Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Road Home

The Road Home by Tommy Teny and Mark Andrew Olsen is a retelling of the story of Ruth and Naomi set in the United States in this century instead of Israel. I love the story of Ruth, but sometimes I feel like the cultural significance can get lost on me with my little understanding of the times, culture, and traditions.

This book is in no way a substitute for scripture but rather a way for us to grasp the story within our own cultural references. It does take liberties with the characters, for example: Ruth who we know very little about her past in the Bible is an orphan girl who finds herself as a cocktail waitress in Las Vegas. Naomi's boys aren't described as the most wonderful of men either.

But the story of Naomi and Ruth making their way back to Naomi's home and her people (who are Mennonite in this story) does bring to life what they may have been through.  It was difficult, emotional, and they not at all certain of what would happen upon their arrival. Would people accept them? Would they find work? Have food?

It was a decent read, but not one I would highly recommend. It was a freebie someone was passing off and you know how I can't say no to a free book!

Friday, February 22, 2013

That 4th Guy

A while back I blogged about three men that were taking big risks to live their dreams. You can read it here if you missed it. At the bottom of the post I quickly mentioned there was a fourth guy with a similar story but we hadn't seen the outcome to our prayers just yet. Well, yesterday we got the news.

And it wasn't the news we were hoping for. In case you didn't know, the 4th man was my husband, Chris. I'll do my best to share the details, but mostly, I just needed a place to process this devastating news.

In October of 2009, three months after we were married, Chris voiced his dream job out loud. I had asked where he would work if he could work anywhere. His response was "Pixar." So, we packed up and moved to the Bay Area so we could pursue that career. If you've read my blog at all, you know that story wasn't a short one or an easy one.

Throughout our time in California, Chris has applied to a number of jobs with this company; he's even had a few contacts to network with (most of which were not helpful). But one was very helpful and really took the time to discuss his resume, their culture, and the options. They always say it's not what you know but who you know and this felt like one of those situations. Finally, we knew someone!

And then, months later, there was an opening! And a call back! And then an interview! We had never come so close! It was hard not to get our hopes up, but Chris was always cautious. I, on the other hand, was on cloud nine. I felt like this had to be from the Lord. After all, we had waited for so long!

And then a phone call. Sorry, Sir, this one is not meant for you. . . but another department wants to meet you. What? That's even better (because the first gig was not all that great). Now I'm really thinking God is in this; he's been giving two chances to get his foot in the door!

So, he goes to another interview and really connects well with one of the managers. And weeks go by. And then on Tuesday, we get the call. Sorry, Sir, we're going with another candidate.

Hope dashed, God questioned, and tears shed.

I know that God is with us, that he loves us, and wants to bless us. I know that he knows my husband's greatest desires. And I have to trust that this happened for a reason. But it seems so crazy that this didn't work out. Why wasn't this it?

And now we question, "Now what?" If moving here was to go after this job, then what do we do when the door closes? Sure, there could be another one. But what if there isn't. How long are we to wait?

Answering these questions will not be easy. We will be in much prayer; it's important that we strain to hear God in this moment (however long it lasts) and follow what he tell us. I don't think we were wrong to move here; both of us have loved the city, our friends, our lives. God will lead us forward. We will continue to trust that he has a plan, and that it's a good one!

Monday, February 18, 2013

A Visit from Brother

My brother's job brought him out to California last week and he arranged to take a few days off and drive up to San Francisco for a long weekend. I was so excited to see him. He hadn't ever been to California . . . meaning, he hadn't come out to see us since we moved. I actually hadn't seen him since my sister's wedding last year. So this visit was much anticipated.

And it didn't disappoint! We spent Friday night (his 27th Birthday) at a German restaurant enjoying beer, meat and a huge piece of chocolate cake. On Saturday we drove up Twin Peaks to catch the view of our foggy city. The weather was actually quite beautiful and the fog gave way soon enough. 

One of the things I love about February is the weather. We do get some rain, but usually it seems to be a sunny month filled with blooming flowers. This weekend we had gorgeous weather; I was even without a jacket for a good portion of it! I was so thankful that John got to experience the city with the sun.

From there we made our way to the ocean. John said he had only seen the Pacific Ocean from Australia and needed to at least drive by it while he was here. Well, we got to do more than that! This is the first time I've actually been warm on this beach. It's usually cold, foggy, and windy to say the least, but this was paradise! I even put my feet in the water (only took me three years)!

There were a lot of surfers out, but the beach was almost empty. John and I walked up to the water's edge, John being braver than I and getting in ankle deep. Soon, I decided to follow. My toes felt the water. It was cold, but not freezing like I had expected. The water receded. I walked a little further. I stopped, daring the water to approach my toes and feet. John saw it coming before I did and turned back, but I just kept watching that wave come at me. I started giggling, anticipating the cold around my ankles . . . and then shock and screams of childish delight came rushing up as I found myself nearly knee deep in the wave. I turned and ran back to the sand but the wave just stayed with me drenching my jeans. I couldn't stop laughing. The surprise, the cold water, the playful joy I felt being with my brother, it all just caused me to laugh until I was crying. 

Then we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge and headed to Sonoma. We hit up our two favorite (affordable) wineries: Cline and Jacuzzi for wine tasting and enjoyed a picnic on the lawn of Cline. The sun was warm and the afternoon so pleasant.  The wineries were also hosting an Olive Tasting Festival so we tried a few of those as well. Among them was a cheese stand passing out samples of Havarti. It was the best cheese I'd tried in a while, so we bought some of that too (and it went great with the wine)!

We spent Sunday at home playing games and watching movies. Just spending time together. I thoroughly enjoyed John's visit and I hope he did too! Happy Birthday Brother!

Psalm 91

I heard a great devotional on Psalm 91 this morning. I'm blessed that we can pray and read the Word at my workplace. Today, one of my co-workers taught from Psalm 91 and afterwards they gave us a few minutes of self-reflection that I really appreciated. Thought I'd share it with you.

Psalm 91 (ESV)
 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”
For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
    and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his pinions,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
You will not fear the terror of the night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
    nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
    ten thousand at your right hand,
    but it will not come near you.
You will only look with your eyes
    and see the recompense of the wicked.
Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place—
    the Most High, who is my refuge—
10 no evil shall be allowed to befall you,
    no plague come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways.
12 On their hands they will bear you up,
    lest you strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the adder;
    the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.
14 “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him;
    I will protect him, because he knows my name.
15 When he calls to me, I will answer him;
    I will be with him in trouble;
    I will rescue him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
    and show him my salvation.”

During the self-reflective time, I couldn't get over how close God wants to be with me. He wants to shelter me with his wing, he wants me in his shadow. He desires to protect me and care for me. He wants to be my dwelling place. Wow! I can't believe he wants me right there with him!

Verses 14-16 are from the Lord; because I love Him and know his name He will deliver me, protect me, answer me when I call, be with me, rescue me, and satisfy me with long life and his salvation. What more could I need to get through this life?

As I read verse 9 where it says, "Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place . . ." I had to stop and ask myself, "Have I really made him my dwelling place? Are these promises for me?" Maybe, but I'd like to get even closer if I can!

There's not a promise that you won't come up against hard things, but a promise that you won't be alone and they won't overtake you. As much as I'd like to receive a promise of an easy life, an eternal one is so much more valuable!

Thank you Lord for your protection and concern for me. Thank you for your salvation.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Perfect Date Relived

On Friday night, I got a call from my husband who was suspiciously late coming home from work.  He said something to the effect of, "Honey, we're going to out tonight. You need to dress nice and be ready to go in 40 minutes."

He had prepared me for this crazy-spontaneous-surprise date idea a few weeks back when he asked if I would be open to going on a nice date with little to no notice. He wouldn't know when it would be, but he thought I would really like it. So I said sure. (He has never been wrong about those kinds of things).

So, I put on a dress and heels (which I never wear) and was ready when he got home. We drove downtown and on the walk to the restaurant I commented on how this restaurant was in the same area as a Thai place we had been before. Chris confessed we were actually going to that same place.

As we sat down to eat I asked him a few questions about what we might be doing after dinner. Things like how far we would need to walk and what time we had to be there. He told me I needed to stop asking questions. (I must have been getting close.)

I turned to him and said, "Are we going to Wicked?" He couldn't deny it, "Yes, we are!"

And so it hit me that this was the exact same date we had gone on three years ago! Chris's parents got us tickets to see Wicked for Christmas when it was in the city in 2009 shortly after we moved from Colorado. It was one of our first times downtown at night. We had eaten at this same Thai restaurant and walked a few blocks to the theater and enjoyed my first Broadway musical. I loved it. It's one of my favorite dates.

And I got to do it twice!

Chris had found out that the theater was doing a lottery where twelve people would have an opportunity to buy $25 tickets (instead of the $100+ price). He had planned to enter the lottery every night until he won so we could see the show again. He didn't expect his name to be the fourth one called on the very first night he tried! But it was!

We had a great time. The seats were a little off to the side (read: not the super greatest), but the show was still incredible and the music just as splendid as the first time we saw it. And totally affordable!

Honey, thanks for planning such a perfect date . . . again!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Will it ever be "normal"?

The last four months at my job have been a lot different than the previous two years. My job is normally so routine and mundane, there is very little to talk about when someone says, "How's work going?" But lately, that is not the case . . .and it's not about to change either. At least for the time being.

I started out at my employer being a temp for their data entry department; who would have thought I'd actually be pretty good at it and be offered a full time job? Well, God apparently, because it was a gift from Him for sure!

About a year later I applied internally for a marketing/sales position, but it was offered to someone else. I was fine with that especially since they let me work in that department half-time so I could learn the ropes and get more experience in marketing and sales. I've really enjoyed being a part of both departments and the variety was definitely a good thing.

Shortly after that I was asked to learn part of another person's job so I could be his back-up if he was on vacation. And soon after that I was asked to learn yet another role . . . and another.

Since November of last year, I have been doing a little bit of my job and a lot of other people's roles. It hasn't been everyday, but it sure feels like it. It's a little exhausting. Especially since I don't know those other role's as well as I know my own.

I was on the phone with my mom the other day, telling her all of this and I had said, "It should be back to normal on Tuesday, when so-and-so gets back from vacation." I was really looking forward to it. Well, on Monday, I found that said so-and-so was in the hospital for a broken toe . . . and would be out for several more weeks. What?

Most of the time, I'm thankful for a change in pace, but now . . . I would like my routine back. That's not something that I can really ask for right now though because as I mentioned, the reasons I end up covering other people's projects is because of illness or injury. I'm glad to help, I really am. But I feel stretched too thin, tired . . . I want to go back to "normal." I want to remember what normal felt like.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Loving Your Neighbors

There is a passage in scripture where Jesus is telling those around him what the greatest commandments are; essentially He says, "Love the Lord and love your neighbors." Sounds simple . . . but it's often not.

A few weeks ago, we had a conversation around a dinner table with some new friends about how we could minister to our neighbors better. "Better?" I thought . . . "What about at all?" They were new to their neighborhood and were discussing some of the difficulties they were having in even meeting those living right next door. That sounded about right from my experience too. We've lived in our neighborhood for three years and barely know the names of those in the same building, much less anything about them . . . or what they believe in.  Those conversations just don't happen naturally (especially when you don't speak the same language).

I've never really been an outgoing girl, one to be the first to make the introductions or extend an invitation. At least not to new faces. It's always a challenge. Scary.

But that doesn't mean I can ignore it. Just not do it. The truth is, I have no idea how to go about getting to know my neighbors, or get to know others that live in the same neighborhood. We all just live our own separate lives. We don't have any common places or shared experiences to draw from.

When we first moved to the city we had great aspirations of knowing our neighbors and being able to minister to them - perhaps share Christ with them. Life quickly took hold and time has slipped by. There was a time when I tried to cultivate a "common place" as others around me, but it didn't last. I don't drink coffee or have a dog to walk which seem to be the requirements to starting a conversation with a stranger around here. 

So, how do I love my neighbors? I'm commanded to do so. It's one of the two greatest commandments from the mouth of our Savior. It's easier to serve those you know. Like my friends in my church. I can easily bring them meals, babysit, etc.; it's easy to love and serve them. But what about the others? The less familiar.

I read the blogs of my friends who have their kids deliver goodies and gifts to the neighbors, they throw parties, help neighbor kids with homework, coach basketball, etc. They sound like they know what they are doing -- they have it all together. And maybe I could get those things to work in my neighborhood, I just haven't worked up the courage to put myself out there yet.

And that opens up another truth -- Loving your neighbor takes energy and time. Intention.

There are so many layers to this; and I fall short of all of them. I keep waiting for something to present itself as the opportunity . .  whatever that is.

How have you gotten to know your neighbors? How do you love your neighbors?
Please share! I'd love to hear!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

We finally decorated . . . sort of

We've lived in our apartment for almost three years and just a few weeks ago we finally found art to decorate our long/boring/plain living room wall. We'd been on the lookout for something we loved (and could afford) since moving in but could never settle on anything.

Here's our new wall:

These are actually photographs that we took on our trip to Europe last fall. We had them printed by CafePress on 16x 20 canvases (We used a daily deal that came up a few months ago.) 

(Photos are of the Eiffel Tower, the Roman Collesseum, and the Baptistry and Douma in Florence)

Friday, February 1, 2013

Adding Pilates to the Mix

Pilates is a form of strength training that focuses on the core stability muscles (abs and back). I've been doing some pilates moves as part of my physical therapy for the past few years, but my therapist was pushing me to do even more. Last year she suggested I find a studio and join a group mat class and try to go twice a week.

A lot of towns don't have pilates studios, but San Francisco is filled with them. They are easy to find, but definitely not easy to add to your budget. On average a walk-in class can cost anywhere from $15-$20 and a month long pass only discounts it by $5/session or so. This was not something I could take on right when my therapist mentioned it, but around Christmas time I found a Groupon for a studio not far from work that made it totally affordable!

I've gone to three classes so far and I really enjoy them. One of them was a "Pilates with Props" class which which uses weights and other toys to engage the core for a good workout. The other class I've tried was pretty intense but fun. It's called "Booty Barre."  It involved a lot of plie squats and work at the ballet barre (or bar for those less dance-oriented folks like myself). There were so many moments where my legs were shaking and I thought, I can't do this! But I did! And by the end, or rather, when it was all over, I felt really great. Definitely a challenge from my booty.

I'm hoping to go twice a week for two more weeks and use up the pass I bought. Then we'll see what happens -- if I can continue it at full price or find another studio offering a great deal.

Adding these pilates sessions to my routine of bike-commuting to work and going to the gym after work has been a little challenging, but I've been able to make it work. I feel more fit than I have in a long time.