25/31 days of madeleine
By midnight tomorrow I want to have finished all 31 days of Madeleine. Which means you’re in for a tidal wave of L’Engle posts. Hope you’re excited about that.
That’s the way things come clear. All of a sudden. And then you realize how obvious they’ve been all along.
This summer, Emily and I embarked on a journey called WATCHING THE HILLS. It started out one evening in the program office, and lead to an entire day of watching in the Zone and since then we have been watching them separately. She’s in the middle of Season 6. I’m at the end of Season 3. So we’ve kind of gone our own ways.
I’m at the part where Lauren apologizes to Audrina for being so controlling and overprotective about Justin Bobby. She doesn’t want to see her friends get hurt, which is noble, but in doing so she tends to push them away because she tries to protect them.
One of the kindest things we can do for our friends is step aside and let them fall. That sounds really awful, I know. But you can only tell a child “that stove is hot” so many times before they have to touch it and figure it out all on their own. The lesson is learned through experience. C.S. Lewis says that experience is a brutal teacher, but you learn, my God do you learn.
I remember a time when I gave one of my friends an ultimatum. Him or me, essentially. I’d just grown tired of back-and-forth, on-and-off when the whole thing didn’t seem worth it. I didn’t want to pay for another late-night meal going over the exact same thing for the seventy thousandth time. That ultimatum isn’t my proudest moment. Luckily, our friendship was strong enough to push past that.
And guess what? She figured it out all on her own. We went back to good ol’ Shari’s and she told me everything I’d given up on trying to tell her. She understood. All of it.
Chronology is an important teacher. For others, and for ourselves. But sometimes it’s good to take the input of others to heart, because they often see things better than we do.
24/31 days of madeleine
“I learn my lessons slowly, seldom once for all. Continually, they have to be learned and relearned, not with solemnity, but with awe and laughter and joy.”
Can I get an amen to this one?
and time again.
I have to learn things the hard way, and even still I have to learn things the multiple time hard way, just in case the first four times were the exception.
Though I often get frustrated with myself, I am constantly reminding myself that God continues to give me opportunities to grow and learn. If he has enough grace to say “Alright Stephanie, let’s try this again…” then I must humbly accept the grace and patience of God and get busy on my studies.
23/31 days of madeleine
Alright I’ll address the elephant in the room. I’ve fallen behind on my 31 days of Madeleine. In walks grace.
So I go to church, not because of any legalistic or moralistic reasons, but because I am a hungry sheep who needs to be fed; and for the same reason that I wear a wedding ring: a public witness of a private commitment.
(this is my favorite Sunday morning quote… but I forgot to schedule it to post on a Sunday)
21/31 days of madeleine – little loaves and fishes
“…we do not need to think of our obligations in terms of success; we would fail to do anything at all if we knew we had to succeed. We simply do what we can; we offer our little loaves and fishes and leave the rest to the Lord”
In retrospect, I tend to learn lessons in seasons. A summer will produce one lesson, or I’ll see that what I’ve learned in the spring was planted in the winter. Sometimes I can sense it in the moment. I will recognize that there is a pattern or a theme that seems to be weaving things together. Usually, however, it is months down the road when I have the perspective of chronology that I can see something being started.
At the end of August, I began to ponder life. The purpose of it. It’s always seemed to me that the answer to “the meaning of life” is to live it. I realized, with a heavy heart, that there is more than waking up, thanking God for the day and trusting to be blown by the wind of the Spirit to the people and places He feels I need to go. To live a full, beautiful story-life requires an urgent sense of direction.
When my mom and I went to Disneyland, she had a handicap pass that got us in through the exit and helped us bypass the lines she couldn’t stand in. My mom put on a brave face and we used that pass to get on Space Mountain. It took us straight to the loading area, where we were put in a car off to the side. It took a few rotations before they moved our car onto the track for us to start the ride.
Life with that blown-in-the-wind mentality is kind of like when we sat, full of anticipation, to the side of the track. Our lap belts were down, our items carefully stowed and my mom was sufficiently nervous. But we knew that until they had moved our car over to the track, we were just in waiting. We could see one more car pass us or two or even four. We weren’t even actually in line.
August 2012 told me to get on the track, to not just go through the motions of preparing to live a full life but to actually begin. Donald Miller wrote this blog entry called You Don’t Have To Make Your Bed to Write a Book. When I started to really live, I adopted that attitude, but towards life. “Your bed doesn’t have to be made in order to pray,” I would tell myself. “You can still offer someone a ride even if your backseat is filled with STUFF.” and the most recent one, “you can’t offer Jesus the miracle you need him to provide.”
It’s something I am the most guilty of. I pray within my resources, I dream within reach and I only embark on journeys with reasonable destinations. In other words, I want to save up my money, buy a catering service and then say “Oh, I’m sure you could do great things with one serving of bread and fish, but I went ahead and saved up enough for a thousand people. It’s not enough, but it’s the most I could acquire.”
The thing with miracles, though, is that miracles have to have a risk involved. Miracles can only occur when there is no denying that God showed up. It might require limited resources, unexplainable results, or even a drastically changed heart. The qualifier is that it leaves no room for doubt about God’s presence in the situation. I mean, some people miss it because they’re looking for a big blue genie and overlooking the lamp, but to those of us who know all of the details, it’s obvious.
So instead of building my dreams and hopes and stories around the resources at hand, I’m looking at the people around me and their needs and saying “well, God… here’s this little tiny relevant thing,” and trusting that if thousands need to be blessed, he’ll multiply it. If a couple need to be blessed, he’ll stretch it. and if I was completely off track and offering up unnecessary sacrifices, he will gently point me in a new direction.
Jesus says we need the faith of a child. The boy with the loaves and fish never worried about the end result. He was just faithful in offering it. Like tithing, it’s an investment into God’s creativity. And like tithing, it’s an opportunity for us to be part of a miracle.
20/31 days of madeleine – commitment.
“If we commit ourselves to one person for life, this is not, as many people think, a rejection of freedom; rather, it demands the courage to move into all the risks of freedom, and the risk of love which is permanent; into that love which is not possession but participation.”
Sometimes I look at married people with big eyes and amazement. Marriage freaks me the heck out. I’ve told a few people of this ridiculous scenario that always pops in my head. In this scene, I am with my husband (whoever he is, but he usually looks like John Mayer) and we’re at Target. He holds up two shirts and asks which one he should get. I freeze and go “WHY DOES MY OPINION MATTER?” and I get all flustered and embarrassed that he’s asking my opinion and urgently tell him to just get which one he wants please. He asks which one would look better and I shrug and ask how I should know.
And that’s the moment I force myself to take my mind away from Target and the non-existent husband/shirt dilemma. I assure myself that in my terms for marriage I will write down “Do not ask me for help in picking out a shirt,” and this terrible moment will never actually come to be.
It’s not just this dumb Target thought that keeps me scared of marriage. Try going to a store with me. See how long it takes me before I wander off alone. Or go to the beach and try to keep me engaged in conversation. I guess I am a free spirit.
Did you ever see Tom & Huck? You know the one, with Jonathan Taylor Thomas as Tom Sawyer? There’s a line in there where Huck Finn says he is a free man… “Go wherever I want when I wanna go there, do whatever I want when I want to do it.” That is me. I say that to myself all the time, actually.
At the end of the summer, I had these few weeks where I knew nothing about the future. I had considered moving to New York or Nashville for the year. They both seemed cool and full of adventure. But there was a quiet, still voice called the Holy Spirit, who told me to commit and stop suffering my relationships for temporary existing. It was an easy decision early on, but it’s wearing thin.
Last night I was laying in bed looking at the stars (…that are taped to my ceiling… sigh) and I prayed that I would be okay. It is scary to love people, and we are moving beyond romantic love. It is scary to love people consistently enough for them to see your flaws, and not just in tiny glimpses but in full on tidal waves. It is scary to love people consistently enough for them to disappoint you, and then consistently enough that forgiveness doesn’t come easy.
But I am learning. It may not be committing myself to one person, but it is committing myself to one place, one group of friends, one community.. and while I am not completely forsaking all others, I am putting them on the back burner. It hurts, but I believe it will be worth it.
19/31 days of madeleine
Because you’re not what I would have you be, I blind myself to who, in truth, you are.
This quote reminded me of a story, and I wanted to be true to the story so I had to do some research. It took an hour or so, but I found just what I was looking for! I will summarize what happened.
A girl paid $2200 for a meet-and-greet. It didn’t go as she’d hoped, and she went home and wrote a letter to John Mayer, which was saved here. John took the time to respond to her and in great detail described how the encounter went from his point of view, remembering the name of the perfume she was wearing and everything.
The whole moral of the story being that the girl held such high expectations for meeting John that she created a situation where he could not win. If she is anything like me, the minute she knew she was meeting him, she started writing the script for their conversation, imagining the attention he would give her and the experience she’d walk away with. From the moment he opened his mouth, the expectation came crashing down.
I’ve been face to face with John Mayer twice. Seriously. Here is a picture of the first time.
And that’s John talking to me.
He was sarcastic and slightly rude, but at that point I’d been around enough to know that was the best I’d get. I walked away ecstatic, because I’d talked to John Mayer. I hadn’t dreamed up any sort of conversation or expectations… it just happened, and I was happy.
Then I found out there was a picture! A picture of John Mayer, looking right at me.
It’s easy to do the whole expectation game with celebrity type people. It’s happened to my friend Ernie. I remember once when he was in town, we went and got sushi (okay he got sushi and I got curry) and he told me about how he had finally stood up for himself when this person had expected him to hang out with him when he was in town. He delivered them a big F- you, I owe you nothing.. and I was proud. Sometimes I worry that he kills himself and destroys his sanity by being so warm and friendly. People expect a lot because of it.
The worst part is that I do it to my friends. I hold unrealistic expectations for them. While I don’t expect them to be perfect in a general sense, I expect them to be perfect when it comes to me; knowing how to respond and what to say, when to speak up and when to stay silent. I am disappointed by their inability to not be who I’ve dreamed them to be, and so I miss out on who they actually are. Coming to friendships with expectations of what kind of person they should be is a recipe for disappointment, disaster and destroyed relationships.
My eyes need to be clear and open so I can see who my friends are in truth. I need to wipe away the slime of unrealistic expectations and fully embrace the beauty in the conflict of unpredictable friends. Easier said than done, I guess.
18/31 days of madeleine
“Inspiration usually comes during work, rather than before it.”
Remember how Beckie and I went to that NaNoWriMo thing on Monday? Well since then I keep thinking about writing and then I start worrying and wondering how I’m going to write all of those words, because I never know what I should write about.
And I hardly ever know what I want to write about, but if I give myself enough time I discover it. Or rather, it discovers me. I am trying to remind myself of that, not just in writing but in life. We do not discover what we love by staying inside and thinking about trying something. A plane doesn’t sit at a gate and then shoot straight up in the air. The takeoff is important, but it can’t happen without motion.
So I’m trusting that I’ll survive November by remembering that motion leads to takeoff, and a takeoff leads to flying.
I’m also trusting that I’ll survive the winter outwardly and inwardly by remembering that motion leads to takeoff which leads to flying.
17/31 days of madeleine
“In a moment of crisis we don’t act out of reasoned judgment but on our conditioned reflexes. We may be able to send men to the moon, but we’d better remember we’re still closely related to Pavlov’s dog. Think about driving a car: only the beginning driver thinks as he performs each action; the seasoned driver’s body works kinesthetically . . .A driver prevents an accident because of his conditioned reflexes; hands and feet respond more quickly than thought. I’m convinced the same thing is true in all other kinds of crisis, too. We react to our conditioning built up of every single decision we’ve made all our lives; who we have used as our mirrors, as our points of reference. If our slow and reasoned decisions are generally wise, those which have to be made quickly are apt to be wise, too. If our reasoned decisions are foolish, so will be those of the sudden situation.”
16/31 days of madeleine
“Have you ever tried to get to your feet with a sprained dignity?”
Once I heard on the radio that it takes like 10 hours to get over a bad mood. I counted how many hours I usually spend awake and realized that unless you woke up in a bad mood, what that number meant was that the way to get over a bad mood was to sleep. Which is true, right?
I used to be especially guilty of holding onto a bad mood. For days. I’m really determined about stupid stuff, like staying angry. Sometimes I stay angry in action even when I’m no longer angry in heart. You know why? It is hard to swallow my pride and say “I am not mad anymore.”
Here are some things I’ve learned about bouncing back from a bad mood:
- Don’t beat yourself up over your feelings. When we discredit our feelings, it’s easy to feel even worse that we’d ever felt that way. Our feelings hardly ever get us in trouble. Our actions, the response to the feelings, are usually the problem.
- Verbalize your feelings. Even if you only say it to yourself and even if it is just in your head, when you identify what you are feeling you take “aerpgojiaerpgoiajwefhealvheoiguahreguoie” and turn it into “frustration.” Frustration is so much easier to deal with than aeprojgieaprojgiawperoijgawprejfiweaf. Trust me. I feel aerijgaeorijgreapoijg ALL. THE. TIME.
- Pray about it. Be honest. Tell God you’re pissed, tell him you are offended… and elaborate. I’m so guilty of saying “I’m mad,” and leaving my prayer at that but continuing to fume in my heart. Dump your burdens on him. He told us to, so it’s okay.
- Swallow your pride. This is the hardest part. Walking into a room as an angry monster and re-emerging as a calm monster is an exercise in humility. I can’t begin to explain why this is so hard, but it is.
- Apologize. Don’t apologize for your feelings, mind you. Even if all you did was make things awkward by walking away, apologize for that. By acknowledging that you used to be in a bad mood but that you are over it, you invite everyone to transition back into a peaceful place.
- Laugh. Laughing will strip away any remnants of the bad mood that may be stuck to you. It’s just as helpful as sleeping, but way more fun. When people laugh with me after I have been upset, it’s like a big group hug where we all breathe in a sigh of relief and say “We made it through.”
To become a person who isn’t held back by bad moods, consistently walk away from them. Your dignity may be sprained for awhile, but it’ll recover and you’ll be better because of it.
15/31 days of madeleine – how’s your ripple?
“Our story is never written in isolation. We do not act in a one-man play. We can do nothing that does not affect other people, no matter how loudly we say, “It’s my own business.”
Lately I’ve been tired of some of my friends. Not all of them, mind you. Just a growing handful, and I can tell you exactly why.
Their feelings are destroying our friendship.
Well, their feelings and then my cynicism in response. But let’s not talk about me, let’s just focus on other people for a minute.
A couple months ago, my grandma died. I never publicly told anybody because even though she was family, we weren’t close and I didn’t want unnecessary pity. Death is an encounter with the Divine regardless of your religious beliefs, and with it comes a lot of weight. I was walking by the river at night, crying for no apparent reason and felt stuck.
Luckily, I had a weekend full of plans with my friends to look forward to. Friends I’d not told about my grandmother because I figured it would naturally come up in conversation.
Except that one by one, every last one of them (we are talking 3 days in a row and 6 plans) bailed on me. Some of the reasons were.. well.. reasonable. But for the most part, they were just excuses. It was “I don’t really feel like it.”
Deep within me something switched. I didn’t really feel like dragging around heavy thought bricks, but God kind of dumped those in the wagon I keep my emotional crap in. There was no “I don’t feel like dealing with this,” I just had to do it. So I did what I am the best at doing: I got really mad.
Had I told my friends that my grandma died and I just needed to be around people, I truly believe they would have rushed to be with me. I never thought I should have to do that.
Because my friends “didn’t feel like” hanging out, I carried a burden that should have been shared for a little longer than I should have had to.
We sometimes get so caught up in what we feel, what we want, what we think is best, that we forget to seriously consider how our decisions affect those around us.
Once when he was younger, Graham got really upset at us. I can’t remember why. But I remember sitting in his and Lauren’s room, and telling him about how his actions were like dropping a rock in a pond. His actions created a ripple, and he had the choice over what kind of ripple he started. When he was mean to Lauren, she was mean to me and I was mean to Emily who was mean to Graham, who was mean to Lauren… and suddenly that one solitary action created a sour, bitter wave in all of us.
Stacy told me once that shortly after we’d had that conversation, Graham was starting to get angry. Lauren looked at him and asked him “How’s your ripple?”
So in the realm of friendship:
How’s your ripple?