Sunday, January 31, 2010

"Be Still and Know that I am God"

This post runs the risk of being trite and might not even capture what I hope I to convey.  On top of that, it's bound to be long, long, long.  Oh, you're still here. Well thanks.  I've found that I as expressive as I am and as much as I love to share a story, I sort of fizzle when I try to be serious.  I'm much better at the ridiculous.  I guess its because I don't care if my joke falls flat, but I care so much about the things that stick in my guts as being important. My faith and my relationship with God are the highest on that list and by far the most difficult for me to express.  I've always been a person of faith, but the strength of it has waivered at times.  I went through a few years when I thought I couldn't "find" God.  I know now that I wasn't looking, or at least wasn't looking the right way.  I tried to intellectualize that which is beyond comprehension.  I don't mean that I think reasoned study and a relationship with God are incompatible, just that you can't get to the latter through the former.  My education as a student of literature in a fairly rigorous program taught me that the more complex and difficult the book, the more rewarding it was to unlock.  This idea of a puzzle and its solution led me to believe that everything followed suit.  Anything simple is limited in what it can offer.  The profound has to be interpreted and grappled with.  There may be some truth to that, but it falls apart quickly in matters of faith. 

Craig and I have been reading from the Bible every night, a little Old Testament and little New Testament.  I have never read much of the Bible apart from the readings in church every Sunday, although I knew the stories from Sunday school, etc.  The only part that I previously read in its entirety is the four Gospels.  That excercise was life changing for me, but that's another story and probably beyond my abilities of communication. It's so simple and yet so many of us neglect it.  In no other aspect of my life would I ever claim to believe something I hadn't first read about.  As a law student, I would never, ever sign a contract I hadn't read.  For some reason, it never hit home for me that the small act of reading my Bible might help me find what I was seeking.  I don't believe that God is in my Bible or that I found God.  God has always been with me and I have only to count my blessing to know that.  When I stopped trying to work and tease out some grand cosmic puzzle, I realized that in matters of God, the most profound and earth moving is the simplest. 

I have always been a pray-er.  I pray like a protestant, although I'm Catholic through and through.  I run around in an all day chit-chat fest with God.  When I say I pray like a protestant, I mean that in the most positive way.  I think we Catholics can get too reliant on our prayers that someone else has written and lose the voice of our hearts.  Like everything I do though, I made prayer my opponent in an intellectual thumb war where I tried to master it.  I wanted be the best prayer and do it the "right" way.  If I'm self-less in my prayers, then maybe God will answer them.  If I prioritize my prayer requests, maybe I can control my life.  First of all, this is nuts, the opposite of faithful, and counterproductive.  Second, God made me the special brand of crazy that I am.  If I don't pray from that place, then I've missed the whole point.  Praying this way, through my flaws and selfishness, has made me so much more receptive to hear the answers.

The last two things that are so much simpler than I ever allowed them be is how I express my relationship with God to others and how I feel in that relationship within myself.  I've always been an extreme self-editor.  If there's a hole to be punched in my opinion, I know it.  If there is a counter argument to my own, I can find it and probably one more.  The voice in my head is a nag and gets her imaginary panties in quite a bunch from time to time.  The fear of being misunderstood or shut down has made me remain mostly private in my faith.  No one wants to be percieved as being preachy, but there is a lot of good to be had before that line is crossed.  I need all the prayers I can get and won't hesitate any more to ask someone to pray for me.  When someone is struggling in their life, it's totally appropriate to offer my own prayers.  If it's not well received, then that'll be alright too.  I've never heard of someone falling over dead from being rejected. I can be dramatic, so I'm sure that if it could happen, it would've happened to me or I would have at least had a front row seat. Basically, I'm resolved to let it shine.  One of our priests at IC says that we should pray that God will be "With Me, In Me, and Through Me." True.  True.  True. 

The second of the two, my internal feelings about my relationship with God, is the easy part.  When I was much younger I would look at the priests and deacons at Church and think that they must feel differently than me. I assumed that they lived in a state of constant reflection and seriousness.  I doubt very much that that is the case.  My growth over the last four years has taught me that real faith bubbles over in joy.  It runneth over and keeps rolling down over the counter, and onto the floor, pools up, and then sticks. 

I don't know what work is being done in me, only that it is being done.  If you've gotten this far, and you know me at all, you know that this is more personal and revealing than I'm accustomed to being.  I'm always inspired and touched by other people's stories. That's why I was drawn to blogging.  I learn so much from other people's and wanted throw in my own humble two cents.  That, and because sometimes Craig wants to watch TV without my running monologue.  My inner editor wants me to apologize if you percieved this as preachy or as self-indulgent drivel.  For my peace of mind, I'll assume that if you read this far neither was the case.  Thanks for reading, friend.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Put Me In Coach

I start my new internship tomorrow, ending my two month sabbatical from the real world.  I'm nervous.  It feels like the first day of school all over again, except that I'm like a first grader taking classes with seniors.  I'm excited and, of course, have a snappy outfit picked out that I hope says, "Hi there, I'm Laura, confident and able soon to be attorney with dash of sass after we're all well acquainted."  To the untrained eye, it's a wool suit from Macy's.  When I was picking out my first-day suit I remembered a Locke family story about Craig's younger brother.  When he was a kid he was so excited to start baseball that he laid out his uniform with socks tucked in the shoes and with a hat and everything.  Craig said that when they asked him what he was doing, he told them that it was baseball man.  I didn't see it obviously, but in my mind it looks like the scene in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? when Judge Doom was flattened by the stream roller.  We weren't a big movie family and that was one of the maybe five that we had, so I've seen it a couple times!  Anyway, I think that story is adorable and I can relate to that excitement.

In honor of Steven and without further ado, allow me to introduce you to Lawyer Lady.  She'll be headlining in the guest room until tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

On a serious note

Our little family is in a phase of transition.  Craig is bearing the brunt of supporting us while I finish school, so times are lean.  We've both prayed on, talked about, mulled over, and debated where we want to be and how we want to get there.  Sometimes this has been productive and other times it hasn't.  The result is one that I think will help us meet our family goals and Craig's professional goals.  Craig's decided to move back to finance and pursue is career there.  He's very excited about it and has made a lot of great contacts in the last month.  It's been a difficult decision for him leave the non-profit world.  He graduated with a 4.0 in his master's program and set out to help the world, but has been disappointed by what he's been able to provide for himself.  The good news is, the opportunity for helping the poor and disenfranchised is never closed to him or to us.  We've committed to continue in that effort and hope that this career move will better enable us to support those needs.

I know it's taboo to talk about money and other personal struggles, but I think it shouldn't be.  These are the things that every single person deals with at some point, although each in his own way.  As a couple we've had our good and not so good moments tackling this.  For his part, Craig is angry at himself, angry that he didn't stay the course originally in finance, angry that he's worked so hard and doesn't have as much as he'd like to show for it, and angry that he can't provide more for me.  I have anger too, although mine is baser as it comes from comparisons to other people.  In my weaker moments I'm angry that people I know have had things handed to them, some of them houses, etc. (I should note that I have had a privileged life as well and been given many opportunities. I'm only sharing my weaker moments.)  I'm angry that I've put in so much work towards a law degree and will walk out with more debt and possibly less income than people who never went past undergrad.  I often wonder if it will be worth it.  It's so easy to dwell in the negative, but I try to count each and every blessing I have and always find that  there are so many more than I deserve.  It's humbling and I'm ashamed that sometimes I can't see the forest for the trees. 

What we do have is ambition and it  rivals the best in our resolve to reach our own definition of success.  That success has nothing to do with cars we may drive or the square footage of our house.  We want to not have anxiety about money and the arresting fear that we won't stay above water.  We want to  live in comfort.  We want to live in a way that's pleasing to God.  We want to be able to send our children where they choose to go to college.  We want to have a nice retirement.  We want to own a home.  We want to provide charitably.

Once we decided what it is that we define as success and came to a plan on how to achieve it, we let go of a lot of anger and envy.  Craig said it like this, "One day when I'm sitting in my leather chair I will look around my house and at our family and know that I worked hard for whatever we have and I'll be proud.  Not everyone can do that."  We'll see about the leather, but I think that's a respectable sentiment.  You pay on the front end so you can enjoy it later.  We have both worked hard and will have to continue to do so, but we can always know we tried hard at something.

I know this is the longest post ever, but I want to end by pointing out some of the positive things we've learned during this time.  The first is the difference between a want and a need.  There is definitely grey area if you don't take a hard look at yourself and your goals.  We've made an effort to delineate between the two and I hope that we always do, no matter what we might one day be able to afford.  Perspective is priceless.  Second, we both never wanted for anything and were blessed by parents who provided fully for us as children.  We are no longer children, though, and have not been for some time.  As appealling as it might look when others are dependent, we could never and would never choose that.  Hand-me-down furniture, however, has been much appreciated : ) Lastly, time with people you love is by far the greatest thing you can have.  We have that in abundance and feel very, very fortunate.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

To Do

I've been off from school for a month, one glorious month.   I've cleaned the house, and tried some new recipes, gone out of town, and...that's pretty much it.  Don't  get me wrong, I enjoyed doing nothing, but I'm disappointed in myself that I didn't do all the stuff I said I would do when I had some time off.  I planned to teach the dog some basic commands.  He still is only averages about 30% on responding to his own name, so I obviously didn't get around to it.  As a side note, it's probably because I call him fifteen other names than Max on a daily basis, but seriously Mr. Beanpotts, don't you know deep down that your name is Max, especially in front of the neighbors???  Sure, I call him Poo, or Le  Poo or Poo Shu Chicken.   What of it if I scratch his ears and call him Scoonce or Scooter?  His name is Max and maybe sometimes Mr. Beanpotts.

Anyway, I had planned to do a number of things and never got around to them.  I don't like the idea of making a grand to do list in hopes of checking things off before a certain date or age.   I think I would feel too much pressure or feel like I failed if I didn't complete it.  Let's be real, though, I'd probably lose the list or  use the back of it for another list that I would leave in my purse and find two years later caked in gum and mystery crumbs, so my fears might be  unfounded.  Either way, no big bucket list for me.  The list that I have is much smaller in scale and the things on it aren't nearly as impressive as sky diving or seeing the Taj Majal.  These are things that I can and will accomplish in the next year.

1. Complete my BAR application.  No real choice here, but I've been putting it off
2. Make bread from scratch
3. But seriously, teach Max some commands
4. Keep my car clean (after I clean it)
5. Write in my journal more (this isn't it, don't worry)
6. Take more pictures
7. Print our wedding photos
8. Take better care of myself.  I have specifics under this category, but I won't bore you.  Why stop now, you say?  Not nice.
9. Get a job
10. This last goal I'll keep to myself. I'll update if and when I accomplish it.

Best of luck for you and your resolutions in the new year.  This has been an incredible and challenging year for me.  I planned a wedding and applied for and secured permission to visit away at Memphis.  I moved to Memphis, got married,  and completed three semesters of law school, including the summer term.   All of these were things that I hoped for, so I can't complain.  My challenges this year were in the form of changes.  I was very fortunate not to suffer any loss of illness this year.  For any who did, I hope 2010 will be a better year.  It has been one of my best yet.