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  • acleveland 9:08 pm on January 18, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    i like to read, ok 

    What’s hardest to give up? Is it physical possessions, behaviors, mentalities? Or is it all intertwined, twirling around eachother like ribbons, inseperable and connected? Physical possessions give us a specific mindset, whether that is contentment or greed or something else. Behaviors are also pegged into the holes of our thoughts, for our thoughts determine our actions.
    Mike Yankowski is intense. He willingly abandoned his entire life in order to better understand the homeless population in America. Goodbye family, cell phone, house, blankets, refrigerator, couch. Goodbye money, bed, friends, job. Goodbye stability, comfort. Goodbye ignorance, blindness, apathy. Hello perspective, trust, compassion.
    He lived on the streets of Washington DC, Denver, Portland, San Francisco, Phoenix, and San Diego. He carried with him only a guitar, some journals, a set of clothes, and faith.
    “Although our journey took us to many destinations that were challenging, cold, and even brutal – like the night in Golden Gate Park – by God’s grace we did what we set out to do, and learned a lot along the way. For example: that faith is much more than just an “amen” at the end of the sermon on Sunday mornings; that the comfort and security we strive so hard to create for ourselves doesn’t even come close to the “life in the full” that christ promises; and that God is faithful and good, even when we’re not.
        Perhaps you, too, have felt a nudging toward a life on the edge – some place or task in your life where, as Frederick Buechner put it, “God’s great mercy and the world’s great hunger meet.” If you haven’t yet, is your heart open to that moment when it comes?
         We decided to go past the edge with God. One day soon, I pray you will, too. And when you do, I think you’ll find what we did…A bigger world, and more reason to care for it. More forgotten, ruined, beautiful people than we ever imagined existed, and more reason to hope in their redemption. A greater God, and more reason to journey with Him anywhere.”
    I took this not only as something global or local, but as something to work on personally. We have grooves carved in our hearts where we hunger and crave for something more. God’s great mercy will meet that rut when we leap towards the threatening ledge. When we approach the place we’ve been avoiding in our lives. Parts of their journey were terrifying, cold, dark, unknown, and seemingly hopeless. But it was these times that molded them. They reached their destination and accomplished their goal. They learned, grew, and shared.
    We don’t have to move out and hit the streets. We can start in our own lives and go from there.

    New favorite song: Manifesto – The City Harmonic

  • acleveland 11:29 am on January 12, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    snow update – dog. 

  • acleveland 11:01 am on January 11, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    cabin fever 

    I took the dog for a walk last night at 9:30. It was probably her eighth walk of the day because we couldn’t quit going outside. In East Tennessee, even 3 inches of snow has been monumental. Holly shuffled through the snow miserably. She threw her nose into the snow, trying to sniff the ground, and then she would drop her entire face. Snow clung to her scraggly fur and she looked like a miniature yeti. My adorable little yeti dog.
    The moon was reflecting the sun and the snow was reflecting the moon. It was bright as day but it looked different. It looked softer around the edges, like Mother Nature had child-proofed. My street was tinged with memories, snowmen left alone in front yards, little footsteps imprinted in the snow, and sled marks on a hill. These sweet little snapshots of time were trapped, destined to melt, but saved by the freezing weather. 
    I’ve lived in the same house my whole life minus two months. I walked down my street and remembered neighbors having come and gone from the houses. I stepped over the terrible gigantic speed bumps that will someday wreck my car. I saw my old best friend’s house and the porch where we snapped icicles off the railing. I passed the yard where I once flipped into the grass after jumping off my scooter.  After awhile, I came home to my room. I sat down on the bed I’ve always had. I remembered when I repeatedly fell off the bed in order to get my Mom’s attention, just so she would come say goodnight one last time.

    I could look at my room as a place to constantly study, to camp out in when I’m mad, to sleep after a long day, to have nightmares. I could look at my street as the place where I always scraped my knee, fell off bikes, and got upset with the basketball goal. And that’d be easy. In the daylight, it’s always the same. The typical things revealed by the typical sun, blazing in all its glory, with harsh winds or bitter snapping cold or humid smothering heat. But the snow showed something different, like a different lens on a camera that softens the corners and exposes new crevices and surfaces.
    It covered the brown dead grass and the muddy ditch, making even the ugliest things beautiful. It reminded me of the song that says, “sin had left a crimson stain, he washed it white as snow“. 
    It was just a change in perspective, aided by memories and beauty. Sometimes, that might be all it takes.

    New favorite song: Starry Night – Christ August

  • acleveland 7:56 pm on January 10, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    apparently it snows here 

    Snow day #1 = today. Snow day #2 = tomorrow. Wednesday = ?

    I was reading the assigned AP US History chapter and it talked about the Puritan separatists. They left the Church of England because they only wanted “visible saints” to be allowed in the church. But the Church of England allowed both the so-called “visible saints” as well as what the puritans called the “damned”. These prideful puritans were so opposed to sharing pews with the “damned” that tons of them embarked on the Mayflower and fled.
    That was back in the 1600’s. How much have we changed since then, really?
    We stay in this comfortable circle of Christian friends and cute Christian movies and lovely Christian music. We read Christian books and avoid sin’s traps and avoid people that “bring us down”. But I haven’t been able to quit thinking about those people that the Puritans tried to escape. Those people that we try to escape everyday in order to make things easy. By trapping ourselves in this Christian bubble we’re not making an impact. In a way, we’re doing what the Puritans did.
    I listened to a pastor who began making a point of going to places that Christians didn’t go. He would go to the restaurants that Christians called obscene. He joined a motorcycle group with a bunch of manly rough guys that were going down the wrong path. Eventually, all these people that he was consistently seeing learned that he was a Christian. He was different than the other people in the group. He ended up making a difference by doing what some people would view as “unholy”.  He made a difference by throwing himself into a hurting world, although he was not worldly.
    New favorite song: C.S. Lewis Song – Brooke Fraser

    • Kelli 7:39 pm on January 11, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      This is the most unsettling blog you have ever written. I really think I need to reexamine my entire life. Good thing we have another snow day tomorrow. Well. Thank you.

  • acleveland 10:13 pm on January 3, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    post #300 

         I went outside and played basketball today, just like any other day. It was cold and my hands were chapped and as red as a crab’s claws. My jacket let the frigid air in and I shivered underneath the fabric because I swear I’m cold blooded. I dribbled the basketball and the sound seemed to echo down my street, skipping like a little girl playing hopscotch. I could hear the thumping in the neighbor’s driveway and weaving throughout my garage. My heart tried to imitate the basketball’s rhythm.
       Hands up, right arm supplying power, left hand guiding the basketball, eyes directed towards the basket, deep breath in, miss. Repeat. Miss. Miss. Miss. I was following all my coach’s instructions, I was trying, why wasn’t it working?
       Suddenly it was more than just shooting practice. It was me throwing the basketball against the backboard with  no purpose. Throwing it like a softball, right arm back and then propelling the basketball through the air. No slope, no gentle swish. The type of throw that rattles the backboard and clangs and threatens to crack the plastic down the middle. In between crazy person shots, I was dribbling hard enough to break a hole through the cement. 
        I was daring it to go throw the net and to finally go in when I wasn’t even trying. I just wanted to see my initial goal come true without any concentrated effort. I wanted the smug mindset that could accompany “I didn’t even TRY to beat you, basketball, and I did. See? No big deal.” It didn’t work.
       I was about to give up and toss the basketball in the garage when I heard the door open. My dad stepped out in a brown leather jacket, rubbing his hands together and smiling at me. I bounced the ball to him. He easily tossed the ball up in the air and it fell threw the net beautifully. Some type of patience had arrived, an anchor. My heart slowed and sanity returned to my mind. He passed me the basketball and I didn’t think or calculate my form, I just shot.
    It finally went in.

    New favorite song: Beautiful Day – U2

  • acleveland 8:17 pm on January 2, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    el perro de nix 

    Dear Ziggy,
    There is a great heart inside your little body that the world needs to see. Right now, you are hiding yourself out of fear and countless defenses. I know that life hasn’t always been easy. I know that it must be hard having come from a shelter, and that it’s hard to distinguish trustworthy people from cruel ones. But you are missing out on possibilities for relationships that could make you happier than 20 beggin’ strips.
    You greet me at Nikki’s door with terrified yelps and growls, expecting the worst from me. How can I make you see that I just want to pet your adorable little ears? Ziggy, I can see behind the walls you put up. You try to seem ferocious and mean, but you’re not fooling me. I can see that the issue runs deeper and that you’re really growling for help. You’re barking out of a deep need to feel loved without alternative motives. The chance is right at the tips of your paws, and if you reach out and claw you won’t regret it.
    When I see glimpses of your shining face, lit up by hope of a milk bone, my heart leaps for joy. It took about half an hour just to pet your back, but it was worth every painstaking moment. But, Ziggy, I don’t want to have to bribe you with treats just to get close to you. Because as soon as I ran out of treats, you were gone. I understand that you didn’t want to risk getting hurt again and being deceived.
    I can’t wait for the day that I see you jump in the air with your tongue flopping all over the place. I want to see you chase butterflies with reckless abandon. I want you to attack me with joy and playfulness as I open the door. Because you have a light to shine, Ziggy, and you are a role model with a powerful testimony. Let us in..even when we have no beggin’ strips.
    I’m beggin’ you.

    Dedicated to: Megan, Nikki, and of course Ziggy.

    New favorite song: The Heat – Needtobreathe

    • P froula 8:44 pm on January 6, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      We’ve all got lots of ziggy in us. Good stuff AC. Your old ball coach.

  • acleveland 3:04 pm on January 1, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    two oh double one 

    Here we go, 2011. Bring it on.  2010 was an experience, most definitely. Enough said.
    It’s the time of new year’s resolutions. Stopping something, starting something, doing something better. Gyms will be busting and filled with replenished motivation. Lifestyles will be changed, for the time being. I’m not a huge fan of New Year’s resolutions, and I never have been. It feels like there’s a 365 day gap of expectation waiting to be filled. If your’e not so great at keeping resolutions and you slip on January 3, it feels like you MISSED it. You missed your chance for a successful New Year’s resolution and you’ll have to wait another 362 days. I can hardly control one day at a time; taking things day by day is more my speed.
    We break things down into managable sections. Centuries, decades, years, months, weeks, days, hours, minutes, seconds, seasons, semesters, life stages. January first spans far and wide for possibility. But, really, January 1st is just like any other day. Every day is made new and fresh and saturated with promise. The beginning of improvement shouldn’t be reserved for one day a year. Change should be fueled and rejuvenated by the rise and fall of the sun, the inhale and exhale of each breath, the second hand on the clock.
    So if you give in, if you do what you said you wouldn’t, if you don’t do what you said you would, there’s no need to feel hopeless and like you failed. You can start again in the next second, striving for improvement each time. It’s not justification for messing up… It’s grace.

    New favorite song: Closer – Anberlin

  • acleveland 10:12 pm on December 28, 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    burning bridges, finding grace 

    “Roll away your stone, I’ll roll away mine. Together we can see what we will find. Don’t leave me alone at this time, for I’m afraid of what I will discover inside.”
    It’s satisfying and reassuring to hear other people voice our own desires. The wishes that we hide because they seem needy or embarrassing. It seems weak to place them on display, like a trophy or a badge of being incomplete. When one person screams what everyone else ignores, that person gives the world permission to do the same. You don’t have to be religious or introspective to acknowledge the human condition. You just have to be human, and willing to admit your flaws. Unfortunately, those two things don’t seem easily compatible anymore.
    “‘Cause you told me I would find a hole within the fragile substance of my soul. And I have filled this void with things unreal, and all the while my character it steals.”
    We’re preoccupied with the worldly and the finite. We try to create the perfect connection that would fulfill our hearts. Before the fall of man, Adam and Eve were one with God. There was no disconnect, there was no sin, there was no battle. They were naked and unashamed, they were free to love and be loved. Yet when sin was first introduced to the world, things changed. Suddenly, temptation greeted us with a sly smile and irresistible pressure. We unsuccessfully attempt to recreate that previous relationship – the fullness, having no shame, no doubts, no voids.
    “Darkness is a harsh term, don’t you think? And yet it dominates the things I see.”
    The easy path of darkness tries to draw us near, lying with a guarantee of instant gratification and fulfillment. Darkness can’t serve as a building block, it only tears you apart like a wrecking ball.
    “It seems that all my bridges have been burnt… But you say that’s exactly how this grace thing works. It’s not the long walk home that will change this heart, but the welcome I receive with the restart.”
    The first line about grace makes me smile every time. The rest of it reminds me of the prodigal son. He screwed over his father, he left, he came back, and his father threw him a party.
    I burn down all these bridges of communication. I turn my back and run, I do things my way, I ignore the ropes that are thrown to me because I’m too ashamed to grasp hold. It’s not when my brain decides, “I need to return to God,” that my heart changes. My heart changes when I trudge back home with a heavy head and I’m greeted with open arms, the welcome at the restart. When I hear, “Welcome home, I love you, I missed you. It’s okay.”

    The funny thing is, the artist of this song is not a Christian. He doesn’t follow or believe in religion or Jesus or God or faith. Yet, his lyrics show his heart’s desperate need and yearning for God..even though he doesn’t realize it.

    New favorite song:  Dear God 2.0 – The Roots

  • acleveland 11:52 pm on December 27, 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    grow down 

    Sometimes there is an ache in my chest that rattles, catches on a memory, and sinks. I see little kids and I’m envious of their innocence, their faith, their naivety, their carefree hearts. Even though I’m still young, only seventeen, time is moving too fast. At times I want to rewind back to the days of Santa, being read to by Mom, holding Dad’s hand when we crossed the street.
    I miss being that little girl. I want her back. The bright lights of childhood, radiating innocence and wide eyes, smiles and skips. I feel like those lights are flickering, becoming tired and dimmed. Losing that bright string of lights that made me a child, where the version of AIDS was cooties, where worldwide hunger meant everybody wanted snack time, where the only bad word was “stupid”. Where being bad meant calling someone a name.
    I miss when messing up meant coloring outside of the lines.

    Today I sat in my room, turned on the Mumford & Sons album “Sigh No More”, and listening to the whole thing straight through. No pauses. Every song burrowed their easy lyrics into my brain and it just MADE SENSE. It made sense like no math problem ever has. It resolved perfectly like no chemistry equation ever will. I took their words and made them my own. Music brands the chapters of my life and thoughts with someone else’s lyrics when I can’t find the words.

    I miss people that are right next to me. I miss them like crazy, like it’s been a hundred years since I saw them. Or, maybe, since they saw me.
    But I think if I was sitting next to them and I said, “I miss you,” they would look at me with a confused look. “But, Amanda, I’m right here.”
    Do you know what I mean?

    New favorite song: Tighten Up – The Black Keys
    New favorite album: Sigh No More – Mumford & Sons

    • Kelli 11:22 am on December 28, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Answer to your last question: Yes. Very Much Yes. Growing up is so overwhelming. I miss being focused on the now. Everything is all about the future. And when you’re a kid it’s all about what is happening in the present. I think we miss the present too often and then we are stuck missing the people and the past.

  • acleveland 9:13 pm on December 25, 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    ahh navidad 

    Well, it’s 9:04 pm on Christmas day. It’s been a great day filled with the blessings of family and smiles and joy. I’m filled with amazement and gratitude when I take the time to appreciate how lucky I am. Days like today make that easy, when everything goes right and nothing is lacking.
    It’s sad that it will be another 364 days until the next Christmas, but then again, the truth that the season brings remains the same throughout the whole year. It’s been a great day filled with the blessings of family. Nothing can ruin this day, because the reason for the season happened over 2,000 years ago and nothing can take that away. Even if things didn’t go according to plan for you today, your Christmas cannot be stolen..History doesn’t change.

    New favorite song: Greensleeves – FHS (yeah..that’s right)

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