Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Earthquake Weather Myth

I've blogged about "earthquake weather" before - still, quiet, often warm, with it's most defining quality being the absence of other notable weather.

Today it's breezy, and like most recent days, it's probably monsooning (is that a word?) out in the desert. Didn't stop the earth from shaking. Of course, it was felt for at least 100 miles in all directions, so it can't possibly be the same weather in that many places.

The news just gleefully reported that there could be aftershocks, and that in fact what we felt could be a "before"shock... implying the possibility of more and greater shaking to come. I'm just not going to think about it.

(If you're a bit of a science nerd like the people in my family, you can go to the USGS website for today's earthquake.)

Monday, July 28, 2008

Economic Stimulus

Today I spent almost half of the $600 that was deposited in my bank account a couple months ago, courtesy of George W. Bush and the U.S. Treasury. Just doing my civic duty to stimulate the economy. Most people I know are making a more conservative choice - paying bills, taking care of an unexpected expense, or just saving for a rainy day. Normally, that's where my tax refunds go too, after all, it's not really "extra," it was mine to begin with. Uncle Sam was just "borrowing" it... interest free. But this time it was different, and I don't really have an explanation for why.

So I bought an iPod. I know, I know, I'm definitely not the last person to go digital with music, but I'm pretty far from the first one. I've been talking about it for months and thinking about it at least twice as long. I didn't wake up this morning thinking "today I'm going to buy an iPod" but just finally decided there was no time like the present. It helped that I was shopping with a friend who offered to help me set up my laptop and get started, which no doubt saved me countless hours of reading help menus to figure everything out.

So here I sit with plenty of time on my hands while I rip one CD after another into iTunes. I'm kind of excited. I rarely indulge in something like this, a "toy" for grownups, so it's sort of fun to set up playlists and think about some new music I might like to download. Or maybe some TV shows, or movies, or fun podcasts. I can't wait to listen to any or all of my music this fall when I'm commuting 300 miles a week, without sifting through three visor racks crammed with CD's.

Oh, but wait. My standard-issue car radio isn't quite up to that... and it happens to be broken. So, any guesses how I'm going to spend the rest of the money?

(Three guesses, first two don't count.)

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Books: Queen of Babble -and- Queen of Babble in the Big City

Queen of Babble
by Meg Cabot


Queen of Babble in the Big City
by Meg Cabot

Friday, July 25, 2008

Thankful Thursday: Abundant Grace

I know it's Friday. Again. And that makes this post "late." But what seems to happen is that I spend my Thursdays aware that it is the day I’ve decided to focus on gratitude. By evening, I have been reminded of many things I am thankful for. The last couple of times I've posted on this, that's been evident... my post has been a list, because choosing just one thing to write about has been too hard.

This week, though, I've been thinking about God's amazing grace, prompted by a Bible Study I'm completing with a friend. The book says that it will “help you make the connection between grace as a remote biblical concept and grace as a lifestyle – a reality you experience day in, day out.” That’s what drew me to this particular study: I was so compelled by the promise of experiencing God’s grace daily.

In the first chapter, we completed an exercise of “noticing” God’s presence and provision in our lives. As we shared our stories, we both commented that our hearts had been filled with gratitude to God, just as a result of completing the exercise. One of the things on my friend’s list was the daily light show we call sunset, because every time she observes one she is overwhelmed by its beauty. I, too, have been romanced by the sunset and the magical twilight hour. Once, I drove to the beach with some friends on the longest day of summer for the sole purpose of enjoying the sunset.

God probably did not plan that sunset, or today’s sunset, for my enjoyment. He no doubt had many other things in mind when He set the earth’s path around the sun. But He created it all, and each and every sunset is a reminder of who He is. It reminds me that He created day and night; hours for work and hours for sleep; seasons of warmth and coolness; of cold and sunshine and rain.
And though not planned just for me, it is right that when I observe His perfect creation, I praise and thank Him for the beauty it brings to my life.

On Wednesday, we discussed chapter two about grace for regrets and it was partly about confession. The spiritual exercise was to spend an hour or two working through a guided time of confession. I didn’t do it. I told my friend I wasn’t brave enough. I have been struggling with another of the first week’s lessons that spilled over into the topic of confession: God knows us intimately. The blessing of this is the knowledge that by someone else, I am understood. The downside is the knowledge that I have no secrets.

The scripture was from Psalm 32, where David writes that in the aftermath of sin he hid from God, but that in his silence, his “bones wasted away” and his “strength was sapped.” When he turned to God and confessed, he was forgiven and freed from guilt. How many times have I not confessed a sin, foolishly thinking that by not speaking of it, God wouldn’t know. How many times have I experienced the great blessing of erased guilt and restored rightness with God, a feeling so wonderful, so full of grace… that I wonder why I was so foolish? How many more times will I repeat this cycle, proving I am no wiser than the sheep to which God compares his beloved people?

In a few short hours of study and two discussions with my friend, I have been touched by grace. In fact, the hours of conversation on Wednesday have stayed with me these last two days, and have become a blessing of God to notice in this week. I feel as if I’ve just spent time wallowing in God’s goodness, and even now my heart is warmed by how real and powerful His grace is. Thank you, my friend, for walking this part of life’s journey with me.

I think the book is living up to expectations.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

My Summer Olympics

One of my favorite bloggers, Mary Hunt at Money Rules, Debt Stinks, is sponsoring her own version of the summer games, the DPL Summer Olympics, to inspire her readers to enter an "event" that will challenge them to improve something in their life. She mainly encourages entry into "events" that encourage budgeting, saving money, living frugally, etc., but is allowing a "healthy living" category too.

One of the things I've been doing this summer is to take advantage of having some extra time on my hands by doing some things I ordinarily don't have time for. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to commit to completing some projects in August.

Project #1 - Making 9 Gifts instead of Buying Them

Finish all 9 projects = GOLD
Finish 7 = SILVER
Finish 5 = BRONZE

This includes: 5 baby gifts, 2 birthday gifts, 1 batch of Christmas gifts (they are easy, so I'm counting the whole batch as one project) and 1 marathon Birthday card-making session, so I have enough cards to last until the end of the year.

Project #2 - Healthy Living Marathon

- walk or jog 40+ miles in 17 days
SILVER - walk or jog 30-39 miles
BRONZE - walk or jog 21-29 miles

I'm currently doing about 10-12 miles a week, so that would equal 25-30 miles, or a "Bronze" if I maintain that rate, and a notable increase in my current rate to reach the higher levels.

I'd better make myself a training schedule... opening ceremonies are only 2 weeks away!

Monday, July 21, 2008

wind · fall

[wind-fawl] -noun
1. an unexpected gain, piece of good fortune, or the like.

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In my last post, I had alluded to the fact that registration for fall classes had not gone as smoothly as I'd hoped, but that all would be well in the end. In fact, all turned out better than I could have anticipated. I am now registered for the fall and I feel like a "windfall" is the only way to describe the outcome.

I had thought that I would begin my program by taking seven "core" classes, so I'd looked up the recommended first semester schedule. Imagine how baffled I was to find that I was unable to access any of the courses I needed. They were all listed, but the link to add them wasn't live. I started making phone calls... and what followed was a comedy of errors, and unfortunately it seemed the joke was on me.

The registrar's office told me I needed to get permission to enroll in those classes from the business department. The business department told me the classes were all full, but I probably didn't need them, and I should call the program advisor. What had I heard about my core waiver review? Huh? (I had submitted this form, but hadn't received anything back yet, figuring it wasn't urgent because I needed to take the core first.) The business office didn't have it. My advisor didn't have it. Ahhh!!!

By this time I was approaching sheer panic and total despair - I couldn't get into any core classes
, nobody had my paperwork, and I had no idea what to do. Thankfully when I called the advisor's office, he answered on the first ring. In a matter of minutes, he offered to get my core waiver form straightened out and made a recommendation for registration.

By Friday, all was indeed well. VERY well! Here's why...

~ My class schedule is set and I will be on campus three days per week. Campus is a 100-mile round trip, so being there as few days as possible each week is a great time and cost savings.

~ The waiver form was quickly reviewed, and I was able to register for classes that are considered important to take early in the program. In fact, one of them is a prerequisite for just about everything else.

~ And the best ever? Of the seven core classes I thought I would be taking first, I am required to take only one. One!! Besides the fact that this means I will get my degree faster than expected (and for less tuition money,) my first classes are jumping right into the subject matter I'm most interested in.

A lesson learned... not to panic when things don't go according to plan, because sometimes what rises from the chaos is something that I couldn't have dreamed was possible. Amen to that!!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Thankful Thursday: Potpourri

* I'm getting a great tan this summer, thanks to all the exercising and other outdoor activity.

* My cousin is coming to spend the weekend with me, and we are going to hit the beach and go to a concert!

* I am now registered for fall classes, which begin September 2. Despite some wrinkles in the process that nearly gave me a heart attack... all is well.

* Speaking of heart attacks, my uncle had quadruple bypass surgery yesterday, which hopefully means he won't be having a heart attack any time soon. This is no minor surgery, but it apparently went very well, and I am SO relieved and happy that he is expected to make a full recovery and will probably end up feeling better than ever.

* I got in another 2 miles on the jogging plan this morning. I almost felt like I could do more, but decided not to press my luck. :)

* I met with a friend of mine today for the first lesson in a Bible Study on Grace. One of the exercises the book asked of us was to take time to notice the gifts of God in our lives. By thanking Him, we realize how blessed we are and how very present His grace is every day. We both noted that we took time to thank God for every day things: sunsets, daily safety, food to eat. I also thank Him for time spent with a good friend today, time that enriched my study because my friend shared what she learned this week. God is good.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Gone Wild

My cousin is visiting us for a couple days this week, and it's been a while since I've spent longer than... 5 minutes with an 11-year old. It's been hilarious, he's kept us quite entertained.

Yesterday, we went to the San Diego Wild Animal Park. We saw all kinds of great animals, and as it turns out, Alex is a "Lorikeet Whisperer." The zoo sells $3 nectar so the birds will land on you and feed. We skipped the overpriced nectar, and went into the aviary just to look at the birds. Alex had one hanging out on his shoulder in no time.

He let me invite the bird on to my shoulder for a few minutes, too.

On the way home, we stopped at McDonald's for $1 ice cream cones. As we sat there enjoying our cones, the conversation went something like this:

Alex: "I don't know how you guys eat your ice cream so fast. You're going to get brain freeze."
Dad: "Brain freeze is bad. You definitely don't want that. It might make you stupid..."
Me: "-ER."

We all started laughing. A lot. And that's when ice cream came out of Alex's nose. It was the highlight of the day.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Free Slurpees!

It will come as no surprise to some that "7-Eleven Day" is on my calendar. Each year, the convenience store chain celebrates it's birthday on July 11 with free 7.11 ounce Slurpees. I haven't actually had a Slurpee in a really long time... probably since last July 11. Sound too good to be true? Check it out at Slurpee.com and the official press release at 7-Eleven.com

Anyone care to join me??

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Book: Under the Banner of Heaven

Note: Somehow I never published these comments when I wrote them in July 2008. Ooops.

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This book, like Into Thin Air, was a great read, and I'm further convinced I should read Krakauer's next book, whatever it might be.

In Under the Banner of Heaven, Krakauer explores Fundamentalist Mormonism, it's history, and it's strained relationship with mainline Mormonism. Having only a vague familiarity with the early beginnings of this religion, it was interesting to read the historical background.

Fundamentalism aside, some of the facts about the Mormon church are just astonishing. It is a fast-growing religion, with evangelism efforts that put the average church to shame. They not only set evangelism as a priority, they back it up with structured programs, and send out a huge number of young people every year on church missions. They are highly trained in the tenets of the faith, and in how to defend it, as anyone who's argued with them on a doorstep knows.

Krakauer is a great writer, and has delivered another compelling read. Highly recommended.

Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith
by Jon Krakauer
Originally posted at: http://rebeccasmiscellanies.blogspot.com/

2 Miles and Holding

Over the last couple of weeks, I've been trying to increase my jogging from one mile to two miles. The running plan I've been following does this in a mere one or two weeks. I'm at about four. Four weeks times three workouts equals 12 times I've laced up my shoes and attempted to run two miles without feeling like I'm going to die. I'm not there yet. I have to convince myself that I can do anything for just 15 minutes... 10 minutes... 5... 4... 3.... And somehow I'm supposed to be increasing by a quarter mile each week until I get to three miles. No way. Ain't happening.

So I'm throwing the schedule out the window. I can only take so much failure to meet expectations before getting completely discouraged. So for now, it's just going to be 2 miles, 3 times a week. I'm hoping that by repeatedly subjecting my body to this self-imposed torture, I will eventually fool myself into thinking that I'm actually capable of more. Maybe one day, I won't be checking the stopwatch constantly and I'll just accidentally run 5 extra minutes. Or maybe, without explanation, I will one day experience "runner's high" and feel inspired to go after that third mile.

I'm still planning to run a 5K in October, and I still have three months to train. Good thing I planned on lots of extra time to get ready.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Thankful Thursday

Odds 'N Ends of things I'm thankful for this week...

- A visit with old friends who stayed at our house this week
- A great concert on Sunday Night - check out Phil Wickham
- Receiving an encouraging e-mail from a friend
- Ice cream
- Finishing a good book
- Getting a closet cleaned out (only one more to go!)
- Fresh strawberries, one of my favorite things ever
- An enjoyable evening visiting my aunt and uncle, and getting to drive the golf cart (hehee)
- Spending some time with my sister-in-law who is off for summer vacation now
- Plans to celebrate the holiday tomorrow in the most traditional way possible: with BBQ food, fireworks and maybe a swim in the pool.

Have a great fourth!!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Book: The Amethyst Heart

When I found this book at my favorite used book store, I snapped it up before anyone else could. Years ago, I read The Blue Bottle Club by this same author, and although I don't remember the details, I do remember really enjoying the story. The Amethyst Heart didn't disappoint.

Although marked fiction, I would consider it more historical fiction, as the book traced a family from Mississippi from the days before the civil war to the present, including the historical and social events relevant to the setting. The Amethyst Heart is an heirloom passed down through the generations, a symbol of the family's faith and commitment to the motto engraved on the back: "Sincerity, Purity, Nobility."

Like the other books of Christian fiction I most enjoy, the faith of the characters seemed so real that I find it inspiring. In a way, I sometimes learn lessons from fictional characters that influence my own faith in the moment. Even that aside, Stokes is a good storyteller, and an author I would choose to read again.

The Amethyst Heart by Penelope J. Stokes


I read this in a devotion book yesterday: "If we are like most North Americans, life has one defining characteristic: speed.
"God, on the other hand, is slow. Not in the way that we understand slowness -- as sloth or inability -- but slow in the sense of infinitely patient and gracious. God is slow because he works with people. God is slow because he is in the growing business. God is slow because love is slow."*

I was so impressed by this because it brought me back to a more objective reality, that life (specifically my life) is not about finishing first, it's not about getting it all done, and it's definitely not about either of those things happening right this minute. I confess, though, that the speed of my life is too fast more often than not. I miss the beautiful sights on the way because I'm impatient to reach a goal. I have a vision for my life, and I want to arrive there by the Concorde instead of by walking.

On the other hand, while I want to reach my future goals at warp speed, I sometimes look at my life so far and feel that I haven't really accomplished yet. I struggle with feeling like I've been left in the dust when I look at what others have accomplished already, and it's too late to catch up.

I guess those two things together are part of the reason I'm making a plan for the future, starting with going back to school. Although I want to enjoy my journey, I want to know what the next destination is. After all, if you don't know where you are going, how will you know when you've arrived... right? I think in the past, I've thought that making a long-term plan was incompatible with enjoying the journey. That having both wasn't possible.

I hope I was wrong. I hope that somehow over the next several years I can work toward my goal and enjoy the process. I hope that by accepting that this will take years instead of hours, I can relax and be surprised by what God teaches me along the way. I hope that I can find the place where I am content because I know that I'm in exactly the right place, and that my right place is irrelevant from where anybody else happens to be at the moment.

I hope I can appreciate that while getting somewhere by Concorde is glamorous and fast, that God works when I walk with him. I hope I can look for the lessons he can teach me when I lace up my shoes and take today's steps towards the goal.

* From Shifting Gears: Maps & Meditations for the Sea to Sea 2008 Bike Tour, Faith Alive Christian Resources, 2008.
Why am I reading this book?
The Christian Reformed Church and Reformed Church of America, along with other partners, organized the Sea to Sea Bike Tour to raise awareness about poverty issues and to raise funds for causes that work to address poverty. One of the riders is a member of my church. The devotion book was written for the cyclists and those who helped sponsor the tour. For more information, visit www.seatosea.org.