Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Couple of Good Reads

When I stumble upon a great article or blog post that I think is really meaningful, I like to share it with the world.  Here are a few that I've recently run across that I felt like sharing...

First one is from Donald Miller and one of his blog posts, "Every Good Story Must Endure Conflict".  It's a great reminder that no where is "easy" promised to us in the Bible - just the promise that God will give us strength to overcome whatever obstacle we may be facing.  And I think I'll take that promise rather than "easy", because I believe that is where character and that elusive search for "who we are" is found.

Second is from Sara Hagerty over at her blog, Every Bitter Thing is Sweet.  I had the privilege to know Sara through Young Life in college and have followed her blog for the past couple of years and the journey that she and her husband Nate have gone through in adopting two children from Ethiopia.  She is an amazing writer, with a gift to communicate the immensity and magnificence of God through the written word, and her latest post, "Uncomfortable Extravagance" is a beautiful reminder of God's relentless love and answered prayers.

And the third comes from a blog that I just discovered today through Donald Miller's blog, called The Spiritual Klutz.  I like this guy, the way he writes, and the honesty and authenticity in which he writes.  Be sure to check it out.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Two Thoughts for a Wednesday (Ok, maybe Three)

Sorry, if you're looking for deep, soul-illuminating thoughts, you're out of luck with me tonight.  Just a few quick thoughts and observations that I've had that I feel like putting out there for the world.

1 - Looking for something to watch on TV now that Lost and The Bachelorette are over?  Try the Bachelor Pad for a Elimindate meets Real World meets The Bachelor/ette.  Thank goodness it hasn't crossed the lines into "Flavor of Love" or "Rock of Love" territory yet (two scummy VH1 reality shows).  The operative word there is "Yet".  The redeeming element of the show is Our Host Chris Harrison.  Chris Harrison is just always awesome.  We're bffs in my head - we've had a long relationship - we even finish each other's sentences from time to time! Total Bff status.

Or check out any of the great, fun shows on USA - White Collar, Covert Affairs, Burn Notice (Michael Westin, I love you), Psych (one of the funniest shows on TV, seriously), and Royal Pains.  All have good storylines, fun characters, and are great clever shows.

2 - When I'm housesitting one of the things that I find myself doing is watching music videos on MTV's Comcast music video channel (MTV Hits).  Right now they are showing all the videos that have something to do with the VMAs - either as prior winners or are nominated in some category at this year's upcoming VMAs.  Watching them is like a recent history lesson.  Did you know that Aerosmith won the VMA Video of the Year in 1998?? I know. You feel old don't you?  Did you also know that Steven Tyler (rumored to be one of the new judges on American Idol) is quite the androgynous-looking fellow?  Did you know that Limp Bizkit won the VMA Video of the Year in 2000 AND 2001? I know. Can you believe that Limp Bizkit used to be considered worthy of getting a VMA? Let alone two of them?? No wonder Emimen had such a feud with Fred Durst.  After watching those videos I couldn't believe they actually were that popular!

You know what I also wish? That we could fast forward Justin Bieber 7 years, to when he is 20 years old and has gone through his hook-up with a former Disney channel starlet, and decides to collaborate with The Neptunes to put out his first CD as a solo artist, and then a few years later decides to work with Timbaland and puts out another really awesome album....OH, WHOOPS.  I just realized I was talking about Justin "JT" Timberlake.  Where are you Justin "JT"?? Can you please put out another album and quick so that I don't have to be assaulted by the crap that Justin Bieber is putting out there?  There are only so many "Baby, Oh Baby"s I can take.

Although, as an avid ABDC (as in America's Best Dance Crew) fan, I couldn't help but notice that my girls Beat Freaks and the Season 5 champs Poreotix are in the music video "Somebody to Love"! Go gals and guys - live the dream (even if it means dancing in a Justin Bieber video, ugh - at least Usher is also in it).

I'm looking forward to the VMAs this year - one can only hope that another Kayne-Taylor moment will occur! (You know that's what the execs at MTV are hoping for.)

3 - While this has been a great year in many, many ways, it also has been hard.  My best friend said the other day that 2010 will go down as the year of hard - not bad, just hard.  And I completely agree.  Which is why I'm looking forward to getting away for a week in a little bit.  It'll be a good time to rest, recuperate, read, think, pray, and write.

Annnd with 2 minutes to go, I'm done! Happy Thursday (only 2 more business days then it's the weekend!)!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Book Review: The Thoughtful Dresser

The Thoughtful Dresser: The Art of Adornment, the Pleasures of Shopping, and Why Clothes MatterThe Thoughtful Dresser: The Art of Adornment, the Pleasures of Shopping, and Why Clothes Matter by Linda Grant

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow. It has been a looooong time since I reviewed any kind of book. And when I started this book, I didn't think I would ever finish it, but last night in the wee hours of the morning when I should have been sleeping I got to the end. Hallelujah - I finally finished a book!

I really, really enjoyed this book. As I have gotten more involved in the style blog community - both with my own blog and in reading others, I felt like this was a good time to explore some deeper thoughts on fashion and style in general. And this book did not disappoint. The author's premise is that all depths are covered by a surface and that the surface matters. That what you wear and how you dress sends a message to the outside world, one that is seen and judged by every person that you encounter.

I was surprised at the depth of the writing of this book. The author, Linda Grant, certainly can turn a pretty phrase and in my opinion is very well-written. The way that the book reads is also very interesting. Rather than carrying one cohesive thesis throughout the book, it is more like a series of articles covering differing topics and areas within fashion and its surprising depths and impact upon women and their views of themselves and the outside world. And Grant does a great job convincing the reader of fashion's necessity to the lives of people - no matter what hardships we go through. She begins the book examining fashion and the Holocaust. Not two topics you would ever think would go together, but Grant does an admirable job in showing how the two actually converge.

The other thing that I loved about the book was Grant's look back into history at fashion - particularly how the world has changed from post World War II to present day. It not only is a great look at the history of fashion, but also a look at women's history post-World War II as well. And it is surprising to discover that even as women made strides to "liberate" themselves and assert our rights, we actually have become trapped by images forced at us of models with pre-pubescent bodies wearing high-fashion clothing and told by the high-fashion design houses that this is what is considered "beautiful". It is a fascinating look back and helps one to realize that this hasn't always been considered the standard of beauty.

The other thing that is fascinating about the book is how seriously women take beauty. And how we cope through unthinkable tragedies by tending to this basic human desire that we have - to look beautiful. It makes sense to me, especially after reading John and Stasi Eldredge's Captivatinga couple years ago, but it is very interesting to see Grant come to the same conclusion.

All in all I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It definitely broadened my view on the importance of fashion and style and any time my worldview is broadened, I am a fan.

View all my reviews >>

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


"God's ability to perform is far beyond my our prayers - even our greatest prayers!  I have recently been thinking of some of the requests I have made of Him innumerable times in my prayers.  And what have I requested?  I have asked for a cupful, while He owns the entire ocean!  I have asked for one simple ray of light, while He holds the sun!  My best asking falls immeasurably short of my Father's ability to give, which is far beyond what we could ever ask." ~ John Henry Jowett

Two weeks ago I got back home from the best week of my life.  A week that I can honestly look back on and say with confidence that it was the best week of my life.  It even surpassed the time that I went to Italy, which is probably now the second best week of my life.  But it was an amazing time.  A time with little time to myself, lots of time spent with high school kids, and lots of time spent doing activities that I don't and wouldn't ever do if it wasn't for a faith, a hope, and a deep, abiding love for my Savior.

To really understand the depths of this week though, I have to go back a year.  The summer of 2009 was probably the hardest summer of my life.  Not because of any terrible tragedies in my family or friends, thank goodness, but because I was just completely broken and felt suffering to my core.  It was like a deep fissure opened in the crevices of my heart - deeper than I think I will ever realize - and from this gulf rose so much pain, hurt, and despair.  It was a time of wrestling and doubt - deep doubt - and lots of tears.  Pain that you just feel in the marrow of your bones.

Thankfully, with the changing of a breeze, September came and broke through with a breath of fresh air.  I loaded up my fall with fun, friends, and prayer.  I was going to start leading Young Life at a different high school and after our Leader/Committee Weekend, I was so excited.  I was ready to start letting go and being "a fool for Christ", in the words of our speaker.

But God is funny.  He certainly answered my prayers, but in a way that I completely took me by surprise.  Instead of ever really getting a chance to lead YL at the other high school, kids from the school where I had been leading started to show up in droves.  Actually, it was probably more of a trickle and then the droves came.  We had a camp-out event in November (probably the craziest 48 hours of my life) that brought about 75 kids - and 4 girls rode in my car and from there it just took off.  They were fans and were "in" and kept showing up.  And then they started to actually want to do stuff with me!  I had never had kids want to do stuff with me.

Fast forward to July 17th and 5 of these amazing girls boarded the bus to take us to Lake Champion.  And from that moment until our bus pulled back into the commuter lot on July 24th, God moved in ways that I had never imagined possible.  From having energy to make it through the first two days of camp (which were probably the second craziest 48 hours of my life) to courage and bravery to talk about Jesus to these girls - to heck, just have enough courage and bravery to talk to them! - to just surrendering each day to God and letting His Spirit have His way - it was incredible.  And the most amazing and humbling thing is that I had nothing to do with it. 

I ran through an obstacle course, leading 13 girls in our cabin through the darkness with a flaming torch.  I screamed and cheered my lungs out throughout a chips competition.  I volunteered to be in a skit in front of 500 kids as Bella from Twilight.  I hung out in the trees for 45 minutes on a ropes course and then "swung" down via the death, errr, bucket swing.  I led cabin times, times at each night in which I got to talk with girls about Jesus as a group.  And then I got to have "one-on-one"s with the girls, talking about all sorts of things - boys, Jesus, tornadoes, puppies - and loved each moment.  I got to pray an "ABC" prayer for my girls.  I got to go on a New Christian walk with them. And I stood beside them as they proclaimed in front of everyone that they had decided to surrender their lives to Christ.  But all I really did was show up and surrender my inhibitions and fears to Jesus, and His Holy Spirit took care of the rest.

For this is the thing - I cannot claim that my spirit, my self had any part to do with this.  I was on some kind of autopilot all week.  The only time that my "self" really showed up was during a torturous session in a canoe at an awful early time in the morning (and it was ugly - perfect storm for me to lose my patience - thankfully it too had an endpoint).  And if my self had showed up, it would have held me back in terror from everything - because there really isn't much that I like about camp - in fact, the first 48 hours are the most torturous for me.  So you see, I can't claim anything about this week had anything to do with me.  It is sooooo humbling, but oh so good.

For I can't explain how difficult it has been to be back in the "real" world.  To go from a place and time in my life that I knew mattered and in which I got to witness kids choose life over death and in which I let God have His way and not let fear hold me back.  And then I come back home and work in a cube.  It is hard to come down from the mountain.

But here's the is just starting.  Even as I descend from the peaks of my experience, I now get the privilege to help shepherd these girls along their walks and as they take their first, real, new steps in a life centered on and surrendered to Christ.  And that is both scary and humbling.  I feel as if I am starting all anew and afresh, stumbling along in the darkness, not wanting to make a mistake.  But I wouldn't trade this for the world.  It is a feeling of being both undone and all in.

And so I look back at the year in amazement, wonderment, and awe.  How at the same time God both repaired and prepared me.  He heard my pleas in the dark and let the few rays of light that faith clung to burst into blinding sunshine.  It is a miracle that He has truly blessed me with.  What a difference a year makes.

Thank you Abba.  I am completely undone by Your faithfulness.  I am all in - for Eric, the speaker, spoke the truth.  There are many things that I will get to do in heaven - but the chance to bring people to Your feet to receive Your love and grace will not be one of them.  That alone I get to do here on earth.  Thank you for the gift - a gift that has felt more like a curse some days - but the true gift and privilege it is to get to tell high school kids about You and Your love.  And not just high school kids, but all men and women.  I surrender this imperfect and sinful vessel into Your hands and thank You.  Thank You for the taste of real life You have given me.  I am undone and I am all in.  Amen.