Friday, December 12, 2008

No Wasted Leftovers

And I don't mean cookies...

I had the awesome opportunity to spend some time with some great ladies tonight. We decorated Christmas cookies and laughed...a lot! As the year and our Lifegroup both come to an end very soon, it started me thinking about how I ended up where I was tonight: in the company of wonderful women, in a city 2000 miles from my hometown--where I've lived for nearly three years already. Time has flown, for sure. I came up with a bullet-point list of the events leading up to tonight.

-January 2004: Visit some family friends in NoCal so that I could interview for an internship. During this time I headed down to SoCal with a friend to visit his brother, Disneyland and a church. My friend has a man-crush on the worship leader at this church (my friend also leads worship...he's a huge fan of this leader) so we attended. We almost didn't make it due to rainy, gross weather combined with a late evening the previous night.

-March 2006: I move to SoCal.

-April 2006: I decide it's time to find a church and remember the church I had visited. It was the ONLY church I had ever heard of or known anything about. It reminded me of the church I attended in college, so I felt at home immediately.

-April 2006 through December 2007: Loving church and attending fairly regularly but not really plugged in despite it's great Young Adult ministry. I blame me for that and my lack of being super outgoing.

-January 2008: Attend the Passion Conference with a small group from my church. I hardly knew anyone there but had really felt God calling me to get connected. I felt this was my best shot. I met a couple of the pastors, who I had been chit-chatting with about wanting to find a Lifegroup but none listed online were anywhere near my house. They then thought of a girl who they thought would be great. I meet said girl the following week at a coffee shop. The moment I walked in I couldn't believe it. I had seen her numerous times before and always thought she looked familiar, like someone from my school. As I had correctly guessed, she had been on the worship team at our college ministry. 2000 miles away. SMALL WORLD.

-Today: I am able to call this wonderful group of ladies not just my Bible study or Lifegroup, but friends.

God did a lot of things in order to get me where I am today. That is not lost on me. I am struck by the reality that God really does have a plan--and more importantly--knows exactly what's going on even when we don't. When things are hard and we can't see past our own struggles, God is right there with us. But what is awesome news for my heart tonight is that none of our hardships are wasted. God always uses what's going on in our lives to help us ultimately become exactly how He wants us. Our pain, sorrow, frustration and even joy are constantly being used by God to mold us into people who look a little more like Jesus. Bit by bit, day by day. There are no leftovers in our lives that can't be used for our good and God's glory.

How awesome is that?

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Unequaled One

I spent this past weekend with a few hundred other young adults from my church. The retreat was held outside of the city, so that in itself was refreshing. The 3 1/2 hours it took to get there in traffic was not as refreshing. It was a wonderful time to meet with God (well, He met with me exactly where I was) and spend quality time with some dear friends. The sessions were good and I was loving the worship!!

Here is a journal excerpt of my reflections on the entire weekend:

Jesus is the Unequaled One. He pursues me, always and forever. No matter what. Regardless of how I treat Him or (fail to) respond to Him. I want my life to reflect Jesus' work in me. No more compromises. I am no longer going to live as if there is nothing or very little at stake.

Love God. Love others as we love ourselves. Love ourselves because we trust that God doesn't make mistakes and He only wants the best for us. He is more than deserving of our love and faithfulness in return.

Today another thought has been swirling around me head:

Am I living a life that is worth or consistent with being a Christ-follower?

It was a fantastic weekend that left me feeling refreshed and with lots of things to think about, which excites me. I had asked God prior to this weekend to break my heart and show me things in my life that deserve my immediate attention. He definitely delivered!

Here's a picture of our room (minus the boy) at breakfast. Most of these girls are in my Lifegroup:

This picture was taken during the Reindeer Games. It was basically a huge competition with five stations. This one was where we had to pull a teammate across the pool in the tubes while they tried to grab Christmas bows and put them into a bucket. About 90 minutes later my friend and I quit during our 3rd event. Oops.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

60 Degrees ( Okay, 70) and Freezing

Somewhere along the CA coast

I am pretty sure I am a wimp. I spent 21+ years living in an environment where it was pretty much hardcore winter for 6 months out of the year, where you'd often wake up in the morning hoping the streets have been cleared and that your car starts. Where, if the temperature happened to hit forty degrees, everyone was out in shorts and long sleeves.

I'd like to say it's taken me three years to acclimate to the almost always pleasant weather of Southern California, but I'd be lying. I think it took about 6 months. By the time I went back home for that first Christmas, my body had somehow forgotten what it was like to need to regulate its temperature. In all actuality, my body rebelled. I was so cold the entire 2 weeks I was there. Even riding in the car provided a place for me to chatter my teeth, despite the fact I was wearing a heavy winter coat.

This is why I am nervous. I am soon going to be spending the next few months in what I affectionately call the Tundra. I am going home for a little bit and I don't think I could have picked a better time of year: the dead of winter. I think I may die. Slowly, for sure, since that's how you freeze to death. Everyone keeps telling me that I'm being dramatic or exaggerating, but I tell you I am not. I don't care how many layers I put on, how consistently I wear long johns when I leave the house, it is nearly impossible for me to stay warm for very long. And here's the "kicker," as my mom would say: You start sweating to death the minute you walk indoors. You can't win!!

Here's an example of how wimpy I've become. I am sitting at home now with my space heater on, under a pile of covers...and according to my desktop weather alert it is 62 degrees outside. When I tell this to my family members, they all act like it is a warm spring day. Um, no. Brrr.

I will endure. Mostly because I don't have a choice.

Good thing snow is pretty. That is, until you are outside for 2 hours shoveling the driveway and then have to go out a few hours after that to do it all over again.

Here's a pic from last year when I enacted a little child labor--she had a blast, though!! (She's at the bottom of the driveway and the street is behind her--clearly the plows hadn't come through yet...)
P.S. I just checked the weather for my's lightly snowing and the windchill is 12. Awesome.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Great Raffle for a Great Cause!!!

I almost want to preface this by saying "I'm sorry for referencing this other blog so much, both here and whoever I talk to in person" but sorry. I'm not! :)

There is a(nother) great thing going on over at My Charming Kids. She has gotten together some some fantastically worthy organizations that help little ones and their families and put on a raffle to benefit them. It's called Rebel for a Cause and all proceeds go to these families in need.

So not only is it just a great cause, there is an AMAZING prize package for the raffle winner. It's a sweet Canon camera package--that's right, lots of goodies involved!! Check out the button to the left on my sidebar and it will take you straight to the contest where you can read up and get involved.

It's definitely worth your time--and your money. Only ten bucks for a ticket. Hurry, because the contest ends on December 14th.

Happy December, by the way!!!!


Monday, December 1, 2008

Today is Not Me! Monday

I've read several weeks worth of Not Me! Monday posts from MckMama over at My Charming Kids and decided to give it a shot. Why not? I never like to try out new things. Not me! :) Head on over to her site to see what she and others HAVEN'T done :)

This week I...

I did not offer/insist to prepare Thanksgiving dinner for 7 people at friend's house to ensure that it went well ( 5 of whom were 20-something males who could have never attempted such a feat on their own...) Nope, not me. I am never controlling or bossy. I am always the first to go with the flow and be laid back about everything. I never get worked up about unimportant details.

I did not stay up one night until 3am reading the blogs of strangers, which I wasn't thoroughly enjoying. I certainly have better things to do with my time, like sleep. Which is why I did not force myself to finally go to bed after realizing I had to get up in a few short hours to finish thawing a turkey. I am much more organized and put together than that.

I did not decide to write this post several days ago but forgot what I was going to put in it. I never forget what I am about to do. I've never walked around with my toothbrush in my mouth for 10 minutes--without toothpaste--because I was putting away odds and ends around the room. And I would never be so flighty as to ask my boyfriend if he had seen me move my toothbrush because there is no way I would forget that I had just taken it out of my mouth and was now IN MY HAND while I asked him. Not me. My mind is way too sharp for that!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

To-Do or Not To-Do?

I'm the type of person who has the attention span of a gnat. This doesn't mean that I can't focus on one thing for a long period of time. It's more like my mind is so crammed full of things to think about that I can jump from topic to topic to topic so quickly that a lot of the time my thoughts appear completely random and disjointed. I tell you that it is not usually the case, and when I need to connect the dots for an unsuspecting listener, I can do so rather quickly. It rarely makes sense to anyone one else but me, but I'm okay with that. It must just be how I'm wired.

I love to-do lists. I like knowing exactly everything I need to get done. Plus, I figure it's a good way to get out on paper all of the jumbled thoughts I just described above. My lists are quite detailed at times, from making my grocery list based on the aisles in the store to even listing my tasks in the order they need to get done. You may think "duh, who doesn't?" but let me explain. Yes, it makes sense to put things in chronological order. However, I often go beyond that and list out the order I need to do things just to get to actual items on my list. Confused? Say I need to schedule an appointment to have the cable guy fix my satellite dish. The beginning of my list would look a little like this:

-Look up DirecTV phone number
-Call DirecTV to make appt.
-Write appointment on calendar

It is a little ridiculous. I think spend more time making the list than actually doing the task! That implies that I always accomplish what I've set out to do because I made a list :) Yeah, not so much. I have good intentions, I swear. I've been plagued with procrastination since childhood. I would be told to clean my room and I'd end up spending hours reminiscing as I looked through every item in my closet. Some things never change.

I've considered giving up the To-Do list, but doubt that I can survive without it. Even if nothing ever gets done, I believe it's therapeutic.

I guess I should just be happy that I feel quite satisfactory when I cross off a day on my calendar, like I've accomplished something for the day.

Yeah, I'll take that.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

General thievery--and a list!

I saw this post on some random blog I came across while reading a different blog. I thought it was interesting and kind of fun. So I stole it. I'm not even going to reference it.

I have put the things on the list that pertain to me in bold.

Bought everyone in the bar a drink
Swam with wild dolphin
Taken a Ferrari for a test drive
Been inside a Pyramid
Held a tarantula
Taken a candle lit bath

Said I love you and meant it
Hugged a Tree

Bungee jumped
Visited Paris
Watched a lightening storm at sea
Stayed up all night long and saw the sun rise
Seen the Northern Lights
Gone to a huge sports game
Walked the stairs to the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa
Grown and eaten your own vegetables
Touched an iceberg
Slept under the stars
Changed a baby’s diaper
Taken a drip in a hot air balloon
Watched a meteor shower
Gotten drunk on champagne
Given more than you can afford to charity
Looked up at the night sky through a telescope
Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment
Had a food fight

Bet on a winning horse
Asked out a stranger
Had a snowball fight
Screamed as loudly as you possibly can
Held a lamb
Seen a total eclipse
Ridden a roller coaster
Hit a home run
Danced like a fool, not caring who watched
Adopted an accent for an entire day
Actually felt happy about your life, even for a moment
Had two hard drives for your computer
Visited all 50 states
Taken care of someone who was too drunk
Had amazing Friends

Danced with a Stranger in a foreign country
Watched wild whales
Stolen a sign
Hitchhiked in Europe
Taken a road-trip
Gone rock climbing
Midnight walk on the beach
Gone sky diving
Visited Ireland
Been heartbroken longer than you were in love
In a restaurant sat at a stranger’s table and ate with them
Visited Japan
Milked a cow
Alphabetized your CDs
Pretended to be a superhero
Sung karaoke
Lounged around in bed all day
Posed nude in front of strangers
Gone scuba diving
Kissed in the rain
Played in the mud
Played in the rain

Gone to a drive-in theater
Visited the Great Wall of China
Started a business
Fallen in love and not had your heart broken
Toured ancient sites
Taken a martial arts class
Played a computer game for more than 6 hours straight
Gotten married
Been in a movie
Crashed a party
Gotten divorced
Gone without food for 5 days
Made cookies from scratch
Won first prize in a costume contest
Ridden a gondola in Venice
Gotten a tattoo
Rafted the Snake River
Been on television news program as an “expert”
Got flowers for no reason
Performed on a stage

Been to Las Vegas
Recorded Music
Eaten shark
Had a one-night stand
Gone to Thailand
Bought a house
Been in a combat zone
Buried one/both of your parents
Been on a cruise ship
Spoken more than one language fluently
Performed in Rocky Horror
Raised children
Followed your favorite band/singer on tour
Taken an exotic bicycle tour in a foreign country
Picked up and moved to another city
Walked on the Golden Gate Bridge
Sang loudly in the car and didn’t stop when you knew someone was looking
Had plastic surgery
Survived an accident that you shouldn’t have
Wrote articles for a large publication
Lost over 100 lbs
Held someone while they were having a flashback
Piloted an airplane
Petted a stingray
Broken someone’s heart
Helped an animal give birth
Won money on a TV game show
Broken a bone
Gone on an African safari
Had a body part below the neck pierced
Fired a rifle, shotgun or pistol
Eaten mushrooms gathered in the wild
Ridden a horse
Had major surgery
Had a snake as a pet
Hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon
Slept for more than 30 hours over 48 consecutive hours
Visited more foreign countries than US States
Visited all 7 continents
Taken a canoe trip that lasted more than 2 days

Eaten Kangaroo meat
Eaten sushi
Had your picture in the paper

Changed someone’s mind about something you care deeply about
Gone back to school
Petted a cockroach
Eaten fried green tomatoes
Read the Iliad
Selected one important author who you missed school to read
Killed and prepared an animal for eating
Skipped all of your school reunions
Communicated with someone without sharing a common language
Been elected to public office
Written your own computer language
Thought to yourself that you’re living your dream
Build your own PC from parts
Had to put someone you love in hospice care
Sold your own artwork to someone that didn’t know it was yours
Had a booth in a street fair
Dyed your hair
Been a DJ
Shaved your head
Caused a car accident
Saved someone’s life

Looking at this list makes me think that while there are many things I would love to do at some point in my life (and plenty I could care less about), I have already done some exciting things in my life. It's so easy to get caught up and bogged down by the day-to-day that I often forget how great my life truly is.

"I have come so that they may have LIFE and have it to the FULL!" John 10:10b (emphasis and exclamation point mine)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Fruit Fly Eliminator

Since I mentioned fruit flies in my last post, I thought I'd share a great way to get rid of them. I know it's beginning to be really cool in most areas, but here in SoCal bugs never seem to really die.

Like most of my "ideas," I found this remedy online somewhere. Like most of my "ideas," I can never properly credit them.

Here's what I do to rid my kitchen of those annoying creatures:

I put a half an ounce or so of balsamic vinegar in a Pyrex custard dish, or any short, tiny bowl. I then cover it with plastic wrap and poke just a couple of really small holes in the top. The bugs are attracted to the acidity (I guess) and end up either drowning or being trapped inside the bowl and eventually dying in there. It's a win-win, really.
-->Don't make the holes too big or it'll be easy for them to get out. <--

I usually put it near the fruit bowl on the table or away from where I'm working in the kitchen. It works fairly quickly, too!

P.S. I've tried other acidic liquids (red wine, apple cider vinegar, etc.) and nothing has worked nearly as well as balsamic vinegar (or worked at all, really).

Something Smells Good in Here

I love to cook, but I especially love to bake. Except cookies. For some unknown reason, I cannot make good chocolate chip cookies to save my life. The dough tastes great (which is the real reason I make cookies) and the cookies usually taste fine, but somehow they always turn out really messed up. If being graded, I'd get an F on presentation.

Anyway, I get super excited when I find a recipe that is not only easy to follow but actually turns out well. I have not had much luck in this area lately. Let's just say that me and Rachel Ray's Everyday magazine aren't on speaking terms. I tried two recipes out of the latest issue, a soup and a pasta, and both tasted like onion. The pasta wasn't even the least bit edible. Since then, I've been been hesitant to try new recipes I've come across.

I apparently had bananas on my counter too long, as a new swarm of fruit flies threatened to overtake my kitchen, so I decided to toss the overripe fruit in the fridge until I decided what to do with them. Since fall has arrived, I've been in comfort food-mode and ended up making banana bread. I needed a recipe so I called my mom, who spent the next 30 minutes (while still on the phone) going through a pile of scrap pieces of paper with random recipes scrawled on them. I gave up. I turned to the Internet and was delighted at what I found.

Below is the recipe I used to make one of the most decadent banana breads I've ever had. I found it on Food Network's website. I had everything on hand and it was really simple to put together. I'm not a big nut-in-my-food person, but I did sprinkle some sliced almonds on top of the batter that ended up adding a nice, finishing flavor. But as it happened, they all ended up in the middle of the loaf, looking like a nut mohawk.

BTW--This bread smelled AWESOME as it was baking!!


Cook Time: 60-70 minutes Yield: 1 Loaf

1 cup granulated sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs
3 ripe bananas
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter a 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pan.

Cream the sugar and butter in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

In a small bowl, mash the bananas with a fork. Mix in the milk and cinnamon. In another bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Add the banana mixture to the creamed mixture and stir until combined. Add dry ingredients, mixing just until flour disappears.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Set aside to cool on a rack for 15 minutes. Remove bread from pan, invert onto rack and cool completely before slicing.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

So Good They Suck

This past Saturday proved to be the most disastrous showing in sports history. Yes, I said it.

Good thing I'm not the betting type. Although, $130 for a ticket wasn't exactly a sound investment. It's a good thing I love baseball games or it would have been a complete waste.

At the entrance gate they passed out Dodgers towels to wave in the air. We used them as napkins. However, by the 9th inning I was about ready to wave my towel in support of the team who actually showed up ready to play. But because I was decked out in a Cubs t-shirt and jersey, I refrained.

At least the Dodger Dogs were good!

(In all fairness, I would naturally root for the Dodgers had they not been playing the Cubs. I would like to see them go the distance this year, if possible. That is, if there are no goats in their history.)

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Fall Has Arrived

I love this time of year. The weather is crisp, the trees are turning all sorts of beautiful colors and the air just smells good. It is one of my favorite times of year.

Too bad I rarely get to enjoy any of those things anymore!

Now fall consists of the temperature often reaching the 80s and 90s, brown, dry vegetation waiting to be consumed by wildfires, and air that you can, well, see.

Okay, so it's not really that bad. Can't complain about wearing tank tops and flip-flops all year. But I do miss the falls in the Midwest. For many people I know, it signals that it is finally time to break out the sweaters and head outside for some pick-up football games. That is, when no one is crowded around the game showing on TV.

However, I know that fall is really and truly here when I find myself getting caught up in the most magical time of year. That's right: Baseball playoffs. After 162 regular season games, it's time for 8 teams to fight to the death for bragging rights for the next year. Hopefully this year will provide us with a World Series worthy of our patience during the entire season. In some of our cases, we've been patient for the last century. It's time.

It's all so exciting--I can hardly contain myself! Go Cubs Go!!!!!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Oh Dear...

I was briefly looking over my pathetic little excuse for a blog and realized something that I think I’ve always known about myself but willfully ignored. My writing “voice” and my speaking voice sound nothing alike! Or do they? I hope not. I fear that when I write I may sound a bit, um, pretentious. Okay, maybe a lot. But I swear I don’t mean to sound that way!!! I really and truly believe that what comes out on paper is what was naturally flowing in my mind. I honestly can’t help it, without doing some serious editing afterwards. Maybe there is some great divide between my think-and-speak section of my brain and the think-and-write part. (Whether I think before I speak is a whole different topic, and if put to a vote, I’m sure it’d be a resounding ‘no’.) Then again, I am pretty certain that on occasion I end up speaking in the same manner in which I write, much to the chagrin of those having to listen. Do I sound like an idiot? And how often? I have been told that I can be confusing. Was that just a nicer way of telling me to shut up, no one understands, and please sound like a normal person?

I am very disconcerted by all of this. I mean, discombobulated. I mean— Oh dear...

I give up.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

From Mountain Daydreams to Amish Homes to the Old West

I have a not-so-secret desire to live somewhere near the mountains in a rustic and rural town, worlds away from the busy, crowded cities. I love the idea of essentially being in the middle of nowhere. You would think I have had my fill, growing up in a small town in the Midwest, right? When I become frustrated by the daily irritations of trying to co-exist with 8 million others, I often want to pack up and move to Montana. (I'm sure it's just as easy as that, too.) At the same time, I have to try to force myself to forget the fact that I can't stand the winter and have basically become a weather wimp. In Los Angeles, 60 degrees is FREEZING.

I then try to reason with myself that if I cannot live in my own private, mountainous reverie, I could possibly live in a house that seems as if it belongs against the backdrop of a beautiful range. I can't say that I absolutely love the idea of living in a cabin that looks as if it was built from a set of Lincoln Logs, but I can remember always being drawn to older looking homes with exposed beams and careful woodwork. I simply like simplicity. I believe it is more versatile and serves as a neutral--but certainly not boring--backdrop for any sort of design or decorating scheme. Plus, who says you can't install imported textiles and fancy appliances if it is your heart's desire?

With all this in mind, I was instantly intrigued when I came across an
article in the Wall Street Journal. It is about people who seek out Amish contractors to build their homes based largely on the craftsmanship and work ethic of these contractors. Not to mention having a home that is built faster, cheaper and better than your average run-of-the-mill contractor, at least according to the article. Beyond business, though, the article also gives a small insight into the worldview of the Amish. There is a note that scholar Erik Wesner has a blog chronicling his study of the various Amish sects and cultures. I only checked it out briefly, but his blog seems to contain a wealth of fascinating information about the history, lifestyle and future of the Amish community.

I have been a long time fan of the history and time period concerning homesteaders and pioneers, who founded the American prairies and territories of the West from roughly the 1850s through the early 1900s. I am clearly no expert, but I would venture to guess (and maybe even hope a little) that much of the cultural aspects of the contemporary, conservative Amish would somewhat resemble, or at least echo, the lives of those 150 years ago. In the near future, I look forward to roaming through the bookstore in hopes of a few great reads that will tutor me on the lives of these incredibly interesting people.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Blogosphere

I love blogs. There is no limit to what can be shared and discussed, and more importantly, no rules. A blog can capture moments of the everyday or highlight social and political issues that impact us all. It can be a place to connect with distant friends and family or to showcase our latest culinary achievements. The possibilities are endless!

As exciting as that may be, it also leaves me feeling incredibly nervous that I will not be able to tap into my creative reserves. For one who often has the opportunity to take part in the creative process of reality television (and no, that's not a contradictory statement), I am terrified of being without a game plan. I was always the kid in school who could write vivid and detailed text analysis or research papers but always stared at my blank sheet of paper when asked to go off page and write something from within.

I honestly do not have a vision for this blog. I cannot even begin to describe what I think this blog will become. All I can say at this point is that I hope, in time, it becomes a mirror that accurately reflects things in life I value, enjoy, dislike, can't believe, struggle with, and love.