Monday, December 29, 2008

I should be cleaning...

I really hate when people avoid things that need to be done, but I have to admit I'm one of those people when it comes to overwhelming projects.

I am off from work this entire week, and I have a few daunting tasks that I'll eventually guilt myself into getting done. For right now, I still haven't showered for the day and I've only accomplished one load of laundry (that has yet to be transferred to the dryer), one load of dishes in the dishwasher, and created more of a mess on the floor of my 2nd bedroom than previously existed. I'm clearly avoiding my mental to-do list.

I might need to write it down or type it out.

I have so many projects I need to do, and I'm in the mood to purge my apartment of the things I don't need anymore. I take after my grandma Shirlye in that I hold onto anything that has any sentimental value, memory, or tradition. I have a hard time getting rid of things. I'm ready to purge, clean, organize, and sort. I feel like when my home is clean and organized, so is the rest of my life.

My projects are going to be these this week:
  • Sort through old paperwork, bills, etc. and find a filing system that will work for me
  • Reorganize my kitchen cabinets
  • Purge my closets of the plenty of clothes I DO NOT wear but think that someday "I just might need..."
  • Go through all of the stuff that is taking over my 2nd bedroom and throw things away!!!
  • Put away my Christmas tree :( (maybe...I might try to keep it up a little longer...)
  • Organize and utilize the recipes that are not in cookbooks I've collected in one kitchen cabinet
  • Sweep, mop, dust, vacuum, etc. (typical cleaning)
  • Clean out the bathtub and scrub the kitchen floor (which happen less than they should...)
  • Redecorate my living room getting rid of red & green accent colors (not from Christmas, but those have been my accent colors for a long time) and bringing in brighter colors--orange, yellow, and green. and maybe turquoise.

I clearly have a lot to do. I'm just not sure where to begin. But I've begun getting out all of my paperwork and filing folders to attempt the first task on my list. Right now it's all on the floor.

Any suggestions for organizational methods? I might have to go through some RealSimple magazines to find ideas.

Clearly I have a lot to do...

Sunday, December 21, 2008

2 years.

A lot can happen in 2 years.

People grow up. People change. Some might fall in love and get married within 2 years. Some have babies (or maybe two) in 2 years. And sometimes things don't seem to have changed much even though they have.

Just today in the backseat of the car, my 5-year-old niece Maddy asked me, "Do you miss Papa?" out of the blue. We weren't talking about him, nor did we see any fire trucks, and we were probably just singing along to the Jonas Brothers in the car. But something triggered this question in her mind...maybe some innate reminder, maybe she somehow knew...that tomorrow marks 2 years since her Papa, my dad, has been gone.

I turned to her and said, "Of course, I miss Papa...but he's in heaven now."

Her response wasn't quite what I expected: "I bet he's mad..."

"Why do you think that?" I asked.

"Because it's probably not fun in heaven. If he's sick there by himself there isn't anyone to take care of him."

So I explained to her, amidst her many questions about fairies flying in heaven and thinking that you just lay in bed sick in heaven, that it's a good place. (Because she last saw my dad in the hospital, she has a hard time comprehending that heaven is not a glorified hospital.) I tried my best to assure her that Papa is happy there and that he's just waiting for us to join him there someday. She asked about Papa Don's wife (my grandma) being there, and I let her know that it's her Papa's mommy, my Grandma Mary, and that she's taking care of Papa there. They're both there having fun and waiting for us.

It's an interesting thing to think about what heaven must seem like to a 5-year-old, or even a younger child. I remember the morning that my dad died wondering how Cory & David were going to explain it to Maddy's 3-year-old little self. They told her that Papa went to go be with Jesus. Her response was this: "I don't like that Jesus..."

We had to laugh a little, even amidst our sadness. It was hard not to want to feel the same way. Though she didn't and still doesn't quite understand who Jesus is, I pray she'll come to know that Jesus came to give us a hope that we can cling to even when we don't want to like our reality.

When you go through a loss, even if you love Jesus, it's hard for some not to blame Him and to understand why God could take someone you love out of the world. But in all things, good or bad, there is a purpose that we cannot understand or comprehend. And we wait in hope for the day when someday our lack of understanding combined with our faith will become knowledge and sight.

So as tomorrow marks a reminder that someone I love is no longer in the world, I also remember that there is a heaven we long for, a purpose I cannot understand, and a hope I can cling to even when it doesn't make any sense. There is a place we can look forward to...where there is no more pain, no more crying, no more hurt, and maybe, just maybe...there are even fairies flying around.

While 2 years have gone by both quickly and slowly at the same time, life is much different. I've learned a lot, maybe haven't changed much, but I am surprised by the peace I've had that I don't understand and the hope that constantly sustains.

And I know this:
Heaven is only something we can imagine in this life, and at that, probably far from its glorious reality, but I'm certain that it's going to be good...with or without fairies.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

-ings list

It's been awhile since I've made one of these lovely little dangling participle lists, so here's what I'm up to:

Eating--Vienna Finger cookies and leftover chili from last night. And some fresh walnuts...

Reading/Finishing--a great little novel by Laura Dave called London is the Best City in America

Listening--just downloaded today the album Advent Songs by Sojourn (my favorite church in Louisville) for FREE on Noisetrade. You should check it out--there are tons of great indie artists and others who are willing to share their music for free as long as you share it with other people!

Looking--for the last few Christmas presents I need to get for my mom and sister

Wondering--how warm it's going to be in Cancun or Aruba or the Dominican Republic in January when I go there to celebrate NYC (New Year's Caribbean...though in late January) with Faith & Becka...

Waiting--for lots of things...I'm always waiting.

Praying--for Ben Towne and his family in Seattle, who continue to watch his 3-year-old body suffer through a horrible cancer that somehow has yet to steal his joy. Read their journal here...

Planning--our annual HS Girls retreat, Awaken, at LCC and getting excited about it!

Loathing--this cold weather. And wondering why I still live in Illinois?

Loving--Paperbackswap.com. I keep getting great books from people around the country and I'm able to share books I don't really want/need anymore. And the best part is--you only pay for the books you ship out, but you get the ones you want for free! I'm awaiting the arrival of He's Just Not That Into You...which I feel I need to read these days. And looking forward to the movie coming out in February!

Mourning--that I just finished Season 4 of One Tree Hill and don't yet have Season 5. But I'm sure I'll find it online :-)

Avoiding--lots of little projects around the apartment that I need to go do...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Digging

A few weeks ago I was reading through Hosea, and for some reason kept reverting back to the same verse over and over again. Hosea 10:12 reads:

Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, until he comes and showers righteousness on you.

I had memorized it, repeated it to myself, planned on doing a devotion on this, and changed my mind at the last minute, because I couldn't figure out how it was yet to play out in my life. That "break up your unplowed ground" part kept haunting me, and I couldn't figure out what my unplowed ground was. I think I'm starting to dig.

If you've read my blog before or know me, you're probably well aware that we're approaching the 2 year anniversary of my Dad's death. It hardly seems like it's been 2 years, but then again sometimes these 2 years feel like forever. And this time of year, though joyful for most, can be difficult for some who are grieving. Don't get me wrong, I still love Christmas and I still get excited to listen to my Christmas music and drive around to look at Christmas lights and love that magical, whimsical feeling that comes in this season. (Except for the cold...which I think is absolutely anything BUT magical.) But it hasn't been the same for the past 2 years. It's harder (not impossible, just harder...) to find reasons to be thankful in the midst of loss, and it's hard to celebrate when you feel like there's someone missing out on the celebration.

As this 2 year mark approaches, we're beginning to dig up some truths in the circumstances surrounding his death, which is bound to be a difficult and long road ahead. We're finding ourselves in the beginning stages of a lawsuit that will hopefully uncover truth, answer questions, and give our minds some peace and resolution. We know that no lawsuit, no amount of money, and even no apology from doctors who may or may not have been negligent in his case will bring back my dad. But we do know that the truth can set you free, and in this particular case, the truth might just bring solace and peace and freedom in that way.

So we're digging.

And tonight, after a long day of being in Chicago, I just happened to sit down to relax and catch up on my regular blog-reading, and found a couple posts from 2 friends, completely unrelated to one another, with which my heart resonated. Christine and Chantell have had this similar struggle in the Christmas season to truly celebrate and realize what hope Christ brings, is, has been, and will always be, but they reminded me tonight of these very truths.

Christine, in the midst of decorating her house and seeking that whimsical feeling we all long for amidst the twinkling lights and that cozy feeling of Christmas, felt that something was missing. She reminded me tonight with this post that it's the Word becoming flesh that we all seem to be missing.

Chantell, while celebrating the life of her grandmother, now mourns the loss of her granny's life here on earth as well as the earthly life of her daughter Regan, who passed away earlier this year. It seems that when loss rains, it also pours. There is so much sadness sometimes, and grief can be overwhelming. I realized as I read this post of hers that our gratitude for Jesus, simply, should be just as overwhelming. HE IS HOPE. There is no other hope.

So tonight, after I read these two friends' thoughts, I realized that the unbroken ground I needed to dig through was simply to get to the heart of Jesus. My unbroken ground was dirt that had hardened, my heart that had hardened, with complacency, apathy, and lack of gratitude. It is HIM that I have not recognized. I haven't been thankful for HIM. And tonight I am getting out my shovel to break past that hardened ground and find the heart of Christ in the softer soil.

And so I will continue to dig...

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree...

I really love my Christmas tree. In fact, for the past 2 nights I've slept on my couch (not that I don't already love to for the fact that it's so incredibly comfy!) just so I can lay and look at the pretty lights and ornaments sparkling in the corner. There's just something about having a Christmas tree in my living room that makes it so much more comfortable, takes me back to my childhood and traditions and memories, and leaves me in peace and wonder.

I remember decorating the tree when I was little, with some of those old Avon and Hallmark ornaments that used to be collectibles, and some ornaments that we made at the church Christmas night, and one in particular that I remember my friend Bo giving me when we were probably about 7. It's a little elf man whose legs curl up under his arms and when you pull them out he looks like a jumping elf. Kinda strange, but the memory is still there.

We'd usually decorate the tree with an old Christmas record spinning under the needle, usually Kenny Rogers Christmas or Amy Grant or the Chipmunks. I miss that old record player. Boxes of decorations and ornaments would be strewn about the living room, pieces of silver tinsel mixing in with the carpet, and lights all tangled up. Maybe we'd have just baked some cutout cookies with the powdered sugar & milk icing (with red and green food coloring) and sprinkles, or some wreaths made out of marshmallow, Corn Flakes, and Red hots as the berries...

We used to buy real Christmas trees until one year when we awoke on Christmas morning to presents covered in sap and little spiders stuck in the sap all over the place. Needless to say, we took the tree down that day and my parents bought an artificial tree probably the next day for future years. (That happens to be the tree i now have in my living room, I believe...)

I have always been one for tradition, and this year I think a new one began. Kate started "The Great Ornament Exchange" on her blog and about 80 people around the country, mostly complete strangers, participated in this opportunity to exchange ornaments and little notes with one another. I just sent mine off yesterday to someone in Oregon, and I received mine today from someone in Massachusetts. How fun that complete strangers are brought together over Christmas ornaments?

And I must say a heartfelt THANK YOU to Jenn Z. for sending me not one, but TWO great ornaments that look beautiful on my tree, along with a great little book and a note! How thoughtful! Here are the ornaments she sent me:


And here's my colorful tree in its entirety...with the flash.
And speaking of color, though completely unrelated, here's a long overdue picture of me and my darker hair. It's not all that dark, really, but a little reddish. And still a change :) I already need it cut and possibly a touch-up on color. My hair grows like a weed.

Back to the Christmas trees...I hope yours offers you some peace and wonder. Take a few moments each night to just sit and stare at it. Maybe sleep in your living room with the lights on one night, just for the fun of it. And enjoy the treasures of each ornament, each tradition, each Christmas memory.

Monday, December 01, 2008

I Need Africa...

If you haven't read my post from last week, you might be wondering what I'm talking about when I say "I need Africa more than Africa needs me." So read on, and check out the Mocha Club website to find out more as well. They are launching a campaign to help move our hearts "from pity to partnership" with Africa. Check out their page for more info on this new campaign launch!

I NEED AFRICA MORE THAN AFRICA NEEDS ME

When I think of Africa, the following images immediately come to mind: Starvation. AIDS. Child soldiers. Genocide. Sex slaves. Orphans. From there, my thoughts naturally turn to how I can help, how I can make a difference. “I am needed here,” I think. “They have so little, and I have so much.” It’s true, there are great tragedies playing out in Africa everyday. There is often a level of suffering here that is unimaginable until you have seen it, and even then it is difficult to believe. But what is even harder is reconciling the challenges that many Africans face with the joy I see in the people. It’s a joy that comes from somewhere I cannot fathom, not within the framework that has been my life to this day. [read more]





Also, if you need any great gift ideas for someone and would like to support the Mocha Club in the process, check out these great new American Apparel (super soft) t-shirts for the campaign!

Monday, November 24, 2008

I need Africa more than Africa needs me...



I was asked by the Mocha Club to write about why "I need Africa more than Africa needs me." If you aren't familiar with it, Mocha Club is a community-based website where members can start a team and invite friends to join them in giving $7 a month – the cost of 2 mochas – to support a project in Africa. Mocha Club's vision is to provide a way for people who don't have hundreds or thousands of dollars to make a difference in Africa.

When I joined Mocha Club a couple years ago, I cannot honestly say that I would have agreed with the statement that "I needed Africa more than Africa needs me." My intentions were good and compassionate, filled with hope to provide change for women and children in Africa that desperately needed it. I knew that my $7 a month could do something to help them and felt I was making a difference, and like many of us do in those times, I felt proud to be giving and compassionate and generous. I realize now that my $7 giving each month has not only helped change other people, but it's changing me.

You might think I'm crazy. Sure, Africa needs our help! America is wealthy, and with the trendiness of so many celebs reaching out to adopt babies or dig wells or raise awareness, it might seem that Africa would be devastated without our help. I beg to differ. God created Africa for a purpose, and it wasn't so that we would learn to give and be generous. It was so that we would realize that we may have needs even greater than theirs.

I've never been to Africa, but what I've seen in pictures and heard from those who have, it is much different from what is portrayed through the media. When watching the news it seems like Africa is dark and dim, filled only with devastation and poverty and hunger and death. But from what I've seen, we are not in a much different place here in America. We face a different kind of death and poverty and hunger and devastation.

I look at our culture, overflowing with iPods and GPS systems and the latest trends and gadgets. I see that real relationships have been replaced with a somewhat false sense of community through facebook, myspace, and texting, and humans have no idea how to build relationships face-to-face without an iPhone in hand. We have plenty to eat; in fact, we are probably wasting more than Africans or other people in the world see in an entire year. We have clean water. We even pick and choose what brand of bottled water we want, with flavors and minerals and vitamins added. We complain about jobs that require 40-80 hours a week, but they provide a salary of more than $2.00/day and ample healthcare (even in our changing economy) and plenty of other resources.

It seems to me that America, too, is a country in dire need. We need to recognize that our needs might not be materialized in the form of water, food, housing, or clothes. Instead, what we need to find is how to love, how to hope, and how to live. I pray that along with the coming "change" that is proclaimed with our upcoming president will come an open, teachable spirit in America. We often think we're the ones to become the "Savior" to other countries in need, but what can they teach us? What can we learn?

To think that Africa needs me is completely selfish. Our God is bigger than America; He is bigger than my $7/month, and He is bigger than all of the world's wealth. He is bigger than any world leader and any strategic plan to eliminate hunger and poverty. He doesn't need us to save people, but He does desire that our hearts will seek to create change and love people.

When we look at countries in poverty we often attribute to them a lower status in our self-created hierarchy of humanity. But if you're anything like me, when you visit another country that seems more in need than we are, you return to America realizing that we are in fact the ones in greater need. I have seen deep need in places like Haiti, remote gypsy villages in Romania, and in the post-Katrina state of New Orleans. Each time I return from one of these trips I find it odd that I have been the one more blessed. My work may have made a slight difference, but it never compares to the difference in me.

In giving $7/month to Africa through the Mocha Club, I'm doing very little, really, to help. But in doing so, I'm recognizing the need in me to give, to be selfless, and to be humbled.

The people of Africa have hope much stronger than mine in much harsher of circumstances. For that, I need them.

They know how to love one another and live in true community. For that, I need them.

They know how to live with little and with simplicity. For that, I need them.

They live with greater joy, a deeper hunger for the Lord, and a mightier thirst for His Word. For that, I need them.

Indeed, I need Africa more than Africa needs me...do YOU?

PLEASE...share your thoughts in my comments section. Start a dialogue about this. Write on your own blog about this. Join in the worthwhile cause of recasting the damaging images that force pity over partnership.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

still alive...

I am still here, despite what little writing I've done lately.

I've been in Tulsa this weekend for the National Missionary Convention, and I really should have worked on compiling a list of all of the crazy Christians that were there. I have been to enough conventions like this and the North American Christian Convention to be able to say that some Christians are just strange, weird, socially inept people. And I always seem to have the privilege of running into them.

I had my share of people come up to the table at our LCC booth to ask a question, and not unlike many strange kids at college fairs, they continue to stand there expecting the conversation to continue. Now my job requires quite a bit of small talk and the ability to hold a conversation, but sometimes it is just impossible. And I'm not yet sure what to post about the girl who walked around holding a sign offering "Free Hugs" to everyone there. A sweet gesture...but really? I just don't get it. Maybe I'm too cynical and mean.

But aside from all this, I plan on writing a bit tomorrow about this concept of missions we have...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

update

I now have brown hair. :) I'll post some pictures someday soon.

I'm exhausted. After several days of being very "on-the-go" I'm ready to just chillax on my couch and watch TV that doesn't involve thinking.

Did you know that Chapstick was made of animal carcasses? Yeah...I just found that out. Pretty sure I'll be altering what I put on my lips from now on...

In a quick trip to Louisville for a college fair last night, I got to enjoy some good sushi w/ my bestie Amanda! Only my 2nd sushi experience, but I made another good choice w/ the lobster rolls.

If you notice to the right of my page, you'll see a link for The Great Ornament Exchange! Check it out... Kate McDonald is hosting this via her blog and will be organizing a way for 60+ people around the country to trade ornaments and begin a new tradition. Wanna join? You have to respond by emailing her before midnight THIS THURSDAY the 14th!

Please continue to pray for Ben Towne, the little boy I posted about last week after reading his CaringBridge site. He is still hanging onto life and fighting with a strong will to live, according to the journal his parents have been keeping up online. Pray for their strength as they walk into the unknown.





Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Please pray...

I apologize for the mental whiplash, but this is not at all humorous like the previous post.

After finding this on Kate's blog tonight and reading journal entries from complete strangers on the other side of the country, I'm sitting here crying my eyes out. Please take just a moment to plead with God on behalf of a little 3 year old boy named Ben and his mom and dad in Seattle, WA.

I realize I just posted a list of things to laugh at below this, but I hope you'll find this much more meaningful and take a minute to pray. If blogging can be used to make people laugh and think, then surely it can be used to share things like this.

Please pray.

"the list"

Well, well, well...

Friends, we have certainly witnessed history with this election, but my favorite part has been the ridiculous response that many have made public via facebook. If you're not familiar, facebook allows everyone to have a "status." Your status might be what you're doing, what you're eating, some random song lyric, where you are, something really emo to make people feel bad for you, etc. But apparently it is now the place for publicly making your political statement known--whether for or against Obama. As if your facebook status could change the world...

So last night I took the liberty of compiling a list of the hilarity I found in many facebook statuses. The list grew today and just might continue to grow if people continue to make ridiculous remarks. Just don't let it be you. :)

So because I've been asked for the list several times today, I thought I'd share it here.
Here goes:

____ oh well, america had a good run

____ is enjoying her last days as a free american

____ thinks that it's a shame that an election can bring out the worst in people...some of you aren't even acting human tonight. Freaking grow up!

____ is weeping and gnashing her teeth.

____ knows that god has a plan and everything WILL work out

____ How can people be pulled into Obama's lies and not even understand how ignorant he is? This is stupid.

____ Sweet, now i can live out my dream of living in a van down by the river because the government will take all my money and give it to those who do nothing!!!

____ is really scared & nervous about what is going to happen to this country...dear God please help us! what the hell was America thinking! what did we do?!

____ thanks uninformed and ignorant American voters...get ready for the biggest depression in United States history

____ is angry and will probably hide his guns from himself because he is suicidal

____ like the israelites there are evil and godly rulers...hopefully we won't wander for 40 years

____ will pray for the new president but cannot and will not support him.

____ is going to enjoy their plethora of tequilla and great tans in mexico

____ moves into a state of loyal opposition. Equal emphasis on both loyal and opposition. Yep, learned that concept from Mr. Brown.

____ is yup its offical we're screwed!!

____ is wondering what ever happed to the phrase "ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL" it doesn't state anything about African Americans or Americans WTF? We're all the same

____ WE'RE ALL SCREWED! HOLY CRAP! THE END TIMES ARE UPON US! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!

____ is worried about the future and happy that at least mcconnel won. (welcome to the USSA).

____...only in America can being charismatic and having a celebrity following but no actual experience get you elected President...GOD be their solution!

____ is a citizen of a socialist country? Seriously? ....dangit. Oh well, God rules. God Help US ALL!

____ wants to move... somewhere. too bad Kenya is out of the question...

____ is thinking the only real bummer is that Heidi Klum and Seal won't be leaving the country now.

____ cannot in good conscience support Obama... she cannot and will not...

____ was told that when a democrat is in office Christians give more to the church....get these churches out of the budget crunch.

____ now realizes how many idiots live in the USA.

____ is people are saying welcome to 8 years of hell but they forget we have been living it for the past 8 years. Go OBAMA!!!!

____ is PRESIDENT OBAMA IN YOUR FACE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

____ is moving to Italy instead, it's warmer and has better food.

____ How can people be pulled into Obama's lies and not even understand how ignorant he is? This is stupid.

____ knows God will bless this is some way...

____ is pretty sure God is still God no matter who the president is...may wisdom and grace be his life's action.

____ is welp I am alive to see history made.

____ cannot believe this....oh my gosh.

____ would like for people to pick up a Bible and read Matthew 6:25-34.9:59pm

____ Obama we trust.

____ Jesus still resurrected.

____ maybe i shouldn't be...but i am actually surprised at how people are catastrophizing in texas today. Xanax for everyone!

____ agrees with libby steinberg, we are a United people in America!! Stop acting so negative towards such a historic day in America.

____
is The sky is falling, The sky is falling!

____ says put on your big girl panties and suck it up!

____ is “Well, there you have it.”

____ is wondering if Bob the Builder is going to sue Obama for using ‘Yes We Can’

____ might as well quit my job and go get in line for welfare.

____ it’s silly to say this is the end…we’ve been saying that for a couple thousand years.

____ is considering building a fallout shelter.

____ 2012 baby... ‘you betchya!’

____ “wait for it...wait for it...CHILL!”

____ is not shocked Obama won. He is shocked that 9/10 people I talked to said they only voted for Obama because he speaks better.

____ wonders what change means.

____ thinks that we should have elected an Amish president.

____ is more interested now that the race is over. Funny how that works.

____ made it through the Clinton years alive...

____ just removed 1 friend for racial slurs about our next president. Don’t be next.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

trying to avoid all the election talk but i can't...& other random stuff...

I'm trying my best to avoid so much talk about the election, because I'm just ready for it to be over. But I can't completely leave it alone. I am not 100% apathetic. I do care. But in reality, it all comes down to this: No matter who wins, we ought to respect our nation's leader. I'm not sure what happened to good old fashioned respect and submission to leadership. I guess democracy. And rights. That's what happened.

It seems that we think we have the "right" to so much in life. And I hear people saying that as long as they vote then they have the right to complain later if their choice doesn't win. I disagree. (We can differ on this, and that's ok.) I suppose some complaining is fine, but honestly can't we just learn to respect whomever is given such a high state of authority in this country? And can we trust that God is bigger than one person? And can we trust that our entire country does not rest in one man alone, but on Congress and many advisory boards as well? And whomever is picked will most likely not follow through with most of what his intended plans are, so if we're fearing a plan that has been mentioned, it may not even happen.

And on a different note, I think it's funny how secretive people are about who they vote for. I'm not sure why that is, but it doesn't bother me to tell you who I voted for. But because I don't want any arguments here, I'll change the subject.


This is where random comes in.

I really want to play in the leaves outside. And at the same time, I really want to go lay on a beach somewhere really warm and get my summer tan back.

I'm hooked on listening to the music from the movie The Holiday. It just makes me happy. And also the song "January Rain" by David Gray that's on the movie Serendipity. That song gives me the chills...just picturing the snowflakes falling in the Manhattan sky over that wonderful little dessert shop, Serendipity III, and over the skating rink in Central Park, and the magical way those two people meet and meet again years later. I could listen to it over and over and over. And I will.

I think for the first time in my life, I just made the perfect fried egg. I never used to be able to. My dad was the only person who ever seemed to make them just right. They always end up burnt, or my yoke would break all over before I even got it off the stove...except tonight! I just enjoyed a great fried egg on toast with feta cheese. Because feta makes everything better.

Back to Serendipity...if you've never been there in New York City, you really need to. Their famous Frozen Hot Chocolate is worth whatever 3 hour wait they say you'll have to endure (I promise you it will only end up to be about an hour and a half...or half the time they tell you to begin with. Just don't go out to eat first and be full when you get there--not a good idea. And know that they don't take reservations, so get your name in and then wander around Urban Outfitters or Dylan's Candy Bar down the block.) Anyway, I rediscovered the recipe for this glorious goodness just yesterday, and I'm going to attempt to make one sometime this week.

So as you watch the election results come in, don't freak out. In fact, see Kate's blog for more on comfort amidst the election and a comfort food recipe to try as well. And here's the "secret" frozen hot chocolate recipe that I'm going to try out (let me know if you do too!):
FRRROZEN HOT CHOCOLATE INGREDIENTS
6 half-ounce pieces of a variety of your favorite chocolates (dark chocolate for me please)
2 teaspoons of store-bought hot chocolate mix
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 cups milk
3 cups of ice
Whipped cream
Chocolate shavings

Chop the chocolate into small pieces. Place it in the top of a double boiler over simmering water. Stir occasionally until melted. Add the hot chocolate mix and sugar. Stir until completely melted. Remove from heat and slowly add ½ cup of milk until smooth. Cool to room temperature. In a blender, place the remaining cup of milk, the room-temperature chocolate mixture and the ice. Blend on high speed until smooth and the consistency of a frozen daiquiri. Pour into a giant goblet and top with whipped cream and chocolate shavings. And...share with your friends if necessary or desired. ;)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Sitting in a coffee shop...

I love being an anonymous observer.

I'm used to doing a lot of things by myself, which can become boring after awhile, so I've grown accustomed to a great deal of people-watching. And it takes no genius to figure out that in general, people are weird. But then again, so am I. There is no normal. And if there was, it would certainly be boring...wouldn't it?

I remember every winter when I was little we would drive around town and look at Christmas lights, and I loved being able to see inside the windows of people's homes. It wasn't like I was a peeping Tom or a stalker, but I loved seeing just a glimpse into the lives of people I didn't know. Sitting in the backseat, usually next to my sister, we'd ride around "ooh-ing" and "ahh-ing" at all of the great lights and decorations (sometimes singing Christmas carols, if I had my way...), and I'd daydream and wonder about the stories of the people inside those homes. I guess I've always been a little bit curious.

Now as I sit in a coffee shop, I wonder what the people around me are here for. These days it seems that no one is without a laptop in front of them, and it makes me wonder what kind of work they all do. I assume there are businessmen here trying to enter sales calls or complete spreadsheets and pie charts and strategic plans. I can see high school or college students working on assignments together, studying for tests, and writing research papers. I see other people like me who may be simply writing, for work or for no reason at all, about something meaningful or ridiculously pointless like many things I write. I see others engaged in friendly conversation, catching up on their days, talking about relationships, life, and work.

I wonder sometimes if I am the only one so observant of the world around me. Are people watching me like I'm watching them? Is there some innate quality in me that makes me so curious? Of course, I'm not staring them down or listening to their conversations or reading over their shoulders. (However, I can't help but overhear the man next to me as he repeats three times to the person on the other end of his cell phone that he's at "the cof-fee-house...the coffee-house...the c-off-ee-house.") But do people wonder about me as I sit and type on this silly blog about the very things I see around me?

While I like to imagine the stories behind these people's lives, I never go beyond the imagining. There's something about the anonymity of it all that I enjoy. I like to be curious and to pretend I know what these people are about, even though I really have no idea. I'd like to make up stories about who they are and what they do and what they dream about for the world. I'd like to think that the group of people in the corner is strategizing for a business plan they're putting together to do something grandeur to help the community, and the girl by the window talking to her friend about making a college decision will maybe end up on the mission field someday, and the guy next to me reading is just taking some much-needed time away from his family to read his magazine and enjoy a good cup of coffee.

My favorite place to people-watch is the airport. There's something about a person traveling that brings out the curiosity in me. Where are they going? Where are they coming from? Why are they going there? Maybe it's for business (usually the business suit is a dead giveaway...) or maybe it's a vacation (usually the touristy souvenirs, Mickey Mouse ears, or sweatsuits and fanny packs give this away), or maybe it's for a honeymoon (the constant PDA is the giveaway here...). Maybe they have to fly somewhere for a funeral or a wedding or the birth of a baby. Maybe they're going to visit a friend they haven't seen in years or they're going on a mission trip (usually a group in matching t-shirts gives that one away...sidenote: I will NEVER make my groups going on mission trips wear matching t-shirts for this reason...).

No matter where I am, I always wonder about people. There is so much more to a person than what they look like, how they're dressed, or what they're currently doing. Everyone has a story. And it makes me recognize the reality of humanity.

We all have a story. But do we really have the capacity to find out all of the life stories around us? While I enjoy finding out people's backgrounds, sometimes I like leaving it up to my imagination as I sit back and conjure up some unlikely account of their lives.

So here I sit, in the coffee shop.

Just observing
wondering
imagining...

Saturday, October 25, 2008

my humble abode...

Above is one of the 4 entrances to my building. I love my apartment in Lincoln. I live above what used to be a coffee shop, but it has since closed and been turned into a thrift store. And since I've been meaning to post pictures of my wonderful new couch, I thought I'd share a few others from the place I call "home."

My apartment building is obviously an older building that has been renovated by my very talented landlord who has turned the upstairs of our building into 6 amazing and very coveted apartments in this town. Three of them are loft apartments and three are not. Mine is not, and it may be the smallest or second to smallest apartment in the building and it's still quite large. They have incredible character--original hardwood floors, exposed brick walls, beautiful crown molding, and very cool Tiffany-esque lighting fixtures. The apartment I have here would cost about 3 times more than what I pay in any other city I'm sure. It will be hard to move someday!

But what I love about this place I call home is the way I've made it my own. I love being able to decorate and get creative on a limited budget. My absolute favorite thing in this apartment (now second to my couches, however...) are these:

Before I moved in, my mom and I were going to garage sales and searching for bargains...something I love to do. I found these amazing cabinet doors--5 of them--for 25 cents! ALL 5 for 25 cents!!! I had no idea what I was going to do with them, but I cleaned them off and ended up blowing up 8x10 photos from my trip to England and lightly nailing them onto the doors.

One of my other favorites bargain finds is this wine rack I found at a garage sale for $5:

The wine rack was originally from Crate & Barrel and had a scratch on the brown wood on top, so my brother-in-law sanded it down and spray painted it black for me. I love it.

If you're a fan of living inexpensively (or if you're not a fan but you just have to...), I am telling you...GO TO GARAGE SALES!!! You have no idea what you could find. I love finding something old and turning it into something new. I love telling people about my great deals, because too often people spend way too much on things that could be found for much, much less. And I'm more than willing to hunt for a bargain when I have the opportunity.

However, my new couches are not so much one of these bargain finds. But they're worth every penny spent. I love these things. I haven't slept in my bed since they arrived this past Monday. There are basically 3 massive chaises and an ottoman, all shaped like jigsaw puzzle pieces, that fit together in various ways as a sectional. I'm still deciding on accent colors...I'm thinking yellow and green or turquoise...but that could change. I just like bright colors. Anyway, here are pictures...but you won't get the true feel until you see them for yourself. I now have plenty of places for people to sleep over! I can put all 4 pieces together and it's basically like sleeping on a king size bed. So come on over!!!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Living & Leaving Boldly

I enjoy listening to the podcasted sermons from Southland Christian Church in Lexington, KY. For some reason, the preaching of Jon Weece seems to communicate to me in a way that few other preachers can, and since I can't make a 6 hour commute to Lexington weekly for church, I subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. This morning I listened to the last sermon in a series called "One Month to Live" and the sermon was about "Leaving Boldly" from one of the other teaching pastors, Dan Hamel.

He shared this quote from Greg Lavoy, who calls this "The Common Cold of the Soul":
"We get so consumed and confused with all that is going on in life that we live in such a way where sinful patterns never get confronted and changed, abilities and gifts never get cultivated and deployed, until weeks become months, months turn into years, and one day you're looking back on a life of heartfelt conversations you never had, great prayers you never prayed, exhilarating risks you never took, sacrificial gifts you never offered, and lives you never touched. And you're sitting there in your recliner, with a shriveled soul and forgotten dreams, and you realize there is a world of desperate need and a great God calling you to be a part of something bigger than yourself."

He shared that we often lose sight of just how desperately Jesus desires to be a part of our daily life. That is so unfortunately evident in my life. I don't realize that Jesus wants to be a part of my day until it's too late. When I've done things my own way, and I've had to learn that my way is probably not the best, I then decide to come to Jesus with whatever situation I find myself in.

Life could be lived so much more fully. When we live life in mediocrity, not taking any risks, not dreaming big dreams, and not living with any purpose, or on purpose, for that matter, we're lessening how great God's glory could be in our lives. Irenaeus, an early church father from about 202 A.D. said this: "The glory of God is man fully alive." Dan reworded it in this way: "God's glory in your life shines the brightest when you live life to its fullest. When we settle for less, and we play it safe, and we're satisfied with a mediocre life and we always dream bland, colorless dreams, we're not only chipping away at the vibrancy and vitality of our own lives and future, but we're diminishing God's glory. When we settle for less, we make God out to be less."

I was convicted, confronted, and challenged hearing this today. I don't want to live a life that makes God out to be less than who He is. If I lived in such a way that gave Him the greatest glory possible, it still wouldn't be enough to truly capture His greatness. But I should strive for that.

Dan went on to say this in his sermon: "When we chase after the full life that God has created us for...the more we chase after truly great things, the greater we make our God out to be."

I want my life to make God great.
I want to dream great, vibrant, colorful dreams.
I want to live with compassion that cares for people who could never repay me.
I want to take risks and take steps out of my selfish comfort zone.
I want to give sacrificially, not out of obligation, but out of real desire to give.
I want to be used in ways I might never accomplish on my own.
I want to have conversations about Jesus and love and relationships more than I have conversations about the latest person John Mayer is dating or the next fruit some celebrities decide to name their child.
I want to use my time, talents, and energy for others rather than letting them go to waste.
I want to offer grace to those who might not find it elsewhere and might not deserve it. (After all, none of us do...)
I want to ask God before I make decisions about my life.
I want to love genuinely and sincerely until everything around me falls away and people see only love.

How would you live? How will you live?

Friday, October 17, 2008

chili/chilly

I'm trying to embrace fall this year. I'm getting better.

I'm learning to appreciate the colors of the leaves more and more every day. I just wish it would last longer before this season leads to freezing cold.

The cold weather makes my soul feel cold.

I'm making my dad's chili today, which of course makes me think of him and miss him. And as it grows chillier and chillier outside, it leads to winter, which just reminds me of losing him. It's just such a long season.

I'm hoping this winter, as my family and I pass the 2 year anniversary of my dad being gone, our hearts will grow just a little warmer. And with each passing winter, I hope we'll feel the cold a little less.

For now, maybe I'll just share with you his simple chili recipe...which hopefully will warm me up tonight and in turn might warm you up someday. There's nothing difficult to it, and it's certainly easy enough for anyone to make. You can add/change things as desired. However, it makes me think of the one time he made it at the fire station and forgot to add the chili powder. So don't forget the chili powder. :)

Dad's Chili
1-1/2 lb. hamburger meat
diced green pepper & onion (optional...I leave these out)
1 large can Brooke Chili Beans (can add more if you want)
1 reg. size can diced tomatoes
1 full size can tomato juice
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. crushed red pepper (optional...I leave this out.)
3 Tbsp. sugar
Brown the meat with peppers and onion. Drain the grease out, and add the meat to the chili beans and diced tomatoes. Pour in the can of tomato juice. Add chili powder, salt, pepper, red pepper. Let simmer until it starts to boil, and add about 3 Tbsp. of sugar towards the end.
Enjoy!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Goat hair curtains & an empty house?

God had specific requirements for how the Tabernacle was to be built. Down to the last details: measurements, colors, arrangements, decorative adornments... God was a builder. He IS a builder, I should say. And He wants things done just the right way.


Take, for example, Exodus 26:3-6:

Join five of the curtains together, and do the same with the other five. Make loops of blue material along the edge of the end curtain in one set, and do the same with the other end curtain in the other set. Make fifty loops on one curtain and fifty loops on the end curtain of the other set, with the loops opposite each other. Then make fifty gold clasps and use them to fasten the curtains together so that the tabernacle is a unit.


And this is just the beginning of the details.


If I were receiving the instructions, I'd probably scrap it and give up. I get frustrated enough just trying to sew a button onto a shirt or fix a seam correctly. Imagine how hard it might be to make those fifty loops! And the time it would take to melt gold to make some kind of clasps to fasten those curtains together! By the time I was done, I'd probably be old and gray.


Oh, but it gets better. In just the next verse, God says this:

Make curtains of goat hair (GOAT HAIR?) for the tent over the tabernacle--eleven altogether. All eleven curtains are to be the same size--thirty cubits long and four cubits wide. Join five of the curtains together into one set and the other six into another set. Fold the sixth curtain double at the front of the tent. Make fifty loops along the edge of the end curtain in one set and also along the edge of the end curtain in the other set. Then make fifty bronze clasps and put them in the loops to fasten the tent together as a unit. As for the additional length of the tent curtains (just in case you were wondering, Moses...) the half curtain that is left over is to hang down at the rear of the tabernacle.


OK, seriously, goat hair? How long would that take? I realize, within cultural context, that was probably a common practice--weaving goat hair together to make curtains. Even still, that had to be a daunting task. And then the folding? That could get frustrating trying to make sure they're folded exactly the same and with equal lengths on the appropriate sides. I have enough of a hard time folding a fitted sheet without just shoving it into the closet in a big ball!


I like plans with details. Don't get me wrong. I'd hate for God to just say, "Go build me a tabernacle. And make it nice." That would surely make me nervous. And God knows in this day and age, someone would go and stick one of those hideous red felt bows on it somewhere that people use on their front porches at Christmastime. Yuck.


But all of these details, with the twisting and the joining and the looping and the clasping, make me nervous. If I had been Moses, I'd have been insanely anxious about the whole task, afraid I'd screw up every little bit of it or have some measurement off somewhere. Let's face it-when you're building something to house the very presence of God, you want it to be perfect, right? I don't think I'd want to cut any corners on that job. I'm not sure I'd want the job to begin with.


But I missed something in all of those details. It's where God began. He didn't begin with the instructions for the tabernacle itself. His instructions were first for the Ark of the Covenant, which was the representation of the covenant God made with His people. It was the basis, the foundation, the reason for their journey and relationship with Him. It was the center and the starting point.


He then moved to the instructions for the table, the lampstand, the tabernacle itself, the altar for burnt offerings, the courtyard outside the tabernacle, oil for the lampstand, and the priestly garments. He started at the heart of it all and worked His way outward. I think He was onto something there...


There's something about our hearts that are similar to the Ark, and our bodies like the tabernacle. Our hearts are the center, the core of our being. So why, when we're building our lives, do we so often start by putting the curtains up around the tabernacle when the Ark of the Covenant has yet to be given a home? Why do we dress up the outer parts of ourselves, ignoring the fact that the inside is empty? It's like spending all the money, time, and energy you have to build a beautiful, brand new house, but once it's built you've got nothing to put inside. It's just a house. Not a home. It's just for looks, for people to drive by and think "Wow, they must really be living it up!" while inside you're sitting on your hardwood floors, bored and broke, and probably a little bit remorseful.


We do the same with our bodies, dressing ourselves to appear one way when inside we may feel completely different. It is always the case with girls. Every girl knows what clothes she puts on in the mornings, but there's more to it than that. You know who you're going to see that day, where you might go, what kind of situations may occur. There is an entire thought process. And yet while we care so much about the outside of our bodies, many often ignore what's going on inside our hearts.


I am just as guilty as the next person.


The girls in my spiritual formation group (SFG) at Lincoln and I are reading through Dallas Willard's Renovation of Character. It's a re-written version of his previous book, Renovation of the Heart, which is a little more lengthy and wordier. (Is wordier even a word? I've used it twice today...I should find out.) I had already read Renovation of the Heart for the one Seminary class I took in 2005 called Shaping the Heart of a Leader. It was a great class and a great read. Reading the second version with the girls is making me realize how often I may consider the heart or read about my character, but how often am I carefully building a place for the presence of God within me?


I'm guilty of not making much time to read my Bible and to sit in silence and to just talk to God. I fill my time with TV shows and facebook and I drown out the silence with songs and more songs. Sometimes even worshipful songs that I sing out loud, but my heart isn't singing in tune with my voice. I catch myself doing this too often.


I need to keep myself in check. I need to keep my heart in tune. I don't want to ever live in an empty house. (Oddly, I write this from my living room floor that is currently void of furniture as I wait for my new furniture to arrive...interesting thought...)


Do I care too much about the Courtyard and the priestly garments and not enough about the Ark? God doesn't want us to completely ignore the other pieces. He simply asks us to start with the heart. Start with the very place we began with Him, and then work our way out. When our heart is right, then we'll work out the other parts of our life. It doesn't mean they'll just "fall into place." It will still take work. There are still things to maintain and details to follow. We still need to take care of our bodies and relationships and keep clean homes and healthy families and work hard at what we do.


It's interesting how tonight as I was reading this scripture in Exodus, I didn't seem to notice the details until it came to the curtains in the tabernacle. Somehow I skipped right over the details concerning the Ark of the Covenant. I read them, but I didn't think much about them. I guess sometimes that's how it is with my heart. I read about and think about changing it, but I don't really do much with the words on the page. Do I just pass over those instructions and go on toward building something I can see on the outside?


My mind is flooding with other scriptures right now about the Tabernacle, the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place, and how the veil was torn, and the words of the Shaun Groves song I always love, Welcome Home. (Sidenote: Read this article for more of the story behind the song.) There is so much correlation between the Ark and the Tabernacle with the Heart and the Home. Is the home really where the heart is? Or are we living in empty houses?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

addiction confession

Warning: this post has no life-alteringly-meaningful content whatsoever.
I have a confession to make...


I'm slightly addicted to watching One Tree Hill.

I got hooked at the end of last season (season 5?) and have been watching since then, but because I never watched the first 5 seasons I'm just now catching up. I just finished the last disc of Season 2 tonight. I even found myself crying when Peyton had to say goodbye to Jake when he left to go get Jenny. Why is life so hard? And why can't Nathan and Haley just work things out? (Obviously I know they do later on in their TV character life...) And Dan Scott just never seems to stop. And why can't Lucas Scott exist in my life for real and be in love with me?

On a different note, here's another thing I'm addicted to:

Pizzelles.

Have you ever had these things? They're like thin, crispy, waffle-y cookies. Before I ever knew what they were called, I think I just called them doilies. I'm not even sure where I had them for the first time, but I do know this: I found them last year at Aldi and was ecstatic. Then once on accident I bought the Anise flavored ones, which were disgusting. So yesterday when I saw them again at Aldi (they must be seasonal? I have no idea why...) I was again ecstatic. And I made sure to buy the vanilla flavored ones rather than Anise.

And for some reason, at 1:09 AM I felt the need to share these two very important things with the world.

I love blogs. :)



Sunday, October 05, 2008

music notes

Have any of you ever paid $15 to get into a venue with your friends where you spent the entire evening taking pictures of yourselves in varying combinations of people whilst some singer, to whom you're paying no attention, is playing and singing his/her heart out on stage?

yeah, me neither.

But every time I go to a Matt Wertz concert, I seem to be a magnet for all of the college students who came for a few drinks and social hour. I suppose I should clarify...every time I see Matt Wertz @ The Canopy Club in Urbana, this is what happens. And once at Augustana College as well. They all end up right in front of my friends and me, all chatty-cathies and picture-taking and flirting and what-not.

But the most frustrating part is that when Matt actually tried to share his heart about The Mocha Club and how $1 can give clean water to 1 African for an entire year, they weren't even paying attention. Grrr...

All of my concert commentary aside, I've been to more Matt Wertz shows than probably necessary, but I still enjoy a night of good music and friends, and feeling like I'm in a living room with just us and Matt.

On a different note, I just love discovering new music. I love anything new, but music is always my favorite thing to discover. And most of what I find is certainly not new per se, but it's usually new to me. And if you're a musician and I like your music, you can typically count on me to be a loyal fan.

Lately, here's what I've found that I really like:
  • Lucy Schwartz--had some songs on the soundtrack for The Women. Really fun style...check her out: www.myspace.com/lucysong.
  • Parker House and Theory--opened for Wertz tonight. I'll be honest. I didn't like it at first. I had no idea who these guys were and what language they were singing in the first couple songs b/c i couldn't understand the words, but after a couple songs I really liked it. Or maybe it was just the attractive drummer who actually did sing in Spanish and play the drums well. The songs on their myspace page don't do them justice. I thought recorded may be better than live, but I think the live performance is worth seeing. Based out of Boston, they've got a trendy rock, latino, funky vibe... Check them out: www.myspace.com/parkerhouseandtheory.
  • Michelle Featherstone--heard one of her songs in the background of a wedding slideshow at a recent wedding and googled the lyrics to find out who she was. Really good stuff. www.myspace.com/michellefeatherstone
  • Marc Broussard--not new to me. In fact, I've been listening to him for a few years now, but he has some great new stuff out. Love his scratchy, rough, raw, New Orleans voice...If you haven't been listening to him by now, you're missing out. www.myspace.com/marcbroussard.
  • Again, certainly not new, but I really really love the Jonas Brothers song, "Lovebug." I'm a dork.
  • I still love "Shut Up and Let Me Go" by the Ting Tings from the iTunes commercial. Makes me just want to dance around the room pretending I'm one of the dancing silhouettes on the iPod commercials.
  • Lady Antebellum--loving their harmonies and fun style. I've really only heard 2 of their songs, the upbeat songs, and didn't spend much time listening to anything else on their page, but I'm a sucker for good harmony and non-depressing Country music that makes you want to sing your heart out and tap on the steering wheel.

I know there is more I've been listening to lately, but I love love love music recommendations, so tell me what's in your ears these days!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Cold Tangerines

As I'm digging through cutouts of magazines, photographs, and little snippets of things trying to find what truly inspires me and qualifies for inclusion on my fun little project--my inspiration board (see post below). It's appropriate, for multiple reasons, that I mention the book Cold Tangerines as one of the deserving things that have inspired me. Or maybe the author, Shauna Niequist, herself should be the one who has inspired me rather than just the book.

Shauna grew up the daughter of Bill Hybels, one of the founding pastors at Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, IL. Her life growing up was probably nothing ordinary at most times, living in the spotlight of being the daughter of a megachurch pastor and feeling a little expected to live up to some kind of standard as most preacher's kids do. She writes in her book about flying to Paris, France when she was in eighth grade--by herself--as if this is part of any normal childhood. She was used to traveling with her dad around the world, and so opportunities of the like were nothing out of the ordinary.

Despite her not-so-ordinary upbringing, Shauna is, deep down inside, still an ordinary person, just with extraordinary God-given talent to capture words like fireflies on a summer night, putting them in little jars to share their light. Cold Tangerines is a collection of essays written from her personal life experiences--from stories about college to stories about marriage, having a baby, working at a church, quitting working at a church, past struggles with weight, tragic loss, the joy of a bright red fall tree, jealousy, forgiveness, true community, and what it means to find joy and contentment in the little things in life. The stories in her book come to life and seem to be relevant with everyone who comes in contact with them, even though they are her very own experiences.

We've all been in these places in life...not the exact same stories, but the deep-down-underlying emotions and flaws that lie within us that Shauna so honestly lays out for us. She openly says that writing, for her, is like getting naked in front of people. And she truly bears her soul and all its parts in this book, and that's what is inspiring.

If you haven't read this book, you need to! This week is the one-year anniversary of its release, which is an exciting thing to celebrate for a writer! When you write and put things out there for others to read and critique, you are putting yourself up for criticism. But just as you open yourself up to criticism, you hopefully find that someone, somewhere, has gained something from what you've contributed to this world of ours.

I had the privilege of spending time with Shauna when we invited her to Lincoln for our annual High School Girls' Retreat called Awaken this past February. We spent some quality time talking about life and writing and the future and her son Henry and food, often over meals. Just last week, when I was in Grand Rapids for a college fair, I met up again with Shauna and her little boy, Henry, for breakfast at an adorable cafe, Marie Catrib's. It was refreshing to see her, like an old friend I'd known for years.

But I say all of this just to encourage you to pick up her book. It is an honest, raw, unique collection of essays that you'll find yourself cozying up to, reading in sections or all at once, feeling like you're having tea with your best friend, maybe even crying because it seems like she's got a window into the deepest parts of your character flaws. Her book is like comfort food and a security blanket. It reminds me that, yes, I'm normal. I'm not the only one who struggles with this and that, and I'm not crazy for being jealous of someone and wanting them to trip and fall. With a good amount of laughter included, Shauna captures real, honest, ordinary moments in life and helps you to find something extraordinary within.

So, as a somewhat distant friend of hers, I'm giving her a plug to anyone who may not have read this book yet. Also, check out her blog...it will give you even more insight into who she is and her most recent posts are from the experiences throughout the first year since Cold Tangerines was released. You'll also find that her current project is a book that will be called Bread and Wine, and she'll be focusing on the community that often happens among people in the presence of food.

Go get a copy of Cold Tangerines. You won't be disappointed. You might just want to buy a copy for everyone you know. They make great Christmas presents!