Wednesday, December 31, 2008

free Ben & Jerry's advertising

Happy New Year Everyone! I hope you each have a special way of saying good-bye to 2008 and welcoming 2009 :)

Friday, December 26, 2008

a few moments

There's something really invigorating after a hard, long day filled with more tears than seem necessary, to step outside into a windy night, feeling the gales blast around you, as if the wind will rip off your tears and sorrows and send them flying far far away into the night air, and the sky looms overhead, strangely still blue from the city lights, and small clouds are visible across the sky, and if you look closely, you actually see the clouds moving, quite fast probably, accompanied by the lone airplane moving in the opposite direction of these clouds, and it all seems so big, the wind, and the sky, and you seem so small in comparison, and there's an odd comfort in that, knowing that there is something so much bigger than you, and your sufferings are just a small piece of a much bigger, much grander story, and in light of eternity, this time is short, and realizing this maybe isn't enough to make you smile, but it's enough to make you pause, and this pause is good, and in this pause, you feel life.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

far as the curse is found

In my last post, I mentioned that I hadn't gotten sick at all this past semester. I probably spoke too soon, because now I'm sick today, some sort of cold with a minor fever. Great, on the Eve of Christmas Eve, which means that I'll likely be feeling somewhat icky during all my family's Christmas celebrations :( For some of these family members, especially on my dad's side, this is the only time of the year when I see them, so I pray that I have the energy to enjoy their company and keep up with conversations. I've been sucking down the Cold-eeze, and will probably head to bed early, as soon as the TCU bowl game is over. Could be worse. I could be jet lagged.

I've been enjoying a lot of Christmas music lately, and even when caroling around my neighborhood about a week ago. It's a neat experience, and if you haven't done it recently, I highly recommend gathering some friends and family, printing out song lyrics, wearing warm clothes (or t-shirts, if Texas is being fickle like it has been these past couple of weeks), and harassing your neighbors with your attempts at singing. They might even pity you enough to give you cookies or candy canes - our neighbors sure did.

I remember listening to "Joy to the World" back in June or July because it was on a Tom Conlon CD called "Eight Roads Home" that I had purchased after seeing him live. He performed this song, stating that it shouldn't just be a Christmas song, that we should sing it all year round, and I think he's right. As with a lot of Christmas songs, it sounds like "Joy" could be describing both the first incarnation of our Savior, and his return as king. Verses describing fields, floods, rocks, hills, and plains repeating the joy of men do remind me more of the second coming, as the rocks haven't yet shouted out their audible praises. I truly love the third verse, one that I hadn't heard very often until listening to the Tom Conlong version.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

This Christmas season, as I've heard more versions of this song, I keep getting the "far as the curse is found" part stuck in my head. Even when this verse isn't sung, I find myself hearing those words, "far as the curse is found," and I imagine every part of creation where the curse could be found, where sin and sorrow, death and destruction, are hiding in darkness. I visualize the blessings of Christ, His powerful victory of sin and death, salvation, redemption, flowing like a river over all the earth, into ever crack and crevice where the curse could be hiding and bringing light, goodness, holiness, justice, mercy, joy, forgiveness, freedom, beauty, and restoration. This is the hope that I celebrate this Christmas season.

Merry Christmas, brothers and sisters, dear friends :) I hope that this hope encourages you this season and is realized fully in your life. I love you and am thankful for you.

Monday, December 22, 2008

the semester I felt satisfied

I feel the need to summarize and reflect on my semester that ended about 11 days ago. Academically and life-wise (I could say socially, but it's more like, social-spiritual-emotional-physical), this has been my best semester so far at A&M. It's had its challenges, but overall, I've felt very content and satisfied and feel really blessed. It's also been comparatively stress-free. I feel like I've gotten a lot of great variety of counseling and assessment experience this semester through my program - counseling and assessing older adults at the nursing home in St. Joseph's, couples counseling at our clinic, learning how to administer and interpret intelligence and achievement assessments and write integrated assessment reports. I really feel like I'm growing and improving my skills as a practitioner, and this is the most important thing for me to learn from this program.

Unfortunately, I still feel like I'm floundering in the research area of our program. There have been a couple of research projects that were supposed to start or we did start, but completely fell through. I'm working on a manuscript to submit for publication with one of my professor's, but she's been too busy with other projects to meet with me about it lately, but we plan to pick that up in the spring. Part of me feels like I just need to suck it up and join someone else's research team and do something that I'm not as interested in, but part of me believes that I can find something to study that I'm truly passionate about. I have a couple of ideas of research projects that I might want to start in the spring, and a research grant that I'd like to apply for, and I'm sure now would be a good time to get started on some lit reviews and writing out preliminary ideas to present to my professors, but it's been more appealing to catch up with friends, bake Christmas goodies with my mom, plan my europe trip, and basically piddle around lazily and sleep a lot more than I'm used to doing.

But even if I'm kinda falling behind research-wise, in other academic areas, I'm doing quite well. As I've already mentioned, I feel like I'm really growing as a practitioner, and I've gained quite a lot of direct client hours this past year, that will be valuable when applying for internship in about two years. I have a great assistantship with a supportive boss, who's moving me into a better position starting in the summer, as a service coordinator for our clinic. There's a lot involved in this position and will definitely be more demanding than my current position, but the experience will be better, as I'll be doing things like phone intakes with potential clients to determine their therapy and assessment needs. Also, I have a good practicum lined up for the spring and another one potentially for the summer. Unfortunately, many members of my cohort have struggled to find practicum sites for the spring and a few of them left this semester still not sure where they would go, so I feel very blessed to have found a spot so relatively easily. It's not perfect, I'm not doing my best in every area, and there are certainly things that I'd like to change about this program, but overall, I'm very happy with where I'm at and thankful for the opportunities that I've had this past semester.

Life-wise, this has also been my best season living in BCS. I changed small groups within my church, and at first, I was against this, and even when I accepted the decision to move into another group, I mourned the loss of my previous group and was reluctant to hope that this new small group could be just as fulfilling. Thankfully, I was wrong. Within a month, this new group has blossomed completely, we share so openly with one another, we love to spend time with each other, and it's a group filled with love, concern, honesty, openness, hope, wisdom, and guidance. I've written about them before, but I'm been so blessed by my friendship with the leaders of this group, and I'm finding myself connecting more and more with the other group members. These are all wonderful people following Christ their Savior, people who are so full of life, so joyful and loving, but also so open with their brokenness and weakness and failures. These are exactly the sort of people that I want to surround myself with, and I look forward to being back with them, to receive their hugs and smiles and laughter and tears and prayers. I pray that our friendships will deepen and that I can become closer to them in the coming months.

Socially, I've made more friends this semester, but have also seen some friendships in BCS become a little stagnant. I live in a house full of girls who love to bake and watch Grey's Anatomy and play games and talk about their boyfriends and now fiance. These girls are delightful, but sometimes I feel a bit like an outsider, the girl who lives in the garage apartment on the other side of the house, the girl who's in graduate school, the girl who's 23 instead of 20, the girl who didn't work at Sky Ranch this past summer, the girl who is single and who isn't planning her wedding right now. But I know that below the surface, we have more in common than not, and I do desire to be closer to these women. In fact, I'm emailing them right now. Every little step counts, right? In addition to these roommates and new friends through my small group, I've gotten to know two first years in our program who are really wonderful young women and I connect so easily with. I'm excited about continuing this program with them, and getting to know them better in the years to come.

Emotionally, as I've said, I've been less stressed, and less distressed. Most of the time I'm pretty happy or at least content, and often really joyful and excited, though still sometimes frustrated, sad, angry, or jealous. This seems to be pretty typical, and much better considering how a few months ago I described for someone that I have having more lows than highs. I do still have lows, but they're not as frequent, and not as extreme. Whenever I do have some horrible emotional crisis, it doesn't last that long, and I feel more in control of my emotions.

Physically, I've been sleeping 7-8 hours a night, eating well, and riding my bike quite frequently. I have not gotten sick at all this past semester (knock on wood), which is a great improvement, as I got sick at least 5 times my first year at A&M, and I usually only get sick once a year. I attribute this to adjusting to the new climate finally and being less stressed. I'm convinced that emotional and physical health are quite intertwined.

Spiritually, well, I don't quite know the best way to measure spiritual well-being. I feel more free than I have been, and I know that fear and worry does not control me as much as it did. I think that I'm learning to trust God more, and to trust that His will truly is best, and that I want to follow that will, and that He is leading and guiding and providing for me and I have less fear knowing that He has conquered death and will not lead me to anything that He won't give me the strength to endure. I really have seen Christ work a great victory over many of my fears this past year, and I rejoice in that, and know that there are more fears and sins to be conquered. I have experienced the love of the church in many tangible ways, and I give and experience God's love when I participate in the loving community of my church. I feel free and renewed and I feel that my commitment to Christ is firm and secure, and I've been forgiving more and showing more grace to others, in ways that I see the Spirit working through me.

The other day, while with a dear friend here in DFW, I became very sad as I told her that "things just aren't the way that I'd like them to be." She started tearing up, sad that this was so for me, which made me tear up also. It's true, there are lots of things that I would like to change about my life in BCS, and my life here in DFW, but as I look back on this past semester, I see the good far outweighs the bad. I feel gratitude for God's faithfulness and all that he has given to me and even the things that he has withheld from me. I see that I'm being blessed and provided for, and I see that I'm growing and changing and becoming more the person that I'm meant to be.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

'tis the season for giving

I am proud of myself for having completed ALL of my Christmas gift shopping in a 24 hour period.

This was easily accomplished by the fact that I decided to only give physical, store-bought, traditionally wrapped Christmas gifts to my family members. Given my family make-up, this consists of my parents, step-parents, and stepsister and her son. I don't usually buy Christmas gifts for my stepsister or her three year old son, but she's going through some hard times these days, and he's my only nephew even though he's a step-nephew and we're not blood related, so I decided that I could buy some books for her to read to him :)

I'm very pleased with my decision to drastically cut back on my Christmas shopping. It was a hard decision, because I absolutely love giving and receiving gifts, but it wasn't such a hard decision because I don't really enjoy Christmas shopping. This seems like a contradiction, but it's not when you you think about. I love giving birthday gifts, having one special friend or family member to think about, brainstorming about what they would love, what would show that I cared, what gift would just delight and thrill her or him. It's a fun process, and I find it fulfilling to give a meaningful gift.

But multiply that one special someone by about 15, add the stress of finals into the mix, subtract funds because I'm a graduate student and most of my friends have real jobs and salaries 2/3/4 times mine, and add the crowds of the malls into the mix, and suddenly, gift-giving isn't so fun. When it comes time to buy Christmas gifts, I usually wait until after finals, and am then rushing to try to buy something for about 15 different people, and when there's that many people to consider, it's overwhelming to really spend time to decide on a meaningful gift for each one of them. I try my best, but usually wind up buying whatever strikes me for some of these folks. For the past few years, Christmas gift giving has become more stressful than it should be, and not the meaningful gift-giving that I would like it to be. I really, really like giving Christmas gifts to my friends, but it's the shopping for them that I don't enjoy.

An out presented itself when one of my high school friends (who I often shop for) suggested that instead of giving gifts to one another, we buy polo t-shirts for the poor students at her school where she teaches who's families cannot afford more than 2-3 uniforms for them. We all decided that this was a swell idea, and in addition to bringing food and drink and games to my annual New Year's Party, my friends are also bringing shirts to donate to her school. I think that this is a terrific idea that gives to others while relieves us of the stress of buying gifts for one another!

I still am trying to stay in the giving spirit toward those that I love. My mom and I have baked candies that I've given to some of my friends already, I'm spending time with them, enjoying their, helping them make Christmas gifts for their loved ones, helping them make dinner, trying on bridesmaids dresses with them, throwing them a wonderful New Year's Eve party. Even if I'm not giving them the traditional Christmas gift this year, I believe that I'm giving a lot of love, and a lot of myself to these dear ones. More than the funds, it's the time from not shopping that I feel most relieved to have back. My time is very loose these days, and that's rare for me, so I feel free to spend time with my family, my friends, and for myself, planning my upcoming trip to Europe, reading, and relaxing. This gift of time, for others and for myself, has been invaluable this Christmas season. I don't think that Christ ever intended us to stress ourselves out and empty our wallets to buy things that we really don't need when the word became flesh and made its dwelling among us. I'm sure I could be doing more this advent season to honor Christ and serve and love those around me, but, well, there's no but, there's no sense in wasting words to justify myself.

I've settled in quite well to the slower pace of this year's Christmas break. Wake up around 9 or 10. Pray and read my Bible. Check my email. Eat some breakfast. Maybe take a shower around noon, unless I somewhere to be earlier than that. Spend the afternoon with a friend, or my mom, planning my trip, or running errands like getting a hair cut or my car fixed. Come home. Eat dinner. Make candy, attend a church event with my mom, eat dinner with my dad, watch a movie, or simply relax together with my family. Stay up too late on the internet, and go to bed. It's a much slower pace than I'm used to, and I'd prefer to do more social things in the evenings, but I've decided to enjoy this time for what it is. It's rare that I actually have time to be bored, so I figure I should embrace it, boredom and loneliness and all, and it's really not as boring or lonely as I first expected. I do have some school-related things that I'm currently procrastinating, and next week is Christmas, the following week is New Year's, and then I'm flying across the ocean, so things will be hopping soon enough.

I've made most of my major purchases that I will be packing to prepare for the winter winds in Europe - the biggest one being a long, past my knees, black, poofy, down-filled, coat, and others being fake ugg boots, gloves, hat, thermal underwear, and a lovely black sweater dress with purple, black, and grey argyle tights that I plan to wear Christmas Eve, to the opera in Berlin, and probably back home seeing clients. I've got a few more random purchases at the the grocery to make, and I think the woman who is hosting me in Berlin wants some things from the US, but clothing-wise, I should be nice and warm. Texas weather has kindly dropped down to temperatures colder than Europe to help prepare me for the chill that I will soon face. It's not going to be an unbearable cold, but as I'll be spending a lot of my time wandering around outside, it's good to be bundled up and prepared. That is, as prepared as one can be for an adventure that is not yet written, an adventure that makes me feel excited and a little nervous but mostly thrilled to be a participant of.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

constant companion

As a musician, her guitar has become her companion. She tells me how when she's been lonely, she could play her guitar for hours. Song after song, her dear friend entertains and comforts her.

I am not a musician; I have never experienced the companionship of an instrument. Have any of you ever had an object, maybe not an instrument, perhaps a favorite book, or a hobby, or a favorite television show or film, that brings you companionship? Can you turn to that thing, when there is no one else present, and find comfort and fun and a fulfilling way to pass the time?

She's not an object, but I remember when I adopted my cat Gracie 15 months ago, and our first drive back to College Station together. She cried the entire way. I remember telling her, "It's you and me, Gracie, you and me." I remember thinking about how for many years to come, she will be my companion, traveling back and forth with me, moving to new homes and cities. I had no idea who I would live with the following year or where I would live in few years when I had finished my coursework or who else would ever make this drive back and forth between BCS and DFW with me, but I knew that she would be with me. I felt empowered, a 22 year old graduate student woman and her cat, ready to take on the world, ready to go wherever life takes us. Since that time, I've made many more friends in the BCS, young men have come in and out of my life, I considered a living situation that would not have allowed me to keep Gracie, but I've moved into a new home, and Gracie and I have clocked who knows how many thousands of miles back and forth together. She still cries the whole way, though not as loudly or as frequently, and sometimes I cry with her, but mostly I sing. I know she's just a pet, but it's comforting having a companion who will probably be with me for many more years, as I graduate, and move, and start my career, and perhaps marry and start a family. Maybe my oldest children will pet her when she's old and feeble, as I used to pet my parents' old cats when I was a child. Or maybe circumstances will prevent me from keeping her, but for now, she is a constant.

My True Constant is my God and Savior, and I find such peace is knowing that whatever changes happen, He is. I have to be honest though, that I rarely think of God as my companion. I've heard people speak of Christ as being their best friend, their husband, their lover, etc, but these images and metaphors have never really described my relationship with Him, and there was a time that I thought I was less of a Christian for not having Jesus as my boyfriend. He is my God, my Lord, my Savior, my Rescuer, my Comforter, my Confidant, my Shepherd, my Guide, my Wisdom, my Father, my Mother, my Love, my Strength, my Confidence, my Guardian, my Protector. He holds me in His hands, He guards me with His wings, He leads me with His light, and I feel confident in knowing that whatever happens, I want His will more than anything else I desire. But it's hard for me to call Him my friend. I want Him to be that too already, but I feel fortunate to have a lifetime and beyond to explore who He is and who He is not.

Friday, December 12, 2008

home?

I've been "home" for about twenty-four hours now. It's strange, yesterday I packed up to leave my home to drive home. After 16 months in Bryan/College Station, I am now happy to say that I consider it my home, but that doesn't negate Keller/Fort Worth from also being my home. I guess it's ok for me to have two homes. There's not a rule against that, right? Who says that you must only have one home?

Leaving home to come home is bittersweet. I'm relieved to be done with this past semester (as incredible as it was, maybe a reflection post is due), and I'm thrilled about spending three weeks in this home with family and friends and then two weeks in Europe, but part of me is really going to miss my other home during this time. This past Sunday at church, as we continued to celebrate advent, as my comgroup leaders announced a Christmas party they were hosting, as one of our pastors urged students staying over the holidays to find church members to spend the holidays with, "Don't be lonely, we are here for you, so you don't have to be lonely over the holidays," I found myself wishing that I could be with this community, this church that I am a covenant member of, to celebrate the advent and Christmas season. It was hard to realize that I will be missing 5 Sundays with them. Since I started attending this church, this is probably the longest that I've been away from it. I mentioned this to one of my fellow church members, and she replied, "You can always come back and visit."

I'm not seriously planning on going back to visit during the break, but this internal desire to be back demonstrated itself as stronger that I realized today. This morning, I realized that I forgot my allergy serum at my house, and honestly was looking forward to making a trip back down there to go get it. Of course, I'd go on a Sunday, go to church, spend the night, and drive back Monday morning or afternoon. Unfortunately, my plans were spoiled when my mom asked if there were any friends still in town that were headed up to DFW anytime soon. Naturally, I soon found a friend who picked up my serum today, and we're going to meet up sometime in the next few days.

There was also a part of my spirit that cringed when I heard my pastor say, "You don't have to be lonely because we're here." I wished that he had said this at the beginning of the summer break. This past summer was one of the loneliest seasons in my life, and I wish someone could have prevented that loneliness. My church was there for me, and I certainly spent time with church members, but I still spent a lot of time alone, and I often felt lonely and left out, and I cried many tears just out of pure loneliness, and wished that people would have reached out to me more. I don't know, what happened happened, and one of the church members even encouraged me to spend time alone, and to spend time alone with God, and to be ok with being alone, and I think I learned a lot from that, and maybe would have grown more if I'd just accepted the loneliness instead of trying to fight it kicking and screaming.

And now I'm crying unexpected tears as I write this, and trying to figure out why. Last summer was really hard, and I wish that it had been different, and I wish that I didn't ever have to feel lonely again, but damnit, it seems like loneliness is just part of life, and I hate that. And I hate hearing my pastor say, "You don't have to be lonely," when that feels like a lie, and it feels like something that shouldn't be promised. And now I'm in a different home, and the relationships I have here are more deeply-rooted and older and more mature, but that also makes them more emotionally intense, and perhaps more exhausting, as there are more expectations from old friendships than from new friendships. Maybe it's just been an emotional day on a different front, and the tears are just coming out when I gave them the first opportunity.

I'm excited about these three weeks at home, but also partly nervous. I'm just not sure what to expect, especially with all this time on my hands. Most of my friends who live here work full time now, so what am I going to with my time during the day before Christmas? I brought home at least a dozen books that I may or may not read, books on therapy, books on Christianity, and fiction books that could be really enriching. I have a little bit of schoolwork to accomplish. I will have lots of time with my mom, shopping, and cooking, and seeing movies. I will possibly blog more. I will finalize my plans for my Europe trip. I will upload pictures. I will prepare for my New Year's Party I'm hosting. When I think about it, I suppose that's more than enough to do when I'm not doing scheduled things with friends and family. I suppose I should just soak it up and enjoy it too, because once it's over, it's going to be a while before I get a break like this again.

This isn't at all the post that I thought I would write when I first started writing it, but that's ok. I like it when the words just start flowing and what I'm writing just takes over, as if my fingers are just conduits for whatever should come through me.

I'm home again, but I'm away from home.

Friday, December 05, 2008

I'm not done with my traveling, so let's run, let's run, let's run

Final week of the semester. Two blog posts in one day. I'm not avoiding doing anything. No, never, of course not!

My classmate Daniel stopped by my office, not to collect a protocol, not to turn in a test kit, but just to say good-bye and wish me a good break! It really touched me that he thought of me in the midst of all of the preparations he must be making to leave town today. He informed me that him and his girlfriend are taking a motorcycle trip down to Panama and back in the next 6 weeks! On their way back, they are going to climb the highest peak in every Central American country - incredible! He gave me the address to his blog where he will be updating about his adventures throughout the trip. I'm thrilled for him and Lauren, and excited to see his updates on my google reader! Even though you probably don't know him, I encourage you to read along and see how this crazy adventure turns out with them:

http://ridewithdaniel.blogspot.com/

As you know, travel is one of my great passions, one of the things that excites me the most in life! Why else would I plan a trip to Europe on a whim if it wasn't something that really ignites my being? I realized today how I'm managed to surround myself with people who also share this passion and desire to travel the world or even to live in another country. Even looking at the blogs that I follow, there's Emily who's living in Bangladesh with her sister's family right now, Ben who is a missionary in Berlin, Anton who has traveled around the world to many incredible places over the past two years and created video blogs to document his journeys, Cara who I'm pretty sure started her blog while she was living in Barcelona, Britt, who traveled with me around Europe summer 2007, and Amy who worked on a musical production in Germany a few months ago. And truly, all of you write of the places you travel within the US, of running marathons in San Francisco, of celebrating New Year's Eve in New York city, of adventures in Alaska, and each of you dream of travel, and write about where you want to be, and I share those dreams.

I feel blessed to have so many dear friends who also love travel, who I can share with in the excitement of their journeys, who can dream with me, who have traveled alongside me in the past, who will travel with me in the future, and who encourage me to go and do this thing that brings me to life and thrills me to my core! Brothers and sisters, let's run!

calcium sulfate

Every once in a while, this campus absolutely surprises, delights, and enchants me.

This morning, all over the sidewalks were chalk-written messages of encouragement and hope for students taking finals:

"You're prepared!"
"You'll do great!"
"Merry Christmas!"
"It's almost over!"
"If you're worried, say a prayer."
"God bless."

I wonder if these are all over campus. I wonder how many people were involved, and when they did this. I like to imagine a bunch of black-clad, chalk wielding vigilante Christians sneaking around all over campus at 3 am this morning to spread messages of hope and cheer. Or they probably just did it in normal clothes, and people saw them do it, but I like to imagine.

At any rate, it made me smile, and completely forget for a few minutes the scratches down my the side of my car that my roommate accidentally inflicted upon my vehicle at 5am this morning. I'm not mad, in fact, it's really just annoying that we'll have to take care of it. I'll probably wait until I go home before I get it fixed. Pathetically, the worst part right now is that in the rush and excitement of trying to figure out what had happened, I completely forgot my backpack, which contained protocols I was going to turn in, and even worse - my coffee. So instead of my homemade Starbucks brew, I'm drinking break room coffee mixed with hot cocoa to make it palatable.

But it's all ok, because there are good people out there who use chalk for spreading joy :)

It's almost over.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Happy Birthday Cara

My friend Cara turns 23 today. In honor of this momentous occasion, I am dedicating this blog post to the story of our friendship together, complete with photographic evidence!

Cara and I met summer of 2004 in Longview through my cousin Laura, following my freshmen year at TCU and prior to her arrival at TCU. She was wearing cool green shoes that I had almost bought from Old Navy, so right off the bat, this friendship was off to a solid start.

This is us within our first year of friendship, February 2005, at the celebration of our dear friend Britt's birthday. As you can clearly see, during this time I was actually a ferocious unicorn and Cara was a triceratops. I was cruel enough to inform her that she was extinct, but she informed me that I actually never existed. Oh snap!

May 2005, at my birthday party. By this point, Cara had decided that unicorns are obviously cooler, and shed her dinosaur ways to join me as a mythical beast. Nonexistence is pretty hip, yo.

December 2005, Cara's birthday party. We decided to both become human, but this decision was fraught with tension and stress, which led to our mutual abuse of one another.

April 2006. After months of counseling and a hard night in jail, we gave up our violent tendencies and decided to pursue a kind, loving friendship held together by mutual admiration of one another's fashion sense.

May 2006, Mortar Board inductions. Making the decision to pursue nonviolence also led to academic success, as we were inducted into several of the same academic honor societies during our time at TCU. In actuality, it was my jealousy and admiration of Cara's academic success that inspired me to be a high achiever in college, so as not to be left behind by my formerly triceratopian friend.

September 2007. During this season of our friendship, Cara had developed a life-threatening disease that required her torso to remain hydrated at all times. Fortunately, the sounds of Regina Spektor and the Decemerberists at ACL proved to be the cure that she needed.

March 2007, no longer disease ridden, Cara and I were able to enjoy concerts together without the strange hydration apparatus. Freedom from this device allowed us opportunities such as partying with the young men of Phosphorescent. Unfortunately, Cara rejected my advances and our relationship has remained mostly platonic.

May 2007, we both got drunken tattoos together to celebrate Cara's graduation from TCU. Honestly, it seemed like a really good idea at the time, and now I have a constant reminder of our friendship.

July 2008, we gaze out into the great unknown of our lives together. What will the next months and years hold for us? Only time will tell.

Happy 23rd Birthday Sweet Baby Angle!!!!

Monday, December 01, 2008

expectancy

She called to tell me that she was about 20 minutes away. My dear friend, whom I hadn't seen in nearly four months, was now only 20 minutes away from my door, my home, my arms. My parents and I set the table and filled the glasses with ice. I munched on some okra. By the time the dinner preparations were done, I checked my cell phone and saw that about 10 minutes had passed since she had called. She was 10 minutes away. I grabbed a few more pieces of okra. My excitement grew, as I knew that in just a few more minutes, she would arrive. I wished I could snap my fingers and let those minutes turn into seconds, so that she could be here - NOW! I didn't want to wait any longer, I just wanted her here. My longing for her intensified, as she was so close to my home. I recognized this feeling as the feeling of expectancy, and as the minutes passed, the feeling intensified. Any minute now, that doorbell would ring. I paced a little, trying to find something else to do in the kitchen. I looked at my cell phone again. Ate some more okra. I raced to the door when I thought I heard a car door slam, but no one was visible outside.

I finally gave up my pacing, grabbed a few more okra pieces, and headed back upstairs to my computer. Within minutes, the doorbell rang, and I heard my stepdad call out, "Someone's here!" I raced downstairs to find that my mom had just opened the door, and my sweet angle of a friend had just entered my home! I ran forward, in between her and my mom, and grabbed her for a hug. As I held her tight, I heard my mom laughingly say, "Ok, you can have the first hug!" That was indeed my intention, and maybe it was slightly possessive, but I was so excited to hug her, to be with her again, that I didn't want anyone else to hug her first.

As I waited for her to arrive and recognized this feeling of expectancy, I wondered if I could compare this experience to Advent, to waiting for the Messiah, to waiting for the coming of the kingdom and the time when Christ will reign and all will be set right. Could it be, that in these moments of waiting for a friend, there was a pale, earthly reminder of something holy and sacred?

Oh, and that okra was half gone by the time she arrived :/

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

another post about community disguised in another post about Europe

This past Sunday, I bought a spinach stuffed pizza and glanced around the food court to find a place to sit. It's rare for me to eat by myself in public, but in the midst of coat-shopping prior to meeting some friends at Eye Masters, I had no choice but to eat alone. In the midst of families and teenagers, I finally settled at an empty table next to a middle-aged white couple. I realized that not only did I feel awkward eating by myself, but I also felt a little uneasy. I regret to admit that as diverse as my classmates are, despite having taken two diversity/multicultural classes, and in spite of the dozens of minority individuals and families that I have volunteered with and counseled, there is still a white girl from the 'burbs inside of me who sometimes feels uncomfortable eating by herself in the food court of a diverse mall :/ I subconsciously elected to sit by the white middle-aged couple, and as I forked into my stuffed pizza, it became apparent why I had chosen to sit by them. This couple strongly reminded me of my dad and stepmom. The husband was even wearing a law enforcement polo that resembles one of my dad's!

Despite the familiar comfort of this couple nearby, I was still feeling a little uneasy when I realized that in 6 weeks, I'll be doing exactly this in another country. Bam. I suddenly felt very silly. Why was I so worried about eating alone? In 6 weeks, I'm going to hug my mom good-bye and hop on a plane by myself to go to Europe by myself. Granted, I'll meet a friend over there, but still, I'm going by myself. Gosh, at the very least, I can be fine eating at a food court in my own hometown by myself! It's strange how I can feel confident doing something in a different country that makes me feel awkward and nervous in my own backyard. But the truth is, the few times that I have traveled by myself, I feel confident. I feel at peace, I feel capable, I feel at ease, I feel courageous. This experience is going to be good for the little girl from the 'burbs who gets nervous at the food court. BTW, I'm now definitely going to Budapest thanks to the magic of Easyjet.

Later that day, as I was driving to church, I started praying a prayer that I sometimes offer when I'm headed to be with my church community. I prayed that I would show love to those at my church. I prayed that I would be able to give to them. When I go to church or comgroup, I often feel such a need for others that praying this way helps remind me that the need is mutual, that we should be interdependent, that I want to love this family and bless them and give to them, and not just take from them. And I often find that when I want something from another, I often leave the interaction somewhat dissatisfied, but when I want to give something to another, I generally walk away more fulfilled. As I was praying this, I realized how I'd spent the past few days primarily talking about Europe with others, trying to decide whether to go, and then sharing my excitement about the decision. I felt somewhat guilty for some of these one-sided conversations, but soon felt gratitude. I feel gratitude that I have so many close friends and caring adults in my life who support me, who encourage me to pursue my dreams, who listen to me, who speak wisdom into my life, who give love. I feel gratitude for having relationships with people who not only cup their hands to receive my tears, but who also open their arms to receive my excitement, joy, and triumphs! Sharing my excitement about Europe has reminded me of this. Though a few have responded with some type of jealously, most have responded with pure happiness for this opportunity. And I want to be this for others, I want to rejoice and celebrate with my friends and family members when they share their joyful experiences with me! I want to give the same gift to those I love that I have received this past week and many times before.

Happy Thanksgiving dear ones :) You are each a wonderful, precious blessing to me, and I receive so much from you. I care deeply about you and hope to give to you and share with you in the ways that you give to me. Thank you.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

I did it!

I'm going to Europe.

January 4th-16th.

Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, and maybe Budapest.

Thanksgiving, turn in final reports and papers, Merry Christmas family and friends, Happy New Years, try on some bridesmaids dresses, buy a nice winter coat on sale after-Christmas, and hit the skies!

I've been wanting to go back to Europe since I went last summer, and the opportunity arose. Good deals on plane tickets, unexpected funds, a friend in one of the cities to show me around, and 5 weeks off for Christmas break this year. Yes, it's spontaneous, but that's one of the best parts! I spend a mere two days thinking, praying, and talking about it before I made the plunge to by the plane ticket. Honestly, I knew that whatever reservations I may have had, I would regret not doing this. I'm a young single adult, not tied down by a career or family, so I can do things like this! I don't have to just sit around and dream and plan, I can act on my dreams! And I did :)

It's going to be miserably cold, so I'll need to buy a really good coat, and bring lots of sweaters and scarves and things to layer with, but oh well. I went to New York in January once and managed quite well, the only time I remember feeling cold was standing in line to buy Broadway tickets, though it was probably sunnier there than it will be in Europe, but still. I'll bundle up and keep movie and warm myself in museums and coffee shops and restaurants when necessary.

If you've been to any of those cities, please comment, please email me, give me suggestions of what to see, where to stay, what not to see, where not to stay, etc. 6 weeks in the midst of finals and holidays isn't a ton of time to plan, but I know that planning for this trip in the upcoming weeks will be a wonderful distraction :)

Right now, I'm alternating between being so excited, that I can't stop talking about it, to just sorta being in a state of disbelief. Am I really doing this? Yes, yes, YES!!! Eventually I'll come down from this high enough to focus on other things and be able to hold non-Europe related conversations.

Europe is being young, being mature, being independent, being free, being cultured, being open, being awe-struck, adventurous, courageous, active, spontaneous, and alive. I am alive.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

weighing me down

I'd like to be Europe right now. Or the mountains. Or somewhere warm. Warm European mountains, maybe? They probably don't exist, at least not right now. Maybe Chile or Argentina has warm mountains right now, hmm.

It's that time of the semester again when I'm stressed. Stressed about finishing assignments, stressed about family, stressed about money, stressed about not having enough direction, stressed about not be able get into all my spring classes yet, stressed about not having enough sleep. Basically, I'm just letting it all get to me, once I get stressed about one thing, then everything piles on top of me. I need to say no to this pattern. I need to get a massage that I still have a gift certificate for.

Thanksgiving and Christmas stress me out right now. I'm looking forward to having a nice long break in just another few weeks, I guess. Advent begins soon. This will be good, I need to remember what I'm hoping for, and the hope and salvation and kingdom that already exists now and is coming.

I'm going to go eat some sushi. And study the WAIS-IV. And read some words of hope. And sleep for a solid 8 hours.

Europe still sounds really nice.

Monday, November 17, 2008

word vomit AKA 3 posts condensed into one

Self-compassion. It's the idea of realistically loving oneself. Not just self-esteem which could turn arrogant by only focusing on the good, but being humble enough to recognize one's faults and mistakes and forgive oneself, not punishing oneself, but caring for the self. Not self-indulgence, but self-care. I see so many ways that when I'm stressed or lonely or sad I become self-indulgent, eating ice cream, watching television, drinking lots of coffee, drinking alcohol, staying up late on the internet, many of those deliberate behaviors because, "I deserve this." When really, the most caring thing to do for myself would be to go to bed, eat healthier, exercise, and engage in activities that truly refresh my body and spirit, like prayer, journaling, reading. But often I choose indulgence because my flesh craves it, and these things seem to promise satisfaction, but they are empty and only occupy me for moments, and leave me still wanting. But where is the line between treating myself and enjoying life's simple pleasures and acting self-indulgently? Maybe it's the motivation. If I'm filling my body and mind with something because I think it will help me to escape sadness, stress, or loneliness, then it's probably self-indulgent. If I'm doing something because it's loving and caring toward myself, because it truly feeds my soul and refreshes me, then it's probably self-care. God, grant me discernment. My friend recently said that often how we treat others is how we treat ourselves. I want these two things to be congruent. I don't want to treat myself better than I treat others or to treat others better than I treat myself. I want to forgive others and self, and I want to feed and water and care for others and self.

An agent of change. Or maybe a conduit of change, a vessel through which real and transformation can occur. As a counselor, I want to be this. I'm great at being empathic, at providing a warm, safe place for others to share their pains and thoughts and feelings and feel understood and not judged. This is a great quality about me, and that's the first step. But I want to move from that, I don't want to be indulgent of my clients and those around me either, I want to help move them toward change. Which I don't really effectively know how to do. When I do see change in others, it seems random, and motivated by outside forces. I don't know. And it's frustrating too when so many people, myself included, don't really want change, but just want to feel better. I say that I want to change certain things about myself, my life, and my relationships, but often, the familiar is comfortable. Even if it's stressful and sad and disconnected and unsatisfying, changing it would be icky and messy and maybe this little pit will get a little more warm if I lay here a bit longer, maybe not, but the climb up is strenuous, why don't you make the climb first and throw down a rope and pull me up? I do feel myself growing and changing, but I also feel myself resisting the growth. What am I resisting? What am I avoiding? Responsibility? Accountability? Awareness that yes, I really am a dirty, ugly sinner?

Who reads this blog? When I started this over two years ago, I had this plan to stay anonymous. I'll be crackers and cheese instead of my name, and I'll post cryptic poetry that no one will ever know what events and what people in my life inspired the poems. But the anonymity quickly faded, and my posts became more personal, more real, more genuine. And I made friends through this blog, Martha, Ben, Anton, I'm so glad that this blog brought you into my life. I am thankful for you. And it's allowed me to keep up with old friends, Cara, Britt, and Laura especially. I love you deeply. And there are other friends, and I enjoy you too. But it's still stayed a tight, somewhat exclusive circle. I still don't use my name. I don't have a link on facebook. Until about a month ago, if you're reading this, it's because you have a blog too, and we're somehow connected in that way. Recently, my friend from high school, Emily, started a blog to chronicle her year in Bangladesh, and she started reading my blog. Since then, a couple of other dear, close friends who don't have blogs have discovered my blog and started reading. I never was deliberately hiding this from you, it just seemed so separate, this blog life, different from the life that I share with you. But it's the same in a way, so it seems natural and good and right that you are reading this now and that this blog circle is opening up more.

But I somewhat like having this blog stay somewhat exclusive. It gives me a freedom to write in honest, real ways that I might not if I knew that anybody who knew me on facebook would find this blog. But I do wonder . . . many of my church members, including pastors, have blogs. Occasionally I browse them, and recently found that a couple of neat girls who I really like also have blogs, so I added them to my google reader. But I'm scared to comment on their blogs, to open the floodgates for my brothers and sisters from church to read this blog. Somewhat, I'm afraid of what they may think when they read these words. Which is silly, because with this church family, for the first time I've really embraced openness and honesty and light and rejected darkness and secrecy and fakery (it's a real word, even if google doesn't recognize it). This church knows me more intimately than any church ever has, and I rejoice in that. When someone asks, "How have you been?" I answer completely honestly. If it's been crappy, I tell them that, and if I say, "It's been really good." or "I've been doing well, lately," oh believe me, I mean it, and let's rejoice and celebrate that together. But that kind of intimacy is still kind of frightening, and it's tempting to hide a little now and then or to worry that I'm sharing too much.

But mainly, I'm afraid to expand my blog community to include my church community because I compare myself to their blogselves. So many of their blog posts focus on spiritual topics that it seems like they write about godly things all the time, so they must be thinking about God more than I am. And I write about roach spray and weddings and weird dates and cultural identity and applications and movies and bars and music. Things that seem so worldly, so not-glorifying to God. I'm afraid that if you compare our blogs, I won't look like a good Jesus-follower. I somewhat take pride in being a good Jesus-follower, because if I wasn't, I'd be a bad friend, a bad daughter, a bad sister, a bad girlfriend, not worthy to give advice and counsel, not worthy to be a wife. Gosh, these have got to be lies, but they feel so true sometimes. That's probably my biggest fear, that if you read this blog, my final mask would be torn down, and you would see me as someone who isn't completely devoted to God, at least, not in the way that you seem to be. As I write this, I know this is a lie, that none of us are worthy, all of us stray, but it's easy to think that I stray further than you do, that you are closer to the Father than me, that you love Him more or better. And I know that God is in these writings about weddings and dates and bars and applications, because God is big and complex and I shouldn't limit his involvement in only things that traditionally seem godly.

As I write out these honest fears, I feel close to making the leap to include you, my church, in this blog life of mine. And I feel like I can do that without changing the content of my blog, while still writing what I want to write. So, if I do take that step and you are reading this, know that I love you, you are welcome here, you are welcome into my life.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Disturbing thoughts sometimes come to me while cooking

What if you mistook roach spray for no stick cooking spray?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Three Generations

My grandmother married
In a stylish suit
A full-grown woman
Already modern, ahead of her time

My mother married
In long white lace
A teenage girl
Rushing forward, unknown to herself

I will marry
In ivory or white
A lady in between
Confident, but still much to learn

The White Devil, Part Deux

I've really been investigating this the past few days - what cultures eat deviled eggs? White? Latino? Black? Asian-American? Southern? Northern?

I've started asking around, and here are the participants of my sample thus far, and their response to the question, "Have you had deviled eggs?" or "Do Latinos eat deviled eggs?"

  • Mexican-American Young Adult Female from Florida, "Yea, they're holiday food."
  • Black Young Adult Female from New Work, "Yes, definitely."
  • Latino Middle-Aged Male, "No, Latinos don't eat deviled eggs."
  • Girl with Latino dad and White mom, "I eat deviled eggs whenever I want to!"
  • Asian-American Young Adult Female, "Yes, definitely, doesn't everyone? . . . What, Edgar and Bea are actually kinda white - how have they not tried deviled eggs? They're like standard party food."
  • Every single white person I've asked, "Yes, of course!"

Not a great sample, but so far, 3 out of 4 Latinos don't eat deviled eggs. I need to find more black people to ask. Cara, get on that for me, and I'll edit this post. So far, I haven't found any geographic distinctions. I think that people from up north eat them too, unless they're Latino.

Also, last night at my church small group we were making a potluck dinner. The wife of the leadership team was making a taco salad, "or the white version of it," she qualified. When she started pouring Catalina dressing on the salad, several of my small group members had never heard of the dressing. I told her, "I use Catalina dressing whenever I eat Mexican food too!" Touching my shoulder she explained, "I think it's because you're white." Everyone laughed, and said stuff like, "Yeah, in case you didn't notice, you're white!" :: shakes head :: Silly white kids.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The White Devil

As I've mentioned almost a year ago, white culture is so pervasive that it's almost invisible. It really wasn't until this blog was created that white people as a whole began recognizing the unique facets of white culture. I definitely take my white culture for granted, and I assume that the foods that I eat are "American" foods, not "white American foods." Well friends, that assumption is sometimes proved wrong. Last fall, my cohort and I used to have many potlucks, and onetime, someone white made meatloaf, and it was the first time that two of my Latino classmates had ever tried meatloaf! I really couldn't believe this, but it was great fun giving them a cultural experience :)

This evening, I had another opportunity to share my white culture with another couple of my latino classmates when I offered them deviled eggs. Here follows a verbatim transcript of our conversation:

Me: Bea, do you want a deviled egg?
Bea: No thanks.
Me: Edgar, do you want a deviled egg?
Edgar: I don't know, what is it?
Me: Deviled eggs? You've never had deviled eggs?
Bea: I haven't either. What's in them?
Me: Really? You guys have never had them? Maybe it's a cultural thing.
Edgar: Probably a white person thing.
Me: Well, they're hard boiled eggs, and you mix the yolks with mayonnaise and mustard.
Bea: Sure, I'll try one. (passed her an egg)
Edgar: Ok, I'll try one too. (passed him an egg)
Bea: These are really good! Do they take a long time to make?
Me: Not really, once the water is boiled, you boil them for 10-15 minutes, then you scoop out the yolks, mix it mostly with mayonnaise and a little bit of mustard, and you can add onion and other things if you want. These have pepper sprinkled on top, but paprika is better, but I didn't have any.
Bea: Cool, thanks for sharing.
Me: No problem. I guess it's a white southern thing. My grandma used to make them all the time.
Bea: Yeah, remember, I hadn't tried meatloaf until a year ago?
Me: Yeah. Well, I'm happy to share my whiteness with you guys :)

I never would have guessed that deviled eggs would be exotic cultural food to my Latino friends. They just seem so every day for me, not literally, but I've had them so often, that I take it for granted and assume that everyone eats them. You guys eat deviled eggs, right? I like being white, and I like my deviled eggs.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

some matters of life and death

This past Wednesday as we were making the rounds in our geropsychology practicum, we discovered that one of my classmate's clients is probably dying, and her son was in her room, making arrangements for her end of life care. Our class escaped into a small, uninhabited dining room to discuss end of life issues. Our most politically astute classmate informed us that in Oregon, a proposition to legalized physician-assisted suicide was voted into law. We discussed how this could become an option for more older adults, and how this sort of thing already happens under the table. Basically, in hospice care, people are sometimes given morphine "to be made comfortable," but in addition to comfort from pain, the morphine dosages actually quicken death. No one can call it assisted suicide because that's illegal, but physiologically, that's basically what it is.

I feel pretty strongly that any kind of suicide for any kind of reason done by any means is still a suicide, and therefore wrong. I believe that it is up to our Creator to decide when we live and when we die, but that line isn't so firmly drawn in many cases. Working with these older adults and their families and considering the failing health of my own grandparents, I feel like I need to be aware of and sensitive to these controversial end of life issues. And who's to say that there won't come a time when I have a loved one, terminally ill, no recovery in sight, who might consider measures to end their life on their own terms?

Every resident in the nursing home either signs a DNR - Do Not Resuscitate order or a Full Code order. Full Code means that in the event that their life ends, their heart stops beating, they stop breathing, all measures will be taken to restore their life. DNR means that these measures will not be taken. Looking at their medical charts, many of the residents I see have a DNR. As a healthy twenty-three year old, the idea of having a DNR sounds so foreign to me. Why would I not want the doctors to do everything possible to continue my life? But for individuals in their 80's, 90's, and beyond, many of them feel that when it is their time to go, they will go, rather than fight death to continue to live in an unhealthy physical state. For them, DNR is the natural choice, and Full Code seems unnatural. In way, having the choice between DNR and Full Code does mean that someone is making a choice about their end of life and the terms under which they want to live or die. It might be a stretch to compare this decision to physician assisted suicide as one is a deliberate act to end a life and another is a deliberate choice to not save a life, but both are choices that people make about their life and their death.

Last night, I joined my roommates in watching this past week's episode of Grey's Anatomy, a show that I had only seen one episode of previously. (If you haven't watched this and don't won't spoilers, skip the next two paragraphs) One of the stories of this episode featured an elderly couple, the wife of whom was having a dangerous cancer surgery from which she might not survive. McDreamy (no idea what Patrick Dempsey's character's real name is) tried to emphasize how life-threatening this particular surgery was, and seemed concerned when the couple dismissively replied, "Yes, yes, we know what we're getting into with every surgery." When the wife signed the DNR, McDreamy asked them if this was the choice that they wanted to make. They said that they did, that if it was her time to go, that it was her time and they didn't want to interfere. Then, the couple lovingly kissed one another and said, "Good-bye love," explaining to the doctors, "We do this every surgery. We say good-bye, and then when she wakes up, we get to say hello again."

The wife did not recover from surgery. When her heart stopped, her husband began pumping her chest to let it continue beating, and started crying out, "Help, someone, please, help my wife!" McDreamy and another doctor explained the DNR, and explained her wishes that that she not be resuscitated. He continue pushing on her chest, crying, "Don't leave me, please don't leave me!" As I watched this scene, tears filled my eyes. I couldn't believe that Grey's Anatomy episode was making me cry. The man continued pumping his wife's chest and eventually realized that there was nothing they could do. She would die. "I just don't want to be the one to let her heart stop." One of the doctors took over for him, but it soon became apparent that she didn't want to stop pumping this woman's heart either. Ever the hero (eyes roll), McDreamy took over, and slowed stopped pumping, allowing the woman to die as her husband sat next to her. It took a lot of effort to keep myself from bawling.

Then today, I sat on the grass under the tree in my backyard and first read some scripture, from the prophets Zechariah, Isaiah, and Micah, all about the coming Messiah, the coming kingdom, how the king will reign, how Israel will be restored, how war and idolatry and jealously will cease, how there will be joy and rejoicing. These scriptures fill me with such hope, and sitting in the shade, I looked forward to the day when those things are all fulfilled.

Then, I read a chapter from a book I've been reading called Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott. The chapter was titled At Death's Window, and it's about her helping a friend with an assisted suicide and begins with the shocking first line, "The man I killed did not want to die, but he no longer felt he had much of a choice," and follows with a touching and delicate tale of a man in terminal stages of cancer who decides to end his life. I read several pages with mere curious fascination, until I read the line about how on the night he died, he asked his wife and friends to play his favorite CDs. Tears immediately filled my eyes, and I struggled to see clearly enough to read the last couple of pages describing the man's death. I finished, closed the book, sat still on the grass, gazing out at the leaves and trees, letting myself cry, pray, feel, and think. I tried to make sense of my strong reaction to this chapter and the Grey's Anatomy episode last night, and honestly, my emotional state is probably related as much to the time of the month for me (sorry guys) as it is to any other factor. The best thing that I could think of that made the most sense as I sat in the shade is that life is fragile, I am small, and God is big, but mostly that life is so incredibly fragile.

Monday, November 03, 2008

neighbor just isn't the right word for who you are to me

Can I tell you how much joy it gives me whenever I drive by your home and see you and your children out in the yard? I experience such delight seeing you guys sitting on the lawn, putting up that tire swing, loading in and out of your minivan, or even just seeing your kitchen light on, knowing that someone is still up, making sandwiches or reading or talking. I wish you could know that every time I see you guys outside or even see the light on, I want nothing more than to stop and join you, to swing on that swing, to help you unload groceries, to sit on the grass and leaves with you. But most of the time, I keep driving, to the clinic or nursing home, where a client or two or three awaits me, but every part of me longs to be with you instead.

Maybe I won't tell you that, but maybe I can thank you for letting me into your lives, into your homes, into your family. For letting me into your home both invited and uninvited, for the leadership, food, drink, violin performances, girl scout nut mix, hugs, tears, laughter, prayers, wisdom, and listening. For asking the right questions, for letting me wrestle and figure things out, for understanding my feelings, for advising me, for correcting me, for encouraging me, for being my allies, for accepting me, for being excited for me, for loving me.

In the few months that I've been a part of your life, we've learned so much about one another. You've seen me cry three or four times, and I've seen you cry once, and I've heard both of you curse. What a blessing is this kind of intimacy, this intertwining of lives. Maybe I will tell you that, the next I stand at your sink washing your dishes or at your counter grating your cheese. Maybe I will stop and join you on the tire swing next time.

My future family will thank you for all of this some day.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

a lot like love

This evening, as I was the final person to leave the clinic, I paused while walking out to my car, lingering on the sidewalk, staring out at the empty parking lot before me and the field beyond it painted by perfectly circular pools of street light, all because for the first time this season, I felt it.

It feels a lot like love, a lot like being in love. Or at least, that's the closest feeling I can compare it too. It happens in the autumn and winter, when I step outside and feel the cool, crisp air, I feel it, and I feel like I'm in love. It's not precipitated by any particular thought, it's just a feeling that overtakes me, triggered by this special type of weather. If you've felt it, then you know exactly what I'm talking about. If you don't know what I'm talking about, then I wish that I had the words to truly describe it.

So for a few moments, I stood alone, and almost didn't recognize it at first as I gazed at the field and the lights. I tried to think, what is this feeling? Do I wish that someone was here? Then I realized, this was it, this feeling that I experience every year. It caught me by surprise this time. Upon this recognition, I smiled, allowing myself to feel it, to experience it, to let it settle into my body. Then, the lights in the park turned off. I entered my car, started the engine, and was welcomed by "Say it To Me Now" from the Once soundtrack. So I drove home, and screamed along with Glen like I always do when this song comes on.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

buh?

So, the interview that was supposed to be this afternoon, is actually next week. Huh? I really thought that we scheduled it for today. I'm disappointed because I was all riled up and ready to go out there. I'm even wearing my lucky underwear. Oh well, I can do laundry, now I get a whole 'nother week to be nervous, and at least I found out before I made the 2 hour round trip. Now I get to go to stats class this afternoon, wheeeee! So, please pray for my interview next week, and the other application, and other sites where I may apply.

In other news, I have made two important decisions about my future:
  1. I will not cut my hair more than a couple of inches at a time before August 2009. Reason being: I will be in three weddings next year, and I want to be immortalized as long-haired and beautiful in other people's wedding albums.
  2. I will return to Europe before May 2011. Reason being: Eurail passes become more expensive once I turn 26, so I should take advantage of these deals while I'm young and adventurous and carefree (hah!).
It feels good to take a firm stance on these decisions, but I wish I had more direction and guidance in other areas of my life to make definite plans or take a firm stand. You know, politics, research ideas, dissertations topic, just little stuff like that.

Monday, October 20, 2008

applying and interview yet again . . . does this ever end?

There are few tasks that I dislike more that writing "personal statements" or "statements of interest."

"What is your interest in doing a practicum at our site? Include sufficient detail so we may come to know you better and your understanding of how a practicum at our site fits into your future goals. Please limit your response to two pages."

Buh . . . I want to
be a better counselor. I need the direct client contact hours to complete this program. Your site is really close, and I'd save money on gas. Most of the other sites aren't taking practicum students until the fall, so you made the short list. Derr . . . crap, that's not two pages yet! Can't I just send you my vita, and we can talk about it at the interview? Better yet, skip the interview, let's just go have coffee and you tell me about what I'll be doing at your practicum site. I'll buy the coffee, k

Yeah, writing these kinds of things really make me want to bang my head against the keyboard and hope something intelligible comes out. Hopefully it's not too bloody. After spending a year at our program's community based counseling center, I'm being set loose to spread my wings and go find my own field practicum site for the spring. Unfortunately, many of the sites that I'd like to apply at are not taking on new students until the fall. So, I'm applying at two sites, and hoping and praying that one of them will take me on as a practicum student. There's the one that I'm completing this application for, and they'll be interviewing people next weekend. Honestly, it's my second choice right now, but given the limited options, I'd gladly take it!

I do have an interview with my first choice practicum site tomorrow afternoon. It was a fairly easy process, I just called the director, she invited me to email my vita and scheduled an interview. I'm pretty excited about the opportunity to interview, but I'm one of three students interviewing for one spot that will be open in the spring. This makes me nervous.

So, brothers and sisters, I'd greatly appreciate your prayers for me during this interview tomorrow, and especially over this whole process. I know that there's a site for me in the spring, and I hope that it's my first choice, but I also trust that God has a plan for me and I've often witnessed that the things that actually play out in my life are often better opportunities that I even imagined.

Our church is currently teaching a series called "Hope and Mission," which is a sufficiently vague enough title for me to avoid attempting to summarize the teaching. It's hard to summarize, because it's touching on so many valuable things, the nature of the gospel, salvation, what we're hoping for, and what our mission in the world should be in light of that. Something that I'm getting from this teaching is remembering that Christ has conquered death, and with that, the only that thing poses any real threat to me (death) has been eliminated, and I am free. There is nothing left to fear, for even death has no lasting sting. Last night, as I heard this message again and sang songs praising God for his salvation and power, I felt a confidence that I should have no fear in this application situation, or in any of the situations that currently frighten me. I can face these things because of who is beside me. I felt a sense of peace, and realized that the worst thing that could happen to me (short of losing a loved one or bodily harm) could happen and I would be ok. This "worst thing" is me somehow losing this program, failing out, being kicked out, etc. That could happen, I could lose this opportunity completely, and I feel peace that even that would be ok because God is here and He loves me.

So, I turn in this application today, I interview tomorrow, and hopefully will have another interview soon. I could flop at these interviews, and not get these placements that I desire, and that would be ok. This spring will hold many new opportunities for me and I embrace them, whatever they may be.

BTW, I say things like "practicum site" and expect everyone to know what I mean. If you're not in the field or not very familiar with my program, practicums are where we get practical, clinical experience assessing and treating clients. Practicums can be completed at a variety of sites, at university counseling centers, in hospitals, in private clinics, wherever you find someone to supervise you and work to do.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Things that are utterly refreshing that occurred in the past 24ish hours

Since yesterday morning, these are things that have served to refresh me, light me up, warm my heart, and make my soul feel light and free:

  • Riding my bike to campus the first morning the cold front hit, with no jacket or sweater. So invigorating :)
  • Finding an experienced student to help me with a qualitative research project. Qualitative research (as opposed to quantitative) being something that even my adviser doesn't really know how to do.
  • Scoring an interview with the field practicum site that I most want to go to in the spring! I'm one of 3 interviewing for one spot though :/
  • Finding out that my friend from church's third child will be a boy, probably named Noah :)
  • Being introduced to new, beautiful things. (Thanks Ben!)
  • Skipping stats class with 4 other students from my cohort to have an impromptu meeting/gripe session with my adviser, who really listens to our concerns and promises to answer our questions.
  • Enjoying an old friend from TCU rock out with his band with some new friends
  • Learning that the Frogs beat #8 ranked BYU 32-7!!!!!!
  • Washing my hair for the first time after a haircut. No tangles!
  • Riding my bike to campus while a light drizzle tickled my face. It felt like carbonation bubbles from a freshly opened soda tickling my nose, which I love :)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

cilantro and strawberries

Last night, I got off late from the clinic, past 10pm. I was craving fried chicken. This seemed to be an easy craving to satisfy, as there is a KFC, Church's Chicken, Long John Silvers, and Wendy's all in a little cluster right next to our clinic. Unfortunately, KFC already had their lights off, and I drove up to Church's and Long John's and discovered that they were closed also. Wendy's was probably still open, but I wanted real fried chicken still on the bone, and Wendy's doesn't sell that. Plus they just went up on the Frosty prices, and that ain't kosher.

Instead, I just drove home and decided that maybe I just wasn't supposed to have my fried chicken tonight after all. When I got home, I decided to fix myself a salad. From fried chicken, to a salad? But I was determined that it would be a good one. I started by boiling a few eggs, except that I dropped the first two eggs into the pot and they cracked, so I cooked them on the stove with some milk, cilantro, and havarti cheese and put that aside for breakfast the next day. I tore up some Romaine lettuce leaves that I had washed a couple of days prior. Since I already had the cilantro out for the eggs, I added that to my bowl of Romaine. I finally managed to boil an egg without breaking it first, so I added the egg slices. I pulled out my feta and discovered blue mold, tossed it in the trash, and added the havarti cheese instead. Searching my fridge for something else to add, I discovered strawberries I had brought to my friend's UT-OU game watching party, so I sliced up the biggest one and added it. Had I remembered that I had already added cilantro, I would not have added the strawberries, but at this point, I was just adding ingredients, and the cilantro was camouflaged against the lettuce. I picked a sweet poppyseed dressing to go with the strawberries.

Then, I sat down to eat my romaine-cilantro-egg-havarti-strawberry-poppyseed dressing salad. It was really tasty, in an odd way. The pleasantly pungent taste of cilantro was a sharp contrast to the sweet tartness of the strawberry, but the more I ate, the more I liked these strange taste combinations. Sweet and savory flavors entered my mouth, and managed to stay distinct from one another, and rarely have I had a mouthful like that. I finished the salad with taste buds and stomach satisfied.

In some ways I feel like my life, and especially my friendships, are like that quirky, eclectic little salad. I stay busy, and the things I do are connected to one another, but sometimes it all feels so randomly throw together, but in an unexpectedly tasty, glorious fashion. I work, I go to class, I study, I meet with professors, I see my clinic clients, I see my older clients in the nursing home, I test kids, I test adults, I score tests, I go to church, I go to comgroup, I hang out with church friends, I hang out with classmates, I hang out with my roommates, I go home, I go to weddings, I go to concerts, I do laundry, I ride my bike, I listen to music, I read books, I blog, I read webcomics, I drink coffee, I drink wine, I drink shakers, I eat ice cream, I eat salads, I play with my cat, and on and on and on. I feel a sort of rhythm in all of this, kind of a routine, but when I really look at it, there's nothing routine or ordinary about the things that I do.

There's even less of a routine to the people that I hang out with. I rarely know who I'll be spending the weekend with until it's upon me. This past weekend, I ate Puerto Rican food and drank wine at a dinner party some 3rd year School Psychology students hosted, ate a muffin and drank coffee with some women from my church comgroup, ate homemade ribs and drank beer at a UT-OU party hosted by a 1st year in my program and her family, went a wedding of a friend from church and ate with mothers from my previous comgroup and danced with my church friends, most of them single girls my age, but also my worship pastor and his wife danced with us, then went with my roommate and her boyfriend to the home of someone in their comgroup to play Settlers of Catan. Cilantro. Boiled egg. Havarti. Strawberry.

I know many people, and I have many friends or acquaintances, but I don't really have a set, standard group of friends, and not many close, deep friendships. One night, while eating Chipotle with some of the biker crowd from my church (ie one girl and one guy have dreadlocks), most of whom I'd never hung out with before and several of them I'd just met that night, my friend Nathan turned to me, "You're such a gangster." "What?" "I mean, I've been at this church for 5 years, and you know just about as many people as I do." "Oh, ok, cool. I really like meeting people!" And in that way, I guess I am gangster. I am known by many and can easily move among social groups and do fine with almost any group of people.

But I really crave that fried chicken. Those close Christian female friendships that look like my friendships with my TCU friends. That great boyfriend who maybe someday possibly could become a husband. Good, savory, deep, satisfying relationships. Instead, I've been given some different ingredients. A close classmate who, aside from our religious differences, is remarkably similar to me. Other classmates who like to have fun and study and work on projects together. Their friends from back home, their families, their boyfriends. Students from other program in our department. Church friends, young married couples and singles all my age, younger college girls, grad students, families, women slightly older than me who I see as mentors. Roommates who are full of life and energy and in spite of the fact that I still feel a bit like an outsider around them, I benefit tremendously from their presence, and I hope that they benefit from mine. My roommate's boyfriends. Close friends from back home who I still talk to on the phone and visit when I go home. Friends living in other states that I talk to. Friends living in other countries that I blog, chat, and email with. Coffee shop employees. My family.

I still crave the chicken, but more and more, I'm finding satisfaction with the ingredients that I have been given. Maybe not as much by themselves, but tossed together, these relationships are surprisingly delicious and fulfilling. Even cilantro and strawberries.

an open letter to the men of my world, past, present, and future

I am not a part of your future wife tryouts. I am not someone that needs to impress you. I am not someone who needs to prove that I am worthy of you. I am not someone to be toyed around with either. I am not here to ease your loneliness until your ex girlfriend decides to take you back. I am not here to cure your boredom. I am not here to boost your self-esteem and make you feel happy about your life again. Yes, I am good at all of those, because I have a lot to offer - emotionally, socially, and spiritually - but if that is all that you are looking for, then look elsewhere.

I am a woman. I am already impressive. I already have a lot to offer. I am already worthy. No, I'm not perfect, far from it, but I am a daughter of the king, a bride of Christ, and that makes me worthy.

Proverbs 18:22 says, "He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the LORD."

Don't waste your time deciding if I'm worthy of you, because I am.

These may seem like bold statements, and they are, but I write this mainly for self-healing. I've been hurt in relationships with men, and when I'm hurt, I feel like I'm not worthy. Rejection to me means that I'm not desirable, but I know this to be a lie, but sometimes it feels so true. Once a friend told me that I'm great at getting guys, to which I lamented, "I'm the girl that every guy wants, but no guy wants to keep!" This is a horrible self-view, the girl that attracts the guys, but then the guys soon grow bored with her and toss her away. This view does nothing to help me, it only sets me up to try harder to please the next guy that comes around, hoping that this time he'll decide to keep me. Instead, I need to live in the confidence that I am who I am in Christ, and to see myself as already worthy and free from trying to impress others.

Friday, October 10, 2008

truth and freedom

thoughts processing
deep breaths
pounding heart
a desire to know
to be crumpled by the truth
or to have it set me free

but a still, small part of me
something not of flesh and bone
whispering that this is unwise
whispering that i need freedom
more than i need truth

i want, want, want the truth
but oh, i crave the freedom

follow the freedom
grace will come
and the freedom will set you true

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

give me your eyes, I need the sunshine

October, where did you come from? I like you and all, but please don't sneak up on me like that again, ok? Cool.

This semester is starting to wear on me a little. I'm busy and I'm doing things that I enjoy and I'm not stressed, but I guess since this weekend, I've had this sense that I'm doing and doing but there's still so much that I'm not doing. I stay busy, but I don't really see where it's going or what I'm truly accomplishing. Like a hamster in that darn wheel, I'm spinning, and spinning. Though not really. I feel like I'm at the optimal level of busyness for me. I'm doing enough that I know I'm productive, but I'm not doing so much that I'm stressed or never rested or never having fun. I rest and relax and have fun and connect with others and do things for myself and that is essential. And this is good for my spirit. But then I remember all of the things that I haven't accomplished yet, and I wonder, what will it take to accomplish those things? I'm afraid that I'll have to speed things up, and start doing more than I want to and then become stressed and sleep-deprived. It's weird, this time it's not a matter of laziness or procrastination that these things haven't been done yet, but just that I don't want to push myself beyond this current level that feels healthy.

It's grad school, right, we should all be stressed and constantly busy and worried about deadlines, right? No, I don't want that life. There are weeks and months that are stressful, but I refuse to take that on all the time. I refuse to believe that I must sacrifice my wellbeing to get another degree. I don't think that it's come to that, but I do fear that it will.

Hrmm, on that note, I'm going to lay in bed and read Anne Lamott and let tomorrow worry about itself.

Monday, October 06, 2008

sometimes, the simplest words are the best

"Your life is just so intense. You're so strong. I'm glad I'm friends with you."

She said. And that was enough.

Friday, October 03, 2008

If one part suffers, every part suffers with it

It was meant to be a night of celebration. We were to don our wedding gowns, bridesmaids dresses, veils, thrift store finds, whatever. We were to take pictures at a beautiful fountain, then part for dinner with our comgroups, then return together at our church to eat wedding cake, look at wedding albums, and watch a chick flick. It was meant to be a night of laughter and joy.

Today, a beautiful, talented, precious woman named Stephanie found out that the baby inside of her no longer has a heartbeat. She is in the hospital now and the doctors will induce labor and tomorrow she will deliver and hold a baby girl who will not breath the air of this earth.

There was still some laughter and joy as a few women from our comgroup gathered for dinner. At her house, Kim showed us her wedding gown, which she had opened for the first time since her wedding, along with her bridal portrait and her veil. I bought Girl Scout nut mix from her daughter. But as I rode with her to the lovely restaurant in downtown Bryan, I sensed an underlying sadness so I asked her how she was doing with all of this. She's heartbroken for Stephanie, but also grateful for her three children. She told me of the complications that she had during her final pregnancy, and how thankful she is that her youngest son is well, how thankful she is that her family had no real problems creating children, when so many other families from our church have experienced inferitility, miscarriages, and now, a stillborn delivery. "This is worse than a miscarriage," she said, "I don't know what to compare it to. The only thing worse that I can imagine is losing a child that you already know."

Dinner was delightful, and fell on a special evening in downtown Bryan where all of the shops and art galleries stay open later and have life music and special events. We walked around after dinner, stopping by our friend's art crowded art gallery to look at paintings and jewelry and pottery and to listen to jazz music. A few blocks down Kim's husband and his best friend were playing music outside of an old hotel, so we stopped to listen to them. Earlier that evening, we had passed her husband and his friend setting up, and I had asked if she wanted us to go by and see them later. "No, it's ok," she replied, "This is really more his friend's gig, and I've seen them many many times." But towards the end of dinner, I noticed Kim growing more silent. By the time we left he gallery, she just simply stated, "I need to go see Adam play." When we arrived outside of the hotel, I watched her greet her husband with a kiss while his hands were still touching his drums. They spoke briefly, and then Kim turned to catch up with another friend who was watching the show. In many ways, this husband and wife sometimes seems so strong and independent, both of them able to receive strength and confidence from the Lord on their own, but they're still interdependent in a beautiful way, and I feel like tonight I witnessed her receive comfort and strength from her husband in a simple way, in a kiss, a few words, eye contact, and his presence.

We still gathered at our church after dinner. There was still wedding cake, three tiers of chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla. But instead of wedding albums and romantic comedies, there was prayer and scripture. When we arrived, the women were already in a circle, tears in every eye, reading scriptures of comfort and love and hurt and trust. I was soon informed that all of the scripture being read was being recorded, and this recording would be played for Stephanie tomorrow. I heard someone read the scripture, Isaiah 43:2, that I likely would have read for her . . .

"When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze."

The scripture continued to flow, until a woman spoke a blessing to Stephanie and her husband and stated that she would dedicate this song to them. A long silence followed, eventually broken by her voice singing out clear and free a beautiful song about coming to the river, letting the waters wash over her, dancing in the river. After we concluded the recording, we prayed for the other pregnant women who were among us, prayed protection for their babies, and prayed against fear and guilt. Eventually, we moved into a more casual time, and did eat the wedding cake, as we wrote on blue cards words for Stephanie to be built into a scrapbook.

I spoke with Ari, a woman from my old comgroup, a dear, wise, wonderful woman who has been with me through some of my toughest times this past year. Ari is pregnant with her third child, and experienced two miscarriages before her first child was born. I told Ari that I'd been praying for her pregnancy and praying for her baby since I found out that she was pregnant. She told me how she scared her husband today after hearing about Stephanie's baby when she told him, "I haven't felt the baby kick today." She was frightened, so she drank some cold water, laid down on her bed, and prayed for her baby's kick. Eventually, she felt her baby kick inside, but somehow this wasn't enough, so she pleaded with God to feel her baby kick one more time. Eventually, she felt the second kick, and she knew that God was answering her prayers, and giving her these signs to show her that her baby was ok, that she could trust him, and not be afraid.

It was a strange, beautiful, tragic blessing of a night as the women of this body, my family, mourned together. But our grief, deep as it may feel, was not without hope, not without hope of the resurrection, of the Christ who has taken away the sting of death, of the hope that God has not forsaken Stephanie, that she will be protected and healed and restored, and the hope that one day Stephanie and Mia will be reconciled together again.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?

It seems somewhat lame to just recount the events of my weekend, but I had an unexpectedly great weekend. Seriously, I was expecting it to be lame, and kinda boring, but this was one of my most enjoyable weekends spent in BCS in recent memory.

Friday, I worked, then went to this web conference with the project directors behind the revision of the WAIS-IV. This was probably the nerdiest thing I've done yet in graduate school, but I really enjoyed hearing how this test was developed! I saw some clients at a nursing home, then went to a church where some evacuees from a nursing home are living right now. Friday evening, I ate some chili, met some folks from Taiwan, and sang Bohemian Rhapsody karaoke at an event for international students at my friend's church, then watched the presidential debate with said friend, my roommates, and their boyfriends. I must be the man in that relationship, because only me and the guys actually stayed awake through the entire debate.

Saturday, I slept in a little, saw some more clients at the nursing home, and administered two of the three WAIS-IVs that I gave over the course of the weekend. These were administered to teenagers, so in between testing, we talked about Metallica, Pillar, and colleges. I haven't been around many teenagers lately, so I guess it was fun to learn that teenagers talk about . . . music. And school. Hmm, how far have I really come in 6 years? After I got done with that, I headed to the hippest bar/venue in BCS called Revolution with Neeta and her boyfriend. We drank sangria and watched a folky kinda chic with a guitar, cowboy boots, and a sleeve of tattoos on one arm sing Neutral Milk Hotel songs and songs I think she wrote about leaving Georgia to go find her baby in Texas with the sun setting in her rear view mirror. Unless that's another Neutral Milk Hotel song.

Sunday I administered my final WAIS-IV, ate some corndogs, went to church, and did some laundry. The weekend was productive, but also randomly fun. Even when I was "working" (administering tests, seeing clients), I still had a fun time. I feel especially blessed to receive things that I wasn't expecting. I often get down about things that I don't have, and wishing that God would bless me with other things and often feeling like he's holding back on giving me what I need. But the truth is, he's blessing me with what he's blessing me with, and he's not giving me what he's not. I want to live fully in the present and enjoy the life that I have, instead of wishing that my life looked different or that I was living in the future. I want to be fully engaged on not miss out on what is now and what opportunities are already present for me.