Saturday, August 30, 2008

laughing with Evan

I have to share this absolutely adorable video my mom recorded on her camera of me and Evan laughing. He was hitting me with the couch cushion and I'd get him back, and he obviously thought it was the funniest thing ever. And sorry it's sideways...couldn't figure out how to rotate it. :(

Just tilt your head. It'll be funny. And people will laugh at you. :)

Monday, August 25, 2008

I've witnessed a miracle...

OK, so it's not quite a miracle, but let me tell you a story...

About 3 months ago, while I was at work, I received a text message from my favorite (and only) brother-in-law David, who was running the show at their garage sale and trying to clear his house of all of the unnecessary things. I had been keeping my bike at their house for quite some time, and I hadn't used it in a really long time. So David texted me asking what I wanted for my bike, because he was getting rid of it.

Now, I got that bike when I turned 9 I'm pretty sure...I can vividly remember that birthday quite well. I was standing in our front yard, and my parents were about to surprise me with my birthday present, and when we went outside, there was a hot air balloon in the sky not too far from our house. I got really excited, thinking that was my present, and then they wheeled my bike out from the garage. Needless to say, I wasn't as excited about the bike, but I was still happy about it. It's a lovely grayish Huffy mountain bike with purple and orange writing on it, and it's certainly not a high-quality bike by any means.

So when David wanted to sell my bike, I was a little torn. Sure, I hadn't ridden it in months, if not years, but I didn't quite want to part with it. Hesitant to rescue my bike, I went ahead and let him mark it and put it out there, and surely it sold for about $15 or so to some lucky person.

About a week and a half ago, I was going with David & Cory and the kiddos to the pool in Bloomington/Normal, and as we rounded a curve in the road near their house I saw something in the ditch that sure resembled my beloved bike. It definitely looked pretty similar. I could see the purple writing...

On our way back from the pool, it was still there. David pulled over the car and got out to check it out, and sure enough, it was MY EXACT BIKE! We're talking, Huffy mountain bike made in like 1990,'s not something you find just any day. Not a collectible, but probably slightly difficult to find the exact same bike these days. Miraculously, there was nothing wrong with it except that the chain had just fallen off, so David threw it over the ditch so no one else would see it near the road. When we got back to their house (only about a block away from there), I walked over and regained my old bike!!!

I think God dropped it in the ditch for me to find...I'm pretty much ecstatic about it.

And there you have it, friends...a miracle found in a ditch.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

because it's late...

Since my adorable nephew has suddenly awakened from his sleep and is chattering in his crib keeping me awake, I figured I'd spout out some random information.

1. I think I kind of like the Jonas Brothers. I hate to admit it. But there. I said it.

2. I miss the beach. But this week's weather in Illinois has been amazing. Like, Southern California amazing. Can we please keep it?

3. I can feel fall coming. I really can. I can smell it in the air and feel it in the cool mornings and crisp nights.

4. I have a severe problem with finishing books. I want to start reading new books all the time, but I can't seem to finish them. I'm still working on several right now, including "Eat, Pray, Love" which I'll also post more blogs about, as well as "Bird by Bird: Some Thoughts on Writing" (Anne Lamott), and a few others I've picked up here and there but don't plan on reading consistently or in order.

5. I'm NOT afraid to admit that I'm still anxious to see the 2nd Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants movie.

6. I am tired of meetings.

7. I'm learning patience these days in a new way I didn't realize I had in me. I'm kinda liking it. I'm going along for the ride and just enjoying it.

8. My friend Sarah made THE BEST MEAL last night at her is now my favorite. Mediterranean Puff Pastry Chicken. (recipe is on A-MA-ZI-NG. Just imagine a flaky, rectangular puff pastry crust, browned just right and very crispy, and as you poke your fork into it you find chicken tenderloin marinated in pesto sauce, garlic, and stuffed inside with red peppers, spinach, more pesto, and feta cheese (my FAVORITE!). I'm sold on pretty much anything with feta in it. I'm still thinking about this meal today.

9. Has anyone seen that commercial with the Burger King guys dressed up outside of a Subway--one dressed as a grilled burger and the other as a chicken sandwich? And one of them kicks the air...hilarious. My sister and I actually rewound that on DVR one night to laugh at it again. It's not funny unless you see it. hm...

10. I ran 2 miles this week. That's like a freaking milestone for me. Usually one mile is hard enough, and somehow I just kept on pushing through...i'm hoping to keep that up, but we'll see.

11. I love my friends. Seriously, I have awesome friends. It's just overwhelming sometimes how many really great people are in my life. And in the words of one of the BCG's, "If I wasn't one of us, I'd want to be one of us..."

12. Last weekend I attended Christie & Caleb Wright's wedding, which was one of my favorite weddings as of late. Two of the most beautiful people, inside and out, and their love is simply beautiful. I love when there are just good marriages that you feel good about. So looking forward to seeing their marriage grow...and such a fun time dancing!

13. Red Vines make really good drumsticks on the steering wheel when you're driving. I'm just sayin'...

OK, well, hoping Evan is finally falling asleep, but he's still whining in there like "Hey! Someone come and get me!" and it takes everything in me as Aunt Mandy not to come in and try to rock him back to sleep. But tonight, he's not rockable. He's a squirmy worm tonight and you just have to let him whine and cry himself to sleep, because he's restless. So I think he's beginning to calm down, and Mimi (my mom) is asleep on the couch, and I think I'm going to head to bed.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

once again, more pictures...

I couldn't seem to get all of the pictures uploaded yesterday, so here are some more. All of them are on my facebook, but obviously not everyone has access to that. So here are some more :)

And by the way, this one below cracks me up. My mom and I watched this pelican walking around in the water forever, and I couldn't figure out how he was doing it, so I called him the Jesus pelican.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

more Florida pics (there are plenty...)

I only put a few pics in the post below from Florida, so here are a few more just in case you want to revel in the beauty that is the ocean with me some more. :)

Monday, August 11, 2008

back from vacation...

Well, I'm back from Florida and feeling quite relaxed and tan. My mom and I went to New Smyrna Beach (just south of Daytona) to stay at a condo that belongs to some close family friends of ours. We had about 5 days to do absolutely nothing but lay by the pool, go to the beach, watch the colors of the sky change over the water, climb 203 steps to the top of a lighthouse, read and listen to crickets chirping while sitting on the lanai at night, and do just about anything we wanted to do.

I feel as if there are a billion things I could write about, and a good portion of that could be just about the colors in the sky and the shades of gold that the sun seemed to shine. My camera can't always quite capture what I see with my eyes, but I always try. I have to say that my favorite moments were near the beginning and the end of the trip, and both were along the beautiful shoreline. When we first got there, we took a stroll down the beach on the sand that was softer than a pair of slippers right as the sun was going down in the distance. It was the most beautiful beginning to the trip.

The last full day we were there, I really wanted to get up early to go run along the beach instead of just in the condo neighborhood, so we got up around 7:00 and headed to the beach around 8:00 a.m. I took a long, hot & sweaty run down the shore (yes, HOT and SWEATY at 8:00 a.m....) and then we walked down to the Flagler Avenue Coffee Shop to get frozen teas. We walked back to the beach, sat our chairs in the sand with our toes in the water, and I read from Psalm 29.
This is what I read:

Ascribe to the Lord, you heavenly beings, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness.

The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord thunders over the mighty waters.
The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is majestic.
The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars; the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes Lebanon leap like a calf, Sirion like a young wild ox.
The voice of the Lord strikes with flashes of lightning.
The voice of the Lord shakes the desert; the Lord shakes the Desert of Kadesh.
The voice of the Lord twists the oaks and strips the forests bare. And in his temple all cry, "Glory!"

The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord is enthroned as King forever.

The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace.
As I sat and read, re-read, and journaled about these words, I couldn't help but recognize what a majestic, powerful, creative, and strong, yet kind, gentle, and peace-giving God we serve. The same God that can speak lightning forth can also whisper as gently as a soft breeze. The same God that makes waves crash into the shore, filled with power, sends quiet raindrops just when they're needed in a dry and thirsty land. The same God whose voice can make the earth quake and split the tallest, mightiest trees of cedar can speak and breathe life into a gentle baby.

This God who is so mighty and powerful is yet so gentle and peaceful. And as I sat and watched the waves crash with some great power, I could feel the gentleness of the breeze blowing as if God was whispering peace right to me. And with that, I wanted nothing more than just to breathe in and breathe out with the very breath God breathed into me.

I love when God reveals Himself in the most surprising ways.

Friday, August 01, 2008

nostalgic and surprises

I'm going to start by referring back to this blog from 2006 when I wrote about a trip to Carbondale, IL to visit our LCC camp team at a Christ In Youth Conference at Southern Illinois University. I just got back last night from visiting there again, and I realized last week that this is the 12th year I have been to CIY in Carbondale. Yes, 12 years. That makes me feel really old.

I have a lot of memories there. I went from 1996 (after I had graduated 8th grade) through 2000 as a camper with my good ol' youth group from Central Church of Christ in Streator, IL with Rondel Ramsey still as our youth minister. CIY in high school was like the highlight of my life, aside from my high school dance team. Despite how much time Amanda and I probably spent just meeting cute boys and taking pictures with them or of them, it provided an atmosphere for life change. I made some of the best decisions of my life at CIY in high school.

During the college years and since working at LCC I've been able to work at CIY from behind the scenes and see another perspective. In these years I have met so many awesome people who have turned out to be some of my very best friends. God is surprising me these days with the people He seems to place in life just at the right time.

So being on campus this past week I was flooded with memories of having "His Time" with my youth group in the same spot every year, with Rondel prompting us to take our faith a step deeper and further. I specifically remember talking about being "in the boat" or "out of the boat" and going around our youth group of 65 people sharing where each of us felt we were. Those nights at "His Time" shaped part of who I am. It's where I stood up and told my youth group I had decided I needed to go to Lincoln, and I asked them to hold me accountable for it. Here I am today...working for Lincoln.

I have memories of Robin Sigars on the stage and Andy Schroeder behind his keyboard singing "At the Cross" and "Shout to the Lord" and all the tears I cried when something was happening in my heart or I was just sad to leave on the last night. It's funny how I ended up interning with Andy Schroeder before graduating college.

I have memories of all the BCG's (Bible College Girls) and our fun times that summer of 2003 we spent together traveling to 6 weeks of conference together. I'm surprised by God to see that they are some of my very best friends to this day. I remember having a bridal shower for Abbra (one of the BCG's from Cincinnati) on the 10th floor lobby of Neely hall after we found our she got engaged on the week off and was getting married the next January 10th. We had water fights in the halls, led d-groups together, prayed together, had dance parties in our rooms, and have since shared much of life together.

Even in just the 3 days I spent in Carbondale this week I made new memories with new and old friends, and I'm always so surprised by how God works. I caught up with old friends I hadn't seen in years or months and it was a breath of fresh air.

It isn't anything about the campus of SIU that makes me nostalgic, but it's what has happened there. It's the ways God has worked, decisions I made, friendships created, friendships rekindled, and the Spirit moving still in thousands of kids who go for conference each summer.

Right now I'd probably best describe where I am in life as being surprised by God's work. I'm nostalgic, but I'm constantly surprised at how He works in some of the strangest places, in the craziest people, and in such seemingly random ways. But He has orchestrated it all, none of it happening at random. I'm surprised by God right now, and I love it.

I love surprises.