Friday, December 31, 2010

Who Needs Maps When They've Got this Guide?

Sometimes the vault is opened and treasures from my life growing up in the Word of God will flutter and settle in my mind for a closer look. And then it seems that He drives it home, just in case I didn't pay attention.

Today, I don't know what day of the week it is (vacation brain -- joy!), but I know the Scriptures throbbing in my mind.
The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. (John 10)
That one popped into my head while I was at home in Maryland, thinking to myself that I don't really understand how to tap into God's guidance. I can pray for wisdom to know what to do about any number of circumstances in my life, but the answer doesn't always crystallize. I'm praying to be the sheep that knows His voice. Then I'll get better at the following.

While this one was fresh in my mind, I saw it pop up in another place. It was a little signal that maybe my sheepness and His shepherdness is exactly where I need to focus.

Then, this one came up, just because I had a hankering for Ephesians:
I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe[...]. (Ephesians 1:16-19a)
Then it resurfaced when I opened a Christmas letter from my friend, Saundie. She had included this exact passage in her letter, which I read later the same morning this verse impressed itself on me! I know there are no coincidences happening here.  

Do you see the connection between the 2 passages?

Jesus says His sheep follow Him because they know His voice. He is leading the way (out) as He calls them by name. They know Him, so they follow when they hear His familiar voice. He is trustworthy.

Then I see what Paul has to say, one of the most prolific apostles of Jesus: The most important thing he prays for the beloved church of Christ is "a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him...".


Knowing Jesus Christ is vital. Jesus said it. Paul said it. Jesus said we would know Him, and then hear Him, and then because we know Him, we'll follow Him.

Paul said we will know Him, we will have wisdom and revelation in that knowledge, and then the eyes of hearts will see where He is calling us. It may be a position of understanding more so than a physical place... or maybe it will be both.

May we know Him afresh this year of 2011! A new decade! May that knowledge lead to seeing and hearing. From where do you and I need to be led out? To where do we need to go? Stop trying to see the path, Sydney. Start trying to know your Guide, and then you will be able to follow Him.

For more encouragement soaking in Scripture for 2011, join this community of memorizers (uh, this one is for girls but guys can do the same)! See you there?

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Harlot's Happy Ending (Hos 14:4-9)

"I will heal their faithlessness;
I will love them freely,
for my anger has turned from them.
I will be as the dew to Israel;
he shall blossom as the lily,
he shall strike root as the poplar;
his shoots shall spread out;
his beauty shall be like the olive,
and his fragrance like Lebanon.
They shall return and dwell beneath my shadow,
they shall flourish as a garden;
they shall blossom as the vine,
their fragrance shall be like the wine of Lebanon.
O Ephraim, what have I to do with idols?
It is I who answer and look after you.
I am like an evergreen cypress,
from me comes your fruit.
Whoever is wise, let him understand these things;
whoever is discerning, let him know them;
for the ways of the Lord are right,
and the upright walk in them,
but transgressors stumble."

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Wish Fulfillment Dream

This Christmas was life-changing, although it included all the normal elements of the usual celebration.

We always waited until after Thanksgiving to start talking Christmas. After all, Thanksgiving was a worthy holiday in its own rite, even though there weren't too many commercials on TV about it (except for maybe the sale on turkeys at the grocery store). Usually after we'd feasted, we started pulling out the boxes of ornaments, stockings, garlands, and candles. We might set up the Advent wreath and keep time like we did at church.

Usually around the same time, a Christmas list from each family member began to circulate. What did he want? What did she need? Most of my family members put books and/or music on their list, with the occasional addition of some other random jewel or cosmetic or sock (gold toe, please). We mostly shopped to the list. My mom was the only one who felt the liberty to ad-lib -- usually when it came to the stocking, so as to provide us with essentials such as chocolate oranges.

The best parts of the Christmas tradition are the days leading up to the day itself. I love the nights wrapping gifts with my Sister up in our shared rooms -- no matter how small the room, we always found the space to cram tubes of paper, tape, shared scissors, ribbon galore, and the humble stack of gifts we'd each selected for immediate family and a few close friends.

I love the sight of lights through the neighborhood. I can't remember a year since I achieved adulthood that I haven't gone walking or driving down a secret detour after dark to admire the brightest Christmas creativity of the neighborhood. Our house has always opted for a few sprinkles of lights. Many of the neighbors told a much more elaborate story with their electric bills. I love both styles, just soaking in the sights, feasting my eyes on the sparkling delight bursting through the darkness of Winter.

And the smells of Christmas! Cookies baking, cinnamon candles burning, rum cutting the egg nog -- every smell rich and delicious and nose-tickling.

Not to mention the sounds. Many people I know profess to hate Christmas music. I can't deny a craving for the silly crooning of Frank Sinatra or Elvis, the velvety holiday cheer of Ella Fitzgerald, and the traditional glory of the London Philharmonic performing Handel's Messiah. In recent years I've discovered a new and edgier delight: Sarah McLachlan's Christmas album.

Morning of Christmas there have always been gifts. We didn't ever pile them to the rooftops the way it seemed to happen at some other homes I knew of, but we had plenty. We took turns opening in order of age: with patience, we each watched as one family member opened their gifts individually. First my dad opened one; then my mom; then each of us kids in order of age. One gift at a time, distributed by our brother elf (whose turn was always last, and now he's taller than I am!). This way we savored it and shared in our family member's delight for the perfect gift -- the wish list fulfillment.

But this year, we awakened, turned down the covers, and adjourned to the kitchen for freshly brewed coffee. Something was strange about the morning, as we approached the Christmas tree and saw just one gift per person. We were all surprised, but accepted it mutely, and took our places for the gift circle. It would be brief, obviously.

My Dad opened his and found a book. It was thick and full of only the Right Answers, on any topic.
My Mom found a calendar, all filled in, for the coming year. It had all the important dates and just the right amount of time portioned to spend with all the people she loved. It was touch sensitive, and she could expand certain dates to fit more hours.
My Sister found a velvet bag filled with small, flat glass stones, like squashed marbles. The little folded accordion page explained that they could be used for trading, or turned into jewels, or a game, or decor. Anything she needed for her family, they would become at a moments notice.
My Brother received something that to me looked like it was empty. I couldn't see inside the box no matter how hard I tried. But he looked so excited and everyone cooed over how perfect it was for him.
I opened my box, and found inside it something that I already have: my laptop. Not a laptop. It was my laptop. I turned it over. It had a few discolorations on the bottom, and the same little apple on top. Mine. Nothing new. Just what I've already given myself.

And then I woke up. It wasn't Christmas yet, I'd only been dreaming. It made the most sense since everyone seemed to under-react about all the gifts we'd purchased each other going missing from beneath the tree. No one remarked that my Sister had been there without her husband or her baby, although they were certainly understood to be in existence. The whole air of the gift circle had been remarkably dream-like, and now I knew why. Well, it was a dream.

In my dreams, I receive one thing that I already own. I imagine what I need most. I write a list, and I distribute it, and then on the day when I receive a thing I'm to treasure all year, I receive something I already have.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

"Snips & Snails & Puppy Dog Tails

...and such are little boys made of."

Don't forget tractors, trains, boats & planes.

  

These photos represent highlights of my visit the past couple of days. I've spent as much time with the nephew as possible, enjoying things that he enjoys, such as Dr. Seuss, trucks, blocks, and Pingu. If you haven't watched Pingu before, I will recommend this short clip. We also visited the home where my future puppy currently resides with her litter mates. Stephen had fun with them and thought they were pretty curious little creatures. He cracked up laughing when one of them went under the Christmas tree. 

I also made sure to get in a good walk around the neighborhood to see the old sights and remember things that I never see in Texas. Things like...

Baltimore Ravens Santa


Boats Everywhere

Lots and lots of growing plants
My dad is still sick, but getting better. I heard on the radio that if you wash your hands 7 times per day, you are 3 times less likely to show symptoms of cold and flu than someone who washes their hands less frequently. I laughed because it was about 10 am at the time, and I know I'd already washed my hands more than 7 times that day.

Lastnight was also a great reunion / dinner party at my sister and her husband's apartment with good old friends before they go out of town for their Christmas holiday. In high school, somehow I was blessed to meet some of the best friends a girl could ask for. Most of us are married now (yours truly not included), and I have to say they all chose the most wonderful spouses. Spending time with them always means reminiscing, laughter, catching up on life (how "adult" we all sounded recounting the tales of our professional challenges and ventures), and generally, I always walk away feeling more whole. It was a great time, and I only anticipate more such reunions in the next few days!

Today should be "sugar & spice & everything nice," as I plan to bake with my mom and perhaps wrap a few gifts. :)

(I'm already dreading leaving!)



Monday, December 20, 2010

Day 1 of Christmas Vaca

It was a beautiful day for flying! I dozed off for the first hour, then we landed in Little Rock to trade passengers and proceeded to Baltimore. I read the entire December issue of InStyle (so proud). What did I learn? Apparently, tis the season to wear your hair in a bun like a ballerina (think Kanye West music vid and Black Swan neither of which I'm proclaiming myself a fan, but they are trend-setting lately).

I sat next to a young man and his mother who were traveling hurriedly to Baltimore two days earlier than scheduled -- the whole family was to make the trip for Christmas, but they left early after hearing Grandpa was very sick, not doing well at all. I keep shooting up little prayers for my airplane friends. The guy and I were both raised military brats, and we related on the whole "nowhere is home" syndrome, the need to make friends quickly, Bible study, faith and family, etc. It was nice, and I was thankful that I didn't have to fly for 3 hours by the lady with the lampshade inside two stacked hats (that was her carry-on, which she nearly forgot when she disembarked in Little Rock--that would've ruined her lamp's Christmas, for sure).


The pace of my life upon arriving at home always slows immediately. My mom mentioned something about worrying about boring me after my "cosmopolitan life" in Texas. Yes, the pace slows, and yes, it takes me a couple of hours to adjust; however, my life is certainly not cosmopolitan as much as it is too busy, and the slower pace is a welcome respite. Won't last long, anyhow. I'm trying to make the most of every moment!

My mom has done a nice job of creating a festive tone in the home, while saving fun things like cookie-baking and tree-decorating for when I got here.

Speaking of trees....

This tree is splendid! It complements the bookshelves amazingly! Its a real tree with perfect balance (thanks to my parents' magical tree-stand), and it looks the perfect shape. My parents have beautiful maroon and gold decorations, and then we add all the familia memorabilia decorations together. Did that lastnight, and talked to Nana on the phone.

My sister managed to come over with her baby bump for a couple hours, and we sat in our cozy living room as a family of 5(.5) for a few sacred minutes.

Then my Daddy completely succumbed to what seems to be the flu (what with sudden onset and all). Oh noes! This is making me so sad for him, because I can't see how he'll be able to enjoy the holidays. I am praying nonstop for him and for everyone else in the house. My Mama is particularly gifted in stopping the spread of infectious diseases, so I feel confident that the rest of us will be okay if we apply a few techniques( #1: faithful in prayer, patient in affliction). No reason for you to hold back if you feel led to join us in that whole thing!

Michele offered the suggestion of grapefruit seed extract, and I found a few websites about flu prevention that all pretty much suggest the same behaviors: 1. Sleep. 2. Drink lots of water. 3. Get *outside* and exercise. 4. Eat fresh fruits and vegetables. 5. Avoid sugar and alcohol. 6. Reduce stress. 7. WASH HANDS. More detailed suggestions and links to other helpful articles can be found at www.fluhelp.org. I like the idea of drinking 3-6 cups of strong green tea per day.

Today I made sure to sleep until I woke up naturally! (Got a lot of catching up to do in that arena.) I did bring my running shoes so I am trying to figure out how to get warm enough to go outside, even for 15 minutes. Also my grandparents sent us a TON of citrus fruit, so I've been having grapefruit/oranges/tangerines since pretty much the moment I walked in the door yesterday.

So that's all for now! I probably won't have time to update this every day, but thankfully today is starting slowly. I hope everyone is enjoying these last few days of Advent and Christmas preparation. I am so happy to be slowed down for a moment.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Peculiar Person

It's been a tough week. Every day I get closer to seeing the family that I haven't seen since May. Oh! This family ...

[We are all broken. We are all bruised, a little weary. We have all seen more of the world but also less of it than we'd like. We talk about a lot of things, and then some things we don't. We are in love with each other. We are family. Without my family, there is no such thing as home. ]

I think about Jesus every day -- how His days must have burned inside Him. How strange it must have been for Him to walk the streets and go about His work with so few knowing of His true identity. Did He ever feel like He could "be Himself"? I think it is awfully queer how much I care about being known and accepted for who I am, and worry about being too peculiar and irrelevant, when Jesus is my Savior. What a peculiar person He was. What an unknown and unacceptable man He ended up being.

Oh, but He was nothing if not relevant. I am suddenly surprised by the vast good fortune of being accepted into His family.

6While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. 48But he replied to the man who told him, "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?" 49And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! 50For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother." (Mat 12)
I don't do that will so well (try EPIC FAIL!!), but thanks to my Brother, my Father accepts me. Asks me to be a little more peculiar.

I am so thankful for this season of waiting: contemplating His peculiar entrance into this weary, down-trodden world. This world where our Christmas Holiday hopes rarely come to life the way we'd envisioned.

For some really eloquent talk about the waiting of Christmas and how to redirect our holiday celebrations, check out Ann Voskamp's meditation here.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Thank you for telling me that you were praying for me

I have a habit of telling people I will pray for them (future tense). Rarely do I let them know that I was praying for them (past tense).
There is power in knowing there are prayers headed my direction, even when I least expect or realize I need them.
Thank you for telling me!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

"PR Day"

"Even youths shall faint and be weary,
   and young men shall fall..." (Yeah! Pretty much describes me...)

So. Yesterday was the great Dallas White Rock Marathon. I ran the half, along with my roommate, Jessica. It was my first time running 13.1 miles, so it was definitely a Personal Record (PR) day for me!

I struggle to know what to tell you about this race, partly because it just happened and I'm still a little bit in shock that I was able to accomplish the entire run, as acquainted as I am with my own physical and psychological weaknesses. The magnitude of the weaknesses overcome is foremost in my mind today.

At the same time, I struggle because I was enveloped in such an enormous crowd of runners yesterday that I realized, quite possibly for the first time: what I was doing was so large to me, but it was very, very small in reality. I was one tiny individual in a massive sea of finishers. If you look at the website, you'll see that I finished in the final 25% or lower in every categorization! Yes, I accomplished a goal. But what I actually did was very small when you peer through the grand cosmic spectacles.

I am okay with that.

I do want to tell you some things that impressed and surprised me. 

Major impression of the morning: It. Was. Freezing!
Jessica and I somehow came by all these "throwaway" clothes from Jessica's family, and the night before we planned out our layers. We knew we wanted things that we wouldn't be too terribly sad to part with, because we would, like most other runners, need to shed items as we warmed up through the run. I wish you could have seen us... I was wearing a full set of white long-johns over my pants and t-shirt. I looked like a marshmallow wearing a diaper. Then on top of that I was wearing some big baggy t-shirt. About the only cute thing visible was my headband, designed to wick away sweat and keep my ears warm (successful!). I cut the cuffs and waistband of the long-john leggings for quick, easy removal over running shoes. Jessica went one step further. She cut the "seat" out of her long-johns and just wore the legs over her running tights, like extra-long leg warmers. Under her outer layers (similar to what I wore on top) she was wearing her Team In Training purple jersey from a race run with an Oklahoma team AND... socks. Old socks. Socks that she cut the toes off of and pulled them over her arms to keep them warm once she shed her long-sleeve shirt. 
VALUE JUDGMENT: It worked!! We may have been the silliest pair of girls running (oh, besides the ones wearing tutus and santa outfits ... and the people dressed like bananas ... um, and the people wearing the trash bags...), but I wasn't unhappy at all when it came time to leave a few layers behind.

Something unexpected was the 48 minute wait in our "wave" before starting. [FYI, the "wave" was determined by the amount of time you set as your goal for finishing the race. Everyone selects a completion time when they register for the race. Then you get assigned a letter and you're supposed to line up in front of the post with your letter on it. Well, they gave up on posting letters to the corrals after the letter 'N' and we were in Wave 'O' -- pretty much a free for all!] Supposedly the race began at 8 am. Once we got all set up in our corral, we heard from Father Henry (who completed his 18th White Rock marathon yesterday!) that the official start time was 8:10. They let the wheelchairs go first, then the elite runners, then each wave starts, one at a time. I guess after the 'N' wave they just turned us all loose! 

The greatest part of waiting for 48 minutes was waiting together with Fr. Henry. It is great to hear snippets of his experience as a veteran runner. He ran the Boston Marathon on its 100th anniversary. His favorite is the New York Marathon, which he's run twice. He told us about the Boroughs and how they vary so vastly in the ways their residents interact with the marathoners. I felt uncomfortable as the speakers blasted Katy Perry songs in front of my pastor. He and Jess joked about whether or not this would be a "PR Day" for him, and it was determined that it might be, only for the amount of time he had to wait before actually crossing the Start -- previously, his longest wait was 38 minutes! I had no idea what a "PR Day" was so they explained: "PR" means "personal record." Excellent. It was a PR Day for me from that moment! Thank you, Father, for the blessing gained in the waiting.

"but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
   they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;

   they shall walk and not faint."

You might be wondering how those wounds fared through the run. Well, I lost my bandaid on my hand pretty early on, so I was half wearing my glove and half holding it away from the sore. My knees throbbed a little in the bruised places, but for the most part they left me in peace!

What helped me most:
  • Jessica, my roommate and precious friend. She's run two marathons and she's pretty much a beast in all things athletic (plays soccer, beats people up with her black belt, etc.). She trained with me and stayed with me the whole way, even when my pace surely must have had her feeling like she was running in place!
  • The girls in front of me with Bible verses on the backs of their t-shirts: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Phil 4:13)
  • The girl whose shirt read "I'm Pregnant" on the back. 
  • Remembering every encouraging word written from my many sweet friends! I had so many words to replay in my head!
  • Truly believing that I could only make my body do what God enabled it to do, and knowing that He was with me. I prayed so much and pled for His strength in my weakness. There was a girl with a long paragraph on the back of her shirt about how all her athletic conquests were through the strength of Christ, to His glory, not her own. I was so thankful to have her in front of me most of the time! 
  • Waiting to get to my new pink shirt that says, FRONT: "You think I run funny?" BACK: Wait til you see me walk tomorrow!"
  • The 'cheerleader' with the sign that read: "RUN, COMPLETE STRANGER!" When runners admired the sign she shouted, "Hey, this sign is for YOU!"
  • This might sound cheesy, but the people who stand on the sidelines and call your name off your bib and tell you you're doing a great job and to keep it up and finish strong -- those people really help! (There was some guy running next to me for a couple miles named James. He must have been looking really rough cause I heard about 12 people say things like "You can do it James! James, I know you want it! James, you're looking great! Finish strong, James." I didn't stop to check him out.) If you think you can't run [you probably can!], I encourage you to be a cheerleader. You are giving those runners the positive energy needed to keep going another quarter mile. In the last 4 miles my emotions were high and I was tearing up at the selflessness of people who left their houses early on a Sunday morning to clap and cheer us on, hold out the Kleenex for us to grab as we ran by, offer us homemade oatmeal cookies, and so on. THANK YOU, COMPLETE STRANGERS!


I have to tell you about the secret Purple Team. Jessica was wearing her Team in Training jersey from the past. Well, the purple shirts worn by the Teams are like a secret society membership card. All these warrior angels in purple shirts kept running up to us to see how we were feeling, if we needed any gu or bio-freeze or 9-1-1. They were so cheerful and awesome! I swear, it was like being surrounded by purple-shirted angels! Every quarter mile someone would see Jessica's jersey and shout "Go Team" or something like that. Let me tell you, there is nothing like being part of a community joined for a cause!

Did I mention Jessica?
During the last 3 miles I really started struggling (you know, the whole "running in place" sensation really started settling in). I was hurting physically, but the worst part was that we scaled the highest elevation in those last few miles and my lungs wore out (remember, the longest distance I've ever run continuously was 11 miles before yesterday). Around mile 12 she said "What feels the best on you right now?" I said, "My body feels fine! My lungs are giving up on me though." And they were. I think they just wanted to close and put me out of business (I need to practice breathing!). Jess said to me "Focus on your body and use it to get you to the finish." I took her advice as much as possible and tried to relax my breathing. I never started seeing stars, so I guess it worked!

This is going to sound stupid, but for a few minutes there between 12.5 and 13.1, I really, truly believed that the run was never going to end. All rational thought left me. I thought, "This is it. I am going to be running breathless for the rest of my earthly existence. Great." Then someone shouted, "The Finish Line is right around the corner!!" and I found it in my heart to believe him even though I still couldn't see it. Suddenly, there it was. And we crossed the finish line, still running. I remember hugging Jessica, and then I remember all these strangers swarming us with big metal canopies advertising Metro PCS (heat blankets). 

We did it! I achieved my own Personal Record! We didn't fall or sprain or break anything or pass out or turn blue. I was thanking God and thanking my body for working with me. It was amazing to walk into the Runners Tent and hear people from the TX Scottish Rites Hospital for Children start thanking us from their hearts, thanking us for running that day! "We estimate you guys raised about half a million dollars for our hospital today, thank you so much." He guided me to the granola and bananas. "Thank you for running today." I didn't expect to hear that. I didn't expect to want to break down in tears.  I didn't think I could ever finish a half marathon. All of it really happened!

I could not have done it without my friends, my family and my God. Thank you ALL!

"28Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God,


   the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
   his understanding is unsearchable.
29He gives power to the faint,
   and to him who has no might he increases strength.
30Even youths shall faint and be weary,
   and young men shall fall exhausted;
31but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
   they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;

   they shall walk and not faint."
(See Isaiah 40.)

12/5/2010 Dallas White Rock Half Marathon
RunKeeper Live Recorded time: 13.15mi, 2:24:01

Friday, December 3, 2010

Run the Rock!

I know that some of my readers have been graciously keeping up with my progress towards running my first 1/2 marathon (13.1 miles). I started 2010 with one 5k under my belt, but no consistent habit of running more than a mile at a stretch. I have tried to push myself to train as much as possible between the 2 jobs and other commitments I have, and now I'm as ready as I'm gonna be for this race on Sunday, December 5th.

I registered back in July, and since then I've experienced things I had never imagined: the intense pain of shin splints worse than any I could have imagined, the exhilaration of finishing an 11-mile run all by myself, eating 'gu', and so on. Many times I've been a cheerleader at the end of a friend's half-marathon. Only recently have I dared to believe I could be the one cheered!

The Dallas White Rock Marathon (check out the link for more information) is a local, annual event. You can choose from the half or full marathon, participate in a relay, or run shorter "fun runs." I have been a spectator before, and I know many people who've completed this race more than once. Fr. Henry has completed the marathon 17 times, and will run again the full 26.2 miles this coming Sunday (he's 64 years old, by the way!).

The Texas Scottish Rites Hospital for Children is the beneficiary, although participants are not required to raise any money to be able to run.  According to their website, "TSRHC treats Texas children with orthopedic conditions, such as scoliosis, clubfoot, hand disorders, hip disorders and limb length differences, as well as certain related neurological disorders and learning disorders, such as dyslexia." I know a few friends here in Texas who've greatly benefited from the unique services provided by this hospital.

If you're curious about my race, here are a couple things I'd like you to know:

  • Sunday, 11/28/10, I ran 11 miles. This is the longest distance I will complete before attempting the entire 13.1 miles on Sunday, 12/5/10.
  • On Tuesday, 11/30/10, I fell while running a short distance in pretty cold weather. A slab of the sidewalk jutting upwards caught my toe, and I landed on both knees and one hand, sustaining some pretty painful abrasions and bruising. I haven't attempted any cardio since Tuesday -- I've been trying to take it easy, stretch, and heal from my little fall. (Fr. Henry says I'll be ok!) I'll post some pictures below, so here's your warning to look away if you're squeamish:








<-^Hand and one of my knees immediately after the incident. Lots of peroxide, scissors, ibuprofen and neosporin came to the rescue!










<--This is how the knees looked lastnight. The swelling and bruising around the abrasions is pretty evident, I think. It hurt a lot worse than it looks. Not gonna lie. Still, I was able to run 2 more miles after picking myself back up, many thanks to my friend and roomie, Jessica!

Today the pain is a lot lessened! I am so thankful that nothing really terrible happened, and that I'll still be able to run on Sunday! It smarts, but it's SO much better than a fracture or sprain that could've immobilized me in more serious ways.

If you'd like to follow my run live, I'm hoping to use the GPS on my iPhone with the RunKeeper app to keep track of my progress. Here is my profile page: http://runkeeper.com/user/sydneyjb/profile. I'll be posting live on Facebook when I begin, but if you're not a FB user I'm hoping you'll still be able to track my progress on my RunKeeper profile page. The race begins at 8:00 am CST on Sunday!

WFAA, the local news channel, will be airing live footage of the White Rock Marathon on Sunday morning, so if you're local you can catch it there. If not, you can try their webpage to see if there is any live streaming.

Why am I doing this to myself?

When I think about running, I think about Heaven. There is no sensation that I long for more than that complete freedom to move and live and breathe completely unfettered and unburdened by anything in life. I certainly don't feel that on days when I run, but I know when I get to Heaven I'll be able to run without ceasing, experiencing depths and heights of complete freedom from all earthly pain and entanglements. I'm doing this to spend a couple of hours close to the heart of God, and remind myself of my greatest Hopes. Perfect for the Advent season, I think!

When I think while I'm running, I think about everything in life that we experience that has ups and downs. We have "high" moments and terribly difficult ones. I think about jobs, gifts and talents, and most of all, relationships. These are the true marathons we're all called to complete. I love pushing myself to run further when I just want to curl up in a little ball in the gutter, because I know I've felt like giving up in certain life-a-thons, too, and I will again in the future. I like reminding myself that the end will be worth the suffering along the road, and that a low passage is soon to be replaced by a more rewarding stretch.

Why am I drawing your attention to what I'm doing?


Because I need your help! If you're the praying kind, I need your prayers. If you're the practical kind, your suggestions are welcome. If you're the kind who likes to send funny jokes or inspiring messages, I need that, too. If you like to cheer from near or far, I desperately need to know that you're cheering, because my desire to gratify your support will keep me going when I want to give up.

If you're struggling, I hope to encourage you. If your life is filled with joy, send a little of those positive vibes my way. If you're training, too, I want to help inspire you. If you've surpassed me in your prowess, I seek your advice!

Here's hoping I'll keep on running, and maybe my next race will bring me to a trail near you!

'Still Through Broken Skies They Come, With Peaceful Wings Unfurled'

Isaiah 53:3 (English Standard Version)

3(A) He was despised and rejected[a] by men;
   a man of sorrows,[b] and acquainted with[c] grief;[d]
and as one from whom men hide their faces[e]
   he was despised, and(B) we esteemed him not.

Footnotes:
  1. Isaiah 53:3 Or forsaken
  2. Isaiah 53:3 Or pains; also verse 4
  3. Isaiah 53:3 Or and knowing
  4. Isaiah 53:3 Or sickness; also verse 4
  5. Isaiah 53:3 Or as one who hides his face from us

A different sort of Christmas story is represented here for us. 

This story tells me that in moments of disappointed hopes, hours of stalling a celebration that feels empty without that certain someone, days of pleading to understand just why that special person burned you and shut you out -- Jesus, He walked here. 

This week, I have been rejected by men.

This week, I have become acquainted with a new kind of pain. 

This week, I know of many immersed in grieving for lost loved ones.

This week, Jesus came to be my light. 

At Christmas I think most of the joys, and I want everyone else to enjoy it with me. 

Sometimes I forget that there are very real feelings of sorrow and sadness and pure disillusionment that are tightly tied to this season for many people. At the risk of validating a negative outlook on life, I have to acknowledge that Jesus, the 'reason for the season', walks hand in hand with those feeling forsaken, identified by pain, known best for their ailments -- those who'd rather just stay at home and hide out for the holidays. They don't want their faces seen, and to be honest, many don't even consider their faces worth seeing. These are the ones for whom He comes.

Who have you rejected this week? This is the one for whom He comes. (My heart burns.)

Jesus, come again this Advent season. Come, be our Light. Where we've swaddled in darkness, unwrap the Light. 


[It would be great if more of us could check out the O Holy Night Tour -- the Prison Show! Find it at this link: http://www.saragroves.com/. Credit for the song below goes to Sara Groves.]

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Revelment Recollections

Mama knows how to make the most delicious pie crusts. They're perfect. Never burnt, too crunchy, bland or dry. I always eat the crusts, maybe choose a slice with a little extra. 

Whatever unlucky fowl graces our table is given the utmost respect, moist and savory, inspiring a healthy Blanchard nap. There is nothing mundane or predictable about my Mama's turkey -- if anything is worth doing, she'll do it 100%. I am not surprised if the turkeys think to themselves, "Well, if I have to go like this, I'd like to go with her..."

And it seems before we've finished folding the whipped cream into the ambrosia, we've folded Thanksgiving Day into the Christmas season. 

I can smell the cinnamon, molasses, pumpkin and pecans. I can see the piles of mini pecan pies, the perfectly cracked and sugar-dusted molasses cookies (my Daddy's favorite?), the explosively beautiful and delicious Russian teacakes. I can help with the miniature loaves of cranberry orange bread, wrapped in red or green cellophane and tied with curly ribbons to share with friends and neighbors. 

I can hear Handel's Messiah... 

Bells jingle and packages come with ringing doorbells. Each year the shopping is a little more mature and well-thought, and every year our littlest brother is more passionate about giving whatever he has, totally from the deepest recesses of his heart, for he knows of no other way of giving. 

I love to sit awake after everyone's gone to bed but me and my Sister, and we turn out all the lights but the Christmas tree ones, and we sit like a tree skirt and read or write with pets curled at our feet. Those white lights are mesmerizing, and they twinkle like stars telling promises for the fulfillment of prophecies ages old...we still wait for some fulfillment.

The sky ripped in two one year when we had a Christmas without our Daddy -- his work for the world peace got in the way. And we celebrated the Prince of Peace in our living room and missed our Daddy, but we were blessed beyond measure and he returned us for many more years. 

I bring hot tea and honey in a travel cup to sing Christmas melodies with my Sister harmonizing at midnight, or celebrate the body of Christ brought down to man in an enormous, awe-inspiring cathedral with my Brother. 

I don't know what made me think I could live without Christmas. I was a fool for a year or so ... and still am in other ways!

It's not the day itself, or the gifts, or even the traditions, but the sights and sounds and smells. The melodies and memories. The celebration of our deepest hopes, answers to prayers, promises for the future. How can we live without a celebration of the past, a gratitude for the present, and a hope for the future? 

I am bowed down low in gratitude that harmony rings through the halls when I go home for Christmas. I am so thankful that it's where my heart is happiest. I ache for those who dread the season for its threat of sheer togetherness. I can never be thankful enough, nor ever forget the blessing of having a wonderful beloved family and many surrogate families who embrace me like I'm one of them. Both a house and a Home to go to. 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

House of Words

"She has a fever of 101. You're going to have to come pick her up and take her home."

"He had a crazy outburst and starting cussing out his coworkers. I was gonna fire him then and there but instead I told him to go home and get his head on straight."

"I forgot my heels, I came to work in flip flops! I'm going to have to go home on my lunch break to get different shoes."

"I didn't know whether to call the neighbor or the locksmith when I got locked out of my house."

"Well ... we could have it at my place next time."

"I didn't want this day to end. I didn't want to go home because that meant I had to go without you."

"My place is a mess."

I was homeschooled.

"He couldn't find anyone to talk to so he just went home."

"I couldn't stop crying, so I just decided to drive home ... but I didn't get very far before I had to pull over."

"I'll do anything, just don't make me go home, please. I'm miserable at home."

It was one of the longest days of my life. I couldn't wait to go home. Then I realized that Home was too far away, and I'd have to wait another couple months before I could enjoy those comforts.

"You're kidding me, he still lives at home with his parents?"

She came and sat in the coffee shop until it closed because there was trouble at home.

She only really truly felt like herself at home.

I'll help you find your new home!

He made me feel so at home.

"Daddy will be home in an hour!"

It's time to go home.


Home.

My obsession with the concept is not veiled. Nor is it unwarranted. While I spent many of my formative years at home being homeschooled with my siblings, I also spent the first 18 years of my life moving from one dwelling space to the next. At just about the three-year mark, we knew it was time to pull up the stakes of our household and move to the next place. Still to this day there runs within us this relentless internal clock that chimes on the third year and stirs up all the dregs of restlessness. It's a habit we all own that tells us it's time to get a move on -- we've been sitting still too long.

We love to remember the movers packing us, progressing from room to room. After packing the three floor to ceiling bookshelves in the dining room, perhaps a couple shelves from the bedroom too, they moved into the school room off the kitchen and found a cupboard there. One guy questioned the other in Spanish: "What's in that cabinet?"

"Libros."

"Libros?!?!" I think they thought we were the Imelda Marcos of books. Perhaps they felt the task was endless, that maybe they were trying to pack a haunted trick house that led them through one cabinet into another bookshelf through the passage into a corridor of books leading to the Library.

Yeah, you could've built our family a house out of books. Words explained the patterns of the past, challenged our status quo in the present, and taught us to prepare our minds for the future. Words made us work, they let us play, helped us bond or de-stress or distract. A home town was impossible to come by for our hearts, so we made ourselves at home in the pages of the books that seemed at times to hold the walls up in our myriad homes.

Our Daddy taught us never to lay our books down, open-faced. That would be placing unwarranted stress on the binding. That spine was the lifeline of a good read. We handled with care and dared not to dog-ear a page or two.

At home there are, at times, subjects and themes which must be handled with care. We all have sensitivities that must not be bent, or we might break. Usually, our families know these points. At our worst moments, we may try to push the spine to the limit of its flexibility. We might push our family member until the binding cracks. A page or two may flutter down. We may have to help put one another back together with clear tape, or glue made for book-binding. God forbid we get the sheets out of order during the repair.

We have a history with one another. We have a history that cannot be explained. It must be explored. If you want to understand the past, you'll need to enter in to the present. You'll need to wait patiently as the history lesson unfolds, layer upon layer. Read it well, and do not presume to understand the ending until you've gotten to the beginning.

There may be fictional tales, but our favorites are most likely the allegories -- those kind which tell another story between the lines of the details on the pages.

In our home, we grew up with shelves of books in another language. Our Daddy provided for us via this life in another language, interpreting governmental conversations. None of us could pretend to keep up, but we loved the mystery of occasionally listening in, or begging him to tell us what the Russian guys in the movie were really saying. Too bad ... it's not always quite so enchanting to understand the foreign language that sometimes seems to be prevailing at home between family members. Our words run straight past the understanding of our blood relatives. Did I miss the sign-up sheet for this immersion course?

From where I sit, I see verbalization as a way of building a strong house, never to be blown down by fairy tale hungry wolves. I build sense of nonsense. I form pillars and smooth, stable walls where once was shaken rubble and crumbling, regrettable stones. It may seem formless and void to another, but finally the homelessness I felt a moment ago has been transformed into a practical if imaginative shelter, and I cuddle under the covers created by memories woven together with new experiences. The finished tapestry will make sense to you someday, too. I hope you think it's a beauty.

I wish you could go home with me. I wish I knew where home is. I want to take you there with me, so you can know the depths of the joy of my life.

For now, the landmarks I have to share with you will remain in the letters that I strike out on the laptop keys. My parents were wise to raise us under the warm shelter of stacks and stacks of books: concepts are all we take and keep. Stories and pages might have lifted us out of the material world longer than some find comfortable, but the realities in the pages held faster than most of the "real life" we encountered day-to-day. The untouchable is all that will touch us with indelibility. The soul-sharing will bind us together for eternity, wherever the geography dictates, whatever our hands can't hold on to.

Maybe one day we'll all speak the universal language. We'll know the story of the person beside us from beginning to end, and we'll know just how to help them finish the chapter they're working on. Every line will make a masterpiece.

Even then, I bet you we will find our best shelter is under the Word. Let it be your Cornerstone even now.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Home to Run Away

She had freckles. I had habitually missing teeth. We used to pretend we were King Henry and Eleanor of Aquitaine. At our own little table in the kitchen we used to make lunch together between Dr. Seuss books and running around in the back yard. I would usually be the prankster...
         "Hey, close your eyes while I put something delicious on your sandwich."
         "What are you gonna put on my sandwich? You're gonna put something gross on it."
         "Noo! I'm gonna put strawberries on it!"
         "Where did you get strawberries?"
         "We just had them."
         "Are you tricking me?
         "Noo! Close your eyes!"
         "Fine."
         "I'm putting strawberries on it!"
I squeezed mustard onto her half-eaten PBJ. Her eyes were still closed. She accepted the delivery innocently. Took a bite.
         "GROSS!!! This isn't strawberries! I knew you were lying!"
         "I wasn't lying! I was joking. But you believed me!"
Glorious was the day when I got my Sister to believe me. I had so many glorious days as a child, thanks to my big Sister, who pretty much always gave me a second chance. She didn't know it at the time, but she was giving me an object lesson on the meaning of 'grace'. Usually I walked all over it. And enjoyed it. Did my parents ever wonder what in the world they were going to do with me?

My siblings and I had a happy childhood as long as we had one another ... and Fiddler on the Roof ... and West Side Story ... and The Chronicles of Narnia. Because of this, I'm really not certain what started the fascination with running away. If I may say so, I think we felt so safe and comfortable at home, we assumed we were untouchable, and the rest of the world must be just as safe. It was time for that world to be conquered.

Once we had our Fisher Price First Aid Kit in hand, we were golden.

We were smart enough to venture out well-equipped, even then. [I just want to say a huge "THANK YOU" to whomever scored us this gem. You were amazing.]

Well, one evening at dusk we ventured out with this kit and our favorite blankets. I like to remember that we were wearing them tied around our necks like capes. We wandered about 3 blocks through our Scotland neighborhood. [Disclaimer: our parents were very attentive, it's just that we plotted our escape like the little military brats we were. We knew every creak in the flooring, and just what moments to open doors to escape unnoticed. Really, we should've been recruited by some secret agency. Also Scotland was very safe.] 

After 3 blocks, some neighbor/acquaintance noticed two strange girls wandering too late at night in pjs, and she apprehended us. We were briskly escorted home by this determined saboteur and returned to the front door and our clearly confused and surprised Mama. I remember this moment so vividly because I didn't and still don't understand what I did next. I started crying and I fell on the ground and held onto my Mama's ankle and kept saying I was sorry, so sorry. Although the motivations of children can always be suspect, I know that I meant it, although I never felt it until that moment when I saw the look on my mom's face at the sight of her fugitive daughters. 

Did we make our beautiful parents look threatening? Did we make them feel unwanted? Did we imply that we had some reason to escape? No truth in any of that. We ran because we had a home base that gave us such confidence we would carry it with us everywhere. There no getting lost or escaping. There was only Home base that we'd always find again. 


Years later, we'd run again. She'd be gone in the Black Forest of Germany. I'd be alone in the shadowy forest of thoughts -- how to make sense of life without her? Then later, I'd run to the flat lands of Texas. Home base traveled, but never changed. We could only run properly and keep our feet on course because of the homing beacon within -- there is always a Place and a People to whom we Belong, thank God. 

Home is with her. It's with the brother who used to let us dress him up as the baby in our reenactment of family sitcoms. Home is with the parents who taught us about life and love and grace by giving us to each other, and giving each other themselves.

I miss them.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Golden Rule ... in the Workplace?

I am awake late at night when I am exhausted thinking about .... work. Work is the running theme in my life, and something that should really be examined. However, that is for another day.

What is troubling me at the moment is the concept of mercy in business. Is there any room for mercy in business? If so, how do we apply it? Does it cause chaos to operate life by the standard of the Golden Rule (Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, or Treat others as you would like to be treated), even in the office?

As proud as I can be, I make a lot of mistakes. Sometimes I get bombarded by so many tasks flying at me in a matter of seconds and I don't really know how to organize everything. Days go by and I feel like I'm just treading water in a sea storm. Somehow all the important tasks get completed, fires are extinguished, and people feel cared for. Yet I am always haunted by the floating list of 'to-dos' which is never done.

All of this makes me very aware of my own flaws and imperfections. It seems I am surrounded by the unflawed. Because I know my faults, I want to have mercy on others, and give them generosity that I hope they would return to me. Still, I suspect this would not be the case. I see it when others take advantage of the mistakes of their coworkers, to their own personal gain. Why do we do this to one another? Does it really pay?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Life & Death Matters

On September 19th, two weeks ago this Sunday, I got to be in a very happy wedding. It was a marriage between two good, strong friends who truly belong together. They have inspired me and many with their steady togetherness. It was not only beautiful, the wedding was a group effort, labor of love, and we all worked together to pull off a beautiful setting for the bride, groom, and guests to enjoy. Weddings are a celebration of life, and a declaration that there is a journey ahead to be traveled as a team. Mel (bride) told me once long ago that "everyone needs a teammate in life." May they always be the winning team.

Three days later I attended a memorial service for a 29-year-old man who left a stunningly gorgeous wife and two beautiful baby girls behind. His untimely death was mourned by a full house in an enormous sanctuary. He and I were confirmed together at Easter Vigil, 2008. We shared a birthday, in a way. His wife stood up and said that no one in the world made her feel more comfortable than her husband had. I wasn't expecting her to say that, but it made sense when I thought about it. Comfort was the need everyone there could identify with the most. She looked at his picture before returning to her seat and declared, "You and I will live forever." A celebration of life, and the eternal aspect of love. 

With these events and sleep deprivation in play, I have been thrown off my routine. I've been on overload and had to try my hardest to shut a few things out. Too much noise. Not enough comfort. I haven't known what to tell you. I have been in shock at the depth of emotions, positive and negative, that can coexist. I am only human, and this has required insight of divine proportions to begin to understand. Life can seem meaningless if it is so easily snuffed out. Then again, if we can't know the number of our days, then let's pack as much into each one as possible? My head and my heart can't sort out these conflicting inputs. 

So what do I do? I run. This clears my head. This does not make anything make more sense, but it makes me stop trying so hard to wrap my mind around my emotions. It pounds out a few ounces of rebellion against my circumstances and the senselessness of life-loss. Yes, I am sensitive. Sometimes irrationally so...

Last night I bought new running shoes to support my habit of head-clearing. I was very excited about the great feeling in my feet when I wore them, and then my roomie dearest let me know that they were probably made in a sweat shop. Huh. Interesting.

I had to think for awhile about the efforts that I make on a regular basis to relieve oppression throughout the world. Then I look at these shoes I love so much, and I wonder, "Do I perpetuate oppression as much if not more often than I alleviate it?" This life is so strange. It's like we're sewing a pattern and every new stitch we're making is unraveling a previous stitch. I ... don't ... get it.

But always -- and I do mean always -- when I come to this point, my favorite Book springs to mind, and words come rock-skipping across the murky pool of my thoughts, making their landing strong and true and sinking deep, deeper than before, when they just sat like pebbles on the shore line.

So there is life and death, futility and fruitfulness, but there must be Love.

I invite you to review with me some of the lesser-known verses of 1 Corinthians 13:
1If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. [...]
8Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. 11When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
Forgive my childish thinking and reasoning tonight, my friends. Someday, I shall know fully. Today all I know is that All You Need Is Love.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Reflections: Isaiah 1



I think at one point something convinced me that I was better.
Then when I tripped I fell on my own sharp crown and a whole bellyfull of mess fell out. I sat and I played in it and may have called it good. I locked myself into a cage with it and kept everyone else out.

It has been my own, my precious mess. I have held it close and thought how much I loved it... How it justifies me. 

Then in one horrific moment I realize the absurdity of it all. I see the sheer mess around me ... my insides disgust.

And to become acquainted with my brokenness is a personal horror story I wish on all my most beloved. To learn to worship with the best of them... worship though it hurts to hear my own voice, it is so ugly to me. To praise God when we suffer ... even if it's only suffering for realizing our wretchedness.

To realize that the best way to follow the World's command to love myself, is to follow relentlessly the Lover of my Soul, is to realize the answer to self-hatred. 

We must transcend self-hatred, but not by calling the ugliness beautiful. We know we're supposed to love ourselves somehow, so we do it by saying there is nothing wrong, we accept ourselves, even exalt ourselves as we are ... or is this just me? I call a puss-filled hole a picture of perfection.

He has offered me a solution, a life raft. He has not condemned me, but He has redeemed me. He has loved the creature somewhere inside my emptiness, pride, ugly black greediness, He has mopped up the poison that has spilled from me onto His beloved. But He has not said "it is okay." He has said to cast it off! Cut off the hand that makes you sin! Realize that sin is gangrene, and it will fill you up and take you over unless you chop it off. ("Sin" is anything I am willing to have replace my God. I do not have to kill or steal or sell myself or fill my veins.) Nothing is too precious to sacrifice if it stops the spread of the poison. Do I believe this?

I can identify that I have broken ways of dealing with relationships, my body, my pets, my time, my money, my work and my God. I am broken in every way possible. I am false and I put up walls. I am so tired of my surroundings being in disarray and reflecting my spirit sloppiness. My car, my bedroom, my bathroom, my desk -- always a shambles. Why am I always making myself miserable?

But this is the ugliness of me. I wanted to be famous, to be popular, to be the best. I wanted to tell people things they wanted to hear. And here I am, filling a window with words. Only, this is what no one wants to know about me. And this is what I must embrace and see that I am poor. I am walking -- not just wounded but sick. I am holding on to these festering limbs. Just let them go. Let the gangrene be removed. Accept that it will take time to heal. Receive a genuine replacement, not a prosthetic. Something far more real and something beyond this decaying realm. 

I will tell you something real, which is that a God exists who will not let you stay in your mud hut and play in your filth as the walls burn down around you. He will plunge in and drag you from that putrid hole, though it sets Him on fire. He will calls things by their right names: good, good; evil, evil. He will demand the evil be emptied from you, wiped off of you, banished from your presence. He will fill you, plaster you, drape you with rich righteousness. And He will do this even if it hurts you bad and even if it kills Him. And it will, but He will do it anyway. 

Did you imagine you were loved this much?

 5Why will you still be struck down? Why will you continue to rebel? The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint.
6
From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but bruises and sores and raw wounds; they are not pressed out or bound up or softened with oil.
 7 Your country lies desolate; your cities are burned with fire; in your very presence foreigners devour your land; it is desolate, as overthrown by foreigners. [...]
"What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?" says the LORD;
"I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams  and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. 

12"When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts?
13
Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. [...]
24Therefore the Lord declares, the LORD of hosts, the Mighty One of Israel:
"Ah, I will get relief from my enemies and avenge myself on my foes.
25I will turn my hand against you and will smelt away your dross as with lye and remove all your alloy.
26And I will restore your judges as at the first, and your counselors as at the beginning.
Afterward you shall be called the city of righteousness, the faithful city."

 27Zion shall be redeemed by justice, and those in her who repent, by righteousness." (Isaiah 1)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Why I Stay in Plano

Ru-weezy comma Michaellini.
Jobs.
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton,
who followed me from Baltimore
and now lives across the street from me.
(Sonic. Burger Street. Cafe Brazil.)
Streets at 90-degree angles to one another.
Starbucks ... which changed my life here.

Promise of things yet to come.
Southern hospitality.
A little bit of funk, a little bit of rock'n'roll.
(Less exposure to country than I had in MD, actually.)
Independence.
Belief...that this is where I'm supposed to be...now.
People....
Like the best roommates a girl could ask for.
Bluebonnet Trail.
Food on the table (employment opportunities).
Hot sun. Less SADness.
The occasional, unforgettable experience of authentic Mexican food.
Tamales...
Tortillas...
Chorizo...
Mmm.
Crape myrtles.
My very first very own car.
Most of all, little pieces of my heart got broken all around this town, and when I leave, they'll stay here without me.
Not sure I'm ready for that hurt, just yet.
This is where I grew up.
I sat on a wall.
I had a great fall.
Somehow, the King's men put me together again. 


*On this 16th of September, the 4 year anniversary of my arrival in Texas, I want to say thank you to the Ruiz family, the Resslers, my family at Starbucks Custer and Parker (esp. my 'big brother' boss and my courageous friend Sam), and the Seton community for taking me in at my messiest and most stubborn and helping me to become more accepting, more loving, less proud, more healed, hopeful, cared for, and on and on. I will always cherish this passage in my life. Now, Texas takes second place as the state I have lived in the longest! (Maryland has it beat twice over, still.) Also, it bears mentioning that I would not be here any more if not for the support of 1) Michael Ruiz, who has loved and accepted me for what I am, inside and out .. no matter what that has meant in the past 4 years. I am a better version of myself for his influence on my life. Words cannot express... 2) My family, who loves me unconditionally even when I leave them! Yet I always know that I can go running home and they will open arms and make a bed for me. Their presence with me wherever I go makes it possible for me to feel at home in a strange place. A family of legends! I hope everyone can experience such a family in their lifetime, by creating one or having been born of one.