October 29, 2009

My Field of Faith

While it is important to never go looking to insert our agendas into Scripture, there are certainly myraid applications that can be made. I thought of this yesterday while teaching Ruth as an "extraordinary woman" to my middle school discipleship group.
Ruth was a single woman, recently widowed. She faithfully followed her mother-in-law to Israel and took it upon herself to try to support the two of them in a female-unfriendly world. She was faithful. Faithful to her family, faithful to her God, and faithful to be a hard worker. She was where she was supposed to be, when she was supposed to be there, just being faithful to do what God wanted her to do...
And then Boaz spotted her in his fields. Boaz noticed not how beautiful she was, or how funny she was, but that she was working faithfully. And then he heard about what she'd done-- how she had stayed with Naomi and moved to Israel. He was smitten. Sure, he needed some prodding to actually seal the deal, but what struck me was the simple logic of this love story: Ruth was faithfully working, serving her family and her Lord-- not trying to find a husband to support her. And Boaz noticed her because of this, not because of how thin and stylish she was, or how entrancing her personality was.
Application for me, single woman who loves the Lord and wants to get married some day? Do what God has called me to do right now. Faithfully serve him. Don't seek out a husband. Because the right one will find me someday, right where I am, doing exactly what I'm supposed to be doing. And he will notice my love for the Lord, and that is what he'll love. And that is why I'll love him.

October 27, 2009

The City in My Soul

I walked past the passersby coming off the train, whipping around them like an intrically designed pinball game. The true Chicagoan doesn't walk; the true Chicagoan weaves. Earbuds in ears, the humming of the city provides a white-noise backdrop to the soundtrack I'm creating.

It's cold. I set my face against it and grit my teeth, waiting for that heating vent I know is coming... and there it is. A bit of warmth, just enough for me to muster energy to hop up the stairs of the rickety peeling painted El platform. Clinking change into the machine-- beep, beep-- and now I'm ready to be whisked off to my destination in that steel bullet that whines and roars around the buildings tall and statuesque.

Past the stops I know so well, past new buildings that are unfamiliar, past the river waiting to be dyed green, past the people with whom I share a deep kinship of home, I make it to my stop, then walk-- no, weave-- through the rain and past the people, up and down the streets that are the heart of the city, the heart of the country, the heart of me.

Gloves, hat, jacket, warmth, style. Carmel apple cider in hand, the cold blasts my face in this, the Windy City. The rhythm of my feet against the pavement match beat for beat my earbuds and heart, and there is a connection between me and my city which cannot and will not ever be denied.

You can take the girl out of the city... but you'll never, ever take the city out of the girl.

October 17, 2009

Baldy and My Weird Crush Habit...

There is a man who works at my favorite pizza place here in Florida. He doesn't just work there; he twirls and swirls pizza dough and creates the most wonderful New-York style pizza in a tiny little pizzeria with faux brick on the walls and a big TV that plays silly movies.

I don't know this man's name, but I have a little crush on him. He's got this mysterious air about him... and also a delightful Italian accent. He's really good-looking... and completely, totally bald. Not because he has no hair, but because he wants to be bald. And so I've taken to calling him "Baldy." I know nothing about Baldy. I don't know what he believes, what makes him laugh, what his story is. Because of this, I don't really have a crush on Baldy... I know I would never really date him.

But that doesn't stop the fact that when I go to this pizzeria, I can't seem to look at him. I can't talk to him. I can barely function, and in fact, I have been known to run into tables and blush furiously (yeah, I'm that smooth).

While discussing this humorous and ridiculous crush on Baldy, I discovered yet another peril that may be unique to me, or may be unique to long-time-single women. Because my heart is so guarded, and because I'm a little more than terrified at the thought of actually getting married (despite my desire to do so), my best friend pointed out the fact that I often develop crushes on guys with whom I would never realistically develop a relationship. That way, I can separate myself, keep my distance, while still admiring from afar.

Pathetic, I realized, but true. I thought about this one guy from college. I don't even know how I discovered his name, but I thought he was just the cutest thing ever. He had boyish good looks and an adorable smile. We had one class together, and he sat all the way across the room. I think he spoke to me once, and I almost swallowed my tongue. He was also a deskworker in my dorm building, and that fact created my funniest memory of my ridiculous and unattainable crush. One evening, a few of my friends and myself had gone down to the first floor to get some pop, or something like that, at an idiotically late hour of the night. While one went to the deskworker (of course this was the deskworker) to get change, I was suddenly overcome with a horrible "something-in-my-eye" syndrome. Seriously, it hurt so bad. Instead of finding something witty or clever to say to the deskworker, I was shouting to one of my friends, "There's something in my eye! OW! There's something in my eye! Can you see it?! OW!" Again, smooth. If I could barely look at him before, there was no way I could look at him now. And not just because there was something in my eye.

This seems to illustrate fairly well my problem of crushing on the unattainable. They are usually guys who might be considered "out of my league." Perhaps it's my way of avoiding rejection (by never ever letting them know of my crush). Perhaps it's a playing-out of a formerly low self-esteem (because I assume I'd never be with someone so good-looking, or funny, or... whatever).

Regardless, I wonder if this tendency of mine is unique to me, or if other young women crush on those they'll never have, simply because it's safe? I'll probably never speak to Baldy besides, "I'll have an 18" cheese pizza," and, "thank you." I'll probably continue to crush on distanced, handsome, mysterious gentlemen (maybe it's a Mr. Darcy thing?)... until one day when I develop a permanent crush. Then Baldy will fade into the background. But until then, "I'll have an 18" cheese pizza, please." *hands touch while giving credit card* *face reddens* "Thank you." *sigh.*

October 15, 2009

The Roots of My Tree

I know an ice handler who wears a flannel shirt with pearl buttons
the size of a dollar,
And he lugs a hundred-pound hunk into a saloon icebox, helps
himself to cold ham and rye bread,
Tells the bartender it's hotter than yesterday and will be hotter yet
to-morrow, by Jesus,
And is on his way with his head in the air and a hard pair of fists.
He spends a dollar or so every Saturday night on a two hundred
pound woman who washes dishes in the Hotel Morrison.
He remembers when the union was organized he broke the noses
of two scabs and loosened the nuts so the wheels came off six
different wagons one morning and he came around and
watched the ice melt in the street.
All he was sorry for was one of the scabs bit him on the knuckles of
the right hand so they bled when he came around to the
saloon to tell the boys about it.
--"The Ice Handler," by Carl Sandburg

Have you ever looked into your family's history and found a gem of an ancestor? Have you ever sat and listened to stories of yesteryear and imagined how you might be like your forefathers and mothers? I am intrigued by many of my ancestors, but none more than my great-grandpa, Papa Len. I had the privalege of knowing him before he passed away, though I don't remember him well. Let me paint you a picture:

I quoted Sandburg's "The Ice Handler," because the moment I read that poem, I thought it must be written about my great-grandfather. Surly, swarthy, and stout, he was a man of few words but a man of many stories. He had a square face and squinty eyes, and a smile with widely-spaced tiny teeth. He never lost his hair, and he always wore plaid. Many of his sentences would end with the phrase "by golly." His laugh was a bit of a sly, raspy, cackle.

That is the man. Here are his myths and legends:

He was born to German immigrants in 1905 in Wisconsin. As a young man, about 14, he cleaned up for the famous Wild West Show. He even received an engraved pistol from this Show (that was later stolen). One day, he got into a fight with another young man, and a horse ended up kicking the boy in the head, killing him... at which point Papa Len ran away from home. He lived in South Dakota where he worked as a carpenter and helped create Yellowstone National Park. Around 1926, he made his way back to Chicago and worked as an ice man in the city. He may or may not have had a drink with a grateful Al Capone, and may or may not have delivered more than ice...*wink.* Somewhere along the way (I'm not sure of the timeline here), he became a champion weight lifter, and was approached to play for the Chicago Bears before football really took off. He laughed at them and declined. He was also a lumberjack, which is where many of his stories took place. I remember him telling me about the time he found a bear in the bathtub and the bear escaped out the window, ripping the windowframe with him, still stuck to his butt as he trotted off into the forest. He knew the horrific John Wayne Gasey, too-- he used to open up the park bathrooms for him to change into his clown clothes *shudder.* By the time I knew him, he was old and quiet, a husband to Josephine, a father of three, a grandfather to many, and a great-grandfather to me... and one would have never guessed about all he'd experienced. But he was always as tough as nails. Once, he had a heart attack. The paramedics were called, and when they tried to help him out, he punched them away. Tough as nails.

I am fascinated by him, and look forward to one day talking with him in heaven. My family's history is full of interesting characters. Who makes up your family tree?

October 10, 2009

From Irrational Fears to Real Issues...

It all started in my best friend's car when I was discussing the possibility of getting a haircut. I hemmed and hawed with her about the pros and cons of cutting my long, curly red hair.
"But I have waited so long for my hair to grow out! It takes so long and I love it long. I rarely complain about it when it's long."
"So keep it long..."
"But I'd love to cut it into a cute angled bob like that girl in my apartment building."
"So cut it..."
"But..." I paused. I hated to admit what I was going to say next. I said it anyway. "This is stupid, and you're going to laugh, but... I have this fear that I'm going to cut my hair, and then immediately afterward I will meet the man of my dreams and we will quickly date and then I would get married, and my hair would be short, and I've always wanted long hair for my wedding!"
There was a brief silence as the car hummed its way to the mall. Then we erupted in laughter.
"That is totally irrational!"
"I know!"
After our giggles died down, there was another silence. I spoke up again.
"The problem is I just can't commit! Or I make impulse decisions. There's no in-between. And this does not bode well for my future..."
Giggles again.
"Hopefully this does not mean I will impulsively marry or not be able to commit to the right one... I actually think I have way more issues than anyone with no dating experience should have. You know, by not dating, I have saved myself from tons of emotional and physical issues... but by not dating, I have also developed tons of issues. Experiencing years of rejection by omission has kind of played havoc on me..."
We laughed. And we felt like we were on a sit-com. But truly, these issues are real, and as I sat there thinking of them, I thought maybe I should warn young, single women to be aware of these potential hazards of singleness.
As a single young woman, I'd made an art of guarding my heart. As my best friend's husband put it, I'd put the Berlin wall around my heart and snipers on top, shooting down all those who'd try to climb in. This was good, in that I was not swayed by potential suitors who would only break my heart and take pieces with them. This was bad, in that I removed any vulnerability when it came to relationships with guys, thereby appearing cold-hearted.
I haven't yet come up with a good solution for a young woman who wants to wait to date until she has met someone who meets God's standards for her... a solution that would keep her open and soft-hearted rather than closed-off and distanced... but when I do, be certain I'll blog about it.