Thursday, March 29, 2012

Look What Happens

...with a love like that.

I know Sufism is a mystical dimension of Islam, but I can't argue with the premise: turning the heart away from all else but God. I'm so thankful for the Son who lights my way.

Monday, March 26, 2012

He is Jealous for Me

I am firm believer that God brings you what you need to hear, when you need to hear it: a stranger saying they'll pray for you, a sermon spoken directly to your heart, a bit of advice about one situation that really applies to a different one you're in, and yes, even songs on the radio. And if the words spoken aren't new to us, then I believe God gives us the ears to hear something new within something old. Because all of the people behind these gifts are just earthly messengers carrying a Greater Message.

Have you ever noticed how a song you've heard a hundred times before can take on new meaning when life finds you in a new place? Even a song you've loved before can become something entirely new. That happened to me today, driving down the interstate. The song starts, "He is jealous for me" and suddenly I was transported from, "oh man, I'm running late for my appointment" to straight up humility. Lately I've been jealous of a peer's accomplishments, of a co-worker's opportunities, of a friend's happiness, of a loved one's attention directed toward someone and something beyond me. But oh, God is jealous for me.

A few months ago, Amy Vogel wrote that in human relationships, jealousy stems from an innate desire to be loved. Things go wrong when one person is looking to the other to provide all the love they need.  I can run on empty desperately trying to find validation and completion from another person. But sh*t happens, and every relationship needs redefining. 

When I seek fulfillment in another person or title or achievement, it's all in vain. Only God can provide fulfillment. When I covet another person's time and attention, God is jealous. He's jealous of my idols and my walls and my avoidance. 

I got homed and looked into this song a bit more. The version I heard was by the David Crowder Band, but the original lyrics were actually written and sung by John Mark McMillan. I found an interview in which he talks about writing the song after his best friend died. He says, 
"This song isn't a celebration of weakness and anger. It's a celebration of a God who would want to hang with us through those things, who would want to be a part of our lives through those things. And despite who we are he wants to be a part of us, and a part of our community, and a part of our family." 
In short, this song is straight-up worship formed out of breaking. And it is beautiful. God is not offended by anger or bitterness. Oh, what a love.

How He Loves
by John Mark McMillan

He is jealous for me
Love like a hurricane
I am a tree
Bending beneath
The weight of his wind and mercy
When all of a sudden
I am unaware of these
Afflictions, eclipsed by glory
And I realize just how beautiful you are
And how great your affections are for me

Oh how he loves us so
Oh how he loves us
How he loves us so

Yeah He loves us
Oh how he loves us

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 meats earth like a sloppy wet kiss
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest
I don't have time to maintain these regrets
When I think about the way
He loves us

Oh how he loves us
Oh how he loves us
How he loves us

I thought about you
The day Stephen died
And you met me between my breaking
I know that I still love you God
Despite the agony
See people they want to tell me you're cruel
But if Stephen could sing
He'd say its not true
'Cause your good

'Cause He loves us,
Woah, how He loves us
Woah, how He loves us
Woah, how He loves

Yeah, He loves us
Woah, how He loves us
Woah, how He loves us
Woah, how He loves 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Rocks, Pebbles, and Sand

Many of you have probably already heard this modern 'parable' before. I remember reading it for the first time in Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul when I was in 8th or 9th grade. It's called Rocks, Pebbles, and Sand:

A philosophy professor stood before his class with some items in front of him. When class began, he wordlessly picked up a large empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with rocks about two inches in diameter. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles, poured them into the jar and lightly shook it. The pebbles, of course, rolled into the open areas between the rocks. The students laughed. He asked his students again if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else.

“Now,” said the professor, “I want you to recognize that this is your life. The rocks are the important things—your family, your partner, your health, your children—anything that is so important to you that if it were lost, you would be nearly destroyed. The pebbles are the other things in life that matter, but on a smaller scale. The pebbles represent things like your job, your house, your car. The sand is everything else—the small stuff.

“If you put the sand or the pebbles into the jar first, there is no room for the rocks. The same goes for your life. If you spend all your energy and time on the small stuff, material things, you will never have room for the things that are truly most important. Pay attention to the things that are critical in your life. Play with your children. Take your partner out dancing. There will always be time to go to work, clean the house, give a dinner party and fix the disposal.”

Wise words. In your own life, be sure to take care of the rocks first—the things that really matter. Remember, the rest is only pebbles and sand.

I am guilty of paying a lot of attention to the sand and pebbles in my life.  I'm now at the point where every day that goes by without putting the rocks in first is a day wasted. I want to life a full life, but I've been filling it with the wrong things.

My weekend position has been a huge, huge blessing in so. many. ways. but my job as a full-time staff nurse in general, and on the weekend premium position in particular, has kept me from putting roots down in a church. Online sermons are a good resource. Small group has been a tremendous blessing. I've started going to weekday Mass once a week (thank you, Catholicism!) which has been amazing and humbling, but it's not the same as going to the same church. Every Sunday. With the same people. Getting involved without worrying about working every third Sunday (or more) and half of the important church holidays.

After all, a house (life) built on sand is scenic, but fragile at best. But a house built on rocks? Read Matthew 7:24-27 to see which foundation you would rather choose.

If you base priorities on sheer amount of time spent immersed in something, the rocks in my life have been constantly changing since high school, for better or for worse. They've included friends, boyfriends, school/good grades, running, preparing/eating/controlling/abusing food, reading blogs of people I've never met and never will (shameful), Facebook (extra shameful), reading for pleasure, working (especially on night shift-- it consumed me), and more.

Not all of these are bad, in fact, most are very good in the right amount, or when not replacing something more important (for example, it was not uncommon for me to read a massive novel from start to finish the weekend before finals in college).

As Mike Wilkerson says in Redemption:
To be human is to worship... You worship what you live for, whatever is most worthy of your attention and devotion... You can't turn off worship. It's your basic human wiring. To not worship is to not love. It's like a garden hose stuck on full blast. You can aim in at the grass, the car, or the shrubs, but you cannot stop its flow... What you pay attention to, how you spend your time, the way you work, how you relate to others in your life- all these things broadcast your heart's worship, making visible and advertising what is most important to you.
Don't waste your time worshiping unworthy idols.

In the last 3 months, my rocks have been (in no particular order): school, my TA job, work, wasting time on the internet (to clarify: I don't think of writing my own blog posts as a waste of time. Even if no one reads them and no one cares, I'm not the only blogger who things that these times are important. I blog to keep memories. To remember the good and the bad. And it's probably the closest I'll come to writing a book.)

My pebbles have been: my marriage (this summer, it was a rock but through the winter, once I started school, I'm ashamed to say that my efforts fell by the wayside), working out 2-3 times a week, small group, creating healthy meals that Ross and I will both eat a few times a week.

Scattered among the sands of daily living activities, some other things have managed to slip in: quiet time with God a few times a week when I thought about it (this waxes and wanes as a pebble and as sand), church (ditto, although Lent has been a bit better), friendships, good daily habits.

What I would like my rocks to be:

-quiet time with God

-my marriage

-keeping in touch with my family better

-church life

-good daily habits and routines (for example, doing my PT and Bible study when I wake up, tidying up for 5 minutes and preparing the next day's clothes/lunch if needed before bed, journaling each night)

-school and my TA job


-creating healthy meals with local food that Ross and I will both eat

-working out so I can stay mentally, physically, and emotionally healthy and balanced

-small group

-getting outside (for workouts, gardening, or just a walk)


-improving my photography and updating my own blog

-work (I know it's weird to put this as a pebble, but I'm 'demoting' it because I'm not spending a lot of time outside of work doing stuff for work, such as the Developmental Care Committee, studying for RNC, etc)



-reading stranger's blogs

-starting ambitious new projects around the apartment

-baking for fun (sad, because I love to do this, but I don't have the time nor the money to be doing it a lot right now)

-reading for pleasure (again, totally a good pastime, but I tend to get sucked into books so I need to save them for school breaks or the rare times when my homework is done early

Writing this reminds me of the song "Two Sets of Jones'" that was on the WWJD CD I listened to on repeat for most of 1997: Is your life built on the rock of Christ Jesus, or a sandy foundation you've managed to lay? I want to be the wise builder. And only by the grace of God is this decision even remotely mine to make. And I choose Him.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Coconut Chocolate Delights

I first started experimenting with this recipe this fall when the Girl Scouts were taking cookie orders. I wanted to come up with a gluten-free Caramel DeLite. I quickly realized that I was going about it the wrong way. Samoas have a caramel, shortbread, coconut base and these cookies have a chocolate coconut base. But that doesn't mean they're not delicious. Especially if drizzled with a little caramel!

P.S. I realize they're not super photogenic. But these are the flattened version. For the first pan, I just scooped the dough out by the Tablespoon and when photographed, they look like poo. So. Appetizing, right? Try them, they're delicious!

3/4 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut
1/2 cup almonds meal
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp coarse sea salt
1 egg
2 Tbs milk
3 Tbs almond butter (alternately, coconut oil and real butter work well, too)

1. Preheat oven to 350 and line a baking sheet with parchment.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. In a smaller bowl, mix together the egg, milk, and almond butter. Add wet to dry and mix well.
3. With wet hands, shape balls and place on prepared baking sheet.
5. Bake for 14-15 minutes at 350. Cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Makes approximately 18 cookies.

I haven't posted many recipes lately, but it's raining outside and it's my last day of spring break (remind me why I'm subjecting myself to the... difficulty... that is grad school and my TA position) and I couldn't resist baking. On days like today, when real rain and thunder is present, I don't mind the grey skies. And the beautiful thing about spring is that it can be windy and unpredictable and stormy and rainy, but when the rain falls on fertile soil and the sun comes up again, fragile shoots begin to grow.

Yes, I'm talking about these garlic shoots that sprouted out of nowhere. I forgot I buried them last November. But I'm also talking metaphorically. If I manage my time wisely and prioritize well, this will be a season of growth.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Blurred Around the Edges

Thank you so much for the well-wishes and the texts over the weekend asking how surgery went. Friday didn't get off to a great start. The day before, the nurse had told me that surgery would be promptly at 11:15 am so I should be there at 10:15. I was there by 10:05, tired and hungry (and therefore cranky). By 11:15, I still hadn't been called back to pre-op. I asked the receptionist what was going on, and she said the doctor wasn't even there yet! I debated getting up and leaving right then and there. But I'm glad I didn't.

Things finally got going around noon and the next thing I knew, I was in the recovery room mumbling, "this hurts a lot more than I thought it was going to." My face was throbbing, as expected, but what I didn't anticipate was the slicing pain in my throat every time I swallowed. Apparently that have to suction a lot of blood out of the airway during this surgery (gag) and that's what made it so sore.

I spent 3 hours in recovery getting the pain and my breathing under control and we finally stumbled out of the surgery center at 5pm. Ross is such a trooper for putting up with the waiting room for that long! We had planned on going to Omaha post-op, but I was a little too nauseated for that. So we went home and my Aunt Theresa came over to babysit while Ross went to the pharmacy for my meds.

I got in bed shortly thereafter and slept pretty fitfully due to my plugged-up nose. I hate mouth-breathing. I feel like I woke up every 15 minutes gagging with a cotton-mouth! When we woke up Saturday morning, we did decide to drive to Omaha and resting in the reclined car seat was much more comfortable than in bed. We to headed my grandparent's (on my mom's side) house to recuperate. It's allergen-free and they had a choice of recliners for me to sleep in the next few nights.

It doesn't hurt that my grandma made stellar square meals for us. Very restorative! It was great to just hang out with them, too. Holidays are so busy and crazy and fun, but it's hard to have real conversations when 25 other people are in the room with you. I also can't wear glasses for 6 weeks (because they rest on my nose) and my peepers have been too swollen to mess with contacts so one-on-one conversation is about all I can handle.

I'm definitely still recovering, but we came back to Kansas City today. I'm praying my bruising heals quickly because I get my cast off Thursday and head to work again Friday!

Recovery observations: So far it looks like someone has painted heavy purple eyeshadow around my eyelids and in a big streak from my inner eyelid toward my cheek. The worst swelling was when I woke up on day 2 post-op. It seems to be worst in the mornings. My nose is still slowly oozing, although it's not nearly as messy as I thought it was going to be. My upper lip is surprisingly stiff and swollen. I can't talk or smile very well. Even chewing is uncomfortable overall. You don't realize how handy nose-breathing is until you can't do it (it takes me about 3 times longer to eat because I take a tiny bite, chew, swallow, breathe, repeat). And so many facial movements anchor through the nose, so I'll be looking pretty deadpan for a while. I feel bad complaining, because while this wasn't a cosmetic procedure, it was definitely an elective surgery. But I appreciate all the well-wishes and surgery appears to have been complication-free, thankfully!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

NPO After Midnight

I'm having surgery tomorrow. It's nothing life-threatening. In fact, I feel a little vain even though it's not a cosmetic procedure. But after my sinus headache debacle this fall, my ENT decided that now was a good time for that septoplasty he recommended ages ago. So tomorrow I'm getting my deviated septum straightened out and my turbinates reduced.

I'm kind of terrified. I'm a little scared of the surgery itself, but I'm even more worried that healing will be pretty gruesome and breathing through my nose will be harder than it already is. Currently, I take Sudafed every day and whenever I talk to my mom on the phone, she still asks if I've been crying because I sound so stuffed up. In the long run, this will hopefully help my congestion and the constant post-nasal drip that makes my voice sound like an adolescent boy's.

If you're so inclined, I would appreciate prayers that there are no surgical complications and that recovery is quick. Thanks!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Thursday: Pololu Valley Beach

On the way to the black sand beach, we stopped in a little hippie town for some coconut water. It blew my previous coconut water love out of the water. It's true: fresh is best! They had harvested and filtered it that morning and I was a happy camper.

After a few more minutes of driving, we reached our destination.

On the Big Island of Hawaii, you can follow Highway 270 until it eventually dead ends at a lookout point over Pololu Valley.

If you take a steep 20 minute hike down the switchbacks there, you will reach a stunning black sand beach nestled in a valley that contains lush pastures, pine trees, and palm trees in close proximity.

A stream flows from the beach back toward the pastures.

Standing there juxtaposes the valley one one side and the rugged beach on the other. This is not a snorkeling beach. The wind whips around the steep cliffs and the waves crash ashore incessantly. But it's desolate and wild and stunning.

You came upon me wave on wave

The black sand is basalt created by lava flowing into the ocean centuries ago and shattering as the hot lava hit the cool water. Time and surf have worn the sand down to a very fine grit.

I can see why ancient Hawaiians lived here until the threat of tsunamis drove them out.

I'd live here if I could. Am I sounding like a broken record yet?

We could've spent all day on the beach, but our growling stomachs inspired the hike out. It was too late to eat at Merriman's in Waimea, so instead we went back the way we came and stopped at Bamboo in Hawi. We were so hungry and this food tasted so good.

This was another town that felt like stepping back a generation in time, so we spend a little while browsing the shops and eating ice cream.

Tahitian vanilla and Kona chocolate chip
Worn out but extremely satisfied, we headed back to the hotel. The day ended with a casual, delicious dinner at Eddie Aikau-- a restaurant named after Hawaii's first lifeguard.

This was the one night we didn't see the sun set, but the day was certainly filled with plenty of natural Hawaiian beauty.

Thursday: Off the Beaten Path

Yes, I'm still blogging about the week-long vacation we took last month (already?!). Ever since getting back, my days have been spent thusly: eat, workout, eat, work, eat, homework, eat, sleep, lather, rinse, repeat (with minor variations). I do have lots of thoughts about Lent, my TA job, grad school, and life to share, but no time to make these thoughts coherent.

Right now, the garlic I planted last fall is sprouting up in green shoots and big, fat snowflakes are falling from the steely gray sky. So instead of bemoaning that spring as we know it may never be the same again, I'm going to share more pictures from my happy place.

~  ~  ~

Thursday was a wonderful day, and quite busy. So to prevent (too much) photo-overload, I'm splitting it into two posts. To start the day, Ross and I had a quick breakfast at the hotel. Anahola granola and Kona coffee on a sunny balcony guarantees even better things to come.

My mom and dad wanted to stay close to the hotel on Thursday and bike around to the fish ponds and petroglyphs nearby. So Ross and I took the rental car and headed north. Our plan was to head up to one of the black sand beaches, go into Waimea for lunch, and get back to the hotel by early afternoon. Instead, the scenery kept distracting us and we spent most of the morning stretching out the 45 minute drive.

About 15 minutes after heading out, we saw a real estate sign for some oceanside lots and we decided to take a look out of sheer curiosity.

So lush and green. Not your typical image of Hawaii.
Morning sun.
 FYI, the lots were all less than $200,000. If I could buy one, I'd be thrilled to squat in a tent until I could afford to build a house!

The grass + sea air smelled so sweet. I'd bottle it if I could!
Best of both worlds.
After that, we got back on the highway and drove a bit more. Near the King Kamehameha statue, we ran into a small Episcopal church. The town of Kapa'au felt like stepping back in time 50 years.

We did, of course, pay a visit to the famous statue nearby, but I liked the church better.

We also found a library and I think Ross' sister should apply for a job here!

Right after this, Ross took a turn toward a shoreline access road. It's amazing how the scenery and air had changed so quickly! From rugged beach to lush grassland to pine forest.

We parked in a semi-paved lot where the road end we noticed the a lot of the foliage was planted in distinct rows. Not the kind of farms we're used to, but definitely garden-like. So we started poking around.

Then we ran into a farm hand who told us we'd stumbled across Hawaii Island Retreat. So we took a more official tour. This retreat was an off-the-grid getaway with solar panels, well water, and 50 acres or gardens and trails. They serve only their own organic food and have nine rooms, plus yurts, for guests to stay in.

After our brief tour, we finally headed down to the shoreline that led us off the highway in the first place.

Totally worth stopping for.

cool pattern of lava coming out of the rocks

After seeing the seashore again, we snooped around the Retreat on our way out and found more gardens, orchards, and some animals.


can you see the ram?

Finally, we realized it was almost afternoon so we hiked out and got back on the highway to head toward our original destination: the black sand beach.