Sunday, May 31, 2009

It's My Life.

I. Love. Bon Jovi.

Wait, let me restate that.

I. LOVE. Bon Jovi.

So imagine my joy when I got in my car after church this morning and found myself near the beginning of one of his greatest songs. I immediately started singing along:

It's my life, it's now or never
I ain't gonna live forever (wait, that's not true...)
I just want to live while I'm alive
It's my life (hmm....that's not true, either)
My heart is like an open highway
Like Frankie said, I did it my way (not the most biblical concept I've ever heard)
I just want to live while I'm alive
'Cause it's my life (simply. not. true.)

In church, Pastor John spoke about how the world is filled with small joys but the truest, fullest, most soul-satisfying joy is found in Christ alone and when Christ is exulted in preaching, that joy rises up with a resounding "YES!" within His sheep. Yet most of his Christ-exulting words fell with a dull thud on this stagnant heart of mine.

But here - here in my car with that powerful voice and that driving rock beat - I felt the greatest uprising of excitement and joy that I had felt all morning.

So what did I do?

I rolled down my windows, cranked up the volume and sang at the top of my lungs.


It's. My. Life.

Oh, precious Jesus, save me, please, I beg of you!!!


Saturday, May 30, 2009

You Can't Follow Me On Twitter, But You CAN Just Follow Me

After a very humorous conversation over dinner last night, I confirmed what I have been thinking for several months now:

I don't need Twitter.

To be honest, I have not for one second even been ever-so-slightly tempted to check it out. Not interested, thank you.

But after our enlightening dinner conversation, I now know why I don't need Twitter:

I AM Twitter.

It is no secret that I talk to myself. And living alone for the last three years has exponentially increased the quantity of things that I say out loud to nobody in particular. In fact, I seem to have lost some sense of the social barriers regarding what I say and where I say it.

Which is what we were laughing talking about at dinner.

For example, about a month ago, I was leaving Target around 4:00 in the afternoon (when everybody and their mother is at Target). As I made my way across the crosswalk, oblivious to the 25 other people who were scuttling about in the near vicinity, I was suddenly overcome with the realization that I had actually dropped out of seminary. It is a decision that I am still processing to this day. But on THAT particular day, my mind had apparently decided to process out loud. At Target. In the crosswalk. With all the people. Before I could take the words back or make the decision to at least speak in a somewhat softer tone, I had made the declaration "I just dropped out of seminary."

It was kind of like Twitter (only live and more audible):
1) I was simply making a statement about whatever I was thinking at that very moment.
2) The declaration was aimed at no one in particular. It was presented to the world, generally speaking.
3) People could choose whether or not to respond.
4) Most chose not to respond.

I would make the argument that making declarations out loud is even better than Twitter because I am not limited to 140 characters.

However, there are a few instances where electronic tweeting may help save face. For example, it may be considered more socially acceptable to tweet "Eva is cawing like an eagle" than to actually be cawing like an eagle. Out loud. In the middle of a crowded coffee shop. Sitting at a table by yourself.

But that is a story better told in person....

Monday, May 25, 2009


I am a thinker.

I thrive off of introspection.

I feel energized after allowing my mind long periods of time to process life.

I occasionally find sound to be overstimulating. I cannot listen to music (or watch TV) and cogitate (or hold a meaningful conversation) at the same time.

I enjoy spending muted car rides contemplating creative ways to bless my friends.

I struggle with smalltalk. I would rather talk about all of the meaningful things that you and I are pondering.

I LOVE reading because it feeds my brain with new musings.

I feel a sense of deep joy when I have the opportunity to sit and reflect on life with a friend as I listen to them share their thoughts and experiences with me.

Occasionally, after an exhausting day, I will sit down in my loft, lean back into the silence of my house, and just think.

This blog serves as an outlet for some of those thoughts.

I like quiet.

I like spending time in my brain.

I. Like. To. Think.

So, that begs the question(s)....

Why do I have six new preset radio stations blaring ceaselessly in my car?
Why have I invested time into watching 12 movies in the last four weeks?
Why have I exchanged the serene lullaby of a silent bedroom for the din of late night television?
Why do significant milestones pass in my friends' lives without any effort on my part to help make them meaningful?
Why have I started blasting my iPod while I shower?
Why have I started following three new TV shows?
Why do I entertain idle chitchat while ignoring the deeper questions that are begging to be asked?
Why have I traded my unfinished theology books for novels?
Why do my ears buzz with the clicks and clamor of computer-game trialware?
Why don't I have one blasted thing to blog about?

Why all the noise????

What am I so afraid of hearing if I was to just stop and think?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

A Quote About the Fall From Someone Who Was Not Even Talking About the Fall

"To err is human; to blame it on the other guy is even more human." -Bob Goddard

Oh, How I Need the Gospel!!!

Tim Keller:

RELIGION: I obey-therefore I’m accepted.

THE GOSPEL: I’m accepted-therefore I obey.

RELIGION: Motivation is based on fear and insecurity.

THE GOSPEL: Motivation is based on grateful joy.

RELIGION: I obey God in order to get things from God.

THE GOSPEL: I obey God to get to God-to delight and resemble Him.

RELIGION: When circumstances in my life go wrong, I am angry at God or my self, since I believe, like Job’s friends that anyone who is good deserves a comfortable life.

THE GOSPEL: When circumstances in my life go wrong, I struggle but I know all my punishment fell on Jesus and that while he may allow this for my training, he will exercise his Fatherly love within my trial.

RELIGION: When I am criticized I am furious or devastated because it is critical that I think of myself as a ‘good person’. Threats to that self-image must be destroyed at all costs.

THE GOSPEL: When I am criticized I struggle, but it is not critical for me to think of myself as a ‘good person.’ My identity is not built on my record or my performance but on God’s love for me in Christ. I can take criticism.

RELIGION: My prayer life consists largely of petition and it only heats up when I am in a time of need. My main purpose in prayer is control of the environment.

THE GOSPEL: My prayer life consists of generous stretches of praise and adoration. My main purpose is fellowship with Him.

RELIGION: My self-view swings between two poles. If and when I am living up to my standards, I feel confident, but then I am prone to be proud and unsympathetic to failing people. If and when I am not living up to standards, I feel insecure and inadequate. I’m not confident. I feel like a failure.

THE GOSPEL: My self-view is not based on a view of my self as a moral achiever. In Christ I am “simul iustus et peccator”—simultaneously sinful and yet accepted in Christ. I am so bad he had to die for me and I am so loved he was glad to die for me. This leads me to deeper and deeper humility and confidence at the same time. Neither swaggering nor sniveling.

RELIGION: My identity and self-worth are based mainly on how hard I work. Or how moral I am, and so I must look down on those I perceive as lazy or immoral. I disdain and feel superior to ‘the other.’

THE GOSPEL: My identity and self-worth are centered on the one who died for His enemies, who was excluded from the city for me. I am saved by sheer grace. So I can’t look down on those who believe or practice something different from me. Only by grace I am what I am. I’ve no inner need to win arguments.

RELIGION: Since I look to my own pedigree or performance for my spiritual acceptability, my heart manufactures idols. It may be my talents, my moral record, my personal discipline, my social status, etc. I absolutely have to have them so they serve as my main hope, meaning, happiness, security, and significance, whatever I may say I believe about God.

THE GOSPEL: I have many good things in my life—family, work, spiritual disciplines, etc. But none of these good things are ultimate things to me. None of them are things I absolutely have to have, so there is a limit to how much anxiety, bitterness, and despondency they can inflict on me when they are threatened and lost.

(HT: Vitamin Z)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

To My Mother, On Mother's Day

A poem I would like to share with my dear mother...

...because the topic of my love for her is too large and this poem is my "point of entry."

...because she gives of herself so sacrificially and receives so many lanyards in return.

...because from her hand I have received all of the blessings mentioned in the poem along with many, many more, too numerable to count.

...because I pray that I will one day be able to raise a family in the manner that she has raised hers.

...because she has loved me with a gracious, understanding, unconditional, bold, forgiving, constant, sacrificial kind of love and I, in turn, have returned home with wagons full of army worms.

...because this post is itself a lanyard, woefully inadequate at expressing the gratitude I have for my beautiful mother.

...because she takes my lanyards from me and makes me feel like we're even.

...because I love her.

Friday, May 8, 2009

On Straws and Stability

It has been an eventful week and despite all of the extra time on my hands, I have failed to communicate with anyone other than those people whom I have seen face to face. My sister used her facebook-stalking capabilities to garner some information about the situation with my foot and responded by saying that she should not have to facebook-stalk me to discover that kind of information. And she is right.

I should have blogged about it.

But I didn't. I consciously chose not to because any blog I may have written in the last week would have consisted solely of complainitory* rants and I didn't feel the need to subject my faithful blog readers to my all-too-narrow and disgustingly temporal perspective.

*I think I made this word up. But I like it, so I'm leaving it.

I cried every day for 8 days straight. Not because I had that many valid reasons for tears, but because I had a variety of proverbial straws resting ever so delicately on my back. I don't tend to mind their precarious presence as long as nothing else in my world shifts.

But we all know how frequently the world shifts....

Top 5 "Straws" from the week:

1) My fractured foot. This is more so the "haystack" than the "straw." It has been the underlying frustration that been consuming all of my coping strategies and leaving me with no reserves with which to deal with the rest of life. I am not good at being dependent. I don't like asking for help but I also don't like needing help and not getting it. Bad combo. Also, being on my feet at camp all weekend made my foot hurt. BAD.

I expected to see my doctor on Tuesday when I went in to get my boot and instead I only spoke to a nurse who had NO idea what she was doing and proceeded to throw away a useful-but-not-essential part of my boot while giving me the wrong directions on how to wear it. ANNOYING.

My medical team also started throwing around talk of surgery which turned out to be an anxiety-producing thought for me. Good thing they were only going to make me wait TWO WEEKS to see the surgeons (enter sarcasm here). In the meantime, I had been left with wishy-washy instructions from my primary team who have quickly been losing my confidence. I spent the week desperately anxious to talk to someone who knew ONE DANG THING about feet who could tell me what was wrong with mine and what I needed to do to make it better. But that wasn't happening.

Also, I can no longer run (or even walk) the 5K with my dad and sister next weekend, so I have been very, very disappointed about that.

So there have been tears. Mostly tears of frustration, but also tears of disappointment and one bout of tears from the pain.

2) After camp on Sunday I went to Long Prairie to visit my grandparents. I could hear something buzzing around my head as I walked up the driveway, so I just kept shaking my head to get it away. As I walked in the garage, I realized the buzz was behind my ear but too close to just be around my head. It was at this point that I became convinced the buzzing critter was stuck in my hair. I just kept shaking my head since my hands were tied up with my crutches.

I got in the house, flipped my hair upside down and recruited my aunt to help me find the pesky creature. She reached her hand out to tousle my hair and it promptly stung me on the crown of my head. We finally freed the wasp from his curly cage and my dear mother, in righteous indignation on behalf of her daughter, smashed him into juicy nothingness and then smashed him some more just for good measure.

Meanwhile, my tear ducts reacted to the surprise of the first sting of my life by spilling their hot liquid onto my cheeks. I do have to say, my ducts were well-primed from my car ride home when I called my dad to tell him I could not run with him while my aching, throbbing heel rested heavily against the floorboard of my car.

So I sat there with my leg up on some pillows and a bag of peas on my head and, with tears streaming down my face, told my dear grandparents about our great weekend at camp.

My sister has always called my hair a bee's nest and she found it ironically funny that her joke is now a little bit true. If she starts calling it a rat's nest I think I will punch her in da mouf.

3) I got my new Mac this week and have been using my extra time to learn my way around and get stuff set up on my GREAT new machine. One of my goals for the week was to go in and get the free download of Microsoft Office from work so that I could start opening some of my applications.

After physically exhausting myself by crutching around both campuses at work (I didn't remember where I supposed to go to pick up the CD and I ended up walking WAY too far out of the way) I discovered that they no longer provide Office for home computers. Which only sucks all the more because I declined the discounted version that Apple offers you with the purchase of a new computer because I was just going to get it free from work. I hate making bad decisions (like jumping off walls and declining discounted software that I want on my computer) and I found the situation frustrating.

4) So I headed back to my car annoyed that I didn't have an Office CD well aware that my meter was running low and I was moving much to slowly to get there on time. I was only a few minutes behind, so I wasn't to worried about it.

That is, I wasn't too worried about it until I was standing at the crosswalk waiting for the light to change and saw the parking police driving down the street.

I still was not overly concerned until I saw them turn down the side street where I was parked.

So, crutching as fast as I could (which is not NEARLY as fast as I can walk) I hoped to at least make it around the corner so I could yell down the street and hopefully garner some pity with my crutches and boot. I turned the corner just in time to see the brake lights go off as they pulled away from my car. I was 6 minutes late. And I was frustrated.

5) I am trying to refinance my house to get rid of a ridiculously high interest rate on one of my mortgages. I know embarrassingly little about everything and anything to do with loans, interest rates and refinancing and, therefore, get overwhelmed by the process all too easily. I just want my dad to do it for me. And HE wants to do it for me because nothing gives him more joy than taking care of his girls. But I'm a big girl now and it's time for me to put on my big girl pants. I just don't like those pants because they don't fit very well and I find them highly uncomfortable.

Now on to the good news....

Top 5 Joys of the Week:

1) As long as I was getting out my big girl pants, I decided to make a few calls and become a self-advocate (which I have realized is absolutely essential if you want to know anything about your care in a massive health care system). I successfully got my appointment with the surgeons moved up to this morning (a full week eariler than originally scheduled) and I finally got some answers from someone who knows SOMETHING about feet!

The verdict (drumrolldrumrulldrumrolldrumrolldrumroll): I DON'T have to have surgery (HUGE answer to prayer!!!).

My fracture is a stable fracture and although it does need time to heal, nothing is moving around which means nothing needs to get pinned back together. YAAAAAAY!!!!! Turns out the stability of my tear ducts is directly proportional to the stability of my fracture. I can handle the pain as long as I know I am not doing damage to my foot. I can wear my boot with confidence as long as I know it is the proper treatment for my particular fracture. And I can enjoy my time off work as long as I know that I will not need the short term disability that I am currently using to recover from surgery somewhere down the road. Such. A. Relief.

2) I got my new Mac and I. Love. It. A lot a lot a lot.

3) I got my haircut.

My typical haircut pattern is to get my hair chopped, grow it out until it is too long for me to stand it and then get it chopped again. This happens approximately every 3-5 months. I have been wanting to keep my hair long, but it has been getting to that point where it doesn't look good anymore and I leave it down for about 30 minutes before putting it up in a ponytail. Every. Single. Day.

I really didn't want to get it chopped, but it also didn't look good (at ALL) so I decided to pursue a very mild experiment in the hopes that I could keep it long but still feel cute. I went in and asked my hairdresser to trim the ends, even out the layers, and thin out a few spots that were getting too thick. I also asked her to see if she could cut some of the bulk away from my face without making it look like a mullet (or in my case, a fullet). This has been the primary barrier to me keeping my hair long in the past - the weight of my hair makes for a poor frame for my face when my curls are long, but I have been dreadfully afraid of the short-in-front long-in-back look, so when the curls in front get too long, I chop them all - front AND back.

Well, my dear hairdresser did exactly what I asked and it turns out that it is SUPER CUTE!!! I am excited to enjoy my LONG(ish) hair while still being able to wear it DOWN and feel CUTE. Yay! And lest you think you're in for some big surprise, I should mention that the style is no different and if I didn't tell you I had gotten it cut, you probably wouldn't even notice. But I notice. Boy, oh boy, do I notice.

4) One month ago I was doing full-time work and full-time school. For the last three weeks, I have been doing neither. Which means I have had time to watch movies. And I. Love. Movies. I have watched Australia and Wolverine (I LOOOOOOOVE me some Hugh Jackman....but that's a whole 'nother post.....), Earth and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. I have also re-watched Remember the Titans, Miss Congeniality and The Fellowship of the Ring. I would recommend them all. Especially the ones starring Hugh Jackman.

5) I have also had time to be social again and it has been very, very good for my heart. I have been spending as much time as possible with a dear friend who is leaving for Mercy Ships in two short weeks and I have managed to see her every day this week. Tuesday was Rockband, dinner, good conversation and Planet Earth with Lindsay, Wednesday was a sampling of Chris' creative cuisine and good, long conversation with a group of friends, and Thursday night was jeloff rice at Chinwe's (a Nigerian staple made by a native Nigerian....SO good!) followed by pictures and stories of a friend's trip to Europe and a movie. There are more plans for hanging out tonight followed by an overnight in the cities with friends tomorrow into Sunday. So. Much. Fun. (My fractured heel is really slowing me down, in case you couldn't tell......).

So, that is my update. Now you don't have to facebook stalk me to know what is going on. You just have to read my blog. :)

Congratulations on making it to the end of this ridiculously long post. I assume at this point I am only talking to my mom. But I'm okay with that. I'm excited to come see you in Green Bay next weekend. You and Dad better be practicing your Rook!!!

Friday, May 1, 2009

You Guys Are GOOD!

I should recruit you to pray more often.

I got a call from my doc shortly after that last post and finally got an answer.

They looked at the CT scan that I had this morning and they found the fracture in my heel.

I am relieved to at least know what it is and why it hurts so bad. I am happy that they are no longer treating me like the wuss with the sprained ankle. And I am frustrated that it will be a while before it heals or even feels better.

Sounds like I am getting a boot on Tuesday and then going in to see the orthopedic foot guys in a week or two.

Also, we are speaking at 8:00 tonight, 9:45 tomorrow morning and 8:30 on Sunday.

Thanks, guys!!

Taking Our Show On The Road

"Circus act" might be a more appropriate title, but we'll go with "show" for now.

My mom, my sisters and I are speaking at Camp's Mother-Daughter retreat this weekend. We would appreciate your prayers.

We are speaking tonight, tomorrow morning and Sunday morning. I am not sure exactly what times. And, in true Brandes form, there will be some fun to be had as well. Some of that fun will be in the form of piano duets, accordion performances and a medical procedure or two. Also, one of those three things may not happen. I'll leave it to you to decide which one.

Please pray:
- That we would be faithful messengers - telling the stories we have been given and pointing to Jesus.
- That the Holy Spirit would be at work among the women and girls, transforming lives and drawing people to Him.
- That the truth would be heard clearly and would take root while anything of ourselves would fall away.
- That feelings of inadequacy would keep us humble but not be a barrier.

And one personal request: Please pray for my stupid foot. It has already had me in tears twice today. And I'm not talking about misty-eyed tears. I'm talking about all-out, full-blown, tears-on-the-neck, will-someone-PLEASE-get-me-a-Kleenex, now-I-have-a-headache, I-think-I'll-pull-off-the-freeway-and-get-some-ice-cream, mmmm-that-cappuccino-heath-blizzard-was-good kind of tears. I'm just sick of the pain of it all (both the literal physical pain and the figurative pain [read:frustration] of crutches and dependence and not being able to work and not having any answers). So, please pray for patience and for healing and for some sort of answer that will help my medical team decide how to best assist with the healing process. Thanks.