Why I’ve stopped trying to pull the sun across the sky

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I have control issues. Really it’s one issue: I want to control absolutely everything and unfortunately most things fail to comply. (So as you can see it’s not even my issue.) Coupled with this is the fact that I think a lot. This sounds silly, everyone thinks a lot. But I guess it’s that I think about the same things repeatedly. Things that have happened or things that I think are going to happen. I plot and plan and play out scenes over and over. And then I fret and fret and fret. I feel responsibility for things that I couldn’t possibly be responsible for, and when those things go wrong I consequently  feel guilt for things that I didn’t actually have anything to do with.

I suppose I have always thought far too much of myself. I believe that I am powerful enough to run the world, and that the world is relying on me to do so. Growing up this need to be in control and subconscious belief that I actually was would manifest itself in fear that terrible things would happen to my family or myself if I didn’t complete certain rituals or behave in certain ways.

I fret over the future like it will change the future and I manipulate situations and believe that I can be the boss of essentially everything. And I am exhausted. The mental calisthenics involved in attempting to run my entire life and any situations that intersect with my life are so much work. I find myself deeply tired on an emotional level. I am tired of trying to hold everything together in fear that I will fly apart if I relinquish my illusion of control. It’s not working.

So I’ve decided to let the tomorrows come on their own, without borrowing trouble from them.  I’ve decided to be ok with the fact that I don’t know exactly where I’ll be in ten, five, or even one year. I have to re-decide this approximately once a day. I want to let my future career and relationships and even place of residence be what they will.  I’m not going to stop doing what I need to do (in fact I’m still a micromanaging control freak so I’m not sure this is even possible), but I’m going to try to recognize that that is where my responsibility stops. I want to send in my graduate school applications and write my papers and do my work and then I want to walk away from those things and leave them where they belong, rather than internalizing them and thinking them over and over again. I don’t intend to become lazy, choosing to do nothing but hope that things work out for the best; but I do intend to stop worrying that I haven’t ever done enough or done the right things after what’s done is already done.

I think my control issue is  a trust issue. Though I would be reticent to admit it, I seem to believe that God needs me to make sure that everything is working out the way it’s supposed to, and I’ve finally worn myself out enough that I’m willing to start listening to Him tell me that He’s got it under control.

And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. – Colossians 1:17

Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. – Hebrews 2:8

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An open letter to my little sisters

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My sisters are 18 and 8. They are bright, lovely, kind girls and I just wanted to write down  some things that I want them to know: things I’ve learned, or am learning, or learning to believe. So here it is for my little sisters and any other sisters who need to hear it.

You are valuable because you are. It’s not because you are the smartest, prettiest, funniest, skinniest, or quippiest, not because you are the loudest belter, the fastest runner, or the most eloquent speaker. No, whether or not you are or are not those things the reason you are valuable is because you are fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of your awesome creator (Psalm 139:14, Genesis 1:27).

Have the right perspective:  you are small – Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow. – Psalm 144:4 – but you are not unnoticed – Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. – Luke 12: 7.

Every morning is a fresh start. “Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?” — Lucy Maud Montgomery

Pay attention when you’re walking places. You’ll hear things like “Think about, whats-his-face out there flying a kite, electricity, x-rays.  I don’t know,” and “I don’t sound as much like Thor as I thought I do.”

Your awesome creator loves you. “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:38-39. I mean He really loves you. “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,  may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:16-19

Listen to people, let them be a part of your life, but don’t let their opinions rule it. “If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you, If all men count with you, but none too much” – Rudyard Kipling

Sometimes people are awful, honestly, you will be amazed. Love them anyway.

Sometimes people are wonderful, honestly, you will be amazed. Especially when you’re being awful and they love you anyway.

Friends is a good show. If you think it’s not you’re just wrong.

Never stop singing, even if you’re not very good at it, even if you don’t know the words (that’s what scatting is for).

Words are weighty. Take advantage of them and choose them wisely. “Because even the smallest of words can be the ones to hurt you, or save you.” ― Natsuki Takaya

Don’t ever sacrifice kindness for cleverness (and you are both very clever, but with great power comes great responsibility). “Be pretty if you can, be witty if you must, but be gracious if it kills you.”― Elsie De Wolfe

You cannot earn your salvation, and you do not need to try. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” – Ephesians 2:8-9. 

When you date (which you don’t have permission to do until 30/35), don’t settle. You’re worth the wait, darlings. “A good woman is hard to find, and worth far more than diamonds.” Proverbs 31:10  

Don’t compare yourself to other people. We so rarely know what’s really going on with anyone else anyway. “Comparison is the death of joy.” ― Mark Twain

Finally, eat dessert often and without guilt.

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“There is no better friend than a sister. And there is no better sister than you.” – Unknown

Some things I’m thankful for (in no particular order)

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1. That my little sister and I are the same size; it’s like I have two wardrobes.

2. Musicals: I love that there is a type of performance where people feel things so deeply that singing about it is their only option. My life is kind of like that actually.

3. The communities I get to be a part of:

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4. When its really cold out and I get to climb into my bed and cover myself with tons of blankets, and then I fall asleep feeling warm and safe.

5. That I got to spend a whole month in Ireland,

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and that I got to come home again.

 

6. Words. Some of my favorites are:

  • Perspicacious
  • Curmudgeonly
  • Effervescent
  • Evasive
  • Kitschy

7. Really good stories.

8. That there are people who are really good at math so that I don’t have to be.

9. This:

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:37-39

and this:
He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. – Philippians 1:6

How my parents repeatedly insist on taking the road less traveled by (and how it has made all the difference).

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Yesterday was my parents’ 24th wedding anniversary (and also my mom’s 25th birthday, crazy how that works out huh?).

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Despite what anyone else says about their parents, my parents are  the best. I couldn’t have picked a better set of parents for myself (so it’s a good thing I didn’t have to).

My parents are awesome for a lot of reasons.   Throughout my growing up my parents have done things that don’t exactly line up with what the world says is normal.  In honor of their anniversary  here are some of my favorite ways that my parents have insisted on taking that road less traveled. 

Stepping away from the comfortable

My dad has been a pastor for twenty-three years.  Five years ago my parents (and my siblings and I) and a group of congregants planted a church. We left the church my dad had been pastoring at for 18 years.  The church that had it’s own building with chairs that stayed set-up and were full of people every week, where you only had to teach Sunday School every couple of months because you were on a rotation and the worship teams alternated. We moved to a school gymnasium, where a trailer pulled up every week containing the things our church required, and the numbers dwindled (as did my dad’s paycheck). Last month the church closed its doors. Some people might even say that my parents made the wrong choice, they would be wrong. We (my siblings and I) learned how to serve, that every chair we set up was important, ever tray we put on the tables, every lollipop we handed out to the sunday school kids.  More than that though, my parents also provided us with a tight-knit church family that hasn’t gone away.  For five years the church blessed people and changed people, myself included.

The incredible growing family (and growing, and growing…)

I have six younger siblings, which is kind of a lot. In fact seven kids is roughly 3.5 times the estimated average number of children born per woman in the U.S. this year. When people hear this they tend to think my parents are Catholic, Mormon, or crazy (I know they’re not the first two, I’m still on the fence about the last one).  To add to the crazy, my two youngest siblings were adopted from Ethiopia, which was kind of a crazy thing all on its own.  Being in a family of nine means several things:

We’re really, unbelievably loud.

We don’t all fit in one car.

We don’t go on family vacations very often.

I haven’t had my own room since I was two and a half.

But none of that really matters.  I’m so glad my parents decided not to stop after the average 2.6 children. My siblings can be infuriating, irritating, and loud. But they are some of my favorite people in the world, they’re all so different and weird and I would do anything for them.  And I think I’ve learned that people matter more than things, due in part to all those siblings.

You have brains in your head.  You have feet in your shoes.  You can steer yourself any direction you choose…

I am a Creative Writing major. This is not exactly a practical career choice. But my parents never told me that I have to be an accountant (that many numbers make me physically sick), or a doctor (although my handwriting is messy enough), or a nutritionist (I enjoy chocolate far too much). They allowed me to decide what I wanted to do without guilt. They have always encouraged me to do what I was good at, and what I enjoyed doing (while also encouraging me to keep my technical writing job that makes actual money for the time being).  I have watched other people’s parents try to tell them what they should be doing with their lives (it doesn’t usually work). My folks have never done that and I’m very, very grateful.

Happy anniversary mom and dad, I appreciate your senses of humor, godliness, encouragement, kindness, goofiness, musicality, and all of the time you spend with us.

Love you the most.

From Alice, to Edith

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My sister, when you fall into the rabbit hole

(as I know you someday will),  do remember who you are.

It is so easy to forget as you plummet away from the world

you’re used to and towards something foreign, but take it from me,

it is easier to land on your feet

when you aren’t busy questioning your identity.

 

You will grow weary of falling after a time.

At first your stomach will jump into your throat,

you will imagine that the air is rushing by you

(although in fact you’re drifting rather slowly),

and you will speculate about what it is you are going to find

at the bottom of your fall, but after a couple of hours

 

you will sleep. When you awake in Wonderland

you will initially be disoriented. Despite this environmental

change, do not discard your better judgement. You are not

required to do everything inanimate objects direct you to.

Just because it says Drink Me does not mean you must,

in fact I strongly suggest you do not. Growing and shrinking

 

may sound like fun but just wait until you are literally drowning

in your own tears, then you will understand why mother is always

telling us not to try things until we’ve been given permission,

from a person.  Another thing, darling, the animals are not

the furry little dears we have always been led to believe.

They are, more often than not, downright cruel or confusing,

 

some of them are both. But the animals are nothing, compared

to the nobility. Beware especially, the Queen of hearts, she will behead

you as soon as look at you, but really she is all talk, I think.

Above all else Edith, remember that they are just cards, you are bigger,

you are stronger, you can do anything you want in Wonderland, and

when you have had your fill just wonder your way back home again.

 

An Introduction

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My youngest brother is 8.
He is one of my favorite people.
Some days he is a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, others a Ninja, and occasionally he is Mr. Frederickson from Up.
He wants to be a scuba diver when he grows up, and a pilot on his days off.
He loves spaghetti and hates pancakes.
He listens to and obeys his teachers, and takes care of his little sister.
I suspect that he is Batman.
He loves riding the school bus.
He talks to me, anytime he gets a chance (and talks, and talks, and talks).
His knock knock jokes make the least sense of anything I’ve ever heard
His favorite song is “This Old Man,” and his favorite version was performed by the Jackson 5 and Carol Burnett in 1974. (It’s my favorite version too.)

He also has autism. Today is World Autism Awareness Day, and today, I just want you to be aware of my brother. Because he’s one of the sweetest kids I know, and spending time with him enriches my life and I know the lives of others.  Because he is hilarious (despite the bad knock knock jokes).  Because he is a real person. There is no autism mold that he walked out of, no box that he fits exactly in.  And also, because he knows the true identities of a multitude of super heroes (which makes him fun at parties). He is my brother, and despite my bias, I think he is remarkable.

My Father Built a Basement

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Twenty-something years after the move from Bangkok to Farmington
my father built a basement.
In the house in Thailand he built it.
He would tell us about the rain outside that house.
Warm, sticky rain that ran down the street,
a gushing river to a boy still too young for school,
which is where his brothers walked in the morning
down the wet pavement as my dad sat next to them in a laundry basket,
riding the torrents that raced down the gutters.

The basement would flood during the rainy season,
even after the water receded it left behind fingers of mold if you weren’t careful.
The basement was not for storage in this house, it was for the imagination of young boys.
I could see the stone steps leading down into the dank room
where the same laundry basket used on the street became a boat.
It was a place of mystery, a place that I inhabited through the eyes of my father’s memory.

I wished I had a basement that flooded,
that we lived somewhere that had enough rain to change the character of the world it filled.
In my mind I was sure that this Thai basement filled all the way to the top, certain that if Grandma (years before she was a grandma) had thought to open the door the warm water would have rushed up the stairs and out, knocking her over
and then picking her back up as it filled the house.
My uncles might have floated by on a couch cushion,
and maybe they would have let my dad on if they were in a good mood.
Then the whole family would wash out the door and into the front yard.
Three boys, one mom, one dad, and a housekeeper.

My father tore down the basement.
He told us that it had never existed, that one day before I was born
he had asked his mom about it and she had told him there was no basement.
The house hadn’t had a lower level, just the two boring stories that most houses have.
Now the basement was better than before, it wasn’t a basement of stone,
where the rain ruined pictures and mementos carelessly left to rot.
It was a basement of thought and fancy.
And my father, who is a wordsmith and not a handyman,
had built it out of daydreams, and pages of a book he had read.
He had made something real to him, real to me, in a place where nothing had been before.
And I thought, I can build worlds that way.

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