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Married people are the best kind of people(and other things I realized this weekend)

-If you had told me that I’d be the only single person when I joined my Lifegroup, I probably would have laughed and gone to our downtown church instead of Lexington. But that turned out to be a gift.

Once I read an article by a single woman that was basically an open letter to churches saying how single people feel invisible there.
It made me sad because I never feel invisible at Midtown and I don’t feel like the few others do either.

While we were all in the mountains with most of the rest of our church family, I kept thinking how much I love all of these people and all of their kids so so much and it hit me that this is all that single people need.

You need to watch tons of good dads in one room so you can know that they exist. You need to occasionally steal people’s kids so they can have a break. You need to see what real marriages look like so you can erase everything Disney ever taught you about love(except the part about how true love puts someone else’s needs before your own; Frozen is great). You need to be surrounded by wiser people who can teach you things(I’d say older and wiser, but I know far too many wise people who are younger than me).

-Meeting new people and learning new games are the two things that feed my soul the most. It’s Monday and my soul is still full.

-People ask me all the time what I want to do if I don’t want to be a manager at Moe’s or go into full time ministry. I’ve always said that I wish I could have a job that I love and that gives me enough time to serve with a church that I love even more than my job.
Sunday morning, sitting with all these people that I love, I realized that’s exactly where my life has landed. It doesn’t look much like I expected, but like everything God has ever done for me, it’s perfect.

-Months ago when they first announced that family vacation was happening, I asked at Lifegroup that week “How does that work if I don’t have a family?” All I meant was that I didn’t want to sleep in a room by myself, but what I didn’t hear myself saying is that not having kids or a husband means I don’t have a family.
That’s a lie that makes me feel much more alone than I really am.
I’m not at all alone and I absolutely have a family.
——

Life with these people is my favorite thing.
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The first eleventh

Four years ago today I landed in Costa Rica. It’s still my favorite country.

I met a team of World Racers and the seven of them plus me shared a little bag of chocolate milk, the kind where you sip it out of a cut off corner. Their team leader joked that this proved I was obviously cut out to do the Race myself someday.
Out loud, I just laughed. Silently, I thought “No way. Never. That’s impossible. Awesome, but impossible.”

Now, saying the words “I went on the World Race” makes me laugh. I never feel like it really happened unless I’m with one of my squadmates. Normally it feels like a dream.

The thing is, I thought I was just going to Costa Rica to meet a graduation requirement. It wasn’t supposed to change my entire life.

But it did. And I’m glad. I can’t even remember what I was “supposed” to do after that trip; I probably didn’t even have a plan.

God did. That worked out.

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thankful in the awful

This week has been almost nothing but awful.
I say almost because there’s no such thing as a completely awful day when Jesus was in it. I refuse to even get into awful details; instead I’m going to list everything I’m currently thankful for because there’s absolutely nothing left for me to do.

I’m thankful that I have an unreal church family, among whom are mechanics and bankers who know how to help me.

I’m thankful that one of my favorite children in the world recently learned how to say my name because it’s the dang cutest thing. On Tuesday I got to Lifegroup and he saw me on the porch through the window and points and yells “NINDA! NINDA!!” and frantically tried to open the door to let me in with his teeny hands.

I’m thankful that every time I get a Snapchat I know it’s my best friend(because I have no one else’s username).

I’m thankful for my favorite customers, because one of them came in tonight with his son and after I finished their order he says to him “That’s Linda, and that’s great service.” It was possibly the best compliment I’ve ever gotten at work, and with how emotionally fragile I am right now I actually got tears in my eyes right there on the line.

I’m thankful that Wells Fargo gave me a free stuffed pony today.

I’m thankful for the precious lady at Geico who is so good at her job.

I’m thankful that I don’t drive a Hummer.

I’m thankful for this song which I’ve been listening to on repeat all day.

I’m thankful that I spent Christmas in Malaysia once.

I’m thankful for Reese’s Pieces cups. Yall have GOT to try these things.

I’m thankful for my friends. I know I already said that. I just really really mean it. The one thing I haven’t felt this week is alone.

And I’m thankful for football even though it made Jimmy Fallon come on extra late, who I’m also thankful for.

Thanks God.

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Sabbath-ing unconventionally

Growing up, going to church was a lot like working a fast food job, in that we were only allowed to skip if we were violently ill. We even went to church on vacation.

So as an adult, I feel equal parts guilty and joyously rebellious anytime I don’t go to church.

October has been nothing but crazy. Well, busy and wonderful and just very very full, which all adds up to pure crazy.
I’m hopelessly addicted to busy-ness. I love it as much as I hate it. Love it because there’s always something exciting to look forward to when one exciting thing ends, hate it because there’s always something distracting me from the exciting thing that I’m sitting in.
And every time I take on way too much and find myself drowned in commitments for three weeks straight, I promise it’s the last time. But it never is, because I love people and I love going places and doing things…and then all of the people and the going and the doing pile up again. They’re all good things, but there are just so many of them.

So I stayed home with Jesus this morning. I slept in and listened to a sermon in my pajamas while eating a toaster strudel, and then I watched a Love It or List It marathon and cleaned my room and it was a glorious Sunday.
Because sometimes, not often but sometimes, a day of rest means not going to church. I LOVE my church and I love my friends, but I love Jesus more, and now and then I’m just too tired to see him anywhere outside of my house. And me and Jesus have an unconventional Sunday together and it’s exactly what I need.

It’s also a nice reminder that I need to take better care of myself during the week, so I never have to miss another Sunday again.

God is good and so is life.

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11 Tiny Things

You can’t make up tiny things.
I could easily imagine postcard-worthy mountains, and hundreds of adorable kids speaking other languages, and warthogs digging into my tent.

But when I remember the little things, those are what make me feel again like it really happened.

1. Making a sauna in the kitchen in Bolivia by boiling three pots of water at a time on the stove because it was always between 40 and 50 degrees in our little house.
2. The smell of our gas stove in Peru.
3. The beanbag chair in Ecuador that made it snow every time you sat on it.
4. Getting up early enough in Colombia to shower, so I could have time to get back in bed and warm up before we really had to get up.
5. Eating Japanese frosted flakes for breakfast every morning. Although they may have just been corn flakes; that detail is fuzzy.
6. Rock hard carpet in Malaysia that reminded me of the floor in my grandparents’ bedroom when I was a kid.
7. Taking cold showers in Thailand even though we had hot water, because the air was hot enough. Also the orange kitten that lived on our back porch.
8. All the Sprite I drank in Cambodia. Anytime I was craving sugar(which was a lot, after being away from America for near eight months at this point) I’d go to the corner store and get a Sprite, because I was also hot and thirsty and it was cheap.
9. The frying pan in Swaziland that always had to soak overnight because eggs would stick to it that bad. And the other pan that we destroyed by attempting to make peanut butter popcorn in it and almost setting fire to our hut.
10. The hippos and yellow birds in Botswana. I have never thought about that without smiling. I wrote a whole blog post about it. My mansion in heaven will have a hippo in the backyard with a buddy bird on its back. I’ve already asked God.
11. All our cats in South Africa. One day me and Meagan opened our back door and all four of them were napping in the same patch of sun and it was almost as cute as the hippo story.

It happened. It was real and it was good and it mattered.
I miss it today.

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Good, long, great and terrible

Someday I hope John Green writes an autobiography, because with how accurately he writes about grief and loss and joy, he has to have had a fascinating life.

I don’t like An Abundance of Katherines. It’s the only book of his I haven’t loved. I’m forcing myself to finish it, because Looking for Alaska was only okay and then turned amazing.

The point is, I love almost every word he’s written, and I remembered one of my favorites this morning.

“You are going to live a good and long life filled with great and terrible moments that you cannot even imagine yet!”

Today I really really believe that. Even though I didn’t just go blind.
That sentence makes no sense if you’ve never read the Fault in our Stars.

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Thursday Thoughts, July 28th

There are always at least a few customers every day who are surprised that chips are free.

“Do chips come with that?”
“How much is it for extra chips?”
“WE CAN GET REFILLS ON CHIPS FOR FREE???”(This was an adorable middle-aged couple who’d been joking about how the husband always ate half the wife’s chips while she ate her burrito; I said “You know you can always come ask for more, right?” and you’d think I’d told them we were adding a second Christmas to the calendar)

Once there was a woman who ordered a bowl of queso, and asked if she could pay for a few extra bags of chips because she’d also be getting lots of salsa(which is also free). I told her of course we could give her as many as she needed, but they were free. She says, “Oh no, I need a lot of them, you can’t give that many away, I’m glad to pay for them.” Even after I explained that there’s literally no way to charge her for them, even if we wanted to, she still seemed surprised.

Then there are others who, when I ask if they want chips(if you get a burrito bowl or a salad, we ask; otherwise we’ll automatically put them in your basket), ins

I think God is the same way with grace.

We wonder how much it costs us, what we have to do to earn it, if there’s ever a limit.

Nothing, nothing, and never.
You pay for a meal and get free chips.
Jesus paid for your life and you get free grace.

And unlike when you ask for more chips, and I’m happy to give them to you but also wanting to pitch a small fit because later I’ll have to fry more…Jesus completely and endlessly delights in giving us grace on grace.

 

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Things and lists

Things That Make Me Bounce-worthy Happy
(My friend Casey told me once “Sometimes you get so happy that it’s like you’re wagging a tail you don’t have.” If you know me even a little bit you’ve probably seen the exact bouncing motion I’m talking about and this is one of many qualities that convince people I’m half a puppy)
1. That beautiful phase of watching a new show when you’ve worked into that groove where you feel like the characters are your friends but you’re still learning new things to love about them because you’re still in the first few episodes.
2. Hugs.
3. Spontaneous hangout times, because when they’re planned, people have time to cancel and I have time to look forward to it and then get disappointed. No plans=no hopes. Plus surprises are just the best.
4. When a customer pays for the stranger behind them in line.

Things I’m Determined to Do Someday
(of midlevel importance)
1. Go on a date
2. Hug David Ortiz
3. Catch a ball at a major league game
4. Pay off my student loans

Things That Have Always Been the Same
1. I’ve always had trouble sleeping and I’ve always been a night owl. By that I mean, I was nine months old the first time I ever slept through a full night, and my earliest childhood memories are of lying awake in bed quietly singing entire Chris Rice albums from beginning to end because I could. not. sleep. This was before I could read; once that happened I’d sneak books under my bed and read until my brain finally shut off.
2. I’ve always hated rice.
3. I’m positive I was born with ADD. Most cases are developed, but some people’s brains are that way from day one and anyone who knew me as a child would testify that I’m among the second kind.
4. I’ve always had a good memory, and I’ve always loved when people ask to store things in my head.

Things That Used to be Different
1. I wasn’t always afraid of the dark. That started when I was eight.
2. I used to like chocolate and I can’t remember exactly when I stopped; the first time I remember telling someone I didn’t like it was in ninth grade at a Christmas party, but I’m sure I didn’t just suddenly decide it in that moment.
3. I used to want to live in South Carolina forever and never get on a plane, much less leave the country for eleven months.
4. I used to love journaling, now it’s a chore. Writing I love; recording my day to day life, I dread.

Things I Felt Like Thinking About
1. Now and then I get sad that I had to change my major, because I LOVE learning about anything to do with psychology, I just wasn’t smart enough to write the papers or pass the tests.
2. Sometimes I pretend I don’t remember people’s names so they’ll feel okay if they forgot mine, because I’m aware that I’m abnormally good with names and most people need to meet someone more than once.
3. I think I love Scorpion so much because it’s about a bunch of people who are different but still fit perfectly in their job. I’m Paige in real life even though I wish I was Toby.
4. God put an extra dose of humor in the part of my brain where a sense of direction should be. So I can’t navigate to save my life, but at least I can write a witty story about it once I find my way home.
5. I like TV better than movies because you get to hold onto the characters for longer. Also because I have attachment issues and an obsessive personality…you can spend days watching every episode of a show while a movie is over in a few hours at most.
6. It bothers me just a tad that every other list has only four points and this one has six. Five if you don’t count this one pointing out the numbers.

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Birthday resolutions

I don’t like New Years Day. It’s so hard to feel full of hope and ready for a fresh start when it’s bone chillingly cold. All I feel on January 1st is ready for spring. So I’m never in the mood for resolutions when the rest of America is talking about them.

Last year I decided to think of the day before my birthday as my personal New Year’s Eve. The next day I wake up and celebrate and decide the one thing I want to accomplish by my next birthday.
So I turned 24 and pledged to find a community to fill the aching dead space where F Squad had lived.
And I DID IT.

Last week I was too busy traipsing around the great white north, and armchair managing the Red Sox(I offhandedly said during the All Star game “We should really try to get Drew Pomeranz” and two days later guess who we made a trade for? I’ve rarely been more proud of myself), to really sit down and think about what I wanted out of this next year of my life.
This morning when I woke up and still didn’t feel like leaving my cloud of a bed, after our 15 hour trip home yesterday, I laid there and thought of something I’ve now wanted for twenty years.

This is Tito.
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Let me say it one more time because it’s so bizarre to me: this picture was taken twenty years ago. I’ve since learned that bangs don’t work on me.
Tito was from the Dominican Republic. He was staying with my babysitter’s family for a month because he had heart problems and needed surgery in an American hospital, so I got to play with him every Sunday at church and usually a time or two during the week. We were BFFs. Every time we saw each other we would run and yell and hug like we hadn’t been together in a year(I guess when you’re five, a week between Sundays feels like a long time).
But Tito didn’t speak a word of English. This didn’t stop us from talking to each other; he was almost as talkative as I am and neither of us noticed that the other had no idea what we were saying.

Still, I begged my mom every day to teach me more words in Spanish so I could say them to him. I think I told him how old I was every time I saw him, because that was the only whole sentence I knew; otherwise I’d just excitedly point to any new object in the room and yell the word I’d learned. He would laugh and continue rambling in Spanish, not realizing that I hadn’t suddenly become fluent just because I knew the days of the week.
We both cried when it was time for him to go home; I remember he made me a card with a note in Spanish in it, and Rachael had written the English translation on the back. Even though my mom tried to get me to understand that I’d probably never see him again, I was determined to learn ALL the Spanish in case he came back someday.

I never got around to becoming fluent, but I’ve never stopped wanting to learn. Sort of like how I’ve always wished I liked another sport besides baseball; I go through phases and try to get into football or basketball or even hockey, but it’s too hard and I give up after a couple weeks.
Especially after living in South America for four months and loving teaching English in Ecuador, I knew for sure that whatever I ended up doing with my life, I wanted to do it in Spanish.

So, that’s what I’m going to do with 25. Actually try. Study consistently. Turn 26 knowing significantly more than what I learned in high school. And maybe do something with what I already know; I could probably have a lot of fun tutoring high school kids who don’t pay attention in class, because people always get excited when I’m excited.
I don’t know how I haven’t gotten started on this earlier, because my practical* dream job is to work with foster kids whose parents have been deported(did you know that happens? The children are citizens because they were born here, but their parents were here illegally, so they get sent back to their country while their kids have to stay here. I’ll help translate between the legal people and the parents, and the kids and their American foster families). I don’t usually like to tell people that because they always remind me how impossible that is for me, seeing as I got the wrong degree in college. I get that, but Oprah was like 40 when she made it in life, so I’ve got time.

I’m excited about life. 24 was long and dark. 25 looks bright and full.

*My out of my mind, never gonna happen dream job is to teach English to pro baseball players who come from places like the Dominican Republic, or translate for them in interviews. Getting a job in a field in which I have zero knowledge or experience sounds much more doable when you compare it to that.

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Friends that become family and babies that aren’t mine

If you had come to me when I was 18 and told me I’d reach 25 and still not be a mom, I wouldn’t have believed you.

Yet here we are. Almost. In three weeks.
But I’m constantly surrounded by children even if I don’t get to take any of them home with me. Seven summers as a camp counselor made me used to loving kids that don’t belong to me.

I know more kids at Midtown than I do adults; sometimes when I introduce myself to new people I have to say something like, “I’m Linda, and I know you’re Chloe’s mom but I’ve never caught your name.” It actually makes it easier for me to get to know people, because I’m much less anxious around them if I already love their kid, and they’re more likely to like me when their kid loves me.

We have four babies in our Lifegroup. The other day I walked in and sat down and wondered what felt off, then suddenly said “Why are there no kids??” because there weren’t at the moment. (When I would tell other Midtown-ers that we didn’t have a sitter and we just do group time with all the kids running around(this changed about a month ago), they’d always ask how we get anything done. It’s actually weird now to do it without baby noise in the background.) But then the guys sent Cannon back to us and it felt normal again.
I love my friends’ kids almost as much as I love my friends.

I’ve never had friends that weren’t compartmentalized and temporary. I’d make friends for a year at a time in college, then we’d live on different halls or have different classes and finally we graduated. I’d have summer friends at camp, and even if they came back from one summer to the next, most weren’t close between summers. Then I had the closest friends I’d ever had, who lived with me every day for eleven months and lived a life that I’d never share with anyone else, but it was still a specific season, with a time limit, that we’d all signed up for.

I forget most of the time that my Lifegroup isn’t like that. We aren’t confined to one season, because this season doesn’t have a title or a definite end. It’s just life. Normal adulthood. And these are the first “normal” friends I’ve ever had. I’ve always grown into things a little late; I got a cell phone when I was 18, my driver’s license when I was 21, I needed an extra semester to graduate college, and then I made my first adult friends when I was 24. I think I appreciate all of those things a bit more, having waited longer for them.

I want these to be the friends I get to keep. I don’t want to have kids one day who look at my old pictures and ask me who those people are; I want them to say “Oh look, there’s a really young version of Cannon’s mom” because they grew up around all of them.
Once I joked that I wished we could all live in a house together like a sorority, then quickly took it back because all of them are married so I’d still sleep in a room by myself and it would all be super weird. I do love them enough to want to see them every day and that was my point…but we were laughing so much that I didn’t bother explaining.

I don’t even like to refer to them as “my church” because that makes it sound like a group of people I see on Sunday, listen to a sermon with, and keep separate from the rest of my life.
I’d rather call them my family, because when something happens I want to tell them first, and if I could I would see them as much as my normal family. They feel like home.

My brothers are my family by blood, but my church is my family by grace.