The Designer

I am plain. There is nothing extraordinary I see when I look at myself in the mirror. Brown, mousy hair, dark brown eyes, bad, pale skin, nothing special. But I am tiny; so much so that it’s almost ridiculous – a grown woman standing just 4’10″ inches tall and proportionately small and thin all around. Because of my smallness being my one and only distinctive feature – I am invisible. Living this way, I have come to find that if people to not see “small,” they do not see me. It is only when I am standing and they can notice it that they notice me, without it, I am invisible, as if “small” is who I am…

I recently learned of a quote ascribed to John Piper. It reads,

It is about the greatness of God, not the significance of man. God made man small and the universe big to say something about Himself.- John Piper

I love this quote because it causes my heart to tremble and my brain to bloom and run wild with praise for my Creator – my Designer. Today however, I read this quote with a different focus. What of the appearance of that plain, ordinary woman in the mirror? What if she too, says something about the character of her Creator?

As I think of this and see my reflection and I know that I am designed to be simple, on purpose. That my eyes, hair, skin, all was forged with the utmost care, deep in the darkness before even a day of my life had passed. And that He even set the limit to which my small form would grow, on purpose.

What does this design say about the Designer? Perhaps that He is concerned with, and sees beauty in the ordinary. That He delights too, in the ridiculously small. That even the invisible does not escape His sight. That plainness is also beautiful to Him.

Home for the Holidays (Part 1)

I titled this post “Home for the Holidays,” because I’d like to write a post about our new house! In the past 3 months, Tristan and I have gone through the agonizing, emotionally-charged process of buying our first home…and it was worth it. Below is an Instagram that was taken earlier this month of our house the weekend after we moved in on December 3rd.

our house

To say that I can explain to you how this happened would be a lie – I can’t explain it; it was all God’s doing. But I will try to summarize the series of events that lead to the purchase of this beautiful home.

It was the end of September. By this time, Tristan and I had been looking for another rental property for months. The longer we looked, the further from the city our search took us, but nothing seemed the right size, for the right price that wasn’t falling apart. It was my prayer that we would find another place to live before it got too cold since it felt like we had barely survived 2013′s polar vortex in our brick and plaster apartment. I remember praying one night, with tears in my eyes, that I just didn’t want to be cold again. And I didn’t really want more of the same dirty places that I had become used to – I felt that I had tried still, to make the apartment nice and home to me- but it wasn’t , and after our first winter there I once again felt trapped in a pit I couldn’t escape.

One day, our home search took us to Pottstown. It was a old, weird, blue house with faded paint. It had been lived in quite a few times though, upon walking through it, I couldn’t imagine how any one stayed there for any significant length of time. The walls were all in weird places, the rooms and stairs were tiny, even by my standards; the place had seen better days. But instead of leaving in tears as I had left many other potential homes before, I was past that, and determined to buy something – nothing we could rent seemed worth it, so we reluctantly decided that the apartment would have to do until we could buy something. Then another couple came to the house as we were about to leave. We talked a while and they advised us to look on Craig’s List. “Why not?,” we said, “What do we have to lose at this point?”

That night, while I had all but forgotten the encounter, Tristan was in his office, entering a search into Craig’s List for our desires in a home – and there it was, this house. He called me to come in an look at it. The listing detailed that the owner would help the buyer qualify for a mortgage, even assist with closing costs, and that even an individual with bad credit could qualify under the right circumstances and for a higher monthly payment. The house looked nice and the appliances were new – it had been renovated. We figured that it was a long shot but I didn’t see the harm in looking at it in person and neither did he. I made the call.

Days later, we had toured the house and instantly became impressed with the condition of it and the renovations that had been done. It was beautiful. Everything was new. The appliances were still wrapped in plastic. It was not too big, but not small. It had bamboo floors, and lot of light coming in. It was perfect.

We ended the tour in the basement and stood there talking with the realtor about our credit and past struggles with housing.
“Well, how much can you put down?” he asked. I told him.
“How quickly do you want to move?”
I hesitated, but answered, “As soon as possible…I’d like to move in November, before it starts snowing.” I said.
He said that he thought that could be done.

I called my mom that night. I told her that we may have found a house. As if she knew what was on my mind she said, “To rent, or to buy?”
“To buy.” I said.

Another few days or so had passed before we heard from him again. He had talked with the owner; she was a lady in her late 50s/early 60s, and wanted to be closer to her family, thus, deciding to abandon her project – the house would soon be buying from her. “She has decided to sell it to you.” he said. I was floored, because I knew that other people were looking at it. He said the neighbors liked us and advised the owner to sell it to us! A move of God, for certain. I know because can’t explain it.

I remember little about what happened next except that the next week at work I was speaking with our broker, telling him my life story in dollar amounts and giving a complete account of all my financial sins. After I had deferred my student loans (twice during the process) I just remember him saying, “Okay. You should be fine to buy the property.” I kept repeating those words in my head.

The weeks following were a blur. I remember meeting our realtor at the Starbucks by my work (which I still go to…that’s another post) to sign the agreement of sale – the first stack of MANY papers I would sign in the next month. Since we had not gotten pre-approved before we signed the agreement, we had to go through underwriting and loan approval, which was the first of several nerve-racking, tear-inducing situations to resolve. To make a long story short, we were figuratively biting our nails the entire time…

First, the loan needed to get approved – which eventually happened with a small mortgage lender that would actually take a financial “lost cause” like us, with our mountain of student loan debt and bad credit wrought by the mistakes of our past. Of course, that meant that the lender was slow and the waiting was unbearable.

Underwriting took weeks. I was crazy with worry. I made calls to our broker and realtor all day long. I scraped together everything I had on every penny I spent. I found myself writing formal letters in defense of my past financial mistakes, promising that I was going to do whatever it took to fix my credit. ‘Yes,’ I thought ‘I want this more than anything. I’ll do whatever it takes.’ And I did…

[To be continued...]

The Glory in Doubt

Everyday I go to work. Everyday, I sit down at a desk among people who don’t think the way I do, or see things the way I do. I sit in the midst of people who are special to someone and have have those who are special to them. People who have traveled different roads and have endured different trials. They all believe one thing or another, of that I am certain…although some, I’m sure, maybe most, believe in nothing at all. But I sit there everyday, as a Christian, albeit silently.

There is a certain uneasiness that comes with this job because of that. It’s undeniable and it breathes down my neck every second I am here. Their words make me think. They post over the group chat things that cause me to wonder and wander away, even just a little, from what I know in my heart. “I need to check this out.”, I think.

I like to learn. I like to know things. I have an aching need to analyze everything around me: “There’s another post. I have new information that I have to run through the machine to verify or nullify. Here it goes.” As weird as it may sound, that’s how I operate. I’m always and forever trying to prove my Christianity wrong.

At the age of 19 I was attending my second year of college before deciding to change career paths. That was the first time I remember thinking for myself. I had met a new friend named Sarah and after talking with her, exchanging theories on the spirit world and people that claim to see the future, I told her that I believed in God. She was indifferent, as most people are, and she told me her thoughts. I couldn’t respond. Suffice it to say she had me in corner. Things had happened in her life that I could not explain…I had no answers and then I started thinking. To this day, I believe that she had a very important purpose in my life: to make me doubt.

I believe that doubt itself is one of the worst feelings one can feel. My co-workers and I were experiencing doubt at the loss of a job and the uncertainty of losing a steady pay check. Doubt can literally make you sick, especially when you doubt something you lean your life on, I should know. I admit to doubting my beliefs on a regular basis, which is agonizing. I roll my thoughts over and over in my mind. I read. I research. I do whatever I can when I have the slightest doubt to make absolutely sure that I’m wrong and prove with out a doubt that He’s not real – and that they’re right. But then something beautiful happens. I can’t.

There are many reasons for my believing what I do. The most compelling of which, surprisingly the things that I can’t research – the things science can’t touch. Never mind the creation vs. evolution debate or the flood, or even the speed at which the universe expanded from a single point. And no, my “warm fuzzy feeling” is not my proof either. My proof lies in the glory that comes when I try to prove my faith wrong and can’t. The fact that there IS doubt about being no God is beautiful in itself, because there’s always the possibility, if nothing else, that there’s something in existence that’s greater than us.

After I complicate my reasoning as much as I can, I find that I always come back to simple things that ground my beliefs and make me sure, once again, that I know them to be true. They are the things that can’t be proven or seen or explained. Things that, if they weren’t written down in the Bible, we may not even have a simple understanding of them.

I took me awhile to figure out that God does an awful lot of talking in the Bible. Growing up, nobody really showed me the Old Testament, they just sort of skimmed it; of course, I knew it was there, but I didn’t know what it contained. When I found out what was written on those pages, I saw another side to a God I thought I knew. In those words, I saw Him tenderly calling out to perpetually wandering nation to love Him, the heartbreak that must have come from having to judge that nation, and the cycle beginning again. The pattern, I realized, was simple: A loving, yet holy God, loving without restraint – pouring love on a people that said they loved Him, but turned from Him again and again. Yes, I saw judgement, which is the thing that on one likes about God, but I also saw love and pursuit for nation, and later a world that wanting nothing to do with Him.

Love. After that evening standing out under the slowly appearing stars on the college campus, I had a thought: Do I believe this for me?

I have to reaffirm the answer to that question over and over. I never stop searching for a light in the darkness – even if, one day, it means that the light is not something I want to see. But I don’t think that will be the case.

I’ve been inexplicably protected from plenty of car accidents, and other incidents that might have been.
I’ve been held back from doing things or going places, only to find out something terrible would have happened.
I’ve been through struggles that I later learned were for my good.
I’ve had very specific prayers answered; I believe that my husband is the result of one such prayer.

Those among many others are just a few reasons that I’ve been unable disprove my beliefs – because I cannot begin to explain any of the above. All I can imagine from that is that someone (or something) is watching me, listens to me, and loves me.

As for me, I know whom I believe. I doubt. I do. And I have bouts of trying to ignore it and live me life my own way. But I don’t think He minds. The same persistent, glorious love I read about throughout the Bible is the same that I am greeted by every time I recover from the darkness of doubt. He welcomes me back with an outstretched hand as if to say, “Are you ready to stop wandering and thinking and just be still and know?” To which I sheepishly reply, “Yes.”

A Letter to my Mother

To be honest, on every Mother’s Day since I’ve been married I’ve made an effort to avoid human interaction for obvious reasons (i.e. people wishing me a happy Mother’s Day and asking me about having children). It’s been awkward since I got married and is even more so now that I’ve been married 5+ years, so I just tend to stay in and forget about it. Of course, like any good daughter I’ll call my mom and my grandmother today, but I’ll still stay inside.

Today though, I’m choosing to “celebrate” it a different way; not with spite or annoyance, not this time. No. I’m blogging about it, which I wouldn’t normally do, but his Mother’s Day is different because today I’m in awe of my mother so I’m writing a short, informal letter to her.

Mop,

You might think this is sappy and weird but I’m writing my thoughts down for you today because I wanted to give you something, if only my thanks. This year I realized something: when you were my age, you were pregnant with me. That fact hit me like a brick…in the face. You are so much braver than I am. I could NEVER do what you did. My life is so different from yours in the late 80s and it’s crazy to think about what it was like to be in your shoes 27 years ago. Today I realize that I’m so, so thankful for you sticking it out and being a mom to me and Christie, taking care of us, raising us, laughing and crying with us…

Thank you changing me, feeding me, bathing me, dressing me, carrying me around, etc.
Thank you for packing my lunches, defending my honor, teaching me, giving me rides, and entertaining everybody else’s kids.
Thank you for tolerating my teenage years and worrying about me.
Thank you for holding me when I felt destroyed.
Thank you for celebrating with me when I got engaged and again when I got married.
Thank you for giving me space when I moved away.
Thank you for trusting me when I say I’m okay, despite how my life may look sometimes.
Thank you for STILL being my mom from a distance.

Remember 2006? That was the worst. I was just thanking the Lord the other day that he didn’t take you home back then, because honestly, I still need you.

Thank you for everything…I MEAN EVERY LITTLE THING, Ma. Everything you taught me is with me everyday. I love you. I’d hug you today if I could…and probably cry.

Your eldest daughter,

Jackie

Update: Move on

It’s 2am as I write this. I’ve just come home from work and, as usual, I’m more hungry than tired.

I’m losing my job. I have been working the night shift for about 5 months now. But what I came on here to say is that last Monday I found out that my last day in the office is officially May 23rd.

My co-workers might call me crazy, but to me the news was bittersweet as business owner, seeing as I can’t seem to “hold down” “two jobs.” The news came unexpectedly enough, there was shock and tears; I wasn’t crying. I didn’t feel much of anything because I didn’t want to – the reasons I’m losing this job aren’t good enough for my tears besides, it is only a job, and if you know me at all you know that there are much more important things to me than money. I had my reservations about this job (this post explains) but I took it anyway and began working in January. Over the last 4 months, company changes, lay-offs, and a couple CEO visits have come and gone, but I did what I felt was best and most logical (of course): work day to day and take things as they come. Now I know there is no such thing as job security, I’ve known that for years, but it still came as a surprise when my whole department was ushered into the conference room and handed an intimidating navy folder containing a severance date and agreement. Apparently, the company is losing money something fierce. “Well, that was fun”, I whispered to myself.

I tried to console my co-workers but I’m finding that it’s hard to comfort those whom you feel like you no longer relate to. There was a time I was afraid too. I was afraid of losing income, jobs, houses, cars, things. But then I lost them and as unpleasant as it felt, it made me strong and I learned to move on. I’m not insensitive, I thought, I’ve just been here before and it’s no big deal.

I’m moving…maybe? Our apartment has presented its own set of frustrations that have sent me down into the depths of disappointment and “I don’t understand this.” Truth be told I was excited when we moved in here. Oh sure, I spent many hours cleaning, sanitizing, and doing my best to pull smells out of the carpet. I thought by last June I had had everything set – I was contented, but not for long. In almost exactly one year there has been a termite infestation, 4 dead mice and a rat somewhere undiscovered, a leaky roof, a twice-broken water heater, a washer replacement, noisy neighbors who do nothing but fight and party until daybreak, and the coldest, most brutal winter I’ve ever endured and with hardly any heat, as it would all seep out of the empty walls. Tristan and I then vowed to never spend the winter like that again; we had to be out before the cold set in in the fall. Disheartened but finally thawed enough to function, we started looking for a new home, but our search has yielded nothing thus far.

Lately, we’ve been thinking that perhaps we’re in the wrong place. I like Philly, but I’m not attached to it. I don’t think I ever was as attached to this city as much as I wanted to be at first – I really wanted to put down roots here, for this to be the place for me, my home. But with the desire to move and the search for a new home producing no results, and now the loss of yet another job, I’ve decided that all I’ve ever done here is survive, but not live; I’m resting here for a moment, but I’m still searching for the perfect place to settle and take root. It is unclear yet where we’ll go to finally be at peace, but at this point I will go anywhere if it means I can finally stop searching. I do not want a life, I have decided, where all I do is try to survive until my next meal, next sleep, next job or whatever. I have decided that I want to LIVE and thrive and be, without the cares of having to pack up or get rid of everything, change my mind about who I want to be, and move again.

I still live day to day. I still try to have more good days than bad, regardless of my location. The city does what it does. The CEO of my soon-to-be former job does what he does. And I do what I do, move on.

I don’t even know yet if I want to keep pursuing the same path in web design, or anything I had done previously. The job has helped me rediscover my love of writing, perhaps there’s something there…