Questions

Does It Have to Be Public to be Real? Social Media And Authentic Community

Recently Jill Duggar brought down public speculation when she announced her pregnancy a mere two months after her wedding to Derick Dillard . She defended the purity of her relationship and their decision to announce their pregnancy at only eight weeks, saying, “Understanding that the majority of miscarriages happen within the first trimester, and believing that every life is precious no matter how young, we decided to share our joyful news as soon as we could.” Pro-life conservatives raved.

Jill Duggar

Photo credit: jezebel.com

Reading this story brought up two issues for me. First, her defense of her early announcement (and conservative reactions to it) implies that the reason others might choose to wait to make a public announcement of a pregnancy is because they don’t value the life of the child until they are past the stage where miscarriage most commonly occurs. For most people, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Many people choose not to publicly announce a pregnancy early on because they greatly value that life and having to share the grief of losing that life so publicly if something were to happen would be unbearably painful.

My other problem is something I touched on in my last blog post. I am uncomfortable with the implication that unless something is public knowledge, it isn’t being celebrated – at least not properly. Pro-life conservatives applaud Jill for making a statement about the value of human life from the moment of conception, but my question is why does all of America have to know about it for it to be valued?

In our technology-dependent world I wonder if we’ve come to rely too heavily on the response of others for affirmation of our own emotions and experiences. Many of us act like nothing we think or feel is valid unless someone else says it too or at very least acknowledges and affirms what we’ve said. I’m not saying this from a lofty place of judgment. I am a blogger. I want people to read what I write and validate me too. It’s because I see this in myself that I want to bring attention to it.

I don’t think it’s necessarily wrong to share news on social media – to celebrate important moments in our lives or to seek encouragement in times of struggle. I just want to push back against the attitude I see subtly taking hold at times – even in myself- that real celebration can only happen in the public sphere.

I think there is something important about sharing God’s work with the people in our lives. I just don’t think that has to take the form of a public announcement. There are many benefits to social media and I don’t think it’s bad or wrong to participate in. The problem comes when we make social media a false substitute for authentic community. We deceive ourselves into thinking these people on Facebook and Twitter are our community, when, largely they are people who really haven’t earned the right to access our intimate thoughts and feelings. (And whom we haven’t earned the right to demand that they care about our intimate thoughts and feelings).

After reading my last post, the friend I wrote about in it sent me these thoughts. I had already written this post before she sent this and I loved how she put a lot of what I have been trying to say:

“Here’s the story: I’m not a super thoughtful, loving person. In fact, the main reason I did what I did was to avoid being a terrible hypocrite. After trying for a few months to get pregnant, we were told in December I have PCOS, a hormonal condition that makes it very difficult to get pregnant along with a host of other discouraging symptoms. Miraculously, we got pregnant that same month, only to lose the baby in February. Meanwhile, all our friends announced pregnancy or popped out kids. I was consumed by grief, but even more by envy. I unfriended or unfollowed people who I previously counted as good friends. And at least publicly, I suffered silently. 

So after countless doctor’s visits and fertility treatments when I finally got pregnant again and we managed to make it to the 12 week mark, how could I plaster my Facebook page with indiscriminate joy? I imagined myself reading my own page and crying herself to sleep every night, feeling that she’ll never be a mother. I couldn’t do that in good conscience, considering the miracle God had given me with this second baby.

My experience made me realize that Facebook is not a good place to share either joy or grief with other Christians. I don’t think the verses about mourning and rejoicing together refers to social media, I think it refers to real live relationships with other Christians. I poured out my grief and my joy in heaps on my closest Christian friends in all sorts of life situations, and all of them mourned and rejoiced with me. But Facebook is too contrived, too easy to manufacture. Not only that, but I never mourned on Facebook. I never announced my miscarriage. I never let social media see the reality of my suffering. So it feels very imbalanced, and very contrived, to ask Facebook to rejoice with me. Besides, only my friends and family who walked with me through my grief can fully celebrate with me in my joy. In just that handful of people I’ve received more than enough validation; I just don’t need any more from social media. 

Because really, are we looking for rejoicing and mourning with other Christians on a deep level when we post a status? Or are we just looking for the superficial validation of popularity represented by a number of likes?

I made an Instagram account solely for the purpose of sharing pregnancy updates for those who DO want to rejoice with me in that way. Also I send my mom, my sister in law, and a few of my best friends pictures of me in maternity clothes, weird craving updates, and ultrasound pictures nearly every other day. Even people who weren’t suffering would unfriend me out of annoyance if I thought it was appropriate to put all that on Facebook.  so not posting all that to Facebook doesn’t not equal not going crazy with joy in a community, mine is just a select community of those who don’t mind and understand the crazy.

I think [the problem] comes from this expectation to treat Facebook like a community, when really it’s more like a bulletin board. I’m sharing my pregnancy joy with my community, but not on Facebook, because the two are not synonymous. We should not feel shame about sharing either joy or sorrow with a community we trust, but Facebook is not a community. For people in our generation, sometimes it can be difficult to understand the difference.”

I thought her words expressed what I was feeling beautifully. I’m continuing to work through the question of how to balance rejoicing and mourning with others with sensitivity and compassion. I am finding that in my life that also means asking the question of who truly is my community and what role  the internet and social media should play as I seek to live out that question with authenticity.

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*As a disclaimer – I have nothing against Jill Duggar Dillard and I certainly think she and her husband are entitled to their own decision about what information to share and when. I really don’t have an opinion on whether she should or should not have announced her pregnancy so early. I don’t think it’s anyone’s business. My beef was purely with the responses I saw to her reasons.  I also think as someone who spent a lot of time in the public eye while growing up, Jill’s perspective on public and private information is probably different than many people’s.

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No Right Words: What to Say When You Don’t Know What to Say

The news came in bits and pieces – a trip to the hospital, some internal bleeding, too much blood thinner. Then the suspicion of diabetes which would mean big lifestyle changes. More tests to confirm. And then they found the tumor, wrapped around pancreas and liver, obstructing valves and major arteries. Then the biopsy and the final (though no longer unexpected) diagnosis – Cancer.

And just like that, life changes. Conversations about what will happen next year or even next month are fraught with hesitation. The future everyone has taken for granted now dangles by a thread.

I am amazed by how quickly perspective shifts in these situations. Something clicks into places and our fundamentally adaptive natures try to bend themselves around a new reality. We find ourselves saying things that would have been ridiculous just weeks ago. “I’m so glad he made it to the hospital when he got sick.” “It’s wonderful that he has family with medical training to help.” We are grateful for the most absurd things. For the shots of insulin that simulate a pancreas. For a treatment plan that may buy a few more precious months.

This grief is one step removed from me -the loved one of a dearly loved one. I won’t pretend that this affects me as directly as it does her and her family. (But surely the next worst thing after losing someone you love must be watching someone you love losing someone they love).

I stand in my shower on the other side of the world and sob, hiding my face in the corner of the tiled wall. My loved one is losing her loved one and I am not there. How could I not be there? And instead I am in this wretched (right now) country 7,000 miles away, unable to do the only thing I know how to do. Be present. I get out of the shower and try to prepare myself for the conversation I’m about to have. I am afraid. I rely on words like air and suddenly there aren’t any right ones.

I think of the story of Lazarus. That famously short verse that simply says, “Jesus wept.” This story has always moved me deeply. It’s not just that Jesus shows empathy and humanity in this moment. It’s because he shows it in spite of the fact that he is minutes away from raising Lazarus back to life.

Almost two years ago to the day, a classmate of mine from college passed away unexpectedly. At the time I wrote this post about grieving where I reflected on what it meant for Jesus to weep for Lazarus in spite of knowing that glory was mere minutes away. Maybe this isn’t just a story to reassure us of Jesus’s compassion, but is also instructive for us in how to be human.

“I think it’s this exact feeling we have when things like Josiah’s death occur. We are wracked with grief because the world is not as it should be. Our hearts are torn because, even though we have the hope of eternity, in the present things are broken. I think Jesus shows us by example that it is appropriate, even correct, to grieve for the brokenness of the present even as we hold the hope of the future. What is more horrific  in the present than the stark contrast of the way the world is now against the glorious way it was meant to be and will be in the future?”

I open my computer and my friend’s face fills the screen.  “This is NOT OK,” I say to my dearest friend, whom I love as though she is a part of myself,. “And it’s probably not going to be OK for a long, long time. And it’s OK not to be OK.” I don’t know if it’s the right thing to say, but I refuse to profane this moment by spewing words I don’t mean. Maybe these aren’t the most encouraging words, but they are the only ones that feel true.

 

Free and Unashamed: In which I admit that I think about food all the time and hate when people say to “Let go and let God.”

A few weeks ago I watched this video for the first time. I was a little late to the game with this one – the video had been circulating a few weeks previous, but for some reason, I hadn’t ever watched it. Until one afternoon, sitting at my desk, with my classroom full of hyper Korean kids (they’re not my class, they were just in my room). And it absolutely wrecked me. If you haven’t seen this video, watch it before you read the rest of this post.

“What is it specifically?” my mother asked when I sent her the link, weeping.

How to say, “It is everything”? It’s the words for what is wrong with me. With so many women that I know. It is the pain and the struggle of being a woman in a world that holds us to absurd standards. Expectations that fill us with righteous indignation because we know they are wrong, but still somehow leave us feeling unworthy that we don’t measure up.

This girl (her name is also Lily so it doesn’t really help to use her name in this case), is talking about traits and behaviors she saw modeled by and inherited from her mother. I don’t necessarily feel that I learned these from my mother, but from countless women who have come before me and surrounded me as I grew. These are my personal struggles, but they are the personal struggles of so many of us. We lead lives of violent inner turmoil, resenting and also being controlled by external images, expectations, and messages about our value that we have somehow internalized. These particular lines really shook me:

“And I wonder if my lineage is one of women shrinking, making space for the men in their lives, not knowing how to fill it up again when they leave…”

This made me think of my grandmother, who has lost herself in being my grandfather’s wife– a man who undoubtedly loves her, but also has her utterly convinced that she is dependent on him. That she couldn’t take care of herself if he weren’t around. She’s been schooled in her own incompetence all of her married life (and perhaps longer), even as she fixes his plate and irons his shirts. To any observer, it’s clear that she is entirely capable of self-sufficiency. She’s been made to feel less-than for the sake of his need to feel important – a strong leader in a household that no longer requires management. My grandparents are of a different generation, but still, I see the looks and hear the concerned murmurs from many younger people who look at my marriage and frown, unable to understand this relationship in which both of us lead and both of us serve.

“My brother never thinks before he speak, I have been taught to filter. ‘How can anyone have a relationship to food?’ he asks, laughing, as I eat the black bean soup I chose for its lack of carbs. I want to say, ‘We come from difference, Jonas. You have been taught to grow out. I have been taught to grow in…I learned to absorb.’”

Up until these past few years of my life, I lived in such fear of displeasing others that I could rarely express my own opinion. In the worst cases, I was afraid to express my opinion because I didn’t really believe I was entitled to one. The concept of “Authority” has always been strong in my family/school/childhood church, but in me the concept never rang true. Somehow the lines got crossed in my mind. Rather than learning what it truly meant to respect authority, I learned how to repress myself. To subjugate myself under someone else and call this good.

“Nights I hear her creep down to eat plain yogurt in the dark – a fugitive stealing calories to which she does not feel entitled. Deciding how many bites is too many, how much space she deserves to occupy.”

This makes me physically ache. For me, this isn’t about my mother – this has been the story of my own life. Possibly it started all the way back when I was 10 years old at summer camp and I overheard some boys behind me on the soccer field, “Hey, look! That girl’s butt jiggles when she runs!”  Certainly it’s been my story since I was 15 or 16. Every day of my life. Frantically counting the calories. Obsessing over every bite that goes into my mouth and calling it “self-control.” Or not. Aggressively ignoring what I am eating. And later being consumed by a self-loathing that makes Hitler look like a saint. I don’t remember what it’s like to go through a day and not think about what I’ve eaten, what I’m going to eat, what I should be eating, what I shouldn’t have eaten, the size of my body, the way that I look, the way that my clothes fit, whether I can congratulate myself for having sufficient self-control or if I must shame myself into a better day tomorrow. I must force my unwilling body to run half marathons and then full marathons to prove I can be disciplined.

(I admit that there have been a few brief periods of my life when I had a short break from this – after the bout with salmonella that left me (unhealthy) but skinny, having lost 20 lbs in 10 days before my sophomore year of college. Right after I got married and found that the time I had spent worrying about my body pre-honeymoon was unnecessary because I was so unconditionally loved. And last spring after I lost 27 lbs and felt that I’d won a small victory over myself and my self-destructive habits. But that came crashing down quickly after moving to a country whose staple foods are rice, sodium, and all the meat is half fat.)

Unlike many girls, I didn’t learn to count my calories or call myself fat from my mother. From my mom I learned what I should be able to be – she has been thin for my whole life. She almost never indulges. She has always been able to say no to food with an ease that makes my all-consuming battle with it feel all the more humiliating . In my mother I saw modeled a self-control and a discipline that I simply lack. I felt that she was living proof that it was possible and I failed to measure up. Again and again and again. (And again today.)

“I asked 5 questions in genetics class today and all of them started with the word, ‘Sorry.'”

This is me. This is me. This is me. I have spent so much time apologizing for things I have no business being sorry for. Why should anyone feel sorry for needing to ask a question? Or sorry that someone else’s expectations of them weren’t met. Sometimes I think these murmured apologies that season my conversation like salt from a shaker is really me apologizing for what I feel is the inconvenience of my existence. Like my being here at all is a burden. It makes me furious that anyone should be made to feel that way. And so I am angry. But also, I am sorry for being angry.

“I don’t know the capstone requirements for the sociology major because I spent the whole meeting deciding whether or not I could have another piece of pizza.”

This made me laugh, even though it isn’t funny. I can’t tell you how many meetings, recitals, graduations, concerts, and events I’ve only been half-present for because there was a war being waged in my mind about the food. About what I could permit myself or not permit myself. My rationale behind it. “How much space do I deserve to occupy?”

Listening to Lily’s poem was like having words put on every inadequacy I have felt since I was a child and simultaneously exposing the inherently flawed basis of those inadequacies. I am angry at a world that has made me feel this way, but at the same time, this is so deeply ingrained that I don’t know how to shake it.

I shared these comments with my mother and she told me a story about herself – one she’d never told me before. The story of how 26-year-old her broke free from a life-long struggle for perfection. The struggle for a perfect body that made food her enemy and a perfect life that made her avoid confrontation by not having an opinion. The struggle to be perfectly likeable and agreeable that made her ignore her own wants and needs, pushing herself under a rug in order to please others (or often, let others stomp all over her).  That at 26 (the age I am now except that she already had a 6 year old and a soft tangle of arms and legs and blue eyes that would be me in her belly) she realized that no matter how much she tried, she couldn’t change the way she felt about food or finances or keeping other people happy. And that instead of trying harder or trying to be more disciplined or more self-controlled (which inevitably leads to self-loathing), she learned to stop trying. She wrote to me, “I became humble.  I had to become brutally honest with myself and admit to myself that I could not fix it/control it.  I had no power over it and life had just become crazy.  I realized that the ONLY person who could supernaturally ‘adjust’ me was God.  But I had to let him.”

I was so thankful that my mom shared this with me. I wish I had known these things about her as a teenager and young adult (well, young-er adult). I think something many parents have been missing with my generation and possibly the current one is how valuable it is to let your children see and understand what it looks like to struggle well. Because no matter what you do, your children will struggle. And if all they’ve seen are the victories, they won’t know what to do when the time comes to struggle. It’s like the physics teacher I had in high school who was great at solving all the problems, but who couldn’t explain to me how to do them. Life is lived in the process so much more than in the conclusions.

I’ll finish this post, then, by sharing something about my process. Right now, I don’t understand what the heck it means to “Let go” of something. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard some form of “Let go and let God” in my lifetime. Most of the time it makes me want to scream. Because often it’s just code for, “I don’t know what to tell you, but this phrase is something ‘spiritual’ people say and so it sounds like a real thing.” You see, I’ve tried “letting go” in so many different situations. I’ve knelt with my arms stretched as far as they can reach or spread myself across the floor with my face pressed into rough carpet fibers, trying to find the correct posture, the arrangement of limbs that will accomplish this mysterious goal, chanting prayers over and over like a mantra, “I’m letting go. I’m giving this to you. I don’t want to carry this anymore. I can’t do it on my own. I’m letting go,” each iteration more soulful and heartfelt than the last, only to find that, in fact, this changes nothing. It simply makes me a failure at letting go. (Ha!)

I value my mother’s story. I believe her words were genuine and described a true transformative experience for her. But I admit that I have yet to figure out how to “stop trying.” So far I’ve tried it in the shower, at my desk, while running, in bed, at a temple and on a mountain. So far none of this insisting I am “letting go” has been successful. I am being a little sarcastic here – I know it’s not a magical ritual or formula. But I am admitting that I can’t seem to figure out how to do something that sounds as simple as doing nothing.

Women, so many of us are broken. But I believe (I have to believe) that we can be whole again. That we can live lives free and unashamed. That we can learn to turn our amazing capacity for love towards ourselves. I don’t know how yet, but I am hopeful we can learn together.

Saving Up Questions for Heaven – Learning to Live Questions Without Answers

I am starting my fourth week as a nanny (again!) and so far it’s been a breath of fresh air. I’ll admit, these kids lead a pretty privileged life – beautiful home that’s been professionally decorated, closets full of clothes that are much nicer than mine, tennis lessons, karate, gymnastics and dance. They are not believers and they certainly have their bratty moments (as most kids do), but they also have plenty of moments when they are sweet and fun and overall I am glad I get to hang out with them instead of sitting at a computer all day.  It’s true that I have been going to sleep at like 9:30 every night, because running around with the kids is much more physically demanding than my desk job was, but I am much less emotionally and mentally exhausted. I just can’t get over the contrast between what I do now and what I was doing at my old job.

Office job: Spend 3 hrs changing the amount of square footage available in a set of buildings in every print and electronic marketing piece in existence.

Nanny job: Spend 3 hrs swimming at a pool with a pretty cool water slide and getting tanned.

Office job: Rainy mornings mean a lot of yawning and extra coffee while editing lease proposals.

Nanny job: Rainy mornings mean going to the movies and getting paid to watch Madagascar 3.

Office job: Working with boys means putting up with crude humor and bad language.

Nanny job: Working with a boy means learning how to play Pokemon battle (yes, apparently that’s still around.)

I think there’s a clear winner and a clear loser here! This week is the last official week of summer for the kiddos. After school starts, I will only be with working in the afternoons to early evenings and will be able to devote my mornings to increasingly long runs (yuck!), reading, writing, baking, and, when my semester starts at the end of September, online classes.

I am genuinely happy about the job change, even if nannying again isn’t the impressive career-path I think I should be on. I am mindful of my own tendency towards discontentment and have been asking God to help me keep my willfull heart in check by practicing gratitude in the midst of many still-unanswered questions. And I think the kids sort of help me with that in some ways.

Kids ask a million questions – if they can do things, have things, go places – as well as constant questions about the world around them. In just the past few weeks I have been asked all of the following:

Which is better for you, wine or beer? (I said neither was good for you, but maybe wine was a little better because you usually drink less of it?)

How do you get money?

Why don’t you have any children?

S, when her mom asked if she wanted to have all of her initials monogrammed on her first day of school dress or just an S – “Can it say something different? Could it say Party Time?”

I wonder what God looks like? (S told me she thinks He is green like broccoli. No idea why.)

As funny and sometimes annoying as kids are with all of the questions they want answers to, I can’t help but find it endearing because I see so much of myself in that. I think God must also look at me sometimes and think, “Stop asking me questions! Why do you need to know? It’s not important, I can take care of it.” Or “Why would you even ask that?”

There are still a lot of things I don’t understand about what God’s plan for J and I—why neither of us seems to be able to figure out what we really want to do or should be doing and where God’s hand is in what feels like random wandering. And then the questions of whether it’s more important to do something that makes you a bit happier on a day-to-day basis but doesn’t pay very well (giving you fewer opportunities to pursue the things you care about) or to do something you don’t really care about but that makes enough money to enable you to pursue the things you do care about? Not to mention my own questions about God – who he is and how he is good and why when I read the Exodus story I feel sorry for the Egyptians instead of feeling amazed at God’s deliverance.

There is a quote from a poet I love that I was reminded of recently and have taken a lot of comfort from. Rilke was a German poet who wrote during the beginning of the 20th century. This passage comes from Letters to a Young Poet.

“I beg you…to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer…” ~Rainer Maria Rilke

So, here I am – attempting to live everything – to live today fully, whether it brings joy and laughter, or frustration and more unanswered questions—and to strive to see all these things as threads of a tapestry whose pattern I cannot see yet because I won’t be able to understand it until it’s completed. And to believe with hope that one day, without even noticing it, I will have lived my way into the answers, so that those questions won’t seem to matter anymore.

A Sobering Moment: What Do We Do in the Face of Real Grief?

Those of you who are Wheaton friends are already aware of the sudden loss of 2011 alumnus Josiah Bubna on Saturday. For my non-Wheaton friends, Josiah was a year behind Jonathan and I at Wheaton, a big, strong guy who had grown up as a missionary kid in Africa and played on Wheaton’s football team.*

I am sure that some of you reading knew Josiah better than I did, and I won’t try to claim that this loss is greater for me than for any of you, but Josiah’s death has touched me in a profound way. While we in the Wheaton community have suffered several tragic and difficult losses in the last few years, this has been the one that has hit closest to home for me.

I worked with Josiah in the nursery at Blanchard Alliance Church. He was this huge, strong man with such a gentle heart. I can vividly picture the way he looked with a toddler up on his shoulders. His parents are missionaries supported by Blanchard Alliance and we often spoke of them and prayed for them in services. Josiah also often hung out in the office for the Wheaton Record where I was an editor. While we didn’t have the same group of close friends and didn’t hang out outside of our mutual activities, he was a familiar face to me and he was almost always smiling.

Beyond the grief I feel over the loss of someone I knew and the collective grief of our community, I have been overwhelmed by compassion for his fiancée. How do you go from planning your wedding and your future with someone one day to planning their funeral the next? I know that God is mighty to heal even this depth of hurt, but if I were her I don’t think my first reaction would be to turn to Him. If God had taken my fiancé or my husband now, I can’t honestly promise that I would respond with grace. I have been praying that God would give her a supernatural peace and surround her with people who can support her.

Jonathan wrote an article for Relevant magazine’s website recently that discussed the complexity of the problem of evil and how impossible- and even inappropriate- it is to give a simple answer to the question of why evil exists, or why bad things happen. It’s situations like these that really make you ask those questions. And it’s situations like these that leave you without answers other than  to accept the truth that Christ on the cross means that God is good, even – impossibly – in this.This has been sobering for me. It is an all-too concrete reminder of how little control we have over our lives and how none of us are promised a long one. Josiah was 22, but he did more with those years than many people do with 80. He played college football, got his degree, made many friends, helped in the nursery, moved to Japan to work with Samaritan’s Purse, fell in love, asked a beautiful woman to marry him and she said yes. He was a wonderful son and grandson and brother and friend. And even having lived so fully, it feels so wrong that he should just be gone. That a man who had that much to give should be taken. Beyond the sadness that I feel for his family and friends there is the grief of the wrongness of the whole situation and the deep conviction that things like this just shouldn’t happen.

I think it’s only right that we should feel this way. And I think that Jesus, too, felt this way. I am reminded of the famous story of Jesus weeping at Lazarus’ tomb. We use this story to point to Jesus’ compassion and his love for Lazarus and his sisters. But I think this is also instructive for us. I think that we forget sometimes that Jesus already knew the outcome of this situation. And not just on a grand universal scale. He not only knew that death would ultimately be defeated and that there would eventually be eternal glory. He also knew that in literally 5 minutes he was going raise Lazarus from the dead. So how could he get so worked up over this guy being dead? I think it’s this exact feeling we have when things like Josiah’s death occur. We are wracked with grief because the world is not as it should be. Our hearts are torn because, even though we have the hope of eternity, in the present things are broken. I think Jesus shows us by example that it is appropriate, even correct, to grieve for the brokenness of the present even as we hold the hope of the future. What is more horrific  in the present than the stark contrast of the way the world is now against the glorious way it was meant to be and will be in the future?

For me, this has also caused a lot of personal reflection about how I spend my time and what I am doing with my life. I have a lot of dreams. A lot of things I want to see and do in my life. When I express frustration with my job being something I don’t care about or with my present inability to pursue some of the things I want to, people often say to me, “But you’re only 24. You have your whole life to be able to do those things. Just because you can’t do them now doesn’t mean you’ll never do them. The things you don’t like about now are just a season. You won’t be in this same place forever.” I’ve always tried to see things that way. Not to live dissatisfied with where I am and always be looking for the next thing. But Josiah’s sudden death screams at me the opposite reality. That there is no guarantee. Perhaps today will be the end of my “entire life.” Perhaps today is all that I have. How can I know that this isn’t, in fact, my final season.

I don’t think the answer to this is fear, and I am trying not to respond in that way. But I do feel deeply convicted that I want to spend as many days as I can doing things that matter to me and that matter in eternity. I can’t spend any more time doing things that aren’t life-giving. I’ve been in my current job for almost a year. That’s over 2,000 hours I’ve spent doing something that holds little value or joy for me. I don’t want to spend my next 2,000 hours this way. Whether that means finding a job that’s more fulfilling in itself or simply finding a job that will give me more time and energy to invest in the things and the people I do care about.

I would ask all of you to sincerely join me in praying for Josiah’s family and especially his fiancée. I would also challenge you to consider, as I am, the reality of how fragile and fleeting our lives are and the importance of how we spend them. Josiah knew Christ and he loved and served people. It was apparent, even to those of us who didn’t know him that well. I want to live that kind of life, every day, for as many days as I am given.

One day I hope I can truly look at this, and things like this and say, “O Grave, where is your victory? O Death, where is your sting?” But today I am still feeling Death’s sting.

                                                                                                                                                                                                               

*I know for me, it’s painful to have to go through the details of what happened over and over much less write them down myself, so I’m just going to paste the official email from Wheaton here for anyone who doesn’t know the details.

It is with deep sorrow that we report to the Wheaton College community the sudden and unexpected death of Josiah Bubna, class of 2011, who died Saturday afternoon (July 7).

While exercising at the Wheaton College track, Josiah sat down to rest and then collapsed. He had been running with his fiancée, Rebekah Falcone. CPR was administered immediately at the scene before the arrival of paramedics. Josiah was transported by ambulance to Central DuPage Hospital where it was determined that he had not survived.

Josiah and Rebekah were in the midst of planning their wedding set for August 11. They had met a year ago in Japan where they were both serving with Samaritan’s Purse.

Josiah’s parents, Joel and Elin Bubna, and his sisters, Angele (age 15) and Nadia (age 13) were all in Wheaton preparing for the wedding. The Bubnas are a missionary family ministering in Senegal, Africa. Rebekah is from New York state.

Pastoral care for the Bubna family is being provided by the staff of the Blanchard Alliance Church. Visitation will be held on Wednesday, July 11, from 5—8 p.m. at Hultgren Funeral Home, 304 N. Main Street, Wheaton, IL. A memorial service will be held on Thursday, July 12, at 12 p.m. at the Blanchard Alliance Church at 1766 S. Blanchard Street, Wheaton, IL.

A complete obituary can be found at the Hultgren website.

Please uphold the Bubna family and Josiah’s fiancée, Rebekah, in your prayers in these very difficult days.

When I’m Angry With God

So, I know this isn’t a very kosher Christian thing to say, but I’m just gonna go ahead and say it – sometimes I feel really angry with God.

When we first arrived in Raleigh we didn’t know anyone except Christina (my college roommate), but we were so blessed to make friends relatively quickly through a couple we met at our church. They lead our community group and through their welcoming us in, we became friends with them as well as a group of other wonderful people. 

One of the things I have loved most about Raleigh has been the sense of belonging we have felt from those who have welcomed us in and made us a part of their community.  This was the first time in my adult life that I truly felt like I belonged where I was, that Jonathan and I had made friends with other couples who were in similar life-stages and we were, that people were involved in our lives and we were involved in theirs. A few months ago when we were considering moving again to pursue grad school opportunities, I was so torn between wanting to pursue opportunities and wanting to stay here in this place where I saw a potential future for us. And that future wasn’t based on the careers we have here (which are way out of our fields) or the educational opportunities we’ve found, but on the people we’ve come to love.

In case you are really confused, that isn’t the part that makes me angry. The part that’s made me angry is that God now seems to be taking these very good things away from us. Our sweet friends who lead our community group suddenly got a job opportunity in the Chicago area and are moving in the next month (ironically they are moving within a few miles of where we used to live before coming here.) A second couple in our group suddenly had to opportunity to buy a fantastic little house, but it is in Durham and they will likely be looking for a church/community closer to them.  Another girl from our group has been given the amazing opportunity to move to Scotland and work with a church plant there. So essentially, in one fell swoop, most of our community has fallen apart. (If you are one of our few friends sticking around, we are so very grateful for you!!!) Intellectually, I recognize that all of these things are good for our friends and that my happiness about where these people live is probably not God’s main priority. Haha. Deep down I know that truly loving people means wanting God’s best for them, even if it doesn’t feel like the best thing for you, so on that level I do rejoice to see God providing exciting opportunities for my friends. But that doesn’t make me happy about the situation.

Please understand, I know that there are many, many worse things that can happen (and have happened) in life than all of your friends moving away. I’m really not trying to make the case that this is the worst thing ever. But it has brought up some real frustration for me that is connected to something a lot bigger than whether or not I have a lot of friends nearby. And maybe that is something you can relate to, whatever your particular disappointments have been.

This may seem like a bit of an over-reaction, but I’ve been really discouraged since finding out about all of these changes. It’s not that any one of these people was some ultimate source of happiness for us, but I did find a lot of fulfillment in belonging to this group of people and growing alongside them. It genuinely has helped me through the struggles of not having a job that I love and not knowing what we should be doing in the future to feel that these relationships were the thing God had clearly placed in front of me. I felt that even if I couldn’t see God’s hand in other areas, I could see it in these relationships and I took it as a confirmation that we were in the right place, doing the right thing, even when it was difficult. And now it feels like that small measure of peace and security is being taken away. Additionally, I feel like things are moving forward in so many of our friends lives and I feel  stuck in so many ways. Directionless and without even a short-term goal.

Why is it that the things you want to stay the same are always changing while the things you wish would change seem stuck the way they are forever?

The whole experience has launched me (yet again) into that series of questions I can never seem to get away from. What am I doing here? What should I be doing? There are so many directions I thought my life might take and so far, it hasn’t taken any of those. I have never held a job that I really loved. In fact, I have a difficult time even thinking of a job I truly think I would love.  Some days I just want to give up and resign myself to living a boring life moving from one uninspiring job to the next just to make enough money to live on, but that terrifies me more than anything. I can seriously think of nothing worse than living a life with no adventure.

I feel like I’ve been asking God the same questions year after year, and he never throws me a bone. Sometimes I just want to scream, why did you make me this way and give me all of these desires and then leave me with no guidance about what to do with that? If my life is meant to be spent moving from one uninspiring job to the next just to make enough money to live, why would you give me this deep desire for my life to be meaningful?

And I know what you are thinking… “Depends on what you think is meaningful,” so let me put it this way. I don’t want or need an impressive career, and I don’t think I need to move to Bangladesh. I just want to be able to look back at the end of a day or a week or even just a year and put my finger on moments that mattered. Things that had eternal significance. And instead I find myself plowing through my workday, desperate to get home where I can get away from the stress of my office to make dinner and read books and watch tv shows and fall into bed exhausted by 10:00.

God has been very good to us. He has provided for us. He has given us more than we need to survive. And most importantly, he has given us himself. Maybe it’s sinful for me to even be asking for more. But I want more. I want to know what in this whole wide world I’m supposed to be doing with my life. Because today it just feels like I’m wasting it.

So, that’s where I am at today. Though I’m genuinely excited to see these friends follow God’s leading, I’m sad to be losing them, and I’m feeling  discouraged that God seems to be at work everywhere except in my life. And frankly, all of these feelings are making me really angry.

The good news is, I don’t think God’s freaking out that I’m mad at him. And I don’t think he’s surprised. I believe he knows me intimately. That he understands the way my mind works and what triggers my emotions. That he loves me in my brokenness and foolishness. But somehow, on a day like today, none of those things are particularly comforting to me. Mostly, they are just making me a little more angry.

What To Do When Someone Mistakes You for Their Drug Dealer

I’ve heard a lot of people rant about AT&T for various reasons (particularly U-verse customers.) It’s not at all uncommon for me to hear a friend or coworker ranting about something incompetent AT&T has done or a simple problem they seem unable to fix or just the lack of reception anywhere you really need it (like anywhere in my apartment, for example.)  But I have a hard time even understanding how it’s possible for them to have messed up whatever they messed up to cause this.

At one in the morning on Tuesday (or I guess Wednesday) I received this long string of texts from a number I don’t know that has an area code for Joliet, IL. For a while I slept through them, but after about 8 texts, this guy started calling. Four times in a row.

Obviously, it seems like they had the wrong number, but what’s weird about it is that if you read the texts (I apologize for language and the indecipherable nature of most of them) it seems like this guy is getting responses. So not like he’s just sending it to the wrong number, but like I’m getting CC’d on every message he sends this dealer guy. Sketchy.

Yesterday, this guy told me that he wanted to see any narcs for sale which was funny because as far as I knew a “narc” was a cop who specialized in drug busts. (Incidentally, I didn’t have any.)

And today I found out that his name is Paul and that he has cash. He also left me a nice voicemail about how he “Just wanted to see what was going on and sh*t.”

When I get off of work tonight I’m going to go to or call AT&T, explain that they’ve messed something up and also get Paul’s number blocked, I am thinking I’ll go into the AT&T store…I can’t imagine the automated phone system has an option for “If an unauthorized drug deal is being conducted through your phone, please press 5.” But for today I’ve been amusing myself thinking of possible ways I could respond to him.

“I’m not who you think I am.” Just that. And leave him wondering.

“Paul, this is God. I know everything.”

“Paul, this is the police. We know where you are. You are so busted.”

I actually did consider trying to report Old Paul to the police. But I don’t really know that they can do anything about it what with all of our laws about invasion of privacy. It would probably just end with AT&T getting sued for allowing someone else to receive personal messages and Paul getting away with it.

Mostly this whole bizarre interaction has made me really sad (and a little teensy bit freaked out that this druggie has my number. But at least he’s in Illinois, I think.) Especially when I listened to this guy’s voicemail. I can’t imagine living a life so empty that you’re this desperate to get high. That you spend three days at all hours of the day getting cash so you can make a deal. This guy lives in some incredible bondage. His life is ruled by this addiction.

Today I’ve been thinking about Paul and about how sad it is that his life is so empty. But I’ve also been thinking of how many Paul’s there are around me. Men and women and children who are throwing themselves into prestigious careers, financial success, popularity, substance abuse, education, materialism, etc. to find some sort of meaning, to make themselves feel better, or just to pass the time. And I’ve been thinking about how many ways I am like Paul. How often I let my need to be in control, to know what’s coming next, to have everything figured out rule my life.

Oh Paul…I really hope you get some help. I really hope you overcome this addiction. I hope you realize life is about more than getting high all the time. I hope you find something you love to spend your days doing. But mostly, I hope you realize you are loved. I hope you come to understand the depths of the grace that’s been poured out for you. I hope you come to rest in your beloved-ness and your wanted-ness. I hope you learn that you are never alone – that in your most desperate moments, the King of Glory is there.  I hope you learn these truths, Paul. And I hope I do too.