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

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."