Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Snow day!

It's snowing today -- our first one of the winter season.
Down here in the south, people lose their minds when the fluffy white stuff starts coming down. They buy up all the bread and milk in grocery stores. They start doing foolish stuff on the roads. Granted, we don't get that much snow so people are not used to it and don't know how to drive in it.

A snow (non) event virtually guarantees the entire city shuts down: schools, businesses, many eateries. I happen to like snow days because that means we get the day off. Such was the case today. Whenever we get a snow day, I get the urge to cook, bake and eat up a storm. I present to you Exhibit A:

Blueberry cobbler. Git in mah belleh!!

The Lola homestead around 7 a.m. Just a dusting.

About nine hours later. Plucky dog loves the snow.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

For the audience of ONE

"I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure." -- Eric Liddell, Chariots of Fire

I competed in a national taekwondo tournament in Frisco, Texas, this weekend.
I love and enjoy people, but performing in front of them often makes me nervous and flustered. In times past, I've become so nervous at taekwondo tests and competitions that I get inside my own head, foil myself and mess up.

This time around I began thinking: what if I performed as if I were doing it before an audience of One -- as unto God? 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." So, why not taekwondo?

The shift in thinking was helpful because I realized that whether I earned medals during the competition or not, it was still God's show no matter what. This took some of the pressure off and even though I was still nervous, I enjoyed myself. I felt God's pleasure throughout the weekend.

I made a couple of mistakes with my form (a set of movements that demonstrate mastery at one's belt level), I lost points in a couple of my sparring matches for "hitting too hard," and I earned a gold medal in board breaks. Overall, I had a fantastic time.

Five of my teammates from my fall Peru Inca trek came out to support me.
So grateful for them and their love! :)

Thursday, January 14, 2016

A sweet welcome

I grudgingly broke my Facebook fast last night and logged on after a month away.
The first thing in my newsfeed was this photo: sweet memories of a sweet crew as we made our way up a tall mountain in East Africa for a neat purpose.
Definitely a great welcome back to the social media platform.

The jury is still out on what as to whether I'll jettison Facebook for good. (It did feel overwhelming after being gone from it for so long. So I got out of there today quickly!) For now, I've decided to hang on to it but keep the app off my phone. That way, I can still stay connected as needed, but the extra effort of having to go to a desktop virtually guarantees that I limit my time on Facebook.

Not bad for a monthlong experiment.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

The lucky number today: 13


The lucky number today is 13, as my friend Count von Count would have you know.
As in 13 years that I've made Knoxville home. So glad to mark this milestone in this beautiful, scruffy city I've come to love.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Looking backward, looking forward

Ancient Roman god Janus. Source: Wikipedia
In college, one of my favorite courses was about the Greek and Latin roots of the English language. We learned about Janus, a Roman mythical god with two faces -- one looking backward and one looking forward. That's where the word "January" comes from.

I've spent the last few days reflecting on 2015 as I prepared my heart to enter this new year. One of my biggest lessons of the last year was grasping that we live within tension: life is beautiful AND life is hard. God loves us AND sometimes we suffer. Good AND bad things find us. We experience dazzling victories AND baffling defeats. It's a lesson that I'm carrying into this new year.

Life is so worth living and we are privileged that we get to do it. No one knows how many days and years we're allotted in this beautiful AND dangerous world. One thing we know is that we're all given the opportunity to live in a way that counts.

My prayer is that no matter where life finds us at various points in 2016, we would choose to live well and love others well. Sometimes, living and loving well is an act of courage. May we all rise to the occasion and do so with much joy.

Happy New Year! May 2016 be peppered with peace and many blessings.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Unplugged for the holidays

I feel like I arrived to this Christmas season on fumes. So many distractions and noises were fighting for my mind and attention. Careless words and posts -- and the fickleness -- all over social media haven't helped matters, either, and have grieved me so.

I also noticed something curious: what was being posted on social media wasn't matching the reality of what was happening in the lives of friends, or mine for that matter. Friends and relatives experiencing the most difficult circumstances sometimes put up the most cheerful posts. Granted, many are finding joy in the midst of a hard place. And social media just provides a view into a slice of someone's life. But for some (maybe for all of us, really?), social media seems to mask what is really going on in life. I dunno. Maybe I'm misreading it all.

I decided to unplug from all my social media pages this Christmas season until new year so I can be more intentional about living and also be truly present (with my attention, not just my body) as I do life with family and friends. No quick checks to see the popular story of the day, cute animal video or the best holiday cookie recipe a friend just made. I deleted my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram apps from my phone.

I'm six days in and so far, it's been...weird. And revealing. The first few days offline, I found myself several times an hour unconsciously sliding to the screen on my phone where those apps used to be. This showed me just how reliant (and addicted?) I was to checking what was going on in the social media world. Like every five minutes. Yeesh.

The world suddenly feels quieter. Initially, that was a tad scary. Honestly, it still is a bit. Not sure why. But I'm learning to be comfortable with my own thoughts. I can think now. I mean, really think and process what's going on inside my own head -- not just consider someone else's thoughts or posts.

This experiment has been good. I'm not as disconnected from people as I thought I would be, thanks to email, phone calls/texts, and wonder of wonders, real, sit-across-from-someone, look-in-their-eyes face time. I'm finding that I don't miss posting about the trivialities of my life (or reading about them in the lives of others). It's beautiful.

I'm not poo-pooing social media as it allows me to stay connected with people whom I otherwise wouldn't be in touch. I also learn and share important news via that medium.

But I'm seriously rethinking the way I do Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I plan on maintaining a social media presence but I'm considering downsizing and simplifying. And maybe not. We'll see what 2016 brings.

Monday, December 21, 2015

On Suffering and Hope

In this season of Advent, waiting and expectation, I'm doing a lot of resting, reflecting and reading. I think of family members and friends who are facing this Christmas season with wounded and grieving hearts. Here are some life-giving words that sang to me today. They were recently penned by Ann Voskamp:

We may not know why God doesn’t stop all the different kinds of suffering — but we definitely know it’s not because He’s indifferent.
God is so moved by our being entangled in suffering — that He moved Himself into our world and entangled Himself in the suffering with us. God with us.
God knows suffering.
He chose to be born in the middle of a genocide.
God knows suffering. He chose to be born as a refugee.
God knows suffering. He chose to come from a place where people said no good thing could come from.
God knows suffering. He chose to be poor. He chose to absorb pain. He chose to be powerless. 
God penetrates the ache of our world through the willing yes of a poor, unwed teen. In both the Incarnation and the Resurrection, God reveals Himself first to the dismissed and disregarded and dissed.
Because the point is: Christmas is the end of division. Christmas is the beginning of the end of all suffering.
Continue reading at A Holy Experience.