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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Farewell, 2011

(This post has lots of pictures. :) )
a lighthouse in New Jersey
As I was glancing at the blogs I follow in my feed and I realized. "Oh wow. Right. Tomorrow is the last day of 2011. It's time for a 'reflecting on 2011' blog post. Oh! And that'd be perfect for a Brag on God Friday. Good!"  After all, God's the author of our stories in this thing we call time.

Grand Central Station
To be honest, this year has been a big one.  I don't really remember New Year's last year. But I remember my heart in my throat as my friend Hannah went through tragedy in January when her newborn daughter, Sadie Mae, died. Hannah, I hope you're okay with me mentioning that, because honestly my heart was wrapped up with you and Sadie Mae greatly affected me.
I'm from the Jersey shore (never seen the show)

In February I found Megabus, a cheap and awesome bus service and got a round trip up to New York City for $28.  I was able to visit my family in New Jersey for the first time in over five years.  That was wonderful.

My twenty-fifth birthday party.
I also visited my friends Sarah and Charlie in Yonkers.  Lydia, my best friend, joined me for the first part of my trip... but she was sick as a dog. Maneuvering the New York subway system with four suitcases and a friend who is about to fall over was not fun... but an adventure. I lost a hat I was fond of, though.

Ginny and Dan's Wedding
But, I shopped and got new clothes for the first time in forever, though I couldn't find what I wanted because of the season (apparently you can't buy long skirts in February!) I got to spend my birthday with my family and best friend in New Jersey, eating pizza and ice cream cake. Honestly, it was an excellent way to usher in twenty-five.

my blog was one of the biggest things of this year
On April 1st, my other best friend Tabitha had her wonderful son Jordan.  I got to see him in the hospital, though he was in the NICU so I couldn't hold him. Jordan was a miracle baby, conceived pretty much as soon as Tabitha fell for Jesus.

Erika and I
Also around that time, God swept me into His arms and showed me a new definition of "work".  I'd been unemployed for about a year when He highlighted this blog to me, as a source of outreach, ministry, and just plain old work.  I had been blogging for almost three years, but never had had any real followers, aside from a friend or two, never had promoted it in anyway.  From the beginning it was God's blog, and in many ways I felt He wanted me to keep it fairly private. And I still believe that; but this past spring He pretty much told me, "You're looking for work, consider your blog."  And I threw myself into the Songs on the Way, and I'm so glad I did.

Lydia and I, camping
The beginning of June I got health insurance for the first time since graduating college! Thank you, Obama's health care bill! I had had an ongoing issue for well over a year that needed to be checked out.  If you read my blog then, you know about my biopsy, the negative results, and the issue being resolved through  medication.  But a scare like that, it makes you realize your priorities: what do you want to do before you die? In late spring Ryan and I researched and considered the options and decided that I will be moving to India when we marry, but the when and how were still up in the air. I realized that if I'd gotten a cancer diagnosis I'd be on a plane to India.

camping... oh, how I love to swim!!
The camping trip I took with Lydia was great fun and also a time I prayed for Jesus to reveal to me more about what He wanted for my future, most especially about the "when" for Ryan and my marriage. He answered.  That was an important event in a season of searching and prayer, revelations from God, and a huge new direction for my life.

Shilo and Mark's wedding:
bridesmaids with the bride (center)
The camping trip ended in being a bridesmaid at my first college roommate's wedding, the third wedding I'd attended that summer.  They were all beautiful and I was happy to go to them. (I love weddings so much!)


Mallory and Ryan's wedding
The fall had an entirely different feel. I was driven in a way I've never been before. From the outside, it probably seemed like I was udderless, but I wasn't.  God took that new definition of "work" He'd revealed to me and had me apply it to these new pursuits.  It became my full time job. Amongst other things, I started learning Hindi!

the zoo with Melissa
My sister also moved in with us for the fall as she took a semester off since her college didn't offer any classes she needed this semester. She's going back in the next two weeks for her final semester of undergrad. I've become accustomed to having her around and it'll be strange to know that when she moves out this time it'll probably be the last time we'll live together, since she's getting married next fall.


Falls Park, Greenville: good times there.
The end of November found me suddenly employed after nineteen and a half months. God is faithful, and for the plans He has for me, money does have its purpose. So I'm trying to be a faithful steward while I have the job... it is seasonal, and as of yet I've not heard either way about my future, but I have a feeling I will when I go into work tomorrow.

hanging out with Canterbury friends
Going from working for God alone to working for a corporation for the first time in my life was a jarring experience. This job is the most physically demanding I've worked since I was a teenager, and I feel like I've just been constantly trying to "catch-up" for weeks. The holidays haven't helped that feeling, but they have been wonderful.  Especially wonderful was getting to see my sister Beth.  That visit was more relaxed and deeper than normal ones.

Tabitha and Jordan
I was supposed to apply for my passport last week, but I got sick, and then this week brought it's own distractions. I'm really hoping to get that done Monday or Tuesday. 

I can't help but dwell on what a huge year this has been for Tabitha. Not only did she welcome her firstborn, but she just found out a couple weeks ago she's pregnant with baby number two!! She announced it on facebook today so now I get to tell people. (I knew since last week.) Today made 9 weeks. I'm very excited and hoping for a girl!

Ryan celebrating his birthday 
And there was a lot of catching up with old friends: Hannah, Erika, Melissa, and of course hanging with the Canterbury gang. The making of new friends, like Anne and joining the women's Bible Study. Many church adventures from trying to find one for Tabitha, connecting with the one on the corner, and finally getting a regular ride to my own. The start of 'See Pam Run'. There were some great parties, some intimate times, and great phone conversations. And, of course, there was my Ryan. My darling Ryan.

2011 was a crazy year, a big year, but not a bad year.  And yes, God, it was an exciting year. I'm neither sad nor happy to see it go, but eager to see what you have in store for me and my loved ones in 2012... the year Ryan and I hope to marry in...
Rock on, 2011. Rock on.
Linking up with Brag on God Friday.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Book Review: Sisters of the Quilt by Woodsmall

the book on a Christmas quilt of ours!
Sisters of the Quilt is a trilogy by Cindy Woodsmall that's now available in one book. I am so glad.  I really don't know how I could have handled reading it as three different books: they each ended with me longing to read the next one! I was delighted I could just flip the page and do it.

Woodsmall has a great talent for conveying injustice and the quiet anguish of suffering alone. She really did well drawing my heart into the story of Hannah Lapp, an Amish girl who undergoes a great injustice which compounded through miscommunication, secrecy, snap judgments, and tragedy in the first book When the Heart Cries. The rest of the trilogy follows her and her loved ones through the adjustments and drama of the next several years.  I'd tell you more, but I don't want to spoil it (and I'd recommend not reading the back right away; I did and wished I hadn't!)

I was impressed with the depth Woodsmall conveyed, not only in character building but in cultural intricacies as we visit Old Order Amish, Plain Mennonite and "Englischers" (typical Americans). I liked how while keeping the story dramatic enough to keep our attention, most of it is kept to things that could effect us all: crime, medical issues, miscommunication, death.  Despite the drama of the events, Woodsmall keeps it from becoming melodrama.  She doesn't romanticize any of the cultures or events, while still keeping the magic of each alive. There is a reason why people live typical American lives; there's also a reason the Amish choose their way. She doesn't villainize or promote either choice and shows how God can be found anywhere by hearts seeking Him.

I received this book free from the publishers in exchange for my unbiased review.

Merry Christmas!!

Our tree
Yep. I know it's December 27th. But it's the first time I've been online since before Christmas, so bear with  me. Plus, as I've said before, I celebrate the twelve days of Christmas, so it's really just Merry Third Day of Christmas.

If you don't know, the twelve days of Christmas are the twelve days from Christmas Day (Day One) to Epiphany, January 6th, when one celebrates the wisemen arriving. It's part of the Church Year, which is totally aweseome and deserves it's own post. One time I gave a spur of the moment speech about it to my eclectically Christian Bible Study (we have Southern Baptists, Presbyterians, Seventh Day Adventists, nondemonitional, etc) and had everyone like "Wow! We should do that!"  That was awesome.

My Christmas was great. I don't want to be materialistic but I got a digital camera and a Nook!!  Very exciting! I wasn't expecting both. I'd asked for them, but thought I'd just get one big item, but I was surprised with both. I also got a couple shirts, some yarn, some jewelry, some chocolate, some gift certificates, and a few other items.  It was very nice. 

Because I now own my own digital camera, expect more photos! But not too many more, and they'll be re-sized, because I still have dial-up!

Hmm.  Well to end off my "Christmas" post I'd love you to meditate on the words of my favorite Christmas carol:

O Come all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant, o come ye, o come ye to Bethlehem! Come and behold Him, born the kings of angels. O come let us adore Him! O come let us adore Him! O come let us adore Him! Christ, the Lord!

Sing, choirs of angels! Sing in exaltation!! O sing all ye citizens of heaven above! Glory to God, Glory in the Highest! O come let us adore Him! O come let us adore Him! O come let us adore Him; Christ, the Lord!

Yea, Lord we greet Thee, born this happy morning! Jesus, to Thee be glory given! Word of the Father: now in flesh appearing! O come let us adore Him! O come let us adore Him! O come let us adore Him, Christ, the Lord!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Brag on God Friday

I'm excited to brag about God. Oh, people, He's come through for me SO MUCH this last week. I've been wiped off my feet. The sickness made me have even  more insomnia than I normally have, and between cleaning, shopping, and working, there was no way to get any real rest. I didn't sleep at all Wednesday night and then had to work at eight in the morning. As I told Ryan the only way I made it through was supernatural provision.  I don't know about you, but when I'm physically spent I get crabby. Not only did I make it through, I did so cheerfully. 

The thing about being a cashier is that it's a very physical job. Not only are just standing there, which demands more from your body than walking, but also you're swiveling and lifting things all day long.  I'm always a little hunched forward.  I'm just not used to it. Not only had I not been employed for a long time, but also I've only worked desk jobs since 2005! And then, when I was a cashier at a grocery store, we had bag boys to help us, which we don't at this large retail store. And I'm working at an extremely popular for Christmas shopping store. I've been so wiped out and feeling like I'm in a daze. I'd come home ready to put my feet up and I'd be meeting demands and resentment because of all things other than my job I was supposed to be able to complete.  So you can see why I've not been blogging...

But the truth is, I'm cheerful and happy. I don't really mind my job. And you know why? One word.

Jesus.

I've been reading God Calling during my breaks. God's been speaking to me. I've been praying and I keep a little New Testament in my purse.  If I forget during a break, I fall to pieces.  I am surly and exhausted.  But If I devote some or all of my break to spending time to him, I'm floating on air when I go back to the register. It's been supernatural grace and supply all the way.  It's been incredible how tangible it's been for me.

I've actually been wanting to go to work for the breaks.  When I'm at home, I don't have my day segmented nearly as well and I find myself getting drained and not taking the time.  Yes, I know that I should probably set up a schedule. And I'm sure I will... but I'm not going to until at least after the holidays.

I've been finding such joy and peace and friendship in Christ. I've been plugging into the vine and I feel vitality in this little branch.  I hope you are all abiding in Him as well. For those of you who just show up for Brag on God Fridays, Have a very, very merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I'm Blessed

Okay, before I do anything else I want to share an amazing blog post I read earlier today.  You will thank me. God was definitely speaking in it.  Here you go.

I finally was able to go out and do some shopping for Christmas on Saturday night. I am almost done. I love giving.  I am thankful for being able to do this, give things, and for having people in my life to whom to give gifts.

I am blessed by my ride to church and getting to go to church every Sunday in the Advent season! That makes me happy.

I am blessed by a roof over my head and food and all those things, which while they may be things people are like "Oh, yeah, the obvious" they also are not the required. Not everyone has those, and just because they're obvious doesn't mean we shouldn't always be thankful for it.

I'm thankful for my old beat-up hoodie because it sort of feels like wearing a hug since I feel so awful today.

I'm thankful to have a job where no one made a huge fuss because I called out sick. I don't know if it'll have negative side effects in the future, but I also know nothing effects us without God allowing it to and so if I'm too sick to work, God knew and whatever happens will happen with His guidance on my life.

I'm thankful to be in love with Ryan, for having a heart that cries out in love to His even when I'm not thinking about him. Do you know that if I am staring at a blank white page and let my mind wander I almost always come back to find I typed without thinking "I miss Ryan"?  It's sort of weird, but hey, obviously he's deepset in my consciousness. I love him, and moreover the huge blessing is this: He loves me!

I am blessed by having a relationship with Jesus, the primary love of my life.  Thank you, God, for holding me together this week, forgiving my sins, and encouraging me to go forward. Help me to rely on and know you more. More faith, more love, more You.

I am blessed by little Sophie, my dog, as well as all our other pets.

I am thankful for good friends. Friends who challenge my mind, who have me over for soup when I need to get out, friends that care enough to offer me rides, friends who buy me a chai tea latte for Christmas (seriously, that's awesome).  I love my friends God, and I am so thankful.

I am blessed by my family, not just in the obvious positive ways, but also by the ways they stretch me. I don't always (okay, pretty much never) appreciate that while their doing it, but one of the reasons family can drive you so nuts is God lets them stretch you in a way no one else can because they access your life and heart in a very different way than others. So God, I thank you for that, because I want to be stretched by You... even when I don't want that.

Linking up to I'm Blessed and Thankful Tuesdays.

Retreating to My Shell


Me in my shell... er, old beat-up hoodie.
Okay, my brain is working now.  I just wrote about, oh, two articles in an email to a friend. I like exercising my intelligence.

I don't feel good. I'm home sick again. I'm not sure if it's the same thing I had Friday, because while I'm still stuffed up, now I just feel weak.  I was doing chores yesterday and felt like I needed a little break so I lay on my bed and read... half an hour... forty-five minutes later I still couldn't persuade my body it was time to get back up and go back to work.  I just felt weak and wiped out.  Since I had work in the morning, I thought, I guess I should just rest.  So I told my mother what was going on and curled up in bed.

Then insomnia hit me and I tried and tried and tried and couldn't sleep. This made me cry a little. It felt my body was an out of control toddler throwing a fit and wouldn't obey me at all.

When I woke up this morning I knew I couldn't get out of bed, let alone go to work. Blessedly, my phone is right next to my bed, so I called out from work and then fell asleep and slept until my dog demanded I get up at four in the afternoon.

When I came out my mom said I'm an awful color.  I snuggled deeper in my hoodie and that's about all I'm capable of today... except for reflecting meaningfully on interesting internet articles in an email to a friend where I used such words as "proclity".  Yay, my intelligence didn't break when my body did.

On Friday I definitely had a cold, and I felt better on Saturday... but we're thinking I was exposed to something new in my weakened state and that's what this is.  Lord, have your way. Blessedly, I don't have to work again until Wednesday, so I have another day to get over this without having to let my job down again.

I was musing with a friend about how sometimes sickness is God's way of saying "Take time to rest in me."  That's probably part of this.  And part is just that I feel a turtle or hermit crab and my instinct is screaming "RETREAT TO YOUR SHELL! RETREAT TO YOUR SHELL!"

So that's what I'm doing.  But not until I do an "I'm Blessed" post next, which will be much  more upbeat. But I wanted to tell you what was going on and figured I'd not mix the two posts. I also have a great link to share with y'all...

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Rejoice With Me! (A.K.A Y'all Are Awesome)

Guys, I have lovely news to share with you!

Do you remember back in November I asked you to vote for Heartline Ministries (and facebook friends I asked you several times) to help them get a grant?  Well, they got it! $50,000! They will be saving so many lives, and making a difference in even more. You can share in the celebration here and here.

And remember how the other week I asked you to help a mother bring her baby home through her adoption fundraiser, the only they're having due to obedience and faith in God?  Well you helped her reach her goal.  God will do the rest. Thank you. (And guess what? I won one of the prizes! But I won't say which one because I'm totally using it as a Christmas present.)

I also want to thank all of you who have been praying for my health.  I'm not 100%, but I'm on the mend. Yesterday I called out sick to work; today I felt much better and was able to go. 

I also want to formally thank God for Dayquil.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Brag on God Friday

God's glory is everlasting.  I only begin to know how amazing He is.

So I write this to you as a meager offering of some of my recent experiences of His Total Awesomeness.

He's met me in my weakness and gave me energy and strength.

The depths of my soul is like a musty, dusty, dirty, cluttered room.  And each time I think we've made progress in making it clean God walks over and opens the top of a box that looked sort of organized... until I see it's filled with a squirming infestation of evil.  And I shriek and get overwhelmed and God grabs my arm and says "Be calm. I know how to handle this. Trust me. I won't give up until this room is clean and perfect.  Relax."

I rest in the fact that God finishes every good work that He begins, and when I look back at my past I can see He's begun from the evidence of transformation. I am no longer who I was.

This week I've gazed into several boxes of evil in me. Selfishness, pettiness, imperfections, even a little meanness.  And I say "Really, God? You have to show me this one too? Can't we take it one at a time?"  And even as I say it I sigh and say, "No, sweet God, I know. I trust you. You know what you're doing; I don't.  If this is how you're doing it, this is how it should be done. Help me not to worry or stress. Help me to trust. It's just so painful to be faced with what lives inside me. But I know exposure to the light is the only way to eradicate darkness, so I thank you for the renewed revelations of my flaws. O, but be gentle, Lord, be gentle. It's already almost more than I can bear."

And I've been encouraged this week, when I come and wait on God during the quiet moments that I must enforce, to find my strength renewed according to His promises. I find I do be a better job, I feel better, I am a better person when I make Him a priority and wait upon Him. I get distracted though, but I thank God for structure and trial and error which show me the error of my ways.

And I thank God for His people, sweet friends who come along side me and offer love and sympathy even when I know I brought a lot of my suffering on myself. They don't condemn, they hold out friendship and prayer and I feel renewed.

And I thank God for the hope I have in Him. Hope that if I seek Him, He will sustain me through even this... and if I fall apart and can't go on, that is because it is time to rest.  I rest in Him.

I thank Him for grace and I hope I never, ever leave Him. I relate to the old hymn:
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love!  
I pray He protects me from myself. I pray for more faith and that I can grow closer to Him.

Book Review: Praying for Your Future Husband by Gunn and Goyer

Praying for Your Future Husband by Robin Gunn and Tricia Goyer has a pretty self explanatory title. However one of the interesting and enjoyable features is that the book is propelled by stories.  Both authors tell their unique stories of past relationships and meeting their husbands. They also share many diverse stories from women of various ages and backgrounds who have written them about how they prayed for their husbands, and how God answered those prayers in different but wonderful ways.

Each chapter takes us through a different important aspect to pray about not only for our husbands, but so that the prayer can transform the waiting woman into the woman she was made to be by transforming contact with our God.

Gunn and Goyer both are novelists whose normal audience is teen girls.  While I do believe they tried to make the book more accessible for older women as well as the young, their tone seems very much for the young. The book doesn't exclude the older, and this is a very minor criticism.
I did think they overlooked the call to never marry. They did acknowledge that some women will never marry, but they excluded the concept that God might reveal this as His plan to some if they pray for clarity in this area. Paul and other Biblical figures knew and proclaimed their call to singlehood as something wonderful from God, for the benefit of the whole church. I think if you look at the Bible they should have included at least a brief section for those who, if they felt allowed to pray about the possibility of never marrying as a vocation accepted by the Church, might find God answers them with a "yes, singlehood is My plan for you." While I'd recommend it to the authors if they ever release a revised edition, I don't hold it against them that this didn't occur them, as it is an attitude and ministry that is lacking in the vast majority of the Protestant church.

As someone who has already met her future husband, I found most of the advice not applicable, but many of it is and it also made me reflect on the few prayers I said for Ryan before I met him, and the prayers he told me that he'd pray. We've already discussed this as a couple and were amazed by how God answered these prayers. I don't know about him, but I wish I'd prayed for him more. I would definitely recommend this book highly, and I actually plan on going through it again later with Ryan in mind, because the praying doesn't end when you meet him!

I received this book from the publishers in exchange for my unbiased review.

I also want to add that having read this directly after Why Men Hate Church was interesting, because this book starts out with the attitude that the answer for Christian women to the inequality of the genders in the church is that women need to become prayer warriors to save their men from the enemy's attacks.  I love that!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Call for Prayer

Today started out well. I got a package and a card! I talked for a while with Ryan, and then I went to work.

I forgot to eat anything but crackers and raisins before I left. Twenty minutes after I got to work, my throat got scratchy. I almost lost my voice, and then suddenly it came back. Weird. I feel weak and exhausted, but I don't have a fever. I'd love some prayers. I was really bummed because I've just worked five days in a row and was looking forward to having a fun day off. That's the most days in a row I've worked since I got this job... which means its the most I've worked in over 20 months. I'm wiped out. But now my body is fighting off some germ (and I think winning, but we'll see) so true rest doesn't sound like it's in the cards... Being sick isn't relaxing.

Of course, I made plans with friends in the evening tomorrow. Which I was really excited about yesterday and I'll probably be excited about it again in the morning, but right now it just makes me feel worn out. So I told myself, "Okay, you can go out tomorrow night, but for no reason at all will you do anythign in the morning. Just rest if you're smart, so you can heal and be well since you work on Friday and Saturday..."

Oh yeah, today my boss asked me to work Saturday. I did have it off. But now I go in at 8am. I'm glad for the hours, but it sounds exhausting. However, since I'm only seasonally employed I figure better tired now than having less money later.

Then, as I'm contemplating all this, my mother comes in and tells me under no circumstance am I not giving her hours of work on housework tomorrow, because we have to get the house ready for guests next week and she "can't possibly do it alone. It's impossible."

There is no ordinary pasttime I despise more than cleaning. It fills me with anxiety and stress just thinking about it. These are my own issues, but I'm already feeling bone tired and slightly sick, and her insistence I have to clean tomorrow is making me want to cry. I told her I'd help, but my plan had been to just relax Thursday and help her out on Saturday... but now I'm working Saturday so I have to give up my day off.

I get my paycheck Friday, so I need to go pick it up before I go to work, so I can take it to the bank. That makes my day longer. Then sometime this weekend I need to get my passport photos done, and Monday I hope to send off for my passport. I am so excited about that... but I have to figure out how to fit that in.

I work Friday night, so now after five days of working, I have one day with cleaning and no rest, and then two days of working night to morning, back to back. Then I have church on Sunday, which is great, but it means I can't just stay in. Then I work on Monday. On Tuesday I'm off... but since my older sister is coming on Thursday my mom will be in insane 'about to have guests' mode, so there will be no rest or peace. Then I work everyday until Christmas.

In there sometime I have to buy Christmas presents. I only have one complete present so far. I also have some important phone calls and some studying I need to do (though I'm thinking I might be on hiatus until after Christmas day?) and I don't know when the last time I worked out was... that might help the stress, but right now it just feels like one more thing to fit in.

Please pray for me. I know I'm feeling sorry for myself, and I'm trying to stop. I'm just feeling overwhelmed. I know I can't be overwhelmed really, because God is on my side (and I'm doing what God wants me to do; I don't feel I'm doing anything outside His Will.) I know a lot of you are dealing with a lot less. But right now I've not enjoyed the season at all yet... and it's probably my last one in America.

This time next year I'll be happily in Ryan's arms... but I'll probably also be sad because I'll miss my parents. Okay, I need to not look so far ahead. One day at a time, Pam...

At least I'm Episcopalian. That means Christmas lasts for twelve days for me, day one being Christmas itself. So even if I have no time to enjoy Advent, Christmas won't be over on December 26th. Because right now everything is such a blur.

I'm also really tired. I know tomorrow I'll probably be cheerful again. I am trembling right now... and I'm not sure why. It's not that cold... I thought about posting something else but, well, this is all I've got on my mind, and I decided it'd be better to authentic and post this then to let another day go by without an addition to the blog.

God bless you all. I love you. I may not know all of you, but I love you anyway.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Discombobulated Brain Daze

I got on facebook... and get showered with love. It was subtle.  But I have one group of friends talking about getting together... another friend wanting to meet up with me and do a present exchange... a friend asking me how I am and saying we should meet up while she's home visiting her family for the day... another friend patient enough to answer my silly questions... and another whose response to my condensed version of the last few months as "There's a lot there.  Sounds like a lot of stories I'd love to hear."

And my Ryan messaged me too. Thanks to everyone. It felt really good to know people still love me.

Today was the fourth of five days in a row of working. I'm not used to this. I'm not complaining, just stating a fact. It's still weird.  On Thursday I'm off, but have plans, and then I work again Friday. I still have like nothing done for Christmas.

My brain is like "wha...?"  It feels a bit dizzy.  My perceptions of time passing have entirely shifted. I feel like I'm constantly just trying to keep up and stay in the moment.  At the end of the day, I look back and it's got a surreal feeling.  Consequently, it's hard to blog.  I do think of good topics, but when I actually sit down, my brain still feels dizzy.  I've been online for many hours now, and I still feel like it's been like twenty minutes. 

Okay, re-reading that it makes me sound like I'm foggy-brained all the time. That's not the case. Truly, God has kept me clear headed a lot... it's just there's a lot more on my plate a lot less time to do it in, and also I got out of habit blogging between work and the domain taking so long. I've never been an orderly and routine person, so having a schedule (especially an erratic one) is just confusing me.  I haven't had a schedule in well over a year and a half.  I'm used to have like three or four things a week maximum to have to work around.  Now I'm often having two or three things a day that all other priorities must shift around...

Add Christmas to the mix, and it's crazy.  I have nothing done for it. Nothing. No decorations. No complete gifts (okay, partial gifts may count as 'something' but they don't get a check mark on my mental checklist, so they don't really count). Nada. And my mom is getting on to me about helping getting the house prepared for company, and Ryan is giving me mournful sighs because I no longer have hours devoted to talking to him, and Sophie is looking at me like I'm a big fat meanie because she's wearing a cone around her neck (long story). All of them have legitimate reasons for their concerns, and I do need to help Mom and spend time with Ryan and comfort Sophie (but not take off her cone, sorry sweetie) but I am struggling to fit into my new shifting existence.

I've got about ten things I consider 'priorities' right now, and none of them are really getting my best. I want to slow down and enjoy this season, because it might be my last in the United States for a while, but time keeps moving at its strange discombobulated pace and I feel like I'm on a treadmill with no stop/slow down button. If I stop, I'm going to fall.  So I have to keep running, and that means my precision is off. I'm sorry if I drop the ball somewhere. 

Part of my brain is sitting back, ankles crossed, with an amused smile. She's observing the shifts, fascinated by the turmoil, and thinking, "What an interesting thing God is doing. I wonder how this shifting water will settle, what pattern the flow will find now that it's shifted."  But she's calm. Because she knows that while it's creating swirling eddies in my mind right now, soon it will settle into a clear pattern of direction and flow, and it will all be good.

All is well. All is crazy, indeed. But all is well.

PS. Oooh! I just realized what I should have said to make the last sentence of the second to last paragraph make more sense: "When you stir things up, of course it gets muddy, but she knows that while it's creating...

See, that works.

And see? My brain typed out that response to a metaphor without articulating what it was first, then out of the blue ten minutes later realized how to articulate it.  THAT is a clear example of my brain's functioning right now.

For My Book Loving Readers

Hey friends, I have an offer I can share with you from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers.  They are one of the company's for which I review books.  How do you feel about free shipping and 30% off?

Remember how a few weeks ago I reviewed Cindy Woodsmall's Harvest of Grace, a novel of the Amish genre?  Well she's had a new book come out for Christmas called The Christmas Singing. You can check out a video about it below or read the first chapter here



Waterbrook Multnomah has given me a coupon code to make available to you to get 30% off and free shipping on The Christmas Singing or any book when you buy at waterbrookmultnomah.com. The code is CHRISTMAS11.  Enter it at checkout, and it expires on December 20th.  Hope this helps someone!

Monday, December 12, 2011

I'm Blessed

Yay! My domain name is working now so I can post again! Well, I could have posted before, but no one could have seen it (me included) so there really didn't seem to be a point.

Of course, I had at least four great blog ideas while I couldn't post... and now am having trouble remembering them. I need to really write stuff down.


But it doesn't really matter, because today I do the post where I thank God for the blessings of my life, a wonderful exercise.

God, thank you for friends who care and want to see me.

Thank you for getting to go to church for four Sundays in a row now.  I love my church. Thank you for those dear sweet people, the beauty of the Anglican style of worship, for meeting me in Communion, and for yourself.

Thank you for God Calling, and the comfort of meeting you during break times at work.

Thank you for the blogs I follow, and for my new domain name!

Thank you that soon, soon I will be sending off for my passport!

Thank you for Ryan, always, and for patience.

Thank you for the mystery of time. How is it less than two weeks until Christmas, three until 2011 passes away? I cannot understand this, but I know I am with you.

Thank you for the Bible and wisdom. Help me. You know in what ways. And I trust your provision.  I trust you've started a good work in me, and you will complete it. I am so sorry for getting in your way, over and over. Help me, save me from myself.

Thank you for loving me. Thank you for my family.  Thank you for persistance, endurance, and Hope.

Thank you for busyness... and help me deal with it! It's so foreign to me now.

Thank you for being You, God, and all that entails. I love you.

Linking up with I'm Blessed and Thankful Tuesdays.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

I Got A Domain Name!!

Very exciting. But the problem is, it apparently will take 6-48 hours to sync it up or something? So I figured I'd post this for the blurb for any RSS feeds that can see this as the preview. :) You probably can't actually go to the blog yet... but maybe!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

A Post to Help

It always seems like I think of great, amazing, truly literary ideas for blog posts... when I'm far away from any computer or time to blog. By the time I get to the computer, I've either forgotten it entirely or I just am not getting it right: "Didn't it have something to do with trees? I mean, I thought about it while I was... wait, where did the first inspiration come from? If I could remember that maybe I'd get it back.... Ahhhh!!! Stupid brain. Okay, guess it wasn't meant to be... what should I write about?"

Also, there comes the time when I know what I want to write about, and it's so good but I know that right now, I can't give it credit. So I sit on it for the coming day when I can really expound on the awesome idea, and write a post that touches you, and makes you think, and doesn't just you know, come out of left field.

So today, I'm just doing a post I want to do to help out a bloggy friend. She has no idea I'm doing this, which makes it more fun. I hope something good comes from it, but that's up to you. If you glance over at the list of blogs I follow (which isn't actually complete, I never update it and I've added many since last time) you'll see that there's a lot of adoption blogs in the mix. This is because I want to be an adoptive mommy someday.  Plus, I just tend to read mom blogs, even though I'm not a mom, because I want to be one and someday I plan on joining their midst.

So one of the blogs I read is the blog of a mom who is in the midst of the adoption process, to bring home a child from Taiwan, her Adelyn. After prayer, she and her husband have decided to have one final adoption fundraiser, and leave the rest to God. She's got wonderful friends who have donated lots of really cool things, ranging from diamond rings to coasters to gift cards, $3,000 in total value.

Her fundraiser ends the the 9th. (Friday)

Please go and contribute a little, if you can.  I'm sure it'll make her Christmas. And maybe you'll win one of her really cool prizes.  Help her bring her daughter home, and also let's show her God shows up.

 Her fundraiser is here, and more about why she and her husband decided to only do one fundraiser is here. I really admire her faith and obedience.

I don't know this woman in "real life" at all. But that's the awesome thing about the blogosphere, you come to care for a network of 'friends' you'd otherwise never have met.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Why I Cried This Morning

I don't know how many of you watch the show "How I Met Your Mother"... my little sister got me addicted to it. She's a character though; she's obsessive about having to watch things in the right order, so she's always a season behind because if she misses one episode she has to wait for the DVD.

I've got some emotional stuff to talk about that relates to last night's episode. So if you like the show and you've not seen it yet, this is your spoiler alert. And if you don't like the show, well, it's only sort of related so you'll probably still like my post (I hope).

In last night's show, which I watched this morning on my DVR, the character Robin found out she's infertile.

I burst into tears.

Not because I have some attachment to Robin having kids.  But because I remember what that feels like, sort of.  When I was 16 I was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).  PCOS is the leading cause of infertility.  Having it doesn't mean you're infertile, but if you're infertile, then statistically this is the most likely cause. 

My gynecologist told me then, at 16, that I'd probably be fertile until I was 25. It set a little biological clock ticking in my head.  I thought I'd be married by 22 at the latest... okay, maybe 23 if you were going to push it... and I'd have at least one kid by 25.

I'm 25 now. No husband. No kids.

I do have a future husband. And we've definitely talked about kids. A lot.

I think God's going to show up and I'm going to be mom. Hopefully biologically and by adoption. Sometimes I'm even more excited about adopting.

I was surprised, slightly, that I started crying. I mean, I'm really not stressing about getting pregnant. I believe God opens and closes the womb, so it's in His hands I trust Him. 

 But I also wasn't that surprised and I thought, "Wow, this is really deep in you.  Boy am I glad no one is around to see me cry. Maybe I should blog about this later."

Yeah, I'm a little weird. No one can see me cry, but if I talk about it's okay... nevermind, that wasn't the point. :)

But when I got online to blog, I was a pure blank. I'd basically forgotten about this. So I got on a message board I'd recently joined... only to find people talking about whether or not kids should be mentioned during a wedding (ie. "Kids are next!" or prayers for children) or if the focus should just be on marriage, and kids should come later...

This brought up talk of infertility, and the emotions of earlier this morning came rushing back.

I don't know when I'll be able to hear about infertility without my heart hurting, maybe I never will be able to do so.  I know God makes us go through a lot of hardships sheerly for the ability to have compassion on others, maybe that's what this is about.  I don't know. 

And if you've been reading this blog for a while, you know I went through a uterine cancer scare earlier this year, and that came rushing back too.

I'm not sure what the point of this post is, but because of the television show and then the message board, I definitely feel this was supposed to be the topic of today's post. I'm sorry it's disjointed.  I love you all.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Counting Blessings and Giving Thanks

Hope all you are found well today, and if not, take some time to count your blessings. Giving thanks with a grateful heart is a balm to the weary soul.  Also give thanks if you are well! Let us be grateful, and joyous, about the blessings lavished upon us from a generous God, instead of being covetous or impatient.

I'm so blessed by being able to go to church regularly again. Indeed, this makes me thankful for a second blessing; God has given me such a life that I do not take for granted this simple grace, but recognize it as the gift it is.  I am so thankful for the sweet family who gives me my weekly ride, and that they like to stay for Sunday school!

I am thankful for God Calling, which remains my favorite book. I'm reading it again, and God's speaking to me just as strongly as ever, and piercing my heart ever deeper, ever better.  Praise Him!

I'm blessed by Ryan.  Just always. Thank you, thank you, thank you God.

I'm blessed by having sweet pup dogs that snuggle and love me.  And who still love me when I am my scatterbrained self and forget to put their food out or oh, yeah, maybe you'd like to go outside sometimes.  Thank you God, for loving, patient dog friends.

Thank you God for our cats, who are gorgeous and entertaining, troublesome and snuggly, as good cats should be!

Thank you God for my family being able to get Dad's car fixed this week. It is such a comfort to the mind to know it's working well.

Thank you God for providing for me. Help me not be impatient just because my timeline is faster (and, I'm sure, worse, though it's hard to see) than yours.

Thank you God for harmless internet past times, and help me not to get too carried away with the virtual world.

Thank you for my friends, and definitely, definitely always and with great fervancy I thank you for facebook. I just love facebook. I don't care what Ryan thinks, facebook rules!

Thank you for interesting programming on television.

Thank you for divine intervention when I'm being horrible.

Thank you for warm blankets, a well insulated house, and heaters during this December. I know I am lavished with blessings and I both thank you and pray for those who are cold. Be with them and guide them to people or organizations that can help them, like my church (which is giving out blankets later this week.)

God, thank you for our affiliation with the Diocese of Haiti. Please bless the ministries of those who are helping there, and take our offerings and multiply them as you did the bread and fishes.

Thank you for faith, and peace, and joy, and hope, and grace, and love.

Amen.

Linked up with I'm Blessed and Thankful Tuesdays.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Past, Present, Future

Speaking of the past, this is from last winter. Pretty though, huh?
Sometimes I just tell myself: write something.  Right now I'm in the mix of thinking about the past and the future.

I spent a ton of time today looking at wedding things.  Ryan and I are getting married, so this is appropriate and fun (and he knew I was doing it and was cool with it), but I know I have to control myself. I can get obsessive.  I was engaged in the past, so I know the ins and outs of the wedding planning stuff anyway, and I know I can't get enough. A friend and I have discussed in the past being wedding planners because of our shared love of all things wedding... but nothing ever came of it or probably ever will.

Then I talked to one of my old roommates from college. I had four.  Each very different in her own way.  And this sent me to reminiscing.  I miss my college friends.  Except Lydia, who I see in day to day life fairly regularly, I've not really caught up with any of my college friends in the last month or so.  Not that I've lost touch with many, just everyone is busy and life is changing and so on and so forth. But nostalgia took over and I found myself aching to know what's going on in like at least a half dozen of my friends lives right now.  And I had to stop myself, once again.

It's easy for me to forget to live in the now. Right now today I am... pretty much doing nothing. I know I have to do some dishes.  Um... that's pretty much it. Tomorrow I have church and work but today I have no plans. So in my mind, I'm off in lala land.

When I was talking to my old roommate, catching up, it was fun because apparently I'd not told her I was moving to India. Most people know that, so I was happy to tell someone new.  And she said something about it taking a lot of faith and I assured her that God was holding us in His hands, and He'd orchestrated us meeting and was directing us to marry and even more...

And I rested in that for a moment.  It's so true. Some of it I can't even express to you all. But God's got Ryan and my plans worked out. They're His plans, and we are His.  And I think of this and I feel this wave of confidence come over me. God's got this covered. God's got it all worked out. And so I can step confidently on the path, because God's my travel agent and guide.

So exciting, God. So exciting.

My past was planned and molded by You to bring me to my present. And my present is shaped by You for my future. And for as long as I have left on this earth, and I don't know how long that will be but You do, will prepare me for eternity. And I love You, and this feeling of assurity and faith. I love loving You, and knowing You. It's so keenly beautiful it pierces the heart. You are my great Lord, and I am ransomed to You. I love You, and You ravish my heart. Thank You, Beloved, thank You for being You.  You are amazing and unequaled. You are my keen delight, and I worship You. I worship You. I worship You!!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Change

Change.

Life on earth is change.  Growth and renewal. Our skin cells fall off. Our blood cells on constant patrol.  A birthday goes by.  Fall gives way to winter. Kids you swore were 11 are suddenly graduating high school.  Change. Change. Change.

But then we enter these times of waiting and of rest.  And nothing big changes. Oh, you finish off the jar of peanut butter and you cut your hair. But day to day, it's basically the same old thing. Week to week, it's the same routine. Months go by and you realize "Wow, this is the same as it was last year. It's like I'm standing still. God, what is going on here?"

And then it changes.

Change for me started a few months ago.  God gave me a major, but private, revelation. And that meant that I spent my hours at home with a new focus and I found myself with a new drive.  I read different books, I asked different questions, I met new people.

But I was still at home at basically the same hours. 

Then I got a job.  And a ride to church, which I'd been trying to procure for months. A few family stresses get reduced, and my best friend gets a boyfriend for the very first time in her life.

All in like a week.

And I know more change is coming. And it's exciting... and hard to believe. When you've gotten used to the "same ole, same ole" it gets discombulating to experience change. There's a dreamlike quality. Not like change is a fairy wonderland, but like this must be temporary. After all, there's always been temporary reprieves, but nothing major.

Despite the incredulous quality, this also encourages faith. I do believe.  I believe in the changes God's been hinting at for a while to come to pass. I have faith in His plan, not my own. And I feel that excitement mixed with impatience in the pit of my stomach when I'm reading a good book and I wish the author would hurry up and tell me what I'm longing to know about that plot... and yet I don't, because I don't want the story to end.

God alone is unchanging.  I was marveling on that thought the other day when I was in prayer. It's hard to imagine that because nothing is unchanging here. But He is same, always. And I realized that is because He's perfect. 

And I smiled to realize as long as I'm seeking His Way, and moving towards Him, the change serves to perfect me. To slough off some of the evil like dead skin cells, to fill me with the bread of life, to slowly but increasingly move me towards true union with Him. And true union with Him means perfection. And perfection means unchanging, because any change from that would be a derigation, or it wouldn't be true perfection.

I can't grapse what that must look like, for everything I lay my eyes upon is in the midst of change, whether from entropy or growth.  That's why we've got to turn our gaze to Him, so that this change moves towards the unchanging, and our minds, hearts and spirits are aligned with His (none of our bodies are going to get out of this alive, but He's got new ones for us!) So changing can shift to unchanging, and temporal to eternal.

Wow, God. Wow.

Linking up to Brag on God Friday.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Book Review: Harvest of Grace by Cindy Woodsmall

Sylvia, an Amish woman, is utterly betrayed by her sister and her intended at the start of this book. Honestly, I had tears in my eyes for her.  After years of trying to deal to suppress her emotions at home, she leaves to help on the Blank farm, where the son, Aaron, has been for a while absent after going to rehab for alcoholism.

I really enjoyed this book.  I got drawn into the plot right away.  However, it is the third in a series. Since I'd not read the first two books, I got thrown for a loop when suddenly I was plunged into the middle of established stories with characters I'd not met previously. Woodsmall did provide a brief summary of the previous two books at the beginning, which I had to refer back to at least ten times before I was confident I understood exactly what was going on.

While that was a bit disconcerting, after I was caught up I felt all the storylines were gripping. I became just as curious to see how each one would climax by the end of the book as I had with the main storyline of Sylvia and Aaron.  All in all, Woodsmall is a talented author and I'd like to read more of her books.

I received the book free from the publishers in exchange for my unbiased review.

Thanksgivings and Blessings

This past week has been crazy... well really, this past week and a half. It'd be this past week if I'd actually written this on Monday like I normally do!  In one week I started a new job, celebrated my sister's birthday, Thanksgiving, met my best friends new (and first) boyfriend, worked Black Friday at a giant retail store, and was able to plug back into my church again (finally!)  Crazy busy week.


But lots of things for which to be grateful!

I'm thankful for facebook, which has allowed me to keep touch with people in the midst of insanity with ease.

I'm thankful for Lydia, who is loving and spontaneous.

I'm thankful she finally has someone to love and be loved by! (Well, you know, in a not-just-friends-or-family way. Haha)

I'm thankful for Ryan, who uplifts me even when I fail and helps me turn my mourning to praise.

I'm thankful for the bounty we have in America, and the ability we have to pray and give.

I'm thankful for family, and getting to be with family during the beginning of the holiday season.

I'm thankful for warmth as the days get colder and colder!

I'm thankful for God holding me together when I try to tear myself apart.

I'm thankful for the way so many things are interweaved and shows God's powerful and delicate hand in all aspects of life. Thank you, God, that we are never overlooked or forgotten, but instead you are nearer than our next breath, always.

I'm thankful Advent is upon us! Happy New Church Year!

And as always, I am thankful and blessed by you, dear readers. Yay!

Linking up with I'm Blessed and Thankful Tuesdays.
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