I am just so...happy with life today. Not happy as in laughterlaughterjoyjoy, although a little of that, but more of a peace and contentedness.

The Bible reading project--journey--is moving forward. I hit some speed bumps along the way. I've learned that if I try to start reading forty-five chapters at 1:30AM, I probably won't finish them all. I skipped a few days catching up on sleep, got hung up in Deuteronomy. But now I'm back on track and consuming great portions of the Word in a sitting, and I just feel so, so blessed. Just to have the Bible is a miracle. Its complexity, enough to study my whole life and never come to an end, is reassuring. The God portrayed therein, breathing through the words, is mighty and glorious and Love. It is good. He is good.

This month, the mp3 version of Misty Edwards' album Relentless is on sale at Amazon.com. a $5 download. I've put it on my ipod and the choruses have been running through my head a lot lately, which keeps me focused. I love it. I love my God.

I'm sitting in front of a computer anticipating doing one of the things that excites me most--studying nursing. My books are arriving in the mail, they are heavy with promise of knowledge to seek out. I flipped through my Anat. & Phys. textbook last night and I absolutely cannot wait to study again. The intricacy of the human body astounds me.

While I'm anticipating that, I'm doing the other thing that excites me. I'm editing photos, having recently had the privilege of shooting a friend's engagement pictures. Also I have some senior portraits to take next week and I'm excited about that, thankful for the opportunities and loving them. My goodness. When I finish the engagement ones, I have two sets of just my own photos to work on. Inspiration has re-awakened and I'm so thrilled.

I remember how stressed I was about choosing either photography or nursing. As it's turned out, God's lavished upon me the best of both worlds--trauma nursing as a career pursuit, and photography on the side. Which I like better anyway. His plan's being revealed and it's so utterly perfect for me and my personality that it's hard NOT to be excited. I used to think that God's will was this elusive thing that I probably wouldn't like as much as my own ideas but that I'd be obligated to follow. I thought it'd be hard to find and complicated. Actually, it was merely a matter of moving forward in life, of being close to God and making the decisions that led to peace and joy. God's plan isn't this hard, complicated task we must find and painfully maneuver our way through, squeezing our lives into the mold of God's Will. It's not like that at all. It's a matter of knowing why you were made and of walking in it; of doing the things that you're passionate about for the sake of He who instilled that passion within you. It's a matter of confidence and grace and wisdom, but not something to stress over of to fear. Because God's will is what we were made to do, and it is fulfilling that that brings joy. Just something I've been thinking about.

So I'm sitting here in the computer lab down the row from a middle-school age girl who is lipsynching to whatever's playing on her headphones--Jonas Brothers?--while shopping for school uniforms online. She smells faintly reminiscent of Polynesian sauce and it's making me hungry. I have a dollar fifty in my wallet--I've been avoiding spending money lately unless it's cash, because I REALLY WANT MY MACBOOK. But I have this dollar fifty and I'm thinking about whether I want to go get a Reese's 3 pack out of the vending machine across the hall, or save it and have a Caffe Verona, black, at Starbucks in the morning. Starbucks is winning. Thinking about the rest of the world...how privileged I am just to have a dollar fifty in my wallet and such a decision to make.

I'll go running tonight, when the sun sinks low. I've been consistently working out and generally being healthy lately, and it feels great. I get to ride my mom's old Schwinn bicycle, from when she was in college. It is one classy ride, the long curves of the frame a deep blue. I can't wait to be riding around campus, books in my basket, the leaves falling and my cardigan actually comfortable in the cool fall weather.

Judging from this week's heat index and severe heat warnings, this dream amy take awhile to come true.

I'll be back at Circle of Friends camp this weekend. I was thinking the other day about how much I've grown and how much has changed in my life since August camp last year. I feel like I've gotten to know myself this year, grown comfortable in my own skin. I've learned crazy huge lessons, walked through some difficult times, and I have known joy. I'm embarking on a new journey in...let's see...one week. :) College is going to be amazing. It's going to be hard and complicated and crazy and weird sometimes, but that's life and overall it's exciting.

I am loved and I am happy.


change your life in thirty days...Holy Spirit edition

forget magazines, weight-loss or healthy living or good relationships or self-help or motivation.

Our God is greater!

At the beginning of senior year, I thought through some things I wanted to accomplish before I went to college. One of these was to read through the entire Bible. This is a long story, but I'll make it short because I have forty chapters to read before I go to bed. :)

On Sunday, that goal "randomly" entered my thoughts. It was God. I checked the calendar and realized that in exactly thirty days, I'd be starting college.

God even knows I have a thing for nice even numbers :)

So I divided up the chapters and realized I'd be reading forty a day, without missing any days, if I were to finish on time. And I am.

God laid this on my heart, and He's going to do it in me. I could say it was me, since I'm doing the reading. But it is He who's given us His Word. It is He who's given us eyes to see and a heart to understand. It is He who laid this goal on my heart in the first place, and it is He who brought it to mind again at exactly the right moment. It is He who's growing me in maturity since the last attempt to push through the Bible and it is He who's graciously shown me how to succeed, this time. I'm reading in order so I don't subconsciously save the less interesting books for last. Although when you're reading forty chapters a day, Leviticus and Numbers aren't so formidable. They end quickly. :)

It is He who gives me the strength to do this. It is He who put this stubbornness in me to succeed this time. It is He who reminds me, and it is He who helps me.

I could say it's me, but that wouldn't be true at all. I just listen and trust and obey.

And it is He who gives me joy.

I'll post the books as I finish them.

One of my favorite stories in Genesis is that of Joseph. Everything seemed to go wrong for him: his brothers hated him, they sold him into slavery, he was unjustly framed by his employer's wife and imprisoned. And then forgotten.
What commands my attention is his constant acknowledgement of God. I circled every time in my Bible, and there are eighteen circles between ch. 40-50. Joseph continually directs the attention, the praise, the glory to God and away from himself. And God gave him favor, and people recognized it. "And Pharaoh said to his servants, 'Can we find a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God?'" (Gen. 41:38)
It's humbling to see Joseph's constant acknowledging of God's supremacy and his own smallness. So often I don't even think about how little I do is really up to me. It could be tempting to say, at the end of the thirty days, that I just pushed really hard and stuck with it and never gave up, and that's how I managed to read through the whole Bible in thirty days. But that wouldn't be true at all, because when all is said and done, I only chose to obey. And God worked this in me.


to ponder

I feel like sometimes in our reaching for outer beauty, we miss or forget the beautification of our hearts.

There's more to beauty than what we can see.

I always make time to get my outsides ready before I go anywhere in the morning. I shower. I iron my clothes and change out of my pj's. I fix my hair and do my makeup. I feed my growling stomach.

But I don't always make time to get ready inside, and to let Jesus prepare my heart.

Just something I'm thinking about.

These words, I love. I have some parts...the bold ones...stuck to the inside of my bathroom cabinet, where I can read and ponder them often.

For attractive lips, speak words of kindness.

For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people.

For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.

For beautiful hair, let a child run his or her fingers through it once a day.

For poise, walk with the knowledge that you never walk alone.

People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed and redeemed; never throw out anyone.

Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, you'll find one at the end of each of your arms. As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.

The beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears, the figure she carries, or the way she combs her hair. The beauty of a woman must be seen from in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides.

The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mole, but
the true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives and the passion that she shows.

The beauty of a woman grows with the passing years.

--Sam Levenson, often quoted by Audrey Hepburn. Emphasis mine.


words and happiness

I went to the library the other day and checked out three books.

I hadn't done this in a long time, because I had a fine and didn't feel like paying it for awhile. Because this wasn't just an ordinary fine. It was a $14.50 fine because last time I went to the library, I kept my two books thirty days past their due date, completely by accident.

One of my best friends and I are driving around downtown one afternoon, and he asks if I ever go to the library. I pop out some kind of excuse like “I used to, but I've been so busy lately,” but then I feel lame and tell the truth.

Actually, I don't go because I have a fine I don't really feel like paying right now. I'm going to take care of it when I get a job and have some extra money.”

Andrew looks over at me. “How big is the fine?”

Fifteen dollars,” I said. I'm pretty sure I'm blushing. I mean, who has a fifteen-dollar fine at the library? I do.

He turns around the vehicle. “Where are we going?” I ask.

We're going to take care of your library fine.”

And I'm nearly speechless. This is so unexpected. I've never had someone want to pay my library fine before. Buy me dessert? Yeah. But a library fine? That's another matter entirely. We pull up to the front, and I finally say, “You don't have to do this, Andrew.”

I know,” he says, “I'm just in the mood to do nice things for people.”

I smile and shake my head. Words fail me, again. We walk into our library. Don't get me wrong, I love libraries and I love the books in them. But our local library is a little...different. We don't have librarians, they're representatives. And almost all of them are cold and stern. Many of them are in fact formidable. And when you want to check out a book, you stand before the long circulation desk with a cold marble counter where four prim, unsmiling Representatives check out books and sternly peer over their bifocals if you make too much noise. You wait on the marble circle beneath the ceiling dome that amplifies your every whisper, near the sign that says, Quiet Please! This Is A Library! And there you “wait for the next available representative.” Yes ma'am.

So we walk in and wait beneath the austere dome before the austere librarians and wait, until we are called over by a Representative dressed entirely in a most unsavory flavor of green, somewhere between lime and olive. She looks over her glasses as Andrew states our purpose in coming. “Hello, I'm here to take care of a fine she doesn't feel like paying.”

Thanks, Andrew.

Ms. Representative raises her eyebrows, unimpressed. She requests my library card, which of course I don't have with me, since I haven't carried it in months and I certainly didn't expect to be coming to the library. I explain this to her, and the corners of her lipstick mouth turn down. I offer her my ID and suggest that perhaps she could access my account this way instead. She sighs, shakes her head, and says, “Well, I'm really not supposed to do this, but since you feel like paying, I will.”

So she accesses my account, Andrew pays the fine, and then, since I've turned eighteen since I've been to the library, she makes me renew my library card and sign a contract. Reading it, I learn that the library policies have changed and that fines go straight to the city collections agency.

That's probably my fault.

I sign the slip, retain my carbon copy, and then Andrew points out a sign on the cold marble countertop which strikes us both as funny. I almost snort, trying to stifle my laughter, but that domed ceiling neutralizes my efforts, causing the corners of Ms. Representative's lipstick mouth descend yet further. She glances up from the computer screen where she's entering my information, and I pretend to have very bad allergies. She ignores it and continues pecking out the words on her keyboard, using a single index finger with a long, acrylic fingernail, intently scanning the keyboard for each letter before poking at it. That aggressive fingernail makes kind of an eerie clicking sound. She states that we've gotten stuck with the slowest typer in the library. I don't doubt it. But finally, she finishes and hands me my shiny new library card.

We leave the library. Cold, gray, and strict it may be, but it holds a wealth of treasure in books and Andrew's once again given me the key. It's hot outside, but it feels wonderful. My chilled toes thaw and I break into a grin.

Thanks, Andrew.

I've been mystified about the scenario ever since. I mean, who pays people's library fines, just to be nice? Andrew did that for me, and it was unexpected and wonderful. Honestly, that fine wasn't that big of a deal, and I could have scraped up the money and paid it myself. But realistically, I wouldn't have made that happen for a long time, and now I don't have to worry about it at all. I can enjoy the library again, thanks to Andrew. I'm now a welcome patron instead of a frowned-upon teenager, and I have access to the wealth of words housed here, waiting for me. I feel like a little kid on a Saturday afternoon again, but better, because I'm now old enough to venture beyond the children's section and I understand the vast amount of information at my fingertips. And I don't take the library for granted anymore.

So walking through the library doors the other day, I rub my shiny new card between my fingers and remember Andrew's extraordinary kindness. That is how I want to be, I think, and I smile at the memory as I walk into a building full of words and happiness.