Tuesday, August 31, 2004

I've heard newborn babies wailin' like a mournin' dove
And old men with broken teeth stranded without love.
Do I understand your question, man, is it hopeless and forlorn? "Come in", she said, "I'll give you shelter from the storm".

The end of some days sometimes have no direct correlation with the rest of the day. Sometimes you’re just left with the indirect. You can have a wholly crap day, but at the end of it, you still feel like things are all right, or at least that tomorrow will be another day. Other times you can have a good day, but at the end of it you just feel a little bleh, which probably had something to do with that dodgy Indian you had for lunch. (Which is why I personally recommend sticking to actually eating Indian FOOD, rather than Indians. That’s not very nice, anyway.) But its usually something, isn’t it? One moment in your entire day can make the difference. I try and remember this when I am communicating with other people in some way, but I usually do a piss-poor job of it. Like the girl at McDonalds tonight. She was stressed, and I wanted to tell her that the night was almost over and she could go home, and that even though that lady shouldn’t have to wait 15 minutes for her cheeseburger, it wasn’t that girls fault, so don’t stress over it. But I couldn’t really say that, partially because she was in a big hurry.

I digress, as usual.

So tonight I am feeling…inadequate, I suppose. Which doesn’t completely encapsulate it, but it’s the closest I can get for you. I fell like I am *okay* but maybe not quite up to snuff. Close, but no cigar, my friend. And I don’t write that for pity or comments, because I figure most everyone feels this way at times. Plus, I’ve developed a knack for not being personal in my blog entries – and probably somewhat in life – and I don’t like that, and I don’t feel like it comes naturally. And I maintain that we all need to maybe get a little more personal. It’s too easy to be impersonal, even with those we love.

So the inadequacy… It’s almost as if I could just take one more step, I’d be there, but I’ve run out of stairs. I talked to a girl for over an hour today, and I really couldn’t do much for her besides listen. I couldn’t change things that had or had not happened to her. We had a good talk, and I feel it was helpful in many ways, and a relationship has been built with her. But I wanted to do so much more. I think it’s a more common feeling than we realize, this helplessness. I remember seeing teachers struggle with students in similar ways. Parents and children, children and their parents, husbands and wives.

And you know, "Almost Famous" was on TV tonight. It’s a fantastic movie. Brilliant. But the funny part? The whole thing is about how fake the rock world is, and how the real world is what we’re supposed to strive for, about being uncool in a room of people who are pretty sure they’re cool. But at the end of the day, you (or me, I suppose) just feel extremely uncool, because I wasn’t born in 1960 and didn’t grow up on The Allman Brothers and can’t get boots like that these days, not that I could pull them off. And not that being cool is what I’m striving for, of course.

They say that the longer you are a Christian, the more you realize how much help you need at being one. Many days I get to the end of these days and I’m disappointed with myself at how little time I’ve spent with God, even when I need him the most. My priorities have never been great, but it would seem that’s one I should be able to get down. But I realize more and more that’s not something I can remember or do on my own, that I need not only his grace because of it, but also his strength and gift of faith and longing after his heart. Because left to my own devices, I’d end up watching another episode of Home and Away or check my email once again, when I’ve still not spent any time getting my self sorted with God.

I’m also not entirely good at loving people. I’m good at loving people I like, but not so good at loving people that I don’t like, or that don’t like me. So it’s just an easy kind of love. As much as I talk about grace, and as much as I do in fact feel like I am learning more and more of it, I fail daily in the amount of grace I should show, and the amount of patience I have with people. Grace is essential in both love and youth ministry, which are relative priorities in my life at the moment. I suppose when you mix the two, things like grace and patience become more evident – especially in the lack of it.

There are moments, of course. There are moments where God’s grace is at its clearest. One of the kids I was working with while I was doing streetwork tonight was basically running amok. He’s generally a good kid, he just shouts and hits (though not usually very hard, and only his friends) and then shouts some more. But then he’ll look at you with a completely innocent freckled face and you can’t help but smile. Even if you really do want to smack him around a little. And these moments are common, I think, but easy to overlook. It’s the same moment that’s to be found in the loud and honest laughter of a friend who really and deeply hurt me a few years ago (not that I’m talking about Rachel, for the record – for those of you who read she was visiting). It’s the same moment that can be seen in a short glance or a wink after a stupid argument with Tim over food products. The moments before and after these can get muddled. But God’s stamp is on every moment, nonetheless. Despite my inadequacies.

Speaking of moments, and “Almost Famous”, I have decided I want to get a Polaroid camera. There’s an art in Polaroids that can’t be found in many other mediums. Those little square can capture moments in an entirely different way.

Michaela @1:41 AM :: Comment

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Old Friends

Dear Michaela....

i just wanted to tell you that i am soon moving to amsterdam.. which is closer to scotland than either chicago or honduras. i start working at the beginning of september and am travelling for a bit before that...and if it would at all be possible...it would love to come to scotland for a few days and see you. will you be around in august...?.

Rachel is a friend of mine, one that I've known since we were 16. We met sometime that year, but didn't become good friends until we went on a missions trip together, to Hungary and Romania. We shared similar loves of travelling, ministry and photography and so became fast friends. Rachel is also in the category of "catch-up" friends....of which I have many these days. Like myself, Rach has found herself all over the world in the past few years: Chicago, Kansas City, Spain, Honduras, the Netherlands, and more. She's been an experienced traveller from childhood, accompanying her father on trips around the world. Consequently, emails come and go infrequently, but we meet up every few years to catch up on life-happenings. Last time I saw Rachel was in 2001, when I'd come home for a few weeks from the Doulos, and she happened to be home in Kansas City too. Niether of us had a ton of time, so we met up at a Winstead's and brought stories and photographs.

So I haven't seen Rach in about three years. Needless to say, I was SUPREMELY excited at the prospect of her coming to isit. I was even more excited when she arrived here yesterday morning.

Rachel is much cooler than me, by the way. Many of my friends are. I'm realizing that I have an extraordinary amount of friends (and boyfriend) who are either photographers, photography majors/grad students, or just photography freaks. I have a lot of "arty" friends, which is maybe a bit odd, and I've often wondered why. I guess birds of a feather flock together. Or something. Rachel, like my friends Julia and Andrea, is one of those girls who can make thift-store chic and Chuck Taylors look amazing. She never wears makeup, cuts her own hair, and looks stunning.

But what I love most about Rachel is that she is a comfortable friend. There are friends you have to work hard for, in any number of ways - to keep in contact enough, to keep conversation flowing, to find things in common. And some of these friends are well-worth the effort. But many times, these are the friends that drift away, because life gets too complicated and there are other things that need work, like relationships and children and, well, jobs. Comfortable friends are never like that. Comfortable friends are the ones that stay, because no matter how far away from each other you get, no matter how long its been since you've seen each other, no matter how much you have both changed, you can still effortlessly pick up right where you left off. You can chat about the last few years, and the lifetime and hopes ahead, and it feels like it always has, like your favorite pair of shoes. There's no pressure to keep conversation flowing because the silence is as comfortable as the lack of.

Another bonus of Rachel is her shared love of books and coffee. We spent yesterday afternoon at one of my favorite cafes, reading (she borrowed my copy of "Girlfriend in a Coma" by Douglas Coupland yesterday, and finished it today...I'm still working on "Joe Jones" by Anne Lamott), occassionally chatting, and enjoying cups of coffee.

And that is my kind of friend.

I've been extremely blessed over the years, to build up a friendship base around the world, full of those I cherish dearly.

She'll be here til Tuesday, so we've still got a few more days of comfort and coffee to enjoy.

Michaela @11:00 PM :: Comment

Thursday, August 26, 2004

"Soundtrack To Your Life"

Well this is another one of those "surveys" that seem to be making the rounds these days. And you know me, I'm such a crowd-follower. Tim already posted his, as did Carla and a few others. Now, mine took probably....2 hours to make. At least. I'm very particular about these things. I'm the same way about making mix tapes.

" The making of a great compilation tape, like breaking up, is hard to do and takes ages longer than it might seem. You gotta kick off with a killer, to grab attention. Then you got to take it up a notch, but you don't wanna blow your wad, so then you got to cool it off a notch. There are a lot of rules. "
(John Cusak, "High Fidelity")

So after careful deliberation, I present to you:

Opening song: “78 Eastonwood Green” by Rich Mullins
Waking up: “Open Skies” by David Crowder Band
First date: “Stong Enough” by Sheryl Crow
First kiss: “Anna Begins” by Counting Crows
Falling in love: (Early) “Four Days” by Counting Crows (Later) “Shelter From The Storm” by Bob Dylan
Seeing an old love: “Hands Clean” by Alanis Morissette and “Forget About It” by Alison Krauss and Union Station
Heartbreak: “See You Soon" by Coldplay and “Song for the Dumped” by Ben Folds Five
Driving fast: “Steve McQueen” by Sheryl Crow
Getting ready to go out: “Doo Wop (That Thing)” by Lauryn Hill
Partying with friends: “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party)” by Beastie Boys
Dancing at a club: “Getting Jiggy Wit It” by Will Smith
Flirting: “Glory Box” by Portishead
Walking alone in the rain: “Professional Daydreamer” by Over the Rhine & “Kite Song” & “Not Alone” by Patty Griffin
Going Home: “Sweet Baby James” by James Taylor
Missing someone: “I Miss You” by Incubus and “So Are You To Me” by Eastmountainsouth
Playing in the ocean: “Blue Sky” by Patty Griffin
Summer vacation: “The Color Green” by Rich Mullins
Fighting with someone: “Let’s Get Into A Fight” by Don Chaffer with Waterdeep
Acting goofy with friends: “Baby Got Back” by Sir-Mix-A-Lot
Traveling: “Bringin on the Weather” by Jackopierce
Thinking back: “Everything” by Lifehouse and “Light of the World” by Jennifer Knapp
Feeling depressed: “I Need Words” by David Crowder Band and “Tommorrow on the Runway by The Innocence Mission
Christmas time: “White Christmas” by Bing Crosby
Falling asleep: “Sweet Afton” by Nickel Creek
Closing song: “What a Wonderful World” by Louie Armstrong

Different people take different approaches to this. Some just pick which song they like that matches that "action" best. For me, in most all instances, I picked songs that I specifically attach to these memories. So for nearly each song, I have a memory. And I like that. I associate music with so much of my life.

Feel free to post your lists. I'm interested. The music a person listens to can tell a lot about them.

Michaela @10:50 AM :: Comment

Friday, August 20, 2004

"And we definitely don't care if you smoked a joint with Hugh Grant in a phone booth at a party."

Okay so let’s see if I can catch you up on things.

Watching: A heckuva lot of the Olympics. (Tim and I were addicted to VH1 back in the States….it has been replaced by our new TV drug of choice, the Olympics. “Badminton? Trampolining? TURN IT ON!”)

Listening to: iTunes mix containing – “No More Tears” and “Age After Age” by Sandra McCracken, “Fade To Grey” by Jars of Clay, “Chocolate” by Snow Patrol, “Kite Song” by Patty Griffin, “Something in the Way She Moves” by James Taylor, “She Will Be Loved” by Maroon 5, “Capable Girl” by Jackopierce….among others….

Reading: “Traveling Mercies” by Anne Lamott. (Final chapter, sadly. It’s one of those I don’t want to finish, because I really enjoy it…), "Franny and Zooey" by JD Salinger, and “Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace?” by Jim Boice.
Summertime is great. Sure, it rains all the time here, but its kinda nice. I’m making use of this valuable time of laying around doing nothing, yessir. I’m getting my sleep, dang it! And watching the BADMINTON! And old movies on TV like “Trouble at Table Rock Lake”!!!! Okay, so I fell asleep during that last one, but that’s all part of the experience of summer. Yes, I do have some work to do here and there, but my time is a lot more flex in the summer, and I don’t need to go to the office nearly as much. Hoooorah.

The other big thing here during the summer is the Festival. When I say “The Festival”, you’re probably thinking something along the lines of the Kansas State Fair, but alas, this is nothing like it. “The Festival” actually is the combined name for the Edinburgh International Festival, the Fringe Festival, the Edinburgh International Book Festival, the Starbucks (yes, you heard me correctly) Jazz and Blues Festival, and the Edinburgh International Film Festival. And yes, that’s a lot of Festivaling. (And a lot of Edinburging, now that I look at that whole sentence.) The population of Edinburgh actually doubles during the Festival, so things just get crazy. I’m beginning to think that I just don’t like people. Which is slightly detrimental to someone who wants to work in ministry, isn’t it? Hm.

Anyway, every theatre and venue has comedians and plays and dance and performance art and musicians and magicians and all that. But its not like I have any money to enjoy these things. Luckily, I have connections.

Yes, that’s right. CONNECTIONS!

(Now, for the record, Tim already told this story on his blog, but I don’t care because I’m gonna tell it anyway.)

Marian’s quasi-boy-friend, aka FWB (10 points if you can figure that one), is the “Technical Manager” at one of the Fringe venues, called The Underbelly. So last Saturday, Marian scored us some tickets to “The Late Show”, which is a popular comedy showcase (starting at 1am so it was Sunday, really) at The Underbelly.

There were 3 comedians. The first guy was an Irish dude that was fairly funny. The second was a woman. Now, I’ve seen a fair amount of comedians. And of those, I’ve only found ONE of the female comedians funny. So I wasn’t looking forward to this girl anyway. I turned to Marian and whispered to her: “Female comedians are NEVER funny.” She just kinda shrugged with a little non-commital “eh”.

All I want to say now is that I CALLED IT.

She wasn’t just not funny. She was the exact OPPOSITE of funny. She was so not funny that it almost became funny. And I say "almost" because even being unfunny couldn't salvage this. And she was American, so that was even more embarrassing. (Not that I wore my “I LOVE BEING AN AMERICAN” shirt that night though, because of course it was in the wash.) One guy in the front row quite obviously fancied her because he laughed way too hard. All she did was tell a joke. Then another. And another. And they had no link between them. Nor were they actually funny. Okay lady, its great that you want to eat babies legs, and that you feel the need to touch the suede jacket of the person sitting next to you on the subway, but that doesn’t make those things funny. And we most definitely don’t care that you smoked a joint with Hugh Grant in a phone booth at a party. Even if it was a true story, because there’s no way it can be.

Finally, she made some throw away comment in the middle of another unfunny story: “I lost you there didn’t I….” to which someone in the audience said “You lost us a long time ago.” Well after that, it just got painful. She tried to somehow rescue it by claiming she’d never had a heckler before (something else I can’t imagine) and went on about
“embracing” the hecklers, and trying to get more hecklers.

It was like that time when you were a kid and you fell and bloodied your nose, and then you tried to convince all the other kids that you totally did it on purpose just for laughs. And they didn’t believe you THEN, did they?

I have to say, the woman was fairly gracious. She could have gotten really pissy and mad at the audience, but she remained pleasant (if unfunny) and left with grace (and lack of humor).

But holy COW, I’ve never ever seen anything like that. I’ve NEVER seen anyone just completely and totally bomb during a stand-up act. How do these people get to play at the Festival?!

Afterwards, Tim turned to me, and both of us were completely gobsmacked and wide-eyed, til he said what we were all thinking: “That was painful to watch.”

Thankfully, the last guy was not only VERY funny, he was also an American. So I was slightly less afraid to speak (lest someone hear my accent) on my way out. The world hates Americans well enough as it is.

In other news, Tim still hasn’t found a flat yet. Which is okay for now, because my flatmates are still out of town, but they won’t be out of town forever. And there’s a certain degree of weirdness to the whole domesticity of it. I suddenly hear myself saying things like “How was work?” and “What would you like for dinner tonight” and “Could you pick up some milk and toilet paper at the store on the way home?” and “Do you have any whites that need washed?”

Next thing you know, we’re gonna start calling each other “Tim-Dear” and “Darling” and have a little cocker spaniel running around eating too much spaghetti.

It’s a vicious cycle.

Michaela @11:37 PM :: Comment

Friday, August 13, 2004

"All this blame is justified..."

Yeah so I got a message today from a friend:

"Eight days since a blog update? What are you trying to do? Make my life boring? "

Yeah. Sorry about that kids....in the immortal words of Bing Crosby (among others) I've been busy doing nothing. Even with the horrible weather we're having (August is usually the only month we actually see sun in Scotland), I'm really enjoying my last "student" summer. I have bits and bobs of work to do here and there, but I'm no where near as busy as usual. So far, since I've been back home, Tim and I have done a lot of movie watching, flat and job hunting, and a little shopping. (Today I got to pick up Sandra McCracken's new album "Best Laid Plans"....and rejoiced in the fact that for ONCE I got a CD released here before my friends in the states could get it....usually its the other way around, leaving me terribly bitter....) The good news is that Tim has nailed down a few casual hours working at Parrots, our favorite resturant. (Meaning we get 1/3 off eating there! Hurrah!) Still haven't found a place for him to live, and he still needs another job with more hours. But I'm sure things will work themselves out. With these beautifully rainy days, its nice to just sit back and enjoy the time while its there to be had.

We've agreed there should be a lot more reading in the next few days. (Plus, we're running out of movies, for heaven's sake.)

I realize I'm risking you all thinking I'm horribly vain again, but I suppose we all have to take risks in life. So I went ahead and posted some of my favorite photos that Tim took of me when he was here in March. (So really, its more about HIM than me...right?)

1) The first one I just love, of me and Chrissy. Its an honest smile from her. Don't ask me what we were looking at, but it must have been funny. Of course, Chrissy and I are *usually* laughing at something, even if its each other.

2) Ahhh. Guiness! The Lord's Nectar.

3) At the Gateway Arch in St Louis the other week. Tim dared me.

4) Awwww. Sweetheart Stout. At Monster Mash. Yum.

5) The only photo that I can take credit for. That was a sundial at a cemetery/church near Loch Lomond. But I used Tim's camera.

So yeah. It's been good. There just isn't much to write about I suppose. Just enjoying the lazy and rainy days.

It's good to know that I'm miss though. Thank you, Doug. :)


Quote of the Week:

Mic: "What if I get to be...400 pounds...and shave my head bald? Would I still be attractive THEN?!"

Tim: "Yeah, sure. You'd just be my BOWLING BALL OF LOVE!"

Mic: "Right."

Michaela @10:33 PM :: Comment

Michaela @10:30 PM :: Comment

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Link of the Day

Harrison&Ford House Gymnastics.

Man, I wish I was this cool.

Michaela @11:29 AM :: Comment

Monday, August 02, 2004

"This treasure of grace and heavenly joy..."

I've been learning a lot about grace.

It is Sunday night and I'm still in St. Louis. This would normally be much more pleasant (One more day at home! Hooray!) but Tim is in Normal with Scott and Jenni, and my family is in New Mexico on business, so it's just me, Chips the Fleabitten Cat, and Boris the Very Old and Loveable Dog. In case you didn't hear, American Airline's computer system went wonky this morning, so all flights were delayed by a few hours. In the end, after switching flights a few times, they realized I just wasn't going to be able to make my Glasgow flight from Chicago, so they rebooked me for tommorrow. After 2 more hours of searching for bags I'd already checked, I finally came home with only one - the one entirely filled with Tim's stuff, and not mine. Doesn't do me much good tonight.

But at least I'm at home, and not in a hotel in Chicago. Here I have VH1 and Ben and Jerry's.

Throughout the ordeal, one lady was simply amazing. Her name was Susan and I think Susan deserves a raise to double whatever she gets paid. She was wonderful. She was understanding, patient, yet also in control and knew what she was doing. Over 5 hours I saw her at least 4 times, trying to get things sorted out. Things were chatotic, and airline workers take a lot of hassle from people at times like this - when usually the worker getting yelled at had nothing to do with the situation. Susan was just so encouraging to me. I was tired and frustrated, but knowing Susan was working at customer service til 10pm made me feel better - I had an ally, a friend in high places. She even came out to the car where I had put my first bag, to check which number it was, so that I wouldn't have to make the trip back again. She said she would personally ensure that the bag was down in baggage set to be on my plane tommorrow, before she left at 10pm. And I believe her.

Somewhere in the middle, I was walking upstairs for at least the 4th time, back and forth from baggage to ticketing, and thought this was a sorta silly waste of a day. I had a morning eye appointment, a trip to our boat to pick up Tim's hoodie that he left on there, and spent the rest of it at the airport not getting on a plane. As soon as I thought how much of a waste of a day it was, I was quickly reminded that we are called to be Christ-like in whatever situations are placed before us. I realized how Susan's help made my frustrating day infinitely easier to handle. I try to be especially pleasant to airline workers anyway, because of reasons previously stated, but at that point, I redoubled my efforts. I'd watched as they (and by they, I mean most all the American Airlines workers) constantly got abuse from various people demanding things. I'm not one to lie down and get walked over if an airline screws up a ticket I paid a lot of money for, but sometimes things honestly cannot be helped.

My mission today was to be gracious. It should be my mission everyday, shouldn't it? I'm not always good at it. It's something I'm working on. I'm quick to place blame and sometimes even hold grudges. Horrifying, when one considers the amount of grace I have been given.

In addition to my airport fiasco, I almost got in a car wreck twice today, neither time my fault. Once, I was coming around a corner on my way back from the lake, and a car - speeding - was half in my lane, on a blind turn. That was extremely close. The other time, same trip, I almost got sideswiped by a car trying to switch lanes with no blinker and no room. I slammed on the brakes and luckily didn't get hit from behind. I really really wished my horn in the Jeep worked. I wanted to do something really horrible to him - or at least maybe have a nice chat about how he should watch where he's going. In the end, I could do nothing - though he did end up going most of the same way into the neighborhood as I was going, so he must have been REALLY freaking out since I was following him.)

Now I'm not sure that grace by default it really grace - your heart can't be in the right place - but I was later reminded of my not-so-good-under-stress-driving of the past two weeks. And I didn't get hit in either instance, so I felt blessed.

On that same car ride, I put in an album called "Everyone's Little CD" from Waterdeep. It features a song by Lori called Dreams - a love song/praise written about her husband - which reads:

"He's nothing he's made himself/He had all God's grace on his side/And a little bit of grace goes a very long way..."

Tim and I can get on each other's nerves - sometimes because we know exactly what will set the other person off, sometimes because we don't yet know that. Sometimes because we're just stupid. But I'm beginning to think that - perhaps - grace is an even clearer and purer attribute than love is, in a relationship. And that's not even the best way to explain it, but that's all I got - I can't think of a way to really explain it. God loves us passionately, and he has blessed us with human relationships in order to show us just a glimpse of what true love really is. But His true and passionate love rests in His grace, and His grace rests in His love.

On one of many long drives, Tim and I were talking about someone I know who has struggled through marital infidelity of a spouse (and they have stayed together) , and I was blethering on about how difficult that would be - how incomprehensible that feeling really is. Tim pointed out that one must have decided to really love that person, enough to forgive.

To that, I simply know that I could never ever show grace without God and his power. And hopefully I'll never have to do that. But I need to learn it in small, daily situations - with friends, enemies, family, strangers.

Because if I am to truly love people, I'm going to have to learn to be gracious. Love is grace, grace is love.


P.S. I'm adding this photo for no other reason than I really like it, and had planned to show you guys a pic or two and hadn't gotten around to it. This was last Sunday at the Cards game. Ahhhh...baseball in the summer.

Michaela @5:49 AM :: Comment

"In the city you will find that the poor and the broken are often much, much more open to the idea of Gospel grace and much more dedicated to its practical outworkings than you are." (Tim Keller)

"Always On Your Side" by Sheryl Crow