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, November 16, 2009

Christmas Conspiring

Okay, so I've been making a pretty big deal about the idea of making instead of buying this Christmas. To be honest, I probably didn't spend that much to begin with. But, I just love the thought of being intentional about 1) making every gift thoughtful and 2) saving money with a purpose in mind.

Advent Conspiracy is what got me started on all this, thanks to a rare but beautiful conversation with my sister. Just seeing the numbers in blaring bold on the promo video (I think I posted it recently) made me question my spending habits. But, the idea really is not to boycott Christmas. The idea is to spend time with others creating meaningful gifts and then making an intentional choice to buy at least one less gift this year (with the money going toward a worthy cause).

I admit, it's easy to get carried away and ship Christmas gift-giving off in one of those extremely expensive mailer boxes with all the unnecessary wrapping paper and frivolous bows. But, that's not really the idea, either.

The idea is to bring the true meaning back into this beautiful, history-altering holiday. I don't know, maybe for you the meaning never left. For me, I have found such delight in the community-gathering, gift-making, cause-inspiring journey to really worship during this Christmas season.

I wanted to recommend some of my favorite places to go for gift ideas:
CraftBits (super creative, easy to use, and lots of different funky ideas)
Etsy (this is a store, but also an idea paradise for creative types)
rethinking Christmas (people are posting new DIY gift ideas here all the time)
Not Martha (these ideas are great, practical, and not mainstream Martha Stewart:)
Gift Weblog (can get pricey when you buy, but not when you make:)

If you think something like this sock monkey is worth much more handmade... go check out how you can make it happen!

Well, I'm turning into some strange version of a young spinster - reading cooking magazines, crafting all over my floor, and saving the strangest scraps that could possibly be used in a future gift. Ah, the blessedly simple life of a scrounger:)

Happy Conspiring!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

I slept at my neighbor's friday night

The explanation is too much for 10:30 pm to handle, but I will give the short version. Friday night we had an outreach event for 7-9 grades. The theme was video games (I have no idea why) and we were supposed to come dressed as characters. I (having no knowledge whatsoever and am still truly thankful) decided to dress as Mario and I recruited some 9th graders to join me in my shenanigans (below).The night was beautiful. Crazy fun times playing games, lots of laughter, almost 70 kids showed up (a surprise from the mere 20 that actually signed up). A valiant 9th grader gave the message about what it means to understand how great our Father's love is for us... and how we should move on from merely speaking our salvation to experiencing the abundant life God is waiting to give us. Everything - even the bus ride down the mountain - was beautiful.

And then I walked the short distance from the street to my house and realized I didn't have my house keys.

My roommate was gone and wouldn't be back until very late.

Oh, yes, I'm still in my Mario outfit.

So, I leave my two bags at my neighbor's house (with whom I've exchanged merely neighborly conversation) and set out to waste a bit of time at the grocery store. Until it closed at 9:00 pm.

I sat out on the stoop for awhile. Thinking, dozing, and wondering if I looked like a homeless person.

Then at 10:20 I finally realized it would make much more sense to wait inside than out, so I rang my neighbor's bell. I knew they were awake because I'd been hearing the television the whole time I was on the stoop. They are a bit older and like to listen to their TV slightly above a 'reasonable volume.' So, in I went to watch Spanish dubbed movies and drink peach sweetened tea until 12 midnight when we kind of looked at each other and said, "well, what should we do?"

Long story short, I slept in their spare bedroom (which hadn't been used in years). During the whole ordeal, I was thinking "how awkward is this!" But, you know what? I was also thinking, "Man, I live here. I really live here and I really awkwardly spent the night at my neighbor's house." I kinda dig it.

Oh, I must add a little note: Yesterday, I met up with three students to make sushi and then conspire over Christmas gifts (www.adventconspiracy.org). We started at 12:30. I got back this morning at 8:30 am. Whew!

Tonight I will sleep in my bed!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

dream squashers

Alright, folks. I'm losing steam. Something has GOT to be wrong when I sit down at 7 pm and all I want to do is crawl under my covers with a warm mug of tea and drift off where it is safer. Where dream squashers can't find me.

Do you know what I mean when I say dream squashers?
These creepy, powerful things sneak up without warning and the antidote is extremely illusive. These dream squashers are not necessarily people or institutions or conversations. But, then again, they can be found in all these things.

Dream squashers make their way into your mind and then let loose on your dreams with a mallet like that childhood game of Whac-A-Mole. Every time a dream pops up through the tedious surface of everyday, a dream squasher is there with a heavy mallet to end whatever hope of life the dream ever had.

Do you know of these dream squashers? They are evil little things. Sometimes they've got the dream squashed before I can ever really get my hands on what it is exactly. Other times the dream has mysteriously crept past the menacing mallet so I can see it in full view... only to watch the dreadful sight as it is destroyed entirely.

Of my dream squashers, I am aware of several: doubt, busy-ness, hopelessness, resources, inadequacy, the little voice that says, "you shoot too darn high," peers, the status quo, adulthood, students, maturity, procrastination, laziness, tiredness, facebook, envy, pride, fear, FEAR is a big one

Let me bring it around... all the way around so I can look my dream squashers right in their mallet clinching faces. If I'm honest, then sometimes all my dreams conspire together in my mind to squash everything just for some peace and quiet.

For the past couple days, I've felt a bit this way. Last night, I came home from parent-teacher conferences with a solid list of 5 things to do. FIVE things in the course of several hours did not seem too much to ask. But, there I collapsed on my bed with the champion dream squasher cheering itself in the quiet of my mind where no more dreams of world changing could erupt. Maybe that's why I've been so tired... maybe coming up with dreams and then watching them get squashed is very draining on one's spirit. I'm not sure, I just know I don't like dream squashers one bit.

As a direct challenge to all those sneaky devils, I'm posting this video in favor of a brilliant movement called Advent Conspiracy. It's made me dream about how I can make this Christmas less about consumption and more about compassion.

Will you help me defy the dream squashers??

Monday, November 09, 2009

Days I hate being a girl (youth worker)

Christina here, guest-blogging for Caroline. An annoyance of today turned into a little bit of a rant, but it's a glimpse into my life, so enjoy! Feel free to comment about what bugs you about being a girl today!

-Days when you're in a business conversation with someone and they can't keep their eyes off your chest. Even though you're very modestly dressed. And your guy coworkers notice this exchange. Awkward and disgusting.
-Days when I can't walk as fast as my (guy) coworkers because I like to wear heels and not tennis shoes every.single.day.
-Days when I have to worry about why the sophomore boys want to hug me.
-Days when I have to hear about pooping more than I'd like (aka any.)
-Days when we are going swimming and I have to spend lots of time finding a modest-enough swimsuit to be around high school boys. AKA usually a tank top and shorts. While my co-workers run around shirtless.
-Days when I start making lists in my head because the topic of conversation turns to MMA. Again. :)

There are also MANY days I absolutely love being a girl (youth worker.) But today is not necessarily one of those days.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

a few things I've failed at

1. angel food cake
2. deadlines
3. sewing projects
4. punctuality
5. temper
6. grudges
7. commitments
8. making correct change
9. understanding mumbling taxi drivers
10. being 100% honest with myself and others
11. thoughts free of judgment
12. using circumstances to get ahead
13. letting someone look bad so I look good
14. never procrastinating
15. talking about doing good less than actually doing good

this is simultaneously liberating and gross... my point is summed up in this quote from a John Piper sermon,
“...mercy comes from a heart that has first felt its spiritual bankruptcy, and has come to grief over its sin, and has learned to wait meekly for the timing of the Lord...”
Tonight I'm taking stock of my accounts - really looking things over and tallying and adding and crunching numbers like my college level statistics course taught me well. No matter how I crunch it, I come up with the same spiritual sum: bankrupt.

I am so thankful God can take an admission of spiritual bankruptcy and use it to show us how merciful He is... in turn allowing us to be truly merciful to others.

Tomorrow is a new day, folks.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

overflow of crumpled hearts

art from funkartqueen again:)

This is a work in progress...
minutes brimming empty
where wandering thoughts
arrest a scattered spirit
and deposit a soul ill at ease

the overflow speaks, sputters
out from crumpled hearts
to fall misshapen on top
the ground, mud-covered

a lone wilted, weary traveler
dumps heavy burdens of cold stone
alongside hearts mistaken
for quiet love and mercy tender

an inclined ear to pity's plea
awake and tend the battle
a wise one must in wartime make
a firm stand for what most matters

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

what if God doesn't like cookies?

I just finished making the above (ultimate chocolate chip cookie) for tomorrow's Hands and Feet meeting. I am becoming a huge fan of allrecipes.com (and all the suggestions posted by users who have tried the recipes. For this recipe I added oatmeal and switched the baking soda for baking powder. They came out delicious - just ask my tummy!

Where does God fit in to this little weekly baking session? Well, it all goes back to last week at Bible study. Though the number of girls who attend varies, we are always sure about two things: we will eat something delicious and we will study/question/read/wonder about the book of Malachi. I picked up the study, called Blemished, in a Lifeway bookstore on my way out of Indianapolis (I can thank God for that ridiculously confusing 420 loop). It initially caught my eye because Malachi is the last words God spoke before going silent for 400 years. That's a long time. As I leafed through the pages, I felt like it would be a good balance of studying Scripture (only 4 chapters in the whole book) and discussion. And what could be more relevant than prophecy about the failings of the church? So many students here are jaded toward the idea of church as an institution because it is either heaped in tradition or it is a parade of hypocrites.

So, fast forward to last week. It was only our third week meeting officially because of all the chaos down here, so we're making slow progress. But last week, we talked about what it means to be rebuked (we have had some AMAZING discussion!). This is, of course, what God commanded Malachi to do to the Israelite people, specifically the priests. They had become quite cavalier with their sacrifices and God sent Malachi to let them know so.

So, our discussion moved into the idea of sacrifices... what is acceptable and pleasing to the Lord? Why wasn't the Lord satisfied with what the priests were bringing? How could they even know what He wanted in the first place?

All of these questions led us around in circles. An analogy sprang to mind and it came in two parts - both about gifts... here it is:

1. You make a wonderful batch of cookies, using the best recipe. They are all coming out of the oven deliciously, except that your oven cooks unevenly... so there are a few "reject" cookies that you set aside. You don't want your friends to have to eat those - they taste like char! But, being the good person you are (and having all the starving children of the world on your mind), you don't want to waste them either. So, on your way to the party you spot a dreadfully hungry-looking homeless man. You deposit the charred chocolate chip cookies in his hand and kindly bless him in God's name.

2. Your friend (best friend in the whole whole wide world) is about to have a birthday. You can't even describe your love for this friend. This person has been a constant - through breakups and prom dates and divorces and graduations and first interviews. This person is pretty much the best thing you've got, so you want to make his/her birthday the MOST SPECIAL-EST ever (he/she is even great enough to warrant bad grammar!). So, you think and think and think about what would be the best gift .. and then you finally reason that he/she would probably want a dozen batches of your favorite homemade cookies, because that's what you would want for your birthday. You go about and make the plans and you work day and night until his/her birthday finally arrives. The day comes and the birthday happens. Your friend is happy... but not really in the way you thought he/she would be.

In the course of our discussion (which for the purpose of the analogy was all about cookies), I felt a little light bulb illuminate my tiny brain, "WHAT IF GOD DOESN'T LIKE COOKIES?"

We had been talking about sacrifices and gifts and what is pleasing to the Lord. The priests earned a stern rebuke for bringing blemished, crippled lambs to the altar - their castoffs and charred chocolate chip cookies. God saw the hearts behind the sacrifice and was grieved. If the priests really, really, really loved God and wanted to please Him, then they would have to KNOW HIM. I don't know how many times I passed by homeless people in Chicago and gave them leftovers before I finally realized that giving leftovers was no sacrifice at all. It's giving my best - the real $15 meal of the homeless person's choice - now that would be something.

And as in the second example of a best friend. Just because cookies please me, doesn't mean they will please someone else. I have to KNOW someone to understand what pleases him/her. And the same is true with God. He has made us to have the capacity to know Him and to find what pleases Him. In Ephesians 5 we read,
"For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said:
"Wake up, O sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you."
Living as children of the light means we can and should find out what the Lord desires of us, not what we want to give to Him. Just because I want to give him an hour in the morning, does that mean it is best or pleases Him? Is it the best hour I have in the day? Or is it my charred cookie remains?

Sometimes I feel like I tell God, "Well, this is my best for the day.. kind of .. or at least it's what is available... or it's what I would want if I were God. Here, just take these cookies... they are really good, even if they do give you a tummy ache. It may not be my best but it's pretty good. ... I hope you like it, because that's what I'm giving you today. You're getting sleepy hours between 4:30-6am and you're getting sentence prayers throughout the day. I hope that's what you like, God. It's pretty good, right?"

I know - I should be embarrassed to share that and I am a little bit. All week that question has been running through my head... what if God doesn't like cookies?
What if all this time I thought he wanted what I wanted to give?

I am starting to think what He wants is splendidly different.

I'm scared to say I'm going to find out, because the rebuking road is not easy.