Tag Archives: reading

School’s out for summer!

9 Mar

I get to leave work at 12:45 today. And because it’s sunny and almost 60 degrees outside, I feel like a kid getting out of school for the summer. I have been looking forward to this all week long – it’s the little things in life.

I am so excited to go on a run in the warm daylight, and still enjoy a full night of relaxation afterward. This week has been crazy and this afternoon will be Glorious.

I just have to make it through a call about life insurance with our financial planner…

You might know that I don’t do anything with money except spend it. All things financial bore me to tears and anger. When I announced last night that I was going to bed, Travis started talking to me about life insurance. Nope, not talking about this now. See ya.

Travis asked me again this morning when would be a good time to have our phone call. I couldn’t keep my eyes from rolling. The last thing I want to do on my glorious day of freedom is talk about money. 

But, in an effort to be grateful for a husband that cares about things like life insurance and kindly doesn’t ask me to be involved unless legally necessary, I will allow the phone call to infringe. I realize it’s not necessarily a good thing that I don’t want to be involved in our financial situation, but I don’t think you’d want to be involved in something that made you want to poke out your eyes with sharp objects either. (And no, I am not being overly dramatic at all.)

After the call of gloom, I will skip happily and merrily into my free afternoon of running and reading! I might even paint my toenails with the fun purple color I bought a couple weeks ago…

What are you up to this fine Friday? Do you like talking about finances and future planning?

Favorite Things

23 Feb

My blog friend Danielle is hosting a Favorite Things Link up!

Here are a few of my favorite things:

My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers

I have read this devotional almost every morning for the past 5 years and STILL love it.

All books by C.S. Lewis 

He was a genius. If I could meet anyone in person (besides Jesus Himself), Lewis would be the person I’d pick.

Nike Zoom Structure Triax

This is my 4th pair of these shoes and they still treat me well. Although, I recently read that the Mizuno Wave Riders are good for wide feet and high arches so I might look into those.

Quaker Oatmeal Squares

My favorite cereal EVER. But I only buy it when it’s on sale but it’s against my morals to buy a $5 box of cereal. Kidding.

My dogs

Even though I get frustrated with their bad behavior, I absolutely adore my furbabies. I think they’re the cutest dogs ever.

This race picture My Brooks Speedy Bullet Jacket

I have worn this jacket for every single run I’ve done outdoors in the past 4 weeks and have been surprised time and again at how well it keeps me warm, even though it is windbreaker thin. Worth all $108 I spent on it.

And that race pic from the Snowman Stampede last Saturday? Priceless. (Was I praying to not die? )

The Subaru Forester

I heart the newest version so much. And I feel so out of place in Colorado without a Subaru. That is the color I would want too. As soon as our Focus dies…

Sushi

We’ve found two great places for sushi in Denver: Namiko’s in Arvada and Sushi Uokura in Golden. We almost always order a California roll, but I like to try new rolls and honestly, I have yet to have a sushi roll I didn’t like.

…………………..

What are some of your favorite things? Head on over to Danielle’s blog and join the link up!

Setting the Record Straight

26 Jan

A little-known tidbit about me: I can’t read cooking blogs. The pictures are fun to look at and the recipes look delicious but they just make me overwhelmed. I even feel slightly intimidated by the cookbooks I own. Some people thrive on options; I do not. They just make me feel like there’s too much to do, and too little time.

I also felt overwhelmed yesterday while reading the blogs I regularly follow. Reading about productive weekends full of baking, cleaning, organizing, family time, long runs, Crossfit workouts, and fun dates instantly brings back an old familiar feeling: I’m not doing enough.

I’ve been thinking about this lately because a good (IRL) friend of mine who occasionally reads my blog remarked that I seem to have a lot of things going on in an effort to improve my life (like not eating sweets for a month, limiting my laziness, reading 25 books, and training for a marathon). I dismissed her comment saying, “It’s really not that much; it probably seems like more on the blog.”

I don’t really consider myself an ambitious person. In high school and college, I did what was required of me with excellence (I did graduate from both with honors) but I didn’t go above or beyond that.

Instead of being an overachiever, I guess I was just an achiever. I never had an internship. I never volunteered or got involved in any kind of club. In fact, I somehow graduated as a member of the National Honors Society in high school, even though I never attended a meeting and only did 2 volunteer hours (I think something like 30 were required?). In my defense, I tried to return my medal but they wouldn’t take it from me.

I’m fairly certain that I’ve gotten where I am in life by being anal, not ambitious. While fellow classmates in high school were reading Cliff’s Notes in lieu of The Scarlet Letter and The Grapes of Wrath, I read every single page of every single book, including the Foreword if there was one. Partly because I actually enjoyed reading and partly because I couldn’t live with myself knowing that I hadn’t actually read the book.

Until recently, I had to finish every book I started reading, even if it was crap, just because “it bothered me” to start and not finish. (Now I know that life is too short to read bad books.)

My house is clean and organized because my personality can’t stand clutter and mess.

I don’t stop in the middle of a project, even if it’s mindnumbingly tedious, because I am stubborn.

When we first moved into our apartment in Boulder, I refused to let Travis store stuff under our bed and futon because not storing stuff in an actual closet bothered me. After a couple hours trying to cram things into the 3 tiny closets of our apartment, I saw the folly of my ways. (Although, I have to admit that storing things under the bed still bothers me. If you’re wondering if I’m annoying to live with, my husband would say no, but really mean yes.)

So why am I explaining this to you?

Well, you’ve probably heard people discussing the effects of social media on relationships today. It’s easy to project this perfect image of your life, because you get to pick and choose what people see and what people don’t. I think the same thing goes for blogs. It’s easy to post only the positive, happy things that happen in your life in the name of “making your blog positive” because people “come there to be entertained.” I personally don’t agree with that philosophy but I think it can happen without our realizing. It’s human nature to want to share happy news with others, but shrink back with bad news. You don’t want to blog just to complain, or tell about pathetically boring your day was, or relay how you behaved in a way you’re ashamed of (like throwing something at your husband or eating an entire box of cereal in one sitting).

So I just want to set the record straight: I haven’t checked off an item on my daily To-Do list all week until today (and that only because I had an appointment to get a new passport), I’m feeling slightly sick and majorly lazy, I haven’t walked my dogs in a few days, last night I ate my way through the cupboard before eating dinner trying to fill the chocolate-shaped hole in my heart, I’m having a hard time adjusting to having actual work to do at work, and my big toe is sticking out of the sock I’m wearing. I’m not perfect. I don’t have it all together. I have lots of big ideas and want to live my life intentionally but sometimes (or perhaps, often), I just need a glass of wine, Desperate Housewives, and a night on the couch. And I’m pretty sure other bloggers do too.

Would you consider yourself ambitious? Do you tend to be productive or relaxed with your free time?

Ambitious much?

12 Jan

This week has been very standard at work: nothing to do. But for some reason, I come home from work just exhausted. I have grand ambitions of working on a project I want to get done or reading a book but the only thing that seems appealing is getting my workout done as fast as I can and then spending the rest of the night glued to the couch and TV. Ever have a week like that?

Last week, I was thinking about my goal of reading 50 books in a year. I did the math the hard way – taking 50 books divided by 12 months and carrying the 2 – when I could have realized my over-ambition quite fast by taking 50 books into 52 weeks. Hmmm… that equals out to be almost a book a week. Every week. All year long.

Suffice it to say, I am revising my goal to simply Read more books than I did last year. Which cuts it down to 27 books instead of 50, but that’s still a book every 2 weeks. More realistic but (I think) still tough, especially when I have weeks like this where reading feels like the last thing I want to do.

The whole point of the goal is not just to read. It’s to be more intentional about doing something I enjoy (and I just like making goals). Treating myself like a Nazi is not something I enjoy. A goal too lofty would make me feel incredibly guilty for doing anything but reading, and ruin the very purpose of creating the goal in the first place.

This makes me think of a question I read in an interesting blog post and article the other day: When does self-improvement stop being beneficial and start being a hindrance?

The whole idea behind making goals at the new year, I think, is to be more intentional about how you’re spending your time. Instead of just thinking about how much you’d like learning how to paint, or to speak Japanese, or to run in 10 states, you put some action behind it. Make your dream a reality. Use your time wisely.

But the day-in, day-out grind of life isn’t always as inspiring as those first days of a new year are. Hence, the number of unkept resolutions.

So what do you do when the glitter falls off of your goal? When you just see the menial tasks and grunt work actually required to meet your goal, instead of the sparkly prize at the end? Here’s how I look at goals:

1. Goals should be flexible. Life changes. Things happen. You might realize one day that shooting to read a book a week for the entire year is pretty much a pipe dream. So you revise.

2. Goals should be inspiring. If you’re saving for a trip to Paris, put a picture of the Eiffel Tower on your wall at work. Learn to speak French. Go eat a croissant and tell yourself that it’ll be 1,000 times better in Paris. Watch movies set in Paris. Keep a picture that reminds you of Paris in your wallet, so that every time you’re tempted to spend money that you should be saving, you hold out for the greater prize. Don’t just grunt your way through life – be inspired.

3. Goals should have a “why.” If you don’t know why you want to lose weight, or take up a new hobby, or cook more at home, it’s very easy to give up when you encounter resistance in the form of brownies, laziness or takeout food. Having a “why” also provides fodder for your inspiration (see #2).

4. Goals should be about more than just the end. Why? Because on your way to the goal, you’re still living your life. And if you’re only focused on the end, you’re missing out on the joy of the journey. Running a marathon someday will be amazing – but it’ll be so amazing because of the miles I ran and time I sacrificed to get there. A goal is an accomplishment because you stayed focused over an extended period of time for a specific result. It’s the work that got you there that’s impressive. Also, if you’re solely focused on the end of your goal, what happens when you reach it? Goals aren’t the point of life. A goal is just a tool that helps you make positive changes in your life, for your overall joy.

5. Goals should be filled with grace. There are days when you slip up and eat 2 slices of cake even though you’re trying to drop some pounds. Or you skip your run even though you’re training for a race. Or you veg and watch TV every night after work for a week even though you’re trying to read more. Some days you just need a break. And that’s ok. Use the break to think about your goal – Is it still worth it? If so, why did I do what I did? What can I do in the future to prevent it from happening again? Or should I revise my goal to make it more realistic or joy-giving?

 

In my case, I’ve been reading a pretty mentally-challenging book (One Thousand Gifts) and while I’m really enjoying it, sometimes I just want an easy novel. That’s why I’m drawn to TV over a book – I don’t want to think, just veg. I think easy novels can serve that purpose too. While I’m trying to break my habit of reading more than one book at once, sometimes you just have to make an exception (see #5).

How do you stay motivated for your goals?

Rest, finally.

22 Nov

Well friends, I finally got my restful weekend. Even though elk hunting back in October was supposed to be the end of the busyness, it wasn’t really. We still had a bunch of crap great stuff to keep us busy on the weekends, like butchering and vacuum-sealing animals, running errands, and fun stuff like dinner with friends and volunteering.

So when I had a whole Saturday with nothing planned and a Sunday with only church and dinner with friends (that ended up being postponed because one of them got sick), I saw my chance. A weekend of rest. 

I had to act fast. I made sure to ask Travis what he had planned, just in case he was staging Antelope Butchering Part 22 and expecting my willing participation. (Yes, we still.have.meat.to.cut.up. Will it ever end?!?!)

Once I was relieved to know that my vacuum-sealing skillz would not be needed, I then decided to figure out the bare minimum of things I had to accomplish on the weekend, in order to maximum the amount of time my butt could be glued to the couch.

I figured I needed to clean our house, go grocery shopping and get my two workouts in (5 mile run one day, 60 min cross-training + strength another). I probably would have just ditched the house cleaning, except I thought we were having dinner guests Sunday night, and my parents are coming into town today! I also only buy enough produce to last us a week and I can’t not have apples and bananas to eat for snacks, so grocery shopping is also necessary.

I decided to grocery shop on Saturday (because everyone and their Grandma goes to the grocery store on Sunday) and clean on Sunday (because dog hair mysteriously appears 30 seconds after I clean anything so it’s best to leave as little time as possible between when you clean and when guests arrive).

Anyway, my plan worked perfectly. Friday after work, I did a quick 3 mile tempo run and then promptly did nothing else for the rest of the evening besides drink wine and watch TV.

Saturday, I didn’t get to sleep in (because Katy got up at 6:45 and groaned at me to feed her) but I didn’t expect to (because Katy does that every morning) and actually read for a couple hours. I was able to finish The Me I Want to Be by John Ortberg before it was due at the library. I really enjoyed it. But around 8:30, I fell asleep on the couch and at 9:30, I went back to bed. 🙂 Travis and I finally got up at 10:30.

Then I had breakfast, read some more, called my mom and friend Amy who’s living in California right now, tided up the office, typed up my notes from another library book (Having a Mary Spirit by Joanna Weaver – also good), went on a run with Travis and the pooches, and then Travis and I went out to eat at Pho Fusion, where I tried Pho for the first time. It was good but meh in my book. I’m not that much of a soup person and I don’t really like cabbage or celery so it’s probably just my weird quirks.

After dinner, Travis and I went to the grocery store and bought food for the week and Thanksgiving. It’s so much more fun going to the store when Travis comes with! We bought some gummy bears (for me) and ice cream (for him) to enjoy while watching Yogi Bear. I love, love, love animated movies so whenever I have the chance to rent a movie without Travis’ input, that’s what I usually choose. It was a cute movie – not my favorite, but I laughed a lot.

Sunday, we went to church, ate lunch and then I laid on the couch watching football for a little while. When Travis got up to go do stuff, I decided I should probably get started on laundry  and cleaning. Around 5, I went swimming and did yoga. After that, I finished cleaning, finished almost all of the laundry, and went to bed around 10.

Overall, it was a very nice weekend. I don’t think I could handle an entire weekend of doing absolutely nothing – I like having a balance between rest and productivity.

I am really looking forward to the holiday weekend – great food, great time with my parents, and lots of relaxing!

What I picked up…

31 Oct

Saturday morning, I made a very necessary run to Walgreen’s for coffee and then spent a long time in the morning researching in the Bible what I wrote in my recent post on grace. I think this is going to be the hypothesis or main focus of the book I’m slowly attempting to write.

After getting dressed, I decided what to make for dinner (usually I choose 3 recipes, but this time, I chose 4 because of the little butternut squash from our garden I want to use up):

Minted Rice with Garbanzo Curry

Chicken and Dumplings

Tomato Tortellini Soup

Butternut Squash Lasagna

Then I made my shopping list, and went to my favorite grocery stores: Sunflower Farmer’s Market and Safeway.

Here’s my haul:

Pantry Items: 2 loaves of bread, instant brown rice, condensed tomato soup, vegetable broth, tomato sauce, garbanzo beans, raisin bran granola, Multi-Grain Cheerios, Hint of Salt Triscuits, cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, sun-dried tomatoes, butternut squash puree, cream of chicken soup, cream of mushroom condensed soup, dried apricots, walnuts, chocolate chips (which I realized after I took this pic should have been included with the baking stuff)

Baking Goods: 2 cake mixes (bought to make these easy pumpkin cupcakes and they were Buy 1, Get 1 Free), Bisquick, brown sugar, white and semi-sweet chocolate chips (also B1G1)

Produce: baby carrots, Honeycrisp apples, bananas (usually I buy more than this but we have quite a few vegetables left over from last week)

Perishables: shredded Parmesan, shredded mozzarella, half & half, pepperjack cheese, roasted red pepper hummus, mint leaves

In case you’re curious, I spent a little less than $100 on all of that (plus sandwich bags and Febreze, unpictured).

Then I checked out more books from the library than I could possibly read before their due date (thank goodness for online renewal!):

I started reading Beautiful Outlaw by John Eldredge and LOVE it so far.

I also set out our green tomatoes in the sun to ripen.

{Notice Katy in the window – that’s how she alerts us she wants to come in.}

Instead of diving right into the books though, I went on a 3 mile tempo run with the dogs (32:43) and then did the first 30 minutes of YogaX.

Saturday night, we babysat a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old for some friends. It was so much fun! As I sat by the 1-year-old’s crib waiting for her to fall asleep, she rolled over and I was struck by how much they are little people, with little quirks and personalities. And I realized, if I can be so fond of someone else’s kids, how much am I going to love my own kids someday, whether they are biological or adopted! I am still praying for the grace to wait patiently until the time is right for us to try. Soon…

Sunday, we went to church, ate lunch (leftover Tortellini Soup, which was delicious but very rich – would be good as a small appetizer instead of the main course, or with less cream), and after starting laundry and cleaning the bathrooms, did Travis’ favorite thing – shopping. Like a lot of men, he is very hard on his clothes and has one by one destroyed his good work jeans by either getting them irreversibly dirty or wearing  holes in the knees, until he was down to one pair of jeans. So shopping it was. I was also on the hunt for a pair of skinny jeans to wear under my new boots.

We looked at the thrift store first because I have been able to find a lot of good deals there for myself, but there wasn’t a good selection. So we headed over to the Eddie Bauer outlet at Denver West. Travis has had luck there in the past with finding jeans that don’t have holes or any weird washing technique. Often, men’s jeans are very “trendy” and Travis is not. So he sticks to brands like Wrangler, Carhartt, and Eddie Bauer.

We found a couple of great pairs of jeans on the $19.99 rack – it was such a good deal, I was worried that they had been misplaced there (having worked in retail myself and seen that happen many a time). And I was right. They rang up at $49.99 each. But when we said that we had found them on the clearance rack, the clerk was amazingly nice and gave us the sale price. I was floored. He saved us $60!

After that, I asked Travis if I could take a quick detour into a store called Papaya. It looked a lot like Forever 21 and I found that the prices were similar as well. I found a pair of skinny jeans for $24 that fit me well. They’re just a little bit long, so they bunch up around my ankles like this, but since other people wear them that way, I guess it’s ok… Sometimes I feel like such a poser wearing fashions like that! I even felt like the girl manning the dressing room at Papaya gave me a look like “What are you doing shopping here?” I guess I am almost 30… And when I shop at stores like that, I have to get over any hangups I have ever had about pants sizes because the reality is, when a size 6 adult woman shops at a store for juniors, she’s going to be more like a size 11. (Is it just me or have juniors pants gotten smaller since I was a teen? I mean, who can possibly wear those size 1 pants?)

I told Travis as we were leaving that I’m going to be sad when I can no longer shop in stores like that, either because I’m too old or because I can’t fit into anything, because those stores are so cheap! Shopping in adult stores meaning paying adult prices. Ugh… I don’t want to grow up. 

After our shopping trip, I called my mom, finished laundry, cleaned the rest of the house and then went on a 4 mile run (43:30) with Travis and the dogs. The pooches were still exhausted this morning!

Have you read any good books lately? Do you ever feel weird wearing trends?

In a nutshell… Boots!

24 Oct

This is a strange feeling – being rested on a Monday.

How did that happen? By following my plan of relaxing Friday night, doing (7 loads of) laundry Saturday and cleaning Sunday. It worked beautifully.

The weekend in a nutshell:

Friday

“Cooked” a frozen pizza for dinner.

Researched boots online for 2 hours.

Gave up finding cute, warm boots.

Watched Parenthood.

 

Saturday

Had coffee with Cathy.

Scored cute winter boots (detailed below).

Started laundry (insert between each of the following).

Returned overdue books.

Bought groceries.

Read.

Napped.

Read.

Walked the dogs.

Enjoyed girls’ night (we watched a Bollywood movie – love it!).

 

Sunday

Went to church.

Cleaned and tidied house.

Vacuum-sealed the last of the elk meat.

Read.

Napped.

Spend time with God in prayer.

Went to the church potluck and meeting.

Watched Desperate Housewives.

 

There were other things I was tempted to do – clean this, put away that, weed out this drawer, organize that closet. But I didn’t. Instead, I intentionally stuck to my plan and while laundry was being laundered, I laid on the couch and read my book (right now, it’s We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates). And I am so glad that I gave myself that permission. I feel refreshed and rejuvenated today – but probably also because of my great time with God yesterday and today. I’ll blog about that later this week.

First things first – I am way more exciting about my new winter boots than I am about the details of elk hunting so I’m pushing hunting pics out until tomorrow.

So the story behind these boots is that the only pair of real winter boots I own are too small for me (and I won’t wear them in public). I got them a LONG time ago (high school?). The boots I have been wearing for the past 7 years are a pair of fashion boots that I bought while working at a department store in college. They don’t have any insulation and they are only kinda-sorta waterproof. So while I have worn them for snowshoeing, tromping around in the snow, and they have been very loyal to me, I’m not going to lie – my feet get pretty cold wearing them. As in, very cold. No insulation = no warmth.

Travis’ cousin emailed us to say that he could get a great discount on new Columbia gear through the store he works at, but only through the end of the month. So I started looking at Columbia boots, and quickly discovered all of the cute ones only had 200 g of Thinsulate! (Travis said that 400 g would be a bare minimum.) Don’t these people know that a lot of women want to be warm and cute? (And actually, Columbia only carries one boot with more than 200 g of Thinsulate that I could see). As I looked at other brands, those too were only 200 g. The only warm boots I could find looked so… booty. Do cute, warm boots exist anywhere? 

I didn’t want to spend $150, or even $100, or heck even $50 on boots I wouldn’t want to wear in public. I mean, how often do I go elk hunting or snowshoeing – twice a year, combined? I needed boots I could wear casually around town and not look like a goober. Anyway, after 2 hours of unfruitful searching (although I did really love these, but they didn’t have my size – single tear), I decided to just go to Dick’s Sporting Goods to try on boots in person.

And wouldn’t you know, on the 75% off clearance table, like a beacon of light, I saw these gems:

So comfy. So cute. So warm. So CHEAP.

Originally $149. I got them for $40.76. 

Since they were on clearance, I couldn’t find out how much insulation they had. I tried to look it up on Travis’ phone while we were in the store but to no avail, since they are no longer being made by Sorel (why, I don’t know because I have read nothing but rave reviews of them online). I tried on a bunch of other boots and felt “eh” about them. Plus, these were so cheap. And Sorel has a reputation for making a very high-quality, long-lasting boot. (In fact, that’s what brand my old-boots-that-I-won’t-wear are.)

We decided it was too sweet of a deal to pass up. Plus, their clearance items are returnable so I figured I could do a little more research on them and if I found a bunch of bad reviews, I could just return them. But the reviews are all good so I think they’re keepers.

I heart finding clearance deals, especially for things I would have paid full price for.

So if you have any questions about winter boots, I am now your expert.

What do you wear on your feet during the winter?

My weekend of relaxation is here!

9 Sep

{source}

That’s what I will be doing this weekend (except with a much less impressive view).

Against all odds, I have made it to my first free weekend in two months, and my second free weekend since the beginning of June. Woohoo!

I know that I said I was going to lay around and do absolutely nothing, not even clean my disgusting house. Yeah… that’s not really going to happen. Mostly because there are things that I would like to do this weekend that do not involve watching TV (and because I would feel disgusting if that’s all I did for 2 days… trust me, I’ve tried it).

So what is it I want to do this weekend? In order of importance (because free days fly by faster than I realize!):

1. Recharge, which means:

  • Sleep in. No alarm clock for me! (Except Sunday morning when I have to be at church by 9:15.) And if I feel like a nap, by all means.
  • Get in the Word for an extended period each morning with a cup of coffee. This is the thing that I have missed the most. I seriously haven’t done this in 3 months.
  • Read! I am currently reading Managing God’s Money by Randy Alcorn. I’ve really enjoyed it so far.
  • Take a walk outside in the cool(er) fall(ish) air with the pooches.
  • Drink a Pumpkin Spice latte from Starbuck’s.

2. Get caught up. Specifically:

  • Clean the house
  • Buy more dog food (and decide on which new food to buy) and treats
  • Organize all the mail, race stuff, and miscellaneous crap I’ve thrown in a pile in my office
  • Write Thank You to the Normans for a great Labor Day
  • Grocery shop
3. Train. I would gladly cross this one off my list, but alas, I have paid money for these races and would like to turn out a decent effort. My workouts look like:
  • 10 mile bike, 2 mile run tonight
  • 6 mile run + strength training tomorrow
  • 15 mile bike on Sunday
4. Go shopping. I need would like to buy:
  • Housewarming gift for friends
  • Shirt for my cousin’s wedding to go with the cute new skirt I got at the thrift store Tuesday (I’ll post my other great finds later)
  • Cute decorations and fabric for curtains for various areas of our house
If you think it’s weird that Travis isn’t involved in any of these plans, it’s because he’s going up to Wyoming antelope hunting this weekend. And then he’s going back out to Utah to count cacti next week. I’ll see him for a couple of hours Sunday but that’s it. I’m actually disappointed that he’s going to be gone so much (insert evidence of God’s grace in marriage here!).
Regardless, I’m looking forward to a relaxing weekend! I may post tomorrow or Sunday but I forgot my phone in NC so I have no internet at home (gasp!). No phone and no Internet! What’s a girl to do?
See above.
Have a great weekend friends!

Goodbye reading goal?

23 May

This weekend was extremely productive. For some reason, I have started waking up without an alarm clock. I still set it because I’m very wary of this alertness before the crack of dawn. So after going to bed at 10:30 on Friday night (because I was absolutely exhausted), I woke up at 7:15 on Saturday. After watching the morning news, getting in the Word, eating breakfast, and waking Travis up for our bike ride in Boulder, I gave both pooches a bath and dyed my hair. (I used the new Clairol Nice ‘n’ Easy Foam color – it was very easy to use and I really liked how my hair turned out… except that it’s almost the same color it was before I dyed it.)

Then came our bike ride in Boulder – 17 miles around the Boulder Reservoir. I’m very proud of my husband for surviving it, considering he hasn’t ridden a bike in a couple of years. And I was very pleased with our time: 16.73 miles in 1:04. I’ll ride faster during the race because I was purposefully riding slower than I would have for my husband, who was riding an old mountain bike. So not only was he not in biking shape, he was riding a heavy, knobby-tired hunk of metal. Isn’t he the sweetest for coming with me?

After our bike ride, we ate lunch at Harpo’s Sports Grill (we had a gift cert), then went home where Travis mowed the lawn and I went to pick up my prescription (and a few other non-essentials) at Walmart. Travis had suggested I buy him a gun safe as an anniversary present so we went to Gander Mountain for that, and then to the liquor store for tequila so we could make frozen margaritas with our new full-size blender (Travis’ present to me). Mmmm…. margaritas.

On Sunday, I got up at 6:30 to run 5 miles, then we went to church, REI, and then the nursery to buy plants for our vegetable garden. After planting and fencing off our vegetable garden (no pooches allowed!), I went to the grocery store, finished doing laundry, and went to bed at 9:45. Whew!

One unfortunate side effect of this busyness, however, is that my reading has plummeted to being almost non-existent. In the past month and a half, I haven’t finished a single book. I’ve read maybe a grand total of 30 pages. Sad day. Part of the reason for my hiatus has been that reading mentally stimulating books when I have a thousand things going on just isn’t possible. I can’t engage with the book. Instead, I end up either reading the same paragraph over and over or reading several pages only to realize I’m completely lost. The other part of the reason is that it just isn’t a priority right now — and it’s not going to be until life slows down a bit. What happened to the days and nights on end of having nothing to do? Oh wait, they all got channeled into my time at work.

It doesn’t look like it’s going to better any time soon either. This coming weekend, we’re camping and while I might be able to fit some reading time in while Travis is fishing, it will be minimal. The weekend after that is my first sprint triathlon, the Boulder Sunrise; the weekend after that is the Greeley Sprint Triathlon; the weekend after that, we’re going to visit friends down in Divide, CO; and the weekend after that, we might have a barbeque at our house. There is some downtime in there and I am for sure going to need some rest after doing back-to-back triathlons – but it’ll probably come mostly in the form of naps. I am really looking forward to a weekend with nothing we *have* to do (if it ever comes…) so that I can sit down with a book and relax.

I do feel God’s blessing in the midst of this busy season, though. Having learned that I am only called to be faithful in doing what God has assigned to me for the day and leaving the rest to Him has given me unexpected energy when I feel like I should be dead tired, overwhelmed, and mopey. Instead, I have excitement, enjoyment, and hope. In fact, I actually enjoyed digging in the dirt yesterday to plant our garden. I am very excited to see the plants grow and produce fruit (I’ll post pics and more info later). It makes me feel like I’m really taking advantage of God’s bounty and joy in creation. Plus, I love fruits and vegetables!

All that say, whereas I had been contemplating the goal of reading 50 books in a year (the past several years, I’ve only averaged 25 or so), that goal may have to be sacrificed for some peace and sanity. Goals are just a means of achieving what you really desire and value. They are not ultimate. God, and the joy found in Christ, are.

The Simplicity & Difficulty of Connecting with God

4 Apr

Last Friday and Saturday, I didn’t want to get in the Word. I really just wanted to read a good book, one with new ideas and words I hadn’t read before. I didn’t want the usual formula of my morning: read the Bible, pray, meditate. So on Friday, I took a walk. It was a beautiful morning and I reveled in the sunshine and warmth, very thankful to God for His creation. “See?” I said to myself. “I don’t need the formula. I can connect with God many different ways.” But a little voice said that if I didn’t read the Bible and pray for others, my time with God was incomplete. Sure, I could connect with Him in nature but it wasn’t sufficient.

Saturday, I read The God Hunt by Karen Mains for a couple of hours in the morning, then some more in the afternoon, then some more at night. I felt my childish rebellion welling up inside in response to the responsible voice that talked about reading the Bible and praying: “I want to just read a book! Why can’t I just do what I want to do?” Reading The God Hunt was in some way, a rebellion, a way of staking my claim to how I wanted to spend my day. I wanted to read a book, not the Bible. I wanted to sit in silence, not pray.

As I was reading the book before I went to sleep Saturday night, Karen Mains was talking about setting up “ducks,” what I have normally called cairns, rocks stacked on top of one another to delineate a path and keep a hiker on the right track. But instead of setting up physical ducks, she was setting up spiritual ones to keep her on the right path with God and reminding her to look for Him. Her spiritual cairns were Bible study, prayer, personal liturgies, memorizing Scripture, etc.

Instead of being a curmudgeonish chore, studying the Bible is a way for me to “keep the object I am hunting within my spiritual sightlines,” to remind myself that “as I moving forward…what I am looking for is God’s work.” God’s work. His touch and presence in my life. Him seeking and finding me. Was I basing my relationship with God on how much I pursued Him?

Then on Sunday morning, I awoke with the cold I had felt developing the previous night. It hadn’t gotten as bad as I expected; I was still well enough to go to church. But I was groggy, sleepy, and short-tempered. Even the bagel crumbs falling to my skirt in the light breeze outside Panera irritated me. As we arrived at church and sat in our usual spot, the worship music started. The first song was one I didn’t particularly like, then second song was a new one that I “didn’t have the energy to learn.” I stood there lamenting how tired and sick I felt, worried about who I would talk to during the five-minute break, and worried about meeting Ana Helena after church to talk to Gerry, a new member who had just moved from the Congo, about teaching him ESL. I heard my usual voice of self-pity, “I’m just so tired. I don’t feel well. I can barely even concentrate on singing. I can’t wait to go home.”

As I stood there, half singing the songs, I remembered something I had read in Practicing His Presence:

One of the mental characteristics against which I have rebelled most is the frequency of my “blank spells” when I cannot think of anything worth writing, and sometimes cannot remember names. Henceforth I resolve to regard these as God’s signal that I am to stop and listen. Sometimes you want to talk to your son, and sometimes you want to hold him tight in silence. God is that way with us, He wants to hold us still with Him in silence.

If I didn’t feel up to singing, could it possibly be God’s way of telling me to just listen, to just enjoy His presence? If I didn’t feel like searching for God and straining to uncover God’s word for me that day, could God be reminding me that He will meet me with rich blessings?

I stopped singing and closed my eyes, listening to the harmony of voices lifted up to God. Then it became clear: I had been basing my encounters with God on how “up to” the Christian life I felt, how much I felt like I could handle, how dedicated I felt, how ready to obey I felt. I was still trying to find the strength and stamina for the Christian life in myself. Why else would being sick and tired feel like a setback or hindrance to God’s work in my life? If I were truly relying on God for everything, I would be just as ready to obey God in sickness as in health, in bad times as in good. My circumstances would have no sway on my readiness to see or respond to God, because the ability to do so would be bound up in Him—and He never changes.

I was once again reminded of my alternate translation of 2 Corinthians 16:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in humility.” It is true that my self-pity is the reverse form of pride, the opposite of humility. The cure is finding sufficient grace and power in who Christ is for me. Instead of worrying about who I was going to talk to during the break, I could wait and listen for God to speak to me in the moment. And He did: once the break rolled around and Travis went to the bathroom, I saw Renia sitting alone and was actually excited to go over and talk to her. God’s leading. After church, I found Ana Helena and while she went to get her kids, I tracked down Gerry and talked to him about the ESL lessons and furniture for their apartment. God’s leading. It is after situations like this when I am humbled yet again by God, for doubting His goodness to me. I am like an Israelite, who continues to doubt and question God even after all of the times that He has so obviously proven His track record.

God showed me yet again that I can rely on Him for everything. There is nothing I need to live out my faith authentically for His glory besides His constant sufficiency and supply of grace. Even in my intimate daily walk with Him, I don’t need to find the stamina and motivation in myself to seek Him; I need only to ask Him to produce it in me. When I have found myself wanting in spiritual desire, instead of running to God, I have lamented my lack and tried to make up for it in my own actions—or conceded defeat and turned away to do what my flesh wanted to do instead.

Anything that takes me away from intimacy with God, whether sickness, fatigue, or desire to relax, should put up a red flag. Why? Because the idea that it is work to spend time with God, or that I have to choose between rest and Him, or that it takes a lot of striving to connect with God are all lies. God is the epitome of relaxation (Psalm 23:2-3); I find rest in Him (Matthew 11:28); and I only have to draw near to God for Him to draw near to me (James 4:8). As Roy Hession says in We Would See Jesus:

God has made Him as accessible to us sinners as He possibly can…We see the standard of the victorious life above us, and we are quite sure that if we can attain to it in this or that particular we shall be in fellowship with God and filled with His Spirit. But it is the attaining to it which all the time defeats us. And all the time we are climbing so hard the Lord Jesus stands immediately available to us as our Door, open on street level, and we could so quickly enter in if we were willing to bow our heads at His Cross.

Bible study, prayer, worship, memorization—all of these are means to connecting with God, not ends in themselves. How Satan loves to heap guilt on us when we declare that! He knows their power, their use, their effectiveness. He knows that if he can pervert their use and purpose in the minds of believers, we will become in bondage to them and they will lose their beauty, freedom, and glory in aiding us to discover the God who we so long for.

If I find myself feeling condemned by desiring one day to connect with God through nature instead of His Word, it doesn’t take me long to see that I have turned reading my Bible into an end, instead of a means. The only thing that should grieve my spirit is losing my connection with God and I should seek to amend the situation however I can at the moment, instead of promising myself “I’ll get in the Word again tomorrow.” God is available now, in the moment I so desire Him! Don’t tarry, don’t make excuses. Go to Him now. Your small desire is enough. Like Brother Lawrence says, “Just a little lifting up of the heart to God is enough. A little remembrance of the Lord, one act of inward worship…will be fully accepted by the Lord.”

So often when I come to God, I think I need to be in a spiritual mindset, to feel ready to accept truths from God, to be dressed in my spiritual armor, ready for any battle God calls me to. While that does sometimes happen (no doubt God preparing me for His revelations), those are not prerequisites to time with God. I can come to Him when I feel groggy, lazy or grumpy; I can come to Him when I don’t feel like reading, or do feel like reading, or want to take a walk outside; I can come to Him when I am anxious, self-pitying, or short-tempered. He will never acquiesce to my sin or pity but He will always speak to me gently exactly the words I need to hear and show Himself to be the way to peace and joy. God’s dedication to His own glory is the most reassuring thing in the world.