Saturday, December 31, 2005

Chips and Queso for Christmas!

This post goes out to my loyal reader and favorite aunt Judy, who got Steve and me a Q-cash card for Christmas! So last night we headed downtown and enjoyed burritos-as-big-as-your-head and chips & queso for free. What a great gift!

I tried to take a picture of us holding our burritos...but couldn't get both the tops of our heads and the burritos in the shot at the same time. After three tries we were tired of pictures and anxious to eat, so I gave up :)

You know the burrito is huge when it can stand on end by itself. YUM. Ahh, we love Qdoba.

THANKS Aunt Judy and Uncle Al!

Friday, December 30, 2005

Worshipping Relevance

Bob Kauflin at Worship Matters has another great post up, this one about the idol of relevance in our churches. A couple of key quotes:

"Our Lord attracted sinners because He was different. They drew near to Him because they felt that there was something different about Him. ...This idea that you are going to win people to the Christian faith by showing them that after all you are remarkably like them, is theologically and psychologically a profound blunder." (Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers)

Jesus possessed an "essential difference" that people, both religious leaders and prostitutes, were aware of. That difference included a profound humility, an unshakeable joy, and a servant heart. Ultimately, it was a refusal to bow to the god of this world, and an unyielding commitment to love His Father and obey His will. (Jn. 2:24-25, 5:30)

“By our breathless chase after relevance without a matching commitment to faithfulness, we have become not only unfaithful but irrelevant...” (Os Guiness, Prophetic Untimeliness)
Go check out the whole post!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Explaining Myself

It's been over five months since Steve and I moved to Tennessee--and for me, it's been five months without a job (save for some freelance work I've been doing for Kingdom Building Ministries). After a long holiday weekend at home, I'm once again tired of trying to explain myself.

Lately, the question "How's the job search going?" has been as common as last year's "How's the wedding planning going?"--and equally un-fun to answer. The people who inquire--whether it's family members, friends I haven't seen in a while, or people at church--mean well, and I know they're just trying to show an interest in my life. Nevertheless, I really struggle to come up with an answer, and I often leave the conversation feeling frustrated, stupid, misunderstood or just plain doubting myself.

The truth is, I have not been aggressively searching for a job for the past couple of months. And though I'm far from "sure of myself," I think that this is where I am supposed to be for now.

When we first moved to Nashville, my dream was to work as an editor for a publishing company--something I would still very much like to do. I sent out resumes and applications and made some contacts, but nothing was available. I considered working in a bookstore, but was not appealing to retail employers since I wasn't interested in working much on evenings and weekends. (I'm not that desperate for a job--it wouldn't make sense since that's the time I available to spend with Steve.)

Throughout this whole process, I've struggled with wondering what this season of my life is all about. I've asked God why He created me a certain way and why He gave me a certain calling and why He placed me in certain circumstances. I've often questioned my own understanding and wondered what I am supposed to be doing right now.

I suppose I could be spending eight hours a day hitting the job market hard. I could be pounding doors down and cold-calling for interviews and such. Instead, I'm seeking to fill my time with other meaningful activities--ones that others don't see, and ones that I don't get paid for. And the truth is, I fail more than I succeed. I've always been someone who thrives off of deadlines, structure and schedules--so to be self-disciplined and diligent when I'm home alone all day is a huge struggle. But I'm trying.

*begin disclaimer* It's always at this point in the conversation that I feel the need to make a huge disclaimer, lest I come across the wrong way. Which is frustrating--the feeling of having to share details of your financial situation with people you aren't even particularly close to. In a sense, it's none of your business! But it seems unavoidable if I want my explanation to be correctly interpreted. The basic situation is, Steve and I decided before we got married that we would live off of his income alone. We're in agreement that I'll stay home once we have kids--and we've heard that many couples get burned by living off two incomes at first, then suddenly having half the income and twice the expenses when the wife quits her job to raise children. So to avoid that difficulty, we decided from the start that any income I brought home would not go toward our daily expenses. Therefore, for me to say, "I don't HAVE to work" isn't meant to say, "We're sitting pretty and Steve makes so much money that I can just live off of him." It means, "We've budgeted carefully so that we can get used to being a single-income family from the start , and that's possible only because of God's grace in blessing us with freedom from debt." *end disclaimer*

Some people are approving, or even a tiny bit envious, when they hear all this. They believe in the importance of homemaking, so they applaud my efforts to serve my husband and cultivate skills like cooking (and anyone who knew me last year would be blown away by the leaps and bounds of improvement I have in point, the fact that I made Cornish hens for Steve's and my Christmas dinner last week). They can clearly see the blessings of staying at home and so my current circumstances make sense to them.

Other people are clearly baffled when they hear my circumstances. To be honest, their reaction is probably one I would have if I were them. It's easy to imagine what keeps a stay-at-home mom busy all day, but a stay-at-home wife? "What do you do all day?!" is the question their faces ask, even if they don't articulate the query. They imagine I must be eating bonbons and watching Oprah all day--what a rough life. (For the record: the TV is never on at our apartment unless we are watching football or a rented video, or I am exercising...and I don't think I've ever had a bonbon, though I do probably eat too much chocolate :)

Staying at home all day has plenty of advantages and blessings, to be sure. It also can bring plenty of frustrations and struggles. I often doubt myself and wonder what I'm doing here at home. But for now, I sense that God has many, many character-building lessons for me to learn during this season--whether it ends next week or lasts indefinitely. Part of the length may depend on me; there are days when I am cooperative, patient and full of trust in God, but there are also (more) days when I am whiny, self-pitying, and rebellious.

I'm already seeing that one purpose staying at home serves is to mortify my pride. I am humbled every time I feel someone's pity when they find out that I "still haven't found a job"; every time the look on someone's face says critically, "What in the world do you do all day?"; every time I fail at using this time wisely and making the most of every opportunity; every time I do anything eternally significant that is seen only by God rather than in the spotlight.

Ultimately, I'm trusting that God in His sovereignty ordained this "time in obscurity" for me, and that it's His best for me, for His greatest glory. Tuesday night on the way back home after our Christmas in Ohio, He gave me a little confirmation and assurance through some lyrics on one of my favorite CDs. This is where I am right now:

Sitting in the waiting room of silence
Waiting for that still soft voice I know
Offering my words up to the rooftop to Your heart
Trusting that this closet's where You are
Lord, I know if I change my mind
You will change my heart in time
Sovereign Lord this time's from You
So I sit in the waiting room of silence
Cause it's all about You

--"Waiting Room," Shane & Shane

On Christians Crying "Persecution" in the U.S.

This blogger thinks our boycotts and protests of retail stores and TV shows are counterproductive at best. I tend to agree. Here in America, we have NO idea what persecution of Christians really is. It seems to me that our time, money and energy could be better spent.

(HT: Justin Taylor)


As I've built relationships in Ohio, Indiana, Colorado and Mongolia, and as people from each of those locations have scattered from California to New York, Texas to Japan, I've come to terms with the fact that some people are "friends for a season." Some people are lifetime friends, those people who remain a key part of your life and with whom you keep in touch somewhat regularly. But that just isn't possible with every friend who touches your life. If I tried to keep in close, regular contact with each one, I'd spend all my time writing emails and making phone calls, with no time to build new relationships and establish roots here and now. So I've realized that losing touch with an old friend doesn't diminish his or her importance in your life. Sometimes you just have to thank God for the blessing of knowing that person for a season, acknowledge that the season is over, and remember fondly.

That said, it's a wonderful and unexpected blessing when God chooses to bring one of those "for a season" friends back into your life. That's what happened to me last week: a reunion with a college classmate whom I hadn't talked with in two and a half years and never thought I would see again!

Rebekah and I had a couple of classes together at IWU when she was a senior and I was a junior; we got to know each other as we edited each other's essays and commiserated through the agony that was Nonfiction Writing. I liked her a lot, but we didn't spend much time together outside of class--as upperclassmen, we each just had other activities and friends. So we weren't quite close enough to keep in touch after college, and when she left in 2003, I never expected to see her again.

Fast forward two and a half years. When Steve and I moved to Tennessee this summer, I was thinking of her (knowing she was in Tennessee) and wondering what she was up to these days, and to make a long story short, I found her through the vast network of IWU alumni blogs :) We hoped to reconnect at some point in person, since her hometown is about an hour from Nashville, and last week it finally happened!

After a bit of an adventure trying to get downtown, I finally met Rebekah at Fido, this great coffeehouse near Vanderbilt. And we spent the next two hours going deep--filling each other in on the last couple of years, sharing our hearts, talking about where we're at now--and agreeing that we need to make this a regular thing.

It was water to my thirsty soul. Such a blessing to have real, honest, below-the-surface conversation with someone down here at last! I love it when God does cool stuff like this--and I'm so glad to have a friend from a different season suddenly back in my life.

I Am In Mourning

...because of this.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Epilogue: Wedding Drama

The original plan was that I was going to get to pick up our wedding album this weekend while we were home. The fact that I arrived home empty-handed was only a fitting ending to the drama that surrounded all wedding plans last year. I swear, it really was/is like Murphy's Law for Amy's Wedding: "If it's for the wedding, something will go wrong."

I got an email from our photographer late last week saying that she was extremely sorry, but that there had been some problems submitting the files to the lab and she doubted the album would be in by Tuesday. No problem--it happens. I wasn't upset or anything. So when she called Tuesday afternoon before we left and told me it was in, I was surprised and excited. She said she hadn't yet checked it for errors; she'd picked up the phone to call me as soon as the UPS shipment arrived, but she figured I'd want to see it anyway, even if there was some mistake in it.

When I arrived at the studio, I was greeted with a frown. She had discovered mistakes (the lab's, not hers) on at least 11 pages of the 32-page album. It was horrible. Apparently the lab has no quality control and does not even bother to do a surface inspection of the albums that they send out. Ridiculous! She said she had never had a wedding album have this many mistakes. Of course it would be mine. Murphy's Law for Amy's Wedding, remember?

Other than the mistakes, the album was beautiful overall. But it has to be sent back and the lab will have to redo the entire thing. I just had to laugh--after the constant drama of wedding planning (which I blogged about here, here, and here before finally getting some perspective and sharing it here), it would only seem fitting that the entire process would conclude with another minor snafu.

But I really can't complain. It all (at least most of it) worked out in the end. And now the stress is over and I'm happily married!

Twelve Things: Christmas Edition

I Love...

  • Bath and Body Works' new brown sugar & fig scent
  • sugared roasted almonds from those kiosks in the mall
  • snow on Christmas
  • seeing family and friends
  • getting to spoil and love on cute babies without the responsibility of being their parents :)
  • sugar cookies with lots of red hots
  • Christmas hymns in a candlelit church

I Hate...

  • feeling torn between Steve's family and mine
  • Christmas gifts that don't arrive before we leave for home
  • feeling miserable because I ate too much good food
  • packing and unpacking
  • not being able to squeeze in visits with everyone I want to see

Home for Christmas

Steve and I had a great time being home over Christmas. Unfortunately I have very few family pictures to share, though we did have lots of family time! I got my long-craved pizza sub from Pizza Oven on Friday for lunch (yay!) and then we had various Christmas celebrations all weekend with Steve's family and mine. One highlight of the weekend was playing Four on the Couch and Mafia with Steve's mom's family--including Granny, who was a hoot! We were blessed with a carful of gifts from our incredibly generous families and consumed much (okay, TOO much) yummy food. Then Monday was spent connecting with friends.

A few photos from our time at home:

My cousins Kali and Bekah--fun to see them after not having been together since May. Kali's now a doctor out in Colorado Springs, and Bekah is the proud mom of adorable little Matthew.

Of course I have to post a photo of our favorite nephew :) Steve had some manly-man time with Kaleb on Monday morning, then Denise, Dawson and I joined them. He is the happiest baby and I couldn't resist a picture with these adorable antlers!

After spending some time with Kaleb and Denise, I went to a new coffeehouse in town for lunch with some girls I went to high school with. A couple of them still live in the area and the rest of us try to get together at least once or twice a year. Interesting to see what we're all doing and how we've spread out. Left to right: Nicki (teaching in Texas), Jodi (substitute teaching at home), Michelle (year two of pharmacy school), Brooke (teaching in Savannah), Joy (teaching at home), and me. Michelle and I are the oddballs for not being educators, I guess!

Then on Monday night, I met Jill and Julie for dinner and some girl time. These two were my best friends in high school and despite many life changes and being separated by distance, we've remained best friends. Two hours of talking with them was just what I needed! Beautiful, godly women--I could not ask for better friends.

Finally, I can't help myself--another picture of Dawson, only because he's wearing the outfit we got him for Christmas. Kaleb brought him over on Tuesday morning to show us. How cute is he?!

Hope you all had a merry Christmas as well! Besides the blessings of loving family and friends, I'm grateful for the incomparable gift of the Word made flesh. "This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him" (1 John 4:9). Praise Him for stooping to our level and becoming one of us, that we might know Him and live forever reconciled to Him!

It was great to be home in Ohio, and yet it's also nice to be back home in Tennessee. And after my little posting-hiatus for the last couple of weeks, I've got many more posts coming, so stay tuned :)

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Irony

For the last several days I've felt like I had nothing to write about. Now today I have something to write about...and no time to write. I've been scurrying around all morning getting ready to go home and have run out of time to blog as I intended. Perhaps I'll update from home this weekend...but no promises. For now, have a merry Christmas, all!

Friday, December 16, 2005

My Middle Name

Quote of the day (via AIM, from my dear friend Maria)
procrastination is SO your middle name. i don't know who even told you it was Nicole, but they are wrong. :-)

Guilty as charged. Exhibit A: The fact that other than some online shopping, I began my Christmas shopping yesterday. Exhibit B: The fact that I am writing this blog post right now rather than working on the magazine article that's due today.

Back to work...

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

O Christmas Tree

Steve and I went to a "tree farm" (read: a grove of trees in someone's front yard) this weekend and cut down our Christmas tree. Now that we've got some decorations on it, it doesn't look too bad, but when we first put it up, it looked a little Charlie-Brown-esque. (It's actually about 7 feet tall, despite the fact that it looks tiny in this picture.)

I'm no horticulturist, but I think the problem is that the dear, sweet people of Tennessee think white pines make good Christmas trees. When my northern readers really know that you need a good spruce tree. On this silly tree, the branches are thin and sparse, and the needles are so long and soft that it's extremely difficult to hang any sort of ornament. Well, at least it's got a good shape.

It still needs a topper, but I haven't had a chance to look anywhere but Walmart--and the only ones they had were incredibly tacky. Alas--it is our first Christmas tree, and I think it's kind of cute.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Who ever said God isn't involved in the details of our lives?

Steve and I like to order from Papa John's because their pizza is clearly holier than all others.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Just Call Me Betty

...Crocker, that is. Or something like that :) Who'da thunk?

I got the cookie-baking bug this week--had several new recipes I wanted to try. I figured if I made up plates for our neighbors, it'd be an easy way to be a friendly neighbor over the holidays, and to get rid of them after I'd baked them (goodness knows I do not need all those cookies in the apartment for me to eat!)

Roughly sixteen dozen cookies later...the picture above shows most of the fruit of my labor :) I made Steve's family recipe for frosted sugar cookies; key lime white chocolate meltaways; peanut butter/Hershey's Kiss cookies; chocolate mint cookies; and my grandma's famous buttermilk cookies. Yum!

I'm learning, slowly, to try and let go of my perfectionism. I think part of the reason I've gotten so anxious and frustrated about cooking in the past is because I expect everything to turn out exactly right the first time. When in reality, cooking--especially trying new recipes--is often a process of trial and error.

So, when the first round of chocolate mint cookies were AWFUL (they spread all over the place, making them crispy, and they were disgustingly greasy), I tried to cut myself some slack. I looked for a different recipe online (I followed all the directions exactly, so I do think part of the problem was the recipe, not me) and bought new ingredients, telling myself "this is part of the learning process" rather than, "way to go, now you're spending more money on ingredients." And the second version turned out great!

The Best Sports Prank

I've heard of some good pranks that schools play on other schools. But I think this one takes the cake:
Yale Pranks Harvard: "At the game 20 Yale students donned custom made 'Harvard Pep Squad' t-shirts and went into the Harvard stands and passed out 1800 sheets of red and white construction paper. They told the Harvard fans that, on a predetermined signal, they were to raise their piece of paper over their heads and it would spell out 'Go Harvard.' However, when they did it, here's what the Harvard fans actually spelled out. "

(HT: Justin Taylor)

Monday, December 05, 2005

Fun Times with Friends

This weekend featured a long-anticipated visit from some of our dearest friends, Kaleb and Denise. Their three-year (so hard to believe!) anniversary was in November, and Denise decided that her gift to Kaleb would be a visit to see his best friends in Tennessee. What a great gift!

Kaleb and Denise are our first couple-friends--from back before Steve and I were even together. Kaleb, Steve and I were inseparable our senior year of high school, and then as he and Denise got more serious, the four of us often went out together (I always liked it because it felt sort of like a double date even though Steve and I weren't dating yet :) Denise is a very special, one-of-a-kind girl to put up with Kaleb!

Friday night we ventured downtown for the Nashville Gas Christmas Parade--which was not worth standing in the cold for, as far as I'm concerned. I thought there were supposed to be cool floats--but if there were, they were at the tail end and we didn't brave the cold long enough. All we saw were fourteen dozen shriners (what exactly do the shriners do anyway? I think it's something to do with children's hospitals...but it occurred to me as we watched that perhaps they'd have more money for the children if they didn't buy so many tiny cars and goofy hats...), a bazillion clowns, and several bands who never played while they were in front of us. So once we were all barely able to walk because we couldn't feel our toes, we headed to the warmth of our car and then home. Alas, it was fun being with friends, even if the parade was a disappointment.

We spent Saturday braving the crowds at Opry Mills mall--wow, wow, wow. Remind me next year to get all of my Christmas shopping done before Thanksgiving. I really don't care to brave those kinds of mall crowds ever again. Thankfully since I'm still jobless I can shop during the day in the middle of the week and hope it won't be so bad then. Anyway, we took Kaleb and Denise to the Opryland Hotel, which was beautifully decorated for Christmas, and then, exhausted, we headed home and had steaks. (We finally used up the last slab-o-beef a few weeks ago, but Steve bought a new one on Friday in honor of their visit.)

We had originally planned to go line dancing at Wildhorse Saloon, but were glad we decided not to since we were all so pooped from shopping all day. So we had a fun evening in, playing cards and drinking homemade pina coladas and strawberry daiquiris :) Unfortunately the poor-quality picture of Kaleb and Denise at the Opryland Hotel was the only one I got all weekend. I had intended to get one of the four of us before church on Sunday morning--but my poor husband got sick and stayed in bed :( But just for fun, here's a picture of the four of us (and Dawson) from Steve's brother's wedding in August.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

(Excuse me while I preach to myself briefly. I'm struggling with this and I know I need to hear it. You can listen in if you like.)

"God chose these men and refined them through the crucible of time to prepare them for their tasks. ...God intends for the time we spend awaiting further enlightenment and fuller harvest to bulge with relationship."**

Abraham waited 25 years from the time God promised he would be the father of nations, to the time his son Isaac was finally born.

Joseph waited two years in prison until those he had helped remembered his dream-interpretation skills and brought him before Pharaoh.

Moses waited 40 years in the desert--keep in mind this was before he wandered with the Israelites for another 40 years--this was 40 years between when he killed an Egyptian and when God spoke to him in a burning bush, calling him back to Egypt.

Hannah waited years for God to answer her plea for a child.

David waited 15 years from the time the prophet Samuel anointed him as the Lord's chosen king until the time Saul died and he actually became king.

God's chosen people waited 400 years in silence from the time of the last prophet until God spoke again with the Word made flesh.

Jesus waited 30 years to begin His public ministry.

The disciples waited three long, dark days to see their Redeemer rise from the dead.

John waited years, even decades between the time he was prominent in the early church in Acts and the time he received inspiration from God to write his gospel and epistles and the Revelation of Jesus Christ. "John served in biblical obscurity for much longer than the other apostles served, period."** Peter and Paul had highly visible ministries. His fellow disciples were martyred one by one. Still he waited.

"In spite of others seeming more powerfully used by God and in the midst of decades hidden in the shadows, John remained faithful to his task. ...You have not been forgotten! You have no idea what may lie ahead! God spent this time testing and proving John's character so that he could be trusted with the greatest revelation. The answers God gives us in our tomorrows often flow from our faithful todays."**

"If I am never greatly used by God in a way that I deem significant, can I still believe that I am loved like the apple of His eye? ...[John] knew two things...He knew that he was called to be a disciple. And he knew that he was loved."**

I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD (Psalm 27:14).

But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, "You are my God." My times are in your hands... (Psalm 31:14-15).

Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him...Wait for the LORD and keep his way. He will exalt you to inherit the land... (Psalm 37:7,34)

I wait for you, O LORD; you will answer, O Lord my God (Psalm 38:15).

(**Quotes from Beth Moore, Beloved Disciple, LifeWay, 2002.)

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

An Eventful Weekend at Home

Steve and I headed to Ohio last Wednesday night to spend a few days with family and friends over the holiday weekend. Our first time back in three months, and it felt strange. It was like we were traveling to a completely different world, a million miles away from our world down here. A few pictures to document the weekend:

We got to see our favorite (read: only) nephew, Dawson, who's growing like crazy. He is now seven months old and the most joyful and entertaining baby I have seen. Kaleb (his dad) got him up even though he'd just been put to bed when we'd expect a baby to be cranky under such circumstances, but instead he had me laughing the whole time. Hilarious and just adorable, as you can see.

Thursday was full of family gatherings and gorging ourselves on good food, of course. Actually I didn't do too badly--paced myself so that I was pleasantly full but not miserable. I considered this a huge success...though the cumulative effect of the weekend was three extra pounds on the scale :(

Friday night featured a family night with the Kannels, complete with a science experiment! Ben (Steve's little brother) had recently gone on a science field trip and was telling us about a challenge to build a tower with 40 pieces of spaghetti and 40 mini-marshmallows. The winning tower had held 79 pennies on a cardboard platform. Well, that had us curious. So my mother-in-law produced the supplies and Ben explained the requirements. My brilliant husband far surpassed the winning tower--though of course, he has an engineering degree, and these were eighth graders. But the tower he built with his dad and brother held three rolls of various coins plus several extra pennies before it finally toppled!

I've wanted to have a quilt made from my old volleyball t-shirts ever since I saw my friend Brianne's quilt. This weekend, I finally got to pick up my own quilt! Steve's cousin Priscilla agreed to take on the project last winter--she finished it in August but I didn't get it until now. She did fantastic work--it is exactly what I had hoped for and so heavy and warm! I was so excited.

Saturday featured lunch with Jules--it was so good to catch up with her, though of course not long enough--and a Christmas shopping trip with my mom. We had a great time together and enjoyed dinner at the new Bravo at the mall! Yum!

Then on Sunday, we headed to Indiana for another Thanksgiving. Afterward we got to stop and see my newest cousin, Matthew. He's a cutie!

That should have marked the end of our time at home. But it wasn't so. To make a very long story short, my car's minor problems turned major. God was so good to us in that had we not stopped to see my cousins, we might have been stranded on the highway somewhere in the middle of the Indiana cornfields. Instead we were only a few blocks from their house, and my parents were still there. So we left the car and went back home with my family--only to return to Fort Wayne on Monday, load up the car and arrange to have it worked on. We're so thankful for the generosity of Steve's grandparents, who are letting us borrow their extra car until Christmas.

At any rate, we finally made it home last night and it is good to be back. As I remarked to Steve: Funny how "home" always seems to be somewhere you're not. A week ago, we were eagerly anticipating "going home" and remarking how long it had been. Last night, we were anxiously looking forward to "getting home" again.

Must-Read Blog

If you don't have this blog on your Bloglines feeds, you're sorely missing out.

And if you don't have a Bloglines (or other similar) account...well, my friend, what are you waiting for?

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


You can never be too thankful. Not just on Thanksgiving, but 365 days a year. Gratitude is so closely linked with humility, and so closely linked with faithfulness. Sadly, how often I am like Eve, who took her eyes off all the blessings she had been given and chose to focus on the one thing she did not have. So to put life in perspective, and in honor of my beloved friend Kelly, who has a new blog!...

100 Reasons to Thank My Heavenly Father:

  1. The incarnation
  2. The cross
  3. The empty tomb
  4. The promise of eternal life
  5. My incredible husband
  6. Loving and supportive parents
  7. Wonderful in-laws
  8. God's sovereignty
  9. Bright colors
  10. Clear and starry night skies in the country
  11. The ability to walk
  12. Mentors Diane and Lyn
  13. Clothes that keep me warm
  14. Shoes that fit
  15. Grace
  16. Dogs
  17. The ability to sing
  18. Laughter
  19. Chocolate
  20. A dream wedding and honeymoon
  21. Singing in the IWU Chorale
  22. Hot showers
  23. Old friends
  24. New friends
  25. Extended family
  26. God's constant and unchanging nature
  27. Indoor plumbing
  28. Fuzzy slippers
  29. Thick blankets
  30. Good metabolism
  31. My own copies, in my own language, of God's Word
  32. Sight
  33. Taste
  34. Touch
  35. Smell
  36. Hearing
  37. Memory
  38. Sanity
  39. My trusty Toyota Camry (and the good gas mileage it gets)
  40. Our apartment
  41. A computer and high-speed internet
  42. Getting to be part of God's provision and blessing to someone else
  43. A college education
  44. Literacy
  45. Ballpoint pens
  46. Freedom to worship God without persecution
  47. Calvary Bible Church
  48. Notes of encouragement
  49. Unlimited time during the day to spend with God
  50. A dishwasher
  51. Health insurance
  52. Air conditioning
  53. Heat
  54. Volumes of old journals
  55. Lakeside
  56. Sunday night Bible study
  57. The ease of long-distance communication
  58. Digital camera
  59. Changing seasons
  60. Kingdom Building Ministries
  61. Medicine
  62. Furniture
  63. The convenience of a grocery store
  64. Washing machine and dryer
  65. God's steadfast love
  66. God's discipline
  67. Unexpected phone calls from friends
  68. College professors who cared about me and poured into me
  69. CD collection
  70. Growing up in a stable and whole home
  71. Electricity
  72. Permission to approach God's throne boldly
  73. Assurance that He hears and will answer my prayers
  74. Forgiveness for my sin
  75. God's patience with me
  76. Chapstick
  77. Computer programs that make it easier to study the Bible
  78. Joy
  79. Hope
  80. Sleep
  81. God's wisdom and guidance
  82. Scented candles
  83. Backrubs
  84. Knowing I am never truly alone
  85. Fresh insights and perspectives from other believers
  86. Hugs
  87. Kisses
  88. Girls I've mentored
  89. Smiles
  90. Children
  91. The Holy Spirit and the seal of redemption on me
  92. God's promise that He'll finish what He started in me
  93. Pizza
  94. Traveling with Brother's Keeper
  95. Clean air and the ability to breathe easily
  96. Safe drinking water
  97. Protection from so much evil (from without and from within)
  98. The battle has already been won
  99. Mercy
  100. Being known intimately
What about you? What are you thankful for?

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Two Step

I've been tagged by Natalie--how exciting :)

Two Names You Go By
1. Ame
2. Amers

Two Parts of Your Heritage
1. German
2. English

Two Things That Scare You
1. Loved ones dying without Christ
2. Parenting

Two of Your Everyday Essentials
1. a big hug from my hubby
2. chocolate

Two Things You Are Wearing Right Now
1. stretch jeans
2. a green long-sleeved t-shirt

Two of Your Favorite Bands or Musical Artists
1. Nichole Nordeman
2. Selah

Two Things You Want in a Relationship (other than Real Love)
1. A man who will take the lead and step up to fulfill his God-given role
2. Laughter

Two Truths
1. I have nothing to be prideful about...apart from Christ I have nothing, I can do nothing, I am nothing.
2. God is bigger than you or I can ever wrap our finite brains around.

Two Physical Things that Appeal to You
1. Strong shoulders/arms/hands
2. Eyes that are bluish/greenish/greyish/hazelish

Two of Your Favorite Hobbies
1. Reading
2. Singing

Two Things You Want Really Badly
1. To be consistently faithful in the small things
2. my marriage to reflect and magnify Christ

Two Places You Want to Go on Vacation
1. Europe
2. Israel

Two Things You Want to Do Before You Die
1. Have kids
2. Work as an editor for a publishing house

Two Ways That You are Stereotypically a Girl
1. I talk an awful lot
2. I overanalyze everything

Two Things You Normally Wouldn't Admit
1. I'm always comparing myself to others
2. I'm nervous and insecure in crowds of people I don't know well

Two Things You Are Thinking About Now
1. There are so many other things I should be doing right do I manage to waste so much time?
2. It's cold...I want to go make some "coffee" (translation: hot chocolate with a spoonful of caramel and enough strong coffee--not even espresso--to fill the mug).

Two Stores You Shop At
1. New York & Company
2. Linens & Things

Two People You Haven't Talked to in a Long Time
1. Janet (the only person who calls me "Amers")
2. Dr. Mary Brown

Two Bloggers Who May Now Dislike You for Passing This on to Them
1. Julie at Musings, Reflections and Other Random Thoughts
2. Kayla at Life

Have fun!

Like My New Look?

Whoohoo! (Or for Kathryn: Whoo! Hoo!) No, you didn't end up on a different blog--it's still me! I was tired of the old look...and didn't want to use any of Blogger's other templates, really. TypePad generally has better ones but who wants to pay for their blogging service? Finally I found a website with some converted TypePad templates for Blogger. Unfortunately I know only enough HTML to be dangerous, and not enough to do everything I want to do (like get rid of the arrows in front of post titles). So be patient as I work the kinks out (like try to figure out how to get that picture to stop cutting off)...and meanwhile, enjoy :) I feel like a little kid showing off a flashy new pair of shoes!

Monday, November 21, 2005

Attitude of Gratitude

In light of the coming holiday...I can say nothing about Thanksgiving or gratitude that has not been said better by Bob Kauflin here. An excerpt:
“Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!” (Ps. 100:4 ESV)

What does God value as we enter His presence? Gratefulness.

Our culture puts a high value on being “real” as we come before God. Genuine. Vulnerable. Authentic. The Psalmists don’t hesitate to tell God when life is a mess and they’re struggling. (Check out Psalm 13, 42, and 88). But in a society where self-expression is often hailed as the ultimate virtue, I’m not sure that “being real” before God is my problem. Being thankful is. Why is God so concerned that we be grateful? There are a number of reasons. Here are two.

Go read the whole post! It's some valuable and much-needed perspective for me this Thanksgiving--and EVERY day of the year.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Calvary Bible Church

It is high time I blogged about our new church. Yes, Steve and I have found a church that feels enough like home that I can call it "our church." What a huge praise! We have been going there for two and a half months I can't believe I haven't written about it until now, especially because several people have asked me if we've found a church.

We feel blessed to have found a great little church about 25 minutes away from us called Calvary Bible Church. The first thing that captured us was the people. At some churches, no one may even notice that you're new. Surely you can get plugged in and meet people, but probably you will have to be very proactive about it. At other churches, people around you will say hi during the "greet your neighbor" time, but they may or may not even tell you their name. At other churches, the ushers/greeters will notice that you're new and welcome you, but that's about it.

But then there's CBC. The first time we went there, we were amazed at how welcoming everyone was. From the minute we walked in, a steady stream of people went out of their way to come over and introduce themselves to us and let us know that they were glad to have us. They genuinely wanted to know who we were, what brought us to their church, where we were from, etc. (and although it did get a little tiresome answering the same questions five hundred times, it was so refreshing to feel like people cared!). One guy came over and stopped us while we were on our way out the door so he could introduce himself to us. We just felt so welcomed--it was the first thing that made us want to keep coming back.

Pastor Dave Harrell preaches expositionally, and he is a wonderful teacher of the Word. He doesn't pull any punches and he has a sincere passion for his flock to know and love the truth. He doesn't preach superficial sermons; he digs deep. We are currently in the book of Matthew, from which he has been preaching for the past couple of years--and will still be in for at least another 6 months, I would guess. It is so refreshing to get fed with spiritual meat and not just sweet-tasting milk!

The music is simple but beautiful. It's all hymns, though there are 20th-century praise songs in the hymnal (I'm talking "Give Thanks" and "Bless the Lord, O My Soul," not all-about-me, Jesus-is-my-boyfriend choruses). And we sing them joyfully, not like we're half asleep. I love that we sing six or seven songs throughout the service (in my experience, many churches who use hymns sing only two or three). There's no "worship band," exactly; the singing is led by a guy who has a fantastic voice and another guy playing the piano. But the cool part is that the piano guy has several very musically-talented kids who accompany him, most often with violin and some sort of Celtic-sounding flute. It's beautiful. (Understand I'm not against ALL modern worship songs...there are some fantastic ones...but after being immersed in the selfishness and shallowness of most modern worship music for the last few years I find this a refreshing and wonderful change.)

They also have a great ensemble, about a dozen people, which sings almost every Sunday. When we heard they were looking for more members, Steve and I decided to join, and that has been a lot of fun. Currently we're preparing for a big Christmas concert involving the little kids in a few weeks.

And speaking of little kids...this church has a clear growth strategy: "Be fruitful and multiply." :)Seriously. Steve and I feel like the oddballs because we are one of maybe two couples who don't have kids. This morning we had a baby dedication and there were EIGHT babies up front. That may not sound spectacular to those of you who go to big churches...but keep in mind this is not a big church--it might range from 100-200 people on a given Sunday (the congregation is spread out over a wide geographical area so attendance is sporadic at times). It's fun to have so many kids running around, though, and it makes the church feel even more alive.

Calvary Bible Church isn't a perfect church, by any means. Though I'd love to find one, I realize that if I keep searching until I do, I'll never settle anywhere. And if I did find one, it would cease to be perfect once I joined. So although we may not agree with everything Pastor Dave says, and although we may see areas of weakness or things we would change, we really like it here. We're surrounded by a community of believers who truly love the Lord. It feels great to look forward to Sundays again.

Friday, November 18, 2005

A Plea for Rearranged Priorities

Blogger Scott Slayton's plea to the Southern Baptist Convention should be a plea to ALL evangelical Christians. Here's an excerpt:
We are much more interested in yelping about the sin in the world than we are about purging the sin that is in our own hearts. The history of the church in the 19th and 20th centuries should teach us about this. The more that the church is concerned with cleansing teh ills of the world, the more the church becomes like the world. This happens because we begin to define living the Christian life within very narrow moral boundaries and we try to push these boundaries on people who are not Christians without first introducing them to the Gospel. Then we cry about persecution when we are called right wing nut jobs. Has it ever occurred to anyone that people who are not Christians love sin because they are sinners? We have gotten the cart before the horse.

(HT: Eric Schumacher)

Real News

During June 2005, CNN, FOXNews, NBC/MSNBC, ABC, and CBS ran 50 times as many stories about Michael Jackson and 12 times as many stories about Tom Cruise as they did about this.

What's wrong with this picture?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Do You Care?

Last Sunday was the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. Did you know? Do you care? Are you aware of the suffering and obstacles our brothers and sisters in Christ face daily in countries around the world?

Martyrs aren't a thing of the past. And religious persecution isn't just someone else's problem. It is, by command of our Father, our problem:

Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering (Hebrews 13:3).

I'm writing today because I just finished one of my all-time favorite books. I read it a few years ago but somehow, foolishly, forgot how compelling it is. Randy Alcorn's novel Safely Home may be fiction, but it's the product of years of research on the persecuted church in China. It's a labor of love, and it's absolutely gripping. You can get it on for less than $10. Put it on your Christmas list. Read it. And if you aren't moved; if you don't care about the persecuted church after you finish the last chapter, check your pulse. I pray God won't let me forget ever again.

You might find yourself not only moved to care about and pray for your brothers and sisters in chains worldwide--you might find yourself challenged to grow in your own faith. Alcorn has a way of doing that, even through fiction. He provides the eternal perspective most of us lack.

When you hear of Christians being persecuted around the world, don't just stop to say, "Thanks, Lord, that we can meet freely and worship You without punishment" and go on with your comfortable American life. Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering (Hebrews 13:3).

To find out what you can do--and there are things you can do--check out The Voice of the Martyrs. Inform yourself. Pray. Give. Encourage. But don't just turn a blind eye to their suffering. Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2).

Miss Opal's Sweetheart

This morning at the nursing home I had the pleasure of meeting another Miss Opal (not the same one from last week). She wanted to go for a walk and just needs a little help staying steady, so Judy (the social services director) asked me to walk with her down the hall and then take her down to lunch. We walked out the door and Judy suggested we go partway up a different hallway before heading down to the dining room.

Miss Opal: "Why are we going this way?"
Judy: "So you can get some exercise!"
Miss Opal: "Well."

That probably makes it sound like she was annoyed--but she wasn't at all. She just thought it was funny to walk in the opposite direction of the dining room. She is the most pleasant lady, full of smiles and greets everyone she meets with a bright "Hello, hello, hello!" Anyway, her back got tired after we walked up the other hallway, so we stopped back at her room to rest--where she showed me pictures of her family. But she couldn't remember who was pictured in the photo above her bed. So when Judy came back, the exchange went something like this:

Judy: "Are you having trouble remembering who that is? That's you and Mr. Pomeroy. He lives here, remember? You know, he's sweet on you." (winks at me)
Miss Opal: (a little embarrassed) "Lord, have mercy."

From this exchange it almost seemed like Miss Opal didn't know what Judy was talking about. But I was mistaken. We head down to the dining room, and the best part was this exchange once we rounded the corner and saw Mr. Pomeroy sitting in an armchair:

Miss Opal: (to me) "Bless his heart, he's sitting there waiting for me."
Mr. Pomeroy: "Hi, sweetheart!"
Miss Opal: "Hello, darling. I'll be right over in a bit. I love you!"

Now how can that not just bring a smile to your face? Romance is alive and well at the nursing home...

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Biblical Counseling for Spiritual Growth

I'm still in the middle of studying and absorbing some great material that the Girl Talk bloggers posted last week from renowned Biblical counselor Dr. David Powlison. It's been some fantastic stuff--and don't let the title of the blog fool you. Dr. Powlison offers wonderful Biblical wisdom for both men and women on the specific topics of anxiety, anger, and escapism. I highly recommend it as a detour from your normal devotions or whatever you do to grow with God. The post index is here.

The series has been so profitable to me (and I haven't finished it yet) that I hope to start posting soon some of my thoughts and insights based on what I'm learning. Meanwhile, regardless of whether you work through all the posts, you need to check this out. (If you want the tunes for the hymns, you can do a quick search and hear them at Here's the explanation from Girl Talk:

Whichever of the common deviancies you’re choosing, first read and ponder these hymns (and, if you’re so moved, sing with heart and voice!). Notice how we’ve parsed the hymns,

--The pressures of life are described in italics, those things (‘good reasons’) that provoke us to anxiety, anger, escapism. These are the circumstances within which our battle plays out.

--The Lord’s promises and self-disclosures come in bold, these invitations (‘better
reasons’) to live differently. These are ways the Redeemer enters human life. Notice how these things that God says compete with the voices and pressures that woo and provoke us towards anger/grumbling, fear/anxiety, escapism/addiction.

--Our responses of faith are underlined. This is the heart of change.

Read all the italics. Then read all the bolds. Then read all the underlinings. Then worship.

This is a fantastic new way to experience these hymns. I hope you'll check it out for yourself!

Monday, November 14, 2005

A Freudian Slip: Caught on Videotape

You have got to watch this hilarious clip of a youth pastor who made a little whoops! in the middle of a sermon.

(HT: Nashville is Talking)


Great reminder from Bob Kauflin this morning on Here's an excerpt:
When I sit down to meet with God, I'm not typically astonished at the difference between what I deserve and what I'm receiving. I'm more often wondering why I don't get MORE blessing, see MORE fruitfulness, and gain MORE credit for the things I do.

The whole post is well worth your time. Read it here.

My (Brother's) Old Kentucky Home

Steve and I took a road trip up to Kentucky on Saturday to visit my (not-so-) little brother at Eastern Kentucky University. He's a junior now and I had never been to see him at his school, so we finally made a trip. Plus, of course, I needed to meet the new girlfriend (can I just say how weird it is to hear your little brother call someone "baby"??). I even brought him fresh-baked cookies, am I a good sister or what? :) The four of us went to the EKU football game, then Josh gave us a campus tour and took us to see the fire station where he is a co-op. He's on shift (24 hours on, 48 hours off) just like all the other guys, except he gets paid a lot less and he goes to class if he has class during a shift--otherwise he eats and sleeps at the station and everything. Here he is in front of "his" truck, Engine 1. Sorry about the poor quality. The lighting in the garage wasn't the best, plus he was so thrilled about posing for pictures for his embarrassing older sister.

And here he is inside the truck, showing us where they sit and put on their air packs on the way to a fire. (He even let us get up in the truck :)

After that we went out to eat at a local joint and then back to his (way nice for a college student) apartment for a bit before heading home. I didn't get any pictures of Josh and Jess--didn't want to push the doting/embarrassing big sister card and have my camera out any more than necessary--but for the curious, here's a shot of them from his birthday a couple of months ago. She made him a cake: everyone say "awwwwwwww..."

Anyway, it was a fun time. Short visit, but good to see him.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

My Latest Domestic Achievement

I didn't take the time last week to post about my latest achievement in the kitchen: Homemade barbecued spareribs! My mother-in-law makes these and they are so yummy, so a while back, I asked her for the recipe. I mean, I didn't even know what meat to buy or anything. But she sent me a great detailed explanation, and so on Monday night, I made my first attempt to surprise Steve with one of his favorite things to eat.

And they were a success! We enjoyed the leftovers this afternoon. Yum!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

An Unexpected Blessing

This morning I took a little trip out of my comfort zone, right on down to the nursing home in town. In my joblessness (which is another post altogether) I naturally find myself with a lot of time on my hands. After several years of busyness, of feeling frazzled and pulled in fourteen directions, the slower pace of life I now enjoy is nice in a lot of ways. But I also find that one of my biggest struggles is making the best use of the time (Ephesians 5:16). I'm ashamed of how many times I have gotten to the end of the afternoon, when it's just about time for Steve to get home, and thought, "What did I do all day?!" It's discouraging and frustrating to realize you've consistently wasted the hours God has given you.

Several weeks ago, as I drove by the nursing home, it occurred to me that volunteering there might be a good way to make use of these hours in my day. I spend most of my time by myself in the apartment, with little reason or natural opportunity (aside from church and choir practice) to get out and interact with people besides Steve. And though I may be going deeper in my relationship with God, I have many times felt frustrated and convicted by the fact that that intimacy isn't often finding an outlet in service to others.

So I memorized the phone number for the nursing home as I drove by. I remember that a couple of years ago, my nursing-home-resident grandmother (who, when I lived just 50 minutes away from her at IWU, I'm ashamed to say I visited about as many times as I can count on one hand) received regular visits from a college student in the town where she lives. Grandma always talked about Hannah's visits--I know they meant a lot to her. Hannah even wrote a biographical essay about my grandma for her class project.

My grandma is too far away for me to visit now, but I figured there were probably residents at the nursing home here who don't get visitors very often and would love someone to talk to. And I realized that although it wasn't a primary way I would choose to serve or feel gifted to serve, it wouldn't take much for me to sacrifice a little time to go listen to a lonely elderly person. It was a simple opportunity to demonstrate religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless (James 1:27), and it was the least I could do.

In my self-absorption, and (okay, let's call a spade a spade) disobedience, I put off calling for more than a month. It wasn't until last week that I finally called that number (which I still remembered), and went to meet with the social services director. She was incredibly sweet and very enthusiastic about having a volunteer to help her out. I felt very far from my comfort zone, but I was pretty convinced it was something I needed to do, so I promised to come back the following Wednesday. This morning I was feeling nervous and ill-equipped, but asked God for courage and His heart of compassion, and drove across town.

My fears were baseless, of course. I didn't just spend, I enjoyed an hour there. I read parts of the weekly county newspaper to some ladies who can't see well enough to read it themselves but always love to hear the news (and the obituaries--which seems depressing to me--but at least they didn't know anyone in this week's list). And I had a great time. Miss Opal had a comment or a story for just about everything I read or said. It took so little effort for me to read headlines and summarize stories, and to agree with her comments or listen to her memories. She was a sweet lady, and I didn't even have to hesitate in telling her that I'd be back next week.

I'm smiling just remembering how I felt sitting in her room. It's funny--or ridiculous, or perhaps just sad--how we get ourselves all worked up (or maybe I'm the only one who does this) over something God calls us to do, even putting it off as long as possible, only to find that it's not anything close to the dreadful task we built up in our minds. It's funny how when you set out to bless others, God ends up blessing you.

Divine Love Put Me Here

In light of my question below, thought I'd post a wonderful thought from one of my favorite blogs, Girl Talk. Nicole Whitacre posted this last week and it was definitely a word from God that I needed to hear. She quoted from Morning and Evening, a devotional by Charles Spurgeon that I've heard highly recommended but have not yet checked out. The emphasis is mine:
“Believer…you should be satisfied with your earthly portion; for you may rest assured that it is the fittest for you. Unerring wisdom ordained your lot, and selected for you the safest and best condition…Remember this, had any other condition been better for you than the one in which you are, divine love would have put you there. You are placed by God in the most suitable circumstances…Be content with such things as you have, since the Lord has ordered all things for your good. Take up your own daily cross; it is the burden best suited for your shoulder, and will prove most effective to make you perfect in every good word and work to the glory of God.

Trials must and will befall—
But with humble faith to see
Love inscribed upon them all;
This is happiness to me.”
Nicole added:
So whether your portion be big or small, difficult or pleasant, whether your daily cross be light (a fussy toddler like I have) or heavy (widowhood like the woman who wrote to us recently), remember that Divine Love has put you there, and so there is the best place to be.
A helpful reminder. After all, I guess God knows better than I do what is the best way to conform me into the image of His Son...and if there were circumstances that would allow Him to do so more effectively, I'd be in them.

Monday, November 07, 2005

A Question for My Readers

At what point does "waiting on the Lord" become an excuse to justify laziness rather than an example of virtuous patience and trust in God?

Now is the time for all you lurkers to comment (you don't have to have a Blogger account to comment!) and weigh in with your $.02 on this. What do you think?

Repetition Helps Us Remember

I learned once, in a public speaking class, the catchphrase, "Repetition helps us remember." My prof said it a bazillion times during one class period, and obviously it worked. But when does repetition become redundant? When are you just needlessly repeating yourself? When does re-emphasizing your ideas become annoying? When does it get to the point where you are just saying the same thing over and over, using different words--or maybe the same words? When is your listener/reader just going to stop and bang his or her head against the desk, as you, my faithful blog reader, are feeling tempted to do right now? :)

This is the question that Steve and I would like to ask Moses, specifically in his writing of the book of Numbers. Exhibit A:

"On the day the tabernacle, the Tent of the Testimony, was set up, the cloud covered it. From evening till morning the cloud above the tabernacle looked like fire. That is how it continued to be; the cloud covered it, and at night it looked like fire. Whenever the cloud lifted from above the Tent, the Israelites set out; wherever the cloud settled, the Israelites encamped. At the LORD's command the Israelites set out, and at his command they encamped. As long as the cloud stayed over the tabernacle, they remained in camp. When the cloud remained over the tabernacle a long time, the Israelites obeyed the LORD's order and did not set out. Sometimes the cloud was over the tabernacle only a few days; at the LORD's command they would encamp, and then at his command they would set out. Sometimes the cloud stayed only from evening till morning, and when it lifted in the morning, they set out. Whether by day or by night, whenever the cloud lifted, they set out. Whether the cloud stayed over the tabernacle for two days or a month or a year, the Israelites would remain in camp and not set out; but when it lifted, they would set out. At the LORD's command they encamped, and at the LORD's command they set out. They obeyed the LORD's order, in accordance with his command through Moses" (Numbers 9:15-23).

So...let me make sure I am clear on this: When the cloud/fire was over the tabernacle, they stayed. And when it left, they followed. But, I am still a little confused: What if the cloud only stayed for a day--did they leave when it left? What if it was there for a year--did they stay that whole time?

Steve has an audio Bible which he often listens to during his work commute, and a few weeks ago, when he was in the book of Numbers, he was feeling a little exasperated by Moses' description in this passage. It seemed to him (and to me) that Moses could have used a little economy of words. He could have eliminated at least five verses from this section and still gotten his point across very clearly. It makes us wonder, was he getting paid by the word? The subject came up again on Saturday, and as I tried to read the passage out loud, Steve and I laughed so hard that tears were streaming down our faces. (Maybe you had to be there, I don't know.)

I believe all Scripture is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16), so I am sure God hads a purpose in inspiring Moses to write this repetitive passage from Numbers, even if I don't understand what it was. Even if I don't quite get it. Even if I'm not clear on the whys. Even if...okay, sorry :)

I hope He is laughing with us and doesn't think we're irreverent for seeing the humor in His Word. Maybe sometimes He laughs, too, at how incredibly stupid we humans are, that He has to repeat Himself so many times to get His point through our thick heads? Or maybe He just feels sad and frustrated?

Friday, November 04, 2005

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Living in the South has its ups and downs: I love the warmer weather, but I was ready for fall long before it arrived (and this week it's back up to 80 degrees again). The landscape is hilly and generally more interesting than northwest Ohio, but that also means there are no straight roads, anywhere--I believe it would take us half as long to get places at home as it does here, because the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Southern accents are fun to listen to, though sometimes hard to understand. Living near a big city is great, but the 9.25% Tennessee sales tax is not so great.

My biggest gripe, though, is that no one recycles down here. I am by no means a tree-hugger. To be honest, I don't give the environment a whole lot of thought, which is unfortunate because I do believe that as Christians we should care about and be good stewards of the earth. Anyway, I'm definitely anti-littering. And I was raised to recycle. I remember learning that little slogan as early as fourth grade: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!

My family has recycled for as long as I can remember, and my hometown started curbside recycling while I was still young. Now that my parents live out in the country, they have to be proactive about it, but my dad still has bins in the garage for glass, plastic, tin and aluminum. It's ingrained in my head never to throw away any plastic bottle with a 1 or a 2 symbol, any glass jar or any metal can. I recycle them without thinking about it.

So what is with these people in the South who do not recycle? I cannot stand to throw these things away because I have been trained to save them and recycle. I feel so wasteful tossing them in the garbage. I did find a (rundown and slightly unnerving) place a couple of miles down the road that takes aluminum and steel cans, but I have tried and failed to find any recycling center for glass or plastic. Come on, Tennessee, save the planet!

Thursday, November 03, 2005


Nichole Nordeman was FANTASTIC last night. Two words (to quote Gale from Chorale Idol--some of you will laugh at the memory): Phe. Nomenal :)

Driving up to Louisville made for a long day for Steve and me--he had gone in to work early so he could leave early, and we didn't get home until 10:45 pm--which is way past our old-fart bedtime! But worth it. The concert was at Southeast Christian Church. Now I have been in a lot of huge churches through my years of traveling with the chorale...but I am pretty sure this one takes the cake. Steve estimated that the sanctuary was about the size of the Shoemaker Center (where the UC basketball team plays). I'm not kidding. You could have put most churches inside their lobby. There were several sets of escalators to get up to the upper-level seating. They have over 17,000 attendance every weekend. They put out a 30-page newspaper every week. Wow. I wish I would have taken some pictures. But I didn't feel the need to make myself look like a gawking country bumpkin from the sticks anymore than necessary :) Seriously, though--how does a church ever get that huge??

Anyway, the opening act was Aaron Shust, who was actually really good. He's a new artist who leads worship for a huge church in Atlanta--his first CD just came out. His set was the perfect length--he only played three songs, which was short enough to leave me wanting more rather than checking my watch wondering when it would be time for the main event.

Nichole's set, on the other hand...was not long enough. I mean, she played for an hour. But really, I would have gladly sat through all four albums (though I suppose her voice...and my butt...would have been awfully tired by that time...not to mention Steve would have never made it through all that).

I love her music so much and it was great to hear less "produced" versions of the songs, more focus on her playing the piano. Seriously, if I were to be stranded on a deserted island and could only take ten CDs with me...four of them would be hers. I really appreciate her honesty about the journey--real, but still reverent. Plus she's just a talented songwriter/musician and I love her voice.

As if all that weren't fun evening was capped off by a visit to Bravo! My favorite Italian restaurant (no offense, Olive're almost tied). We had already eaten dinner but since I hadn't had Bravo in months, we stopped by after the concert for some artichoke and spinach formaggio dip on Parmesan flatbread...are you drooling yet?...Yum yum yum. A fabulous date with my wonderful husband, who let me drag him along even though he's not a huge Nichole fan like I am. Thank you, Steve :)

On a more serious note, I'll close with a story Nichole told last night before singing "Hold On" from her newest album, Brave (the song is one of my favorites on the album). The liner notes mention that the song is "For Meredith, and all the things I wish I'd said." She explained that Meredith was the only other female on a tour Nichole did a couple of years ago (she didn't say but it had to be the SCC tour Steve and I saw in October 2002). So, Meredith was determined that she and Nichole would become "the best, best, bestest of friends!" Only, she was one of those people who just drive you crazy. You know what I'm talking about. She was sickeningly bubbly all the quote Nichole (this made me laugh), "You couldn't get through a simple conversation like 'So, how's your salad?' without four or five 'Hallelujah!'s in there."

Nichole eventually discovered that Meredith's happy-all-the-time routine was a facade, and she became really clingy and needy--driving Nichole even further away from wanting a close friendship with her. She confessed that she was relieved when the tour was over so she didn't have to deal with Meredith anymore. A couple of years later, a friend who'd been on that tour asked if Nichole had heard what happened to Meredith. Nichole (this is what I love about her, that she's willing to be vulnerable and real) said she mentally rolled her eyes and snottily said, "What now?"

Taken aback, the friend told Nichole that Meredith had recently taken her life. Nichole went on to share how she felt overcome with guilt and shame--not just a missed opportunity, but an opportunity you actually walk away from. Wow. And she challenged us all to stop and picture the Merediths in our own lives. We all have them--people who drive us crazy. But we have no idea what they really might be dealing with, or how thin that thread might be stretched, how close it might be to snapping. How are we treating them? Food for thought...

Nichole also talked directly to "those of you who are the "Merediths"--anyone who's dealing with deep pain or hurting in dark places where squeaky-clean Christians aren't willing to go. She said the song "Hold On" is for you--it speaks of the love of Jesus that will find you no matter where you've been:

It will find you at the bottom of a bottle
It will find you at the needle’s end
It will find you when you beg and steal and borrow
It will follow you into a stranger’s bed
It will find you when they serve you with the papers
It will find you when the locks have changed again
It will find you when you’ve called in all your favors
It will meet you at the bridge’s highest ledge
So baby don’t look down, it’s a long way
The sun will come around to a new day
So hold on
Love will find you
Hold on
He’s right behind you now
Just turn around
And love will find you
It will find you when the doctor’s head is shaking
It will find you in a boardroom, mostly dead
It will crawl into the foxhole where you’re praying
It will curl up in your halfway empty bed
So baby don’t believe that it’s over
Maybe you can’t see ‘round the corner…
To hang between two thieves in the darkness
Love must believe you are worth it

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

A New Favorite Old Song

I've been a huge Nichole Nordeman fan for a while, though not from the beginning. It wasn't until she opened for Steven Curtis Chapman in October 2002 (right before she released CD #3, Woven and Spun) that I really fell in love with her music. To the point that: I have pretty much every song she's written memorized; I've sung at least two or three of them as special music in church; and I had my friend Janet sing "I Am" during the prelude for our wedding!

The funny thing is, until a month or so ago, I had never heard her very first album, Wide Eyed. I had heard one or two of the songs from it, but had sort of forgotten it existed. So I finally bought it, and I have had it on repeat ever since. This is my new favorite old song...I wish you could hear the music, it makes the lyrics even more moving!

Rolling river God
Little stones are smooth
Only once the water passes through
So I am a stone
Rough and grainy still
Trying to reconcile this river's chill
But when I close my eyes
And feel You rushing by
I know that time brings change
And change takes time
And when the sunset comes
My prayer would be this one
That You might pick me up and notice that I am
Just a little smoother in Your hand
Somtimes raging wild
Sometimes swollen high
Never have I known this river dry
The deepest part of You
Is where I want to stay
And feel the sharpest edges wash away
But when I close my eyes
And feel You rushing by
I know that time brings change
And change takes time
And when the sunset comes
My prayer would be this one
That You might pick me up and notice that I am
Just a little smoother in Your hand

--Nichole Nordeman, "River God"
Love it!
And tonight I get to go see her in concert in Louisville!! Whoohoo!!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Honesty and Happy Endings

In light of the fact that I found myself acting like a bratty three-year-old yesterday afternoon...and keeping with the theme of profound thoughts from strangers' blogs...

Another IWU alum's blog I stumbled upon a few months ago is Christin Taylor's Words on the Side. Christin was a couple of years ahead of me at IWU, so I don't know her (though I think I saw her in a play once). But she's a talented writer and I enjoy reading her posts. My favorite is the one she wrote last week about a recent hiking trip.

I had a somewhat similar experience on a hiking trip a couple of summers ago, which I wrote about in a Kingdom Building Ministries devotional last year. But when I read Christin's post, it resonated with me because she took the advice that Brad O'Donnell once shared with Nichole Nordeman (I quoted this a few months ago but it bears repeating):

"Christians are somehow prone to talking more about where they’ve been instead of where they are. Very few people want to speak up while they are in process… They’d rather wait until their junk is resolved, so they can give a 'testimony' about the happy ending. As it relates to your writing, please don’t feel the need to tie it up with a bow at the end."

I tied my experience up with a nice little bow and tried to make it all spiritual. Christin was honest, and in being transparent, she truly succeeded in helping me understand grace. Here's an excerpt:
I wish I could tell you how hiking Mt. Baldy, that stoney, brilliant mountain, brought out an inner strength. But the truth is it broke me. It made me ugly, and I resented it for that. ...All week I've been haunted by that 13 year-old girl [inside me] and the knowledge that she hides behind a very thin veil. I've been working through this realization slowly and thoughtfully, because I don't want to be mistaken about who I am or what my nature is truly. ...I want to see her clearly, because seeing her does a strange thing: it makes me grateful. It makes the grace that works inside me everyday sharp and close, like the razor edge of a mountain's crest.

I hope you'll check it out. The writing is elegant and beautiful, and the ideas are profound.

Reducible Complexity

Perhaps there's a certain amount of irony in my posting this quote. It reflects my insatiable appetite for reading on the Internet: strangers' blogs, friends' blogs, news articles, theological arguments, ad infinitum...

But the fact remains, he's got some great things to say and he often makes me think. Adam is an IWU student whom I have never met, but I discovered his blog through PK's blog a while ago and have been coming back ever since. His latest post voices some questions I should be asking myself. Here's an excerpt (emphasis mine):
"WHAT?" I ask myself. What has this damned machine [his computer] done to my life? What have I done with it? Am I even in control? Is there more good, or more evil? Is endless complexity sustainable in the long run? Do I really need to know this much information? What is at the core of this race? What am I trying to satisfy?

A blog-strike? An e-mail fast? A Google restraint? Not yet, I have not the courage or the will. ...Until then... I slooooowly peel back the layers, the on-line time, the complexities...seeking to give and not accumulate, to live more off-line than online, to listen more to real people with real tears and smiles and less to URLs and HTTPs and screennames.
I am not there, but I am walking.

Thanks, Adam. Though the real question is: Philosophical agreement aside, what will I do with this? I'm not walking...or even crawling yet...merely standing still and seeing the better vantage point...

Friday, October 28, 2005

Why Blog? A Response of Sorts

My friend Nick has some great things to say in response to my post below, "Blogging About Blogging." He's very funny, and he also says some things that really resonate with me. Here's an excerpt:
Why am I blogging? ...I am looking for community. I am looking to share a part of myself and have [my friends scattered across the country] share a part of themselves with me. That is what friendship is, and that is what blogging has afforded me. Here, in one forum, I can share my thoughts, my heart, and (of course) the most mundane moments of my life. In those commonplace moments is where friendship lies: in hours spent on the couch, in silence, watching a bad 80’s movie on TBS, in the laughter shared on a trip to the grocery, and in the story they just told you about getting cut off in traffic. Somehow, when you add love to the mundane, it is not so mundane anymore. The dull becomes dynamic. Now, I do not delude myself into thinking that everyone who happens upon my site cares what I do or what I have to say, but I hope that my friends do. And just as they occasionally stop by to check in on me, I do the same for them, and I find myself devouring each and every thought, word, and syllable. In some small way I am able to share a few intimate moments with them and join them in community.

The emphasis is mine...that's a beautiful thought I want to chew on some more. Anyway, check out his full post here.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Blogging About Blogging

A few days ago I was thinking about my friend Jeff, who in my small and behind-the-trends world was "the original blogger." I didn't even know there was a until I found Jeff's blog, and his was the first I became addicted to--as well as the one that initially inspired me to start my own, though I didn't actually write a second entry until nine months after that. (The first entry was terrible...and the second wasn't much better...I'd like to think I've improved since then...)

Anyway, Jeff has always sort of marched to the beat of his own drummer--I like that about him. But one thing that I find completely mystifying is his disabling of the comments option on his blog. Several times I've read a post of his and wanted to comment--to say that it was funny, or that I could relate, or to just send a little note to say hi. But no one can leave comments on Jeff's blog.

I started thinking about that in light of the fact that most bloggers I know (myself included) live for comments on our blogs. We like the affirmation that someone is out there reading. We like it when people connect with what we've said. So I'm intrigued by his anti-comment attitude, and it makes me wonder: What does this say about us? And what does it say about Jeff?

Then I started thinking about blogs again after receiving an email from my friend Sara. This particular friend of mine is hilarious; in fact, the stuff she wrote while we were in college used to make me laugh out loud. So when I heard from Sara yesterday for the first time in months, I told her she needed a blog--thinking she would be the perfect blogger sort who would write witty and interesting posts for me to read. Her response:

I think having a blog can often be pretentious. *oh my gosh, I think I just heard something in heavens explode.* ...Sometimes I read a person's blog and I just think, "wow, this person comes across as self-involved." I guess I just feel that some thoughts are meant to be kept, not shared. Especially in this age of information overload. And frankly, most people (and their thoughts) aren't as important as they tend to think they are :-)

Well hmm. She did say that she didn't include my blog, or the blogs of her other friends, in her classification of pretentious blogs (or at least that's what she told me to make me feel better :) But she got me thinking. So far I have nothing more profound than "hmm. interesting."

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Unspeakable Comfort

“What matters supremely, therefore, is not, in the last analysis, the fact that I know God, but the larger fact which underlies is—the fact that He knows me. I am graven on the palms of His hands. I am never out of His mind. All my knowledge of Him depends on His sustained initiative in knowing me. I know Him because He first knew me, and continues to know me. He knows me as a friend, onw who loves me; and there is no moment when His eye is off me, or His attention distracted from me, and no moment, therefore, when His care falters.

"This is momentous knowledge. There is unspeakable comfort…in knowing that God is constantly taking knowledge of me in love and watching over me for my good. There is tremendous relief in knowing that His love to me is utterly realistic, based at every point on prior knowledge of the worst about me, so that no discovery can now disillusion Him about me, in the way that I am so often disillusioned about myself, and quench His determination to bless me.

"There is, certainly, great cause for humility in the thought that He sees all the twisted things about me that my fellow humans do not see (and I am glad!) and that He sees more corruption in me than that which I see in myself (which in all conscience is enough). There is, however, equally great incentive to worship and love God in the thought that, for some unfathomable reason, He wants me as His friend, and desires to be my friend, and has given His Son to die for me in order to realize this purpose.”

--J.I. Packer, Knowing God

Friday, October 21, 2005

Lessons in Humility: Victory in God Alone

"So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!" (1 Corinthians 10:12)

I should have expected it.

Earlier this week, I shared with several dear friends (both on the phone and in emails) what God has been teaching me recently. My doing so was honestly not to boast, but truly in hopes of encouraging my friends as they saw God's grace at work in my life. I felt like I really had a good handle on the lessons of this season of life--I wasn't quite so foolish as to think I had them completely down, but I was foolish enough to think I understood what God was up to and that I was solidly in the path of obedience, understanding His ways.

Since hindsight is 20/20, I can see clearly now how that attitude, subtle as it might have been, was an open invitation for the discouragement and defeat I've felt for the past two days. May I never assume that I've got things all figured out and am solidly in the path of obedience, fully understanding God's ways--lest He deem it necessary to humble me, to remind me that I am most vulnerable when I think I'm standing firm, that He is too great for my finite mind to ever comprehend. All I can do is pray that He will continue to burn the pride out of me--and that He'll be patient with me through the process.

"We have heard with our ears, O God...what you days long ago. With your hand you drove out the nations...and made our fathers flourish. It was not by their sword that they won the land, nor did their arm bring them victory; it was your right hand, your arm, and the light of your face, for you loved them" (Psalm 44:1-3).

I have not only heard with my ears and read with my eyes, I have experienced in my own life the wonders God has done--both long ago and in the not-so-distant past. Let me never forget that any victory I have won has not been by my own hand--it has been by God's hand, His arm and the light of His face, because of His love for me.

"You are my King and my God,who decrees victories for Jacob. Through you we push back our enemies; through your name we trample our foes. I do not trust in my bow, my sword does not bring me victory; but you give us victory over our enemies; you put our adversaries to shame. In God we make our boast all day long, and we will praise your name forever" (Psalm 44:4-8).

I don't trust my knowledge or reasoning or understanding; I don't trust my heart or my will. I have no confidence in the flesh, in my own ability to defeat the enemy of my soul. You alone give me the victory, Lord--it is by Your grace alone that my adversary is put to shame. By Your grace, teach me to boast in You alone and put your praises on my lips forever.

Adventures in Breadmaking

Ever since we ate at Panera Bread a few weeks ago, Steve has been on this breadmaking kick. He decided he wanted to make yummy sourdough bread at home, from scratch. So we did a little research online and discovered that it's a whole lot more complicated than you'd expect: you can't just immediately bake real sourdough the day you think of it. First you have to grow a starter, which involves mixing flour and water and letting it sit around until it is alive and starts growing. Yum.

Sourdough enthusiasts really speak a whole different language...we learned about "feeding our pet" (yes, the website where we got the information actually calls your starter your "pet"...kinda creepy, I know) and what to do about "hooch." (Feeding your pet involves giving it flour and water every least it's a cheap pet.) Anyway, after our little pet got all bubbly and smelly, Steve attempted the first loaf. (Doesn't that just make you want to run out and eat some sourdough bread?)

Well. Attempted is the operative word there. Steve's impatience in letting the dough rise probably didn't help, but the result was this lovely "loaf of bread":

The picture doesn't do it justice because you can't feel it. This thing weighed like three pounds. Suffice to say it was a little dense. He ate it anyway, out of sheer stubbornness I think. He said it was more efficient bread--you get "a slice in every bite." Right. Well, the second loaf turned out like this too. We concluded that somehow we had killed our pet. Sad, I know. (This evokes images in my mind of my old friend Brooke Burcham doing her imitation of Chris Farley in Tommy Boy, very loudly, in restaurants. Very funny.) Anyway, so Steve gave up and bought yeast. (Apparently the hard-core bread bakers frown on this because REAL sourdough bread is made with no commercial yeast--only the wild yeast that grows naturally as you feed your pet.)

Frowning or not, we've had much better results with the store-bought yeast. Steve made a loaf of bread last Saturday that actually rose and tasted like bread! Next he wanted to get experimental, so he made some apple cinnamon bread which may not have looked perfect but tasted YUMMY (in fact I am eating a piece right now):

Then last night we collaborated on some cheese herb bread. It tasted like what you would get in a fancy Italian restaurant...and combined with the dipping oil Steve made...mmm, it was so good.

I love bread, and I love having a husband who likes to cook!