List your luxuries

List Your Luxuries

There is a lot to complain about in this world.  The job market is tight.  Gas prices are sky rocketing.  The weather isn’t keeping up with the calendar.  The schools are failing our children.  Taxes are too high.  Jeans that fit your thighs never seem to fit your tush.

But have you ever taken a moment to consider just how amazing your life is?  Have you ever gone against conventional wisdom and actually counted your blessings?  Taken a step back and really examined your life for what it is?  Because, I’m sure if you did, all those complaints you could have would pale in comparison to the amazing luxuries that fill your life.

The email I received for Day 2 of Lent asked me to do just that: list my luxuries.  How have I been blessed when it comes to things like money, health, faith, freedom, and education.  I would encourage you to do the same, especially when you find yourself complaining about something that falls into one of these categories.  Sure, you have a head-cold, but you probably also have easy access to tissues and medicine unlike billions of people around the world.  You might have a test tomorrow that you really aren’t prepared for, but you also have free access to education regardless of your gender, ethnicity, social status, or economic standings.

Whether you believe it or not, you are blessed.  Trust me.

Luxuriously yours,

Ash Wednesday, a few days late

I recently had a job interview in which I was asked, “What would you say is one of your greatest weaknesses?”  I knew this question was coming, since it was always touted as one of the most common interview questions in those unbelievably boring, super repetitive, why-am-I-here-when-I-could-be-doing-anything-else professional development seminars I had to go to in college.  You know the ones where they tell you not to dress like a slob, make sure you brush your teeth, bring a copy of your resumé, and be sure to answer that question about your weaknesses in a way that makes them sound like a strength.  (What?!?)  And then give you all those other no-brainer tips on how to ace an interview and get any job you want…even though you know the job market is terrible and you will all actually probably end up moving back home to live with your parents and work the same job you did in high school.

But I digress.  When the woman who was interviewing me asked this question, I was honestly stumped.  Not in an overly self-confident “I have no weaknesses, I am the best at everything in the world” kind of way, but more in the “where would you like me to begin” way.  I know that I have weaknesses.  In the professional world, I tend to procrastinate a lot (this blog is actually a product of my procrastination) which is okay because I work very well under pressure, but isn’t so great because I’m pretty sure it is shortening my life.  I also lack a great deal of self-confidence, I’m scared of doing things I’m not great at because I don’t want to fail, I worry way too much, I sometimes make decisions on a whim rather than weighing the options while other times I spend so much time weighing the options that I end up too confused in the end to even pretend to make a decision, I am insanely self-critical to the point that it can be debilitating, I struggle with feeling like I’m not good at anything unless I’m the absolute best, I worry that people don’t like me or will stop liking me for any variety of reasons, I can be overly trusting of people who have not earned my trust, I can be judgmental, I struggle with depression, I can be prideful, I…

Yeah, I could go on, but I’m pretty sure you get the idea.  I’m full of weaknesses.  But that isn’t where this story ends.

As I began to explain in Wednesday’s post, Ash Wednesday is a day in the church that is there to direct people into an attitude of repentance, of recognizing one’s own sins and weaknesses, and become more attuned to the areas of one’s life in which God’s strength holds us up.  I may be weak, but my God is strong.  I may have weaknesses, but my God is my strength.  He is strong for me in places I am not.  He is even strong for me in places I think I’ve got covered.

So, what would I say is my greatest weakness?  All of them.  :)

Yours, weaknesses and all,

ReLENTless Acts of Justice: An Introduction

As many of you are probably already aware, last Wednesday marked the beginning of a very precious season of the Christian calendar: the season of Lent.  Many of you may have risen early and congregated at your place of worship, where ashes mixed with oil was placed on your forehead in the shape of a cross.  Or you arrived at work Wednesday morning and proceeded to inform some of your coworkers that they had something smudged on their foreheads.  (This happened to a friend of mine at work.)

A cross of ashes on a worshipper's forehead on Ash Wednesday

No matter how you know it, what you think of it, or whether you actively observe it, you probably mostly associate the Lenten season with less chocolate, soda, and meat and more church services and fish options on most fast food menus.  Believe it or not, that isn’t really the true reason for the season.  (Kind of like Santa isn’t who Christmas is all about and the Easter Bunny really has nothing to do with the real Easter.)

That isn’t to say that fasting is not a true part of Lent.  According to Wikipedia (great scholarly source, I know), Lent is all about Christians preparing themselves to mourn the death and celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ through a 40-ish day period of prayer, repentance, fasting, and giving.  I think what makes the difference between a trivial Lenten fast and a true Lenten fast is the heart and purpose behind it.

Sure, you could just give up Facebook for 40 days, or you could give up Facebook for 40 days and use that half hour of your day to instead pray for the less fortunate.  Giving up junk food is super common and an okay idea.  But wouldn’t it be better to give up junk food because you recognize that when you are experiencing a particularly difficult emotion, you run to the fridge for comfort instead of running to the foot of the cross?

Lent Comic

Two of my roommates have taken this view of fasting to heart, both choosing to fast in different ways that are physically difficult and spiritually healthy for them individually.  Ariana has taken what is seen to be a more traditional route, giving up meat and most other animal products. However, this has great spiritual significance for her because she has spent a great deal of her life working as a cook/chef and she finds great joy in cooking and enjoying fabulous meals.  Brittany, on the other hand, who can barely cook to save her own life and usually subsides on granola bars, yogurt, and cereal, has committed to eating healthily and learning to cook during Lent.  (She has successfully made french onion soup and some sort of fish dish so far.  We are encouraging her to now choose foods that leave less of a lingering smell in the apartment.)  :)  Despite how strikingly different their fasts are, the hearts behind their choices are very similar.

Several weeks ago, I received an email from World Vision (super amazing organization that all of you should check out and donate to RIGHT NOW!) about something their ACT:S division started called Lent 2011: Relentless Acts of Justice.  (Click the pic below to learn more.)

Relentless Acts of Justice

ACT:S is the activism division of World Vision.  From their website, “We are a network of young activists fighting to change the brokenness in this world, writing our own modern-day Book of Acts.”  (The book of Acts chronicles the actions of the Apostles after Jesus ascended to Heaven as they continued the work He began and helped to spread Christianity across the globe.)  Over the six weeks leading up to Easter, subscribers to the RAoJ email receive daily emails helping them to “emulate Christ’s incarnation [AKA: live more like Christ] through six real-life stories that we will bring to life by giving up everyday luxuries.”

So during this season of Lent, I’ve decided to blog daily about my experiences as I go through Lent with ACT:S.  Unrealistic, perhaps, but I know how much I struggle to discipline myself in spiritual areas, so I know this is something I need to do.  With my brand new 40 hour a week schedule (up from 19) and my insatiable perfectionism (I have been working on this post for almost 3 hours), this will be a struggle, but it is one I take on with joy.  I will do my best to blog daily.  And I hope you will read on a similar schedule.  :)

[EDIT on 5.3.2011: So, this didn’t happen. Turns out that working two jobs and already struggling to balance your life doesn’t bode well for trying to add another daily task that takes a huge chunk of time.  Ah well, maybe next year?]

Lentenly yours,

First snowfall of the year!

Happy December everybody!  Can you believe the first of December is already here?  I haven’t even come to terms with the fact that September ended two months ago, let alone the fact that winter is indeed upon us.  However, the winter wonderland I awoke to this morning is helping me along in that process.  :)

It’s been ages since I posted last, and I am sorry for that, but I promise I have a good excuse!  Last week was Turkey Day and driving up and down America’s mitten to visit four sides of family (my mom’s extended side, my dad’s extended side, M’s mom and grandma, and M’s dad’s extended side) certainly took a lot out of me.

Sadly, no Turkey Day themed crafts were a part of our celebrations this year, but there’s always hope for next!

Seriously, we put almost 600 miles on the odometer over the course of four days!  Thank goodness that boy of mine loves to drive, because I do not.  All in all, it was a lovely holiday weekend.  The rest of my family loved meeting M for the first time (and I’m pretty sure he enjoyed it too) and I loved seeing M’s family again.  I only wish everybody lived a bit closer!

But, enough of that fall holiday talk, a new season is in town:  WINTER!!!  Yes, you read that right.  Winter.  In all caps (to show excitement).  With three, count them, three exclamation points (to show even more excitement).  Now, I’ll be honest with you, there are some things I do not like about this season.  Biting cold winds.  Car doors that are iced shut.  Driving.  Other drivers, especially those who don’t think it is necessary to use their lights, wipe the snow off their brake lights, not tailgate, drive at a safe speed, clear their windshields (front and back) completely.  However, there are tons of things I LOVE about this season!

This love of winter isn’t a new thing. This turkey feather came from a Thankful Turkey made by either my preschool or kindergarten class.

First, let’s talk about the first REAL snowfall.  I’m not talking about that wimpy stuff that melts before it even hits the ground.  I’m talking about the big, fluffy, winter butterflies that coat everything they touch with a beautiful layer of white.  The kind of snow that makes you stick out your tongue and start singing that song about snowflakes and milkshakes!

Winter from Greenridge

A prime example of what a real first snowfall looks like. I just took this picture out my bedroom window and it has barely been snowing for very long.

Another reason I absolutely love this season because it brings with it one of the happiest times of year:  Christmas!  (Now, just because Christmas didn’t receive the ‘all caps lots of exclamation points’ treatment doesn’t mean I’m not as excited about it.  I just thought that might be a bit of overkill.)  Who doesn’t love decorating their home in shades of blue, white, green, and red; wrapping (homemade) gifts (in newspaper that will be recycled); covering a beautiful pine or spruce tree with lights and ornaments made by your little ones in their kindergarten class?  (Okay, so I don’t have any of those little ones, but I was one once and still love putting up my twenty-year-old handmade decorations that my mommy has saved.)

Back in 2008, the last time we were all home for Christmas, rather than buying a tree-farm tree, my dad cut a branch from one of the huge pines in our side yard. This was by far my favorite Christmas tree ever!

Back in 2008, the last time we were all home for Christmas, rather than buying a tree-farm tree, my dad cut a branch from one of the huge pines in our side yard. This was by far my favorite Christmas tree ever!

The best part of the Advent season is seeing family you don’t get to see often, sharing stories over a delicious meal, and celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.  That, and these tasty treats are everywhere:

I know that Jesus is the true reason for this season, but these bad boys run a close second in my book. Yum! (Click the picture to read a lovely legend of the origin of candy canes.)

So, despite the occasionally nasty weather, the icy roads, and the terrible drivers, I very much so look forward to this time of year.  And I hope you do too.  Happy holiday season to you all!

Snowily yours,