6/17/09

My Favorite James.



Y'all.

I may not have mentioned this, but I have mad love for Jimmy Choo.

Granted, I own exactly one item from the esteemed company, but it's a beautiful handbag-slash-small army tent.

I still count myself a fan, because that totally counts, right?

So the Choos [Can I call you that, darlings?] are creating a lower-cost line for H&M that I am loving, if the above photo is any indication of the budget-friendly offerings.

I'm going to need to pitch a tent on the sidewalk in front of H&M until someone finds me a pair of these shoes in my size.

Please and thank you. :)

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Her, Here.

Today I re-read a post at Bring The Rain that smacked me in the heart. I'd only had a chance to skim through it, so I went back today.

You'll want to check it out.

It's okay, go ahead. I'll wait right here.

The emotions and the conflict of reconciling a calling and ministry and passion with everyday living that she writes about? Well, sister girl is reading my mind, y'all.

I can close my eyes and perfectly recall moments in time that are so crystallized in my memory that I'm almost there again. Times when lives were changed in an instant and grace rested over hushed gatherings with fellow servants of God and hands reached out to touch another soul and tears were shed simply because we knew in our hearts that the gift of a moment sharing His anointing with another is far more than any of us deserve.

Moments when ministry happened.

But right now?

Right now I'm doing the daily. The practical, necessary things that will result in my degree [finally] and my financial security. Right now I am daydreaming my way through textbooks on statistics and theories and hunting for jobs simply for the paycheck that will carry me through.

And reading reports about events that I wish I could be a part of.

And praying for people and miracles that I can't even see.

And banging out scales on the piano when I really want to be playing songs of joy again. [But really, it's about time I learned to play by note!]

There's a parallel there, yes?

I'm just sayin'.

But more than straining at the barriers, impatiently trying to skim through lessons and steps that will ultimately serve as a foundation for me to minister even more effectively, I need to be her, here.

My mission field surrounds me daily; I live to be an extension of His heart.

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6/15/09

I Am The Queen Of Underestimation.

When I posted [precisely two months ago, which is completely incidental] that my life was a little busy, I didn't think that the next two months would turn into a dazzling panoply of utter randomness.

Who wasn't prepared for all that?

[raising hand]

Um, me.

Keeping up with every day is a full-time job, apparently. I'm even having trouble staying on top of twitter, which, at 140 characters a pop, speaks volumes about my communication situation. But hey, those scads of emails to return and projects to finish, though? I'm all over that.

Soonish.

I have survived another semester of school, remedied the Hair Disaster Of 2008, gained 10 pounds, decided that a great dane puppy is definitely in my future, started dieting, requested prayer for my sister during her ordeal with an aggravated injury, driven the two-hour drive from Houston to my parents' house roughly 7 thousand times, lost my great tan from 2006, given away almost my entire wardrobe, gotten indignant at the Lakers for winning the championship, been humbled and awed at God's mercy, requested prayer for my ailing car [her name is Daphne, and I am winning her to the Lord for the sake of her heart, soul, and engine knock that threatens to leave me in a serious jam], learned to cheat at straightening my hair [it's all in the strategic planning of the sections, y'all!] and memorized the dollar menu of virtually every fast food joint on Highway 59.

You might say that the learned ability to accurately calculate your tax and guess your total before the cashier in the drive-through lane tells you how much your burger and drink costs is a certifiable issue, but I beg to differ. As I may have pointed out before, I like to think of it as thriftiness, y'all. And I do love me some thriftiness with extra vegetables.

But hey, it's summer and I'm a jobless hobo, and since job searching and googling 'lose 10 pounds tomorrow' and 'funny youtube clip' have been bringing me into a closer bond of fellowship with my computer, you can expect me to pop up again soon.

And with that ominous warning promise, I bid you good day.

Until next time, dear bloggites!

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4/15/09

Where, Oh Where, Are You Tonight?

Nothin' but love for Hazel. Seriously, do you not just secretly cringe at adore Buck Owens howling through the chorus?

But I digress.

So this month. In a word, wow! Or maybe 'whew!' since I've had trouble catching up with my brain long enough to post. It's tragic. I have random notes scribbled onto bits of scrap paper and old receipts and typed into my phone - bloggy things I can't remember how I planned to share.

Tilapia/Zucchini? 2 Samuel 22:17-20? Security - Ty story?

Um.. Right-o.

Apparently, I have the memory span of a goldfish. A goldfish might have me beaten on the note-taking skills, though. My bad. May I offer you a summary instead?

1 - I am still officially job-hunting. Yes, still. Sure, telling people that I am a Freelance Graphic Designer sounds glamorous, except that businesses are putting on their recession boots and holding off on redesign projects these days. So I've been knocking on doors and praying that Jesus would provide something in the way of a paying job... And I have an interview tomorrow!

2 - I am still hitting the roads on an almost-constant basis. I've been dragging dearest sister along for the rides, which makes road time much more bearable.

3 - I am having the hardest time EVER with my classload this semester. Really, after spending 7 years [part-time, in my defense! ;)] on a 4-year degree, you'd think that I would have the school gig down to a fine art, but Spring 2009 Semester has reminded me that I can, indeed, be kicked in the academic tail.

4 - is a nice, even number, so I'll stop by saying this; JOIN ME ON TWITTER! :) I know. I am soooo understated. Since I seem to be able to handle updates that are 140 characters or less, though, come follow me and I can follow you and I will make you fishers of random, useless bits of information. Amens.

Oh, and one more thing to add to the potpourri of randomness?

Don't mind if I do. Have a happy humpday! :)

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3/17/09

Top O' The..


..St. Patty's Day to ya!

[Late wishes are better than never wishes, right?]

In keeping with my gloriously unproductive Spring Break, we took Ty to decorate shamrock cookies at ye olde Chick-Fil-A [oh, how I love thee!] for family night - and some of us made sure we wore green so that no one pinched us. Ty was very specific about his hair ["like a leprechaun"] and his clothes ["I hafta wear GREEN!"] and I claimed exemption from the green rule - like I do every year - because, well, I have green eyes, and that's like an Irish free pass. I think. Plus, I already had my outfit picked out.

Thankyouverymuch
.

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3/16/09

I've Got A {Spring} Fever!

Happy Spring Break, y'all!

The term 'break' is a little ironic, yes? After all, spring break means more schedule shuffling. And more errand running. And plans to 'catch up' on everything that has been put off until now. And for me, recovery from a minor surgical procedure last week.

But it's a lovely break since I have two very special visitors for the week!

Two of my precious nephews are here to visit for the week, so this Spring Break also means baking cookies. Every day. [Heeelloo, hips.] And playing at the park. And cuddling during those old black-and-white Popeye cartoons that Ty loves. And I am lovin' it, y'all! I fully intend to make the most of the little moments like these. Today was park day, and it was one of roughly two days of the year when the weather in SoTx is absolutely perfect. Here's a few snaps [from my camera phone, hence the ghetto fabulousness] of today's adventures.

Ty and I squint into the sun while sweet baby Ray chews on his overalls - and this is a good shot!
Here's my sweet little Ty. He was content to swing for hours. When I suggested that he slide or swing from the monkey bars, he said 'Actually, I'm okay just swinging here' and he was so cute about it that I totally believed him.

Ty and I. He was beautifully patient about the whole taking-pictures-at-the-park-when-we're-supposed-to-be-here-to-play thing.

Pushing sweet baby Ray on the baby swing. He wasn't convinced that swinging was such a great idea at first...
... And he kept acting very offended that I would push his seat. How dare I attempt to unsettle the king of cuteness from his throne?

Eventually, he got the hang of enjoying the ride, though!

...So what are your break plans? ;o)

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3/13/09

'Ello, Luv!

I mentioned that I'd share details about the incredibly cool times to be had with my darling friends from New Zealand and Australia recently [and by recently, I mean in January] but sometimes [and by sometimes, I really mean sometimes] punctuality leaves me in it's dust.

Not anymore, y'all.

Two months later, I'm ON this.

So it was a well-spent few weeks with precious friends, and we laughed, cried, ate, sprayed each other with various hair products, shopped, and prayed together in large doses. I can't even begin to cover all of the fun in a blog post, but I'm all over a synopsis. Just for you. Good times.

Our [my sister and I] first visitors were Valerie and Amber, and they arrived in Texas on a cold, blustery Saturday.

That's Ambs, me, and Valerie. Since the gals were in transit, on their way to conference, our first visit was a whopping 24 hours. Not that we didn't rock the mini-trip, 'cause we so did. We packed in countless wrong turns [my gps is disturbingly unfamiliar with THE CAPITOL OF TEXAS], Texas Roadhouse overindulgence [much love for the hot rolls and cinnamon butter], and several hours at a questionable Greyhound bus station where Val and Ambs waited patiently for a bus driver who very nearly forgot to stop and pick them up.

We managed to occupy the time by making multiple wardrobe changes in the car, bringing mad business to the vending machines in the lobby, and snapping pictures like fiends. Here, some girl is ruining a perfectly lovely snap of Amber and Leah with my her giant forehead.

Tsk, tsk.

There might also have been some stalking involved...

...But I assure you, no one was harmed or frightened in the making of these photos. ;o)

While we waited, we also decided it would be a great idea to video ourselves singing. Never mind that Val and I both had sore throats and scratchy voices and that we were performing outdoors at 1:00am in a strange city. In the freezing cold. It's the memories that count, right?

Right?

Since vimeo is being all doofus-like and refusing to embed, you can click here to hear us in all of our head-cold glory, as long as you promise not to judge us for our many unflattering layers and tired scruffiness.

So.. despite dodgy bus drivers, we made it to our destinations, hoping that the day and night we'd spent together wouldn't be the end of our trip, because, really, is 24 hours fair? I think not. That's why we were ecstatic to be able to join Valerie and Amber, along with our sister Akua, in Louisiana.

We spent a few days there before embarking on The Road Trip back to Texas. [Please note the titling of this road trip. The thang was may-jah.] We got up close and personal with some truly incredible people, got to see what was happening behind the scenes of the super-awesome church we visited, and enjoyed teatime with Sister Vani, a lovely lady powerfully anointed by God.

[That's all of us, crowded so closely around poor Sis. V, you'd think we wanted to steal her away and bring her home with us or something. Which may or may not have been the case... I'm just sayin'.]

So The Road Trip back to Texas commenced with all five of us crammed into my Honda Accord. She's always seemed amazingly roomy, until 5 girls + 5 girls' worth of luggage proved how woefully inadequate storage space actually is. Thankfully, the girls didn't hold it against her, and after some serious luggage manipulation, we were on our way.

[Here's Akua, Amber, and Leah in the backseat. The photo fails to capture the suitcases they were sitting on and the bags of Very Important Items looping around their ankles at will, but you can imagine the nightmare fun they had with all of that.]

We made it back to Texas minus a nail or two, but wiser, stronger women.

We were able to see a few of the sights in Texas before the girls had to leave - including the awesomeness that was a motorcyclin' dude in a furry viking hat - and bond over baking and shopping and being girly. And may I say that I will NEVER be tired of any of the above - even the viking hat?

*ahem*

It was with sadness and many hugs [and possibly a sniffle or two] that we let the girls go home, because we seriously considered an elaborate kidnapping scheme. We tried to convince them to stay FOREVER - or take us with them - but you know how those things go. Legalities and visas and family and things. No matter - it may have been the first trip, but it definitely won't be the last.

...And there you have it! The story of how I got my new accent.

[Ok, ok, so I didn't really get to keep their cool accent. But I kept the memories, and those are always worth keeping.]

Much love, my Djibouti girls!

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Photo Fun.... Um.. YEAH!


I've come to the sad conclusion that I will never be immortalized in paint by Andy Warhol, I will never grace the cover of Victoria Beckham's favorite magazine, no one is interested in chalking my likeness upon city sidewalks, and I already missed my opportunity to make the front page of the Annandale Advocate in March of 1985.

I know.

It's a tragedy that I had to face.

I can have fun sticking my nose into other people's pictures at Photofunia, though, and that's just as good.

Or better, because I don't have to wear sunglasses at night.


Poking around on their site has carried me through many a long, boring class period, though - I've 'funiad [because I feel like Photofunia and I are on nickname terms, even if said nickname makes me hungry for onion-flavored chips] myself, my longsuffering family members, and random pictures from Google, and it's still not old.

Because I'm way too easily amused/distracted truly convinced that the most entertaining endeavors in life only cost us time and love, of course.

Viva La 'Funia-ing!

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3/3/09

God Is...



I heart this song right down to my toes.

I heart it so much, in fact, that despite the fact that it is basically a shoutin' song meant for high praises in the house of the Lord, it used to be my ringtone. Because I am that cool.

I was churchin' it up, yo!

Every time I hear this song, I think of St. Pete. Sweet mango peach tea and precious company. Good times and crazy times and God's provision, and the sounds of Smokie's mad riffs and heartfelt praises. Even if I nearly jumped out of my skin every time my phone rang.

Behold the goodness {and the awesome testimony} that is Smokie Norful's 'God Is Able'.

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I'm Stylin'



My first job has to rank among the coolest jobs ever. No, seriously! I was an apprenticed interior designer from 14-17.

See?

I told you it was that cool.

I got to develop my own sense of style, learn valuable skills {which might be more attributed to my momma, who has mad DIY skillz - if you need walls painted, ceilings spackled, flooring laid, or light fixtures replaced, you've got your gal}, and play with fabulous, one-of-a-kind decorations in clients' homes.

You can imagine the fun times. My mentor was a fabulous, one-of-a-kind lady that I will always remember with fondness.

So how excited was I to see that Whittaker Woman had posted a link to Sproost, an unbelievably awesome decor and design site?

V-E-R-Y.

I found out, through Sproost's handy-dandy personal style test, that I love the beach, live best in comfortable layouts and cozy furniture, that I'm a country girl, and that I shop on eBay.

...And now I'm suddenly feeling uncomfortably vulnerable and I wonder if Sproost somehow figured out that I secretly want to own a Slanket, too. {Be still, naysayers. ;o)}

So what's your style?

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3/2/09

Fruit Turnover

So I might have been {somewhat} included in a conversation with two darling gals - best friends for decades, in fact - that might have pricked my heart.

I'm going to take my creative liberty right here and write a screenplay based on, y'know, fictional characters.

You know, to make it politically correct and everything.

Hypothetically speaking.

You can forward your letters of gratitude to my professor, who will be pleased to know that this screenwriting nonsense is paying off. Just don't tell him I'm not working on my rough draft.

And So She Speaks Hypothetically
Original Screenplay by Rachel
Copyright 2009
{Ok, not copyrighted, actually. But don't tell the internets!}

Girl A
Spoken in a southern drawl, using hand motions expressively
"You know, I just don't even think about the situation that happened. I'm just trusting in Jesus. Everything's going to be great!"

Girl B
Quieter speech, with a puzzled expression
"But.. You were so worried during the situation. Are you sure you're okay with it all?"

Girl A
Sharply, eyebrows drawn into a frown
"What?!? I was NOT worried. I am fine."

Girl B
Patting Girl A on the arm reassuringly
"Well, okay, but I really remember that you were upset about it..."

Girl A
Jerking arm away and crossing arms belligerently
"You just need to stop talking, NOW. You're about to make me really mad. Just stop. No, I AM FINE WITH IT. I. JUST. SAID. THAT."

Me
Way-too-cheerfully
"So how's your tea, ladies?"

Y'all, it's going to be a blockbuster hit someday.

No autographs, please.

Our little tea party has nothing to do with becoming famous and everything to do with our {y'know. Me, you, and the world. That's all of us, honey} perception of the fruits of the spirit.

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." Gal. 5:22-23

Whether or not you believe in being a fruit-of-the-Spirit kind of person, you can't deny that people who are loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, and generally good and caring are people who are well-liked. You know it's true. Those people are the ninjas of nice; everyone knows they're the greatest at it. And that's totally awesome. But what happens when everyone isn't around? When a stiletto breaks, when they're delayed unexpectedly by someone taking too long in the bathroom, when a monkey wrench is thrown into carefully-laid plans?

What fruits do the people who live closest to them see?

See, it's one thing to be nice to mere acquaintances. After all, they're the masses that Jesus wants us to be a bright and shiny lamp for. Bless their hearts. And it goes without saying that major cool points are earned when everyone knows you're nice.

And we do love us some cool points.

But it's a true test of character to gracefully, cheerfully endure a family squabble, losing the last piece of cheesecake because someone stole took it out of the 'fridge {again!} before you got home, or dealing with a longtime friend who questions the truth of your positive, I'm-holding-hands-with-Jesus outlook in front of others.

Do you really possess those fruits if they're only shared with people you're trying to impress?

I'm a work in progress. I know how easy it is to lose my cool with the people who see me every day. {I know, I know. Ninjas have their off days, too, right?} But my life was dramatically changed a few years ago when this simple thought took root in my heart. And again, when this conversation slapped me on the chin.

If you really want to make these attributes a part of your nature {and it's possible to change your attitude, believe it or not!}, start practicing on the people who love you unconditionally. They're the ones who deserve your kindness, your self-control, and your love - even more than the people you strive so diligently to impress.

After all, they love you in spite of your stanky self.

I can't claim to know your life. I don't know if you have a mean husband who leaves socks on the floor or tells you you're getting tubby or a crazy mother who thinks you're making the Worst Decision Ever or a wife who nags you about your socks.

But I can tell you that if you save all your bright and shiny positive characteristics for outsiders, your bright and shiny characteristics don't belong to you at all. It's as convincing as passing off a plastic banana to the real peel.

In other words, darlin', you've got some fruit that is going bad.

Disclaimer/Fine Print/Please-don't-get-nervous Notice
It's an illustration. I am not - in any way, form, or fashion - pointing fingers at any person. This post isn't about publicly embarrassing anyone. It's merely an example. Of a screenplay that is sure to be a blockbuster, naturally. Also, you are all welcome to tea with me anytime.


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2/9/09

But Who Can Blame Her?


Yes, indeed.

Truth is stranger than fiction.

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2/8/09

A Study Of Comparisons..


I don't know about you, but we love us some good games. Lately, we've been arguing bonding over Apples To Apples, which may or may not be a game for 'children to adults' that turns adults into laughing, yelling children.

Good times, y'all.

Good times.

Does anyone else play Apples to Apples?

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Leadership 101

If you know my real-life history, you're already acquainted with the previous jobs I've been blessed to be a part of. If you don't, just nod along and act like you already knew.

I've been elbow-deep in ministry and church organization/administration in one form or another for half of my life and have a sincere passion to see the church working like God intended. It's why I emphasize structure and the reason I study the psychology behind leadership and group dynamics.

When I'm asked, I make suggestions and observations in these capacities. And when I'm not asked and it's none of my business, I'm careful to keep my suggestions to myself. No one appreciates unwelcome opinions, right or wrong. ;o)

But I was intrigued and a bit saddened by a recent report of a [to remain nameless] newly-minted youth worker who is, by all previous indications of character, not at all fit for the task.

Is this my business? Not at all. Am I offended by it? Nope. I'm honestly, sincerely praying strength and wisdom and integrity for this person. Does it make me super-duper holy and charitable to mention it and then ask you all to pray? No, definitely not that either.

So why am I bringing it up?

I'll take 'Opportunity to Reiterate the Importance of Leadership' for $500, Alex.

While I hope this youth committee member will discover a burden for mentoring and growing young people, I'm struck by a few all-too-common points.

1 - This person lives life on the edge of appropriate behavior as the church teaches.
Yep - the church that this person now holds a position in.

2 - This person is related to the pastor in a very close way.

3 - The appointment is a position given by the pastor.

Knowing this, any discerning saint, parent, or leader might be hesitant to stand behind the decision. Not because of a dislike or even a vendetta. In this case, and in fact, in most cases, the opposite is usually true. The person in question may very well be popular and well-loved. But there's a problem when a ministry appointment has more to do with proximity to the pastor or leader than with Divine appointment.

Is this really common? You can bet on it, sweets. I've seen many, many leaders appoint family members to positions because they want them there.

But growing up in the proverbial fish-bowl and knowing exactly when to raise a hand during the worship service or to bless someone's heart during a conversation, while an asset to the ministry [known as 'tact'], does not a minister make.

Locating people with the burden and passion for a specific ministry is easier said than done, though. Why?

Maybe God is dealing with a person and they're hesitating.
While they're hesitating and God's being a gentleman,
there's approximately 0 people to drive the church van
and order the pizza and organize rousing games
of pin-the-scripture-on-the-Bible. So you improvise and cobble
together a team of people who might be creative enough to pull it off.

The person God has called doesn't fit your mold.
Maybe the prospective youth leader wears chucks and
band t-shirts under his church suits. Maybe she has
a stutter or a past that people talk about behind her back.
Either way, you're sending up frantic prayers
asking God for a reassurance or 10 about His choice.

The timing of the leadership change
isn't in line with God's timing.

Sometimes, harried and harassed leaders longing for a round of
Chinese fire drill, church ministry style, can jump the gun when
it comes to jumping ship. At this point, a $450,000 Fannie Mae-
executive-style retreat would be great for rejuvenation, but if that
isn't in the budget, a little volunteerism and understanding works, too.

But there are ways to seek out those with a burden and a passion for the church or for the outlying ministries of the church family.

Encourage, foster, and promote growth.
Don't discourage people from taking part in ministry.
Don't consistently rely on the same group
of people to head up the 'important committees'.
Teach leadership values and qualities.

Be willing to disciple, and make discipleship
a requirement of your leaders. By all means,
your leaders need to be willing to foster growth
in their assistants - and they will be, if you are.
Leaders who white-knuckle their position
like it's their ticket into the pearly gates
are in dire need of re-prioritization.

Know where to place new workers.
There are few things more disheartening than repeatedly sharing
with a leader your intense burden for the Koolaid For Kids ministry
and, after nods of great understanding and promises of future
involvement, being placed in charge of the Puppies For Jesus ministry.
Sometimes the 'burden' is actually a desire, to be fair.
It's not wise to let everyone who claims to have
a burden take control of a ministry, but there are many,
many tools for gauging a person's abilities or fit
for a specific position. Try asking a few questions like these:

What are your spiritual gifts?
· What are you passionate about?
· What are your natural abilities?
· What is your personality type?
· What are the spiritual markers in your life?
· What do others see in you?

Asking the tough questions like these, sending prospective
workers here for a personality profile
or here for a spiritual gifts test, and using those
tools to pinpoint the proper places for people to minister?
That's smart leading, y'all.


Trust me. I understand that not every leader has the luxury of choosing prospective candidates. Sometimes, a person is appointed simply because there is no one else. No one better, no one worse, no one available. But as a leader, you set the tone for future leadership teams. And as a leader, it's your God-given responsibility to instill positive leadership qualities in the people you are nurturing. And maybe someday those sheep will be empowered and burdened to lead others.

After all, that's how you got your burden. :o)

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Whoa, Whoa, Whoa, She's a Lady!

Being the happy little shoe collector that I am [and owning works of affordable art like these shoes from Tarjay like I do]:

My future daughter [y'know, should there be one!] has absolutely no hope against adorable little creations like these from Heelarious:



Y'all, pray for her now.


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Brokenness - The Pruning Season

You removed a vine from Egypt; You drove out the nations
and planted it.
You cleared the ground before it,
and it took deep root and filled the land.
Why have You broken down its hedges,
so that all who pass that way pick its fruit?
O God of hosts, turn again now, we beseech You;
Look down from heaven and see, and take care of this vine,

Even the shoot which Your right hand has planted,
And on the son whom You have strengthened for Yourself.
[Ps. 80:8,9,12,14,15]

So it's not just me!

There's a lot of living that a blog can't cover. Sure, I can share with you that I'm in a place of transition, but it's much harder to share with you the reasons surrounding those changes.

Why, you ask?

I'm so glad you asked.

Well, for one, not
everything that happens in life is worthy of discussion. [Even though the whole 'less is more' concept is a difficult concept for a mouthy little thang like me, trust me.]

And for two, I can promise you that stating and restating and restating and restating a situation only serves to embitter and then to justify that bitterness.

And for three, I've got nothing, I'm not gonna lie. But two bullet points is just weak.

So here's the deal. I find myself in angst about the place that I'm at - emotionally, spiritually, and physically -
aaaaaall the time. You could say I'm that girl who Must Have The Answers. Like yesterday, please. In fact, I wonder about this place I'm living in almost as much as I wonder about the place that I'm going.

I know, I know.

Nosy.

But I'm not alone in my questioning, so God's got a little experience with nosy control freaks curious followers like me. The Bible is filled with laments just like Asaph's - laments from God's chosen ones. The favored few. The ones who took part in miracles and saw wondrous manifestations of His glory and grace. They struggled to understand the painful parts of the journey, too.

They also understood, just like I do, the words of Asaph, written from a broken, grieved soul, that resonate in me. There is no questioning the fact that I have been uprooted and replanted and cut back and covered in blossoms and plucked bare and uprooted again. Oh, yeah. I know that painful pruning process all too well.

And while my soul knows that everything that has shaken and twisted and bent me in a veritable tornado of emotions and misunderstandings and raw, open wounds will one day be a testimony for the purpose of His glory, that knowledge doesn't always filter down into my heart.
In fact, smack dab in the middle of circumstances beyond my control, I've been guilty of saying things like
'God, I can't ask you for Your opinion right now. Last time I followed Your plan, bullet point by bullet point, You brought me into this mess. If You don't mind, I'll just curl up in a corner for awhile.'

Because even if I don't have answers, curling up in a corner away from the storm is easier than striking out into the unknown again. Because, you know, avoidance = GREAT survival plan.

Right?

Oh, ok. Maybe not so much.

I know in my mind that He has great and beautiful plans for me
[and you, too - I see you back there. Yes, you. I see you!] because He said so;

“For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” [Jeremiah 29:11]

And that those visions of who I will become were formed even before I was born;

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you. Before you were born I set you apart!” [Jeremiah 1:5]

But there are those days of life between new birth and the fulfillment of a promise that must be survived. And then there's the little matter of my inquiring heart longing for reassurance that the storm will end. And that I'll survive it.

And that's when the redeeming, restoring, sustaining love of a God who sings over me with songs of love is what I need most.

And
that's when I'm ready to be still and dwell in this promise;

"And now, here's what I'm going to do: I'm going to start
all over again. I'm taking her back out into the wilderness
where we had our first date, and I'll court her. I'll give her bouquets of roses.
I'll turn Heartbreak Valley into Acres of Hope.
She'll respond like she did as a young girl,
those days when she was fresh out of Egypt.

At that time —this is God's Message still— "you'll
address me, 'Dear husband!' Never again will you
address me, 'My slave-master!'
I'll wash your mouth out with soap,
get rid of all the dirty false-god names;
not so much as a whisper of those names again.

At the same time I'll make a peace treaty between you
and wild animals and birds and reptiles,
And get rid of all weapons of war.
Think of it! Safe from beasts and bullies!

And then I'll marry you for good—forever!
I'll marry you true and proper, in love and tenderness.
Yes, I'll marry you and neither leave you nor let you go.
You'll know me, God, for who I really am.

"On the very same day, I'll answer" - This is God's message -
"I'll answer the sky, sky will answer the earth,
Earth will answer grain, and wine, and olive oil,
and they'll all answer Jezreel.
I'll plant her in the good earth.

I'll have Mercy on No-Mercy.
I'll say to Nobody, "You're my dear Somebody"
and he'll say "You are my God!"
[Hosea 2:14-23, The Message]

His words. His plan for my life.

Faithful is He who calls you, and He will also bring it to pass. [1 Thess. 5:24]

His promise. Restoration to the joy-filled days of new hope, when dreams were created and songs burst out into celebration.

So even though I can't see the thread connecting the past to the future in my present, it's there, holding me together, reminding me of a promise of healing for the broken vine and rest for the weary soul.

Restore me, O LORD God of hosts; cause Your face to shine on me. I know this; on that day, when Your answer comes, I shall be saved. [Ps. 80:19, paraphrase]


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2/5/09

Multi-Culturalism, Blockbusters, and Taco Bell.

I know.

Random.

But to properly sum up my life these days, only a string of almost-incoherent babble [a la facebook's word verification] or a Wordle cloud will do.

Since I can only chuckle about wouldn't dream of making you read a puzzling array of random words like that, I'll go for it in listed form.

You can thank my melancholy mom.

1. I have spent a few weeks with some of the most precious gals New Zealand and Australia have to offer, and I'm delighted to say that we enjoyed every second of their visit. Well, aside from the seconds spent crammed into my little Honda with 5 girls and their accompanying luggage. 'Cause even 'this is going to be SO funny later' has its limits, y'all.

2. I'm becoming multi-cultural. Yes, for real. I learned a whole song in Maori. It's called 'Jesus is Here' and it's lovely, but much lovelier when Val sings it. And I learned my Ghanaian name. It's Abinah, which means 'Girl born on Tuesday' and is, according to Ghanaian culture, the name that God intended for me, being a girl born on a Tuesday and all. And I order whole meals in Spanish sometimes, too. I'm going places!

3. Jesus has been using some incredible people and experiences to pour His love on me, and I'm so, so, SO grateful/hopeful/unworthy/excited about the things He's speaking into me and the people He's brought me into contact with. More on this later, you can count on it.

4. I'm back in school, hopefully serving out my next-to-last semester of torture at university. My classload includes algebra, which I have successfully avoided during my entire scholastic career - until now - and screenwriting, which serves absolutely no purpose for me except as an English credit. I'm totally going places with my screenwriting career.

5. I'm job-hunting again. And may I say that whoever is responsible for this economic recession needs a good scolding? Thank you, I feel so much better now.

6. I have discovered a passion for chocolate sour cream donuts that will surely be the crowning glory of my diet. Because what spells health and well-being like deep-fried, glazed goodness? I can be thankful that my new obsession has replaced my deep-rooted love for the cheesy gordita crunch, at least. Donuts are way better.

Right?

And with that, I'm off to write a paper and finish folding my clothes and cook dinner and design a business card and run to the grocery store and edit a video, among other things.

See you here soon!

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1/15/09

From Timbuktu to Djibouti

Hello, bloggites!

It's a whole new year already!

What? You already noticed that?

The smartest people in the world read my blog. I just know it.

I do hope your holidays were happy, healthy, and full of joy and peace. Mine abounded in all of those things, plus a little gluttony, family feuds over card games bonding, an episode with sickness that we won't discuss, and a whole lot of laziness.

Rather than jump back into the world [because, you know, it's dangerous out here] I've taken the liberty of slowing down this month. I try not to get bogged down in New Year's resolutions [as you may recall, listmaking is the death of me] but I did resolve to orient myself towards my family during my [blessedly lengthy] break from university. For the past few years, my life has carried me from Timbuktu to Djibouti [Ok, ok, not really, but it sounds like a long jog!] and my breaks have been spent in a whirlwind of activities not at all related to my family. So we've been due for some card games and dinners spent together, and that's what we've done.

So there's that. I can say [with equal parts satisfaction and embarrassment] that the only consistently productive thing I've done is begin the Great Job Hunt. Oh, and win 8 straight games of Apples to Apples, 'cause I'm nothing if not convincing. Settling into a job will be a huge committment to this area, one which I both look forward to and dread, honestly, but I am excited about the possibilities!

Also, I begin my last year of university next week, which means that my world is beginning to creak back into high-octane action. And then I'll return to my former ways of the blog.

Until then, you'll find me playing card games at the kitchen table in my jammies. Drinking gallons of sweet tea. Hello, New Year's Diet.

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