Friday, September 28, 2007

Vegas Vacation

Vegas...twice in one year? Yes. We went in March for my mom's birthday, and this time we went for mine. We had actually planned on going somewhere else, but we couldn't pass up the cheap tickets out of Bloomington for airfare and a great deal for rooms @ the Luxor. So my mom, my aunt Irene, and I went to Vegas this week and sadly I must say we have returned. But we had a great time and lots of funny stories to tell. Ask me sometime about why we had 2 men in our hotel bathtub at 1:00 a.m. the last night...I'll explain. It's not as wild as it sounds, I promise! But it was pretty crazy.

me and my cute momma getting ready to pick up some guys...j/k.

all dressed up to go see Mamma Mia! (it was my mom's THIRD time seeing it!)

Sisters...sisters...that's my Aunt Irene and my mom. They're stepsisters.

Aunt Irene, Mom, and me in front of the Bellagio (which you can't see). The fountains there are pretty much my favorite thing ever in Vegas. I think I could sit there all night and watch them. Thankfully, my friend Adam drove us around that night so we wouldn't have to walk so much. We had lots of fun!

My view of the Luxor from the pool. Unfortunately, we weren't staying in the pyramid part of it, but we were in the East Tower on the side.

My view at the pool every single day. That is vacation, my friends...except for the Europeans walking around in their speedos...3 of which were right next to me on the last afternoon at the pool. I hope someday the world will be rid of speedos.

me and mom on the "Deuce" (the 2-level bus)

So I don't gamble a lot, but I love playing on the penny slots. And this game, Super Jackpot Party, usually turns to gold when I touch it. This trip...not so much...but it's still fun. The key is that you have to dance along to the music it plays when you win a party...or at least that's my rule.

Yay! Mom won a party too!

Mom and Irene in the airport

me and mom...sad to be leaving las vegas, but it was the best birthday present! Thanks Mom!!!
And while my last post was "25 reasons to celebrate being 25" I think I'll soon have to come up w/ "25 reasons to move to Vegas"...many of which will involve the warm weather.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

25 reasons to celebrate being 25

1. Because 24 sucked, so 25 can only get better.
2. I'm going to Vegas w/ my mom and aunt for a birthday present & vacation.
3. I have the coolest mom ever for taking me to Vegas for my birthday.
4. I'm one year wiser, or at least I'd like to think so.
5. MTV is playing reruns this weekend of So You Think You Can Dance...all weekend. I'd like to think it's in honor of my birthday.
6. I have tons of amazing friends, and I seem to recognize it more and more each year.
7. I can now rent a car.
8. I think my car insurance will go down this year...correct?
9. Maybe this year is the year of the man? I declare here and now that it shall be...
10. I'm okay with the fact that I laid on my living room floor and watched You've Got Mail for my birthday. In fact, I was happy to do just that. I think that's contentment.
11. 25 sounds more adultlike than 24.
12. It's just a new start...and I'm always thankful for one of those.
13. I'm hoping I don't have to learn too many difficult life lessons this year like I did the past year.
14. I'm still not quite on the downhill slope to thirty.
15. I have 4 years left of being a "twentysomething." Most days, that's a good thing, but sometimes I'm not sure.
16. So much in life is yet to be just around the corner. I love that mystery...
17. 25 is just a better number than 24...and it does not have a TV show w/ the same name (as if that matters...? i have no idea why i said that...)
18. I'm legal to drink. (Oh wait, I have been for 4 years now.)
19. I feel like I'm finally beginning to understand myself.
20. I'm still young.
21. I still have a lot to learn, but I'm looking forward to it.
22. I'm learning that the things we gain on earth don't really matter...what we do for the Kingdom is what lasts. I can only hope I'll make more of an impact in years to come than I have in the past 24.
23. I can let go of the past and move on from it. That's freeing.
24. I'll miss my dad a ton in years to come, but I'm thankful that he still lives on in me in ways I'll probably notice more and more as I get the way I seem to say the wrong thing at the wrong time or the way I see his face in mine in the mirror sometimes or the way I can make people laugh.
25. I have had a great life so far, despite the difficult things I've gone through. I'm blessed. And I can't wait to see what the future holds.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

this made my night...

this might be the best food ever created...

do not be mistaken...this is not even ice cream. it's Ce Fiore. it's "Italian Frozen Delight" that is somehow a Japanese concept that started in California...not sure how that works, but that's what they said. if you've seen LC and her girls eating @ Pinkberry in L.A., it's kind of like that. all I have to say is, oddly, there is one on Bardstown Rd. in Louisville, KY and you NEED to go there. it's wayyyy better than ice cream and wayyyy healthier! it's all organic and fresh w/ really really fresh fruit, no preservatives or additives or anything. there's absolutely no fat in it (as is w/ even most soft serve ice creams, but most people don't know that...), only 25 calories and 4 g sugar per serving. it's unbelievable.

i'm just sayin'...

i will probably not shut up about it for weeks. it was that good.

and all of this from me, the "ice cream snob" (as i have been so kindly called by friends).

Saturday, September 08, 2007

this one comes with a disclaimer...

The disclaimer is this: #1--this post is long. #2--Please do not read this thinking that I'm asking for you to say "wow, great job mandy!" or "wow, you're so holy and sacrificial" or anything like that. I'm just writing about what provoked me and hoping it might have an effect on you as's pretty much a big deal.

So, last night I adopted a little girl. Her name is Jaquelin Sinai Maldonado Martinez, and she lives in Mexico. I’ve always wanted to adopt, and I consider this the closest thing I can do at this point in life as a single, 25-year-old girl. (We share the same birthday even...and it's less than 2 weeks away!) She won’t be living with me, and I won’t be “parenting” her on a daily basis. In fact, she has her own set of parents and 2 siblings. The thing is, they don’t have many resources to provide for their physical, educational, and spiritual needs. But I do. I might not think I have much when I see my credit card bill, my cable bill, my electric bill, my car payment, my student loan payment, and my hefty rent check come out of my measly bi-weekly paycheck. There isn’t much left. But that’s the problem...She is supposed to come first. The kingdom comes first.

I have wanted to sponsor a Compassion International child for quite some time, but for some reason I have always selfishly hesitated after considering my own payments that need to be made. Even now, in all honesty, I wonder how sometimes I will do it. I am willing to make the sacrifice. Why? Because her life matters much more than my cable does. And for what it costs me to fill my car once with a tank of gas, I can provide so much more for her.

So why did I decide now is the time? We hosted Shaun Groves at LCC last night as a part of his partnership with Compassion International, and I have to say I was extremely impressed with his authenticity. I have heard musicians speak from the stage about various missions opportunities and ways to sponsor children, but last night it wasn’t just a 5 minute plug for Compassion. Shaun’s impact had hardly anything to do with himself and his guitar or piano. The words that he spoke even before the concert made me realize I needed to do something. I was talking to him about how he has partnered with Compassion to offer his second tour of FREE concerts (free to the promoter or venue, that is...we paid him zero dollars to play). His response was this: “It’s for the kingdom. I don’t like music enough to wake up every day. It’s Compassion and the kingdom that makes me wake up every day.”

He said the same thing during the concert in his “Compassion talk” that some people probably expected and possibly avoided altogether by leaving early. I found out then the sacrifices he and his family have made to offer shows for free. And the only reason he is doing this is to raise child sponsorships. It’s that simple. There is no catch. He is just singing the refrain of the kingdom work God has called us to do. There is no other reason why we are here on earth.

James 1:27 gives us the mission of the church: “to care for widows and orphans.” And shortly thereafter, James reminds us in 2:14-17 that our faith is dead if it is not accompanied by action. I sit and wonder how in the world I’m acting on that scripture when I’m doing nothing but looking at the need and not responding to it in a tangible way. I talk about it, but am I really doing anything?

Giving is difficult for those of us cynical people who doubt that our money will be spent wisely. I confess that I have trust issues with giving my money to the church where I’m a member. I recognize that there is a call in Scripture for me to tithe my 10%. It’s Biblical. And I know that the typical American congregational Christian church does address and target major needs that are essential to ministry in that environment and toward missions around the world. However, I have a problem when a building project that will simply accommodate more bodies in one room for a service is given priority over finding more ways to extend outward to meet people where they’re at. There are times when a building project is vision-casted and completed very well, so don’t get me wrong. I just want my dollars to be spent in a way that might never be known if the church continues to only look inward.

Instead of going off on a tangent about the church versus the Church (please notice the difference between the little ‘c’ and the big ‘C’), which I am tempted to do, I’ll revert back to my original purpose in writing this. There are hundreds of thousands of kids who might not have a church, but they have a Church. Does that make sense? It’s you and me. Some of them are blessed to have both. Though they may have a church, or congregation, where they live, the resources often aren’t there to provide for the needs of the people within that church. That is why Compassion is asking the Church (I hope you are noticing the difference between a church and the congregation versus the Body of Christ around the world) to help provide.

Our arms can extend further than you think, and so can our wallets. Thankfully there are great organizations like Compassion International, World Vision, African Leadership/The Mocha Club, and many others that are properly distributing resources from one church to another church and being The Church. That’s the kingdom coming to earth. That’s the Lord’s will being done...on earth as it is in heaven.

I’m not writing this to ask for you to go sponsor a child, necessarily, and I’m not asking you to sell your house and your car and all of your clothes. But then again, maybe I should be. Jesus did say “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” He isn’t asking us to hate everyone; He’s simply asking to be #1. He comes first. And sometimes He exists in the form of a little child in mismatched clothes, wild hair, and a terrified look on his or her face in the picture inside a little 7” x 9” packet.

So consider your life and how you’re making a difference. Is your faith simply lying dormant, or are you putting it into action? If you’re not, then I sincerely pray that God will move somehow to show you what to do next. What actions are you taking to accompany your faith? God’s not looking for a list of good deeds and the times you donated clothes to Goodwill or gave a homeless man $5 or your leftover Chinese food (that’s me speaking to myself right now...), or even how you sponsored a child through Compassion. He wants our lives to be a complete sacrifice to what He is trying to do through them. I’m willing to give $32/month as a first step in a long process of learning self-sacrifice. As Shaun said last night, it’s like “sticking a toenail into the kingdom” and beginning to understand what we’re here for.

If this doesn’t dismantle your entire worldview, then I don’t know what does:
“What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it isn’t accompanied by action, is dead.”

So join me in not just saying “good luck” and “I hope you find some food and clothes in a dumpster somewhere” or “I hope you find a friend in someone else, but not me” or “I wish you well, take care” to those around you...start living it. Start loving. And if you already are, keep stepping it up. There’s a whole world out there that’s crying out for it.