Beady Eyes

Every since my first encounter with Office Depot, I’ve been in love with all things organization. Now that I’m a bit older and have something of an aesthetic sense (I still wear mismatched socks, so don’t be too impressed), my passion for post-its has grown to include pretty key holders and paper stackers and things called “Catch-Alls” which is the 7258472prettiest way of saying “Junk Drawer.”

Our apartment came furnished. This meant my husband and I were able to move across the country for under $300 (including gas) and walk into a lovely little studio apartment with more lamps and bookshelves than we could ever need. And stuffed pheasants. And silky curtains. And doilies and some kind of branchy bathroom decor and fake plants and mismatched floral prints and did I mentioned the stuffed pheasants? These aren’t complaints, because this apartment is quite possibly the best thing that has ever happened to us, but I’m not winning any decor awards anytime soon.

And that’s okay. Because this is where our best and worst moments live; often simultaneously.

I hear our landlords’ TV and dogs through our thin connecting wall. I can choose to hear the disruptive sounds of yet another made-for-TV movie or I can hear the hospitality of a generous couple that shares their life with us.

I see the gross sticky remains of spilled hot chocolate in my Tupperware drawer. Or I can see mercy personified in my husband as he patiently cleaned up my spill and then offered me his own warm cocoa.

I groan about dirty dishes that will always exist forever or I can remember that these are ghosts of meals prepared with laughter and dinners eaten in good company.

I see dead stuffed pheasants watching me with their beady black eyes as they perch atop my closet or I can see dead stuffed pheasants. No romanticizing my way out of that one.

So much of life is perspective. And it doesn’t have to be Pinterest perfect to be beautiful.

Game Point

Confessions of a Newlywed: I kept score.2541312.jpg

You’re not supposed to. According to the marriage books and the Bible, love keeps no accounts of who did the dishes last and who most ordinarily plans the meals and who has the longer commute. Yet I continually struggled through the first few months of marriage to not mentally keeping track of these things and feel personally offended when chores weren’t done EVEN THOUGH I WAS CLEARLY AHEAD IN THE IMAGINARY GAME AND HAD MORE POINTS.

And then I got sick. Evidently, camping in 20 degree weather after you’ve been nursing an ear ache and low fever for a month is not a recipe for health. I lay helpless on the couch, coughing, hot and cold, feverish and peevish. And Luke, being more wise and better at listening to marriage books, the Bible, and marriage vows, took care of me and the house, made the food and deep cleaned the kitchen.

All of a sudden, I didn’t want to keep score anymore. I realized I not only wasn’t in the lead but I was losing points rapidly. Keeping score is only fun when you think you’re ahead.

As merciful and kind as Luke was in my hour of need, God is immeasurably more so in our lifetime of inadequacy. Yet I ask Him why He hasn’t delivered on certain things I believe I deserve. I am confused when I don’t see things in my life unfolding the way I imagined, the way I planned for, the way I worked to achieve. Why do I feel this way? I’m keeping score because I think I’m ahead and God owes me something.

The only thing I’ve earned from God is a cup of wrath and suffering. Yet He dumped out that cup on my behalf to save me from myself and my sin. That would be enough. But God continues to amaze me as He takes that cup, now empty of wrath, and fills it with blessings beyond belief. A husband who doesn’t keep score, an apartment, family, good food, friends, a fairy garden, Costco ice cream, warm bread, sunny walks.

So I’ve put away my scorecard for good. In that game, winning is losing.

Adulting Tip

I’ve had several wonderful conversations with friends in the last few days, most of whom are recent graduates stretching those baby wings farther than they thought they could before.

It’s incredibly cathartic to have those moments of, “Oh, you feel that way too?  I’m not crazy?”

In an effort to keep that ball rolling, I thought I’d share an Adulting tip I’ve picked up over the last few months.

If you aren’t going to do anything about a problem, stop complaining.

For example, I’ve been having ongoing right ear issues for the last month and a half. If I’m in a large group of people, my right ear seems to dial into some fuzzy FM station and I can’t hear anything from that side of my head. And even when it’s not impersonating a bad radio experience, everything is muted.

I did go to an ear doctor, who was incredibly unhelpful, but I’ve been delaying finding another appointment because Time. There’s never enough but you should probably make some when you’re facing hearing loss. In the meantime, I was making others wish they were deaf with my constant stream of ear-related complaints but general vagueness when asked, “What are you going to do about it?”

So here’s my time-tested tip: pursue a solution or shush up.

Impossible Nostalgia

I just wish things were the way they never have been.  174984

It’s fall in Southern California, which means that it’s not fall at all.  Palm trees don’t change leaves, and over-priced cider from Walmart isn’t the same as freshly squeezed apple nectar from an orchard.

At first, I attributed my intense nostalgia to the lack of autumn here and a general homesickness.  Yet, as I attempted to self-medicate this heart sickness through Facebook crawling and copious amounts of decaffeinated tea (official sign of the end of college life), I realized that I was battling an impossible nostalgia.

1043516I have this idea that at some indeterminate point in my past, I enjoyed  quality time with my closest friends while attending a continual coffeehouse and the charms of my hometown.  The reality is, many of my closest friends from college graduated before I did.  School was stressful and cafeterias are inhumane and I was more likely to be serving coffee than sipping it in acoustic bliss. Not only that, but I have dear kindred souls from childhood and high school and none of them are ever in the same place at the same time.  And if I walked through the streets of my hometown, very few would remember my name or face.

It’s a feeling of impossible nostalgia that carries the hope of a reunited tomorrow.

I am not missing out on anything nor can I return to this rose-tinted moment that never existed.   And I have hope for my own Clapham group in the future.  Luke and I are so blessed to have such incredible friends from coast to coast.  Maybe, one day, we’ll all be within driving distance (or at least the same time zone).  I know I’m biased because the common denominator between you all is my husband and I, but I promise you it would be awesome if we gave it a try.  Because you all have already impacted our lives in so many ways for so much good.  Thank you.

Until next time,
Chloe

Gold Stars & Grey Dots

For every sincere congratulations on my upcoming marriage, there’s at least one criticizing remark about the rashness of marrying young or foolishness of not continuing my education.  I don’t think the polar-opposite responses are limited to me, my fiance, or our plans.  The temptation to compare and judge runs rampant at this time of year, especially for graduating seniors.

We compare ourselves to those that are getting married, going to grad school, getting a job at XYZ company, teaching overseas, becoming missionaries, moving back home, taking an extra year to graduate, are in 5 weddings, didn’t get invited to any weddings, are getting a job at IDL company making more money than the person at XYZ company, have 3 interviews lined up, are working at a summer camp, winning this award, volunteering with that non-profit, and the person that has no idea what May 17th will hold.
To justify our own decisions, we line up all of these options, place our plan at the top of the mental measuring stick, and then demonize the rest to assure ourselves that we are wise, weare valued, our four years at college did mean something.
I’ve done it.  I’ve watched my friends do it to themselves, to others, and to me.  As I watch this phenomenon unfold, a children’s book I read when I was 7 or 8 comes to mind.
In Max Lucado’s You Are Special, there is a village of wooden people, each expertly crafted by the Creator.  Each wooden person has a box of gold star and grey dot stickers.  When someone does something impressive, looks attractive, or says something witty, everyone rushes over and showers them in gold stars.  But if you aren’t so good-looking, have a tendency to blunder, or trip over yourself, it’s grey dots for you.
It isn’t until the protagonist, a grey-dot-covered fellow, talks to the Creator and learns that he isn’t a mistake but was carefully crafted by the One that loves him despite earthly successes and failures, is he able to start shedding the stickers.  The more he trusts in the love of his Creator, the less stickers will stick to him.  This confuses the other wooden people.  They rush to cover him with gold stars for not having grey dots, but they fall off.  So they try to cover him with grey dots due to his lack of gold stars, but those don’t stick either because his identity rests not in the comparison of relative achievement or lack of failure, but in his identity as a creation of the Creator.
The story is beautifully illustrated in this 8-minute video below:
The stickers only stick if you let them.  The stickers only stick if they matter to you.
 
While the moral of the story is obviously to rest in your identity as a child of God, I particularly love the point it makes about the foolishness of comparing oneself to others.  People will love you for your lack of grey dots.  They will judge you for your lack of gold stars.  Which means if your worth is wrapped up in grey dots and gold stars, you’ll always be better and worse than someone else and you’ll always be miserable trying to change that.
As peers all transitioning from our undergraduate experiences to something, anything, whatever it may be, I think it’s time to throw away our stickers.

Loving Better

Since May 15th at 7:00 pm, when I triumphantly handed in my last final of my Junior year, I’ve slept in 8 different beds with 2 more to go before I return to my bright raspberry creamsicle room.

I never expected to stay in (multiple) strangers homes, co-author and self-publish a childrens’ book, go to Boston, or take up kickboxing during this past 3 months span.

Through a series of  conversations, packing up and moving out, getting caught in the rain (always), making friends at the Y, learning how to write (again), learning about what makes a family, Skyping Siberia, and waiting tables at barn weddings, I finally picked up on God’s creative ways of teaching me to love better by:

Loving Myself Less
I’ve always had a surplus of confidence, allowing me to walk into almost any situation with the assumption that I will not only learn quickly the necessary skills to thrive, but that I would come up with a better way of doing things.  Being an intern for HOPE International, an excellently run organization with competent leadership and a vision way beyond my overly confident self, was incredibly humbling and refreshing.  I was valued for my skills but expected to stretch myself and learn from those around me.  Not hard to do, when surrounded by some of the most intelligent and faithful servants of God I have ever had the pleasure of working alongside.
Loving Change More
Even though I’m leaving the summer with more to-do lists than I came in with, I’ve learned that plans not only can change on a dime–they will.  It’s part of life and being able to embrace the unpredictability of not having the world under my control (who knew?) has released me from the impossible burden of always arranging everything just so.
[This book helped immensely.]
Loving Others Better
 
It’s only because I am a mere 4 days from seeing my fiance again that I can say that this summer has been a wonderfully growing experience in learning how to one day (soon!) be a godly wife and in the meantime, love and serve to the best of my ability.  Of course, a month ago, I would have just whined about time zones and distance.  Thank you to all who have showed me examples of Christ-centered marriages and shared their candid advice.   More on this to come.
Loving Life Fully
 
Its a crazy adventure, but it’s worth living.

Riding Solo

In this Summer of Growing Up, I have officially accomplished one of my many goals.  You’ll be hearing about the rest later.

I successfully completed my first road trip by myself!  This may not sound that impressive, but given my affinity for getting lost, the mere fact that I made it to my destination within a five hour window of my intended arrival time is something that I gleefully celebrated.

Even though I wasn’t able to indulge in my favorite activity of car sleeping, it went by quickly.  I became proficient in radio channel changing, food sign scanning, and meaningless merging.

Next Growing Up Goal: Surviving the Wild Topography of Lecture-Based Conferences

Stay tuned for more adventures!

Always,
Chloe

I Didn’t Know

I have officially written as many drafts here as I have actual blog posts.  The fact that this blog has has over 10,000 views also seems remarkable.  Yet what really caught me off guard when looking back through this blog’s history, was that I started scribbling thoughts here 5 years ago.

I don’t feel like I am old enough to have been doing something for 5 years.  I’m sure some hobbies can claim that longevity, but in my mind, I started blogging when I thought I had something worthwhile to say which is  when I thought I had achieved some standard level of maturity and adulthood.

5 years ago, I was a freshman in high school.  I knew nothing.  But I also knew that I knew nothing, which helped a lot.  I knew that I was the product of society and my school system and The Town and my family.  I didn’t do much about it, yet I knew it.

But there were a lot of things I had no idea about.

I didn’t know that I wasn’t going to be an engineer.  I didn’t know that I was much weaker in some ways than I thought.  I didn’t know how many people that I would see die.  I didn’t know how much brokenness there was in this world and how little I could do about it.

But I also didn’t know how much of a help I could be if I looked beyond myself.  I didn’t know about the sleepless nights and tired days.  I didn’t know how writing would simultaneously save me and destroy me.  I didn’t know that God was truly my only Savior.  I didn’t know that I would go to a Christian college, or even that I would still be a Christian at this point. I didn’t know about the incredible friends and memories I would find here.  I couldn’t have anticipated the amount of mental strain I would have to learn to overcome. I didn’t know that I would see lives fall apart and God piece me together.

While I’ve never put much stock in who I am, I have an inexhaustible source of confidence of what can I can do.  Even so, alone, I am nothing.  With God, I am still nothing but I am with God.  Being able to say that is more astounding than 5, 10, or 15 years of life-changing experiences.

Fights with Strangers

Something I will never understand is the inflammatory comments on YouTube videos that never fail to start a fight with a stranger.  Who do you think you are that people actually care about your opinion about a song?  Except evidently people do care, because they respond, and re-respond, and get into entire debates about the merit of an artist that no one cares that much about in the first place.

Then I realize that I am staring at my computer, reading these absurd comments from people who have nothing better to do than write comments and I am someone who clearly has nothing better to do than read those comments.  Yet I do have better things to do, like use this public platform to rant about a pet peeve that is mostly irrelevant.

Role Play

A case study was done in the basement of the psychology department at Stanford University where 24 mentally stable participants pretend to be prisoners or guards in a mock prison setting.  The simulation was meant to last two weeks but was ended after 8 days due to concerns about the prisoners’ psychological health who lost touch with reality.

This might be an extreme example, but if there is anything we are good at, it is playing roles.  Even when we know that the role is completely false, it is only a matter of time before it becomes our identity.

Your role in life is shaped by the people you grew up with, the stories you were read as a child, the dreams that inspire you, your peers who surround you, the mentors that guide you, those that try to derail you, the culture that shapes us, and hopefully, the God that created you.

I’ve spent a great deal of time and energy trying to fight this reality.  In my mind, there must be some way to rise above this scenario where everyone typecasts me into a character and expects a performance that follows their script.  I hope you have the complete awareness of self and external influences with the strength to view life from the clouds with your feet on the ground.  I certainly don’t.

If I could be anywhere else or do anything else with my life than attend college in Western PA and run this race, I don’t think I would.  I believe that we experience life in the way we perceive it be.  Our location and surroundings are secondary to internal perspective.  I can live life fully here, in Michigan, or across the ocean.

Even though life can easily become a game of make-believe, I am willing to live within that structure.  I could waste my time trying to be completely independent from my situations and circumstances.  I’d rather be aware of what is shaping the roles that I chase and make sure those sources line up with who God instructs me to be.

I’d rather know who I am becoming than fight an impossible battle.