Monday, December 22, 2008

coffee mugs and winter scarves

Sitting in Barnes and Noble. Just finished writing a short story to give to my dad for Christmas. Enjoying the coziness of my favorite bookstore and place to hang out. Watching people milling about, doing their last-minute Christmas shopping. Letting my mind wander wherever it chooses, like a stream trickling down its path, slowly making its way to the river. Breathing deeply, smelling a mixture of coffee, cream, and chocolate. Content. Thankful for my life, this journey I'm on. Learning so many new things. Appreciating new friends and deepening old friendships. Falling more in love with Christ as I realize my need for Him. Understanding our purpose here more clearly. Overwhelmed with His love. Overflowing with thankfulness and desire to serve. Wanting to cling to Him. Let Him completely take control of my life. Glorify Himself through me.

My prayer....

Give me one pure and holy passion
Give me one magnificent obsession
Give me one glorious ambition for my life
To know and follow hard after you

To know and follow hard after You
To grow as your disciple in Your truth
This world is empty pale and poor
Compared to knowing You, my Lord
Lead me on, and I will run after You
Lead me on, and I will run after You

-Mark Altrogge

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

the unexpected in forgotten purses

Last night, I went to Barnes and Noble to hear author, Joan Holub, read and talk about some of her books. It was so cool sitting on the floor, surrounded by mostly toddlers and preschoolers and hear her explain the process of how books get published. One of her books, BooWho? was one of her first books, and she showed us the "Dummy," which was the product she sent to a publisher. She illustrated this book as well, and all of it was just on plain white paper with the story typed and the pictures were not in color. Then, she showed us what the book looks like after a publisher prints it; none of the pages are folded- they look like posters, and Joan can look through and make changes needed. Then, the final editing process is sent back to her, and the book is folded into pages, but there's no official cover. Here is her last chance to look and check for mistakes. Then, it becomes a book! I was surprised to find out she's written around 120 books for children! Her range spreads from humorous fiction to nonfiction books, including informational texts about famous painters and also answers to questions like, why do dogs bark?

While Joan was still reading, I quietly left and headed back home. But, as I was driving home, I realized I couldn't find my purse. After looking through my car (which was filled with library books, CDs, games, yeah, i need to clean it out) I realized I left it at Barnes and Noble. So, I returned to the children's section and what luck! Joan was still there talking with one of the store clerks. I got to talking with both of them about books and how Joan gets her inspiration. She told me that she used to just illustrate books and then she started writing and illustrating. Now, she mostly just writes. I was really interested hearing her thoughts about KnuckleHeads, the book that made me want to come to her reading in the first place. This book is so cool, it's a take-off of different fairy tales, but each character is a hand or a foot! Handerella was so funny because the whole story has all these funny puns about hands, and I was definitely laughing in the store while reading it! Joan told me that she would look up, "hand," in the dictionary and see all the different words associated with it. She got many of her puns from that dictionary. And, the best part is she agreed to come to my classroom when I start teaching again! How amazing to let my students interact with an author who grew up as they did and learn how to become an author or illustrator if they want to!

She was so nice and friendly, and for once, was really thankful I forget things! Or else, I never would have had this chance to get to know the store clerk, Linda, a creative, original lady who was so genuine and interesting. And, of course, a chance to meet Joan Holub!

Friday, October 17, 2008

I Bless the Rains Down in Africa...

The rain falling on the roof accompanied by Andy McKee's guitar singing, "Africa" took my mind by the hand to a memory of my mom and me raking acorns off our lawn. If you don't get the acorns off the ground, they'll destroy the grass. We had freshly seeded patches of grass that desperately needed the rain to nourish the soil instead of saturate the acorns. Then, when the rain comes, the droplets dive deep and quench the thirsty roots. I think my favorite time is to get up early after a huge rain. The ground is soaked, and there's usually a fog hovering in the air. I inhale the sweet smell of grass mixed with fresh water. Everything has been cleansed and given a spirit of newness. Thinking about my own life, I feel like I have am going through this cleansing. Recently I feel like I have been hiding from God, afraid of presenting myself with all this dirt on me. Ashamed, I have run and tried to avoid him, creating this wall around me. But, like the rain making its way deep into the earth, God's truth and persistent love has broken into my wall. I want so much to be washed clean, ready to learn and run after him. Be taught and transformed so I can become more like Him. Learning so much about starting over, starting fresh. Wanting to stop believing lies and eventually return to what I have been called to do. So thankful for grace. For the sweet morning of newness.

Hallelujah, grace like rain falls down on me
Hallelujah all my stains are washed away, washed away
-"Grace Like Rain" Todd Agnew

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

nothing like waking up to the sound of...airplanes?

One great thing about living in Cary again is being closer to friends and family. Amber came up this past weekend and we went camping at Umstead Park. I think part of the reason it was such a great trip was because it was so random. I love how Amb and I just decided last minute to camp and got there, not even knowing if the ranger would let us in. Such an adventure! Driving around in the dark, laughing at the craziness of everything and hoping we could somehow find a site...making smores and building a huge blaze in the middle of Raleigh. I don't know, it was just really fun. Being out in nature, completely relaxed, not caring about common necessities. Anyway, the next morning, we decide to go bike riding, and we bike on a trail around Umstead a while and came out at Reedy Creek Greenway Trails. We looked on a map and saw that the trail could take you all the way to State Campus. So, we just looked at each other, smiled and said, Hey! Let's Go! It ended up being this 20 mile long bike ride that was so crazy because it was so spontaneous. But, such fun! Being out in the sun, but right there in the city of Raleigh, having a blast.

I started thinking about maybe that's what life is like sometimes. I mean, you'd expect to camp and bike in a place like Boone, or Asheville. The atmosphere is much more catering there...but then here we are in just a common city, and we're experiencing life, on this random, crazy adventure none of us had planned. This reminds me our relationship with Christ. It's really easy to think about meeting Him in places like Camp Cedar Cliff, where the atmosphere almost shouts that you will draw near to Him. But what about the common areas? What about the times where life is just "life." Are we seeking after Him? Expecting Him to mold us, take us on this journey where He will teach us incredible things? Are we ready to just go?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

walking in an artist's shoes

Today after church, I decided to head into downtown Matthews to try out Dilworth's, a local coffee shop that my friend told me about. When I got there, I realized that they were closed but near the town hall library, there were a bunch of white tents with people milling around. Curious, I decided to wander over to see what kind of festival was going on. Apparantly, there was an art show this weekend. Local craftsmen brought their work to sell, and I couldn't wait to walk around and see what people had created. It was beautiful, amazing. One tent held the most beautiful watercolor paintings of different flowers. One painting in particular was an old shoe housing a bouquet of purple flowers (i think they were violets?). Her husband, the agent, told me how different friends would bring over flowers for her to paint. Eventually, the artist joined her husband and talked about how hard it was to sell art during such an economic low. After talking with them for a bit, I strolled over to a tent with such incredible pottery. The potter explained different techniques of making sure the clay was mature and the perfect consistency. He explained that he even used guitar strings to cut into his pottery to carve different designs. His dyes even included cobalt, this beautiful blue. I think I liked talking with him the most because when he discussed pottery, his whole body shifted. His hands became animated, his back straightened, and he looked me directly in the eye. I could tell how passionate he was about creating something with his hands. My mind drifted to the time I visited an Ecuadorian family that made pottery for a living. The father let me try to throw a pot on the wheel, and it came out terrible. I couldn't seem to center the clay right, and the pot was this squished blob of clay that kept spinning around and around. I remember having such an appreciation, an admiration, for people who can create pottery. Or, people who can create an image just out of a paintbrush or piece of charcol. To be able to see a block of wood and know exactly which pieces to carve out so it transforms into an animal. I love art. But even more, I love seeing the artist create something. It's like gazing into a window of their soul. It was a lovely day.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

twirling to the djembe

it's near midnight. people packed in so close, you can hardly move. twirling in a friend's arms. it's like everything has gone still. except for drum beat. its pulsing rhythm connects with your pounding heart and feet. colors fly around you. you want to laugh. cry. hoping this moment lasts forever. your heart sings. overflowing with the beauty of music and dancing and friendship. the beauty of being alive. how else can i describe contra? last night was amazing. anam cara, the band, was incredible. they had a swing texture mixed with celtic and bluegrass tunes. the trumpet sang along with guitars, fiddles, percussion...i danced with some of my best friends and we were just loving life together. times like this makes me so appreciative of the gift of living. and also thankful for such wonderful friends. after contra, robert, sarah, and i drove by lowes to pick up some ice cream and met up with erin, matt ward, matt foster, and al. we ate ice cream around our kitchen table and just talked. laughed. i love how my friends and i are like family, we are so comfortable and can just support each other and laugh and just "be." so blessed. wanting to learn and trust Christ. knowing He has a plan and wanting to fall more in love with Him and be molded by Him. serving. finding my place. pouring out love.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

oh how he loves us....

I cannot describe how much Christ has spoken to me today. Through other people, through just Himself. When I was honest, broken, weeping before Him. And He loves us. Promising to be with us in everything. Every situation that seems overwhelming. And just to love on His children. He loves us. And He is our comfort. Our protection. Our significance. He knows everything about us, He goes before us. But this life is not about us. It's about growing and as we know more about Him, He reveals Himself. Shows His glory, so others can see who He is. Breaking us to fill us with Him, so that we get a better picture of this God that is a mystery. Overflowing with thankfullness. Brokeness. Humility. But enormous encouragement. Thankful. Peaceful. Lifting my eyes to Christ.

Amazing lyrics...

"Oh how he loves us"
-John Mark Mcmillan
He is jealous for me,
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,
Bending beneath his wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden,
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realise just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.

And oh, how He loves us all,
Oh how He loves us,
How He loves us all

Yeah, He loves us,
Oh how He loves us,
Oh how He loves us,
Oh how He loves.
Yeah, He loves us,
Oh how He loves us,
Oh how He loves us
Oh how He loves.

We are His portion and He is our prize,
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes,
If grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.

So Heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss,
And the heart turns violently inside of my chest
I don’t have time to maintain this regrets,
When I think about, the way…

He loves us,
Oh how He loves us,
Oh how He loves us,
Oh how He loves.
Yeah, He loves us,
Oh how He loves us,
Oh how He loves us,
Oh how He loves.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

and i want to be where you are....

How can I describe today...what words can I write that explains everything that I have learned. God has spoken so much truth in my life that I don't even know how to start. The song, "Came to my Rescue" by Hillsong United comes to mind, so I'll put those lyrics on here as a reflection of what I've been learning. But as far as adding to the list of places to be, Renovatus is by far one of them. I stopped numbering the places because it was too hard to figure out which number I was on :-) Anyway, this church is incredible. Real. I think I've found a church home. And the truth that was spoken there directly corrolates what God has been teaching me in Boone and now here. I can't say enough just about how important it is to take off our masks and be real, unashamed in front of Christ. And in turn, we be vulnerable with each other too. Supporting each other and keeping those masks off is vital for true community. As Johnathan, the pastor at Renovatus, said as well as others who spoke during the service, "There is no darkness in light." Revealing our struggles with Christ and others is beautiful. Then redemption and true freedom can take place.

Falling on my knees in worship
Giving all I am to seek your face
Lord, all I am is yours
My whole life I place in your hands
God of mercy, humbled I bow down
In your presence, at your throne

I called, you answered
And you came to my rescue
And I want to be where you are...

In my life
Be lifted high
In our world
Be lifted high
In our love
Be lifted high

Saturday, August 16, 2008

iced tea anyone? let's watch the moon

wow. so today has been full of twists and turns and surprises. but such cool stories. such god-moments- orchestrated to show me that he is in control. and is so funny sometimes! i just laugh. and shake my head and think, wow. thank you so much. okay: continuing the top places to go list:

6. at my cardtable
Yeah, such a normal spot. well, maybe not so normal for regular people who actually have non-movable tables. but, this sweet piece of furniture gets put away when the murphy bed takes over at night. anyway. off subject. well, i had to call dell customer service because my computer was having troubles. and, i was frustrated because i was thinking it would be a really long process and i'd be sitting there on hold for 3 hours. well, it turns out that i spoke with someone from the philippians. and they definitely connected my computer with theirs and was working on it overseas! i was pretty amazed at that. well, since we were on the phone for a while, we started talking. and the olympics came up. and before i knew it, the tech guy and i were talking and laughing about different events and who would win. so thankful for a new friend. i mean, probably won't ever talk with him again, but how thankful god put a friendly voice who lived way on the other side of the world in my path. so random, but so great! so, if anyone ever needs customer service, maybe you'll be lucky and get to talk with my friend.

7. the White's field
Jan and Hugh tend to come up on here a alot. but tonight was such an unimaginable blessing. i went to their house to celebrate trevor and shelly's upcoming marriage. they are two people in our small group, and renovatus was throwing them a shower. so, i head over there and enjoy bbq and fellowship with people in the church. it was really fun seeing people from the bible study and also meeting new faces. anyway, as i went back to my car ready to head home, i realized i locked my keys in the car. (which by the way was the 2nd time in a span of 2 weeks. i know i know.....) so, i'm thinking, great. AAA wouldn't get out here for forever, and plus, they might start to recognize me. maybe i can find a coat hanger and pry my door open a bit. well, some people start coming over to my car, and then we had this group of guys with wedges, siding, and coat hangers working on the lock. well we were there for at least an hour messing with things, and all this time we were laughing and joking about how hard it was to break into cars. and then mike, one of the guys, said that this was god's way of everyone fellowshipping, and when he wants this car door to open, it would. i thought about what he said, and i realized how awesome this was. i mean, yeah. huge inconvenience. frustrating. but, now i grew so much closer to some members in the church. what a blessing! needless to say, we were messing for quite some time and ended up calling AAA anyway. ha and that was funny because as we were waiting, we off-roaded in hugh's mule to see his land. what better way to wait! well, the AAAA guy ends up getting lost and so he takes a really long time getting there. by this time, it's dark, and the moon is all orange. almost full. or maybe just past being full? so jan, hugh, their daughter mary, mike, trevor, and i all sit out near their barn and look at the moon. drink iced tea. tell stories. just be. and i thought to myself, this is exactly what i have been waiting for. a community. a place to belong. and god provided this. in the midst of my own forgetfullnes.... well AAA dude finally shows up in this HUGE towtruck and unlocks my door super quick. so, i say goodbye to my new friends and think, i'll see my church family tomorrow. and those words sounded so good. thank you jesus for adventures. and for working in such crazy ways.

monroevian life with a side of baking soda

moving to monroe has been an adventure, that's for sure. and i want to remember the process. the excitement, struggles, things learned, and just the random moments that make me stop and laugh. or just make a weird face.'s to monroevian life! i remember talking to emily about how your life is a canvas. and your whole life is spent filling it up. souveniers...words...maybe even voices if they could attach themselves to the material. but, when you move or go off to another place, you don't leave things completely. you take your canvas with you. but then you just keep on painting. and collecting. and it gets more beautiful and more rich everywhere you go. so...i guess i'm picking up a new paintbrush and starting to paint.

hard to describe everything that's been happening because there's so much. but...i guess i'll try the highlights. or wait. maybe top places to go. thumbtacks on the map.

1. the Whites
Al is good friends with jan and hugh, and she was involved with this bible study when she lived in matthews. and it was so amazing she kept driving back down there, even when she moved away. so, i got plugged in there, and it's incredible. these two people are so friendly, funny, and real. we have dinner together with everyone, and it's usually spent laughing over something or just sharing about days. then, we study the bible. the last week was devoted just to prayer. there's beauty in prayer. a community lifting each other up. being real, with others, with god. forms these really tight bonds. i appreciate them more than i could say. definitely going to renovatus this sunday to the service. looking forward to developing closer friendships with everyone there.

2. Monroe library
duh. i love libraries. and this one is really fun. there's one lady, pamela, she works there, and she's so friendly. i remember one of the first days i was in monroe, i went to the library. and she had this big smile on her face, and we chatted about the area. i remember telling her how much i appreciated her friendliness. now, when i see her, we always talk. i love how communities form. knowing people. having a heart for neighbors. also, joined a monthly book club. we met this past tuesday, and it was really fun! there were just a few women, but talking about books with them was so great! and the librarian who leads it, judy, is so sweet. i enjoy seeing her in the library. we're going to be reading a book on the middle east for august. really excited!

3. Java Grande
there's a coffee shop really near my apartment, and i love going in there and talking with the owner, john. he's from new york and loves talking about coffee, the customers, and just life. ha, grant and i went there one time, and we got into a discussion about tea. don't really remember what we talked about...

4. Cane Creek
i have only been there once, but it was a really fun park. too bad it cost to hike the trails though...that's the only downside. but...the trails are really pretty. not hard or anything, but fun to walk and enjoy nature. plus, there's a dock where the boats come in, and it's a great place sit and read a book. because i'm cheap and wouldn't pay to use the beach to swim. :) still on a mission for more parks. preferably free.

5. PDC and the AG center
okay. this place, the professional development center and the agricultural center, are nice buildings. but, the buildings aren't why i liked them. i love these places because i met some amazing international teachers there. one of whom i'll be teaching with! emma's from england, and she is great. really funny, i'm so excited to be on her team. union county hired a bunch of teachers all across the world from this international teaching program, and they'll be here up to three years. during orientation, i had a chance to meet some friends from jamaica, peru, and philippians. i'm so excited because richard, one of the guys i met, really wants to plug into a church! so, i think we're going to go to renovatus in two weeks! it was such a great week getting to know new friends. then, i met another girl, steph, who just moved here from new york. she's really sweet, and i can't wait to spend time with her too.

**anyway, i guess that's it for now. so thankful for all the prayers. missing everyone so much. i think about boone, people, memories, all the time. but, then i remind myself that they're still here. in my heart. and that christ is teaching me here. on an adventure. so excited about teaching! kids come the 25th. i cannot wait. prospect elementary seems like a wonderful school, and i am trusting with my face to the sun. and dancing with the rain.

**ha oh yeah. about the side of baking soda. well...whoever had moved out from this apartment apparantly smoked. a lot. so...i've been doing crazy treatments. like...putting out nightly vinegar bowls to absorb the smell. spraying vamoose, this chemical that is supossed to chemically eliminate smoke, on the furniture. and by furniture i mean also in the air conditioner unit. mehh....hopefully i'm not breaking it :-) then, i sprinkle baking soda on everything. it's this huge box that smells like flowers. so, i guess it's snowing here in my room. :-) but, it's working! things are turning normal.