February 28, 2012

umm, funky chicken? [grAttitude]

So, there's this very exciting little app for the iPhone called HeyTell that I love. It's kind of like a walky talky in that you can voice-message back and forth without calling on the phone. It's like a text that's out loud and it's the best, especially when you are friends with the kinds of people who like to sing to you or call you with cute little kiddos with cute little voices. [Which I am, if you're wondering.]

I don't nanny much anymore, what with my big-girl job taking over my life and all, and so I like that my sweet friend Kim HeyTells me with cute kids all the time. And since she will surely be scooped up any day now by a perfect job, I know that I must drink in these cutie messages while they last. Yesterday when I got off work I was super cranky, but nonetheless we began HeyTelling back and forth, and I was exchanging jokes with Kim and a sweet little 5 year old boy named Teddy. His primary joke was, basically, to repeatedly call me "Funky Chicken" and tell me I should go to China and that he would pay for my ticket if I wanted. Jokes and jokes and jokes. Then he said, unprompted, in a tiny little voice, and I quote:

"Umm, Funky Chicken, can I someday see you? Cause I bet you're really nice. And really pretty, ok? Over."

Ask me if I was cranky after that. Go ahead, and I'll tell you that I wasn't, not at all in fact. And as silly and little as it was, it may have actually been just enough to protect me from the little bit of pain I was feeling before. I'm trying to do a couple of things better, and since you may be hearing more of these little snippets, let me tell you what they are: 1. I'm trying to be more thankful, and 2. I'm trying to notice ways Jesus loves me that are subtle and might in the hustle and bustle of a normal day go unnoticed. Things like compliments from a 5 year old who doesn't even know my name but doesn't really need to because if it's ok by me he'll just keep right on calling me Funky Chicken. [Which it is, if you're wondering.]


February 22, 2012

on my Lenten indecision

Choosing what I'm going to do for Lent is a lot like picking a New Years Resolution, in that I can never choose what to commit to. Oh sure, I can come up with a list of about a million things, almost instantaneously, that I could do. You want to know why it's so easy? Because it's stuff I should probably already be doing anyway.

So then, of course, I get all convicted and whatnot and head rapidly into a full blown shame-spiral because I'm a worthless human who can't do anything right. It's really not terribly productive, in the end, because I don't end up choosing anything since I'm too busy feeling worthless and continuing to do nothing. Oof. No good, I tell you, no good at all.

And yet here we are, the day before Lent, and I'm still trying to figure out what it is exactly I'd like to do for it. Give something up? Add a spiritual discipline? Stop doing something? Start doing something? BOTH!? Someone tell me what to Lent! I beg you!

On the other hand, I have learned so much through Lent in the past 4 years that this year I'm almost looking forward to it. I've been revisiting some of it and relearning those lessons, recalling, reveling in God's faithfulness to me. I know that's kind of weird to say, that I'm excited, because Lent in general isn't supposed to be particularly pleasant. But sometimes, church traditions aren't just stuffy and boring, they have purpose. Really beautiful purpose. I've said it before and I'll say it again: observing Lent through to Easter changes everything. At least, it did for me. It makes everything about Easter more wonderful and it makes the wilderness meaningful in ways it wasn't before. It's ridiculously poetic. I love that.

The first time Lent was explained to me in a way that resonated more than just deciding to give up Diet Coke for 40 days, it was huge. It was a time when I knew wilderness and I needed it to mean something. And then there it was. It did mean something. It does. I don't know, I think at the surface it seems strange to observe such a dark time. I think it seems weird that corporately, as a church, we focus on darkness and mess for so long. But on some strange, weird level, I find great comfort in it. I find great comfort in the thought of light at the end of darkness. I find great comfort in knowing that even though we observe the trials of the 40 days, the grief of Good Friday, the sad emptiness of Holy Saturday, that at the end of that? There is Sunday. There is hope. And hope does not disappoint us.

I'm trying, this year, to decide what exactly it is that I need to add or subtract from my life so that I can lean more fully into God, so that I will be ready, when the time comes, to celebrate the gift and glory of Jesus. I probably should have been discerning this sooner, but alas, I am a procrastinator. And my list of things I should be doing already is long and daunting. I'm setting the goal that by Ash Wednesday service tonight at 7, I will be ready to commit to whatever it is. In the meantime I just won't do anything I shouldn't be doing so that I don't accidentally break whatever Lenten commitment I decide to make. It may be a long day, is what I'm telling you, so I guess you've been warned?

Mostly I'm excited. Excited because I can't wait to see what God has to teach me through the next 40 or so days. Excited because honestly, I'm ready to be stripped of stuff I don't need. Excited because even though brokenness is a thing, even though pain is undeniable and sadness and grief are inevitable, there's hope at the end. There's rescue, and a way out of the wilderness. There's a Savior.

February 17, 2012

how to express sympathy, per my opinion

There's going to be a swear word (albeit a bleeped one) in this post. Normally I don't condone swearing on the blog, but sometimes, swearing is all you can do, and this is one of those times. I know you're all old enough to handle it, but I felt like I should warn you anyway.

I shop for greeting cards kind of a lot. When I got tired of shopping for them so much, I just started making them myself. I love greeting cards, is my point, because I love handwritten sentiment in all its forms. I love love love it. There is an obvious exception to that rule, however, and that exception is the sympathy sentiment. In all my ventures to card and stationary stores, if I find a good sympathy card - and by "good" I mean "doesn't make me want to put my fist through a brick wall" - I always buy it. Because my GOODNESS I'll be darned if sympathy isn't the hardest and worst thing to try convey in words ever, and if someone manages to do it well, I'm gonna jump on that.

Before I had a loss in my life that was major, I was so awkward about sympathy. What do I say? What do I not say? And I was awkward because it is awkward, that's why, and there is nothing, and I do mean nothing good to say in the face of grief. I always thought there was, but I just didn't know it. I thought I'd learn it in seminary, in my counseling degree; no such luck. But when it happened to me, when I was the one people were avoiding and awkwardly stumbling over their words around, I realized something important. There's nothing good to say. There's just not.

Here are a few of the things I have learned, though. First is what I just said. Since there is no code or formula for magical helpful words that will make the pain go away for the person you're comforting, or attempting to, there's no pressure or expectation that you need to try and fix anything. It's not about fixing it so much as it is about being there. Sitting in the mess, wading through the wreckage. Holding hands and crying or laughing or both, as the case may be. No matter how well-meaning, people say really stupid things sometimes in these situations, and that just is what it is. But not showing up at all hurts worse than any of them. Be available. That's what counts.

The other thing I learned - and this might be the most important - is to not try and be something you're not. Don't worry about being eloquent if you're not eloquent. Don't worry about saying the right thing because there isn't a right thing. Don't try and manufacture a Hallmark card sentiment if that's not your style. And if it is your style, by all means, hit me with your best shot. If you bake casseroles, bake a casserole. If you are more comfortable doing things, offer to go grocery shopping or something. If you've lost someone too, empathize, share; and if you haven't, it doesn't mean you're not qualified to listen. Only two things are important, in my opinion and experience, and they are these: show up, and then be yourself. If it's ugly and awkward, fine. As long as you're there and it's genuine, I'm still going to love you for it.

The summer after Audrie died, I went to a college friend's wedding in Dallas. Some people knew what had happened in my family and said nothing, other people clearly didn't know anything, some said the kindest words, and others hugged me just a few seconds longer than felt usual so I would know that they knew, that they cared. A sort-of-mentor of mine from college was there, too, and I think I wasn't sure if he knew or not. Two things I can say without a doubt about that man: he is present and he is genuine, without fail. And I will never, ever forget: we were standing in line for the appetizers. I didn't even realize he was behind me until I heard a low voice, just loud enough to be deciphered over Sinatra crooning from the speakers mere feet from us, say to me:

You know what? F*ck cancer.

He gave me a quick hug, and that was it. It wasn't eloquent, or constructive, or even very appropriate.
And it was perfect.

Show up. Be you. That's all anyone who's hurting wants or expects from you. I promise.

February 14, 2012


This is something: I do not hate Valentines Day.

I am currently unattached and that is what it is. I mean, do I love being single? Sometimes, honestly, yes. Like when I want to watch Friday Night Lights for hours on end, I have no one to answer to. Other lots of times, no. Like when I can't find anyone to go with me to an event and a significant other would have to because they love me or something and it's my understanding that's how things work. I don't know, but either way, a day of love-focus is not something I frown upon. We should probably have more of them, in fact. And regardless of your opinion of the contrived nature of the Hallmark-induced holiday and how ridiculous it is that we all buy into the commercialism etc etc and so on and so forth, I mean, I just don't care that much. It's a silly holiday. If you're in love, celebrate it. If you're not, celebrate the other ways that love is all up in your life. If you want to cry into a wine bottle on your couch with the shades drawn watching Nicholas Sparks movies all day because you're not spending tonight at an Olive Garden reinacting the Bella Notte scene from Lady and the Tramp, I guess that's your prerogative. But I do so wholeheartedly wish you wouldn't.

What I won't do is bombard you with platitudes and clichĂ©s because then I would have to hate me, and I'm quite partial to liking me. But just because your life in no way resembles a Rom Com at this moment in time, doesn't mean you don't have a love story. It just looks different. It's unfolding, if you will. In process, or whatever. My life is full of love. It is a gift that is at once and the same time both excruciating and delicious; it means my heart is wrenched beyond what I think it can bear but it also means it is full beyond my own capacities. I am given opportunities to love all over every single day and even when I don't take those opportunities, even when I really suck at love, I wake up again the next morning and there are more chances, more opportunities, and I am refilled with love to give. Like magic.

And you know what? I'm ok, and I'm glad I'm ok, but it doesn't mean I don't wonder. It doesn't mean I don't hope. It doesn't mean I don't want. And while it would be nice if you were here already, I've got plenty to do until you get here so I'm sure I won't get bored. See you when I see you.

Maybe right now love feels scarce. But I promise you. It's not.


I know it's been done, but it's a classic. And everything else I tried to write about love for this, the day of love, turned out weird. So here we are, talking about unicorns again. Sorry I'm not sorry.

Having a blog is a little bit like writing an ongoing novel about myself. I write my life, that is true - but I am fully in control of what about my life I write. It is a great thing that I can be real and authentic and write truth... to the extent that I see fit on a given day. The truth is the truth, but I can spin it how I like. I get to choose. When it comes to my life on paper, I am the author, creator, editor, and mastermind. I can write something completely untrue if I want (I don't do that, for the record). I can write something and delete it if I don't like what I see. I'm in charge. I have control. And for your information, yes, the weather is lovely in delusionland.

In the life that I write, I try very hard not to write about the L bomb. Love.

I mean love... like, LOVE love. Romance love. The subject of every movie geared towards my demographic love. DOYOULIKEME check-yes-or-no love. It's not a subject I feel super comfortable positing my opinions on. On the one hand, to be a single girl in her mid-twenties writing about love feels stereotypical to me, and heaven forbid I be predictable. But admittedly, I also secretly fear becoming that girl - the one who talks about nothing but. It is possible, however, that my refusal to accept this topic has caused me to err on the side of never acknowledging it, which is a kind of predictability in itself. Foiled again.

Which brings me to the topic at hand: Unicorns.

Yes. Unicorns. Those mythically wondrous sparkly horse-like creatures with horns growing triumphantly from their majestic brows. Sunlight beaming from every inch of their lithe, irridescent bodies. Unicorns. The concept of the Unicorn is wonderful (don't argue, I won't listen) and magical but at the end of the day, we don't think they really exist. Which is why one day, when speaking of a friend's fiancĂ©, another friend and I dubbed this particular man a Unicorn. He was so great that we weren't sure he was real. Then other good guys showed up. Again and again, we thought, "is this real?!" Years have passed since we first coined this phrase, and one by one, Unicorns have continued to strut into the picture of our lives. Fascinating.

I can no longer pretend that Unicorns (the man kind, anyway) do not exist. The evidence is there, albeit sporadic, and I can ignore their existence no longer. I'm going to resist the urge to go all Nicholas Sparks on you, to shower you with platitudes and cliches, because then I would have to hate me and I'm quite partial to liking me. And I will add as a caveat that while these love-type things are indeed possible, they rarely look like we think they will. The timing we have in our heads is never accurate. There is the potential for a lot of heartbreak on the way there. And while I don't believe in "but even after all that they found each other and they lived happily ever after and nothing bad ever happened ever again because they were both beautiful and in LOVE" Disney fairytale ish, I do believe in Unicorns. Which, if you know me, is a big deal for me to admit.

Since we, the ladies, first gazed longingly into the eyes of Jonathan Taylor Thomas on the shiny pages of Teen Beat and discovered True Love at the tender age of 11, we have hoped (some of us more quietly than others) that Unicorns were real. I just want you to know, girls, that I'm starting to think it might be possible. You need not settle for horses that will kick you right in the teeth if you let yourself get close enough. (To be fair, I've never really liked horses so they didn't stand a chance in this metaphor.) Quit hanging out with horses. Hold out for a Unicorn.

And boys - I'm not trying to be insulting, so before you get your boxer briefs in a bunch, listen up. You, too, can (and probably will) be someone's Unicorn. Rather, you get to be someone's Unicorn. Yes. I've seen it happen too many times not to believe it's possible. We're waiting for you with eager anticipation. I think I may already know some of you and that is equally encouraging. Thank you for being so swell already. Thank you for acting Unicornly to me even though you aren't necessarily my Unicorn. You may be the rarest of rare.

February 2, 2012

choosing something different

Apparently, I have been in a funk. This was news to me.

I knew January wasn't going well. And I mean, I had my suspicions that I wasn't pulling it off like I thought I was, but earlier this week my suspicion was confirmed. Someone was talking about me, but the person they described (with truly loving, caring words) was a harried, stressy, mess of a human. And I was a little lot distraught. Are they talking about me? No. Well, maybe. Here is a fun fact about me: my bedroom is a window to my soul. And as such, it serves as a sort of barometer for the state of my life at any given time - and on that particular day, that is what I saw. Shoot.

Anyway, it's never fun to realize that you've not been faking it quite as well as you thought you were. The next day, in hopes of proving I am not, in fact, a disaster, I intentionally straightened my hair and put a little more effort into my morning routine... and about 17 different people told me how good I looked. I chatted a little more and ran around a little less. Someone actually said, "2011 Megan is back!" It was kind of a joke, also maybe kind of not a joke. Pretty sure the January funk = confirmed. And then some.

So I'm making a choice. A choice to not be overwhelmed and flustered and stressy. A choice to calm down a little bit and say yes to more fun things and no to more not-fun things and straighten my hair more often, apparently, because it's a big hit with pretty much everyone. I'm going to not let bitterness grow in me [I will not let you leave that legacy], no matter how many tornadoes* I come in contact with. I know that sometimes moods aren't a choice; after all, I don't remember making a choice to be miserable for a month. But I do think that sometimes you do get the opportunity make choices. And if things aren't working and you know you can do something about it, you're sort of obligated to at least try. Right?

At a very opportune time, apparently, I was reminded this week by a clever, likable guy I know of the the Choose Your Own Adventure books. I loved them growing up - Journey Under the Sea was my favorite, if I remember correctly. Here's how it worked: you would get to a certain point in the story, and you would get to make a choice. Do you want the submarine to go through the secret passageway (turn to page 47!), or back up to the surface for fuel and provisions (turn to page 29!)? From there, all you could do was hold your breath, turn the page, and pray that your choice didn't make the story end. It was pointed out to me that life is sort of like this. We are given choices to make, and based on our choice the story will go one way or the other.

I want to live a good story. One that's entertaining and fun and meaningful and true and free. January was not those things very often. And I have a choice, now, to either do what I've been doing and keep feeling yucky, or try my darnedest to do something different. Today on my way home I stopped at a store and you know what I did? I bought a coffee mug with a mustache on it. Not for any reason other than I thought it would be a stupid little thing that would make me happy in the morning. 

January, you did not work for me. So I'm choosing something different. I've already started. Some days it will be as simple as a mug with a mustache on it, but even on those days, I will still be choosing entertaining, fun, meaningful, true, free. Because it's my story, and I can do that if I want.

So there.

*official theme song of my big mood-switch. you're welcome.