Santorini, Greece

Santorini, Greece
There's nothing like living overseas and getting to spend Spring Break in another country.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Battle for the Mind

I consider the second half of 2011 to have been full of bad news. It began with the news that a relative in her mid-40s passed away after a 3 year battle with cancer. Followed by news of another 40 year old diagnosed with a serious cancer situation and then my roommate's dad died unexpectedly months before his 60th birthday. Add to that, several more friends began their battles with cancer - two of whom are in their 30s. And finally, Checkers, "the wonder-dog," struggled with several tumors and melanoma of the mouth, and as sad as that is, the reality is that he is 15 years old and these things should be expected. Checkers is fine for now, by the way, and has resumed his investigations of the backyard! 2012 started similarly with one of my closest friends beginning her battle with breast cancer and several other friends with scary health concerns.

I just got off the phone with an old friend from college. We had much to catch up on and our conversation was full of heavy things, but she helped me put words to what I have been wrestling with for the past several months. It was a great reminder of reality: we live in a cursed land and only through Jesus do we have any hope to navigate a world we were not made to live in.

Genesis 1 and 2 tell us of the beautiful, perfect world God created for us to live in and of our unblemished beginning. The world our hearts long for and know is out there somewhere. But tucked in Genesis 3 is the reason why we are constantly faced with the reality it is not hear now and never will be. Because of the disobedience of the first man and woman, we were cursed but the land was also cursed. The Garden of God's perfection is where we were created to live. Whether we realize it or not, our hearts long for that perfect place of eternity with God. We know in the core of our being that none of the things around us are right, not really. We long for perfection, no pain, no sorrow, no suffering, but only get glimpses of it. Jesus give us more: hope of eternity with God in the new heaven and earth of Revelation 21.

Galatians 1:4 says, "[Jesus] gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father." And because of what happened in Genesis 3, satan is called “the god of this world,” and his main aim is to blind people to truth (2 Corinthians 4:4). One of the greatest ways to do that is through deception, especially the deception that all of our hope is in what the world has to offer. So if satan is the "god of this world," then I must choose not to buy into its messages and hope in it. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” John Piper in The Passion of Jesus Christ: Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die, calls this the resounding cry of freedom and calls us to "be free! Don't be duped by the gurus of the age."

Unfortunately, we live in a world that demands perfection now, ease and pleasure now. I have gotten sucked in myself. I have been tempted to think about the injustices in the lives around me and focus on discouragement and questioning God. I have forgotten the truth of our situation that the world wants us to forget. It is cursed and can offer us no hope, nothing good. Only God can give good things. My hope has to be in Him. Based on Genesis 3, the bad things of this world should not be a surprise to me. It is easy to expect that the good in the world is the norm but really all the good and blessings in my life should be reminders of God's grace to us in a the midst of a fallen world. I must keep renewing my mind with truth: that that we were created for eternity, for heaven and our time on earth can be discouraging or hopeful depending on where I fix my gaze. C. S. Lewis simplifies it this way: "Aim at heaven and you will get earth 'thrown in': aim at earth and you get neither."

Recommended Reading for Renewing the Mind

Besides reading the Bible, here are a few books I have found helpful:

Knowing God by J. I. Packer

When Life and Beliefs Collide by Carolyn Custis James

The Reason for God by Timothy Keller

The Lies Women Believe by Nancy Leigh DeMoss

Monday, March 23, 2009

Adventures In Bowling Green

I had to take my dog to stay with the "grandparents" in Bowling Green. If that was the only thing the day held, Bowling Green would have lived up to its name of "Boring Green." However, the unassuming morning had more in store. Mom and I were on our way to lunch and were stopped at one of the more heavily traveled intersections in town (Broadway and the By-Pass). As we were discussing lunch options, we hear a boom behind us. Mom describes it as a bomb going off, but I knew there had been an accident behind us. I was just trying to figure out in half a second how close it was and if we might be in it. Just as I decided to hold tight to the break, there was the jolt from behind. My first thought was "poor car behind me has just encountered my very stable and destructive trailer hitch." My sweet, compassionate mother jumps out to go check on everyone. I am in task mode calling 911. Mom returns to tell me that everyone is ok but the accident instigator doesn't speak English. Well, I have lots of experience communicating with people of different languages. Fortunately, they speak some type of African French. Who would have thought in "Boring" Green?
I have actually been in one other accident before. It was exactly the same thing except we were in a funeral procession on Briley Parkway in Nashville. Not so fun. Same thing: poor guy behind me is rear-ended and meets un-happily with said trailer hitch. However, the "accident instigator" was a good friend of mine and her car was totaled. Today, there was barely any damage to any one's car. The sad part was when the guy who caused the accident then told me and the police officer in broken English: "She (the drive who hit me) reversed into me." I still assume the best in people and was surprised that he would lie. So there went my compassion and my terrible translation skills. I'm just glad he had a driver's license and insurance.
Mom and I ended up eating at A Taste of Europe on State Street. I highly recommend it. Great gyros and service. Then, I visited my precious 95 year old great-grandmother. I have no idea what she's hanging around for. God must have some reason to let her stay so long. And I got my exercise in by helping Dad finish digging a 600 foot plus trench from the house out to our hay barn to put in faucets to water the cows. My friend Mandy's super-cool iTouch has a calorie calculator so some sort and it says I burned over 900 calories digging for 2 hours. I love manual labor - progress and exercise all in one!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Household Happenings: The Weekend Edition

This weekend I had a lot to do around the house and since the weather was not so nice, it was a good time to get things done. One of my random projects was to change the light in the 10' ceiling above my kitchen sink. It's one of those recessed flood lights. I have to bring in my 6' ladder to do the job. It's one of those late Friday nights when you bring in the ladder take out the old bulb and THEN check the closet for the replacement bulb. I decided to just leave the ladder in the kitchen (which plays later into the story) vs. packing it up and back to the garage, until I could buy one, which was on my way home tonight with my 11:00 pm stop to Kroger (fewer people - I am an introvert.)
Friday night became more interesting when my grumpy old dog Checkers decided that his skin allergy was too much and climbed under my bed to stand up and scratch his back on the underside of my bed. One that's nasty and two it makes it difficult to go to sleep. I got up and tried to call him out but then he started growling. Once I persuaded him to come out, I decided I needed to keep him from going back under. Fortunately, the recycling pile in the garage has gotten a bit out of control. So as you can see, I have barricaded the underside of my bed to keep my rebellious pet out. 
Then to add to the randomness, last night (Saturday) I was climbing into bed just before midnight and I had a vision for bread bowls. I climbed out of bed, pajama clad, wandered into my ladder-consumed kitchen to make a dough starter. Here's the links I'm consulting: How To Cook Like Your Grandmother and Sourdough Baking. I'm not sure how this will go and am expecting to have to throw it out and start again. My friend Heather shared with me some Amish Friendship Bread recipes that I'm hoping to try but I'm really just in it to have a new "pet" that I have to feed on a regular basis.
Now the weekend is over, the light bulb is replaced with one of those fancy energy saving ones (I'm trusting to marketing on that one) and the ladder is in the garage. And poor Checkers is still forbidden to crawl under the bed.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Improvising and Swedish Recipes

It's tax season and with my slow internet, Turbo Tax seems to be taking forever to up-date each page. So in the meantime, I thought I would make use of the waiting: Improvise. I do this a lot anyway but I thought I would share two specific moments. The first is: when a baby is not ready for a cup, use what you got. Here's Benjamin Meredith demonstrating with a bike water bottle.

The second is: when not in Sweden, still cook like in Sweden. So here are a few recipes I've made recently.

18 oz bag of Lars Own Yellow Peas (can use split ye
llow peas)
8 cups water
1 onion, finely chopped
3 carrots, peeled and diced
2 stalks of celery, sliced
1/2 lb. of ham or pork pieces
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. marjoram
1/4 tsp. thyme
1 bay leaf

Follow soaking instructions on the peas. Drain peas. Combine all ingredients in large pot and simmer over med-low heat for 1 1/2 hours or until shells of peas split.

2 lb. ground beef
2 eggs
1 c. milk, cream, broth or water
1/2 c. bread crumbs or flour OR 1 c. mashed potatoes or torn bread
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 minced onion or 1 tbsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. dry mustard
1/8 tsp. nutmeg or 1/4 tsp. all-spice

Combine all ingredients. Roll into 1" balls and fry in skillet or bake at 450F for 10 to 15 minutes. Serve with lingon sylt (jam).

5  tsp. dry yeast (2 packets)
1 c. butter (2 sticks)
2 c. milk
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. sugar
6 c. flour (can use 1/2 whole wheat & 1/2 unbleached)
2 tsp. ground cardamom

4 Tbsp. butter, softened
5 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon

1 egg
pearl sugar

Melt butter in pan. Add milk and heat until warm to the touch. In large mixing bowl, combine butter mixture with yeast until dissolved. Add 1/2 c. sugar, salt, cardamom and most of the flour. Mix until elastic. Place in warm location and let rise for 30 - 40 minutes. Place dough on lightly floured surface and knead using remaining flour as needed. Divide dough in half and roll each piece into a large square about 1/3" thick. Combine the cinnamon and sugar. Spread with 1/2 the butter and sprinkle with 1/2 the cinnamon sugar. Roll the dough into a log and slice about 3/4" slices. Place on greased baking sheet. Preheat oven to 425F and let rise for 20 minutes before baking. Brush with egg and sprinkle with pearl sugar. Bake for 10 minutes until golden brown.

Monday, March 9, 2009

A Tabooli Reunion

I have decided to start including some recipes in my blog. It gives me something to share. I have taken several photos of stuff I've made since I've made this decision but tragically I have failed to post any of them. So here's my first. It's one of my favorite Middle Eastern dishes. I made this for my college Bible study reunion over a week and a half ago. Heather asked for the recipe so here it is. And you can find bulgur wheat at Kroger or Publix. It's with the hot cereal or the flour.


1 1/2 cups dry bulgur wheat
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1 bunch green onions or 1/2 white onion
1 cucumber
3 tomatoes, seeded
1 bunch parsley
1/2 cup vegetable or olive oil
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 tsp. salt

Cover the bulgur wheat with boiling water. Soak at least 2 hours. Drain and squeeze out excess water. Finely chop all vegetables and mix with bulgur wheat. 
Combine oil, lemon juice and salt. Pour over salad and refrigerate at least 2 hours. Stir before serving and store in refrigerator.

So the Bible study reunion was great! It's been 8 years since most of us have seen each other. It's a blessing to have people in my life who have known me that long and still want to know about my life. The funny thing is that we have all grown up but I walked in forgetting that 8 years have gone by. I was surprised in a good way that these women have changed. On top of that, what an encouragement to see 12 women still walking with the Lord so many years later. And a lot of that has to do with the investment Janie Mullis Farwell had in our lives back then. Who would have thought the first day I walked onto the campus of WKU as a self-proclaimed atheist, Janie would be walking on her first day as Campus Crusade staff wondering how God would use her there so far from her North Carolina home. So, Janie, I hope you have a small glimpse of the impact you've made and how loved you are!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Into the West

I have been in Raleigh, North Carolina, for over a week and am anxious to be home. I love to travel and I love seeing new places, but this trip has been a bit different. I have enjoyed getting to visit so many people and get to try out a job with Campus Crusade's Regional Headquarters, but I have slept in 6 different beds in less than 2 weeks. Sunday I will be making my 9 hour trek west.

It has been a blessing to be able to take the time to check out this opportunity with Crusade and to visit so many beloved friends. Most of this week I have been staying with my college discipler Janie, her husband John and their three kids, Tate, Kensie and Sadie. Tonight I got to hang out with Sadie while the rest of the fam when swimming. After the kids went to bed, we adults had some Goodberry's Frozen Custard. Yummy stuff! I prefer the fruit mix-ins over the candy stuff. 

Last weekend I stayed with Jenn and her new husband Clyde. The previous owners of the house they bought in August had some interesting ideas in how to "add-on". But now you'd never know that there was once a wall in the middle of the living room. The parquet flooring in the upstairs bathroom is just calling out for Clyde and Jenn's magical touch (which probably involved sledgehammers, drywall tape, grout and an ailing floor scraper). I can't explain the rest but it is very impressive hearing all of the crazy things they've had to do to the house so far.

So most people seem to want to know how I'm feeling about my trip to Raleigh. Obviously it has been a great trip to get to see so many friends, but it has also been a fun time working in the office. I love Campus Crusade and the mission and am so glad to be a part of it as associate staff while living and working in Murfreesboro. The opportunity to move to Raleigh and work full-time again for CCC in the operations department is very appealing for a lot of reasons. However, my life and ministry in Murfreesboro is just as appealing so figuring out where God wants me has been difficult. Even with such a great experience at the office, I am confident that my time in Murfreesboro is not over any time soon. I have greatly missed being there and am looking forward to heading back westward. (I know that it's slightly tainted by my longing for my own bed.)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

To Bring You Up To Speed

One of my oldest and dearest friends, also blogs and is much more faithful than I am. I keep joking with her that I just need to copy here entries over here for everyone to read since several pertain to me in some odd way. Mandy's link is over there on the right - "My Super Unspectacular Life". The ones that would help catch you up on my "unspectacular life" are: Greensboro's Global Village, Greater Greensboro Explanation and Foodie Friday; Six Flags in Six Hours is quite a story, too. Mandy, I hope you don't mind. I give you full credit for your great writing skills!