Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Kindle Giveaway!

Megan over at Millions of Miles is hosting a Kindle giveaway on her blog!  This is exciting, yes?  It's really easy to enter the giveaway, and I don't like doing things to enter giveaways.  So for me to say that means something.  It also helps that I already follow her on twitter and Google Friend Connect and like Millions of Miles on Facebook.  But whatevs.  That just shows that her blog really is worth reading.

I've been reading Megan's blog for at least 6 months now, and I cannot for the life of me remember how I came across her blog.  But I'm really glad I did!  She is hilarious.  Absolutely hilarious.  As are her kiddos.  And she also has a lot of really good, insightful things to say as an adoptive mother (their youngest son, Miles, was adopted from the Congo).  I suggest you take the time to poke around and read several of her posts.  If there are videos of Miles, you must watch them.  Because he is absolutely precious.  Also, my absolute all-time favorite post is the one about Pink Donuts.  I laughed so hard I cried.  Go read it now.

And don't forget about the Kindle!



*holds up to 1500 books
*downloads books in just 60 seconds.
* 3G capability means you can download books from anywhere
*read up to three weeks on a single battery charge
* weighs only 10 ounces
* 6 inch screen reads without glare

Monday, 27 June 2011

What It's Like to Have Your Butt Handed to You By God

So.  Winter, right?  And waiting.  Good.  Now that you're all caught up on that, I'm going to get serious again.  I won't be serious all the time.  I promise.  I'm not good at serious all the time.

During this waiting period, I've learned a lot of things about a lot of things.  I've learned a lot of new things about myself and remembered some old things. While I don't think this entire time has been solely about my self-discovery and whatnot (because how narcissistic is that?), it definitely has played a key role in figuring some things out.

It would be a little ridiculous for me to try to come up with an exhaustive list of all the things I've learned and/or rediscovered these past seven months, so I'll just stick to the most relevant*.

So then.  Where to begin?  I'm going to make a mental spinner with all the choices and see which the arrow lands on first.  And the winner is...

My attitude.  I've been reminded that I really struggle with my attitude sometimes.  Oh gosh.  I'm bringing out the big guns early, eh?  I've always struggled with my attitude.  Always.  I'm convinced that every person has something they struggle with their entire life.  Some people have horrible tempers or an unrelenting need to be in the spotlight.  Others have fears and phobias that debilitate them.  And me?  I most definitely struggle with my attitude.

This is ridiculously apparent as I wait for God to answer prayer.  With one discouragement after another, I find that my heart has become angry and bitter toward God.  I've unknowingly followed in Job's footsteps in believing that God has sought to make an enemy of me (Job 13:24, 19:11, 33:10).  I have not, however, followed Job's example in not blaming God for things.  When things keep going wrong, I think "Of course things are going wrong.  As if it would be any different this time around."  Which, if you read that correctly, is as full of anger and bitterness as venom.  This is a bad thing.  This is something I am incredibly ashamed of.  Don't be like me.

While I have improved at dealing with and handling my attitude over the years, these past seven months have been a test of epic proportions.  I might have done alright at the beginning, but the past few weeks I've failed with a big fat F MINUS FROWNY FACE.  I want to change that.

I feel like it almost goes without saying that if I have attitude problems, I suck at renewing my mind.  But for your benefit, I'll say it anyway.  I suck at renewing my mind.  In this waiting period, I have focused on the negative.  I've focused on what God is NOT doing instead of what He IS doing (this probably is partially due to the fact that I have no clue what He is doing).  I've focused on what I DON'T have instead of what precious things I DO have.  Instead of thinking on the things of Heaven, I've obsessed over the problems of this world.  These are bad, bad things to do.  Don't be like me.

The weight of these realizations is almost unbearable today, which makes sense because they are fresh out of the box.  As in, I got my butt handed to me by God this morning.  That's always fun.  He's been building up to it for a few days at least, and this morning did not disappoint, I think.

I am overwhelmed by how wicked, selfish, and horrible my thoughts have been.  I am filled with sorrow that I allowed my heart to become so bitter.  I know I've been dumb.  Who in their right mind thinks they can challenge God and come out unscathed?  Idiots.  Me.  Me = idiot.  And I'm so, so sorry.  God and I have talked about it, and we're going to work on it. Together.

Then I realized that my heart was bitter, and I was all torn up inside.  I was so foolish and ignorant - I must have seemed like a senseless animal to You.  Yet I still belong to You; You hold my right hand.  You guide me with Your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny.  Whom have I in heaven but You?  I desire You more than anything on Earth.  My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; He is mine forever.  Those who desert Him will perish, for You destroy those who abandon You.  But as for me, how good it is to be near God!  I have made the Sovereign Lord my shelter, and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things You do.
Psalm 73:21-28

*After having words pour forth from my fingertips, I've decided just one thing is relevant to this post.  Perhaps future posts will highlight other things, perhaps not.  I seem to not have much control over my writing, as it runs away with me.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Let's Talk About Winter

Let's talk, shall we?

One thing I've had a difficult time coming to terms with is my blogging style.  I want this to be a place to share what is going on in my life and my heart.  I want it to be balanced and honest.  I want to share the good, the bad, and the ugly while not crossing boundaries of privacy.  I don't want to overwhelm you with negativity.  Which, at least right now, is easier said than done.

Shortly after Matt and I lost our jobs, I mentioned that I wanted to move on.  I didn't want to dwell on the past; I wanted to look ahead.  I was hopeful, and possibly naive.  Of course, at that point I never would have imagined that seven months later Matt and I would still be stuck in a rut, living with my parents in a city we don't love.  But I think I overlooked the fact that December 1, 2010 was a defining moment in our lives.  It changed things.  Big time.  And one thing that has definitely changed is me.

So while I don't feel like I'm stuck in the past, longing for the things of yesterday, moving forward has not been as rosy (or easy) as I might have previously imagined.  I've felt guilty for writing sad things, for being negative.  But as I mentioned before, I want to be honest.

And I realized - just like I won't write about how warm and sunny and SO TOTALLY AWESOME it is in the middle of January when it's raining and twenty degrees, it doesn't make sense for me to write posts about how happy I am and how great life is and everything is just SO TOTALLY AWESOME when, quite frankly, it's not.

Life is full of seasons.  Right now is my winter.  It can be (but isn't always) cold and lonely, and it seems to be dragging on forever (did you picture the kid from The Sandlot, too?).  I'm looking forward to the upcoming spring and summer seasons in my life.  I'm looking forward to seeing healing come from the brokenness and...you know.  Creative metaphors like that.  I'm looking forward to my summer, when all is well*.

And while I'm looking forward to those things, it would be foolish to act as if I'm already there, just as it would be stupid to wear a tank top, shorts, and flip flops in the dead frost of winter.  That's denial, and that's dumb.  Winter won't go away because I will it to.  It will run its course, and I will run with it.

So I'm going to be honest.  Because it's my proverbial winter, I'm going to write about it.  And when the next seasons come along, I'll write about them, too.  That doesn't mean that I can't post funny things and lighthearted things at all.  It just means that it is what it is.  You know?  I think my challenge will be writing honestly and not despairingly.  You guys hold me accountable to that, okay?

Well, now.  I'm glad we had this chat.

*Wouldn't that be so ironic to experience my proverbial summer in the literal winter?  You know, since I'm experiencing my proverbial winter in the summer?  Haha.  ....But really, I don't want to wait that long.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Half the Sky



I've just finished reading Half the Sky by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.

Guys.  My heart is heavy.  Burdened.

This book opened my eyes to things going on in our world - things that we never even imagined, here in America, all safe and comfortable in our plush homes, surrounded by our rights and freedoms.

Human trafficking.
Sex trafficking.
Child prostitution.
Slavery.
Gruesomely violent rapes.
Honor killings.
High maternal mortality rates.
Neglect.
"Gendercide".

More than ever before, I am so thankful for a government that cares for its people.  Women and children have rights.  They have protection.  They are valued.  WE are valued.

We have access to health care.  Doctors.  Medicines.  Vaccinations.

We have clean water.  Education.  Food.  Shelter.

I have a loving husband who cares about me in every way.  He cares about who I am as a person and values my thoughts, opinions, and feelings.  He cares about my health.  I am important to him.  I am of value.  I am of worth.

As I read this book, my heart broke.  I was shocked.  Appalled.  Then I was outraged.  Filled with grief.  I read of girls sold into prostitution and the sex trade by their own parents.  Girls who were manipulated into slavery.  Baby girls neglected and often murdered by their parents, who would rather have boys, believing them to be more profitable - more valuable.  Women who were beaten, mutilated, and burned BY THEIR FAMILIES for being raped, as if they were the ones who did something wrong.

And yet, amid the stories of heartbreak and desolation, there were glimmers of hope.  Many men and women have risen above social and cultural stigmas and taboos to make a difference.  Yet it is not enough.

AMERICAWake up.  Open your eyes.  Please.

Proverbs 28:27
Whoever gives to the poor will lack nothing. But a curse will come upon those who close their eyes to poverty.

I'm a pretty passionate person in general.  And you know what?  I'm really passionate about this.  And I believe the Lord is, too.  I'll be writing many more posts related to human rights, the poor, and the oppressed.  I'm asking, begging you to join me in this.  Do the hard thing.  Read the unpleasant stories.  Really think about it.  Pray about it.

I know God gives us each different passions and talents.  Upon reading and learning more about the issues we face with poverty and oppression, you may feel led to reach out to the homeless in your community.  You may be filled with the desire to help orphans, widows, and the elderly.  Awesome.  Great.  Do it.  You don't have to only be moved or be passionate about the specific issues I am highlighting.  My hope is simply that you will open your eyes, open your heart, and make a differenceBecause you can.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Gluten Conquest

I'm on a mission.  More specifically, I'm on a mission to rid the house of all flours and other similar products that allow little gluten particles to float through the air and attack my mom's gluten-intolerant immune system.

See, she's been traveling for about a week, and she returns this weekend.  Before she left, she gave me instructions to banish all gluten from the house.  I did a swimmingly excellent job at first, and then...I kinda stopped. Until yesterday, when I was hit with a wave of baking inspiration.

First, I made a pound cake.  It's not just any pound cake; it's my mom's pound cake.  With a pound of butter, hints of vanilla and lemon, and plenty of sugar, this thing is delectable!  Seriously, it's something I eat for dessert and for breakfast.  Mmmm.

Pound Cake

Then, for dinner, I made my famous pizza bread.  If you don't know about it, it's because you haven't eaten it and you don't know anyone that has.  It's really quite simple (though time consuming), and maybe that's what makes it so delicious.  I made two loaves - one for me and one for Matt.  Keep in mind that these loaves are huge.  Giant.  Each takes up an entire baking tray, diagonally. (Did anyone else just say that like Harry Potter?)

For pizza bread, I use my Aunt Brenda's bread recipe, but the rest is simply determined by mood, inspiration, and what I have on hand (or how much I feel like spending).  I added fresh chopped thyme and rosemary from our garden to the dough.  I do everything by hand - whisking, mixing, kneading, and shaping.  It's really important for you to feel the dough so you know the exact moment it's ready.  Though I use pepperoni, I also really like using fresh ingredients.  I layered cheeses, then pepperoni, followed by chopped onion, red bell pepper, slices of garlic, basil leaves from our garden, and sprinkled feta cheese on top before rolling it up into a loaf.  Really the only difference between my loaf and Matt's was moustaches mushrooms - he loves them, I gag at the thought of them.  So his had little cremini mushrooms, and mine was quite happy without them.

Matt's loaf of pizza bread. I placed mushrooms along the top so we could tell the difference.
While the bread was in the oven, I heated up some butter and minced some garlic.  I briefly cooked the garlic in the butter, then pulled it from the heat and allowed the garlic flavor to permeate the butter.  Just before I was ready to use this garlic butter mixture, I tore basil leaves into little pieces and added them.  I then used a basting brush to spread the mixture over the tops of the loaves, effectively adding color, texture, and flavor.  As the loaves finished baking, the buttery minced garlic was toasted, which made eating it all the more enjoyable.

And here's my loaf of pizza bread.  Don't those toasted garlic pieces look so delicious?

Surprisingly, I think this only used about half the flour we had in the house.  Which is saying something, since I used no less than nine cups.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Storytime with Mr. Sir

Clearly he's been to San Antonio.

Mr. Sir


"Once upon a time there was a magical land where it never rained.  The end!"
-Mr. Sir

Disney's Holes, 2003

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

When God Doesn't Answer Prayer

Give us wisdom

Show us Your will

Direct us and guide us

Help us understand

Help me learn my lesson

Provide a job

Provide a home

These are just a few of the things that Matt and I have prayed over the six and a half months that we've been here.  Most of these things, I feel, are good things to pray for.  Wisdom?  Direction?  It's not like we're asking for a Maserati and a mansion by the sea.  I don't feel like we are being unreasonable.

Over and over again, we pray.  "Lord, You are sovereign.  You are good.  You have a plan.  You aren't lost and confused.  But we are.  Help.  Please."

And over and over again, do you know what we hear?  Silence.

Like I said, I don't think we are being unreasonable.  I don't think we are praying for things that are displeasing to God.  So I'm struggling to understand why I feel so...ignored?  And just downright crappy.

I believe that God is good.  I believe He has a plan.  I believe He knows what He is doing.  I believe He loves me.  I don't doubt those things.  I also don't doubt that He hears me just fine.

I know that God is not a genie, and He's not Santa.  I know His timing is not my timing, and His ways are not my ways.  Whether I can see it or not, God has a plan, and He is the most capable being ever.  So even when my prayers are not being answered, I know that He still loves and cares for me.  And He will answer when the time is right.

But so often I just wish God's timing was my timing.  If it was, I would have been happily employed and Matt and I would have been living in our own place about 6 months ago.  And if His ways were my ways, He would speak to me directly in person and tell me exactly what I need to know.  Because I like direct communication.

I am not going to lie - it is hard waiting for God to answer our prayers.  It.Is.HARD.  I don't like it.  Not one bit.  This whole refinement business can not be classified as fun.  But here I am.  Here we are.  And we have no choice but to sit and wait.  And keep praying.

And even though I don't feel like our prayers are ever going to be answered; even though I don't feel like things are ever going to change or get better?  I know that someday they will.

You just might have to remind me that I know that.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Fictitious Precipitation

Rain.  Are we sure that isn't a myth?  Or something Hollywood thought up?  I'm starting to think that if it's not a myth or Hollywood fabrication, it's at least extinct like dinosaurs, mermaids, unicorns, and the NASA shuttle program.

It's so hot and dry here.  We haven't had rain since before the new year, and it's quite obvious.

The grass is brown.  It's also as sharp as razor blades.  Razor blades that not only cut, but they burn, too.  Don't go outside barefoot unless you are a dinosaur or unicorn.

The day it rains again, I'll be in shock, and I probably won't know what it is.  I will also probably start looking for dinosaurs, mermaids, and unicorns.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

An Unfortunate Feline Encounter

Thursday I got into my car to run some errands.

As I was driving, I kept thinking I smelled cat pee.  Cat pee?  How the heck does my car smell like cat pee?  I don't even own a cat.  Was it the books I just picked up from the library?  Was it my deodorant in an act of rebellion?  After checking both and discovering nothing out of the ordinary, I figured I was probably just imagining it.  Texas heat can do that to you, you know.

Later that evening I set off to another destination, requiring the use of my car.  This time it had been slowly roasting in the sun all afternoon, and the cat pee smell was much more...defined.  Thanks to the harsh glare of the late afternoon sun, I noticed something that escaped my ever so keen eyes before - paw prints.  Little kitty paw prints all over my windshield and hood.  I became more suspicious, so when I arrived back home, Matt and I started checking things.

Sure enough, a cat had peed on my windshield.  There is a crack in the seal at the bottom of my windshield, allowing small amounts of air in as I drive.  However, this small crack was more than adequate for massive amounts of cat urine odor to creep in and get cozy.

AWESOME.

Friday, 3 June 2011

At Long Last

Friends.

The moment has arrived.



Is it every bit as funny as I though it would be?  Oh yes.  And so much more.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Phantom Limb

If you look closely at the following picture, you will see that there is a toe ring on my "index toe" (the one right next to the big toe).  Do you guys think the word "toe" is weird?  I do.  It just sounds so funny.  Say it out loud.  Toe.  Haha.

ANYWAY.

I know.  My pedicure was awesome.  So was my tan.


I've worn that toe ring for 3.5 years, and then the other day I just decided I was done with it.  I didn't want to wear it anymore - it was too much of a hassle, always turning backwards, looking dumb and stuff.

But removing something that has been attached to your body for 3.5 years isn't as easy as one would think.  Well, the removing was not difficult, but the after effects are odd.  You've heard of a phantom limb, yes?  It's kinda like that.  I never realized how much my other toes moved in response to the shiny silver ring encircling (holding captive?) one of their kinfolk.  I (they) keep thinking it's there.  I (they) keep trying to twist it back to flowers facing up.  So many things I did with my toes (my toes did independently.  ON THEIR OWN) that I never even realized until the blasted ring was gone.

Here's hoping my toes return to normal behavior soon.  I wouldn't be opposed to therapy (i.e. foot massage) if that was what they really needed.  Anything for my toes.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

An Anniversary of Sorts

It's not really an anniversary that one would celebrate, but it is one that is as impossible to ignore as snow on a hot July afternoon.  Six months.  That's what today marks.  Six months ago we lost our jobs and our home.

Six months of living with my parents.

Six months of not knowing where most of our clothing or belongings are.

Six months in a city we don't love.

Six months in a city where we have no friends.

And for me, six months of unemployment.

I've had plenty of time to think, evaluate, re-evaluate, and re-re-evaluate.  I've questioned my abilities and my worth.  I've questioned God and His plan and even His intentions.  I've debated what forgiveness is and what it should look like in my situation.  And recently, for the first time, I have been able to let go of the hurt, anger, bitterness, sorrow, and pain caused by the actions of friends and former employers.  Of course, this is an almost daily practice, but it's progress.  And it feels good.

Aside from the occasional substitute teaching jobs at a private school, I have been unable to find steady employment.  Don't get me wrong - I loved the subbing jobs.  I loved working with kids and being back in the classroom.  And the school?  Wonderful.  But subbing for one school alone doesn't pay the bills and now that summer is here, my small paychecks have ceased to exist.

It's really quite frustrating and discouraging to go so long without a steady job.  After all, I have a fancy piece of paper that says I have a good education and am skilled in a veritable career.  I also have a certification from the State Board, reaffirming the fact.  So why on Earth do I not have a job yet?  I've tried almost everything.  I've put out almost fifty applications in the past week alone (many of those in person).  I spend 6-8 hours a day searching, calling, emailing, driving, applying...all to no avail.  It's hard not to get discouraged, but giving up just isn't an option.

I'm hopeful that God will provide soon.  I'm hopeful that Matt and I will be in our own place on our first wedding anniversary.

A lot has changed in me these past six months.  I can hardly believe it's been half a year.  I still can't say why God has allowed this to happen or why He has allowed it to continue for so long.  I can't tell you what His plans are or what His will is.  But I can tell you that He is faithful and good.  And even when I don't feel those things, I know those things.
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