Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Long live the fakus

I love growing things. I love trees and flowers and plants.
From a distance.
I am sorry to admit that living things that are unable to feed and water themselves are better off without my care. Plants sent to my home ought to kiss their friends and relatives goodbye. I have in my possession one stubborn little tree/bush thing that has survived since mid-December....sorry, I felt guilty writing about it when I hadn't watered it since....the eighties? I don't remember. It should be good for another month now, though.
So, without a green thumb to my name you would think my apartment would be a sad place with nary a plant. But you would be partially wrong!
My tree/bush has one stalwart companion. A ficus. Or, more accurately a fake ficus--a fakus, as we dotingly call it--that has weathered the years without so much as a single drop of water. Season after season it merrily sports fairy lights, and at Christmas a few ornaments, and brings green into my world. While it's not actually life, it's a very close approximation.
So, today I'm grateful for my fakus. With the windows open and the sweet chirp of birds wafting through, I can sit by the fakus and feel just a little bit earthy. And for a city girl on a Wednesday afternoon, that's just about perfect.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Caught up

Do you ever have a moment where you feel like part of something bigger than an individual? A moment where the temporal seems to fade and you see a beauty that is an expression of something larger than you rightly know what to do with? I always think of that when I read "Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart" at the birth of Jesus.
There are moments that are treasures and are meant to be stored up and pondered. Little wells of loveliness that can be draw upon at will and never lose their luster.
I had one of those yesterday on, of all things, a parking deck. I was in Savannah for work and had just come back from dinner. The air was a cool breath after a warm day and the sun was the color of living gold. As it sank toward the horizon, I glanced to my left and saw it kissing the crown of an ornate historic building. My steps slowed and I savored, for a moment, the blend of God's and man's work, in harmonious, effortless existence.
My inner poet would not be repressed, as you can tell, and I stood for a minute, forgetting the concrete structure below me, the tourists in too-tight shorts, the work waiting to be done, the exhaust from passing trucks, and even the book in my purse with a dog-eared page eager to be unbent.
That moment is pretty in my mind today and on the long drive home, I took it out a few times to run my finger over the edges and marvel that I caught it at all.
Thank you, God for pretty moments; tiny instants of the promise of what could be and what will be.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Peeps, flowers, and oh so much more

Easter is my favorite holiday, and not just because of marshmallow peeps. Whoever saw a marshmallow, and thought, "I bet that would taste even better if it was rolled in sugar," I salute you.
But no, even peeps are bland in comparison to the wonder of Jesus' victory over death. Jesus, the Christ, redeemed us! He conquered death on behalf of me, who on my own was toast.
Spring snuck in this weekend. Almost overnight, pearl-sized buds erupted into a mass of flowers all over town. The trees are frosted in pink and white and green, and just in time for Easter!
I love this, when the world dresses up in honor of life. It's as if nature itself cannot contain its joy on Holy Week.
My Dearest Jesus, human words are inadequate to express the wonder, awe, and joy of knowing You, being redeemed by You. Thank you for facing death and winning. Thank you for bringing hope to a fallen planet. Thank you for flowers and that, to your glory, they bloom this week.

Friday, March 26, 2010

There's no Me in Cambodia

I love how God walks with me. He doesn't run, or drag, or say, "I really thought we'd be over this mountain by now" or even "You have 2,385 miles left to go before you're where I want you to be." If he did that, I'd probably despair of ever finishing this race. Instead, he reveals one step at a time where He wants to take me next.
So, over the past week or two He's been showing me how much I want for me. Think about me. Root for me. It has made me sick.
Today I couldn't take it anymore. The worst part is, there is no way that I can fix this on my own. So, I confessed and begged God to kill that ugly root in my heart.
I know this won't be an overnight victory. Desires are pesky, sturdy things and only He can really and truly morph the weeds into flowers. But I needed some encouragement that progress was possible sometime, preferably this year, or even this decade. Well, God is always faithful and even in the sorrow, a mist of peace infused my soul. He will change it.
Then, per routine, as I sat down to work, I turned on a podcast. Today Joyce Meyer was up first. She was talking about Cambodia. And guess what? I AM GOING TO CAMBODIA IN A MONTH!
Within 15 minutes I was crying on my notes and minimizing the company screen to go online and donate to her feeding ministry. This isn't a 'yay me', this is a yay God for getting through to me.
I don't often feel God telling me to do a specific thing, but He definitely told me to go to Cambodia. And I think one of the things He's going to do is breakdown this me-ness. When I hear about the children of that country, I'm consumed with their plight and the desire to provide hope and joy to their tiny, preicous lives consumes me. I want so badly for them to taste God's provision and the freedom and to feel as loved as they are.
And I haven't gone yet. I have a sinking/soaring feeling that today is just a taste of what God's got over the horizon. I fully expect to leave a large portion of my heart on the other side of the planet and that thrills me (though I may be a wreck for a few months when I return to US soil).
It's a huge relief to know God is big and strong and faithful and He is going to excise this tumor of yuck in my life. And when it inevitably grows back (I'm human after all) He'll do it again. He'll replace it with His love for His people and how beautiful will that be?
Thank you, Jesus, for your patient, faithful, beautiful love. For your healing hand and your gentle revelation. Bless the people of Cambodia!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A cloud burst

I got caught in the rain today. In a cloudburst. I was leaving the Fresh Market and on the way to my car fat drops came down lightly at first, and then thicker. I worried about my flat ironed hair for a moment, and then, I smelled it.
It is not often in the city you can smell the rain. But this must have been a young cloud, or a foreign one because the droplets it carried were untainted by the oily city air. It was the scent of spring and impending life.
Thank you God for scents and promise and spring.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Mumsy, Pops, and the gang

I got to see my dad tonight! He was on his way to DC and stopped through, so we sat in Houlihan's at the airport for an hour and drank diet coke and talked. It was great just to see him and be with my dad.
I am so thankful it worked out. There's something about family, where I can talk too much and not worry he's going to make an excuse and duck out. I can where a t-shirt and jeans and my dad still says I look pretty. He can discuss what's going on in Yakima and I'm instantly in the loop because we keep up on this.
It did make me realize how much I wish I could spend more time with my family, how much I love getting to see them. I have been talking to all of them this week and there is nothing like the history of inside jokes, trials gone through, the person you were. One thing that is special about seeing them less often is that I see them for who they are now instead of the person they were when we were under the same roof.
I probably sound like a homeschool kid but I am so grateful for my fam and that tonight I got to see my dad at the airport! Shout out to the Buckners, heyo!

Monday, March 22, 2010

In spite of the snow

I was sitting at Panera this morning, minding my own business and enjoying my hazelnut coffee, when something caught my eye. A small, white something. and then a lot of small white somethings.
Yes. It was snowing. In Atlanta. Again.
And my thoughts were about as pretty as the slush that forms when said snowflakes melt and mix with road grit.
But, eight o'clock is too early to surrender an entire day to the doldrums or the snowflakes. I tried for a bit to cajole myself out of my bad mood, but my mood was having none of it.
Then, I asked God if wouldn't mind taking over the cajoling. He's much better at it than I am and within an hour of persistently asking, sometimes every few seconds, for God to fix my thoughts, I was free! No more Negative Nellie.
Phillipians 4:8 says, Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. A daunting charge to be sure if we're meant to do it on our own, but we're not!
I just love that God has dominion over all things, my wayward thoughts included. All I need to do is surrender them and He will make them beautiful.
Thank you, Lord, for the freedom that comes in your presence, for not asking what you do not enable, and for providing for the very best that can be. All my love.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Beach Weekend!

Tomorrow I am going to the beach! A friend is having a birthday and we're celebrating in Panama City Beach, FL. I love the beach and I fully intend to spend a few solid hours reading to the melodic rhythm of the waves against the sand in the warmth of the springtime sunshine. If it's not warm, I'll be out there in my sweatshirt and yoga pants.
I am so glad God made beaches. There's something about seeing the arc of the atmosphere along the far edge of the navy blue that puts things in perspective. If God can deal with an ocean, He can deal with me.
In Job 38 8-11, God says "Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb, when I made the clouds its garment and wrapped it in thick darkness, when I fixed limits for it and set its doors and bars in place, when I said, 'This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt'?
It's a great question, until you stand in front of the boundless blue, and then, it's a stunning revelation of the true power and Lordship of our God.
Thank you, God, for the beach. For being big enough that to control the ocean and count the grains of sand. For revealing yourself to us in the beauty of your creation.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Psalm 23

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A dollop of blessing

If I were to list the Fruit of the Spirit starting with the flavor I possess in greatest percentage to least, patience would be a tiny sliver in a squeaky mouse voice at the end of the list. I have prayed for it in increasing measure for years and it's like, "make me patient, already, would you, God?"
Well, somewhat ironically, I think this is a lesson I will continue to learn slowly and with effort for years to come. But every once in a while, the Holy Spirit puts a little dollop of blessing on top of my spiritual fruit plate and things are just easy. Today was like that.
I came home from Mooresville, NC (aka Race City, USA). I drove there yesterday by way of Vidalia, which, due to my circuitous route, took about eight and a half hours. Today was another five hours in the car. Not Kimberly's dream day, nor one that leaves her feeling particularly gracious. Especially when she drives the wrong direction on 321 for thirteen miles. And then putts along behind a pair of semis holding hands while they cruise at 50 for a bit. And then gets caught in the predictable snarl that is metro-Atlanta traffic.
Ah, but while you and I both expected a full on, "I hate all things wheeled" attitude, I, by God's grace and fruit, was like, "bummer, dude." And that was all. No, it wasn't the ideal workday, but all is well.
I just LOVE it when things happen that are so clearly God. Take that flesh. My God's got my back. Thanks, God, for blessing dollops and growing fruit in me by your own power and in your own time. May I be fruitful and plentiful and more consumed by You than ever before.

Monday, March 15, 2010

International Stew

When I was in college, I spent six months in Chile. While there, we mostly ate Chilean food (think, seven parts starch, one part unidentifiable protein, probably fried). A girl, Claudia, on our trip was from Mexico, so one day we decided to look up and go to a Mexican food restaurant. She wanted a taste of home and the rest of us wanted a taste of Mexican food.
I will never forget how excited Claudia was that they had Mexican rice on the menu. It was one of her favorite foods--all that tomatoey, spicy, goodness--and she was practically bouncing in her chair until the meal came out. Including the rice. Which, turned out to be plain ol' rice, died to look like the Mexican flag. It was funny and tragic all at once.
I thought about this today because I'm travelling, so I had to eat dinner out. I was writing up a report and mulling over what I wanted for dinner. Italian? Mexican? American? I am in a smallish town in NC, so those, plus BBQ and a Chinese buffet comprised my dinner options. It took me an hour to decide on American, and then the front desk clerk recommended this "really good little Italian place." I have a personal credo not to pass up really good little Italian places, so I changed my mind.
As I sipped a cheap white and debated the merits of shrimp scampi vs. chicken puttanesca, it struck me how great it is to have so many choices. As an American, born in the melting pot, I forget that International stew isn't the norm everywhere, or really anywhere but here I suppose.
If I'd been born in Chile, let's say, I'd be wondering which starch I would eat and what the unidentifiable fried protein actually was. But no, I have an entire globe of options (okay, the Chinese probably isn't super authentic, but still) at my disposal.
I love diversity and options! I love that it is normal to see people who speak differently, look differently, and cook differently than I do. I love that the abnormal is the norm. I love that when I order Mexican rice I don't get back an edible flag, and I love really good little Italian places.
Thank you, God, for this crazy, diverse, beautiful world and all the crazy, diverse, beautiful people you populated it with. Please bless the Chileans who were in the earthquake, protect them and help them rebuild.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Sweet By and By

So for the last few hours I've been in the idyllic town of Whisper Hollow, Tennessee. Don't google it, it doesn't really exits. I'm deep in the heart of The Sweet By and By, a novel by Sara Evans and Rachel Hauck, one of my personal faves. The story is like honey, sweet and rich and sticky, by which I mean I've been reading for two hours and am pretty sure the book will be done before the bottle of Sangiovese. I probably won't go to sleep until I finish tonight.
There is something completely freeing about losing oneself in a novel. It's not that all problems disappear, because any good novel is rife with problems. It's just that it allows you some distance and freedom, since someone else has to deal with them and, in general, that someone has bigger issues and more strength than real-live people.
As a novelist I have a harder time reading without agenda than I used to. But there are a few authors who make me forget to watch their scene set up and their character arc and lure my imagination into the heart of their story, where I can get stuck for days. It's fabulous when it happens.
Dear Jesus, thank you for the amazing talent you have lavished upon your people. Thank you for an imagination that makes the fantastic seem possible. Thank you for stories that fill a Friday afternoon.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Zone

I had three and a half piles of work crowding my desk today. On days like that it feels futile to even try and get through it all. It took a large coffee, the soundtrack of Wicked, and the hand of God to get me in a place where I could even start. But, as that is an unmatched trio, I did!
When I eventually looked at the corner of the screen again, two hours had passed and, voila, I had made two lines through my list of to-dos! For a girl who has an internal work-snooze set at twenty minute intervals, this was quite a blessing.
Thank you, Jesus, for the zone. For helping me find a focused place to get a lot of work done. For soundtracks and large coffees, for my job. For promising to be with me through all things, be they exciting like a mission trip, or every day like an ergonomic report. Amen.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Not Guilty

So last week I said something dumb. I didn't mean to be unkind, but it came out rather harsh. One regrettable sentence.
It took me three days to forgive myself. Three days! I knew, immediately, that God answered my prayer for forgiveness, but the sense of freedom didn't permeate my mind, much less my heart. I felt like my soul had been drawn and quartered, my joy shackled, my spirit locked away in solitary confinement. About every thirty seconds from the time I woke up until the time I went to bed, I rehashed the incident, re-convicted myself. It was so exhausting that I fell asleep on the couch at 8:30 on Friday night. And slept for eleven hours.
It has been a long time since I've had an experience like that. And the thing is, when I looked to the face of the jailer, I saw myself, and just behind me, the enemy, the Accuser of the Saints, whispering hate into my ear, condemnation and distortion into my thoughts.
In retrospect, I'm grateful for two things. I'm grateful for God's grace, so even when I try, convict, and hang myself, he breathes new life into my spirit and reminds me that I am His. And I haven't the right to condemn one of His children, even myself. As many stones as I throw at the mirror, they will not destroy, because His grace wins. Always. Praise God!
Second, I am so grateful for His patience with me. Out of the whole scenario, I think the thing that God would change was my reaction. He would have me rest fully on His grace from the moment I spoke, onward. He would have me embrace the freedom He provides. It is by His grace that I finally turned the key in my own cell and released myself. And then He restored me again, bandaging the raw places, bathing the wounds, kissing away the tears.
I read in a devotional this morning that we can not disappoint God because to disappoint, you must fail to meet expectations. But, hello, God knows me better than even I do. He knows what to expect and is never surprised when I fail. Sure, He longs for better things for me, but He doesn't have an uninformed standard by which He checks my progress. He just walks with me.
My God, I have no words to capture the depth to which your grace touches me. Me, who doesn't even get it all the time. But the splendor of who you are is in that. In the un-gettable, unchangeable, beauty of your heart, the purity and strength and gentleness of your love, the boundless, relentless grace that emanates from you and falls lavishly upon your children. Overwhelm me again with your grace in every moment.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


So, I went to a concert last night with some friends. Yes, on a Monday night. And yes, I was reminded I'm not in college anymore when the alarm jangled at six this morning. Don't get me wrong, the show was a good time of catchy new tunes and a brief foray into the world of teenage angst that had us all looking at each other going, "Oh yeah, that's what eighteen was like. I'd forgotten."
But, I was much less enthusiastic about, well, anything, when I got home this afternoon following nine hours of ergonomics in a loud plant coated in metal dust. Two very large energy drinks kept me on my feet as I clung to the happy thought that when I finished I could come home and relax in my yoga pants.
Sigh. They are these stretchy, soft black things that lost a drawstring to the dryer. They're a little too long and the hem pools around my feet when I stand. They stretch easily when I sit cross-legged on the now. Plus, they make me feel a little bit athletic--I mean yoga is in the name--and more stylish than say, sweatpants would. And since they're stretchy, they fit as comfortably on Kimberly-after-a-taco-dinner as they do on pre-dinner Kimberly.
I admit to being a person who loves comfort. And its wonderful when it comes in a simple, wearable form like yoga pants. It is a small thing, sure, but just putting them on signifies free time.
I debated going all deep with this, comparing them to God's grace--how it's freeing, comfortable, and fits me no matter what shape I'm in. How it pools around me and covers over me after the sinful equivalent of a taco dinner.
But, to be honest, that isn't why I like them. I just do...kind of like why God likes me. (I couldn't resist at least one parallel!)
Dearest Jesus, thank you for the deeper things in life and for the simple things, like a pair of yoga pants.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Sprechen Sie Deutsch?

So, I had two things I woke up super excited about, and one sort of inspired the other, so I'm going to talk about both.
Allow me to set the stage.
My roommate got an email offering her four free tickets to the Fox Theater to see a German orchestra. So, we thought, heck, they're free, and rounded up some peeps. The Fox is a lovely piece of Atlanta culture that must be experienced to be understood. It looks like a Persian palace both inside and out, and if you're in the balcony seats, you look up to a navy blue sky with twinkling lights behind the top of a Persian tent. It's magical, and that's just the theater, not even the show. Well, the show, it turns out, was a big-band era orchestra, complete with a singer who gave a brief intro to each piece through the old-school mic. The whole thing was very once-in-a-lifetime.
Which brings me to my second exciting thing. As happens a lot when I'm working on a writing project, I think about my characters whenever my mind is not actively engaged in reality. So, if I'm running, or if a sermon is less than captivating, or when I clean house, I spend time in story-world. Sunday night, while enjoying the dance tunes of the pre-war Germany, I thought how one of my characters wouldn't be able to sit still with the music playing, and how the others would react based on their past and present concerns.
That's when it happened. They started acting of their own accord. My characters were doing things and making choices and saying things of their own volition! Yes, to the uninducted it might sound like I'm due for a refill of my meds, but my fellow creative-types are tracking. Character building is one of the most fun and hardest parts of novel writing for me. You begin with a name, or an idea, or a gender, who you need to experience something or fill a roll. At that point, they could be anyone, any age, any heritage. They could love pepperoni or be a vegetarian. They could be a math person or a words person or a fashionista who doesn't care about either.
Slowly, as you mull over the story, the concept, the paths they could take, a personality begins to develop. The person appears a certain way for a certain reason. They like things because of where they've come from and their fears are deep and often misunderstood. But as you refine who they are, get to know them, they also become real and have the power to drive a story in directions you never saw coming.
It's really exciting when it happens, and last night while a German was singing "Dancing cheek to cheek," I listened to a conversation between characters.
Yay! Progress! I've known these folks for months now, and I'm so proud of them. I can't wait to see what they do next.
Thank you, God, for the creative process, for guiding me and for the seedlings of people and experience you give me that will grow into a novel.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Under the sea

I am watching Planet Earth right now. It's the under the sea one, where I just saw a six inch baby sail-fish, that will grow to a 'one of the ocean's most formidable hunters.' And now, a sea-spider and some eels, all floating in 'marine snow' which is a pretty way of saying dead pieces of animals who live closer to the sunlight.
The silence presses on your ears. The animals look like Dr. Seuss's dreams after too much spicy food. There is a whole realm that is only now being seen for the first time thanks to modern technology and people who are braver than I. Snorkeling is about my limit, but even the shallow, bathwater coves of Hawaii amazed me. Did you know neon pink is a natural color?
It's taking me forever to type this because my eyes are lured by the wonders of this earth and I am only able to write during commercial breaks. Our God is amazing. Awesome. And if I ever doubted that He created this earth and did so for His glory, sights like this clarify things. For thousands of years, His were the only eyes that saw the vampire squid and its bioluminescent tentacles roving the midnight depths. It is for Him that birds sore, and by His creative power that they dive as much as 60 feet after fish.
I am stilled in wonder at the complex and balance of the world. At the diversity of it. And I am inspired to know more of it, and of it's Maker.
Thank you, God, for letting us see your glory. For the beauty you have let me enjoy. And that I get to live on the surface, away from the things that dwell in the darkness and feed on sulfides and dead whales.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Six degrees to...

So, I was thinking today about some girlfriends I have from a coffee church that I haven't seen in a while. And then I was getting encouraging emails from my writer gals following a minor meltdown...yay for patient people! A college roommate sent a note to recall a Savannah trip that involved 100 mph on I-16 and several pounds of shrimp. Tonight I have small group with girls I met in September but feel like I've known all my life to talk about prayer and, of course, The Bachelor. Sunday I met with my Cambodia missions team and spilled my story, which left me feeling a little naked until they cloaked me with their acceptance and friendship.
I didn't intend to take inventory of my web of connections. But, I suppose, God did. He reminded me today that I am not alone. First off, I always have Him, and being a Trinity and all, that makes four of us at a minimum. But beyond that, He has graced me with people to touch the pieces of my life. I don't know that I saw any of them coming, but in retrospect I can't imagine weaving this life without them. Thank you, God, for the lives you've let me join with and the variety of ways you've shown yourself through them.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Crank it up

There are times I go looking for some good new tunes to listen to while I bop around town. And then there are times when I'm fine, going my merry way, and a CD finds its way into my car and revolutionizes my commute. That happened this weekend! Brandi Carlisle has a new CD out. She croons--yes, croons--grave, sweet, and bubbly tunes in a voice that is one part water on a pebble beach and one part silk.
I love music, the way it speaks things for which there are no words. It can brighten even a snowy day (yes, it's snowing. In Atlanta. Again.) or soothe a frenetic moment. What would Christmas be without carols? Well, sacred still, but not as merry by a long shot.
I wonder what Adam thought when he first heard a song. What it was like when the first instrument played a melody. Whatever it was, I am grateful for it. I don't know what life without music would be. Don't want to.
Thank you, God, for music. For inventing melody and harmony to express all the wordless power of this life and touch the parts of us that the physical realm can't understand. Thank you for your people who you've gifted with voices of silver, and the kind of brilliance that creates songs to live by.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Make it a large

I am a proud member of Borders Rewards. That means I carry a little red card in my wallet, and every time I get really carried away and spend way too much money on books, I get $5 back. And, more importantly, it means that every sixth beverage I order at the cafe is FREE!
So, being the avid cafe dweller that I am, I get roughly one drink a week gratis. Now, instead of thinking about how much money I spend on drinks, I just look forward to that free one. And, I always make it count. I get a big, sweet, fancy beverage (extra hot so I won't drink it too fast) and sit there feeling smug as I sip and read.
Well, guess what is in my wallet? A free drink coupon! I am actually pretty excited about it. Tomorrow I have a lot of reports to write for work. And I never really look forward to that particular task. BUT, it will be so much nicer to have a red tea latte to sip while I write. So, I'm grateful for free tea lattes....well, for all tea lattes, really, but especially for free ones. Thanks, God, for little freebies!