Sunday, July 27, 2008

What's Up, Dog?

I've never really been a big collector. I have a tendency to be a bit of a pack rat if I'm not careful, just because I'm super sentimental and can't bear to throw things (cards, letters) away when they say something special or are from someone I love (which, if you think about it, would encompass about all of the cards and letters I've ever been given). But apart from the inability to part with things of sentimental value, I am not a collector. I did try collecting can tabs in elementary school, but that was only because I had heard that if you save up a 3-liter worth of them, you were in for some serious cash. Five bucks or something. (I was quite the entrepreneur in elementary school, always trying to sell things I had made or devise new ways to make money.) Since my family never really drank soft drinks, I could only collect them by getting them from friends or neighbors who were finished with their sodas. Which means that I collected about 12 before I lost interest. (Typing that, I realize how pitiful that sounds, but I promise I wasn't a little ragamuffin!)

Krister and I have begun a tradition of going to a local baseball game as one of our activities when we go on vacation. I ADORE this tradition! Who doesn't love baseball games? Since he's smart and tricky, he buys them from season ticket holders and we wind up getting great seats (which I don't really care about because I'm just there for the atmosphere and the food). Although I do not eat hot dogs in my regular life, I make exceptions when I am camping, watching a big game on TV, or attending a baseball game. It has not been a successful baseball outing if I haven't had a hot dog. Since we take lots of pictures on vacation, I realized that I am accumulating pictures of myself eating hot dogs. For the first time in my life, I am a collector! Now I don't eat a hot dog without capturing the event on camera. Following is the beginning of what I hope will grow to be an enormous collection of hot dog eating sessions. Enjoy! :)

My first hot dog eating picture in Central Park. Okay, so it's not a baseball game or camping, but who can pass up a cute little hot dog vendor?

Giant's game on our first trip to San Francisco

By the river in Chicago. Hmmm... yet another time I'm eating a hot dog when neither baseball or camping is involved.

At the White Sox game in Chicago

At the Giant's game on our latest trip to SF

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Abraham or Jonah?

All my life, I've been a huge fan of the Old Testament stories. Specifically, I love the clear message woven throughout each story that people are dumb, frail, filled with doubts and fears, and incapable of maintaining consistent faithfulness to God... but God still used them and worked through them to accomplish His miraculous purposes, and better yet, stayed in relationship with them out of His great love for His creation. I especially love the stories in moments when I realize how dumb, frail, filled with doubts and fears, and incapable of maintaining consistent faithfulness I am. It's such a relief to know that God has a long history of loving, working through, and rescuing people just like me.

It's probably for this reason that I often see my life through the lens of the Old Testament characters. When I needed a big scholarship for college, I prayed something to the effect of, "God, you parted the Red Sea for Moses and stopped the sun in the sky for Joshua. I know it is nothing to you to hook me up with this scholarship, and that is what I am asking of you. Please step in and help this happen. This is my Red Sea." Each night I would lay in bed and recount the OT miracles to myself as I fell asleep, reminding myself of God's bigness and power and ability to overcome obstacles that seem insurmountable on my own.

Recently we've been faced with some big transitions as K finishes his residency year and searches for a staff position. For a while there, it was looking like we were going to be moving away to make that happen. Before I go on, you should know that I DO NOT want to move away right now. I LOVE where I live. I love my job. I love our church. I love living close to my family. I love our dear friends here. I don't expect to get to stay here forever, but with the hopes of starting a family soon, I did not want to up and leave our whole support system right now. I DO NOT want to leave.

But I thought we were about to. To prepare myself for the transition, I began to reread the Exodus story. Probably not the parts you would think, though. One of the most helpful parts of the story for me is the part before Moses goes back to Egypt and the whole plague thing starts to happen. Back up to when Moses flees from Egypt after killing that man and finds himself in Midian. He shows up out of nowhere and before you know it, the priest's daughter Zipporah is given to be his bride. Not a bad gig for Zipporah - she marries this Moses fellow, gets to live at home with her family, starts a family of her own, her husband takes on the family business and starts tending flocks.... until that annoying day with the burning bush. The day that Moses returned from the flocks and broke the news to her over dinner that God had spoken to him and they were going to be leaving Midian and heading out to Egypt to save God's people from the hand of the most powerful dictator in the land. Great. Sounds easy, Moses. I'm on board. Let's load our children up on donkeys and head out into the desert. Let's take away all of Pharoah's slave labor - I'm sure he won't mind if his whole work force leaves Egypt. It's practically a family vacation.

Zipporah was probably a better wife than I am, because that's exactly what she did. She left her family, loaded her sons up on a donkey, and headed to an unknown land to face a frightening task with the faith that God would be behind them all the way. (Personally, I think her faith was even greater than Moses' - I mean, SHE didn't get a burning bush.) She went not knowing if Moses would get killed by Pharoah and leave her widowed in a foreign land. Not knowing if they would ever return to see her father and her family again. (Thank goodness she didn't know about the 40 years of wandering in the desert!) I've always admired Zipporah for that. Remember, she didn't have the Old Testament to help her recount all of God's miracles. Now that's a leap of faith. Her story put my own into perspective. Yes, I might be leaving my family and everyone I know and love. Yes, we might be heading off into the unknown. But we're not having to go up against a dictator, and I know I'll get to return to see my family whenever I want.

Fast forward a few months to the time we had to make our final decision. Unfortunately, we were STILL waiting to hear back about K's job because apparently the process is interminable. Because of my job, we needed to make a decision, and there was certainly no clear choice one way or the other. Should we stay or should we go now? Either decision was a leap of faith because either left a lot of unknowns. At the last possible second, we decided... to stay.

I'm thrilled to be staying. Thrilled! But I had come to feel so peaceful about leaving, it feels weird to be staying. Which character am I? Am I Abraham, spared from doing the unthinkable at the last moment? Faithful in following what I thought was God's plan until He said, "Just kidding! You don't have to do it. Just wanted to see if you would." Or am I Jonah, directed to go to Ninevah (or in this case, Houston) and I said, "No way, Jose!" Is it my fate to be swallowed by a whale?

I should point out that theologically, I don't think there's necessarily a right or a wrong decision in this case. I don't believe that God has our lives laid out like lilly pads on a pond and it's up to us to figure our which pad to hop to next, hoping we've found the "right" one.... but all my life, I've asked God to personally direct my steps because I know that He can and desires to. And He has done it faithfully every time. Things have been so clear and apparent that it confuses me when they're not. What do you do when there's no burning bush? There's a song on CMT right now called, "Still Learning How to Trust." I guess that's where I am right now.