Gifts

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Sisters getting married, and other reflections

Sunday, January 27th, 2013

It’s time to address the elephant in the blog-room: yes, my younger sister Becca got married last weekend, and yes, my even younger sister Sarah is getting married in 3 months, and yes, my brother Jeremy has been married for 12 years, and yes, I am single. Yes, this has led to some emotional moments for me, and yes, I sometimes wonder if I’m at all “marriage material.” Yes, I fear future holidays when all of my siblings are with their spouses and I’m potentially alone. Yes, comments that “It will happen when you least expect it!” and “You just need to give it to God” are largely unhelpful. Yes, I have thought about online dating. Yes, I have tried online dating. Yes, I quit online dating – because yikes.

Yes, I want and hope to be married. But right now, I’m not.

In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul, the Bible’s poster child for singleness, refers to singleness as a gift – and I always assumed that by “the gift of singleness” Paul was referring to a special ability, like being double-jointed or good at art. Like, congratulations! You have the gift of singleness: the cosmic capacity to be alone forever. Enjoy your life of loneliness and despair, because whether you like it or not, it’s what you were designed for.

I sure don’t feel like I was designed to be alone forever. Does anyone?

So it got my wheels turning. What if the “gift” that Paul talks about is not a special talent or competence, but an actual GIFT: a present. An offering. A package wrapped up by the gift giver and presented with a huge smile on his face, because he knew that it was good and that the recipient could love it.

Because I do love it. I love being single. You guys, this weekend I did so many things that bring me life: I made delicious soup and drank wine and went on a 9-mile walk and a 5-mile run, and I got a massage, and I went to a movie all by myself (which always feels so indulgent), and I took Toad to the park and cleaned the kitchen and did my laundry and stocked up on groceries and for nearly 48 hours, I barely said a word to anyone because that is what FILLS MY SOUL.

Singleness is not a consolation prize for those who aren’t good enough to be married, just like marriage is not a reward for being amazing, attractive, and accomplished.  Both are gifts in their own right. And the only way I’m giving up this good gift of singleness is if someday I’m presented with an opportunity to trade up for something even better.

Until then, I will revel in the luxury of spending however much money I see fit on pretty dresses for my siblings’ weddings, and welcoming new brothers-in-law to the family (they’re awesome), and knowing that at the end of the day, it’s pretty good to be me – just me.

How a kitchen appliance reminded me of magic

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

I find it harder and harder to believe in magic these days.

Life isn’t easy, you know.  It can be full of tough things.  We learn to suck it up, because no one is going to come along and fix it for us.  Right?  We’ve waited and waited, but with no imminent rescue, we eventually make up our minds to stop wishing, and just do what we have to do.  It’s a long and lonely road, but after some time, we learn to just walk forward – head down, no questions.

Do not want.  Do not need.  Do not wish.  Do not hope.

And this doesn’t leave room for much magic.

I have to tell you: lately, I’ve been living without hopes or expectations.  Time has taught me that expectations, however small, will eventually lead to disappointment – so instead of hoping for good things, it’s easier to just take whatever life deals you.

But my birthday brought me a little magic.

Beyond the fact that I saw a black bear, and climbed Mt. Princeton, and sat on a tailgate of an F-150 drinking PBR and talking about Rebecca Black and O.J. Simpson with a new friend, when I got home I had a huge package waiting for me that said it was from “Your Fan Club.”

My fan club.

And I opened the envelope, and realized who it was from: so many of YOU.  People who I know and have met only thanks to blogging.

And in the box was the hot rod of kitchen appliances: a bright red KitchenAid stand mixer.

I shrieked, and then bubbled over, gushing, saying things like, “AND I DIDN’T EVEN HAVE TO GET MARRIED.”  I have always wanted a KitchenAid mixer, but it’s one of those things seemingly reserved for the espoused – because who would ever be able to justify that kind of money on themselves?

I have burned through hand mixer after hand mixer, only to abandon them altogether and stir things by muscle.  And remember, this is fine – you learn to not wish or hope for anything better or easier than what you have.  “You get what you get, and you don’t throw a fit” is a popular motto these days.

But every now and then, people surprise you.  They pay attention, and take action, and bring you the happiest shock you can imagine.  They conspire behind your back to bombard you with love.  They choose red because they think you’re “a red hot siren” (OMG).  Their kind words are sprinkled like magic, and all of a sudden, a little bit of hope is renewed.

I am humbled and grateful – not only for the KitchenAid (although it is one of the kindest, most generous gifts I have ever been given), but for the reminder that magic is worth hoping for.

Thank you, friends – you know who you are – from the bottom of my hope-filled heart, and my cookie-filled tummy.

The most artistic Parsons

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

My sister Becca is a great gift-giver.  She puts a lot of time and thought and effort into the things that she gives people – and this past Christmas was no exception.

In addition to our “real” presents, she made everyone in our family an awesome dog portrait.  Weird?  NOT IF YOU’RE A PARSONS.

Becca knows that I like those dogs with floppy hair that falls into their eyes, so she made me this:

Isn’t that amazing?  I love it so much.  He’s my imaginary dog – the one that doesn’t care if I leave town for the weekend, or if I don’t come home for 12 hours straight, or if I don’t feed him.  He’s the best.

I think Becca should start a pet portrait business.  All in favor, say aye.

New shirt

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

Squinty, smiley Mike came through Denver last night, and he gave me a t-shirt with his face on it.

This is so perfect.

A conversation in Wal-Mart

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

Micah: Auntie Oonis, I know that you want to get married and have kids someday.

Annie: Who told you that?

Micah: Grandma.

Annie: Oh.  Well, she’s right.

Micah: Why aren’t you married yet?

[Because God is just busy building some lucky man’s character, bank account, and biceps.]

Annie: I don’t know, buddy.

Micah: Well, if you ever do find a husband, he’d better buy your ring RIGHT THERE.  [points at the Wal-Mart jewelry counter]  … whoa, did you see that girl in Spiderman pajamas?

– – – – – – – –

Don’t worry, Micah – I am living proof that a girl needn’t be married in order to own this sexy piece of machinery:

!!!!!!!!!

Best birthday present ever!  Thanks, Mom and Dad!  I’ve waited my whole life for this moment!

And the very first thing I’m going to make?  Debbie’s curry hummus.

Look out, Denver.

Loved

Friday, August 21st, 2009

I don’t always believe that Jesus loves me – even though the bible tells me so.

Oh, I know that Jesus loves me – in a “whole world in his hands” kind of way.  But do I believe that he loves ME?  That he sees ME?  That seems impossible.

It’s this thorn in my side, this snag in my otherwise fairly confident faith – which is interesting, since the love of God is what the gospel is centered on.  When I have a hard time trusting the central truth of the Christian faith, it has a ripple effect on the other things that I believe.

I find myself swinging like a pendulum between an inflated sense of self-importance and a groveling sense of shame.  Driven by a strong need for justice, I still buy into the lie that I can earn my worth, and that if I don’t secure my merit by my own accomplishment, then I’m done for.  I miss the whole grace thing, over and over again – and then just beat myself up for being a loser.

It’s hard to believe something that I can’t feel.

But lately, I’ve been coming back to that passage in Matthew 6 where Jesus talks about the birds of the air, and how they soar and glide and don’t worry about their lives because they are provided for – and that if God loves them, how much more does he love you and me?  For some reason, that has felt like a good line of reasoning – something that I could latch on to – and so a few weeks ago, I prayed that God would help me remember that.

Specifically, I prayed for a visual reminder of that truth.

And last week, I received a birthday package in the mail.

Greta’s note was short and sweet, simply saying that she knew that this was an enormously impractical gift, but that she saw it and just wanted to send it to me.  I unwrapped it, and found a doorknob.

It took me a second to put it together – because there’s no way she could have known.  Why on earth would she have sent me a doorknob – especially when I don’t even have a bedroom door?

But when the pieces fell into place, my heart almost burst.

Because the love of God will open the door and set me free.

picture-1

Ho-ho-holy wondering as I’m wandering

Friday, December 19th, 2008

Christmas is closing in all around me, like an army of ants on a stale, crusty French fry.

I am the French fry.

I have barely done any Christmas shopping, and with my big move happening in 3 days, I’m not sure when I’ll have the chance to get some ho-ho-ho-ing done.

(I don’t think that came out right.)

Today is our office Christmas party. I have always dreamed of going to some fancy work soirée – a cocktail party on a Friday night where I can wear satin and sequins, and the drinks are free, and the food is good, and no one leaves without a fabulous gift bag of goodies and maybe even a Christmas bonus. However, our party is scheduled from 1-3:30, and includes macaroni & cheese, a magic show, and balloon animals.

Oh sweet mercy, I SO HOPE that it winds up being as amazing as I think it will be! Pam Beasley’s got nothing on me. Well, I suppose she has Jim.

Whatever. In all honesty, “Christmas cheer” isn’t really my style. I hate eggnog. Christmas trees leak sap. I don’t even turn on my heater, let alone use precious wattage for twinkly lights. I’m not a “festive” person – I’m not an upbeat person in GENERAL – and I don’t like Christmas music. It’s too sappy. Too cheesy. Too contrived.

You want to know what would be my kind of Christmas song? “Holly Jolly Melancholy.” I’m going to write it… because someone already wrote this one.

But on with my story: this morning, a co-worker brought me a pile of gifts to wrap. I’m the temp-receptionist – it’s my job – and in all honesty, I’m a ridiculously good present-wrapper. I can tie a bow like nobody’s business. So I was working my way through the pile of gifts, and for the very first time in my entire life I swear, I peeked at my present.

I have literally never peeked at one of my presents before. Ever. “Conscientious” is my middle name… except, of course, when it comes to cleaning up dog poop.

Anyway, the gift that I “didn’t” see: a glittery cowboy boot Christmas ornament.

And I love it. Really and truly, I do. Being the bah-humbug-er that I have been, I don’t have a single Christmas ornament – I don’t have a single Christmas decoration. This is my first one. And even with tree to hang it on, it made me happy to be thought of by my favorite co-worker. Maybe I’m not such a Grinch after all…

Watch

Tuesday, February 19th, 2008

When I graduated from college, I had a party. I didn’t really expect it, but people brought me presents. Let this be a lesson to all of you slackers out there: don’t quit, because in the end, YOU TOO could be the recipient of a ceramic candle holder in the shape of a flip-flop.

Actually, a lot of my college graduation gifts were pretty great. Bottles of wine and champagne, Philosophy body wash, a towel set from Restoration Hardware, and lots of cash.

But my favorite gift came from Luke.

At the time, Luke was almost 5. I had lived with Luke’s family for a while a few years prior, and he won my heart with his big blue eyes and genuine adoration of everyone he came across. Luke is the kind of kid that you want to want to dip in chocolate and wrap in sunshine and then put in a picture frame on your wall, just because that kind of goodness deserves to be kept around permanently.

That day, Luke approached me with a small box wrapped in tissue paper. His mom explained that they had spent hours at the mall, searching for the exact right present. As Renee would make suggestions, and point out various items, Luke would say, “No, Mom. I know what I want to get her.” He proceeded to wander aimlessly through the stores, eyes always looking, and continually turning down his mother’s ideas. “No, Mom. I know what I want to get her.”

When she asked him what he was looking for, he simply replied, “I know what it is. I just need to find it.”

Finally, they wandered into a kitchen store. And there, high on a rack, was a small magnet in the shape of an owl. “That’s it,” he said.

And through all of my moving and purging and traveling, that owl magnet has somehow always made the cut, again and again. And now, once again, it has wound up on my refrigerator.

Luke knew what he was looking for – he just didn’t know what it looked like. But when he saw it, he recognized it. I love that.

I hope that my life can be a reflection of that watchful perseverance. In so many situations, I know what I’m looking for – I just don’t know what it looks like. But I will keep looking, keep watching, keep searching – and hopefully, when I see it, I will recognize it.

Moving day

Saturday, February 9th, 2008

Dear Grant (“the man that I live with”),
You have stored up major treasures in heaven.

We did not know each other – you were the friend-of-a-friend – and yet you graciously opened your doors to me. You helped me carry my huge purple suitcases, and big boxes of dishes and books, and all of my linens, into your spare bedroom. You gave me a corner of the shower to put all of my pink bottles of smell-goody shampoo. You cleared out the bottom shelf of the fridge for my eggs and bread and yogurt. You didn’t complain when I left my frying pan on the stove, morning after morning, because I don’t wash it every day between frying eggs… you didn’t even tell me I’m a gross human being for not doing so. You didn’t lose your mind when I put MY bedspread on your guest bed, just to make it feel more like home. You lent me your car to go pick up big pieces of furniture that I bought on Craigslist. You edited my resume. You told me what I should do if a tornado hits.

You didn’t kick me out. For over a month, and mostly with no end in sight, you let me stay.

I don’t know what I would have done without you. I am forever indebted. I’ll miss sitting in the living room at night, you always on the couch, me always on the love-seat (why did that always just happen?), talking about our days. I never cured you of your TV addiction, and you never cured me of my internet obsession, but hey – we tried.

Oh, and I’ve been meaning to bring something up. You use Mentadent toothpaste? The double-barreled wonder? I kind of forgot that existed.

Well, cool.

Gratefully,
Annie

A good story – a true story

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

Yesterday morning, I got a phone call from a girl saying that she worked down the street at Bongo Java. “We have a surprise here waiting for you – come in anytime this morning and it will be waiting for you.” A SURPRISE?? I never get surprises!

I walked down to the coffee shop, and introduced myself at the counter. The girl reached behind the counter and pulled out a paper coffee cup with a lid on it; written on the cup was a note: “Annie, everyone needs a place to get away, reflect, and people watch. Enjoy!” and was signed from someone who lives out of town, someone who is becoming strangely important to me. Inside the cup was a gift card to Bongo Java.

It was the nicest, most thoughtful gesture I’ve experienced in ages. Simple, but creative. It made me feel like I mattered to someone, and really, isn’t that what we all want? Just to matter to someone?

I beamed all day. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: thank you.