Thursday, March 31, 2011

unavoidably constant

I cannot deny the rise of these words in my mind and heart over the past few days. It seems that, no matter the concern or "worry," the thought or question, this passage comes frequently "in answer." It's unavoidable, and it looks like it will remain so for quite some time.

"No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life--whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn't life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don't plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren't you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?
And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don't work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?
So don't worry about these things, saying 'What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?' These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need."

Jesus must have known these words are tough, right? I mean, how often do we live with such mindful dependence and thorough trust--such audacious faith? It's a new life-order being prompted here. The Kingdom of God above all else--that's a new kind of living.

I've been (re)discovering why living in the city can have an "exhausting effect" on me. Any place--city or not--requires that we make certain kinds of ethical decisions, etc. every day. But the thing about the city, I find, is that there are so many decisions that revolve around wealth/possessions/material "collection," if you will. I mean, think about it--so much condensed into one place: bill-boards, street advertisements, stores row after row and on top of each other, thousands of people to see, watch, compare, judge, and desire. There is so much more in one place to tempt us to need, want, pursue, believe. I guess I'm also becoming more and more convinced (in general) that the way we live now, with such advances in technology and mass-media, is opening itself up to harder decision-making about what is good and right and true. In the city (my opinion), it's felt more on some days than others as something of a bombardment. The danger, I've found, is running the risk of becoming immune to it all--mindlessly succumbing to a way of life I never "agreed to" in the first place.

For example, I am the grateful recipient of a free month-long membership to a local gym. The family I work for had the coupon but wasn't going to use it. Sweet! I got a free temporary membership to an awesome gym. It took me almost a month to get past the intimidating exterior and just go in. So I did, yesterday, and I got a tour of the place. It's under new management and in the middle of a huge remodel but it's great. I'm really excited about it. I said something while we were in the cafe/wireless hot-spot (that overlooks the tennis courts) like "wow, this is nice!" to which my generous tour-guide responded, "Oh, this is nothing. It's going to be so much better." Oh, well, it looks pretty nice to me...
After the tour, we sat at a table and went over the paper work together. I asked him what a month would cost me without the free coupon, "$81.00." Cool, I thought, maybe I'll consider it after this free month is up. Then I got outside and THEN my head cleared, $81.00 a month?! And that's only for me because I am still considered "young adult" (discounted). I don't HAVE $81.00 a month to spend at a gym. But for a minute or two, I actually believed that it was 1. feasible 2. a potentially good idea. Here's the thing...I have nothing against gyms or paying to workout (although, it's always been a difficult concept for me to swallow. However, enter: Chicago living, where it is winter 6 months out of the year. Good luck doing anything outside but surviving :)). I take issue, though, with lifestyles that begin to think carelessly about where money comes from and where/why it "goes out." And, ashamedly, I confess that this is me right now. And this, in part, is why I feel so exhausted with city life. Maybe it's the people I am around more often than others--those that have more money than they know what to do with (or are spending money they don't have); those who plunk a pretty penny down for things like diet get-aways and the hottest new arrivals at those Boutiques I can't pronounce the names of. Maybe I am just tired of discovering new clothing lines that I never knew existed...or beauty techniques I spent 24 years in ignorance of...and tired of feeling like I should care about these things...

When there is so much going on around us--so much vying our time, energy, and investment--choices are made constantly, sometimes without thinking. I don't like this feeling. It makes me think that someone/something else is master of things, not that Kingdom of God way of life, where things are upside down (the poor are rich and the first are last but all are faithfully loved).

[Note: I would just like to say that, while certain of my nanny experiences have put me in places where I interact with and observe some of these "harder to swallow" ways-of-life, I am very blessed to be working for a family who devotes time and energy to people and places of genuine need. There is no attitude of entitlement from them towards me or anyone else, as I observe. They are a really wonderful family and I, while living in a bit of a different world, count it a privilege to work for them. I also count it a blessing to learn with and from them that what binds us together as people are not material things but base-level realities of inherent worth, dignity, and value. This I love discovering. This I work to live.]

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

in queue

I finally opened an account at Moody's library last weekend. It was a great decision. Now in queue from the library:

1. Creation Untamed: The Bible, God, and Natural Disasters by Terence Fretheim. I've read several articles of his as well as The Suffering of God, which was a very thought-provoking, challenging, and insightful book. I'm sure this one will be, also.

2. Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation by Miroslav Volf. Finally this is under our roof! I know at some point I'll want to purchase it for myself but for now the library copy will do. I used it for my internship last year, reading portions but not the whole thing. Volf is a very helpful voice in terms of a theology of Christian ethics, relationality, and practical living. I really appreciate what I've read of his and look forward to reading more.

3. The Covenanted Self: Explorations in Law and Covenant by Walter Brueggemann. I had never heard of this one until I stumbled across it at the library last Saturday. I'm excited about it.

I got several other books as well but these three are top-of-the-list and probably the ones I'll spend the most time in over the next several weeks.

Since I finished East of Eden I decided to read something other than novel. Then I'll go back to novel. I'm always pretty ready to switch it up like this. Each genre and style teach so much, you know? And in unique ways. Oh, I can't forget, I'm also reading Guide to the Superior Hiking Trail ("Linking people with nature by footpath along Lake Superior's North Shore"), heck yeah!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

what i am looking at (and some midday thoughts)

This week's homily recap confesses my own position before God: Tired, Frustrated, and Thirsty. Do you ever find yourself in season's of life that require you to cling to God fresh every day? I am finding myself in a place in which each new day calls me to trust and sometimes it doesn't feel like there is much carry over. Every morning requires me to choose, again, and discover where I will find life; who I find trustworthy for life; where strength and courage will come from. And He is it. He is where I find rest and water and life. I carry my fatigue, my frustration, and my thirst to Him every day. This is how I am exercising my faith. Such small, small steps. I don't know how else to do it. Isn't this how we live life, in small steps, clinging?--hoping, and finding Him to be enough.

Monday, March 28, 2011

A Man of Sweet Mystery

Dr. McDuffee. There was something about him that was, in every way, a "sweet mystery." He would frequently get a look in his eye that betrayed to the class his soul's detour. Sometimes he would even stop talking, as if the inner conversation was more significant than the public conversation of class. It was always a little remarkable to share those moments with him. He is a man who lives deeply moved and affected by the world; deeply moved, affected, and committed to God and His Word. He is a man who lives the mysterious tension of the "now and the not yet." He is a man who loves people and cares for people. He is a man of prayer.

I was only able to have him for one class: The Holocaust and the Crisis of Evil in the Twenty-first Century. He did, however, even in that one semester, inform my life and my faith in lasting ways. I spent some time today looking through some of my old class notes. I couldn't help but miss this man as I find myself grateful and indebted to him for some of the things he said...

"I respond to Him, even though He will transform me."

"Ideology is much more fair than worldview, which is a nice evangelical word we use that allows us to judge and feel ok about it."

"Live to discover people, Saints, in order that you might learn what is going on in their lives and hearts."

"The beauty and complexity of humanity is that the soul swivels and sees."

"As evangelicals, we are addicted to influence."

"Always live to be surprised by God."

"Hypocrisy causes in me a corrupt fear of others."

"Do you live in ways that are good for the godliness of others?"

"Everything has a beginning--even genocide."

"You don't need pom poms in life."

"It's always an issue of speech, Saints, it's always an issue of speech. And you are keepers of speech."

"My fundamental hobby is to remain sane in a sick, mad world."

"You do not serve narcissistic, nominal Christianity. You serve Jesus Christ."

"Prayerfully yield your fears."


Saturday, March 26, 2011

Prints of Peace: Peacemaking Through Visual Storytelling

I realize I've never done anything like this before on my blog but I thought I'd give it a shot. I've been helping out a little with this photography exhibition (Prints of Peace) that's coming up in April. The Prop and the International Guild of Visual Peacemakers are hosting the exhibition in an effort to highlight and bring awareness to inherent human beauty and dignity and the impact of visual media. You'll see on the Guild website that they're committed to being mindful of "the person and the picture" by researching/respecting documented cultures, valuing their subjects by interacting with and involving them, using discernment in their consideration of another's dignity and honor, inquiring about the impact of their images on others, etc. They are careful to give thought to the power of an image and how it is used to communicate something. The Guild is dedicated to truth-telling through visual media. That is to say, they seek to break down unhealthy, harmful, and destructive stereotypes by representing, to the best of their ability, the truth of a subject. Their desire is to show the "common humanity" of all people. Check out their website for more information and to see some past projects--beautiful work.
My connection to the project comes through the Prop, the partner organization that is helping host the event here in Chicago. Mariah's brother (and several of their friends) is a Prop "founder," you might say. The Prop is a project group dedicated to connecting artists to organizations effecting change around the world. I've had the chance to go to a few of their events and get-together's which have been really cool opportunities for meeting people, learning things, and dreaming a bit more pointedly about some of the things that I myself am concerned about as I think more of a "global responsibility" to living life and the ethics of living life in the world we're in (i.e., with visual media becoming so plentiful, constant, and interactive). I really look forward to this event in April. That being said, we're raising money to fund this event and we could really use your help. The fundraising campaign is being run through Kickstarter. You can access the site through the link and donate from there. Each of us is trying to get 10 friends/family to pledge $10 for the event. Please consider it!

And if you are able, please come!

The event will be held at the Artist Central Exchange located at 4866 N. Clark St. in Andersonville. The gallery will open Friday, April 15th at 6pm, and will continue Saturday, April 16th from 11-5pm. Tickets will be $15 Friday night and suggested donation of $10 on Saturday.

The objective of Prints of Peace is to create awareness that, as consumers of visual media, we can choose to interact with it responsibly and in a way that reflects the better parts of humanity. Mediums will involve storytelling through the photography and videography of IGVP members as well as local Chicago artists. The proceeds for the event will be split between the photographer(s) and IGVP. Check out to RSVP and for further information or email

Friday, March 25, 2011

crossed paths

I crossed paths with Jen in South Africa almost four years ago. Four years. It's been almost four years since Africa. That's crazy. It was such an "interruption" of an experience--a six month experience that broke into my college career and changed my life forever. But then, we also have other types of "interruptions" in life, and each of them teaches us significant and life-altering things. Hm.

Anyhow, I've been reflecting on that time more often recently. I think because I'm missing some "global engagement" and in some ways I'm feeling itchy to travel, to spend time abroad, to build relationships across culture, to go where the needs are often more about survival and less about...well, other things...

Back to Jen. This is Jen's blog. I don't keep up with it religiously but I do appreciate reading it from time to time. Right now she's in India photographing and writing and blogging about some of her experiences. I just thought I'd share the link, in case you wanted to see some beautiful pictures and read a few of her stories. Ideas of inherent human beauty and dignity are on my mind these days. More and more I wish there was something I could be doing right now that would be a tangible outlet for some of these desires/passions/concerns of mine. Maybe it's enough to just be challenged, again (and again), to consider these realities, pray, and remember that God's world is bigger than just me and my world.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

sit. listen. delight.

As always, this song has been delighting my soul. Really, I do love it a whole lot...

In other news: OUR MAPS CAME TODAY! That's right, now we can start looking over the routes for our trip at the end of May. Don't know if I've mentioned--Mariah and I are now in the official planning stages of our backpacking trip. We've picked the trail (Superior Hiking Trail) and now have the maps to really figure it out. 4-5 nights on the trail!! There's an REI garage sale this Sunday so we're busy list-making and figuring out what we have, can borrow, and still need to hunt down. Ah, so exciting!

I can't believe it's Thursday night already. It's been a week of reflection and realization; of emptying and surrendering. It's felt like life's slowed down a little--when life slows we have to face things, you know?--face who we are and where we're at; who God is ("for us" and for the rest of the world); who everyone else is and how/why we interact the way we do. Yes, that has been my week. That and a bit of stiff sleeping because I've been on the couch at night, not in my bed. That darn animal keeps me up at night. We think we've decided it's squirrels. Mariah saw them on the roof and playing around in the gutter. I suppose it's a relief to know they are 1. squirrels (not rats) and 2. in the gutter (not in our wall). But still, wish they'd find another house. Apparently (so says the landlord) there have been problems before and she even had the roof replaced at one point. And so the saga continues...

Off to watch Inception with the roommies. Great movie.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

April 15-16

This event is an interactive photography exhibition exploring humanity's inherent beauty and dignity and the impact of visual media. It will be hosted by The Prop and The International Guild of Visual Peacemakers and will take place at the Artist Central Exchange in Andersonville, Chicago (Friday, April 15th at 6pm and Saturday, April 16th from 11-5pm). Mediums will involve storytelling through the photography and videography of IGVP members as well as local Chicago artists. All proceeds will go to benefit future IGVP peacemaking projects.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

teach me to know your love

Lately I've been forced to think in some "new" ways about why it's important to understand God's love for us; and not just in an intellectual sense but in a compelling, experiential, truly relational sense. Day in and day out, how do we understand God's love for us? So often we relegate importance to the strictly individual life but what about how understanding (and living) God's love impacts our life on a more holistic level (life with self and life with others and life with God).

In his message on Sunday, our pastor said "One of the most important things you can do for those who love you and indeed for the whole world is to learn to cherish God’s unconditional love for you." He also said, "A key to our spiritual formation it that we understand well the foundation of our relationship to God. God’s love for us is prior to and without respect to our good deeds, our bad behavior, or our religious life." It's so helpful and challenging (in a good way) to hear and be reminded of these truths again; to be reminded of the significance of living and understanding God's love for us such that our whole realm of existence is affected--all of our living and all of our interacting, like a web, is impacted by the foundational reality of how we view/understand/accept God's love for us.

Why do my days feel so themed? It seems that in all cases, whether I'm wrestling through my own thoughts, talking with a friend on the couch, asking God to work in my own heart, listening to another friend describe challenges he faces at work that reflect his (mis)understanding of God's love and his own vulnerability with sin...whatever it might be, there are themes.
I guess as I recognize the themes, I realize that 1. we aren't, any of us, alone in our learnings 2. the journey isn't meant to be experienced in bubbles of inward self-living but in outward forms of self-giving/sharing (and by so doing, the journey is a self-finding and an experience of real living) 3. God's commitment to our deepest needs and longings is of the truest kind. He's invested for the long haul.

I am consistently blown away by God's love; his committed faithfulness; his goodness; his redemption plan that often reveals itself in unlikely and uncomfortable ways (wholeness by way of brokenness? comfort through suffering?). All the while, he gives himself as a travelling presence and we are not alone.
Every day is a day to trust and entrust. I am weak but we have heard that "His mercies are new every morning." And so we pray for the courage to see those new mercies and live our strength of faith, even if it's faith like a small seed.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

hello, week

A few resolutions, to start.
This week I will:

1. Read poetry
2. Pray like it means something
3. Tackle that long to-do list
4. Take my vitamins every day
5. Write 3 letters to people I love
6. Spend time in the Gospel of John
7. Find and follow a new recipe
8. Go for a run (because it's getting warmer, you know)
9. Donate or get rid of one trash bag of clutter and accumulation (i.e., simplify)
10. Get over that fear of putting air in my front car tire (I don't know why but I keep feeling like I'm going to blow it up. stupid.)

I'll let you know how it goes. Your challenge: choose ten things you want to attempt or accomplish before the week is up. Live with intention. Get off the couch; get out of the house; do something you've been putting off; choose to live life as gift. Push yourself to grow and live out of gratitude. I fail at this everyday by taking advantage of time and/or by taking so much for granted. We aren't entitled to the lives we live; we realize they are a gift. We are, so much of the time without knowing it, a privileged people. Privileged to read and write, to know God, to learn/explore/study, to have enough food on the table, to be in relationship with others, to live in warm and dry houses, to get from place to place with ease and comfort. We are a privileged people.

I appreciated reading this post, written by a fellow Hillsdalian (can I say it like that?). Ah yes, loss of language...

Saturday, March 19, 2011

a prayer before bed

No Newness Yet
You are the God who makes all things new.
We gladly raise our voices and move our lips
to acknowledge, celebrate, and proclaim
your staggering newness.
As we do, we hold in our hearts
deep awareness of all the places where your newness is not visible
and has not come.
Our hearts link to many places of wretchedness
short of your newness.
We picture our folks at home,
sick, in pain, disabled, paralyzed.
and no newness yet.
We know up close the deep wretchedness
of poverty, of homelessness, of hunger
and no newness yet.
Move our hearts closer to the passion of our lips.
Move our lips closer to your newness.
Work your newness in hidden, cunning ways among us.
Move us closer to your bodied newness in Jesus,
newness of strength come in weakness,
newness of wisdom come in foolishness.
Draw us from the wretchedness we know
to his scarred, bloody wretchedness
that is your odd entry of newness into our life.
We pray in the name of his suffering newness.

--Walter Brueggemann

"Work your newness in hidden, cunning ways among us." I love that. It's such a bold prayer. Bold and needed. Do you ever ask yourself why you do bold things? For example, find yourself praying bold prayers? Lately I've been thinking about the relationship between truth and boldness. I think that we are able to live boldly what we believe to be true--or, even, risk boldly what we have faith to believe is true and hope for. Life demands these sorts of prayers, doesn't it?A crying out to God for creative entry into our lives to heal, put back together, and mend that which is unsettled, old, and crusty. And please, Lord, do it with cunning, because we know ourselves. We find ourselves believing lies and forgetting to hope, so we acknowledge that your newness must be introduced with creative care; in ways that we might not even know we need. This is our confession: we need the larger vision. We need your larger vision of newness because we are caught in places of "no newness yet" and we hope for the restoration that will find its way into our lives and the lives of those around us. You make all things new. And we think of Japan, so broken, burned, and drowned. You make all things new. And we're reminded of old, lost, and distant relationships. You make all things new. And we are too tired to think but we will get up tomorrow to live another day; to interact with so many people. You make all things new. And here's a picture of a little girl across the world with whom my heart is mysteriously connected, because I happen to live a life that has provided me with much "more" than her... Yes, "Work your newness in hidden, cunning ways among us."

Roommate Craft Day

I found this pattern a little bit ago on Design Sponge (a new favorite blog with tons of Do It Yourself projects). So the three of us are each making one today! Woo! So exciting. We're about to go get supplies...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

food and friends

I love cooking for friends and then enjoying the food with the company! Matt and Whitney came over for dinner last night with Mariah and I. They made whoopie pies (and yes, we ate them while listening to "making whoopie" :)) and I tried this soup recipe from The Kitchen Sink (which is so easy and so wonderful) as well as the famous no-knead dutch oven bread recipe that mom and kristen have gotten me addicted to (it turns out a little different every time). Mmm, so good and so much fun.

I can't believe it's already Thursday. I can and I can't. What a week. What a few weeks. I'm frequently very tired. Usually it just creeps up on me until a wave of exhaustion just (WHAM) hits me and I can hardly keep my eyes open...but I've slept in the past few mornings, which has been really wonderful. The sun wakes me up before my alarm. MmmmMmmm, lovin' it.

Called our landlord today and left a message--getting ready to sign for another year! Chicago for another year! I don't think I've talked much about it. I definitely have thoughts. It's starting to really feel like "my city," which is nice. I feel much more settled about the idea than I would have, say, last fall, when I was borderline claustrophobic every other day :) Having a car and taking trips out of the city has helped. A few up-and-coming camping excursions are highly anticipated. Life is good. The jobs are going well. I'm going to lose one for the summer, which will be a bummer, but I'll probably look for something else part time. I've thought about inquiring at the florist across the street. We'll see :)

Off to work...

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

just under a month

Melissa is taking me to see the Civil Wars at Schuba's. Im so looking forward to it...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

church on sunday

It pointed my heart to hear of God's goodness in ways I've been needing to be reminded of.

The recap is here, for those interested in reading it. Thinking on broken and repaired honesty these days as I consider the challenge of trusting God. It's a challenge when we aren't honest (with him, ourselves, others) and/or when we have misguided perceptions of His goodness.

Faith is so daily.

Monday, March 14, 2011

with a cup of peach tea

It's light at 6pm now, when I leave work for home. This makes me so happy. I was even able to wear my sunglasses on the drive home because the SUN was OUT today. It was glorious. A pile of Joy's flourless peanut butter cookies are cooling on the counter and I have had a really good day. I spent it with C, since he's teething (adult molars!), fighting a cold, and stayed home from school. I did laundry and we read books, played basketball and football (our own variations), talked on the couch, made snacks, watched Go Diego Go (bane of my existence, i hate that show), ate lunch together while the sun streamed though the kitchen window, laughed at lots of random funny little things, played States Bingo (with S, once she got home from school), and "rested" (that's what you do to avoid getting sicker, even if that is what "babies" do...).

He was explaining to me about doing the splits which got us talking about how cool it is that the human body is so flexible. I've taken to writing these conversations down on small scraps of paper I keep in my purse...

Me: "The human body is pretty amazing."
C: "Human bodies are really amazing. It's pretty weird actually."
Me: "What do you think is the coolest thing the body can do?"
C: "I think it's interesting how big chunks of food can go down the food pipe."

Or when he was trying to explain how great of a show Go Diego Go is...

C: "I mean, it started in 1927."
Me: "I don't think that's possible. Show's like that definitely weren't around back then."
C: "Was that the time of the Romans? or the Knights?"
Me: "No not quite."
C: "Well, what was the year before 2000, then?"
Me: "1999."
C: "Oh."

I also finally got to catch up with Grandma today, which was really very wonderful. Sometimes I forget about how much I miss family and people who just love me no matter what--and who will offer (and bestow) an endless amount of hugs. I've been craving hugs, is that weird? It's that love tank of mine, mom. It needs filling. And if I didn't have work, Grandma, I'd be up there in an instant to collect from you!!

I got home from work to a card on the stairs from Sister with hand outlines from Ailey and Sam included. It was pretty much like a hug (so, thanks!). I am blessed that my family is a consistent and loving presence. I have friends who aren't so lucky and sometimes I marvel at their strength and courage. When things in life change and are uncertain, it is the Lord's quiet, strong, patient, and loving presence and the persistent, encouraging love of my family that keep me grateful.

Not until now, sitting in our kitchen wrapped up in the smell of peanut butter cookies and a pot of fresh-brewed coffee, have I realized how much today has reminded me, again, that relationships are a gift. People are invaluable. These are the hard-sweet gifts of life. All the work and all the joy is mixed up here: in relationships; in people. There's a lot I have taken (and still do take) for granted. And so I face my weakness. Lord, make it not so...

[also, i've been spending some time with these images feeling heartbroken and affected, sensing how "unnatural" it all is, and hearing that phrase "...on earth as it is in heaven..." running through my mind...]

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Naked As We Came

I really love this song.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

excited thoughts

I don't know what it's been, exactly, but lately I've been really excited about the prospect of a few new things as I happily dream about what I want to do in/with life. As I learn how I want to get involved (and where), what I want to "stand for,"and how I want to encourage others in their pursuits and dreams, I am currently conscious of the following:

1. A growing desire to be involved in some form of intentional discipleship. Tonight I was reminded of how cool it would be to work with college students. Obviously this could take many different forms: teach (in the academy), live with/near (mentor, etc.), get involved with a church college group. And yes, I recognize that i'm recently out of college myself but this is just something to dream about and be excited for in the future, perhaps? I met three PBU students tonight and will get to spend a little more time with them tomorrow. They were fun and they reminded me of what a cool time of life college is (and so ridiculously formative). Good stuff.

2. The April PROP event is in partnership with the International Guild of Visual Peacemakers!! We're planning on helping out, which will be great--a good chance to get involved and learn more about the organization and their work, etc. I'm so excited. This also reminds me that I need to get to the library and check out books on film photography. I'm considering my "class"options for this upcoming year (last year it was pottery) and I'm seriously thinking about film photography. Hmm. Or a textiles class with Whitney. yikes...

3. Jay is launching his "Business as Blessing" idea, hoping to provide micro loans to families in developing countries through the sale of houses (he's a Real Estate agent in Richmond, VA). Again, very exciting, but in the early stages so he needs prayer and support!! You can click the link to read a bit more about it--the loan program is through HOPE International.

These are some things that I've been getting excited about :)

Friday, March 11, 2011

worthwhile "exercise"

I've been rereading last year's journal. I came across an entry tonight that I want to share...for the sake of example, I guess, because I think it was a worthwhile exercise (from the prompting of my counselor last spring). The "homework" was born out of conversations surrounding identity (and, subsequently, for the purpose of understanding self): Q1, What personal character traits make me "me"? Q2, What are my innate qualities (how God has made/shaped me) Q3, Who are some of the people who have profoundly shaped/influenced me (and in what ways)? At first these might seem "cheesy" but I think they are good questions to ask and consider.

I'm only going to include my answers to the 3rd Q. I guess all of them are pretty personal but I want to include that last Q for the sake of celebrating the influence of these people as well as for the sake of challenging you all to consider the people who have helped "make you." Lately I've been reminded how we're shaped by relationship(s). While in Africa I heard the phrase, "Everyone I ever meet has something to teach me." I've always found it rather fascinating how lives intersect. The crossing of stories is part of the gift of life, not something I want to take for granted.

So, people who have shaped my life (not limited to but including):

Papa--taught me that I don't have to be loud and outspoken or constantly "verbal" to be someone, to stand for something, to have value and/or be valued.
Mrs. Monroe (High School teacher)--through creative writing and the study of literature, taught me not to be afraid of making something of myself; to be properly proud of who I am (and am becoming).
Mrs. O'Hair (High School teacher, mentor)--taught me that failure doesn't change who I am or what God thinks of me. She taught me boldness, courage, and honesty.
Paco (a "missionary grandpa")--taught me of God's pleasure in and over me (and each one of us). Encouraged me to pursue my dreams and passions with God.
Dr. Sundahl (Hillsdale Prof.)--taught me to learn to laugh at myself and at life; to not be afraid of being who I am or of doing what I choose to do and pursue. Helped me live and experience freedom in life (and to approach life with a twinkle in my eye :)).
Dr. de Rosset (Moody Prof.)--taught me boldness and confidence; to "lighten up" and enjoy life and not take it all so serious. She taught me to not apologize for my gifts and talents but to use them (and develop them). Encouraged me to "be real" and to speak truth.
Mr. Howard (Moody Prof.)--taught me of the goodness of God and how understanding it forever changes our relationship with Him. Taught me about the pathos of God; how to humbly and truly fall in love with the God of Scripture not Scripture as book; to pursue and live dynamic relationship with God.
Dr. Schmutzer (Moody Prof., mentor)--taught me to learn/know self (strengths/weaknesses) and not apologize for who I am and am becoming; the integration of biblical/theological study and the realities of a broken world. Encouraged me to embrace my abilities and capabilities and to use them for God and world. Taught me confidence, boldness, honesty, empathy, self-care and rest. Helped me understand and explore the suffering of God and the impact this has on God's relationship with/to the world. Encouraged me to be a life-long learner; helped me study well and study for the sake of living not merely for the sake of knowledge.

**disclaimer: these are not things "learned," necessarily, but still (and always) things learning.

This Lent I'm finding and entrusting parts of my life that need to remember the gifts and promises of God. One such gift and promise is relationship. Something we easily take for granted and begin to feel entitled to... about you? Who have been some of the "key figures" in your life thus far? I think it's important to recognize and acknowledge them. It makes us grateful people. It helps us live life as gift.

[I feel like i need to say that "family" is a huge category of relationship that has shaped me. For those of us blessed with loving, supportive, and encouraging families, the relationships therein can often be easily taken for granted. Also, i think that relationships that travel with us through life can often be easily overlooked. They can grow more "common" but hardly less significant or important. Those key figures who come in and out for a season--or two or three--can leave a more "obvious" impact because the intersection is more of an interruption. hmm...see, i told you...i find this sort of thing so fascinating...]

ugh. ok, this headache isn't going away. tylenol pm and an early to bed. hello, weekend, so glad you are here.

47 and SUNNY

Sun is in the forecast today. Considering that we haven't seen it for longer than 10-15 minutes during the past week, I'm pretty darn excited. I hope it stays all day. Please stay, Mr. Sun!
There is a bouquet of brightly colored tulips singing spring from our kitchen table, a gift from mom and dad. They're lovely. I've never received flowers in a box before. That's the stuff of movies :)

In follow up to the squirrel story.
It has stopped scratching. Last Mariah hear of it yesterday was whimpering and "crying." Ok, that makes me a little sad. And now it's probably dead which means it will rot which means our room will smell...just lovely.
Yesterday I was telling the story to C and S during snack time. You know, the whole bit...about the scratching and the suspected squirrel and the fear that it might get in. C looked at me with nothing but sincere concern and said "poor squirrel." POOR SQUIRREL?! "C, it keeps us up at night trying to get in. Don't you understand?!" "But Andrea, it's stuck." Sigh. He's right. I think it hit too close to home because Sammy, the squirrel that lives in the tree out back, right where C can spot him and watch him play, is "gone" for the winter. Gone with his whole family.
"Where did Sammy go," I asked. Hardly a pause, "To Africa. Where it's warm." I couldn't even hold back the laugh. "Oh. Africa. That's really far away. Did he go with anyone?" "Yes, his whole family." So there you have it--Sammy is in Africa for awhile. Wish I could join him! For now one of his distant relatives is beginning to rot in our wall. Just great...

Lenten Learnings.
I've been learning about power and allegiance as I think about ways in which I live as if I'm entitled to things. We live our lives with such distracted allegiance, don't we? We struggle to know where to put our trust and where to invest our hope. We search for places of power--power to be (over others) or powers to succumb and surrender to. Ultimately, I think we do want to find something to give our lives to. The slow-dying that we sign up for in life with Christ means a journey to newness. It's a journey of surrendering power and aligning (realigning) our allegiance to the one in whose presence we find ourselves most alive. Lord, reset our twisted perspectives that look for power-plays and hope in harmful allegiances.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

beautiful short video

This gave me goose bumps.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

for lack of...words...

I haven't been able to journal for almost two weeks. While not an uncommon occurrence, it is a frustrating one. Sometimes when life presses in a little heavy or things seem particularly confusing, I lose my words. For a "word person," this can be infuriating, uncomfortable, and even lonely. You see, writing is therapeutic. It's a release. If there aren't words and there is no flow, there's no release, just a lot of pent up thought, emotion, and musing(s). Sigh. Words always come. They'll come. But for now I've been finding the "release" (and so, a certain peace and comfort) in ice cream outings with the kiddos, afternoons spent in quiet folding of laundry or doing dishes, and simple games of "United States Bingo" with an almost six-year-old who always steels the Rocky Mountain States board before I can get to it. What can I say, I've instilled in him my love of mountains (and all things Colorado). And, apparently, "Wisconsin Milk and Cheese," because he remembered tonight that it was also a favorite of mine (or that I had made a "big deal" about it once. haha, that made me laugh) and sassed the tile around in my face as if he had really pulled one over on me. Are all almost six-year-old boys this competitive? :) I love it. I've been so blessed by these "friends in small places." They can encourage me without even knowing I need encouraging. Maybe it's a little bit of God's nearness, again. Gift--a reminder that relationship isn't a right, it's a privilege. It's something we ought to celebrate (value and cherish). It's how He made us to be--more fully ourselves when living healthily alongside others; giving, receiving, loving, embracing...

Anyhow, I'm tired. Not a sleepy tired just a worn-out tired. Dare I go to bed at 9:30? Have I told you about the animal that is trapped in our wall making a hell of a lot of noise at night (excuse my word choice if you must, but i'm getting awfully frustrated with the little sucker). It's been waking us up multiple times a night. I woke up from a "nightmare" the other night that involved a crazed squirrel that had finally dug it's way out of the wall and into our room, running around in a starved frenzy with wild eyes and barred teeth. Seriously. Please no. Hoping and praying that all it's scratching and digging will be for naught. The whole thing is equal amounts frustrating and humorous, I suppose. How did this animal get stuck in our wall and what on earth is it trying to do at all hours of the day (and night)?!! Give it a rest, our four-legged friend!

here we go, friends

It's a grey, rainy morning. It's Ash Wednesday. I've sort of tip-toed my way up to this Lenten season wondering what it is I can/should/ought to give up. I think I know, but it's hard to articulate. It's a bit abstract. Sometimes the really tangible fasts like "I'm giving up soda" or "I'm giving up ice cream" turn into a game in my mind. So I have to steer clear of them. They aren't wrong or bad or anything I just think I can too easily assume them as simply a legalistic "no, no" for the season without much thought for some of the deeper realities of why the season is significant, etc. I've thought "well, I could give up sugar. that would be hard but it would also be really good for me--i'd have the discipline and the beneficial affects of a better diet..." But see, then I start thinking of things for all the wrong reasons--wanting to choose something "just because" it's hard or because I'd also gain something from it. Last year was super hard because giving up worry was like giving up something so attached to myself that I was failing and falling at every turn--being tempted at nearly every moment to forget that there is a place to cast all fear, worry, anxiety and experience freedom and newness. It was therefore rather "abstract" but it was extremely practical in what it revealed and taught.

So, this year I am giving up thinking and living in terms of "Rights and Entitlements," instead living to recognize things as Gift, Promise, and Privilege. It's sort of the product of a lot of thought about what it means to trust God and what it means to believe in His nearness--two "themes," if you will, that have been constant for me of late. What does it mean to trust more in God's faithfulness, love, and provision than in my ability to determine, figure out, and control? What does it mean to have those hard conversations with God about the difficulty of handing over to Him (consistently) and surrendering, entrusting, and believing that He's big enough and good enough to have a better handle on things (he's trustworthy, in other words). What does it mean to see God's work in my life and in the world as a work that is close? Scripture is not shy about telling God's story as one in which He is near--a traveling presence. He pilgrimed with Israel out of slavery into wilderness and guided to the Promised Land. He set up camp in their midst. He presenced himself with them. So goes the story...and then He sends himself into the story, right into it. Human. God-man. To be with us, God with us. And lives a life that's a part of ours--facing the realities of human life and learning: temptation, love, sorrow, beauty, desire, difficulty...When he leaves he gives an extraordinary gift: his very Spirit, to live in us. There are, it seems, profound patterns of committed nearness.

It can be uncomfortable to think of God as one who is near. A God who is near means a God who knows. He knows our dirt and our mess; our beauty and our unique wonder. He lives with us deep deep down, acknowledging a value and worth that undercut all of the outward expressions of "who we are." And when we realize we are so exposed in the journey, I suppose we necessarily feel a little embarrassed, uncertain, and uncomfortable. A God who is near and a God who knows means that we have to wonder if he actually loves and accepts what he lives with and sees of us. This takes trusting him to a whole new level and reliance to a new depth. This is what I hope to dwell on for lent--God near my mess; God in my need; God loving my brokenness; God mending, healing, renewing, tearing apart, putting back together...God on the journey with me. So the things that I often falsely consider to be my rights and entitlements (anything and everything, really: achievements, accomplishments, understanding, knowledge, revelation, faith, belief, love...the things that I can begin to feel like I come up with...) can be seen and understood as gifts and promises (the "product" of God at work in my life--my mess--accomplishing something deeper and longer lasting; God worthy of trust because He's committed to a larger picture than the one I'm committed to but he's patient enough to help me get there. He journeys with. He offers gifts and remembers promises. He cares for us as we work to control what we think we understand..). He stepped into our mess for a reason. He's in the business of redemption and reconciliation--making all things new. That's the freedom and hope that is "Gospel." Free from the entanglements of sin and it's web-like trap that offers a lot but follows through with little. The hope and freedom that are our life in God recognize the gifts of relationship, love, and committed faithfulness. They offer a courage and strength for living our imperfections in liberating ways (toward health and wholeness) not in ways that discourage true life and growth.

What will all of this look like, for Lent? Well, I'm not 100% certain, of course. It will be daily, that's for sure. Daily work to face the temptation of wanting to recognize my life as my own. It will require daily reminders of God's promises, His workings in/through history, and His goodness that is sometimes hard to understand. It will demand that I consider new ways of trusting God's provision--believing that He bestows and privileges us in ways we don't always expect or understand, but they are gift. This feels a little like an experiment and I don't really know how it will go. I'll keep you posted as I journey. I like the journey-feel of Lent...the feeling of "travel." How are you traveling this Lenten season? What are you considering, wrestling, hoping?

Finally I'll just post this prayer in consideration of today, Ash Wednesday, and the journey ahead...

Marked by Ashes (Walter Brueggemann)

Ruler of the Night, Guarantor of the day . . .
This day — a gift from you.
This day — like none other you have ever given, or we have ever received.
This Wednesday dazzles us with gift and newness and possibility.
This Wednesday burdens us with the tasks of the day, for we are already halfway home
halfway back to committees and memos,
halfway back to calls and appointments,
halfway on to next Sunday,
halfway back, half frazzled, half expectant,
half turned toward you, half rather not.

This Wednesday is a long way from Ash Wednesday,
but all our Wednesdays are marked by ashes —
we begin this day with that taste of ash in our mouth:
of failed hope and broken promises,
of forgotten children and frightened women,
we ourselves are ashes to ashes, dust to dust;
we can taste our mortality as we roll the ash around on our tongues.

We are able to ponder our ashness with
some confidence, only because our every Wednesday of ashes
anticipates your Easter victory over that dry, flaky taste of death.

On this Wednesday, we submit our ashen way to you —
your Easter parade of newness.
Before the sun sets, take our Wednesday and Easter us,
Easter us to joy and energy and courage and freedom;
Easter us that we may be fearless for your truth.
Come here and Easter our Wednesday with
mercy and justice and peace and generosity.

We pray as we wait for the Risen One who comes soon

Monday, March 07, 2011

weekend in pictures

Sorry I don't have the energy to write the stories behind all these pictures. Sometimes it's better that way. What happens in Kentucky stays in Kentucky ;) Actually, I'm just really exhausted. We drove back this morning and made really good time so we even got to stop at Fair Oaks Farm, a fun farm/cheese factory/restaurant and gift shop between Chicago and Indianapolis...they had really good coffee today, which was great because I had to go almost directly to work after a stop off at home. I didn't sleep the greatest while we were there--combination of life and three in a king size bed (fun, not the most comfortable :)).

It was good to get away for awhile. We all needed it, I think, although we were all also pretty worn out going into it. Just look at the pictures...I think we look pretty tired. But it was so good to be with good friends exploring, relaxing, laughing, and just "being away."

We spent an afternoon/evening in Louisville on Bardstown St. going in and out of shops and bookstores and had dinner at Ramsi's--food from all over the world! It was yum. We drove through small towns and adventured through some cool and some creepy antique stores. We walked through Bardstown (the actual town), which is the bourbon capital of the world, and saw a few of the big distilleries. I think the back-country Kentucky roads did us all some good.

I'm tired in many ways but refreshed in others. Life is just full of lots of stuff to think about, pray about, and wonder about right now so that's that. No avoiding it, really, just learning how to trust God as always. Continually he says "trust me, Andrea" and always I wonder if he'll continue to put up with my weak trusting. And he does. He continually does. It's that never-stopping, never-giving-up, faithful kind of love of his. Lately I ask for his nearness to be felt. And this weekend it was felt in good friends and back-country Kentucky roads.

oh, and I pierced Lacy's ears a second time--yeayuh! what are friends for?! she trusts me, that's for sure :)

Thursday, March 03, 2011


I really want Lotta Jansdotter's book Handmade Living: A Fresh Take on Scandinavian Living. I've seen it referenced on so many of my favorite "simple living" and "handmade home" sorts of blogs. You know, not the cheesy handmade stuff like crocheted kleenex box covers but the good stuff...the art of handmade living...that kind of stuff. Sigh. I'm determined to learn more of the simple art of the "handmade home" this year.

drive on

Roadtrip this weekend. I am so looking forward to our roommate trip down south (to Kentucky). Getting out of the city and the coming back provides a certain kind of "fresh start" for me. PLUS, I'm hoping that Spring will be in swing when we come back. It's started, that's for sure. More melting/thawing and less snowing/freezing--always a good sign.

I still don't know what to do for Lent this year. Sigh. Hmmm. Maybe I'll have time to think on it this weekend. Oh! I got Madeline L'Engle's book A Wrinkle in Time on tape for our journey!! I read it when I was young, loved it, but haven't read it since. I'm super excited :) :)

I'm almost finished with East of Eden. I'll have thoughts to post once I'm all done (about 50 more pages). Man, this book is good. I've been glad to have a novel to work through.

In other news...
Melissa is taking me to see the Civil Wars in April. She won tickets. Woohoo. So exciting...
I've been really wanting to travel again. What's new, i know, but i mean spend some time overseas somewhere involved in a project or working in a community. Such thoughts never truly leave me they just sort of "cycle through" as I consider all that I could do with and in life. There are many possibilities. This is a weird part of life still. I don't quite feel like I've "started" (but I have)...interesting. whatever. I'm going to go make breakfast burritos...