Beauty in the Sea

Many moons ago I was in this Bible study that spoke of beauty.  While this really didn’t touch my heart all that much (I’m a tomboy at heart), they asked a question during one of the sessions that has resonated with me through the years.

“When do you feel the most beautiful?”

I struggled with this question.  I oscillate between “Why am I in the medical field when I should be modeling swimwear” and “When is it socially appropriate to put a bag over one’s head in public?”  But realistically, I’m somewhere in between.

Even when I get all dolled up, I always manage to find flaws in myself upon reviewing the pictures. It’s the perpetual let-down of, “Oh, I look fantastic, except for the fact I look bloated and my eye-make up smudged….”

Then it hit me: I know where I feel the most beautiful.

In the ocean, with hair down, bikini on, and nearly 8 feet of plastic strapped to my right ankle.  I feel even more beautiful with those big powerful waves with clean faces are headed my way – or as I like to put it – the Lord put the tokens in the wave machine.

Here there are no cameras, any make up would be washed away after taking a wave on the head.  My hair is perfect because it’s covered in salt water and my skin turns a beautiful shade of pink under the sun.  I was made for summer days.

After a bit more digging in my genealogical past, I found my ancestors on my mother’s side originated from what is now northern Poland, on the Baltic Sea – my father’s mother’s family is from the shores of Normandy, France – the sea is in my blood.

And that’s as beautiful as it gets.

My mom snapped this picture of me last summer, heading back out to where the waves are breaking.

My mom snapped this picture of me last summer, heading back out to where the waves are breaking.

Advertisements

Summertime Book Adventures

I love reading and since I got a Kindle last year, I’ve been devouring books.  Just like last year, I’m all over the board with random topics.

  • Vixen 03 by Clive Cussler – my favorite author – as my father-in-law said it was a good read (he’s a Cussler fan as well, we’re constantly trading books).  I’m switching things up with a paperback.  The book is a little choppy with the story line, but I’m interested to see how they will intersect.  And it has a very young Dirk Pitt in it!
  • One up on Wall Street: How to Use What You Already Know to Make Money in the Market by Peter Lynch.  Something I know very little about is investing.  As a conservative risk taker when it comes to money, I’m very leery about investing simply because I don’t know how it all works.  The guy is a big name on Wall Street and the reviews about this book jived with what I’m looking for in an investment book: nothing with too much jargon or something I need millions to do – some reviews said it was a “fun read.”  I’m hoping this will be a jumping off point for the future me in terms of finances.
  • The Host by Stepenie Meyer.  She wrote the Twilight series; The General and I watched the movie last night and while I was reluctant about it, I got sucked into the storyline.  I downloaded this book while the credits were rolling.
  • The Confessions of St. Augustine.  I have heard of this book, but do not know much about it or the author.  I’m looking forward to learning more about this relic wordsmith and his relationship with God.  Bonus: It was free on Kindle.
  • The Divergent Series by Veronica Roth. I’ve ready good reviews about this series from Facebook friends and I hope it’ll be a good beach read.  I read all 3 Hunger Games book and loved them.
  • HeavenWord Daily by David Servant.  This is also free on Kindle.  For reasons unknown, even to me, every 18 July I change my daily devotional.  This year I’m going to try this one – it leads you through the entire New Testament for a year.  I like how it’s the equivalent to spiritual steak. After reading “My Utmost for his Highest,” (Oswald Chambers), I need something heavy.  I like my coffee and devotionals strong.

This should keep me busy until the winter chill rushes in.

Wild & Wonderful

That about sums up West Virginia.

While we were in Cracker Barrel, Alice and I felt the need to get an “Ebenezer” – a memento of the Lord’s provision as He saw us through our crazy adventure. This is what we found:

"Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us.’ " (1 Samuel 7:12)

“Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us.’ ” (1 Samuel 7:12)

This magnet now graces my refrigerator.  It’s a great reminder of the Lord’s provision.  His Hands were all over our adventure: from the preemptive tire changes to Alice’s new hand-me-down iPhone from her Father-in-Law (without it we wouldn’t have had GPS or a way to alert the authorities of our situation), the calmness we exuded to get us through that situation, not to mention no serious damage to the car (as far as I know….).

Despite my near-death experience, I am looking forward to returning to West Virginia.  I kinda sorta fell in love with the beauty of that state.  I think I could move there, living in the mountains.  Alice and I hope to return in the Autumn with our husbands and see all the leaves change color.

And, of course, stay on the paved roads.

We’re already looking ahead to 2024; we’ve decided not to try and top 2014.  But this is probably a good thing: our adventures are so epic, we need a decade in between them.

2014 with a view

Image

That cat! If only he could hang curtain rods while he was up there….

2014 came quicker than I thought – time has appeared to speed up in the past several weeks.  Much like smarter-than-the-average-tabby-cat who climbs ladders, I have this sinking feeling that 2014 will be a year of change, challenge, and perhaps (Lord willing) an extraction of the thorn in my side.

Much has changed around the barracks here….I have decided to redo my sitting room by adding large red curtains, plants, and better lighting.  One night when The General and I were sitting on the couch, I told him I felt our living room needed to be changed, so we started moving furniture randomly at 9:30pm…..and we found a much cozier medium and added a few upgrades: a candelabra surrounded by other candles in our fireplace in lieu of the gas logs we have yet to purchase gas for, cutting our entertainment center stand in half to create a lower profile, and adding better bulbs to our seldom-used overhead light (it used to make the room look….jaundiced).  We’re also tackling the non-dinning room aka The General’s art studio; it’s the only room downstairs with original almond paint.  The General has decided to paint a wall mural on one side too.  I am very excited about that!

I’m not sure what’s causing this nesting frenzy, but it has been fun and only slightly expensive.  Our whole downstairs has a warmer feel to it.  I like it a lot.

Upcoming adventures include a hen party in honor of my sister’s upcoming nuptials in Wisconsin (because that’s the place to go in the middle of winter, apparently), a Caribbean vacation for aforementioned wedding, and a trip to some random place with my friend Alice (locale yet to be determined).

We have continued attending the church I had mentioned some time back.  It’s been really good.  You can totally feel the Holy Spirit in the air.  I need to get involved.  They have a ministry that has spiked my interest in a realm I have very little training.  It’s a matter of me picking up the phone and making it happen.  I don’t know why I’m dragging my feet – fear of the unknown, I suppose, and how my last volunteer gig just reiterated my outcastness.

2014 is off to a great start.  Now I am just waiting for the warm seas and weather.  I need a day in the sun on a board in the waves.

Greetings from under the bed!

I am reporting to you live from under the guest bedroom bed.

The doorbell keeps ringing (incessantly at some points) and kids, with the average age being 12, keep yelling TRICK OR TREAT!  So the cats and I are camping out until all this craziness settles down once and for all!

My Halloween costume this year?  I’m a techie.  Dark skinny jeans with a tailored black t-shirt from my favorite store of all time, H&M.  I’m just a ClearCom and a flashlight short.

Not much has been going on, hence the blog silence.

Some things that have gone on….

  • I got some serious peace from the Lord concerning the “thorn in my side.”  By earthly standards, I have a snowball’s chance in hell of the tides turning in my favor, but I have relaxed in the Lord that He will somehow bring it all into fruition in His time and under His will.  How?  No idea.  My faith is being tested for sure.
  • I have recently rediscovered my all-time favorite bra type: the balconette.  Random?  Yes.  But that’s me.
  • My new boss started at work.  My co-workers and I had a lot of apprehension about her; she’s not only sweet, but fair-minded, fun, and smart.  And someone who can pull her own weight when it gets crazy.  It will be a positive change for us.
  • I’ve got to spend some awesome quality time with Miranda and Samantha.  We’ve gone to costume balls, fancy restaurants, Emergency Vets followed by dinner (puppy was okay!), and crazy conversations.  I love my girls!
  • Spent a weekend in Detroit visiting family for my sister’s wedding shower.  It was amazing and I felt I really clicked with that side of the family, so different from the years past.  I even explored some graveyards and found my great-grandmother.
  • Oh, I turned 32, somewhere in there.  I still feel like I’m 25 with 7 years experience.

I haven’t been to the beach in quite some time and I am missing the ocean.  Perhaps if there are good waves one of these days, I’ll don the wetsuit and head out to the breaks….

Divine moment at the gas station

I ran out to Wal-Mart early this morning to grab birthday cards for my nephew (he’s 21!), sister-in-law, and my sister.  You see, I had to get these in the mail yesterday.

On my way in, I realized I was out of gas.  I stopped at the gas station and went through the digital menu with my credit card: Zip Code: Sure. Receipt? No.  Car Wash?  No.  Having a good day? Yes.

I started day dreaming and ended up filling up the entire tank, I usually stop at a dollar amount unless I’m roadtripping.  I docked the nozzle, assembled my gas cap, and looked at the screen.

Wait a moment.

So I waited.  I waited some more.  It was a long moment.

I hit clear.  The screen flashed blank and then it appeared again: wait a moment.

I was in a stubborn mood this morning, so I decided to call the pump computer’s bluff.  I stood there, leaned against my car, arms crossed and waited.  I wasn’t leaving until I had confirmation all went through.  I really don’t like having cops after me.

“Really, Lord?  Really?”  I asked.  I’m standing here having a staring contest with a gas pump, the most unproductive thing I think I’ve ever done.  “What is it?  Is there a penny?”

The Lord leaves me pennies, I find them in the most random places.  They’re physical tokens He is there for me and it even has “In God We Trust” stamped right on it.  I looked around the pump and didn’t see one.  Sighing, I gave in, the pump won.  I walked around to the driver’s side to get my keys and alert the attendant that this pump was locked up.

Right outside my car door was a penny.  Shiny.  1987.

I picked up it, smiling.  I looked over at the gas pump. “Thank you, come again,” it said as it flashed back to the main menu.

Wow.

Wait a moment.  In God We Trust.  This spoke volumes to my heart this morning.

Up

Without going into detail, suffice it to say, I had a bad morning.  Well, that was an understatement, but again, without detail, I had a bad morning.

I needed some time to collect my thoughts and let my eyes unpoof before heading into work to take care of people with bigger problems that what I was facing.

After a quick lunch, despite the fact hunger wasn’t registering, I went for a walk among the pines.  I found it hard to pray.  I was too numb to pray.  After I paced a park for awhile, I plopped down on a bench.  AlI wanted to do was curl up in the fetal position and cry….but that was neither the time nor the place for that to happen.  

So I layed back and looked up.  This was my view.

Image

A simple reminder that I live in a paradise under long leaf pines and the Lord was smiling at me, sitting with me, as he always does.  It brought a smile to my face.

My situation is not hopeless — there is 1 shard of hope — a long shot by the set standards, but that remains to be seen.  If I ever grow the intestinal fortitude to explain the vagueness, well, that too remains to be seen.

I do not know what’s next.  Or where this journey will lead.  But I know Him.

Lukas 22:32

I love this guy, Jon Acuff.  He’s a Christian blogger who blogs in satire regarding Christianity without being offensive.  Sometimes his posts are really funny, sometimes they’re serious with a huge nugget of truth.  Today was one of those days.  I’m going to post a passage from his blog today (you can read the whole thing here).  I’m hoping someone reads this and passes it along to someone who could use the reminder of how awesome our God is.  And I, too, am a big fan of edge verses.

I’ve written about this before, but I’m a big fan of “edge verses.” I’m a big fan of looking on the periphery of a scene in the Bible and seeing all the deep truth that often gets hidden amidst a major scene. And, in Luke 22, that certainly happens.

Jesus is on the threshold of getting crucified. He has the last supper with his disciples. He is sharing his thoughts on the father and the concept of serving and ruling. There is a sense of great importance heavy in the air. In the middle of that, he has a short conversation with Simon about how he is going to betray him.

It’s going to happen. Jesus knows this, but he wishes it wasn’t. He says to Simon in Luke 22:31-32:

“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail.”

And then, in 9 words, he explains a big part of the reason I thought a mess-up like me ever had a chance at being a Christian.

Jesus tells Simon:

“And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

That’s it. Those are 9 really simple words, but they demand a second look.

Do you see what Jesus is saying in that first half of the sentence: “And when you have turned back?” He’s saying:

And when you fail.

And when you sin.

And when you blow it and sell me out like a common thief.

And when you literally and physically turn your back on me.

And when you ruin it all.

When you turn back.

That concept is part of why our God is so different than everything we expect. We can turn back. There’s a return. There’s a comeback. There’s a loss and a brokenness and a state of falling, but you can turn back. That door is open. When I read the phrase “And when you have turned back,” I read a loud, wild picture of what grace really looks like.

Then you get to the part that is so easy to miss: The comma. Thank God for the comma, because that’s not how I would have written that sentence.

Mine would have looked more like:

“And when you have turned back, repent for three years before you try to get within a mile of my holiness.”

“And when you have turned back, don’t think for a second you’re qualified to tell other people about me.”

“And when you have turned back, here’s a long list of works you’ll need to do in order to clean yourself of the mistakes you’ve made and the consequences you’ve earned.”

But Christ doesn’t do that! He throws in a comma. He continues the sentence and simply says, “strengthen your brothers.”

Six years ago I ruined my life, but you know what?

God gave me the gift of the comma.

And that’s why I write Stuff Christians Like.

I have turned back. Not once, not twice, but a million times. And now it’s time to strengthen my brothers.

I hope you don’t miss the comma because God wants to give it to you. He wants to give you grace. He wants you to know that when you have turned back, you can still strengthen your brothers.

It’s time to accept the comma of grace.

His Words

I love how you can read something in the Bible 100 times, but at certain moments in life, those words suddenly take on a new meaning.  That happened to me the other day.

I’ve still been struggling with anxiety, it’s better controlled that what it was, but it’s still an effort on my part to keep it in check.  It hasn’t gotten to the point where I need to seek help for it – yet – but I am willing to do that if this keeps up.

The verse came out of Proverbs 31 — you know, the passage that describes the most amazing godly woman/wife.

“She is clothed in strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.” (Proverbs 31:25)

A godly woman should “laugh at the days to come.”  Why?  Because the Lord is taking care of it.  She’s not concerning herself with it because her strength and dignity come from Him.  It covers her, like clothes.  I don’t always feel very strong or dignified, and honestly, I fret at the days to come — especially at work — did I do this right?  Should I have done this instead?  What if I didn’t catch something I needed to…..blah blah blah.  It’s quite exhausting, really.  And as a Christian woman, I need to change my internal dialogue to giving it to the Lord and resting in Him.

Continuing with my German reading, I was further amused to see the German translation of this verse:

“Kraft und Schoene sind ihr Gewand, und sie lacht des kommenden Tages.”
“Power and beauty are her garb, and she laughs of the coming days.”

In English, it says she “can laugh” – like it’s a choice whether to laugh or not.  In German, it’s present tense and active: she laughs.  Sometimes German speaks so much more emotion than we can ever fit into English translations!

I also appreciated God’s Word translation:
“She dresses with strength and nobility, she smiles at the future.”

I, too, smile towards the future.  What will it bring?  God’s promises, that I’m sure of.  His plans are better than mine.  Come what may, I have the Lord to uphold me.

In the meantime, I’m going out shopping today.  I need to find some strength, dignity, power, beauty, and nobility to wear.

Well….you see…..

Life keeps getting in the way of me updating this.

In short, the ocean is still too cold to surf.  It’s light out when I come home at night.  I beat The General in Tennis.  I drove overnight to Georgia.  I was on a photoshoot.  I started running again.  And working on my core via yoga poses – I’m actually building some muscle.  The bulbs I planted a few weeks ago are starting to bloom.  My in-laws arrive in t-2 days and I haven’t started the cake I need to make or finished cleaning their bathroom.

Oh, and God is awesome.

Stay tuned, more to come to a RSS reader near you.

Like it’s 1999

The Lord gives me pennies every so often.  I find them in odd places; I find them when I need a pick-me-up; I find them when I need a 2×4 to the head when it comes to trusting Him.  I especially love it when my birth year or year I gave my life to Christ comes up.

For the past couple of weeks, I keep finding pennies from 1999.  I believe my running total is 3.  I found 2 of them on a run around my neighborhood: 1 at the beginning of my run, 1 at the end.

1999.

What does it mean?  What was I doing in 1999?  I had just met Dean, my high school sweetheart.  My sophomore/junior year of high school.  Something that struck me about that time period was my career: my career could have gone 2 paths and I chose the one that would open the most doors – even though I was accepted at Michigan State for the other one.  The job that is suppose to open (omg, HR!  Let’s move it!) is the option I could have chosen in 1999.

I’d like to think it’s a sign.  I really hope it is.

I’m so ready to move across the hall I can barely stand it.

Yup

Why is it that every night at work is a bad night?  I spent most of the night trying not to cry tears of frustration.  I run in circles, accomplishing nothing.  The computers AND the machines were out to get me tonight.  And as much as I hate to admit it, they won.  I actually stayed over to help catch up on another department’s work that our shift didn’t get to for the mere fact that I needed to calm down before I went home and exploded.  I can’t keep doing this.  I never smile anymore.  My blood pressure is through the roof.  I’m going to age prematurely at this rate, unless my adrenal gland detonates with all the F bombs.  Seriously, I never swear — it’s just at my job.  I even scaled back my schedule – working 5 days a week instead of 4 (less hours/day).  Today is Day #1 and already I can tell it’s not going to work too well either.

I haven’t even shot the picture for our annual Christmas card yet.  I plan to do that tomorrow.  I feel so far behind.

Having my family here was awesome — like all gatherings of my immediate family, there were a few skirmishes, but nothing terrible.  My Dad always finds a reason to re-wire a room in my house when he’s here and this time it was the kitchen.  He fixed our 3 way switch after much sighing and berating my husband for his lack of electrical knowledge (long story short: we switched out the switches in the kitchen for color reasons and they hadn’t worked right since.  Turns out we had the wrong kind of switch, it wasn’t The General’s fault [pun unintended]).  Meh.  We’re medical people and this concept seemed to evade my dad.  My mom fell on the stairs at the beach and hurt her knee quite badly, we’re thinking it’s a sprain, so she was laid up for the last day.

It’s no secret that my parents’ marriage is quite austere, to the point where it could be placed in the abusive/neglect category.  Like a Windows default, I’m programmed to stay silent during the verbal spars, as all through childhood.  I prayed when they came, if it became an abusive situation, that I would have the strength to say “STOP!”  There was only 1 conversation that was going down the road of verbal attack and I thank God He gave me words and actions.  I actually raised my voice to my father.  He got the message and stopped.  We changed the subject and all was well.  Hmph!  I will not take the kind of language in my house, especially towards someone I love.

Outside of that, it was a wonderful experience.

They spoiled us rotten.  My mom and I went to pick up a “few items” at the ABC store (it’s where us North Carolinians get hard liquor) and we bought out the liquor store.  I told my mom I actually want to remember this Thanksgiving — because we were going to float away with all the wine and spirits.  She was too kind.  And despite my alcohol fast (she didn’t know) and the amount we had, I was never drunk at any point.  My dad went to Lowe’s, Home Depot, and Auto Zone to get stuff for my car and the house — again, spoiled beyond measure.  They picked up the tab when we went out, too.

My sister and her boyfriend were fun.  I haven’t spent days together with my sister in years so it was interesting to observe.  I didn’t feel much of a connection with her.  She suffers from severe bi-polar disorder.  She’s on a lot of meds (like a lot a lot), but the disease is ever present.  She was up.  She was down.  She was wired, she was sound asleep on the couch.  My sister is slightly immature on top of it, but smart as a whip.  Smarter than me: she did better in college than I did.  Her boyfriend was cool to hang out with.  He’s so even keeled – I showed him how to play Rumikube and he won.  It was interesting to watch them interact.  He’s got her number and knows how to reel her in.  He’s good for her.  She’s good for him.  They’re going to make beautiful babies someday.

You know the psychology stuff about you marry a version of your father?  Well, I turned that notion on it’s head.  I married my sister.  If you take the bi-polar away, my sister and The General are cut from the same cloth.  And it’s kinda freaky.

Our family adventures included walking around downtown Wilmington, walking on the pier at Carolina Beach, the rocks at Federal Point (my sis is obsessed with hermit crabs and was very amused by the ugly wild ones!), and the rocks at Fort Fisher.  I took a picture of everyone on the rocks and it looks like they were posing for an album cover.  Hilarious.  I would post it, but I can’t blur out everyone’s faces enough without losing the continuity of the picture.  We also hit up Enchanted Airlie at Airlie Gardens.  If you are in the Wilmington area, you have to check it out.  It’s so beautiful and we had a great time.

Oh!  I almost forgot the Turkey Day part!  Phenomenal.  Mom did not disappoint with the stuffing and grasshopper pie.  I brought the German roots by making a spaetzle casserole.   The General made the turkey and everyone raved about how moist and yummy it was.  Pat and Kris showed up with enough food to feed everyone for a few days.  I prayed a short prayer before dinner.  There was silence for about 5 minutes as we were all way too into the feast for conversation.  We watched the movies Fix and Zombieland.  It’s tradition: you watch movies completely inappropriate for the holidays.  Drug addiction and zombies – how more un-turkey can one get?

Overall?  It was awesome.  I loved having a houseful.  It’s kinda weird now that everyone left.  And I ate the last piece of stuffing today.  I need my mom back to make another pan of it.  And to polish off some left over wine while we make it.

I never felt the tug to stay on my alcohol fast — and while I don’t have the answers, I know who does.  And I am His.  And what will happen will happen.  And it will be for the glory of Him.  However it’s all suppose to turn out.

O Christmas Tree

It became apparent this year that my husband, who spent his formative years pushing deer in the Pennsylvanian wilderness, had never had a up close and personal encounter with a Douglas Fir.

The General was kind enough to put up our Xmas tree this year, complete with lights *that worked* so I could decorate it.  I noticed I could see the middle support beam quite clearly in it, unlike from years past.  It seemed…..anemic.  As I got a closer look, I found most of the branches weren’t fully extended out from storage.  Hmph.  Confounded, I asked him about it and he said he was in a rush to set up the tree.  Ah, that explains it.  Classic.

With it’s branches fully extended and full of ornaments, it’s perfect.  I even put up the ceramic Christmas tree form the 1970’s that my Oma displayed every year.  It’s officially Christmastime here in the barracks.

Why so early?  We’re hosting my side of the family for Thanksgiving.  Mom, Dad, my little sister, and her boyfriend of 5 years (I refer to him as my brother-in-law, he’s part of the family) are all coming from Illinois to stay with us.  I am super excited!   This is my 1st ever real holiday as host to family…..I’m officially an adult now.  And as someone who’s job is a 24/7/365, the fact that I have days off around a holiday are such a blessing.  This almost never happens.

Luckily for everyone’s sake (fire department, family, State Farm, etc.), The General is the executive chef for this event, although I find myself planning the menu and doing most of the cleaning — but it’s all good.  I’ve been slacking and he’s working straight through until they get here.  My 2 favorite things, grasshopper pie and Oma’s German stuffing, are going to be made by my mom who is a master at both recipes.  I tried both of them in years past and they always turn out badly.  Cohesiveness in the final products elude me.  The grasshopper pie didn’t set (too much creme de mint, perhaps?) and the stuffing crumbled in to bits when it should have been cake-like. And to top it off, Kris and Pat are joining us too for a total of 8.  It’s going to be CRAZY at that dinner table – especially since I can only find chairs enough for 7 and we have 8 showing up!

….and I break my fast.   Haven’t heard much from God on it.   2012 is going to be an interesting year, for sure!

Awesome penny story

So, there’s a thing about finding pennies.  And I found one yesterday.

I had a tug on my heart from the Lord to help a specific ministry financially.  And so I did.  He told me the amount I was suppose to give.

After I had filled out the necessary forms and such, I walked back to my car and lo and behold, a penny was lying right next to my car.

The year on it was 1998.  The year I gave me life to Him.

How freakin’ awesome.