Tuesday, November 17, 2009

ORGANIZE my thoughts? Have you gone mental?

OK, so here's the deal. I've been bursting at the seams to write lately, but when I seriously focus my mental energy on it, nothing appears in my mind's eye. There are no topics floating around in my pool of ideas. My pool has been drained, there are dead leaves and branches, little by little, filling the dry cracked concrete. My pool wishes for summer and to be filled with refreshing, cool water - a breeding ground and welcoming place for ideas.

See, just like that... what is that? "My pool?" That's rubbish, or is it? I could work with that, write a metaphorical piece about writer's block, etc. Yeah, right.

It's weird, but the thing occupying most of my mind recently has been my hefty research paper and organizing my stuff. Probably because that's what I've been doing. Researching, writing and organizing. So I guess it's not that weird. The thing that spurred me to organize my stuff, I think, (besides my mom's sweet, persistent nagging) is the fact that the contents of my mind are so cluttered. Maybe it's easier for me to approach the file-drawer-turned-upside-down that is my brain when I'm sitting in a clean room that smells of glade scented candles, where everything is neatly folded and put in the right drawer. Dressy shoes have to be in the shoetree, boots on the left side of the closet, flip-flops on the right, please. The third drawer down is for t-shirts only, Ellie, please don't mix them up again. (Ellie complies because she knows this, organized phase, too shall pass.) Don't get me wrong, I can live with clutter. The unorganized accumulation of too much stuff is a well-practiced hobby of mine. When every faculty of mine encounters clutter, though, my mind says, eh, uh, no. Clean at least one of these things up, or I will go crazy. So my mind is happy to focus on cleaning out my dresser, closet, boxes and bags of stuff for a day or two. I'm content to ponder how many different ways my furniture can be arranged, letting my entire consciousness be taken up by deciding if putting the bookshelf next to the bed is the most efficient use of space. It's good and productive on one hand, and an escape of sorts on the other hand. I'd rather have mental clutter than physical, though, especially in regard to my writing. When someone says, "I just need to organize my thoughts," I think, "What? Uh... organize your...? Um, do people, can people really...? Is that even possible? Organize your thoughts? Are you crazy?" A book I just began reading, entitled, "Bird by Bird" by Anne Lamott addresses this issue in regard to perfectionism in writing, which I equate to complete and total organization of the mind. She says, "Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and your [really terrible] first draft. [...] Perfectionism will ruin your writing, blocking inventiveness and playfulness and life force. [...] Perfectionism means that you try desperately not to leave so much mess to clean up. But clutter and mess show us that life is being lived. Clutter is wonderfully fertile ground - you can still discover new treasures under all those piles, clean things up, edit things out, fix things, get a grip. Tidiness suggests that something is as good as it's going to get. Tidiness makes me think of held breath, of suspended animation, while writing needs to breathe and move."
Maybe that's why I wait so long to organize my stuff, because I'm a perfectionist. If I can't do it right, I won't do it at all, just like I feel sometimes with writing.

Bottom line, I'm glad my room is clean right now, but there's no way it's going to stay that way. I will let it get to a point where I will once again have to choose one area of my life to be sorted, and my stuff is the easiest to get a grip on, so that's what usually ends up being cyclically organized. In regard to writing, I know I write better when I write first, organize later. Hopefully I can always remember that and just plunge into the mess.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Follow the (Red) Light

I left the house this morning with the battery warning light on in my car. I stared at the glowing red symbol and thought, “you don’t matter.” It stared back and said, “you’ll be sorry,” as I struggled to pull my common sense back to my side of the argument. My battery light had been flickering on and off for days. I had my battery tested and its function was normal. I was on my way to Medford for a doctor’s appointment. It was 7am. I had my coffee, my tunes, and my paper-clipped bundle of coupons for Costco from my mom. I was ready to check off my Medford to-do list as fast as I could: get in, get done and get out.
As I was heading over the pass, listening intently to a comedy sketch by Jerry Seinfeld on my iPod, Jerry’s voice suddenly plummeted – it sounded like it was being sucked through a vortex – then silence. I thought my speakers went out… how annoying. The red battery light (Yes it was still on. I know. Idiot was slowly being etched across my forehead.) shone on unflinchingly, taunting me with its sarcasm: “It’s your speakers. Right.
When my car did a few awkward lunges through road construction before Ashland, I decided to pull over, rolling my eyes that I was conceding to a battery light! I left my car running and made a few phone calls, trying to scrounge up a ride, but I only reached my cousin in Ashland who offered me her… bike? No thanks. My gearshift was locked and that little red light was still blaring, brighter than any red light should be allowed to blare. Then, somehow, the menacing light blinked off and my car shifted into gear! With caution I pulled out and drove on old Highway 99 to Medford. I made it to my appointment, a little late, and eventually to Central point to get my alternator fixed. Somehow I felt a little triumphant that the red light telling me the battery was dying wasn’t 100% accurate. Turns out the alternator was draining my car battery while it was running, but the battery itself is as healthy as a horse.
So besides being late for my doctor’s appointment and having to wait an hour and a half at an old fashioned burger place in Central Point - where I eavesdropped on two strangers debating politics through a cheap glass partition adorned with ghastly orange and yellow spiral shaped illustrations of citrus slices - I really was inconvenienced very little.
I headed to Costco to take advantage of the coupons and then headed home, pretty much stress free. There are three morals to this tale:
#1 – Things generally seem worse than they actually are.
#2 – Pay attention to your car’s warning lights.
#3 – It’s pretty stupid to have psychological arguments with inanimate objects. (They usually win.)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Love Weed, Love God

Weed.
It's an interesting topic for so many reasons. Oh, and I wasn't even counting the ones involving marijuana, (or cannibas if you're reading a police report, but who am I kidding? Who reads police reports besides journalists who then translate it back to marijuana so Joe sixth grader - who probably smokes dope - can understand? Those were two very pointless sentences, but I don't think I wanted to delete them.) so the reasons probably just at least tripled.
I bet you can't guess what my reason for writing about Weed is though. Well, besides the fact that I grew up here, love it here, hate it here, left here and now am back here. It's none of those. Today Weed, just the thought of this place, turned my mind toward the amazing love I experience from God all the time, even if it's not recognized by me. (Bet you didn't see that one coming.)
My mind has been storing and filing away tid bits of information about God's love lately, through different experiences, thoughts and encounters, but tonight as I drove home from the high school where I was working on my senior project and stressing about it, I suddenly observed the sad little town I was driving through. I don't think the drizzling rain really helped uplift my mood, either. That thought started a chain reaction in my mind, like dominoes or ripples or any other word picture you can think of. (And I'm pretty sure there are more.) I thought about how so many people I know here are depressed and down on their luck, or beating themselves up about things they've done or mistakes they've made. I thought about the gutter of the same depressing routine people get themselves into here. I thought how it's kind of adding insult to inury that on top of all their other problems, they live in Weed.
When your mind is on this type of track, Weed honestly doesn't have much to offer, except the new bar on Main Street. What a significant improvement to our little space of cohabitation. I'm sure Papa's Place and the bar in the bowling alley weren't enough for our expansive downtown street. The array of lit beer signs in the window really add something to the street at night.
Back to my chain reaction of thoughts, though. Thinking about other people's unfortunate situations naturally turned my mind to my own situation. I've felt kind of stressed out and hopeless lately, which I mark as things I most likely have in common with the unfortunates of my mind during this whole thought process.
Then, it was like this little light turned on in my head. God loves me, even if I'm stressed out and am only seeing things with a bleak perspective. He loves me A LOT. Then I said a little prayer of thanks to God that I am aware of His love for me. Some of the people in my mind are not aware of it, or at least they are choosing to go through life without taking advantage of it, or comfort in it. It seemed quite perfect, and probably was the cause of the light bulb turning on in my head, that The David Crowder Band's song "How He Loves Us" from their new album was on. It took on a deeper meaning for me. Then it didn't matter that it was cold and drizzly outside.
There's a line in "How He Loves Us" that says, "And I don't have time to maintain these regrets when I think about how He loves us." Chris Tomlin says, "You see the depths of my heart and You love me the same." Pastor Bill says, "God knows what you've done and He loves you anyway." Isaiah 57:18 says, "I have seen his ways and will heal him. I will also lead you and restore comforts to him and his mourners." Romans 5:5 remedies my thoughts of hopelessness, "Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us all."
Weed needs to acknowlege this love much, much more. I need to show this love to Weed much, much more while I'm here. The reciprocation for this kind of love should be to love back. Weed provides a perfect opportunity for me to do this. Love for God = love for others. John 4:19, "We love Him because He first loved us."
Two moments that were precursers to this illumination, some of the tid bits of information I filed away, were in observing God's creation. First when I rounded a corner on the road and my windshield was filled with the exploding scenery of trees in full fall color and the mountain barely dusted with snow against a pure blue sky. Second, when I stepped out of my car the other night and tilted my head toward the sky - smooth black pierced with pinpricks of glowing, sparkling white. There is definitely something about the stars in Edgewood. (Edgewood has one up on Weed in this area for sure. Don't believe me? You're welcome to visit.)
Isaiah 40:26, "Lift up your eyes on high, and see who has created these things, who brings out their host by number. He calls them all by name, by the greatness of His might and the strength of His power not one is missing."
It's very easy to forget but so essential to remember: God loves me. It enables us to rise up, press on, serve and worship Him better. It's better than anything. Ever.

PS - I am very proud of myself that I didn't mention A.W. Tozer at all in this post. Just saying. It had the potential to be much longer, but stop yawning - I'm done.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Flames Divide, Cedars Split


When I was at Capernwray Hall we had a mandatory day of prayer. Of course they couldn’t enforce us to pray but the idea was that we would spend the entire day alone with God. I remember Trevor encouraging us to spend some of our time listening to God. When he said that, I cringed internally because:

This has always been one of the hardest things for me to grasp and take seriously as a Christian – hearing God. I don’t mean to, and it’s not like I don’t attribute validity to what people mean when they say things like, God told me to go here or do that or say this… but I tend to close off somewhat to statements of that nature. There may be a tinge of unbelief in me, or sometimes a bit of resentment that it doesn’t come as easily recognizable to me. Deep down I think some people are too loose with the term "God told me to." I'm trying to figure out how I can be such a devout (at least I like to think I’m devout) Christian and be so unfamiliar with the Voice of God. It’s a little disconcerting. I think because God is so other than me that it’s hard to grasp how He can speak to me. Communication in the other direction doesn’t cause a problem for me, though. Being able to talk to the God who created me, loves me and deserves my unending praise is awesome. When He wants to respond to my prayers, though? Wait… what? Um… how do I hear it? How do I know for sure that’s what He’s saying? (That’s where faith comes in, which is another whole topic in itself, but extremely related.)

The POWER alone associated with the voice of God is mind-boggling. Psalm 33:6 says, “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.” Verse 9 says, “For He spoke and it was done. He commanded and it stood fast.” All throughout Genesis 1 it’s seen: “Then God said… and it was so.” Psalm 29 (one of my absolute favorite Psalms) speaks about the power of God’s voice (read it!!).

I’m reading “The Pursuit of God” by A.W. Tozer right now, and frankly, I could probably write lengthy posts about each chapter in that book... (as you can see from my previous post, haha) but I’ll try to not do that. I encourage you to read it if you haven’t already. The chapter I just read is entitled “The Speaking Voice,” go figure. It seriously convicted me that I need to focus so much more of my prayer and devotion time on disciplining my ability to listen to God.

If you thought you were going to get through this post without a quote from Tozer, haha. Too bad. Or just stop reading now. But actually don’t, because Tozer is so much better to read than me. One of the fundamental things regarding the Voice of God that helps me understand this whole concept is that the Bible is God’s word (and consequently voice) in my life. Tozer says, (here comes the quote!)


“A man may say, ‘These words are addressed to me,’ and yet in his heart not feel
and know that they are. […] The Bible is the inevitable outcome of God’s
continuous speech. It is the infallible declaration of His mind for us put into
our familiar human words. I think a new world will arise out of the religious
mists when we approach the Bible with the idea that it is not only a book which
was once spoken, but a book which is now speaking. The prophets habitually said,
‘Thus saith the LORD.’ They meant their hearers to understand that God’s
speaking is in the continuous present. We may use the past tense properly to
indicate that at a certain time a certain word of God was spoken but a word of
God once spoken continues to be spoken, as a child once born continues to be
alive, or a world once created continues to exist. And those are but imperfect
illustrations, for children die and worlds burn out, but the Word of our God
endureth forever.”

I don’t think I have been ignoring the voice of God in my life. I think I’ve just perhaps been scraping by with the bare minimum of listening to God. Of course a relationship has to have two way communication, so to grow even closer to the God I love, I have to increase my awareness of His voice by disciplining my hearing skills to be sharper.

“Come at once to the open Bible expecting it to speak to you. Do not come with
the notion that it is a thing which you may push around at your convenience.
It is more than a thing; it is a voice, a word, the very Word of the living
God.” –Tozer

That mindset is vital to hearing God’s voice in my life! Like Tozer I want to pray that I will get used to the sound of God’s voice, that its tones may be familiar when the sounds of the earth die away and the only sound will be the music of His speaking voice.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Oh Taste and See that the Lord is Good Psalm 34:8

I am aware that there are those who love to poke fun at the plain man's idea of reality. They are the idealists who spin endless proofs that nothing is real outside of the mind. They are the relativists who like to show that there are no fixed points in the universe from which we can measure anything. They smile down upon us from their lofty intellectual peaks and settle us to their own satisfaction by fastening upon us the reproachful term "absolutist." The Christian is not put out of countenance by this show of contempt. He can smile right back at them, for he knows that there is only One who is Absolute, that is God. But he knows also that the Absolute One has made this world for man's use, and while there is nothing fixed or real in the last meaning of the words (the meaning as applied to God), for every purpose of human life we are permitted to act as if there were. And every man does act thus except the mentally sick. These unfortunates also have trouble with reality, but they are consistent; they insist upon living in accordance with their ideas of things. They are honest, and it is their very honesty which constitutes them a social problem.

The idealists and relativists are not mentally sick. They prove their soundness by living their lives according to the very notions of reality which they in theory repudiate and by counting upon the very fixed points which they prove are not there. They could earn a lot more respect for their notions if they were willing to live by them; but this they are careful not to do. Their ideas are brain-deep, not life-deep. Wherever life touches them they repudiate their theories and live like other men.

The Christian is too sincere to play with ideas for their own sake. He takes no pleasure in the mere spinning of gossamer webs for display. All his beliefs are practical. They are geared into his life. By them he lives or dies, stands or falls for this world and for all time to come. From the insincere man he turns away. The sincere, plain man knows that the world is real. He finds it here when he wakes to consciousness, and he knows that he did not think it into being. It was here waiting for him when he came, and he knows that when he prepares to leave this earthly scene it will be here still to bid him goodbye as he departs. By the deep wisdom of life he is wiser than a thousand men who doubt. He stands upon the earth and feels the wind and rain in his face, and he knows that they are real. He sees the sun by day and the stars by night. He sees the hot lightning play out of the dark thundercloud. He hears the sounds of nature and the cries of human joy and pain. These he knows are real. He lies down on the cool earth at night and has no fear that it will prove illusory or fail him while he sleeps. In the morning the firm ground will be under him, the blue sky above him and the rocks and trees around him as when he closed his eyes the night before. So he lives and rejoices in a world of reality. With his five senses he engages this real world. All things necessary to his physical existence he apprehends by the faculties with which he has been equipped by the God who created him and placed him in such a world as this. Now by our definition also God is real. He is real in the absolute and final sense that nothing else is. All other reality is contingent upon His.

- A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God (from Ch. 4: Apprehending God)

Monday, September 14, 2009

9/14/09

Sorry it's been a while since my last post. It's a challenge for me to sift through all that's happening and process it enough to write about it. I've been journaling, but even that is scattered, so my efforts usually consist of making sense of my journal entries enough to string them together into a cohesive post. Here are some experiences that stick out enough to write about for now.

Last week Jo had to mow her lawn and her neighbor’s lawn as well. When I came home from walking around the piacja with another woman who works at the Hope Center, I met her in the neighbor’s yard. (Or garden if you’re British. Funny side note – I’m beginning to pick up British terms again living with Jo. Just small things, but I find I’m falling into it quite easily. For instance, saying things like “rubbish,” “this bit,” “tip it into the sink,” “chuck it into the bin,” “can I help with the washing up?” etc.) Jo told me to hang out with the Bosnians while she mowed. What that consisted of was literally following her around while she cut the grass. We stood at a very close proximity and just watched Jo work. Every once in a while the Bosnians would point out a bit that she missed, but for the most part, we just observed, the entire time. When she finished their garden, we moved on to another neighbor’s – she had come out of her house and shouted across the fence for Jo to mow hers as well. So we all trooped down another lane to watch Jo mow that lawn. It was interesting keeping the Bosnians company because I don’t speak Bosnian (although I am learning a bit – two classes a week, it’s a hard language!). I do a considerable amount of smiling and nodding. It was so intriguing to me that everybody just kept joining us after we mowed their lawn and we clustered around Jo while she worked. They served us coffee and juice (they drink so much juice over here!) and they kept handing me fresh apples and grapes that they were picking off their trees and vines. They gave me a chair to sit in, and when I would try to say I didn’t need it, they would just keep saying sjediti, sjediti! (That means “sit, sit!”) When Jo would round the corner, they would pick my chair up and move it so I could view Jo working at all times. Heaven forbid I miss a millisecond of what she was doing.


A few days ago, as part of the potato project here (click HERE to read about it!), we took a trip out to "The Village" to pick up some potatoes. We drove four about 45 minutes down a lush, forested mountain road. When we arrived, I was taken away by the beauty. It felt as if we were stepping back in time. The house we went to was rustic and simple, made of brick. We were invited in for coffee (Amila makes the best!!) We sat around for an hour and sipped our coffee and visited. Later, out of their tiny kitchen, Amila and her mother revealed one of the best meals I think I've ever eaten. You would hardly know they were cooking, they were up and down so little, and when the pulled the pans out of the kitchen and set them on the table, I was puzzled at where it came from. However, I quickly stopped wondering because my admiration of what was set in front of me overcame any inquiry as to its creation. I was looking at fresh baked bread (sweet bread with plenty of air pockets, yet dense and crusty on the outside), potatoes picked fresh from the garden that morning, boiled then baked unti lcrispy with a little salt. Roasted peppers also fresh from the garden, served with cheese cream (nothing like we have in the States, it's sweet and sort of the texture of sour cream, but thicker.) Salad, which consisted of fresh bell peppers, onions and tomatoes chopped - no dressing, just salt, - sausage roasted in the oven with mustard and cheese cream. We all grabbed forks and dug in. We used plates, but the Bosnians didn't. They just ate from the pans, I loved it. We washed the whole meal down with fizzy water. After we were stuffed a little past the point of contentment, we went outside into the misty air and hiked up into the hills for a ways. We sought out a trickling waterfall where the ground produces a silver clay that makes your hands extremely soft... it was a bit treacherous climbing down there, but it was worth it to feel the ground. Amila carried a pick with her to dig up a bunch and take it back with us. The scenery was gorgeous and it was so refreshing to be out in the cool air when it was raining a bit here and there. Later we piled the potatoes in our van and drove back along the narrow bumpy road. It was a good day.






Sunday, September 6, 2009

9/6/09

Now that I've been in GoraĹžde for a few days, it feels like I know more about what's going on. That's such a "duh" statement, but it's the only way I can think to describe what's going on in my head. This trip is changing my traditional ideas of sharing the Gospel. The Reitz's have been here for eight years, and they've been able to share their faith with people, and witness to them, a little but they have yet to actually lead somebody to the Lord. The community here is 99% Muslim, and in talking to Jo a bit, I can sense a feeling of discouragement and bewilderment at times at the long process involved in sharing Jesus' love with the people of Bosnia. However, the perseverance of the people in ministry here is encouraging and challenging to me.

So far what we've been doing is extremely practical and relational. Last night Jo and I went to coffee at her neighbor Amila's house. Everything is so community oriented. We came home, Amila was in her garden and asked if we wanted to have a coffee later. After about an hour, she called up through the window, "Jo! Coffee! Come on!" So we walked over to her house. The roads here are like alleys in America. They are so small, it feels like you're crossing a little driveway to get to the house across the street. We sat outside and had coffee. Bosnian coffee is a lot like the coffee I had in Italy. They drink it out of small cups, and it's strong - they put sugar in it normally. It was absolutely delicious. I felt very welcome, even though I can't speak the language. Jo translated for me, but her Bosnian isn't fluent at all, so I think there were a few things lost in translation. Izmet (sp? Maybe it's Yzmet, not sure...), Amila's father in law, was separating dried beans from the chaff, so we helped him sift and blow the chaff away and put the beautifully colored beans in a big red bowl. It was neat to be able to help even though I couldn't communicate with him at all.

It is really cool to see the people in ministry here building relationships with this community. I can tell they are very well liked and accepted here. Please continue to pray for this ministry as I believe it is a slow, but effective process!


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Should Jet Lag Be Cured? Probably Not.

So I'm flying from Medford to SF and I read this article in the InFlight magazine. (Yeah, I totally read those.) I liked what this guy had to say and wanted to share. Plus I'm feeling quite jet-laggy myself at the moment, being in Germany and all after an 11 hour flight, so I'm pepping myself up!

"You can forget what day it is even without a passport. And why do we insist on blaming the flying itself? Sit me upright in an easy chair for 13 hours, replay the Bourne trilogy three times, ply me with gin-and-tonics and let me doze off with my chin tucked into my clavicle... I'm pretty sure I'd wake up feeling weird without ever leaving my living room. [...] This, it seems to me, is one of the profound gifts of being alive now: the ability to get up and go everywhere, to experience the world in a kind of rush that previous generations couldn't have dreamed of. We should savor that rush. We should savor it the way a dog sticks his head out a car window and feels the wind in his face. A sense of dislocation comes with the territory. Indeed, it's part of the fun. [...] The world is big and it should wear us out trying to take it all in. [...] We should be dizzy with awe that these planes deliver us to faraway places, and at the wonders we find there. [...] A little sleepiness, a touch of bewilderment, is nothing more or less than a normal, rational, authentic response to the still-astonishing fact of being flown around the world. We don't need a cure for jet lag. We need a nap."

More about my trip later! (Maybe when I work off the jet lag!)

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Grown-ups Don't Exist

You can't predict what's going to make you feel grown up. Graduation? Maybe. Paying bills? There's an element of adulthood in that. Watching your grandparents pass away? It's sobering. All these things added to the moment I had my epiphany. The instant in which a flood of knowing washed over me that I was, for better or worse, ready or not, grown up. It was the instant I knew I would never stop growing. I've always had a little trouble with the phrase "grown up." After all, my ears and nose never stop growing, why should I? Naturally I want my physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health to be in proportion with each other. It would be a shame for my ears and nose to outgrow all those elements of my health. People might say, "there goes that immature girl with really big ears." My motto is: grow until you die.

Recently I graduated from college and moved out of my apartment. As I watched my dad pack boxes, bags, bikes and laundry baskets full of my stuff into my tiny little Honda Accord, all with a Mary Poppins-like magic about him, it hit me. When will I not need dad's help jamming large things into tiny spaces or need his council when boys are just plain jerks? When will I not need to ask mom how to get a stain out or how much of her secret ingredient she puts in her spaghetti sauce, or to hold my hand and pray with me? When will I not need to call my big sister for advice or boss my little sisters around? I hope that day never comes. (My little sisters might feel different, however.)

Among the many moments that step me little by little out of childhood and are slowly leading me into adulthood, there are a few that stand out as leaps more than steps. The night my grandmother passed away was one of the giants. In my room all alone away at college, I waited for the call. Every time my family called I dreaded the news and had to force myself to pick up. My roommates weren't home, the house was quiet except for my neighbors in the backyard I could look down into from my upstairs window. Their kids were playing in the tree house and they sounded so happy. It was getting late. I don't remember what time it was exactly because the last thing on my mind was the clock. The lights from my neighbors' backyard were casting a pleasant glow into the dimness of my room as the night sky grew darker, but my mood was anything but pleasant. I was numb. Finally my sister's well known ring tone broke the muffled sound of laughter and chatter below me. Somehow, before I picked up, I knew. I sat down on my bed and unfolded my phone. "Ellie?" In between choked down sobs I heard, "Karen, it's happening. Do you want to talk to grandma?" I didn't want to because I didn't know what to say over the phone to a person who is taking their final breaths... but how could I say no? "Sure" I said, stunned. She put the phone up to Grandma's ear and I told her I loved her very much. That's all I could think to say, or get out of my mouth. After a while Ellie told me quietly that grandma was gone. When I hung up the phone, I laid down on my bed, my body curled up in the corner against the wall. Loneliness is all I felt. A few tears rolled down my cheeks, but after some time passed I stood up and got to work. I had to unpack that duffle bag that had been sitting unzipped on my floor for, well let's just say too long. I had to put my pajamas on and finish an assignment for class in the morning. I still had life to face, and no one was around to do it for me.

Moments like these don't only happen to grown-ups. When I have to change a flat tire, fix a broken pipe, call and hassle the landlord, advise my sisters on matters of the heart, listen to close friends whose kids are struggling with health problems or confront boys who don't know how to treat girls, I don't think: now I'm grown up. Life will always be full of those moments. The day I first re-used a piece of tinfoil instead of mindlessly tossing it in the garbage, I noted a growing similarity to my grandmother. And the day I brushed the crumbs from a sandwich off a relatively sturdy paper plate, in order to reuse the plate later on, I felt as if I was propelling toward the likeness of my grandmother at an alarming rate. That didn't stop my frugal actions, however. I don't mind one bit being like my mother and grandmother, but I know I have a long way to go, just like they still have a long way to go in emulating their mothers and grandmothers. So you see, grown-ups don't exist. To those who think grown-ups do exist, and that they are one of them, probably have the most growing to do out of anyone.

The next time I find myself doing something resembling maturity or the wisdom of age, I will embrace it as part of my lifelong journey of growing. I better call the doctor to change my appointment, take my pills and change my oil.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Click. Drool. Repeat.

Disclaimer: I don't condone the name of this website. But...I think my calling might be to channel my creativity into creating luscious, gourmet food, then take amazing photographs of the alluring masterpieces. You never know. Check it out - you might never stop.



This is just a teaser...

Friday, May 29, 2009

Lately

I've been having trouble getting to sleep at a reasonable hour. Usually when that happens, I write my best blog posts. However, I've been going through kind of a dry spell when it comes to my blog. Tonight I decided to just write, though. I usually think I have to have something clever or artistic to say when I post. I guess that's not true, so I think I'll just update you on my life.

I'm almost done with my career as an undergraduate at Cal Poly. That's exciting. I feel like I've said that so often though that it's lost a bit of its actual excitement. I have a lot (that's no exaggeration) of work to do these next two weeks until I'm done. Then I will don my cap and gown and sit with thousands of other graduates on a lawn in the heat of the morning and listen to speeches of praise for our success as students, and about our responsibility as educated adults. Then I will eat some cake, go out to dinner with my family, and breathe a sigh of relief that it's over. In addition to my immediate family, my aunt and uncle are coming from Weed, Randy is coming from LA and Heidi is coming from Sacramento... I think Riley might come too, I hope she does! I wanted to go camping after graduation, but I think it might be too much to move out of my apartment and pack to go camping all in one short weekend.

I'm really going to miss 1731 Santa Rosa St. Apt. C. I'm going to miss walking to Farmer's Market, or to Baja Fresh or Firestone when I'm too tired to cook, or to Uptown to study... or riding the 5 to school every day. I think I will miss Cal Poly, eventually, but I'm really ready to be done being a student.

I'm really looking forward to Bosnia, and doing a good job right now of pushing aside any nerves that accompany my thoughts toward that trip. I'm excited to drink their coffee, get to know the locals, and spend time with Jo. I'm excited to see the Adriatic sea, and plant potatoes.

After Bosnia, who knows where I'll be? I thought possibly Portland, but I'm not so sure about that, now. I'm not ruling it out, though. Sometimes I think I want to just break what seems to be the trend and go somewhere outside of the Pacific Northwest, like Chicago or New York or Colorado or...

I'm glad I have plans for the next 5 or 6 months after I graduate, but I am really looking forward to seeing where I'm at at the close of those months. I saw Tim and Autie in San Francisco last weekend, and after spending time (not long enough, though) with them I was thinking: It's crazy where all of us who were in that tight-knit group of friends are now, years later, and it's fun to see.

Here's to the upcoming years, it's an exciting time of life with a lot of changes... bring it on.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Blogger Goggles

Google Labs in gmail is genius - except I need this specific feature for my blog. That's not to say I haven't sent emails I regret the next morning, though more lately my trouble is with blogs. I always say, "don't wear your heart on your facebook page (or blog in my case)." Simple math could potentially help with that.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Football, The Hospital and My Mother

I felt the sharp rush of air cut into my lungs with each inhale and watched the cloudy puff hover in the clear night sky with each exhale. The feel of the ice-like bleacher was creeping through the Mexican blanket that was spread across the cold metal. The stars sparkled above the bright lights that lit the field. I watched my dad pace the sidelines in his khaki shorts and kelly green windbreaker that was puffed out from his quick movements up and down the soggy lawn torn from football cleats. Besides my surroundings, my memories of that night are somewhat dim. I remember feeling sick. I remember feeling cold. I remember complaining to my mom about feeling sick and cold. My mom was very comforting, but also being a good wife supporting her husband as he coached the Weed Cougars. She gave me a some cash and told me to go to the concession stand and buy some hot chocolate. Naturally, the exercise would warm me up, as well as the hot beverage. She told me I could also buy some 7Up if I felt nauseated, which I did, so I ended up buying a cup of hot chocolate, a can of 7Up and a Snickers bar. Why the Snickers? Because I had left over money, and I was six... and I was hungry. I felt stiff, and I had to go to the bathroom. I was so cold... and thirsty. I reached the bleachers and made my way back to my spot on the blanket, where I consumed everything I had just purchased. It's hard for me to think about that now, knowing what I was causing my blood sugar to do! Yikes. Suddenly, I tugged at my mom's jacket and quietly informed her I was going to throw up. I don't remember her panicking, but I do remember us quickly excusing ourselves through bundled up spectators to the bottom of the bleachers, out across the gravel as it crunched under our feet, to the stationwagon. We drove to Nonno and Nonni's house where I made a beeline for the bathroom.

One of my most comforting memories of my mom is her holding back my hair when I would throw up. I know that sounds strange, but it's true. I haven't thrown up for a long time, so the last time I tossed my cookies, my mom was holding my hair for me. Last year I was the sickest I think I've ever been. I was sick with a high fever for almost two weeks, but I never threw up. Every time I felt like I was going to, though, I would instantly think, "I can't! Mom's not here to hold my hair for me!" Maybe subconsciously that's why I wouldn't let myself throw up.

When I was done throwing up in Nonno and Nonni's bathroom, mom left me to compose myself, and I remember hearing concerned voices muffled through the door. "I'm taking her to the doctor tomorrow," mom said.

I don't remember really specific things about the days leading up to my stay in the hospital, or even really my time in the hospital, but I do remember mom was there all the time. My strongest recollections from that time aren't really detailed, but I remember never really being scared because mom was there. These are some notable things I do remember from at that time, though.

I remember Dr. Williams telling my mom to bring me to the hospital immediately, and to bring a toothbrush, because we would be there for a while.

I remember going by Grandma Ruth's house, and getting a hug from her. Thinking about it now, I realize how much strength my mom got from grandma during this time.

I remember mom helping me pack my things, specifically my pink print pajama pants and matching pink long-sleeved pajama shirt.

I remember being afraid I would have to spend the night at the hospital alone.

I remember my mom insisting they put a cot in my room (room #204, I remember that for some reason) so she could stay with me all the time.

I remember when the doctor explained to me I had diabetes, all I heard was DIEabetes. I remember mom holding my hand.

I remember them teaching me how to give shots with saline solution and oranges.

I remember squeezing my dad's hand while they inserted my IV, and insisting on keeping my eyes focused on the needle going in my arm. I was too scared to look away, I had to know exactly what was happening to me the entire time. My dad told me that's the hardest anyone has ever squeezed his hand, and I believed him for a long time.

I remember my mom asking my grandma many questions, and relying on her a lot through that time.

I remember both mom and grandma telling me to trust Jesus.

I remember mom and grandma crying.

Ever since I was diagnosed with diabetes, and now my sister Ellie is too, my mom has been very careful to make sure we're on top of our own care, and doing all that we can to be healthy. Sometimes I fight her on it, and want her to realize I'm busy and don't have time to write everything down all the time. She does realize that, but she brings it up anyway, and as much as it might get under my skin at the time, I appreciate it.

My mom loved her mom very much, and I think watching that had a big impact on me. Seeing my mom go through the death of her mother made me realize that I might have to do the same thing someday. Although it's hard to even voice that, the thought has occurred to me briefly. I want my mom to know how much I love her and appreciate her, and I am so very thankful we are close as mother and daughter. She is one of the best friends I've ever had, or ever will have.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Tomorrow I'll Rise Where The Storms Never Darken The Skies



In Weed it storms sideways. The horizontal rain and the biting wind made it feel like a cold November morning at the Weed Cemetery where we buried my Grandma Ruth's ashes today. We stood, the entire (minus just a few that we missed dearly!) family, and remembered Grandma. We sang "Til The Storm Passes By," a song my grandma loved in the past few months, while she fought her last battle with cancer, that speaks of Jesus keeping his children safe in the hollow of his hand til the storm passes by. Uncle David explained how even after she couldn't sing the words, grandma would make a motion with her fingers in the palm of her hand, to symbolize being in the hollow of God's hand. As the storm hovered around us, I realized how strong grandma's testimony was, among other things, in this moment especially in this: this is just a storm in our lives, and just like He did with grandma, He will keep us safe until it's over!

Grandma died last Sunday night. When I found out I curled up on my bed and laid there for a long time, trying to process it without being home. I felt numb, like it had not really happened. I knew it was coming, but anticipating it did not make the news any easier to hear. As the realization of what life without grandma would mean sunk in, I began to let my emotions overflow into tears. That next week was hard. It was my busiest of the quarter so far with school and work, and my heart was in nothing. I took a midterm, but thought about grandma the whole time. I drove home on Thursday night. I should have known not to start listening to worship music, because it drove me to tears pretty quick. Somehow Death Cab and Matt Nathanson don't have that same effect - unless it's What Sarah Said, which I skipped over a few times in shuffle, I don't think I could have handled that one. The last line in What Sarah Said says, "love is watching someone die, so who's gonna watch you die?" Thinking about this, I realize how much grandma was loved, because she was surrounded by her children and grandchildren when she took her last breath. That comforts me quite a bit.

When I walked into grandma's house for the first time since she died, everything felt normal... but empty. When I rounded the corner and saw her green chair, where I was so accustomed to seeing her sit when I walked through the door, I bit my lip and my eyes welled up. Our family is missing the two people who started it all, and it seems to me our whole family's identity was wrapped up in grandpa and grandma... without them it seems abandoned. I know that isn't true, though. Grandpa and grandma taught us to stake our identity in Christ, and they were faithful in laying a strong foundation for us.

The memorial is over and grandma is buried now. Sometimes I think this is the hardest time, when you have to stare reality in the face. Real life floods back in, and can't be stopped. What would Grandma say, though? I can even hear her voice saying it, "well, we just have to trust God." And so, I am going to trust God.

Of course, I'm only sad for me, because grandma is in heaven with Jesus, and that must be so satisfying to her! When someone asked her if she was ready see grandpa and Uncle Ernie, she responded, "I'm ready to see my Savior!" She is experiencing what Christians on earth are working toward and longing for!

But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.
For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.
-1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The note that cheered me up

JB dictated this email to Carla for me today. It made my whole day, so I thought I'd share.

Hi Karen,

What are you doing today? Are you doing pre-school today? And it is April Fool’s Day. And don’t forget you have chickens on your head and April Fools! And bawk a bawk a bawk. And I love that Karen, and I think I am going to go blahhhhhh.

I’m sorry that you lost your Grandma Ruth. And Carla is here today and I would love Carla to take me on the ride with the 2-wheeler. But I don’t know so I’m going to need a couple of bike lessons but I want to roller skate so I’m going to need some roller-skate lessons from Carla. But I love Carla, so bye.

Love, JB

I can’t wait to see you when you get here!!!! Byejjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbb

John Byron Westfallkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk,…………………………………………………….iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii

Those K’s are for KK, and the I don’t know what the I’s are for. <--Carla wrote that part obviously.

Monday, April 13, 2009

For the joy of human love

I really like spending time with my grandparents.

Wait.

Let me start over.

I LOVE spending time with my grandparents. Every time I go home I spend hours with them, and the time always goes by too fast. Because of the nature of things right now, I know I have been especially cherishing time with grandma. I struggle seeing her declining health and with each visit home seeing a little more of the grandma I remember slip away. But when I hold her hand and look her in the eye, steady, she nods, and I know it's her. Seeing her this way makes me miss her, and I miss grandpa a lot. I hate change, but I know that's the only constant thing in life.

I visited my nonni and nonno as well when I was home for Easter weekend. Sometimes I take for granted the long talks around the kitchen table in a warm kitchen that smells of biscotti, drinking cappucino and talking to them about everything from Ellie's friends at school, life in Weed when they were growing up, life in C camp, at the mill, company picnics, how nonni's mom used to feed hobo's from the train in their front yard, how nonno never got the guts to ask nonni's dad if he could date nonni- nonni had to do it, to the price of gas and produce, and the ever consistent topic of choice: the weather. I love them so much and we are constantly assured of their love for us.

I praise God for my family.

Sometimes (like tonight) I get impatient for heaven.


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Self-applause creeps in

I will spare you my full rantings about this topic, but to enlighten you a bit as to why I chose to post this poem, I will share a brief bit of information with you. First, you need to know that lately I've been very fed up with how self-centered people are, especially people within my age range. It's probably because I'm surrounded by it in my collegiate environment, having the idea of "me first" shoved in my face all the time. It may be subtly done, but lately to me it's written all over everyone's faces in thick, black ink. I know the reason I think about this frequently is because I am just as guilty of it as I see everyone else is. I think it sticks out to me because of my acute recognition of this "me first" approach in myself, and the immediate effect of disgust that follows.

When I was home over spring break, my grandma asked me to sing her a hymn called "There Is A Fountain Filled With Blood." I love (most) hymns (My Shepherd Will Supply My Need is my favorite! FYI), but strangely I had never heard this one. As I sang it, the words resonated with me, and I noted who the author was: William Cowper. I subsequently looked him up and read a bunch of his other hymns and poetry. This poem, "Jehovah Our Righteousness," painted such an ugly, truthful, beautiful picture of what I felt in regard to putting myself first, and letting pride dictate, that I just wanted to share it.

Also, if you have time, you should read some of William Cowper's other poems.

    Jehovah Our Righteousness
    My God, how perfect are Thy ways!
    But mine polluted are;
    Sin twines itself about my praise,
    And slides into my prayer.

    When I would speak what Thou hast done
    To save me from my sin,
    I cannot make Thy mercies known,
    But self-applause creeps in.

    Divine desire, that holy flame
    Thy grace creates in me;
    Alas! impatience is its name,
    When it returns to Thee.

    This heart, a fountain of vile thoughts.
    How does it overflow,
    While self upon the surface floats,
    Still bubbling from below.

    Let others in the gaudy dress
    Of fancied merit shine;
    The Lord shall be my righteousness,
    The Lord forever mine.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Lasagna helps, a little.

Today I stood in a catholic church and sang about heaven. I looked around at the people in the pews, most of them old - some with white hair, some hunched over, some with oxygen tanks, some with canes, others healthy. I looked up to the front of the stage where my Auntie Elsa smiled at me from behind the glass covering of a large framed picture that stood beside her ashes in a box. The priest spoke about heaven, and prayed for Auntie Elsa's soul. We went next door to St. Michael's Hall and ate lasagna and biscotti and drank coffee. And that's it. Auntie Elsa is gone. My Nonni's sister, my dad's aunt, our next door neighbor in Edgewood. I loved her, and I will miss her. I believe she knew Jesus, so I have hope I'll see her again. Right now, though, my heart is heavy for the people in attendance today who don't think they will see her again - or worse, think they will, but won't. Or think they might, but aren't sure. What a scary, uncertain feeling! I sensed hopelessness there today. What do you say when heaven isn't real to you? What do you think of death? When JB found out Auntie Elsa died, he said, "but that just wasn't on my calendar." It's never on anyone's calendar, and the lasagna after the service can only comfort for so long.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Some of my favorite Scripture

The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. For in him we live and move and have our being.
Acts 17:24-28a

Ignored by the world but RECOGNIZED by God; terrifically ALIVE though rumored to be dead; beaten within an inch of our lives but refusing to die; immersed in tears,yet always filled with DEEP JOY; poor yet making many RICH, having nothing and yet possessing EVERYTHING.
2 Corinthians 6:9-10

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Blogging breeds narcissism... I think.

My fingers move across the keyboard in an attempt to prick morsels of meaning out of the air, out of cyberspace, out of my head, and meld them together in an intelligible, articulate, ultimately meaningful blog post.

What does blogging really accomplish, though? It enlightens others to my thought processes, makes them aware of what I care about and sometimes informs them of funny or interesting events in my life. Of course you want to know all about me and my opinions. Does this form of relaying information from my brain to your brain help define who I am? Maybe.

Sometimes, I get so fed up with my blog, email, iChat, facebook, I just want to delete it all and go climb to the top of a remote mountain and get all this cyber mumbo jumbo out of my system. I just want to extricate myself. Ahhhh. But the next day I'm usually right back at it. I put off another paper to post another quite unecessary blog. I can never bring myself to delete things either, because, maybe I'll want to read them later, right? (Thank goodness for gmail and it's archival capabilities... I never delete a single email. Currently I have over 3,000 emails in my inbox.) Why is it so hard for me? As if, if I delete it, I lose a part of my history or identity.

"I had this guy leave me a voicemail at work, so I called him at home, and then he emailed me to my BlackBerry, and so I texted to his cell, and now you just have to go around checking all these different portals just to get rejected by seven different technologies... it's exhausting. "
(from He's Just Not that Into You)
Why does my pulse quicken when I see that little red box in the bottom right hand corner of my facebook page? Who is talking to ME, who invited ME to an event, who was admiring a photo of ME? Yes, I enjoy sending other people messages and looking at other people's photos, but really it's all about that little red box.

When I think about it, it's exhausting to worry (even if it's subconsciously) about how I am projected through different mediums to all different kinds of audiences. I wish I didn't care when no one comments on my blogs, but I do. I wish I wasn't concerned about my various portrayals through the internet, or that it didn't really affect me, but it does... I haven't really decided what I'm going to do about it yet. Or if I'm even going to do anything at all.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Pop

I wrote this story about four years ago when I was in England. I came across it tonight, and thought I'd post it. I hope my writing skills have improved a little since then, and although the lesson learned seems elementary, it is still applicable and a good reminder for me at present.



Once upon a time there was a girl who was not the most adventurous
person you would ever meet. She had lived at home her entire life, and
had never even been away for an extended period of time with the
exception of a week or two away here or there. She loved her house and
her town and her family and her friends. She had a car that she loved
driving around the area where she lived, or her little bubble, which
stretched for not very many miles in either direction. She, to say the
least, was comfortable.

When she was sixteen, she started a job. That was different for her
because it changed her schedule and tied her down; but she adjusted.
She grew to love her job and the people she worked with. She again became
comfortable.

When she was eighteen she started attending college in her bubble.
This made her nervous and she did not really want to go, because she
was unsure of what she wanted out of life and felt like she did not
have a solid goal to pursue. However, because her family encouraged
her, she went. She began to enjoy the classes she was taking and the
people she was getting to know. She again became comfortable.

Now she had been attending college for almost a year, working at her
job for almost three years, and she was perfectly content.

On an ordinary day in her ordinary life, her sister asked if she
wanted to move to England together for six months and go to a Bible
school. She thought about it carefully and realized that this
meant she would have to leave, or in more brutal terms, burst, her
bubble. On this ordinary day she decided to spontaneously apply. Both
she and her sister were accepted, so they moved to England.

She was nineteen when she got to the school, and did not know a soul
besides her sister, but she began making friends. She began attending
lectures. She began traveling around the UK. She became familiar with
her surroundings. She again became comfortable.

How can a person whose bubble was only a circumference of a few
hundred miles stretch overnight to thousands of miles? How can a
person who is nervous to get a job and go to a community college in
her area pick up and move to a different country to go to school
without having a nervous breakdown? It is because she serves a God who
is bigger than her bubble. He can break a bubble so fast you won't
even realize it's broken until you look back on its glistening remains
on the ground.

This story may seem boring to you, but it was a life changing
experience for me. I am the girl in the story. I allowed God to become
the center of my bubble. I say bubble, because I am still living in
one and so are you. No matter how fast our bubbles are popped, they
reform even faster. It may not be the same bubble I lived in a year
ago, but it is a bubble all the same. Staying outside of our bubble is
a constant state of action. If we really want God to use us with
eternal significance, we need to put Him in the center of our bubble
and allow Him to constantly be holding the pin...

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

In the end, it really has nothing to do with fortune.

Have you ever heard of the game "Fortunately Unfortunately?" It can be quite fun and allows for considerable creative freedom, because it deals mainly with hypotheticals. If you've never played it, I would like to explain the game to you, using the example of my life in the past week. Each scenario listed, whether fortunate or unfortunate, is added in turn by each player. The game continues until a) it ends happily, b) the stated scenario is so unfortunate it could never be recovered from, or c) it simply gets too ridiculous to continue.

Example:
One day, Karen and Carla planned a weekend together in San Luis Obispo.
UNFORTUNATELY the trip was never realized because of their grandma's declining health.
FORTUNATELY they both had the weekend off, so they planned a trip home instead.
UNFORTUNATELY Karen could not fly out until late Friday night.
FORTUNATELY she got a good deal on the ticket.
UNFORTUNATELY her flight (the last flight of the night) from San Francisco - where she had a layover - to Medford was canceled!
FORTUNATELY it was canceled for mechanical reasons so the airline paid for her hotel in San Francisco.
UNFORTUNATELY she had to stand in long lines for long periods of time.
FORTUNATELY she did not have the reaction the girl in front of her did, which was to call her mother (on the phone) a *@!*$#@ @#*&% for making her come home, then sit down in the corner of the room and sob... REALLY LOUD, then yell at the customer service lady who was trying to calm her down. When offered a flight to Eugene instead, the girl said, "do you have ANY idea how far Eugene is from Medford?!? Ugggghhhhh."
UNFORTUNATELY she had to stand in line in the hotel lobby for almost two hours. (Yes, I mentioned the line thing twice. It still counts.)
FORTUNATELY the bed in the Crowne Plaza hotel was a king size, and super comfy.
UNFORTUNATELY she could only stay in that bed for about four hours.
FORTUNATELY she found a flight to Redding that arrived by 10:00 the next morning!
UNFORTUNATELY the zipper on her duffel bag broke off!
FORTUNATELY her bag stayed zipped all the way from San Francisco to Redding.
UNFORTUNATELY her dad, Carla, Ellie and Amy were 45 minutes late to pick her up.
FORTUNATELY she was so tired she didn't even care.
UNFORTUNATELY they still had a few errands to run in Redding.
FORTUNATELY they made it home in time for lunch at Grandma's! And played a fun Italian writing game in the car on the way home.
UNFORTUNATELY Grandma's internet was down, which equals no homework done on Saturday...then the power went out at the house in Edgewood.
FORTUNATELY they have a sweet candelabra.
UNFORTUNATELY time with Grandma and Nonni was shortened due to long layovers and canceled flights.
FORTUNATELY she got to see them at least a little!
UNFORTUNATELY her flight out of Medford on Monday was canceled! (She really was baffled that this could happen twice on one trip...)
FORTUNATELY she was booked on an earlier flight out of Medford.
UNFORTUNATELY her earlier flight was delayed to a later time than her original flight.
FORTUNATELY she finally flew out of Medford by 7:45pm.
UNFORTUNATELY there was heavy fog and rain in San Francisco.
FORTUNATELY she talked to a nice lady on the plane for an hour and a half who used to be a typesetter at a magazine in San Francisco called "Undertaker's Retort," then went back to school to be a microbiologist, and now is retired, playing and singing classical music...after she has an extremely interesting surgery on her thumb, which we talked about at length. It made the trip seem shorter.
UNFORTUNATELY because of the rain in San Francisco, they were only using one runway for all flights... so that made her nervous.
FORTUNATELY it didn't affect her flight at all.
UNFORTUNATELY the pilot announced they might be rerouted to Santa Barbara because of the low visibility.
FORTUNATELY they were not rerouted, the sky was clear above the fog, and they landed safely in San Luis Obispo on time. Karen was picked up by her roommate, holding a sign that said "International Businessman." (It's kind of an inside joke, but if you watch How I Met Your Mother, you should get it.)
UNFORTUNATELY she had an early class the next day, and it was already midnight.
FORTUNATELY when she checked her email at home, she found out her class was canceled!
The End

So, you get the picture. It ended on a happy note. My trip was a little stressful, but it was good to see Grandma and go to Nonni's 87th birthday party, and hear an awesome sermon by Pastor Bill, and hang with my sisters and parents. I am really glad life isn't actually based on fortune... but if you're ever bored, you should play "Fortunately Unfortunately."

Thursday, February 19, 2009

"The things of earth will grow strangely dim"

"She stood there until something fell off the shelf inside her.
Then she went inside there to see what it was.
It was her image of Jody tumbled down and shattered.
But looking at it she saw it never was the flesh and blood figure of her dreams.
Just something she had grabbed up to drape her dreams over...
"
-Zora Neale Hurston, from Their Eyes Were Watching God

I recently read that book, and that quote stuck with me. And made me think...
What am I grabbing up to drape my dreams over...?
People will let me down. Jesus never will.

"Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save.
Blessed is he[...]whose hope is in the Lord his God[...]
the Lord, who remains faithful
forever."
- Psalm 146:3-6


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

My Day in A Sentence

Asleep at 12:30am....wake up at 6:00am....stumble to the bathroom....turn on the light....squint at myself in the mirror....seriously, whose hair does that??....turn on the hot water.....shower, thoroughly enjoying the five minutes of nothingness in the hot water....get dressed....blow dry hair while reading Colossians 4 and part of Psalm 136....wear the most despised pair of pants I own because everything else is dirty, I'm even on my very last pair of underwear....think about how I must go to the laundromat later today, even though I already know I don't want to, and don't have time....catch the 7:11 bus to school....read an assigned text for my 8:00 class....get a small americano at starbucks (one pump of sugar free vanilla and room for cream, please)....arrive at class early....drink coffee....realize I came to class only to watch a movie that isn't on the syllabus....we're not being tested on it....we don't have to write a paper on it....nothing....oh well....I'll do my reading for my English class at 12:00....read for two hours during the movie....walk to the library for my two hour break....take the elevator to the fifth floor....sit down with my laptop....begin working on my annotated bibliography for my linguistics class....see Carla online....get distracted....chat with her....listen to pandora....check facebook....wish I was all over the world like some of my friends....pray for grandma....sad for grandma....wish she wasn't sick like this....thankful I found a cheap flight home for the weekend....get back to my bibliography for a while....my computer battery dies....pack up my stuff.....call my mom....she'll have to call me back.....she doesn't.....call Ellie....talk to her for a while....what time is it??......oh, I have to go to class....get my midterm back.....I did good.....relief.....find out the discussion on the reading I did in my first class is being pushed to Monday.....wonder if everything I do is useless and unnecessary.....discuss some poetry for two hours....catch the bus home....call my mom and talk to her on the ride home....get off the bus at the SLO Senior center...walk home in the sunshine....make taco salad for lunch...eat it while watching an episode of law & order....suddenly wonder why I'm wasting my time watching a rerun of law & order....go upstairs....hesitantly open my bedroom door....it's a mess....the cleaning fairy didn't come....make my bed....resist the urge to lay down on my bed....email my professor.....get everything in order to register for classes tomorrow.....return some personal emails....throw all my clothes into my laundry baskets.....drive downtown.....deposit a check at the bank....a small check....my checks are decreasing in size....it's not a good thing....worry about how I'm going to make it next quarter without working....choose to put that out of my mind....be super nice to the bank lady even though she's obviously having a week of repeat Mondays and is grumpy about it....laugh at the security guard who probably couldn't protect me from a fly....wonder why he has a job as a security guard for a good five minutes....wonder why I'm wondering about that...drive to starbucks....yes again....this time it's a grande americano....return The Secret Life of Bees to Blockbuster....think about how I really should look into Netflix....drive to the laundromat.....talk to a nice homeless man about fried chicken for a few minutes....he thanks me for being nice to him....I feel good about that....open my computer to do homework....write a blog instead.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Singin' in the Rain ... Really?

I love rain. It's been raining here quite a bit lately, so that's good. This morning was especially nice. I could hear the wind howling and the rain pelting my thin window panes. I heard the trees being thrashed around and occasionally making whipping contact with the side of the house. I was cold. I then did one of the most pleasurable things in life. I hit snooze, rolled over, cuddled up and fell back asleep.

I do wonder something, though. Why is it considered romantic to walk in the rain? What's romantic about that? Singing in the rain is a nice idea, but really, I think the enjoyment can only last so long. I mean, you get soaking wet, your hair is stuck to your face, it gets frizzy, your hands are cold, your toes are cold. Even if you have an umbrella, it's a hassle to hold, and if it's windy it blows inside out. I'd much rather walk in the rain if I'm fully equipped, and then only if I have to. I love the rain, but mostly I like listening to it hit the outside of a warm building of which I'm on the protective inside. Preferably while sipping a hot drink and doing something productive. Rain makes me productive. Or, it makes me procrastinate and write blogs about rain.

Back to my paper...

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

I Just Called To Say I Have To Go

I could probably create a separate blog about things my mom does that make me laugh really hard. For now though, I'll just enlighten you with this one thing she's done to me several times in the recent weeks.

My phone rings.
"Hello?"
"Karen?"
"Yeah, hi mom. What's up?"
"Um, well, can you hang on a second, honey?"
"Sure."
At this point I usually hear something going on in the background. Another phone ringing, JB yelling, Emily or Ellie asking questions as they rush out the door, etc.
"Karen, I'm sorry, I just don't have time to talk right now."
"OK..."
"I promise I'll call you later."
"OK mom, that's fine."
"Bye."
"Bye."

My dad said she called me a few times while they were moving furniture around. She had me on speakerphone, and was yelling across the room that she couldn't talk right then. Do I really need to say it? If you can't talk, why did you call me in the first place, mom??

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

10 Things I Hate About Writing Habits



Since I was doing some late night writing tonight anyway, I thought I’d share my wandering thoughts on what distinctive habits I’ve formed in my writing. I’m always trying to improve, and the things I list here have recently – though some things I’m constantly aware of – caught my attention. While most things on this list are things I am working on, some of them are just pet peeves, of which I am not usually guilty.

#1) I use parentheses way too much. Just read through some of my past blogs, you’ll see. Even then, if I weren’t writing about how I am a parentheses abuser, I would have put that second sentence in parentheses.

#2) I used to abuse the use of commas but I have since tamed that tendency. I wouldn’t say I have the technique mastered, though.

#3) I used to think you shouldn’t use contractions. Period. Should not. He is. There is. Do not. You are. Etc… Silly, I know. I do think, however, that most sentences can be cleaned up when contractions are extracted.

#4) I like using the dash for affect – like this – it works.

#5) I always question whether I should use affect or effect in a sentence.

#6) I try to avoid adverbs. That’s lazy people descriptive writing – for the most part. (Notice the dash in that sentence, but oh! I used parentheses. You win some you lose some.)

#7) I really hate the word “got” and try to avoid it at all costs. The same goes for the word "that," but I'm worse at recognizing it the first time around.

#8) I once argued with somebody about whether or not it’s proper to say “there did.” I’ll give you the context. He said: “There used to be a store over there.” I said: “Yeah, there did.” I still think I was in the right in using that choice of a past tense verb.

#9) If I am in the right mood, I can be an abuser of the three-dot trailing thought. Many times when I read over things I have written, I see the … and it could easily be replaced with a simple “.” Why not conserve?

#10) I am not fond of run-on sentences. Because of this, I may write a bit choppy. If I have to choose though, I'll choose choppy any day.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Do You Know Percy?


When I was in England I was introduced to the Pig named Percy. (PS- it's been three years since then... that's a little weird.) Percy Pigs are "soft gums made with real fruit juice" sold exclusively by Marks & Spencer's in the UK (and possibly some import stores, although I haven't seen them in the states yet...). Recently, a small packet of Percy Pigs took a little trip across the pond to my doorstep where they are being rationed out and consumed with much joy. It was probably my favorite candy discovery in England with Galaxy bars being a close second. Malteasers are also quite delectable. As long as we're on the topic of food - well we weren't. We were on the topic of candy. If you want to know about my favorite food from the UK you can ask me later. Plum crumble with vanilla bean custard, yorkshire puddings, bangers and mash... and in case you're wondering, no haggis does not make the list, but it is not for a lack of sampling the Scottish delicacy.

Even better than Percy Pigs, though, are the friends who wrap them up and send them to me in packages with lovely cards and other samples of British goodness. Thanks, Jo!

I feel like I should add that I bought wellies recently, too. I feel a bit of British culture coming on.