Thursday, September 28, 2006

Published (Sort Of)

What's the next best thing to getting published? Being the editor for someone who gets published!

I keep forgetting to tell you about a beautiful writer I know. Christin Taylor got an essay accepted by Relevant Magazine a few weeks ago--which matters to me because I had the privilege of helping her shape and tweak this piece before submitting it. Go check it out!

Zambia: A Country in Pain

Did You Know? ...

~Zambia has the highest rate of poverty in Africa

~With the population of 10 million, 80% live on less than $1.00 a day

~Almost half of Zambia's children are so malnourished that their growth has been stunted

~50% of girls are NOT in school

~75% of young people will never get beyond the seventh grade

~One in five Zambians is infected with HIV and will likely die

~The majority of those who die as a result of HIV/AIDS leave behind children who are also infected

~Average life expectancy has dropped to just 33 years

~Over 1.2 million children are orphans; that is 23% of all Zambia's children, which makes Zambia the nation with the highest number of orphans (Source: childreneverywhere.org)

~In rural Zambia, very few girls start school before the age of ten. By age 15, they are considered adults, which means they assume the responsibilities of marriage, child-rearing, and tending to crops (Source: Zambian Tourism Board)

These are the heartbreaking facts we learned at GEMS last night. But God has opened doors for GEMS to bring change and hope to young girls in the beautiful but hurting country of Zambia. The organization is now working to construct a home for orphans, train counselors to mentor young girls, and provide tuition assistance so girls can attend school.

Our girls are being encouraged through their monthly magazine to take action. September's action plan involves two simple but important steps: First, we prayed for the girls in Zambia. We may not be able to do much--but God can do great things in Zambia. And second, we committed to telling at least one person about what is happening in Zambia. I'm only one person--but if I shrug this off and expect someone else to help, nothing will change. If every girl in GEMS (15,000 nationally) tells one other person, we have 30,000 voices praying for Africa--and we have just increased awareness about a dire situation.

I'm not sure where else this campaign will take us, but I'm excited to think more globally as a Christian and help the girls to have compassion and reach out to people in need. I told the girls I'd write about Zambia on my website (I'm not sure they know what a blog is :) ...so now YOU know. Won't you stop right now and at least one time, bring the girls of Zambia before our sovereign and powerful God's throne? Pray that they'll have the opportunity to meet the Savior. Pray that their physical needs will be met. Pray that they'll connect with an adult who can help them and love them.

More information on GEMS in Africa can be found here.

(Information taken from SHINE brightly magazine, a publication of GEMS Girls Clubs)

Thankful Thursday, Take 3

This week, I'm thanking God for...

  • my precious GEMS girls! I am loving the time spent with them each Wednesday night!
  • a husband who complements me in so many ways. I am amazed at how our two brains/hearts together are better than either individually. He helps me think more clearly about things and arrive at conclusions I never would have reached on my own!
  • our new dog and his calm, gentle personality (he is a beagle--but he doesn't bark. ever. when we go for walks and pass obnoxious, fenced-in dogs, he ambles by completely ignoring them as they go crazy. I love it.)
  • hot showers
  • the beauty of color and the ability to see it
  • Steve's ability to fix the static on our phone line so we didn't have to pay over $100 to have someone from BellSouth come and do it
  • the memory God has given me which makes it easier for me to hide His Word in my heart
  • Derek Webb's new CD, available for download FREE (more blogging on that to come)
  • the fact that my Heavenly Father's faithful love ENDURES FOREVER. He says that 41 times in the Bible--do you think He wants us to get it? Praise Him for such a wonderful promise!

How about you? What are you thankful for?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Big Mike

This is so much more than just a feel-good sports story. It's a powerfully compelling tale of a hopeless life turned around. The NY Times profile of Michael Oher* will grab your heart and also probably make you laugh out loud. It's long, but a fabulous, worthwhile read.

*If you don't feel like registering on the NY Times site, just hit up bugmenot.com for a username and password to use!

(HT: Between Two Worlds)

A Sign, A Lie

I will admit, there was a day when I thought church signs were clever. It was a long time ago.

Mostly I find them obnoxious and even embarrassing. What I want to know is, what's going through the mind of the person who sticks those little letters up every week? Do they honestly believe that some non-Christian is going to drive by and see the marquee proclaiming, "Our Sundays Are Better Than Dairy Queen!" and think, "Wow--what a cool church! I should visit there this weekend!"?????? The lame-ness of these signs is sometimes stupefying. One down the road from our house currently reads, "The Best Vitamin For a Christian: B1." How brilliantly profound.

But today I saw a church sign that didn't make me roll my eyes or shake my head in bafflement. It made me angry and sad:

"A lot of time kneeling puts you in good standing."

Did anyone give any amount of thought to what that sign is proclaiming? Worse, do they really believe that a certain number of hours spent in prayer will improve your standing before God? Do they truly think He ranks you on a checklist and His approval of you rises and falls based on the minutes you clocked or didn't clock in prayer today?

So many Christians believe the lie that although we couldn't earn our salvation, we can earn our day-to-day standing before God once we're saved. Their hope of being accepted by God or receiving His favor rests on their performance. What a false and pathetic hope! This is a lie I believed for far too long. My performance will never be good enough! I can't earn God's favor any more today than I could on the day He set me free from sin. And the good news is, I don't have to. Jesus' perfectly obedient life and substitutionary death bought that favor and acceptance for me completely. Nothing I do can add to what He accomplished--to suggest otherwise is a slap in His face as He hangs on the cross.

A favorite quote of mine bears repeating here:
“There is nothing in us or done by us, at any stage of our earthly development, because of which we are acceptable to God. We must always be accepted for Christ’s sake, or we cannot be accepted at all. This is not true of only when we believe. It is just as true after we have believed. It will continue to be true as long as we live…It is always on His ‘blood and righteousness’ alone that we can rest.” --B.B. Warfield

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Meet Our New Addition!

How could we resist that face?

The fact is, we couldn't! So this morning, we went and adopted Hank (a beagle/hound mix) from a local shelter. He's somewhere around 6-8 years old, and his owner surrendered him last spring when our area got hit really badly by tornadoes. I think maybe his home was destroyed/damaged enough that the owner couldn't keep him. So he's been at the shelter for several months, because most people would rather adopt a puppy than an older dog.

Everyone at the shelter has kept raving about what a wonderful dog he is--very calm and gentle. We haven't seen much of his personality yet because he's being shy and tentative--but we understand that it will take a while for him to realize that this is his home and we can be trusted. I can only imagine what he's been through and how uncertain/scared he might feel! As I type, he's finally napping in his crate--and we're hoping the storms that are headed our way won't end up to be too severe, because he's afraid of storms. Understandable, given that a storm caused him to lose his home.

I'll try to post more pictures soon (the one above is the one that the shelter posted on Petfinder--which is how we found him). He's really a beautiful dog--and we couldn't believe what a difference a bath made. He got all cleaned up before coming home with us today and looked a thousand percent better than when we first met him! I'm so excited to finally have a dog.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Why Isn't the Cross at the Heart of our Music?

Bob Kauflin writes today about why the cross has moved away from, but must be brought back to, the center of our worship music. He includes a top ten list that's worth pondering--go check it out. Then, if you're hungry for rich, cross-centered music that exalts the gospel as the main thing, consider buying two of my favorite CDs:

Songs for the Cross Centered Life
Worship God Live

Praise God for Fleas?

When we make these "Thankful Thursday" lists, often the first things that come to mind are circumstances-related. We're thankful for relationships, material blessings, little luxuries, etc. But Scripture calls us to "give thanks in ALL circumstances" (1 Thessalonians 5:18, emphasis added). How can we cultivate attitudes of gratitude when our circumstances stink--when we're lonely or our relationships are on the rocks? When our luxuries are stripped away? When we're so poor we don't even have the things we would consider "needs" and not "luxuries"?

This week at GEMS, that's what we talked about. We read a story about Corrie ten Boom with the above title: "Praise God for Fleas?" It's an inspiring example of thankfulness in awful circumstances.

Corrie and her sister, Betsie, were taken to a concentration camp in Europe because their family was caught hiding and helping Dutch Jews during WWII. The conditions at the camp were, of course, appalling. They shared a straw bed with nine other women; the work was backbreaking; the guards abused the prisoners. To add insult to injury, their sleeping quarters were plagued by fleas. Who wouldn't complain in that situation? How could they possibly give thanks?

During their imprisonment, Corrie and Betsie read a hidden Bible and were able to share with other women about Jesus. If they had been discovered with a Bible, it surely would have been confiscated and they would have been tortured; the guards treated the women horribly to begin with. Yet the guards stayed away from their barracks. Why? They were repelled by the fleas.

When she learned this, Corrie was able to say honestly, "Praise God for the fleas."

What about us? Will we choose to see what we can be thankful for in the midst of dire circumstances? We have the same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead, living IN us (Romans 8:11). We face NO condemnation because we are united with Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). We serve the God who is sovereign and good and wise, who will never leave us or forsake us, who does not change. And He not only does He promise to use all things for our good--He promises that as bad as these circumstances are, they are NOT EVEN WORTH COMPARING with the glory that awaits us in heaven (Romans 8:18,28).

Though our circumstances may seem devastating, can we--will we--trust God enough to praise Him and thank Him in between scratching flea bites?

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Labor Day Vacation (Continued)

*note: I have tried and tried to break up this long post with fun pictures...but Blogger is stupid. If I wait to post this until I can post pictures, it may be 2008, so here it is with boring text-only. You can check out all the pics from the trip on my Flickr account.

Finally, two weeks later, I'm posting about the second half of our trip. Lack of posting in no way indicates the quality of the trip--we had such a blast! After we left New York, we drove down to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, to spend some time with friends of mine from college--Maria and Nate Lail. We hadn't seen them since their wedding last July--so it was wonderful to catch up! As an added bonus, we also got to see IWU chorale pal Josh Morton (who hasn't blogged for months, but may be making a comeback). Nate and Maria gave us a tour of the KOA Nate manages (you should go visit them--it's a beautiful area) and then took us into Washington, D.C., on Tuesday after Labor Day.

We spent a good part of the afternoon at the National Cathedral. I remembered it being one of my favorite things when my family visited DC in the early 1990s, and none of the others had ever been. I found out online about their "behind the scenes" tour, and we sprung for tickets--we were so glad we did! This older gentleman named Alan, who was quite a character, had a set of keys that got us into all the "off-limits" places--so we got to see all sorts of things that the general public doesn't get to see. We were dumbfounded at the conference rooms on upper stories--felt like you were in a hotel or something, not in a cathedral! We also got to walk around in the "attic" of sorts and venture out onto the gutter for up-close views of the tower and gargoyles. Then we walked across the balcony right under the big rose window--a great view of the inside of the cathedral--and got closer looks at the stained glass windows. Just beautiful.

By the time we finished there, the museums weren't open much longer, so we buzzed through the Air and Space museum quick, then headed to (where else?) Qdoba for dinner. Actually that was Nate and Maria's idea, not ours! They are friends after our own heart :) In between waaaay too many bites of burrito, we squeezed in great conversation about marriage and life.

After dinner we headed to the National Mall--I wanted to see the World War II memorial and it was also neat to see the other memorials at night. (Nate tried to set the timer on his camera to snap a photo of all four of us at the Tidal Basin but it didn't turn out so well.)

It was a long, full day of seeing my second-favorite city (I've only been to DC a couple of times, but I would love to explore it more--I just love cities) and spending QT with good friends. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Nate better (we were in chorale together, but he was more "Maria's boyfriend" than "my friend")--and Maria is one of my dearest friends, so time with her is always a blessing. A perfect way to break up the long drive back from New York. We left wishing the Lails didn't live so very far away!

The Wonders of YouTube

On days like today, I am astounded by the wonders of YouTube. You won't believe what I just ran across...

Step by Step

Admit it, you had the tapes. You had the lunch box. You had the poster of Jordan or Danny or Joe or Donnie or Jonathan (my personal favorite) on your bedroom wall (ok, how sad is it that I just effortlessly rattled off all those names?). So go watch the video and laugh your head off at a blast from the past.

The clothes. The hair. The dance moves. I am dumbfounded.

Wow. Just wow.

Thankful Thursday, Take 2

On this Thankful Thursday, I'm praising God for...
  • the coffeehouse just a few blocks from our house. I can't believe I've lived here for over a year and I just now discovered this place!
  • a husband who is patient and gentle even when he doesn't understand why I am in a funk
  • the Hummel family's newest additions--and the fact that I am in touch with these old IWU chorale friends again thanks to blogs
  • sweater-and-flip-flops weather
  • getting our new basement door for 40% of the retail price--which will make up for the latest Lowe's drama and the extreme delay in getting it (and almost makes up for the fact that our house smells like old, musty basement because there's been no door for a month and a half, and won't be one for another few weeks)
  • heat and air conditioning
  • a full refrigerator
  • great sermons available for free online
  • cute kids at church who have warmed up to me
  • anticipating a fun ladies' get-together at a friend's house tomorrow night

What are you thankful for?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Miscellaneous In My Head

A month and a half after we moved, I finally sent out an email with our new address. If you didn't get it, but want it/need it, shoot me an email and I'll fill you in.

I hate the feeling of getting back into working out after you haven't worked out for months. All my muscles are sore today, and all I did was half an hour of yoga. Why do I ever stop working out in the first place? I am trying to get motivated to go work out again today.

I guess I need to be diligent about checking online to see what our cell phone usage is. I never think about it because normally our daytime minutes are far under what our plan includes. But today it crossed my mind and I discovered we've used over 100 minutes extra this month. Ouch. Not good. No idea how that happened.

We are looking for a dog right now--checking out local shelters. Have met two that we liked, but not sure what to do. I feel sort of the way I felt about finding a wedding dress: I tried on several that I liked a lot, but I didn't want to wear a dress I liked. I wanted to wear a dress that made me go, "YES! This is it--I feel beautiful, this is my wedding dress!" Not that I want to find a dog that makes me feel beautiful...but that I want to find a dog that makes me say, "This is our dog! I love this one!" rather than, "yeah, this dog is nice...I like him." Steve said, "How many dresses did you try on again?" I said, "at least fifty." He said, "Let's not visit fifty dogs." Agreed.

It is almost one o'clock and I am still in my pajamas. Not because I slept in (I was up at 6:30, thank you very much) but because I wasted a whole lot of time this morning --> haven't worked out yet --> don't want to shower until I work out. It has not been a good day.

My stomach is growling and I need to go eat some lunch.

Free Blog Redesign Contest

Want a new look for your blog? Bluebird Blogs is running a contest...two lucky people will get a custom-designed template for free! I'm all about free stuff :) Visit the link for details.

(Thanks to Faith for the heads-up on this.)

Monday, September 18, 2006

"Be Inspired by the Strongest Dad in the World"

I've said before that I'm all about feel-good sports stories. And the story of father-son team Dick and Rick Hoyt is by far one of the best:

This year, at ages 65 and 43, Dick and Rick finished their 24th Boston Marathon, in 5,083rd place out of more than 20,000 starters. Their best time? Two hours, 40 minutes in 1992--only 35 minutes off the world record, which, in case you don't keep track of these things, happens to be held by a guy who was not pushing another man in a wheelchair at the time.

Maria's got the full article (written by Rick Reilly for Sports Illustrated) at her place. Check it out, then watch the video here (and see if it doesn't make you cry).

Friday, September 15, 2006

The One Where I Brag On My Husband

(Disclaimer: If you are one of those people who wants to barf when I gush about Steve, don't read this post. But I figure, hey, it's my blog, and if you can't brag on your husband on your blog, where CAN you?)

Steve's boss called him into his office today. They wanted to promote him to Mechanical Engineer II (the second level--he's on the first level now). But upper management wouldn't allow it. Why? Because you have to have three years of experience to be promoted to Engineer II, and my brilliant husband has only been there 14 months! So they gave him a raise at least, since they couldn't do the promotion yet. I am SO proud of him!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Why Is It So Hard...

...for us to ask for help?

Earlier this week, I called a friend and made a request: Could I borrow her laptop for the day? It wasn't a desperate need, but was something I thought would be really nice to use on my retreat. I knew I would be seeing her at a meeting on Monday night, so it would be easy for me to get it. And I could drop it off at her house Tuesday afternoon so she could have it back when she needed it. She generously agreed, and when I returned the computer, she said something strange: When she had explained to her husband the favor she was granting me, he had said, "Wow, that was so nice of her to ask."

I was confused for a minute. Huh? As in, "nice of her to ask, instead of just taking it without asking?" That didn't make any sense. She elaborated: Mine was an unusual request, but one that was easy for her to meet. She and her husband were glad to be able to help someone else, but were surprised that someone actually asked them. It just doesn't happen often. They were glad I asked for their help instead of simply going without.

Last night, a woman at church was mentioning all the things she needed to get done soon and the fact that those things are impossible to do while caring for her energetic three-year-old--so she'd have to wait for a time when her husband could watch their child all day. Later I spoke with her and offered to watch her child while she got some things done.

She made a face. "I hate to always be asking you to do that." (Clarification: I have watched her child exactly three times in the twelve months that I have known her. One of those times was for about an hour, tops. And when I refused to let her pay me for that time, she turned around and bought me a small gift. Hardly "taking advantage of me.") I said in response, "I wouldn't offer if I didn't mean it. It really isn't a problem--I'd be glad to help." She hemmed and hawed and finally acted as though she might at least consider giving me a call.

These two incidents have left me wondering: Why is it so hard for us to ask other people for help? Why do we hesitate to speak up when others have something we need? Why do we second-guess people's genuine offers of assistance, apologizing and making excuses instead of smiling and accepting the help?

Any thoughts?

Thankful Thursday

Several Nashville bloggers have been doing "Thankful Thursday" for a while. In honor of GEMS last night, I'm jumping on the bandwagon. I have so much to be thankful for and I want to be constantly working to cultivate an attitude of gratitude for the grace God has shown me and His goodness in my life! So this week, here are a few things I'm thanking Him for...
  • My girls at GEMS. We're kicking back into gear now that fall is here--the theme this year is "Having a Thankful Heart." This has been one of my "life themes" over the last couple of years so I am pumped about pouring into the girls and teaching them to live lives of gratitude, hoping in future grace because of trust in what God has already done.
  • The luxury of ordering Papa John's pizza every once in a while
  • The discovery, thanks (or no thanks, maybe--knowing how good these are is dangerous) to my brother- and sister-in-law, of what my husband has dubbed "nasty sticks"--Papa John's garlic parmesan breadsticks that are so yummy they can't possibly be good for you.
  • Good health (in spite of eating nasty sticks :)
  • So many wonderful people in my life whom I can ask to pray for me, and know that they care
  • Falling gas prices
  • Women's Bible study this morning and a chance to fellowship with the ladies afterwards over lunch
  • Hugs
  • A soft bed
  • Books

How about you? What are you thankful for today?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Remembering Jesus?

I'm slow on the uptake with this one, but last week Mark Lauterbach did a stellar three-part series on communion--asking, what does it really mean to remember Jesus? He concludes that it looks a whole lot different from the somber, self-flagellating introspection that marks communion at most every church I've ever been a part of. As with most things he writes, I read it and go, "Duh! Of course! Why didn't I get this before--and why don't more people get this?"

Here's an excerpt of the third post:
...we begin with the cross to see our sin. The call to examine ourselves in 1 Corinthians 11 can be done by starting with the Savior bleeding on the cross-- suffering the forsakenness by God, being made sin for us, being made a curse for us, having all our sins laid upon him, being crushed by the Lord. From there I see my sin in the presence of God's grace and justice -- what sort of vile thing is sin that it requires this? What sort of love that he should die for me?

At the foot of the cross my sin is seen more clearly than at the foot of Mt Sinai, because at the foot of the cross we have the fullest revelation of the glory of God in history -- and it is in the presence of his glory that I see my sin most clearly. And the cross reveals the love and mercy of God in a way that melts my heart.

Do yourself a favor and go read the rest. I am pretty sure I, for one, won't be taking communion in the same way next time.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

A Simple Request

I'm out for the day on a personal retreat--and I'd love it if you'd partner with me in prayer. I plan to spend some time with the Lord evaluating/processing my life and doing some growth plan stuff. I know that this season of my life (pre-kids) is probably a short one (no, I'm not pregnant) and I have struggled over the past year with wasting so much of my time. I have the blessing of not having to work outside the home, but unfortunately I squander so many of the hours I could be using proactively and productively for the Kingdom and for my own personal growth. So, my hope is that today will be a sort of catalyst for being more intentional about how I spend my time and setting goals/getting organized for what I want to accomplish and how I can grow.

I'd love it if you'd take just a minute sometime today to pray that the Holy Spirit would speak clearly to me, that I would have clarity to see God's truth and beauty and my own sin and what He wants to teach me. Please pray that God will give me the grace to "make the best use of the time" (Colossians 4:5) He has given me, that He will show me how I can best glorify Him during this season of life.

Thanks. May God pour out His grace on you!

UPDATE 9/13: Thanks so much to those of you who prayed for me yesterday. I was so encouraged by your comments/emails! I had a good day and resolved that I'd like to do that once a month--because I can, and that's going to be a distant memory once we have kids; and because it was so refreshing to get out of the house and away from distractions and spend the day with God! I was a little over-ambitious about what I hoped to work through so I still have more evaluating to do and then tackling the planning process. You can pray that I wouldn't lose momentum after yesterday and that I would follow through with finishing this process! Much love to you all.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Paid to Blog II

I'll be posting about the second half of our trip, but not until at least Monday. I'm keeping busy this weekend with my second guest-blogging stint over at Nashville is Talking. It's harder than it looks. And I hate Movable Type.

For now, enjoy a glimpse of the trip over at Maria's blog. And come visit me at NiT if you feel like it!

Friday, September 08, 2006

100 Things

An exercise in narcissism. More than you ever wanted or needed to know about me.

  1. If the world operated according to my preferred hours, we'd all stay up until at least 2 or 3 a.m. and then sleep until about noon.
  2. I am an INFJ on the Meyers-Briggs indicator--all are slight/moderate tendencies except the J, which is extreme.
  3. I can be anal-retentive about fonts.
  4. I'm also obsessed with (and picky about) Hallmark cards and stationery in general.
  5. I don't like sending/receiving cards without a handwritten message. Don't you have any personal sentiments that a complete stranger couldn't express?
  6. I have a terrible habit of biting my cuticles that I can't seem to break--even though I sometimes give myself painful hangnails.
  7. Grammar mistakes, especially misused apostrophes, drive me crazy.
  8. My second grade teacher nicknamed me the "Human Dictionary" because I was always spotting her spelling mistakes. She'd ask me how to spell words when she was writing on the board.
  9. I fear that I was obnoxious as a child.
  10. I fear having a child who is obnoxious like I'm afraid I was.
  11. I was the self-appointed captain of a cheerleading squad at recess in elementary school, and I made all my friends participate.
  12. I was also determined to be the first woman president.
  13. Is it any wonder that when we did slam books at slumber parties, my friends labeled me "bossy"?
  14. Ironically, my early feminist tendencies have swung completely in the opposite direction--I would now definitely call myself a complementarian when it comes to gender roles.
  15. I hated nearly all vegetables when I was a kid.
  16. My parents made me eat as many green beans as I was years old. Drama queen that I was, I would plug my nose, shovel a bean into my mouth, and immediately take a big swallow of milk, wrinkling my face in disgust.
  17. I like them now (green beans, that is--well, and my parents, too :)
  18. I hated planning my wedding, but I'll admit that the amount of complaining I did about such a joyful event was shameful.
  19. I absolutely loved my wedding.
  20. I would change a lot of things about my reception, though.
  21. I had my first boyfriend in kindergarten.
  22. We were "together" until third grade, when he dumped me for my best friend.
  23. I was so crushed that I ripped up every picture of the two of them that I could find.
  24. He later dumped her for another girl, and my best friend and I got together and told him off. We made him cry at recess.
  25. I cut corners when walking around furniture, resulting in large bruises on my legs.
  26. My spatial intelligence is low compared to other types of intelligence.
  27. I'm a pretty good navigator in the car, yet I struggle to orient myself on "you are here" diagrams when walking.
  28. I like my handwriting a lot.
  29. I once had hair down to my waist.
  30. Strangely, it didn't seem long to me at all then.
  31. I cut 12 inches off in college and gave it to Locks of Love.
  32. I am fascinated by astronomy, anatomy, and photography.
  33. I dream of becoming a great amateur photographer.
  34. I would love to buy a nice camera (a Nikon D70 is the recommendation I hear everywhere) but I don't think I'll be able to spend that much money on a camera anytime soon.
  35. My birthday is March 18, if you're feeling generous :)
  36. I had a friend growing up who was also born March 18, and whose middle name was the same as mine (Nicole). Because of that and other similarities, we called each other "twin."
  37. We both had brown hair/eyes and were tall & thin, but otherwise looked NOTHING alike. She has always been absolutely beautiful. When we were young I wondered if she ever felt ashamed to be my "twin"--to be associated with looking like me.
  38. I volunteer at the local pregnancy care center.
  39. I have always been a bookworm, but I generally dislike many of the so-called "classics."
  40. I once hated cooking, but now I actually enjoy trying new recipes and preparing meals.
  41. My first memory of my husband (from second grade) is of him making fun of one of my friends and me tattling on him.
  42. I love thunderstorms and rollercoasters (though both scared me when I was younger).
  43. If I complete a task that wasn't on my to-do list, but should have been, I add it so I can have the satisfaction of crossing it off.
  44. I'm very detail-oriented--I can't tell a short version/explanation of anything.
  45. One of my earliest memories in life is a dream about a bubble-gum monster.
  46. I long to really know my neighbors, but I have no idea how to build relationships with strangers.
  47. I have memorized the lyrics to entire Broadway musical scores.
  48. I have an uncanny ability to remember facts, especially numbers (birthdays, phone numbers, addresses, credit cards).
  49. Case in point: when I was a sophomore in high school, I memorized Pi to the 30th or so decimal place for extra credit.
  50. I didn't need the extra credit. I was just a nerd like that.
  51. I also looked through encyclopedias for fun when I was little--I liked to read about foreign countries.
  52. It annoys me that when only one flavor of jelly is offered, it's always grape. Strawberry is surely much more universally enjoyed.
  53. My current favorite passage of Scripture is Romans 8.
  54. I used to sleep during class in high school on occasion.
  55. If I could go back in time, I'd treat my high school teachers with more respect.
  56. I'd also be more compassionate to the unpopular kids. I was trying too hard not to be one of them.
  57. I have participated in volleyball, basketball, softball, and track & field, but I only continued through high school in volleyball.
  58. I can hold up to seven volleyballs in my arms at once. (This useful skill was honed during my younger years as a manager.)
  59. I don't mind cleaning toilets, but I detest cleaning showers.
  60. I went through a phase in high school that my best friend affectionately refers to as the "Dating Nazi" years.
  61. This was after I read and loved I Kissed Dating Goodbye.
  62. I really hadn't done much dating to be able to kiss it goodbye, but that's another story.
  63. I still get passionately frustrated when young girls are boy-crazy because I want them to understand what I didn't: Your self worth as a middle/high schooler does not depend on which boys like you and whether you're "dating" anyone!
  64. I love those hard candies that you put on birthday cakes as decoration. (They're best once they have been on the cake for more than 24 hours and have gotten a little soft from the frosting.)
  65. I could live on pizza.
  66. I often get an anxious, restless feeling deep in my gut.
  67. If I'm going to drink a lot of water, or drink it fast, I don't like it to be cold.
  68. Since we keep filtered water in the fridge, I have been known to microwave a glass of water for 15 seconds to take the chill off before drinking it.
  69. I struggle with pride, laziness, and too little fear of God/too much fear of man.
  70. I had a mullet when I was in elementary school.
  71. I taught myself to like coffee by drinking grande single-shot caramel mocha latt├ęs.
  72. My elbows are double-jointed.
  73. I spent two summers traveling in a van to youth camps across the country.
  74. I have around 70 old journals in various boxes in my house and at my parents' house.
  75. I have a severe phobia of mice. I don't even like to write, hear, or say the word.
  76. I once learned to play guitar and was a prodigy for the first three weeks, until I quit practicing.
  77. Big decisions paralyze me.
  78. My Bloglines feeds include both Dooce and Al Mohler. I think there's something sort of bizarre about that.
  79. I have been known to smack girlfriends' butts as a sign of affection.
  80. I am a classic firstborn.
  81. I hate how the stores that sell the modest, classy clothes I like are the most expensive ones.
  82. I am a daddy's girl through and through.
  83. I find myself using my mother's expressions, with the exact same tone, pitch and inflection--and at the same time as her if we're together. It's scary.
  84. I feel compelled to leave my mark on whatever I read, underlining phrases and scribbling in the margins of books or circling notes and jotting down phrases in sheet music.
  85. Sometimes (in Christian circles, not political ones) I feel too conservative for the liberals and too liberal for the conservatives.
  86. At college, I was deeply indoctrinated with Arminian viewpoints, but I have since embraced Reformed theology.
  87. I dream of someday being a part of a Sovereign Grace church.
  88. I take frequent deep breaths because I can’t fill my lungs enough.
  89. My skin itches miserably during certain forms of exercise (running/walking quickly).
  90. I envy child stars and girls who can belt showtunes in full voice.
  91. I speed when I can remotely justify it, but take a self-righteous anti-speeding attitude otherwise.
  92. I talk too much and too fast, and interrupt people often.
  93. I often berate myself for the things I say, sure that others are annoyed.
  94. I hated the oldies when my parents made me listen to them in the car. They got the last laugh when I started making oldies mix CDs for myself.
  95. I meet with friends only when it’s scheduled and intentional, never spontaneous hanging out.
  96. I steal funny verbal expressions.
  97. My second major in college was writing, but other than blogging, I rarely write anymore.
  98. I'm not sure if that's because of laziness, fear of failure, or something else altogether.
  99. I endlessly revise everything.
  100. It took me months to complete this list because I wanted to come up with just the right things.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

I ♥ NY

I'm ba-ack!

Steve and I spent an extended Labor Day weekend putting about 2,000 miles on the car. But it was much more fun than it sounds!

The first leg of our trip was a Thursday-night stay with one of my best friends from high school, Jill, and her husband, Dan, in Ohio. We didn't get to spend much time with them, unfortunately, but it was still great to see them, plus it was a perfect place to break up the trip to the East Coast.

After driving all day Friday, we arrived in New York, where we stayed with Steve's brother Chris and his wife, Michelle. This was the most time we've ever gotten to spend with them, and it was a lot of fun to hang out just the four of us. Plus we got to see their new place! (Buying a house in Westchester County is completely unrealistic unless you're a millionaire...so they settled for buying an apartment in a co-op...but they really found a great apartment.)

We spent Saturday doing some sightseeing in the area, including a trip to West Point. As a side note, I'd like to meet the exceptionally brilliant person who thought it a good idea to put an all-girls Catholic school right outside the gates of a then-all-male military academy. (The Catholic school is no longer in operation.) Anyway, I never knew the area so close to New York City was so mountainous and green--but the Hudson River Valley has some gorgeous views. Tropical Depression Ernesto plagued us all day, but it could have been a lot worse. Then on Sunday the weather cleared and we went into the city. How much do I love NYC!!! I cannot even explain to you why...but when I get there I just feel like it's in my blood.

Unfortunately we didn't get to see a Broadway show--I had really hoped to see Wicked, but we weren't able to get reasonably priced tickets. However, we found something else to do that was definitely memorable: We checked out Bodies: The Exhibition at the South Street Seaport. It's described on the website as "A phenomenal look at the phenomenon we call the human body"--and I would have to agree.

Using a process called plastination, scientists replace body tissues with polymers so that they can be preserved completely, then dissect the bodies to various levels. It is, as someone said, "An extraordinary unveiling of the human body." We got an up-close glimpse of muscles, bones, nerves and organs. Perhaps most spectacular was the circulatory system exhibit, which displayed arteries and veins down to the tiniest hair-width capillaries. We found it telling that the information cards explaining each display could not avoid using the word "design," as in "the design of the arm" or "the design of the nerves in the feet." Truly God is powerful, wise and magnificently creative.

After that we just walked around Manhattan--something I, to the complete bafflement of my husband, could be content to do all day long. We ended up around NYU eating at a fantastic Thai place and then headed back to Chris and Michelle's.

We had a wonderful weekend of relaxing and enjoying the company of family who are also friends! Then on Monday afternoon we were off for the second part of our trip. More on that to come...

Friday, September 01, 2006

Remember...You Also Are in the Body

Last Sunday, Steve and I had the privilege of hearing a presentation by Darcie Gill from The Voice of the Martyrs. Incredible. Her job is to travel overseas to minister to persecuted Christians, encouraging them that they're not alone, helping to meet their needs and gathering their stories--and then to travel in the U.S., making sure American Christians know what our brothers and sisters are going through in restricted/hostile nations and challenging us in our comfortable lives.

I don't have any brilliant words to share about it, just that the shocking stories I heard were challenging, convicting and inspiring. Darcie spoke of meeting even young teens who have stood firm in their faith when faced with impossible circumstances--suffering you and I can't imagine, all because they choose the name of Christ. How can we look the other way and ignore what they endure? How can we fail to hold them up in prayer?

If you aren't familiar with Voice of the Martyrs, go check out their website. It's an amazing ministry which works to serve these faithful Christians and help them to persevere through their trials. There are all kinds of ways you can get involved, from prayer, to writing letters to prisoners, to sending Bibles overseas, to packing Action Packs. Their monthly newsletter is free and is a great resource. You can also find regular prayer requests, stories and challenges at PersecutionBlog.com.

VOM's ministry verse is Hebrews 13:3: "Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering." It's not a suggestion--it's a command. We must remember. The ESV translation clarifies another nuance:

Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.

We must remember and care for them because we are part of the same Body--and when one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it! As I challenge myself to care more, to take more action, I'm challenging all of you. Stand with the suffering members of the Body of Christ.