Sunday, June 30, 2013

157 Miles

157 Miles

That is the distance he drove to show up at my hotel room at 4 in the morning.  I was sound asleep, but my friends knew he’d be arriving, so when he knocked on the door, they answered.

And as I stirred from my slumber, I saw his 6’4” silhouette standing in our doorway.  Unsure if I was awake, I inquired, “Am I dreaming?” 

One of the others flipped on a light, and as I sat up in my bed, he walked over to me and kissed me on the forehead.  “No, you’re not dreaming.  I’m here.”  His tender kiss moved to my lips.  “I’m really here.” 

“I can’t believe you’re back.”  I stated, stunned, yet delighted to see him again so soon.

“I couldn’t stay away.”  He reached for my hand.  “Want to go for a walk?”

“Sure.”  We headed outside to walk the Atlantic shore, where our kisses and conversation could continue without an audience.

“I haven’t been able to stop thinking about you.”  He explained.  “I had to see you again before you go.”

We had met just the week before, but we were 18 years young and completely in love.  The kind of in love that is intoxicating and free from logic.  It didn’t matter that he lived in Florida and I lived in Michigan.  For the time being we were together and that’s all that mattered.  And we had no list or reasons for liking each other – we just did.  (This was long before theology and books on Christian dating ruined me.  I didn’t know the rules yet, so love came easy.)

I was in Daytona Beach, on Spring Break with friends.  And he had been in the area the previous week vacationing with family.  We met, and there was an instant connection - a chemistry that typically only happens in the movies.  But we were real people, experiencing a real life romance that soon shifted to long distance letter writing.

Thank God I had at least one romance in my life that didn’t revolve around the use of technology.  I still have every letter he wrote me, and I recently found them in a bin at my parents’ lake house.  I’m a hopeless romantic, so tears streamed down my face as I reread his words.  And I wondered why I was so foolish to end things with this guy who adored me like no other guy has since. 

He made me promise I would never forget about him as we parted ways following his return visit. 

Believe me Jonathan, I haven’t. 

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Criminal Community

Shortly after I returned from New York this past spring I received an e-mail with a subject line that questioned, "Are your neighbors criminals?" The e-mail was from "Background Check", informing me I could view criminal records instantly by clicking on whatever it is that would probably download a virus onto my computer rather than give me the dish on my lake neighbors.

I didn't delete the e-mail immediately because I found the subject line of the e-mail to be particularly funny.  Because I already know my neighbors are criminals.  My immediate neighbors jacked my grey hoody during a game of disc golf.  But it's not just them - nearly everyone on my shore is into inadvertent thievery.  I too am guilty of having held onto a flashlight or cup for far too long.  Granted, the majority of items eventually get returned to who ever and where ever they belong, but sometimes it can take a while. 

But rather than calling this criminal activity, we call this living in community.  It's not uncommon for people to drop by each other's homes, without notice, to inquire about borrowing something or to simply chat and say hello.  And with the pocket of people I've been hanging out with, there's not a whole lot of pre scheduling and pre planning that goes into building community.  Rather, it's assumed we are each other's plans.   And we don't have to go out to hang out because being at the lake is plenty good enough for all of us.  When it comes to Michigan summers on a lake, even NYC pales in comparison.

And on our lake, sometimes we do larger group events - like last night's Luau and this week's 4th of July potluck dinner that will take place following the sailboat race.  A gal, new to our lake, told me at last night's bonfire, that this is a really unique, awesome thing we've got going here.  It's true, the community dynamic we have on the South Shore is rather special - something I wish every church had - and most do, but it typically takes a lot of work to get "in."  Community doesn't come easy - especially in transient cities like LA and New York. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Sea Streaking Part II

* Continued from Sea Streaking Part I
September 2010

Thankfully as we neared the beach area, the women’s restroom came to my rescue.  Conveniently I was able to excuse myself from his presence.  It’s not that I minded having conversation with Eddie, but I took the day off of work for the very of purpose pulling away and having some alone time, and I really didn’t want him crashing my solo party.

From the restroom, just after noon, I made my way out to the shoreline of Sandy Hook’s north beach, I settled in the sand on my beach towel with book The War of Art by Steven Pressfield in hand.

The author scolded me, exposed me, and encouraged me.  He told me that I absolutely must start writing again.

Later in the afternoon I decided to go for a jog down the beach, and so I changed into my much-needed sports bra, and started running barefoot down the shore, pondering the crisis of faith that one of my college students is facing.  She is wrestling with a question that most everyone wrestles with at some point in their spiritual journey – how can God allow such awful things to happen in our world?  Specifically, she wants to know how God can be so cruel.  As I was running the Scripture that came to mind is John 11:35.  A verse that states, “Jesus Wept.”  Jesus wept.  God wept.  And I believe He still weeps.  I don’t think God is playing the cruel card, but rather I think He is playing the compassion card and that the pain and suffering in this world disturbs him deeply.

My running thoughts were abruptly interrupted as found myself amidst a large group of people staked out on the beach.  And for once, I could only wish for Speedos.  Because the beach area I was running through, evidently didn’t believe in wearing any sort of swimwear.

Wow.  Awkward.  Weird.  Gross.  I was running through a nude beach.  And suddenly I wondered just how Sea Streak Ferry Company got its middle name.  I kept my eyes on the sand a few feet in front me trying to avoid the nakedness around me.   I couldn’t help but to think back to University of Michigan’s naked mile that was still in existence my freshmen year of college.  I had a paper that I had to write that night, and so I went to the computer lab, and occasionally someone would come in completely naked, sit down, and check their e-mail.

I safely made it back to my beach area, and after a dip in the ocean, I headed back to the Ferry pick up point.

Eddie found me on the way back to Manhattan, and before we parted ways, he made sure to tell me, “I have to admit, I find you to be extremely attractive, but I’m also extremely intimidated by you.”

I responded, “I’ve gotten that before.  Perhaps that’s why I’m still single.”

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Sea Streaking Part I

September 2010

“And this is where I get out and run.”  I thanked the cab driver as I handed him some cash.  It was 10:57 AM, and I had exactly three minutes to get to where I needed to be, otherwise my plans for the day would be ruined. I quickly exited the taxi and dashed across the street, running the rest of the way down 34th until it dead ended into the water.  I gripped my cell phone tightly, monitoring its ever so slight, but significant changes in time.  At 11:00 I stopped running, because I saw the boat that I was hoping to board – the one that departs daily at 11:00AM to take passengers to a remote beach in New Jersey.  The boat, with the words Sea Streak on its side, was less than 100 yards away, yet I hadn’t even purchased a ticket.

But to my delight (and I hope to yours), the boat was still docked, and there were about a half dozen individuals lined up still waiting to board.  I purchased my ticket at 11:01, got on board at 11:02, and at 11:03, we departed Manhattan’s shore.

I made my way to the upper deck to inhale the city view as we ventured down the East River.  We sped by the city, making our way under the Williamsburg Bridge, the Manhattan Bridge, and then finally the Brooklyn Bridge.  And of course, we passed the Statue of Liberty, standing prominently and proudly on Liberty Island, right beside Ellis Island.

Right around the Statue of Liberty, I got out my cell phone and texted one of my favorite people the message, “I’m on a boat!”  To which, a man nearby questioned me, “Are you actually getting cell service out here?”  I told him I was just sending a text and I wasn’t sure if it would go through.  But being the darn extrovert that I am, the conversation didn’t stop there.  I had to explain that I was with All-tel, which essentially is Verizon, and then went on to rave about the great cell service that I get.  And he continued the conversation by sharing with me the woes of his cell phone plan.

After our cell chat, he told me that his name is Eddie, and we shook hands.  I informed him that I’ve met a couple of other Eddies this year - one when I was out rock climbing in Southern California and another one while I was in Chicago (who was actually my taxi driver who took me out for breakfast, which is another story for another day.)  We conversed the rest of the way to Jersey, and by the time we got off the Sea Streak ferry, I sensed that he was inwardly and not so secretly hoping that we would spend the afternoon together.  And I inwardly, and not so secretly, did my best to kindly blow him off, saying something along the lines of, “Well enjoy your day, perhaps I’ll see you on the Ferry on the way back.”

Even still, he lingered.

(Part II coming soon!)

Sunday, June 23, 2013


I recently wrote the following in response to a blog article debate over whether or not women should work or stay at home with the kiddos:

Great article! And now the single woman response…

The only financial advice my mother gave me growing up is, “Don’t marry a pastor.” I graduated high school at the top of my class, and hold a degree from a prestigious university, but in making career choices I never considered I might be the sole financial provider for me for the rest of my life. Had I known I’d be single at 35, I would have gone for my MBA or a law degree, rather than accumulate student loan debt from Fuller Seminary.

From my observation of having lived in LA and NYC, the ratio of church going singles is roughly 1 guy to every 3 women. And most Christian colleges are around 65% female and 35% male. This means there’s a good possibility many women who are honoring God with their lives may never find a Christian man to marry. They could, of course, always go to China, where the church is growing, and there is a women shortage. But, in the US, the numbers suggest, there WILL be a growing number of Christian women who will never marry. There may never be a Boaz worth seducing, let alone fields to glean to get some free food.

Regardless of the stay at home or go to work debate, women in today’s world must be prepared to bring in an income. Youth pastors who promise marriage with each sex talk they give, are doing a disservice to young women. Some of these girls may never find a breadwinning, sperm donor to marry. And even if they do, he could suddenly lose his job, his health, or end up dead.

As I recently wrote on my blog: Some time ago I read this book that concludes baby making is no longer a viable tent making skill (i.e. trade) for women. The book didn’t quite state it as such, but that’s what I took from it.

The book explained how in the agricultural world, the more children a woman birthed, the greater FREE work force for the family farm or business. Children had the potential to increase a family’s wealth. Unlike today, children back then were considered an economic benefit to families. But today, the cost of a college education alone often scares couples away from having more babies.

In response, someone wrote:

Please don’t call guys “sperm donors”:( I mean , really that term is really pretty disgusting and I’m sure that you truly did not mean it in that way. Otherwise, I agree with you. Fight for the right of ALL Americans to earn a livable wage!

To which I replied:

Sorry about that! I intended my comment to be playful, not derogatory. A conversation with a guy friend who had been asked to be a sperm donor for another single girl prompted my word usage. He was honored to be asked, but not certain he wanted to go through with it. In NYC conversations about artificial insemination are as normal for single women as expecting mothers might discuss the possibility of going with cloth diapers.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Extra Special Enmity

So... Satan retweeted me the other day.  Apparently this particular Satan (there are 3 or 4 on twitter) appreciated me mentioning him in my writing.  (I also mention Satan in my book; perhaps I should seek out his endorsement for my work.)

The Tweet Satan Retweeted:
genesis says satan holds a special enmity towards women - i think that enmity often comes in the form of Christian men twisting scripture

I wrote the tweet after writing a longer facebook comment in response to a friend's rant about some man making stupid comments concerning women on a Christian radio station in Southern California. 

I responded to my friend's frustration by writing the following:

the book of genesis says satan holds an extra special enmity towards women... i think that enmity often comes in the form of Christian men twisting scripture (like satan did with jesus in the wilderness). as a result the bible is often used to oppress women and women readily drink the kool-aid (like i did for years) because they want to honor God with their lives and do "what is good." but that "good" is actually bad, and women get chained up by the deception, just like they did the apple.

For some reason, as many times as I've read the book of Genesis, it wasn't until my pastor in LA did a study on the book this past spring that I picked up on this extra special hate that Satan has towards women.  This means women have it especially bad.  Sex trafficking is probably the most obvious form of this enmity towards women in our world today, but there are many, many other ways in which this enmity takes shape, destroying and/or oppressing women.  Thankfully organizations like International Justice Mission are addressing some these bigger, more obvious crimes against women.  But as I mentioned in my facebook comment - the twisting of Scripture - is a bit more complicated of matter to address. 

Someday I'll make the attempt, but for now, I need to get to bed. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Big Kid Part IV

"Anyone who has somebody else build their tree house for them is a terrible person."  The guy from down the shore declared.  "You should tell him I told you that."  He recommended.  "He'll think it's funny."

This conversation happened over facebook chat, sometime shortly after the guy from down the shore had built a treehouse for his nephews.  When I saw pictures of the treehouse posted on online, I mentioned knowing another writer who would like a treehouse to use as a writing space.  I suggested to the guy from down the shore that perhaps this writer might want to hire him for the project.  But guy from down the shore thought this was a miserable idea.  And the writer, at this point in his life, would probably agree given the fact he doesn't own any trees.  (He could maybe sneaky build one in a public park, but then he'd be facing a disgruntled homeless person nearly every time he went in to work.)

Both the writer and the guy from down the shore have big kid tendencies.  And by big kid tendencies, I mean they laugh and play a lot.  They make a point to enjoy life regardless of all of the grown up responsibilities that are thrown at them.

Several years ago I had a professor named Chap Clark who pointed out to us in class that Jesus suggests the way to find rest for our souls is to pursue the ways of children.

In Matthew 11:28 Jesus is quoted as saying, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." 

But what is often overlooked is what Jesus said a few verses prior.  Speaking to God the Father he states, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from wise and learned, and revealed them to little children."

As the artist (see Big Kid Part III) outside the Met shared with me that he learned his painting technique from watching children, perhaps we should all consider more carefully the ways of children and apply to our lives their best techniques for finding the rest and laughter our souls need.  After all, when it comes to children, Jesus insists, "The kingdom of heaven of God belongs to such as these."

So take time to play in the sand, go for a swim, catch a few fireflies, or take a nap.  Play games with your friends, dance about, share a snack, and laugh.  For in THIS the kingdom of God is at hand and we experience in the here and now the fullness of life that Jesus intends.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Big Kid Part III

"So... how was it?"  I had just returned from meeting up with the lawn guy from New York and rather than spending the remainder of my evening with my lap top writing, I just really wanted to hang out with the guy from down the shore.  Being out with a stranger made me appreciate my friendship with the guy from down the shore all that much more. 

"It was okay."  I explained.  "No major sparks, but it was good to talk about New York.  He's a model and an actor - a nice guy, but I wasn't really feeling it."

"Ah, and I was hoping this one would be a winner for you."

"I know, right?  It makes for great chick flick material with us both showing up in our hometowns and meeting on the lake."  Although, I've also considered, guy from down the shore and I would make for even better chick flick material.  In fact, I started on a novel that has the potential to turn screen play based on some of this past year.  But the characters in that story are fictional - meaning, I'm not me, and the guy from down the shore isn't him.         

"Oh, but get this," I continued on, "turns out this guy dated the girl who worked at the ice cream place across the lake - the girl you use to like - back when he was 17 and she had just finished junior high." 

"Seriously?  No wonder I didn't stand a chance.  Man, she was so hot when she was 14.  I ran into her in Vegas a few years ago, but she's already married and has a couple of kids.  So do you like my painting?"  He motioned to the window behind him.  "I just painted it today."

We were sitting on his screened-in front porch on a couple of wicker chairs.  I stood up and inspected the yellow on the house, and the white trim of the window frame, but I was confused because nothing looked freshly painted.

"It's still drying, but I went ahead and hung it up anyway."

I then realized he was talking about a painting, painting, rather than a home improvement project.  Through the window I could see on the far side living room wall a stunning painting of a half dozen sailboats. 

Immediately my mind flashbacked to that January day when I spent the afternoon at The Met in New York.  As I walked up 5th Avenue towards the museum, a vendor's paintings caught my attention and I stopped to inquire about his work.

I expressed my admiration for his paintings and then asked if he had studied art at one of the universities in New York.  "I actually never received a formal education,"  He explained.  "I knew they wouldn't let me do what I wanted to do.  So no - no degree.  Instead, I learned my technique from children.  I taught some art classes for kids and picked up on some of what they did."

I loved his paintings, and wished so badly I could make a purchase.  But I had just been informed that morning I didn't get the epic job I thought I was a shoe in for.  It didn't make sense to make such a purchase when I didn't have a job - let alone a home to hang the painting up in. 

I teared up as walked away from this man's art stand.  Images of all the artwork I lost in the city's most recent hurricane played like a slideshow through my head. 

"I typically do water color," the guy from down the shore brought me back to the present.  "But this one is oil." 

By then I had entered the living room to get a better look.  "It's beautiful."  I stated as I stared at the shapes and colors before me.  "I didn't know you painted.  I'd love to see more of your work sometime."

(Yes, there will be a part IV... )

Monday, June 10, 2013

Big Kid Part II

"Are you training for something?"

Oh crap.  This man wants to talk.  Really?  Mid-mile 5 you're going to stop me for conversation?  I had slowed to a crawl in order to get around some bushes on the edge of the property.  I had already turned my head, acknowledging him and his question - too late to pretend I can't hear him with my head phones in.  "Just training for life.  I'm a runner." I explained.

I hoped for a quick exit, but he insisted on keeping the conversation going.  With bugs plastered to my face and neck, snot dripping from my nose, and streams of sweat flowing down arms and legs, this man wanted to chat.  Great, I thought, I'm disgusting and he wants to make small talk.  Then again, I observed, he was also a bit less than put together.  With weed wacker in hand, it was obvious he was out doing yard work.

Still, I felt awkward, yet obligated to stop and answer his questions.  After all, I may or may not have been trespassing on his property.  I'm not sure.  The South Shore has a walkway trail along the lake written into everyone's deeds.  But I was on the West Shore, and I've never bothered to ask the rules on that side.  I figured I 'd keep running along all the shores until someone complained or got upset.  Which, I feared, might be this man.  But I was rather certain I could charm him out of being angry with me, so I continued the discussion.

But then it occurs to me this man might not even be the homeowner.  After all, it was a REALLY nice home and he could have been hired to do the yard work.  "So wait, do you live here?"  I inquired.

"Oh, no.  This isn't my place.  I live in New York."  He went on to explain how he had started a lawn company years ago, and his brother had kept it going after he moved to the city.  "I'm just back for the summer and helping take care of some of the lawns while I'm here."

That's when it his me... THIS is the guy my aunt had told me about a couple of weeks prior.  He's helping with her lawn too - on the North Shore.  My aunt had mentioned to him she has a niece in New York, and evidently he kept prying for more information on me.  But rather than offering to set us up, my aunt told him perhaps he'd run into me sometime at the local pub.

For those following my blog, you know I don't readily hand out my number.  But since I already knew about this guy and he already knew about me, this felt different.  So when he asked if I might want to meet up for drinks sometime, I agreed to giving him my digits.  That run in meeting was on a Wednesday; the very next day he texted to see if I might want to meet up that evening.

But I couldn't.  I felt lousy - too weak to do anything but to lie in bed for most of the evening.  And as I did I shed a few tears - not because I'm depressed, but rather because I'm disappointed my poor health is preventing me from going after the life I want to be living.

Near 9 PM I felt somewhat okay - not okay for a date, or to write, but well enough to walk down the shore.  So I message the guy from down the shore and ask, "Can I drop by for a bit?"  I knew spending time with him would cheer my spirits and that I could show up not feeling the greatest and it wouldn't matter.  He already knows my story, so I wouldn't have to explain.    

I think too often church going people believe something has to be blatantly Christian in order for it to bring healing to our brokenness.  But rockclimbing and my rockclimbing friends in So Cal have taught me that this isn't always the case.  And the guy from down the shore - the "big kid" - has also surprised me in how he is able to cheer me up when I'm not feeling my best.  Sometimes the healing our spirit needs come from the most unexpected people and places.

Feel free to leave a comment - Where, who, or what has provided a healing presence in your life?

(Stay tuned for part III - the rescheduled date)

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Big Kid Part I

"He's just a big kid."

I nodded in agreement - yes, he is.

She didn't mean big in size - although he is that too (tall, not wide) - but rather this woman was describing this man's persona and approach to life.  When you go by the numbers, he definitely qualifies as an adult.  Like me, he's 35.  The big kid she was referring to is the guy from down the shore.

This conversation took place following our lake's property association meeting this morning.  But before the meeting I spoke with my aunt, and in light of my unresolved health issues nearing the 2 year mark, she expressed her concern and reminded me my biological grandmother passed away at the age of 42.  Although her death certificate says one thing, there is some speculation ovarian cancer prompted her decline.  I never knew the cancer part and assured my aunt I would be tested for that too next time I go in for blood work.

Funny how I use to want a nice wedding.  Now I just want good health insurance.  The strategic in me wondered aloud over dinner tonight if I could find a guy with a good job to agree to signing a marriage license with me so I can pay into and be covered by his health insurance until I land a job.  No sex - only my thank you - and the promise of an annulment by the end of the year. 

My parents didn't seem too fond of this idea, and so, instead, next week I'll be signing up for catastrophic insurance with a $5,000 deductible.  Years ago my parents agreed to contribute to $5,000 to my wedding, but said tonight they'd be willing to put that cash towards my medical bills instead.

This past week was particularly rough, and so was a week ago Thursday.  I can't decide which I like better - my fatigue episodes where I'm too weak to do anything and feel desperate for oxygen, or my migraine headaches that last 24 to 72 hours with occasional vomiting.  Some of my migraines are mild, and I can push through them without too much bed rest.  In fact, this past Wednesday I wrote through one and it felt great.  I felt like I was giving Satan the middle finger, telling him to F**k off, I will finish my book regardless of the sh*t he's putting me through.

I think too often we blame the wrong party.  We call God out on crap that is actually Satan's doing.  The more I remember that the brokenness in the world stems from the evil one - not God - the more I can trust and believe God is good.

But back to a week ago Thursday - when I wasn't feeling so hot... a guy from New York City had asked me out - here, in Michigan.  We had met the day before while I was out for a run...

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Dreams of a Different Kind

Typically I'm all for late night movie nights with the guy from down the shore, but tonight I hesitated saying yes to a midnight screening when I learned the film we'd be watching has zombies in it.  I'm not a huge fan of zombies, in general - and especially not when I have to walk a quarter mile down the shore - by myself - through patches of woodsy areas in the complete dark.  

Reluctantly I agreed and then spooked myself mad on the walk there, before we had even watched the scary movie.  I probably would have been okay with vampires, but zombies dig up my childhood, when I use to dream that zombies would come out of the lake and come after me. 

In chapter 9 of my book I explain...

My dreams as a child were inspired by Michael Jackson.  They were nightmares, actually.  After viewing Jackson’s Thriller video at the age of four, I couldn’t quite seem to get those zombie-like monsters out of my subconscious mind.  They frequently came after me in the middle of the night when I should have been dreaming about more pleasant things, such as Candy Mountain, My Little Ponies, or the day I would go to Disney World and meet Minnie Mouse.

Sometime around 2nd grade I told my dad about the nightmares and he instructed me, “The next time you have a one, I want you to say, ‘I rebuke you Satan.  In the name of Jesus I command you to leave.’”  I didn’t know what the word rebuke meant, but the very next time those zombies came around I rebuked them in the name of Jesus and it worked like a charm.  All the Thriller-like zombies scattered and I haven’t had a nightmare since.  

* Excerpt from I Hate Books on Christian Dating

Thankfully the zombie movie wasn't too scary and the over arching theme stressed the importance of relationships and connectivity.  In fact, the message of the film almost felt Christian - a reminder that when we stray from being who God has designed us to be, life has the potential to be a zombie-like hell.  But when we are in good relationships with one another, there is a richness to our life experiences.  In this film many of the zombies transform, becoming human as they learn to love and feel once more.

On my walk home, rather than being spooked by what might come out of the lake or out of the woods, I stared at stars in the sky and listened to the lake's sound track of the waves gently lapping the shore - thankful to be fully alive.