Friday, March 30, 2012

Remembering the Lasts

I've been counting the days until the end of this pregnancy. I've been sick, I've been in pain, I've been anxious, I've been afraid, I've been exhausted. Now I'm in the home stretch—less than four weeks to go until my daughter arrives.
My tiny human isn't so tiny anymore.

And it makes me sad.

You see, we don't plan on having any other children after this. So, unless God's got some surprises in store for us down the line, this is the last time I'll be pregnant. Granted, it's the last time I'll have morning sickness and the last time I'll have to go through labor and delivery. But it's also the last time I'll feel a baby move inside my belly. It's the last time I'll get to anticipate the arrival of one of my children. It's the last time I get to call my husband when he's out and say, "Please bring me home a milkshake! I'm playing the pregnancy card!" It's the last time I'll lug this ginormous belly around with me, feeling tubby and surprisingly adorable at the same time.

We often think about firsts—first steps, first words, first kiss, first baby. I hate thinking about lasts. Do you think about them? The last time you'll ever do something. How many lasts have I already passed? Sometimes we don't know a last is a last. Like the last time I saw my grandmothers. I had no idea they'd die before I got to see them again. What other lasts have I experienced without knowing it? Last time I'll visit a place, last time I'll see a loved one?

Boy. Since when is my blog this depressing? Let's lift this up a bit.

There are some other, better lasts I've experienced. My last blind date. My last day of high school. My last chili dog (trust me on that one). And there are things that are hopefully my last: last back surgery, last heartbreak. I'd like those to stick.

Faith has brought me a lot of good lasts, too. The last time I feared Hell. The last time I felt utterly alone in the world. The last time I felt helpless and hopeless. The last time I felt truly lost. The joy associated with those lasts is immeasurable—I'll keep them, thankyouverymuch.

So I guess not all lasts are depressing. And I may look back on this last and be grateful that it's the last time I'll be this uncomfortable. The last time I'll have to share my body with a future Rockette. The last time my organs will be accosted by a tiny human.

And I'll always remember the first time I see my daughter's lovely face.

Do you ever think about your lasts?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The List

When I married my husband, I was introduced to the idea of "Wish Lists." These are running lists of things we want as gifts. We add to The List whenever we think of something we want that we don't need to (or shouldn't) buy rightthissecond, and then when a birthday or holiday comes around, family members ask for The List. It works pretty well. We still get surprises, of course, but having The List ensures that you'll get at least one thing you really want on a gift-giving occasion. 

I love The List for several reasons. First, I hate surprises. It's a control issue. I'm totally fine with people buying exactly what's on my list and not going rogue. I think it's hilarious that some family members put "Surprises!" on their List. You'll never see that on my List. And I don't want to risk someone not liking the present I chose, so I'm one to buy straight from The List. Also, I can get my Christmas shopping done all in one day on Amazon.com if I have everyone's Lists. One. Day. It's totally awesome.

There are two kinds of things that go on The List: things we want and things we need. My husband's List is almost entirely things he needs: guitar strings, tools and equipment, socks, dress pants for work. I hate my husband's List. If I can find the one or two fun things on there—like a CD or grilling books/equipment—I claim those first. My List, on the other hand, is mostly things I want. I collect White House and Mount Vernon Christmas ornaments, so those are always on there. I love gift cards, too, although people don't seem to want to buy those as much as wrap-em-up gifts. The only need thing on there is a gift card to Sephora, which is where I buy my everyday makeup. But I love Sephora, so even that can still be considered a want gift.

Have you ever made The List for your faith? Things you want and things you need? The things we need are listed in the Bible for us. Fruits of the Spirit and whatnot show that we are, in fact, Christians, so those are a need. Having a good relationship with God is a need. Grace is a need. But what are the things you want in your faith?

Hmm.

I want passion. I want God to show me my next steps sooner rather than later. I want to love others without hesitation (but with conditions). I want to worry less and pray more. I want my faith to compel others to action. Heck, I want my faith to compel me to action.

Could I get by without these things? Yep. We all have, even intermittently. These aren't crucial to our experience of God or the forgiveness Jesus provides us. But without them, our faith can be disappointing to us. And maybe to God. He might look at me and say, "Boy, if Rachel just had these things, imagine how much more she could do!"

I'm not all about the greed. I'm really not. I don't like having a List of material "wants" a mile long. But maybe I need to be more greedy about my faith—making lists of what I want my faith to look like and then working with God to get those things. I can't imagine he'd be opposed to that. And if that's where our heart is, maybe he'll even throw in a few surprises—good ones, since, you know, he's God.

What would be on The List of wants for your faith?

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Seven Year Itch

I've lived in Indianapolis for almost seven years now. I've lived in the same house for seven years. I've gone to the same church for seven years.

I'm starting to get a little antsy.

I hate cute animal pictures. And yet.
I just realized that this is the longest I've stayed in one place. I mean, I lived in my parents' house for 18 years, but in that time I changed schools once (twice, if you count the transition between middle school and high school) and changed groups of friends at least three times. Even my best friend who lived on my street was only my best friend for maybe four or five years, and then she moved to another town. After high school, I went to college, and there was a lot of friend changeover there, too. I became an RA and had that rotating door of friends as people graduated or left the RA program. The last two years of college I had my college newspaper friends. After graduation, I lived in three different houses within two years, and most of my college friends fell away. The ones I still talked to, I didn't see much (and even if I still talk to high school or college friends, I never get to see them). I made some friends at the church I started attending after college, but the ministry I was a part of was comprised of single people, many of whom moved away for jobs or got married and left the group. My husband and I got married maybe two years later, and we moved to Indianapolis a few months after that. Then I had to make all new friends again, a process I still feel like I'm working on.

And it's kind of exhausting.

My life has been one of constant change, and now I'm suddenly settled down. Seven years is two years longer than my longest in-person best friendship. People are actually getting to know me. I'm getting to know other people. When people find out the junk in my life, I can't anticipate a move that will take me away from them shortly. I'm pretty much going to be here for the foreseeable future. Maybe not in the same house, but definitely at the same church, with the same community. I'm putting down roots, something I don't feel like I've had before. It's weirding me out. People are learning about my faults and my shortcomings, and they either learn to live with them or call me out on them. Either way, it makes me feel kind of uncomfortable. 

I'm not sure what to do. I'm not sure how to proceed from here. I'm honestly feeling some anxiety about this situation, and I'm tempted to cut ties and convince my husband to go to another church or something because I don't know what life is going to look like from here. Will I know the same people forever? Not that my friends aren't great, but I'm just not used to the idea of always having the same people around. I've always been jealous of people who have had the same BFF since middle school or high school. Such an intimate relationship! I tried looking up some Bible verses about friendship, but of course the first one that came up was Proverbs 20:6:

Many will say they are loyal friends, but who can find one who is truly reliable?

Not. Helpful.

Have you been in a similar situation? Finally putting down roots and kind of overwhelmed by it? What did you do? 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Are You There God? It's Me, Rachel.

So I'm starting this new Bible study called Discerning the Voice of God by Priscilla Shirer. So far, I love Ms. Priscilla. She's a great speaker; I love listening to her teach. She's very insightful.

It's an interesting topic, hearing God speak. A good point Priscilla brought up is that some people don't expect God to speak, so they never think to listen for him. Even if God is yelling at you, you won't realize it's him unless you're trying to listen for him.

So true.

Can you hear me now?
I've heard God. Sometimes it's been loud and clear, sometimes it's been faint. There are times I've written in my prayer journal and heard him so clearly that I can write the conversation out like a dialogue. They weren't always times I was expecting an immediate answer, either. And sometimes it's not so much an answer as an explanation. I prefer explanations sometimes. I think God knows that about me.

Tonight I had one of those prayers where I really just wanted to talk at God. I wasn't in the mood to listen, and I told him as much. I just wanted to spill my guts and share my fears and anxiety with him. Heck, I don't want them. He can have them. I wanted the conversation to be purely one-sided. Also, I was driving, so it's much easier to talk than to listen when I'm trying to pay attention to the road.

This is why I don't talk on my cell phone while driving. Ever. But I digress.

There are times I expect God to speak and he doesn't. There are times I don't expect him to and he does. And there are times I don't want him to speak, so I probably wouldn't be able to hear him even if he tried. It's amazing how much of our interaction with God depends on our attitude toward him.

So I'd like you to answer the following questions for me:

  1. Do you expect God to speak to you? When? How?
  2. Has God spoken to you in any capacity?
  3. How did you know it was God?

You can leave a comment here, or you can e-mail me at TheLazyChristian at yahoo dot com. I'm just really interested in your experiences interacting with God!



Monday, March 19, 2012

Giveaway Winner!

After much scrutiny from my impartial third party judge, the winner of the What Would Jesus Google contest is:

"Boat Rental"

Runner-up (based on MY favorite pick) is:

"What's in the suitcase in Pulp Fiction?"

Too funny! I wish I could reward you both, but this is a low-budget operation, yo. Shannon, I'll be e-mailing you a $10 Amazon gift card!

Thanks to everyone for your clever entries!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Giveaway: WWJG?

I had all sorts of interesting things to say this week. I'm sure they were delightful and profound and hilarious.

But then the Internet went out for almost three days. Boo.

Part of me was riled up. I was missing e-mails! Facebook messages! Urgent tweets! OK, so there's no such thing in my life as an urgent tweet. But still—I was out of the loop, and I didn't like it. It's fine when I'm on vacation, but when I'm at home with things to do? Not cool.

Me, unplugged. Probably. Cows are cool, right?
Then I got all philosophical about it. Wouldn't it be nice to just unplug? To go the rest of my life without the Internet? I grew up without it, so I played outside until dark and I read lots of books and I played with Barbies. I still read books—and I'll say that my Barbies may have made an appearance in my living room in the last six months—but it's not the same when the Internet is hovering over your head as something in which you must partake. Besides, doesn't the Internet just lead to fear-mongering and an overload of information that you just don't need? For reals.

And then, of course, something came to mind to Google.

When you need to Google something and you can't, it's like an itch you can't scratch. Ugh. So annoying. I almost called friends and said, "Hey, can you please look this up for me? I can't go another moment without this crucial information!"

But, you know, I probably could. And I did. And now I don't even remember what I wanted to Google.

Now that I have my Internet back, I'm feeling a little punchy. Woohoo! Internet! Google! Yay! So I'm going to do a little giveaway for you.

And I do mean little. But still worthwhile!

I'm giving away a $10 gift card to Amazon.com! And I want your answer this question:


Is this silly? Yes. Funny? Could be. That's up to you! I am aware that Jesus is all-knowing, but maybe he'd find a need to Google something. I don't know. Use your imagination!

Responses will be judged by an impartial 3rd party with a great sense of humor. I promise. I know several. Winner will be announced next week, so get your entry in by Sunday at 7pm! 

Friday, March 9, 2012

Christian Karaoke

Because I couldn't find a pic of Jesus
singing karaoke. Shocking!
I totally love karaoke. I do. I love going to a place with a bunch of drunk people who think I'm a music superstar. I've written about it before. But I had an interesting experience the last time I was at the mic.

On this particular evening, my friend Kimberly and I went to a new karaoke establishment. Smoke-free! Score! Hard to find, you know. And, if you'll remember from my previous karaoke post, my opening song is always "Son of a Preacher Man." And you should know that it's super awkward for a girl who's super pregnant to sing that song. But I sang it. And it went pretty well.

The other song I decided to sing that evening was "Someone Like You" by Adele. I love Adele. I've written about her before, too. But as I walked up to the microphone, someone in the place yelled, "You're not Adele!"

Really? Are you sure? Because I'm pretty confident that I'm a platinum-selling, multiple-Grammy-winning superstar.

Not.

Of course I'm not Adele! I'll never be Adele! Even if I can pull off one night of karaoke and sing her song decently, I won't be Adele! And that guy over there isn't Johnny Cash, and my friend Kimberly isn't Cee-Lo Green (although her rendition of "Forget You" was super awesome), and that girl with the glasses isn't Carrie Underwood. It's karaoke! The point of karaoke is three minutes of being a music superstar (or nearly seven minutes if you pick one of those songs) in a room full of people who also want three minutes of being a music superstar. Lighten up!

As I was reflecting on this experience, I thought of the other things in my life that feel like karaoke. You know how we're supposed to be like Jesus? What if every time we did something Jesusy, someone yelled out, "You're not Jesus?" What if every time we were kind or loving or encouraging or spoke the truth in love, someone reminded us that we're not the person we're trying to emulate?

Our response would be, "Well, duh. Of course I'm not Jesus."

But would that discourage you? You could think to yourself, "They're right. I'm not Jesus. I'll never be Jesus. I may as well not try." And, in that moment, you might give up on the Jesusy behavior you were about to perform.

And someone's life might be a little worse for it. Your life might be a little worse for it.

But what if, instead of being discouraged, we said to ourselves, "No, I'm not Jesus. But for the next three minutes, I sure can try to be like him?" It's so hard to be like Jesus 100% of the time. Or even 50% of the time. But what if we approached each moment, each opportunity, like our three minutes at the microphone? Doing something Jesusy won't miraculously transform us into Jesus, but it might transform a little piece of our hearts to be more like his—and may impact someone else's life for him.

Even though that person yelled, "You're not Adele!" I still walked up to that mic. I still sang the song. And, despite not actually being Adele, I did Rachel's best possible version of that song for that moment. And that's what God expects from us: our best possible performance in each opportunity he presents to us.

Do you ever feel discouraged because you're not, in fact, Jesus?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Thanks for Tomorrow

I think I heard this in a sermon, and I don't remember where the pastor heard this, but it's been stuck in my head for months:

What if you woke up tomorrow and the only things you had were the things you were thankful for today?

This hits me every time I think about it. It makes me more thoughtful about the things I thank God for when I pray. I always thank God for my family, for the roof over our heads, the blessing of my husband's job.

But how often do I thank him for specific friends? Or my health? Or my salvation?

I would totally make this post longer, but I don't think it needs to be.

What do you need to thank God for today, just in case it's all you have tomorrow?

Friday, March 2, 2012

Florence + The Machine - Me

Florence and...wait. Where's The Machine?
I think I could really like Florence + The Machine. First, I like the band name. Second, I like the music. What I've heard, anyway. But there's one simple reason I can't like Florence + The Machine:

I don't want to get emotionally invested in another music group.

I've always loved music. My job in high school and part of college was at a record store. Yes, we still sold some vinyl when I started there, but not for long. I got free CDs (in addition to my employee discount on all the other CDs), free concert tickets. It was an awesome gig. And, as I've mentioned before, I spent a few years in and after college as a music snob. That was too exhausting, though, so I gave that up.

Now, I have friends who are ca-razy over musicians. I have a friend who's gone to every Alanis Morissette concert within 50 miles of her house. Another one of my friends is a huge Sister Hazel fan. They're very dedicated, and I admire that. When I met my husband and he told me his favorite band was Counting Crows, I thought, "They're still a band?" I've now seen them in concert several times and they're one of my favorites, too. I also enjoy Coldplay a great deal, and Wilco is possibly my very favorite band.

But I just don't have the time or energy to feel head over heels for musicians.

But, Rachel! Try The Civil Wars! You'll love them!

It's true. I might.

But, Rachel! Haven't you heard Gotye? He's super artsy and amazing!

Yep, I like that one song a lot. But I don't want to listen to any more.

Zzzz...oh, I'm sorry. Were you singing?
But, Rachel! How can you live without Bon Iver?

Dude. You lost me there. I saw them (him?) open for Wilco once and they put me to sleep. Literally. I was asleep in my chair. Even if I did have the energy to like a band, they certainly wouldn't be the band I'd choose.

While I like music a lot, and I like songs and bands in all kinds of genres (except techno, of course), I will never be anyone's #1 Fan. I just can't get crazy about a music group. And while I really, really like movies and TV shows, I could probably live without them. I don't belong to any fan clubs. I don't write fan fiction. I don't write fan letters to actors. Anymore. I did write Neil Patrick Harris a letter when I was a kid and he was Doogie Howser, M.D. I got a postcard (which I still have) in return. I'm set for life with that one. I don't even buy t-shirts at the Counting Crows and Coldplay and Wilco concerts I enjoy so much!

Sometimes this trait worries me. Do I not have passion? Am I not a passionate person? Surely I could spare a little of the stuff for a band or actor or TV show!

Eh.

It seems I find relationships of all kinds fairly exhausting. My husband is the only person I feel like I can be around constantly without feeling drained. Even so, I'd much rather invest in people who are invested in me than in bands and TV shows. What's the return on a pop culture obsession? 

In the same vein, I do wish I felt more obsessed with God. I'm not sure if I keep myself distant because I think a closer relationship with him will exhaust me, too (although I know it won't), or if I just don't feel like I have the energy to invest in the first place. This is something he and I have to work out, I suppose. Think he'd sign a non-exhaustion agreement with me?

What about you? Do you invest your time and energy in outside interests more than your relationship with God?