Sunday, September 7, 2014

Perspective: Stuck

If you have ever driven on I-35, you've probably wished for an alternative route.  At any given time of day, it is in desperate need of more lanes as it cannot handle the number of vehicles that attempt to make their way from the northern part of the state to the southern part of the state. 

I usually avoid it altogether by taking the train.  But the train hasn't been operating southbound this summer, and so I resorted to riding Megabus down I-35 to Austin last week for a conference.  And "riding" took on a whole new meaning.

After departing the Grand Prairie station at 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday and then making our scheduled stop in Dallas, we made an unscheduled stop between Georgetown and Round Rock at 4:20 p.m.  As all three lanes of the highway plus an exit lane began to fill up with red tail lights, Twitter revealed that there had been an accident two hours earlier in the northbound lanes.  As the news story was updated, we learned that an eighteen-wheeler had a blowout, hit the median, and dropped his load of one-ton steel beams in the southbound lanes; by the grace of God, no one was killed, but multiple people were injured.  And in order to bring in equipment to removed the beams that were dropped, the highway was shut down.

At 4:20 p.m., we knew that we would not make our 4:55 p.m. scheduled arrival in Austin, but passengers began predicting arrival times of 5:30 or 6.  When those times passed without moving more than a mile, we held out hope that surely we would start moving soon.  "Soon" did not come for more than five hours.  At one point, I texted a co-worker who was attending the same conference and asked if he would come and pick me up; he replied that there was no way for him to get to my bus.  I knew that, but I needed to hatch an escape plan because I was feeling trapped and claustrophobic, which I didn't know was possible on a bus with huge windows.  Other passengers devised plans of possibly walking to a restaurant to pick up food because we were surrounded by restaurants but had no way to drive to them.  An older lady, who reminded me of Betty White, kept talking about how many babies she thought had been born while we were stopped.

During the time we were stopped, I was so thankful that we had a bathroom on board, that I had packed food and water, and that I didn't have to be anywhere by a certain time (though I had hoped to eat dinner at a nice restaurant and get in bed early).  And I was so grateful that this had not occurred the previous week when Erin and I were in Austin. 

When we finally crept our way to the exit where everyone was supposed to exit, the highway patrol removed the barriers and opened up the southbound lanes; we were among the first vehicles to get to travel down the highway in five hours.  We sped to Austin, arriving around 10 p.m. 

In the aftermath, I gave thanks that none of the vehicles around us had run out of gas, that no one on the bus had lost his or her mind during the time we were trapped, and that God had sustained our bus driver who had been up since 3:30 a.m. and had to keep his foot on the accelerator and brake for way too long.

I was reminded during this trip that it is hard to deal with being stuck because it is often the result of circumstances that are beyond our control.  But I was able to see the Lord's hand even in the midst of this; He never left us. 

And on the return trip, He even showed off a little, reminding me that He keeps His promises.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Best Week of the Year

We celebrated my mom's August 23 birthday for most of last week, and it was pure joy. 

Earlier this year when my sister announced her due date, my mom commented that it was likely that Erin wouldn't make it to Texas this year.  That didn't settle well with Erin; she couldn't imagine going a whole year without coming back to her roots.  And so the idea for this birthday week celebration was born.

Erin blessed me by flying to DFW and making the road trip southbound 35 with me.  Our first stop was in West at the Czech Stop.  Who'd have thought that two girls would buy a dozen kolaches?!  There were just too many good choices that couldn't be refused.

Our second stop was in Waco.  My whole family is hooked on the new HGTV show Fixer Upper with Chip and Joanna Gaines, and so we couldn't resist stopping at Joanna's store Magnolia.  Although the shop is small, we found many things we liked and filled the backseat with our purchases.

We grabbed a quick bite to eat in Bastrop and managed to get home about seven hours after we started.  We visited for a bit before heading to Gruene to take Mom to a birthday dinner at the River House Tea Room.  Unfortunately, our picture frenzy was short-lived, and we failed to take pictures for several days.

We enjoyed a couple of low-key days at home--putting together a puzzle, taking walks, and going through our baby items in the cedar chest--and then spent Tuesday in San Marcos.  We found a few good deals at the outlet mall, but the memory-making event of the day was when we tried to find a new place to try for lunch.  We decided to try a place that had a couple of rave reviews.  I got a bad feeling right before we went in, but Mom and Erin thought it would be okay and forged ahead.  I thought they would back out once they saw that there were only three people (all at the same table)eating lunch.  Or that they would change their minds when they saw that the menu on the white erase board was almost illegible.  I opted for tea only and watched the train wreck unfold.  Mom and Erin could barely contain their laughter when their unappetizing lunches arrived.  Between the laughs, they tried to make it look like they had eaten some of the food, but I think they mostly pushed it around to rearrange it.  We paid and left within 30 minutes of having arrived and headed to The Root Cellar Café, where we enjoyed a delicious meal.  Tried and true won the day.

On Wednesday, Erin and I headed to Austin, and I had the pleasure of exposing her to South Congress Café's carrot cake French toast.  We got haircuts and shopped at Kendra Scott before meeting up with Mom and her friends in Martindale for another birthday celebration for her and an impromptu baby shower for Erin.  One of Mom's friends had made Erin a baby quilt and had added a special touch by incorporating something from my dad (his red tie) and my mom (a crocheted collar).

After breakfast on Thursday, Erin and I started the trip back.  We stopped and picked up a few more things at Magnolia and then did some shopping in Cowtown.  She wanted to take home some tortillas, so we stopped in at Central Market and ran into this guy:

He was there promoting Shark Tank and his favorite cookie, made by someone named Alyssa.

Friday was departure day, but Erin and I managed to squeeze in a walk, a little selfie session, and a yummy lunch at Ellerbe Fine Foods before she flew back.

To have some time off from work was refreshing, but to be able to spend that time with my family was a huge grace gift.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Perspective: Learning Limitations

I grew up wanting to make a 100 on every assignment, to rate as Superior on piano at Junior Festival, to be first chair on French horn, and to place first in every U.I.L. academic contest that I entered.  By the Lord's grace, many of those desires came to fruition, rewarding my perfectionist tendencies. 

In the years since I finished my formal education and wrapped up my participation in music competitions, I entered adult life with all its responsibilities.  And I quickly learned that there's not enough time for perfection.  Instead, some tasks just need to be completed.

But perfectionist tendencies die hard, as I was reminded when I took on a recent painting project.

With the intention of saving money, I set out to paint a headboard, a desk, and a filing cabinet, using white Annie Sloan Chalk Paint.  My experience with painting is quite limited:  I put a coat of varnish on a chair in high school and have helped paint a couple of walls for friends.  And yet, I thought I'd do a perfect job on this project.

On July 4, I put a coat of paint on the headboard and the desk.  The headboard was already white, so the goal was only to give it a fresh coat of paint.  It dried nicely.  But as the paint on the desk dried, it buckled and crackled in a few places.  The next day, I called the store where I had purchased the paint and was informed that in a few cases, "Annie" doesn't like whatever coating is on a piece of furniture, and so "she" won't stick to it.  I was instructed to lightly sand the desk and to put a top coat on before re-applying the paint. 

As I noted in a previous post, the month of July flew by because I was gone most weekends on trips.  And so I didn't get back to the project until last weekend.  I followed the store clerk's instructions, only to have it crackle even more with the second coat.  The filing cabinet, which I put a top coat on before even attempting to paint, also didn't want to accept the paint.  It crackled as well, but not as badly as the desk.  I spoke to the clerk at the paint store again, and she advised sanding down the desk and completely starting over.

At that point, my perfectionist tendencies waved the white flag. I have no place at my apartment to completely sand down a desk, nor do I have the tools or know-how required for such a task.  I'm sure there are plenty of YouTube videos that could be watched.  But I will choose to spend my time differently.

And so I will give myself grace to know that the goal of having a white desk and a white filing cabinet have been met, at least for the most part.  But if you stop by, you may notice that each piece has quite a few "design elements," which make the furniture extra special.

Desk and cabinet before moving:

Desk and cabinet after moving:

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Perspective: Immediately

When is the last time that you needed something immediately?  Did the Lord supply your need as quickly as you'd hoped, or did you have to wait?

As I've read through Mark the past two weeks, I've been struck by the pattern of how often the word "immediately" is used:

1:10 "And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove."

1:12 "The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness."

1:18 "And immediately they left their nets and followed him."

1:20 "And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him."

1:21 "And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching.

1:23 "And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit."

1:29 "And immediately he left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.

1:30 "Now Simon's mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her."

1:42 "And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean."

2:8 "And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, 'Why do you question these things in your hearts?'"

2:12 "And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, sot hat they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, 'We never saw anything like this!'"

3:6 "The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him."

4:5 "Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil."

4:15 "And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown:  when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them."

4:16 "And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy."

4:17 "And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away."

5:2 "And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit."

5:29 "And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her

5:30 "And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, 'Who touched my garments?'"

5:42 "And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement."

6:25 "And she came in immediately with haste to the king and asked, saying, 'I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.'"

6:27 "And immediately the king sent an executioner with order to bring John's head.  He went and beheaded him in the prison."

6:45 "Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd."

6:50 "for they all saw him and were terrified.  But immediately he spoke to them and said, 'Take heart; it is I.  Do not be afraid.'"

6:54 "And when they got out of the boat, the people immediately recognized him"

7:25 "But immediately a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard of him and came and fell down at his feet."

8:10 "And immediately he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the district of Dalmanutha."

9:15 "And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him."

9:20 "And they brought the boy to him.  And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth."

9:24 "Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, "I believe; help my unbelief!"

10:52 "And Jesus said to him, 'Go your way; your faith has made you well.'  And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way."

11:2 "and said to them, 'Go into the village in front of you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat.  Untie it and bring it."

11:3 "If anyone says to you, 'Why are you doing this?' say, 'The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.'"

14:43 "And immediately while he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders."

14:72 "And immediately the rooster crowed a second time.  And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, 'Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.' And he broke down and wept."

Thirty-five times the Book of Mark uses the word "immediately."  Sometimes it's the person's response that is immediate, and sometimes it's Jesus's response that is immediate. 

Throughout this year, I've prayed for several things to happen immediately--both for me and for friends.  And most of the time, the Lord has not given the answer immediately or performed the action I requested immediately.  But at the same time, I can't say that my obedience has always been immediate or that I've always prayed immediately when a situation concerns me.

But despite my wavering, these passages from Mark serve as reminders that we serve an unchanging God, One Who still has the power to change a situation immediately.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

July Recap

I don't think I've ever experienced a July that flew by as quickly as Christmas, but that's what happened this July.  Three weekends in a row were booked solid, so there's a lot of catching up to do.  That means this post will be heavy on pictures and light on words.

First up, my train trip to Indiana for the Kinzie family reunion.   A few pictures from the train:

Mineola's cute little station

I think this bridge was outside St. Louis.

Based on the amount of corn I saw in Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana, I think the U.S. is in for a bumper crop this year.

On the trip back, the views of the arch were spectacular.

Although I'd expected to get a lot of reading done during my forty-eight hours on the train, I read only about fifty pages, due in part to a migraine on the way and a need for sleep on the way back. So there won't be any book reviews forthcoming for a while. But the forty-eight-hour train trip was worth it.  My sister was able to surprise my aunts and cousins with some fun news.

That's right, I will be an ant aunt in December.  :-)

We stayed at Aunt Lisa and Uncle Ted's house on their farm.
I got to spend some time with an Annie-look-alike named Maddie.

My cousin Jamie's daughter Megan was preparing to show three pigs at the county fair. 
 So on Friday night, there was a pig washing.  According to Megan's dad Gregg, "Fourteen attended; three repented and were baptized."  For the record, their names were Flower, George, and Oreo.

On Saturday, we gathered at Scout Hall for the family reunion.

Gathering for prayer before lunch.
My Grandma V. was one of seven children.  Two of her sisters remain, and they sure are spunky, even in their 80s!  Aunt Wilma and Aunt Doris with my cousin Rachael.
Aunt Wilma posing.  I wish I had a picture of Aunt Doris dancing to some pop music in the convenience store on the way to Indiana from Chicago.  She proclaimed, "I just love rhythm!"
There were relatives from each of the seven Kinzie children at the reunion, but Grandma V. had the best turnout (and this doesn't even include all of her grandchildren or great-grandchildren).
My mom with all of her sisters.

 Some of our cousins, who have remained true to our Old Order roots.

After the reunion, there was Gator driving and Gator riding.
Some go-kart driving.
Followed by go-kart fixing.
Corn hole playing.  And a long game of two-hand touch football played by boys ages five to sixty.
After that, it was time for me to leave the pig farm and head back to Cowtown.  The following weekend, I indulged my love of the arts and went to Dallas to see some of my favorite dancers from Dancing with the Stars in "Ballroom with a Twist."
Maks, Tony, Karina, and Cheryl performed, along with some finalists from So You Think You Can Dance and some previous finalists from American Idol.  It was fun to see the crowd react to watching Maks live, especially after having rooted for him to win the Mirror Ball Trophy with Meryl this spring.  It was also quite interesting to see that the crowd was predominantly women over sixty-five. 
And last weekend, I headed south to attend the wedding of one of the boys I used to babysit.  Beforehand, Mom and I ate lunch at the Peach Cafe in Boerne and browsed through the local shops.

Mom and I attempted to take some selfies as we waited for the ceremony to start.
I started babysitting Bryan when he was four, and it has been a sweet grace to stay connected to him and his brother Rob throughout the many years since then. 
Now that it's August, football will kick off in less than four weeks.  So I hope to make the most of what's left of summer.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Summer Reads

Almost every summer when I was growing up, I participated in the local library's Summer Reading Program.  By reading a certain number of books, you could earn a coupon for a free personal pan pizza at Pizza Hut or other various prizes.

Nowadays, there's no need to even have the lure of a prize; reading itself is the reward.  Each book is like a mini vacation, or at least most of my selections attempt to fit in that category.

So my main objective at the beginning of each summer is to make a summer reading list.  The hard part isn't coming up with a list; the hard part is cutting it down enough to make it practical.

I start with books that I need to finish.  Next, I write down the books that I've wanted to read for a long time and add in books that friends have recommended.  Then, I add a few of the books that I've seen recommended on multiple blogs.  And for the past two years, I've added in books from Modern Mrs. Darcy's Summer Reading Guide.

I kicked off my summer reading program by finishing Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges, which  I have mentioned previously.  It was eye opening to see how many of my daily behaviors are actually sins that the world has conditioned me to think are acceptable.  In a word, convicting.

Next, I started a book that's been in my stack for quite a while called Peace Like a River by Leif Enger.  This book has received rave reviews by just about every mainstream media outlet, and authors I've read in the past have spoken highly of the prose in this book.  They were all correct.  The prose is amazing, and the story is one that I wouldn't have thought would have received rave reviews from mainstream media.  But that just goes to show that miracles appeal to all.  [Note:  The book has some dark characters and is a bit of a thriller, which I don't normally read, so I had to break it up and read it during the day.] 

At night, I read The Little Book Store of Big Stone Gap by Wendy Welch.  This was on Modern Mrs. Darcy's list for memoirs, and it is a treasure.  It's a fun read about a couple who opened a used book store in a house in a small town.  If you love small book stores or books in general, this is a great book.

Last summer, I found the genre of food memoirs and was instantly hooked.  So when Modern Mrs. Darcy recommended Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl about a food critic in New York, I knew that I'd be reading it.  I found this book fascinating, and it fostered an even deeper desire to travel to NYC some day and eat at the restaurants that she awarded three-star reviews.

As briefly mentioned in my previous post, I learned a great deal from The Nesting Place by Myquillyn Smith.  It was the right book at the right time for me.  But her theme of "It doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful" is one for every season of life.

One of the food memoirs I devoured last summer was A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg.  It was recommended by both Shauna Niequist and Modern Mrs. Darcy.  This summer, they both recommended Wizenberg's follow-up that just released in May entitled Delancey, which is about the pizza restaurant that the author and her husband opened.  I didn't love this book as much as the first, but she ties it together well at the end, includes great recipes, and provides a whole new appreciation for those who run family restaurants and the work that goes into making them succeed.  I kept thinking of Cane Rosso here locally and had to go pick up a Capricciosa pizza, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

I just started reading The Book Thief and will hopefully be able to finish it on the train in the near future, along with Love Idol that is on order from Amazon. And there are two other books on hold at the library.  The old saying is true:  Too many books, not enough time!

What books would you recommend for summer reading?

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Perspective: Loss of a Label

In the two months since I last posted, the closing date for selling my house changed five times.  Every time I made peace with staying in my house, things would start to look like I would be moving.  And every time I made peace with moving, it looked like I would be staying in my house.  It was quite an emotional ride.
But on May 28, everything came together, the paperwork was signed, and the buyers’ loan funded.  And the fees that the buyers incurred for all of their delays allowed me to cover the cost of the movers.

I had envisioned selling my house and moving to a garage apartment or to a rental house with a yard that would allow me to adopt another Golden Retriever.  My vision did not match up with the market:  garage apartments are difficult to find, and rental houses near downtown are crazy expensive due to what TCU students are willing to pay.  The result was that I ended up moving to a third-story apartment. 
I lived in a third-story apartment for three years before I bought my home, so this isn’t new territory.  And maybe that’s what has made it hard.  I’ve already done this before, and I wasn’t planning to do it again.  It feels like taking a step back. 
I know that it takes time, but it’s been difficult to make this third-story apartment feel like something other than a hotel room that I come back to at the end of the day.  But it’s kind of a catch-22:  even though I want to decorate or do what is necessary to make it feel more like home, I don’t want to spend a lot of money on things for this space because I don’t know how long I’ll be renting here. 

I had no idea when I sold my home that I’d miss the label of “homeowner” as much as I have.  The world has been pressing in, and some acquaintances have not been shy about voicing their shock and dismay that I sold my house.  It's as if it defined my worth or gave me standing as an adult.
I recently finished reading The Nesting Place.  In that book, author Myquillyn Smith describes how she took on making each of her houses a home, including “The Apartment I Thought I Was Too Good For.”  That phrase got my attention because that's exactly what I was/am feeling. 

After living in a house with an attached garage for eleven years, it truly felt like home.  The decorating was done.  The rooms were familiar.  Memories had been made there. I had spent money for a new refrigerator, a new dishwasher, a new hot water heater, new landscaping, and a new roof, as well as having the exterior repainted.  All of that was left behind.

And yet, this apartment is serving a purpose.  It allowed me to sign a lease at the last minute and enabled me to move only once, instead of having to store my things while I waited on a rental house to become available.

This whole process has given me a couple of great reminders.  For one, the only label I should ever stand on is that I belong to Christ.  No other label will stand the test of time.  The other reminder is this earth is my temporary home; nothing here—no matter if it is on the ground floor and has an attached garage—will truly ever feel completely right because my soul was created with a longing for Heaven.

And so I’ve tried to retrain my mind to think about the perks that this new season of renting an apartment encompasses:

--I no longer have a mortgage, a lawn bill, a gas bill, or an alarm monitoring bill.

--The area feels much safer than the old neighborhood.

--The commute to work is about half of what it was when I lived at my house; additional bonus:  a tank of gas can last two weeks.

--Maintenance requests are submitted online, taken care of without my taking a day of vacation, and are not billed to me.  I no longer carry around the fear of having to pay $8,000 to replace an air conditioner.

--There is no certain trash day; trash can be taken to the dumpster every day, and thus raw meat trimmings and eggs do not sit in the garage in 100-degree heat fermenting until Friday (my former trash day).

--UPS packages are delivered to the leasing office and do not sit on the door step waiting to be stolen.

My prayer is that I will continue to see the gifts of this new season of apartment dwelling and that no earthly labels are necessary.

"This one will say, 'I am the Lord's,' . . . and another will write on his hand, 'The Lord's,' and name himself by the name of Israel." - Isaiah 44:5