Paige!

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It’s graduation season. But this might be the one to really make me cry. There’s somewhat of a big age gap between my little sister and me- 8 years. Which means I can distinctly remember holding her on the day she was born, remember the day my parents broke the news that they were pregnant and there were months before that when I suspected/prayed/hoped that I could get a little sibling. And now that little precious is taller than me (I’ve had a few years to get used to that) and as ready as she can be to break out on her own.

Here, in random order, are 9 reasons my little sister is remarkably awesome.

1) Her hair. Women pay a lot of money to get what God gave Paige for free. Blonde, curly, thick. And Paige smartly doesn’t mess with it too much.

2) She can do this:

Please do not try this at home. Paige has the training, equipment and cringe-worthy calluses to make this possible. 

3) She is a certified lifeguard.

Do you have a life? Paige can guard it. Certifiably.

4) She tells me about new music. Most of the current bands that I love, I know about because of her. The Avett Brothers, Mumford & Sons, Matt & Kim, just to name a few. When she was just three I taught her all about the Beatles, so she’s just probably returning the favor.

5) She’s a role model. At our church, there are approximately 5,382 children who adore Paige and her best friend Rachael. Really, in these kids’ eyes, Paige and Rachael might as well be celebrities. It’s really adorable, and Paige and Rachael live up to the hype in the non-cheesiest way possible.

6) She is a good friend. This one sounds really generic, so let me expound. She has found a way to love people because of who they really are, not despite of who they really are.

7) She likes what she likes– nothing more nothing less. How many teenage girls do you know that got fully wrapped up in both Twilight and Star Trek? And Avatar? But I don’t like that last one because I still have my vendetta with James Cameron.

8) She is my wink coach. Mere months ago, my wink looked like a twitch or a spasm on one half of my face. Now with her help, I’ve advanced it to cartoonishly flirtatious. I’m hoping I can master the elusive subtle wink by the end of summer. Paige is less hopeful.

9) She puts up with me as a big sister. I take clothes from her closet without asking. I use her razor. I call her to drive me home when I’ve only had 2 glasses of wine, but want to play it safe. As an older sister, I feel an obligation to just drive her crazy sometimes.

If you’re not feeling jealous that Paige isn’t your sister, you should. What do you like about Paige?

Paige when she fit in my arms. 

Still here. Sort of.

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So it’s May 22, 2011- the day that will go down in history as when 99.999% of the population was proven right… again. It would be easy to take shots at the May 21 rapture theorists. Too easy. Like shooting fish in a barrel. (which would actually be hard for me because I’ve never even held a gun.) Let me just leave it as yet another example that a text without a context is just a pretext for whatever you want it to be. (that’s a quote from someone whom I can’t remember who was quoting someone else whom I can’t remember)

Except this weekend did mark the end of something. Small as it may be, it was monumental for the little Dale family that I call my own. For the 25th and last year in a row, one of us has taken part in Kathy Leonard’s dance recital. My older sister Kate started as a pre-schooler and today my little sister Paige is a high school senior. Now, with all that time and training, dance has only been a fun hobby for all of us and we’ve remained above-average-at-best. None of us have ever been paid to dance in any capacity (a testament, also, to our dad’s ability to love us).

This isn’t the biggest shift a family can make. I know for a fact that it’s not even the biggest shift my family will make this year. But it’s impossible to leave it unnoticed. Kathy herself made an announcement before the recital about the milestone, and it probably dumbfounded some of the families who are just now learning the ropes of tutus, sequences, and backstage jitters.

And as a friend pointed out on facebook, it was sort of a mini-rapture. Sort-of. Very mini. I don’t know what exactly defines a real rapture, but this final recital is the end of something good to move on to something even better.

We could focus a lot of energy on the crazy behind May 21 rapture theories. It’s a mixture of crazy and arrogance that is, let’s face it, highly entertaining. The Hollywood-esque apocalypse on many people’s minds is also entertaining. But the danger for those of us with an ounce of thinking skills comes in missing the real raptures, tiny as they may be. The jubilant, celebratory endings of a bygone era. A final curtain call, if you will.

Quote Corner

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from Dostoevsky:  “Love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing compared with love in dreams. Love in dreams is greedy for immediate action, rapidly performed and in sight of all…But active love is labour and fortitude.” 

Why I don’t Call Myself a ‘Christ-Follower’

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I follow a lot of great blogs that keep me in touch with the wider Christian community and keep me from being insular with my Episcopal tradition — an easy trap to fall into because so many Episcopalians are quite awesome. (understatement of the year) But out in my blogosphere, I’ve noticed a lot of people who describe themselves as ‘Christ-followers.’ As wonderful as they are, I can’t adopt that same title for myself.

First, I’ve known some people who use this term in lieu of ‘Christian’ because they feel that Christian is a word tarnished with an ugly history  presence of power, abuse and violence. And in a lot of cases, they’re right. But I’m too much a believer of change-from-within to veer from the institution. When I lived in South Africa, I really grew to embrace calling myself a ‘missionary’ despite the Poisonwood Bible-esque perception I had before. Maybe with ‘christian’ and ‘missionary’ it’s part self-fulfilling prophecy- that by believing a negative attitude we contribute to that negative attitude. But when we continually, humbly but unapologetically redefine those words through our lives, we do more. 

But second, I feel like Christ-follower puts distance between me and Jesus and makes the Christian journey sound linear. That maybe Jesus, instead of living in my heart, is someone who walked on a snowy sidewalk before me, and I’m just trying to keep the snow pristine by following those footsteps. Maybe I’m doing it all wrong, but that sounds entirely too easy. My own journey has been too nuanced and filled with unexpected growth.

My rector often says “The goal is not merely to be Christ-like, but to become Christ in the world.” It took me months of chewing on that before I decided Michael wasn’t crazy. It puts the accountability on us instead of somewhere else, which for this stubborn Christian is just the fire under the butt that I need. 

“Christ has no body now but yours.”- Teresa of Avila

Am I completely misunderstanding what people mean when they say ‘Christ-follower’?

There’s a Monster at the End of this Post*

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I feel like I blog a lot about stress. Or more accurately, more than I should because I don’t want to be seen as a whiner.

Let me clarify here that I’m not talking about real stress like being responsible for keeping a baby alive or having a mortgage. Just the fact that I have time to blog at all should testify to the non-seriousness of my stress.

I’m talking about about the stress that comes from dealing with my own flaws and the flaws of those I love. The situational, inescapable windmills turn giants** of day-to-day life.

I have a friend who, when she gets heated up, likes to run. Something about the endorphins and knowing that her already beautiful self will now look even better in a bikini gives her a release and a high that she swears to. I tried this once. I was going through a situation that I can only call a reverse Princess and the Frog, where I had kissed a charming prince and then he turned him into a frog. I set off on the nearby running trail but within minutes I was walking, red-faced, making mental notes to ask my doctor about adult onset, exercise-induced asthma. (And by ‘ask my doctor’ I mean ‘search WebMD’)
                                                     
Exercising, with all its benefits, did nothing to quell my ever-rawing nerves.

There was also a point in college that I tried out this thing called ‘retail-therapy’ that sounds soooo much cuter than it is. I had a friend who tutored me in the world of designer fashion and called $300 purses ‘investments’. While I thought I was watching my worries disappear with the swipe of some plastic, they were really just multiplying. It took years to crawl out of months’ worth of debt (which I’ve finished, thankyouverymuch). The only reason I’m not more ashamed  is because this was 2006 and most of America was doing the exact same thing.

If feels like stress is non-transferable. 30 Rock quote: Jack: “The head of the stress ball division hanged himself…”

Last night I found myself browsing Craigslist ads for apartments in a city I may or may not be moving to. In the middle of comparing the cost of a furnished apartment to the cost of moving, and looking at my tiny budget for this imaginary situation, it suddenly occurred to me: maybe I bring some of this stress on myself. Maybe the stress is just a symptom of something bigger: my resistance to truly trust God or, as a blog I recently read put it “give the apple back to God” referring to Adam & Eve.

God has taken care of me very well so far in life, so why do I always become convinced that this is the time God will fail me? Let Jesus take the wheel? Carrie Underwood, I wish it were that easy.

*If you get the literary reference in this title, let’s be best friends.

**If you get this literary reference, NERD ALERT!

This really just happened

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This morning I was sitting in my office minding my own business, which today meant watching a BBC documentary on YouTube while catching up on emails. I was interrupted by a young black teenage girl in my doorway: “I need someone to talk to. God told me to come in here.”

Who can argue with that?

What followed felt much like some of the scenes from the movie Precious  with Mariah Carey, except, perhaps, if the movie had to be re-written for a PG-13 rating. Tye was her name, and she was smart and clear-headed, but came from a home rife with absent fathers, poverty and mental illness. While we both grew up in the same zip code, if I tried to compare my childhood to hers, we’d all get whiplash.

All I could do was listen and offer tissues for her tears. Throughout the next hour I only spoke a handful of times and only tried to be sympathetic and non-anxious. Tye had thought about acting out just to get to go to juvenile detention and away from her mom, but decided against it. (I told you she was smart) She had two older sisters who were sympathetic but unable to help- one was serving in Afghanistan and the other had her own child. She was homeschooling herself (!)

Throughout our talk, I really came to like Tye. I think she was just as surprised as me that she was in my office pouring her heart out. I really wanted to see her do well. She was on her way to Taco Bell to pick up an employment application, excited by the possibility of taking care of herself. She didn’t expect anything from me and even refused when I offered a lift to Taco Bell.

In the end, all I could really say was that I’d be happy to meet with her whenever she wanted. I promised to be a friendly face if she ever wanted to come here for church.

I really hope she’ll take me up on either of those offers.