Choosing and Trusting and Target Sales

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Flowers? Black? Teal?

I looked nervously at my wallet. I promise I went in there for other reasons, but when Target has a 50 % off sale for all their dresses and skirts, priorities change. I slowed, I halted, I surveyed. Before I knew it I was elbow deep in fabrics and unwieldy hangers.

Capitalism works.

After a swift hunt, the choice was down to three dresses:

Flowers, black, or teal.

Romantic, classic, summery.

10 dollars, 10 dollars, or 10 dollars.

Which one, which one?

Decisions are hard.

I am in a choosing season. As I run panting towards the finish line of college, many other paths open broad ahead of me. I strain my eyes to imagine what could lie around the corner of each decision, and find myself both exhilarated and terrified to find that I’m not sure where the paths will lead. I have never been so aware of the impact on my decisions.

Being in this season has made me consider how much of life is made of choices.

Every day, our lives are crammed with decisions. Tomorrow morning, I will choose what to have for breakfast. I will choose how to do my hair, and contemplate cutting it… that is a choice that is yet to come. I will choose whether to take the shuttle or to walk. I will choose between an Americano and black tea. I will choose to read either So Brave, Young, and Handsome or Tolkien and the Great War on the train into Los Angeles.


Someday, I will choose where to go to grad school. Where to live. Who to marry.

As my brother says (and many before him), We are the sum of our choices.

Each day we choose, and with each choice we take a step further on a path whose destination we cannot see.

To choose is to trust.

In choosing my breakfast tomorrow, I trust it will nourish and not sicken me. In choosing to do my hair, I trust it will look best and stay situated. In choosing an Americano, I trust it will better keep me awake.

In choosing a grad school I trust I will learn, grow, sharpen, and gain further opportunities.

In choosing who to marry, I trust they will be faithful.

To choose and to trust is to be human.

In this old world of mist and mystery, our lives are doomed and blessed to be formed by choices and best laid plans, and guided by the invisible hand of fate, and oh, we hope so deeply, the Lord.

Tied up in the human experience of choosing and trusting is benefit and betrayal. Often, we benefit from our decisions. The breakfast nourishes. The Americano enlivens. The grad school grows. The spouse loves.

But choices can also betray.

A chocolate croissant once betrayed me. I consumed it happily, guzzled a latte, and was in a state of abandon to the deliciousness of its chocolatey center. It gave me the worst food poisoning I have ever experienced. My continued affection for chocolate croissants is an act of faith.

But there are other kinds of betrayals. You choose to love and so to trust some of your happiness to someone, only to be kicked in the teeth and left in the cold. You choose to work hoping to see the results blossom, only to find yourself back at the tiller, with soil as hard as stone. You choose to pray, but after a while all you hear is your voice, and you wonder if anyone is listening.

Experiencing betrayal makes one choice-shy and trust-shy. To choose seems like signing your name to a blank contract. It could hold pain or joy eternal, but perhaps you’d rather not chance it, so you don’t. I call it the skeptics choice: Slowly, you begin to choose not to choose. You let life wash over you, but never again will you have to be hurt for choosing and trusting. Even beliefs you hold with an open hand, unwilling to be ashamed if you are wrong. But of course, this is a choice. It is a self choice; you begin to trust only what you can guarantee, which, you will soon find is precious little.

I have made the skeptic’s choice before. I remember one night, laying in bed with a red-nosed, uncomfortably fevered cold when the thought came to my head: What if God doesn’t protect the people you love. It was a feverish thought, and absurd since no-one I knew was doing anything particularly risky. My life is one of comfort and safety compared to most of the world. But there it was hanging in my mind, frank and cruel.

Trusting God is a tricky thing. I accepted that, hypothetically, whatever happens, God is always protecting my loved ones. But what if something happens to one of them? Is God cruel? Revoking His protection? Perhaps He wasn’t there. Perhaps it would be better not to trust at all. These were nighttime thoughts.

But choice and trust are unavoidable. Choice and trust are human.

My old friend Lewis says it well:

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” (C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves).

The choice of trust and vulnerability has been present since the garden of Eden. Since the dawn of this old world, the question Can you trust Him? has beat in the heart of every human. And, oh, how quickly we, no I, rush to shout no! and lock up my heart. When we do that, we cut ourselves off from the very giver of life and comfort, turning inwards to ourselves for security. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned about being a human, it’s that I’m not a very good source of eternal solace.

The journey I’ve been on, and continue to be on, is to learn to choose and to trust God. Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, submitted himself to the Father, the good Father, trusting that he was just that. Where Eve reached for the fruit, Jesus said “Man does not live on bread alone.” Where the Israelites demanded God show his presence by a miracle, Jesus said “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” Jesus’ choice to trust lead him on a road to the cross. Does this not seem like the ultimate betrayal of choice? Yet through his trust, came new life.

My journey of faith has come through encountering this Jesus who both radically demonstrates the trust that was intended for human nature, and performs it for me when I cannot. And I am invited into that trust. If I seem like I’m rambling, it’s because I’m still learning to trust, and I think will be learning all my life. 

That is part of the trusting: realizing you will never have “arrived” in this life. Nonetheless…

I am learning what it means to be human.

I am learning to choose. 

I am choosing to trust.

What are you choosing?

By the way, I chose the flowery dress.

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Saint Patrick’s Day and Treasures of Beauty

Hello, World! And Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

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It has been a long while since I’ve posted. Between the last post and this have passed many full weeks. Weeks full of homework, people, airplanes, applications, supplications, silence, beaches, new ventures in cooking, and all the ins and outs that squeeze into the corners of life. I’m sure your weeks have been the same. But here I am at last, thinking Saint-ward thoughts.

I claim Irish blood (along with everyone and there sister on this lucky day). I am primarily Scottish and English, but slipped in my ethnic tapestry, there are at least a few Irishman. Furthermore, I have freckles, a bit of a temper, and a longlasting affection for the music-whatever-they-are Celtic Women. My case for being Irish is strong, as you can see.

For as long as I can remember I have relished Saint Patrick’s day. When I was in seventh grade I did a project on Saint Patrick, resplendent with pictures and quotes to spare. Patrick’s story of rebellion and exile, captivity and freedom, dreams and druids always captured my imagination. There is a wildness to the story that stirs me. Being in Dublin earlier this year, experiencing the cold and rugged land, and standing on the spot where Patrick baptized the first Irish converts only deepened my love of the life of this Saint.

Coast of Ireland.

Coast of Ireland.

In preparation for this cherished holiday, I ordered a translation of the two remaining manuscripts attributed to Patrick. It arrived just in time, and yesterday while on break from class I went to retrieve it. I was so eager to begin reading that I read most of the preface by John O’Donohue while walking back to class which almost resulted in my walking across the street  with my nose still in the book. (note: Don’t try this at home, kids.)

In describing Patrick’s early years as a Christian, working as a captive slave and Shepard, O’Donohue wrote this:

“Pascal said that in difficult times you should always keep something beautiful in your heart. Patrick is able to survive these harsh and lonely territories of exile precisely because he keeps the beauty of God alive in his heart. The inner beauty of the divine intimacy transfigures outer bleakness” (O’Donohue, The Confession of Saint Patrick).

As class began and I tucked my book away in my bag, I tucked these words away too.

I believe that much of life and faith is characterized by exile and return. In my life, there have times of blissful homey-ness. In my faith, my family, and my relationships I have felt glad and peaceful. I have also felt the exile. Loneliness, hurt, separation, wandering in the dry and weary land where there is no water. And I find that even within the sweet moments is a sense of sweet melancholy and longing for the New Jerusalem. We are sojourners. But what shall we take for the journey?

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“…You should always keep something beautiful in your heart.”

When I was small, my mother would talk about the “Treasure box” of my heart. The treasures she spoke of were the things I cherished, the books I read, the poetry and scripture I memorized, the memories I pondered. She wanted to nourish in my little girl spirit a love and a collection of beauty that traveled with me wherever I went.

As I’ve headed a few more steps down the road of my life, my treasure box has proved treasure indeed. When I have entered the exile of my life, I would turn to the scripture, the stories, the love, and the beauty stored away in my soul. My treasure box was my light of Eärendil, my light for dark places.

I believe Patrick had such a treasure and that at its core resided the person of Christ. After being kidnapped and taken to Ireland, Patrick had a conversion experience and was then sent to be the slave Shepard of a druid leader. Faced with days, weeks, months, and years as a lonely shepard he, like Mary “treasured these things within his heart,” deepening his love for the Lord of all and the land of rocks and green. In one passage, recounting his conversion, Patrick writes:

But after I had come to Ireland,

it was then that I was made to shepherd the flocks day after day, so, as I did so, I would pray all the time, right through the day. More and more the love of God and the fear of Him grew strong within me.

And as my faith grew, so the Spirit became more and more active…

Though I might be staying in the forest or out on a mountainside it would be the same; Even before dawn broke, I would be aroused to pray.

In snow, in frost, in rain, I was never slack but always full of energy.

It is clear to me now that it was due to the fervor of the Spirit within me.

Patrick’s time of exile is characterized by a cherishing of the word of God and the beauty of Christ. What had been planted grew deep roots as he sat and prayed fervently in the silence of the rugged fields. I believe those years of treasuring and waiting and praying are what provided the foundation of his powerful ministry. It all began by treasuring the beauty of Christ.

As I sit in my perch overlooking the rushing street beneath my apartment, I feel like Patrick. This semester is my sheep-field; it has been quiet and long at points, but I want to fill it with treasures. I want to sit and let roots grow deep. I want to fill quiet hours with prayers. I want to fill my treasure box for the journey.

So, friends, I hope your fill your treasure box. And here’s how I’m filling mine today…

With good books.

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The Confessions of Saint Patrick. I’m excited to sit down with this book this afternoon.

With dear friends.

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With Good movies.

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Looking for a good movie about faith and beauty? Watch “The Secret of Kells.” It’s on Netflix. It’s a cartoon about the book of Kells. It is magical.

With good food.

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If you want a great recipe for Soda bread.

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/irish-soda-bread-recipe.html

With beauty.

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And with a cherishing of the greatest gift of all…

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Happy Saint Patrick’s Day everyone!

May the road rise to meet you,

May the wind be always at your back,

May the sun rise warm upon your face,

and until we meet again may God hold you in the hollow of His hand.

Peace,

Joy