Tuesday, July 14, 2015

It's like walking into a scene from an adventure story. I tried to chase the fog down the shore. I don't win that chase. Sometimes I can't believe I live here. What is this place? What am I doing here? Who am I again? This still isn't the scenery I'm used to. It's familiar, but I don't think it's home. I don't feel like it's mine. Rather I have the gift of using this space when I need it. And sometimes I really do need this place to sit and be. As strangely foreign as this place can sometimes feel, I'm always at ease when I'm at the lake. Sunset is the best time to go. As the sun gets closer to the horizon I am certain my heart stops beating so wildly and my breathing becomes easier. No show or movie can compete with the view of the sun slipping below the horizon line.

I'm here for the show! I'm filled with a quiet anticipation.
I make my way from the top of the hill down to the shore.
Off we go down the coast...we're walking in golden light.
There's a patch of fog in the distance that I'm chasing.
The closer I get to it the farther it runs away. <<sigh>>
That's life sometimes.

I feel the wind against my skin and hair...
I see birds flying...I hear water hitting the shore...
Everything just is...perfect.
I love this part. Watching the sky begin to change colors..
I think of creation declaring the glory of God.
He loves sunsets too...or rather, I take after Him in my love for them.

It occurs to me that I'm part of this creation too...
Do I declare His glory? Does my existence bring Him joy 
Like the birds and the waves do?
Thinking is easier at the lake.
Questions are asked...memories remembered...feelings are felt.
I feel more like myself when I'm here.

This part never gets old...no show compares to the sunset.
When you're homesick it helps to be someplace beautiful.
That moment becomes a meeting place...
Where the words of my heart break loose.
Yes, there's a time and place for everything.
The time and place is the lake at sunset.

The unsolved things in my heart.

This past week was a doozy! I have moments where I feel like my soul is shriveling up and decaying. Everything in the world seems so bleak that I can't imagine that hope can exist. Then someone can speak words to me that give life. It's amazing what an encouraging word can do. So to my sister Jacqueline and friend Courteney...thank you for the time you took to listen, to respond, and for caring. And not just in the short term, but for the past 15+ years! In this season of life where I feel like I'm floating in a boat without an oar in a storm...I'm very grateful for the people who have already walked with me and continue to walk with me.
And for the written words that we have...these by Rilke, and so many more from so many books...these shared feelings and experiences help make this lost, floating girl feel like someone understands her heart and can speak the feelings I don't know how to convey. I feel encouragement in knowing someone else felt this way and lived to tell others that the questions we have are gifts.
I've been thinking of that a bit. I have so many unanswered questions. "Am I completely broken?"  "Do your ways really work, God?" "What am I supposed to be doing?" "Will I always feel so stuck emotionally?" "Why do you give me dreams for a life that seems completely unattainable?" Don't hate the questions...love them. For every question that painfully points me back to my God, the only one who can answer them in His timing, I should be grateful.

There's ever so much to learn. Always. My earthly experiences teach me to be frustrated at how little I know, and how far I have to go in my learning, and how at the end I'll still be asking questions. My worth is in my intellect and abilities to figure things out and get to the next thing. That little paragraph above leads me to think that our Lord tells me to realize that each longing and question is a gift designed to teach me about Him. To realize my dependence on Him. And that I don't have to measure myself by how quickly I can learn a lesson...God's value of me is based in how much He was willing to go through to have a relationship with me; not based in my performance abilities. It's funny. I want so very badly to be loved as I am, without having to hide, without having to be ashamed. As a Christian I KNOW God loves me. Why is it so hard to learn to be free in that love?

Childhood Heroes...

"Suffering passes, while love is eternal. That's a gift that you have received from God. Don't waste it." 
--Laura Ingalls Wilder

I know my writing here can be kind of sad and moody most of the time. I process things better when I get my thoughts out and can reorganized them and delete them and write them out again. The truth is that sometimes I do struggle with depression. I try to hide it from people because I desperately want to be accepted and liked and I believe the things I wrestle with make me less valuable to others.

So I love this quote...that love lasts after the suffering passes. I'm not the sum of my weaknesses. I'm not defined by my struggles. Love will conquer because God is love and He will win. And although it isn't appropriate or necessary to share my struggles with everyone I meet I can know that real love won't reject me when sadness in life leads to depression.

I think I trust Laura's words because she experienced a lot of sadness and loneliness in her life. I guess the bright side of experiencing sadness is you really can offer true empathy and hope to others too. I'm feeling pretty grateful for the recorded words of many people. I draw encouragement from them. There's comfort and even community in knowing you aren't alone in your struggle.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Women crushes forever!

The fellowship broke...in two years we went from all living either together or very close to each other to being miles away. I'm in Michigan, Mandy is in Pennsylvania, Courteney is in Indiana, Whitney is in Mississippi, and Candice is in West Virginia for now...more than half the group is either married or engaged. Mandy and Phil have a baby boy now!

We've seen each other through some very sad times, some very happy times, and a whole lot of changes. I miss them all!

Friday, April 24, 2015


As a new season begins give me a new beginning too...
As the world begins to wake again, revive my spirit...
As trees begin to bud, make new fruit in me...
As the birds begin to sing again, teach me songs of praise...
With your warmth melt away the icy thoughts I have...
With your light fill the empty, dark places in me...
With your beauty teach me how to wonder and believe...
With the life you give, make all things in me become new...

Teach me your love and to hope in it...
Teach me your truth and let me live in it...
Teach me your goodness and give me faith in it...
Teach me your mercy and let me soak in it...

Last weekend was the first warm day in a good long time. So warm that on my hike I went barefoot!

I'm learning. I'm not a great student at life, but I'm picking up on a few things. One of the things I'm learning is that life is really great when you can hike sandy dunes barefoot. Also, getting lost while hiking leads to some beautiful views. Golden hour is the. best. time. to go hiking. Golden hour is the best time to do anything outside really.

It's funny that those little things...feeling sand under my feet, being almost blinded at times by the sunset, breathing in real, fresh air deeply for what feels like the first time in months...that's what makes me feel really loved.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Something a bit different...

We had a girls' night recently. We tried our hands at Chinese watercoloring. I had so much fun that I think I'd like to try this out on pottery too.

A Shamrock drop

My friend Hope and I decided that in honor of St. Patrick's day we were going to celebrate by writing Irish blessings and cheesy things like "(sham)rock on" on paper shamrocks and leave them all over our main street.

We got really excited about it and wrote a hash tag on the back in the hopes that whoever found them would share a photo. In the end no one did, and it's likely that no one paid any attention to them. But it was such a fun way to get out and do something for a holiday that I never celebrate. And it gave me that excitement that a good art project used to give me. While this wasn't an art project, we have hopes of going bigger next year and doing a major shamrock drop downtown. Maybe we could start a tradition...I'll take any excuse for hanging out with friends. :)

Monday, March 16, 2015

Lake Michigan in March

It's melting! You can walk out on the leftover ice mountains and see and hear the ice swishing around in the water. Pretty soon we'll be able to go out without coats and boots on and we can actually play in the water instead of thinking about how dangerous it would be if we fell off the icy cliff we were standing on and into the water. I went out to see the lake again with my friend Hope. It was an encouraging and rejuvenating way to end a Monday and begin a week.

Later on I ran a couple errands and I wished I had stayed at the lake long enough to catch the whole sunset. It was possibly the most glorious one I'd seen in ages. The colors were so intense...it was amazing to drive in such a sunset. I wish I had been able to take a photo of it so I could share it and remember it. 

A party

On Sunday my dear roommate turned 25. This roommate has a twin brother, who obviously also turned 25. We took the opportunity to gather up family and friends and celebrate with them.

I actually planned this shin-dig and let me tell you, I need more practice in throwing parties! It was a very simple party, but I loved that despite my lack of planning party activities and only having simple cakes and ice cream and snack foods I still saw lots of laughing and story swapping happening. We did use sparkler candles though so that was kind of exciting. At least for me. My sister is awesome at noticing people and finding ways to create celebrations or give gifts that reflect how well she knows that person. She really has a talent for making people feel known and special because she finds ways to add details and touches that can be simple and elegant but very reflective of whomever she is blessing at the time. That's the kind of host I want to be too! Actually, both of my sisters are incredibly thoughtful at gifting others. They are able to show that they really pay attention to what people like and what makes them feel comfortable and valued. I want to be a hospitable person and a I want to be a person that fosters community and really knows others. Maybe more parties should be in my future. :)

Beauty, Brains, and Self-worth...or the lack thereof.

I had an a-ha moment a few months back that God does not look at me the way I look at myself. God doesn't look at me and say, "you're ugly," "you're not smart," "you're not worth knowing or loving," "you will never overcome the things that hold you back," "you will always live with regrets because you don't know how to move forward and you will never figure out how..." And a whole myriad of other things I think about myself. The fact is, God designed me and because He is perfect I think He must have been pretty happy about how He made me. Is it wrong for me to look at myself as part of God's creation and say, "you're a screw-up...there's nothing good about you?" Isn't that finding fault with God's sovereign choices to give me the appearance that I have and the personality and mind that I have? I know that I have the ability to change a lot of things about myself. My weight, my style, my activities, and so on and so forth. However, I can't change the person I am. I can't make myself be interested in things that I'm not naturally interested in. I can study them and appreciate them for what they are but they won't make me feel animated or excited. I can work out, diet, and change my hair color and learn to apply makeup really well, but I'll always be 5'2, and I'll likely always be pear-shaped, and it will take me some time to do even basic math. I will always have naturally curly hair and my face will always be a bit asymmetrical and I'll be much more interested in dancing than in playing a sport.

I know we all struggle with accepting who we are.  Maybe we believe that if we aren't constantly working on improving ourselves it means that we are vain or lazy. Some days I feel strong and happy. Some days I can't stand looking at myself and avoid mirrors. Sometimes I can't eat in front of people because it makes me anxious. I feel inferior when I don't look the way I believe my culture says I should look. I feel like I need to be ashamed of my appearance and my personality too sometimes. But I want to challenge myself to stop living by the standards of my culture and to hold myself to a standard of godliness. It's not godly to be so dissatisfied with who God made me to be. I can't look at myself and tell God that He made a big mistake on me. If He saw fit to make me and He loves me then I need to start honoring that and ask Him to teach me to humbly appreciate and enjoy myself. How can I give my appearance and my personality back to Him in thanks?

That whole thought is difficult for me to put into words and I wish I could express my thoughts more eloquently. But I guess I'll just say that I ended up taking the above photo of myself and looked at it honestly and thought to myself that I must be pretty. Not because I look like I belong on a magazine cover or in a movie and not because I can compare myself to other girls and rate myself as more or less attractive. I must be pretty because when I erase all the standards set up for me to achieve and only view myself as part of God's creation I realize that I was made in the image of a glorious creator. I bear His image. I'm part of His beautiful earth. When I remove the opinions of the masses and focus only on the opinion of the most important being in eternity He says I'm good enough for Him. I cannot ever figure out why I struggle to let that be enough to allow me to be happy with myself. Whose opinion am I valuing more than God's?

If you happen to read this and you share this struggle with me, know that you're pretty or handsome. You're beautiful. Not because I think so, (though I'm sure I would if I knew who you were) but because you were made in the image of the most glorious God. He designed you and He doesn't make mistakes. I feel pretty sure that God looks at us and thinks we're pretty. Because unlike me He doesn't make something and sit back and mock it or exploit how bad it is. However imperfect my understanding of God is I do know that He loves His creation. It's in the Bible.

He loves me. And He loves you too.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Lake Michigan in February

If there's one thing I'm glad I did this winter it would be going out to Lake Michigan to see it in it's frozen state. And you'd better believe I was singing the opening song to Frozen in my head the whole time. Because there really is beauty and danger in these photos. Trust me, I almost wiped out on several occasions trying to get out to those icy shards in that last photo. Even when it's crowded (and even with how cold it was that day it was very crowded!) there is something so calming about that place.

The White House

The last few places I've lived (with roommates that is) have always ended up with names...in China Jessica and I lived in the 504...which was basically our room number. In WV my roommates called our place The Grouse House because one of the girls left grouse bones in the fridge which she intended to use for a Native American Studies project. At this residence we call ourselves The White House. Because our house is white (bet ya didn't see that one coming!). A few weeks ago there was a rare occasion where 3 of the 4 of us were home and I got all excited and domestic (for once) and made dinner and set the table all fancy. I think I would have done it anyway, but having the girls there to participate in dinner made it special and inspired me to go all out. I think we should have more regularly scheduled roommate dinners.
Speaking of my cohorts...

I'm thankful for them! :) I always luck out in the roommate department. God blesses me with good gal friends!

A look into my sketchbook

Desperate for warmer weather and to be outdoors!

Inspired by my friend Hope

A quote from a book that was profound and hugely impactful

My new motto for life

Forever my favorite poem

Playing with hand lettering
When I was in college I was inspired and jealous...and maybe even intimidated by my classmates' sketchbooks. They were works of art in and of themselves! I've never been confident in my drawing or quick sketching skills but almost 2 years ago I challenged myself to keep a sketchbook. I've only gone through three, but the other day I looked through them and I'm so glad that I managed to fill them. They are kind of a mixture of sketchbooks and art journals. Not only did I feel a bit inspired to re-visit some old ideas but it was fun and encouraging in a way to go back and read over where I was in life when I drew and wrote the things in those books. Now it's something I look forward to doing each day (or as often as I'm able). They're nothing terribly special, but I like doing something small and creative just for my eyes...and for the eyes of those 2 or 3 people who peek at this blog every once in a blue moon. :)

The Supernatural...signs and wonders

I was listening to a sermon on podcast today and it talked about how the Pharisees who had hardened their hearts against Jesus wanted a sign from him to show that he was God. They wanted him to, again, show a supernatural act to them.

This got me thinking...humans were originally made to be in a very close relationship with God. Before the fall of Adam and Eve they walked with Him in the garden. Surely, the very fact that God created this world out of nothing and put us on it should make us realize that we are faced with evidence of the supernatural every day. While we were created to know God and see Him move we are now surprised by it...even skeptical of it. We've truly fallen very far. How is it we are so consumed with our daily, hum-drum lives that we cannot see how miraculous our lives are? How have I become so oblivious to how intricate our world is?

Even now I feel like letting out a long sigh. I think I must admit that I've dealt with bouts of discouragement for a long time now. During those times I waver between looking for those things in nature and in life that make me stop and think about how even in the middle of a difficult time life is beautiful, or I completely miss them altogether. I went to the Holocaust Museum once and got to listen to the stories of the survivors. One woman talked about leaving one of the camps and outside the walls was a patch of ground covered in flowers. She said she went and sat in the middle of the flowers and found it so strange that something so beautiful had existed while something so terrible was happening simultaneously.

I can't forget that story. When I'm discouraged I try to look for those patches of beauty and soak in it. I'm not that good at it. I frequently soak in self-pity, fear, and insecurity, but I often forget how to be in awe of the miracle that I live in. I went through a period of time where I feel that my eyes were opened and allowed me to take notice of how every little thing in my life is a blessing. Even the ability to feel sadness. The ability to feel anything at all is in itself mysterious to me. But lately it's not so easy for me to be in wonder of the world I live in and the God who made it. I think if I had a wish now...more than to be wealthier, in love, smarter or anything else that causes me insecurities...I would wish for my heart to be soft enough again to notice those miracles and feel that wonder again.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Frozen Lake Mac

It warmed up to 40*F here this weekend! I love it when it warms up like that mostly because it's fun to watch the native Michiganders run around in shorts and without coats. They're crazy! While you can get away with a lighter coat it's still pretty nippy! I tried to get out for a walk by the water but it was especially chilly there.

I love walking by the water during the warmer seasons but I can't decide how I feel about this view of the lake. It's pretty. But it's so harsh.

This could become a problem...

My sister gifted me a couple of really fun crafting magazines over Christmas and it's been lots of fun to look through them and get ideas for projects. I think I may be fighting off some seasonal affective disorder because I've been kinda bummed lately and feeling like I have cabin fever too so the other night I went to Barnes and Noble to look at books and more craft magazines. I seemingly needed some inspiration and a distraction from my moodiness. I found some really cool magazines that I thought I would document so I wouldn't forget them and also just in case one of my sisters reads this and needs a fun magazine suggestion to look through! Both my sisters are very artistic and I felt that these magazines might appeal to their creative aesthetics too!

Molly Makes is always fun to look through. I love that they frequently add little crafting packets to them magazines so you will have all the materials to complete at least one project right off the bat! I want to make a few skirts and this magazine really motivated me to get the ball rolling!

I've never seen this publication called Flow before, but it, too, was beautifully put together and was packed full of fun items like cards, papers, a gratitude notebook, and that sort of thing. I was surprised by how much they had managed to pack into that magazine just to give away.

The last one was not actually at B&N. It was an advertisement inside one of the other magazines that looked really fun! I looked it up online and it's a beautifully put together magazine that looks like a cross between a craft magazine and a life-style magazine. I would love to get my hands on one and look through it! You can buy digital versions it would seem.

Actually, while I love looking at magazines I rarely buy them. They can be pretty expensive ranging from $7.99 to over $20 per publication. I love going to the bookstores to look through them and occasionally splurge on one if I think it's a good investment of ideas and techniques, but I left Barnes and Noble empty handed this time. I've got lots of ideas though. :)

Coat shopping

After dealing with below freezing temperatures for a several day stretch I began to realize that my beloved coat from China had run its course and was too worn out to keep me warm. I keep trying to trick myself into believing that winter is almost over and I could tough it out, but in reality it's only January and we likely have another 2 months of this nonsense at least before it's warm enough to go back to the China coat. Desperate times call for a more heavy duty jacket so I went to Target to check out the post-Christmas sales.

Let's be honest that I'm definitely drawn to the girly, cinched-waist coats and ideally would have liked one that came down mid-thigh or even to my calves. But heavy-duty won out and I went with the one that is shown second. Maybe I'll keep an eye out online to see if any of those other ones will go on sale further...or keep an eye on the clearance racks to see if they will drop to 70% off. Wool, unfortunately, just isn't as warm as those quilted, puffy jackets! And on the bright side, we're 2/3rds of the way through January and February is a short month...which hopefully means spring is right around the corner (maybe not the best logic there, and definitely wishful thinking!)! Which means I won't have to put on tons of layers and carry heavy outerwear around with me. That will be so nice!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Frozen...the cold never bothered me anyway...and other lies.

Well, I left my house around 11:15 this morning after having a battle with my car. See, it's only 9 degrees farenheit here and my lock on my driver side door froze and wouldn't open. That's a first for me. Luckily my passenger side door unlocked and I just entered and exited from there. Yeah, it looked funny but I'm not too proud yet to just go with it and find the humor in it. After driving around for a bit the driver side lock warmed up and unlocked. I got home from work, ate leftover curry for dinner and hid away in my room with the laptop re-reading old blogs and watching Psych.

I promised myself that after I graduated I would homeschool myself in the classics. You know...read Dickens and Tolstoy and maybe even Victor Hugo. Maybe I would save up for Rosetta Stone and finish learning Mandarin. Well I lied to myself. I haven't done that, but I've watched a lot of Psych. Which is possibly the opposite of educating oneself.

I'm not a huge fan of this cold. I will admit to liking the song "Let it Go" from frozen, but I always feel a little cringe-y inside when she sings, "the cold never bothered me anyway!" Because it simply isn't true for me. Chilly weather...not such a bad thing. 9 degrees...eww. On the brighter side it has caused me to slow down and rest a lot more. I ran so hard from last spring up till Christmas break. I'm not kidding...there was not a lot of rest that happened this year. If it wasn't moving it was working extra, traveling to celebrate weddings (which was wonderful, but not at all restful) and general busyness. Being able to come home and spend an evening relaxing...it's not a bad thing at all really. It makes me grateful for this winter season. It's the only time that I find it more convenient to lie low for awhile.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

It's a Marshmallow World in the Winter

 It snowed this morning! It happened while I was at work. And I just happened to get out really early today and realized I had enough time to go for a walk before getting ready for church. So I stopped at the little park and took a little stroll in it. It wasn't windy so it didn't feel as cold as it has lately and the snow looked like someone had shaken it from a sugar shaker.

I still have no idea why I live in this little town. I have no idea if this is where God is putting me permanently or if it's just for a time, but I am so grateful to live in such a safe, clean, and beautiful place. There are so many spots nearby to go for a walk and to enjoy every season. It's not perfect and life isn't always easy no matter where you live, but this place is like a little haven. Of all the towns I've lived in this one is special and I'll always feel fondly for it.

PS: Dean Martin sings "It's a Marshmallow World In the Winter" so wonderfully. :)

Last visit to the lake

 I got reeaalllly sick over the holidays. It was all I could do to get through work so I could go home and sleep most of the day away. At a certain point I got tired of that. I wanted to be able to get up and go out and do things. And I found myself missing summer and it's warmth. I loved going to the lake during the summer to watch the sunset. That was what I really wanted to do. So I bundled up, went out for some tea and chased the sunset to the lake. It really was a race there in the end as I kind of made the decision to go see the sun set one last time in 2014 a little bit late in the day. But it was the last clear day forecasted for some time so I took advantage of it and I'm very grateful that I did. It's a different kind of place in the winter. The water was high and really choppy. In the summer it feels welcoming. In the winter it seemed kind of moody. But it was still very beautiful.

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I'm becoming less convinced. Beauty is beauty and some people will appreciate it for the many forms it takes and others will just overlook it or decide they don't like regardless. Sometimes its form is inviting and gentle while other times it is harsh and dangerous. I think that while we tend to prefer that which is gentle and inviting I can't deny that the harsher wintry version of this place is pretty stunning.

Christmas thoughts

First post in 2015 is inspired by this picture!

When I was in school I saw a lot of religious art like this. And I wasn't crazy about it. Maybe because my professors always got the stories behind the art wrong (art scholars, not necessarily Bible scholars) which irritated me. But also because I think it's hard to depict a scene from the Bible in a way that is serious and Christ honoring.

However, something in this picture really struck me. It's not that I think it's the most excellent piece of artwork, rather that this one did explain something. See, this past year I learned a lot about The Curse and especially how it pertains to women.* It hits us in our relationships with spouse and children and just in the family unit. But it also serves to point us back to Christ. It makes us realize that something is wrong and that we need someone else to fix it and that someone is Jesus. I can't imagine the pain and sorrow experienced by Adam and Eve. We are used to a broken world; it's all we know. They knew perfection! And they are the only humans who experienced a perfect and broken world. They also bore the shame of bringing all their children (us included) down with them. No parent wants to give their children that kind of future or leave that kind of legacy.

While learning more about The Curse I also realized that right away God set his plan for salvation into motion! The gospel is first clearly given while God is cursing the man, woman, and serpent! It's right there in it! Only our God would give a curse that is designed to turn men and women to redemption. He's amazing that way!

So this picture for me meant something because it showed how since the beginning of our history we have needed a Savior and that Savior came as a baby to live with us and die for us and rise again to save us all. All the pain and sadness that we as humanity live with every day can be changed into something beautiful because we have a gracious and loving God. I see a lot of comfort, compassion, and hope in this scene. It shows how though God cursed women, in the curse he said he would bring redemption through childbirth and years and years and years later he gave woman the blessing and privilege of bearing the Redeemer. This is not meant to sound feminist at all...nor is it meant to exalt and honor Mary more than she should be...but this picture to me shows that God loves women. Woman helped bring sin into the world and God allowed woman the privilege of playing a part in the remedy.

This year more than any other Christmas that I can remember I've been really thinking about some of the lyrics in the Christmas carols. Hark the Herald has these beautiful lyrics:

"Mild He laid his glory by
born that man no more may die
born to raise the sons of earth
 born to give them second birth" 
"Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus our Emanuel!"

 And Joy to the World: 

"He's come to make his blessings known far as the curse is found..." 

It's not just celebrating the birthday of Jesus...it's celebrating His love and perfection and power. This was the moment in history where started the physical fulfillment of his promise to redeem us. This was his entrance to earth where he would one day die for us. It's quite serious and very beautiful. 

This year I feel that Christmas is just the beginning of a season of celebrating. I feel like it starts with Christmas and ends with Easter. We waited for his arrival as a baby and then we wait for the fulfillment of his Resurrection. We can celebrate his fulfillment of prophecy in birth, all he did and taught during his ministry, and his victory of death and sin! He won!