Fiona in January

Fiona in January

Saturday, December 31, 2011

2012 > 2011?

Well, it's that time of year again. The time of year when all the bloggers of the world start pontificating and reflecting on the past year. To be honest, a lot of this year has been a blur for me, but I'll try to hit the high points:

1) My husband got a new job after being laid off for almost a year

2) We were able to move out of the upstairs of his parent's house and into our own apartment

3) We celebrated our 1 year anniversary

4) We panicked for a good 3-4 weeks after finding out (surprise!) we're having a baby in June 2012

5) We got to welcome a few new little ones into the world and congratulate friends who became new parents

This year has been difficult in many ways, in addition to the above blessings, and many I'm sure I forgot to mention...

- My niece, Reagan, developed a seizure disorder (she's almost 2)
- Dear friends of ours experienced a horrible loss of their newborn baby girl

I really can't list anything else after that last one...last night we found out another one of my good friends lost their baby girl, only 2 weeks before she was supposed to be born. The struggle of trying to understand what the hell is going on and how there could be any "good" come out of such horrible tragedies is overwhelming. I can't imagine the pain of a loss like that and there are no words I can say to make it better...not the easiest thing for a writer to realize...

My prayer for 2012 is that it will bring healing and hope to so many of my friends who are hurting, grieving and struggling to make sense out of tragedy. No resolutions this year for me, only desperate prayers for guidance and peace.

Friday, December 16, 2011

For the Love of Books!

Since the surprise news of a new little one joining our household in about 6 months was sprung on us, one of the things at the forefront of my mind was, "the second bedroom is a hole! where are we going to put this kid?!" Thankfully when we moved into this apartment about 6 months ago, we opted for the 2 bedroom model.

However, being avid readers with no extra money for decent bookshelves, we've been using the second bedroom as a storage room largely for boxes upon boxes of books.

We did manage to eventually wedge a full-sized mattress set in there for when we have friends crash with us on their way to the beach, but it really wasn't much of a guest room space. Now that Baby Knives is on the way we'll be using that room as her (can you tell I'm hoping for a girl??) space.

We were in desperate need of bookshelves. After much consideration and shopping around, we got these fabulous IKEA shelves as an early Christmas gift from my in-laws and I couldn't be more thrilled! My husband is slightly less enthusiastic since I was almost worse than useless in helping assemble them and it took him about 2 hours to piece it together. Damn allen wrenches!

However, now that is completely assembled and full of books, he's much more am I! Since he worked so hard assembling the beast, I took over unpacking ALL the boxes of books, sorting through them to make sure I could shelve authors and series together.

Needless to say I got completely overwhelmed at least 5 times in the 2-day-long process and had to close the door in denial of the mess lurking behind it!

I finally was able to get about 3/4 of our book collection shelved and boxed up a ton of books to give away and the last 1/4 of our collection was re-boxed and will go back into storage until we eventually move into a bigger place and can get another behemoth IKEA bookshelf to store them.

I cannot adequately express how much I love the bookcase...and also love that it is the first thing we changed/added to Baby Knives' room - what kid needs a crib or dresser when they have hundreds of books lining the walls?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Oh Baby...

I haven't been neglecting this blog by accident...major life "stuff" has been happening lately and I just haven't been ready to share yet. My husband and I are still adjusting to this latest development, but we agreed now it's time to let the word out officially...we're expecting a baby in June!

So far my pregnancy has involved a lot of puking and sleeping. Apparently that's incredibly common in the first trimester. I like to claim that this first trimester has been sponsored by Linda Blair. Seriously, I never knew what would set me off and it would differ from one day to the next!

Explain to me the logic behind not being able to keep down rice cereal and dry toast, but craving Coke and Taco Bell's nachos and Crunchwrap Supremes? I've learned to just go with the cravings and make my insides (and what feels like the parasite growing inside me) happy.

I haven't been able to stand cooking anything meat-related in about 2 months and I'm hoping that changes soon, we're a little starved for protein around here. I had a doctor's appointment today and everything looks good. My due date is June 17 and I'm going to be 13 weeks along on Friday. It still feels like yesterday when we found out (more than 4 weeks ago) and completely panicked at this new little surprise God has decided to drop in our laps! Thankfully, we're starting to adjust our brains to the concept of having a baby, although this whole pregnancy/labor/birth thing seems like a disgusting cosmic joke to me.

I am definitely not of the "this is a beautiful process" school of school of thought revolves mostly around the "this is so gross and horrifying, why can't I be unconscious throughout this process" concept.

So that's what's new in our lives at the moment, hopefully I'll be updating this blog a little more regularly now that I can actual feel comfortable sharing what's going on in my head lately. We have picked out names for a girl and a boy - we LOVE them, but the girl's name is really really cool. No, we're not sharing it yet on here...but probably will once we know what we're having.

As for now, I'm off to find a Taco Bell fix.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Love and Trust

I've been reading Fresh Brewed Life by Nicole Johnson as a devotional-type resource for the past few months and I'm coming down the home stretch. I'm a little disappointed to be finishing it, but it's been a great read and I'm also looking forward to starting something new.

I read chapter 9 yesterday and it's entire focus was on enriching your relationships. What really jumped out at me was the importance placed on trust in any relationship and how it directly feeds love.

The more we trust in God's love, the more it will change our hearts and lives. Not trusting God's love doesn't make it any less true, it simply makes it untrue for us. It keeps us locked away from the freedom we have in God's embrace.

1 John 4:18a
says it well - "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear."

The author closes the chapter by saying, We are never more like God than when we choose to forgive others. Relationships give us our greatest opportunity to model the gospel.

Forgiveness, trust and love - they all go hand-in-hand feeding healthy relationships. You really can't have one of those attributes and not the others while expecting to have a successful and fulfilling relationship with God or anyone else.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

What a Year!

Today we are celebrating our 1 year anniversary. I know everyone always says, "I can't believe it's been a year already"...but I seriously can't believe how fast this year has blown by. It's been a crazy year full of lots of good and a few rough patches with jobs and moving, but throughout it our marriage has been fantastic. I'm so lucky to be spending my life with someone who knows me so well and has been my best friend for so many years.

I decided to look back at the journal entries and blog posts I wrote a year ago, just to remember exactly where my mind was right before we got married.

Here it is again, my birthday. I'm a whopping 27 years old and in 17 days I am marrying the man I've dreamed about for more than 5 years...I never truly thought I would have this. Happiness, true love, someone who wanted to be with me forever. Through all the dating and loser boyfriends of my past...they led me to this. To him.

When I stop and think about all of the crazy bumps we've weathered on our journey together it really is amazing. The heartbreak from others, the distance, the uncertainty...but we made it through all of it and "won" a beautiful thing - our lives together (finally, right?). Some days it feels so surreal, yet most days it feels like the most normal, easy thing in the world. I trust him completely, will love him unconditionally and can't wait to see what our future together will be like.

I think the most amazing part of our actual wedding day was when I was getting ready with all the girls and waiting to walk down the aisle with my hit me - I wasn't nervous at all. I had no butterflies or any doubts whatsoever. I couldn't wait to marry the love of my life...I would have run down that aisle if my dress had been a teensy bit shorter - I definitely was wearing the shoes for it!

We had so much fun on our wedding day, and had a fantastic time on our honeymoon at Disney World (hope we can go back soon!), but it didn't even begin to come close to the fun we've had this entire first year together. So here's to many many more!

"My life would suck without you!" Yep - we had a Kelly Clarkson quote on our wedding program, that's just who we are.

Monday, October 3, 2011

A Successful Birthday Week

So, it's been a pretty great couple of weeks. Within that time period the fall season has FINALLY come to the Eastern Shore, my younger sister and her boyfriend came to visit for 4 days, I turned a whopping 28 years of age and have begun to once again play with fall flavors in my cooking and baking endeavors.

My younger sister and I are close, and I'm so thankful for our relationship. She lives in Indiana now, so I don't get to see her often, but we always just pick up where we left off whenever we get together. When she was 18 and graduated from high school, she decided to move out to Indiana (where I was graduating from college) and live with me for awhile. The next 3 years were hilarious and a lot of fun. We got to know each other as "grown ups" and I felt like we got to make up for so much lost time because I went to college so far away while she was going through high school.

I love her to death and hate that she lives so far away, but I'm so proud of the life she's built for herself there and the fantastic guy she's dating. Hopefully there will be many more subsequent visits in the future! We're quietly plotting to find said boyfriend a great job out here on the East Coast so we can live next door to each other and become increasingly annoying to everyone as we continue to enjoy our ridiculously close friendship. Sounds like a great plan to me!

In other news, my husband got me the best birthday present to date: an original piece of art painted by one of our incredibly talented lucky are we to know so many artists?!

The story behind the painting is that I absolutely love Hayao Miyazaki movies and my favorite of all time is My Neighbor Totoro, tied with Howl's Moving Castle. I honestly can't decide, they're both incredible movies and I watch them multiple times a year!

There is a lot of Totoro (the main character in the movie) artwork out there and I've always like it, but I haven't found a lot that I want to go ahead and buy. The posters are great, but I wanted more of an art piece rather than just a flat image I needed to frame. I mean, it's Totoro...he's literally larger than life, how could he just be captured in a poster image?

Yes, I am this insane about the movie characters I love...and I'm ok with that.

So this painting not only incorporated Totoro perfectly, but my husband had our friend add a few personalized touches. If you look closely you'll see that Totoro is wearing green Chuck Taylors - my all-time favorite and preferred footwear. He's also carrying a bouquet of flowers (one of my favorite gifts for any occasion). I love that my husband knows me so well - so well that he could get a friend of ours to create such a personal gift for me that literally no one else has!

This year's birthday week was fantastic. Last year we were so crazed planning our wedding (taking place 2 weeks after my birthday!) that my birthday got a little rushed and shuffled over. This year more than made up for it and I couldn't have asked for a better one.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

It's My Life

Had a great time at church today, so proud of my husband and our whole worship band for rockin' out a great set that started with a Bon Jovi cover!

Check them out...

Here's another video of one of my favorite worship songs...just so happens my husband is singing it - happy coincidence!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

"I can no other answer make, but, thanks, and thanks." - Shakespeare

I've been playing around with potential blog posts in my own head for a week or so and haven't been able to land on one specifically that felt like it needed to be written. So, this morning I'm choosing to highlight a few things I'm thankful for these recent days.

Laughter with my husband. Our relationship has always been based on a solid friendship full of lots of laughter, he never fails to make me smile and I love him so much for it.

Books of all kinds. This year I've really stepped out and begun to read books in genres I don't usually explore. As a result I have really grown as a writer (and a reader!) and have come to enjoy so many new authors I hadn't been exposed to yet.

Time. I am grateful for time to reflect on the past, plan for the future and revel in the present. I am thankful for time I am consciously setting aside to spend with God and in prayer for my friends and family, most of whom I live much too far away from.

New Friendships. After living here on the Eastern Shore for 15 months now, I finally feel as if I am starting to form some truly wonderful friendships with women I respect, appreciate, can laugh and cry with. I love these women and am so thankful they are in my life and we are starting to build friendships (I hope) will last a lifetime. Even if the first small step is something as simple as a book club!

What are you thankful for today?

Sunday, September 11, 2011


I know many bloggers across this vast interweb are posting about their memories on this, the 10 year anniversary of 9-11-01. I've been waffling back and forth about posting about that day and finally decided to just go ahead and write about it.

First of all I want to say how deeply thankful I am for all of our nation's men and women who fight for our freedom every day, our armed forces. I am also grateful to all of our nation's first responders - police officers, fire fighters and medical personnel who save lives every day.

2001 was an exciting year for me. I graduated from high school in the spring and was ready to head to college in the fall. I grew up in a Washington DC suburb and had decided to go to college out in Northern Indiana, about 600 miles away. Culture shock to say the least!

So there I was, in September of that year, all the way out in Indiana trying to find my footing in a teeny tiny midwestern college town. I had just begun to cement friendships among my hall-mates and get the hang of navigating campus (I'm on the right in Photo 1).

September 11, 2001 started just like any other day that semester
. Rolling out of bed, my roommate Lisa and I took turns getting ready using our teensy tiny bathroom we shared with 2 other girls. I didn't have an early morning class that day so my first "awake" experience would be chapel in the morning when our entire campus gathered for an hour.

I remember walking past our dorm's lobby and noticing, out of the corner of my eye, a few girls glued to the TV set. It looked like they were watching an action movie. I now know that they were watching the very first pieces of news coverage as the first plane hit the twin towers in New York City.

I got to chapel and it was oddly quiet...still, I shrugged off the ominous feeling and found a seat next to a few of my friends from the dorm, pulled out a book and some homework to do as I waited for chapel to get going.

I will never forget the feeling as my brain scrambled to catch up to what our chaplain was saying as he spoke about how "many of you have seen the news coverage of what we now know to be a terrorist attack on the Wold Trade center." As he was speaking, someone pulled him aside and I remember him visibly looking shaken. He stepped back up to the microphone and told us that a third plane had crashed into the Pentagon.

I felt the color drain from my face. My whole family lived in that area. My dad worked minutes away from downtown DC on the Virginia side, my older sister was working at NASA at the time and could easily have been downtown, not to mention my mother and younger sister could have been anywhere near the area as we lived about 15 miles outside of DC.

I don't really remember exactly how I got outside, but I distinctly remember shaking so badly I couldn't stand up as I lost my breakfast in the poor bushes outside the McClain building on campus. In the hours that followed, my memories are a blur. I remember not being able to get ahold of my dad on the phone, but finally getting through to my mom and finding out that she and my sisters were safe. I remember crying with my roommate Lisa as she knew people in New York and still didn't know if they were safe. I remember hugging strangers and we comforted each other, desperate to find out if our families were safe.

We finally were able to get word from my dad - he was safe. I remember nearly losing the contents of my stomach again as waves of relief swept over me...just as quickly waves of grief for those who would never hear from family members again, as they had been on those planes the terrorists used as weapons or in the buildings that had been targeted.

I remember what seemed like days later, people I had just met, being called to active duty as they had joined the National Guard to pay for college and now had to go actively protect our country.

I remember one of my professors telling us that this was a day our generation would remember forever. That our lives here in the United States would be forever changed. That years from now we would ask each other "where were you what the planes hit the towers" and gravely remember those who had lost their lives.

He was right.

I'm taking time today to revisit those feelings of fear, grief and thankfulness to God for protecting my family. I'm also taking time to pray for the families of everyone who lost their lives that tragic day 10 years ago. Most of all I am taking time to reflect and remember that there are men and women risking their lives overeseas and here at home in the USA to protect us from experiencing another day like 9-11-01. God bless them and keep them safe.

9-11 Memorial at the Pentagon (Washington DC)

Twin Tower Memorial Lights (New York)

Memorial Placed in Memory of Flight 93 at the site in Shankesville, PA

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Many Hairstyles of Em

Nothing like a new haircut to change my mood! I've always had a pretty laid back perspective on my hair. Sometimes a little too laid back...but I love this photo on the left from the summer before my Sophomore year of college - woohoo for white blond (and a tongue ring!)

Since high school, and into college, my hair has been the following colors:

- Blond
- Brown
- Black
- Red
- White-Blond
- Blue
- Green (not on purpose - this is when I learned I had to bleach my hair before adding blue!)
- Purple
- Pink
- Orange (again, not on purpose)
- Gray (REALLY not on purpose!)

So color has never been something I've been afraid of - you can always change your hair!
A lot of the time I kept the base bleached blond and just added in different colors. I always have taken care of my hair, making sure it stays moisturized and healthy so thankfully the college years of extreme dyeing didn't really take a toll on it. I think part of it was because my hair was short at the time...speaking of length, my hair has been short to the point of about 2 inches in the back (spiked out) and long to the point of waving down the middle of my back. Yup, I've had it all.

However, after I graduated from college and started getting bored with the shorter hair, I started growing it out and had a few cute styles:

Ok - so there are a few highlights from my years of hairstyles...but for about 2 years I just kind of let it grow long. I was growing it out a little, then I got engaged and wanted to keep it long so I could do the updo I wanted for my wedding...

But since then I've just been getting my hair trimmed, getting the split ends cut off and I haven't really had a hair STYLE. Sooooo that all changed yesterday and I LOVE it! I found a fabulous hairdresser thanks to some of my friends' recommendation. I told her to do what she thought would look great and I wasn't afraid of anything except straight across bangs, which we agreed would be a HUGE mistake. She gave me this fantastic angled bob!

She cut about 7 inches off my hair and I feel like I lost about 10 pounds. I can't wait to go back next month to talk about old friend, hair color!

What was your best hairstyle? Share please!

Monday, August 22, 2011

"Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see"

I love when our church's youth pastor speaks on Sunday mornings because you can always tell exactly where his heart lies: with our students, teenagers and kids. It is an age bracket extremely close to my heart and I love being a part of a church that values them too.

That being said, I was convicted by Pastor Josh's message - I don't always view my weekly volunteering with the children in our church as positively as I should. To be honest, some Sundays all I want to do is get through an hour without having boogers smeared on my jeans and without having to wash my hands an innumerable number of times after changing too many dirty diapers. FYI - I work with 2-year-olds not the high school students! Some Sundays my attitude sucks about serving, giving up my time to spend with these little guys...and it shouldn't.

I've always enjoyed spending time with kids, have adamantly stated how much I value them and am easily angered when our society brushes off their opinions and upbringing as some type of burden. Yet, am I always consistent with my actions?

Josh's message focused on how we as a generation can take steps to guide the generation growing up behind us to be counter-cultural, a generation of change. One of his points really resonated with me and made me smile. I have said for years that kids have a seriously accurate bull**** meter. They know when you're lying or trying to pull something over on them. I should know, I was absolutely one of those kids. The most valuable thing you can do when spending time with kids, whether they are 3 or 16, is to be honest. Trying to "sell" them on an oversimplified version of Christianity that isn't accurate isn't going to cut it and all it will do is cause them to trust you and what you believe even less.

Another point he made that hit home is that our culture has set the bar of expectation so low for this generation. All the media and cultural influences are really asking our young people is to go to school, not get arrested and live up to the status quo. What happened to passion? What happened to making a difference? What happened to actively living what you believe? Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying I don't know kids who break that mindset, but unfortunately I see and know many more who don't.

As someone who will (hopefully) have kids of my own in the next 5 years, some of the statistics Josh was relaying freaked me out. The percentage of kids who spend time actually talking with their parents for more than 10 minutes a day is staggeringly low. The number of parents who are actively involved in their student's day-to-day school lives is another ridiculously low crushes and convicts me at the same time about my attitude and actions toward this younger generation growing up in our world, not to mention the way my husband and I plan to parent our future kids.

I'm not a parent, I am blessed to be an aunt to 4 beautiful girls and 3 energy-packed boys and I love them like crazy
. Even not being a parent myself, Josh's message really woke me up to just how much of a positive influence I can have on them by exerting more effort as they get older. On the other hand, what he said also reminded me of the harsh reality that I can have an overwhelmingly negative impact on them without even trying or being aware of my actions.


Josh's final challenge to us as a church was to be a generation to stand in the gap, being the ones to guide this generation coming up behind us to a real relationship with their God - to not let them slip through the cracks unnoticed. They deserve better. When I was in high school, I know full well I would have been one of those kids slipping away if it hadn't been through the amazing mentors I had to guide me, ask me tough questions and help me grow into an adult who knew what I believed. I was one of the lucky ones and having that background should make me that much more intent on being that type of mentor to the kids in my life who I love and spend time with.

If you want to check out Josh's entire message (and I hope you will - its a great one), just follow this link to the video: and it will be at the top of the list on the page and titled, "To Reach The Next Generation".

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Herb Fail

I offer up this sad little photo as proof of my ever-blackening green thumb. These herbs WERE basil and sage. To be honest, they really were doing pretty well (not thriving) and producing some fresh leaves I could use in a lot of dishes this summer...

Then the rain came.

If you live in the Salisbury, MD area you know how much insane torrential rain we got last week! My poor little guys just gave up and now the basil mostly looks like black sticks with a few tiny leaves and the sage is about half as tall as it was!


Maybe I should leave the herb-growing up to the farmers selling them at the markets this summer! I so crave having a giant her garden like, well, HER - but I know that is not going to happen...especially since we live in an apartment! However, I dream of having at least a few good sized boxes of thriving herbs growing on our balcony next year...anyone who can give me tips on how to make that happen will be elevated to beloved status in my heart.

Do you garden? If you do, what has been your greatest success? I'd love to know!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Why Does It Matter?

This week our church's senior pastor, Brian, was back from a multi-week hiatus and I was excited to have him back. I've really been enjoying the summer series that has been focused on digging deeper into the theology behind the Apostle's Creed.

All of our pastors have preached at least once throughout the series, each bringing their unique point of view and preaching style to the topics. I thought it was great, this week, that Pastor Brian was back to wrap up the series by talking about why it does matter what we believe and how our worldview really plays a huge role in our lives.

On a sidebar - I do teach 2-year-olds during our 11:30 AM service and am a big fan of Pastor Brian (and another pastor who will remain nameless) for more than his preaching style...he almost ALWAYS ends the worship service on time! Those of you who volunteer with our uniquely energetic toddlers know exactly how wonderful that can be. Don't get me wrong, I love my little ones, but after about an hour we all start getting tired of each other!

Back to Brian's message...

One of the things I really found beneficial were the examples of popular worldviews (the belief systems we build our lives around). He not only explained the concept, but matched each with a Biblical passage that explained why each worldview isn't satisfying and doesn't work.

#1 - Materialism: "The one with the most toys wins"

#2 - Individualism: "I've got to think of ME first"

#3 - Hedonism: "Do whatever feels good"

#4 - Naturalism/Atheism: "God doesn't exist or matter"

#5 - Pragmatism: "Whatever works for you"

#6 - Humanism: "You are your own god"

As far as materialism goes, unfortunately, it does run rampant in our culture here in the US. Is there really a better example of how damaging this worldview can be than our insane national debt situation? Luke 12:15 - Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.

Individualism is another popular concept. This really came into play in the decade - goody! Yep, I made my debut smack in the middle of the original self-indulgent revolution. We really have developed a culture of narcissism and it is something I personally have to fight on a near daily basis. Let's be honest, in the short term, it feels great to think of myself first! However, the longer I wallow in that lifestyle, the more shallow and dissatisfying it is. Matthew 16:25 - If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for Me, you will find true life.

Hedonism. Brian made me laugh for sure when he mentioned the inherent southern-action old school Baptist-style of that word! Can't you just hear it? Do yourself a favor - scroll down and watch this message and get a good laugh out of his accent when he talks about hedonism...oh and the rest of the message is a great watch too!

Hedonism is an emotions-driven lifestyle. If it brings you pleasure you should do it. Unfortunately pleasure was never meant to be the extreme focus of our lives. It is the by-product of doing right, not the ultimate goal. Proverbs 21:17 - You're addicted to thrills? What an empty life! The pursuit of pleasure is never satisfied.

Pragmatism has become extremely popular in our culture. The concept of tolerance has been extremely overblown into the whole "whatever works for you is fine" idea. Pragmatism has no emphasis in moral boundaries of any kind - sort of a fly by the seat of your pants way of life. Proverbs 14:12 - There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.

is one of the most depressing worldviews to me. If God doesn't exist or matter, then neither do you! Such a sad concept and way to live. God has left his fingerprints all over this world if you are intellectually honest enough to look. Ironically it takes a lot of faith to be an atheist and ignore God's influence all around us. Romans 1:20-22 - From the beginning of creation, God has shows what He is like by all He has made. That's why they don't have any excuse. They know about God, but they don't honor Him or even thank Him. They claim to be wise but are fools.

The idea of humanism really centers around lifting ourselves up as being the center of our own universe by claiming God's own attributes as our own. It really is the ultimate idolatry. It's also an easy trap to slide into with concepts like "I am in control of my life" rather than accepting God's hand in our world and our lives. Romans 1:25 - They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator.

So what is the correct worldview? It is called "Theism" and simply means believing that God made you for His purpose and placing Him at the center of your world. Colossians 1:16 - For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible...everything good started in Him and finds its purpose in Him.

Why does it matter what we believe? Because our beliefs determine our behavior, they determine how I am blessed by God and also determine my believability to the world.

When it comes down to it, if someone asked you why you believe what you believe, can you answer?

I feel so fortunate that I do feel equipped by God and the experiences I've had in my life so far, that I can absolutely explain why I believe what I believe to anyone who asks. I have had some wonderful mentors, teachers and friends who have patiently taught, challenged and shown me through example who God is and why I believe in Him and His Word.

So check out Brian's entire message at "Why Does it Matter What I believe" and let me know what you think! What worldview do you hold or struggle to overcome?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Short and Sweet

Lesson I learned this week: You are never too old to make stupid decisions and mistakes.


But the most important thing I learned this week is that I have an amazingly understanding husband who loves me in spite of the fact that I occasionally make an idiotic choice.

Thank God.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Nighttime Solace

Early last week I had asked God to help remind me of my renewed resolve (wow that's a lot of "R's") to set aside specific time to spend with Him and reading his word. Twice this week I woke up at 2am, unable to sleep, feeling slightly anxious and unsettled. I did something I've never done before...I got up, grabbed my Bible, devotional book, "prayer box" and headed out to the kitchen table to spend some time with God.

The first night it was one of those "ok, I'm up anyway and I don't want to keep Aaron awake" kind of moments. I ended up spending almost 2 hours reading and talking to God. The amazing part was that I really didn't feel missing those 2 hours of sleep the next morning. I am one of those need-8-hours-of-sleep-to-function kind of people...usually if I get less than 7 hours a night I turn into a whiny mess (just ask my husband). However, that next morning I woke up refreshed and ready to take on the day.

Interesting tact there God...

The second night, I had once again forgotten to set aside the time in a busy day to spend with God and once again, I was kept awake at around 2am...this time I almost had to laugh - God was answering my prayer to make sure I spend time with Him - how cool is that?! I gamely headed out to the kitchen table and cracked open my devotional book.

That night's chapter was on the story of Mary washing Jesus' feet with perfume (John 12:3), the focus was on extravagant love. Extravagant love is the kind of love that disregards everything else so it can focus on one thing alone...the object of that love. It is sacrificial. This is the kind of love Mary displayed when she gave literally all she had in the form of an extremely expensive alabaster jar of the perfume to wash Jesus' feet as an act of love and worship.

Extravagant love cannot be faked. Matthew says it best in chapter 12 - "For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks." In Mary's case, she did even more - she acted on the overflow of her heart. There were people present, even Jesus' own disciples, who judged her for such an extravagant act of worship. They protested that the perfume should have been sold and the money given to the poor instead of "wasted". Jesus told them to leave her alone. It was Mary's act of worship and He accepted her.

Jesus has given us the ultimate example of extravagant love. He laid down his life for us. That act cost Him everything, and yet He gave. He did so out of the same kind of extravagant, life-changing love He expects from us.

On the heels of that powerful reading, I dug into Psalm 63...which hit me between the eyes in a few ways! I love when God's Word does that - really, truly God speaking to me right there in my life, in any situation.

A few verses jumped out at me and were more than slightly ironic considering I was reading the Bible at about 3am!

v. 1 - O God, You are my God; early I will seek You. My soul longs for you.

v. 6-8 - When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches - because You have been my help. Therefore, in the shadow of Your wings I will rejoice. My soul follows close behind You; Your right hand upholds me.


Heck yeah Amen!

I haven't forgotten to spend time with God daily since that last 3am encounter and He is still continuing to speak to me through His word. I am almost done with this devotional book and am on the hunt for a new one to start tomorrow - if anyone has any suggestions, I'd love to hear them!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Good Morning

This morning, during my personal Bible study, this Psalm jumped off the page at me. I love when that happens, it's like God knows exactly what I need to hear.

Psalm 60:1-2

Hear my cry, O God, attend to my prayer.
From the end of the earth I will cry out to You;
When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I am.

It was such a warm reminder of how God is always there for me, that all I need to do is come to Him when life threatens to overwhelm. I also came across this quote that I love by Carole Mayhall: "I pray frequently that I'll hear His voice more often and more clearly. When I don't, I know He hasn't stopped speaking; rather I have stopped listening."

Another great part of this morning was this ridiculously healthy and yummy smoothie I tried, thanks to a recipe by Alton Brown. I usually keep food-related posts and recipes on my other blog, but this smoothie is so crazy yummy and easy, I thought I'd just post the recipe link for you guys, so check it out here. The only change I made was swap blackberries for strawberries.

Hope you enjoy your respective mornings, here's to August!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Hellish Month of July

So, I know I've been neglecting this blog something fierce for a month...however, it was intentional. To be honest (without outrageously oversharing), July was a truly awful month in some ways...including the horrifyingly hot weather!

It was personally exhausting, stressful, emotionally draining and full of tears and frustrations. I haven't been blogging because I honestly wasn't sure what to say. I didn't want to share my entire personal and private life online, and while I've been going to church and hearing some wonderful messages by our pastors over at ORBC, I just didn't have the heart to share and comment on them while my heart was fighting through a lot of turmoil.

So what has changed?

Let me just say first that my relationship with my husband is the only thing that really kept me sane (he may dispute the level of perceived sanity, but he's known me 10 years so he's allowed). There was never any arguing or issues between us - it was just life, frustrations and the outside world kicking me in the metaphorical ovaries.

Uncool outside world.


Coming out on the other side of a truly difficult and emotionally bleak month, I am starting to bounce back to my positive outlook, thank you God for that! Once of the things I was struggling with was a deep loneliness and feeling of isolation that smacked me over the head out of the blue...through that (among other things), I'm starting to break out of my comfort zone and reach out to some wonderful potential new friends. Being patient with the process sucks, but we all know that patience has never been one of my stronger virtues. I'm trying!

I started a new job - didn't leave my old one - but added a new part time job working with kids that I am really starting to enjoy. It's only about 10 hours a week, but those little buggers have already started worming their way into my heart. Without having that job, this month would have been even harder. Nothing tugs the heartstrings and makes you feel loved like a small child's face lighting up when she sees you or a baby reaching out his little arms to be hugged. Those kids have been a lifesaver for me these past few weeks and I'm looking forward to what they continue to teach me in the months to come.

I faltered a lot this week in my commitment to daily set aside time to pray and read God's Word. I'm struggling to get back into that habit, as it is a priority in my heart, but when I was so downtrodden I somehow resisted bringing my pain to God...completely insane, I I'm slowly making my way humbly back to Him each day. How great is it that God will always forgive me and welcome me into His presence?

So that's it, faithful blog readers, I'm back and will be writing more regularly as the rest of this year marches on. Hope your July has been restful and wonderful and I hope to hear your stories as you share!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Who Is This Jesus?

I had mentioned a few posts ago that our church is doing a message series called "These Things We Believe" focusing on the pillars of the Christian faith, explaining the Apostle's Creed and really digging deep into the foundation of our faith...why we believe what we do.

It has been a great series to dig into, a really strong reminder of what I hold dear as a follower of Christ. As someone who was privileged to be raised in the church and by parents who are strong believers, I have a solid background in the foundation of our faith...however, in the craziness of life, when tragedy strikes and when life doesn't make sense, it has become easier and easier to "forget" I am not only a Christian...but a true child of the Creator of the universe, and that comes with an all-access pass to Him. Focusing on the foundations of my faith has been a much-needed reminder of who I am, who God is and why I believe what I do.

This week's message was given by our senior pastor, Brian, and he dug into exactly who Jesus is. This is a huge issue, not just for Christians, but for people of all religions across the world. Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Muslims, Bhuddists, and so many others have a perspective of exactly who Jesus is.

Brian's first point of order was to talk about four major heresies about the person of Jesus Christ that became popular centuries and centuries ago. He made the point that he wasn't just giving us a history lesson in old heretical beliefs that challenged the Christian faith for the heck of it - that these major heresies are reflected in religions all over the world.

#1 - Adoptionism: This belief about Jesus is that he was just a man. A man who was very spiritual and became spiritual enough that God "made him a son" through his baptism.

#2 - Nestorianism: This belief focuses on Jesus being half God and half man, almost seen as a somewhat unstable figure with a multiple personality disorder.

#3 - Arianism: This heresy about the person of Jesus states that God created Jesus himself, then Jesus created the universe. This would give Jesus the status as a step-down from God, a demi-god rather than God.

#4 - Docetism: This is the concept that Jesus/God vacated heaven to come down to earth, put on an "earth suit", the image of a human being, but he wasn't human at all - he just appeared that way.

So all of this begs the question: who is this Jesus? Who do I believe He is? For answers, I turn to the one and only authority I know and need. God's Word. What does the Bible say about who Jesus is? John 1:14 lays it all out for me.

In the beginning was The Word (Jesus), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made...The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

That says it all. Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man. I don't understand that. Who could? But, Pastor Brian made a fantastic point about that. If I had to understand everything about God in order to place my faith in Him, my God would be as small as my understanding. I don't know about you, but I don't want a God I can fit into a box...I want the awe-inspiring Creator of the universe. I don't have to understanding everything about Him, I couldn't with this finite little brain of mine. All I have to do is know and trust that God is good, God loves me and always has my best interest as His goal.

Every other world religion can be summed up in two letters...D-O. Do good works, pray, read the religious books, go to church...and when you die, cross your fingers and HOPE you've somehow done enough "good" to outweigh the "bad" on the eternal scales. The difference with believing in Jesus Christ is that it is DONE. There is nothing you have to do other than believe in Him. Any good you do in your life, any prayer and Bible reading comes out of a desire to know God better...not a desperate need to try to earn your place in heaven when you die. The price for that has already been paid. If there was any other way to heaven, then Jesus' sacrifice on the cross is a joke and His blood was wasted suffering.

Jesus Christ was fully God and fully man, He came to earth, suffered and died to pay the ultimate price for our sins so we can have a chance to have a relationship with Him and be secure in our eternal destiny in heaven when we die. The whole point of Jesus being fully God AND fully human is that he relates to the pain of humanity. He can literally understand our pain and suffering because he experienced it. One of the best Bible passages that describes this truth is Hebrews 4:14-16

Since we have a great High Priest (someone to intercede on our behalf to God) who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.

If you want to check out the entire message (and I highly encourage you to do that!), click on the video below. If you don't have a church you attend regularly, check us out and please - I welcome your comments and questions on the blog, so hook me up with your feedback!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Do You Care?

As I dug into the second chapter of this book, I was really drawn in by the chapter's title "Lord, Don't You Care?" This chapter centered around the passage of the Mary/Martha story in Luke 10:40 - Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to Him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her to help me!"

We've all felt the loneliness, frustration, left-out-ness and resentment Martha experienced - doing all that work for others when no one seems to notice or care. Life isn't "fair", but that's exactly what we want it to be when we're feeling underwhelmed and under-appreciated. We want the recognition and appreciation we feel we deserve. Constantly feeding that need to work and work and work some more is what can truly contribute to a physical and/or emotional burnout. This applies to daily work, friendships, charity work, ministry positions, etc.

Joanna Weaver outlined 5 Unrealistic Expectations that can contribute to burnout in her second chapter:

#1 - There shouldn't be limits to what I can do
#2 - I have the capacity to help everyone
#3 - I am the only person available to help
#4 - I must never make a mistake
#5 - I have the ability to change another person

Exodus 18:17-18 echoes this sentiment, "What you are doing is not good...You will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone."

Satan has always used the same tactics to get our eyes off God an onto our circumstances instead. Distraction, discouragement and doubt - those are the steps we can easily fall into as we get overwhelmed and put unrealistic expectations on ourselves instead of focusing on God in our day-to-day lives.

Satan always begins with distraction. Martha's pursuits were hardly trivial. Her preparations were important and could even be considered as ministry. However, her "ministry" and expectations overwhelmed her and it alienated her. Rather than doing things "unto the Lord", she settled for just getting things done. That's when the weight of discouragement can set in.

I don't know about you, but when I'm distracted, discouragement is just around the corner. It breaks down our perspective and defenses, telling us we are useless, hopeless and abandoned. Elijah's story in I Kings 18 is a great example of this. He wallowed so far down into self-pity that he begged God to let him die. And it all began with discouragement.

One thing that I find so hard to remember sometimes is that when I am distracted, discouraged, tired and overwhelmed - there is no better place to go than to my Heavenly Father. Instead, I often choose to hid in a session of self-pity...which never really seems to help.

One of the Bible verses I've always clung to (and some days need to be reminded of!) is Deuteronomy 31:8 - The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you. He will never leave you, nor forsake you. Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged.

The answer to Martha's questions, "Lord, don't you care?" is simple. He will always answer us, He will always care, even though it may not come in the way we expect. All we have to do is take those worries, those hurts to Him instead of holding them close and letting them turn to fear and doubt in our own heads.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Having a "Mary" Heart in a "Martha" World

I have just begun a new personal Bible study. I finished up my study going through this book and was really looking for just the right "next" book to read as part of my daily quiet time with God. I wasn't really inspired by much I was finding until I came across this book packed in a box. I have no idea where I got it - maybe from my sister Kate - but it practically leaped out of the box and smacked me in the face.

God knows me pretty well - I need obvious direction, subtle is not my style!

I started going through this book last week and it seems to be exactly what I need to be reading these days. I've been struggling with prioritizing daily time with God, which is something I've been trying to work on since our church did the "Free Growth" series...but I've gotten distracted and discouraged these past few months with us moving, juggling jobs and transportation, etc. I've allowed life to take over instead of proactively setting aside time each day to spend in God's Word and in prayer. I know that I'm suffering because of it, I feel less focused and much more easily overwhelmed than I do when I know I'm fully anchored through daily communication with Him.

Hence the book almost smacking me in the face!

The book is called "Having A Mary Heart in A Martha World". Those of you unfamiliar with this Mary and Martha story can find it in the Bible - Luke 10:48-42.

It is my goal to regularly blog about what I am learning through this study and I hope that some of what I learn can encourage you too. The very first chapter in this book is really an introduction into the short story of Mary and Martha (two sisters) when Jesus and his disciples unexpectedly come to visit their home.

Luke 10:42 "Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her."

Just a little background - the basic story is that when Jesus and his disciples came to visit, Martha was busy about the house making preparations for them. Cooking, cleaning, etc. Mary chose to sat at Jesus' feet and listen to Him teach. Martha became frustrated with her sister and the fact that she wasn't helping with the preparations and Jesus used it as an opportunity to teach us how we can prioritize spending time with our God in a busy world.

This first chapter of the book focused on the fact that whether you tend to be a bit driven, like Martha, or more contemplative, like Mary, God is calling you to intimacy with Him through Jesus Christ. The only requirement for a deeper friendship with God is showing up with a heart open and ready to receive.

The world we live in clamors, "Do more! Be all you can be!" But our heavenly Father whispers, "Be still and know that I am God." He isn't as much looking for busy workers as He is for children - to be a son or daughter of God means to know Him first, prioritize a relationship with Him first, then everything else will fall into place. Putting work before worship truly putting the "cart before the horse". When we first spend time in His presence, God gives us the power and strength we need to serve Him and go about the challenges each day brings us whether at work or at home.

When it comes down to it, part of me is Mary - I want to worship and spend time with Jesus. However, part of me is Martha - there is so much to be done! Life is hectic at every level, so where do we find the time and energy to worship our Lord and serve Him among the demands of being an employee, a wife, a mother, etc.?

It comes down to obedience. There is time to work, but there is also time to worship. It all comes back to adjusting those pesky priorities.

I'm making a commitment to really work on that issue in my own life, and so far I've been keeping that commitment well. It's beginning to make a difference in my own thoughts and prayers and I find myself looking forward to spending time in God's Word and this new book. It doesn't feel like "work" to try to carve out "extra" time to spend with feels more like a privilege and something I must do in order to make it through the eating breakfast or remembering to take a shower (also extremely important!).

Do any of you have any ideas that work for you as you try to prioritize worship in your daily life? I'd love to hear your thoughts.