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so i’ve now officially lived in grand rapids for 3 weeks, and i finally feel like i’m starting to get in the swing of things. it’s been a little wild because i’ve already been out of town twice (first for a business trip, on day #4 of the new job, and then the following weekend to atlanta to celebrate michael’s birthday).

so adjusting hasn’t been the smoothest process because there have been so many interruptions. i spent the first week trying to unpack all of my stuff. (and if you didn’t hear, there was a big predicament with my moving truck and so we ended up having to drive everything up to michigan and then go back to cincinnati and then the next day i officially moved up here… yes, that’s a lot of driving time, because it’s a 6-hour drive each way.)

i’ll be the first to admit that i really struggled that first week or so, and i still get moments where i wonder “what am i doing up here?” “how did i leave such a good life behind me?” but then i have to remind myself that God left no doubt in my mind that this was where i was supposed to do, with doors swinging widely open all around me. now it’s just a matter of figuring out why here.

fortunately, i already have started making a couple friends here and there. when i first came to visit in june, we ran into a girl at mars hill who i hit it off with smashingly. so when i moved up here, she was the first to call me and invite me to her bible study and help make GR feel like home. (just another element of God looking out for me.) then other friends have been good about helping me make connections, and there are some girls who i work with who have been really nice about inviting me along and reaching out. it’s pretty cool how inviting and approachable everyone’s been up here. it’s still lonely at times, but i know there’s a light at the end of the tunnel 🙂

the one thing i’m trying to be careful at, as i start over with a clean slate, is about how much i do commit to. sometimes in cincinnati i felt really overwhelmed at everything and everyone i committed to. if i was lucky, i’d get one evening to myself a week. that’s crazy, and i know it took a toll at times on my relationship with God. i want to make sure that i put that as my top priority while i’m here, because i really believe that’s a major reason that God brought me here.

so right now i’m looking at different options for volunteering and serving. i know that’s definitely something i want to build into my schedule but i want to make sure i’m intentional about it, because i believe that every time you say “yes” to one thing, you’re also saying “no” to another. so i want to make sure that no matter what i’m choosing, it’s a “yes” to growing closer to Christ. so that’s the next decision i have to make…

(by the way, if you were wondering: yes, it is already cold here. we’ve turned our heat on and i’ve been wearing jackets and light sweaters. i don’t know how i’m going to make it through the winter!)

Exodus 14:13-14 Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

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our little mariemont home is barely even a shell of the cute, brick townhouse it once was. where there used to be pretty pictures on the wall, there are just empty nail holes. where there once was a colorful rug, there are just crumbs on the floor.

tomorrow begins the move that takes me from my and Holly’s little storybook home back to the ‘burbs. part of me loves it and part of me hates it.

i love it because i know that this baby-step move is setting me up for something bigger. i’m in essence trying to “clear the decks”–basically clear every hurdle i possibly can so that God can work and I can follow with ease. i don’t have things like leases getting in the way. and even though I know that God can work around those things and make them work too, I also know I’m responsible for stepping out in faith and that’s what this is. i expect that he’s going to take me where he’s pointed. i just don’t know when. so i’m readying myself for that.

but i hate it because it’s so discouraging to pack everything up and go back to where i started from. part of me wonders why it was even worth it to move in the first place. but i know it was. i know i learned a lot and that it broadened me and positioned me for more. (besides, if i’d never moved to mariemont, then Sally and Robbie would have never met and fallen in love! mariemont dance party, represent.)

i guess now it’s time to collect those lessons and insights and replant them; take them with me as i go “home again” and see where they lead me now.

so until then, everything’s started to get stacked in cardboard boxes, labeled with papers that say things like “fragile! drinking glasses” and “tchotchkes and ceramics.” it’s funny to gather up all you own and fit it into boxes and see it all balanced one atop another. it really makes it all real…

p.s. tonight shane claiborne is in town speaking. come!

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?

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.

I was talking to the one guy friend who I’m closest to the other day (and one of my all-time favorite emailing buddies) and we were talking about my recent little break-up. He was telling me about how it’ll be good for me to take this time for myself and figure out what I want—rather than what society says you want. He was talking about us being rushed into finding love, as we watch everyone around us traipse into relationships and get married off, and then he made a good point: “We’re still so young. I hate that we’re in our twenties, and we’re saying, ‘I’m so old!’”

As shouldn’t surprise me, it was a very good point. I’m still so young with a multitude of possibilities laid out before me, a nice little smorgasbord to select from and arrange on my plate. (Little known fact: “smorgasbord” used to be one of my favorite words, circa 1997.)

One of the nice things that’s come from this whole status change is that I know feel like I have so much time on my hands! I know I had time before, but I always felt obligated to save a chunk here and there, “just in case.” (Because, of course, you know that boyfriends and girlfriends have a quota of time to fill, don’t you?!) But now, my time is my own and I don’t owe it to anyone, nor can I have expectations about what to do with it. I know it was always my own, but that’s the trap I set myself in when I’m in a relationship—getting trapped in obligations and “shoulds.”

So what have I been using all this newfound time on? Well hopefully by the end of this weekend I’ll have some photographic proof: My latest crafts is birds cut from felt that I want to string from the ceiling. I’ve also started trolling the stores in search of Christmas presents (my mom is going to be the toughie this year), and last night I sat down and tried my hand at design. Even though I work on a design magazine and appreciate design to the utmost, I’ve never fancied myself a designer. I still don’t, but I tried to flip that whole “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.” Anyway, we needed some logos for our student ministry at church and I had a couple of ideas that I decided to put to the challenge. The hard part is that I don’t know any how to maximize any of the software so it was a pretty rudimentary process. Yet and still, whether they work out, it was still a fulfilling little project.

Here they are in all their glory (except that they’re crappy files). They’re all based off our church’s tagline, “Building a growing community of passionate Jesus followers.” Within each logo idea are a couple variations to choose from (different type treatments or sizes, etc.):

spectrum2.png
Spectrum one pays homage to the 6 passions with 6 different colored petals (which can also be read as colored drops, ie drops of Jesus’ blood). Also, the petaled image in the middle incorporates Eastside’s new logo.

elevate4.png
Elevate also incorporates Eastside’s new logo and can take on a couple different variations (either filling in the space in the “e” or just coloring in the background). The rest of the word is (fittingly) “elevated.”

roots2.png
Roots takes to the “growing” part of the tagline and is a little bit more youthful/playful than the others. I thought this would lend itself well if we ever make t-shirts.

see? home by 10:30. refreshing.

this has been week no. 1 in my attempt to recalibrate. it has been good. although really it’s worked out less because of my attempts and more because everyone (meaning the lovelies and paul) have been busy. so i haven’t really had to try to take things slow and take time for myself. it’s nice to be eased into things.

yesterday, after having what was officially titled “my no good, very bad day” (don’t ask), i left work 15 minutes early and took the time to do something i haven’t done in over a month: run. in high school i was a really good runner. i played soccer and could almost always be the first player to finish all our laps around the practice complex. halfway through the season my junior year, though, i got really bad shin splints and couldn’t run without shooting pains. so i stopped running and was afraid to for years. this past summer i decided to try again. and, surprisingly, i wasn’t half bad. although i guess i’m not sure what i’m measuring it against, but i’m not disappointed in where i’ve picked up.

so it was, that i ran for an hour yesterday and was quite heartened by it. it did help clear the bumbling air that was gathering in my head.

today i went over to my parents’ house and visited my grandma who was actually much herself, which typically isn’t the case. that was such a good feeling. she was laughing and cracking jokes. she had a hard time hearing and many times misinterpreted what i was saying (i guess i have a hard time speaking up), but that made it more entertaining. she slipped a few times into her own little world, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as it has been. that was a good feeling. we ordered pizza and i made tasty pumpkin cupcakes for sir paul and then i worked a new project of mine.

right now i have this crappy piece of cardboard that i made holes in with a hole punch and have strung my necklaces through. although i’ve received compliments on it, i think it’s pretty shoddy. so my new effort is to take a medium-sized branch and cut it down and then pop nails into it and spray paint it white. all i have left is the spray paint and mounting. cross your fingers. i can’t have my necklaces get tangled and this is the best idea i’ve come up with yet. (plus i just like nature-y stuff. i’m also working a poster to blow up for over my bed. more on that later.)

and i think the best part of my day was at work i decided to start working on my lesson plan for this sunday. if you don’t know, i teach sunday school for the teen girls at church. well every once and a while i like to do “Fireside Chats” with the girls–basically a chance for them to tap into what’s going on in their life and apply it to God and look at it through that lens, and get the support of the rest of the group. so, considering what’s been going on lately in my life, i decided to hone in this week on struggles. so i spent some time looking up verses and came across a bunch that just heartened me. it was pretty cool to go from, one moment being self-pitying and ‘woe is me’ to, the next, being content and satisfied despite the circumstances or ‘what if’s.

here’s an example, 2 cor. 4:16-18 (MSG): Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye.

one of the things i did was type up all the verses so that the girls can cut the various ones up and keep them with them, in their purse or put them on their mirror or in their locker–just so that they have them nearby when they need them for reassurance. i do that at work; have a little “inspiration/reassurance wall.” it’s mostly made of encouragements i received when i went to haiti this winter. and i look to it often, so i know it’s worthwhile. so i’m amped for it–for both my sake and for the girls’. i haven’t felt like i’ve really given them the time and effort they deserve lately, so i’d like to work on that.

although i did get an email today about the OTR efforts and that they might be acquiring a n old church down there and attempting “betterment” efforts like helping the homeless neighbors find jobs or learn to read or to write. that’s totally the kind of thing i want to be involved in. so we’ll see. i’m excited about the opportunity, although i’m already wondering how i would be able to fit yet another commitment into my schedule. but i think it’s a good thing. so i guess i just have trust that the pieces will all fall into their place. i have faith that they will… one way or another, they alway do, right?

that’s a pretty quote that i read in this lady’s blog. she seems like she lives such a pretty life, always cooking and baking and sewing clothes for her kids. seems very peaceful and serene in that it’s probably chaotic and crazy, but just the way you’d want it to be. who knows. anyway, yes, i liked the quote.

tomorrow i leave for good ole birmingham, alabama. i’m actually really, really looking forward to it. it will be me, becky, and an 8-hour car ride from here to there. and “there,” we’ll meet up with jackie, my old roommate from way back When; when we used to live in a little southern cottage and chase the flying cockroaches with bug spray and try to smash them with phonebooks and textbooks and when i burnt a whole pan of baked beans and our other roommate hated us and there was a visiting mouse and melted strainer and we worked at big-name magazines and hung out at southern bars and learned every word to “sweet home alabama” and watched “life was we know it” until it was cancelled and took a road trip to new orleans and got ourselves in all sorts of youthful debacles. and then she stayed there and i packed up my car and then on Christmas Eve 2004, drove back home through a snow storm with no idea what awaited me in my old hometown.

it was a really scary time in my life. i remember driving down there when i accepted the internship. jackie and i had never met, i had no idea what i was in for and was taking this as a leap of faith. i remember listening to the allister song that talks about starting over from “scratch”, which is exactly what i felt like i was doing:

you better start from scratch
it’s now or never
but we can’t look back
I need you with me
for another day
she’s so far away
yeah far away

I know there’s no time left for second chances
Still we’re right despite these circumstances
You’ve changed me more than you could ever know
So we will just hang on until tomorrow
so take my hand
don’t ever let me go

take our time
making sure that everything feels right
it won’t be easy
but I’m not afraid
she’s so far away

you better start from scratch
it’s now or never
but we can’t look back
I need you with me
for another day
she’s so far away
yeah far away

and as with so many other things in life, it all turned out beautifully. we made memories, i found a perfect job and moved back home and made amazing friends and an amazing little life for myself. so it will be interesting to journey back, now at the point where i am, and look at it all through that lens. on Friday, we’ll head over to Jackie’s and do dinner and reminisce and then head over to Innisfree, the bar that we used to walk to every weekend, and on Saturday our friend Liz is tying the knot so we’ll get to experience a proper Southern wedding. and then on Sunday… we make the trek back. maybe we can stop in Nashville for dinner or something? i’d enjoy that i think.

so we’ll see. but i’m looking forward to the break and the moment to catch my breath. i feel like i’ve been running full speed ahead and so now i realize that that isn’t healthy. so if you pray, i’d appreciate those kinds of prayers. just learning how to strike that balance. i went so far as to scribe a little list of rules: things like leave one night a week with nothing planned, do nothing (phone, visiting, etc.) after 10:30pm, and only schedule 2 things a night. (last night for instance involved a happy hour from 5 to 7, small group from 7:30 to 9:15, and stopping by paul’s from 9:30 to 10.) i just recognize that by running myself ragged i get stressed = fretful = crabby and that’s not worth it. that’s not me.

so thanks for any prayers, internet friends. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16)

(also, in regular list-making fare, i got started on my christmas list. and that’s a month later than most years!)

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