29 March 2011


"Prayer (i)"

Prayer the Churches banquet, Angels age,
Gods breath in man returning to his birth,
The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,
The Christian plummet sounding heav’n and earth ;

Engine against th’ Almightie, sinner's towre,
Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,
The six daies world-transposing in an houre,
A kinde of tune, which all things heare and fear ;

Softnesse, and peace, and joy, and love, and blisse,
Exalted Manna, gladnesse of the best,
Heaven in ordinarie, man well drest,
The milkie way, the bird of Paradise,

Church-bels beyond the stars heard, the souls bloud,
The land of spices, something understood.
~ George Herbert

"Prayer (ii)"

Of what an easie quick accesse,
My blessed Lord, art thou ! how suddenly
May our requests thine eare invade !
To shew that state dislikes not easinesse,
If I but lift mine eyes, my suit is made :
Thou canst no more not heare, than thou canst die.

Of what supreme almightie power
Is thy great arm which spans the east and west,
And tacks the centre to the sphere !
By it do all things live their measur’d houre :
We cannot ask the thing, which is not there,
Blaming the shallownesse of our request.

Of what unmeasurable love
Art thou possest, who, when thou couldst not die,
Wert fain to take our flesh and curse,
And for our sakes in person sinne reprove ;
That by destroying that which ty’d thy purse,
Thou mightst make way for liberalitie !

Since then these three wait on thy throne,
Ease, Power, and Love ; I value prayer so,
That were I to leave all but one,
Wealth, fame, endowments, vertues, all should go ;
I and deare prayer would together dwell,
And quickly gain, for each inch lost, an ell.
~ George Herbert

27 March 2011


This is another piece I wrote for creative writing. It's actually a revision of a blog post I wrote a couple years ago: extended and molded a bit, but still recognizable. However, regardless of whether you were reading my blog way back then or not, I hope you enjoy this. :)


Dip and sway and one two three and swirl and brush and watch your toes. The couples swirled about the room tentatively, watching each other closely as they attempted not to run in to the other people in the room. It was an evening ballroom dance class at the local community college, and no one with the exception of the instructor really had any idea what they were doing, my friends and I least of all. Linda and I had decided it would be great fun to take a dance class, and, of course, we couldn’t take it by ourselves. We had to find boys to go with us! So together we wheedled my brother and one other boy from our Bible study into taking with us. “Come on,” we coaxed, “It will be fun!” And with surprising ease we won them over. Showing up for the first class, we realized that the four of us (of whom I, barely twenty, was the oldest) were the only members of the class under the age of forty-five, but we (at least Linda and I) were determined to have fun anyhow. So we learned the waltz, the salsa, the foxtrot, and the tango. Only one class each, a mere taste of what each had to offer. We danced our way through the cha-cha and the mamba and, my personal favourite, the swing. Ultimately, we came away knowing a little bit about everything but not enough about anything, and with disuse even that little bit of initial knowledge soon disappeared. However, dancing did help bring home to me some important truths. For, as I learned the rules of dance, I couldn’t help but draw parallels between the core principles of dance and some of the important principles of my walk as a Christian.

First, dancing is awfully difficult when you don’t know the steps. Starting out, I felt awkward and embarrassed. I didn’t know what I was doing, and I stepped on my poor brother’s toes as often as not. However, I purposed to learn the steps by listening to the instructor, paying attention to what he said, and practicing at home as often as I got the chance. Over time, this led to improvement, and by the end of the class I was able to pick up even new dances more quickly based on the knowledge I had acquired. Similarly, in my Christian life I have had to learn the steps of walking with Jesus by studying the His Word (the Bible) as well as listening to other learners who are farther along the way than I. In this way I learn the basics of the dance He is calling me to and begin to understand the basic principles of the rhythms and steps through which He might lead me. As in dancing, this starts with the basic principles which, for dance, are where to put your feet, how to place your arms, how to listen to the music, and for Christianity include such basic concepts as our need for redemption and the grace and forgiveness of Christ. Over time, though, as these basics have been mastered more can be added to them and more difficult steps can be learned, more difficult theological concepts wrestled with. As my mom always says, God won’t show you the next thing until you’ve been obedient in this one.

This leads me directly to my second principle which is that in learning to dance I had to learn to follow my brother. This was difficult since I was pretty sure I knew what we were supposed to be doing better than he did, and I’m not too used to letting my little brother call the shots. However, the styles we were learning dictated it. You see, with the exception of a few set dances, most ballroom dance styles require the guy to call the steps. As I quickly learned, there is a very good reason for this. Namely that in most ballroom dances the girl (that would be me) is facing backwards. What this means practically is that if I tried to lead the result was almost certainly either crashing into another couple on the floor, a wall, or some other such obstacle or great frustration on the part of her partner as he tries to maneuver her around these obstacles when she won’t follow. Therefore, even when I knew all of the steps available to me, I had to learn to accept that I did not know the direction or order of the steps until Mitchell communicated them to me. Christianity, too, instructs that I must learn to follow. Again and again in Scripture Jesus calls me to “follow Him,” to “die to myself,” and to completely surrender my will to His. This is still something I struggle though, especially in those times when I haven’t heard anything and feel like a decision needs to be made right now, but I have learned (the hard way, unfortunately) that not waiting is frequently a far worse and more painful decision than deciding to go ahead and take the next step on my own.

This leads to the third principle. In dancing in order to follow my brother I had to learn to listen to his lead. This was at times a very frustrating phenomena when he wasn’t very good at communicating changes in direction in any manner other than yanking me suddenly to one side or the other or at indicating a shift in step besides simply stepping on my toes when he (seemingly randomly) switched steps. Over time, however, we learned to work together, and I could tell by a slight pressure of his hand in the small of my back that we were now going to shift to the right or by an incline of his head that we would be shifting to a turn step rather than a box. Similarly, I have learned in my walk with Christ the importance of learning to listen for His voice when I’m trying to make a decision. However, in order to do this I have to learn to hear His voice. As Jesus says in the book of Mark, his followers are recognizable by the fact that they hear and obey his voice. This comes, once again, through prayer and Bible study, through studying what He’s like and how He speaks and so familiarizing myself with Him that as soon as He begins to prompt my heart I recognize it as Him and not something else.

The fourth principle of ballroom dancing I learned was that I had to trust my partner. Our instructor emphasized repeatedly that in order to follow properly I had to lean back in to the support of Mitchell’s hand to such an extent that if he were not to hold me up I would fall. Otherwise, our instructor declared, he would be unable to truly lead. For me, this was by far the hardest lesson to learn. I was petrified to put myself in a position of uncertain footing where it felt like I might fall at any moment, and I would hold my body entirely stiff or else simply refuse to lean. My brother kept reassuring me that I could trust him, he wouldn’t let me fall. But I…. Well… Let’s just say I wasn’t so sure. Finally, though, I began to get the hang of it, resting my weight back into my brother’s hand. And, lo and behold, when I did so listening to and following his lead became exponentially easier. Rather than having to try so hard in order to feel when he was leading me one direction or the other it became second nature as my balance followed and depended on his own. In the same way, I know that I can never truly follow Christ until I give Him my everything, leaning on Him so strongly that I would entirely lose my balance without Him there to steady me. Just as this was the most terrifying part of dancing, it is the most terrifying aspect of my life as a follower of Christ. In general, I prefer to have a safety net and to keep certain things in my life that I tell him, “No, Lord, I’ll do anything you say except that.” Or “You can have all of me except for that little piece.” But that’s not true following, and I know it. Because, just like in dance, true following, full following means giving up my own sense of balance and trusting that the One I’m dancing with won’t let me fall. As my dance instructor reminded me so many times, “Fear of falling adds nothing to the dance. It only stilts it and keeps it from being everything it can be.”

As I write these pages I am transported once again to that little room in the back of the gym and the dance classes we had there. I feel once again the frustration of trying to understand, the slowness of our progress, and the dissatisfaction when, no matter how hard I tried I just couldn’t quite seem to get it. However, I also remember the feeling of sheer joy and pleasure when we finally got it right, becoming one unit as we moved across the floor and dancing in unison with the music with my balance resting totally on his hand and my skirt twirling around my legs as he spun me out and back in. It is similar feelings which I enjoy in my relationship with Christ. Yes, just like in dance, my learning curve is sometimes slow, and I struggle to learn the steps. I get frustrated with myself for my failures and am resistant and fall. I miss steps and stumble and generally make a mess of things at times to the extent that I just want to quit. And, sometimes, no matter how hard I try I can’t seem to get it right. There are days when life is so dark that I can’t see His face to reassure me and my heart is so numb that I can’t feel His hand guiding me, when the tears run down my cheeks because it just hurts so badly to move, to breathe. But at those times I remember the moments of Beauty, those moments of inexpressible Joy which take my breath away with sheer wonder at the beauty of my Savior, the love He has for me, and the delight He takes in me. And I keep dancing.

08 March 2011

Kids, Dragons, and World Domination

The following is a paper I recently wrote for a Creative Nonfiction class. As of right now, I'm having difficulty finding additional time in my crazy life for blogging. So, I thought I would simply start posting some of the things I have written past and present for school, starting with my creative writing class although I may eventually move on to other things I have especially enjoyed writing. So, with that in mind, enjoy this piece of narrative/memoir writing about the craziness of my many younger siblings. :)

Kids, Dragons, and World Domination

“Someday, I’m going to rule the world.”


“When I grow up I am going to rule the world. I will be the king of America! And I will blow up China...”

“Ummm... Okay. Why would you want to do that?”

“I don’t know... Just because. And then I want to retire and work at 7-Eleven. . . And have all the icees I want!”

My brother was about six years old and already had big plans for his life: rule the world, blow up China, and work at 7-eleven. Yep, he was definitely going big places! And while this conversation (which occurred, entirely randomly, one day while we were simply sitting around the kitchen table) could be taken as an isolated incident, it’s not. My younger siblings, as a group, seem to possess a strange and slightly disturbing obsession with the topics of power and destruction...

* * *

“Ow! Naithen! Stop it! Ah!” *sobs*

Hurrying in from the other room I surveyed the scene in front of me: Natylee, two years old at the time, sat sobbing with a large red mark on her arm while Naithen (four) sat beside her apparently playing innocently with the pile of duplos before him. Scooping her up I turned to face him.

“Naithen, what happened to Natylee?”

“I pinched her.”



“That’s not an acceptable answer.”


*exasperated* “Naithen, you need to apologize to your sister right now!”

“ . . . No.”

As my frustration with the situation rose I realized that I needed to get him to his bed quickly before I did something I would regret. “Go to your bed right now.”

There was no noticeable response.

“Naithen! Bed. NOW.”

Reluctantly he stood to his feet and shuffled slowly back to his bedroom. Turning my attention back to the sniffling child in my arms (the sobs had subsided as she watched my dealings with her brother) I got her a cup of milk and put a movie on for her while I regained my cool before dealing with her miscreant brother. Finally, I headed back to his room where I found him sitting quietly on his bed, apparently lost in thought.

“Naithen, the way you were treating Natylee was unkind and unacceptable. You have to be nice to her. She’s just a baby, and she needs you to protect her. Do you understand that?”


“Naithen, I’m going to have to spank you for hurting your sister.”

He finally turned his big, blue eyes to me and responded "But . . . I am sad because we are all going to die." (He wouldn't be changing the subject now, would he?)

His ploy worked, and, although still frustrated with him, I melted. "Oh, Naithen, you don't need to worry about dying because if you love Jesus you will just go to be with Him when you die."

He sniffled, "Yes, but my body will still be dead."

"Well, that's true, but eventually Jesus will raise it up and give you a new and better body!"

Suddenly, his entire demeanor changed as he responded enthusiastically, “Yes! And then I can be a dragon!!!!”

At this point I had to leave the room to restrain my laughter before returning to dealing with the issue at hand (the mistreatment of his little sister).

* * *

Dragons seem to be a fairly common theme in the conversation of my little brothers and sisters. My youngest sister, in fact, is going through a bit of a dragon obsession right now. You see, my brothers have a large collection of toy knights. This Christmas, that collection grew to include several dragons and a bevy of princesses (the latter were actually given to my sister because they had been begging for some time to be more included in their brothers’ games and wanted girls to play with, of course). My youngest sister is two years old now, and very independent. She, in fact, would far rather play with the knights all by herself than have her brothers or sisters interfere with her games, and her imagination can keep her games going for hours. One day, then, she was observed playing the following game with her knights:

A troop of about 15 knights, seated proudly on their horses, parade in a stately row across the play room and away from the castle. Suddenly, though they begin screaming as the dragons begin swooping down on them, snatching them from their horses and throwing them to the group, where, of course, the screaming stops. The horses, witnessing the carnage created by the dragon horde, but not themselves yet victims of the dragons’ wrath, begin screaming too “Aaahhh!!! Help!!! Princesses! Save us!! Ahh! Help us! Princesses!”

The response to this outcry is swift as a group of princesses suddenly emerges from the castle and flies over to the battle field. The princesses, instantly catching sight of the dragons and assessing the situation at hand take immediate action, “Shoo, Dragons! Shoo! Go home!”

The dragons, who apparently live in dread fear of princesses, directly leave their prizes and fly off to some distant part of the play room, never to be heard of again in this game.

The princesses, apparently quite satisfied with their work, mount the knights horses and ride cheerily back to the castle singing “Jingle Bells” as they go and leaving the hapless (and apparently dead) knights lying strewn about on the ground.

My friend Tamara, having watched this entire procedure, asked my sister, “Leisy girl, why did the dragons kill all the knights?”

With an exasperated sigh, Eilyse responded, “Well, the dragons were hungry. They had to eat!” As if Tamara’s questions were clearly ridiculous and one of the silliest inquiries she had every received.

* * *

Children, in fact, frequently find adults and their questions silly. We are in their eyes extremely gullible creatures, and they live to exploit that gullibility (see the first dragon story above). Surely, they think, if I can just figure our how to say this in just the right way she’ll buy it. Sometimes, though, their attempts at manipulating the silly adults can be quite entertaining to those very same adults. I had one of these encounters with my little sister this past summer. . .

“Kyndra, let me stir. Pleeease, Kyndra!” I was sitting at the stove stirring pudding, waiting for it to thicken so that I could work on getting some of the other things done on my rather lengthy to-do list that day. Standing at my feet was my three year old sister, pestering me to let her help, something I was a bit loathe to do since pudding has a tendency to get quite lumpy quite easily and I didn’t quite trust her little arms to have the strength to efficiently stir a half-gallon of it.

“No, Natylee, not right now. Let me do it.”

Apparently finally accepting my answer, she turned and walked from the room. Not two minutes later, however, she returned, dragging a large barstool behind her with the clear intention of using it to stand on to stir the pudding.

“Natylee, take that barstool back to the other room. You cannot be up here right now.”
“What barstool?”
“The one you’re standing in front of.” (Important to note is the fact that the barstool was, in fact, taller than her, and standing in front of it did little to nothing toward obscuring it from view)
Moving out from in front of the barstool, she looked at it, then back at me and said, quite simply, “What barstool? I don’t see a barstool. You don’t see a barstool…. There is no barstool…”
Shocked by her ingenuity and attempted Jedi mind tricks, I nevertheless quickly regained my equilibrium. “Yes, Natylee,, there is a barstool. I do see it, and you need to take it back to the other room.”
*sigh* “Fine.” And with that she finally gave up (for a few minutes, at least) her attempts at the pudding.

* * *

This same sister has a young man whom she has been planning to marry for about two years now, since she was two and he was three. His future life plans are to be a world dictator, and, for the most part, she’s alright with this. Although, her plans to differ just a bit. As she explained to some of my friend when they were over one day:
“And then, I will grow up, and I will marry Nate.”
“And then you’re going to conquer the world, right Natylee?”
"Uh. NO! Then, we are going to make babies… Then conquer the world.”
"Oohhh…. Right.”

* * *

What does one even do with a cast of children whose minds are so cunning and vicious? Who wish to be dragons, willingly sacrifice entire armies of knights to feed dragons, have already begun to experiment with Jedi mind tricks and other brain-washing techniques, and have plans for future world domination. But maybe it’s not so serious. Yes, the stories start to add up, but they’re just kids, right? I mean, it’s just the silly things they say, and they’ll grow out of it as they get older?
Maybe. Or maybe not, as I remember the time Naithen prayed that the wolves would come and eat his whole family because he was mad at them… Or the time Layne and Lance constructed elaborate “girl traps” along the path of the zipline, reinforcing them with rows of sticks they’d sharpened to points . . . And as I contemplate these things I hear echoing through the house my littlest sister’s cry “Where’s my minion!?! I need my minion!!!”

Then again, perhaps, we should be concerned after all…