Sunday, December 16, 2007

forceful men

Due to the fact that nobody seems to care to post anymore and I am therefore not sufficiently entertained, I thought maybe I'd post for once. I shouldn't have to do this, though. Don't give me your excuses: that it's Christmas, or that you're writing a book inspired by your blog, or that you need to spend more time with your family, or that you're in the hospital having a baby. I've heard enough. Get back to work!

I'm snowed in, however, and have lately been thinking of things I'd like to post about, so I'll cut you some slack for now.

I've been describing my semester (yes, I still think in semesters) in terms of the difference between a chisel and a sledgehammer. These are two metaphorical tools that God uses on my hellbound devotion to spiritual greatness.

Over the years, He's been kind and gentle: "tink tink" goes the chisel, oh so softly. Lately, it's been otherwise. He's coming at me with the ferocity of a rescuer, crushing that little beast within with a sledgehammer or a jackhammer or a hammerhead shark. What have you. At the risk of seeming melodramatic--oh forget it, the whole point is not worrying how I "seem"--this has been ridiculously painful. I'm really attached to my little beast. I feel comfortable with it, though it does trap me and keep me perpetually depressed.

I believe God is teaching me to be happy. I've never felt I deserve to be happy unless I prove I have the discipline and maturity to handle it well. BUT "the splendor of a soul in grace is so seductive it surpasses the beauty of all created things" (The Ragamuffin Gospel, Brennan Manning).

Find the overarching theme here:

"Her world has collapsed. The God she had fashioned in her own image, so pleased with her piety, has vanished." (TRG)

"Many of us do not want the truth about ourselves; we prefer to be reassured of our virtue."

"A vast horde of souls were rumbling toward heaven. [They came] marching behind the others with great dignity, accountable as they had always been for good order and common sense and respectable behavior. They alone were on key. Yet she could see by their shocked and altered faces that even their virtues were being burned away." (Revelation, Flannery O'Connor).

"I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it" (Matthew 11:11-12).

Could it be that "spiritual greatness" is of very little consequence? After all this time?

The forceful men and women taking hold of the kingdom are the tax collectors and prostitutes, the dim-witted disciples and the little kids; these are the people who truly know Jesus.


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

Little Girl

I’m walking on the sidewalk under golden shade as school lets out. Half a block behind me walks a little girl. I first notice she’s there, because her shoes scuff the sidewalk with every step. She shuffles along, heading for home.

I approach the crossing guard, brilliant and orange. She smiles at me first, then looks back and calls the little girl by name. We part ways here, as the little girl steps into the street and the crossing guard plants herself firmly in the intersection, poised with her STOP sign. The streets are empty in every direction.

The guard is silent and smiling, her only job to protect. This little girl’s life is extravagant beauty, infinite worth. The drawings and pencils in her backpack, the color of her shoes, her thoughts of home--defend and shelter them. This is one little girl in the universe, and she is crossing the street.

Monday, October 22, 2007

the new look

Pretty much everything in my life needs to be simplified. My header's still lame.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

on it being worth it

I do indeed have the nerve to carry on posting without more than a nod to the fact that, yes, I did just get married and begin a new life with a man, who is now my husband. The picture will have to suffice. Or if you’d like to watch our slideshow, you are very welcome.

Life is moving forward. Right now I’m trying to deal with the fact that we’ve just painted our living room a color that can only be called peach. We were going for a nice neutral tan.

Also, September was the craziest. I’ve been fighting fatigue and a cold, and as I sit here, I’m wondering if it might even be strep throat, because I heard it’s going around. I find it hard to feel like I’m thriving.

This morning I woke up feeling very dreadful--as in, dreading the day ahead. Sunday mornings are sometimes difficult for me, because they involve a lot of people, particularly a lot of people whom I don’t know. And I knew I’d be picking my friend Ying up, to bring her to church. She’s from China, and I’ve known her for a year; she’s a sweet one. But today I dreaded the language barrier and the pressure to keep the conversation rolling. And how do I debrief with her about church? She has told me that she believes almost everything the Bible says about Jesus, but how do I help her move forward in faith? Frankly, not only have I been fighting a cold, I’ve been fighting an attitude problem. Today I thought to myself that I’m sick of this whole others-centeredness thing. Overrated.

A cool thing happened though. While I was sitting on the couch in the parlor, waiting for the first service to end, I watched two little boys. They’re brothers, Max and I-wish-I-knew-the-other-one’s-name. Look alikes and the spitting image of their dad. The older one was talking to the younger, and the little guy just put his hand on his brother’s chest, with so much trust and affection. And the older brother really seemed to want the company and attention of the younger one, and it was like setting a bone. I remembered why we’re all so gung-ho about love. It’s what we need and want. It’s what Ying needs from me, it’s what I want to give her. It makes the work I do more worth it than I’m aware. Ying is worth every spare moment that I give her, every awkward interaction. I want her to know that she is infinitely valuable.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Sunday, July 22, 2007

i'm a settler

Oops. I just read through my New Year's resolutions, which I posted earlier, and I'm very sorry to say that not one of them has been kept by me. I'm blaming it on the about-face my life took on February 2nd, when I decided to get married, and on the rather intense unsettledness that has characterized my days ever since.

I should define "unsettled"--in my mind, it's that feeling of never being quite where you know you will perhaps be at some unknown point in the future. Errrrr.

All that to say: exactly three weeks until I will be Meghan Armstrong. Whoa nelly!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

living with women

As I’ve contemplated getting married, and even as I have looked forward so much to getting to live with Kevin, I’ve also been feeling a little grief as I say goodbye to this era of my life that has been “living with women.” Sometimes when Jen and I are going to bed around the same time and debriefing about life, I feel like crying.

So this is an ode to my six years of living with women in the form of a list of all my roommates:

Jenny Kreinbrink : 315 Hayden House, East Quad, freshman year
Ariane Boese : Africa, 2002
Lindsay Horan : 424 Tyler House, East Quad, sophomore year (this had to have been the biggest room on campus)
Karen Ostafinski (bedmate) : LT Orlando, 2003
Heather Lieder : East Madison Street and Sagebrush Circle; junior and senior years, as well as my first year as a working person
Meredith and Carey : Florence, Italy, 2004
Jess Hibma (bedmate), Jen King, and Kristin Roelofson : LT Virginia Beach 2006
Jen King : Medford Street, 2006 – 2007

Each of these lovely women put up with me as I walked in my sleep, talked in my sleep, and generally made a mess.

And I can’t leave out all the people with whom at one time I shared a front door and refrigerator space: Jenni, Michelle, Carlee, Vanessa, April, Katie, Sara, Nicola, Judi, Anna, Julia, Kendra, Jineane, Kristen, Natalie, Dana, Kendra G., Kaitlyn, Julie, Shawn, Hayley, and Charis.

Many of them (more specifically, my most recent roommates) put up with my obsession with the Food Network, my awkward yoga poses, my guilt-induced, anal-retentive recycling habit, and/or my falling in love with a guy who lived across the street.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

the gray kitchen

Kevin and I closed on our condo on Friday and boy, am I excited. We immediately began on some simple improvements like paint and hardware, and in three days, the kitchen looks like new. We painted it a lovely gray and added new brushed silver cabinet handles, and that was all it took. Fortunately, the thing is 7x7' so we painted it in no time flat.

Today I got to unpack my wedding gifts and put them on shelves and in drawers. It truly feels like this is OUR place, and I have never had that feeling before.

Our next project is painting one wall in the dining room, and I couldn't figure out what color to use until the gray kitchen was finished. Now it's begging for a subtle blue-green with some black shelves to make up for the wretchedly lacking cabinet space in the kitchen.

I think the reason this is exciting for me, along with the wedding, is the fact that I'm getting a chance to create a space; create anything, really, for the first time in awhile. Even though I pretty much hated photography during school, I miss all my art classes and the accountability that they provided. The deadlines were what I hated and what I felt stunted me, but I should have appreciated them more. Now we have this deadline of putting our home in order by the time we get back from our honeymoon, and the deadline is making things happen.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

great great great

I'm very excited about the wedding. Despite the fact that I'm a horrible planner, I can see ways in which my personal style is coming through without too much effort. There will be bright and geometric table runners, modern flower arrangements, photographs involving sweeping vistas, live music, my great great great grandmother's gold cross and my parents' backyard.

And then, of course, there will be Kevin.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

my apologies

I had such good intentions of updating every week, and now that I've proved to be so wretched at it, I bet no one even reads this. I do dream of a time when life is not quite so busy, but will that time come? Maybe I'm more of a blog-reader than a blog-writer. Just the same, here's some stuff:

--the little condo on Kellogg is soon to be ours, if we can work out a plan to get a radon mitigation system installed.

--whoever's out there reading this, you must read Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. I think I'll post some quotes next chance I get, because it's just so lovely. And won the Pulitzer Prize.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

kellogg street

As a quick update to the ever-shifting home-buying saga, Kevin and I put an offer on an itty bitty condo on Kellogg Street yesterday. It's a block from the river, a block from the train tracks (big PLUS in my book), within easy biking distance of campus and within walking distance of Kerrytown and the farmers' market. Not to mention the Malones and Karl would be practically next door. I'm thinking of asking Mike and Natalie if I can have a little garden plot in their yard, and maybe, just maybe, a corner for compost. They have a huge yard. Luckies.

Who knows though. We totally low-balled the homeowner and she barely budged in her counter offer. We're increasing our offer by a little and if she doesn't accept, it's on to other six condos in this complex that are for sale. This one was particularly lovely on the inside, though. I'd like to live on Kellogg Street I think.

Thursday, May 10, 2007


I hate leaving really short posts with not much information, but just wanted to say that at this point, there seem to be two extremely essential character traits that one needs in life: gratefulness and generosity.

In my very mild autistic-ness, I like how that helps me focus.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

ghost in the graveyard

(this is a post from my old blog, but i thought i'd post it again. kevin and i drove by my old house yesterday, and i showed him the backyard. there are powerful memories there. i'm wondering where we'll raise our children...)

"richland lane was untrafficked, hushed, planted in great shade trees, and peopled by wonderfully collected children. they were sober, sane, quiet kids, whose older brothers and sisters were away at boarding school or college. every warm night we played organized games--games that were the sweetest part of those sweet years, that long suspended interval between terror and anger.

on the quiet dead-end side street, among the still brick houses under their old ash trees and oaks, we paced out the ritual evenings. i saw us as if from above, even then, even as i stood in place living out my childhood and knowing it, aware of myself as if from above and behind, skinny and exultant on the street. we are silent, waiting or running, spread out on the pale street like chessmen, stilled as priests, relaxed and knowing."

--annie dillard, an american childhood

night games. there was perhaps only one summer when there were enough of us who were the right age, living in the three houses. we lived on a dead-end and our elderly neighbors tolerated us, as we shrieked and counted and occasionally fought till the swooping bats came out for food. it was so good of the sun to stay above the horizon until almost nine o'clock.

these were moments of simple magic--curled up in hiding spots just on the edge of deep woods, caught, running for your life and shaking the moist dirt from your palms; hearing your dad call (reluctantly) that it was time to come in, coming in sweaty and filthy, rapturous; taking a cool shower to cool down, exhausted, falling asleep with cool, wet hair, comfortable and ready. tomorrow you'd ride your bike around your little world, either to stroh's for ice cream or to the tennis club to shake off your shoes and practice flips off the high dive.

"glory be, i thought, during all those weeks, hallelujah, and never told a soul."

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

i am holding half an acre torn from the map of Michigan...

It's been almost two months since I've posted. In that time:

Kevin proposed to me. At the Detroit Institute of Arts. On Groundhog Day. I said yes and have since gotten quite used to having such a stunning ring on my hand. I'm head over heels in love with him.

We picked a date. August 12 in Colorado. It'll be in my parents' backyard.

I spent spring break in New York City.

We fell in love with a house in Ann Arbor and put an offer on it. It was accepted.

Today I found out that the foundation is probably in really horrible shape (~$60,000-worth of work) and unless a miracle happens, the homeowners probably won't fix it for us.

I cried at first when I found out, because after our offer got accepted, I started to picture us in that house. I had an idea of where I would put plants in the kitchen, of how our bedroom would look, of who would come visit us and be our guests. I wanted the yard, the wood-burning fireplace, the old-house character.

I'm wondering if I have the courage to pray for a miracle. I'm wondering if this is something God wants for us at all. It's hard to imagine what it would be like in five years to decide to move to Kenya or anywhere else God might call us, with this house on our hands and in our hearts. It was always a step of faith to move forward with this, but now I'm finding that I just want to be passive. I want to sit back and let whatever happens happen, saying "Thy will be done" instead of engaging with God in real prayer from my heart. Asking. But I don't even know what I want anymore. Honestly, I feel afraid. There seemed to be a path opening up for us on which to walk. Now that it's no longer so visible, I'm forgetting what I'm about. It's amazing how a simple thing like a house could confuse me so much.

I am finding, though, after trying to hash this out, that the only thing for me to do at this point is keep moving, keep remaining active. Tonight I'm going to the dorms to spend time with Anna, who really wants to understand why so much bad stuff has happened to her, despite her faith in God. Later I'm going to watch Lost with Kevin, and it'll be one of the first times in awhile when we can do something truly carefree together. Somewhere in there I'll find out about whether or not this house will be ours, and either way, I'll be ok, which is really really really good to know.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

hope week

I'm sensing that change is in the wind.

Last semester, I felt slumped over. I think a lot of people felt that way. I wasn't praying very much, and I know that didn't set any sort of good example for the people I was leading. To be honest, I didn't want to work hard, and then I felt bad about myself for not wanting to work hard, and then that de-motivated me even more. I struggled to connect with God consistently and emotionally.

This week made me sit up and take notice. God is moving. I know my heart is returning to the bottom line about why I'm doing what I'm doing.

Monday was Kyle C's birthday, and we welcomed him to staff meeting with a tunnel and cheers. We love each other. A lot. Then we worshiped together. Then Shah gave us some thoughts he's had lately about the culture of American college life. All of us, including him, saw ourselves in what he described--the self-absorbed performance mentality, materialism and drive to be entertained. It was humbling and insightful, and I felt convicted. But I didn't feel alone. We're broken, but we're in this together.

Tuesday afternoon, Melissa and I went to Caribou and talked about how life changes so quickly in campus ministry and how "the shuffle" is hard. People we love are gone in four years. Everybody's busy and it's hard to keep in touch. Deep relationships tend to be very seasonal. Later we met up with Chris, Kyle and Shah to talk about the two North Campus New Life Teams (one led by Chris and me, the other by Kyle and Melissa). Chris really encouraged me after I talked about how part of me is still wondering if what I'm doing is "worth it." He pointed out where I've made a difference--mostly places that I didn't ever notice. Then the five of us watched footage from the Willow Creek Leadership Summit 2006 of a line of people holding up cards. On the front, each person had written what their life was like before Christ had transformed it. Then as they walked to the front of the stage, they flipped their card to show what their life is like now that they know Jesus. I cried. We're talking about doing something similar at our building dedication service.

Tuesday night I had lifegroup with Carly, and we talked about how Jesus "set out resolutely" for Jerusalem to accomplish His main goal on the earth, to die for us. I was wondering what the five of us were going to set out resolutely to do this semester as a lifegroup. As we talked, it became clear that all three of the younger girls are struggling with deep questions about the trustworthiness of God. Why do Christians suffer? One of the girls lost nine family members over a period of four months. Why do bad things happen to morally good people? The bottom line: is God good? Is He just?

He is so good. He is the God of justice.

Tuesday night there were around thirty of us in a room in Bursley, calling out to God and praising Him like I haven't heard in a long time. There is a song on the newest Hillsong album "Mighty to Save" called "Higher." There is a bridge where all the men sing: "He is so great and waiting to be praised by you." This is what I want for the people on North Campus--the ability to worship the God of the universe.

Wednesday I allot four hours to spend time with God. Usually it's a rough time for me. I always get intensely drowsy, perhaps because it's the only time during the day that I'm not really DOING something. I struggle with staying attentive in prayer or whatever it is I'm attempting to do. I feel weak. This time I fell asleep for one of the four hours, but then I woke up and read Romans 8-11. After reading the part about God foreknowing me, predestining me, calling me, justifying me and glorifying me, I started to ask the question: is God good? Is He just? Why are some chosen and others not?

You know how Paul always reads your mind? Romans 9:19-21 "One of you will still say to me: 'Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?' But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?"' Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?" and Romans 11:33-36 "Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! 'Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?' 'Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?' For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen." I'm becoming more and more convinced that belief in God and His goodness is my only option. Not because I can't bear the thought of anything else, but because I am the creation. I know nothing. Am I too simplistic? Is my faith unreasonable?

The girls in my lifegroup need to worship the God of the universe.

Thursday I went to BSF with Gaia, and we studied Romans 9:1-5. The only thing I can say is that I marvel at God's commitment to the Jews, and I cannot fathom the day when the deliverer will turn godlessness away from Zion.

Friday morning, Kevin, Hilary and I brainstormed and prayed about something that's been on Kevin's heart for a long time. Street kids in Africa (and elsewhere, I'm guessing) are constantly hungry, so they steal or trade for cobbler's glue, which they sniff to get a high that will stem the hunger pangs. After awhile, many of them choose glue over food, and their brains, due to the chemicals they're taking in, lose much of their function. They're lives are over by their teen years. The question on the table is: could this become a cause for New Life Church? So many now know about Darfur, child soldiers, and conflict diamonds. Those issues are perhaps bigger. But could we find an activist niche for our church? Could we work with Elmers and other glue companies to work against this problem? We're naive, and really, it's just the three of us. But I'm learning to love more and more the simple posture of prayer at the foot of the sheer rock face of injustice. We'll see what happens. Perhaps LIFE will happen.

Last night, Kevin and I got Vietnamese food, and we talked, and I feel stunned by how good he is to me.

This morning, Saturday, there's a lot to do, but I finally made my bed and watered my plants, and I feel hopeful.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

bricks and bridges

I attempted to get up a little early this morning and post. Saturday mornings are even scheduled in as my "blog time." I'm really trying to develop a routine--maybe then I'd actually do this.

Baby steps. I only had a half hour to write this morning, and even then, I was late for work at the building. Today, risking frostbite, we loaded debris from out front into trash cans to be thrown in the giant dumpster around back. I'm pretty darn invested in this new auditorium, thanks to all the work the staff team has put into it.

--hours and hours of A2 Project mailings: printing, labeling, stuffing, sealing and stamping (there was always good conversation, plus bagels or pizza)
--moving lots of furniture around
--helping run a garage sale to get rid of furniture
--bringing concrete blocks from the demolished kitchen in the basement up the stairs to the dumpster (i earned the nickname "one million bobcats" during this activity, as well as some tumor-sized bruises on my forearms)
--sweeping and/or shop-vac-ing
--shoveling dirt for a staff-built retaining wall that now supports the stairs up to the main entry
--lugging more debris around
--giving tours
--attending wretchedly painful planning commission meetings

It is gonna be AWESOME to finally be in the new building, worshiping with 900 other people, most of whom I don't know, because they showed up to New Life and willingly stuffed themselves into the MLB, while we waited for a bigger auditorium.

The last week has been a good one. I'm learning more and more how to do life with my schedule, my responsibilities, my personality, and my capacity for handling stress. After December, which was a tough, burned-out month for me, I'm realizing that I need to slow down. My tendency is to try to shove my way through negative emotions, bull-dozing the pressure I feel with truth about my identity, instead of taking the time to understand the emotional stress I'm under. I read a great book about burn-out, and it helped me see how small things contribute to emotional exhaustion, especially for those of us who have a lower capacity for handling stressful situations. So SLOW DOWN is one of my mantras for 2007.

The other mantra is: cross that bridge when you come to it! I say this to myself so many times a day, it's crazy. The bottom line is clearly a true dependence on God that I've never experienced before this month. It's a "let tomorrow worry about itself" perspective. I'm not sure if this is biblical, but could it be true that God gives us the measure of faith we need just when we need it? Instead of wondering and worrying about if I'll have the faith to tackle an evangelism opportunity that's four days away, I'm learning to pray about it and then just leave it in the future. I may not have the faith for it now, but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. Instead of depending on my own ability to maintain an eternal perspective and believe truth about evangelism, I'm learning to let go and live life as it comes. Kevin keeps asking me, "What's your next bridge?" There couldn't be a better question for me right now. Sometimes it's just getting out of bed. Other times it's a bigger deal, but I'm seeing how it's possible for all aspects of life to be about depending on God.

I'm excited about this semester because of the deliberate slowing down that's happening and the time I get to hang out on lovely bridges. Life looks different. There's a lot ahead--another semester with a completely different schedule, a spring break trip, all sorts of stuff. But for the first time in a long time, I feel chilled out.

There are a few things that need tackling soon. I'm still having health problems, like a big fat migraine that kept me in bed until 3:30PM yesterday. I'm thinking more and more that it's a food allergy (maybe shellfish? I made myself a coconut curry seafood soup the other day). But I also need to get bloodwork done, to see if I have deficiencies or something. We'll see.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

potential new year's resolutions

Key word: "potential"

This'll probably start once I'm back home in Ann Arbor and life is normal again.

I gotta start feeling better. Therefore...

1) no more high fructose corn syrup!
2) take my (fish oil, B-12, chasteberry extract) supplements!
3) start taking advantage of the pilates classes at the Washtenaw Rec Center, within walking distance from my house and only $30 for ten classes!

I'll let you know how it goes.