Fight Club

Fight Club

October  was a month. Good golly, was it ever a month. In like a lion and out  like…an even bigger lion. An angry momma lion whose baby you’re messing  with. Also, she’s PMSing. That kind of a month. Whatever genius is  attributed to the phrase, “Time flies when you’re having fun” was  misquoted. It actually reads, “Time flies when you’re having fun OR you work at an ad agency.”

It was a month full of new. New job. New home. New and significant  work being done in my heart. As my friend Kelli said, “A whole new  Julie.” Yeah, well New Julie and I are still getting acquainted, and the  jury’s currently out on how we’re going to get along. She cries a lot  more and washes her dishes more frequently, but still can’t figure out  how to fill out that W-4 form

It’s been three months since God brought me through a drastic period  of reconciliation with Him, and little did I know how it would turn my  life upside down. If I realized what a fight this was going to unleash,  what God was going to shift inside of me, how He was going to change who  I thought I was and what I identified myself with, I would have kept  everything in the bottle. It’s just easier that way, right?

The other day I was describing this period as a free fall. As if  someone had hurled me off a cliff; but 14 weeks later I’m still falling,  waiting for the bottom to greet me. I wrestle with sin; daily, hourly,  minutely. There are days I feel as if I’m fighting for my life,  straining to hold on, to resist, to not let go. There are other days  when I don’t fight and I let go, realizing that it was God who held me after all. And while I have Christ at my back pushing me on, it doesn’t lessen the fact that it’s an up-hill climb.

But here’s a confession: I kind of love the fight.

I hate the pain. I despise the temptation; the agony of falling down  and being picked back up again; the crippling emotions that I constantly  have to beat off with a club. But the fight itself? It makes me feel  alive. It reminds me that I am part of something bigger than myself, and  part of Someone who fought for me first.

God has been teaching me through the Old Testament, which is not  typically the first place we turn for comfort outside of the Psalms.  More specifically, I ended up in Habakkuk, a book that I have long  labeled my “Favorite Old Testament Book,” mostly because I went to  Christian colleges and still expect people to ask me what me what my  “Life Verse” is. You get more points if you have an obscure reference  that no one else has thought of. But Chapter 1 is fascinating. Habakkuk  is teaching me how to fight and how to ask hard questions of God. This  is how I imagine the dialogue unraveling in real life:
  • Habakkuk: God, what are you doing? What’s the point of this? Why are  you just standing around while all this happens around me? Seriously. I  cry out to you, but you aren't answering. Is a little sign to know you hear me really that much to ask?
  • God: Be patient. I am working. You wouldn’t believe the work  I’m doing even if I told you. You couldn’t handle it. Just rest and let  me work.
Habakkuk keeps wailing to God. But what happens next is the thing that got  me. In the midst of this struggle and immediately following his  questions, Habakkuk says, “I will take my stand at my watchpost and  station myself on the tower, and look out to see what he will say to me,  and what I will answer concerning my complaint.”

Wait. Did you catch that? Here’s the pattern: Sob. God. Sob. Faithful  action. He doesn’t understand. He sees God nowhere. But he gets up  regardless and goes to the place God has told him to go and waits for an  answer, faithfully doing the work that God has him to do in spite of  his pretty rotten circumstances. And don’t you kind of figure this is  all done through tears and crying?
Habakkuk holds the secret to a clean fight above the belt. Wrestle  with sin and wrestle with God. But don’t neglect the path you are to be  walking while you’re fighting. If you don’t feel like it, too bad. It’s a  forward-moving journey. Keep plugging. Make time to listen for God. If  you don’t hear Him, keep walking. These are our options. Fight or stand  still. God doesn’t make us suppress our emotion; we just have to obey in  spite of them.

As someone in the ring wondering if the KO will come with the next  hit, I can say through the tears that it’s worth it. I’m kicking and  screaming, and I want to give up. But I know deep within, for the first  time in years, who holds me.

Regardless of whether we feel God’s guidance, it is a good fight. Fight on.

I'm not dead. Also, a shamless reposting of old work.

So, most have already read this, but in an effort to prove that I'm not dead, I'm posting a blog post that I wrote on my church's blog last fall. It's lame, I'll readily admit it. But it's summing up how I've been feeling. This past year has been crazy, and if you had told me even 6 months ago that I would be quitting my career and heading back to school full time (with another full time job "on the side"), I would have punched you right in the throat. But here I am after my first day of classes, and feeling like I'm about to give up the fight.

So the next post is a reminder to myself. Hopefully it will be an encouragement to you again.





Elevator

His once-blue overcoat was stained with the work of the real world, straining at the seams from the worries of basic human existence.  We nodded the typical pleasantries as I stepped onto the elevator.

Almost over. Two more days. We can do this.

His english was halting and labored, but he kept up his end of the script for my benefit or, more likely, to assuage the awkward silence that inevitably bubbles for 20 seconds.  It's interesting how we feel a need to connect with someone that we've never met and likely will never see again.  I guess, regardless of what people might believe about themselves, the fact remains that there is an innate desire to identify with one another, even if for a few seconds.  Why else would we put on smiles and shuffle through small talk with strangers?  And we are all the same on an elevator.  The haves and have-nots are all, for a brief moment, just people trying to get to the next floor, too lazy to take the stairs.

Don't make eye contact, Julie.  We don't want that much connection.

The jangle in his pockets broke my concentrated analysis of the dingy buttons that had been pushed too often by unwashed hands.  The numbers could barely been seen.  Regulars like us knew to view it as a telephone keypad; Work in the middle, Home on the top left.  No matter how foggy my memory in the morning, those were never forgotten.

He pulled out a large ring filled with keys of varying degrees of authority.  His short fingers sifted through them until they stopped on a grey head.  Toyota.  I guessed a Camry.  The others fell in line with a shattering sound as the lone key held their weight.  How many stories that ring must hold.  Is he a landlord, dreading the argument with the college tenants about those holes in the drywall?  Does the tiny key open his daughter's dollhouse that he worked overtime for three months to afford?  It was a small price to pay to see her toothless smile again.  Kids always pick on the different one.  How many homes and friends have entrusted him to be the keeper of their secrets?  Did his neighbors even bother to send a thank-you note for that time he turned off their kitchen light during their summer trip to Yosemite?  His aged mother will probably need more milk.  It's easier for her to stay home to care for her husband, whose memory has long been lost to fictional events of another era.

I fished into my pocket to find my set of keys, past the cell phone and under a few pennies.  In the harsh fluorescent light I thumbed through the contents of my ring.  Cluttered with reward cards and loyalty fobs, a testament to my cheapness.  Yes, sell my personal information, but in return give me a 55¢ coupon on my next purchase of toilet paper.  Sure there were keys that opened things.  My office.  My house.  My car.  But these belied a sense of involvement in another set of stories.  There was an episode of the "The Cosby Show" were Cousin Pam talks to her date on the stoop of the Huxtable's brownstone.  "You can tell a lot about a man by the number of keys he has."

And you can.  Keys lock secrets and protect valuables, but they unlock varied angles of stories outside the simple 9 to 5 world.  They represent other people and relationships.  Heartbreaking and wonderful stories, all falling in line on a ring.

An open letter to my airplane neighbor

Dear Woman-Sitting-Very-Close-to-Me,

I'm writing about an incident that happened on our flight from Washington, DC to Dallas-Fort Worth. It was brought to mind as I passed through the deli section at the grocery store this morning.

You seem like a perfectly lovely woman. I truly mean that. It's always a nice idea to start off the plane trip with a little giggle about legroom. Testing the temperament of the folks you sit between is a strategy I use often as it could be vital to your survival. A bit of advice for next time, though. If you are as big as a tree, please check in extra early so you can choose a good seat and not jam in between us.

Also, that salami log you're gnoshing on looks really good. No. Seriously. I love meat just as much as the next girl. But here's the thing. That smell? Believe me, the last thing you want to do is upset the delicate balance between the turbulence and my stomach. I've been working on techniques to keep my cookies down for a very long time, but your weird snack is going to undo all of that effort in one fell swoop. There are two kinds of food in this world: airplane and non-airplane. Let's put together a quick and dirty guide for future reference. I'll print it out and stick in your bag for you. You can thank me later.

Non-airplane
Anchovies
Salami logs
Egg salad
Kimchi

Airplane
Cashews
Carrots
Salami between two pieces of bread with lettuce and tomato
M&Ms (if you share, otherwise, they are strictly non-airplane)

Grey area
Tuna

For future reference, if it needs to be refrigerated, it deserves a second and third thought before stuffing it into your string pack. Also, that arm rest is not actually for you to put your arm on. I know, it is deceiving, but the simple fact is that when you have to put three people in a row that arm rest magically transforms into a buffer zone only.

So, in closing I want you know that I intend no malice toward you and your pocket o' cough drops draped on my lap. Yes, a fistful of meat is an appetizing snack. But hey, we're all in this plane together. Let's work together to make it not suck so bad.

Sincerely,

Julie

Shout out

(Preface: Look at me, hopping back into blogging as if nothing had ever happened...wait, nothing has happened around these parts for a very long time. My apologies. More posting to come soon. I think my muse is afoot.)

My good friend Kelli over at Aspasian Aspirations is smarter than you. And by "you" I mean me. I deeply respect her for the time she spends thinking through issues and formulating thoughtful responses. Her desire to honestly wrestle with real questions about faith and life make her a wise woman to turn to when you want to think deeply and not get the cliched "Christian" answers or "God is a Republican" crud. You should read her blog, starting with this post right here. And leave comments. It's good for us bloggers to engage in conversation. Thanks for your insights, Kelli! And thanks for all those late night discussions.


My Calling

Holy. Cow. I want this in the worst way, even though it's not really my decorating taste: http://www.jonburgerman.com/Work/comments/colour_in_wallpaper/
I'm actually sitting here obsessing over how I would color it all in. Nothing would ever get done. This from a girl who spends entire conference calls filling in every single "o" in the 26 page document being discussed and who actually decided against buying a specific Bible because I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I would not be able to keep it uncolored. I'm almost shaking as I think about it (see a picture here: http://tinyurl.com/6lrpco). You think I'm kidding, but as I headed to the checkout counter with it, I realized that it just was not going to happen. That is the very reason I decided against buying it. I know, I know.

Hold on. Epiphany. Maybe this is what I am supposed to do with my life. They say that whatever the first thing you think about when you wake up in the morning is what you should do for your life's work. I've never had an answer to that. My first thought when I wake up? "I have GOT to pee," and I'm pretty sure they aren't hiring for that position in these economic times.

Professional Colorer. I think I may just pass out with excitement.

Weighing in

Everyone and their brother has been blogging, Twittering, journaling or arguing the election results from last Tuesday. I tried to keep my thoughts inside, only discussing with those I felt would really agree or understand my point of view because I just didn't feel like arguing or debating anymore. Those that know me will be shocked to find out that it is possible. But watching everything unfold has brought a couple of recurring thoughts to my mind, and I really have to get my thoughts down and make my peace with the issue. With that said, please read to the bottom of the post before clicking away. My final takeaway may surprise you.

Yes, I was disappointed in the results of Tuesday's election, and saddened that I couldn't fully rejoice with my community and family and friends over the historic rise of an African American to the highest office in our land.  There is nothing I would have loved to do more than to join that small group of people huddled around the Lincoln Memorial on Tuesday night listening to the returns on a transistor radio (yes, they still make those, kiddos). The unexpected and hidden issues of race and prejudice that I have overcome (and am still working on) in my own life made this a victory that I wanted so desperately to be a part of. What an amazing experience that would have been to be looking into the face of Abraham Lincoln, on the very steps that Martin Luther King made his historic "I Have a Dream" speech while the results were announced! To see the hope and excitement that President-elect Obama has enacted is energizing, and I understand it and love it. I really, really do. I do not want to diminish the enormity of the week's events by saying, "It's great that we have a black president, but...". It's not fair to those who died and suffered injustice and bigotry and who fought unmovable powers to see this day come to pass. 

But I have to be honest when I say that I have a hard time believing, however much I may want to, that Mr. Obama's voting record will allow me to sleep soundly. There will be no one to pass the buck to when he feels like voting "present" instead of "yes" or "no". For me, politics comes down to a simple question: do you believe that government is the solution, or is government the problem? I strongly believe in the latter. The church should be stepping up and doing the work that Government can't do. Government cannot share Christ's love when they feed the poor. It will not be a reflection of Christ's service on Earth when they are bailing out a homeowner on the brink of foreclosure. Only followers of Christ can be that picture and show that gesture with any meaning. That is the mission of the CHURCH, not the government. So yes, I am concerned about Mr. Obama's voting record, opting to increase the size of the government instead of shrink it. Very concerned. Though I am not a one-issue voter, I do question the judgment of a man who does not believe that a baby born full-term after an abortion that did not "take" should be given protection (even most staunch abortion rights supporters oppose infanticide). 

All this said, I am encouraged by the bipartisan tone that seems to be spreading across the country. (Check out this cool link.) If Mr. Obama screws this up, Republicans will be a shoe-in for 2012. But here's the thing: I don't want him to screw it up. There is way too much at stake. I want him to succeed because we have to. A big change is coming and I can literally feel it in my gut. I hope it is for the better, and I'm trying very hard to quell my cynical nature that tells me it probably isn't. I'm giving Obama a blank slate and the benefit of the doubt. His political ideology goes against almost everything I believe in, so this is an act of trust. Trust that my God is sovereign over all and that my hope and change comes from Him, not from a man in the White House. My parents had a philosophy by which they raised my sister and me: you have our trust until you lose it. And that is what I will say to our new President. You have my trust until you lose it. I am, until he proves me wrong, an Obama supporter; not because I agree with him, but because we can't face these challenges divided, and because I trust that my God hand-picked him for a reason. I sincerely pray that it is for a good reason. 

And if Mr. Obama lets me down, like all humans will, I will continue to follow God's command for me to pray for my leaders. Why anyone would want to be President is beyond me, but facing those challenges without the wisdom and guidance of our Savior is unwise. I would encourage all 5 of my readers to do the same. 
I've just fallen in love with a bunch of new music, so I'm going to give them a little (and according to my Google Analytics, I do mean little) free publicity in hopes that you fall in love as well. 

First up, we have Fleet Foxes. Mellow, 60's-style harmonies. The following is one of their most beautiful pieces. Wicked cool video, too!


White Winter Hymnal from Grandchildren on Vimeo.

Next up we have a Swedish sister duo by the name of First Aid Kit doing a cover of Fleet Foxes "Tiger Mountain Peasant Song" and it is gorgeous.


First Aid Kit's album "Drunken Trees" can be bought here. Do it now.

Ambiguity '08

Living in DC means people "from away" (to use a Maine term) often assume you have some secret, insider's knowledge on the political scene. And if I'm asked one more time if I've seen the President or a terrorist, I'll be giving them wrong directions to the Washington Monument. Several people have asked me to write about my thoughts on the current presidential race. Which candidate do I feel is the most genuine, or offers the most hope or change? Obama or McCain? Conservative or liberal? Democrat or Republican? Like music and movie reviews, I'm never really sure why my opinion really matters that much, other than for good conversation or debate (which I love). But of course my ego soon wakes up and dives into the ring before I have the chance to stop it.

I have very strong feelings about November's election. No really, I do. They can be summed up very simply.

I think I'll make a bumper sticker. I'll put it next to this one. (Picture courtesy of www.werescrewed08.com)

Link-dump Friday

We're all about sharin' the love here at We Are Lumberjacks. Every now and again, we stumble upon things that are just too awesome to keep to ourselves. Also, it helps build traffic. So our motives aren't completely altruistic.

For the ears:
If I can accomplish one thing of mediocre significance through this blog, it would be to have you rocking out and loving The Avett Brothers as much as I do. I haven't felt this way about a band since I first heard Nickel Creek. And believe me, that was pretty weird.


I would commit more than one illegal act to see these guys in concert. If you aren't listening to The Avett Brothers, you aren't listening to music. And if you aren't listening to music, you are probably kind of lame. The Avett Brothers

For the mind:
I love listening to talking on the radio, especially NPR; an issue for which I have my dad to thank. They have the most amazing and attention-grabbing stories and programs, and tons of podcasts that you can download for free from their website. A good portion of these are clogging up my iPod because I just can't force myself to get rid of that lobotomy story from 2 years ago. But the one on my "most listened to" playlist is WNYC's Radiolab. Hosts Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich artfully weave snippets of sounds, stories and science into an hour show that explores the depths of many topics we take for granted such as laughter (why do we laugh, how does it affect us), deception, the fine line between talking and singing, etc. My favorites so far are "War of the Worlds" and "Salle Des Depart" (a musician is comissioned by a city morgue to compose music for family members who are called to identify a body - the most haunting/sad/beautiful piece of music I have ever heard). It really is fascinating. Eat up, children! WNYC's Radiolab

For the Amish (and perhaps Ryan R.):
Low-tech PDAs. Pocketmods

For the soul (and the wallet):
Good Experience has a great, somewhat dated post about business with meaning. They could teach the RED Campaign a thing or two. Lasermonks

For the conscience:
Wasteful person that I am, this made me cringe and feel very, very guilty. I hope it does you. Chris Jordan

It's a generational thing

During our bi-weekly book discussion/Bible study group this week we started talking about the idea of "generational sin." That is, a specific sin issue that is passed on to you by your parents, who learned it from their parents, and what you will most likely, if not addressed, teach to your children. In some families it is maintaining control while other families may struggle with worry or forgiveness. This is a pretty new idea to me, so I was pondering it over last night, along with many other things that seem to be taking up a bit of brain space as of late. And I think I've come to at least a cursory conclusion as to the most prominent generational issue I've inherited: a taste for fake crab meat.

I'm sorry, Mom. It had to be told.

Sacrifices

Because I was always a "good Baptist" growing up, 2008 will mark my first celebration of Lent. Not that I grew up thinking it was wrong, but more of a thing that "other Christians" did (I have no idea who the "others" refers to). Pasta seemed like a much safer thing to give up than my initial thought of TV, rationalizing that I needed to "cut my teeth" on something a little easier (because the spiritual discipline of fasting is all about my own personal willpower...please note the sarcasm). Plus, the History Channel was doing a documentary on razor blades when I made my decision so...it seemed like a no-brainer at the time. Seriously. Razor blades. Trust me, it was fascinating. Of course now all I want to eat for breakfast, lunch, munch and supper is pasta.

So, with all that said, I'm reposting the following little gem because frankly, it makes me laugh. Out loud. And because I can sympathize.















On spring and mourning

Spring is in the air in the DC/Baltimore metro area. Around these parts March is in like a freshly tumble-dried lamb and out like a sweaty, lumbering elephant, leaving us with foreboding thoughts of the oppresive humidity and allergies yet to come.

It may or mayn't surprise you that, while everyone else in the world is mindful of such things as new life and baby's bottoms during the changing of the seasons, my mind is turned to other things quite opposite. For me, spring often becomes a season of mourning.

Now when I say something like that, most people give a typical response of composed surprise mixed with a respectful amount of concern and confusion. It can be detected in even the simplest one-word, raised-eyebrow answer of, "Oh...?" It's an understandable reaction, and I have never had a great outlet for explaining in too much depth until now. Unfortunately for you, my gain is your burden.

All the deaths that have impacted my life have been between the months of March and May, with the exception of my grandmother's passing in the month of January (but because of New England winters, we were fortunate enough to have buried her with my grandfather in the spring). Spring is an anniversary of sorts to the mourning periods that have shaped my outlook on God, on life and on the world. Just last April my world was unexpectedly turned upside-down by a young life that was ended much too shortly, and I would be lying if I didn't say I was and still am surprised by how much it has affected me. And it's during this time that the strangest things happen. Music that would normally make me gag is particularly attractive (by this I mean most Christian [CCM] music) and running to slow, contemplative music is way easier than to Pink or Kanye West.

In a way, spring reminds me of how Abraham built an altar of remembrance at the place God appeared to him in Genesis 12, telling him to "Go...to the Land which I will show you." A documented moment of God's clear instruction, but unclear (to us) direction; a place Abraham and generations to come could go back and know that here is where God revealed himself to me, and here is where I was confused and lost, but listened and learned.

So enjoy your bikini shopping and tanning memberships. For now I'll be over here behind this tree and no, I don't have something in my eye. While it is indeed my season of joy, it is also my season to mourn, to remember, to hope, and to rejoice. But a hopeful mourning, with a clear view of tomorrow.

Decidedly uncool

OK, so Wednesday's Face was admittedly a stretch...a very lame stretch. Sorry Carrie. So to make up for it, I will reveal several little-known and troubling things about myself that will probably damage my street-cred.

1. I have more than one Kenny G. CD;

2. I have more than two Kenny G. CDs;

3. I have more than three Kenny G. CDs...and I have listened to each of them at least once within the past two years.

I'd open this post up to others who would like to air their not-so-hip, not-so-counterculture ways, but I've probably lost all of my readers during my 3 month hiatus. And if I hadn't lost them then, you can bet they're gone now. I think we are even now.

Wednesday Faces


Pick me up at 8? "Oil" be ready! (Discovered drowning in the dipping oil at the Mediterranean Tapas restaurant Zaytinya during Restaurant Week. Thanks to Carrie, Katie and Molly for spotting this little guy, and for a great night out.)

One week into this, and I'm already shirking. In my defense, Monday was a holiday, and everyone knows that the best way to honor Dr. King's legacy is to let the whole nation sit around and do nothing.

But you know what? I'm not even going to apologize for this face being late and you know why? Because getting this rotter (brushing up my British) to cooperate took a LOT of work and I am still emotionally drained. Include a 2 hour wait at the bar, a $10 drink, and four of us shoving handfuls of flatbread into the oil and into our mouths to keep his eye from swelling shut. Ah, Restaurant Week in DC, where for only $30 and a lot of patience, you too can get a glimpse of how "the other half" lives...and then spend the rest of the week drooling over your mailbox waiting for your next paycheck to arrive because you are THAT BROKE.

Also, I have been thoroughly enjoying Alanis Morissette's rerelease of the amazing "Jagged Little Pill" 10 years later. It is entitled "Jagged Little Pill Acoustic," and it really is incredible. The first CD came at the perfect time in my life: Junior High, and it followed me through High school. And those who followed Alanis during those years knows the angst and anger that oozed from her music, and I felt that I could relate to her struggles, though not necessarily her exact experiences. Now 10 years matured, Alanis has stripped the rage and hurt from those songs. It truly gives the album a completely different and deeper dimension. While I never really felt like she and I would agree on much politically/socially, I still felt a deep connection to her and her honesty; especially in high school when everything sucked.

These are all the same songs, of course, with the same angry and raw lyrics, but they are done with a tenderness, as if in retrospect. At the same time not discounting those hurts gives a bit of validation, as if she is saying, "Hey young Alanis. Yes, life sucks and you've been burned, but you will learn about forgiveness and learn to move through the pain." Some colorful language and themes make this an album that not all will appreciate, but if you were fans of the first album and/or appreciate honesty and a renewed outlook on past hurts and forgiveness, then this is certainly an album to have in your collection.