Thursday, October 29, 2009

Candy Corn

It's a good thing candy corn is typically only widely available in the fall, because I have a real weakness for it. I'm not sure why ... they don't really look like corn, they are excedingly sweet, and they leave my teeth feeling coated. Their flavor isn't really anything that stands out (though one year they had caramel apple candy corn - oh my! I've never seen them since though, pity).

I have some in a leaf shaped bowl in my apartment right now, and I was noticing the other day how though most of them have a white tip, an orange middle, and a yellow bottom - there are always a few stand-outs. A yellow one with a white tip, a completely orange one, and of course the broken pieces. If there was such a thing as a perfect piece of candy corn, the model the company was striving to reproduce, it does not exist in these bags. Each piece is unique.

Just like us. Some of us have holes where things aren't filled in quite right. Most of us are dented or broken. We have something missing - sometimes as severe as missing an entire "color." But when you get down to it, we all "taste" pretty much the same. We're all human. We're all sinners. To God we all have something missing, something that makes us fall short of perfection. And yet when he made humans, he looked at his creation and said that it is good.

The closest I think I can come to understanding why God loves something so imperfect and often downright ugly - something that misses the mark by so much, is art class. At some point in school I think most of us had to make something out of clay or paper mache. It never turned out quite like what we had in mind, it missed this mark of perfection. But because it was something we made, we cherish it. It means something more to us than a soggy collection of newspaper. I still have my favorite art project, a paper mache butterly-frog-cat, which has become very meaningful to me though many would look at it as trash.

Perhaps there are some of us OCD enough to pick through the candy corn and only put the "best" out in our bowls. But I think most of us would agree that candy corn is candy corn and it all tastes the same (AKA - YUMMY!). They all sit in the same bowl, and (at least in my house) they're all gonna get eaten. I know when God looks at me, He doesn't see that I'm missing a color or that I've been broken - He sees me as the child He made and loves.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Results Driven or Spirit Driven?

I noticed today that I often have a feeling of "unrest" when I have something open at work. Apparently I have a touch of OCD that LOVES closing things. Taping up boxes and sending them back on their way brings me a certain amount of satisfaction.

I've always been a "hard worker" ... something school and work have always given me a little pat on the back for. People who needs things done like people who get things done. But I'm not so sure this little personality tick is always such a great thing.

Last blog, I talked about these hideous caterpillars I didn't kill, because I found out they'd become bright and beautiful yellow butterflies. Once I knew what the outcome would be, I was more tolerant of their appearance (and destruction of my lemon tree).

During the past few weeks, my lemon tree has become nearly leafless. And the ugly caterpillars have fled. How they even left, I'm not sure. Where they went? I have no idea. But they are gone, and I don't even see a hint of a cocoon. I saw ONE on my lime tree, but now I can't even find him.

The fact of life is, we don't always get to see the results. And this can drive a person like me crazy. I like to see the end! If I start a book, even if it is terrible, I want to finish it! If I pay to see a movie, I want to finish even if it is aweful.

But life isn't a race. There is no rush to get to the end. As the song says, "One day at a time, sweet Jesus ..." Life is a journey. There is so much I can miss along the way if I'm focused on the end. I thought I had learned that, but I find myself receiving needed reminders.

Earlier this week, I start watching a movie because I had read the book ("The Ruins" by Scott Smith ... think Stephen King only somehow less ... meaty? Less filling? More soulessly haunting.) and I actually turned it off. I didn't finish.

As irked as I am that the caterpillars ate my lemon tree and left ... that I don't get to see them transform into butterflies ... I'm trying to see what God can teach me from that. That sometimes we plant a seed and don't get to see if it grows. That if I rush through life trying to reach my goals, I'm going to miss things along the way - which may have been what God really wanted, not for me to reach that goal.

A couple of weeks ago I decided to become a Mary Kay consultant. I was excited, I think I would have enjoyed it. Then my face broke out into a pimply rash worse than I ever had as a teen. I truly feel like God was working on something by having me start to move in that direction - but obviously I will not be selling skin care products I'm allergic to!

So, as much as I like results, I'm going to start appreciating the process. Appreciating each precious day God gifts me on this earth. Because the thing I'm focusing on may not even be what He has in mind. Detours happen (HOW many detours have I had thus far in my life? I'm starting to EXPECT them!), plans change, one calling overpowers another.

If my focus is where it should be, on God, I can take all these things in stride. He may change my direction. His path for me may meander up the mountainside, and it may be the twists and turns He wanted to show me, not just the view at the top. How much more do we appreciate the view at the end of a long hike than when we've zipped up a ski-lift?

One day at a time sweet Jesus, show me where I should stop and smell the roses. You love me, and I can trust that I'm not going to miss out on a thing if I'm looking to You.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Beauty from pestilence

Yesterday I walked outside to water my lemon tree. Yes, I have a lemon tree. When leaving a training program in Florida, I saw it in the airport and it's actually grown into quite a lovely little patio tree. It has yet to actually make any lemons, but what can you do?

So I see what looks like rather large bird poop on one of the leaves. Strange, but maybe a bird was sitting on the railing of my patio? But the more I looked at it, I noticed a certain symmetry. It was some kind of caterpillar!

My boyfriend was visiting, so I yelled for him to come look at how gross it was. Before the words were even out of my mouth, I noticed that there were about half a dozen of them all over my plant. Ugh, I'd been invaded by poop-monsters!

Being less squeamish about the bugs than me, he poked at one of them ... which promptly caused it to display menacing looking orange horn-like protrusions from its head-area. Now it looks gross AND evil, or at least poisonous. I certainly wanted them off my plant. But I had to know what they were in order to do that.

It didn't take much of a search to find out that these shockingly disgusting looking creatures actually winters in a chrysalis and emerges in the spring as a giant swallowtail butterfly - 4 to 5.5 inches and a sunny bright yellow with black markings.

Now, I obviously like frogs. But as much as I like frogs, I also LOVE butterflies. The China pattern I always wanted is "Butterfly Meadow" by Lenox, about as girlie-garden as you can get. There was no way I could destroy these ugly creatures who are eating my fruitless lemon tree ... simply based on their potential.

I wonder if God sees us this way? I may have heard it before, but had forgotten that God decided His Spirit could not put up with us humans for longer than 120 years. In our sin and fruitless living we must look at least as ugly as those caterpillars. But God knows that, if we let Him be in control, He can form us into something of awe-inspiring beauty. I want to let God make me into something He can once again look at. It will take a lifetime, but it is worth it and I'm thankful He still gives us a chance. That simply accepting His son is enough for Him to look at us again.

Even beyond that - He can take the ugliest, most painful situations and turn them into something that brings Him incomparable glory.

The poop-imitating caterpillar is hard for me to look at, but because I love the butterflies I'm going to give them a chance.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Trust me ...

Coming from a used-car salesman - its the sound of Bondo and duct tape creaking under a coat of cheap lacquer - something you expect to start dropping bolts as soon as you drive out of the lot.

Coming from a doctor - it feels like this must be about to hurt - perhaps more than you originally thought!

Coming from your investment company - it smells like standing too close to a big city steam tunnel on Wall Street - and you wonder why they think it doesn't stink.

Coming from a loved one - it is a well meant plea or promise - and you want to, but how much can you lean on what they've built? That depends on the foundation.

Something I've been told much of my life, perhaps more often in reference to myself than to others, is that trust has to be earned. And with people, that is true. It is something that it built on time and experience. It is something that withstands the tests life throws at it - and life will test you - if it isn't, you might want to check your pulse.

But oh, the wonder and joy of God. We, who are anything but trustworthy, have been given the gift of always being secure in His promises. We don't have to wait for Him to "earn" our trust (but if you need the reassurance - just look at the history of what He has done for His children ... has He done anything BUT earn our trust?). Isn't trust just another word for faith?

When all our faith, all our hope, is in God ... not resting on the shoulders of men ... we are set free. Free to love unconditionally. Free to pray expectantly. Free from our past and our sin, because He has promised no longer to hold them against us, not once we place our full trust in Him. We free those around us, we stop depending on them for our joy and our peace.

And through placing all our trust in Him, when we really stop taking matters into our own hands, we become more trustworthy ourselves. We don't make promises we can't keep, for we can do all things through His strength, rather than our own. We don't do those things that are hurtful, because we begin acting in His love rather than to serve ourselves.

We trust the brakes in our car to stop us - but a leak can render them useless. We trust that chair we've always sat in to hold us up - but one loose screw, one cracked board, and we're sprawled on the floor wondering what just happened.

I dare you to really trust God. Take all your cares, your worries, to His throne in prayer. Nothing in this world or the next will cause Him to fail. He, who created every star in the sky and hung the moon over the oceans, notices and cares about you and me. All the time, without fail. Embrace the freedom, the joy, the peace, that can come with placing your trust in the one place where it belongs.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Devastation

This morning, I had what was no small disappointment. I'd been planning for today for at least weeks, if not a month, and found out this morning that circumstances beyond my personal control were ending that at the last minute.

My first thought was "I'm so devastated." Really? Devastated? I don't like to think of myself as a drama queen - but that eloquent little voice in my head sure can be sometimes.

There are two definitions of the word "devastate" at Dictionary.com. The first - "to lay waste, destroy." I'm not destroyed! I'm definitely still here. Could I choose to let my disappointment lay waste and destroy? Absolutely. I could waste the entire day laying in bed and crying. I could destroy a friendship over the first very human disappointment we've encountered. Instead - I'm choosing to be forgiving and try to understand. I'm holding back the poisoned barbs of words that I'm tempted to fling before fully understanding what happened.

Instead, I'm doing today what I had planned to do tomorrow. If I waste today, then I've wasted tomorrow as well. I'm still off work tomorrow - and its entirely possible my plans could be picked up then. Or I could just go into work and not waste my time off feeling sorry for myself. I'm being thankful that I'm no longer studying organic chemistry like the poor girl sitting across from me in the Honda waiting room.

The second definition is "to overwhelm, confound, stun." Ok, maybe in that sense my initial reaction could be described as devastation. Except that the news that my plans were being scrambled was not the news that I or someone I love has cancer, that my car is falling apart and not covered by the extended warranty, that I've lost my job, or so many other much more important things.

Not that this wasn't important. And I will be devastated if this wasn't an isolated incident, which I believe it was. I just wish it didn't have to be today. But I'm not devastated. I'm just living life as a human with all the fun emotions, broken plans, and grinding gears that come with it. Would I want it any other way?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Open Hands

My pastor often speaks about praying with open hands, meaning going before God's throne with a willingness to let go of everything for Him, for His glory, to be in His perfect will. He asks us to be willing to give anything God asks for, do anything He asks us to do, and to go anywhere He asks us to go.

This is a hard concept for humans in general, and something I seem to have an especially hard time with. And there is really no need ... God promises to give us the strength (Philippians 4:13), resources (Matthew 6:30), and wisdom (1 Corinthians 23-25) for the things He has for us to do.

My biggest problem is in letting go of the things I've received from God. I tend to think of them as permanent. For example, my job. I feel it is definitely a gift from God. I enjoy it, and I feel like I'm contributing back to society at the same time. I started it with the assumption that this is what I would do until retirement. I couldn't imagine a reason why God would ask me to let go of it.

Meanwhile I'm praying for things like a family. And last week I had one of those "aha!" moments. I had been praying open handedly about relationships, the ways that I serve in the church and community, what groups I take part of - but I was clinging to that job for dear life. It was security and independence. But God had me realize that yes, this is what He wants me doing right now. However, He wants me to be willing to give it up if He asks.

And that made me realize, what if He does bless me with a family - do I want to put this job over them? Absolutely not. The fear of thoughts like "But what if God asks me to leave the country and be a missionary - how would I pay my student loans?" dissolved. He will not ask me to do anything He hasn't provided for. I can let go. That's what He asks us to do. It's called trust. Why is it sometimes easier to trust humans, who are going to fail in some way eventually, than a God who never fails and never leaves us?

If I'm really putting my trust in God - its easy to pray with my hands wide open (John 14:1) and get ready to enjoy the ride.

Monday, June 8, 2009

30 ... going on about 8 ...

I keep hearing grumblings of aging among my peers ... but I just refuse to buy it. Sure, I know I AM aging - but I seriously don't feel its affects all that often yet. Granted, I do have a few tricks up my sleeve.

I work out pretty much daily. I don't complain about it, or have a set goal in mind such as "When my weight reaches ___, I'll stop." It doesn't matter what I weigh - its just something I need to do. Otherwise, as the book "Younger Next Year" puts it ... my body starts breaking down thinking (via hormones and enzymes) that it is no longer needed. So I flail and flop in my living room for about an hour every day, and 99.9% of the time feel much better for it.

But mostly - I find joy in the little things. Call me easily amused if you must - I'm not sure why that is considered a bit of a slight. I'll happily sit in a patch of woods and just take in what is around me ... a "majestically placed" boulder, balanced by the hand of God and sprinkled with moss. A butterfly silently flitting about its business, not a bit worried about if what it is doing in life is impactful enough or not (though you know there is that theory about butterfly wings and storms on the other side of the world ...). I really think stopping and appreciating what is around you is that important. How often does someone say "Wow, the moon is really beautiful tonight?" and most people just glance at it and say "Yeah." Why not take a few moments of your precious time to really take it in, and say a little thank you to God for creating such sights just for us to see? And realizing that the God capable of hanging the moon and turning the tide still loves you deeply.

Probably the best way to feel 8 again, to feel that carefree lightness you felt as a kid ... is to swing. It had been years since I had done this - but funny - my rear does still fit on that strap of rubber, or whatever those less-than-ergonomic seats are made of. I'll admit a bit of nervousness about the ability of the A-frame to handle an adult - but it was fine. And really - does it hurt that bad to fall from 2-4 feet onto your well-padded posterior? It's worth the risk.

The next thing you know - the wind is rushing through your hair, making you feel like a princess as you fly backwards and it sweeps across your face. Making you feel like you're flying as you zoom back forwards and it trails behind you. And at the apex of your smile-shaped flight ... for only a moment ... you are weightless ... free-floating ... and everything seems to just stop for a moment. Then a touch of adrenaline as gravity kicks in, and you accelerate back towards the ground ... only to be caught in the arc of the path of that simple chain and rubber contraption and lifted skyward once more.

Who cares what the neighbors might think? If they look at you funny, just tell yourself that they're simply jealous.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Entertainment

Sometimes I think my entire generation has A.D.D. We like to be entertained ... we grew up during the period when cable became a "necessary" household bill, when a night at the movies happened once or twice a weekend, and Atari was making the way for Nintendo, Segas, and Playstations ...

It makes me infinitely sad that there are people (no longer just the nerdy bachelor either - men with wives and families) who spend as much time in a fantasy world (made as realistic as possible thanks to pixels and other things I don't care to understand) as they do at work each week.

I'm not going to exclude myself from this. My mind has not always been a wholesome place, I'm admitting that right now. And no matter how you want to argue it - what you fill your mind with has a lot to do with types of thoughts grow there.

Tears spring to my eyes even as I write this - because I'm so in awe of the things God can do. Rather than growing more aware of worldly ways - God is working a miracle in the wiring of my brain - I feel more and more wholesome every day. Sometimes this means I end up turning away from what is popular, what movies have huge budgets, and has changed my definition of "good" acting.

I love rock-n-roll ... put another dime in the jukebox and all that! However, the closer I've been to God - the more I find I can't stomach the rock station. Their DJs spew filth between songs, and the ads run are for things like "gentleman's clubs" (was there ever a greater oxymoron?). More and more, I find myself drawn to music that speaks from the heart - and stations that aren't supporting a lifestyle I don't.

In the past couple of months - I find myself listening to more country - where they aren't afraid to mention faith and utter God's name (that is, other than in vain). I'm even listening to the dreaded "Christian" stations, which used to turn my stomach. Sure, sometimes things are a little sugar coated ... but I find what I fill my mind with in the car, while at work, and while cooking dinner have a greater influence on me than I ever could have imagined.

As God works on my thoughts and my heart - I find myself embarrassed by scenes in movies that in the past would not have phased me. I'm being drawn to movies that I don't expect to "shock" me. Sure - I still love a good thriller, a heart-pounding action movie, or a romantic love story that leaves you sighing. However, I find myself filtering things more and making excuses for things much less.

Which leads me to my point in writing this. I am seeing a new "trend" that I hope is more than a trend. You may or may not have heard of these production lines ... Fox Faith, Affirm Films ... but something within my heart started when I learned there were such companies.

Frankly - I don't care if the acting isn't so great. I rejoice in the fact that these movies are being made and released and distributed on DVDs that I would feel comfortable watching with Jesus. Movies that I think could bring God glory - despite their shortfalls. In all honesty - I find the shortfalls are something that draws me to them.

In the past few months, I've seen Fireproof (about 5 times), Flywheel (at least twice), The Ultimate Gift, and Amazing Grace (maybe not one of the same companies, but worth mentioning). I highly recommend all of them - not for the surprises, not for the special affects, not for the big names ... but because I think they will bring comfort and peace to countless hearts. Because I think there is something we can learn from them.

When I wrote about "PS I love you" I mentioned what I've started calling 'Don't settle for anything less' movies ... and right now I'd say The Notebook and Fireproof top the list. (Yes, the Notebook doesn't fit into the movies I'm writing about at the moment - at least, not in its entirety - but I think the story does).

So many times I said that I could listen to what I wanted, read what I wanted, etc. and remain unaffected. It simply isn't true. What we fill our minds and hearts with is very important. I hope to see more coming from these production studios ... despite what the connoisseurs may have to say.

Music is the language of the spirit. ~ Kahlil Gibran.

Fiction reveals truths that reality obscures. ~Jessamyn West

Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. ~Phillipians 4:8

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Frogs?

In case one didn't notice from the title of my blog - I have a bit of a thing about frogs. I like them, a lot. I hesitate to say they are my favorite animal, because I have a lot of favorites (otters, bears, giraffes, squirrels ...).

So I've often had people ask me - why frogs? The first thing - they are so darn cute, especially those brightly colored frogs in the rain forests of the world. But even the ugly ones are cute, in a bug-eyed, so-ugly-its-cute sort of way.

They are great swimmers - and I've always loved swimming. My favorite stroke, the breast-stroke, is similar to how a frog swims. It's almost relaxing. That something that is so slow and kinda clumsy on land can be so graceful in the water is beautiful to me. We all have our hidden talents!

Their song is part of what makes summer feel so much like summer. Before they moved, my parents had a pond in their backyard that drew frogs from the woods. Hundreds of them would be singing in the trees - it was deafening ... and I loved it. Sure, it makes camping a little tiring - but its camping! Its not supposed to feel like a 5 star hotel.

Frogs eat bugs - and generally bugs aren't something I'm particularly fond of (butterflies being an exception). Speaking of butterflies - they share something with the frogs which happens to be one of my favorite things about them.

Tadpoles. Almost every summer I brought one (or a few) home ... but I don't think I ever succeeded in having one grow into a frog. Too many accidents like leaving them in the sun on the windowsill ... that one was given a proper burial between two leaves from the neighbor's sycamore at the base of the ramp to my playhouse ... but being a future forensic scientist - I dug it up the next day to see what it looked like.

Back to the point. Frogs start out as tadpoles - legless little critters with gills instead of lungs which transform into something quite different over time. Much like butterflies, starting as a gooey little crawling caterpillar and transforming into a beautiful fluttering splash of color in the summer sky.

One of the places I personally feel closest to God is in nature. And through these two creatures ... I feel that He is giving me a beautiful illustration of the new creation He can make of me. No matter how much I've messed up - God can make something beautiful of my life. I see that every day - in that no matter how "world wise" I had become - every day I feel a little more wholesome. Perhaps a little naive, but I'll take that over the bitter alternative. There are some things I'd rather remain ignorant about.

And honestly - in their clumsiness ... and warts ... frogs are imperfect. God accepts me warts and all - and asks me to extend His grace and love to others with 'warts' like myself.

As for the "if a frog had wings it wouldn't bump its butt when it hopped ..." Well, in high school art class we were supposed to make something out of paper mache. I started out making a cat, but after deciding that was too boring ... decided to make a frog. But the tail was already on the cat ... so I left it and decided if I was going to mix things up - why not add some butterfly wings? It is still in a closet at my parents' house. "Butterfritty" became my own personal mascot (and lets be honest - still is).

So why frogs? Just because :)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Blood ...

It's the topic of one of my favorite internet videos (BLOOD!) ... it is running through your thousands of miles of arteries and veins right now, about 5 liters per minute - carrying signals and nutrition to your cells and toxins and waste away. It leaves notoriously hard-to-remove stains. If it stops moving, you will die within minutes.

No - despite the fact that I can't spend much time in the sun - I've not become a vampire. I've just had blood on my mind the last few days for several reasons, one of which was that I donated for the first time last week. When I was in college, it seemed the blood drives were always during finals - and I felt I needed all my blood at that time. As it turns out - getting rid of some didn't affect me nearly as badly as I had feared. My only experience in losing blood had been so unpleasant, I was afraid I'd feel that way again (grey in color, short of breath, etc).

At first I felt like patting myself on the back - especially since my blood type is O-negative (the universal donor - anyone can accept my blood). And while blood donation is important and saves lives ... I realized there is a blood donation that does so much more...

If you think about it - Jesus made the ultimate blood donation. Before He gave His life on the cross so that His blood could make us pure before a Holy God ... sacrifice was demanded to cover our transgressions.

I don't know about you - but if I try to add up how many spotless doves, first born calves, and pure white sheep it would take to cover my every sin ... well, I honestly don't like to think about it. Its overwhelming! I don't know that enough acceptable sacrifices exist to cover all our sins (or perhaps even my own).

But the blood of )ne man - God's son ... is enough to cover all the sins of anyone who ever has or ever will live. Not only to cover up our sins - but to make us pure enough to be in the presence of a God who created the universe - known and beyond. We can't even begin to understand Him - but He loves us enough to let His own son spill that precious life-giving substance for anyone who would accept it.

We don't even have to be a specific type of person. Jesus' blood is more universal than O-negative ever could hope to be. While the blood I donated last week may extend someone's life on Earth - and that's a good thing - Jesus' blood can give life eternally.

Maybe that isn't news to you - but I just love how God reminds me all the time, through surprising ways, just how much He loves every single one of us.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Paradise Lost

So this morning, around 7:30am I go for my run. It is perfect out - the sun is up, but it is cloudy and humid, great weather for the lungs (and someone who doesn't care to be seen running by other humans).

I actually went farther than usual, since I don't have anywhere (like work, ha ha) to be on a Sunday morning. Then on the way back I stopped by my favorite spot. Its like a little slice of paradise.

There is a waterfall, which has to be one of the most calming sounds in the world - and the view off this "cliff" is amazing. Not quite high enough to see the river, but you can see the shape of the gentle, winding valley it cuts through the hill country. I love it. Granted - it is an office park, and the "cliff" is a concrete area that falls off into several levels of drainage ditches created with local limestone, and the waterfall is man-made ... but come on, I live in Austin.

I like to go there to stretch a little, do a few pushups and crunches, and just soak in God' creation and thank Him for another day. So I'm laying on the cool concrete on my back, watching the low clouds whisk by on a breeze that is almost wind, and just enjoying being alive. Suddenly, a huge dark shape looms somewhere over my right shoulder. My first thought is "aw crap, someone is walking their dogs down here again." But when I look, I'm met with the most disturbing sight.

On the corner one of the pristine granite buildings is a pair of vultures. They are about 5 stories up, but close enough to see their bare and wrinkled heads. At first I think "Whoa, I hope they didn't think I was dead" ... but then I realize they probably had no idea I was even there, because they are ... um ... making more vultures.

Disgusting.

I turn back to the view and try to regain my peaceful reverie ... but it just isn't going to happen. Luckily the run home was just long enough to keep that from being my last thought at the end of an otherwise great workout.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Self Help - or - DIY First Aid

Last night, given the cold weather and the rough week I'd had due to the time change, I decided to veg on the couch with the first season of Lost and some soup. My all time favorite soup has to be Italian Wedding Soup - a broth based soup with tiny pieces of pasta shaped like lentils, some wilted greens, and tiny meatballs.

While I've made it from scratch before, a lazy night calls for lazy soup-making and I simply opened a can of 'Healthy Request' and plopped it into a pan. Moments later I was able to sit down with my remote nearby and prepare for a night of laziness bordering on sloth.

Now, watching TV and eating at the same time is something I typically try to avoid - how can you truly enjoy your dinner when you are doing your best to ignore it? But alas, that is exactly what I was doing and it nearly killed me.

I had set the soup on my coffee table, which has a shelf on the bottom. While rather convenient for storing remote controls and coasters ... it means that I can't really sit on the floor and use the table to eat. So I was sitting on the couch, Lost (3rd episode of season 1) was started, and I leaned over the table for each slurp of soup. All was going well, until the show got a little exciting and I got a little careless. I suppose I was trying to slurp a spoonful of soup in this leaning posture, and somehow sucked up a meatball instead of broth. Apparently these meatballs are exactly the size of a human trachea.

My spoon clattered to the table as I tried to cough. I couldn't! I felt myself start to panic when I realized the awful truth - I couldn't breathe hard enough to dislodge the morsel. Amazingly enough, given my First Aid license expired in 2005, my left hand clasped my right fist in the proper Heimlich fashion. The only problem was, I couldn't give enough force to my own diaphragm to free my lungs!

At some point I had risen to a standing position, and my eyes sought the room for something about abdomen height. The kitchen counter! My fist still clenched just below my ribcage, I ran myself into the counter and launched the meatball against the wall. It rolled off the counter, and onto the floor ... and then my poor meatball ... well, it didn't roll out the door but how ironic is that?

Only later did I remember the episode of Sex and the City where Miranda had to do pretty much the same thing. And yes, there is something about choking alone that makes you feel very lonely and vulnerable. Maybe they need to have a "First Aid for Singles" class.

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Root of the Problem

Sometimes you learn something when you weren't really expecting to.

Our current series at ACF is called "Flesh Wounds" and focuses on God's healing. I had missed the first week, but heard the message four times this weekend since I was running the lights. And I sat there listening four times yet it didn't really sink in.

The problem is - I've been through some things, and received some healing, and naively considered myself an expert on the subject. I had unconciously gotten into the mindset that I am as healed as I'm going to be. It wasn't until I downloaded the Podcast for the first week and listened to it that I came face to face with the fact that I've still got a long way to go.

So this morning I was "running" (and walking) and listening to the message, including another member's story of being wounded and healed. And I'm embarassed to admit that, while I was happy for this person, I was also jealous and upset. I found myself beating my chest (luckily I run so early there is no one to see this) and asking God "Why won't you continue healing me? When will you keep your promise and restore what the locusts have destroyed for me?"

And that's when I realized - those things spoken about this weekend, the action points we were given to do - I need to do them to. It was like God asked me when I finished my tantrum - "When are you going to let me?"

One of the action points we were given was to figure out not only our symptoms, but the roots of those things that need to be changed in us. And of course our tool for destroying those roots and growing new ones is God's Word.

Amazingly enough, I remembered the verses we'd been encouraged to read and apply to ourselves, and the book (yes, book) we'd been challeneged to memorize. As soon as I got home, I opened up to Psalm 139 - and ignoring that ugly inner monolog I'm sure most of us have been plagued with - applied it to myself.

God searches me - He KNOWS me, He is interested in me. No one else may be up at 4:30am when I tie on my running shoes, but God knows that I am. He knows all my little habits, but also things I will do outside of my habits. He surrounds me at all times, no matter where I go - even in darkness. He made me as I am - and only good comes from Him. He can search my heart and sift out all that is offensive to Him and lead me closer to His ways.

Which is exactly what I asked Him to do. And what symptoms did I find?

Frustration
Jealousy
Upset
Competitive/combative nature
Lonliness

Ouch - these were the things that I felt like I was a victim of - not things that I was responsible for! But there it was. I get frustrated with people because I'm jealous of them or impatient with them. I get upset because I'm jealous. I feel the need to "one up" everyone, about everything. Think "anything you can do, I can do better" ... and go figure, that leaves me lonely because no one likes that. They don't find it impressive, they find it annoying!

So why do I do things that tend to push people away? Why do I feel the need to prove I'm capable?

Because. I'm afraid. Not a healthy fear of God, but a fear that people will hurt me. And my fear is a results of mistrust ... I say mistrust rather than distrust because it is my misplacement of trust that is truly at the root of this.

So what does God have to say about fear?

A wise man fears the Lord ...
fear of the Lord teaches ...
The fear of the Lord leads to life ...
delight in the fear of the Lord ...
the fear of the Lord is the key ...
Be strong, do not fear ...
do not fear, for I am with you ...
I will show you whom you should fear ...
perfect love drives out fear ...

Fear of man will prove to be a snare ...
Fear not, for I have redeemed you ...
Do not fear the reproach of men ...
to others show mercy, mixed with fear ...

The only one I need to fear, and trust - is God. The root of my problem has been placing my trust in the wrong places, where there is ONE place I can always put my trust. As long as I rightly fear Him in his Glory, and understand that His Glory and Power know no limits to protect me and guide me. He will show me who I can trust, and reenforce me so that I don't feel the need for validation (which isn't lasting anyways) from my fellow humans.

Even the most Godly, kinda person is still human and capable of letting me down. While that doesn't mean I should be afraid and never trust, it means I need to place the bulk of my trust, and fear, in the Lord who will never let me down or fail to keep a promise. I can trust that, in His own timing and in His own way, He will restore what I've lost.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Slip and Slide ...

I've had my life flash before my eyes twice in the last month ... both times involving the shower.

Lately I've ended up taking two showers a day pretty frequently during the week, since I'm working out in the morning and the afternoon most days. Apparently my body doesn't absorb all the lotion when it isn't given 24 hours ... so the first slip was really my own fault.

When the lotion remaining on my right foot met the bottom of my wet fiberglass, garden-style tub ... well, my right leg went one way while my left stayed put on the bath-mat outside the shower. I scrambled for a hold - but as I was facing the tile wall, there wasn't even a shower-door handle to grab. It didn't end up quite as bad as it sounds - but I was sporting quite a deep bruise on the inside of my left knee for a few weeks. And probably took a few minutes off my life-span given the way my heart was pounding just after it happened.

This morning, I stepped into the shower in a recently remodeled Hyatt Regency in Houston ... I'm thinking it might have still been slick with some basic cleaner ... but unfortunately this time both my feet were in before I hydroplaned.

Once again, my life is flashing before my eyes ... I can see my legs sprawling up the side of the travertine wall ... and my back lands on the edge of the tub. Luckily - the part that hit was probably the strongest part of my body, right across the hip area ... protecting my spine and my coccyx. I have a slight bruised feeling across my iliac crest ... and feel a bruise coming on the outside of my right knee ... (which I don't even remember striking anything, but apparently it did).

Thankfully - when I landed on the shower curtain along with the edge of the tub ... the curtain actually held and I was able to finish my shower. I did take out a couple of the rings that hold up the curtain - but definitely not enough to make me feel obese, like if the whole rod had come down. I just hope Hyatt doesn't charge me for the rings ... I mean, seriously ... I could have died!

I really don't want to die in the shower. Such a lame way to go ...

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Ode to 5 pounds

On January 4th, I went in for an annual checkup. My doctor looked at my chart and told me that I weighed more than is really healthy for my height.

Well DUH! I was a little irked, because I know this and have been trying for over a year to be very diligent in working on it. She asked about what I'd been doing (trying to stay under 1600 calories a day, running 3-4 days a week).

Basically - she cut me down to 1450 and truly writing down every single morsel that goes into my mouth. I'd been being careful, but I had stopped writing things down at some point. She also suggested an hour a day of cardio, six days a week. I opened my mouth to protest, and she said "You have time for it - I promise."

As it turns out - I have. I've been, most days, doing a 45 minute cardio DVD in the morning, and another in the afternoon. On the days I "cheat" - it means I only do one. I've been diligent about writing down what goes into my body, which is pretty easy because I don't eat out much - maybe twice a month. (Easy on my pocketbook too).

Well, I've now lost a little over five pounds now. And here is what I miss about them:

My cell phone now falls out of my pocket when I get up out of my car. Apparently that five pounds was holding it in.

I can no longer wear a pair of plaid pants from the GAP that I rather liked. But apparently that five pounds is what was holding them up.

So - goodbye five pounds. I hope some of your friends will soon join you!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

P.S. ...

If you haven't seen the movie "P.S. I love you" ... you may not want to read this. Not that it is particularly suspenseful, but you know what I mean.

So the jist of the movie is that a young woman's husband has died from a brain tumor - but he has left letters to be delivered to her. The letters have instructions for her ... and they all end in "PS: I love you." At first it seems like the letters are just making her cling to him more ... but slowly throughout the movie you see that his instructions are pushing her to grow and to be herself again.

While it is a very romantic notion ... what really struck me is that we've had someone do just that. God is with us, but not in the flesh. He has left us love letters and instrucitons - the Bible. He reminds us He loves us ... and gives us instructions that will lead us to His best for us. Do you often stop and think of the Bible as a love letter? As part of "the church" we are His bride - why shouldn't it be? Jesus even tells us that if we are acting in love, we will be holding the other commandments. The theme throughout the Bible is God's love - and what it means for us.

At one point towards the end of the movie, Kathy Bates said that we're all alone - but if we're all alone, then we're all together in that. Ugh. The thought was just depressing. We don't all operate in islands of our own emotions! How the character could say that while clinging to her greiving daughter I don't know - she was sharing in her greif and comforting her!

This morning, my verse, my love letter, for the day was Genesis 2:18 - "The Lord God said, 'It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.'"

God basically designed us not to work in a bubble. We need Him, and we need each other. Perhaps part of the problem with marriages today is the Western ideal of independence ... that each of us operates as an island. We make connections, and bridges, but they are not considered permanent. The footnote in my Bible (NIV Life Application Study Bible - I need all the help I can get!) describes God's choice in making woman not from dust, but from Adam's flesh and bone as an illustration of marriage bringing two together as one flesh. It goes on to say that "The goal in marriage should be more than friendship; it should be oneness."

Its almost as if, even while I am drawing parallels to God from a movie, He is showing me where the parallel ends. Where society's ideas and ideals are out of line with His own - that I should expect more. How often do you hear someone describe their perfect mate as their "best friend?" And of course I want that to be true - but according to God - the marriage commitment means even more than that. It means you have to stop living on an island or in a bubble.

As my Mom has said after watching movies like this "Don't settle for anything less!"

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A year, a bird, and almondella

I'm not sure why the date sticks out in my mind, but on January 18th last year I was loading up my belongings into a moving truck I'd rented space on to send it back here to Texas. Wow - I sure don't miss moving in snow!

I can't believe I've been in Austin for nearly a year! It has flown by. And as anxious as I am to get my "life" in Dallas started, I realize that the next year is going to fly by just as fast as the last one.

On a recent trip to Bullard, my parents and I had gone into Petsmart for something - and we picked up some food for my bird. It is identical to the food she had last time ... but somehow the little pieces are a bit smaller. Apparently this is a problem - because my formerly mess-less sweetheart is dropping tiny biscuits EVERYwhere.

We also have had a bit of a cage malfunction as a result of my doing Tae Bo. I accidently whacked the cage in the midst of flinging myself about the living room of my apartment, and now one of the seed-catcher things on the side is a little wonky.

She has to be the sweetest little thing though - she was surprised and a little upset that I was hitting her, but it hasn't changed her opinion of me. I was clucking my tongue at her the other day, forgetting that she dances to snappy sounds like that and can't seem to stop even if she wants to. Suddenly she put her little foot over my mouth like "Stop it! I don't want to dance anymore!" Ha ha! The cold weather has made her rather cuddly too. Sometimes I'll put on my big sweatshirt and let her sit with me while I read or watch TV, and she likes to climb into the little pocket on the front to hang out. Too cute!

Today I had a rather disappointing culinary experiment. I tried to make "NOTella" ... a healthy version of Nutella. While it isn't disgusting, and it is chocolatey ... it is nothing like Nutella. Part of the problem is that I used almonds instead of hazelnuts. Apparently hazelnuts only exist at Christmas. They had bins and bins of them less than a month ago! I'm not sure where they all went, but I couldn't find a single hazlenut at my wal Mart. I probably should have tried HEB.