Check out my other blog: Arugula Addict! I'll be writing about my journey to becoming a healthier person.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Birthdays are OverRated

Today marks 13 years since we set foot on American soil in a country we little realized would be one we would be living in for longer than we had ever lived on any other continent. As I look back over the years, I see a mural of difficulties, joys, hardships, laughter, tears, and adventures. I see times of terror and times of amazement, times that wrenched us apart and times that pulled us together, times of mourning and times of happiness, times of change and times of constancy.

I will be honest, the past years have forced me to stretch and grow beyond what I have felt comfortable with, and yet I continue to live feeling like I must be stretched even more. I recognize the blessing that God has given me of the ability to live in a country of freedom, and yet I grieve the losses that have been mixed in with the blessings. I have learned what it means to feel like you are further away from God than the bottom of the deepest ocean and I have experienced how it feels to cling to God as your only Hope because there is no other.

I came to America an 18-year old young woman, scared, excited, unsure of what the future would hold. I'm  not sure today that I would have chosen the path I've taken if I could have seen the direction it would have gone. The verdict is still out on that one. This entry will not have a satisfactory "this is the lesson I learned and I'm so glad this happened to me" ending. Because this is real life and sometimes real life is messy and it doesn't get cleaned up into the perfect sermon illustration. Maybe I'll check back in in another 13 years and give you my conclusion.

Saturday, November 5, 2011


Ah, so it's been a month since I last posted on here, with good reason. I remember when I first started writing, I was so faithful to post at least once a day, sometimes twice if I felt so inspired. Now this blog exists more for when the moment strikes, and it hasn't struck for some time now. In fact, it isn't striking now either, but I do want to keep writing, so here I am, back in the virtual world.

Last night I was doing a bit of actual writing, you know the kind (or maybe you don't! depending on how old you are). It's the kind that uses a notebook with lined paper, usually made from trees (though they have plastic Bibles now, just right for using if you want to read your Bible while scuba-diving, or taking a stroll in the rain, and you can even highlight and mark them too!). I think pens are still in use out in the "real" world, so I won't bother to explain to you what those are. So here I was, sitting at my brand new to me, used to others, dining room table that expands out to seat about 50 people but thankfully is only about four feet wide when at its smallest. I had my favourite navy blue notebook, and my Uni-ball Vision Elite 0.5 mm pen (the only kind I use for journalling) and was busy writing away.

I've always been a writer, a scribbler, a "journaler," since I can remember. I wrote a fantastic story about a planet with green people and blue trees, or some strange combination, for Reading class when I was in elementary school and I still have it filed away somewhere. That was back in the day of lined paper that came with a dotted line about halfway between the top and bottom lines, so you knew exactly where to put the top of your lowercase "a" and the top of the bump of the "d." It was also the day of thick black pencils that you could barely wrap your little chubby hand around.

I remember going on choir tours and trips to the coast or Yosemite when I was in college and everywhere I went, I brought a notebook and a pen or two with me. I had to write, to put down on paper how I was feeling, what I was observing, what I was thinking. Others seemed intimidated by my furious scribbling, wandering over and asking what I was writing, the brave ones asking if they could read some of it. I never let anyone read my writings, of course, unless it happened to be something I was working on for creative writing class. One year I wrote a poem and read it to my friend while we were sitting in the little bus on our way home from the San Francisco airport, returning from two weeks in Taiwan. She listened to me read it, and then she asked me to read it again.

But I digress. I started out by saying that I haven't been posting for a month with good reason, the reason being that I've not been feeling too well for the past month. Weird symptoms, kind of like the flu except not quite, and I still have no idea what caused them or why they stuck around for so long. I had no idea whether I had a virus, was allergic to a type of food, was stressed out, or had some strange illness! So doing the best that I knew how, I tried to get plenty of sleep, eat healthy, read my Bible, exercise, and get some sunshine regularly. I sat out in the sun after lunch for at least 15 minutes every day, often taking over an hour for my lunch break, but I felt it was worth it. That time spent soaking up the sun's rays helped to calm my anxious thoughts as the heat seeped into my skin and I felt myself slowly relax. Doing this consistently, I began to realize that I was missing out on something.

The simplicity of life. How many of us rush about through our day, proud and pleased to say to anyone who asks how we are, "busy, stressed, and how are you?" only to hear the same response in reply? We turn on the TV in the morning as we gulp down our breakfast, spend the day in front of a computer or on an adrenaline rush as we attempt to get more done in less time than ever, come home to spend more time in front of the TV or computer "relaxing" and go to bed much too late, only to wake up to repeat the same cycle again. Who has time to sit in the sun for 15 minutes? That would mean 15 minutes more that I would have to stay at work that evening, or make up an hour on Friday, and I've got a schedule to keep to. After all, Dr. Phil comes on at 5 pm and I have to be home to watch that. I can't miss my Dr. Phil show. . .

Do you know what I miss in the midst of all of this? I miss life. Real life. We live such an artificial life in such a stimulated world that it is no wonder we feel stressed and depressed, rushed, alone, and at times, completely lost. We have forgotten what it feels like to stop and take a moment to be in the moment. Sitting in the sun, contemplating but not nearly so much that as actually drinking in the fresh mountain air and feeling the touch of late autumn's heat, I began to think about what I missed the most.

I miss twirling about in the lightly falling rain on a freshly cut lawn. I miss climbing trees and breathing deeply of pine. I miss handwritten letters and long-distance crackly phone calls. I miss singing old hymns and AY songs. I miss the bustle of crowds, the smell of roasted corn, and fresh rain on the sidewalk. I miss fruit in the marketplace, hiking to the tops of mountains, green bean and tomato stew, and playing Kahraba in the dark. I miss sitting cross-legged on a cold cement block, writing in my journal as I look out over a sea of little dotted lights.

Sometimes I stop and think about where I'm at, what I'm doing, and question whether I'm headed in the right direction. Sometimes I wonder what I would say if a complete stranger were to ask me, "if you could do anything in the world, money wasn't an object, and you didn't have to worry about family, education, or time, what would you do?" I think perhaps tonight I would reply, "I would live life."

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


I've been attending a crisis intervention seminar and one of the ways our instructor has been teaching us is through the use of different media clips. Here is one that brought tears to my eyes as I was touched by how the American people pulled together in a time of crisis.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Psaume 34:18

L'Éternel est près de ceux qui ont le coeur brisé, Et il sauve ceux qui ont l'esprit dans l'abattement.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Reading More, Not Less

This week was really slow at work and while I was searching for something to keep my mind occupied, I came across's blog. I really like Bible Gateway because it has an easy to use search feature and I can compare verses in different versions. It's handy for those times when you want to look something up and you don't have a Bible at hand.

One of the blog entries really caught my eye and it's something I thought I'd re-post because I like the idea behind it. N. T. Wright's idea that we should read the Bible in a big sweep intrigues me because so often I have concentrated on a few verses, neglecting to step back and look at the big picture. We know the Bible is a reflection of Who God is, so what better way to see a more complete picture of Him than to attempt to embrace the entirety of His Words?

I tried it this week and quickly learned that it isn't as easy as it seems. I am an avid reader, have been ever since I was able to put letters together into intelligible words, but while it is easy for me to read a gripping autobiography, a Christian novel, or one of my old-time favourite childhood books, I seem to have a much shorter attention span when it comes to reading that requires more focus. I can read Patriarchs and Prophets for a chapter at a time (though I always count the pages first, to see how long it is so I know when I'll be done), but reading one single book in the Bible for more than ten minutes at a time? I wasn't sure it could be done! Perhaps it was because I grew up hearing all the Bible stories from cradle roll and felt like there wasn't anything new or interesting to learn.

Regardless, on Tuesday this week, the office was as quiet as it could be and I was alone with just my thoughts and my NASB black Bible. I decided to try it out and see what it was like. I found that it took me quite a while to get myself prepared to start reading. First I had to put my phone, the message book, and the schedule book with an extra pen on top of the counter so I could access it quickly if the phone rang. Then I decided I needed another drink of water. After that, I thought I'd better check my work email one more time in case anything had come in in the last 30 seconds that I hadn't been looking at the screen. I glanced at the fax machine, sitting silent in the corner, and finally decided that there was nothing else I could do to prepare (or distract!) myself.

I settled down on the comfortable couch, put my feet up, opened my Bible, and then realized I had to decide where to read. I absolutely love Paul's writings, and had flipped over to Romans, when I thought that it might be better to start with Acts, first because it was more of a story and might be easier to read for a longer period of time, and second because it would be helpful to get a picture of Paul's background and where he was coming from and where he was during the different books that he wrote. So I paged back a few pages and began to read.

As with the need to prepare myself with moving things about, I found myself needing to re-read the first few paragraphs in Acts 1 because my mind was wandering. I was thinking about what I needed to do later in the day, wondering if I should exercise when I got off work, planning a menu for the next day's lunch, and sorting through a million more balloon-ideas that insisted on crowding into my mind at all once. I have a hard time "turning off my mind" at times, and this was one of them! I decided to push forward, though, and keep on reading.

It was about an hour later that I emerged, at the end of chapter 13 of Acts, from a world of intrigue, murders, power, excitement, fear, and adventure. Even though I was tempted to stop and research things along the way, or to cross-reference Peter's sermon, or to ponder some of the gems a little longer, I just read steadily through. On Wednesday, another equally quiet day in the office, I read the next 12 chapters. I began to see a picture developing as little puzzle pieces started to fit together.

I am not a Bible scholar, but reading through a majority of Acts in two days I learned some things I didn't know before. For example, when Moses was born, God said he was lovely to look upon. Does that mean that God thought Moses was a really cute baby or was it something deeper? Peter and the others who spoke with him, such as Stephen and Paul, were mistreated the most when they shared their personal testimonies, attesting to Jesus' resurrection and pointing out the sins of those who had crucified Him. Yet they continued to speak out boldly, not caring about their own lives but rather following what they knew they had to do. God's Spirit has an amazing power to change people, as we all know Paul's story, and Acts is filled with stories of God's miracles as He opened up prison doors, foiled plans to kill Paul numerous times, and healed people who touched articles of clothing that His disciples had touched.

Sometimes it is easy to open up the Bible and see it through eyes that have become weary of reading the same thing over and over. One way to break out of that rut is to get a different version of the Bible (I'm going back and forth between the NASB and the ESV right now, as I have used the NIV for about six years). Another way is to spend significant chunks of time just reading, getting the big picture, and then later, going back and breaking down the picture into handle-able pieces. It can only be amazing!

Here's the video on Youtube.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

"Live to the point of tears." ~Albert Camus

Friday, August 12, 2011

My Command Is This:

I don't do too well with goodbyes. Growing up in the mission field, we had to learn quickly how to say goodbye to our best friends, childhood pets, favourite homes, and a myriad of family members on a regular basis. We moved from country to country, never returning to a stable home base, and while we were resilient, it did affect us. I remember reaching the point where I could wave goodbye to my granny as we drove off in the cold English fog on our way to the airport, and hardly a tear would fall. It wasn't that I was heartless; I'd just learned that tears wouldn't accomplish anything. We would still have to say goodbye and leave people behind.

Today, any kind of loss becomes akin to grieving a death for me. As we grow older, people die, friends move away, our siblings find their own places in life, and we have to learn how to hold on with open hands. As I have pondered how I process loss, especially each time someone dear to me passes away, I started to think about the emotions that we encounter in the midst of our grieving.  

We were made in God's image, and while often we think of that including our character, and perhaps our physical body, not much is mentioned about being made like Him in our emotions as well. I think that some of our emotions came after the fall, emotions such as fear, anger, shame, guilt, loneliness, depression, and others. I also think, though, that other emotions were there before the fall. Love, peace, joy, contentment, trust, and the list goes on.

How do you think God felt when He decided to let Jesus come to this earth? I've often heard the story, many sermons have been preached about Jesus' sacrifice, and some of them have also touched on God the Father's sacrifice in giving up His own son. But when I began to really think about it in context of my own losses in life, it became very much more real to me.

God looked down on the earth, and He saw you, He saw me. He saw me making choices that would lead to my death because I was unable to resist sin on my own. He had such compassion on me and He longed for me to be with Him in heaven, but He knew that it wasn't possible if it was left up to me to figure it out. So He did the only thing that could be done. He accepted Jesus' decision to come to earth, to a place that had been ruined by sin and Satan, to live the perfect life in my stead.

God must have known the risk. He must have known that Jesus would be faced with temptations greater than any that I have been faced with. He must have known that there was the possibility that if Jesus made one misstep, that would mean eternal death for me and that Jesus would never return to heaven. God must have known and yet He allowed Jesus to go forward.

The ability to sacrifice to that level, the necessity of having to take Jesus' life at the cross, and the miracle of giving His life back to Him at the resurrection, that is truly the mystery of Godliness. I cannot even begin to understand, but I am slowly seeing just a tiny part of the amazing depth of love and connection that God has for me. His desire to save me was stronger than His desire to save Himself.

"Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends." ~John 15:13, NIV

Monday, July 25, 2011

Crisis: Africa

It's heart-wrenching. The stories you see on TV, the news headlines and pictures you see online. I know, sometimes there are so many tragic events occurring that we are on overload, but when children are starving, it is time to do something about it.

There are organizations on the ground right now who are hurrying to feed people close to death. Some of us have a hard time skipping a meal—can you imagine not ever having anything to eat and slowly losing strength until you couldn't feel anything any longer? There are people in this world right now who single-handedly could provide enough money to feed every one of those starving people, from the children to the elderly. Forbes' 2011 list of the world's billionaires includes people whose net worth exceed $50 billion.

ADRA is working to provide food, water, and other basic necessities to God's children who are desperately in need right now. If you would like to help out monetarily, Click Here or you can visit and click on Emergency.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

No TV, seriously?

Okay, I think I'm making up for not posting in a while, by writing posts as rapidly as my fingers will fly across the keyboard! That, and I need to find something to do with all my free time!

Now you may be wondering where all my free time is coming from. I will admit, there are other things I could and probably should be doing, such as scrubbing the kitchen floor with a toothbrush, or cleaning out the pile of things stored under my bed, or reading one of the 30+ books I've bought/brought home from the library in the past week or so. But my free time? Well, I decided last Monday that I would go for a week without watching TV.

I have a really bad habit of watching movies or shows on youtube while I'm eating breakfast, cleaning my house, doing my dishes, or when I'm bored or have a lot of free time and I want to distract myself from doing the things I need to be doing. I come home from a long busy day at work and I just want to unwind, so I do so, with about three hours of TV. Before I know it, the night is late, I haven't accomplished a single thing on my to-do-list, and I'm tired and cranky and upset with myself.

Having a week with no TV has been an interesting challenge. I haven't been religious about it, during lunchtime I still watched my Judge Marilyn Milian show, but the rest of the time I stayed away. I quickly found out what I do when I am bored. I did have more time to exercise, which was good. I was able to do a number of chores in my house that I'd been putting off. I had more time to do things for myself, like going to town to get a haircut. But I also spent most of my free time online. I still found myself getting to bed at 11, tired and cranky and upset with myself because I had wasted several hours doing who-knows-what, reading the Yahoo! headlines about strange fish or celebrity baby names.

So I think I am going to try another experiment this coming week. Beginning Monday, my computer will be off-limits except to check my email and to chat. I will also not waste my time at work online, but will bring a book so I can at least exercise my brain cells when I'm bored! If I do need to do something online, I will attempt to focus on doing just that, and not fifty billion other things at once. You know how that goes, "oh, let me just check what the weather is like in Kenya, I wonder if Will and Kate are going to visit the island of Fiji next, and I absolutely must see what the Gold box deals are on Amazon today!"

I'll be checking in again in about a week to update you!

I'm Coming to Visit!

One of my best friends is coming to visit me in a couple of weeks and I'm really excited! I've been planning what we'll be doing, where we'll be going, what we'll be eating, and slowly tidying my house (unfortunately I've not been blessed with the talent of Martha Stewart). In the past three months, I've had the blessing of being able to spend time with several of my best friends and each time I would get ready to go and see them, I would relish the anticipation of that moment when I would pull in the driveway, or they would come out of the airport terminal, and recognition would light up on their faces. Friends are a very important part of my life, along with family, and each time I think of them, I am grateful to God for blessing me so much.

In church today, the pastor was doing a study of Isaiah 6 and he spent some time looking at verses 1 and 3. His focus was on God's presence in the temple and how the angels revered Him. The NIV says, ". . .I saw the LORD seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of His robe filled the temple. . .And they were calling to one another: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of His glory."" He asked us to spend a moment thinking about God's presence in church and how we entered the doors that morning. "Do you think Isaiah said, Hey Daddy God, when he was in God's presence?" the pastor asked. Of course not, as we know that Isaiah felt overwhelmed with his own sinfulness as he stood in the presence of the God of the universe. 

The pastor reminded us of Elisha's servant, in 2 Kings 6: 8-23, who was terrified of the Aramean army who appeared to be surrounding the city of Dothan in an attempt to capture Elisha. When Elisha prayed, God opened the servant's eyes to see "hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha." 2 Kings 6:17. The pastor said that if we could have our eyes opened, we would be able to see the church filled with angels, and that God's very presence was there.

I sat in the second to the last pew, contemplating the pastor's words. We had crept in during children's story that morning, having slept in after a long week, and we sat near the back so we wouldn't bring attention to our late arrival. Church at times was more of a duty than a joy, something I did because I knew it was good for me, like eating my fruits and vegetables, and not so much because I found fulfillment in worshiping. I guess I'm not the only person who goes through a dry spiritual valley, but sometimes it felt like that valley didn't have an end in sight.

I grew up in churches where I felt accepted, loved, and needed. The setting was different though, I was in the mission field where sometimes acceptance came with strings attached, and dynamics perhaps did not reflect the every day life back home. However, I did know there was something very different when I began attending churches in the States. Perhaps it was because I was an adult now, and I was expected to fill different roles that if I chose not to accept, meant I would be relegated to a church pew. Perhaps I was looking for an experience that the church was not able to give me, something deeper or more meaningful.

The question of church is one I am still struggling to understand. I know it is important because we keep our connection with God and fellowship with other believers alive by attending regularly. I recognize that the concept behind small groups can help build our relationship with God as we study with others and see different facets of God's character through discussion. I see how I can be blessed personally by giving my time and using my talents to help with needs in the church. But I'm not sure how to take what I know intellectually and put it into practice when I am looking for is an understanding that I cannot find.

As I sat in the pew this morning, I began to imagine what it would be like if I could see God's presence actually there. I guess I always thought that God was busy visiting other churches on a Sabbath morning, instead of realizing that He is omnipresent and therefore He could be in our church as well. I looked around at the many empty pews, because of campmeeting, and thought, "There are angels sitting there, and they are probably lining the walls as well." It was quite an awe-inspiring picture to imagine.

Take a moment and imagine with me what it is like when you know you are going to see someone who you are very close to, whom you haven't seen for a while. You are excited, counting down the hours, getting ready for their arrival, and then before you know it, they are there. You spend the time you have together talking, laughing, and catching up on the past months or years. What if we looked forward to Sabbath like that? What if every Friday afternoon, we began to anticipate the next day, preparing carefully, eager and excited to spend time with God? What if we woke up early on Sabbath morning, if we entered the doors of the church with reverence and awe, our hearts filled to overflowing that we could be meeting with God again? What if we found joy in knowing that God was just as excited to spend time with us, teaching us, loving us, and showing us His character?

While I may still be searching for a church where I will feel comfortable here, I think I am learning more about how to find God when I enter His modern-day tabernacle. And one day, God has promised that "from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before Me." Isaiah 66:23 Imagine what an amazing day that will be!

A Broken Hallelujah

While up in Washington a few weeks ago, LaVonne and I went into one of my favourite stores: a Christian bookstore. Here I picked up a $5 cd by Mandisa titled Freedom. I'd heard her at a Women of Faith conference a year or two ago and I was looking for some upbeat Christian music I could exercise to.

Here's one of my favourite songs from the CD. I always appreciate songs that speak to my heart and remind me that there is hope.

Friday, July 22, 2011

"I had discovered an essential truth: my past belonged to me; I did not belong to it." ~ The Magic Daughter

A Cup of Coffee, No Cream, Two Sugars

I think my biggest pet peeve is condescension. That and people who honk their horns at you when you are driving the speed limit, because they are stressed and want to get somewhere in a hurry. I always find it amusing that as soon as they overtake you, they come up to a red light and have to sit and wait for five minutes, and after getting all worked up and finally managing to pass you, here they are, a whole five feet closer to their destination. I mean seriously, is it worth it? But I'm getting off topic here.

Let me start by setting the stage for you.

   Setting: corporate office
   Actors: one executive secretary, female; one boss, male

The secretary is sitting at her desk, typing away efficiently. She is the kind of secretary who gets everything done well, accurately, and ahead of schedule. She is very capable in managing her boss' time and projects, she often looks for ways to improve her work environment, and she always makes visitors feel welcome. Her boss is the typical executive in a suit, who lives by the dictates of his cell phone and never replies to emails.

Her boss enters. He comes to her desk, commands her attention, and asks when she will have his letters ready to be signed that he gave her a couple of days ago. He needs those letters to go out in the mail right away. She quietly lets him know that they have been sitting on his desk since yesterday morning, waiting to be signed. They are in the manila folder that is marked "urgent." He pretends not to hear what she has just said, mutters "uhuh" and walks off to his office.

Ten minutes later, her phone rings. He asks her if she can come and pick up the letters. He also needs her to proofread an article he must submit right away. He will be emailing her the article, along with the topic of the next article he has to submit tomorrow. He wants her to write it, in a similar style to the one she will proofread, and he will be giving her all future articles to write. Of course they will be published under his name, but he recognizes that she wants to improve her writing skills and this will be a good opportunity for her.

Immediately after she has picked up the letters and sat back down at her desk, he walks out of his office and to her desk. He tells her she needs to come in on Sunday morning because he will be working on a project and will need her help. He knows this is the third Sunday in a row, and that he wasn't able to stay more than half an hour for the last two Sundays, but he feels like they were able to accomplish a lot and he would like to keep the trend going.

He then asks her to compile statistics on the past five years of the company's profits and compare it to employee hiring. He will need this by Friday as he has a board meeting to share it at. He knows this is something human resources would normally do, but they are swamped right now, so she can get the information from them and put it together.

After he returns to his office, he calls her up to book his next trip to Hawaii for the annual company bonuses award weekend, which is next weekend. She reminds him that she booked the trip two months ago and sent him an email with all the information three days ago.

At the next staff meeting, she asks to be able to share ways the company can improve employee morale, customer service, and careful budgeting. Her presentation is clear and well put together, based on her observations from the past twenty years that she has been working there. After all of five minutes, after which she is cut short with a dismissive "thank you, that was interesting" with no time for discussion, her boss hurries on to the next item on the agenda: whether plastic or paper cups should be used at the water coolers. A full-colour powerpoint presentation is given on the advantages and disadvantages of both and about an hour later, he passes out garish company mugs to everyone with their name and picture emblazoned on them.

Sound familiar? I'd like to clarify that this is merely a stereotype, with the male boss and female secretary, and that it could just as easily have been a female boss and male secretary (though the dynamics would shift slightly). The setting can also take place in a variety of surroundings. The underlying problem, though, doesn't change. Someone is working very hard and someone else appears to view them as worthless and of no value while taking full advantage of them.

I've been learning that when you see a problem, you shouldn't spend your time focusing on the problem, but you should look for a way to solve it. How can we handle this very real problem that may face us on a regular basis, depending on the career we have chosen or the people we must associate with? I don't have all the answers, but here are a few suggestions:

Remove yourself from the equation. This may mean finding a new job, making new friends, or simply saying to the person "I don't appreciate it when you speak to me that way, it makes me feel like I am not valued." Sometimes people don't recognize that they are hurting others, because they themselves didn't learn how to be nice to others.

Recognize that the problem isn't yours. Someone who chooses to belittle others often feels very small themselves. They must "step up on others to feel bigger" is one of the phrases that I have heard and it vividly describes what is happening. Refuse to take responsibility for someone else's low self-esteem and search for ways to encourage yourself and the other person, if it is appropriate. (For example, it wouldn't be appropriate for a young single female secretary to build up the self-esteem of her married male boss.)

Remind yourself that you are valued and God loves you exactly as you are. God is not looking down with condescension, rather, He cares about you and wants to make you happy. He smiles when He sees your diligent work and persistent efforts. He knows that you want to do the best that you can and He is glad to see that.

And finally, promise yourself that you will not be condescending to others but will treat them with respect.

Through the Sea

On my walk this morning, I saw a mother doe with her young fawn, still covered in spots but grown enough to jump and run about on its own. As I briskly marched along, I saw the mother almost beckon to her baby, to "come along now." They stopped for a nibble on some of the grasses and I passed them, intent on keeping my heart rate up and getting my miles in. I was doing a loop, and half way around, to my right I noticed that the mother and baby had crossed campus and were about to cut me off as they came through by the gazebo.

Suddenly, the baby darted out in front of her mother. I stopped and waited, and seconds later, she sprang out of the bushes not more than five feet away from me, saw me, got startled, and ran off as fast as she could. The mother slowly ambled out, still chewing on breakfast, and completely unperturbed. Perhaps she had decided I wasn't a threat.

As I watched the interaction of the mother and baby, I thought about how the baby decided it was going to run ahead on its own. When I passed the pair the first time, the mother stopped eating, her tail went up and she looked intently at me to make sure I wasn't going to harm her baby. The second time we met, the mother wasn't too concerned.

It sort of reminds me of how we do the same thing. We rush ahead, bent on a particular destination, certain we know what we are doing, and confident that we can manage on our own. But God is standing there, quietly watching, alert to any danger. He knows when it is time to step out and protect us, and when we can move forward and we will be safe.

One of my favourite verses says, "Your path led through the sea, Your way through the mighty waters, though Your footprints were not seen." ~ Psalm 77:19 I often wish that I could see and touch God. I am someone who needs to see the people who I am close to, to feel connected to them. I like to see the expressions on their faces, study their body language, hear the tones in their voices as they speak. Yet even though I can't see God with my eyes, I can still see Him with my heart. There are times He stands in the shadows. . .but I know that God is there.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Happiness Is. . .

   laughing so hard you can't breathe

Sunday, July 10, 2011

It's Time to Move In

I'm super excited. My place looks like a real house! My sister and I spent about four focused hours this afternoon rearranging furniture (famous words "let's try it and see how it looks"), giggling as we hoisted dressers and desks, pushing and shoving them into corners, and sometimes measuring beforehand to make sure they would fit! She patiently held pictures in various configurations while I squinted closely to see whether or not it "felt right" and should be hammered into place. While we don't claim to be house makeover super stars, we were quite pleased when we had finished putting the last picture up and moving the green overstuffed chair into the corner. It was finished! Two years after I moved into my teeny studio apartment, I finally have a place that doesn't look like a storage for all my stuff, but like a home. Why did it take me so long?

Now to tackle the "give away, throw away, keep" piles. That will be fun!

Daddy, See?

Sometimes I don't do things because I know I can't do them perfectly. Ever felt like that? You are excited about starting a new project at work, but then you start to think about all the ways it could go wrong and suddenly you aren't so sure about it after all. Or maybe you want to lose those last fifteen pounds, and you get going on a new diet regime, but then you mess up and overeat a couple of times and suddenly you decide you can't reach your goal. Perhaps you've been trying to get up the courage to go for further studies, but after researching all the available schools out there, you have no idea which one would be the perfect place to study at, and so you give up.

There are many ways we struggle with perfection. For me, I often think that if I can't accomplish something perfectly, I might as well not even try. I am afraid to embrace opportunity because it may not be perfect, I may mess it up, and then I would have to start all over again. If I don't find the perfect (fill in the blanks), I must not have searched hard enough, so I have to keep on looking.

It's like a small child who is playing in the mud and, with their chubby hands, they form a little bowl out of the thick red clay. They run over to their father who is sitting nearby, reading a newspaper, and eagerly hold up their creation for their father's approval. "Daddy, Daddy, see what I made?" The child presents their misshapen lopsided lump of dirt for their father to examine. He puts down his book, takes an impatient look, and says, "Why couldn't you make it perfect?" He then proceeds to explain exactly what is wrong with the bowl and how it should be made so that there are no defects in the finished product. The child, head hung, with a dejected look and crushed spirit, walks away.

Someone very close to me once said, when I proudly presented them with my grades for high school, "Why couldn't you get all A's?" This person said it in a joking manner, but over 13 years later, I still remember the stinging words. The approval and acceptance I was searching for was not available. Instead I set out for a lifetime of proving to them, and to myself, that I was worthwhile, even though I wasn't perfect.

God sees us differently, though. He knows us, after all, He created us and He understands that we are but dust, incapable of producing perfection in our own strength. When we run to Him with the misshapen lopsidedness of our lives, proudly presenting what we think is perfection and yet He knows is far from it, He does not look down in censure, disapproving of our humble gifts. Instead, I like to think that God reaches down and gently takes our broken down lives, recognizing our effort to please Him by doing the very best that we know how, and then He smiles. With gentle hands, He quietly wraps His love around us, tenderly molding our lives into the perfection He so freely gives.

I'm slowly learning that I cannot live my life afraid that it may not be perfect. I'm learning that God longs to give me good things and to restore my brokenness into beauty unimaginable. I'm learning that God is filled with joy when I come to Him because then He can truly work in my life. And I'm learning that God accepts me, imperfections and blemishes included, and that. . .is the most amazing miracle of all.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

What Marvelous Hols

So I've just spent the past month on various adventures in different parts of the West Coast, enjoying lovely holidays! I have taken as my motto what my boss said, that we will work hard so that we can play hard! In other words, I don't mind working 12 hour days (which I shall be on Monday this week) if I can take a proper vacation in the middle of the summer, or have a long weekend off to spend time with a friend.

My adventures began the beginning of June when I set off in my trusty little Suzuki, headed for the southernmost part of the state. I took a slight detour to visit Laura and Jaime and to break up my long drive with an overnight stay. We had fun making breakfast burritos the next day with Taco Bell fresco bean burritos, tater tots, scrambled eggs, fresh salsa, and sour cream. Yum! Then I hit the road for another four hours in the California heat. Thankfully my car does have a/c and a friend had just put a CD player in for me a couple of days before so I was well prepared with my favourite music to sing along to.

I arrived at my final destination weary of driving but happy to be there. I met my gracious hosts, Karen and Nick, who quickly became good friends. Mike came over as soon as he got off work, and then the whirlwind of a week began. There was a trip to Sea World, where we got soaked on the ride (but kept the camera and car keys dry!) and we stood in line for 20 minutes at the 4-D Theater until I realized it was Sesame Street Characters. Now if it had been Winnie the Pooh. . . There were beaches galore (Venice had the most character, Santa Monica, Laguna and the million and one stairs, and Balboa Island). There was the theatre, movies (okay, so I've finally seen Back to the Future I and II now, yes, I know, I was in a time machine and have missed out on some major parts of life in the USA, but it wasn't my fault that I was growing up halfway across the world, running around in a t-shirt and shorts, with flip flops on my feet, learning French from the children at church). There was a spring orchestra, where we met up with friends I hadn't seen in years (seriously, how long has it been?), and we found ourselves eating cheesecake at eleven at night while laughing hysterically at the humongous glob of cheese that came in the eggplant veggie burgers at the Cheesecake Factory. There was a very special birthday dinner, with amazing food and fancy drinks and a jazz band playing with my favourite musical instruments. And of course, there was eating out! From vegan to Indian to Lebanese to Italian to buffets and pancake houses, there was no end to delicious foods to eat!

The week flew by and before I knew it, I was saying goodbye to dear friends and heading home on a very long drive. After a busy week at work, I hopped on a plane this time and flew in to Seattle to spend some time with LaVonne and her family. It was so nice to see everyone again, and see how much Isabella had grown! She chattered away and I scrambled to pick up her adorable three and a half year old dialect as quickly as possible. We played a million games of Bear on the Ice and I spent about an hour pulling grass in the backyard and stuffing it into her polka-dot rain boots, because she insisted they had to be filled with grass.

I attended my first Native American funeral, which was a cultural experience in itself. I appreciated how the community came around those who were grieving and showed their love and support for the family. We took a huge ferry over to Friday Harbour and walked around the shops, enjoying a lovely Syrian falafel sandwich and a zaatar appetizer. We ate a large pizza with mushrooms and olives, drank almost a whole soda bottle of root beer, watched Netflix and movies to our hearts' content, and went thrift store shopping for great steals. I was really excited to cross over the border into Canada where we had delicious veggie burgers for lunch and experienced the buzz of Granville Island. (I am realizing that a lot of my memories seem to center around food!)

All too quickly, my month has come to an end and I must now head back to the reality of work and every day life. I'm guessing, though, that I'm not the only one who finds it hard to crash back to earth after spending such a wonderful time with friends and having great adventures. But it's okay, because I'll just be counting down the days till my next holiday comes along!


"Maybe love isn't blind, but rather chooses to look away from the mistakes and focus on the miracles."

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Really Great Deals

One of my favourite things to do is find good bargains. Yesterday I went to town armed with coupons and a list a mile long of items I needed to buy. I was able to find what I needed, and a few more fun items, and still keep my expenses to a reasonable price. Here's a brief breakdown of the best bargains I found.

jcpenney is now my favourite store to buy clothes. While a little higher in price than Ross, it has more choices and some really great clearance racks. I signed up for their email list and got a $10 off a purchase of $50 or more. I went in on a day when they were having a storewide clearance of 15% additional discount, used my coupon, and only bought items that were already marked half off or more. I also returned a pair of pants I'd bought a week ago but hadn't worn yet, and re-bought them at the cheaper price.

World Market is a great place to buy foods from different countries, particularly for the TCK who has traveled the world, or so it seems! When I'm hungry for pickles, shortbread, licorice, or marzipan, this is the place where I can go to find what I need for a fairly reasonable price. I signed up for their email list and they sent me a $10 off $10 purchase or more for my birthday!

Payless has some really good sales called BOGO where you can buy one pair of shoes (or handbag or socks) and get the second item half off. They also honour AAA memberships, and I signed up for the AAA text alerts for weekly deals. They sent me a coupon for 20% off a regular priced item; normally you can use your card and get 10% off any item in the store.

Grocery Outlet is a favourite of many of my friends, mainly because you can get some really good organic deals here. I love it when they have wholesoy yogurt or sprouted hamburger buns, and I always keep an eye open for healthy snacks. I even picked up several bags of Dutch spice cookies once for a really great steal!

There are many other great deals out there, if you keep your eyes open. At the end of my shopping trip, I paid $125.71 for items retailing at $317.94, which is a savings of 61%! I also returned a number of items that I had bought and decided I didn't need after all (or like a pair of shoes that didn't fit properly), which means I'll end up paying just over $20 after all the returns are credited back to my account.

Now this isn't a typical shopping trip, because I don't often return a whole bunch of things. What is typical, though, is looking for really great bargains. Using coupons (only if you were already planning to buy at that store), buying items on sale, and signing up for the loyalty programs are some of the best ways to save money.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Definition of Normal for the TCK

". . . he figured out that his normal was being in a place where everyone was different. "

Friday, May 27, 2011

Our Family History

it was the green tupperware
   olive container
she missed the most
silly, maybe
                                            it was tall, square
   a strong proud green
   with a sieve at the bottom
   you could pull up slowly
   with the black oblong olives
   sitting happily on top
   draining the Mediterranean
   robust marinade of
   pure olive oil
it was almost a ritual
going to the market
scooping up a plastic bagful
of the trees' ripe fruit
bringing it home, then
after filling the tupperware
pouring the oil over top
the lid firmly pressed

(c) maria L. 5.27.11

Sunday, May 8, 2011


I watched Amreeka today, a movie by National Geographic about a mother and her son who relocate from Palestine to Illinois and the challenges they face. Based on the director's personal experience of growing up in rural America, she includes her confusion at not having a home country, the prejudice that they faced in every day life, and the adjustments that needed to be made to adapt to a new culture.

The sights, the sounds, all brought me back to familiar memories. I caught words here and there that I could understand, and I could almost smell the dust in the air and feel the hot summer sun beating down. In an instant, I was there, a part of the moment, and I understood the dynamics of the conversations, the home furnishings, and why they kissed each other on the cheeks to say hello and goodbye. The young boy chewing on a cucumber, the men dancing in the Middle Eastern restaurant, the french fries and falafel sandwiches, and the checkpoints with armed soldiers all made sense to me.

From the movie's website, the director says, “My parents immigrated to the U.S. right before I was born.  I was born in Omaha, Nebraska, and grew up in rural Ohio and Jordan.  When people ask me where I’m from, it’s always a confusing question,” Dabis explains.  “For most of my life I felt like I wasn’t American enough for the Americans, nor was I Arab enough for the Arabs.  And as a Palestinian, I inherited my father’s quandary in not having a nation or a national identity, which only exacerbated my sense of not belonging anywhere.  My own desire for a place to call home, a place where I belonged, was always a very big part of my identity.”

Sometimes I sit and think about who I used to be. It isn't often, because part of the reality of being an MK means that you learn quickly how to move on and adapt to the new culture to the point that you are easily recognizable as being a local. I have fooled many of my peers, teachers, and acquaintances into thinking that I was American over the past twelve years. And while it was easy enough to do, as I learned to say "wahter" and "toematoe", to give the traditional "How are you? Fine, Thank you" greeting, found my way around giant supermarkets, and dressed like everyone else, deep inside there was always a piece of me that refused to  change.

The MK must also learn to forget. If you try to bring your previous culture into the new host culture, you will soon find that no one is interested in who you were before. While you try to syncretize the two into something that makes sense, you soon realize that it will not work. The hidden immigrant must remain hidden, for if you determine to hold to your previous culture, you will never be fully accepted into your new host culture. So you forget who you used to be and learn how to be someone different, someone who fits in. 

I spent almost 5 years in West Africa, and 9 in the Middle East before I turned 18. Those 14 years made me who I am today, even though it often seems to have been buried so deep no one can see it anymore. Every now and then, a flicker of memory will surface and startle me. I will wonder where it came from, and I won't be sure if I can even understand why it was there. But I will remember. . .

Monday, May 2, 2011

Spinning Around

It was a bit of a rough end to the day, this afternoon at work. While most of the day went rather smoothly, as I learned how to operate a centrifuge and busied myself with charts and phone calls, by the time it started winding down, I was ready to go home. Except I couldn't go home. There was a rather large lab waiting to be picked up and I thought it would be best if I stayed till the lab guy showed up, usually around 6 pm or so. I wasn't too pleased at the thought, however, because I was tired and hungry.

Even though I didn't know it, God was working things out for me. He sent a friend to talk for some time, so I was distracted from thinking about waiting and wanting to go home. When she left, it was almost 6 and I had just sat down at the front counter when one of the doctors walked in. He told me there had been a change to the schedule for the next day, and while I was thankful to know then rather than the next morning, it meant I had to spend some additional time redoing the schedule. I turned to the computer and began to try to figure out how to make everything fit in a very tight time slot.

Then the phone rang. It was after 6 now, and normally I wouldn't answer the phone, but a glance at the caller ID let me know that it was one of my coworkers. I picked up the phone and a few minutes later, with a great sigh of relief, I hung up. There had been yet another change to the schedule, but this change meant that my original change would work just perfectly and I wouldn't need to sit and move things about. The lab guy had come and gone, and I could go home.

As I turned off lights, locked doors, and prepared to go home for the evening, I thought about how each of the small events in the past hour had worked out just perfectly so that I could go home with all my work done. I was grateful that I wouldn't be faced with a mixed up schedule the next morning and wouldn't have to scramble to get it sorted out in the few minutes I would have had. I knew it was all because God was looking out for me, and for that I am most thankful.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

One Sweet Day

They came in through the front door, busily talking amongst themselves in French. I smiled, handed them the forms to fill out, and pointed where to write their names. One man was writing his date of birth down when he realized that the American way was different, so I took a pen and corrected it for him. They didn't know I understood every single word they said, as they discussed whether to stay for the exam or go to town. They didn't know that replies to their questions were on the tip of my tongue as I tried to revive rusty wheels that barely squeaked, but still moved with the language of my childhood. As they sat in the small waiting room, I inhaled the strong scent of their perfume. Mingled with the familiar sounds, it carried me back over twelve years to even stronger memories.  

Maybe you never really say goodbye for good. . .

Saturday, April 23, 2011

He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy. ~Zeph 3:17

Have you ever tried to sit still and be truly silent? I tried it the other day and it was really difficult! I'm not sure if it's because I'm a sanguine, or because I'm constantly talking, but here's a look at the thoughts running through my head.

"Okay, I want to be silent now, so I can listen for God's voice. I need to stop thinking. Why am I always thinking? Why is my mind always going a million miles a minute and I'm analyzing and deciding and planning ahead and wondering and figuring things out? Okay, I need to stop thinking. . .I wonder what time it is. I wonder how long I've been sitting here. I should have looked at my watch, but this is ridiculous, because it's not about the length of time, but about focusing on God. I need to focus. . .I wonder if I should turn the heater off? Oh, I need to buy more Braggs, we are out of Braggs, and let's see what else I need, oh yes, I need to make a return to Walmart and buy a pair of good walking shoes. Stop Thinking!. . .Maybe I should drink a glass of water now. I wonder when I should eat my breakfast. I really am feeling sleepy as well. Why is it so hard to be silent? I really need to stop thinking. . .I can't stop thinking!"

It took me a good while to stop the frantic pace of thoughts running around the treadmill of my mind and come to a sense of calmness. When I did, I began to think about the value of spending time with God. Now I am a social person and I enjoy spending time with my family and friends. I am also a talker, so often their patience is tried as they get to listen to me talking a lot. I do listen too, though! But one thing I constantly need is that connection with the people who are close to me. I want to talk, to do things, to share experiences, and just to be around them. Isn't it the same with God?

I wonder if God looks forward to the time that we specifically set aside for Him in our day? I wonder if He is excited when we stop to thank Him for an unexpected blessing, or to ask for His guidance in some matter? I wonder if He is eager for us to see all the special ways He is reaching out to say He loves us, through unique gifts that only we understand and fully appreciate because He knows our hearts?

Somehow I think God is even more excited about connecting with me than I am when I connect with others. Now that is a thought almost too amazing to think. . .

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


I may have mentioned this before, but one of my strongest desires in life is to understand Who God is and how He views me. There are many ways I catch glimpses of Him and when I do, it just amazes me. It may be through a song, a friend's encouraging words, the beauty of huge snowflakes thickly falling, or someone's kind actions, but every time God speaks, I lean in close to listen.

This morning I caught another glimpse and then I thought, isn't that just how God is? Eagerly waiting, like a little child on the edge of their seat who can hardly sit still, waiting for us to realize He is right there? Isn't He exploding with love for us, excited to show us how much He cares? I'm learning that God is overflowing with blessings and good things for us, not because we deserve it, but because He wants to give us joy. I'm learning that God is a steady Rock in the difficult times, and while He may not keep us from tears, He will hold us through the grief. I'm learning that God is an amazing listener and when we are silent, He speaks comfort, peace and hope to our hearts. I'm learning that God is only good because He is love.

"How precious to me are Your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!" ~Psalm 139:17

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Winter's Song

I think I hear the sound of
raindrops falling
one by one
and then all of a sudden
it starts to pour

(c) maria L.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Heart Memories

She still remembered the last time she saw him, standing on the station platform, waving bravely as the whistle blew and the doors shut. She sat there, in the small hallway between cars, holding on to her suitcase and duffel bag and stared out the window, watching. He trudged away, step by careful step, making his way to the cobalt blue compact car parked in the disabled spot outside the station. His khaki trousers matched his winter khaki coat and cap and he huddled deep into the upturned collar against a cold wind. The train jerked, then began moving, and quickly, all too quickly, picked up speed and began to fly down the tracks. She sat silently as tears formed and sat there as quiet as she.

It was nine months later and she was up late one night. The words her mother had said earlier that evening still echoed in her ears. He wasn't doing too well; they didn't know how much longer he had. She didn't say much, her heart had not yet processed what her head knew to be true, and she wasn't sure she could handle it anyhow. So she was silent once again.

Till then. She began to remember her visit, and in her mind she rewound the tape that played those final moments. They had arrived much too early, even for Dutch trains, and had dragged her huge black suitcase and red duffel over to a protected area. It was almost summer, but European weather dictated cold winds and a shivery gray sky. She took out her camera and snapped a picture of the two of them as they waited. He smiled this time, which was unusual, and when she showed him the picture on her tiny digital screen, he asked for a copy of it.

That morning she had woken up early and finished her final packing. She'd tried her best to use her remaining food in their tiny refrigerator so they wouldn't have to throw it away. An extra packet of apple juice and six sandwiches in a plastic bag later, she had finished her food preparations. She grabbed her passport and wallet and ran back to her room to make sure she had everything, then as she was zipping up her suitcase, they came knocking on the door, anxious that she make it to the train station on time. They all had a prayer together, and then it was hugs all around and time to go. He was going to drive her to the bus station.

He wheeled the duffel bag and she hauled the suitcase along to the small kiosk where he stood outside, hanging onto her luggage while she paid for her final one way ticket to Amsterdam. The ticket agent handed her the small yellow ticket with her change, and she hurried outside to where he was patiently waiting. They walked over to the correct platform and began to wait.

All too soon the 9:45 yellow and blue intercity pulled up. She insisted he not lift the suitcases, even though he wanted to, and she heaved them up into the train, before turning to give him a final hug goodbye. She found her uncomfortable drop-down seat in the hallway. The train began to move, everything became a blur, and through her tears, she realized he was gone.

He would drive home, go upstairs, and rest for a while. Then he would warm up his lunch water, help peel the potatoes and vegetables, and they would sit down to lunch. He would pray, and at the end of his prayer, he would do a double sniff, and then they would eat their simple meal. Then he would spend the afternoon doing crossword puzzles, taking a little nap, going for a walk, and watching the news. He would check the departures to be sure her plane left on time.

Life would go back to its routine, but they would email her to say they missed her and it was strangely quiet now that she was gone. She would busy herself with work, but she would print a copy of the picture and send it to them, along with some other pictures of their time together. And every now and then, she would stop and remember. She would mourn the memories they had never created, wish for the years they had never shared, and grieve the loss of family. The tears would come and then they, too, would leave.

She wished it could have been different. Her family's sacrificial choice to be missionaries had meant that they had had to give up the close ties to extended family. Years later, she still struggled to feel like she belonged, as, rootless, she lived in a country not her own, thousands of miles from those whose bloodline she shared. Fate seemed to echo a cruel laughter as she tried to learn to survive. It mocked her as now one of the few whom she trusted and loved, so far away, was slowly slipping away.

Another memory came to mind. It was a cold November day, probably dreary and overcast as well. She had just read a disturbing email and was sitting beside her mother in the small bedroom, shaking from fear and pain. He came in and saw her tears and without a single word, came over and wrapped his arms around her and held her as tight as he possibly could. Now, twelve years later, she wanted him to hold her again and reassure her that everything would be okay. Somehow, she knew it wouldn't.

She would miss her Opa, her grandfather. She already did. . .

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

the whole trip

Was reading The Second Summer of the Sisterhood today, and came across this amazing quotation.

". . .you can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way. E. L. Doctorow"

It's been one of those headlights-only weeks. You know how it goes, everyone has one of those, oh, I'd say at least once a month, or maybe every other month. You start out going real great, and then you make some resolutions and decide you're going to improve your life and suddenly nothing is going right. Coming across that encouraging thought, though, made me smile.

Ever been driving down the freeway and noticed how far ahead your headlights lit the way? Perhaps you've been caught in cotton-wool-fog and you kept your lights low and wondered if you dimmed them how far ahead you would be able to see? Some nights even the moon decided it was too much effort to shine as your headlights pierced the blackness for what seemed like miles. Other nights you peered through sheets of rain as you made your way home and hoped the deer and other wildlife had decided to find a nice dry place and wouldn't t try to suddenly cross the freeway.

I am a worrier, and when I start to think about driving at night, I usually think about how I really can't see that far ahead and if I'm flying down the freeway at 70 miles an hour, how am I going to see a plank of plywood, a lone buck crossing, or someone's garbage scattered across three lanes in time to avoid an accident? It's times like these when I have to trust that God will protect me. . .and take my foot just a little off the gas!

Even with just a few feet of light, though, there is still enough illumination to make it home. Perhaps that is what the Christian's walk is like. We know God is leading us, but often we don't have a bright fog-light shining thousands of lumens onto the path ahead of us so we can see exactly where we are going. God does say He will provide a light for our feet, but He doesn't add "and it will be a light that will shine so brightly you can see the next 60 years of your light"! There's just enough light to know where to put our feet to take the next step or two. Enough light to make it home. . .

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Four-Eyed Blonde

I absolutely love Chonda Pierce. I know, you're wondering, who in the world is Chonda Pierce? I had never heard of her before either, until one Friday evening, bored and online, I decided to find clips from Christian comedians on YouTube. I listened to some really great ones, and had some great laughs, but when I found Chonda, I not only laughed but I cried, I listened, and I understood.

Chonda has the ability to take an everyday occurrence and find the humour in it, even after her older sister was killed in a car accident at 20, her younger sister died from leukemia at 15, her father left the ministry, and her parents got divorced. I can't imagine being able to find laughter after surviving two of those types of experiences, let alone all of those. Chonda also has the gift to speak words that go straight to your heart. It's as if God speaks through her when she shares about how much He loves us and as if she's sitting in His presence and she wants us to understand how amazing it is. I need that.

My hardest struggle in life is understanding who God really is and understanding that He loves me and His love for me is unconditional. I have been talking about this a lot lately, with good friends and family, and just this evening I sat down with my mom to watch a Chonda Pierce DVD called Four-Eyed Blonde. The first hour was filled with laughs, but it was the last part that really spoke to me. Chonda told a story about her daughter who had just entered that awkward age, where you get braces and glasses at the same time, and to encourage her, they went to a really fun medieval-themed restaurant where you ate with your hands and cheered on the knights that were fighting down a mud pit. The story goes that they were cheering for the blue knight, who eventually won the battle, and as he came out, he headed straight for their table, went to Chonda's daughter, knelt, took his blue scarf from around his neck, kissed it, and gave it to her. Then he took her by the hand and led her to his horse. Together they rode to a platform where a king stood, who placed a robe around her and a crown on her head. She stood there, beaming, as all her awkwardness fell away and the king pronounced her princess of the day.

Tears were rolling down my cheeks as Chonda quietly told the audience that as she saw her daughter standing up there, she realized that Jesus was like that knight and God was like that king and that we are princesses and princes of God. You see, it's hard for me to believe that God wants to love me. I'm not a horrible person, I haven't committed any major crimes, but I am not perfect either. The older I get, the more I realize how many things I have wrong with me, and the harder I try to do something about them, the more I feel like I can't ever win. Maybe it's because I'm fighting that battle on my own.

Someone said, at a baby's memorial yesterday, that Jesus wasn't afraid in Gethsemane because of the sin that would be placed on Him. He wasn't afraid of the physical pain, of the nails that would be pounded into His gentle hands. He was afraid of something much more. Before us, before Mary and Joseph, before Jeremiah and Isaiah and Ezekiel, before Joseph, before Abraham, before Moses, before Adam and Eve, before the angels, before the creation of this world, there was God, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus. Forever. And Jesus was faced with the thought that He could be separated from His Father forever. Yet that did not stop Him. Jesus made the decision because He knew there was no other hope for us.

I know God's love is unconditional, at least, I know that with my head. But I am still learning it with my heart. I know my family and friends love me unconditionally, as far as they are humanly able to, and that they support me in whatever I do. And yet we live in a world where love is conditional and acceptance is based on meeting other people's expectations. Perfection as seen in others' eyes is what we continually strive for and we waste our time, money, and effort just to reach that elusive pinnacle so we can shine. Strangely enough, man's acceptance is not what we should be working for. All we ever do will not be enough to love God because He loves us already. If we can stop battling in our minds to reach a state of perfection where we feel that we can now enter His presence, maybe we'll finally realize He's been with us all along. And maybe then we can begin to grow. When we are confident in God's love and acceptance, we can move forward and do amazing things because we know. . .we are loved.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Going Home. . .

While pulling up yahoo's homepage to find an article this afternoon, I saw a story about a hero pilot. My brother is a pilot, so I'm always interested to read stories that have anything to do with planes, so I clicked on the link. Several minutes later, I broke down while trying to read the story to my mom and brother.

The brief version goes like this: there was a couple, Nancy and Mark, whose grandson had been tragically murdered by their daughter's live-in boyfriend. He was being taken off life support at 9 pm that evening. Mark was able to get a flight from LA to Tucson, where he was going to step off one plane and on to another, headed for Denver to see his grandson in his last moments. Mark arrived at LAX 2 hours before departure time, but because of security and delays at baggage check, he realized he was not going to make his flight. He pleaded with TSA staff and Southwest Airlines staff to fast-track him, but nobody seemed to care. When he cleared security minutes after the scheduled departure, he grabbed his belongings and ran in his socks down to his terminal. "The pilot and the gate agent were waiting for him. "Are you Mark? We held the plane for you and we're so sorry about the loss of your grandson," the pilot reportedly said. "They can't go anywhere without me and I wasn't going anywhere without you. Now relax. We'll get you there. And again, I'm so sorry.""

Adams writes that many passengers that day were probably frustrated at the 12-minute delay. And yet Southwest Airlines said they were "proud" of their pilot, a man who clearly understands that taking a child off life support has consequences that run deeper than a flight taking off late. You can read the whole story by clicking here.

This has been a very sad week. An innocent not-quite-4-month-old baby girl was taken off life support Sunday evening and her family and friends are hurting. There are no answers to the questions. There are no reasons and no one should even try to explain such a tragedy. All we can do is cry with those who cry and remember that one day. . .all of these horrible things will be over and we'll be going home.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Back OnLine Again

Uhoh, it's been over a month since I've been blogging! I seriously have to get back in the mode. Tonight I decided to take a few minutes and do a bit of writing and catch up.

The past month has been a whirlwind of activity. LaVonne came to visit, Laura & Jaime, and Rachel came home for Christmas break. We were shopping and eating out and just having a lovely time. Then everyone left and I felt rather alone but thankfully school has started so there are a lot of people around again. I think the past few weeks have been my time for getting back in touch with old friends. Having my good friends around again has reminded me of how much I am blessed, and how much they blessed my life when we were able to share so many amazing memories. 

I have had yet another responsibility added to my list of growing duties! I am now the library administrator, which is a fancy word for someone who coordinates schedules, organizes people, makes sure the library is open when it needs to be, and other miscellaneous things. Being the first week of the semester, life is a bit hectic right now, and I feel like I spend my day just trying to put out the fires as they pop up. I don't mind, because I enjoy being busy and thrive on multi-tasking, and I love helping people figure out problems. But I do worry that I won't be able to do everything. I think I'm slowly learning that I can't do everything. . .

This evening I watched the 2009 version of Ice Castles. I watched the old version years ago and absolutely loved the music, the ice skating, and the whole movie, but it had a few too many swear words in it, so my mom decided we shouldn't watch it anymore. When I popped the remake into my laptop this evening, I wasn't sure I would like it. After all, there were new actors, a new plot, and it was probably really boring. About 20 Kleenex later, I decided I liked this version even better! The movie is amazing, it isn't peppered with swear words, and the best part of all is that they use the theme song from the old movie in this version. Oh yes, and Morgan Kelly and Taylor Firth are my new favourite actors!!!

Several posts ago, I wanted to start remembering blessings at the end of the day. I had several blessings today. One of them was having an old friend, Shahin, drop by to say hi and catching up on old times. He could always make me laugh and today was no different! I do miss having everyone around though. I think it's hardest because there isn't anyone left anymore. But I am thankful God gave me the amazing friends I have!