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.