Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Waste Not Wednesday: A Novice Gardener Gets Winter-Ready

What's the opposite of a green thumb?  Whatever it is, that's what I have.  Seriously, I could probably put all of your non-green-thumbs to shame.  I kill things that just shouldn't die.  Like every cactus I have ever come into contact with.

Given my track record, I never once thought I would want/have a garden.  But now that we have this house with so much yard space, it seems absolutely silly not to have a garden.  Plus, I love any excuse that keeps me outdoors and active.  So as soon as we moved in, I vowed to plant a vegetable garden come Spring.


(This is my "bit of earth" -- the plot of land I intend to turn into a thriving vegetable garden!)

What I didn't realize was that it's important to get that Spring garden ready for the winter.  I thought I would share what I've learned with you, and maybe you'd be able to give me some tips as well.

Step One:  Clean Up

Apparently, it's actually super important to clean up your garden before the first frost hits.  Thankfully, we've had a super mild fall (except for that freak snowstorm in October, but I'd say that was a fluke considering it's currently 63 degrees outside).  This means removing all stones, weeds, leaves, etc. from your garden.  My mother-in-law also taught me to cut any plants you want to keep down to the plant.  We have some nice plants out front (not vegetable plants, just pretty flowery plants), so I cut away all the deadness and superfluousness and now it's ready to revitalize itself in the spring.



Getting rid of the dead/rotting stuff in the garden helps to keep pesky bugs away because you won't give them much reason to stick around.  It also removes the possibility of disease from your future plants.  So step one in getting your garden winter-ready is cleaning up!

(Here's an important question for all you experienced gardeners:  How do I safely remove poison ivy from my garden plot, and how do I safely dispose of it?  I honestly have no idea.  I will look around online and all, but I would love to hear your tried-and-true methods, because I need to play it safe -- especially since I'll be working on clearing out the garden while also watching babykins.)


Step Two: Ready the Soil

After cleaning up the garden, it's time to think about readying the soil.  There are a number of things that can be done.  If you've planned far-enough-ahead (which I haven't...obviously...it being almost-December and all), planting a cover crop to grow in the soil over the winter will keep the soil nutritious.  To be honest, I don't know much about it, but it sounds interesting.  You can read about it in detail here. For something a little faster and more convenient, one site recommends covering the location with cardboard/newspaper, and then putting rich soil over it.  Apparently, this kills weeds and enriches the soil.  For real.  That's crazy, as in crazy-awesome.

Personally, I'm going to prepare the soil by starting a compost.  I have yet to decide whether I will buy a compost bin or just set one up in the backyard.  Any suggestions?  I'll update you on the composting in a separate post once I get things under way.

Step Three: Get Your Gear

During the winter months, make sure you have all your gardening gear in order.  Is everything sharpened?  Shined?  Easily accessible?  Do you need to buy anything else?  Keep a list and start checking out some local thrift stores over the winter months.

Since I've literally JUST STARTED this whole gardening-thing, here's what I have:


Alright.  What else should I invest in??

Step Four: Plan It Out

Decide what types of vegetables you want to plant, and plan out when and where to plant them.  Since I don't know much about vegetable gardening, I'm not sure where to begin on this one, other than dream of planting tomatoes and squashes and kale.  If you have any suggestions on the best things to start with, please comment and let me know!


(Part of my plan is to wear these spiffy boots whenever it rains.  That's all I've got so far.)

Step Five: The Ultimate Game Plan Against Your Garden's Arch Nemesis

Come up with a game plan in case your garden gets attacked.  I know for a fact that my garden's arch nemeses are the squirrels that lurk about these parts.  We couldn't even leave our pumpkins outside without them succumbing to the wrath of the squirrels.  If you've gardened before, how have you dealt with such troubles as squirrels and bugs wreaking havoc on your precious plants?

My sources - and some great links to get you started:

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

what I have learned in the discipline of stillness

Busyness is (one of) my idol(s).
A frantic spirit is my drug.
I am addicted.  Enslaved.  I cannot let it go or give it up.
I don't know how.

Even in prayer, I have found myself frantically checking off my list -- pray for this, thank Him for that -- as if prayer is another way to feel accomplished in my day.

This is not what God wants for me -- for His children.
It is not how He asks me to live; it is not the fullness of life He has promised to me.


I easily fall prey to the busy idol that our culture upholds.  But it is not the way of God.
He does not ask me to "fit Him in" in the midst of a swirling schedule.
God asks me to be still and know Him.


So recently -- and by recently, I mean over the last few months -- God has convicted my busy heart and frantic spirit.  He wants to put an end to its rule in my life.  I have wanted to see its end as well.  Instead of coming before Him each day with a pen, ready to check off the next Bible chapter read and prayer prayed, I come before Him in silence.

I sit.
I am still.
Quiet.
I listen.
I quiet my frantic mind that tries to burst in.
I am stilled by Him.
I strain again to listen.

Will He say something to me?  I wonder each day.


In my life, I have definitely experienced the voice of God speaking to me -- very audible and unmistaken to me, although quite silent to others.  I figured when I started this discipline of silence, I would begin to hear from the Lord more and more.

I waited.

And waited.

And waited some more.

I haven't heard Him.
But I have heard from Him.
And I have learned a few things in the process of being still.

I have learned that following God's convictions does not mean that we will see the results we think we will, but the blessings we will get will be exactly what God wants for us.  He will work in our hearts and give us faith like a child.  He will renew us and restrengthen us and give us His peace (the one that surpasses all understanding, you know?).

I have also learned that it is difficult to be still.  It is difficult to quiet a mind that races -- a mind that has been 27-years-conditioned to the way of the world.  These are habits that need to break, and so I cannot give up because it's hard or because I just don't think I will ever be able to do it (and I won't be able to do it, which is exactly why I must continue to give myself over to the Lord).

You see, God hasn't been "speaking" to me -- not the way I assumed He would.  Instead, God has slowly let peace rule in my heart on even the most frantic of days.  God has allowed me to read His Word with a newfound vigor and understanding.  He has opened my eyes to the reality of the whole situation -- you know, the reality of the Gospel and Christ's eventual return.  It's honestly like I've been reading the Scriptures for the very first time -- like a child's discovery -- and I get to wonder at chapters and verses I have read hundreds of times before.

I have (re-)learned that God is real, and He still transforms my life.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Twin Tales: Brain Explosion

To begin, some background:  Micah and Titus are my twin nephews.


This is Titus:


He's sweet.  He thinks that dentists go to work to spin around.

This is Micah:


He's also sweet.  He thinks ... well, you'll see what he thinks later on in the post.

Also, it's important to note that the twins say, "Yeh," to everything.  Not "Yeah," but "Yeh."  For instance, if you ask them if they are dinosaurs, they will say, "Yeh."

Part One, Tales from the Brain of a Two-Year-Old

Elliott:  Micah, do you know what a brain is?

Micah:  Yeh.

Elliott:  What is it?

Micah:  What is it?

Elliott:  No, I'm asking you - what is it?  Titus, do you know what a brain is?

Titus:  Yeh.

Elliott:  What is it?

Titus:  *blank stare, slightly nervous and quiet* ...it's like a.... it's kinda like a truck.

Elliott:  Did you think I said train?

Titus:  Yeh.

Elliott:  No, not a train, Titus -- a brain.  Do you know what a brain is?

*silence*

Elliott: Alright, well do you know where your brain is?

*silence*

Elliott:  It's the thing behind your eyeballs.  Have you ever wondered what's behind your eyeballs?

Micah (excitedly):  YEH!

Elliott:  You have not, Micah!

Part Two, Tales from Thanksgiving

Micah (to Elliott):  Where's your friend?

Elliott:  My friend??  Who are you talking about?

Micah:  Gwendolyn.

Elliott:  Micah, do you think Gwendolyn is my friend?

Micah:  Yeh.

Elliott:  Micah, Gwendolyn is my daughter!  I'm her daddy.

Micah:  You're not daddy!

Elliott:  Yes, I am!  I'm Gwendolyn's daddy.  You know everyone has a daddy, right?

Micah:  Uh-huh.

Elliott: Who's your daddy?

Micah: *points to his daddy*

Elliott: Who's Gwendolyn's daddy?

Micah:  *points to Elliott*

Elliott:  Who is your daddy's daddy?

Micah:  Huh?

Elliott:  Papa is your daddy's daddy.

Micah: ...yeh.

Elliott:  Papa is my daddy-in-law.

Micah:  *blank stare to indicate slight brain explosion*
Micah:  *crumbles into a ball on the couch* Blaaaaaahahhghghghghhhh!

Elliott:  I broke my nephew.

(You can read more about my adorable nephews at their mama's blog here.)

Friday, November 25, 2011

how the baby teaches me about the God of comfort

As soon as we leave -- that's when the crying starts.
Unconsolable, uncontrollable sobbing.


It doesn't matter how much I tell her that we'll be back -- that she's in good hands -- that we love her.
I pray with her, I hold her, I kiss her tiny little head.
"It's okay, sweetie." I croon.  "We'll be back very soon."

All of it is quickly forgotten (or perhaps never understood in the first place), which is evident from the hysterics that happen as soon as we shut the door.  As soon as we're out of sight, it's as if her world crumbles before her.  No one can comfort her but mom and dad.

It makes me wonder -- do I do the same thing?
As soon as I can't "feel" God or sense His presence -- do I think He has forsaken me?

It's different, of course.  I understand that.  When we are out at the theatre, we cannot hear her crying.  In fact, I have to force my brain not to think of her because I will worry so much about how she is doing and beg my husband to turn the car around so I can scoop my baby up and rock her to sleep.  This isn't the case with God.  God never closes the door so He can no longer hear me.  He always hears my cries, and is always there to rock me to sleep -- to comfort -- if I will let Him.

But if He doesn't come back to comfort me in the exact way I want to be comforted, do I succumb to the fear that He has left me?

Do I cry in a hysterical fit?
Do I refuse comfort from others?
Do I just block Him out?
Do I forget all the other times He has come back to scoop me up?

But I am starting to see the recognition in her eyes when we leave, and the joy when we return  -- she is starting to be calm for longer periods of time when we are away  -- and each time we leave, she is given more confidence that we will be coming back to her.

So am I learning, just like my little one is learning? 

Am I trusting Him?  


"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.  If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer.  Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort."

2 Corinthians 1:3-7

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Why Thanksgiving Is My Favorite Holiday

No expectations.  Just family, and friends that are basically just family.  
And food.  And sharing.
Opening up homes.  Good conversation.  Remembering to be thankful.
Pies.

These are the reasons why I love Thanksgiving. 


Don't get me wrong.  I love Christmas and Easter.  But the thing is, the reason we celebrate Christmas and Easter are the same reasons I live and breathe and write and sing and dance.  It takes up my entire life.  Every day is a remembrance of Christmas and Easter.  But Christmas and Easter in America have been usurped, and it's hard for me to disconnect from the allure of presents under the Christmas tree (just being honest!).

But when it comes to Thanksgiving, there is nothing to usurp or spoil.  It's simply time to be with family and share a meal together, voicing our thankfulness.  There's something so pure about it that cannot be paralleled.  No matter where I have been for Thanksgiving (even in Oxford!) or with whom (even without the immediate family!), this holiday has always been a glorious celebration of RELATIONSHIPS.

I simply love it.

And I hope you do, too!


Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

WNW Saving Time Edition, Part 2: You Want Me to Exercise When, Exactly??

Since 'tis the season, I thought it might be nice to devote a couple of posts to saving time.  If you missed last week's post, it was all about getting things on your to-do lists done in a more efficient manner.  Today, I thought we'd devote a little attention to the E-word.

(...and since this post is actually about SAVING time, if you don't have time to read this, skip to the end of the post for the basic points...)

Now, I gotta be upfront here:  I LOVE exercising.  I hate sitting still.  Anything that gets me moving -- whether it be a walk, a bike ride, or even just housework -- makes me very happy.  So the reality is that I go out of my way to exercise because it gives me sanity.

I know not everyone loves to exercise, but it's so important to stay active.  But if you're like everyone else in America, you're busy doing **insert crazy-busy-lifestyle here**, so it's hard to find the time, energy, and motivation.  I wanted to share a few tips in hopes that you might be inspired to fit it in!

As far as I can tell, there are three main issues/excuses people have with regards to exercising:

"I don't enjoy exercising."
"I don't have time to exercise."
"I don't have energy to exercise."

The Enjoyment Issue: The biggest secret to getting good exercise is finding something you absolutely love doing.  If you're not really sure where to start, search for different things on YouTube.  Maybe it's yoga or pilates or dancing.  Maybe it's something as simple as running.  Maybe you need to be outdoors, and hiking or biking is your thing.  Maybe you need to be a part of a group, so check out a local gym for different classes.  Personally, I like... um.  Everything.  But my favorite things are running, yoga, and the bootcamp at my gym.  I find I like anything that stretches my limits because it helps to keep my mind/body interested in the task-at-hand.  I also really love hiking and biking, but I just don't get the chance to do them that often any more (it's a time/location issue.  I biked everywhere when we lived in the city; now, not so much).

The Time Issue: Once you find something you really enjoy, finding time might become an easier thing. But just in case it's not, here are a few suggestions:

  • Getting Up *gasp* Earlier:  If exercising is to become a priority, and if you find something that's worth getting up for in the morning, then sacrifice that extra hour of sleep (or go to bed earlier).  Even if it's a half-hour earlier, it will be worth it.  Once it becomes a habit, you won't even really think about it.  I started getting up early about five years ago.  Yes, it was hard.  And yes, sometimes it's still hard, and yes, it's a sacrifice.  But the benefits are worth it.  I have more energy throughout the day.  I make better choices with food (neither eating too much or too little, but I think about food as fuel for my body).  And it's become ingrained in me.  My body just wants to move.  I crave movement when I spend too many days sitting still.
  • Working Out Smarter, NOT Longer:  Alright.  Listen up.  The reality is that I know you probably don't have the time to work out 5-7 days a week.  I used to work out at least 5 days a week, but I'm a mom now. It doesn't happen.  I aim for 3 days of vigorous exercise a week and 1 day of yoga.  If I get more in (I rarely do), then yay!  If I don't get all those days in, then whatever.  But the trick to working out less days is to work out smarter.  Think about what your fitness goals are, and write them out. Maybe you want to lose a few pounds to be healthier, or tone muscle, or build endurance.  Goals help you stay focused and motivated (sometimes signing up for a race is good motivation!).  Find a way to turn the workout into interval training.  When I was working out 5 days/weekly for an hour at each session, I sort of got into a lazy routine and did the same thing every time.  Once your muscles get used to a routine, they stop working hard.  Your muscles become bored and lazy too.  What you have to do is confuse your muscles.  
    • Basically, just try to work in fast-paced cardio with multiple/simultaneous-muscle-building exercises.  Do it in bursts, and then repeat it -- again and again -- until you either are about to collapse or until your time is up (some days, it's 20 minutes; other days, it's 60 minutes).  I'll give you some examples...
    • For Running:  Instead of just putting the treadmill on for a safe tempo run, I might up the incline and run sprints every two minutes, and repeat until 30 minutes is up.  Or I might keep the incline level and just sprint as hard as I can for five minutes, take a one minute walk, and then do it again four times or so.  My muscles don't really know what's going on and they have to work harder (which means more muscle tone built and more calories burned throughout the day).
    • For Yoga:  Instead of going through the same flow that I know in and out, I'll go through sun salutations pretty rapidly, while breaking in between a flow of five salutations to work on the positions that I have trouble with (uugggggh eagle pose!!!  How I despise you!).  It also helps to focus on balancing poses, because it is working pretty much every muscle group at the same time.
  • Work Around Your Life Situation:  Do you work?  Take a walk during your lunch break.  Are you home with the baby?  Invest in a jogging stroller.  Or just go outside and take a walk with a regular stroller.  Or try doing some exercise indoors -- the baby might just be entertained!
The Energy Issue:  I know you might not have energy now, but if you get decent sleep and eat well, exercise will increase your energy level.  Please take it from the girl who still gets up for 3 AM feedings with the baby and then gets up to make it to the gym by 5:30 am.  Okay?  If I can do it and it increases my energy, YOU can do it and you will get that energy!  It's also super important to make sure you are fueling your body in the right way, otherwise you won't be getting the energy boost.  In order to eat well throughout the day, take into mind these considerations:

  • Eating six smaller meals a day will increase your energy, help your metabolism burn energy in a more efficient way, and decrease your hunger.  It looks different for every person, but it just means eating healthy snacks in between smallish meals.  A typical day for me might be: 
    • Breakfast: Oatmeal, NF Yogurt, Frozen Berries
    • Snack: Apple and Cheese
    • Lunch: Big Salad w/ Homemade Dressing, Tofu in a Rice Wrap with Salsa and NF Sour Cream
    • Snack: Banana and Peanut Butter
    • Dinner: Chickpea Patties with Homemade Tzaziki Sauce on GF Bun, Broccoli
    • Dessert: Fruit (I like frozen mango for dessert.)
  • Getting your portion sizes right (as well as the right proportions!) will help you from feeling either sluggish or ravenous.  I forget what the exact recommendations are, but here's what I do to stay satisfied (and this is coming from many trials and errors at healthy eating):  I first fill my plate at least half-full with vegetables, and vegetables only.  Then I split the remaining half in two, and fill one of those halves with protein, and the other half with a whole grain.

Okay, okay -- yeah, I know.  That was just a lot of information.  And do you really have time to sift through this post and figure it out?  No!  Absolutely not!  You should be cooking/eating turkey/exercising instead of reading this post!  So to sum it up...

  • Get Up Earlier
  • Work Out Smarter, NOT Longer (think: intervals!! and muscle confusion!)
  • Eat to Fuel Your Body
And viola!  Look at you!  You just found time to exercise!

Broad Street Run 2010

(Don't let the smiles fool you.  I was pooped.  We ran in 94 degree weather after having trained in early-spring 65-70 degree weather.  It was definitely a challenge, but totally worth it.  I was eight months pregnant for BS2011, so I had to skip out -- looking forward to 2012!!!)

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Dose of the Un-Serious (and yes, there is squash involved)

There are some things I thought you should know about me --
-- not because they are important to know, but mainly because they take up my time -- whether it be physically in space, or mentally in the brainpan.

Also, I sat down to write today and I just don't have it in me to write anything serious.

So how about a dose of un-serious (non-serious?) Rachel?

Alright.  Here we go.

1) The "Squash" Thing:  Ok.  I admit it.  I have a strange new obsession with squashes.  It all started when I saw a bunch of squashes on sale at the local market for $0.99 each.  Naturally, I sent Elliott out to get as many squashes (or, as he likes to say, sqaushii) as he wanted with as much variety as possible.  So he came home with -- as my friend Lauren likes to say -- a herd of squashes.  So.  Meet my herd of squashes:


(Alright, so I know the middle one is a pumpkin.  But a pumpkin is kind-of like a squash, right?  Or is it legitimately a squash?  Does anyone know?)

(Oh, this is also important to note: I had already cooked three squashes before taking this photo.  So three of them didn't make it in here, including this turban squash:)


(RIP, turban squash.)

If you have yet to discover the joy of squash-cooking, may I recommend that you go out right now and buy up all the squash in your grocery store?  Seriously.  You'll thank me later when you've known the pleasure of eating an entire casserole-type meal out of your very own squash.  And saving the leftovers is a cinch - just put that top back on for some old-school tupperware!

2) The "School" Thing:  OHMYGOSHIAMALMOSTDONEWITHSCHOOL!!!!  For-reeeeeeealz, folks.  This has been a long. time. coming.  I feel like I've been a professional student since age four.  So after graduating college, I sort of spent all my time in auditions, plus auditioning for grad schools, before finally landing a free ride to Villanova for acting.  Then after going slightly crazy (not hyperbole), I decided to jump ship and entered into a master's program for education.  And I will be done in three weeks!  But what this means is when I'm not blogging, commenting on other blogs, doing chores, reading, or playing with beloved babygirl, I am in class, sort of looking like this:


(Dudes, I am done with school.)

Or I am writing my final paper, sort of looking like this:


(Dudes, I am done writing papers.)  

(I'm ready to assign those papers!)

So I've kind of been scrambling to get that paper done.

3) The "Procrastination" Thing:  Speaking of writing that paper, can I just admit to succumbing to procrastination this semester?  And can I also say that I've never procrastinated on an assignment before in my life?  I blame thank the baby for this new trait, because she helps me see what's important.  I could sort of use a little procrastination in my life.  But now I really have to write that paper.

4) The "Campus Ministry" Thing:  I also "do" campus ministry with my husband ("doing" campus ministry means a lot of chatting, praying, and Bible-reading over coffee... or dirty chais.  And if you don't know what a dirty chai is, go to your local coffee shop right now and order one.  But make sure you want to be awake for the next twelve hours.  Oh, and you're welcome.).  We *try to* blog about it here, so check it out.  But that also takes up some time.  I really love those college students.

5) The "Existential" Thing:  Sometimes I get way into the reality of everything.  I don't know how to explain it other than I could be doing something as simple as washing my hands, and I'll start to think about how my life will someday end and the world will someday end, and I'll be hit with this absurd sort of clarity of the whole situation of mankind, and then I'll remember I'm just washing my hands and I'll force myself to stop thinking about such things.  Because honestly, it hurts my brain... mainly because I can't put it into words, and that frustrates me.  At that point, I might put on The Shins and dance about whilst cleaning the kitchen.  Um.  No lie.  And people don't use the word "whilst" enough any more, so I'm bringing it back, okay?  (P.S. to #5: Kierkegaard is awesome.  You should read him sometime, and also read some background on him.)

6) The "Re-enactment" Thing:  I grew up re-enacting the Revolutionary War.  Isn't that cool???  Okay, so I know it's, um, technically "dorky" by the majority of the population, but as a kid, I thought it was really cool.  And as a grown-up, I am so thankful my brother and father brought me into it because I got to live out history.  What better way is there for a kid to dive into their heritage, huh?  It also probably sparked my love for acting.  I don't have any pictures of me as a kid dressed up, but here's a picture of my dad reading The Declaration of Independence:


(He does this every year for hundreds of people!  He's so cool!)

(P.S.  I love my dad.)

(P.P.S. HI DADDY!!!)

(P.P.P.S. You see that really awesome manor place in the background?  I used to work there.  It was my first job.  I gave tours.  And catalogued/preserved an old library.  It was one of the greatest jobs ever.)

7) The "Renaissance" Thing:  Oh, and I also worked for the Renaissance Faire.  Yes.  I am that dorky.  But before you cast more judgement, wouldn't you work for the Renaissance Faire if it meant you got to dress up, speak in an English accent, and play with swords for 10+ hours a day???  Um.  Yes.  Yes, you would.  This is me as Maid Marian:




(I got captured.  Don't worry, I eventually escaped.  The good guys always win.)

(Oh yeah.  Except that one time I became the evil Sheriff at the end of the day.  But, uh, we don't talk about that time.)

8)  The "Potato" Thing:  I think potatoes are funny.  And yummy in whatever form they take. 

9)  The "Dinosaur" Thing:  I am really obsessed with dinosaurs.  So obsessed that my bridal shower had dinosaur table centers.  So obsessed that Gwendolyn got more dinosaur stuffed animals than any other normal stuffed animal.  So obsessed that I watch Jurassic Park every single year.  I mean.  C'mon.  Those things were real.  How could I not be obsessed??

10) The "Baby" Thing:  Oh, #10 was just an excuse to show you this:


What about you?  
Any funny/interesting things about yourself you'd like to share?

Friday, November 18, 2011

rooting out the worrying worm

It lodges itself in my center of centers like a worm, slowly eating its way through the dirt inside me.  I feel it curl up in my stomach, a familiar indigestion takes over and burns my belly.  I know when the worm comes back by the way I start picking at my cuticles -- creating wounds where there weren't wounds before -- mindlessly self-inflicting pain on my dry and hurting hands.

How does anxiety manifest itself in such physical ways?
And why does it seem to like my body as a resting place?

I have spent years battling with it, and yet it always returns.  Always familiar and still always slightly different.  A new twist on an old, worn-out song.  But I don't want to do this dance any more -- worrying about tomorrow when I need to focus on finishing out the current day.  Yet somehow, it creeps in -- worming its way inside me and wiggling around until I finally (consciously) pay attention to it.

Yes!  I hear you!  I feel you!  When will you leave me alone and let me live in a semblance of peace?


I do my best to calm my spirit -- to still my busybody mind.  But I can't do it.
At least, not alone.

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

Philippians 4:6-7

There are so many verses in the Bible that deal with worrying and being anxious (I guess it's not a problem specific to me?), but I love how Paul's letter to the Philippians gives us some clear ways for dealing with the anxiousness that could eat away at us.  Pray -- supplicate -- and give thanks.  

How often do we give thanks to the Lord while we are in great angst?  How would our prayers change?  How would our mindsets change?

And the promise given is beyond comforting because it is transformative.  The peace of God surpasses all understanding, and that is the peace we should long for -- a peace that will root out the worrying worm inside our bellies and transplant itself in the core of our souls.  That's the peace I want -- a peace that cannot come with hours of yoga or singing or writing or massages or bubble baths or just ignoring the world -- a peace that I can do nothing about, but can only ask for and receive.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Blog Highlight: but now to live the life

Next in our Blog Highlight series is but now to live the life.


Content:  The Goodfellows are a family who uprooted their comfortable lives in California to live amongst the poor in Peru.  This blog has tracked their journey from the beginning to the everyday NOW.  In Peru, they are starting a program called Krochet Kids, which is providing jobs to women who would otherwise have no options.  Besides documenting the mission of KKp (and giving insight to the women who make it possible), Sarah updates us on her family -- from birthdays to visiting the States to living with a little less than most.

Style: She writes beautifully -- with clarity, conviction, and wit.  Each post is artfully crafted with accompanying pictures, making you feel as though you are part of their mission in Peru.

Frequency: The blog is updated about three times per week.

Don't Miss: Supporting the women in Peru by buying a hat!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

WNW - Saving Time Edition, Part 1: Making the Most of Your To-Do List

(Guess what, friends!  There are more WNW posts popping up on the internet!  Imitation is the best form of flattery, right?  Keep an eye out for other people joining in on the Wednesday fun as we all attempt to do our part to limit our wastefulness!)

In light of the busy season (anyone else choking up with anxiety at the thought of Thanksgiving in two one weeks?  -- followed by finishing graduate school, sending out newsletters, Christmas cards, and oh yeah- CHRISTMAS SHOPPING?, traveling, etc. etc.? - Ok, breathe, Rachel...), I decided to do us all a favor and dedicate a few Waste Not Wednesday posts to saving time.

I am all about efficiency and getting things done.
I have a feeling you are, too.

The reality is that we all have to troubleshoot different methods to find the method that works in our own schedules.  I have a different life than your life, so my suggestions might not make sense.  Certainly, when I worked full time, things around the house sort of fell to the wayside -- one, because I had no time or energy, and two, because I didn't have a system.  I have since come up with a system -- no matter what the day's to-do list holds.

Here are my tips for making the most of your to-do list, in hopes that it will exude efficiency.

1) The Top Three Rule:  A while back, someone told me about an important person (don't you love my sources here?) who said he only put three things on his to-do list each day.  The theory is that people can only do three things each day really well.  My own theory is that three things is an achievable goal, so I will actually get MORE done by giving myself only three things to do.  Each day my to-do list includes at least a dozen items on it, but I highlight the top three.


If I can get the top three done, I feel like it's been a good day.

The Top Three Rule also grants me room to give myself grace.  Sometimes the top three items I assign to myself just won't get done that day, so I move stuff around.  Maybe I'll mop the floors tomorrow and just organize the shoe closet today, or something else.  Maybe I'll just read that post I've been wanting to read, or open that letter that's been sitting on my table for two days.  Whatever it is, I promise myself to get three things done.

And the other bonus to this self-imposed rule is sometimes I get many more things done.  Maybe I'll actually get five or ten things done on the list.  When that happens, I celebrate (maybe with a big mug of hot chai or by eating that gluten-free chocolate chip cookie that was number eight on my list!).

2) Scheduling:  For me, consistency is key.  Each day of the week is allotted for specific tasks.  For instance, Monday is cook-a-really-cool-meal day (ya know, the kind that take ALL day to cook) as well as family day (we work in ministry, so weekends are out for us).  Tuesday (by far, my freest day of the week as far as appointments go) is laundry/sweeping/mopping day.  Wednesday is library/homework/class day.  Thursday is bathroom-cleaning/stocking-up-on-homemade-cleaners/odds-and-ends day.  And so on and so forth.

I started scheduling my major chores because I used to get overwhelmed by the mess, think of all the many things I had to do to clean it, and just panic and cry.  Now, if I notice the floor is gathering some dust and I don't have time to clean it (or don't have guests coming over), I can just tell myself, "You'll clean that on Tuesday!" and go on with my day.  It's removed SO much stress from my life, and I think I'm a more efficient chore-doer.

3) Multitasking:  Before I go into multitasking, let me just say that I am not a multitask-er by nature.  It really overwhelms my brain to do too much at once.  I can't even have a conversation with someone if my brain is on another thought -- I have to finish my first thought before I can enter into a new conversation.  But I've learned the art of multitasking in the home.

My sister-in-law once said to me that she's never cooking just one thing in the oven.  If she's making some muffins for the day, she'll probably be throwing in the potatoes for tomorrow's dinner.  This is so smart, and I've sort of applied it to my entire life.  So it's laundry day, right?  I'll throw the laundry in the wash, and start sweeping in the meantime.  If Gwendolyn is awake and needs to be entertained, I'll probably put the broom down, stick her in the high chair, and narrate my dinner prep (with crazy voices and faces -- you know, whatever it takes to make her smile and giggle).  Once she's back down again for sleep, I finish sweeping and mopping just in time for the laundry to get done.  I usually fold laundry while Gwenny's awake because she tends to be entertained by the clothes.  It's just a matter of being able to do a couple of chores at the same time.


So those are my best suggestions for making the most of your to-do list (or, at least the ones that work for me).  Notice how I only have three things here??  I'd love to hear how you use your time efficiently -- whether it's at home, in school, on the job, or wherever! 


Stay tuned next week for WNW Saving Time Edition, Part 2: You Want Me to Exercise When, Exactly??

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

musings from a SAHM

(Can I just preface this post with another disclaimer about how I NEVER thought I would be a SAHM?  So when I muse about what it's like, I feel like I'm like an anthropologist studying a different culture that I'm not really a part of.  Okay, I know I actually AM a part of it now, but honestly, for so much of my life, I didn't think staying-at-home was an option, so I'm a newbie.  It's all very strange as I discover more and more what it means.  So... yeah.)


Sometimes, you just have to stay in your pajamas.
...because you wake up feeling achey and tired.
...because just getting out of bed is almost enough.
...because the mountain of laundry is ever-growing and it's just more comfortable to fold while wearing your PJs.
...because you have a feeling it's going to be a snuggle day with the little one.
...because sometimes, you just need to give yourself a break.

And sometimes, you just have to put on clothes.
...because it's the best motivator for a productive day.
...because at the drop of a hat, you could actually go outside for a walk.
...because why else do you have all those clothes?
...because you just did the laundry yesterday and your favorite pants are clean again and BY GOLLY you are going to get the best use out of them.  (Yes, I just said "BY GOLLY."  And no, I am not a Peanuts character.)
...because even though you know no one else will see you, it makes YOU feel better.

Today is a PJ day for me.  What about you??

A Prayer: Let It Be

Thank you for the stillness --
for helping me to want the stillness -- and to want Your presence and Your Word.  God, you know how hard it has been for me to get into this habit.  Please.  Please help me to want it long enough so that the habit becomes like breathing -- that it becomes wedged into my life so permanently that I couldn't imagine a day without You.

Let it be, Lord.

Thank you for listening to our prayers --
for loving us -- for wanting to spend time with us.  Thank you for not only being mindful of us but for showering us with good things.  Please be with the people who suffer around the world, especially those who cling to you -- give them tangible encouragement and help them identify spiritual blessings.  Please give them assurance that their family around the world is praying for them, even if we cannot do anything to let them know.  But please also show us if there is ever a way to let them know.

Let it be, Lord.

Thank you for the Gospel --
for incarnational ministry that You started by coming in human form to be with us.  Immanuel.  Thank you, Lord, for being "God with us."  Thank you for giving us a way to be with You -- the only way that makes sense -- that Jesus Christ took on human flesh to conquer the sins of all humanity in order that we might be saved.  But God -- there are so many who still do not know -- who still see "the message of the cross as foolishness" -- please move in their hearts.  Soften their hearts.  Let them know and see You for Who You Are.  Please, Father.

Let it be.

Monday, November 14, 2011

an ember that won't go out

I sit still and I pray.
I pray for those whom I do not yet know --
my family all across the world who suffer for the sake of the Gospel.

Usually, that's it.  I pray.  I get up.  I leave.  I go on with my day.

This morning, it's different.
The prayer is closer -- is deeper --
and somewhere deep within my soul, I feel a restless flame burning --
a familiar flicker from long ago --
an effervescent, evading ember.

This is a restlessness which tells me to
get up
and go -
to get out
and do.

This is a restlessness which makes me uncomfortable
because I know exactly what it means.



Deep inside me, I feel my core mourning.  It calls out.
It says, "This is not enough, Rachel."

And I am reminded of the times before I have heard my core calling out in this way,
and I think again that maybe I am not meant to stay here.
There is still an impetus to go.

When I pray for that family -- the family yet unknown by me but thoroughly known by God -- my heart aches.  I visualize my own small family with them -- being there in a very real way.

God, what does this stirring mean?  Each time it happens, I tuck it away --
mainly because you have asked us to stay.  But it comes back again and again.

The stirring won't still itself.
The ember won't fade.
Something remains lit.
And I wonder if maybe something else is on the way --
that someday, You will ask us to go.

When, Lord?
And where?

And please - please make our hearts ready.

Friday, November 11, 2011

living it makes all the difference

I remember you.

You were different.
You lived it.

And I thought -- if there is a living, breathing God out there, then surely you know Him.

I looked at your life, and that's what changed my mind --
that's what halted my journey --
a haphazard journey of other religions and texts and philosophies and self.
I looked at your life,

and I took the leap



at least, an initial leap --
a declaring of my decision to follow Christ as Savior --
still amidst some lingering doubts,
but holding on to a promise,
a hope,
a trusting that maybe
this. was. It.

It wasn't until years later when He took hold of my life
as LORD of my life
that I understood the transformation of Life
that you were transfixed under.

But I just wanted to say: thank you.
Thank you for living the life -- the straight and narrow path --
thank you for living with authenticity, and letting God work through you.

Because it has made all the difference.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

sitting down by the well

"Jacob's well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well."
John 4:6

Sometimes, I am tired from the journey.

Yet there are not many voices in this world telling me it's okay to be tired.
The voices -- both internal and external ones -- tell me to keep going - 
to add more things to my plate - 
to make that one more phone call - 
to do that one more thing before laying down at night - 
that I am nothing if I am not productive.

But sometimes, I am just tired.

Yet there are not many minds that understand that it's normal to be tired.
The minds of many -- my own, and those of others -- believe with all their might
that only the weak sit down - 
that I'm giving in if I give up a little -
that I need to be like that person or this person or - 
like someone else who is doing a little (or a lot) bit more than me.

But listen -- I am tired.

Yet there are not many ears that hear that it's me who is breaking under the weight.
The ears of many hear me but do not hear me, if you know what I mean.
Instead, they see me as a project to better, to build up - 
to encourage to commit to another service, another ministry - 
because that's what I need - that's what will make me feel better - 
something else to give all my energy towards, because it is a sin to be alone,
or (in other words) to be an introvert.
...to regain energy from being alone...
...from being still...

To all those who are tired:
sometimes, I am tired too.

And you know what?
Sometimes Jesus was tired.

And He sat by a well.
To drink - to be nourished - to regain His strength.

So when I am tired, I will sit with Him at the well.
To drink - to be nourished - to regain some strength.

And I welcome you to do the same.

Because it is not Jesus who told us to keep busy - to keep adding things to our schedules - to gauge our worth in comparison to the productivity of others - 

No.  This is what Jesus said:

"Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden,
and I will give you rest."
Matthew 11:28

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Waste Not Wednesday: Never Buy Tupperware Again!

In case you hadn't heard, we recently moved.  Um, twice.

Because we've lived in community before now, we've never really had a need for our own tupperware.

But then we moved, and we had these mismatched tupperware items:

(Yup, that's right.  We only had about THREE items.)

Part of our weekly grocery budget is working in leftovers, so we actually need a bit of tupperware.  Also, there are many nights Elliott is out late on campus, or I'm at school, and we need travel dinners.

But I refused to buy tupperware.

Instead, tupperware came to us!

Right after we moved, someone got us take out (yum!), and we saved the containers...


...we also save every single jar we come into contact with...


...as well as our yogurt containers!...


So now, we have a nice little collection of assorted tupperware containers, for all our leftover needs (and we didn't buy a single one)!


What do you use for tupperware?

(While you're being resourceful saving random containers to re-use, don't forget to re-wash those plastic ziplock bags!)


*Check out more green resources weekly HERE*

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

this post brought to you by writer's block and my husband

Me:  I think I have writer's block.

Husband:  Oh yeah?

Me:  Yeah.  I thought it was the medication I was on -- making me all fuzzy-headed -- but now I think it's just writer's block.

Husband:  I could give you some topic ideas, if you want.

Me:  No, no - that's okay.  I have topics, I just can't seem to write about them-

Husband: Like today - when I was driving around, I smelled a skunk three different times!

Me:  *blank stare*

Me:  Wait.  Is that it?

Husband:  Yeah, what's with that??

Me:  *blank stare again*

Me:  Wait.  Really?  That's your topic?

Husband:  No, you don't understand -- it was three different skunks in three different places!

Me:  Um.  Okay.

*beat*

Husband:  Isn't that weird?

(You can file this under the "sometimes-strange" category.)
(I'm hoping to get a regular WNW post out tomorrow.  Hoping.)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Lessons

There are some lessons we need to learn.
Again.
And again.
And again.

Some are the little lessons -- small habits that maybe only affect our day-to-day routines.
Small things.

Some are the bigger lessons -- big habits that you try to break or they break you.
Big things.

Writing helps remind me of the bigger lessons I am learning
over and
over and
over again.

Lessons about anxiety,
about trust,
about imago dei,
about introversion,
about what it is I think I am doing.

It's hard.
Because every time I think I've gained traction, suddenly I feel as though I'm back at square one.
Something pops up to remind me that it's still a struggle.

And it's in these moments -- the moments of falling -- of feeling like maybe I've haven't really gotten anywhere -- that I feel like a child again.  Or like my baby -- who rolls over only to discover she can't yet roll back -- or who tries to wiggle her way across the room but can barely move three inches.

I am that child to my Father.


"People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them.  When Jesus saw this, he was indignant.  He said to them, 'Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.'  And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them."

Mark 10:13-16

Thursday, November 3, 2011

No-motivation-ember

I am nothing if not honest on this blog.
So as I mulled over different topics in my head to write about, I just came back to this one reality:  this week.  And my inability to care about...much.

I can't explain it.  Maybe it was the unexpected snow and cold, or facing the brutal fact that I need to actually start writing my final paper for my master's program, or a baby who suddenly wants to eat solid food and is fussing around the clock, or... something else?  Maybe it's the overwhelmed-feeling that creeps up on me and paralyzes my brain.  Whatever the culprit truly is, the reality is that this week, I feel incredibly unmotivated.

Even as I write these words, all I want to do is stop.
All I want to do is stay in my pajamas all day, drink chai, and watch old movies.

But I don't do that.
Well, ok, I do drink excessive amounts of chai, but each day, I find myself dressed and (usually) venturing outdoors, not to mention getting the chores done around the house.

But it almost feels like I'm getting nothing done because internally, I don't want to.
Does that make sense?
Do you know how I feel?


(I know this picture looks posed, but it totally wasn't.  Isn't that strange?  Or rather, aren't I strange?)

I'm not depressed, just unmotivated.  There's a difference.  It must be November.  It has that "NO" at the very beginning of the word, you know?  How can a month that starts with the word "NO" be a motivator?  It's as if as soon as you make a mark on your calendar to do something, you see the word "NO" and think, "Oh, okay.  I guess I just won't."


I apologize for the lack of poignancy of this post; I just wanted to get something out today -- in hopes that maybe through writing, even a little bit, I might re-inspire myself to keep going.


But I don't wanna be a (Debbie) downer, so to end on a happy note, here are some other things that happened this week:
Pixie Halloween!


(Insider note: I called Gwendolyn "Pixie" when she was inside the womb because she had a pixie's nose.  Now that she's out, she looks even more like a pixie to me!)

First Bites!


Nom Nom Nom.

She ate like a PRO.  I totally wanted to wait until 6 months, but this 4 1/2 month old eats solid foods like she's been doing it for YEARS.  Yes, I know that doesn't make sense.  

Favorite Pastime:  The Library!


We try to go once a week or so.  Gwendolyn is an avid reader.  Although sometimes I wonder if WE enjoy the library books a little bit more than she does. :)


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

What Does Road Rage Say About Me?

It was a beautiful, sunny, fall afternoon.  The tricolored trees were dancing in the wind, the birds were chirping, and I was enjoying a lovely walk back to my car from work.

I decided to take the rare opportunity of alone-ness to call my sister-in-law (Hi, Evie!), and I wanted to get the phone call in before clamoring home in my vehicle.   We begin our conversation, and five minutes in, I hear --

BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP!

There I was, in the middle of a crosswalk, face-to-face with a large car and an irate woman.  I stopped dead in my tracks, doing a double-take at the light just to make sure I was not crazy, and I did indeed have the right of way.

And since I am not in my car, the driver and I are forced to make eye-to-eye contact.  I am dumbfounded, and she is furious.  I give her a look of, "Huh?" and she starts screaming at me about being on my phone.  That's when the sass came out (as I'm sure my sister-in-law can attest to).  "Umm?  Thank-you -- I have the right of way," I say in a(n admittedly snotty) tone.  The woman snips back again -- something about being on my cell phone, and I interrupt her with another self-righteous, "Thank you -- I have the right of way."

Parting ways with the woman and getting quickly off the phone with Evie, I still feel the encounter boiling about in my chest.  My heart is racing.  I am mad.  "What the heck?!" I fume internally.  "Is it a crime to be on my cell phone??  How could she beep at me like that?!"  And then, of course, I proceeded to think of all the other things I should have said to her to make her see my side of the story.

But maybe(?) she was (partly?) right.
Maybe -- okay, just maybe -- I was walking too slow, oblivious to the car wanting to make a right turn.
So maybe it was a bit my fault.

But.

Why did she react that way?  -- with the beeping and the yelling and the waving of the arms?
And why did I react that way?  -- with the snark and the sass and the feeling of entitlement?

What is it about road rage that makes us get so angry?  What is it about being shielded within or away from a car that makes us yell at each other in such a way that would rarely (if ever) occur in a coffee shop or a store or a park?  Why do I (-- a generally passive person -- a person who rarely (if ever) gets angry at anything -- a person who, if she does get angry, tends to bottle it up inside so that no one can see her feelings --) get so vocally and inwardly angry when it comes to road rage?

What does road rage say about me and my heart?


Once I calmed down, I started thinking of all the other ways I could have handled the situation (and yes, I admit, one of those ways was running after her car screaming until she conceded that I was right).  In the work I do with the after-school theatre program, we do a Theatre of the Oppressed exercise that goes something like this:   

We take a (usually real life) scene and improv through it.  For example, let's just say that we were staging my encounter with the driver lady.  We would do it one way first -- the original way -- the way things actually went down.  Then we turn to the onlookers and ask, "Is there a different way you could have handled the situation, either as Rachel or the driver?"  If a kid says yes, they jump in and take either my part or the lady's part.  Then we do the scene again, this time with the new actor making different choices to see what the outcome is.  We might do this several times before the original actors go back in to act out the scene with the new resolutions.

So I want to do a little Theatre-of-the-Oppressed-action on this scene:

If I could go back in for myself and re-do this situation, maybe I would have stopped and gotten off my phone.  Instead of a snarky comment, I would have asked, "Oh, I'm sorry -- was I walking too slow?"  I would have apologized for potentially being a careless pedestrian, and then would have explained that I genuinely thought I had the right of way.  I would ask for her forgiveness.

That's right.  I would have asked the road-rage-driver-lady for her forgiveness.  
Because I could be like everyone else and just succumb to the road-rage stereotype, or I could (in my own version of this scene) completely turn an annoying situation into a redeeming one.  I could be of the culture, or I could create a new type of culture.  If I could do it over again, I choose the latter.

I know this isn't the last road rage encounter for me in my life.  I just pray that next time, I can have a level head and choose a different (and counter-cultural) response.
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