Sunday, December 18, 2011

P.S. A Fun Snippet

P.S. My dear friends in Coeur d’Alene are two sisters that I met at Whitworth, one my age and the other two years older. I’ve gotten to know their delightful family over the years and had the privilege of spending the day with them yesterday. In the evening, we went to the restaurant at the Coeur d’Alene resort called Dockside, which is famous for its gigantic ice cream Sundaes called Gooeys. We ordered three for seven people—Reese’s Peanut Butter cup, Huckleberry, and 25th Anniversary. My one friend decided to leave a comment about the service and food on the comment card and it popped into my head that we should leave the waitress a limerick. Here’s the limerick I came up with in about three minutes’ time:

The Gooeys at Dockside are great
You won’t believe how much we all ate
We’re double the size
as when we arrived
you’ll have to wheel us out in a crate.

Thoughts on Advent

This is the first chance I’ve had this week to sit down and write. The past week was full of good things. But does anyone else thrive with a full day of nothing in particular to do except maybe laundry or making a meal or doing some yard work? Since I have to be out of the house by 7:05 on Monday through Thursday mornings, 8:20 on Friday, and 7:55 on Sunday, Saturday is a cherished day. Saturday morning is my lazy morning.

In this case, lazy really means slow. I love eating breakfast while reading a book or magazine or cookbook or my Bible and wrestling with ideas as the early morning light streams in through the window. I typically have a cooking project on the weekends and a lazy Saturday lends itself to yeast breads and slow-cooking soups. I can spend time planning my menu for the week, running small errands, and attending to the daily-ness of life at my own pace.

Two Saturdays ago, my housemate and I went for a long walk. Across Mill Road is a neighborhood that has a trail to and along the little Spokane River. As we neared the river, we walked on a trail covered with sodden leaves, and that wonderful smell of winter—wet, fresh, crisp—was all around. I love the winter landscape with no snow. It’s bare and sere and quiet and waiting. Perhaps that’s why Advent falls during winter; Advent is a season of anticipation and stillness before the glory of the angels over Bethlehem or the exotic visit of the Three Kings. Advent is the bare-of-snow winter landscape to the lush glory of new-fallen-snow Christmas.

I just love Advent. It might be my favorite time of the Church Year. I love the songs, the Scriptures full of Isaiah and Zechariah and Elizabeth and Mary, the anticipation, and the longing. I love how the Church Year gives voice to the range of human emotions—longing and waiting in Advent, wonder and joy at Christmas, mourning and sadness at Lent, glory and grandeur at Easter, excitement and exhortation at Pentecost, and daily-ness in Ordinary Time.

Yesterday, I climbed a mountain. I was with friends in Coeur d’Alene, and we climbed Canfield Mountain, which is approximately 4,500 feet high. We were mostly quiet as we hiked, which gave my mind the freedom to roam the vast plains of spiritual metaphor as we made our climb. The day was gloriously sunny and the vista from the top was breath-taking. I couldn’t help but think that God sometimes grants us mountain-top experiences in our faith, beautiful vistas where we see with startling clarity the grandeur of God’s plan and our place in it. And yet, as glorious as the mountain top proved to be, it was the climb to the top that I cherished in hindsight. It was the hike up where I noticed the elk prints in the snow. The line of trees reflected in the water of the lake below. The snow clinging to evergreen boughs. The knobbly branches of the tamarack. The small things. The daily ways in which God’s grand plan of salvation and redemption plays out in ordinary human life.

Leaf mold. Winter air. Walking. Spending time with loved ones. A lazy Saturday.

I don’t know when God will give me another mountain-top experience, the Christmas or Easter or Pentecost. But in the meantime, I’m living with the climb, with the steady pace of day-to-day. Ordinary time. And yet, hidden in each day, is a kernel of longing. Advent. Longing for the world to be as God intended. For justice and righteousness to rule. For grace and mercy to abound. For love to bind up the broken-hearted. For Christ to come again.  

Friday, December 9, 2011

Part One: I know, I know...

…it’s been forever since I wrote. I promise I have a good excuse. I have a job! Praise God! Truthfully, I have not been as thankful for this job as I should be. I confess this shamefully. So let this blog be one of praise to God as I tell you a little about the job and how it came about. I realize there’s a lot to tell, so I’m going to break it into two posts. This post will be a little bit more about the history of how I got the job and the next about what the job actually entails.
I work 25 hours at Olive Tree Bible Software, which leases its building from Partners. I was actually first connected to Olive Tree at a lunch hosted by Partners for its tenants. Ironic. From there I had two interviews for two different positions over the course of a month and a half. I received a call from the business administrator offering me a job on the morning of October 28, as I sat in the Spokane airport waiting for a flight to Mt. Hermon Christian Conference Center outside of San Jose, California, for a Partners conference.**
I was a little taken aback by the call at first because Olive Tree had taken a couple weeks to get back to me after the second interview. Also, the company has doubled in the past couple years, so the position they wanted me to fill had just been created. I knew I had a job, but I wasn’t exactly sure what I was doing. There still isn’t a job description, but I’m figuring it out. :o)

I was traveling down to California with four older women from Partners, and their joy and delight in hearing about my job surpassed my uncertainty. To have Partners people surround me that weekend with enthusiasm about this new job was a great help! God has been so good to me to heal my heart of any hard feelings towards Partners for letting me go. In fact, as I’ve been next door to Partners this past month, I’ve been over for lunch most days to maintain these relationships that God has given to me as a gift of grace.

The other neat thing was that we had a long layover in Portland. My mom and I had already arranged that she and I would meet at PDX for lunch. It was great to talk with her in person about the details of the job and to eat the delicious lunch she prepared. Thanks, Mom!  After a lovely weekend, I started my new job as Project Coordinator at 9 a.m. sharp on Monday.

**Quick note about the conference. It was hosted by Partners for current and previous staff and long-time donors and it was a wonderfully celebratory weekend with many staff members from overseas (Senegal, India, Indonesia, etc), who gave presentations on Friday night, Saturday, and Sunday morning about God’s work in the different areas around the world where Partners works. It was a delightful time of fellowship with Partners staff, past and present. I had several wonderful conversations over meals with older men and women who remembered a particularly influential Partners’ president named Allen Finley. His wife, Ruth Finley, was at the conference.

One particularly delightful time was on Saturday night. A number of Partners’ staff members were chosen to wear beautiful outfits that Ruth Finley has collected from all over the world in a Parade of Nations. I wore a costume from the Philippines with HUGE gold earrings. So fun! Here’s a picture:

Part Two: The Daily Duties

Now to what I actually do from day to day. Oh boy. It’s complicated. People ask me what I do and sometimes I honestly don’t know what to say. I’ll start by explaining what Olive Tree Bible Software does. Olive Tree has several applications that run on mobile devices like the iPad, iPhone, and Android, Mac desktop, and will soon run on PC desktop. When you purchase and download the app, which is called BibleReader, you can read the Bible, commentaries, Bible dictionaries, and many other Christian books and use the special features that the app contains. It’s a cool resource!

I work right under the company’s president. Because it’s a small company, the president has direct input into most of the details of the company, which currently has six-ish departments. The basic tenor of my job is to manage projects that involve individuals from more than one department, but I’ve also been helping with customer support, submitting in-app purchases to iTunes, typing up Christmas carols for our Christmas party, making a chart of coming projects, sitting in on interviews, etc…
As you can tell, the job varies from day to day, which is actually quite fun. Every day is different. I have learned SO much in the past month and a half. I’m finally to the place where I’ve been managing simpler projects on my own. Next week, I’ll be managing my first bigger project. I’m looking forward to the challenge. I’m slowly getting to know my co-workers better. We had our office Christmas Party on Wednesday night at a gorgeous place called Beacon Hill that overlooks Spokane. It was a great chance to get to know my co-workers and their spouses. I had several enjoyable conversations. And the food was great! It helped me feel more like I belonged at Olive Tree.
I have still been baby-sitting two kids from 7:15 to 8:45 a.m. Monday through Thursday. The money helps pay for my student loans, and I’ve gotten to know the kids. I like them, though they certainly have their ups and downs. Last Thursday, the ten-year-old girl and I were making eggs-in-a-nest (a piece of bread cooked with an egg in the middle) for breakfast, and I cracked my egg over the hole in the bread. It felt different than normal because it was hardboiled. She and I thought that was so funny. We just cracked up!
(Pun intended.)
One last highlight, I went to a 80s dance party fundraiser for clean water last Saturday. My housemates got really into my hair crimping and make-up, so I looked pretty awesome. I’ll include a picture here. I love to dance! I may or may not have been dancing around my kitchen to Christmas music this week. :o)

As you can see, God has been so good to me with this job. It uses many of my gifts and talents, though in unexpected ways, and it’s a great work environment. We have lots of laughs and jokes, and there’s always a tempting basket of chocolate in the break room. :o) For the record, I plan to start writing on my blog at least once a week. If I’m going to go to the trouble of having a blog, I might as well write! Check back soon!
May God bless you this Advent day to look forward to Christmas with joyful anticipation!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Some random photos!

I thought it'd be fun to take a post to show some pictures from the past two-ish months. They're a bit out of order, but I hope not too confusing. It's fun to read about someone's life, but it's sometimes more fun to see pictures. Hope these give you a taste of Spokane life!
The picture above is of our second Partners Bike ride on October 15 on the Fish Lake Trail in Spokane. We had a great time and enjoyed a delicious soup and bread lunch together afterwards. I have been so blessed to take part in times of fellowship with Partners staff. I hope we keep it up in the winter. Maybe a night of swing dancing instead! :o)
This is a picture of our first Partners' biking trip when we biked the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes in Harrison, Idaho. I'm in the lower right corner. Next to me is Bob Savage, the other coordinator of the trip. We had a great time!
I teach 5th and 6th grade Sunday School at Colbert Presbyterian Church. The 5/6th graders are teaching lessons to the younger kids at Sunday School this fall. Our first unit was Creation, so our activity had the kids decorating graham crackers with white frosting and a number of ingredients that represented different parts of creation. For instance, chocolate chips were "dark," blue frosting was "sky" and "water," banana circles were "sun," and Teddy Grahams were "animals." This is a picture of the different ingredients arranged on the table in our Sunday School classroom. It came off pretty well besides the hyper-activity from the sugar. haha.
My family went to the beach in early September and tried to take several pictures on the beach with me taking the picture with my left arm. As you can see, I could use more practice. Julie is smiling, I promise. :o)
Here are my housemates enjoying pieces of apple pie after a house dinner in September. I am so thankful for my housemates. They're great!
Back in September, Kari and I made this awesome cake from a recipe sent to me by Lorry Jackson. The cake had several layers and lots of frosting and pieces of strawberry cheesecake on top. Delicious! Thanks for the recipe tip, Lorry!
Okay, I'll have another written update coming soon. Like probably tonight. It's been a little while since I last posted. Life rolls steadily along, doesn't it. :o)

Friday, October 7, 2011

A Cooking Debacle and Grocery Update

Here's an update on my Grocery Challenge:
On Thursday, Oct. 5, I spent $12.04 at Eleven Acres Farm. I bought tomatillos, anaheim peppers, and green bell peppers to make my own enchilada sauce (thanks to my friend Megan for this idea). I bought onions, two pie pumpkins (to make pumpkin butter), a buttercup squash, and an acorn squash. You know it's fall when winter squash becomes a consistent menu item. :o) Finally, I bought a box of Asian pears, which I haven't had since my junior year. When I was a junior, my roommate's family had orchards of apples, Asian pears, and more, so we were the recipients of boxes of fruit whenever her family visited.
I realized after leaving Eleven Acres that I had just spent 1/5 of my budget. Yipes! Well, now I know how easy it is to spend money, even on healthy fruits and veggies. Fortunately, I should be set for a while now. I did buy $4.73 worth of raspberries, too, but I am putting those in a separate category, per the suggestion of my friend Lorry. Some of those jars will be reserved for Christmas gifts anyway. So, now you know the bald truth. I have $37.96 left to spend. Can it be done? Stay tuned.
Now I'll turn to the story behind the title of this post. My mentor, Dottie Mohrlang, had come up with a great idea. For Whitworth's Homecoming this weekend, Dottie is hosting an alum who is getting an award, and Dottie wanted several female students to have dinner together and talk with this woman. Dottie offered to buy ingredients if I would make the main course, White Chili. I happily agreed. It seemed perfect. I would get to cook, but not have to pay for the ingredients.
After a delightful Bible study this morning, which I'm doing with Janie Edwards and six other 2011 Whitworth grads, I set out to make the soup. I have so much experience with cooking that I wasn't worried about the soup at all. I just knew it would be good. When I got home, my housemate Katie was already making a big pot of Taco Soup, so the kitchen was crowded. I started my soup and after an hour had the whole thing simmering on the stove. I turned the temperature all the way up to heat the soup thoroughly and ran downstairs to make a few calls.
When I came back up, the soup was bubbling furiously and the kitchen was filled with the acrid smell of smoke. No! I grabbed another pot and dumped the soup into it, thinking this would solve the problem. I immediately plunged the other pot into scalding water. Maybe I've saved it, I thought.
But then Katie tasted the salvaged soup and yelped, "Oh! That's awful! You can't serve that, Elizabeth!"
"What can I possibly do then? I'm supposed to meet a friend in half an hour, and I don't have ingredients to make another pot of soup. And these weren't even my ingredients! They're Dottie's!" I shot back, distressed.
I went out to the porch, sat down hard in a lawn chair, and brooded. And reluctantly thought back to Bible Study this morning where we had talked about giving praise to God in the hard times. I tried to do it, but I was dismayed with myself for one primary reason: Dottie had given me these ingredients to steward, and I had failed.
I called my mom and asked for sage words of advice. This too shall pass, she said. For goodness sake. Of course she's right (as usual). But I could smell the burnt soup from my room. I called Dottie immediately and confessed. Of course, Dottie took it in stride, especially when I told her of the happy and altogether gracious end to the story: Katie gave me her pot of taco soup. Later I got this text from Katie: "Elizabeth, we all burn stuff! Please take the taco soup. :)" I did.
The evening turned out well. We had a delicious dinner and a delightful conversation. But the burnt soup did cause me to put my theological training into action. I was a poor steward of something that was entrusted to me. And rather than receive punishment from those who were wronged, I received grace. The only punishment came from my distressed and guilty state of mind. But accepting the gift of grace from Dottie and Katie gave me freedom, freedom to be forgiven and enjoy the God-orchestrated fact that Katie was making a soup that fit equally well with our side dishes of salad and cornbread. This experience can easily be translated to that of humanity and it's with this that I leave you. Praise God for his grace to humanity! Even when we fail to be good stewards, God's grace abounds.
Nevertheless, a word to the wise. Don't leave your soup unattended on a hot burner. :o)

Monday, October 3, 2011

The $50 Grocery Challenge

This is just a quick post to announce a new challenge that I'm taking up for the month of October. Given my restricted budget, I have decided to limit my grocery purchases to $50 for the whole month of October.
You see, I have a problem. My hobbies are cooking, baking, and grocery shopping. This fact combined with a tight budget means trouble. We've got trouble, my friends, right here in Spokane, WA, I say trouble right here in Spokane. (Anyone like The Music Man?) However, the funny thing is that people keep giving me leftovers and extra produce. This is great, except that I can only eat so much in one day. And with the current amount of food in my refrigerator, I really shouldn't have to shop at all for the next several months. And my chest freezer is almost full. Yep, already, and I just got the darn thing in July.
SO, I am starting the month off on an admittedly good foot. At this rate, I might spend only $10 total for the month anyway (for milk once a week)! But it is my intention to record the groceries I buy and the cost on this blog for the next month. I'm thinking of it as a way to be accountable to you and to myself. Will you help me? Maybe just check in with me, ask if I've resisted the temptation to stop by Fred Meyer on the way home from my childcare job every morning. :o)
I am having trouble deciding if this sum includes fruit purchases from Green Bluff for things like jam. Any thoughts?
In all seriousness, I do need to be frugal. I will be limiting other purchases, as well, although I don't spend that much money already. It's a good exercise to be frugal, especially when we know that our treasure is stored in heaven. I'm praying that with this challenge in frugality, I can still practice hospitality and generosity. Join me on this month-long journey. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Friday, September 16, 2011

When it Rains it Pours

The past two days--Wednesday and Thursday--have been crazy. I want to have a record of what happened, so I'm writing it down here. No doubt the title of the blog will become clear to you as you continue reading.
At the start of this week, I had several meetings planned regarding jobs. On Wednesday, I started one of the childcare jobs, which is watching two kids, ages seven and 10, from 7:15 a.m. until their bus picks them up at 8:40 a.m. An easy job and the kids are great. On Wednesday night and Thursday morning, I had childcare jobs at Colbert Presbyterian Church. On Thursday afternoon, I was meeting with a woman, Catharine, at 4:30 to discuss helping her do household chores (grocery shopping, gardening, etc.) and transporting her 13-year-old son to his various activities. With all these job possibilities, the week looked promising.
When Monday rolled around, I still hadn't applied for the World Relief job that two friends had recommended to me. One of those friends called on Monday and said, "The search committee for has been reviewing applications and my brother-in-law said he hasn't seen yours yet. They'd really like to see your application." I'm not sure why I was procrastinating, but that phone message kicked me into gear. I updated my resume, cover letter, and submitted my application within an hour's time. On Tuesday afternoon, I got an e-mail from the director of World Relief, Spokane, with an essay prompt attached. To be considered for an interview, I had to write a short essay. I wrote the essay from 9 to 10 p.m. on Tuesday night without any review from my dad (who always looks over my written work) and sent it back to the director. I expected an e-mail back from the director on Wednesday with an interview time, but still hadn't heard by the time I went to bed on Wednesday. I had told him I was available for an interview on Thursday afternoon or any time Friday.
Back to Wednesday morning. After I finished with the two kiddos, I drove to Partners to volunteer for two hours, attend Chapel, and eat lunch with my former co-workers. The next day, Partners was hosting a BBQ for its tenants in either wing of the building, and I was invited. Great! I'll take any opportunity to visit Partners. And because I hadn't started on a project during my volunteer hours that I knew needed to be done, I decided I would stay after the lunch on Thursday to help.
On Wednesday evening, I was at Colbert to do childcare for one hour for the younger kids of parents who were at a youth group parent meeting. It would have been fine except that we had two younger, high strung, tired boys who got into frequent clashes and seemed to have a breakdown in every game we played. Because these two boys demanded attention, I felt I was unfairly ignoring the more mild-mannered kids. I was delighted to see the parents come. As I waited for my ride home, I felt exhausted. Then, as the youth director and Janet Neder were cleaning up the leftovers from dinner, I somehow ended up with a gallon bag of sloppy joe meat, a gallon bag of salad, and a jumbo-size Italian dressing. In any other state, I could have dealt with the excess of leftovers more easily. But because I was tired, the bag of sloppy joes seemed to weigh 100 pounds, and I had visions of the sloppy joes in my freezer for years to come. I fell into bed that night, exhausted.
I woke up at 6:15 on Thursday morning and spent time with the seven and 10 year old. From there, I went straight to Colbert to watch any kids whose moms came to the Women's Bible study. Fortunately, there were only two young boys. Easy.
As I drove to the BBQ at Partners, I felt worried that I was spending too much time at Partners. Is there a gauge for such things? I expressed that concern to several former coworkers and they all said, "You're always welcome" or "We love to see your smiling face." The lunch was fun. One wing of Partners' building is an accounting firm and the other is a Bible software company called Olive Tree. We prayed together, got big plates of BBQ, salads, and dessert, and ate together at tables. I was helping clean up when Bob Savage introduced me to the president of Olive Tree. Olive Tree will soon hire a temporary administrator with the possibility of the job becoming permanent. At the president's insistence, I went over to Olive Tree, talked to the administrator, and agreed to send in my resume and some contact information for references. Wow! What providence!
Back at Partners, I found out I was volunteering that afternoon with Forrest Baird, a beloved philosophy professor at Whitworth. Our task was to fold invitations, stuff, and seal nearly 700 envelopes. I folded, and Forrest stuffed and sealed. At first, I wasn't sure what I would talk about with Forrest for two hours, but I shouldn't have worried. We had a marvelous time working our mail room assembly line. We talked about everything from the history of the recent popes to the expense of weddings, my prospects of finding a husband to the differences between a nerd, dork, geek and dweeb for which Forrest kindly supplied me with a chart. We were talking so animatedly that a number of people in the office came through to join the conversation or comment on our enthusiasm. With the fluidity of our conversation, it was 3:30 when we sealed our final envelopes. I didn't leave Partners until 4 p.m. and realized that I was supposed to meet Catharine at 4:30 and didn't have directions to her house.
I raced home and found clear directions from Catharine on my e-mail. Her house was a mere five minutes from mine. Thank you, God! But as I scanned my e-mail, I saw an e-mail from the World Relief director that started out like this: "Obviously you did not get my earlier e-mail about your interview time today at 3:30. We would like to reschedule..." Oh my gosh! I had missed an interview at World Relief because I hadn't checked my e-mail at all that day. Instead, I was talking with Forrest about what constituted a nerd. I was mortified.
I drove to Catharine's and had a good meeting with her and her son, Andrew. I had promised to cook dinner for my housemate, Rachel, who had a big test the following day, but I hadn't been shopping and could hardly tell you what I had in the fridge. Fortunately, my experience with preparing meals kicked in and I was able to make zucchini fritters and a fruit salad, which I served along with cherry tomatoes from a Water Aerobics classmate, salad from Wednesday night, and corn from home. Yum! After dinner, I spent an hour relating all that I just told you to my parents.
So, I do have an interview at World Relief today at noon. At least, I hope I do. I'll show up and see if they still want to interview me, even with all the trouble I've caused. Even with the relative chaos of the week, I have seen God's hand moving in mysterious ways to provide for me. It's almost laughable because I have done so little to deserve any of God's goodness. While a little chaos is fine every so often, I want to have more quiet time. I don't want life to be so crazy busy that I hardly have time to stop and take a breath. I think this lifestyle is more detrimental than we imagine. With that in mind, you can see why I titled this blog the way I did. Hits the nail on the head, I'd say. :o)
May the Lord Jesus grant each one of you rest and peace this weekend!

Monday, September 12, 2011

I Survived a 20-mile Bike Trip!

I know, I know, two posts in one day is a lot, but isn't an influx of writing is due after weeks of nothing? I hope you'll forgive me.
Before I stopped working at Partners, Bob Savage and I had been planning a company bike trip on the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes, a beautiful 70-mile bike trail in northern Idaho. Fortunately, another woman at work took over the logistics planning and the trip happened as promised on Saturday. I rode with Bob and his wife Martha on the 1 1/2 hour trip to the small town of Harrison, Idaho, on the shores of Lake Coeur d'Alene. We had a great turnout for the trip, 19 Partners employees and family members. It was a wonderful time!
The day was supposed to be in the 90s, so we wisely arrived in Harrison in time to be on the trail by 10:30 a.m. We biked in smaller groups along the trail until around 1 p.m., many of us going 20 miles round trip. Back in Harrison, we enjoyed sandwiches on homemade bread from one of Harrison's cafes. The 19 of us (including a five-week old baby) sat on two picnic tables and had a marvelous time sharing chips, sodas, and muffins, enjoying our sandwiches after a morning of rigorous exercise, and talking up a storm. There's something wonderful about spending time away from all the demands of daily life with good company. It revives the soul. We also got big ice cream cones from a local shop and were thankful we had the foresight to order only one scoop each. One scoop could easily have been considered three scoops in any other ice cream shop.
The trip reminded me how much I enjoy and appreciate the people who work at Partners. This might have made me sad several weeks ago, knowing what I was missing day after day at work. But now, I feel joyful to have met them and have resolved to continue the relationships to the best of my ability and as God leads. It reminded me never to underestimate the value of being in a person's life for even a short period of time. God may mean some relationships to last years and some to last only months. But the impact of a relationship isn't always based on time.
That being said, I have another funny story. My housemate Rachel and I were on a walk yesterday and decided to cross Mill Road to walk in another neighborhood. We passed the house of one of my college friends whom some of you know. I happen to know the whole family and a light was on in the window, so Rachel agreed to stop with me so I could say "hi." Hannah Whisenand opened the door and with characteristic warmth gave Rachel a big hug before even learning her name. We had a delightful 10-minute conversation and both left with a handful of Tootsie Pops. I know where I'll be going on Halloween. :o)
This next thought is totally unrelated to the above two stories, but I couldn't help but share it. You know the reason I love grocery shopping at the Fred Meyer near my house is that I almost always see people I know. Rachel and I were there on Friday, and I saw several different people I know. It was so fun! (Also, making zucchini chocolate chip muffins with M&Ms instead of chocolate chips is a really good idea.)
A final note, the article I wrote for Partners several weeks ago has been published in a local newspaper Good News Northwest. It's a good article because I had two excellent proof readers to help me along (thanks Gordon Jackson and Amber Holloway!). If you can't find a newspaper copy, you can find the recent issue online at The article is on pages seven to 11. It's a great example of a local Spokane church partnering with a ministry called Christian Outreach Fellowship in Ghana, West Africa. God is doing great things in the world. Hallelujah!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Reflections on "Even Better"

Again, it's been a while since I wrote on my blog. That's mostly because I wasn't sure how to write about the tumult of the last three weeks. As most of you probably already know, I recently lost my job at Partners International in a series of cuts due to the struggling economy. As you can imagine, this was a blow. I loved the work I was doing, the people I worked with, the sense of purpose and pleasure at having a real job out of college and being able to provide for myself.
The day I found out, I was able to respond in faith and trust that God was in charge. I continue to believe that, but over the following several days, I experienced the gamut of emotions. Experience has taught me that I needed to honestly feel each feeling, even if it was anger or discouragement. When the storm of emotions passed as I finished my last day at Partners on August 24, two emotions remained: sorrow and confusion. I was sad because I had delighted in the relationships I was building at work, seeing the same set of people every day. I was confused because I had started to plan the coming years of my life around this job. Now the future was again as it was in the spring: unknown. I was also confused because my job had seemed so good, such a perfect blend of my organizational, verbal, and relational skills. After giving it some thought, I can only conclude one thing: God takes away what is good to give us what is even better.
Not that I know what the "even better" might be. I'm not sure that God cares whether we know what the "even better" is, as long as we trust in God's goodness through both good and bad. Sometimes we may only know the "even better" with hindsight. On the scale of hardships suffered, I know this turn of events ranks pretty low. Nevertheless, it was a real struggle for me to process what had happened and in some ways I'm still struggling. But, as God is wont to do, good has blossomed from the bad.
As I began to tell people about my circumstances, the community of support that I enjoy by God's grace jumped into action. I received e-mails, cards, phone calls, a prayer shawl, and a bevy of listening ears and earnest prayers. My peers, family, church families, mentors, professors, and former co-workers rallied around me with loving care and kindness. The Body of Christ jumped into action in a way that I had never needed before, but am thankful for now. Ironically, a number of you told me that God must have even better things in mind for me than working at Partners. In my rush of emotions, I expected the "even better" to look like another perfect job delivered to me on a silver platter. In my somewhat wiser state since then, I know that the "even better" may not be an immediate delivery, but a slow process of bringing about God's plan in my life, his plan to make me more and more like Christ.
A dear former co-worker who has experienced the hardship of cancer in the past couple years, told me that when I look back on this time, I will be amazed at the ways God cared for me in the smallest of details. I do invite you, urge you, even, to spend time in reflection today on the ways God provided for you in the past in the smallest of details. It's a good spiritual exercise to be thankful.
Where am I now on the job search? This week, I'm meeting with two families to talk about smaller, childcare/nannying jobs that were brought to my attention by several Spokane friends. Pray that these two things will work out if it is God's will. It's my plan to piecemeal these smaller jobs together while I keep my eyes open for more regular part-time or full-time work. God has given me a great network of relationships in Spokane with many connections in the community. I'm confident that I'll be able to find another job. In the meantime, God has confirmed my desire and sense of calling to remain in Spokane.
And now, I'll take each day as it comes. Really, the future is always unknown, except for the fact that God is the commander of it. With this in mind, I'll rest easy.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Report from Portland

It's been a long time since I've written, primarily because I was at home in Portland for nine days. Going home was a vacation for me. I got to walk with my parents around Fairview Lake and eat dinners with my family, visit my grandpa's farm and catch up with old friends. Here are a couple highlights from my time at home:
Disclaimer: A lot of them have to do with food. Sorry, I know I write about food a lot, but I can't help it. :o) Be encouraged, though: where there is food in my life, people are not far away. Food always serves a greater purpose.
1) Before I set off for Portland, I hand picked and froze enough pie cherries for one pie. My intention was to make my grandpa a pie the first Sunday I was home. I was rewarded with a compliment from my uncle Dave: "That's the best looking pie I've seen in a long time." Besides the fact that the pie looked and tasted good, I was able to bless my uncles Dave and Don, aunt Rox, grandpa Dave, and my mom with pieces of pie at an impromptu family meeting. It's so good to spend time with family. The other great thing about this pie was that I had enough leftover crust to save for later, even though I didn't know how I would use it. On Thursday of that same week, I needed a dinner idea and whipped out that crust for a delicious summer quiche. I am thankful it worked so well.
2) I appreciated having time with several good friends and immediate family. There's something lovely about living day-to-day life around the same people, even if one such person makes you listen to New York Yankee updates every day. It's fun to share the simple things that happen. On Thursday evening, my whole family drove out to a farm between Gresham and Sandy to pick blueberries. We had lots of laughs, especially about the difference between my and my mom's quick style of picking berries compared with my dad and sister who only choose the biggest and most beautiful. Let's just say, it's not because of them that I now have eight gallon Ziploc bags of blueberries in my freezer in Spokane. :o)
3) I had a couple doctor's appointments over the week. In July, I experienced three major headaches that had all the symptoms of a migraine. Yuck. My primary care doctor ordered some lab work and an appointment with a neurologist in early September. We did find out through the lab work that I have low iron, which might be contributing to how tired I've felt recently. But we won't know anything else until after the neurologist appointment on September 1. I would appreciate your prayers for this. It can be scary.
4) Finally, I spent Friday and Saturday with two dear Whitworth friends, who are now Tyler and Lydia Thralls. They were married in Yacolt, WA, on Saturday, and I had the honor of being a bridesmaid. The wedding was beautiful in so many ways, primarily because of the Christ-centeredness of the rehearsal dinner, ceremony, and reception. What an honor to be with friends on their wedding day! My parents still think of their wedding with joy. I look forward to twenty years hence when Tyler, Lydia, and I reflect back on Saturday with the same joy. I must say, too, how thankful I am to my family for coming to all three weddings I was in this summer. They patiently waited for me through every reception and debriefed it all with me. Especially notable was my dad staying hours later at Lydia's wedding than he might have otherwise AND, to top it off, missing a Yankee game. :o) Thanks for your sacrifice, Dad. You, Mom, and Jules are the best!
Thanks to you, also, for sacrificing time to read my blog. I hope it's not a sacrifice, but rather edifying each and every time. Here's my edifying thought for the day:
I was reminded today that to put my trust in earthly things, whether it be an institution, relationship, or possession, is to be foolish. Today I was rendered a fool by my faith in an institution. It's not that the organization ceases to do good things or be an agent of God's Kingdom work. Rather, I was forced to remember that even the best of earthly things fall short. Our trust should be in God alone. Easier said than done. It's hard to know how to live this out practically, but I do know that God goes before me into tomorrow to give me the grace to make my trust in him true. God is so, so good. We can't even fathom the depth of His goodness for His people.
Here's a prayer to take away: "Ever-loving God, your care for us is greater even than a mother's love for her child; teach us to value a mother's love and see in it an expression of your grace, that we may ever feel more deeply your love for us in Christ Jesus our Savior. Amen."
God bless you.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Through every period of my life...

It seems transition is a word on everyone's tongue. There are major transitions happening at an organizational level at my work. I'm transitioning from the steadiness of school to the new rhythm of a job. I have new housemates, a new place to live, a new identity. I can no longer claim the identity of student. What am I now? An adult? I guess that's my new title. But there has to be something more than that.
With a tip from my mom, I bought a personal-size watermelon at Fred Meyer on Sunday night. I didn't cut into it until Monday evening when I was packing my lunch for the following day. I cut easily into the deep pink flesh of the melon and was pleased to see firmness, no mush. I carved away the green rind and popped a pink square into my mouth. The pleasure of the flavor and cool, crisp texture was pure joy. I continued to cut squares and throw them into a Tupperware. My housemate, Katie, and her boyfriend were making tacos in the kitchen alongside me. When I came to the second half of the melon, I had an overwhelming need to share this delicious treat with them. What was there of my joy if it couldn't be shared? The next morning, I opened the compost bin to throw in my banana peel and saw two watermelon rinds just the size of the ones I had shared. That evening, Katie announced that she had bought two of those same watermelons. "It was so good!" She declared. I smiled. By sharing my joy, my joy had doubled.
I'll admit I was dreading Tuesday afternoon. It was a foolish thing to dread. I had asked Brad Beal, my faithful helper, to move furniture from my friend Lydia's house to my house. I dislike moving furniture. It wears me out. On the way out of the neighborhood, we passed a lemonade stand manned by a gaggle of girls. I wanted to trade places with them. When Brad and I arrived at Lydia's, we strategized at how best to move the loads of furniture from one house to the other. Lydia's fiance, Tyler, and Brad made quick work of loading the mattresses, dresser, and bookshelf into Brad's van. Before I knew what was happening, Tyler insisted that I stay at the house and help Lydia cook while he and Brad delivered the loads of furniture to my house. I did not protest. Lydia and I had a delightful time making a lentil and rice casserole and a peach cobbler before Brad and Tyler returned.
When they did come back, Tyler handed me a lime green otter pop. "We stopped at the lemonade stand, and they had otter pops, too," Brad said. I eagerly cut off the top and sucked up the icy slush--sour apple. Yum! While I was sucking away, Tyler told me where they had put all the furniture and that they had even set up my bed on its frame. Suddenly, realization hit me like the warm water of a shower in the early morning. Grace. Wonderful, sweet grace. In my childish dread of moving, God had still decided to bless me with two men who moved everything back and forth with consummate efficiency. And here I was sucking on an otter pop, enjoying a forthright conversation with a person who will soon experience one of life's greatest transitions: marriage. More grace. In the midst of many transitions, here was an outpouring of me. To complaining, wayward, fearful, self-centered me.
Two songs have meant a lot to me in the past week. The first is a hymn we sang at church on Sunday entitled When All Thy Mercies. Here are just several of the verses:
Unnumbered comforts to my soul
Thy tender care bestowed,
Before my infant heart could know
From whom those comforts flowed.
When worn with sickness, oft hast Thou,
With health renewed my face;
And, when in sins and sorrows bowed,
Revived my soul with grace.
Through every period of my life
Thy goodness I'll pursue
And after death, in distant worlds
The glorious theme renew.
I'm sure the older readers of this blog can attest to the loving care of the Lord through every period of life. Don't hesitate to do so! Gratitude is key to life with God. I found this hymn a beautiful testimony to the steadfastness of God in the sea of change that is life on earth. And yet, despite any change I experience, each stanza of this hymn reaffirms a simple truth that I needed to hear: God bestows grace and comfort and goodness upon us beyond our knowledge, our sins, our sorrows, and our transition-filled lives. Praise the Lord!
The other song is one that I just happened to catch on the radio yesterday. It's a new song from Switchfoot called Restless. The tune of the song is sweeping, and the lyrics are a poem. I love good poems. You really have to listen to it, though, to capture it. Look on YouTube for "Switchfoot Restless" and find the Radio Edit version. You can find the lyrics on under the music tab. The lyrics are worth reading. Listen and read if you have time. I hope you are edified by both these songs.
We have an overwhelming, driving desire for God. This desire is a gift from God; it keeps us longing, restless for God. But we have something even more valuable than this. We have a God who responds to our longing in every season of our life.
I want to be defined in this new stage by this grace of God that takes me by surprise, that keeps me restless and content at the same time, and somehow, mysteriously, doubles my joy. It's not a defined title, per se, but I think it's even better. It travels through every season of my life.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Musings on a Delicious Sandwich

I just have to say this one thing. I've had a simply stunning dinner the last two nights. My friend Kari brought me a frozen loaf of braided Italian Parmesan bread that we had made for an Open Door dinner back in April. On Sunday night, I sliced thin pieces of the defrosted bread, piled on Monterey Jack cheese and tomato, and cooked it on the stove. Delicious! On Tuesday night, I realized that this grilled cheese sandwich would be 100x better with fresh basil. When I was visiting my house (I'm still house-sitting) on Tuesday afternoon, I picked leaves off the basil plants on my back porch and added them to my sandwich that night. Heaven.
This isn't quite the poetic essay about food I was talking about in my last post, but I don't know that more needs to be said. Sometimes simple is best.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Smorgasbord

Hello! I hope you're all doing well!
On July 8-9, I was in Seattle to be in the wedding of my freshman year roommate, Kate Schmedake (now Williams). I especially enjoyed the rehearsal dinner on Friday night as both her and her husband Henry's families took time to appreciate Kate and Henry. I've had the pleasure of getting to know both Kate and Henry's parents and brothers over the past four years, so I enjoyed spending time with them over the weekend. Weddings are so fun! It's awesome to have an excuse to celebrate God's gifts of marriage, family, and friends. The wedding and reception, were also delightful. I got to help decorate Kate and Henry's car with other members of the bridal party. Balloons, window markers, etc. So fun!
Last week, my parents came to Spokane for Whitworth's annual Institute of Ministry. As a combined birthday/Mother's/Father's Day present, I cooked all their meals for them. At the same time, I was house-sitting for Adam and Janet Neder, a connection through Whitworth and my Spokane church, which was great for my parents. The Neders have a comfortable, spacious house with beds for both my parents and me! I still don't have a bed at my house, though I hope to by the beginning of August. The meals came off excellently, and I'm still eating the leftovers. I like skipping a week of grocery shopping to save money. :o)
I was able to go to several WIM events with my parents. It was a delight to be at Whitworth again and hear lectures on Church history and the Bible. It made me realize that I've let my brain take an intellectual break these past few months. But even though I'm happy to be done with homework, papers, and tests, I'm not ready to be done with reading, learning, and asking hard and important questions about the world and about faith. I'm thankful, though, to take learning at my own pace, to savor what I read and learn in a way that college doesn't always allow.
I've been reading a book that I got for graduation called "The Spirit of Food: 34 Writers on Feasting and Fasting Towards God." I love reading about food, so this book is right up my alley. It's fun for me to consider the role of food in our lives as Christians. Since taking a class in Fall '10 called Creative Nonfiction Writing, I've been trying to read creative nonfiction in order that I might learn better how to write about my own life and experiences. This blog is a place for me to practice. If a rather long-ish piece of writing appears soon, you'll know that I've been inspired by this book, which is a great piece of creative nonfiction.
Since my parents left on Saturday, I've had a couple of very quiet days. Part of that is because I'm still house-sitting for the Neders by myself. But another part is that I just don't have anything planned. I'm realizing how much I have had planned since graduating in May. I do have things to finish that need the time (I'm not sitting around twiddling my thumbs), but all this time alone has exposed something in me. I wonder if I've filled my schedule up with things and people because I'm scared that the lack of constant activity means I'm somehow losing my Spokane community. I don't know if that makes any sense to you. I'm not sure it does to me. But I'm going to put it out there in order to ask a bigger question. Are we so busy because we're trying to mask fear or insecurity? Maybe. Maybe not. Whether it is or isn't, I still think the question is worth our consideration as Christians. I just read an interesting article in Christianity Today by Carolyn Arends about how our busyness can disguise spiritual laziness. She writes, "Part of the problem is that spiritual receptivity requires unglamorous practices like prayer, time in Scripture, and attentiveness to what God is doing in the people around me." Arends holds that our busyness squashes this time. It definitely does for me. I hope this makes us think about all that we do on a daily basis that might squash more important priorities. May everything we do be for God's glory alone!
On a practical note, I am now officially the Harvest of Hope Coordinator at Partners International. Megan's last day was Friday. It was strange to come in yesterday morning and move my things to her cubicle. I still have a learning curve ahead of me, but Megan has given me a strong foundation. I feel confident and excited about the potential in the coming months. I came to work late this morning because of a severe headache, but I was just in time for our weekly Chapel. When our ministry partners come to the United States to visit their supporters, we have a time at work to hear about the ministry and to pray with the visitors. After chapel, I realized that Megan was at Chapel, and I got to have lunch with her. PI will miss Megan very much, but the spirit of the organization is such that she's still an integral part of our community and ministry. I'll be glad whenever she visits over the coming months.
Thanks for reading today! I hope each time you read this blog you feel encouraged to go out and serve the Lord Jesus with vigor and joy! Go in peace to love and serve the Lord this day.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Car Shops and Sushi

I have two main stories to tell in this blog, one from home and one from Spokane. Last Wednesday (6/22), I drove home to participate in some wedding activities (Bridesmaid Tea, Rehearsal and Rehearsal dinner, and wedding) of a good friend from my home church, Cassie Shaw (now Cassie Plucknett). It was so good to be home and spend time with family and friends. I had a lovely couple hours with my grandpa at his farm on Thursday and enjoyed my graduation party on Sunday. Thanks to all the friends and family who were able to make it to my party. I am so grateful for your support in my life!
On Friday, my dad wanted me to take my car to a shop in north Portland for a tune-up. I invited my friend Ruth Benzar to join me. We were at the shop by 9 a.m. on Friday. I expected that we'd be done by noon, if not sooner. "What are you planning to do while you wait?" The shop owner asked us. "We'll probably take a walk," I answered. "It'd better be a long walk," he said. "We don't expect to be done until 2 or 3 p.m." I was shocked, as I'm sure Ruth was, too. We left the shop and sat outside a nearby Starbucks, trying to decide what to do. In a burst of inspiration, we decided to walk to the University of Portland, Ruth's school, though we really had no idea how long it would take. What did it matter? We had all day.
After setting off in the direction of UP, we happened upon New Seasons, an upscale grocery store with tons of organic, ethnic, and whole grain food. Not paradise, per se, but something very close! We wandered through the store for a good half hour before deciding to buy our lunch here. We bought two freshly-baked rolls, a big yellow heirloom tomato, hummus, and a pint of Oregon strawberries. The walk to UP seemed long, especially because we were hungry. And I really think it was a long walk, perhaps six miles round trip. Halfway to UP, we got a call from Stan.
"Okay, your car is ready to go, Miss Brink."
10:52 a.m.
"Umm...we're a couple miles from the shop. Can the car hang out there for a couple hours?"
After his "yes," I hung up the phone and told Ruth the news. We were properly outraged. The folly of people! But soon we were able to see our situation in a better light. We resolved to continue our walk to UP, where we enjoyed our lunch immensely. And, as usually happens, the walk back to the shop didn't seem nearly as long. We were pleasantly full and had yet much to discuss and talk through. We retrieved my car and set off, an adventure under our belt that we couldn't have anticipated. Who knew that Stan the maintenance man was also a prophet? We had indeed had a long walk!
That's a rather long story, but the second story is too fresh in my mind to not write about. If you're bored, save the next story for another day. :o)
Today was June's FIRED lunch at work. (See the previous post for an explanation.) The elected choice was Wasabi Bistro, a sushi place on Division and Hawthorne. I've had sushi once before and enjoyed it, so I was excited to try it a second time.
I ended up sitting by Bob Bowen, Bob Savage, and Jon Lewis, a VP, a long-time PI employee, and the president of PI, respectively. I ordered a Philadelphia roll, which is sushi with smoked salmon, avocado, and cream cheese. My plate came with eight tidy sushi rolls and a pair of chopsticks. Everyone else at the table picked up their chopsticks with confidence and began to eat. I had a choice before me. I could fake chopstick confidence or look like a total novice. I decided to look like what I was and admitted my ineptitude to the three men.
I was promptly shown three different ways to hold my chopsticks by Bob, Jon, and Robert Huggins. I rotated back and forth between the methods, not wanting to offend anyone. I was actually able to manuever pretty well. But I did not want to put the whole sushi roll in my mouth at once. I was sure it would be a disaster. However, these men would have nothing of it. All of them have traveled in Japan and China and assured me that slurping noodles, chipmunk cheeks, and the like are common sights. They wouldn't continue eating until I had downed my roll. I did. They applauded. As I thought about it later, I figured this was a pretty good way to develop humility, all things considered. :o)
The only other mishap during lunch was that I swallowed an ice cube by mistake. My face must have looked ghastly because I thought Jon was going to freak out. But there was no real cause for alarm. Fortunately, I felt better when Bob Savage admitted that when he had eaten wasabi (a VERY spicy paste) for the first time, he hadn't known it was hot and so ate the whole ball of it on his plate. He claimed that he went unconscious for a full minute and saw bright lights. In light of this, I'd swallow an ice cube any day. :o)
Other than that, I had a delightful lunch. It was so fun to get to know people better and feel comfortable with them. Thanks God! And thanks to you for reading both stories.
Wishing you a blessed Fourth of July weekend! May it be fun and restful!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Food, Work, and other stuff...

Here's a post that I wrote last week. I didn't post it because I had to hurry off without being able to proofread it. My best guess is that I wrote it on Saturday, June 18. :o) Hope you enjoy!
I've been running myself ragged these past few weeks by scheduling tons of activities with friends and transitioning to new work and living environments, but not giving myself enough time to process through all these things. I love to be with people, and I get energy from being around people. But I also know that there's a strong strain of introvert in me. I need time on my own. I need time to do my own thing, whether organizing my room, writing letters, journaling, reading, or cooking, etc. However, it's a need that's easy to ignore in order not to miss out on activities with friends or at church or with my co-workers. Does anyone else feel like this?
Work makes me tired, too. Megan and I have been doing much more concentrated Harvest of Hope training this week. There is so much to learn! Fortunately, Megan has been sensitive to how I learn best as she trains me. I just keep praying that God would allow my brain to act like a sponge in soaking up all Megan teaches. I want to do my job well, and Megan is a great resource. I would appreciate your prayers that I might take advantage of my time with Megan by asking good questions, taking good notes, and being unafraid to try things, make mistakes, and learn.
At Whitworth, there tends to be an atmosphere of near-immediate intimacy with friendships. This became a point of tension for me when I realized that true intimacy between friends takes time. With my co-workers at Partners, I have realized how little I know about my coworkers' lives. I was hard on myself at first--I'm not asking good enough questions, I'm not listening well enough, etc.--until I realized that my relationships with my co-workers will take time. As I look forward to the coming months at Partners, I want to be intentional about getting to know my co-workers, asking good questions, and listening well.
Once a month at Partners, whoever wants to can attend the FIRED lunch group, which stands for "Food is Really Ethnically Delicious." Essentially, FIRED is a group of people who go to an ethnic restaurant for lunch on the last Wednesday of the month. There's also FIRED Home Edition, which is when we go to a co-worker's house for an ethnic meal. This month, Amir, an IT guy at Partners, invited some folks over to his apartment for Egyptian food. Amir is Egyptian and his visiting mother, Violet, cooked a wonderful meal for ten of us. It was quite informal. We didn't sit at a table, but sat in chairs or on the floor of the spacious kitchen, played with Amir's two delightful children, Benjamin and Joy, and chatted about subjects from the recent upheaval in Egypt to one person's particular fear of the dentist. It was a good time to be together and learn more about each person. I am thankful for my co-workers; they show real support for one another. I submitted a prayer request for our weekly Prayers/Praises sheet and several people have asked me more about the situation and/or have prayed aloud for it when we meet together each morning.
I'm also learning that the Partners employees are rather like eager goats that are willing to eat anything and everything. One employee told me that I could clean out my fridge, bring it to work, and people would still eat it! That's good because I often have leftover food. I brought a loaf of banana bread on Wednesday from a stellar recipe (thanks Lorry!) and it was gone by lunch time. Also on Wednesday, we had a grilled lunch using the Partners' grill. I said I would join in the fun, but then panicked because I didn't think I had anything. However, I was able to put together a pita pizza with olive oil, Monterey Jack cheese, peppers, spinach, broccoli, and chicken. Yum! This has been a good eating week.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The First Week of Work

Sorry to be so long in writing this next post. I've had technical difficulties with my computer, but we're up and running again. Thank you to the Whitworth computer help desk!
I've just finished my first full week of work at Partners International. Last Friday, I walked into work and couldn't believe this office was actually going to be my reality for the next who knows how long. I almost felt like an impostor. But I've felt more comfortable this week, both with the people and with the work. My title is the Harvest of Hope (HOH) coordinator. The current HOH coordinator, Megan Huggins, is a Whitworth grad from 2005. She's having her first baby in mid-July, so she's training me until that time. There is so much to learn! But I'm looking forward to being there. God has been gracious to give me this job, which I would do well to remember when I'm about to pull my hair out over the rebellious folding machine.
I enjoy the people at work especially. We start each morning with prayer, for each other and for the partner ministries that Partners supports. I love that prayer is a focus at Partners. I remember this quote from Oswald Chambers: "Prayer does not fit us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work."
On Wednesday, several of us were sitting outside at a picnic table for lunch. I had a dress and dress shoes on, enjoying the warmth of the sun. Robert Huggins, Megan's husband and a co-member of the Communications/Marketing team, somehow knocked over his water bottle and soaked my left leg, filling my shoe with water. I was so shocked that I just sat there. Charlie, another member of the Com/Marketing team, and Megan said, "You didn't even react! And with water all over your leg!" I grinned and said, "Well, this gives me an excuse not to wear my shoes for the afternoon!" And I didn't. But is this the way they initiate a new member of the team? I suppose it could have been worse. :o)
Otherwise, I've been settling into routine for the summer, getting a Spokane library card, grocery shopping, and the like. My room has finally been painted, so I can start putting things up on the walls. I won't have several pieces of furniture until the end of July, but I'm making do. Maybe living simply will whet my appetite for camping...
I'm glad for the weekend, especially a weekend with no homework!!! I've found a spot in my backyard to plant some vegetables, and tomorrow, I'll go to Whitworth Presbyterian Church to see my good friend, Kari, be commissioned as the new Pastoral Care intern. Enjoy the weekend!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Seattle and my New House!

On Saturday, May 28, Kari and I hopped in my car and drove to Kari's home in Seattle. On the drive, we decided to christen my little periwinkle Geo Prism "Beatrice." I'm hoping it sticks. What do you think, Lorry? Is Beatrice a fitting name? Our purpose in going to Seattle was to attend my junior year roommate's wedding in Eatonville, WA, about 70 minutes southeast of the city. As a bonus, Kari and I got to spend time with Kari's family over the weekend, too.

After an enjoyable Saturday evening and Sunday morning with Kari's parents, Steve and Myrna, we headed to the Olsons' favorite Indian restaurant: Taste of India. The Olsons used to have lunch here every Sunday after church when Kari was in high school. Our meal was delicious, especially the fresh chai tea. I asked Steve what "tandoori" meant on the menu, and he thought it was a kind of Indian oven. Sure enough, we poked our head in the kitchen door after lunch and were eagerly invited inside by the chef to witness the oven in action. Apparently, a tandoor oven is a special clay oven that is used in Indian cooking. Food that is cooked in a tandoor is called Tandoori, e.g. tandoori chicken.

The oven was shaped like a huge clay flower vase with a narrow opening at the top. The chef pulled out a lump of naan dough and with quick, deft movements, pulled the dough into an oblong shape, dusted it with butter, cilantro, and garlic, and slapped it on the inside of the oven where it stuck and cooked in two minutes' time. We were amazed and delighted. What a treat to see naan cooking! With typical Indian generosity, the chef gave us the fresh naan with a side of tamarind paste. Delicious! If only I could have eaten it then, but I was SO full. I could barely eat any dinner or cake at the wedding because I was so ridicuously full of Indian food. But I'm definitely not complaining. Good food is a gift. :o)

The wedding was fun, though it was strange to see the first of my friends get married this summer. This begins a series of five weddings for the summer, three of which I'm in. Perhaps the best part of the wedding was seeing friends from Whitworth who have scattered across the west coast for the summer and beyond. I also enjoyed the apple favors from the bride's family orchard. It brought back good memories of the boxes of apples fresh from the orchard that we enjoyed as roommates. The picture above is from the wedding.

Straddling May and June, the past week has been busy and tiring and full of God's blessings. On Tuesday, I worked feverishly between rainstorms to mow the Edwards' expansive lawn, pack my things, and clean the house. On Wednesday, my housemates and I moved into our new house on Woodway Avenue, which is a rather poetic name to my ears. In the midst of the chaos of packing, I was particularly thankful for three people:

1) Brad Beal, a friend from Colbert Presbyterian Church, offered to help me move my things in his spacious van. His generosity made the move 100 times easier and way more fun. Moving ranks as one of my least favorite things to do, but Brad made it a breeze.

2) Lydia Garth, a dear friend, made me a delicious lunch, and we enjoyed it together on the Edwards' deck. In the haste and chaos of moving, a prepared meal was a welcome break.

3) Kari Olson was my faithful helper in cleaning up the Edwards' house, cleaning bathrooms, making beds, washing sheets, etc. and helped me move several things, including food and clothes. I have so much food. It's rather ridiculous, so I need to try and use things up over the next several weeks. However, I always say that and it never seems to happen. Oh well.

Today, my housemates and I have been enjoying our new house and the sun. We organized our kitchen (praise God!) and took a leisurely bike ride through our neighborhood. My housemate Katie and I discovered at least six garage sales, of which the highlight was buying chocolate chip cookies and lemonade from two elementary-age girls. We also discovered how expansive our neighborhood is and that we're close to Fred Meyer! Now if they'd just put in a Coldstone Ice Cream shop nearby...

A blessed and hopefully sunny weekend to you!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Foray into the Local and Seasonal

In between moving from my Whitworth-owned house on May 17 to my rental house on June 1, my friend Kari and I have been house-sitting for a Whitworth theology professor and his wife. It's been lovely to have time to rest and play between the end of school and the start of my job on June 2.

In my time off, I've been reading a book by Barbara Kingsolver called Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. It's a marvelous book about a family who eats locally for one year; Kingsolver writes with humor and poses good questions about our American tendencies towards food, especially to ship out-of-season foods from long distances. I appreciate Kingsolver's insights and want to live as locally and in season as I can within a non-profit salary. I'm excited to buy a chest freezer from my friend Lydia for $50 to preserve fruits and vegetables for the winter.

Last night, Kari and I went to a local farmer's market. The market takes place in the parking lot of a Presbyterian church and there was a distinct community feel to the market, where the local rubber hits the road. Kari and I wandered around and ended up talking with a cattle farmer, who urged us to try his delicious sausage. As I secretly wished for another sample, I asked the farmer a question about his sign, which read: "Five chubs ground beef and 1 dz eggs--$27."

"Okay, so, what's a chub?" I asked him.

"A chub's a pound," he said, matter-of-factly. "The first time I heard that I thought the person was insulting me, you know? 'Hey! Do you want a ground beef, chub?'"

Of course, what the person really meant was: "Do you want a ground beef chub?" You see, grammar does make a big difference. :)

I laughed pretty hard at this. The farmer then told us about the different parts of the cow and which parts are better as soup bones, fajitas or steak, etc. Why do I read cookbooks when I have the wisdom of the farmer himself? This man was clearly full of ideas. My goal is to buy some beef from him sometime this summer. Perhaps I'll buy a chub.

Kari and I did buy a couple things. I bought radishes, asparagus, and two pounds of cracked wheat breakfast cereal from a local grainery. Kari bought a loaf of freshly-made dried tomato bread and a bunch of spinach. For dinner, we had grilled cheese on the bread, steamed spinach, oven-roasted asparagus with olive oil, and a fruit salad. It was delicious, and I took particular pleasure in how many fruits and vegetables were present in the meal. It's hard to do, but satisfying when you can work those fruits and veggies into a well-rounded meal.

The pastor of the Presbyterian church that shares a parking lot with the farmer's market has written a book called A Year of Plenty, similar to Kingsolver's book. I met Pastor Craig at a book signing in downtown Spokane and was eager to read the book and learn more about the local Spokane food scene. Step-by-step, I'm learning more about the rich agriculture of this area. Though the Willamette Valley has a more hospitable growing season, Spokane has a burgeoning local food scene. I'm excited to jump in. Keep me updated on your experiences with local food, whether from a farmer's market, your own garden, or that ubiquitous bag of zucchini left at church in early August. :o) I'd be delighted to hear from you.

God bless!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Graduation Weekend in Photos

Okay, so these photos are out of order. I'll have to play with the photo settings a little bit more. Here are a couple photos from graduation weekend that will give you a feel for what happened. It was a full, but blessed, weekend. My parents, sister, friend Ruth (from high school), and grandma were in Spokane to celebrate with me. I am so thankful for their help and care this weekend, from rejoicing with me over my new job to packing for endless hours on Monday and Tuesday. Thanks!!!

Yes. The good news is: I have a job!!!! On Thursday (May 12), I had an interview at Partners International, which is a mission organization in north Spokane that works with indigenous Christian leaders in places where Christianity is a minority religion. On Friday, I got an e-mail from the Human Resources Director that I had the job. O happy day! There was a lot of "hooting and hollering" that evening, as my grandma told a friend on the phone.

So, the job itself is titled Harvest of Hope coordinator. HOH (for short) is Partners' gift catalog in which you can buy a chicken or Bible or medicine for a person overseas, which will help alleviate poverty and support the work of Christian ministry in the community. Beyond that, I don't know many details about the job. I'll go into the office on Tuesday morning to learn more. I'm so thankful to have a job, especially as my expenses will drastically increase in the coming weeks. :o)

Hope you enjoy these photos! Thanks for reading!

My dear father, goofy as ever! My friend Kari Olson is on the right. We've had the privilege of living together for two years. I am so thankful for Kari. Here's God's grace pouring through yet again in my college career. Among lots of good, friendship-building stuff, I'm also thankful for Kari's love of clothes. She's helped me build up my wardrobe more tastefully. :o) If only you could see the dress she's wearing under that generic black robe! We've taken lots of theology classes together, and we sure get into goofy study moods. I'll miss those days.

Here's a picture of me with Dottie Mohrlang, the Associate Director of the Certification for Ministry program and the wife of Bible professor Roger Mohrlang. I've known Dottie since my freshman year, and we've met weekly since then. She's my mentor and friend. I am so thankful for Dottie and Roger. They've taken me into their home numerous times. Dottie has helped me think and pray through ministry, life, and faith. I've helped her plant and weed and harvest in her lovely garden, and she taught me to make a mean rhubarb pie. Roger made me suffer through four difficult Bible and missions classes. But even with a couple days hindsight, I'm thankful for the suffering. :o)

Yay!! This is me walking across the stage after shaking Beck Taylor's (Whitworth's president) hand. I loved walking past all the theology professors as I came down the other side of the stage. It was so fun to hear their comments and give them hugs. Such celebration! I realized two things this weekend. 1) It's good to celebrate! God loves for us to celebrate what we have accomplished by his grace. And college was drenched with God's grace. 2) There's something to be said for normal life. !! I started to get tired of the pomp and circumstance by Sunday evening. :o) Two good things to have learned, I think.

We're so excited to be done with school work! And to be graduating! My housemates (in order) Sarah, Erin, Kari, and myself celebrating in front of our theme house sign outside our house on Saturday. The house is owned by Whitworth, so we have to put on one program a month for Whitworth students. The Open Door is basically a hospitality house through weekly meals that my housemates and I made. We had lots of students, professors, and community members over throughout the year. We loved it.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Beginning!

Welcome to my blog!

I've realized that over the past four years of college, I have written countless pages of reading responses, research papers, book reviews, and personal reflections. Though I may not feel like admitting it now, as I face Finals Week, I will, after college, actually miss the practice and discipline of writing several times a week. This blog is an attempt to fill that gap in a positive way. For one thing, I love to write. And there's no better way to improve one's craft than to actually practice.

So I'm using this blog with several purposes in mind. Here they are:

1) To keep up with my writing, specifically what I like to call creative nonfiction writing (writing about true things in a creative way).

2) To reflect on God's work in my life post-Whitworth and to process through the difficulties of this new life that I'm living. Some like to call it adulthood. :o)

3) To keep track of funny little things that happen in a week. Don't you think it's true that there are a million funny things that happen in a week that are fun to share? I invite you to comment on the blog when you want to share something funny from your week.

4) To keep in touch with friends and family in Spokane, Fairview, and beyond to help them understand what's happening in my life day-to-day. However, I hope this blog is not self-centered, but rather a way to connect with those far away and to understand together how faith permeates all of life.

5) Most of all, to glorify God in how I write, connect with you, process through things that happen, struggle in things that are hard, and rejoice in things that are good.

As I've been studying madly for a final exam in my Paul's Letters class this Tuesday, it seems appropriate to end with a quote from Paul.

"Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God. Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God's grace." ~Romans 6:13b-14

Thanks for joining me on this journey of grace!