Number Nineteen

Everything’s in except the piano. Another move in the books. From a rented pool house in a friend’s backyard to a 2-bedroom apartment twenty minutes closer to town and five minutes from church. It’s my eighth move in the ten years I’ve lived in Arkansas, and it’s the third move in four years here for Aaron. The other day I counted up the number of places I’ve called “home” since being born. This is number nineteen. That seems like a lot for thirty-three years. Thankfully only a few of them involved an uprooting from one whole area or state to another. Two were international. I never could relate to friends who had all their memories in one house. Part of me envied that, but I loved my family’s adventures too. My mom excels at packing. Unfortunately I only partially inherited/absorbed this skill.

My husband has moved a fair bit for his age as well. His father was Army for 30 years. For my part, God made me a homebody who loves travel. I love seeing the world, and I even like a lot about the hectic excitement and apprehension of moving to a new area, but when I’m home I want to be home. Don’t need to find something to do downtown thank you, I’ll enjoy a book by the fire or on a blanket under a tree in the yard in Spring. Maybe a play or musical once in a while if a good one comes through town. So, for years now I’ve said that I figure God has one of two reasons for having nudged me all around the country and the world; 1) He has allowed the moving and travel (nine countries) so that if I never get to move or go anywhere again, I’ll have absolutely no excuse for complaint (not that there would be anyway), because just look at the places and people I’ve gotten to experience!

Or 2), He’s preparing me for more.

Well, now I’ve married into the military. So it’s looking like the latter. Aaron is Air Force. He wants so badly to see the world, to go fight the monsters. And I want him to be able to. He’s ready. I’ll miss him, but I want him to get that chance. They haven’t sent us anywhere yet but we can bet quite a few more moves lie ahead, especially considering his long term goals. But as you all know, here’s the thing about “home”: it’s where the people you love most are, regardless of the point on the globe. In that sense, a lot of us have several homes. We are blessed with people. I feel like I’ll always have homes in Minnesota, California, South Africa, and Arkansas. Despite all the times my family has picked up and left, God has given me wonderful people; family, church families, and friends that have defined home for me.

And now, my husband. I look around this cozy apartment and I’m so grateful for God’s provision. For yet another place to call home. Until it changes once again.
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Apples of Gold

If Christians are to be known for hating anything, it should be nothing so much as our own sin.

Today I’m thankful for the patience and love of my Mom and sister. Most of us sin against our families more than anyone else and I’m no exception. I put mine through a lot. A sharp tongue and stubborn heart have been my greatest long-term spiritual battlegrounds at home; easier to control around the office, church, and friends . . . but with family? So difficult. Improvement has certainly occurred over time, but it’s been slow.

Yet they love me enough to say the hard things I so need to hear. And I’d be a fool to ignore them. Thank the Lord, that is at least one aspect that’s beginning to improve more and more: a quickness to let their words in, and accept that they are true. That once again, my family’s right. It’s still a constant battle against pride, to not simply think them too critical, and remember that these are the people who know me best in the world, who see what my behavior is like when unchecked, and again, LOVE ME ENOUGH to say something. To recognize that this is God working through them.

May the Lord help us all to be humble, keep soft hearts, teachable spirits, prayerful attitudes, and take action to change.

Listen to those who love you. Be thankful that they are speaking up.

Mom, Becca, thank you for words fitly spoken.

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold

In settings of silver.

Proverbs 25:11
Apples of gold


Walking worthy…on and offline

At long last, I have come to realize that I do not love people very well at all. In general and especially online. Naturally, some of the reasons I don’t love people well in general are ripple effects of the fact that I simply spend too much time on the web: primarily Facebook, and reading articles linked there.

There is certainly a place for those things, and you don’t need me to repeat what my betters have already blogged, posted, and shared on the subject. But I must finally admit that I have a twofold problem: too much time online, and a misuse of that time.

To first address the misuse of time online: 

As I finally turn a more critical eye on the frequency and content of my Facebook posts, I have seen an unsettling pattern. I seem to be on some kind of crusade against lack of discernment in Christians, mistaken Christian teachers, and Catholicism. Always trying to make some point or harp on some cultural trend.

None of my views on these matters have changed, but it’s time I realized a few things:

1) It is not up to me to effect the growth and change of those I love through sharing just the right article that’s finally going to convince them.

2) It is not my job to make everyone aware of every issue that I deem crucial to good discernment.

Many of us love to share something we find enlightening, etc., and again, there’s nothing wrong with that. But I tend to love making truth known in the face of error in ways that possess neither winsomeness nor humility. I often take a superior tone which betrays the pride in my heart and dilutes the message.

Even worse, sometimes my motive is more akin to “I have to make sure my Facebook friends know that I’m on top of this issue theologically and haven’t been taken in. Others need to know that they’ve been taken in, and they won’t know unless I share this.”

How’s that for prideful? As if I were their only source for that material and God needed me to click “share” lest anyone miss it. And…as if I were always right.

Does that mean I don’t think God would use something I shared in the life of an unbelieving friend? No; it’s always possible that He would. My point is, I need to lay off the frequency and correct my attitude.

There must be a balance, and it may take me a while to find it. In the meantime, I plan to do much less “sharing” (with those extended excerpts you know I love) and use my Facebook time for more encouragement and less tutelage.

To address the amount of time online: 

Others have already said this better than I can, so I’ll keep it brief. I’ve allowed myself to fall prey to the smart-phone addiction, big time. Checking and re-checking to see if new  comments, notifications, messages, or texts have arrived or new photos been posted by certain pages or groups. . . it’s bad. My eyes (and brain!) tire from screens all day at work and screens for most of the evening, and on and on it goes.  Yet I notice how little certain of my friends are on Facebook and I want to follow their example. Their lives are in no way diminished by their “absence” from it and indeed, they have more time for far better things!

So, the biggest concern? You guessed it. All those things I don’t get done because of wasted time. The cooking & cleaning, laundry, letters to friends, serving others, photo album, cross-stitch, calligraphy, writing, drawing, time outside, and a half-dozen projects left unfinished. And the READING! Oh, the reading. What a list! Most of the things that lend true richness to life, right? I deprive myself of blessing others and much of what makes my walk worthy of Christ.

“Walk worthy” . . . sweet Bethany Rehrer would remind me how precious is the time we have here.

Lately I’ve begun to journal more and more, and I find that the time spent at my desk with the low lamp on, candle lit, and pen scratching across real paper (ah, my first love!) to be incredibly sweet. It is cathartic and healing; getting my thoughts out, recording events, expressing prayers and frustrations. You journaling people have known that for years. Well, I can be a very slow learner.

One big thing I did accomplish recently (this is mostly for any Heart for Home study ladies who may be reading). . . in the weeks before Christmas I buckled down and completely rearranged and reorganized my room, selling and moving various pieces of furniture (thanks Becca!) until there was actually room to maneuver in there. After the New Year a free headboard and perfect little desk from church friends made a huge difference, and now there are pictures on the walls and everything. Yay! Very close to “a place for everything and everything in its place” at last.

Please pray for me. These are big changes to make, and I’ve neglected self-discipline for too long. It’s been difficult to swallow my pride and admit this, since it spent a long time on the list of things I thought I’d never struggle with. (A word to the wise: don’t make that list.)

And now it’s time to log off.

A Heart to Go and Half a Mind to Stay

Moving from one home, state, or country to another is a strange amalgamation of hassle and excitement. It’s usually a big mess. Often an emotional one too. Still, if you’ve done it enough times the manual-labor aspect becomes second nature, and it’s easier to enjoy the creative and social opportunities that come along with such change. New ways to arrange the furniture, neighbors to meet, etcetera.

But at the age of 29 I have moved 15 times. Only 4 were state or transnational moves but combined with all of the apartment/house/city re-locations in between, I’ve always felt like somewhat of a nomad. You should see the pictures of me at 5 years old, standing by the “SOLD” sign on the front lawn of that little blue house on Bradley Street in St. Paul, my face red and puffy from crying. It was the second home I’d lived in but the first one I remembered. We were leaving the only church and friends I’d known and gallivanting off to “the land of fruits and nuts”: California. Since then, my memories have been compartmentalized into chunks according to what house we lived in, where. Minnesota for nearly 6 years (2 homes), Santa Clarita for 3 (2 homes), South Africa for almost 1 (3 homes), back to Santa Clarita for 6 (1.5 homes), to Lancaster for 3 (1 home), back to Santa Clarita again for 4 (college dorms), then Arkansas (5 homes)…

The longest I have resided in the same house is 6 years. But I did live in California a total of 17 years. Viewed that way, it really doesn’t seem so bad.

On the opposite of the spectrum from “not so bad” is the wonderful blessing that I’ve been able to visit 9 other countries. Visit lengths ranged from 4 hours to 9 months, and I am incredibly grateful to have seen so much of the world. That first international trip — moving to South Africa at the age of 8 — instilled in me a deep love for traveling. I love the atmosphere of an airport at 5:15 a.m., even when the lines are long. They’re great places to meet people too, all sorts. [We saw Jerry Mathers in the Phoenix airport (my dad spoke with him), and at LAX my sister and I “met” Kiefer Sutherland in the baggage claim when he tripped, bringing all three of us and our suitcases tumbling to the floor in a heap.]

More to the point. From the suburbs of Johannesburg to the delicious little Italian place on the Thames in London, from horseback-riding in the Jordanian desert to walking the magnificent halls of Pergamon Museum in Berlin, travel has lent real perspective to my worldview and led to wonderful friendships across the country and around the world. I’m very aware that these are not blessings granted to all who desire them, and I am extremely grateful to the Lord.

When it comes to the future, naturally I’ve often mulled over for what purpose God orchestrated my life this way. Of course there are the primary reasons of sanctification, character and personality development. I know He’s given me a desire to do some kind of Christian mission work and evangelism in foreign places, though my makeup is not such that I want to do so alone. Specifically in regard to future moves, I’ve wondered, is He preparing me for more? Or, knowing that He placed within me a love for travel and a certain enjoyment of change, could He perhaps have prepared me to be content with one place for the rest of my life? Sometimes I struggle with envy of those who’ve enjoyed an established home in the same area, near family, for many years. The homebody part of me really wants that, too. The positives and possibilities of both ways of life are clear to me. And I realize it doesn’t have to end up being one or the other; for all I know my future could simply be a mixture similar to what most Americans experience.

This summer, I realized I’d been in Little Rock for 6 years. Something about that gave me an inkling, a sneaking hunch that change should be on the horizon. But I have a great job, a comfortable little apartment shared with my sister (a situation which has vastly improved our relationship), an amazing church family, and many dear friends. Richly blessed! If God leaves me here, my heart would long for some get-up-and-go but I certainly would have no reason to complain.

If He picks me up and nudges me out the door again, well…bring it on. May I always seek His will first and pursue contentment with His plan.

John Adams, in great good humor on the effects of Ipichac

Ten pages into the book My Dearest Friend, a collection of 289 letters sent between John and Abigail Adams, both tears and laughter already abound.  Oh to write like this! The following is John’s jovial description of his and his brother’s preparation for the smallpox vaccination, which involved taking Ipichac (an emetic) before they were actually given the disease.

Sunday morning, April 8, 1764, at half past 10.
“The people all gone to Meeting but myself, and companion, who are enjoying a pipe in great tranquility after the operation of our Ipichac. Did you ever see two persons in one room Iphichacuana’d together? (I hope I have not spelled that ineffable word amiss!) I assure you they make merry diversion. We took turns to be sick and to laugh. When my companion was sick I laughed at him, and when I was sick he laughed at me. Once however and only once we were both sick together, and then all laughter and good humor deserted the room. Upon my word we both felt very sober. But all is now easy and agreeable, we have had a breakfast of Pottage without salt, or spice, or butter, as the doctors would have it, and are seated to our pipes and our books, as happily as mortals, preparing for the small pox, can desire.”

Dance, Run, Frisbee, Work, Repeat.

Danced my feet off again Friday night. Among them Hustle, Rhumba, Waltz, and a fun Tango! They say the Tango must be earned. They’re right =)
Then I ran 4 miles in a delicious light rain yesterday morning, took a long nap, and enjoyed a beautiful wedding. Today’s sermon was great; I got to sit next to my friends and their baby daughter, and ultimate frisbee in the rain was delightful.

Home at my parents’ for Indian food tonight. Trying to mentally gear up for a very busy week at work. Tomorrow tickets go on sale to the public, a rotary club meets in our building on Tuesday, and the first Board meeting of the season is on Thursday.

My heart is weary and troubled, but trusting my wise God. I could always trust better and more completely, and would appreciate your prayers.

Excerpts from “Meaning at the Movies” by Grant Horner

“The Lord God has created almost innumerable elements of this world for us to experience, and he has also given us minds sensitive to his fingerprints, which are everywhere visible throughout his creation (Romans 1:19-20). Making man in his own image, as a being who is intelligent, emotional, creative, and capable of perception, memory, imagination, and anticipation shows a particular aspect of God’s will for us: he wants us to experience things. He wants us to think, to feel, to create, to enjoy, to remember, imagine, and hope. He wants us to do all these things within the boundaries of his care, his holiness, and his will (1 Corinthians 10:23-33). His goal is not simply for us to have experiences, but to choose experiences and to respond to experiences in such a way that we grow more and more obedient to him (Philippians 4:8). He desires for us to desire to live lives that please and glorify him, and thus to edify ourselves and each other—which will in turn bring us the pleasure of obedience. Obedience to God is the greatest pleasure there is. He wants us to make right choices by acknowledging his rule in our hearts and his will for our lives.

So what do Christians “do” with movies? Should we act the same about movies as those who do not know the God of the universe?

Like everything else in human life, a radically different approach to film is necessary for believers. Non-Christians will generally have as primary motivations for film-watching entertainment, pleasure, vicarious living, an event to share with friends or loved ones, and so forth. For the believer, every moment is is an important decision; some of these decisions will please God, and others will please only ourselves. We need to increasingly choose the former over the latter. Our primary goal should be to please God; and if God is what he claims to be, then the same decisions will result in our pleasure as well as his. Every scrap of our experience needs to be rooted in a consciousness of the presence of God. We do not move through one existential moment to another, seeking meaning only in ourselves. Those who love God are eternal beings, and every decision makes a mark on eternity.” pg. 59

“Some Christians fear all art and creativity, but without biblical warrant. We should avoid sin, not beauty and thoughtfulness, design and craft; we must resist evil, not every form of pleasure or enjoyment. Contrary to what some Christians think, there is not a bizarre kind of virtue in ugliness! How many churches have you been in that were tacky, ugly, or featured some lowbrow aesthetic? Or made every attempt to eliminate anything that might engage the sense, which God made? God does not expect or desire that you leave anything at the church door but your rebellion. He wants your mind, your body, your personality, your emotions, and yes—your aesthetic capability.

A basic thesis of this book is that for effective interpretation and discernment, the viewer must be able to decode a film’s worldview—it’s controlling philosophical position. Film, like all art, is open to varying interpretation. It is an untenable argument to claim that any film or other work of art has only one single valid level and range of meaning. Experiencing art is clearly a subjective event, and the very process of interpretation, which for the Christian should involve worldview analysis and discernment, is an opportunity for the Christian to exercise God-honoring discernment.”  pg.60-61

This book was written by my college professor and family friend, Grant Horner. I highly recommend it, particularly to  young people, their parents, and people my age!

Elizabeth Squared

God has provided a roommate! In mid-December, Lord willing, I will move into another apartment with my friend Elizabeth Knight!

Elizabeth is in culinary school and works as a Pastry Chef’s Assistant at the Little Rock Country Club. She is very sweet and caring, has a little dog I can cuddle, and she might even teach me how to cook! Not sure what I have to offer her, but the Lord knows…
Please pray for us as we look for an affordable, safe, suitable place.
She’s the one on the far left =)


Up on the Mountain

I have heard it said that Christian music is rarely either.
If you’re not looking for hymns, the good stuff is hard to find. Whatever the genre, music with lyrics that are accurate and worshipful just isn’t on the top of most popular lists.

I am very grateful that I grew up on the music of Steven Curtis Chapman. He could always be trusted to have lyrics that uplifted, challenged, convicted, and provoked thought. Through imagery, metaphors, similes, or just a good story, every song has something profound to say. A great deal of the theology and practical teaching I received on Sundays and from my parents was reiterated in the SCC music I listened to while house-cleaning during the week. Let Us Pray reminded me of the truth that praying isn’t just for the dinner table or worship service, but any and all moments of the day, “like breathin’ in and breathin’ out.” By God’s grace I still pray like this. As a part of my thoughts, prayer is in and out of my mind throughout everything. But this evening I want to talk about his song The Mountain.

He speaks of being on a mountaintop of calm, peaceful waters, with a view for miles, and troubles nearly out of sight. A place where his faith is strengthened; he never wants to leave, but he knows he’s headed for the valley, and God will go with him to help him remember what he learned “up on the mountain”. It is never stated in the song whether he refers to a meaningful vacation or a mountaintop in his spiritual life. The imagery leans toward the latter, but it doesn’t matter. It was a song I could always apply to summer/winter camp ‘spiritual mountaintop’ experiences where I had learned and grown so much, but knew that I had to (in my case, literally) go back down to the valley and try to keep this fresh focus on the things of God through the bombardment of real life troubles and temptations.

This song reminds me to plead with the Lord to help me remember what I learn in those times. The times that my relationship with Him is close and strong provide a well from which to draw when my sin or a trial has left me in a desert valley. I remember that He is ready and willing to take me back up,  up on the mountain. He is always faithful to do so.

One day, He will take me to a different mountain.
The place He has built for me in the city that needs neither sun nor moon, for it is lit by His glory.

This and That

My writing professor in college (Dr. Simons, a.k.a. The Supreme Potentate) taught that there are three keys to effective writing. With essays in particular, it’s about being  Specifc, Definite, and Concrete. As a young person known among family and friends for verbosity, those keys do not come without effort. Like most valuable things in life.

We get some entertaining questions at the ASO Box Office.  First, there are the people who think we sell tickets to the Blue Man Group, Shen Yun, the Elvis Show, et cetera.  Then, our favorites. Those who ask strange things about the seats we offer them. Most common is “Can you still see the stage from that seat?” No ma’am, sadly you can’t see a thing from there. They built in select seats without a view of the stage, and when you asked me to find the best available I went straight for those. Another recent favorite was, “The seat is in the Orchestra Section you say? Does that mean it’s on the stage facing the audience?”  Yes, some audience seating was built on-stage with the musicians.*sigh*  In regard to the upcoming People’s Choice concert, after hearing the explanation that audience votes choose the program and winners will be announced in an awards-show manner, the patron asked “So will there actually be any music played?” Nope. Craig and Dawn make the announcements, we all cheer, we go home. Now, I’m absolutely certain of the likelihood that I have called places, asked extremely silly questions, and been chuckled at once I hung up. So I don’t mind enjoying these immensely. Overall, I have had wonderfully pleasant interactions with ASO patrons!  I’ve “met” people over the phone from many countries, chatted with others new to Arkansas, had some genuine mutual laughs, given driving directions and, upon request, recommended all sorts of restaurants (that I’ve never been to).

Lately, I’ve discovered a few things:
My apartment key won’t lock my office.
My mail key won’t unlock my apartment.
When I run upstairs in 4-inch heels, things happen.
When I don’t watch for ice on the ground, similar things happen.
I should have watched The Blues Brothers many years ago.
Frosty the Snowman is not just a song, it’s a cartoon. Who knew.
It’s strange to hear my office phone number advertised all over the local NPR station.
I think I’ve become one of those Coffee People.
I LOVE BALLROOM DANCING. Always wanted to learn and now I can actually sort of do it, a little 😉
Running is something I want to do for the rest of my life.
I have even more to learn than I thought.
That “discovery” has been made many times and will likely be made many times more.
Admonition and forgiveness from friends & family are equally necessary, and equally sweet to my soul.
The above is true whether I see it right away or not.

While thinking about my family recently, I was convicted of how poorly I show them my love and appreciation, or thank them for showing theirs.
These words came to mind: Don’t waste the love you are given.