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are you still there? do you still think to stop by, despite the fact that every time you have over the past month, it’s been desolate and dusty?

 

this past month has been nothing less than a whirlwind, as nothing in my life has gone unchanged. from my location to my job to my friends to my calendar to my love life, everything’s completely different. part of that is exciting (i’ll let you guess what part that is!) and part of it is terrifying.

 

last week, when i’d just started the new job and i was only days into my new life here in grand rapids, i got overwhelmed with being homesick and questioning the decision i’d made to move here. i wondered if this was really where i was supposed to be, because it didn’t feel good and things were hard. i moved here for community, and i didn’t feel that swaddling me like it did in cincinnati. i wasn’t finding myself surrounded by inspiring, on-fire-for-God people like i’d hoped and prayed. i was having a hard time adjusting to my new job and all the new demands and figuring out whether i’m good enough at it.

 

in short, i was doubting that God had really brought me here (had i been tricked or led astray?) and if he had, i was rushing God to fulfill those promises. i cried a lot about it. then i started reading this book that Michael and I are going through together (like our own two-person book club, which i absolutely love!) called anonymous. i posted about it on here before, but–because God is always and forever so good–it happened to be that the part i was at in that moment of distress and questioning, was exactly what i needed to hear.

 

i was reading about Jesus’ temptation in the desert and how the devil first tempted him by appealing to his appetite. the book points out how food and eating is a good and natural longing. but it turned into a temptation, a lure to disobey God because Jesus was in the midst of fasting and was waiting on God until he finished. though hunger is not innately a sin, when we rush past God to grab at it, it can become one. that’s exactly what i was doing: wanting a godly community and wanting to be fulfilled by my job are both good desires. and i believe they’re both desires God wants to fulfill–but that’s going to be in His own time, not in mine. for now, while i’m waiting on those answers, i must allow Him to be enough, rather than rush past Him onto His provisions and creations and blessings.

 

it makes me disappointed in myself how i can treat Him that way and forget His goodness and all the ways He’s blessed me and answered me so many times in the past. but i know that’s what makes me human. that’s why the Old Testament is so full of phrases like “God of Israel” and “God of Jacob” and “God of Abraham”–because we constantly have to be reminded of what God’s done for us in the past and what he’s promised to bring about in the future.

 

so now things are good. i’m trying to be patient and allow God to work and lead and guide me as those promises come to pass. i’m trying not to get distracted from the reason he brought me here. i’m trying to keep the focus on him and not on my schedule or my to-do list. that’s been the hardest part, hands down. i really need to watch how i spend my time and make sure he’s getting the chunk he deserves. so if you can be praying for that for me, i’d really appreciate it.

i read this article late last week and, as it retold the story of the Israelites being led from Egypt, it was a great reminder about not doubting God’s provisions or forgetting all that he’s already done and already provided:

Just as God had to continually remind the Israelites of what He’d done for them and what He was going to do for them, I need to continually remind myself of the truth of who He is. I need to remind myself that my circumstances, or at least how I see things with my limited perspective, don’t define God’s character; His Word does.

Author David Kyle Foster implores us, “Make a conscious effort, that when things go wrong, to assume the best about God rather than the worst.” When I was struggling with so many questions about God, I remember saying, “God, You could fix this if You really wanted to — so why aren’t You?” God wasn’t coming through for me as quickly as I wanted Him to.

The truth of the matter is that God is not a vending machine. Often we view God this way, as if we should be able to put in our token prayer or request, and in a timely manner an answer should show up on our doorstep. Sometimes it does happen that quickly and to our satisfaction. And some of the time, the answer we get from God is silence. Instead of riding in like a knight in shining armor, He tells us to keep on asking, and asks us to wait in expectation for His answer. Other times, we’re so focused on receiving a specific answer that when the answer comes in a different manner than what we’re expecting we miss God’s response completely.

….

We need to continually remind ourselves of how God has come through for us in the past — that He has always been faithful, and He will continue to be faithful. Like Joshua and the Israelites, having crossed the Jordan River, set up 12 stones as a reminder of God’s faithfulness to them, we too need our own “memorial stones”: reminders of who God is and how He always comes through — in His timing and His way, but always.

Here are other notes from “Anonymous”:

TIMING

  • God never wastes anyone’s time. He’s neither care-less nor cause-less with how he spends our lives. He sees every season of our life the “main course.”  “main” is right now, happening this very second. it’s not on hold until we get married, or get a better job, or absolve debt, etc.
  • only three years, less than 10 percent of jesus’ life, are visible through the bible. over 90 of his time on earth is unknown to us.
  • we must learn to wait because God is worthy; we aren’t the first who have had God-given (but unfulfilled) dreams and made to wait for years: Sarah waited 25 years to give birth to Isaac after God promised her a baby; Joseph waited 20 years to rescue his family from famine after being sold into slavery Moses waited 40 years to lead his people from slavery; Esther waited 25 years before she stepped up for her people; Paul waited 10 years after his spiritual encounter with God before he officially started ministry.
  • every choice we make is an investment in a future we cannot see.

TEMPTATIONS

  • hidden years grant us the space to learn to discipline our passions, cravings and desires. God allows us to wrestle with our appetites before our lives are at stake, to struggle with our passions privately rather than when we’re in the public limelight. if we have to deal with them prematurely, we can be crushed. we need the gift of hiddenness before rushing into more than we’re prepared for. we need to be able to grow in quiet anonymity.
  • The author says, “i feel that trials do not prepare us for what’s to come as much as they reveal what we’ve done with our lives up to this point.”
  • God leads us into deserts to: humble us, test us, know what is in our hearts, see if we will keep his commands, teach us to depend on him, discipline us as his children.
  • when tempted, we fall prey to the lie of “just one.” we rationalize this is only about one moment of splurging or one brief gland or one… we disconnect the moment of temptation from all other moments and how they add up and build upon one another.
  • the temptation of vain imaginations: thought patterns that puff us up from the inside out or invite us to escape from reality and experience a more affirming existence in our minds. (tempted in our thoughts by the attention and awe of mankind). these thoughts make us discontent with our current realitie

JESUS’ TEMPTATION

  • Jesus was tempted, in the desert. the devil tries many approaches:
    * dangles a lure (by offering something attractive);
    * exploits a natural longing (appealing to an innately human desire like eating). food in itself is not sinful, and here’s where satan’s lures can be deceptive. it’s not about what jesus would eat as much as about when. would he obey God even when obedience required delayed satisfaction of legitimate needs?
    * identifies the means (suggesting how to get what we want);
    * offers an inviting invitation (mixing truth with his lies).
    * SATAN’S MOST EFFECTIVE LURE: immediate gratification (not having to wait on God’s timing)
  • satan, in this way is predictable. the way he tempted jesus is how he tempted Eve, yet we continue to fall prey to his ways: we continue to crave instant satisfaction, daydream of public admiration, be hypnotized by wordly power/possessions, etc.
  • when devil finished tempting it says “he left him (Jesus) until an opportune time” (Luke 4:13)–meaning that satan would return again to tempt him. satan is going to come and continue to tempt us at strategic times in our lives, at crossroads.

“these are the days that no one sees…” is part of a paul westerberg song. “…they run together for company.”

awhile ago i read a book called “anonymous” that talked about how God puts seasons of anonymity into our lives to prepare us for our seasons of action. she paralleled it to the fact that Jesus was “anonymous” for years until he finally was ready to take the steps that would make him affect the world.

one of the analogies she uses is of trees and how the different seasons affect them: during the summer, their leaves are full and coat the limbs, but when winter comes, the leaves fall off and all you see is the tree’s infrastructure–that’s all that’s left and all that lasts. so it is with us: what the plenty of summer hides, the nakedness of winter reveals: the strength of our infrastructure–our character. but to get to that point, we have to grow to that point. so these seasons of anonymity, when we go unseen and seem unnoticeable, hide us and protect us and prepare us so that we have time to create and forge that infrastructure. when we undergo the winters of our life, our underlying strength will be strong enough and shine through–and sustain us.

a couple notes from the book: “anonymous seasons are sacred spaces, they are formative and to be rested in, not rushed through–and never regretted.” and “we can easily mistake fruitlessness for failure. we naturally grant more weight to the visible than the invisible, so it’s easy for us to underestimate its vital importance. we must not think unseen = unimportant.”

i think that’s a beautiful idea and it resonates with me, as i’ve recently become aware of one such season of anonymity that i’ve been trudging through. looking back, now i can see why my church’s lack of mature christian guys has been good for me, even though it’s something me (and various others) have lamented along the way and wondered where they went. for me, it’s been protective and helped me guard my heart. it forced me to be still and quiet and focus on other things, things that will last longer than any random relationship. it gave God a chance to work and heal and restore what’d been broken and marred by the years of haphazard dating that i was accustomed to during high school and college.

it prepared me for when that season of meeting someone does come to pass, i’ll actually be ready for it–not just in my head, but also in my heart and my spirit. God’s used this “downtime” to root me because growth takes time. it’s only now, after much fertilization and pruning and gardening, that i’m ready to be transplanted into that next phase of my life where this could come to pass. it’s only just now beginning that i’m ready to handle what that  (more specifically: the hearts and faith and community that i see in Grand Rapids) could offer to me. i have been in an “anonymous” place these past few years–but rather than stunting me, they’ve been establishing me for great things!

in the words of tara leigh cobble, “here’s to hindsight.”

Isaiah 55:13
This will be for the LORD’s renown,
for an everlasting sign,
which will not be destroyed.”

this is the last “installment” of the breathe book i read. it should be noted that the book is under the imprint of MOPS: Mothers of Pre-Schoolers (which I kind of find to be really funny). anyway, i didn’t know that when i bought it, but even though i don’t have any kids, it’s still a really good book and is full of ideas to keep in mind for the day when i actually do have kids.

she really stressed simplifying for our kids’ sakes so that we have time to invest in them and their development and help grow them into strong, intelligent adults rather than letting them too get hooked in society’s cycle of work-work-overwork. here are some of her ideas for raising kids with an eye to deliberateness:

  • the Bible says “Train up a child in the way he should go.” basically, children are like vines, we have to prune and direct them, but ultimately GOD has a purpose for them–not us–and we have to listen to THAT purpose: how he created them and lovingly direct their growth according to the gifts and abilities GOD placed in them.
  • create space in your calendar for days/times with no obligations, so they have time to play–unstructured activities where no adult is directing them. it’s important for them developmentally because it teaches them to direct themselves. that’s why so many kids say, “i’m bored!” they’re not used to entertaining themselves any more! instead, encourage them to solve their boredom for themselves. kids also gain more from spontaneous, imaginative play than from organized sports.
  • limit television, especially commercial television because ads create discontent.
  • limit the number of toys you buy because what they really want and need are our attention and affection. be generous with your time but be careful with how much stuff you throw at them
  • don’t operate out of fear about your children (comparing them with others’) and how denying them things will hurt them in the long run (that they won’t fit in, etc). so long as you’re providing them good things (time with God, time with the family, time to play and imagine and read and explore and learn), then how can you go wrong?
  • family meals are important because it’s there that you can have real-life (and lasting) conversations with them about things that matter: love, respect, family, the future, etc. it’s also where they learn how to carry on a conversation–something that’s losing practice today.

here are some of my notes from the “breathe” book i read this spring about “sabbath simplicity” and the idea of simplifying so that we can return to a cycle of work and rest, and focus on God

  • sabbath is about honoring and strengthening connections to each other and to God
  • living a life of Sabbath Simplicity is a God-focused life rhythm of work and rest. you can’t add this to a crowded lifestyle; it’s a way of life you build by listening to God’s direction. it’s living from that Center deliberately and almost effortlessly. it’s choosing what you say yes to and what you say no to based not on the demands or example of others but on what God is calling you to.
  • the sabbath command is interesting because it doesn’t just give a directive but also the rationale behind it. it’s the longest command, because God elaborates a lot on what it means and why.
  • simplifying means really examining your motivation for keeping busy and hurried. just vaguely saying you “should” or “ought to” do something won’t make life simpler. will it enrich your life or just clutter it? the spaces in your day are what help you understand the meaning of all your work. it allows you to stop, focus, internalize and admire all that you’ve done/where you’re headed
  • God LIKES being involved in all the decisions you make (what you say yes and no to): “The steps of the godly are directed by the Lord. he delights in every detail of their lives.” (Psalm 37:23). just make sure we’re including God in those decisions and it can only be healthy for us: we learn to listen to him and hopefully we’ll be saying no to the things that pull us away from him. whenever you say yes to one thing, you’re saying no to another. make sure that the “yes” is worth more than the “no.” (don’t be afraid to say no
  • what is your personal mission statement? use this to filter out what you commit to and what you can say “no” to
  • The Fruit of the Vine: “…he cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he trims clean so that it will be even more fruitful.” (John 15:1-4) even if you’re doing all good things, be selective so that the REALLY good can shine through rather than be rushed through. sometimes you  have to cut back in certain places so that you can be really fruitful in other places.
  • frugality means we are to enjoy what we have. waste lies not in the number of possessions but in the failure to enjoy them. your success at being frugal is measured not by your penny-pinching but by your degree of enjoyment of the material world
  • don’t spend too much time reliving the past (feeling guilty, regretting, embarrassed, resentful, etc) because it keeps us (obviously) from being in the moment. spending time thinking about them will only serve to INCREASE the chances of repeating the error and the pain associated with past errors. don’t deny your feelings though, but be sure to acknowledge them and give them to God to heal. when we tell Him, He understands and we don’t have to spew those feelings on others–we get release and he can transform us through our mind. (Rom 12:2 “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.)

i started writing this blog entry awhile ago but i guess i forgot to post it. it’s still relevant, so here it is:

I’ve started reading the book “Breathe” about simplifying your life and getting rid of hurry and busyness to make room for God (who is a God of rest and the Sabbath). It’s an interesting idea; today I went to the doctor’s appointment and there was a mom with her kid, and she was telling the kid to hit the button to automatically open up the glass door that led from the building outside. Being a kid, he puttered over while me and another patient stood behind the duo waiting for the door to swing open. Admittedly, my urge was just to breeze past them and push open the door myself. How stupid is that? What difference will 30 seconds make?

I believe it was in Stephen Covey’s book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” that he encourages: “Speed up and slow down.” Speed up the tasks that don’t add anything of substance to your life (but things you have to do, like laundry or dishes or checking email, etc) and slow down on the things that do enrich, like hanging out with your friends/family, reading, journaling, spending time outside, resting, spiritual disciplines. There are things we ought to rush through but others that we ought to enjoy and relish.

In this book, she talks about making decisions about what you should say yes to and what you should say no to. Say yes to those obligations that enrich you toward God. (And that might even mean saying no to things at church or when people ask for your help!) It’s nice to hear that, to be given permission that we don’t have to do anything and everything but can dedicate ourselves to a few, meaningful causes which is going to reap a lot more than spreading yourself thin here, there and everywhere. Another thing that she stresses is “Sabbath Simplicity.”

I’m only 1/5 of the way through, but it’s got me thinking already. I haven’t sat down with my schedule yet, but it’s good to keep those perspectives in mind as I continue to make decisions with my time and energies—and build in time for rest.

UPDATE: I’ve since finished reading the book and highly recommend it. this was the book that got me to give up TV and, more recently, fast from reading anything but the Bible. i’ll share some highlights later. but in the meantime, become more aware of your schedule. where can you prune? where can you enrich the time you spend?

This weekend one of my bestest friends having just tied the knot this past weekend (and I got asked out on a date for the first time in almost a year, but it’s not what you think. Ask because it’s a rather pitiful—but entertaining—story…). So with seeing her get all fancied up for the big day and her text yesterday that said “We saw dolphins in the ocean today…I am having a great time with my husband,” let’s just say falling in love and weddings and marriage has been on the mind of late. (But, really, when is it not?)

Anyway you shouldn’t be surprised to hear that I read an article this week that talked about planning your wedding…alongside your soon-to-be-husband and how important it is to include him in that process, even though most guys say they want whatever you want. She brought up some good points about how it’s the first steps of decision-making together and teaches you about his likes/dislikes even before you start “forever” together. That’s something I’d like to replicate whenever my time comes, too.

Also, we recently wrapped up our latest book in my small group with Mal, Bri and Cathy. We read “Get Married” by Candice Watters which isn’t nearly as bad as the title makes it out to be. In fact, I fell in love with the book because she talks about that marriage is a gift God WANTS to give us (among other things: it models for us the relationship between Christ and the church and also teaches us crucial virtues like selflessness and putting others before our self). And so because God wants to give us, we should be bold to ask Him for it:

Jesus said, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. . . . If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer” (Matthew 7:7–8, Matthew 21:22).

And: “You do not have, because you do not ask God.” (James 4:2)

She talks about not being ashamed of this (although of course with the caveat that to truly reap this gift you should aspire to marry not just anyone but the RIGHT person, which she then details, based on Biblical standards). It was a refreshing and encouraging look at something that people never really talk about. Which is why we are talking about it now. Along with a few other friends, we’ve started a prayer group called “Women Praying Boldly” which is something she suggests in the book, where you just make it a point to be praying for each other as we navigate these waters in our life. (Of course, life is more than just getting married, but that’s one of the biggest decisions you’ll ever make so why WOULDN’T it be something that you’d invest a lot of time in and prayer and preparation for? Seriously. It’s a good thing.)

Here are some of the notes I took from this book:

  • if it’s true that God is all we need for fulfillment, no one was in better position to be fully satisfied than Adam, who was closest human to God until Jesus came. but even GOD said it wasn’t good for Adam to be alone–that man should not be alone….and that’s because man is created in God’s image, and God is a relational God. being alone contradicts God’s nature, which is why it “wasn’t good” for Adam to be alone.
  • in Hebrew tradition, God is often described as the great Shadchan or “marriage maker.”
  • many of the longings that are common to our generation (for friendship, wholeness, for a life that is serious and deep, for associations that are trustworthy and lasting) could be largely satisfied by marrying well. (note the imperative to make your choice intentionally–just any marriage won’t do)
  • through our faith we can believe that if we’re following the guidelines for what to pray for, we can ask boldly and believe that our prayers will be answered. it is worth the risk of disappointment to pray boldly.
  • live like you’re planning to marry: cultivate a lifestyle that is consistent with the season of marriage ahead, where you are responsible (your choices with your checkbook, calendar, media consumption and treatment of your own body–because they are not yours but God’s!), concerned with others (not just yourself), and nurturing the men and the community around you to play their roles so that you don’t have to carry it all.
  • to be feminine is to nurture, not merely respond. we can bring healing to the very men who need it so that they can be empowered to take more initiative.
  • The most likely way to find a future marriage partner is through introduction by family, friends or acquaintances. despite the romantic notion that people meet and fall in love through chance or fate, the evidence suggests that social networks (the old-fashioned kind) are important in bringing together individuals of similar interests/backgrounds. almost 60% of married people were introduced by family, friends, co-workers or other acquaintances.
  • do people in your life know you desire marriage? do they know the qualities you’re seeking in a husband? they might be willing accomplices in the search. also by talking about it with others, you can stand in the gap for each other. you can facilitate the courtship process and through self-disclosure, express your beliefs about marriage and courtship with your friends.
  • stop giving away pieces of your heart without being asked. start insisting that to gain intimacy, men must act honorably, state their intentions and initiate official relationships with the goal being marriage = GUARDING YOUR HEART


Psalm 92
A psalm. A song. For the Sabbath day.
1 It is good to praise the LORD
and make music to your name, O Most High,

2 to proclaim your love in the morning
and your faithfulness at night,

3 to the music of the ten-stringed lyre
and the melody of the harp.

4 For you make me glad by your deeds, O LORD;
I sing for joy at the works of your hands.

5 How great are your works, O LORD,
how profound your thoughts!

6 The senseless man does not know,
fools do not understand,

last night I went over to my parents and we spent a good portion of the night outside, scouting out different plants around the yard and clipping flowers and putting them into vases. I took a big bunch of lilacs home with me, which sat on my nightstand and woke me up every once and awhile when I’d catch a waft, which was soothing and seemed to remind me: breathe in, all is good.

and it’s true. all is good, because i feel like i’m breathing deeper these last few weeks.

i think there are two parts to this newfound feeling:

part one
the whole grand rapids thing, where i have so much peace that it makes me wonder if maybe it’s too good to be true? but aside from praying that if this isn’t what God wants that he’ll do whatever it takes to make sure to tell me/stop it from happening, then i’m trusting in God’s nature as a peace-giver and as unchanging. even if this did seemingly come out of nowhere, i don’t want to sit on my hands if i feel it’s a good thing. and i do.

Joshua 1:9
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Don’t be terrified. Don’t be discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

I’ve been going through bouts of feeling scared about whatever the future might hold, because it’s so far-off and so indeterminable. The fact that it would mean leaving many good things behind (church, friends, work, youth group, family) in exchange for…i’m not yet sure what. That makes me scared, so I keep praying that God will be with me and to “not hide your face from me,” that I will know his will and be strengthened to forge ahead with it. i woke up the other day and one verse from a Hedley song was rolling around in my head, “If you don’t believe me, watch and I will make it happen.” i really felt like that was God reassuring me, that he will make it happen. he won’t pull me this far and then drop the ball and walk away. another song lyric that spells the same thing to me: “you are safe, child, you are safe.

Isaiah 43:5-7
5
Do not be afraid, for I am with you;
I will bring your children from the east
and gather you from the west.

6 I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’
and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’
Bring my sons from afar
and my daughters from the ends of the earth-

7 everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.

plus i’m reminding myself that if this is what God wants, he’s not going to purposefully make it hard or arduous; He WANTS it to happen and so He will help me do that. He did that for me when it came to breaking up with Paul (I was prepared to do it, but Paul ended up coming over and finishing things); when I moved to Alabama I had 2 weeks to relocate and find a place to stay for 5 months and God provided that along with an awesome roommate; then with Cincinnati He totally set me up with a great church and great friends and a great job. So I have to keep reminding myself of those blessings past, and that because God’s unchanging, that He won’t stop doing that—he’ll continue to guide me and provide for me along that pathway.

Psalm 25:4-10
4 Show me your ways, O LORD,
teach me your paths

5 guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long.

6 Remember, O LORD, your great mercy and love,
for they are from of old.

7 Remember not the sins of my youth
and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me,
for you are good, O LORD.

8 Good and upright is the LORD;
therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.

9 He guides the humble in what is right
and teaches them his way.

10 All the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful
for those who keep the demands of his covenant

* * * * * * * * * * * *

part deux
which brings me to my second point which is the book i’ve been reading of late: Breathe. it’s pretty phenomenal and one that I barely convinced myself was worth buying; I only did so because it was half-price. it was well worth it.

the book is very grounding and encourages us to put our purpose and focus on God and to do so with our time and resources. it encourages us to simplify and say “yes” to the things that draw us to Him and to say “no” to those which don’t. while i know that my priorities aren’t nearly as tangled as a parent’s who has multiple other people to keep in mind with decision-making (the book is intended for mothers), i want to become aware of these struggles now. because if i can be aware and intentional and deliberate now, then it will become a practice/discipline which will serve me well as i move forward–and on into those next stages of life.

i like that the book gives you permission to say “no” to people, causes or activities that draw you away from God. this has been revolutionary to me and quite liberating. i’ve decided to let go of my TV-watching because i can see how it not only wastes time but also wastes words–when i spend time recapping tv shows with my friends and coworkers. it prevents me from digging deep into conversation. so i’ve started abandoning that need to “fill” my time with things like TV. now i just let my friends recap the shows for me, which cuts my investment time down to 5 minutes or less and frees up at least 15, a pretty good exchange if you ask me. (although I do foresee making room and allowing for “Heroes.” no matter how great a storyteller you may be, I don’t think anyone could recap that show with justice!)

one challenge they give in the book is about looking for opportunities to shave down your obligations, and then not fill them. Today I did that on my lunch break by breaking free from my desk and rushing to a nearby park to sit quietly and read more from the book. Being quiet isn’t an easy task or discipline for me, so this book is especially fitting. I need to invest in this ideal more and more, because I know I always complain about not being able to easily “hear God” but I think that’s because I’m not patient enough with the quiet to listen. I’m also hoping that our upcoming trip to IHOP in Kansas City will be enlightening and insightful for that, too!

i’m also hoping that in this decision to follow God to somewhere new, that hopefully that’ll draw me nearer and keep teaching me to connect with him and get to that point where i can hear and where i can really find my purpose and place.

After about a 6-month effort, I finished listening to the last of the Chronicles of Narnia stories last night. I started listening to them back in October or November in the car and listened to the final bits of “The Last Battle” on my way home yesterday.

Even though it took forever to make my way through, there were some really good lessons I gleaned from the tales of foreign lands and magical encounters and a great lion:

* Edmund’s appetite keeps him from doing the right thing, he gets consumed with temptation (Turkish Delight), which never ends up being satisfying in the end anyway.

* I think it was Lucy who asked about Aslan and if he was safe. Mr. Beaver tells her something like, “Course he ain’t safe! But he’s good.” We have to remember that even when God’s way is hard or difficult or risky, that it’s still good. And we have to trust in that.

* Another thing Mr. Beaver says of Aslan: “He’ll be coming and going,” says Mr. Beaver. “It’s quite all right. He’ll often drop in. Only you mustn’t press him. He’s wild you know. Not like a tame lion.” I have to remind myself of that during the times when I can’t always feel God or see signs of him.

* The only thing with that is that in The Last Battle, that phrase gets manipulated when a fake Aslan impersonates him and causes all kinds of bad things and turns out being mean. The Narnians use the idea that “Well, he’s not a tame lion” to make sense of this new Aslan. But it’s not true; they forgot that “not tame” doesn’t mean “bad” and, with God, his ways are unchanging (he won’t be nice in one generation and mean later), which is why we can trust in the God we see throughout the Bible.

* in The Horse and His Boy, the main character asks Aslan about something that happened to his friend. Aslan tells him that that’s not his story. I need to remember that I don’t need to worry about what happens to other people or even sometimes why certain things happen to me because, even if it includes me, maybe it’s more for someone else’s story or benefit.

* in the Magician’s Nephew, Digory has to go on a mission and he needs food and complains about it, noting that Aslan must have known that he’d need to eat and get hungry on the trip. His companion tells him (something along the lines of), “Yes, I’m sure he did. But you didn’t ask. I have the feeling that sometimes he just likes to be asked, even if he knows you need it anyway.”

* in The Last Battle, they enter the new Narnia through a stable, where the inside ends up being so much bigger than the stable itself (it’s a whole new Narnia!). Lucy notes that in her world, there’s a story about a stable that contains something much bigger than the stable itself. I love the imagery that C.S. Lewis gives to this new Narnia, where it’s just like the old Narnia, only everything is better—it’s like the original was a muted reflection of this one (just like we’re a muted, splintered reflection/image of God). Aslan calls them farther and higher into this new Narnia, which I think is what he’s calling us to now (further and further toward him) and as they get deeper in, it continues to get better and better. I think that fits now…

* Also, in The Last Battle, when all the animals enter the new Narnia, instead of Aslan judging them, they actually judge themselves; upon looking at Aslan they either go to his right or his left, depending on how they react to see him, is it from disgust or fear or horror? Or is it joy?

* There was a weird part where a guy who worshipped another god (but was good) ended up in the new Narnia. Though he did everything in the name of his nation’s god (Tash), Aslan welcomes him because he says that even if he had the name wrong, his heart was still in the right place. I’m not sure how I feel about that piece, theologically, whether I believe it, but I do know that C.S. Lewis is one smart guy so I’m not in a position to debate against him


even though Prince Caspian is coming out in just a few weeks, I’d prefer, now that I’m up-to-date on all of them, to see The Last Battle made into a movie-version, although I’m sure it’d be the hardest! it was just a really cool concept that C.S. Lewis had of what heaven will be like, with the kids able to swim up a waterfall with ease and run as fast and as effortlessly as the flying eagle. I think my favorite novel of them all though was The Voyage of the Dawn Treader because it is the most adventurous, taking the characters to all kinds of magical lands, plus you get to see Eustace heart melted and transformed with Aslan’s power.

catching up on my blog reading, and the boundless blog pointed to a new book out called “Do Hard Things.” it sounds like a really interesting book and so I’ve added it to my list of books I hope to get around to reading. the authors say:

We’re not just saying that hard things happen and that you can benefit from them. We’re not just saying that you have the ability to do hard things. We’re telling you that you should do hard things because it’s the best and only way to experience true growth in your life. … Our big, crazy idea is that this is the life God has called us to live now—not 10 or 20 years from now, but right now, as young people. This is your best life, not your easiest life; the only way to avoid wasting your single years and ultimately your life.

they also make a good point:

We can’t really avoid doing hard things. We can only decide when to do them and how prepared we will be to handle the hard things life brings our way. You either do the hard thing of getting prepared, or you deal with the harder thing of being unprepared. We either “do it” now, or we end up having to “deal with it” later.

This about a lot more than flat tires or missed meetings. Resisting temptation is hard, but not as hard as dealing with an addiction. Finding and keeping a job is hard, but not as hard as dealing with unemployment and struggling to make ends meet.

and finally, here’s an insightful C.S. Lewis quote they invoke: “We are like eggs at present. And we cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.”

if you know me well, then you know there are a few things that i’m a huge fan of: the color green, licorice, songs that sing about dancing, dancing in general, anything nature-inspired (the more birds, the better). so it is that over the past few months i’ve also become a huge fan of the website/blog/webcast for Boundless.org, which, surprisingly enough, is part of Focus on the Family.

i’m not one to usually listen to webcasts, but theirs is always one i relish, and when i sat down today to catch up on the most recent one–it was no different. because they’re geared to the 20something age group and presumably because they’re affiliated with Focus in the Family, much of their content has to do with relationships. of late, they’d been discussing the idea of “settling” when it comes to dating, which aroused a lot of uproar from readers. because they were urging people to settle and “just pick someone,” i was among those scratching their heads about what kind of advice they’re dishing out–because i truly don’t believe that that’s what my God has in store for me so it sat very uneasy with me.

in today’s podcast though, i think they finally were able to get their point across: christians need to settle–when it comes to things that the world deems important. but they need to not settle when it comes to the things that the world doesn’t deem important. in other words: focus on his character and spirit and faith,  not on his wallet and wardrobe and height. i’ve always loved the idea that “the weak will be strong” and “the first will be last” and those sorts of turning-logic-on-its-head. so it is with this idea, where we take the opposite of society and then find success–which, too, is not of the world’s standards.

i recently finished reading a modern-day nun’s memoir “forever and ever, amen.” it’s quite admirable the things she learns when she enters right out of high school and how open-armed the convent is, to this girl who sneaks in vodka-injected oranges and who was admittedly wild and unruly. the girls enter green and the convent allows them to pursue God and get to know him; through things like obedience, seeing God in everyone–especially their enemies, fighting for injustice, sharing, sisterhood, supporting one another even when you don’t  agree with them, knowing when to bend the rules when another sister needs it for camaraderie, wisdom, silence, prayer, solitude…

things that i know i must learn, and many of them exemplified by the older Sisters that the author admired most. i too want to learn those things. because they’re so poignant. and because i know that upon learning them, they can change my life.

she writes, at one point, “it was the everyday blessings that ripened me the most.” as i think i mentioned (but perhaps i didn’t) i was reading an article about dating and how God works through ordinary means. this sentence reminded me of that. and to learn to see God in everything–the big as well as the small. it’s so easy to see him in the big, where it’s undeniable. but to see His handiwork in the small and subtle seems to be reflective of an atuned spirit. i don’t want to forget or neglect or underappreciate all he does for me. or ever feel like i can do all this on my own. i want to be sure to appreciate all he’s given me.

i’m beginning to think about my tattoo and it bearing the word: “blessed.” because isn’t it so? isn’t it so terribly so?

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…

Everyone likes lists, right? Well welcome to the humble abode of the List Maker:

  • I was talking to Holly last night (in the midst of all-out, no holds barred girl talk) and mentioned that “Emotions aren’t logical.” and I think about it, and it seems ever more true. For instance, an hour ago I could not have been any more upset and angered, towing my little gray storm cloud (not even a rain cloud would do!) behind me. And while I’m still hurt and upset, I’m licking my wounds a bit more because now I’m softened. But the sad thing is that I know that if you give me long enough, even just a few hours, that rollercoaster will take off again. And that instability, inconsistency just doesn’t make sense. Illogical.
  • Which leads me to my next point. God isn’t logical. But that’s one of the reasons why I love him so much—he’s so much bigger than I can understand and I think that’s a good thing. I rest assured putting my faith and hopes and future in the hands of someone who is that much bigger than me, someone who I can’t even come close to understanding. Because I’m not supposed. That’s why I’m made in his image; merely a reflection, not an equal.
  • I gave up reading that book “A General Theory of Love.” it was interesting at first, talking about all the different roles of the brain and how the brain’s evolved and that the last evolvement (the limbic part of the brain) is where emotions came into play. it was interesting and had me captivated for about an evening, but then I got tired of wading through the science-y muck.
  • I’ve now started reading this book I nabbed when I was down in Birmingham—back in 2004. It’s called “Devil in the Details” and is a memoir of a girl who suffers from OCD. I’m only about 20 pages into it because last night I was set to dig in and waste my night away doing that but, given the Rollercoaster, couldn’t concentrate and instead wasted it on naps and TV.
  • I’m patiently waiting for a package of American Apparel t-shirts to arrive. I ordered them about a week and a half ago, I think. I WANT MY CUTE V-NECK T-SHIRTS!!
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  • This weekend I’m going on a retreat for the middle and high school ministries at church. I’m really looking forward to it and to take a break from everything stressful that’s going on, and just focus on things that are good and healthy and hopeful and promising. Which is also why I’ve agreed to go to this teen christian convention, TCTC, as a chaperone in January. I know it’s some time away and I know that after last January, I said I’d never do another overnight again (those kids can be so wild, and I’m not one for discipline), but I feel like this is something I’m sure I can’t go wrong with. So I’m looking forward to it and, for one weekend, letting go of the selfishness that otherwise consumes my life.
  • tonight I’m going to paul’s awards dinner + ceremony. I’m conflicted about it because everything has not been going well in that area and I feel like this is just one more opportunity for stuff (well nice to meet you, euphemism) to hit the fan. I want it to go well and for things to be smoothed over with us but my hopes aren’t high. It just seems that frustration has been reigning supreme lately, above all else. And that’s draining. So we’ll see. I think that’s one of the big reasons why I’m so glad to get away this weekend.

last night i just started reading “a general theory of love,” which came highly recommended from a designer who was in town for work the other week. she raved about it, so i grabbed it from the library and am giving it a shot. about 40 pages in, and finding the book interesting but very academic. you have to focus to read it, and i have yet to come across anything particularly gripping or worth jotting down, but still. plus, the authors use lots of big words, so it’s good mental floss!

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kitty and betsy came over last night for a lovelies reunion and a short trip to starbucks. but (before our toilet decided to stop working and cut the night short) i was talking to kitty about different blogs i read and thought i would post them, because they’re all really, really worthwhile.

  • avanoo: this is by far my No. 1 blog to read. the guy writes really powerfully and really touching stories, and he’s been in the midst of detailing his feelings about this girl “Katie” who lives far away and who he’s just friends with, for now. it’s really sweet.
  • posie gets cozy and angry chicken are charming little blogs that include lots of pretty pictures and crafts/decorating/cooking, and also detail sweet moments in the women’s lives.
  • for pretty decorating ideas and updates, i like decor8
  • for pretty, but ever-so-slightly offbeat, fashion, i like some girls wander (the author of that creates amazing paintings reminiscent of those wide-eyed girls from the 70s)
  • i love the band eisley and sherri is always making cute posts with cute pictures. i totally want to be friends with her.

and to read all those, i highly recommend using google.com/reader. you can set subscriptions to all your favorite blogs and then make a one-shop stop there to read all the updates. it makes my life so much more interesting–like DVR for the internet!

also, our latest issue of HOW just came out, which is one of my all-time favorites, just because it’s finally turning out beautiful:

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and it includes the fun office-supply story that i dug up products for and curated (which turned out to be the cover story!):

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so i finished “with or without you” last night. here’s one of my favorite parts from “with or without you.” of course there was all the relationship stuff and some good spiritual insights (such as the idea that love always wins, but always here on earth, or that it’s hard for us to give grace to others because it’s unfair–it’s purposely not doling out the punishment you deserve). but my favorite was an example he dug up from this author Erwin McManus. he recaps how erwin got a call one day from his junior-high son who was away at camp and wanted to come home. the kid, though, admits that he heard a voice in his head that told him he should stay and try to work things out with another kid he’d gotten in a fight with. the dad (erwin) makes it a point to tell his son, “do you realize what just happened? you heard the voice of the living God. he spoke to you from within your soul. forget everything else that just happened. god has spoken to you, and you were able to recognize him.” erwin goes on to tell his son that he has two choices in this situation; to obey God or not to, but each carries a consequence. “if he rejected the voice of God and chose to disobey His guidance, his heart would become hardened, and his ears would become dull. and if he continued on this path, there would be a day when he would never again hear the voice of God. …. but if he treasured God’s voice and responded to Him in obedience, then his heart would be softened and his ears would always be able to hear the whisper of God into his soul.”

i love that idea, of how the smallest choices today can have such great ramifications, and pointing that reality out to a young kid. we so easily disregard things and hinge everything on second chances or tomorrow or next time. but today matters, and we have to realize that and how much it can matter.

it’s silly to be happy about this, but i am. after months of bemoaning and not really doing anything about it, i’ve finally found my way to a new book that makes me giddy and unable to put down.

on sunday, i had an afternoon and evening to myself. so after taking a nap and then finally making my way to the grocery store and back, and finishing the book i’d previously forced myself through (unfortunately i have to admit it was “the lion, the witch and the wardrobe,” which i’d originally read years ago and didn’t remember being so simple)–it was still early. i’d already caught up on all of my television shows (which is impressive in and of itself), so i decided to pick up another book from my shelf. i’d started collecting a lot from the library in hopes that one of them would stick. as it turns out, the one that did was one i’d bought a long time ago. it’s called “with or without you” by cameron conant.

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it’s another relevant book and it’s a guy’s memoir about his relationship–into love and eventually out of, culminating with getting divorced. i think that’s one of the reasons that i’d put off reading it; because i was scared of what i’d read or what it’d say or how it’d change my own insights. i was afraid it’d make me sad and depressed and weary of relationships.

but it’s heartening and very human. you feel sorry for the guy–what started out as love morphs into hardened hearts and unapologetic expectations–but you also totally relate to him. you can see how something started out so innocent–the idea that “I couldn’t imagine life without her”–and how that just isn’t always enough to base a relationship on if you don’t have other things in place, namely resting on God instead of on another person. (i think the captivating and wild at heart books do a good job of talking about those ideas and how important it is to not manipulate where you look for fulfillment–it can only come from God, not from another, flawed human.) i think the reason why i like the book so much is because i do identify with him; it reminds me of the past relationships i’ve had and makes me thankful that those paths ended when they did, and i (selfishly) didn’t have to go through all the pain that this guy did. it’s encouraging and comforting in a sad kind of way.

right now i’m at the end, where he’s talking about his spiritual life and how his divorce has shaped it. how he’s learned to depend on God, but also how he feels like his Christian community hasn’t really lived up to their end of the deal. i think he looks at it from the perspective of, that’s just another reason why you have to let God and His grace be enough, but i think that’s one thing that’s sad to me–that i want to see people step up to the plate and be there for one another. of course that’s me being hypocritical, because i know i let my selfishness get in the way, too. i just wish it weren’t that way.

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to start off a post about reading, here’s a funny blog that cites “unnecessary” uses of quotation marks. (as an editor, i find it really funny, although i’m quite aware that others very well may not appreciate it.)

regardless, the problem i’ve run into lately is having no good books to read. for awhile there i was on a roll; such beauts this summer as ‘captivating’, ‘the thrill of the chaste’, ‘girl meets god’ ‘the spellman files’ ‘love walked in’… but now i feel like i’ve hit a wall. i’ve been to the library and bookstore various times and just haven’t found anything that really whets my whistle or gets me excited.

there have been lots of false starts though. i had gone on a rampage ordering memoirs (in hopes of stumbling on another ‘here’s to hindsight’) but the one i only made it halfway through and the other one seems a little too depressing to venture into yet. i got some YA novels from the library but they were predictable and too dumb (“i baked evan some cookies, i just KNOW he’s going to have to fall in love with me!!!” “why didn’t evan even look at me? it must be because he’s just waiting for the perfect time!” yes, that was the plotline exactly.)

so i don’t know. i picked up ‘the lion, the witch and the wardrobe,’ which i’m rereading but i really need something gripping after that. i like the narnia books, but it’s just not hitting the spot. i’m very much that way with books–if you’re not feeling it, don’t give in. indulge on the good stuff; don’t waste your time on all the crappy lookalikes. so i’m currently caught in the process of sifting through all those lookalikes, trying to find a gem. any suggestions?

here’s a list of my recent favorites, for reference.
fiction: love walked in. as simple as snow. a taxonomy of barnacles. the spellman files. perks of being a wallflower. nanny diaries. (yes i know i was late with those last two.)
nonfiction: here’s to hindsight. captivating. the thrill of the chaste. irresistible revolution. god’s politics. girl meets god

i’m thinking fiction. not really in a nonfiction frame-of-mind yet. although i could possibly do something memoir-ish/autobiographical. anyway. suggestions????

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