Dec 23, 2009

all promises find their Yes in Him

What a dangerous place to be. We look at a situation and wonder "what if..."

Example: What if...I go skiing and get a concussion and die.

That is a rather extreme example. I may have thought this at one point in my life. Or several points. BUT the point is that what if keeps us from life. What if keeps us from experiencing things that may scare us or make us angry or break our hearts or enrich our lives.

What if I made a mistake? What if I left Kansas City in May? What if I stayed in Kansas City in May? What if I embarrass myself? What if I run out of money? What if I never go back to Haiti? What if I get stuck living the American Dream and am too scared or comfortable to get out?

In the last few weeks I have gotten in the habit of shutting myself up if I catch myself asking "what if?" Because I don't want to miss out on life.

The God who made the world
and everything in it,
being Lord of Heaven and Earth,
does not live in temples made by man,
nor is He served by human hands,
as though He needed anything,
since He himself gives to mankind
life and breath and everything.
And He made from one man every nation of mankind
to live on all the face of the earth,
having determined allotted periods
and the boundaries of their dwelling place,
that they should seek God,
in the hope that they might feel their way toward Him
and find Him.
Yet He is actually not far from each one of us,
for "In him we live and move and have our being."
(Acts 17:24-28)

I'm not sure I know how that passage technically makes me stop asking what ifs, but it seems to point out that I have no control over my life. We get life and breath and movement and the ability to think and connect and love and hurt and empathize and yell and scream and laugh from Him. So listen to the directions, follow the lead set in front of you, and go live.

I am pretty sure this is what life could feel like if I stopped asking what if.

Dec 20, 2009

A Better Story (Part 2)

Update: I went for another run today. I still walked a lot. Tomorrow I walk, solely walk. It makes running easier.

So yesterday after I chose to walk instead of run, Sara Groves instead of Glee, pray instead of complain, these words were rather pressing:

we come with beautiful secrets
we come with purposes written on our hearts
we come to every new morning,
with possibilities only we can hold

i want to add to the beauty,
to tell a better story

it comes in small inspirations
it brings redemption to life and work
it comes in loving community
it comes in helping a soul find its worth

redemption comes in strange places,
small spaces
calling out the best of who we are

and this is grace: an invitation to be beautiful

And as I listened to this and reflected on winter and the cold air and the barren trees - I felt the hope that creation carries in beauty and burning lungs. Then I was taken to a very different place, a very different home than this one.

Twins, abandoned, malnourished, dehydrated, sick.

Those same twins, a few months later. Happy, healthy, loved.

THAT is a better story. The small acts that brought these two children into the arms of people who could mobilize to help them, the formula bought by village people to feed these two, the doctor who could care for them, the arms that were there to hold and feed and cuddle and console.

From barren to growing - a reminder of faithfulness and the impending kingdom of God, that we are left to carry on. That, as in Acts, we are here to point people to a better story, to add to the beauty, to carry the light, redemption and grace.

But now dear friends, my heart is heavy for a new one. Another one to add to the list of the countless names and faces I have shown you in the past few months.

Matthew. Age 7 months. Sick and starved, left on a dirty, cement floor alone.

He's been taken in! He has new arms to love him and feed him and cuddle him, just like the twins above. He has a new family of nearly 60 brothers and sisters to grow up alongside. It's a long, hard, uphill road ahead of this little guy. But seeing Hannah and Jeremiah's faces now proves that all is not lost.

And for each of these stories I have countless others. The Lord is continually prodding me, whispering something that my heart begins to stir with, but I don't know what it is. But I do know that when I think about my life, no matter what I do, I want to be adding to the beauty, pointing out the redemption in this very broken world. And whether that is with restaveks or rape victims or special needs children, I hope that I won't be too afraid to pull myself out of comfort and complacency.

Maybe that's one thing running will teach me.

Dec 19, 2009

A Better Story (Part 1)

I love being home. After a semester of gritting my teeth and whining and complaining about being away from where I wanted to be, it is a relief to be here. To wake up early and drink coffee with my dad. To look out my front door and be greeted by a snow-covered mountain view. To have family movie night with Mom, Dad, Grandma, and BFF. Home is happy.

Yesterday morning my dad and I took our dogs for a walk at at Fox Run. We met lots of other people and dogs, and I got my first puppy time of the season. When we got back in the car, I looked over at the mountains and thought "It's amazing how much this place feels like home, even though I never have lived here." Because Colorado, as a place, is much more of home than Kansas City. Don't get me wrong, I love Kansas City. But I find much more rest and joy in just being in Colorado...even if it is the opposite side of the state.

I've started to read Acts again, and for some reason unknown to me, I love the book. I suppose what I have learned in the last few days is that it is a book that resonates with the world I see right now. Jesus, having just left his disciples, has left them with quite the task in front. And as they receive the Holy Spirit and encounter the idolatry of the time, they begin to fight back against the hopelessness of the world. They bring the news of Hope, though it is a news that is fought against. It is a news that leaves people stoned and running for their lives.

It is a news that seems to tell people "You don't have life figured out, and you're killing yourself trying to find value and worth and meaning and life in temporal, slight, and meaningless things, in idols."

Sounds a little bit like the world today.

So after I read some more of Acts, about Judas's bowels splitting open, I pulled my butt off the couch. I changed my clothes and grabbed my iPod and forced myself out the door. It's running time.

I got across Vickers and realized that it was going to be a difficult jaunt. I love Colorado, the blue sky, the...thin air? I managed to run for a bit, then got angry.

I hate running, I thought to myself.
This sucks.
I can't even breathe a full breath in, my lungs hurt, and I'll never get in shape at this rate.

As I rounded a corner, I was smacked with a perfect view of Pikes Peak on a clear, sunny, chilly morning, dusted with snow. I stopped running, and just looked for a moment, before I decided that I would much rather walk. I switched my playlist from Glee singles and pop hits that kick my butt into gear to Sara Groves.

So then I thought about how the cold air hurt my lungs, a slight burn that exercise and altitude combined creates. And as much as I dislike the sensation, I realized that it's a reminder of hope. How? In a world that is seemingly dead, barren, and frozen, cold air wakes us up. It opens our eyes and moves our muscles and reminds us that there is something there. That life is behind us and before us and among us. That the dry bones will be renewed, that the desert will bloom again, that injustice will be righted, and that hope is here.

At least, that's the way I felt it today.

This semi-revelation continued throughout my morning walk, and I'm eager to formulate the thoughts. To be continued...

Dec 16, 2009

just do it

As every break begins, I wonder to myself "How am I going to come back different?"

Because if we aren't changing, if we aren't growing, if we aren't refining, then what the heck are we doing?

Farewell Kansas City - see you in 5 weeks!

Dec 10, 2009

Bye, Bye, By(e) (The Book)

Two years and four months ago I walked from campus down to the Liberty Square.

My destination: By The Book
My objective: to get a job
My result: VICTORY!

And this morning, I sit in the front window of By The Book, looking out on the same exact Square. It's been a good two and a half years. And we have seen a lot change within these walls in that time.

Tonight at 6 PM, we close By The Book for the last time.

I tell people that working at By The Book is like working in the middle of a hybrid episode of Cheers, Gilmore Girls, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

And despite my complaints of some of the regulars (like the time the guy blew on my neck?!) and the automatic espresso machine, each time I walk through the old wooden door and under the ridiculous maroon awning, it's a little bit like going home.

I've been a part of the transition from bookstore to cafe to hosting live music. I've got Saturday mornings down. I know how long to heat the extra hot strata and which mug to use for the triple shot latte that goes alongside. I know who wants the same drink each time they come in. I know when to reach for the cranberry nut muffin and when it goes in the sack or on the plate.

These people, triple shot mocha whipped cream no lid, "big" vanilla latte EXTRA vanilla, peanut butter mocha man, sugar free caramel skim milk latte in a mug, "baby" americano with two shots and a lot of room, these people were By The Book's people. And we, the employees, were their people too.

It is a sad day in Liberty, Missouri. This is a significant part of my life. Thanks for the memories, By The Book. It's like the passing of an old friend. I'll miss you.

Dec 8, 2009

7 Things

I have a list of things compiling in my head of what to do over Christmas break. It is, after all, my final break of school. Ever. Well, maybe not ever, but since I don't intend on returning to school anytime soon, it is ever.

1) Watch Away We Go. Any movie with Alexi Murdoch behind the music I am destined to love.

2) Bake cookies. I love baking cookies. I will have lots of time to perfect some delicious recipes. Any ideas? I have to try to make these too. Delicious!

3) Find some puppies and play with them. I would like to repeat this event several times.

4) Start learning how to sew. Because if I am ever going to make my own dresses, I need to start learning.

5) Read some books. Currently on my list:
  • The Omnivore's Dilemma
I just looked through every book on my shelf for some more inspiration. Clearly, I need some more suggestions.

6) Go on a walk every day. Why? Because I love walking, and I hate running. That's why.

7) Explore. I don't know much about Colorado Springs or Denver or anywhere on the Front Range. I plan on lots of solo exploration, and some not so solo exploration.

Tomorrow's the big day people. After tomorrow, at approximately 12:20 PM, I will be free falling into freedom.

Dec 7, 2009

Sticking it to "The Man"

Courtesy of a Southwest runway delay and a very entertaining stewardess:

Three men are walking in the desert and bump into a genie's lamp.
The genie pops out and asks the first man what his wish is.

"I want to be the strongest man in the world."
"Are you sure about that?" asks the genie.
"Yes!" the man replied, and POOF, his wish was granted.

The genie asks the second man what his wish is.
"I want to be the richest man in the world."
"Are you sure about that?" asks the genie.
"Yes!" the man replied, and POOF, his wish was granted.

The genie asks the third man what his wish is.
"I want to be the smartest man in the world."
"Are you sure about that?" asks the genie.
"Yes!" the man replied, and POOF, he turned into a woman.

Yeah, you are welcome!

Today I went to the store, intending to buy a few things. You know, apples and yogurt, the necessities to carry me through the next week. As I walked past the cosmetics area, I noticed that over the aisles were signs that said "Beauty". Each sign had some sort of eyeliner or lip gloss. They were on all white backgrounds, with bright gold eyeshadow powder and red lip stain.

Internally something revolted. That isn't what beauty is. And I am tired of the lies, of the misleading representation of beauty. Because when I think of beauty, I want to think first of these things:

Dearest Loveli, the most tempered, measured, independent girl.

Paula, with the eyes and smile that will steal your heart the instant you meet her.

The sunrise of all sunrises

The official joker & laugh machine of the Parsons family.

We live in a polluted and perverted society. I don't really think we'll ever change that as we'd like. I don't think our self-deprecation or judgmental attitudes will ever fully go away. But I think we all long for true, deep beauty. The kind of beauty that comes from a newborn baby or an unobstructed view of creation or in watching someone utilize his or her giftedness. Beauty comes in PB&J smeared faces and sweaty Haitian children in polyester dresses. Beauty comes in encouraging other people, in serving other people, and in dying to self.

Because, just like Psalms says, those who look to Him are radiant.

So...take that, Target cosmetics department. I boycott your products and advertising today. Figure out how to bottle some liquid joy from Paula, and maybe I'll reconsider our relationship.

Dec 6, 2009

Half Full? Half Empty? Half Over? Half Started?

The year of 2009 held a lot. When I reflect upon the year of 2009, I can truly say it was the most radical, unexpected, life-altering year of my life.

Today is St. Nicholas Day, when my family used to open stockings. Now that we are scattered to the four corners, we don't get to do that together. But I always love this day. It is also, ahem, my half birthday. Which is no big deal, but I was thinking that meant I am 21 1/2 today. Was it really 6 months ago? So much has happened since then.

This was 6 months ago today...

Each time I look at this picture, I am reminded of how the Lord orders our steps. How I was blessed to meet such friends as Diana and Mal. How Volcy and Sadrac and Wicky give of themselves each and every day, giving to each other and to their neighbors and to strange white girls who show up and don't know anything. They took me in, called me "Ti Fi" (little girl), and became my surrogate big brothers.

2009 is swiftly coming to a close. 2010, the year of all years, is around the corner. It will (hopefully) be a year of graduation, a year of endings and beginnings, and the year of kicking cancer's ass. Because that's what the road ahead is. So here we go.

Yet before those days come, we plod along in the sometimes dreary, sometimes painful, sometimes joyful, sometimes long days and steps.

Thankfully, I have a toffee nut cookie to keep me company in this moment.

Dec 5, 2009

a swell season

When I got off the plane tonight, I wanted to ask the pilot to turn right around and take me back. I'd hitchhike back if I needed to.

I felt a little sad walking through the airport. Then I was greeted by these faces:

And now as I sit in the quiet of my house, reflecting on the sweetness of my last week, I am reminded that the beauty is surrounding me, that the people of my life are beautiful and precious, and I can rest in the ways they point me towards something greater than myself.

Dec 3, 2009

Thanks and Hope

At the moment I am sitting in Presbyterian St. Luke's Medical Center in Denver, next to my precious mother who is recovering from her second surgery this month. Her surgery went better than we could have expected. I am overwhelmed with gratitude to each and every person who prayed and wrote and called and encouraged yesterday - it has been quite the journey the last few weeks. Please know the Parsons family is so grateful for our community, for the kingdom of God that is so evident in our lives.

God is about healing and restoration. My dad reminded me of this yesterday. We live in a world where sin and brokenness have polluted the beauty and goodness that God intended. We live in a world where cancer eats away at healthy tissues and babies are lost and children are left alone, fending for themselves on the streets.

I have confronted those things in the last 6 months. I have kicked and screamed against God, asking Him why and where He is. I have questioned whether He is here, whether He cares.

He patiently waited for me to take a deep breath, and He let me know He is here. He is working. That I have hope in things outside of this world. That poverty never goes away, and cancer will destroy, and we will never be able to save anyone ultimately. That sin is real. That we must repent from our own - and then DO something about it.

"Be an agent of mercy" He says.

For the grace of God has appeared,
bringing salvation for all people,
training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions,
and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,
waiting for our blessed hope,
the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,
who gave himself for us
to redeem us from all lawlessness
and to purify for himself a people for his own possession
who are zealous for good works.
(Titus 2:11-14)

And I am continually reminded that we wait with great hope and anticipation for the Kingdom of God to fully appear, that our Rock of Ages has satisfied justice and written His mercy on our hearts and hands, so we stand in faith, our hope secure in the love and grace of our Father.

And until the Kingdom has arrived in all glory and fullness, the extension of love and support, the selfless giving, the persistence in trying, and the dying to self is the building up of the Kingdom now, the Kingdom here that is shining through the dark clouds overhead.

Soon we will hear from pathology and know more about the potential chemotherapy and radiation. Here is our road now, to continue on with faith, walk with grace our feet and faith our eyes.

(Many thanks to Redeemer Fellowship, Sandra McCracken, Jena Lee,
Sara Groves, and Caedmon's Call for the beautiful words.)