Sunday, May 24, 2009

Puppy Love

One year ago today, my mom and I picked up my new, tiny, black toy poodle puppy. She was barely a pound and sat, curled up and shaking, in my arms for the whole drive home from the breeder. I named her Charlotte Elisabeth and, two weeks later, took her from Pennsylvania back with me to my apartment in Raleigh.


Since then, Lottie and I have been through quite a year. She's been with me through three apartments, unemployment, a new job, a Christmas trip back to Pennsylvania, heartbreak, and job loss. She leapt out of my friend's arms, landed on the carpeted floor at the wrong angle, and broke her left front paw at four months old. She was in a cast for six weeks. She has met new people, new dogs, new situations. Through it all, she's slept in my bed, curled up beside me, every single night. She follows me into the bathroom. She's sleeping right next to me on the couch as I type this, nestled against my leg peacefully.


Ultimately, I've watched her grow up, from an adorably cute, mischevious, curious puppy into a bright, loyal, sweet, and affectionate (and still mischevious!) dog.



She has become my family. Because of her, I am never alone. When I cry, she jumps up into my lap and licks me. When I come home from being out, she gets so excited that she runs around at breakneck speed and jumps up on me, wanting me to pet her. It might be trite, but I love her more than I ever knew it was possible. Thank you, Mom and Dad, for giving me a family in this little dog.

Cosmically Cream-Pied

One Sunday, after church, a very nice older lady was talking to me:
Her: You're so pretty! You have such beautiful eyes! And lovely hair!
Me: *blushing* Thank you!
Her: So did I tell you about my cataract surgery?

***

Last night, I was alone on Saturday evening, which is quite normal as of late. My cell phone started vibrating, and despite not recognizing the number, I got all excited that someone was calling me on Saturday night, yay!:
Me: Hello?
Girl I Don't Know: I DROPPED MY IPOD IN THE COMMODE!
Me: Excuse me?
Girl: I said, I DROPPED MY IPOD IN THE COMMODE!!!
Me: I'm sorry...who is this?
Girl: Oh...I was trying to call Melissa.
*click*

***

Stay tuned for more, because this kind of thing happens to me all the time.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

It's Funny Cause It's True


video


This post brought to you by Art Imitating My Life, Inc.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

A Great Day for America

If you know me at all, you know that I adore Craig Ferguson, the Scottish-born host of CBS' Late Late Show - and today is his birthday! Happy birthday, Craig!

To celebrate, here's one of my favorite clips, from one of his monologues:



Brilliant!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

NO WHINING FOR YOU!

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. Proverbs 13:12

I was having a "hope deferred" afternoon yesterday. I was worn out, wrung out, exhausted. I had absolutely no energy to believe anymore. Unemployment and a dwindling bank account and a non-ringing phone and the fact that I'm still in this situation got to me, and I wanted to just give up and resign myself to living in my parents' basement and working for minimum wage for the rest of my life in the tiny town where I grew up. Honestly, it would be a fate worse than death, but I didn't have the strength to care anymore. I felt completely and utterly defeated.

I was supposed to go to my best friend's choir concert that night, but yesterday afternoon, all I wanted to do for the rest of the evening was sit with my poodle in my lap and think about how awful my life had turned out to be. Sounds fun, right? I didn't want to see my best friend or her husband or any of the other people at the concert. Not even their promise of getting Chili's molten chocolate cake (aka, the Best Cake Ever Created) after the concert could tempt me out of my defeatist slump. I wanted to just be miserable.

So, naturally, I looked for people with whom I could possibly share the woe. I texted. I IMed. I called my sister. I called my best friend and asked her if she really cared if I went to the concert. Generally, I whined to anyone and everyone I could find.

But when I tried that, something very interesting happened - it was as if God was whine-blocking me at every turn! My sister tuned out my entire 20-minute sobfest and responded to it by asking me what to do about her own job situation. Neither of my two soul-sisters, Kayla and Kimberley, were even around for me to wail to, which left me in severe consternation. I texted a friend from church and she texted me back with an equally woeful complaint, which pretty much just stole my thunder. And when I called my best friend and was about to launch into a detailed rant about how bad everything is and why that was going to keep me from going to her concert...my phone beeped and it was the vocational rehabilitation agency calling to update me about their progress with my case.

By the time I hung up the phone, I was tired of whining. It was exhausting! Misery takes work, apparently. And if I'm going to put that much work into something...shouldn't it be to improve my life and keep me here, where I know God wants me?

When that thought popped into my head, I could feel God nodding emphatically. Finally, she gets it!

I know He is going to provide for me and come through for me and that I am going to see miracles very, very soon. I know He wants me here and He's going to keep me here. He's already shown me all of that many, many times over.

And so, it appears, there will be no more whining for me.

Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold on to the word of life—in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing. But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me. Philippians 2:14-18

Oh, and also, Chili's molten chocolate cake is still the best cake ever created. Mmmm.

Friday, May 15, 2009

If Not For Your Grace

It's no exaggeration to say that this song has been a lifeline for me over the past few months. This version is calmer and more prayerful than the exhuberant, live, full-band worship version on the album, but it's still absolutely gorgeous - in fact, something about this version is even more moving than the one I normally listen to.

May it bless you as it has so richly blessed me.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Elementary, My Dear

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Matthew 7:7-8

Picture it: London, April 2004. Late morning. My best friend and I hopped off the underground at Baker Street on our way to Madame Tussaud's.

It was my junior year of college. I was an English and writing major, really because I couldn't be anything else, but with very little idea what God wanted me to do with my life. He had made it abundantly clear the year before that He wanted me to go to England. Oh, I whined and wailed and hemmed and hawed and petulantly exhorted Him to let me stay in my tiny college town in Pennsylvania, knowing all along that He'd never let me. He just kept pointing at England. Still, I waited as long as I could, staring at the study abroad application for hours. I knew what would happen if I went. I knew it would be the hardest thing I'd ever done. "Are you SURE??" I'd ask God over and over, then ten minutes later, get stuck in traffic behind a truck that had ENGLAND emblazoned on the back. He was sure. So I went.

By April 2004, I had spent the previous nine months in the picturesque northern English city of Lancaster, studying abroad at Lancaster University. My best friend had spent a similar amount of time in France for the same purpose. Finally, she was visiting me, and I met her in London for barely 48 hours of catching up on each other's lives and exploring all of London we could in the time we had.

It had, indeed, been the most challenging, most rigorous, most emotionally-wrenching, most faith-enforcing year I had ever experienced. I had felt loneliness I never imagined possible. Culture shock turned me into someone I didn't recognize. I was in love with a man who didn't know God and couldn't fully return my unconditional affection, but the overwhelming nature of my love for him caused me to make stupid mistakes. The roller-coaster my emotions were strapped onto as a result made me frantic and volatile, and many times I'd burst into tears without any real idea as to why.

But then again...God was there. I heard His very voice one morning, more clearly than I had ever heard Him before, as I woke up on my ex's couch and squinted into the December sunlight. He met me there, in the tumult and the anxiety and the wondering what on Earth I was doing there, on that couch and in life in general. He said, "I have created you to entertain. That's what you were made to do."

Over the next few months, God impressed upon me that it was screenwriting, specifically, that He wanted me to pursue, and that I should do so within a Master's program for which I would return to England after graduating from my university in Pennsylvania. Grateful for some direction at last, I began to pour my energy into searching out where He wanted me to go for my Master's degree. I felt like it was meant to be London. One evening, sitting in my little dorm room in Lancaster combing through university websites, I found the University of Westminster and their brand-new Master's program for Screenwriting and Producing for Film and Television. From the description, it looked perfect. I made a mental note of the school's name and thought "I'll have to figure out where it is in London and visit before I go back to the States." That was as far as I had gotten by the time my best friend and I stepped out onto Baker Street on that drizzly April day.

We turned left out of the tube station and started down the street in search of Madame Tussaud's. On the way, my friend excitedly dragged me into a souvenir shop to look at Sherlock Holmes merchandise. While she was absorbed in picking out a present for her dad, I wandered around the shop aimlessly, and suddenly, out of nowhere...it all caught up with me.

The room started spinning. I felt like I couldn't move. If I did move, all I wanted to do was walk outside and lie down in front of a bus. It was a hopelessness and despair like I had never known before. It was crushing, enveloping, strangling. My eyes blurred. I started shaking. The enemy started whispering to me fervently, things like you're worthless. Nothing will ever change. Look at what happened this year. You deserved it. You're nothing.

I remember the flashes of the crystal knick-knacks blinding me as I kind of staggered in circles around the display, helpless. Somehow, I realized I couldn't conquer this alone. I started crying out to God silently, just calling again and again on the name of Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. Lord. Help me. Please, help me. I can't do this. I need You. Only You can do this. You have to help me!

The crushing feeling started to lift. My eyes cleared a little. Even so, I kept crying out. Lord, why?? Why did You have me come here? Why did You let all this happen? Show me. Show me what You want me to do now. Give me a sign, Lord. Please. Give me a sign.

My friend finished her shopping just at the time I felt strong enough to leave the store. She didn't know anything had happened. We kept walking down the street toward Madame Tussaud's and found it three minutes later, but when we got to the door, we balked at the prices - £20.00 per person! That was $40.00 each - entirely too expensive for us.

So, disappointed, we turned around to go back to the tube.

And there, across the street, was the University of Westminster.

If I remember correctly, I literally shrieked. I jumped up and down and hugged my best friend ecstatically. She had no idea what was going on and thought I was crazy. (She still does, actually, but for oh, so many more reasons!)

A little over a year later, I received an acceptance email two hours after my phone interview with the course director of the MA program in Screenwriting and Producing for Film and Television at the University of Westminster. There were only 12 of us. I was the second-youngest. And I spent another life-changing year in England in 2006, fulfilling what God had shown me when I asked.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6

If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. John 15:7-8

So, if you ever find yourself wondering what to do, it's really very easy to find out: just ask! He will tell you. Somehow. Every time.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Turn, Turn, Turn

To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under Heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1

My puppy and I have been taking long walks in a nearby state park for the last several months. When we first started walking there, it was a serene and tranquil place but, honestly, it wasn't very pretty. I mean, it was nice enough, I suppose, but it definitely left something to be desired. The trees were bare and everything was brown and gray and stark and boring. I longed for springtime, for the full experience of the bright, beautiful forest in bloom, but it was mid-March, and it just wasn't the right time yet. It wasn't the right season.

By the beginning of April, I admit, I began to get impatient. I was ready for spring! But still, everything was brown and still, and we plodded along the dirt path every day without the sight of a single leaf. Everything felt stifled and sometimes I wondered if spring would ever come.

Then one day, right around Easter, it seemed to happen all at once - leaves burst out on the branches, decorating the forest in a thousand shades of green. Flowers popped up and opened, basking in the sun. Butterflies flitted around, dancing in front of my nose. The forest came alive, and that resurgence of life culminated in a beautiful display of vitality that seemed to draw us in as we walked. The season had changed.

It might have seemed to me like it happened overnight, but it didn't really. For weeks, buds had been forming and the ground had been warming and the forest had been preparing itself. It took baby steps, steps I couldn't see, but that were absolutely necessary in order for the brilliance that I now witness every day. If I'd been impatient - if I had decided during the first week in April that I was tired of waiting and that was it - and I had stopped walking my puppy in the park, I'd have missed it all.

Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” Revelation 21:5

God didn't rip up all the trees and plant new ones. He didn't make me find somewhere else to walk. He didn't tell me to just stay home because the forest was always going to be dead and I should give up. Nope. I just had to be patient and trust Him, trust that He knew what He was doing - and, even more so, that He was doing it - and that I could believe what He said.

This is what the LORD says: "I will restore the fortunes of Jacob's tents and have compassion on his dwellings; the city will be rebuilt on her ruins, and the palace will stand in its proper place." Jeremiah 30:18

Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up. Psalm 71:20

That's what God does - He restores. He renews. He changes seasons. He brings things back to life. He is a God of second chances, of healing, of newness...of springtime.

Return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you. Zechariah 9:12

Believe Him. Let Him do it His way - the right way - and trust that He is doing it, even now.

The butterflies will be worth it.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

My Permanently Heart-Shaped Sleeve

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! 1 John 3:1

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. 1 John 4:18

Don't be afraid to let yourself be vulnerable.

I nearly slammed my foot on the brake and swerved my car into a U-turn at the moment, nearly two weeks ago, that God said that to me on my way to meet someone whom I was very nervous about meeting. It was my first - my self-protecting human - instinct, because I know that when God says something like that, He's usually going to make me do it whether I want to or not. To top it off, of all things, I wasn't expecting Him to say that. "Don't be afraid to say more than two words," maybe, or "Don't be afraid to actually, y'know, show up." That would have been appropriate. Maybe something comforting like "I am with you," or "It'll be okay" - you'd expect that from God, right? But don't be afraid to let yourself be vulnerable?? God...seriously?? God...why?!

When I (instantly) implored Him thusly, He simply raised an eyebrow and looked at me pointedly as if to say, you heard Me.

Dangit. I put my foot on the gas pedal and drove through when the light turned green. I knew I had to keep going.

And yes, He did make me do it. And yes, I'm still here to tell the tale. Shocking, I know.

The thing is, I'm pretty much an open book. One of my best friends recently exclaimed to me, after I'd detailed a conversation for her that I'd had with God earlier that day which ended in God with His usual *facepalm* expression, "You're so real - I love that!"* I guess that's because, well...I don't really know any other way to be. I can't be anyone other than myself...can I? Apparently not. Believe me, I've tried.

And who I am is...well...very open. I've struggled many times over to be more subdued, more restrained, more Jane Bennet than Lizzy Bennet, and, often much to my chagrin, it just doesn't work. The fact that I'm even writing this should prove that point. Every once in awhile, I'll get the wildly ridiculous idea that my life would go more smoothly if I were more demure and quiet, and I'll put forth a valiant effort to that end...which lasts for a total of five seconds, until someone says or does something that I could possibly make a joke about**, and then BAM!...all my self-imposed gentleness is shattered in a sarcastic quip that I can't help but share and I'm left brushing the dust off me in consternation as my benign facade scampers off into relieved hiding. But, hopefully, I have the appreciative laughter of anyone standing within earshot to appease my forlornness. Thankfully, it usually happens that way.

I can't put up walls. I hate holding myself back. It's forced and repressive and it makes me miserable. I hate keeping quiet or keeping calm or keeping my emails short or keeping myself reigned in in any way at all, really. I want to be able to be me...to ramble on about the funny thing I heard or thought of that day or the day before or maybe even last week!...or that thing I thought about while walking my puppy or that song lyric that inspired me or...okay, you get the idea.

Maybe it's because I come from a very open family. We talk about everything. We're not afraid to share our emotions - our every and our constantly changing emotions, truth be told. If my mother is having a bad day, I hear about it. If my sister is feeling nervous or unsteady or stressed, I know it. If we don't talk for a day, I get a voicemail asking where I've been and if I'm okay. Our entire family - all four people and three dogs - can fit into the bathroom at my parents' house to get ready for the Christmas Eve church service. (Do not ask me how I know this...mainly because it should be obvious.)

So, yeah, maybe that's it. It's my family.

You know what? I think it might be even more simple than that, actually.

I think that maybe the reason I'm able to be so open - the reason I can't really be anything or anyone else, can't put up walls and can't, sometimes maddeningly and despite how hard I try, stop just being me - is that I know who I am, I know Whose I am, and I know I am loved and that really does just make everything okay.

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. [...] What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:28, 31

To be very honest with you...I know my Daddy loves me. I know He made me the way I am and I know He loves me this way. I spent years fighting it, trying to be someone else, and it just didn't work. So now, it's come to this: I am me, and who you see is who you get. He wants me to be me, because that's who He created me to be.

I know I'm loved just the way I am by the very Creator of the universe. I know He delights in me and He laughs with me and His eyes sparkle when He sees me...the real me. With no walls, no restrictions, and no reigning myself in.

I know what perfect love is, and because of it, I know there is no wound He cannot mend, no rejection He cannot heal, and nothing that can take away His unconditional and unstoppable love for me.

So I can just be me. He loves me. That's really all that matters.

When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mere man do to me? Psalm 56:3-4

If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. 1 John 4:15-16

And honestly, it's a wonderful feeling.

*I love you too, Kayla!

**So, like, did you know that Emily Dickinson was really good at putting poetry together??