Saturday, May 5, 2012

A Minefield of Memories

I wake up slowly in the morning, waiting to open my eyes until I absolutely need to. The morning light should bring hope of a new and exciting adventure, but instead it brings me fear as I dread another day spent in the field. As I roll over and off my bed, I place my feet carefully, cautiously on the floor, remembering that even in the relative safety of my apartment, anything can happen. Looking for my slippers, a sudden roar fills my ears and I know that I have inadvertently set off the first mine of the day. As I hit the floor, memories wash over me. Our first Christmas. He wore those cute pajama pants over so he would keep with the theme of my family all in our pajamas. Opening the gift of slippers. Him bending down, lovingly sliding them on my feet. I shake my head as the noise dies down into a dull ringing in my ears, stand up, and shuffle to the kitchen to make my morning coffee. I'm still not fully awake but I try to keep my eyes fixed on the floor, watching every step as I try to avoid another explosion. I fill the coffee pot with water, then begin to scoop out the grounds. Boom. The lingering smell of coffee was always around him. Laughing together in the coffee shop - the one that we joked never smelled like coffee. His meticulous measuring, grinding, and brewing of the perfect cup of coffee.

I force myself to finish measuring and push the start button, all the while trying to shake the debris of this memory from my mind. I walk down the hallway to the bathroom, turning on the water to let it heat up while I try to decide on taking a bath or a shower. He always laughed at how much I loved baths. He would spend hours in the shower if he could. One time, he said he actually fell asleep standing in the shower. I slowly undress, being careful to fold my clothes as I step out of them. He never folded clothes. When I'm done with my shower, I climb out to get dressed and pause to look at myself in the mirror. He told me I was beautiful. I look through my closet, wondering what I could wear. The green one was his favorite shirt. 

When I finally step out the door and head to class, I find myself wondering what waits for me. The sun is so bright, the grass so green, the birds so cheerful - how could hurt be ahead on such a beautiful day? He never walked these paths with me and I let my guard down as I wander my way to my first class. I smile at a girl as I pass her on the sidewalk. I used to talk to him on the phone on my way to class. Then, I spot a couple clearly in love, holding hands and laughing together. His laugh. I always stood to his right when we held hands. His hands were so strong and yet gentle. Gradually, I find that I am less careful with my walking as the pain becomes numbing. It's not even 8 in the morning and already I am wounded and want to curl back up in the warmth of my bed, away from the hurt.

The rest of the day is much the same. Campus is unpredictable, the mines changing every day. I find myself unable to avoid them, and over and over again my mind is filled with the dull roar of a detonation. He loved being outdoors. We wrote so many letters to each other while in class. I remember so many stories about his teachers. I always had his schedule memorized as well as my own. I wonder if he's in class right now. I wish I had him in my apartment to return to after class. 

By the time I'm done with class and get back home, I am exhausted. It seems like these mines have been designed just for me, exploiting my weaknesses and finding the best places to hide so they can catch me by surprise. How do I learn to navigate an environment like this? I need so much sleep, so I have the energy to be always on edge, anticipating the next blow. Making dinner - I loved to cook for him. He learned to make the most delicious stir fry. We had such good conversations over our Sunday lunches. Jumping in my car to run errands - We spent so much time in this car and in his truck over the years. Talking, laughing, crying, praying. I would lie my head on his lap while drove and he would stroke my hair as I fell asleep. We went on road trips and "off-roading" even though our vehicles weren't made for that. 

At last, I am done with this day and allowed to crawl into my bed. Surely this will be safe. Underneath my covers, face buried in my pillow, there are no memories to sneak up on me, no sights or places that will explode in my mind. And yet, like a soldier who has lost a limb, I feel phantom pains of the heart that once beat strongly in my chest. He said he loved you. He told you that you were the most precious person in the world to him. I cry out, but there is no drug that can take the edge off of my hurt. Eventually I fall asleep, only to wake up in a cold sweat - even sleep is not a sanctuary away from the memories. He called me 'my love'. He told me he looked forward to spending the rest of his life with me. Like a man who has lost all but his life on the battlefield, I do not find comfort in waking from these dreams, because the reality today is almost worse than the original experience. I find that my own mind is working against me, plotting ways to attack and further injure my already broken and weakened body and soul.

Every day, I walk this minefield. I don't want to - so often, I wish God would just take me home rather than let me experience this kind of fear, pain, and death in my life. I only pray that as time goes on, the mines will be less frequent, the explosions less deadly to my heart. Perhaps one day I will be able to walk in safety and freedom, not dreading each step but treasuring the breath in my lungs and the beating of the new heart I have received.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Eve: Shame or Confidence

"God saw all that he had made, and it was very good."

And yet, in all the good He had created, there wasn't anything that fit Adam just right, until God created woman. Adam's reaction on seeing Eve gives us a glimpse of what a beautiful woman she was. He breaks into the first poetry of this new world, a beautiful verse that would be shared for generations to follow as the beginning of the first love story. Together, they were in the garden - with trees "that were pleasing to the eye and good for food," rivers, and verdant valleys. And they were naked, and knew no shame.

This nakedness is one part of life that they lost after their fall into sin. The purity and freedom they experienced in the bodies God had given them was marred by their sin before God. But women of God, I ask you what it would look like to stand in front of the mirror each morning and be naked and unashamed. I am in right relationship with God, thanks to the sacrifice of Jesus - and yet, I look at my body and feel shameful. There is always something to find flaw in - the new acne popping up on my nose, that bulge so kindly called a "love handle," the scars on my hips that don't mark adventurous mishaps but rapid weight gain. I look at myself and try to come up with a new way to hide. Some days, it's baggy clothes and a hat, to hide my figure by blending into the background. Other days, I go the extra mile and pick out a great outfit and makeup, hoping their beauty will mask what is underneath. Eve grabbed some fig leaves and learned how to sew mighty quickly so that she could hide from God. I find it interesting though that nothing changed about her outward appearance that induced this rapid sewing frenzy - rather, a change had taken place in her heart and soul. When sin entered in, so did shame and the need to cover herself; to hide from God, Adam, and her own self the body she was formerly so free in.

Today, we suffer much because of the original fall into sin. The shame we feel about our bodies is nothing new. It is a manifestation of the sinful self we are born into, inherited from the first woman who experienced this shame. But as we come to know Christ and His sacrifice for us, and grow in our relationship with Him, I think God wants us to learn to see even our bodies as a gift from Him. Obviously, I am not advocating a confidence that begets nudity running rampant in the church. But when we think about our own bodies, and look at ourselves in the mirror, I wonder if we can learn to live like Eve did before the fall into sin - naked and unashamed, because we know that our value lies in our Savior, not in our size. She knew that, and experienced freedom and oneness with God. 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Best Friends

I miss having a best friend. I remember back in grade school how wonderful it felt when you and another girl mutually decided to be "best friends." At that age, friendships changed rapidly and a best friend didn't always keep that position in your life very long. But when they were present, it was the best feeling - to have someone to share everything in life with. Not only your secrets, but the activities you enjoyed, the silly jokes you made together, clothes and hair things. . . it was great.

Fast-forward 10 years. I've found that people my age still have best friends. However, this has started to take the form of a boyfriend or fiance or husband. The principle is the same - it feels great to have someone with which you can share life. Not only are you romantically drawn to this man, but you are also drawn in friendship. There is a bond of trust formed as you share secrets and walk through life together. He becomes your companion and supports you in the good and bad. We also have girl friends who take on this role in our life. Often they are accountability partners, classmates, or roommates. You find that one girl with whom you are comfortable to be yourself and share of yourself. Even as life becomes busier and busier, time with her is still a priority - not only because it brightens your day but because you love her and long to pour into her life.

Friendship is a vulnerable place to enter into, especially with a "best friend." The closer you become, the more potential there is for hurt. I've experienced that first hand, multiple times. And in the same way that having a companion in life is one of the most beautiful things in this life, being rejected or forgotten or set aside by someone you care for is one of the ugliest and most hurtful parts of life.

Right now, it seems like everyone else around me has a best friend. There is always at least one person who takes priority above me for each of my friends. It is a lonely feeling, to know that you aren't #1 in anyone's life. I remember this feeling from junior high and much of high school. . . longing for someone to share life with. And I have come to realize that this longing is not misplaced. We are made in the image of the Triune God and thus, wired for relationship. After all, God himself is in relationship with himself and the three persons that join together in relationship to form our God. This is something I find is imprinted on my soul and it's a desire I'm never going to be able to just ignore or push aside.

I've felt the most blessed in life when I've had a companion to share it with. But I'm beginning to see that perhaps the opposite is true. Maybe loneliness is a blessing because it allows me to learn to fulfill my desires with God. It's not impossible to do this when you do have earthly friendships and relationships . . . it's just harder. And if you are not in the habit of seeking God to fill the void in your life, those other friendships are never going to feel like enough. But as God takes on the role of Lover, companion, and best friend, I think we will find that our capacity to love and share life with others actually expands. Sharing God as your first love is the strongest bond any relationship can have.

I still miss my best friend terribly. I mourn the parts of my life that I shared, the seasons we went through together that will be lost forever to my happy memories. But Lord, teach me to use this time as a blessing and opportunity to fill my void and desires with your love, your friendship, your companionship. Be my secret-keeper, my counselor, one who desires me as I am.

Monday, March 19, 2012


Could it be that weakness is my ultimate goal?

I see it as such an embarrassment, so painful, so hard to endure. And yet, II Corinthians 11 and 12 tell us that in our weakness, God's grace and power are seen the best. Isn't that what we want - God's glory?

If I must boast then, I will boast in my weakness.
I will boast in the fact that each night, I have to run to the Savior's arms because otherwise, sobbing overtakes me.
I will boast that I can't find the desire to live beyond today, because my sweet Lord gives me the will to live today for Him.
I will boast that I have disappointed someone who loved me deeply, because I know that God's grace is sufficient for me and His love will never, ever run out or change.
I will boast that I can't get a 4.0, because God has given me the strength to pull through some classes with B's.
I will boast that I tend to depend on loved ones too much, because God has taken that dependence and used it to show me how much I need Him.
I will boast that I don't know at all what my future holds, because that means God can do whatever He wants with it.

So much boasting. And yet, so much that the world (and even the Body of Christ) tells me I should be ashamed of.

Not tonight. Tonight, I boast that I have been wooed and won by the ultimate Lover. I am weak - then He is strong.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

No Shampoo, No Conditioner, No Problem!

Cocamidopropyl betaine. Tetrasodium Edta. Methychloroisothiazol.
Names of long-extinct dinosaurs? A sci-fi author gone crazy? Guess again - it's your friendly neighborhood shampoo!
A couple weeks ago I discovered this new trend called "not-washing-your-hair-ever." Let me start with some disclaimers.
1) I am not an "environmentalist" or a fanatic "green girl."
2) I don't claim to know what these intricately named chemicals do to one's hair or scalp.
3) I don't think that this 'poo-free lifestyle is for every head of hair.

However, I do think it's just a little crazy to daily put things into your hair that you can't pronounce. I like to know what I'm doing to my body, thank you.

But back to my current hygiene habits. I haven't washed my hair with shampoo, or conditioned it in about 2.5 weeks. I've been using a solution baking soda mixed with warm water (2 ingredients, both pronounceable!) to clean my hair, about 2-3 times a week. It works really well to clean the excess oils and any actual "dirt" that has accumulated in your hair. The ratio that works best for my hair is 1 T baking soda/1.5 cups of water. I make up this solution in a recycled shampoo bottle and it lasts for about 5-6 showers (so 2-3 weeks!). This can be tweaked - thicker, curlier hair may need more baking soda, and thinner, finer hair might use less.

After about a week of just doing this, I realized that it left my hair kind of dry and not that soft, loveliness I was used to after using shampoo and conditioner. More research, and the second part of my hair regime was implemented. Apple cider vinegar. Gross, I know. The smell is horrible but it washes out like a snap when you rinse. The ratio is the same, 1 T vinegar/1.5 cups of water. I've actually tweaked this to have more vinegar. The vinegar is supposed to help detangle and "seal the cuticle" . . . I don't know what that last thing means, but it does seem to help detangle. My sources say that using honey in place of the vinegar can contribute if you find that your hair is too dry. So far, the vinegar has not amazed me with it's results. My hair hasn't been feeling very "soft" so I am tempted to try to honey.

To recap:
Wash hair with solution of 1 T baking soda/1.5 cups of warm water. This makes a liquid, not at all the consistency of "normal" shampoo. Because of this, you have to be careful and not use half a bottle in one shower! :) I pour just a little bit onto my scalp, then work it in with my fingers, adding more so that my entire scalp is covered, and some of my head of hair - I mostly focus on where the oils originate though. Then, I let it sit a while, and rinse.
Next, I take the 1 T vinegar/1 cup warm water and pour some on my scalp to condition. Again, this is a liquid. I also take care to rub it through the rest of my hair, making sure it gets the ends of my hair. I rinse that out, then presto! I'm done!

I've heard that there's a definite transition period in which your hair has to adjust it's oil-production. During this time, it may seem super oily, more dry than usual, etc. I haven't really experienced this, but like I said, my hair has seemed more dry than usual. I'm hoping that's part of my transition and will work itself out soon.

My favorite part of this is that the cost is so low! As a college student, anything I can do that saves money is greatly appreciated. And it's a way to save money without any additional work. In fact, it takes less time, because I only go through this process about 2 times a week, rather than daily.

Here are some links with more detailed information about the whole trend!

In another week or so, I'll post some pictures. I'll try to do one right before I would want to wash, and then one after a wash!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


December 6th, 2011 - a letter:
"I long for the intimacy and emotional bonds that come with marriage. Some days, it's especially hard knowing that God has placed this longing in me, yet at the same time does not allow me to satisfy it yet. I know that woman was designed for companionship with man, and although my overall purpose and story is much bigger than that, it still tugs at my heart. For today, I need to focus on my desire for God and how He can fill my heart's longings more than any man. It really amazes me when I stop to think about it - that these feminine desires I have were given to me as an arrow, pointing me to Who Christ is. I long for love, and God shows it. I want security and identity in someone better than I am, and being God's child provides that. I want someone to protect and comfort me, and God faithfulness is my Rock and Shield. I long to look beautiful in the eyes of the person I love, and God makes me sinless in His eyes. I want romance and adventure in life, and yet what is more romantic than the gentle wooing of Jesus' love, and the adventure of His death and resurrection. He'll never leave me or disappoint me, never grow tired of who I am or say that I'm not enough, never give up because I've gone too far beyond His love. And I say, 'my God, that is enough.'"

I think that one of the ways Satan likes to bring us down is by convincing us of loneliness. When we go through struggles and hardships, we often feel like there's no one there for us to turn to. Not only that, but it seems that our experience is unique, so even if someone was there to sympathize, they wouldn't understand. This lonely feeling leads us to some of the darkest moments in our lives.

So what can we do about our loneliness? Well, we can start by being comforted that God recognizes this feeling and actually anticipated it from the very start. Even before the fall, God looked at Adam and said that it was not good for him to be alone. He had perfect communion with God, total immersion in nature, surrounded by the fresh beauty of a new creation. . . and yet, God saw a problem. So "ta-dah!" - in comes the woman. Marriage, intimacy, companionship - these are the things God provided as a solution to being alone.

But, as in most things, the fall has marred His perfect plan. And so, we must struggle through life feeling alone, and experiencing brokenness in our relationships. Even in the best of marriages or friendships, hurt happens and trust is lost at times. How do we deal with this? How to we fight that temptation to isolate when we feel alone in our struggles, rather than bring them to light and bear each others' burdens? Being single is one of the most common "complaints" of young, Christian adults. Our Lord has placed in us that desire for companionship, and it can be so frustrating when that desire isn't fulfilled in ways we think it ought to be.

First, I think we need to embrace our desire for companionship. After all, God did! It's easy to push it aside and think that it's "weak" or un-spiritual to desire a man or woman to share our life with. However, the story of Adam and Eve, and the entire book of Song of Songs clearly shows us that love, marriage, and relationship are things that come from God, good things, that we need to accept.

I think the next step is harnessing those desires for good purposes now. Embracing those desires opens the temptation to become "antsy" and flirtatious, trying to work out the fulfillment of our desires in our own way. But even in this issue of the heart, God asks for trust. After all, He was the one who solved Adam's problem of loneliness - can't we trust him to solve our own? Let us therefore use the strength of those desires in our heart to pursue Christ. After all, we must remember that earthly relationships, even marriage, are "icing on the cake" sort of blessings, not necessities. God has given them to us as good gifts, because He designed us and understands our desires. However, He has also offered Himself for companionship and we must learn to be satisfied with that, the "cake itself", before go asking for extra. This is a life-long process, so let's begin to take part in the romance that our Savior has laid out for us.