Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Process Centered Ministry...aka...Simple Church

Wowzas. Blogger has a new interface, and I'm still getting used to it.

Ok. Now that that's out of the way, here is a brief review on the book Simple Church. I know I said I would only do a review if it were super awesome.  Well, in some ways it is, and in other ways it isn't...but I thought I would do one anyway, for the way it got me thinking.

It's definitely not a book for everyone. Average Joe on the street probably has no interest in reading this book.  That is fine.  The intended audience is those in church leadership (though I would maybe recommend it for anyone who was in some sort of leadership role in any ministry, not just a church).

The book itself is not so much a way to start/make a "simple church" as it is a way to get yourself organized into having a really good discipleship...process.  The definition they work with is:
A simple church is designed around a straightforward and strategic process that moves people through the stages of spiritual growth.
The leadership and the church are clear about the process (clarity) and are committed to executing it. The process flows logically (movement) and is implemented in each area of the church (alignment).
The church abandons everything that is not in the process (focus).
(Page 68-69).
Basically the book then goes at great length to unpack that definition, with the four parenthetical words: clarity, movement, alignment and focus being the main idea throughout.

Let's start out with some negatives (so that you end this review with some hope):
I read through some of the negative reviews on amazon of this book (as I always do), and wasn't too swayed by them.  Based on what they said, the reviewers either did not read the book (one reviewer started out by saying, "I haven't read the book but..." um, yeah, you just discredited yourself as a reviewer....but I digress), or they didn't fully get on board with the process their church went with (which the book stresses that everyone (in leadership at the very least) has to be on board).

The main negative that I found was that I felt they were really repetitive and long-winded at times.  I mean, it took until page 68 to get the above definition, and then they go on and on and on and on about what they mean, and why they mean it, and how they mean it, etc.  The book, not counting appendices and notes is 265 pages long, and all about the above definition, basically.  It is a book that is talking about the results of their research, though, so I suppose you could expect it to be a bit dry and repetitive at times.  At some times, I felt like the authors were standing next to me while I was reading aloud what I was already reading, and the other hitting me over the head with his copy of the book.  (ironically, this "brief" review is getting a bit long-winded itself. It is what it is).
All that said, my mind was going a mile a minute while I read this, and I underlined a lot, and interacted in the margins.  It just made so much sense to me. It was stuff I think I might have already had an idea about, but never articulated.  Basically, a church (or ministry, or organization, or business, etc) needs to have a clear, easy to remember/understand mission statement. The staff at this place needs to all be on board with it (if they aren't, then don't hire them), so that it can be implemented as the over-arching theme/culture of the place.  Programs that don't fit into the grand scheme of things are cut.

The "movement" part of this is more difficult for me to fit neatly into the above sentence (but it is still important). I need to use an example, maybe, to illustrate.  Basically the mission statement is also indicative of the process (or as the book said, the purpose is the process....or something like that). So, if your mission statement is: "Love God, Love Others, Serve the World" (yes, I'm borrowing this from the book), the elements of your programming should follow that order.  People shouldn't be in a service group before they're even attending a worship service.  The order of the mission statement suggests that people start by attending a worship service, then move to something like a small group, and then serve together with people in the small group.  Make sense? If not, just read the book. They dedicate pages and pages to explaining it.

Anyway, I couldn't stop thinking about how I would apply this book to a certain ministry.  One of my top five strengths is futuristic, so you can see how this would be right up my alley.  The thing that surprised me, was that no matter how hard I tried, I could only imagine applying it to this ministry, a ministry of my past. So who knows what the Lord is trying to tell me there. We shall see!

Anyway, this is one of those books that I will certainly keep as a reference. It did inspire me to want to go out and change the world (but, I am easily inspired some days) and implement some of the ideas in the book. I think for some ministries, this will be a difficult task, especially for those set in their ways. Change is hard. In all aspects of life (if it were easy, people would stop doing things that they know are bad for them).

Ok. Thanks for reading this "brief" review. I'm still thinking about this book. I'm not sure of what way I will use it. I hope I get to.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Excuses, excuses, and a discovery.

Based on the number of days left in August, and the plans for those days, and the number of posts left to make 31...I might not make it. Now let's not get all Pharisaical about this. The important thing is that I blogged frequently in August. Also, how on earth am I supposed to start going to bed early when midnight arrives so quickly out of the blue! I need to start setting an alarm for 9pm, so I can go to bed on time.
Also, today I discovered Dag Hammarskjöld.  I was looking for quotes about loneliness (I'm not lonely currently, but I have been in the past, and was reflecting on it...I wanted to find something like, "The only cure for loneliness is to realize that other people might be lonely too, and reach out to them." But I couldn't find it. Or, I stopped looking), and found this one:
‎"Never, 'for the sake of peace and quiet,' deny your own experience or convictions. The only kind of dignity which is genuine is that which is not diminished by the indifference of others. Pray that your loneliness may spur you into finding something to live for, great enough to die for. Never measure the height of a mountain until you have reached the top. Then you will see how low it was." Dag Hammarskjöld
So I did a little bit of research and found that Geneva's library has this book that was published after his untimely death (this description is better of the book, I think). So I immediately walked over and checked it out.  I am only a little ways into the forward, but I already like it!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Brunch of champions.

This morning after church we were HUNGRY (hadn't eaten breakfast....and the sermon was all about being full of the spirit. But there were some illustrations about being full of food to help remind us how hungry we were).
So we came home and made a leisurely brunch of champions.  We both had some sort of eggs and toast and coffee, and it was so delicious and of course got me to thinking*.  
Clearly we ate it all long before I thought to take a picture. Was good though. I had scrambled eggs with spinach and onions, toast with butter and jelly, and coffee with milk and cinnamon. Steve had soft boiled eggs with toast and butter, and black coffee.

What if I treated breakfast like something that was as mandatory as getting to work/school/church on time?  Normally my routine is to roll out of bed, shower (if there's time), and grab some sort of lame breakfast on my way out the door to eat in the car (if there's time).  Our first year in Lithuania, there was a yummy bakery on the way to school (well, it's probably still there) that I would stop at and get some pastries to eat as I walked the half-hour to work. That's only one half step up from eating a bagel or a granola bar in the car.  Now of course this may just be my recent self-improvement kick talking, but something about this has got to change.  I've come far enough where I actually like breakfast, and want it (which wasn't always the case).  Now I just want it where it isn't rushed and it is complete.  Whether it is a delicious toast and eggs type of meal, or a shake, I am going to have to remind myself that I think it is worth getting up an extra hour or hour and a half early to sit and eat breakfast.  Granted I am able to say this now, when it isn't extra early in the morning, and when the sun is shining through the window.  It's not always like that, I hear, in the early morning.

The only steps I can think to do to make this happen are to:
1. Go to bed a couple hours earlier.
2. Just suck it up and do it until sitting down to eat breakfast becomes as mandatory as brushing my teeth.

We shall see.

*Got me to thinking. The English language is so weird.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Top Three Things I Have Liked Online This Week

3. Great Depression Cooking
This is just wonderful and precious.  My brother shared a video of Clara's with me, and then I went and watched a few more. I love listening to her stories about what it was like to live through the great depression (puts our "boo-hoo, I can't afford netflix" recession woes to shame!).  I love how her recipes use mainly onions and potatoes.  I will certainly be watching more in the future (how wonderful for her family to have these videos of her!).
Here's the one that got me hooked:

2. Toronto Christmas Market
Ever since spending the two Christmases we were in Europe in beautiful Tallinn, Estonia, I have loved Christmas markets.  Though we were exceptionally blessed to be with family this past Christmas, I secretly wondered how we could try to make it to both Estonia and to our family (did not happen).  After visiting Toronto over Easter, we discovered that Toronto has a Christmas market, and it is only 5 hours north of us!  Score!  This year for Christmas, all I want for my present is to spend a couple days in Toronto at the Christmas market (in addition to seeing family).

1. This musical masterpiece.
I don't know why this 25 seconds of pure genius has resonated with me so much.  By the time I tried to show it to Steve I had already seen it a few times, but was in tears when it was over.  Enjoy.

With under a week left to blog 31 times in August, I'm going to have to step up my game.

The other day I got an email from the library, reminding me that my two books were due back this Saturday.  At first I thought, well this means I need to get reading.  I had already promised (sadly 10 days ago) that I would have a review for one of the books, The Pillars of the Earth, soon.  Well, last night I finished the first chapter, and then fell asleep for another 12 hours.  Don't get me wrong, it is an enjoyable book so far...I am just not reading it as often or as quickly as I would like.  Still not sure what prompted me to sleep for that long.  In this scenario, I am neither an early bird nor a late night owl.  I guess I will have to settle for being an afternoon...lark.
So this morning, after feeling particularly unproductive, I decided that I would go check to see if my textbooks were in the mail, and then head to Starbucks to sip my coffee and read (I am less likely to fall asleep while sitting at Starbucks and reading.  Not sure if it is because of the coffee, the fact that I am usually sitting upright, or that falling asleep in public (outside of riding on an airplane or a bus or a train) is generally frowned upon.  By me.).  My plan B, if the books weren't there, was to head to Starbucks and read the Bible for class, and then maybe blog about it.  For my class on the Holy Spirit, some of the reading that needs to get done before the first class is to read through the book of Acts, while thinking about the question "Who is the Holy Spirit?"
Well, my books did arrive in the mail (hooray!  I love to get books in the mail!)...but in addition to my textbooks, I also ordered a non-textbook (though still thought-provoking and educational in nature), one that had been recommended at the conference I attended in June.  So of course I chose to take that book to Starbucks to sit and read (not my textbooks.  Not my Bible.  Not the library books that are due on Saturday (though I did just renew them, so I can procrastinate for two more weeks)).
It is so refreshing.  I have only read the first chapter so far, but I will probably sit and read more as soon as I am done writing this blogpost.  What's the book called, you ask?  Well, thank you for asking.  It is called Simple Church: Returning to God's Process for Making Disciples, by Thom S. Rainer and Eric Geiger.  So far they have introduced that research (strongly) suggests that thriving churches are those that follow a simple plan...providing people opportunities to be the church....and churches that are merely offering a ton of programs are dead...they are offering people opportunities to do church.
Here are some quotes I liked from the first chapter:
"At thirty thousand feet Pastor Rush is thinking of people in his church. He is praying and thinking. Some tough questions are emerging. Are the people in his church being transformed? Is his church making real disciples, the kind of disciples Jesus made? Or is everyone just busy?" (Page 7)
"First, we are not suggesting that the simple approach to ministry is a change in doctrine or conviction. Thom has written several books on the primacy of sound, biblical, and orthodox doctrine in growing churches. On that issue we do not compromise.
Second, we are not saying that churches should become simple because it is in style or culturally hip. A revolution goes against the cultural grain. Churches that are simple are not mirroring the culture. They are not mimicking the world in order to reach the world.
In fact, the opposite is true. You must get this." (Page 14-15)
"Something must change, but Pastor Rush is struggling with where to begin. He understands the what. He has a sense of what the church should be doing. He believes the church should be committed to evangelism, prayer, helping people build relationships with believers, seeing people grow deeper, serving, and worship.
He also has a sense of why. He deeply desires to see God glorified. He struggles with the how. One burning question has entered his mind: How can we structure all of this to come together to make disciples?" (Page 22)
"To have a simple church, you must design a simple discipleship process. This process must be clear. It must move people toward maturity. It must be integrated fully into your church, and you must get rid of the clutter around it.
It is much easier to write and read that paragraph that to make it happen." (Page 26)

After I am done reading this book, maybe I will have another blog post about it...but don't hold your breath unless the book turns out to be super-awesome (hopefully it will be!).

Monday, August 22, 2011

Feeling saucy. Another picture story.

Yesterday I was given some peppers and mushrooms, so naturally today I thought I would make some mass quantities of pizza sauce.

I went to the Farmer's Market here in town, which is open on Monday afternoons/evenings and got a  lot of tomatoes.

Had to do these in a couple of batches.  I boiled the tomatoes to make them softer for when I put them in the blender.  Also, it makes it easier to take the skins off if you boil them (though, I decided that it was too much work to take all the skins I left the skins on about 3/4 of them.  The internet said it would be ok, and that it was a matter of personal preference.

Lovely red blended tomatoes.

Added some salt, pepper, basil, and oregano.

Meanwhile, sauteing peppers, onions, garlic, etc

Blended the peppers/onions/garlic, and poured that into the mix.

The key ingredient.  Finely chop, and then saute.  Do not put in blender.

Like this.

At this point I realize that I will not be able to fit the small amount of leftover sauce that I intended to add to this, as well as the tomato I get the next biggest pot, which also happens to be the canning pot.

Much better.

Plenty of room.

Bring to boil, stirring a lot.  Then let simmer for at least 15 minutes.  Stir often.

Helps to have this handy device for putting the sauce into jars.

Tada!  The tupperware is for the sauce that we will use sometime this week. Plus I used up all my jars.

Getting reading to be sealed.  The little one wouldn't fit.

Almost done.  Have to sit on this towel for 12 hours.

I wonder how long this will last?


Over the summer, I have been trying to incorporate healthier foods into my diet (I haven't really thoughtfully eliminated any foods yet, but you've got to start somewhere).
Now, perhaps you know that my favorite breakfasts ever were those we were served in Germany. Some sort of bread/roll with a cream-cheese-garlic/herb spread, cheese, and coffee.  I wanted so badly to adopt that meal plan for every morning of the rest of my life.  Actually, I still do.
But the more I read, the more I am convinced that I need to be eating more fruits and vegetables (yes, I've seen a food pyramid before, and yes, I've seen the newest food circle, blah blah blah), and less sugary, white-bready, pasta-y foods (or, I need to be in search of things labeled 100% Whole Grain).
Now, I know this is not all new information.  But up until lately (or over the last few months), I haven't been convinced that I need to adopt a healthy eating lifestyle, even though all the rest of the fat Americans do.  Just like most smokers who don't live under a rock must know that smoking is bad for you and others, you still have to want to quit smoking in order to even try to quit smoking.  I have to want to eat healthier in order to actually start eating healthier (not just to stay thin, but to be healthy).
Well folks, I'm not sure what or who intrigued me to study what it means to eat healthier, but I feel like I am on that road, and I am actually liking it.  So far.  I still haven't really eliminated that much sugar.  But what I have done is started to make shakes (or...smoothies?), so that I can get my daily serving of fruits/vegetables in a relatively pain-free way (eating fruit is not as enjoyable taste-wise for me as it is for others, but I'm getting better).
My brother, who is way into eating healthy these days, sent me this recipe, which I have since modified in various ways.  I try to drink some of this stuff daily!

Here's the original recipe:
1 cup blueberries (can use frozen blueberries)
1 banana
1 tbsp peanut butter
1/2 cup honey bunches of oats
1 tbsp flaxseed
1 1/2 cup skim or 1% milk
2 ice cubes
1 scoop chocolate whey protein
Blend and drink.

I of course made it this way the first few times (and it was yumm), but then modified it for my liking (or to what ingredients I had laying around).
For one, I tend not to measure any of the ingredients too much, just eye it up for the most part.  Instead of  flaxseed, I add a tbsp of flaxseed oil (this I actually do measure out, because it is so darn expensive compared to the other ingredients). It is good for your hair, skin, and nails (and who doesn't want good hair, skin, and nails?).  Sometimes instead of milk, I will add coffee.  I will often add some coffee or blueberry flavored yogurt.  I also always throw in a couple handfuls of spinach (of course), and the protein whey I scoop in is Vanilla flavored.  Other than that, I stick to the recipe pretty closely.  Oh, and the honey bunches of oats also has almonds in it.  And I just recently started using some healthified organic peanut butter, which tastes pretty good considering sugar is not the main ingredient.

Health in a blender.  Watch it spin round to a beautiful oblivion.
The only drinking vessel that my yummy shake will fit in is this hefty Švyturys 1 liter beer stein.   Švyturys is brewed in my Lithuanian hometown of Klaipeda.

Even with all that spinach, it still turns a pretty purply color.  Sometimes I can drink it all in one morning, and other times I split it into two days' worth of shakes.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Baby you got a stew going.

Memory is a funny thing.  I can remember how to make just about any drink at Starbucks (or, at least the drinks from 3-5 years ago), but I can't remember what presents Steve and I exchanged last Christmas.  I can remember certain test questions that I got wrong over 10 years ago (though at the time of taking the test, I couldn't remember the answer to the question, apparently).   I have the tendency to hold grudges, but once I've made up my mind to forgive, I also am able to forget (at least for petty things....and most things are petty things).
The other day, Steve and his staff spent a day at this farm (I think), learning a lot about how important it is to know where our food comes from.  They also learned how to de-feather and de-head chickens.  It was a hands-on learning experience.  When I saw the pictures from their day, I declared that I would certainly become a vegetarian.  I mean sure, I love bacon, and don't like berries or fish (and whatever else vegetarians must eat), but I'm sure I could become a vegetarian if I put my mind to it.

Steve, holding a chicken's head, prior to cutting it off and spraying blood on his arm.

Fast forward to yesterday/today.  I had just read this blog, which reminded me that a while ago I had read this blog...and of course I got inspired to make my own chicken stock (completely forgetting how just days before I had declared that I would be a vegetarian).
Soon, both Geneva and Trinity will provide a lot of our meals, so grocery shopping is probably going to become nearly obsolete (with the exception of breakfast foods, because we're too lazy to walk to school and eat breakfast, most days).  Sure, we usually cook for ourselves on the weekends, but still.  Grocery shopping is a lot different during the school-year than in the summertime.  So, we are incredibly blessed to be fed.  The chicken stock will come in handy during breaks, when we have to fend for ourselves, food-wise.  It's also during these times when our bodies tend to shut down and we get sick, so things made with chicken stock will come in handy!

Now, maybe you know that I can't just take a recipe for what it says on the page, I have to make it my own (with the exception of baking....I think there is a science to baking that you shouldn't mess with too much).

So, I took some advice from the above two blogs, but I didn't follow it exactly.  I went to the store and bought an already cooked whole chicken (because, for $4.99, you can't beat that).  I took it home, ripped it apart, pulling the meat from the bones and then throwing everything that wasn't edible (in my opinion) into the pot (I almost became a vegetarian 5-6 times during this process.  I don't do meat on the bone well).  I then threw in whatever onion we already had cut up (maybe like 3/4 cup?), a bunch of baby carrots, whatever celery we had in the fridge (maybe...4-5 stalks, leaves and all), a couple handfuls of spinach, and two cloves of garlic.  Then I filled the pot until it was about half full of water (or, so most things were covered...there were still a few chicken bones peaking out), and added two glugs of apple cider vinegar.

After it started boiling, I transferred the whole thing to a crock pot, seasoned it (tons of parsley, a little sage, and a little thyme.  Sorry Simon and Garfunkel, but I just don't like Rosemary all that much), and left it on low for about 4 hours.  It helps in this situation if you have errands to run.  1) so that the time passes faster, and 2) so that your nose doesn't become used to how good the stock smells, and when you get home you will be greeted with deliciousness.

When the 4 hours was nearly up, I realized that I really have no clue what to do with chicken stock once it is done (I mean, yes, put it in the freezer....but should you measure it out?  How much do you measure out?  What does one even use chicken stock for, outside of soup?  And even then, how much do you use?).  Luckily the internet came to my rescue again.  After reading a couple of these recipes, I decided that I would measure out the stock cup by cup, and store it in the freezer in my reused sandwich meat containers (of which we have billions).
A little over 5 cups of chicken stock.

After scooping out the flavored water and putting it into the freezer, I thought the ingredients still looked good.

Well, as good as chicken innards and veggies that have been soaking all day can look.  It certainly smelled good.

I had read here that if you like being frugal (and I do like the idea of being frugal), you can reuse the ingredients that you used in the first batch to make more batches.  So I threw everything back into the crock, added 6 cups of water, and now we're on to round two.  Not sure if I should let this batch sit for longer, or if it won't matter.  Apparently you can make stock until the bones just about dissolve.  I am not sure that I will take it that far.  Our freezer is only so big.
Round 2.  I'm listening to Simon and Garfunkel and just realized that I didn't add any more seasonings to this batch.  Oh well.  Whatever soup I make in the future will probably have more added.

Monday, August 15, 2011


I am without a picture or too many thoughts right now.  Or, without too many organized thoughts.  I have been thinking about this lately, but not enough to blog about it yet.  Life has been weird these last couple of days*.  Steve is exceptionally busy, and I am exceptionally not busy.  Looking forward to September, when it will even out and we will both be moderately busy.
I checked out the book Pillars of the Earth from the library the other day, with hopes of having a book review for this blog.  And I will.  But the book is like a million pages long, so it might be awhile.

*All of August

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Niagara Falls. It looks like the way past, but it is only a couple of weeks ago.

Taken from the Maid of the Mist, July 2011

Church Rush


A) The trip to church that includes racing through yellow lights and generally getting frustrated with those who are driving slower than you....because you are running late.
B) That feeling you get when you are connecting with the lyrics, or the sermon, or the fellowship, etc while  worshiping corporately.
C) The line at Starbucks (which is across the street) post-church, where coffee and fellowship happen there more than with the free cookies and coffee provided by the church.
D) All of the Above, on any given Sunday

Beautiful Movie

Tonight I wanted to watch a movie.  No big deal, right?  Wrong. 
We recently mourned the loss of our first tv we ever bought by buying a newer, bigger, flatter, HDer tv (how's that for adjective order?).  This is exciting, except for whatever reason, if you want to watch a movie, you have to unplug something that has to do with the cable box and replace those plugs with something that has to do with the dvd player.  For some reason, you just can't have it both ways.  You can't toggle back and forth between watching House Hunters International and a movie.  Normally Steve is the one who deals with this, so no need to learn it. 
You may be thinking, "But Laura, didn't you major in hooking up things to a tv?"  Well, it's true, I did.  But I found out too late in the game that I really wasn't into it, unfortunately.  Perhaps my first clue should've been that the main classes I wanted to take were Story-Telling and Screenwriting.  And I loved classes that talked about film.  I like* movies (um, hello.  This is a post about me wanting to watch a movie).  I like photography.  It seemed like a good idea at the time.  I discovered too late that I probably should've majored in English, or Writing, or Art (which is what I really like about film....and life in general), because I wasn't really into producing movies, or tv/radio shows, or the news, etc....I don't have a knack for things that have to do with cords or really any of the equipment needed for electronic media production.  Anyway.  That was a long time ago.  And really, no matter what, I would've gone to seminary, which is where I am at now.  The Lord knows where I'm supposed to be and what I'm supposed to be doing even if I don't.
Ok, back to me wanting to watch a movie.  Steve is away at a retreat all weekend, so he isn't here to do all the things that one needs to do when they want to watch a movie in our apartment.  And we've already reviewed the embarrassment that is me, not knowing how to hook it up.
Anyway, I sent a text to Steve, hoping he would have time to respond, and then searched on google for some possible instructions.  While there were plenty of instructions for plenty of different scenarios, I didn't feel like any of them really covered what I was looking for. And I hadn't heard from Steve yet, so I just decided to play around with it until the movie was not only playing but also the sound working.  I took a picture of how everything was plugged in, so I could put it back to the way it was if all else failed (and, if all else failed, I was ready to just go ahead and watch the movie on the computer...but why watch a movie on a computer when you have one of those big flat tvs?).
Short story long, after several trial and errors, I finally worked it out so that all the right things were either plugged in or not plugged in, and I could watch/hear my movie.  Sweet, personal victory.
The movie I watched is a favorite, Away We Go.  We rented it and watched sometime last year, and then went out immediately and bought it.  Somehow when I went to watch it tonight, it was still in its plastic.  I am sure that I posted something on this blog about liking it, but can't find it anywhere (so no idea when we actually watched/bought it...but probably last summer?).
Anyway, I really, really like it, and was reminded of it again tonight.  I would wholeheartedly recommend it (though with some qualifications: it is definitely not a kids movie.  For mature audiences only.  Some F-words, and sexual talk.  No nudity or violence that I can remember.  Anyway).

Here are 5 things that I really like:
1. The soundtrack.  Especially all the songs by Alexi Murdoch. And the always catchy "What Is Life" by George Harrison.
2. Beautifully shot. Or, at least I think so.
3. I love the characters of Burt and Verona.  I want to see them find their "home."
4. All-start cast: John Krasinski, Maya Rudolph, Catherine O'Hara, Jeff Daniels, Allison Janney (I love Allison Janney!  She plays a sort of outrageous character in this movie, but I love her anyway), Jim Gaffigan, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Melanie Lynsky...etc!  Touching performance by Chris Messina.
5.  There's a realness to this movie.  Parts that make you laugh, and parts that make you cry.

Exchanging vows on a trampoline.

*When learning the Lithuanian language, we learned that it is grammatically wrong to say things like "I love coffee" or "I love this movie."  You love people. Not things. So I've tried to be aware of that. Sometimes.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Some faves

I am sitting here trying to find a blogpost from the past and therefore rereading old blogposts.  It is a quite nice way to take up some time, though I am unsuccessful in finding the post I want to find.  I probably deleted it or something.  Oh well.

Anyway, here are some ones that I particularly liked, even though they weren't what I was looking for:

3. Searching for a song.  It was driving me crazy!
2. Found the song!  Still love.
1. The analogy still holds strong.

Edit: And this....Bucket List of sorts

Friday, August 12, 2011

Hula-hooping is the poorman's treadmill.

You may or may not remember that a few months ago I decided I would try to work out on a regular basis (well, I mean, I tried last summer too...and a few years back....but this time I really meant it).  You may remember that I tried out Jillian Michael's 30 Day Shred.  While I have no real complaints about it (other than I hate jumping-jacks), I couldn't see myself making it a habit (as in, once 30 days was up, and I had mastered all the modified workouts, I couldn't see myself doing it for the next 80 years).  And really, I didn't want to lose the 20 pounds it said I would (I didn't). All I really wanted to do was find some sort of workout routine that I enjoyed, that was low cost/ low maintenance, and would qualify for my "30 minutes a day."  I am in it for the feel-good hormones that working out provides, and the long-term health benefits.  And also so my pants aren't so tight.  But really for health. 
Anyway, shortly after I "completed" the shred, I read somewhere that Hula-hooping is a legitimate form of exercising.  Good cardio. Burns calories. Works the muscles in one's torso and thighs. Etc.  Really, what more could I ask for?  Plus, I am a really good hula-hooper.  There has never been a time where I remember not being able to hula-hoop. 
So, I went out and bought a hula-hoop for five bucks, figuring, if it was just too silly to hula-hoop for 30 minutes a day in my living room, I was only out five dollars, and could probably easily find a kid somewhere who wanted the hula hoop.
Turns out, I have a high tolerance for what's silly, because I have kept up with it all summer!

Top Five Reasons Why Hula-Hooping Is My Main Form of Formal Exercise:
5. Inexpensive
4. Doesn't take up a lot of space (seriously, we have a tiny living room, and I manage just fine with out knocking anything over while hula-hooping).
3. You can watch TV or read a non-school book pretty easily while hula-hooping, making 30 minutes fly by.
2. While Jillian seems to think that my upper body needs to be toned, it's really the middle part that needs the most work, which is exactly what hula-hooping focuses on.
1.  It is low impact, and I don't have to wear any sort of athletic gear (shoes, sports bra, etc) to hula hoop.  I can just roll out of bed and hula hoop if I want to.

A recent picture of me hula-hooping.  Well, the most recent I could find.  My haircut and sense of style are the same as when I was 4, so does it really matter?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Churchy church

After much searching, we think that we've found a church that we will stay at for a while.  Though, we've thought this before...but you have to save a little room for hope.  I hope we've found a church that we will stay at for awhile.

This is a church in our neighborhood...but not our church.

The past few years of searching has been an interesting ride.  We've gone to several different churches for several months at a time, worshiped in styles different than what we were used to (we're not just talking about music here people), and met many people that we still know (or, at least, on social media).  We've learned a lot.  Ultimately, positive things aside, we are looking for a church to call home.

But what are the essentials of finding a church?  What are merely details?  There is a fine line, for some.
Here are some things that people might look for in a church (which would you say are essential?):
  • A pastor/priest/vicar/etc that preaches/teaches the Gospel.  From the Bible.
  • Good fellowship.
  • Theological agree-ability (like, do you think infants should be baptized, dedicated, or left in the nursery? how uncomfortable will it make you if you attend a church that does things differently than you would?)
  • Having a pastor
  • Having a pastor that recognizes that (s)he hasn't met you yet (or, is it a deal breaker if there is the "(s)"?)
  • Ways to get involved in the church community (missions, Bible studies, outreach, Sunday School etc)
  • Style agree-ability (liturgical, or not? contemporary or traditional? dress or jeans?)
  • Friendly people
  • Variety in generations/age groups/stages of life (will it bother you if there are no families in the church? or if there are no single people? etc)
  • close to home ( long does it take you to get to church?  can you walk?)
  • Age of the church (would you rather go to a church plant or one that's been around for 100+ years?)
  • Size of the church (not the building per se, though that might be important too...but the number of people)
  • Is it a thriving church?  Or one that can use some work?
  • Does it provide opportunities to be mentored?  To mentor others?
  • What time does church start?  How many services are offered?
We've thought through some of these more than others.  Sometimes you can have a list of essentials, or what you think are essentials, but then just have a feeling about a place.  Sometimes the feeling is wrong.

Sorry for such generalities, but I honestly don't know who reads this blog.  I don't want to incriminate any of the churches that we no longer attend (over the past 5 years we've regularly attended an E-free church, a Southern Baptist church, a Mennonite leaning church (well, it didn't really have a pastor/denomination, but a lot of the folks who attended came from that flavor, so that was the style), and an Anglican church).  Make whatever judgements you want, though most of our reasons for no longer attending these churches have little to do with the denomination (well, for the most part).  Having grown up Conservative Baptist (Steve) and Evangelical Covenant (me), you can see that each one of these would have something different than what we were used to.   

Over the summer, we have been attending this church.  So far, we really like it!  They preach from the Bible, there are many generations of people that attend, the style is sort of middle of the road (not too this, not too that), the people are friendly, the pastor is friendly, there seem to be many ways to be involved (more so when the school year starts), they are involved in missions, they are thriving, etc etc etc!

I guess it really comes down to is, why do we go to church in the first place?  How does this drive our expectations?   Is it ok to be picky about a church, or should we just suck it up and attend one...and get involved so that we can create the culture we're looking for?  Or a mix of both?

Alright.  This is long-winded. I really just wanted to announce that we've found a church that we like.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

What you see isn't always what you get.

It's no secret that HGTV is the background to my life these days.  It is probably not good for my already dreaming heart to watch House Hunters International, but I indulge anyway.  My favorite episodes are when people happen upon a heap of rubbish house with many needed renovations but a good view, and decide to buy it, because they see it as an opportunity to make it their own, or to get away from it all, or because they are visionaries and love this sort of project.
One of the shows on HGTV that makes me nervous is Get It Sold, where people who have been having a difficult time selling their house get tips on how to make their house appear better.  I should say, I'm not necessarily against when they do obvious things on the show, like cleaning, and adding furniture to rooms to show potential.  I'm even not opposed to adding some paint to walls to make a room more inviting.  What makes me nervous is when they start spray-painting refrigerators to make them match other kitchen appliances, sticking fake veneer-ish tiles to the kitchen floor to give it that nice tiled look, and spray-painting the brown patches on the grass to make the yard look green.  I know these folks are probably low on time and money, but I would hate to buy a house only to find out that certain things only appeared to be what they were (whether the kitchen floor is ugly underneath the fake tile, or when the fake tile starts pealing away, I the new owner am going to have to replace the kitchen floor eventually...resenting the fact that the previous owner had pulled the wool over my eyes.  Maybe that's why House Hunters International is much more appealing.  Those buyers know when they're getting a pile of crap -- and they buy it anyway.  People, I think, like to know what they're getting into (though, if you are having a hard time selling your house, maybe take some advice and do some legitimate fixes that would be more appealing to a buyer, instead of trying to hide blemishes).
Sure, you could spray paint the front of this house to up its curb appeal...

...but it doesn't change the fact that it has no floor....

...or back wall.  Did I mention that it's lakeshore property though?
Get It Sold would take this birdhouse and add a fake back wall and floor, and spray paint the whole thing a pleasant color.  Maybe even add a curtain to a window they fashioned with paint.  HH International would say, "It is what it is. But it has a lot of potential and is in a great location."  Which one would you rather buy (though they are essentially the same house)?

On this same note, I recently just finished the book Veneer: Living Deeply in a Surface Society, by Tim Willard and Jason Locy.  I have mixed feelings about this book.  I would definitely not be against you reading it.  But it was definitely one of those books where sometimes the authors hit the nail on the head, and sometimes they missed it.  Or they just hit it in a different way than I would have (this analogy is falling apart).  I agree that we as humans like to put up walls (Veneer) and appear a certain way to keep up with societal norms/the Joneses....and that we as Christians have been called to something more extraordinary.  But the third quarter of the book just seems so flowery and floaty and....kind of blog-like in its style.  There were times when I wanted to write an argument in the margins (but, it is not my book to do that was laying in our apartment because Steve was reading it for a book study.  Laura has ample amount of time and sees a book lying around...she's going to read it).   I also wondered at times how someone who wasn't well-versed in the Bible would read it in comparison to someone who is.  I wonder who would like the book more?

Anyway, it's a pretty quick read, and if you're strapped with time, maybe just read the first few chapters and then skip to chapter 10 and read to the end.  You could still get inspired to live a more authentic life, in both your relationship with God, and with others (love God, love your neighbor) by reading this abbreviated version.  Just like I would rather buy a house that has obvious problems over a house that has hidden problems, so too would people rather have relationships with others who are not hiding something.  Community.  Authenticity.  All words we like to throw around, but it is easier said than done.  There is probably some sort of an analogy about a Carpenter I could throw in there, but I won't.

Cutting Coops

For the past few Sundays, we've been buying a Sunday paper in order to try cutting coupons.  I haven't kept track of our savings, but I do know that while they are kind of meager, they already exceed the cost spent on the Sunday papers.  So that is a win.  Recently I found out that I can register my Giant Eagle Card online and "cut" some coupons on there (and when I swipe my card at the store, if I've purchased one of the items that I "cut" a coupon for, it will automatically deduct the savings!  I haven't gotten a chance to try that yet, because the internet is still down in our apartment....or should I say, it is down for my computer.  It works on Steve's computer (which is what I am using now).  Soon I will have to figure this out, so I don't have to keep using Steve's computer or going to coffeeshops to use their internet (um, hello.  This is a post about saving money, not spending it all on coffee and free internets).  Anyway.  So that is exciting.  I might actually go to a coffeeshop tomorrow and check it out.

Anyway, here is a list of things that I like about cutting coupons:
1. The grocery store will match any coupon under $1.00
2. It doesn't take that much time or energy at all
3. The only tools you need are a scissors and a little coupon carrying case (organizing them by month, so not only do you have a place to keep your coops, but you can also organize them so you don't miss when they expire).
4. You can apparently do it online (as mentioned above....I know that you can get coupons online and print them out....which I've tried.....but I'm not a huge fan because I still have to use my paper and my ink).
5. Just found out that our* church has a coupon (can't remember what it's called), so I can donate any coupons I'm not using and sift through and maybe find one that I can use and just take it!  The past few weeks I've just tossed the coupons I don't think we'll use.  This is much better.

What do you like about coupons?  What don't you like?  Or, do you even use coupons?


*oh man.  I hope we can call it "our" church.  Maybe another post on how the church hunt is going soon.

A bunch of coupons for church.  Since I'm currently  not making an income, this could be like a tithe or something? (though maybe it would be more accurate to ask how much I like cutting coupons I won't use when I'm up to my ears in homework).

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Getting rid of 4 pairs of shoes

So in 2008, I made up a huge list of resolutions to try to accomplish over the year.  Number 195 on the list says, "195. Get rid of two pairs of shoes for every new pair you buy."  In 2008, I was pretty good at this (especially since we were packing up or giving away all of our things before we left the country), and then sort of forgot about it (not that I've been on a shoe-buying spree in the last couple years or anything...and I did end up leaving a lot of shoes behind in Lithuania).  Anyway, it is highly uncommon for me to buy two pairs of shoes in one outing, so on the way out of the store the other day Steve said, "So now you have to get rid of 4 pairs of shoes."

Challenge accepted.

Here are 4 pairs of shoes I will not miss, that I will bring to Salvation Army soon:
These shoes were old when I designated them to be my "Eagle Ridge Shoes" in the summer of 2003.  I thought they would be perfect for tromping around in the forest and frequenting campfires.  At that point, they were so old, I didn't care if they got destroyed.  Anyway, somehow I still have them.  I tried to wear them for old time's sake, but they apparently have no traction whatsoever on the bottom.  Time to say goodbye.

These sandals I think I got when Steve and I were dating.  They probably cost more than all the other sandals I've ever owned put together.  They are still very comfortable, and provide my feet with lots of support.  However.  They smell bad.  I think beyond washing.  I am considering giving them to my sister's dog to eat, since he liked them so much last time I wore them.  That, or Salvation Army.

These are cute, but they hurt my feet so bad.  And I can't remember the last time I wore them, or the reason I got them, or for how long I've had them (probably as long as the first pair).

Ummmm.....not sure about these.  I don't know that I've ever worn them, and I can't remember where they came from. This leads me to believe that they were either a gift or a hand-me-down.  Sorry if they were from you, or your former favorite pair of shoes.  Steve thinks they look like grandma shoes.  Out they go!  To a better home.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Live from Starbucks

So...I was being lazy yesterday and didn't post anything.  I thought it would be justifiable because it could count toward a sabbath or something.  I would just have to post twice today or another day this week.

In addition to babysitting for friends this morning/afternoon, our internet is not working in our apartment.  So ample excuses for not posting twice today.  Steve and I needed time away from the apartment anyway, so we loaded up our computers, a book, a magazine, a sweatshirt, and headed to Starbucks for the coffee, free internets, hyper-airconditioning, and time to just get away.

I took some time to see if any of my professors posted a syllabus for my classes this Fall (so I can add to my amazon cart all the textbooks I will need).  Only 2 of the 4 syllabi are posted so far, and a few of the books that I will need I already have.  So that is a score.  I am not concerned about the time yet, because I just recently got Amazon student, which enables me to get free two-day shipping.  Also, the biggest news with regards to school is that I just found out that I was awarded a full-tuition scholarship again!  Very excited and feeling blessed and relieved.  Though, now I feel uber-responsible to not waste this education that was/will be clearly a gift from the Lord.  I can't just go out and become a bum, I will actually need to apply it.  (I should stress that I didn't really have any intentions of becoming a bum, but the Lord's providence is a good reminder that I need to be a good steward (stewardess?  Flight attendant.) of His gifts.  I am excited to see where God will take us/how He will use me with this seminary education.

What else is exciting.  I ordered a decaf double tall no whip white mocha, which is very good (no caffeine after 6pm for this girl).  Hopefully the internet situation will get figured out in our apartment.  Until then, you will have to settle for updates via coffee shops that have nothing to do with anything.

I still owe you a picture of the tiny hat/yarn cozy I crocheted earlier this summer.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

New shoes.

Today I got new shoes.  I haven't gotten new shoes in a long time (like, a year, if you don't count the shoes I got for last October's wedding...and even that was practically a year ago), and these particular pairs were not only on clearance, but they were buy one get one half off.  Score.
I left all of my brown flats in Lithuania, so these were a long time coming.

And these were cute.  Totally justifiable. 
In other news, we have been going to more movies the last two nights than the rest of 2011 so far.  Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Captain America. Both movies that are good to go with a group to see, for us anyway, because we probably wouldn't choose those on our own.  Both were enjoyable though!  And probably* based on true stories.  Both of them.  But don't take my word for it.

*Probably not.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Summer reading. Top 5.

Man.  Coming up with a blog once a day is tough. Maybe it would be easier if I started earlier in the day.  I'm still learning.
Here are 5 books that I read this summer, that I would recommend.  I'm not going to say too much about each one, because you're already online.  You can look them up if you're interested (ok, ok, I'll give you some links at least).

5.  Child 44, by Tom Rob Smith.  A gritty, suspenseful book that takes place in Soviet times.  The ending is a bit cheesy, but only because it is setting you up for the sequel, which I'm currently reading (The Secret Speech).  At times, it reminded me of George Orwell's 1984.

4. The Help, by Kathryn Stockett.  Actually this story takes place also in Soviet times (or should I say nearly the same decade), but in the the United States.  A white woman writes the stories of various black women in the community, who have basically raised all the white kids in the houses they worked in.  1.  I still sometimes can't believe that this is a part of our nation's history. 2.  It saddens me that racism still exists. 3.  They made a movie that is coming out soon, so you'll probably want to read this beforehand.

3. Between Shades of Gray, by Ruta Sepetys.  This is another Soviet story, this one about a Lithuanian family who is sent to labor camps in the northern part of Siberia....told from the point of 16 year old Lina, an aspiring artist who documents the story via secret drawings.   It is a totally quick read (the chapters are short, and the style suggests that high schoolers could read it in English class), but worth your time.  Based on true stories of the author's Lithuanian relatives.

2. Peace Like A River, by Leif Enger.  Come to think of it, this story also takes place in the same era as the rest, but in Minnesota/North Dakota region.  Told from the point of view of 11 year old Reuben, a family takes a road trip to search for their convict brother.  A really sweet story...and the presence of God is assumed in such a way that He's everywhere, yet you don't feel like the book has an agenda.

1. Grounded in the Gospel: Building Believers the Old Fashioned Way, by J.I. Packer and Gary A. Parrott.  The only non-fiction book on the list.  Highly recommend for those who are in Christian leadership in any way shape or form, but especially those who are passionate about teaching the faith to others (in Sunday School or elsewhere).  Loved it.  Though, it is only number one on the list because that is the order I thought of it, it is not necessarily better than the rest (though it is in a completely different genre).

Enjoy!  What books have you been reading this summer?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Oh, the injustice!

A week ago today I went to my least favorite store to turn in a disposable camera full of pictures (well, if by "full" you mean "27") to be developed.  Now, it has been a few years since I've gotten filmed developed, and I'm learning that I'm a little impatient when it comes to this kind of thing.  They told me that the pictures would be ready by this past Tuesday after 4pm.  Well, running a little behind, I went in this afternoon (a full two days later, I should point out, if you're reading this in the future and today is no longer Thursday), and the pictures still were not ready.  I suppose technically if they were ready sometime next month it would still technically be after 4pm last Tuesday.  Anyway, I was sort of frustrated because I try to avoid this particular store that must not be named, so it's not like I was in there to fill up my big American shopping cart in addition to picking up pictures...the pictures were my only reason for going there.  So I will wait a few more days, lest I have to make a special trip there again and leave empty handed again (the store security cameras have probably rarely seen someone leave there empty handed).
As I was stomping out of there, vowing that as soon as I got those pictures it would be the last time I shopped there, I had a couple of thoughts.
The first was:  how silly of me to be so frustrated at something so trivial.  Big deal.  I will eventually get those pictures.  Probably.  And even if I don't, there are worse things going on in the world right now (and they have nothing to do with me not getting my way).
The second thought was (and it doesn't really have much connection to the first thought): If I boycott (which wouldn't take much more action on my part) this particular store that I really dislike, but continue shopping at a certain other similar store that I think is more aesthetically pleasing in every way, am I really helping any cause whatsoever?  I mean, other than feeling like this particular big-buy-everything-here type of store seems to care a little bit more about making you feel like you're not on another planet when you shop there, are there really any fundamental differences?  Both seem to put local ma&pa type businesses out of business, both offer mass-produced/inexpensive goods, etc.  Am I really helping the local economy if I shop at one and boycott another?
And where do you draw the line with buying local?  I'm thinking outside of groceries here.  If I vow to only buy local or handmade clothes (for example), do I have to guarantee that the fabric and thread used to make said garments is also local?  And what does local mean?  Made in the same city?  State? Country? Or does it mean that the owners of the store and the store itself is local, but the merchandise can be from anywhere?  Or, anywhere as long as it's not a country that runs sweatshops?  You can see where this would get complicated.  Where does shopping online fall in all of this?  Is there a fundamental difference between shopping for books on Amazon and buying your clothes on Etsy when it comes to supporting your downtown shopping areas (if they even still can exist)?
Anyway.  I don't have any answers...but perhaps if I think about it long enough I will have some ideas for a new year's resolution that has something to do with this issue by January/end of December.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Homemade matching pillows for our eclectic furniture. A picture story.

Pillow forms, because I am a beginner.

Some essential supplies.

Lots of pinning happened.  I should also mention that lots of rethreading and threading the bobbin happened.  Sewing would be a lot better if machines just did that on their own.

The first completed pillow!!

The back of the first completed pillow.  It's like an envelope. You can take the covers off and wash them as needed (or replace them during the holiday season with red and green pillow covers.  Or whatever).

All four are done!  I love our pink couch.

Stack of completed pillows.

Now people can nap how God intended.

This is the couch where the pillows are actually a must.
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