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Year in Review.

I stole this survey off of someone else's blog, because I couldn't come up with anything creative and contemplative on my own.

1. What did you do in 2008 that you'd never done before?
Traveled overseas. Got a passport, had an international flight, went through customs.
Drove into Pittsburgh by myself. Drove to Missouri and back, the whole way!!

2. Did you keep your new years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
Um...not as well as I would have liked. I am making some resolutions, because hope springs eternal. And also because I'm making new "decade" resolutions.

And because some things just have to change!!

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Well, I know a few people who had babies. Nobody that I'm super (at least in terms of physical proximity) close with, though.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
Not this year, no.

5. What countries did you visit?
IRELAND!!! It was awesome.

6. What would you like to have in 2009 that you lacked in 2008?
I would love to know what I'm doing with my life, but I doubt that will happen.

7. What dates from 2007 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
From '07?? Well, probably some boy related ones that seemed momentous at the time but are now irrelevant...and Jan. 2nd, when Brianne got her tat and I got my nose pierced. That was a good day in 2007.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Geez. This is tough. I mean, I think just going to Ireland was the biggest deal. I finally did it. That was a lifelong dream, to get over to that part of the world.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Sometimes the way things ended with CW feels like I failed. Or maybe just how I handled it.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Just the usual colds I always get.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
My camera. They say material things can't bring you happiness, but it has brought me such simple joy.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
We threw Jake a going away party...but that wasn't really a celebration. We still miss him.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
It was hard watching my brother's relationship go sour. (Sometimes it was hard to watch when it was good, too; but it sucks watching someone you love go through a bad break-up.)

14. Where did most of your money go?
Stuff I didn't need at Target, probably. And Mp3 downloads.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Ireland. Going to see Brianne. Prince Caspian. My new phone. Spring.

16. What songs will always remind you of 2008?
Pocketful of Sunshine. "This is Home," by Switchfoot. "The Call," by Regina Spektor.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder? About even, I think.
b) thinner or fatter? I've probably put on a few this year.
c) richer or poorer? Slightly poorer, since my job change.

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
Writing. Job hunting, maybe. Yoga.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
Worrying. Stressing. Complaining.

20. How will you be spending New Year's Eve?
Hopefully going downtown for First Night with friends.

21. Did you fall in love in 2008?
No. Fell out of love, actually. But it's a good thing.
Well, unless you count my mad crush on Zachary Levi of "Chuck."

22. How many one-night stands?
None. I could have changed that to "dates" and the answer would still be the same.

23. What was your favourite TV program?
Chuck. Eli Stone. Heroes. Lost. Bones. Pushing Daisies. Monk. Psych. Samantha Who?

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
Well, it's more that an already strong disliking intensified.

25.What was the best book you read?
"Culture Making" by Andy Crouch, or "The Celtic Way of Evangelism" by George G. Hunter. Both AMAZING books. I'd put "Walking With God" by John Eldredge, but I'm not quite finished with it yet.

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?
I discovered that I love Coldplay. I know, they're popular and ubiquitous. Like U2. I never thought I liked them much, either. But I do, now. It's weird.

27. What did you want and get?
A camera. My new phone.

28. What did you want and not get?
A new job--something that I'm MEANT to do, you know? Some purpose and direction.

29. What was your favourite film of this year?
Ooh. Well, the sad thing is, I haven't seen a movie since July ( I know, right?!). Ironman was good, so was Get Smart. I really liked Prince Caspian, despite plot changes. HATED The Happening, but Kung Fu Panda was cute. I adored Wall-E.

30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
Hmm...I believe I went to Seib's with friends. Yes. Several birthday drinks were consumed. Well you only turn 29 once. Or, once a year from now on.

31.What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
A sense of where I'm going and what I'm supposed to be doing with my life. That would have been helpful.

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2008?
Scarves. Ballet flats.

33. What kept you sane?
My friends. You know who you are. My head would have exploded without you.

34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
I think I answered that already, but I'll gladly say it again: Zachary Levi. Mmm.

35. What political issue stirred you the most?
Ugh. Don't get me started. I tried to avoid everything remotely political.

36. Who did you miss?

37. Who was the best new person you met?
I met some cool folks in Ireland.

38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2008?
Community. Fellowship. Vital to survival.

39. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
"It started out as feeling, which then grew into a hope.
Which then turned into a quiet thought, which then turned into a quiet word.
And then that word grew louder and louder, until it was a battle cry!
I'll come back, when you call me, no need to say goodbye."
--Regina Spektor, "The Call" (From the Prince Caspian Soundtrack)

I used this already this year, but:
"I still haven't found what I'm looking for." --U2


The Mighty Checklist

So, thanksgiving has come and gone. Mine was good; I hope yours was, too.

I've noticed, though, how quickly I jump ahead to the next event in my life. Well, let's see: of course, there's Christmas approaching all-too-rapidly, and a couple of services I'm putting together before that. Not to mention that Thanksgiving day was also my half birthday...meaning I have just under six months now before I turn the big 3-0.

"Well, geez, before I turn thirty, I really ought to ____!"

I thought it would be fun to create a list of 30 things to do before I turn 30, and 30 things to do once I turn 30, you know, to sort of take the sting out of it. But now I'm finding that it just feels like a lot of pressure. First I have to come up with thirty things. Than I have to do them! Along with everything else in my life, which already sort of feels like a giant checklist.

And how did that happen? I used to see life as a journey, an adventure. Now it's a list?!? That's no fun. And worse, it's not true. Life is about more than getting things done--and Christians should know that most of all.

Sometimes things don't happen on our own time. Some of the things I'd be tempted to put on my "before 30" list are things that...for some reason, God hasn't allowed to happen to me yet. And the weird thing is, most of the time, I'm okay with it! It's only when I think about how a new year is fast approaching that I get antsy. feel like I'm on a deadline, at least in the eyes of the world.

Don't get me wrong. There are some things I thought of that I do have some control over, that if I'm not careful, I'll wake up one day and be 80 and still saying, "I always wanted to ____." And what better time to do that then NOW? But if I'm not careful, I let it spill over into other areas of my life, which I don't ultimately control. And then I just end up feeling resentful that certain areas of my life are not where I thought I'd be at thirty. When most of the time, it doesn't bother me.

Life is not about a checklist. Checklists won't save me. Life IS a journey. It's about our relationships and the choices we make.

I recently picked up "Mere Christianity" by C. S. Lewis again--just randomly glanced though it. (I love that book, and I just love the way he writes. For me, it's like sitting down with a dear old friend who is sensible and comfortable and brilliant. And just listening. Over tea--or perhaps a pint.) He talks about how Christianity is not meant to just make us nicer people but that it is a transformation, not of our own doing, into Christ. And that our choices either bring us closer or take us farther away from that completion.

I would dearly love to hold onto this perspective shift, to stop looking at life as a giant checklist that needs to be conquered. O, Lord, help me hold on--help me remember that it is about so much more. Just as you've faithfully reminded me this time. Life is about living abundantly, abiding in Christ. And when I remember that, I don't worry so much bout deadlines.



I don't know how parents do it. I only watch kids for 2 and a half hours, and they were driving me crazy today. Don't get me wrong, my After School Program is not a bad job. Most of the time, I like it. But days like today...

The kids couldn't go outside during recess today because of the snow (yes, snow). And I didn't take them out, either (maybe I should have!). I've noticed that days like that, the kids just kind of go stir crazy. But the worst part was, they were so whiny.

I don't tell this story to rag on my kids. It just seemed like a good illustration of how I am most of the time. I don't know what it is about human nature that makes us each expect to get things our way. I've worked with kids for years, and I have had some real spoiled brats at times.

But what does it mean to be spoiled? Contextual definition seems to be someone who expects to always have his or her own way, an expectation generally reinforced by surroundings and upbringing. People who are spoiled can't stand any inconvenience or thwarting of his or her will. And they generally have no idea what it is like to be deprived of anything.

I know people say things like this a lot, especially in a shaming way, but Americans are spoiled.

I am spoiled.

I'm not even talking financially. I'm talking about religious freedom.

I've been doing some research lately for a 'party' I'm throwing (ask me about it!). It's been opening--re-opening, really--my eyes to just how much I take for granted. Last Sunday was the International Day of Prayer--a day that was created to give us in America a clearer picture of what our Brothers and Sisters around the world experience as a result of their faith.

I don't mean to sound all preachy and high-horsed about this. I'm just as guilty as anyone. But when I read something that says the Bible is illegal in 52 countries...that just gets to me. I just counted, and I have at least nine copies of the Bible right here in my apartment. Ten, if you count the digital one on my palm. Not to mention the oh-so-accessible Biblegateway.com. And I hardly take the time read any of them. But I am blessed--when I get frustrated or anxious, I can flip to the Psalms and find comfort. Unlike many of my Brothers and Sisters, some of whom share ONE with their entire church. At least they appreciate what they have!

Anyway. I'm still mulling a lot of this over...what it means for me, and how I'm going to let it change me. Especially my attitude. It's Thanksgiving time, and I want to have a thankful heart for the good things that I DO have, and not be whiny about the things I don't.

Let me shout God's name with a praising song,
Let me tell his greatness in a prayer of thanks.
(Psalm 69: 30, The Message)


I can finally breathe...

I was challenged this week by a spiritual "mentor" of mine (via podcast) about how sometimes in the pursuit of honesty and authenticity and our struggles, we often neglect to talk about times when God comes through for us.
After all, he said, "Intimacy with God is The Point. It's meant to be normal."
He also talked about how often the church turns a blind eye to spiritual warfare, and it's really crippling us. I have to agree with him there. We act like toddlers who cover their eyes and think that by so doing, make everything disappear. I've talked a little about spiritual warfare in the past on here. And the thing is, even though I know it's real, I don't always like dealing with it, either.

But I got hammered at the end of the week. Spiritually speaking. Yesterday I was completely overcome with the frustration I've been describing lately. I just keep asking God to show me where He wants me, what He wants me to be doing. Because I don't think the place I am is the place I'm meant to be anymore. So I keep waiting and listening.

And it occurred to me that maybe the silence is because of a spiritual attack I'm under. One author who talks a lot about warfare says to look at the fruit of the situation. He uses John 10:10: The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. So Jesus says very clearly that there IS a thief, and he is on a mission. Jesus came to bring us vibrant, abundant life; our enemy comes to steal that life away from us and instead bring death and destruction. I don't know about you, but to me that makes a lot of sense of what I see going on in the world today.

Yet despite my own acknowledgment, I'm often afraid to deal with the warfare in my life.

My friend E lent me a copy of the new Anberlin CD...there's a song on it with a line that goes:
"How can you expect to win this war, if you're too afraid to fight?" (Soft Skeletons)

I was listening to it in the car, and the line stuck out to me, and I thought, that's a really good question. As it happened, today I was giving her a ride home and we ended up talking about kinds of things. It started out being about warfare, and ended up being about just navigating this Christian life in general.

It was exactly what I needed. As I'm constantly, humblingly reminded, I'm simply unable to stumble through this life on my own strength. (Sara reminded me of the U2 song, "Sometimes You Can't Make it on Your Own," which is so true.) I need to hear stories of other people's struggles and triumphs and hopes and passions. And I love it when I post something here on this blog and friends and strangers respond, and I know I'm not alone. I want to continue to be honest about life's ups and downs, how it's often a struggle.

But I also want to be faithful. I know God's doing something in my life, even if I can't see it yet. If nothing else, today's conversation was a reminder that He does still care about me. And I'm not alone in my searching and my passions. I still have no idea what my next step is. But I have to believe that whatever it is, He'll show me eventually! In the meantime, I'm trying to find a measure of contentment right where I am.

This is surrender
To a war-torn life I've lived.
Scars and stripes forever
In need of change I can't resist...

This long of a struggle
Finally opened up my eyes.
Revolution's not easy
With a Civil War on the inside.

No need to hide anything anymore.
Can't return to who I was before.

I can finally breathe.
Suddenly alive.
I can finally move.
The world feels revived.
(Anberlin, Breathe)

Oh, and, one more thing. God, in His infinte sense of humor, and knowing my penchant for good stories (TV is a current fave source), just got my attention thorugh an episode of Samantha Who?. I just watched the second ep of the season, and she starts out saying,

I didn't remember ever seeing a rocket launch, so I tuned in the other night. But it was delayed.
There it was, all this power and potential, just waiting for a sign, and instruction.
And I shouted, "I understand, rocket! I understand!" (Woke my neighbor up.)

After an episode filled with her usual misadventures of her old nature clashing with her new life & desires for change (a rather apt parable at times!) she concludes by saying:

Okay, so my dentist has this ' fun facts' poster in his office. And did you know, a rocket has to go 25,ooo miles an hour to get into orbit?....25,ooo miles an hour. That's a lot of force keeping us right where we are. ...I'm like those rockets, those early rockets, who tried, you know, and sometimes they failed, but there was progress!

Well put. I guess God can use anything to speak to us.


"Well yes, I'm still running..."

So, considering my current frame of mind, I stumbled across an unexpected anthem yesterday.

I was driving to Aldi after work to pick up a few things (allow me a sidebar: their roasted red pepper hummus is so good I had to go back for more!!)...and I turned on the radio.

Lately, I've either been sticking in a CD or riding in silence...often silence wins out because I can't find music to suit my mood, or it seems like a good way to process some thoughts and talk to God. But anyway, there I was flipping stations, when I heard some familiar strums. It's a song I've heard nearly all of my music-noticing life. I remember hearing my dad talk about it and the meaning of it. And it's famous, a song that nearly everyone knows by a band that everyone's heard of.

It was "I Still Haven't Found What I'm looking For," by U2.

And it hit me in a profound and unexpected way.

There are powerful, controversial lyrics packed in there:

I believe in the kingdom come
Then all the colors will bleed into one, bleed into one
Well yes, I'm still running
You broke the bonds and you loosed the chains
Carried the cross of my shame, of my shame
You know I believe it

But I still haven't found what I'm looking for

I think as Christians, we can feel somewhat offended or at least mildly ruffled by the implication that one can deeply believe in the life-changing work of Christ and the cross, and yet still claim to not have found whatever it is that we're all looking for.

But in that moment, I completely resonated with that song in a way I never had before. I feel like I owe apologies to friends like E and Sara who have championed the virtues of U2, because I never really got into them. Despite whatever controversies some might have perceived, U2 is still a trendy secular band for Christians to like. And it was in part for that reason that I never really bothered to give them a listen. I'm repentant now; and I have seen how obnoxious it can be when you try to share something with someone only to have it snubbed because it's "too popular." Sometimes things are popular because they actually are good. Not always. But sometimes. And I guess now I have moved U2 into that category.

I wonder, does Bono still feel that way? 20 years later, is he still looking? Do any of us ever really stop looking?

Anyway. I share all this because I think it's important to acknowledge that there are some things we will never "find" in this life, and others we may spend years chasing. Right now, I'm searching for a sense of calling, of specific purpose for my life. My path. I definitely have not found what I'm looking for. I believe everything I'm supposed to believe, and I desire to serve God wherever he calls me...but I still haven't found what I'm looking for.

And actually, it's kind of a relief to say that. Or...sing it.


Taking Deep Breaths

Okay, so, in spite of the optimism in my last post, I've actually been really wrestling lately. It seem like I go through cycles in my life, and right now, I'm revisiting Restlessness.

I guess in a way, I thought that by the time I turned 30, I would have a few more things figured out. Such as, What I Want to Do With My Life. I'm several months away from ending my second decade, and I know that 30 is just a number, not a deadline. But still. I can't seem to make sense of my passions and desires and gifts, at least, not in a professional, salary-earning sense. And it's causing me a lot of frustration.

It's like, Whoa, here I am in Adulthood. And I wasn't really ready to be here, but now I am. Where do I go and what do I do now??

I'm reading this fantastic book called "Culture Making" by Andy Crouch. I know it seems like every time I mention a book I'm endorsing it, but if I bother to mention what I'm reading, it's because it's good. Really. So Crouch is talking about how we as Christians--and Humans, foremost--have a fundamental calling toward culture. Well, two, actually. One is to cultivate the good that is already there, like a gardener. Like our first parents, in Eden. The second is to create new culture. And that it is only by doing these two things that we begin to "change the world."

To do either of those things well, Crouch suggests, one must first be a culture keeper. I sort of feel like I've already been that most of my life. Even this past week, I spent a good chunk of my recreational time watching TV shows. I don't currently have a working TV, so it was either catching up on this season's Heroes, Chuck, Pushing Daises and Bones online, or watching DVDs of last season's Chuck and Eli Stone. (I like a lot of TV shows. I'm a sucker for a good story, and all of those that I listed qualify. )

But I don't want to just consume culture anymore, or even critique it to point out why it's a good story and you should watch, too. I long to create something that no one else ever has, to send something out into the world and have it "push the horizons of the possible."

I'm realizing, though, that things like that don't happen overnight.

It's hard for me, to be stuck here again, in this place where I can't quite see what God is doing in my life. (I think it helps, a little, to watch the stories of others who must feel the same way--I'm sure Chuck and Eli could both relate a little to this feeling!) I'm not going to lie, I've been really stressed and frustrated lately. Maybe even a little depressed. I feel like all of my emotions have been closer to the surface than usual, and not just because of biological reasons.

Outside, it's been beautiful here--and I love the fall--but somehow I just haven't been able to enjoy it as much. And that's sad. I don't want to be like that. So I'm trying a different approach. A more grateful approach. I want to acknowledge and be thankful for the good things in my life, like family and friends. And little things, too, like a new pair of earrings or a tuna sub from Subway.

You know. Spending time in worship. Learning new songs. Working on my writing. Taking pictures. Watching a good TV show. Recycling. Playing with pets. Smelling good. Taking deep breaths. Not letting myself get all bent out of shape when things don't go my way. Realizing that life is never without battles. Last year, it was my love life; now that I've made peace with that, it's my professional life. And so it goes.

I'm not trying to be glib or sanctimonious here. It's a real struggle for me to have all this passion to change the world and the church and to do something meaningful and lasting, but not actually have the means to do it. Yet. But like any good lament, if I can't pause at the end of the day and acknowledge that God must have a purpose I can't see yet, then I would really be in bad shape.

Psalm 138:8

The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me;
your love, O LORD, endures forever—
do not abandon the works of your hands.
And this was the Biblegateway.com verse of the day:

“Many are the plans in a man's heart,

but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails.”- Proverbs 19:21


Relying on the Kindness of Others

YESTERDAY I HAD TO GO downtown for a training session for my new job. I was not happy about it. Not only did I not want to give up my Saturday, especially the sleeping in part, I am not fond of driving in the city.

In fact, I can count on on hand the times I've driven into the city by myself. I usually let others drive. Part of the reason is that I'm so "directionally challenged." The other part is, Pittsburgh streets are just weird. And city driving in particular is challenging because there are all these other cars and all these choices of ways to go....

I actually got exactly to the right building I needed to (on the first try!!), using directions I got from Google maps. (Sidebar: did you know that they're doing this new thing now where they often include 360 degree photos of each intersection you turn at? It's VERY helpful.) The problem was, I couldn't find a way to get to a parking lot in the back of the building. So as I tried to make my way around to it, I found myself on a road I did NOT want to take, which lead me further and further from my destination. Eventually I stopped at a CVS and asked the girl at the counter for directions on how to get back the road I wanted.

She gave me very helpful directions (which I admire, because I usually flounder when people ask me). Unfortunately, there was construction on part of that road, so I had to go around. Eventually, I did find my way back to the Y building. I then made a second attempt to get to the parking lot.

In my opinion, there are far to many one way streets in the city. I don't understand the need for them. Anyway, the OW streets led me to another parking lot close by. I pulled in, just relieved to be at my destination. I just wanted to get there--I was already late, thanks to my detour. It was then that I noticed a sign saying "Unauthorized Vehicles will be towed at the Owner's Expense."

All through my training, I kept praying that my car wouldn't be towed. When we broke for lunch, I hurried down to try to re-park it properly (and make sure it was still there!!). It was there, but I still couldn't figure out how to get into the other lot. @#$& one way streets! Finally I saw a guy sitting in his car with the window down in the lot I was trying to get into. So I asked him, and he explained exactly what I needed to do to get in. I doubt I would have figured it out on my own.

After the conference, I met up with my friends Wendy and E at Whole Foods for a little organic shopping. But first, E had to talk me through the city. I had no idea how to get from where I was to WF.

All day, I had to rely on the kindness of others. I had to take a breath and ask for help. I had to admit that I was lost and ignorant. And you know what? People came through for me. I don't actually enjoy being at the mercy of others. I generally prefer to be self sufficient, if possible. I think a lot of people are like that. I often offer to help carry things, only to be told that whoever it is has "got it." I do the same thing.

I don't know what it is that keeps me from wanting to ask for help. But whatever it is, maybe it's the same thing that keeps us all from being a community. Because we want to be autonomous and self-reliant. We don't want to be beholden to anyone else--yet isn't that how we were meant to be? Connected to each other, leaning on those who have different gifts and abilities?

I am grateful for this humbling reminder that I am not meant to go it alone. I need the help of others. I feel compelled to say Thank You. Just to put it out there, for everyone who helped me out yesterday. And not to sound too cheesy, but actually, the biggest thank you goes to God.


Baby Steps

The other night, my brother pulled out a movie and stuck it in the player without telling us what it was.
"It's funny," he promised.
We were met with quirky music and images of a goldfish swimming around the main titles. Have you guessed it?
It was "What About Bob?" and though none of us made it all the way through, we did get some laughs out of it. One of my favorite things about the movie is the idea of taking "baby steps." Now, of course, Dr. Leo Marvin means it metaphorically; but Bob also takes it literally, shuffling out of the office and on to a bus, all while muttering "baby steps."

It's something I've been trying to apply in my own life, though not quite so literally.

I often get overwhelmed with all the things I want to do and need to do and things I want to change. I start making mental and physical lists, and the longer they get, the more frustrated I get. I start to feel like I'll NEVER get ANYTHING done, and then I end up feeling defeated before I even start!

So lately, I've been trying to shift my perspective. It started after I got back from Ireland, as I pictured myself returning there. I would daydream about what my life would be like there, and found that the Ireland Me was a different person from the Pittsburgh Me. And then I thought, why should I wait? If that's the person I truly want to be, why should I wait until I"m in another country to be that way?

So, I'm working on it. Some days it seems easier than others. And on the hard days, I just keep reminding myself: "baby steps." I'm trying to clean up my apartment, and get rid of junk I don't need. Progress is slow! Baby steps. I'm trying to eat better, to cook for myself more and not ingest as many processed, artificial foods. It's hard to do! Baby steps. I want to be more green--not because it's trendy, but because I truly think it's important for Christians to be serious and active about taking care of the earth. But sometimes it's not very convenient. Baby steps will get me there!

I have no idea what the future holds for me. Ireland? Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe it's further down the road than I thought! But step by step God leads me where He wants me. Sometimes I wonder if my interest in Ireland and the ministries there was just God's way of getting my attention for things He wants me to do here. I'm open to that.

I know I need change, and a lot of it. But big changes rarely come overnight, instantaneously. They more often come from...say it with me, now..."baby steps."


A Most Auspicious Post

Okay, I admit--that last post was filler. Fluff. It's been a while since I wrote anything real, I know. But for once, I actually waited to write for a specific reason:

This post, the one you're reading right now, not only marks my three-year-anniversary of blogging, it's also my 100th post.

I thought about a lot of different things to write on this most auspicious post, for my 100th message and three year anniversary. I considered doing a recap. Or talking about the changes taking place in my life. But then I got all introspective-like. So I've sort of gone back and read through a bunch of my previous posts, just to get a sense of where I've been and where I'm going. After all, blogs are really kind of like non-private diaries that we share with the world. I was looking for common themes, and I found them.

I talk a lot about: Singleness (how I'm okay with where I am), Jobs (how I'm wrestling with what my calling and vocation are), and Pop Culture (how I interpret the stories I see).

I began this blog three years ago at the advice of my best friend Brianne. (She started a blog at the same time, but has much more of a social life then I do.) She felt that it would be a good forum for me to sort of send my thoughts out into the universe. At the time, I was really struggling with balancing my ambition to be an author and my frustration with not being published. She, like a few others in my life who I'm eternally grateful for, felt I had something to say.

Right now, I'm trying to assess whether her belief in me was accurate or not.
Have I said anything important, weighty, or significant in these 100 posts? It's not that I'm fishing for reassurance or a pat on the back. I'm just evaluating.

And, more importantly, should I continue to write? Keep trying to say something? Should I keep up this humble blog, even when it seems like no one is reading it? I never had extravagant expectations for this. I wasn't anticipating hundreds of hits a day. Still, it's nice to know when people read it. It's nice to get a few comments. It helps me to know whether I've communicated what I set out to share. And, it connects you and me, through this vast network we call the Internet.

Blogging is such a weird thing. It puts words and thoughts out there for anyone to read, and yet no one does. Or at least, it feels like no one does, unless they leave a comment or make a point to say so. Still, last night I was reminded that sometimes the things I do and say that seem insignificant to me can have more importance than I realize. I don't know how or why that happens, except through God.

And the plain, honest truth is, if it weren't for God, and His work in my life, I wouldn't have a thing to say.


A Smattering of Blogthings...

...for no particular reason. I was bored. Just felt like sharing my quiz results. Feel free to join me in my quiz-mania.

Inside the Room of Your Soul
You are quite expressive and thoughtful. You see the world in a way that others are blind to.
You are a grounded person, but you also leave room for imagination and dreams. You feet may be on the ground, but you're head is in the clouds.
You believe that people see you for how you are, not how you look. But deep down, you know that's not exactly true.
Your near future is in a very different place (both physically and mentally) from where you are right now.
For you, love is all about caring and comfort. You couldn't fall in love with someone you didn't trust.

How You Live Your Life

You have a good sense of self control and hate to show weakness.
You're laid back and chill, but sometimes you care too much about what others think.
You prefer a variety of friends and tend to change friends quickly.
You tend to dream big, but you worry that your dreams aren't attainable.

You Are Bold When it Counts

You don't make a big fuss about getting what you want... unless it's really important to you.
Then you're as bold as you want to be. You just go for it!
You're often up for a little excitement and adventure. Well, as long as the cost isn't too great.
You enjoy risk, but not for it's own sake. Let's just say you've learned a few lessons about risk in your life.

You're Not Exactly a Hippie...

While you're not a hippie, you've got the spirit of one.
Like most hippies, you have deep beliefs and unusual interests.
You may not buy into hippie fashions, music, or heavy drug use.
But at heart, you are a free spirit and suspicious of the status quo.

Your Independence Level: High

You are extremely self reliant and autonomous.
You are definitely into doing your own thing.
But you also wouldn't turn down help if you needed it.
You follow your own path, but you don't do so blindly.

Your Personality Profile

You are dignified, spiritual, and wise.
Always unsatisfied, you constantly try to better yourself.
You are also a seeker of knowledge and often buried in books.
You tend to be philosophical, looking for the big picture in life.
You dream of inner peace for yourself, your friends, and the world.
A good friend, you always give of yourself first.


There and Back Again

Whew! Well, I'm back in Pittsburgh. What a whirlwind of days it has been for me!

First, let me thank you for your prayers. It couldn't have happened without them.

Second, I'd just like to say that I loved Ireland. It was beautiful there--and we had fantastic weather!! Now, granted, some parts of Ireland looked a lot like parts of Western PA, and much of Dublin looked relatively like any other big city in the world. But then you'd see a sign in Gaelic, or see some ivy-covered ruins in the distance, and you'd know you weren't in America anymore. Not to mention the driving on the opposite side of the road thing.

I actually took over 2,000 pictures--but don't worry, I won't make you look at them all. A hefty chunk of those were more for me, and many of them are multiples of the same thing, just me trying to get the best shot possible. I truly had a blast taking pictures; it was one way I could express my love of the beauty of Ireland. I'll be posting my favorites to flickr when I get a chance.

So, now to answer the big question: am I going back to Ireland?
I believe so, yes.

I'm trying to take this slow and not get too ahead of myself. But I spent a good amount of time on the shore of the Irish Sea last week, praying and listening. Our last evening at the conference was a time of prayer, response, and communion. Before I went to that service, I felt God saying, "Go."

Let me just try to contextualize this for you a little. Many other times in my life, I have opened myself up to God, asking Him to use me and send me however he wanted. In those days, I would never have thought of Ireland. I just knew I wanted to serve Him, somewhere. Where there was a need, where I could be used. And though I always felt my time would come someday, each time I would ask God, I heard a "No, not yet."

But there I was, having heard stories from God's people who have been toiling in Ireland; and after hearing about the kinds of things they have been moved to do in their communities, I felt stirred, deeply. God has been moving in my own heart in the same ways--to desire relationship building over hit-and-run evangelism, and to reach out to the people of the community right where they are and meet them in their need, not waiting for them to come through the doors of the church. And it was in those moments, when I heard those stories, that I most deeply felt a sense of calling to join God in the work He is doing in Ireland. I heard, "Yes, Go."

I don't know exactly what this will look like; Ireland is going through a time of tremendous immigration and as a result they are beginning to write new laws. One of them that has just been passed is affecting some of the work of World Harvest missionaries there. They are unable to stay more than three years--so the people leading the program I was looking at might not be in Ireland next year.

At first that was discouraging and disheartening; but after I had a few conversations with people and let them know how truly interested I was in Ireland (and not just anywhere), they seemed willing to try to work things out. So that's where I am--preparing, beginning to move forward in faith, knowing this will be challenging, and NOT knowing exactly what shape it will take...or when it will happen.

Thank you again so much for your prayers...my trip to Ireland (though at times exhausting!) was exhilarating and beautiful. And inspiring.
Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art...
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.


Hello From Ireland!

So now the five of us are in Dublin.

We made it here with no difficulties whatsoever, even a relatively smooth flight. Customs, immigration, even baggage claim was a breeze--which Jen tells me NEVER happens. I feel that that's thanks to you and your prayers!!

It's been crazy busy here!! And not many places have wifi...we are out now but have to go soon, or we'll be locked out!!

Just know that we've been having fun, and seeing lots of sights. We also learned a lot today about Irish history.

Hopefully I''l get more time to blog later. Check out a few pics on flickr--link in the side column. Thanks for all your prayers!


Alert and Always Praying

Something that's been impressed upon me from the beginning of this endeavor to go to Ireland is the importance of prayer, and the awareness of Spiritual Warfare.

Right on the front page of the packet of info we got from World Harvest they spoke of spiritual warfare, and to be aware of it. Last weekend the team was prayed for by Pastor Dean (and Betsy!), and he mentioned it also. When we go to do God's work, and when we go to pray for a people and a nation being restored to God, the enemy doesn't like that!

I've been long indoctrinated about the presence of spiritual warfare. When I was younger, it was those Frank Peretti books, "The Present Darkness" and "Piercing the Darkness." More recently, it's been the writing of John Eldredge, especially in his book, "Waking the Dead." Except WtD is not fiction. It's about being aware of what is really going on around you. He talks about the reality of warfare, and says he knows it comes across as rather drastic. I know how he feels--I always get a mixed reaction when I mention spiritual warfare.

It doesn't matter. I don't need people to agree with me to make it true. It's Biblical!! Jesus cast out many demons during his earthly ministry. Are we supposed to believe that there are no more? Paul writes this in Ephesians:

11Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

19Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should. (Ephesians 6:11-20, emphasis mine)

In this spirit, I would like to ask once again for prayer--not just for myself, but for the rest of my team as well. Below is a prayer calendar I put together for the church bulletin (edited by Susan U.!)

Please add that one of our members is very sick! Several other members are going through very stressful times with jobs and finances. Please pray that those things would fade away as we leave, that we would not let the cares of this life choke us but that we would be awake and open to hearing what God is saying to us.
  • Saturday, July 12: Please pray for the team as we travel from Pittsburgh to Boston and then on to Dublin.
  • Sunday, July 13: Pray for us as we adjust to the time difference and losing 5 hours. Please pray for World Harvest Mission, the interns serving with them this summer, and Carrig Eden Theological School, who will be hosting us as well as all the other attendees.
  • Monday, July 14: As the conference begins, pray that our hearts would be open to hearing what God is doing in Ireland and what He would have us do there as well. Please pray for all the speakers who will be relating to us what God is doing in Ireland.
  • Tuesday, July 15: As we continue to learn more about Irish culture and history, pray that we understand the culture so that we can relate to and engage with the people that we come in contact with.
  • Wednesday, July 16: Pray for us as we continue learning and as we serve and observe at ministry sites throughout Ireland. We will interact with both believers and non-believers, from Ireland and America – pray that we would be good witnesses and servants.
  • Thursday, July 17: We will take a prayer walk through Dublin. Please pray with us for the people of Ireland, for those who minister to them, and for all God is doing there.
  • Friday, July 18: Pray for us as we serve at ministry sites, and for our small group times. Pray that our times of fellowship would create bonds with our brothers and sisters in Ireland, for bonds that will continue even after we return home.
  • Saturday, July 19: We’ve been hearing from speakers who are involved with various ministries and churches in Ireland, and we’ve been able to visit some of these sites. Some of us are considering returning and serving in Ireland in the very near future; please pray that God’s will and leading would be made very clear for us as the conference comes to a close.
  • Sunday, July 20–Tuesday, July 22: As we take a few days to reflect on our time at the conference and visit a few other parts of Ireland and Northern Ireland, pray for us as we prepare to bring back what we've learned and share it.
  • Wednesday, July 23: Pray for our travels home to Pittsburgh and as we adjust to being back. Pray that we would not come home unchanged by our time in Ireland and the people we encountered there.
The Ireland Team members are:
Jen Curry, James Dames, Lynne George (Leader), Chris Miller and Jessica Richards.

Thank you for praying!!!


Coming Soon....

So...Ireland draws closer and closer. Less than two weeks now. I told my mom the other day (and some other people) that I feel a little like a bride planning her wedding, in that all I can seem to do is talk about Ireland. It's practically all I think about.

Oddly, though, it doesn't seem to be bugging anyone yet. In fact, I keep getting asked questions about my trip, before I say a word. People seem to be excited for me, which is pretty cool.

I've completed and purchased pretty much everything I need for my trip (except a raincoat--I left mine in Branson!), including contacts and a camera (hence the new picture).

I saw a commercial for some upcoming movie the other day, one I was mildly interested in (though I can't now recall what it was, so it can't have been anything huge) and it said it was coming to theaters July 18th. I thought to myself, Well, that will have to wait, I'll be in Ireland July 18th. And then I let that sink in. I repeated aloud , in amazement, "I'll be in Ireland July 18th!" How crazy is that?!?

I've visited and lived a lot of places, but mostly in the States. I've never been anywhere that required a passport before now. I've wanted to see that part of the world since I was a little girl, and this is the first real opportunity that's become available to me. So maybe you can see why this is pretty much freaking me out.

It's like my very own, real live adventure. A new culture. A new country. A new home? We got a rough schedule the other day, but there is still so much that unknown and undetermined...at least for us humans. Just before we go, I'll post a prayer calendar of sorts that I made up for our church bulletin. I'm also hoping to do some mobile blogging from Internet cafes and the like, posting some pics if possible to my flickr account. We'll see.

Well, if you're not sick of hearing about Ireland yet, you probably will be by the time I'm done. Or, I suppose I could be positive, and imagine that folks will want hear about our experiences. Whatever happens, I want to drink it all in with eyes, ears, and heart wide open. May God grant me the grace until then to live in the moment and not wish away the next eleven days.


Belief Over Misery*

One of the important things to remember when blogging or journaling is to write about both the bad and the good moments.

Why the bad the moments? To be honest. To remind yourself and everyone else that perfection can't be found here, and struggles will come. And sometimes, because it helps to vent. For me, writing my thoughts down helps give them focus and clarity. But also, it's important to record what the issue is, what you're dealing with, so that you can see later how you've grown. More significantly, you can see how God is working.

That's why we have to write about the good moments, too. They are like the monuments the Israelites used to build to remind themselves of God's provision. It's all too easy to get caught up in circumstances and see only how bad everything is. I'm so prone to that. I forget too quickly the ways in which God has provided for me in the past--but keeping a record helps combat spiritual amnesia.

So today, I am writing out of a sense of awe. That's something I haven't felt in a while.

God came through for me this week in a very powerful, undeniable way. And I...I am humbled by it, knowing that I don't deserve it.

I know I keep bringing up this Ireland thing...but I've been timid about it, afraid of having the door closed on me. It's happened before. So I've been looking for signs and signals, clues to see if this is actually where God is leading me, and not just my own wistfulness. Today I feel like God is confirming some things, and beginning to make a way for me.

I ask you to continue praying for me, not because I'm still so uncertain, but because I'll need it. There will still be struggles and doubts; I'll be under attack.

I'll continue to give updates. We don't leave until next month--July 12th.

Again, I just felt like I needed to record something positive. I've been dealing with a lot of negativity in an area of my life lately (specifically, my calling, gifts, and purpose), and this week was like...the sun coming out after a thunderstorm. (No offense to rainy weather!)

I was led to the Psalms the other day, and found myself reading 23 & 25. 25 is where Third Day got their song "My Hope is You," and that was kind of an anthem for me the other day. Psalm 23, however, is so well-known that I don't often pay attention to it. It's cliche. Or so I thought.

But suddenly, words leapt off the page:

5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

6 Surely goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD
It's not cliche, after all. It's beautiful. It's just become so commonplace that I stopped noticing.

I don't want to stop noticing what God is trying to say to me--on the contrary, I want to hear more and more.

I've got my heart set
on what happens next
I've got my eyes wide,
It's not over yet,
We're miracles,
And we're not alone....*

* --Taken from the Switchfoot song, "This is Home."


A New Chapter

I have this ritual that I've done for the past decade or so of my life. Every year, I stay up the night before my birthday and reflect on my life. This usually involves some kind of writing, and normally it's done in a journal. But this year I decided to be different.

I'm 29 this year.

I was talking to a friend tonight, who is 20, and she was saying how she felt like she's got her whole life ahead of her--and she does. I'm nearly a decade older, and I feel the same way. Suddenly.

For a while, I was really wrestling with this whole "29" thing. I mean, let's face it. I am NOT where I thought I'd be by now. Far from it. And yet, there is a kind of freedom in that. For whatever reasons, God in His wisdom has kept me here since college. And I'm okay with that, because He's always provided for me.

But now, I sense a change on the horizon. it's like it's been there all along, just...hidden. Elusive. Tucked away.

The odd thing is, part of accepting that change means letting go of where I am now. There is an area of my life, a ministry I've been involved in for a while, that I have to leave behind, and God is using a very painful method to get me to let go. But everywhere around me, I keep hearing things that make me think that this is His plan for me. I mean, sometimes it happens this way. Caspian had to be chased out of his castle to find Narnia, right?

I'm going to Ireland this summer.

That in itself is a big deal; but I'm not going just for the prayer conference or to be a tourist. I'm thinking (& praying) about living there. Moving there. That's right, becoming a missionary.

I don't know what will happen. Maybe God will close the door, like He's closed other doors. but maybe not. Maybe it's time for me to move on again, time for another new chapter in my life.

Chesterton says: “An adventure is, by its nature, a thing that comes to us.
It is a thing that chooses us, not a thing that we choose.”

And Aslan says: "You would not have been calling me unless I had called you first."

Finally, Tolkien says: "The road goes ever on and on, down from the door where it began
....and whither then? I cannot say."

Would you continue to pray with and for me about Ireland? I wish I could be more eloquent about it, but at the moment, my heart's too full...I see blank pages before me. I feel like I'm still waiting for a sign; but really, I just want to feel supported. I want to know that's where God wants me.

And I want to sing, like Switchfoot does at the end of "Prince Caspian,"
I've been searching
For a place of my own
Now I've found it
Maybe this is home...


I Still Write, I Swear!

Have you ever noticed how life tends to go in cycles?

A couple of years ago, right around this time, I had the privilege of releasing a story I'd written into print format. It was pretty exciting for me, to have my words and thoughts so widely available.

To everyone who bought and read "Found Phoebe," I thank you from the bottom of my heart. If you didn't, don't worry, I'm not keeping a list or anything. I was just pleasantly surprised that folks did take the time to read--and more importantly, respond. I received a lot of positive feedback from that experience.

One of the most unanimous comments--to my overwhelming surprise--was: "When is the next one coming out?"

I still don't have a very good answer for that.

Truthfully, getting "Found Phoebe" printed by Red Lead always seemed like kind of a temporary solution, until I could find a "real" publisher (who would presumably then publish other works of mine, for example, the sequels).

But these past couple years have been sort of busy--not crazily so; just enough to keep me kind of distracted from my writing. I still write. But I spent a large chunk of my writing time tweaking another story, entirely unconnected to Phoebe.

Recently, however, Phoebe's been on my mind again. I've cycled back to it. I'm a little over halfway through the second book. I think. I'll work on other things, but Phoebe is still there, lingering, her story waiting to be told.

If you're interested, I have links to first chapter excerpts for both "Faladdyr's Rescue" (Phoebe Book 2) and "The Jagged Edge of Lightning" (my other project). Let me know what you think.

Writing is slow work, but I love it. Maybe someday I'll be able to devote more time to it.

Anyway, thanks again for reading--and responding!



Well, it finally happened. Slowly but steadily, the world is tuning green again. And I mean literally, not the eco-friendly term (thought that does seem to be on the rise). Everywhere I look, things are growing again.

There's this great Nichole Nordeman song that talks about how God is in "Every Season" of life, and she ends with Spring:

And everything that's new has bravely surfaced
Teaching us to breathe
What was frozen through is newly purposed
Turning all things green
So it is with You
And how You make me new
With every season's change
And so it will be
As You are re-creating me
Summer, Autumn, Winter...Spring.
(Listen to it, please. It's a fabulous song.)

I know I've talked a lot about my restlessness lately. I'm starting to get the feeling that it's because things are changing for me, too.

Sometimes I look at the last few years of my life, and I don't feel like I've changed much or done much with my life. And it's easy to want start with externals--like a new haircut, or a nose ring, or a tattoo. Something visible and tangible that says, "Look, I'm different." A new outfit. A new job. A new relationship.

But once in a while, God lets me get a glimpse of what He's doing in my life. I had a minor revelation last week, and it made me happy. It gave me peace. It gave me freedom. Which is what Truth does, right?

There are so many things I'm afraid of in life, it's ridiculous. I'm not talking spiders, here. I'm talking about all the little worries that flood my head whenever I think of doing something, especially something new. I fear failing, but I also fear changing for the sake of change--just to keep from being bored.

So as I look at the horizon of my life, I worry that I'm running from my old life just to avoid it. But should I let that hold me back?

I sometimes wonder if growth is painful for plants. Does it hurt trees to stretch their branches further each year, to reach up to the sky?

Right now, I feel a little like a heroine in a novel or a movie, someone who is on the brink of change and can't even see it yet. I just feel like I've been waiting for something to happen...stuck...but that just around the corner, something is coming. Does that sound weird? I'm okay with it if it does. I don't expect everyone to get it, I'm just kinda rambling.

I'm just at a point where I know things can't stay the way they are. Something has to give. Square peg, round hole and all that. I mean, I've made some friends here, and I'm grateful for that (not to mention, my family!). And for a brief window of time, I felt like I had a place here. But, I don't know...somehow I'm just too much of a gypsy. I feel like Vianne from Chocolat, always listening to the North Wind and moving on. Only, I'm trying to hear God, listening for where He is calling me to go.

Would you pray for me, as I listen? I'm considering Ireland. I will be attending a prayer/missions conference in the Dublin area later--in the summer. I want to go. Really. I'm excited about this trip. But I only want to Go--back, that is--if it's where He wants me.

He is growing each of us, just like the trees and the flowers. And thank goodness--I couldn't take much more of winter.


Come, Springtime

Come, gentle showers,
fall soft on me.

Little drops of grace
keeping me from
cracking like dry earth.

Come heavy storms,
make me clean.

I am deluged
Soaked entirely through
and shivering.

Come rushing water,
sweep me away.

A flood of change
slows to a trickle
and all is still.

Come, fierce winds,
strip away my gloom.

Let what was frozen
thaw and flow:
Life is on the move.

Come, golden light,
saturate my soul.

Rays of warmth
call forth growth;
the world is green again.

Come, Springtime,
help me bloom.


50 Non-Dates

Once in a while, I have one of Those Days.

You know. Days that make you stop and think. Like, Where am I going with my life? What does God have in store for me? ...Am I ever going to find someone?

I am, by any definition, a hopeless romantic. Shocker, I know. So I'm not generally prone to pessimism when it comes to Love. I mean, things have taken a toll on my heart, sure. I have a tendency to get cynical every now and then. I think it's hardest when I realize that once again, I gave my heart away too quickly. That it wasn't valued by the guy the way I'd hoped it was.

It's actually easier, in some ways, to be hopeful when there is no one on the horizon. Then my imagination has free reign.

I'm back at that point again.

A couple weeks ago, I watched the movie August Rush. (I highly recommend it, by the way.) There's this thing August says about hearing the music that is all around. He talks about following the music, and how it leads people together. There was something so enchanting about that idea; and I thought to myself, That's what I need. Someone who hears the music, like I do. Because in a way, I do.

So, I've been rejuvenated by this idea. I guess I have to believe that if God has someone for me, he'll be right for me. I admit, I wrestle with this at times. I fear that I'll end up with someone who doesn't understand me, or whom I'm not completely crazy about. The truth is, I know things won't be perfect. Not like in the movies.

Tonight I watched the end of a few sappy movies that were on TV. And then I watched one of my DVDs. I own around 50 romantic movies. Chick flicks. Romantic comedies. From time to time I've worried that such a thing would intimidate any potential guys--probably because I read it some kind of Brio-type article when I was younger. And I've also worried that it might have warped my own perception of Reality.

Other times I think Chick Flicks have preserved my sanity. The thing is, I haven't had a lot of romance in my own life. I've just barely dated, and never been seriously involved with any guy. Because of this, I often like to think of my movies as Non-Dates. A lovely little spot of romance in my evening, as I imagine what it would be like to be swept up in something like that.

Yes, I'm a Sap. But, God made me this way for a Reason. I believe that. Maybe I'm meant to be Single always. It's also possible that I could end up with someone who is not sentimental or romantic in the least. Either way, I'm not going to worry about that now. Not when there is so much romance to be had...at least in the movies. :)


Desiring Spring

Something happens to me around this time of year.

Right now the world is gray and faded; dirty snow piles line the streets and parking lots. Trees are bare. The sky is washed out. The air is cold. I hate it, quite frankly. I long for Spring--according to the calendar, it's only a few days away. In reality, Winter still reigns.

I've been stressed out lately--just a lot of things piling up on me. Then I look outside, and everything looks as bleak as I feel. Somehow it's easier to let things get to me when there is no beauty in the world.

But early this morning, I heard birds singing. Somehow it struck me. Such a simple thing, but it signified that Winter really is drawing to a close. And those birds know it. They know it's time for them to be back here, that soon the weather will grow warmer and things will grow again.

It reminded me of so many things. There is a song by Switchfoot called "412" which says,
You watch the sun rise
You saw the darkness had no choice before the dawn
With your own eyes
And then you broke out laughing from a yawn

You said,
"I'm so sorry I've been so down.
I started doubting things could ever turn around.
And I began to believe that all we are is material.
It's nonsensical."
And I felt that way. It was like I forgot that Winter can't last forever--it has no choice but to give way to Spring. This also reminded me of John Eldredge (as so many things do) and how he talks about our Soul's longing for Spring. He says,
But after the new year, things begin to drag on. Through February and then March, the earth remains lifeless. The whole world lies shadowed in brown and gray tones, like an old photograph. Winter’s novelty is long past, and by April we are longing for some sign of life—some color, some hope. It’s too long.

And then, just this afternoon, I rounded the corner into our neighborhood, and suddenly, the world was green again. What had been rock and twig and dead mulch was a rich oriental carpet of green. I was shocked, stunned. How did it happen? As if in disbelief, I got out of my car and began to walk through the woods, touching every leaf. The birds are back as well, waking us in the morning with their glad songs. It happened suddenly. In the twinkling of an eye.

My surprise is telling. It seems natural to long for spring; it is another thing to be completely stunned by its return. I am truly and genuinely surprised, as if my reaction were, Really? What are you doing here? And then I realized, I thought I’d never see you again. I think in some deep place inside, I had accepted the fact that winter is what is really true . . . And so I am shocked by the return of spring. And I wonder, Can the same thing happen for my soul?
(The Journey of Desire , 108–9)
There is this deep yearning in me for Life and greenness and newness and regeneration, and I long to see it not only in myself, but in the world around me. There are people who dislike that Holidays like Christmas and Easter are arbitrarily celebrated in conjunction with ancient pagan rituals rather than commemorating the actual date of the events. But this year, I realized something. God, in His sovereignty, allowed those dates to be used. The timing is quite perfect, actually. At least here, for us in this hemisphere.

Christmas brings light into the darkest time of the year. It's the bleakest, coldest, blackest time of the year--and what do we do? We light candles and hang up tiny twinkling lights everywhere. We use imagery of bright stars and shining angels. Because Christ came into the world, to be a light in the darkness.

And of course, Easter (more commonly known as Resurrection in my family, and now my church as well!). It is perfect as well. The juxtaposition of Death and Life--Winter and Spring--is a visual reminder of Rebirth and Resurrection.

There is something glorious in the Return of Spring, and yet it always surprises me how much I long for it. We were not made for death. We were made for Life--and Life abundant! And it seems like every year I need to be reminded of this. Some years more than others.

There's a Relient K song that I love, called "In Like a Lion (Always Winter)" which captures my feelings so well about wanting spring to come:
When February rolls around, I’ll roll my eyes
Turn a cold shoulder to these even colder skies
And by the fire, my heart it heaves a sigh
For the green grass waiting on the other side

It’d be so nice to look out the window
And see the leaves on the trees begin to show
The birds would congregate and sing
A song of birth, a song of newer things

And everything it changed overnight
This dying world, you brought it back to life
And deep inside I felt things
Shifting, everything was melting away
And you gave us the most beautiful of days

Cause when it’s always Winter, but never Christmas
Sometimes it feels like you’re not with us
But deep inside our hearts we know
That you are here and we will not lose hope.
The other night I was flipping through an old journal, looking for something particular. I ended up reading many pages on which I had poured out my troubled heart. It was written during what I believe to be one of my darkest years to date. I cried out to God about so many things, but one stood out to me. I had been incredibly lonely. In college, I'd had a great group of friends; but in Pittsburgh, the only people I knew were my family. Once I wrote that I wished I just had a group of friends to go out with, get away for a bit.

Immediately I thought of recent excursion to Seib's, a local Irish pub that has become something of a hangout for me and a few friends. The laughter and the warmth, the friendship--it had crept into my life after all. In unexpected ways, God answered my prayers. He brought new Life.

I believe that there is a longing in all of us for New Life. Perhaps it is closer to the surface at this time of year, when we are tired of cleaning off our cars and shoveling sidewalks and huddling under blankets. Maybe it's easier to recognize the longing of our soul when it's reflected in the world around us.

And into this Longing, God gives the best of gifts: the promise of new, eternal, abundant life. He even gives us a preview by raising Christ from the dead. Can anything be more amazing? Yet, isn't this the very thing that the world around us is proclaiming, shouting for all to see? There is Life to be found! The sun will shine again!

I'll leave you with one last quote, from a Steven Curtis Chapman song. He wrote it about Narnia and Aslan--which again echoes the Winter/Spring, Life/Death themes that we ourselves are facing:
And I'll watch as the cold winter melts into spring
And I'll be remembering You
Oh and I'll smell the flowers and hear the birds sing
and I'll be remembering You, I'll be remembering You

And I'll watch as the sun fills a sky that was dark
And I'll be remembering You
And I'll think of the way that You fill up my heart
And I'll be remembering You.
(That song always make me get teary. *sigh*) To, Spring, and to the Return of Life! Amen.


Snow Day!

So, my alarm started going off this morning at a quarter to seven. I hit snooze several times, and then finally, reluctantly, got up. I was due at the church for meetings and such. (Yay.) I jumped in the shower, picked out an outfit, blow-dried my hair, put on make up, etc....

...And noticed I was running slightly late.

Right about this time, my phone rang. I make it a habit not to answer the phone when I'm driving or when I'm late, if I can help it. In a hurry--I hate being asked if I'm almost there, or even worse, getting a lecture--I threw on my headset and listened to my messages as I rushed around, putting on my coat and grabbing everything I needed. I'd missed two other calls earlier, but the messages had become irrelevant so I'd never bothered to listen to or erase them. I labored through those two, and just as I stepped out the door, I heard the one I'd missed. Snow was everywhere, covering everything in a thick, fluffy layer of white. And my friend's voice came on the line, telling me that the church had been closed for the day.

Just a few days ago, I'd been telling my friend Brianne that in Pittsburgh, we don't close down for a bit of snow. While I was in Branson, they got a day like this--about six inches or so. We didn't leave the condo most of the day. Today was eerily similar.

Oddly, my whole family was home. We ended up eating my dad's famously good popcorn, and watching a bad 90's movie. And it was funny--we were all "kids-out-of-school" excited to have a Snow Day. Everything got canceled, from my mom's chiropractic appointment, to the classes at the college my Dad works with, to worship practice tonight.

So now I'm here, at the computer, sipping a glass of wine from a bottle my mom brought back from the winery in Branson. Ripping music on the the computer, so I can load it onto my Zune. Looking up missing album art. And blogging about the joys of a day off.

To snow days!


Something Serious

I had been going to write about something completely different earlier this week. Fluff, really. I was going to blog about my Girls Night last weekend and going to see "27 Dresses," and how Chick Flicks have shaped the way I look at romance.

Instead, I'm going to dial it back some.

There's something big going on at my church. Something serious. We're trying to leave the Presbyterian Church (USA) denomination...and join the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, instead.

The problem is: they won't let us.

Now, I studied Religion and Philosophy in college. But I have never been a Church Politics buff. When people start talking about the "Book of Order" I begin to glaze over. I know that rules are important for a lot of things. Without Order, there is Chaos and all that. Still, Rules are not a substitute for Morality. In the wrong hands, rules can just become a puzzle for corrupt people in power to manipulate how they see fit. That's Tyrrany.

We live in a culture of Revolution. It began hundreds of years ago, in my opinion, with the American Revolution. Since then, it's been somehow ingrained and inbred into our psyches. There is an innate idea that if a system of government is corrupt, then we should throw it off and start anew.

I don't know what it is exactly (though I doubt it's any one thing) but this current generation seems even more inclined to revolution than some of the past. It's like there is a natural distrust of authority. I can relate to that, somewhat. I don't like being told what to do, either. But it's more than that. Everywhere you look, you see examples of people who think They Know Better. Especially young adults--and that's praised by the media.

I am NOT saying that revolution is wrong. All I'm saying is that revolution for rebellion's sake IS wrong. Because we are emeshed in a culture that glorifies the lone rebel, we ought to think long and hard about the battles we wage.

I relate all that to say, I think my church and its staff and members have thought long and hard. We've prayed hard. We've sought counsel from the outside. It wasn't an easy choice. We didn't do it just to be edgy and rebellious. We're trying to be faithful--and that will always cause a backlash. The truth is, this was always going to be hard.

The thing that I regret, the thing that frustrates me, is that some people seem to be taking this very personally. Not only that, but a lot of assumptions have been made that we're splitting off because of homosexuals. Which is completely, utterly ridiculous. The issue here is not gays--but that's the political hot-button, so that's what makes news.

But the bigness of this thing is causing problems, and conflict. Not so much within us; it's an outside kind of conflict. I mean, getting lawyers and courts involved--seriously. That's BIG. And it' all happening right here, at MY church, where I'm a member, AND part of the staff.

So, if you would, take a moment to pray for my church and the staff...I'd appreciate it.


Oh, Boy(s).

It’s interesting being a single gal these days. Seriously. I’m in a very peculiar place.

It would be very easy for a girl like me to get discouraged about my relationship status. After all, I’m 28. Not getting any younger. The biological clock is ticking and all that. And there are times when it is a struggle not to feel lonely, overlooked, or impatient. Like at weddings. Or on Valentine’s Day. When someone has a baby. Or when you find yourself surrounded by couples. After a Chick Flick binge.

But the truth is, I’m in no hurry. You know how at the beginning of the movie “Hitch,” the dating guru tells us that no woman wakes up in the morning hoping to NOT get swept off her feet? That’s true. But some of us have a lot of other things going on in our lives. Some of us don’t want to try eHarmony or be fixed up on blind dates. We want to find Love, sure. But in the meantime, until it finds us, we’re going to keep getting on with our lives.

One fun distraction I’ve given in to from time to time is TV crushes. My first love was MacGyver—seriously. Ever since then, I’ve had a slew of TV characters whom I’ve made regular dates with. More recently, I was digging Peter Petrelli of Heroes. But oohh, I just liked him so much better with the emo-bangs. Then I also fell surprisingly hard for Chuck. That’s the nerd-love side of me, I guess. Right now, I’m logging a lot of hours watching reruns of Psych. That Shawn Spencer is hilarious.

The thing is, real guys are sooooo much more complicated. Although I am blessed to have some good guys in my life again. It’s nice, because all of my guy friends from college either got married and/or live ridiculously far away. So, now I’ve developed a new circle of friends out here, which includes guys. Several of them are married or otherwise taken, but a few are single. And there’s just a different dynamic in a friendship when both parties are single. Usually. Maybe it’s just me, but I tend to be a little more guarded around “taken” guys, though it helps if I’m close to both halves of the couple. Anyway you split it, friendships with guys are complicated—but I wouldn’t give them up.

What’s nice about it is, it satisfies what I believe is a fundamental human need for interaction with the opposite sex. I was talking about this with one friend, whom I’ll call Clive. (I’m changing the names of the guys so that if by some chance they read this, they won’t feel so exposed. Or something.) Anyway, I was telling Clive that as important as I think it is for guys to have guy time, and girls to have girl time, it’s also really important to have that guy-girl time, too. It doesn’t have to be romantic. It’s just good to get that other perspective. Both man and woman were made in God’s image—both of them representing something different about the nature of God (as John Eldredge discusses in Wild at Heart and Captivating). I’ve learned to appreciate this other element, this masculine component, in ways I never used to. Of Course, I still get baffled and sometimes frustrated with the way guys think and act.

Like my one friend, Theophilus. Theo is this great guy—intelligent, funny in a snarky way, a real servant. Easy going, low key, multifaceted. But he’s got this way of keeping things to himself, not offering anything deep. And then he masks things with sarcasm, and a self-effacing humor. It’s perplexing. What’s he really thinking? I haven’t a clue—and I can tell he wants it that way. Unlike Clive, who has been remarkably open and honest about his struggles and his “walk.”

Not that I have a problem with quiet guys. My first (real, live) crush was on a very shy guy. And right now, I’m also friends with Duncan. It took me a long time to really start to get to know him because he’s just a very unobtrusive person. He’s polite and an all-around Nice Guy. And then, out of nowhere, he’ll say something that makes you laugh. It took me by surprise at first.

I love a good laugh, and I have such a broad sense of humor that it doesn’t take a whole lot to get me going. But my one friend Jason just has this knack for saying the funniest things. I wish things like that rubbed off on people. He is seriously one of the funniest people I’ve ever met, and he makes it look just effortless. I wish I could think that fast and that witty, but I’m left just laughing hysterically in his wake.

And it’s a blessing to have developed such an interesting circle of friends. Like I said, it can sometimes be daunting to a Single Woman to look at her life. The New Year makes us reflect on the past and look ahead to the future, and I find myself still in that process. This past week has really made me reflect on my guy friends, as I’ve spent time with them each in different ways and settings.

While I might sometimes wish for romance to be closer around the corner than it is, I appreciate the fact that I once again have guy friends that I can be myself around, talk to, grab a drink with, and laugh with. (It’s nice when I feel appreciated, too!) So here’s to all the pub nights, jam sessions, Bible study, TV shows, games, inside jokes, wii sports, guitar hero challenges, worship times, and impromptu, spontaneous hanging out in this coming year. Yay for guys! The world would be a much less interesting place without them.


Happy Old Year

Well, it's 2008.

It's hard to believe. At least, it is for me. How did it get to be another year already??

Traditionally, this is a time when people reflect on the past year, and look forward to the coming year, and think about their goals and expectations. Some people make Resolutions that are hard to keep.

I thought back on my year, and I was struck by patterns of stress in my life. Recurring themes of frustration. Constant struggles and battles.

Don't get me wrong. I know I have plenty to be thankful for. I am grateful for the ways God provided for me in 2007, and I know He will continue to help me in 2008.

But right now, it seem like the only thing that's changed is a number. We like to believe that a New Year equals a New Start, a clean slate. Yet, we're already one week in, and I'm still wrestling with the same things that plagued me last year. That can be so discouraging. I look back on '07, and wonder, what did I accomplish? Again, the big events that stand out to me are my perpetual battles.

I try not to be a "glass-half-empty" person, or even a "glass-half-full" person. I just want to be realistic. I like to look at things from many angles. So, if I shift my perspective a little, I see another way of looking at this whole thing.

It's only a week in. I have no idea what this year is going to bring me. None. Sure, I have goals and dreams. And I hope '08 doesn't fly by without me accomplishing some things. But there's been a recurring message in my life lately:

One Day at a Time.

Pastor Kevin preached that at the Blue Christmas service. If I'm truly honest, I'll admit that I am no good at that. I'm a Big Picture person. I like to have a "game plan." Something to work on, or toward. Something to measure. How do you measure "one day at a time?" I have no idea. Maybe I'll figure it out by the end of the year.