Tuesday, April 24, 2007

I WANT MY MOMMY!!!: A diatribe

This sort of thing just doesn't happen in California.


I keep telling people that, but they don't believe me. Honestly, if this sort of thing were to happen in California, Californians wouldn't stand for it. They'd protest until it was fixed. What am I talking about, you may ask? Tornadoes.

Last night I survived my first tornado watch. Or warning. Whichever's worse. Whichever means that an actual, hell-bent tornado touched down within the same zip code as yours truly.

This sort of thing just doesn't happen in California.

I was so freaked out. There I was, blissfully watching the Stars/Canucks game (that's hockey to all you uninitiated folk), and suddenly the world is ending and a swirling vortex of death, doom and destruction is bearing down on ACU. WHAT IS THAT?? I almost started crying and called lovely Brianna, Lynn and Nicole to come over and help me calm the heck down. Brianna and Lynn came directly over, but Nicole got locked in her dorm and wasn't allowed to leave because of the tornado. That's about the time I REALLY started to freak out. By the time Bri and Lynn got to my apartment, I was sitting on the couch, watching the Weather Channel, remote control clutched in my hand and my feet shaking like mad. Natalie, my lovely roommate, is also from California and deals with tornadoes only slightly better than myself. She called me from the basement of the Campus Center where the kids had been corralled and offered to brave the shelterless distance between the Campus Center and our apartment so I wouldn't be alone. Lovely, lovely friends. Stupid tornado.

I mean, really. Earthquakes are so much better! The last scary earthquake was the Northridge earthquake of '94 -- thirteen years ago!! The last scary tornado? LAST NIGHT! What happens right before an earthquake? Nothing! You chill, you live life, you go about your business in blissful ignorance. What happens before a tornado? Tornado watches and warnings and huge storms and lightning and thunder and sirens and trees falling over and running and screaming and dooooooom! How long does an earthquake last? 30 seconds, tops. Tornadoes? Hours of anxiety and fear and uncertainty. Are earthquakes fun? Heck yes! It's like someone popped a quarter in the earth's magic fingers, and you have 15 seconds of earth surfing. Are tornadoes fun? NO. No, no, no! How do you protect yourself from an earthquake? Get under a table or in a doorway while a couple things fall off shelves. How do you protect yourself from a tornado? YOU HIDE IN A BATHTUB. Honestly, a bathtub? You sit in a bathtub with a mattress over you while the roof is ripped away and you're sucked straight up out of the tub and into the infinite abyss. Great plan, guys. A freaking bathtub.

So basically I was scared, but Lynn and Bri and I said a prayer together and prayed for our friend Alex to be safe while he was driving back to school and they assured me that this was standard practice in Texas, so I started to feel much more calm. I also called my mom (which always helps) and projected some of my adrenaline overload onto her. She said I wouldn't believe how much she got done in the half hour after my first call because she was hopped up on nerves. Bri and Lynn calmed me down, the lockdown at the dorm ended, the immediate danger passed and I felt much better. I went to bed feeling tired and a little shaken up, but overall okay.

Then I had the craziest dream.

Okay, my mom is laughing right now because when I'm home, about every other morning I'll come stumbling out of my bedroom, eyes and voice still thick with sleep, and, completely mystified, announce, "I had the WEIRDEST dream last night." My mom thinks it's cute that I still seem surprised after all these years. I actually recently started keeping a dream diary and entries include a parallel Hollywood universe mansion with an entertainment library whose librarian is a skeletal Michael Jackson, Prince William announcing his engagement to his girlfriend and the Princes' nanny and I trying to dry out a drunk and belligerent Prince Harry, and most recently, a strange amalgamation of the mafia, vampires and real estate.

So anyway, weird dreams are not entirely uncommon to me, but it still scared me. I had a dream that my Dad was here in Abilene and there was a whole tornado scare going on and we had to drop Trisha off at her apartment, but instead of running to a first-story apartment where she would be safe like we thought she was going to do, she ran over and plopped down on the lawn and started reading! Then my Dad and I drove around a corner and saw TEN tornadoes all touching down at the same time -- all huge -- and my dad conversationally remarked "Look at all those tornadoes! How beautiful!" I actually remember thinking in my dream that I wish everyone could see my face because it was a perfect mix of shock, fear and "WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE??" Dad and I met up with Brianna and we headed over to her apartment, and as we walked outside the tornadoes had gotten bigger and closer. I screamed and started freaking out, but there were two guys sitting on lawn chairs on the grass, just watching the tornadoes like it's a spectator sport and looking at me like I was completely unreasonable and silly. I wanted to grab them and scream, "YOU SHOULD ALL BE MORE SCARED RIGHT NOW!!"

Then I woke up. I was so scared I had awakened myself from my nightmare and couldn't get back to sleep. I just KNEW the tornado sirens were going to go off at any second, and I swear I could almost hear them. My feet were shaking again and my eyes were wide as dinner plates, and I seriously considered trying to crawl into bed with Natalie, or at least camping out on the floor in her room. However, I decided that I was too old to be crying to others in the middle of the night when I have a nightmare, and I needed to pull on my big girl panties and deal.

So I slept in the bathtub.

It's a crappy plan, but it's all I had, so I grabbed my sleeping bag, a blanket and all my pillows and made up a bed in the tub. Actually, once I got in there it was incredibly comfortable. It felt like a little cocoon, holding me close and tight and safe, so I pulled the shower curtain closed and went to sleep.

I'm really okay, but this is just so freaky. I don't know how to deal with this kind of thing and I'm a little peeved at Texas. I mean, we were just getting to be friends. Yesterday afternoon I was driving along in the beautiful sunshine, admiring the open green fields with the cute shrubs some people mistake for trees, and I thought for the first time that Texas was truly beautiful. I appreciated it. I liked it. I enjoyed being right where I was. Then it comes back and slaps me in the face with a freaking tornado. You're a mean ol' cuss, Texas, and one of these days you and I are going to rumble.

Here's a picture of where I slept:

And here's a picture of how I felt:

(My little sister Trisha with our old dog, Pupperoni)

Alright, diatribe over. Thanks for hanging in with me, and a big thanks to all my friends and family who listened to my prolonged freak out over the last 12 hours.

Happier things next time, I promise! Peace, kids!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Skateboarding, snow, and a near-death experience

You're probably wondering what my near-death experience was, but before I get to that, skateboarding and snow!!

My super wonderful friend Brianna and I went to a sports store and bought skateboards! We are now officially hard-core skating super stars. Tony Hawk asks US for tips.

Seriously. We're that good.

Actually, we're still learning, but we're really not bad! These are some pictures from our first day of skating. Bri fell a couple of times on her keister pretty hard. The worst part was that she realized AFTER falling on her butt that her cell phone was in her back pocket! That was not fun. She had a cell phone-shaped bruise on her butt for a few days there. I, on the other hand, was skating back from her place late that night (without a fall all day), leaned a little bit too far back and landed by back foot on the cement while my front foot was still traveling forward on the board. Instant splits!! It's a good thing I'm flexible, otherwise I would have been in a world of hurt.

Here are some pictures of us NOT falling!

Another thing my friends and I have been doing a lot lately is sitting out on the grass in front of the campus center and reading or sleeping or (in Lynn and I's case) tumbling! This is one of my favorite things to do. It's like a breath of fresh air in the midst of a hectic week. The picture below is of two of my good friends Nicole and Lynn. Lynn (the blonde) is going to be my roomie next year! We're totally psyched, and I'm so grateful that God has given me such wonderful, Godly women to be friends with.

Speaking of wonderful, Godly women, here are three more of my favorite people here at ACU!! From left to right, there's Katie, Abi and Kelsey. The Saturday before Easter the four of us gathered together at Abi and her husband's house for brunch -- that turned into an all-day eating/movie fest when it started snowing! Really, I just don't get Texas weather. I kept walking around telling everyone "This sort of thing doesn't happen in California! It's 70 degrees all year round. 70 70 70 70 70!!!" I think they're getting a little annoyed with my insistence, but seriously, this sort of thing doesn't happen in California! 30 degrees on Easter Sunday and 80 degrees two days later? That's not okay!

Our day, was, though! It was an awesome day just to cuddle up with some blankets, a movie, and amazing cinnamon muffins (my contribution to breakfast was Ritz Crackers and Coke, only the best breakfast in the world). Seriously, though, God has blessed me so much with a plethora of amazing Christian women friends. I'm being able to connect with these girls in ways that I never knew I could. I love these girls and they are what make ACU so wonderful to me!! See how happy I am?

Now for the much-anticipated story of my near-death experience (drumroll, please)....

It was a dark and stormy night, and Brianna and I were bravely battling against a gruesome flat tire. Bri had been driving on the freeway the week before when a crate fell off the truck right in front of her and smashed into her front bumper, immediately flattening one tire and flattening the tire that is the star of this story a few days later. We had help getting her truck lifted up on a jack and getting the flat tire off, but after that we were on our own!! First off we drove all over town trying to find the right tire for her truck and ended up at Discount Tire Co. (which we both highly recommend). When we got there, the guy who helped us was totally awesome, but this old guy in the store was totally giving us dirty looks. We wanted to prove that we could change the tire all by ourselves, but no one seemed too sure of our ability. We were asking the guy to just take the rim off the old tire and put it on the new one, but he looked at us like we were crazy! So then, of course, we started doubting ourselves, and I finally just blurted out, "The silver thing! You, know! The silver part! We want that! On the new tire! You know!"

At that point the nice young man escorted us outside to the truck to see for himself just what the heck we wanted done. Once we had communicated clearly, he told us it was no problem and to come back in 45 minutes to pick up the new tire. To blow time, we went to PetSmart and played with some kittens. I totally fell in love with one and half-seriously considered taking it home and naming it Puppy. He would have been a good puppy.

Finally we got back to our apartment complex and proceeded to put the new tire on the... thing where the tire goes. As we tried to tighten the bolts (or nuts or whatever they are), the tire kept spinning around! One of us grabbed the tire and tried to hold it still while the other used the tire iron to try and tighten the bolts. After going back and forth for a while I finally spoke up, "Wouldn't this be easier if the tire was on the floor?" Oh, yeah!!! THAT'S what you're supposed to do! So we went around to the front of the truck where Bri's friend had set up his jack and proceeded to try and lower it.

We failed.

We ended up calling the Discount Tire Co. guy and asking him how to lower the jack. It was a weird one that didn't just turn to the left and lower, so we were trying to describe it to him and figure out how to work the stupid thing whilst ignoring the roaring laughter we could hear in the background. Ah, it's all in good fun. Finally a guy came along and offered to help us. He took a look and saw a little knob that we had to put the handle on to turn it. He warned us to go very slowly or the truck could fall quickly. Determined to avoid that, I lowered myself to the ground and tried to reach the handle without having any vital body part trapped between the curb and the bumper. I grasped the handle, slowly began to turn, and...


It was a little stuck, so I gave it a little more, trying to turn very slo -- WHAM! The entire truck slammed onto the ground all at once!! Brianna and I both screamed and covered our heads, and the helpful young man politely asked me "Did it get you?" DID IT GET ME? If it got me, you'd know!! I felt like Chandler on Friends, "You GET me, you KILL me!" Luckily, though, we escaped this frightening (and empowering) experience with nothing worse than a mild case of hysterics.

Well, that's about all for now -- look for an update soon that will include pictures from my first gymnastics meet as a coach!

Much love to all....

Ladies' Retreat

This is a short thought that I wrote about grace for my home church's ladies' retreat. My mom and Pat (my second mom) asked me to post this -- hope you all enjoy!

"I was joking with a friend today that I am really special because the Bible talks about me so much. I told my friend that there are even several songs written about me, and that while others sing “Amazing Grace,” I simply sing, “Amazing me.” Obviously I’m not serious, but I think this is actually closer to the truth than we’d like to admit. The definition of grace is “unmerited divine assistance given humans for their sanctification.” This is a beautiful image, made even more so by the fact that this grace is truly unmerited. We have forfeited our right to God’s favor, and we continually renew this forfeiture every single day, yet He continues to bestow it upon us. We don’t simply stumble and fall, we voluntarily throw ourselves down on the asphalt over and over again, only to have God pick us up and heal us every single time. In the song “Dandelions” by Five Iron Frenzy, God is compared to a mother who receives a gift of dandelions from her child. The mother doesn’t simply see a fistful of ragged weeds, she sees a bouquet of flowers fit for any queen. By all rights, we are nothing but weeds, but through God’s grace we are made into beautiful flowers."

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Isn't Bible thumping a little violent?

So... my dad is awesome. He's smart and funny and is the only preacher I know of who went and saw Jimi Hendrix in concert twice -- that's right, TWICE. I'm still a little upset at him for going without me, but I called dibs on the ticket stubs when he dies, so we're cool. Anyway, my dad writes a blog that a lot of people from our church read and his latest blog was talking about how it is not easy to communicate the sometimes difficult truth of the Gospel to non-Christians in a way that expresses our love for them. It's really a great read and I encourage all of you to check out his thoughts here before reading on. After I read it I e-mailed my parents with some responses and decided to post what I wrote here for everyone to read. Please keep in mind that I'm no communication, debate, counseling or anything else expert, but I'm pretty good at loving people who are different than me and these are some of the ways I've discovered that help me when I'm trying to discuss faith with non-Christians.

"I really appreciate your latest blog. It is so difficult in this day and age to be seen as Christian and "normal." People automatically assume that if you are Christian you're just one step short of Jim Jones. The temptation is to claim Christianity but to align yourself with secular views in order to be accepted by non-Christians. This is not to say that this practice is completely shallow (you have to be accepted by non-Christians in order to reach them with the message of Christ) nor is it completely without Biblical merit (I Corinthians 9:22), but it can be a slippery slope and eventually lead to two problematic questions.

1) If we adopt secular views and practices, then at what point does "Christian" living cease to be recognizable as Christian? You can't live with one foot in each world -- eventually you're going to have to make a stand one way or the other. Another way to think of it is this: if you wear a disguise long enough, when does it cease being your disguise and simply become the way you look? The second question is this: Is watered-down Christian theology effective/worth it? If we are watering down the message of what we believe it not only suggests to those outside the faith that we have doubts and are not sure ourselves, but it also implies that the message of Christ "as is" is insufficient. Do we really believe that a watered-down God can convert non-Christians better than an undiluted one?

The struggle to be Christian, be myself and be understood by non-Christians all at the same time is something I've struggled with. I've debated faith and reason with many non-Christian friends, and I found myself adopting a few helpful rules: 1) Don't engage a non-Christian in a debate unless you are fairly good friends with them. A debate about such touchy, personal and polarizing issues is trying even in the best of friendships. In the early stages of friendship, let God's love shine through you instead of doctrine. There is a time and place for both, but until the non-Christian gets a feel for your personality and your sense of caring for them, any debate can easily be seen as an attack that could destroy a budding friendship. 2) Call timeout. I have come to view debates much like football games. The beginning of the debate is kickoff, but when the whistle blows the play is over and you stop competing. Make a clear, verbal distinction between the debate and your friendship, and affirm that your political/spiritual views don't effect your friendship or your caring for each other. 3) It may seem excessive, but after any particularly intense debate I would just look at my friend, pat his or her shoulder, and ask "We okay?" This provides an opportunity for your friend to air any hurt feelings or questions he or she may have. The equally important part of this is to actually leave the game on the field. Once the whistle blows, leave it. No fistfights in the parking lot. Leave the debate and resume just hanging out."

Well, I hope that was helpful (or at least interesting) for all of you. In the California public schools where I grew up being a Christian is definitely the minority, and going to church every week makes you a radical, but with these guidelines I was able to have open, honest and challenging discussions with my friends without anyone feeling threatened. I never convinced anyone and no one ever started coming to church with me, but I feel like if my non-Christian friends can at least think of one example of a loving, "normal" Christian who has thought about her faith a lot and truly believes it, then I've done my job.

Besides, there are worse things in life than being considered a radical for Christ.

Peace, homies!