Sunday, June 30, 2013

June Update

How is it already the end of June?  I can't make that compute, but apparently, I've read a lot since the last update.  More on that below.

What Made Me Smile

Pistachio White Chocolate Bread Pudding with Salted Caramel Sauce and Bing Cherries at Magnolia Cheese Company.  Wish I could say I shared this with someone, but alas there was not even a bite left because it was THAT good.

Seeing the Body of Christ come together in a trailer food park to support a family who lost their home in the Granbury tornados.

Dinner with Ally and her fifteen-month-old cutie Jude, who sat right beside her even without a booster seat.

Arranging garden roses.

Dinner with a friend before she moved to Virginia.

Brunch with one of my young friends and hearing all that God is doing in her life.

Lunches and dinners to celebrate friends' birthdays.

Dinner with my friend who was in town from England.

A Pancake Breakfast for Melissa.  It was a joint celebration of her birthday and a time of covering her in prayer as she and her family are moving to Thailand for a year.  In December 2007, we took this picture at her wedding shower.

And recreating the moment almost seven years later. 

Coffee with a friend and talking so long that we closed down Barnes and Noble on a weeknight.

What I've Learned

In addition to my post from earlier this month, I've learned that essential oils have some great healing properties.  Peppermint oil has been helpful in staving off headaches.

I've learned that waiting until the weekend after Memorial Day to plant vinca is a recipe for disaster.  Out of 18, I have 2.5 that are still alive.  There might have also been a lack of watering.

I learned from Emily Freeman's blog that the volume button on the side of the iphone can be used to take a picture, which comes in handy when you are trying to take a selfie and can't see the button on the back of the bottom of the phone's screen.

I learned that only plastic frames should be put on your head because metal frames tend to get stuck in hair, which explains why my prescription sunglasses don't rip my hair out and why my nonprescription Ray Bans do.

I learned that I'd rather have to skip vacation due to a pipe bursting before I was scheduled to leave than to have had it happen while I was away.  These were my lifesavers.

Even though my bathroom now looks like this and will have to undergo some major work in the coming weeks.

What I've Read

Gift from the Sea  by Anne Morrow Lindbergh.  I've already loaned this book to my mom; it was that good.  It's a quick read that was written in the 1950s and contains nuggets of wisdom that are still applicable today.

The Real Win by Colt McCoy and Matt Carter.  It was a given that I was going to read this book because I'm a big Colt fan and I enjoy listening to sermons from his pastor Matt Carter of The Austin Stone.  This is a great book for men and women, defining biblical manhood and what that should look like in our culture, and it contains entertaining stories from both men's lives. 

The Autobiography of George Muller.  If your prayer life needs a boost, this is a great book as it contains journal entries from a man who counted on God to provide his daily bread and every pound that came into his wallet.

A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet by Sophie Hudson.  I dedicated a whole post to this book.  Lots of funny here.

A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg.  I've already loaned this book to a friend.  Shauna Niequist references this book in Bread and Wine, and it is similar in many ways.  It contains great stories and recipes, but God is completely absent from this book.

Your Beautiful Purpose by Susie Larson.  This author spoke at a women's retreat that I attended earlier this year, but I didn't pick up the book until Ann Voskamp recommended it on her blog.  I loved Larson's openness and her writing style.  Lots underlined in this book.

Quitter by Jon Acuff.  I've followed Acuff on Twitter for quite a while.  He's hilarious.  In this book, he talks about how to develop a dream while you work 40 hours a week.  Lots of food for thought here.

Anything by Jennie Allen.  Jennie and her husband Zac prayed, "God, we will do anything."  This book is a small part of following what God showed them after they prayed that prayer.  She puts into words what I've felt on numerous occasions but have been too afraid to say.  This is one courageous book, but it's also one that we're all called to live out.  Lots to process after reading this book.

Whew!  What a fast and furious month!  And with the holiday ahead, I'm hoping to process some of what I've recently read.  What books are you enjoying?

Sunday, June 23, 2013

His Grace in Wasting Nothing

I know sometimes it's scary to think that you might do the wrong thing.  It's terrifying to imagine wasting your "one shot."  But let me assure you, nothing you do will be wasted.  Every decision you make, every path you take, has the ability to contribute something you need to succeed at your dream. (From p.81 of Quitter by Jon Acuff)
During my last year in grad school, I took a paid internship to learn how to put into practice what I had been studying in the classroom for the previous two years.  I did a few projects, but mostly, I got paid to sit and do homework because they didn't have that much work for an intern to do.  And while I was grateful for the money, I concluded that it had been a waste of a year of my time.

Three years later, I quit the job that I had gone to grad school for and began looking for a contract position.  I applied with several temp companies and was offered contract work with a firm in Dallas.  After a few weeks on the job, I was talking with my supervisor about grad school because we had attended the same one.  During that conversation, he shared that he had hired me because of the internship that I had done in grad school; he said that he had completed an internship there and knew that I must be "okay" if they had hired me.

I often think that I am not using my time wisely - that maybe there's something else that the Lord wants me to do or that maybe I'm not making the best use of the gifts and talents that He has given me.  And yet, I go back to the above scenario and see how God can (and does) use the most unlikely experiences in the past to equip us for the future. 

I have to remind myself that when I gave my life to Him, I gave Him the use of all of my time - that same time that He holds from beginning to end as the Alpha and the Omega - and sometimes He ordains that time to be used in what appears to be a mundane way.  But just because it feels mundane doesn't mean that it can't be used.

As I think about that, it compels me to pray that I wouldn't miss what He has for me right now.  That He would enable me to grasp the lessons that I need to learn from today in order to thrive in the future.  And that He would redeem the time that it feels like the locusts have eaten.  (Joel 2:25)

May the Lord remind each of us that not one experience is wasted or cannot be redeemed.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Public Service Announcement

If you use Google Reader, you've received the alerts that it will no longer be operating after July 1.  I added an email button to the blog awhile back because I thought it might come in handy during this time.  So, if you'd prefer the ease of having blog updates sent directly to your email, please feel free to sign up.

Thank you to all who take the time to read, and thank you for extending grace last Sunday as I was battling a sinus migraine and could not post.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

His Grace in Giving Laughter

I don't recall laughing much when I was growing up.  My dad got sick when I was six, and so I spent quite a bit of time at my Granny and Pa-Pa's house.  And though they were very loving, they didn't laugh very much, if at all.  The most that my mother and I can recall is that Granny may have said, "That's cute," but there was no such thing as a fit of giggles or an all-out belly laugh from either Granny or Pa-Pa.  I think their limited schooling, around first grade for Pa-Pa and third grade or maybe fifth for Granny, prevented them from understanding that some things in life are funny.  At any rate, my early childhood contains a lot of sweet memories but not a lot of laughter-filled memories.

Around junior high or high school, I must have developed a sense of humor.  Or at least a late-night sense of humor.  It was during that time that if I was awake past a certain time of night (though the time often fluctuated), anything that was said became hysterically funny to me.  Sometimes my outbursts were amusing to my mother and sister, while other times they would merely say, "There she goes."  Possibly indicating that my sanity had stepped out.

Nowadays when we get together as a family, laughter seems to be a focal point.  Because we have so many shared memories, it's easy to play off of them and insert humor.  It is such a gift to laugh with family, and I'm so grateful we have that now.

I also enjoy books that make me laugh.  Seven by Jen Hatmaker was the first book that I can recall reading that produced multiple side-splitting outbursts of laughter, which was quickly followed by my reading aloud the portions that I found hysterical.

Melanie Shankle's memoir Sparkly Green Earrings, which I read earlier this summer, had a similar effect.

And then this weekend, I read A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet by Sophie Hudson.  I called my mom and read the bulk of chapter 4 to her.  I got so tickled reading it that I could barely get the words out, which caused Mom to laugh even more.  And there's no way I could read chapter 7 out loud and have anyone understand me because it's that funny.

So as I wrap up this weekend with some soreness in my abs, I'm grateful for the gift of laughter.  What has made you laugh lately?  I'd love to hear.

"A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones." - Proverbs 17:22

Sunday, June 2, 2013

20 Things I've Learned

Sometimes it feels like I learn the same things over and over again.  I'm not sure if it's because I didn't fully process the lessons the first time, because God is driving home a point, or both.  So I thought it might be time to put some down in writing.   I'm hoping that by writing out the lessons I've learned, I'll take them to heart.

1.  It's not about you.

Rick Warren's book The Purpose Driven Life opens with the above statement, and it's one of the most profound four-word sentences ("Jesus Christ is Lord" is of course the best four-word sentence).  This lesson could stand alone, but I've found a couple of corollaries.

2.  Not everyone who is mad is mad at you. 

See Lesson #1.

3.  People don't spend time obsessing over you, so stop obsessing over yourself.  This lesson could  also read:  The impurities that you focus on when you are a half inch from the mirror cannot be seen my most people.

See Lesson #1, again.

4.  Worry accomplishes nothing.

As a follow-up to lesson 3, I thought this was worth mentioning because I've struggled with worry.  It constantly makes a come-back.  But I'm trying to leave it off my mind's to-do list.

5.  Back away from the lists occasionally to see if what is on them REALLY matters. 

I've learned that if I leave things on my to-do list for long enough, some of the items become moot.  Chances are some of the things I put on my lists weren't important to begin with, which is probably why I never found time to do them.

6.  Focus on people more than things and tasks.

I'm embarrassed to admit how much I struggle with this.  I have a strong affinity for completed tasks, and sometimes my single-minded focus on a task causes me to ignore the people God has put in my life.

7.  Take down the to-do list from its pedestal as an idol. 

This will make Lesson #7 easier.  There are no rewards on earth or in Heaven for the number of completed to-do lists.  I need to let that sink in.

8.  Keep the Sabbath.

I've written about the benefits of Sabbath rest multiple times on here.  I can't say enough about how observing this spiritual discipline has changed me for the better.

9.  Fight for other white space on your calendar in addition to the Sabbath.

A Saturday, or even an evening, with nothing on the agenda can be as healing as a vacation and avoids the hassle of packing and traveling; plus, it's cheaper.

10.  Count your blessings using a pen and paper. 

For me, this is my one thousand (or now almost 3,500) gifts list.  Write them down so that you can go back and see God's faithfulness.  Fears are conquered when thankfulness abounds.

11.  Most people are more approachable than we think; dare to speak.

I approached the Head Coach of the University of Texas baseball team after a loss, even after being warned that he might not sign the ball because he takes losses hard.  I didn't get a word out of him, but I did get an autograph.

12.  People never tire of encouragement.

I haven't yet experienced a time when someone rejected this.

13.  People never tire of genuine praise.

Same as with Lesson 12.

14.  Knowing when to speak and when to be silent is hard.

I'm not sure if I'll ever grasp this lesson on this side of eternity.  It's one area I constantly need to pray for wisdom about.

15.  Don't assume you know how people feel; ask them. 

I tend to say things like, "I bet you had a great vacation."  But maybe it was the vacation that everyone got sick on or that didn't go as planned.  Open-ended questions are better for finding out how people really feel.

16.  There is a ministry of presence.

Simply showing up and being present with people means you gave the gift of time.  I experienced this when a friend made the three-hour drive in from Houston for my dad's funeral and then turned around and made the three-hour drive back.  It ministered to me deeply.

17.  You do not have to finish every book you start.

It took a long time for the "finish-what-you start" part of me to be okay with this.  But when I realized that you don't get back the time that you spend on bad books, I took this to heart.  Give yourself the grace to put down a bad book.

18.  It's okay to give away things that you were given but that you don't use and don't see yourself ever using. 

Clutter takes up physical and emotional space and can be a drain.  Let someone else love your stuff, and let them get the "joy" of taking care of it.

19. Comparison is the thief of joy. - Theodore Roosevelt

Roosevelt hit this right on the mark.  When I feel this setting in, it's time to get the gifts book out and start recording what I'm thankful for.

20.  You can change your story.

Shauna Niequist just wrote an excellent blog post on this topic.  It's also fresh on my mind because there are thirteen weeks of summer ahead.  Unfortunately, I still have to work.  But the days feel longer with sunlight lasting until almost 9 p.m., and I want to make the most of them. I feel like thirteen weeks is a good chunk of time to try new things and develop new habits.  So, we'll see how it goes.

This is just a start, but I know there are many other life lessons to learn.  What lessons have you learned?