Friday, May 27, 2011

The Passion of My Heart

I have debated whether or not to ever write a post like this. But it's been tumbling about in my head for ages and I think perhaps it will be good to just put it out into a tangible form where I can see it.

I disagree with everyone. To some degree, always. Mostly it's healthy. If I ever agreed totally with anyone, I suppose I would be a might concerned I had lost my ability to think, consider, and examine.

The way my mind works is sometimes exhausting and even, at times, quite a bother when I find myself trying to explain my thinkings, musings, or passions to someone who hasn't known me intimately for many many years.

Even as I write this, I am aware of the indulgence and possible narcissism of self disclosure and yet hope that it will be worthwhile to myself and others in some way. So I forge onward.

I have a lot of thoughts about many a subject. I can argue and counter argue all day long all inside my head about a multitude of things. Sometimes I find that I agree wholeheartedly with both the argument and the counter argument.

Because in a very complex way sometimes things contradict each other on a surface level, and yet in the deep recesses of it, they don't.

I verbally process. My thoughts and feelings come out (in whole or in part) rather frequently, despite any desire I have to keep it all to myself. I feel like Brian Regan when he said, in reaction to his own standard verbal blunderings, "Oh no! Words are comin' out! Oh no!"

I fail at glossing over, fudging, and being vague. Especially when questioned point blank.

Not to say I'm incapable of these things, but at the very least it is far from my natural inclination.

My desire to be authentic typically trumps any hope I had of remaining stoic or (at the very least) maintaining any sort of an air of ambivalence.

This is troublesome at times because I have found that I can be terribly controversial.

As it turns out, being controversial with feelings as big as mine can be a bit off putting. I have seen it in the faces of people I absolutely cherish.  I also feel it (their antsy-ness/discomfort/possible irritation) as if it were my own when my passionate feelings and interpretations of things oppose theirs.

Empathetic to my core, I also find it hard to believe (however illogically) that everyone isn't always sensing my true feelings about things just as much as I am sensing theirs.

This makes it even harder for me to sit quietly - the feeling that everyone already knows how I'm feeling, so I might as well just spit it out. In turn it also makes it harder to speak - knowing that I'm probably about to make everyone awkward, explain my concept poorly, and basically just throw a wrench into the whole conversation.

Here I feel a need to back up and clarify that when I suggest that I believe I will explain my concept poorly, I don't meant that in a self-depreciating way. I mean to say simply that when I am about to try to put a concept out there, I am suddenly thinking about it in a very global way. Everything I believe about it as it relates to Scripture, creation, my day, my friend's day, the past, the future, and everything else down to the way crickets chirp at night.

Suddenly I have no words. I am stuck. All the old stuff from my brain is mixing with all the new input from the people around me, their emotional state, their arguments, and on and on.

I stumble. I put my foot in my mouth. I say things that I mean for the moment I am saying them, and then re-evaluate and realize I don't mean that exactly anymore. I have to try again.

I worry that my friends might think I am judging them when I disagree with them. But it isn't true. I am not judging. I am well and fully aware that everything is what it is, and we're all just trying to figure it out.

And here, I will add one of the most exasperating things of all. How it feels when someone tries to talk me out of one of my passions.

Just the fact that someone thinks they can change my mind about a well developed passion is exhausting to me. They are unaware of all the evaluating, re-evaluating, and processing it took for me to get so firm in this belief. Especially if it is something I previously didn't believe/know.

Yes, I do realize how this must sound. Closed minded. Oppositional. Unwilling to be challenged.

I want to throw up my hands. Like a five year old, "Nuh uh!"

I relish a challenge.

But, I also believe it is healthy and okay to know when it's time to close the book on something. Yellow is yellow. Please don't try to convince me that it is blue. I used to think yellow was blue. But then after an in depth study of color theory, I realized that it is yellow. I am finished with making that assessment, and am now looking into the origins of yellow, the future of yellow, and what shades of yellow sunflowers are made of.

And oh, if only it were that simple.

But it's not.

Because the issues are about humanity. Ever complex, and ever transforming.

I do not want to argue over theology.  I just want to find a church that believes like I do about issues that make me sweaty and shaky when I hear the opposing viewpoint.

Most people don't understand what I'm so worked up over. Can't I just hear out the other side? Just because they make an argument for it doesn't mean I have to put it into practice.

Logically, yes. But emotionally, it is like listening to someone arguing for why it would be fine for me to eat my dog.

Koreans eat dogs, and that's fine. It's cultural. But just because a perfectly logical argument can be made for it, doesn't mean that it wouldn't make me all high pitched and squeaky if I tried to explain why I do not, and will not ever want to eat my dog. I do not believe that I am closed minded for being unswayable in my conviction that my dog should remain my pet and not my dinner.

This is how I feel about punitive parenting being preached from the pulpit as if it were Biblically mandated.

This is how I feel when I hear Pastors proof texting for the idea that wife only submission is Scriptural.

This is how I feel about the conversation of women's role in the church, as if spiritual gifts come in pink and blue.

I love my friends who disagree with me. With my whole heart, and fiercely. Just as I know that they love me when I disagree with them. And I don't want their passions to feel trampled either, or to be someone who is exhausting for them to have around.

And I am grateful beyond all thankfulness for those steadfast and precious people in my life who have heard me out, let me stumble and stammer and try again, and understood the resolute nature of my heart, accepting me in all my complexity, perseveration, and angst.

To be patiently understood against all odds - to be known - by my family in Christ, has been one of God's sweetest gifts to me in this lifetime.

I have a feeling it's a taste of what Heaven is like.

Now if Joseph and I can find a church in our community that has in all it's congregation and pastorship, what these precious people have in one pinky finger, I will ecstatically pee my pants.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Teenage Dream

Longish ago and not so very far far away, I was in my early teenage-hood. This was back before I knew that being embarrassing around boys I found even remotely attractive would soon become a regular pastime of mine.

My 13th summer was spent mostly at the home of my dad's boss's family. It was a better option for my extroverted self than staying home with just my little brother day after day, watching Aladin over and over again.

Don't get me wrong, we made that entertaining. But there are only so many ways to watch the same movie ("Only pay attention to Abu this time!" "Okay, and next time we will just watch Eago!") before one runs out of inspiration.

My dad's boss's family consisted of my dad's boss (who was almost never there when we were), his wife, and his four kids. There was an eldest daughter named Tara, a boy named Andy, a girl my age - Anya, and  a little sister, Kiera, right about my brother's age.

Tara was theatrical, older, wiser, and intriguing. We enjoyed the rare times when she was around and not off hanging out with her friends.

Andy was silly, playful, and fun. Also older than us, we felt privileged to be allowed to so fully participate in his hijinks.  When Andy was home, it was going to be a fantastic day.

Mostly, though, we had to make do with Anya and Keira's ideas of fun.

The thing is, that Kiera was actually quite the explorer. She and Weezle spent countless hours outside climbing trees and running amok.

I was completely and fully, the total embodiment of jealousy.

You see, Anya was the only sibling who was my age and was also the only sibling who was thoroughly impossible. She had one favorite thing to do, and one thing only.

Plastic horses.

She would set them up before I arrived. Stables and fences and farms all over the floor in the dark shadowy basement. Every horse was named. Stormy. Thunderbolt. Lightning. Sunshine. Sparkle. Dewdrop. Dandelion. Dawn.

Every horse had a backstory. Every horse had it's own drama to participate in.

This was the kind of game that I would have rejoiced over 6 or 7 years prior. But months shy of 14, I had passed "moving on" about 5 exits back.

Unfortunately for me, the need I had felt to humor her as much as possible in the early days of our hanging out had set an unintentional precedent.  She fully expected my complete and total participation in the days of those horses' lives, and was deeply offended if she detected an attempt on my part to squirm out of it.

This family had a pool, even, and the days that I could talk her into taking advantage of that fact were surprisingly few and far between.

Once in a blue moon Andy would trot downstairs and rescue me with a game of Twister, or a Donkey Kong challenge, and I would be in bliss.

Finally the school year started. I was relieved of my imaginative duties at long last, and found my way back into a setting I felt more natural in.

We had moved into a house that was owned by missionaries, to rent for 2 years while they were away in India. There was only one catch.

Because they had experienced previous tenants who were rather destructive to their lovely home, they left their eldest son behind with the task of checking up on us at random times. His name was Isaiah.

My parents were annoyed.

I was enthralled. He was beautiful. An older boy with straight, swooshy, shoulder length blonde hair, bright blue eyes, and a laid back college style. As we were introduced to him, I became suddenly aware of just exactly how I was standing, and just where precisely my clothes weren't fitting perfectly.

In the months that followed, his occasional drop ins kept me on my toes. Because his parents told him to be sure to peek in every room in the house, my usual messy tendencies were kept largely at bay. Never in my life have I had such a clean room.

Finally a fateful day showed up in it's usual unassuming way, shortly after I had turned 14.

Mom poked her head in my bedroom to tell me that Dad's boss's kids missed us and were dying for a sleep over.

Oh no. Anya.

I told Mom that I didn't know what to do with Anya. That I was ever so relieved to be away from those silly plastic horses. I admitted guiltily that I felt I had really and truly out grown her.

Mom said that she understood, but regardless, having Anya over would be the kind thing to do. It would show gratitude for their hospitality towards us all summer.

I begrudgingly obliged, wishing bitterly that Andy had been their kid that was my age. I'd take Donkey Kong and falling off a skateboard repeatedly over plastic horses any day.

And so Anya came over, and so did the plastic horses. All of them. It hadn't been 25 minutes before my room was covered in fences and stalls and plastic haystacks. It was as if they had always been there.

I cringed through one last make believe horsey drama, and went to bed.

When I woke in the morning, I heard voices downstairs. I rubbed my eyes and listened closer.

Oh. My. Gravy. Mom and Dad were talking to Isaiah!

I leapt out of bed and changed out of my PJ's and into the coolest outfit I could find on such short notice.

Anya was awakened by my closet rummaging, and asked what was going on.

"Anya", I said firmly, "There is a boy downstairs who is really very cool. In just a few minutes he is going to be up here, and by golly if those flippin' plastic horses and fences and stalls and fake food and stuff isn't good and hidden, he will think they are mine! I know that you love them and they are your favorite, but they are not my favorite! I don't want him to think that I am... not me. So please, please, for the love of donuts, HIDE THEM! I'm going down stairs. I'll help you set them up again when he's gone, okay?"

I zipped up my JNCOs and loped downstairs.

Isaiah beamed at me, said hello, made some handsome small talk, and then excused himself to check on the upstairs rooms.

When he came back down and disappeared into my brother's room, I snuck back up to check on Anya.

Upon creaking open my door, I was greeted with the sight of every horse out where it had been moments ago. Everything was exactly where I had left it, except that Anya, instead of hiding the horses, had hidden herself.

"You went under the bed?!" I whispered fiercely, "What are you thinking?! Now he'll surely think those horses are mine!"

I was livid.

I stormed into the hallway, straight into Mom, and began babbling in exasperation.

"Mom! I can't believe this is happening! Isaiah is so cool, and I really think he's kind of cute, and he's already way older than me, and I don't want him to think I'm just a baby, and Anya's stupid plastic horses are all over my room, and now he thinks they're mine, which means he thinks I still play with plastic horses! This is so totally lame! He thinks I'm a huge dork, I just know it!"

No sooner had I finished my rant then Isaiah declared, on his way out the door, "Bye guys! Everything looks great! See you next time! And Sarah, I don't think you're a dork!"

I blinked.

Oh dear stars. He heard me.

I flopped onto the floor. Defeated.

Anya came out of my room to point and laugh at me.

Fortunately for me sometimes, just... sometimes, life has a way of coming full circle.

Years and years later, when I was a college kid, I went to a bar with a dear old friend of mine. It was 80's night at Schotzkies. Not that I'm really the go-to-a-bar type. Mostly bars make me incredibly awkward. But that particular night, dressing up in mismatched 80's attire and dancing like Elaine (yes, from Seinfeld) with my girlfriends sounded downright triumphant.

Just so happened Isaiah had the very same idea. Minus the girlfriends and the Elaine dance, mind you. I ran into him, was annoyed by him, and absolutely (to my own dismay) shot him down.

And so it goes.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Closet Monster

It was a usual day in my 8 year old life. One sandwich-making experiment gone horribly wrong, one dark purple bruise rising on my shoulder from one attempt at shotgun target shooting with my dad, and one hamster gone missing.

Cinnamon was up to her usual escape artist tricks. No stack of encyclopedias could hold her back. Our home was her playground, and she would have at it, by Jove.

I imagined her pulling a ragged bandana up over her whiskers and plopping a pirate hat down atop her tiny head. Stuffing her cheeks full of sunflower seeds for her perilous journey.

She'd never survive out there! It had only been a short month or two since her predecessor had met his bitter end.


I had heard him scuffling in the wall moments before being called to dinner. Reluctantly I went,  promising myself I'd find a way to get him out of there after we ate.

Probably, I would have succeeded and Mercutio would have been returned to his cozy home, except that it was a deliciously warm summer night, and the kitchen window was open.

Halfway through our meal, a biggish black rat snake came slinking in through that window.

Dad was working late.

Mom, knowing me all too well, immediately (as she climbed onto her chair) forbade me to go try to catch it with my hands.

My 4 year old little brother, Weezle, stared with wide blue eyes as the snake made it's way with a slow sort of ease down the wall, under the table, and then disappeared into the hallway.

I sat with crossed arms, annoyed.

When she was sure it was a good distance away, Mom got down from her chair and sat.

"Just uh... finish your dinner, kids. Your dad will handle that thing when he gets home."

As antsy as I was to go and try to trap the snake and add it to my menagerie, I must have been hungry enough to decide it could wait.

We sat perhaps 7 more minutes before we were shocked to see the snake's villain-y form moving back towards the kitchen and us.

Under the table, it slithered, back up the wall, and out the window. Back into the night. And with it, I realized (as I noted a new bulge round it's middle), Mercutio.

That thing just came in, ate my hamster, and left! The nerve!

Once I had sufficiently grieved, Mom found me a replacement hamster. Cinnamon.

And now Cinnamon was in the wall! I just knew it! It was up to me to retrieve her. Even if I was supposed to be asleep half an hour ago.

I plowed into my closet with determination, despite how terrified I was of the farthest back reaches of it. I was positive that giant cretinous beasties lived back there. That or Narnia. Either one.

Until now I hadn't had the courage to find out. But my poor little honey colored fluff ball was back there all by herself!

I burrowed through old coats and suitcases, toys long forgotten and clothes I'd hoped were lost. I found my microscope and gleefully pushed it back towards the front for future re-discovering.

At last I'd reached it. The back of the closet. Perfectly dark and perfectly still.

Perfectly still... except for a faint scuffling. Was it in the wall? I wasn't exactly certain where it was coming from. I grabbed the edge of something and pulled. With the tiniest "ping", the wood paneling of the wall came undone.

I gasped with joy! The wall was detachable! I carefully, ever so quietly, tugged around each tack until the whole wall came free.

There I sat, holding the paneling in my hands, nervous to peer around it. Could it be? Had I truly found Narnia? Why hadn't I done this sooner? Anything could be on the other side of that wall!

I shuffled the paneling over to the side and looked up.

An old electric blanket, a soccer ball, legos, and ... Oooooh! Jackpot! I was in my brother's closet! My brother's closet was connected to my closet!

There was only one thing to do! I had to sneak under my brother's bed and make monster noises.

This was a master evil plan if ever there was one.

Without a sound I crawled across the floor and slid under the bed.

I counted to three, and... "RRRAAAAAWWWWRRRRR! I'MA EATCHOO!"

Weezle screeched and dove under his covers.

Trying to contain my laughter, I readied myself to freak him out even more... but then there was something scampering up my arm. Oh it tickled!

I rolled out from under Weezle's bed in a fit of giggles just in time for the lights to click on - showcasing a tired and disheveled mom and dad.

"What are you doing up?!" Dad glared.

"I found my hamster!" I grinned, holding Cinnamon up proudly for all the world to see.

"I think you were scaring your brother." Mom said with narrowed eyes.

"Oh Mom!" Weezle chirped, "It's ok! Now if I hear something scary in my room at night, I will always know it is just my stupid sister!"

So there you go, that is the story of how one hamster went missing and was found again. And how my little brother quit being afraid of things that go bump in the night.