Monday, August 15, 2016

The Most Excellent Way

Summer is winding down and boy, do I feel it. Don't get me wrong, I am loving the heat (it is better than snow...), but I am thrilled that I'll be able to start wearing jeans again without worrying about passing out halfway through my day. Boots and scarves, sweaters and hats. Man. I love me some fall. 

But summer is Project Time at the office and I'm running out of time to finish all the things that need to get done before all the kids come back. And then there's the running that I've just kind of gotten back in the habit of and with my schedule change this week, I keep wondering how I'm going to keep that going strong. 
That's how life has been these last few months for me: busy. I'm trying to crush it all in and sometimes it works. Sometimes I get laundry and the dishes done, clean up the house and even have time to get together with some friends. And then there are days when I'm stopping for my first cup of coffee on my way to work. Exhaustion. Frazzled nerves. I don't know how I can keep it together. 

And then I was reading 1 Corinthians 13 today. Wow. Talk about a shot to the heart. Paul says that even if you are the smartest person in the room, have incredible faith or give to the poor--if it is done without love IT DOESN'T MATTER. 

I'm over here trying to do it all, be super single woman, but I think I've forgotten love. Paul goes on to say that love is not rude, it doesn't envy, and it is not self seeking. Rather, love is patient and kind. It keeps no records of wrong, and delights in the truth. Love is the only thing that will last in the end. 

In the busy of trying to get it all done, sometimes I forget that there are people on the other side of my demands. That should affect the way I behave, shouldn't it? 
Around us we see others use people as step stools to their own greatness, not worrying about the people they hurt in the process. But if we are kind, doesn't that make us doormats? Meek and submissive? 

Maybe? Is that always such a bad thing? Like I've said before, I don't have all the answers. But I was reminded that even if I have everything in order, all parts of my life (including my faith) in order but don't have love, it doesn't matter. Living without love seems to be a waste, then. And who wants to live a wasted life? 

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:13

Friday, July 29, 2016

Times of Refreshing

Good gracious. Can ya'll believe this heat wave? I've been saying special thank you prayers for the air conditioners at work and in my car.

Believe it or not, even in this heat, I've picked up my knitting needles early. All of a sudden, the thought of waiting until fall to start crafting was too much to handle. I finished 1.5 hats in the last month or so. They are so easy to work up and finish, so it's a real boost to my crafting confidence. (The fact that I'm making them for a ministry at church also helps. It is difficult for me to get involved in church things because of my schedule, so being able to help out this way is very refreshing.)

I'm also tantalizingly close to finishing my first sweater. When I started the project, I had every intention and hope to finish it in the winter months. However, obviously this is now July and I'm still not finished. I will confess, the smaller the ball of yarn gets, the more nervous I become. Will I have enough? With any luck, I can finish before the cooler weather gets here. Possibly my first and last sweater, but never say die.

Last weekend, I was able to take a little time off and join my family for vacation. It has been at least five years since I was able to join them at our usual vacation spot. I forgot how peaceful it was. I took my camera along with every intention of taking a long walk and lots of pictures. Instead, I'm sharing two shots with you and they were taken by my three year old niece. I was just fooling around, taking a few pictures of her brother trying to steal bacon from my dad's breakfast plate (which was the cutest thing in the world, by the way). She wanted to try and so I showed her what to do. She took one of me and my mom and one of my dad. Of course, she insisted on seeing them right away. The glories of digital cameras. I'm not thrilled with how I look, but my precious, precocious, darling girl took them and well, I'm pretty impressed with her.

The vacation didn't last too long (for me anyway) and it was back to work the next day. However, due to lack of cream for my coffee and ready food in my fridge, I found myself up very early on Tuesday morning, armed with a cup of black coffee, heading to the grocery store. I went to my parent's house to do a few things for them and then sat down with my coffee on the back porch and pretended I was on vacation still. I sat on the of the porch, with a few bright rays of sunshine warning my feet. For almost a moment, I forgot I had to go to work in a few hours time. It was wonderful.

I try to capture that feeling on my dinner breaks at work now. I grab my food and bag (with either my book, my bible or my knitting) and trek across campus to a brick patio that tends to be pretty abandoned this time of year. There's a small fountain that helps block out some of the extra noise. It feels like work sometimes, to get everything ready and then move it all and then move it all back when my hour is up, but I tell myself that it's like a mini vacation -- from work, from my day, whatever I might need. And usually, that time away from the desk is exactly what I need.

I will confess that the running has taken a bit of a back burner. Of course I'm blaming the heat. It couldn't be at all that I hate running or sweating. Ahem. Anyway. With any luck, the heat will back off and I'll be back at it soon. (Though, if the heat wants to stay, that's okay too.)

It's Friday so that means my day is packed with both refreshing and non-refreshing things. It's the day I try to run all my important errands (grocery store, library, things I've been meaning to do for a long time but just haven't been able to find the time...) and then take care of boring things (laundry, cooking, dishes, general cleaning...). Friday is my one night for sure free through the week so I try to pack it full of friends and relaxing. Which sometimes makes the day feel long and exhausting, but you know,  in the best possible way.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Joy in snap-shot moments

Howdy ya'll. 

It's been a while, I know. These last six months have been rough. Some of it's the winter. Some of it is just life. I'm not going on grand adventures any more. (Well, not as much, any way.) Things have kind of settled into a bit of a routine and it is hard to see the new and wonderful things that happen when so many of my days feel exactly the same. 

But this weekend, I had a few of those really clear moments. You know what I mean? Those moments you want to take snap shots of and remember forever. And then I remembered. Those snap shot moments are the things that make life good. The moments you want to remember are sometimes just the every day things and they are just as good as those big adventure moments. 

Things like: 

Rocking my one year old nephew to sleep. He plays with the little tuft of hair above his ear as he falls asleep and it's just the most precious thing I've ever seen. 

Receiving knock-you-over hugs from my niece. She's decided we can be friends again (after a few weeks of not wanting to talk to me) and I absolutely love it. She also likes to try on my pink 4.5 inch heels and "walk" around the living room. Lord, give me strength. 

Standing outside under the stars watching fireworks. It's a simple pleasure, watching fireworks, but it always feels like magic to me. My heart always wants to call out, "More fireworks, Gandalf!" 
(Bonus: listening to those songs that make you proud of your country while watching fireworks makes me a puddle of emotions and tears. Just me?)

Getting giant hugs from kids that adopted me as aunt and that moment they don't get up and fall asleep on my lap. I am "Lulu" to a hand full of kids (young and older) and it is my absolute pleasure to hear them yell my name. 

Noticing that orange-pink color thing that seems to only happen in a sunset. Have you ever noticed this? The sky will do this amazing kaleidoscope of colors, the perfect shades of pink and purple and orange. It almost seems like a waste, to have such a perfect sunset one moment and POOF! gone the next. But I wonder if it isn't God's way of telling us, "Yes, today was good. Picture perfect almost. But now it's time for another day. Watch out-- you won't believe what's coming!"

I get so hung up on getting things perfect. Do you? It's a hard habit to break. But watching the sunset last night...I don't know. It reminded me that at the end of the day, the sky is wiped blank. All that beauty is there for a moment and it is gone. But if we are allowed to see a new day, who knows what wondrous things await us?

Sunday, December 20, 2015

'Tis the Season

Even though the world as a whole tends to take a collective breath around Thanksgiving and Christmas, what with days off and such, my life tends to get a little busier than usual. Once I hit Thanksgiving I know finals are just around the corner. My schedule changes at school, so that throws me off; things at the store start getting crazy right after Halloween and continue to be crazy until mid-January. 
Needless to say, by the time Christmas comes around I'm ready to beg, borrow or steal just to get some time off to rest. Oh, but then there is shopping. And cleaning. And wrapping presents. And did you remember to do office gifts? Are you out of coffee? For like a week? Do you remember the last time you did laundry?
I've written about it before and I'm sure I will do it again next year. I feel totally out of spirits and almost like I need to turn my Christian card in, but Christmas is hard for me as an adult. 
Growing up, I LOVED Christmas. So much. I would start listening to Christmas music in July. JULY, people. I mean I see it now, that's a little crazy. But I couldn't get enough of Christmas carols and the warm memories that Christmas would bring for me. Twinkle lights and candy canes, sugar cookies and Christmas trees-- these were things I loved. I don't know if it the stress of finals and end of term papers and grades that I suffer vicariously through my students or the whole retail mess (that I promise I am still thankful for) but somewhere in there, I get so downtrodden. Could I please just have a break?!
I had my annual "Christmas is overwhelming me and I know it shouldn't be!" meltdown on Friday (sorry Jen) and after some hugs and love from mom (thanks Mom), I think I started to calm down. 

 Saturday saw another busy day at the store, which is par for the course, especially as it was the last Saturday before Christmas. But since it was Saturday, it also meant that I could cross one more thing off my to-do list: stop at Jo-Ann's for the needles I needed to finish a Christmas present. They had exactly what I needed and I think I found myself skipping back to the break room for the second half of my break. I got a lot of odd looks from my co-workers and one even commented, "Wow. You are really REALLY happy." And then I realized. I was happy. I was excited about SOMETHING. And I liked it. 

So even though I really was half-asleep this morning getting ready for church (I guess that is what happens when you spent 1.5 hours finishing a knitting project and feeling so pleased that you just.can't.fall.asleep...) I was excited to get to church. And even though I didn't drink enough coffee and got there a tad late, I was glad to be there. And even though I had to leave to go to work (to sit in a very QUIET library), I got to sing some Christmas carols with my people. And like the giant nerd that I am, found myself crying. THIS is where my heart longed to be. Not at work or running around getting stressed out, but with my church family, with my actual family. Making time to sit and sing and learn. And maybe that's the key: MAKING time. I kind of expect Christmas spirit and joy to just happen. In the crazy traffic and cranky customers, I just expect joy to be sprinkled on my like fairy dust. 

But that can't be right, can it? In today's sermon, Pastor Tim made a very interesting point. We hear it every year: In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world...and everyone went to their own town to register. We read and think, "Yes, okay. This needed to happen because of prophecy and we know that God keeps his word. Of course this makes sense." But stop for a moment and consider: taking a census takes TIME. It wasn't a whim. Caesar didn't just wake up one day and decide, "Census! Great idea!" God gave him the idea IN ENOUGH TIME for him to think it was his own idea (probably. God is sneaky like that sometimes.), talk to his advisers, and get the word out. And then enough time for word to go out to the entire Roman world. And enough time for everyone to hear it. Enough time, now that people know, to pack and make arrangements to go home. AND, of course, it all has to coincide with Mary's pregnancy so that Jesus will be born in the right place at the right time. This isn't magic, ya'll. This is a carefully planned historical event. If you want to have a good party, let God plan it. 
Anyway. I digress. The thing is, if the first Christmas took planning and lots of preparing, what makes us think that every other Christmas won't require the same amount of planning? 

So with that in mind, I'm going to prayerfully and mindfully prepare for Christmas. Not just by putting up the tree and lighting my Jack Frost candle (plus, I've already done that), but by choosing joy and choosing to make time to focus on the sacrifice that Jesus made by leaving Heaven to come to earth.
And right now, choosing joy looks like making a cup of tea to warm my fingers and my heart. Nothing speaks comfort like a cup of tea! 
I hope you remember to choose joy this week! 

But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause GREAT JOY for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord."
Luke 2:10-11

Friday, October 30, 2015

What does it mean to be brave?

I've been reading Annie Downs' book "Let's All Be Brave" these days. It is taking me a while to get through it (I've been at it since March), because at the end of each chapter I have to wipe away my tears and work on believing the truth Annie lays down. It's exhausting, but I love it. 

I've talked to a lot of people recently about being brave, people who have a lot more experience at being brave than I do. I wanted to hear that things got easier. That as they learned to trust God more, it didn't seem so scary or hard. But everyone I talked to, without exception, told me that it is always hard and even trusting God doesn't stop it from being a leap of faith. If it were easy, making the step wouldn't be brave; it would be the easy next step. 

There's a lot of talk in the media these days about what it means to be a brave. Sometimes, they call it "being a hero." We attribute things like courage and strength to this title; usually, there is so much more that goes in to making a hero. 

I was talking to my dad the other day about life and things, and of course, the shooting in Oregon came up in our conversation. We took turns talking, willing to admit when the conversation was out of our depths. In the face of such tragedy, sometimes the only thing we can agree on is that it was horrible and how much the families who lost loved ones must be hurting. 

Some reports of the shooting say that the gunman was targeting Christians. It's hard when Christians overseas are meeting their death out of love for Christ; it is a completely different experience when it is happening in my country, a land that sings the song of religious freedom for all. 

It's been almost a month since the shooting, but I still think about it. I work at a university. We've had police on campus after a bomb threat (that turned out to be a false alarm, thank God) so the thought of a school shooting tends to be on my mind more than it was before. More than I want it to be. I think about what I would do in an active shooter situation. It scares me to have to think that way, but I know I would have to be brave for my students even if I wanted to curl in a ball under my desk and not engage. 

One thing that my dad said in our conversation has been on a loop in my brain for the last month. 
"You know the bravest person in all of this? The second person who was shot. They knew what was coming when they answered how they believed. And they said it anyway. That's bravery." 

Being brave is hard. It never stops being hard. Making brave choices can change your life. 

This is another day, O Lord. 
I know not what it will bring forth, 
But make me ready, Lord, for whatever it may be.
If I am to stand up, help me to stand bravely.
If I am to sit still, help me to sit quietly.
If I am to lie low, help me to do it patiently.
And if I am to do nothing, let me do it gallantly.
Make these words more than words, 
and give me the Spirit of Jesus. 
Book of Common Prayer

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A Dusty Travel Journal

You know how some dates are just seared in you memory? You can't forget them no matter what. The weeks leading up to the date are full of expectation. You know something big has happened in your history, just because of the way your brain treats the date. 

Today is one of those days for me. 

Today is the 7th anniversary of this blog.

So...big deal, you say. What's that got to do with anything? 

Seven years ago, I got on a plane by myself for the first time. I'd traveled with groups before, sure. Never by myself. Never across the ocean. But now, I can't say that any more.

As the years pass, the memories start to fade. Some things I will never forget, like stepping foot in C. S. Lewis' church, seeing his home & his grave. Sitting in the warm rooms of The Bird & The Baby on a cold and rainy night.  Seeing London from the top of St. Paul's, the city stretching out as far as I could see in all directions. Attending a show at the Globe, in the freezing cold fall weather. (Honestly, I don't remember the cold; I just know it was. I remember that night and know that it was a supremely happy memory.) Feeling the breeze from the rushing train approaching the Tube platform; feeling thankful that the train had finally arrived and praying that you might actually make it to class on time. Seeing and falling in love with Scotland in a single moment. Praying desperately to God when I felt lost in the city and watching him answer in a big way. Sunday lunches with the Diamond's and friends from St. Giles. Bible study and Christmas party with the student group at KCBC.

Seven years ago, I started this small blog to keep my family and friends up to date on my life while I was in England. It's become so much more than a simple travel blog to me. Thank you for sticking around during the months I don't write and the ones that I do, for putting up with silly posts about fall weather & coffee and literature & theologically deep ones where I try to process different thoughts in my head. 

This blogging thing continues to be an adventure for me, so thank you for sticking with me. Thank you for the encouragement to keep writing and exploring things, even if it is simple every day things. Because really, the big stuff is great and memory making. But it's the every day stuff that makes life full and rich and worth getting up for in the morning. 

So here's to more coffee dates with friends, knitting projects accomplished, and half miles run with my niece. Here's to learning what it means to be content in the life you've been given but not sit back and watch it pass you by. Here's to staying out with friends and sleeping late. 

Here's to more adventures!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Starting to look like Fall...

Last week, we had a cold snap that I thought would surely put us into fall a few weeks early. For good or for ill, that was just not the case. The sun is still hot for my mid-morning jogs. We did get cooler evenings out of the deal, though. I am loving sleeping with my hand-knit jumbo blanket I made last year. Almost so much that I'm considering another blanket...clearly, I've forgotten the headache that was knitting with size 50 needles and three balls of yarn at a time. And even though the mornings would be enhanced by a hot cup of coffee...'tis the season for allergy issues. I have been coffee free for about two weeks, minus two days. It is the strangest feeling to go about my day without coffee but also a little refreshing.

Speaking of knitting (even though I don't think I've mentioned this on my blog), I've started knitting hats this year! I guess it was about two years ago that I got back into knitting. It required an online refresher course and a lot of patience with myself. I did mostly simple scarves the first year, then graduated to cable knits and complicated stitches. I did a few mug cozies last year too. I'm not a huge fan of using them but they are super cute and super easy to knit up. 
I've just finished my second hat this morning. I'm still kind of in awe that it "worked" meaning I took a ball of yarn and made A THING that is wearable. I love the excitement I get from a finished project. It's so much better than the thing I feel after my run...which is usually just pain.
My next project is a simple scarf pattern (a huge relief after the lace patterned hat) that I'm knitting as a gift. I'm hoping to be able to focus on it a bit more now that I've finished my hat.

Classes are back in session and we are almost done with week four. The students are in a bit of a fog as colds make the rounds and assignments start coming due. Our slightly archaic printers still make my life interesting. It's anyone's guess if they will all be working at any given time and if simply clearing the jam will work or if it will require a full on exorcism to get things back up and running.

I know you noticed it and no, I'm not gonna talk about it. What I DO want to talk about is that my niece (who is now THREE whole years old! Where did the time go?) ran half a mile with me last week. It was the highlight of my week (and still would have been even if I didn't get sick for three days). She was cranky, the way almost-three-year-olds get, and so I decided it was time for a run. I changed and when she saw me putting on my sneakers, she also wanted to put sneakers on. 

"Okay," I said, "Let's go get the jogging stroller." 
"Nooooo! I munna do running feet!" 

Um...okay. We hit the sidewalk and she didn't stop running. Even after we did the loop around the development. 
"Hey, we are back at the house! Are you ready to be done running?" 

She didn't answer me so much as she just kept running. Before the end of the second lap though, she was ready to be done. We took breaks and jumped some hopscotch. We raced each other to stop signs. Then she was done with everything and she became Sonora Webster and I was Redlips, her amazing diving horse. We galloped into the front yard a sweaty laughing mess. 
At dinner later that night, I thanked her for doing running feet with me and told her that I had fun being with her. She looked at me seriously and said, "Thanks, Aunt Lawa, for doing running feet and meeting our goals."

For all the cranky, she really is the most precious girl I've ever met.Every time I talk with her I can hardly believe that she was once a tiny helpless baby who loved to snuggle. Getting her to sit still eating dinner is a chore; good luck getting her to hold still long enough for a good bye hug. Even so, if you don't get a hug or a kiss, you can usually get a dragon roar from her. I'll take one of those any day.