I wish teenage personality evolved into a foreign being and that we could consider it separate from our regular selves. Unfortunately I think it’s just an exaggerated form of our real self. It’s who we are when we believe the universe revolves around us. I'm glad it tends to even out as we grow into adult skin, but sometimes, on abnormally dark, dreary days, I'm given a glimpse of that self again and it’s like reliving a nightmare. What the world would look like if all of us were as self-absorbed as we were when teenagers!


Continuing the Discussion on Family. . .

See, this is what I love about blogging--when a blog sparks a conversation sparks a few more blogs, and pretty soon an important conversation that otherwise might have remained unspoken is aired out. Like the conversation about family my friend Alaina and I had the other night. You can read her thoughts on the topic here and here.

My (limited) knowledge tells me that the idea that "family" is a very exclusive term hasn't been addressed before in the church, or at least, addressed properly. Especially since like Alaina said, many churches are just now starting family ministries. Exactly what does "family" mean? It's an important question. Many people would say that their friends are their family, mainly because they were able to live life on the same plane, same generation, same understanding of culture. X and Y Generations grew up in a society that re-imagined family--it had to when things like divorce, gay marriage and cohabitation became more common. But in addition to that, families don't often live within 100 miles of each other anymore. I think of my friend Joanna who is moving to India next month to pursue her calling as a full-time missionary. Of course she will always be close to her blood relatives, but she's moving to a new country. She'll need to set down roots--that means finding a family among the people she spends her daily life with in India.

I owe the beginning of this conversation to a lovely book called "We Were the Mulvaneys" by Joyce Carol Oates. Beautifully written novel (although I haven't finished it yet). It's centered around one event that shattered the lives of the Mulvaney family. The event is a tragic one, but the exact ways in which it impacts the family is unexpected, heart-breaking and sometimes difficult to understand. I appreciate Oates portrayal of complex emotions. And interestingly, the one ray of hope in the book (so far) seems to be the ambiguity (and therefore flexibility) of the term "family."

With that off my chest, I wonder if anyone else has struggled with the same feelings, or has anything else to add to the conversation?


Ah, Books

"A book is the only place in which you can examine a fragile thought without breaking it, or explore an explosive idea without fear it will go off in your face. It is one of the few havens remaining where a man's mind can get both provocation and privacy."

~Edward P. Morgan


Focus on the ?

Tonight my pastor asked the congregation what we are slaves to. He said we should ask ourselves two questions to find the answer:

1. When you're alone, what do you day dream about?
2. What do you most fear losing in your life?

I hate to admit that my first reaction to the second question is something I shouldn't be afraid of: that someone in my immediate family will die. Of course this is a ridiculous fear, because inevitably, one day it will be realized. And I shouldn't fear death because for Christians, death doesn't win. Still, the pain I'll experience after the death of a loved one scares me out of my mind.

Most people, especially Christians, agree that family is an irreplaceable gift from God. I 100% heartily agree. I love my family far and above life. But I wonder, now--am I a slave to the love of family?

I hear from the pulpit, from Christian radio, from books, CD's, psychologists and church workers that family is more important than anything else. First priority. But when my single friend from church, the one who is in her thirties with no children, tells me that she dreads Christmas because so much emphasis is placed on it as a "family holiday" I wonder--has our Christian society placed the ideal family on a pedestal worthy of our worship, like our secular society has done with money, success, power, and achievement? I worry about the people in our midst who will never have the "perfect" family, or in fact, a family at all. People who have grown up with parents that hurt them, or have entered into marital relationships they now want nothing to do with. Parents who love their children, discipline their children, and ask God "why?" when the same kids turn to drugs, gangs, sex, eating disorders or whatever it is they escape to. What about them?

God is the creator of the family unit. God communicates the beauty of grace through family. Family relationships are another way to understand our relationship to Him. But I'm reminded of the times in Scripture when God reminds us that, although family relationships are important, just like all things on this side of heaven, they change, grow, deteriorate, and eventually, die.

When families are given to us, they're gifts, and should be treated like the gifts they are, rather than taken for granted. But at the same time, I wonder if we should focus more on God's entire family, on the Church as a family, so that we keep our eyes on the heavenly Kingdom Jesus had in mind. I just wonder.


Twu Wuv and Maiwwage

I've been placed in an interesting position this year. Jonathan, being the loving, devoted, dedicated husband he is, gave up his financially stable ambition to be a DCE so that I could pursue my dream of earning a Masters degree in London. As a result he works at Apple and is the baconwinner that brings home the bread for the family (I've never understood those phrases--breadwinner? bringing home the bacon? what? why not the other way around?) Anyway I'm extremely thankful he has a job he loves, working with such an organized, creative, innovative company.

But back to my interesting position. Since I'm a full-time student, I don't have a job this year. For the first time in our marriage I'm relying on Jonathan to support me financially, and to be honest, it messes with my mind a bit. I can empathize with women who lived in the days when only the men worked, and the women served the men. It's extremely easy to fall into a pit of guilt. It's too easy to believe that you owe your husband something, since he provides monetarily for the family. I can understand how the position can enslave a woman, regardless of what her husband tells her. (For the record, Jonathan does not do anything or say anything that makes me feel this way, I breed my own feelings about the situation.)

Interestingly, guilt isn't the only thing I feel. I also feel more grateful towards him. I feel like he's giving me a priceless gift, this year of devoting myself to writing. As a result, I am motivated to serve him more, to show him that I'm not taking his gift for granted.

I guess these are the natural responses to receiving any gift we don't deserve.



I've discovered the importance of spreading myself out. Not that I want my life equated with the term "spread eagle," (in more ways than one that would be a scary proposition ) but to venture out of my regular routine and find out what I like about life that I didn't know before. Like, for instance, drinking enough cups of tea to know that I like it stronger rather than weaker. To know that I prefer cream, the fatty, rich, delicious, real kind, not skim milk, in my coffee in the morning. To know that I prefer umbrellas rather than coat hoods, because the noise it makes when it dimples the canvas reminds me of camping in a pop up trailer with my family in the mountains in a rainstorm.

Tonight, I discovered reason number five hundred and sixty two why I am SO pleased Jonathan and I threw off our "buts" and "what ifs" and "maybe another time" excuses and moved our life to London. This reason (like many) has to do with the Masters program I'm taking. One of the ways it first appealed to me is that I would be able to experience a few different types of writing. Being the indecisive person I am, I couldn't decide between fiction or nonfiction. The Masters is giving me an opportunity to get better at both, but to also try out a new form this term: screenwriting for independent film. Brilliant course. Currently we're working on short films because it's the first step towards feature films. Concise, clever, and much like the short story, I think I've fallen in love with a new genre. And besides the obvious benefits of the course, it's also helping me with my other writing styles.

All that to say that if you've never spent much time watching short films (and I hadn't before this course) try them out sometime. Usually you can get them from libraries, online, and if you want to buy them, you can get them through iTunes or on DVDs through Amazon. Quickie entertainment at it's best!


Titus (and my friend's dog)

Last year some friend's of ours bought a new puppy. She wanted to give the puppy a Biblical name. After covering the un-pronouncable Old Testament gamut (including the likes of Ahiezer, Jahaziel, Bealiah, Shephatiah, and Isshiah, none of which are quite helpful when you yell your escaping dog's name and your neighbors mistakenly think you're swearing in Hebrew) I piped up with a suggestion: Titus. They liked it, and so the dog was christened.

I'm not sure what it was about the name that I thought would be worthy of a golden retriever, but after a women's Bible study, I think I may have uncovered the answer. Titus 2:1-15. It's all about Titus' advice for older men, younger men, older women and younger women. Get into it deeper and we uncover something worthy of a head-scratching.

Older men are told to be:
temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, love and endurance.

Older women:
reverent in the way they live, not slanderers, not addicted to much wine, to teach what is good (unrelated question: why is it that the older women are the only ones told not to get drunk???)

Younger women:
love husbands and children, self-controlled and pure, busy at home, kind, subject to husbands

And finally, younger men:

What? That's it for the guys? The rest of us get a list a mile long and the young men get "self-controlled!?" BOLLOCKS, I SAY! After muttering to myself for a bit about the unfairness of certain passages of the Bible (and yes, the Bible IS supposed to be about fairness, what else would it be about?) I have to assume that there's a good reason for Titus' orders. I have two guesses. The first is that Titus was a young buck himself. Who would give themselves a laundry list of things to do? Understandable.

My second guess is much more likely (and preferable) and it's the one I stand by. Titus, in fact, was a wise older man. And being wise, he knew that everyone would be able to handle his list--everyone, that is, except the younger guys. Even in that era, it is apparent from Titus that they were not able to multi-task.

I've decided I like Titus. He has some good insights. And I like golden retrievers. Which is why I named one after Titus.


Eddie Izzard-Cake or Death

anyone need a laugh today? my favorite english comedian should cheer you up :)


Mishandled Life

I used to read "The London Paper." It's one of the free newspapers that are given away to people are on their way home from work. I don't take it anymore because it has more ads than articles, but also because every other article seems to be about some unbelievable tragic incident: another teenage murder, another child that has hanged herself (no exaggeration--I've come across two articles about that) or some bizarre story about a horror writer cutting up his girlfriend and eating her. I know I can't expect to read a newspaper with only lovey dovey warm fuzzy stories, but reading this particular paper is beyond depressing. I am so confused sometimes as to how a human being can take another human being's life without so much as a glance backward.

I came across an Aristotle quote this term. He's writing about art, particularly the form of drama. But without meaning to, I think he's providing an exclamation for the unexplainable violence in our world.

"For if you happen not to have seen the original, the pleasure will be due not to the imitation as such, but to the execution, the coloring, or some such other cause." --Aristotle, "The Definition of Tragedy"

Humans are made in the image of God. If people have not seen God, do not know him, do not love him, can they really value human life? Or at the very least, value life the way God intended?



Yesterday was my lovely friend Allison's wedding day! Congrats to her and her new hubby Jeremy! Wish I could have been there to help celebrate, but my thoughts and prayers were.

It's also 2008! Hard to wrap my mind around, even though it's now the sixth of Jan. So far I haven't done much reflecting about how I want this year to be different. It's time.

1. Last night in bed I prayed for childlike joy. I've prayed for joy before, and I've prayed for childlike faith, but never childlike joy. I prayed for it because it seems that as I get older, the more I become aware of death, despair and pain--not just for myself but for the people around me. And it seems that there are too many postmodern novels and films that reduce life to one tragedy after another. I'm praying that God gives me the ability to see his light in everything. I want to see hope and I want to laugh, even in the darkest corners of the darkest rooms. Because like I heard in the Living Stone's podcast yesterday, HOPE was born in that stable two thousand nights ago. He is enough for our todays and tomorrows. I want to have childlike joy to believe in Hope.

2. This isn't so spiritual, but this year I want to devote more time to hobbies that have taken a backseat--my music, songwriting (and songwriting without a keyboard, which is most of what I've done), design, perfecting my truffle recipe, photography. . . and I want to actually cross names off of my music/books/films to listen to/read/watch list.

3. As far as my writing goes, I'm accomplishing a major goal now--getting my Masters in writing. But now I'm even more determined to be published. I've been a hideous slacker (in other words, I haven't sent out anything). I want to become better at writing fiction and I want to send out one query letter (at least) a week.

4. Prayer. This is one area of my life that has grown recently, but I want to stay dedicated. I want to establish the same time every day as my prayer time, not just work it in between things.

5. I want to see me how God sees me. I want to wake up every morning and before I do anything, remind myself that God has lavished his love upon me.

6. I want to use the gifts God has given me to influence for good the world he's put in front of me.

7. Forgiveness. I want to forgive others and myself like He has. This will especially be important when I don't keep all these resolutions :)



At Christmas I stumbled upon a homemade cosmetics shop called Lush. It's one of my new favorite places! Smells lovely. Colorful and natural and even has great customer service (a rarity for England, I hate to say). They not only have pounds of soap but face cleanser, face masks, body butter, hemp hair dye, bath bubbles, deodorant, and etc. etc. etc.

Turns out it's international and there are some in the States. Whew! That means I can convince Jonathan every year that I need a Lush product (or three) for Christmas. This Christmas he gave me a juniper conditioner and soap, and I went back for shampoo.


The Beauty of an Un-Made Bed

I do most of my coursework for my Masters from home. As a result, I have sexy temptations like unread books, the internet, movies, blogging, and a cozy bed that get me to faff around (three cheers for the person who googles the Brit slang (or just figures out what it means by context) and leaves a comment with the meaning :) That's usually why I make my bed every day. If I have a made bed, I'm not as likely to accidentally fall into it on the way to my computer.

Today I defied my bed rule and discovered that an un-made bed is really quite beautiful. Its rumpled covers satisfy my sleep needs like porn does for a sex addict--maybe because it's possibility without responsibility? Whatever it is, while I've worked today I've occasionally glanced at my bed and fantasized about cozying up with a book and a cuppa tea, and that brief moment is enough to get me back on track with my work.

Maybe this means I'll have a lot more sympathy when my children defy my command to make their beds? (Jonathan: *laughs hysterically at the prospect of the word "sympathy" being in active use in my vocabulary when we have untidy children*)

After-Party Haze

Happy new 2008! Hope you all enjoyed a safe night full of cheesy balls, cheesy games and not-so-cheesy champagne. As for our London new year, I must give props to our hosts whose gentleman father is a wine merchant. The vino flowed like salmon in the Capistrano until 6 am when we finally left their Camden flat. We ended up not walking to Primrose Hill to watch the fireworks set off by the London Eye, but that was a good thing. We were enjoying each other's company too much and didn't appreciate the idea of a crowd, and since we were digesting our yummy tapas consumed just a few minutes before, we probably would have given ourselves searing stomach cramps.

I want to dedicate this post to the Transport for London worker who cheered up the after-party haze while we waited for a seriously delayed tube train. There were two trains that took about thirty minutes to arrive--unheard of, really, and when it's still dark outside and people are hungover and tired and some are still drunk, it's not the ideal situation. I was very concerned that people wouldn't mind the gap, and that we'd have to save them from oncoming trains. Nothing like that happened, luckily. And most of us just slouched on the platform, too exhausted to complain about the train's delay. About that time a worker on another platform called out, "Good morning!" and he called out again, "Good morning!" When I looked to see who he was talking to, I realized he was yelling to all of us knackered commuters. "Happy new year!" he cheered again, and I saw a few smiles squeeze their way onto faces. Even though he had probably had a full nights rest, and even if he hadn't, I was impressed that a random stranger had attempted to remind us what we had celebrated. Because when you're stuffing food and sipping yet another wine, it can be easy to forget.