The sojourner pulls himself along by his arms, dragging his dessicated body behind him. He leaves a trail in the parched Earth as he inches painfully along. Everything is dry and dying, even his heart is shrivelling inside his chest.

He reaches a spigot in the middle of the desert. The bones of those who came before lie scattered on the ground. The spigot, you see, has no handle.

But the Man. The Man knows.

He drags himself to the spigot, to the place where his head is just under the opening. He lies there, barely breathing. There is nothing left.

Holy, he wispers in the faintest voice. Holy. The breath is barely audible.

A single drop of water falls from the spigot and onto the Man’s cracked lips.

Holy, holy, holy. Water trickles from the spigot and enters the Man’s body as he swallows. It enters his heart and his heartbeat quickens.

Holy, holy, holy! In a loud voice he cries out and the water streams out and into the Man!

He cries louder and louder and the water spills into the Man and onto the ground and the world sees Him. Not the Man, but Him.

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I am away from God. I’ve been prodigal with His riches and blessings in my life.  I am in that place, perhaps familiar to some believers, in which one wakes up one day and asks of the atmosphere “Where am I? How did I get this far away?” I’m on the far side of grace.

It starts innocently, doesn’t it? I go off to pursue some dream or idea or decision, never consulting God about them or sacrificing them to Him. But it’s a great idea or a grand dream. “Of course He would want me to pursue them. They are good dreams and good ideas.” Of course, even good things might not be okay or right for a person.

So, it begins. Something small here, something bigger there. Then I start to feel like I can run my life on my own. I stop looking to Him for my everything. In reality this lack of submission is tantamount to rejecting God and His very best for my life. It doesn’t feel that way at first. It’s a tiny but insidious decision. A mini rebellion. Motion in the wrong direction.

What I’m really saying with this mini rebellion is that I don’t trust God. I believe he’s holding something back from me. I doubt His goodness and love. It’s an age-old condition. Eve listens to the serpent who plants seeds of doubt about God in her mind. The simple act of taking a bite of fruit sends shockwaves through all of human history. Shame enters the scene…”Who told you you were naked?”

Over time a small drip of water can erode huge amounts of rocks and minerals. Over time I make less and less time for my relationship with Him. Prayers become random mutterings. Attending church and Bible studies becomes optional. Time spent in relationship becomes time wasted on petty things. I need a miracle and complete overhaul but what I ask for is cosmic duct tape instead.

The narrow road opens to a wide one and it’s easy to follow. Innocence gives way to a kind of drunkenness of the soul. Lust, envy, pride, and self-serving become my code and my way. Despite all this:”Behold I stand at the door and knock.” But the lust and envy and pride and self-serving…they are alluring. I choose them. I want them. They are my nature.

And so I lie on the floor of a cell with a door that love opened long ago. Lie in my own stink and filth here, on the far side of grace, where a loving Father still holds out His hands and opens His arms. The choice is mine, but what choice will it be…

 

My bag is packed. Dishes are put away. I have a small stash of healthy-ish treats ready to go and my big, floppy hat is perched on the chair so I won’t forget it.

I have been waiting for this vacation for months.I NEED this vacation.

Monterey calls with it’s beauty, intrigue, and even a little kitsch and I am SO ready to answer that call. Some of my most favorite things to do and see are waiting for me there: The Bay with it’s sea otters and pelicans, Asilomar, the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History, the Stanton Center Maritime and History Museum, the amazing Monterey Bay Aquarium, and even the slightly  creepy Steinbeck’s Spirit of Monterey  Wax Museum.

These amazing things are on the horizon, and I’m excited about them, but there’s this little tingle in the back of my mind that is apprehensive about the trip. Am I lonely? Not really. Afraid to travel on my own? Nah. Waiting for something bad to happen? Nope.

I’ve traveled alone plenty of times, including solo ramblings around developing countries. So, what gives? The answer is that I’ll be vacationing with a stranger…me. I’m still a kind of foreigner to myself and I don’t really know what to do with myself when I’m alone. I’ve scheduled some time in this trip to deal with that and that makes me apprehensive.

I’m not comfortable in my own skin. It’s the time alone in my hotel room that worries me. The ADHD and my mind would normally go wild, trying to find some distractor so I won’t have to talk with the stranger that is me. Not this time though. No addiction,no “others” to distract me from myself. Just me and Monterey and a fire and and pages of blank journal paper. Sure, I’ll be out and about a lot, but I’ve also reserved some one-on-one time with myself so that I can get acquainted with the person I’ve become. Let’s hope I learn to like her…

I love the crunching sound my footsteps make as my psychedelic trail shoes hit the decomposed granite of a nice trail. Sometimes the sound is deafened by leaf litter or pine litter–the deep, rich humus on a forest floor. Outcroppings of small rocks and “ankle-breakers” (gnarled roots sticking out of the trail) ensure my eyes continuously sweep back and forth between what lies ahead and what is directly in front of me. Sometimes soil fills in along one side of a would be “ankle breaker” and forms a nice, natural step.

Crunch, crunch, crunch. It’s days like this, when the sound of my footsteps mingles with birdsong and the whisper of wind through the trees or the trickle of a nearby stream, that bring healing to a place deep within my soul. It’s a medicine found nowhere else but in nature.

Sometimes I want to shout like a mad woman (and I am) about the wonders of nature and being in it. On those occasions I want everyone in the world to experience the bliss I feel when I’m hiking. I want to show and tell and help make it visceral for people. Then there are those days when I want to hide in nature, away from people and the manufactured world. Those are the days I need nature most. Those are the days I need to tell my secrets to the trees and birds and water and wild grasses. I need to feel the wind dry the tears running down my cheeks and let my large body come to terms with the exertion the mountain demands–the “good hurt.”

Thwap! On one occasion wet bunches of grass whipped against my legs while the rain pelted my jacket. My face was red and cold and my fingertips were numb and icy. I pressed on along the mushy trail at a good clip as large raindrops continued to fall. It was a perfect day for hiking, not because of the weather but because of the pain and fear that had crippled me since days before.

I needed it. My soul demanded it. So, I walked on and on until I felt the fear and loneliness well up inside me. It made my chest hurt and each breath became shorter and faster.I stopped, panting. A harbor seal was bobbing in the water while watching me, sandpipers scuttled  along the muddy shoreline on the opposite bank and egrets soared above me.The fear and loneliness lifted and I could breathe again.

Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time… I knew then that I would get up the next morning and try again. A deep breath filled my lungs and I was off again…amen.

Funny puff of sea foam rolling in from the Sea.

Big puffs, small puffs, rolling all around me.

Rush, rush, run as the waves set you free.

Turning ’round the beach, fluttering with glee.

Racing down the shoreline “Come and catch me!”

Fleeing from mother Sea as fast as can be.

Now the Wind will take you shuffling down the beach.

Getting smaller as you go, your existence dwindling.

“Oh, no! Mother Wave, come take us back to thee!”

But only the Sand answers,

“Now you belong to me.”

Listening to a combination of new country radio and Superchic[k] tonight has done fascinating things in my mind. It’s time for some more (hopefully) enlightening discourse from the Jessss-ter. Onvarts!

I’ll cut to the chase. Ladies, don’t let a man put or attempt to put his penis inside of you unless you ask yourself this question first: “Is this the kind of man and situation that I would want my own little girl to encounter someday?” You might even try “Would he want his daughter to encounter him–someone with the same sexual values–in the future?” If the answer is no, say “No” and move on. In the mean time, be the kind of woman you would want your son to be involved with someday.

Men, don’t put it into a woman’s vagina unless you ask yourself “Would I want my son to be involved with someone like this woman in the future?” If the answer is no, say “No” and move on. More importantly, if the answer is “Yes” then protect that woman and that relationship. Be the kind of man you want your daughter to be involved with some day.

If you cannot say the words “penis” and “vagina” without shame, guilt, or lust or you don’t use them in appropriate contexts (like having a mature and real conversation with friends versus screaming these words for kicks at a grocery store) then you may not be mature enough for sex. These words are not vulgar, they are biology and part of what was ultimately and originally created to be a good thing that God made. God is pleased when you have sex in appropriate contexts that He created it for. If the the thought of God being happy with you having sex just made you spasm, rock in place, or place your hands over your ears and sputter “La la la!” then you may need counseling. I am not jesting with that one.

Of course there are other parameters, like marriage and making sure this is someone you can respect and whom you love and a million other things. Those things have all been said before. I am not trying to make light of the topic or not take these things seriously, I am just trying to make a very real point. The rest will probably fall into place if you think about it. For example, looking at a man mid lust-cuddle and thinking “This dude would never want his own daughter to be in this situation or be with anyone like him” just does something to the moment. Still, it needs to be said: Be intentional about sex and when, where, with whom and in what context you have it. Sort that out now and make the decisions now. It definitely isn’t foolproof but at least you’ll have some goals in place and that makes it a lot harder to stray off the path you want for your life.

For those of us who have made mistakes, it’s time to move on. More importantly, it is never to late to start asking those questions about people we are in romantic relationship with. It’s also never too late to start being the kind of man or woman you would want your son or daughter to be with. You cannot, I repeat, cannot, do this alone. Get connected to a good accountability network, formal or not. Wherever you’re at, it’s a good starting place.

Made It! 040

On Being a (Kind-of) Girl

“So, has she blown the house up yet?” My Uncle Rey’s usual way of asking my mom how I was doing. He wasn’t asking if some baking lesson had gone wrong, he was referring to my frequent experiments with household chemistry. My mom still reminds me of these hair-greying episodes today, but with much more nostalgia and humor than in years past—she did have to start coloring her hair fairly young.

I often hear blanket statements regarding the nature of women or a “woman’s heart.” Sometimes more egalitarian authors or speakers insert the word “most” before their statements: “Most women want…” or “most women think…” or “most women feel…” Some even include statistics like “ninety percent of women…” In any case, after reading or hearing these statements I am often left wondering “but what about the rest of us?” Those whose child-hearts are more interested in explosives or nature or archaeology than dolls and dress-up or at least as much. In all fairness, I am not saying that generalized statements about women don’t apply to me nor am I necessarily making negative judgment against my gender. What I am saying is that I often feel like I’m standing on the outside of the cultural party—sometimes looking in longingly and sometimes wanting to sprint as far away from it as possible– and at this point I have no doubts about my freakish nature. I’m not saying I am manly or want to be a man or that being a man is better than being a woman. I’m not speaking to what I think men want or “how they are” either because I am not a man and I have no idea. The only thing I can speak to is my experience as a girl-freak growing up in 1980’s America. I’ll share a bit about in the hopes that some other freaks will find a kindred or perhaps a little inspiration.

The thing that makes me thing that I am different from “most” women by nature that I believe I have been so from the very start. It’s evident even in my baby pictures! Take my favorite photograph of me as a child. It isn’t one of the numerous images of me wearing a little lacey or velvet dress (often a little disheveled due to wriggling through the “jungle” of some playground or backyard). Instead it is an image of me wearing naught else but a diaper and one of my dad’s trucker-style snap backs backwards while wielding one of his hammers, the handle of which extends the length of my then barely-able-to-stand body and the corners of my dimpled grin hanging from each ear. I don’t think I was quite a year old.

Okay, some will argue that maybe that is an example of something nurtured in me, some parental preference or leading. So then let’s use is my experience with that great American retail institution of consumer indoctrination: Toys R Us. I vividly recall walking through towering isles of endless toys. To my right a pink and purple nightmare. Dolls with layered dresses and comatose eyes stared down at me through lashes that rivaled Tammy Faye Baker’s. Mesh bags filled with play fruit and light pink ovens lay about waiting to fill the domestic desires of little girls and those boys with daring parents.  To my left lay a blue, red, grey and black block-city. Sharp angles on Transformers and bulldozers crashed through cardboard packages and Leggo masterpieces lay temptingly behind glass barricades. I would walk, fast then slow then fast again, my attention caught by some noise-making plaything until I remembered my goal, all the way to the sexless section. You know, that genderless place in the store where the art supplies, play dough, “learning toys” and science kits are. Because I was effectively a spoiled only child my parents were pretty much willing to let me have the run of the store and choose whatever toy I wanted—within reason and wandering quietly and respectfully of course.  Without skipping a beat I’d head over to this genderless section of the store and stare at all the wonderful things–tools that would help me explore the world around me. I remember one Christmas in particular, actually it was just before Christmas, my mom had taken me to T-R-U to get some ideas. We were standing in the pink nightmare with me insisting that I wanted a chemistry set and a tool set and some other boyish things. Hesitant and resigned, my mom sighed and we left the store. I was expecting to open a stove set that Christmas, and maybe I did, but much to my delight I got the tool and chemistry sets. It was the best Christmas ever! I begged my dad for a piece of wood try the plane out and later barricaded myself in my room with the chemistry set (remember, it was the ‘80’s and parents used to drive around with their kids in the backs of pickup trucks with no seat belts and no one said anything), leaving my bewildered parents shaking their heads in the living room.

And then there is the comparison between me as a little girl and my female peers. Here are some examples in conversation format (hyperbole included):

Interacting with other humans:

“Most” little girls: Wanna see me dance or hear me sing? Watch me twirl in my dress/tutu!

Me: Did you know that pterodactyls aren’t dinosaurs? Great White Sharks are also called chark…car..carchard…, umm car-car-OH-don!

When an expectant family member or parent’s friend visit:

“Most” little girls: I want to hold the baby! When is the baby going to be here!?! Can I feed the baby?

Me: Seven weeks? You had sex seven weeks ago. The baby is a fetus. It is starting to grow arms and legs. Want to see my slide of a human baby foot? We need a microscope.

On Santa’s lap:

“Most” little girls: I want Fashion Strip Mall Barbie, a stove like mommy’s and a dulucks make-up thing.

Me: Okay, so I NEED a new canteen and a flashlight. Definitely a microscope. Okay, I can settle for a snoopy snow-cone maker and a Pound Puppy.

Lessons:

“Most” little girls: I want to be a ballerina! Can I take dance lessons?!?!?

Me: Mom, can I take fencing lessons? But MOOOM! Okay…archery?

And into adulthood…reassurance and pathology:

“Most” girls: Do you think I’m beautiful?  Am I as pretty, organized or as good a mom as she is?

Me: Do you think I’m competent? Am I as smart as he/she is or did I do as well on my performance evaluation? Do people like me as much?

A nature to nurture

Several times in my life, usually when speaking to another woman about kids (my lack thereof) or family or some pathology, I have been subjected to the phrase that is something to the effect of “You just want to take care of…to nurture because it’s a woman’s nature” and my first thought is usually something like “Yeah, maybe bacterial cultures.” Yet they insist: One of these days I will have children and magically woman-ness will just spring-forth from within.

These “encouragers” are often the one’s who pray that God softens my heart or encourage me that I will come around once I find my prince charming and have children. I get the distinct impression that these folks see me as wayward or damaged or rebellious in some way. Not that I am not those things, certainly I am, but it has nothing to do with my gender, it’s just who I am.

Even as a child the “instinct” to care for children eluded me. I was always horrified of babysitting. The month before school was out my friends would be setting up their summer gigs watching neighborhood kids and I was busy praying my parents wouldn’t force me to do the same. It isn’t that I didn’t want to do anything, it’s that I was terrified of children. However, my very first job ended up being a babysitting: my neighbors had two prize-winning show dogs that I absolutely loved. I’d spend hours caring for and playing with a Russian Wolfhound and an Afghan hound, often wrapping my arms around the Borzoi’s neck, who was as nearly tall as I was at the time, while she leaned on me until we collapsed. It was our routine. I had two other babysitting gigs after that, both while in college and yes, both watching dogs or other pets.

I think I preferred dogs over kids because, as some have heard me say, I wonder if I ever was a child. I know that’s extreme, but suffice it to say I was a pretty eclectic kid and just didn’t “get” most other children. I still find it hard to relate to kids and just know my limits. I was once part of a church that was in the process of seeking volunteers. Ooooh! I could type things or spackle and paint or help fix things! I went to the pastor and his wife who stated they would love to have my help and felt I would go far in the Children’s ministry. I tried to explain that I didn’t work well with kids but they would have none of it, insisting (without even having to consult God) that it was right for me. A short while later, as part of a member of a new Church, I found a pastor who actually listened to me and placed me in a volunteer position that involved co-organizing a large community event. It was a huge challenge but God used it to bless a ton of people. I honestly believe the children’s ministry at any Church is one of the most important and admire those who serve in this capacity, but I just know it isn’t for me. I felt bad and guilty about refusing to serve in the children’s ministry at the other church, but during that community event I realized that each of us has a responsibility to find out what we are (and aren’t) passionate about and have talents in and invest in those areas, regardless of gender norms.

After my nephew was born I mellowed a bit with the kid thing. I remember seeing him for the first time at the hospital, just born, and knowing I was in love. My immediate second thought was “Oh-mah-gawd. I am going to have to hold it then I’ll dropt it or it will poop!” I still remember sitting nervously on the couch with my sister grinning at me with “nah-nah” delight as she handed me the oversized jelly bean, more blanket than baby. Talk about rigid. I got through it and held him all the time after that point and I did a lot—a lot—of diaper duty. I survived. I still don’t have any more or less talent or desire to work with kids. I just have more confidence in my ability to get one into adulthood relatively unscathed and with a good counseling fund.

Being a Good Woman, Being Me

Sometimes the people who pray or hope I’ll grow into womanhood get scared when I tell them about things I have done. I don’t know if they are scared for me or at the horror that comes with knowing that a woman could “go through” the things I have been through. I’ve been through some painful things, and those I can’t blame them for being frightened by. It’s their fear about the positive things that puzzles me, like travelling alone both in the US and in developing countries, driving long distances by myself, mowing my own lawn or installing a kitchen sink. I’d love to have someone to do things with and those closest to me have certainly heard me say I believe I would conquer the world with a good friend at my side. Certainly I would like some counterpart male freak to come crashing into my life sometime and knock me off my feet, sending us both hurdling out of my comfort zone on some adventure (mark my words, I will regret I said this someday). For now I am learning to simply be content with who I am and who I am yearns for little adventures and seeks them, even on my own.

As I sit here writing this entry, sipping Teccino out of my favorite mug (emblazoned with the image of a Flying Fortress being escorted by two P-51s) I realize that more than anything else I am simply Jessica. A girl, yes, and a sister and daughter and a rabbit-mom and a friend and an animal license checker and an explorer and a scientist and a Follower of Christ who is still trying to figure herself out. I do like “girly” things, really I do! A nice pedicure goes great with explorer’s cargo pant’s. I suppose it’s  just that what I am made for, who I was made to be, goes so far beyond the gender norms of my culture, and in some cases even  flies in the face of their convention. I am learning to be okay with that. I am learning that I was made to serve, to be a follower and the specific way I do that best, at heart is through exploring cultures and creation and telling others about them. My itinerant mind and heart are always calling me to some new adventure, real or imagined, and those adventures are where I hope to find out more about who I am.

Hope, by definition, lies in the future. It is a future-oriented phenomenon. I don’t mean hope the way I hear it commonly used–the “I wish this would happen” kind of connotation. No, I mean the kind of hope that requires straining at the muscles of faith and surrender because we reach for it all day every day. The kind of hope that requires superorganic perseverance. That hope.

Some of us often feel as if that hope eludes us. Perhaps not constantly, it just isn’t present as much as we want it to be. It’s like the flitting bioluminescence of fireflies, twinkling on a moonless night. I have met so many people for whom it seems that just doesn’t happen–sturdy souls whose light of hope shines like an eternal beacon, often lighting the way for others by inspiration. Then there are those of us whose struggle in life is maintaining hope, but maybe we aren’t supposed to. Maybe, for those of us who are prone to losing sight of hope, our job is simply to surrender to One who is the author of hope. That fluttering emotional nature is our thorn and our battle.

Unlike hope, which looks to the future, the impulsive cannot see beyond the present. The pain or joy or excitement or despair of the moment overrides good logic and reason. Impulsivity is the bedfellow of a dangerous kind of amnesia. This amnesia buries the good and bad of the past, the lessons learned and the “stones from the Jordan” in a sticky, black mud.  I wonder if that is what it was like for him in those last days or moments. I wonder if hope was obscured in that black mud. If the pain of those moments right before he made the decision was so blinding that he forgot the evening surrounded by joy and fun with his family and couldn’t see ahead to the hope of a new day with new mercy and promise. Was there was no looking forward to another day surrounded by the laughter and love of family or friends?

Perhaps the exhaustion of one more moment and the pain and torment inside his mind was overwhelming. My guess is that it was. In any case his impulse, an impulse he acted on, was to make the pain stop in the only way he could see available to him at the time. His faith, built on so many battles won in the past, and the light of hope for the future was literally pulverized by a compulsive decision to strategically place a lead projectile into his own body. Pain, overwhelming pain perhaps stoked by some dangerously selective negative memories, was what I imagine he felt in those last moments. Then it was over. For him.

By his words I think his father believes Matthew is with Jesus, and I do too. Doubtless he will be judged by humanity, and likely most harshly by those of us who are specifically admonished not to as part of our Faith. Some will call him coward and some will call him evidence of no god. In the end it doesn’t really matter how we judge him because there is only One who has that right.

He was my brother. I never met him, but he was my brother in Christ and in this great struggle, our struggle, and I am sad to hear of his passing. I trust, though, that the Author of Hope will use even this to cultivate the promise of hope in the lives of others. Redemption is, after all, a reworking of the wasted, broken, used-up and awry into something new. Hope in this tragedy is waiting expectantly to see how the Great Redeemer will use even Matthew Warren’s pain to heal others.

I look forward…

I realized something important about myself tonight–and I do mean really important. I already knew about it, I mean I had knowledge of it but I really didn’t “get it” until tonight. I was struggling with that theoretical chasm between the human head and that place in your gut where you really understand something. The realization is something quite simple: I am doing a p!$$-poor job of self-care. Really poor. What’s is perhaps more important is the event in which I came to understand how pervasive this is in my life.

Let me paint a little portrait of my self-neglect, starting with my physical environment: There is a small wire basket hanging from my bedroom wall just inside my door, I use it as my “inbox” for mail and other items. It is typically full but right now weeks-old mail, most with the seal firmly intact, is spilling from every angle of this basket. It’s an eyesore and more. I lost sixty pounds–then I gained five back over the holidays (cheese, and chocolate and pie, oh my) and my workouts have gone from daily to 2-3 times per week, never mind the physical benefits though, I process the events of my life best during workouts. I am an auditory-kinesthetic learner and my workouts are part of what keeps me sane. Most days of the week my hair hangs in ragged waves (even more than usual), some of which spring forth erratically and uneven around my ever-present sunglass headband. When I actually do catch a glance of myself in the mirror–usually during a mid-morning restroom break, and the first time of the day I’ve stopped to examine myself– I find that I resemble and owl with some sort of neurological disorder. My only action is to straighten the sunglasses. The rest of the week my hair up in a half bun-ponytail complex that has become my go-to look for ‘presentable.’ The messy-sexy look isn’t so hot when you’re actually exhausted. In any case, I now have a semi-weekly ritual of de-matting my hair that involves pulling or cutting out curls-gone-rasta, some of which I am afraid I might need to start feeding, watering and housing. I do brush my teeth twice a day and I floss most days of the week, however even this has suffered: there is a two minute timer on my toothbrush that hasn’t been heard in weeks. Sometime soon the uni-brow will be complete. The list goes on…

What is amazing is that none of these things, even though I’ve been painfully aware of them for weeks, was enough to wake me wake up to the reality. Sigh. Some might think the event that turned my deepest soul on to the truth is a bit vain, but I suspect most people, especially women, will understand why.

This very evening I was relaxing as best as I could in a hot bath. Low, warm light gently filled the bathroom and the hot water, infused with Dead Sea mineral salts, penetrated my tired muscles and wrapped my joints in relief. Boughs of lavender-scented mist wafted around me and saturated my soul with a comforting sense of peace and slowness. I have become thinner and so I took the time to feel the luxury of extra room in the tub. Bending my knees to my chest to stretch my back, I then slowly set my feet on the tile wall just above the tub. I think I saw it before I believed it–the same way someone might see a pink giraffe on their lawn from the window and pass by, returning to the window seconds later when the mind had caught up with itself. I stared at my legs, then stared harder. A kind of horror began to creep over me as my weary mind strained at trying to remember. “Um…when.” “When was the last time? When, Jessica?!?” My brow furrowed. “Christmas? Christmas! No. Yes.” Christmas–December 25th–my morning shower before getting dressed and fed and to the airport to come back to SoCAl was the last time I could remember shaving my legs. I remember intending on shaving them, but then remembered that I traded shaving time for extra sleep or a hot breakfast. Maybe, maybe not. I don’t know for sure.

I felt my jaw slack and my eyes narrow as I glanced up and down my legs. But were they really my legs?!? What lay before me was most reminiscent of a prettied-up ape. A female lowland gorilla with Christmas-red toenails, polish chipped from daily life in the jungle. Yes, that was it, some evil scientist had snuck in at night and conducted a sinister experiment. Somewhere in the world in a tall female gorilla with amazing legs and a beautiful pedicure…and I have her legs!

No. They were really my legs. I looked wistfully at the hairy poles that were my legs, at my sand-paper feet with a month-old pedicure at their very tips, and I wished they were pretty. ‘Oh well, you know about it now, so shave them.’ I wondered to myself as I dragged the razor against my legs–felling the hairs more than shaving them–‘how did I let it go this long?’ The knowledge of my lack of self care grew then: I am always on that edge, never really having much margin into good, sufficient self-care, and I suffer for it. The second my life gets even a little chaotic my body and my well-being suffer. This, friends, is NOT abundant life. I am not saying that a weekly pedicure is what God wants for me, but I know that taking care of myself in a way that makes me feel confident and promotes my health is.

As I ran my hands along my newly-smoothed legs I felt sane and feminine. I love the way my legs feel when they are newly shaved, and I didn’t have memory of that for over a week. I smiled and felt a little proud of myself. Then it really hit me: “I am more than this and I want more for my life than this.” That’s what that little voice inside of me said. Let’s see how long it takes for that to make the journey across the mind-gut chasm. Hopefully the last lesson paved a good trail…

There are times in my life when I feel very brave and big. Today is not one of those days, though I have in actually made some very adult decisions and acted in very adult ways recently. It’s hard being an adult sometimes…okay right now I feel like it’s hard most of the time.

The last few months have been a kind of roller coaster. I have provision for my basic financial and living needs, a job I love and wonderful, amazing people in my life. I am blessed beyond belief! But the road is uphill and narrow. I have made hard decisions and choices not to do things that I wanted to do because I knew they were poor choices and would hurt myself and others. My life is SO not where I wanted it to be by the time I was 32. I struggle with worrying about the future–how things will “pan out” for me financially once my schools loans are out of deferment and what am I going to do about benefits and rebuilding my savings and…oh the list goes on.

Then there are my core pathologies:

I hate making mistakes, I am afraid of failure and I want everyone to be happy with me and like me. But here’s the thing: The reality of life is that everyone makes mistakes, one of the best indicators of success is how well a person handles failure and no one can “make” everyone happy (we simply don’t have that kind of power–no one can really control what others think and do, at least not without the other person’s permission). So, now what?

I have to make hard decisions: A decision to keep going after I make a mistake and not feel like it’s the end of the world and that I am completely incompetent. Decisions that may not please others or that they might choose to take offense over, but that are the right decisions for me and the situations. Oh, and then there is the ever-looming decision to get over the failures of my past and even some more recent ones. I’ve often said I need hiking boots to get to the top of my failures and broken dreams. That might be true, I don’t really know, but what I do know is that I have the wisdom of those experience beneath me–the mountain holding me up–and the view is fantastic from up here.

So, “vorwarts?”

The amazing thing is that, though I feel very small and weak, I have an enormous amount of drive to move forward and that is in large part due to God’s encouragement and the cheerleaders urging me on. I have a slough of people involved in my life who want to see me succeed and are standing with me. I can actually feel their love and support–they are part of that drive and the the next handhold I reach for.

There is one other thing that moves me along and is helping me not shatter into a million little pieces. It’s best summarized in this prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time. Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace. Taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it. Trusting that You will make all thing right if I surrender to your will. So that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with you forever in the next. Amen” Even now a friend is encouraging me in this, and it’s just what I need–perfect for today and this moment. So, yes, I am small, but that is okay when you’re the daughter of a very big king. Onward…