Sunday, October 26, 2014

October Recap

It seems a bit early to be thinking about a recap for the month of October, but by next weekend, it will already be November and time to fall back an hour.  So before October gets away, here are a few things I want to remember this month.
Words are so life-giving, especially for one whose love language is words of encouragement.  As part of my birthday celebration, my friend Susie created a decorated ring to hold the cards I received.  I keep it hanging on my bedroom door knob so I can read some when I need to refuel my love tank.  The art of writing may be a dying art, but it shouldn't be.  Words like these from friends, and the powerful words of Scripture, can encourage over and over again after being written only once.
My friends Krista and Jeff invited me to sit at one of their tables at the Young Life Banquet.  The speaker this year was Bob Goff, the author of Love Does.  I never dreamed I'd be able to meet him, but he has to be one of the most approachable New York Times bestselling authors ever.  Who else puts his real cell phone number on the last page of his book and actually answers his phone?!  He lives a life of loving others abundantly and has a huge heart for protecting children around the world.  His stories about the work he's doing in Uganda gives goosebumps.  He's truly a hero.

Another hero is Noah, as well as his wife.  As I've been studying Genesis, I've been reminded of the incredible example of obedience that Noah demonstrated.  God didn't give him a blue print like he gave Moses for the tabernacle; instead, God gave Noah only a basic outline.  Noah's main task was to obey, even if it meant building something that likely seemed unnecessary; after all, there had never been rain prior to the flood.  And as was pointed out in our talk this past week, Noah's wife is to be admired for being his helpmate and supporting him throughout this process as he undertook this huge building project (possibly in their front yard) for DECADES.   

This has been one of the hottest Octobers on record here.  It also has been a rough month for Texas football.  So, I'm looking forward to cooler weather and to hopefully getting a couple of wins in the last four games of the season.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Perspective: Celebrating 40

In preparation for turning forty, I wrestled with how to celebrate this milestone birthday.   For many years, I’d “threatened” to plan a big party that would serve as a wedding reception in case I wasn’t married by forty.  I was hoping that my threat would convince God to introduce me to my husband so that I could have a real wedding reception—one where all my friends and family would gather together in one place with me to celebrate the Lord’s faithfulness.  But as I’ve learned over the past thirty-nine years, you can’t force God to do anything, and I don’t end up liking anything I’ve schemed for.  And so I had let go of the idea of having a big party. 

Then, some sweet friends of mine plotted together and offered to throw a birthday lunch, a birthday dinner, or a birthday tea for me.  Being a gal who loves all types of teas, tea rooms, and anything that remotely resembles a proper British afternoon tea, I chose the latter.  My mom was already planning to come for the weekend, and she agreed to stay an extra day to attend the tea with me. 

I couldn't have asked for a sweeter celebration; it was beautiful in every way, and there was so much love in all the details that three hostesses thought of.  Sarah, Krista, and Susie did an amazing job. 

I didn't even notice right away that the painting on the mantle was for me; my friend Susie painted it, and it now proudly hangs above my bed. 


Mom also helped me comply with the obligatory work requirement:  bring your own birthday cake.  She whipped up this four-layer pumpkin cake with a caramel and pecan topping, which was devoured in the blink of an eye on Monday afternoon.
On my actual birthday, I chose to have a quiet evening at home and read through cards and notes sent by my family and friends.  It was a perfect birthday for this introvert who enjoys reading encouraging words.

My mom wrote that it is time to enter my promised land, just as the Israelites did after their forty-year journey.  I've read that the number forty was used by God to represent a period of testing or judgment (the length of time necessary to accomplish some major part of God's plan in His dealings with various portions of mankind), and I'm so very ready for His plans to be realized in my life. 

Forty hasn't really sunk in, mostly because forty feels different when you aren't where you expected you'd be and can't set goals to get there.  But in so many ways that I could never have imagined, the Lord has used the past thirty-nine years to show me that He is faithful and good; He has surrounded me with such godly family and friends who have encouraged me, who have walked with me, and who have pointed me back to His Truths, which never change.  That, in itself, is worth celebrating - milestone birthday or not.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

September Recap

September has always had a special place in my heart because it's attached to going back to school and getting back in a rhythm.  Summer was always a little loosey goosey with no set plans for each day.  And while that had its perks, my Type A personality has always gravitated toward routine, which lends itself to some predictability.  And even though I haven't been in school in fourteen years, I still have a fondness for September and for a new rhythm.  Here's a little recap of what this September has held:

The trip to Austin for continuing education - along with the longest bus ride ever, as I recapped here.

An evening with Laura Bush, thanks to my sweet friends Krista and Jeff, and an opportunity to catch up with my friend Emily.

Women in the Word on Thursdays. It's been so fun to see how this has grown over the past ten years.

The Longhorns game at AT&T Stadium (f/k/a Cowboys Stadium).  It was a hard fought game that ended with a 20-17 loss, but I enjoyed getting to spend time with friends.

Surviving a colonoscopy and the prep and receiving the all-clear, for which I'm very grateful.

Birthday dinners for two friends and Sunday brunch with my college roommate, whom I hadn't seen in way too long.

Getting to hang out with Krista and Jeff's son and watch one of his football games.

Finishing two excellent books that I highly recommend:  Love Idol by Jennifer Dukes Lee and The Best Yes by Lysa TerKeurst.

September did not disappoint.  May the rest of fall bring cooler weather and a sweet rhythm. 

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.