Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Dear're welcome.

I was going to write a little snippet apologizing once again for my lack of postage, and promising an update tomorrow, and hoping to distract you with some reasonably clever and impressive display of vocabulary.......but this is so much better. Enjoy ♥

See you guys tomorrow!

Sunday, February 20, 2011


No cryptic title or italicized closing lyrics today, because this post does not need to be framed in a song to do it justice. It is fully awesome unto itself.



One of the dogs belonging to my cousin's brother got knocked up awhile ago and had a litter of eleven perfect little furballs, and they've been trying to get rid of them. Today, my cousin and her four adorable little kids brought one of the puppies with them to church, and we all went out to visit her after the service was over. I immediately fell to repeating the argument that my parents had to put up with for the first 18 years of my life, and Adam has had to put up with for the past 15 months.

"Please please please please pleeaassee can I have a puppy?! Oh please oh please oh please......."

Adam knows I want a puppy. He also knows that I cannot keep a puppy at my house, which means any puppy of mine will have to technically be a family puppy and live on his ranch out in the boonies of Turlock. He's told me often that we can get as many dogs as I want once we're married and have the space and finances for them, but this is the first time I made my argument with the aid of an actual puppy, both of us giving him puppy dog eyes. I could see his resolve faltering and I made my move.

"Just take a picture and send it to Dad..............."

By "Dad," I was referring to Adam's father, Ralph, from whom Adam inherited his big heart and sweet, loving, giving nature. Senor Serpa Senior (high five, those of you who remember Kim Possible days,) loves me. Every time he nonchalantly refers to me as his daughter I feel like I'm about to burst into happy tears, because it's just so sweet. However, though I had a good feeling about this particular move in my Puppy Quest, it was still a long shot. I knew Adam was just humoring me.

We kissed the puppy goodbye and got in Adam's car to drive to after-church lunch at my aunt and uncle's house. On the way there, his phone buzzed. He handed it to me to read his Dad's response, and I almost shrieked:

"Sure! Pick two! :)"


The rest of the afternoon was a blur of childlike joy and wonder. It seriously felt like every Christmas and every birthday I'd ever had rolled into one glorious and unexpected whirlwind of awesomeness. I'm pretty sure my entire mental capacity was converted into one flashing jumbotron image:


Before I knew it, we were pulling up to the ranch in Denair where we would pick out our babies.

The puppies are some sort of mix of collie, lab, and rottweiler, with long hair and floppy ears and the sweetest faces I've ever seen. There were four left, each sweeter and more mellow and cuddly than the last. We knew we wanted a male and a female, and since there was only one male left, that choice was easy. Picking only one of the three girls there was almost impossible, but in the end we went with the most dark-colored one, since the other two looked a lot like their brother. Their names are Lucky and Bella and I am absolutely in love. These are not just any puppies. They are probably the most perfect puppies to be born in all of puppydom ever. Adam gently placed them on a pillow in my lap, where they immediately snuggled up against my arms and laid there quietly the whole drive home.

Pretty much nothing else got accomplished the entire rest of the day other than watching the puppies do puppy things in their adorable puppy ways. I'm pretty sure almost nothing else will get accomplished in my social life ever again besides watching puppies do puppy things in adorable puppy ways. And I'm strangely okay with that.

Puppies 4 evr. Omg.


The minor fall, the major lift.

Hey guys! I'm sorry it's been about a million years since my last update. I promise, I'm alive and at least mostly well.

It's been a crazy couple of weeks for me, full of many new developments both fantastically amazing and utterly depressing. Let's get the bad out of the way first, shall we?

I'm still having a lot of trouble with this bothersome slipped spinal disc. We finally settled on a course of treatment: heavy medication to reduce the swelling in my spinal column, which will subsequently diminish both my pain and risk of further damage as I continue on to step two of the process, which will be physical therapy once or twice a week in hopes that my vertebrae will readjust and the protrusion will heal on its own. If it's not healed in a few months, we'll have to discuss surgery, which is something I'd really REALLY rather prayers would definitely be appreciated :)

Another pretty irritating development was that my car was stolen last week. Right out of my driveway in the middle of the night- and I live in a nice neighborhood! Granted, it was a '94 Civic with about two hundred thousand miles on it, accident damage, and a shot transmission, but it was still my car and I depended on it a lot to get me to school, work, and my boyfriend's house. Plus, every member of my family had random stuff in there....including hundreds of dollars worth of my CD's and a lot of my little sister's baby pictures. The last part is the thing that really makes me feel sick. The car was found this morning in a random field, but it's completely stripped; even Kelsea's baby pictures are gone. We can't afford to buy another car at the moment, so we're all working together to make sure everybody gets from Point A to Point B as they need to. I truly don't understand how people can be so utterly disgusting and evil. So on this front, I just ask for prayers for a peaceful heart since there's truly nothing I can do.

And now, on to the good stuff, because there's plenty of it and I'm excited to share it!

First of all, this is my first blog post on the other side of my teen years. My birthday was last Thursday, the tenth, and I am now officially starting my third decade of life. The big 2-0. Twenty. Ridiculous! Adam spoiled me with tons of flowers and an equal amount of hugs and kisses, and my family showered me with love as well. It was a great day.

I started my new job as a personal assistant for my friend Eric. I've known him my whole life- our families are friends from church, he and his older sister used to babysit us on occasion, and seven years ago I sang at his wedding to a wonderful woman named Tricia. He's the manager of a branch of Vector Co. that sells engraved Cutco knives as closing gifts to realtors. It's a weirdly specific market, but apparently a viable one, because he's got about a million clients. I love this job- I really enjoy officey things like typing and making phone calls, and he's a great boss and a lot of fun to share an office with.

My friend Carol asked me to take over her job as the instructor of a musical theatre class at the Dance Academy in Modesto! This is basically the exact same thing I do at iWorship and when putting together shows with TOP & DMCF, so I'm really excited about it. Plus, it's a relatively small commitment, so I don't have to worry about it conflicting too much with my OTHER new job, which is....

A steady gig as the singer for The Modern Jazz Duo, which is a jazz band from downtown Modesto! It consists primarily of a fabulous jazz trumpeter and bass guitarist, and sometimes a pianist. I've got a pretty heavy song list of jazz classics and standards to memorize, but I could not possibly be more excited about this job. I literally get to dress up like an old-school movie star, sing dreamy jazz with my very own band, and get paid really well for it- which is especially amazing considering that this is something I would gladly do for free just because I love it so much! My first rehearsal with them is this Thursday, and my debut gig will be playing for the Art Walk at the Mistlin Gallery in downtown Modesto a month from now. I'll keep you all posted. But in case you just can't wait to come see me do my music thing, you'll have an opportunity next week, because.....

I get to open for the fabulously amazing indie/folk singer Danielle Anderson, aka Danielle Ate the Sandwich! If you don't know who she is, I'm so sorry, but please, observe her brilliance and hilarity:

She opened for One Eskimo, Weezer, and Train at the Mile High Music Festival in Denver this summer, and just opened for Mumford & Sons before their trip to that little thing called THE GRAMMYS. So this one's kind of a big deal, kids. My delightful friend Aaron Will and I will be playing a set of our original songs and some super groovy covers at 7 pm at the House of Java in Turlock next Monday, February 28th, and I'm SO THRILLED. 


I'd love to see you there :)

In light of all these exciting new jobs, I bit the bullet and quit my job at Papapavlo's, the Greek restaurant I've been working at since Fall of 2009. This marks the first time in about five years that I haven't been working at a restaurant and have been able to pay all my expenses with jobs that I totally enjoy, and that are almost exclusively performance related. That is such an incredible feeling! The really amazing thing, though, is to step back and realize that none of these things would have happened if I hadn't been forced to drop my classes for this semester, which was at the time a devastating decision for me. And that initially depressing occurrence was a direct result of the slipped disc. So as it turns out....this debilitating spinal injury is turning out to be one of the best things that's ever happened to me.

This is a classic example of one of the most universally quoted truths about the Lord, which is that He moves in mysterious ways. One of my favorite authors is a Christian writer by the name of Patsy Clairmont, who shared in her book "God Uses Cracked Pots" a story that resonated extra with me, because I'd experienced it myself. There's a children's worship song that goes like this:

"Hallelu, hallelu, hallelu, hallelujah,
Praise ye the Lord!

Hallelu, hallelu, hallelu, hallelujah,
Praise ye the Lord!

Praise ye the Lord, hallelujah!
Praise ye the Lord, hallelujah!
Praise ye the Lord, hallelujah!

Praise ye the Lord!"

Patsy writes about a time that she overheard a child singing this song to himself, but his young ears had interpreted the term "praise ye" as "crazy." Thus, the song changed from a call for us to praise God into a declaration of praise unto itself, and in all truth, a pretty accurate one.

"Crazy the Lord, hallelujah!"

How many times have we had to sit back and just shake our heads at the awesomeness, and sometimes sheer weirdness, of the way God reveals Himself to us? I know it happens to me all the time, and whenever it does, I sing this to myself with a spirit of reverent laughter. I like to think that my loving Father is chuckling along with me- I truly do believe that He has a great sense of humor. I imagine it must be wildly entertaining to see us FINALLY get something that's been in front of our noses the whole time, just like the way we rejoice when we watch a child's face light up as they figure out how to pull themselves up to their feet for the first time. God delights in our joy and our triumphs, and is always there to see us through the dark times. This dichotomy of involvement in our lives is rarely expressed more beautifully than in the Psalms, especially in what is arguably the best-known Psalm of all time, Psalm 23:

"The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want!

He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside quiet waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name's sake.

Even though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death,
I fear no evil, for Thou art with me- Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever."

This passage is undeniably beautiful and powerful, but if you look at it closely, it seems to contradict itself. David begins and ends with declarations of God's blessings, which are so great that he wants for nothing and his cup overflows. He doesn't say, "I think some days I'll be happy and well," but rather, "SURELY goodness and mercy shall follow me ALL the days of my life." That's a pretty definitive statement. And yet, in the middle, he acknowledges that he walks in a place called "the Valley of the Shadow of Death." I don't know about you, but that place doesn't sound particularly good or merciful to me. If I was there, I would definitely be found wanting- to get out! How can David combine such opposing concepts?

The answer is simple, yet hard to swallow for many. God doesn't promise that there are only going to be great and happy times. The existence of sin in the world prohibits the perfection that God intended for us and perpetuates Earthly suffering. But God DOES promise that He will always be with us, even in the times that are awful. There's a reason that the little story "Footprints in the Sand" can be found on everything from throw pillows to coffee mugs to calendars, and that's because it's one of the most fitting analogies to convey this concept. But even if we acknowledge in the good times that we know God will be with us even in the bad times, it's a lot harder to remember that when we're actually there.

To me, one of the most important verses in the Psalm is verse 3: "He restores my soul." Sometimes we will suffer and our faith and internal joy will falter. Sometimes things are going to suck and we're going to feel utterly defeated. But the Lord promises that He will restore us! Even when bad things are happening, even as we sit "in the presence of [our] enemies," God is continually blessing us. Our challenge is to continue seeing with the eyes of our faith even in times of Earthly darkness, so that we can seek out that holy rod and staff that will comfort us.

I've definitely been spending some time in my own Valley of the Shadow these past few months. Physical pain, emotional stress, tough life choices......they take their toll. But God has used even these hardships to bring about great blessings in my life! And that DEFINITELY qualifies as goodness and mercy.

"And even if it all goes wrong,
I'll stand before the Lord of Song,
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah."

(Hallelujah, Leonard Cohen.)

Monday, January 31, 2011

I think that we should sing another stanza!

Tonight, I am going to leave you with two (relatively) brief musings rather than my typical lengthy contribution, partially because I feel you all deserve a break from my pontificating, but mostly because my computer is extremely low on battery.


I want to talk a little about Selena Gomez, partially inspired by this video:

But mostly inspired by this picture:

I kind of love her. I feel like she she's gracefully removed herself from her peers in an age sadly plagued by the hookerfication of Miley Cyrus and the hot mess that is Lindsay Lohan and the undisclosed descent of Demi Lovato.....the latter of which is particularly depressing to me, since Demi Lovato is legitimately-for-real-RIDICULOUS talented. Her Disney show is one of the few left on that sadly deteriorating network that I don't mind my cousins watching when I'm babysitting. She's super adorable and does fan meetings without makeup and a ballgown on. She's a UNICEF ambassador and she talks about her faith in public- and I believe her. 
(She also has a guy supposedly obsessed with her who makes the most disturbingly hilarious videos I've ever seen on YouTube. Go figure.)
So, because it tickles me pink when people get attention for worthwhile things like talent and integrity rather than crazy antics:


1. She not only wears reasonably appropriate stage outfits to begin with, but spandex shorts UNDERNEATH them instead of just flashing her underwear.
2. Her music, while generic, has remained totally wholesome.
3. Her big-screen debut was a totally adorable adaptation of one of my all-time favorite children’s books, not some stupid, inappropriate-to-your-target-audience, and did I mention STUPID “romantic comedy.”
4. She looks like a happy teenager doing what she loves instead of some crazy Hollywood type trying to be edgy.
5. She’s the only celebrity my little brother has a crush on that isn’t gross.

Selena, I applaud you.


Speaking of the general unfortunate decline of the Disney Channel, I would like to leave you all with these delightful memories:

If you are unfortunate enough to not recognize these, they're clips from "Influenza," the purely genius musical episode of Even Stevens, which was one of the great shows that came from the Disney Channel during the wonderful years of the early 2000's (my favorites included The Famous Jett Jackson, In A Heartbeat, and yes, Lizzie McGuire.)
A few of my thoughts on the subject:

-This was SO ahead of it's time. We're not just talking YEARS before Glee, we're talking years before High School Musical was even a twinkle in Don Schain's eye.
-Christy Carlson Romano, who plays Ren, bears an uncanny resemblance to a very young Anne Hathaway. She also went on to star on Broadway as Mary in Parade, Belle in Beauty and the Beast, and- here's the best- Kate Monster in Avenue Q. You go, girl.
-God bless Ty Hodges, who played Larry Beale. I'm so glad he got his thirty seconds to truly shine with that rockin' rap break and belting out of "RE-EH-EH-EH-EH-EH-EHHHH-NAH!" before disappearing into obscurity.
-This wasn't just an attempt to jump on a trend (oh hey, Grey's Anatomy.) This is legitimately awesomely written and filmed musical theatre camp at it's finest. We're talking a variety of musical styles, great but not overdone choreography, and total cast involvement. Which means singing....with harmonies...WITHOUT AUTOTUNE. Even from the adults, who mostly rock, and Louis, who can't sing. Speaking of which.....

The rest of the episode can be found on YouTube. I still believe it's a tragedy that this was only a single episode and not a full-length movie, because I'm pretty sure it was the best thing the Disney Channel ever produced.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on these or any other matters.
Unless it's to tell me that Selena Gomez is really a forty-year-old crack addict with a sex tape. In that case, just leave me to my ignorance.


Saturday, January 29, 2011

Mm, I'm gonna try....

I have never been a particularly patient person. This is ironic to my nature, because I tend to require a lot of patience from others.......exemplified more than a little bit by my tendency to post extremely long and indulgently verbose blog entries. It's a pretty fair snapshot to my general personality: I am loud, and extremely talkative, and whimsical and spontaneous and high energy and more than occasionally annoying. I run primarily on my heart, which means when I'm happy, I'm OMG SO HAPPY, and when I'm sad, I feel it down to my bones. I'm not easy to love or put up with, which is why if you're one of the people to do so, I will truly, deeply, passionately adore you til the end of time. And though I'm obviously prone to hyperbole, that's not an exaggeration. The only time I don't have a problem being patient is when it comes to taking care of those whom I love.

But I digress. The point is- my general inability to BE patient directly conflicts with the fact that I frequently AM a patient. And it's why this latest installment of health shenanigans has been particularly trying.

For those of you in need of an update: I've had general back pain since some time in 2008. This was pretty well managed by a good solid massage to my lower back, right shoulder, and neck every few months. However, about six months ago I began to notice a very distinct increase in my discomfort level. My occasional migraines developed into a consistent headache, my lower back was in constant pain and started a bad habit of spasming at inopportune moments, and I started hearing a popping sound and grinding sensation in my back whenever I walked. I tried more frequent massages....then ice and heat therapy...then yoga and pilates...and finally overcame my fear of the chiropractor, to no avail. So finally, prompted by my family and aforementioned not-as-scary-as-I-anticipated chiropractor, I went to see my doctor. And thus began a nearly month-long journey of agony and frustration.

First, my doctor tried to convince me that the pain would just go away and no action was needed. When I insisted that the pain had been going on for months already, she suggested I try alternative remedies. When I reminded her that I'd already exhausted those options, she laughed them off as pointless, which seemed to contradict her suggesting them in the first place, but whatever. She finally gave me a back examination and seemed legitimately surprised to discover that my back was indeed swollen and spasming the heck out. She ordered X-rays, prescribed medication, and assured me she'd sent a referral to a back specialist.

Long story short, it took her a week to actually send the referral, which turned out to be for not a back specialist, but enrollment in some kind of physical therapy class.......which made absolutely no sense at all. I scheduled a phone consultation to explain to her that the medication wasn't helping, I could no longer walk without agony, and I'd like to get examined by a specialist. She still seemed to think that debilitating back pain was totally normal for a 19-year-old girl, so she asked me to "hang in there," and scheduled a follow-up for the next week. By this point I was considerably enraged, so I brought my totally fierce mom to that appointment for backup. I told the doctor in no uncertain terms that the medication she gave me wasn't helping at all and if I didn't see a specialist in the next 48 hours then I was just going to the ER. She sheepishly called in the referral right then and there, and 24 hours later I was FINALLY sitting in the specialist's exam room.

The specialist turned out to be almost as disappointing as my primary care physician. He conducted a very thorough examination, but didn't seem to really understand what I was explaining to him about my symptoms. Finally, he finished, sat me down, and told me I had fibromyalgia. Which made me want to punch him in the face.

(At this juncture, I'd like to point out that while I'm no medical specialist, I've spent a very considerable portion of the last seven or so years of my life in hospitals and dealing with various health crises, so I'm a little more knowledgeable than the average person. And I'm a certified pro at explaining my symptoms, knowing what is and isn't normal for me, and deciphering physician BS. End side note.)

Fibromyalgia is classified as a nerve disorder causing general widespread pain, which is intensified by touch, and appears primarily at joints in the neck, elbows, knees, and hips. It's also considered by many doctors to be a mythical diagnosis used to blanket a large array of symptoms rather than further investigate the cause. However, the debate over it's existence is technically irrelevant, because even if it is real, it didn't explain the problems I was having. I flat-out asked the doctor how that would relate to the pain and noise in my lower back. His response? "I have no idea what's causing that."

I wish I had an appropriate verbal explanation to illustrate my feelings at that moment. This is pretty close: 

 Beyond that.....just use your imaginations.

It's extremely hard to speak civilly when you're in tears and beyond aggravated, but I think I did somewhat admirably at this point. I told him I wasn't comfortable accepting a diagnosis or medication for something that didn't explain the symptoms I came in to get examined in the first place, and asked for an MRI. I think he was afraid of me by now, because he didn't argue. I threw my clothes on and hobbled my way to Radiology, where an angel of a man named Amrit saw my distress and announced to the receptionist that he'd do my MRI right that very moment, no matter what the schedule said. 

(Let's pause for a serious round of applause for this guy, the most cooperative and helpful person in that entire hospital. I owe you one, Amrit.)

I left feeling physically and emotionally exhausted, but relieved that in the next couple days I would hopefully have some answers. Which was overly optimistic of me, as it turned out, because this all happened last Wednesday, and I only heard back from my doctor today.

The official diagnosis : "You have a large protrusion in the L4 and L5 vertebrae of your lower back. In addition, the L4 vertebrae has become oriented behind your L5 vertebrae."
Decoded: I have a slipped disc and two inverted vertebrae.

To rephrase from several posts ago: "I know, I'm super exciting."

My general feeling is one of huge relief. I was so tired of running from doctor to doctor with nothing but escalating pain and frustration that I was just anxious for something- ANYTHING- that explained my symptoms. All the pain I've been in was making my mind go to pretty scary places, so my relief is double: first that I have an explanation, and second that it's not something extremely bad like cancer or a bone disease or a broken hip. I'm so glad that we can finally move on to figuring out how to fix this badness.

And now, for the most important part of this post: I'd like to give a huge ginormous THANK YOU to all of you beautiful people who have been so supportive through this ordeal. In times of trauma, I push my already stretched-pretty-thin luck when it comes to people putting up with me, so your patience and kindness are even more appreciated than usual. I'm overwhelmed by the love and awesomeness of people around me. You guys are so cool, and are absolutely vital to my ability to cope with my considerable array of health challenges. Solomon observes in Proverbs 18:13-15,

"The human spirit can endure in sickness,
But a crushed spirit, who can bear?"

I've found this to be so true in my life, and especially apparent in the past month. All of the health struggles I've had in my life seem totally liveable as long as I've got such wonderful people to spend my life with. As rough as these past weeks have been, they were also filled with such an outpouring of awesomeness from people that my spirit felt lifted and buoyant in spite of my physical pain....which is great, because there are very clear remedies for ailment of the body, but no way to soothe a broken spirit without love. God sure wasn't joking around when he bestowed that wisdom on Solomon. He also wasn't joking when he promised his faithful in John 11:3-5:

"This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory so that God's son may be glorified through it."

This statement is particularly powerful when we realize that he was referring to Lazarus who DID, in fact, die.....and then was raised to life by Jesus. I'm definitely not dead, which means that my healing seems pretty easy by comparison to the recovery of Lazarus! And it also means that God can work wonders out of even the most desolate of situations, be it a dead loved one or a bum spinal column. My mission for the next few months is to see God's hand in my situation, and to open my heart to any way He wishes to use me for His glory even in my suffering. There have already been some surprisingly good consequences from this ordeal, which will have to wait for another post (or you could scroll down to see my initial thoughts on that.)

I promise, someday you'll all get the cookies you deserve for making it through these monsters. I love all of you and am so thankful for your prayers and general fabulousity!

"Do I need anybody?
I just need somebody to love....

I get by with a little help from my friends."

(A Little Help From My Friends, The Beatles.)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Singin' in the rain.

Yesterday, Adam used an idiom on me. "Wow, honey. My life is usually so steady; there's rarely something spectacularly great or spectacularly terrible. But with you, when it rains, it pours." I rolled my eyes. I have disliked this phrase since childhood, when it confused me. However, I was inclined to agree with him.

I occasionally struggle with the fact that when things go wrong in my life, they seem to go really REALLY wrong. For example, while I'm in the middle of dealing with some extremely stressful financial and familial times, a new health crisis springs up and demands my attention. Perhaps I should give you some context before I go on.

Those of you that know me probably know that I have Type 1 Diabetes. But most of you who know me might not know that I also suffer from pleurisy (sensitive lungs,) hyperthyroidism (a hormone condition,) and chronic paroxysmal hemicrania (frequent migraines.) I know, I'm super exciting.

I don't tend to think of myself as a "sick person," however, it's just one of those facts of life that I spend a lot of time with doctors and dealing with the general ins and outs of having various medical conditions. In the last quarter or so of my life, it's seemed like every few years I get hit with something new. Since I was diagnosed with the migraine dealio in 2008, it was apparently time for the next hurdle to materialize, because a few months ago I started suffering from extreme back pain. I tried massages, yoga, pilates; I even overcame my extreme fear of the chiropractor, to no avail. Finally, my parents dragged me to the doctor, which began a very long and as-yet-unresolved adventure to figure out what's wrong with me.....again.

As you might imagine, this cycle can be very trying on my faith. HOWEVER, it can also be extremely rewarding. Every time a new problem comes up, I get angry and upset and yell at God about it for awhile, until, inevitably, He breaks me down and I humble myself before Him. And then He proceeds to blow my mind with his awesomeness in ways I never would have seen had it not been for my struggles- and I feel embarrassed, like a naughty child. And I'm prepared to bet that most of you know EXACTLY what I'm talking about when it comes to God giving us a "Gotcha!" moment. Luckily, we can take comfort in the fact that we're not alone in this: it's all over the Bible.

One of my favorite Bible stories is an account of Elijah given in 1 Kings 19:11-13. Now, Elijah is on the run from a particularly nasty queen named Jezebel, who's made a hobby of killing prophets. He's taken to hiding in caves, begging God to simply let him die, because he's so tired of fearing for his life. After awhile of dealing with his "woe is me!" rhetoric, the Lord tells Elijah to go stand on a mountain, for He is about to pass by. Elijah scampers on up ol' Carmel to wait for God, and some exciting stuff happens.

"Then, a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper....and the Lord said, 'What are you doing here, Elijah?' "

The point in this story is pretty clear: God didn't reveal himself in any of the crazy, scary phenomena in which we would expect to hear the voice of God. Instead, he came to Elijah as a gentle whisper- just as Jesus came to man, not as a a fiery behemoth or a shiny golden being, but as a helpless baby who grew into a gentle man. I am a firm believer in the fact that God has a fabulous sense of humor. He keeps us on our toes; He loves to surprise us. I think it's His way of making sure we're paying attention.

These past few weeks, I've been feeling a lot like Elijah. Granted, Michelle Obama hasn't taken out an oath against my life (fingers crossed- I'm not exactly her hubby's greatest fan!) However, I've definitely been feeling oppressed and had my fair share of "poor me" moments. I was feeling particularly pitiful last Sunday and could barely drag myself to church. But boy, was it a good thing I did, because God had a whammy for me: a sermon on the last of the beatitudes, which is the declaration, "blessed are the persecuted." The words left the pulpit and hightailed it straight to my heart. What right did I have to complain about a little physical discomfort? How dare I consider skipping church when there were people the world over risking their lives just to worship in secret? I was behaving like a spoiled child.

So when I got home and crawled into my crippled-person nest, I prayed. I apologized to God and instead asked Him to show me His hand in this latest ailment- because He has promised that, "not a hair can fall from [my] head without the will of [my] Father in Heaven." And just that little emotional makeover made everything seem more bearable, and shed light on all the unexpected blessings of being bedridden. For example:

     -Recreational reading time for the first time since I don't know when. I've made it through about nine different books I've been dying to read or re-read.
     -Time off of work for disability. I love my jobs, but a break is definitely nice.
     -A completely legitimate reason to get out of chores. Selfish, probably. Awesome, DEFINITELY.
     -Simplified diabetes management. The simpler my life is, the easier it is to handle the annoying demands of diabetes, and it's really nice to not have to stress about it so much.
     -Time to catch up with friends. I've written a lot of letters and made a lot of phone calls that I've been meaning to get around to, and my heart feels very full.
     -A lot of quiet, quality time with my sweet boyfriend. We usually squeeze in time for each other running from place to place, and it's rare that we get to just sit and enjoy each other rather than just being together while doing something. It's been so nice to just BE together.
     -WATCHING TV. We don't have TV programming, but we have Netflix and I have a computer hookup for the TV in my room. I've spent a lot of quality time with Bones & Booth, Dr. House, the crew of Serenity, and Alton Brown the past few weeks.
     -Time to write. I haven't updated this blog so much because I've been taking "me" time, but I've been able to spend some quality time with the journals that I've been neglecting. It feels good to be creative.
     -Bonding time with my family. My life is usually so busy and hectic that I hardly ever see them, and being stuck at home has given me the opportunity to visit with them and realize how much I really do miss them when we're out of touch. My brother and sister are amazing. When they're not being awful.
     -The ability to appreciate the little things, like the weather and a good hair day and my favorite music and friendly people and all sorts of small happenings that go largely unnoticed otherwise.
     -And most importantly, I've been spending some quality time with God. Being stuck in bed is a prime opportunity to turn off all my electronics and open my ears for the gentle whisper, and return my own whispers of sincere praise.

There are more, but I'll share those later. You already deserve a cookie if you've made it this far!

No matter what is going on in my life, I have been incredibly blessed, and I can take true, deep, bubbling-up-from-my-toes joy in the life that I live and the God and people that love me, no matter what's wrong with me. So I no longer think of "when it rains, it pours" as being such a bad thing. After all, I've always liked rain.

"Why do I get up
Each morning and start,
Happy and head up,
With joy in my heart?
Why is each new task
A trifle to do?
Because I am living
A life full of you."

(Singin' in the Rain, by Gene Kelly.)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

This is the road; these are the Hands.

A few months ago I was in my first-ever car accident, and a few nights ago I had my first-ever breaking down experience.

After the accident, I started driving my grandparent's '95 Ford Taurus around when I couldn't borrow one of my parent's cars. Adam christened it "Mean Joe Green" shortly thereafter because it's absolutely an awful vehicle. It smells bad, doesn't have a working clock or heater, makes frightening sounds when it runs, and doesn't go faster than 70 mph, which is frustrating when you're used to barreling the thirty minute drive to your boyfriend's house at around 85. Yes, yes, I know...

Anyway, on Saturday night I decided to try the heater on my way to Turlock, because it was a particularly chilly 38 degrees and misting. About a minute after I turned it on, I smelled smoke....and then I saw smoke...and then the check engine light came on. My immediate thought: "Well, no kidding." My thought immediately thereafter: "OH MY GOSH MY CAR IS ON FIRE." This thought was followed by every other "This is bad, something is wrong, EVACUATE YOUR VEHICLE" signal on my dashboard lighting up like they'd been listening to too much Katy Perry. So I hightailed it over to the shoulder, grabbed all my stuff (much to the disappointment of all my elementary school teachers, I'm sure...but I was NOT letting all my medications and my favorite pair of boots go up in flames,) and then got the heck out of dodge and stood a good distance away on the steep embankment, watching my grandparents car send smoke signals into the rain and wondering what to do next.

The next hour or so plays back in my mind like one of those weird dream sequences in a movie with cheap special effects. Or like something off LOST. 

First, neither of my parents would answer their phones after I called three times, so I called Adam. His dad called a tow truck before I had even finished my first sentence, and they were both out the door to come get me before I had even finished explaining the situation. 
While I was still on the phone with Adam, somebody pulled over to see if I was alright. Initially this terrified me because all I could see was a dark figure walking towards me and I was stranded on a pretty ghetto stretch of highway, but it turned out to be an absolutely kind and well-intentioned gentleman who was extremely concerned for my well-being. He kept his distance, asked me very politely if he could look under the hood, told me the car wouldn't blow up, and stayed nearby until I was safely inside my car with the doors locked.
After that, my dad called me back and assured me he was on his way. It took him about three minutes to get to me, so I don't even want to know how fast he was driving. When I saw him I inexplicably started bawling, which is the embarrassing part of this story. Also embarrassing is how absolutely frozen I was after only twenty minutes or so outside. Granted it was 38 degrees with wind and mist, but at one point I lived in sub-zero temperatures and loved every minute of it. I guess I should just chalk both of those up to the trauma and move on....
About three minutes after my dad arrived, the tow truck showed up. This was amazing to me, as I was anticipating having to wait for at least an hour. I found out later that Adam's dad had told them that I was his daughter and demanded they put a rush on it, and apparently they listened to him. I was incredibly moved by this gesture and felt warm tingly feelings in mostly unfamiliar parts of my heart- parts that have to deal with the words "in-law" and "I do" and other far off delightful things. Shhh.
Another three minutes passed, and Adam and his father arrived. I leapt out of my dad's car to bury my face in Adam's chest, and was immediately commanded by three stern voices to get back in the car and let the men deal with it. I was so cold and distressed that this didn't even trigger my stubborn feminist impulses, so I obliged them. 
After that, everything flew by. There was a lot of shaking of hands and looking manly and pensive while examining engines and undercarriages, and then I was being shuffled from my dad's car into Adam's truck, and the three best men in my life were shaking hands some more and kissing me left and right and I felt like a baby princess being handed around at a coronation- helpless and a little confused and absolutely blissfully taken care of.

Before we left, I managed to shake the tow man's hand and thank him profusely for coming to the rescue. He looked exactly like the Little Tikes tow truck driver my brother used to play with as a child, and talked quite like I imagined he would- round, booming, jovial. His words struck me as profound even in such a hazy situation.

"No problem, young lady. You know, I gotta tell ya- I get me a lot of calls like this one, with sweet little things gettin' stuck out where it just ain't safe, and they have no idea what to do or who to call and they're stuck out in the God-knows-where. So it's a damn sight nicer to see one who's got three good men arguing over whether she's okay and who gets to take her home and what she needs and so forth. It's no trouble at all honey. You go get warm."

Curled up between Adam and his dad on the drive to their house, I reflected on those words as my body slowly stopped shivering. God has promised us that he will never give us more hardship than we can handle, and even though our primary response to something dramatic happening is a decidedly overdramatic mental outcry of "I CAN'T HANDLE THIS," He tends to use those situations to teach or reveal to us something good. In this case, it was a much-needed reminder of just how loved I am, and how cared for. Not just cared for emotionally, as in people sending me good thoughts and thinking of me affectionately, but actively cared for, in terms of people doing things to help me. I am simply a boater in the Lord's current, in a vessel built on the strong love of people around me: I may be the one rowing, but I would be going nowhere without those keeping me afloat. And even if I lose my way or stop paddling, my ship keeps on floating and my current keeps me bound toward my destination. These words are found in the book of Jeremiah, who was one of my favorite Biblical characters as a child:

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
(Jeremiah 29:11)

God doesn't only say this to us, he declares it. Declares it! That's such a strong word, with such conviction. And Jeremiah is relating these words from the Lord to His people who have been captured and taken into Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar, who despite having a totally awesome name was a pretty huge jerk.

If God can follow through on his promise to restore his people from exile and tyranny, I have no business being all freaked out over a little car trouble- especially not when I'm already enveloped in His love and the love of the people He has placed in my life.

Now, if I can only remember this when I'm bent out of shape over having to ride the bus......

There's a world outside every darkened door,
Where blues won't haunt you anymore,
For the brave are free and love can soar-
Come, ride with me to the distant shore."

(Life is a Highway, Tom Chochrane.)

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Come on in and tug at my seams.

I've been living back in California for around twice as long as I actually lived in Missouri, and yet every single one of the days that has passed since I watched the Midwest fade from my back window has been impacted in some way, shape, or form by the time that I spent living in that world- a greener world, a lonelier world, and a world more miserable and beautiful than the one I know now.

One of the most easily recognized ways that life affects me in this one is through the people I met. I still talk daily to many of the people I fell in love with during that whirlwind of a year, which is one of the few purely good things I brought back with me when I re-entered this atmosphere. Last night, I had a particularly profound conversation with one such extraordinary gentleman; a friend whom I met in passing and built a bond with over only a few short but significant meetings. In the movie of my life, those scenes will be particularly poetic, for we're both of the dramatic sort and so our adventures involved situations like spontaneous drives through the countryside to watch lightning storms and other such moments so suited for screenplays. Now, we frequently wax nostalgic and engage in lengthy discussions about all sorts of romantic subjects like love and the universe. Our most recent subject spanned both of those as we wandered into the realm of past relationships, which resulted in one of my favorite analogies yet.

"I guess that's the point," he lamented. "I have way too many loose ends."

I empathized with this greatly, for once upon a time I was overwhelmed by that same feeling. Before I could express this, he continued.

"This is why, by the way, I think you should marry this guy. You're that happy with him, right? It truly seems so."

Though they have never met, he has always expressed great approval of Adam, purely based on his affection for me. Anybody who makes me that happy, he once explained, is golden in his book. His phrase "loose ends" inspired in me a warm realization.

"I really am," I replied. "He tied all my loose ends."

As I wrote it and my mind spun the mental image, I realized that this was probably one of the best visualizations of what Adam had done for me in our relationship. I came to him with baggage that anybody else who knows me would be shocked to learn I uncharacteristically heavy, so deeply disguised, that even I had managed to shield my eyes from it. And yet, as Missy Higgins so eloquently sang:

"He pulled out my stitches one by one,
Looked at my insides, clicking his tongue,
And said 'This will all have to come undone....' "

And he undid me in the most spectacular way. With gentle and understanding heart, he accepted all the things I had been too scared to confront even within myself, and released me of the burden I hadn't even realized I'd been struggling with. I continued to explain these loose ends to my friend.

"More than that- he negated them. Like I was racing to try and tie off the loose ends of my sweater before it unraveled, and he just pulled it off and gave me a new one a thousand times better than the old. The sweater still exists, but I'm no longer fighting with it for fear of getting cold.....I'm able to step back and look at the old as a work of art unto itself, that I don't need to bear anymore."

It may be confusing, but I feel it perfectly exemplifies the feeling of relief I've found in the fullness of another's love. Adam didn't pour a new layer of love on top of the damaged old or fill in the patches of an old relationship. He allowed me to shed all those injuries and bathe myself in an acceptance that I never imagined I could find in any human soul. He truly loves as God instructs us to: as a child, as we would be loved ourselves, and in a way that is not only fearless on his part, but drives out my own fear. This falls right in line with one of my all-time favorite Biblical passages:

"There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
We love because he first loved us."
1 John 4:18-19

Fear is the ultimate loose end. We can see its origin and anticipate its continuation....and when it is removed, and we begin a life of embracing each other and all we've been blessed with, then we are truly grasping the hem of the Lord's cloak from our place on the ground.

Oh, send your armies in
Of robbers and thieves to steal the place I'm in-
I don't want it anymore.

You're begging for the truth, so I'm giving it to you.....
I'm just a basket case with you.

(Basket Case, by Sara Bareilles.)

Friday, January 7, 2011

Where words fail.

I love music.

I know everybody says that, but occasionally, in the super secret microgram of my brain that thinks conceitedly, I feel like music is the world's most amazing celebrity and I'm the girl he's actually dating while everybody else just has posters of him on their wall.

This week, a ridiculously talented and lovely to be around friend of mine named Aaron and I recorded a plethora of new videos for our respective YouTube channels. It had been a long time since I'd worked on any new music, and as we recorded them and posted them and listened to them, I realized it had been exactly that same amount of time since I'd been in this thoroughly blissful of a mood. That isn't to say that there has been any lack of bliss in my life, because anyone who knows me even a little bit can testify to the fact that I tend to operate in a perpetual state of relative joyousness, particularly thanks to a certain boy named Adam. But I'm referring to really THOROUGH bliss- as in complete; in every sphere of myself.

It's nights like this with feelings like this that I truly acknowledge how miserable I would be if I let music fall by the wayside in my life. I can't distinguish myself from it; it was my identity long before I was able to differentiate between me as a who and me as a set of whats. I've learned a lot about who I am since those baby days, but I still find it nearly impossible to separate myself from the music that has been present within and around me from day one.

I'm sure it's no coincidence that I fell in love with the penultimate musician: lead singer of a band, degree in vocal performance, degree in choral education, about to become a music teacher, relates everything to music and sings almost as constantly as I do. My deep and abiding love for him is due not only to the honorable way he treats me, or the tingly feeling I get around him, or the fact that he's just so darn cute. And it isn't even just that his soul and mine operate in the bounds of worship for the same loving Savior. It is bound also to the fact that he understands the language of my heart......which is music.

My closest friends and I all share some sort of musical bond, however deep or in whatever form. I didn't select them as such on purpose, but it certainly didn't happen by accident. We were only able to form such deep friendships because we share that underlying current. Music is particularly essential to my faith, as well- the Bible talks constantly of music and lifting our voices in song to the Lord. It's a beautiful, spiritual, vital element of the universe.

Music is universal, and yet also deeply personal. I cannot imagine surviving without it, for it is like my skin, present at birth and constantly enveloping me wherever I go whether I'm paying attention it or not. It is as essential to me as air, and I have no doubt that the vast majority of you completely understand what I mean by all these disjointed conclusions.

I can't tell you what I'm going to end up doing with my life, but I can promise you that music is going to be there.

(I wrote that last one.)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Silver Lining.

(I wrote this for a creative writing class my freshman year of college, and recently happened upon it while clearing out old files. It's rather melancholy, but I actually kind of like how it turned out, and seeing as I've been trying to get back into writing, I thought I would share it. Naturally, comments are greatly appreciated, good or bad!)

October in the countryside is composed of green and clouds and all the fresh air banished from the cities; a place serene and so calm it feels as though a large volume knob has been turned to a lower setting. In this distinct quiet, the guttural scream that broke from the picturesque home among the green seemed amplified tenfold. Birds stirred from the orchard and Angus the German shepherd stopped chasing the white and blue truck down the path to look back towards the sound, leaving the postman to drive off in a swirl of dust. Inside the house, a piece of paper fluttered to the ground.
Standing in the kitchen, Martin felt the long-unfamiliar wave of nausea rock him. Nausea- the feeling of the age between childhood and early adolescence, when the helplessness of a body succumbing to illness became personally insulting to a mind newly desirous of control, and Martin was suddenly fighting back tears on a cold bathroom floor, sweat gluing blonde bowl cut to pasty-white forehead. The metallic bile tasted like losing control even now, forty years ahead in the present, and the sunny room became a vortex of spinning color. Desperate to escape the onslaught, Martin plunged headfirst into the waiting air outside.
Angus the German shepherd looked up in surprise as the porch door swung back with a slam. His ears reached skyward, observing the new sounds that faintly broke from inside the house to interrupt the flawless canvas of still October in the countryside, but shortly deemed both them and Martin’s breathless presence nonthreatening and settled back to sleep beneath a maple. Through a crack in the nauseating wall pressing him deep into his own mind, Martin saw the porch steps and followed them into the yard. With every movement his mind became clearer. Keep moving. Keep moving. Step. Step. 

“He can’t understand you, you know that, right dear?”
“Encouragement never hurt anybody!”
He was holding a pair of tiny hands and coaching with words he knew were not comprehended by the mind of a child, and yet he kept repeating them.
“Keep moving…keep moving…”
His wife was smiling, more beautiful than she’d ever been, and the tiny feet kept moving forward, not caring where they went, completely trusting the greater figure leading him down the porch.

Martin paid no attention to where he was going, and so he blinked several times when he looked up to see his vision blocked by a great wooden structure.
The barn had once been red, the color barns should be, but the paint had long since faded. Now it bore a rusty tinge, like the color of blood when it dries on a knee or an elbow, and when he approached the door and rested his hand on the splintered frame, the paint crumbled off in a similar fashion- blood chipping off from a structure dead and disused, empty of the life if once housed.
After the nausea passed, he dared to step into the dusty room. It was solemn and seemed to glisten with the dust suspended in the air, lit by the sun filtering in through the broken roof. The smell of animals had not faded, nor had the memories of building the steps to the loft, where he had so often taken his wife to recreate the thrill of secret passion without the burden of caution. A tire swing still hung from a rafter, but it was still. The sight was overwhelming and Martin fought to keep himself at bay. Don’t look, he thought. Don’t think about it.

“Dad! It’s too high! IT’S TOO HIGH!”
“Don’t look!” he said. “Don’t think about it! You’re flying!”
Martin pushed the swing again and the little boy began to scream again, but then the shrill cry turned to a laugh. Martin smiled and blinked in the dust floating in the chamber of the barn.

The nausea returned and he choked on it. Turning to leave, he could see his wife through the kitchen window, her hair the same color as the yellow ribbons strangling the trees in their front yard. Her anguish was tangible even from a distance and Martin swallowed his own as he left the barn devoid of life once more.
Be strong, he thought. Don’t show your weakness. Be a man. The words made hollow sounds as they struck the walls of his mind, and were instead replaced with vivid images from only months before.

“Be strong,” he said, hands on the shoulders of a crisp green uniform.  “Don’t show your weakness. Be a man.”
“I will, Dad. I’ll make you proud.”
He watched his son walk away and climb into the waiting vehicle, turning for one last wave. Pride swelled within Martin’s chest even as he heard his wife sniffling beside him. The car turned and disappeared down the path, and the sniffles turned to sobs, cold and dull.
“It’ll be fine, Alice…….”

The sobs grew louder with each step he took towards the house. The nausea shook Martin again and he leaned forward, wanting to give into it. A lifetime of denying his own weakness held him back, and he looked up. His wife wept with ragged breath at the kitchen table and he squeezed his eyes shut against the painful sight.

He sat with his son at the kitchen table, an envelope flat on the table as though glued there. They simply looked at it, saying nothing. For once, it was his son that spoke first, with the unfailing optimism he’d learned from his father.
“Well, Dad, they say there’s always got to be a silver lining….”

The sun was ice on Martin’s face as he looked back up into the sky. The serenity of the October countryside was lost on him and the air did nothing to slow his heaving chest. The entire world was now smudged black ink from a typewriter and the words “We regret to inform you,” spinning in his head and making his stomach churn.
He finally gave in to the dismal temptation and vomited at the base of the tree as he remembered the silver lining his son had eventually declared with a bitter laugh.

“At least I won’t dread getting the mail anymore.”

Martin wiped his mouth with a shaking hand and glanced at Angus, who watched him with curious eyes. Empty of everything he could possibly feel, Martin climbed the steps back into the picturesque home among the green and wrapped his arms around the broken woman at the table. Outside, the birds returned to their homes in the orchard as the postman’s dust settled, and Angus closed his eyes once more to sleep.

February 2009