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

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


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.

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:


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:
  • 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:
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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!