Hello. Welcome.

I'm a very determined kind of individual. Sometimes my determination is misplaced and things get very ugly. But, sometimes my determination leads to laughter, deep thoughts, and words on paper.

I write everything. I'm not very good at filtering ... so you will see it all. Maybe there will be a little inspiration for someone else along the way. I hope so. My sister also likes to guest blog and I'm sure you will appreciate her wit and wisdom.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A weekend with Thoreau...and the psychology of bad days

No, I didn't spend my weekend reading At Walden Pond, but I do feel like I escaped to a kind of heart place.

Here's a bit of Thoreau, beautifully slicing through muddled messages to strike a chord and beat a rhythm my soul loves!

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan- like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion."

I guess in some ways this explains why going back to Iowa is so wonderful. It was between rows of beans and corn that my passion for life and hunger for adventure was sown years ago. From my front porch, my dreams soared over the subtle, rolling hills and stretched out to the horizon. In the hours of farm chores, under layers of coveralls, I learned to sweat and work with my hands.

I guess my trip back to Iowa was something like this. Breathing in air that seeps up from the ground and down from the sky, unadulterated by city in between.

As much as I would like and need to elaborate on the weekend, it's already Wednesday and I have to get my thoughts out before the grinding gears rust my brain.

I just now added the second part of this blog title (psychology of bad days) because, well that was today for me. The amazing, smile-worthy part is that it's only 2:30 and I figured this out now... so now the second half can be grand!

I rolled out of bed with problems from yesterday still clinging to me like the insistent cigar smell on my black wardrobe. Computer failures, "technical difficulties," article deadlines, group projects, working late... I'm sure you could add a few things and safely say they reared their heads this morning as I sat working on an unresponsive computer at 6:45.

By the time I got to class, I gave honest answers to the "How are you" question. But, for some reason, it didn't make me feel better that my friends knew I was frustrated. I wore out the 'just-having-a-bad-day-and-let-me-have-one' sigh by the time I went back to the apartment for lunch. Just before I left, though, I returned to my center after reading an email from my sweet sister in Indy. Not only did it put in perspective my mood and attitude, it gave me some good meat to chew on as I trudged home.

So, I heated up some of my favorite Progressive vegetable soup and sat down with John Piper. At one point I just rested my head on the table...it felt like someone was in my head cranking an ice cream maker. It was silent in the apartment but I couldn't concentrate because I was thinking about so many things. Just to clarify 1. I wasn't over-caffeinated and 2. I'm not one of those highly intelligent people who actually have weighty things their brains need to be stressing over.

I wish I could dive into some of the discussions John Piper tackles, but that will have to be left for those who want to sift through it themselves.

I did some cleaning - always therapeutic - but by the time I left my apartment, I still couldn't muster a smile.

I realized as I began my trek back to the program office, that the whole morning I chose not joy.
If I truly want to seek my ultimate joy, then I won't give in to the bad day. If I seek my own joy, then I seek God's pleasure, His creation, people, service, and truly admire the gifts poured out as blessings in front of me.

I walked down to the el in the 10 minute trip to class again. I felt a smile fill up my chest. I'm sure the man sitting across from me wondered how my joy increased so dramatically for no apparent reason. I walked up from the el and realized I hadn't admired the sun yet today. I pulled out my smile like it'd been tucked away beneath the world in my bag and it still worked.

The more I pursued joy, the more joy there was to be found!

In my last entry I wrote about my new friend in Indy, and today (of course just when I needed it) she blessed me with encouragement and delight. I had written that I hoped our friendship would smell sweet. And, I realized that might need some explanation. In 2 Corinthians 2:14-15, "But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing."
Paul writes that we are the sweet smell of Christ... I love this picture that makes awake our senses to the knowledge of who God is and others can't help but notice.
I could go on, of course.

It's evening now and our classes are about to give presentations on neighborhoods in Chicago. There is so much more to write about these past few days, but it will have to wait. Apologies for all that doesn't make sense... I just had to write out something before the man in my head cranked my thoughts into lumps of melting ice cream.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

for those interested

so...I've been posting some of the short papers I'm writing for Values and Vocations class, along with some other thoughts for the school part of this semester. They are on a different blog - www.discerninginchicago.blogspot.com
if anyone is interested.

I'm off to bed... sleeping early and rising before the sun. The world really smells better before it wakes up. I think I might walk on the lake before I have to go to class. But, then again, who knows where the Lord will direct my steps? Last week I met Sisco. This week? I don't know. But I do know that my grandma is praying for me... and I think that's why I feel so safe. God is using the powerful prayers of His people - so many blessings!

Oh, and today I am now friends with a beautiful sister from Indianapolis. Her spirit is refreshing and full of energy. I only just met her, but I know she has much to teach me ... I am hoping ours is a friendship of the sweet-smelling kind.

scattered thoughts

I met my friend Lis last night at Panera. We meet on Mondays at 5:15 and I look forward to it all week. This past Sunday, the message was about discipleship and I instantly thought of Lis. We learned about the importance in investing in someone else's life not for your benefit or for theirs, but for God's glory. No, God can't benefit from a beautiful relationship, but His glory is revealed in our pursuit of holiness. I went up to Scott Clifton, an amazing man who serves as the missions pastor at Park, and asked for prayer after the service. I told him about the girls I'd met and about how I want to pour into their lives in a deep way. I want to be the iron that sharpens and the friend that loves like Jonathan. I really want to be that for these girls. I also told him about my heart being pulled a few ways for 'after-college' things. He said it sounded like I needed to think about Chicago. Hmm. Anyway, I was blessed by his conversation and prayer and went on.

I found out yesterday that Lis thought of me when she heard the message, too. We had such an amazing time of sharing. I wish I could explain the glint of her eyes when she gets excited. ..I think it might be something like the candy pop rocks. I don't know if you've ever tried them, but the minute you put the little crystallized candies in your mouth they start mini explosions. I love it. That's the look I got when we started talking about our being clay in the Potter's hand. Her joy exploded and it was contagious. Love her!

Today at work I got all the information I needed to contact our Partners in India, Philippines, and Zambia. They won Gender Awards and I'm writing features on what they did with the award money. It still seems a little surreal.

I can hardly believe it - home on friday! I'm trying really hard not to think about how I'm going to spend every hour of my time. My mom is uber-stressed about musical (of course she's doing a musical directly after all-state tryouts), but I will love watching their practice on friday. I also get to catch my brother's last football game and would love nothing more than to join the fam in the stands and cheer on my studly brother as he claims his own ground (beyond the youngest status).

I'll hopefully make the rounds... but the reason I'm flying home is for my friend Anna's wedding. I love her and I love weddings - so the day should be joyful! It will be a time to reconnect with people whose lives have taken them miles from where we first met and made memories.

Today such amazing news - one of my wonderful cousins is going to have a BABY. I couldn't believe it when I read the email, but it is such a joyful thing!

One last random tidbit - Old Testament study and Jen Cousino
Last night was the Old Testament Bible study and I really feel I have so much to learn! I had a dull headache the whole time just for the sheer weight of the words. We just studied the New Covenant, in both the Old and New Testament and the blood of Christ is so so so so deep. I can' t understand it. I really want to learn, though.

Well, this is the shortest and most scattered thing I've written. I guess that's it.

Monday, October 23, 2006

green beans and working hands

I know before I write these thoughts that there is so much more to say. But, I'm only taking a short lunch break and have time to write my thoughts as they are.

On Saturday, my roommate headed home to do some laundry while I was still out doing my Saturday morning things. I stopped at the Farmer's Market on the way home and picked up some red/green peppers and fresh green beans. I headed back up to the 16th floor with my home-grown, farmer-friendly groceries and decided I needed to prepare the green beans for my coming week's lunches.

Memories came like a downpour: mom with a bag and a bowl on the side of Aunt Jane's swimming pool, talking, watching, and snapping peas from our garden... Or, mom bent over between the lush green rows as one brother zipped by on the lawn mower and another clanked and banged on metal in the nearby machine shed... Or my sister and I propped on the kitchen counter, yapping away as mom washed some of the green produce in the sink, preparing for an after-chore feast at 8:00.

I sat on my little sofa in my empty apartment with the soft sounds of some earthy Appalachian gals singing on my CD player. Beside me, a plastic bag full of the green, lanky beans still smelled of farm and garden and in front of me a large, silver bowl awaited the delicious bounty. I snapped and thought, discarding the bad and saving the good. Even the sound of the snap and the rhythm of my movements caused the corners of my mouth to stretch wide.

I loved it.

I know - how much can you get out of snapping some green beans? Well, a lot. There's something about using your hands... something about making good use of what you've got that just sends shouts of exhilaration through my fingertips.

The connection to my work today didn't escape me. I am currently writing about the Global Conference coming up in May that will be in the Dominican Republic. Our theme is Envisioning our Future: A World Transformed and we are using imagery and Scripture of the potter/clay.

How beautiful that God, too, delighted in the work of His hands! He so carefully and masterfully molds, shapes, and forms His creation for divine purposes. There are so many references to our being clay in God's hands, completely at the mercy of what He would create. In Romans 9:21, we read that God shapes us all for purposes, but who are we to say for what?

I could reflect on the beauty of these thoughts far longer than I have right now. I hope this brings someone a smile, though, just in contemplating how our working hands bring the Lord glory.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

pictures from the birthday:)

These are a LOT of pictures, I know. But, after all those words I knew I'd lose the small following I had if there wasn't something to break up the space and add some color:)

I'm showing off the gifts that came in loving packages from Iowa.. no mistake those are sugar free candies of my favorite variety and a FOOT MASSSAGER for those long, hard days:)

This is the before/after picture of a wonderfully simple birthday cheesecake I enjoyed in the company of Chicago Semester friends!

Chelsea and Ann think it's fun to get stuck in those revolving doors... :)

Meg was as wonderful as ever - surprising me on my b-day with her sweetness!

The night of my birthday I hooked up with Jenna and Lis and we cooked fajitas like it was our job! We do make pretty sweet-lookin' cooks ... but can you believe they tasted DELICIOUS, too!
Lis is working the frying pan like an Iron Chef master!

Okay, Jenna's deck is the cutest little 1 by 2 thing I've ever seen, complete with a pondering stool that should belong to a small child!

Jenna made this cake! We celebrated with chocolate and amazing conversation - definitely a night to be remembered!

Yep, that's right, I'm the ghost in the middle... How did winter sneak up so fast? And how did those girls keep their summer colors? No matter - I love 'em!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

they miss you

I like to consider myself a critical consumer. This could be credited to my mom (still won't allow the internet in the house - gotta love her!), my upbringing, or my own inquisitive nature. Regardless, I struggle against the culture encouraging our mindless consumption of new trends in TV, clothes, music, and food.

Don't misunderstand - I give in all too easily, but I try to at least be aware. I've been wondering about an ad I've seen lately. Even without TV, internet, or magazines in my apartment I can't escape the onslaught I see on my way to and from work everyday. I've seen this particular ad numerous times, always wondering at its purpose. The ads are real odd, involving myth-like characters or obscure situations or settings and accompanied by the words, "They miss you."

I didn't know if I was simply not the target audience or if the unfortunate public relations firm completely missed the mark. I finally realized this past week the point: dreams.

I was looking at an elfin man sitting in too-small a chair inside a cozy, dimly lit grandmotheresque attic. Beside him sat YODA and they were both looking at the empty seat (mine, of course) over the chess game that was spread out on the small table. Odd, for sure, but I realized that Rozerem (pharmaceutical of some sort) is advertising to the sleep deprived.

Then I saw a man wearing purple jeans on the subway and thought, "I wonder who targets his audience?"

Media is really very fickle.

I was talking to my new friend who runs the book table at church, Bob, last Sunday. He was telling me about this spiritual housecleaning book he'd read. The idea was that, without intending to, we physically bring in objects to our homes that Satan uses to distract us from our purpose. This really struck me. I'm sure I just stared for a good 10 seconds because I was thinking about it.

I thought about what I had chosen to bring into my apartment in the near 2 months I've been here. Everything from pictures to books to decorations to food - all conscious decisions to be a part of our lives. It's easier to analyze the apartment because I haven't had as much time to accumulate, but a short survey revealed exactly what my friend Bob was getting at.

My roommate works with other girls our age and someone had given her a copy of Chicago Social, a modern fashion magazine. She brought it back and shrugged it off. Neither of us were particularly interested in it or its content, but it seemed like one of those things that girls just have in apartments. I had actually picked up a free H&M magazine when I was in the store awhile back for the same reason. It was free and I thought it could add something to our extremely modest decor. But, I realized that I had spent time flipping through each of those magazines.

I know it seems petty and possibly over-analyzing (like always), but I really asked "what good came from that time?" My mom always says if it is not of God it's of Satan. There isn't an in between, tepid compromise on things we say are "really not that bad." Well, if they're really not that bad, are they really that good?

I feel so, so blessed to be without TV. Sure, I sorta glaze over when conversations turn to the latest Bachelor episode or the near-death of the hero on 24.

But, I experience so much more of reality by being in it - living it.
Like this morning. I have class on Wednesdays, so I don't have to wake up quite as early, but my body's on a schedule so it does anyway. You probably know how that goes... Once you get in a groove you'd better just give in to it, because if you don't you run the risk of confusing the system. So, I woke up early and decided to get out walking.

I knew before I left that I would be tempted to buy a coffee or tea (still doing pretty well on the whole becoming independent of coffee), so I brought 5 singles that I picked up from coat tips last night. I started walking and before I'd gone far I met Sisco. He looked downcast and I actually met him as he was searching trash cans. He asked for something to eat in a way that didn't expect any sort of response. I stopped and asked if I could buy him breakfast. He was very grateful and we started walking toward a food store. We ended up walking in an enormous circle, completely opposite the orginal direction I was heading.

In that long walk, I found out that Sisco, after getting out of prison, tried to get his life back in order. He tried to get a job, but that extremely difficult with a record and without the proper papers. Then, he filled out all the paperwork to take classes. Being homeless has left him pretty jaded, but as I shared with him my heart he shared a depressing perspective on my 'fellow believers.'

He showed understanding of Scripture and professed belief, but he couldn't understand why he would show up to churches and hear "sorry, some other time. .. we'll pray for you... the pastor's out... no room here..."

This is the body? This is the Church I call home and family? I was ashamed. I offered to buy him breakfast at several places, but he insisted on going to a very cheap food mart so that he could get more food. I told him I had $5 and he spent $3.04. I also told him about Park (my church) and he was really interested, asking about a bible study. So hopefully he will follow through and I will see him this Sunday.

So, I had $1.96 left, right? Well, I continued on praising God for His sovereignty and hurting for the image the Church left on Sisco. Then I came upon another man. He just wanted coffee and wasn't as interested in conversation. But, I understand the need for coffee :) so we stopped at Corner Bakery for a cup that pretty near finished off my 5 bones. I left him with a "have a good day" and continued on.

Wow. This is the honest playing out of the Proverb, " Many are the plans of a man's heart, but the Lord's purpose prevails." How true and how blessed. Sometimes we are called to conversations and other times we are just called to love through things like coffee.

Okay, this is entirely too long and I'm going to be late for my next class.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Humble juice and Pears

Well, just when I think I get the hang of it - just when I start to know which sport, team, and hoop I'm aiming for - and just when I figure out how to lob the ball over the defenders twice my size... that's when that little, forgotten thing called humility reminds me that I've forgotten my sneakers.

Dramatics aside, I took a hit today. The funny thing about humility is that its best embraced. I could deny or defend, but I'll always end up at the same place.

In the Old Testament study last night, we were taking apart the Mosaic covenant. One of the things the leader said was, "Now, on what basis did God have to ask the people to obey and come into this agreement?" His point was (and Exodus shows) that God repeatedly reminds them of His delivering them from Egypt. He miraculously saved them from their hardened oppressors. My BS leader did say that God could demand this agreement solely on the basis of Who He is. I stopped there and marveled.

Even as early as Exodus, we see what Jesus' character revealed on earth: humility. God was under no obligation to explain His sovereign plan. Yet, He humbled Himself to make an agreement - a covenant, which is something that humans understand and far below what God is capable of doing. He saw fit to include man in this redemptive narrative, even to help them understand it. This amazes me.

It seems like we always put our Triune God in a dichotomy, but Scripture refuses this simple categorization. The same Jesus we see, humbled and suffering for us, was ever present when God made covenants through Abraham and Moses. In Philippians, Paul writes that Jesus, being in very nature God... was the very nature of a servant.

Because God (Jesus) could never cease being God, we can see that being a humble servant is a very essential part of His nature. Wow.

My being humbled, then (however uncomfortable), is always a window to see a bit more of God's character. Even knowing that, I've got to have something to wash it down. So, I am thankful for my CEO who decided that we always need to have fresh fruit in the office. Right now I have two pears sitting on my desk, waiting to ripen for a wonderfully fresh reminder that good things grow, produce, and are delicious.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

two wonderful days

I really shouldn't limit wonderful days to two, but space and time can only contain so many thoughts.

Yesterday was amazing. The day was pretty normal as far as days go, except that I decided to do without coffee - don't ask me why. My sister was like, "Of all days to give up your caffeine routine you chose your birthday?" I don't really know why, I just went for the tea bag instead of the coffee pot when I got to work and I never switched over. Needless to say, my energy level was quite a bit lower than normal:) ... But I accomplished a lot at work and had a chance to get to know another intern (who took me out to LUNCH at a great Thai place!)

As I was waiting for the bus, I fleshed out an analogy I'd been thinking on for awhile about our lives and how we plan. I've had the darndest time figuring out how to plan around public transportation. The thing is: I'm going to get there, wherever it is. I leave at the same time every morning and I go to the Red Line el(subway). It usually comes at the same time, but I never know. Then I rendezvous to the Blue Line, where I may have to wait 5 or 15 minutes, then I finally get to the transit center where I hope to catch the 7:40 bus. Even if I don't make all my connections (like the day we had to evacuate the el and take shuttles because a car had landed on the tracks) I still get there. Is it just me or is that divinely applicable?

I have always liked to know... micromanaging seems like the best way to make sure I get things done and the way they should be. But, I canNOT control the public transportation system - I'm merely one person in its wider maze. I can plan to catch the 3:47 bus, but leave at 4:15. My plans don't carry any weight... and I've come to see the beauty in that. It's not about me, it's not up to me, and it doesn't depend on me. Isn't this like my life?

(on to more blessed stories)
I met one of my bus friends both in the morning and afternoon and he was so kind and genuine. He sang me the "shorty it's your birthday song," which brought a smile. He also said something that will stick for a long time. It was after I had told him what book I was reading (Desiring God by John Piper) and where I went to church that he said, "Well, I knew you had faith the first time I saw you. Riding the bus... you just get observant about people and you got this thing about you." Wow. Glory to God for His light - He is recognized by His creation!

I also was delightfully surprised by a couple of friends who left gifts on my bed before they left for the weekend. People are so thoughtful and it makes life beautiful!

So... then I met my friends Jenna and Lis at Jenna's apartment downtown. How beautiful and blessed I am to know these girls. I seriously can not explain God's power in bringing us together and allowing us to be so close in such a short time. We made fajitas (which turned out amazing, I might add) and had the most memorable celebration! We had a chance to bond and share about our lives, struggles, and dreams. They both have such special gifts... they are people the Lord will use! I could go on and on about them, but I have to hurry or I'll lose steam!

Okay, so then today I got to spend with a family from my hometown. It felt so great to be around people who know me and my roots!! This refreshing day came just at the right time - I had so much fun talking, laughing, and fellowshipping. We did a lot of things I still hadn't done since I came - Navy Pier, Sears Tower, Hershey's store, lunch at Buca di Beppo's, pictures at the bean. We sure walked a lot, but any of my friends would tell you that's how I like it! :)

I'm reading in Acts right now for college group about the first church and I am feeling the blessed community even now. Breaking bread, sharing, and living with grateful hearts was huge today - I had to much to give praise for! It was so neat to talk to each of them and hear/give updates. People are beautiful! I hate to think that I'm using that word too often, but God's beauty is evident in His children!
The long story (short version) is: we started at 10 and went til 7. We really saw Chicago and I was blessed til my calves ached and toes hurt and I loved every single moment.

one last thing I have to add: I felt love from home like a giant wave!! On Thursday I got packages from my parents and grandparents - so happy! And my mom somehow found exactly the right hostess outfit - cute, funky, and classy all rolled into one! But - no there was more - a FOOT MASSAGER! I know - I'm about to go hook it up right now! And my grandparents are just as thoughtful - sugar free candies (my favorite - in moderation... that's a whole other story!), wonderful coffee drink mixes, and some super khakis. I feel so blessed! Along with calls from loved ones, I don't know how my days could have been sweeter.

getting ahead of myself

Okay, I know I will have to go back and re-tell, but I can't pass this story up. After a long day walking the Windy City with the Groves family (more later), I switched out my black flats for tennies and headed for some laptop/chai time.

In our wanderings today, I explained my perspective on homeless people, which is: I stop when I know I can really invest by asking "What is it that you really need right now?" and then I try to ignore what is convenient for me and focus on what is most beneficial for them. It's funny how God calls us to act so quickly. On my way here, I came upon a homeless man and immediately felt the Lord saying: Child, I want to see your words and faith in action: feed Me. I asked him what he needed and he "just wanted something to eat, ma'am." He didn't seem picky, so I looked around for the closest fast food joint when I spotted another man who asked me directions to Johnny Rockets.

I pointed North and then said I was just about to go there myself. So, I found out this second man's name was Andre and he was in town from the Bay area for a grant-writing conference. The more we talked the more we had in common - we shared a passion for coming alongside the 'least of these.' I was so full of joy to have met him! He works mainly with people coming out of the prison system and trying to reacclimate into society. He finally came around and said he was a pastor at a church out there - 80% of his congregation are from the prison system. WOW. what a bold, hard road! We waited for our food and kept sharing the heart the Lord has given us to serve the downtrodden... how encouraging that he would be in town, at that intersection, at that time when I met the other man. Who can say the Lord is not sovereign?

We walked back and I was so full. I gave the food to the other man - double cheeseburger and warm applie pie. I guessed that would be something different and filling - something my brother James would order. Andre and I talked about how church is the time to be renewed to go back out and live during the week. YES... I resonated! I see myself returning to the Spring only to have it overflow the whole week. I felt overflowing today! How blessed we are. I will pray for Andre and his church - Born Again Christian Church (I believe).

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Lonny and Cheesecake and snow

the windy city has turned white today. I looked out my boss' window and it took me awhile to realize that the fat, white puffs I was seeing were actually winter's first appearance. I am certainly not ready - this is surely a false alarm!

Last night we endured the wind and made it to the famous Cheesecake Factory for dessert to celebrate (early) my birthday with friends. We all (12) squeezed into a booth for 7 and had a quite a time choosing from the overwhelming and delicious menu. I ended up going plain jane - original with strawberries. My plate came complete with Happy Birthday lettering and a candle - how special! It rivals my own family tradition of the special plate (it's really just a maroon plate, but only the birthday child got to use it, so it had much significance!), but doesn't quite make the cut. My birthday plate always had lima beans, which is an ingredient I am quick to suggest for an innovative new cheesecake recipe. My friends are great - I love each and every one. Even though I see them less and less, I love who they are and their joy for life and fun.

Now to my story about Lonny... I know this is going to sound sketchy regardless of how I write it, so I must preface it by saying that I do sincerely believe the Lord directed our conversations, meetings, and I felt truly blessed to have met him.

On Saturday, as part of my weekend ritual, I woke up extra early and set out for my day. I had already been in and out of the apartment several times, but as I headed off to find a place to read, I ran into this man on the corner who was asking for 30 cents (I later found out that he had calculated that if he asked 15 people for 30 cents he could get a bus pass).

Well, it’s getting a lot easier for me to stop and talk and I had time. So, I found out his name was Lonny, and he was trying to get up North to see his daughter. After we had talked for awhile I had determined he wasn’t drunk and I didn’t think he was trying to play me… so we kept talking. I told him I’d buy him a bus pass and we started walking there and he mentioned he was hungry. Dunkin’ Donuts was conveniently across the street and I said “order anything you want.” See, I had learned from another homeless friend Vera about this. Why shouldn’t they have the same privilege of a full menu that I do? Why should they have to eat my scraps and be thankful? (Another soap box another time)

Anyway, in this whole process we starting talking about the Lord and I gave him a tract with John 14:6. He’d just gotten out of the drink (jail), but he appeared to be very familiar with God’s promises. We talked some more and I sent him on his way, saying we’d meet again if God intended and I would pray for him. Well, we did meet again that same day. Things didn’t turn out so well at his ex-girlfriends and he needed some more bus money to see his brother to get some clothes.

We had a long conversation and we were able to speak specifically about Christ being my Savior and Treasure. I could tell his heart was soft for the message – others had gone before me planting and watering and I was watering again. I bought him another bus pass and sent him to his brother’s, but not before I told him about a Christian men’s shelter where he should go. We decided that I’d meet him there last Tuesday after work.

I did pray for him and still do, but I didn’t see him on Tuesday. I told him he’d know where to find me – we met on the same street corner both times. I feel so blessed to have met him and do pray that he is finding his way – The Way. This was a precious thing and one of the best last weekend.

I have been reading John Piper and, without getting out of control, I am starting to understand why talking to people gives so much energy – it’s our food. When Jesus was talking to the woman at the well and the disciples came back he wasn’t hungry because He had been eating the food of the Father – speaking and sharing about His glory. That may not make sense because it’s so abbreviated, but it’s making sense to me.

Okay, I will write more later – because today is my b-day, but I wanted to finish up these thoughts before I move on.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

20 things I like to 'do'

We had to write these for class and I thought it was interesting:) These are in no particular order... I just wrote as they came to mind.
  1. smile
  2. talk to strangers
  3. finish things
  4. paint/art/colors
  5. run
  6. kayak (and anything water or beach-related)
  7. sing and dance
  8. give presentations
  9. organize things
  10. tell stories/write stories
  11. READ deep ideas/thoughts/philosophies and the Bible
  12. coffee and a book
  13. deep discussions with all kinds of people, especially about the Lord
  14. travel
  15. talk about my faith
  16. be outdoors in sunshine, rain, and snow (in that order)
  17. listening to music
  18. love on friends and family
  19. be. In the presence of my Creator
  20. learning – about creation and how it brings God glory

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Farmer's-Market-fresh mutsu apple

Yesterday, I woke up bright an early and perused the bustling Farmer's Market on the edge of my block. I love to walk through and smell the herbs, flowers, vegetables, and fruits that have that special farm flair. I bought raspberries, apples, and some Nicaraguan coffee from Coalition for Homeless Women.

Before I savored the first Mutsu apple, I studied its smell and feel. There is something so distinct about an apple that comes directly from the tree. It reminded me of walking behind my house, about the time school usually started, and looking for the first ripe apples. They still carry the smell of outdoors - maybe the recipe is green, open air wind, fresh rain, and country sun. Whatever it is, it's quite a bit different than buying a Granny Smith from my neighborhood Jewel.

Anyway, as I was eating the apple I realized something missing in my fall. I wanted to be sitting in a crowded football stadium on Friday night, with blankets covering the bleachers and school spirit colors overwhelmingly represented in sweatshirts and caps. I wanted to watch the kickoff as the sun blazed across the field and warmed my face. I wanted to feel the slight chill in the breeze as I pulled my fleece a little closer to my chin. I wanted to cheer on #10 or coach, pacing on the sideline.

I can safely say I'm not obsessed with football as a sport, but I do sincerely miss being around the atmosphere it creates. I have grown up cheering for family and family teams and it's a tradition that is more than the hot chocolate and popcorn I would eat with my grandparents. My brother Sam would love to launch into the deep reasons football is so important - he's found such a neat way to love, teach, and learn through the whole process.

Anyway, that was random, but a thought (to me) that was worthy of writing.

I'll hopefully write more soon -- because SO much has happened here. The Lord is good! I guess I find it easier to write these sorts of stories than to actually unpack just what it is the Lord is doing and how intricately He's caring about my life.

grace and peace.

Friday, October 06, 2006

humiliation: lessons learned

Well, for starters let’s just say that this happened to be the theme of my Thursday. Not in a ‘clear the area here comes a breakdown’ kind of way, but more in a ‘I’m new here and still don’t know very much about work, city, and cigars’ kind of way.

Details aren’t important, but I just learned about the refining process of having many eyes and perspectives examine one’s work before it gets to the place its going.

For the enjoyment of whoever reads this, I will expand on my experience with cigars:).

So it’s only my second night on my own as hostess. I’m starting to feel more comfortable in the powerful pilot seat at Sullivan’s, where my strong influence spans about 10 feet on all sides. I love chatting with customers and playing the part of the refined, well-to-do. It’s really kind of like make-believe when I was a kid. I put on dress-up clothes, polish my manners, stand up straight, and flash a most genuine smile.

Well, last night I was on the closing shift, so my co-pilot left me flying solo at about 8:30. No problem, I’m a clever girl, right? Well, it just so happens that my little station became the social hub (mostly due to the fact that I hold the keys to the cigar cabinet) and all of a sudden many different people were making many different demands.

Cool and collected, I did my best, which I thought turned out pretty well – smoothing over awkward situations that revealed my ignorance by joking or humoring our guests. This worked – until I found out from the girls upstairs that I had sold cigars to some gentlemen who also asked me to cut them… and I cut the wrong end. Yes, that’s right. There are two ends to a cigar, and it’s pretty obvious which end one would smoke out of, but apparently with my focus on smoothing-over my lack of cigarspeak, I completely cut off the wrong end. So, when they went to smoke they were dreadfully confused.
The funny part was that within minutes everyone in the restaurant knew. I am not really one to hide my blunders, so I would start to share and then they’d say, “Oh, you’re the one?”

Hmm. Oh well, I’m back at it again tonight, but hopefully I will get off early. I have a much delayed date with my Bible, Acts, journal, and that beautiful thing called slumber.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Can this be my life?

Okay, so the past few days have been interesting, to be sure. It’s not that I’ve lost my faith in people, but you can be sure that my welcoming Chicago smile is accompanied by a wary eye. I have to preface this by saying I have never felt unsafe or in danger here – Chicago is a great, safe city. But there are things about cities that are just quite a bit different than the wide open spaces of my childhood.

One of my biggest passions (and don’t be confused – it does get me into trouble sometimes, but it is not a major downfall) is people. I love people – their stories, history, and dreams. I like to come alongside a person and understand how they would feel loved, whether that’s remembering a name or making a point to cross paths routinely. It’s not a big surprise that people like to be appreciated, recognized, and valued. I love to see the light in their eyes when they are.

Well, this passion has brought me into some unique encounters… I just wish they were with women and not older men. When I say older I mean the magazine man at the end of the street who is probably 75… and the man I met under an awning in the rain who was probably in his late sixties. He was a nice sort – business man who was living large on Lakeshore Drive.
I am always very upfront with who (and whose) I am. This guy was a native Chicagoan, so we chatted about the city and I talked about how grateful I was that I had found a faith community. It’s absurd to me that these gentlemen wouldn’t pick up these OBVIOUS clues I lay down. But, Lakeshore man was asking for my number and a pizza/beer get together by the end of 3 minute conversation. WHAT? I just don’t get it. I mean he was nice, but without exchanging numbers I told him we’re sure to run into each other, being from the same neighborhood. The funny thing is – for all of you who say “Of course they talk to you – you’re a sweet, Midwestern blonde with a happy face on!” Well, to you I say that on this particular meeting I was wearing a blue poncho that covered every bit except my face, with my backpack protruding like a hunchback behind me.

I love a delightful conversation… I truly do. I would rather eat soap than pass up someone who wants to tell me about their life. It’s one of those thing that give me energy – after listening and making connections, I feel like my day has purpose. The next time I see George, Chris, or the nameless Italian lady on the bus on the way to work we’ll smile. We recognize each other and I’m instantly encouraged in those little connections. I’ve said this before about Poland, but I sincerely am starting to see Christ’s creative work in the lives of these strangers. In church this past Sunday I learned about the long conversation that the Lord has with His creation. I have no idea what the Lord is doing, how He is pulling or prodding, and how He may be softening a heart. Yet, regardless of where they are, God calls me to the same service: love. Conversation is a way to show and spread love, because people understand the interest and investment it is to let a stranger in.

Now, the slightly scary addition to this story is what happened this morning. I was getting on the subway a little later than usual, because I was going to a program trip instead of work. Everything was normal going through the turnstile and down the stairs. I scanned the crowd gathered to wait for trains and scoped out a spot and waited only a few moments for the train. As I stepped on, I felt pressure behind me (not uncommon when crowding on to the el), but I thought I felt someone inside my purse. I turned around just in time to see the edge of my wallet going under this large man’s coat. Ah! I can’t tell you what went through my mind but all that came out was, “Uh, excuse me?” in a really weak whisper. I’m not even sure that he heard me, but just as the subway doors were about to close, he gave it back. Yeah! First of all, with all my faith in people, I never expected this movie-scene to play out on this Monday morning. Second, I was so disoriented that my reaction wasn’t in the slightest how one would act when your identity is about to be stolen. Third, he gave it back. This is the part that is so confusing to me… he could have easily left and I would’ve done nothing more than stand stunned as the subway pulled away from my little life in the white wallet.

God had already softened that man’s heart before he even took my wallet. That’s the only thing I can figure – God had control over the situation and his unlikely response. Well, I have to process a lot more from everything I'm learning about the Old Testament, relationships, and life. I'll have to pick up on that later.