five

Donald Miller’s writing a new book.

It’s going to have something to do with the phenomenon of manipulative leaders in Christian settings. I’m not sure if I’ll ever read it, but not because I don’t think it’s an important topic to address. It’s definitely a very real phenomenon, one that’s not only heartbreaking, but also terrifying and infuriating. Terrifying because sometimes it feels like darkness is winning, and infuriating because it’s all so incredibly unfair.

It’s affected many of my friends to different extents, friends from different backgrounds and experiences. Sin taints all, affects all.

But the reason why I hesitate when it comes to this book is because I don’t think you can categorize people as ‘manipulative’. I think you can recognize when manipulation is present in a situation, but people aren’t manipulative or non-manipulative. Things are rarely so black and white.

But a phrase that I hear over and over again when talking to different people is:’What if I’m the one that’s wrong?’

I’ve heard it from my friends and I’ve heard it a lot in my own head over the years. It’s a valid question - people aren’t infallible and it’s important to recognize that we all have our blind spots.

So why is it that when I hear someone ask that, chills run down my spine?

I wish everything was black and white. I wish there was always a clear right and wrong. There’s something so ominous about the words ‘what if’.’

I’m a naturally cautious person. I’m always too afraid to rock the boat because I don’t want to be the reason why things fall apart. The concept of God’s sovereignty sometimes feels so out of reach and difficult to grasp.

But here”s the thing – recognizing that you could be wrong is different from believing your concerns, opinions, and feelings are not valid. One is is a mark of humility and the other is a dangerous path resulting in crippling self-doubt. Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe. Through love. Through faith.

There are no manipulators, no liars, no victims. Only people.

 

 

 

four

Why I love Texas

1) Tacos. Last week my friend and I ate at a place called Taco More. From the outside, it looked like an average Taqueria you would find in San Antonio and from the inside it also looked like an average Taqueria that you would find in San Antonio. We ate at a time that was neither lunch nor dinner and ordered things with authentic names and authentic colors.

Maybe you had to be there.

2) Coffee. Coffee in Texas is different from coffee anywhere else because coffee in Texas means long conversations with friends and journaling and laughing and reading. Coffee in Texas means sunlit tables and lots of ice, where some people come together to think of and create  world-changing ideas, and some people come to knit and talk about their children. It’s the weird in-between of being alone and being with people that makes you feel just the right amount of alive.

3) Bluebonnets. I was driving past fields and fields of bluebonnets the other day and I was close to tears thinking about how much I love Texas summers. The blistering hot sun with triple-digit temperatures and the pavement you can’t possibly walk on barefoot. The evenings that aren’t that much cooler than the afternoons and the rain that will fall then disappear as quickly as it came.

4) Movements. This is a big one, and I don’t really know how to describe it. I’ve seen lives change and people transformed, I’ve been a part of small moments with huge implications, and I’ve caught a glimpse of things bigger than I can imagine. I’ve seen them happen in Texas, but Texas can’t hold the movements that are meant to expand.

three

My mom and I  once decided to make two kinds of banana bread. One with avocado and the other with butter. Guess which one tasted better.

Growing up in church I was definitely the least skinny girl in my grade, but for some reason I was convinced that only I knew that I was the least skinny girl and no one else could tell (lol). I was always paranoid that one day someone would notice and point and say ‘Hey, you’re actually not as skinny as us!’ and I would be found out.

And one day my secret was discovered. I don’t remember exactly how it happened, but I remember it was a boy who made the comment (ugh of all kinds of people!) And after he said whatever he said, I remember screaming inside my head ‘Now everyone knows and everyone is staring at me!” and I expected to feel humiliated and I expected to want to run home and cry in my pillow for hours. But surprisingly, I didn’t. I felt fine. It was freeing almost. Now everyone knew I was the least skinny; the worst had happened and it wasn’t so bad. Plenty awkward, but not so terrible.

This is not a post about how I learned to see myself the way God sees me (though that has been an interesting journey). It’s more about how banana bread tastes better when you make it with lots of butter which sucks because butter is going to clog your arteries and choke them to death but it still tastes better. So what I guess I’m trying to say is this: Friend, eat all the butter and banana bread you want, because being the least-skinny isn’t that bad. But remember that one day your arteries will clog and choke up and make stairs difficult.

two

A couple years ago I wrote something about how we tend to remember life in snapshots and forget all the moments in between that string them together. Sometimes I wonder if telling only a snippet of someone’s story somehow cheapens the value of their entire story. Like romanticizing a page from a book that reveals actually very little about the characters, or like not knowing that Robin and Barney got divorced three years later (spoiler alert?) Snapshots don’t give you much.

That being said, I really really love Humans of New York.

one

I said I would blog every day in April. I think I’m going to blog maybe a few times in April.

What is blogging anyway? Can you just write anything? Why am I so fascinated with the idea of it?

I recently became obsessed with Emily Gould. She said (via blogpost) that people who maintain blogs do it because they like the idea that there’s a place where a record of their existence is kept. Like there’s a little office where people can drop by or peek in and see what you’ve been up to and how you’ve been doing. She also talks about how the remove of the internet results in a tendency to overshare, something that isn’t always bad, but isn’t always good.

Lately I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about seasons. I’ve found myself tearing up around many of my friends and wondering aloud if we’ll still be friends in the future. The response I usually get is ‘stop saying that’. But I usually don’t stop; I insist that we will never see each other again and I will suffer from an excruciating withdrawal because I can’t imagine my life without seeing these faces on a regular basis.

I’m going to miss my kids too. Below are a couple times that I truly lol’d.

An April Fools anecdote:

I put a piece of chocolate on the floor and waited for my mom to come and when she came she stepped on it and I yelled ‘Oh my god mommmm you run over my puppy!’ and she said ‘I’m so sorry’ and I say ‘APRIL FOOOLLS’

Typical Q&A:

Miss Esther what is your favorite food?
Ice cream
if you love ice cream so much why don’t you marry it
Umm
You know, miss, if you married ice cream you would spend a lot of time in the freezer.

 

Lol.

Remembering

In elementary school I read A Writer’s Notebook, a children’s book that taught me how to tell stories by keeping records of my life and my thoughts. I remember having half a dozen Writer’s Notebooks scattered around my room, some filled with stories about my friends, some filled with secrets about boys, and some filled with disturbing stories about kidnappings and cancer.

It baffles me that none of the English/Language Arts lessons I teach are of any interest to my students. In their free time they ask me to give them math questions (of all things!) and beg me to teach them algebra. This is cool of course (any student who enjoys doing math will probably end up okay), but they despise reading and writing.

And so in an attempt to make these young people love writing, they now each have their own Writer’s Notebook. And even if it kills me, by the end of this semester they will all love to write.

The other day I asked them to take out their notebooks and write about a family member. But what do we write about?  they all asked and I said well, you can write about your mom or dad or brother or sister or grandma or grandpa…

And one of my kids shouted from across the room ‘Why would I write about my grandpa if I don’t even know him?’

And for a second I wanted to cry (but I promised myself I would never do that again in front of them) but I started to say ‘Well I don’t know my grandpa that well since he lives in China’, and luckily the room erupted with China! he lives in China? so I didn’t get to finish, which is good because I probably wouldn’t have been able to.

What would I have said to that? How do you write about someone you don’t really know?

Growing up, I remember thinking I would have more stories to write in my notebook if my life was more like the stories I heard about how my dad was raised on the side of the mountain and had to take care of chickens and fight off wild animals. I remember dreaming that one day I would be the one to take all the tales I’d heard about their little village and weave them into a story that gave voice to the people on the mountain during the Cultural Revolution.

What do I know about him? What do I know about the man who raised my father, who flew halfway across the world to hold me and my brothers on his lap and tell us stories of the wild animals he and my dad had to fight off? The man who told us all about the monkey king and taught us surprisingly applicable life lessons from Chinese fables? The man who tried to learn how to say ‘grandpa’ in English and had the only laugh in the house that was louder than my dad’s?

I wonder if I could ever really write that story. It’s too late to ask him to tell me those stories again because the last time I had a chance to do that I was a teenager, and somewhere along the way it became more important to me to be introspective and self-absorbed than to care about my family.

All I really have now is the little things. Like how I always found chocolate hidden in his desk because he had type II diabetes. How he never forgot to water the vegetable garden or take care of the plants.

But I still have to write those little things, because they’re all I have; I guess a language barrier can do that to you.

How do you write about someone you don’t really know? And why do I feel like it’s something I must do? Does it somehow make everything more significant if I can record on this blog the tiny collection of stories and moments that barely even live in the corners of my mind?

I’ve read somewhere that part of grieving is taking inventory of that person’s impact on your life and on the lives of those around them. Which is what I guess I’m doing. I’m scared that if I don’t write it down, no one will remember. I don’t know who I’m writing this for because it’s not like anyone who knew him will read this, but I’m writing it anyway because I think I’m desperately trying to prove to myself – to someone – that it mattered.

My mom forwarded me the e-mail that my pastor sent to all the church leaders. At the end he added the quote by CT Studd “Only one life, ’twill soon be past, only what is done for Christ will last.” And I’m incredibly thankful my grandpa believed but I feel –

And somehow I’ve again made this all about me so I’ll just stop here.