Teach me to Love

Oh, where has the time gone? These last couple of weeks have been exciting, challenging, my-feet-really-hurt-tiring, and fulfilling all at the same time. I started a second job... Sales at Banana Republic. I thought it might be nice to get some extra cash during the holidays and take advantage of a sweet discount while I'm at it. Although I must admit: working retail is SO BORING. I don't know how I forgot, but I did.

I love my job at the museum. I thoroughly enjoy having a purpose, a job description, tasks, artists and students to build relationships with, projects to take on, and things to make my own. It's amazing how much of a difference it makes when you do something you know and enjoy. I wake up and am excited by my to-do lists and upcoming events. I feel blessed.

I'm slowly finding community here as well. Did I mention the process is particularly slow? Yes, it is moving at snail speed. Its a struggle and unfortunately its not happening at the mega-church I had hoped to call my home. It's not to say that this could change, I have connected with a couple of very wonderful women; overall it is not a place I feel safe or comfortable. I have been raking my mind trying to pinpoint what it is-if it is any one particular thing. My conclusion: the community is severely lacking in comparison to other church experiences. The church is great. The preaching is challenging. I don't have anything theologically to disagree with. So why not just grin and bear it, wait it out, and make it home? I ask myself that too... Which made me ask myself, why do I go to church? Aside from being fed spiritually and having the opportunity to connect with God in a communal setting, why do I go to church? What makes a church home?

I don't think there is a formula for the perfect church. Part of me grieves over the way Western culture has created a church that strives to fits our needs rather than the church being an actual foundation of the physical community that people live in. We "church shop" to find a place that has what we are looking for. Theology. Music. People. Outreach. A vision. Biblical teaching. The list goes on and on. We all are guilty of it. There are so many churches now, it almost seems necessary. But to begin answering my question, my main and obvious criteria is to be in a church that preaches Biblically and has sound theology. The bible holds Truth and the instructions we need for life to be full. I need it to be the foundation of the teaching. So then what?

People. Community.

This is the kicker. Do I feel welcomed? What is the community like? What kind of lifestyle do the leaders lead? Where is the focus of the congregation? Does the congregation live the vision of the church? Is there a genuine quality to the people? Words like real. raw. honest. genuine. flawed. embracing.welcoming. loving. uplifting. family. are the kinds of words I want to think when I'm describing the community at my church. I want to see hurting people embraced. Struggling people lifted up. Spiritual people challenged. Troubled people forgiven. The body reaching outside the walls of the church. And most of all, I want to connect with people on a brotherly level so we can do life together and carry each others burdens (and so fulfill the law).

Gal. 6:2 "Carry one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ."

Hebrews 10:24-25 "And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." (One of my favorites)

1 Thess. 5:14 And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.

Matt 22:37-40 "And he said to him, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.'"

I don't want to spend time with my fellow brothers and sisters only inside the church walls and within church functions and within our comfort and safety of each other. I want to do life with them. Step out into the world with them. I want to invest in them. I want to encounter God more through our interactions. I don't want to be a christian confined to my specific lifestyle maintaining superficial relationships and encounters - I want to go deeper. In ALL of my relationships, but especially those with fellow believers.

I could really dive into this topic, but I will leave it where it is for now. God has stirred my heart for more and I am determined to find it, create it, be it, do whatever He calls me to do to be immersed in the kind of community He aches for us to be in.

Lord teach me how to love.


Whip My Hair

For Your Viewing Pleasure:

[she is 9 years old]



After 2 years of debate, experience, and a fickle mind, I am fairly confident I have figured out my grad school path. [!] I began 2 years ago set on studying Arts Administration, quickly re-decided on Non-Profit management, which slowly changed to Counseling Psychology, then morphed to Art Therapy, then back to Arts Administration but with a minor in Psychology, then shifted entirely to Social Work, and again back to one of the prior options. I have requested information and searched the programs of schools all over the country. I've worked in environments that I was "so sure" were where I wanted to go in furthering my career. Now, finally, through much analyzation and prayer I have decided on one program. More specifically a dual degree.... possibly with an added certification. :/ oops.

Masters in Social Work at Virginia Commonwealth University with a concentration in
Gender Violence Intervention and certification in Non-profit Management.

Quite a mouthful huh?

The concentration in Gender Violence Intervention is a collaborative effort between the Department of Sociology and other departments and programs at VCU, as well as community advocates working in the area of sexual and domestic violence. And through a cooperative arrangement with the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs, M.S.W. students pursuing Social Work may simultaneously earn the graduate certificate in nonprofit management offered by the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs.

Assuming everything goes smoothly, I'm applying for admission for fall of 2011 along with any and every scholarship and opportunity for financial aid VCU offers. My financial standing (and weather or not I get in, of course) will determine my start date. By Fall of 2012 I WILL be in grad school though. I would prefer to be enrolled for 2011, but will wait another year if the opportunity to save/earn/receive more money comes along with the time.

I feel really really wonderful about this development. VCU's program is #14 in the nation for Graduate Social Work programs and one of 3 that have any kind of sexual or gender violence intervention concentration. I feel like this program paired with my undergrad in art, my passion for women, my experience working/volunteering with community organizations, and my experience working for national and international non profits will really shine on my resume and equip me for the many future plans God has been developing in me.

I'm nervous about finances and also being back in academia. I'm not the most academically inclined person in the world.
If I have learned anything about God, I have certainly learned He always always always provides. I also know this is a step toward the plans He has for my life and by focusing on Him and staying in His will I can never fail.



'Dance Dance Dance'

I've seen a lot of shows since my first concert (Weezer & Jimmy Eat World @ age 14) Especially with living in Nashville where there is show after show after show for so cheap... I lost count after 43. Of everyone I've seen Bon Iver remains at the top of my list of favorite live acts. I was brought to tears the first time I saw him (now 'them' with his band) play. I just love Justin Vernon. Here is a video of Bon Iver playing with Swedish indie singer Lykke Li. This girl is sort of excentric but has amazing talent none the less, especially for being 24. This is her and the guys singing "dance dance dance" - It's so awesome to see musicians having fun like this! I'm green with envy.

Back in the saddle again.

Today I am enjoying an entire day off. It is insanely hot in VA for being October. The high today is 88 degrees. So again, I am sitting by the pool listening to "The Album Leaf" soaking up every last ray of sun and thanking our God immensely for it all.

Yesterday I had a pretty relaxing day too. It was the first time in the last couple weeks of craziness I was able to evaluate myself, where I am now, and where I want to be in the future. I write down goals I have for every area of my life periodically and yesterday was a much-needed day of inventory. I think the main area that I have lacked in is my health. I was reading this article in Glamour Magazine written by one of their bloggers that did an experiment of eating only foods she saw advertised on TV for a week. Applebees, Chilis, Jimmy Dean's, Burger King, Yo-plait, Kellogg's. Some very very unhealthy, some you would think were not. It was interesting the effects she, a normal organic-whole foods eater, experienced. I connected to some of the feelings she was having after just 5 days of eating not so healthy:
"I wake up feeling foggy...normal tasks like making a phone call were suddenly making me off the charts anxious... no coordination.." Ugh. It's not hard to understand that diets overly saturated in fat, sodium, and refined sugars have serious negative effects on the body and the brain. But this article pinpointed exactly what happens. The fat, sugar, and salt, overstimulate the release of the brain chemicals dopamine (responsible for euphoria) and norepinephrine (involved in mental activity). So when any of those levels of refined sugar, fat and/or salt are increased and then take a nosedive- we feel uncoordinated, anxious, unfocused, tired, etc. And the worst part is that these changes can happen after ONE MEAL. On top of that, your mood is negatively affected too (that whole euphoria thing is unbalanced.) This explains my recent hatred of the human race.

My downfall: sugar. I don't normally crave fatty, salty snacks or processed foods like a lot of people do. I crave sugar. Not baked goods (ok..sometimes bread) but candy. Dark chocolate, which has positive benefits in moderation, gummy bears, sour patch, fun dip, shock tarts, sweet tarts, laffy taffy, jelly bellys... Willy Wonka is my hero. Sugar is my health's kryptonite. I'm addicted. Last week I made the addiction far more extreme with my 3 days of crappy lunch choices followed by a binge of pixy-stix. Why I thought this was a good idea, I will never know.

All of this to say, I related to some of the side effects this woman was having. I have been feeling almost ill the last couple of weeks and it's because I'm not taking the time to focus on my diet and health like I normally do. So in my goal re-evaluation that was the #1 thing I need to get back on track with. I am tired of feeling like I'm not with it and have zero energy.

I also am registering for the Virginia Beach Surf n' Santa! It's a 10mile run in December. At first I was thinking "oh no... long runs in the snow again?!" (I experienced a LOT of deep snow runs last winter in my failed training for the Country Music Half.) Then I realized, I live in Virginia Beach... I don't even need my yack trax! It's not going to snow enough for that. If I can run 8 miles in the Michigan snow I can run 10 miles in the Virginia cold.
I have 53 days to train.

Here's to healthy living!



During certain periods of my life, God brings verses specific to the season I am in. I may have mentioned this before. I posted the verse that has been coming back to me over and over again since I came to Virginia Beach a few months ago. 1thess 5:16-24 (this time in NASB):

Rejoice always;pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.

Recently the subject of alcohol has been fleshing itself out in my mind. I come from a family that struggles to overcome alcoholism. I have lived a crazy life, I've struggled with many addictions, but in my eyes alcohol has never really been one that was hard for me to say no to or use in moderation (when I made the choice to do so!). I have friends that drink, friends that don't, friends that won't, and friends that shouldn't.
Personally, I am a long time lover of wine and always always always appreciate the discovery of new and local brews. A good dirty martini is essential from time to time as well. I genuinely appreciate the taste and enjoy savoring a delicious meal with a drink to compliment or relaxing with friends and a cold beer.
If anyone ever asked me "Do you think alcohol has any control in your life?" I would respond "no" with zero hesitation.

"But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good;abstain from every form of evil."
"Test everything; Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil."

This subject has become a known struggle with a loved one in my life recently. Again, I am aware of the hold it can have on people. I've witnessed it with both family and friends in the past and am all too familiar with the process of discovering the problem and the struggle to overcome. It's painful to witness again. It has caused me to really examine what it means to "test everything", to "avoid every kind of evil" as well as what it really means to "carry each other's burdens" (Gal 6:2). I've been asking myself "does drinking have any kind of hold over me? Any?" and the answer may be that it does. I often think just because I've never had a serious issue with drinking heavily, I do drink frequently and allow myself the indulgence of a glass of wine to relax or a beer to calm my nerves in a new social situation.

I am testing and carefully examining my heart and intentions with having a drink. or two. or three. I am deciding that it's not necessary and want to really truly see where my dependence lies in those situations where I desire rest or comfort or just an easy conversation. I want my dependence to be on God if it needs to be anywhere at all.
I also want to live out Galatians 6:2 and support the people I love in making positive life choices.

Honestly, I feel great about it. I just hope this is a decision that the people around me support and encourage.


cut it out

To cut or not to cut. That is the question. This month's issue of Vogue features the amazing Carey Mulligan. She is uber adorable and a fabulous couture model.

[She also has amazing hair.] Ugh decisions.


Birthday Suit

So, today is my birthday. Twenty-four years!!
What a journey so far, I am so extremely blessed. Even though I am far away from a large majority of my loved ones, I've already received cards and presents and love from some of my friends and family. I love getting calls from my family. I've talked to my dad a lot this week about flights and whatnot yet he still calls and songs a little "well happpyyyyy biiirthday" and my mother always has some embarrassing or obnoxious song for me or my voicemail.
Tonight Ben and I have an exciting evening planned with the art crawl, dinner, and some "small surprises". I can't wait! We've both been really busy the last week with work and him with school so it will be wonderful to have a night out with just my man. Yesterday I spent the afternoon waiting out a heavy portion of the "tropical disturbance" and took a break from detouring flood zones at the mall. Birthday shopping. A few of my favorite buys (and received presents so far):

Perfect herringbone jacket from Gap.
I'm one of the few women lucky enough to get one- this was only available for a limited time.

Love this blouse from Banana! Its perfect with a skinny belt, under a jacket, a cardi, whatever.

I fell in love with the skirt the minute I laid eyes on it today. Thanks mom :)
These wedges are extremely comfy and taupe goes with everything.

The essential long cardigan

I LOVE these cords. I'm so glad colored pants are in again ha. Considering the majority of my wardrobe is earth tones and grays, bright pants pair perfectly.

My last stop of the day... Aveda. For my favorite skin care product and a hand massage. My hands are still soft and smell amazing.

In addition to all of this: a trip to Grand Rapids (!) which is hands down my favorite gift of this far.

Can't wait for tonight!