Sunday, December 1, 2013

I went for a walk in a snowy wood.

I went for a walk in a snowy wood.
The light was golden and the ground was white.
The hills rolled and the trees swelled.
The air was clean and the breeze was perfect. 
It refreshed my soul and made me smile.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

nut shells that look like hearts
Two years ago I was still in school. Right before Thanksgiving I stayed in town a couple of days before traveling to visit my family. That weekend I went to a little get-together at church to make decorations for the church and to a goodbye dinner for a visiting professor from China. I remember writing that my heart felt so full that weekend. I was so thankful. I loved where I was at, I loved who I was with, and I felt at home.

These past 6 months of graduation, moving, changes have been really hard and at times very painful. Everything is still uncertain, but today, on Thanksgiving, I have a little bit of that full-hearted feeling again. It's not the same exuberant-I'm-going-to-burst-I-feel-so-happy feeling. It's quieter, and more content. No matter where I am or what's going on, God has taken great care of me and given me so much and is teaching me so much. I feel more peace that whatever the future holds, at this present moment I am right where I need to be.

Some things I am grateful for today (in no particular order):
Being finished with school
My new bed (which I never want to leave)
My job
Friends, old and new; near and far
The ability to work with my hands
Having hope

That last sounds cheesy and pun-like, but I truly would be lost without my faith. I've come to realize recently that I lean so heavily on Jesus. Trusting that He is good and righteous and in control. Not that I'm some amazing Christian, far from it. I take such comfort in feeling secure with my savior. I don't know how those who don't believe in God handle stress and fear. I just don't know how I would have made it through these past few months without knowing that God is with me. I struggle in my walk with Christ, but I'm so grateful that He loves me and is in my life.

Light from the Window


A former classmate posted a photo on facebook of herself drinking from a mug made by another of our classmates, Thom. One of our other classmates posted a photo of herself drinking from a mug made by him too. So I jumped in on the party too with my mug made by Thom. I love owning pots by my classmates and friends. It's like having a little part of them. Cheers, friend.

Instagram photos

Last night of The Gathering
Found: the cutest stickers.

More cute stickers
Reliable companion.
Some little photos from the past few weeks.
It's become very cold here recently. And it has begun to snow a lot. I'm so grateful that my car has thus far been very reliable and seems to do really well in the snow. I'm also grateful for the fact that the cold has made me feel like hibernating. I've wanted to be home more and am enjoying it. Last weekend I spent an afternoon in bed knitting and watching Anne of Avonlea. I don't know when I've felt so luxurious. It was so restful and refreshing (plus Anne is so optimistic, how can one not feel cheerful after watching those movies?). I know I need to start buckling down and being productive, but after 4 years of being so busy and constantly tired it was just lovely to take an afternoon and be so rested and know that there were no assignments to work on, no deadlines coming up, no reason to feel guilty for not being at school or eating/sleeping/breathing ceramics.


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Scenes from the weekend.

Little peeks at one of the most restful and pleasant weekends I've had in a long time.

I want to walk with You.

Let me walk with you when it's sunny...
Let me walk with you when it storms...
Walk with me through the valleys...
Call to me to walk with you on the water...
Let me walk with you when it's dark...
Light my path with Your word...
Let me walk at a leisurely stroll; taking it all in...
Let me walk briskly, with a purpose and intent...
Just let me walk with You
Hand in hand...
Directing my steps...
Keeping me upright.

Psalm 37:23-24 NLT
The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand.

It was a dark, stormy night...

We got a pretty good storm here today. The non-winter weather here is pretty mild...we don't get hurricanes, and tornadoes are rare, and most of the storms we got over the summer were at night and pretty quiet for thunderstorms. The thunderstorms back east could seem very violent sometimes. I took a nap today while it was raining and it was actually very peaceful. It was nice.

At age 25.

Like most girls, I'm a little camera shy. I'm not very photogenic and I have my fair share of insecurities too. But I've been thinking lately that I want to document how I look now. I like seeing photos of my mom when she was around my age. I think I look like her in some ways. It's fun to see resemblances. I hope someday I'll have kids of my own and I'd like to have some memory of how I looked at this time to see if they resemble me too at this same age.

On another note, I have extreme bed head in this photo. I've had a love-hate relationship with my hair for a long time. It will never be elegant, obedient, or stylish. It doesn't curl consistently all over my head and sometimes if the weather is right it defies gravity. It has always seemed unmanageable to me and I don't wear it down often because it gets so gnarly. Somehow, I like my hair best when I first get up. I usually wash it at night so the next day it usually is a little crazy. But I like it best that way. Because it's being what it wants to's natural and messy and authentic. It feels like me when it's like that. And it's also usually socially unacceptable to wear it out the door that way. But every once in a while I get up and look at it and think, "I don't think it's going to get much neater than this" and I let it be.

Sunday, November 3, 2013


My heart is so full...
Yet words won't come.
My words could not translate
The feelings I have right now anyway.
I remember how you say
That your Spirit intercedes for us
Praying for me when I can't.
Jesus, I'm so grateful for this.
I'm so thankful for your patience.
For your mercies and love.
God, at this time
I pray, renew my mind.
Teach me to worship You.
Forgive my irreverence.
I feel very broken.
There truly is nothing good in me
Aside from You.
Lord, let me crumble away.
Rebuild me with your love, truth, holiness.
So that when others see me
They see You.

Identifying with these lyrics right now.

I am breaking, you are building
I am empty, you are filling
In my silence, you are speaking
In my dying, ever living

--Zach Pedigo

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Quarter of a century.

 Yesterday I turned 25. I had coffee, thai food and birthday cake, went to work and held babies all afternoon, and hung out with family and watched School of Rock. I don't know why I love that movie so's so dumb, but Jack Black's faces...never fail to crack me up.

Also, I started a new job this week and ended my old job today...and I am so happy for the change.

I should do a *25 things to do before I turn 26* list. Maybe I'll do something else like a *10 things to do before I turn 30* list instead.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The current state.

I'm in one of those periods where I feel like I'm wandering aimlessly through life. I really have no idea of what I'm doing. And I don't know where I'm going. And I am trying really hard to be okay with that. It brings a lot of things for me to work through. I'm so grateful for a time to be quieter. To be with this part of my family. To be in a new place. To meet new friends. But I also feel very wary.

I have been dealing with a lot of anxiety concerning my current situation. Mostly I feel so uneasy like nothing is stable. Nothing is permanent. Nothing feels really reliable. Almost like I'm waiting for someone to pull the rug out from beneath me. I feel like I don't want to get too settled because I might move again. I don't want to get too close to people because it's hard to let go of them. I don't want to throw myself into the things I am passionate about because I am afraid of failing at them. I'm so afraid of feeling hurt. I'm afraid of letting everyone down. I'm afraid of everyone leaving me because I've failed. Perhaps those fears are a bit unfounded, but I find that at least acknowledging those fears lets me think through them rationally and deal with them.

Anyway, I think I'm in this period of having to trust God to be my stability and my provider and my home. I've been reading through some of the Psalms and looking at the way God is described in them. As a shelter, refuge, deliverer, and more. I am still fighting this battle of trusting God. I know I'm not in control. I know that He is and that my life belongs to him. I guess I am watching and waiting to see what He does. I feel so much more certain now than I did before I started college that whatever He does with my life I can trust that He is good and loves me. But it's still hard. It's like I'm taking baby steps in my walk with Jesus right now. Kind of holding on to him with one hand...walking very cautiously toward him while He's leading...somewhere. Right now, just like a baby, I'm trying to stay on my feet and not worrying too hard about where I'm walking to. I'm just trying to learn to walk with Him.

Things that I love.

  • Properly inflated tires
  • Working washing machines
  • Yellow leaves during sunsets...they look like they're glowing
  • Coffee
  • Bedhead
  • The way the cold weather makes me feel so...alive
  • Pattern and texture
  • Quiet nights
  • Naps
  • Texts from far away friends
  • Hanging Christmas lights in my room
  • Seeing my sister's family together

Family time

Today was a momentous was the first time I got to take my niece out for a solo auntie/niece date. I had such a great time. We did some errands, went to Target and got coffee and walked around the pet store looking at the animals. We finished off by going to the library. It was a lovely visit. I'm glad for these little moments that I can spend with her and Silas.

Friday, October 4, 2013

My favorite season!

That time of year again...
When leaves play in the wind...
When the trees look like fire...
When the days are warm and nights brisk...
When the sky is either oh-so-blue or moody gray...
When the air smells like wood burning...
When the scarves and sweaters come out of hiding...

It's fall!!!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Thinking back.

This past week I've been doing a little reflecting on my life. It started when a friend shared their testimony at Bible study and it made me think about my own testimony. It's been quite a good exercise I think. I realized it's been almost 20 years since I asked Jesus to be my savior. And I have reflected how in the almost 20 years that have passed God has gradually taught me about Himself through his word and through life experiences. I can say honestly that some of the hardest times of my life have meant the most to me because in those times I felt his presence more strongly than ever. I guess I realized my weakness and imperfections and saw His strength and rested in it. I think the overall theme I can see in my walk with Jesus so far is that that although I have been taught the Bible since I was young, and though I have been reading the Bible since I was young, I am only just learning about who God is and what his character is like. And the more I learn the more I trust Him. I am still such a baby christian. I have so much I need to learn. But one of the things that changed my perspective on the christian life is when I learned that God is a pursuing God. I guess for quite some time I was under this impression that God was this distant entity who made sure I stayed alive...but had the right to let all sorts of things happen to me. I felt quite distrusting of this God. I didn't understand the more complete personality of God. He does have the right to demand everything of us. But He gave up his life for me. It was when I began to understand how perfect and complete and powerful He is...without us...but that He wanted us. Me. Enough to die for me. And not only that, but He associates with me. I mess up all the time. I am awkward. I struggle with liking myself. But God loves me. He wants me. He went out of His way to get me. And I didn't do anything to deserve it. No one else, knowing all there is to know about me, would want me as much as God does. Not when I can never repay the love given to me. No. That is divine. I am His. He wants me. And knowing else can I respond but by loving Him back? In my very imperfect sinful, flesh-loving way...I love Him. I hope that as I continue in this walk with Him that my love for him will become more pure. That more of myself will be broken and filled by Him. That as time goes on I will continue to see a more clear and complete picture of who Jesus is. I think life will continue to get harder and as I go farther that my walk will become more challenging. But I'm grateful for a God who pursues me and I want to walk closely with Him.

I grew up listening to Keith Green songs and there is one I have always liked called "I Don't Wanna Fall Away From You." Sometimes that song is my prayer:

After all the things that you have shown me
I'd be a fool to let them slip away
And doing things I know I shouldn't do
But I don't wanna fall away from you

 After all I've only grieved your Spirit
And then I don't know why you stay with me
But every time I fall your love comes through
And I don't wanna fall away from you.

When the light is gone
And good times are getting old
There's no one left to count on
And all my friends are cold
When I thirst for love, oh Lord,
You're a fountain to my soul!

In a way my life is full of burdens
But in a way you carry them for me
Cause no one understands the way you do
And I don't wanna fall away from you

I don't wanna fall away from you
I don't wanna fall away from you...
From you!

Friday, September 27, 2013


I miss West Virginia's sunsets. Michigan's are very pretty too...but the landscape is very flat.

Friday, September 20, 2013

One is silver...the other gold.

This past week...

In the past three days I received emails or texts from old friends in far away places. The UK...Korea...and home (West Virginia). As happy as I am to hear from them and know they are well it makes me feel ever so slightly wistful to remember past times. I love them all.

In the past few days I have had more opportunities to visit with new friends that I have made here.This makes all the difference in the world being someplace new. I already feel so welcomed and even a bit attached to some of the new people I have met here.

So that little song about new friends and old...that "one is silver and the other is gold" is ringing true with me right now.

And speaking of gold...tonight's sky was peachy and golden. I think it's so funny how inconsistent life is. Moves, changes, obstacles...yet every day the earth spins around on an axis while it travels around the sun. And even on some of the gloomiest of days the sun will peek out and everything will seem so...lovely. Actually, I don't think it seems like anything, I think for a moment I am simply reminded that it is in fact lovely. So when I feel like everything in my life is new and/or crazy, I take comfort in the fact that God has everything under control. All of it. And if I'm not being particularly dense, I remember this truth in time to sit back and enjoy the view instead of fretting about or regretting everything.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Love is a mysterious thing...
It is captured in words...
Expressed in actions...

Love is invisible...
But it can be seen in a person's eyes...
And felt just like a hug or a punch in the stomach.

Love is complex...
It is fierce and gentle...passionate and quiet...
It makes you free and a captive all at once...

Love is a life-long lesson we learn...
It is a sacrifice that we must make...
Love is a gift that makes us and breaks us...

Love is a decision...
It is choice...
Yet sometimes it chooses its recipients without consulting us first.

Love died for me.
Love chose me.
Love saved me.

1 John 4:19
We love because he first loved us.

Three Years.

Three years ago today I left to go on an adventure that changed my life. My time in China was possibly the most difficult three months of my life. It was also beautiful, heartbreaking, sweet, and an experience that I will always hold dear to my heart. I am so grateful for the time I spent there. I hope that someday God will allow me to go back. I pray that God will always allow me to remain involved with the international community, and especially the Chinese community.

This week I re-read my blog journal from my trip and remembered lots of things that I had begun to forget. I am really glad that I blogged my way through that trip. It's a wonderful thing to look back and read accounts of the time spent there. It's great to reflect on how God has used that time to change me these last three years. In reference to my post awhile back on monuments I would say that the blog for that trip is in a way a monument. A way of reminding me of that time.

This weekend I got to talk to a new friend about my time in China and it started to bring back all the emotions and memories of being there. The good, bad, ugly, and beautiful. One thing the trip taught me is that beauty sometimes wears a cloak of sadness, pain, and hardship. Beauty in life is more than fun, happiness, and pretty surfaces. Jingdezhen could be described as dirty with uneven sidewalks, trash in the street, dilapidated buildings, and not very pretty in general. My time there, though exciting and sometimes really fun, was hard and left me confused, lonely, and depressed. But somehow it was a beautiful place and experience. That place that was so real. And the site of a time in my life where I learned that all the weaknesses and ugly parts of my life were only made beautiful because of God's strength and perfection entering in and rescuing me.

When I think of China, I think of God's fulfillment of his promise to never leave or forsake me. And also of the verse that speaks of how we will endure many different kinds of trials in this life, but to be of good cheer because Christ has overcome the world. I think in order to appreciate the beauty of these truths and promises you might first have to experience some of that darkness. And perhaps that is part of why my time in China meant a lot to me. Because in such a dark time God's light shone more brightly and clearly to me than in any other time of my life. And I'll always be a little bit broken and a little bit softer because of it. But I am grateful for it.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Labor Day

I guess they missed the sign that said not to feed the ducks.

Michigan thinks it is already fall.
In what seems to  be typical of the beginning of each month here, we found ourselves in long sleeves and pants and were still too cold to be outdoors very long. We went on a little picnic at a nearby park. It reminded me of Clearbrook Park from way back when. It wasn't very cold, but the wind was chilly. We should probably start keeping sweatshirts in the car when we go out...just in case.

It was a very relaxing day. I got nothing accomplished studio wise. Oh ceramics. I did get to work in the studio for a bit over the weekend, but my timing for drying was very bad so most everything was too dry to continue working on. Maybe tomorrow will be different. There is something so relaxing about working with clay. I love feeling it move through my hands while I work to shape it into what I want. Although after four years I can see a big improvement in my work I still am such an amateur. And maybe it is just this phase in my life, but it is so hard to have a consistent studio practice. I can't replicate what I had in school. And it's okay. I don't really need to be full-time or even putting in 20 hours a week with clay yet. I would like to be, but it's not feasible. I am trying to be easy on myself and remind myself that the fact that I get to work with clay after school at all is a privilege and something to be very happy about. I am also trying to discipline myself enough to consistently get in there and work. I've been putting in a lot of 11 hour days at my job and am tired when I get off. And while I was comfortable being at the school studio till the wee hours of the morning I am not comfortable being at this one past 9 pm. It's a different situation. I am trying to make the best and most of it.

I have so many ideas though. Ceramic-related and otherwise. I am realizing that this move has been more stressful than I thought it was. Stress and anxiety really hinder me in making work. I feel very inhibited and can't concentrate. It takes a lot more effort to get started and stay attentive to what I am doing. I have some plans to try and jump start some projects. I hope to maybe record them here. I also realize that I am very new to this area and am maybe in survival mode. Before I can really settle into an art-making routine I have to get my basics needs covered. And right now that means getting my job situation straightened out (thankfully I have a job, but am encountering some scheduling issues), becoming acquainted with my surroundings, and trying to get involved with a church and make friends. I have visited a Bible study here a couple of times and it has made such a big difference in feeling more at home. It seems that I need to have some sense of belonging to feel well. And I think it's okay to focus on meeting that need before I try to make a full-time thing out of art. I am just trying to make sure I do something artistic in the meantime, because that also helps me to feel well and continue learning.

I had a good talk with a friend last week and she asked me what my goals are. It was a good question, and one I don't have an answer for. I have ideas of what I want, but not clear goals to work toward. I guess that is also something I am trying to figure out and am having some trouble with. Transitioning out of college is not easy. It's not that I want to be back in school. I am grateful for that time, but I am glad to move on. I miss my home still, but am much more comfortable here than I was even a few weeks ago. I knew I would have things to work through and figure out and am now in the middle of that. It's this process of waiting, trusting, seeking, and trying to discern what I should do next. And trying to find answers for others questions and my own questions and not get too frustrated with this stage, nor be complacent. I guess I'm learning a lot, but it's slow going.

Anyway, that's enough for one night.

Sunday, September 1, 2013


I thought of you today.
I frequently find myself thinking of you.
The littlest things remind me of you...
Scents, sounds, conversations, even the weather.
Sometimes when I see something lovely I remember you.
And wish you were with me to share it...
Because I know you would appreciate it as much as I do.
And I wonder what you are doing.
And whether you ever think of me anymore.
Or if you ever really thought about me to begin with.
These days, it doesn't usually make me sad.
But sometimes there is a tiny pang of sadness.
That tiny voice in my head that says, "what if..."
What if things had been different?
Best not to dwell on that...things are as they are.
However, you left an impression on me...
You taught me to notice the blessings in my life...
And to see the beauty that is all around me.
I will always be different because we met.
I like to think of you out there living life to the fullest.
I truly hope you are happy.
But I hope more for you than mere happiness.
I wish for you to have true life.
Abundant life. Everlasting joy.
You know, I never meant to care about you
My heart never asked me for permission.
It took me completely by surprise.
Funny how the heart picks its objects of affection...
(That sounds just like something you would say)
*They* say: It's a beautiful thing when you love someone.
*I* say, to love someone can be one of the most painful decisions we make.
But do we have any other choice?

Saturday, August 24, 2013

I have quite a few photos of myself with Olive when she was a baby, but not as many with Silas. My sister took this one and I stole it to post here (so photo credit goes to her). I think it's funny to see how they are such different people. His personality is a more low-key than hers is, but both still have big personalities and a lot of presence. It will be fun to add baby #3 to the mix and get to know a whole new person and see a new personality develop. I love these kids, but beyond that I like them. A lot.

After a tiring day at work we went to the lake and sat on the beach. It was perfect. I'm not much of a water person, but I am a sit-on-a-blanket-on-the-shore person and today's weather was perfect for resting outside, people watching, and visiting with my family and our friend who is in town. I am afraid though that I was not such good company today. In addition to normal tiredness after working I also woke up this morning feeling a bit under the weather and was very fatigued today. I am afraid I was feeling a bit blue.

But I left feeling much better. There was something so comforting about being outdoors. The experience of listening to the water, noticing the way the wind and sun felt on my skin, squinting because the light was so bright today, feeling that shock when my feet touched the freezing water in Lake made me grateful to be alive. Also, listening to Olive play, holding cuddly Silas in my lap, and talking to family made me grateful to be connected to the people in my life. It was one of those lovely moments where instead of wishing for the past and worrying about the future I just got to enjoy the blessings of the moment and was reminded of the fact that this life is such a lovely and miraculous gift.

Natural light...

Last night we went for a little walk. We started on the main street, walked around the campus, through the park, and back down the main street. It would seem that I moved to Mayberry. I'm not lying...the other day when we went to the park an older man tipped his hat as he walked past us. Also, last night two girls rode past us on a cute yellow bicycle built for two. It's a little bit Norman Rockwell around here. Anyway, the light was so pretty. I love that time of the day when the sun is starting to make its way down. It's beginning to look and feel like fall. Let me rephrase's beginning to look and feel like fall again. It felt that way at the beginning of July and then it warmed up. Then if felt that way at the beginning of August and it warmed up again. We had some cooler evenings recently but tomorrow and Monday it should get close to the 90s.

But yeah, although I'm sure you're just fascinated with my description of the weather patterns here, this post really was meant to serve as a reminder of a pretty evening downtown.

Speaking of reminders, I heard a talk by Ravi Zacharias on memory and how it is God's gift to us. He talked about memorials and monuments and how God instructed the Israelites to build them sometimes in order to preserve memories of events in which He made a covenant with them, or protected them, or provided for them. I was thinking about different times in my life that God has met a need or taught me something I needed to know. What events in my life have been of significance spiritually? Could I somehow make a memorial or monument that would serve to remind people of God's love and promises? Also, what would that monument be like? I love how the people of Israel would give their children names that described events or feelings during the circumstances of their birth and how in a way their children became monuments or memorials of those times and events. Children were and are in a way monuments and memorials. So if monuments and memorials can come in the for of humans, tangible objects, and written words, then how can I mark and identify and memorialize events in my life that I want to praise God for?

Just a little something I have been thinking on. It might be a neat art project.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

You are my sunshine...

A serious conversation with my niece while I was cleaning my room today:
Olive: what's that sign say?
Me: It says "you are my sunshine." Are you my sunshine?
Olive: No.
Me: You're not?
Olive: No. I take the sunshine away.
Me: Really? Where do you put it?
Olive: In your room. Hey. Who drew that picture?
Me: My friend Meng Lei.
Olive: Aww, that's a nice name. Who drew that one?
Me: I don't know I bought it from a man in China.
Olive: Was he a zookeeper?
Me: No.

4 years old is fun. :)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Life has a way of confusing us...blessing and bruising life!
--Fiddler on the Roof

More hatching ideas.

Someday maybe I'll actually finish something. That'll be the day, huh?


I worked 11 hours today and am now settled in at home listening to/watching Fiddler on the Roof on my laptop and writing, cleaning, winding down from my day.

Does anyone else ever experience end-of-the-day blues? Today after getting home, eating dinner, and finally sitting down by myself I almost felt ready to cry. Today was a good day. I have the next two days off. A friend is coming from out of town to visit this weekend which I am looking forward to. It must partly be because I am tired. And partly because for some reason Fiddler on the Roof was making me really emotional. I used to watch movies and laugh at the sad parts (they say laugh or cry...well crying gives me a headache and stuffy nose so I choose to be heartless and laugh) but for some reason I felt a lot of empathy for the characters in the movie. It was as if the stories of the characters' lives and the songs that accompany them really helped put my feelings about the recent changes in my life into words and pictures. I laughed at the funny parts and got closer to crying during a movie than I have in a long time during the sadder parts. It's such a beautiful film. Anyway, now that you know more about my emotions and strange mental processes than you ever wanted to know...

I think have too much time to think. And because when I am not at work I have no other goals to work toward right now I am afraid my mind turns to thinking about situations beyond my control. Sometimes I think about the things I want to do and wonder if I'll ever do them. I think about the things that scare me and keep me from doing things I want to do. Or the right way to pursue my goals. Then I have a hard time figuring out what my goals are which leads me back to square one. I feel a bit purpose-less and goal-less right one really needs me. Outside work I have no pressing tasks to work toward. I worry about whiling away my time doing nothing important. That's the worst feeling. But then I remember that God lets his people go through quiet, mundane times in their lives and I don't believe that it's for nothing. I think about Joseph being in prison for a crime he didn't commit. And Joshua and Caleb wandering the desert for 40 years waiting to go into the Promised Land. I don't think that time was just a waste even though they were kept from doing things that would have seemed much more useful and beneficial to everyone. I just have to trust that God's ways are so much better than my ways. But while I'm waiting I might still look into other options. Maybe I'll revive my old dream of teaching abroad. Who knows?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

This one is for Olive

This post is in honor of my 4 year old niece, Olive.

Olive is:
  • strong-willed. She is very opinionated and stubborn. I love this about her. Not saying that I think it serves her well all the time. It is a challenge and responsibility to raise a child with those qualities. While no one wants their child to be obstinate, I find that the world needs people who love God and are stubbornly committed to obeying Him. I think the serious challenge in raising kids like Olive is training them to love and be committed to following Jesus. If strong-willed children can surrender their wills to Christ then I think they become determined and committed followers of Christ. They aren't half-hearted, apathetic, or luke-warm.
  • I guess that brings me to another of Olive's qualities...she is intense. She seems to feel things very keenly. When she's happy...she is SO happy. And when she is mad everyone gets to experience that too. Again, this maybe doesn't serve her well all the time, but I LOVE that she seems to experience life so vividly and intensely. Earlier this summer before the 4th of July she saw some fireworks and she was telling me about it and how it was such a wonderful day because she saw fireworks. I love that seeing the fireworks made her day. I love that she hasn't yet allowed herself to become inhibited in her enjoyment of things in her life. She doesn't worry if they're cool, or economical...she sees something lovely or fun and just completely enjoys it. I think that is so beautiful.
  • Okay, the kid is a budding artist. At four years old she is way committed to drawing and filling her sketchbook and she is pretty good too. She has these crazy ideas for drawing costumes and making party decorations and I love love love love LOVE to see her creativity.
  • It surprises me how much we have in common. We both love dancing. We both love artsy/crafty things. And baking. She even asks me to play "Would You Like To Swing On a Star" when I babysit. She watches Disney movies with me. And we both love the Wiggles (don't judge). I guess this really reveals that inside I am still 4 years old.
  • It's really fun to see her personality and style develop. She doesn't watch TV. She is home with her parents for the most part. So I think that while we are in a lot of ways the product of our environment, she definitely has her own unique sense of style. She knows what she wants and likes and so far doesn't seem to be terribly phased about what others think.  I've always been self-conscious about what I liked and what I thought others thought about my likes, interests, style, etc. Honestly, I still care and worry too much. We've been in Target together walking past the home goods section and she will run up to a display and ooh and ahh over some decoration. The last one was some shiny, chrome looking elephant. I really think that if she was allowed to decorate a house it would probably look pretty cool. Light pink is her favorite color. She comes up with some very creative outfits when she dresses herself. She is very outgoing and has introduced me to people in public, which is a social skill I lacked at 4 years old. 
  • She is so smart. Watching her take in the world is fascinating. She asks questions sometimes that I really don't know how to answer. Partly because I don't know what a 4 year old is capable of really understanding. Life seems very interesting to her. It makes me realize how much I take for granted in the way I view ordinary things. Somehow it causes me to feel more curious about things and about learning. She takes in massive amounts of information that I am already familiar with...I should force myself to continue learning new and challenging things. The other day she asked me what a 'place' is. I know she has a basic idea of what a lot of things are, but I think right now she is starting to develop a more definite understanding of what things are.
  • She has a very sweet side. She isn't very cuddly, but she will give hugs and kisses at bedtime or if she hasn't seen me in a while. She greets me enthusiastically every morning and tells me she wants me to stay home when I have to go to work. She calls her brother "her handsome" or "my little boy." 
I remember the week that she was born. It was spring break. She and her parents stayed with us for a few days before moving into their new house. I remember holding her and thinking about her. We had been expecting her for so long. We all said we loved her. But who was she? It was like having a perfect stranger dropped into my life and she was ours and I found it very unsettling somehow. It was the first time I got to experience a baby in the family as an adult (we are 20 years apart). So in 4 years I've begun to get to know this girl. I think she is amazing. She is inspiring. She really experiences life. She is learning so much all the time. She is beautiful. She is very outgoing. I really want to be like her in a lot of ways. It is an honor to know that she loves me. It is such a privilege to be her aunt. She challenges me to be better. She is a gift.

I love you, Olive!

Catch up

Yesterday was the first day of classes at my alma mater (I love saying that, ha ha) and...I didn't have to go! Yay for being graduated!

So, it's been quite a while since I wrote here. Lots of things are going on, but nothing big or exciting. I have a new job. It's not a career, but it's a paycheck which I am grateful for.

I am feeling much more comfortable here. I still get a little homesick. I miss my friends. I appreciate the loveliness of my old home and think of it fondly. But thankfully that desperate homesick feeling has mostly gone away. I feel more myself. I think I have to accept the fact that with a change in circumstance and environment I also change and that is another thing to understand and get used to. I still think it's so weird that I can be myself and still not really know myself or understand myself. That whole sentence sounds so trippy. But it's true in a weird way.

So while I miss my friends I have received lots of phone calls, texts, and facebook messages and I am so thankful for the effort my loved ones have put in to keeping up our friendships. It's hard to accept that with distance those friendships will change, but I can at least hope that they will continue regardless of proximity.

I still find myself wondering what I'll be when I grow up. I am happy to say that I have a better idea of what I want to do, but still not a clear goal or plan to achieve that goal. Baby steps, right? I am not thinking that this town is going to be my permanent residence, but I am trying to enjoy my time here regardless.

I've listened to quite a lot of teachings on family, relationships, conflict resolution, and forgiveness. It would seem that unforgiveness is a sin that I struggle with. And I am becoming aware of some of its effects on my life. I find that I am more cynical, bitter, and suspicious of people. I don't want to be those things. I also realize that if I do learn how to forgive it is a chance to have the gospel played out in my life for others to see. So even in the midst of a problem, there is this chance to still glorify Jesus by obeying his instructions for conflict resolution and following his example of forgiveness. I am also realizing that all my problems, as much of a bummer as they can be, are an opportunity to turn to Christ for His truth, wisdom, strength, and healing. In that way all my ugly problems can be turned into something beautiful as Christ's perfection and love is shown and (hopefully) changes me. It gives me a different perspective on trials. And it is a reminder of how Christ is with me always...working through every problem with me.

I don't get to see my sister, brother-in-law, niece or nephew all that much, but the time I do spend with them is so nice. I babysat Olive and Silas tonight and had lots of fun with them. I am tickled to death that when it's just me and them we really enjoy dancing together, singing fun songs, baking, making crafts, and watching old Disney movies because those are all things I love to leads me to the conclusion that I am still 4 years old. But it's great. I've also really enjoyed hanging our with Matt and Jacqueline talking, watching mysteries, and just hanging out. It's been very nice.

I feel slightly guilty because even though I have every opportunity to do so I am not making anything art-related. I have ideas. I just don't do any of them. I am so burnt out on art. I love it and plan to keep making art, but it's SO NICE to not feel like it dictates everything in my life. I still keep track of ideas and try to develop them. I can accept that right now my situation is not really conducive to try to break into the art scene. I am really fine with having this little break.

All in all, I would say that this weird, transitional time in my life is...well, weird but also has been interesting in that I am learning a lot of things about myself and what I hope for in the future. I have no conclusions. I wasn't expecting to. After getting accepted into the art school I let go of the idea of a career right out of college and expected to feel kinda floaty. I don't enjoy floating, but I am not shocked to find myself in this situation. I talked to my older sister about it and she reminded me that it is a lesson on living in the present and trusting God with today. Just today. Which is really all I'm guaranteed anyway.

Okay. Good night. :)

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Home again, home again...

After my last post I made a spontaneous, last-minute trip back home for the weekend. I think it was the best decision ever. It was filled with time with loved ones, visits to my churches, chinese food, and just that lovely feeling of being able to recognize someone you know everywhere you go. And the familiarity of the landscape and seeing how beautiful it was...I felt like I had been holding my breath without knowing it and was finally able to relax and breathe normally. I feel so refilled but am still homesick. Who would have thought the mountains would feel so like home? I cannot say how wonderful it was to see everyone again. I guess 13 years in one state is enough to make me feel attached. It is very bittersweet because it is so nice to feel like someplace is home although I can't really be there.

After such a whirlwind weekend I am tired and think that there is lots to think through and pray about. I think the past month of being in a new place has opened my eyes to how good God is to us. I am so grateful for life.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

West Virginia

I miss it. I miss the mountains. I miss the sunsets. I miss the ability to drive 15 minutes or less away from home and be out in the quiet places that offered such beautiful views of our shabby little town. There were so many spots that allowed you to get up high enough to look out over the city and see it sitting in the mountains with the river running through it. That little town that was my home and the place where I learned so much. Not just academically. Funny, academics is the reason I lived there, but academics seems to play such a small part of all that I learned in the four years that I lived here because some of the greatest lessons I learned during my stay here were these:
1) Jesus loves me...and I don't deserve that.
2)Joy and happiness and being content are rooted in gratitude.
3)Gratitude is rooted in the knowledge that I have been forgiven and loved by the Creator of the world and that is everything.
4)Blessings do not equal money, ease, and comfort. Hardships have driven me straight to God and have been instrumental in spiritual growth.
5)I can trust this Savior who loves me.
6)Patience...trials are a chance to practice joyfully trusting and obeying my Savior.
7)Friends and family... they try your patience and you try theirs. They also provide joy and love and you don't realize how much you love and depend on them until they are hundreds of miles away.
8)Forgiveness is something I need frequently for messing up on all those lessons I've just begun to learn.

Those lessons above are never fully mastered. They are always being learned in new ways and they have levels that constantly become more intense. But in the past few years I began to understand those things in ways that I never did before. And I really believe that being out on my own a bit was part of the reason I learned those things.

When I think of West Virginia I don't immediately think of a poor economy and the problems associated with the state. I think of a place where I began to really fall in love with  my Savior and of the people who challenged me and encouraged me and have been a part of my life. I think of a place so beautiful that it's impossible to see it without gaining a glimmer of insight into the God who created such beauty. I didn't used to care for the mountains. It wasn't till I left them and came back that I realized that they felt like home. It's not my place of residence anymore. It probably never will be again. But it will always be a place I think of as home.

I guess I am missing it a lot right now.

Some quotes I have been thinking about lately.

Some people think that the Christian faith is a message that comes along and tells bad people to become good people. But it's actually much more radical than that. The Christian gospel is something that comes along and where Jesus Christ tells us we are actually dead. All He wants to do is make us alive. Have you ever known that life because it's right at the very center of what it means to be a Christian?

--Michael Ramsdon

Some people talk as if meeting the gaze of absolute goodness would be fun. They need to think again. They are still only playing with religion. Goodness is either the great safety or the great danger--according to the way you react to it. And we have reacted the wrong way.

--C.S. Lewis 'Mere Christianity'

Friday, July 19, 2013

Little something

Almost finished with my volunteer hours. Hoping to try out a few new ideas this coming week. :)

Monday, July 15, 2013

Last night I dreamed I was back in China

It's been almost three years since I left to go to China. I loved China. I cannot really explain it, but I felt God's presence so keenly while I was there. There was a line so clearly drawn between those who loved Him and those who did not. I was the only Christian on my trip. I usually have a church to be involved in or a Bible study to fall back on whenever I am here in the States, but there I had none of that. For me being a Christian in America with a church and friends was way different than being a Christian in a different country with a group of people whose attitudes toward God varied from disinterested to hostile. It made me very aware of my insecurities, my weaknesses, and my vulnerabilities. It taught me how much I needed God. And it taught me that my relationship with Him was, indeed, my own. It was me and Him. He taught me so much in that semester. It was one of the most amazing and difficult semesters of my life and it took me a long while to process that experience and understand it. I think sometimes I still am learning from it. I still dream about it pretty regularly. And when I do dream about it Xi'an is almost always part of it. I loved Xi'an. Of all the cities we visited and stayed in besides Jingdezhen, Xi'an stands out more boldly than the others. Something about Xi'an engaged all my senses and somehow imprinted itself on my memory. Also I met a Christian man while in Xi'an...the only Christian I met on the entire trip with the exception of a brief visit with a very dear friend who happened to be there at the same time. We randomly met while I was at Starbucks one time and we chatted over tea. After three months without a church or Christian friend there with me I cannot say how much this really blessed and encouraged me. And our conversation, though very short, left a big impression on me. I guess being there also taught me that although our walk with God is personal having a church that functions together is so vital! It was the most refreshing part of the whole trip.

Yesterday while at Starbucks (coincidentally) I read an article in the paper about China, and Xi'an in particular, which I have no doubt is why I dreamed about it last night. It and its people and culture have a hold on my heart. I miss it.

Sun set

Last summer we had some really beautiful sunsets back home and I got into the habit of photographing them. As it happened there was some pretty color here tonight as well. Capturing color or a scene behind the silhouette of trees reminds me so much of the old Asian style block prints. I used to think they were slightly cheesy, but now I like them.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Back to the studio!

 This kid has a new ceramic studio to work and play in! And new ideas too!
 I am officially the volunteer studio tech at a local art studio which means I get to be involved in helping maintain the studio and fire the kilns. I also get to play and make new things. It's a good opportunity!
This sounds crazy, but there is something about wearing a little clay on my clothes that gives me a sense of pride. It's a clue about who I am and what I like to do. I love ceramics and I don't mind if a little dust or slurry gets on my clothes. It washes right out anyway. :)