Thursday, May 17, 2012

Resurrection in the Library

I spend the morning sorting through resources in the seminary library. As I comb through the stacks, I look intently on a section with one search keyword: resurrection. I landed on this topic by happenstance. Or, that’s what I thought. My professor said I had two options: a passage in Romans, or one in 1 Corinthians 15. I chose 1 Corinthians, since the passage seemed shorter. But little did I know that this would be a culmination of the anthem of my past four months.

Term papers are stressful. It takes everything within me to get away from procrastinating. Even now, I’m doing a glorious form of it while blogging. Though very cathartic for me, is in no way getting actual work done.

Back to the library, I find my sources and decide to scan them into a pdf so I can read them at my leisure the following few days at home. The scanner is the closest thing to a suntan that I’m going to experience today. While vexing over the complexity of this paper, and wondering about how well or poor I will do, I see a guy I went to undergraduate at North Central with for one semester. Looking at him I realize something. We are no longer the kids we once were. Resurrection is happening here and now.

I was talking with my counselor about how I think things will eventually get better. How contentment and joy, I believe, are right around the corner. And she asks me, “How do you know that?” And I fumble through my thoughts for a while. I don’t really know, but I do. Something within me knows that all things go through rebirth and become new once again. Then, after what seemed like an eternity in my mind in silence, I look at her, and she says to me, “You know about resurrection.”

The past four months have been a painful realization of what I really desire. For a while I thought it was my ex. I thought if I set everything right in my life, he would come back. But now I realize I did what I could, I loved with my heart, fully and really. And now that my heart is repaired, I have forgiven him and let him go.

What I really want now is resurrection. I pray for it eagerly, everyday. I feel it some days when the sun is shining on my face and I’m out zipping from place to place on my scooter. Or when I have a free hour and I’m sitting on the porch watching the chickens peck around while reading NT Wright. I find contentment and joy there. And resurrection is on its way.

A few weeks back, I wrestled with my life. Wanting everything to be BETTER. Hoping I could leave my job at Trader Joes, wishing I could be done with school and spend every day rock climbing and gallivanting around the city. This is what I thought it meant when God says, “Behold, I am making all things new.”

But now, in resurrection, I realize, God is making all things new. He’s holding me in my temper tantrums and changing the places in my heart to see that I am not stuck in death, but he has an amazing life for me everyday. Some days I don’t see it, feel it, or know it. Today, I think will be a day of resurrection because he hasn’t forgotten about me. He has made a grand adventure for me starting now.

And the anthem now plays, Today, I am making all things new for you, Joy. Keep your eyes wide open for resurrection is here and now.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

How to face your fears at J. Crew

I entered J. Crew with the brown bag I received in the mail. As I approached the counter a male sales associate came to meet me. Now, he was very handsome. Great hair, nice features, and good style. The bold plad of his shirt was offset by a peanut butter tie. His style was great which made me immediately think one thing: gay.
But as I handed him the package, it was clear that his smooth lines and easy conversation indicated otherwise.
“I have a few returns,” I say with a half smirk. I never like to upset sales associates by throwing off their sales for the day with a return. He responds,
“Swimwear too big? That’s been a problem this season.”
Great answer, I think. He did the work and complimented me in the process. I didn’t have say that I looked awkward and disappointing in it, or that I felt chubby and disproportionate.
I answer, “Yes.” I doesn’t matter if I lie, he’s already made the assumption.
“Well, lets turn that frown upside down,” he says. Cheesy, but cute. He pokes at the computer. I look away and back slowly studying him as he works. His combed back hair is trendy, but not kitschy. He doesn’t have facial hair, or those thick-rimmed glasses. He’s just fashionable, and perfect to look at. He asks for my e-mail address and clicks some more.
I take a receipt asking, “Can I take this?”
He responds, “It’s yours, sure.”
I ask, “Is it ok?”
He says, “Hey it’s yours, I live in your world right now. You can do whatever you’d like.”
My response is partly theological, “I tend to think that we all live in each other’s world. It doesn’t belong to one of us. So this is your world, too. That’s just how I think.”
He gives a giggle. Smiles. Hands me another receipt.
I’m about to turn, and leave, and he says, “There’s a new men’s line, for the men in your life.
At this I wonder, is he asking me if I’m single? I am, so I respond, “I’ll let my brother know.” I smirk and turn to leave.

Later that evening I replay the interaction to my aunt Pat. Pat is a go-getter. She’s the kind of woman that grabs the bull by the balls. She says to me, “You gotta make things happen in life. You go back to J. Crew after dinner and you ask that guy out.”
I shrug, say, “No, I can’t.”
And she says, “You can’t or you wont?”
I think for a moment why I wouldn’t ask a perfect stranger out on a date. Abduction, rape, and a terrible experience cross my mind. But an interesting conversation does, too. I pocket it. I wait.

What if I did?

What if I walked back into the shop and asked this gorgeous man out on a date? What if I put on my grown up pants and took some control over my life? See, I couldn’t seem to shake it. “You can’t or you wont?” There are some things in life that people will never do because they will never have the courage to face their fears and lean right in saying, “Come on fear, do your worst.” I’m not that person. I have been the past but not anymore. If there’s anything that I’ve learned in the past few months its that I don’t need to be afraid of what I do not know. Worrying is the enemy, and courage is a fear breaker. Face your fears, and you’re going to live life without regrets. You’re going to do what you were meant to do. And you’re going to be yourself.

So I didn’t go back to J. Crew. But the thought kept creeping in, What if I did? I arrived at my home in South Minneapolis and I sat in my car. 5 minutes to 9pm. I look at the receipt. His name is at the top. “Mitch.” The phone number is right below. The store isn’t closed, and I’m not going into my house until I answer this question, What if I did?
Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep.
Ring. Ring.
“Hello, J. Crew.” A woman answers the phone.
“Hi, is Mitch there?”
“Sure, one minute.”
Pause. Silence. What am I going to say? What is he going to say?
“Hello, this is Mitch.”
“Hi, this is Joy. You helped me return a few items earlier tonight?” I say with a question in my voice. “Oh, I remember.”
“Yes, well, I’m wondering if you’d like to go out for coffee sometime?” The words just spilled out of my mouth. It was better than anything I had come up with earlier. And it sounded so natural.
There was a long pause. I didn’t think he’d actually consider. My blood was pumping, heart racing, breathing quickens. I was nervous.
He finally responds. “I’m very flattered. But I’m engaged.”
Answer. Relief.
“Congratulations,” I say naturally.
He finishes, “But, you need to know, what you just did was totally bad ass.”
“Thanks. Bye, Mitch.”

I’ve realized from this experience that I cannot live in fear. Does this mean I ask every beautiful person out on a date or recommend it for others? No. In fact, I probably wont do it ever again. And I'm glad that Mitch was unavailable. However, it would have made for good material later.

But, when I’m afraid of doing something, I’m going to ask myself, “What if I did it?”

What if I did? What if I got a motorcycle license? What if I bought a Kitchen-Aid mixer? What if I was ok with my single life? What if I climbed a 5.9? What if I wrote letters again? What if I wrote this blog? What if I preached in front of a crowd? What if I went to Argentina? Wouldn’t I be less afraid? Wouldn’t I be who I am and who God made me to be?

 Freedom, my friends, is in the wonderful answer to “what if.”

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Not Giving Up

I haven't washed my hair in six days. Books with reading due next week pile up on my bedside table. I have at least a dozen calls to make and I can't get out of bed. Though the sun shines on my face, I feel no glow.

This is a dark, dark season.

I pray each day for guidance, for joy, for love. But mostly I pray for mercy.

Some people say that the most difficult things in life make you stronger. But I never wanted to be stronger. I just wanted what I wanted. And now, months of agony have passed with many hopeful allusions to leaving this place crushed over and over again.

When will my God be my solace and my peace?
When will this season be over and my soul be released?
I cry out to a God who is alongside of me,
But when, I ask, will I ever be free?
Lord, save my from my misery.
I believe you came to set the captives free.
Let me be liberated from my pain and suffering.
And bring new life with joy so freeing.

What else can I do but wait upon the Lord? What else can I do but go through the motions until life anew breaks in?

I will not give up, as much as I want to. I will not give up.

And You will not give up on me.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Love, I'm back at it again

A two year hiatus has left me feeling pretty creatively dry. I haven't blogged, but I did fall in love and am now on the other side of it enduring a broken heart as God heals it. Its not that I didn't have anything to write during that time. Rather, I had literary laryngitis I suppose. Or possibly, I lost my voice because I lost myself for a while. Have no fear. As I find myself again and rediscover my God, so many things are happening. And without me, for the past two years at least, you might be eager for an update or ready to laugh and cry with me.

I hope you missed me, because now, I'm back.

What speech can usher in my grand reemergence? Two words. Love exists. On the day after St. Valentine's, I'm reminded that my life is full of love. Let me show you where from three examples from Love day.

I spent the morning with a new acquaintance at the rock climbing gym, Katie. Her 5.10s were so glorious to my beginner 5.8s (which in regular terms means shes advanced and I'm a newb). However, as I wrestled with this wall, I heard the heights calling to me, asking me to reach them. And from below, this new friend encouraged. A stranger, 60 feet below me, urged me onward toward my dreams. Our climbs were mixed with chatter about love and hopes, dreams and desires. We find solidarity in brokenness, but realize there is hope to apprehend.

Love was: having someone realize my dreams and encourage me onward.

Rushing off to my next appointment, I let my hair down and fixed my makeup. This was a date I had been looking forward to all weekend. I met him at his home, where the staff had prepared a wonderful steak and potato meal. You'd think I was dating a lawyer. But, you see, my 89-year-old grandfather expected me to be on time, and I was inevitably running late. The workers at his assisted living facility all wore red and pink and smiled at me, my grandfather's "sweetheart" for the day, as they rushed around serving the residents their special meals. My grandfather is a quiet man, except when he needs coffee. His memory is grand. And I have learned in the past two months how much I love him and look forward to the slow walks down his hallway as he pushes a walker with little effort. I especially appreciate the stories he tells about life. It's like I'm friends with him instead of a kid who doesn't really know him. He reminds me that there's someone out there for me, and that I have a great heart.

Love was: taking slow, gentle time to give my love and in return receive it.

My finale of love for the evening was an exceptional meal with some of my best girls. Upon realizing how difficult the day would be for me without class (which is normally scheduled on Tuesday nights), they made it a night to remember. We had a splendid meal, made by Georgia, a gorgeous spread of desserts, chocolate dipped strawberries by Megan and better than ... cake, again Georgia, and sweet beverages, via Laura. And we ate steaks and a potato medley that were to die for. I didn't bring anything, except a camera and witty comments to share during "Sweet Home Alabama." But it didn't matter.

Love was: being served when I was feeling down and didn't have anything to offer. Having friends to care when a heart is troubled and life is confusing.

All in all I'm realizing the truth of it all. "Every good and perfect gift is from above." And the love that I gave and received, was from above yesterday. That's the love I'm looking for. And when I find it in its fullest, I'll share it.