Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Indiana for Christmas

In a few days, I will be heading home for Christmas. I can't tell you how excited I am! Well, I could tell you, but it would be several lines full of reeeally, reeeally, reeeally... excited. :) In my opinion, southern Indiana is the perfect place to be for Christmas. I may be a little biased, though...

I was listening to a new Christmas cd the other day, and a new song caught my ear. I don't know who wrote it, but the version I was listening to was performed by Straight No Chaser, an acapella group from Indiana University. It's called Indiana Christmas, and I know it's overly sentimental, but "that's where I'm going, where Christmas will always be real."

The moonlight shines on the sycamores
Now they are calling to me
In the city it's snowing, the sidewalks glowing
But there's somewhere I'd rather be

Thousands of people all walking by
Somehow I'm still alone
I'm gonna spend winter my way
Get on the highway
I'm ready to find the way home

That's where I'm going
This time of year
You know how I feel
That's where I'm going
Where Christmas will always be real

We'll build up a fire, tell a story or two
With good friends we always invite
The old and young come together as one
And we sing into the night

That's where I'm going
This time of year
You know how I feel
That's where I'm going
Where Christmas will always be real

And I remember those who are gone
Looking down on my home from above
Deep in December it's where I belong
Sharing the days with the ones who i love


Where Christmas will always be real

The moonlight shines on the sycamores
And now they are calling to me

Monday, December 1, 2008

Advent Preparations

I love that the church calendar is designed with seasons like Lent and Advent, to give us long periods of time to remember why we celebrate and prepare our hearts. More than once I have experienced a feeling of surprise and embarrassment while sitting in church on Christmas Eve or Easter Sunday -- It's here? It's time for this? I'm not ready! I need more time!

Advent is designed to help me avoid that feeling, thank goodness! Yesterday marked the beginning of four weeks set aside to help us prepare for Christmas -- not the decorating, baking, gift-buying part of Christmas, but for the spiritual part of Christmas. And we need, or rather I need, every bit of that four weeks to get myself prepared.

But how do you prepare for wonder? How do you prepare yourself for something so illogical, so unreasonable? God is, as St. Anselm of Canterbury said, that greater than which cannot be thought. If we stretch our minds to the farthest edges of its capacity, we still have not even begun to consider God. And God incarnate, God in the flesh? That is even more incomprehensible!

But maybe it's okay for us to be confused and blown away by Christmas. Maybe our amazement at the impossible really gets at the purpose of Advent. Madeline L'Engle's poem, "After Annunciation," captures this idea:

This is the irrational season
When love blooms bright and wild.
Had Mary been filled with reason
There'd have been no room for the child.

Thank goodness for the "irrational season." Thank goodness we don't have to be able to fully explain and understand the incarnation in order to be blown away by it. Thank goodness for wonder.

Sidenote: If you enjoy poetry, or Advent, or both, you should check out this blog: Advent in Poetry. Charlie Lowell of the band Jars of Clay will be posting a daily poem throughout the Advent season. He says this about his project:
"My hope for this blog is that it might be a simple way to reflect on this season of Advent- that is, the days of waiting, anticipating Christmas. More specifically- the Coming of Jesus, Emmanuel, God-Finally-With-Us. I always have this funny internal struggle with the month of December; I want (and need) to slow down and reflect, but there's just so much to do (and buy)! It ends up being the busiest month of the year, much to my dismay. Certainly the intent of Advent has been diluted over the years. I've found poetry to be a great "tool" in slowing down and looking at things a little differently. Sort of like a prayer, sort of like a song, it really can open up windows for us, if we let it. That's what I hope can happen here."
Check it out!

Monday, November 17, 2008

early Christmas

Winter has finally arrived in Pittsburgh! I can't say I was exactly looking forward to it, but I do enjoy the contrast of the four seasons. The snow outside my window, the Christmas cards I'm making, and the earlier and earlier arrival of holiday stuff in stores has me really excited about Christmas!

The thing is... I am a strict "no Christmas anything before Thanksgiving" girl. But I've been bombarded by my surroundings; everything screams "Christmas"!

Without going in to a discussion about how commercialism and materialism has destroyed Christmas, the thing that makes me most sad about such an early Christmas is that we miss some important things in the days leading up to December 25th. I started seeing Christmas stuff in stores before Halloween. Ridiculous. And sad. November 1 is All Saints' Day, when we remember the dear souls who have departed. And November 27 is, of course, Thanksgiving -- a time when we give thanks for all the blessings in our lives.

I'm going to keep fighting the "early Christmas" attitude. Because I am blessed.

A Thanksgiving Prayer
by Samuel F. Pugh

"O God, when I have food,
help me to remember the hungry;
When I have work,
help me to remember the jobless;
When I have a home,
help me to remember those who have no home at all;
When I am without pain,
help me to remember those who suffer,
And remembering,
help me to destroy my complacency;
bestir my compassion,
and be concerned enough to help;
By word and deed,
those who cry out for what we take for granted.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

happy faces part 2

I'm almost finished with Elizabeth Gilbert's wildly popular book eat pray love. Tonight I read a passage that reminded me about what I wrote a few days ago. Here it is for you:

As I focus on diligent joy, I also keep remembering a simple idea my friend Darcey told me once - that all the sorrow and trouble of this world is caused by unhappy people. Not only in the big global Hitler-'n'-Stalin picture, but also on the smallest personal level. Even in my own life, I can see exactly where my episodes of unhappiness have brought suffering or distress or (at the very least) inconvenience to those around me. The search for contentment is, therefore, not merely a self-preserving and self-benefiting act, but also a generous gift to the world. Clearing out all your misery gets you out of the way. You cease being an obstacle, not only to yourself but to anyone else. Only then are you free to serve and enjoy other people. (p. 260)

In being willing to open ourselves up and admit that we are not always the happy people that we project to all around us, we take the first step in healing ourselves. Our great God who created us in his image wants us to rejoice in this fact: we are his, he loves us, and he wants us to be happy! Only then, as Gilbert says, are we free to serve and enjoy others.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

happy faces

I was listening to a song on my way in tonight, and these are the lyrics I heard:

In the girl there's a room
In the room there's a table
On the table there's a candle
and it won't burn out

In the woman there's a song
In the the song there is hope
in the hope revolution

I believe I've blogged about this song before, with a different attitude. Today my spirit is heavy. I'm the girl, and the candle on the table in my room has gone out. I'm the woman, but I cannot sing.

Over the years I have become adept at putting on a happy face and doing what needs to be done, no matter what I am feeling. I have become so good at this, in fact, that I actually become my happy face. The pain and struggles and burdens that I feel are forgotten out of necessity -- things must be done, and I must be the one to do them. There is no time, no room for pain. But when the aching sorrow catches up with me, it hurts even more because I've forgotten about it while I was busy being the happy face.

In a few minutes, the kids will arrive for youth group, and the happy face will settle back into her face, masking my true heart from everyone -- including myself.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Why I Love My Alma Mater

or, Everything I Needed to Know About the Church I Learned at Taylor University.

I love Taylor University!

The four years I spent there were the best four years of my life thus far. I learned so much about what it means to be in community, about my faith, about responsibility. I learned about myself. And as far as the education I received, it was excellent. I don't want to have the elitist attitude about my university that some people I know have about their schools; it is possible to get a quality education anywhere a student is willing to apply him- or herself. But still... I would recommend Taylor University to EVERYONE.

One of my professors is now studying for his doctorate at Duke, and keeps a blog titled Church Leadership Conversations. He recently wrote an article for a Taylor publication and has posted it there. It's called Everything I Need to Know About the Church I Learned at Taylor University, and the link directly to the article is above.

He puts it much more eloquently than I would be able to, so please, if you're interested, go read the article. It's not long, and is actually a good descriptor of what any good Christian community should strive to be.

Friday, October 3, 2008


I'm planning to make another batch of pickles and pesto today, and I want to try making dilled green beans too. Gotta work fast to get the rest of the fall bounty!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Yummy Dinner

Got a lot of fresh vegetables? Have I got a recipe for you! I love it because it's quick and flexible. Basically, you just take whatever veggies (and meat if you want it) and simmer them together.

Begin warming some broth over medium-high heat. (I used one can of chicken broth, and one can of vegetable broth because that's what I had on hand.)
If you're using meat, you should probably pre-cook it before adding it to the broth. (I used pre-cooked chicken sausage, so I just added it here while it was cold.)
Add the harder veggies early so they have time to soften. (e.g. carrots, celery, green beans if you like 'em soft. My roommate and I disagreed on this point.)
Cook those for a while before adding other veggies. (I used zucchini, onion, and corn.)
If you're adding potatoes, those should go in early with the meat and carrots. However, if you forget to put them in early (like I did), you can always microwave them for a few minutes to soften them and add them with the rest of the veggies.
Add salt, pepper, and any other seasonings you would like.
Toss in some chopped parsley before serving!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Ten on Tuesday

Well, I am blatantly stealing a great idea from my new friend Rebecca and her corner of the blogosphere: Ten on Tuesday. Basically... I tell you ten random things that have been happening in my life recently! I suppose it could also be Five on Friday, or Six on Sunday... but since today's Tuesday, and I want to start today, but I don't want to do two, or twelve, or twenty... I think ten is just right. :)

1. My favorite thing about the Halloween season is candy corn and mellowcreme pumpkins. Mmmm, pure sugar! A close second on the Halloween-favorites list is dressing up. I haven't actually dressed up for Halloween in quite a few years, because I like to spread it out through the whole year. (Although since I'm a "grown-up" now, I sort of do my dressing up through really cool fashion accessories. Anyway.) I have an entire storage box filled with all manner of dress-up items. In college, my roommate and I used to dress up randomly and run around the halls distracting people from studying. Ah, those were the days...

2. Tuesdays are looooooong days for me. I'm going to have to get typing if I'm going to actually get this post in on Tuesday! I didn't get home until 11:20pm tonight.

3. Over the weekend, I (finally) made pickles and pesto! It took me a few tries to finally get all the materials that I needed (you can read about it here), but I got it all accomplished! As a result, the kitchen is a mess and I am putting off cleaning it. Give me another day or so and I will post pictures from the pickle-making up on my other blog. I didn't take any pictures of the pesto-making, but I have another batch of basil that's ready to be chopped, so I'll do more soon.

4. I've been noticing a trend lately in the movies I'm watching. I was going to do a whole blog post about it, but I never got around to it, so I'll give you a synopsis here. The trend I'm noticing is that people are watching - and loving - movies with morals. Even coming from a Christian background, Hollywood has such skill in entertainment that I find myself wanting the characters in movies and tv shows to get their happy endings rather than do the "right" thing. But there are a few filmmakers out there who are gradually turning the tides. For instance, if you haven't seen Bella, Once, or Waitress, to name a few... go watch them. Now.

5. Nectarines are my new favorite fruit. Especially locally grown nectarines that I get from the local CSA. I ate one today, and I swear it was better than Cherry Vanilla ice cream.

6. The sermon on Sunday was really great. Sometimes I'm so distracted thinking about youth group or Sunday school, or who I need to talk to after the service, that I don't spend much time paying attention to the sermon. (True confessions... don't tell my pastor!) Last week he started a sermon series based on Phillip Yancey's book What's So Amazing About Grace? and I was really impacted by this week's message. The text was from Hebrews 12:14-15.
Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.
I realized that in some of the significant relationships in my life, I haven't been showing much grace lately, which has some interesting implications. As Pastor John said, the deeper our appreciation for God's grace in our own lives, the more we are able to offer his grace to others. So if I'm having trouble giving grace to the people who are closest to me, what does that say about my relationship with God lately? Hmm...

7. Yikes! I'm only on number 7 and I have five minutes left to post this! Better write less per number.

8. My newest favorite way to waste time on the internet? Etsy. What's that? Etsy. It's like eBay / Amazon for crafty people! Everything on the whole stinkin' site is handmade by someone just like you and me. And let me tell you, there is some awesome stuff out there! Plus lots of people on Etsy are into the "green" thing and use lots of recycled or "upcycled" (new term for me) materials in their crafts. Check it out!

9. Speaking of ways to waste time... Today I revisited one of my guilty college pleasures: Snood. It's a horrible, horrible, time-sucking computer game. Don't play it. It will drag you in.

10. It's 11:59! I'll be better next week.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Projects on Hold

Lately it seems that everything I try to do has to get put on hold because I'm missing some essential ingredient for the project. We have a membership to a CSA, and every week when I go to pick out delicious home-grown fruits and veggies, I jealously eye the pickling cucumbers. Finally I decided to just go for it, and ordered some spice mixes to make your own refrigerator pickles! I was so excited that I rushed out to the CSA to pick up my cucumbers... and they didn't have any! Extreme disappointment. Never fear, I thought, I'll just buy some at a roadside stand. Before I did that, though, I realized that I'll need some place to put the pickles! At the moment I only have about half a dozen canning jars, and they're mostly being used to store craft things. So I set out yesterday to buy canning jars at the hardware store. First I went to Home Depot. No luck. Try WalMart, they said. Instead, I tried Lowes. And Target. Both void of any kind of canning products. So I went to WalMart. After wandering around the store for about a half hour, I finally broke down and asked someone where they would be. "Across from the Jewelery Counter," she said, "...if we have any left." I rushed over to find three lone canners, lots of pickling lime and salt, and no canning jars of any kind or size. Perhaps I shouldn't wait until the end of the growing season to start these things.

Still in the mood to "make" something, I decided to look up a recipe to make pesto, since I have a basil plant that is going crazy and I can't come up with enough things to make with it. And of course, wouldn't you know it, a main ingredient in pesto is pine nuts. Who just has pine nuts randomly laying around the house? Not me.

So today I'm going to try a different WalMart. I won't give up on you, pickles!

There was a bonus side note to all the running around looking for canning jars yesterday. While at Home Depot, I picked up a handful of paint samples!!! Those things always get me excited. So much possibility...

In the meantime, here are a couple cute magnets I made the other day. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Big Cat. Small Box.

In my new home, I have a cat (really someone else's cat).

This cat is inexplicably and irresistibly attracted to all forms of paper bags and cardboard boxes.

If you leave one laying around the house, he will undoubtedly find it, and climb inside.

Even if it's way too small.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Time for a little SALSA!

(I mean the eating kind, not the dancing kind!)

As you know, I and the roommate recently moved. We are now long-term housesitting (8 months or more) for a family in my church. Along with their lovely, globally decorated house, we also got a big yard with lots of space for my potted plants (and an actual HOSE to water them with instead of carting jugs of water from the kitchen!), a garage (only one car so we take turns), and a dog and a cat. Polly the dog is a whole story all by herself, but the cat Eanie Moe (who I usually just call "cat") has a delightful attraction to all kinds of bags and boxes, and he climbs in them and hangs out whenever he has the opportunity.

(You can't tell in this picture, but he's also quite cross-eyed! I don't know how the poor thing sees to walk.)

Anyway! On to the salsa. (And hopefully, an end to my over-use of parentheses in the above paragraph.)

ANOTHER great thing that we inherited by moving into this house was a CSA co-op membership! The family purchased a membership for the whole summer, so that even though they're gone now, we still get to go pick up a load of fresh produce once a week!!! Yum. Since there were four of them, and now there are only two of us, though, it means that we have LOTS of extra stuff. This week I decided to make some fresh salsa. Here's the recipe: (out of a Rachael Ray magazine, tweaked by me!)
Salsa Fresca
1 c packed cilantro
2 cloves garlic
1/2 onion
1 jalapeno chile
2 1/2 lbs. ripe tomatoes
juice of 1 lime

Basically, you just pulse together the first 5 ingredients in a food processor and then season with the lime juice and salt. I ended up using extra garlic (I like garlic!) and because I didn't have a jalapeno, I used 2 banana and 1 poblano peppers. I think making fresh salsa is all about tasting as you go, and making it work for you! Mine turned out quite yummy, AND I have enough tomatoes and peppers left to make another batch since I'll probably eat all this one in about a day!

Next week's produce pick-up day, I'm going to make PICKLES!!! Mmmmm...

Saturday, August 23, 2008

New home!

Well, hello to you all from a pet-hair-covered recliner in "my" new house! I say "my" in quotes because it's not really my house, I'm just taking care of it for someone else while they're gone. The apartment is mostly empty, our furniture is in storage, and I now have wireless internet access at home!
It's late and I have to get up early tomorrow for church and the youth group kickoff. I'll say more about back-to-school later!


I apologize for the long delay in posts. I'm in the process of moving -- almost done!-- and I also work with junior high, high school, and college students, so this time of year is extra busy. The balcony garden is soon to be a container garden in someone's yard! I figure it's the next step in working my way to an actual garden. My plants are coming along quite well. I FINALLY had some green peppers take, and they're lovely and green, about the size of ping-pong balls now. And I have a lovely tiny eggplant, too! I'll post some pictures soon.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Have you tried cold-brew coffee?

I have!

One of my fantasy futures involves owning a coffeeshop / used bookstore, and I've recently become obsessed with all manner of teas and coffees. I love any form of tea, but coffee has taken some getting used to. At this point, I can only drink "frou-frou" coffee; i.e. lattes and mochas with lots of syrup and milk. My roommate likes the stuff, but she's recently suffered from some acid reflux and hasn't been drinking coffee much lately.

In my frenzy of coffee and tea research, I was interested to read that cold-brewed coffee has a much lower acidity than the traditionally brewed kind, and that many people with stomach problems have no problems drinking it. So, I decided to give it a whirl.

Most online recipes for cold-brewed coffee use a whole pound of coffee, but since it was my first time I didn't want to waste a whole pound if we didn't like it. I found a good article and recipe from the NY Times for only a few cups, and gave it a whirl!

It's amazingly easy, and takes no time at all to prepare. You just dump some medium-ground coffee into water... and wait. Most sources recommend at least 12 hours of brewing to allow the maximum flavor to develop. Some suggest up to 24 hours! For my small batch, I used 2/3 cup coffee and 3 cups of water.

After the steeping, the straining takes a bit more of a time investment. I used a sieve first, to get out the majority of the coffee-grounds sludge. Then I strained it through a regular coffee filter to remove the leftover silt, which takes a while! I only used one coffee filter for the small batch (3 cups), but I think it would have gone quicker if I had replaced it with a fresh one halfway through.

Here's a picture of all the silt the coffee filter pulled out:

After you've finished straining the coffee, it's ready to drink! Because granulated sugar doesn't dissolve well in cold drinks, I made some sugar syrup to use with my iced coffee (1:1 ratio of sugar and water, boil until dissolved, and cool.). Add some milk or cream and enjoy!

My roommate said it was great and immediately demanded that I make another batch for the next morning. Coming right up! (In 12 hours...)

Student Leadership

August 2008 marks the start of my third year as a campus minister at La Roche college. At this time two years ago, I remember being really excited and really apprehensive about what I had gotten myself into! Last fall, I was energized by knowing what to expect and what kinds of things were going to happen that year. This year, I’m even more excited to find out what God has planned for His students at La Roche!

As a part of our Tuesday night fellowship group, we have a team of student leaders, who I have talked about before with you. The effectiveness and success of the team has been hit or miss the past two years. This fall, we are introducing a restructured student leadership team that empowers students to lead in their own areas of giftedness.

Many of the students we know are leaders in other places on campus, but who consider their faith an important thing to preserve and cultivate. Instead of pressuring shy students to stand up and make announcements at our meetings, or asking an overcommitted student to send out a weekly email, we plan to approach students on an individual basis and ask them what they are interested in doing for Nine.Thirty.Seven Fellowship Group. We are anticipating student-created positions for everything from making announcements and running PowerPoint to prayer and hospitality. It is our prayer that this new approach will be more beneficial to the students and to the fellowship group. Please pray that God will prepare the students’ hearts for leadership this year.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Further Adventures in Preserving Herbs

After doing all the research I told you about in the previous post, I decided to try my hand at all three of the different methods of preserving herbs! Admittedly, I don't have that many plants to preserve, and so I don't know how worthy my efforts are. But it's fun trying!

As I said before, I have two different types of basil on the balcony: sweet basil, and summerlong basil. The sweet basil leaves are broad and glossy, dark green. Those I decided would be best suited for freezing. I don't have too many leaves yet, so I only picked half a dozen to freeze. I figure I can just keep picking them as they grow through the summer.

The summerlong basil, my other variety, has much smaller leaves and has branched out a bit more than the sweet basil. So those, I decided to dry. I know the material that I posted before recommended basil for freezing because of the high moisture content, but the differences in my two varieties made me think that the summerlong would be okay for drying. We shall see! I have two bundles of three branches each, and they're currently hanging in my closet. But I realized as I was hanging them up that I have no idea how long it will take for them to dry sufficiently! If they're not done in a month when I move, I suppose I'll just take them with me!

Since I'm growing everything in pots, and I grew many of them from seed, I put too many seeds in each pot because I was afraid some of them wouldn't grow. After they started growing, I thinned them out a bit, but I have a feeling they're still too close together. There were four individual plants in my summerlong basil pot, which I know is too many! One poor plant was dwarfed and hidden under/behind the other three, so I decided to just pull the whole thing up to give the other three more room to grow. Those leaves were too tiny to really do anything with -- except freezing them in ice cubes! It took me a while to tear all the itty-bitty leaves off, but I think the ice cube route will be ideal for them. (In the picture, three of the cubes are filled with water and the other three are waiting.)

Monday, July 14, 2008

Preserving Herbs

My research lead me to two different possibilities for preserving the herbs I'm growing on the balcony this summer. The traditional method is by drying herbs, which you can do in a variety of ways. The method with the quickest and best results is by using a food dehydrator, which circulates air through trays. A quick search on Craigslist found 3 different dehydrators for sale in my area, all under $20. However, since I am still living a fairly transient lifestyle (moving in a month, actually!), I don't think I'm going to rush out and buy a dehydrator. I remember my mom buying one when I was younger, determined to use it to create healthy, tasty snacks for us kids. I think she only used it a few times, and it sat gathering dust in a cupboard before a kitchen renovation sent it on its way. Since you can achieve satisfactory results without buying any special equipment, I plan to try drying them by hanging them.

Gather the herbs on their stems and strip the leaves off the bottom inch or two. Remove any dead or damaged leaves. Group the stems in small bunches and tie or rubber band them together. Then, hang the bundles upside down in a warm, dry place with lots of space between bundles to make sure the air circulates. Check on them periodically, because as the herbs dry the stems shrink, and you may need to re-tie the bundles so that none of your branches fall out. Another option for drying, if you have the space, is to lay the branches out on horizontal window screens (elevated so the air circulates). You will still need to rotate the stems periodically.

One of the main problem areas in preserving herbs is that they mold and rot before they dry. This happens when there is too much moisture in the herbs or on the outside of the herbs. When you harvest them, if they are clean, do not wet them. If they are dirty or dusty, rinse them under water, and shake or pat off excess water. Take the time to dry the stems off completely to prevent mold.

The success of your drying depends also on the types of herbs you are preserving. The method above works best for thin-leafed and delicate herbs such as Bay, Dill, Marjoram, Oregano, Rosemary, Summer Savory, or Thyme. However, herbs with thicker, more moisture-retaining leaves can also be frozen. Freezing herbs retains the same flavor that drying does, however, they won't be suitable for garnish, only for cooking. Freezing is recommended for things like Basil, Chives, Mint, Tarragon, Parsley, Fennel, or Chervil. Remove the stems, chop if you wish, or leave the leaves whole. Lay the dried herbs out in a single layer on cookie sheets or trays and place in the freezer. Once the herbs have completely frozen, place them in containers and store in the freezer. You can also freeze individual portions of herbs by making ice cubes out of them. Prepare your herbs by removing the stems and chopping, and then pack them into ice cube trays. Cover with water and freeze. When frozen, remove the cubes from the trays and store in freezer bags. When cooking with them, you can toss the whole ice cube right into the pot! A few sites I looked at recommended blanching the herbs before freezing to help retain color and flavor.

I found lots of good resources for preserving herbs. Much of the information above came from these sites! Please visit them for further reading and information.
Harvesting and Preserving Herbs for the Home Gardener
How to Preserve Herbs

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Growing, growing...

Well, the "garden" continues to grow and grow! Earlier in the summer, I planted 11 different varieties of vegetables, herbs, and flowers from seed. Only three of them didn't make it past the seedling stage, which I consider a very good ratio for my first time growing vegetables and herbs! Joining those plants out on our little balcony are some houseplants (who are very happy to be outdoors!) and a few more plants from my roommate's mom, who works at a garden shop. Our pot total is at 24 healthy, green (and pink and purple and yellow), growing things. I had no idea that growing things would bring me so much joy! When I saw the first tiny green tomatoes, I literally jumped up and down in excitement and screamed for my roommate to come look! The biggest one, pictured above, is about the size of a marble right now, but still growing.

I also discovered, thanks to my morning glory, that I have a strong attraction to vining/climbing plants. It's so cool that it just wraps itself around and around, stretching its tendrils out to anything it can get its little green fingers on! My mother for some reason decided to knock my excitement down a few notches by telling me that the reason the morning glory grew so large so quickly is that it's really a weed. Well, weed or not, I think it's cool! I'm still waiting for it to flower, though...

As for the vegetables in my little balcony garden, we still haven't actually tasted any of the fruits of my labor! The tomatoes are the closest, since I can actually see the fruit. I'm still waiting for the green peppers, eggplant, and celery to come to maturity. But my herbs have been doing remarkably well! My favorite is the basil, of which I have two varieties: sweet basil and summer-long basil. The sweet basil looks more like what you would buy in the produce section at the grocery store, with broad dark-green leaves. The summer-long basil has many more leaves per plant, but they're smaller, narrow, and more pointy than the sweet basil. I've used both in my cooking so far, but haven't decided if I prefer the flavor of one over the other.

I still have to do a little research for my gardening... My success thus far has been due to luck and not skill or knowledge! I've heard something about needing to tie celery, I still can't see any sign of fruiting or flowering on the eggplant, and I'm really hoping to be able to dry or preserve my herbs! Thank goodness for the World Wide Web! I'll let you know what I know when I know it! And if anyone has any tips or suggestions for me, I'd love to hear them! Happy gardening.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Share your life.

When I first began working in this position as a campus minister and a youth director, I have a couple passages of Scripture that I adopted as my "theme" verses, words that would communicate and inform what I do. It was over two years ago that I printed the verses out on neon-colored cardstock and stapled them to my bulletin board. They're still there, and although the edges are being covered bit-by-bit with mementos from my work, those words still mean something to me. One of them was so important that it became the title of my newsletter, and the tagline for this very blog.

And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses, entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others. 2 Timothy 2:2
We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God, but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us. 1 Thessalonians 2:8

Unfortunately, though, I have a tendency to get caught up in other things and forget the reasons that I was called into ministry in the first place. During those times, it seems that God is always there to give me a little nudge (sometimes it's more like a shove!) to remind me why I do what I do. I was just sending out some thank-you notes to supporters, and here is a part of what I wrote:
I love that I have the opportunity to spend time with these youth and college students. I am continually impressed with the urgency of sharing Christ's love with these young people! Thank you for making it possible for me to do so.
I do love that I get the chance to spend time with these youth and college students. But I should be doing more than just hanging out -- I should be sharing my life! That is what I've been called here to do! I'm too protective of "my" time. There are so many things that I do on "my" time that would be perfect opportunities to share Christ's love with students. I have too great a responsibility, as Christ's chosen minister, to be selfish with my time. Sharing the Gospel is easy. Sharing the Gospel with my life... Now that's something.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Coming Soon: Consistency

When I was in college, and blogging had just begun to be trendy, I posted practically every day. Much of what I was blogging about was silly and pointless, but I was amazingly consistent. (Anything to avoid studying!) Now that I'm in the "real world" with a real job, it is incredibly hard to keep up with the online world. However, I suspect that my blogging inconsistencies have less to do with my job than it does with my sporadic internet access. I don't have a connection at home, so my only web-surfing time happens when I am at my office, or when I have my laptop out at a coffee shop (my portable office). I will be moving in mid-August, though, and will have wireless at home, so hopefully I'll be back on track!

Periodically, I question the purpose of blogging. I enjoy writing and journaling, although I don't do it as regularly as I would like. But why do I feel the need to post my writing on the Web for all the world (theoretically) to read? I have a bound journal that I write and draw in, and the things that I put in there are completely different than the things that I post online. And, to top it off, I'm not sure that anyone actually reads this blog! I wish they would, and am working on how to get people interested in reading what I write. I'm guessing that consistency is a key!

Happy Fourth of July!

Friday, June 20, 2008

About the Anti-Homemaker

What is a homemaker? You probably know at least one of these women, possibly you know several. Just think Martha Stewart.
Fifty or a hundred years ago, every woman you met would know how to do at least a minimum amount of crafty, homemaker tasks. But today, only the rare woman enjoys activities like sewing, baking, knitting, painting, cross-stitching, crocheting, embroidering... (One exception: scrapbooking.)
As a young woman who relishes her independence, I find great joy in being able to do anything that a man could do. (Riding a motorcycle, changing my oil, driving a stick shift, lifting heavy boxes.) But, much to my consternation, I also find great joy in the typical "female" arts like cooking and baking, sewing, gardening, painting, and crafting.
So, while I resist being labeled as a homemaker, a homemaker is what I am. I hope you enjoy my adventures as the Anti-Homemaker!

Friday, June 13, 2008


I miss Indiana. I took a walk tonight, around the driveway, through my grandma's gardens, and down to the barn. It was so refreshing to feel the cool breeze and hear the crickets chirping. As I walked, trying to distinguish shapes in the dark, it was so good to see beds full of flowers and neat rows of vegetables instead of the scrawny potted plants I'm trying to grow at home. A few brave lightning bugs dotted the open fields and I heard the heavy breaths and soft lowing of the cattle in the barns. The familiar scents of damp hay, animals, and mud were highlighted by sweet wild mint, and as I turned to trace the silhouettes of trees against the sky, I felt a great sense of peace. It seems to me that even the rainy sky is more beautiful here.

It has been so good to be here with my mom. After so many years of her caring for me, it's good to be able to return the favor in some small way. I was so frightened when I first learned about my mom's cancer. I wasn't sure that I would be able to handle the thought of her, the strongest woman I know, lying pale in a hospital bed with tubes coming out of her every which way. And there were even scarier thoughts, the horrible "what-ifs" that come in the darkest moments. But God is good, and her cancer was contained. What amazing people the Kingdom of God contains! What wonderful faith and encouragement, what prayer warriors! We are never alone, praise the Lord for that.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Confirmation Sunday

This morning nine 7th and 8th graders were confirmed at my church. I'm not their parents, and I didn't even help out with the confirmation class. But I felt such a swelling of parental pride in those kids as they stood up there and recited the Apostle's Creed and gave their testimonies. How amazing that in the early formative years of their development, nine teenagers would be confident and secure enough in the saving grace of Jesus Christ that they would stand up in front of a gathering and declare their faith in him! Awesome.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Spring Institute

Tomorrow begins the CCO's Spring Institute. I'll be gone for a week with all the other campus ministry staff, for training and organizational life stuff and fellowship. I'm looking forward to some parts of the week, and not looking forward to other parts.
I LOVE the CCO as an organization. I think that they have great training, great support for their employees, great driving principles, great leadership. I love the concept of contextual ministry, and the passion that we all have for transforming college students. I love hanging out with CCO folks! They are some of the funniest, most creative people I know. (I guess that comes with the territory -- people who do relational ministry know how to relate to each other!) I think that there is just the right balance of teaching/training and fellowship time in all of our training events.
I do feel like a bit of an outcast within the social system of the CCO, though. It is a funny coincidence that my two best friends from the organization left staff after the first year. Four of my five roommates at our staff training events (including the two mentioned above) have left staff. I'm starting to think that I'm bad luck! All joking aside, though, the CCO is an organization filled with outgoing, extroverted people, and as a strong introvert, sometimes I wonder where my place is. My goal for next week, though, is to be purposeful about including myself in the fun and getting to know these great people I work with.
Another reason I'm really looking forward to Spring Institute is because I'll be taking a class called Pastoral Theology, offered through Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. I'd like to eventually get my masters' degree, but at this point I'm unsure about the concentration, so I'm taking things slow. But I've gotten to read some great books, and I'm sure I will be receiving some great teaching and have some great conversations over the course of the next week. I'll let you know what I'm up to with my continuing education.

Oh! And I meant to tell you... This girl's birthday was on Monday. Happy Birthday my friend!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Plant Seeds and Sing Songs

(This was originally posted at my other blog, )

My family has always grown things. Every spring, my dad and grandpa would start tilling a huge garden plot for vegetables, and my mom and grandma would start pulling out flower bulbs they had stored or take a trip to the nursery to buy more plants. Spring is the time for growing things! And this spring, I decided to carry on my family's tradition!

I may have gone a little overboard, though... I planted a total of 18 pots of herbs, flowers, and vegetables! After I spent all the time planting them, though, I started worrying that I none of them would grow! I've never really done much gardening on my own before, so I decided that if at least half of the things grew I would be happy. But so far things are coming along great!!! I have sprouts in my dill, chives, 3 of 4 daisy jars, 2 pots of cosmos, thyme, morning glory, cilantro, and 2 baskets of cherry tomatoes. (I was especially excited about the tomatoes because my mom told me that it was really hard to grow tomatoes from seed.) I'm still waiting to see sprouts from 2 varieties of basil, rosemary, and my green pepper pants. The roommate and I will (hopefully) be eating well this summer!

I had been watching them grow for a week or so, and I was SO excited when my first plants began to sprout! I feel such a sense of accomplishment!!! E joked that we were going to have our own little garden out on the balcony... Sounds good to me!!!

ALSO, my African Violet finally started to bloom! Apparently it's normal for African Violets to go through a long period where they don't get any blossoms, so I haven't really paid much attention to the poor little plant. (Plants without flowers or that you can't eat are boring!) But it's getting ready for a magnificent spring!

Plant Seeds and Sing Songs

My family has always grown things. Every spring, my dad and grandpa would start tilling a huge garden plot for vegetables, and my mom and grandma would start pulling out flower bulbs they had stored or take a trip to the nursery to buy more plants. Spring is the time for growing things! And this spring, I decided to carry on my family's tradition!

I may have gone a little overboard, though... I planted a total of 18 pots of herbs, flowers, and vegetables! After I spent all the time planting them, though, I started worrying that I none of them would grow! I've never really done much gardening on my own before, so I decided that if at least half of the things grew I would be happy. But so far things are coming along great!!! I have sprouts in my dill, chives, 3 of 4 daisy jars, 2 pots of cosmos, thyme, morning glory, cilantro, and 2 baskets of cherry tomatoes. (I was especially excited about the tomatoes because my mom told me that it was really hard to grow tomatoes from seed.) I'm still waiting to see sprouts from 2 varieties of basil, rosemary, and my green pepper pants. The roommate and I will (hopefully) be eating well this summer!

I had been watching them grow for a week or so, and I was SO excited when my first plants began to sprout! I feel such a sense of accomplishment!!! E joked that we were going to have our own little garden out on the balcony... Sounds good to me!!!

ALSO, my African Violet finally started to bloom! Apparently it's normal for African Violets to go through a long period where they don't get any blossoms, so I haven't really paid much attention to the poor little plant. (Plants without flowers or that you can't eat are boring!) But it's getting ready for a magnificent spring!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Just for Today

by Marjorie Holmes

Oh God, give me grace for this day.
Not for a lifetime, not for next week, not for tomorrow,
just for this day.
Direct my thoughts and bless them.
Direct my work and bless it.
Direct the things I say and give them blessing, too.
Direct and bless everything that I think and speak
and do. So that for this day, just this one
day, I have the gift of grace that comes from
your presence...

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Song is Life

I am in the process of trying to read through the Bible in one year, in conjunction with my church's One Year Bible Club. I have a dated Bible, and I believe I am currently supposed to be somewhere in 1 Samuel. Unfortunately, I just started Joshua! I'm a little behind. But I will press on!
I know some people think that the Old Testament is boring and tedious and filled with lists of names, and YES, some of it is. But despite that, I really love the Old Testament. There is so much history, and so many great stories about God and the way he works in and for and through his people. Let me share with you what I've been reading from Deuteronomy.

Being a Christian is so hard sometimes! It's hard to be faithful to God in the midst of a corrupt society, and to consistently do the things that we know are right. But God (through Moses) says this to the people of Israel:
"Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, "Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?" Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, "Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?" No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it." (Deut 30:11-14) The Word is accessible to us, and even more than that, it is attractive to us! We hear it everywhere: in nature, in other people, and even in song, as Moses refers to it here: 31:19 "Now write down for yourselves this song and teach it to the Israelites and have them sing it, so that it may be a witness for me against them... And when many disasters and difficulties come upon them, this song will testify against them, because it will not be forgotten by their descendants. (Deut 31:19, 21) And the song is LIFE: "Moses came with Joshua son of Nun and spoke all the words of this song in the hearing of the people. When Moses finished reciting all these words to all Israel, he said to them, "Take to heart all the words I have solemnly declared to you this day, so that you may command your children to obey carefully all the words of this law. They are not just idle words for you—they are your life. By them you will live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess."" (Deut 32:44-47)

Isn't that awesome?

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

I Need You

Last night at the college fellowship group I help run, we talked about music. I love music! I love singing it and playing it and listening to it. Since becoming friends and then roommates with Elizabeth, my musical repertoire has gotten vastly larger. Whereas my musical roots are mostly contemporary Christian and country, hers are heavy metal, rap, and of course 80s. She has opened me up to a lot of things that I would not have listened to in the past, and hopefully that is a two-way street. Some of it I like a lot, and some of it I can tolerate.
Our main goal last night at Nine.Thirty.Seven. was to give students a taste of the wide variety of Christian music styles there are nowadays. We weren't trying to say that they ought to be listening only to Christian music, but just to give them some options that would be more positive and uplifting than much of the music on the radio today. It can be said of any era that some of the music is really bad, and some is really good! The thing that worries me is how little we think about the music we listen to. Several months ago, John Mayer had a song out called "Waiting on the World to Change." I really like John Mayer's musical style, and initially I really liked that song. But the more I listened to it, the more I felt unsettled. The premise of the song is that the state of the world is very poor, and we would like it to be different, but things are out of our control and so we just have to wait for it to change. This is ridiculous! And it typeifies an American attitude of today, that we should just whine and complain about things being horrible instead of actually doing something about it.
Another song that I've been thinking about recently is called "Famous Last Words" by My Chemical Romance. It's a good song, generally positive and not derogatory, and for a while it was my roommate's ringtone. It is catchy and singable and upbeat. But there's something off about it. The first part of the chorus goes like this:

I am not afraid to keep on living
I am not afraid to walk this world alone

One part of me really identifies with those lines. I am a very independent person, and I have been from an early age. (Heading out for the bus on my second day of kindergarten, I firmly stated, "I can do it myself, Mom!") I am fairly self-sufficient, and I get a little annoyed when people try to tell me that I can't do things, particularly if it has to do with me being a woman. I take pride in the fact that I know how to do lots of things.
At the same time, though, something about those lines unsettles me. Putting aside my pride in independence, the fact is that I am afraid to walk this world alone. From the beginning of time, human beings were created to be in relationship with one another, and I am not exempt from any of this. I need other people to help me learn things, to keep me accountable, to make me laugh, to tell me when I'm wrong or affirm me when I'm right. The fact is... I need you.
So the next time you hear a song on the radio, take a few moments to think about it. Is it right? Is it wrong? Why? Why not? A little bit of critical thinking has never hurt anybody.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

You've Got Something To Say

My roommate bought the new Matthew West CD. He's a pretty cool dude, and has a great way with words. His latest project is called Something to Say, and this is an idea that I love. I do believe we've all got something to say, because, as Matthew says in the song, "God is love and love speaks through you." I've been watching and discussing Rob Bell's Nooma videos a lot, in my Bible study and campus ministry stuff, and last night we watched the Rhythm video, where Rob talks about God through the metaphor of song. We play a song with our lives, and the question is whether or not we are in tune with God's song. Like Matthew also says, "No one can say it quite like you do."

I've done talks and discussions before on this theme, and it brings to mind another Nooma I watched at Bible study last week. God has created us good, and though we have been corrupted by the Fall and have sinful human natures, I believe we are also inherently good. We believe in the power of Jesus, and he believes in us! Think about who he used to accomplish his work in the first century -- the disciples, the B-team benchwarmers. They changed the world! (From "Dust".)

Here are the lyrics to that song. Enjoy! ~'til next time...

But the whole wide world is waiting for you to step out that door
Come on and let your life be heard today
You've got something to say
If you're living
If you're breathing
You've got something to say
You know if your heart is beating
You've got something to say
And no one can say it like you do
God is love and love speaks through you
You got it, you got it
You've got something to say
Listen up I've got a question here
Would anybody miss you if you disappeared?
Your life is the song that you sing
And the whole wide world is listening
Well the answer to the question is you were created
Your life is a gift
And the lights are shining on you today
You've got something to say

Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

I LOVE everything Irish. I think I have enough Irish paraphernalia to decorate a whole room of my house. I have enough Irish-related books to fill a whole bookshelf (or close to). But, despite my Celtic-sounding last name... I am NOT Irish.

At least not as far as I know. My mom's family has researched their genealogical history waay back, and they are quite thoroughly German. To my knowledge, though, no one has traced my dad's family history back very far. It's entirely possible that I might have some Irish in me... But then again I might not!

Despite confusion on my historical blood line, I LOVE Ireland.

When I was in college, I spent a semester studying abroad on the Emerald Isle (spring '04). I fell in love with the history, the culture, the people, the castles, the scenery, the food, the accents, the shopping... I could go on. I busted out my scrapbook today to spend some time reminiscing. (The scrapbook was, by the way, a one-time only thing. Gracious do those things take a lot of time!) If you ever want to hear about my trip, come over and I'd be glad to give you a tour via scrapbook. But until then, here are 10 things that I LOVE about Ireland (in no particular order).

1. Fish and Chips -- a heart attack in a paper bag, doused with another heart-attack's worth of salt and vinegar.

2. Bewley's -- the perfect cup of tea! I learned the art of drinking my tea with milk and sugar in Irleand.

3. St. Patrick's Day Parade -- the most random parade that I have ever seen, complete with dancing polar bears and men on stilts. and lots of drunk people.

4. Trains -- the best form of public transportation.

5. Castles -- and cathedrals, and mountains, and miscellaneous statues... everywhere you look in Ireland there is a statue or a plaque commemorating the historical significance of some particular place.

6. The Bad Ass Cafe -- Ass is not a bad word in Europe, which is why it's so much fun to say!

7. Stella Mew -- my Irish literature professor, who could tell you absolutely everything you ever wanted (or didn't want) to know about William Butler Yeats, right down to the color of underwear he was buried in (not really).

8. Live music in the pub -- every pub, on every corner! The flutes, violins, guitars, bodhrans (drums), etc, best enjoyed with a pint of Guinness. (Guinness, by the way, is disgusting!)

9. Ceili -- Irish dancing. enough said.

10. Canceling class because of a sunny day -- only in Ireland!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Spring Break 2008

One of the really great things about working in campus ministry is that I still get to celebrate things like Spring Break and a 2-week Christmas break. Last week I went down to Bay St. Louis, MS with a group of 30 from La Roche College. It was an AWESOME week. I have to be honest, I was a little apprehensive about the trip at the start. I only knew 3 of the 18 students who were coming. Along with that, we had four men from my coworker TR's church, the College Activity director from La Roche, and three nuns coming with us. I was really just praying that we would all get along!!! As it turns out, that was the least of my worries. The kids got along with each other really well, and they all bonded with the "old guys." And we would have been NOWHERE without Sister Elena, Sister Rose, and Sister Judy.

Surprisingly, our biggest problem was that we didn't have enough work to do! We spent a lot of time cleaning, one particularly long afternoon picking up trash from along the roadside, and even had a nap or two in the middle of the day. The kids were complaining that they didn't feel like they were working hard enough! They really just wanted to help people. Thankfully, though, by the end of the week, we had some more projects, and I think all of the kids felt fulfilled and that the trip was worthwhile.

Though the trip was through a religious organization (a partnership between our CCO fellowship group and the La Roche Campus Ministry dept.), I don't believe all the kids were religious. I hope that last week we were able to "live Jesus" for them. But I think the most exciting thing was that we were able to really live out community with each other -- community that is not divided by denominations or rituals, community that is able to learn and accept and love.

There are oodles of pictures on Facebook, if you care to take a look. We had great worship, hard workers, and a LOT of laughter! God really blessed us on this spring break trip. Thanks for all your prayers!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Jubilee Reflections

Just for Janet -- another blog post! On a half-related note, it snowed last night in Pittsburgh -- my favorite kind of snow. The big, fat, fluffy kind that floats gently down out of the sky, piling up and covering everything with a peaceful blanket of white. My roommate described it perfectly when she said "It looks like Narnia outside!" I wanted to take pictures of it, but by the time I got home last night it was late and I just went to bed. Perhaps if the trees outside my apartment are still Narnia-esque when I get home, I'll take some and post them for you.

On Saturday I'll be leaving for another mission trip, this time to Bay St. Louis, MS with 18 college students. I love that students are willing to give up their spring break to go somewhere and do dirty work. Granted, it will be warmer in Mississippi, but I think their main concern is helping people, which is great.

A few weeks ago was the Jubilee Conference, yay! It is an absolutely awesome conference, and I say that not because I am on staff with the CCO, but because it is truly unique in its focus. It's really encouraging to hear other people talk excitedly about what we are doing, too. Not just so that we can toot our own horns, but because we truly believe this is so important.

The main stage speakers included Kelly Monroe Kullberg, Chuck Colson, Donald Miller, and Anthony Bradley. After the conference, Anthony posted the following on his blog about the CCO and the Jubilee Conference:

[Jubilee is] the only conference I know that combines the Biblical narrative of creation-fall- redemption-restoration and living missionally of any college ministry currently embedded on several college campuses. [Students were] meeting together for a weekend to talk about the implications of the the narrative of creation-fall-redemption-restoration for life in this world right now, today. This is unprecedented!!! They get it: creation-fall-redemption-restoration, mission! A passion for piety and the redemption of all of creation. A desire for personal
righteousness AND a desire to fight against evil and social injustice--to be true redeemers of culture.

Anthony also mentions something that is MY favorite part of Jubilee. No matter what your passions or interests are, there is something at Jubilee that addresses it! We, as campus staff people, want our students to understand that their faith should inform EVERY area of their lives. Here's what Anthony had to say:

I especially love that Jubilee demonstrates that the Gospel applies to every area of life in the topics of the seminars, panel discussions, and breakout sessions. Every area--from your identity in Christ to HIV/AIDS and environment. Forgive me for being biased but it seems cultivating a Christian-world-and-life view is the best holistic understanding of what it means to be world Christian.

AND, Jubilee is getting buzz in really cool places! Michael Gerhon was a panelist and breakout session leader this year at Jubilee. He is also a columnist for the Washington Post. He mentions the Jubilee Conference in a recent article in the Post. Read the full article here.

I have seen the future of evangelical Christianity, and it is pierced. And sometimes tattooed. And often has one of those annoying, wispy chin beards.
Those who think of evangelical youths as the training cadre of the religious right would have been shocked at Jubilee 2008, a recent conference of 2,000 college students in Pittsburgh sponsored by the Coalition for Christian Outreach. I was struck by the students' aggressive idealism -- there were booths promoting causes from women's rights to the fight against modern slavery to environmental protection. Judging from the questions I was pounded with, the students are generally pro-life -- but also concerned about poverty and deeply opposed to capital punishment and torture. More than a few came up to me between sessions in anguished uncertainty, unable to consider themselves Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative --
homeless in the stark partisanship of American politics.

Awesome!!! And, believe it or not, the CCO folks and the speakers and presenters aren't the only ones who really like the Jubilee Conference -- the students love it, too! Carine, a senior nursing student from the Republic of Congo, said this after attending the conference:

I have been struggling with a lot of things going on in my life that even question the Love of God. Being in Jubilee, and listening to different messages, helped me renew my commitment to God, and know that He is and will always be there in my life if I let him take control of everything.

Amy is a junior education major who is also very interested in environmental stewardship. She doesn’t feel much support from the campus regarding the ways that Christ calls us to be faithful in all areas of life, including environmentalism. She said this about the Jubilee Conference:

Seeing so many people working to make a difference is so encouraging. It always moves me to tears. At Jubilee, I feel like that's a time to actually hardcore SEE what is being done. College students just like me are making a difference.

Our students are catching the vision of what it means to have their lives transformed by the power of Christ, not only in how they do their devotions or how they treat others, but also in how they work and play and study and create. The Kingdom of God is coming here, now!

Friday, February 8, 2008

Rebuilding Phoenix 2 - photos!

Here are a few photos of my mission trip to Louisiana. Enjoy!

The front door of the home we worked on.

My assignment for the week: laying tile! Before...

Our finished task!!! Isn't it a lovely room?

Our group, with the contractor we worked with and the woman's house we worked on (Noella is in the middle of the group).

And finally... the infamous RAT DOG!!! Isn't it just the ugliest little thing you've ever seen?

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Rebuilding Phoenix

Last week I had the opportunity to travel to Phoenix, Louisiana for a mission trip with my church. The church I work for is an Evangelical Covenant Church -- a small Swedish denomination with Lutheran similarities. (I don't know much about the church background, actually. For more information, you can check out the Wikipedia article or the Covenant Church website.) Anyway, we went with the Covenant mission organization called Covenant World Relief, and yes, you read right, we were in Phoenix, Louisiana.

Phoenix is a TINY town located 25 miles south of New Orleans, right next to the Mississippi River. As you can see from the map (the pink arrow), it's not located in a very 'safe' spot, particularly when hurricanes are near. CWR, along with a few other mission organizations, has committed to rebuilding this tiny town, which two and a half years later still carries evidence of the destruction Hurricane Katrina caused. Because of its location in between the Mississippi and the gulf/marsh, Phoenix is bordered with two 17 foot levys about 500 yards apart, and so when the wind/rain/floodwaters came, the levys essentially created a giant bowl filled with 17-20 feet of water. And because the water had nowhere else to go, it just sat there until they finally broke one of the levys to drain the water. In a community of only 300 people and 160 homes, only 25 houses were able to be salvaged after the hurricane. Slowly, houses are being rebuilt and the community is being restored.

My team of seven was working on a woman named Noella's home, putting in trim boards, laying tile, painting, and wiring light fixtures. (For your information, I am now an expert tile layer -- available for hire!) The community of Phoenix that existed before the hurricane is still very much alive, even though physically it is still very broken. While we were working, there was a continuous stream of family, friends, and neighbors poking their heads in to see how the house was progressing, asking questions, and taking notes on the building details. One of our favorites was a couple named Donald and Annabelle. Their home was one of the few that was able to be salvaged, and they are slowly rebuilding it themselves, while working and still living in a FEMA trailer on the other side of the Mississippi. But they come back to Phoenix as often as they can, to work on their house and catch up on the community. Though they have no connections to Noella, they expressed so much gratitude for us being down there and helping to rebuild Phoenix. They opened their home to us, fed us dinner (mmm, gumbo!), and insisted that from now on we were to consider them friends. Let me tell you, that is the body of Christ in action!

I have so many more stories I could tell you, and even more pictures I could show you. It's amazing to me the amount of destruction and devastation we saw in our travels -- it's been two and a half years since the hurricane! But thankfully, people are still volunteering to come down and work, and little by little, the area is coming back together.

The first week of March, I have another opportunity to do hurricane relief work. I will be traveling to Bay St. Louis, Mississippi (the red arrow) with a La Roche College spring break team. I'm sure I'll have more stories and pictures to share with you then, as well. Please pray for our team, as we finalize preparations.

Blessings to you all!
PS. If you want to check out the project we were working with, visit

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Tell me what you know...

My newest favorite musician is a woman named Sara Groves, who has actually been putting out CDs for many years. I discovered her, thanks to the Relevant Podcast, and have fallen in love with the way she interprets the world.

If you think about it, we are all doing this, every single day - in every action we do, we are interpreting the world around us. Some are able to do it through music, some through art, some with words... It is an absolutely essential part of our human nature. Every day we are figuring out how and why we exist in the world, and what our relationship is to the world. How do you interpret it?

With her music, Sara Groves makes beautiful connections to our humanity and God's nature. She tells stories and celebrates people. Music moves me, and some days I wish I had the gift of songwriting. But for now, I will have to simply enjoy the work of others. This is the chorus from my current favorite Sara Groves song, off the CD of the same name (Tell Me What You Know).

Tell me what you know
About God and the world and the human soul
How so much can go wrong
And still there are songs...

I thank the Lord in Heaven that I will always have a song to sing. I praise Him because we will always have songs to sing, despite the presence of so much pain and evil in the world. Through the darkness and desperation, there is hope. People are good. God is just. The world is beautiful. And I will keep on singing.

Tell me what you know...

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

New Photos, Finally!

I finally uploaded the pictures on my camera to my computer. For you today: a visual tour of the past couple weeks in the life of Wendy.

For Christmas, my parents surprised me with a new digital camera! Okay, well they didn't exactly "surprise" me with it, since I had asked for it. But it was still a surprise! My mom did a wonderful job of researching and picking a really good one. My first real chance to play with it was on the way up to Chicago for a friend's wedding.

This camera is amazing! It does things that I did not know cameras could do! My favorite features are the macro mode (so you can take really close-up pictures of things) and the color filter mode, pictured left.

Once I got back to Pittsburgh, I spent New Year's Eve downtown, enjoying the First Night festivities. Among other things, we got to see a performance of the Balmore Highlanders (I think?) Scottish bagpipers, drummers, and dancers. It was really cool!!!
Also unique to Pittsburgh is the fact that at midnight, our New Year's ball goes up, not down. I wanted to get a video of it, but my camera was out of memory. Maybe next year!

I've had a lot of fun posting and arranging pictures on my new Flickr account. Initially, I got an account because I really like searching other people's pictures and saving them as "favorites" so that I have someplace to look for inspiration when I'm crafting or painting or writing. After a while, though, I decided that it's only fair for me to post pictures of my own, too! I am by no means a professional photographer, or even a talented amateur. But it makes me happy, and I suppose that's all that really matters! :)

Saturday, January 5, 2008

After-Christmas Update

Well, much to my surprise, my parents got me the first pieces of the Willow Tree Nativity set! I had told my mom about it, but I didn't know that she was actually going to get it for me! I now have the basics of the nativity - the most important parts, really. Joseph and Mary holding baby Jesus, a shepherd, two sheep, and a donkey. I've taken most of my Christmas decorations down already, but I think I'll leave that one up a little while longer...

Speaking of Christmas decorations, the one thing that is STILL up in my apartment is... the Christmas tree! We got a live one, which brought me great joy. The only problem is that no one was home the week before Christmas, and now that it's more than a week after Christmas, the poor thing is extremely dry and brittle. Yesterday I took off the ornaments and garland, but had to stop before I removed the lights because it hurt my hands so much! The floor is getting covered with a good carpet of dried needles. We have been warned, in a missive from the apartment complex, to thoroughly wrap our tree up before transporting it so that we don't get pine needles all over the building. But my mom's solution to the problem is much more fun: our tree is next to the sliding glass door, which leads out to our third-floor balcony. She thinks we should just drop the tree over the balcony, thus removing the need to wrap the tree up at all! I think my mother is a genius.

In related news, the other significant present I got for Christmas was a digital camera!!! My mom makes us give her lists every year at Christmas, and I put a camera down (along with a MacBook) as a joke, not actually expecting to get one. But I did -- and it is amazing!!! That camera does things that I didn't know cameras could do! The day after I got the camera in our belated Christmas celebration I had to drive to Chicago with some friends, and I spent pretty much the whole four hour ride taking pictures of things and fiddling with my new toy. I'd love to show you the pictures, but I'm currently in Panera without my camera and cord, so the next time I'm around I'll definitely let you all in on the new-camera goodness.