21 September 2010

long road out of eden ...

moon shining down on the palms
shadows moving on the sand
somebody whispering the 23rd psalm
dusty rifle in his trembling hands
somebody trying just to stay alive
he's got promises to keep
over the ocean in america
far away, the master sleeps

silent stars blinking in the blackness of an endless sky
cold silver satellites, ghostly caravans passing by
galaxies unfolding and new worlds being born
pilgrims and prodigals creeping toward the dawn
and it's a long road out of eden

music blasting from an suv
on a bright and sunny day
rolling down the interstate
in the good ol' usa
having lunch at the petroleum club
smoking fine cigars and swapping lies
they say, "give me 'nother piece of that barbecued brisket,"
"give me 'nother piece of that pecan pie"

freeways flickering, cell phones chiming a tune
we're riding to utopia, road map says we'll be arriving soon
captains of the old order clinging to the reins
assuring us these aches inside are only growing pains
but it's a long road out of eden

back home i was so certain; the path was very clear
but now i have to wonder, what are we doing here
and i'm not counting on tomorrow and i can't tell wrong from right
but i'd give anything to be there in your arms tonight

weaving down the american highway
through the litter and the wreckage and the cultural junk
bloated with entitlement, bloated with propaganda
now we're driving dazed and drunk

went down the road to damascus, the road to mandalay
met the ghost of caesar on the appian way
he said, "it's hard to stop this bingeing once you get a taste
but the road to empire is a bloody stupid waste"

behold the bitten apple, the power of the tools
but all the knowledge in the world is of no use to fools
and it's a long road out of eden

(lyrics by don henley)

22 July 2010

change is the only constant ...

Well, hello there.


What a crazy few months it has been since I last posted. My life has changed. I have changed. My days have changed. All for the better, for certain.

First, I'm gainfully employed again. Hallelujah! I started as a contractor 3 months ago at a marketing agency (here out referred to as The Agency) and 2 days ago went permanent with them. I'm blessed! It's a fantastic place to work and I work with some pretty fantastic people!

Second, 2 other girls and I used to meet weekly to pray and talk and generally do life together. In April, 1/3 of us moved. And not just moved, but MOVED! Like, to Japan moved! And in a week, another 1/3 of us is moving to Oklahoma. And I'll be here. In Kansas. Alone. Without my girlfriends. No, really, I'm happy for them. Couldn't be happier for them really. But I'm just sad for me. I'll miss them. I already miss them immensely. I have Rebecca- and Stephanie- shaped holes in my heart.

Third, my dad has been diagnosed with polymyositis. It's basically an auto-immune disease in which the immune system attacks his muscles. It's painful and awful. It seems to be progressing rather rapidly. He has a muscle biopsy coming up that will tell us a lot more about his prognosis.

Fourth, I've been asked by a friend I met in Alaska, who has become like a little brother in some ways, to write a synopsis of his music for his band's coming Myspace page. I feel honored and blown away and humbled all at the same time. I should be getting advance copies of some of his music next week or sometime soon to start this process. Talk about flattering!

This is all just a small fraction of my world lately. Figured I'd update this thing since it's been so neglected for so long. Hope to start getting back into the regular swing of things here on yasha.

21 April 2010

miracles (by walt whitman) ...

WHY! who makes much of a miracle?
As to me, I know of nothing else but miracles,
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,
Or wade with naked feet along the beach, just in the edge of the water,
Or stand under trees in the woods,
Or talk by day with any one I love--or sleep in the bed at night with any one I love,
Or sit at table at dinner with my mother,
Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,
Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive, of a summer forenoon,
Or animals feeding in the fields,
Or birds--or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,
Or the wonderfulness of the sun-down--or of stars shining so quiet and bright,
Or the exquisite, delicate, thin curve of the new moon in spring;
Or whether I go among those I like best, and that like me best--
mechanics, boatmen, farmers,
Or among the savans--or to the soiree--or to the opera,
Or stand a long while looking at the movements of machinery,
Or behold children at their sports,
Or the admirable sight of the perfect old man, or the perfect old woman,
Or the sick in hospitals, or the dead carried to burial,
Or my own eyes and figure in the glass;
These, with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles,
The whole referring--yet each distinct, and in its place.

To me, every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,
Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,
Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with the same,
Every foot of the interior swarms with the same;
Every spear of grass--the frames, limbs, organs, of men and women,
and all that concerns them,
All these to me are unspeakably perfect miracles.

To me the sea is a continual miracle;
The fishes that swim--the rocks--the motion of the waves--
the ships, with men in them,
What stranger miracles are there?

30 March 2010

dear mom (10 years later) ...

Today is 10 years since I last saw you and I just thought I'd share some things with you, that you may or may not already know. First, I just want to say how much I miss you - so much that it aches sometimes in places I never knew I had within me. I catch myself thinking about you or looking at the picture of you and me together that I keep on my dresser and struggle with the fact that 10 years have gone since I heard your voice or felt your touch or soaked in your laughter. It doesn't seem possible.

I find myself thinking lately about how much I regret. I regret the days I was too hard on you or caused you any pain in my defiance. I regret the time I wasted doing other foolish things when if I'd known you were leaving so soon, I would have spent them getting to know you and talking to you and listening to you. I would have spent more time memorizing you: the laugh lines in your face; the way you moved; your laugh when you found something really funny; how you suffered so much but never complained, taking each day in stride and living out your name - Faith; how you looked sitting at the piano every morning playing Fur Elise; or the joy you took in the simpler things. Forcing myself now to think back I can almost hear you but the more I try to remember the more the image fades from memory - like a dream when you first wake up. It makes me sad that I can't remember these things in much detail anymore. I kick myself for not paying more careful attention back then to the things I would 10 years later find more important. "Hindsight's 20/20," I imagine you saying now. And I know you don't hold any of this against me now, nor did you even then. It's just the way I feel and I suppose I need to someday reach the point where I can release myself from that and offer forgiveness to the girl I was back then.

I have healed in so many ways over the last several years (the last few especially - even the last ONE) from the wounds of a particularly painful childhood. Dad and I have a relationship that I never imagined possible for him and me. I suppose something shifted that day we watched you draw your last breath and being the only two in the room with you. We have done a lot of hard work through the grace of God and his work in us that has offered me much hope and comfort. We continue to grow and learn from each other and about each other, offering the other grace and forgiveness when one of us has unintentionally hurt the other, which happens much less frequently now than ever before.

I am learning so much about myself, about our family and its dynamics in my life, about God and grace, through careful and honest introspection and through relationships with trusted confidants that have permission to draw my attention to those things in my life that need some extra medicine. This group of people, a few women and dad, has been extraordinary and cathartic for my growth. I am so very thankful for their presence in my life and for taking on a role that I can only imagine would have been filled by you if you were still with me.

One thing I'm learning through various avenues is that I have become quite adept over the years at defending myself as a way of protecting myself. It has occurred to me that during my most formative years I did not have what I would call a protector, one to protect me from the world and from the lies its prince would sow and nurture in me. Dad wasn't a protector and you weren't a protector because you were trying to protect yourself. I get that, I really do. At least I get it now. But I remember countless nights crying myself to sleep wishing you would leave him and take us with you. Protect us. Be pro-active. Protect yourself better. Stand up for me. Stand up for them and for yourself. Use your voice. I prayed that you would leave him. When it became clear that you wouldn't, I used my own devices to protect myself that has left me defensive and scared in a lot of situations. Having learned from you I stayed in various abusive relationships of my own, not really knowing any other way.

Again, looking back now I am so thankful that you stayed. I know your last few years of marriage were some of your best and it's those years that I remember the most fondly. You and dad taught me so much about love and conflict (how to do them and how not to do them) by sticking it out that are invaluable lessons that likely I would not have learned had you thrown in the towel. And I can't imagine how my life would be different now had you done that. But I have to be honest here in a way I never have before and while I have certainly thought it several times over the last several years, I don't think I have ever said this out loud before. I was so angry with you over those things though I am not sure I was willing to see it and name it until now. But I think I've come to the place where I absolutely have to let go of that or it will tear me apart. I have spent the better part of the last 10 years feeling guilty for feeling that way towards you, like I was somehow dishonoring you even in death. Even now I struggle to write these words or to bring them out into the open. But hanging onto that won't bring me healing or freedom. So in an effort to bring this into the light, to finally give a voice to something has been a thorn in my side for 30+ years, and with anxious expectation that releasing you from this will also release me and bring me into a more abundant freedom: I forgive you. I forgive you for not protecting me and I forgive you for oftentimes making Dad "the bad guy."

Not only that but I also seek forgiveness. The Trinity is and has always been my Defender and I am sorry that I tried to cast you in a role that had already been filled. I am so sorry for any pain I caused you, and I know it must have been great at times. My anger and fear manifested themselves in many unhealthy ways. I don't offer that as an excuse or a means to justify behaviors I wish I could take back. Instead I offer that as a confession. I suppose many experts would say that every child or teenager goes through a period of particular defiance or rebellion and maybe they're right. I just know what I remember and most of it isn't pleasant. I wish I could remember more of the good because I know there must have been more of the good stuff than the bad. I'm not sure why my mind has chosen to remember the bad and not more good when most times you hear of people repressing the bad. I have to leave all of this at the foot of the cross for him to take and make something beautiful of it. And I am choosing to believe that he can do what he says he can do.

How I wish you were here to have an adult mother-daughter relationship with me. I expect we would meet for coffee regularly and I could tell you all the other ways I am changing and growing and becoming more and more myself, who I was created to be. There's so much I could and want to share with you and find out about you, we could sit for hours and talk if you were here. The Refiner's Fire burns hot these days but I am so thankful for it in a way. It's opened doors to beautiful new friendships and deepening older ones. I am so blessed by my friends and have a few with whom I share a special bond: we all know what it it feels like to grieve the loss of a mother too early, we know a little of what one of us might be feeling as we look back with our minds' eye to times that were simpler, and if not safer, then at least more innocent, times that found us in the arms of our mothers. Even though I may not see those friends as often as I truly would like, I can't deny that those bonds are some of the sweetest I possess. We often like to imagine out loud that our moms are all friends up there in Heaven watching us down here, interceding for us, grieving for us when mistakes we make bring loss in one form or another, and laughing with us when life enraptures us. How I wish that you were here and that their moms were all here and we could all go out for dinner together.

I wish for that and yet I know that can't happen and probably wouldn't have happened if you were all still alive. I am thankful for the rich and wonderful blessings your passing has afforded me. I long for you but can profoundly sense that my life would not be as rich. I imagine Dad and I wouldn't be as close as we are today. Some of the friends I share such special bonds with probably would not be as special to me, if we were even friends at all. Who knows in what other ways my life might have been less rich. While I miss you with every fiber of my being, I can't help but think that if you were here, would I be somehow missing these things that have brought so much beauty to my life because of your absence. Would that be the loss I was grieving today? I imagine so.

I love you, Mom. I miss you. Please give Becky, Debbie and Carolyn a hug and thank them for me when you see them and have a glass of wine together.

And for Becky, Debbie and Carolyn: Thank you so much for giving life to your girls and for setting them on a path that would one day lead them to collide with mine in ways that would affect my life for the better. Your respective daughters all mean the world to me and am so blessed by their presence in my life and can't help but think that this life would be less without them. You raised them well and beautifully and I can't help but imagine you teaching them all the grace and acceptance that they have shown to me in various ways. I wish I'd had the privilege of knowing you all before your passing but am content with knowing your girls and, in a way, knowing you through them. They continue to teach me about grace, love and beauty - lessons I'm sure they learned, in part if not in whole, from you. I look forward to the day when we can all, daughters and mothers, be together and laugh and share and have a glass of wine together. Until then, give my mom a hug when she comes to you. Thank you!

06 March 2010

dream weaver ...

A week ago today a friend and I went out for Chinese food. We enjoyed our hot & sour soup and our entrees and conversation. As usual the fortune cookies came at the end of the meal. Mine read, Organize your life around your dreams - and watch them come true. That coupled with the book I'd been reading, Donald Miller's A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, inspired me to do just that - organize my life around my dreams and to watch them come true. So I've decided to spell out exactly what some of my dreams are so that they're out in the open and can breathe and begin to develop into life. In no real particular order, some of the things I dream about are:

* Hiking the Appalachian Trail. For, I don't know, the better part of 10 years now I've wanted to do this, ever since I read about it on someone's blog or something. While reading Donald Miller's account of hiking the Inca Trail in his book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, this dream was awakened in me. Optimistically, I'd really love to thru-hike it (all in one go) but realistically I'm not sure that will be possible considering it takes an average of 6 months to do that. The trail is 2178 miles and goes from Georgia to Maine or vice versa; most people go from Georgia to Maine, however, starting in March or April. The elevation ranges from 124ft to around 6000 feet over the course of the hike. I would love to plan that in 2 years time, during the summer of 2012, I will be hiking the AT. Or plan that summer I will do half of it and summer of 2013 I will do the other half. I hope to borrow as much gear as possible so that I don't have to fork out the cash to buy it. Obviously, shoes will be where I likely have to spend a good amount of money as I'll need a few new pairs throughout the duration. It's estimated that most hikers save $3000-5000 for their hike to cover all kinds of expenses on the trail (food in town, motel stays periodically, equipment replacement, postage, etc ...). Is anyone interested in planning this with me??? I'd love the company, even if you only come for a fraction of it.

* Finishing my degree/obtaining a Bachelor of Social Welfare. I met with an adviser for KU's 2+2 program with KCKCC. I still have some classes I can take at JCCC so I am hoping to start those this summer, pending some other things work out as hoped. I'd say if I go full time I can be done in 5 semesters probably. It is my hope to go full-time and that will depend on the results of my FAFSA (I submitted it March 1st) and other things.

* Upon finishing my degree and getting licensed, I'd love to work with people of all ages who struggle with self-worth and other things. I'd like to call the program "Bouqets of Roses, Oaks of Righteousness" based on Isaiah 61:1-4 in The Message. Not real sure yet how this program will look but that's my vision so far.

* Opening a bookstore/art gallery/bar in a quiet mountain town somewhere where there are no franchises, only local shops (or in a lovely college town or something like that). I have some ideas on the name of it too but I'll keep that to myself for now.

* Living in the mountains. There's something very personal about the mountains for me. So much more than the ocean. I really can't explain it. It's deep. It's mysterious. It's poignant. It's very personal.

* Living and working on a big ranch or farm in some wide open space somewhere where I can see the sun rise over the hills in the east and set over the hills in the west. I have felt the past few years especially that there would be something deeply moving, romantic even, about me finding satisfaction in working the land. Again, this is something that I can't put into words. I dream that I'll marry a man that has a lot of land and a farm and horses and together we will fall in love with each other more every day as we work the land. Weird? Maybe. But it's something I dream about often. Really I just think that I need wide open spaces, room to breathe and expand and grow into myself. Room for the expanse of Triune God to dwell in and around me.

* Improving the quality of life for people, both in my personal life and professional endeavors. I am on my way to doing this through CASA and some other volunteer opportunities. I'm hoping these volunteer experiences will open doors for me professionally. I really don't want to do for a living what I've been doing for the last 10 years: receptionist and administrative work, UNLESS it's in a social work / nonprofit setting that could allow me to advance in the organization.

* Living simply and cleanly and green. I don't want the weight of a lot of belongings. I want the basics: solid, nice shelter; food; warmth; love; hopefully a bed to sleep on and a table on which to eat; and a fireplace, must have a fireplace. Other than that, I'd like to think that I could find other ways to entertain myself and others than parked in front of a tv or by some other material possession unnecessary for life to thrive. My sister and brother-in-law are in the beginning stages of building a house out in the country, totally off the grid. Their own water, subthermal heating and cooling or whatever it's called, solar panels, windmills, etc ... That's what I want.

* Paying off all of my debt. To be quite candid here I have the following debts. 1. a loan I took out in 2002: around $6000; 2. a school loan from Alaska Christian College: around $4000; 3. backtaxes: around $1500 plus this year's taxes of $500; 4. my dad: don't really remember how generously he has helped me. I feel as though the loan from 2002 and the backtaxes that I owe especially, if not also the school loan, keep me bound and hold me back from living my best life. I feel their weight nearly every day. I've been paying on the loan and the backtaxes but most of the time feel like I'm not making a dent and it's frustrating.

These are my biggest dreams aside from the more obvious: marry a devastatingly handsome and godly man; have a boy and then a girl; raise them well, in the nurture and admonition of Triune; etc ... I want to begin to organize my life around at least a few of them. I want to begin to watch them finally come true. Living in Alaska was a dream realized and what a dream it was! I can only imagine what living a lifetime of dreams will be like. Here we go!

09 February 2010

2010 so far ...

So far 2010 has gotten off to a fairly rough start. The second or third week of January I drove up to Omaha to see some friends of mine from Alaska, Jesse and Tom Mute. They live in Nome now but she's originally from Omaha and she and her husband Tom came home just before Thanksgiving to spend time with her ailing father who died the day after Thanksgiving. Anyhow, it was a wonderful visit, too short, but so good to see them. They are trying to convince me to move to Nome.

I was at the gas station in Omaha filling up on my way out of town when my dad called. He said he'd received two collect calls from the Johnson County Detention Center and wondered if I was okay. I told him that I was. He called a few minutes later saying that my sister Lisa had been arrested for drug paraphernalia and was being held with $1500 bond. Back in November this same sister threatened suicide and had her kids taken away from her and placed with their father after first placed in foster care for a week or so. She has been charged with criminal abuse and neglect (I won't share details of that here) of her children and now the drug charges on top of it. I have not heard the outcome of her trial. She has been unreachable by my dad and hasn't called anyone in the family to let us know what the verdict/sentence was/is. It's my guess that she is in jail but I don't know that for sure.

A week or so after my short Omaha trip I was happily jaunting down the stairs here at home to watch a movie in the tv room. Only I missed a stair and fell on my foot, hard. I always wondered if I would cry from the pain if I were to ever break a bone. I don't have to wonder anymore and yes, I cried like a baby. The first night (a Friday, January 21st) I thought I had just rolled it again and even hobbled on it a little bit. I remember thinking that it was a different pain than last May when I had severely sprained my other one but I just tolerated it through tears and lots of ibuprofen. The next morning I woke up and decided I should probably have it looked at. So I took my wallet and called a friend to take me to the urgent care clinic that my doctor's office runs. I was surprised that I got right in, with little wait time. And I was more surprised when the doctor came in after I'd been xrayed to ask if I wanted to see my foot. "Not really, why?" "You broke it," he said. "Did I really?" I asked. "Of course, you did. You're not just being a wuss for nothing," he joked. So I hobbled out to the light board and looked at my foot; sure enough, it was broken. So they fit me in this boot thing and I cried even more. They were not very gentle but I suppose they were also kind. They said they don't really do casts anymore and this boot costs just as much and I can take it off to bathe, etc ... So that took a wad out of my pocketbook having no insurance.

Then the next Thursday, the 28th, I started getting a tummy ache after dinner that night. It lasted all night and the next day. I didn't eat because the thought of food was not appealing to me at all. That night I'd had plans for a couple girls to come over and make dinner for me and hang out. One of them canceled saying she had a tummy ache too and she was over the night before and we ate the same thing so I thought that's why I got sick. But I was feeling a bit better so the other girl still came and I invited another girl last minute who also came. One of them made dinner and we ate and then watched a movie. My tummy started feeling worse and I started getting worried. Back in May of 2005 I had an ovarian cyst that ruptured and caused a significant abdominal infection. That's what this felt like - only on the opposite side. I slept fitfully that night and the next morning decided I should go back to the urgent care clinic. So my roommate took me back a week after I had been there for my foot. Still on crutches of course and nearly crumpled in pain. Nothing was comfortable. They drew blood. They poked my abdomen. They did other tests. And then they sent me to Shawnee Mission Medical Center for more more tests. And it was confirmed: a ruptured ovarian cyst. At least it was just that and nothing more serious but still on top of a broken foot, it's even more miserable. So I went home and slept for the next 2-3 days. The swelling in my abdomen finally went down, the tummy ache subsided, my appetite came back, and after 4-5 days of not having any bowel movements I finally did. That was a huge relief. (Sorry for the intimate details.)

Back at the end of 2009 and beginning of 2010, when I made commitments to myself to get healthy, a broken foot and a ruptured cyst right out of the starting block is not what I had in mind. I had started working out at home on a Total Gym 1700 Club and had also started a work-trade agreement with a local yoga studio: one hour of in-studio childcare/week in exchange for unlimited yoga and pilates classes and unlimited infrared massage. And I had just started a high quality vitamin/mineral supplement regimen with both of these things happened. I had been to yoga nearly every day for a couple weeks and pilates a couple of times, and was really enjoying them, before I broke my foot. Very discouraging.

In the midst of all of this I have also been dealing with some other stuff that has been pretty difficult as well. I won't share details except just to say that, again, God seems to really be growing my faith this last year.

I have felt persecuted this month but ultimately I feel like I must be going through all of this for a very specific purpose. God has to be preparing me for something very special, though I have no idea what that is at this point. A good friend reminded me the other day that when we're feeling persecuted, it's not us personally that is being persecuted but our Light and our Truth that is being persecuted. I am clinging to that with everything in me. I do feel as though I am supposed to go back to school to finish my degree. I met with an academic advisor last week for KU's Bachelor of Social Welfare 2+2 program with KCKCC. I am in the midst of finalizing my taxes so that I can complete a FAFSA and hopefully begin school this summer. I feel that this is what I have been called to do. But I know that if I have to pay everything back that I've received since September I might have to put those plans on hold yet again. This has all been very frustrating, discouraging, confusing and hurtful to me. I am clinging desperately to my faith right now that my Jehovah Jireh will provide for me just as he faithfully has in the past. "Lord I believe; only help me with my unbelief!" Satan needs to know that there is no room for him in my life, he has no business here. I am sealed by Sarayu.

It's my hope and prayer that my heart would be bent toward worshiping God even in the midst of this.

09 January 2010

psalms ...

"I will praise you, O LORD, with all my heart;
I will tell of all your wonders.
I will be glad and rejoice in you;
I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.
My enemies turn back;
they stumble and perish before you.
For you have upheld my right and my cause;
you have sat on your throne, judging righteously ...
O LORD, see how my enemies persecute me!
Have mercy and lift me up from the gates of death,
that I may declare your praises
in the gates of the Daughter of Zion
and there rejoice in your salvation ... " ~ Psalm 9

"Blessed are they whose ways are blameless,
who walk according to the law of the LORD.
Blessed are they who keep his statutes
and seek him with all their heart.
They do nothing wrong;
they walk in his ways.
You have laid down precepts
that are to be fully obeyed.
I will praise you with an upright heart
as I learn your righteous laws.
How can a young man keep his way pure?
By living according to your word.
I seek you with all my heart;
do not let me stray from your commands.
I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you.
Do good to your servant, and I will live;
I will obey your word.
Remove from me scorn and contempt,
for I keep your statutes.
Though rulers sit together and slander me,
your servant will meditate on your decrees.
Your statutes are my delight;
they are my counselors.
I am laid low in the dust;
preserve my life according to your word.
I recounted my ways and you answered me;
teach me your decrees.
Let me understand the teaching of your precepts;
then I will meditate on your wonders.
My soul is weary with sorrow;
strengthen me according to your word.
Keep me from deceitful ways;
be gracious to me through your law.
I have chosen the way of truth;
I have set my heart on your laws.
I hold fast to your statutes, O LORD;
do not let me be put to shame.
I run in the path of your commands,
for you have set my heart free.
Turn my heart toward your statutes
and not toward selfish gain.
Turn my eyes away from worthless things;
preserve my life according to your word.
Fulfill your promise to your servant,
so that you may be feared.
Take away the disgrace I dread,
for your laws are good.
May your unfailing love come to me, O LORD,
your salvation according to your promise;
then I will answer the one who taunts me,
for I trust in your word.
Do not snatch the word of truth from my mouth,
for I have put my hope in your laws.
I will walk about in freedom,
for I have sought out your precepts.
Remember your word to your servant,
for you have given me hope.
My comfort in my suffering is this:
Your promise preserves my life.
The arrogant mock me without restraint,
but I do not turn from your law.
You are my portion, O LORD;
I have promised to obey your words.
Do good to your servant
according to your word, O LORD.
Teach me knowledge and good judgment,
for I believe in your commands.
Though the arrogant have smeared me with lies,
I keep your precepts with all my heart.
Their hearts are callous and unfeeling,
but I delight in your law.
It was good for me to be afflicted
so that I might learn your decrees.
May your unfailing love be my comfort,
according to your promise to your servant.
May the arrogant be put to shame for wronging me without cause;
but I will meditate on your precepts.
May my heart be blameless toward your decrees,
that I may not be put to shame.
Save me, for I am yours;
I have sought out your precepts.
Your commands make me wiser than my enemies,
for they are ever with me.
How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!
Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light for my path.
I have suffered much;
preserve my life, O LORD, according to your word.
Your statutes are my heritage forever;
they are the joy of my heart.
I hate double-minded men,
but I love your law.
You are my refuge and my shield;
I have put my hope in your word.
Sustain me according to your promise, and I will live;
do not let my hopes be dashed.
Uphold me, and I will be delivered;
I will always have regard for your decrees.
I have done what is righteous and just;
do not leave me to my oppressors.
Ensure your servant's well-being;
let not the arrogant oppress me.
I am your servant; give me discernment
that I may understand your statutes.
The unfolding of your words gives light;
it gives understanding to the simple.
Turn to me and have mercy on me,
as you always do to those who love your name.
Direct my footsteps according to your word;
let no sin rule over me.
Redeem me from the oppression of men,
that I may obey your precepts.
Streams of tears flow from my eyes,
for your law is not obeyed.
Though I am lowly and despised,
I do not forget your precepts.
Trouble and distress have come upon me,
but your commands are my delight.
I call out to you; save me
and I will keep your statutes.
I rise before dawn and cry for help;
I have put my hope in your word.
Hear my voice in accordance with your love;
preserve my life, O LORD, according to your laws.
Those who devise wicked schemes are near,
but they are far from your law.
Yet you are near, O LORD,
and all your commands are true.
Look upon my suffering and deliver me,
for I have not forgotten your law.
Defend my cause and redeem me;
preserve my life according to your promise.
Rulers persecute me without cause,
but my heart trembles at your word.
I rejoice in your promise
like one who finds great spoil.
I hate and abhor falsehood
but I love your law.
Great peace have they who love your law,
and nothing can make them stumble.
May my cry come before you, O LORD;
give me understanding according to your word.
May my supplication come before you;
deliver me according to your promise ..." ~ Psalm 119

05 January 2010

some things i'm working on this year ...

Main goals this year:
Get healthy in all areas - physically/emotionally/spiritually/socially; Be more attentive/in-tune/kind to myself and know that I'm worth it; Live out of a place of shalom (it means peace, well-being, nothing missing and nothing broken); Open myself up more; Exercise my creativity muscles more; Be more attentive in my relationships; and there are likely more. These include but are not limited to:

*I'd like to participate in various races with friends throughout the year and throughout the Kansas City metropolitan area (preferably one per month - we'll see if that happens).

*Work out several times a week, if not every day, intentional exercise, to tone my body and to increase energy and to increase overall health.

*Start a high quality vitamin/mineral supplement program.

*Next week I'm starting a work/study arrangement with a local yoga studio. I give them an hour and fifteen minutes/week of in-studio childcare in exchange for UNLIMITED classes and UNLIMITED massage! I'm so very excited about this! They have yoga, pilates, boot camp, and some other classes. Sounds like I'm getting the better end of the deal to me!

*Work through the First Place for Health program. It's a Christ-centered approach to finding healthy balance in all areas of life, complete with a 10-week Bible study on healthy living. The website mentions classes and group studies and a member's kit for $80+. I found the main book and the Bible Study book for $6.99 each at Mardel.

*Begin and complete Beth Moore's Breaking Free study. I start this on Wednesday, February 3rd. I've been wanting to do this study for years and a friend said they were offering it as a women's ministry study at her church, so another friend and I are doing it together.

* Write more! And work toward selling something I've written.

* Set more healthy boundaries in my relationships. 2009 was a ground-breaking year for me in this area and I want 2010 to surpass that!

* Participate in a Financial Peace University class/group. Pay off the debt I have.

* Stop worrying so much what others think of me and live authentically from the heart.

* Be a CASA volunteer (Court Appointed Special Advocate). Basically the court appoints you to advocate on behalf of abused and neglected children. You're assigned specific cases and you go to hearings, meetings, other appointments and speak on behalf of the best interests of the children in your case. I'm in the process of applying for this right now, then I have an interview, they do an extensive background check, check my references, etc ... Then I go through training for 4 1/2 weeks before I'm assigned a case.

* Read the books I have before I buy new ones. This is a serious problem with me. I'm currently reading Mother Daughter Wisdom and Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom both by Christiane Northrup, M.D. Both are very good and I'm learning something new every single time I open them up; stuff I've never thought about but that is so important to women's health. Every woman should read these books - at least Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom.

* Go back to school to work toward finishing my degree. I think I've decided I want to double major in Psychology and Sociology. I know I at least want to do Psychology but we'll see.

* Have conversations that need to be had, even if they're tough, and trust that God will give me words to speak.

* Try to get out of town more, visiting friends or on personal retreats - probably after paying off debt unless it's some place more local.

* Obtain full-time, fulfilling, meaningful work.

These are just a few of the things that I'm already working on in 2010. What are you working on this year? What story are you living? What kind of scenes will your story have this year?

01 January 2010

a brand new day ...

I can't get these Josh Radin lyrics out of my head today. Seems kind of fitting for today: new beginning, new day, new year, new decade. New life? I hope so.

Some kind of magic
Happens late at night
When the moon smiles down on me
And bathes me in it’s light.

I fell asleep beneath you
In the tall blades of grass.
When I woke the world was new;
I never had to ask.

It’s a brand new day,
The sun is shining.
It’s a brand new day.
For the first time
In such a long long time,
I know
I’ll be ok

Most kind of stories
Save the best part for last.
Most stories have a hero who finds
You make your past your past.
Yeah, you make your past your past.

It’s a brand new day,
The sun is shining.
It’s a brand new day.
For the first time
In such a long long time,
I know
I’ll be ok

This cycle never ends,
Gotta fall in order to mend

And it’s a brand new day.
It’s a brand new day.
For the first time
In such a long long time,
I know
I’ll be ok.

Not that I have felt recently like I wouldn't be okay, but just seems to speak of new hope is all. Happy New Year!

29 December 2009

year in review ...

It's been an interesting year, full of struggle, bent with pain, stretched in faith, ripe with growth and illuminated with light. It was indeed a year in which God had much to teach me and show me about grace, provision, faith and trust.

January: I rung in the new year with friends at a couple different parties, fairly uneventful. New Year's Day I grabbed brunch at First Watch with my old friend Josh visiting from Colorado and saw Slumdog Millionaire with a couple strange guys I'd never met before. They were my roommate's (at the time) friends, but she didn't come with us. And I, of course, marked the new year with the requisite promises to myself of getting in shape and staying in shape. I didn't really succeed at the first, so you know the second wasn't really accomplished either.

February: Started the month off with a bang on the 3rd with my small group by having dinner at the Power & Light District and going to Chris Tomlin's concert at Sprint Center - FANTASTIC concert! I also, that month, met up with a friend from Hillcrest Nazarene, Darla Sargent (Turner), I hadn't seen in over 20 years for some Mexican food and major catching up.

March: This month started off with a bang of a different kind when I lost my job on the 6th. I had been looking at other jobs already but it's always easier to leave on your own terms than someone else's. I went to the Fireman's Auction to help raise money for breast cancer research the day after I lost my job and that helped to get my mind off of things for a couple hours. I saw Watchmen on Friday the 13th of that month with Josh. I had countless appointments with temp agencies, all leading nowhere. My "little brother" Justin came down to visit me one weekend from Minnesota (I met him in Alaska and we just hit it off right away and became pretty close. I hadn't seen him for over 2 years, 2 1/2 probably). That was the highlight of the month - if not the year. We hung out and talked, he played the guitar and sang for me (he's a musician), we saw another friend of mine play in his band at a bar downtown, we went to the park, we stayed up late, we ate amazing food. Good times! I had my interview with the unemployment office and was approved just before the close of the month. This month marked 9 years since my mom passed away on the 30th of 2000. I told my roommate that I was moving out and at the end of the month, I did just that.

April: April Fools Day brought Justin McRoberts in concert to my church. He showered us with that voice of his and it was beautiful, like he always is! On Friday the 3rd I saw a friend, Mark Mansingh, posted on Facebook that he needed someone to manage the office for his start-up wealth management firm, Mark IV Wealth Management. I commented that I was interested and left my phone number. That was at about 4pm. He called me right away and asked if I could start Monday. I said, "Yes," of course. He told me to "dress like a million bucks" and that made me a little nervous. Anyhow, I showed up on the 6th and worked all that week. We all closed up a bit early that Friday. And I had a massive migraine so I went home and went promptly to bed. Monday the 13th came and my migraine and morphed into a major sinus infection. I called in sick Monday and Tuesday. He called me Tuesday and said that he didn't need me anymore, he had hired someone else that was an excellent public speaker (which was a necessary part of the job). That was fine with me though because I scored an interview with the number ONE company I would want to work for if I could work anywhere, International Justice Mission in Washington, D.C. I had applied there on what I thought was a total longshot. But they called me for an interview and I was ecstatic! Even though I didn't get the job, my dream company thought enough of my resume and cover letter and other application information to want to interview me! That was the highlight of the month, no doubt about it, if not the year! The next week I was on I-35, a major interstate, and my car's timing belt decided that was the best place to break. My car stopped. Luckily I was able to get off to the side of the highway before I wound up dead. I had it towed and suffered a huge blow when the estimate came to $1500! God was good and provided for me and I was able to get the repairs done a couple days later. Two days later I was at Whole Foods and my door (the driver's door) decided to break and wouldn't close . I drove home with it bungied shut and that was pretty interesting. So the next day found me plunking down another $500 on body work. NOT fun when you're employed, let alone unemployed - in case you were wondering.

May: Sunday the 3rd I was at my friend Jason's place. He made dinner and we watched Dark Side of Oz and Alice on the Wall. I was leaving at midnight or so. I took a few steps out his front door and rolled my right ankle. HARD! It instantly swelled up to about the size of a softball and I had thisweird hole on the top of my foot up near my pinky toe (not sure where that came from). And since it was my right ankle I couldn't drive so I gimped back inside and "slept" on my friend's couch, meaning I laid there wincing in the dark most of the night and unsuccessfully tried to keep my foot warm despite the ice. In the morning, I couldn't put any weight on it at all. NONE. This was not a good sign - in case you were wondering. I hopped on one foot to the bathroom and every hop jolted it and sent pain shooting up my leg. Again, not a good sign. Jason went and bought me a cane (a CANE!) and an ace wrap. I called my friend and told her what happened and that I couldn't drive home. She left work and came to get me. Jason gave me a piggy back ride to the car and I probably nearly killed him. The cane was useless given that I couldn't put any weight on it. I got home and promptly called my sister who stored a bunch of stuff (including my crutches) for me while I was in Alaska for 2 years. She said she knew they were somewhere but wasn't sure. She called back and said she found them and said she'd be willing to meet Dad in Lawrence, KS (about the halfway point between Topeka and Olathe). So that night he drove to Lawrence to get my crutches and upon dropping them off to me he said it looked broken. And he was right, it did look broken. I didn't have insurance at the time so this was all very scary to me. The next day I got in to see my doctor and the office visit and xrays were only $80! They said there were no obvious breaks but the amount of swelling could be hiding a stress fracture. They also said that I likely had torn several ligaments. They said to remain non-weight bearing for 2-4 weeks and then gradually begin to put weight on it as tolerated and that if the swelling and pain didn't dissipate greatly within 2 weeks to come back. Two weeks later I was back in the office. Still swollen huge, still unbelievably painful, still purple and black and blue, still had that weird hole in my foot. They took more xrays and pulled and pushed it all over again. They said it likely was a stress fracture and undoubtedly some tears. They said they thought I had torn all the ligaments where my toes meet my foot, the ligaments in my ankle and did some heavy damage to the outside of my foot. Then they uttered the "s" word. Surgery. They said that I might need it, especially if I wasn't walking within another two to three weeks and they gave me this awesome rainbow shoe to wear so that all my friends would envy me. Somewhere in the middle of this I went with my friend Christina to visit another friend, Rachel, for Mother's Day weekend in Springfield, MO. All three of us lost our moms and so decided to spend that weekend celebrating together. It was a wonderful time of just hanging out, lots of laughter, manicure for me and mani/pedis for them (remember the foot? yeah, no pedicure for me, sadly). Brunches. Dinner out. Homemade sangria! Creating our Match.com profiles. Rachel's friend Gil. It was just a wonderful weekend, despite all the pain I was in. This month brought me a lot of support in the form of wonderful friends who came over and did laundry, went grocery shopping, kept me company, got me out of the house for brief periods, went and picked up my car from Jason's, and just loved on me.

June: The first Sunday of June was a magic day. I woke up and like every other day for the last week or two tried to put weight on my foot. And I could! Not only that but I could sort of gimp on it. That was a great feeling! You have no idea how difficult it is to take a shower/bath when you can't put weight on one foot. All sorts of climbing and huffing and puffing and hoisting and work transpires just to accomplish this normally menial task. It was thoroughly exhausting. But on that magical day in early June, I could put some (read: a very little) weight on it finally. Four weeks to the day. I of course didn't feel comfortable yet standing in the shower (hello? slick surfaces and all.) so it wasn't easy like it was before the injury but it sure beat what I'd been having to go through. So that started a speedy road to recovery after that day. No surgery for me! Hooray! A week or so after that magic day I started helping a friend, Andrew, in his home office. I worked with Andrew at Laminate Works (he's actually the one that got me the job there when I got back from Alaska in 2007) until March when they let me go. I already knew a lot of the business so it made sense for me to help him out on a "consultant" basis. So I started doing administrative stuff for him a few hours a week, here and there. It was a welcome supplement to my unemployment benefits. I turned 32 this month as well and attempted to throw myself a party. My "little brother" Justin (the one from March) said he'd come down and spend the weekend with me. I think six people showed up (over 20 had responded that they would be there) and I didn't know a couple of them (they were friends of friends or something). Justin couldn't as he had a long-time friend that had stage 4 colon cancer at 22 years old and was dying. Understood, of course. I had a ton of leftover food but it was still fun. We grilled and played some game (don't remember what), and drank sangria and beers, and ate divine cupcakes that my friend Janine made: lemon lime cupcakes with a blackberry butter cream frosting and blackberry sauce drizzled over the top! A couple days before my birthday, which is on the 17th - in case you were wondering and wanted to put it on your calendars for 2010 - I met a friend of a friend for a job interview. He runs a telecommunications company and needed an office manager. We talked for a bit and each said we'd pray it over and reconvene in a couple days. So a couple days later we met again and both committed to the job. He took me out for lunch to celebrate the job and my birthday. I was to start July 1st, working 10 hours/week so that I could continue collecting my full unemployment check. The rest of the month was fairly uneventful, I think. The last weekend of the month I went out to my dad's lake house north of Manhattan, KS. Both my sisters were there and all their kids. It was such a wonderful weekend! Full of outdoor cooking and dining, relaxing, walking down to the lake, Sophie (my boxer) running about chasing the kids on their four-wheeler and Barbie jeep. Fantastic sunsets! And family.

July: I started work on the 1st and put in a whopping 4 hours at the office! It was tough. I was off again until the 6th so I relaxed all weekend. I saw Dierks Bentley give a free concert with a couple of friends of mine. Not a lot happened this month. I "broke up with" my best friend of more than 17 years after a couple trusted mentors of mine told me I needed to get out of this "abusive relationship." I had prayed about it and actually had been thinking about ending it for several years. When I finally did, I felt relief and the biggest weight lifted off my shoulders. Why hadn't I done that sooner! I did some karaoking on the 10th with some girlfriends, went to a fish fry on the 18th with my roommate, saw Toad the Wet Sprocket on the 23rd and Better than Ezra on the 24th. My dad's best friend for over 30 years, Kim, was in town from Seattle. I got to see him for a bit and have dinner with him and my dad.

August: On the 2nd I received a text from a friend, Leah, that she and her husband Jay were watching Defiance that night if anyone wanted to join them. I went and watched with them and Jay's friend John. Afterwords, we hung out and ate and played euchre until about 2am. Had a great time! On the 5th, Lindsey Jones was leading worship at my church and that was amazing. On the 9th my friend Kelsy had just returned from picking corn at her family's farm in Iowa. She invited everyone over for corn on the cob! We ate and attempted to watch a movie outside with the projector, until it started raining. On the 23rd, my good friend Lydia, who had just returned from her summer in Europe, and I met up to see The Proposal. I was sad when I learned that it wasn't filmed in Alaska at all but actually on the East coast in Massachusetts. The rest of the month was spent working 10 hour weeks and still continuing my search for full time work in the Kansas City area. During my search I learned that my friend Ryan had vacated his position at Alaska Christian College as Front Office Coordinator to move to Chicago. I applied for the position, interviewed, was offered and accepted the position. It was agreed upon that I would start January 20th. I was thrilled to be moving back to Alaska, the place I fell so deeply in love with a few years prior. The thing was, however, that all paid staff positions at ACC are missionary positions and each staff person was required to raise their own support to cover their salary. So I started the process of fundraising: sending newsletters, emails, letters to area churches, organizations, etc ... I got a few people to respond and commit to giving what the could during my career there.

September: On the 3rd I met up with my cousin Josh and his wife for some Famous Dave's barbecue at the Power & Light District downtown. We walked around a bit and then came back to my place and watched a movie and hung out. I hadn't seen them since Christmas of 2005 when I visited them in California for 10 days. They were here visiting relatives and contacted me. It was wonderful to see them and the kids again. I saw them again on the 14th for some Jack Stack Barbecue at the Freight House (my personal favorite for barbecue) the night before they left. We then walked around Crown Center and The Westin Hotel and the Hyatt. We went up to Skies, the revolving restaurant that offers stunning vistas of the city. And then said goodbye. I continued my efforts to fundraise for my position in Alaska and continued to work for the telecommunications company. On the 21st, I worked my last day there, although I didn't really know it at the time. It's a long and sordid story, that I won't go into here. I'll just say that I'm so thankful that I'm not working for him anymore. Good riddance! On the 20th I went to my friend Jason's (remember him from the night I ended up on crutches?) for brisket. I was there maybe an hour and left (along with everyone else) because he was being a jerk to everyone there, especially me. It used to be that I would put up with that kind of behavior. Or I might get mad for a night or a week but I would eventually just brush it off and never mention it. Not anymore. This year has been a paramount year for me and setting boundaries with the people in my life. That night gave me the perfect opportunity. A friend of his, whom I'd never met before, even stood up for me. Anyhow, I don't have room for that in my life. The highlight of the month came on Tuesday, the 29th, when I went to see Snow Patrol with my friend Rachel (one of the Motherless Daughters from Mother's Day weekend). We had dinner at Blanc Burgers and Bottles. Had the dangerously delicious truffle fries. And she also gave me Donald Miller's new book that had just been released that day. Plain White T's opened for Snow Patrol and I think this maybe was the highlight of my year (not Plain White T's but Snow Patrol).

October: Or maybe the highlight of my year came on October 3rd when Rachel and I drove the 3 hours to Wichita to see Donald Miller speak about his new book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. Oh. My. Awesomeness! It was unbelievable! We sat in the front row, center, right under his nose. Afterwords, we met him and each had our pictures taken with him. He had his arm around us! In all seriousness, it was one of my favorite things of this year - that entire night was. The breathtaking drive down against a backdrop of the Kansas Flint Hills, an amazing sky, good music, and great company. I think I could just stop right here for this month and it would be sufficient. We drove back that night and it was late but still on the high of having met him. The next day we had brunch at Classic Cookie. A few days later I met up with an old roommate of mine, Rebecca. We lived (and worked) together in 2002-2003. I hadn't seen her since then, save one time when we met to eat at Chipotle. I think it was December of that same year maybe. We had reconnected on Facebook and she emailed me to say that we were in very similar places in life and could we meet. So we did. And what a blessing she has been to me since then! On the 11th my friend Kelsy (remember the corn party in August?), had just returned from picking apples at her family's farm in Iowa and had an apple party. Translation: about 40 apple desserts in lots and lots of people. I took my dad along with me. Oh boy, was it all delicious! Efforts continued for fundraising and wasn't getting much response. Due to the loss of my job at the telecommunications company in September, my unemployment benefits were put on hold. I had no money coming in (by the end of it, I went 7 weeks without any income whatsoever) and was starting to panic. I decided to apply for food stamps and that was a very humbling experience. I was approved and it was definitely a blessing, despite the occasional mean look from the person behind the cash register. This month, I also finished reading The Shack and went to hear C. Baxter Kruger talk about the book and about grace and Papa, Son, Sarayu. It was a 2-day lecture that was life-changing and life-giving in unexpected ways. Also, this month, God grew my faith by leaps and bounds by providing for me in huge ways. He is so good. And my church had a lot to do with that too. The last weekend of the month, Halloween weekend, I went to my sister Traci's in Topeka for the weekend. That Friday my brother in law turned 40 so they went out and I watched the kiddos, all 6 of them (soon to be SEVEN!), for the evening. That weekend we played, we packed some (they had sold their house), we handed out candy to trick-or-treaters. We went out to the land they were thinking about buying. On Sunday night we went to a bonfire and hayride and ate hot dogs cooked over the fire and made s'mores and watched as God drew attention to himself yet again with a breathtaking sunset over the Kansas hills.

November: When I got back in town from Topeka I noticed I had missed a couple of calls on my cell phone from one of the temp agencies, saying that they had a job for me and that it started Monday (this was Sunday night, mind you). Of course I thought it was too late but called them back on Monday morning anyway. Yep, too late. Half an hour later they called me back and said the person they sent didn't show up at the assignment and asked if I was still available and interested. Of course I was. So I started work the next day. Let me tell you, it felt great to be a functioning member of society again. It actually felt good (and I never thought I'd say this) to be in rush hour traffic because it meant I had somewhere to be, it meant I had a job to get to. The assignment was 4-6 weeks long, taking calls from mental health providers and clients, answering some questions and transferring others. It was perfect as I was/am planning on completing my degree in sociology and psychology. I was ecstatic to work in my preferred field. That first week of November I also had my phone interview with unemployment (from when I lost the job with the telecom company back in September) to go over details about the separation. I had documented everything and took meticulous notes and mailed that to them weeks prior so they had that information. They just needed me to fill in missing pieces. That was on Friday the 6th. Saturday the 7th, out of sheer curiosity I checked my status on the Kansas Department of Labor's website. They issued payment to me that morning for the previous 7 weeks based on the results of my phone interview and my documentation! It was such a relief to see that! Yet another way that God provided for me this year. Also on the 7th, Rebecca (my old roommate) and I started the first of weekly prayer meetings. It's been a stretch for both of us, as we're both fairly uncomfortable praying with others, but Man! has it ever been more of a blessing! On the 11th I went to a retirement party for a coworker of mine from Laminate Works (the place that let me go, way back in March). It was great to see everyone again and a little sad too, to see all the changes and to notice the missing faces. All the salesmen were in town and it was fun to see them again and do a little catching up and wish Joe well. I continued working at the behavioral health place 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. Thanksgiving weekend I went back to my sister's in Topeka for a long weekend. I tried my hand at making my first cheesecake from scratch, a pumpkin goatcheese cheesecake. It was a big hit! Everyone asked for seconds, even my nephew Daniel that doesn't like sour cream or goat cheese! I caught the stomach virus on Thanksgiving Day so I didn't eat a whole lot, which was fine with me in the long run. It lasted a couple days until I finally decided to go home a whole day earlier than I planned, but it felt good to get home into my own bed, even though I'd say my bed at their house is comfier. Fundraising efforts continued despite the gnawing sense that it just wasn't going to come together. I began to have serious doubts if the timing for Alaska was right. I put in a word to the place I was temping and told them I'd be interested in permanent if they had anything available. I also emailed my boss in Alaska and told her my thoughts and was relieved upon reading her response: Please don't feel bad about this! ... That was a huge relief! I told her I'd give her my final decision by December 11th. Late November I made plans to visit my little brother Justin in Chicago (he moved there from Minnesota in October) for New Years. He promised that if I bought the tickets he'd help me pay for them. This will be the very first year I had "big" plans for New Years and I was ecstatic.

December: Thursday the 3rd my temp agency called me and told me that the next day would be my last day at the current assignment, that I had done a fabulous job for them but they no longer needed me. That was hard to hear, given they had repeatedly told me there was possibilities that it could be a permanent job. A couple days before December 11th (the final date to give word to ACC) I sent off an email to Alaska Christian College officially withdrawing my application and told them that I would not be coming in January, that I didn't feel the timing was right and had little peace with the idea of going. They were very understanding, thankfully, which made it so much easier to do. Also this month, I began putting together a creative writing portfolio to submit to Hallmark, which is headquartered here in Kansas City. I haven't sent it in yet, still compiling my writings, trying to select the best ones, writing new ones, etc ... We'll see what happens. Rebecca and I decided to add my friend Stephanie to our weekly prayer meetings. It's been wonderful to have that standing date every Saturday. We gather early in the afternoon, talk about our weeks, pray, and then usually eat together and just hang out. The last time we met (a week before Christmas) we went and had dinner on the Country Club Plaza with all the Christmas lights lit and walked around. Those two girls are so very important to me and I can't wait to see them again! Yesterday, the 28th, I heard from Justin (who has since moved back to Minnesota but was still planning on meeting me in Chicago for New Years) that he has to work this weekend and can't meet me in Chicago. I had already bought train tickets: $120. Keep in mind that I'm unemployed, yet again. But I understand, there's not much he can do about it. And I called Amtrak and they refunded the full cost of the tickets! So nothing to worry about! Justin had said that he'd reimburse me for them but now there's no worries! I'm still sad to think that I would have been leaving on the 30th and coming back the 3rd. I was so looking forward to seeing him, meeting his girlfriend, and just getting out of town for a bit, changing the scenery for some fresh perspective. But I guess it'll have to wait. Until when, only God knows. Today, I saw Avatar in 3D with my old friend Josh, visiting from Colorado again, and it was quite spectacular. As one friend put it, "It's the new sci-fi standard!" And that wraps up my year so far. A few days left of 2009. Here's hoping 2010 is as good, if not better, than 2009. And of course, I'm starting off the new year with a commitment to getting healthy and staying healthy, just like every other year, the last few years anyway. Hopefully this year I'll stick to it. I'm also resolving to complain less, pay off debt, and open myself up more to new possibilities.

What has your year been like? What are your resolutions for the new year? What are the areas in which you have grown the most this year?