Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Back to Basics: The Main Thing

Lately it feels like God is taking me back to the basics. As I've grown in my faith over the last eight years, I've sometimes felt proud of myself for studying deep issues or reading profound books or having insightful God seems to be gently tugging on my hand, urging me to turn around and look at what brought me here: the cross. And His grace. I think we all get so caught up in our snazzy theology that we lose sight of the main thing.

I've said before that when He wants to teach me something, it generally pops up in at least three places all at once (I guess He's learned the hard way that He has to pound it into my head if there's any hope of me getting it). Over the last week or so there seem to be a couple of themes He's weaving together as He tries to get my attention. And it all boils down to grace and the cross. Simple, really, and yet so profound I'll never wrap my brain around them fully.

First, I've been reading a fantastic book called Humility: True Greatness, by C.J. Mahaney. The book isn't actually out yet; I'm reading an advance copy in PDF format so I can review it on my blog (look for that coming soon). I can't wait to tell you how great it is. Anyway, the bottom line is that pride falls apart in the shadow of the cross. It has to. When you look up and realize where your sin landed Jesus...when you are face to face with how much your own righteousness is worth...there isn't any room for pride. You have no choice but to acknowledge that it's not about you--that it's grace. "Better to you than you deserve"--the best succinct definition of grace I think I've ever heard.

In the midst of that, I started to plod through John Piper's Don't Waste Your Life, on the recommendation of my dear friend Kathryn. I say "plod" because Piper generally makes my head hurt--but in a good way. Just lots of meat to chew on. So last night I get to chapter 3 and guess what the title is: "Boasting Only in the Cross, The Blazing Center of the Glory of God." Gee, does anyone see a theme here? That's when the lightbulb finally comes on and God smacks His forehead: "Finally! She's getting it!" :)

Here's a quote I'm still processing:

"Apart from the death of Christ, sinners get nothing but judgment. Apart from the cross of Christ, there is only condemnation. Therefore everything that you enjoy in Christ--as a Christian, as a person who trusts Christ--is owing to the death of Christ. ... One of the reasons we are not as Christ-centered and cross-saturated as we should be is that we have not realized that everything--everything good, and everything bad that God turns for the good of his redeemed children--was purchased by the death of Christ. We simply take life and breath and health and friends and everything for granted. We think it is ours by right. But the fact is that it is not ours by right."

Back to the basics: Grace, shown most magnificently at the cross. It's the main thing. Everything points here. I'm trying to let the Holy Spirit redirect my focus, that my life would be lived in light of the cross, in light of grace. These things must be at the heart of everything else I do or think or believe.

"May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ..." (Galatians 6:14)

Monday, September 26, 2005

Quote of the Month

(as my dear husband and I talked again about our desire to go back to Hawaii for a second honeymoon far the mug of spare change on top of our refrigerator is the extent of our savings toward that end)

Amy: How will we ever afford to go back to Hawaii once we have kids?
Steve: We'll make them get paper routes.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

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Papasan Hat

People who saw us driving last night probably did double takes as they saw what looked like a little hat on top of our Sable. We bought a papasan chair at Pier One, and surprisingly, it wouldn't fit into our car. There was plenty of room in the trunk or in the backseat; the problem was that the doors weren't wide enough to get it in. Thankfully we had brought some rope in case we bought some other kind of chair and couldn't fit it in the trunk with the trunk closed. So Steve strapped the papasan to the top of the car. It was pretty funny.

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Did I just see what I think I just saw?

When we were at Rivergate last night, Steve and I saw a black car with flames painted on the front. We both did a double take as it passed us and we realized it was a hearse. "Was that...? "Did you see...? Oh my word... I cannot believe..."

Yeah. Someone in the Nashville area bought a hearse for their own personal use. And as if that weren't enough, they went and painted flames on the front.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

They better be REALLY good blueberry muffins.

A high school kid who lives in our apartment complex came to our door this afternoon selling stuff. I opened the door and was met by a friendly face who immediately said something like, "HimynameisJoshuaandI'msellingthingsfromthiscatalogforourhighschool-marchingbandwouldyouliketobuysomething?" He said all of that without a breath, so fast I didn't catch a word of it. So I laughed and said, "Whoa, say that again?

Well, apparently the local marching band is trying to raise money to buy new uniforms, so they're selling overpriced Christmasy items out of a catalog. Why they're selling Christmas stuff before October, I have no idea. He smiled and said, "I know, tell our band director that!" Anyway, he seemed like a nice kid and I remember selling things door to door when I was a kid--anything from Girl Scout cookies (yes, I was a Brownie back in the day) to volleyball serve-a-thon pledges to Christmas wrapping paper. What can I say, I'm a sucker and I couldn't say no.

So I flipped through the catalog to find the most inexpensive thing to buy from Joshua. I ended up paying him $9.00 for blueberry muffin mix. Are you kidding me? NINE DOLLARS of discretionary money I don't have (after all the things I've recently bought for our apartment) for blueberry freaking muffins. They better look sharp in those uniforms...and those better be some pretty amazing muffins :)


My wonderful husband ran to the grocery just before dinner last night so he could buy some tartar sauce to have with his fish for dinner. He came back with a beautiful bouquet of flowers for me, for no reason! It made my day. What is it about flowers that can melt a girl's heart?
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Friday, September 23, 2005

The Fury of the Wind, The Raging of the Sea

Wow...just stumbled on a great hymn that a blogger wrote about the recent hurricanes: check it out here.

The Age-Old Theme: Doing vs. Being

I'll have some thoughts on this later. For now I'll let these words speak for themselves as I chew on them and hold them up to my own heart:

"Somehow I was letting what I was doing for God give me purpose, instead of simply being His child. I must have believed that by doing more, I could prove my love to God, earn His love and feel good about myself. The problem is, the older you get and the more your faith matures, the more you realize you’re not a super hero or a super Christian, but just a big, worthless windbag of sin."
--Kara Schwab, Craving Crisis

Thursday, September 22, 2005

An interior designer...and all the other domestic things I'm not

After receiving a lot of gift cards for the wedding, plus returning a few things, Steve and I had built up a little money to spend at a whole lot of stores. I've been making a "wish list" of things I'd like to buy to spruce up our apartment (throw pillows for the futon, curtains, wall decor) and things we need to buy in light of the fact that we have guests coming soon (towels, a bathmat, bed pillows). So today I headed to Rivergate to spend all those gift cards and make our apartment feel a little more homey.

The first challenge is how to spruce things up without falling prey to the grip that lots of "stuff" can have on your heart. Neither of us wants our lives cluttered with tons of things we don't need, and I hate getting sucked into the materialism/greed trap. At the same time, I want our apartment to feel like a warm and welcoming grown-up home, not a college student's townhouse wtih a few pieces of ratty furniture and posters from Hobby Lobby.

Armed with my list, my gift cards and the "discretionary spending money" I'd saved for the last few weeks (Steve and I each get an allowance every two weeks--this helps immensely with sticking to a budget!), I headed to the mall. A few hours and several stores later, my trunk was full and my wallet was empty, and I was feeling pretty proud of myself. Nearly everything I'd bought was on sale, and I had found several of the most important things on my list. By the grace of God, I'd avoided going crazy by overspending and hadn't felt so lustful over all the "things" I wished I could buy but didn't truly need. And I had even scored a couple of "perfect! This is exactly what I'm looking for!" purchases (the perfect shade of blue for the throw pillows and a fantastic piece of art for our guest bathroom).

I ruefully reflected that you know you're old when you embark on a big shopping spree, coming out with bags from every store, and not one bag holds a single article of clothing for yourself--it's all "home decor." Anyway, I was excited to have "show and tell" for Steve with all of my great buys (even though I knew he wouldn't be nearly as excited as I was). But my mood fell when we started putting the new things in place. The bright, fun towels I thought would look great in the bathroom didn't match the shower curtain; the wonderful curtains for the bedroom didn't look so wonderful with the bedspread...

Earlier today I'd been thinking, "Hey, I can do this domestic thing!" Now as I look at the new decorations in our apartment, I feel defeated and disappointed by the things that looked so much better in the store than in our home. I feel reminded of one more domestic thing I'm no good at. This whole Suzy Homemaker thing is such a struggle for me sometimes. Words are my craft; language is my passion and my talent. Decorating and sewing and cooking (though I'm getting better at the cooking thing) are not. Who was I kidding?

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Just Keep Swimming, Swimming, Swimming...

I'm in the mood to blog this morning, but there's nothing really profound or interesting on my mind. My days are generally filled with the same things I've already written about: seeking to be diligent and faithful in the little things; pleading for grace and for help when I fail (which is often); drawing near to God on a personal, one-on-one level and asking Him to give me a greater vision and His heart; looking for jobs and praying He'll open doors according to where He wants me; dealing with the sometimes un-fun but always necessary process of having my heart and my character refined, especially as He burns the pride and the selfishness out. And, lest I forget, enjoying my husband (may I never take being married and living with him for granted, after two and a half years of the long distance relationship thing).

In short, I just keep swimming. Just keep broadening and deepening my understanding of God and myself and faith and marriage, and keep trying to broaden and deepen my patience and my trust when God and His ways are beyond my three-pound brain's capacity to comprehend.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Weird Dreams

Last night was the fourth time in the last several weeks that I dreamed about a girl I went to high school with. I haven't even talked to her in over a year...but she keeps popping up in my dreams, how bizarre is that? And every time, we end up screaming at each other for some stupid reason. It's very random and very strange!

Nikki, do you still read my blog? Drop me a line and let me know how life is! :)

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Hotel Rwanda

This is one of the --if not THE--most moving films I have ever seen. Period.

After watching Hotel Rwanda last night with Steve, I couldn't just shut off the TV and resume normal life. I felt I needed to process through what I had just seen--yet I was also speechless. It's based on a true story from the civil war in Rwanda in 1994. One of the best words I can use is "troubling"--my brow was furrowed until it made my forehead hurt for most of the movie. I kept shaking my head in disbelief, unable to comprehend the fact that something like this actually happened.

One of the most poignant lines in the entire film is spoken by a photojournalist who is working in Rwanda at the very beginning of the conflict (before all the Westerners are evacuated). After the journalist captures footage of slaughtered innocents, the film's main character, Paul Rusesabagina, urges him to let the world see the video, believing that they will have to intervene if they see it. The journalist responds: "When they see it, they will say, 'My God, that's horrible!' and then go on eating their dinners."

Wow. It's so true. If it's not happening to us, we shake our heads with pity and go on with our lives. It's absolutely heartbreaking to see how the rest of the world turned its back on though we just didn't care. Western officials danced around the word "genocide," somehow denying or ignoring the fact that 8,000 Tutsi were being murdered every day--a rate far higher than the Holocaust of World War II. I suppose when you look more deeply, there are no easy answers...but I am ashamed of how we (not only the U.S., but also the entire United Nations) abandoned Rwanda nonetheless.

I could write about Hotel Rwanda all day, and yet I feel like I don't even know what else to say. Just that this was one of the most gut-wrenching and moving films I have seen in a long, long time. You really should watch this movie. It's not a good choice for a lighthearted "date night" or a time when you just want to watch a good escape-from-reality film. But it's an important movie, one that makes you think and makes you grieve. Just watching the trailer a minute ago (see it here) nearly brought tears to my eyes.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Burritos, Bookstores and a Blended Creme

What more could I ask for than a date in a big city with my husband involving three of my favorite things? Steve and I headed downtown again last night, this time because HE was craving Qdoba...yesss....I have converted the Chipotle man :) He emailed me from work and said he needed a burrito-as-big-as-your-head, so I was happy to help meet his needs. I tried a burrito this time (I always get a steak taco and some chips n queso) and it was soooo good...I only ate half because they are so huge...and this morning I discovered that I left the other half of my burrito on the counter instead of putting it in the fridge. Are you even kidding me. It was a sad, sad thing to throw that pound of chicken queso burrito in the trash. Oh argh. I'm still mad about it.

So then we spent the evening at Borders. We had $50 to spend in gift cards, so we each grabbed a stack of books (ok, he grabbed two. I had at least five) and did some reading to decide what we wanted to buy. I wanted to buy all of them! Argh! But buying books for full-price in a bookstore is not something I generally like to do if I can get them a) with a gift certificate, b) on sale, or c) online from amazon or So I restrained myself to just one. Our coffee table looks ridiculous right now as it is...we probably have close to a dozen books sitting in piles because either Steve or I am in the middle of them.

And we capped off the evening with Starbucks. So overpriced but a fun treat now and then. I love a good strawberries and creme blended creme.

The strange thing about our evening was seeing all the Vanderbilt students--Qdoba and Borders are right next to campus, so we saw tons of college students all night long. And a few of them looked so young! I am used to thinking of college students as old, but now that I realize we are probably older than any of them...and that kids I used to babysit are college freshmen this I feel old. It's just a strange thought.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Hurricane Victims Praise Bush

I watched the President's speech last night, but unfortunately not on ABC, so I missed this. ABC sent reporter Dean Reynolds out to interview evacuees at the Astrodome and get their reactions to the speech...despite his probing for negative feelings (he was asking some very blatantly leading questions), ABC didn't get the anti-President reaction they seemed to be hoping for. Here's an excerpt (you can read the transcript/see the video here):
Reynolds: "Did you harbor any anger toward the President because of the slow federal response?"
London: "No, none whatsoever, because I feel like our city and our state government should have been there before the federal government was called in. They should have been on their jobs."
Reynolds: "And they weren't?"
London: "No, no, no, no. Lord, they wasn't. I mean, they had RTA buses, Greyhound buses, school buses, that was just sitting there going under water when they could have been evacuating people."

Oops...bummer, ABC.

What Exactly Do You *Do* All Day?

I've gotten this question quite a few times over the last few weeks--pretty much anytime someone (whether it's friends back home, or people at our Bible study) finds out I don't have a job. I'll admit, I would be asking too if I were you. It's easy to imagine that a stay-at-home mom has plenty to keep her hands full all day long...but how exactly does a stay-at-home wife fill up the hours of her day?

Part of the beauty, or the struggle (depending on how you look at it) is that no two days are the same. I make my own schedule; my day is structured around whatever I want to get done. There are a few things always on my plate: a freelance project I'm working on for Kingdom Building Ministries; time to search for a job; cooking/cleaning/laundry/etc.; and believe it or not, I'm still working on unpacking and organizing our apartment (though that's very close to being done--it's more like reorganizing what's already filling our closets).

To be honest and vulnerable, one of the biggest struggles is wasting time. As a general rule, I tend to thrive off schedule, routine and deadlines--of which I have none. Unfortunately, as I've discovered the hard way, it's a crappy feeling to get to the end of the day and realize you didn't accomplish much of anything--and it's far too easy to do. So one of the things I'm working on is asking God to help me be a better steward of the hours He gives me, to order my steps each day and align my priorities with His. I need His help to be discplined and motivated and to not waste time.

Two of the biggest perks are time with Him and time to read. I can devour books for personal enrichment/pleasure at a rate unlike I've ever had time for in the past. And, I don't have to try and cram fifteen minutes with God into my morning routine (along with eating, getting ready and working out) before work. I can curl up on the couch with my journal and Bible and stay there for two hours if the mood strikes me (which it often does).

Please understand, I say that not to make you think that I'm a super-spiritual wonder Christian. Rather, it's a testimony to God's grace that after the rough nine months I had last year, He has given me a renewed hunger for His Word and thirst for His presence that I hadn't had in a long time. So I explain my quiet times not to boast, because ultimately God isn't comparing my quiet time to yours, and He's not sitting with a stopwatch and a log book, tracking how many minutes we each give Him. (See my previous post "Along the Way" for more thoughts on that.) We can each cultivate intimacy with the Lord in many ways, just one of which being the way I'm doing it now. I'm merely choosing to look for the blessings in my current season of life instead of spend the time complaining and feeling miserable. *end disclaimer*

That said, I know some of you are still wondering how it is I fill up the time. Here's one sample:

5:45-6:00 get up and eat breakfast with Steve
6:00-6:45 checking email, surfing blogs, reading the news
6:45-7:30 work out (yoga on this particular day)
7:30-8:15 shower, etc.
8:15-10:30 prayer, reading, study
10:30-12:15 errands (grocery shopping, post office, library, dry cleaners--pretty mundane)
12:15-12:30 at the computer again
12:30-1:15 lunch (+ more reading while I eat)
1:15-2:30 working on the freelance project for KBM
2:30-4:15 job search: researching companies, looking for other places to apply
4:15-4:30 random internet surfing (reading one article sends me to another and I get sucked in)
4:30-5:00 making dinner
...and the rest of my evening is spent with my dear husband, who has arrived home from work.

So there you have it--a very exciting look at what exactly it is that I do all day. Perhaps in that context, my posts about being faithful in the small things and feeling insignificant have a little more meaning.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

God Hallows the Ordinary

On the false division between "natural" and "spiritual," "sacred" and "secular":

Abraham expressed his faith by packing his bags and moving. David administered a kingdom. Jesus pounded nails on a carpenter's bench. Paul made friends, sewed tents, planned journeys, and raised funds for the poor in Jerusalem. Through such ordinary deeds the kingdom of God advanced. What they did mattered less than why and for whom. In creation, in incarnation, in all acts on earth, God hallows the ordinary.

--Philip Yancey, Rumors of Another World

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Faithful in the Small Things

Yesterday I was responding to an email from a dear friend, and despite reading it two or three times, I didn't quite realize the implication of her words until a few hours later, as I was praying. She talked of her impatience with her senior year of college, dreading the tasks of academia that stand between her and her longing to go out into the world, and she said (I hope she doesn't mind if I quote her):

"I am also praying that the Lord gives me the patience to deal with the acedemic stuff. I really have no desire to do busy work, I just want to get out there. I know that I must be faithful in the small things so that God will trust me with bigger things later. God is so good!"

She didn't say anything revolutionary; I've read Jesus' words in the parable of the talents in Matthew before:

"His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'" (Matthew 25:23)

But yesterday it struck me how applicable that was to my current situation. I don't have a job right now; truth be told, I don't have a lot of responsibilities at all, aside from cooking, keeping the apartment clean, etc. And more than once in the last few weeks, I have voiced to friends that my life feels "small." I don't feel like what I do matters to anyone (but Steve), or that I'm really making a difference in others' lives. I've longed for something more. It's not that I want to be famous or renowned or important (though most of us wouldn't mind those things), but just that I want to feel like my life matters.

My friend's words were a gentle rebuke to me yesterday, though she didn't even realize it as she wrote them. How can I expect God to give me bigger and better things to do if I'm not even showing Him that I can be trusted with the little ones? If I'm not being faithful in the small and seemingly insignificant tasks that are set before me each day, how can I expect that I'll be faithful when something monumental comes along?

Lord, give me the grace to be joyful and diligent in the small things You give me to do: that I would learn all You have for me to learn during this season and that I would do all things, no matter how mundane, for Your glory, faithful to Your calling on my life.

Fried Okra

Steve took me out for dinner last night--no special occasion, just a fun and unexpected date night. There's this restaurant here in town called The Catfish House that looks nice from the outside and had been recommended to us, so we decided to check it out.

When we sat down, I noticed that three of the tables around us had little bowls filled with something small and fried. We had no idea what it was or whether we were going to get any, but sure enough, the waitress comes back and sets the bowl down in front of us: "Here's your fried okra."

I always wondered what okra was or what it tasted like. Steve and I raised our eyebrows at each other and each grabbed one to taste. We both chewed and promptly said, "Hmm." And grabbed another. The verdict? It was okay, but nothing to rave about. I think it would have benefitted from a dipping sauce. And I will certainly never understand how Southerners can consume okra like crazy but turn their noses up at rhubarb.

picture from Texas Cooking Online, Inc.

John Roberts Confirmation Hearing

This cracks me up. Our illustrious Senate spent the entire first day of the hearings blowing hot air. TWENTY-ONE senators felt the need to give opening statements. That's ten minutes each for a grand total of three and a half hours of Senators who like the sound of their own voices. Poor Roberts. Can you imagine sitting through that? At least his opening comment was modest and eloquent and seemed to make a good impression on everyone. And at least all the senators were talking about the need to eliminate judicial activism. Though I wonder how the current Supreme Court justices felt about all the not-so-subtle digs on their endless breaches of their limitations as judges?

Friday, September 09, 2005

Hatred for the Bible

Wow. I'm searching for words right now, but so far all I've got is wow.

In surfing the Thomas Nelson website (the publisher in Nashville that I'd most like to work for at this point), I came across the blog of the CEO, Michael Hyatt. And then I stumbled upon some controversy.

Apparently last week, after the Hurricane Katrina disaster, Hyatt assembled a team of employees to figure out what Thomas Nelson could do to help. They decided to match employee contributions up to $50,000 in cash donations to Samaritan's Purse. They also decided, since they are one of the world's largest publishers of the Bible, to send 100,000 copies of the Bible to be distributed along with food, water, etc, to victims who wanted them.

Sounds simple enough, right? Except Hyatt got BLASTED on his blog for this. I sat here in disbelief and amazement reading dozens of comments from people who were just appalled and disgusted at such a gift. They couldn't believe Thomas Nelson would do such a ridiculous thing like send Bibles to people who had just lost everything and might want some comfort and hope. (And these outraged protesters also seemed to keep missing the point that TN didn't just send Bibles--they also sent money for food and supplies. It's not like they were being completely impractical and trying to save money. They gave money...AND they gave what they had, Bibles. To people in the BIBLE Belt who might welcome such a gift.)

As far as arguing otherwise, I can't do it any better than other commenters on the site who defended Hyatt and the actions of his company. Check it out--it's interesting reading. I'm still just completely flabbergasted by all the angry, venom-spewing people who thought this was such a horrible thing for Thomas Nelson to do. Wow.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Letters from Old People

Please understand, I don't mean that title disrespectfully. I'm blogging to say that there is nothing like real mail from elderly relatives. Sometimes they just write about the most random things and it cracks me up. It really is like stream-of-consciousness writing a lot of times. Today I got a letter from my 93-year-old great aunt, who wanted to thank me for the wedding newsletter we sent with our thank you note to her. It was addressed to "Mr. and Mrs. Amy Kammel," which made me chuckle before I even opened the envelope. She uses a typewriter, so there are funny little typos everywhere and she sometimes randomly switches to all caps in the midDLE OF A WORD AND THEN suddenly changes back, also very funny.

This is the line that made me smile the most: "I put off answering you until I got my hearing aid, to tell you about it." Also this line was funny: "Your Aunt Pat says your wedding is on the internet, I don't have a computer, so I can't see it, but that is neat." You know, the internet must boggle her mind, I would think. Sometimes it boggles mine and I've all but grown up with it. But the mental picture of her sitting at a computer surfing the web, looking at my wedding pictures online, is an interesting one :)

It is so fun to get real mail of any kind, but letters from old people make me smile an awful lot. She is so sweet!

Laughing Out Loud... this. Nice.

A Match Made in Heaven...or in the Atlantic Ocean?

A few weeks ago, I was a part of the wedding of my dear friend Maria. Not long after that, her dad let us all know about a crazy coincidence, if you want to call it that: the list of tropical storm names for 2005. Weather experts name these storms YEARS in advance (every other storm alternates between male and female names, beginning with an "A" female name one year and an "A" male name the next year, for those who don't know). And actually, I just learned that the same list cycles every six years (with the exception of especially damaging hurricanes whose names are retired).

Ironically, this year, the year that Maria married Nate, we've had a pretty active hurricane season, so we're through a good deal of the alphabet. And guess what's been brewing out in the Atlantic?

Hurricane Maria and Hurricane Nate. It just makes me smile :)

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Meeting the Neighbors

When Steve and I moved into our apartment complex, we received a list of all our neighbors (there are eight apartments in our building). We have it posted on our fridge, but it doesn't do us much good because we obviously don't have it with us when we pass people on the way in or out of the apartment. We met one lady when we first moved in, but none of the others have introduced themselves to us. So although they are friendly and say hello when we see them, we have no idea who they are.

So when a new couple moved into the apartment across from us, we decided to take the opportunity to be friendly and introduce ourselves. Last night we went over and took some of the chocolate chip cookies we made, and we met Lenore and Robert. They were very sweet, and we just stood around and made small talk for a few minutes. Pretty painless. The funny thing was when we were leaving, Lenore said, "I can't wait to tell the girls at work that my neighbors brought us cookies! I thought that only happened on TV! I didn't know people did that in real life!" :) That made me laugh.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Labor Day

What more could I ask for on Labor Day than a sunny day spent exploring a big city and eating Qdoba Mexican Grill in a beautiful park with my wonderful husband? Ahh...wish I had some pictures. I loved satisfying my Qdoba craving (have been deprived since April) with a yummy steak taco and those fantastic chips and queso. We discovered Centennial Park downtown, which I quickly determined would be a favorite spot for me if I were a Vanderbilt student (campus is just down the street). Who knew that Music City was the home of the world's only full-scale replica of the Parthenon in Athens? And we capped off the day walking the streets of Nashville with ice cream cones in hand. It was the perfect end to a long and relaxing weekend.

Later in the evening (after a much-needed nap), Steve and I gave our new mixer a test-run with some chocolate chip cookies. I love KitchenAid! And, I am ecstatic to say that the cookies turned out GREAT...the last time my mother-in-law made them, I watched her and wrote everything down exactly...and ours tasted just like hers! Yay!

However, my dear husband has much to learn about baking with me. Can you believe this: he actually put the bowl and spoon in the sink and filled them with water without licking them or giving me a chance to do so. What was he thinking?!?!

Saturday, September 03, 2005

County Fair

Growing up in Williams County, Ohio, early September meant only one thing: the county fair. All the students in our county even got the first Monday of the fair off of school. Several fun days would be spent at the fairgrounds collecting freebies from the merchant booths, riding the Scrambler and the Tilt-a-Whirl, checking out my friends' 4-H exhibits, and of course--eating yummy, oh-so-healthy fair food. Mmm. When I was in high school, fair week was even better: the fair was only a block from MHS, so we could walk there every day for lunch! My personal favorite: a sausage patty sandwich from the pork producers, washed down with a milkshake from the dairy producers, and if I still had room, capped off with a maple or chocolate donut from the Athena booth. I suppose if you didn't grow up in the sticks like I did, you can't relate...but trust me, my mouth is watering and my stomach is growling just thinking about it.

So when we found out that the county fair where we live was this week, Steve and I decided we had to check it out. What a complete(ly expensive) disappointment. First we had to pay $6 to get in the front gate. I really don't think the fair back home was that expensive. And this fair was pathetic. No local food booths at all; just the overpriced carny stuff. At the Williams County fair, you can get a sandwich and a shake for $3 and feel stuffed. Here we saw one carnival stand that had milkshakes for $4.50! And they probably weren't nearly as good.

By the time we walked around this crappy fairground once (which took all of five minutes), we would have been satisfied with just one of the three foods we craved (sausage sandwiches, milkshakes and donuts are Steve's fair favorites as well). But there were no pork producers. No dairy producers. Not even a single donut. It was a sad day here in Tennessee.

P.S. If you are one of the lucky ones back home who will be going to the Williams County Fair next week, eat some fair food for me--at least a donut. And look for us at the Visions Photography booth--Lori's putting a big print of one of our wedding shots in her display!

Friday, September 02, 2005

A Response to "The Opposite of Love"

After a random guy commented on my post below, "The Opposite of Love" (doesn't it make you wonder how in the world people stumble across your blog?), it started a thread of comments. Rather than continue that thread below, I'll respond here.

If I understand right, this guy is saying that my explanation of God's wrath really being a different manifestation of His love is like a battered wife defending her husband for beating her "because really he loves her."

I guess I have actually heard some pretty skewed stories about domestic violence; emotionally shattered women falsely believing that they deserve abuse, that their partner "can't help it," that they have "asked for it," that "really, he truly does love me." I shake my head sadly at such defenses and rationalizations for domestic violence.

The differences when we're talking about God and His people, rather than an abuser and his spouse (forgive the gender-bias; it's for simplicity's sake) are many. Here are a few:

*Character: God is not an abuser, a fallen, sinful man; He is infinitely good. "You are good, and what you do is good" (Psalm 119:68). He is incapable of evil--and I think we would all agree that for a man to abuse his girlfriend/wife is evil.

*Relationship: While two people involved in a relationship marked by domestic violence are equals--both human beings--God and His children are most assuredly NOT equals. He created us; He is our supreme authority. Not our equal. He has every right to discipline us when we are wayward children. In fact, His punishment of the Israelites can be better compared to a father disciplining his children than to a man abusing his wife. Abuse is senseless; discipline, on the other hand, may seem awful to the recipient but is necessary for growth and character development.

"Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it" (Hebrews 12:7-11).
This brings me to my next point...

*Motive: I'm no expert, but it seems to me that the motive of abuse is to exercise power and control. It has nothing to do with love. It involves belittling another human being to make yourself feel bigger, to compensate for your own inadequacy. In contrast, when God inflicts His wrath on mankind, His motive is ultimately love. Yes, we need to understand that He has ultimate power and authority, that He is ultimately in control, that He is bigger than us. All this is TRUTH--and we would be in dire straits if He wasn't bigger than us.

The key, though, is that this isn't the last word on God's character. He displays those qualities from a heart of love. Anyone who doubts this should examine the life of Jesus. A God who does not truly love His people does not send His only Son to die so that He might spend eternity with them. He does not go to such great lengths to redeem them. "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).

When the Israelites experienced God's wrath, there was a higher purpose in play. God didn't allow them to suffer and be defeated for no reason. He allowed it so that their hearts would be turned to repentance--so that they would realize the folly of their ways and seek Him. So that they could return to a love relationship with Him. He knew that only when they were thwarted in their attempts to seek affection and fulfillment and validation in other places would they come back to Him, their only true source of love and fulfillment and identity.

I hope all that rambling makes at least an iota of sense. Maybe another of my readers can respond to this more articulately?

Baffled, Disgusted, Amazed and Saddened

It seems everybody and their mother are blogging about Hurricane Katrina's aftermath. Guess I'll join the bandwagon. (Nothing like terrible grammar and cliches to open a blog entry. What was that I said about being an impostor as a writer?) I have a few random thoughts about the whole situation.

*I can't help but be baffled by the arrogance of man. I don't mean to sound heartless, and I speak not of current New Orleans residents but of America collectively. Nothing like building a city below sea level and surrounded by three huge bodies of water...kind of reminds me of the "unsinkable" Titanic. What did we expect?

*I can't help but be disgusted at the depravity of man. Some looting is understandable--by that I mean, you've got these desperate people, and they need supplies: food, water, etc. One man I read about on CNN apparently felt embarrassed as he exited Rite Aid and defended his actions to the reporter, showing his surgery scar and explaining that he needed pads for incontinence. Does anyone fault him, or others who have taken bottles of water and snacks from convenience stores? Certainly not. But stealing appliances? Fat lot of good those are going to do you in a drowning city that won't have power for months. Do you think there will really be room in the helicopter, or on the buses that tens of thousands are clamoring to board, for your new TV set? And the depravity goes far beyond looting. Raping women, shooting at helicopters and military personnel who are trying to help...all I can do is shake my head in disbelief.

*I feel amazed and saddened by the suffering of man. Don't think I'm watching this whole disaster unfold with a critical, unfeeling heart. I feel compassion and grief for the victims of the hurricane and flooding. The devastation is too overwhelming for my brain to comprehend. I can't fathom what these people are going through--having loved ones ripped from their grasp, knowing that everything they had is now under(sewage-filled, toxic, disease-ridden)water, living in squalor surrounded by human waste and dead bodies, desperate for sustenance, wondering how you will ever recover or rebuild your life...I almost feel numb, not because I don't care, but because I can't wrap my understanding around such desperate conditions. Then I stop to ponder the idea that millions around the world live in these kinds of desperate conditions daily--for them, it's not the aftermath of a natural disaster, but rather the realities of everyday life. Again I shake my head in disbelief, unable to imagine.

As I continue to watch the Today show or for updates, I feel a sense of despair for the situation. Every time I check for updates, it seems things have further deteriorated and I wonder how anyone is ever going to get some semblance of control, let alone get the victims out of there and provide for their basic needs.

And what am I doing about it? What should I be doing about it?