Friday, September 26, 2008

from the choir loft

i want to start collecting quotes and tips from my preschool classroom to share with everyone (imagine, the comedy!) but for tonight i'll start you off with a couple zingers from my choir director during our rehearsal tonight (equally amusing--but perhaps more so for the musically inclined):

on a dissonant chord:" really dig into that because it sounds like the good kind of pain feels--like when you get to itch your poison ivy"

on reaching the high point of a (Christmas) song: "imagine that you're riding horseback down the beach naked--that's what this should sound like"

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

skin--and those who burn it

last week at the dermatologist, almost as an afterthought, i had a little bump removed from my shoulder. it's been there for several years, most of the time remaining pretty inconspicuous, but every now and then, it would become irritated, bleed, and scab up. i pretty much just considered it to be a undying pimple/bug-bite and never had it on my mind when i went to the doc. but i finally asked about it and my doctor's reaction was to immediately take it off and check it out.

the results came back today & it was cancerous. MILDLY so, thank God. considering my fair skin and my tendency to sunburn, it really isn't too much of a surprise. all i have to do is return next week to get a little more skin sliced out, then i should be a-okay (though i will be tempted to implore the doctor to scan every surface of my skin for any additional anomolies).

i write this to ask for your prayers, and also to realize with me how precious our bodies and our healths truly are. i am extremely fair-skinned and never have truly tanned--only sunburned. when i was a child, my parents monitored me in the sun (though i loathed wearing a tshirt over my swimsuit in the beach pool), but as a teenager i bought into the impression than tan skin was a requirement for being beautiful. thankfully, i've wised-up since then, in large part due to a comment i received from a young mother at my church, maybe about 5 years ago. she noticed a sunburned patch of my skin, then warned me that she had similar skin & already had an instance of skin cancer herself. since then, i've been better about embracing the nature of my skin and avoiding prolonged sun exposure--but there's always those accidental burns and unavoidable conditions. now, of course, i will be even more precautious. go ahead and just call me White-y Whitney from here on out ;) i'm okay with that--hey, if i'd just lived a few centuries earlier, this translucence would be the hottest look on the street....

it would seem that my skin is the bane of my existence these days--i also started taking accutane this week (my third go-round). but the operative words there are 'it would seem.' having the nurse's (and wikipedia's) multiple assurances that this spot on my shoulder is extremely mild and non-threatening reminds me that God truly is sovereign in my life. sure, i struggle with a less-than-perfect complexion, and my irresponsibility in the sun has caught up with me, but i am one healthy woman because my God sustains me. He created me, He ordains my days, He traces my path before me.

cancer is a scary word to hear no matter what. but I thank God that mine can be removed with one quick outpatient procedure--and my prayers are with those who have a greater struggle before them.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

a lingering question

oh, patriarchy, what have you done to us?

forgive me the dramatic opening line (if you must), but it seems that the Bible, despite its good (no, perfect) intentions, often doubles as a tool for promoting all sorts of inequalities and injustices--ever since it fell into our grimy little hands.

no new news here, unfortunately. but i had begun to believe that perhaps we were living in a time (we have votes! we have college education! we have pants!) when the ill-used Biblical passages regarding women would finally begin to regenerate into something positive--or at least something equal.

but then something slips in there that sadly reminds me that we women are still fighting an uphill battle. meaning that men don't have to be intentionally sexist to promote a continued system of patriarchy.

let me finally explain to you what i'm talking about.

i'm reading a book called The Search for Significance with my discipleship mentor. The author is Robert McGee. We're only two chapters in, and I think the content is going to be extremely insightful for this season of my life.

and then he quoted 1 Timothy 2.

yes ladies, you may well know this delightful little passage--voted 'most likely to be edited out if the council of nicaea was reconvened' (before you cry heresy, i'm only being charmingly facetious). especially if your name is rachel and/or you were a member of the women's life group led by said rachel and i, you know this passage. you know the depth of Christian character it takes to read this passage and still like Paul, to read this passage and still believe there is a place for women in ministry outside of sunday school teaching (as much as i love it) and bake-sale organizing.

A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. will be savedBut women through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety (vv. 11-15)

and the Lord knows (along with my discipleship group ladies) that I have begun to make peace with what Paul is saying here, to understand that he is not blatantly attacking womankind...but it still makes my blood boil a bit when it is quoted freely out of context, without any supplementary explanations by the alluding author.

in his book, mr. mcgee was attempting to explain (as Donald Miller did in Searching) how the Fall is the root of humanity's self-worth problems. before the Fall, Adam & Eve were defined solely by God's opinion of them, which of course was an opinion of unconditional love. after the Fall, we look to one another for self-definition, and because we are all imperfect people, our sense of self-worth is skewed. thus, mr. mcgee was generally discussing the Fall and chose to quote 1 timothy, stating that Adam, unlike Eve, was not deceived by the serpent. cue steam pouring from my ears and flashes of red. as it turns out, upon closer examination (by which i mean my actually reading the rest of the paragraph), his point was that Adam sinned deliberately, which may well have been worse than Eve's sin in ignorance. fair enough--they both sinned (hello romans 3:23), whichever way you look it at.

once i calmed down after this initial uproar, i continued onto the workbook section of the book. it was here that the subconcious patriarchy hit the fan. a set of the workbook questions was based on the ending verses of genesis 1. which, as all you biblical scholars will note, is the creation source that does not distinguish between adam and eve, instead stating that "male and female" were created in God's image. but still yet, each and every question which referred to that specific passage and no other asked "what did God command Adam?", "why would Adam do this?", Adam, Adam, Adam. and yet, the name Adam was not breathed in the passage. only male and female--one unit.

i was so angry that i scratched out every instance of "Adam" and replaced it with "humankind." the sad thing is, i may well not have noticed this had it not been for the fact that we recently discussed these passages in my disciple Bible study group and pointed out the source distinction. and likewise, when i voiced (huffed?) these concerns, my mentor gently reminded me that it was likely not an intentional slight on the part of the author--with which i agree. but that's what so bad, right? it's just assumed that Adam was first in charge, the commanding officer, running the show, receiving the commands. but he wasn't necessarily, and certainly not in this version that the author specifically quoted. but it's how mr. mcgee naturally thought--the general patriarchal mindset undermines his thinking.

okay, i know i'm getting a bit out of control, but i think it's these small slights that perpetuate a system where women (in any context) are still second in stature to men. and i want to use my voice to speak against that. to remember that male and female were together created in His image, to remember that Paul said there is neither male nor female for we are one in Christ Jesus (gal. 3:28). to know that 1 timothy 2 is holy scripture and has something invaluable to say to men and women that is NOT sexist.

ps--rach, i dreamed about you after this episode. it's no small wonder why--you are forever linked to this passage in my mind :) much like the monster mash...

Saturday, September 13, 2008

worn out and fabulous

i suddenly remember what it is to be tired. not only sleepy-tired, but that lower back pain that plagued me during my brief waitressing stint--it has returned. (shudder) but i'd much rather be on my feet for the sake of retail than for the sake of waitressing--i far

and despite the fact that i squeezed in a two-hour outdoor zumba-thon in between two five-hour shifts at Lifeway, and despite the fact that my kiddies have already shared a few of their cooties with me, i feel quite good about things! i've already become reasonably competent on the cash register at the bookstore, my schedule is going to be busy but quite manageable, i keep having exciting thoughts about the possibility of a journalistic future, my bad haircut is starting to grow out a bit, and the tar heels won by a LOT this week.

imagine how i'll feel when i finally get a pay check again!

the only bad news--i'm not going to be able to make it to chapel hill next weekend :( it looks like i'll be working a lot of fridays & saturdays, and as much as i wanted to see everyone, i hardly think asking off on my second week would be in my best interest. hope to see y'all for late night in october--which coincidentally falls a few days after my 23rd birthday :) maybe in a month or so i will have earned enough brownie points to ask off. until then, all my love & prayers!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

working woman (alternate title: christmas comes early)

three days in and i'm still going to call them my little angels. i have preschool baby loves! we have one tantrum thrower, a couple of hitters, and plenty of snotty noses, but so far i love being around these little darlings.

monday and today (wed) we had seven kids. tuesday there were only two little girls (should be more next week!) i actually enjoy the more hectic activity. i've been singing silly made up songs, washing hands, changing dress up clothes, and eating fake food.

there have been multiple moments where it's felt just like babysitting. but today was a really good day. and i listen to them sing the little blessing i taught them on their own. i hear a parent tell me that his little two year old girl remembered my name at home after one day. i have one little boy make a beeline for my lap when he's eyes got droopy. and i know it's a ministry, that i'm getting to shape little ones. and gosh, i just love to be around them :)

sad news though--the lead teacher i'm working with was offered a full-time job elsewhere (in another career) so she'll be leaving after next week. i feel like we worked well together so i'll be sad to see her go. another change. i guess it just proves that old adage that the only constant thing is change. i'm learning to handle it.

monday was a long day since i went to the bookstore after preschool. it was a uneventful first day--i spent most of it reading a training manual. i'm looking forward to this weekend when i'll get a bit more training in. i hate that initial adjustment phase of learning how everything works and being the question-asker, but i think it will be a great work environment once i settle in.

and finally, christmas had indeed come early this year! last night was my first rehearsal with Carolina Voices, the community choir i decided to join. it was fabulous to sing again! i have this huge delicious folder of christmas music to learn, and gosh i haven't sang choral christmas pieces since high school (still love ya women's glee) and it's going to be fabulous! i also haven't memorized music since high school, which hopefully be like riding a bike--but we've got a lot to do. oooh and we're going to open the program with "O Come, O Come Emmanuel"--the lights gradually rising. when i was a high school freshman, our chamber choir did that and it was so haunting and beautiful and mesmerizing to watch that i've always wanted to open a concert with those deep sounds echoing in the darkness, then slowly growing warmer and lighter. by the time i made it to chamber in high school, that was off the program, but now it all works out anyway! (if you're still reading this senseless rambling, you truly are a friend :) the program will close with a simplistic version of "Silent Night." we closed our rehearsal with it last night, with everyone standing in a circle, listening to the harmonies, singing softly. we weren't even using the lyrics, but i noticed that they were not the traditional ones. i think that will let people really stop and listen to what the song is saying, and send them off with a reminder that the birth of Christ is what all the celebrating is for.

and with that aim in mind, i might let it slide that these alternate lyrics include a Euro-centric reference to baby Jesus's "golden" locks...riiiiight.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

thoughts i've been thinking

some things i figured out this week:

--i'm not sure if a job within a church is where i see myself long-term (which is not ruling out ministry in every capacity)

--i don't think i want to go to grad school or seminary for any type of educational ministry degree

--combining the above two realizations, i think my place within children's ministry in the future will continue to be volunteer-based.

Those were helpful things to realize. They aren't set in stone, but just things I needed to admit to myself as I think about where I'm headed

Also found a Christian grad school in Virginia Beach with a masters in journalism. In case you haven't been able to keep tabs on my multiple career-path changes over the last four years, I entered Carolina as a journalism major--and it's still an interest of mine. It's actually been haunting me over the last month or so (as the job-deprived hysteria set in) that I let go of such a practical major, one in which I had talent and experience, and coming from such a prestigious School of Journalism as Carolina's. No looking back though. Still, I'd love to write as a career, ideally I'd love to work for a Christian publication or publishing company. If I could COMMIT to a career path, earn this degree and hone a specific skill for a specific field, I think I'd be able to get a job that I could excel in and improve in and use my talents to serve the Lord. Again, it's definitely just an option at this point. Obviously I'd have to think about GRE prep and applications before too long, but I don't want to jump the gun. This is something floating around out there as a next-step possibility, something to ponder and pray about.

By the way--the school is Regent College. Anyone know anything about it?

Both of my for-right-now jobs get under way tomorrow! Wow--my first full day in awhile! I'm anticipating things will get a little busier in the weeks to come, but I also feel pretty confident that my life won't regress to the schedule of a Carolina student--as in, full speed ahead from sunup to well past sundown everyday. And I want to use this (relative) downtime to its full benefit. Thinking, praying. Growing closer to God & learning more about myself. Then, when I am ready to move on to what's next, maybe for the first time in a long time I can really trust & know that I'm headed in the right direction.

I'll let you know how my kiddies are, and how things go at the bookstore!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

out of the lifeboat

so today--despite the fact that i have a mysterious insect bite the size of a saucer on the back of my leg, and ignoring the awkward near-encounter with my tenth grade chem teacher at the gym-- today has been rather nice for a thursday. in fact, the latter part of my whole week has had a rather sunny disposition. i thank Donald Miller.

Searching for God Knows What has this great orientating concept (if i can define such a thing when i still have yet to finish it) called the lifeboat theory. in a nutshell, Miller states that human beings were created to get their worth from a source outside themselves. before the Fall, this came solely from God. but since only two people lived before the Fall, the rest of us, broken as we are, have filled this need for outside approval and respect and love with the opinions of our fellow human beings. thing is, we all feel threatened by one another, as if we're all in a competition to see who can gain the most approval from others, and those who lose that competition are the social outcasts. if humanity was contained within one lifeboat, and there wasn't enough room for everyone to stay aboard, those who have the least peer-apportioned approval would be shark bait. and so we keep clawing for approval, for someone else to say that we're doing okay & we're cool enough (rich enough, pretty enough, smart enough, etc) to stay in the lifeboat. this becomes our identity, this becomes the basis for all we do.

BUT, the freaking sweet thing is that it doesn't have to be this way. which is what i realized this week. as much as so many of you have built me up, nothing anyone says, positive or negative, makes a difference. because God still defines my worth, and if i can stop listening to the static around me, i have been given the freedom, through Christ, to revel in that God-saturated identity.

so a bit of that truth finally sunk in this week. it's amazing how thick our skulls can be. especially when we're vulnerable. when we're hurting and in the greatest need of a love we can't understand. somehow, it's then that we forget that Jesus has rescued us & again we start pawing around the boat, trying to reassure ourselves that there are others as bad off as we are, maybe some who are worse, all the while trying to avoid eye contact with our 'betters', lest they consider heaving us out without so much as a "man overboard."

and of course by 'we' in that last paragraph--i mean me. but i reckon i might not be the only one...


today i spent my last morning at preschool sans children--i'm ready for them to fill our classroom with their dear little two-year-old selves! (and how many diaper changes will it take for me to recant that statement...?) actually, yesterday we had our little open house. only 5 of our kiddies came, but they were awesome kids! one girl in particular, she was enamored with the little basket of instruments. she grabbed two maracas (which she did in fact know how to pronounce!) and proceeded to shake & dance her little heart out. love it.


i've been thinking alot lately about how God wired us for relationship. first and foremost for relationship with Him, but He also created us for relationship with one another (see Gen. 1:18). and we talked about that incessantly in InterVarsity, and I agreed that loneliness was a plague on our campus and did my best to be welcoming to new faces on Thursday nights and tried to be a good small group leader who followed up with people and genuinely experienced the power of intentional relationship within discipleship groups. and i totally got it that experiencing God is not just about one-on-one time with Jesus, but it's about community.

now i'm in a place for the first time in at least four years that i'm starved for community. i crave relationship. and i'm hoping that wall posts and emails and messages and phone calls will sustain me until i can at least visit CH or until i begin building new relationships here. or until i begin trusting the community infrastructure i have in place within my family, within my church here--even though it looks different than IV, than Carolina.


little brother is home from college for the weekend & already has tales of ramen noodle mishaps & gripes of too much reading. ahh youth. this week i was talking to katie, a dear friend in her junior year at Carolina, and could hear voices in the background while we were chatting. when i asked her where she was sitting, her reply of "the Pit" literally almost made me choke up. oooh to sit in the Pit and read the DTH and watch people walk by and have friend after friend stop by...what divine days those were. and apparently i am in a state of UNC-specific withdrawal which is little more signifcant that i realized. and we always thought that the hard stuff was over on graduation day...

Monday, September 1, 2008

world travel, Donald Miller, and (re)learning how to swim

important question one:
would anyone be interested in traveling with me sometime next summer? across Europe? or somewhere crazy and random like Turkey or China? or even across the western US? it's that time in our lives, you know, where we could still technically just pick up & go without worrying about who's going to watch the kids for a month, etc. i'm asking seriously, though. i'd really like to go. but we'd have to start saving now, of course :) so give me a shout!

important question two:
what does the weekend of sept. 19-21 look like for a chapel hill visit? if you are reading this--this means you! will you be around? is that a good or bad weekend as far as chapel hill goings-on? let me know, i miss y'all like you miss breathing when you're underwater!

in other news, hmmm let's see...

i (almost) officially have a job at the Christian bookstore. yay! it sounds like i will start training this week & dive right in. one really cool thing that the store manager mentioned while we were talking at my interview--there is a possibility for store employees to eventually go to work at the store's corporate headquarters in Nashville. Now, I've never particularly envisioned myself in retail as a long-term career, but THEN the manager was talking about someone he knew who went from a sales employee on the floor to a position in Nashville writing children's material for the company. Hello!Three things I would love to combine in my life's work: writing, children, and Jesus. Wow, if an opportunity like that could come out of this job, it would be a million times better than I was even expecting! Okay, right now it's a long shot and an off-hand comment, but you never know....

getting excited to meet my two's and three's at preschool this week! i must admit, i owe SOMETHING to the school of ed at UNC (shocking, i know...sorry, feel free to disregard any further jaded comments)--we had to rearrange/set-up our classrooms from a pile of toys and a few tables into a multi-center, kid-friendly learning environment. strikingly similar to our first project in the SOE. see, that year of my life wasn't wasted after all.

i auditioned for the charlotte community choir this week. it was exciting! i haven't auditioned for anything in quite some time, so it was exhilirating to go in there & perform pretty well, and even manage to stumble through some sightreading without too many bumps & bruises. i also met a really awesome girl who currently works at UNCC but is planning to shift careers into college/young adult ministry. she was so nice & friendly & i'm looking forward to meeting more people like her within this choir (and to be honest, it was a relief to see right away that there will be other young people in this group!). and i can't wait to start singing again!

i decided to give my long-neglected copy of Searching for God Knows What another go. poor Donald Miller. it's such a good book, and i made it through 2/3 of the chapters earlier this summer, but that was before my life exploded so now i'm starting over. i think it would be neat to read all books this way--twice through without too much time in between readings. gives you a chance to really soak up what the author is saying. of course, i'd say hardly any of us have the time to read for leisure at all, never mind reading one book twice over. so Don, you join my heralded list of books worthy of multi-reads, alongside such greats at the Chronicles of Narnia, Jane Eyre, and Harry Potter. You're in good company, my friend. and i really appreciate a writer who writes in such a way that it makes me want to sit down and write something too. that's a gift--I think he's using it well.

I've been doing Zumba. A lot. It really just feels good to shake it sometimes.

i'm not entirely sure what's going on between God & me right now. maybe I'm avoiding Him after the awkwardness of the Kentucky failure, though I feel at peace about what happened and trust in what God may have wanted to teach me through that . But I'm tentative, tip-toeing around the edges of things because it doesn't feel the same as it once did. It's like I had to come up for air after a deep swim in the expanse of the knowledge of God that I encountered during my four years at UNC. On the way to ministry this summer, I dove in too quickly, head-first, and hit rock bottom. Now I'm shuffling around on the dock, afraid to get back in because it might be too cold, or too deep, or too choppy, or too unfamiliar. Or I might sink again. Or step on a pointy rock. So instead of letting His waves and breakers wash over me (psalm 42), I have done nothing more than to test the temperature and make a few splashes. I don't like being out here--I want to be back in there, where I know how to swim.

i'm starting an intensive Bible study group this week called Disciple. i'm hoping this will allow me to get back into a rhythm and relationship with God, even if it's just going through the motions for the first little bit.

the cool thing is that God says He'll never leave us or forsake us (Deut. 31, Joshua 1:5). never. He didn't say, 'I'll never leave you as long as you hold up your end of the deal. as long as you read your Bible everyday and love your neighbor and pray for those who persecute you, as long as you do exactly what I tell you even when it's hard, as long as you repent & really mean it every time, as long as you have your life together if you're going to claim to be My child--THEN I will never leave you or forsake you.' NO! we stand on grace. thank God. as my dear Rachel put it so astutely: we may put God on hold...but He's not going to hang up on us, despite the annoying muzak loops and seemingly endless wait.

i hope you are enjoying your not-so-laborious day. many blessings!