Thursday, December 2, 2010


Ayyyyeeeee mis viditas. I've been on a bit of a blog hiatus. But for good reason! Aaron Michael and I took a trip on an aeroplane back to a sweet Ohio Thanksgiving last week. It was so good for the heart and soul and taste buds. We got to see my precious puppy Jake - he is now 13! Photo below. He is quite handsome, is he not? Especially for an old geezer.

And we got to spend some time with my incredible grandparents. My Grandpa had open-heart surgery the Monday before Thanksgiving, and I was so grateful that we got to see him so soon after. He was already cracking jokes by Wednesday. What a miracle the human body is... and his courage is!

We had a marvelous time, and coming back to Phoenix didn't evoke even one tear - mostly because we'll be going right back come Christmas Eve! ;)

Since we've gotten back, I've also been a bit un-blog-available because...well, we went a little Christmas crazy here in the Baer apartment. "Christmas crazy" being a misnomer, however. Might I add.

We bought a big fat jolly new tree, premium Coldstone brand hot chocolate (did you know there was such a thing?! It is to die for) and a million and one candles. We trimmed the tree, completely replaced our mantle knick-knacks with only Christmas-related decor and surrounded our bedroom window with sparkly bulbs. We've already watched both versions of How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Dr. Seuss-ian and Jim Carrey-ian.) And Aaron would have turned on The Santa Clause tonight if he could have gotten away with it. (I think I'm too tired to sit through a movie right now but if I weren't I just might have given the go ahead!) 'Tis the season! (OOH - I also bought Dave Barnes' Christmas album...YOU MUST GET IT NOW!)

Christmas craziness aside, I wanted to share some thoughts for a moment on a beautiful book I’ve been reading. It’s called “The Return of the Prodigal Son” by Henri Nouwen, and my reaction to it has been kind of curious. It was recommended to me by a dear friend who knows me quite well, and she promised it would change me. I read the forward and the first few pages thereafter and started feeling a bit uneasy – it was boring me, if I can be honest with you. It wasn’t stirring me at all and I was worried I’d have to report back to my friend that I didn’t feel what she pictured I would.

But I’ve kept reading since then, and though I have a few passages underlined and a few pages dog-eared, there isn’t one single page or word in the book that stands out to me in particular… yet it has already changed me in a way that is going to stick. Do you know that feeling? It is such a real feeling to me… it would be like waking up one day and learning you were color-blind. (This happened to Aaron a few years ago. He was quite perplexed. He inexplicably became even more so when I couldn’t stop giggling about it…) But can you imagine yourself going through that discovery? You would have to apply it to all of your memories of things you had seen before, and you’d know you would have it in mind for the rest of your life as you took in your sights.

That’s how this feels after having read this book. There is no going back. I will know what it taught me forever. Isn’t that lovely? It’s like my heart walls have changed.

I just want to share one passage that I read tonight, because it is tearing me up in such a wonderful way. I think it reminded me too of all that I’ve been learning about mercy.

Nouwen is talking about the parable of the vineyard – where the landowner hires workers each hour throughout the day, then pays each of them the same wage at the end. Naturally the workers who had been there all day aren’t too pleased. They “grumbled.” (I would too. I may even have had a 'Blockbuster' moment, as my friend Taylor calls them. More on that later). And the landowner (God) said “Are you envious because I am generous?” (Matthew 20:15). Nouwen says that for a while he used to wonder why, in the story, the landowner decides to pay the workers who had been there the shortest amount of time first, in front of all the others. Why wouldn’t he foresee the conflict and just pay the longer workers first, hoping that they would be on their way and miss the payment of the later workers? But then he learns:

“It hadn’t occurred to me previously that the landowner might have wanted the workers of the early hours to rejoice in his generosity to the latecomers. It never crossed my mind that he might have acted on the supposition that those who had worked in the vineyard the whole day would be deeply grateful to have had the opportunity to do work for their boss, and even more grateful to see what a generous man he is. It requires an interior about-face to accept such a non-comparing way of thinking. But that is God’s way of thinking. God looks at His people as children of a family who are happy that those who have done only a little bit are as much loved as those who accomplish much.”

I don’t know that there is any ‘commentary’ I could add… I just wanted to share that passage so that maybe you could be as bewildered and awed by the kind of God we have as I was. Can you imagine if we acted like the children He envisions us as... He must feel so perplexed by our self-involved cages. That passage makes me think of what C.S. Lewis says about pride as well – that it is pure comparison. The later workers couldn’t see the beauty of the landowner’s gesture because their comparison was blinding them. How much we must miss!

Hope that beats up your heart as much as it did mine. In a great way. :)

Until next time, Happy December, friends! Both Aaron Michael and I celebrate our 24th birthdays next week, and apparently he is planning an adventurous day for us in the city…I will try to include some pictures!

[P.S. If you are an online Christmas shopper, PLEASE go to Check out the banner at the top of the page that says "Good2Give." If you click through that banner to do all your normal Christmas shopping, a portion of your purchases will go to help sponsor hungry children. How can you say no to that!]

Monday, November 15, 2010


On Friday night I put on my characteristic sweatpants. They are good old Louisville High school sweatpants and they have seen better days, but I just can't help myself. They call to me on Fridays.

So I put them on, and I drove over to the grocery store. And I bought Aaron and me two great, big, freshly-baked cookies from the bakery counter. Then I got back in the car and drove home, and we ate them, and I smiled.

One day I might be able to tell you what a thing that was.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Justice and Mercy

One of the benefits/curses of working at The Phoenician is the food. Last week Aaron Michael and I got to treat my cousin Stefanie, who was in town from Maryland visiting, to a lunch at Il Terrazzo, which is the Pho's shwanky Italian joint. My buddy Josh was the manager on duty and he told us not to order, so we obliged. He brought us dish after dish... cobb salads with scallops, then spinach ravioli, then three main dishes to share: an open-faced steak sandwich, a margarita pizza, and gourmet mac n cheese. Then for dessert, lemon meringue pie, crem brulee, and a homemade chocolate peanut butter bar. Our forks were busy.

Today, three of my coworkers were at a training class all day, so it was just my boss and me. When I got there this morning, she told me to start brainstorming lunch dreams... so we eventually decided to order from Relish Burger Bistro, another restaurant on property. And I ordered "crab cake sliders." In other words, tiny crab cake sandwiches with avocado and some kind of spicy Cole slaw. They changed my life, blog friends. They changed my life. I literally danced in my chair while I was eating them. It was a special moment. If you ever come to visit me in good ole' Phoenix, which I sure hope you do, the first thing we're doing is overloading on crab cake sliders. You're welcome.

I'm not sure why I felt compelled to delve into foodie land this evening, but I've had so many fabulous munchies lately that I felt like sharing. Well, sharing/hoping to make you jealous. And, of course, your only cure for jealousy is to come and see me, right? To partake? You're getting my motives now. (Ashley and Amy. Stat.)


Being alone in the office today was a bit of an experience on its own, notwithstanding the crab cakes. Even though my boss was there today, she is constantly in and out of meetings, so for the better part of the day it was really just me in the ol' HR office. Sometimes when there are lulls in the outside foot traffic (which are rare, but for some reason weren't so rare today) it gets too quiet in there and I have to hum Brooke Fraser or read my e-mails out loud to myself in an English accent. (If you don't believe me that that happens, call me tomorrow and I'll do it for you. I can't tell if I'm going Australian or British, but whatever it is, it's getting good. Mate.) And being in there by myself, answering e-mails and phone calls, helping walk-ins and just generally doing my other duties is becoming really a growing experience for me. A stretching, uncomfortable, but necessary experience. Not to romanticize the 9-5 humdrum that I'm sure everyone feels to some extent... but when one spends 40 hours a week in one place, it would be silly to imagine that God's not going to teach you some lessons in there.

A few months ago my manager told me that HR exists primarily to make everyone else in the resort's job easier. That was a bit of a nudge to me. Before that, I had started getting caught up in some of the other, I hate to say it... 'policing' aspects of our gig. Making sure papers are signed, procedures are followed, etc. And those things can sometimes be necessary to help make everyone else's job easier. But say for example, a few months ago, I received a form that was filled out incorrectly. My instinct would probably have been to send the form back to it's owner and ask for a correction. And I'm being honest when I tell you that I wouldn't have done that with sinister intentions - as in, LOOK WHAT YOU DID WRONG - I would have been doing it out of an effort to make sure everyone was aware of the correct way to do things. Good intentions, I think. Good intentions that sound bad, anyway.

But every time something like that happens now, I keep trying to remind myself that we are just there to help. If a form isn't filled out correctly, I get out my trusty white-out and go to town. If a manager is rude to me on the phone, I try to imagine the pressure they must be under, and how I sometimes might seem like another obstacle to what they're trying to accomplish. And I just try to help. If i answer the phone politely and the conversation starts with a nice, big, 'LISTEN LADY,' I really try to take it in stride. I don't always do great, but I'm trying. And it helps when I remember why I'm there - to help. Not to instruct, or enforce, or be human red tape. Not to correct people when they're rude to me or avoid correcting others' errors. To help. Mercy.

I need to learn mercy. It is something I can't learn. I have such a ferocious, thriving, deep-rooted respect for justice. I am addicted to it. I think it's how I make sense of things. It's how I make sense of God and how I make almost all of my daily decisions. But I think it's eating me. It's stealing my ability to heart-learn God's grace. And it's starting to eat the place in my heart that is supposed to feed mercy.

Last week I read Hosea 6:6, which is almost absurdly clear. Sometimes God is one for prose, and then sometimes He says things like, "I desire mercy." (Verse 6). As in, 'get this or go home. I can't make it any clearer.' And I felt like throwing up. Becuase I thought He wanted fairness.

Here's the thing. I think sometimes we have to choose between two things we love already. Choosing one thing over another doesn't mean you don't love the other; it just means you love the former thing more in that moment. I feel like I'm being too abstract... say, for example, that I have to choose between drinking orange juice or cranberry juice. I love them both. But let's say I choose cranberry juice, like I just did a few minutes ago. (YUM crangrape.) That doesn't mean I don't love orange juice. It just means that at 10:15 pm on 11-9-2010 (Dang is it really 10:15??), I loved crangrape more.

And I think I need to start loving mercy more than fairness. It's so easy to find opportunities to put that in practice at work, so I've really been trying to work at it. And failing miserably, I presume, but trying. I am trying to think of examples to share with you, but I want to be careful about how much detail I get into about work here online. In the peanut gallery.

Here's an example from home. If Aaron came to me with a dirty shirt on Thursday and wanted to wear it on Friday, mercy would want me to do a load of laundry; even though I hate laundry like the plague and usually keep a strict saturday-only policy, which Aaron knows about. When in theory, I suppose I could go to Aaron and say "you should have given me that shirt last weekend; now you'll have to wait. You know I only do it on Saturday." That's a silly example and I think I can confidently say I have never been so weirdly cruel as to do something like that. (And anyway he'd probably just tell me to take a hike and he'd do the laundry himself...rightly so, ha.) But it feebly describes what I'm trying to say. Sometimes the fair thing to do, or the justice-loving thing, might be in conflict with the mercy-loving thing. And I need to choose the mercy-loving thing. Always.

For a much better example than I could dream up, check out the book of Philemon. It's short and sweet, and it'll make you cringe. Onesimus used to be the servant of Philemon, but he ditched him and likely stole his money. He ended up running into Paul during his escape. They become friends and Paul write to Philemon. He says listen, take Onesimus back. Treat him like a brother and pay for him to become a citizen as well. Do it for me. I'm sure you will. Good day.

And there's the Most Hasty Summary of Philemon You've Ever Read. But nevertheless - it's mercy. Undeserved kindness. Check it out. (If you would like more info on the back story, shoot me an e-mail and I can ask my pastor for some of his notes.)

The only other thing I want to say on this subject is that I'm starting to investigate the possibility that maybe justice is never ours to choose. Maybe the only One who has the right to play the justice card is the perfect One. (Now that's not to say we shouldn't be wise. If someone steals my purse I'm not going to not call the police out of some delusion of mercy. But I'll call the police because I want my purse back, not because I want to punish it's robber.)

Mother Theresa, who still haunts me (in a good way) just about every day since I read this, called her mission the Sisters of Mercy. She learned it so much better than I.

What do you think?

CRANGRAPE juice, hurrah!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Azariah and Polling Places

Next Tuesday's going to be a big day. One of my favorite morning radio hosts, Barry Young, keeps saying that this could be the biggest midterm election of his lifetime. I'm not sure about all that, but I know I am excited for it. My handsome hubby won't even let us get mail-in ballots...there is just something too invigorating about physically going to the polls on election day, he says. I secretly agree.

Politics are divisive, and not just for the same old reasons. It actually seems to be a pretty divisive topic in the church, too, which is really too bad. I'll admit - even I used to be someone who questioned getting "involved" with politics as a Christian. I heard a friend recently say that Jesus never said the word "politics" so we should all just go on our merry way. I'm sure my buddy had/has the best intentions, but I want to explore this a little bit tonight.

I've been deliberating over 1 and 2nd Kings for the past 6 months or so. Some chapters are bloody and violent and dramatic, and others seem to be just a rattling off of facts, always ending with the subtly snotty "as for the rest of what this king did.... are they not written in the annals of the kings of Israel?" (That seriously always cracks me up. I feel like the writer is yelling at me. I didn't ASK you what else he did, guy! It's ok!) But the main story line right now is that God's people have basically split into two 'nations', Israel and Judah. Israel has given to idol worship, building a false god, Baal ,and creating all these weird worship rituals and appointing 'preists'. This is an absolute affront to God, obviously, and He is heartbroken over them. Judah, however, continues to "do what is right in the eyes of the Lord" - for the most part.

Here's what I was reading last night:

"In the twenty-seventh year of Jeroboam King of Israel, Azariah son of Amaziah king of Judah began to reign. He was sixteen years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-two years. His mother's name was Jecoliah; she was from Jerusalem. He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father Amaziah had done. The high places, however, were not removed; the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there.

The Lord afflicted the king with leprosy until the day he died, and he lived in a separate house."
-2 Kings 15: 1-5

("The high places" is referring to the altars Israel had built to worship Baal.)

And all at once I couldn't blame God but I also couldn't not tell him how much that rattled my "fairness" meter. How could he hold Azariah responsible for the sins of Israel? And not just hold him responsible - but plague him with such a terrifying disease?

I don't want to get into a discussion of God's judging one person for another, because I'll be honest with you - I haven't read enough on the subject and I'm not sure I know just exactly what God has to say about it. But hear me - I want to go in a slightly different direction with this, and it's a direction that points right to politics.

Azariah, though not king of Israel, was in a place of power as king of Judah. And during his time of power, Israel was continuously perverting, offending, satirizing, downplaying, mocking, and disobeying God; who not-so-long-ago had saved them from Egypt. Azariah was not doing those things - but he did nothing to stop them. And apparently God found that so disgusting, he saw fit to plague Azariah with leprosy. Not a subtle statement. And maybe there was a point when Azariah's left arm had the sores but his right arm didn't. I bet that right arm would have done anything to stop it from getting to him if he could have.

Listen. Anyone can sit and stare at a blank wall and after 24 hours, claim to have spent a day without sinning. But what's holy in that? I've been memorizing Proverbs 31, which described a 'noble wife.' Verse 27 says she "does not eat the bread of idleness." There it is again. 'Not sinning,' if accomplished by doing nothing, is also 'not doing anything good,' friends.

I don't want to get off on a rabbit trail. I also don't want to imply that we are responsible for wrong decisions our government makes - especially when they make them against our will. BUT - I do think that when we see something going wrong, we are obligated to at least try to stop it. God must value that - because in the absence of it, in Azariah's case, He felt that the appropriate punishment was a deadly disease and a cutting-off from society.

Moreover, we, just like Azariah have power. Luckily for us, we live in a democratic society, which asks for our vote. That is our power. I have heard so many people shrug off getting involved in politics as Christians, quoting Jesus when He said "give to Caesar what is Caesar's" and interpreting that to mean "we should leave government alone." But in the case study of the United States, what does a democracy, our "caesar," demand? Involvement. Give to Caesar.

I would also make the argument to someone who says we should leave government alone that in this day in age, as Christians, government is not leaving us alone; and we can't sit by like Azariah. I want to say two more things about this. The first is that I don't think it's always clear how we should vote. I am not trying to say that as Christians, we should all just blindly vote Republican and call our duty done. I am also not trying to liken our government right now to Israel. First and foremost, I am just saying we should vote. I can't stand when people try the whole "when did you hear Jesus say the word 'politics'?" thing. That's just semantics and it's pretentious. I didn't hear Jesus say the words "grapefruit juice" either but I don't think it's a sin to drink it. And since when didn't Jesus plead with us to change the world? Isn't that the reason He made us; and left us here in this crappy situation, even after it became crappy? Because he thinks we can make it better? And isn't that the Great Commission - to love each other, and look out for each other, and try to give everyone the freedom to live as He lived? Look around, sweet friends. It's starting to get a bit harder to live as He lived. It's harder to give to the needy of our own volition when a family with an income of roughly $60,000 a year is forecasted to have their taxes increase by an extra $2,000 next year. It's harder to help Phoenician associates living in poverty visit the doctor when they're sick when their HSA cards won't even cover over-the-counter meds anymore next year. (Rabbit trail again - but you cannot possibly imagine how many people depend on those accounts for over-the-counter lifelines like allergy meds and even shampoo. Starting January 1, they're SOL.) It's harder to stand up for life when a president doesn't even acknowledge that that life exists. If we don't get involved and we think we're 'doing good' by staring straight ahead, I think Azariah would have a different story for us.

The last thing I want to say - while trying as hard as I can to avoid another rabbit trail - is that it is a crime, a betrayal, and plain willful ignorance to ignore the abortion issue. You can't get around it. You can't pretend it's not there, or that it's not a giant tragedy, or that it's not a black and white issue. Whether a person is a person or not is not a moral question. It's a scientific one. And there is only one answer, friends. I'm not a question mark if one person thinks I'm real and another one doesn't. I either am or I am not. If a baby is a baby, then there are no questions left. You cannot not get involved. Whatever other questions you might have about Christians in politics don't apply to this. I hope that you hear me.

There are so many facets to the Christians-in-politics issue, but I just feel encouraged that God read 2 Kings 15 to me last night. I hope my rambling about it encourages you, too, and I hope this election next Tuesday pleases our Guy in Charge.

P.S. Shameless plug - if you live in AZ and you're still on the fence about some candidates, check out my gorgeous husband's brainchild, the AZ Voter Guide. And hey, donate to CAP while you're at it! ;)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Some days I feel magical. Then, other days I feel like everyone else is more magical. And then on really rare days I feel like everyone else is magical, and I am colorless. I may get flak for this, but I always chalk those days up to being somehow related to my womanhood. I am sure they are. Because Aaron never feels colorless - not that he should. But so many women do, don't we?

Today I don't feel so magical, but I certainly can see that everything around me is. So let's talk about that.

Autumn in Arizona is quite different than the chilly, cloudy, cozy autumns in Ohio. But I am still mesmerized by it all the way out here. Right now I am sitting at our kitchen table with every single window in our apartment open around me. Do you realize that that hasn't happened in almost 7 months? The heat usually keeps them closed and sun-blocking curtains drawn, but today they are wide open. And we have A LOT of windows - it's the first thing we loved about this place. Tonight it's a bit breezy out, and the crickets are really at it. Jethro keeps running to the back door to see what's going on out there - such a watchdog. The other night we were woken up by coyotes right outside our window, so I think he is feeling a bit hyper-alert.

Today after work I could feel that it was Ohio football weather - I would say it was around 65 degrees in Ohio talk, but that translates to about 81 out here. (They really do feel the same - it's the lack of humidity). So I knew I couldn't let the opportunity pass. I got Jethro hooked up to his leash and made a mad dash out to the street, and he and I went on a 45 minute run around the mountains up here. The sun set while we were out, and it was purple and pink and orange and magic. By the time we got back to the apartment it was downright chilly out, and I had a good stretch on the porch and got in a hot shower.

Now there are pumpkins sitting on our hearth, and a jar of apple butter on the counter, and the open windows are making it just cold enough for me to need a blanket. Aaron Michael is in bed... he's been getting sleepy earlier and earlier lately. He must be getting old. ;) It's quiet and dim and dark and chilly in here, and even though I don't feel magical, tonight certainly does.

If I were magical today I would have something profound and simple and enlightening to say, or a story to tell, or a verse to tie in my feelings and what-I've-learned-today. But I'm not, and I don't. I'll just let you know that if you're not here, I wish you were, and I wish you could try out an Arizona autumn because it's quite charming. We found this in Sedona two weeks ago.

Perhaps in a few days something will click.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

October 13

All day today, I've been thinking, "I've GOT to write a blog today." Because I always write something on October 13. Ever since the real October 13 in 2004. When Pastor Phil died.

But I'm not quite sure what to say; on the 2010 October 13. Sadness speaks for itself and it's not fun to write under, and it's not new. My sadness has changed over the years though. Now instead of being sad for Pastor Phil, who is done with the pain that his cancer caused him and undoubtedly singing God's praises with the best of them, I am sad for the people that knew him and miss him, and the people that might've come to know him. But that's the way it works.

His beautiful wife Carole was remarried a few years ago to Tim, who is just about the coolest guy on the planet. And now in addition to Carole and Phil's two too-cool-for-school boys Jared and Jordan, Carole and Tim have the cutest baby on the planet - and I really mean that. You know how some people think you're supposed to say that all babies are cute, on account of them being babies? No. I don't think so. We all know there are un-cute babies. But Ty is seriously the cutest baby I have ever seen. THE CUTEST. His nose makes me giggle uncontrollably. The adorableness is that overpowering.

Pastor Phil's last words were "I love you Jesus, I worship you." Have you ever, in your life, heard of that being someone's last words? Well you have now. And if it doesn't give you goosebumps, well, you're on your own.

And here's another cool thing that Pastor Phil did for us. Every year on this day, a group of friends that are now scattered all across the map always seem to take a minute for each other. Texts, e-mails, facebooks messages, phone calls. I was part of this group, and they changed my life and made me feel loved even when I didn't comb my hair and I couldn't stop humming Copeland. Even though October 13 was a gut-wrenching day for us, we went through it together and it seems like it just might always stay that way.

Thanks, Pastor Phil. I hope you're enjoying yourself. I'm sure you are.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Anniversary One

Today we've decided to open all the blinds in our apartment. We don't normally do this, on account of the heat it usually lets in. Actually, I can't think of the last time we did. But it's very sunny and bright in here again. It feels like a new apartment. And a new day.

My heart is aching a little bit though as we watch the Packers game (and Steelers game on Packers' commercial breaks. I know the rules). It's 52 degrees at Lambeau Field today. Perfection. If I were there I might even wear gloves.Anyway, it's still over 100 degrees here in the southwest. It feels like nothing has changed in years. Like it's been summer since we got married a year ago. There are positive things to it, but I think seasons are good for my heart. They give the feeling that time is moving. Like you're going somewhere and getting things done. And really, you just can't underestimate how much I love a good hoodie.

I just can't help but daydream about OU, with it's brick streets and green hills and rainy days this time of year. Ohio is so quietly beautiful. If you've never been there, go once for me.

BUT. Last weekend my bud and me got to discover another breathtakingly beautiful part of our country. It was our first anniversary - look how He loves us!- so we took Friday off work and road-tripped out to Rancho Mirage, California. Since I work at The Phoenician, we get 50 % off at all Starwood hotels, so we booked a room at the Westin Mission Hills. Our Assistant Director of HR, Stefanie, just started at The Phoenician and came from this Westin. So she called her friends over there and got Aaron and I upgraded to a suite. :)

The drive out west on the I-10 was beautiful...the sky got bigger and bigger the farther west we went and the mountains got taller and the sun got hotter. We listened to the Fleet Foxes Pandora station and drank Sunkist. And then, as we got closer, these huge, white spikes started shooting up out of the sides of the mountains. And then we got closer and realized what they were - wind turbines. I have to say, they were a little unnerving. There was literally no other sign of civilization in sight - but suddently these huge (I can't describe how big, honestly), ominous, strange-looking turbines. It felt strange to look at them. Futuristic. Do we believe in that technology enough to build such huge structures? I know that sounds ignorant, but that's truly what I was thinking. And I want to take you on our trip with us for a little bit.

After we checked in to our suite, we realized that we were playing the greatest game of "let's pretend" in, let's pretend we have enough money to be doing this. So we put on "Blankest Year" by Nada Surf and jumped on the bed like 12 year olds. And I smiled like a 12 year old. So did he.

We ate at the beautiful restaurant, got drinks at the lobby bar, took lots of walks, sat out on our deck and sipped champagne in our robes, got HEAVENLY massages at the spa, had margaritas at the pool, ordered tons of room service, and even closed the curtains a couple of times to make our room pitch black and put on some movies. It was so perfect.

On Saturday night, we had a knock at the door from room service. They had an amenity for us. The ladies in my HR office had ordered us a box of chocolate and... a boom box? The server walked in, plugged it in, pushed play, and left. And Nickel Creek singing our wedding song came on. We danced.

Normally I wouldn't write about all the details of a trip like this. Because I like to have a little life between Aaron and I that is only ours. But I have been reading Kate McDonald's -er, Kate Andre's blog - about her recent wedding and honeymoon and I've just felt so inspired by it and so grateful and God lets us experience love like this. And our trip just shook my soul and I wanted to write about it. I truly can't believe how much I love Aaron, and how much more I love him every day. On Saturday night we were sitting out on our porch. I had just taken a shower and my skin smelled so clean, and I sat there in my robe holding Aaron Michael's hand. It was completely silent outside. Only crickets and a huge full moon. And Aaron told me something that I will never forget as long as I live. I'm not going to write it in here; because it is a part of our secret life. But it broke my heart and mended it at the same time. It made me cry and laugh, and it made me know that I had always been going to find Aaron, and he had always been going to find me. And that he loves me in a way I will probably never understand. I don't know why I'm so lucky, but I won't question it.

It was a beautiful trip. Here's to many more years.

The outside of our suite

Bella Vista, the restaurant

Part of our room...

Where we took our walks

The Pool


My guy :)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Just put it on my tab

If I were rich, the first thing I would do is buy one of those robes that makes me look like a marshmallow. It would be like having a big pillow wrapped around me at all times. Well, at all times that I would be at home. Because I would wear it at all times. Also, it would be bright blinding white and never get a shade muddier.

The second thing I would do is buy plane tickets home for Christmas for the rest of my life. You should never, ever, ever, EVER not be home for Christmas. And if you ever have to be, don't let Christmas come. Make it wait a year and then make it a double Christmas the next time December bumbles through. But that's a moot point - because I'm rich and I just bought plane tickets home for every year from now until Jesus comes back.

The third thing I would do if I were rich is find the most uppity, luxurious, VIP's-only spa in town. Then I would book so many appointments that it would take me an entire day to get through them all. I'd have a mud bath (what do those do again? Not that I care. It's a mud bath.) Then I'd get cucumbers put on my eyes and have green stuff lovingly and smoothly applied all over my face, and I'd have a big white pillow-robe on, and puffy white fleece slippers on, and some music twinkling in the background with song titles like "Seascapes" and "Irish Flute Trio." Then I'd get an exfoliation, and then I'd take a bath in a tub full of rose petals. Then I'd have a mimosa brought to me in a big champagne glass with an orange peel dangling off the edge. And everyone would talk in really quiet whispers. And there would be a waterfall bubbling somewhere close by. Then I'd have a massage with stones and whatever else would make my muscles groan in protest and then with a deep sigh, give in.

The fourth thing I would do if I were rich, after recovering from my spa day, is start putting pegs in my world map. The first peg would go in Jerusalem. Then Thailand, and then probably London. After London I'd just play it by ear. If I happened to be craving cheese, for example, I'd go to Paris. And I am always craving Cheese.

The fifth thing I would do if I were rich is buy a pair of shoes for every day of the week. This is of utmost importance. I would need black, shiny black, black with some quirky detail (Wednesdays are for the quirky details), brown, brown with a hint of red, gray suede, and yellow wedges, because I'm that kind of girl.

The sixth thing I would do if I were rich is fill my schedule every day with things rich people do. I would go to Yoga with other rich women that never wait long enough between hair appointments to have their dirty blond roots show through. Oh, and I would never wait long enough between hair appointments to have my dirty blond roots show through. And I'd leaf through magazines on park benches with dangly hoop earrings in and always smelling like Spring and a freshly-showered, sugary expensive person. And I'd meet people for lunch on verandas, but I'll just have the salad thank you. And I'd run after the taxi in my heels to make sure I wasn't late for my pilates class. And I'd have a glass of wine and a bath every evening. Except after spa day. I'd had enough of baths that day. And I'd constantly be clicking away on my smart phone. That clicking, by the way, is from my freshly manicured nails.

The seventh thing I would do if I were rich is buy feather and down pillows. Six, at least.

The eighth thing I would do if I were rich is I would buy this painting and put it above my fireplace, which of course is on a brick wall.

And every night I would look at it and I would hear Carly Simon swooning
"In a pine forest cooler
than the rest of the island
lives a young fisherman
with eyes like the sea..."

And the ninth thing I would do if I were rich is I would buy Bob Evans, plant a franchise in Scottsdale and place a standing order for an apple pie, extra apply, to be sent to my front door each evening.

Here's the thing though. I'm not rich. I probably won't ever be. But even if one day I am, I probably wouldn't do all those things. Or I would, but they would take me about a week and then I'd shuffle back inside my house with my tail between my legs, because I could feel my brain start to atrophy and my heart start to get bored already. I hope if I were rich, I would give most of it away. C.S. Lewis says there ought to be things we'd like to do but can't, because of how much we give away. Looks like there's no spa day in my near future.

I'm still going to buy a blindingly bleached pillow-robe the first second I can.

Happy dreaming. Just don't forget how silly it is.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


This afternoon I drove home right into the middle of a huge storm. I can't describe how beautiful that looks out here in the desert. It was perfectly sunny as I left work, with big white, puffy clouds above me, but as soon as I got out on the highway I could see the palm trees start to blow sideways and I could feel the wind shifting my little Cobalt to the right and to the left. And then on the horizon - right up towards our side of town - the sky was a deep, bruise blue.

I tried to listen to the Hugh Hewitt show - he usually keeps me company on my drive home - but I couldn't get the station in. I think the storm was messing with the signal. So I pressed play on the CD player, not remembering what was in there, and Brooke Fraser's "Albertine" started up. You've got to hear the first few bars of that song - if there were ever a perfect sound to drive into a storm to, it'd be that.

Last week I googled around until I found the story of that song. I had already deduced that it was about a girl named Albertine, and that Albertine was somehow disenfranchised. The bridge says "I will keep my word - I will tell them, Albertine!" ...and how can you not google that? I was dying to know the rest of the story.

Apparently Brooke was visiting Rwanda, and met an orphan named Albertine whose mother, Angelique, had been killed in the genocide; which the Rwandans refer to as the "day the world forgot us." (Sends shivers down your spine, doesn't it?) So Brooke made a promise to not let the world forget about Albertine. I'm certain Brooke can tell that story much better than me - but surely you already feel the beauty of it.

It makes me think of faces. There are four faces so far in my life that have done a certain something to me. All four of them are little kid faces, with impossibly big eyes - in all four cases - and even more impossibly adorable cheeks. All four of the faces belong to boys, and each one of them are a child I've connected to in some kind of volunteering capacity. I met Diego and David in Ecuador two summers ago, when I was there teaching English and living in an extremely impoverished neighborhood. They lived there with their sweet mom Germania, their sister Kati and a handful of adorably mocha-skin-colored cousins. For the first few days that I was in the neighborhood, Diego followed me everywhere, and after chatting with him a bit I realized he had a wise-beyond-his-years sense of humor. I tought him some English words and he loved reciting them back to me. "Book." "Friend." "Water." Every evening after I had been volunteering all day, I would saunter up to the internet cafe that his uncle owned, and we'd sit at an old Macintosh monitor and giggle. I always made him tell me what he'd learned in school that day, and then I'd tell him to go get me some ice cream and he'd just laugh.

After about a week there, I bought him a soccer ball, because about two minutes after I had stepped off the plane I could tell it was his heart and soul. He loved it and I gained instant popularity among all cousins and neighbors - but mostly with his little brother, David.

David had chronically messy hands, and his smile stretched outside of his face beyond his ears. That sounds improbable, but you wouldn't say that if you'd met him. He had the kind of giggle that sounded like he couldn't control it at all - like once he started, he couldn't stop and it rolled out of his belly like a long sigh. I've never heard a giggle like that one - it was the same kind of uncontrollable, slightly hushed laugh that someone gives when they're being tickled and wish they weren't. He couldn't help it. Everything made him so full of giggles, they just spilled. He clung to my neck so much that by my second week there he looked like he had hooked on for good - teeth flashing, wavy brown hair going in every direction, giggle filling the air.

David's favorite thing was hearing his name pronounced like an English-speaking person would pronounce it. (He of course pronounced it "Dah-VEED.") So every night he made me call him "DAY-vid" and the tiny giggles would string out on a chorus line all the way down into the mangroves.

One day, David fell asleep on my shoulder while I held him as we took a long walk, and my heart hasn't been the same since then.

On the six-week winter break between fall and winter quarter of my junior year, I volunteered three nights a week at the Haven of Rest in downtown Akron, OH. It's a shelter for women and children, and it's a lovely alternative to freezing temperatures and scary alleys. It was during my time there that I met Joshua.

Joshua was a skinny, wriggly, wide-eyed African American boy who had an adoring mom, though I forget her name now. During most of the time I hung around the Haven of Rest Joshua had a cold, and he always had a little bit of dry skin around his mouth and nose. That's still how I see his face. Huge, curious eyes; mouth open because he couldn't breathe through is nose; and dry skin.

He was about three feet tall with lanky arms, and he gave the best hugs. He was extremely quiet, but he started clinging to my leg after the first day I protected him from the mean kids in the playroom. After that day I had earned his trust, and we were best buds. We played with every single toy in the shelter, and every time I walked in the door there was a happy screech and a running hug. Every time I smooched him goodnight I felt a cement lump in my stomach - and now I do again, picturing his little arms and legs and sniffly nose.

And then there is little Sam. Little Sam is the tender-hearted little artist that Aaron and I sponsor through World Vision. He lives in Uganda, and is 9 years old. We've never met him, but his little face absolutely knocks the wind out of me. He likes to draw us pictures (mostly of soccer matches) and his favorite color is pink! We will meet him one day; of that I'm sure.

Something supernatural has happened to me when I've seen these faces. It happens even now when I recall them to memory. They've sparked something in me that makes me want to yell. I want to hug all of them and give all of them everything, and force all of them to understand just how impossibly much I love them - how even I don't understand how much I love them. How their faces make my stomach hurt and I cry when I go too long without seeing them. How Aaron doesn't even mention them to me because it throws me into fits of tears and hiding underneath my covers. How it makes me physically ill to think of them going without something, or having a tummy ache, or not knowing just what incredibly magnificent, humongous stories they all are and how I'm on the edge of my toes waiting to see the rest of them. How I feel like someone has kicked me in the chest when I think about how desperately I want to be with them. To help them.

I still send Diego and David a little present just about every month - with a letter telling them I love them, to do good in school, and to enjoy whatever little toy I'm including. I get e-mails from their Mom on occasion. I know I will see them again.

I haven't seen Joshua since January of 2008, but I pray for him, and his mom and baby sister. I send them love.

And I've never met Sam, but we will.

There are still faces I see every day that spur my heart to action - feeble and awkward though those actions may be. I give Rosy, the woman who washes dishes at The Phoenician, hugs in the hallway when her arthritis is acting up. I share family pictures with Julia, and I hurt for Pati, who fights with her daughter. But I still feel something else.

It's when I listen to "Albertine;" or when I think of Diego, David, Joshua and Sam that I get a little shiver that comes from somewhere outside myself. And suddnely I'm right behind the starting line; jumping up and down to keep my muscles loose; shaking out my arms to keep them ready and the adrenaline is spilling out so much and so fast that I know I'll almost take off before the gun. This is where I am now. I'm waiting for God to give the go-ahead. When our circumstances are right and He waves the flag, I'm leaving nothing but a trail of smoke behind me. I can almost feel the new faces that are going to break my heart.

Face of Diego.

Face of David.Face of little Sam.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Feeling Blue

Today I had a conversation that just made me blue. I'm not honestly sure why. It wasn't a sad conversation, and the topics covered weren't sad. But it just made me blue. Sometimes I tend to think that everyone views the world the same way I do. I don't mean that they come to the same conclusions I do. I mean I tend to think they view facts the same way I do. Sky's blue, money isn't everything. We move forward. Doesn't everyone think that? I guess, no. And people who are older don't even think that way. That's what troubled me today, I think. Even when I find myself confused about some moral dilemma or nervous about what financial stability actually looks like I always try to remind myself that I'm young and I'm not expected to have it all together yet; and that in truth I'm probably doing a bit better than what's normal at my age. But when I meet someone older who still has whacked out ideas about money and family and kindness and priorities, I just get... blue.

What's weird about all that emotional vomit I just wrote is that I really like the person I had this conversation with. He is an older guy I work with that is tons of fun and a blast to talk to - most of the time. He has the exact same political leanings as me and we both love to listen to Rush, so we have a lot of fun with that. But I don't know... something today rubbed me the wrong way. I was telling him how I struggle with the irony that Aaron and I are young enough and not-tied-down enough to travel now, moreso than we may ever be at other times in our life, but this is the time that we don't have the money for it. And that when we do have the money for it, we will most likely be more tied down, older, and possibly parents? (My best friend Amy just fell out of her chair. Not now, Ame. I'm ranting.) Why does it have to be this way? And my friend's response was, more or less, get a second job! Do whatever it takes to make more money now! When I told him that I thought it was more important for me to spend time with my husband and work on building a good marriage, he told me there would be time for that later.

I think he was somewhat kidding, but just let me say this, since I'm on a bit of a whine kick. When I'm having my general weekly freak-out that I'm "not doing enough" (not volunteering enough, not writing enough, not singing enough, not donating enough, not saving enough money, etc. etc. etc.) there really is no talking me down. You cannot help me. The only thing I want to hear when I am in a mood like that is that I'm not lazy, and that even though I'm not doing everything, I'm at least doing something. I'm helping support Aaron and I. I am investing in a marriage. I am trying to invest in my community. I am investing in my own health. I am learning. I am doing ok. So when someone's response to my freak out is "well, if you feel like you're not doing enough, do more" I get SAD. Don't say that! I don't want to do more. I am exhausted! I just want to reap the benefits of doing more.

Ohhhhhh, sigh.

Sorry to bum you out, if I have. Just feeling a bit blue today. I think another part of it is that I was looking at some photos of my old college roommate on facebook earlier and I just miss her so, so so so so very much. I miss both of them. They are beautiful and I want them here.

Well shucks. I'm such a downer. I am going to eat some spaghetti and read some more of The Girl Who Played With Fire. Hope you're having a cheerier night, friends. I'll be better tomorrow, promise!

Friday, August 13, 2010


If you already have a video game, why do you have to buy an updated version of it every year? That is the question of the hour, as my husband and my brother sit in front of me pushing buttons, yelling at the TV, and completely ignoring me. Madden 2010. You have overtaken my living room.

So. As my reading obsession continues, I just finished Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I can't get over it. I can't stop thinking about it. And I should have done this before I started reading it, but this morning I put the sequel to it, Catching Fire, on hold at the library. Hopefully the 24 people ahead of me read quickly...

I don't want to give a single thing away, but the main theme of the book has been overtaking my thoughts this week as I raced through the chapters. What do you think we crave the most? In general? What do you think gives even the most faithless, restless or bored among us a feeling of meaning? What are we most angry about when it's taken from us? I think maybe It's control. You can call it different things or characterize it differently - you can call it money, or power or good looks or whatever, but I'm confident I could always convince you that it comes back to some form of control. Isn't that weird about us?

In that way I keep finding these really interesting threads between all the books I've been reading lately. Hunger Games is about control being stolen. The Secret Life of Bees is about how you get along without it, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is about a people who have too much of it, The Shack is about how the desire for it distances us from God, and Mere Christianity offers an explanation for both why we want it in the first place and why, ironically, we would actually be freer if we didn't have it (and the One who did was God, of course; not other men).

I guess I could explore the topic a little more but I don't know what I'd say. I'm certainly finding, the more I think about it, that the situations in my life that leave me the most anxious are ones where I am wrestling with some translation of a loss of control. I don't know that that's bad, though, unless I am keeping something from God. And maybe I am. I don't know. But it's an interesting way of looking at the world; to imagine us all just scrambling around trying to control everything. It's easier to understand why some people act the way they do, I suppose.

I guess I'll just keep mulling this over. Maybe I'll come to some blog-worthy conclusion soon. For now though, I'm going to take control of the next hour of my life and start the second book in the Stieg Larsson series. Let's see what Salander's up to...

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Raisin Version

In one of my favorite blogs to read, Natalie Lloyd always includes what she's listening to and a quote or lyric she is liking at the moment. In full belief that imitation is indeed flattery and not cheating, I love the idea and think I might implement it a Maria sort of way, if you will. So.

Listening to: Sports Center's Top 10 plays of the day. Comes with the territory of being married to Aaron, friends. :)

Lyric that has been nagging me lately (in a good way): "...because my comfort would prefer for me to be numb; and avoid the impending birth of who I was born to become..." -Brooke Fraser

I got back to Phoenix on Saturday from Myrtle Beach. I got...a bit of a tan. Trust me, I used sunscreen - I am quite terrified of the sun, after living in Arizona for 9 months. Nevertheless, I believe I may have inadvertently become the raisin version of Maria.
Oops. But anyway, I also bring back from Myrtle Beach fresh perspective... and a nervous belly.
I had such a great week with my family... we were all bummed Aaron couldn't make it, but he will come next year. But even without my Brown Eyes, It was so cathartic to be around my dad, my momma, my sister, her awesome hubby, and my sweet brother all at ONE TIME. (And Frank! Frank is brother Joey's friend.) We napped in the sun every day, ate lots of cookies and other things that don't quite qualify as real food, yet are sinfully delicious (read: Zebra Cakes) and played card games.

I went running along the beach a few mornings, too. On Thursday, after my run, I even wandered over to the pier and happened to see a huge family of dolphins giggle and jump their way down the Carolina was so lovely. One of those moments that was unplanned and unforeseen but so graceful. If we could always remember how joyful it feels to actually live in one moment - not thinking about the moment before it or the one that's coming - we would do it all the time, dont you think? But we forget too quickly.

Being on vacation seemed like only a moment itself, and now I am back in Phoenix. This is what gives my belly the nervous feeling. It's not a foreign sensation - it is exactly the one I had when Mom dropped me off in Colorado by myself a few years ago to study for 12 weeks at the Focus Institute; and the same one I had when I was 8 and she dropped me off at Girl Scout camp for a week. It is not a pleasant feeling. It is a panicky, "wait-where-is-she-going?!"- feeling. A "but-i'm-so-far-away!" feeling. And it makes me physically sick to my stomach - and I mean that literally. I won't go into details, friends. But it is that kind of a weird, steady panic.

Don't get me wrong - I am with my husband; the love of my life and the guy I would follow to Pluto if I had to, because he is my husband and I love him, and I promised I would. And we have an adorable little puppy and a nice, unassuming little life right now in Scottsdale, Arizona, and that's just the way I like it. I do love the Hispanic culture here, and the beautiful mountains, and Phoenix's lovely downtown. But the truth is I really can't stand being away from Mom and Dad anymore. It just doesn't work with me. I wasn't built for it. Things are too different out here. Dirt replaced grass, posh apartment buildings and strip malls replaced decades-old brick courthouses and a ceratin... west-coast-ness? (insert: snobbery) replaced humility. I know that's a generalization, but you must trust me when I say the culture in Arizona is night and day to Ohio. I am not lying. One is not neccesarily better than the other. But one is most certainly more Maria than the other.

I used to fancy myself someone like Belle from Beauty & the Beast - wanting adventure in the "great wide somewhere;" and not one of those ignorant townspeople who were content to just bake pastries all day. (That's what French people do, right? That and sing all the time, in unison?) But now, I don't think that skipping town makes you sophisticated, in the same way that sticking around doesn't make you pitiful. Why did I ever make that assumption? You can be lazy and unadventurous in the town where you grew up or you can be lazy and unadventurous 3,000 miles away. And you can dream big and do big things 3,000 miles away but you can do them next door, too.

All that being said, Aaron and I have talked about it, and it is not time for us to leave Arizona yet. We both know that, and so we stay. But we will be back one day, Ohio. We have come to a little adventure out here, but we will be back. And we will have a big blue house with white trim, a basketball hoop in our driveway and a comfortable proximity to Mom and Dad. Because my belly can't take it anymore, and because I was a fool to think I always knew exactly how I wanted my life to look. Jon Krakauer might make fun of me, but then again, he never got a Papa Fisher hug. And I know which one of us is missing out.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Ever since Aar and I 'discovered' our library a few weeks ago, I have been a reading fiend. I finished Mere Christianity, much to my chagrin (sly grin). I know that book changed my life forever and that gives me happy shivers. But anyway, after that I figured I needed to calm the ol' noggin down a bit, so I read this:

I am actually a daily watcher of Bill O'Reilly on Fox, and Lis Wiehl is a regular guest of his. I really like her - she seems very level-headed and she lets Bill have it sometimes. Anyway, I decided to read her book. Definitely not anything that requires any sort of semblance of deep thinking whatsoever - but that's exactly what I was hoping for. :) It was a fun read and a nice exhale after Mr. C. S. Lewis. I just reserved another one of her books from the library yesterday to read on the beach.

After I was finished with that, I started this:

After the first few chapters, I decided actually to make it part of my daily devotions instead of trying to read it all at once. My favorite chapter so far has been about (more or less) realizing how untrusting and futile worrying about the future is. That sounds very cliche and kind of silly, but the way he wrote about it was new to me and I loved it. Lucado's writing gets a bit forced at times (he really loves the whole prose thing...) but I still recommend it! (My copy even has a permament-marker etching of "To Maria - from Max" in the front... thanks Mom and Dad!)

But even though I am still in the middle of that book, tonight I finished this one:

And all I can say is....

I hope you read it. Not to compare apples to oranges, but if Mere Christianity is an explanation of God, this book is an illustration. It changed me. It changed a LOT of me. In such a deep way that I don't think I can write about it publicly just yet but trust me, my journal got an EARFUL tonight. Maybe I will write more on it later...

So, from girl power detective novels to life-changing theological explorations, I am loving my foray back into the books. And I can't wait for a week at the beach to keep on reading. Next in line: The Secret Life of Bees, Lis Wiehl's other book ("Face of Betrayal"), "The Heights" by Peter Hedges (the library had it on a special shelf and I liked the cover...what?!)... and the list goes on. :)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A Thank Offering

"He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me
and he prepares the way
so that I may show him the salvation of God."
Psalm 50:23

I wrote that awful blog about pride a while ago, and I think gratitude is a baby step away from it. You can't be thankful for something if you thought you deserved it anyway, right? Or if you're too busy wondering what your neighbor got instead? According to Psalm 50, gratitude is also how God prepares us for what I like to call His Great Explanation. No laughing matter. Anyway, I don't know about all of that (though I hope to one day) but I do know that gratitude tends to lighten the heart. I'll take that.

So here is my thank offering for today.

1. Do you know that I have the sweetest, warmest, most curiously forgiving husband in the world? He is quite something. He loves baseball and eating huge amounts of spaghetti (tonight: the meat sauce variety. YUM-O.) He takes a childlike joy in grown-up things, like in working hard and in making me feel like I'm responsible for all his smiling. I am so grateful for how he works for us and how he takes care of me. Shoot - I am just grateful that he wants to hang out with me! I am grateful for his easy grace, his goofy jokes and his Kermit the Frog impression, though it could use a lot more work and a lot less 'air-time,' if you know what I mean. I'm thankful to God that He gave Aaron those handsome brown eyes, and an affinity for red meat. That was critical. I am not grateful for how God multiplies Aaron's dirty laundry daily, like He did to the loaves and the fishes. Please do not ask me about this. To recap: thankful for all the Aaron is and does and teaches me. Not thankful for amount of dirty laundry produced.


2. I am thankful for our jobs. I don't like getting up every day and doing the same thing, I just don't. But that is inconsequential compared to all the wonderful and undeserved blessings that our jobs provide us. I'm thankful God helps me get up every day (my roommate Ashley can attest to what a literal miracle this is) and I'm thankful that we can experience a kind of security that realistically, the vast majority of people in the world don't. What luck! (Luck = blessing that I am not capable to understand, so I figure the concept closest to it that I can somewhat comprehend is luck. Please don't theologize all up and down that part.)

3. I am thankful for this big mug that Aaron made for me when we painted pottery a few weeks ago. It has my name in cursive (no small feat for Aaron - ha) and a big guitar on it, outlined by bubble paint. And it is purple, which is obviously the world's superior color. And it holds just the right amount of hot chocolate, which I am about to take a sip of. (A ginger sip though. Because this will be the first sip of the day. Is it too hot? I will just have to take that gamble). Mmm. Not too hot.

4. I am thankful that I get to go to Myrtle Beach in a week and a half. Oh nelly, I just got chills typing that. This will be an unexpected vacation (I didn't know I was going until about a month ago) and that is the best kind. I am thankful not only for the fun it promises, but also for the excitement it is delivering even now! I'm telling you, going to bed tonight knowing I get to see Joey, Jenny, Mom, Dad and Eric in just a few short days is the sweetest kind of grace.

5. I am thankful for puppy Jethro. Yes, he has no concept of personal space and he often climbs on top of me at hilariously inopportune moments, but he has very floppy ears so all is forgiven. He has the best "YAY! YOU'RE HOME!" face as well, so it all evens out.

5. I am thankful for my Aunt Cris. Three years ago today, she passed away, and I am grateful for that too because she got to finish her wandering a lot sooner than most of us. (I am certain that is because she packed an unfathomable amount of loving others into an absurdly short period of time.) I'm thankful for those awesome rolls she baked for Thanksgiving every year (the warm and buttery variety...Yes Lord) but more than that, I'm thankful for what a graceful, forgiving and loving name she gave the rest of us Christians who frankly, should hang our heads for the slimy reputation we often give our faith and that Aunt Cris had to fight to disprove. I'm told that someone at her funeral told my uncle that she had only seen Christ alive in two people, and Aunt Cris was one of them. She had done it. Thanks Aunt Cris, and thanks God, for sharing her.

See? All that time I just spent discovering what I have to be thankful about was time spent NOT comparing myself, NOT dwelling on what I wish I had or that someone else didn't, and NOT burning my tongue on hot chocolate. Win.

What's your thank offering?

Monday, June 28, 2010


What a weekend. We got home around 1:30 am last night, so I feel a bit in a haze today; not to mention I am sighing for that skyline. I think Chicago will be the next place Aar and I adventure to. Just maybe.

Before I go, Here are my two favorite photos from the weekend.

Look at those brothers. Can't tell they're related or anything, eh? We love you so much, Benji. Miss you already.

Lincoln Park. This will be our neighborhood. Hang tight, Lincoln Park. The Baers are coming soon.

Now, I am going to go crawl in bed with my best bud and my puppy and watch Ratatouille. More later.

Monday, June 21, 2010

'The Great Sin'

Good Monday to you!! Mondays are always a little tough, but I am really looking forward to this week. Aar and I are jetting off to Chicago on Wednesday to celebrate his Grandma's 90th birthday this weekend and to see lots of friends and family we have greatly been missing. I can't wait to get out of town for a few days, see some long-missed faces and to GET OUT OF THE HEAT!!

Now. Last week I said I would perhaps blog about all the lovely insight I was gaining from traipsing through Mere Christianity. I definitely have a blog in me today on that very subject, but instead of feeling energetic and inspired, I have to be honest - I find myself wishing I hadn't read the book at all. It is harsh, cold and blunt and perhaps a dose of truth too heavy for me right now. Not while I'm still weak and human and all that. You know.

Too late.

Have you read his chapter on pride? AH! Would that we all did! But I must advise you not to, as a friend and someone who has a healthy respect for spiritual comfort. ( By the way, you can read the entire chapter here. Don't click on it!)

Let me start here... at church last night, a guest speaker touched on pride while talking about the church of Laodicea, which gets a bit of an earful in the book of Revelation. The Laodiceans' response to God was more or less "We're wealthy; we're doing fine - we don't need you." Obviously, that is prideful, and our speaker did a good job hitting home with his sermon. But I couldn't help but hold that example next to C.S. Lewis' pride chapter - and I came to the conclusion that the Laodiceans were merely skimming the outer rim of pride. They had baby pride. Pride with sugar on top.

Saying "I'm proud of myself for getting this promotion" is not necessarily a sinful pride; just as Laodicea saying "We are doing quite well and do not need God" is not necessarily prideful, in its strictest sense. It was foolish, of course, to say they didn't need God. If someone said that to me, though, my response would be less "how prideful of you!" and more "you must not understand what it means to need."

But that's a rabbit trail. What I'm trying to get at is that pride in something you did well is not necessarily sinful. I've heard that we must not forget to give God credit, and that is certainly true. But it's just disingenuous to say "I would be happy about this promotion, but I literally had nothing to do with it. It was only God." It is true that God blessed you with that circumstance; and also with the work ethic, the talent and whatever else you possess that got you that far. But no one truly believes he does not have a choice in what he works for. And it is not sincere to pretend we don't. Nor is it prideful to acknowledge that we do.

Going further - vanity is not even the worst of pride, according to Lewis. Vanity is almost a humble type of pride even; because it says "I am not sure enough of my own worth; I need to hear of it from others." It's something we should surely guard against, but it is not the deep, dark, diabolical side of pride.

Here's what the true density of pride is. It is competition for no reason. It is pure enmity. Lewis calls it the 'anti-God,' which, seriously, is starting to give me nightmares.

The worst type of pride is when, after getting that promotion, you don't say "I'm glad I got this because I like what I'm doing," you say "I am glad I got this purely because it means someone else didn't. I am glad of the status this gives me in comparison to those around me. I am glad I stole this from someone else. And I couldn't care less about the actual promotion."

And I think we could probably find that sentiment in every last drop of every single situation of every single day for us. At least I know I can. Doesn't that make you want to lock yourself in a closet and turn off the light and never come out? Who am I, that I possess this awfulness?! Why do I have to know about it now?

That kind of pride is so terrible because it really has no other motive than just plain meanness. Just grossness. So many other sins or 'vices' have root in our animal instincts - sexual misconduct, gluttony, violence, etc. And any sins you can think of that don't relate to our animal instincts probably have their root in pride (greed, self-absorption, manipulation, ungratefulness, etc.).

Why do you pose for just the right photo to put on your facebook? Why do you put up a Bible verse on your twitter account? Why do you worry about making more money at work, why do you paint your house and take lots of showers and decorate a Christmas tree and put icing on cookies and go to the gym? I mean deeply, why? If you can get to your very deepest motive, I don't think you'll like it. I think It will look a lot less like rationality and normalcy and healthy energy and a lot more like pride. Pride for no reason but malicious intent.

"We say people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good-looking, but they are not. They are proud of being richer, or cleverer, or better looking than others. If everyone else became equally rich, or clever, or good-looking there would be nothing to be proud about."


(As a caveat - Lewis does say that, for example, in the making-more-money-at-work example, pride may not always be at play. It is only when we extend our 'wants' to an extreme distance beyond what we need that we should get skeptical. Maybe you want to make more at work to help pay for medical bills or make sure your family is financially secure - obviously, pride is not at play here. But if you obsess over making $150,000 a year instead of $125,000 a year, you've got to take a step back, friends. If you weren't surrounded by lots of people who make $145,000 and who you'd like nothing more than to show up, I'd say maybe we're ok. But be real...)

And here's another scary thing about pride I wish Lewis didn't teach me. Satan allows you to use IT to overcome other little messy sins you've got. 'I'm going to stop looking at questionable photos online' sounds great, and like a righteous gesture. And it is. But if your motive is 'I will stop doing that because it is beneath me; because I must ensure that I am better than my friends who do it' then 'Satan laughs,' as Lewis would say. You're letting a little fish go and taking a great grip of a huge shark. Saying "I will stop caring what other people think of me" is wonderful and should be tried. But saying "I will stop caring what other people think of me because everyone else is so trivial to me that why would I care?" is black and ugly and dark and the worst kind of awfulness.

That fact too - that pride allows us to overcome smaller sins with it - is the reason I believe that pride is so 'acceptable' and overlooked. Lewis says that Christians are the only people he knows whose set of morals disallows pride, and who actively admit they are prideful. That may be true of our philosophy as compared to others, but are we that kind of people? Do our friends who put up 1,000 facebook photos a day of their own faces gross us out, or as long as they make a Bible verse their status are we OK with it; even complimentary? Does my desire to go to the gym three times a week make me question why I motivate myself by rejoicing in the fact that I'm not lazy like other people, or does it make me congratulate myself for my discipline?

I wrote a column in Relevant once about our strange desire to make other people jealous of us - I think this pride thing is what I was getting at. It's such a malicious thing, and it looks so acceptable most of the time, doesn't it?

One last point - Lewis says that God looks down on pride not because He is vainly mad we aren't focusing enough attention on Him. He looks down on it because in order to commune with him, we have to let go of it. We can't commune with God if we don't know who He is; we can't know who He is until we know who we are in comparison to him; and we can't know that until we realize we are absolutely inconsequential. I don't think he quite cares about pride or humility in themselves. He just wants to be with us.

How are you feeling?

Now. The only glimmer of non-gloom I could find in Lewis's pride chapter is that 1. We cannot overcome pride ourselves, and 2. God wants to help us. That's all I'm holding on to at the moment. I hope He does help me. I'd like to look in the mirror again.

Friends, lets do this together. Don't do things because of other people. Don't do things in spite of them, or to 'show' them, or to make them feel negative about themselves or anything else. Do things to love them and then leave them alone.

And don't suggest they read C.S. Lewis. Unless they want to whine, throw the book away, pretend it didn't mean anything to them, lose a few nights' sleep, and then ...maybe...begin to change a little bit...