Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Worth It

Worth turning around.
Worth going back in to get the camera.
Worth waiting for the truck to pass by.
Worth taking multiple shots.
Worth capturing this real-life painting of sorts.

Because it lasted only a few minutes.
Because it needed to be seen.
Because it reflected peace.
Because it made me smile.
Because it demonstrated God's artistry.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Lining Up

This back fence once lined up perfectly with the side fence. Until the storms came. And then, it started moving down a new course. One that wasn't planned and looks a bit awkward.

Looking at this fence, I'm reminded of the plans I had for my life. Plans that I thought lined up perfectly with God's will. My plans didn't include any storms or any derailments. Just a straight line, a "normal" progression.

But in God's grace, He has chosen His own path for me. A path that has always been His plan A for my life, even when I've considered it to be plan B. A plan that is building character and teaching lessons that I never knew I needed to learn. A plan that keeps me dependent on Him because I don't know what else to do. A plan that has brought unexpected joy in unexpected ways.

Sometimes the part of me that wants everything to line up "just so" has to let go and just hang out. Right where I am. Even if it looks a little awkward, like the fence. Because maybe that's what He wants others to see. And that it doesn't matter how it looks to me because He's got a plan, and I can rest in that.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Moving Across the Pond

Stephanie and I at a co-worker's wedding reception in April

Today, we had a luncheon to bid farewell to another one of my co-workers and friends, Stephanie. (For those who are keeping count, this makes two good friends who have left in just a little over a year.) When they opened up the floor for people to speak, only one brave lady did. Everyone else was fighting back tears and didn't want to end up doing the "ugly cry" in front of other co-workers.

It's hard to say goodbye to someone who has worked at the same place for sixteen years. And though I've had the fortune to work with her for only six of those years, I also struggled to say goodbye because Stephanie and I have celebrated our birthdays together at work all those years. Sharing a birthday doesn't always equate with sharing similar traits, but for some reason, it did with us: We both have an undergraduate degree in accounting, the same graduate degree from the same grad school, the same discontinued James Avery keychain, a love for all things Ann Taylor, an aversion to being cold, and a desire to always be organized.

Those things won't change. They'll just be harder to recognize because she is moving across the pond where her husband was relocated for his job. So now we'll rely on the similarities upon which we built our friendship to sustain it.

I'm grateful that she still has lots of family in this area to draw her back here. But in the meantime, I've vowed to eat a piece of Fort Worth Black Forest Cake from the Swiss Pastry Shop each October 15 in honor of our birthday.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Good Words from Good Books

Here are some words I've been chewing on from some recent books I've read:

Because the rewards are quiet, being dependable in common love is not always inviting. The reward of putting rock on rock isn't always visible. Sometimes the work is dirty. We get scraped and bored. We don't always see the wall of grace we're building for the Lord.
From p. 87 of Stone Crossings: Finding Grace in Hard and Hidden Places by L.L. Barkat

When you're with someone else, you share each discovery, but when you are alone, you have to carry each experience with you like a secret, something you have to write on your heart, because there's no other way to preserve it.
From p. 57 of Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist

What I know now is that [God's] kindness burns through even the deepest betrayals and invites life from death every chance we let him. There are things that explode into our lives and we call them curses, and then one day, a year later or ten years later, we realize that they are actually something else. They are the very most precious kind of blessings.

. . . .

When what you see in front of you is so far outside of what you dreamed, but you have the belief, the boldness, the courage to call it beautiful instead of calling it wrong, that's celebration.

. . . .

Nothing good comes easily. You have to lose things you thought you loved, give up things you thought you needed. You have to get over yourself, beyond your past, out from under the weight of your future. The good stuff never comes when things are easy. It comes when things are heavily weighted down like moving trucks. It comes just when you thing it never will, like a shimmering Las Vegas rising up out of the dry desert, sparkling and humming with energy, a blessing that rose up out of a bone-dry, dusty curse.
From pps. 177-79 of Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist

Friday, June 19, 2009

You, too? I Thought I Was the Only One.

Author Shauna Niequist, in one of the essays in her book Cold Tangerines, describes coming across a card with those simple words on it. Don't they make you feel like you are understood? They remind me how blessed I am to have so many friends who "get" me.

Last month around the 20th, one of my friends who is also doing the Dave Ramsey envelope system happened to mention how she was ready for the month to be over because her envelopes were almost empty. That simple, honest statement was like finding a friend in the desert. I was not alone in counting the days until the next direct deposit would hit my bank account.

Similarly, I have a friend at work whom I can talk to about any health condition and not feel embarrassed. I go in to talk to her all worked up that I'm the only person who has ever had such weird symptoms, only to hear words that act like medicine to my hurting soul: "I've had that same thing before. It went away after about a week. It's nothing to worry about. You'll be fine."

And last weekend, I caught up with a good friend of mine from high school. Our lives have taken different paths than we had imagined. But we still share so many similarities and are able to share the "You, too?" understanding with one another. That strengthens our friendship to endure the distance gap, as well as the time gap between visits. Because those words can bring us together even if they are only typed in an email or spoken on the phone.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Making the Most of a Necessary Evil

Sitting in a 55-degree windowless conference room for eight hours straight is not my idea of a good time. I'd much rather be at work, but continuing education is a necessary evil. The one highlight--the location of the conference allows me to visit a great city and catch up with friends and family.

After arriving, the first order of business was to walk down Congress Avenue,

hang a right on 6th Street,

and grab a bite to eat at the 1886 Cafe & Bakery inside The Driskill Hotel.

I read the evening away and woke up excited, knowing that the reward for shivering through the next eight hours would be a reunion with my good friends. The reward was sweet because we hadn't gotten together in several years. We had a great time reminiscing over a delicious meal at Eastside Cafe.

The evening disappeared, and the next day promised only three and a half hours of shivering before I could check out and catch up with another good friend and her two girls. We (or maybe it was just me) gobbled up lunch at Threadgill's and then enjoyed great conversation on the ride to meet my mom.

(Note the lingering evidence of surviving the conference room: a sweater despite the 98-degree weather.)

Unfortunately, I didn't get a picture of me with my mom. But we had a great time taking in the Friday night festivities in my hometown. The evening was full with a stroll through the farmers' market, a yummy dinner at a new restaurant, a quick listen to a live band, and a dash to the rodeo (only to find out that we'd already missed the one event we wanted to see). Saturday was leisurely with nothing on the agenda and was a perfect day finished off with a homecooked meal.

With such wonderful friends and family, I guess my only complaint should be that the conference isn't held more often.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Summer Reading

Growing up, summer meant lots of time to read. And though I wasn't much of a reader back then, the summer reading program at my local library lured me to read with promises of a certificate and a free personal pan pizza from Pizza Hut. But more than the certificate and pizza, I think it was the competitiveness of reading lots of books over a short period of time that captured my interest.

Last fall, the stack of books I wanted to read grew as I prepared and taught class each week. All work and no reading made me one unhappy gal. I promised myself I could read for pleasure as soon as all the grading was done in January.

But then, I started the Beth Moore study on Esther (which was fantastic), a study on Psalms with my small group, and the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace class. Obviously, I had a little trouble saying "no," except when it came to my reading my stack, which sat untouched.

But now the time has come. Actually, I started a bit early. After I finished reading and reviewing Sticks and Stones, I read Words That Hurt, Words That Heal by Carole Mayhall during April and underlined a ton in that little gem. Definitely one to read.

Next up was 90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper with Cecil Murphey, which I mentioned in a previous post.

Then, I read Loving People by Dr. John Townsend. Another one to buy so you can underline.

My friend Krista had recommended Sacred Influence as a good book to read before marriage. I read it last week and underlined a ton in it as well. (There's a theme here: If it's nonfiction, I buy it to highlight in it.)

And most recently, I read When Crickets Cry by Charles Martin. In a word = AMAZING! Beautiful character development. Powerful story. And as I watched the pages dwindle in the span of a day, I secretly wished that the book was 2,000 pages long instead of 342 because I didn't want it to end. And now, I find myself missing the characters.

So that's what I've been doing. I hope to keep up the pace and read a book a week to put a dent in my stack. In the immediate queue are Gifted Hands by Ben Carson with Cecil Murphey, In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day by Mark Batterson, the Mark of the Lion trilogy by Francine Rivers, Cold Tangerines, and hopefully many others.

But knowing my tendency to set a goal like this and then pursue it with all of my being, I have already had to set some boundaries. Those require me to make sure that I use the summer to invest in relationships with my real friends, not just characters in books. I've already planned some get-togethers with friends over the next few weeks and hope to plan more. Hopefully this outlook will help keep me balanced.

Most, if not all, of the books on my to-read list came as recommendations from friends. So what books do you want to read or do you recommend?