Love.

While I have been busy with plans and dreams and wonderings, a couple of my close friends are grieving the loss of loved ones. One friend lost her grandfather, another her two-year-old cousin and an aunt. Yet another friend almost lost a grandfather, and all these tugs on the silvery thin strings of life are reminding me of how close my own family has come, and when the lines have indeed been cut. I am remembering the pain and feeling it afresh for my friends and their losses.

I miss the ocean. Everything drowns in its magic tonic of noise and salt. I want to feel the sting of it. I want to feel it trying to pull me in and hold me under even as it must buoy me up. So is the jealous love of our God, who pulls us by our feet into the chasm of His grace, and lifts us up to the blinding sunlit surface of His love. He takes away and gives back without thought to how it must look and feel to humans, asking us only to trust He understands our pain even as He must ignore it for the call of His own illustrious glory.

Still, I want to rage. I want to break things. I want to run and run and run. Death is unjust. It is savage. It is not kind and it is not gentle. The world is not safe for us. It is not benign. It is lethal, cruel and toxic. Our bodies age. Get sick. Fester with infection and fever. Break. Shatter. Go crazy with hurt. How does anyone stay sane in a world like ours? With all my knowledge of how good God is, I am not Him, I am only human and I am capable of anger that is unrighteous. In the face of the bewildering death of a child, I am speechlessly angry. How can He say He knows about our pain and not change it back?

Our God hears us crying. He hears the ripping of our heart when we grieve. And He will not remain silent or stoic, but He will bring the morning and His arms will never loosen from around us. When I want to push Him away because I don’t understand why He is doing something, He pulls me closer still until I am suffocated by His holiness and His sovereignty. I may still fight, but eventually I am calmed and exhausted and all I can do is lift my face and show Him my tears and hand Him the pieces of my heart that I cannot make whole again.

He promises with His time that He will heal all hurts. Time, a concept people have invented, traps us, but it does not contain the greatness of our God. I have no words for my friends that have to live and move right now in the shadow of sorrow. I can only say Jesus’s name over and over and think of the word cling. When you want to let go because you do not understand, cling to Him. When you want to lash out at Him because you think He does not understand, cling to Him.

I don’t want to say the wrong things, I don’t want to say the cliche things. I want to say the things that are true, and I have to hold on to the belief that God does understand our pain, though it is necessary in our broken world that He let it continue until He is ready to make all right again. That’s harsh in my human ears and it feels like a serrated knife on a raw bleeding grieving heart, but it is true. He is not ignoring your pain. He aches because He cannot tolerate sin, and He is victorious because He has already conquered that sin in ways we can only spiritually glimpse and attempt to grasp.

How feeble is life, and how precarious. Like walking a tightrope you don’t know you’re on. It trembles and wavers. It vibrates and you reach for something to steady yourself but only wisps of air meet your fingers. The panic of falling could choke you. Your fast-beating heart could make your whole body beat in time as you tense for the crash that must come when your bones hit the pavement. But I pray when you reach out the panic does not overtake you. I pray you feel the hand of God grasping your hand, enveloping your heart. As He wounds, so He heals. When you have no strength to cling to Him, He promises to hold you tightly. He cannot break a promise; He must do as He says, and so I know He has not forgotten you and He will never let you go.

A love like that could crush you.

A love like that could remake you.

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The Effect Other People’s Thoughts Have On Me When I Read Them

Thoughts from an excerpt of Diane Ackerman’s chapter entitled “Vision” from her book A Natural History of the Senses:

“Because the eye loves novelty and can get used to almost any scene, even one of horror, much of life can drift into the vague background of our attention. How easy it is to overlook the furry yellow comb inside the throat of an iris, or the tiny fangs of a staple, or the red-forked tongue of a garter snake, or the way intense sorrow makes people bend their bodies as if they were blowing in a high wind. Both science and art have a habit of waking us up, turning on all the lights, grabbing us by the collar and saying Would you please pay attention! You wouldn’t think something as complexly busy as life would be so easy to overlook. But, like supreme racehorses, full of vitality, determination, and heart, we tend to miss sights not directly in our path — the colorful crowds of people on either side, the shapes left in the thickly rutted track, and the permanent spectacle of the sky, that ever-present, ever-changing pageant overhead.” (Ackerman 235)

I get lost in the words: “the vague background of our attention,” “complexly busy,” “the permanent spectacle of the sky,” and the “pageant overhead.” Is this not an utterly beautiful paragraph? You can tell it has been crafted. I can only dream of being able to hone my writing until it moves an audience like this bit. And the entire chapter I read is similar. But that is beside the point.

The point is, I don’t want to let any part of God’s creation drift into the “vague background” or become “easy to overlook.” The great Artist took deliberation over His creation — who am I to bypass the tiniest well-formed ant in anticipation of the grander vista opening up ahead of me? I want to see it all, to bask in the beauty He has made. By reveling in the created, perhaps I will find the Creator. His fingerprints mark everything. I would follow the clues until I find His very self.

The Ashen Citizen

Haven’t been funny in awhile. Thought I’d give it a shot.

November the fourth, two thousand and fourteen: Election Day.

Once upon a time today when I got off work, I swung by my polling place to duck in and vote. I weaseled my Explorer into a spot between a yellow jeep and a slick white expensive something or other 2014.

I’ve only voted one other time that I remember, which shames me a little, but I have also been out of state in the years since turning eighteen. Still, there’s this thing called absentee ballot so I cannot excuse myself.

None of that is part of the story.

I grabbed my wallet and keys and darted through the maze of people parking cars, people entering and exiting the polling place, and signs with large letters and neon colors. The first thought that entered my head when I reached the building was, “If everyone marked directions as clearly as this, I would never get lost or be confused.”

Your polling place might not be like this, but when you open the door to my polling place there is a sign with a large blue arrow on the wall just inside the door. In black block letters it says VOTING, and then the blue arrow.

VOTING

—>

And this sign is repeated every three feet. There’s no way you could go down a wrong corridor or mistake the women’s bathroom for the election auditorium.

If only highway signage was so spectacular. GPS would be eradicated. There would be no excuse for being late because you’d taken a wrong turn. You’d just have to be excused for being stupid.

So anyway, I make it safely through the long hallways and many left turns and one right turn to the auditorium where the voting happens. It’s a plain room. No signs in here, no neon colors. All black and white signs that say “Enter Here” and “Give your full name and residential address to the voting assistant” and “5” “6” “Center of the Room.”

Actually, there’s no sign that says center of the room, but it is marked by a huge X of tape on the carpet. Until you stand on the exact center of that X you cannot be helped by a voting assistant.

I waited on the exact center of the X for the voting assistant to wave me over. He did – a burly gentleman with fluffy white hair and bloodshot eyes behind his spectacles. He had a tiny American flag pinned to his suspender, and he looked up at me from under his eyebrows.

“Name?”

“Dakota Lueck.”

A long look from under the two albino woolly bears over his eyes. “Which one is the last name?”

“Lueck.” And I proceed to spell it because no one ever spells my name right. “L-U-E-C-K.”

He squiggles his nose as if it itches but he can’t spare the time to scratch it, and taps L-U-K-E into his computer.

Even from upside down I can see it’s wrong, but I don’t want to act like an upstart, so I watch his face. It takes a minute, but sure enough, his computer doesn’t find a Dakota  Luke, so he looks up.

I smile. “L-U-”

“Wait.” He erases what he typed in. “Ok, go ahead.”

“L-U-”

“-K-E.” He finishes for me, tapping it into the computer.

“No, actually, it’s a weird name. It’s L-U-E-C-K.” I check his ears for hearing aids, but the fluffy white hair hides them.

He makes an annoyed noise in his throat. I wonder if he’s been here all day. If he got lunch, or dinner, or even a packet of Famous Amos cookies. For some reason, I always expect there to be Famous Amos lying around at polls and blood drives. I’ve never even seen them in the grocery aisles before.

He erases LUKE, and types L.

“U…E…C…” I prompt slowly.

“L-U-C-K.”

“No, sorry, let’s try one more time.” I am losing patience. If he would just listen to me, he would realize I know how to spell my own name. Imagine that.

So he backspaces again. “L,” he says, and looks up at me.

“U,” I say.

“U,” says he.

“E,” say I.

“E-K,” says he.

At this point, I want to throw up my hands, my taco, and yank him close to shout in that ear hidden under his Santa mop.

Instead, I shake my head. I don’t want his job. Ever. “Third times the charm,” I say brightly even though we’re on shot in the dark number five. “L-U-E-C-K.” I put extra emphasis on the E-C-K. Then I even pronounce it how it’s spelled: “Lu-Eck.”

And he still types it in Leuck.

I consider handing him my driver’s licence, or writing it on a piece of paper. This is getting ridiculous.

And lest you think I’m making this up or exaggerating, I’m not. The man really had no idea how to spell my name. Patience pays off, however, and one more painstakingly s-l-o-w time of spelling it one letter at a time and him repeating each letter after me paid off in a perfectly typed L-U-E-C-K.

It is so satisfying to see your name spelled correctly.

By that time, he’d forgotten my first name.

“Dakota,” I say loud and clear and kind, though I feel anything but. “Like the state.”

This connects, and he finds me in the system without trouble now that we’ve got L-U-E-C-K down pat. He obviously feels sorry for our tug of war because he offers me this bit of information before sending me to the next voting assistant:

“My wife had a dog named Dakota. Golden Retriever. Beautiful; she loved that dog to pieces. She still keeps his ashes in our bedroom.”

Like what do you say to that? Is there an entry in the etiquette books for when a complete stranger who’s just misspelled your name a whopping seven times tells you that his wife’s dead pet has the same name as you and it’s ashes live next to where he and his wife sleep?

I think I smiled, but I’m not sure I should’ve. That’s just creepy.

When I die, I hope my parents don’t keep my ashes in their bedroom.

I voted, I got my sticker, I got out of that place. Just managed to avoid ripping those obnoxious signs down on my way out – I mean, really, who needs a sign every stinking three feet? Why don’t you at least space them five feet apart? I backed out of my inky-dink parking space and fired off down the street, secure in the knowledge that I can spell my own name still, I love America, and that I have successfully avoided Famous Amos once again.

Does that make your baby a carry-on?

So, guys. (Are you really plural again?! It’s hard to believe more people than my sister reads this blog…) I’m going to be a world traveler someday soon. I’m going to visit Pennsylvania, Florida, then another tropical location, and hopefully an across-the-ocean location. I’m just goin’ places.

I feel like I’m going more than physical places though. I’m going on journeys in my heart that are hard. I don’t really like those rocky places in myself. They are like small desert islands. Literally the island is desert and the salt water surrounds it. No trees, just sand and boulders and I haven’t found flowers in any nooks or crannies on these islands. A few wild animals, but only the kind that make you want to jump in the water and swim furiously to the next island…only to do it again.

I’ve learned that driving makes me forget about Jesus. Hence my new appreciation of the radio, and the Christian radio station. Also, the calming affect of classical music.
I’ve learned that while I love my friends, and – sometimes – interacting with the human race, I really need a hole where I am all alone. Some people call that solitary confinement. I call it the desert island I nicknamed paradise. It’s a limited viewpoint because no one is forcing me to go there, so I’m sure that makes it more pleasant than real solitary confinement.

I’ve learned that I need to dig inside myself about once a week, or I start to show signs of depressive behavior. Maybe that’s a no-brainer for normal people, but I just figured it out about myself. I move on quickly, so though I’m an introvert, I don’t think of myself as a introspective person. Though I’m a writer, and I’m constantly journaling, it doesn’t often pertain to me. Its events, snippets of characters, dates, the emotion of the moment, but not much learning from the emotion of the moment or past events. But I just get stuck too deep in my head sometimes and writing it out, digging deep holes on those rocky deserted islands helps me to surface. That sounds backwards.

But then, I get the feeling everyday that my cape is on backwards.

Do you ever feel like you are glimpsing a dream that is too big for you to handle? That you might be really good at doing great things? That maybe, if you were braver, or more intelligent, you could change the world?

Do you ever feel like you are super duper passionate about something you are good at and you could see it maybe someday making just one life better? That seems like a huge dream to me, to make one person’s life better.

Do you ever think that you’re being too prideful having a big dream like that?

Because that’s kinda how I feel.

I haven’t had a hard life. I’ve seen a few things that some people don’t get to, and I’ve done some things that I thought were hard but in the big scheme of life don’t even rate on the difficult life situation scale. The choices I’ve had to make in the last 22 years haven’t been that hard. Some people make a five year plan and stick to it. Some people wrestle over every crossroads and agonize over every step.

That’s not how I roll.

I don’t think I’ve ever had a five year plan in my life. I had a five day plan once…

There’s a verse I highlighted in my Bible. It’s in Isaiah, chapter 30, verse 21, “Whether you walk to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, this is the way, walk in it.” God’s got my back and I believe He’ll always have it. If I take a wrong turn, He’ll put me back in the right direction. All I have to do is be still and listen, not jabber about which way I want to go. It’s worked so far: I went to a great college, made friends I hope to have the rest of my life, took a great job after graduating and started the journey to obtaining my masters, and so far it’s a good road. I think it’s the right one.

Maybe this is the wrong theological mindset, but I’m ok with not knowing some things. The will of God is one of them. Did I actually choose what His Will is? Is He going to have to orchestrate some things around so that it becomes the right choice? I go crazy thinking like that, then I get mad and want to punch something. I leave the deep wondering to the philosophers and smart people with their smart pants on. Instead I just approach a life choice, I pray, I ask some people I trust, and I go. Usually, I ask for a two-by-four answer because I’m so dense.

It doesn’t feel like I have much faith doing it that way. It really sounds like I don’t care which road I go down. That’s not true. I want to go where He wants me to go. I really want to go down the right road. I believe that in spite of my stupidity and sinfulness, He will take care of me like He promised. And if I choose the wrong path, He will still be with me, because inside the mysterious inner workings of His soverignty, He knew what I would choose and through grace said, I’ll go with you there too.

God doesn’t have plan A, B, C, or even Z for my life. I hold onto that even though people give me the eyebrow. He takes me where I need to go and I follow. I only know that wherever I am, I should be learning to know His heart better. That will help me know which sidetrack to take, which answer to give to travelers I meet on my road, and nothing can change the course of the story He has written for me. This is one story I don’t get to write. I get to live it. And I want to skip to the end alot. ALOT. Not so I know what to choose now, but so that I know where I end up. Whether it’s worth it to keep reading, in a way.

But He won’t let me skip.

That’s for my own good. I’m not going to meet the creepy character with the crystal ball and gnarled walking stick. I’m going to meet people who are younger, older, the same age as me that have been on different roads that will inform my own journey. I’m going to read His words to find out which ones I should be speaking. I am only an imitating character of the best Character of all: the Creator of the Characters.

Everything can be a writing metaphor. Tis grand and most likely very untheological.

About the title. You know how you can only take a carry-on bag and your purse? Well, babies don’t need tickets I don’t think — maybe they do — but if they don’t, doesn’t that make them a carry-on article? And doesn’t that violate some human rights labeling code?

Just a random thought.

Dangflabbit. Shut Up.

When I was in middle school, who did I want to hang out with? Other than myself. Hmm. To borrow a phrase from the great Tim Hawkins, “Let me ponder that for a nanosecond.”

Bing!

No one.

People? Yeah, they’ve never been my favorite. Too loud, too assuming, and…too strange. Have you ever stopped to think about something really ordinary and contemplated how weird it actually is?

Like brushing your teeth. It’s necessary if you don’t want to cut people down with your bad breath like a lumberjack swinging his ax at a tree. But have you noticed the faces you make in the mirror when you’re trying to scrub each pearly white? Have you noticed that only humans do it? Animals don’t brush their teeth. That’s so gross. The imaginary picture makes me a might queasy. Also, not sure how it would physically work. Animals don’t have opposable thumbs. And wouldn’t you find yourself snort-laughing at a chimp if he was brushing his teeth and you had to watch him spit in the sink? If I wasn’t so busy gagging on fluoride toothpaste, I’d be laughing at myself when I’m brushing my teeth. What in heck am I doing?

And walking. Like, we kinda look stupid.

I mean, we must look like aliens to aliens, and I wonder what we look like to God? I know we’re made in His image, but often, I just stop and stand and marvel at how ridiculous and pointless our everyday human habits are. And how dumb we look doing them.

We won’t get into potty humor, but that’s another example.

Ok, fine, I have to say it. Just allow me one more moment: Do you think excrement is a result of the Fall of man? I mean, it’s waste and God isn’t a wasteful God. So…just ponder that for a few nanoseconds.

To get back to my middle school self, who, yes, I kinda want to avoid talking about, I didn’t want to hang out with anyone except my books and my woods and maybe my siblings. When they weren’t fighting. Or whining. Both of which I did my own fair share of I’m sure, but I’ve blocked these lapses of character from memory.

We are such prideful, selfish shell fishes. We want to swim our own way, and brush our own teeth for as long or as short as we want. We want to walk where we want. We want to be with ourselves and say what we think and not listen to what other people think.

I don’t like these things. But I do them. I don’t want to but I do.

I want to listen. I want to hear. But, at the same time, I don’t want to hear your complaints or your hard life because in the front of my mind while you’re talking I’m thinking, well, you think you’ve got it bad, just wait until I open my mouth and spill every first world problem I’ve got on my plate. Why am I like that? Why can’t I just let my occupation with myself go? Why can’t I let it go? Why can’t I turn my back and slam the door?

Why do I write a blog where I think people care about listening to me? Why do I think that you want to hear about babies, and wolves, and french toast? You want to hear about you as much as I want to hear about me.

Dumbed down: “God gave you two ears, and only one mouth,” said Mom.

Sit down and Shut Up, Self.

Stop spewing your judgement. Stop flinging your complaints around. Stop thinking about how much you deserve, because you don’t. Stop yelling and honking. Stop screaming and rolling your eyes. Stop looking for reasons to justify not listening. Stop putting your oar in.
Well, unless someone’s drowning. Then you should probably put your oar in. I guess. But make sure there’s a super duper good reason to stick that hunk a wood in the water.
I’m just scolding myself right now. But I want it to be more than that. Some people use Bible verses as the reason they’re changing. That’s cool. There’s probably some I should be quoting right now that I don’t know about. And I definitely agree with the Bible, but this time it is – ironically enough – people that are making me think about a change in attitude. Specifically the change I need to make in MY attitude.

Some people flow over with the characteristics of Jesus. The few I know personally shame me and uplift me when I speak with them. They make me want to be like Jesus. They make me disappointed in myself. The way they look at life and care for and listen to those they come in contact with make me raise my hands to my Savior.

Admitting you are not an island is hard. Ok, admitting I’M not an island is hard for ME.

I’m
Not
An
Island.

Dangflabbit, I wanna be an island. Like everyday. I wanna be on an island where I don’t have to talk to a sole stinking soul. I wanna be self-absorbed and read books and eat soup.

If I was an island, I wouldn’t be reading. I would be illiterate. I wouldn’t know how to make soup. I would be eating sand out of a shell and wondering why the big bright thing in the sky was hurting my eyes. I might not even know what eyes are.

What I’m trying to say is, we stand on the shoulders of those gone before us. I stand on the shoulders and knees and heads of every stupid person God loved enough to create. And it makes me raise my hands to my Creator and Savior. One and the Same. One and the Only. The Forever and the Always.

Those people that are close to the heart of God make me want to be close to His heart as well.

The people that cut me off in traffic? I want to leave them in a trash heap.

And then I remember the person I cut off in traffic when I really REALLY needed to get to the gas station in a hurry.

And I think, well, ok. Wrong response.

I’m glad God didn’t leave me in a trash heap. I’m glad He didn’t make me an island. I’m glad He grew my middle school self into someone who can at least recognize she can’t be by herself all the time, even if that’s still what she wants most of the time. I’m glad God made people, even if I catch myself A LOT thinking how dumb they are and then verbalizing how dumb they are. I’m glad God gave us the Bible, even though I don’t have a verse from it to throw in cyberspace’s face right now. It’s part of His heart. His heart is unsearchable, but He gave us a sliver, and I want to love it. Bloody, messy, gory, and cutting as it is, I want to love it in its entirety.

I don’t, but I want to want to love His heart and the sliver of His heart that I can hold like I’m leaving the world behind. What would it be like to love like that? To love that hard?

Dangflabbit, I bet it’d be like eating chocolate without worrying about getting fat.

You know what?

It’s probably even BETTER than that!

Whoa.

Rain and Babies

It’s not raining babies, in case you got confused by the title.

Fact: there is something magical about holding a warm, sleepy baby when you’re having a bad day.

Opinion: sometimes rainy days are beautiful, and sometimes they are positively odious.

Fact: there are fourteen days until Halloween, according to one of the kids I nanny.

Fact: It’s raining.

Opinion: Tea will help me. Large amounts of tea will help me more than small amounts.

The Recluse

The Recluse

My family is on vacation.

I am not.

8 Reasons I Love Being Home Alone:

1. I can clean anything I want to, and no one tells me they are going to do it, or feels guilty for not doing it before I got home. Break out the micro-fiber cloths and laundry baskets! I’m here to dust and organize. Ah, feel the beat of my heart slow to normal rhythm now that the clutter is annihilated. I didn’t know what a state of anxiety I was living in until I tackled those dust bunnies and piles of magazines into submission.

2. I can watch whatever the heck I want. So far that’s been Harry Potter, Anne of Green Gables, and Jane Austen, among other things. And it’s great because no one gives me the You Want to Watch Thaaaat? look, no one interrupts my movie asking me for something, and no one says Stop Quoting. Oh, it’s a grand life to watch TV by oneself. Nothing compares. Utter bliss.

Sporty, one of the kids I nanny, drew this injured Harry Potter for me in oil pastels.
Sporty, one of the kids I nanny, drew this injured Harry Potter for me in oil pastels.

3. I can eat whatever I want. Vegetables. Yogurt. Meat. Fruit. Ice cream. Eggs. I lead a plain simple life, adorned only by garlic and olive oil. and the occassional drizzle of Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup.

IMG_2402

4. I can sing as loud as I want and no one tells me with undisguised sarcasm that I should become a country music rockstar.

5. I can stand on chairs as long as I want. Call it a quirk, but sometimes, I just need to get above it all, get out of my own head. And a physical change in point of view helps. So I stand on a chair. Family Unit finds this strange and pass by underneath my thoughtful eye with judgment. Since they’re gone, I would stay up there all day if I didn’t happen to have a day job.

6. I can bang extra hard on my typewriter keys because I can. No one yells “What’s going on up there?” by which they mean “Would you cut it out?”IMG_2401

7. I can do homework. I love my family, I really do (though that might be in dispute according to the above points…) but it’s super-duper hard to do homework at home when they’re at home. I’m a big-time procrastinator on my own. Having them around is like having four extra me’s assisting in procrastinating. By the time I get myself settled down and doing work, someone needs me to unload the dishwasher, help them move a sofa, give an opinion on this or that, or they want me to eat with them. I never knew how popular I was until I started doing homework. But with everyone gone I am the only one to blame for not getting things done, and I’ve become a master at scolding myself for not sitting down and doing homework. Therefore, I’ve been most productive in the time Family Unit has been gone.

8. So…when are they coming back again? I miss them. 😦