Affirmation 3/28/17

Live your life. People won’t like it. Do it anyway. Pursue the things that further your strength and power and grace and happiness. Pursue the things that make you feel alive. Push yourself. People won’t like it. Do it anyway.

I’m glad you’re here.

Adventure in Lists, Day 3

This will face some contention. This will not be well-received.

My top ten favorite episodes of Buffy.

10. Selfless (season 7 episode 5)

“I don’t talk to people much. I mean, I talk to them, but they don’t talk to me, except to say that, ‘your questions are irksome,’ and, ‘perhaps you should take your furs and your literal interpretations to the other side of the river.'”

(There’s going to be a staggering number of episodes rep seasons 6 and 7. It surprised me too.)

I love this episode because it gives us so many pieces of Anya. It fills in holes, but doesn’t answer every question. If anything, it makes me hurt more for Anya than it does make me love her more. (Though it does that too)

9. Halloween (season 2 episode 6)

“They don’t know who they are, everyone’s turned into a monster, it’s a whole big thing. How are you?”

Halloween is important because it’s the turning point. Halloween is the episode that I have to urge people to get to. It’s the game-changer. Halloween is when the show becomes good and not nearly as campy.

8. Conversations with Dead People (season 7 episode 7)

“Of course I’m scared. Last time we were here, 33.3 bar percent of us were flayed alive.”

For some reason episodes where people talk to dead people really touch my soul. It happens in an episode of Scrubs too, and I just overlook the fact that it’s Brendan Frasier. I think it speaks to something in us that still pines for those we’ve lost, even if we aren’t talking to someone we knew.

7. The Gift (season 5 episode 22)

“Blood is life, lack-brain. Why do you think we eat it? It’s what keeps you going. Makes you warm. Makes you hard. Makes you other than dead.”

The intended finality. The sacrifice. The brokenness across the board. Obviously this episode is powerful, but I think this moment is one of the most.
EarshotIMG_0595.JPG

6. A New Man (season 4 episode 12)

“You know what gets me? This is what gets me. Twenty years I’ve been fighting demons. Maggie Walsh and her nancy ninja boys come in; six months later, the demons are pissing themselves with fear. They never even noticed me.”

Honestly, there just might not be enough Giles-centric stories. In the wake of losing his job and his slayer going away to college he also gets turned into a demon by that dumb Ethan Rayne. Giles’ reliance on Spike is a huge draw for this episode, and him goofily terrorizing Professor Walsh. More that, please.

5. Normal Again (season 6 episode 17)

Buffy: I was only there a couple of weeks. I stopped talking about it so they let me go. And eventually, my parents just…forgot.
Willow: God. That’s horrible.
Buffy: What if I never left? What if I’m still in that clinic?

Some times brains break. Some times brains are forced into breaking. No matter how it happens, it’s always horrifying, even if you are the slayer.

4. Grave (season 6 episode 22)

“Is this the master plan? You’re gonna stop me by telling me you love me?”

Sue me. I love a good, overwhelming story of pure friendship. Sure, Will and Xander have had their moments, but ultimately they remain best friends. Even when Willow goes completely wiggy and seemingly over the line.

3. Band Candy (season 3 episode 6)

“Screw you. I want candy.”

Because teenage Giles. Because for some reason Ethan Rayne is in three of these episodes. Guess I like his monsters of the week.

2. Hush (season 4 episode 10)

“Can’t even shout, can’t even cry
The gentlemen are coming by
Looking in windows, knocking on doors
They need to take seven and they might take yours
Can’t call to mom, Can’t say a word
You’re gonna die screaming but you won’t be heard.”

Outside of Doug Jones being amazing and the Gentlemen being horrifying. (Out horrifying the Silence, Doctor Who) the genius of a silent episode.

1. The Body (season 5 episode 16)

“I don’t understand how this all happens. How we go through this. I mean, I knew her, and then she’s- There’s just a body, and I don’t understand why she just can’t get back in it and not be dead anymore. It’s stupid. It’s mortal and stupid. And-and Xander’s crying and not talking, and-and I was having fruit punch, and I thought, well, Joyce will never have any more fruit punch ever, and she’ll never have eggs, or yawn or brush her hair, not ever, and no one will explain to me why.”

Mostly. That quote is why, but then look at the fact that all underscoring is gone. You’re stuck, YOU, with your own thoughts and ambient noise, just like the cast. It’s brutal and hard and perfect.

Honorable mentions:
Gingerbread (season 3 episode 11) this one almost made the cut, because of the power of persuasion.

Once More with Feeling (season 6 episode 7) mostly, I feel like I have to have it on my list, and while I love it I hate social obligation more.

Restless (season 4 episode 22) seasons 4 is sort of a wash of worth it gets too heavy in places it shouldn’t. But I love this episode for just being silly. Not entirely, but it’s not a real threat and the cheese.

Adventure in Redemption Tales

They’re remarkable. They’re the most beautiful stories that exist to tell. Stories that take completely hideous, shattered pieces and put them back together even better than before. It’s beautiful. More over, they’re important. No. They’re essential.

I have a few favorite redemption stories.

Severus Snape: Harry Potter.

snape

We go on a journey with Snape for 7 books. Arguably, Snape’s story in the series is just as important, if not more. The thing that saves Harry in the first place is love, and the thing that gets him through every year is love. Snape makes some pretty horrible life decisions, following the Dark Lord being a key one. And honestly, Snape is redeemed the moment he turns to Dumbledore for help, but we don’t see that until the end of his life. We see the actions of a man so ravaged by heartache he won’t or can’t let us see beyond that. And in a few tears we learn the truth about Snape. That his redemption came with great pain, as all redemptions do. A lot of Snape’s was self-inflicted. Most of it. Grace is a terribly hard thing to accept. Dumbledore offered it to him, but Snape chose to hide his true intentions. I won’t get into why that too is selfishness, but to some degree that choice took away the pride of it. I can’t say this enough. Grace is a terrible hard thing to accept. Wizard or not.

Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader: Star Wars

vader

Regardless of your opinions on episodes 1 through 3, what you’re looking at is a six movie series about one story. One. Story. The fall and redemption of one man. Innocent kid. Noble ambitions, and then. Guys, darkness is so tempting. It’s so, so tempting to just give in. To want power. To crave accolades. I get it. I really do, and then once you’re in that mess it’s even harder to get out of it. An addiction, to anything, is always with you, and it rested with little Anakin until the end of his life. Until he made one final push in his last moments and sought redemption. Darkness is so tempting.

William the Bloody/Spike: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

spike

Spike is a monster. I mean that literally. Spike is a vampire, who spends centuries killing people. And like Anakin he started out a sweet guy. Just taking care of his mom, writing horrible poems, being the butt of all of the jokes. He kills not one, but two slayers. He spends the better part of 7 seasons trying to kill Buffy too. At the end of season 6 Spike snaps. He tries to rape Buffy, and when he realizes what he’s done he leaves. Seemingly forever. He goes through a series of trials, cleansings, for one purpose. Vamps don’t have souls. Well, now two do. Angel and Spike. And Spike paid for his. When it was back, it ate him from the inside. Because knowing the truth makes the whole world a lot harder to take. Ultimately, Spike’s soul saved us all. Knowing the truth makes the whole world a lot harder to take.

Edmund Pevensie: The Chronicles of Narnia

edmund

This one is my favorite. Edmund did not start out a sweet kid. At all. He was a brat and a bully. He deliberately betrayed his family. Not like “hm, ok this is fine.” No. Edmund was all “yeah. they’re dumb. I can be king. I’m outtie, and they’re done.” (Pretty sure that’s a direct quote). Ya know what’s worse about Edmund? He knows. Even as things get worse, he knows. AND he knows how he could get out of it. BUT HE DOESN’T DO IT!! He just keeps on saying “yeah, no thanks. Ol’ Pete’s a know-it-all and Susan is a snot and Lucy is funny looking. I’m not gonna deal with them anymore.” And Edmund is STILL welcomed back into the fold, AND his king says “yeah, you’re supposed to die. I’ll take care of it.” Which Edmund assumes means negotiate. Oh Aslan negotiated. He negotiated himself right onto that stone table for ONE kid. One punk-ass kid. One punk-ass kid who grew up to be a kind king and a grateful and wise man.

In 1999 on the floor of a huge room of a lodge on a winter retreat, curled up in a ball next to Katelyn Knuth, Hayley Johnson was also redeemed. She continued to make horrible mistakes. She continues to make horrible mistakes. And every day she struggles to look at the world and live in it knowing the truth. Why even bother staying knowing it’s only going to get darker here and there’s light she can live in? Darkness is so tempting. Every day darkness is tempting. And some times she gives into it. Every day, every hour is a struggle to accept grace. But without it she’d be lost. Without it she’d be dead. Without I am lost. Without I’d be dead.

Adventure in Misery or Sadness Takes a Holiday

Disclaimer: Some day I may have the strength or presence of mind to fully explain the back story for this, but for now embrace a big dose of vague. You’re welcome, I know how specificity irks you so.

photo (2)

Lately, things have been strange. Downright odd.

This particular week is, generally speaking, a very hard week for me. This week every year. Among other very painful things, the father of a dear old friend of mine died this week when we were but freshmen in high school. This week is riddled with similar painful reminders.

In previous years I’ve let the pain of the week just wash over me. I’ve allowed myself to wallow and suffer and drown. To barely keep my head above water. To take in whatever I needed to stay alive, if I must, but otherwise sink. And sink hard.

A recent conversation, or series of conversations, has left me admitting one very powerful thing about myself to myself. I love misery. It’s disgusting how comfortable I find it. I thrive in misery. I also love to be the martyr. Try not to be surprised. I bet you are. I put misery on like a baggy sweatshirt and yoga pants in front of the TV for an entire week. I curl up inside it like I’m Luke Skywalker, and it is my toasty, dead tauntaun. Like…no, enough similes. that’s a hard thing to shake though. It’s hard letting go of something that’s been such an enormous part of my identity for so long. If I’m terribly honest with you, I’ve let it be my identity for a very long time. And that’s messed up. That’s gross. That’s disgusting. It genuinely disgusts me.

What troubles me is now I find myself in a healthy place, and still I try to find that misery. Peace is weirdly uncomfortable for me. Still. It shouldn’t be. It should be my comfort in these trying times. It, by nature, is comfort, and I can’t seem content in that. It makes me so uneasy. While it is true that there is no need for hope or grace, if we aren’t broken and torn and hopeless, that doesn’t mean we should ignore hope and grace when it’s there. And it’s there. It’s here. It’s everywhere.

Instead of dwelling in my own self-produced disasters, I should be reveling in grace. I should be overcome with joy from the moment I wake up, because I’m being constantly repaired and constantly renewed. When I go to sleep, when I am asleep, I am renewed. We are renewed.

Any claim I hold on misery, is my head and heart screaming, “no thanks, Jesus. I got this one. I can save me.” Joke’s on me. I cannot.

“You can’t just sit there and put everyone’s lives ahead of yours and think that counts as love. You just can’t. You have to do things.” Stephen Chbosky Perks of Being a Wallflower

These songs have been pouring through my head and heart the last month or so.

Adventure in Sufficiency

BBCGumpasI don’t know if it’s a common title for a foreign governor, but I do know that once in the BBC’s Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader that Prince Caspian calls Governor Gumpas “your sufficiency,” which always makes me laugh. “Your perfectly adequate, I suppose, ness.” “Your we’ll take what we can get ity.” “Your the best we can come up with cy.”

It’s always been funny to me, because Gumpas isn’t sufficient. He’s a horrible governor. He’s actually a pretty terrible human.

Today though I was talking to a friend, and I said something that made me cry as it left me. So perhaps I needed to hear, and definitely acknowledge it, more than she did. “His grace is SUFFICIENT,” I said. I said it in all caps like that. And I think that’s what hit me.

I talk myself out of the grace I’ve been given a lot. How my mistakes are just going to tear that apart. As if God’s got sheets and sheets of us that as soon as we screw up he just tears it in two. And he’s God so those halves are pretty exact. That’s not how it works though. If I had the capability to screw up grace, then I’d have the capability of redeeming myself too. I very much do not. Woof, if I did. Yikes. Like mega yikes.

Real talk: I’m a pretty big ol’ sinner. I know. Calm down. It’s true though. And try as I might there’s not a lot I can do to fix that. I dare say, there’s nothing I can do. And I tried. I tried a bunch. I still try. All of the time. If I just get rid of this thing or stop this then ta-da! Salvation. Cue sad trumpet noise. Because I’ve already got there. In spades. And I just forget. Like a bunch I forget. All the time I forget.

I can’t save me. You can’t save me. And I can’t save you.

His grace is sufficient. Sufficient.

Adventure in Finding Balance

Where’s the line? At what point am I destroying myself to “be forgiving?” Am I actually being forgiving or am I just letting shitty things keep happening to me just to look like a better person?

As it turns out, I’m pretty sure it’s the latter. I want to be able to forgive people, but the fact is people continue to be pretty awful. Even if I play by the rules. Even if I try to be honest, and try not to attack. Even if I only talk about the way things make me feel, which I hate to do, by the way. It turns out that doesn’t matter. It makes me an easier target. I’m that sap who tries to make things better. I’m the idiot who just let’s people destroy her.

And what’s worse is I’m trying to be gracious and forgiving. I am trying, but I’m awful at it. And the world around me is telling me that I’m not supposed to continue forgiving people. But that’s not true. Because I do the same things to God, and I keep getting forgiven. So why shouldn’t I try? I should. I shouldn’t try. I should do it. But I’m the worst at it. I’m just the worst. And I don’t know how to maintain even civil relationships with the people who perpetuate the problems of me being treated or feeling like shit and the grace and forgiveness of Christ. Part of that I’m sure is compounded by the fact that I let it affect me so much, instead of pursuing Christ in it. That I’m pursuing being forgiving and gracious instead of pursuing Christ.

I don’t have a concrete conclusion to my thoughts. I only know I’m weary of pouring into people who only tear me apart. And yet, I seem okay doing the same thing to God.

He kicked me in the face one day pretty hard with the whole “Love your enemy, and pray for those who persecute you.” And now I just have no idea what to do.

I have more thoughts, but they’re about to get prideful. Let’s just leave it there. I’m the worst.

Adventure in Waking Up

We’re tired. We’re lazy. We’re beaten down by reputations and negativity. My brothers and sisters, I am heart-broken as I watch those I love fall away from the hope they once held so dear. It is devastating to hear people say they’ve given up on Christ because others who tout his name are misusing it. Cries in the streets of “God hates fags,” do give us all a bad name. “Hate” is the worst thing anyone could carry around with them, and to have it attached to Christianity breaks my heart. What scares me more than a bad reputation though is that people who had put their faith in Christ are denying Him because they don’t want to be associated with a few bad eggs.

My sisters and brothers, no one said it would be easy. In fact, quite the opposite. Perhaps you expected the opposition to come from playful puppies or in sing-song form from little children on the playground to you as an adult. You didn’t expect it to be something that came to you because of other Christians? No, I suppose none of us did, but we get a pretty clear picture that proclaiming God’s truth will not be well-received in any capacity. Unfortunately, the people shouting God’s hatred in the street have sorely missed who God is. Yes, God is a wrathful god. He does hate. He hates one thing. Sin. You know who’s got sin? Me! You! That guy. Her. That little girl. Gays. Straights. Murderers. Moms. People who make candy. People who can’t eat candy. Cobblers, coopers, black smiths, habber dashers, soup nazis, bakers, candlestick makers, teachers, clowns, puppeteers, doctors, pastors, rabbis, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Wiccans. We all do. And in all of us is that one thing that can keep us separated from God forever. Sin. The horrible chasm standing between us and pure, uninterrupted, unalterable joy in the presence of God.

And the only thing getting us there is the immeasurable grace of Christ. Born as a human, a clumsy, fleshy, crying baby. So that he could grow up for one singular purpose. To save your damned soul. To give you one last shot. Because while we don’t want to be separated from him for all eternity, he clearly doesn’t want that for us either. He died remember? For you. For me. So that you don’t have to suffer blindly.

Yes. Life. Is. Hard. Being a Christian is hard. Especially if you’re doing it right. You will face opposition. If you don’t like being associated with the people shouting hate in the street for whatever reason. Shout love. Show love. Pour it out. Don’t grumble. Don’t be discouraged. Be broken-hearted and be anything but that. Be Grace. Be Love. Be Peace. Be Hope. But don’t be discouraged, because you have Hope and Love and Grace and Peace, and God will use it.

Step up and do something. Wake up! We don’t have to stand idly by. We shouldn’t! We can’t!

Encourage your brothers and sisters. Because it’s damn hard to do this alone. It’s easy to be encouraging in life, but that will only teach us to rely on each other. We must encourage each other in Christ. Because our reliance must be on Christ.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4

You deceived me, LORD, and I was deceived; you overpowered me and prevailed. I am ridiculed all day long; everyone mocks me. Whenever I speak, I cry out proclaiming violence and destruction. So the word of the LORD has brought me insult and reproach all day long. But if I say, “I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot. 

I hear many whispering, “Terror on every side! Denounce him! Let’s denounce him!” All my friends are waiting for me to slip, saying, “Perhaps he will be deceived; then we will prevail over him and take our revenge on him.”

But the LORD is with me like a mighty warrior; so my persecutors will stumble and not prevail. They will fail and be thoroughly disgraced; their dishonor will never be forgotten. LORD Almighty, you who examine the righteous and probe the heart and mind,
let me see your vengeance on them, for to you I have committed my cause. Sing to the LORD! Give praise to the LORD! He rescues the life of the needy from the hands of the wicked.

 Cursed be the day I was born! May the day my mother bore me not be blessed! Cursed be the man who brought my father the news, who made him very glad, saying, “A child is born to you—a son!” May that man be like the towns the LORD overthrew without pity. May he hear wailing in the morning, a battle cry at noon. For he did not kill me in the womb, with my mother as my grave, her womb enlarged forever. Why did I ever come out of the womb to see trouble and sorrow and to end my days in shame?

Jeremiah 20: 7-18

You are not alone. Ever. Wake up.

Adventure in acceptance, personal and social

As a child I did not go to pre-school. I’m not even a little bit upset that my parents decided it would be better for me to spend more time with them than “learning” my colors. It did offer a small challenge that I still face today. Acceptance. I was quite keen on spending time with the kids in the neighborhood, which for quite an extended period of time were exclusively male. I spent that time in the shadow of my older brother, who for those of you keeping records, will always be cooler than I. As a 6-year-old girl there’s nothing cool about you to your 9-year-old brother. That’s just a fact. And let me tell you that as a 13-year-old girl there’s even less coolness to be noted by your 16-year-old brother.

To say I struggle with acceptance is an under statement. I pine to be a “cool kid,” but not enough to put any sort of effort into it. In my head the freak that I was categorized as in high school, is the cool kid I want to be. I’ve never been partial to being like everyone else, and yet I wanted everyone else to like me. I still do. In my pursuit of acceptance from other people I find myself torn into a jealous fit when it comes to people who force the acceptance of others upon them. The people who must always inform you every time they spend time with the people you want to know better. Or worse when they tout their growing relationships with your friends, in a way of making you feel edged out. It’s really a very juvenile look at acceptance, this need to make the relationships of others feel inferior to what you are capable of.

I have a complicated relationship with my grandmother, to put it mildly. Between her constant praise of my brother to me and her constant berating of my life’s choices I’ve never felt good enough. And often it feels like she sees to that. It’s as if she works to ensure I feel that useless. Her words began coming to me at a very sensitive developmental time, and they have stuck with me. In part because they continue to come from her, but also because there are just some things you shouldn’t tell anyone, let alone a 13-year-old girl. So while part of me wants to seek the approval of my grandmother, the very rebellious part of me wants to ensure I never get that approval. It does put me in a real bind though, because while I know I’ll never get her approval her words have also guaranteed I will never get my own.

While I constantly pursue the acceptance of others, I know I will never truly find that until I accept myself as I am. And then I find that all of that is made more irrelevant when I remember that the only acceptance I should need is Christ’s. My heart is constantly screaming “His grace is enough!!” at my brain, but my brain’s a real bitch. She never listens. And if I can’t get my brain to accept my heart how do I get my heart to accept me? How do I get my heart and brain to accept Christ’s acceptance? How do I get my brain to accept me? And how do I get over my juvenile plea to be loved and accepted by people I don’t even care about?

Adventures in Accepting Circumstance

At the end of January I finished up teaching Hogwarts at Huntington and promptly began a new position at the Herald-Press. Selling ad space in a dying medium. I feel important. I was monstrously excited about the opportunity since I’m not qualified by any stretch of the imagination. As it turns out though, I’m not a salesperson. I’m simply not.

In the middle of February I received an e-mail about my resume which was provided to this particular person via a friend. The friend works for the company, and I thought, “ah what’s the harm in doing these trial assignments? If nothing else I’ll make a little extra cash on the side.” I loved it. I fell in love with the opportunity to have my fingers frantically flying across the keyboard and my brain doing something other than trying to figure out how to convince people to buy things they don’t need. Synonyms. New sentence structures. It was delightful.

I was offered an interview. One day after work I drove down to Indy to interview and have dinner with the interviewer and my friend. I was offered a job. As it turns out though there was nowhere within the office for me to be working.  So what was going to be two weeks is already 3 weeks. And I’ve no indication of starting any time soon.

I press on with a job I don’t understand and am not any good at.

In the meantime I find myself with two lovely roommates. One with a complete lack of understanding about dishes or cleanliness outside of personal hygiene. The other as unkempt in her housekeeping as I am, but clearly some sort of Joey Potter. My wardrobe has grown two-fold. And somehow I’ve become one of those people who loves to clean and cook and bake. I use my Saturdays to scrub. 

The 509 feels more welcoming than it ever has, and I find myself challenged to be better than I’ve been. I struggle to be more than I want to be, fighting the enemy of my salvation doing my best to refuse his pressurings and temptations. The people around me, with no real deliberate or obvious intention, are encouraging me to strive to be as Christ-like as I can. God’s constant grace is covering my entire life. I see him in all of my friends and find myself more hopeful every day.

Maybe the job isn’t the best, but I don’t know what God’s intentions are for me. And maybe this is it. A new job may come along in the future, but for now I’m surrounded by people who offer me love and grace and encouragement. I have more desire to pursue Christ every day. I have a great place to live. Wonderful roommates. And friends whenever I want them.

Who could complain?