Crash Into Me

The Incredible Crash Test Dummies toys.

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Today I decided to get off my butt and go work out.  When I got in the car, I noticed the condition of my shoes (duct taped from falling apart inside, soles starting to fall off, and mostly dyed red from spreading mulch on a mission trip earlier this summer) and decided to make a pit stop at Kohl’s to pick up a new pair for myself.  I went a good 20 minutes out of my way and found the perfect pair.  They felt like they were made for my feet.  No unnecessary rubbing, no cut-off circulation, plus the lining at the bottom of the shoe was securely attached and I did not need to duct tape them down.  They were darkish grey with pink details, so you know they looked cool (white running shoes always make me feel like a grandma).  And they were only $45, which is pretty good in my eyes.

So I purchased my shoes and put them on in the car so I could wear them to the Y and break them in a little.  Nothing beats that first time you work out in a new pair of shoes.  If I am going to sweat excessively and rip up my muscles a little in the name of getting stronger, then golly, I am going to do it while floating on a cloud, because that’s what a new pair of shoes feels like, right?  I found a parking spot right near the front, but I noticed it a little late and decided to just find another one instead of backing up a little to take that one, figuring the extra steps couldn’t hurt.

I’ve had a headache for the past two days, and a little stomachache all day, and I quickly discovered that Mr. Elliptical and I were just not going to be friends this afternoon.  I could manage about a half hour at a moderate pace before eventually giving up because my headache was pounding a little harder and my tummy was just not diggin the extra jostling around.  I took my time and filled up my water bottle so it was full again, and even joked around with the older gentleman who was waiting outside for a bathroom about how it was too hot to work out, even inside!  I strolled out to my car, hopped in, put her in reverse, and slowly backed out, making sure to look both ways, when, BUMP!  Hello, Mr. Black Jetta.  A couple obscenities later, I reparked and braved the heat wave to assess the damages.

My car, that beast, had not a scratch on her.  But Mr. Jetta… oh boy.  He got a beating.  Ms. Honda left Mr. Jetta a pretty big valley of an eyesore on his bumper, and the young man driving was none too pleased.  Of course I apologized profusely and immediately felt like an idiot because I have never gotten into an accident before and didn’t even know what to do.  Plus this guy was totally good looking, and I was sweaty, and I was thinking about how good looking he was when I should have been thinking about what the heck I was supposed to do.  The accident itself was really nobody’s fault.  We were simply both backing out at the exact same time, and probably were looking in opposite directions to check for traffic and wound up in a blind spot somewhere.  We exchanged information and all that jazz and drove off into the sunset (I told him to back out first, of course).

This week did not start off on the right foot.  Between fights with friends and botched reconciliation efforts with another (which I was expecting, but still, sucks) and generally feeling blah, I didn’t need an accident.  But soon after leaving that parking lot, I was struck by this incredible sense of purpose.

I didn’t have to go to Kohl’s first.  I could have taken the parking spot that was a little closer.  I probably could have even done an extra five minutes on the elliptical if I really wanted to, or bo-dunked around in my car for awhile before pulling out.  But the nature of the accident was such that we were both pulling out at the same time and it just happened.  The situation sucks, obviously, but it made me feel like I was exactly at a place I needed to be at the precise moment in time.  If I went to work out first, I may have avoided that accident, sure, but who knows, maybe by stalling around in the parking lot getting insurance information, I wound up missing something else that could have been worse.  Right?  Maybe God put me in this sucky situation because it beats an even suckier situation that I could have found myself in.

And lets assess the damages.  First of all, nobody died. Secondly, my car is a total badass and I love it even more for it (because really, you should have seen the dent in the other car).  Thirdly, the guy was pretty good looking and now he has my number, you know, just incase this turns into one of those romantic-comedy-moments and we wind up falling in love, getting married and making babies or something (it could happen, right?). Fourthly, the guy was super understanding and not at all mad, even though his car was brand new and it was “hot as BALLS” (his words, not mine). And fifthly, God continues to amaze me in the way He chooses to reveal His love for me… even in the suckiest of circumstances.

I See The Light!

A light bulb

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This morning my Mom called me downstairs to help her change one of the bulbs in the ceiling light in the kitchen.  I got downstairs and thought she was crazy… it didn’t look to me like any of the bulbs were burned out.  I still thought it was bright in there.  But Mom insisted, and sure enough, two out of the four bulbs weren’t shining as they should be.  Of course when we changed the bulbs, everything was as bright again, and it seemed silly to think that the way I saw it before could ever be bright enough.

And it got me thinking about how many times we kind of allow our sinfulness to groom us into a skewed vision of God.  For example, I struggle a lot with being jealous of what others have that I do not have.  This jealousy often leads me to feeling like I am not good enough to have what I want, and even sometimes like God is this mean little kid who likes to torture me by putting people in my life who have everything I want.  It also affects my relationships, because when I think that I don’t deserve that happiness, I don’t remain open to receive the love that relationship could bring, which makes the relationship one-sided and rather superficial.  I get so used to thinking like this that I let it become normal.  My vision of God changed into this guy who loved me kind of, but was also mad at me for screwing up and has been busy punishing me by making me miserable.  I had to earn back my love from God, and since I realized that I can never be perfect enough to deserve God’s love… I admit to letting my relationship with him dwindle to less than what it was. So now I’m kind of living on half my bulbs being burnt.

Maybe its time to go change those bulbs.  Maybe its time I got myself to confession again for the first time in at least three years.  Life does not need to be this dim.  It could be so much brighter and better.

The brighter truth is that I don’t need to earn God’s love.  I don’t deserve God’s love, according to my human understanding. But I have God’s love no matter what.  After all..

What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword?As it is written: “For your sake we are being slain all the day; we are looked upon as sheep to be slaughtered.”No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us.For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers,nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  –Romans 8:35-39

And that, friends, is a pretty bright truth.

Are you living your life with your light under the bushel basket, or are you letting it shine for the world to see?

I Want You… I Need You… Oh Baby… Oh Baby…

Uncle Sam recruiting poster. Painted by James ...

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The other day I was listening to a Christian radio station, when the announcer said something along the lines of, “God doesn’t need you.  But God wants to use you.”  My ears did a double-take.

Okay. So God is big and important and I would not be here without him.  I know that everything in the world can say thanks to God for existing.  I know God could have made the universe some other way and it would have been just as good.  But the thought of me not being NEEDED… I think that’s a little whack, dontcha think?

First of all… I am a daughter of God, and I am not just something God “uses.”  The reason why I allow myself to be used by God is because I said YES to God.  If I didn’t say yes, then God couldn’t do squat, because of the whole free will thing (God’s idea… not mine).

Secondly… I am TOO important. I am TOO needed.  Without me, God’s plan would not work.  How can I say such a bold statement? Is my head that far up my own ass? No way.  From someone who struggles often with feeling purposeless, I can tell you that even on the bad days, when I feel like all I am doing is wasting space… I have a bigger purpose.  I was created the exact way I am physically, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually, for a very specific purpose.  If I was not needed, then I would not have been created. But I am here! And you are here!  God NEEDS you.  God WANTS you. (oh baby, oh baby…).

In order for God’s big plan for the world to work out, he NEEDS you.  Furthermore, God likes you. He loves you. He WANTS you.  He WANTS you on his team.  He NEEDS you.  If you weren’t on the team, then we’d all be screwed. We’d have to work fifty times as hard to pick up the slack.  That would be exhausting.

Would God have existed without me? Yeah, and he has.  But we are alive for some reason, and God only knows what the reason is, and because we are alive, we are needed, and we are wanted, and we are beloved.

“I didn’t fail the test… I just found 100 ways to do it wrong” –benjamin franklin

Lenten Rose Helleborus orientalis or Helleboru...

Image via Wikipedia ((ps--Did you know this is called a "lenten flower"? thank YOU, automatic-picture-finder-thing-on-wordpress!!))

I haven’t posted in 4 days, and that’s kind of embarrassing considering I told y’all that I would post every day as per my Lenten promise.

I also told you that I would keep silence in the car and bus and allow God to speak to me through it rather than getting distracted from the radio, and I haven’t been doing so great at that, either.  In fact… to make up for my general bad Catholicness, I just grabbed a fistful of change to put in my Operation Rice Bowl box.

This post was going to be something different… but I like the direction its going, so let’s keep on that path, shall we?

I used to be really great at keeping promises.  I used to be able to set goals for myself, work hard, and then achieve them.  In junior high I gave up chocolate for Lent.  I had so much will power back then.  I even lost at least 10 pounds because the lack of chocolate led to healthier food choices and more exercise.  I used to make Lenten promises that I kept both because I promised God and I feared failure.

So my lack of commitment in keeping my Lenten promises this year means one of two things:

God is no longer important.

I am starting to embrace my failures.

 

It can’t be the first one.  God is very important to me.  A lot of times I don’t feel that burning desire to be closer to him… in fact, a lot of times I don’t even think of him.  I won’t lie.  Sometimes I do give up.  But I always go back.  I always dust myself off.  I always keep God a priority, and if I lose focus, I make sure to put him back where he belongs.

But that second one… the part about embracing failures…  I think therein lies a sneaky lesson God planned for me this Lenten season.

You see… I may be messy and laid back… but I am a closet perfectionist.  I can’t stand being wrong, I can’t stand being second best, and I can’t stand being short of my very best.  These aren’t bad things all the time.. but sometimes I obsess over it so much that if I am wrong, or if I am not the best or my best… I feel like a pathetic excuse for a human being.

But this Lent, I am embracing my failures. I am embracing those moments where I stumble and I am messy.  I learned that too much silence is not good for me, and so I adjust and listen to Christian radio when I am finding the silence too overwhelming.  I learned that I don’t want to just update my blog with mindless things or short things for the sake of getting something in every day… I’d rather mull over ideas and save them for later.

I am learning that I can promise God one thing… and God can take that promise and do something else with it.

I can tell you lots of times I’ve been uplifted just by listening to Christian radio in the car this Lenten season instead of mindlessly driving in silence, or the times where I may have skipped blogging to have a good conversation with a friend or pay attention to my body’s need for rest.

What I can see in my eyes as a failure can be seen as a whole-hearted effort to be open to God’s movement in a different direction.

So maybe I fail.  Maybe I don’t keep my promises all the time.  Maybe I struggle and I am messy.  But by embracing these shortcomings, I am learning how to forgive myself, and I am learning how to love myself the way God loves me… and what could be a better lesson to learn in preparation for the resurrection of the Lord?

So, You Had a Bad Day…

Bad day

Image by roy costello via Flickr

Today I had a bad day.

First of all, I woke up with a sore throat and feeling crappy again.  I was late running out the door for work.  When I got to work, I found my sub bus driver for the past two days not only parked the bus like an idiot and made it near impossible for me to squeeze inside, but he also decided to trash it up and not fuel it when he was done, which was oh-so-nice of him.  During my pre-trip, I couldn’t exit the bus in the direction I usually go (because the bus was parked crooked and quite close to the bus next to it, and apparently my badonkadonk is that huge), so I had to go backwards, which threw off my routine, and then forced me to run another lap around the bus just to squeeze my huge behind in the anorexic gap between my door and the next bus.  The bus drivers at my midday school were being total jerks and not letting me in to pick up my kids at the front of the school to my usual spot (seriously. It’s a fight every day. I fricking hate some of these people), so I had to park wayyyy in the back (another mini bus had to park on the street), and my kids all missed me because I wasn’t in my regular spot.  When I went in to talk to a supervisor about my routes (because I magically got a new stop and 5 extra kids without warning), she told me that a bunch of sub drivers were complaining about the fact that I didn’t update my set book and I screwed up their entire two days… even though I only had one route that I forgot to update… and seriously, I am so fricking OVER this 5-year-old-like talking-behind-each-others-backs-bull-poop I experience on a daily basis at this fricking school district.  I felt achy and stiff and generally miserable the whole day.  I went to the doctor only to be told there was nothing wrong with me… which was embarrassing… not to mention I’ll have to shell out a good $200 for that fantastic news.  I did not have plans tonight and just realized that I have no single girlfriends to hang out with, either because they are far away, or they are not single, and that kind of sucks when you think about it, because who else do you hang out with when everyone else is busy being far away or with their significant others?  Plus, the Cubs totally lost today, right after I went ahead and attempted to smack-talk a friend who lives in Pittsburgh.

But here is what went good today.

Today, when I pulled up to my second stop of my morning junior high route, one of my boys got on, gave me a double look, and said, excitedly, “FINALLY.  You’re back!!”

When I pulled up to my first stop of my morning elementary route, the girl had a similar reaction.  And then at the next stop, one of my kindergartners, who never talks, whispered just loud enough for me to hear (miraculously) over the screaming engine, “Bus driver! I got new shoes! See?”

All of my elementary kids were sitting down and didn’t even need to be reminded every two seconds that “sitting down means both legs are bent and the keister is on the seat.”

My kindergartners were super funny today. They asked me to tell them a story, so I told them a story about  a monster named Grool who was addicted to lollipops.  Grool tried to steal some from Adu’s (one of my boys) kitchen, but Adu scared him and made him explode into a bunch of confetti.  And okay it was a really lame but really awesome story, mostly because I used funny voices and exaggerated facial expressions, but the best part was looking at this bus full of fully-captivated and giggly kindergartners.

Three of my kindergarten boys decided to have a “loudest sneezing contest” on the bus.  The best part was watching them in the mirror and hearing “AHHHHHHH–AHHHHHHHH–AHHHHHHH—CHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

 

And so, okay, my day kind of stunk a little at times.  But what I am thankful for today is that even though there were a lot of crappy things that happened during the day, God knew exactly what would make me smile and feel better.  It wasn’t completely bad.  God is always speaking through people and places and things to tell us how much He loves us and wants us to be happy.  We just gotta listen.

April Showers

Today I am thankful for hot showers.

Because lets face it.  After a day spent sick in bed or in the bathroom, with a headache, sore throat, and achy muscles on top of it, a girl feels a little nasty the next morning.  And even after the stomach cramps are gone, the sickness isn’t officially over until the shower goes on, the water gets hot enough to produce steam, and I jump in.  The post-flu shower is one of the best types of showers.  And after 20 minutes of hot, steamy goodness… I emerge a brand new woman, ready to face the day.

And do you know some people have to walk miles just to get a jug of cold water?  And I get the luxury of standing under a hot stream of it for 20 minutes, immediately?  I am a lucky daughter of God.  And I am completely and utterly thankful.

Psalms
Chapter 139

1
1 For the leader. A psalm of David. O LORD, you have probed me, you know me:
2
2 you know when I sit and stand; you understand my thoughts from afar.
3
My travels and my rest you mark; with all my ways you are familiar.
4
Even before a word is on my tongue, LORD, you know it all.
5
Behind and before you encircle me and rest your hand upon me.
6
Such knowledge is beyond me, far too lofty for me to reach.
7
Where can I hide from your spirit? From your presence, where can I flee?
8
If I ascend to the heavens, you are there; if I lie down in Sheol, you are there too.
9
3 If I fly with the wings of dawn and alight beyond the sea,
10
Even there your hand will guide me, your right hand hold me fast.
11
4 If I say, “Surely darkness shall hide me, and night shall be my light” —
12
Darkness is not dark for you, and night shines as the day. Darkness and light are but one.
13
You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb.
14
I praise you, so wonderfully you made me; wonderful are your works! My very self you knew;
15
5 my bones were not hidden from you, When I was being made in secret, fashioned as in the depths of the earth.
16
Your eyes foresaw my actions; in your book all are written down; my days were shaped, before one came to be.
17
How precious to me are your designs, O God; how vast the sum of them!
18
Were I to count, they would outnumber the sands; to finish, I would need eternity.
19
If only you would destroy the wicked, O God, and the bloodthirsty would depart from me!
20
Deceitfully they invoke your name; your foes swear faithless oaths.
21
Do I not hate, LORD, those who hate you? Those who rise against you, do I not loathe?
22
With fierce hatred I hate them, enemies I count as my own.
23
Probe me, God, know my heart; try me, know my concerns.
24
6 See if my way is crooked, then lead me in the ancient paths.