Category Archives: Blog

Remembering When He Walked Me Through The Valley

Several months ago, there were some things going on in my life that were painfully tearing at my idols, making me very aware of how uncertain my future is.

I know these seasons are not rare. I suppose many of you can relate. In the place of pain, where deep faith met deep fear, this was my prayer:

Please give me peace.

My fears can only send roots into a soil that has been tilled by lies of Jesus’ insufficiency.

I hate pain. I feel so done with these tears. You purge me of things I still love and hold to, and if you weren’t the one being with whom I know I need to be in relationship, I would hate you for it. Why are you destroying me? Why is it my long, slow death that brings you most to life in me?

I know that gratitude is coming because it always does, but I am angry.

Gratitude came. Deep faith conquered deep fear. I still rejoice in what was won for me in that season. The time expressed in this prayer was the walk in the desert that led to the promised land. Whatever you are going through, fight to believe the truth. Ask for the faith that is beyond what you can muster.

Jesus is enough, and the path you are on is a path to wholeness and healing.

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The Center Cannot Hold

I am awake late waiting for my roommate to get home, and I just remembered that sometimes when I type up my thoughts and post them online, people actually read them. Thank you.

Life is difficult to figure out. It’s even harder to figure out when sometimes it feels like you could be happy doing anything, but other times it seems like you won’t be happy no matter what you choose. Overall, I am hopeful. Overall, I choose Jesus. No matter how many times I fail or how badly, this story is a comedy. It ends happily ever after. When I remember that, I feel swallowed up in a wave of beauty that will soon overtake the entire earth. And then of course, I feel compelled to express it. I feel compelled to tell you here that life is rich, so don’t forget to taste it, to taste and see that the Lord is good.

I got stuck trying to explain what I do and am trying to do for a living today to my lovely acquaintances, the coffee gurus at Coeur Coffeehouse (a place which ranked #1 Coffee Shop in Spokane on SpoCOOL’s annual poll).

“You heading out?”

“Yep.”

“Did you get lots of work done?”

“Yeah. I applied for two jobs, actually.”

“Oh yeah, what jobs?”

“Graphic design and editing for a publishing company in North Idaho.” (Their acronym is RIP!)

“So is that what you do now?”

“Umm. Not really. I only sort of have a job, running the social media sites for EJ’s…

I then get to go on to try to explain that—while I am applying for jobs in multiple fields—I am also trying to start a freelance business for which I copyedit, social media market, design, and format books—but my website is under construction because I can’t afford to buy the domain or figure out how to organize my portfolios in all of those areas (because I totally have them—not exactly…). Oh, and I am actively pursuing an art career through my current studio practice—would you ever be interested in hanging any of my work here, by the way (they said, yes!). And forget trying to mention that I am also involved with Commonspace Arts, Neighborhood Council Executive Committee, Browne’s Addition Summer Concerts, and Missional Community Leadership at Soma Communities Spokane.

Some days this makes me feel very accomplished, like I am leading a full life, but today it makes me feel quite a bit like a crazy person who has so far to go in too many different directions. A poser in a few too many fields. The center cannot hold! And I cannot choose! I keep choosing one…and then all the others all over again. Am I doomed to be pulled into a thousand little pieces?

God must have a plan.

It’s days like today that make me thankful that my center is Christ. His relentless pursuit of me is more than enough to show me my worth. I cost him everything. I am his, so I don’t need to belong to art or publishing or community life. Sorry, other masters! I’ve been claimed.


How I Met Jesus

I first knew I wanted to know Jesus in eighth grade, but I was too selfish and vain to let him be anything more than one of many compartmentalized facets of my life. I distinctly remember writing in my diary next to a list of girls I thought were annoying and other people I hated that I wanted to get closer to God. The sheer duality embodied in that sparkly gel pen, those smiley faces and exclamation points, still haunts me. I cared most about having the perfect school year, loyal best friends, and the attention of all the boys.

After two years of existing on the roller coaster of vanity and attention-getting, I committed myself to knowing Jesus and letting him into all of my life at camp before sophomore year of high school. I loved that good feeling that came from feeling like I was drawing near to Jesus after camps—the camp high—but it was so fleeting that I wanted something lasting. I was willing to fight for that. I committed myself to pursuing Jesus, to chasing down true redemption and transformation. I didn’t yet know that it was his pursuit of me, not mine of him.

The metaphor that saved me was waterskiing. The youth pastor said that following Jesus was like waterskiing. All we had to do was say, “Go boat!” and focus all our energy on holding on. Don’t worry about where you are going or how you are going to get there. Just stay in his hands. I don’t remember being “gospel fluent,” knowing how to apply the reality of Christ’s sacrifice to everything in my life, but through holding on and letting my connection to him drive my life, I saw him change me in authentic, gospel-centered ways.

It wasn’t long after I said “Go boat!” that I realized I didn’t know what God was pulling me out of. I was a sinner beginning to partake of my salvation, but it lacked the sweetness that comes from knowing true helplessness. “I’m not doing that badly,” I thought. “Will you show me?” I prayed. Within the next year, I saw myself, no longer as “not that bad,” but as a person so depraved that God couldn’t possibly love me. I knew better. But at the very least, I couldn’t bring myself to feel loved. Again, I asked him to show me. “How can you look at me and see righteousness? How could you look at David and say that he was a man after your heart?” There was a specific sermon about David that led me to ask that question. Within a week the Holy Spirit answered it.

At that time in my life, it was a firm reality for me that catastrophe was just God warming up the clay before he made something beautiful. I had a hard time understanding tragedy because of the intensity of that belief in me. Devastation was so closely tied to redemption that I couldn’t even see the devastation, just the open door for his good work. Thus, when I broke my collarbone skiing (a week after I asked him to show me his love and let me feel it), still laying in the snow, I was full of the delighted conviction that he must be moving. It was through that experience that he showed me that he could take anything away from me, even the sport I loved most and it didn’t matter in the slightest. My heart was unmoved, because he was so precious to me. As I lay in bed in pain and unable to sleep, he showed me, that his delight in me was like the delight I felt him, “See, you are a girl after my own heart,” I heard him say.

By the time I was a senior in high school, I had spent a year getting involved with ministry to my high school with a handful of my best friends. I helped lead a worship session before school on Wednesday mornings, and my best friends and I met every morning to pray for our campus. Prayer walks around the school were not an abnormal weekend activity, and I fasted every Thursday for the sake of seeing my school “revived.” I was passionate and full of bold faith, but a bit confused. To me, revival meant crazy things happening, not Jesus winning hearts in mundane day-to-day ways. This seeking after the works of God, his signs and not his face, was a huge distraction for me, but I wrestled hard with my desires and God responded by telling me that the only the pure in heart see God. Desiring works over relationship is the epitome of impurity.

During this time, I also saw an increasing need for community to make the gospel real, but I couldn’t find it. I made an announcement in my church youth group, where hundreds of students from several local schools gathered to worship, and I pleaded with them to be on mission with me to our schools. I saw that we needed a network that extended beyond the church building and I asked them to join us in prayer and community, but the group remained the same five of us that we started with. Despite my conviction that decades of prayers were behind our mission and the exhortation of several adults in my community, I left high school without seeing a single soul won.

At Whitworth, I spent a semester reverting to my distractions with friends and boys and having the “perfect” life, until I started reading Irresistible Revolution, which reawakened my strong desire to see Christ transform the culture and people around me. I struggled to find people at Whitworth that shared my passion. I thought we just need a group of committed people to get some money together and start making decisions with those resources to bless the city. I wanted to be like a monastic group, sharing our lives together, praying and seeking the spirit together. I was alone.

What I had tried so hard to cultivate, God gave to me when I sought it least. It was my sophomore year and time to take the next step toward getting involved at Vintage: missional community life. A special brunch and an invitation to rake leaves in Browne’s and I was ready to call it my neighborhood.

 


I like graduating, Alot.

If you don’t understand the title, go on, read a little Hyperbole and a Half. I had the alot on my graduation cap (I deemed it an appropriate decoration for an editorial type, such as myself), and I would post a picture, but, alas, they are in the possession of my Great Uncle and Mother, so maybe later.

What do I do now? I live in an apartment in Browne’s Additon, right next to downtown Spokane, which you, of course, know if you are connected to me at all. I will keep living here. I will be coordinating a concert series (9 whole concerts) in my neighborhood that will take place every Thursday in July and August. They are paying me a bit, but it won’t keep up with the bills. I have made some connections due to my professors, like Thom Caraway, Fred Johnson, Leonard Oakland, and others. I am pursuing those connections. One of those connections, a Spokane graphic designer, Derek Landers, introduced me to the Code Academy where I have been spending hours each day learning CSS and HTML so I can build my own website, so I can put it on a business card, so I can market myself as a freelance editor, book designer, oil painter, and writer). Yes, I am starting a business, and starting where I am most comfortable: copyediting.

I don’t know where to start, but one of our graduation speakers insisted we take things, succeed at things, slowly by slowly, brick by brick, one step at a time. Alright, I am taking those steps, and people around me are helping immensely.

May parents are the best a young woman could ask for. [And I am inserting a special shoutout to my mother, Teri Wheeler, for being my best friend and loving me and loving what I do and always being on the other end of the phone, because I graduated on mother’s day and didn’t get to honor her the way I would have liked.] It is obvious they want to give me the world, but they also want me to be the kind of woman who claims it for herself. Thus, for four years we have engaged in the tedium of taking out and making payments on student loans, loans which I was prepared to pay, loans which they paid in full as part of my graduation present. I’ve also thought on and off about when I am going to give their car back and get one of my own. Well, I am now the proud owner of the 2003 Honda CR-V that I have driven for the past two years. Thanks, Mom and Dad. I couldn’t ask for better parents.


Writers Write About Writing

Sometimes being a little meta is cool. Those trendy narrators who narrate the difficulty of narration. Those nonfiction writers who feel a need to explain their writing process as part of the final product. I’m starting to wonder if writing about writing is really that creative of a thing to do.

Maybe I should paint a painting whose subject is paint.

I am writing. I am writing. I am writing. I am writing. I am writing. I am writing. I am writing. I am writing. I am writing. I am writing. I am writing. I am writing. I am writing. I am writing. I am writing. I am writing. I am writing. I am writing. I am writing. I am writing. I am writing. I am writing. I am writing. I am writing. I am writing. I am writing. It is hard to express in writing, using imperfect language, the difficulties of process of writing narrative using language that doesn’t quite fit the picture the writer imagines.

The first thing I wrote as a high school student, who liked English and Chemistry but thought creative writing was the last thing she’d ever be interested in, was write a fiction story about a girl who couldn’t think of anything to write for creative writing class. I remember something about a strange old man who stopped her on the way home from school as she was trying to think of what to write. I should have left the writing part out of the story and thought more about the old man, the character who wasn’t me, who’d been born straight from my imagination (so in a way he really was me, too).

The reality is, if you are a nonfiction writer, a lot of the nonfictional things that you could say about yourself and your development are going to be about writing. I’m afraid it can’t be avoided. It can, however, take the back seat. If the weight of an essay is in the difficulty of representation… Well, I feel like I’ve read a few too many of those essays.

I wrote an exercise for my autobiography class about why I write:

I write because I believe in the power of a story to inscribe meaning over life and I want to be intentional about choosing the right meaning. I write to bear witness to myself, to teach myself the truth about myself, to write my place before God and people. Without writing I am a self without a context. I can make myself the god of my own universe.

I am a floating signifier and I inscribe myself with whatever feels right, earns me power, strokes my ego. When I think about myself, I don’t think that I am girl who looked up video porn as a middle school student until her mother caught her. I don’t think of myself as someone who makes jokes at the expense of others, who earns power by making people feel guilty, who steals her roommate’s toothpaste one brush-full at a time. I fail to understand my crimes against the world and continue living as its victim. There’s something horrifying and empowering about realizing that your life, the people you hurt, the things you feel at your most rotten moments, are all your fault. I write myself into the problems I already have.

I believe that Christ died for my sins, as any good Sunday School student will tell you, but apart from writing, the act of applying language to my existence, I am not a sinner to myself. And thus, I stop telling the most exciting part of the story: rescue. I write to remember the process of dying and the process of being made new. To see them both, always happening in every moment.

I write to see my sins in blood across my chest, the only satisfying way to mark a sin, but I recognize instead that they have been written that way already, as lashes on my savior’s back. So, to be clearer, I’m writing his wounds, so I’ll know what he suffered. I’m bearing witness to the nails in his hands and feet, learning what they really meant. I am assigning names to his pain.

This all sounds too ideal. I write for just the opposite reasons, too. I write to avoid knowing myself. I write to be published someday in Tin House or the Paris Review. I write to avoid being a Christian-y writer. I write to be as clever and engaging as David Shields, Paul Auster, or Ander Monson, and to tell stories I don’t believe in just because they sound right.

 


Poetry Colonoscopy?

I hoped that this Thanksgiving break I would write plenty of fiction and nonfiction. To finish my short story and my creative writing portfolio. But at this time, everything I see is poetry. I feel poetry. And I miss Travis, so I write him poetry.

I find that my poems long to turn on a colon. More than any other punctuation, the colon has the most power to change the way I read a sentence.

Colons are preceded by a phrase and the colon turns it into a label and generates the suspense: to what will that label be applied?

 

The poem I wrote yesterday had two colons. Can any punctuation mark generate so much drama while maintaining such subtlety?

 

In my favorite poem I’ve written, about dealing with a breakup while studying abroad in Peru, I use a colon that turns the phrase “I don’t want you, but I need you” into a noun I define as “the least healthy combination.” I always enjoy how the use of the colon groups that whole sentence into the name of one condition.

 

Talking about the colon also makes me think of the colon’s utility in conveying analogies. x:y::a:b (x is to y as a is to b).

 

At Thanksgiving dinner last night, my mom was talking about her recent colonoscopy. (You can’t blame her for bringing it up. I’ll admit it was remarkably more pleasant than the conversation that preceded it.) Now the word colon has a heavy association (for me) with something so much less lovely than my current favorite punctuation.

 

Some people use the em dash to do what I do with a colon, but more ambiguously. As I flipped through Tin House this morning, I saw these lines in a poem:

 

A burst of birds shooting up the morning–

a slow parting.

 

Is the burst also a slow parting? If so it’s doing the colon thing. Or is a slow parting interrupting the burst? Therein the ambiguity lies. I prefer the colon, although the em dash is more appealing to the eye. Except that I still don’t know how to make an em dash without just doing a double hyphen. I’ll go learn now.


A Picture of Me Without the Good News

Remember how I said that I was like a black hole apart from the gospel? Well here’s an image for you.