Monday, August 29, 2011

Living a Better Story

I came at Christianity backwards. Well, more like God came to me. Unexpected and unannounced.

The stories I used to believe about myself were awful. Depressing, really. I can’t even look back through my old journals without feeling a complete sense of despair.

I told myself stories of how dumb I was. How ugly. How boring. How awful. I was never good enough. Even in my relationship with God I wasn’t good enough.

I used to wonder why I wasn't in love with Jesus the way other people seemed to be. I felt really guilty about it. In fact, I felt pretty guilty about everything. How I wasn't nice enough. Outgoing enough. Christian enough. Happy enough. (anyone sensing an introvert complex yet?) Instead I was too shy. Too scared. Too selfish. Too....human.

When I came back from a study abroad experience in Costa Rica, I was wrecked. After a semester of poverty tours, angry rants, and guilt trips, the conflicting stories became too much bear.

I stopped telling myself any stories. The stories reduced themselves to apathy, disengagement, disconnection.

Silence.

But out of the frightening silence of the months I spent in numbness and isolation, unable to find my worth and validation in my schoolwork, my religion, or friend’s and family’s approval, came an acceptance of self that I had never known. The emptiness of not caring, though scary and unproductive, gradually opened into space for peace and self-acceptance and even joy.

Only when the stories of self-hatred, doubt, and condemnation were silenced, could God actually speak. Although I couldn’t (or wouldn’t) identify God as the source, something began to tell me stories of love and grace. That maybe the salvation of the world didn’t hinge completely on me. That maybe there was something good and worthy inside of me after all.

Only after I began to hear this new story did I actually start to live like I was loved, like I was forgiven. And only after months of living in the kind of freedom I'd never dreamed of, did I finally begin to believe that maybe there is a loving God. That maybe it was the God of love who made me free, who was there loving me all along.

Don't worry, it sounds weird and new-agey even to me. But the beauty of God is that he knows me. He knew I didn't need another formula or piece of intellectual information to believe in. He knew I needed to experience his truth and freedom before I could ever believe it.

My relationship with God is inseparable from my journey to love myself, to believe a better story about myself and this world. The verse, "We love because he first loved us," (1 John 4:19) could not explain it any better.

And that is the new story I’m learning to live.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Telling A Better Story

"What we do comes out of who we believe we are." –Rob Bell


I’ve heard another one of my other favorite authors, Donald Miller (Christian hipster alert), talk about the importance of story in our lives and, particularly, the role of God as the author of our own stories. I’m not going to get into the recent blogosphere squabble Don started by talking about men authoring love stories for women or anything like that. I’m not going to unleash my thoughts on feminism or, heaven forbid, dating. I actually wrote the following part of this post over a year ago—before Rachel Held Evans’ response to Donald Miller’s post with “My story is more interesting than that”—for reals.


What I am going to talk about and what I agree with both of them on, is that stories matter. The stories we tell ourselves and the stories we believe we are living matter a great deal.


If we believe the story that life is meaningless, we’re going to act like nothing matters. If we believe that the problems of the world are too big and too complicated to make a difference, we’re not going to do anything to make a difference.


Maybe you believe that you are nothing more than a body to be lusted after or rejected.


There’s a better story.


Maybe you believe that you are what you produce.


There’s a better story.


Maybe you believe you’re too busy to make a difference.


Maybe you believe you don’t have any skills or talents that are useful.


Maybe you believe, deep down, that if people knew the real you they would be disgusted.


There’s a better story.


Maybe you believe your past mistakes will dictate your future.


Maybe you believe you are powerless to help.


There’s a better story.


It doesn’t exactly sound like the normal Christian activities: pray, read the Bible, go to church….practice letting God author your life story? (I guess Jesus take the wheel comes pretty close to the idea). My love story with God is really just the story of letting God write my story--how meta is that? Or at least letting God’s story about me be the main story I believe.


What story do you believe?


Check back next week to read more about the ways I’ve learned to believe and live a better story.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Whose Scale Is It Anyway?

I weigh myself every day on scales that don't matter.

On a scale from toned-up-and-slimmed-down, I-am-rocking-my-skinny-jeans down to an overeating-unworked-out-blob of a body. From Aly-the-rock-star-grant-writer to Aly the failure, the procrastinator, the office imposter.

What scale do you weigh me on?

Kindness.

Mercy.

Gentleness.

Patience.

Self-control.

The fruit of the spirit. Faith. Steadfastness. Compassion. Generosity.

NOT how many muscles I can clearly identify in my wannabe six pack or how many reports I finish at work.

But maybe most of all, you don't even weigh me.

I'm bringing out the scales and measuring tape and all you want to do is hug me. Be with me. Scoop me up in your arms because no matter how big or small I get or how many accomplishments I tick off on my running tally, your arms will be big, they will be warm, and they will be all encompassing. They are bigger than my sins. They are bigger than my shame. They are bigger than my doubts. They are bigger than the lies I tell myself and the truths I choose to ignore.

You curl up next to me and envelop me. When I don’t want to workout or work or think or process or engage or give. When all I want to do is rest and lay here, you surround me. You love me.

You are PRESENCE.

You are LOVE.

CEASE STRIVING.

God, remind me of your scale. Remind me that your scale doesn’t weigh down, but builds up. Remind me to forget my scale and my striving.

Actually, today just bring me closer to your heart. To your weightless spirit.

Draw me close to you.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

T.S. Tuesday

Another favorite stanza from "East Coker:"

"You say I am repeating
Something I have said before. I shall say it again.
Shall I say it again? In order to arrive there,
To arrive where you are, to get from where you are not,
You must go by a way wherein there is no ecstasy.
In order to arrive at what you do not know
You must go by a way which is the way of ignorance.
In order to possess what you do not possess
You must go by the way of dispossession.
In order to arrive at what you are not
You must go through the way in which you are not.
And what you do not know is the only thing you know
And what you own is what you do not own
And where you are is where you are not."

Again, I love the paradox. The contrasts. The upside down culture and kingdom mentality.

The line that changed things for me: "In order to arrive at what you are not, you must go through the way in which you are not." This line speaks to me when I'm stuck. When I can't imagine an alternative ending. When I can't see past what I currently am and all of the assets and limitations I possess. But God is so much bigger. His endings are so much better. And they require me becoming what I am not, through a way in which I am not, by dying to myself and to what I know.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Meet the Matchmakers

The biggest lie I tell myself is that I’m alone. That people don’t understand me and I have to figure out everything myself.

Even as I write about my love story with God, I’m tempted to make it all about me. The revelations I had. The ways he’s working in me.

I forget the oh-so-tiny-detail that I wouldn’t be where I am today, wouldn’t be learning what I’m learning today, if it weren’t for the many, many matchmakers in my life who have pointed me to the God of love and grace.

I like to pretend that I figure things out on my own. But the truth is I have a lot of friends and mentors who help me discover not only more of who God is, but more of who God has created me to be.

My life is rife with mentors, and I am so grateful. I still keep in touch with mentors from college, past professors, my mom, even my friends’ moms.

These people have spoken such love and grace into my life. They have given me examples of what it means to question. What it means to care. They are the matchmakers in my love story with God. They are the matchmakers in a growing love story with myself.

They are the people from my church who told me to bask in God’s love long before I even believed true love existed. They are the people who model good relationships, loyalty and dedication, communication and confrontation.

These matchmakers showed me it was possible to love God and be angry with God at the same time. They showed me it’s okay to have a meltdown. It’s okay to question.

They showed me that I mattered. They modeled God’s unconditional love for me. They helped me identify ways God was moving, even when I wasn’t in a place to put what I experienced into words. They taught me to fight the barrage of self-hatred in my head and to build on the good in my own life.

And because of their care and encouragement, I began to feel like I could be friends with God. And, maybe, he wanted to be friends with me.

And like any good love story, this friendship grew into something so much deeper and mysterious. It grew into love.

Today I’d like to thank and acknowledge the many matchmakers in my life who have helped me experience God’s love, listened to me cry and question, and set me up with the God of my dreams.

Thank you.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Today I Will...



....allow that which is inside of me to stream out of my colorful fingertips.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Anger Management


As you’ll come to realize, this blog is a space of reminding myself of the lessons God’s teaching me and the ways he reveals his love to me. It’s a place of sharing with myself, as much as any of you. Which is why you’ll see me come back to the same topics over and over again: because I need to learn and relearn the same lessons over and over again.


Today I’m coming back to the topic of anger.


I used to be really angry on behalf of others. I found it was much easier to be angry on behalf of other—or at least to justify it. But, as I said in a previous post, I used it as an excuse to stay stuck and to lash out. It did me no good. What I eventually began to realize as my anger boiled and nothing was getting done to make the world a better place was that it was poison. Growing up as a Christian I was well aware of the perils of harboring unforgiveness. I wasn’t aware that harboring unforgiveness on behalf of others was just as toxic.


When something's been done against you, you better understand the anger as poison. You better understand it as another way that your dignity is being robbed. It doesn't make you more human to shut down in anger; it makes you less. Like you're complicit in the murder of a part of yourself. You join the living dead.


I thought my anger on behalf of the poor and marginalized made me more alive. Instead it disconnected me.


But I’ve been realizing more and more that if it weren’t for that anger, I wouldn’t be where I am today. As much as anger can be a paralyzer, it can also be a motivator.


Maybe there's a place for anger after all. But it's not a place we should camp out at for too long. There's danger in never leaving. We are creatures of habit.


Anger is not just something to be managed. It proves we're human. Proves we're human enough to get upset at something that should truly be upsetting. It wouldn’t hurt this bad if it didn’t matter.


A real epiphany came for me when I realized that God was just as angry about the suffering of his people as I was. That he was broken hearted with me. And he wanted me to do something about it.


If I was listening, to someone engulfed in righteous indignation, in shut down-shut out anger and depression, my advice wouldn't be to get out of it, my advice would be to FEEL IT. Be in it. Don't check out. Don't let go of these thoughts or this anger. But let it stir you. Let it move you.


Even though I’ve learned this lesson a thousand times, (okay, been reminded of it a thousand times, acted on it probably twice) I’m still tempted to package anger up into a nice little box in my closet of negative emotions. It’s hard to be angry. It’s hard to see past the anger to the life-giving result of that anger. It takes courage to move beyond the anger. It takes courage to actually do something.


And that’s where I’m stuck today. Between letting the anger consume me and using the anger to motivate me to do something positive. So I’m going to try to take my own advice:

Aly,

Feel it.

Be in it.

Don’t check out.

Don’t let go of these thoughts or this anger.

Let it stir you.

Let it move you.

And, God, please give me the courage to do so.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

T.S. Tuesday

This week's T.S. Tuesday excerpt comes from one of my favorite Eliot poems, "East Coker."

"Do not let me hear

Of the wisdom of old men, but rather of their folly,

Their fear of fear and frenzy, their fear of

possession,

Of belonging to another, or to others, or to God.

The only wisdom we can hope to acquire

Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless."

When I first read these lines, I got stuck on the folly. I was angry about the poverty and injustice I saw in the world that was driven by the fear and follies and frenzies of old men. I was angry with old men.

I was also angry with myself, and the folly and frenzy I was clinging to so desperately. At the time I was battling a deep fear of belonging. In a world so hungry for attention and approval, it seems weird to think about not wanting to belong. But I didn’t. I wanted to disappear. I wanted to be alone. I wanted space.

I didn’t want the responsibility that comes with belonging. I wanted to pretend my actions didn’t affect any one else. That I could do whatever I wanted and it wouldn’t matter.

I didn’t even want to be loved. Being loved required too much responsibility.

It turns out I didn’t need space; I needed Love.

And luckily Love didn’t give me much space.

Years later, I have been and continue to be transformed by this Love.

Today as I read these lines, I’m drawn to the focus on humility. The humility that shows me that not just old men, but also angry teenage girls and less angry twentysomething grant writers can be driven by fear of fear and frenzy and possession. A humility that shows me that we are connected, and that if I insist we treat our coffee and banana and skinny jeans producers with respect and dignity, that I should exercise that same diligence and compassion with my friends and coworkers and mother and, even, the old men who originally sparked my anger.

A humility that reminds me I do belong to another, and to others, and to God.

This humility tells me that even if we were never asked, we carry each other’s hearts. And it is our responsibility to hold on to them tight.

Monday, August 15, 2011

No More Outsourcing

For a journalism major, I’m really bad at asking questions. Heck, for a person in relationship with others, I’m really bad at asking questions. I love learning things. I love finding things out. But it’s more of an undercover operation than anything else. I sleuth. I investigate. I Google. And I’m pretty good at it. But for as much as I discover on my own, it’s laughable how much time I’ll spend sleuthing around instead of going directly to the source.

I do this with people and I do this with God. I’m scared to look like I don’t know the answer. I’m scared to ask and I’m scared to listen.

Right now in my relationship with God, I'm scared to listen. Scared that things might have to change. Scared to put my trust and identity fully in God. I'm scared that God might not say what I want him to say. The past few years have been sprinkled with fits of unwarranted compassion. Times when God spoke to me and moved me when I didn't even ask. Now I'm learning to ask. And it's tough.

When I do get up the courage to ask, this is what is usually looks like:

I ask God for direction. I ask to him to speak, speak, please speak! Then I immediately get on with my life--brush my teeth, hop in the car, check my email. I keep thinking about the issue or the decision, but I've gone back into my own Aly-world where God is only an innocent bystander.

I ask family and friends what I should do. Well, more accurately, I tell family and friends what I've already decided so they can affirm my wisdom. I read books, lots of books. I journal. I write. I spin the decision around every which way in my brain.

And I still don't know what to do.

Finally frustrated, I give up and ask God why he's been so silent on the issue.

Then, a small, conscience-pricking ping signals somewhere in the back of my very busy brain and even busier life: Aly, why have you been so loud?

Busted.

And then in the silence, in the space my brain has finally made for God, he starts to tell me not what to do, but who I am. He tells me I’m loved. That I’m his daughter. That he will love me and use me no matter what decision I make.

And that is something more valuable than any quote from a book (but, oh how I love quotes!) or pro/con list or slice of friendly advice. That intimacy gives me a courage and security so much deeper than anything I could ever sleuth out on my own.

Which is why today, this week, this hour, I’m going to ask God for direction. And I’m going to listen.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

God loves a fixer-upper

I hate being sad. Okay, that may be obvious, but even worse than the part of being sad (which isn't too peachy to begin with) is the conviction I feel that I must be doing something wrong. I must have made some wrong/awful/selfish/life-shattering decision (which is sometimes true) somewhere down the line that has left me in a place of heartache. It must be my fault. And I must be the one to fix it.

The day that God told me to write my love story,--the story of his love for me--I was in church and I was really sad. I felt disconnected from friends, disconnected from work, disconnected from God. My life wasn't following the script I had written for it, and I was quickly retreating into anxiety and isolation. I was anxious about work, anxious about being anxious about work, and yet even more anxious that I didn't know how to fix it.

I pleaded with God to fix me. To fix my anxious heart. To fix my discontent. To fix whatever was wrong with my brain that was blocking me from figuring out how to fix myself. To fix the brokenness. To fix the sadness.

His response, in a clear-as-day-fit-of-unwarranted-compassion:
"Aly, I don't want to fix you; I want to comfort you."

The revelation shot through me with a jolt of awe. My polite church worship became a snot-fest as he continued to echo to me, "I want to meet you in the sadness. I am here with you. I am sorry you hurt."

What? It's okay to hurt? It's okay to be sad? To grieve lost dreams? To feel overwhelmed?

Hope began to stir.

I was not alone. I am not alone in this.

And then God said something even stranger, "Write my love story."

Even as I questioned the logistics and the cheesiness of writing God's love story--and perhaps my sanity--I was struck by the fact that I did, in fact, have a love story to write.

I did know he was moving.
That he was there. That he never left.

And a strange thing happened: I felt comforted.
Not fixed, but comforted.

I was hopeful that I would see past the darkness and the anxiety and the fixing. I was hopeful that I could write the story of all the times that I had been broken, depressed, angry, confused, or heartbroken, and completely unable to fix it myself. I could fill a book with stories of all the things I didn't fix. Of all the things I couldn't accomplish without his love and his grace.

Tonight as I write this, I pray for the courage to release my fists from their grip on blame and their stronghold on fixing. To allow myself to be comforted and rejoice in all of the things I couldn't fix, but he did.

Monday, August 8, 2011

I am yours

sweet and shining
bright and burning
raw and real
I am yours


Aly, you are worth dying for

Friday, August 5, 2011

i thank you god for most this amazing body

The e.e. cummings antidote for the times I get caught up in how I look, how my jeans fit, how much I've eaten, and how much I've worked out:

i thank you god for most this amazing
body:for the leaping greenly spring in my step
and the blue true dream of my eyes; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

Based on my favorite poem by e.e. cummings
.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

I am my own worst legalist

I am my own worst legalist.

The other day my pastor at Coast Vineyard described legalists as "anyone who will steal grace from you."

I've always thought of legalists as people who impose rules and regulations, add stress and judgment to your life. I never thought of what they take away: grace.


A couple months ago a friend of mine attended an event in North Carolina called the Wild Goose Festival. The Wild Goose is a celtic metaphor for the the Holy Spirit. The organizers of the festival described themselves as "followers of Jesus creating a festival of justice, spirituality, music and the arts. The festival is rooted in the Christian tradition and therefore open to all regardless of belief, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, denomination or religious affiliation."

That all sounded good to me. My own life has been transformed by the creative and re-creative power of the Holy Spirit, so the whole premise resonated with me. In reading about the festival I was especially moved by their acknowledgment that "the creative and open nature of our faith is perhaps our greatest asset for re-building and strengthening our relationships with each other, with our enemies, with our stories, our texts, and the earth."

Still sounded good to me.

My friend, Colin, who attended the festival, agreed that "the vibe of many people enjoying simply being with each other and sharing their joys, sorrows, and struggles was undeniable." (Check out more of his thoughts here)


To me, that sounds a lot like grace.

Which is why I was appalled a few weeks later when I Googled the festival and the top hits came back as articles denouncing this gathering of "neo-Gnostic fools who've unbuckled themselves from the Word of God and have embarked upon their Wild Goose Chase of subjective experience." (Southern Baptist blogger Ken Silva of Apprising Ministries quoted in an article in The Christian Century).

Now, I'm no expert on theology and I shy away at political debates, and I definitely don't want to get into a discussion about the Emergent church or anything like that, but the outcry of negativity sounded like legalism to me. A grace heist.

As my blood boiled, I was reminded of what my pastor said about legalists, "Expect opposition." That was just the fuel I needed to villanize those awful, closed-minded Christians.

And just as I was about to condemn these condemners under the rouse of tolerance and acceptance and standing up for my creative, grace-seeking brothers and sisters, it dawned on me that I had become my own worst grace-stealing legalist.

The Bible calls us not to division but to unity. My home group Bible study just finished going through the book of Ephesians and the theme of unity came up so many times that by the end we were parroting "unity" as the catchall answer like young VBSers shouting out "Jesus!" in response to any question.

Paul's exhortation to "live a life worthy of the calling you have received," applies just as much to me as the Wild Goose critics. I, too, am called to "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all." (Ephesians 4:1-6)

It seems we all need a good dose of the Wild Goose.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Un Regalo Para Mi

A Guatemalan Fit of Unwarranted Compassion

Okay, okay, I've gotten some feedback that the term "Fits of Unwarranted Compassion" is confusing. Am I talking about my own compassion towards others or God's compassion toward me? And if I am talking about God's compassion, doesn't the word "fit" seem a bit too sporadic and haphazard to describe something as constant and pervasive as God's compassion? Well, the answer to all of those questions is yes. Yes, these Fits of Unwarranted Compassion describe unexplainable feelings of compassion I've felt for other people. Yes, they describe God's compassion towards me. And, yes, the term "fit" is too careless a word to attribute to God's compassion.

The fits describe my own view of God's compassion, at first. In the midst of anger and despair I started experiencing this beauty and this meaning and this purpose and this joy that I couldn't explain and felt I didn't deserve. I eventually came to call them (because I love to title my life) Fits of Unwarranted Compassion. For a long time I viewed them as unpredictable bursts, fireflies of meaning in my otherwise dark night of the soul--fits. I didn't see them as connected. I didn't even see them as God. The fits more accurately describe my own fitful recognitions of God's hand at work.

I guess the only way to explain it is to describe one to you. I'm going to tell you about a more recent event in my life, when I'd already identified these fits as God's love. But I'm hoping it will help explain what I mean by these fits and why I am so profoundly grateful for them.

This summer I had the chance to lead a mission trip to Guatemala with a group of college students from Point Loma Nazarene University. Guatemala has long been a place I have wanted to spend time in--either visiting or living there long term. For a million reasons, this trip was a gift from God.
For now, I'll share just one of these reasons.

For five entire weeks, I didn't have to produce anything.

Nothing.

I work as a grant writer for a great organization where production and polished writing and attention to detail means not only personal satisfaction but critical funds for our programs.
As much as I love my job and the people I work to support, I needed a break. And God knew that.

He literally handed me this trip on a silver platter, forcing me to take the breather I so desperately needed but never would have taken had I not been offered this trip.

And breathe I did.

For five weeks I turned into an inarticulate, Spanish mumbling, VBS kid song humming fool.

And it was wonderful.

There was nothing to produce. Nothing to polish. My thoughts and ideas could remain unfinished, unexpressed, unanalyzed, and unclassified.

There was no grant to be proofed and no blog to be wrapped up nicely. No catchy punchlines or taglines. No persuasive arguments or marketing campaigns.

No to-do lists. No feelings of being behind or inadequate.

Five weeks of simply soaking it all in.

And it was glorious.

It may sound selfish, but I believe God knew exactly what he was doing. I came back from that trip with new vision and hope and excitement for my job, my relationships, and the ways God is living and moving and breathing in me even when I can't explain it.

One of my favorite quotes from Henri Nouwen (sheesh, three Henri mentions and this blog is only a week old!) says, "If we lack the strength to carry the burden of our own lives, we cannot accept the burden of our neighbors."

I believe that is true with all my heart. When I'm overwhelmed with work or questioning my relationships or obsessing about how good I look in a bathing suit, there's no way I can reach out to others. When I can't even get a handle on prioritizing a to-do list, how am I supposed to care for others and carry them?

While I believe this truth with all of my heart, I only know it in fits. Luckily, God knows it all the time and he knew five weeks in Guatemala was exactly what I needed, not only for me, but so that I can be the best steward of the life he has given me.

It is experiences like these that I call Fits of Unwarranted Compassion. And all I can say is gracias.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

T.S. Tuesdays

If you know me at all, you knew this had to be coming. Well, the alliteration part if not the T.S. Eliot part. T.S. Eliot is one of my favorite poets, so I decided to dedicate one day of the week to posting some of my favorite lines of his.

I am doing this because:
1. I think T.S. Eliot is the bomb dot com.
2. I was getting a little self-conscious about spilling my heart and soul every day.
3. It gives me an excuse to read more T.S. Eliot to find more tasty T.S. tidbits for you.
4. Alliteration. Enough said.

This has long been one of my favorites from his poem "East Coker" (Number 2 of 'Four Quartets'):

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love,
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.

Don't worry, I'm not exactly sure what he means by this either. But I love the way it sounds. I love the idea of emptying ourselves of our preconceived expectations of hope, love, and faith. I am intrigued by the parallel to Jesus' upside down Kingdom in which "the first shall be last and the last shall be first." In my hurried life, I'm convicted and challenged by the importance placed on waiting. And I love the image of the quiet, patient, stillness allowing space for the dancing in our souls.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Getting Fit

So how exactly did God woo this girl? If I had to sum up five years (all almost-25 years would be too hearty a task for even this expert introspecter), six journals, and who-knows-how-many ontological crises, f-word splattered questions and snarky comments, and countless more moments of unexplainable joy and thankfulness, this would be the synopsis for the Cliff's Notes version:

Ironically, it took having my entire world crumble before me to release my fists from their tight and self-righteous grip on legalism and purity. Only in the aftermath of anger, hopelessness, and numbness did compassion begin to show its surprising, redemptive, and mischievous face.

And those fits of unwarranted compassion are what I now call God—if I had to put a name to it.

At the risk of turning into my own smiley face sporting, life-is-rainbows-and-butterflies worst nightmare, I will occasionally be posting about some of the gifts of grace and friendship, love and lessons, second chances and joy (stop your groaning) that God has freely and mercifully given me. I apologize in advance for my lack of wit-filled cynicism in these posts, but I will not apologize for the goodness of a God that turned this scoffing cynic into a devoted daughter.

These posts I will title "Getting Fit" to stand for "Fits of Unwarranted Compassion" (I was going switch it to Unwarranted Fits of Compassion to get the hip acronym "UFC", but apparently that name is already taken and I wouldn't want another WWF/WWE type lawsuit on my hands, and the alternative, "FUC" is even more unfortunate. So stay tuned for my thoughts on Getting Fit. I'll try not to use too many exclamation points.