Just For Fun

10312013 mapMy one year anniversary of moving to New Jersey is fast approaching!  In one month I’ll have officially been here a year!  It’s gone by so fast and in other ways been a very long year.

I was raking leaves yesterday and realized it was an entirely different experience here than it is in Portland.  It got me thinking about all the little funny things that I’ve learned by living here over the last 11 months.  So here are some ‘just for fun’ things I’ve learned from the perspective of being a Californian turned Oregonian goes to New Jersey girl:

  • The Soprano’s were filmed in the city I live in.  The house is just a few blocks away.  I will never admit to anyone here that I don’t care or that I didn’t watch the show, because for all I know the mafia still really does exist out here and that is surely a great offense!
  • One of my husband’s coworkers is friends with a New Jersey housewife.  Their kids hang out together, and yes, everyone is wondering if they will go to jail.  I guess you know which housewife now.  So weird.
  • The Italian food out here is ridiculous in the AMAZING kind of way.  And the Italian ingredients at the grocery stores are much  more available than anywhere else I’ve ever seen.  But I miss the berries of the pacific northwest and the large, open farms you can visit to pick them.
  • NY/NJ/CT pizza is all thin crust with a slightly different twist.  Everyone has their favorite and dare you not have a different favorite!  Grimaldi’s pizza really is just as good as Food Network claims but it’s a totally different NY style pizza than the pizza joints on the street.  Even though they’re both are NY style pizza and both are good, they’re just completely different and it all comes down to what you prefer.
  • California drivers are fast.  Oregon drivers drive the speed limit, maybe five under or over.  New Jersey drivers drive in the median or the shoulder, because shouldn’t it be another lane when traffic is this bad?
  • I don’t know if dandelions grow in New Jersey.  My neighbor in Portland once came up to me and asked if she could pick the dandelions in my yard so she could use them for some soup or something.  I realized that 1) my yard was a MESS 2) YES she could pick them whenever she wanted and 3) only in Oregon will you have someone taking the farm to table concept this literally.   I don’t even know if dandelions grow here because not one has sprung up in our yard over the last year!
  • Californians (at least in southern California) don’t rake leaves in the fall.  There’s not much yard anyway and deciduous trees aren’t everywhere.  Portlandians rake wet messes of leaves in the rain or wait for a random dry day and then do it all at once.  In New Jersey, we get these beautiful piles of brown, orange, yellow and red leaves that are DRY.  It’s just like in the movies where you can jump in a pile and not get disgusting!  Raking leaves is actually kind of fun here.  Maya loooooves it.
  • Rentals go FAST in New Jersey so if you’re renting, get a real estate agent and be prepared to make a quick decision.  Almost everyone I know has had a rental taken up from them even after papers are signed on one end.  It’s kind of like TJ max or Marshalls– if you find a something you like, act fast!
  • Trash day is twice a week in New Jersey!  You can throw away half your house and put it out in bags and the trash people will come and take all of it no questions asked.  In Portland, I was scolded for putting my recycling bin too close to my trash bin– and if the trash lid couldn’t close they might not take my trash.  Quite a difference from here where you just throw out everything and it all gets taken!
  • Garbage disposals pretty much don’t exist out here.  No one I know has one.  Something about permits?  I miss my garbage disposal but I’m used to not having one now.
  • Going into the city is awesome.  Fun.  Busy.  Crowded.  Energetic and exciting.  It’s amazing to be able to go in for just the day.  It’s also amazing to come back to the suburbs, which sometimes I feel is just as busy!
  • If you go to the playground in the evening, you will catch a glimpse of the parents.  If you go during the day, you will see the nannies.

When I moved to Portland, I thought I would never feel at home but then when we left I was actually really sad.  I had come to love that place.  I feel like the same is happening with New Jersey, just a little bit slower.  But it’s growing on me, and I’m grateful for this opportunity to be here!  So cheers to almost making it a year and for what’s ahead!

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Worthy of Rubies

“Who can find a virtuous and capable wife? She is more precious than rubies.”

Proverbs 31:10

Over the years I have received lots of (unsolicited) advice on how to be a good wife…even long before I ever was one!

One of the first instances came when I was only a teenager. I can clearly remember the woman that had stood before me; sporting perfectly pressed clothes, flawlessly curled hair, and much too strong of perfume. Even more clear was how much I hated her. Especially when she began to speak on the importance of looking good for your future husband. I can remember her words exactly as she drove home the point by saying, “get out of your sweat pants, brush your hair, and put on some lipstick before your husband gets home!” And it’s quite likely that I rolled my eyes…

Or maybe, like me, you have heard a good christian wife described as being both passive and agreeable… and YOU rolled your eyes!

Even my favorite cookbook offers advice by promising that landing a man (and keeping him forever happy in your arms!) is as simple as making the recipe on the bottom of page 24 for lemon and rosemary infused “Engagement Chicken”.

And while I do find that we underestimate the super-human power of a good roast chicken and a little lipstick, my heart goes out to women! We are being tossed in all these different directions; a myriad of messages bombarding us with what kind of wife we should be!

Are we to be passive or strong? All dolled up or au-naturel? Should we strive to be a domestic goddess or a successful businesswoman?

However, in this verse it explains that the most valuable things a woman can be are virtuous and capable! This woman, who is said to be worth far more than rubies, is moral, upstanding and will do whatever is right no matter the cost! She is the picture of strength, is gifted, and well respected by others!

So how is it that we can become more virtuous? How is it that a woman can be more of a treasure in the eyes of her spouse?

In verse 30 it goes on to say… “Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised.”

This rare woman puts God first above all else! When society puts priority on rock hard abs, hefty pay checks, and impeccably coordinated ensembles, she is wise enough to realize that such things will fade away in time! Instead, she chooses to find her significance in Christ and looks to become who He has designed her to be!

So it could be said that the better advice – according to the Bible this time – would be to BE the kind of woman (or man) who deeply loves their spouse, but loves the Lord even more!

…Because God forbid our promising chicken burns, and we forgo our ‘agreeable nature’ to give someone a piece of our mind! When our lipstick is used for much more important things like writing on the wall (thanks to a toddler that has us thisclose to losing our minds) and when our sweats, for the life of us, wont stop calling our name! Even amidst our deepest feelings of inadequacy and unworthiness, we can rest in the fact that It is our character and virtue that is the rare quality that sets us apart from the majority!

And like an irreplaceable treasure to her spouse,

A bounty worth far more than rubies,

So is the woman who above all else, loves the Lord and desires to be more like Him!

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It’s Okay… You Can Ask

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But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. ~James 1:5 NASB

“It never hurts to ask!”  I remember my dad saying many times as a young child.  “All they can say is no, and you’re no worse off than when you started!”

It sounds great in theory.

But it’s hard to ask sometimes, isn’t it?

I remember putting this mantra into practice once by asking my dad for more allowance.  He took me to a “fancy” restaurant (I remember ordering baked potato soup) and I took out a piece of paper that scribbled out all the “expenses” I had.  I then presented what I thought was a reasonable “raise” in my allowance.

I remember being nervous, palms sweaty as I explained my well prepared document.

“Okay,” he said calmly, going back to his meal.

Now that I’m a parent, I realize how wonderful it is to give good gifts to our children.  At the time, I thought, what?!  That’s it?  You’re not going to ask me a bunch of questions?  Maybe it really does pay off to ask!  Wait a second, it can’t be this simple!  I surely must need to do something more or work harder or be better or… Something!

Another time, I asked my parents if I could join a swim team 30 miles away from our home.  Since I couldn’t drive yet and practices were twice a day, not to mention there were two other kids in our family who also had activities, they knew this was not the right move for our family.  This time, the answer was no.

I cried and cried about that one.  All my friends were going there!  Why oh why couldn’t I go too?!  I shouldn’t have even asked, I thought.  I knew they’d say no.

Sometimes I carry those thoughts into my relationship with God, too.  I hesitate to ask, because I think He’s just going to say no.  Or, when He says yes, I think it can’t really be that simple.  I must have to do something or be better or work harder!  Yes, asking is hard sometimes.  When I journal out my prayers or when I’m speaking them out loud– it’s a vulnerable place to be.  I hear myself asking for something I want.  Sometimes I feel foolish asking for something for myself. It’s so obvious what I’m asking for– when I’m writing it down in a journal it’s written right there on paper for me to read and re-read!  What if I have to look back and see NO between the lines?  It feels like some form of rejection in a way, and who wants to deal with that?  Maybe I could just ease around the semantics and just infer what I’m asking for would just be nice to have.  That’s much less disappointing when it doesn’t turn out.

You know what I see when I type all this out?

Fear.

Unbelief.

Timidity.

And then I must remind myself that I am made, created, fashioned, DESIGNED in God’s image.  Are these character traits of the Most High God?

It’s okay…

You can ask.

I can ask.

We can come before the throne of God with confidence, since we have a God who knows our weaknesses (Hebrews 6:15).  For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline (2 Timothy 1:7)!!!!!  Yes, He may say no.  That does not negate our request.  We learn just as much about God through His no’s as much as His yes’s.  There is a story being told, and He works everything for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).  Fear does not belong where He is!

I was recently reading a blog of a childhood friend who is now a nurse in Haiti.  One of the children in the organization where she worked was having a hard time getting a visa so that he could be adopted, and her brother in-law was unjustly arrested and put in prison.  I love her take on what she imagined God was trying to tell her during that difficult time:

I hear your prayers, every one.  I listen and the injustices in the world break my heart; my compassion wells up for you.  I will answer your prayers, every one.  But I will not do it in the way you expect me to and I will not do it when you think the time is right.  I know exactly what is needed and when.  I know when the sea must part to swallow the armies closing in behind you.  I know when you need only to hear me whisper in the breeze.  Trust me.  Trust me to know what is best.  Trust me to do what is best because of my great love for you.  Trust me. ~If This Life I Lose

We’ve got to believe that God knows what He’s doing.  He knows when the sea must part for us and He knows exactly when to close it back up.  He knows why He’s asking you to build that impossible ark, and it’s for a perfect reason.  Like the man who saw his son immediately healed in Mark 9, I say the same “help me with my unbelief!” so that I might get a glimpse of the greater story being written.

So let go of your fear.

Release your unbelief.

Approach His throne with confidence, and ask.

It’s okay…  You can ask.

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.  ~Matthew 7:7-8

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Give Me Faith (To Trust What You Say)

THIS. Is better than anything I could write.

I don’t care how you listen to it, JUST DO IT! I promise, you wont regret it.

Listen to it while you brush your teeth, or as you comb your hair. Put your phone in a bowl – yes, you heard right! – to amplify the uh-maziness and transform your bathroom into that of a worship concert complete with mood altering lights, and worship pastor’s wearing hipster beanies and skinny jeans!

(And by the way, if you haven’t tried the phone-in-a- bowl- trick then you have NO idea what you are missing! Hint: The bigger the bowl, the bigger the dance party!  #YouCanThankMeLater)

You can listen to it as you eat your wheaties, listen to it during a tantrum (hopefully your child’s, and not yours!) listen to it as you make dinner, as you sort laundry, or between watching reruns of the Real Housewives of New Jersey! You know you do it!

Listen to it in a bowl,

in a dish,

with a fish.

In a bar,

with a car.

Listen to it ANYWHERE,

wherever you are!

Seriously, I need to lay off the Dr. Seuss. And for the record, don’t try listening to it in a dish… that wont work. Nor would listening to it in a bar I would presume, but I wont judge!

Just listen to the dang song, and LIKE IT!

Or I wont like you!

I’m kidding… 

sort of.

I may be weak,

But your spirit’s strong in me.

My flesh may fail,

 My God, you never will!

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He Will Do It

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May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through.  May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.”

The alarm sounds, and almost every morning I hit snooze.

The alarm goes off again, and David stirs.  He gets up, puts on his jogging shorts and laces up his Asics.

He’s the most disciplined person I know.

He’ll run those three miles in any kind of weather.  I mean any kind.  Snow does not keep him away from the sound of his sneakers hitting the pavement.  He knows this is good for him, and he’s come to enjoy it.  Without hesitation, every morning he runs.

As I hear him in the bathroom I swing my legs over the side of the bed.  I reach for my phone and the video monitor and grab my robe.

Coffee, I think.  Strong coffee.

It goes like this every morning during the week.

I am weak.  Very, very weak.  I’m not going running.  I’m awaking to the comfort of a soft blanket on my morning couch and a little leather bible.  I’m not out there lungs heavy and cheeks burning from the cold autumn air.  I’m here, in my warm house and it’s still hard.

It sounds good in theory, to give Him the first-fruit of my day.

But oh, it’s so hard to wake up early.

In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly. ~Psalm 5:3

But I cry to you for help, Lord; in the morning my prayer comes before you. ~Psalm 88:13

Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. ~Psalm 90:14

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you.  Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. ~Psalm 143:8

I feel that God has asked me personally to get up early and spend the first part of my day with him.  I do not think everyone should get up early (no doubt there are those who should definitely NOT get up early– the rest of us will thank you for it haha!) and I don’t know that God will ask me to do this for the rest of my life.  But in this season, He has asked me to awaken early and start my day with Him.

And it is hard.

There are days that I keep pressing snooze.

Days that I just sleep in.

And then there are days when I am obedient.

To be honest, I can’t tell you the obedient days are much smoother and happier and joyous than the days when I sleep in.  But they are a part of a bigger story of obedience.  When I am weak, when I press snooze, when I am tired, He is not.  He who has started a good work in me will carry it on to completion (Philippians 1:6).

He will do it.

When He calls us, He is faithful.  I may struggle to wake at 6 or 6:30, but if it is from Him, it is for Him, and He will do it.  There is power where He is, and we cannot have a form of ‘godliness’ but deny the power from which it is from (2 Timothy 3:5).  He hasn’t called us because we are so great but because of His purpose and His grace (2 Timothy 1:9).  He has given us all things for our enjoyment (1 Timothy 4:17) and He will not disappoint (Isaiah 49:23).

Who am I to say waking early is exempt? 🙂

He who calls you is faithful and He will do it.

He will do it.

He will DO IT!

If we are faithless,
he will remain faithful,
for he cannot disown himself.
~2 Timothy 2:13

Wherever you are, whatever He’s asking of you today, whatever hill is ahead of you…  Take hope in the promise that He will do it. Thanks for reading!

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When What You Have, Is Not Enough

Leaves

I could see the man struggling up ahead; battling the autumn wind as it blew the garbage can he was pulling, over in a fury. Tossing all of its contents out on the street, I watched from afar as the man ran around in a frenzy as the wind whisked everything in opposite directions, each piece seemingly on a mission of it’s own!  And just as he had steadied the garbage can long enough to fill it with each of the runaway scraps, almost instantaneously, another frigid gust of wind blew again, causing a wave of trash to spill onto the street once again!

Bad day…” is all he said as he walked by.

I smiled, because that’s all he had to say.

We’ve all been there. Working feverishly, when a gust of wind so massive and strong, leaves our efforts spilled out on the pavement. As the wind continues to blow, we grasp aimlessly at all that is whirling around us! And just when we have steadied ourselves, and nearly dusted off all the dirt from our clothes… Poof! Another gust blows it all right back in our face again!

Damn wind.

I dont know about you, but for me it’s been a ‘crayon on the walls – milk on the couch – hot pink stickers on the floors – earrings in the garbage – “look mommy, I colored my white sneakers with your red lipstick!”  kind of week! A week in which you find – you aren’t nearly as surprised as you should be – that you found a piece of uncooked pasta in your bed, and that you struggle to determine when it was that you last took a shower!

You know you’ve endured a week like this, when you are envious of even your own instagram pictures- portraits portraying the perfect little ‘tantrum-less’ family, bright blue skies, picturesque cityscapes, and more ‘glow’ and less ketchup on the faces of your children thanks to the lo-fi filter!

And although occurrences like these don’t make it a bad week, I think we could all agree it can definitely make it a windy one at best!

And just as I was settling into bed one night, weary, and bracing for another day of mayhem, this thought came to my mind…

Give thanks for what is NOT enough.

I thought back to a message I had heard years ago by Bishop T.D. Jakes on the feeding of the 5,000. A story that no doubt, the majority of us learned back in grade school thanks to a soft spoken sunday school teacher, wearing a gold cross around her neck, and manning the flannel graph board! (The lesson falling somewhere between putting your quarters in the plastic church steeple for offering, and getting star stickers for reciting your memory verse!)

In Matthew 14, Jesus spends the day with a large crowd of people. As it gets later, the people become hungry, and instead of turning them away and sending them home,  Jesus instructs the disciples to feed them.

Looking at what they had, the disciples questioned their ability to do this for obvious reasons…

“We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.

“Bring them here to me,” he said… taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves.

Taking the little they had to offer, Jesus gave thanks to God!

He gave thanks for what was not enough!

Surely there was no possible way that 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish would feed 20 people, let alone 5,000! But Jesus was thankful for it regardless.

Only after he gave thanks, did that which was NOT enough, become MORE than enough! And not only were they able to feed every one of the 5,000, but in the end, they even had some left over!

The truth is – if we were really honest – we would admit that we too desire for God to bless us with more than enough! And yet, so often we refuse to acknowledge what we already have!

We want a bigger house, a better paying job, a more exciting opportunity (and god only knows in my case, a better behaved toddler, Michelle Obama’s arms, and a bigger kitchen… ) but the fact of the matter is, we need to stop complaining about what we don’t have, and thank God for what we already do have! Even, when it is NOT enough!

treesThis last week I felt even more, God pressing me to admit when I am not enough – not enough as a mom, not enough as a wife, and not enough as a woman! The times when the winds are raging and I want to throw up my hands and give up. The days I don’t have enough patience… enough energy… enough time…. and not nearly enough paper towels! The days I want to light pinterest on fire and watch it burn, or curse out the friend on Facebook who insists on giving daily play backs on how ‘uhhhhmazing’ their workout was!

I could feel the Lord asking me to come to Him – the same way the disciples had – and bring to Him my feelings of inadequacy and unworthiness.

I love how Jesus responds in verse 18, when the disciples come to Him and admit that what they possess couldn’t possibly be enough. His response is simple, ‘Bring it to me’.

Jesus didn’t turn them away for their lack of faith, or talk them into believing that what they had would suffice,

He only asked that they put the little they DID have, in His hands.

And so I told the Lord, that I wasn’t enough… I admitted that at times, I am painfully insecure, and described to Him my ongoing struggle to find my identity in this world. I told him, that too often my temper flails, and negativity gets the best of me. That I panic in a cluttered room, hate the playground, and can’t for the life of me master the sock bun!

I owned all of my shortcomings, and l chose in that moment to place them all in His hands.

But I didn’t stop there…

Although I don’t have it all, I thanked him for what I DO have! I have rockstar hair, and beautiful nail beds (yes, there is such a thing believe it or not! 🙂 ) I am thoughtful, and I am bold. I don’t sweat the small stuff, and I possess a faith in the Lord that is unshakeable. I have a gift with words, and am always, ALWAYS down to go t-peeing at any given moment! Not to mention, I can make a MEAN roast chicken!

After giving myself some much-deserved credit, I realized that the potential greatness in me – that the potential greatness in ALL of us – is  no different than the seemingly measly bread and fish that the disciples gave to Jesus!

But our God doesn’t see the mere amount we have to offer, He sees the potential for it to be used in a way that is far greater than we could have ever dreamed possible!

The truth is, If we desire to someday move from NOT having enough, to having MORE than enough, than we must first bring it all to Him – the fears that are looming, the money that is lacking, the joy that is missing, and the sanity that is dwindling – lay it at His feet, and thank Him…

Thank Him for what is not enough.

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Do Something Creative

Little girls create fun out of almost nothing!

Little girls create fun out of almost nothing!

I remember my mom telling me to find time to do something creative when I moved here.  As a new mom who would not be working outside the home, she encouraged me to find a hobby where I could be creative.

Creative?

I don’t like art, I thought.  I don’t paint or draw or make things out of clay.

I’m so pig headed sometimes!

She reminded me how she used to sew and make photo albums and how that outlet was freeing and necessary.  She reminded me how I painted my kitchen cabinets and how much work fun it was.

Some of the very simple front porches my neighbors have created that inspire me to create my own fall front porch!

Some of the very simple front porches my neighbors have created that inspire me to create my own fall front porch!

Creativity isn’t for just things that belong in fancy NYC museums.  It’s for all of us.  For painting mugs at the local pottery shop or making jam or applesauce; for creating your own piece of artwork to hang in the house or simply learning a new recipe.  It’s moving around furniture and making new outfits out of clothes you already have.  It’s finding that treasure at goodwill or at the mall and styling it up with your own creative mastermind. 🙂

And you know what?

We need this.  God, the creator of the universe, made.  He created.  It’s the first thing we know about him.  In the beginning, He created…

You don’t need to be crafty to create something.

You don’t have to be artsy to make something beautiful.

You don’t need hours of time to be creative.

You need YOU and the freedom to create.

Little children are wonderful creators.  Just give them a box and a blanket and they will make a toy!

So this week, I encourage you do something fun and create.  Find a recipe you’ve been wanting to try and make it.  Or heck, create your own recipe!  Paint that dresser you’ve been thinking about, decorate your front porch, set the table pretty for dinner even.  The smallest act can be special when you add your personal creativity to it, and it’s so much fun!

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