Friday, April 30, 2010

ouch

Cynicism winning, bass and music so loud they were rattling my heart strings, foot a little too heavy on that speedy pedal: this is how I drove to my finance course on Wednesday. It’s been a couple weeks since I’ve gone (one class missed, one class cancelled). In that short time alone my brilliant financial plan managed to not only veer completely off course, but it took a few swift kicks to the kidneys, too. Sigh. Time to rework the budget… and apply the frozen peas to my lower right side.

I suppose the point of sharing this story is to encourage you; although it may not seem like it. Taking a good hard look at how we spend our money is just that: good and hard. But we should still do it.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

twenty 20

My dear friend Laurell started a trend on her blog awhile ago that she calls "20/20". She makes a list of 20 things she's noticed or learned recently and posts them for her readers. I liked it so much I decided I should do it here, but have failed to come up with anything quite as clever as she does. Regardless, it's been that kind of a week - lots to think about, too much to absorb, and just enough word power to come up with 20 unrelated, context-less sentences. With no further ado, here are twenty things I've been thinking about lately.



1. Sometimes the most effective way to love your neighbor is to keep your mouth shut.

2. I think I'm just smart enough to recognize God must be trying to teach me something, but just slow enough that he has to "lesson" me eight times in a row.

3. Good intentions are good. Follow through is better.

4. Every few weeks, a black cat crosses my path. Is this bad luck? Or do I just live in a neighborhood filled with black cats? Let's go with option B.

5. If you're having trouble seeing the good in someone, try taking that giant piece of wood out of your eye first. See? Much better.

6. In 32 days, I will be in the same room as Marcus Mumford. Tomorrow, it will be 31.

7. I have recently taken up two pen-pal friendships...with two existing good friends. One lives five minutes from my house, and the other lives across the country. That doesn't change the feeling I get when a handwritten letter arrives on my doorstep.

8. We are forever tied to our parents, whether we like it or not. Make it a good tie, while you can.

9. A budget only works if you follow it.

10. If you find a friend who sticks around through 93 awkward first impressions, I think it's safe to say they'll stick around for the 94th.

11. Life is better when it's organized. Occasionally, though, it is even better to lock your Type A in the bathroom and run through the front door without it.

12. Kissing once is dangerous; it makes you want to kiss ten times. Proceed with caution.

13. Sometimes, I like to pretend that it's not rain on my sunny sidewalk, but rather, that God spilled the glitter during arts and crafts time.

14. This week, a kind word saved my heart from breaking entirely. Don't keep kind words to yourself - they may be just the thing to do this for someone else.

15. Taking a day off on a day you "shouldn't", and doing nothing with it, is remarkably liberating.

16. My good friend Anita recently commented that she was "feeling dowdy, faking svelte." Some days, that's all we can ask of ourselves.

17. Never underestimate the power of retail therapy.

18. There's nothing a run by the ocean can't temporarily fix.

19. Grace. Is there anything better?

20. I know the expiry date is there as a mere precaution, but I can't seem to shake the feeling that it is actually a death sentence.

Friday, April 23, 2010

the point of understanding

I actually wrote this (italicized, below) awhile ago; last year sometime.  I had not only experienced but had seen first hand the effects of "righteous abandon" when it comes to knowing other people's business (and then making brutal decisions about that person's character from the knowledge). In a difficult situation, when someone is acting differently than I think they should, what is my role? Recently, enough around me has changed again that I found myself wanting to read what I wrote on the subject of Understanding... do I still agree with what I said?

Sometimes, though we want to, we can't blur the line between Grace and Consequence. However: it is still entirely possible for Grace and Consequence to co-exist. In fact, I would even go so far as to say they should always co-exist. It is never, ever my place to condemn or judge a situation that does not directly involve me. If I am in the situation, however, my role is a different one than if I am on the outside, watching it. When the situation is not my own, I am to be an instrument of peace, an honest look and a friendly shoulder. I don't deny or justify or belittle the pain (ever), but I don't use my own pain as a weapon, either.

Some of the situations going on around me right now have absolutely broken my heart. I don't know what to do with quite a few of them; where to take my ideas, how long to dwell in the pain I'm feeling, or most often, what to say or think or feel at all. But (and perhaps this is my own natural bent, and a crazy notion to the rest of the world) I can't stop trying to understand each situation. This may be why I felt the need to try and work this out in writing... again.

I guess, as well, I'm hoping this can be of some encouragement to you, wherever you're at. I highly doubt I'm the only one who's learning how to deal with big pain, massive disappointment, or emotional rifts caused by others. The main question I ask here is: what are my rights as a bystander?

****

I suppose it is fair to say that understanding is mainly for our own benefit. We are frustrated, we are confused, we don’t get it…and so we actively seek to understand. But what of situations that are not our own? Situations that effect us & wear on our emotions, but essentially have nothing to do with us…where is the boundary line for these situations? If you are hurting, if you decide and then move in a certain direction, and I don’t "get it"…where is my liberty? Are my rights the same as if it were my own state of mind?

No. I don’t think so.

There has to be, in certain cases, a forgoing of the will to be “in the know”. Personal matters are personal; I can not demand that you tell me every thought or motivation; nor can you demand this from me. I suppose the hardship comes, then, when we are trying to balance “But I love you” with “I respect your privacy”. We can not claim ownership over someone simply because we do not understand their decisions. We must be understanding, even when we do not understand. We must be a safe place for those we love, not a barrage of pointed questions.

It would be easy to decide I must mean that accountability is overrated or unnecessary – not at all! Accountability is a huge part of love. But accountability is not a form of attack; accountability has to be a gentle but firmly placed boundary line for the other person. To hold someone accountable is to remind them of the truth; not beat them over the head with a list of their faults. We hold people accountable because we love them. That being said, we have to trust that when a person says, “I am finished”, they actually mean it; that if they have said they’ve had enough [can take no more of our questioning]; they mean it. We must respect that. We can not trample in with righteous abandon and plough through the hearts of individuals (in Jesus’ name), and claim it is because we love them. We can speak the truth in love, though. That’s an entirely different approach.

I do not understand everything, and I (praise God!) was never asked to. I was asked to love.

Recently a good good friend, wise & gracious Jody, reminded me of something quite important. This is what she said:



1 Corinthians 13 (the love chapter) starts with "Love is patient..." NOT "Love is easy".
If the love chapter (the inspired word of God) tells us love has to be patient...then God
knew how hard loving someone would be...therefore he started the chapter reminding us
to be patient in our journey with others.


And this is where I leave you, I suppose; at Patience… at the truth that love is never easy, but it is necessary. Even if we can’t understand them.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

the futility of the title.

A word, a thought. I suppose I am wondering what the point is, of calling ourselves Christians if we do not intend to act according to the very things we profess to believe. Perhaps this is too public a forum to ask questions as volatile as these (but I’ve not hid from that before, have I?). What do you think? Do you think that Grace absolves the Christian of Responsibilty? Accountability? Appropriate action?

I say this not to point a finger (except back at my own plank filled eyes), but even as I sit here in the middle of my own humanity, I cannot help but see the decisions being made elsewhere and wonder: what the hell are we doing?

Is the Church really acting like the Church of Christ? Or is it simply acting like a social club? Are Christians acting like Christ followers, or simply like upstanding-on-the-surface citizens? What are we doing with our time? What are we wasting our time with? What of our own behaviours do we excuse in the name of Humanity, justify in the name of Self Satisfaction, and cling to in the name of Independence?

This is not a condemnation of the place I call my home & family (the Church) but rather, a look at what I believe is reality: There are good individuals and good congregations and we are doing some things right. But are we doing those right things to keep up an appearance and because of our culture, or because we genuinely want to love God with our lives? Are we really changed?

If we were at our best, would homelessness be absolved, poverty lines be erased, marriages hold together? Or is this too much to expect from the Body of humans? Can I really ask a husband to stay faithful to his wife? He is just a man, after all. Can I really ask a wealthy entrepreneur to feed a hungry neighbour? He worked for his money. Can I really ask myself to be less self-centered, self-absorbed, self-concerned? I deserve everything I’ve got. Right?

What are we doing differently, as a church body? Anything? There are plenty of “good citizens” outside the church too. You can’t tell me we’re different in our Faithfulness; we cheat on our spouses and change careers and act on impulse as often as the next person. Some of us in the church are faithful, but so are some of us outside the church. You can’t tell me we’re different in our Morals; hidden addictions are just as prevalent inside the church as they are out. Some of us in the church live with integrity, but some of us outside the church live with integrity, too. Sadly, I’m not even sure you can tell me we’re different in our Love for others; some of us Love well, but some of us don’t; this pattern knows no difference from one belief to the next.

What do you think – are we IN the world, or OF it?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

stuff I like








Being that I have a slow day job (don't worry, my boss knows that I know this), I have to spend a lot of my free time thinking of things to do. Or rather, I have to spend my free time passing that free time until 4pm comes ("have to" might be a bit of a stretch...but if I didn't I'd likely end up slumped over in my desk chair, drooling).

One of the websites I always forget to check but thoroughly enjoy is stuffchristianslike.net. Where else can you read witty (often hilarious) and inspiring commentaries on the Biblical way to wear makeup and the importance of marrying up your friends? Exactly. Nowhere else. Thank you, John Acuff.

ohmygoodness.


So simple...and yet, so profound.

In light of my new favorite song "The Letter" by Laurell, and my new favorite time-passing website The Letter Playground, I have just had a new epiphany. I don't have my cellphone on me, so I can't text my sister, so you lucky things are the first to hear this thought from my simple-minded reverie.


Why, when you write someone, is it called a Letter?

...because it is full of LETTERS. Oh my wooord (no pun intended).

I feel like a new woman.

an update on my running shoes

With only two and a half weeks left until the Sun Run, I have to admit I’m still largely unprepared to kick ass (like I had hoped I would). I will finish, but that’s about as close to Awesome as I’ll get. On my run yesterday I decided to start timing myself. I waited for the minute on my cell phone to change – 5:27 – and then started moving faster down the boardwalk. I thought I should try to run for three minutes, and then take a walking break. “Yah, that’s a great plan” I said satisfactorily. After what felt like a decade, I glanced at my phone again… “That’s odd,” I said to myself, “It still says 5:27. Is my phone brok..” 5:28. Ooh, I see, I’m just a pathetic runner. Gotchya.

I kept at it though, and ran for two full minutes. This was the rough pattern I continued for the next 30 minutes: run until I’m ten years older, watch desperately for the minute on my clock to change, walk for two minutes. So I may not be a marathon runner yet, but I’m certainly improving – it wasn’t too long ago that I couldn’t even run for 30 seconds in a row. Imagine how good I’d be if I was diligent and ran as often as I said I would? Hmm. Intriguing thought.

I think there’s still time to sign up for the Sun Run, for those of you who are interested. My mom is coming down to walk it (yay mom!) and my sister and her broken foot will cheer us over the finish line.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

complex.

Well, as alarming as it feels, I think I am finally having a concrete thought. I’ll do my best to get it out in clear English, but I make no promises. Lately, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, my intelligence (really now?) has been on a bit of a hiatus… oh wait, that implies that this post is going to be intelligent. Nope, can’t promise that either.


Elise and I were chatting yesterday, and we got onto the subject of books (after discussing many things, including the fact that it is now cooler to be a nerd than to be cool. Thank God). Most of you know it’s been a goal of mine for some time now to actually write one, or three or five. So for me, this subject always piques my interest…and sends my confidence into an observation room. What is it that draws people to books, what do smart people (like my friend Elise) like about reading, writing styles, and plot lines? And then I wonder….what if I suck? What if, at the end of the day, my books and writing are terrible?

Part of me wants to believe that I wouldn’t love doing something this much if I didn’t have some kind of talent for it. But then another part of my brain brings to mind all the crappy singers with heart, or the many paintings I’ve seen where the wrong eye is closer to the front.

I’ve realized that I am a lot more afraid of rejection or mockery than I like to think I am; that maybe, it actually does matter to me what people think (dang, and I had tried so hard to be counter-cultural and not care). But does this mean I stop doing what I love because I am afraid some people won’t like it? This is the idea I can’t settle on, regardless of my insecurities.

I know so. many. artists. Every day I am blessed to encounter some form of that art inside of my daily routine: whether it’s checking blogs or listening to music or hearing the artist speak – I love seeing people work their gifts; it’s unbelievably energizing. I think my favourite part about knowing so many artists is that I get to see imperfection at its best; I know the people behind the paintings and the photos and the music, and I love that they are human. I love that in their humanity, they produce beautiful art.

My journey to becoming a successful writer is only in its beginning stages (I don't even know yet how I should define 'successful'). I have so much to do, and so much more to learn. I feel like a bit of a toddler in this arena, as if my words are somehow nonsensical in comparison to my favourite books. Regardless, I think I’ll keep trying.

And hopefully, I don’t end up as a feature on this blog ...unless, of course, I’m a guest writer.

Monday, April 19, 2010

the sixth Commandment



with the right amount of neglect and the wrong amount of water,
you, too, could kill all of your plants.

(is it obvious? I'm avoiding all of my deep thoughts on purpose.
Perhaps when they're less precarious I'll write them down.)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

the queen of awkward city


 















  


as the Queen of Awkward City, I would like to make a speech:
    to the girls for whom that "coolness thing" is somehow out of reach.
    Now, sometimes you may come across a person who won't leave,
    despite the fact that everything you say sounds quite diseased.
    What should you do with such a one who stays and doesn't quit?
    Who stands and waits for you to gather up all of your shit?

    It might be easier, I suppose, to assume that they've gone mad.
    Easier, as well, to give up while you're not ahead.
    But maybe there is such a time as this built just for you:
    to wobble through your awkwardness,
    to grow into your shoes.

    "I'm not quite sure what I should do" is something you could say
    "I keep being awkward, but you just won't go away...
    usually by now they've all gone running to the fields,
    and yet you stand unmoving, and you wait for me to yield,
    assuming that I'll come around and make this worth your salt.
    But sadly friend, my confidence came to a screeching halt
    on the very day our paths were crossed.
    I'm at a loss.
    You don't fit into any of my boxes."

    I'm not sure what they'll say to this, or if they'll hear the end;
    And I can't even guarantee your speech will be as grand.
    But hope, hope for the awkward girls! is what I stand to claim!
    There is, one day, going to be one who stops to learn your name;
    who listens when you speak, who looks you in the eye
    (when this happens, though it feels like it, you won't entirely die)

    After your non-death, after your halted breath,
    after your knock-kneed knees stop shaking,
    Go quick to grab a mirror's glance, to see beauty for the taking.
    And after you have got a look at what caught that one's breath,
    examine now the truth that all along,
    before that one came around,
    you looked the same.

    The eye of the beholder: where all the beauty lies?
    Perhaps, but even more than this I think it strong resides
    in knowing just Who made your face, and with such care, too.
    True beauty is each one of us. True beauty, friend, is you.


© afterthoughtcomposer


Thursday, April 15, 2010

some days,

 marrying for love just seems so unappealing.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

i'm sure you've noticed...

...and I am pretty sure that I've noticed before, too. But yesterday I noticed it again, and decided to share.
The L in the Staples sign...is a staple. Badum-bum-ccchhh!





related afterthoughts: wonderful

Monday, April 12, 2010

hero

If you add Trepidation to Euphoria, subtract a wee bit of Dignity, add some Mistakes and minus a drop of Grace, and then multiply this equation by a whole lot of Monday, your emotions might taste a whole lot like this:




That’s what mine came out to, anyway.

Thank you, Venti Green Tea Lemonade from Starbucks, for salvaging what little respect I had left for this afternoon.

a love letter

Dear Whitebreadbunsattimhorton's,

I love you. You make my world a better place.
My lunch would not be the same without you in my tummy.

love,
ashley

Friday, April 9, 2010

fifty one days, and that's it.

After a solid week of listening to this album (and only this album), I had a pretty hard time picking a song for this post - a post that celebrates the slowly arriving concert of my lifetime.

I've finally settled on one. But I feel like I'm cheating. Go listen to them all.


I chose this one, "Roll Away Your Stone" because of the lyrics. Best one in the song, gets me every time: It seems that all my bridges have been burned // But you say 'That's exactly how this grace thing works’ // It's not the long walk home that will change this heart // But the welcome I receive with a restart.

Ah, well said, Marcus. Well said.







...51 days, and that's it.

could you put your name in?



Pick a wedding, any wedding, and you will have likely heard the following: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast…” etc. First Corinthians Thirteen has become the thing to read in a moment of nuptial bliss, and with good reason: all these things that love “is” become requirements when you tie the knot.


…but what about before?

Every time I go to a wedding (and I’ve been to quite a few) and hear those famously difficult words read aloud I am challenged anew to apply these principles to my own life. Love is patient. Love is kind. Love is not self seeking. But somehow, over time, I forget. As the space between weddings grows bigger my mind erases the imminence and urgency of those words.

During a recent conversation, I was challenged with this group of verses once again. It wasn’t a wedding. The challenge was this: put your name in where Love should be.

“Okay.” I thought to myself, ambitiously. “Ashley is patient” I began. “Ashley is kind” I continued, a small lump forming in my throat. “Ashley does not env…” cough. “Ashley does not boast, Ashley is not rude…uh, shoot…next!…Ashley is not self seek…oooh no.”

As I continued on, I couldn’t even finish the sentences (or start them, in some cases). My throat had dried up, my mouth turned paralytic and I realized: I am not most of these things. And I am never all of these things at once.

I don’t think the point of the exercise was to condemn (phew!), but rather, to point out the obvious: it takes effort to match up and become this Loving. Proof, perhaps? That Love truly is more than a feeling. Love takes effort, Love is a choice. Love “runs out” when we let it, because we choose to let it, because we’ve forgotten what it really means to Love. Against-the-grain, isn’t it?

I wonder what would happen to the world, the neighborhoods, and our families if this “Love chapter” was etched a bit more fixedly in our consciences.


Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It is not rude, it is not self-seeking,
it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.



.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

second hand

I can hear the second hand
pulsing through my life;
marking off the moments with a cold unyeilding knife.

It rushes not but marches steady onward just the same.
walk. sit. talk. sip. click. time. frame.

The ruler's made to measure and the drum to call us out,
but the second hand was made beyond a shadow of a doubt
to keep the rhythm.

to walk us home.

to guard our actions.

until they're gone.


The second hand makes no excuse for those who pay no heed.
It knows not what you want from life;
it knows not what you need.

And though we cannot bend the hand of One so bent to move,
we know that we still have a choice
to live the life we choose.

Time is not short for anyone, nor longer for one man.
We've all been given just the same:
one life, one second hand.

© afterthoughtcomposer

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

oh, how i've missed you.

Easter weekend was a delight – I got to experience that special kind of ‘normal’ by going up North to see my family. One sister was out of town (sigh) but the other two were there, and my parents, and my niece, and my extendeds. I got to participate in the yearly Easter egg hunt. My sister and I hid the eggs in the expansive back yard, and then all the adults walked around to help the two young tots find the goodies on the lawn. There were 119 plastic eggs in total filled with yummy chocolate goodies. We lost five. Perhaps the bears will get them later, or Nolan’s lawn mower.

Family dinners and Chinese food while watching Hoarders and a neice made of perfection and the cozy feel of a house I grew up in; talk of renos and day jobs and travel plans and heart matters; sunny skies and short drives and unquestioned love: A normal I miss. I’m happy to be down here & home again, though (earthquake zone and all). I’ll appease my divided heart by looking at pictures on repeat.

I’ve missed you too, you know. I haven’t blogged in…(counting)…six days – gasp! – and believe me, I’ve felt the absence. My brain has been swarming with thoughts, theories and post ideas; so many, in fact, that after a few days of backlog, I feel incapacitated to write anything at all. Proof positive, I suppose, that my sanity now depends on writing.

Happy Easter everyone, even if I’m a few days late in saying it.