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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

How's Your Heart?

This is one of my favorite questions that I am occasionally asked by one of my best friends. Over the past few days God has given me a whole new perspective on how to answer that question at any given moment, and the lesson came from a very unlikely place...

My television.

One of the challenges on this week's episode of The Amazing Race included performing various maneuvers with a Ford Mustang (such as weaving through a set of cones and coming to a complete stop in front of a dummy car without hitting it -- within 16 seconds) at the Ford Proving Grounds in Belgium ~ a total dream for many guys, including the snowboarders I'm such a fan of. The two decided Tommy would complete the task, but Andy wrestled with some jealousy over it due to his love of cars. Later in the episode he identified that jealousy as sin in his heart and said he had asked for forgiveness from Christ, Who then lifted the burden.

Tommy behind the wheel while Andy waits {source}

 I don't know many people, including myself, even in the Christian community, who are so quick to recognize sin in their hearts, call it what it is, and ask the Lord to remove it.

It seems so elementary. Sin enters heart... Sin needs to be removed... Christ removes it upon asking. DONE! Yet it's something I've failed to grasp for most of my life. I frequently wrestle with things like anger or jealousy, and suddenly I'm realizing it's probably because I try to figure out how to handle them when what I need is for Someone to remove them.

Andy's example has really made an impression on me. One of the reasons I became a fan of the snowboarders, before I even knew they were Christians, was that they get along SO WELL! They don't argue and fight when things get stressful. They just enjoy the race for what it is and trust the Lord with whatever setbacks they encounter. Andy's honest self-assessment this past week offers a BIG CLUE as to why this is true! There is no other way to live with the sort of freedom and joy I've seen in Andy and Tommy than to immediately deal with any sin that tries to creep into my heart by asking God to remove it -- and letting Him take it -- before it has a chance to take root and turn into bitterness.

Maybe these guys should write a book...
"How to Run the Race With a Smile On Your Face" {source}

How many times have we been told to guard our hearts because the heart is the wellspring of life? I think we too often take this to mean we should guard our hearts from other people, when really what we need is to guard our hearts from sin. Is this something you do on a consistent basis? I don't. But I want to change that. This morning I discovered a line in Gungor's song "Church Bells" that I'd never picked up on before... 
May our jaded hearts be healed. Amen.
I'm waking up to the fact that my jaded heart can only be healed by identifying any sin there, allowing Christ to take it from me, and therein finding the freedom to move forward in unconditional love and peace. In the future when I am asked, "How's your heart?" I want my response to be based on whether or not I'm allowing any sin to dwell there. I want a soft, forgiving heart, not a hardened one. I want a heart that thinks the best of others, not one that doubts them. And I want a heart that is experiencing the abundant life Christ intended, not one that is lonely and bitter! I want to run the race of life the way Andy and Tommy are running The Amazing Race!

May our jaded hearts be healed. Amen.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Happy Birthday, Mom!!

I'm cheating and predating this post even though I am writing it on the 30th of November... I wanted to honor my mom with a post on her birthday as I have done with a couple of other important people who have somehow made an impact in my life, but between work, a birthday dinner outing with the family, and helping my mom with a project last night, I just didn't have time to blog on her actual birthday. So, forgive the fib and read on!

with my mom at Bryce Canyon in September

I really can't even begin to describe what my mom means to me, so I'll actually keep this fairly short. The best thing I can say is God knows what He's doing and I couldn't be more thankful that He chose the mother He did for me. My mom has a heart for the Lord like you wouldn't believe. She looks beyond the surface of EVERYTHING (and I do mean EVERYTHING) to find spiritual truth. If she sees a new movie, you can expect her to come away with some sort of illustration of the Christian life. If she's giving you a gift, she must include a message of Godly encouragement or it is nearly worthless in her eyes to give it. Ever heard of GORP ("Good Ole Raisins and Peanuts")? It's basically a trail mix that my school classes made at Thanksgiving when I was growing up. Each student would bring a different food to add to the mix to symbolize the Pilgrims and Indians combining resources for the first Thanksgiving. My mom has given the tasty treat a whole new spin with specific components that each have a meaning relating to the Thanksgiving story (for example, she includes Bugles to signify the cornucopia or "horn of plenty" representing the abundant harvest), and she has renamed it "Pilgrims' Journey Mix." With my mom, everything means something. Nothing is empty. It's a trait I've picked up through the years, and it's one I'm glad to have.

Aside from being one of the most devout Christians I've ever known, she has also become one of my very best friends through the years. I always know she is there to listen when something is bothering me, plus, we just have a good time together. God has blessed me TREMENDOUSLY by giving me the mother He gave me, and I will always be more thankful than I can express for the ways she has influenced and shaped my life.

after seeing The Nutcracker Ballet
last Christmas -- an annual tradition!
I love you, Mom!!!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving All Year: 141-150

In honor of the namesake for my weekly lists of thankfulness, I'm posting my list a day early again this week. Our Thanksgiving Day has been very laid back. My parents and I slept in, took our time making dinner, ate, and are now watching the Macy's Parade which we recorded instead of watching live this morning. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays and I hope you have enjoyed yours!

Today, I am thankful...

141. That the fire that was burning in Reno last weekend was contained after a couple of days and that only 32 homes were burned down... It could have been much worse.

142. For lots of time spent with my friend Jessie lately.

at the river with Jessie last week

143. For chai tea lattes, especially those of the pumpkin spice variety at Jolt-N-Java.

144. For the hilarious show New Girl starring Zooey Deschanel. (Be forewarned, it has its crude moments, but the humor is so stinkin' quirky I can't help but love it!)

145. For memories of spending Thanksgiving weekend last year in San Francisco with my parents.

my parents in front of the
Christmas tree at Pier 39 last year

146. For homemade cranberry sauce... Once I discovered a few years ago how ridiculously simple it is to make, I've taken on the responsibility of making it each year for Thanksgiving. (Unless we're off gallivanting in the Bay Area, of course.)

147. That tough things I've been through this year have not been wasted but have taught me valuable lessons that are beneficial both now and for the future.

148. That GOD'S love endures FOREVER.

149. For the reminder in my devotion last Saturday that God sometimes "shakes things up" to "clean house" and rid us of "dead branches" in our lives, such as anger or evil speech, for instance; but that, as was the case with Jonah, He may preserve us through the storm and give us a second chance to obey.

150. That God has given me a second chance for which I've been greatly longing for quite some time now. It may not look exactly like I hoped it would, but it is a second chance nonetheless and I do not take that for granted.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Fools Rush In

I picked up this movie in the $5 bin at Wal-Mart a few years ago. I'd had kind of a bum day and just wanted to go home, heat up a frozen pizza for dinner, watch a light-hearted movie, and relax. I had never seen this particular movie but had grabbed it on a whim, and I liked it just fine but I don't recall it making much of an impression on me till I pulled it out a few months ago and watched it again. Since then, it has easily been in my Top 5.

 Here are 5 things I love about "Fools Rush In" (spoilers ahead):

1. Seeing Las Vegas, the Hoover Dam, and the Grand Canyon. It's always fun to see places in movies that you've visited in person.

2. The festive, feisty, family-oriented portrayal of Mexican culture. (Wasn't going for an alliteration there, it just happened.) This is even more fun after having been to Mexico this year on a mission trip.

3. The scene where Alex is watching Isabel dance around the kitchen as she prepares dinner and is clearly taken aback by her beauty as though he were seeing her for the first time.

4. The wedding scene at the end that features the song "Fools Rush In." My mom sang this song to my brother when he was a baby (I don't remember this but I have heard her talk about it all my life) so it has special meaning. Plus, the scene is just sweet.

5. The very counter-cultural promotion of choosing someone and committing to them as opposed to using casual dating to "shop around" for the "ideal person;" as well as the fact that after much conflict and second-guessing, the couple decides it's worth it to sacrifice some of their personal desires in order to stay together.

Yes, the movie begins with a one-night-stand, but as the story unfolds you'll find a picture of love and commitment not quite typical for Hollywood. If you're looking for a chick-flick, I'd recommend this one in a heartbeat!

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Stories That Stay With You

Remember this guy? Bless his heart, he was so confident his dream of finding his parents would become a reality, he would NOT give up hope no matter how many people he encountered (both ill- and well-meaning) who told him it probably wouldn't happen.

I've been thinking a lot lately about how stories like August Rush's, or like Rudy Ruettigers' in "Rudy," or like Billy Beane's in "Moneyball" (advantage of the latter two ~ they're based on true stories) have always resonated with me... I wasn't even thinking of Sam's speech in "The Two Towers" as I typed that last sentence but I practically quoted a line from it, which is just further evidence of the impact such stories have had on my life.
Those are the stories that stayed with you, that meant something, even if you were too young to understand why. But I think Mr. Frodo, I do understand, I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn't, they kept on going...
-Samwise Gamgee
The older I get the more I believe God has put something inside me that relates to these stories because I'm going to need their inspiration as I live my own story. I believe He has designed me to be drawn to these tenacious characters because I myself am going to need to hang on even when things seems hopeless... Because some day it's going to be worth it.

Even when things look impossible, my tendency is to keep clinging to hope in spite of my feelings. I realize this can be a bad thing -- none of us are encouraged to beat the proverbial dead horse, after all -- BUT I also think our culture in general gives up on things FAR too easily, as brilliantly stated in this 2007 Hyundai ad.

I would rather be seen as foolishly optimistic and hold out hope for what seems impossible than succumb to culture's instant gratification mindset and discard what's not meeting my needs or being handed to me right this minute.


I've clung to hope in the past for situations that didn't pan out, and eventually having to let go has been painful, but I can honestly say that I do not regret that I held out hope instead of giving up. If nothing else, these times have trained me to be tenacious for when it IS the right time. I hope my HOPE always outweighs whatever doubts, fears, and discouragements I may face. I want to be counted among those who refused to give up even in the face of seeming impossibility. I want to keep believing that some day it's going to pay off.  

Maybe even today.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Hope Thru Art

The other day I mentioned the Hollywood Prayer Network in a blog post... In their newsletter this month, this blurb caught my eye:
We thank God for creative people who also use their art to reach out to others! Two creative people, Steve and Kristen, use art, primarily poetry and photographs, to give hope to the lost in Hollywood. Would you pray for them as you check out their ministry Hope Thru Art on Facebook.

I checked them out and immediately connected with these two pieces:

I think this expresses our culture very well... But the message around the rim
also hits me in my own life in this season where I believe God is teaching me to
BE STILL and WAIT for Him to work... Changing the tense to apply it to myself,
I ask, "Why am I afraid to be still and listen?"
And THIS one... This one expresses the very thing
I've been longing for these past few months, the
wonderful truth that GOD HEALS BROKEN THINGS... I LOVE it.
And once again God gives me a little nudge of hope in an unexpected place.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Pray for Reno

I spent last night with my friend Jessie and neither of us could believe the insane winds that we heard roaring throughout the night. As I drove to work this morning I could see the smoke in the distance, which usually means there's a wildfire somewhere, but I had NO IDEA until I got to work and started seeing posts on Facebook that I was actually witnessing a fire that had been burning throughout the night, fueled by these crazy winds. So far at least 20 homes have been burned and 9500 people have been evacuated.

more photos here

Please pray for our community. We've been hit with several tragedies over the past few months: a shootout (seemingly aimed at the National Guard) at an IHOP in Carson City in which four people were killed on September 6; a plane crash into the stands at the Reno Air Races on September 16, eventually leading to 10 deaths; more shootings during the annual Street Vibrations event on September 24; the unexpected death of a local television sports director just this past weekend due to a hit-and-run accident involving alcohol; and now this wildfire.

Sure makes you wonder what God is up to. Thanks for your prayers.

Happy Birthday, Owen Wilson!

I don't typically make it a habit to wish celebrities a happy birthday, but for a certain few (namely, Owen Wilson, Bono, and Steve Carell, whose birthday I've actually celebrated with friends multiple times -- goofy, I know, but fun!) I'll make an exception and expose my inner geek.

I haven't always considered myself an Owen Wilson fan... I never DISliked him, he had just never really been on my radar. But it was SUCH a shock to me back in August of 2007 when I heard he'd tried to take his own life that I ended up pouring hours and hours into praying for him over the months that followed. I'm not exaggerating when I say this... In fact, now that I'm thinking about it I would LOVE to dig out my prayer journals from that time and reread the many heartfelt prayers I prayed for him. It was a special season of life for me.

The Inwood Theater that
Owen, Luke, and Andrew
Wilson would allegedly sneak
into in their younger days.
I started watching as many of his movies as I could get my hands on and reading whatever information I could find about his life. And I quickly became a big fan. During that time, True Hollywood Story also aired an episode highlighting Wilson's life and showing various locations from his childhood which was spent in Dallas, Texas. When the opportunity presented itself the following summer to visit my friend Tira, who lives in Dallas, Tira graciously carted me around on a tour of sorts and we got to see the neighborhood he grew up in, a school he attended, and a theater he and his brothers used to sneak into.

Yes, I am a geek. But I can honestly say that it doesn't matter who the person is, if you start praying for someone, God will give you a heart for him or her. I'm so thankful God called me to pray for Owen Wilson in those days -- and I wholeheartedly believe it was a calling -- and he will ALWAYS have a special place in my heart because of it. I still pray for him occasionally and I trust that somehow God has been working in his heart in answer to these prayers.

If you've ever considered praying for a celebrity, or if it's a brand new idea to you and you'd like to look into it, I encourage you to check out the Hollywood Prayer Network. It's a great ministry in a field where the need is great. Who knows who God might call you to pray for! Someday YOU might be the one writing a birthday post for someone famous you've never even met!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thanksgiving All Year: 131-140

Would you believe it -- I am actually posting this week's list of thankfulness a day early for once!! I have something else I want to post tomorrow and I didn't want to double up on my posts because, hey, let's face it, I wanted to post something each day this month and while I've come nowhere near that, this at least puts me one step closer than I otherwise would have been.

This week, I am thankful...

131. That our friends Doug and Teri got to enjoy the blessing of having all five of their kids (plus their spouses and children) home at the same time.

Doug introducing 4 of his kids
(the 5th was in the house)

Jeff was on leave from Afghanistan

132. For a fun Saturday morning with my mom at another baby shower for Erin followed by a shopping trip to Kohl's.

133. For a cute new purple sweater.

134. For a SUPER fun Saturday evening ~ dinner at Mimi's Cafe, Brian Regan show, and dessert at Tivoli Gardens in the El Dorado. Dinner and my ticket was my birthday gift from Cassidy and Erin, and Ben's ticket was his birthday gift from my family... We just had to wait a while before we got to enjoy them!

Katie and Johnathan

me and Ben

Cassidy and Erin ~
THANK YOU for this fun night!!!

Erin's parents, Dick and Cleve,
and her sister, Kara

at the show -- me, Ben, Erin, Dick, Cleve, Anita, Don, Katie, and Johnathan;
just missing Cassidy (taking the picture) and Kara (who seems to be hiding)

135. For my friend Jessica's exuberant excitement over a CD I made for her.

136. That God always seems to orchestrate things so that when either my mentor or I need to cancel our weekly meeting, it works best for the other person, too, so the canceller doesn't have to feel guilty!

137.  For Silver Peak's grilled cheese sandwich. My mom's co-worker has been telling her about it for a while and we finally went to try it on Monday... Five cheeses (including cream cheese -- never heard of that before, what a great idea!), tomato, and avocado on grilled sourdough bread. YEA. It's to die for.

Watch out, I think
you're starting to drool! {source}

138. For a wonderful afternoon lunch by the river with Jessie and Dana on Tuesday.

Jessie and Dana

the beautiful Truckee River
139. For three consecutive weeks (so far) of staying on top of my finances.

140. That I had the privilege of disassembling our church's Thanksgiving tree and reading leaf after leaf of things that our church family is thankful for.

What are YOU thankful for this week?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

How Great Thou Art

This morning while I was getting ready for work I put on my choir practice music for our upcoming Living Christmas Tree program. My ipod was on shuffle and I had totally forgotten that the playlist included a really beautiful rendition of "How Great Thou Art" that we sang in church a couple months ago. As it played, my eyes welled up with tears as I considered how big our God is.

enjoying lunch with Jessie and Dana by the river yesterday
When we sang this in church, a slideshow of majestic scenes in nature played along with the music. Nature is always an incredible reminder of God's greatness... But the personal illustration that came to my mind this morning as I listened to the song was a simple conversation my friend Dana and I had yesterday while we were having lunch at the river about how although our personalities are very different, we actually share a lot similarities. She was telling me about another friend of hers who also has a very different personality from hers but with whom she has also found much in common. And THAT is what moved me this morning as I listened to "How Great Thou Art" ~ that God can give two people with such different dispositions a close-knit bond such as the one He's given Dana and me or Dana and the other friend she mentioned.

I felt so blessed that God would provide a treasured friendship in a place where I wouldn't typically expect to find one. And I was reminded that I can trust my great big God. Sometimes I get so caught up in the storms of life that I forget just how much He loves me and how much I can trust Him. In that moment I knew that even if things in my life don't go the way I'm hoping and praying they will, I will be okay because I have a Heavenly Father who loves me more than I can fathom.

I don't know about you, but that's the kind of reminder I can use ALL the time.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Slow Motion

This morning was a strange one for me -- not in the sense that I did anything out of the ordinary but in the sense that everything seemed to be moving at a slow pace. My commute to work seemed like it was taking longer than usual, then when I got to work it seemed like it was taking me an extra long time to type up prayer requests before our staff's prayer time. It was weird.

I wondered if perhaps this was simply a "side effect" of feeling like other parts of my life are currently progressing in slow motion... I've talked to several friends lately who are all feeling some sort of restlessness, waiting for something or other to happen in their lives to give them a nudge in some direction. Waiting for these "somethings" or "others" is tough.

When I left for work this morning, I turned right off of my street as usual but saw a school bus stopped just up the road with a handful of kids just boarding. I didn't want to sit and wait till they were all seated so I made a u-turn and drove the other direction. I knew it probably wouldn't actually save me any time, but at least I'd be moving.

It dawned on me that I tend to take that approach in life, too. I get antsy waiting for something to happen and I figure out some way to "contribute" to the progress I'm looking for... Even if it doesn't actually speed things along, at least I'm doing something, not just sitting and waiting. And to be honest, I wonder if that's not why God continues to lead me into seasons of waiting... Because I've never really learned to simply sit and wait on Him to act. I still look for ways to at least feel like I'm making progress even if I know I have no control.


Life may feel like it's in slow motion right now, but the fact of the matter is the remote is in God's hand, not mine, and I can't hit fast forward no matter how badly I want to see what happens next. As frustrating as this can be, I know He knows what's best. I may never learn to wait well. But I am trying. Again.

Monday, November 14, 2011

"I hear what you mean."

an afternoon walk downtown last fall
after having lunch at My Favorite Muffin
This is a saying my friend Jessie made up a couple of years ago. We both tend to have trouble expressing our thoughts vocally, but when talking with each other we usually understand what the other person is trying to say in spite of that. "I hear what you mean" is the phrase we use to say, in effect, "I get it."

I love my friendship with Jessie. We've known each other for over four years and she has been one of the most cherished friends I've ever had. There are few other people with whom I feel as comfortable sharing my heart. I think a big reason for this is that sarcasm is virtually nonexistent in our friendship. Now we might tease each other occasionally, and I'm not against sarcasm altogether, but I will admit there are times it wears on me after a while. I think the lack of sarcasm between Jessie and me keeps us from feeling we have to be guarded around each other, and that is a real gift.

Because so much of our friendship is centered around heart-to-heart conversation, I don't have a zillion pictures of our times together. Our biggest shared experience was a weekend road trip to Oregon a couple years ago during which we visited our friend Krystal and went to a school musical she was starring in. Another friend, Amber, went with us as well and we had a BLAST! But honestly, my favorite times with Jessie mostly consist of having coffee, going for walks downtown, and simply watching TV shows and movies that we both enjoy. (We both loved The Office so much we used to spend the night with my brother and sister-in-law every Thursday so we could all watch it together!)

Krystal, Amber, Jessie, and me in downtown Salem, Oregon

A couple months ago Jessie and I decided to start meeting for coffee every Thursday after work instead of just looking for random times to get together. (It JUST dawned on me that it's sort of ironic that Thursdays have been our regular day to get together during two different seasons of our friendship!) I look SO forward to this time each week! My mom found this card over the summer that made her think of Jessie and me, and I could not resist buying it for her because it SO PERFECTLY described our friendship! I really can't say it better than this card does.


When I think of Jessie, I think not only of our coffee dates but also of good music (some of the songs she has shared with me have become some of my absolute favorites!), rainbow colors, Ritz cracker chips, chocolate wafers, Chuck, Pushing Daisies, house sitting, Sarah Palin, chai tea, Century Riverside Theater, Dreamer's Coffeehouse, photography (she's an EXCELLENT photographer), "Yes Man," tuna, New Girl, and llamas (she has a mild obsession with llamas), among other things... I love our friendship and am so thankful God has preserved and strengthened it through all of our ups and downs.

Thanks, Jessie, for your listening ear, your open heart, and your encouraging words... Thank you for always "hearing what I mean." Thank you for blessing my life! I love you!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Thanksgiving All Year: 121-130

Wouldn't it have been SO COOL if I'd started my weekly thankful lists one week later so I could have given thanks for my 111th item on 11/11/11?!? Bahaha... Silliness!

Well, I am epically failing at my goal of posting every day this month. But you know what? The only night I didn't have something going on this week was Tuesday... And that was the one night that I DID blog. Winter temperatures have been rolling in here in Reno, and when I have somewhere to be after work, by the time I get home, all I want to do is curl up on the futon with a blanket. Blogging just gets shoved to the back burner. Thankfully I'm really not stressed about it.

Well, time to get down to business. This week I am thankful...

121. For a completely UNproductive, restful, relaxing day on Sunday. I went to church and I blogged, but aside from that, my entire day was spent watching movies and catching up on TV shows. It was lovely. 

122. For a fast dinner with Jessie before Perspectives on Monday night and for time to chat in my car afterward.

123. For a very PRODUCTIVE evening on Tuesday. I did three loads of laundry, blogged, and caught up on my finances.

124. For dinner and free dessert at Chili's with Ashley on Wednesday night.

125. For a productive week at work.

126. For wisdom and encouragement from my friends Lisa and Shasta.

127. For fire pits, friends, and s'mores.

128. For free Awful Awfuls last night with Judy. (Actually I guess they were a dollar each but we bought the coupons so long ago it felt like they were free.)

129. For BLANKETS.

130. For God's faithfulness as I wait on Him.

Time to curl up with a blanket now! Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

12 Songs I Currently Love

I LOVE music. Like, I really, really, REALLY love it. And it seems like I have been blessed with an abundance of new, really good, music lately, so I've been thinking about doing some sort of "Top 10" list to share some of my recent favorite songs... When I realized I couldn't quite narrow it down to 10, I decided to increase my list to 12 items. With each song I'm including a link where you can listen to the song as well as a portion of my favorite lyrics from the song. I hope you discover something you like along the way!

I present, in no particular order (just kidding, they're alphabetized -- yep, I'm a nerd!), 12 Songs I Currently Love!

1. 101010 - Sleeping at Last
Change is slow but I feel it taking shape.
2. Busted Heart - For King and Country
Winter has come back again
Feels like the season won't end
My faith is dying tonight
And I won't try to pretend...
Until it comes to an end
Soon this season will end
I'll surrender tonight
You meet me right where I am
3. The Earth is Yours - Gungor (I'll admit, though the lyrics are just fine, I really like this song more for the exuberant melody!)
Your voice it thunders
The ground is shaking
The mighty mountains now are trembling
Creation sees You
And starts composing
The fields and trees they start rejoicing.
4. Farther Along - Josh Garrels (Contrary to the previous song, the lyrics here are what are REALLY outstanding -- though I actually love this melody, too!)
Tempted and tried, I wondered why
The good man died, the bad man thrives
And Jesus cries because he loves 'em both
We're all cast-aways in need of rope
Hangin' on by the last threads of our hope
In a house of mirrors full of smoke
Confusing illusions I've seen

Where did I go wrong, I sang along
To every chorus of the song
That the devil wrote like a piper at the gates
Leading mice and men down to their fates
But some will courageously escape
The seductive voice with a heart of faith
While walkin' that line back home...

Still I get hard pressed on every side
Between the rock and a compromise
Like the truth and pack of lies fightin' for my soul
And I've got no place left go
'Cause I got changed by what I've been shown
More glory than the world has known
Keeps me ramblin' on

Skipping like a calf loosed from its stall
I'm free to love once and for all
And even when I fall I'll get back up
For the joy that overflows my cup
Heaven filled me with more than enough
Broke down my levees and my bluffs
Let the flood wash me

And one day when the sky rolls back on us
Some rejoice and the others fuss
'Cause every knee must bow and tongue confess
That the Son of God is forever blessed
His is the kingdom, we're the guests
So put your voice up to the test
Sing Lord, come soon
5. January White - Sleeping at Last
So let's press undo.
Rearrange the old and call it new-
January white...

'cause if nothing else, we're given a little time
To change the game, a chance to redefine
Everything we are,
In our January white...

If nothing else, we're given a little time
To change the heart in which we change our minds;
Our hourglasses turn.

This year is a sealed envelope;
With apprehensive hope
We brace for anything...

In spite of history,
Hope is January white.

This year, we're starting over again
Letter openers in hand,
A chance to take a chance.
I swear, I understand that the past will be the past,
And nothing changes that,
But the future is brighter than any flashback.
6. Let Me Feel You Shine - David Crowder* Band
This place is trying to break my belief
But my faith is bigger than all I can see
What I need is redemption
What I need is for You for to put me back on my feet...

I swear I'm trying to give everything
But I fear I'm falling, oh make me believe
What I need is resurrection
What I need is for You to put me back on my feet...

If I could feel You shine Your perpetual light
Then maybe I could crawl out of this tonight...

I lift the knife to the thing I love most
Praying You'll come so I can have both
What I need is for You to touch me
What I need is for You to be the thing that I need
7. Mended - The Autumn Film
Don't give up on me now, this can all be mended
We can iron this out, it can all be mended
When you're tearing at the seems, it can all be mended
It can all be mended now
8. Noble Aim - Sleeping at Last (This is another one with such EXCELLENT lyrics I can't help but include a large portion of the song... And you may have noticed this is the THIRD song by Sleeping at Last that made my list. I have only recently discovered this band, but I have yet to hear a song by them that I don't LOVE!)
Chances are we are alike;
Against what better judgement writes
We ache like children for love,
For a purpose worthy of
Such a noble aim... as love.

Chances are we bruise the same;
A family tree desperate for rain.
A thirst only deserts know best.
A hurt so at home in our chests.
Call it stubbornness or bravery,
To let our branches continue to reach,
With such a noble aim... as love.

Every broken branch and loosened leaf
That we've grown to ignore,
Is now a part of something greater than before.
Every nest that rests upon our limbs,
Seeking shelter from the storms,
Is a purpose worth being broken for.

Chances are we are the same;
Against the odds, against the grain
We lean, like gardens toward light.
We reach with all of our might
For such a noble aim as love.
9. Redeeming Love - Amy Stroup
Forgiveness call
It beckons me
To find the courage and let it be...

You can’t turn back time
You can’t erase the truth
You can’t relieve the things
You wanna undo

So fall forward
Let it mark your soul
Keep your heart tender
And your thoughts bold

And I fix my eyes
On redeeming love
10. Ships in the Night - Mat Kearney
Cause we'll be ok... I'm not going away
Like you watched at fourteen as it went down the drain
And pops stayed the same and your mom moved away
How many of our parents seem to make it anyway
We're just fumbling through the grey
Trying find a heart that's not walking away...

Feels like we're learning this out on our own
Trying to find a way down the road we don't know...

And I'm gonna find my way
Back to your side
11. The Sun Will Rise - Kelly Clarkson
I've been in stuck in a storm before
Felt the wind raging at my door
Couldn't move, couldn't breathe, couldn't find a way out...

And though you can't see it
So hard to believe it
Sometimes you just need a little faith
There's an answer to your prayer
And I swear that there'll come a day
The sun will rise
12. This is Not the End - Gungor
And you know you’ll be alright
Oh and you know you’ll be alright

This is not the end
This is not the end of us
We will shine like the stars bright, brighter
I think a common theme amongst pretty much all of these songs is HOPE. This seems to be something I can never really get enough of! I love that God has gifted people with the ability to blend beautiful melodies and instruments with inspiring words that can fill people's souls with joy and hope. And I am glad to share just a few such blended creations with you!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Thanksgiving All Year: 111-120

Well, shoot. So much for posting something every single day in November. In all seriousness, though, I have been insanely busy this weekend. Friday I worked all day, then I helped set up for my sister-in-law's super cute camping-themed baby shower, then I came home and made these s'mores bars to take to the shower... That may not sound like THAT much but it seriously kept me busy till nearly midnight. Then yesterday I got up early enough to be at the church at 9, was there till probably 2-ish, went over to my brother and sister-in-law's house for a while, ran some errands with my mom, and finally got home around 5:30; then my friend Jessie came over a little after 6 and FINALLY I got to relax (with a good friend, to boot!). *happy sigh*

I had absolutely NO PLANS after church today so I came home, had lunch, and am currently watching "17 Again" on TV while I type this. (Just for the record, I LOVE this movie.) It's super overcast today, snowing a little here and there, and is the perfect sort of day to be relaxing at home, especially after such a busy few days! I'm still going to do my best to blog, if not EVERY day, at least as many days as possible this month. Today, since I'm late once again (though not as late as last week!), my post is devoted to my weekly list of thankfulness!

Today I am thankful...

111. That I could spend last Sunday afternoon/evening helping my friend Judy make some game boards for her students. It helped her out and kept my overactive mind occupied!

me and Judy at fireworks on July 4th

112. For godly, biblical wisdom and encouragement from my friend Dana earlier this week when I was struggling to let go of past mistakes.

113. That I've made a little bit of progress in catching up on my Perspectives homework.

114. For great conversations with and encouragement from friends this week ~ Kelly at our coffee date Wednesday morning; Rebecca after choir on Wednesday night; Jane at work all week; and Jessie at our weekly Thursday evening coffee date.

Jessie and me after this week's coffee date

115. That God has blessed me so greatly with friends who continually offer me a listening ear, sympathy, compassion, and encouragement; who don't give up on me, grow frustrated with me, or write me off even if I've bent their ears about the same thing a bazillion times; and who dare to pray and hope, with and for, me as I wait to see where God will lead in the days ahead.

116. For great music - specifically, David Crowder* Band's new single "Let Me Feel You Shine;" new tunes by Coldplay, Sleeping At Last, Mat Kearney, and more from Jessie; and an old album, "Silversmith," by Dane and Taylor, former college classmates of my brother.

117. For signs of HOPE and answered prayer.

118. For good times with my family ~ that my brother and sister-in-law had a great baby shower yesterday; that Erin finally let my nephew's name slip (which is exciting for us AND relieving for her and Cassidy... Kudos to them both for keeping it quiet for three whole months!); and that my family (and Jessie and Mickayla) got to hang out at Cassidy and Erin's for a while after the shower, enjoying pizza and laughing at youtube videos. (Good news! Episode 4 of Guy on a Buffalo is now available!! YES!)

Erin, Baby, Cassidy, and Ben
in San Francisco last month

119. That I won a fun drawing on my friend Carrie's blog this week!

120. For this piece of wisdom that someone wrote on an advice card at the baby shower yesterday:
"Consider, in a hundred years, is this moment going to matter?"
I'm aiming to take this advice to heart myself in hopes of diminishing my tendency to overreact.

I feel like my coffee dates with various friends get mentioned in this list almost weekly... What can I say? I love good conversation with my friends, and there's really no place for it like a coffee shop! This past week started off super rough but things have been improving ever since. I am most thankful for that! And I am most thankful that the Lord continues to work in my heart on the good days AND the bad ones. I'm thankful He is faithful. Hope the week ahead is a good one for each of you!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

O Praise Him!

When we saw David Crowder* Band last month they played a new song containing a few lines that REALLY hit home with me...

I lift the knife to the thing I love most
Praying You'll come so I can have both
What I need is for You to touch me
What I need is for You to be the thing that I need

Have you ever sensed God asking you to sacrifice something that meant the world to you, something that you believed He had actually given you as a gift, similar to how He asked Abraham to sacrifice his promised son Isaac? I sure have. And I've pondered how Abraham must have felt his heart was being ripped out of his chest as he hiked up Mount Moriah with his precious son. I know how excruciating it's been for me to think of losing something I consider dear, but I can't imagine being asked to sacrifice my SON. The thought is almost too much to bear.

Of course, being on this side of the story, we know that God mercifully provided a ram so that Abraham was not required to carry out His request after all, and naturally, that is what I always hope for when God asks me to sacrifice something. That's why these lyrics resonated with me... They openly, honestly, ask God to "show up" and spare us the agony of going through with the sacrifice He's asked of us... But they also acknowledge that our greatest need is to recognize our need for HIM. I have been recognizing this need in my own life in recent days. It's never an easy lesson and it is one I seem to have to re-learn periodically. But again and again I discover that God is enough, whether He "provides a ram" or not.

All that to say, this song "Let Me Feel You Shine" really struck me when we heard the band perform it last month. And I was THRILLED to discover today that they had actually released it as a single -- just two days after we saw them in concert, as a matter of fact! Check out the video below and you can listen and read along...

I have to say, it is extremely bittersweet to think of the David Crowder* Band being on their final tour. The very first time I ever heard one of their songs was when Cassidy and I were visiting Reno for the summer in 2004. We were both working with our church's youth group that summer and one Thursday night as we were setting up, "O Praise Him" was playing over the loud speakers and I instantly loved the song. I found out who was singing it and ordered their album, "Illuminate," which quickly became -- and is still -- one of my favorite albums of all time. That song, "O Praise Him," rivals U2's "Where the Streets Have No Name" as my all-time favorite song. (Shawn McDonald's "Captivated" is a close third.) I couldn't even tell you how many times I have listened to it since that first time in the youth room, and I have never grown the least bit tired of it. STILL, every single time I hear it, my heart is filled with such joy I can hardly contain myself. I am not typically one to raise my hands in worship very often, but when this song plays, I cannot seem to keep them down. I came across this other video tonight and couldn't help but smile while watching it, because I feel it so closely depicts the sort of uncontainable joy that comes over me every time I hear this song. I hope you will check it out and enjoy it as well!

I am so thankful for the way God has used this band through their years together. They have certainly blessed my life and I know many others would say the same! Their music will be something God uses to draw me near to Him for years and years to come! O PRAISE HIM!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

From Tragedy to Triumph!

You may have already read this on my Facebook page (I kind of feel like I'm cheating by using this as my blog post for today, but Wednesdays are long for me and I am lacking in creativity at the moment), but just in case you missed it...

This is an excerpt of an e-mail from one of the missionaries our church supports. He works with Athletes in Action and has been at the Pan American Games in Guadalajara over the past couple of weeks. He has sent multiple updates throughout the course of the games, ALL of which have been incredibly inspiring!! This one in particular was a beautiful story I wanted to share... God is so good! I praise Him for His sovereignty & love as I read this. Enjoy.

Tragedy Hits

Two nights ago the father of one of the Brazilian [soccer] players died. She was heartbroken when she received the news and had been crying almost all day today. Her family was trying to get her a seat on a plane to come home, but nothing was open. Finally, her mother told her that her father had been talking for months about her coming home with the gold medal in the Pan American Games. Her mother told her to stay and play.

The Game

Brazil didn't have their strongest team. Several of their best players were not released by their teams in Europe and couldn't join their national team in the Pan American Games. But they played their hearts out. Alex said they played way above their heads.

The final score favor of Brazil....and the one goal scored....
was by the girl whose father died the day before.


When the final whistle blew, this girl fell to her knees and lifted her arms to heaven and just started to cry. The rest of the team joined her in tears and rejoicing. It was a great moment.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Every Day in November

Well, after mentioning in my most recent blog that I hoped to write more frequent, random, short entries like the two I posted last week, I realized today is the first day of a new month and is thus a good time to start working on a new goal... And putting the two together I decided to make it a goal to post on my blog every day in November. No particular topic or theme, just SOMETHING every day. We'll see how it goes. Wish me luck!

Thanksgiving All Year: 101-110

Late again! But better late than never, right? At least I blogged between my weekly lists of thanks this time -- and not just out of some perceived sense of obligation!! I'm hoping to start writing more frequent, random, short entries like those I posted last week, especially since I decided upon reactivating my Facebook page that I no longer have much desire at all to post personal status updates there. It feels nice to let people know what's going on in my life, and I enjoy reading about what's going on in other people's lives, but there's something about the instant accessibility of Facebook that is almost repulsive to me after my recent month-long hiatus. I'd rather post about my life on my blog, where posting requires more thought and effort -- and where feedback also requires more thought and effort -- than to grant my thoughts instantaneous publication. But alas, I digress! Thanks is the matter at hand!

This week I am thankful...

101. That my mom is feeling much better after fighting that nasty bug last week.

102. That my dad and I have yet to come down with the bug. (Praise the Lord!)

103. For lunch and quality time with Dana at the river last Tuesday.

104. For a PTO day last Thursday that allowed me to catch up on a lot of cleaning and straightening up at home.

105. For a great coffee date with Jessie last Thursday at Jolt-N-Java and for our delicious pumpkin chai lattes.

106. That Ben and I got to enjoy a beautiful fall day excursion to Apple Hill last Friday.

107. That CHUCK has finally returned for its fifth (and final, *sniff*) season and that I got to enjoy the season premiere with Cassidy, Erin, Rebecca, Mike, and Ashley.

108. That Andy and Tommy had another first place finish on The Amazing Race this past week.

109. For renewed resolve to catch up on my Perspectives homework, which I have been weeks behind on.

110. That God is continuing to teach me valuable lessons during this season of my life, the most recent of which is that my focus needs to be on HIM, not on trying to predict the outcome of what He's doing right now -- something I would have done well to learn months ago.
Have a great week, folks!