tribes.

I've been thinking a lot about the Israelites lately. About what it would have been like to travel with a tribe of people more "numerous than the stars in the sky" and live my daily life as a nomad amidst thousands of people in a tightly knit community. So much so that, last night, I dreamt about a tree that had large clusters of grapes hanging from it just like in the Promised Land. I didn't realize they were grapes, though, when I was far away - they simply looked like large, dark purple spheres suspended from the branches. It wasn't until I was closer that I realized they were bunches of colossal, lush grapes. I've always read about the Israelites in the context of their wanderings in the desert in Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy. It always seemed pretty point-blank, and I would generally see it from a sky view in my mind; I'd picture the tribes from above - small oatmeal-colored dots kicking up plumes of red dust with their sandaled feet amidst beige, animal-hide tents and camels. I'd picture the dunes covered with manna some mornings, white like flowers, and I'd always picture that classic painting of Moses with his white beard flowing in the wind while majestically holding the two tablets that listed The Ten Commandments.

Lately, however, I've been wondering what daily life was like. I'm sure there's a class specifically on this at NWC, and if so, I would love to take it. I keep thinking about the culture and how they cooked their food and what their relationships looked like. Did they have their own marketplace, amidst the traveling, to sell their wares or did they simply share everything? Did they gather around great bonfires at night to dance and worship the Lord and socialize or were things more solemn than that? I wonder especially what life then would have been like for a girl of my age. Maybe at twenty-one, I would have already been married for six years and have several children of my own, or maybe I would be tending to the sheep and drawing water from the river each day to help out the rest of my family. Would the Lord have spoken to me? Like when Elijah saw the wind and the earthquake and the fire pass by, but the Lord was not in any of them - He was in the gentle whisper. One so overwhelmingly potent with God that Elijah had to throw his cloak over his face. Or would I have seen the Lord as a pillar of fire and seen His power rumbling outwards in great swells of black smoke on top of the mountain?

Maybe I would have snuck out, under the cover of night, to swim with my friends in the Red Sea or sit near the coast and feel the hot wind on my face while I talked with Him. I wonder if I would have woven clothes and blankets or if I would have known how to strip and de-gut an animal. I wonder what my dreams would have been like and how I would have handled emotions and love and deep grief. I suppose that even amidst that kind of kinship and clan, there were still many people who felt lonely or awkward or out of place too. I bet my feet would have always been caked in dust and dirt, maybe even animal poop.

I bet everything was caked in dust.

I always thought of the desert as filled with a dry, sandy kind of silt - the kind that just slides right off once you splash water on it. But maybe it was a brick-red, clay dust - the kind that stains everything and makes cleanliness difficult (shows how much I know about Middle-Eastern deserts). I bet the women hated being dirty all the time. Or maybe they just got used to it and didn't even notice. I bet the men loved it...I always feel like men feel a little more masculine when they are covered in dirt or grime.

Anyway, I am praying that God would give me eyes to see these people as more than the simplified, flat characters placed on the felt storyboard in my second-grade Sunday School class. They had lives that were not only epic but often monotonous too. They each met the Lord in different ways, and they felt passion and anger and joy in all the intensity as any human would - maybe more so.

I have lots of thoughts on this. More might come out.

Sincerely,

Lauren

Coffee?

Been very monotonous in my coffee choices lately and would love some new suggestions. I'm needing to revamp my habits.

there can be joy.

I have been feeling very blessed by some of the sweet friendships in my life this last year. One of the greatest purposes of the church body is not only for the members to encourage each other but also to sharpen one another. I am very grateful for these friends who have not only called me out on things but have reminded me about deep love, joy, and peace from the Lord. I rode around Afton for some time with Amy this morning while she picked up job apps and coffee, and I couldn't help but feel on the cusp of something as we talked about our futures and the things we were dreaming about for the next few years and how God could change all of it for better or different. (Side note - I just opened my window to hear the rain better, and there is a cool, water smell all over the room now.) I felt the same way tonight when Els and I were sitting on the brown couch downstairs discussing monotonous days at work and her adjusting to working at the zoo and how it really is impossible to know everything there is to know about penguins and money-sorting and front desks in the first two weeks of the job. She told me how working at the zoo each day is different from going to the zoo only once or twice in a year and that there is so much more to notice: double-decker strollers, hundreds of different kinds of parents and their children, uncommonly known facts about Chloe, the two-toed sloth, and her absence at the zoo (they are currently mating her with another two-toed sloth named Stephano - what could be better than little two-toed sloth babies?)

All of this played a part in the prompt I feel now. There is so much in life to see and understand. I feel as though my heart has been in a constant mode of change this last week - like I am very much a lump of clay, and I am very much being whittled and formed, and it isn't always pleasant. It seems different to me now, though.

I am learning that, each morning, I can wake up and choose the joy that the Lord freely offers me, or I can choose to see only through my fleshly eyes and feel things through my fleshly reactions. There is great freedom in this, and I am now looking forward to some of the more uninteresting and repetitive things in my life like work and closet organizing and the mass of boxes I am sorting through in the garage (everything is being cleaned out right now). There is stuff to learn from Jesus even from the smallest points of my life.

These are just some things I've been thinking about. Hope this encourages you if you've been feeling as though you lack hope as of late.

yep.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qAU5a8RYQc0&w=300&h=200] [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UA9twB7UsYU&w=300&h=255]

i will not have a junk drawer.

Hi blog. This is just a post to say that I will no longer have a junk drawer because they are ridiculous and take way too long to sort through. I will not have one. I like to be neat, but I've always had one drawer that I put random cards or whiteboard markers or weird little nick knacks like sock monkey key chains and the Xacto blade that the janitor gave all the girl RAs to cut the hair off of the bottom of the hall vacuum. Not only does this drawer take too long to clean out, but you can forget about finding anything you need if you stick it in that black hole.  I'm not going to have one anymore.

You may now start placing bets on my success.

will be canning soon.

I think when I was younger, I always wanted to grow up a bit faster because it represented freedom. People tell me that when I'm older, I'll want those years back and wish to be younger because it represents a different kind of freedom. Right now, I feel fairly in the middle - that's why the college years are some of the best, right? Much of the freedom of an adult without the added responsibility of seven different types of bills, plus the sweet blessing of dorm life and a tightly knit community. There are still many days when I wish I was settled with a family in a home of my own. But right now, this is what the Lord has for me. I'm excited to get really involved with my church this summer and grow richly in that community, and I am excited for all the time I will get with my family in the next few months. Aunt Molly and I are in the beginnings of planning a canning party with Mom, Grandma, and some of the other women on the Bernhagen side - I just received an email from Grandma B this morning about how Uncle Ron planted lots of tomatoes, and we will have cukes around the first part of August to pickle. We might do some jams too. Also, as of late, Seattle plans are coming together nicely, and we might spend some time up in Banff and Calgary in Canada for part of the trip as well (shameless plug for Bon Iver's new album: download the early release song free - Calgary).

From where I'm sitting, if I crack the blinds on my window about two inches, all I can see are different shades of green from the pines and the old trees next to the refurbished farmhouse. The new puppy, whom I suggested we name Andy Warhol or Devotchka but is now tritely named Paityn, is curled up in a ball on the fluffier part of the white duvet. I have a mug of Good Earth tea beside me, and the whole house smells like rain.

Some days I feel overwhelmed because I thought I had this whole growing up thing under my belt already, and often, I don't. Learning to trust truth over emotion each day because the heart is deceitful above all things. There was a group started by some men on campus last semester called the Unfading. They wanted to encourage the women on campus regarding the world's lies about body image and work through other struggles while also helping fellow men make war on pornography addictions and a range of other issues like these. We discussed the verse that talks about "the beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit" and how this doesn't refer to a woman being shy and literally quiet. It means that before the Lord and, consequently, before others, that spirit is at peace and rest because this woman is finding her joy and strength in God.

This was a great encouragement for me. Being peaceful before the throne is one of the best feelings in the world.

This summer in the Cities is filled with hope.  Looking forward to what it holds.

That's all for now, lo

a grief observed.

It is stormy this morning. I'm sitting by the big windows upstairs and watching the mass of vibrantly green trees in the field next door shake. It is a 10am storm, yes it is. I wonder if the aspen (now growing in the wooden plot that was once our vegetable garden) knows it is being fed or if it just is frightened by the loudness of the sky. I know that God needs to water the earth, and intricately, this is how He does it. An ordinary trend in all aspects of life: pain produces fruit. I finished A Grief Observed a couple days ago whilst sitting by the fire/tightly zipped in a blue, nylon sleeping bag at Wild River State Park. It's pretty short, really it only takes a day or so to read. The book follows the thoughts and emotions of C.S. Lewis after his beloved wife died of cancer in 1960. I highly recommend it to anyone who has known any sort of grief of any kind (not just a death). He nails the strength of feeling and conversely, the promises God has laid out in exactness. The book opens with this:

"No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing. At other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in. It is so uninteresting. Yet I want the others to be about me. I dread the moments when the house is empty. If only they would talk to one another and not to me." 

Pastor Steve preached a message on grief at HopeCC a couple months ago and explained why grief feels so wrong, so confusing. He described us as how we first were, in Eden, and clarified that we were not created for mourning or despair or any of those numerous feelings that fit in the black bag of suffering.

Elisabeth Elliot says in Passion and Purity: "The most deeply taught Christians are generally those who have been brought into the searching fires of deep soul-anguish. If you have been praying to know more of Christ, do not be surprised if He takes you aside into a desert place, or leads you into a furnace of pain."

While we as humans were not fashioned for bereavement, the beauty of it all is that God still uses pain to produce good, in fact even marvelous, things (This seems like an obvious, cliche statement, but is in fact a very difficult thing to grasp when in the midst of it). The fight occurs when our flesh desires to ease the searing ache with worldly tools. Our souls are too eternal for this ("He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart..." Ecc. 3:11) - everything we try to fill this gaping in our hearts with falls right out, our souls are bottomless. Only He, who is eternal, can fill something fashioned with eternity in its rims.

I think this grief-manufacturing-hope is beautiful in a different kind of way than any normal, pretty thing generally is. I find it complex and mysterious and grand. It is like the night birds that I heard in the tree by my window two nights ago at 3AM. It is like the conversation with Jessie, yesterday, downtown, when she told me about hurts and grace, and her words were like jewels on the air. It is the "letting down of wings" (Ezekiel 1:25) and the changing of dust.

I am grateful for this. All of it. Praying for fresh, new, healing things.