12.31.2008

Cheesecake Flop



For Jonathan's 26th birthday I decided to make him his favorite--turtle cheesecake. I baked it, took it out of the springfoam pan and placed it in the refrigerator to chill. A few hours later Jonathan opened up the fridge door to get some milk for his tea and found chunks of cheesecake goo everywhere. Everywhere! And this is what was left of it. Notice that there's a portion of fully formed cheesecake that will feed two of us perfectly. The rest of it, well, I figure we can still eat it and call it Cheesecake Pudding. I'm beginning to wonder how many new recipes are old recipes gone flop.

Later I'll post a picture of the cake-pudding with toppings and all. Hopefully then it will look more edible.

12.22.2008

the Light stepped in




Seven people, two bedrooms, one bathroom equals merry Christmas (and short showers)

Talking to a friend tonight about the crazy snow in the midwest I realized that I haven't seen snow in over a year. London had one Easter fling with Mr. Jack Frost, but there wasn't even enough to dust the streets and by the time I looked out my window to see the snow, it was gone. Now I'm in Lodi, and it's hard for me to imagine below zero temps when it feels like a brisk autumn day every time I wander outside (I hear that although rare, it does occasionally snow. And I did have to scrape ice off of my windshield the other day, so freezing temps happen.)

But this Christmas won't be entirely without snow. My parents and three younger brothers are flying in to celebrate with us, and a few days later we'll go skiing/snowboarding in Tahoe. Until then, we plan to make the most of our time together and similate Christmas all over again after they arrive on Christmas Day. We'll enjoy appetizers around a warm fire and the Christmas tree, open gifts and play games--Christmas Eve all over again. "Christmas Day" (which will be the day after Christmas) we'll go to Target for our annual Stocking Shopping Extravaganza which consists of seven people employing military strategies to dodge each other around store corners and protect our cart's contents from being seen by gift receivers. Then we'll come home, open stockings and enjoy a hearty Christmas dinner of h** (censored for readers sensitive to certain hoofed and curly-tailed barn animals). I'm also hoping to watch the Nativity Story which is quite a good version of the original Luke manuscript, except for the Prince look-alike angel who circles Mary like a sexual predator (and how disappointing that the "host of angels" that appears to the shepherds is not a host, but the same Prince guy. The ONLY angel that appears! What happened to all of our modern graphical technology and why isn't it good enough for shepherds?)

Never mind. In the spirit of English tradition, I made mince pies and we're going to drink mulled wine and pop Christmas crackers and really, I'm just excited to see my family. All seven of us will be under one roof for the first time in a year and four months!

12.15.2008

The Man With the Can

Sauntering out of Staples and trying to juggle bag and handbag and newly bought goods. Ready to cross the street. Pause. Tilt head, rotate ear toward the increasing sound of guttural yelling and pavement pounding closer, closer, closer--

just missed by a running dashing baggy man dodging people and store columns and carts and gripping a large white can. Open-mouthed and wide-eyed he races forward fast forward eyes straining--

just missed by two men racing forward fast forward flash of white, Navy white-- the bell man who said: "Feed my can! Feed my can!" now blazing by, in Spanish screaming: "Give me can! Give me can!" hopeless, fighting, mad.

A crowd gathers, rallies.

Two teens run to catch up with the mess.

A clerk from Staples runs out to help.

We watch and wait.

A sour taste on our tongues, for the man who steals small coins, for the man who steals from Christmas, for the man who steals from troops.

Jingle Bells cracking from the speakers.

12.11.2008

Maturity Takes a Beating

The townhouse complex we live in only has a limited amounted of parking. Jonathan parks his car in the garage and I park mine in one of two spaces closest to where we live. This is how it went down a few days ago:

Driving into our car park, I noticed that a truck had parked in my spot. Because the owner wasn't around, I pulled into an open spot across from mine, opened my door halfway and heard:

"I hope you don't plan on staying there long." I opened my door wider and saw an older woman sticking her head out of her door, scowling at me. "That's my husband's space."

"I'm sorry, but someone parked in my space, too. That's it over there." I pointed to the spot behind me.

"Well I've lived here for fifteen years and you better go find the person who parked there and tell them to move. Because you're parked in my husband's space and he's getting back in a little while."

I almost laughed, imagining myself knocking on every door in the complex and asking for the truck owner who had parked in my spot. Instead I just got peeved. It really wasn't a big deal, I knew, but she was making it one. Who immediately yells at strangers/quasi-neighbors for something so minor? I asserted, a little too loudly, "I'm leaving in a little bit, but we can switch places if you want," hoping she would see that I was the more mature one and that she was the overreacting one. I noticed the driver of the car was wisely making herself inconspicuous and staying out of the brawl.

"No." She glared at me and repeated herself menacingly. "But he'll be home in a little while."

"I'll switch places with you, I really will."

"It's fine."

We both got out of our cars, shutting the doors a little too hard. She wandered to the end of the parking lot, her back turned to me, waiting for her friend/daughter/someone to gather her things. And I stormed to my apartment. I unpacked my groceries and wondered how many years I had digressed in five minutes of cat fighting. This is what happens when I settle myself into a new "big kids" life and start calling myself an adult.

12.06.2008

A Response to Chain Emails

I'm not an LOLer. Sometimes this bothers people I hang out with because they assume I'm not getting their joke or that I'm mad at them. Really, it's not either of those things. Let me say that again: When I don't laugh, it's NOT because I'm mad. It's just that I naturally take the inaudible approach (maybe because I've been burned by a few loud laughers, I don't know).

Anyway, when I read this post on Stuff Christians Like, I really did lol. That tells you something. Hopefully you will too.

12.02.2008

Teachable

Jonathan loves the movie Miracle. He played hockey most of his childhood and teenage life, so there is an obvious connection to a movie about an Olympic hockey team. But it's more than that. As he was reminding me today, there's an interesting scene towards the beginning when the hockey coach shows up to tryouts to pick his team. After only fifteen minutes, the coach announces that he's already got the guys he wants. People are shocked. One coach reminds him that some of the prospective players haven't even showed up. But the coach is convinced he has his team. Why? Fifteen minutes was all he needed to see how teachable each player would be, and how they would work together as a team.

I always knew it was important to be a learner. But now, more than ever, I'm realizing how much more important it is that someone be willingly teachable, flexible, and pliable, rather than naturally gifted. Of course both are preferred, but here's the thing: even if a child has the potential to be an amazing basketball player, even if he has the natural gifts, he still needs someone to tell him how to shoot a basketball correctly. Or, let's say a basketball team has been playing with each other for three years, beginning their freshman year and working their way up to senior varsity team. A new coach comes on the scene. Partly because he's new and partly because he just has different ideas of how things are done, he starts introducing new drills, plays and techniques. Now, if the team isn't willing to accept his new ideas as good and implement them, if they aren't willing to give up ownership, they won't go very far. Some of them will probably listen to the coach and come of them won't. It'll be difficult to communicate. If they're not willing to learn, it'll be like trying to shoot a ball into a brick wall. Not only does it not go in a hoop and score a point, but it bounces right back atcha for a bruiser face. Not so much fun.

And sometimes that's how I feel.

11.29.2008

Recipe for a KettleCorn Weekend

I love kettlecorn--sweet and salty and something for everyone.

FROM THE KITCHEN OF:
amy

SERVES:
3 or 4 or seventy times seven

INGREDIENTS:
One holiday-grocery trip to Raley's (or favorite food supply store with favorable customer service and plentiful smiles)

1 potato water roll recipe from Mom

1 crockpot of Turkey Meatloaf and bowl of mashed potatoes left over from roll recipe (must eat after Thanksgiving eve church)

Three hours of Thanksgiving roll baking time with Coldplay in the background

Three hours of Macy's Day Parade on couch in pajamas

1 cup of coffee made at home in pajamas

1 phone call to Dad in Denver

1 happy husband

3 fun friends

2 bottles of Trader Joe wine

10-dishes for Thanksgiving feast*

An afternoon of relaxed conversation peppered with uncontrollable laughter

1 phone call to Mom in Denver

2 comfy couches

7 couch cushions for floor bed

1 pumpkin spice grande latte (with 2 shots)

1 Shane and Shane holiday CD

As many San Francisco zoo animals as you can fit into a day of sightseeing (including the ones we named, like Sir Alfred the Penguin and I-Kill-You the Tiger and Pierce the Rhinoceros) + 1 bowl of chili

A handful of kodak moments

1 beach-at-dusk

9 dishes of leftover Thanksgiving feast (plus 1 pumpkin roll)

1 and a half matinee hours of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

Three hours at Stockton Thunder hockey game with happy husband and four fun friends

1 plateful of late-night pasta dish to eat while blogging and listening to Christmas music while husband sleeps his cold off

DIRECTIONS
Throw all ingredients into a pot and pop. Share with anyone who wants to join you!


*Best results occur if you phone a friend to make you baked brie in puff pastry and cinnamon walnuts, garlic mashed potatoes, and sour cream pumpkin pie in addition to the traditional dishes.

11.25.2008

Unemployed Seeks Employment (and wonders if a commute to San Fran ain't so bad)

Today I hit an all time low on the scale of positive-outlook-for-future-employment. I found out that a local literary agency isn't hiring, which was a disappointment because it was my opportunity for a full-time LOCAL literary career. I seriously found myself wondering what I could have done differently with my life. Jonathan and I willingly chose Lodi together. I acknowledged that it would be difficult to find an on-site project editor or acquisitions editor job--even editorial assistant would be difficult. Those jobs are in San Francisco which is an hour and a half away. . .

. . . an hour and a half isn't so bad, is it?

Whenever someone asks me what my degree is in, or what I want to be when I grow up, I justify my choice of profession. It's because everyone wants to be a writer. Everyone is mentally splicing a novel, or pinning together a story as they go about their daily lives. Who am I to think that I should call myself a writer? At times I feel SO LOW on the totem pole--thinking that I'm nothing but a writer, and some people are five other things as well as being a writer. But here's the thing. I don't only want to write. I edit so that I can be a writer, and it's true--I love editing. I tell you, it's a respectable (and highly underrated) job in and of itself. I'm reminded of this every time I pick up a poorly edited book, and it seems like there's lot's of those these days. Publishing houses are hiring less in-house editors and either hiring freelancers or telling authors to find their own. It should be a good market for me, but wow. It's hard to get established and make connections.

Anyway, the day did get better when I found out that I have a few possibilities left. Then I went to worship practice, and on the way home a song came on the radio. I don't even like the station--it borders on idolatry with its famous worship leader profiles and contest about Michael W. Smith that's called something like, "THE ULTIMATE WORSHIP LEADER!" (that's how they announce it. Not kidding. Did I miss the BBC special about God knighting MWS?). Anyway, some guy was singing a song about how God times the sunsets and sunrises just right and knows our deepest needs, and I was completely humbled.

God not only knows my deepest need but he's already taken care of it. It's life. His saving life, coursing through my veins and pumping eternity into this greedy heart of mine. Since when did I start thinking that God owed me something? Especially a job? He's given me enough purpose to last a thousand lifetimes on this planet, and I'm wandering about complaining I don't have one.

This week I'm praying that God opens up my Lodi eyes to see what this community needs.

11.24.2008

Twice the Christmas Fun

My friend Jen at The Perfect Umbrella recently posted a list of online stores that give a portion of their proceeds to fight the injustices of human trafficking, slavery, and inhumane working conditions. If you'd like your Christmas money to make a global impact this year, I encourage you to check it out. And why not include your friends and family in the joy of double giving? Print out a copy of the organization's mission statement, goals, and progress and include it with the gift so they know their gift is improving someone's life.

Thanks for the heads up, Jen.

11.17.2008

Just One Margarita...

Is it bad that I know that one margarita--especially Jonathan's homemade margarita with fresh lime juice--loosens me up just enough to create the perfect blend of spontaneous thought and inhibition that makes for easy words that flow like the salmon of Capistrano?

I'm not gonna lie--I just googled "salmon of capistrana" to make sure I was spelling that right. So now I know that one margarita is not enough to cage the nerdy in me one bit...

Punctuated by the fact that I just used the Brit's favourite word "bit" and put it in quotes...

Now I know why junior high was so hard.

Book Ideas. Vote Now!

Regarding a book for the nameless book club...

I've had three suggestions for books and thought of some myself, so please let me know if you've read any of these or prefer one over the other or have other ideas:

Fiction
1. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, Mark Haddon
2. The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood
3. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson
4. The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini
5. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
6. A Mercy, Toni Morrison

Nonfiction
1. A Reason for God, Tim Keller
2. Outliers, Malcom Gladwell
3. The Post-American World, Fareed Zakaria
4. Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace... One School at a Time, Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin

If you don't have a decent public library or don't want to buy the book, check out Bookswim . It's the book version of netflix.

Let me know what you think and we can get started!

11.15.2008

Fear Number 2

I'm still amazed by the divisiveness of the election. People who normally profess the same beliefs, hopes, wonders and fears, people who would, in most cases, agree especially about the fundamental truths of their faith and their relationship with Christ, have taken up (and still reside) on opposite sides of enemy lines. And it confuses me for one reason: when Jesus came, he did not come to establish a political kingdom. He was not concerned with the Roman occupation, as Philip Yancey says in his book, The Jesus I Never Knew. This is a whole world apart from God’s Kingdom. I think too many Christians are placing their hope in the non-existent saving powers of government, believing that legislation equals redemption. It doesn't. It never will. It was never Jesus' goal while he was on earth. So why the fear of God's judgement on the country, when all we have control over is his judgement on ourselves individually?

But on the other side of fear is apathy and disrespect. There are people who are too spiritually motivated to care about our present and physical world. We saw the repercussions of this thought trend in the early twentieth century, when a generation decided they didn’t care about the poor, the hurting, because the “social gospel,” as they hatefully termed it, endangered the true Gospel message (it did in extreme cases, but that's another story). Today some people are still choosing this stance, especially when it comes to respecting and caring for our world. It’ll all pass away anyway, right? Why should we make the effort to recycle? To conserve energy? To provide food and shelter and healing for people? But to think this way is crazy. It would be like not going to the doctor when you’re sick because you know you’ll die eventually anyway. There are people out there who can't even begin to care about their spiritual wellness (or in fact, care about it more than we know because it's all they have) until their physical needs are met.

Too many of us are driven by unnecessary fear. In other words, we fear something that's out of our hands. I will not spend my life in California worrying that my stuff will get stolen. First of all, it's just stuff. Second of all, to use a still too underrated phrase: worrying doesn't solve anything. It's true. And this is true for our country as well.

Fear Number 1

It's Saturday morning and I should be picture hanging or desk organising. But I have a full cup of coffee to drink and the sun is shining just so on our dining room carpet, somehow reminding me of all the blog topics accumulating on my brain (and the fact that I've been wanting to write at all, full stop). Two have to do with unnecessary fear, one has to do with the theft stories I hear daily.

For those of you who don't know the central valley area well, let me just tell you that for the first time in my life we're getting renter's insurance. I'm taking my CD player out of my car every time I go into the grocery story. This is all a bit unexpected (although I had heard about the crime rate before we arrived--thankfully not violent crime, but still theft) but it doesn't help when I try to rationalize my fear away while in conversation with a local, expecting them to do the same, only to have them validate my fear by telling me more stories about their mother who lives in a nice neighbourhood near church who has had four break-ins in the last week. Then I turn on the news and hear about the nice church-going people in Stockton whose cars are being robbed while they're in the services and it all just makes me wonder how I'm going to set up a life here. We should not have to live in fear of our computers being taken every time we leave the house!

Not to deter people from visiting, of course--we do live in a gated community which helps a lot, and the people who lived here before us were never robbed, and they lived here three and a half years...

Still to Come...

The blogging book club. This weekend I'm going to do some research, find a book, and let you all know about it so we can actually start the club that I mentioned too many weeks ago. Sorry for the delay. Thanks for your patience.

11.11.2008

Normal

What's "normal"?

A feeling of familiarity. Comfort. Hope for the tomorrows that you haven't seen yet.

It's waking up in the a.m. and believing in the day that awaits you--not knowing what awaits you, but trusting what awaits you.

It's walking into a party where the conversations are challenging, but reachable. With conclusions that are provoking, but promising.

Yesterday normal was achievable; today normal is being stretched in ways it doesn't flex. Any day now my world will snap. Is "surprise" the new normal?

11.07.2008

The Roving Candle

Yesterday evening at 7:30 marked one full week in Lodi. I've spent the week moving furniture from one side of the apartment to another and trudging up and down the stairs with piles of towering boxes and odds and ends that trip over themselves and down the steps like a slinkie--

*pause for commercial break courtesy of the Lost and Found band*

"you keep on trying to crash my party but you can't--SLINKIE!--swallow my soul no no no..."

*resume to regularly scheduled programme*

--must be a mile a day at least on those stairs, and lifting heavy boxes from one corner of the room to a closet and to another part of the closet and then readjusting the contents a few times again--so much so that all the heavy lifting rested in my chest muscles so tightly that I wondered if I was having a heart attack one night.

But luckily, the sweet sweet fumes of a cucumber and green tea Yankee Candle have followed me everywhere. And I mean everywhere. A very thoughtful, anonymous woman left it for us in our new place before we arrived--and I bet she didn't even know that candles are my favourite! If I had a show like Oprah I would feature a new candle every single time--that's how much I love them (p.s. anyone see 30 Rock last night? "BORAH!" hehehe). This green candle has gone with me EVERYWHERE. Every time I move to another room to organize, I take the candle with me. The kitchen, the living room, the guest room, the bathroom, the closet (not really the closet, that was exaggerating a bit), it gives every room a cheery, inviting glow that murmurs, "welcome home!" in a voice that sounds very much like that southern cooking show host with the white hair and two sons I've seen a few times. I am so thankful for my candle.

Well, Jonathan just opened the front door and a gust of cool November wind and woodsy fireplace smoke blew in the door. Which makes me wonder if I mentioned we have a fireplace? We'll probably have to have it swept before we use it, but still--we have a fireplace! *sigh of contentment* Next on the list is a velvet red robe and a cigar and classical music, and I guess then I'll officially be able to label myself a writer (or a British telly programme host...) But a roving candle is a start.

11.04.2008

Muted Muck

Just muted the constant whine of the election news guys on the TV behind me. . . ears sagging from war words. Eyes bleeding red and blue.

I'm knackered of it all, and I don't even get to vote.

But it's not just the election. I had a few thoughts about my discombobulated nature on Thursday while driving my car across the Sierras and in Sacramento traffic, trailing the 26 foot big rig Penske that Jonathan drove. The entire four days we spent travelling from Denver to Salt Lake to Reno and finally to Lodi felt weird. I kept thinking, This move doesn't feel real. I don't have a job waiting for me. We're leaving our friends and family indefinitely, with no time limit. Two months ago we were squeezed into a city of 8 million people, now we'll have room to breathe in a city of 60,000. Even now, after Jonathan and I have set up most of our possessions in our rented townhouse and we've been introduced to our generous, unselfish new church family, it still feels odd. Why?

I think I know why. It's crazy, I admit (and frankly I'm embarrassed to publish it, so let's keep it between you and I and the computer screen) but I think it has something to do with the fact that three people have told me within the last week that they think the world is going to end soon, and for some strange reason, I've absorbed it into the unfiltered part of my brain--the worrywart, unable-to-watch-suspenseful movies-because-of-stress brain, not the reasonable, level-headed ENFJ brain, of course. Case in point: As I've been cleaning and organizing the house these past few days, I've been mentally making some goals and planning a cover letter for my resume. But before I can stop my thoughts, I find myself thinking: Why should I make plans? The world will be over and done with and my energies wasted.

This is pure INSANITY! Besides the fact that throughout human history people have been unsuccessfully predicting the last days, up to the actual date and time, and besides the fact that God told us we will never know the exact time, there are so many reasons why both the prediction of and the fact of the world ending are not worth worrying about. Especially as I establish a new life with the love of my life. This should be a fun change. But regardless, these are my first emotional thoughts. The scared looks on familiar faces have imprinted themselves on my mood, and I am psychologically scarred by the combination of economic crisis + election + end time fear + personal life juggling.

All I want right now is to cozy up to the familiar--to laugh with people I love, to watch the Office, to fantasize about the same future I fantasized about as a girl, to have a world of possibility wide open in front of me. Is maturity really a backward process... going back to childlike faith?

I know God's plans are perfect. But sometimes my desires are just too normal for his supernormal plans.

11.01.2008

Did I Say Dusty Boxes?

On August 23, 2006 I wrote one of my first blogs about our move to Reno for Jonathan's internship. Now I wonder what dust I could have possibly been talking about--because it definitely does not compare to the one year old dust from a month of earthquakes and shifting desert wind sliding underneath the door of our compact storage unit. We did our best to store almost everything in bins and two layers of bubble-wrap textured trash bags, but of course a bit seeped through. And now we have the fun job of attempting to unpack and de-dust without breathing in the dirt fumes. But I don't want to sound like a complainer, not after all the good God has done in our life to get us here to Lodi.

It was a long trek--began the day after the Huskers beat Baylor on a sunny red day in Lincoln. We drove from Omaha to Denver with my brother (he also met up with my two brothers in Nebraska to go to the game), spent the night in Denver and packed up a small truck, drove to Salt Lake, spent the night, drove to Reno (Fernley just outside Reno) and spent two nights with friends while we packed our storage unit into a bigger truck. Jonathan then had to drive a 26 footer over the Sierra Nevadas and into Sacramento traffic and rain, which took us four hours rather than 2 and a half. But we made it to Lodi safely the night of October 30th. And we were so thankful to have a place to live for a great price! The timing couldn't have been more perfect. A couple from our new church was renting out a townhouse and needed someone to move in by November 1st. One of Jonathan's fellow co-workers found out about it and took pictures for us, and we agreed to rent just a few days before we left Nebraska. We moved in Oct. 31st, and they were able to move into their new place too.

Our pastor recently told us that our new congregation is extremely rare--so much heart here and sensitivity to people's feelings that there's enough here to fill up other churches. We've already witnessed it. The day after we arrived, five guys from our church helped move us in. One of them is a professional mover, and things got situated into their proper rooms before I could even offer to help (I did try, but the professional mover told me to be the traffic cop). Someone else from church had even supplied dishwasher soap and toilet paper and dish towels and food and paper plates and lot's of other little things in our new place so we wouldn't be without anything while we unpacked. These people seem to go above and beyond--we're excited about getting to know everyone here.

After a year abroad and a quasi-relaxed month of visiting family and friends, it feels good to be sleeping in our own bed and to know that we can finally put down some roots. And the best news... Trader Joe's is only twelve minutes away from our townhouse!

10.13.2008

Disappearing Act

September 17 was the last time I wrote. September 17 Jonathan and I were preparing to leave on a week long trip to Europe, after which we'd come back to London homeless, wandering aimlessly between hospitable friends who (hopefully) would be willing to put up with us for a few nights until we left London permanently. Well, somehow it all worked. Somehow we managed to fit in a trip to Prague, Salzburg, Venice, Florence and Rome (and managed to squeeze ourselves next to the toilet and a couple from Brazil and a couple from New Zealand and a girl from Australia and a pram--a.k.a. stroller--on an overbooked train from Prague on its way to Munich for Oktoberfest... not sure how that was even possible). Somehow we closed out our self-indulgent year in London, made it to Denver--albeit with missing luggage that disappeared between the clerk that checked us in and the conveyor belt (she forgot to put a tag on it)-- and now here we are, almost a month later, in Seward, NE and staying with our grandparents and seeing my brothers Markus and Andrew for the first time in a year. Yesterday was the end of the two week period we spent in Denver with my parents and brother Joel. Great time meeting up with family and friends, seeing the fall colors of Breckenridge, CO (jogged my forgetful memory, reminding me that it's one of my favorite places in the world--even after Europe) and spent time preparing for our move to Lodi at the end of the month.

It's gone so fast! So fast that it's been a month since I last blogged. I don't have time to delve into profound insights today, but I've had plenty of time to digest future material. And I have a few stories to share. But it'll have to wait till next time, because I have some face to face catching up to do...

9.16.2008

Europe Adventure

It's 12:43 am Wednesday September 17 and Jonathan and I have just finished packing up our London apartment. I am watching the second to last load of laundry spin in our washer/dryer and willing it to go faster so I can get into bed and rest up for our last week of European adventures. Yes, our last week in Europe is upon us! Tomorrow we fly to Prague, and for the next 7 seven days we will be traversing the cities of Prague, Salzburg, Venice, Florence and Rome. We'll arrive back in London on Wednesday September 24, and for the final five days we'll suck our last breath of English air, solidifying memories of London on our brains. We'll then fly to Denver on September 29th, arriving there at 6:30 pm or so the same day. It's sad to see the time go, but we're ready to close this chapter of our life and begin a new one.

But enough of sentiments. I'm sure you'll be hearing more from us when we return, and until then, keep us in your prayers if you think about it. Very soon we'll be seeing many of you back on American soil!

9.11.2008

Mean Blokes

A play

Outside of the protection of their borders, innocent Americans venture into foreign lands looking for excitement and an expanded world view. As they live and work amongst the aliens, they uncover a dangerous secret that will turn their happy-go-lucky joyride into a societal survival struggle against the bullies of the world.

Cast of Characters:

Jag: Generally nice English bloke. Inebriated rockstar with fuschia hair.
Mimi: Sober American, wife of Joe, dressed in skinny jeans.
Joe: Inebriated American, husband of Mimi, slightly bearded.
Cat: Sober American from Oklahoma, whiter than white teeth.
Small Crowd: a small crowd, crowded around, crowding the pavement.

Act I, Scene 1: The Hazing Begins

Jag, Mimi, Joe and Cat stand outside the pavement at the Slug and Lettuce. Small Crowd hovers next to them. Fag smoke twirls through the air.

Jag: (light-heartedly) Tell me you're voting for Obama.

Joe: I don't know, man.

Jag: Tell me you're not voting for McCain.

Joe: I don't think I'll vote.

Jag: (suddenly serious) You have to vote. Take some responsibility! Your republicans have destroyed the world and now you have to change it.

Cat: Come on. There's republicans and then there's republicans. There's democrats and then there's democrats.

Mimi: (obviously nervous, turns to a piece of the crowd) Thanks for coming. It was great to talk to you. To meet you again. (turns back around to the other three)

Jag: (more irate) This is the Christian thing to do. (pointing to Joe). You're a Christian. (pointing to Mimi) You're a Christian. (pointing to Cat) You're a Christian. Christians care about the world.

Joe: It's not a democrat or a republican or a Christian thing. It's more complicated than you think.

Jag: You've *&%$^& up the rest of the world enough already!

Mimi: I am not personally responsible for the decisions my president makes.

Jag: You better vote for Obama.

Mimi: I'm hungry (looking around, walks to the corner with Cat)

Cat: You want some chicken? It's so good it tastes like it has crack in it. That's why we call it Kentucky Cracked Chicken.

Jag stalks to the corner and leaves the group.

Joe follows Mimi and Cat.

Joe: He's not usually like that.

Mimi: What got into him?

Joe: I don't know. He's not usually like that.

Cat turns right, and Joe and Mimi turn left. Joe and Mimi walk into the tube station.

9.06.2008

Seasons

Leaves are already spilling from the trees! Scarlett, bronze, sunset blushed, drenched in rainwater they stick like paper mache to the pavement. I resent London for stealing my summer. We had one week of warm sunshine in May, one in June, and a couple of days in July when my parents were here (they brought the Denver sun with them). But who am I to complain about clouds? I, who spent my youth ardently protesting sunny 70 degree weather Thanksgivings, who prayed for afternoon thunderstorms so I could cozy under a blanket and read, who wanted to move to Seattle (or London...), who in a month and a half will be living in northern California with sunshine shooting out of my ears? I just want the season to fit the season, that's all. Warm summers, brisk autumns, cold winters and mild springs. (And I'm looking forward to having a car again, so I don't have to push through blustery rain carrying thirty pounds of groceries and dodging stray pedestrians to bring home soggy boxes of Cheerios).

At least I was rewarded for my pain with an interesting find. Today I braved the rain and went to the library to pick up some travel books. On a whim, I decided to seek out C.S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters. Luckily they had it, but the library lady had to descend deep into the bowels of the Putney Library basement to find this one, and I can see why. The cover itself is enough to scare anyone away from Lewis, and there are even illustrations inside. This is one book I probably won't be reading on the tube.


9.05.2008

A Day in the City



Up Notting Hill Gate tube station and get tripped up by windy gusts and speckles of rain. Squeak an indiscernable oomph, scarf flipping against your face and flats skipping away laughing, revenge for walking them everywhere all day. Too embarrassed to look around and make eye contact with the witnesses, you recover, pick up your bag and stride on to Portobello Road.

Pass tourists with cameras, the upper glass house with the grand piano, silken earrings, antique sports equipment and a chubby man shoving a posh Hummingbird Bakery cupcake into his face. At house 16, walk up 70 steps and pick up a friend. In leisurely minutes you two are galumphing down the 70 steps to Portobello Road and to the underground. Jump on the Central line to Liverpool Street, and at St. Paul's, you turn your face discreetly towards the glass divider when neighbour to the front pushes first his armpit, then his leaning, hot face within inches of yours. Breathe in the odours of the carriage riders and wonder about the curly-haired man with a puppet sewed onto the shoulder of his suit.

Swerve outside, up an escalator, where sunshine and rainless clouds dip into the shadows of backstreets and spotlight the iconic Gherkin, rising pointy and proud above his peasantry kingdom of churches and wine shops and monuments and Eat.s. Isolated in the quiet sphere of studious business men, you're sucked into the base of the giant phallic symbol, clicking across a pavement of empty tables and dispersed conversation. Enter Konditor and Cook, where latte steam wafts above the crowd and you choose a dark chocolate ganache cake, silky beneath the case light. On your way out to a table, admire the baby Gherkin cuddled in purple frosted flowers and enjoy the crisp afternoon, talking of re-appearing dreams and British actors and tinted window offices.

Into the blustery day again on London Bridge towards Borough Market which smells like the back of a restaurant. Suggest that maybe the cheese shops don't set up on Thursdays, which is why the lot across from Southwark Cathedral is empty. Tempted by the bread but no desire to buy, brush past the samples until you reach the basket of dried lavendar (is £5.99 per bunch a good price?) and the quieter than usual Market Porter pub. When he comes you'll say Market Porter three or four times before he remembers. Enjoy a pint of Kronenburg. Dart to the Slug and Lettuce for a couponed meal, and then to London Bridge underground for a trip north to Mornington Crescent station and The Koko Theatre, site of Charlie Chaplin performances and BBC theatre and Madonna's first ever UK show. Guitarist Simon leads you to the before-show hangout at the pub next door, where you meet your friend's brother's band from LA, Iglu and Hartly, the first band of the night.

After eight, it's time to go in. Your names are on the guest list, so the two of you + girlfriends + sisters enter the dark theatre, gilded with red box seats and chandeliers and three tiers of crowd. Then they come out: guitarist, bassist, keyboardist, drummer, two singers, snapping across the stage and jerking their instruments, their mics, their bodies to symphonic 80's hip hop. Screams. Frisbees. The crowd swells. On the open floor around you people wave and dance to the beat that heaves the air. Finally, calves sore, drums ringing, ears happy, you meet outside the pub again. Say good job over and over again, and hope America will be the next Koko Theatre.

Part ways and home to Putney.

8.28.2008

Book Club?

Recently some friends of mine suggested I start a blogging book club. I like the idea--I like that I would get to read books and discuss them and that it would bridge the miles between my friends and I, each post and subsequent comment like a coffee shop conversation, or a living room discussion over chocolate chip cookies (hopefully they would be my friend Brooke's cookies, b/c they're amazing).

So I am seriously considering this opportunity, but I wondered how many other people would be interested in joining the bloggers book club? And if you're interested, what would you name the blogging book club? Do tell.

8.27.2008

Piano Driven Inspiration

My dissertation is due on Monday--my 15,000 word dissertation and the 2,500 word essay that accompanies it. Luckily I have the creative inspiration of a piano driven jazz band echoing in my ears and a beautiful birthday card my friend made me sitting at my workstation. Thanks to them, I think I'm going to make it.

Check out the band:

The Neil Cowley Trio

It'll do your ears good. (And they're BRILLIANT live, if you ever get a chance to hear them.)

8.26.2008

Donald Miller Prays at the DNC

Donald, thank you for representing Christians in a Christ-centered way.

8.25.2008

it's the little things

It's 4:40 am and I'm eating a bowl of honeyed cheerios. I haven't slept. I've spend the past 4 1/2 hours turning and turning (but not tossing. I haven't been tossing anything up in the air or to anyone. Where in the world did that phrase come from anyway?) Not too long ago I had a similar night to this one, and now I feel the need to blog about it. Because it was sort of a momentous occasion for me.

That day I sat at the kitchen table and wrote the first honest thing to God that I've said in months. It went like this:

I think I'm forgetting how to trust you. I think I doubt your love. I'm not sure why . . . maybe it has something to do with growing up and seeing more of the bad in the world? The older I get, the more uncertain I become that you have a plan for everything and everyone. I've begun to believe that you don't step in as often--that more often than not we're left to the consequences of our own sin and choices. Is this a hazard to my faith? That I don't expect miracles? Or that I don't pray believing you'll answer in the way I want? My prayers have become so small.

So that night I woke at 1 am, wide awake, with nothing to think or do. It clicked in me like a light bulb to start reading Donald Miller's Blue Like Jazz again. It's one of my favorite books and it had been awhile since I read it. I took it to bed and switched on my headlamp so as not to disturb Jonathan, and then I ended up moving to the kitchen table. Finally, at page 86, back in my bed again, God's love took hold of me in one of the most powerful ways it ever has. This is what I read: "Self-discipline will never make us feel righteous or clean; accepting God's love will. The ability to accept God's unconditional grace and ferocious love is all the fuel we need to obey him in return. Accepting God's kindness and free love is something the devil does not want us to do. If we hear, in our inner ear, a voice saying we are failures, we are losers, we will never amount to anything, this is the voice of Satan trying to convince the bride that the groom does not love her. This is not the voice of God. God woos us with kindness, he changes our character with the passion of his love."

Ever since that night, I've been praying more. And I tell you, God has been answering the funniest little prayers. Last week I went to the library and was told that I returned a DVD without its disc. The library woman graciously checked it back out to me so that I could take it home and find the disc, but when I went home, it wasn't anywhere, and I prayed it would be at the library so I wouldn't have to pay £15 for a DVD I didn't want. After a few days I went back and explained to another woman that I couldn't find it, and lo and behold, it was filed in another case.

The other night, Jonathan made a mistake while restoring his iPhone, so that he thought he lost all of his data, including his sporadic notes he takes every day. He prayed that he would get it all back, and suddenly, without explanation, his iPhone restored from nothing.

On Friday I prayed for my parent's safe driving to Seward and back to Denver (to take my brother Andrew to college for the first time). Today they told me that they went to a mechanic when they got back, and he said their tires and ball bearings should not have carried them safely all the way home. But they made it safely and without any accident, praise God.

So, maybe these prayers don't stop wars or global warming or world poverty, but maybe it means enough to Him that I start believing that prayer changes the world--and me. Maybe that's why he sent the little miracles that I told him I didn't believe in anymore.

I know one thing and it alone changes me: I am loved.

8.21.2008

Over the Hill and Under the Girdle

Benjamin Franklin's advice to his friend about marrying an older woman should be written in the next over-the-hill birthday card for women. Particularly reason number five:

"Because in every Animal that walks upright, the Deficienty of the Fluids that fill the Muscles appears first in the highest Part: The Face first grows lank and wrinkled; then the Neck; then the Breast and Arms; the lower Parts continuing to the last as plump as ever: So that covering all above with a Basket, and regarding only what is below the Girdle, it is impossible of two Women to know an old from a young one. And as in the dark all Cats are grey, the Pleasure of corporal Enjoyment with an old Woman is at least equal, and frequently superior, every Knack being by Practice capable of Improvement."

Sweet relief! When we reach fifty we can put a basket on our head and men will still find us (at least our bottom half) attractive. At least we'll be better practiced...

8.17.2008

This is not okay.

In this video, posted on Focus on the Family's website, a guy asks people to pray for rain during Obama's speech at the Democratic convention in Denver.

Somebody please tell me why we don't yet have a democratic voting process for Christian leaders. F on the F is one of the greatest known "Christian" organizations in the nation, and they're using their resources and influential platform to stoop to the realm of mean-spirited political propaganda that tells the nation Jesus is a republican who doesn't care about democrats or Obama supporters?

When he was in the world, Jesus stayed out of politics.

I wish I had a say in the organizations and "authorities" who represent my faith.

8.15.2008

Expect the Unexpected

In a book I was reading yesterday, the author had a conversation with a friend about marriage and asked his friend if marriage was what he thought it would be. The friend responded that no, it wasn't--it was a great deal less and more than he expected.

I got to thinking about my marriage after I read that, and I wondered if part of the reason why Jonathan and I are so happy together, and why we haven't had major difficulties, is because we both had realistic expectations of marriage before we said 'I do'. Of course there are other factors that determine the health of a marriage, but I'm convinced that anticipation plays a starring role.

So then I thought: maybe realistic expectations are the key to a satisfactory life. If we go into life expecting not more or less than what it offers, then we can't be disappointed with the reality. Assuming that it's possible to have realistic expectations in life, that is. But the more I thought about it, the more the virtue of realistic expectations didn't sit well with me. And I don't often (or ever) hear it preached from pulpits or billboards or commercials or lecturers.

I think my discomfort stems from the fact that it doesn't co-exist with faith very well. Faith doesn't rely on our knowledge of reality. In fact, God doesn't really fit into our concept of reality, because most of what we know is physical. So the first problem with settling for reality is that we're not even able to fully grasp what's available to us in this life. We have deep-seeded wants and needs buried inside of us from the moment of our birth, some that we can't even fully explain to people, but sometimes the greater problem is naming the desire, not claiming the desire. So how can we be expected to expect? What can we be expected to expect?

Then along comes the little matter of praying. We're supposed to ask for everything we want. We're supposed to pray boldly, believe expectantly, and hope eternally. If we value realistic expectations, if we settle for not more, not less, we can't very well take all that God is offering us, can we?

While still trying to marry the idea of realistic expectation and expectant faith, I came across this quote by C.S. Lewis from his book "Weight of Glory":

“Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased."

As painful as desiring may be, even though it seems cheeky or greedy to ask for more and reach beyond the everyday muddle into the everyday eternal, I am convinced that hope will not disappoint us.* It's all a matter of perspective. This world, made of friendships, love, community, laughter, food, drink, mountains, oceans, rainforests, animals, literature, art, films, music, science, athletics, weekends, work--is available to everyone. But if we could only expect a life beyond this one, we might realize our potential to live for others and not ourselves; and then this life could be beautiful.**


* "And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." Romans 5.5

**He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil--this is the gift of God." Ecclesiastes 3:13

Non Sequitur

There's a shop near our apartment called "Tiaras and Tantrums." It makes me wonder why some mint chocolate ice cream is green and other mint chocolate ice cream is white. In the US (and possibly in Europe) they dye oranges to make them look more tasty. Even though I got bored of Red Robin because it was my brothers' birthday restaurant of choice--every year--it didn't stop me from celebrating my 21st birthday with my parents there, and drinking a concoction called "Sand in Your Shorts," which, you could probably guess, was a PG family restaurant version of a Sex on the Beach. Consequentially, a jet in today's sky reminded me of the sky in Mr. Roger's Neighborhood. What is it about Damien Rice that makes me want to road trip alone to the Grand Canyon and peer over the edge and watch a red sunrise? As long as Damien doesn't turn into the Devil and shoot mosquito arrows at my bare skin to infect me with malaria, and as long as the mosquitos don't turn into a harmless prize of pots and pans, then I'd take a good road trip over a bad road trip any day of the week.

8.14.2008

A Streetcar Named By Any Other Name

Public transport: could it be part of the solution to rising gas prices, road rage, drunk driving, auto accidents, traffic, illiterate society, hesitant tourism and high emissions? It might seem like a stretch, but it could happen. And it seems to work in Europe.

8.11.2008

Me Between

Don’t let me fool you. I want to put me on the page. Outside my window the wind blows in rustling waves through the trees and only then can I write within the walls of my electronic white home. As it fills with alphabetical signs and punctuating symbols, space by space, line by line, I unconsciously resolve to decipher the mysterious codes of existence and ink the world with my discoveries. Although I do my best to pretend that I want to impact people for good, all I really want is to communicate my brain wrinkles. I’m not so arrogant as to think that my introverted reflections will improve society. Not so arrogant, not so unselfish.

8.09.2008

08.08.08

Yesterday I celebrated my "platinum" birthday, as my mom calls it. Although technically I should have turned 8 or 88 for that to be true, it's still fun to have a birthday on the luckiest day of the Chinese calendar that also collides with the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics. I wish I had a fantastic story to tell about the day--about how I won the lottery or published a book or went to a Coldplay concert and met the band backstage. Although none of those things happened, I still have to say that 08.08.08 concludes an entire year of unexpected oohs and ahs and blessings that I don't deserve, and I am humbled by it.

Not only have I fulfilled a dream of living abroad, but in a month I'll have completed a Masters degree. Although I don't know exactly where I'll be working next year, I already have freelance work with the London book publishing company I worked for on internship. I've hopped on planes, trains and automobiles to see Europe and made memories of Ireland, Germany, The Netherlands, Italy, England and France with friends and family. I'm more confident as a traveler. I've established a life-long commitment to Mac products (I have to include that one for Jonathan). I love curry and almond croissants and English beer. My eyes have been opened to different cultures and people, my perspective on social and political society has expanded, and my appreciation of my country has grown. Because I've spent a year away from my closest friends and family, I'm reminded how much I rely on them and how blessed I am to have them in my life. My faith has been challenged--especially it's relevance strengthened in a world that believes it's irrelevant. I've been astounded how much my marriage has matured and how I've never loved Jonathan more; how our removal from the known has hacked away at the shell of our younger, selfish selves and exposed our deeper capacity to love and communicate that love. Overall, I'm thankful for a greater understanding of my place in this world among people, places and ideas, and of the limited time I have to spend here, and how each moment and each relationship counts and should be handled with care.

So here's to my family who have molded me; here's to the friends who have affirmed me; above all, here's to the Creator who breathed life into you and me and the beautiful world we live in. May you always know how deep and wide and high His love is.

8.02.2008

The Green Isle Calls...

In a few minutes I'll be leaving 70 Sedleigh Road with two carry on bags (one for Jonathan who's at work) and heading to East Putney station, where I'll take the District line to Edgeware Road and pick up the Hammersmith and City Line to Liverpool Street. Outside the station I'll meet up with Mom, Dad and Jonathan where we'll board a coach that will take us to Stansted airport. And finally, we'll get on a plane at 19:35 and land in Dublin at 20:50!

I've heard magical things about Ireland... about how the Irish are extraordinary weavers of conversation (and you can discover this by hanging out in any pub and extending a friendly eye to strangers); how they give directions according to the city's lay of the pubs; how time stands still on the winding country roads; how the rocky cliffs and green hills and ocean views are from another world altogether... I've even heard about a local dolphin who swims near Dingle (where we're staying) and who you're almost guaranteed to see if you venture by the bay. These things, along with other sights, sounds and tastes of my imagined Ireland, are building my anticipation as I write. And I will be thrilled to share my experiences when I get back. Until then, I'll be toasting you a few tasty pints of Guinness. (They say it tastes better in Ireland! I'm counting on the luck o' the Irish for that.)

7.29.2008

A Short Commercial Break

I have a major in Theology. It's not something I tell everyone I meet--often I'll just tell them that I majored in English so as to avoid explaining that I haven't found a practical use for it yet and might not ever, but I wanted to do it just for the heckuvit. I was interested. Why not? (And maybe it had something to do with the fact that I had taken courses towards a Director of Christian Education certification and didn't want them to go to complete waste...)

But recently the theology topics make me tired. I've been reading a novel that's on the bestseller list, and in it a man encounters God in a slightly unconventional way--or rather, the God he meets is 'unconventional' as compared to our typical assumptions. I know I'm only in the first few pages, but eventually I had to set it down in favor of recreational blog scanning, despite what everyone has told me about the book's redemptive story. It's not that I have a problem with it like some people do (some people call it new age-ish and name a laundry list of other theological problems) but for me, as a reader and a writer, theological dialogue with no action gets to be overwhelming after awhile.

At first I felt guilty feeling like this. I thought maybe it's because I've left the building, so to speak. I admit I haven't been attending church on a regular basis this summer. I've left the so-called "Christian nation" if there is one. And I've been hanging out with a lot of people who are not self-professed Christians. But it's not that I'm tired of God--I think it's more that I'm just tired of talking and conversing and thinking and hemming and hawing about 'topics' and 'subjects' and 'doctrine' and things related to God, like he's a book or a philosophy to digest.

The only thing i can compare it to is a workday spent sitting in an office chair versus a day of hard, sweaty, manual labor.

7.26.2008

an experiment in iPhone blogging

For the first time ever I'm using Jonathan's iPhone to blog, which means this will be a short entry--probably with some typos. But still exciting! (In a mellow way.)

For the past few days Jonathan and I have been having a delightful time showing my parents around London. My mom was in awe of the weather (for good reason) and we've seen all the major sights. It was particularly relaxing to walk through the parks. It's amazing how calming it is to watch loungers, even if you're not lounging yourself. Today, after a hefty English breakfast at a local eatery, we saw them off to germany, austria and France. Then we'll meet them at Liverpool street for a coach to stansted where we'll take a flight to Dublin! We'll spend five days and four nights exploring the capital and the west coast--primarily the ring of Kerry and dingle penninsula. We are SO looking forward to traveling with them, seeing the sheep and castles and guinness brewery and towering cliffs and catching up on lost time! Hopefully we'll have pictures to share too. But all that happens next week,after Jonathan and I celebrate our 3rd anniversary on the 31st and mom and dad celebrate their 31st! It's an eventful month, to say the least. I'll be able to blog more regularly now, so those of you who decided to give up on me will hopefully change your minds!

Sent from my iPhone

7.23.2008

Guten Tag!

Learning a foreign language has an interesting way of making one sympathetic to babies and their plight with a first language. When Jonathan and I went to Italy in May, all I seemed able to say confidently was "Prego" and "Grazia"--so much so that they unintentionally became a regular part of my vocab when we got back to the UK. Now I can tell you that the same thing happens with German. Jonathan and I just recently got back from traveling through Amsterdam in the Netherlands and Frankfurt, Wurzburg, Steinach, Rothenburg, Munich and Tubingen in Germany with our friends Brooke and Jamie, and when we got back I found myself disillusioned with fundamental communication. Danke and bitte were the closest responses on my lips, but every time the flight attendant offered me a drink or someone accommodated themselves for me I had to pause for a second to remember what country I was in. No wonder the flight attendant thought Jonathan and I were German. (But it doesn't explain why he later decided that we were South African. . . couldn't have been our tonal inflections that hinted towards 'Soth Of-ree-ken,' so I think it's officially safe to say that Jonathan and I no longer have an American appearance. We've assimilated!)

It would be impossible to adequately describe the grandeur of our Eurotrip, mostly because you have to know Brooke and Jamie and Jonathan personally to know that the four of us + hosteling in Europe = a perfect balance of scheduled unpredictability. It's hard to find friends you want to hang out with on a daily, weekly, even monthly basis. But to have friends that you want to spend day and night with in foreign countries is fairly miraculous. Welcome to miracle. We were amazed at how well we worked together. We discovered that the successfulness of a big trip like this one is reliant on MANY factors, including:

navigation skills and decision making--especially with foreign train schedules and maps

ability to recover from Munich beer tours ("Prost" to Jonathan for winning the best beer drinker award! Which only means he was able to drink beer and hold it and not run into stationary objects. He even won a stein for his skills)

a strong stomach for waking up in coed hostel rooms with a view of the guy across from you not wearing enough clothes (won't go into detail for those of you without strong stomachs)

ability to remain calm when mysterious black bugs fall from the sky and appear all over your clothes

skills to manhandle four pieces of luggage and a day pack slung on your front while the rest of your posse walks behind you luggage free laughing and taking pictures

fearlessness of bees--especially for the only male member of the group. . .

in Amsterdam: tolerance of weed waftings

discreetness required to video hardy German men singing and swaying to "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean" in restaurant

successful face and name placing when the hostel clerk turns out to be the son of a pastor you worked with in Kenya last summer (Brooke)

an appreciation for heavy mustard on brats

BYOW rule in Germany: Bring Your Own Water unless you want to pay heaps of money for table water. Your money goes farther with beer

handy umbrellas and raincoats

squeezability of self and luggage in lifts

a taste for gelato

fast recovery from bleeding lip caused by Jonathan

ability to dodge train and tram doors when misdirected by someone who shall remain nameless (it starts with an 'A' and ends with an 'my')


Some of my favorite highlights (besides the mysterious bugs, of course) were the Van Gogh Museum, the Anne Frank House (definitely recommend it) and a canal boat trip--all in Amsterdam; our stay in the medieval, walled city of Rothenburg on the Romantic Road, Dachau concentration camp near Munich, mid-day stops at fruit stands for snacks (the fruit is so flavorful in Europe!) German streusel in the nowhere town of Steinach, and of course, eating and laughing and sleeping and seeing Europe with good friends. Nothing compares!

Now Brooke and Jamie are on a plane back to the States, and the marathon continues tomorrow when my parents arrive at Heathrow. They'll be here until the 8th to see London, Germany, Austria, France and then back to London to visit Ireland with Jonathan and I. More to come . . .

7.04.2008

Weekend To Do List For Marathon Month

Pray THANKS for mom's good news that her tumor might not grow and they just have to monitor it closely!

Prepare bed for Brooke and Jamie

Buy return tickets from Frankfurt, Germany

Secure accommodation in Tubingen, Germany (camping or slightly expensive hotel?)

Plan Ireland excursion with parents and Jonathan

Print off directions to German hostels

Clean apartment (make sure all scary spiders are MIA)

Buy fresh daisies

Laundry

Obtain extra towel

Visit bank for Euros

Top up mobile

Shop for groceries (plenty of brown bag food)

Plan tentative meals

Make Scottish scones

Finish reading Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton

Start reading Measuring Time by Helon Habila

Send dissertation tutorial work to tutor for next week's meeting

Birthday greetings for friends

Worship

Pop champagne from Editorial Director for successfully finished internship (and for the promise of future freelance work when we move back to the States)

Celebrate with Jonathan for his first official call into DCE ministry from St. Peter Lutheran Church in Lodi, CA!

6.22.2008

Dear Mom

Although most of me (the emotional part) is upset, I'm also really confused about your news. i've racked my brain for the last day and a half trying to figure out what good this is doing anyone, especially considering you've already had the most stressful year of your life. i know it's not for me to ask why, and i know i'll never know why... but WHY? i want to be able to know exactly who/what this is benefitting because you've suffered more than many people ever will even once in their lifetime.

the other part of me (the deeper, rational, thinking part of me) realizes that God did not cause this--we caused this with our sin and by virtue of the fact that we live in a fallen world. which means that God's only role in this is intervention--with grace. so this other part of me is awed and amazed that he loves you so much that he steps in and hires doctors to speak and act on his behalf so that you're cared for in the best possible way.

i also wonder about the coincidences--that in the past couple of years, the music department, you, and lisa have all undergone incredible spiritual attacks, and i wonder if this is just another one. which leads me to a completely different question--what amazing things is God planning to accomplish through you that satan is so threatened by? even if it's not a Peace music plan, but a family plan, or a whirled peas plan, or any other kind of plan that will change the Kingdom for his purposes, all of this seems to point to one conclusion:

there must be something that you're doing right.

even if that one thing is just trusting him and then telling everyone you know at every chance you get what amazing things God is doing through these situations, it's a powerful thing. worship is about proclaiming God's goodness, power, faithfulness and love. and you've had more chances to do that within the last eight years than probably ever before.

now, don't hear me wrong--i'm still completely disillusioned by your news and still confused and will probably still ask "why" even after it's over and done with. but more than anything, I'm thankful that I have a mom like you who, after experiencing two bouts of breast cancer, having the worst year of her life (and separated by an ocean from her only daughter and son-in-law), and then, on top of it all, hearing that she needs brain surgery to remove a tumor, says to me, "I feel loved by God." honestly mom, nothing has changed my perception of suffering and God's love and challenged my faith more than those words. i wish i had your faith, but am so humbled that i can have a first-row seat to witness it.

i love you, mom. my prayers and heart are with you, even though I can't be there in person. but soon, very soon, I will see you!

amy

6.17.2008

And So It Goes

The title of a song I sang in high school choir. Don't remember the writer but it popped into my head as I thought about the changes coming up this year. Well, that and the fact that Jonathan's sitting next to me playing his guitar and singing about watching the tides roll by...and for the record, our apartment does not have a view of the Thames.

I didn't think we'd be returning to the States until at least a year had passed. But after a whirlwind interview process, we found out just a few days ago that Jonathan and I are being flown out to Lodi, CA June 25th-29th. Considering the timing, it's unfortunate that the church isn't located in St. Louis or we could also make it to my friend Becky's wedding (and actually meet her fiance for the first time, which would be nice). But the wedding and the miles between California and our family are seemingly the only downsides to the deal. Jonathan and I are already impressed with the church's attitude towards mission, community, service, worship, and team-based ministry.

We've already been to Lodi since we have friends that live (and lived) there. It's located in the central valley of Northern Cal about 45 minutes from Sacramento and an hour and a half to San Francisco. Our beloved Lake Tahoe is only 2 hours away, fabulous friends in Reno are 3 hours away, Napa is an hour, Yosemite is just up the State, and now we don't have to lament the fact that we didn't manage to fit in a trek on the Pacific Coast Highway when we lived in Reno.

But of course, now that "the end" of our adventure in London is in sight, I have inbetweeny discomfort--the kind of discomfort that Harry Potter feels when he uses the Floo Network and has his head in a fireplace in Hogwarts and the rest of him in the fireplace at the Weasley's. Or the weird squeezy space transportation that squishes Meg into A Wrinkle in Time.

Here? or There? I feel like I just started acclimating (hence my appropriate use of adjectives ending in "y" in the above paragraph, a cutesy British linguistic habit--i.e. squeezy honey, chewy chews, etc.) Most of the time I like it here and I don't want to leave. I love traveling. I love theatre. I love live music. I love English culture. I love my job. But then there are those times when I go out late at night and have to walk to a bus and deal with drunk, swearing Aussie's throwing food wrappers at me for an hour. . . That's when I want to be able to go back to stay out as late as I want and drive myself home, not rely on public transport. But then again, will I be able to afford to drive when I finally go back to the U.S. of A.'s current economic tragedy?

Here? or There? Eventually I'll be ready. But until then, I still have three months to savor Londony.

6.13.2008

Peeve

3 separate mornings this week I poured a glass of cranberry juice in the morning and drank it with breakfast, went to brush my teeth, and while the mint was still fresh on my tongue, i looked on the table and saw an inch of juice left in my glass. 3 separate times. What can this mean?

6.07.2008

Home

As crazy as it may sound, I often forget that I've never seen God personally. That I've never physically touched him, or shared a glass of wine with him, or felt the roughness of his shirt as I cried on his shoulder. Because most of the time, I feel like he's walked along beside me every step of my life, and that I know him and he knows me, and that the only thing that has separated us is the skin between immortality and eternity, like how the skin of my mom's belly separated me from the born world.

But yesterday I was struck by the vastness of God . . . God, this being who is so completely beyond my comprehension that I can't attempt to understand him with my limited senses, this God that I speak of and to daily, who created me and the universe and keeps it stuck together . . . how is it possible that I can really know this God?

I wondered why I don't feel that gap between God and I more of the time. It makes more sense that I would be confused by him, rather than feel loved by him.

But then I realized that the times I feel separated from him are the times when I'm far from home--from other like-minded knowers of God. You just can't be as deep with people who don't acknowledge the same Father that you do.

This morning I read an interesting article about twentysomethings and the Christian faith called Faith No More. What's enlightening about the article is not the fact that 60% of twentysomethings who were involved in spiritual activities in their teens have dropped out. This I guessed, and a lot of leaders today have acknowledged this problem. But what's intriguing about the article is the hypothesized explanation for the dropout. Mainly, that too many churches put all their efforts into producing events with screens and lights and cutting edge music, and forget the most fundamental ingredient of our faith communities: authentic fellowship.

Most people would agree that it's friendship, support, honesty and encouragement that keeps us going back anywhere--home, work, a friend's house, and of course, church. It reminds me of the young adult Bible study that we had at our last church. It wasn't anything spectacular. Just a weekly dinner gathering consisting of food, the Bible, prayer, and lots of questions. But it's what I miss most from our time in Reno. Of course I miss the worship services, but it was the intimate gatherings and the relationships that were created from it and the weekend nights out with those people that I miss the most. Because we had something between us that was greater than age, culture, humor, extracurricular activities, place of residence, etc. We talked about the same Father. We knew the same Father. And in doing so, we shared the same worldview that effected everything we did.

I miss that commonality.

6.03.2008

This Week in London...

Rain. (Now is not the time to confess how many times I've complained about sunny Denver...)

Crazy riotous "last night to drink on the tube before it's illegal so let's get back at Boris the new mayor" booze party on the Circle Line Saturday night that resulted in police assaults, funky animal hats and clothing, vandalized trains, 17 arrests, injured train drivers, and my late arrival to the Astoria 2 club to see Iglu and Hartly, my friend's brother's band, play (unfortunately there was a stage mix-up and they didn't get to play at all.)

Spontaneous shopping spree for Amy and Jonathan! You need to know us to know how rare that is, because frivolous is definitely not in our vocabulary.

A dinner outing with a friend to a Belgium brewery in Covent Garden where we were served by people dressed in monk outfits, ate wild boar for the first time and shared a fatty shank of lamb. Later I got so confused by the all-gender bathroom and metal accordian toilet doors that I almost left without using it (luckily after I had used the toilet a nice man was standing there and showed me how to use the foot-pedal powered water trough. Awkward...)

A women's brunch at church called How to Look Good Clothed where a fashion designer did our colors, personality styles and body types. I found out that in terms of color, I am an extremely rare breed--Light Muted. But in terms of body shape I'm quite common--conference pear. Not to be confused with a prince albert pear, which is more curvy. I dare say you are as surprised as I am to learn that one body shape is so popular that they have to come up with two types of one fruit to describe us.

I'm reading a delightful book called Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. It's an advanced copy that's about four years old given to me by a friend, but a long time ago the book split in half so I only read one half at a time and get strange looks on the tube during my commute.

Still editing... have worked on books about illustrating fairyland, writing and illustrating children's books, acting 101, and basic animation.

And finally, interviews with churches to determine our next destination! TBD and TBA at a later date.

Hope you're having a sunny, summery week!

5.26.2008

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Here's a little taste of our twelve hour travel day to Sorrento:

Wake at 2.00 a.m. in London to take the number 37 bus at 2.30 to Clapham Junction station to take another night bus at 2.56.

The night bus took us to Liverpool street where we waited for an hour and a half (we misunderstood the schedule) to pick up the 4.40 Standstead Express train to Standstead airport.

Arrived at the airport at 5.45. Boarded the 7.20 am flight to Naples, arrived at 11.30 and sought out information about Sorrento transport.

We found out that a coach service left for Sorrento at 1.00, so we embarked on the coach at 1.00 and arrived in Sorrento about 2.

It would have been nice to enjoy a bit of Sorrento at that point, but it was raining, we still had our luggage and we had no idea where our hotel was, since we had tried calling from London and the Naples airport and still couldn't get through. Google maps wasn't very clear either. We asked around, discovered that a taxi would cost us 40 euros, and then luckily found a tourist office. They told us we could take a bus, but we had to wait an hour or so so we enjoyed a margherita pizza and calzone at a little cafe and unfortunately missed the next bus too (timetables aren't the most reliable in Italy...) Finally, at about 4.30 we got on a crowded bus and enjoyed the short trip just outside Sorrento to Massa Lubrense.

After about 15 minutes we got off a bit early, enquired at another hotel, and then were told to walk about 500 more meters along the road. Soaked by the rain and drenched by puddle water from cars who raced down the road next to us, we tried to avoid getting hit by oncoming traffic and finally arrived at the Conca Azzurra resort. Home at last! We celebrated by taking nice hot baths and eating a delicious Italian dinner.

Sunny Amalfi

Yesterday a.m. J and I got back from our four day trip to Sorrento, Italy, which is along the scenic Amalfi Coast.

Wow.

I'd been to the area before--a high school trip in 2000. But it was such a whirlwind mad rush of hotels and sightseeing and coach tours that I barely remembered it. All that was imprinted in my memory from Sorrento was a small piazza, a quick dip in the Tyrrhenian Sea and our rondevoux with the Swiss guys we met and hung out with on the rooftop terrace of our yellow hotel. From Capri I only remembered a pathway surrounded by trellis and flowers. And what I remembered from our visit to Pompeii was the fact that the prostitute's clients had to draw pictures of what they wanted on the walls of the brothel since it was an international port city and people spoke many languages. Today you can still see the pictures, too (I suppose they would have been the ancient equivalent of Playboy?) Anyway, funny what information manages to stick itself in our memories.

But this time J and I had time to absorb the sunny citrus flavors of Sorrento and it was delicious! First off, we were told that our three star hotel room at the top of the cliff wasn't ready yet and so we were to spend the holiday in the four star Sea Club hotel. Not too shabby. It was at the bottom of the most windy, steep, vine covered hill I'd ever seen, but was closer to the beach and the pool and had extremely nice bathrooms. And there was free shuttle service to Sorrento, so we didn't have to walk the treacherous hill. We decided that it made up for the fact that their broken phone line so it took us some time to get there. That night I enjoyed an apertif of limoncello and Jonathan whiskey, a lovely dinner of salad, duck in orange sauce, Neopolitan meatballs, and a slice of Italian cheesecake for dessert.

The next morning was bright and sunny. We had breakfast at our hotel (the Italians like their coffee thick!) and took a train to Pompeii. Like I said, I didn't remember much, but especially how expansive the city is. We walked around almost all day, peeping into what used to be bedrooms and theatres and gardens and forums and drainage pipes. It was odd to walk into the ampitheatre and imagine gladiator fights and wonder if Christians had been fed to lions in the arena. And it was amazing to see how well preserved the wall paintings were. We concluded that if Pompeii was located in the States or the UK tourists would definitely not have the allowance to roam as freely through the ruins as the Italians let us. Some of the areas are gated off, but for the most part you can walk in and around everything and touch everything, and no one would mind. At the end we saw the preserved bodies as well, which was eerie but fascinating.

We left on the train for Naples after Pompeii and spent a couple of hours wandering around the shops and trying to survive the crazy scooter and cable car and trucks and car traffic. I have no idea how people survive in that city. I saw one boy about ten run into the road, parallel to traffic, and race the cars behind him to get across to the other side. Pure craziness.

That night we returned to Sorrento and walked around the stores a bit before having dinner at a cafe and meeting our shuttle.
We woke up the next morning to sun and made our way through the early a.m. streets to the marina, where we picked up the hydrofoil to the island of Capri. Capri is fantastically gorgeous. The lush cliffs and azure sea contrast with the white-washed and pastel bungalows, magenta flowers hang over stone walls and shop fronts, and bright green, exotic plants meander through loose gardens. It's hard to imagine that people really live in such a relaxing, beautiful place. Since everything was so close together, the stone pathways surrounded by walls of wooden doorways that led into gardens and homes, we imagined it was probably the closest we could come to imagining Pompeii and any Roman town as it had been.

That day we had the BEST tiramisu gelato ice cream that we've ever had. Indescribably good. We took pictures and stopped at a cafe for bruschetta and bianca vino and then sunned on the pebbly beach. That afternoon we returned to Sorrento and wandered through the quaint, cobblestoned streets and colorful shops. That's when I tasted the most incredible liquor I've ever had--creme lemoncello. I'd had the regular lemoncello before, but the creme version is so sweet and smooth that I could drink it dangerously fast without even realizing it. No wonder it's so good--the lemons in Sorrento are positively massive.

The next day we spent the morning sunning next to the pool and the sea at our hotel, and then, sigh, it was time to leave. I wish I could have bottled the rays up with us and brought it back to London because we've had rain for the past two days. Va bene. Someday we'll see sun again, and maybe it'll be on a Sorrento beach with a glass of lemoncello.

Sorrento, etc. Picture Highlights

We were bumped from our 3 star hotel to the 4 star Sea Club hotel with its own beach in Sorrento! We didn't mind too much...

The pool and seaside view from our hotel room.

Steps leading up to a home on the island of Capri

A view of Capritown from our trek on the Arco Naturale trail.







The long queue for the most fantastic tiramisu gelato in the world!

Afternoon refreshment at a cafe on Capri: bruschetta (just the way it's meant to taste--fresh and crusty) and bianca vino. This is our second round of vino because I hit the table and spilled our first. Such a klutz...

View of the Tyrrehenian Sea and active volcano Mount Vesuvius.







The Marina Grande on Capri



An ancient roman street in Pompeii

Backside view of Pompeii

The first ampitheatre built for gladiator competitions in Pompeii. It's small compared to the others built after it, but it's still a good-sized arena considering when and how it was built.

A Roman column--an example of how well the city of Pompeii was preserved by Vesuvius' volcanic ash (I have pictures of some preserved bodies as well, but I'll refrain from posting them in case some of you are eating while you read this. Unless, of course, you beg to see them.)