Thursday, November 30, 2006

why do i live in illinois?

The sky has not stopped dropping pellets of ice for several hours now. It's so loud hitting my apartment windows that I may not even be able to drown it out with my TV volume. I'm beginning to think we all may be frozen in until July. Maybe I should have stocked up more on canned goods.

Why couldn't the ice just be replaced with enchanting white flakes of snow so I can sit in my windowsill with hot tea in hand and a contented smile upon my face?

Thursday, November 23, 2006

things i'm thankful for...

  • my funny cheesy and dorky as we can all be, and as many times as many of my relatives say "so i says to him i says..." I still love them.
  • turkey, mashed potatoes & corn (of course mixed together), my mom's black cherry jello salad, sweet potatoes (which I didn't think I liked until today), green olives, rolls, and so on...
  • the fact that i have TONS of wonderful friends all over this country, and i probably don't deserve to have such great friends or as many as I do. I'm truly blessed.
  • that I get to work with one of my best friends, and some days that is the only reason I can make it through the day. But I'm thankful that I have a job, and most of the time, one that I really do like.
  • that my dad got a new liver this year and we can help him down the road to recovery now with a lot less worry about when it could thankful for him, and in a weird way, thankful for the donor and his/her death so that my dad could have new life.
  • that I'm not the same person as I was in high school...i'm thankful I went out in Streator last night w/ Amanda and got to see some old acquaintances, but it makes me see so clearly how different I am now than I used to be.
  • the sweet, simple prayer my cousin Shelby prayed today thanking God for the food and for our family and that God loves to hear us pray just like that sometimes.
  • having none of the lights on in the house except the Christmas tree lights and just the candles in the my mom said last night, "the Christmas tree just makes the room warmer..."
  • the smells at this time of year...cinnamon, pine, pumpkin spice, berries, and yes--even the smell outside when you know snow is on the way...I may hate the cold, but I do love the smell when snow is coming.
  • and on that note, i'm thankful for the first snow every year
  • good sales the day after Thanksgiving and the bittersweet excitement of waking up at 4:00 a.m. to go shopping w/ my mom. We know. We are crazy. And we're only contributing to the madness.
  • all of the good movies that come out right around the holidays...can't wait to see the new Will Smith movie, The Pursuit of Happyness, and The Holiday (with Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, hottie Jude Law, and Jack Black), and i'm curious to see how good or accurate The Nativity Story will be.
  • my apartment. Sometimes I don't like being there all the time, but when I'm not there I realize how great it really is and how cozy it really can be. I am thankful for my kitchen and my bed and my shower and my closets...just the simple things, i tell you...
  • decorating the Christmas tree...from putting on the ornaments, to listening to my favorite Christmas music while doing so, to the memories in the back of my mind from decorating when we were little, to the old ornaments we find each year that i made in like 1988...
  • just the feeling you get at this time of year...nostalgia, tradition, warmth, peace, comfort, even the longing that comes when I wish I had someone to cuddle with on the couch, but the excitement about starting new traditions someday, and the childlike spirit this season brings, and the wonder of it all...
  • experiences of the past year...friendships made, lessons learned, risks taken, growth that happened, places traveled, dreams planted...
  • dark chocolate, peppermint hot tea, a glass of wine, a hot bath, a good book, a good laugh, seeing old friends, good conversation, new music, weddings, warm weather and sunshine, sunsets, comfy sweatpants and a hoodie, flip flops, chocolate covered strawberries, beautiful photography, piano music...
  • good words either written or spoken
  • my Grandma Shirlye and her patience with her own immobility. I am thankful for her persistence in all she's gone through and for her faithfulness even when she just wants to give up. I'm praying God will just bless her with some more strength...
  • a God who is more creative than we could ever imagine, and that He gives us eyes that can sometimes see it, ears that hear it, lips that can taste it, fingers to touch it, noses to smell it, and hearts to feel it all... I'm just thankful.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

i'm tired.

so, I am tired...

and frustrated with a lot of things. And it is more than I can put into words and related to so many areas of life. But it's the fact that so many things remain unresolved that makes my frustrations even more frustrating. I'm not sure if that makes any sense to anyone, but it does to me. I need solutions. I need peace. And I need to be closer to the One who knows me best.

Tonight as I was driving home for Thanksgiving I realized how much I love the song "Apron Full of Stains" by The Normals from years ago. It gave me just a little glimpse of peace...of giving when I feel like I have nothing of my own to give. It certainly has to come from somewhere else these days. Anyway, listen to that song if you get a chance. Here are the lyrics:

She walks to the table with an apron full of stains and asks,
"Hey sir, what can I get for you today?"
Should I be polite and make nice conversation but the foods no good,
she doesn't seem to even notice me here.
Her shoulder slump to see her tear stained eyes and back
through the double swinging doors serving pies was not her goal in life.
I leave a tip like I think Jesus would and smile, "
Thanks alot, have a nice day" and I am on my way.
Jesus what would you do? Can you teach me how to love like you?

I wanna give you everything, but I have nothing of my own at all.
And if I give what I have not got will you fill me up and make me whole?

I see him sitting by the side of the building near the street side.
He's got a sign saying I will work for food.
He looks up with his glazed over eyes and says,
"How about a dollar for a Veteran, a fellow American?"
Empty stomach, empty mind, empty soul.
Have I got the time to feed him a little broken bread?
Do I toss up a prayer as I walk on by?
Give him a tract and a weak faked smile or do I take the time to show him a little love?
Don't feel like I got anything to give, so I guess I got nothing to lose.

I wanna give you everything, but I have nothing of my own at all.
And if I give what I have not got will you fill me up and make me whole?

I come back a couple weeks later and see
the same apron, same stains, same split-end hair pulled back.
She comes near and says, "Hey mister your smile picked me up the other day
just thought I would say thanks."
And I dont know why it takes all of my effort to try.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

overwhelmed with the world

In case you haven't noticed, the world is huge.

It's bigger than Lincoln, Illinois, and it's bigger than the United States of America.
And these statistics rock my world:
  • In 2005, more than 2.8 million people died from AIDS in Africa. That's equal to the entire population of Chicago.
  • In Africa, 15 million children have lost one or more parents to AIDS. That's the same as the total number of high school students in America. Every 14 seconds a child loses a parent to AIDS.
  • Universal primary education could prevent 700,000 HIV cases per year.
  • Every 60 seconds, 5 people in Africa die of AIDS and 10 more are infected with HIV.
  • Education is critical...some cases of HIV are spread because some tribes believe they will be cured by having sex with someone else which only further spreads the disease. Young girls will drop out of school to try and support their families by exchanging sex for money or favors, and thus they are likely to contract HIV if they haven't already. This is why it's an epidemic.
  • More than half of all Zambian children are chronically malnourished, and 3/4 of them live below the poverty line. Nearly 1/4 of them are orphans.
  • It would cost $7 billion a year over the next decade to obtain access to clean water and basic sanitation for the world's poor. Sound like a lot of $$? Guess how much Americans spend on elective cosmetic surgery in a year? $8 billion.
  • $4 billion is needed to finance basic health interventions that could prevent the deaths of 3 million infants a year. Between the U.S. and Europe, we spend $17 billion a year on pet food.
  • Americans spend $20 billion/year on ice cream.
  • $1 = clean water for 1 person for 1 year in Africa. Check out either Blood:Water Mission to join their 1000 Wells project or The Mocha Club to find out how you can give up $7/month (2 mochas/month) to go toward a number of causes. (you can join my team if you'd like!)
  • 35,000 people die every day from preventable water diseases. Many die by dehydration, set on by diarrhea from unclean water.

Need I provide more facts concerning poverty in Africa and around the world? This is enough for me. I am sick to my stomach and brought to tears when I see statistics on how much money Americans spend on things like bottled water, cosmetic surgery, iPods, and eating out daily compared to how 1 billion people in the world live on less than $1/day.

In writing these things myself, it's wrecking me. And I hope it's wrecking you too. The obvious result from reading or hearing statistics like these is the feeling of overwhelming guilt, but guilt is not the end product. It seems these days it takes guilt to make us move and act. And if we have to be shocked by staggering statistics in order for us to begin to take action, then okay. But what we're striving for here is to see the world as Christ sees it.

I find myself becoming numb to some statistics after reading them so many times. A year ago I walked through the One Life Revolution Experience at a Youth Specialties convention in California, and I was torn up about it. But it has taken a year for God to plant little seeds in my heart with that experience, watching the Invisible Children film, taking part in the Global Night Commute, seeing the Hope in the Dark book, being a part of the Mocha Club, and other little things that have shaken me from my little selfish world. These little seeds have been planted, and lately God has been watering them. I can't sit here numb any longer, and I can't just keep taking in facts. I have to do something. If you've ever seen the One Life Revolution videos, you hear the little boy at the end yelling "You only have ONE LIFE!!! Do something..." It's ringing in my ears.

But my fears here are twofold: 1) I fear that anyone's action in this epidemic is just brought upon by guilt, and I pray it's not. I hope we act because we see a need and because Christ's love compels us to act. 2) I fear that some take action to jump on the bandwagon of Bono's fame with the ONE campaign and his and Oprah's RED Campaign. I'm thankful for what they do, but I fear that Americans might become more obsessed with the people than the action, need, or cause.

Scripture compels us to move. Christ calls us to act. Bono noted at the 2006 National Prayer Breakfast that "It's not a coincidence that in the Scriptures poverty is mentioned more than 2100 times. It's not an accident. That's a lot of air time, 2100 mentions." Clearly, we need to do something.

Right now I'm trying to figure out what it is I can do with the little money I have. Fortunately, money isn't all that helps. It's time. It's energy and passion. It's influence. It's impact. Prayer. I'd like to find a way that my passions and my gifts intersect with all of this and with God's heart for the world. I'm still searching.

Meanwhile, I'll start by doing what I can and by remembering that the world is huge. I just found an old document I wrote exactly 3 months ago today that I called "Telescope Eyes" after finding several tragedies on MSN that were unfortunately not headlines. There had been a flood in India, a flood in Ethiopia, and a typhoon in China within a matter of days that left hundreds dead and millions homeless. I journaled my frustration that night that MSN failed to leave us with important headlines and that we're left instead with news of Keith Urban's recent drug addictions and Britney & K-Fed's upcoming divorce.

It's unfortunate that we too often look through the wrong set of eyes. I'm just as guilty as the next person, but it's time our perspectives change. When we look through God's eyes at the rest of the world we find that people and places are closer than we once thought. India is just around the corner. China is next door. Africa is across the street. These people are our neighbors.

Until we begin to see through different eyes, we will go about life like John Mayer. As he and his friends are "Waiting on the World to Change" I don't really want to sit around and do the same. Part of that song says "It's hard to beat the system when we're standin at a distance..." and it's true. (Don't get me wrong, I love the song, just not the idea.) So get rid of the distance. Don't wait. If we change our perspective and begin to see these people as real humans with real needs, maybe...just maybe we might begin to change the world.

(*If you or anyone else you know may want to do a study on this with high school students, there is a great curriculum available at Fuller Theological Seminary's Center for Youth and Family Ministry online for free. It looks like a really great study.)

Saturday, November 11, 2006


Was Highlights the name of that magazine I used to read when I was little? And is that the one with Goofus & Gallant in it? Man, those guys were my favorite. I have no idea why.

Anyway, because I had a pretty rough week with extreme busyness (which is fine under normal circumstances) combined with some not-so-convenient-or-inexpensive-or-normal circumstances.... I've decided to post some highlights of the week instead of the low points. Way to be an optimist, right?

#1: at least when my car had to be towed last Sunday night Ford's Roadside Assistance paid for it instead of me. Thanks Ford. you did one good thing...and it wasn't the part where you made my Focus. But today we shall focus on what you did right.

#2: Dave Barnes played at Lincoln on Monday, so I got to see lots of friends who were there from random places.

#3: I did not get in a wreck while driving 2.5 hours back from a college fair in thick fog on Tuesday night.

#4: When I got a speeding ticket on Wednesday, at least the state cop was nice...but still no warning.

#5: Thursday I got to see great old friends in Cincinnati--met up with Abbra and her 1-year-old Owen at the Gap Outlet in KY. Then Linds, Chels, and I had lunch w/ Brandt and Jessica--that equals a great day, no matter what else!

#6: Friday our big youth leaders' reception at ICTC went well. I hope? At least we think it did!

#7: Today--I got to see Missy and Jake! And I got to spend a few hours in my own apartment this evening doing nothing.

#8: Lindsey and I shared some fun jam sessions to both Amy Grant and Mariah Carey Christmas songs this week. When nothing else is going right, you can't go wrong with some cheesy Christmas music.

#9: I'm working out some thoughts (which I'll post at a later date) from some things I'm wrestling with about serving and Africa and life. There are a lot of things that are just wrecking my heart and my mind all of the sudden.

#10: I'm reminded of these conclusions that Oswald Chambers wrote in My Utmost for His Highest in some of this past week's devos: "I find that faith is as natural as breathing. And I am staggered when I think how foolish I have been in not trusting Him earlier.....God is using me from His great personal perspective, and all He asks of me is that I trust Him."

I am sure there were more highlights in my week, but I'll leave you w/ those. Sometime soon I'll get out what is really going through my head.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

b/c i just had caffeine at 10:00 at night...

So I'll be awake for awhile. I realize this makes me sound like an old lady, and well...that's okay. Sometimes I am like one. And sometimes I am quite the opposite.

Much like an old lady would show off her grandbaby, I also must show off my cutie niece in her Tinkerbell costume. Is she not adorable? Especially with her silly face...

It was fun to take her trick-or-treating the other night and it kind of reminded me of going when I was a kid. You know there were certain houses that everyone knew had the best the old couple across the street ALWAYS gave out popcorn balls. And then there was the house across from there where you couldn't walk on the old man's sidewalk or he yelled at you (or so I was told...). And then there was the Emm's house on Elm Street (surprisingly so) that just about caused me to have nightmares every year. Let's just say that they really get into decorating for Halloween and I always made my parents drive by slowly to see if I had the guts to get out of the car and actually go up to the door. I chickened out several times.

I'm quite sad that I don't have a picture to share of my best-ever Hershey's Kiss costume.

In other news, now that Halloween is over, I should also let you know it is officially time to begin Christmas music. This actually began a few weeks ago for me. And as all wise Christmas music lovers should, I started with the classic Amy Grant Tennessee Christmas. Someday I shall live there and make that song my own.

And soon enough, I'll start writing about my favorite Christmas memories I'm sure. I loooove Christmas time, and in my mind it's pretty much officially here. It's already cold enough for it, which I am not enjoying. But on a more positive note, I already have my Christmas in the Chapel tickets, and I'm definitely looking forward to that! If you don't have yours or have no idea what I'm talking about, you need to go.

so if you've made it this far through my pointless blog, my advice is twofold:

1) Begin your Christmas season by listening to Tennessee Christmas. Just get the whole darn album, cleverly titled "The Christmas Album" from Amy Grant's pre-Vince Gill days.

2) Get tickets for Christmas in the Chapel.