12.27.2010

Missionaryishness

I’ve been flying the freak flag high since the moment I stepped off a plane in the U.S., a week ago.

I keep having these supremely awkward interactions with people. Its as if my brain now has only two speeds in which to work; either "slowly processing words” or “Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee,we’re speaking ENGLISH!!!” And the real problem is that I never really know which mode I’m in. So I’ve had people casually ask me how I'm doing only to get a blank, confused stare in response because my brain is all seized up, nervously searching out the appropriate reply. And I’ve had the opposite extreme occur, where someone says the simplest thing, requiring only a slight acknowledgement, but instead they get barraged with a torrential outpouring of words and information they never wanted.

Like when this happened the other day as I was leaving Starbucks:

This guy said, “You have pretty hair.”

And instead of saying “thank you” like a normal person, I said: “Doyoureallythinkso?! Because I haven’t had it cut in like a year and I was just about to make an appointment with my stylist downtown because I think it’s gotten way too long but the air is dry here and I think that makes it look better than normal cause I live where it’s like so humid that it doesn’t normally look like this, ya know?, so I was thinking it’s definitely time for a change and maybe even a different color which I’ve never done before but I’m for sure getting it cut because it’s been soooo long…. Except for my bangs. I do those myself.”

And as I was demonstrating how I cut my own bangs with my fingers in the shape of fake scissors, my brain said to my mouth, “SHUT YOUR TRAP, YOU FREAK SHOW!!!”

Then I abruptly turned around and walked out the door.

F-reak. Show.

I’m extra disturbed by this trend. It’s like my missionaryishness is increasing. And now it has gotten to the point that I can’t even deal in my hometown.

I get the whole “third culture” thing. I do. I understand that just by the nature of our work, we’re going to experience changes and we’re going to have to adjust when we come back to the states and there will always be some part of us that doesn’t feel at home anywhere and blah, blah, blah.... But, for real? The church already has enough socially irrelevant spaztards out there, dropping awkward bombs in the name of Jesus as a personal vocation. And I really, really, really don’t want to add to their ranks.

I can live with the fact that my clothes are out of style…. I hate it, but I can live with it. I can totally get by without Starbucks and Poptarts and Chick-fil-A – these things are not deal breakers for me. But. This social ineptitude is making me very uncomfortable. And I don’t know what to do about it. And I don’t know if there’s anything I can do about it. All I know is that when I say “Let’s get Taco Bell!” and “taco bell” comes out “tah-co vell” cause I said it with a Spanish accent, I sound like a real douche.

And missionaries shouldn’t be douchey. You know… ideally.

*sigh*


Dropped an awkward bomb lately? or had one dropped on you? ...It sucks, doesn't it?!


12.22.2010

A REPOST of: Missionaries probably shouldn’t be jealous of strippers. But sometimes they are.

I have so much I'd like to tell you right now and ZERO time to write it. So, instead, I'm offering a repost of my favorite post from this past year and a golden opportunity for those who felt they'd missed the comment boat on this one. Enjoy!

So, the other day I boarded a plane from Reno to San Francisco, and I was stoked because there was no one else in my row, and I wanted to read my new People magazine, but I would never want anyone to see me reading People magazine because I have a serious aversion to freaks who carry on weird, one-sided relationships with famous people. (What!? People mag is the fastest way for me to see how out-of date my clothes are. That’s all. That’s why I read it. Sheesh, let it go...) So, ANYWAY. You can imagine my dismay (and also how quickly I shoved Sandra Bullock’s tragic smile back in my bag and pulled out Sedaris’ Me Talk Pretty One Day) when someone stopped at the end of my row. She was wearing one of those tight black velour matching sweatsuits, with fake Uggs. And when she turned around to put her crap in the overhead, her butt said “Juicy” which, in my opinion, has about the same sexual appeal as having the word “Pfffffft” stamped across your rump. But what do I know.

Despite her stupid getup, the truth is, she. was.
gorgeous. GOR-geous! Like, twenty years old, with perfect skin and teeth and hair, and glossy, fake nails on soft, smooth hands. And her body was long and lean and seemingly flawless.

And I immediately did not like her.

Now, I’m not generally a jealous person. Seriously. I don’t really get jealous. I more, like...
covet, but I don’t really get jealous as in envious. I want for things that other people may have. I want more money, I want a smaller butt, I want to be 5’9”, Iwant to have influence, I really, really want a maid, and an admin, and a personal masseuse. And if you possess those things, I will probably covet them. But I usually don’t harbor feelings of hostility or rivalry toward people that have what I want, and that’s what I mean by jealous. It’s just not one of my go-to character flaws. Or maybe it’s just not as well developed as my other junk. Either way, it’s not my thing.

But this time... I was having these wild, crazy, JEALOUS thoughts.
Mean thoughts. Cruel thoughts. Thoughts that were turning this girl, whom I had never even spoken to, into my mortal enemy.
So, I turned on my overhead light and opened my book, and as the plane started to taxi toward the runway, my stupid light burned out. The girl (you know, the one I was busy hating) looked over and offered a sympathetic smile with perfect, plump lips, and teeth like gleaming white chiclets. Then we both reached up and started pushing buttons and twisting knobs, trying to get that stupid light to flicker back on, but she yanked on something and the whole plastic casing came off in her hand. We looked at each other like “Oooh damn!” and then we both started snickering like third graders in the principals office. Snickering became giggling, and giggling made way for laughter, and by the time we were in the air, we were howling as if it was the funniest thing that had ever happened in the history of the world.

Looking back, it wasn’t that funny, but
that’s how I became instant BFF’s with a stripper from Reno.

Our conversation was mostly stupid and boring and, occasionally, intensely personal. And yes, she
really is a stripper...I mean, ”dancer”. She was on her way to California to visit her sugar-daddy. (Which, technically, I think makes her something other than a stripper, er, dancer, but whatever.) We both pulled out our trashy magazines, and poured over the clothes of the rich and famous. We talked about our lives, as different as they are. And we talked about God. And when we didn’t talk, she pulled out her Sudoku book, and I thought, “Oh, awesome. She’s prettier AND smarter.” But, I noticed (because, apparently, I’m kind of a creeper) that when she got bored with her puzzle, she would scrawl her name in cursive, again and again, along the edges of the book. Practicing her autograph? Signing her first name with some guy’s last name? Trying out a slutty new stage name? I really don’t know. All I know is that she was daydreaming as she wrote that name, all fat and swirly, over and over and over again.

I was struck by how sweet and girlish it was. And it reminded me of how I used to do the very same thing when I was younger.
(My friends and I used this stripper name formula: first family pet + street you grew up on = your stripper name. Mine was Heidi Oaklawn.)

Maybe it sounds weird, I mean, since I’m a missionary and everything, but I could totally relate to this stripper, with her Juicy pants and spray tan. El Chupacabra and I have a little running joke that if our lives hadn’t turned a certain direction at a certain time, he would be in jail and I would be in a nightclub. We laugh about it, but we know that it’s really not that funny...and it may not be far from the truth. Who knows?! You could be reading the blog of
Heidi Oaklawn, the Very Worst Stripper, right now. Or maybe you wouldn’t be. Or maybe you would....

Anyway, when we parted ways in San Francisco, it was clear to us both that we shared some sort of connection. Call it stripper’s intuition, but there was something there, between us. We hugged and quickly said goodbye....*sigh*

Juicy disappeared into the crowd, and as soon as she was gone, I realized that all of my envy had melted away, and only one thing remained; A wish that I had told her something before we'd gone our separate ways. I wanted her to know that God is jealous for her.

And that I was jealous for her, too. Not jealous of her, and not the envious kind of jealousy that makes a missionary act like a bitch on an airplane when a stripper sits next to her. But jealous for her, in a different way, with a longing, loving, hope filled kind of jealousy.

I was jealous for her to know that she’s worth more than the dollar she gets for swinging around a pole in clear, plastic stilettos, or the thousand that she’ll get for spending a weekend in San Francisco. Jealous for her to feel love apart from sex. Jealous for her to daydream about her own name in a way that didn't have to include fame, or fortune, or dancing naked for men. Jealous for her to know that if she can do Sudoku, she can do
anything...

This kind of jealousy begs for a change in direction. God is jealous for us to turn away from the distractions of this world and turn toward him. He’s jealous for us to let go of the false identities we hold onto so tightly, and to align ourselves with Him. He’s jealous for us to relinquish the things we allow to define our worth, and grab tightly to our value in Him.

Our God is jealous for her... and for you... and for me...


...So, the obvious question is.... what would your stripper name be?

12.14.2010

Strong words.

According to some, I use strong words. They’re right. I do. Some people are overly appalled by this, others are overly delighted. Both extremes make me uncomfortable. Thankfully, the majority of us fall somewhere in the middle. Being neither appalled nor delighted; we are merely amused, slightly discomforted or (as in my case) perfectly unaffected by the use of certain words.

At best, I find discussions about the language Christians should or shouldn’t use boring. At worst, I find these talks divisive – Arguing amongst ourselves over menial things on the interwebz is the last thing this already fractured Church needs. I have no desire to contribute to the nonsense of Christian on Christian judgementalism that always accompanies this subject.

But.

In the last year I’ve been called crass, unholy, ungodly, immature, ignorant and lacking in discretion. I’ve been told God could “cure” me of my dirty mouth if I’d let him. I’ve been chastised, admonished, verbally spit on, and Bible beaten.

Also?

I’ve been called honest, authentic, real, true, and transparent. I’ve been told the words I've chosen have helped, healed, honored, and spurred others on the path toward the God we seek to follow. And I’ve been thanked, loved, blessed, encouraged, and accepted.

This may surprise you, but I was never given a list of God approved words. And I can’t imagine what would happen should such a list ever present itself. I know people who would keel over dead if “fart” was on the approved list, or “shut up”. And I know people who would straight up burn the list if came from Costa Rica where "bitch" is part of common language that 4 year-olds use.

You know, I’ve never really felt like God was offended by our words, since it is He who searches our heart and knows our offensive ways. The truth is, we choose words not for God’s ears but for man’s. We use them to condemn or to uplift, to include or to isolate, to edify or to confound. But if you like to think that God is more honored by the individual words you choose than by the statement you are making with them, by all means, continue to be appalled. And I'll keep doin' what I do - using the strongest words I can conjure to convey the weight of God in my life.

I'm totally cool with that arrangement.

I feel like I've written about this before.... oh yeah, it's because I have:

here: The VWM gets censored.... kinda.

and here: Skeletons in the closet in the bathroom under the stairs.

and also, here: Tough


So. Do you have a list of God approved words that guides you as you speak? What's not on it?

12.10.2010

I'm in Jason Boyett's "Voices of Doubt" club! Yessssss!!!


Do you ever find yourself in a room full of people that are just more awesome than you? Well, today I had the privilege of writing the guest post for the "Voices of Doubt" series on Jason Boyett's blog.
This is way out of my league. Like...way... out of my league. Way, way, way....


I wrote the post a month ago, and then I spent the past week completely. freaking. out. about it. I rewrote it a bunch of times and in the end went back to the original, sent it, reread it, and hated it.

Anyway, I hope you'll go check it out. And I really, really hope you'll be as generous with your comments there as you are here.... cause we're bloggers and bloggers love that kinda crap. Thanks friends!


12.02.2010

I hear you.

Every once in a while, I get an email or a comment from someone who knows me, like, someone who for real knows me, in real life, and they’ll say, “I love it when I read your blog because it’s like I can hear your voice.”

There’s something within that small statement that stirs my needy, little soul.

When I became a Christian, I thought the name of the game was conformity. I thought I was joining a club and the rules of the club were simple:

Dress this way.

Use these words.

Do this on Sunday Mornings and that on Wednesday nights.

Be appalled by this, this, this, aaaand that.

Get indignant about such and such.

Above all, pretend that everything is ok, even when it most definitely is not, because you have Jesus and Jesus takes away your problems.

So I went and got a bob, which seemed like the right haircut for the part. And I started wearing a cross all the time for no other reason than so people would know I was in the club. And then, in an effort to use all the words at once, I took my little sister to Carls Jr. and tried to evangelize her over Western Bacon Cheeseburgers and chocolate shakes. She got up to use the bathroom (or possibly to call for help) and the old ladies in the booth next to me leaned over to tell me what I good job I was doing. They were obviously in the club and had recognized me by my words… or maybe by my hair.

It was ugly. But it was me. That was who I was – the result of a lifetime of pretending to be someone I wasn’t so that I would be liked, or accepted, popular, worthy, wanted….loved. I had gotten pretty adept at speaking in someone else’s voice, using their words, playing by their rules. And walking into the church was no different. Except it was worse. Because when you go against social norms in the church, the people in the club will call you things like "dangerous".

I don’t know when, but at some point I stopped watching what the people in the club were doing and I started to look at Jesus. That dude broke all the rules.

I watched him sit in a market place braiding for himself a whip. And when he was done… He went ape-shit on a bunch of scumbags, overturning tables and going all Indiana Jones with that whip until the House of God had been restored to just that.

I watched him sit on the edge of a well in the countryside, where he had a quiet conversation with a sordid woman that would change her life and the lives of many around her. In that little chat, he challenged her honesty and invited her to become one who worships God in spirit and in truth.

I watched Jesus tell stories. I saw him talking to normal people about normal crap and pointing out God along the way.

And I started to realize that I had been created with a distinct voice and that God was calling me to use it, whispering, “Be who you are, Baby Girl. I made you. You were meant to tell an honest story.”

What a HUGE freaking relief. Permission to leave behind the empty shell of false pretense you’ve built up to be part of the church and BE YOURSELF. Live out loud. Share your struggles, your doubts, your furcked up-ness. And to do so in a legitimate non-douchey way that says nothing less than “There by the Grace of God go I.” Sweet, sweet mercy! There is no better feeling in this world than when someone who knows you, really knows you -because you haven’t been faking it- says, “I can hear your voice… and I love you anyway.”

What a gift.

Long before I ever posted a single word to this stupid blog, and way before I became a missionary, I stopped trying to be what the church wants and started trying to be who God wants – one who worships in spirit and in truth. Sometimes the club doesn’t like it. Sometimes a few members protest because they think I’m dangerous.

And I don’t care. It doesn't bother me because, when I look at my life, it’s like I can hear His voice....and I hope you can, too, ever since so long ago when God nudged me and said…

Speak up.