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.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Baby Shower on Wheels

Have you ever found yourself sitting around a tidy circle with a group of ladies, eyes fixed on a mother-to-be, watching her shuffle boxes, gift bags, and tissue paper to resounding "oohs" and "ahs"? Maybe this is just a scene of which I've had the pleasure to take part.

Don't get me wrong - baby showers have their place, along with wedding showers and bachelorette parties, but do you ever wish there was a little variety?

As I thought about how to best shower my dear friend with gifts for her beautiful baby, I decided variety would not only make the shower memorable, but it would also show Meghan how much we loved her.

Here's how it went down:

I started to think about all the wonderful memories from our college days and I realized how many things remind me of Meghan. I made a short list of the places or times where I found myself smiling for Meg or for her little one. Then, with the help of some friends, we picked out gifts for each location. She opened a series of cards to explain the reason for each gift.

When she arrived at my friend's house in Evanston on Friday night (in preparation for our girls' weekend), she opened a gift that focused on her pampering (blouse and jewelry). The next morning at breakfast she opened a gift (photo album) that will help capture all the moments - even the morning messes. Then a gift that will help in getting her little girl ready for the day in ultra classy form (a polo dress). Then we took our shower to a coffee shop, where we focused on the more intellectual side of the new babe (sweet books). We then found ourselves at the beach for a picnic, where naturally Meg would need an adorable diaper bag with travel-ready changing station and a perfect picnic outfit.

Later on that day, we ended up at the Grand Lux Cafe in downtown Chicago. Here we gave Meg what we hope will be many more memories (personalized onesies). Later we took a picture crowded around our favorite expectant mom and the onesie with HOPE (our alma mater) across the chest.

I don't think I've ever had more fun at someone else's celebration. Meg is such a beautiful momma - and I hope we showed her just how special she is. She has changed so much since our days as roommates... and it tears me apart to think I won't be there when our dear little girl is born. But, I know she'll be in good hands. Meg is quickly turning into a wonderful mother - I can't wait to be around to watch her love, encourage, and laugh with the new life inside her.

I barely made it past the tearful goodbye the next morning. I'm still weepy just thinking about her. No one ever really tells you about the bittersweet taste of college departure into the real world. Apart from jobs and careers and adventures, there are frightening farewells with those who walked through fire with you. I guess we might not have believed if we heard it. But, I can tell you I pray for Meg and her baby... for her family ... and for her heart's pursuit of the Lord. It makes me miss her dearly, but I know the Lord is the better protector, defender, and friend.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Weekly Lineup

After a (seemingly) endless hiatus, these separated sisters are back in action. It was almost fitting that we didn't write for the time we spent together, but I have to admit I missed it. I hope you enjoy what's coming up this week! I know both Christina and I have crazy weeks ahead, so I hope you will struggle with us and see the blessings along the way.

Outside the "Norm": From overdone baby celebration to traveling shower
My best friend is about to have a baby in September - a beautiful girl I can not wait to meet. So, I didn't want to do the normal: sit in a circle and watch her open presents surrounded by oos and ahs. I wanted her to know how much we love and care for her and the new baby in a way that reflected who she is, so we gave the shower wheels - and with great success!

Family Treasures
Our family works kind of like the sun - always there, sometimes hidden, sometimes far away, dependable, and gives the most joyful of rays. Why do we love family so much? Read for yourself!

Election Season: Unspun
We're no experts on politics, but we do get pretty serious about making every aspect of our lives match up with our hearts. Because of all the propaganda, it's hard to know what a candidate actually stands for - you know, what's behind all of the speeches and motivational slogans. Well, we may not know more than the next guy, but we're working on it - so read about it!

Well, it may seem like a short list this week, but we're going to save some room for whatever might come up in between - we hope you like surprises!

Back in Austin

We'll be getting the line-up out for this next week at some point tonight. But, I wanted to share a few thoughts about where I've been for two weeks.
With the deepest of sighs - of relief, sadness, and homecoming - I landed in beautiful Austin today.

I can not and will not try to explain by way of keyboard the emotions of these past two weeks. Oh, I could tell you about the rapture of my grandma’s garden - the plums, peaches, apples, strawberries, grapes, pears, lilies, clematis, and the new bug zapper. I could tell you about the camp that has stolen my heart. I could also tell you about reunion with family - full of water sports and open heart conversations and our own unique family church service.

I guess I could tell you about the crazy trip my sister and I took across the state, where she jumped on a greyhound back to Des Moines and I the amtrak, Chicago-bound. I could tell you about the blessed bond of friendship and how it’s reuniting brought such pain in the knowledge of departure. I could tell you about the mexican food, the beach-side picnic, and the traveling shower for my best friend, who will bring a gorgeous baby girl into the world sometime in September.

Oh, I could tell you all these things, but right now after touching ground in Austin, what I want to tell you is that it might take me awhile to be okay with leaving. I know I already left, but my heart is so wrapped up in the people I love so much, I can hardly bear to be away.

At the same time, Austin feels a bit more like home every time I come back. I don’t know what to make of it. I simply don’t know what to make of it.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Since we've been gone...

So, I realize the blog has been silent this week. Well, it's because we've been together! We spent 3 days in Clear Lake with family (awesome,) then 1 1/2 days in Muscatine with Bret and Katie (wonderful,) and now I'm back to work, and Caroline is enjoying Chicago for the week! Here are some pictures of the fun we had with our wonderful family this past week...

We danced on the boat...

We hung out with the cutest kids ever...

Our family did a skit that involved us all doing "the robot"...

Other families danced as well... :)

We hung out with people we love a lot...

Then headed to Muscatine with Bret and Katie! They're amazing!

Such a great time. We love our family!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Bethany Camp, Day Three and Four

I actually ended up going back to Bethany Camp for the campfire last night, so I couldn't post yesterday. I'm just going to do a quick re-cap of both days, although it's dreadfully difficult!
I wrote this first part yesterday.
Reporting live from Bethany Camp in country-town, Iowa.

Today was a GREAT day! I know I only get to see the campers a little bit, but they are sure a joy. Today we talked about testimony, because missionaries give an account both of the redemption story and of their own personal redemption. I shared a bit about my experience in Poland teaching English at a family camp. I talked about the overall redemption story and the awesome wonder that God also wants to be personal - that we each have a personal story as well. I shared a bit of my story then asked a counselor to share his. Then the campers split up into pairs to answer some questions about their stories - who is Jesus to them? close, distant, friend, stranger?

I was so encouraged by the conversations - again very thankful for the amazing staff. I got to hear some of the campers share their testimonies later on at the campfire and praise God for His hand in their lives!

Day Four
Today I felt both delight and burden. This week has been more than I hoped, but also entirely draining. I meant to do so many other things during my time in Iowa, but I time escaped me. This morning during missionary time I nearly lost it. I was sharing that missionaries are broken people - no more put together than you or me. I never once met a perfect person in Poland, nor anywhere else on the mission field. Never once. I shared Psalm 32 as a bold reminder of the freedom and refuge offered us as believers. The world will deal some hard blows - but He is our hiding place.

It's hard to sum up this day - especially since I feel so emotionally invested. I guess I was most moved when I asked if any believers wanted to be commissioned - sent into their areas as missionaries. About half the campers came forward and the counselors laid hands and prayed for them - that they would go out with boldness and proclaim Christ. Not a hundred speeches could be as effective as those kids being faithful to the call. Amen and praise God.

Here are some pictures I gathered from the week. Enjoy!

Facebook Envy

My current "profile" picture on facebook- with Roman at his 1st bday party!

I love facebook. Well, I don’t know that I love it, but I sure do use it a fair amount. I got hooked when I moved to NY, and that was my one way of finding out what was going on in many of my college friends’ lives. Who was engaged, who moved to Africa, etc. It was so fun to have a window into lives of friends that I had grown apart from. As 1 ½ years have passed since moving back to Iowa and therefore could call up and hang out with many of those people, the purpose has changed a bit. I tend to use facebook more for stalking purposes. You know, you meet someone, see if they’re in your network, check out their pictures? No? Only me? I doubt that… :)Oh well!

Anyway, recently I’ve been feeling not so great about this little relationship. Conversations I have over it are feeling less and less like conversations, and more like sentences shot out to feel a little better about not calling. And my biggest beef with facebook? My time on facebook seems only to make less content. This friend is recently engaged, this friend moved to a gorgeous island, this friend just purchased a house. Cue ugly green monster. I even found myself irritated the other day when I was looking at pictures of a wedding for a summer friend from 4 years ago- why wasn’t I invited? Not taking into account that I haven’t spoken to this friend for probably 2 years, and wouldn’t know her husband from the next guy on the street, and we definitely had not made any effort to keep in touch. Bad news, friends. I was indignant. So that’s that- my sin issues with facebook. Josh Harris, pastor at Sovereign Grace Ministries, and Author of some great books (including the popular “I kissed dating goodbye” from my high-school years,) wrote about facebook last summer, after he joined for one week. He found that facebook helped him waste time and took his focus off of Christ and put them more on himself… which led to him quitting after only 7 days.

So what do I think about this whole deal? Well, I need to hold loosely my image on facebook. I need to remember that how people see me is not of much importance. I need to value real relationships and real conversations above internet “shout-outs.” I need to value finding out more about my God waaaay more than finding out about friends of mine. I need to praise God for blessings in others lives, and not let discontentment creep in.

And if it does? Time to hit the off button, slather on some bug spray, grab some granola, and go head outside to go read some Bible. For, if you’re spending time thinking about God’s ability to “do more than we can ask or imagine,” it’s pretty hard to keep thinking about yourself.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Bethany Camp, Day Two

Well, another day of sweetness out on the hill northeast of Brayton. These junior highers are getting some amazing teaching - in the morning from Ken Jordan and in the night from Casey Groves. I have such respect for both, who are passionately communicating the heart of God to these precious youngsters.

Yesterday in missionary time, we talked about what a missionary might pack in their luggage. Today, we talked about what the missionary would say once they arrived. The campers broke up into teams and with only duct tape they were given the task to create a tool that would communicate the Gospel message - from beginning to end. Why do we ever doubt creativity? Given a little encouragement, we shouldn't be surprised to see great ideas.

Well, each group was certainly unique. One of the groups brought in some wood structures that were taller than I was! I'll post more pictures tomorrow.

All in all, another great day. I can't say how impressed I am with the counselors - truly blown away by their commitment and energy.

Tonight we (my faithful mom and I) spent making packages for the final day. All the ideas in my head never seem that hard, but it sure has taken some time to put everything together!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Bethany Camp, Day One

Well, the first day of junior high week at Bethany Camp was fantastic. I love the energy at camp - the open air, familiar setting, and outstanding counselors probably have something to do with it. Each year I come back, I get hit a little harder with the homebug. There is so much irony wrapped up in my doing the missionary lessons at Bethany Camp. Bill and Treva Turpin started the camp years ago after returning from their missionary post in Indonesia. This faithful pair has paved the way for an amazing ministry and inspired many to pursue missions (myself being one of them).

I was so wrapped up in the day and missionary lessons that I forgot to take pictures, until swimming time. Today was a momentous swimming day at Bethany Camp as well. For the first time EVER the campers got to swim without leaving the property - the donated swimming pool is operational! Here are a few pictures of the event. Enjoy!

Director Extraordinaire (and my sweet bro!)

Swimmers READY.

JUMP in! (Notice infamous Jane Becker keeping things under control)

I'll write more tomorrow!
Goodbye from Bethany Camp,

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Weekly Line-up

This week is extra special, because I will be at Bethany Camp. I want you to feel like you are right here with me, so I'll be live blogging from the camp each day to let you know some of the exciting things going on. In the meantime, Christina will be writing a couple posts - a few titles you may recognize from last week and maybe something new as well. Hope you enjoy!

Live Blogging from Bethany Camp

Tune in each day to read an update from Caroline, who is doing the missionary teaching at Bethany Camp in Brayton, Iowa.

Going Green: Good Steward Dilemma
A couple weeks ago, Christina wrote about her pledge to organic foods, but as Christians how do we reconcile news reels with Scripture? Read about her own search for answers.

Facebook Envy: When an Innocent Peruse Turns Sour
If you've ever used the social networking genius of facebook, you know that it can be addictive. This addiction sometimes means finding out who's engaged, who's pregnant, and who's traveling in Spain while you sit at your computer. Read Christina's thoughts on facebook envy and what to do about it.

Leave your thoughts and comments - we love to hear from you!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

dirt under my fingernails

Well, the best of intentions (as far as scheduling blog posts goes) do not always produce the best results. What was that saying about a road paved with good intentions? Anyway, we are learning and that is equally valuable.

We are learning that our hearts are not so easily handled by a planned pen, but instead we hope to share the blessings and struggles of our days in real time (not elusively behind creative ideas and philosophies). Having said that, I would love to share with you how dirt crept under my fingernails today - the first time I've relished being a bit dirty in a long while.

I couldn't sleep last night, because 4 am seemed hardly morning to be waking up and getting to the airport. Between last night and the airport, I probably found 3 hours of fitful slumber. Nonetheless, when the plane landed on Iowa's green, flooded soil, I had no problem finding energy. I ate a delightful lunch with my parents at Vivace (and immediately confirmed my belief that they do love to be generous when I am home). Then we set our course south and east of Omaha and landed on that little farmstead on the gravel road.

I rushed to my grandparents house and caught up on all the news - from the alliums to the cherry tree to the strawberries to the sad state of the iris. From there we ended up at the cabin (my brother's engineering genius of telephone poles, barn boards, and scrap lumber), shooting, fishing, and water-ballooning. I jumped in with some home-state vigor to stir up my boisterous childhood playground. I reached into the wet earth to capture worms and squeezed the worms onto hooks. I felt like Jo from Little Women, much too boyish but all too fun.

So, at night's end, no matter how many times I've washed and hand-sanitized, I've got dirt under my fingernails. On any other day it would be most annoying - I always garden with gloves and always take great pains in peeling oranges.

But today, surrounded by my Creator's beauty and the family I love so dear, today a little dirt could not begin to phase me.

STAY TUNED! Tomorrow a new line-up - and possibly new strategy - will roll out. What do you think we should do: stick to the plan and write articles each day OR schedule a few days and be spontaneous on the rest. Let us know what you think!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Home: A Vacation Spot

Today is Friday. Wait a moment while I do my Friday dance ... Okay. I'm back.

I'll admit, writing on a schedule has its pros and cons. Christina opted for the spontaneous blog-style yesterday and I'm tempted to do the same. Thanks, sister, by the way, for sharing a bit of your heart. The states between Texas and Iowa make it a little difficult to understand when things get rough.

Well, in an attempt to stay regular, I'm going to cheat my own system. I was going to write about a few nifty ideas for summer getaways on a low (to no) budget. But, because I'm headed home tomorrow to Iowa and the brilliant unofficial state *song is blaring in my head, I'm going to talk about taking a creative, thrifty vacation to home.

It sounds strange, I know. Most times when we say we're taking a vacation we're going away from home instead of to it. Yet, there's something like a magnetic force that attracts me to the green hills, lakes, and coffee shop conversations. It's a perfect escape to be with the people I love, which is one reason why it's a vacation. The other reason is that at home food, travel, and entertainment is sometimes (if not always) free, thanks to the generous pockets of my parents. Before you think that I'm a freeloader, I can say with confidence that my parents enjoy it as much as I do.

So, especially if you are single, consider making your summer vacation at your parents' place. Granted, there will be some strategizing to make sure your time is well spent - it's easy to find the home groove and miss all the best parts.

But, one thing I love about being on a little farm on a gravel road in southwest Iowa is the familiar. I'm always hesitant to confirm people's stereotypes about Iowa - farms and tractors. But, of course, I eventually concede that I do live on a farm and there were special days where classmates would drive tractors to school. And, yes, we probably know more than we ought about what goes on in everyone's lives. But, we are also a family. A high-school classmate of mine was recently involved in a gas explosion. The situation is still very serious and even here in Texas I can picture the love and prayers surrounding him. In all my time here in Austin, I have only twice met someone I knew in the grocery store. In Iowa, the grocery store often becomes a social event - it's strange if you don't know at least a dozen people before you reach the checkout.

There is a slightly romantic notion I keep about our quaint little farmstead. To hear myself describe it, you would think it a fairytale. Now, we all know that's not true. And, if I rush home expecting anything of the sort I'll be quite abruptly received. My mother just emailed me this morning (yes, my parents DID finally give in and get the internet) and said that the three sump pumps in the basement are not doing the trick - the water is shut off. Nothing romantic about that! But, my heart did skip for some Iowa ingenuity.

These little things like sump pumps and loose cows are scattered delightfully across my childhood. In every instance, a new sparkle remembers the creativity and skill with which our family faced its foes. One of the last times I was home, I couldn't have been more excited to hear the words, "The cows are out." If you've seen the movie "The Holiday," you might compare the remote and quaint English cottage to our busy farmstead - I'm sure it would look like a prime getaway online (maybe you should try that mom - start a bed and breakfast!).

The further and further I get from Iowa, the more and more I realize God's faithfulness. I know I didn't have it perfect, but I continue to feel ever so blessed that God showed me grace before I could understand it... that he made home a place I'd like to vacation.

Next week I will be speaking at Bethany Camp in Brayton, Iowa to junior high kids. Please pray for the transformation of hearts and minds!

*I desperately tried to find an audio version of the Iowa song, but could not, so your imagination will have to suffice (unless you're from Iowa, in which case you would definitely know the tune).

Thursday, June 12, 2008

what a difference a day makes

Ok, so we’re breaking from regularly scheduled programming today. Since this blog started up with Caroline and myself, we’ve been trying to write it like a magazine, with articles each week. Well, today I want to write on it like a blog. And since I’m one of the founding members, I believe I will :)

So, a lot has happened in the last 3 weeks in my world. I decided to turn up the heat on the job search; I made some amazing new friends that I just couldn’t get enough of, and it looked like this was gearing up to be a great summer. Nights out on the patio talking later than I’d like but strangely not caring about the time, and calls from companies that think I’m pretty great, along with time spent with God thanking him for all these blessings, were filling my days with joy and praise for the One who makes great plans for his children.

Fast forward a few weeks, and one new friend went AWOL, another turned into kind of a weird situation that breaks my heart, and anxiously awaiting God’s timing for movement on the job front has turned from joyous expectation to frustrating clock-watching.

…And I keep thinking that you know, a few weeks ago before these changes happened, I was happy. I had plenty of friends- great ones, whom I love so dearly. I was fine at my job. Not happy, but fine. Then these last few weeks everything got shook up. And the thing is- it was great. So, so great. It was awesome to have new exciting friendships that made me feel like I’d stepped back into college. It was a forgotten thought, to think that God might work it out for me to step into a job that would engage my talents and my heart.

So now I have to think, did it all change? Did God change his mind, and I’m to stay here, because the sweet company that I applied at didn’t call back the day they said they would? Is it going to be a lonely summer just because I’m missing two friends to whom I’ve only recently grown attached? And maybe it’s just me, and I’m probably just ungrateful, but it seems like everyone has really terrible advice about all of it. Sisters and best friends all saying things that didn’t seem to help at all. Last night, though, my roommate said something that made today feel like the sky had opened up again. I think it was something to the effect of “That’s hard… I’m sorry… but you’ll be ok”

I think that’s all I really needed to hear. Because you know, it IS hard. And I WILL be ok. For God is the same yesterday and today and tomorow, and he has the same great plan for his children whether they're seeing the glass half empty or full, whether things are looking good or very, very bad. So I'm resting in that. Resting, and listening to the new Coldplay CD online, and really smiling, for the first time all week.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Caring about Conversations

I think we've all been there:
Caught in a dazed stupor, staring straight through someone's eyes and making mental lists about groceries and errands, when we suddenly hear, "Well, so what would you do in my situation?" or some other such engaging question.

I naturally break into emergency communication mode, where I employ one very discreet and beneficial tool: ambiguity.

Maybe y'all have not 'been there,' but I'm ashamed to say I find myself depending on ambiguity far more than I would like. You would think a communication major, of all people, would have conversations pretty well covered, but I have a tendency to use far too many words, which fall short of a personal response.

I think there are several reasons conversations sometimes seem more of a chore than a reward. I'm going to be pretty vulnerable, if that's okay.

1. Distraction
My head always turns at glittering objects and welcomes random excursions. I may be sitting down and talking, but my mind just takes a while to slow its pace. At any given moment, there are hundreds of things I would wish myself doing; packages to send, gifts to make, things to learn, music to sing, dances to make, the list is endless. So, though a conversation has grounded me for the moment physically, my mind convinces me the time can be double used in planning the next project.

2. Self-centered
I completely admit that some conversations bother me. I don't enjoy listening to someone share the same problems over and over again. Instead of saying, "This is the same story as last week and my response is not going to change," I might say, "That's interesting." That word interesting is one of those ambiguous words that could work in almost every situation. I struggle with others' self-centeredness in hearing stories revolving around them. I also struggle with my own self-centeredness and wanting another person to wonder how I am.

3. Disinterest
I could tell you the exact moment I lose interest. My eyes feel strange and somewhat out of focus. The voice gets a bit dimmer and I seem just slightly removed from the other person. I can also say that when I sense this change, I hope desperately it is unseen. It's just that, there are some subjects less than intriguing (to me). I have found myself with people who are very, very knowledgeable about these subjects.

Because I want to make a concerted effort to make each conversation meaningful, here are some ways I am going to practice.

1. Ask Questions
I have found the best way to show I truly care about what someone is saying is to ask intelligent questions. Not questions like, "Really? Why do you think that?" But questions like, "If you could say anything to him right now what would you say?" I'm not pretending to be a psychologist (although I loved my psychology courses), but I just know that asking questions means that I am actively listening and also helps the other person process.

I would love for people to walk away from conversations and say, "I never thought of it that way before."

2. Read body language
So much of conversations happen in silence. Even if someone is telling me the same story again, their eyes might float around the room and their hands might insist constant movement. If I am really present - watching as well as listening - then I may hear a very different story. And maybe I don't, but I will know much better the best response. A person who is really looking for advice acts much differently than a person who just wants to vent.

3. Pray when distracted
Call it cliché, but prayer is never overrated. In the midst of an extremely boring account of the latest farm markets, if you've exhausted your questions and know the person just wants to share, then start praying. Pray for the person, for his/her family, for the crops, for whatever comes to mind. When my mind must wander, I figure it should wander productively.

Well, now that I've held my personal intervention on this blog for all to see, I hope you might at least be encouraged to make your conversations meaningful as well! I hope you don't assume I enter every conversation with difficulty... it's just those 'sometimes' that bothers me.

Registry Snob: Bridal DIY to the Rescue!

Just got back from a weekend in my hometown, for BFF Meg's wedding shower. I am so thrilled for her and her fiance, Chad.

...That being said, bridal showers aren't a particularly good time, but I love my friend dearly and am happy to usher her into marriage with my gifts. Problem is- I'm a registry snob. People who know me well know that I hate to buy gifts from lists, and weddings are no exception. I want the freedom to buy or make, something that I am excited to give the people I love! So I never go from the registry... instead, I DIY (For those who aren't familiar with crafty jargon, that means Do-It-Yourself :).

For Megan's shower, I looked up her kitchen colors on the BB & Beyond website, and used those colors to make an apron made with vintage rick-rack and fabrics. Now she has a handmade, vintage gift made with love from her bestie. What could be better?

(DIY presents are also great for people on a tight budget. People who work for non-profits or ministries can gain much from learning how to make their own gifts.)

Here are some links to help you DIY for your own bridal gifts.

Pot holders
Use vintage fabrics to make this really one-of-a-kind. Try and match the colors they're using in their kitchen- the registry is helpful for this!

Stylized house number
If you know where your friends will be living, and that they’ll be living there for a while

Fabric-covered thumbtacks
I don’t know that this is especially Bridal-showery, but would make a great gift none-the-less 

Button Notecards
this would be great to use with vintage buttons purchased at a garage or estate sale! I like to give cute thank- you cards to brides-to-be, since they’ll be writing a lot!

Oven mitt
Make 4 of these, and she’ll love you forever!

I made two aprons this weekend, and they are so easy! I didn’t make this tea towel one, but it looks pretty easy.

Rubber Stamp
Could make monogrammed-style (his first initial, initial of new last name, her first initial.)

Monday, June 09, 2008

Office Fright

The element of surprise is a familiar foe (see previous post). I've never quite been able to figure out why I startle so seriously, but many have suggested I seek professional help. I, of course, guffawed in the face of these ridiculous recommendations, but lately I've been wondering...

Last week, in the midst of scurry and flurry to hire several new employees in our office, I found myself typing away at my desk. The office is gravely quiet now that students have left for the summer, but I add noise every once in awhile with music or an audio sermon. On this particular day, I was working on creating a reflection manual for our student leaders to use as a resource for service projects.

I like to sit in my black leather office chair with barefeet and a straight back. It's an interesting mix of professionalism and always a rush to get my feet covered when someone knocks on the door. My direct supervisor has learned from several experiences that a gradual knock is best used to announce his presence. A gradual knock starts as a single finger tap and slowly becomes a full knuckle rap. This system has worked quite well and kept Startled Stella at bay.

So, back to last week. I was absorbed in my typing with my back turned to the door when I felt a strange presence. I turned slightly to the left and immediately shot into the air, let out a serious scream, landed on the ground where I writhed barefooted for a solid minute exclaiming, "Oh my gosh, oh my gosh" to my Director, who stood over me with raised eyebrows and shaking head.

Two colleagues came running into the office thinking I'd fallen or had some sort of strange panic attack. All I could get out at that point was, "I'm so embarrassed." I picked myself up and my Director expressed his sincere apology for the un-intentional scene.

My fits usually end in laughter and always make for good stories, but I do wonder if I'm harboring some secret fear that needs discovering. Is it possible that I'm really just this jumpy? It is a small consolation that my mother is the exact same way. I hope this condition is merely hereditary. Does anyone else suffer in such a way?

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Weekly Line-up

Alright, folks. I know it's late on a Sunday night, but I just had the most fabulous conversation with my neighbor. She is one of the most lovely people I know.

This week's line up has everything to do with lovely (well, at least that's what I hope you think). We will be covering everything from office fright to facebook envy. This week we are going to give the article topics without specific days - both to keep you guessing and to give a little flexibility. We do have day jobs, you know! We are really excited about what's coming up and we hope you are too!

Office Fright
Read about Caroline's long un-diagnosed condition: fright. If you've been the brunt of a good fright or the one behind it, you'll enjoy this anecdote about a recent incident in the office.

Going Green: Good Steward Dilemma

Last week, Christina wrote about her pledge to organic foods, but as Christians how do we reconcile news reels with Scripture? Read about her own search for answers.

Caring about Conversations
Have you ever been in the middle of a conversation, but somewhere else in your mind? Caroline talks about the importance of being fully present and how it might change relationships for the better.

Summer "Vacations:" Creative and Thrifty Substitutes

If you've ever planned a vacation, you know it's pricey (anyone else paying $4.05 at the pump?). But, whoever said a vacation had to be extravagant? Read about Caroline's ideas - for singles and families - for creative and thrifty vacationing.

Facebook Envy: When an Innocent Peruse Turns Sour

If you've ever used the social networking genius of facebook, you know that it can be addictive. This addiction sometimes means finding out who's engaged, who's pregnant, and who's traveling in Spain while you sit at your computer. Read Christina's thoughts on facebook envy and what to do about it.

DIY Bridal: Making Your Gifts Special without the Registries

Wedding gifts are no longer about thoughtfulness, but rather about who held the gun at the registry stores. If you're looking for ways to make your gift special, read Christina's ideas about thoughtful, useful gifts that will still be a surprise when they're opened.

Well, that rounds out the lineup this week. We hope you are enjoying the posts - please pass this on to friends and family who might be interested in these separated sisters. Also, feel free to leave comments and thoughts - we would love your feedback!

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Advice for Saturdays

I've been thinking a lot about Saturdays. Actually, I've been thinking about how I disappoint myself with how I choose to spend my time.

Have you ever said to yourself, "If I only had 3 spare hours to myself. Oh! That would just be glorious! I would do all these wonderful productive things like learn the mandolin and sew some stockings and paint and write a novel." ?

Well, I have said such things many times, but then when the opportunity comes - in 3 hour or 1 week fragments - I inevitably choose the most unproductive things. Like watching crime shows on tv and checking updates on facebook.

My housemates have been gone for the past two weeks. The first week was rough because I let the 'inevitable' happen. The second week has been a great adventure because I have met the inevitable with determination and purpose. I think one of the easiest days to rationalize un-productivity is Saturday, so I just wanted to drop a few tips (especially for the singles out there:) so that you can hit the pillow smiling.

1. Meet up with people
The best way to waste a Saturday is to not be accountable to anyone. I love to have at least 3 people that I plan to see to split up the day.

2. Make a list
I always get more accomplished when I have a list in front of me. Even if you know you won't get to everything, it's good to have goals! I also love to write down things that I've already finished, or almost finished so then I feel accomplished.

3. Do something practical
Sometimes I get so consumed by a creative project that I forget to do things like laundry and cleaning. Then, when Monday rolls around I am more stressed out than before. If I make sure to get some of the more practical things done between the creative and community, then I feel much better.

4. Be creative
I love to paint, but I rarely do. I also get crazy craft ideas, but seldom try them. I've learned that I have to be intentional about my creativity. The other day I wanted to make a graduation card for a friend, but I didn't have any glue. So, I used ribbon, magazine clippings and construction paper and then sewed it all together. It had a very interesting effect... and I enjoyed it. Being creative doesn't take a lot of energy, just intentionality.

5. Make someone else smile
This might be the biggest one. If you want to really, really love the day from beginning to end, make it about someone else.

Well, those are my tips. Here are some Saturday suggestions from 'experts' .. if you live in Northern Colorado. :)

Friday, June 06, 2008

Adventures of the Life I Wish I Led: Part 1

These adventures are purely fictional and are meant to represent what my life would look like if wishes did come true. I make no attempt at 'realistic,' but I do hope you enjoy my dreaming!

I woke up this morning in a familiar bed, reminded of my previous day's adventures by the soreness in my calves. What was it I did? Oh, yes! I met family in Michigan for a bit of dune-hiking and para-sailing.

I shook off the blurried haze of morning from my well-slept eyes and tried to focus on today. Sometimes it's hard jumping time-zones and cultures overnight, but I'm used to it by now. After three years of nearly straight travel, I appreciate two things: my willing, adventurous travel partner Jeremy and my pilot's license. I knew the moment I met Jeremy he'd be pretty handy, but the pilot's license was more of a whim than anything else. And boy! has that made our travels easier!

After a brief nostalgic escape, I realize that it's almost 6 am and the children will be rousing soon. I grab my granolas (the endearing, earthy ensembles I wear 'in the field') and rush out to meet the first rays of sun on the Honduran horizon. I almost danced with the light glinting off the windows of our house, but remembered my morning task to prepare the meeting house for teaching. I jumped back inside for a quick scrub down, whisked a toothbrush across the pearly whites, and set off in the direction of the meeting house.

On my way, I spotted the early risers tending the chickens and gathering fresh fruits for the mid-day meal. I saw Jeremy and lingered a few moments to silently praise his tender efforts with widows in our village. He woke long before the sun to fix the stubborn community water spout that had been unresponsive to our most insistent coaxing.

I finally reached the meeting house and my hands began the methodical scurry around the room: tidying, arranging, and re-stocking. I made a mental note to order more pencils and to request more current maps for the walls. Just yesterday we loaded the plane with another round of supplies, but the needs always seemed to exceed the supply.

After the meeting room was in order, I went a few doors down to ask Esmy for a fresh bouquet of flowers. She was expecting me, and had already arranged a gorgeous spread on her table. I replaced the bouquet in the meeting house and went to meet Jeremy.

We always had breakfast at 7:15 a.m. and thank goodness for simplicity - for we had little time to prepare. After our rice and beans, we prayed over the village, our teaching ministry, and all of Jeremy's patients. The day had officially begun!

Here's part II.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Downside of Self-Disclosure

There is a rumor going around that I’m a bad driver. Weird, right? Since I’ve had barely a ticket (going 5 over doesn’t count, does it?) since high school. That’s been 6 years. 6 YEARS. Plus, it’s notable that 1 of those years was in the NYC suburbs, which may have the craziest drivers in the country. So why this rumor? I fear that I’m to blame.

I have gained a reputation as a story-teller, and many of those stories are about my own goofy life. If I do something funny, or stupid, or absentminded, I don’t mind at all, because it will make for a great story at the next party or family function I attend. I’m not sure how this started, but I guess a few years ago, one particularly funny story at a family get-together was about driving, or cars, or something like that, because now the family always wants to hear a “car story.” I’m happy to oblige, so I dig back into my brain to find something that I can make into a fun story.

Hmm, well, I did just get rear-ended by a guy that wasn’t paying attention last month- could that be funny? Well, it was really scary to me, so probably not the funniest story…

How about the time in college when my roommate and I weren’t sure how to jump a car and we accidentally switched the wires, and it was smoking, and the Cy-ride driver got out of the bus to tell us that shouldn’t be happening, and a week later my dad and brother spent like an hour trying to pull-start it around the neighborhood with a yellow rope before we figured out I had simply blown a fuse? Ahhhh, that’s a good one :)

So anyway, I love telling these stories. I love turning unfortunate events into stories for opportunities to make people laugh! The bummer happens when people make assumptions based on these stories- like that I am a bad driver. I guess that’s the downside of self-disclosure. For people that don’t publish their silly escapades for all to know, they can happily go on knowing that no one will know that they accidentally drove off with the gas nozzle still in their car (you know who you are :).) But for me, I guess it’s worth it.

My driving record speaks for itself, but how fun is it to read something so boring?

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Change of Plans

Due to like, a mindlessly wild day at work today, the article about self-disclosure won't be ready until later this afternoon. I hope you all are anxiously awaiting it's arrival. Until then, I'll give links to my fave blogs so you can go check out the sweet stuff they're talking about (lucky ducks- having enough time to blog today. argh) :)

Design Sponge! My fav!

Katie Did

Money Saving Mom

Martha Stewart Craft of the day

Are there sweeter words than "craft-of-the-day?" I think not :)

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Libraries are like Toys

My all-time aesthetic dream is this:

I'm sitting in a worn leather chair, holding a well-read copy of Treasure Island, in a quiet, lively room. The lingering smells of old pages, coffee, and a hint of cigar smoke rest on the outdated chairs, sofas, and end tables. Books of all thickness are scattered about, some in piles and others attempt neat arrangements on shelves that cover most of the wall space. Where there are no books, I admire the paintings and illustrations of names I both recognize and can not pronounce. I read the room like a map and always find places yet undiscovered. Conversations drift in and out as my industrious friends flip pages and consult encyclopedias. There is a calm frenzy to consume the limitless literary delicacies.

Dreaming? Most certainly. And, enter my frustration with the way things are.

I recently found myself in the middle of a delightful conversation with a friend about her hopes to become a writer, when I realized something.

It was advice C.S. Lewis gave about writing. He said something like, 'In order to be a good writer, you must be a good reader.' You must read good writing, in order to recognize good writing. Of course this makes mountains of sense, but less than molehills are made of this philosophy.

See, I don't think very many people would disagree with Lewis. I think we are really good at talking about the importance of brilliant literature and dreadful at follow-through. Case in point: libraries.

Right now, I'm a boarder in a city suburb, so I've toured many new homes. It seems that the trend is to have an office/library somewhere in the front of the house. This gives the house a sophisticated and important air (nevermind the television shrine above the fireplace in the living room) that communicates status, knowledge, and an arrival of sorts.

What I find so interesting (and I see the same tendency in myself) is that these spaces are so rarely used! We collect the titles like Moby Dick and Pride and Prejudice, arrange them artistically, and there the story ends. We move on to more exciting ways to develop our intellect through "Dancing with the Stars" and "Iron Man" and "Grand Theft: Auto."

It's as though we've finally collected every beanie baby and now it's time to move to the next trend - webkins anyone? Everyone (sometimes ashamedly) has the color-coded bins full of toys with no functionality or value except as an antiquated status statement. So, why treat the brilliance of literature like outdated toys?

Because we are still children. We are still attracted to what glitters and distracted by what makes the loudest noise.

My sad confession is that I make decisions opposite my aesthetic dream every day. I consciously decide the mind-numbing activity over the engaging. I also realize my dream is a romantic notion, but I know there are others who respond to the brilliance of fiction and the Truth hidden in history.

I just hope libraries - in their genuine function - never go out of style, because what is found there is far more valuable than trendy toys.

Monday, June 02, 2008

40 days to Life

So, about a month and a half ago I did the unthinkable. Well, the unthinkable for a dairy farmer’s daughter who grew up on steak and potatoes and pie. I went organic. It came about kind of a weird way- through church. This verse kept coming up- Philippians 4:8. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

Originally I thought about doing this for what I put into my brain- trying to really put these words into practice in my life, and see how things would change. The more I thought about this 40 day challenge, the more food came to mind. It might just have been the mid-service hunger that hits me when I realize that I was in too much of a rush to eat breakfast, but food kept coming to mind when I was thinking about really living this verse. Like, what if I only put pure FOODS into my body for 40 days?

They say that 30 days is long enough to make new habits, and I had already decided that I was doing a 40 day trial for a Philippians 4:8 life, so right there in the service, I decided to go for it.
I left church with a spring in my step, pumped to get started on my new project. I started working moving my (HUGE) TV to the attic, and taking my 1st trip to a specialty health food store (only to find out later that it’s definitely the most expensive in town…).

I quickly realized I didn’t really know much about healthy and organic eating, but I knew that refined sugar, fake sweeteners, and white breads were probably a bad idea, so I started with that. No more diet coke for me! The first few days I went through hard-core withdrawal, missing my refined foods like a crazy person.

After the second day, I called my bff Tina’s mom, who knows about all this business. She suggested that I read a book called “What the Bible says about Healthy Living” to get a better idea of what pure foods we should be putting into our bodies. Well, this was just the direction I needed, and I tracked down that book as fast as I could, and started digging in immediately. So much wisdom I’d never known! And it made so much sense! The way that God made foods, that’s the way that they are meant to be eaten by his people! So simple! So I kept making these changes, more and more. Feeling better and better every day.

After a few weeks, I started feeling like I wasn’t missing out… but that maybe everyone else was. I mean, what’s more delicious than fresh fruits and veggies, and almonds, and honey, and well… I could go on :) so now the 40 days have come and gone.

And I can’t imagine going back.

Call me kooky, but I’m in this for the long haul. I’ve fallen in love with my health food stores, my farmers market stands, the treasure hunt all over Des Moines for unprocessed honey. I’m head over heels for cooking and eating without worrying about calories, but instead thinking about health and nutrition. And I’ve accepted the fact that I’m in over my head in this hippie lifestyle. My next steps are making my own laundry detergent, finding un-pasteurized milk via the organic black market, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I joined a co-op soon.

This whole thing started out on a whim, but after 40 days I can’t imagine living any other way for the next 40 years.

Here's just a tidbit of organic wisdom for you (courtesy USDA):

The U.S. Department of Agriculture found that even after washing, some fruits and vegetables consistently carry much higher levels of pesticide residue than others. Based on an analysis of more than 100,000 U.S. government pesticide test results, researchers at the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a research and advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C., have developed the “dirty dozen” fruits and vegetables, above, that they say you should always buy organic, if possible, because their conventionally grown counterparts tend to be laden with pesticides. They cost about 50 percent more — but are well worth the money.

DIRTY DOZEN- things you should buy organic only
Grapes, imported (Chili)
Bell peppers
Other organic foods worth considering:

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Weekly Line-up

As the sun sets golden on this blazing hot Sunday, I wanted to give you a preview for what is coming up this week. We took a bit of a break the past couple days to make some very exciting changes.

Every week on foreignheart we will feature an interview, a creative exploration, life insight (what we're into), an interesting anecdote, philosophy or religion, and a link to something we find interesting.

Each Sunday, we'll send out a weekly line-up so you can anticipate the blog posts for the coming week - and this week you'll find everything from an interview with first-time home buyer's to a cunning (fictional) tale of life, as we might wish to live it. Hope you enjoy!

"40 Days to Life" by Christina
Meet Christina and her 40 day journey to understanding life in the most organic sense. Find out how her focus became less about 40 days and more about life.

"Libraries are Like Toys" by Caroline
Ever wonder why books collect dust? Read about how our leather-laced libraries are just a grown up version of tonka trucks and barbie dollhouses.

"The down-side of self disclosure" by Christina
Have you ever shared something that came back to haunt you? Read about Christina's experiences being a storyteller and what it's like to hear your words repeated... in the wrong context.

"Home Sweet Home: Sitting down with First-Time Homeowners" by Christina
Buying a home can be scary! Read Christina's interview with newlyweds Erin and Danielle, and find out how they are making their first home sweet.

"Adventures of the Life I Wish I Led" by Caroline
Everyone has been asked the question, 'What would you do if you could do anything right now?' and 'Where would you be if you could be anywhere right now?' Well, what if you could live your life that way? Read Caroline's creative journey to see where her fictional path might lead.

"High on Life: Advice for Saturdays" by Caroline
Our Saturdays are often filled with resolutions. If you are like most people, it's a struggle to make it happen. Read about what Caroline has found to make Saturdays count.

Well, that will wrap up our first week's musings. We are so excited to open this little window into our worlds. We hope that you will leave your thoughts as we go along as well.