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.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Reflections on Lent

Lent is far less romantic than it at first seems. In the weeks leading up to Lent, it takes on a dramatic aura. Self-denial, self-sacrifice, penance, lessons about all seems quite dreamy.

Then boredom settles in. Every day doesn't really begin or end in a fierce battle through which I emerge triumphantly more self-disciplined or honest or patient. Mostly, I just learn to irritably endure the dull self-inflicted annoyance of not getting my way on a regular basis.

Worse, I begin to simply ignore the commitments that I set for myself, shrugging off extra time on social networking sites or the consumption of a stolen piece of candy as petty misdemeanors.

Then comes, perhaps, the most irritating part of Lent. I learn that I'm not really as great as I imagine. I'm actually far more lazy, far less productive, far more gluttonous, and far more critical than I like to admit.

Lent holds up a startling mirror through which I can see myself. I may not be a criminal but I'm not a saint either. I am, I discover, a petulant child who is happy and compliant when I get my way and stormy and sulky when I don't.

I grow weary with my petty sins and disgusted at my inability to tow the line. Lent doesn't make me better or more lovable. It simply shows me how dingy my faith, how tremulous my walk, how unlovable I am.

But Easter is coming anyway.

"The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love."

And therein lies the gift. Unloving, I'm loved. Undeserving, I'm blessed. The great lesson is that trying is in vain and my efforts are futile, but that peace lies in rest.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Giveaway: TrimGoTrix

I like to think I am good at a number of things, like alphabetizing and finding comma errors. There are certain things, however, to which I can't even aspire. I'm not very artistic.....not like some. 

Monica, a dear friend of mine, for instance, makes beautiful pendants. She takes raw ivory and bone and wood and transforms them into works of art. 

You can see some of her lovely creations at TrimGoTrix, her Etsy shop. She's doing a giveaway, by the way, in conjunction with this site. To enter, simply leave a comment below. You can receive credit for an additional entry by linking to this giveaway on your Facebook, Twitter, or blog and sharing the link below in a a second comment. 


The deadline for entering the giveaway is Saturday, March 10 at 11:59 pm. The winner will be awarded the pendant of his or her choice from the TrimGoTrix store and will be announced on Wednesday, March 14.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Sunday Inspiration


"We need this life of practical romance; the combination of something that is strange with something that is secure."   - G.K. Chesterton

Friday, March 2, 2012

Friday Linkage

Only a sliver of Friday is left. I watch the snow sift rapidly from the dark sky. I hope your week, like mine, brimmed with life, the the soul-strengthening plodding alongside the breath-catching good. And I hope your weekend and mine holds rest and peace and time with those you love. Happy weekending, friends! Here's some reading for your travels.

Alpha Consumer reveals what happy people know about money that the rest of us don't. presents a fascinating look at an explosive new trend in business and one of the world's oldest traditions: eating together.

Cardus presents a convicting call to action to young Christians, English majors and non-English majors alike.

101 Books is a lovely blog I've recently discovered.

Lindsey Frederick, a friend of mine, writes on the importance of confession in New Identity.

GodHungry presents four simple ways to pursue wisdom