Tuesday, August 31, 2010

This is the Day

Sunset over lake

Psalm 118:24
This is the day that Lord has made; let us rejoice in be glad in it!

I woke up with this verse in my heart and head this morning. What a gift! I ran through about a million scenarios of the good things that can happen today, but of course, the fact is that every day is from God, and my response to it may always be rejoicing, whether it turns out good or bad.

The Message translation seems to put even more emphasis on our response to God's work each day:
This is God's work. 
We rub our eyes—we can hardly believe it!
This is the very day God acted—
let's celebrate and be festive!
So, celebrate and be festive! God authored this day!
Note: For a beautiful picture of the Twelve Apostles rock formation on The Great Ocean Road, check out Peter Lik's photographs, one of which I originally had posted here before I decided to not be illegal. I visited his galleries in every city that I could.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The New Orleans that I Know

It's the five year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, and I would love to take this opportunity to talk about New Orleans. I had the pleasure of visiting New Orleans for my 30th birthday this year. It was my first visit, so I don't know the area pre-Katrina, but I loved so much about that city. I would go back in a heartbeat. The food is amazing, the architecture is beautiful, the people are friendly and are a huge family ... and the music! The music....
I don't think I can even explain what the music is like.
I'll try to describe it with stories.
Once we found this amazing group, we made sure to find them every day. They were so talented and were a joy to listen to. It was a cacophony that just made beautiful music. That's what New Orleans was: a triumphant blast of different kinds of music, coming together to form a roaring melody.

One night, while my brother and I were eating an early dinner on the balcony of a restaurant, a saxophone player swooned with music on the street below. A few buildings away, a couple came out on their balcony to dance. When the music and dancing ended, the crowd on the street (and in balconies lined along the street) applauded both the musician and the romantic couple.
I loved this group, who we caught a couple of times on the best street for music: Frenchmen Street. One of them is playing the washboard. Yes.
In a bar on Frenchmen Street, open mic night means "bring your instrument, jump up on stage with everyone else, and pour out your heart!" I felt like I was in a movie when the band (sometimes with up to 10 people in it!) would begin to play and people would jump up from their chairs and begin to swing dance. Don't know how to swing dance? Then stop by Frenchmen Street earlier in the night for free lessons at one of the bars.
Of course, my brother and I took the opportunity to visit the 9th ward, where some of the worst flooding happened. It's been five years and progress has surely been made, but it was still devastating to see the damage to people's homes and schools. I can't even imagine what it must have been like.
Here are some other great memories from the incredible city.
If you have the opportunity, visit New Orleans. If you love music, you must.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


When you ask someone what they are most afraid of, you will hear answers like spiders, snakes, sharks, the dark, water, heights etc. Most of the fears that people speak about are tangible. People aren't always quick to talk about the circumstantial fears.
When I think about my fears, my mind wanders to the unknown elements of my life. There are definitely tangible things that I don't like, but those are not what I most fear.
I am more afraid of the What if's?

What if I never get married?
What if I never have children?
What if I die young?
What if people don't like me?
What if I don't make a difference?

What if I don't fulfill my purpose?

Fear is a natural response to the unknown. So how do we deal with the fear?
Simple: ACT. The only way to get over any fear is to ACT. Some of my fears may never be resolved. Some of the What if's may never be fulfilled. ACT in spite of the fear. ACT as the spirit leads. ACT to make a difference.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Music for Right Now

I know that Jennie and I have both mentioned our love for all things musical. I have been practically obsessed with some songs or bands lately, so I figured I'd share.
1. I don't actually own this band's CD, but I neeeed to get it. You can listen to all songs on the CD at their web site. The name of the band is The CO, and they are kind of amazing. They just recently posted a song that they're "working on" and I've probably listened to it like 50 times. That's in progress?! Yeah, I need to get this CD. Also, they need to come here.

2. I've used the term "musical genius" to describe artists before (specifically, the-artist-formerly-and-currently-but-not-at-points-in-between-known-as-Prince... and if you'd like to debate this, email me and give me time to compile the evidence. I had an unhealthy obsession with Prince in middle and high school, and... whenever I listen to any of his music), but John Mark McMillan is a Musical Genius. Sample lyrics:
A thousand pairs of fiery eyes
Burn like a serpent down the highway 5
As the long amber tail to Los Angeles unwinds

Um, that's traffic. TRAFFIC. He blogs about his writing process, here (actually - there are like 4 posts on how he writes, but this one is my favorite). Read it.
3. Brooke Fraser is super cool, and, to be honest, there are 2 of her songs that I'm overplaying like crazy. First is the C.S. Lewis Song. Next, is Albertine. Please see the lyrics for these songs. They are so powerful. She's such a talented songwriter.
Albertine Lyrics:
     Now that I have seen, I am responsible
     Faith without deeds is dead

4. Last by not least! House of Heroes. They used to come to The Channel a lot, but ... I'm thinking that after their latest release, it might be awhile before we see them again. You see... this album is amazing. This video is amazing. Their singing is amazing. If you ever get a chance to see them live, do it because their voices will blow you away.

NOTE: do I even need to mention Sent by Ravens? I leave them off this list because I can't just always include my favorite band of all time, who plays my favorite song of all time. Yeah, so that's why I don't mention them. At all. Sent by Ravens. Not mentioning. 

Thursday, August 19, 2010

(That's Not What the Mute Button is For...)

Businessman sitting on toilet with feet up, writing list on paper
Way back when, Jennie wrote a post on Potty Etiquette, posing the question: Why in the world are people trying to talk to each other through the stalls of a public restroom?
Well, I've encountered something else here at work. A lot of people use the public restroom at work as a kind of "private phone call" area. Even stranger, I have now encountered (twice! two times! not just once! two different people!) people using the phone while they are in the stall.
I walk into the bathroom, and I hear a voice float up from a stall (sometimes, I don't even hear the voice until I'm in my stall). At some point, this person decides that maybe they shouldn't be on the phone while someone else is using the bathroom. So they try to get off the phone.
The best part? One time, the person tried to get off the phone without letting the other person know they had been in the bathroom the whole time! The other time, the person flat-out said (to her daughter. Yeah, I listened in. Of course I did!), "So, anyway, guess where I am? Yep, so I should go."
Which leads me to assume: The cellphone users thought it was okay for their friends/daughters to hear them urinate, but they realized they needed to get off the phone when there was someone else peeing? Where does this rationalization come from?
To all public-restroom-cellphone-users-while-you-pee:
Look, I don't care what you're doing in the privacy of your bathroom at home, but please
                        don't bring your weirdo habit to work.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Change for CHANGE

I wasn't the only one to go on a missions trip this summer.
My sister Amber went on a 10 day trip to Ethiopia to work with an organization called “Change for Change.” I didn't know much about the organization until Amber came back from her trip, but I was floored by the story of how Change for Change began.

A young Ethiopian woman would pass young poverty-stricken boys living under a bridge everyday. She wanted to help them, so she began saving spare change to feed and cloth the young boys. Over time, this small act of kindness turned into a non-profit organization that helped provide living arrangements for all of the homeless boys.
Amber was able to see where the boys would be living and meet all of them. I know it was an amazing experience for her to meet and spend time with the boys. Beza International supports this ministry and the organization has ongoing financial needs to support the 30 young boys they are housing.

If you would like to help, donations can be sent to:
The Beza Fund
2801 Wade Hampton Blvd. #170
Taylors, SC 29687

Memo Line: Change Ministry

Start saving your change today and make a difference in these kid's lives.

The Change for Change House

Monday, August 16, 2010

Trouble with a Capital F, That Stands for Faith

Man Clasping Hands
You know how when you accept Christ into your heart, every problem in your life just disappears? Your financial problems are gone, you come up against absolutely no obstacles, your purpose in life just shines like an illuminated sign in the night...
.... You know?
Oh... No?
That's not what happens? Hmmmm... that's not really what I signed up for...
This has been a burden on my heart for awhile, for a lot of different reasons, not the least of which is that a struggle with God seems to be the norm lately.
I can't do this topic justice because I'm just not as gifted with words as others are. I can hug, but I cannot speak these words with the honesty and grace they require. Chad Norris recently gave an amazing sermon at church on facing your Goliaths. Check it out here. It's amazing and it speaks to me. Preview: How come some people walk on the water that others drown in?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


A couple weeks ago, I went on a missions trip to Eleuthera, Bahamas. It was so different than I thought it was going to be. First, it was a LOT of work—which I was surprised by but also happy about. I taught 2 of the 4 days at Vacaction Bible School. When I say taught, I mean we created the lessons from scratch. We didn't use a pre-packaged VBS lesson. I did many things that were out of my comfort zone. I have never really taught Biblical concepts to children or adults for that matter. I think my fears and insecurities were more with the adults hearing my lesson than the kids. Kids are sweet, forgiving, comforting and understanding. Adults don't always have those qualities that help build a person up. Much to my surprise, teaching was fun. I had a blast doing skits and teaching kids about deeper biblical concepts. The highlight of my week was when a little boy, Malik, came up to me after one of my skits (which I was very nervous about) and said “Good play, Good play! And he patted me on the back.” I wouldn't trade that moment for anything.
I also did more physical labor than I have ever done in my life. I really miss being in Eleuthera. Although I don't miss the heat, I miss waking up each day with specific purpose and never knowing what will happen next. I know that God is active in my life everyday, I think I was just more aware of it and searching for it more when I was in a different country doing work for the kingdom. I have been toying with missions, in my mind, for a while. I left saying, “I will know after this trip whether I am being called to missions or not.” To be quite honest, I still don't know. I do know that God has a purpose for my life. He has something in store. I don't quite know what it is yet, but I am searching—searching hard. I know one thing, I am ready and willing for whatever God asks me to do.
It is difficult to see Christ in everything when I am back to the normal routine of life. It was such an encouragement to feel that way EVERYDAY for a week. So....in this stage of my life, I will work to see God in EVERYTHING, regardless of where I am or what I am doing.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Problem with Proxy Pejoritives

Conversation bubble with curse word symbols
I've been thinking about this for awhile, and I just came across this article, so I'm just going to go ahead and tackle the idea, head-on.
I'm not a fan of curse words. Cusses, foul language, potty mouth... whatever you want to call it, it just bothers me.
A few years ago, a co-worker asked me if I would let my (imaginary) kids say "Dang" as a substitute curse word. My reply: "No, but not for the reason you'd think."
1. My kids won't be saying "Dang" because that's just not how you speak when you're from New Jersey.
2. In my opinion, 'substitute curse words' are just as bad as the actual word.
Now I have some really mixed feelings/strange ideas about this, so bear with me. I don't completely understand why some words are deemed as bad words in our language. We are giving strange power to words, but that's just the way it is. Words hold power. Some are negative and some are positive. Some are bad and some are good. I don't get it, but it is what it is.
My first problem with offensive language is that it just makes the user seem uneducated (to me). If some find the words offensive, there must be another way to express the statement. If the user can't think of another way, that's ... their problem (and all the people who find the words offensive).
My problem with substitutes for a specific word, like saying "Darn!" "Dang!" "Freaking!", is that the substitute has now gained the exact power of the original word. So, when a person stubs their toe, I would say it's just as bad to say "Frack!" as it is to use the other word. I know, I know. A lot of people would disagree. But, in my opinion the user's meaning behind the word remains the same. By the way, I am totally a hypocrite - I say "Darn!" "Shoot!" "Freaking!" and "Jeez!" all the time. I'm actually trying to cut down on "Freaking!" because I heard my nephew say it, and it is not cute. Which leads me to my next point...
Little kids, toddlers, etc. using offensive language is gross. That's probably what bothers me most of all. And when my nephew said "Freaking" it was not cool.
So I'm working on it. But I'm really curious - what do you think? I'm still working through how I feel about it, and I really want to hear others' thoughts on the topic. Tell me what you think about bad words, substitutes for bad words, and how freedom of speech fits into all of this.
On a side note: We are dumber than ever. According to this article the average North American adult knows only 30,000 to 60,000 words, out of a potential "working vocabulary" of 700,000. Oh, and bling has been added to the dictionary. Hoorah. How this all fits together is still a muddled mess in my mind, but there's a connection.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Return of the Beautiful People

Baby girl (18-24 months) looking in mirror, hands pressed on glass
It happened again. I saw the beautiful couple. You know, from this post. The most beautiful couple I've ever seen, and possibly the most beautiful couple in the world.
And of course they look completely different and totally cutting-edge from the last time I saw them, so I didn't recognize them until Katie pointed them out to me.
And of course since they are both incredibly beautiful inside and out, they recognized me and greeted me like a long-lost friend.
Now, I will say that I often call people "the most beautiful (man/woman/child/couple/drummer/guitarist) in the world" But, in my defense (which - I hate those words, and maybe in the future I'll do a post on why I hate them so much), I truly am believing that they are, at that time. Isn't beauty a weird thing? It's like a gift that we can bestow on people/things, but it only means something to me. It doesn't mean the same thing to you. Weird.
Speaking of beautiful, here's a beautiful song, by a beautiful band, with a bassist whom I've definitely referred to as a beautiful man: Something Beautiful.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

More Fun with Jennie

As we do, Jennie and I spent our lunch break at Barnes & Nobles. We don't usually buy, unless there's some crazy sale, as we spend many lunch breaks at the library. We were scouring the sale items when Jennie threw this book at me:

The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again. 75% Off.

Our conversation:

Me: Dating Again? I need the first book, not the Again book.

Jennie: I know. Those people are so selfish.

By the way, I looked this book up on amazon to see what it's really about. Sounds like a hoot!
Touching on such issues as STDs, AIDS, date rape, sexual harassment, lifestyle changes, social changes, and self-esteem, along with concerns about stepfamilies, children, and mature dating, this book will provide unbiased, street-smart information to those facing this adventure once again.
Oh, you've convinced me! Dating Again sounds wonderful!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Update on Being the "Fun" Aunt

Girl With Broken Arm
So, remember how I said I like to let my niece and nephew have fun? Well, here's an update. When we were on vacation 2 weeks ago, the kiddies were having a blast jumping on the beds in my room. So I went over and took some pictures, because they were just
                     and giggling!
     and shouting!
             and having 
Not even five minutes after I left them there, there was a blood-curdling shriek and then crying from my darling niece.
Of course, she had gotten hurt.

I've learned my lesson.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Surprise, surprise!

What a surprise! When I checked my email this morning, I found out that a short story I submitted for publication has been chosen! And it's already up on the site! Check out the literary blog Einstein's Pocket Watch for my story Fly Fishing Lessons.
It's the first short story I wrote, years ago, and it's the first one to get published (which is kind of crazy, since another short story, Nosepicker, was chosen to be published in another literary magazine months ago, but won't be published until the fall -- a more normal time line for these things, I'm learning.)
I'm kind of loving that there's no wait with this one. Yay! I'm very excited.