Monday, June 28, 2010


What a weekend. We got home around 1:30 am last night, so I feel a bit in a haze today; not to mention I am sighing for that skyline. I think Chicago will be the next place Aar and I adventure to. Just maybe.

Before I go, Here are my two favorite photos from the weekend.

Look at those brothers. Can't tell they're related or anything, eh? We love you so much, Benji. Miss you already.

Lincoln Park. This will be our neighborhood. Hang tight, Lincoln Park. The Baers are coming soon.

Now, I am going to go crawl in bed with my best bud and my puppy and watch Ratatouille. More later.

Monday, June 21, 2010

'The Great Sin'

Good Monday to you!! Mondays are always a little tough, but I am really looking forward to this week. Aar and I are jetting off to Chicago on Wednesday to celebrate his Grandma's 90th birthday this weekend and to see lots of friends and family we have greatly been missing. I can't wait to get out of town for a few days, see some long-missed faces and to GET OUT OF THE HEAT!!

Now. Last week I said I would perhaps blog about all the lovely insight I was gaining from traipsing through Mere Christianity. I definitely have a blog in me today on that very subject, but instead of feeling energetic and inspired, I have to be honest - I find myself wishing I hadn't read the book at all. It is harsh, cold and blunt and perhaps a dose of truth too heavy for me right now. Not while I'm still weak and human and all that. You know.

Too late.

Have you read his chapter on pride? AH! Would that we all did! But I must advise you not to, as a friend and someone who has a healthy respect for spiritual comfort. ( By the way, you can read the entire chapter here. Don't click on it!)

Let me start here... at church last night, a guest speaker touched on pride while talking about the church of Laodicea, which gets a bit of an earful in the book of Revelation. The Laodiceans' response to God was more or less "We're wealthy; we're doing fine - we don't need you." Obviously, that is prideful, and our speaker did a good job hitting home with his sermon. But I couldn't help but hold that example next to C.S. Lewis' pride chapter - and I came to the conclusion that the Laodiceans were merely skimming the outer rim of pride. They had baby pride. Pride with sugar on top.

Saying "I'm proud of myself for getting this promotion" is not necessarily a sinful pride; just as Laodicea saying "We are doing quite well and do not need God" is not necessarily prideful, in its strictest sense. It was foolish, of course, to say they didn't need God. If someone said that to me, though, my response would be less "how prideful of you!" and more "you must not understand what it means to need."

But that's a rabbit trail. What I'm trying to get at is that pride in something you did well is not necessarily sinful. I've heard that we must not forget to give God credit, and that is certainly true. But it's just disingenuous to say "I would be happy about this promotion, but I literally had nothing to do with it. It was only God." It is true that God blessed you with that circumstance; and also with the work ethic, the talent and whatever else you possess that got you that far. But no one truly believes he does not have a choice in what he works for. And it is not sincere to pretend we don't. Nor is it prideful to acknowledge that we do.

Going further - vanity is not even the worst of pride, according to Lewis. Vanity is almost a humble type of pride even; because it says "I am not sure enough of my own worth; I need to hear of it from others." It's something we should surely guard against, but it is not the deep, dark, diabolical side of pride.

Here's what the true density of pride is. It is competition for no reason. It is pure enmity. Lewis calls it the 'anti-God,' which, seriously, is starting to give me nightmares.

The worst type of pride is when, after getting that promotion, you don't say "I'm glad I got this because I like what I'm doing," you say "I am glad I got this purely because it means someone else didn't. I am glad of the status this gives me in comparison to those around me. I am glad I stole this from someone else. And I couldn't care less about the actual promotion."

And I think we could probably find that sentiment in every last drop of every single situation of every single day for us. At least I know I can. Doesn't that make you want to lock yourself in a closet and turn off the light and never come out? Who am I, that I possess this awfulness?! Why do I have to know about it now?

That kind of pride is so terrible because it really has no other motive than just plain meanness. Just grossness. So many other sins or 'vices' have root in our animal instincts - sexual misconduct, gluttony, violence, etc. And any sins you can think of that don't relate to our animal instincts probably have their root in pride (greed, self-absorption, manipulation, ungratefulness, etc.).

Why do you pose for just the right photo to put on your facebook? Why do you put up a Bible verse on your twitter account? Why do you worry about making more money at work, why do you paint your house and take lots of showers and decorate a Christmas tree and put icing on cookies and go to the gym? I mean deeply, why? If you can get to your very deepest motive, I don't think you'll like it. I think It will look a lot less like rationality and normalcy and healthy energy and a lot more like pride. Pride for no reason but malicious intent.

"We say people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good-looking, but they are not. They are proud of being richer, or cleverer, or better looking than others. If everyone else became equally rich, or clever, or good-looking there would be nothing to be proud about."


(As a caveat - Lewis does say that, for example, in the making-more-money-at-work example, pride may not always be at play. It is only when we extend our 'wants' to an extreme distance beyond what we need that we should get skeptical. Maybe you want to make more at work to help pay for medical bills or make sure your family is financially secure - obviously, pride is not at play here. But if you obsess over making $150,000 a year instead of $125,000 a year, you've got to take a step back, friends. If you weren't surrounded by lots of people who make $145,000 and who you'd like nothing more than to show up, I'd say maybe we're ok. But be real...)

And here's another scary thing about pride I wish Lewis didn't teach me. Satan allows you to use IT to overcome other little messy sins you've got. 'I'm going to stop looking at questionable photos online' sounds great, and like a righteous gesture. And it is. But if your motive is 'I will stop doing that because it is beneath me; because I must ensure that I am better than my friends who do it' then 'Satan laughs,' as Lewis would say. You're letting a little fish go and taking a great grip of a huge shark. Saying "I will stop caring what other people think of me" is wonderful and should be tried. But saying "I will stop caring what other people think of me because everyone else is so trivial to me that why would I care?" is black and ugly and dark and the worst kind of awfulness.

That fact too - that pride allows us to overcome smaller sins with it - is the reason I believe that pride is so 'acceptable' and overlooked. Lewis says that Christians are the only people he knows whose set of morals disallows pride, and who actively admit they are prideful. That may be true of our philosophy as compared to others, but are we that kind of people? Do our friends who put up 1,000 facebook photos a day of their own faces gross us out, or as long as they make a Bible verse their status are we OK with it; even complimentary? Does my desire to go to the gym three times a week make me question why I motivate myself by rejoicing in the fact that I'm not lazy like other people, or does it make me congratulate myself for my discipline?

I wrote a column in Relevant once about our strange desire to make other people jealous of us - I think this pride thing is what I was getting at. It's such a malicious thing, and it looks so acceptable most of the time, doesn't it?

One last point - Lewis says that God looks down on pride not because He is vainly mad we aren't focusing enough attention on Him. He looks down on it because in order to commune with him, we have to let go of it. We can't commune with God if we don't know who He is; we can't know who He is until we know who we are in comparison to him; and we can't know that until we realize we are absolutely inconsequential. I don't think he quite cares about pride or humility in themselves. He just wants to be with us.

How are you feeling?

Now. The only glimmer of non-gloom I could find in Lewis's pride chapter is that 1. We cannot overcome pride ourselves, and 2. God wants to help us. That's all I'm holding on to at the moment. I hope He does help me. I'd like to look in the mirror again.

Friends, lets do this together. Don't do things because of other people. Don't do things in spite of them, or to 'show' them, or to make them feel negative about themselves or anything else. Do things to love them and then leave them alone.

And don't suggest they read C.S. Lewis. Unless they want to whine, throw the book away, pretend it didn't mean anything to them, lose a few nights' sleep, and then ...maybe...begin to change a little bit...

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Arabian Library and Other Weekend Adventures

On Friday night, I cleaned the bathroom. I do that every other Friday night. I used to do it on Saturday mornings, but then when I tried it on Friday once, I loved how it opened up Saturday for me. So I do it on Friday now. Always begrudgingly, because I think, sheesh Maria, it's the end of the work week... time for a nice cold Diet Sunkist, comfy shorts and a couple episodes of DVR'd What Not to Wear...but alas, I clean the bathroom and then get to all that nonsense. And it's always worth it!

Anyway, this past Friday night, I almost didn't clean the bathroom. We had no plans for this weekend other than to run to the mall at some point for a few needed items, and I thought, I suppose I can do this on Saturday instead. But I am glad I decided to clean on Friday night because we've had quite the adventurous weekend, Aaron and I.

There's a big brown building across the street from our apartment complex with a big sign that says "Arabian Library." Aaron and I always thought that was kind of odd. Are there usually entire libraries dedicated to one culture of literature? But we never really thought much of it, to tell you the truth. However, this Saturday morning, we decided we would find our closest public library. There are so many books I want to read, and I definitely want to build up a good arsenal for my Myrtle Beach trip next month. So we looked up our closest library and headed on over.

As we were talking to the nice lady about how to go about getting our cards and the book reserving process, she started telling us a little bit about the library. There is one central branch called the Civic Center library, and then there are a bunch of smaller branches around Scottsdale and they all share a catalog. She started rattling off their names...and I noticed that the branch we were at was called the Mustang Library.

Then I realized...they have named the branches after horses. Mustang. A horse. You know what else is a kind of horse? Arabian. Ahh! We had a good giggle. The librarian said "so, are we (the Mustangs) the closest branch to your home?" and we said " would appear that the Arabian branch is."

What makes it the most ironic is that a few weeks ago when Aaron and I went to vote on a small ballot initiative for Phoenix, it listed a building close to the Arabian Library as our polling place. As I was driving around trying to find the building that day, I drove past the library and saw a family coming out, dressed in full burka. I thought nothing of it - after all, it was the Arabian library - and I kept driving. Are you laughing at me yet? :)

Anyway, I got some good books from the Mustang branch, though much to my amusement, I got them both out of the juvenile fiction section. :) Number the Stars - still have never read it and I LOVE Lois Lowry - and...I wince as I type this...The Magician's Nephew. I have never read the Narnia series. I have not. I apologize whole-heartedly to all of you whom this mortally offends. And I understand your outrage. That's why I'm going to start reading!

When we got home from the library, though, I was hit with the realization of all of the books I still have on my shelf here that I have yet to get to... The Cure for the Common Life by Max Lucado (I read the beginning last year and LOVED IT), The Adoration of Jenna Fox (an interesting looking novel Aaron's mom gave me from her impressive collection), Harris & Me (Aaron reads a chapter to me sometimes in the mornings - big smile), and The Book Thief, which Aaron and I started reading to each other back when I had mono sophomore year, but we have yet to finish! And, lastly, the king; the it; the monolith: Mere Christianity. I have read the first "book" of it twice now, and I got through the second book yesterday. It's blowing my mind, and that's why I don't want to read it too quickly and thus haven't hit it today yet. But it hit me so hard yesterday that I even wrote a song about it! In one sitting! Imagine. I will try to blog soon about some of the amazing things I'm learning from it.

So our library adventure was giggle-worthy for sure. And today was a beautifully sweet day as well; we went to Ikea to play around, then on a whim, went up to Desert Ridge and painted some pottery. We then saw quite a fun movie. This is what Aaron Michael is, friends. He is spontanaeity and joy and a big smile. He takes such an easy joy in things. I quite truly pity you all for not having found him before me. :)

I don't think I'll ever second-guess cleaning the bathroom on Friday again! :)

Hope your weekend was as lovely as mine, friends! Until next time...

Monday, June 7, 2010


One of my best friends' family moved out of their home last week, to a new town. Growing up, they lived down the street from my house; and the memories I save in the "hometown" file of my heart consist almost as much of scenes in her house as in my family's. Her sweet mom had brilliantly decorated their kitchen in a combination of old Americana, apple-related trinkets and somehow, always the smell of something sweet and soothing baking. We spent so very much time in that kitchen. Usually munching on something warm and sweet and cookie-related; always giggling about some newfound analysis of our always-dramatic teenaged lives (boys included - er, favored) and always finding new snapshots of how God was continuously molding us. Thinking of time in that kitchen literally lifts my heart. What sweet memories those were!

Neither Meghann or I have lived on that street for quite a while. We both went off to college in new towns and have now both relocated to different states. I know, though, that her family moving out of the house was difficult for her. It was weird when my family moved off the street a few years ago, too. But Meg made a small comment on my facebook wall this week and referenced something I have been trying to mold into my heart for quite a while now - the truth of seasons.

Moving out to Arizona has been amazing. Aaron and I are starting to really deepen some very cool relationships, and we are so enjoying getting to know an entirely new terrain. Our camping trip last weekend was just another Arizona-related AHA! moment for us - we live in such a COOL place! There's so much to see! So much that is different from anywhere near where we grew up! So many fun little trips to take! So many cool restaurants to sample... so many beautiful sunsets to watch from our patio. We even started golf lessons last many fun new things to try!

But at the same time, living so far from home and having to adjust so harshly and quickly to something so new has been trying. Being homesick for family and comfortable memories is still a very real part of almost every day for me.

And here's what makes it the hardest: I am a chronic sum-upper. I have conditioned myself so fully to have a 'live for today' mentality that I've gone way too far; I tend to view 'today' as, well, IT. I unconsciously conclude, almost daily, that now that college is over and I am apparently 'in' real life, what I'm doing now is what I've decided to do. This will be it. Forever. If I don't write in my journal today, I am not a journaler. (Because if I didn't do it today, a "regular" day, when will I?) If I didn't get a job at a magazine out of college, that ship has sailed. If we live in Arizona, we live in Arizona. Period.

Seriously, the dichotomy between how irrational that line of thinking is and how often I think it is kind of alarming. (But amusingly so, if you happen to be familiar with my particular brand of charming psychosis.)

But thinking about Meg's family home and hearing her heart timidly break over the memories there reminded me of God's promise of seasons. Everything has one. Living on that street had its season for Meg and I. And living here in Arizona is one for Aaron and I. Both the fun of it and the homesickness of it will end at some point. Getting up every morning at the exact same time and driving the exact same commute will look completely different one day. And while I truly am enjoying our time here, it softens my heart so much to remember that the difficult parts of it are not meant to last. The oppresive sunshine won't always be there. (Seriously, won't someone PLEASE give us some curtains??) The suffocating heat that is now starting to be an everyday thing (110 degrees today!) will not be a part of my life at some point in the future. (Speaking of that, I need to seriously up my water intake...)

And it sounds crazy, but realizing those things have made it so much easier to just take a deep sigh and enjoy it while I'm here. It's not stealing my life. I'm not going to be "that sister" in my family that moved away and never came back. It's not 'driving a permanent wedge' between us and those we're far from. It's a fun adventure for a while. It's the place we found our adorable puppy. It's our first real jobs. It's my introduction to human resources, which, despite the exhaustion of the 'people-pleasing' theology, I am thinking more and more every day is something I seriously love. It's a state with some AMAZING scenery, and some pretty cool proximity to OTHER amazing scenery (something else Ohio can't really boast of...) It's our first year of marriage! It's a beautiful place...a part of our life. A great part. But not the only part.

I'm so grateful that our stories will never be, could never be, and never are as boring as I tend to conclude they will be.

P.S. - naming this blog "For Now" was something truly inspired by my attempt to teach my heart this seasons concept...little behind the scenes for you...

Now. Hey. On a somewhat related note, I want to take this opportunity to continue my beration of two of my other best friends, Amy and Ashley, to move out here. Seriously, do it. Now. It's just for a season, see? Come on out here, we will have an amazing couple of years, save some money, see some cool things, have a fantastic adventure, and go back home. Yes? Yes. Start packing.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


What a sweet retreat we had this weekend! We practically RAN to the airport Friday night, picked up our dear, dear friends Anthony and Kristina from Colorado, packed up the car with all our camping gear and trekked on up to Payson, Arizona. We talked, prayed, saw TWO bald eagles, hiked around, cooked some smoky bratwursts, passed the guitar around for hours, slept under the stars and breathed. It was such a sweet relaxation. My heart hurts that Anth and Kristina had to go home today, but I know that when God orchestrates a friendship as effortless, open and special as the one we have with them, it won't be long before we see them again. (And the coming-soon third little addition to their family! ;)

God heals.