Wednesday, July 30, 2014

To the lake: the post vacation post

First, presented without words:

That was my day of driving, and the first walk with my mom the next morning. I was there for 2 glorious weeks. I rested, I read, I walked, I took tons of pictures (see Facebook or Instagram), and I helped around the yard a bit too. I enjoyed a week with my parents and a week alone. Both had ups and downs, but were wonderful.

I read (or finished) 3 books and got so far through 3 more that I'll finish them before the week is out. I put together a beautiful Ravensburger 1000 piece Cinderella puzzle (with some help from my dad). I tried out a few new recipies, and made a couple favorites. I went to the best fast food joint on earth, Happy's, twice. I listened to loons, watched birds, fish, turtles, ducks, and frogs.

I was able to get some much needed rest, and didn't want to leave (as is always true). Taking the time to make the video above was a fun way to keep a memory of this year - and my favorite part is my mom and I laughing at whatever we were talking about. This is the reason we go. New memories, but often, ones that remind us of past ones, and always bring us together.

Here's hoping the rest doesn't wear off too soon! ;)

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Something I rarely do: A movie review

The Fault in Our Stars.
You knew it because it's still less than a week since the release. There is too much (but don't worry, I'll share it anyway; and it's link-full). To sum up: It was amazing.

If you have been around me in the last 2 years, I have told you to read this book. If you haven't yet, what the heck are you waiting for? Get it here. Or here. Or here. Or from your local library. JUST READ IT, OKAY?

Okay. So the movie started production a while back, and since I follow the author (one John Green) on Twitter and such, I saw updates, pictures, and stories from set for quite some time. And I heard how much the cast and crew loved not just the book, but the story. They weren't just trying to make a good movie, but to lovingly tell the story they had been given. After the premiere last Monday, John made very clear in this video that he is no longer being paid and if he hated the movie, he'd let us  all know - but he can't say that because he loves it. I went with very, very high expectations. I was not disappointed. In my estimation, it could not have been done better.

The book was inspired by Esther Earl. There have been many tweets about her in the last week. She was pretty awesome from what I know, and I didn't even really know much about her until the last few years. One of her dying wishes? That more people would tell those around them that they are loved (like Valentine's Day for family and friends). Thus, Esther Day is celebrated by the Green brothers' community (Nerdfighteria) on August 3rd each year (her birthday). There are cards and everything. It's inspiring and wonderful.

Then the response from the rest of the world to this movie. Wow. John sums it up pretty well in this series of tweets: one, two, three, four, five. And it did sweep the box office this past weekend. The funny thing is, I didn't even realize this was a smaller movie. I had told so many about it, and so many people I knew had read or heard of the book that we were all stupid excited to watch the movie when it FINALLY came out. And I also felt like it was big because: website! But, in hindsight, I guess anyone can make a website for a movie, no matter how small - not like the 90's, folks. ;)

Anyway, it was fantastic, and I highly encourage you to see it. You will laugh, you will tear up (if not ball like a baby like many others in the theater with me), you will get warm fuzzies, and you will also be inspired by cancer kids who refuse to give in and play the sick card. Most folks I've ever met with cancer kick that stereotype in the butt, but I feel like this is yet another fabulous insight into how awesome people are. It will be worth both the money you pay for the ticket, and the time you spend in the theater. Honestly.

So, go see this movie. And if you haven't yet, then you should read the book, too.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Hey, June.

June is one of the busiest times for us at work. Ok, every month is because there are four seasons: get ready for fall, get ready for Christmas, get ready for Easter, get ready for Summer Camp, and it cycles back again (and again). But June is usually when I'm also trying to prep for going on vacation in the summer so it's a bit of a double-whammy.

Summer camp starts here in a week and a half, and I have so much to do yet that I really shouldn't even take the (less than) 5 minutes it is taking me to jot down these thoughts. But here we are. I can't abandon you for too long... but likely will until I'm on vacation in July.

It has been making me thing through priorities and why I work the way I do. I'm currently going through highs and lows of DO ALL THE THINGS! until super late at night and then suddenly I'm more like, meh-I-just-don't-care-enough-to-do-much-of-anything especially not more than is possible in an 8 hour day (or maybe a little less). So of course I then evaluate myself and wonder what is wrong with me and why I can't seem to regulate to something between the two.

And I don't have it figured out yet, so that's where we stop. At least for now.

As I move forward the next (several) weeks, I will be praying and evaluating day-by-day (and sometimes moment-by-moment) and just trying to make it through. And I will make it through.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Lessons on Happiness

(it's long, guys. read it anyway.)

A couple weeks ago, I went to Target for some groceries. It was a quick trip with a short list, and I was pleased with myself that I stuck to it. When I went to the check out lanes they were, as usual, fairly busy, but not crazy like they sometimes are. I found a lane in which the cashier was coming around to stand at the end and invite people into his line - but I beat him to it. He said hello, and asked how I was doing. I replied with the common "I'm good, thanks." He replied, "You're welcome."

How many people do you know who respond that way? When someone tells me they're fine, thanks, I usually move on in the conversation, or let it drop there. He did not. He also seemed to be someone who has some difference in interactions - social cues are not something he picks up on well. Because of this, he has honest responses that come out because of the situation he is in, and the conversation being given to him. When a person says thanks to you, the proper response is to say, "You're welcome," back to them. But we often let it drop.

I then asked him how he was doing and we had a very nice little conversation while he scanned and bagged my items. He was excited to see a cd (I can't remember which) and went on to tell me how good that music was and that he thought I'd enjoy it. As I left the store, I thought about how much my day had been improved by his genuine, kind interaction with me, and by his excitement for something that is in my world and outside of his. He was thrilled that I'd be listening to something we both liked later that day. How different would our lives be if we rejoiced more in the small things - even if they were things that were going to benefit someone else more than ourselves?

A couple days later, I decided to pick up breakfast at the McDonald's by work. I'm not there too often, but often enough to recognize a few of the employees who work the drive-through window. This particular day, I recognized the woman in the 2nd window, and smiled as she handed me my food. I have no idea if she recognized me, or if she just talks this way to everyone, but she called me honey (as in, "Here you are, honey") and when I said thanks, she said, "You have a good weekend, honey," with a smile. It was Thursday. She new I'd not be back on Friday. So, "have a good weekend." That day, a Thursday, about 3 or 4 weeks later, she told me the same thing. It is a tiny thing, and it may be for everyone, but it brightens my day every time.

I also stopped for a coffee from Starbucks this morning. The line was longer than I usually see at this particular location, but I was running early, so I decided to wait it out. I had money on a Starbucks card I'd been given, and needed the caffeine boost at the end of a long week. When I got up to the window, I was told by the barista that the car in front of me had paid for my drink. I have done that a few times at various drive-throughs, but have never had it done for me. I believe I said, "Oh, wow!" and then promptly asked how much the total was for the car behind me. It was about $10, which was 2x what I had planned to pay for my coffee - and I hesitated. I didn't have enough on my card to cover it. Then, I realized that that was ridiculous. I felt God whispering, "Really? You're not willing to give up an extra $5? It's really not that big of a deal!" $10 is still very cheap to "pay it forward" and I had $10 cash in my wallet. So I told her I wanted to pay for the car behind me as I reached for my money. She told me, "It's really ok," and I assured her it was what I wanted to do. She laughed, shocked, and told me it was like a line - 5 cars in front of me had been doing this. Wow!

Something someone decided to do 5 cars ahead of me had been blessing people far beyond what they expected. They expected to do a small nice thing for the car behind them. And that person decided to continue it, regardless of what happened next. I have no way of knowing who paid for my coffee this morning, and no way of knowing who I paid for behind me. I have no idea if it kept going after me, or if so, for how long. The point is, it was a small thing I was able to do - and I obeyed. I know it brightened my day, and hope it did for whomever was behind me.

It was this event at Starbucks that reminded me of the others in the last few weeks. Sometimes little things that are easily passed by or overlooked because they aren't big enough gestures, or are small but take a little effort, are the things that really can change the direction of someone's day. I am tired, I am super busy at work, and I have felt fairly overwhelmed several times in the last few weeks. But these small acts of kindness and genuine care shown in small simple ways over the last few weeks made today a good one - even as busy as it was.

The funniest part is that when I got in and changed my daily calendar over to Friday, May 16th, this is what I saw:

God has a great sense of humor, doesn't He?

It just cemented what I'd been mulling over the past half hour and reminded me that these are the things that create happiness. It is a choice - which I hate to admit - but the choice sometimes isn't in how you feel, but in how you react to how you feel. When you choose to give, to share, to be kind, you change your perspective and your trajectory. Sometimes you see the reaction and the impact your action gives, and sometimes you don't. Either way, we are to give
and love not because it is good for us, but because it is good for them. The amazing thing about our great God is that He knows we need a pick me up too. He knows that the joy we can experience from obeying in these small moments is truly what makes the difference in a life.

I want my life to be one marked by giving and loving. I can only do it because He enables me to do so, but I so desire that to be how people perceive me. I have been so frustrated lately, and my circumstances have not changed - and I don't expect them to any time soon - but today I choose to do a better job not complaining (even internally) and not putting on a fake front, but choosing to do and act out of love and caring and giving rather than the frustration or tiredness I feel.

Because of that, today, I'm really good.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

drip-drip-drop, little april shower

For some reason this song has been running through my mind since Tuesday evening, so when I came out of youth group and felt and heard the lovely little rain tonight, I couldn't help but post it (even though it has stopped -at least for now - as I type this).

Things like this are the reason I love Disney so much.

drip,drip,drop,little april shower
beating a tune as you fall all around
drip,drip,drop little april shower
what can compare with your beautiful sound
beautiful sound
beautiful sound

drip,drip,drop,when the sky is cloudy
your pretty music will brighten the day
drip,drip,drop,when the sky is cloudy
you come along with a song right away
come with your beautiful music

drip,drip,drop,little april shower
beating a tune as you fall all around
drip,drip,drop little april shower
what can compare with your beautiful sound

drip,drip,drop,when the sky is cloudy
you come along with your pretty little song
drip,drip,drop,when the sky is cloudy
you come along with your pretty little song
gay little roundelay
(gay little roundelay)
song of the rainy day
(song of the rainy day)
how i love to hear your patter
pretty little pitter patter
helter skelter when you pelter
troubles always seem to scatter

drip,drip,drop,little april shower
beating a tune as you fall all around
drip,drip,drop little april shower
what can compare with your beautiful sound

drip,drip,drop,little april shower
beating a tune as you fall all around
drip,drip,drop little april shower
what can compare with your beautiful sound
beautiful sound, mmm

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Because of Christ, I live.

This morning, I think of this verse in one of my favorite books of the Bible:

Philippians 3:8-12 (ESV)
"Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ
and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith - that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own."

Because of Christ, I can be made whole. Because of Christ, I can be righteous. There is power in the resurrection. There is peace. There is joy.

In the quiet this morning, I feel the exhaustion of a week spent doing extra, thinking extra, and sleeping less. I feel the weight of responsibility for what we will do at church again this morning. I
am tired from a busy week, and even more tired thinking of the things that have yet to be done today.  I look forward to serving the families that attend our church this morning. I look forward to celebrating with my family later today. I look forward to resting tomorrow.

BUT, more than all that, I am thankful that my Savior defeated death once for all, and because of that I can and will rejoice for all eternity in His presence. That is truly amazing. 

So now, this morning, as I rush off to a busy Easter day serving and celebrating, I leave you with these words from Ephesians...

Ephesians 1:3-10 (ESV)
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth."

Friday, April 18, 2014

"Good" Friday

I work at a church. I have heard and had several conversations about Good Friday in this week before Easter. A few have heard it called Black Friday, and our conversations have all centered around WHY this Friday is good. In other countries like Moldova and Romania, it's always called Black or Grey Friday from what my international friends have told me. Calling it "good" gives them another reason to think we Americans are crazy. They understand why it's good, but it still isn't Good - it's Black.

I tend to agree with them.

I always hear myself saying "... well, I sort of hate Good Friday. I mean, I am grateful for it, immensely so, but I don't like it." Between my first comment and the rest of my explanation, I get a momentary look of terror from whomever I'm speaking with, that relaxes as they understand what I mean. I really am not a fan of this day.

I am so thankful that Jesus died for my sin so I could live with Him and for Him eternally. But I really hate WHY He had to do that. I hate that my sin exists. I hate the struggle, I hate the pain, I hate the suffering - and not just of myself, but of those around me. On the occasions I let myself really sit still and think about that, I can hardly bear the fact that MY sin, MY mistakes, MY selfishness put the Person who loves me more than I can ever fathom through the most horrific pain and death. And all because He loves me that much. He loves me SO much, He willingly went to the cross, was beaten, was stabbed with a spear, was mocked, was spit on, and died suffocating while hanging by nails. And He'd never, ever, in His entire existence done anything remotely wrong. He was perfect. And He dealt with all that in quiet and patience because He wanted to save me from myself and from separation from Himself.

No one else loves you like that.
So, for that, though I hate the reason, I am overwhelmed by gratitude, grace, peace, and love.
And that makes this Black Friday good.