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Archive for October, 2009

I’m posting this in a quick-like hurry because I get to leave work early today and head across several states to pay my native state of Ohio a little visit. Of course, I couldn’t neglect FF again, so here is one of my old YouTube favorites: Wonderful British instruction for women who want to keep their virtue and find a suitable husband (AS SHE MUST!).

Now you know what to do—have a Happy Friday and a great weekend!

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Hello all! It’s me, Bethany, writing to you from Berlin, Germany! I’m so sorry for the long absence—I would blame it on the busy-ness of the last month, but while that is partly at fault, it is mostly my lack of discipline that is to blame. See how I tied that right in to today’s title? Clearly this long absence has given me Super-Wit. Maybe I should try back in a year and see how it goes? Eh? Okay, maybe not. But I would like to muse a little bit about a subject I’ve been thinking a lot on, namely contentment and having a disciplined mind.

Maybe it would be best to lead in with a quote I’ve been loving for the past couple of weeks. It’s from G. K. Chesterton:

“Being “contented” ought to mean in English, as it does in French, being pleased. Being content with an attic ought not to mean being unable to move from it and resigned to living in it; it ought to mean appreciating all there is in such a position.”

I love this way of thinking about contentment, because I do so often think of it as resignation. I say to myself, “If I am content to be single, that means ‘I am a perpetual spinster and I LIKE IT.’” Or, “If I am to be content living far away from friends and family, that means ‘I must remain this way and spend the rest of my life communicating per e-mail and Skype.’” Or with a job, “This job does not make me happy, but looking for ways to make it better would mean I am – gasp – discontented!” I’m not sure where such a thought got started (probably somewhere in the sick part of my mind which thinks unhappiness is equivalent to holiness), but I don’t think it’s right. And I’m glad to have Mr. Chesterton’s quote to help me think through it.

My way of thinking (“Always resignation and acceptance!”) requires a strong will, which says — I can take what life throws at me and not complain. And this isn’t a bad skill; I think life does sometimes require that one just sucks it up and slogs through. But in day to day life, I think Mr. C. has it right. In his way of thinking, it is creativity and initiative, not a will of iron, that is required for contentment. To be content with an attic, to work with his example, one could rejoice in the intriguing angles of an attic roof, or the fantastic view (if your attic  has windows), the fact that heat rises (in the winter), or even fancifully imagine oneself captive in a tower. Now, none of this means you have to want the attic to be your home forever, but it does mean that you put your mind to work harnessing the advantages rather than enduring the disadvantages of your situation.

So that means, for the more mundane examples from my own life, that I don’t say “I’m not married, and contentment requires that I accept that loneliness will be my lot for the next 60 years.” First of all, that is nonsense anyway because marriage doesn’t insure against loneliness any more than singleness causes it. Second of all, a much better way to think about the situation would be “I am single. What can I do, today, with the peculiar advantages of this situation?” Maybe it is writing an extra letter to a friend, or inviting someone in another “lonely” situation to come over and cook supper with me. It requires inventiveness, and not only that, it requires follow through. It is not enough to say “this is a super-holy season of my life dedicated to Jesus,” it requires actually, day by day, doing the gritty work of looking for opportunities to use this time for God and the perseverance to actually do those things that come to mind. It requires not only perceiving but also doing the good works that God has prepared for us. Only by actually doing, I think, will we be able to see situations for their possibilities and not as something to be endured.

Your turn: I’d love to hear some ideas. What other ways can we, right now, use our particular circumstances to their fullest?

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One of the songs my choir did at our church service last night. Click on the video to play, and again for the YouTube page itself.

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During a recent dark period of “NO ONE WILL EVER LOVE MEEEEE” stupidity, I decided to try eHarmony (again). A few months later, I am utterly, mind-crumblingly bored with the selections and the entire process. When I realized how many of my “matches” eHarmony photos were giving me some good laughs, I thought I could use them to give others a laugh, and perhaps teach a brief lesson on online “dating profile photo etiquette.”

Note: I’m not making fun of these guys’ characters, or their looks. They’re all quite good-looking guys, and I’m sure they’re perfectly decent people. But in a time and place when one wants to give the best first-impression possible, using only the written word and a photo … well, you’d think they might have tried a little harder. Also, I did not edit these photos—color, cropping, etc—except to take measures to protect their identities.

Rule #1: No ex-girlfriends. And if you do have photos with girls, THIS IS WHY THEY HAVE CAPTIONS. At least explain who they are—friends, sisters, cousins, chem lab partner, etc. Don’t lazily half-crop them out. We’re not stupid: WE SEE WHAT YOU DID THERE. A sloppy crop fools no one. You look lazy and cheap.

Proof:

cutoutgf

For some photos, I did not need to take any measures to protect this man’s identity. He did it himself, providing a vague idea of his interests (mechanical things? ropes and tubes? boating?) but pretty much no clue about what he looks like:

onriverinshadow

Always keep in mind, this is eHarmony, not MySpace. Use of deep, emo pics when you are clearly neither is funny if you like irony, but not if it’s the only picture in this guy’s profile:

poutysepia

For THIS photo, I really wish that I didn’t feel obligated to protect the man’s identity, because you really have to see his full expression to understand why I consider this photo a fail. His eyes, looking directly into the camera, coupled with this infuriatingly smug grin, just SCREAMS, “I am holding this baby so I can look more attractive to the women who want one for themselves. Yes, I am a completely smug, manipulative man. Take it all in, ladies. Bask in the glory of my man-with-baby attractiveness.” But you can at least still see the smug grin.

(This method, obviously, doesn’t work on me. That’s probably why the photo so enraged me rather than making me laugh.)

yeahigotababy

But one thing to remember is: strangling puppies is not usually attractive.

puppystrangler

As always, happy Friday!!!

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This video needs no introduction, really…

The saddest part: update the hairdos, put the information into an online profile, and you have eHarmony. I KNOW THIS FROM EXPERIENCE.

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Thanks to everyone who commented on the last post! The responses were amazing, well-thought-out, insightful, and more numerous than I had anticipated. I really appreciate it—especially because many of you put into words the concerns that I had, but somehow could not express. (And don’t worry, this isn’t someone I am dating or even considering.)

Now on to the true purposes of this post…

Dear Friends:

I’m posting this so people will read it (Duh), because I consider it exceedingly important. I have a special message for any of you who comes across this blog and may be going through some kind of difficulty right now.

Here is the message:

Everything is going to be OK.

I know, I may have oversimplified it a bit, so allow me to explain. Many of us are going through difficult times—whether it’s related to our job, church, family, residence, health, relationship, education, and so on—and are not sure what to do, how to react, or what things will be like once we have emerged from the other side of it.

But it’s going to be OK!

How do I know? For three months after I graduated from (a prestigious-for-a-tiny-four-year-liberal-arts) college, I was unemployed with a useless degree. I was busting my butt trying to find a job around my (sort-of) hometown, with little encouragement and nowhere else to go.

I was also over-paying rent for a house I lived in by myself, and come winter I found out that the house had leaky windows and no insulation, and one month my gas bill was over $180.

By that time I had gotten the only job I was able to get, which involved working for a drug-testing company and included collecting urine samples. Most of my workday involved being harassed (sexually and otherwise), scammed, and cursed at by nasty, sometimes-violent, drug-dependent and -dealing patients from the very dregs of society. During that time, and even now, I remain pro-drug-legalization, but I wanted to see all these people arrested simply because I hated them. (Most of them—a few were nice and cooperative.)

Several months later, in trying to find a job in the DC area, I had three excellent prospects and was turned down by all of them. I was also rejected for an internship that I wanted very badly—one for which a college professor had recommended me. By this point I was seriously questioning my faith and decided that prayer, church-going, Bible study, and God in general wasn’t getting me anywhere, so f*** it, I was going to take it from there, all by myself.

I basically said, “God, I know You’re there, but I don’t want to have anything to do with You anymore.”

That was the night that, not wanting to be alone, I drove to the house of a dear friend of mine. This friend was, in fact, teaching in Mexico at the time, but I was still friends with her parents and siblings. Right when I arrived, her mother was contacting her on Skype, and I was able to share in the conversation. About three hours later, I left the house with a great sense of restoration, and I knew that God was still giving me exactly what I needed, and when—even when it seemed so small.

Eventually, I moved to the DC area with a very little in savings and no job or apartment. I slept on the couch at a friend’s apartment for three weeks before finding a place with other friends. I was progressing very nicely in the process of getting a writing job with a non-profit, until they hired someone else. That was the last of my prospects, until I had a couple interviews with the company I now work for.

The job I have now is not what I’m doing the rest of my life. But it’s enough for now, especially when you consider also the amazing church that I’m involved with, and the fantastic friendships that I’ve made, as well as several experiences that I could not have had if I had continued to reject God and fail to trust Him.

Not everything is wonderful right now, and in the almost-year-and-a-half that I’ve been out in the DC area, I have experienced my share of drama, disappointment, and overall crap—including flirting with an eating disorder, dating/guy drama, and depression.

But when it’s bad, it’s not going to stay that way. And God is faithful throughout.

Psalm 86:15: But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.

Even if you don’t want to take my word for it, there are dozens of examples out there, past and present, of God’s faithfulness, or how, at the very least, things can change and hardly anything in life is static. For some more worldly examples, I recently read an interview about a current plus-size fashion designer who used to run a children’s non-profit. A few years ago, a book I was reading had an “About the Author” section that mentioned a list of previous jobs she’d held, which included “burrito-maker.”

Your current circumstances can affect your future. But they probably will not be your future.

Now, lest anyone misinterpret me, here is what I’m NOT saying:

1. I’m not saying that you have no right to complain—I bet you do. But believe me, I’ve tried, and it doesn’t help.

2. I’m not saying I’ve had it worse than you so don’t tell me about it—everyone has different experiences and circumstances, one just as valid as the next.

3. I’m not saying that things will never get worse than this, or that things will get better for ever after—life is a series of ups and downs.

4. I’m not saying that your feelings during this difficult period are not valid. Although feelings cannot be the foundation of our decisions, they cannot be completely ignored or denied.

5. I’m not saying, “You should listen to me because I am all-knowing and wise, and I have had so many more experiences than you.” I just think that my experiences, and coming out of the other sides of them, are a testament to the fact that God is faithful, and you are all going to be OK, too. It just may end up different from what you had expected.

6. I’m not advocating being passive and waiting for change—you do have to take initiative and make changes to some extent.

So, just to reiterate what I’ve been saying: I know how you feel—and that’s why I know you’ll be OK.

Sincerely and With Love,

Me

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