Easter

05-garden-tomb-02_1

The Garden Tomb just outside the walls of Jerusalem.  This is one of two possible sites that is believed to be where Jesus was buried after his crucifixion.  The evidence was compelling, but whether this was the true site or not, the tomb here at least provided a visual for where Jesus was buried on that first Good Friday.

After the story was recounted and the evidence was presented to us, we had a chance to look inside the tomb.

05-garden-tomb-04_1

Above all else, the evidence that was most pronounced to me was that it was empty.  When they discovered this tomb, this burial place had a pillow cut into the rock and the foot carved out – signs that it was a finished burial place.  The one next to it, in contrast, had not been completed.  Two burial places in this tomb, only one completed.  It was prepared for someone, but it was empty.  It was empty!

This completes the story.  The punishment for our shortcomings is death.  God loved us so much that He said, “Whoa, you all are in a predicament that you cannot escape on your own.  Tell you what, I will take your punishment for you.”  In the most awful death, Jesus died on the cross for our sins.  He was buried.  Three days later, Jesus conquered death.  He left us with an empty tomb and gave us a victory that we could never earn on our own.  We don’t deserve it, but this victory is ours for the taking.

This grace and mercy, this unfailing love, this hope, this victory and promise of an abundant life…this is Easter!

(Here is one of the songs we sang in church this Easter morning.)

Share

Incomplete Without that Sunday

This story was read to me nearly fifteen years ago, and from time to time it will creep to the forefront of my mind and recast a swell of gratitude, humility, and reverence.  It couldn’t convey a more appropriate theme for this week…

Ragman
by Walter Wangerin, Jr.

I saw a strange sight. I stumbled upon a story most strange, like nothing my life, my street sense, my sly tongue had ever prepared me for.

Hush, child. Hush, now, and I will tell it to you.

Even before the dawn one Friday morning I noticed a young man, handsome and strong, walking the alleys of our City. He was pulling an old cart filled with clothes both bright and new, and he was calling in a clear, tenor voice: “Rags!” Ah, the air was foul and the first light filthy to be crossed by such sweet music.

“Rags! New rags for old! I take your tired rags! Rags!”

“Now, this is a wonder,” I thought to myself, for the man stood six-feet-four, and his arms were like tree limbs, hard and muscular, and his eyes flashed intelligence. Could he find no better job than this, to be a ragman in the inner city?

I followed him. My curiosity drove me. And I wasn’t disappointed.

Soon the Ragman saw a woman sitting on her back porch. She was sobbing into a handkerchief, sighing, and shedding a thousand tears. Her knees and elbows made a sad X. Her shoulders shook. Her heart was breaking.

The Ragman stopped his cart. Quietly, he walked to the woman, stepping round tin cans, dead toys, and Pampers.

“Give me your rag,” he said so gently, “and I’ll give you another.”

He slipped the handkerchief from her eyes. She looked up, and he laid across her palm a linen cloth so clean and new that it shined. She blinked from the gift to the giver.

Then, as he began to pull his cart again, the Ragman did a strange thing: he put her stained handkerchief to his own face; and then HE began to weep, to sob as grievously as she had done, his shoulders shaking. Yet she was left without a tear.

“This IS a wonder,” I breathed to myself, and I followed the sobbing Ragman like a child who cannot turn away from mystery.

“Rags! Rags! New rags for old!”

In a little while, when the sky showed grey behind the rooftops and I could see the shredded curtains hanging out black windows, the Ragman came upon a girl whose head was wrapped in a bandage, whose eyes were empty. Blood soaked her bandage. A single line of blood ran down her cheek.

Now the tall Ragman looked upon this child with pity, and he drew a lovely yellow bonnet from his cart.

“Give me your rag,” he said, tracing his own line on her cheek, “and I’ll give you mine.”

The child could only gaze at him while he loosened the bandage, removed it, and tied it to his own head. The bonnet he set on hers. And I gasped at what I saw: for with the bandage went the wound! Against his brow it ran a darker, more substantial blood – his own!

“Rags! Rags! I take old rags!” cried the sobbing, bleeding, strong, intelligent Ragman.

The sun hurt both the sky, now, and my eyes; the Ragman seemed more and more to hurry.

“Are you going to work?” he asked a man who leaned against a telephone pole. The man shook his head.

The Ragman pressed him: “Do you have a job?”

“Are you crazy?” sneered the other. He pulled away from the pole, revealing the right sleeve of his jacket – flat, the cuff stuffed into the pocket. He had no arm.

“So,” said the Ragman. “Give me your jacket, and I’ll give you mine.”

Such quiet authority in his voice!

The one-armed man took off his jacket. So did the Ragman – and I trembled at what I saw: for the Ragman’s arm stayed in its sleeve, and when the other put it on he had two good arms, thick as tree limbs; but the Ragman had only one.

“Go to work,” he said.

After that he found a drunk, lying unconscious beneath an army blanket, an old man, hunched, wizened, and sick. He took that blanket and wrapped it round himself, but for the drunk he left new clothes.

And now I had to run to keep up with the Ragman. Though he was weeping uncontrollably, and bleeding freely at the forehead, pulling his cart with one arm, stumbling for drunkenness, falling again and again, exhausted, old, old, and sick, yet he went with terrible speed. On spider’s legs he skittered through the alleys of the City, this mile and the next, until he came to its limits, and then he rushed beyond.

I wept to see the change in this man. I hurt to see his sorrow. And yet I needed to see where he was going in such haste, perhaps to know what drove him so.

The little old Ragman – he came to a landfill. He came to the garbage pits. And then I wanted to help him in what he did, but I hung back, hiding. He climbed a hill. With tormented labor he cleared a little space on that hill. Then he sighed. He lay down. He pillowed his head on a handkerchief and a jacket. He covered his bones with an army blanket. And he died.

Oh, how I cried to witness that death! I slumped in a junked car and wailed and mourned as one who has no hope – because I had come to love the Ragman. Every other face had faded in the wonder of this man, and I cherished him; but he died. I sobbed myself to sleep.

I did not know – how could I know? – that I slept through Friday night and Saturday and its night, too.

But then, on Sunday morning, I was wakened by a violence.

Light – pure, hard, demanding light – slammed against my sour face, and I blinked, and I looked, and I saw the last and the first wonder of all. There was the Ragman, folding the blanket most carefully, a scar on his forehead, but alive! And, besides that, healthy! There was no sign of sorrow nor of age, and all the rags that he had gathered shined for cleanliness.

Well, then I lowered my head and trembling for all that I had seen, I myself walked up to the Ragman. I told him my name with shame, for I was a sorry figure next to him. Then I took off all my clothes in that place, and I said to him with dear yearning in my voice: “Dress me.”

He dressed me. My Lord, he put new rags on me, and I am a wonder beside him. The Ragman, the Ragman, the Christ!

Share

Keep Watch

Today begins Holy Week.  The events celebrated this week are the most critical of the Christian faith.  Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem (our Palm Sunday), the Last Supper, the Crucifixtion, the Resurrection – these are no small potatoes.  One of the powerful moments during Jesus’ final week on Earth occurred in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26).  Just before he is given over to his enemies who eventually crucify him, here in this garden Jesus tells his friends how heavy his heart is because he knows that he will soon bear the sins of the world on the cross.  He knows that death is closely upon him.  He sobs.  He prays.  Three times he lets God know that he doesn’t want to go through with this, but in those same moments he surrenders his will and says, okay, if this is really your plan, God, then I’m in.

April’s masthead shows olive trees from the Garden of Gethsemane that breathed the same air that Jesus did.  When we walked through this olive garden on our trip to Israel in November, I wanted so badly to hear these centuries-old trees tell the story of what they had seen, of what they had heard.  I cannot imagine the overwhelming sorrow of that night with Jesus.  But I hope someone told those trees that night to keep watch, because just beyond the darkest event in history comes the most remarkable, the most beautiful, the most powerful event this Earth has known.  Keep watch, good news is coming!

***

Gethsemane

The grass never sleeps.
Or the roses.
Nor does the lily have a secret eye that shuts until morning.
Jesus said, wait with me. But the disciples slept.
The cricket has such splendid fringe on its feet,
and it sings, have you noticed, with its whole body,
and heaven knows if it ever sleeps.

Jesus said, wait with me. And maybe the stars did, maybe
the wind wound itself into a silver tree, and didn’t move,
maybe,
the lake far away, where once he walked as on a
blue pavement,
lay still and waited, wild awake.

Oh the dear bodies, slumped and eye-shut, that could not
keep that vigil, how they must have wept,
so utterly human, knowing this too
must be a part of the story.

~Mary Oliver

Share

Mom Says I Have the Gift of Encouragement

If I had a little more time on my hands and fewer piles that needed to be filed or scrapbooked, I would love to create e-cards and/or greeting cards as a hobby.  I have even gone so far as to imagine this site evolving beyond a blog to include an e-store of sorts with cards and fonts and stock photos.  Why not dream big?  Well, I’m far from pursuing that dream right now and perhaps far from qualified, but I was reminded of this interest this weekend when I stumbled across a funny website that helps people caption photos, particularly funny pet photos.  I started to try out the website, and then I thought, wait!  I know how to do this with my own software!  In fact, this is what I want to do someday with my photos in the form of greeting cards!

I stopped using the website, but took the photo that I was going to use and created my own sample e-card (some of you have seen this photo and idea before).  My website doesn’t have the ability to send actual e-cards right now, but if you find the message below deeply moving and appropriate for a loved one, I suppose the image could be a makeshift e-card if you click on the photo, copy the URL, and send the URL link to whoever needs to feel your electronic love and support.

In a time of economic hardship for our country, hopefully the following “e-card” will uplift many.

Job Loss E-card

Share

Green Day

No, I am not talking about the band.  Though, if I were referring to Green Day the rock band I’m sure my husband would have something to say about how the trio is underrated.  Today is March 17th, so I am talking about none other than St. Patrick’s Day!

Frankly, I know very little about this holiday other than what I quickly read on Wikipedia before writing this post.  I don’t really care to elaborate on its origins; what makes the day special for me is that it was Ro’s favorite holiday.  The man loved Jesus, but Christmas and Easter didn’t unearth nearly as many dollar-store items in our household as St. Patrick’s Day did.  Ro owned no “Kiss me, Jesus is Risen!” buttons, but Lord knows on March 17th the “Kiss me, I’m Irish!” button was pinned to his black and green plaid cardigan at the top o’ the morn’!

To date, Ro is the only person I’ve known who, on St. Paddy’s Day, would receive as many store-bought cards and incoming phone calls as he would for a birthday.  He was not shy about his love for the day; if his words didn’t express it, then the Shamrock sticker on his Bible sure made it clear.  One year he decorated the kitchen with green streamers cascading from the chandelier to the kitchen walls like the spokes of a wheel.  This was a day to be celebrated!

The leprechaun cut-outs Ro hung around the house were cute too, but to have a day where you are practically obligated to drink a stein of beer – I believe this cuts to the core of his Paddy’s Day passion.  Ro grew up in a Nazerene church where things like dancing, playing cards, and drinking alcohol were pooh-poohed, yet out of this strict upbringing grew a man who loved to have a glass of wine or a tall, stout beer with his blazing hot shephard’s pie – just a glass or two at a meal to give his lips a refreshing blast of heaven.  We rarely had any alcohol in the house as I grew up, so any chance for him to have a drink was a treat.

St. Patrick’s Day, 2001, Brian and Ro went for a midday green beer.  I was at my parents’ house when the phone rang – another Happy St. Patrick’s Day call for Ro.  It was his sister, my Aunt Virginia.  Ro had such a sweet, close relationship with his sister.  I also adored and loved her.  I don’t recall ever meeting her in person, but before she became too weak to use a typewriter she and I were Pen Pals.  She would send the most sincere, thoughtful notes to encourage me, pray for me, and tell me stories of her life.  Sadly, she passed away last year, the summer before Ro did.

On this particular day, Aunt Virginia and I exchanged a couple updates with each other.  I knew she wanted to talk to Ro, but I explained to her, “He’s out drinking green beer with Brian.”  She laughed.  I laughed.  But later that day I learned that we were laughing for different reasons.  She laughed because she thought I was making a joke.  I laughed because I was thinking oh, that Ro and his green beer.

What I didn’t know until after the phone call was that Aunt Virginia never knew that Ro consumed alcoholic beverages, let alone that he had an acquired taste for them.  A devout Christian and product of the Nazarene church herself, she adhered to the no-drinking rule and assumed that her brother did as well.  I know heaven doesn’t look back at Earth or celebrate our holidays or resemble life as we know it, but I still find myself creating a story in my head of Ro and Aunt Virginia together.  Ro is chuckling with a Paddy’s Day beer in hand as his sister discovers this little secret of his, and then starts to make sense of that phone call I had with her eight years ago.  Of course my little fantasy is so irrelevant for them now, for as much as Ro loved to celebrate this day, there is no holiday or event on this Earth that can come close to matching the celebration that they know now and will experience for eternity.

Thinking of you today, Ro!

Share

One!

The March masthead came about when I realized that 1) I haven’t taken any pictures in the last month, and 2) a year ago this month we purchased a new car, a 2008 Toyota Prius.  I have never had a brand new, driven-less-than-ten-miles-when-we-drove-it-off-the-lot vehicle, so owning it has felt like living in luxury, even when I’m driving while wearing my $9.99 pajama bottoms and a spaghetti-stained race t-shirt.

When we bought the car every inch of it was so shiny and flawless, a state that I knew we’d never see again, so I drove it to a municipal park near our house for a little photo shoot. Thank goodness there were no baseball or soccer games going on at the time, because I didn’t need dirty, toothless children staring and pointing at me to clue me in to my quirkiness.  I recognized on my own that I looked strange snapping photos with such extreme detail.  But hey, at least I wasn’t shouting, “Work it!  Work it!  Look right at the camera!  Now give me pouty lips!”

Here are just a couple shots of the car as the photo shoot waned in to the sunset and post sunset hours.  Note the sunset sky reflecting on the car in the first photo and the full moon in the second.  Ooooooooo.

prius34-copy-2

prius38-copy-2

I originally thought that I would use this photo as the masthead for this month…

prius31-copy

…because when is there any other time that your car’s engine is so abnormally clean that you want to lick it or cut fresh fruit on it? There is no other time. Further, how often do you see a lickable car engine as the masthead to a blog? Probably not too often. While I was excited about this rarity, Brian vetoed it in favor of the dashboard view masthead. In the name of love, I let his first choice prevail.

(After I added the dashboard view to the website, I tried to think of something profound that I could say about the photo, but all that came to mind was Meatloaf’s Paradise by the Dashboard Light, and the harder I tried to think the louder the lyrics “DO YOU LOVE ME? WILL YOU LOVE ME FOREVER?…” resonated in my head. Ah well, instead of thought-provoking I got memories of junior high dances.)

So I was enamored with the pristine newness of the car, but as I celebrate the first anniversary as its owner, please realize that the anniversary excitement is less about the car and more about the opportunity to count something.  I can’t help it; I was born in to a family who has a strange affinity for numbers.  My father teaches math, and my grandfather, mother, and brother are accountants.  Am I forgetting anyone?  Well, most of the rest of us without a bean-counting job title still enjoy numbers in our spare time.  We monitor baseball and football stats, count stairs, find patterns in phone numbers, take heed to random dates (e.g. insignificant anniversaries), and oogle over the odometer in the car, to name only a few examples.  Heck, even before one of my nephews started kindergarten he was counting by 11’s and playing games with people’s ages.  Just like The Count on Sesame Street, we cry if we do not get to count things and we will sometimes send letters to ourselves just so we can count the incoming mail.  Okay, maybe we don’t do the latter, but cry if we run out of things to count?  Yes, yes we cry.

Does anyone else think of their odometer as a little dial of magic?  When my brother was in high school trying to decide what topic he should choose for a paper, my grandfather told him that he should seriously consider writing his paper on how my grandfather’s car hit 66,666 miles that week.  Similarly, my mom and I will often call each other to excitedly announce that our odometer struck a number like 80,000 or a fun palindrome like 105,501.  In every car ride, a surprise awaits.

Anyway, as The Count would say about the Prius today, “One!  One anniversary!  A a a a a!”

Share

Paper That You Can Trade In

Two years ago today, I called my nephew to wish him a happy birthday.  He had turned 7.  My sister-in-law answered the phone, and here’s how the conversation went down…

Kris: Evan, Auntie Michelle wants to talk to you.

[Evan grabs the phone.]

Evan: What?

Kris (in background): Um, how about “hello?”

Evan: Hello?

[I immediately sing happy birthday.]

Evan (monotone): Thanks.

[After a couple nice conversational exchanges…]

Evan: Thank you for my birthday car-

Kris (in background): That was from Aunt Kimmy, not Auntie Michelle.

[Evan is silent for a moment, clearly thinking through his next step.]

Evan: Well, Aunt Kimmy got me a birthday card and inside was this paper that you could trade in-

Kris (in background): It’s a check.

Evan: Well, it had a check that you could trade in for money, so I traded that in and my allowance for heelies…

***

I’d like to hear more about this paper you can trade in for money.  And whether or not they make heelies in adult shoe sizes.

Happy 9th birthday, Evan!  I’m still ridiculously crazy about you, kid!

Share

Walker Road

February ended moments ago and if I’m going to keep up with what I’ve been doing then I need to find a new masthead for March, but before I do let me explain the current one, Walker Road.  A two-minute jog from my development, I have spent many, many hours on this road by foot, by bike, and by car.  It’s the by foot and by bike experiences that stir up a sense of nostalgia within me.  We live on the border of highly developed land and rolling country farm land.  Walker Road celebrates this close-to-country feel, so when I am out training here I love to breathe in the peaceful, simple air and enjoy the homes with yards that do not live under the rule of a developer.

I’ve even come to enjoy the company of the horse-like dog that chases me while bellowing a ferocious bark – well, that is, he chases me as far as he can on his side of the fence.  At first I was terrified by the beast, since I’ve been twice bitten by dogs, but now I pretend we’re friends, and in between breaths as I run or ride past I call to him in motherese, “Hi, Pup!  How’s my pup?  Gooood, puppy pup!”  I can tell this confuses him, like how could his prey seem so loving?  One day he will learn to jump the fence and will either eat my face or exfoliate it with a sloppy, friendly lick.  Every time I run by I wonder if today is the day I will find out if we’re friends or foes.  Mental note: start carrying steak in hydration belt.  And bear spray.

Like a no-nonsense friend, Walker Road is honest.  So brutally honest.  Without inhibition it will tell me what kind of shape I’m in, and its words have not always been kind.  There are portions of the road that are subtly hilly, and there are sections that are unmistakably steep.  The hill at the end of the road, for example, is so steep that on more than one bike ride I have pumped my weary legs at a pathetic 3.8 mph while trying to climb it.  This is so slow that my front wheel wobbles back and forth to keep me from falling over during the brief moments that I am actually motionless in between pedals.  Coming down this hill I have gained speeds over 35 mph, which is challenging in its own right.

There is a creepy stand-alone garage along the road in which I always imagine a serial killer resides, so as I run or ride by I scheme my survival, just in case I’m right.  When I hear rustling leaves on another stretch of the road I imagine a wild cat living in the woods and again I plan accordingly.  I usually moo at the couple of cows that seem very out of place in the yard of one home, and make up stories to explain why no one has ever been seen using the outdoor swimming pool at another.  The water in the ponds and little creeks looks refreshing albeit completely undrinkable.  The open fields and trees are rather simple, yet I can’t help but stare as I go past.

There’s a barn that stands against the road.  Not sure why I love it, and until I took a picture of it this past month I couldn’t even remember what color it was.  In my mind its walls are blank slates that change colors, like a mood ring varying by my emotional state.  Whatever color, the sun strikes the building perfectly and it somehow inspires me to endure or to smile or to pray or to set goals or to count my blessings.  I’m not necessarily a barn person, but have found raw, rousing beauty in this one.

Maybe that’s why I set Walker Road as the masthead for February.  February can be a doozy of a month.  It can be cold.  It can be gloomy.  But these pictures remind me that even during a hard run we can find things that inspire us to endure…to smile…to count our blessings.

winter_0016-copy-2

Share

Worthy

Every Wednesday during the semester my department has Research Round Table, or RRT.  Research Round Table is a great name to describe the weekly meeting; RRT is a horrible acronym.  It may not look like a horrible acronym, but try saying it out loud.  Quickly.  You sounded like a hungry gawking seal, didn’t you?  So when I am in my lab and someone asks if I can meet with them or go for lunch on Wednesday at noon, I almost always blush when I say, “No, I’m sorry I can’t, I have RRT,” because I know the person listening to me cocks their head a little and crosses their fingers hoping that I don’t grow a flipper and slither onto the floor like Daryl Hannah did in Splash.

Last Wednesday at RRT we had a different format than the typical journal club or think-a-loud or research presentation.  Instead the graduate students threw out questions for faculty about the writing process, the publication process, and managing professorial responsibilities in academia.  The meeting was enlightening and inspiring and daunting and discouraging.

At one point, the conversation tail-spinned into a discussion on the peer review process.  When a manuscript is submitted for publication to a scientific journal, if it is deemed worthy by the editor it is sent to other scientists for peer review.  The reviewers have at the manuscript like hungry paper-eating wolves, critiquing everything that is weak and wrong in the writing, and then deciding whether or not the study is worthy of publication.  All this goes on while it is thundering and lightning outside with ominous music playing in the background, and the reviewers are throwing their heads back in uproarious, evil laughter.

In rare circumstances a manuscript is accepted with no modifications.  Although I can’t say that it isn’t a good goal to aim for “accepted with no modifications,” my sense is that the result of having such a lofty goal would be similar in result to getting on the Tilt-A-Whirl ride at a carnival, leaving your wallet on the seat next to you as you spin and twirl madly, and then expecting your wallet to be there on the seat at the end of the ride – in either case you will be let down.  Also your hair will be ridiculously disheveled.  More likely when submitting a manuscript one can expect to see “accept with modifications,” “modify and resubmit,” or “reject.”

The purpose of the peer review system admirably is to improve the quality of published articles, and likewise comments are meant to improve the conceptual and technical aspects of these manuscripts.  Perhaps on occasion this process unfolds beautifully as intended, like a budding flower opening to the warmth of the sun.  On the other hand, my beloved faculty shared one woeful experience after another about frustrating reviewers and outrageous comments.  All this from a group who I admire, who are profoundly intelligent, and who are well veteraned in writing and publishing.  They continued to explain that no one in academia has time to dwell on the strengths of a manuscript; if a paragraph or concept is not red-marked so to speak, then it is considered to be good, or at least good enough.  It’s the epitome of “no news is good news.”

I floated out of the circle of conversation for a moment to reflect on this.  There really are few moments in this profession where someone comes along, pats you on the back and says good job.  The positive feedback is not extinct, but certainly endangered.  This predicament trickles down into advisor-graduate student interactions as well.  Compliments can take on strange forms.

red-ink

Not far off from this satirical comic is a particular instance where I had emailed a paper to my advisor.  In her return email she said that I really did do a great job on the paper…and then I opened the attached document and saw an obscene amount of comments and changes.  Hard to believe the “great job” in the body of the email was written in reference to the very file that had been subjected to the dreaded advisor review.  Of course in this case many of her comments substantially improved the paper, but that doesn’t mean that the imbalance of feedback wasn’t difficult for me.  In my thirst for affirmation, I read the “great job” at least fifty times so that it felt more like fifty compliments instead of just one.  It helped to offset the three thousand comments in the paper.

So during this RRT discussion the overall message was that the critics can be harsh.  The advice on how to deal with this stark reality was 1) to allow yourself time to cool off before responding and 2) to grow thicker skin.  For a person that craves positive feedback and approval, these were grim coping strategies.  I left the meeting with angst over my future.  If I continue in this profession, who’s going to tell me “nice job,” or “well written,” or “great idea”?  With constant focus on what is wrong with my work, how am I going to feel any sense of worth?

Well, I went home that night and God decided to use my procrastination for good as I read the following post from Stuff Christians Like (a funny, inspirational, well-written blog that I stumbled upon while doing the ever popular Facebook stalking):

Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Wondering if we’re worth anything.
I interpret any two people closing any door in the entire office at work as a private meeting that is being held to discuss my imminent termination.

When I hear the sliding door sound that our cool offices make when we seal them shut, that little panicked voice inside me says, “You’re going to get fired.” When I am left off a meeting invite, I automatically think, “Why did that guy leave me off the meeting? Does he know I’m a dead man walking? Is he thinking ‘what’s the use of inviting Acuff to this meeting, he’ll be fired soon?” And I start to worry that I might be turning invisible. Like that photograph of Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future, I’m disappearing and unless someone plays “Earth Angel” and two people make out, I’m gone.

That’s ridiculous. It’s embarrassing that the running dialog in my head gallops to that so quickly like a drunken gazelle. (See, even that analogy was lacking because I’m stressed.)

But as dumb as that is, as complicated and tangled as the thoughts in my head feel, I think they come back to something I’ve written about on this site before, something that is impossibly simple …

I want someone to tell me that I am enough.

I want someone to validate that I matter. That I am valuable and important. Like Thom Yorke said in the song “Creep,” “I want you to notice when I’m not around.”

And it turns out I’m not the only one.

Two weeks ago news broke that Alex Rodriguez, arguably one of the greatest baseball players of our generation, took steroids in 2003. If you don’t follow sports, this was a huge deal. It’s the equivalent of say, Samson using performance enhancements or finding out that David had used a pistol on Goliath instead of a sling.

That a professional athlete used steroids isn’t that interesting to me, but in his confession interview with Peter Gammons, Rodriguez said something really revealing. When asked why he did it, when asked why after signing the biggest, most lucrative contract in baseball history for $252 million, he risked it all by taking steroids, he replied:

“When I arrived in Texas in 2001, I felt an enormous amount of pressure. I felt like I had all the weight of the world on top of me, and I needed to perform, and perform at a high level every day. Back then, it was a different culture. It was very loose. I was young. I was stupid. I was naive. And I wanted to prove to everyone that, you know, I was worth being one of the greatest players of all time.”

He wanted to prove to everyone that he was worth being one of the greatest players of all time. That when the Texas Rangers signed that $252 million contract, Alex Rodriguez was worth it. He wanted the fans and the owners of the ball club and people that watch him on television and journalists and anyone that ever came in contact with him to believe he was worth it.

He wanted to know that he was enough.

The unfortunate thing for me and Rodriguez is that no one on the planet is going to be able to tell us that to our satisfaction. Not a stadium full of fans, not every coworker I’ve ever had. Not a sports journalist. Not my web traffic or technorati ranking or eventual book sales.

That’s the problem with asking other people to tell us we’re enough. They can’t. They didn’t make us. They didn’t knit us in the womb or imagine us thousands of years before our parents danced at the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance. (That’s Back to the Future reference number two for those playing along at home.)

Even our friends and family members, the people that know and love us best can’t satisfy the deep desires of our heart because they didn’t put them there. They don’t know where they’re hidden or even know what this crazy work of art called “our lives” is supposed to look like.

And when we ask other people to tell us we’re worth enough we end up doing crazy things. Like taking steroids or lying in bed awake at night wondering why your name wasn’t on a Microsoft Outlook Meeting Invite.

Fortunately for you and me and Alex Rodriguez I went ahead and asked God if we were all worth it. He said “yes.” He said He sent His Son because He wanted us to know how very “enough” we all were. He said to feel free to ask Him that same question yourself. Go on, I dare you to. I promise that regardless of whether you’re one of the greatest baseball players that ever lived or a stay at home mom that feels invisible sometimes, the answer is going to be yes.

Duh. In my graduate student haze I momentarily lost sight of this truth.  I have tried to feel worthy by absorbing the words of others.  I have tried to feel worthy by puffing myself up with positive self talk.  But there is nothing that has ever made me feel so worthy and satisfied as the fulfilling love and promises of God.  What a timely intervention.

Share

Being Illiterate Can Be Fun!

An undergrad that works on one of my research projects in the lab told me today that she is going to send me things “to keep me up to date.”  Wow.  Just wow.  I don’t really feel old, but for fun I like to joke about feeling old.  Sometimes, though, I do get pure glimpses of the ever increasing age gap between me and the undergraduate species. I have not been one of those young whipper-snapping undergrads for over a decade, so I am grateful that I have people like Jenna to keep me hip and in the loop and to help me take my mind off all of the things that my generation thinks about when we’re not napping – like BenGay, shuffleboard, and Early Bird dinner specials.

Today Jenna sent me a YouTube clip that apparently is “the latest thing.” (Karla, you don’t even have to like cats to appreciate this!)

Yes, any generation can adore the fresh, creative, slightly spastic mind of young, innocent children. My favorite part is “No…she’s…nooot!”  What’s yours?

Share