Monday, November 15, 2010

i have good news and bad news.

Do you want the good news first or the bad news first?

Oh wait, it doesn't really matter what you think for two reasons: 
1. this is my blog, and it happens to be extremely one-directional and also me-centered, which means the bad news will always come first. I like getting it over with.
2. The good news and bad news are one and the same in this case. Guess what I found out can be made in a toaster oven?
Toasted marshmallows! Melted chocolate (and peanut butter) chips! I don't know why I never thought of it! (Yes, I do. It's because I have never owned a toaster oven before, and I am smart enough to realize you can't toast marshmallows in a regular toaster unless it somehow has an open flame.)

I have been cooking up many delicious recipes - mostly from my Almost Meatless cookbook. Barley-stuffed butternut squash. Albondigas (Spanish meatballs). Turkey and pinto bean corn bread pie. Stir fry. Sour cream pancakes. Up next? Eggplant. I love winter vegetables!

I've been listening to Timothy Keller's Ministries of Mercy. It's been really good so far, about how we cannot simply have a church based on verbal interactions and theology. Books are just a bunch of scribbles that we apply meaning to (Richard Foster, A Celebration of Disciplines) and it's actions that truly reveal love. Actions are pretty hard when you're faking love,  however, and that only gets you so far, which is to say, not very far at all, so I'm not suggesting that we only build our actions as a sign of love, which is something I often find myself doing. They should be an outpouring of love: like when something so good happens to you that you know there's not a chance you could keep a secret and you're going to blow like a teapot if it doesn't come out of you. (I think that also could be used to describe a couple flu symptoms. Use whichever metaphor you prefer.)

Timothy Keller says in Ministries of Mercy that alienation occurs when an object is separated from its purpose. Our purpose is to glorify and worship the Creator God. We are forever alienating ourselves by worshiping things other than the Creator God, by being slaves to sin and running away from every intention to glorify Him. We alienate ourselves. "It's like - how much more black could this be? And the answer is none. None more black." (Thank you, This is Spinal Tap).

But we are a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemable people - but it is only through the will(s) of God.

If Jesus' subsistence, His food, was to do the will of the Father, how much more should we be emulating that? How much more should we realize that we are incapable of doing so ourselves? How much more do we see the necessity of Christ and of God's desire for us to be saved and God's will to have His creation glorify Him?
Much more. How much more glorifying could this be?

The answer is none. None more glorifying.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Getting splashed

  • The first practice was today - the swimmers had to swim 1500 to prove that they could swim, so it wasn't really a practice-of-practices. I did get to meet a few people (we'll see whose names I remember next week) and cheer on some people too. I like it. I don't think people realize how much fun it is to be on the pool deck in clothes. This position is a big blessing, and I now found out that I am not needed at morning practices (which is a mixed blessing, I guess, since I was looking forward to them.) I'll probably try to go to morning practices when I can't go to the afternoon practices. Because I'm really comfortable on the pool deck and in this setting, I'm viewing it as a big blessing before I apply to teach this age next year. Who knows - maybe I'll get to tutor some calculus/ geometry/ trigonometry this year with the swimmers!
  • Free pretzel sticks at Max & Erma's still! (Oh, maybe I shouldn't admit that again.) 
  • Friends that you can be yourself with. Not that they like every single part of me, but that I know I can act however I'm feeling (sad, joyful, immature, giggly) and they will accept it. Example: I was taught how to play chess today - see a synopsis below.
    • Him: Do you want to play chess?
    • Me: I only know two things about chess. The horse moves up two and over one (or up one and over two) and the phrase 'king me.'
    • Him: Silence.
    • Me: Okay, I take back the second thing. 
    • So then we are sitting at Cup O Joe and I am scrambling to see all the moves, reminding myself over and over again that "us mathematicians" are supposed to be good at chess and like it. Magically, (after about one hour of a game) I captured his queen. I may or may not have shrieked an evil cackle that made some other tables laugh. Of course, I still managed to just get a draw and not actually win, but you can be sure that all of my captured pieces were watching with rapt attention, organized by height and importance on the side of the board. It makes me smile that I can let my silly ideas out and people don't throw me out the door.
  • Sleep. It restores us (physically, mentally, and cognitively). Animals sleep. Humans sleep. Why do we require 8ish hours of sleep? We could have been created like other animals that don't need very much sleep. I think it's because it reminds us that we're not invincible and forces us to step back, relax, and remember that we also have to rely on God. Plus, cool dreams. I remember my dreams probably 6 days out of 7. I also really enjoy dreams. Typically (when they're not nightmares), they're blessings.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

"Do you realize if it weren't for Edison, we'd be watching TV by candlelight?" - Al Boliska

Shortly - 
  • Thankful for warm houses, heat, electricity and lights, the ability to communicate with friends who live far away... all these things that technology brings us. What good inventions we have before us that we take for granted!
  • That my plans never work out and God's always seem to. It just doesn't seem fair, but then, years/ months/ weeks/ hours later, I start to understand that I had tunnel vision and wasn't able to see what God sees. It makes me wonder how God sees this world - I'd imagine I'm just seeing a thimble-ful of the ocean... Or perhaps it's like the difference between looking at a picture of the mountains compared to seeing mountains in person. Or looking at a picture of someone compared to seeing them. Although I did read a study that looking at a picture of a significant other produces the same neurological reactions that drugs does. Ke$ha was right - love is a drug. 
  • Gift of joy and optimism. I guess this is not something that everybody has. I am in no way saying that I am always happy or always positive (because I know you could all prove me wrong) but I think that generally, I see the positives in the world around me, and I trained myself a little bit but mostly it came naturally. For example, I don't worry about the slushy-ugliness of snow - instead I think of snowflakes that sit on my nose and eyelashes, and sliding down giant parking-lot piles of snow. I think this joy in life is a huge blessing, and I am so glad that most of the time, it is easy for me to access this part of me.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

but God will not take away life ---

  • "We must all die; we are like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. But God will not take away life, and He devises means so that the banished one will not remain an outcast." - II Samuel 14:14. If there is ever something to be blessed with, I suppose that verse about sums it up. (Hey! I love it when I can work that phrase into a post.) This was spoken before we knew what God's mean was going to be (Jesus) so it's kind of a nice little pre-emptive promise to David (remember, he's our imperfect leader.)
  • Swimming! This was already on the list, but that was for me swimming. There is one thing that I tend to feel blessed about more than swimming, and that's making other people swim. I took a job today as an assistant swim coach for a nearby district who is coaching their three high schools with one staff. Practice starts Friday, so I don't have much time to prepare, but I am super-duper excited about this opportunity. I tried telling my roommate about it and she said it didn't sound that fun ("Practices twice a day? Sounds horrible.") to which I responded a little quip about how it will be ten times easier to get out of bed knowing that I won't have to dive in the water. Plus - I get to run with the team in their afternoon practice! The coach was really pleased that I'm a runner because he thinks it helps makes the swimmers tougher, so I'll be running with different groups every week, probably more than once a week (groups run four days of the week, but I don't know what my role will actually be. Possibly running with them four days.) I think this is a huge blessing because the time commitment sounds like nothing to me. I am really excited to work with high schoolers, smell pools every day, work out, deal with headcases like me, and:
  • This one deserves its own bullet: Early morning car rides in the dark with no radio on are my favorite start to the day. Dark or almost dawn. Few cars. The closest to the smell of nature that one finds in Columbus. Quiet. Tranquil. I cannot wait. And just to reiterate, this is made ten (maybe eleven) times better that I don't have to dread a cold pool at the end of the drive. I paid my dues for eight years, though, so I will not rub it in any swimmer's faces.
  • Soreness. In anticipation of the interview today, I knew I needed to look the part of a hard-core swimmer, so I lifted weights this morning for the first time since before the marathon. I love the feeling of soreness - it's confirmation that I worked hard, that my muscles are still there, and that I deserve the Bakery Gingham Buckeye cupcake and cookie dough ice cream after dinner... Okay, maybe not always that. But the fact that I am able to work out (time and ability) and that it relaxes me is a blessing.
  • Baptisms! My church has a baptism service this weekend. I take this for granted, but I'd love if this berakah were realized more in my life, just how much it actually means for us!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

"this ain't no thinking thing, right-brain, left-brain, it goes a little deeper than that."

  • Certain aspects of who I am. When I share my ambidextrous-ness with others, the typical response is "Are you right-brained or left-brained?" I then share that I was a math major and English minor. I like using both sides of my brain. For my cognition class, I found a free quiz on which "brain" I am, and it proved the following: 

Right Brain/ Left Brain Quiz
The higher of these two numbers below indicates which side of your brain has dominance in your life. Realising your right brain/left brain tendancy will help you interact with and to understand others.
Left Brain Dominance: 16(16)
Right Brain Dominance: 16(16)
Right Brain/ Left Brain Quiz
I am both. This makes me smile and think of all the cool things I can do connecting types of thinking and types of material that might not normally run smoothly together.
UPDATE: I no longer like this test. Either I am only friends with like-minded people or everybody is perfectly equal, and I also have no psychic friends. Sad day.

  • Imperfect leaders. That doesn't sound like a berakah, but it is. Think of King David from the Bible - he was a good leader, right? Wrong. He had so many issues - committing adultery and then leading his army into a battle purposely so that the adulteress' husband would die - his children rape and kill each other - doesn't see his wrongdoings, etc. Yet through him, God performed so many good things. I could take this two ways - 1. to say "God can use me too!" (which He can, and does) and 2. to realize that no matter who gets elected, no matter what kind of leader we're following in the government, church, family, anywhere... no one will be a good leader. We are always voting on the leader that we think will bring society to perfection, rid the community of violence, poverty, bad educational systems, etc., and I have previously failed to connect that desire to the Israelites' desire for a king. We are all in search of a King. We are all in search of someone that's going to fix what's wrong. And the imperfect leaders remind us of that desire and that need.
  • Songs. I love song lyrics and the ease with which they connect me to emotions (which are buried deep-down inside) and certain people, certain situations, and times of my life. I can't hear "I try" by Macy Gray without thinking of a seventh-grade track meet when someone sang it stepping off the bus. I just got the new Taylor Swift cd and like the songs. 
  • Swimming. The smell of chlorine (or clorox, or any bleach.) It is like a relaxant - the smell and the movement. Maybe I will go swimming today... 

Monday, November 1, 2010

A life of berakot for a week of Yes-vember

Remember my "Learning to Pray Like Jesus" class? I almost didn't. I had started to forget how many devout Jewish pray-ers lived a life of berakot (blessings). Their acknowledgment of blessings infiltrated their whole life, not just their prayer life. (There's a brief definition here.) And a little more detailed information here that says practicing Jewish persons are supposed to pray a prayer of berakah 100 times a day. Maybe when I return home, I'll find my notes and be able to give you more details. Or you can click on the label "berakah" to read about it, although some of them are simply labeled "berakah" because they are things I was thankful for.

In the spirit of fall, and a time when I've recognized that I spend very little time deeply reflecting on anything, and a time when it's really easy for me to be happy because it is blue and sunny and time for neutral-colored clothes and sweaters and hot chocolate and applesauce and snuggling under an OSU blanket - I am going to write one post per day this week, recognizing what blessings I have and what I feel blessed with.  (For those of you who have seen me really chattery and know just how annoyingly positive I can be, don't worry; the lists will be non-exhaustive.)

I know some will seem very shallow, some might actually appear negative, and some will be so insightful that you'll wish you could have voted for me for governor, but my goal for the week is to put only things that I do feel grateful for or blessed with, and to reflect on the berakot that I list. I'm hoping not all are shallow.

Please leave comments of berakot in your life - or if they're personal, call or text me because I'd like learning them about you.

Today's Berakot:

  • Free pretzel sticks at Max & Erma's this week with a "good neighbor" card!
  • Blue skies, crisp fall weather, a new (er, return to an old) office with a window that I can stare out of. And apparently, write blog posts and eat apples instead of getting work done. This leads into another blessing of not having very much work this morning so that this window-cubicle-distraction is acceptable.
  • Friends who don't mind watching a movie on my computer screen, as it sits on top of a TV tray, as we cram onto a sofa bed. (Yes, we pull out the sofa bed to watch movies. I think four might be our maximum number of viewers though.)
  • Friends who ask me how I'm doing - and do it so that I know they want a real, true answer. My roommate is careful to do this, and yesterday at church, two girls came up to ask me how I was and said "We know you have an I'm-Julie-so-I'm-okay thing, but we really want to know how you are." I loved it. Except... I was okay, so I felt a little bit like I had to make up a more detailed answer. Okay, as this berakah is evolving, I'm really expanding it to friendships in general, because I have felt very affirmed in my friendships the past few days.
  • Free doughnuts in the staff room! (or rather... doughnuts sitting out in the break room that nobody is guarding.)
  • Pretty work clothes. See "trouser pants."
  • Leadership roles.
  • Babies!! I love my friend's baby (her name is Ella.) I have lots of pictures of her on my phone. That's what I do when her mommy leaves us alone. Also, I teach Ella about chlorophyll and what makes a triangle a triangle.
  • Joy - I am an optimistic person (except for in certain areas of my life) and think joy comes to me pretty naturally. I am really thankful that I see positives and beauty in the world around me.