Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Second Surgery

This summer, I had two surgeries. I was scheduled for one, but after a few weeks of complications, doctors went back in for a second surgery to patch adhesions and fix issues that were not allowing my GI track to work. After the second surgery, my GI track worked again. I was on the road to recovery. I got well.

Sometimes life hands us issues that require a second, third or even fourth, time of healing and processing. To get past the initial shock or disappointment of a struggle, often we do whatever we need to heal and get well. We process it, talk it out, maybe learn a lesson or two, and move on.

But sometimes there's more to it that will come later, and we have to be ready for that. We must be ready to tackle "part two" when it comes to working through struggles life has presented us. Sometimes they're finished at "part one," but I've learned they rarely are. There's more to unpack, more to learn, and more to grow in.

Part of what they did this summer in my second surgery was fix problems created from an operation I had eight years ago. I didn't expect that, but was glad doctors went ahead and had the second surgery to fix the problems so I would finally heal.

Issues from years ago will try to sneak up on us, lies we've pushed down will pose as truths again. But we must anticipate this, and be ready to fight off the unhealth whenever it strikes. We must strive to truly heal and transform, no matter how many surgeries it takes. I believe that is the only way we will ever get well.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Bookshelf Review

I'm really into books these days. I guess I was quite the reader when I was a kid, and that love is resurfacing again. Let's hope the love for books comes back and the shy, scared-of-people thing stays away for good.

Anyway, here are some books I've finished recently and my two cents:

Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin
This is an older book from the early 1960s, but one that I'd always wanted to read. My interest was first sparked by Boy Meets World where they took the idea of the book and turned it into a 30 min. episode. I've been especially intrigued as we've considered interracial adoption as an option for us in the future. I enjoyed this book, and the perspective it gave for what race relations were like before the Civil Rights Movement. It was eye opening to read what it was like 50 years ago and see how far we've come as an American people, yet convicting at the same time that there is still work to be done, and wounds to heal. The book has a very To Kill A Mockingbird feel to it which is to truly know and understand someone, put yourself in their shoes. I'd recommend the book for someone interested in cultural issues, and especially anyone wondering why having Obama in office is such a big deal.

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers
Oh man. So I've seen this 400-paged book floating around several of my girlfriend's bookshelves for many years and finally had the opportunity to go through it with my friend Ashley. I am not typically a fiction reader, but I had to give this highly esteemed and popular book a shot. And I was so glad I did. This book tells the story of Michael Hosea and his new bride Angel, a prostitute he was led to marry upon seeing her walk down the street. The story parallels the Bible book Hosea, as well as the heart of Jesus toward us. I can't rave enough about this book. I didn't expect a long, fiction piece to give me new insights into how much Christ loves us and the role of husbands and wives. Definitely a must-read for any married lady out there, anyone struggling with their past sins, or anyone who's struggled with unforgiveness. I guarantee that it's good.

An UnHealthy Truth by Robin O'Brien
I will keep this short because this book, and the things I've taken away, deserves it's own post. But wow - what an eye opener. O'Brien has been called the Erin Brocovich of the food industry and thank goodness she's out there. A mom who got passionate about what's in our food after her youngest kid flared up with a major food allergy, she dives into what's really in our food and ends up uncovering corruption, greed and other misleading practices by many of our food producers, corporations and government agencies. This book has been a fantastic step toward eating a healthier diet in our household. We've finally cut out the majority of our junk food and made a big step in eating healthier. I'd recommend this book to ANY PARENT of young kiddos, and anyone who just can't seem to eat healthy, although you know you should. This was the final nail in our household's coffin that got us to really start watching what we eat (well, at least most days.) It even sparked our interst in local food and helped us uncover this awesome, local grocery delivery company.

So that's it for me! I've got new books in queue, and reviews to shortly after!

Anyone else have some good reads they've stumbled across lately? Let's hear 'em!

Friday, October 16, 2009

One of those Weeks

Ahh... well, it's been one of those weeks.

One of those weeks where I thought life would be slower, but it just seemed to speed up.

A week that I tried my best to have the clarity and joy outweigh the sadness and grief that come with working in ministry.

A week where although I HATE encores, I found myself inwardly chanting "ONE MORE SONG" with the rest of the crowd at my favorite band's concert.

A week where I felt the enemy sitting on my shoulder, yet the presence of a bigger and more powerful God kicking him off, over and over.

A week where I expected to drop by, and instead was invited in.

A week of new revelations and new food. (I'm trying to eat more organic.)

A week where I've had a glimpse at how great Heaven is really going to be.

A week where the thought of living there forever doesn't sound so bad after all.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Muleskinner Article

This Muleskinner article

is one of my favorites ever written even.

Thank you to my alma mater

for making me feel so loved.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

My Yearly Pink Soapbox

Most of you've heard this rant before. But this year's outrageous display of pink EVERYTHING has fueled the fire. It seems even more hyped this year. And it's just Oct. 4th.

I'm not a cancer hater. Obviously, one is closer to my heart than the others. But I genuinely want the world to be rid of them all. I will state for the record, I support breast cancer awareness. I've got family and now two fellow '09 Colondar gals who've fought it. But I support it just as much as I support lung cancer, skin cancer, colon cancer, etc. Anyone have an idea what month brain cancer awareness is? Know what color represents lung? Understand the severity of pancreatic? Realize it's just as important for MEN AND WOMEN to get frequent colonoscopies, especially after age 50, as it is for women to get mammograms? Shocker!

Maybe I wouldn't be so turned off by the ridiculous pink ribbons on every product lining super market stores if I didn't have a marketing communication background. I hardly believe it's a coincidence that the target audience of most of those well-loved store brands are moms who manage the household and do the grocery shopping. How convenient, slap a pink ribbon on your product and give a few pennies to breast cancer research and you've got a loyal customer to your brand and more money in your pocket. As much as I'd love to believe it - I don't think the pink's there for the cancer stuff as much as it is the brand loyalty of the female customers. If that was the case, there would be blue stars all down the toilet paper aisle come March. But butts aren't as fun nor pleasant to hype up than boobs, let's face it.

My point is this: if you're going to support a cause, support it through genuineness. Don't have strings attached. Don't stand behind the cancer cause to really make money or fluff up your brand. Don't go get drunk with a team of people at a cancer crawl and feel better about it because you did it for "a great cause." People are dying from this disease, it's pretty serious. I urge companies and individuals to remember this as we use the "cause" to further our own agendas or pleasures. It can be seen as a slap in the face to many of the 10 million diagnosed each year.

You want to help promote cancer awareness? Get screened and tell somebody. Figure out your family history. Meet people who have been through it, and help them find ways to tell their story. Raise money for cancer societies. Wear the t-shirts, the bands, etc. But don't think slapping a ribbon on something you're trying to sell is going to cut it. Us survivors see right through it. And we're not BUYING it.

Want more insight from another cancer survivor? Read fellow '08 Colondar model Becca's blog.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

My 31 Days of Fame

I remember the day I stood in the McMasters garage-turned-studio at Lake George, preparing myself to open the next chapter of my cancer survival. For some girls, lifting up their shirts to expose their stomachs is no big deal. Heck, some girls show it all to get cheap plastic beads at Marti Gras. But for me, revealing my stomach was a big deal. I'd always been so modest, and I was unveiling to the world the most vunerable and wounded part of me.

I curled up the end of my tank top to reveal the seven-inch vertical scar remaining after several surgeries to fight off colon cancer. As the cameras flashed, a range of emotions rushed in. I felt pride in making it through the battle, but pain for having gone through it. Memories of the wounds, the bad days, and the days where I wasn't sure I could keep going flooded in. It was uncomfortable for me to lift up my shirt to expose my scar, but I knew I had to. This journey and my story had now become part of something bigger.

I stood in that garage and gave it everything I had to show hope. My prayer was that by revealing my wounds, I could offer hope that there is healing, strength that we can get through, and encouragement to anyone else going through a painful situation in life.

My cancer journey has continued since I stood in the garage-turned-studio that day. I've got a lovely colon cancer tattoo now, in addition to four new scars and a thicker, pinker incision line fresh from this past summer. I've now been diagnosed with colon cancer twice, and my world shaken once again. Things can change a lot for a cancer survivor in 12 months.

While my story's changed, the journey and the scar remain the same. And my message of hope and faith hasn't wavered. This life isn't fair and it doesn't always make sense. I don't have all of the answers of why this happened, and I never will. But I know that God does, and that it genuintely hurts Him just as much as it hurts me. He's a relational guy, and is yearning for us to lean on Him through the hard times rather than blame Him.

So today, it's my month. And my message hasn't changed. For the next 31 days, I'll proudly stand in the kichens and offices around the country, broadcasting a message of hope through cancer, and faith in God. And I still have faith today that one day, this will all make perfect sense. Even the part where I had to bare my belly for a calendar.

Check it out ... Miss October 2009

Friday, September 25, 2009

Knowing God's Will For Your Life and Pinball

Sometimes I treat God like He's a fortune teller. Of course not one of those old woman types with nasty gray hair and un-manicured nails holding a cheap glass ball. A more holy, shiny one - a Jesus figure holding a Bible and glowing as he gives step-by-step instructions for what I'm to do, and be, in life. I'm hoping for His instructions to be carved on a stone through some cool lightening trick so that I can place the stone in my landscaping garden (when I get one) and always be reminded of what God's called me to do. Can anyone else relate?

Yesterday he gently showed me that He works a little differently than how I've been approaching Him. And oddly enough, the visual He gave me is pinball.

Lessons From A Pinball Machine About How To Know God's Will for My Life

1. Sometimes a relationship with God does feel like you're a tiny metal ball that's depending on two annoying flippers to keep you afloat. New Christians especially need to know this. It's not a rose garden all of the time. The Holy Spirit is the spring that ushers you into the new world. It's his strength that gives you the speed and strengh to roll. As you go along, work with Him to stay in play. Expect the obstacles. Some will be starling and cause you to jolt, sound off, spin, or other crazy and uncomfortable things. But others will silently rack up points and take you to a new level and understanding.

2. To know God's will for your life, keep the ball in play. Sometimes you'll bump into something that will 'hide the ball' and then spit it back out. Other times, you'll bump into something and immediately be reflected to something else. Living life with God is what it takes to know His will for your life. Be in play - read His Word, talk to him, etc. Times will then come that you 'bump' into opportunities. Pray about them. Sometimes He'll immediately reflect them because it's not for you. Other times, the opportunity will be for you. Let it take you in and go through the experience. It might be for a long time or a short time. But always remember that it will 'spit you out' eventually not because of you personally, because the bigger picture here is you living a life with the Spirit - not 'bumping into' every experience or opportunity, or hanging out at just one for the rest of your life.

3. Sometimes you'll bump into an obstacle that launches the ball to a tall, metal slide that racks up many points, ups the speeds and puts you on a whole new level of gameplay. In my life, God has occaionally done this. He's had a plan for me that I wouldn't have bumped into otherwise, and I'm still wondering if I heard him audibly when He led me to that path it was so clear. This has happened to me two times out of 25 years though, and neither time involves some of the big plans he's brought me through already pertaining to full-time ministry or fighting cancer.

It's easy when we get nervous or discontent to expect this type of experience so we know His will for our lives. I've been sitting in that boat for many years. But God's yearning for us to start living out more day-to-day relationships with Him in order to know His will for us, His calling on our lives, and all of the other answers we desire from Him.

So that's what I learned yesterday. I've got to figure out how to day-to-day keep the ball in play with Him. I've got to pray about what I 'bump into.' And I've got to always be ready to go to that 'next powerful level' with Him - but not wait around and miss out on what He's already doing here and now because I'm expecting it.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Props to a few groups who've made my life better lately...

I've had some great experiences with a few organizations/companies lately, and I thought I'd go ahead and give them props on my blog. As a marketing person, I understand how hard it is to effectively communicate the value of your brand to an already crowded marketplace. So, here's some free publicity for them, and hopefully some valuable tips to my readers who might be looking for an added bonus to their days. Here are a few groups I've been blessed by lately and why. Thanks for to the people behind these features who have boosted my days lately:

1. Barnes & Noble's in-store pickup feature on the website. I needed to buy a book by Friday and had a gift card to B&N. However, I didn't want to drive to Independence to look all over the store for the book and then potentially be disappointed if they didn't have it in stock. I hopped online, requested the book online, and then received an email 30 min. later when it was ready for pickup. Perfecto. I'm normally an Amazon girl, but this might have just knocked them out - especially when I need something the week-of!

2. Remember the Milk's FREE task list. I've made mention about this great website before, but I've got to give them props again. Without their free downloadable task list application, I would be out of my mind. This little thing has helped me not only in my work, but at home too. I can set up tasks that recur each week (yes, trash day is on there) and it helps me not lose my mind. Plus, it appears when I open up my gmail account, which I live by, so it's perfect. Their application can be added to your gmail account, phone, calendar, etc.

3. Sprint Store's staff at the LS Douglas location. Now I know some might differ, but I've always had a great experience with Sprint. Even when I didn't know the store rep helping me, I've always felt that I've been offered the best deal and my needs have been met. Whether it's fixing my bill, my phone - whatever, I've had a great experience. This past week I strangely found out that I was acquainted with my store representative (I put two and two together when I saw his last name and realized I knew his wife) who waved a fee to fix and later replace my non-warrantied, non-insured phone. Thank you to Sprint and to the store's great customer service reps who've made this support raiser's week so much easier and pleasant.

4. QuickTrip's fountain drinks and cookie. I'm a general QT fan. The store is kept clean, has many options and low prices. And when I walk out of there with a small coke and cookie in my hand that cost me less than a dollar - I consider that a blessing. QT knows what's up.

5. State Farm's Car Loans. Call it a shameless plug if you want, but I'm serious here. We just switched our car loan over to the State Farm Bank. Not only did they offer us a much lower rate from what we were paying - but the SF loans include GAP insurance for free. We would have had to pay extra for this on our previous loan. That means if someone hits my SUV tomorrow and I owe more on the car than what it's worth (thus creating a gap), SF will take care of the difference. It's a great added perk that I'm appreciative of. Plus, I've got a great agent to work with. :)

6. American Cancer Society's new birthday's campaign. This hasn't really added anything practical or money-saving to my life, but it's given me pride in being a cancer survivor and made me cherish birthdays. I think the new push for ACS to be the "official sponsor of birthdays" is a genius idea, and it's helped me see my cancer survivorship as something to be proud of rather than afflicted by. Thank you to ACS for the morale booster!

7. The Avenue Church. Call it another shameless plug, but I've been really blessed by our church lately. It feels like churches have a really bad rap in America right now. Generally, they're seen as too big, self-centered, judgmental, hypocritical, hurtful - the list can go on and on. Not that we don't struggle with some of the common fault's of churches, but I know it's not our leadership's heart, nor our peoples' hearts, to do so, and especially cause hurts or frustration. I'm blessed by the fact we're just striving to lift up Jesus. We hope to do this through our actions (Mission: Ignitions) and through our words (Sunday services). It's helping me, and hopefully others, see how to "do church" in a new way. It's given me encouragement to stick with it and find the hidden jewels that can come from a local body of believers.

So those are 7 organizations who've made my life better lately. What are some of yours?

Friday, September 11, 2009

A Very Timely Three Cups of Tea

I finally finished reading Three Cups of Tea this past week. The only reason I came across the book was that I was buying another book off Amazon and needed to add something to my order to get the free shipping discount. I clicked on a "Best Sellers" tab, saw the book at the top of the list and decided to give it a shot. I got lucky with this one, it's a FANTASTIC read.

The book tells the story about Greg Mortenson, an intense mountaineer/hiker guy who stumbles across a remote Pakistani village without anything that us Westerners are accustomed to - including a school for its children. The book tells Mortenson's tale about making promises to build schools all through Pakistan's villages, forming the Central Asia Institute, and how the importance of his mission became even more evident after 9/11. His efforts to build schools and improve communities to promote peace and fight terror is a refreshing take on how to solve the world's problems. Education, he argues, is what's needed to fight terror and provide viable career options for young men who otherwise feel they have no other choice than to join the Taliban. He is also a huge advocate for girl's education (going against some Muslum traditions), which he feels is the sustainability of the villages he serves. I loved that part.

The book had only a few downsides to me. I had a hard time diving into the story, mainly because I was so unfamiliar with the names of the countries, villages, and characters involved. It took me back to the days I was trying to read a 5th grade level book as a 2nd grader. But, after re-reading several pages toward the beginning, I started to get a groove. The book is also crammed full of details, which makes the story seem like it lingers on until the end when time speeds up and you feel the relevance of the book after the attacks on New York.

Despite the two downsides though, I've been challenged in several ways:

  1. Cheer on teachers. I know education is important - I've got a family full of teachers. But not until I read this book did I really understand the value of education on an individual and a community. I know that teachers struggle with feeling valued and respected under the piles of crap paperwork and stupid issues they deal with, but teachers and education are so important. It especially made me encourge Mike, who works in a low income district with some difficult situations. After reading this book, I am able to encourage him better and remind him of the huge impact he's making through teaching. Without education, his kids would be in situations not that different from the Pakistani kids, and have less than optimal futures.

  2. Care about Pakistan and Aghanistan. I admit I'm an ignornt American when it comes to most world issues. I don't read or watch the news, and it's easy to get into my little bubble. But the book's ending coinciding with this week being the Anniversary of 9/11 was perfect. It's become very relevant to me that the work Mortenson continues to do today is huge. It's convicted me to care about other parts of the world, to see citizens of Iraq, Aghanistan, Pakistan and other areas as people who are just as wise, worthy and important as we are. My eyes have been opened to issues happening outside of my suburb. It was refreshing, and I want more.

  3. Drop the "my way" attitude. I'm currently still working out how to take this book, apply it, and yet stick to what I'm called to as a Christian. Mortenson was raised by African missionaries and has a Christian background, yet he's made his life's work about promoting education rather than spreading the Chrisitan faith he grew up in, and personally struggles with. I admire him because he met these people with a clean slate and didn't immediatey try to change them. He instead got to know them and then worked alongside of them. He wore their clothes, learned how to pray like a Muslum, gained knowledge about the intricies and different sects of the faith, and came to understand the customs and beliefs of whomever he was with. He didn't try to convert, but to peacefully co-exist.

    Mortenson would not have had the success he did had he reached out with a Christian message or Christian funds. Granted, I realize he had no intent to do so, but it's hard to take such great work like his and not want to imitate it. I'm not sure how to mimic his actions though and leave out the purpose of telling about Jesus. I love his approach of showing love and compassion first, but am challenged by how it just stopped there. It's made me really contemplate how to show Christ's love in situations like his. Ultimately, Christians are here to tell about Jesus. Finding the right way and the right time is what is important, and being patient for God to kick open that door to make Himself known is what we must do. I guess it's truely a matter of faith that God will provide the right opportunity and words, but having a heart like Mortenson's is a great first step in the right direction. He didn't plow through with the "my way" attitude, but instead wanted to serve them. That sounds like someone else I know, and something we're all called to do.
All in all, Three Cups of Tea is a fantastic read. I'm glad to have it on my bookshelf.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Why do newly washed cars attract the rain?

Yesterday I decided it was time. I washed my car. After a summer of several road trips to Springfield, MO, Lincoln, NE and Des Moines, IA, the car had accumulated a nice assortment of bugs, dirt and some strange sticky brown substance in the cup holders. I've never been great at keeping my cars washed, much less cleaned out. But I'd had enough yesterday, so I dished out a whole $8 for the best car wash in town that includes the use of a powerful vacuum at the end.

When I came home it was sunny and warm, so I left my car parked out in front so it could shine in the sun and be more easily accessible to me. But everyone knows what a nice, new shiny car sitting outside attracts - RAIN. Yep, I go to leave last night for my friend's jewelry party and realize the rain has come. I stop myself from saying a bunch of cuss words in my head (being honest here) and grudgingly drive my now dirty car. I got over it after I realized that my car would have gotten wet even if I would have parked it in the garage because it started raining on me as I drove around town. Oh well, at least the big bugs were off and the inside spotless. It wasn't a total waste and was actually still a good thing for me to do yesterday. I was a steward of my car, and that's all I can ask for.

(our car with "pigtails")

Today is my three month anniversary of having surgery and the "Big C's" return. I've learned a lot this past month as I've continued to heal physically and emotionally. I feel I've made some big steps and started to trust God again. I realized that I've felt like my newly washed car for several months - I was on the right path, started up a church, poured into people's lives, watched my health and worked out - and then BAM - I got cancer again. It's almost as if the "very clean life" attracted the "downpour." I've been mad, angry and somewhat bitter about the whole situation, and have a hard time trusting that God is good and knows what He's doing. It's been tempting to hold out in enjoying things, or pouring into things, from the fear that the good will be taken away again.

Although it's tempting to say "just my luck," and buy into the lie that that's just how life, and God works, - it's just not true. God ultimately is a giver, and through Abraham/Issac's story and the Jesus story, we see God gives back what he takes away - twofold. There was a bigger plan for why it rained yesterday that goes beyond my car getting dirty, and there's a bigger plan for me getting cancer again. While it's an inconvenience to me at the time, God does have a grandiose purpose for it all and I've just got to trust that.

It has been hard, probably the hardest time I've gone through in my life. It has made me question everything - from Jesus loves me to God chose me and wants good for me. But although he questions keep coming, I'm to a place that believing God is ultimately good brings me more peace than when I'm questioning it. And I've got to go with that.

(My brother's wedding day was beautiful! We had a blast!
And no rain!)

Monday, September 7, 2009

Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe Showdown

I've been on a recent quest to discover the best chocolate chip cookie recipe. Since surgery, I've been eating these things like vitamins. I guess to distract me from what could be emotional meltdowns each time I look at the long list of "no-nos" for my new short colon, I turn to the sugar-coated goodies that help cheer me up. Bring on the regular pop, king sized Snickers and cookies. Scarfing down these treats makes skipping on the baked beans and potato salad no big deal these days.

So, here are the recipes I've tried so far:
"I Can't Believe It's Not Butter" baking sticks - chocolate chip cookie recipe on the back of the box.
Hy-Vee's semi-sweet chocolate chips - cookie recipe on the back of the bag
Kitchen Aid Mixer Cookbook's Chocolate Chip cookies
Missional Cookie recipe- came from Kristin Hammett
Ditty Cook's recommendation for Martha's Soft & Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

So far, the winner is .... Ditty Cook's recommendation. Although I think that I got the butter a little too warm and compromised my fluffiness, these by far had the best tasting cookies ... and dough. Check out her critique and step-by-step guide here.

A close second would be the missional cookie recipe. These are made with shortening rather than butter and give a unique and different flavor. Email me if you want this recipe!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Burgess Updates

In 2009, we started emailing a monthly newsletter to update our friends and family about our lives, support raising, and ministry.

We're now able to archive those newsletters. If you haven't received them, or want to re-read, here are links to each newsletter so far.

If you're interested in receiving these each month through your email, please let me know and I'll add you to the list!

May '09

April '09

March '09

February '09

January '09

December '08

Monday, May 11, 2009

Making of the Colondar

Almost a year ago, I had the opportunity to fly to upstate New York and take part in a photo shoot for the 2009 Colondar.

Part of the weekend included a video shoot to show the 'behind the scenes' and making of the Colondar. If you're curious about what went into making this calendar and a really in-depth look at our stories, check it out!

Here are some links to watch the video on YouTube. It's in four different pieces. Enjoy!

Part One:

Part Two:

Part Three:

Part Four:

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Month's Difference

It's amazing what about a month can do, both for babies and for big people like me and Mike. Last month we watched this little thing for a weekend while her mom & dad had a Valentines getaway. The weekend felt similiar to the sensation of jumping into a cold pool. It was totally new to us and not the most pleasant. I'm sure if she could talk, she'd have similiar sentiments about staying with two kid-less people who don't know how to interpret her cries.

But after a month or so, life is good. We're adaping and able to read her better. She's a little older and more easily distracted from whatever is ailing her to the dogs walking by. Despite Mike's facebook status, last night with the kiddo really wasn't so bad. (After her mom & dad stopped by to calm her down for us.) And after a few hours of kicking on the floor, chewing on keys, going to sleep right away and tons of smiles when she woke up - I think she just be breaking her Aunt B and Uncle Mikey into this whole thing. Or at least I won't feel like I've just been to war when she leaves. I think I actually might miss her a little.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Too Much

I now have a Twitter. I'm finding it harder to keep up with Facebook now, and very rarely post on my blog. I'm in a little bit of electronic overload at the moment.

This past week was wonderful. Staying with our traveling hobby of visiting state capitals, Mike and I ventured to Oklahoma City for a few days to take in the red dirt, good eats and relaxation. Thanks to and a generous boss/Dad who shared a piece of the yearly insurance agency bonus with me, we were able to take a super-affordable and much needed getaway.

Something I've learned lately is the difference between sleep and rest. I get plenty of sleep each night. That's actually one of the biggest blessings that has come from working flexible hours. However, I don't get enough rest.

I was reminded this past week to stop. To not just sleep in, but to actually let my body rest. To shut down my brain, my computer and my task list and enjoy life. It's hard not to focus on to-dos when it feels like there are so many. But I'm finding it's a must when I'm trying to make sense of it all. If God can take a break in the midst of putting the whole world together, surely I can take a few days and power down too.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

She's Not a Mean Girl

Last Tuesday several girlfriends and I huddled around Leah's TV to watch one of our favorite sisters, Beth Moore, teach us about Jesus, Esther and mean girls.

My long-time friend Leah kicked off the discussion by saying that she thinks she is a mean girl ... or that she used to be. She then talked about her and I's friendship history. We've both done 180's from our college days - she's stopped a crazy lifestyle to follow Jesus, I put an end to my legalism and judgmental spirit to follow Jesus. We went from teammates on a 6th grade volleyball team, to friends, to enemies, to 'stop stealing my friend' acquaintances, to band-rats, to 'let's hang out some', to good friends again, to roommates, to good friends again and now to super close, 'I'll always have your back' sisters in Christ.

When I think of transformation and one of the biggest blessings in my life, I think about my bud Leah. We have both grown so much, and experienced the power of God alone bring us together. He used us to change each other. Leah told the girls that God used my constant presence in her life to change her heart. She kind of was a mean girl back in the day, but she's changed. God has used her to teach me about unconditional love and how to follow in obedience and love like Him.

As sisters in Christ, it's been awesome to continue walking and growing together. We're still different, but what bonds us together is our history and reminder of what God's done for us. I'm so proud of her as I've seen her grow so, so much. She's a wonderful leader, mom and friend.

She's had a very interesting, ABC Saturday night drama-type of life lately. And it just got even more interesting this week. But despite it all, she's stayed sane, calm and turned to God every step of the way. Sure some days are harder than others, but I am so proud of her and thankful for God's hand in it all. This life isn't easy. But that's not our guarantee. And despite the crazy, unexplainable craziness of it all, we're to find hope in a God who can relate, and people who can walk alongside of us through things that are hard. I'm going to be praying for my bud Leah all weekend, and I encourage you to join us on the journey too....

Saturday, February 21, 2009

What Not To Spend

I kicked off my lazy Saturday afternoon nap today by watching cable TV. There's no better way to waste time and slip into slumber by watching pointless, yet addictive, shows about dressing nice and decorating.

The first show that stopped my channel surfing was 'What Not To Wear.' I'm not a faithful follower but have seen several episodes. Today Stacy and Clinton helped a cute 30-something mom of five find something appropriate to wear to her kids' sporting games and out on the town. A victim of trying to cram her body into something too small and skanky, the hosts gave her several tips about layering and knee-length hem lines that took her on a shopping spree. She entered a store, found three items, went to the register and paid the over-$900 bill with a credit card provided by the producers. The show transitioned to Stacy and Clinton watching the mom outside of the store tear up during an interview about spending that much money on only three items. The hosts then reckoned "Yeah, that must seem like a lot of money to a mom of five who watches every penny, but you have to realize that you deserve to spend that kind of money on clothes that make you look great."

Stacy and Clinton's reasoning sent me back to channel surfing that landed me on an HGTV show about redecorating one room in your house on a budget. A fantastic team of designers gave a woman her dream bedroom through redecorating from floor to ceiling. The walls were painted a beautiful peacock blue and accented by black & white and gold extras. Everything from new chairs, pillows, bedding, vases, rugs, tables, mirrors, window treatments made the room look like an old-Hollywood palace. It was beautiful and came in $1 under budget at $999! It looked just like what the woman had always dreamed.

In what's being called the worst economy since Great Depression, I watch these shows and have even more of an understanding of what got us here. There's a lot of talk about lenders and buyers, federal bailouts, stimulus movements and more. And while that might contribute to understanding some of the problem's roots and what can help - there's another layer to this whole thing.

There's a lie going around that we deserve the best. Whether it's our bodies, bedrooms, cars, vacations or houses, the notion that we are glorious enough to spend that kind of money on temporary things for ourselves has taken our minds totally off of the creator and to the created. Call me a conservative Midwestern gal who considers $1000 to be a lot of money, but in times like these, $1000 is a lot of money. And it will always be. Especially when compared to the amout of people it could feed verses the amount of high-end clothes it could buy.

More money and things won't solve our economy's problem. But a check on our pride and self glorification will. We're told to not store up our treasures on Earth, but to store up treasures for heaven. That doesn't mean we never have nice things or that we never spend signifigant amounts of money. But it does mean that we should spend wisely and humbly on things that will last. It means we don't buy our happiness or our status. We're all tempted to not only spend funds (or wish we could spend funds) the way the two shows recommended today. But in the end the clothes will tear and peacock blue will eventually go out of style. What will remain is humility we practice and the treasures we store up in heaven. Those will forever be the best bailout and stimulis options this life has to offer.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Man oh Man

Last weekend Mike & I took a little road trip to Lincoln to visit my family and get away. Part of the weekend was attending their Sunday church service which was fun and very different from our church planting routine. The sermon was about womens' and mens' roles, both at home and in the church.

I could take off and blog about topics in several directions from here - but one of the points that stuck the most was the theology behind God making man and woman. He said at the end of the day, the way a husband treats a wife should reflect how much Jesus loves us. And the way a wife treats a husband is how we as people should respond to the church.

Mike definitely took this to heart as he blew me away yesterday. He took off work in the morning to go to my surgeon appointment with me, and remembered my 'surgeryversary,' a fun holiday he has made up in rememberance of my big surgery. We went about our days, but yesterday was fun because he got to come home after school and not coach. I was getting home later than usual, so with his spare time, Mike made us dinner. I went off to a meeting after that, but when I got home I walked in to a dozen roses in our dining room and some cookies, since before I left earlier in the evening I was on a cookie hunt. I was blown away. His surprises rock.

I definitely feel the love of Christ through Mike. If his actions toward me are only a fragment of how much God loves us, and what Heaven is going to be like - I can't wait. I am so greatful for his servant's heart and his thoughtfulness. I know that marriage can be rough and have tough places along the way, but I'm learning early on that the secret to that is knowing who God created us to be is having an audience of One. When our focus is not being the best friend or spouse, or getting our own needs met, but being the man or woman God called us to be, life is good and Heaven seems even better.

Friday, January 2, 2009

New Years Queen

Every year at the COM New Year's Party, we award a king and queen based on the top five things that happened to them the past year. Everyone submits a ballot, then we vote, and a coronation happens just after midnight. Sounds silly, but it's way fun and a great way to reflect on what has happened in the past year.

I almost didn't submit a ballot this year, I thought as the host I'd help facilitate the voting. But my lovely husband made me enter, and I ended up becoming the queen.

Here were the Top 5 things I wrote on my card:

1. I made it through a year of support raising
2. I watched a live birth and had no pain
3. I modeled for a calendar
4. I took up hiking and kickboxing
5. I started a church

Last year was a wild ride. I knew 2008 would be exciting, challenging, busy, fun, hard, and so many other things - but it turned out to be so much more. About a month ago I would have coughed up the year to be 'really friggin hard' - but after a last month and some time of reflection, I would now cough up the year to be 'extremely exciting, hard and full of change.'

This year I actually became a frequent exerciser. I got back on track with quiet times. I met with a few girls each week and finished two Beth Moore studies. I maintained past friendships and built new. I hiked two mountains on opposite ends of the country and read over 10 books this year. I modeled for a calendar, traveled all across the US, helped start up an organization and dove into ministry.

There were plenty of things that were less than exciting, trying and really exhausting - but God's taught me the lesson that I wouldn't have these victories without the challenges that come with them.
I could have avoided the hard times, but it would not have brought me the good. Sometimes the good things will come after the risk is taken. I have learned that when I sit on the bench and play it safe, I'll be left with a boring game.