Saturday, November 30, 2013

Black Friday

So, yesterday, as many of you are probably aware, was Black Friday.  I knew Black Friday was coming, obviousy, because of all the hype that leads up to it, but, then, when it actually got here, and it was sort of just my lets-get-home-before-Sarah-has-to-go-to-work day, I forgot that it was also Black-Friday-when-people-buy-all-the-things.

You see, for most of my life, my entire family celebrated Thanksgiving on top of a large-ish hill in Arkansas (I would say mountain, except people who have seen the Rockies would argue with me…) very far away from Black Friday specials.

We ate traditional Thanksgiving food on the first day, and cooked a whole bunch of new foods the next day (a pleasant side effect of having a cousin who has a somewhat decent knowledge of more cultures than I can ever hope to acquaint myself with).

Oh, and the first day was called Thanksgiving, and the next day was called Friday, or The-Day-After-Thanksgiving, if you prefer that.

I have literally never been to a store (except maybe the grocery store in Smalltown, AR) on Black Friday in my life, and I really didn’t intend to ever set foot in one.  It’s not necessarily that I’m an embracer-of-causes or a lifter-up-of-the-underdog or even a pointer-of-fingers-at-consumerism.  I’m really not that noble.  I just really am not attracted to huge sales and the crowds that inevitably come with them.

So, back to yesterday, Black-Friday-that-I-forgot-was-Black-Friday.  We get home in time to send Sarah off to work, and I sit down to prioritize what I’m going to get done.  Lights on the tree, check; finish knitting project, almost check, then I remember something.  I recently bought a new-to-me laptop.  My old one is dying a slow and painful death, and I’ve decided to try a Macbook, so I bought a friend’s used one from her, just to see what I think.  But I need to back all of my stuff up like a responsible person.  I don’t have an external hard-drive or anything, so, I think to myself, well, I’ll just run to Walmart really quickly and see what they have.

I don’t know why it seemed like a good idea to go to Walmart right at that second, mid-knitting, but I can guarantee you that Black Friday never crossed my mind, or I most certainly would not have gotten up from my comfy sunny spot on the couch.

So, I get into the car, and drive peacefully to Walmart.  As soon as I pull into the parking lot, I know something is wrong.  If you have to wait in line for a parking space at what is possibly the only remaining only-open-until-11-pm-non-super Walmart left in Texas, something very strange is happening.

I remembered then, that it was Black Friday.

But then I thought to myself, it’s not like I avoid this tradition for any noble upstanding reasons.  I just don’t like the crowds and the herd mentality that inevitably manifests itself on such occasions.  Plus, I only needed one thing.

How difficult could it be to grab one thing from electronics and get out fast?

Difficult, folks.  Very very difficult.

I walked into that store and had the most bizarre experience ever.  This is literally the tiniest of Walmarts, but there were people from out of town inside!  How do I know that, you ask?  Because they had Starbucks cups in their hands…

I live in a tiny town with a tiny Walmart, where there is never a line of more than 6 people for every cash register available.  Except, maybe when all the Summer Staff go into town at once, but that’s a story for a different time…

The sheer amount of people was overwhelming.

In fact, I was so overwhelmed that I made a small involuntary noise, which made people turn their heads and look at me.  Not a scream, exactly, but probably a scream’s very small, timid cousin.

It was weird, people.  So weird, in fact, that I had to call Sarah for reassurance that I was actually still a normal human being in a normal world.  I ended up talking to Lima instead of Sarah, which was helpful, since she’s also a human, and quite a reassuring one at that.

I don’t get anxiety in crowds, or anything, but that experience unnerved me, and served to reinforce in my head that I don’t ever want to be a part of that crowd.

I kind of wanted to cry a little bit on the way home.

Then, when I got to my apartment, I pulled into the parking lot and saw a perfect patch of sun on my porch.  After my harrowing experience, I needed something soothing and calm, so I knew I needed to sit in that sunny spot and read a good book.  But, my porch floor is not exactly comfortable, and I have no patio furniture.

So, I exercised my creative side and pulled my comfy chair out of my living room onto the porch, and boy was it a lovely few hours.  Not only did I read a book, I had some tea and even enjoyed a lovely cat-nap.

My soul was satisfied.

Then the sun set and I came back inside.

And then my cell phone died and I realized I’d left my charger at my parents’ house.  Literally no one that I know in this town uses the same phone as I do (I live in a small town, remember?)

So where does this leave us?

You guessed it – it’s still Black Friday, and now Esther legitimately has to go to Walmart.  Now, I realize that maybe this wasn’t truly a “legitimate” need, and I could have lasted a little while without a phone, but I was at home alone and Sarah wasn’t going to be home from work for a while, and, honestly, I wasn’t too concerned for myself, but I could just imagine my Mother trying to call me, and not being able to get ahold of me, so calling Sarah, and Sarah calling me, and everyone getting very concerned, and someone deciding to leave work to make sure I was okay, and, and, and…

I decided to go to Walmart.

I got in my car all doom and gloom, then this order of events occurred:

The radio was playing only the best songs, and no commercials
I found a parking space easily
I crossed paths with a lovely girl in the parking lot, who was nice, and restored my faith in humanity
I walked into the electronics section and found exactly what I needed immediately
I got up to the registers, and there was one wide open, with a sweet girl working it

Throughout all of this, I was still expecting badness at every turn, but there was something about that checker that just knocked me out of my doom and gloom mind-set and made me realize that I had just had a lovely, smooth Walmart run.  Then, I couldn’t help but count the goodness:

I backed out of my parking space without hitting anyone (not that I normally hit people, but it’s one of my biggest fears that one day I will, and while we’re counting the goodness, why not count all of it?)
I got to a rather long red light and remembered the trick of turning on your brights to make the camera see you – worked like a charm
The radio was still playing all the best music
I found Christmas lights on my way home

I don’t really believe in “luck” per se, but I sure do believe in a God who gives good gifts to His children, and He treated me in a major way tonight.

For that, I am thankful.

Monday, September 9, 2013

I would do it all over again if I could.

The first writing prompt in the Blogtember challenge was to write about where or what I come from.
First, lets just say that my cousin pretty much said it all last week with her Where I come From post.
Also?  I've already written this, and the end of this pretty much sums up what I call home.
If you want to see pictures of one of my many country homes, you can go here.
And these two poems say a lot about growing into who I am today, and what family means to me.

I'm big on being aware of your past, of knowing the building blocks of who you are today, and I think most of my poetry would tell you that.  I write almost exclusively personal poems dealing with my past - the good and the hard.

But sometimes, "where you come from" is not so distant in the past.  If you're like me, who you are today started about 5 years ago, and who you were then is someone that you hardly even know now.

I came to Camp Tejas in the Summer of 2008, hardly having any idea what I was in for.  Yes, I had learned all the facts about my job in my interview, and probably the words "Live, Serve, and Grow" were tossed around in that interview, but I had no idea just how much living, serving, and growing were going to happen in this place.

My first two summers - 2008 and 2009 - were filled to the brim with living and serving.
So much living.
And so much serving.
I was exhausted at the end of both, but so happy.  That living gave me the best friendships I could ever hope to have.
(The highlight of 2009? Meeting this girl, and knowing within the first five minutes that we were going to be friends forever.)

The growing, though, oh the growing.  That part is hard, and not always happy.  I am so glad we grow physically the most when we are tiny children and our memories are not fully developed enough to store that pain.  Growing emotionally is hard.  I can't imagine how hard growing physically is.

2010 was the year of growing - of fighting battles and learning there isn't always a clear winner.  Things aren't always as black and white as you think they are.

I stayed away from camp in 2011.  I realize now it was probably a mistaken effort to avoid more painful growth, but I also realize that it was a needed absence.  Without that absence, I wouldn't have returned after I graduated and become full-time in camping ministry.
Sidenote:  It's still weird to me to say "Oh, I work in camping ministry" like someone would say "Oh, I'm a banker" or something.

And if I thought 2010 was hard, I had no idea what was coming for me in 2012 and 2013.  I have fought more Apollyons than I thought existed in my life, and most of them stemming from unrefined parts of myself that I wish would just hide in dark corners, so I wouldn't have to chase them out.
But that's not the way it works in real life.  We have to fight those dark things out of the corners and into the open, or we will never grow.  We will never come from anything.

So, all that being said, I'm going to go ahead and cover the second writing prompt for Blogtember:

If you could take three months off from your current life and do anything in the world, what would you do?

First of all, when someone says three months, regardless of what they're talking about, my first thought is Summer - May to August - three little months in which so much happens.  I can't help it.  That is the 3-month time frame that my mind jumps to.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the thing I would really love, more than anything else in the world is to do Summer 2010 over again - to open up to all that growth that wanted so badly to happen, but had to wait; to more quickly welcome the me who would eventually come from that time.

I've never had a big desire to travel or do something crazy different with my life than what I'm doing now.  Sure, I have dreams, and I've been to some places, and I'll probably go to some more.  As a result of camp, I now have friends in Australia, Thailand, South Korea, South Africa, Kenya, Wales, and Ireland, for goodness' sake.  I feel like I will probably do some traveling in my time, but the thing I would actually spend my 3 months on without regretting a minute of it?
Washing dishes, and fixing bloody noses, and cleaning cabins, and laughing, and crying, and growing.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

She's Alive, and She's Even Guest Posting!

It is now September, and woefully past the time when I should have picked this poor little blog back up out of the dust I left it in for the Summer.  But man, did this Summer require a doozy of a recovery time.
I sat back and looked at my life the other day, and realized that, just about every season since January of 2012 I've been doing new things and learning new aspects of Camping Ministry.  Summer was the same thing again.  This Fall retreat season is the first time that I know what I'm doing because I've done it before.
That's a whole lot of growing and stretching and learning to experience.  I have succeeded at things I never imagined myself capable of.
I've also failed miserably, and received much grace, for which I am so grateful.
For curiosity's sake, I just went back and read last year's coming-back-from-the-summer post.  Friends, I could say most of those things word for word about this year and they would be equally true.  Summer at camp is beautiful and fulfilling in a way that a relaxing vacation could never be, but it sure is hard.

That's all you're going to hear about that.  I'm going to pick this blog back up (sort of) like I never left off, with my first challenge!  I've decided to participate in the Blogtember challenge this month... and since I'm already a week late in hopping on this bandwagon, we'll just have to see how it goes.  First post - about where I come from - to come tomorrow!

Now, as some of you might suspect from the title of this post, I have another first going on as well - my first guest post!  My cousin, Kassie, texted me a little while back and asked if I would be interested in guest posting on her blog even though I hadn't posted on mine in a little while.

Guys, I've seen guest posts on other blogs and thought about how fantastic and exciting it would be if I ever got to do one, but that was always in terms of years and years from now when I actually have time to focus on blogging.  I was blown away and so incredibly honored that Kas would ask me to guest post for her.

Kassie and I have been friends from day one.  So many of my friends talk to me about how they don't really know their cousins or family members, and every time I have that conversation, I am so grateful to have the Kitchen family in my life.

From blowing out each other's birthday candles and wearing each other's clothes when we were tiny to Sushi and cupcake dates today, I wouldn't trade my friendship with Kas for anything.  So to have her admire my writing enough to want it on her blog was so encouraging.

What I would trade?  My entire wardrobe for hers any day...

Saturday, June 8, 2013

A Buzzword Study

Christians have a lot of buzzwords, almost to the point where it's kind of hilarious. (Dare I say a little ridiculous?)  But, I have to say, some "buzz-words" really do strike a chord in my heart and express, quite well, what we're all about.

One of those words is community. Christians are called to live in community. If we really wanted to be like the early church, we would "all be together and have all things in common." (Acts 2:44)
That's a big calling, and one that I don't see a lot of people living out on the daily. I know I hardly ever live it out - maybe once or twice a year when I get a sudden urge to make dinner for my friends.

Living in community is a huge calling and one we're never going to excel at because, lets face it, we're humans and we're selfish, and we're sinful. That's never going to change.

God does give us times in our lives, though, where it's easier to do the community thing. I'm in one of those right now. Ironically, it started about the time I moved off camp.

When I lived on camp, I was literally living out the whole "they were all together" part of Acts 2:44. There were somewhere around 30 of us believers (including children) all living on the same piece of land (in separate houses, thankfully, but still...) and I rarely took advantage of the opportunity to "fellowship" (sorry, you know I had to fit that one in here somewhere) with the others. Yeah, we had monthly pot-lucks, but I left as soon as I was done eating, and yeah, I ate dinner at people's houses, but I was usually one of the first out the door and I never bothered to have people over to my house. I was totally ignoring the whole "they had all things in common" part.

But since I've moved off camp, I've found myself lingering longer and longer in the evenings and not rushing off. I've found myself being hyper-sensitive to the little evidences that we are a community, and, though we (I) may not always get it right, we do sometimes get it pretty close to right:

A few months ago, we (the ladies in the office) were discussing the menu for the day and Paul was working away, but still listening, apparently, because, when we named lunch, he practically jumped out of his chair with a gasp and an over-joyed (and perhaps over-dramatic?) "We're having Hawaiian Stack-ups?!"

We share meals together quite frequently. Also? We all know what Hawaiian Stack-ups are, even if we don't all love them as much as Paul apparently does.
We live in community - we have food in common.

A while back, I was walking past my car, which had been parked in the same spot in front of the office all day, around mid-afternoon, and noticed a styrofoam cup sitting on the back of it. I didn't have to think twice - before I even walked over to it, I knew it was a full cup of coffee that Mike had left there. A few hours later, I teased Mike - "hey, you left your coffee on my car." He replied "yeah, I realized that later on, but then I though 'ah, Esther will know its mine and she'll have thrown it away already.'"

We know we each have our own little quirks, but even better - we know each other well enough that we're okay with knowing that other people know our quirks.
We live in community - we have quirks in common.

This past Spring, I was privileged to be a part of the first "Community Group" I've ever been involved in.  All my growing up years, I went to a small church that definitely believed in community, but we are an unusual church.  We have a very specific purpose that has been laid on our hearts by God.  Maybe one day I'll write about it.

But, because of the fact that we have that purpose, we don't have many of the "bells and whistles" (beautiful bells and whistles, might I add) that characterize so many churches in our American Christian culture.

Being a part of that community group was a very eye-opening experience for me.  I realized that living in community is not at all easy or natural.  I had to work hard to make sure that I actually made it there, and I won't lie, there were nights when I didn't particularly want to make the 30-minute drive to get there, but I did, and it was so worth it!

In our community group, we shared stories, we invented ways to help others with our meager resources, we learned, we grew in our faith, and we walked with each other through difficult times.

Also?  We walked together through good times - through baptisms, lunches at Ramos, happy-baby-days, weird baby TV shows, and cook-outs.

That's the thing about Christian community - it's not reserved just for sitting in a circle and talking about Jesus and how to love Him more and how to be more like Him (although that's one of my favorite parts), it's really about sharing His gifts with each other and facing life together whether it requires laughter or tears...or both at the same time.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

How You Know You've Really Backed Yourself Into a Corner

I'm not a huge fan of New Year's Resolutions in general. I just sort of make resolutions whenever and for whatever length of time I please (such a rebel). But this year, I did make one New Year's resolution - not to buy a single stitch of clothing for myself for the entire year. Some of you may not realize what a big deal this is, but trust me, it's HUGE!

So far, I've been successful, and it's been a lot easier than I thought it would be. Hooray for that!

However, I've recently made another resolution which is equally important to me. This summer, I've decided to hold myself to a stricter standard of modesty even than the one to which we hold the girls on summer staff here at camp.

I've decided to enforce the fingertip rule on myself. Dun dun dun.

The reason this is such a big deal is that I have "monkey arms" for lack of a better descriptor. My fingertips are almost at my knees when I relax my shoulders and hang my arms by my sides.

I am not in the habit of wearing shorts that reach my knees.

In going through my wardrobe, I've found exactly 5 pairs of shorts that comply with my new rule, plus 4 more pairs that do, but are a little small.

Guys, I cannot survive the summer with only 5 pair of shorts!

Neither do I want to overturn my original resolution.

I guess the solution is to lose a little weight?

I had no idea this resolution thing would suddenly get really hard.

Friday, February 22, 2013

High Five for Friday #1

I've been following Lauren for quite some time and, guys, I think she's just adorable.
She has this "link-up" thing that she does, which I've wanted to join for quite some time now.

Let's just pause for a moment and comment on how inept Esther is at "social" blogging.  I don't have any idea what the purpose is of a "link-up" or if I'm even saying or spelling it correctly, but here we go anyway:

1.  I got to work on Saturday morning to find this beauty right out my windshield as I parked my car

2.  On Sunday, I dropped everybody off at Camp after church and felt like taking a country drive.  I found some tall Pines and could not have been happier.

3.  This doesn't look like it should be a highlight of anybody's week...

but when it happened, I knocked on Seth's door and he immediately came to help.  It was such a good example of the fantastic community I live in and a reminder that I should be immediately ready to serve others.  Even if I can't help them with their flat tires, I can at least make them dinner or something.

4. Speaking of which, this week, my sweet roomie was sick, which was not a highlight, but it did give me a great excuse to get in the kitchen and make some chicken soup. I had a wonderful time listening to Needtobreathe and Phil Wickham, chopping veggies like my life depended on it.

5.  A dear dear friend will be leaving camp soon and I've been milking every moment I have left with her close by.  We had a lovely night in Bastrop this week and caught this view in a parking lot.

From (1) one parking lot to (5) another parking lot.  How's that for full-circle?


Sometimes people you love have unexpected health issues and surgeries as a result.
Sometimes one of your second-graders in Children's Church, the precious doe-eyed one with dimples and shaggy hair, sits against the wall, and when you go to check on him, he tells you he just wants to blow up all the supplies and burn the whole place down.
Sometimes the sun doesn't shine for days.
Sometimes it hits you that you might be single for the rest of your life and you have to fight Apollyon as a result.
Sometimes you cry and you don't know why.

But sometimes, oh friends
Sometimes you call your Mom and she already knows because she's been praying for you for the past three days so you don't have to explain anything and you can just listen to her voice for a little while.
Sometimes the wind is at your back and the sun is on your face as you jog next to a precious friend.
Sometimes you are unexpectedly in possession of a new (to you) car.
Sometimes your boss sets half an orange on your desk just because.
Sometimes you escort a nice Grandfatherly stranger to the Marmax on a golf cart because he has nothing better to do than to drive all the way out to camp to see if it's easier to fit 7 or 8 chairs around a round table, and for a minute, the two grandfathers you lost are right there beside you.
Sometimes a friend whom you haven't talked to in a while sends you just the words you need to hear.
Sometimes Orion comes out of hiding and reminds you again that you're not alone.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Today Was Sunny

The past five days or so have been possibly some of the worst I've had in many years, culminating with me crying in the office last night in front of my director and the CEO, both of whom I love and am incredibly comfortable with, but really, Esther?
(Sheesh, how about that for a crazy run-on?)

Okay, so maybe some of you have really good memories that stretch all the way back to the episode where Esther cries in the dentist's office.  And maybe those of you with the long memories are beginning to doubt all of this Esther-really-doesn't-ever-cry business that I keep trying to feed you.

But let me tell you, ask anybody outside of my family, and they have probably never seen me cry.
I mean ask anybody outside of my family other than the CEO of camp, my director, and my dentist...

I mean, seriously.  After the whole crying-in-the-dentist's-office experience, I felt like I was scarred for life.  I had no idea how that happened.  It was just like it came out of the middle of nowhere.

Also?  I'm pretty sure he was scarred for life as well.  I had an appointment last week, and he was about as nice as he could be.  I mean, talking to me like I was an emotionally fragile 5-year old kind of nice (which, come to think of it, is probably pretty much how he views me now).
And do you think he mentioned a single word about my wisdom teeth, which are all four still firmly lodged in my mouth?
No sir, he sure didn't.

In the office yesterday, it was the same way.  One minute, I'm talking like a normal person, the next moment, I'm sobbing.

Many times, I've expressed to people how frustrated I am with this crying-less-than-once-a-year way of "handling" my emotions, or rather this lack of emotional maturity and appropriateness.  So maybe this crying-at-the-drop-of-a-hat method of emotional expression is just a step on the journey to learning how to cry at appropriate times?
No, don't answer that.

One thing I did notice was that, aside from the real reasons for the emotional turmoil of the last several days, there was hardly any sunshine to be seen until yesterday afternoon.  Now, we all know that Esther does not do well with lack of sunshine (see item number 1), so maybe that had something to do with it.

Maybe I'll never know, and maybe that's okay, but I do know two things:
  1. Currently I'm listening to Jack Johnson, Michael Franti, Bob Marley, Colbie Cailait, and Van Morrison, and if that doesn't cheer you up, you're probably not entirely human
  2. Today was sunny

So, folks, I'm pretty sure Esther-who-doesn't-cry-all-the-time is well on her way back from wherever she ran away to.