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.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Where we are...

So, we've been a little detached from the blog and technology lately. Well, I guess maybe me more than Christina, but as you probably know, we are going through some pretty serious changes in our lives. Yesterday, Christina said goodbye to her company for good and today she's decorating a community building for best friend #2's wedding and tomorrow she is leaving for a mission trip to New Mexico. Pretty crazy.

I really don't have any excuses for not writing, except that there are so many things I'd rather do. No offense, eager readers, but I'd rather meet up with my old friends, drive the countryside, or (honestly) sit out on our porch swing, than pin myself down to this silly computer. After bugging and nagging my parents for so long to get the internet, now that they have it there are so many other more interesting things to do...

Like shucking corn.

Today we shucked $100 worth of corn and my grandma and mom cooked, cut, and bagged it. This is how we've grown to be the corn snobs we are - don't ever try to serve us corn from a can! It just doesn't beat sweet corn cut right from the ear and frozen in our freezer.

Anyway, there's my short explanation. Take it or leave it.

Speaking of leaving... Next Thursday will be my last day in the United States and it's starting to sink in. Wow.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Please Pray!

My blogging friend, Jennifer needs prayer for her tiny baby, Stellan. Please pray for his full healing!!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Times are a' changin...




I'm listening to the newest episode of the Boundless show , the online radio show of Boundless, the young adult version of Focus on the Family.

This week's episode talks a lot about friendships changing as people get married, have babies, etc. Has me feeling a little sad... as BF #2 gets married next week (SO EXCITING!) and BF#2 will be in town with her baby. (you know, him?)

Makes me think of that part in PS I love you where all 3 girls are on the boat, and one girl is pregant, one is engaged, and the Hilary Swank character is kind of like, uh, great? I was telling my mom after the movie that this part rang true for me and she said "um, except that girl just lost her husband." Uh, Good point mom :)

And you know what? It has been tough. I think all 3 of us would agree that some of the changes in our lives have been tough to weather together. But we've weathered them. Have we had to adjust our expectations? Definitely. Have we had to realize there are some things we can't really talk about? Sure. But God has blessed us with each other, close to this day.

Still feeling tinge of sadness, though, to be losing my partner in crime to marriage, and the changes it will bring. ~sigh~

Walk down memory lane- Tina's marriage a few years ago!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Beautiful words

Check this out!



It's a "wordle" of my Grandma Avonell's diary during her year as Mother of the Year. My aunt Allison has been typing up her notes, and sent to me (thanks, Allison!)

What beautiful words!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Fast-paced Life of the Country

Some people think cities are lightspeeds ahead when it comes to busy routines, commitments, and straight up activity. In a lot of ways, I have to agree. But, in the few days I've been home I have to say these country folk will put up a solid fight, more than they're given credit!

I stayed with my grandparents last night, thinking we'd have a quiet relaxing evening bird-watching .. and when I pulled up at 8 pm, my grandpa was blowing out the mosquito zapper and my grandma was hard at work cutting the iris's.

Earlier in the day, my gram had come to our house to help paint our living room and my grandpa woke up at 4 am to unload the truck at the Care Center. I can hardly seem to keep track of the days around here - people are zipping everywhere and knee-deep in numerous projects.

It's crazy!

When we finally sat down last night, gram explained her schedule during the school year, when she drives the school van to pick up pre-schoolers. She barely has time for a 15 minute nap in the middle of the day - yowza!

My parents are the same way - remodeling, service projects, church commitments... and last night my dad was helping some neighborhood kids who wanted to show feeder calves. This makes my perspective from Austin a little funny, now that I think about it. I would call or email from my desk and ask a question and my mother would be traipsing about the countryside or in the middle of hauling shingles with the loader. (!)

In some ways, I seem to fit right in ... and in others I seem a strange puzzle piece. But of this I am sure: people do know how to keep busy around here!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Clearing out the Clutter


I've been thinking about clutter recently. You know, my "getting-rid-of-a-bunch-of-my-stuff" kick? I really felt like I was getting somewhere by moving all the things I own into the living room and separating into piles- KEEP, SAVE, and ASK A FASHIONABLE FRIEND. Unfortunately, I had to move all my great piles b/c people were coming over, so I'm afraid if I don't rope my fashionable friend into helping me sort that pile, all the stuff will make it back into the "using but don't know why" pile! My closet is much emptier already, but the tried and true system

1) Do I love it?
2) Do I need it?

Is working nicely. Now if I only had the time to finish the job... Aye aye aye. Anyway, I guess with thinking about decluttering my life, I've also been thinking about decluttering my head. With all the stuff I have going on right now, it's easy to get overwhelmed by all the things to do/ think about/ pray about/ worry about. Really easy. This morning I was praying and trying to figure out how things have gone awry, why I'm feeling less and less triumphant and more and more sick and tired. Anyway, I found a verse in my daily reading that gave me some direction.

Psalm 86:11 says...
Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.
An undivided heart. That's what I need- I need to focus on Him- my relationship with him, and doing my best at everything else.

Another good verse is Psalm 111:4
He has caused his wonders to be remembered; the LORD is gracious and compassionate.
I think, when things get all busy, jumbled, and overwhelming a great way to clear out the clutter is to remember his works. What has he done that you can praise him for? How can you see His hand upon your life? For me, that's a great way to remember Who has it under control, and who's really driving this train of my life.

Oh, Mamma Mia



Last night your two faithful bloggers and their "mamma" went to see Mamma Mia, the movie. I tell you, it was pretty hilarious to see my mom giggling through a movie that, with the amount of inappropriateness involved, one would have thought she'd be boycotting instead of paying good money to watch!

Apparently, the songs just get her! I loved the campy-ness of it all, the singing and dancing, Pierce Brosnan attempting to do both, the amazing colors and textiles, and I admit, the songs :)

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Weekly Lineup

Okay, so we made it through this past week. Christina quit her job and I moved out of Austin (deep sigh) ... and we made it.

I love the encouragement we find in Joshua 1 where we keep seeing the words "take heart" and "be strong and courageous" and " wait on the Lord." Far from our constant demands for quick fixes, we read what it means to be stalwart - a certain strength from only one source.

Well, this week we tarry on, both in Iowa for a short stint. I am actually sitting in Christina's endearing upper floor apartment for the first time and loving it. I get to see all the things she's posted on the blog and - let me tell you - the effect is much sweeter in person!

As we enter into a new phase in our lives (mine in Honduras and Christina's still a bit unknown, but definitely in Des Moines), we are trying to figure out the best way to share our creative experiences on this blog. Lineup? No lineup? Recommendations? Stories? Crafts? Write every day? Multiple times a day?

If you have any sort of advice to this end, please let us know! You can leave your comments here or send us an email... but just let us know your thoughts. More of the same or something different??

For this week, we'll go ahead and let you know a bit what to expect. I'm just going to come out and say we're confused about the election. We don't want to vote for either of the main candidates, so now what do we do? (Please advise!!)

Here are some topics we do claim to know something about...

Adventures of the Life I Wish I Led
Have you read the first two in this series? If not, check here and here. Start looking for this as a regular staple on this post. I've heard some people appreciate this side a bit more than all the philosophy (I don't care what you say, I'm keeping that too!). These short snapshots are just what's on my heart... you know, if wishes came true.

Living Life in the Minimal
Last week, Caroline wrote about inventory-ing her life as she boxed up all her personal possessions in Austin. This week, read about Christina's newfound determination to live life simply... as she navigates piles of clothes, boxes of collectibles, and (in short) a lot of clutter.

Nesting
So, when the last of the kids finally leaves, we've given parents the affectionate term of 'empty nesters,' but there's a lot of nesting that happens in your 20s. When don't have any kids yet and find yourself 'on your own,' you can do a lot to your living space and your life outlook to make yourself feel right at home.

So, we'll try to hit these topics, but be looking for more. With pictures, of course of our adventures, travels, and surprises.

We hope this week you will delight in the blessings!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Online Style- not for the faint of heart!



If you had a lot of fabric, wouldn't this idea be awesome with the craft ideas I've given you the last few days? perfect for an apartment, where you want to make your child's room magical, but aren't allowed to paint. I have had this pic on my desktop for ages, I love it so :)

Sidenote: Spent last night "rocking out" with my friends in the band Vow of Silence. The music was great, the company was amazing, the dancing and moshing by hilarious friends of mine made me cry I was laughing so hard (I'm going to want to see those pictures!) and I drove all the way home with a big old smile on my face.

And arrived home to some blessings from the Lord in my mailbox! Thank you, Lord! Oh, and along with the blessings? Two samples from the Walmart website. What were the samples? One was a men's bodywash, and one was a "serenity" adult underpant in a box too big to fit in the mailslot. Along with my couponing, I've also been signing up for samples of products. Even though these are kind of weird products to be excited about, one never knows when they'll be invited to a "over-the-hill" party, and I'm sure that the adult underpant will come in very handy when I get said invitation :)

I'm sure Caroline would love your prayers, as her and Mom pack up and drive back home to Iowa from Austin! She's had such a wonderful time in Austin, and it will be so sad to leave...

it's all about the people

So, I had long-winded, philosophical thoughts about taking inventory of my life... about how I am sending four boxes with 336 items to Honduras, including three throw pillows, three pairs of jeans, one box of tea, one highlighter, and one bottle of ibuprofen. I was going to talk about the sobering effect of counting each necklace and trinket and dress. I was probably going to end up in a rant about how we need so little, but accumulate so much.

But, after last night all I really want to do is talk about my friends Ingrid and Oliver who helped me pack last night.



They are not just some of the greatest neighbors I've ever had, but they also remind me about the simplicity of life. Last night, as I sat next to Ingrid eating delicious brownies with ice cream, she turned to me and said, "I really love you very much!"

Out of the blue, just like that. It was hard to answer all the questions about my leaving. 'Why' Is such a hard thing to understand and make sense of. I felt a little better when I set up their skype account so that we could talk through our computers, but when Ingrid and Oliver jumped in my car to say, "We will just travel with you!" I was a bit overwhelmed.

I guess if I really want to bring it back around to my inventory, last night just reminded me all the more that my 'stuff' has no imprint... it's all about the people. That's about as minimal as you can get.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

It's not personal, it's business: {continued}


Oh, yeah. Told my bosses that I'm leaving, and they took it really well.
Thank you, Jesus!

{insert dance of happiness}

Gotta have faith- Finished wall word project!





Here's the finished product from my project I devised from here and here.

I used the process from the second link... here's the directions.


DISCLAIMER- I'm not completely happy with it, because of course I cut some corners... so I think I'll be re-doing it with better fabric and actually trace the letters onto the fabric. Because I kind of made up this project- I printed out letters pretty big (bigger than one sheet of paper- you can go upload a pdf of the font and word you want to here and print out in the size you want) and cut them out, pinned them to the fabric, and cut the fabric. This of course did not work very well. Next time I will trace the letters onto the fabric and then cut.
Because the letters are held on by water and corn starch, I can just peel them off, wipe off the wall with a cloth, and do it over.

Happy crafting!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Moving out, saying goodbye, and a little hip hop

My sister says I'm cheesy. I like to say I'm sentimental. Whatever it is, it's got me in tears right here in my office. I just put all my office personal belongings into a small copy paper box.

"Tengo miedo." Those are the only words I could speak through the tears after the Spanish service on Sunday. Pastor Omar and a small group formed a circle and prayed over me. My friend Rosario, who has the sweetest of smiles, reassured me that they would be praying and God would watch over me. I don't think I have fear (tengo miedo) because I doubt the Lord's provision, I am quite planning on Him actually. I think my fear and confusion comes out of a kind of duality I feel leaving this place.

I tried to explain it last night when I had dinner with some students (and now friends:)... I am definitely looking forward to this next phase in my life - looking forward to the work God will do in and through me - looking forward to the lessons I will stumble through - looking forward to adventure and a bit of the unknown. But at the almost exact same moment, I am definitely attached to the kindred spirits I have found in Austin - the community of believers - the mission field at this University - the co-workers - the landscape - the friendships.

I know that probably makes no sense. My friend reminded me that when I delight in God, He gives the desires of my heart (Ps. 37:4), and then I had to say I guess I'm confused why my desires are so exclusive - to stay and to go.

Tonight's a great argument for "stay." Instead of a sappy going away party, we had a talent competition just my style!! I waged performance war at the first ever Southside's Got Talent talent show. I performed in a gymnastics trio routine set to the music "I want you back," by Jackson 5. And I also sang a duet, "Changed for Good" from WICKED with my friend Katelin. The song, if you haven't heard it, comes as the two express their close friendship, but decide to go separate ways. I'll played Glenda and Katelin sang for Elphaba. I'm so glad it was an upbeat night - I don't think I could have taken any more emotion. There were tears, but I tried to keep them to a minimum.

I thought I would want to post pictures, but this little video beats everything else out. Watch and see how Katelin and Jimmy own this routine. They didn't have the lifts of Team Reed, but they were tearing up that grass patch!
video

Pretty sweet, right?

In the meantime, I'm only half-sane as I scurry, pack, forget things, misplace things, make lists, inventory, weigh boxes, plan training, schedule meetings, transfer information, and oh yes - say goobyes... it is going to be very, very crazy the next three days.

Online Style!


I've started a new project on the house... It's a mixture of this...




(Taken from here)



And a little bit of this...




(Taken from here)





Can you guess what project I did in the house?

I'll post a picture tomorow!

Monday, July 14, 2008

It’s Not Personal, It’s Business {moving on up… outta my cube}






I’ve been feeling anxious this weekend about giving my 2 weeks at work. I know that it’s what I’m supposed to do- the timing is right, it’s been coming for a long time, and I feel confident that this is the right choice… but I keep thinking about what I’ll say, and how they’ll react. I keep thinking about that line in “You’ve Got Mail” that the Tom Hanks character tells the Meg Ryan character… It’s not personal, it’s business, It’s not personal, It’s business. I keep telling myself this.



Christina, you are not the first person to move on from a job!



Christina, you are not irreplaceable! They’ll be fine!



Christina, they won’t hate you!



Christina, IT’S NOT PERSONAL, IT’S BUSINESS.




The problem is, it is personal to me. I’m not a businesswoman. I think that’s one of the reasons I’m moving on from here, truthfully. I’m not a hardened business-lady. I’m not a knock-down drop-out cutthroat, getting the sale. It is personal to me. I feel bad that I’m leaving, and they’ll be left in the lurch. I feel bad that they’ve taken the time to train me, being patient with my struggles in this field of work. In general, I feel bad.



And I think what I’ve figured out is, you know, it is personal to me. I can be patient with the fact that I’m emotional going into this, because even though I don’t like it here, I have done my best and feel a loyalty to this company because it has been my job to do a good job here. And that is OK.



In church yesterday- the pastor gave a message that might as well have been just to me. Thank you Lord, for getting my behind to church yesterday! It was all about how when we follow God, it might not be all hearts and unicorns (my paraphrase)… there may be struggles. There may be times when we don’t understand his plan. With Joseph (that I wrote about here,) he had to wait something like 17 YEARS to see God’s plan in the whole sordid deal. This makes me feel a tiny bit {sarcasm} different about the situation I find myself in. For the most part, I DO see God’s hand in where he’s taking me. I am so thankful that he is showing me the light in front of my feet on this path! And the parts I don’t understand? Those parts that are difficult for me on this journey?



Well, then it’s time to reference these verses the pastor gave…



Psalm 9:10



1 Peter 5:7



John 15:4

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Weekly Lineup

We hope you liked last week's posts - we are having so much fun letting out some of our creative bursts and philosophical ramblings for others to see! This is a week for ch ch changes for both Christina and me, so we are going to post around that as a central theme. We are overwhelmed with both stresses and blessings, but we know our hope is secure in the Lord - and PRAISE the LORD for that!

Check out this week's lineup and read each day to keep up with all the changin'!  

Moving on up… out of my cube
To say Christina is in the middle of a transition is a bit of an understatement. There is a LOT moving and shaking in her life, so read about how she is staying grounded and where she is finding joy.  

Moving on out... from my new favorite city
Almost exactly one year ago, I made the Southern trek and days after connected with Katelin, who led me to meet my core group of Austin friends. I jumped in without hesitation and now, a year later, I am saying some emotional goodbyes. In a rare center stage moment, I convinced my community group to have a talent show instead of a farewell party! Read about all my mixed emotions...  

Election: Who to choose when neither seems right
Okay, so we've been teasing you with this whole election idea for a couple weeks now and have not delivered. Apologies all around! It's just that, politics isn't the first or easiest thing for us to write about. But, the thing is, we want to be informed and we want to encourage others to be informed as well.  

Labeling my life one box at a time: The making of a minimalist
I own one tube of insect repellent. I own one bottle of Tums. I own nineteen necklaces. That's right - I am taking inventory of everything I own. The original motive was mandatory - so my packages would pass the x-ray screenings on their way to Honduras. But, now I'm finding conviction and liberation in knowing just what I've collected and stored over this year.  

The Simple Life: Clearing out the clutter
Christina is always great with new ideas, but this one is a must-read. Her latest project - getting rid of half her stuff - sounds a little more intense. And it is. Christina is getting serious about the clutter in her life, and she's starting with clothes. One pile for 'keep'. One pile for 'give away'. And one pile for 'ask a fashion-conscious friend' (probably not her sister Caroline!).

I think that should about do it. No guarantees on these posts, folks. We are admitting from the get-go of this week that our limits are creeping up fast. But enjoy what you find!

As always, feel free to comment or email - we'd love to hear from you!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Start the day off right




WHOLE WHEAT/ OAT BRAN PANCAKES

2 cups whole wheat/ oat bran flour blend
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, well beaten
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon honey
2 tablespoons olive oil or applesauce
I add in about 1 teaspoon each of ground flax seeds and wheat germ too

Stir together dry ingredients. Add eggs, milk, and oil. Stir until dry ingredients are moistened (batter may be lumpy). Cook on preheated griddle until bubbles form and edges start to dry. Flip and cook until lightly browned.

I've been making whole wheat pancakes for about a year now, and frankly, no one really wants to eat them with me because they are very, well, whole-wheaty. I think I found the solution this a.m. when I used my new oat bran mix flour. It's basically unbleached, unenriched whole wheat flour, and oat flour mixed up. I swear these pancakes were as light and fluffy as any white flour pancakes- so delish. Plus, look at the ingredient list. All healthful ingredients- love it :)

Also- my roommate moved out today. The house is too quite and empty, so I'm blasting praise music and making piles all over the house trying to utilize all the new space to get some organization back in my life.

If you are spending time today trolling the blogs- check out my new friend!


My Charming Kids

Friday, July 11, 2008

Things on my mind/ Why i'm not returning people's phone calls



Best friend baby, Ti. Isn't he just amazing? I love him so. Can't wait to see him at (other) best friend wedding next month!

1) Giving 2 weeks at job, next week

2) Mission Trip, in August

3) Roommate is moving out tomorow

4) Accepted p/t position yesterday for when I return from trip, trusting God and applying for other p/t positions

5) House-sitting in Ankeny all week this week

6) Budget crunchdown to save for job-quitting and mission-trip

7) Sister moving to Honduras in a few weeks

8) Planning Meg's bach party with other bestie, Tina

Hmm, I think those are the biggies. Lots going on, eh? I wouldn't say I'm stressed- I have my moments but all in all I know that this is God's best plan for me, and I'm thrilled to be along for the ride. LOVING IT!

{going to lunch now- will write about one of these topics when I get back :) }

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Preparation, Packing, and Peril

Okay, so I couldn't think of another "p" word, so I just used peril. .. I thought it would give this post an illusive, mysterious tone (completely undeserved as you'll soon find out).



I've been running around like a crazy fool lately, trying to get ready for my most Southern move yet. Per instructions from my future employer, all my things must fit in boxes equaling no more than 30 cubic feet, specifically labeled and every item inventoried (so that it can make it past the x-ray machine). This has led to an all-out inventory of all my belongings, which has been quite the ordeal. It didn't take me more than a night and a half (which thrilled my inner-minimalist), but still, to look at everything on paper is kind of sick. I have so much stuff.



Here's a picture of my packing thus far:




I packed the bedspread and pillows right off my bed!



In other preparation news, I have been spending some decent time in patchwork Spanish conversations with my housemate and her guests from Colombia. The 8-year-old Paula just laughs and shakes her head when my efforts frustrate her.



I'm also trying to study the psychology text I'll be using. I have the unfortunate tendency to get way ahead of myself, planning activities before I fully read the content.



Well, this must be short. The only peril I face right now is fitting everything in! Today and tomorrow my office is getting painted and I can't be in there for the fumes. Tomorrow I'm having a morning worship service at Mt. Bunnell with my friend Joy and then going to Fiesta Texas with Adela, Losmarina, and Paula in the afternoon. I'm gearing up for a long day.



If you're interested in my adventure in Tegucigalpa and want to follow along in my journey, I do have a website: Adventures in Tegucigalpa. Don't expect anything spectacular, or even ordinary. I just wanted to make information about background, updates, PDF newsletters, pictures, and other interesting tidbits available for those who were interested.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Adventures of the Life I Wish I Led, Part 2

If you missed the first little blurb in this series, check out part 1. I'll just say again that this is a joyful exploration into my life as it would be if wishes came true. It's not meant to be realistic or prophetic, but just my hearts desires at this point in time.

This afternoon unfolds as beautiful and tragical as a flowering lily, whose beginning and end span a few short hours...

I shook the poetic nonsense from my mind to focus on the task at hand, or packs at hand rather. I somehow managed to recruit seven 14 and 15-year-olds for this maiden voyage into the mountains of Celaque National Park for a week of adventuring and soul-searching. Just then I had nine packs and contents covering the floor of our small home. I had another hour or so to get everything done and cleared so I could replace the table and chairs for dinner.

My former employers would be in complete shock at the lack of risk management paperwork I went through for students to jump on my little plane and fly out of their village with myself and Jeremy the only chaperones. I suppose Jeremy's medical background provided a certain level of confidence, but our backpacking experience was limited to the trips we'd taken together.

We managed to scramble and borrow amongst missionary friends to come up with all our supplies. We ended up buying a few necessary things, but as I attached the last Nalgene I couldn't help but think of this trip in terms of that silly Mastercard ad: priceless.

I had presented the idea after a conversation with dear Flora prompted some intense prayer time. After Jeremy and I talked and prayed, we knew the Lord was leading us to offer an experience outside the village and away from routines. Flora was one of our favorite and most avid pupils. Though her family wasn't much interested in church, they were glad to see her being useful, so she spent most of her free time at the meeting house and on our open front porch. She was so hungry for Truth - her questions seemed to have no end! Jeremy and I spent hours with her in Scripture, but her questions were finally exhausted. She looked at us, both vulnerable and scared, "I know this is right."

Our swell of joy and gladness was quickly tempered by Flora's resistance to any kind of decision. Her fear for her family overwhelmed her understanding of "right." She remained our most regular visitor, but our discussion (especially regarding spiritual things) stayed safely philosophical.

So, with the summer months coming and school ending, we knew the parents might agree to a week away. After four years in Yamaranguila, we had all but been adopted by several gracious families. Though some were still skeptical, seven families agreed.

I placed each pack neatly up against the North wall and went over the list once again. Jeremy would be home in about 15 minutes and we were meeting the kids and their families that night in the meeting house for a final farewell before heading out bright and early the next morning.

Here's part III.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

"The Shack" built on shoddy foundation, according to Challies

Heard about all the hype about the best-selling book- The Shack?

Proceed with caution, my friends.

Check out our new guide to discerning reading on the right, courtesy Tim Challies. After reading this article about The Shack, I was more than motivated to be discerning in my reading. Tim Challies has an amazing website, Discerning Reader, with book reviews and resources, if you want to check it out.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Relationship Strife: Cause and Cure

Yesterday, I went to the 9:15 service before I got my Spanish on at the Spanish service. I knew they were studying James, but I was so glad to be blessed with the message from James 4:1-10 on relationship strife. James is so perfectly practical - he gets down to the nitty gritty details of our spiritual lives. And this passage in James really reminded me that God designed our hearts and minds in such a way (His image) that we seek to live in harmony with others around us. Though not always the case, our relationships should reflect our Creator.

James writes about the frustrations of relationship strife, but re-directs the question to one of personal nature.
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you?
Our relational struggles often come out of our own personal issues about wanting things we don't have.

You want something  but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
So, it's kind of a dreary cycle: We want something we do not have -> we get jealous and covet and hate -> we still do not have it -> this leads us to quarreling and fighting -> we do not ask God -> when we finally do ask God, it's because we want for our own selfish pleasures -> then there will inevitably be more jealousy, fighting, and self-seeking.

I know - it sounds so base, but this is what I do left to my own devices. Sometimes I get so down on myself about relationships - feeling guilty about not keeping in touch and wishing I could be more to more people. What I am realizing after reading and re-reading this passage is that if I'm truly desiring good relationships, I have to be serious about my personal relationship with the Lord. Instead of trying to find external reasons why I quarrel, I have to first examine my heart. Francis Schaeffer writes in True Spirituality about sin always starting inside (often unseen) before it manifests itself in an external act, like harsh words.
James gives a painful admonition when he says,
 "You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely?"

What then? We are a depraved people - as Isaiah said he was, "a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips." We all feel the physical separation from our Savior, but what are we to do?

James responds with a reminder that God gives us more grace and a reference to Proverbs 3:34 ...
"God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble."
Humility? Is that really the key? My pastor talked about perfect submission... that we would come before the Lord and say, "You can have me, all of me." The practical things will follow: resisting the devil, drawing near to God, cleansing through repentance, grieving the weight of sin. God promises to lift us up when we humble ourselves before Him.

Somewhere along the way, we got convinced that relationships were about other people. But, I really don't think that's how God has designed us. We are made to worship our Creator first, in personal relationship. Relationships with others grow wearisome when we are not living in submission to the Lord.

Oh, heavens, how I need help with this one! Especially now when I feel all a jumble!


Sunday, July 06, 2008

Weekly Lineup

Well, folks, can you believe another week has come and gone? Let me tell you - denial doesn't work. The days still peel off the calendar with not a touch of feeling. I'm consistently weepy if I let my thoughts wander in any sort of farewell direction, so I try to stick to safer subjects. For this week, I can assure you I'll overflow at least once onto these electronic pages, but here are some other things that you can (hopefully) expect.

Strife: Cause and Cure
Read Caroline's reaction to a sermon on James 4:1-10 about the root of our troubled relationships. How much of our relational confusion could be solved by the advice James gives?

Hostess with the Most(less)?
Some people really can throw a party ... and then there are others that are pretty obviously gifted in other areas. How can we be hospitable, even when it's not our forte? How can we make our homes happy and welcoming without breaking the bank or overwhelming guests?

Adventures of the Life I Wish I Led, Part II
If you read the first part, then you'll be wondering where the next wish will take me - Michigan, Iowa, Honduras, who knows? We've established I'm a missionary... I work in some sort of education complex with a husband who is some sort of medical doctor, and I have some sort of granola fashion style. Let's see what's next!

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 motivational speeches and slogans. Well, we may not know more than the next guy, but we're working on it.

Okay, that about wraps it up. Definitely still expect some surprises - we don't have this planning thing down pat yet, but hopefully we will keep fine-tuning the process. As my departure for Honduras gets ever closer, I'm thinking I might need to do a little extra blogging for updates and things. So, look for that on here or for a link to another site. Hope you are all having a HAPPY monday!

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Stars and Stripes

Okay, for those of you waiting for the political unraveling I hinted at earlier this week will have to wait a little longer. Christina and I want to make sure to do some more research before we take any philosophical position. But, in perfect patriotism, I joined several thousands of Austinites to watch fireworks over the lower Colorado River.

I sat with my friends Lydia, Scott, and my friend Shyle from San Diego in front of a most entertaining older couple. We heard the expected exclamations throughout the show, "Oh my! Look at the blue!" and "Wow, it's still sparkling!" and "Oh, look at that one!" and "Ooo that one is pretty!" There was a certain, short-lived comraderie established walking amongst the masses to and from the Lamar Street bridge. It's an amazing thing, really - living in the city among so very many people. People of all kinds and shapes and backgrounds and worldviews. There is a reason why revolution often times starts in cities - in part the sheer number of people and in part the ease and necessity of gatherings. Hmmm... a thought for further reflection.

With Shyle in town, we've been doing a lot of walking (which I LOVE) and falling into conversation along the way. On one wandering, we started talking about how lovely it is for friends to meet for discussion. The more we talked, we found ourselves saying, "Oh, I forget the name of that author..." and "What's that movie?" And we wondered if in a few years our memory would be so dependent on technology that we couldn't actually hold intelligent conversations without it. Scary, isn't it?

Makes me want to turn things off and get out more. Speaking of getting out - today Shyle, Lydia and I went to the Farmer's Market and then spent the afternoon floating down the Guadalupe River.. the adventure ended with about 20 minutes of downpour, but such is what memories are made of, right? Then we came back to Austin to see the infamous bats flee the Congress bridge by the millions.

We about to continue our adventure, but I didn't want to go too long without an update. I guess this has little really to do with patriotism or any singular theme, but it is an update nonetheless.

Oh! And before I fail to mention it, we had a pretty close encounter with a 'star' last night. I took a picture of my friend Scott with her - Mischa Barton - I guess she's on the TV show "The OC." I don't really know her, but apparently other people do. She looked very normal close up. You know what they say...

Tomorrow I will hopefully get a lineup out for you!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Chess and Life

Last weekend after a lazy afternoon at the art festival, I headed over to the west side to have dinner, and a friendly game of chess with my friends Katie and Byron at their lovely townhouse. I didn’t know that the chess part of the deal until after dinner (I have never played, and am notoriously bad at remembering rules for games like that,) but played along and tag-teamed it with Katie against Byron.

It was so fun, and interesting, playing with them! Katie was getting so worked up, and stressing out about every single move. I, of course, being 90% uncompetitive, just sat happily; making suggestions and watching them agonize over their next moves. It was funny seeing my friends in this way- usually I would think Byron is the more competitive one, but I saw that this was not the case at all. Byron would sit back and smile, waiting for her to move, and she would fake- curse under her breath (awww- flurg! Etc. :)) and get all worked up over the death of a pawn to an opposing piece. When she left the room, he made a comment to me about how that was her downfall in chess- she doesn’t see the big picture and she gets too worked up over all the insignificant losses in the game. Always playing in reaction to his moves, and not keeping the big picture in mind.

I didn’t really think much about it, until church the next day- when the sermon was about encountering problems in life. It was crazy because I was hearing that same thing- why are we getting so caught up on the little things, and assuming the worst? Our pastor talked about Genesis 42- when Joseph’s dad Jacob was lamenting because Joseph was asking for Jacob to send Benjamin to Egypt. From his vantage point, everything had gone wrong, and it was about to get worse. To give some background to the story, Joseph’s brothers had sold him into slavery many years back. They told Jacob he was dead, and of course it was heartbreaking for Jacob. When Joseph got to Egypt (where he was taken,) he had a rough life including accusations of rape and time in prison. After some years in jail, Joseph was able to rightly interpret some dreams of the Pharoah, and was given a place of high honor. The dreams foretold of a nationwide drought and famine, that it became Joseph’s job to prepare the country for. Fast-forward, and Joseph’s family back in Canaan desperately needed food and supplies, and some of Joseph’s brothers went to Egypt to get them. Joseph commanded that they go home and bring the brother they had left in order to get supplies, and that’s where the story picks up.

In Genesis 42: 36, it says “Their father said to them, "You're taking everything I've got! Joseph's gone, Simeon's gone, and now you want to take Benjamin. If you have your way, I'll be left with nothing."

The thing is- Jacob was wrong. He wouldn’t be left with nothing. Joseph was alive and well, which Jacob would soon find out. Benjamin would go to Egypt, come back safely. And the family would be spared from the famine that plagued their country.

God had a bigger, better plan than Jacob could see. He was working in all of it, the whole situation, to bring glory to his name, and safety to his people.

When all the brothers were finally in Egypt with Joseph, he finally let them know the secret that he’d been keeping.
In verses 4-8 of chapter 43, it says… "Come closer to me," Joseph said to his brothers. They came closer. "I am Joseph your brother whom you sold into Egypt. But don't feel badly; don't blame yourselves for selling me. God was behind it. God sent me here ahead of you to save lives. There has been a famine in the land now for two years; the famine will continue for five more years—neither plowing nor harvesting. God sent me on ahead to pave the way and make sure there was a remnant in the land, to save your lives in an amazing act of deliverance. So you see, it wasn't you who sent me here but God. He set me in place as a father to Pharaoh, put me in charge of his personal affairs, and made me ruler of all Egypt. "

And what happened to Jacob? Well, after much prodding from God, he and the rest of the family moved to Egypt as well. And the story ends pretty well…

Genesis 47:11-12 “Joseph settled his father and brothers in Egypt, made them proud owners of choice land—it was the region of Rameses (that is, Goshen)—just as Pharaoh had ordered. Joseph took good care of them—his father and brothers and all his father's family, right down to the smallest baby. He made sure they had plenty of everything.”

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Feeling Depleted

I'm feeling a bit depleted tonight. I'm not altogether sure why. There's this strange cycle (and don't try to tell me it's menstrual) where every once in awhile I find myself in the same rut. Different surroundings, different circumstances, but the same old rut. The rut is kind of a mental thing. But tonight is one of those ruts, I guess.

Today I was reviewing the staff manual for Pinares and some things caught me a bit off guard. I'm not really sure how I'm going to get everything boxed, labeled, and sent to Miami by July 25... or how I'm going to arrange all my finances here in the States... or how I'm going to get all the teaching materials I need... or how I'm going to even know the teaching materials I'll need... or where I'm going to stay for the first two days I am in Tegus.

Lots of unknowns, I suppose. But, I don't really think the unknowns fuel the depleted feeling I get when my strange cycle lands me in a rut. Like I said, the circumstances are always different.

The depleted feeling comes when I let other things steal my joy. There is pure delight in the Lord, but I alone decide whether to enjoy this precious gift or offer it to idol thieves.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Office Dances

We've been doing a lot of strategizing, re-structuring, and transitioning in my office. Those are big fancy words for a lot of change. We hired three new people an the entire physical space has been turned upside-down in an effort to make our workplace more team-oriented. I don't object in the slightest to these changes. Actually, I welcome them because it challenges the paths we've made in the carpet thus far. Now we have to take different routes to find people and personally I think change in routine is very healthy.

But, there is a down-side to all this changing. Well, first off, I was unfortunately out of this office when the changes happened. So, when I arrived yesterday I found everything stacked, boxed, and placed neatly about a different desk in a different office, which I now shared with one of our dear secretaries. I don't really have any complaints - I love the secretary and I'm secretly hoping she'll help me work on my dance moves because she used to be an instructor. But, as you can imagine, jumping into work after a two-week absence is hard enough without having to wonder where I put files.

But, that was all redeemed today when I realized that the new office has space enough in the middle for dancing. Yep, you heard right: dancing. I love to dance. I especially love to dance in the office. I used to make up a "dance of the day" to amuse the secretaries and they absolutely love it (I definitely suggest this!). My friend Katelin and I often email different dance instructions to one another... it's really actually therapeutic. Katelin has typed me down off some pretty severe office ledges with her intense dance instruction. Well, today I needed some therapy and Katelin came through. She sent me some lengthy instructions with lots of emotion infused.

So, I did what anyone would do, I turned to my secretary and asked if she wanted to see a dance. She, of course, said yes and off I went. The last instruction was deep breathing with my eyes to the ceiling until my head was calm. I sure came away with a grin and I'm positive my secretary loved it, too.

It just goes to show that my brother and I are nearly always right about one thing, "Be the most awkward person in the room; it makes everyone else feel a little better."

It made me feel better, too. I hardly noticed the changes. Between the dancing and the new Sigur Ros album, I was in another world.