From the Basement

September 22, 2010

On (a lack of) Patience & Endurance

Today, I am faced with a question: to take a part-time job with no insurance or benefits, one that involves children (and thus a lengthy commitment I cannot in good conscience back out of)… or to refuse, and continue on in the job hunt uncertain and unknowing.

Today, my heart and my gut are at war. Today, I really despise the gift of freewill and am rather desperate for God to just shove me through a door. Today, I do not want to be the person clinging to the life raft in the ocean who turns down the boat and the plane’s offers for rescue while saying “God will save me!”, not realizing that God in fact sent the boat and the plane.

Today, my family and friends tell me, a job is a job, and you can always back out, even when there are kids. Today, I have been chided for not applying for enough jobs, cautioned against ignoring my gut, and greatly encouraged to pursue any kind of reasonable employment, including temping and administrative work.

Today, I find it hard to trust God, yet I know I must claim that promise, that all things work to the good of those who love him who have been called according to his purpose. Today, I ask him what I have not done, that I do not yet have work. Today, I remind God that I’m feeling pretty humbled, and is it necessary to keep me barely employed for the next year to remind me of that?

Today has been a big day.

I have sought advice from my parents, from my writer friends, and from my fiancé, and I am now turning to prayer and the word of God, feeling convicted – once more – that I saw fit to cry and fuss and solicit the advice of others before turning to scripture. I read the gracious reminders of Psalm 139 and, in my impatience, did not feel much grace, and I’m now turning to the book I’ve been reading, Future Grace by John Piper, which I recalled had a chapter entitled “Faith in Future Grace vs. Impatience.”

Piper says, “Patience is the capacity to ‘wait and to endure’ without murmuring and disillusionment – to wait in the unplanned place, and endure the unplanned pace” (172). My friends, if that’s patience, I have not been patient these months. I have kicked and screamed and fought and fussed and whined and complained and been self-centered and bitchy every gosh darn step of the way. I have not waited restfully – there have been moments of rest but they are ever punctuated by the squalid cry of “Why are you doing this to me?”, ever marked by a desperation for worldly provision rather than spiritual, ever torn by the seeming division of my head and my heart and my spirit.

To wait in the unplanned place – my parents’ respective homes, which cause no end of annoyance and grief, even amidst the joy and comfort. To endure the unplanned pace – to apply for dozens of jobs… to sit listlessly staring at a computer screen, endlessly perusing job listings… to ask God, are you there? Do you know I’m waiting? Do you know I’m lonely? Do you know I’m desperate to get out of my parents’ homes? Do you know… do you know…

I don’t think I’ve once asked God, what can I do for you? Not that there’s anything I can do that he needs, but I’m sure he’d appreciate the gesture.

Trust me, I have played out every possible scenario of why I’m still unemployed and living at home, from me needing to be with my parents right now to God wanting to humble me (done) to God just being vindictive… which is not, of course, biblical.

Days like today, I am confronted with the immensity of my own weakness. My infallibility, pride, self-centeredness, ego, need for human approval, desire for attention, disbelief in God’s promise to provide, that very dangerous root of unbelief… if patience is evidence of inner strength, then my impatience is evidence of great weakness.

Luckily, I worship a God who says his power is made perfect in my weakness. I cannot comprehend how that is possible, but he says it is.

If I had a job interview for every tear I’ve shed these last months, I’d have been employed yesterday. At every turn, I question what I’ve done wrong, and then I’m reminded, it’s not about me. It’s about him, and about his kingdom, and if that means taking a nanny job, so be it – though that’s the last thing I want to do, trust me.

I am just feeling very lost and very unsure right now. I don’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth, but I also don’t want to disappoint a family or children when another job (hopefully) comes along.

There are no easy answers. Right now, I’m reminded of something my future father-in-law told me a few months back – sometimes God just wants you to make a decision, and where you go, there He will be also, and He will bless that.

Or as Francesca Battistelli wrote, “I wish I could know what you’ve got in store for me/I try and try to read your mind/But I forget that patience is a virtue/You’re teaching me to hold on tight/And I don’t know how the story ends/But I’ll be all right cause you wrote it/I don’t know where the highway bends, but I’m doing just fine/Cause you’re in control even when I don’t know where my life’s gonna go/You’re keeping me guessing.”

September 21, 2010

Lyric Post: Keeping Me Guessing

Coffee cup waking me up
I gotta board a plane
And fly away
Sometimes it feels like I’m
going at the speed of light

Can’t relax I’m movin too fast
I wanna find the gold
But I don’t have a map
I wish that I could know
What you’ve got in store for me

I try and try to read your mind
But I forget that patience is a virtue
You’re teaching me to hold on tight

And I don’t know how the story ends
But I’ll be alright cause you wrote it
And I don’t know where the highway bends
But I’m doing just fine
Cause you’re in control
Even when I don’t know
Where my life’s gonna go
You’re keeping my guessing

Slow me down, show me around
I wanna see the world that I’ve been without
I am here and now the future is out of my hands
I trust in you and how you move
I won’t forget that patience is a virtue
You’re teaching me to hang on tight

Cause I don’t know how the story ends
But I’ll be alright cause you wrote it
And I don’t know where the highway bends
But I’m doing just fine
Cause you’re in control
Even when I don’t know
Where my life’s gonna go
You’re keeping me guessing

Seasons come and seasons go
But you decide

I don’t know where the story ends
But I’ll be alright cause you wrote it
I don’t know where the highway bends
But I’m doing just fine

You’re in control
Even when I don’t know
Where my life’s gonna go
You’re keeping me guessing

You’re keeping me guessing

Francesca Battistelli’s lyrics beautifully articulate exactly where I’m at right now.

September 18, 2010

The Very Secret Diary of the Girl Downstairs, who is not Bridget Jones

Filed under: Culture — jeannablue @ 4:59 am
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# jobs applied to this week: 22. V. good! # typos found on cover letters and resumes: 2 that were on every bloody effing piece of paper. V. embarrassing. # interview offers: 0. V. bad. Probably due to grammatical errors. Or maybe self-recrimination is sinking in? Lbs coffee consumed: many. # shoes purchased: 2, or 4, if counted individually. V. cute and snazzy. Cuteness factor perhaps increased by fact that have been w/o black flats for months and months, and so perception is altered. Level of caring about altered perception: zilch.

September 16, 2010

Pilate, Christ, and the sign on the cross

Today, I finished reading the Book of John, and a detail caught my eye that I’d never really noticed before, not truly.

John 19:19-22

Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.” Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”

In Sunday School, the sign above Christ’s head was always interpreted as mocking, yet more humiliation from people who did not understand the words they spoke. I don’t think I ever realized that Pilate was the one who wrote the notice and, what’s more, that it was an act of defiance.

Up to this point, Pilate had been fighting Caiaphas tooth and nail, trying to get out of condemning Jesus, protesting his innocence, even freeing Barrabas, a violent robber, at the demands of the crowd. In verse 12 of this same chapter, John writes, “From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jews kept shouting, ‘If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.’”

In verse 16, Pilate capitulates as the protests increase – I would guess that the threat of riot was at a fever pitch. Christ is taken to be crucified, but not before Pilate writes this notice and has it placed above Christ’s head in enough languages to ensure great understanding.

Verse 21 is crucial: the priests do not like it! The priests understand this act of defiance in a way I’ve never heard preached on a Sunday morning. They offer an editorial suggestion to Pilate – that he writes that Christ claimed to be King. But Pilate refuses them, a subtle reminder of the power he holds. He has been forced to give Christ over, but this one thing he can do: declare Christ King of the Jews. Even if he does not entirely understand what he is declaring, Pilate lets his words stand, in every language possible.

I firmly believe that Pilate did not want to give Christ over. The gospels suggest that it got to the point where it was an issue of handing one man over for the sake of peace in the city – not a “right” motive, but I do think Pilate did all he could to keep Christ from the priests. (Of course, he did not know that the crucifixion was prophesied, that it had to happen – that God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.)

I think my Sunday School teachers were wrong. The sign was not meant to humiliate or mock Christ’s claims. It was Pilate’s defiance to the priests and, in a way he perhaps did not intend, a powerful acknowledgement of the supremacy of the kingdom for which Christ came. It’s a declaration of truth… and, perhaps, of faith.

September 15, 2010

Taylor Swift & Metal Music: Love Story?

I’m not a huge fan of Taylor Swift. While I can appreciate the reasons for her popularity (and her attempt at maintaining a “wholesome” image, whatever that means), her lyrics often border on the [fill in your adjective of choice].

Given my proclivity for fairy tales, several friends sent the hit song “Love Story” my way. They didn’t know that my ears were already bleeding – I ran a day camp for elementary school kids last summer, and listening to 6-year-old girls sing about Romeo & Juliet and The Scarlet Letter infuriated both the English major and the overprotective teacher in me. There is a generation of girls who are in for a big surprise when they hit high school English class, and I hope to God they don’t want to be Juliet.

In a fairy tale turn, however, my fiancé rescued the song for me. He’s a not-so-closet metalhead, and he sent me a fabulous cover performed by Amongst the Ruin.

Maybe it’s just me, but the juxtaposition of Twu Luv lyrics with metal music casts a deliciously dark and ironic light on the song. Finally, the allusions to depressing literature make sense!

This version is definitely love… twu luv.

On Pride, Self Pity, & Grace

(So after that last post, I started freewriting, and I figured hey, let’s just jump into my random thought process and see where it goes.)

I long for human recognition – it makes me feel like my life is worth something. Like people have noticed. Like they’ve cared. Like they were able to take something valuable away. Times like these, my life doesn’t feel like it’s worth anything.

That’s self-pity, I know. In my head, I know that Jesus loves me, that grace is free, that as that wonderful Third Day song goes, “you just call my name and I’ll be there.” In my head, I know those things. My heart is a different matter. My heart is traitorous, vacillating, easily swayed.

I have not yet learned humility. I don’t know how to be confident and hopeful while still being okay if I fail. Either I’m invincible or I’m in the land of self-pity. These days, the latter has become my coffeeshop of choice.

I don’t know how to have confidence in my own abilities. Thank God my mom reads over my cover letters because I do not trust one word I write.

The response to this is, we’re not supposed to have confidence in our own abilities. We’re supposed to have confidence in God, who gave us our abilities for a reason. Again, in my head, I know that to be true. The fact is, though, I still think I can imagine a better future for myself than God can. I’m not willing to trust him. Oh, there are days when I do, but so too are there days when it feels like darkness is all around.

Let me tell you, when you sit alone day in and day out for months on end, when it’s just you and your laptop searching for jobs for hours at a time, compulsively checking email, trying not to obsess about the future… you become acutely aware of how many times in a day you sway from Trust to Fear.

I have become acutely aware of my failings in this department. And acute is a great word so don’t accuse me of overusing it. Acute means sharp or severe – it’s brief and staggering, as opposed to chronic. It’s most often used to contextualize types of grief, sorrow, and pain – it’s the right word to describe the pain when you go from a spiritual high to spiraling downward in a matter of minutes.

When it’s just you in the silence, and you don’t have class, work, meetings, friends, or even bloody homework to distract you – when it’s just you, for days and months on end, trying to hope but utterly unable to sustain yourself – there’s a special brand of self-loathing that develops there.

It’s pride in one of its many forms, and it worships at the altar of “I.” Pride, above all, must be self-sustaining. It has a singular concentration on independence, on the ability to do it all… there is not a greater power, you are in total control – this is the lie of the “I.” It is pride that tells people they “should” have work when they don’t, because they’re qualified – pride trusts human ability over God’s design, my own imagination over my Creator’s.

I feel like if God’s put me in this prison – because I love my parents, but being at their homes day after day feels like prison – to rid me of pride, or even to try to get at the root, well, we’re going to be here a lot longer, because the pride seems to be swelling and growing more now than it has all summer.

Not to get all metaphoric, but the garden always seems like a good metaphor for the soul. If you put seeds in dirt, the sun and the rain will do almost everything. But you have to tend it. You have to weed it. You have to go out with the hose and water the damn flowers when there is no rain. There are dry spells and cloudy days and times when you feel like you’re not keeping the garden alive, even though it still is.

My mom recently went out of town on an extended trip, and I had to take care of the gardens. Now, I know relatively little about gardening, and I freaked out because during those two weeks, there was no rain, and even though I watered the plants almost perfectly on schedule, to me – the untrained eye – it looked utterly bereft. But when my mom returned, she said I’d done a great job and that the yard looked wonderful.

The untrained eye versus the expert’s eye… the human eye versus the master gardener’s eye. When I look at my life, I see loss and loneliness and despair. I see sin and hopelessness and wretched external forces weighing down. I see uncertainty and doubt and spiritual vacillations of bi-polar proportion.

But that’s not what he sees. He looks at me and sees his son. He looks at me and sees his daughter, redeemed. He looks and sees many broken pieces just waiting to be put back together in a form so beautiful no one else could have imagined it. He sees opportunities for restoration and renewal and rebirth. For growth and pruning and tending. He sees the big picture. He sees exactly how these moments – every moment, every acute pain and tender joy – fit into the pattern.

I’m not to the point where I can doubt and immediately lift it up to him. I still wallow in self-pity. I cross my arms and plop down in my mud puddle, a perfect picture of a childhood tantrum. But it’s taking less time for me to grasp onto his hand and let him lift me out of the mud puddle. So in that, there is growth. It is small and it is fragile, but it is there. And it’s only by his grace, because I’m a train wreck without grace.

Psalm 23:3: He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

Trepidation

Filed under: Faith,Grad School,Writing — jeannablue @ 3:10 am
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I need to get back into the practice of blogging. For a few months there, it got so easy. I just typed and boom, there was an entry. Wading back in after time away is a little harder. There’s trepidation. Nerves. The knowledge that this isn’t something I can’t do on my own.

It’s the same feeling I get when I think about reapplying to grad school. When I apply for job after job, day after day, trusting that something will work out.

Times like these, it’s easy to get downtrodden, discouraged. Out of practice of writing, out of shape with lack of consistent exercise, and twice shy about reapplying to schools that bit you in the ass last time.

I wrote a lot of blog-ish stuff today – questions I’m asking God right now, how I’m feeling… battling the loneliness, the drag of monotonous life at home, the disappointment that hits in waves as I apply to dozens of jobs and don’t hear back.

But fact is, right now I don’t know how to write without self-pity, and that is a perverse form of pride. I don’t know how to write without taking pride in it, no matter how joyful or low the subject matter. I can’t do it without God, and right now it doesn’t seem like he feels like helping me, so…

I’ll leave you with something more encouraging. It’s a song – well, it’s one of my all-time favorites. It really buoyed me through those first few months at home. This last month, I haven’t listened to it, which probably shows how much I need it right now.

Hope it hits you where you need it.

September 14, 2010

Lyric Post: Call My Name

Filed under: Faith,Lyric Post — jeannablue @ 5:11 pm
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September 12, 2010

Where were you on 9/11?

Filed under: Culture — jeannablue @ 12:31 am
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I was in 8th grade walking into my second-period English class with Mrs. M when I saw that the television was on, and that there planes sticking out of the Twin Towers. I remember the announcement given by someone in administration, probably the principal, and the reminder that as we were in a small town in the Midwest, we were probably not a terrorist target. I remember laughing at that.

To this day, I remember the teachers who let us watch TV coverage and the ones who didn’t, claiming that they wanted it to be a normal school day. But that day was not normal. It will never be normal.

September 8, 2010

Faith in Future Grace

On Sex & the City, Charlotte is the friend who insists that things happen for a reason. Her cynical friends tend to not believe her, but this is a hope to which she stubbornly clings.

I’m often that person. No matter how desperate the situation, I’m the annoying friend who will tell you that God will use this for good.

I believe that many things happen for a reason – some things in life are inevitable, even if tragic (death comes to mind). But I believe that in all things, in all situations, God works to the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). I also believe that He who begins a good work in us is faithful to complete it (Philippians 1:6). My mom’s two favorite names for God are Jehovah Jireh (God who will provide) and Faithful & True. He does provide, and He is faithful and true.

These are the promises – the hopes – the future graces, as Piper may call them – that we need to cling to, in all situations. It seems generally agreed upon that God has three responses to our prayers: yes, no, and wait. “Wait” is where I’m at right now, and “wait” – more often than not – sounds like silence. It’s still, it’s there, it’s wordless, but somehow, if I’m tuned in, there’s a peace that descends… and I take that to mean, “Wait, my child, have faith.”

I’m reading another John Piper book, and this one is focused on having faith in “future grace” (the title is, fittingly, Future Grace). Piper’s basic thesis is that faith stems from trusting God’s promises for the present and the future; the book also serves as an indictment of the implication that gratitude for past grace is enough to sustain our faith. Trusting what God has promised and having faith and hope in what He will do – this is the key to saving faith.

Piper makes the wonderful point that in the Bible, people are never chastened for having little gratitude. Rather, Christ says, “O ye of little faith.” It is by faith that we are enabled to further put our hope and trust in God, by faith that we are able to act, by faith that we are able to grow.

Lack of faith is the crux of sin, yeah? In times when my faith is lacking, oh, that is when the anxiety, worry, and fear come… that is when I stumble… that is when I fall. I am so grateful – yes, grateful! – that God has picked me up time and time again, and His word tells me that He will continue to do so.

All this to say, I can’t identify a “reason” why I’m still unemployed or why I’m still living at home. If it’s to finish the novel, well, crap, because trust me, the novel ain’t getting’ done any time soon! If it’s to learn compassion for my family, I fail a lot in that area. If it’s to learn patience, well, okay Lord, you have my attention.

But I do have faith that whatever purpose (or lack of purpose) is behind my current situation, that however I fail when I’m here at home, that whatever happens – I know that my God is for me and not against me. I know He is faithful & true. I know He will continue to provide as He’s been doing. And I know that He will be faithful to complete the good work He started in me. And maybe someday, I’ll look back on this and see exactly how God was piecing things together to set plans in motion that are unfathomable right now.

I want to be a woman of great, unshakable faith. Maybe this is part of becoming that woman.

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