Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Just a Tuesday

It started out as a gloomy Tuesday morning. So I compiled a list of things to make the grey morning brighter.

1. These measuring bowls from Anthropologie. No, I don't own them. Would you like to change that?

2. Sweet roommates who share riotous laughter at night over almond bars and soup.

3. This book, the only one by Jane Austen that I haven't read. That is currently being remedied. 

4. Early birthday gifts and a sweet note from my mother to remind me that I am loved.

5. My impending move....just a few more days!

Then the sun came out, literally, and the muggy gloom turned into a brilliant breezy sunny afternoon. 

It was made even brighter by a pre-birthday fro-yo date with this girl. We were roommates during our freshman year in college and now, eight years and many birthdays later, we're still celebrating together.

Finally, I enjoyed the last few lovely hours of this surprisingly perfect day with Mancredible and bowls of corn chowder.

What made your day unexpectedly beautiful?

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Friday Linkage

It's not really Friday, but it is the weekend. One of the last weekends of summer, in fact. While you are outside, enjoying the last few blissful days of sunshine and relaxation, enjoy some of the following links.

On reading, writing, and words, here is some writing advice from 99u along with an artistic collage on writing from Steve McCurry.

Here is a list of 50 specific ways to cultivate humility and some interesting commentary on Millennial spending habits.

This U.S. swear-map via Twittter is both hilarious and fascinating.

Finally, take a look at this list of 180 things that make people happy.

Have a wonderful weekend filled of sunshine, rest, joy, and the people that you love.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Of Insecurities and Majoring in the Humanities

I'd love to say that now, seven and a half years after I declared my English major, it all makes sense. That five years and three months after I finished my final research project at 6:30 a.m. on the day that I was scheduled to move out of the dorms, I've found brilliant success, fulfillment, and achievement as a result of choosing to major in the humanities. That immense security in my career choices and my future led me to also get a graduate degree in the same field.

I would be lying. 

The truth of the matter is that I still wake up and wonder what on earth I'm doing. I sit at my family reunion, surrounded by lawyers and law students, doctors and medical students and nurses, and wonder in terror if I'm going to be "that relative", the niece that never held a real job, the stray cousin that shows up and rants about her latest useless research while the rest of the room rolls their eyes, knowing that they are doing the real work of the pragmatic world.

I work in a world of business owners and lawyers and politicians, people who actually produce and shape and change what is going on and I date an engineer who actually builds and moves and fixes things (or something like that). 

And then I agonize in the dark of the night over my final paper, checking for misplaced commas and citation errors and wonder if it's all some distorted joke, some terrible misunderstanding. I wonder if I somehow missed some massive glowing sign on the freeway of life.

And I read this column in Cardus and this commencement speech given to one of the classes of the University of California at Berkely and I'm reminded that at least, if I'm making terrible career choices, I'm in good company.

I remember my freshman literature class, how the professor turned the rambling words, blurry on the page, into stories, stories that were real and alive and meaningful for the biology nerd in the corner and the tense straight-A in the front row and the insecure soccer goalie by the door and the awkward basketball player in the back. 

I remember how somehow he used Homer and Aeschylus and Augustine and Dante to remind us that we were something, something real, something more than hormones and sex and grades and jobs, that our lives were built from more than our failed relationships and our majors and our stupid freshman choices.

Now I open my browser and glance at the morning's headlines and it hits me again. I know them, these stories, the stories of a struggling economy and nervous business owners and successful corporations and failing economic theories and hurting people. 

I have heard before these stories of despair and triumph and fear and courage and loyalty and betrayal. Real life, like college, is ultimately all about stories and the words that make them and the words that make us.

The gunman in that fateful midnight showing of The Dark Knight was playing a role in a bad story, a lie, a tragic plot that claimed he and the people in that theater were something other than eternal beings with innate worth. 

The three men that threw themselves on top of their girlfriends in that same dark theater were part of a timeless heroic tale that claims some things are worth dying for, that the strong have a duty to take care of the weak, that life is not always about simple self-preservation.

The headlines on the main page of any media site tell a story of a battle between corruption and honesty, greed and generosity, truth and deceit. Anyone working in the world of business or politics or technology today is choosing to be an Achilles or a Hector or an Aeneas. (If you don't understand the references, I can only suggest that you drop what you are doing and start your Great Books reading list this minute. Begin with the Iliad and the Aeneid.)

Every day each of us is choosing between ourselves or another, prioritizing our own good or the collective good, our own well-being and comfort or someone else's. 

This is not to say that the solutions to our problems are simple, that we are all just good guys misdirected, that everything will be ok. They aren't. We aren't. It may not be.

But the first step towards solving problems and fixing ourselves and changing our world is understanding. And we cannot understand ourselves and others and our world outside of the larger context of human history. Only the most acute arrogance would claim that we are much different than those who have come before and those who will come after. 

So that is why I, and some of you, have made the strange and irrational decision to major in the humanities, be it history or classics or English or French. It's because you believe these things matter. Emotions and relationships and decisions that saved or destroyed dozens or thousands of lives, no matter what the century, that add up to the massive tidal wave of human civilization matter. 

Today is not simply the by-product of some oozing slime that happened to land us all in this random mess that we call the 21st century.

We are all a part of little stories and all a part of One Big Story and some of us are particularly desperate to understand it, to study it, and then to pass the meaning on to others. That is why late nights of painstaking research and grading papers and commas and citations and piles of books and endless notes in the margins are ok - because we are telling stories and connecting stories and passing stories on and that work matters.

There are going to be days when I wake up and wonder whether my major is useless, whether writing and reading and listening and communicating are all futile and silly. And I will swear off the humanities forever and curse the day I chose something other than pragmatism. 

And then I will step out of my front door and stare into the faces of Hector and Achilles and Helen and Penelope and Odysseus and Telemachus and Aeneas, the faces that fill my workplace and my home and my church and my world. And I will remember that the stories, their stories and our stories, are real and they must be told.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Friday Linkage

Happy Friday! 

This may be one of the greatest Fridays of my summer.  A wonderful family reunion, an utterly terrible six-week graduate seminar, and a few long weeks of work behind me. 

Ahead? August is Congressional recess and the city slows to a sedate swing. A brief break from school and then my final grad class, one with a professor who has taught me a great deal and over at topic that I enjoy. Also, one of my oldest and dearest friends will be in town this weekend. 

So this weekend will hold all of the good things that summer should hold. While you're enjoying this first weekend of August, enjoy browsing through the following links.

  • Wedding season is in full swing. This article contains some timeless advice in accordance with the season.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Bookish Tuesday: #11 - #20 of 30 Day Book Challenge

The 30 Day Book Challenge should probably just be called "The 30 Book Challenge. 

11. Book from your favorite author:

    Persuasion is my favorite book by my favorite author, Jane Austen.

12. Book that is most like your life:

 Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank Bunker Gilbreth and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey. It's painful to admit, but it's true.

13. Book whose main character is most like you:

This is another one of those awkward questions. Do I pick a book whose main character is like the me I want to be? Or the me I think I am? Or the me people say I am? When I was little, my grandmother always told me that I reminded her of Meg in Little Women. She was an English teacher, so her authority must carry some weight in this discussion. Then again, I was seven years old. So that may be irrelevant. 

14. Book whose main character you want to marry:

This one creeps me out. One can't marry the character in a book. I can't buy into the question. But I suppose Mr. Knightley in Jane Austen's Emma embodies humility, courage, and compassion, traits anyone should value in a spouse. 

15. First “chapter book” you can remember reading as a child:

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry. 

16. Longest book you’ve read:

Middlemarch by George Eliot is definitely the winner. Tristam Shandy by Laurence Sterne was required for a class and is definitely longer, but I don't honestly remember reading more than part of it, so it doesn't count.

17. Shortest book you’ve read

Goodnight, Moon by Margaret Wise Brown.
18. Book you’re most embarrassed to say you like:

Books are like people and decisions. You might change your mind; you mind move on to new ones; you might make some bad choices, but embarrassment is never a good response. Read wisely and well; treasure the good; toss the trash.

20. Book you’ve read the most number of times:

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley is probably catching up with Number The Stars. That's what happens when one takes too many English Lit classes.

In case you missed them, here are #1#2, and #3-10 on my list.

What are your answers?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Waffles and Chicken: A Miscellaneous Tale

My mom made chicken and waffles once for Easter. I secretly thought she made up the whole miraculous event. Then, recently, Mancredible discovered them on a menu and we ordered them, mostly because we were incredulous. But they are a real thing. A real and beautiful thing.

Of course we wanted to re-create the masterpiece. Until we encountered An Obstacle. At the ripe age of 24, I own a few earthly possessions. But not a waffle-maker. Neither does he. So Operation Waffles and Chicken was abandoned. 

That would have been the end of the saga...until I remembered that most groceries actually sell an amazing invention, the frozen waffle. Obstacle overcome.

And so, on a sweltering D.C. Sunday afternoon, while smart people were sipping iced tea in very dark cool shady locales, four of us were instead enthusiastically breading chicken and toasting waffles in a hot kitchen. 

Of course I didn't remember to write down the steps to our creation. We used Fluffy Eggo Waffles and combined the chicken recipe in this recipe with the sauce in this one. Except I used a lot of red wine instead sherry. The sauce recipe needs tweaking certainly. It wasn't quite sweet enough and was a little too thick, more like a glaze than a marinade. 

But overall, it was wonderful. And on Waffles and Chicken Round #2, syrup was added to the combination. This improved the dish immensely. All of it was gone within six hours, which says something, I like to think.

What experimental dish have you cooked lately?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Friday Linkage

It's been a wild week on all fronts. I am looking forward to a weekend full of rest and fun and, oh yes, homework.

Here's some weekend reading for your browsing pleasure.

On writing, reading, and blogging:

On life, work, and relationships:

Some miscellany:

Friday, June 22, 2012

Friday Linkage

Baby, it's hot outside.

The "real feel" yesterday was 105 degrees Fahrenheit. The heat was blistering, the sunshine glaring, the humidity oppressive, and hair everywhere in the D.C. area was very flat.

So when you aren't basking in the oppressive Sarhar-ian weather this weekend, sit in some dark, quiet, air-conditioned room and do some reading.

Here is a funny reminder from The Oatmeal common spelling errors, then, from The Wall Street Journal, a commentary about why grammar still matters.

Michael Hyatt provides insight on one way to be radical. Need another reminder? Jane Friedman's blog talks about why it's OK to be naive.

The 99 Percent talks about creativity while Oh So Beautiful Paper provides some creative greeting cards.

The Cardus blog provides suggestions for practicing hospitality in the city while Relevant offers a list of practical ways to meet real needs.

Stay cool!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

"Our Time Now..."

We are Generation Y, the Millenials, the generation weaned on computers, raised by helicopter parents, kept miles away from lead, and provided with possibly more resources than any other generation anywhere in the history of the world.

We weren't allowed to have cell-phones in junior-high but we sure had them in college. 

We are better educated than previous generations but fewer of us are employed.

We were raised on the notion that we could be and do and go anywhere that we wanted but now we sometimes look like a less-than-mediocre generation of unsatisfied, disgruntled employees.

More of us were supported by our parents for longer, yet, on average, we are financially floundering or at least naively unaware. 

We are both the healthiest and the fattest generation.

We were raised by parents who read to us, but some of us haven't finished a real, meaty, grown-up book in five years. (No, skimming Twilight on your friend's Kindle does not count).

We either love our jobs or we hate them or we just quit them in search of our dream job, but we all are looking for deep meaning and fulfillment at work. None of us seem to be working purely for our retirement benefits or our paychecks.

We are constantly on the move, working too hard, playing too hard, eating too much or too little, living in a world of extremes. We are, in short, thirsty for more, in search of something better than average, in search of good stories, good relationships, good work, and good lives.

Conversations with my friends produce common themes. On the whole, I think common goals among evangelical Millenials are deeply positive, if occasionally misdirected.

We ask ourselves and each other: Why are we working? What is the purpose of work? Who do we marry? Why do we marry? When do we marry? When should we rest? What is rest anyway if not a 30-minute session of Angry Birds? Where should we live? Do we really need to live anywhere in particular? Should we go to grad school? Should we go to grad school again? Should we pay off our student loans? Did anyone vote in the last election? Does anyone even know who is running in the next one?

The generation of children that was told that there are no bad questions has grown into a generation of young adults asking a lot of big questions. 

And this is a good thing.

Idealism is only naivety if disconnected from reality. Abundance is only an evil in conjunction with bad stewardship. Angst can be a motivating force towards action.
Flannery O'Connor wrote, "In the long run, a people is known, not by its statements or its statistics, but by the stories it tells."

This generation of evangelical Millenials has an opportunity, a great opportunity, to tell good stories and, through them, to tell The Best Story. But first we have to put down Angry Birds.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Bookish Tuesday: #3-10 of 30 Day Book Challenge

Like Jessica, I feel that the 30 Day Book Challenge is a fun idea but realistically a little painstaking. Here is part of my list en masse

3. Book that makes you laugh out loud: 

A Damsel in Distress by P.G. Wodehouse

4. Book that makes you cry: 

This is that awkward moment when I have to admit that I'm not a cry-er. Not with books and movies, anyway. Sometimes I cry when I cut onions. I can name two movies, maybe three, that brought me to tears in the last five years. (No, Toy Story 3 did not.) But I definitely remember crying over a chapter of James Herriott's All Creatures Great and Small over a decade ago.

5. Book you wish you could live in: 

Betsy, Tacy, and Tib by Maud Hart Lovelace. Deep Valley always seemed like an ideal world for any teenage girl.

6. Favorite young adult book: 

Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt and Number the Stars by Lois Lowry both profoundly impacted me. Between the ages of 7 and 12, I think I read Number the Stars six times.

7. Book that you can quote/recite:

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

8. Book that scares you:

The Deadly Curse of Toco-Rey by Frank Peretti. Yes, it's a book for a junior-high audience. Obviously, I scare easily. I probably should not go see Paranormal Activity

9. Book that makes you sick:

Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. This book left me numb. It was thoroughly depressing. It was a beautiful and well-written book, but not really one I want to endure again.

10. Book that changed your life;

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller. I've never gotten over this book. It changed the way I view events and circumstances, decisions I've made, and, I hope, my entire outlook on life.

In case you missed them, here are #1 and #2 on my list.

What are your answers?

Monday, June 11, 2012

June's Goals

All sorts of planned things did not happen in May. But all sorts of wonderful things beyond the reach of goals also occurred.

  • I did have a friend and her sweet baby over for dinner. Check.
  • 15 posts? No. But I did blog regularly, which is, I suppose, the point.
  • I completed C.S. Lewis' The Abolition of Man and Jon Acuff's Quitter
  • I practiced...more. Still not enough. The journey continues.
  • I sent some thank-yous and listed some  gifts.

I also enjoyed: 
  • a fabulous visit from the sister and cousin which involved a lot of much-needed girl-time.
  • a memorable trek out to Colorado.
  • our house's annual barbecue, attended this year by over a hundred people.
Yes, despite clumsily achieved goals, May was a glorious month. I can't wait to see what the summer holds.

Goals for June:
  • Try a few new recipes.
  • Write 15 blog posts.
  • My next class is looming near. I'd like to jump-start some of the assigned reading.
  • Complete Jane Austen's Sandition, William Deresiewicz's A Jane Austen Education, and Emily Freeman's Grace for the Good Girl. I also plan to attempt anew Victor Hugo's Les Miserables
  • Get into some kind of regular practice routine.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Friday Linkage

Happy Friday! I am ecstatic about this coming weekend. I hope you have something equally wonderful to anticipate.

For the writers and readers, here is some eye-candy.

Joel Miller writes a gentle reminder about God's answers.

This letter on marriage from Reagan to his son is touching.

Leadership Freak offers some tips for those of us trying to be braver.

I love applying literature to life. This Wall Street Journal article featuring Atticus Finch does just that.

Finally, some laughs for anyone living or working in Washington, D.C.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Barely Crafty: Quote Jar

Some of us are artistic, gifted to use things like paper and ribbon and wood with skill and ease. Those lucky individuals live in a happy world of adorable crafts. The rest of us just wish we were like that.

The Barely Crafty posts are for those of us who like pretty things, who are long on inspiration and aspiration, but who are a bit short on talent and time.

A friend of mine gave me a Quote Jar the other day. It was an inside joke, filled with lines we used on each other. But the gift itself is no joke. It is a beautiful jar with diamond-shaped etchings, reminiscent of another era and wrapped in a yellow ribbon and a dear reminder of our friendship.

Really, though, anyone could make one of these and turn it into a beautiful gift or keepsake. Even someone who is Barely Crafty.

Barely Crafty Piece: Quote Jar
Supplies: Jar with lid, construction paper, ribbon

1. Buy a beautiful antique or antique-looking jar from a thrift store, antique store, Hobby Lobby, or Target.
2. Cut two or three pieces of construction or crafting paper into 3/4" x 4" (or thereabouts) slips.
3. Write inspiring or funny quotes or Bible verses on the slips.
4. Places the slips into the jar.
5. Tie a ribbon that coordinates in color with the paper around the jar.
6. Give the jar as a memorable gift or place it somewhere where you can reach in anytime that you need some inspiration or encouragement!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Of Books and Gift-Cards: A Discovery

My book stack had grown a bit thin, so I visited Amazon to see what I could do about replenishing the supply and continuing to progress through my book list without breaking the bank.

Suddenly, I noticed a suspicious link on the right side of the screen. One of my painfully expensive textbook purchases appeared below the words "Sell back your copy." Underneath this catchy line was a tempting "Gift Card Value" and a hefty little sum. Could it be? Could I sell my boring expensive ugly textbooks back for more than just peanuts and actually get more books, better books, prettier books in return?

Creative Commons License: The Best Days Are Not Planned by Marcus Hansson on Flickr.

The process seems sinfully simple. I clicked "Trade in Now." and followed the three or four breathlessly easy steps. I printed off the label. Tomorrow I shall purchase an envelope from the post-office, assemble the package, mail it, and wait in suspense.

Supposedly I will receive a pleasant little sum into my Amazon account in return, money that can be applied towards resupplying my bookshelf!

Too good to be true? Maybe. Chronicles to be continued.... 

I'm fascinated by this deal. Am I the last one to discover this little gem of a trade? How do you expand your library without bruising the budget?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day!

Dear Mom,

You bundled me in pink snowsuits and tied my hair in pink headbands and sang to me and took me for walks and set up playdates and fed me baby quiche. From the first moment you showed me that the world was big and exciting and full of tastes and colors and people and charm and beauty and adventure.

You read me book after book after book after book and two and a half decades later I can still hear your voice reading Goodnight, Moon andI'll Love You Forever. On the surface life is more complicated now but the moon still comes up and every night the world still goes to sleep and I know now more than I did then that you really will love me forever.

Years later we read other books together, grown-up books, and you are still the best person to call when I need to rant about a British novel. 

Sometimes when Daddy had to work into the small hours of the morning you would let me stay up late into the night with you while you worked on projects to make our home beautiful. You didn't know it at the time, but you taught me that some things, like beauty and the people you love, are more important than sleep.

You taught me long division and made me painstakingly write out the steps. Divide. Multiply. Subtract. Compare. Bring Down. Over and over and over. I'd want to move faster and skip the steps and then the numbers would come out wrong and you'd remind me that steps can't be skipped. Sometimes now I get frustrated and want to hurry and then life gets tangled and I remember again that, in life like in long division, sometimes steps can't be skipped.

You taught me how to bake and reminded me to level the flour because sometimes the directions need to be followed exactly. Now I bake in a kitchen far away and I subconsciously tap the measuring cup and level the flour just like you showed me, carrying your words into every loaf of bread and batch of cookies that I make.

You made me pink cakes with rosebuds and blew up colored balloons and set beautiful tables for every one of my birthdays. You made sure my dress was just right for every recital because you know that every girl needs to feel like a princess, not once, but many many many times.

You made me practice when I didn't want to because sometimes little girls and big girls too have to follow through when they don't feel like working. "Feel the music, Emily," you would urge. And I remember every day that I can still make art right where I am even when I would rather  be doing something else.

I remember the countless times that people remarked that I looked like you. I loved it when people said this because I knew that you were beautiful and I wanted to be just like you. I still do.

From you I learned how to use candles and cloth napkins and mascara. You've taught me to send thank-you notes and take hostess gifts and how to make people feel welcome even if the food is served on paper plates.

You never tolerated sulking and knew that the best antidote to bad moods was action and movement and service and laughter. I remember that, on days when I just don't want to get out of bed or face the world or try, on days when I just want to stay under the covers alone where it's safe. But you're always right.

And sometimes we argue because that's what happens when you raise someone as strong-willed as yourself. Sometimes I wonder if you really knew what you were getting yourself into when you decided that motherhood was the most important job in the world. And I wonder if, in the dark of the night, you really think it was worth it.

Deep down I know that I scare you sometimes. That sometimes you are afraid that I might just be a little too reckless, too headstrong, too naive, too optimistic. That sometimes you wonder if you did something wrong.

But really, I'm the one who should be scared. You give away love and grace with unconditional abandon every day of your life. And I don't know that I have what it takes to do that. 

There's nothing riskier or scarier or more reckless than giving away your life for imperfect people. But you do that every day of your life.
Sometimes I wonder if I can ever love a man and children as faithfully and well and completely as you have loved Daddy and me and my brothers and sisters. But if I do, it will be due to nothing more than to the grace of God and your example in front of me every single day.

You've given me books and dresses and piano lessons and time and cupcakes, but mostly, you've showed me what it really means to love. 

Thank you, Mommy. I love you!

Monday, May 7, 2012

May's Goals

April was a good month in many ways, but a little rough on the goals front. 
  • If different combinations of vegetables and pasta count, I definitely tried three new recipes. Otherwise, this was not a month of culinary creativity.
  • I did not hit my blogging goal of 15 posts. Not even close. This month was not a good month for blogging.
  • Although I did not finish Sandition, I did finish The War of Art, Seth Godin's Graceful, and What's So Amazing about Grace. Progress.
  • Annotated bibliograhy finished, proofed, sent, and graded. Only two classes left until I receive that elusive M.A.!
  • I did not clock five hours of practice. But May is a new month.
  • I wrote one, not ten thank-you notes. One is better than none I suppose. I also have yet to begin my journal of gifts. But I purchased a new set of notecards; hopefully gratefulness will abound in May.

Goals for May:

  • Cook three new recipes and make a meal for someone else.
  • Write 15 blog posts
  • Complete C.S. Lewis' The Abolition of Man, Jon Acuff's Quitter, Jane Austen's Sandition, and another book.
  • Practice 10 hours
  • Send ten thank-you notes and begin a journal of gifts.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Friday Linkage

The bibliography is done and this girl's love-hate relationship with grad school is on hold until June.

This weekend I am going to rest, sleep, read, take care of everything that piled up over the last couple of weeks, spend time with friends, and enjoy being momentarily free from the constraints of deadlines.

I hope your weekend outlook is equally bright. Here are some links for your weekend browsing.

As just another high-school age victim of the Scarlet Letter assignment, I found this author's article about the reward of reading good literature a poignant reminder of the world's need for books. She writes, "We rely, despite considerable counterevidence, on those who weave words into laws and sermons and stories, vesting them with our hopes for the sentence that can perform the sacramental task of imparting life and grace and faith in things not seen. The ancient Hebrews regarded utterance as a sacred gift: every spoken word was shaped and borne on the breath of life, each breath a gift of Spirit. A high view of language is essential..."

"Trusting God with My Story" makes me uncomfortable. In a good way. Read it. Then read it again. Then drink some coffee and think about your story.

This is a hilarious breathe of fresh air for anyone who has ever graded anything, but especially for the world's English composition teachers.

Here's a witty commentary from Mancredible on communication between men and women for which Halfway Down the Stairs provided plentiful if not always productive input.

Humility is one of those virtues that begs many hard lessons. It's a difficult path to tread in today's world, and especially in the fast-paced self-advertising environment through which today's young professionals slug. Here's some encouragement.

Is anxiety holding you back? Try acting naive.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

In Regards to My Mediocre Blogging Habit

I've been a terrible blogger of late.

I have lots of things that I would love to write about, swarms of things that I would love to share.

But I also like to sleep sometimes and those little things add up to fill the waking hours, things like the looming deadline for my final annotated bibliography and a wonderful family visit over Easter and time with people dear to me and the 50 hours out of every week that are dedicated to my job and the need to occasionally go to the grocery store or do my laundry.

So blogging has been tricky. This isn't a dramatic exit, just a warning that blog posts may be sparse for the next couple of weeks until life settles down a bit. 

How do you prioritize when schedules get full and time gets thin?

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Friday Linkage

I hope that your weekend is filled with good conversation and memories made, with the morning sunshine of spring, warm coffee, and the laughter of those you love.

A guest post on Donald Miller's blog reflects on the importance of reading in meaningful life.

Desiring God had a thought-stirring article on the statistical connection between race and the frequency of abortion.

An interesting collection of quotes marking the novelist Milan Kundera's birthday will inspire any writer.

Michael Hyatt wrote a convicting article for Christians and leaders about the importance of keeping one's word.

A slideshow of an enormous lodge in Park City, Utah, provided some fun eye-candy....this might be my dream kitchen.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

April's Goals

March flew by and April is here in full force. It's hard to believe. In the spirit of Balance and Blueberries' lovely goal-marker posts, here are some of my goals for April:

  • Try three new recipes.
  • Blog 15 posts
  • Finish The War of Art, Sandition, and What's so Amazing About Grace?.
  • It's almost the end of the semester....the end of April and the completion of the annotated bibliography for my current course should coincide if I ever hope to finish grad school.
  • Clock five hours of piano practice. This sounds minimal, but simply reenacting a regular practice routine is going to be an enormous step in the right direction.
  • Be grateful. Write 10 thank-you notes and list 100 gifts in my journal.
What are your goals for April?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Friday Linkage

It's not Friday. Not even remotely. I hope as you prepare yourself for the week ahead, though, these links provide you with encouragement and inspiration.

This article from The Atlantic provides  fascinating look at the psychological effects good intentions have on our physical senses.

Creative Commons License: Coffee Club by anthony_p_c on Flickr

Watch the High Calling's brief video (or read the transcript) on why your work matters to God.

World Magazine's commentary about the redemption stories buried beneath March Madness was inspiring, even in light of the demise of my bracket.

After a week filled with random and petty but frustrating mishaps, Jeff Goins' words were a comforting reminder that art must happen not in spite of, but in the midst of, the real sweaty business of life.

In the face of a constant barrage of stories, ads, and curiosity about online dating, the Wall Street Journal provides a sometimes overlooked side to the fascinating new trend.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Lessons from One Goal

I was looking over my list of January resolutions and was pleasantly surprised. Per usual, there are goals that have been pushed to the back-burner and goals that I'm proceeding towards more slowly than expected. But one goal stood out, 

At the beginning of January, I determined to read for 15 minutes every morning. Every. Morning.

 Creative Commons License: Sunrise in San Diego by Timm Williams on Flickr

This meant that I had to make some changes:
  • I had to get up early enough to allow 15 minutes of extra time in my morning schedule. This wasn't hugely difficult since I normally get up fairly early, but for last-minute risers this might present a hurdle.
  • I had to go to bed early enough to make rising 15 minutes earlier a viable possibility.
  • I had to put a stop to my habit of checking my Facebook and e-mail accounts right away in the morning. This was a good change that needed to happen, but a difficult habit to stop at first. 
Some mornings, it's romantic. I hop energetically out of bed, grab my book, and read for 15 blissful minutes as I leisurely sip my coffee. Most mornings, though, I frantically fight to keep my eyelids open, mournfully wondering what possessed me to try this sick experiment.

Commitment to this goal taught me a few things:

1. Everyone has 15 minutes in their day, somewhere, that they can recapture. Maybe your 15 minutes is during lunch break or in the late afternoon or late at night. But that block of time is hiding somewhere, just waiting to be used. 

2. 15 minutes may not seem like much time, but committing to doing something every day for 15 minutes was much harder than I thought it would be. Distractions and hurdles will appear en masse. The universe will conspire against that 15 minutes.

3. 15 minutes every day produces real results. I finally read John Piper's Desiring God, a book that has been on my to-read list for ages. Tomorrow I am finishing Chesteron's Orthodoxy. Instead of staring at my "to-read" pile, I am finally seeing results.

What could you do in 15 minutes a day? Practice an instrument? Read through a book list? Learn to cook? 

Monday, March 19, 2012

Giveaway: TrimGoTrix Winner Announced

Thank you to all of you who entered the giveaway!

I'm pleased to announce that Rachel from Balance and Blueberries won the drawing!

Thanks again, Monica, for generously giving away a necklace from TrimGoTrix, as well!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Let the Madness Begin

I don't normally consider myself a sports fanatic. I can certainly appreciate the occasional football or basketball game during the year. But I just haven't attained the attention span required to follow a team or sport for an extended period of time. The period in early winter when basketball and football are both occurring is still confusing to me.

Also, I attended a tiny liberal arts school. Although my school had a lot of great qualities, our athletics department was weak at best. So I didn't catch the sports bug that many catch during college years while attending a bigger state school.

But for the last couple of years, during a few weeks in March, this all changes. Something about the intensity, the fast pace, the limited time-period, the viewer participation, and the fact that I can finally pretend to know what I'm talking about during sports-related conversations at parties....I'm hooked.

My bracket's triumph in my office last year sealed the deal. Who correctly put Butler in the Final Four? This girl. 

During March Madness I become a different person. Normally I don't even watch television. During March Madness, I yell at mine and sometimes throw things. Normally, I work in blissful ignorance at the office while the guys discuss recent games. During March Madness, my morning greeting consists of questions like "Who saw the VCU/Wichita game last night??" and "Can you believe that call?!" 

So, the normal Emily will return on April 3. Until then.....let the madness reign.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Friday Linkage

Happy weekending friends! Here are lots of links to enjoy.

Enjoy this collage of city-scapes.

My friend and fellow blogger shared this wonderful article from Gospel Coalition earlier this week.

These recent shots of the Titanic wreckage are fascinating.....for those of us who are history nerds.

BonaVita shares a design blog.

Peter Leithart shares an inspirational perspective about the heroic potential of the modern business world.

Mancredible discusses the importance of seeking out high-interest-producing checking accounts.

Donald Miller and Robert Bruce share suggestions for improving one's written and spoken words.

Apartment Therapy offers some creative options for cooking eggs.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Stories from Friends: Brenda in Haiti

Brenda, a friend of mine and a reader of this blog, recently traveled to Haiti on a short-term missions-trip. She graciously agreed to share a bit about her experiences there.

Tell a little about yourself.

I’m 24 years old, have a business degree, and I have lived in the same small town in Michigan, on the same farm, for almost my entire life. 

A couple years ago, God gave me the opportunity to travel the world on a trip called the World Race. I was able to serve in 11 different countries in 11 months on 3 continents. I have had a heart for missions since I was about 12 or 13, but that was my first experience overseas. I have also wanted to go to Haiti since the summer of 2008 but never had the chance to go until now.

Where did you go and for how long?

In August I took a small group of teen girls from my church to Carrefour, Haiti. It’s about an hour outside of Port-au-Prince proper. We were there for about a week. In October I had the opportunity to return to the same place, with a different team, for a week as well. 

Describe Haiti.

Haiti takes up about 1/3 of the island of Hispanola, sharing it with the Dominican Republic. It is a tropical climate – hot and humid. Haiti is the poorest country in the Western hemisphere. There are about 1 million people still living in tents (about 250,000 were there before the earthquake) and there are just beginning to be signs of cleanup and repair work done. When we were there, there was trash everywhere. The new president is making an effort to rebuild the island, but he is dealing with the politics of centuries of corruption and apathy.

With what organization did you go?

August’s trip was with Adventures In Missions, based in Gainesville, Georgia, and October’s was with Church at Chapel Hill, Douglasville, Georgia.

What was the purpose of the trip? What kinds of things did you do while you were over there?

The team in August was there to work specifically with a church. We did VBS every morning and helped with some clean-up at the church. We also visited people in a tent city to pray for them and visited an orphanage.
The purpose for October’s trip was to work at the orphanage we visited in August. There are about 25 kids at Odascat Orphanage. It is a home and is cramped; the kids really have no room to play and just be kids. 

We cleaned out a bedroom – and saw more roaches in there than I ever want to see in my life again! 
We also gave them some new mattresses. We taught the kids how to brush their teeth and talked to the people in charge about basic hygiene and cleanliness. One of our team members was able to treat some infected surface wounds on the kids. We played with them, told them Bible stories, and just loved on them. One thing any kid needs is someone to hold them, hug them, and show them that they are important.

Part of our purpose was also to establish an ongoing relationship with this orphanage and, by doing so, to be able to help them create a better life for themselves and the children there as we continue to visit and teach them. While we spent most of our time at the orphanage, we still had time to visit a couple of tent cities to pray over people and meet some practical needs. 

What is your favorite memory from the trip?

My favorite memory from the first trip was that both of the teams worked so well together. I had three teenagers and there was another group of one adult and three teens, along with our leader, Angie. Everyone got along and we had a lot of fun serving together and spending time with our translators.

I have two memories that stand out from the second trip. First, on our first day at the orphanage, when we were assessing needs and beginning the medical work, I met a little 2-year old who had some sores on her arm. Angie, our leader, told us that when her other team came in August (after our team left), this girl, Cassandra, cried the whole time. She let me pick her up and hold her on my lap as her wounds were being dressed and she didn’t even fuss at all. Later in the week I was even able to get a picture of her laughing. Definitely a different little girl! 

Second, a little boy named Jean (John), also about two, "adopted" me. He always wanted to sit on my lap or have me carry him. He has the most beautiful smile and I didn’t want to leave him there.

What surprised you most?

What most stood out to me was that, no matter where we were, whether during VBS, at the orphanage, or in the tent cities, the kids want to know that you care. They want to touch you, to be hugged, to have you play with them, and show them that they really are important and special, to you and to God.

What was the most significant thing that you learned?

James 2:14-17 says, “What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what
use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.” (NASB)

When we practically meet someone's needs and then share the message of Christ as the foundation for why we care about them, they will be much more likely to listen and respond.

What is one other thing that you want to share?

One thing Angie mentioned the first time I was in Haiti is that God has placed us where we are for a purpose. We can feel guilty about living in the U.S. while others are in far worse circumstances, or we can use what God has given us to serve those He calls us to help, however He asks. It is our decision to use what He’s blessed us with for ourselves or for Him.

On my first trip to Haiti we met a little boy named Sebastien, in one of the tent cities, who had been born with club feet. He is about 8 years old now, and had only been fitted with braces for his legs about a week before we came. It looked painful and was difficult to see, but the only reason he even had them was because there were Red Cross workers nearby doing work because of the earthquake. It really shook me up, though, because I had a similar problem when I was born, but it was fixed before I was old enough to walk. Unlike me, this boy has never walked.

On my return trip we were able to meet his mom and one of his brothers. He has been “adopted” by an American couple and has had surgery on his feet. His braces will be removed in December. God is so good! He knows us each by name and, no matter where we were born or where He is calling us to, He has a purpose for our lives: to bring glory to Him.