Sunday, December 19, 2010

Great Writing

No, I've not suddenly grown some kind of ego and am touting this blog as great writing. In fact, quite the opposite, I'm going to stop being afraid to write only when I feel there is something potentially profound or deep to write about - that even has potential to be great. I'm just going to write. Nobody is forcing anyone to read it (that I know of). I'd hate to think I write so badly that in some prison somewhere they are using it as punishment!

Actually, the great writing I had in mind is CS Lewis. This weekend Tim and I went to see Chronicles of Narnia - Voyage of the Dawn Treader. It was convicting, entertaining, visually almost on par with the imagination of a child, heart-warming, tender, adventurous, and compelling.

I'll admit to being a little apprehensive at first. I went to see The Lion the Witch, and the Wardrobe a few years ago when it came out and was a little disappointed. A lot of the message seemed to be missing, and the heroes of my childhood seemed shallow. I didn't even watch the second one (Prince Caspian). I'm happy to say that the warmth and inspiration are back in this third installment.

It turns out, 20th Century Fox has taken over production of the movies - which explains why Aslan said something at the end of this movie I was shocked Disney allowed, as it alludes very much to the faith behind the stories. I do believe I'm at the point in my life where a second reading of all seven books would be a great idea. CS Lewis had a gift.

The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis, is one of the very few sets of books that should be read three times: in childhood, early adulthood, and late in life.
[Amazon.com]

"No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally – and often far more – worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond."
C.S. Lewis

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

My Life in Boxes (Again)

Ugh! Blog, I am so sorry for neglecting you again.

Even worse, I feel like in some way I have failed to give God glory for being awesome in my life and blessing me beyond my imaginings. He is good and faithful.

10 months ago, I packed all my belongings and moved 200 miles from my then boyfriend (now fiance) to work and live in a place where I knew virtually no one. But, I had hope ... because back in Austin with a different agency ... was a job opening doing what I do now (which I enjoy greatly!). This just had to be God's answer!

Well, despite being one of two people (out of 90 I hear) interviewed ... and even being lead to believe I was practically a shoe-in ... I didn't get it. And I cried out to God - "I don't get it, I didn't get it?" WHAT was I going to do? At the same time, I felt strongly that God was saying "NO" for a reason, and even felt a little relieved.

Refusing to let myself slip into depression, I trudged on. I rarely spent a weekend in DFW. Tim and I traveled constantly, even meeting in Waco for a date one weeknight. We went on our wonderful vacation in September and became engaged.

Meanwhile ... unexpectedly ... there was an opening with my current employer (who, lets face it, I would prefer to stay with) back in Austin. While being a current employee made an interview pretty much a guarantee, I waited anxiously - knowing that with government, a typo in just the wrong place could keep me out of the running.

But I did get an interview. And the day after I wrote "Control Freak" - I found out I got the job! So a month and a half later, here I am ... packing boxes. I still don't like moving ... but when I remind myself that I am moving HOME, and getting to continue doing this job I enjoy and don't have to worry about how I'm going to bring home any bacon ... it is with joy that I wrap things in paper and puzzle-piece them into boxes with multiple labels on the sides from previous moves.

God is good ALL the time. I'm so thankful for the safety He has provided through all this traveling, for all He has taught us in our time apart, and for this joyous homecoming at the start of 2011! I can't wait to see what He does next!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Control Freak?

Sometimes I wonder if I don't have a little control freak in me that wants to come out ... not to play, but to be in charge. Perhaps its some vestige of being an oldest sibling, or just part of the inherent sin nature that tries to hang around until that glorious day when we go home.

This wait, waiting to hear about my interview and if I'll get to move back to Austin and have the stability of a decent paying job that I really enjoy, and waiting for our wedding day to arrive ... has me pretty emotional and tense. I thought I'd handle it pretty well - the interview results are now completely out of my control. And I'm afraid that may be exactly what is driving me up the wall.

I find myself frustrated that I don't even know how to mentally (and physically in the case that I do get the job) prepare. Do I start packing boxes? Do I start asking around for a room to rent? Or do I get ready to "suck it up" and be strong for the next six months, and start looking for plan B as far as work is concerned? Be strong - which immediately reminds me that ... "he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). I don't have to be strong. I can't be strong.

Why am I trying to? Why do I think it is up to me? Deep down, I don't think I really want to be in control - but at the same time, some emotion (probably fear) makes me grasp for the wheel.

As much as I am enjoy the crafty (arts and crafts ... don't be thinking witchy just because it is Halloween ;-) ) parts of planning for the wedding, some things just stress me out. Thankfully, I have a wonderfully calm and loving, patient fiance who helps me remember why we want to have our closest friends and family present rather than Elvis in a rhinestone jumpsuit (bleh).

I can't control our guests expectations, or some of the facts of life that make drawing up a guest list or decide who does and who doesn't get a corsage or boutineer not necessarily the easiest decisions. Sometimes I lack tact, and feel that people should come and enjoy themselves without expectations. Then it was pointed out to me that some of these things are an honor more than a chore, and asking someone to do a couple of the chore parts (dress straightening, bouquet holding) without the honor is pretty jerky.

Sometimes I live in my own little world ... "population me" ... and I don't want to! It's not about "me!" God didn't make me to live as an island, and the desire He put in my heart is not for that either!

I don't want to be a Martha - so why is it that I seem to have a natural tendency to do so ... when my heart wants to sit at Jesus feet in rest like Mary did?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Vacation Journal, Part V - BWCA and the inevitable end of vacation

September 13, 9:40am
We've had a delicious breakfast of weak coffee (the percolator was too beat up) mixed with the last of the hot cocoa, and oatmeal. It is still windy.

We finally had the food pack up in a tree last night. I keep calling it a "bear trap" - but that's not right. The object is to keep the bear out of the food, not to trap the bear. We had a beautiful clear sky last night. I had gone to the latrine one last time before going to bed and was in awe of the fullness of the sky with stars. I've always known in my head there are many, but the sky is filled with stars! I hope to see that again!

About 10 minutes after I got back, a heavy rain came (seemingly out of nowhere) and lasted for quite some time. It is still cloudy, but not threateningly so.

We set out for Beth with some trepidation about the larger lakes, given the continued gusting of the wind. God be with us, we have Beth, Alton, and Sawbill to cross yet.

Time not noted ...
Well, we made it to Alton. Beth started out fairly calm - we were even able to get close to a loon and take a few pictures! - but it got pretty windy as we approached the portage. Still not as bad as Grace yesterday.

I still get really nervous when the wind picks up. We got onto Alton just fine. Originally we thought about camping on the island site not far from the portage from Beth, but got a little disoriented (at least, I did). I thought I knew where we were, but then I wasn't so sure. Tim couldn't hear me, and the wind was picking up. A little scared and frustrated, I was pretty getting pretty snippy. We came to the south side of a pennisula with two campsites across from the portage to Sawbill, and Tim checked it out and said it was ok. My arms were tired, so I was ready to stop.

The campsite is alright, I doubt much would compare to Ella last night, he he. The view is terrific, as some interesting clouds keep going by. I wouldn't want to stay here when it is warm though, there is a lot of standing water in the various sink-holes. Our side (south) of the two campsites seems higher and nicer. They appear over-utilized, which isn't surprising being so close to Sawbill.

Tim is working on a campfire right now. Our bear pully is stuck in a tree - oops! We'll have to go out for water at some point.

There is a rodent (mouse? gerbil?) living in the latrine here. Very weird. Maybe because people dump their uneaten food in there? Some tiny spiders got all in my long underwear at the latrine on Ella last night, and I didn't realize till we were about to leave this morning. Yuck. I'm looking forward to a shower.

There are lots of birds, at least three different kinds - one robin, and I don't know about the others. Some are soft gray and stick close to the ground. The others are flitting and seem to have yellow chests - these knock on the ground like woodpeckers.

I've been enjoying our trip, and have had fun, adventure, romance, and a little danger. Not really looking forward to too much civilization yet, but a shower is going to be amazing and very welcome.

September 14, 7:10pm
We're in Room 130 at Cove Point Lodge on Lake Superior. Tim already had this place picked out! What a wonderful surprise!

After I wrote last night, we heard and then saw geese heading south. I have fond memories of hearing them around Palacios at Thanksgiving. We really got lucky with the best parts of the onset of fall adding to our trip without some of the downsides (like surprise snowstorms).

We awoke this morning to an amazing sunrise, worth running outside in long-johns and boots to see! It felt like a birthday present from God. More loons and various other as-yet unidentified birds this morning. I'm really going to miss the call of the loons, and this special place. We'll be back often, God willing.

It has been a place for breathing, being, being challenged, and growing. We both teared up as we got ready to set off, yellow birch leaves falling around us. But winter is coming, our lives await us, and as Tim said "We can't come back to visit if we never leave."

The portages on Alton and Sawbill lakes were friendly. Alton got a little choppy - but I'm thankful because it was actually kinda fun rather than frightening. We do plan to try to find some canoe classes though.

We called our excited and happy-to-hear-from-us families and had a hearty lunch of burgers and my first piece of strawberry rhubarb pie at Betty's Pies. This, after luxurious, hot, long, soapy showers at Sawbill outfitters, and some very hot coffee that made me jittery.

Then we came back north to Gooseberry Falls (where Tim's grandparents honeymooned). I thought we were going on to Duluth, but Tim kept saying we could come back to Gooseberry if I wanted (its about 45 minutes one way!). We turned North rather than South when we left the park though, and Tim surprised me by coming here.

Its the perfect place to ease back into civilization. Lodge-style (Norwegian-lodge style!) and built for quiet, every room has a view of the lake. I'm watching a beautiful reverse-sunset as I write. We have a jacuzzi in the room (now I know why I needed a swimsuit on this trip!) and we'll have dinner and breakfast that we won't have to fix over a tiny stove. I'd like to come back here after we're married ;-)

Aaaaaaah - again, I am so blessed. I love this man so much, and he surprises me with so many heart-melting, toe-tingling bonuses. This may be one of my best birthdays yet!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Vacation Journal, Part IV - BWCA Continued ...

September 12, 7:55am
Sunshine! After a night of wind and no rain, the sun is out and the sky is clear ... YAY!

Last night I woke to hear a coyote howling in the distance, and commented that it sounded so lonely. But Tim said there were others, and soon at least three - maybe four - were howling to one another across Phoebe lake.

The squirrels even seem to be in a great mood this morning. We heard them foraging for the pinecones we heard dropping (whether naturally or by the squirrels, I don't know?) and checking us and our green tarp out.

Tim fixed bandages for both my heels and is working on breakfast. I'm thankful to God for the clear weather and the much improved spirits (and appetites!) we are feeling this morning. We have several options - go a bit further and camp, stay camped here and do day-trip, or head towards Sawbill and camp closer.

7:05pm
We're on lake Ella right now, at the campsite just across from the portage from Grace. Grace! Where we've had the most trouble this trip! I'm watching the sunset while Tim washes the dishes from our amazing dinner (Cache Lake's beef stew and dumplings!) [isn't he wonderful for cleaning up and letting me write?]

**Insert here what you'll read about in a few paragraphs - but it really happened here. You'll know what I'm talking about when you get there**

We decided, partly due to the rough water on Phoebe (and so the wind would be at our backs) to head back towards Sawbill and take it easy, not pushing too hard to cover ground. So we thought!

We started out back towards the four or so portages between Phoebe and Grace, including the beaver dam that caused Tim trouble last year and on Friday. All went well, after some hard paddling to get off Phoebe and into the inlet to ride the rolling waves across the underwater grasses.

We stopped at the portage to Grace (the one we had trouble finding on Friday) for lunch. The lake was pretty calm, so we set out, filling up our water before making the turn around a peninsula into the larger part of Grace.

The wind was beginning to pick up. We got a little snippy as I didn't know you had to paddle into the wind to keep from being turned by it. But we successfully got our water and kept going. Soon, whitecaps were rearing up everywhere around us, and the canoe felt ready to tip if a badly timed wave caught us broadside. Prayer and Tim's excellent steering saved us. The shoreline was nothing but rocks, there wasn't a safe haven had we ended up in the water. At one point, Tim yelled over the water in a tense voice for me to put my lifejacket on. Then I did get pretty worried. If we had capsized, we'd be in cold water. The shore wasn't far, but again - it was rocky and being pounded by the waves insistently threatening to tip us. We could see the peninsula we needed to round, and I was paddling for my life and praying for calm on the other side.

God was with us, and we made it to the inlet, which was in fact calmer. The portage to Ella was among a tumble of rocks, and we weren't completely sure at first this was it. But the telltale glint of aluminum from other canoes on the rocks just below the surface of the water said that it probably was.

The portage itself was rocky and steep, with at least three large birches across the path along the way. But we made it to Ella, miraculously calm after the day we've had, and we set out for the campsite directly across from the portage.

The campsite is absolutely perfect. The exposed granite reminds us of Enchanted Rock back at home in Texas - where we've shared a very special evening before. There is a nice place for a tent, and the latrine is surprisingly beautiful, festooned with bright red maple leaves.

After our wonderful dinner, I was alternately writing and taking photos of the moon as it set. Tim finished up the dishes and came down to read me another story from the people he read to me about last night. About how their canoe trips started, and how BWCA has been a constant in the changes of their life.

Then he told me how much I mean to him, how special I am to him (by now we're both teared up) and how God brought us here to being our lives together. He got on his knee, and asked me - Amanda Marie, to marry him ... and I said yes yes YES! The ring he has been working on is gorgeous, unique, and so meaningful - but I cherish it most for its meaning as a symbol of our love.

I am a blessed woman. A loon called as we kissed, almost as if God were saying to us "This is GOOD!"

Monday, October 4, 2010

Vacation Journal, Part III - BWCA!

September 10, 8:55am
We were going to make breakfast, but the matches are in the food pack - ooops! But we have everything packed up, and as soon as the outfitter opens we'll take care of a few last things, have some coffee, and be off!

8:50 pm
What a day! We were doing great! We put in at Sawbill and found the first portage easily. At Alton, several other people were using the same portage - and smoking pot - UGH! And asking about football games ... asking the wrong people, ha ha. We ran into them a few times, but after Beth we saw less other people.

In Grace, the water was choppy and it was very windy. I was navigating - as in, Tim gave me our one and only map. We came to the portage, and I got out of the canoe and scouted around. There was just no way this was it, and I told Tim so. We went a little further, and realized we had to turn around - we had gone too far.

At the same spot I had said couldn't possibly be the portage, we saw a man take off carrying his canoe into the woods ... it was the portage! I got a bit snippy because I was so wrong - but Tim didn't respond in kind.

I'd been leaving my Muck boots on while portaging, and realized between Grace and the first waterway to Phoebe that I might have a blister. Tim had me take off my boots to check, and I had a popped blister. He portaged the rest of our equipment and bandaged me up. I need to use my hiking boots to portage!

Between Grace and Phoebe were some very swampy waterways. At one portage next to a beaver dam (where Tim lost his canoe last year and had to go in after it) I asked him to show me how he'd been securing my paddle before picking up the canoe. In trying to show me ... he fell in. I felt terrible, but he didn't get upset with me. I've been blessed with an amazingly patient, thoughtful man who puts me before himself!

We prayed (begged) that the first site on Phoebe would be open - and that's where I'm writing from. It is very windy, but it hasn't rained yet. Tim seems a little tired and defeated, which is how he felt this time last year. He seems surprised I still want to be here! Of course I do! Especially since I'm with him!

September 11, 7:25am
Well, the rain finally came around 11 last night, and it rained steadily all night - yuck! But I suppose we were expecting the rain. The wind is still picking up now and again, but not as bad as last night.

A squirrel is griping at us right now. Tim is going out to see what the weather looks like (it isn't actually raining at the moment).

We heard a loon around the time with sky was starting to lighten. I've heard the sound described as lonesome, and I suppose it kinda is, but not unpleasantly so.

It's still cool, but not like yesterday - I can't see my breath. I hope Tim is encouraged by the weather - though his boots are still wet from the little fall yesterday and that can't help. I'm saying a prayer for him, I want him to enjoy this trip too!

9:45pm
What another day! I packed up the beds this morning in preparation for leaving, and Tim started breakfast. Despite damp socks, his feet were warm - but his upper body was not. We brought breakfast (bacon with eggs) into the tent. I could tell Tim wasn't feeling well, and he freely admitted it. While pouring water into my Sigg bottle, he suddenly became violently sick (thankfully he made it to behind a tree - not into my bottle). I was feeling pretty queasy myself after that, so we decided to stay here on Phoebe another day.

We made it out onto the lake once, to get water. Just in time for it to rain on us. Thankfully our rain gear was excellent to the task and the water simply beaded off of us. It hasn't really rained anymore since then, but the wind has continued (though the lake is calmer now).

Both of us had headaches, so we took some Advil this afternoon and set up our beds again. I read from "Woman of the Boundary Waters" to Tim until he fell asleep, and I laid down for a nap too. Had a weird dream that a bicycle ran into me?

We ate some summer sausage and cheese around lunch time and felt much better. Most of the afternoon was spent finding wood to attempt a fire. We were able to roast marshmallows, so I totally think that counts as a fire.

Dinner seemed big, but I think we needed it - especially Tim. Tonight I found out the papers he brought are romantic stories of the boundary waters he requested on the BWCA forums. Tonight's, ironically, was about a couple's 28th trip to the boundary waters, and how their ten-day canoe trip turned into a base camping trip - sounds slightly familiar!

The sunset was shockingly pink tonight, and an impossibly big orange crescent moon set just after the sun. We feel much better, and plan to take it a little easy and try to get out early in the day on Tuesday.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Vacation Journal, Part II

This portion of my journal covers the portion of the trip before we actually start our BWCA portion of the trip - but I'll take us right up to the edge of Sawbill Lake!

September 8th, 11:10am
We're headed to Red Wing, Minnesota with Chris & Kevin after spending the morning with the cats (Smoky, Frosty, and Tut - who I think may be my personal favorite, but don't tell the others!). I can actually see the hills Tim was telling me about last night - wow! Things like barns and other buildings seem much older, with more stone than I'm used to seeing (especially on outbuildings). It is very beautiful, the small farms nestled into the forrested hills.

If Tim ever wanted to come back, I don't know that I'd be all that resistant - though I'd miss our families and be terrified of the real winter (since winter in Texas basically amounts to being able to see your breath other than a few days on some years). I actually think in some ways I'd be excited, not that I wouldn't miss Texas though. I still love Texas too.

2:15pm
We just ate at Culver's in Red Wing, after going to see the Red Wing pottery museum. It was really neat, the museum resides in the former factory along with some shops and even apartments! I think I got some pretty good pictures. Now we're going to see about a tour of Red Wing shoe factory, or their museum. Shoes!!

3:45pm
We just saw the world's largest shoe - size 638 1/2. Now we're driving on the other (Wisconsin) side of Lake Pepin, and it is absolutely gorgeous! I love the little towns (Kevin says they're about six miles apart, because when the trains were built they needed more water for steam about every six miles!). The style and age (or at least, the feel of the age) remind me a little of New England, but people are much nicer and things seem a lot cleaner (especially the air!).

We saw a coal power plant earlier. Coal really has a bad reputation, but it seemed extremely clean to me. Even where the coal was piled waiting to become energy, the merely feet away (if that) looked vibrant and healthy.

We're going to stop on the way back to Chris & Kevin's for cheese curds and ice cream - yum! Tim has been delightfully playful, its so nice to be on vacation together! And enjoying it! I know some couples fight a lot on vacation so I'm glad we don't really seem to so far. I'm feeling very blessed and relaxed.

September 9th, 7:18am
We're off to the outfitter's! There is something, maybe even from Tuesday, that I've been trying to remember because I wanted to write it down. Well, I can't. Maybe it'll come to me later.

Last night I got up (I've been sleeping in the basement - a REAL basement!) to use the restroom and heard a strange dripping sound I hadn't heard before. At first, I thought it was just a "basement" sound I hadn't noticed, but decided to use my phone as a flashlight to investigate. I found a small puddle on the pool table, and a BIG one on the floor! I woke Tim up, and with the light on we could see there was water coming between two of the boards above our heads.

Turns out, one of the 20 gallon fish tanks upstairs only had 10 gallons in it! I was happy to see no one was freaking out or angry. There was no cussing and no fussing, just sleepy cleaning and three very excited cats.

1:20pm
We picked up some last minute supplies in St. Paul/Minneapolis and now we are south of Duluth. Tim gave me a driving tour of Hudson, and we went by their (former) farm. He said it was a little hard to see the pastures they worked so hard on back in corn. As we drove through the "Lakes" region, he told me some about the time he spent working there.

We're definitely seeing the start of some brilliant golds, bright oranges, and fiery reds in the trees. I'm so thankful we're getting to see that; I know Tim especially misses the fall colors. I really enjoy the contrast of the white bark of the birch trees - I don't recall seeing anything like that in Texas (sycamores maybe, a little?). The spruce and other "Christmas tree" shaped trees I also really like.

3:57pm
We just stopped to eat our last sit-down, indoor meal in Two Harbors. Before we stopped - OOOOH! We just went through a tunnel! - telling me how he fell in love with the North Shore. They came up for a family reunion the first time when he was 10 or 12, and he loved the natural beauty and the remoteness of the area. He dreams of having a log cabin up here someday, and I agree that would be wonderful! He loves the water, rock, and trees - says they make him feel grounded ("even if that sounds cliche").

5:22pm
Well, we just called our parents from the gas station in Tofte, and will be leaving civilization! It has been a beautiful day and a wonderfu drive. I'm very excited - the further we get from email, TV, phones, power lines, noise, and crowds - the more excited I seem to get! I'm very blessed to be able to get away with God and Tim like this.

The leaves are definitely changing - what a nice bonus! We just left pavement! It really feels like God has sheltered and blessed this trip in so many ways.

8:55pm
Well, our THREE person tent is set up, and we think we have our packs arranged. It's a little disappointing that, because the sleeping bags are compression, we'll probably have three packs plus my Duluth Pack. But that's ok, we were just trying to avoid double-portaging.

It is COLD! It is September 9th, and we can see our breath! I got a little tense while we were setting up, but I asked Tim for direction instead of letting myself get flustered. I think it went well.

I was rearranging the packs some while he was doing something back at the car. He came back with a bunch of papers. They're with the books right now but he hasn't asked for them. Who knows!

I'm very excited! It is so quiet (except for the other people in the park). We've seen many birds, and a super cute little red squirrel at the campsite. I can't wait to get out to more wildlife, and less people! We'll have coffee and get our food pack around 8am and set out, YAY!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Vacation Journal, Part I

Oh my, two months with no blog.

I think the main issue here is that I feel like I need to have something lengthy or deep to say. But its my blog! If I want to write that I had a bowl of Kashi with skim Promised Land milk for breakfast and enjoyed it very much - I can! Sure, it isn't as exciting as say, the daily life of a talkative toddler, but its my life. Which hopefully someday will include a talkative toddler, but not today.

I just got back from vacation! I haven't gone on a VACATION vacation since, maybe my trip to Washington DC in 2006? I guess that isn't all that long, but still. Tim, who was at the time my wonderful boyfriend but is now my wonderful fiance (more about that later!) encouraged me to keep a journal of the trip. Much more interesting that breakfast, I assure you. And now perhaps I can stay in the habit of journaling. So no more stalling, I share now.

September 7th, 4:06am
We left my apartment! I love getting up so early for something as exciting and fun as a trip like this! We prayed (well, Tim prayed for us) before starting out (with a brief, muffled interjection by Karen - my GPS - from her crypt in the console).

I'm afraid we ALMOST started out on the wrong foot. I had just finished washing my face, and noticed Tim had loaded up the car - but my suitcase wasn't in yet. Worried about the large case going in the trunk last, I said something - not meaning it as a criticism of his lovely packing job, but I'm afraid it might have sounded that way. Hard to tell these things so early in the morning.

Karen says we'll arrive to Chris (Tim's sister) and Kevin's (her husband) at 6:02pm.

5:32am
Just crossed the Red River into Oklahoma, and the first thing we see if a huge casino.

Karen says 6:51pm (we had to force her to take I-35).

9:58am
Just got gas at a Love's station in (I think) Tonkawa, OK. We had breakfast at Denny's in Armore with a waitress of was the epitome of the sassy southern diner waitress who calls everyone "honey" or "sweetie." At this gas station (well, across the street) was a truck repair and chrome place with a semi standing on its nose as a sign.

There were some beautiful, rocky, ALMOST mountainous hills in Southern Oklahoma, but now we're in the "where the wind comes sweeping down the plains" (imagine sing-song voice) part.

Karen says 8:16pm now.

11:30am
We're in Kansas right now, which Tim says is his dad's favorite part of the trip - the Flint Hills. I guess I did see what looked like flint-type rocks, flat and gray, along the roadside. The hills are low, rolling, and grass covered - very beautiful. There are still some blanketing clouds, but they're mostly gone.

We adjusted Karen to avoid Kansas City, now she says 8:57pm.

1:28pm
Just stopped at a "service center" (gas station/food where you don't have to exit Kansas' massive toll road) for lunch and potty. Kansas is very pretty, lots of pasture land. We listened to one of Mars Hill's "Peasant Princess" podcasts. I am feeling so thankful and have so much hope that we both want to seek God, His will, and how to be closer to Him and show His love to one another.

Tim was walking to the car from throwing some trash away, and I just had to hug him before we drove some more! I am so in love with and excited to be with him through, hopefully, God willing, MANY adventures!

2:09pm
We're not in Kansas anymore! We're in Missouri! I think I see aspen trees? There are starting to be more trees, it reminds me of East Texas a little. Some of the trees are starting to look a LITTLE yellowish, maybe we'll see some fall colors!!

9:18pm
I drove for a while, so pardon me for not penning while driving from an odd gas station in Missouri to Austin ... Minnesota! where we stopped to eat at Perkins (no pumpkin muffins yet) and get more gas. We saw LOTS of corn in Iowa, and even a few "hidden" chicken houses. I see all of that in a different light since watching Food Inc. We also saw lots of "wind farms" with the turbines (even two big turbine props in transit along I-35). I think they're graceful. Its dark now though, and they're a little eerie at night with their synchronized blinking red lights.

Tim read to me from our BWCA (Boundary Waters Canoe Area) books [Woman of the Boundary Waters: Canoeing, Guiding, Mushing, and Surviving by Justine Kerfoot, and A Wonderful Country: The Quetico-Superior Stories of Bill Magie by Dave Olesen]. I love listening to his voice and being able to reach over and touch him! We didn't stop in Iowa at all, but it was pretty.

*Mental note, there is a free SPAM Museum in Austin, Minnesota - weird!

The temperature is in the 50s now, it feels cold but I love it! The part of Minnesota I've seen so far is very pretty - a lot of evergreens, and a lot of open, rolling land. We were treated to a beautiful sunset while we at dinner at Perkins.

We listened to another Mars Hill podcast and talked about our thankfulness for each other, and how our relationship is so different from others we've been in, including and perhaps especially our previous marriages. With God as our foundation, we can build our dreams together.

Tim said Don had asked him if coming home gave him a since of peace. He said it does, but somehow it feels that way to me too and I've never been here before. I forget what time we crossed into Minnesota, but we kissed RIGHT THEN. There was a nice welcome sign :-)

9:58pm
We just crossed an old steel lift bridge (over the Mississippi) into Wisconsin! Almost to Chris and Kevin's! We're getting sleepy, but we're very happy and excited.

To be continued ...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

This is LIFE

June 2010 has simply beat me up. I can't wait for the day I can look back, laugh, and say "OH my gosh I'm so glad that's over!" The funny thing is, even as I say that, I realize it could be so much worse. I have my health, my relationship with my wonderful, God-seeking, strong boyfriend seems to grow every day, and I've met a small group of people at church who really seem to care.

Hard as I tried to be open minded about Dallas - I just don't like it. Five lanes of traffic going 80 miles an hour ... I like to speed, but out on the open road! Sometimes I just want to laugh as I approach intersections. It seems the average vehicle changes lanes twice within the last 20 yards before they absolutely have to come to a stop.

I was fooling myself thinking it would be a little cooler up here. Somehow, it seems it has been HOTTER three hours north than it has been in Austin! Nevermind the "air quality alerts" ... so far they are 4 to 1 with DFW in the lead.

My lovely little country community - well, the highway is becoming three lanes on each side not even 100 yards from my door. On the afternoons I work out, I sometimes wait 3-4 minutes for an opening to make the right turn exiting the parking lot.

There are a LOT of golf courses. I don't play golf. "Hiking" means walking on a sidewalk. Park means a place with baseball or soccer fields.

Work is ... different. I'm not going to go into detail since this is a public blog ... but I'll just say it is vastly different than it was in Austin even though I'm working for the same place doing the same thing. I've started getting the Sunday blues again ... and I didn't have those the entire time I was in Austin.

While I am excited and hopeful about what God has in store for me and my boyfriend - I can't help the ugly jealousy that rises in the back of my throat like bile as it seems every time I turn around another friend enters a stage of life I'm longing for. I WANT to be excited and happy for them, and deep in my heart I am, but the impish negative self talk just grabs onto those less than positive feelings and runs wild. So I run to God and His word, to fill up on the truth that shuts those voices up.

And it reminds me that this is LIFE. Life happening, challenging me, making me grow closer to my team ... my God, my family, my family-to-be, my true friends. Refiner's fire ... my heart's one desire ... God uses trials as opportunities. I need to be running to Him constantly, so I am thankful for the things I can't handle that keep me coming to Him.

Life is one day, one moment, at a time. I am sure to be overwhelmed if I try to look far ahead and think "How much longer does it have to be like this?" It makes me want to wail! But if I just take today. Today was an ok day. As of this morning, I've lost almost 15 lbs. ... that's one bouncy dog or a fat cat!

Next weekend, both our families are getting together in one of my favorite places (Aggieland!) to watch my man play hockey. What could be more fun? And in September, I get to go see the place he grew up and canoe the Boundary Waters together ... an adventure in the wilderness (and two weeks away from work!).

God is good, even when I'm having a pity party and don't want to recognize it. My new goal is to journal, however briefly, on a more regular basis about something I'm thankful for. Today - I'm thankful for the recent success in becoming a healthier me. Yay God, thank you for creating this amazing thing we call the human body, thank you for teaching me how it works, and for giving me the tools and knowledge to do what is necessary to get it into its best possible condition. Thank you for the abundance of healthy fruits, vegetables, and tasty things so readily available in this land truly flowing with milk and honey ... and maybe a little chocolate too.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Viva

Last week, I had the opportunity to go to Las Vegas to attend a conference for work. Yeah, I know what is going through your mind ... post-donut Elvis in the white rhinestone encrusted jumpsuit, neon lights, and "what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas."

I did decide before the trip that any souvenirs needed to include rhinestones, and found an appropriately cheesy shirt. The neon lights were impressive (and in the desert mask the true length of "the Strip" ... its much longer than it looks on TV and movies). I found that out the hard way, thinking rhinestone shimmering heels were appropriate footwear. But I did manage to tough it out enough to see the fountains at the Bellagio - and they just might have been worth it! My foot is still paying the price ... and my shoes may very well have seen their "last disco" (without ever having been to a disco at all).

City of Sin ... I knew the reputation Vegas seems even to be proud of, but I had no idea just how "in your face" it would be. Everywhere you looked, there was excess. ALL you can eat, ALL day long buffets. More slot machines than I could count, with so many themes and colors there really is one for everyone (I'll admit, I just HAD to play the redneck Jeff Foxworthy slot machine - but alas, it wasn't funny). Girls not leaving much to the imagination working the craps tables. Sidewalks littered with the pornographic calling cards of "call girls" being handed out by pushy people in T-shirts. Free alcohol and $5 water. Shopping galore, in catacombs beneath and between massive hotels that at times seemed inescapable (I was very tempted in a store that sold only socks, but came to my senses before plunking down $12 on silly socks).

Everything is designed to suck you in and make you pay. The casinos are dark mazes, and the windows tinted against the light of day - lest you realize how much time has passed, or are able to see where the exits are. Music and the excited clanging of slot machines is constant (only in my room at the hotel could I find solace). Restaurants that make you feel you somehow have to "prove" yourself by not being cheap. I love a good California roll, but there just isn't $12 worth of fish in there (for those of you that don't know - these rolls are typically cucumber, imitation crab, and avocado). But frankly I don't care if the waiter thinks I'm cheap.

Everyone expects you to come back with a story. But the fact of the matter is, God is in Vegas too. There is (thank Him!) nowhere to hide from Him; nowhere He cannot influence. I prayed before going to see Vegas through His eyes. The neon lights just aren't bright enough to outshine our God, or to cover up the shame. The streets are filthy, and I recall someone commenting "I don't want to know" as we hopped over a stream of what might(?) have been water running across the sidewalk. The beautiful women on the cards were being trampled underfoot - and if you think about it their lifestyle was doing the same. I don't care how glamorous someone pretends that is ... its not.

I could almost feel lives being destroyed around me. Somewhere out in the city each night, at least one husband and father was falling captive to some kind of addiction. In plain sight, the elderly were numbly wasting their money. Sometimes playing two slot machines at once, you'd see them, smoking and not even blinking when they won something. I wonder how many people actually picked up the brochure titled "When it isn't fun anymore" that was hiding along the side of the ATM. The wise recognize that there is a problem, and give their money to someone else for safekeeping. Others believe the lie that they can recoup their losses. Even in the airport on the way home, I overheard someone on the phone saying they'd "make it up" to someone for the money they had lost.

What perhaps impressed me the most, however, is the natural beauty surrounding this electric heart beating wildly in the desert. Perhaps because it is so different from home, I was struck by the rich color of the surrounding mountains (I didn't even know to expect mountains) and the amazing sunsets refracted by the dust in the evening. If I ever go back, I hope to find a quiet spot in the desert to gaze up at the big open sky - I can only imagine it is breathtaking.

I'm thankful to be back home, and thankful to have felt God's presence with me even in a city that does everything it can to keep Him out.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Looking on the Bright Side

I've moved ... and I left a lot of things I didn't want to. I know I could easily mope and be miserable, but that isn't healthy, that isn't "me," and I know for certain that isn't the life God has called me to.

I won't go so far as to say that everything is "hunky dory" ... it is certainly not easy. But at some point in life I finally learned, really learned, that your attitude has a lot to do with your perception of almost everything.

So, instead of noticing what I'm missing - I try to focus on the positive things around me. Because something else I learned is that where I am doesn't define me ... no matter where I go, no matter what adventures (or misadventures) I get myself into - I will always be a child of a loving God, and He has a purpose for me, and can use anything I go through for His glory.

I notice the little things like miniature donkies, llamas, Shetland ponies, and horses along the roads between my apartment and work. I praise God for the less "big city" feeling of the town I chose to live in, and yet that anything I could need is very close (I don't even have to go into Plano if I don't want to!). I bought some plants for the windows I'm blessed to have at work, rather than focusing on the fact that the coworkers I came to love in Austin aren't here.

Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I'm trying to be productive and take advantage of this time. Because if I really get what I want in life, it'll be a LONG long time before I have so much "me" time again, so I might as well appreciate it even though I don't think I want it. I'm getting back in the habit of working out. I'm committing to writing more. In fact, I've signed up for a children's literature class. I can finally learn about some of the things, like approaching publishers, that have stopped me from fully chasing/realizing that dream. And of course, there WILL be roadtrips. Austin is still just a few hours away. Not to mention taking advantage of the fact that my parents are significantly closer while I live here.

And honestly - the BEST things in life don't change. I am still miraculously and wonderfully made and redeemed by a savior and God who loves me more than I can begin to understand. My friends and family still love me. And my relationship with my wonderful, patient, kind, loving boyfriend can only grow stronger while we're apart.

Tears still well up spontaneously in my eyes from time to time, so I try find something to be thankful for and something I can do (like unpacking - I think I must have set some kind of record for getting unpacked and decorated) that I may not have as much time to do someday. And I remember that this time will teach me to appreciate things like time with those I love and the quiet and chaos of life even more than I already do.


Friday, January 22, 2010

Blog Neglect and Boxes

I am SO sorry, blog, for ignoring you for so many months. I have had ideas - but they have been pushed aside by holiday cheer, time with loved ones, book ideas, and a simple lack of internet.

I'm afraid I've come to the conclusion that I'm going to have to get internet. Well, maybe not HAVE to, but I'm going to. However, I'm moving at the end of next month, so I might as well wait until then. So for the moment, I sit in Panera Bread between appointments and ponder my pending move.

In all honesty - I do not want to move. I have a life here. I have a beloved boyfriend here. Despite my hesitations about coming back to Austin, the city has wooed me. So, I'm dedicating the following lists to Austin and all that keeps it weird.

Things I'll Miss
MY BOYFRIEND!
The nearly 100 cedars mysteriously dressed for Christmas along 360, and just as quietly back to normal
The "urban outdoorsmen" who are regulars with funny signs - a little humor and honesty go a long way (though part of me is also going to kinda miss the perpetually pregnant lady - her gestation period must be 9 years, not 9 months!)
Being able to get things like goat milk, essential oils, and fru-fru hippie food at HEB
HEB!!!!
The hills and rocks, and numerous hiking trails in close proximity
My church
Flip flops and Birkenstocks anywhere and everywhere, no matter what the weather
Less makeup, less hairspray, less sugar-coating
No smoking indoors

Things I Won't Miss
*sneeze sneeze* ... Cedar fever
The influx of "professional urban outdoorsmen" when the weather turns nasty, with their sour looks and pushy panhandling
Conversations bragging about just HOW fru-fru hippie someone's diet is, and how toxic Diet Coke is
The annual drought and its wind-borne dust
The particular odor of people who don't believe in deodorant (or bathing in some cases)
The general acceptance of pot-smoking

Things I'm Looking Forward To
Seasons
Frequent happy reunions
Road-trip rumination (being alone with God like that does have its advantages)
A new apartment with a new layout
What God plans to teach me in DFW
Devoting more time to writing
Training for my first triathalon
Horsemanship!

It would be too depressing to start listing the things I'm NOT looking forward to. Besides, I'd rather avoid the "self-fulfilling prophecy" and keep my mind open. Maybe DFW has something up its own sleeve to woo me with ...