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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Shack

**This post was originally written when I first read through The Shack back in 2008.  I was wandering down memory lane through some of my written but unpublished blog posts, and not sure why I was reticent to post this one.  Maybe I wasn't ready to be quite so transparent about my childhood, or thought the tone was overly negative concerning that time in my life.  Coming upon this post years later, a little bit more removed from the rawness of my first reading of The Shack, I see this post as being a straight-forward portrayal of how God is continually refining me and molding my thoughts to be more in line with His.**

Warning: Emotionally raw material to follow

Don't you just love it, someone reads a book and extols it's virtues and says everyone needs to read it...and so you grab a copy and dig in - and it is a great book, but for you (or more appropriately - me) it's a MUCH different journey. Oh, there's the revelations and the freedom, and even lots of lessons that you thought you'd already learned or waded through the process with them only to find out that recently you've reverted back to old thinking. Argh...such is the experience I've been having reading through The Shack (by William P. Young). For those of you who haven't read it yet, it is definitely worth slogging through - and it is slogging through it if you've had a childhood or life thus far where you've picked up some "survivor" skills that were necessary then but they tend to hinder and stunt your relationship with God now.

I love my parents, and I believe they did the best they knew how with what they had available to them. Neither of them grew up in households where they were loved, cherished, or doted upon, and so their deficiencies in those areas were passed on to my sister and I. I don't remember growing up with any sort of feeling of security, even though all of our physical needs were more than taken care of. We always lived in a nice home, in a good neighborhood; we didn't want for anything of subsequence. We didn't even have to walk to school or take the bus, our mom drove us or we were part of a carpool. As far as being physically provided for, we wanted for nothing. Emotionally and spiritually...ummmm, yeah that is another story.

Like I said, I don't remember feeling secure growing up. Memories of my childhood are often pervaded by a sense of not being good enough. My mom could barely keep her head above water concerning her own internal turmoil much less handle two children on top of that. She often ended up frustrated and angry with us, which would erupt in a shrill screaming rage followed by the requisite spankings. Whatever it was we had done wrong was rarely explained, and thus what we should do right to avoid such punishment was even less evident. However, part of this was due to the fact that something small might be considered small one day, and the next day it could be considered a heinous crime. It just depended on how frayed her nerves were each day. To hear her speak of our childhood, we were quite brilliantly mischievous as we apparently plotted ways to frustrate her at every turn. Yet, she will also tell you that she liked us better when we were two years old.

As for my father, he was often absent. "Family" dinners were typically mom, my sister, and I gathered around the kitchen table in front of a small TV. Dad's only interjection into this time was in the event we needed to be disciplined because we refused to eat something or were smacking as we chewed. Otherwise, he could be found in his recliner in the living room watching TV with a beer or vodka and coke. After dinner, depending on the level of complexity of the homework, he might be called upon to help us with it...although that would also lead to frustration on both ends and so I would typically muddle through it on my own rather than ask for help unless I was absolutely desperate. Once we were in bed, he would have his dinner at the coffee table in the living room in front of the TV. Sometimes, with us both being night owls, I could engage him in lengthy conversations after he'd had his dinner, but other than that communication within our family was fairly stunted.

Arguments were typically conducted with emotions running high - reasoning and rational thought were far from present unless my father was involved. Resolution was rarely reached, instead everyone went their separate ways to their separate corners of the house until a sufficient amount of time had passed, and afterward no one would bring up the argument again until it needed to be used as fuel in a similar argument.

In essence, the messages and lies I received growing up were that I wasn't good enough, wasn't worthy of being cherished, wasn't worth keeping promises for, wasn't really worth communicating with and certainly wasn't worth listening to, which doesn't make it a far leap to think if one's own family doesn't think you're worth any of that - then why should anyone else? much less God? Plus, how can I trust God who would allow those experiences and take my father from me?

Ahhhh, there's part of the rub of this book, The Shack (I know that was a really long set-up to get back to how this book has affected me) - reminding me that God didn't take my father from me, but it was a consequence of his independent choices and living in a fallen world. Also, reminding me that His love for me is more than all I ever hoped or imagined from my own parents. The rub for me lies in resting in His love and living life as someone who is loved.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

September Adventures cont'd...

The September fun continues!  This past weekend some of my girl friends and I were invited to go down to Lake Livingston while my uncle house-sat for his cousin. Several of us had made this trip in June when he last house-sat, so we were looking forward to a reunion of fun times and relaxation.  We met up at around 7pm and headed out in a two car caravan to Livingston, comprised of my Honda CR-V with myself, Rachael and my dog, and Courtney's Honda CR-V with herself, Tiffany and Beth.  Traffic was fine until we exited onto the Woodall Rogers Freeway, where we were met with a sea of brake lights in bumper-to-bumper traffic.  Up to this point, Rachael and I had been commiserating about our shared introvert nature - so we weren't paying as much attention to the status of my usually reliable Honda.  It was at this point that a truck pulling a flatbed trailer cut me off, and I thought I smelled smoke of some sort.  I looked at the rude truck/trailer in front of me to see if maybe I was smelling their exhaust, but suddenly noticed that it appeared that my own vehicle was smoking or steaming as it turned out.  That's when my eyes darted to my dashboard gauges to notice that my car was indeed overheating - a lot!  Thankfully, we were already in the right-hand lane, so Rachael smartly turned on the heater to full blast, and we opened the windows to pull the heat away from the engine.  Then she called the girls in the other car and let them know we were pulling over to the shoulder because traffic was barely moving, and I was not sure whether my car would even make it to the exit that appeared close but so very far away at the snail's pace we were traveling.  Once we had pulled over onto the shoulder, I turned off the car and immediately called AAA.  The operator that I got was barely competent.  Considering that she was likely equipped with computer and internet at her disposal, while I only had the very "smartphone" that I was speaking to her on as my reference guide - you would have thought she could have NOT asked me fifty million stupid questions.  Pretty much, she scheduled the tow-truck for me - and that was it, as she asked me questions about the place where I wanted it towed and even the places that she suggested, she was unsure about...for the love.  Only by the grace of God did I remain relatively calm throughout our interchange.  I don't think I even got terse with her at any point - although Rachael would be the one to verify if that is true or not.  Obviously, we knew it would be a while before a tow truck would be able to get to us, so we patiently waited, while I continued to furiously search with my "smartphone" and look into places nearby where I could take my car - as my AAA membership only covers me up to 3 miles of towing, after that you're charged $7/mile.  Well, that obviously means I would not be towing it back up to my area of town - so I was looking to see what garages in the area would be good, which was kind of stressful since I'm not familiar with that part of town much less know of a reputable garage there.

Beth's snapshot of my car and the bumper-to-bumper traffic beside us.
After waiting an hour in that spot, we noticed that traffic which had been crawling beside us suddenly got much faster and then disappeared altogether.  It was then the light bulb went off in my mind, as we were in an area under construction - they've closed down the freeway behind us!  Taking a chance on my car having cooled off completely, I started it while Rachael called the girls behind us to let them know we were taking our chances with driving to the garage where the tow truck would have taken us.  Heater blowing furiously, windows wide open, Rachael with her iPhone GPS - we wound our way three miles over to a Kwik Kar on Lemmon.  We arrived to an obviously closed facility with a roped off parking lot thus no place for me to leave my car, much less a drop box for my keys.  From this point, I decided to take my chances on a chain of garages that has a location near my apartment, but also has another location open on Saturday and Sunday.  Of course, we arrived to that facility which I knew would be closed - but also did not have a drop box for my keys...We then drove over to the garage near my apartment, which unsurprisingly also did not have a drop box, so I made the decision to drop my car off at my apartment.  Rachael offered to be our second driver - so after dropping off my car and transferring my dog and our bags from my car, we all took off for Livingston....mind you it was 11pm by this time...ugh.

We made our normal stop at the Buc-ees in Madisonville, at which point we made the decision to put off our late night Walmart grocery trip until after we got a good night's rest (was about to say until the following morning - but really it was morning when we arrived at Buc-ees...about 2am).  Thus, I snagged us some Buc-ees cinnamon rolls for our nutritious morning breakfast.  We arrived at the lake house at around 3am.  My aunt and uncle had waited up for us to make sure we arrived safe and sound (as I'd kept them apprised of the fun car drama).  After a happy, but brief welcome - we all got ready for bed and gladly snoozed the rest of the "night" away.

Saturday, was a gloriously stress-free, relaxing day.  We ate a leisurely breakfast, made a quick jaunt over to the Livingston Walmart for our lunch and dinner ingredients.  Lunch was a simple, make your own sandwich buffet followed by decadent chocolate malts prepared by my uncle.  After that a few ladies decided to float in the lake...now, the lake was not quite what it had been earlier in the summer.  With the drought, the area where the boathouse resides was now a beach with a bit of lake lapping up against the sand.  Obviously, there would be no boat action that weekend, but Tiffany, Courtney, Beth and my uncle waded out into the water for a relaxing float.  Rachael enjoyed the hammock looking out at the lake, and I took up residence on the deck's covered swing where I caught a few more zzzzz's.  As the sun drifted lower on the horizon, my aunt served us each a glass of sangria - and one by one we made our way into the not-so-hot tube.  Relaxing jets, sangria in hand, and plenty of laughs filled the early evening air.  After we were all nice and pruny, it was time to make dinner!  Enchiladas, fresh guacamole, salad, and margaritas were on the menu.  Dinner was followed with watching The Adjustment Bureau on the big screen TV.  

Collage of Saturday's fun! (as photo-documented by Beth)

Sunday morning Courtney, Tiffany and Beth left out at 6am; while Rachael and I left around 9am.  The drive back to Dallas was gratefully much less dramatic.  Later Sunday evening, I called up my friend Russell - and he kindly and patiently talked me through what needed to be done on my car - in layman's terms.  Tiffany chauffeured me around to gather the required coolant and cooling fan relay switch.  Ended up that I didn't need the relay switch, but instead needed to replace a fuse (thankfully there was a replacement fuse available in my car's fuse box).  At this point my car was fixed! :-)  However, it did end up blowing through the replacement fuse on Monday :-(  Thus, there is some sort of electrical issue with the cooling fan.  Russell can help me fix it when he comes into town in November.  Until then, I must keep a watchful eye on my gauges, on my radiator fluid, and avoid stop and go traffic like the plague!  Considering my impatient tendency to avoid brake light traffic, the latter shouldn't be too much of a problem - just have to be diligent about doing the former part as well by paying attention to my gauges and radiator fluid.

Praise Jesus for His timing and surrounding me with some pretty fabulous friends and family!  I am completely thankful that I was surrounded by an abundance of helpful friends when my car overheated rather than having been on the road alone.  And to have a friend that is knowledgeable about the inner-workings of cars and able to guide me over the phone in fixing my vehicle.  Yet, I also wouldn't mind if this is the end of the crazy adventures for a while ;-)

Friday, September 16, 2011

Introvert - Yep, that's me!

I've found that a good portion of my friends do not understand my NEED for solitude.  So, I thought I might post about some of the differences between extroverts and introverts. 

I am most definitely an introvert, no question, hands down, definitely an introvert.  Although, I wouldn't say that I'm at the extreme end of the scale of introversion because I do enjoy being with my friends quite a bit, and regularly spend copious amounts of time with them even following a full day of interaction at work.  However, when it comes to where I get my energy to be "on" when I'm with my friends - that definitely comes from having some alone time.  Like right now, I am starving for time alone - and not just a few minutes here or there - a full day of being alone.  I've been around people nearly every night this week, after a full weekend and a stressful week the week before.  I am desperately looking forward to tomorrow, as I will continue to put off errands that need to be handled (eventually), in order to revel in a full day of no interaction with people (as much as that can be helped when walking my dog).  See, that is where I get re-energized.  A lot of people get energized by being around other people; they feed off it and cannot wait to be surrounded by people and interact with them - and most of these types of people would be considered extroverts.  For myself, it can often take a good deal of inner dialogue to get psyched up enough to go out and interact with people.  Granted, I more than likely will have a great time once I finally get out the door - but it can still take a considerable amount of energy and neurotic self-talk to go out into a social environment.

Introverts are people whose energy tends to expand during reflection and dwindle during interaction, whereas extroverts tend to be energized when around other people and prone to boredom when they are by themselves.  Too much stimulation from social gatherings can tend to overwhelm an introvert as he/she is usually more analytical before speaking and likes to observe social situations before participating.  I find these aspects to be particularly true of myself.  I'm much more of a "slow-to-warm-up" type of person in social situations.  In fact, it may take a few outings with the same group of people before I'll feel comfortable interacting openly with them.  I definitely tend to over-analyze what I say before I speak especially in new social situations, which oftentimes means that I may not end up speaking at all because the subject changes more quickly than I'm able to process all the variables around me.  And while an extrovert might be frustrated by that, I'm typically okay with not adding to the conversation at the spur of the moment because I haven't completely formulated my opinion yet.  This also means that in the case of group studies, like Bible studies, if I do not feel fully prepared regarding the topic - as a participant, I'm not likely to add to discussion because I require more time for reflection to spontaneous questions...which is probably why I'm more comfortable leading/facilitating a discussion.  If I'm singled out as a participant in a discussion, I'm more likely to pass on the opportunity to speak.  Reflection is very key to how I function; I spend a lot of time ruminating over things as I figure out where I stand on issues and how I want to respond in a multitude of situations.

In American culture and even in evangelical church culture, extrovert characteristics are typically more prized than those of introverts.  As such I look forward to delving into this book sometime soon (as I saw this on another blog I frequent):

Check out the excerpt on Amazon.com - looks like it should be a helpful read for those who are introverts and those who know introverts.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Week FULL of Adventures - not really the fun kind though...

Adventure #1: Things have been topsy-turvy in my world since last Friday evening.  That's when the incessant beeping of my apartment alarm pad began at 7pm - a consistent beep every 10 seconds.  After trying everything under the sun to fix it myself - pressing the (*), using a default code 0000, flipping the switches on the circuit breaker, and trying to remove the plastic cover to see if a battery needed to be replaced - no luck - and pressing the buttons on the keypad only worked for random time periods ranging from 5 minutes to 2 hours.  By the time Saturday morning rolled around, (after minimal sleep the night before), I called the maintenance line at 8am.  And recognizing that this is not an "emergency" issue like a water leak or a broken A/C, I patiently waited until 3pm to call the maintenance line again.  However, by this time I was a little peeved, and let them know that I need this fixed today or I'm going to rip it out of the wall - and yes you can quote me with that on the work order, thank you!  Two more hours pass, and at 5pm I marched down to the office to make sure they had received my work order and that the maintenance person would come to fix it that day.  By the time I went to girls' night at 7:30pm that evening, no maintenance worker had shown up, and when I got home later that evening - the beeping was still there!  So I endured another night of beeping...went by the office again after church on Sunday, and complained to the same lady as before and she called the maintenance man right there as I fed her all of the ways in which I'd tried to take care of this myself (as he was apparently making those suggestions to her - I've already tried those, thank you!)  The maintenance man finally came around 5pm on Sunday and completely disconnected the alarm pad from the electrical wires, so it should not make any noise EVER again while I'm there - woohoo!

Adventure #2: On Wednesday of this week (yesterday), I took my car to a dealership near the office for a recall repair.  I set up the appointment last week online for 7am, and they have a shuttle service - so I figured I'd still get to work at least close to my 7:30am start time.  I got to the dealership on time - only to find out from my service advisor that the techs don't actually come in until 7:30am/8am, and the shuttle service doesn't start until 8am.  However, I could put my name down and be first on the list.  Shuttle didn't leave until 8:20am, and I didn't get into the office until 8:45am.  Then the pick-up shuttle didn't come til 5:30pm (an hour after I'd requested), so I didn't get home until 6:30pm - and considering I left at 6:30am - it was a LONG day...awesome.  Does sound ridiculous to anyone else, that you would be allowed to make a 7am appointment, but they're not actually going to have people there to do anything at that time? I mean, there is an option to drop-off your car and keys, but I didn't choose that option - so if the 7am appointment time isn't going to actually be an "appointment" for anything and the shuttle service isn't going to be available until 8am - then why not just have the first appointment start at 8am or 7:45am at the earliest!

Adventure #3: This morning I took my dog for a walk per usual.  It's early so I was basically in my pj's and just had my keys on me.  I always take her on a quick little walk to do her business before getting ready for work, usually takes no more than five minutes.  One of my neighbors who also has a dog was chatting with me, and as I was raising my hand to say good-bye and cross the street, my keys fly off my finger, hit the cement and slide into the storm drain - it was like watching a bad movie happen in slow motion....my neighbor lets me use his phone to call maintenance, who acknowledge that this is an emergency and say they'll send the on-call person.  (But as you can tell from my earlier story - I don't have a LOT of faith in the maintenance line or the people themselves).  This is at about 6:15am.  My neighbor has to leave to go drive the school bus at 6:30am, so then I go sit on my apartment stoop and wait.  I make a couple of trips down to the maintenance office to see if maybe one of the regular maintenance guys have come.  As I watch all my neighbors leave for work, and the sun is out now, I get fed up. I know that my balcony window is unlocked, so I kick off my flip-flops and use my bottom neighbor's wrought iron fence around her patio to boost myself up to climb up to my balcony like a monkey.  I remove the cheap screen and enter my apartment via my unlocked window like a burglar, and then go back down to get my dog (who I'd tied up to my stairwell railing).  At this point, it is now 7:30am.  I have a copy of all my keys except my mailbox key and my office key, so I'm in fairly good shape in that realm (praise Jesus!)  I quickly change, feed my dog, and road rage it to the office.  Oh, but still got into work earlier than yesterday - came squeaking in at 8:15am today. 

Side note: One of my new neighbors totally saw me climbing up to my apartment as he took his dogs out for a walk.  And then I saw a maintenance guy as I was driving out of my apartment complex at 7:45am.  I let him know that I'd put in a request to have someone open my apartment for me, but that I didn't need it anymore since I'd climbed up to my balcony and let myself in.  Not sure that he really understood what I was saying, since his English wasn't so great - but he confusedly told me the other maintenance people would be there at 8am.  And around 9:30am, I got an automated email saying my work order was complete....awesome, no response to either of my work orders over the weekend about the obnoxious, infernal alarm, but to this one where they did NOTHING - they let me know it's complete.
As you can see, it's been a lovely week in my world.  Definitely an adventure - that's for sure!

Lesson learned - always keep my keys in my pocket when walking Suzie, as well as my cell phone.  And find a new place to live because the maintenance line at my place is ridiculous.

Pretty sure, stuff like this only happens to me ;-) And gotta say a little nervous about driving out of town this weekend after all of this!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Letting go

I was looking back through some of my old blog posts trying to get inspired to write something and ended up reading my Singleness post.  It was good to remind myself of the standards that I hold to regarding my singleness.  Lately, I've been experiencing a bit of grieving regarding my hopes and desires for the future.  When I wrote that post, I was 28 and in the midst of an adventure that moved me out of state and encountering all sorts of new people, and the possibilities seemed to stretch out before me.  And while the possibilities that lie before me are still as endless as they used to be, there is a timer ticking in the background reminding me that not ALL of the possibilities will be around forever.  I'm inching closer to 32 and recognizing that the time available to me to bear children is creeping closed more and more with each day, month, and year that passes.  Now granted, there are people having children well into their 40s with the help of fertility drugs, and logically I can acknowledge the truth that the Lord's timing and power outrank our minute human minds and bodies and can accomplish far beyond anything we imagine or dream, just look at Sarah (in Genesis) or Elizabeth (in Matthew).  Yet, the doubting Thomas side of me also notices with each passing year that the window of opportunity narrows in which I will be blessed with a spouse while still of age to have children.  Thus, leading to the occasional moments of grieving - letting go of the hopes, dreams, and plans of my own imaginings and trying to re-fix my eyes on my ultimate Lover.  It's not easy, and at times hard to watch those around me enjoying, celebrating, and even struggling through stages of life that I might never encounter - which drive me all that much more into the arms of the only One who can comfort me. 

Now don't get me wrong, I also know that much joy can come from adoption - and I fervently look forward to the possibility of adopting as well.  My dreams of a future family include both biological and adopted children.  I recognize that the possibility of a raising children is not altogether closed to me, but that doesn't necessarily assuage the ache of longing to experience the wonders and struggles of pregnancy in the midst of a Christ-centered marriage.  And I also recognize that even if I were married, the ability to bear children is not a given - as I know of many friends who struggle with infertility, too.

In truth, I began this post back in May - and after reading a friend's Facebook status yesterday - felt it applies to how I must re-frame my outlook going forward: "Sometimes you must let go of past dreams in order to recognize today's blessings."  How true!  I am blessed in so many ways - especially with an abundance of encouraging, Truth-loving friends and family.  So when those nagging feelings of grief and depression about fading past dreams try to overtake my thoughts, I shall lean into Him even more and remind myself of today's blessings! 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tuesday's Tips

As I get back into this whole blogging thing, I'm realizing that part of why I dropped off is that I didn't have a sense of structure or format for my blog.  Thus, I'm going to try my hand at having some regular entries like...Tuesday's Tips.  Yes, I know, not the most clever or creative title for a weekly blog entry - but I'm on my lunch break with an allergy clogged head - maybe I'll come up with something better down the road, just trying this out for now in an attempt to create a blogging rhythm.  Heck, I'll even take suggestions if you have a clever title/writing idea for me to replace it.  This week the tips are a couple of my favorite products of late:

This Tuesday's Tips...

1.  Amy's Kitchen frozen foods

If you have not been exposed to these, you must give them a try.  I'm not much of a frozen dinner person, although I will admit that in recent years it seems the big brands such as Lean Cuisine and Healthy Choice are formulating more interesting menu options with "natural" or organic ingredients.  However, Amy's Kitchen triumphs over the other competitors in my opinion.  Their frozen offerings cover Mexican, Italian, Indian, Asian, and comfort foods - with bowls, complete dinners, desserts, and snacks - and its all vegetarian made with organic ingredients!  And they taste great without being pumped full of sodium, sugar, or other preservatives.  Now, I will qualify that I am only mentioning Amy's frozen dinners because I'm not as impressed by the soups I've tried (they all basically tasted the same), nor have I tried each and every frozen option - but of the many I have tasted, I have yet to be disappointed.  As far as price point is concerned, these options as most organic products, are typically more expensive than the other frozen food giants - but even Walmart has started stocking some of the Amy's Kitchen line, so you'll likely be able to find it discounted the most there.


For those of you like me, who are trying to become more budget conscious and steer away from paying for outrageous cable and/or DVR fees - you might look into giving Hulu Plus a try.  Considering I found myself watching most of my TV shows via my DVR anyways, this has been a good alternative to cable for me because with Hulu Plus most shows are available to view the day after they air.  Now in order for it to play on your TV - you'll need to have a Blu-ray device or something like this Roku, that connects to your internet router and TV. 

There are some downfalls to Hulu Plus, such as the CBS shows are not available to watch via Hulu - those you have to go directly to the network's website or watch them live.  Also, there are some shows for NBC and cable networks that are only available to view via Hulu's website and cannot be viewed via the TV or mobile device option.  However, for less than $10 a month - this is still better for me than cable since I'm not paying a monthly equipment fee or an exorbitant rate for cable TV access on top of my cable internet fee.  Also, Hulu Plus has other TV series that you may not have seen in their first run and can now watch all of those episodes whenever you want - such as Trauma, Angel or Pretender.