“Yet” is a Beautiful Word


It’s been a rough semester year.

I’ve been thinking back to the time when I first heard the once-trendy Piperism “God is most glorified in us when we’re most satisfied in Him.”

I remember that time as sort of magical, when each week, I would sit on a couch stacked on a table the boys had built because they wanted to have stadium seating in their living room. They were the type of boys who let maggots grow in a half-eaten Dairy Queen Blizzard left on a dresser for God knows how long… but they were also the type who invited us over each week to talk about God.

Prior to that Bible study, I honestly didn’t like God very much. I obeyed Him, because that’s what you do… but I couldn’t fathom that He wanted more from me than an pouting drudgery.

That Bible study changed me forever. Revealed the tenderness, affection, mystery, and safety of faith. And yet, my heart is back to drudgery again.

I don’t know how I got here, nor do I know how I made it out of the drudgery hole last time. It seems to have required a direct intervention from God. Intervene, please? Now?

Life right now seems like a pendulum to me, swinging from drudgery to reckless abandon. Nothing in between. Nothing ordinary. Nothing like John Piper’s God-glorifying satisfaction.

One moment, I am defeasible fees/contingent remainders/shifting future interests/the rule against perpetuities (no wonder so many lawyers have substance abuse problems). The next moment, I’m a late-night run chased by zombies and listening to “We Owned the Night,” b/c I feel like I actually own the night.

No in-between.

Drudgery. Overjoy. Drudgery. Overjoy. Drudgery… the pendulum swings.

I was at a Christian Legal Society meeting a few weeks ago, and we were reading Psalm 42, which is very back and forth between “My tears have been my food day and night…” and “The Lord will command His lovingkindness…” and “Why have You forgotten me?”

It’s really a beautiful passage of spiritual pain and stunted praise.

While CLS was talking about it, I was having a lot of trouble seeing it as uplifting.  Everyone except me seemed only to see warm fuzzies and positivities.

Then Matt pointed out the one hopeful thing that resonated with me.

“Why are you cast down, O my soul? Why are you disquieted w/in me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance.”

He pointed out the word “yet.”

“I shall yet praise Him.”

It’s a future tense thing. In the future I shall praise Him.

I found that so incredibly comforting.

Christians so often put on an obnoxious fake praise. Because it feels like something we’re supposed to do. After all, “God is most glorified in us when we’re most satisfied in Him.” And we’re supposed to glorify God, right? Therefore, I must be satisfied. I must show everyone how satisfied I am… right?

Also, I always feel like I’m about to get a lecture when I don’t at least pretend to be satisfied… when I have the nerve to ask Him why…

“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the world… Have you commanded the morning… Have you walked the recesses of the deep…?”

Whole chapters about where I was when God put leviathan in the ocean and set the stars in the sky… Well, God. You obviously are God, and I am not. I know that.

Matt went on to say that the word “yet” hints at those times when we don’t feel like we’re even Christians… we can trust that it won’t always be so. We shall yet praise Him. Even if it isn’t ours in this moment, we will reclaim satisfaction.

I can’t make my heart be satisfied. Can’t plant joy there and cause it to grow. Sometimes I can wrangle my emotions into a corner and make them do what I want them to do, but most of the time, if the drudgery/overjoy pendulum in my heart is to be reinvented, God has to intervene on my behalf. I can’t do it on my own.

While I’m stuck here, though, torn between drudgery and overjoy, sometimes not even feeling like I’m a Christian, isn’t Psalm 42 comforting? Isn’t the word “yet” the most comforting word in the English language? Because after I’m finished complaining about my tears and asking God why He has forgotten me, I shall yet praise Him.

 

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How Much of My Sin Can God Handle?


I first felt the fear in 2014 – there was a major, major sin I wanted, and I truly didn’t have it in me to walk away.

I remember thinking, Is this it? Is this the time when God isn’t going to hold onto me? Is He going to let me go?

By the grace of God, I did eventually walk away, but I toyed with that sin. I fantasized about it. I caressed it and fed into it. I nourished and protected an affection for it in my heart.

 

It happened to me again this semester. I longed for sin. Temptation came in the form of lies, selfishness, betrayal, arrogance, envy…

Even as I see those traits within myself, I long to indulge them. I long to have what other people have. I’ve been so good for so long, right? Don’t I deserve a break? Why doesn’t God love me enough to give me the desires of my heart?

Please, Abba. Stop doing this to me. Just hit me with an effing car the next time I go for a run. End this. Please. Your plans for me are too hard. I’m not enough. I don’t want to do this anymore. I hate this place. It would be better to die now. “To live is Christ. To die is gain.”

No, I’m not suicidal. I promise. I know it sounds like I am, but I’m not. I’m not even sad, really.

After about six weeks of caressing and guarding my sin this semester, the other thoughts hit me again: Is this it? Is God about to give up on me? Was this just a temporary grace, dependent on my ability to be a good girl?

In the Bible, there are sort of paradoxical and, dare I say it… conflicting… passages when it comes to the perseverance of the saints. The question is usually posed in the abstract: can a person really, truly be a Christian and eventually lose her salvation?

It isn’t an abstract question to me at all. It is the question that haunts me. Each time I come up against the broken and blackened parts of my heart, I ask that question.

God, is this the time when I’ve gone too far? Am I beyond Your salvation now? Don’t let me walk away. 

I am not a Christian because I want to be one. If my faith was dependent upon me to maintain it, I would have walked away long before now. I am sure of it.

There are really beautiful things about Christianity. There are parts of the Bible that are so shockingly delicate. So rich. So mysterious. So flowing and soft.

However, the beautiful is often obstructed by Fox News and the 2nd Amendment. Also, there’s that grotesque problem that Christianity is ultimately about the murder of God.

Partnering alongside the beautiful and the hideous that are both ever-present aspects of my faith, the honest truth about Christianity is that it’s the hardest thing in the world. Christianity requires me to entrust everything about who I am to a God I can never fully understand. It requires more than I have. More than I can ever give. It requires so much more than anyone can articulate or imagine. It requires the death of God. Yes, His resurrection too.

 

Coming up to the edge of myself is a humbling reminder that I am not a Christian because I have done anything to be one.

I am a Christian because I need Christ.

I am a Christian because I do not have it in me to walk away from sin.

I am a Christian because Christ intervened and intervenes on my behalf.

“Perseverance of the saints” is a nice, sanitized, and intellectual way of trying to figure out what happens when a Christian isn’t enough, within herself, to save herself… and shouldn’t the answer to that question be self-evident within a faith that’s entire canon seeks to answer that question…

 

 

School update: it’s Spring Break… my blood pressure is 142/73. My resting heart rate is 52. I’ve got a ton of reading to do. I’ve got papers to write. I have secured a summer job with the Office of Children’s Counsel (represents kids in custody battles). I continue to lose weight and have days in which I can’t make myself eat even close to a normal number of calories. I’ve admitted to myself that I can’t do all of the things I want to do, and will thus need to tell people no. Yet, I haven’t yet told anyone no. I found out I made the dean’s list last semester. I love two or three of my classes this semester. I hate one of my classes this semester. I continue to build amazing friendships with my peers. I love being surrounded by people who think about everything and engage their community with the hope of making it better.

 

 

Theology Changes


Dear Readers,

My theology has changed.

I write that with a sense of fear, because it’s hard to let the people we love change.

About ten years ago, I fell in love with a gay Christian. I was melty for him, and I told him so… several times. He was kind to me about it. And honest. I watched him through one season of life in which he intended to remain celibate until he died. I watched him through another season, in which he hoped to someday love a woman and have a family. I believe he is now in a committed relationship with a man, although he and I don’t talk much anymore. It’s painful to stay friends with an unrequited love.

I loved him loyally for about five years. I watched him struggle. I struggled. And I did what I usually do when I can’t figure out my life.

I wrote.

In 2007, I began writing a manuscript about a character named Weston Stark who was living a heartbreaking question: If God loves me so much, why did He make me gay?

I thought it was important for Wes to simultaneously hold two truths. The first truth was that God is real. The second truth is that Wes was, and always would be, gay.

I started by doing research. I did interviews, including a gay Christian who dated men, a gay Christian undergoing Reparative Therapy, a lapsed Catholic who was gay and dating men, a bartender at the local gay bar, and a few others. Absent from my research were interviews with women. I wasn’t opposed to interviewing them, but none really popped up conveniently in my life, while it seemed like there was always another man I could ask for an interview.

Next, I dug into resources at the public library. I watched every documentary I could get my hands on, then I finished up my search with the World Wide Web. The one type of research I didn’t do was digging into the debate of whether God actually hates homosexuality. I’m not sure why I didn’t want to go there, but it was the one place I avoided in my research.

Don’t get me wrong; I knew the verses. For a few years of his life, Weston kept a note card taped to the bottom of his sock drawer, where he didn’t think his parents would find it. On it, was Leviticus 18:22. “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.”

I promise, I knew and still know the verses.

Ultimately, my research led me to the ending of Weston’s story: suicide.

I won’t recount the stats or reasoning behind that ending, but suffice it to say that I didn’t believe I could tell his story honestly with any other ending. I tried.

So, I wrote my manuscript. It was mostly completed by year five, but I’ve tinkered with it off-and-on ever since.

Flash forward to 2017.

At the beginning of the year, I felt really torn about homosexuality. After ten years of writing about it, after loving someone for whom it was often the central struggle of his life, and after researching it to death, I was no closer to harmonizing my own heart with what I believed to be the obligatory Christian stance.

My own stance went something like this: nothing in my heart condemns homosexuality. Nothing in my heart believes it’s sinful. I don’t feel any sense of ick about it. No anger or hatred. I have always had lots of gay friends and I adore them. But when I disagree with something I find in the Bible, I yield to God. Because He gets to decide right and wrong. I don’t get to decide.

Then, I started law school.

I met a friend who asked me all of the hard questions, repeatedly.

I started intensely studying the law and how to interpret and understand it, which has an awful lot in common with studying the Bible and how to interpret and understand it.

I decided it was time for me to go where I hadn’t been willing to go previously : Biblical interpretation.

I’ve been reading a lot. Obviously, I have to read for class, which is particularly interesting this semester because I have my first Constitutional Law class… basically I have a class that’s all about interpreting a text written a long time ago, but which we have to apply today. I have also not lost diligence with my Bible, and I’ve read a few Christian non-fiction books about homosexuality, the history of the Bible, and a memoir of a lesbian who converted to Christianity.

And the thing is, the nagging question isn’t whether homosexuality is a sin. It’s a question that’s important. It’s a question that’s relevant. It’s a question for which my answer has changed: I don’t think it’s a sin.

However, the bigger question really is: how do I read the Bible and get out of it what God wants me to get out of it?

I write all of this because I’m afraid that some of you will look on me with eyes of judgment because I no longer see what you see.

I’m still a Christian. I still rely solely on the mercy of a crucified Savior. I still read my Bible and pray on a near-daily basis.

I just think we’ve been reading the Bible wrong.

Here and now doesn’t seem like the time to go into why I think we’ve been reading it wrong. Mostly what I want to do here and now is be lazy. I could wait and have all of these conversations in due time, as they arise with each of you naturally, but it’s far easier for me to just put it out there and let you bring it up if it’s something you want to discuss.

I didn’t intend to change, nor did I change as abruptly as it probably looks like I’ve changed. I’ve been intensely arguing with myself and God for the past few months, but I’ve also been studying and thinking and praying and worrying for years. I’ve worked it out (and will continue to work it out) with much fear and trembling, and I’ve come to a clearing where I think I’m going to land for awhile.

That’s not to say that my theology won’t change again tomorrow. Sometimes that happens. It’s also not to say that I understand Biblical interpretation. I don’t. It’s a big issue and something I’m going to be actively seeking to understand for the foreseeable future.

In addition to my lazy purposes in writing this post, I guess I’m writing this in the hopes that you won’t assume. It’s easy to assume that all Christians hate gays. It’s easy to assume that the only right way to read the Bible is the way you read it.

But the truth of living a life committed to Christ is so much messier than that. The truth of Christianity is a decade of struggle followed by a realization that what I believe is not what I’m “supposed” to believe. What I believe is the kind of thing that makes lots of Christians really mad.

It’s cool if you’re mad… but I honestly doubt I’ll change my mind if you try to persuade me that I’m wrong. I might be wrong… or maybe you’re wrong. We’ll have to wait to find out for sure.

Peace out, friends.

 

 

Surviving 1L Semester 1


There are some really hard things about being in law school.

The level of stress I’ve felt exceeds any I’ve felt in my life. Lots of you are aware of my blood pressure issues. A few are aware of the dry heaving. I’ve had a change appetite and lost weight. My sleep patterns aren’t really a pattern at all. It’s competitive. It’s a lot of reading. It’s terrifying to be cold-called in class.

Honestly, the first semester of law school is a wad of stress that is indescribable to the uninitiated.

However, the most important thing that happened to me this semester has nothing to do with classes or rankings.

Law school has been a beautiful mechanism for reminding me who I am.

And the spirit of Mufasa fills the screen:

I have been blessed to maintain most of the relationships in my life for years if not decades. It is a true joy to have such a shared history with people and to love them as I love family. I was reminded of these enduring relationships when I went to apply for a legal fellowship for the summer, and I listed my references and how long they’ve known me. Personal reference: 17 years. Spiritual reference (it’s a Christian fellowship): 12 years. These relationships are an enormous part of who I am, and it’s lovely to be reminded.

I’m also overwhelmed with how supportive the people in my life have been. Like all of my life decisions, attending law school was abrupt and without much explanation. I was hit with a divine whisper and that was the end of the conversation. I consulted exactly two people before signing up to take the LSAT, and had they told me not to do it, I probably would have done it anyway.

And yet, they’ve been there for me. I did not once consider the amount of support and understanding I would need from the people in my life to get through law school. I have that luxury, because they are there for me even when I don’t ask them to be. No one in my life has guilted me when I’ve canceled plans because I needed to study, and I’ve canceled a lot of plans. They’ve listened to me obsess about my blood pressure. They’ve counseled me. They’ve put up with my constant and inept legal analysis of everyday life. They’ve encouraged and been patient in ways I’m not sure I have ever or will ever reciprocate.

I don’t deserve any of you.

Alongside that, I’ve met so many amazing people in school, and they’ve reminded me of certain things about myself that I’ve forgotten or that I’ve refused to believe.

People at school seem to like me. They tell me that I’m nice, open-minded, stylish (who knew?), and that I’m a good student. They laugh at my jokes and don’t make me feel like an idiot when I do stupid things. They send me encouraging text messages when my crazy is about to overtake me, and they help me celebrate my birthday.

My conception of myself so often fills in the blanks with the worst things people have ever said about me: stubborn, conceited, too busy with tasks to spend time with others, judgmental… it’s so easy to believe.

Thank you to all of my classmates who remind me that I’m okay. I pray that as my weird quirks become more visible to you, you’ll continue to like me anyways.

And let’s all lift a glass to surviving 1L Semester 2! 🙂

 

 

 

 

Thanksgiving 2017


Dear Readers,

I’ve been contemplating writing a post about what law school is like, because that seems to be the question right now. It’s the small-talk question. It’s the part of my life that’s new and wonderful and terrible. It’s the all-consuming, aching, needy monster-robot that’s sucking the life right out of me, and making me question everything I know.

I’m convinced that it is best described as IDENTITY CRISIS!, and in  that spirit, and the spirit of Thanksgiving, here are the deepest thanks built into my heart right now.

I’m thankful for…

Mom & Dad, who made me smart, independent, patient, and athletic. You gave me a (slightly off-beat) sense of humor, and a love of Star Trek and “Dance Band on the Titanic.”

Mr. Morrill, who made me a writer.

Dave and Lisa, who have been chosen instruments of God in my life, softening my stubborn heart and planting seeds of grace.

Steve and Lori, who have voluntarily stuck by me longer than anyone else has, through Sin City, wildfires, and soggy marshmallows.

Shasta, who forced me to dance and have fun.

Matt and Ashly, who were my first holiday benefactors, who taught me to love food and wine.

And Roni, who makes me laugh and seems to only see the best parts of me.

Thank all of you for making me the person I am today. Happy Thanksgiving!

The Vulnerability of Not Dating Every Week


Dear Readers,

I’m back for this one post, because it seemed right for you as opposed to the readers at the other place where I’ve been blogging of late. Also, I hadn’t realized how popular Fern Gully, Fitzgerald, and Frappuccinos had become in my absence. When I was actively blogging here, it seemed like no one ever commented, but when I logged back in, purely for the purpose of protecting my secret blogger identity while commenting on a friend’s blog, I discovered a number of comments on my posts about taking the LSAT. Evidently my SEO increased exponentially when I decided to take that long, stupid test.

Interestingly enough, today’s post has a little something to do with the LSAT and law school: vulnerability.

You see, God has been working on me lately, and not in an abstract, over-spiritualized, ethereal way. He’s been intervening on my behalf when I don’t really want Him around. There are some crazy, irritating ways He’s been chasing me, but I’ll keep the details to myself.

What I will tell you is that His interventions have really manifested as touches to one particular heartstring.

My vulnerability heartstring is, and nearly always has been, weak. Brene Brown’s famous TED Talk spoke to me in ways that haunt me to this day, because so much of my life has been invulnerable. Untouchable. Numbed. It kills me when she says that it’s not possible to selectively numb, because that’s exactly what I would do if given the option. I would numb vulnerability, betrayal, and failure, because those are the emotions that overwhelm me. I can’t sit in those for even a moment, without seeking out a glass of wine and some aged, extra-sharp cheddar.

I say all of this, knowing there’s a strange paradox in me. I am perfectly comfortable with financial and physical vulnerability. After all, I quit a perfectly good career without any plan for the future. If it didn’t trigger vehement protestations in my friends, I would run at 10:00 pm every night, with three glasses of red wine in my system, no flashlight or pepper spray, in the wilderness or along a shady street. Because my deepest darkest fears aren’t that I’ll have nowhere to live or be raped and murdered. Honestly, money is irritating to me and being murdered might hurt for the rest of you, but I’d be happy to find conclusion to my time on this stupid, fallen earth.

That all being said, the vulnerability that scares me, that twangs my heartstring and sends me into a dark night of the soul is sustained eye-contact with a person who wants to know me.

I’ve been not dating someone named Zach. It hasn’t been super long that we’ve been getting to know each other. Maybe a total of two months. And we’ve agreed to build a friendship, which is why we aren’t dating.

About half of the time, I love this approach. I hate that dating is so often about finding a person to fulfill romantic needs. It’s not about truly caring or about serving. It’s about finding someone who makes us feel whatever it is we want to feel.

The other half of the time, I’m losing my mind, because I don’t know what Zach is thinking or feeling, and I don’t know if we’re ever going to be more than “just friends.”

I don’t like that he asks these crazy questions about my story – he’s very in to “story,” by the way, which I love – and he looks at me when I’m talking. And he doesn’t just look at me, it’s like he’s trying to see what’s behind my eyes, or something, like he’s trying to know the things I’m not saying. And all I can do is look at my hands, because it twangs the vulnerability heartstring to see him looking at me like that.

Zach is pretty much the greatest thing since the invention of the stove-top espresso maker. He isn’t yet the cheese to my macaroni, because it’s only been like two months, but maybe he’s the almond milk to my latte… or something.

He works for an engineering company, but he wants to go back to school to become a counselor. His favorite hobby: going to Skate Country. He plays guitar and used to do karate. He loves heavy metal and Taylor Swift. He has the diet of a teenage boy, and is not fat at all. He likes to run trails, but I think he runs like 12-minute miles, or possibly even slower. And he’s really kind. That may sound like an insult, or a throw-away, like… well, he’s a really nice guy… That’s the kind of thing you say when you’re about to break up with someone. That’s not how I mean it. I mean that he’s kind.

Every week, we go on a non-date. Our non-date site of choice: Skate Country. I’ve purchased myself a pair of leopard print skates with pink wheels, and we go. He takes his roller blades, and sticks with me at least half of the time, even though I’m really slow. When people bump into me and I wobble, he reaches out like he’s going to catch me. When there’s a special going on, like the dice game or cardio skate, we talk. He asks serious questions that make be give serious answers. Sometimes we sit on those ridiculous Skate Country benches, and I just want to touch him, because we have yet to really break the touch barrier. Because we’re friends.

My conversations with God about Zach and the other indisputable ways He’s been twanging my vulnerability heartstring hurt.

I know that I’m ill-equipped for a relationship. I’m broken and afraid. I numb my heart when I feel things, and I can’t look Zach in the eye when he’s looking me in the eye. I don’t trust men. I hardly think of them as people, because they are mean, and demanding, and shallow. To me, they are generally to be avoided.

And I just hope and pray that when I’m not looking at Zach, he doesn’t see how afraid I am of him. I ask God to hold me in the palm of His hand and prepare me, just in case Zach does become the cheese to my macaroni. Because as much as I hate the vulnerability of our weekly non-dates… the feeling that I might invest in this friendship only for it to continue on in perpetuity as friendship and non-dates… as much as my heart twangs uncomfortably with whatever this is with Zach right now, I’ve learned from Brene Brown that the “whole-hearted” are a people who are exactly what I’m afraid to be. They are a people who risk their hearts, with no guarantees about how things will work out… or not. They embrace the “excruciating vulnerability.”

I hope God is twanging your heart too, dear reader. 🙂

It’s good to check in with you again.

 

 

Goodbye, Aurelia Plath


It seemed obvious to me that Esther Greenwood was an unreliable narrator, as it seems obvious to me that I am an unreliable narrator. The only truly reliable narrator is the omniscient one, who doesn’t participate in the story.

Seven years after Sylvia Plath’s suicide, her mother wrote a letter to Plath’s editor, describing The Bell Jar as representing “the basest ingratitude.” She wrote that, “practically every character in The Bell Jar represents someone – often in caricature – whom Sylvia loved; each person had given freely of time, thought, affection, and, in one case, financial help during those agonizing six months of breakdown…”

Aurelia Plath mothered a brilliant daughter, who wrote what it felt like to lose her will to live… Of course Esther Greenwood was an unreliable narrator. The purpose of the story wasn’t to accurately depict people and events. The author, herself, described the book as “an autobiographical apprentice work which I had to write in order to free myself from my past.”

I really struggle to keep this blog going – not because there isn’t anything to write or for want of time. I struggle because of Aurelia Plath.

It both makes complete sense to me, and yet it also seems completely ludicrous that people feel hurt, anxious, distressed… over the things I write.

It makes sense because it must seem like “the basest ingratitude” that I write about people who’ve “given freely of time, thought, affection…” and I don’t always paint those people flatteringly. Instead, I write my experiences of the hypocrite boyfriend, hated mother, and doctor who mis-administered shock therapy, or whatever the equivalents of those are in my life.

I understand the hurt of Aurelia Plath, and I’m sorry for it.

I’ve been writing this blog for years now, and I’ve enjoyed the sense of connectedness I feel when someone texts me saying that something I wrote was good or that it resonated with them, but I’ve also hated the feeling I get when someone texts me saying that something I wrote hurt them… or maybe nobody even texts me, but two years later, I find out that so-and-so has been upset at me ever since I wrote… whatever it is that I wrote.

I’m tired.

No matter how I tried not to offend, I offended. It started way back when my roommate accidentally squirted a bunny in the face with water from a hose, and somehow the story I wrote about it hurt her feelings. I guess I didn’t make it clear enough that she’s not a bunny-hating evil person. I really just thought the story was blog-worthy because it included pictures of a tiny bunny.  It never once occurred to me that my story of calling around and finding an animal rescue that would take in a bunny that somehow, unbeknownst to us, hopped into our yard would ever be viewed as an insulting story about roommate.

But that’s the way it goes.

I offended with a post I wrote about how I think baptisms should be. I offended with posts about silly things and posts about serious things. I offended by accidentally revealing secrets that I didn’t know were secrets. I offended multiple people who I felt pretty confident didn’t even read my blog. I offended with theology and humor and even my own sadness… I honestly can’t seem to write anything without hurting somebody’s feelings.

This space was originally created as a refuge. It’s Dorothy Jane’s “Sanctuary from the Storm.” I began writing here when I was “riffed”/laid-off from my job. I began because I’d always wanted to write and I wanted a writing space that was mine. However, the longer I write here, the less this space feels like it’s mine. It seems like the purpose of writing here has been defeated and swallowed up by the needs of real life relationships.

I’m telling you this, because this is going to be my last post here, and it seems rude to leave the room without a wave or a nod goodbye. I think it’s time I start afresh. In a new space. Where nobody knows my name.

Thank you for reading. A few of you have stuck with this blog for something like eight or nine years. I’ve never really understood what kept any of you reading, but I thank you for the “time, thought, and affection.” Now, you’ll unfortunately need to call me up and talk to me if you want a life update. 😉