Friday, November 6, 2015

| hello twenty. |




Mateo, despite your various brutalities, you are a good soul.





*     *     *
Photos are the fruit of sifting once again through the clogged files on my computer, stalking my friends' social media and then nagging them for permission to pilfer their pictures, and succumbing to the cravings to display a *small* fraction of my enthusiasm for quotes.

*     *     *

"Does it feel any different, your not being a teenager anymore?"
I think I told the first person who asked me said cute little question that it stank. It was a pre-caffeine comment, so I enjoy imagining that they pardoned my negativity. After hearing that question about a dozen times, I found a corner of solitude and mentally scrutinized the new digits for about five minutes, then crept back to reality feeling freshly humbled and carrying on my shoulders yet another resolution to emulate maturity. One more objective I can't claim to have achieved yet.


Every time I finally believe I've grasped the definition of a mature adult, and maybe (in my more egotistic moments) even begun producing it more than just on occasion, one of those moments rears its foul head. Some human out there in cyber universe, please permit yourself some honesty and acknowledge that you've been there, felt that. One of those things that suction sentences out of you that you wish you had never said, actions you'd barter your eyeteeth for a chance to erase when said actions are mere seconds old. And maturity looks a thousand mocking miles beyond your reach.

I offer this theory that if maturity, like all of those other platinum traits that Christian young people pursue, were obtained as easily as oxygen, we wouldn't need Jesus more than we need our next breath. When I ponder the gravity of my age married to the number of occasions I still play the child, I taste that need even more than I did as a teenager.



                                                              ~ Photo credits belong to Erin Martin ~

The past year has been cluttered with a thousand firsts, dozens of panic-saturated moments where parroting composure only worked on occasion, dozens more evenings industriously redeemed in a blanket fort eating desserts from a paper plate and texting satisfyingly stupid messages to delightfully ridiculous people, playing Tonka, Little Tykes and Melissa & Doug with toddlers and adoring almost every second of it, moving from Vermont to Texas and from Texas to New Mexico, purchasing a Pomeranian, watching a herd of mustangs gallop through the hills (for real), finally obtaining some sense of order and discipline now that I am twenty (not for real), learning to live at an elevation of over seven thousand feet, consuming ungodly quantities of Mexican food, going to Washington, D.C., acquiring a southern drawl and losing it again, weeping over desperately emotional songs (instigated by a frequent and general shortage of sleep, coffee, and common sense) falling in love, driving an old blue Subaru over forgotten red clay roads (with more or less success) attending the Winter JAM 2015 in Dallas, feeling spiritual blazes ignite at the scenes of revival meetings, seeing Grand Canyon, consuming thousands of calories' worth of Hawaiian pizza and root beer with more delightfully ridiculous people, refining my natural  talent for the mandolin (I wish) squandering my sweat-blood-and-tears-stained-paychecks on white chocolate mocha Starbucks lattes (I'm not going to lie, I don't regret even one of them) eating gelato in a NYC airport and feeling like a hipster, sleeping in a camper for a week with my bestie and half a dozen bags of candy, flying all over creation, complaining about my insane life and then feeling properly chastened upon the realization that, while not even attempting to be flawless, it is nothing less than beautiful, and dreading the big 2-0.

Okay, twenty, you're a force to be reckoned with. And I'm ready to take you on.

Actually, not even.

I need Jesus in my life. Now more than yesterday, or three and a half weeks ago, or six years ago, or the day I turned ten or thirteen.

And the good news is- He's been waiting for me, all this time. Every time I permit arrogance and self-importance a corner of lodging in my heart, that same heart is brutally swift in producing thoughts and responses that demonstrate how illegitimate that arrogance is. More often than not my own anger or spite (oh, why do those two words have to sound so repulsive?) are the convenient tools that God uses to reveal to me just what a sinner I am. God has drenched the past fifteen months with blessings upon blessing, but how swiftly my flesh crosses its arms and whines about all it doesn't clutch between its already laden hands at the moment. On occasion my honest mama has looked me in the eye and politely spoken her mind. "Hannah, you're being a brat." And the arrogance embedded in my human nature shrieks that such is not even possible.
Which merely serves to prove that duh, of course it is.

If life has taught me anything, it would be that 1) fabricated perfection is a waste of time and energy and a variety of dishonesty, and 2) that people who are only attracted to manufactured faultlessness exist in nirvanas of their own devising. I'm not going to offer you a cyber resume of my spiritual gifts, my various talents, my sundry accomplishments, my charming personality (hah), my cool friends, my exemplary self-portrait of a Christain young woman. Hello, my name is stubborn and moody and cynical and oh, so faithless, and instead of lamely attempting to convince God, myself, and humanity that I am by nature anything otherwise, I prefer the relief that comes by painfully whispering to the Lord every time I blow it, "I know I'm rotten to the core, and more than that, I know You still love me."

And that's where September 2015 found me. Still failing, still loved, and (hopefully) still learning.

Hello, twenty. Let's do this.

"No matter how far you are,
No matter how dark your past
His arms are always open
There is a home for the broken
All the words that He has spoken are true . . .
You are fully known by the Author of space and time
He won't let you go and He won't change His mind . . .
No, He cannot change His mind."

"Fully Known" ~ JJ Heller

 P.S. How in the world did this get so long?


Sunday, November 1, 2015

| be genuine. |

She extricates herself from beneath the blankets at six in the morning, drained of energy and enthusiasm for the virgin day because of excessive hours the previous evening texting and prowling social media. She's frazzled about work and the knots she needs to tie with too-short strings. Two cups of coffee isn't providing her with adequate strength to smile. Her conscience shakes a pointed finger at her, offering yet another reminder of the dust layering her Bible.
And once again, she whispers the clichéd apology. At least, the number of occasions upon which it has crossed her mouth loan it a clichéd flavor. She gnaws on her tongue until the salt of blood stings her jaw, recalling her clique of acquaintances at her church and the perfection that fits their personalities like a tailor-made garment.
Whenever she attempts to don that same garment, she finds that it falls off before she can parrot it for so much as ten minutes.
She's sorry she’s so lacking, sorry for the failures that paint her personality in repulsive colors. She's thirsty for change, and she wants Jesus to know it.
Nonetheless, she has a schedule to survive. A thirty-minute commute to complete. And she forgets to tell Him.
The job fulfills every black and blue detail her intuition forecast. It sucks at her patience, pulling it apart one segment at a time until she locks herself into a bathroom stall and allows herself to cry. Just for ten minutes. And that moment of permitting her emotions a release resuscitates her patience, or a portion of it, at least.
Three in the afternoon shuffles its tardy feet into her life, and she takes the freeway home, reflecting on the bruises the past eight hours dealt her, and upon her scantily camouflaged reactions to them. Her soul screams for the poise and maturity she tastes in the faces, in the speech, in the smiles of her friends. Craves it like oxygen. Feels her blatant insecurities like daggers in her gut, every conscious moment.
And she can’t seem to loosen those knives. Can’t force herself to fit the mantles of faultlessness. No matter how much she bleeds with each fresh attempt.
She locks herself into her bedroom at home-- the one location where she doesn't feel vulnerable--  and logs into her social media accounts. She wouldn’t confess a syllable of the truth even to herself, but she finds solace for her self-doubt in those profiles. Every time she studies her own plastic smile in her likeness on those internet pages, she feels that she’s claimed a fragment of that elusive, glittering flawlessness.
It comforts her. And she could use some comfort at the moment.
She begins typing. And the words form on her screen easier that she wants to admit. As if wearing the deception is slowly becoming a part of the person that she is. “Praising the Lord for another sweet and beautiful new day. I’m finding myself thankful for so many blessings right now. . . the Lord is grafting so much character into my life, teaching me more about Himself every day. I am so blessed, and I am rejoicing in this the most beautiful life I could possibly have been given."
For a hundred seconds, as she stares at the sentences on the screen, she almost believes them, and she concludes the paragraph with a scripture. “Who can find a virtuous woman . . .  for her price is far above rubies.”
And she has just composed the fictional character she yearns to become. Not who she is. But the description she craves to claim, despite every day freshly defiled by her own humanity.
Later, the feedback begins, flowing from her collection of friends. The ones from whom beauty and virtue pour so abundantly, so naturally. The people she would sacrifice her own blood to resemble, even if only for one day.
“This is so sweet. How wonderful. I was so blessed.”
And, for the first time since she vacated her bed that morning, she feels that she’s finally done something right.

*      *     *
Many months and solitary tears later, she reviews her social media and locates the rose-colored, paper-thin post that she had created. Beautiful, in the manner that an artificial flower is beautiful. Lovely to look at, but lacking the fragrance of a living, breathing thing.
She can’t help but smile, just for a sliver of a second.
Fiction was the only language I knew then.
She doesn’t need the internet as a crutch for her confidence anymore. Doesn't need the self-satisfaction it barters in exchange for dishonesty. She possesses more than fools' gold now, a buoyancy that thrives minus the sanction of mere people.
 She closes the page and inhales a mountain-sized breath, conscious of the human creature that she is. And grateful for it.
How else would she have discovered her daily need for the Lord, but not for her sin?
“God, thank You for showing me that You love me despite my sin. Despite the undeniable truth that I’m a human being. And that Your love and Your acceptance is all that I need.”
She knows that the world will find fault with the flawed, raw human being that she is, that there will always be some arrogant individual who prefers fiction to fact and who will reject the candid version of her. And more even than that, she knows that her Savior does not condemn her. She need not forge any plastic perfection for Him.
And, because of that, she need not forge any for another human being, either.

  *      *      *

 Are we honest before Christ and our fellow brothers and sisters, or do we attempt to impress them with self-righteousness and declarations of a golden existence?

Who are we to attempt to convince the world that we are perfect, or that our existences are privileged by an absence of stains and scars?

Are we genuine?