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now i had done this sort of informational interview seeking once before, right after i graduated college and thought i wanted to move to new york city. i couldn’t find a job and decided to visit the city and see what i could do. before going, i lined up as many interviews as i could, at places like teen people, ym, cosmogirl, and the knot magazine. (you see, i’ve always had a thing for teen girls!)

so my inclination with this grand rapids visit was originally to line up as many interviews as possible, but at this point i only had one. but Something told me to pursue this one avenue–to see it through and to trust. so i fought my urge to blanket the city with resumes and pitches and cover letters, i sat still. and waited.

when mal and i visited, it was great how people reached out to us. even before the visit, we seemed to be getting signs that there was a community already waiting for us up there–with people eager to open their homes to us and encouraging us to come. kevin had invited friends over and mallory made all sorts of new contacts up there for us. it was amazing to see that all weave together and get some sort of bricks laid for that. even moreso, when i told kevin where i was interviewing and remembered he had a friend who worked at Baker and i should call him to get a sense of the company. i did, and it ended up that the woman i was interviewing with was his boss! he would be a coworker in the same department! so i asked him my questions about the company and he assured me that it was a stand-up, practice-what-they-preach company. that’s what i wanted to hear. if i was going somewhere to grow closer to God, i wanted to be sure that’s what i could expect.

the last day we were in town (a monday) was the day of the interview. somehow through the whole process, God gave me an insane peace about everything. and you should know i’m, by nature, a worry wort. when i was in grade school i could never enjoy a snow day because i always thought that perhaps i’d misread the information and we actually weren’t off school. i’d freak myself out and not trust that it was truly a day off. but with grand rapids, i wasn’t worried or rushed or stressed or anxious. i just trusted: that God would provide a job if he was going to point me in that direction. that i’d figure everything out with my living situation in cincinnati. all the things that people asked me if i’d considered and what i was going to do. all i could do is shrug and say i don’t know, and be done with it. how glorious and releasing is that?!

so upon going in for my interview, i could not have been more at ease. mallory drove me to the interview and before i went in, prayed for me. my peace grew. i walked in and met with the interview lady, and it was like meeting with a friend. we got along great and talked shop but also talked about life and the way God works. she recommended books to read to me and gave me one to take with me and i made recommendations for her. i walked away feeling like this is a woman i could really look up to and respect, not just as far as a job goes but also as far as having as a sort of mentor in my life. to have that as a boss? that’s pretty phenomenal!

so i walked away from the interview with a good feeling brewing in my stomach–as if i already belonged to this place. we went to a cute french cafe and met more new friends before hitting the road for the 6-hour return trip to cincinnati. oh and i forgot to mention that the night before we were able to check out mars hill. and even though rob bell had taken a hiatus from speaking only weeks before we came to visit, i learned so much more in that one “gathering” than i had in a long time at a church service back home. things were looking good…

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just a quick note to remind everyone that for the next week, i’ll be somewhere in southern illinois hanging out with our youth group. we’re taking them to the CIY (“Christ in Youth”) teen convention that’s being held there, and we leave tomorrow evening. tonight we’re hosting a kickoff for the event, complete with kickball and a bonfire. so i’m looking forward to that and all that will come from it, especially because mal and cathy get to come along too. i know the whole thing will be as enlightening and invigorating for me as it is for the kids that it’s geared toward. and i love that! please keep us all in your prayers and especially for the kids’ hearts and our (the adults’) words and actions, etc.

see you when we return!

(after these messages, we’ll be riiiight back!)

in 10 minus about 15 minutes, me and mal will be hitting the road to make our debut trip up to grand rapids to scope the joint out and see how it fits. so if you’re of the praying sort, it’d be much appreciated. one of my old friends lives up there now so we’re staying with him and his wifey and they’ve already prepared to show us around and introduce us to their friends and make it so that we never leave the land-o-the-mitt. we’re going to go to mars hill on sunday night, too, so pumped for that! (although kev did call and say that there was bad news: starting this week, rob bell is taking a hiatus from preaching. ha, go figure! but it’ll still be a swell time, i’m sure.)

and then back in time for the mates of state concert on tuesday. wanna join?!

(and for the record, i will miss you. i promise.)

UPDATE: Here’s what came from the weekend trip to Michigan.

well now that i’m back home and have had time to settle in and let the dust of back-to-back trips settle, it’s time to share some of what’s been happening of late.

boston was a great work trip; our conference was especially successful (the biggest and most profitable yet) and i had a blast hanging out with becky and trolling around the city. we didn’t go out once, but it was nice to come home, crawl into a big comfy hotel bed and get a good night’s sleep.

while i was there, i attempted–and completed!–my first fast. mallory and i were doing it simultaneously for 4 days leading up to our Kansas City trip to International House of PRAYER (yep, IHOP). i was surprised at how easy it was to go without food but then again i shouldn’t have been because i know that the fact that it was easy wasn’t me but instead Him. going into the fast, i kept praying that God would make it easy on me so that i could still do a good job with my duties at our conference, that i would be nice and have a blast despite the lack of food. i wanted my coworkers to be surprised at how it went–and see, through that, how good my God is. i didn’t want to fail so that he could get the glory that it was He who did the work, not me. so, like i said, i shouldn’t be surprised that he was with me and answered that prayer. he is a good God.

i never got to that place of “peace” that you’re supposed to get on extended fasts. i wasn’t ever hungry, it’s just that everything sounded so good and i just wanted to taste it: put it on my tongue and let the flavors seep in. i didn’t care about chewing or digesting, just the sensual part of eating. intttterrresting, huh?

my favorite part of fasting, though, was how it freed up time. because i wasn’t running off to fancy restaurants with my coworkers, i found myself with extra time to myself. i walked around the area of our hotel or would just curl up in front of our huge window and pray and read my Bible and stuff. it was so relaxing and a nice change of pace to not be rushed through that.

and that’s been the No. 1 change i’ve noticed and grasped onto of late: digging into God and the Bible. making decisions that allow that. striving for that.

at IHOP, one of their big things and basis is their Prayer Room, which is open and running all around the clock. there’s always a band playing worship music and people praying or reading their bible or singing along or just reflecting. and even though praying and reading my Bible is often a task for me and one that i struggle with, discipline-wise, it wasn’t there: we’d go for 2 or 3 hours at a time, and afterward, it felt like it only been 15 or 20 minutes it was so effortless to spend time with God. our culture is so preoccupied with being busy that we often don’t just sit before God like that. there, the time would fly by and i’d walk away so enlightened and, really, just lightened (as in my “burden”).

and it’s fitting that that would be such an epiphany to me. because, also while we were there, we got prophesied over a few times. the very first prophesy brought me to tears over this fact: the guy started off talking about how my relationship with God has been me running around trying to “do” all these things and hurrying through (he likened it to a date, where you spend all this time running around getting ready and setting the table and stuff), when all God wants is for me to stop and just look him in the eyes. that moment is the one that matters: it’s the whole point of this great big Date that we’re all on.

and i realized, so clearly, that i desperately need to do that. i need to shove off everything else that’s crowding and just stare into God. just spend time with him and getting to know him.

to that end, i’ve decided to fast from reading books about God and instead read what he wrote for myself–focus more on the Bible. i’ve been meditating specifically on Song of Songs, which has been really good for me and for my heart and for me to stop and “stare.” and to enable this renewed sense of reading and reflecting on the Bible, i’ve tried to institute some of that “prayer room” mentality into my everyday practice: cranking up hymns and praise music while i’m reading and praying, and stocking my ipod with christian-infused songs so that i can go to a park and take time out there to dig in. i’m loving it and would encourage anyone who doesn’t already do it, to give it a try. it makes it more of a holistic experience i think, and makes it easier to just rest and sit before God. which is obviously what i need.

Psalm 27:7-9
“Lord hear me when I call; have mercy and answer me. My heart said of you, “Go worship him.” So I come to worship you, Lord. Do not turn away from me.”

last night was cool. it was cool because there are few times when reality lives up to your expectations. so often we find ourselves disappointed, which i think is actually good because it’s a natural reminder that this isn’t all there is–that we long for more because there is more.

but last night stood up to test! last night, holly, kitty and I piled in my car and made our way to Xenia, Ohio, a little town that i’ve occassionally heard of but never ventured and never really cared to venture to. except in this case, because Tara Leigh Cobble was playing a show there. only an hour’s drive away, it was quite an opportunity because upon reading her first book we all would say, “I want to be her friend!”

last night, we were! we arrived at the church, where they were serving tasty Starbucks-y drinks (I often think that churches do Starbucks better than Starbucks does). when TLC started playing, we moved up into the front row to watch. my favorite thing was that when she sang she looked so happy and looked like she was singing to God, which i think is pretty amazing. because we were front-and-center, she said hi and asked us our names. a few of her songs made all of us teary-eyed but there was one that was oh-so (sadly) true: she sang about how when you meet a guy and if he’s taller than you and, especially, if he’s wearing a cross around his neck (or in my case, goes to a christian school or works at a christian company or has “Jesus” under his list of Myspace heroes), you immediately start imagining your future together. so sad to say that that’s something i struggle with all the time, but it was nice to know i’m not the only one!

afterward we waited till the crowd around her thinned and went up to say hello. it’s so nice when people who you imagine and hope are nice actually are. we hung out with her and you’d just think she was someone we met at the mall or at a party, not someone who spends her time driving the country and writing books and singing songs and whose memoir we read and hung onto every word. she invited us to hang out with her as she packed up and shared some strawberries that they’d given her backstage. she’s really as nice and sweet and funny and real as we’d imagined.

when we said our goodbyes and made our way back to the highway, we detoured to “dorothy lane” exit, found some food and then pulled into cincinnati after midnight. it was a great trip, and grounded me as to the kind of person i hope to grow into: who can touch lives and inspire people and who people can tell really loves Jesus and means it. sometimes i’m afraid that i just look like a shod, that my heart is no different from anyone else’s… but that’s for a whole other entry.

thank you, tlc for being our friend, even if only for a short evening!!

i don’t want to get too over excited but my friend nicole was in town for the day and i met her for lunch today and mentioned that i’m going to san diego again this year. she said she’s going to look at her calendar and see if she can make it. that would be fabulous. i just hate the idea of going to an amazing city and having no one to share it with. that would just be depressing rather than invigorating as people say it ought to be. yes i want to be able to make my own fun and i do genuinely feel like i’m decent at that. but i’m not going to try to be all rough-and-tough and pretend like traveling all alone is fine and dandy. i think doing things solo is fun when it’s a choice, not when you have to do it because there’s no one else to do something with.

i just got an email about the conference taking place out there:

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it seems as though nothing of great import has been going on lately, but at the same time i know a lot has been happening and why do i undermine/lessen that? i’m not sure. i guess because it’s my own life and that just makes it seem all the more ordinary. but at the same time, it is LIFE! and isn’t that extraordinary enough?

i just got confirmation that i will be returning to san diego again this spring for a work trip, the Y Design Conference that i attended last year. that was my first solo trip and now that i have another under my belt, i have confidence that i can make it as successful (from a work and networking point-of-view) as the last.

and so part of me is looking forward to it, as a challenge toward independence–to take on a new city and a big crowd of strangers and make something of it. but a greater part of me is sick of uprooting and starting over, even if just for a weekend. i like consistency and keeping what i have and watching it flourish, rather than have to start a new plot over every couple of years. first it was high school, then it was college, then it was birmingham, then it was cincinnati. i’m ready to dig my heels in and make it last, once and for all. and this just reminds of that and how life is constantly revolving through seasons. but for once, i really love where i am. and i don’t want to see it washed away.

but of course i know that it will only continue to get better. but i think the struggle comes with the fact that for that to happen means that it’s not going to be easy. and part of me just wants a rest to enjoy what i have, rather than keeping with the learning and the toil and tilling. but i know that that’s how we get to that enjoyment, that’s the way of God.

in one of the Chronicles of Narnia books, there’s a part where this kid rescues a girl who’s been snubbing him the entire journey, and he runs to get her help but the hermit tells him he must keep running to deliver a warning because an enemy army is on its way. the book says:

Shasta’s heart fainted at these words for he felt he had no strength left. And he writhed inside at what seemed the cruelty and unfairness of the demand. He had not yet learned that if you do one good deed your reward usually is to be set to do another and harder and better one.

and that’s how growth happens.

i think one of the things i hate most about going on solo work trips is that i step in as the face of our magazine and have to represent that, which is a lot of responsibility because i respect what we do so much. so i walk in and have to network and mingle and represent and wear this face and try to make friends, and it’s all just so taxing. and at the end of the day it’s just not me. that’s not how i do relationships; it seems pretty pointless to me, to just make a friend for a day.

that’s something that i’ve learned over the past year or so–where my strengths lie. i guess it was last summer when i was teaching the teen girls’ sunday school class and then going down to Over the Rhine. every sunday i would get back from OTR around 3 or 4 and just feel drained. and not a good, refreshing drainage but like i was being wrung out. i realized that as much as my heart loves OTR and what they do and that I want to be that kind of person who goes out to strangers and loves them as they are and witnesses in that way, it’s not me. i’m by nature a pretty reserved person. i don’t like small talk. i don’t make friends anywhere and everywhere. instead, i prefer to have a few good friends who i know deeply and who i can turn to with anything and be completely honest and completely genuine, even when it comes to my fears or my shortcomings or my dreams. i look at those relationships and realize that i don’t need any more friends. i have a lot that makes me feel genuinely bad for people who don’t know love like i do.

and when i realized that that’s the way i develop friendships–intimately and few rather than spread over dozens of sandwiches and faces–i decided to give up OTR and focus on youth group where i feel like i can put who i’m made to be to best, most fruitful use. and though i am aware of the bigger problems facing the world and that i do feel deeply for poverty and injustice, i just feel like my place is with these girls as they experience every day and i try to help them do that, one lesson, one laugh, one conversation at a time.

so i am excited for this work trip, another chance to see the sunny ocean of San Diego again. but you see why there’s such a tug-and-pull about it, as i take a deep breath and forge ahead despite my inhibitions. i’ll be hopping a plane the end of next month.

the weekend was fabulous. the pictures are posted here. becky and i headed down on friday and arrived at jackie’s in time for some homemade tacos (because that’s what i always made for myself when i lived down there) and then we hit up innisfree, which was the bar that jackie and i used to always go to when we lived up the street. she hadn’t been back in ages, and of course it cracked me up to be back there again. but the drinks were cheap and the cover band (always a bham staple) did “sweet home alabama”, so it was just like old times and becky got to experience a little taste of the old life. she got to see for herself how boys all wear the collared shirts with crew cuts or outgrown-crew-cuts-that-slightly-resemble-shaggy-hair-but-not-quite, and how the girls are all in heels and dolled up. actually though there was a guy there with a sweatband arm band, and i was completely shocked. the times they are a-changin’.

saturday we took a quick tour around the city (back to my old house, my old park, and my old work), and then went to elizabeth’s wedding. thinking it started at 2:30 and we were arriving early, like good friends, we walked in only to find that we were in step with the wedding party processional. the wedding actually started at 2pm. so we hid in a little coat closet till elizabeth made her way down the aisle, and then we sneaked into the back. it was a lovely wedding though and the reception was amazing. it had a really cool atmosphere: very nice and classy, but laidback and casual. hard to pull off, but i think it’s because there was no designated seating and you could sit inside or out (in the church’s pretty courtyard) and there were food stations sprinkled throughout. i loved the feel of it, and plus the centerpieces were beautiful (cylinder vases filled with apples and calla lilies and roses–her colors were red and white and black).

afterward, we headed over to her house to keep the celebration going and mingled with the wedding party (becky got to meet her girl crush). of course we watched the bride play ping pong. plus, we got to eat the rest of the food that we hadn’t had room in our stomachs to eat at the wedding. and they made wings 🙂 around 9 we went back to the hotel and turned in for an early evening. only to be awakened a couple hours later to our noisy neighbors, who finally quieted down around 3. then, 8 hours later, we were back in cincinnati and all was well…

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!)

some online scrapbooks of recent turns-of-events:

LIFE IN MARIEMONT

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PHILADELPHIA VACATION

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it’s wednesday, but it so feels like monday. that’s because on monday i put in four measly hours and then sped up to cleveland. the 3.5-hour drive wasn’t too bad; i listened to a bunch of avril lavigne (which i know is so teeny-bopper of me) and of course more than enough motion city soundtrack. because that was the purpose of the trip. they were playing at the agora ballroom with sherwood, the higher and the forecast.

the show was really good although it was super hot: my jeans were stuck to my legs but i was too scared to wipe the sweat from my face because the place was so grimy. (am i getting hyper-hygienically old or what?) we found a spot on the side in time to catch the higher, and the lead singer reminded me of Zack from Gilmore Girls, although it took me 24 full hours to finally pinpoint that. Sherwood was very good–sounded just like their CDs and i saw the guy who we’d chatted with last year at warped tour. they seem like a very nice band; the kind of guys you’d want to be friends with, which i think is the ultimate compliment, and the one i think i’d want to receive most.

and of course, then you had mcs. they played three new songs, one of which i’m pretty amped about. (the title has something to do with “real.” it was totally catchy.) by halfway through their set though, nicole and i had to climb down to the dance floor (we’d been sitting on a railing so we could see) because it just wasn’t the same if you weren’t dancing and singing with all your might. their last set song was “the future freaks me out” and the encore, much to nicole’s delight, was “perfect teeth” which always, always makes me think of her.

All the things I remember
Were they worth writing down
Bury me in memories of CK1 and tight white T’s
Like air guitar in muscle cars with “perfect teeth”
The way we are

we left, happy and hungry and so made our way to denny’s which was a really good nightcap to the night. good laughs and good food. and a good ending to a good evening, all around.

oh, good!

P.S. september 18 for the new MCS and NFG albums. i’m counting down…

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