sense with the beret (alas, hindsight is always 20/20).

To everyone who was unfortunate enough to experience me at that time in life must have thought I looked ridiculous.

I was NOT cool.

At the tender age of twenty-seven, I’m still not cool. At least, in the world’s eyes.

Because I’m a Christian.

Movies, television, and songs all say I need to look like a model, love recreational and casual sex, and party like there’s no tomorrow.

Of course I’m not cool because as a Christian I’m called to do the exact opposite—stand firm in the promise God created me for a purpose, looks and all; sex, while awesome, is to be saved for marriage; and while we are to enjoy the life He has given us we aren’t supposed to be getting drunk and living recklessly. To the world, my life sounds awful. Void of all the things that are supposed to make you feel alive and happy. I’m swimming against the flow of today’s tide. I’m counter-cultural. Christianity is counter-cultural.

Christ was counter-cultural.

Christ wasn’t the cool kid on the block. He wasn’t the strong warrior everyone was expecting. He was a humble servant who said crazy stuff like “the first shall be last and the last shall be first.” He spoke in parables and answered your question with a question. He said if you want to follow him you have to deny yourself and pick up your own cross. He captured many, but lost many more. And he died the death of a criminal on a cross.

But he also did some really notable things. Like turning a few fishes and loaves into enough for five thousand people. Or casting out demons. Healing the sick. Raising people from the dead. Including himself. So that we could have eternal life.

Now that’s pretty cool.

Being a Christian may mean that my co-workers aren’t going to invite me to Happy Hour after work because they know I don’t want to indulge in gossip about everyone else at work. Being a Christian may mean I can’t have sex with my boyfriend until I’m married. Being a Christian may mean I’ll be playing board games instead of drinking games on a Friday night. Being a Christian may mean that people may make assumptions about me and my beliefs or judge me because of who I serve and who I believe in. Being a Christian may mean that a television show of my life wouldn’t make it to primetime—or even straight to DVD. Being a Christian may make me seem not cool.

But being a Christian also means I have a fulfillment from something, someone greater than myself, greater than anything this earth can afford. I was created and called for a purpose by a Heavenly Father who knows the exact number of hairs on my head. And who knows the plans He has for me even before I was created. While life isn’t perfect, and I am not perfect, God promises comfort, peace, and strength when I seek Him and seek Him with my whole heart because he sent His son to overcome it all. He forgives me when I screw up. Daily. His mercies are new every morning. Being a Christian means I make sacrifices for things of this world to pursue things that are of Him—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Being a Christian means my time, money, and life are not my own—but belong to someone who holds me in His Hand. I can choose to pursue Him and let Him lead me to His best for me. And He has a best for me. Being a Christian means I have the choice to accept Christ as the Savior of my soul and Lord of my life. Being a Christian means Christ gave His life for me so that I can live forever with Him. All I have to do is say yes, and follow with my heart, mind, soul, in words and in actions, denying my earthly self to follow You—my heavenly Father.

Being a Christian means I’ll look ridiculous to anyone who experiences me at this time in life because of the love I have for You—like a blonde wig and a black beret on a redhead. Like David singing and dancing when the ark of your covenant finally came back to the temple.

I’ll become even more undignified than this when living my life for You.

And I’m cool with that.

Your child,

m