Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Making Hay While the Snow Falls

Clay and I were pretty much trapped indoors for 6 days straight due to the endless onslaught of snow. (2 feet over the past week.) Today is our first day of freedom, and I'm relishing every minute of it: driving 70mph on the interstate, stopping at Starbucks, and loving my desk at work.

Yesterday was the real low point. We were putting chains on my car to drive to the Post Office, and I was frustrated beyond belief. For no apparent reason. And--I didn't want to do anything. Lethargy is apparently lethal!

Mostly I spent a lot of time knitting while Clay spent a lot of time reorganizing his "collectible card games." We also watched The Bourne Supremacy, The Bourne Ultimatum, Escape From New York, Under the Tuscan Sun, Minority Report and many episodes of Friends.

Here are some bi-products of my hundreds of hours indoors...some newly knitted armwarmers (out of a fine alpaca yarn, the purchase of which supported rural women in Uraguay) and an army of angsty gingerbread men! Praise the Lord that the roads are finally clear!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Snowed in...

For the 3rd day in a row, we've pretty much been snowed in at home. On Wednesday, I attempted to brave my 30 mile drive to work, with no success. I slid through an intersection near our apt, drove 20 mph on 50 mph State Highways, and arrived to the slow-movin I-5 only to begin fishtailing immediately. So I turned around and came back home to enjoy a day of warm soup and board games with Clay and Mom and Dad (who arrived just in time for snowstorm 2008).

I didn't even try to drive to work again yesterday.
And then today, I made another attempt, only to find the highway still snow-covered. No good!

The problem isn't necessarily the snow...it's that in Western Washington, there aren't enough snow plows to keep up with all the snow, and people are really uncomfortable driving in it, so they either drive reeeeally slow or get into lots of accidents.

Regardless, Clay continues to look around it all going, "This is CRAzy," while I am thinking back to J-Term at Taylor University so thankful that I don't have to trudge to Calculus class through 2 feet of snow drifts.

It's a snowy December in Western Washington with a most-probable White Christmas. I do not miss our usual grey/cold/rainy/dark December days...and thankfully, since Blockbuster and Safeway are a 10-minute walk from our house, we're likely to survive the storm.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

OTR Live at Triple Door

I enjoy seeing Over the Rhine live in concert more than I enjoy most things in life. It's the little things really... melodic piano solos, an upright bass, and Karin's new outfit.

Over Thanksgiving weekend, we enjoyed an evening of Over the Rhine at the swanky Seattle venue, The Triple Door, which is part speakeasy, part dinner theater, and a little bit Disney World. It's fancy. A fall trek to Over the Rhine has become a bit of a thing...last September we took in two shows at Triple Door, and in November 2006, I managed to catch them at the Canal Street Tavern in Dayton, Ohio.

Every time I see Over the Rhine live, I end up connecting with a song I've heard a million times by hearing it in an entirely new way. This time, it was "Poughkeepsie," which touches me in a deep place every time I hear it...and "New Redemption Song" from Snow Angels...As I was sitting there, gently rocking back and forth and humming along to New Redemption Song, I knew it was my song for 2008...the one that will quantify what this year has meant to me. The lyrics are simple...but the music communicated so much power. I'm thankful for music, thankful that Karin and Linford continue making music after 20 years together, and thankful for the power of redemption...

New Redemption Song
(Words and Music: Detweiler)

Lord we need a new redemption song
Lord we’ve tried
It just seems to come out wrong
Won’t you help us please
Help us just to sing along
A new redemption song

Lord we need
A new redemption day
All our worries
Keep getting in the way

Won’t you help us please
Help us find the words to pray
To bring redemption day

Monday, December 08, 2008

A Trip to Visit the Sun

Clay and I joked about bringing all of our friends a souvenir back from Tucson--a picture of the sun. We never quite got around to it during our 3-day whirlwind to the sunny desert, where it's 75 degrees in the winter. But we did enjoy the sun and a lot of other great things.

Here are our top 5 take-aways of a memorable visit:

  1. Friends. We spent time with the Kings, the Cummings, the Reminders, Tom and Vonnie, the PV Church of Christ youth group, Kendra, Amanda, Heather and Ben...not to mention a stop on the way back to the Phoenix airport to have lunch with Drew, Lisa and baby Micah. In all of this, I'm so thankful that through Christ we can have so many brothers and sisters in a place far away. We were filled with so much love and appreciation for these people, and I was thankful to have so many great conversations with the people that shaped Clay during his three years of ministry there. It's like I gained more understanding into who Clay has become by getting to know the people that have shaped him. Pretty cool.

  2. Babies. During our trip, there were babies and toddlers everywhere. Clay spent a good hour playing ball with a 5-year-old and 2-year-old. He spent another good hour jumping on the trampoline with a 7-year-old and a 6-year-old. I spent time crawling around the floor with an 8-month-old and bouncing a 4-month-old on my knee. We realized we enjoy hanging out with kids, but they're messy and a lot of work, and we are not ready for them yet.

  3. Cold Drinks. I feel that living in the Northwest gives you a greater sense of appreciation for the joys that coffee can bring to your life. In the same way, visiting the desert gives you a greater appreciation for cold drinks. Whether it's a slushee from Eegee's, some gelato, an iced tea, or a frappuccino, cold drinks don't taste any better than they do in Tucson.

  4. Grass. You really start to miss grass when you don't see it. Everything in Tucson fades to this light browny-pink color, and there aren't any really rich colors around, especially green. Everyone's front yards are filled with nicely arranged tiny pink rocks. While in Tucson this go-around, we were both appreciative of how our quality-of-life is improved by something as simple as grass.

  5. Closure. Clay has missed Tucson pretty much since he said goodbye in August 2007. He misses the sun, he misses the concerts, he misses Eegees, he misses his friends. In this visit, we were able to see that our Tucson friends are still very much our friends, and that he has made a big impact in the lives of the teens he worked with. In a way, it was like we finally received closure from Clay's departure in August 2007 while saying hello to the realization that these people are still connected to us in the present.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Giving Thanks, Grieving Evil

I'm in my kitchen baking cornbread and homemade whole wheat rolls.  I just read about the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, 82 people dead.  Suddenly, my world seems so far away and protected from the rest of the world.

There is evil in the world, and sometimes people submit to it and commit atrocious acts of evil, leaving a wake of destruction behind them.

Yet, as I anticipate tomorrow, I know there is also good in the world.  There is family, there are friends, and there is joyous celebration.

Thanksgiving is certainly not the most existential of holidays, but in baking cornbread while reading about these people who died at the hands of evil, I am drawn to Ecclesiastes...  I think, "Wow, there is a time to gather with friends and family and celebrate community around a table...and there is a time where the innocent are slaughtered."  God confounds me.

It confounded Solomon too...

He writes of Thanksgiving: "I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live.  That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil--this is the gift of God." (Ecc. 3:12-13.)

He also writes of Mumbai: "In the place of judgment--wickedness was there, in the place of justice--wickedness was there." (Ecc. 3: 16.)

How do we celebrate tomorrow while others grieve?  We just do.  It is a gift to sit down with our families and friend.  Eat, drink, and find satisfaction.  Be encouraged that we serve a God who will judge the wicked, but now is the time to be thankful.  Pray for those who are persecuted....

"God will bring to judgment both the righteous and the wicked, for there will be a time for every activity, a time for every deed."  (Ecc. 3:17.)

Happy Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Take that, Betty Crocker!

Last night Clay and I had some friends over to celebrate friend Jessica's birthday. Woohoo! But by nature of the guest list, the menu faced some unique challenges. With only 4 guests, plus Clay and I, the meal needed to be dairy-free, meat-free, and gluten-free. Um...what does that leave?? Not a whole lot.

But--I love a good challenge in the kitchen and easily settled on my favorite curry dish, including garlic, onion, shallots, peanut butter, coconut milk, ginger, and cilantro. (Thanks JP!) And--in place of chicken, a gluten-free tofu. The meal also required one substitution: for soy sauce, a wheat-free tamari.

Heidi provided a vegan asian salad (complete with vegan mayonnaise...ooh la la!)

For dessert, we enjoyed an almost-vegan, 100% gluten-free Cashew Creme Pear Tart. (I used butter instead of margarine...as Sarah reminded us, margarine is not that far-removed from plastic...only one molecule separates them...and I could not bring myself to make something from margarine.)

So...while it may not seem like a vegan gluten-free dinner is the easiest of all possible challenges, we all emerged victorious! Kudos to us! And kudos to Jessica for giving us a reason to get together and celebrate!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

How do you teach people how to think?

Clay asked the teens to submit questions they had about God so that he could address those topics during Youth Group. One of the questions was, "What does the Bible say about abortion?" Two nights ago, as Clay and I were dozing off, we were talking about how to respond to the question, which of course, reminded me of something I'm learning through church history.

How we respond to that question might actually be teaching the students more than what we teach them is "right." Because...in our moment of response, we can either present a set of prooftexts to support the agenda we already believe and give them the right answer--or--we can be brave enough to give the students the whole picture and teach them how to find the answers for themselves.

What I mean by, "brave enough to give students the whole picture" is this: tell them not just about the parts that say, "before you were born I knew you" and "I knit you together in your mother's womb," but also about the parts of the Bible that are more difficult...like...the part where God sends out the Plague to kill all the firstborn sons of Egypt. And then...teach them how to wade through their salvation with "fear and trembling...for it is God who works in you to will and to act, according to His good purpose." (Php 2:12b-13)

Focusing just on the list of prooftexts that support our belief is dangerous, because it means we're probably missing out on the whole picture...and we might be more attached to our own agenda than to the Lord's will. We might have even established our "biblically-based" perspective without sitting in "fear and trembling"...without taking the whole Bible into consideration...difficult questions like, "If God loves children, why does he send death to all the firstborn sons of Egypt?" In teaching students, if we just give them the "right" answer, we miss the opportunity to teach them how to wade through the complicated parts and find God in the midst of this.

Right now, I can recognize that this idea could offend some people. You might say, "But young people need to know the truth or they'll fall away!"--so let me just clarify one of my assumptions...I assume Scripture is the Word of God and worthy of teaching, but I don't think it necessarily always makes sense. And I don't necessarily think that teaching them the right answer is equivalent to teaching them the truth. We are utterly dependant on the Holy Spirit to guide our interpretation of Scripture...

Pretty much every week in Church History, we end up discussing a historical church argument...and in every controversy, we write a good, scripturally-based argument to support opposing viewpoints. Often, there's no clearly, "more Biblical," answer based just on prooftexts... Sometimes I hear people in class say, "Well, in this case, we just have to base the argument on Scripture," but unfortunately--it's not always that clear because can often find Scriptures to support two differing viewpoints. What do you do with that?

Usually, the early church ends up defending the side of the argument not so much because it's more "right," but because it's protecting some element crucial to our faith. In these cases, we ask, "If X is true, how does that contradict the nature of God as we see him in the whole context of Scripture?" Unfortunately, it seems like the current church is more convicted to lobby for their interpretations of the "right" answers.

If we just teach students the "right" answers, and not about the character of God, then there's a huge risk that the minute someone pokes holes in that "right" belief, their faith is going to crumble. We don't need to teach them to defend "right" perspectives--we need them to see and know who God is...we need to each them how to think about a question when they have one and know how to go about finding the answer...

...how do we teach them how to live out Philippians 2:12b-13: "Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose?"
...how do we teach them wade through God's mystery?

We're #2!

Being a sports fan in Ohio is pretty thankless. We rarely get to celebrate the big victories, and we cling to the close calls. (i.e. the time the Browns almost beat Denver in the AFC Championship, the times the Indians almost won the World Series in 95 and 97...)

2007-2008 was really been our banner year:

NCAA Football: Ohio State loses championship game to Florida (2007).
NCAA Football: Ohio State loses championship game to LSU (2008).
NCAA Basketball: Ohio State loses championship game to Florida.
ArenaBowl XXI: Columbus Destroyers lose to the San Jose SaberCats.
MLB ALCS: Cleveland Indians lose to the Boston Red Sox.

All of that to say, Ohio's Major League Soccer Team (the Columbus Crew) is playing in the championship game this weekend for the MLS cup. So...hope for the best, prepare for what's more likely.

I mean...Go Crew!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Can I just say...

Can I just say I'm so thankful they didn't have MySpace, Facebook or Blogs during my freshman year of college, because there's no way I would have had the discipline to get anything done.  It was bad enough having Napster and the TU Network.

I have a 10-page research paper due on Monday and I'm discovering how Facebook, YouTube, and my blog provide endless time-wasters to avoid the ever-painful duty of historical analysis of primary texts.  This is no good!  

I'm never so productive as I am when I don't have wireless access.

Back to work.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Abandon Your Child! (Offer Ends Soon.)

Is your baby/child/teen driving you crazy?!

Well, if you act now, for a few more days, you have the opportunity to abandon your child with no legal consequences.  Too good to be true, you say?!  Au contraire!

As long as you don't mind your child being raised to love the Huskers and leaving them in the safe and loving arms of an ER nurse working graveyard shift, take advantage of this special offer now.

While supplies last.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

And Time Passes

One day in high school, a boy invites you to go rollerblading at Lake Park. So you go, and it's a good time.

Then, another day, you both wear kilts and sing, "Almost Like Being in Love," during the Triple Locks production of Brigadoon.

Then, about 11 years later, you turn on your TV, and he's playing a mentally-handicapped character on Law&Order.

Good times!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Top Five November 12th Events.

For lack of anything more interesting today, here is my top 5 list of interesting things that have happened on November 12th in days gone by:

  1. 1970 -- The "Exploding Whale" Incident in Florence, Oregon. (Highway Dept blows up rotting whale. Amazing.
  2. 1933 -- First photo of the Loch Ness Monster is taken.
  3. 1912 -- Frozen bodies of Scott and his men are found in Antarctica.
  4. 1970 -- Tonya Harding was born.
  5. There is no #5...because November 12th is really that boring of a day.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Things I have mastered this weekend:

  1. Creation of homemade cinnamon rolls...the first batch was so yummy, I'm making a second batch to take to work tomorrow!  Thanks, breadmaker!
  2. Navigating my way to one of University of Washington's [270] libraries.  (This included finding a parking lot on game day and finding my way to a building I'd never seen before!)
  3. Printing my rebate information on the Verizon website.  They try to hide it from you and constantly cause your browser to shut down, but I was successful!  Ha!
  4. Transferring all my contacts from my old phone to my new phone.  Yay for a QWERTY keyboard!
  5. Narrowing the thesis for my research paper that's due next Monday.  Isn't it lovely when you negate the validity of your working thesis about 10 hours into your research?!  Awesome!  Today it's something to do with how the role of the abbot in the Rule of Benedict contributed to making Benedict's rule more flexible and transferable than other rules...aren't YOU just itching to read that?
  6. My irrational fear of teaching high school Sunday School.

Things I did not master this weekend:
  1. Self-control to turn off SNL's Presidential Bash during study time.
  2. Expedient travel between U-District and Queen Anne on a Saturday afternoon.  What's your shortcut?
  3. Avoidance of Pedeltweezer's General Tso's chicken when Clay's out of town, and I'm home alone.

Thursday, November 06, 2008


A few weeks ago, Clay preached a [most excellent] sermon on listening.

The whole premise of being able to listen is that we must first be silent. Amazing!

This morning, at 7am, at least 30 minutes before I normally arise, Clay's alarm went off. As always, it woke me up, but not him. I was wide awake with 30 minutes in front of me, and I thought, "I can roll out of bed and journal and sit in silence!" It sounded fantastic, but as always, requires that ever-important activity of getting out of bed. 99% of the time when I have this feeling, I go right back to sleep. I usually regret the missed opportunity later. Praise God, for whatever reason, this morning I got out of bed.

I journalled for a bit, read the Bible, and sat in silence for awhile. I listened to my breath...and I thought about the Jesus prayer prayed by 6th century months: [Inhale] "Lord Jesus Christ, [Exhale] have mercy on me, a sinner." In the stillness, I breathed, and I cleared my mind, and I waited. I asked the Lord to examine my heart...and he did.

I arrive at work refreshed, awake, alive. I'm excited, and I'm at peace. This week, I'm focusing on learning how to love better--letting go of my age-old defense mechanisms, and just loving.

And it's all because of silence and listening. We have a lot to learn from monks.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A shout out to Kenya...and reflections on a global victory.

I'd like to take a moment to give a shout out to all my brothers and sistas in Kenya! It's been awhile since we've seen each other, but I'm so joy-filled that you can be inspired in this moment.

I was living in Kenya for five months during the fall of 2001, and my Kenyan brothers and sisters stood beside me, renouncing terrorism. They understood what America was going through, because just a few years before, bin Laden had bombed the U.S. Embassy in downtown Nairobi. They understood what it was like to be attacked on your own soil. I learned from them what it means to be a citizen of the world...to live in a global community. As I hear stories of President Kibaki declaring a national holiday in Kenya in honor of Obama, and I hear of celebrations taking place in Kisumu, my heart is just bursting.

I think of Alice, my Compassion sponsor child, living near Mt. Kenya, working in her garden with her parents...and I think about what it means for her to look at President-Elect Obama with a dream and know that her education through Compassion can lead her to places she's only dreamed about.

With every election, we elect one person. We elect their strengths. We elect their weaknesses. Certainly there are things to be mourned. Many of my brothers and sisters who are so disappointed that we are now inheriting Obama's weaknesses... I don't want to discount those. We have not elected a Savior, we've elected a governmental leader. There are things he has already done and will do that will disappoint us. We can mourn those disappointments.

But--is it possible to also take a moment to pause and celebrate the victory of this moment? I was so moved last night to see Jesse Jackson standing in the crowd at Grant Park weeping. He's spent 43 years involved in Civil Rights...he attended a segregated high school...he walked alongside Dr. King...and 40 years after Dr. King's death, Rev. Jackson can finally see the support of the entire nation behind a candidate who, just 44 years ago, could not even use the same public restroom as his running-mate. I cannot even imagine what this moment means to him.

I cannot imagine what this moment means to so many Africans, who dream of giving their children good educations so they can have a better life. I think of a woman I met in the slums of Nairobi who worked three jobs so she could pay the $24/month school fees for her son. I think of how all of these parents look at their children with hope, and how it would have been impossible for any of them, before now, to look at that child and say, "You can be President of the United States."

Kudos to the people of this nation today...one small step, one giant leap.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Silence, Obedience, Humility.

After enduring the last many months of water-cooler political conversations, I think I'm ready to be a Quaker or Amish or something...anything where I get to go live in the country, hum a lot, bake bread and not talk about politics. I wouldn't even mind washing my clothes by hand.

Last night, I was lying in bed, my heart heavy. I was burdened by the perspectives of so many Christian brothers and sisters, who place their faith in our political structure above their faith in our Lord. To my surprise, Mark Driscoll shared a message on his blog today that spoke to the exact concern I was feeling! (I say to my surprise, only because I often disagree with Mr. Driscoll's interpretation of the Word...and I was encouraged by his words today.)

In the early church, anytime the church and politics mingled, the church ended up sacrificing one agenda to pursue another agenda. In pursuit of purity, we might sacrifice grace. In pursuit of justice, we might sacrifice forgiveness. My question is regarding the way that Christians engage in and respond to politics today...by enagaging in the way we do with the issues we choose, what have we compromised?

P.S. Your election day song of contemplation is here.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

An Open Letter to the Flies in Our Office

Dear flies in our office,

Where do you come from, and why do you torment us here?

This morning, I was sitting across a table from my boss, and one of you distracted me by wriggling around on the table on your back. I said, "There's a dying fly on the table." My boss said, "Gross," and flicked you off the table with a pen. Then we both looked up at the nearby window where seven of you were vying for first dibs on making a prison break.

We just want you to know, you are not welcome here. You distract us with your endless cries for help. We are glad you want to leave our office, but why must you be so loud and buzzy in your pursuit of freedom? Just get out of here. Wriggle under the door, crawl through a vent, but QUIT banging against my window. Also--tell all your brothers in the attic that if they don't stop making their way from outside to inside, more and more lives will be lost. I've killed at least 25 of you just this week. There will be more deaths until this torment ceases.

This is not your space. You are not invited. Please flee.



President of the Task Force to Eliminate Pest Infestations from Her Office

Monday, October 27, 2008

Who's your source?

In Church History, I'm learning that it's important to evaluate peoples' sources...this makes sense, because if you're going to make a reputable argument, you want to make sure it's based on credible information. This does not seem to be the case in political campaigns...whoever can say the meanest things the loudest wins, regardless of their truth.

In History, the most valuable arguments need to be based on primary sources--the original documentation, the original testimonies. Also, the testimony of just one person represents one person's perspective, but to build a historical argument, it's helpful to have more than one person in accord.

I'm noticing that in the age of Facebook, Myspace and You Tube, there's a lot of disreputable propaganda floating around. I've received flyers telling me to vote "no" on I-1000 using the "proof" of slippery slope arguments. ("Don't vote for it, because it might lead to this!!!") Over the weekend I received several links and watched several TV ads defaming a political candidate based only on the testimony and conjecture of the author, who apparently knows the truth. ("Don't vote for ______ because that might lead to this!!!")

Since when are conspiracy theorists legitimate journalists? Since when do slippery slope arguments create a good line of defense?

Does anyone know the difference between propaganda and critical analyses? Worst of all, does anyone value the difference?

In the first 200 years of the church, Christians had to fight against conspiracy theories. The pagan culture accused Christians of committing infanticide, of engaging in orgiastic and incestuous worship services, and of cannibalism. The church had to fight conspiracy theories to show the truth about our faith.

But I'm frustrated to see so many Christians, who should value truth, engage in outright gossip about political candidates based on conjecture, word-of-mouth, and slippery arguments. Spreading rumors based on disreputable sources, and forwarding propaganda aimed at defaming someone else's name is gossip. It's outright gossip, and that's not okay.

If Christians really believe these candidates are the enemies, then we must follow the words of Christ: "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:44-45)

In the midst of persecution, the church of the 2nd and 3rd century was committed to praying for the Emperor who persecuted them, because God commanded them to. I urge you--quit defaming these candidates and start praying for them.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Meals I Have Loved, Episode #1

You may not know this: I love to cook! Woohoo! I love experimenting with new recipes. I love spending an hour or two every few weeks to create a meal plan for the next few weeks and go grocery shopping for new and interesting ingredients. I love altering recipes to be more healthy. And I love trying new cheesecakes.

So. On backroads-midwest-coast, I want to attempt to share new and interesting cooking ideas from time to time, or at least, share the photographs of beautiful meals I have loved. Here are a few.

This is Clay and I's Easter meal from last April: A pork tenderloin with sauerkraut and apples, roasted asparagus (in balsamic vinegar and oil), light au gratin potatoes (no heavy whipping cream!) and a ginger pear cheesecake. Woo-wee! And--the common book of prayer for an Easter devotional. Since it's been 6 months, I have no recollection of the source for any of these recipes, other than, you should know that skinny au gratin potatoes are good! So, no need to bend to heavy whipping cream! Also, I learned that it's good to share holiday meals with other people you love because it's way too much effort to go to for two people!

Since meeting my husband, he too has begun some experimentation in the kitchen. This is mostly because I've asked him to help out from time to time in order to give me a night off. He's been willing to learn because he loves me. He started out modestly, steaming broccoli or heating up prepared soups. Eventually he stretched out into soup recipes. I've sought to help him see that good cooking is not beyond reach--it just takes some creativity and the ability to follow instructions--so lately, I've pulled out a few recipes I thought he could do well with. A few nights ago, I was working hard at my studies and we were limited on groceries. He decided to make some ravioli, and I found a spinach and pepper ravioli recipe that would work. Since we were out of bell pepper, we substituted roasted red pepper. He browned some butter and tossed it with a mushroom asiago ravioli, frozen spinach, and chopped roasted red pepper. The results were amazing! I said, "This is the best thing you've ever made me!" His response was, "This is the best thing I've ever made!"

So to all you out there who are wary of the kitchen, gourmet meals are not beyond your grasp! It just takes a bit of planning in your purchases and a willingness to experiment! If that sounds too overwhelming, maybe, just read my blog and I'll try to pass along some helpful suggestions from time to time.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Stop the Polarizing! Have a conversation.

I don't like to discuss politics outside of the circle of my closest friends, because in casual conversations, it doesn't seem like most people are interested in dialogue. Politics and Religion are polarizing issues. When either Politics or Religion come into the discussion, we quickly lose the ability to listen. We either commend them for their intelligence or we start tuning them out, depending on whether or not they agree with us.

Sarah was telling me about how on a street corner in Anacortes on Sunday afternoons, the "anti-war" people stand on 3 street corners, and the "support our troops" people stand on another corner. They have posters and banners and megaphones. What's so fascinating to me is that those two groups of people are shouting on different street corners, thinking that they're on opposite sides of a battle. If they sat down to have a discussion, I wonder if that would still be true.

If they sat down to talk, maybe they'd find out that there are people with the "anti-war" signs that have sons and daughters in the military, and they are supporting troops by opposing what they feel is an unjust war. They oppose the military leaders putting their sons and daughters at risk in a war that they've never felt was justified. Maybe we'd find out that the "support our troops" people have been hurt by crazy "anti-war" people who discredit their son or daughter's service to the country, and that it's become easy to assume that the people who are "anti-war" are "anti-troops." They believe they're passionately defending their childrens' honor. Maybe if they sat down and had a conversation, they'd find out they had more in common than they thought--and that they share a commitment to care about our country's use of force. (This is idealistic, I know. Maybe they'd actually discover they were all mutually crazy to be standing on a street corner in the 40 degree rain in October when they could be inside watching the Seahawks lose.)

I work in a conservative community in the midst of an liberal region, and I've discovered that it's hard to have these discussions. Liberal Seattle and conservative Christians in/near Seattle don't spend a lot of time talking to each other. They coexist, but they don't dialogue.

I'd love to share dialogue, to tell you why I'm voting for a candidate I really believe in. I'd love to talk about what we believe the church's engagement with politics should be and what it should not be. I'd love to hear why you're choosing the person you're choosing, because I learn so much about you in hearing why you're voting the way you are...and I learn to see the issues from a new perspective.

If you're interested in starting a dialogue, here are some questions I've been pondering...maybe they'll help you bridge the gap instead of increasing the polarization:

  • Why does opposing war imply someone does not support troops? What values do these two groups actually share, and where do they actually differ?
  • What is there a difference between being pro-choice and pro-abortion?
  • Should our government legislate morality?
  • Where are the "anti-American" parts of our country? Why are they considered to be so?
  • Why does the media spin a scenario into the rhetoric of scandal by attaching "gate" to the end, i.e. "troopergate"? What's the fascination with scandal?
  • Why do the campaigns spend so much money buying advertisements and making robotized phone calls that no one listens to?
  • What if Obama was a Muslim? Would that mean he was less American or less capable of the duties of President?
  • Why is "muslim" a dirty word?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Everybody Should Study This!

Over the last four weeks of studying Early Church History at Fuller Theological Seminary, I keep thinking to myself, "Everybody should study this." It is rocking my world.

Why? It's old. They're dead. It was 2000 years ago. Why study it at all if it can't apply to ministry today?

Because it's really easy to look at today's church, read the words of Jesus, and get really frustrated that the ministry of the church doesn't look more like the ministry of Christ. It's easy to be angry that the church isn't unified in Christ.

Through my readings about the 1st and 2nd century church, my heart is changing. I'm no longer angry that our church is such a mess--I'm disappointed that I never learned this from my church. I'm disappointed because I believe that knowing our history would change the way we live and minister. After a month of readings, I'm no longer asking, "When did this become such a mess," rather, I'm asking, "How on earth did the church survive all this?! It's a miracle!" And I'm praising God for protecting the church and allowing it to grow and flourish at all.

In reading our history, I realize that many of my assumptions and frustrations with the church have been made in ignorance--and in reading about all of the adversities facing the early church, I'm filled with a compassion and love for the church I've never had before. When I see how dedicated and passionate our early church leaders were in their pursuit of Christ, I no longer care that the church is a mess--I'm just inspired to be a part of it.

Last night, I was sharing lots of these thoughts with Clay, and we were talking about the early church in Rome. Clay said something about that being the history of the Catholic church, and I piped up (with a great deal of passion), "No! That's our church history too! Our church didn't even exist until the 1860's...it didn't pop out of a void...it came from somewhere--so the history of the Early Church in Rome is the history of our church too!"

If we are truly one church united by Christ, than the church's history is our history, good, bad and otherwise. The martyrs and saints are our history, the split in 1054 is our history, the Spanish Inquisition is our history, the Reformation is our history.

I think a lot of times American Protestants see our roots in the early American church or the Reformation, and we don't look back any further than that. The Spanish Inquisition is something the Catholic church did, not us. Guess what?! Since there was not an American Protestant church in 1478, I'm pretty sure that that's a part of our church history too.

I know that Free Methodism started as a movement during the civil war, and before that we were apart of the Methodist movement begun by John Wesley in the 1730's. Studying the last 360 years of our history is good and fine, but there were 1638 other years of history in there before we got to the reformation, and there were thousands of years of Jewish history before that, which, since Jesus and the apostles were all JEWS is also a part of our history.

My whole point is, how can we possible respond to our present without knowing what we've gone through to get to this point? We're apt to throw out the lessons we've already learned or spend time on the details instead of using our past to illuminate where we should go in the future. We are apt to ignorantly schism ourselves away from our brothers and sisters without remembering that there have been so many times in our past (and presently--in China and so many countries) when we were united under the pressure of persecution.

Yesterday, I was inspired by the story of the martyrdom of Polycarp. Here's an early church Bishop who was killed by the Romans because he refused to worship the Emporor and recant Christ. His story was written down to share as an encouragement for other believers and to bear witness to the power of Christ. It is offensive that martyrs should ever die without the church celebrating and remembering their sacrifice. Please read, and then read Romans 12:1-2 and ask the Lord to illuminate new meaning of those words in your life. Allow early church history to rock your world!

Monday, October 20, 2008

What's So Bad About Praying?

This morning I felt tension -- the tension that happens when we see a problem and seek a solution when the solution's not obvious. One of my fellow staff came to me with a request to help brainstorm solutions to a complicated problem. Neither myself nor another staff, the purported expert in the field, had any great solutions. We offered ideas and insights, but we didn't have a "magic button" to fix the problem.

At the end of all of the discussing, I was feeling like we should pray. Because there were no other clear options.

But I'm bothered by this desire to pray... Why is it that I was only compelled to initiate prayer as the last resort instead of the first resort? Why is it that when my fellow staff person came in with the request for help, we didn't first pray, then wait upon the Lord, and then wait for a response before brainstorming our best ideas?

Why do we wait until there are no other good ideas to try before we pray? Why don't we pray first?

Maybe we don't want to overspiritualize praying for everything--i.e. praying about what shirt to wear today or what to eat for breakfast or where to go on family vacation.

I'm guessing for myself--the reason I don't go there first is pride. I'm proud when I can figure out a solution (in my own logical assessment and wisdom). That can puff me up! Also--in my pride, I don't like asking for help, so I want to do it on my own. Even more so in regards to pride, I'm sometimes turned off by hyperspiritual people who want to pray first for everything, because that can certainly be subject to false humility.

Another reason I don't go there is I forget. I forget that it honors the Lord when we seek Him first...that it pleases Him. I forget, so I go it alone, or I seek out earthly wisdom and advisors.

We didn't end up praying in that meeting this morning, but in hindsight, I see that prayer is always the "magic button." It's our direct line to the creator of the universe, who has more power to change situations or fix them than we do anyways...instead of sighing and shrugging and saying, "Well, since we've tried everything else, all we can do is pray..." why not respond with, "Before we try anything, let's pray...because that is the best we can do."

Friday, October 17, 2008

Runaway Train

On Wednesday Night, Clay and I enjoyed some sweet nostalgia--seeing Eliza Gilkyson live at the Tractor Tavern. Why would this evoke sweet nostalgia? Because two years ago, Eliza was the artist we went to see on the night we met!

The concert was incredible, and we left in awe of Eliza's insightful and passionate songwriting. She's not afraid to say things: about Bush, capitalism, the environment, or love gone awry.

I was definitely struck by the timeliness of her messages...on her new album is a track "Runaway Train" about the spiraling, destructive path of our economic system...

So--if you enjoy well-written, well-executed folk, check out Eliza. She rocks.

Also it is required that you check out Nina Gerber. She evoked a level of emotion out of her Stratocaster that I actually didn't know was possible and rocked out with some awesome slide guitar! If you love guitar (Dad), you should definitely check her out too.

(P.S. After the show, we got to say hi to Eliza and tell her she was our matchmaker! She was sweet to us, and offered many congratulations. So. She's nice too. Doesn't that warm your heart?)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Two years and nine days ago, I met Clay on a bridge in Austin, Texas, and we went to a concert at Threadgill's. The concert performer??? Eliza Gilkyson.

Two years and nine days later, it just so happens that Eliza Gilkyson is in town and playing at Seattle's beloved Tractor Tavern. (The concert venue Clay and I frequent the most...in the last few years: Damien Jurado, Brandi Carlile, Old 97's...) Clay attempted to surprise me for a nostalgic "two year-of-meeting" October-versary, probably the last October-versary we'll take the time to celebrate...but all-too-unfortunately I have an application installed in my iTunes that notifies me when artists in my iTunes catalog are appearing in concert in Seattle, so iConcertCal notified me of the "surprise" event a few days early.

Regardless, we're headed to Seattle to see Eliza, and I'm confident that at some point it will be very sweet to see her and think about that crazy day 2 years and 9 days ago. Yay for kismet, good memories, and an incredible husband with whom to relive incredible moments.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Presidential Debate #2: The Need for Better Citizenship

Last night Clay and I sat down to watch our third Presidential Debate of the 2008 Election Season. Partway through, I started making dinner, and I heard Clay turning on the PlayStation. I yelled from the kitchen, "Don't turn it off...I'm still listening!" and peeked around the corner to discover Clay had turned on picture-in-picture, with Obama and McCain on the big screen while he played PS3 in the small screen. "Don't you love this TV?" he replied. Apparently we both have short attention spans.

We're not up-to-date on the finer details of economic crises or in-the-know on the best approach to Pakistan or Iran, so it's hard to adjudicate their responses. What makes me sad is not that the debates are so boring for us to watch--it's that we're so ignorant about the topics they're discussing--which makes it boring. As voters, we know so very little about the economics involved in the Financial Bailout or the foreign policy needed with Russia or Pakistan. It honestly makes me question the reasoning for democracy, when I (a voter) am so uninformed about the complexity of governmental issues. I tend to vote based on what will benefit me the most, instead of pondering, as one questioning voter did last night, "what we might be compelled to sacrifice for the betterment of our country."

I'm confident that we need more than better leadership; we need better citizenship. So...I'm on a quest to be better informed about the issues of our government and our world so that the next time there's an election to be had, whether city, state, or federal, that I know more about the candidate that his/her party affiliation. Will you join me in this quest?

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Christ: "And Culture" or "Against Culture"

Last night, in class 2 of 10 of my Early Church History at Fuller NW, we talked about a debate that's existed since the early days of the church: Should we present the gospel through the lens of the culture or as against culture?

I think that until last night, I've misunderstood the concepts. I previously understood that the model of "Christ and Culture" was always good: inclusive, supportive, walking alongside culture.
In my mind, the model of "Christ and Culture" was the Emmaus Road type of ministry--walking alongside of others and revealing the gospel to them gradually. Or Paul at the Aereopagus, building repoire with the thinkers of Athens before pointing them towards Christ...it esteemed them and pointed them towards Christ towards things they already know.

The model of "Christ against Culture" was always bad: narrowminded, exclusive, judgmental. But if I think about Christ's life, the model of "Christ against Culture" is there in his actions as well: Casting the Buyers and Sellers out of the Temple, or Jesus renouncing the cities who had not repented.

The benefits of the "Christ Against Culture" model are that we we can be holy--set apart (which doesn't mean we have to be sectarian). We can be "of Christ" and be something different while living in the culture...we can call people into repentance. In the "Christ and Culture" model, we can pick up the shards of truth in the culture, and as Justin Martyr taught, piece them together to show how Christ is in all of that Truth. We can illuminate the truth in the culture to point people towards Christ.

Looking at youth ministry, I see that the "Christ and Culture" model is much more effective in becoming friends with a student, but it doesn't necessarily mean that a student will develop a relationship with the Lord. The "Christ against Culture" model is more effective in seeing students make a commitment to follow Christ, but it doesn't necessarily result in a deep or long-lasting commitment.

Where I began in the discussion isn't exactly where I ended up the discussion...but before I share that--I'm curious to know--where are you and your ministry in this and why?

Friday, October 03, 2008

Small Town Coffee Date

Tonight, I asked my husband out for a coffee date. It went kind of like this:

"You want to go with me to Starbucks for a little bit and read?"
"Not really."
"What about just to get a coffee and come home?"
"Not really."
"I actually wasn't asking...I was actually saying, 'Please come with me to Starbucks for a little date.'"
"Oh--well in that case, I would love to."

It's amazing how I can look at my husband and suggest that he want to do something and wait for him to want to do it, instead of saying, "Please do this with me, because it would mean a lot."

So we went to Starbucks, and I read about the first century Christian church...while Clay read Jesus for President by Shane Claiborne. One of my former YD girls was there. I hadn't seen her for about a year--and I was so happy to see her.

Probably one of my favorite time periods in my life ever was back in the day when Renee and I would make pilgrimages to The Jumping Bean in Taylor's student union...grab a booth...and spend the night studying, talking with passersby and drinking coffee. For a few minutes tonight, I embraced a past-life I have loved, and I am very happy to be returning to coffee shops to study. I feel like school is already helping me to become more of myself...

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Wedding Festivities are Over!

2 months after the hubbub of wedding celebrations began, with the completion of our Washington Reception this weekend, the celebrations are now over!

After enjoying a great time yesterday with about a hundred of our friends from YD and church, Clay and I said a big, "Whew." The wedding celebrations are officially over. A bridal shower weekend in Ohio, a guys' trip to NYC, a gals' weekend in Pittsburgh, a wedding week in Ohio, a honeymoon in Belize, a weekend reception in San Antonio and an afternoon reception in Washington. All over.

Last night, we were too tired to even open our last few presents...so they wait. And with all the logistics of squeezing our 2-separate-houses lives into a 1-apartment life, we have an enormous stack of yet-to-be-tackled Thank You notes staring at us from the pile of yet-to-be-unpacked boxes.

Sometimes, Clay says, "Marry me again." And I say, "You want to do another wedding? You want to repack and move again?" to which he promptly responds, "No." Naive Romanticism and Sarcastic Pragmatism are an interesting match.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Internet is like, a whole new world

On Tuesday, I went down to Fuller Theological Seminary's Northwest Extension Campus (located very close to this spot right here--in the Queen Anne are of Seattle...isn't Seattle beautiful?)

I registered for my one Graduate Class (Early Church History - CH500) and learned how to use Portico, the school's internal web for students and faculty.

Let me tell you what--in the nine years since I started school in 1999, like, school is a whole new thing.

Not entirely new, but, in 1999, I was just introduced to Power Point, and I was still using my very first hotmail account. In 2008, my school email is a Google Application and I can pay my tuition through EFT or get miles on my Southwest Visa. My class syllabus is a Word Document I download from the Class Webpage.

Gone are the days are waiting in the line at the Registrar's Office with your bubble sheet. Gone are the days of carrying around a floppy disk to print out your paper at the Library because your HP 660 ran out of toner. Gone are the days of camping out at the library to wait in line to use the research computers.

I can't imagine what it's like for y'all who return to school since the dawn of computers...I'm like, shocked enough. I can't wait to become Facebook friends with my professors!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Mount Rainier is rain-ier...

Clay and I just celebrated our first Camping Trip! Goood times. Good food, good scenery, good company.

These first few months of marriage have made it ever-clearer that I am anal-retentive in areas where one is supposed to be relaxed...i.e. camping trip. Isn't that supposed to be chill and low-maintenance? Not with me, man! Three evenings of packing and planning and shopping and preparing...lists of supplies, lists of food, and a very thorough menu were all part of the pre-camping fun. (Clay would not call this fun.)

But the preparations and pre-event stress paid off, because we had so much fun! The campground was great, the food was great, and we used all the gear we bought at the last minute...(an axe, a collapsible 5-gallon water container, tarps, rope, extra tent stakes). It was also exciting to break in our brand new gear! Our new tent and new Whisperlite stove. And, we re-learned how to play cribbage and explored several pieces of Mount Rainier's Northeast corner.

On Saturday, Hannah & Jon drove all the way out from Seattle (a 2-hourish drive) only to go on the most miserable of miserable rainy hikes with us! The trail itself was pretty cool--having been rerouted back and forth across and through a riverbed...but the payoff at the top was less than spectacular, since Rainier was fogged in when we got up there. By that time, it was very cold and very rainy, and we still had a 90-minute hike back down to the bottom. By the time we got there, we were all cold and wet through...

Hannah reassured me that they wouldn't drive all that way to have a miserable day in the cold rain for just anyone. So, it's nice to have friends that go out of their way to endure ridiculous experiences with you. When we were on our way home and dry again, Clay said, "That was fun...I liked camping, but I don't ever, ever, ever want to go hiking or camping in the rain again. That was not fun." So, considering that fall is settling into Washington, it may be May before we're camping again...

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Goooo Camp-in' on the Moooooun-tain!

After many weeks of deliberation, it has been determined that tomorrow, we will go camping here:

And attempt a glacial day hike with these fine people here:

One of my bridesmaids Hannah (whom I originally met in Kenya) and her husband Jon just moved to Seattle, and we've wanted to get a camping/hiking excursion in before Hannah and I start school.

I've been planning menus and making packing lists, and I absolutely cannot wait to put to use some of the new and fantastic gear we've received off of our REI Registry. (i.e. a brand new Marmot tent, an MSR Whisperlite, and my trusty Lexan French Press.) Yesterday, I was stressing about about the meal planning a little bit--thinking about how much we'd need...what variety I wanted, etc. And I was scolding Clay a bit for not caring more.

He responded, ever so eloquently, "Listen, if I were planning the menu, it'd be simple. Hot dogs, buns, s'mores, cereal, milk, chips, salsa. Every meal. That's it."

To which I of course respond, "But on your long day hike, what about a pack lunch..."

To which he responds, "No, no, no...on a low-maintenance camping trip, there's no all-day hiking...you return to camp to make your lunch at every meal."

I'm, of course, trying to figure out how to saute vegetables over an open fire and trying to secure the best recipe for grilling salmon. And I'm hoping for a 7-mile hike to a glacier on Saturday!

So...apparently Clay's up for quite the adventure!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Beware of Ike!

Since I have lived outside the Midwest for 4+ years now, I'm rather acclimated to boring weather. 300 days of gray days of high's in the 60's. It's not much to write home about really. (Not that I want a tsunami or volcanic eruption to spice things up, anyways.)

But it never ceases to amaze me how much the people of Ohio get impacted by hurricanes. As you may already know, Ohio does not border any hurricane-ridden ocean. Coshocton, Ohio is, in fact, 484 miles from Atlantic City, on the eastern seaboard, and 900 miles from the gulf coast.

So why is it that the state is continually affected by hurricanes?? Seriously! Why are 110,000 homes without power in Ohio after a hurricane!? (Please don't respond to that with a comment about how big hurricanes are...duh!) What I mean is, isn't it amazing that any storm could be that insanely huge that it can pummel Galveston and continue its wake of destruction across an entire country?

I'm just saying--hurricanes are crazy. And you can't live in Ohio and be safe from hurricanes, believe it or not...so now you know.

P.S. An unrelated cyclone ripped through Clay and I's apartment yesterday, spilling most of the contents of the previously named "Junk Room" throughout the rest of the house. This was an intentional effort to reclaim the Junk Room for more noble purposes, and not caused by wind. Although happy things will result from this reorganization, I severely miss my days of obliviousness when all mess was confined to the Junk Room.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Reentry & Reflections on Creativity

I may be ready to reenter the blogosphere. There were some obvious things that distracted me from blogging in 2008 (most notably, planning a wedding). And lots of dynamics and things that go on throughout planning a wedding aren't really things I felt motivated to share with the world...it's an incredibly emotional time!

Most notably, wedding planning absorbed every spare ounce of creative energy I had, which was good in the sense that the wedding was beautiful, and bad in the sense that I had no creative energy left for anything else (including blogging).

Since arriving home from our Honeymoon, I've noticed the feeling returning to my creative fingers and toes--and there's energy to try new recipes, to plan weekend excursions, and to write. Clay and I had already noticed how crippling it can be for us to not have an outlet for our creative energies, and I've now noticed how crippling it can be to have some huge thing running your life so that you're prevented from day-to-day creativity.

No more! Tonight, we will enjoy spicy thai green beans and tofu, a vegan meal in honor of Heidi! And today, I'm writing a blog! This afternoon I may even write my ministry newsletter and start planning for the next issue of our ministry-wide newsletter, Reflections.

So, hello, you. I'm excited to be back.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


"Freedom is sometimes just simply another perspective away. " ~Kutless

Life's felt overwhelming lately...it's usually that way for me when my to-do list is longer than I can keep mental track of.

But I had a change in perspective...and suddenly my life is good and simple again.

It started last night...Clay and I sat down to think through every possible thing we can imagine we need to do between now and August 2nd. Clay was typing up the list as I was thinking out loud...but much to my chagrin, instead of typing what I asked, he was inserting his own amusing, creative embellishments. I apparently was not in the mood for amusing, creative embellishments, because dang it, wedding planning is WORK!

He told me to chill out, and he told me to relax, and he reminded me that wedding planning is supposed to be fun. I wasn't in the mood for correction...but for whatever reason, I heard the truth in what he was saying. So when he added an exclamation point to, "Buy a cake topper!" I emitted a giggle and relaxed.

And this evening, I read an update from my YD friends Mikey and Bonnie, who today, being only six months into their marriage went to Mikey's first day of chemotherapy. And as they share their story, they are certainly nervous, but they have so much hope and joy too.

I suddenly feel like I have no reason to be overwhelmed...in seven weeks I will be surrounded by friends and family, celebrating being united in marriage with Clay...the to-do list is a trite thing...and it really should not be running my life.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Award-Winning Commercial

A shout out to Isaac, who is now an award-winning commercial-writer, thanks to this video. And way to go Preston!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

I Am the Victor

In the battle of Me v. Invitations, I am the victor. 193 of them went in the mail today, having been compiled, addressed, stamped and sealed over the last few days. An additional 183 made their way to Texas, where they are being addressed, stamped and sealed by Clay's mom.

Now that it's all done...I'm very proud of them and don't even mind the many long nights of my life that they soaked up. We did save a few dollars, and the finished product is very Clay and Heather...clean, simple and a bit eccentric.

I would post a picture, but I wouldn't want that to spoil the fun of opening your envelope yourself. So, you will just have to wait.

This week, Clay is moving into our new apartment, where he will work very hard to keep it clean while he lives there alone for the next two months...and I go back to Ohio to visit the family, enjoy my first wedding shower, visit some bridesmaids and friends, and enjoy exciting appointments with the caterer, hairdresser, florist, tux shop and rental shop...woo-wee!

Did I mention that I can't wait for the honeymoon in Belize? Seriously...I need a Belize paper chain titled, "Countdown to Nothing-to-do."

Friday, May 23, 2008

Me v. Invitations

For the past month, the lack of blogging has mostly been due to the fact that I've spent about every available moment of free time creating 400 wedding invitations. Oh my!

I have several regrets about this already:

  1. That I decided we'd save a great deal of money by making invitations, which is not necessarily true.
  2. That I was so sure I would enjoy making invitations, which was true for about a week and untrue for about four weeks.
  3. That I decided to mat the white invitation on black paper, which took a great deal of time to trim.
Several things I do not regret, however, are the amazing Hatch Show Print-inspired design I created, the choice to put them in white sparkly #10 envelopes, choosing to use a postcard as a reply card to save $.15 on each reply stamp, choosing an amazing engagement photographer who gave us permission to make prints of our engagement photos, and making the choice to send them as many people as we possibly could.

It is very true that making 400 invitations is extremely stressful...especially if you don't know what you're doing...and I do know what I'm doing, because I order and create printed things all the time for work, and it's still extremely stressful for me.

But yesterday, I packed up 200 ready-to-go invitations and mailed them to Clay's mom, who will address them...and I'm finishing the other 200 this weekend and sticking them in the mail on Tuesday. The end is in sight, and I will be so thankful for invitation month to be over, so I can just rejoice in having them move out of my living room and into your mailboxes.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Engagement Photos are Online!

Our engagement photos are now available for viewing online:


Monday, April 21, 2008

Free Time? Huh?

Apparently I've been pretty busy lately. I didn't realize it until this morning when our engagement photographer asked, "What do you do in your free time?" and I responded, "Huh?"

Lately, free time has consisted of premarital counseling, driving around Arlington checking out rental units, a bit of wedding planning, and applying to Grad School. Apparently what I do in my free time is nothing that could or should be considered leisurely. You should know that I don't prefer to live my life this way. I love free time...vast spaces of nothingness that can be filled with whatever desire happens to be floating by at that moment.

However, even if life right now is a bit more busy than I'd like, I'm still stubbornly convinced my life should not be classified as busy, so here is a list of interesting things I have done recently that are not about weddings, grad schools or leases:

  1. Watching Seasons 1-7 of Friends (on my second series watch-through). Mostly, I watch it while I'm doing my taxes or updating Quicken. Joey is a very funny man, even moreso when you've been doing a budget analysis for the past 45 minutes.
  2. Reading my Better than Oprah book club book for the month: The Hero and the Crown. This book is actually a fantastical biography of the life of my maid of honor, Renee, who makes a very good fictional character.
  3. Cooking fabulous dishes. Recently, I made a fantastic asian noodle soup (with bok choy!), a healthy bean dip (with homemade whole wheat tortilla chips) and a ginger pear cheesecake. I cannot wait for my Pampered Chef Bridal Shower in Ohio next month!
  4. Listening to my latest set of purchases at Best Buy and iTunes:
    Derek and Sandra's Ampersand EP
    Natasha Bedingfield's Pocketful of Sunshine
    Anna Nalick's Shine EP
    Sara Bareilles' Little Voice
    Jon Foreman's Fall EP, Spring EP, and Winter EP
    Caedmon Call's Overdressed
    Also, I'm still enjoying some Christmas gift/purchases:
    Allison Krauss and Robert Plant's Raising Sand
    Levon Helm's Dirt Farmer
    Shawn Colvin's These Four Walls
    Gillian Welch's Soul Journey
    (n.b. Recently, I discovered that in Clay and I's shared music tastes, female pop singer/songwriters don't really make his cut...thus many of these purchases have been either reactionary, or to fill in a void in my life. It neglects to inform you how much Counting Crows and Ryan Adams I've soaked in over the last few months.)
  5. Purchasing tickets to see Radiohead in Seattle the week after we return from our Honeymoon! I'm so pumped! Thom Yorke, the lead singer for Radiohead, looks very much like Clay's very good friend DeJon. If you want, I can get DeJon's autograph for you.
Okay, honestly, I feel a lot better about myself now. I was seriously beginning to worry that my life was no longer in my own hands, but apparently, through music and cooking, and the occasional book and episode of Friends, there is my sweet respite.

Thank you sweet respite. You are being good to me these days.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

I Love to Tell the Story

I don't know if I'll ever get tired of telling people the story of the way Clay and I met.

Last week, we were looking at a condo to rent, and the real estate agent asked off-hand where we'd met, and we breezily replied, "Oh--we were at a convention in Austin, and Clay posted an ad on the convention bulletin board looking for people to go to a concert with him, and I just happened to see his ad and call." We turned sheepishly to see her eyes wide, and her jaw a bit dropped, and we laughed a bit, because although it's a bit surreal at times still, it's what happened. We love telling our story.

Yesterday morning, we went and spent a few hours standing (freezing) in the middle of a bright red tulip field telling our story. We hired my coworker Aaron, who runs Hands On Films, to create a video documentary of us telling our story. It's a piece we're putting together to share at our wedding--so that for those who don't know Clay so well or for those who haven't seen Heather and Clay together at all--they can feel more a part of our story.

It might seem a little taxing to stand in a field talking to a video camera for 2 hours, but it really wasn't. Just being able to look out at a hazy Northwest gray sky, across acres of bright red, pink, and purple tulips, and green, green grass...and tell someone how we got together, how we got engaged, why we're getting married, and why we love each other, it was such a blessing. We loved telling our story.

And telling our story was energizing. At the end of it all, we were able to just look at each other and say, "I love you so much" because we'd been so reminded of where we'd come from these past 18 months.

Growing up, we'd sing the old hymn, I Love to Tell the Story:

I love to tell the story of unseen things above,
Of Jesus and His glory, of Jesus and His love.
I love to tell the story, because I know ’tis true;
It satisfies my longings as nothing else can do.

I love to tell the story, ’twill be my theme in glory,
To tell the old, old story of Jesus and His love.

It's been awhile since I told the story of how Christ has worked in my life...how we met, how I fell in love with Him. I don't even remember the last time I told my story of meeting Christ. But when I see how energized I was to tell Aaron and the video camera how much I love Clay, and how satisfying it was to share that love...well... I think it's a story I should share more than I do.

I think this is how we are supposed to be sharing Christ with others anyways:
When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power. (1 Corinthians 2:1-5.)

Wednesday, April 09, 2008


I've decided to become a sci-fi nerd.

Now, to just be a sci-fi nerd is one thing, but to consciously become one certainly attains an even higher level of nerdiness.

Why would I want to do such a thing? First of all, because sci-fi is freaking cool. What's not to love about Star Wars, Star Trek, Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Jurassic Park, Transformers. Face it, you love sci-fi too.

Second of all, because there's more amazing sci-fi out there to be read and seen, and honestly, Star Wars and Star Trek are just the tip of a very extensive genre. Last week when Chris and Janelle were visiting for Spring Break, we all went to the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame. It was pretty awesome to see the original Death Star, the Rocketeer's jet pack, and loads of other stuff from Paul Allen's personal collection.

But I was actually embarrassed to be in the Science Fiction Museum having never seen Blade Runner or I, Robot or having never read Ender's Game or Slaughterhouse Five. I was like, "What in the world!? I'm missing out!"

In response, Chris, Janelle, Clay and I promptly returned to my house to watch Contact and I Am Legend, in order to make up for lost sci-fi time.

And now I have printed out the list of the top sci-fi books, where I have sadly discovered I've only read eleven of the top 100! So--slightly more interesting than my last top 100 goal (to watch the AFI Top 100 Films), I will now attempt to read the top 100 sci-fi books. This will at least be good, in that it will require me to read Ender's Game, which will allow me to be better friends with both fiance Clay and maid-of-honor Renee.

At this point, pre-top-100, my favorite sci-fi book is probably either The Time Machine or Brave New World...and my favorite sci-fi movie is probably Return of the Jedi (who doesn't love the Ewoks, eh?), although I still have a soft spot for Batteries Not Included (which may seem dumber now than it did 20 years ago...) And I loved Firefly...

How about you? How do you stack up against the top 100? And what's your favorite sci-fi book/movie?

Monday, April 07, 2008

TU on Dateline

I missed the Dateline episode last week, but here's the coverage...

A Dateline special on the Taylor Accident of April 2006 and the case of mistaken identity. It's incredibly moving...


Sunday, March 23, 2008

Let Them Eat Cheesecake

On one of Clay and I’s early dates, we discovered a mutual love/obsession for fantastic cheesecake. He promised to introduce me to the best cheesecake I’d ever had--and he took me to Claim Jumper. I’ll tell you what--after sampling the divinity of the White Chocolate Raspberry dream-on-a-plate at Claim Jumper, I’m telling you that if you can’t eat this piece of cake, should just fast for the rest of your life rather than subject yourself to another slice of Sara Lee or Cheesecake Factory.

A few months later, during our first visit to San Antonio, I discovered that Clay’s mother shares our love for cheesecake. This was discovered during a great evening around the dinner table discussing “Great Cheesecakes We Have Known.” It was all too fitting that the next afternoon, at our stop in Fredericksburg, Texas, I picked up a fantastic recipe book called, The 50 Best Cheesecakes in the World. It was like--there was so much cheesecake love in our midst--that the book just couldn’t help but reveal itself to us.

I am now endeavoring to make them all.

I started with a Marzipan Raspberry Cheesecake. And for the record--anytime there’s an option for a light alternative, I make a substitution...if there are the 50 best cheesecakes to be made, we have to save enough room for all of them. So using low-fat cream cheese, low-fat sour cream, and low-fat cottage cheese, I made a slice of heaven. The raspberry sauce was a little intimidating, requiring me to strain freshly blended raspberry puree through cheesecloth in order to remove all the seeds. (messy!) But when I sprung the cheesecake onto some unsuspecting friends at a dinner party, it resulted in 6 of us consuming an entire cheesecake in one evening, my friend Jimmy eating three pieces and saying, “I don’t even normally like cheesecake, but come on--this is lowfat.”

Today, Clay and I were introduced to cheesecake #2--a ginger pear delight with freshly grated ginger and freshly grated pear. When my roommate saw it sitting on the counter, she actually thought it was store-bought. The result--absolutely delicious.

So why do I share all of this? Because a wedding is a perfect excuse to share what you love with 250 of your best friends...and what do Clay and I love? Cheesecake. So be prepared, because on August 2nd, you will not be served just any plain old white or chocolate corn syrup and white flour mumbo-jumbo...you will partake in a fine array of dazzling cheesecakes.

Okay, I’m not going to handmake 50 cheesecakes for you to try the 50 best...that would be obsessive...but I bet there are at least 50 of you reading this, so...if you all schedule a visit to the Utley home in the fall and request a cheesecake as your parting gift, I bet we can check every one off the list in a hurry.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Perfect Dress

So I found “The Perfect Dress.” It happened a lot more matter-of-factly than I thought it would. Believe it or not, the heavens actually did not part when I found, “The Dress.” Believe it or not, a choir of Spanish monks did not emerge from the storeroom to sing an “Ode to the Dress” in Gregorian Chant. Believe it or not, my mother did not spontaneously burst into tears when I emerged from the dressing room in “Theeee Dress.” How dare I make such a claim to have found “The Dress” during a perfectly normal dress fitting in a perfectly normal dress shop, where a perfectly normal salesgirl would assist me in diving in and out of perfectly normal white gowns.

So if none of the romanticized heaven-beaming-down-its-joy signals revealed it was, “The Dress,” then how did I know?! I have no idea! I JUST DID! I guess it’s because it’s the first dress I tried on that I didn’t necessarily want to put back on the rack. I just wanted to walk around in it and view it from every possible angle in every possible mirror. And I wanted to sit and drink tea with my pinkie finger pointing to the sky. And--I really wanted Clay to see me in it. (Don’t worry--he still has to wait till August 2nd.)

After about ten minutes of parading around in “The Alleged-and-Potentially ‘The’ Dress,” Mom asked (matter-of-factly), “Heather, is this the dress.” I was momentarily confused. How could she ask such a thing? Obviously not! There were no choirs of angels! There was no fissure in the sky through which a booming voice was saying, “This is Heather’s wedding dress with which I am well pleased.” No, it was just my mom’s voice asking, “Is this the dress?” A simple yes or no question. How anti-climactic!!!

But this whole wedding business started by saying a very simple “yes” to a very simple question. (The question was, “Will you marry me?” just in case you were a little slow on the uptake there.) So, it strikes me that weddings are very beautiful and terribly romantic, and in the midst of all the romanticized beauty, they’re also very simple. Simple in a good way...but sometimes romantic and over the top makes a better story:

Boy loves girl. Girl loves boy. Boy asks girl if she wants to get hitched. Girl says, “YES!” Girl begins wedding plans. Boy plays video games. Mom flies to town to go dress shopping with girl. After days of searching over hill and dale, the perfect dress remains elusive. Exhausted and heartbroken, mom and girl take a bit of respite by a glassy pond near a golden meadow. A tear drops from girl’s face into the glassy lake, causing ripples to softly move across the water’s surface. Suddenly, the heavens part and a radiant and perfect dress emerges up from the pond and choirs of angels come towards the girl singing “Gloria in Excelsis Deo!” Mom turns to girl and says, “Is this the dress?” Girl cries out, “Yes!”

Yeah...And...it pretty much happened just like that.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Nuns Having Fun!

I'm in my second year of using the fantastic Nuns Having Fun 12-month Calendar. Every month, I look up and think, "Those crazy nuns. I wonder what they're going to do next." This month, the nuns are doing karate, and the caption says, "Everybody was Nun Fu Fighting." Those crazy, silly girls. Whenever I remember to bring the camera cable back to work, I'll show you a fine nun-filled karate kick. For now, this will have to do.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Wedding Website

I know the blog's been in sad repair lately...but to appease you, you can go read my newer, cooler, mac-ified website...it's Clay and I's wedding website, and I'm pondering moving my blog that way as well...mostly because our domain name is cool:


Wednesday, February 06, 2008

A New Approach to Lent: Tilling Dry Soil

For a large part of my adult life, I have observed Lent. This has typically meant "giving something up that I'm really fond of but it's kind of unhealthy." The first year I gave up soda, because I felt quasi-addicted. The second year I gave up dessert, because I was hoping to trim up a bit (bad motivation!) Another year, I gave up music, which was constantly playing in my car, in my apartment, and in my office. (Although I did permit music chosen by others, which was even more painful than the silence most times.) Last year, I gave up all forms of caffeine, which induced the most terrible headaches.

Why do I fast for Lent? Because it feels good to give something up. It feels good to take away something in my life I feel like I can't live without and surrender that desire. It's good to realize that caffeine and music aren't my Lords, Jesus is. I love this tangible reminder, and it always fills me with hope and new love for Christ.

This year, my observance of Lent is not going to be about fasting so much as it is going to be about renewing my commitment to the Lord as my first love. Clay has returned home from a weekend of traveling feeling convicted that our relationship needs to be much more diligently focused on the Lord...and fortunately...over the last few weeks, both of us have independently come to the conclusion that we have not been treating the Lord like our King, but more like a button we wear or a box we check.

So during Lent, we are renewing our commitments to the Lord as King of our life, and we are committing to pray and read His word daily. This morning, we started our daily readings out in Lectio Divina style. We began this Lectio Divina using the guided readings in a book called Enjoy the Silence. The book is actually marketed for youth leaders to use with teenagers, but it's application is not limited to teenagers...and we renewed by beginning our day with meditation on God's word.

Our reading this morning was in Luke 8 (The Parable of the Sower). The reading guide in Enjoy the Silence directed us to read through the passage three times, listening for new insights each time we read it...the third time through, we specifically stopped and meditated on the different kinds of soil in the passage, inviting the Lord to reveal to us what kind of soil our hearts most resembled.

It was evident to me that my heart was similar to the seed that "lacks moisture." I could feel my heart as parched and dry. I also got very distracted during our meditation about the seed the grows up in the thorny grounds, and woke up from my daydreaming to realize I was living out my own distraction in the midst of attempting to meditate. I was able to confess my dry and distracted spiritual life to the Lord and invite him to cultivate my heart into something that's ready to grow His word.

It's amazing what 30 minutes in the morning of silence and reading God's word can do to renew my heart. It feels like bringing a cup of cold water to my lips after a long hike in the desert.

I'm excited about what Lent will bring in 2008, and I'm excited to have a partner in my spiritual journey.

What does Lent mean to you? Does this all sound crazy or weird? How do you choose to celebrate Lent, if you do? Why do you think fasting is or isn't important?