Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 Reading List

Apologies if you're seeing this on a feed reader - - - just moving stuff around . . .  :)

Books to finish in 2011:

Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon - - there will be a whole entry on this one 
The Rest of God by March Buchananan
Travelling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott (mere pages from the end!)

October-December (I stopped keeping track!)

19. Whistlin' Dixie in a Nor'Easter by Lisa Paton: Southern Girl moves with her family to Vermont to open a B&B. The snow buries her, her husband leaves her, and she eventually figures life out.  A fluff read but a good one :)

18. The Girls by Lori Lansens. This is about conjoined twins - it was REALLY interesting. Great characters and she did a good job of layering the story and leaving some mystery and such in it. 

17. It Sucked and Then I Cried by Heather Armstrong. I actually picked this up for a friend who like's the author's blog and then read it first (sorry, Anna! haha)  It was ok.. a good book for new mothers who needs some company in the midst of misery I'm sure. Her writing style is nice and often funny.

16. Snowflower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See.  This was a heartbreaking novel for me. It's about women and friendship I guess. It's set in China about a century ago - when women's feet were bound and their value was questionable.  I really felt connected to the characters as I was reading this.

15. Blowing My Cover: My Life as a CIA Spy by Lindsay Moran: As someone who always had "spy" listed in her dream job category - this was kind of disheartening. Being a spy doesn't involve constantly being mysterious and super smart and MacGyvering your way out of tight spots? Sad!  I still read it to the very last page though because, hello, this woman was a SPY!


September

14. Her Daughter's Dream by Francine Rivers.  The second part of the saga that was begun in March with Her Mother's Hope. I've always loved when I get to get the "big picture" on a family and watch the story travel for generations - this story line  begins in the first book with Marta as a young child and the second book ends with the birth of Marta's great-great grandchild. So - you get to see a lot. The characters are great and real and life has an authentic feel instead of it being some made up fictional world where people operate as if they had a writer. Go read everything by Rivers :)

August

13. Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. Really interesting. A book on correlation and not causation for the most part of course - but really interesting and it makes you think about how we as humans tend to operate.

May, June, and July

. . .crickets . . .   I read a little...just didn't finish any books this month. It was pretty outside :)

April


12. A Distant Melody by Sarah Sundin This reminds me of Janette Oke/Lori Wick a bit. In the “cheesy Christian but a good fluff read” category. It’s set during WWII – which is a time period I love to read about.  The female protagonist of the story has the whole “she doesn’t know she’s beautiful” thing going on – which set of an internal rant in my mind about how the world expects women to be both humbly unaware of their charm and beauty  in a world where “beauty matters” AND for women to act confidently in the belief that they are beautiful . 
11. Wrapped In Rain by Charles Martin Haven’t found a book of his yet that I don’t love. If you have a fond connection to The South – I bet you’ll love his descriptions of that beautiful part of the country as well.
March
10. Love in the Driest Season by Neeley Tucker. This book broke my heart – It’s a memoir of a couple trying to adopt a baby girl in AIDS ravished Zimbabwe in the late 90s. The reports on the conditions of the orphanages there as well as the cultural beliefs that prevent many children from being adopted was hard to read – especially as someone who really has a heart for adoption.
9. Her Mother’s Hope by Francine Rivers. Of course the book was wonderful – it’s Francine Rivers! This is her first new book in years – I was so excited to get it! This is the first in a two part series as well – and I’m certainly glad that I’ll get to see the continuation of this story line. If you enjoy it when books cover vast amounts of time and when they have characters who are very human in all their flaws and weaknesses – you’ll enjoy this. I also enjoyed the immigrant aspect of this book – the main character went from Switzerland to France to England to Canada to America – she lived quite the life!
8. The Dead Don’t Dance by Charles Martin: Martin is a recent discovery of mine. I love his books – his characters are meaningful and his southern settings are beautiful. A bit of a tear-jerker. My favorite scene (which I later leanred was the first scene that the author saw and knew he’d write this book) had the main character standing in a ditch full of icy water yelling at God about where He is at. Despite the fact that I’ve never stood in a ditch full of icy water – I could so relate. And I think being able to relate to a character is what makes books amazing.
7. After You by Julie Buxbaum: This book was a good read. The characters were likeable in all their flaws. Nothing too amazing to classify it as a must-read - but a good book for some pleasure reading.
6. mennonite in a black dress by Rhoda Janzen: I picked this up at a consignment store. I’ve attended a few weeks at a Mennonite church in the Chicago area – and the church I visited seems nothing like the Mennonite church described by the author – but I’m sure it’s normal to have such a wide range of beliefs and practices – and the fact that the church I visited was urban I’m sure had a lot to do with the differences. It wasn’t the best memoir I’ve ever read –but it had some interesting parts

February

5. Perfect Match by Jodi Piccoult: A coworker gave me this one to borrow. It’s probably not one that I would’ve picked up on my own as it deals with a District Attorney who suddenly has the tables turned on her when her child becomes the victim - and the book was difficult/unpleasant to read at parts. I like Piccoult’s writing though – and she did a good job of exploring the fuzzy distinction between “right” and “wrong” that we often see in our lives.
4. Through Painted Desserts by Donald Miller: This one I read off and on for the past few months. I started it as I was riding through a painted-dessert like landscape myself – looking out from the lounge car of an Amtrak train on my way to Arizona for my brother’s wedding last fall. I first read Miller a few years ago (Blue Like Jazz) and already knew that I loved his no-nonsense, realistic approach to faith and God in our world. I love that he doesn’t sugarcoat religion and just writes about it as part of his life – flaws and all.
3. The Red Tent by Anita Diammant: This is the story of Dinah – the Biblical Jacob’s only daughter. The author took the Biblical story and made some inferences and then told a fictional story. It was a very interesting read and gave a good perspective on what life could have been like for some of the Biblical characters we think we know so well.


January

2. My Sisters Keeper by Jodi Piccoult: I was waiting for this one on bookmooch.com but managed to get it for a deal when the bookstore at the local mall was going out of business. I had seen the movie first but had been told the book was still worth it – that was good advice. Without spoiling the book for anyone – I enjoyed the extra characters and the fact that the ending was still a surprise.
1. Love The One You're With by Emily Griffin: I picked this one up off the bargain table at Books-a-Million while visiting my parents for Christmas. I wanted something light and fluffy as an entertaining read. It's pretty typical chick-lit. This time the successful city dwelling woman ran into an old ex and the book details her range of emotions and thoughts as she deals with her reaction to that ex and her commitment to her husband and marriage. The book ended correctly as far as I'm concerned and it did it's job well of being something light and fluffy to read.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas


Thanks for reading my sporadically updated blog and leaving your comments. I hope you have a wonderful holiday!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The First Snow

12/4/10
Chicago had its first snow of the season this past weekend. We had flurries earlier in the week and during the night on Friday a couple inches floated down. We have more snow predicted for the coming week - so I guess for the next few months it's slushy sidewalks and salty roads. Yay?  We'll just enjoy the novelty while it's still pretty and white and fun ;)

I had a Christmas Brunch at church that morning but when I got back I had fun participating in my favorite "purposeful exercise" activity - snow shoveling! - and building a snowman with my Californian housemate.  I was deprived of all of these fun winter activities growing up in the South - so I enjoy it now. Most people are more than happy to let me take over the snow shoveling task.

I was sick during the flurry part of the week earlier - but did enjoy my annual tradition of watching Little Women on the day of the first snow. It's such a great snow day movie.

Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Long Cardigans

A short fatshion post:  long cardigans


They are cozy and warm. It's like wearing a blanket - in a good way. (They are much more fashionable than snuggies!) For people who do well well with layers - they are fabulous! I love layers.


I think this purple/teal combo would work better with pants other than jeans - make some cords?  I'll have to keep my eye out for a good deal.


In this picture wearing a ruffled purple tank from Lane Bryant, teal cardigan from Avenue, Lane Bryant jeans, Boots from Avenue.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Liturgy and seasons

My Advent Candles
A few years ago I started to become very interested in the idea of observing the season of Advent. As a child we had advent calendars - but that was mostly about counting the days to Christmas (and the gifts that would be there).  Occasionally my church would have advent candles and we would discuss the meaning of each candle - but for the most part, advent was not a part of my life - not on a liturgical level anyway.

I also had a rather dismissive view of liturgy and religious tradition  - finding it repetitious and empty to pray prayers that others had written or to follow some cycle year after after year. I had the faulty view that things that were not new were not fresh. I thought that for it to be authentic it must be spontaneous. I believed that to be sincere it should come only from me.

In so thinking I missed the beauty of joining with other believers in honoring Jesus and His Bride.

I didn't have any great moment of realization -but over the past few years I've been attracted to the beauty of the tradition, of the pondered, of the season of the Christian year - the liturgical year.   Advent is when I am most aware of it - but I would love to be more disciplined to observe the rest of the liturgical year.My current church does not observe the liturgical year either - I don't thinks it's very common in Evangelical churches - I find that sad. I did enjoy visiting a liturgical church last year and so loved being able to remember the season along with other believers.

People who live in places without seasons don't typically list their climate as perfect. Almost all of them will tell you  they miss the changes, the seasons. Since moving to Chicago, a place with far more definition of the seasons than my hometown of Atlanta, I have come to understand the waiting for seasons - whether it to be for them to come or go.  Near the end of winter - I get positively giddy thinking about the possibility of temperatures above freezing, of not having lug around a coat, of seeing something green growing from the ground. As spring lingers on I can't wait to be able to sit on the sand next to the lake and soak in the sun as I look out on Lake Michigan. In the scorching days of summer, when the humidity saps my strength as soon as I walk outside, I wish for and remember the chilly nights of autumn - the beautiful leaves and the smell of chimney smoke in the air. And, unexpectedly, I find myself ready for what I was so ready to be done with months ago - a crisp, white, clean blanket of snow. The magical silence it brings to the world - the freshness.  All seasons have their purpose. in some seasons I take more time to sit and ponder - literally. In other seasons I'm out and moving and trying to accomplish a million things. Seasons and cycles have a purpose - they guide us through life.

 

All of that rambling to say, I really enjoy observing Advent. I find it beneficial to remember the time of waiting and longing for the coming of the Lord in the history of the Church. To remember how even now people wait and long for the coming of the Lord. I downloaded an Advent guide a few years ago and I still use it. I love that the prayers give me words - give me things to ponder - force my mind and heart to think on things that may have not sprung "fresh" and "spontaneous" from my own mind.


For this, the first Sunday of Advent I pray,

"Let us pray in Advent time with longing and waiting for the coming of the Lord. Father in heaven our hearts desire the warmth of your love and our minds are searching for the light of your Word. Increase our longing for Christ our Savior and give us the strength to grow in love, that the dawn of his coming may find us rejoicing in his presence and welcoming the light of his truth. Only you can see into my heart and know that under all the busy-ness of my life, there is a deep longing to make this Advent one that welcomes you more deeply into my own life."

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thankfulness

Norman Rockwell
Last year on Thanksgiving I had dinner on an Amtrak train somewhere in between Chicago and Flagstaff. I was on my way to my younger brother's wedding in Phoenix. Eating some version of "turkey" in the Amtrak dining car while talking with fellow passengers was a fun adventure.  (One of the people I met on the train last year is building an orphanage in the Phillipines - check it out: dougsdream.com )  I'm looking forward to my next Amtrak trip in a few weeks when I slowly make my way to Atlanta to spend Christmas with the family. I promise the train is worth two days of travel. (And I don't have to worry about those TSA officers getting frisky!)


This year I'm staying in Chicago for Thanksgiving. The program for which I work does a big Thanksgiving dinner for all the families in my program. And, I have plans to hang out with a coworker who is also staying in the area without family on the day-of. Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays - so I'll miss being with my family but am thankful for friends in the area and the knowledge that just because I don't spend a certain calendar day with my family that our relationship would suffer. I'm very thankful for my parents, brothers, and sister-in-law. The older I get the more I realize just how blessed I have been with my family.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Hysterical

Time for a Wednesday Word post - - it's only been a month or two since the last one.  I'll just play my "busy life" card.


This has always been one of my favorite words as far as the etymology behind it:  hysterical.

It's been around for a few centuries - at least the 1600s. It comes from the Latin  hystericus meaning "of the womb" and the Greek hysterikos meaning "of the womb, suffering from the womb."

Yes, you read that correctly. "Of the womb" - though if you realize that "hysterical" sounds close to "hysterectomy" - you may not be surprised.

So, basically, originally being "hysterical" (Or hysteria in the 1800s) was a woman-only neurotic condition in which our uterus was malfunctioning. I've heard before that early on they literally thought the uterus was wandering around the body.

According to my etymology dictionary it changed it's meaning to simply "very funny" and "uncontrollable laughter" by 1939.

While I recognize the etymology of this word as a signifier of a sexism so strong that it shaped words and medical perceptions - my feminist side is not strong enough to find the absurdity of by-gone eras offensive in this case- I just find it, well, hysterical.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

On Being Fat and Happy

While I have been fat for as long as I can remember – I was blessed to grow up mostly free of comments about my weight or appearance in both my home and my larger community.  I never was popular, had boyfriends or dates, or was picked anywhere close to first on the playground. However, I think that had more to do with my shyness and uncertainty as a child rather than my fatness – as in retrospect I can remember a number of other fat kids during my school years that were popular/had boyfriends/were active in sports.  At home I was never made to feel shamed for my weight – neither by my parents or my brothers.  I can count on one hand the number of memories I have during my childhood of being ridiculed for my weight or appearance by anyone - and many of those times - there was someone else who came to my defense. I realize that is not the norm and I am so thankful to have not had the damaging influences of bullying or shaming present in my childhood. 

I didn’t grow up watching many modern movies or television shows. There were no celebrity magazines in our house. So that unachievable idea of a body type was not always present in front of me. I, of course, recognized that my body was bigger and different than most of my peers – and at times wished it would be skinnier – but I never really struggled with self-image to the degree that you'd mark it down as a life struggle. Although - I do remember being a young high schooler and thinking, "It's like I have the opposite of anorexia. They look in the mirror and see fat and ugly even though they're skinny and I see pretty even though I'm fat." I look back on the memory and can't believe that I thought it was WRONG for me to be happy with myself because obviously I had some mental illness to think I was pretty when I was fat. I remember being happy to see fat people who were married or who had kids as they were proof that a body of my size could be loved. 
 
When I had my first boyfriend in college I remember once asking him if the fat bothered him, he immediately answered that it didn’t. He was always willing to display simple signs of affection in public – and while I’m not very comfortable with PDA in general – to have someone’s romantic interest in me and my plus-size body publicly validated in that way was life affirming.  When we were hanging out just the two of watching movies of whatever – it was nice to have someone who wanted to cuddle up next to my body – who was not repelled by rolls of fat.  While the relationship eventually ended, the years I spent with him were life-changing in how I viewed myself and what I thought of other people’s perceptions of me.  While I had not struggled on great levels with my body-image before that relationship – afterwards I had an even stronger body-image and idea of who I was as a woman simply from the simple affirmation of being treated as someone who was desirable. 

It wasn’t until a couple of years after that relationship ended that I started learning about Health At Every Size (HAES) and Fat Acceptance (FA). Two of my longtime friends both began to post about the ideas in their blogs around the same time. (Lauren and Katie– though they don’t know each other as far as I know.)  At first I resisted – thinking, “Nice idea. But I know I’m unhealthy and lazy and would be better if I were thin.”  But as I read more and really thought about it I began to ask, “Wait, why do I think I’m unhealthy?”  I was active, energetic.  My blood pressure was great. I slept normal hours. I could climb stairs. I ate more healthy than a lot of skinny people I knew. I didn’t have any complaints. The only reason I thought I was unhealthy was because I was fat. So, I started researching more into HAES and FA and slowly embraced the philosophy. (And discovered Fatshionista land - - and developped an expensive love of clothing - but that's another post!)

As I guess is the norm, where I didn’t use to see the oppression and marginalization of fat people – once I became more aware of the social cause surrounding it I couldn’t stop seeing it. Everyone from the first lady to TV chefs are fighting obesity like it is the end of civilization in and of itself. I’m all for eating healthy and being active – it’s part of HAES – but sometimes when you eat healthy and are active – your body stays big and sometimes it gets super skinny. (For what it’s worth – I’m as against people commenting on skinny bodies as I am people commenting on fat bodies.)   That’s where FA comes in – regardless of health – people have a right to live in this world in their bodies. When you start paying attention to what people say about fat people – especially when they are cloaked with the anonymity of the internet – it is astounding the type of hate people spew against people with fat bodies.  

On a more subtle level – fat-hatred pervades our society. Just try and go out to lunch with a group of women and not have the subjects of diets or hating certain parts of your body come up. It’s part of the rights of bonding in our culture – to participate in the public shaming of our bodies.  If it’s coming from someone I know well I’ll try to respond with a body-affirming statement – if I’m in a group that is relatively new to me – I usually just stay quiet. 

Capturing memories at my brother's wedding. November 2009
It was around this time last year when I knew I had really become HAES/FA.  A photo of me was tagged on facebook from my brother’s wedding. It’s a picture of me standing in a line of photographers taking pictures of the bride and groom.  My first thought on seeing it, “What a cool picture!” as I don’t have many candid shots of myself just living life – I’m almost always posing or goofing off. Only later did I notice my back roll and my large arm in full display in the picture. My arms have always been the least favorite part of my body – and the part that I still struggle to accept. But there it was – my arm with its full and droopy flab- front and center – and it didn’t make me cringe. It’s my arm. It lifted a camera and held it while I captured memories on my brother’s wedding day. I love the picture. 

This is a subject that I’d like to become more open with and talk about more both in my blog world and in real life – so if you have any questions  about HAES/FA or my own personal journey being the fat girl and how that’s impacted my life – I’d love to answer them.  I’m also preparing a post on Fat Acceptance within Christianity. I fully believe that the Christian culture is one of the worst at shaming people with large bodies. Just this morning a guest preacher said from the pulpit, “maybe as part of your Christian life you need to commit to joining a gym or hiring a trainer” – and while I recognize where that idea comes from I think it’s a tragedy and is mostly the result of our society and not the study of scripture. So if you have something to say/ask in conjunction with being a fat Christian – that would be great as I prepare that post.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Pottery

I so enjoy going to pottery class every week. For three hours I turn off my phone and I spend time working with my hands and laughing with other people who are enjoying the same hobby. The others in the class are great - everyone  encourages each other and helps out with tips and tricks. The instructor is laid back - he teaches you the skills you need, does a demo, but lets you just kind of go at it while offering help along the way if needed. It's a good balance of structure and freedom.

It took me a few weeks of pottery class to get anything worth keeping - but I eventually started taking things off the wheel and not smashing them back into a blob of clay. All of my first three were "accidents" - I was not trying to make a vase/mug/pitcher at the time I made each thing - though I don't remember what I was trying to make originally with each pieces.

Here are my first three pieces

A vase and a handle-less mug
 On the left is a vase that is "leather hard." (It had dried out a bit.) On the right is a coffee mug fresh off the wheel.  After the mug got to the "leather hard" stage I added a handle. It was a week between each stage for me just because I take a once-a-week class - it can happen faster. I left it covered in plastic so that it was a slow-drying process.






Short and Stout little pitcher






This is a leather-hard pitcher with a handle attached. Then I did the "covered in plastic slow drying" for a week thing - then left it uncovered to dry for a week before the firing began. Again, the process can go much faster if I could get to the studio more often.






Coffee Time!



The finished coffee mug!   The glaze is a matte blue gaze over the entire mug and then a glossy brown at the top that dripped down some. These two glazes together gave a very smooth finish - I've noticed that with some of the glazes you get a slight ridge or bump where the glazes meet. I don't have enough experience yet to know if that's the chemical  properties of the respective glazes or the glazer's error. ;-)









Vase with Flowers
 Here is the short vase, with flowers added. This glaze is a green on first, and then what was suppose to be a coppery color on the top - it came out more matted though. It's short but the opening is pretty wide so you can stuff a lot of flowers in there still :)










"here is my handle, here is my spout"
 And here is the little pitcher - the coppery glaze topped with a glossy brown. I like how the glaze turned out on this one.

I'm going to see if I can steep some loose-leaf tea in here - not sure how well it will retain the heat as it doesn't have a lid. It's too small to use really for a cold beverage, too big for a creamer. It could work as a vase though.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

blog readers

What is your preferred method of checking blogs you follow?

I currently use google reader - but don't really like it for a number of reasons.

I also have a number of blogs that I enjoy looking at occassionally - but don't want to be bombarded everyday with all of their many updates (think Pioneer Woman, love her blog -hate that takes over my feed reader)

So - something that allows me to easily group blogs would be great!   Google reader seems to offer that option -but it just doesn't all flow very nicely and easily.


Anywho - send me your suggestions!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Ta-Da!

My first piece of glazed pottery.



It's a vase.


A vase for very short flowers.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Recent Craftiness

I've been having a lot of fun being creative the past few months. I signed up for a pottery class and should hopefully be getting back my first glazed piece this week - there are a few other things in the drying/firing process - so we'll see if they survive :)

Here are a few pottery pieces pre-kiln stage:

A small vase and the beginning of a large coffee mug



This is a pitcher - - I've got a bad habit of making the base too thick - but if it's not too heavy when it's done it can actually be used for a pitcher. If it's too heavy to make use of the handle - then a decorative vase. It spent the past week drying - so it'll go in the kiln this week.





I also got tired of trying to find a Hobo style cross-the-body purse that fit over my plus size body - so I made one. There is a large fabric store not to far from me so I spent a Saturday morning browsing the patterns and choosing fabric and then most of the rest of the day working on the purse. I got it mostly done that day but had to finish the strap later. It has a number of imperfections, but it's functional and I like it :)  I can see myself making another one now that I know what I'm doing. I used clearance fabric for this one - next time I'll probably try a pattern that is more me for the outside.

Floral Fabric for lining, tan/gold for the outside



The lining before it was put into the purse.

Inside the finished purse

Love having a hands-free bag!



The strap ended up a bit too long - so I'll need to cut out part of it and re-sew. An easy fix thanks to the seam being at the top of the strap. At the moment it's just knotted up a bit - and it may stay that way for a while quite honestly.

And, lastly, I kind of stumbled upon the fact that I enjoy making paper collage/pictures/murals/mosaics. I've made a couple for other people as sort of a greeting card - so I decided to see if I could just create a scene. For the cards for others I used Bible verses as inspiration - so I went to the same place for this. It started out as an idea to show some kind of "shelter" as seen in Psalm 91 - - I couldn't figure out how to do a cave out of paper - so I put in a tent - - and the rest just kind of came. I don't really like how the leaves or stars turned out and the ground needs something at the base of the trees/under the tent - but it was a relaxing way to spend some time :)


Monday, October 18, 2010

Sacrificial Love

I have never been a musically inclined person - but when I was a little girl I did have one singer that I went totally 8 year-old fangirl over - wore out the concert t-shirt and everything. And who was this big pop star? Why, Babbie Mason!


Ok, so I'm not really sure if she was super popular or if I just loved her - but a number of her songs regularly run on repeat through my head thanks to that phenomenon of things you memorize in childhood sticking with you for years.

The one in my head currently has been "Show Me How to Love"

It's just the chorus that made it through the past two decades in tact in my memory - but it always makes me think. The chorus says:

Show me how to love in the true meaning of the word. Teach me to sacrifice expecting nothing in return. I want to give my life away. Becoming more like you each and every day, my words are not enough, please show me how to love.

One thing I've realized as I've grown older and examined the way I've lived my life - mistakes I've made, how I act in relationships, etc - is that I didn't/don't have a healthy grasp on what it means to love sacrificially as a human. At times, it's still a struggle as I have to remind myself what it is and what it isn't.

I think I tended to think of sacrificial love as denying myself everything - - including my right to boundaries in relationships or my right to have an opinion, etc.  I recognize that as unhealthy, that sacrificial love does not equal being a doormat, and that that is not really love because it's not really doing anything for the person you are loving. 

However, my brain still gets stuck.

And I blame part of this sticking on another childhood experience - finding a poem called "Dying to Self" - I printed it out and hung it on my wall at home, at my locker at school. When I went off to college - that poem came with me.

Some of the lines include:

"When you are forgotten, or neglected, or purposely set at naught, and you don't sting and hurt with the insult or the oversight, but your heart is happy, being counted worthy to suffer for Christ. . .

"When your good is evil spoken of, when your wishes are crossed, your advice disregarded, your opinions ridiculed, and you refuse to let anger rise in your heart, or even defend yourself, but take in all in patient, loving silence. . .

"When you lovingly and patiently bear any disorder, any irregularity, any impunctuality, or any annoyance; when you stand face-to- face with waste, folly, extravagance, spiritual insensibility-and endure it as Jesus endured. . .

That is Dying to Self."
Now - I'm sure there are quite good points in the poem - but it makes me cringe now to read it, knowing how it's intent got twisted in my heart. In my mind somewhere - I came to the conclusion that sacrificial love meant being quite when you were hurt and praying for both the other person and for your own reaction.  And that eventually if you were really good at sacrificial love then you wouldn't even be hurt anymore - you'd skip that step in the emotion process and go straight to love.  On this side of that belief it scares me to examine it and the thought processes and realize how easy it is to twist the admonition to love sacrificially into something that makes people a doormat and susceptible to abuse by those would exploit it.

A better answer came from another childhood icon - Amy Carmichael.  I became interested in the life of Amy Carmichael as a child when the children's choir teacher told her story before practice one week. As a college student I stumbled upon one of her writings titled, "Calvary Love" (Please click to read it in its entirety)

I think it's similar to the "Dying to Self" poem in that it is talking about relationships with others in this world - but Carmichael does not leave any doubt that sacrificial love is strong and active and assertive.  In Calvary Love there is the assumption that sacrificial love at times means rebuking in love, speaking truth, and expecting high standards from others.

How do you define sacrificial love? How do you live out Sacrificial love as a human when our ultimate example is that of a perfect, sinless, Savior? 

I'd love for people to answer the questions just as a discussion because I'm a nerd and like stuff like that - but also because even thought it's something I'm aware of it's still a very real struggle in my life to love sacrificially in a healthy way - so I'd love some wisdom there.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

God is at work

This morning after church there were five people baptized. Each of these new believers spoke before being baptized and told how God had worked in their life and brought them to salvation.

As I listen to the stories I was encouraged by the fact that God IS at work.  That despite the fact that we live in a society full of relativism, universalism, and the idea that to share our faith with someone is pushy and egotistical - that God is still at work.

Included in the testimonies of these people were simple things - - - a stranger inviting them to church during a "back to campus" event at college, a non-Christian mother reading her son simple bedtime stories out of a kids book called "Stories from the Bible", a church - with open doors and invitation for anyone to come in to pray, and of course people in their lives who spoke the name of Jesus and the message of the Gospel.

In our modern world with all of our great ideas about life here and in eternity - - people still see their need and choose to follow a Holy God and a risen Savior.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Community: Big World Made Small

Shady Sidewalk
I realize this isn't a radical idea. That I'm not the first person to have this realization - but after a year of living a personal life this is pedestrian based - my world feels smaller (in a good way). I moved from an urbanish suburb where if you saw someone on foot or bike your first thought tended to be, "Aw. Their car broke down." A 15 minute drive was typical to get anywhere. And, while new building codes had begun to require the inclusion of sidewalks along the street front - - the sidewalks were rather patchworked - - new and remodeled buildings sporting them but the older properties let their granfathered-in grass grow wild. The distance between things with the lack of an easy path there did not make for conducive walking conditions. And, forget public transportation - you include that in your suburb and people from the city just might infiltrate!


Before I lived here I'm not sure I would have thought communities like this actually existed. On my 10 minute walk home from church (on continuous sidewalk no less!) the other week I watched the street next to me and counted six bicycles to one car. I passed dozens of other pedestrians. I thought about how much more fluid life is when you're not in a car. I don't have to park my vehicle in some random spot just there for the sole purpose of parking a vehicle. I don't have the in and out of the car and getting situated and keeping up with my keys. I don't lug around a bunch of extra stuff. My purse gets cleaned out regularly and the only things that go with me on trips are things I need.

I actively choose things based on their walking distance now. I measure distance in blocks.  It makes things simpler in a way - my radius of  options is small - I try to have everything within a mile (a 20 minute walk). When I recently (finally!) got around to finding a local dentist the choice of "which one?" was easily solved by picking one that was a few blocks away. I can walk a mile or so and get to: the post office, church, a couple grocery stores, a number of parks, a number of coffee shops, video rental, the library, the dentist, dry cleaner, a fabric store, movie theatre,  a number of restaurants, and many other things. 

I don't think I will be in a densely populated area forever - as I want to try that whole "living in a yurt on a wide open meadow miles away from anyone" thing one day too - - but for now it's really nice and I love that I get to experience this kind of living.





Wednesday, September 15, 2010

connotation, denotation, and love

My entry last Wednesday on word misappropriation had a few of you discussing the use of the word "love" and whether or not it's appropriate to use the same word for love of people and love of oreos. 

Thesaurus.com tells me the following are synonyms.

admire, adulate, be attached to, be captivated by, be crazy about, be enamored of, be enchanted by, be fascinated with, be fond of, be in love with, canonize, care for, cherish, choose, deify, delight in, dote on, esteem, exalt, fall for, fancy, glorify, go for, gone on, have affection for, have it bad, hold dear, hold high, idolize, long for, lose one's heart to, prefer, prize, put on pedestal, think the world of, thrive with, treasure, venerate, wild for, worship
Well,  "I am enchanted by oreos" doesn't seem to sound much better.


So that's where connotation comes in. I always loved teaching connotation vs. denotation when I taught high school. I always taught it right before a poetry unit - because poets make the best use of connotation - the whole idea is to pack a lot of meaning into a few words and when the reader takes the time to deconstruct all the connotative meanings - the poem expands. One of these days I'll deconstruct some of my favorite poems and be geeky about how the words all mean so much.

Anyway.

Denotation is the dictionary definition of the word - connotation is everything else. Connotation often has much to do with the context, but it doesn't have to.

Cultural words, for instance, have a strong connotative meaning even without context (though I guess you could argue that culture itself is context, but that's a little more philosophical than I wanted to get).

For example, if I say the term, "rap music" - you most likely tend to think of the rap music culture - the clothing, the attitudes, etc.  That's all connotation. The denotation is what actually defines that style of music - perhaps incorporating the history and creation of the style as well.

Love, on the other hand, relies heavily on context in order to determine the connotation.

If someone says they love their spouse and then says they love oreos - I am not confused - the fact that love has the same definition is not problematic because each context provides a different connotation.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Last Words

The last recorded words that Jesus spoke on earth have been heavily on my mind and heart lately.

Matthew 28

16Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18And Jesus came and said to them,  "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

Mark 16

15He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. 16Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.


The sermon was on this this morning as well. The Bible is full of admonition to do good things - care for the widows and opphans, feed the hungry, clothe the poor, visit the sick. We're called to be all things to all people. We're told that everyone is equal in the eyes of the Lord.  We are told to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly. 

But those "last words" of Jesus require so much more if we are truly living as people who believe that Jesus is the Messiah - the son of the one true God sent to earth to redeem us and make atonement for our sins.

In our modern world of being tolerant, open-minded and willing to listen - we often forget to talk about the narrow path.

We, I, have to stop being scared of the part of my faith that makes me weird to the world.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Fruit Bread

Banana Nut Muffins and Peach Bread Loaves

I made four batches of bread last Saturday. Two were recipes I had used previously (Banana Nut and Pumpkin) and two were new recipes (Peach and Applesauce.)

I added craisisns and pecans to the applesauce bread and it turned out so good! The applesauce made it nice and moist.   The peach bread, however, was my favorite. The only substitution I made there was using canola oil rather than vegetable oil.  It seems that it would work really well with any kind of fruit that you wanted to substitute in.

Click for recipes: Peach BreadApplesauce Bread.

It worked really well timing wise for me to make the first batch of bread as muffins.  I had just enough time while those were cooking to wash the dishes and get the batter for the next batch into the larger loaf pans. The loaves take a little over an hour - so I had a break for a bit and then whipped up the next batch as muffins again, and then finally ended with the last batch as two loaves.  Start to finish I made 4 big loaves and 48 muffins in about 5 hours. The mini loaves you see in the picture is just the batter that was leftover from the muffin batches.

I love the simple pleasures in life.
I'll be freezing most of it so that we can pull it out as we want it. I've discovered that fruit bread freezes really well - in fact the pumpkin bread I know is better after it's been frozen.

And, of course, the best part of bread making is tasting the bread.  My breakfast the next morning was two slices of warmed peach bread and a cup of hot tea. Quite the satisfying way to start the day.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

word misappropriation

The adjective appropriate means:: "Suitable for a particular person, condition, occasion, or place; fitting." and in the verb form the meaning becomes, "to set apart for specific use: To take possession of or make use of exclusively for oneself, often without permission."  

And misappropriation is defined as, "to appropriate wrongly; To appropriate dishonestly for one's own use."

This is a transitive verb - which if you paid attention to your grammar lessons in school you know that means it needs a noun to misappropriate.  Meaning, you're not just going to misappropriate - you're going to misappropriate SOMETHING. It will be specific, perhaps personal.

Now, I'm bordering on sounding a little too politically correct here - but word misappropriation is something I try to be consciously aware of. I have a few examples in my head. I'll talk about one today and some others will show up over the next few weeks. (Gotta space out the material!)   But - I also want to spend some time talking about because I think language is so powerful - it is the basis of our communication and knowledge and how we understand and relate to other people.  When our word choice does not acknowledge the history and connotations of the words - we do a disservice to ourselves and those we are in conversation with.  When people are careful with word choice that they are able to communicate more clearly and succinctly. When people acknowledge the history and connotations of words they become more self reflective and that is a good thing. :)

So for today the word that I feel gets misappropriated to the detriment of the real meaning of the word is the word "starve" and its variations.

The  majority of the people in the world who say "I'm starving" are really only hungry. And it's common to hear people point out that, no, you really aren't starving. The connotations between "starve" and "hunger" are apparent and clear. But, the word nerd that I am I decided to dig into the etymology of "to starve."

I was shocked to discover that "starve" comes from the Old English steorfan, "to die."

Before "starve" was associated with the lack of food, it was associated with death.  In the 14th century it had a meaning of "to die with cold" and it wasn't until around 1520 that "starve" meant "to kill with hunger." 

This is where I find that paying attention to if you are using words that are appropriate for the scenario increases your self-reflection and your connection to the world at large. If I can remember that I don't use the word "starving" became I am not - - then I am more likely to remember that there are indeed people who are. That there are people who are dying from the lack of food.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Love and Quietness

At church the sermons have been working their way through 1 John - so I've had a childhood song stuck in my head for the past couple of months.  The song is 1 John 4:7-8 put to music.

"Beloved, Let us love one another. For love is of God and everyone that loveth is born of God, and knoweth Him. He that loveth not, loveth not God for God is love."  

I don't know about you, but I am REALLY GOOD at loving people,  until I actually have to, you know, interact with them.  And then, well, all of the oh-so-human parts of me come out. The part that thinks I know better ways to do things, the part that fails to assume the positive about other people and instead would prefer to assume that they are trying to drive me crazy, the part that really does enjoy the ranting and gossip.


Because, most recently, my lack of love for people I find "difficult" to love comes out in either an internal attitude that I feed with self-righteous talk  or in ranting to other people there are a couple of ways that I am attempting to become a person who shows God's love. 

1. Being quiet. When I want to rant (gossip) - - - I just try to hold my tongue.  I've always advocated the benefit of having someone to rant to. . . but, really, a journal entry that only I see works just as well to let out some of the frustration. If it's a situation where I need advice - I can then more clearly see the situation to explain it to someone and present "just the facts" and try to get real help instead of ranting and expecting only validation to my outrage.

2. Meditating on scripture. If I've got scripture running through my head all day that I'm trying to focus on and learn from and apply to my life - -well, I have less time to fuel my own self-righteous inner talk. And, well, there are quite a few other benefits of meditating on scripture as well.

So that's kind of where I'm at right now with my spiritual life - - learning to be still again and to hear that still small voice and not my own. And if it means that for now my scripture meditation is children's tunes from decades ago ..well, so be it, between the sing-along tapes my parents had for us and all the songs we learned at church - there are quite a few floating around in my head. :)

Friday, September 3, 2010

Living Vicariously

Over the years of surfing the blogworld I've found a number of blogs that show me a life experience that I had never considered before - I think that's my favorite part of reading blogs - living vicariously through the lives of others. 

One of my most recent blog "genres" that has fascinated my nomadic-inclined mine is blogs about RV life. Not just RV vacationing - but RV dwelling.  Way back whenever (1996  according to IMDB) I remember watching the show Promised Land (a spin-off of Touched By An Angel) and thinking their life was pretty cool - - but I do not recall the show portraying RV dwelling having much of a community so I never considered it. I get the impression of community from these blogs - and as much as I am introvert with a strong dose of wanderlust - - I really do love community too. 

I stumbled upon the blog  The Happy Jansens about a year ago I guess  -- a family of four living in an RV full time - travelling the world, working from "home" - and blogging about it all. (And taking pretty pictures of it all ;-) )  

From there I just started clicking through other bloggers they had listed or people who commented and found these other two RV blogs that I really enjoy reading:

The Ticknor Tribe - this blog combines my love of a big family with my new RV fascination. They have 13 people, 13, living in the RV.   Here is the fascinating post on how they make that work.

Living In My Car - a woman travelling solo. She drove all the way from Texas to the arctic circle.  If I wasn't so terrified of having to park and maneuver a RV - - I'd totally start plotting my own such adventure. But, alas, I need a driver for my RV journey if it's to be relaxing at all!  I really enjoy her self-reflection that she includes in many of her posts.



So those are a few of my favorite blogs - as I tend to lurk more than I comment on them -- I hope I didn't freak any of the previous mentioned bloggers out by talking about them. :) haha.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

It's all business, or is it?

I love how words often give themselves away in their very syllables, in the way they sound and how the letters all flow together.

If you ever taken a creative writing course I bet that you've talked a little bit about Anglo-Saxon vs. Latinate words. In short - some of the words that have made their way to the 21st century version of English are predominantly rooted in the latin, or Roman, occupation of England - that is the words of the rulers  - the church, the government, the nobility. And others, are primary rooted in the language of the common people - the people of Angleland. One used an ornate language, the other used a language that was quick and to the point. Together - you've got a complex language.

So let's take a look at a few words - job, career, vocation, and profession

Job - the etymology here is that it's something you produce and then you are done. It's a job. You needed to build a fence, make a sculpture, teach a class, do something - until the job is done. Then it's over.  On a connotative level - it doesn't sound enjoyable. It's purposeful in that it usually has a salary - but it's just a job - it's just something you do.

Career - I didn't see this etymology coming - but "career" comes from the racetrack. In the 1530s it meant "a running course."  This is so America to me. It doesn't surprise me that the word America most often seems to use for our salary-producing endeavors is this one. High schools and colleges have "career planning." We're admonished to have a career - not just a job!  Set a course! Make a plan! Run the race! Finish first? This was teaching for me. I got my degree, my certification, and my government job. Salary steps were outlined for the next 30 years. Retirement plan was good. Pay was adequate. And while the school years were non-stop busyness - we did get a few weeks a year to just chill.  It was a path and a plan and I knew where I was going and what the finish line was.

It was not, however, my vocation.

Vocation - love this word! Literally, "a calling." It has nothing to do with producing anything or having some set course - it's all about the calling. It doesn't even have the need for any kind of salary - - there are so many vocations in this world where the return and reward is anything but monetary.

That's how I feel about my life now - that I have a vocation. Working with a non-profit I get to do a lot of things that I really truly feel are important and that fit with my gifts, skills, interests, and abilities. I do feel it's where I've been called - even if some moments it feels like a job- - and I worry at times about it's potential as a career.

and perhaps one day I'll be confident enough to call it a profession -

that is - - something I can "profess" to be skilled in. ;-)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Scripture

I've been reading The Rest of God by Mark Buchanan lately. I'm really enjoying it - he's a gifted writer. As I was reading this weekend he mentioned the idea of "taking every thought captive" and my mind flashed back to high school.

It's one of those random memories frozen in my head. I was with a group of girls from church at one of the annual church camps, I don't remember which one, I just remember that randomly throughout the time together we'd all chant, "Take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5 B!"  (Always putting extra emphasis on the "B" for some reason.)  And years later - I don't remember why that was the verse we memorized that weekend or what sermon we heard based on it - but I remember the verse. I have a feeling that whoever taught the lesson or preached the sermon though is ok with that.

So let's look at this passage:

2 Corinthians 10
3For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 6And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete.

In context it seems to be saying that taking our thoughts captive is part of the spiritual warfare we fight - part of the ongoing struggle of the battle between living in this world and not operating our lives in a carnal way. Taking our thoughts captive is part of how we win that war - how we fight - how we demolish "every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God."

When I think of "capturing" something or keeping something "captive" I think of a wild animal. Now, I'm sure there are a variety of reasons to capture a wild animal and not all of them valid or beneficial - but I'm going to focus on a couple of reasons:  1) The animal is a danger to humans and needs to be contained and relocated or eliminated (like my euphemism?)  or 2) The animal would be useful is trained and therefore will be captured, broken, trained, and put to use.

Some thoughts are just plain deadly - figurative if not literally for many people - thoughts about how the world says our worth is found. Thoughts that seek to devalue us based on our appearance or our abilities or our relationships (or lake thereof). They kill our spirit and our motivation - stopping us in our tracks and making us unable to do that which God has called us to.

Other thoughts just need to be broken - need to learn to be obedient to God. Satan is the master of deception - every lie he speaks has a hint of truth and it is that truth that we first cling to. But when we don't take EVERY THOUGHT to Christ then it is easy to go in the wrong direction.

I know the more often I am reading scripture the easier it is to align my thoughts with Christ's. And when I memorize it, as I often don't do, it's even easier - the verses just pop into my head when I need them to realign my thoughts. The proverb, "I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you" proves true - His word is what gives us the power to obey His word - to demolish strongholds.



p.s. I know there are a couple of girls that grew up with me in the youth group who read this blog- - anyone else remember chanting that verse?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Regular Posts: Coming Soon

Thanks for your input on the idea of regular posts.

The ones with the most votes were Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.  I can see the "memory mondays" being able to go under "friday favorites" - so I'm going to push those two together and every once in a while a Favorite Friday will be a favorite memory ;)

Wordy Wednesdays are a go - this will be fun for me and stimulating on an academic/intellectual level as I seek to actually research etymology and cultural uses of words and such rather than just thinking about it.. Self-education is always fun.

and, while it didn't get a lot of votes I'm going to do Sunday Scriptures too since I want to and it's my blog. :-D


Ok -so I need to give myself a week or so to figure out the format and get content ideas going - but - I'll get them up soon and hopefully keep up with it!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Regular Posts: Input Requested

In the interest of trying to become a regular blogger who blogs things of substance - I'm considering trying to do 1-3 weekly "themed" entries.  Hopefully with a few regular posts I'll get my writing mind back in gear and actually have ideas for other days of the week. Of the following - which do you think you would be most interested in reading?

(ignore the silly alliteration for now - I don't really like it but it's a way for me to think of themes and set a schedule. If you have better alternate names feel free to suggest!)

Sunday Scriptures - scriptures from The Bible that have recently been meaningful to me with my reflections.

Monday Memories - my idea here comes from my love of memoir and would be a bit of "stories from my life". Creative non-fiction writing that will hopefully, at least on occassion, link to other things - - like...web pages for vacation spot memories or pictures of vintage toys I loved or whatever so that blog readers can interact a bit.

Tasty Tuesday - food. something I made. something I ate. something that I saw a picture of and it left me drooling.  The type of food entries I used to do a lot of when I had time to cook more creatively.

Wednesday Words - I'm really intersted in linguistics and connotation vs. denotation.  I spend a lot of time thinking about words and what they mean and how we use them and if there's a right or wrong there or why people think there is a right and wrong. But, i'm getting wordy. Basically - - looking at words. I've never really written much on this topic - so it would be new for me to  put into writing. But this may be an area too narrow and geeky to actually have any wide readership interest.

Thankful Thursday - Reasons why I love life - one Thursday at a time.

Favorite Fridays - I highlight something that is a favorite of mine: webpage, place, cooking tool, organization, craft item, pointless cute thing, whatever.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Review: Organix Shampoo

At Least The Bottle Is Cute
A few months ago when I was shopping for shampoo I spotted the organix brand and thought I'd give it a try. It smelled nice, the bottle was cute, and less chemicals down the shower drain is always good, right?

Well, as the months wore on through my first mid-west summer I noticed that my hair was extra oily and that it was growing super fast.  Also - the shampoo smell did not transfer to my hair :(. That's why you buy shampoo based on smell - so your hair will smell like that! My hair was constantly in a clip because it would get oily by the end of the day even if I washed it that morning. I'm a little slow so I blamed it on new weather for my hair - even though that didnt' really make sense given that I came from the hot and humid south.

It wasn't until about a week ago that I realized it was that organic shampoo - the chemicals may not be good for the shower drain - but they do wonders for my hair.  However, the organic shampoo did make my hair grow very fast - so I didn't throw away the stuff - it's on the shelf in case I ever decide I'm ready for longer hair and I'll whip it out and deal with oily hair again for a few weeks. Until then, I'll get my organic fruit from the produce section and let my shampoo (and hair) enjoy the chemicals.