Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Authenticity—An Invitation to Get Real

I’m not exactly sure how it began, but somewhere along the road, my internal wiring got a little messed up. Somehow, I learned that it was better to agree and go with the flow than to challenge and have a strong opinion of my own. I figured out that giving the "right" answer that would earn the approval of others worked better for me than giving my answer, regardless of the consequences. I guess life just felt easier and hurt less that way. Fewer bumps in the road. Smoother sailing.


In case you have no idea what I’m talking about, just turn on ABC and watch an episode of The Bachelor. Dozens of girls competing for the heart of one gorgeous guy. Many of them fall into the approval trap. “Maybe if I say and do everything that he would want to hear and see, I will win him.” Excuse me while I TOSS MY COOKIES!

There is no pattern I’ve had a harder time overcoming in this life than my search for approval in my relationships. Thank the Good Lord for the book The Search for Significance. It was a life-changer—that’s for sure. The chapter entitled “Approval Addict” helped me to see that I had my wires crossed. It helped me to see that my identity is in Christ alone, and His opinion of me is the only one that matters. He already accepts and loves me just as I am, and that is enough. That reality gives me so much freedom to just be me. I am already approved and loved, so I don’t have to alter my behavior to earn that approval from someone else.

Thinking about it, my closest friends are not spineless people who do whatever I want them to do. They are full, intelligent, funny people with opinions of their own and keen senses of humor that were not formed by going with the flow of everyone around them. The people I choose to keep close are loving life-forces to be reckoned with!

This Sunday at church, my pastor was preaching from Revelation 3:14-21. In it, God Himself is speaking to the church at Laodicea. He is frustrated because the church is basically giving him lip-service, but blowing Him off. “These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God's creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” (v. 14-16) In the original text, the term “to spit you out of my mouth” is more like, “to SPEW” or “to THROW UP”. Interestingly enough, this letter is not written to unbelieving people. It is written to believers! God is not interested in spineless appeasers giving lip-service to Him, just going through the motions in a loveless, passionless way. He wants us to deal with Him in a real way, as honest and real people! God Himself is giving us believers an invitation to authenticity. An invitation to live genuinely—to tell Him just what we think about Him and to wrestle it out with Him. An invitation to get real!

Why not take Him up on His offer?

Monday, February 27, 2006

Texan Pride

It’s funny. When I lived in Texas, I rarely brimmed with Texan pride. Not like my sister and brother-in-law. Their house is a small shrine to the Lone Star State, complete with large tin stars and posters of Texas history. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love Texas. It’s home. But I guess I just always thought of it as normal. Nothing uber-special.

However, anytime I have moved away from Texas, something shifts in me. All of a sudden, I become the Texas poster child! Being an expatriate of Texas (that’s right, I said expatriate…everyone from Texas knows that it is actually its very own country), I have come to realize just how special my home state is. So today, I’d like to share some of my favorite things about Texas.

· The Flag. Isn’t she a beauty? That Lone Star implies so much. It is rugged individualism. It is strength and silence. It is the courage to stand alone and to stand tall.
· Pick-up trucks. On Texas roads and highways, they are as ubiquitous as the love bugs that collect on their bumpers. In California, I only see a few...and I miss them! They are so manly, so cowboy! I’m partial to the Ford F-150. Nice lines.
· The license plates. When I moved to L.A., it was exciting to put on my new plates, but sad to take off my Texas ones. I saved one of them, and it now decorates my cubicle at work. It’s the best conversation piece! It got the most comments the day after the Rose Bowl when Texas “wooped” USC!
· The accent. There are different accents in Texas. But the nice, slow-talkin’ sound of a Texas accent is missed here in the land of fruits and nuts.
· The attitude. Texan friendliness is just the best. The highways even have signs that say “Drive Friendly”. Not until you leave Texas do you realize how nice the people are. (Special note to my family and friends in Texas: I love you and miss you! I think of you more than you realize.)
· The wild flowers. Every spring, God clothes nature in its Sunday best with bluebonnets and Indian paintbrushes. Stunning.

“God bless you, Texas,
And keep you brave and strong,
That you may grow in power and worth
Throughout the ages long.”
-From “Texas, Our Texas”

Friday, February 24, 2006

Buen Viaje!!!

A few days ago, my mother called me on the phone squealing like she was a teenager who had just been crowned prom queen. “Tracy,” she said, “I have some news for you. I’m not pregnant, but it’s almost that exciting!” Her dear neighbors had called her a few minutes before to see if she was available for them to take her out for dinner on Saturday night. They then asked if she was available Friday night and Sunday night, as well. Mom was confused. Our neighbors continued, “We want to take you out for dinner in AMSTERDAM! We’ll be leaving Friday evening, and returning Sunday. Oh, and by the way, you’re not allowed to pay for anything except for souvenirs.”

What an awesome and unexpected gift!

Have a great time, Mom! Stay away from the dubbage. Oh, and bring some cash…I want a t-shirt! ;)

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Praise Him!

One of the things a mentor of mine has been talking about lately is “praise”. No matter what, we are to praise the Lord. When things are good, give praise. When things are not so good, give praise. When you are down in the dumps, you guessed it…give praise. The awesome thing about praise is that it takes the attention off of me and puts it where it should be--on God, Who is utterly worthy of all my praise!

The following passage of scripture has been particularly special to me lately:

Praise to God for a Living Hope

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you…” I Peter 1:3-4

New birth, a living hope, and an inheritance that no one can take away that is being kept in Heaven for us! How wonderful is our Father God, Who is already lavishing on us an inheritance that He will give us when we enter Heaven.

When I praise, the earthly things in my life that seem so important fade away. Praise takes me into the awesome presence of Christ and I am left alone with Him—nothing but Him. And then I remember that He is all I really need.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Tall, Dark, and Rich. That's how I like my...coffee!

One of the joys of living in a "charming apartment with lots of character" is that you never know what will break down next. Yesterday, the Southern California Gas Company confirmed that the hissing sound coming from my heater was, indeed, a gas leak. Funny how that coincided with one of the coldest nights L.A. has seen since I moved here. I woke up to my blaring alarm clock this morning at 6:30. While my body was nice and warm under my comforter, my face was freezing. I looked at the temperature gauge on my alarm clock, and it informed me that it was 54 degrees in my room. Brrrrrrr! I calculated in my mind how long I could stay in my cocoon and still make it to work on time. Finally, at 6:48, I emerged, jumped into my clothes, splashed water on my face and made it to work by 7:32 (that included a 25 minute drive to work).

I was cruising through the first hour of work when I hit an invisible brick wall that demanded a cup of coffee NOW! Try as I might to stay off the caffeine, there are mornings that simply require it, and all I can do is sip in sweet submission. Mmmm.

In honor of our friend, coffee, I thought I'd share some wonderful (selected) song lyrics from a song called "Coffee Break" from the musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.

There's no coffee! No coffee! Oh!

If I can't take my coffee break,
My coffee break, my coffee break . . .
If I can't take my coffee break,
Something within me dies.
Lies down and something within me dies.

If I can't make three daily trips
Where shining shrine
Benignly drips
And taste cardboard between my lips,
Something within me dies.
Lies down and something within me dies.

That office light doesn't have to be fluorescent;
I'll get no pains in the head.
That office chair doesn't have to be foam rubber;
So if I spread, so I spread;
But only one chemical substance
Gets out the lead--Like she said:

If I can't take my coffee break,
My coffee break, my coffee break . . .
If I can't take my coffee break,
Gone is the sense of enterprise
All gone, and something within me dies.

If I can't take my coffee break,
Somehow the soul no longer tries;
Somewhere I don't metabolize;
Something within me . . .
Coffee or otherwise,
Something inside of me dies!

Have a great day, and enjoy the buzz!!!

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Bravely, they walked...

For Christmas, a family friend gave me a wonderful gift--a paraphrase of the Bible called The Message. It has provided me with, by far, the richest Bible-reading experience I've had in a long time. It's as if the translators performed open-heart surgery on the Word of God, and you can see and hear the true heartbeat of the Bible.

I've been taking my time reading through the book of Acts, and Sunday, I was reading the end of chapter 20. Paul is on his way back to Jerusalem, where the Spirit has already let him know "repeatedly and clearly that there are hard times and imprisonment ahead." Could you imagine? On his way back to Jerusalem, he stops in Ephesus to say good-bye to his dear friends there. He knows he will never see them again. On bended knee, they pray together. "And then a river of tears. Much clinging to Paul, not wanting to let him go. They knew they would never see him agian--he had told them quite plainly. The pain cut deep. Then, bravely, they walked him down to the ship."

I was so impressed by that last sentence. So many times, it feels like God is prying something from my hands that I want to hold on to so tightly. But relinquishing bravely must have a special place in the heart of God. I can see it beating on the pages of His Word.

Monday, February 20, 2006

My Happy Places

In this life, I have found that there are certain places that I never tire of visiting. They are places of fun, good times, and nearly always places of comfort. I call them my "Happy Places".

Since today is President's Day, some of us are working, and some are not. I figured that the half that is working would enjoy the following list of happy places as a nice escape from the daily grind. And the other half who are out on holiday today could use this as a list of ideas for somewhere to go today.

1.) Il Pastaficcio; Italian Restaurant; Zaragoza, Spain--Okay, it is probably a little far away for any of us to frequent today, but this was the original place termed my "Happy Place". After enduring bland Spanish food for days on end, I could always count on the warm atmosphere, handsome waiters, and delicious food of this golden nugget of a restaurant to cheer my countenance and my palate. Yummy.

2.) IKEA--Is this place the mothership or what? No matter how furnished your place is, a trip to IKEA can always give you an excuse to add something fun to your abode. Even if you don't buy, just walking through the place (or even flipping through the pages of their catalogue) is a total buzz-fest! The clean lines, reasonable prices, and fun designs will make your place look neat and Euro-chic! (Caution: Returning things at IKEA can be a total buzz-kill. Make sure that if you make an impulse buy that you carefully read the return policy first.)

3.) Santa Monica Beach--Most people in LA tell me that they love going to Venice Beach for a day in the sun. To me, a visit to Venice is like a visit to a wax museum...I'm glad I can say that I've been there, but I don't necessarily need to go back again. You've seen the freaks once. Do you really need a return trip to Scarytown? Once you have gotten the obligatory visit to Venice out of your system, and you are ready for a gorgeous expanse of beach, with pretty water, clean sand, and breath-takingly beautiful rows of palm trees, come out to Santa Monica beach. It has a more upscale vibe, and it's great from morning until dusk. I highly recommend a walk on the beach at sunset for a little soul-refreshment.

4.) Target--(Brings the most joy when pronounced with a French accent.) The best store with the best prices. If you enjoy bargain shopping, great buys can be found on the clearance racks. You may have to root through, but that's part of the excitement when you finally find that pearl you've been in search of for so long.

5.) Cafe Flore--My favorite little restaurant in Beverly Hills. I really like the lentil soup, the fresh fruit platter, the veggies julienne, and the raviolis. The artwork on the walls of the Eiffel Tower and the Moulin Rouge let you imagine, if only for a moment, that you are dining in Paris. Be sure to check out the ladies room when you go. It has the most adorable signs on the wall that read, "Ooo La La" and "It's all about moi"!

Friday, February 17, 2006

Catch me, Daddy!

Nothing cuts quite to the quick of my soul and holds a mirror up to the essence of "me" more than having to wait for something that I really want. A telephone call. An e-mail. A glance. Anything that will affirm or reassure me that everything (especially where my important relationships are concerned) is going to be okay. Patience really is a virtue, and one that I'm afraid I'm lacking severely.

After two days of silence following a date that was off the charts awesome, my eInterest called me last night to let me know that he's heard from his ex-girlfriend. She wants to try again. He's decided to give her a second chance.

You'd think that my sadness/madness would have started then, but the truth is, his news felt like relief in comparison to the emotional rollercoaster I had chosen to ride starting the morning after our date, when I felt sure I'd get an e-mail from him and I didn't. No e-mail that morning turned into no phone call that night and no e-mail the next morning. I'm sure all you healthy people are thinking, "It's only two days. Stop freaking out. No big deal." Well, God didn't create me with that kind of balance. He did create me with a keen sense of intuition that knew something was wrong pretty much the moment he left my door after our date. And the inner-madness that ensued while waiting to hear from him is embarrassing to admit.

What is most disconcerting about looking into this mirror being held up to my soul is that I can see how much I base my self-worth on the approval and affirmation of others. Ouch. Eewwww. Icky. Why is this my hardest life lesson to learn? Why do I insist on a continuing education in the school of hard knocks?

Remember standing on a counter top you had no business being up on when you were a little girl and yelling, "Catch me, Daddy!"? You'd jump and land safely in your Dad's arms, never doubting for even a moment that he wouldn't be ready for your leap of faith and put you safely back on the ground where you belong. Last night, I hung up the phone and raised my hands to God and cried out to Him, "Catch me, Daddy!". He did. I had a great sleep and am back on the solid ground of His peace, right where I belong.

Thank You, Lord, for never tiring of reminding me that I am good enough for You just the way that I am. And if I am good enough for You, I am definitely good enough for me, and certainly good enough for a stinky ole' boy. I love YOU! Thanks for being the One in my life I can say that to today and everyday.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Target-Rich Environment

Hey y'all! Thanks for coming to my blog! This is my first posting, and I've gotta say, it feels good to be writing in cyberspace. I want this blog to be a place where I can express myself authentically, without (too much) censorship, so here goes! What with keeping it real and all, I thought I'd start with a true confession:

My name is Tracy, and I'm a member of eHarmony. It's true. Not only am I writing on the internet, I'm dating here too. My decision to take my social life on-line began about a month ago when my dear high school friend, Amanda, came to visit me here in LA. Amanda is truly an amazing person. She is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, and has continued to serve our country in the Navy for the last ten years, since her graduation. Amanda is also a dating machine. As we visited, she regaled me with tales of several different men she has dated over the last few years. I could only stand in awe. "Amanda", I asked. "How do you meet these guys? I don't even KNOW that many guys." Her reply: "I work in a target-rich environment." Her words rang in my ears, and I realized that if I was going to get a date with a guy of quality, I was going to have to take action. I know that I will never find the man of my dreams in a bar or at a club. See, my dreamboat has to be a Christian man. And I realized that in all likelihood, I would only find him at church. Well, I live in LA and go to a ginormous church where it is nearly impossible to "mingle" with strangers after the service, and I hate the thought of making church a meet-market (though I also confess I've done that, too!). So I decided to throw my net into the net, to see what kind of fishies I could catch. I've gotta say, I'm not disappointed with the results--sure, you have to throw a few back now and then, but I've also been matched with some really nice guys...one in particular has caught my interest. But that's a story for another posting. Thanks, Amanda, for your inspiration! Target-rich, baby, yeah!