when I grow up

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I packed up my life tonight.

We are preparing to leave Magdalena tomorrow afternoon. After a few days of debriefing in Guatemala City, the group will head back to the states.

I packed up all of my clothes and medicines and books and folders and papers. It was a laborious process, I’m telling you.

I was rifling through my papers, heartlessly sorting them into “throw away,” “nostalgically keep forever,” and “keep until their useful life has passed.” As I scanned and sorted, I came across notes from a Bible study several weeks ago.

Intrigued by the hot pink pen I had apparently found to take notes with, I took a moment to read what I had written. The front side was adorned with normal notes and sly comments.

I had thoughtfully and piously written, “Beware! Beware! Be a very wary bear! Heffalumps and woozles are very confoozles. They like to gobble up the things you prize!”

Another moment I thought fit to record was the quote, “What happened to her oikos? Se fue.”

Surprisingly enough, I had also taken painstakingly insightful notes on trusting the religious system, the transience of reputation and authority, attitude fueling actuality, and the physical and social structure of the temple in Jerusalem.

Then, curious, I turned the page over.

I had been thinking as I took notes. What does it mean that your attitude fuels your actuality? It means that what you think and what you believe will change who you are.

Sometimes I fall into the girlish trap of wondering what I want my husband to be like. But in more recent times, I have realized that if God wants me to get married, he already has a great guy picked out. I don’t have to worry about that.

But what I do have to worry about is who I am.

There are a lot of things, especially after this trip, that I want to change about myself. Whether they are attributes that are easily seen in my day-to-day actions or more hidden in my psyche, I have realized that I need to change myself to be more like Jesus. Because if I am willing to change myself in these little areas, then how much more will God use these areas to make me and others into who he wants us to be? And at the same time, a lot of the things on this list are just quirks that are not important in a grand, universal sense, but that are important to me.

Without much further adieu, here are my lists.

“Be excellent, uh-huh, uh-huh, at what is good; be innocent — hooah! — of evil.”

What do I want to be?

read Bible daily — the more time I spend reading the Bible, the more I crave it.

be on time to things — I feel like I am always the last one to meetings and events. If I make a habit of getting out the door 15 minutes earlier, the stress in my life will be reduced exponentially.

do yoga in the morning — good way to focus and to stay flexible. I don’t want to strain to touch my toes in 10 years.

have a prayer time and prayer journal — this is something so important to me, and something that gets pushed into the margins of my life so easily.

dietary discipline — obviously, gluten is off-limits. But I feel so much better when I’m not eating grains at all. In an ideal world, I would eat meat and vegetables and fruit and drink lots of water and tea. But when that is not realistic, having moderation in my eating habits is a healthy habit to maintain.

uplifting words, always — I try to always have kind words for people around me, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have other words too. On this trip, I have noticed that I am a fairly bitter person, and that I can really enjoy complaining. I want to trade my bitterness and grudges in for the undeserved and radiant joy of the Lord every moment of every day, no matter what my circumstances may be.

tithing — this is something that is very important to me. I know there is controversy about what the Bible actually commands us to give financially as far as percentage, or if we are even commanded to give according to the New Testament. But regardless of that, tithing is something to which I am 100% committed. Whether I earn $30,000 a year or $300,000 a year in the future, I want at least 10% out of every paycheck and gift to go back to God.

dresses and skirts — I love wearing these. First, it’s always a great day when you can sneak up to a friend and whisper in their unsuspecting ear, “I’m not wearing pants.” Second, wearing pants is sad and boring. Third and more seriously, I love being a girl. When I was younger, it was difficult reconciling my girl-ness with the fact that I like mud and action movies and lifting weights. However, I have managed to come to terms with the fact that I am not Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty. I am Pocahontas. I am Mulan. I am Boadicea. I am Deborah. And I’ll take that any day over a glass slipper and a pumpkin carriage.

few clothes — in the last four months, I have realized that I have way too many clothes. I am going to give away the majority of the clothes I own, and figure out how few articles of clothing I can realistically own.

well-read — I want to know the classics. I am relatively well-read, but there are so many classic books that I can only pretend to know. I want to know War and Peace and Anna Karenina and Jane Austen’s writings and non-Western philosophers and… you get the point. I crave language. I crave learning.

up-to-date on news — I was informed by a classmate the other day that I know nothing about the world. She was joking, but it still made me think. I read CNN and Al Jazeera on a semi-regular basis. But this is bigger than that. I want to be familiar with world events. I want to know where the little countries that randomly show up on the news are. I want to know about events before I read a Facebook post about them.

know constellations and clouds — this is one of those silly quirks, but I feel like I won’t really merit adult status until I can lay on the ground outside with kids and tell them about the clouds that are passing by, or describe to them which constellations are which and what the stories behind those constellations are.

lift weights so I’m strong — this is fairly self-explanatory. I like being strong. I like being able to open pickle jars by myself (though once in a while it’s nice to have a guy do it, just because).

cardio/respiratory stamina — I hate huffing and puffing. When I go running, the first thing that always gives out are my lungs. I have always had a very weak respiratory system (as evidenced by the 1 or 2 cases of pneumonia I contracted every year between the ages of 4 and 15). I want to be proactive and change that.

archery! — I love archery. It makes me feel like Legolas… except less fruity. My apologies to J.R.R. Tolkien and, somewhat, to Orlando Bloom. No apologies to Orlando Bloom’s hairstylist.

a role model — I forget sometimes that people watch each other. I assume that I am exempt from the great chain of watching-others-and-being-watched-by-others. But then someone makes an offhand comment about my behavior (or lack thereof) and I am uncomfortably reminded that I am human.

love relentlessly! — I want to walk in love. I want to pour out affection and care and genuine interest on every person with whom I interact. Not infrequently, I make the grand statement (mentally if not verbally) that I am a caring individual… and then I find myself being emotionally insensitive, talking over someone else, ignoring someone’s request for time together, or any number of other unfortunate scenarios. I want that to stop.

intentional Teya time; Mom and Dad too — as far as love languages go, I am not a quality time person. Obviously, I am human, and therefore I like to spend time with the people I love. But I would rather have a bearhug and a 2-minute chat than a 20-minute card game without any physical touch. However, many of the people I love most dearly are quality time people. When I am not intentional about making time for them, I am not loving them unselfishly. I want to love generously, and sometimes that means three rounds of a card game instead of snuggling.

dancer — for me, dance has always been a way of expressing myself, relieving stress, and connecting socially. At different times in my life, I have done ballet, tap dance, middle eastern dance, salsa dance, and swing dance. This is something I never want to lose, and something I continually want to improve… except the ballet and tap. Those can stay far away, rooted in childhood memories.

radical modesty — being in Guatemala has really opened my eyes. Modesty is so important, for both men and women. I am not in favor of burkas, nor am I in favor of bikinis; instead, I want to dress in a way that honors God, myself, and the men and women around me with my body.

Who will I be when I grow up?

Okay, let me start by fixing that title. Realistically, I am as grown-up as I will ever be… if I do not focus on maturing in a godly way, all that will change about my status as a grown-up is that I will be able to drink alcohol, I will get wrinkles, I will be able to rent a car, and I will have a mortgage. These are all secondary characteristics. True adulthood and true maturity comes from emotional and psychological development that has nothing, or very little, to do with age.

During the Bible study, I drafted a statement of my life goals. It is fairly vague, and fairly cheesy, but it does a decent job of summing up who I want to be. I do not want to work toward being this person 40 years from now. I do not want to hope to be this person in 5 or 10 years.

I want to be this person today, right now, even as I lay on my bed and listen to the downpour outside and type this blog post.

I do not want to be lukewarm in any area of my life. I want to be a passionate, energetic, positive reflection of God’s character, even and especially in the face of corruption, darkness, and apathy. I want to depend on God for strength so that through me, God can do extraordinary things. I want to be strong enough to be wrong and brave enough to apologize. I want to bring smiles and peace to those around me because of God’s spirit touching them through me. I want to be a refuge; I want to be a safe person to talk to, and a source of godly wisdom in difficult times. And in all things I do, whether I am praised or chastised, I want to act and to react in a way that gives glory to Jesus and not to me.

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3 responses »

  1. Erica,

    Love it. Love it. Love it. You are an amazing young woman and I am incredibly proud of you.

    Dad

    P.S. Thank you so much for including Boadicea in this post. You are just so cool that way.

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