Archive | March 2014

The dash

tombstone“What are you doing with your dash?”

That’s the question our pastor posed in church Sunday. What dash, you say? You know, the time between your birth and inevitable death. I wrote his question down on the top of the notes page in the bulletin, along with the same question phrased another way: “What are you living for?”

I had just taught a high school Sunday school class on Solomon, the wise guy (no, really) who had everything he could hope for—riches, power, fame—and yet concluded at the end of his life that it was all “meaningless” apart from God (Ecclesiastes 1:1).

I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;
    I refused my heart no pleasure.
My heart took delight in all my labor,
    and this was the reward for all my toil.
Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
    and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
    nothing was gained under the sun.
—Ecclesiastes 2:10-11

In school, I remember thinking (usually in physics class), “Why am I doing this? What is this all for?” To get good grades so I can spend a lot of money on college, get a job, work a bunch, retire and die? … Hey, physics really bummed me out sometimes, OK?

Or when I worked at the newspaper, sometimes I would struggle to write a story because I couldn’t answer the question, “Who cares?”

In college, I led a Bible study on The Purpose-Driven Life by Rick Warren. The author said that he can’t tell you what your specific purpose in life is, since we all have different talents, desires and so on, but that our ultimate goal is to glorify God.

I admit I didn’t totally understand what that meant at the time, and I’m still wrapping my head around it now, several years later. But here’s what I do know: That when I ask God to show me what He wants for my life, and I follow where I think He’s leading, I’m fulfilled. Content. Even happy. There’s nothing lacking, no restlessness to contend with. When I don’t do those things, I start feeling a little empty space form in my stomach. Not the hunger kind of space, but the kind of space where anxiety likes to hide. The kind of space that’s still there no matter what you use to fill it, like when you drink tons of water and still feel thirsty.

Sunday, during the class I taught, I had the students make a list of things they spend their money on. Or their parents’ money. There were things like clothes, music, movies, a car, fast food and girlfriends. None of those things are bad, but they will never satisfy, I told them. The shiny new car gets dings and dents. The cute clothes wear out. You eventually lose interest in the latest video game.

Now don’t get me wrong. I think God wants us to enjoy life. Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” He celebrated weddings and participated in feasts. He used humor. The Bible even talks about making a “joyful noise.” And just look around—there’s beauty and crazy cool stuff everywhere.

There’s plenty of room in life to appreciate art, make good music, go on road trips and eat ice cream—especially mint chocolate chip. But there’s also eternity to consider.

I saw a video recently from Francis Chan, a preacher who used a long, white rope to make a very good point. (Watch his video here starting at 2 minutes.) He took the end of the rope, several inches probably, and said that represents this life on earth. But then he had feet of rope dragging behind him and said imagine that it goes on forever. That’s eternity. And what we do with the inches on this side of life impacts eternity.

So what am I doing with this life? What am I doing with my dash?

I like to think that I’m investing in meaningful friendships. That I’m making an effort to spend time with family. That I’m finding ways to serve people around me. That I have a fun, exciting job that can positively affect people around the world. And that I’m telling people about the one Person who has had the greatest impact on my life to date.

This is the same One who made me and knows my name.

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
—Psalm 139:1-3

So it only makes sense that He knows what’s good for me. He knows what works for me and what doesn’t because He has known me since the beginning of time.

And I know that when I follow His direction and prompting, that dash I’m working on is pretty awesome.

“Keeping the romance alive”

Owl with facial mask

I was going to post a picture of myself with the mask on, but do I really want that floating around the Internet? No.

Pete and I will celebrate our 4th wedding anniversary in May. Four years in, there are still some things that I try to be discreet about. Let’s leave a little bit of mystery, shall we? But oh how hard that is when you live with another person. …

Like this morning. I thought Pete had already left for an appointment when I got out of the shower, so I proceeded to pat down my T-zone with a refreshing face mask. I was supposed to leave it on for 10 minutes, and about 8 minutes in, I was standing in our room with the mask still very much intact. Then I heard footsteps. Eek, he’s still home!

I scurried to the bathroom and closed the door. He knocked.

“Don’t come in!” I shouted.

“But I have to brush my teeth!” He was going to the dentist. I guess that’s valid.

“Urgghh! OK …”

I took cover in the walk-in bathroom closet while he brushed.

Now let me pause for a second. I have, in fact, worn a face mask around him before, but that one was smooth and creamy and covered my whole face. THIS was not that.

This is NOT how I looked.

This is NOT how I looked.

THIS mask was kind of powdery and white and only covered a portion of my face. Plus my hair was still a mess. It wasn’t cute.

When he was done brushing, he told me bye from the other side of the closet door. I waited until he left (for sure this time) before I came out of hiding and quickly splashed water on my face.

I was telling a group of girlfriends about the ordeal at lunch today and one friend said kudos to me for “keeping the romance alive.” She said she would have snuck up behind her husband and scared him with it.

Puppy love

Zoey as a puppy, Sept. 2011

Zoey as a puppy, Sept. 2011

Zoey drives me crazy sometimes. So does Anja, but not nearly as much.

Zoey’s latest annoying habit is reverting back to her puppy days. She’s about 2 1/2 now, but has started doing things that I thought she was finally over. Like jumping on people. Or running around the house like a madman, messing up all my rugs. Or eating poop. (Why?!)

Today, I came home to find that Anja had thrown up her food in her crate. I think she was actually aiming for it to be outside her crate, but I’ll leave the details there. So while I cleaned that up, I left her in the living room and let Zoey eat on the deck right outside the door where I could see her. I figured I would let her back in as soon as she was done eating so she wouldn’t roam around the yard, eating nasty things on my watch.

Except Zoey inhaled her food and ran off in the mere seconds I looked away to finish cleaning. When I called her to come back inside, she didn’t come right away and I knew she was up to no good. I was right.

All of this was about 5 minutes after I walked in the door after putting our trash and recycle bins by the curb in freezing rain. I was still in my raincoat, cleaner in one hand and paper towels in the other, and not all that happy.

DSC_3638

So I’ve been thinking …

This must be how God feels sometimes. He watches us do the same stupid things over and over, make dumb decisions and go back to our old ways. Yet He’s quick to forgive and loves us anyway.

I’ve told people before that it’s a good thing Zoey is cute. Otherwise, she’d be outta here by now. I get so angry sometimes when I find that she’s done it again. I tell her “no, bad girl,” pointing to what she’s done and put her in her crate.

IMG_7630

But when I let her out, she looks up at me with that face and the one brown eye and it’s so cute I can’t stand it. I can’t stay mad long and I love her anyway.

Anja is the same way. Friends have told us she could be in an ASPCA commercial with Sarah McLachlan singing in the background as she looks at you with those big brown eyes. When I’m mad at her for something, she just looks at me like, “What?” Or she’ll lean her head on my knee when I’m sitting down and nudge my hand to pet her, knowing full well I just told her to lay down.

Good grief. One dog is a spaz, and the other one is needy.

But I love them anyway.

Anja Zoey collage