Tuesday, September 27, 2011

To Testify

The concept of testimony boils down to one word:  evidence.  Evidence for the things that you've seen.  Evidence for what you've heard.  Basically, whatever you've been witness to that bears testifying.

Saturday, at STBSIL's Bachelorette party, I had the opportunity to share part of my testimony.  It wasn't something I had intended to do, but the opportunity presented itself so I didn't shy away.

Today, I just keep thinking that I was able to laugh through so much of what I told her and believe that PCOS may be some distant dream in the near future.  But what I can't explain are days like today.  Days when it feels like the nightmare will never end and you're stuck trying to find the quickest way out knowing that exits are blocked.

But these days are as much a part of my testimony as my belief that God is good.

What I wonder more than anything is how those testimonies affect perception.  If I were to tell you that I've spent the last 6 1/2 years longing for a child only to lose one and I still believe God is good would that cause you believe I'm more of a Christian than if I told you I'm not sure the last 6 1/2 years have been worth it, I can't see what God is doing and I'm afraid He's not listening to my prayers?  Because each of those things make up my reality on a given day.

When I testify to my belief that God is truly good, I don't want people to believe that I've got it figured out or I never struggle with being in limbo.  (Or even the concept that limbo can be a permanent place?)  There are a lot of days when I would rather pull my blankets over my head and pretend I don't have people who depend on me.  Actually, there are some days when I don't get a lot of choice in the matter.  Physical movement probably isn't going to be possible.  But surely those things don't mean that I don't believe He's good?

If my life is meant to give evidence to the fact that He is good, I fear days like this:  days when I may seem less than grateful, less than capable of showing the beauty that can come from ashes.  But then I also wonder if these aren't the days when that is most apparent.  How can beauty be appreciated if the ashes were never visible?

Maybe what I should testify to is the limbo.  Right now, I'm standing in the middle and I can see ashes on one side and beauty on the other (and hope the latter will be the permanent reality).  But that's not what every day looks like for me.  And I think I would testify to lies if I told you I had this whole thing figured out and I'm at a complete place of peace.

Though, it is what I hope for.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Prayer Monday 9/26


Big Bro left about seven this morning to head to his new home in Ohio.  We had a nice breakfast send off, and we are all (as a family) anticipating great things for him in a new place.  He's making a home and a life for himself, and I think that's fantastic.

But we'll miss him.  He's such a constant, steadfast person.  And we become comfortable with what we know.

Please pray for him as he makes adjustments.  Pray for my STBSIL as she makes her way without him for the next few weeks.

We're still praying for confirmation regarding a church.  We didn't go this morning because we were up fairly early to say goodbye to Big Bro, and Favorite had to work today.  So it was a better idea to catch some sleep before a family dinner with his family.  Next Sunday will be a different ballgame.

Pray for our family.  Changes abound, ya'll.  And while we're happy for so many of them, there's an element of fear that accompanies a lot of change all at once.  We would certainly covet your prayers for peace in so many different ways.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Show Us Your Life: Shopping

So my body?  Isn't shaped normally.  I am chesty, hippy and, this just in, have a gut that just doesn't quit.  (See what I did there?)  That means that buying clothes--correction--MODEST clothes can be a bit of a challenge.

Over the years I've learned a couple of things about dressing this body of mine.  Part of that means spending a little extra money for pieces that I will wear continuously that are also high quality.

That means that one of my favorite places to look for clothes is L.L. Bean.  I generally wait until they are having a sale, but I have gotten the best 3/4 sleeve cardigans out there.  They are classic with bright colors and look nice with work pants or jeans.  Occasionally, I will purchase shirts there, too, but only if they are on sale.

Recently, I've become a pretty big fan of Kohl's.  Here's the deal:  I like a lot of plus size stores, and since I'm technically a plus size girl, I should be able to shop there.  The problem is the shirts.  The shoulders are almost always too big for the rest of my body so they are ill fitting.  Pants?  Not generally an issue.  So a place like Kohl's gives me the chance to get my plus size pants and a regular size shirt so my entire body looks like it's dressed decently.

I look for mix and match pieces at places like Macy's and Penney's.  I like to know that what I'm buying isn't necessarily an "outfit."  I'm never sure what's going to be clean or if I'm going to have time to do laundry so I need my closet to reflect those needs.  My pants are generally black or gray and I have a couple of dark gray pinstriped versions.

But jewelry can make or break you.  I've bought several pieces from Lia Sophia and a few others were gifts from my husband over the years.  Jewelry is the route to go to dress up an outfit or make it a little fun or funky.  You can make a tshirt from Target look awesome with the right accessories.

That said, I do buy tshirts, cardigans and other types of shirts at Target or Walmart.  I think if you find something cute, there's no reason to pass it up because it's in a discount store!

Mostly, I think it's about the fit and feel.  I'm very careful to cover my chest area and I make sure my clothing has enough give so it doesn't cling to the less than desirable parts of my body.

At the end of the day, I guess I wear what makes me comfortable--no matter the price point :)

Suggestions for an oddly shaped fat girl?  Leave them in the comments or shoot me an email:  cryshsmn@aol.com.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Unlikely Disciple: The Eye Opening Experience

A while back, I picked up the book The Unlikely Disciple:  A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University by Kevin Roose.



In it, Roose recounts a semester-long project in which he infiltrates Liberty University--Jerry Falwell's own conservative Christian school.  He describes himself as someone who "grew up in the ultimate secular/liberal family (my parents are Quakers who used to work for Ralph Nader), and I went to Brown University – a school that, by Falwellian standards, is only a notch or two above Sodom and Gomorrah."

I'm not sure what I expected when I opened to the first chapter, but I was sure I knew whether or not Roose would convert before I read the last pages.  What I found in the interim was a deeply moving lesson regarding the "outsider's" view of conservative Christianity.

To call a spade a spade, I would have to honestly tell you that my mouth is my biggest problem.  Sometimes it works sans filter.  Correction.  Often it works sans filter.  But I can't seem to get this scripture out of my mind:  "Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless" (James 1:26).

It bothers me.  I haven't done much about it, but Roose's book made it a little hard to ignore.  His major issue was the generous use of the words "gay" or "queer" as an insult to other guys in the dorm.  Those things were particularly insulting to him because he was very close to his two lesbian aunts--two women who would've found that language reprehensible.

What I wonder is why the Christian community doesn't find this language just as reprehensible?  If we're truly called to be set apart, and different, and we're expected to "keep [our] tongues from evil
and [our] lips from deceitful speech," how do we become so married to obviously perjorative phrases (1 Peter 3:10)?

Truthfully, I think it's due to lack of vigilance.  We don't always consider the weight of our words.  We've forgotten the charge laid on us in Titus:  "In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us" (Titus 2:7-8).

I hate to give any of my readers a spoiler, but the chances are good that I won't internalize this concept over night.  Or in a week.  And since I've been stewing on it for about a month, I think it's pretty safe to say that it's going to be a while before there is an effective follow through.

To be fair, words weren't Roose's only issue.  He encountered a lot of great guys who confessed Christ, but spent more time on personal lusts or gains than in scripture.  While I'd like to say that issues like this one are subject to young men on college campuses, the chances that someone would have the same experience after a semester with me is likely.  Highly.  Likely.

Were there great examples of Christ?  Absolutely.  And some of them really did impact Roose more deeply than I think he's able to articulate in the book.  In fact, I would venture to say that many of those "Christian" experiences have opened his eyes, too.  Thank God that's the case.  I'd hate to think I was the only one who got an eye opening experience out of his words.

In short, which this post totally isn't, you should read it.  For a hundred different reasons.  Whether you believe Christ or not.  Because we could all use a message in what it is to be genuine.

Which is a lesson I suppose Roose learned, too.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

There's No I in Team

Last night, a couple of coworkers and I ate dinner and then headed back to our local school board meeting.  We were anticipating a bit of a stressful night that revolved around test scores and, unfortunately, a discussion of AYP.

Our principal and one of my coworkers were armed with tables, charts, graphs--basically more information than could be processed in an hour.

My coworkers and I were armed with a love for our jobs and a real desire to do it well.

We explained.  We shared our position.  They listened.

Then, oh and then, they related to us.  They didn't just get it.  They commented.  They shared personal experiences and they shared opinions.

I wanted to stand up and scream, "YES!  Yes, it would be more beneficial if parents were more involved.  Yes, slow readers really don't perform well on this test even if they are thorough readers.  Yes, we are reevaluating our curriculum and adapting where it seems necessary, but no, we're not willing to disregard the fact that we aren't just preparing students for a test."

It was a light bulb moment.  But more than anything, it made me proud to be part of a team.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Prayer Monday 9/19

*Note To New Readers: Prayer Monday is NOT a closed group. Participate by sharing some of your requests on your blog and linking to this list. Then, read, say a quick prayer and comment on each participant's blog. We could all use a little encouragement and a lot of prayer.*

Favorite and I visited another church on Sunday.  A friend of ours actually attends this church, and we decided to give it a shot because it is a multi-ethnic church and Kevin has made such a great home there.

It was definitely a different experience for us.  Nothing like what we're used to, but I came away from that service with one thing firmly planted in my mind:  those people love Jesus.  They do.  Unabashedly.  Unapologetically.  And that relationship gives them a genuine love for other people.

Everyone was joyful.  It was easy to tell that they really believed in what they were doing.  I spent most of the service holding back tears because God's presence was palpable.  I just kept wondering:  how long has it been?

We're going back next Sunday because we had to leave the service early so Favorite could get to work.  Then we're going to revisit the church we went to last Sunday so we can make a final decision.  I'll be honest.  It's going to be a tough decision.  We would appreciate your prayers as we try to follow God's leading.  We also covet your prayers for our former home church.

Big Bro is spending his last week at home.  He leaves next Sunday for the next chapter in his life.  Pray for STBSIL since she will be staying here until after the wedding.  Favorite and I know how hard it is to be apart, and this will be something new for them.  Also, Big Bro will be starting his job--you know, the one you all prayed for :)

God's hand is heavy on our lives right now.  I know that's always the case, but sometimes it's easier to feel.  This is one of those times.  It's clear these things have been orchestrated by the Almighty and we want to glorify Him for His goodness.  We'd like to see Him continue moving in several other situations, too.

I appreciate your prayers for us :)




Friday, September 16, 2011

Show Us Your Life: Favorite Bible Studies

Hi, Kelly's Korner :)  (I've got a bit of a preface here, and then I'll get to the actual purpose of this post.)

If you've been reading this blog for a week, you know that we're in a season of change.  By "we," I pretty much mean everyone in my immediate circle of love.  Part of that, for a few of us, means finding a new church home.

I'm not super in love with the idea of looking for a new place, because I like being comfortable.  I like that I was dedicated in my current church.  I like that I know people, and their histories.  I like going to church with most of my family.

But more than anything, I have loved facilitating Women's Bible Study over the last several years.  I've tried to explain what they mean to me, but I feel like most of my words come up short.  Truly--there is nothing like sharing the word of God and your life with women who are making an investment in themselves, in you, in the Word and in a community of believers.

Leaving means I will be letting this ministry go.  I've cried more over the loss of that support system than I have over just about anything else.

In the time that I've facilitated Bible study we've done (that I can remember):
*  Breaking Free by Beth Moore
*  Living Beyond Yourself by Beth Moore
*  Jesus the One and Only by Beth Moore
*  Stepping Up by Beth Moore
*  The Patriarchs by Beth Moore
*  Esther by Beth Moore
*  Seeking A Heart Like His by Beth Moore
*  Believing God by Beth Moore
*  He Speaks to Me by Priscilla Shirer
*  Conversation Peace

I can honestly say that each study met me where I was and spoke to particular needs.  But the ones that continually resonate with me are Living Beyond Yourself and Seeking A Heart Like His.  The latter is the most recent study, and there are so many things that hit home with me (and likely more than I missed).  I just needed to hear those tender words.

I plan to revisit Living Beyond Yourself and Seeking a Heart Like His at some point in time.  And I'm praying that I will have the opportunity to get involved in a group like this when God leads us to our new home.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Theory...or lack of

I've spent my day grading papers, reading about deconstructinist theory and contemplating the fact that the really disturbing thing about trauma is the fact that you don't really experience it until you are absent from the event that caused it in the first place.

Thank you grad school for fixing my ability to converse like a normal human being. I'm going to spend the next three days adding "that's what she said" to the end of every sentence to keep myself from getting absorbed in material I only half understand.

I wish I still believed that what doesn't kill me only makes me stronger. Too bad I put that theory to rest last year or I would be drowning in the ocean while trying to use it as my flotation device.

Speaking of flotation devices: does anyone have a good topic for Holocaust literature that leans heavily toward the theoretical? I can only tread water for so long...

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Update I Promised

There are several things going on that I've been wanting to flesh out here, but sometimes grading, laundry and lack of words get in the way. 

Last night, I ugly cried with Big Brother.  We knew it was coming.  He and his STBwife would be making a home in Ohio, and we would have to learn to navigate the distance.  Hopefully gracefully.  Knowing me, probably not.

He commented how just a year ago he couldn't see how these things would pan out.  When all of his plans fell through, he couldn't see anything.  But while he couldn't see anything, God was ordering his steps.  Ten years ago, when he never imagined what today would look like, God ordered his steps.  And now?  It seems a little like God is willing to pull back the veil and give us a brief glance at the pattern.

That's likely naive.  But what we've seen to this point is beautiful.

While we were ugly crying, Ronnie and I came to the realization that change, the most difficult thing we'll ever do, can be the very thing that allows us the opportunity to see the pattern.  And sometimes, all the events that led to that change give us the very same opportunity.

Not so long ago, I posted that I believed this is a season of change for us.  I dreaded it and anticipated it at the same time.

And now?

Now, I'm embracing it.  And not because I'm some amazingly accepting human being, either.  I'm embracing it because I don't have any other option.

But also because the wind is blowing a different direction these days, and I've learned to appreciate the breeze when it comes.

Oh, and the church thing?  We visited one on Sunday we actually liked.  It felt like family.  We'd like to try one more before we make any final decisions.

Until then, I'm keeping the proverbial windows open and enjoying the crisp air.

Prayer Monday 9/12


I'll be back later today to post something else, but I forgot to schedule this last night and I wanted to get this up and running for those who participate.  
Today, my brother and STBSIL fly to Ohio to find a place to live.  God has clearly ordered their steps to this point, and we believe He will continue to do so as they try to find a new residence.  All I ask is that you pray peace in their hearts and a sense of "this-is-it" when they find their new home...oh, and that it will feel like coming home when they step in the door.

I feel like there are some really cool turn-arounds going on in my Christian journey.  I'll try to post later tonight to give you a quick update and post some pictures of the first wedding shower :)

For now, link up.  

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Accomplishments

Oat night I did something that made me more proud than anything I've ever done before.


I gave Favorite a wedgie in the middle of Walmart.


Yes it was as amazing as it sounds.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

I'm Not Gonna Lie: It's a List

Normally, I would wield some compelling story about something funny that happened to me in front of the school tech guy that involved my husband over the phone and a pretty intimate joke that the tech guy actually heard because my husband was talking AS LOUD AS HE POSSIBLY COULD, therefore requiring said tech guy to say he didn't hear anything when IN FACT HE HEARD EVERYTHING but today, I'm not going to do that.

Today, I'm going to give you a list.  I'm going to ask for suggestions.  I'm going to hope this spurs creativity.

*  Grad school is going better.  The professor stopped me in the parking lot the other day to let me know that I'm doing fine.  I'll be honest:  it was nice to have the encouragement.  I'm clearly out of my element, and even though he realizes it, he's gracious enough to let me find my way.  God bless him.

*  I have a bet with a student who believes I can't tell the difference between a paper he spent 30  minutes on and a paper he spent 1 hr and 30 minutes on.  We took bets.  Most of the class seems to have great faith in my deciphering ability.

*  I was going to wait, but I ordered bedding for my guest room.  Wanna see it?

I was looking for something in a green or an orange, and I love the bluey-turquoisey accents in this piece.  It will go nicely with the paint color in the guest room.  And this means that I can finally start working on the guest room.  I'm envisioning some really great stuff in there.  For one, blue ceramic tables as night stands (like the one in the picture below):



(TO AMBER:  I didn't settle for bedding, and I'm SO happy!  This is definitely the same color family that I hoped for, and I got a really good deal on it.)

*  My brother and STBSIL leave soon to house hunt in Ohio.  I'm hoping they fall in love with something that's just "them."

*  I don't enjoy looking for a new church.  I had a few things to say here about looking, but I certainly don't enjoy the process.  Why can't there just be a church called "This is the perfect church for you" and you go there and know that's exactly where you're supposed to be?  I guess it boils down to the fact that I just want to do the right thing.  I want to follow God's leading.  So we're walking until we're clear.

*  I was aggravated with my current university for not posting my tuition waiver to my account.  Then I realized the fax didn't go through.  Yes.  Yes, I am delayed.

*  A few students at my school wanted to start an online school paper this school year.  I decided it sounded like a good use of time and volunteered myself to head up that project.  We are supposed to launch on Friday (and will hopefully be on schedule).  So far, the articles are really impressive.  I just got one today that blew my mind.  They are working so hard and I really hope this is a successful venture.  (And if you have any advice on wordpress, let me know.  That's the tool we're using for the paper.)

*  My car has been acting weird.  Come to find out, it needs new struts.  Oh, and due to the struts, my tires have worn badly and need to be replaced.  Total cost for said project?  $1200.  It's a little ouch over here. 

I welcome comments on any and all subjects.  Let's converse.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Jiggle It

This is a world full of ego maniacs.  People need to have their ego stroked to work well, or, in some cases, work at all.  I find it increasingly frustrating that an entire subgroup of people exist who simply need the rest of us to tell us how great they are when they may not, in fact, be great at all.

On Fridays, I try to get home as fast as possible, because Favorite is home and we get to hang out.  Plus, it's the weekend.  But this past Friday?  I sat in the parking lot while my ignition refused to turn.

No matter what I did (and I tried a great many things), that stupid key refused to budge.

I made sure my car was in park.  I turned the steering wheel.  I wiggled the key.  I turned harder.

And for my effort?  I got a blister on my finger.

I finally broke down and called Favorite.  He drove all the way into town (about 15 minutes), got in my car and started it right up.

I narrowed my eyes and asked, "Why would it work for you?"

He said, "You have to jiggle it."

"I DID jiggle it."

"Yeah," he said.  "But you have to jiggle it a specific way to get it to turn.  It has to be really fast and then you have to turn back before you turn forward."

So what did I learn from this experience?

My ignition doesn't just need to be stroked; it needs to be stroked with precison.  Therefore?  My ignition is a bastard ego maniac.

Which I guess is a valuable lesson for a Friday.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

On Finding A Church Home

Tomorrow, Favorite and I are visiting another church.  The thing is, we aren't really looking for a church.  We're looking for a home.  It's hard to articulate the particular set of needs that goes with finding a church home or a church family.  Like most people, I think it's like love--you know it when you get there.

Choosing to find a new home was difficult--not just the place we would choose, but making the decision to choose at all.

We just found ourselves in a set of life circumstances that couldn't be anticipated.  First, when doctors told us to adopt because we'd never have biological children.  Secondly, when we miraculously found ourselves pregnant and then failed to see that heart continue beating.

Those circumstances aren't rare.  They aren't special.  But something broke when those things happened to us.  And to be honest, it was difficult to believe that God could possibly be good when what looked like a miracle literally died in front of our eyes.  Those may not be good or healthy thought processes.  But they were real. 

Dark.  But real.

For the last year and a half, we haven't just coped.  I would certainly use that word to describe the first few months, and it makes an appearance on what would have been major milestones.  But the word I would use is grace.  They have been grace-filled moments of God sweetly drawing Favorite and me to Himself. 

Ministry is usually described in a vocational light.  But we came to understand that the real ministry during this time period came from the people who called to see how we were.  People who came over and watched movies.  People who remembered our loss and acknowledged that loss is loss--no matter the time period.  People who taught us to smile and laugh again.  People who were consistently tender and understanding--even a year in.

Those people fed us.  Now we're looking for a home where the same thing can happen--and where we can do a bit of feeding ourselves.

We're still broken.  Healed doesn't mean the cracks aren't visible.  But unanticipated situations have a way of letting the light shine through the cracks.  And that's just enough light to walk in.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Show Us Your Life: Favorite Blogs

I love blogs.  It's probably sad that a little computer screen keeps me connected to reality (is that even possible?).  Oh well.  I guess I just love the fact that those who write about their lives tend to sit down and find the humor (or the lesson) in a situation before writing.  Personally, that's what I appreciate about blogging.  Well, that and the delete button.

People from "Real" Life

Kate is a friend of mine who is a guru in all things media--particularly celebrities.  Want to know something about a popular television show or band?  She's your girl.  Interested in life as a middle school teacher?  She knows where it's at.  Want information on how to cook raw meat?  I'd look elsewhere.

Sheena is my STBSIL.  She and my brother will be moving to Ohio to start a completely new life soon.  Her blog will be a necessity when it comes to communication.  Oh, and she's started talking about hilarious topics like torque and racing.  Who says ghetto redneck isn't a possibility?  (Only kidding.  I just think it's funny when girls from the ghetto comment on NASCAR.)

Eventually, my friend Casey is going to answer her calling in the food industry.  Until then, take advantage of her willingness to share her genius over the world wide web.

People I Stalk (And I mean that in the most Christ-like of ways)

E, Myself and I is a constant amusement.  She recently gave birth to her first child (a son--Sam), and offers full disclosure about her self esteem, joy and job.  AND, she manages to do it with a smile on her face.

Becoming Sarah is a blog about a girl and her girl.  She's brilliant and hippie and crunchy and all those wonderful things I fail at every single day.  She recently suffered a miscarriage, but walked her audience through the process with such brilliant works of prose, I wanted to ask her if she's a published author. 

Who doesn't love Young House Love?  Not only am I a fan of their DIY craziness, I'm caught up in all the amazing pictures they've posted of their home.  I've been in mine for almost a year and my guest bath still doesn't have a mirror.  Do they make house calls?

Over at Mabel's House, Liz has just sent her sister back to Japan for another year long adventure.  Her posts are always short, picture-filled and positive.  Her pictures of food make me salivate.  Oh, and she might be the reason I insist on eating tomato salads in the dead of summer.  (PS.  Mabel is actually the dog...)

Chapters is a blog about a girl.  A girl who is physically fit.  A girl who helps others become physically fit.  On top of those things (which are feats in and of themselves), she's a Christian who is gracefully dancing down the road of infertility.  And I mean that exactly the way it sounded.  If I could do anything in life with as much grace as she's handled that horrific situation, the Catholic church would saint me while I was still breathing.

Of course, I read a ton of other things that are hilarious (Hyperbole and a Half, anyone?).  You only need check my sidebar to find a few of them.  But these are the ones I never, ever miss.  (Of course, I also read Kelly's Korner, Katie's Keepers and BigMama religiously.)  Check them out.  Leave them a comment. 

Oh, and just so I feel important, leave me a comment, too?


Thursday, September 1, 2011

One More

Favorite is home, so I don't want to waste too much time on here, but after yesterday's post, I thought I'd give you a little surprise.

Down another pound as of this morning.

Isn't that awesome?!  It's coming off.  Slowly, but surely.  And this time, I feel like I'm really committing to eating better food--whole food instead of convenience crap.

Four pounds isn't a lot, but it's 16 sticks of butter.  And when you put it in that kind of perspective, it feels pretty awesome.