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saw this crafty idea of how to DIY a cool spin on the spice rack:

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as many of you know, I’m an avid blog reader. and though I haven’t had much to update/share myself (sometimes it’s good when life is smooth and unhairy!), here’s something I do want to share, that I came across in my morning reading. (plus, it comes wrapped up in a crafty extended metaphor, which you know i can’t resist):

Like so many postmodern ideas, “love yourself just the way you are” is halfway true. Or rather, it’s a truth that’s been flattened out.

When we love someone or something, we do love it as it is… but we also want the best for it. Let’s say you love antique furniture. You go into a dark, dusty shop and find a beautiful oak desk tucked away in the corner. It’s covered in dirt and grime, and has been partly repainted an ugly yellow, and it has a couple of handles missing. Even so, you can see that it’s beautiful – in tough shape, but beautiful. You buy it and take it home. Do you love it as it is? Yes, definitely – that’s what moved you to buy it, take all the trouble of getting it in the back of your car, finding just the right spot for it in your house.

But are you going to leave it that way? Do you really love it “just” the way it is, with its mouse droppings in the corners of the drawers, and cobwebs around the edges? No – you’ll clean it up. Do you love it now? Yes, of course. But are you going to leave it with that awful yellow paint? No, you’ll strip off the old paint and refinish it. Are you going to leave it with missing handles? No, you’ll buy some new handles, maybe replace the whole set so that it matches.

….

But you did the refinishing because you saw that it was not what it could be and indeed should be – because you had an image of what it really was and loved it enough to want to get it there. People understand this. It’s why we call it a “labor of love” when people remodel old houses, or put in hours of labor transforming a weedy garden into a place of blooming flowers, or run bake sales to buy books and toys for their children’s classrooms. Love sees what the beloved is… and wants to help it be more than it is.

Yes, we should feel that we are worthwhile and precious just as we are – just as that oak desk was valuable even tucked away in the corner, covered in cobwebs. But we should also respect ourselves enough to recognize that we are not all that we could be or ought to be.

We should understand that we are broken people, broken by sin; and that we are blessed above all imagining that our Lord loves us so much that He won’t let us stay that way.

 (From the insightful blog www.hieropraxis.com)

it’s the apple macbook air song, to begin with. but then, when you get to see the video for it, it becomes even more endearing. i’m in love with it.

that is my idea of a dream come true…
(“new soul” by yael naim)

over the weekend, i played my first soccer game with kitty’s indoor team. fortunately, i didn’t really have much time to get too nervous about the venture because work has been hectic as all get out lately (more so than usual as we’re working on yet another web project–we just got a new CEO who’s “passionate about the internet,” oh and also about coaching baseball. and yes, he mentioned both “passions” in the same sentence).

anyway so friday night i find my way to the venue where, come to find out, i’m wearing a purple shirt while my team is red and the opposing team is black. needless to say, that’s when the nervousness started to kick in.

but, as ‘luck’ would have it, all that got erased in a moment’s time, because as i showed up, a big guy with a shaved head throws his hands down on the table i’m standing in front of. “carmen from temple baptist!! do you remember me?!?” once i shook the shock off, i looked closer and–not being one who easily remembers faces–slowly guessed, “jon simpson?”

sure enough, here was a kid (now a man) who i haven’t seen in 10 years. when i was in 8th and 9th grade, maria and i played soccer and her dad was a youth pastor at the nearby temple baptist church, so of course i hitched a ride with her. jon was in the youth group there and for the next 2 years i spent quite a bit of time there (sunday nights, wednesday nights, overnights, church camp–the whole shebang). but then maria’s dad decided to quit as youth pastor there (he was also the Bible teacher at maria’s high school and the school’s volleyball coach and basketball coach). when he quit, a lot people were upset and thought he was being selfish for resigning. so, they decided to leave temple baptist. i left with them and never returned, either.

but here i was, on a random friday night and i already knew about half the team. jon, his brother and sister were also on the team. it was really interesting to be reunited with people who probably don’t recognize you at all, because the last time they saw you, you were running around in baggy cordorouys and singing Goo Goo Dolls in the parking lot with your BFF who was wearing green mascara and even baggier jeans.

it’s interesting to think back to those afternoons that we spent there, having no idea what lay ahead of us. i don’t even remember what i worried about back then or what i thought would happen or where i thought i’d be when i was 24. i probably expected to be married and maybe even starting a family–or at least thinking about it.

but here i am, as confused and foggy about the future as ever, but, looking back over my shoulder, quite content at where my path has led me. it hasn’t been simple or suspecting. but i can see how God stepped in and guided all of that and has made it richer than i’d ever imagined. which just makes me look forward to more–to tomorrow.

I have to say it: I’m excited about growing up. yes, I’m a ripe 24 (which would send my coworkers rolling their eyes) but I still feel like I’m just dipping my toes into the waters of adulthood. People still ask me if I’m going to be going to prom this year or where I go to high school and the like, to which I smile and tell them I graduated 7 years ago (to which my coworkers would again roll their eyes!).

But as I watch my friends shoot roots and grow up, I’m liking the pace at which I’m going. Holly’s becoming a wife, betsy’s becoming a mom and a wife… And here I am scouting out one-bedroom apartments. But taking everything one-step-at-a-time has been something I’ve had to learn to embrace, and I feel like I’m finally doing that.

In college, I was graduating in 3 years so I took 20 credits a quarter and worked another 10 hours a week writing for the alumni magazine. With no time to spare, I thrived on the function to gulp everything down and learn/ace it at once, and then move on to the next subject or exam or project. And on the cycle went—learn it as fast and completely as possible and then move on to the next task at hand. When it came time to learning about God and His will and everything, I tried to put that mentality to work there so that I could check as many things off my list as possible and move on to the next and become a super Christian “in 10 weeks or less!”

But then I’d realize how fallible that was and how I wasn’t making progress—and I’d get frustrated. I’ve had to learn over the years that God doesn’t work that way. That he does function in, “Here, I’m going to give you this bit to work on. When you’ve learned that task and had time to sit on it, I’ll give you the next bit. But this is how you truly learn and change and grow—one step at a time.” I’ve had to become OK with—and appreciative of—that aspect: One. At. A. Time. Learn this one—truly learn it, down to your bones—and then you’ll get your next one. But don’t rush through it. That’s not rich or true or deep enough for this kind of learning. It might have got you by when it came to college courses but not in the school of Life.

So that’s where I am, where I’m learning one day at a time and embracing this moment in life where I am—sorting out budgets and organizing receipts and searching out quaint little one-bedroom apartments on Craigslist that later this summer I’ll fill with funky furniture and a hodgepodge of accessories and hopefully a little kitten—and call all my own.

this week has flown by. case in point: every tuesday we have our staff meeting and i was sitting at my desk when one of my coworkers stopped by another’s desk and said, “it’s that time again!” scratching my head (i’m always afraid i forgot to write a meeting down), i glanced at the clock: 2pm. in fact, it was tuesday not monday, as i’d otherwise thought. that has been the theme of this week.

because here i am today, at friday.

it’s been a busy week at work; we just sent our april issue to the printer and are already rockin’ and rollin’ on june and just starting assigning august features. then, i’m taking over our bimonthly e-newsletter, so i’m gearing up for that. and on top of that, there’s another big project that seems looming over the horizon.

but it’s good because it makes me feel really productive. monday i spent recovering from my TCTC weekend and catching up on TV; tuesday was a lovelies night where we flipped through magazines and checked out some more bridesmaids dress options (slowly but surely!); wednesday was my small-group meeting at starbucks; last night holly’s friend brandon came over in our first installment of Special Guest Nights in Mariemont–it was fun. we made grilled cheese and soup (which he called “a treat”!) and watched MTV and then played the oldest version of clue i’ve ever seen! and tonight i’m going to step on a soccer field for the first time since 1999, in my junior year of high school. eek! but i’m playing with kitty so i’m totally stoked.

so life is ticking along. so quickly, in fact that i’ve already started getting emails about … SWIMMING SUITS! where did winter go?!

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well, i’m already slacking because it’s wednesday and i’m just posting this from last week, so we’ll see how long this continues. but it’s cool to have visual reminders of epiphanies or catchphrases as they go by:

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the idea behind this one is taking everything one at a time: one step at a time, one person at a time, one improvement at a time, one problem at a time, one conversation at a time, one prayer at a time, one resolve at a time… don’t overwhelm yourself with a million things to do: allow yourself to only focus on one thing at a time.

i’m back from gatlinburger (what one of the other adults who went called it–completely by accident–as we sat up till after 1am talking about the trip…obviously we know what he was thinking about!), and i have to say that it was a perfect little trip, a perfect wake-up call.

perfect not because the water in the chalet where we stayed smelled like eggs and made you gag everytime you took shower (and made me glad for bringing my pretty-smelling shampoo) nor for the fact that of course anytime you get 40+ teens together, you’re going to get your fair share of what comes with that age: drama, mishaps and kids trying to show off for one another. but that’s all beside the point because they pale in comparison to everything else that happened while we were down at TCTC.

i think being steeped in that environment–where everyone is united for a single purpose that lasts a whole weekend, rather than just a given hour on Sunday morning when you’re still shaking off sleep–can do nothing but awaken emotions. so we were able to watch kids scratch their heads and realize their ability to change the way of their life, and watch them open up and reach out about their struggles and the burdens holding them down, and watch them sprout roots and grow over the course of the weekend. my favorite part was being able to be there for them during that and to encourage them as they explored those things or to guide them through that–to feel used in that way. i think over the past couple of months i’ve felt God in my life more than i ever have, and that’s a pretty cool realization.

and in that way, i know i got as much out of it as any of the teens it was intended for. the main speaker, jayson french, was really inspiring and while there were all kinds of bullet points that could be pulled from what he said over the course of the two days, one of the ones that stuck out most to me was the warning, “what you tolerate you will come to accept,” as he was talking about Lot and his choice to move near and eventually into the thick of Sodom. very true.

so it’s hard to not be riding on a wave after all that. but even here at work (which i’ve always loved and has often served as my saving grace when things have seemed somber), the ol’ j-o-b has been doling out its own fair share of encouraging gems: i got word i got a bonus for all my work on the website (truth be told, it was only about $50 after-taxes, but still!) and then i’m taking the reins on our e-newsletter, which i’m excited about. i came up with a proposal about how to overhaul it and my boss was excited about every suggestion i made–nothing negative at all! so it’s nice to have my own little pet project to see through and feel like i’m making leaps and bounds there.

in other how-did-you-get-yourself-into-that news, i’m going to be playing indoor soccer with kitty and ordered some navy blue cleats and pink shinguards online (and another new book!). i’m hoping this doesn’t turn into a repeat of the ever unforgettable Kickball Debacle which left me feeling utterly insignificant and totally lame (i never even made it to second base and almost got my  head chopped off by the overly aggressive opposing team, “Dodgeball”-style).

all is going so well, in fact, that right now i’m listening to Angels & Airwaves, which might not mean anything to anyone, save for the fact that it was paul’s favorite band, and he told me that there was one song that always made him think of me, hence the reason why i had to tuck those cds out of sight because they made me sad, remembering. i even contemplated throwing the CDs away and erasing the tracks from my iTunes libraries. but now i can listen to and appreciate it for what it is–a good band that someone once recommended to me. and even though tomorrow might be completely different and i might retreat back to where i was last week being down-and-out about everything, right now i’m glad that i’m shaking off that old, drowning coat and starting to settle back down into that peaceful, stable spot where i once spent a lot of time…

a website that always makes me smile and perk up is fredflare.com, because of all the silly things they carry on there (i’ve tried a couple times to get their products featured in our magazine, but sadly they’ve never really fit what we were looking for, like when i did the office products story).it’s really quirky/kitschy; they have things like a skillet that has the face of a panda painted on it, a candle holder that looks like a miniature camp fire, all kinds of cool Lomo camera accessories, gnomes paraphernalia, silly notecards/books of the ilk you’d find at Urban Outfitters.

however, one of my favorite things at fredflare.com is a little jukebox where different staffers make mixes that you can listen to (look on the bottom right of the main page if you’re having trouble finding it). this was actually where i first came across (and fell in love with) Tegan and Sara. so i owe them a lot! i think “Julie” has my favorite taste in music (case in point: her latest mix includes a Tegan and Sara song + my favorite Built to Spill one!). if you’re bored, give it a try and perhaps discover some new tunes!

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another thing, i’m feeling more encouraged, after reading that book, “The Year I Got Everything I Wanted.” it’s a bit curious because the book deals a lot with how sad he is, but that’s one of the things i like about it. so often we feel the need to pretend like everything’s OK and great and has a cherry on top. but he just airs it all, and that’s so comforting. because then, as i’m struggling with those sorts of feelings (as we all do, from time to time), i don’t feel so weird or alone or messed up for them–even though the rest of the world goes on grinning and all that, i know it’s not just me, someone else has been there and felt that, too.

here were some of the things he had to say about despair and sadness, all influenced by the Old Testament book Ecclesiastes (written by Solomon, one of my favorites from the Bible, who asked for wisdom and received it). these are all pretty much direct quotes from different places in the book:

  • Ecclesiastes 7:3: “frustration is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart.”
  • “it is only in feeling the depths of our despair that we are ever able to experience joy again. in other words, miss the sorrow of Good Friday and miss the joy of Easter. or, “a sad face is good for the heart,” which is what Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes. miss the sorrow, miss the joy… [the author’s friend told him]: ‘you see, my job as a pastor is to help people fully enter into their pain.'”
  • “i wish i wasn’t so sad, but i understand you have to do things like this to get my attention. this whole year has been about me, hasn’t it? sorrow it seems drives me to Jesus, which is particularly fitting because sorrow was so intrinsic to who Jesus was.”
  • “i find myself being half-present, unsure why i’m unable to concentrate, unsure why i’m unable to plumb the depths of my sorrow and move from an inward to an outward focus.”
  • “we are only able to be fully present with others once we’ve confronted our own demons. those who haven’t dealt with their demons are distracted.”
  • “it’s easier to forgive someone when they show you how wounded they are. usually in the heat of an argument, people exude an “i’m right, you’re wrong” attitude, and i never get to see how wounded they are, how weak. but tonight as [his ex-girlfriend] sobbed, i saw how pointless it was to hate.”

The thing I’ve struggled with the most, lately, has been the idea of trying to understand everything that’s happened these past couple of months. I’ve been wrestling with, “Well what was the point, then?!” and came up shorthanded every time, which only frustrated me more.

But last night I finished reading Cameron Conant’s second memoir “The Year I Got Everything I Wanted,” which had been a Christmas present. While I really enjoyed his first book, this second one was definitely the capstone of the two endeavors—rich writing (the book parallels Solomon’s book of Ecclesiastes, which is a pretty cool literary approach) but also full of insights and lessons to be taken and bookmarked. One such one spoke volumes to me as he started a new chapter off with this verse from Ecclesiastes, which i underlined about a dozen times (filling up as much space as i could with the emphasis-marks) because it was so poignant and especially fitting:

Ecclesiastes 11:5: as you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, SO YOU CANNOT UNDERSTAND THE WORK OF GOD, THE MAKER OF ALL THINGS.

The thing is, when it comes to things like creation and evolution and physics, I have no problem shrugging my shoulders and saying, “Well isn’t that evidence itself of God?” i just know that it’s God who’s behind all them and how in the world could we even begin to fathom Him and His ways?! So with those big-picture issues, i’m completely content to just accept them as-is and as bigger than my comprehension. In fact, that complexity is what i love about Him! but when that complexity creeps into my own life, i wrestle and thrash as i try to make sense of it all. why, oh why?!

And I have to just learn that not everything is for me to understand—perhaps, as is said the the Chronicles of Narnia which I’m still listening my way through–“it’s not part of my story,” and thus not for me to know. That I have to stop struggling to make sense of it and just accept it as is and ask God that if I’m to understand it that I will, and that if not, that he will use it in whatever way he needs to. Because I know it has a purpose—even if I can’t see it. I have to trust in that, and that it’s all about something bigger, anyway…

this weekend, we’re taking the youth group to Gatlinburg for a teen convention (otherwise known as TCTC) and i have to say, i cannot wait. i like having these things to look forward to because they function as breaks in my reality, cracks i can crawl into that will take my mind off myself (which, sadly, is what most of my reality revolves around). and nothing out of the ordinary has happened to point to for that; in fact, nothing has really happened at all. and perhaps that’s it–that nothing has really happened so i spend that extra, ample time busying myself with Me, which of course make me anxious and want to jump out and into things that actually matter.

hence, my looking forward to TCTC. because, unlike all the “nothing”ness currently spinning round, this seems to offer me the immersive opportunity to get away from all of the Me, Me, Me and onto things that really matter. because–when everything else in my life is foggy and cumulous–this whole idea of loving God is the one thing that I know I can’t go wrong with and that does offer grounding. grounding that i feel like i desperately need, of late.

so here’s to that. and to someday feeling settled. although i expect that’s quite a lofty goal.

so, for my first week of “Lessons Learned Photographed” here are some ideas/mantras that came into play for me this week. let’s see how long i can keep this up!

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so Monday night (New Year’s Eve) was the night we had our “Come As the Wild Thing/Party Animal You Are” theme party where everyone was supposed to come dressed as an animal. true, the main inspiration for this idea came from a picture i saw online of a girl who dressed up like a deer and i decided i was totally going to copy it (sans the tan leotard, though. i kid you not).

well, the party went off without a hitch (well, except that we forgot to get any champagne for the event, which truthfully never crossed my mind. i can’t stand stuff! plus, i remember one new year’s when i got shot in the eye with the fizz and it ruined my night. so ever since i’ve boycotted the bubbly!) we had in attendance: a peacock, skunk, giraffe, kangaroo, snow bunny, 2 black cats and even another deer! imagine that! it wasn’t a huge party (about 2 dozen people), so it was nice because there was still room for milling about without it feeling cramped and this one was rather uneventful (no dance-offs, no sparks between dance-off contenders–you know, the usual).

so without further ado, have a look at some of the costumed characters that were running wild, ringing in the New Year with style!:

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for other (actual) images from the shindig, sift through the gallery and enjoy!

so rather than make resolutions for 2008, here’s an abridged (due mostly to forgetfulness than anything else) list of amazing things i experienced this past year. (oh, and that IS something that i would like to resolve to do: every week take a picture of something that impacted me or that i learned a lesson about. week one will be ending soon, let’s see if i can stick to it!).

  • i went on a missions trip, to Haiti!
  • paid my civic off.
  • went to winter jam with the youth group and continued to get more involved in the core leadership of the student ministry, which i’ve found quite fulfilling.
  • started to teach myself the guitar. (and then, of course, quit when it came time to learn chords.)
  • joined a small group! became closer with Cathy and met Brianna. this was truly a godsend for me.
  • through my small group, youth group leading and just thoughts/resolutions i had, began to be able to open up more and more about faith issues and even give advice/offer own insights, rather than always be on the receiving end. and in that way mature: be able to think for myself and offer that to others.
  • traveled for conferences for work on my own (to san diego and minneapolis) and grew so far as my career and confidence in it, plus being able to present myself professionally and network.
  • my 3rd HOW Conference.
  • moved out! Got a roommate and decorated a cute apartment, which taught me a lot about initiative–if you need something done, you have to just do it. that means figuring out how to undo the overhead light when the bulb burns out or learn how to hang curtains and how to drill on my own or call the landlord or the billing departments when something isn’t going right. that was a big lesson in and of itself. plus able, for the first time, to really be able to reflect my tastes so LARGELY–a whole house to decorate! what a canvas! i had a great time doing that, too. my two best friends were spray paint and sewing machine–dear friends to the end!
  • started blogging, and through it, began to explore more the idea of ‘opening up.’ this also aided as i took a spiritual gifts test and realized one of my gifts is teaching/pastorship–so i felt like being able to share my insights/experiences via a blog and a small group would mentor/apprentice me in doing this in the future.
  • went to see a counselor, twice. and then decided didn’t need it after all. (i have my own Counselor and a bunch of friends who take on that role quite nicely. and don’t charge me $125 an hour.)
  • got back into running, this time a lot more successfully than last year.
  • some big purchases: new laptop and camera!
  • our Back to School Party!
  • took initiative and took leadership role for another (though short-lived) small group.
  • learned lessons about God: that sometimes it’s not for me to understand and fathom what happens in my life, i just have to trust. the importance of opening up/being real about your flaws and ugly spots is healthy (as Lauren Winner says, it’s another ironic form of sanctification). that God is going to put desires on my heart for a reason–to fulfill them; he isn’t going to tempt me and then yank it away and disappoint me–all in due time. that i still struggle with letting things go–that’s one to leave for 2008.
  • i made a concerted effort to try to get to know God better and to try to listen to Him, be guided by Him.
  • i felt–and knew–God’s peace.
  • read some really beneficial/enlightening books: The Thrill of the Chaste, Fight Like a Girl, Captivating, Wild at Heart, Girl Meets God, What Now, Here’s to Hindsight, With or Without You, Chronicles of Narnia…
  • musical discoveries: Tegan and Sara. Andrew Bird. Mae. Jack’s Mannequin. Hawk Nelson. Ben Folds (never had gotten into him before, believe it or not). Sea Wolf. Anberlin. David Crowder Band.
  • visited: Haiti. San Diego. Atlanta. Philadelphia. Minneapolis.

so i don’t really do the whole resolution thing. well, not at new years at least. i of course make commitments to myself throughout the year (things like taking more initiative or becoming more decisive or less gossipy) but i just find the whole news years resolutions to be a little cliche. i don’t know. maybe i feel like they’re more genuine when they surface in the ordinary–not just when everyone else is doing it.

regardless, here’s a set of resolutions i can support–they have to do with photography. kristin passed the list along to me and i think it’s full of good ideas for tapping into the Nigel Barker in all of us! even though it’s a little ambitious, i like the idea of taking a photo every week of something you’re grateful for. (i think one a day is REALLY ambitious. good thing i’m not working on having more ambition for the new year, huh? ;)) there’s also a cool link to how to DIY a fish-lens. who knew?!

…making our whole existence worth something, so we sing:

(i love this song.)

sometimes i just don’t get emotions. like how you can careen from one end of the spectrum to the other within a single moment. or, in some cases (such as the current case at hand): without even noticing it.

but right now, that’s a good thing. because i’m very much in a happy place. maybe it’s the fact that last night i walked around with sparkly deer antlers on my head for hours on end and got to wear fake eyelashes. or maybe because i was also spending the evening with some of my (ahem) deer-est of friends, decked out in peacock, feline, giraffe, kangaroo, skunk and rabbit regalia, which is enough to make even the scroogiest in spirit crack a smile. or maybe it’s because today i bought new slippers that are soft and comfy and super bright green. or maybe it’s because after that, the Lovelies met and ate at Frisch’s and then paged through some pretty bridesmaid dress options for the big bad July event. maybe it’s because i just spent the last hour doing nothing but listening to the soundtrack i made for last night’s party and dancing along at all appropriate parts (which, for the record, is almost the entire thing). maybe? maybe.

but does it matter where it comes from? because i have to wonder if we’re even meant to understand emotions in the first place. think about it: emotions are the quality that set us apart from all other animals. yes, i imagine some emotions are instinctual (for example, a dog’s ability to show sadness or excitedness). in the chronicles of narnia, it’s this ability (to talk and show emotion) that set the narnian animals apart from the other beasts–aslan handpicks them. what i’m saying is, aren’t emotions the quality in us that best reflect our God, who in fact is Love? so if we already can admit how BIG God is–too big for us to comprehend how he created life or his timing or his whole plan or how he does anything–then why wouldn’t it make sense that this thing called emotion wouldn’t elude us as well?

i take comfort in that, that sometimes it’s not for me to try to grapple. sometimes it just is. and right now, it’s good and glad and all things in that wonderful, beautiful vein.

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