Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Week(ish) in Review, Part III(ish)

This week, I got to meet Svea Sheloa Hanson, the beautiful new daughter of my friends (and pseudo-siblings) Mark & Christy.  It might be the highlight of my year so far.  I cry every time I look at her pictures.  I love her more than I have ever loved a baby.

Foot update
-I am now walking in tennis shoes virtually pain-free.  Yay!
-I finally had my appointment with a podiatrist (foot specialist).  He sentenced me to 3 months of tennies with no chance of parole.  No dress shoes, no sandals, no bare feet.  All summer.  And some of the fall.  :-(
-I was fitted for orthotics to treat my pathologically high arch ("pure" pes cavus, for interested parties) which the podiatrist says is contributing to my early arthritis, my chronic foot ache and my propensity for foot fractures.

Neighbor update
-I invited two of the couples over for lunch last Sunday to join some friends from church for a semi-impromptu meal at my house.  Neither were able to make it.  Made a mental note to give more than a 5 minute heads-up next time...
-The neighbors straight across brought a Pitbull home for a trial run...they're not sure yet if they're going to keep her or not.  She is super sweet.  Penny hasn't met her yet, but I think they would get along just fine.  I am entertained by the thought that Penny's two friends in town might be a Newfie/lab mix and a Pitbull.

Surprise Blessings
My dear friends Guy & Cassie were in southeast MN and had their hotel plans fall through, so I had the surprise blessing of hosting them at my house for a night.  You guys, I have never been so glad that a bride & groom who said they would get a hotel room for their photographer fell through on their promise.  There are few words that could adequately describe how much I love this couple.  Guy is one of the fastest friends I have ever made (it can take me up to two years to feel truly comfortable around someone...Guy and I were like that *crosses fingers* after one day) and Cassie is his kind, compassionate, thoughtful, cutely pregnant wife.  I have not kept in contact with these dear friends for almost a year, and yet our relationship is such that it seems no time has passed.  We had a lovely conversation over dinner and I got some much-needed advice from the techy (yes....there may be more electronic purchases in my [distant] future....).  If it hadn't been for Svea, this would have been the highlight of my week.

Free time update
-I spend a fair amount of time admiring pictures of Svea.  Like this one.

Bible Study update*
I started my trek through Romans.  Two weeks in and I am at the end of Romans 1.1.  It sounds drastic when I say it like that, but there was quite a bit of intro/overview included in that time as well.  But seriously, I am one verse in and I am already feeling challenged and encouraged.
"Paul, a bondservant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God..."  Rom 1.1
I tend to skim over all of the introductions in the epistles.  I mean, Paul is just telling us things about himself, right?  I am anxious to get to the sweet words of Rom 8.  I am ready to wrestle through Romans 9-11.  I know all the stories of Paul's life from Sunday School.  I don't need to listen to him defend his position to the Church in Rome.

It appears my folly in this mindset has been assuming that Paul is primarily talking about WHO he is, when in reality he is talking about WHOSE he is.  This is much more significant.

Notice the three passive phrases in the first verse - another is at work...this is not a work of man, but a work of God

I. "A bondservant of Christ" - He is "doubly owned" by Jesus (owned once by virtue of creation and owned again - as a bondservant - through virtue of purchase)

II. "Called as an apostle" - Another passive phrase.  He did not pursue apostleship.  He was called.

III."Set apart for the gospel of God" - When was he set apart?  Before he was born..."But when he who had set me apart before I was born and who called my by his grace...." Gal 1.15. 

What is so amazing about the when is the horrendous detour between the "setting apart" when Paul was born and the Damascus road.  Not only is the great apostle's detour permitted in order to be an encouragement to those of us who have taken detours of our own, but here, in Romans 1.1, this act of being "set apart," in light of Paul's detour and subsequent ministry, is already pressing us up against the climax of Romans in chapter 11, verses 33-36.  What I pass over as a needless intro is actually preparation for the meat'n'potatoes of the whole book.  

In my overview, I determined that the theme of the book is "the gospel."** As I started to study, I discovered that even the first verse of introduction is ultimately about the gospel.  To quote Pastor John when talking about Paul, the murderer and persecutor of the Church, being set apart from the womb,

"You see something like that and you put your hand on your mouth and say, 'God, what were you about?  Was it that you lost control of Paul?  That you wrung your hands as if 'Oh no, what is becoming of the one that I set apart for the gospel?'  Or are you loosening his leash and permitting, for holy purposes, this man to walk into being the chief sinners for a reason?'  Paul gives the answer to that in 1 Timothy where he says 'God had mercy on me, the chief of sinners that persecuted the church of God in order that he might demonstrate his perfect patience to all who would believe on him after me.'  He did it for you this morning, you sinner who feels who have done so much bad that nobody, especially God in his holiness, could ever forgive.  That's why God let him go! So that when He chose him on the Damascus Road, it would be plain to all, 'You mean you were willing to choose someone like that, who for 30, maybe 40 years, hated what you stand for? And came to a climax with rage against your people and threw men and women in prison in Jerusalem and hated your name?  That's who you choose to spearhead the Gentile mission?'  And God says 'YES! Do you get it?!?!  Do you get Romans?  Do you get the gospel?'  Verse 1 is about the gospel.  Verse 1 is about mercy.  Verse 1 is about sovereign, free grace."*
I have been excited to get to the laying-out of the gospel starting in Romans 1:18 (after the letter's intro).

I was blessed to find myself smacked upside-the-head with it before I even got through the first verse.

God is so good to us in his mercy, in his revelation, in his singular vision throughout every. single. word. of Scripture - to reveal who he is and what he has done so that he might be properly glorified.

Glory. Be.

Mindset Update
-I am still in a bit of a funk mentally, emotionally and socially.  Mostly socially.  I feel significantly better than I did when I first got back from Nepal, but I still am not my usual summer self.  And it's the end of June.  I am anxious for the sun's therapy to take its full effect.
-A few weeks ago I went on a solitude retreat and one of my intentions when I came back was to re-start my Gratitude Journal (not sure when/why I tapered off, but I did).  But I still haven't done it.  I think I'll start tonight.
-In those few weeks, while trying to motivate myself to re-start my Gratitude Journal, I have also been considering the idea of re-implementing Thankful Thursday here on the bloggy as a sort of accountability tool.  The verdict isn't in yet.  Still listing out pros and cons.  But the balance is tipped ever-so-slightly pro.  Stay tuned.

Oh and I am still enjoying the opportunity to spend time with the cutest dog ever.

No more updates this week/end.  I'll be spending a beautiful pre-4th-of-July summer weekend tromping around at the cabin in my tennis shoes.  See you next week!

*Most of these insights and the quote come from Pastor John's sermon "The Author of the Greatest Letter Ever Written" preached on April 26, 1998
** Since "The Gospel" is a fairly wide theme (and yet, I believe, it is unable to be narrowed down any further when considering the book of Romans as a whole), I am primarily approaching the book through Irving Jensen's helpful subdivisions that break the book into the following sections:
1.18-3.11: God's Holiness in Condemning Sin
3.12-5.21: God's Grace in Justifying Sinners
6.1-8.39: God's Power in Sanctifying Believers
9.1-11.36: God's Sovereignty: Saving Jew & Gentile
12.1-15.13: God's Glory: The Object of Service
I get encouraged by the gospel just reading through the subdivision titles!!  I can't wait to get down into the nitty-gritty!!!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Week in Review Part II

Another non-working week has come to an end and it seems that more and more people are asking me if I am getting bored out of my mind having not been to work in the last six weeks.  These are obviously people who do not realize that as long as there is a book somewhere in the world that I have not yet read, I will not be bored.  Even aside from reading, I have been getting a lot done.

I was much more social this week.  I am recovering from a fairly severe bout of jet lag/post-Nepal funk-ish-ness and I finally felt like leaving the house and talking to people this week.  I had a lovely new friend over for lunch on Monday and enjoyed a lengthy conversation about God's goodness, what it means to know His will, missions, biblical counseling, singleness, and all kinds of other things that I am passionate about.  Tuesday evening was a lengthy dinner in a park with a dear friend, Wednesday night was filled with new friends at a birthday party and Thursday was dinner with my roommie and Bible study.  Not bad for an introvert. :-)

The birthday party was for a new friend of mine who is a second-generation immigrant from Vietnam.  Her parents came to the U.S. to escape the war.  For her bday, we had do-it-yourself homemade spring rolls with a bunch of different Vietnamese sauces that she made.  You guys, she is the real deal.  It was SO yummy.  Also, she didn't know I played the accordion.  And I didn't know about 15 of the people there.  So that was fun.

Of course all of this fun took a toll and left me pretty tired.  So tired, in fact, that when I went to get an MRI of my wrist, I got in the machine and promptly fell asleep. They apologized about 13 times before the scan for needing to put me in such an awkward position (on my belly with my affected arm extended above my head Superwoman style) and asked me to just hang in there and they would try to get it all over with in 30 minutes.  Well, it took longer than 30 minutes because I could NOT stay awake, and every time I passed through a certain stage of sleep, my limbs would twitch and the movement of my wrist would mess up the scan.  So they had to keep repeating parts of the scan to get a better picture.  At the end, there was just one 5-minute scan left, and I could NOT stay awake and twitch-less for a full 5 minutes, so they actually took me out of the machine, let me sit up so I could wake up a bit, and then put me back in.  When all was said and done, the verdict was good - no broken bones or torn tendons.  Just some swelling in certain areas indicative of a really bad sprain.  And early arthritis.  :-(  The MRI of my foot also showed early arthritis (as well as two stress fractures and a broken toe - hence me still being off work) and osteopenia (decreased bone mineral density and a precursor to osteoporosis) which a) helps explain why every time I have any sort of minimal-impact trauma I manage to break a bone and b) concerns me.

But, I didn't have much time to sit around being concerned about my future bone health.  I was much too busy re-wiring my bedroom.  Do you remember the TiVo I bought last week?  Well, it came in the mail on Tuesday.  As I opened up the box, I threw the HDMI cable aside knowing full well that my ancient hand-me-down TV was not going to have HDMI input.  I grabbed the A/V cable and, much to my surprise, discovered that my TV didn't even have A/V input!  It ONLY had a coaxial cable input.  (p.s. the links are to help my technologically challenged mother understand what I am talking about, so if you already know what those things are, you don't need to click on the links).  In order to use my TiVo effectively, I was going to need a new TV.

So I headed to BestBuy.

Actually, first, I measured my TV.  It was a 20" and I decided on the way to BestBuy that I was going to upgrade to a 26" screen.  At this point, I was fairly excited.  I have never bought a TV before (hence the hand-me-down from 1990) and I was excited to a) not have that dumb tracking line run up my screen every 90 seconds, b) have a 6" wider diagonal on my screen and c) own a TV that is wider than it is deep.  So off I went to BestBuy.

If you've never looked at TVs at BestBuy before, let me tell you a little secret...26" screens look small when you are standing in a huge open space.

So do 32" screens.

37" looks nicer....

Aside from size, I had to make decisions about backlighting (LCD v. a slightly sharper LED), pixels (a sufficient 720 v. a sharper 1080) and frame speed (normal 60 hZ v. faster 120 hZ).  So, standing in front of the 40" TVs, I did what I do anytime I need to make a big decision.

I called my mom.

Big. Mistake.  At one point, she said, quote, "Honey, if you called to have me talk you out of this you called the wrong person."  And she is right.

I should have called my Dad.

Not long after I hung up, I walked out with my new 40" TV with the better backlighting, the higher density pixels and the faster frame speed.  Thanks, Mom.

I went home and proceeded to hook everything up.  After some research and a few phone calls, I discovered that I also needed a tuning adaptor (free) and a cable card ($2/mo) from Charter to get the HD channels through my cable.  And the cable card automatically gives you extended cable.  Which is how this whole thing started in the first place.  I called Charter to cancel my extended cable.  Now, less than week later, I still had extended cable, I just also had a nicer TV and a new TiVo.  Huh.

On Wednesday, I realized that with a nice TV in my bedroom that didn't have a tracking line running up it constantly, I may want to watch movies on it.  But not on my VCR (remember the whole "I haven't bought any entertainment-system-electronics in my life" thing?).  So I bought a Blu-Ray player.  And then, to ensure that I would have someone to watch movies with and that he wouldn't be hungry, I bought a mouse a cookie.  He proceeded to ask for a glass of milk, but I told him no.

I didn't have enough money left to buy milk.  (Hence the osteopenia...)

The TV, along with all the additional electronics (I already had a slingbox and my internet router is also in that corner) are a little too much for the top of my skinny dresser, so when my parents come in July my dad is going to mount the TV on my wall and so shall my shrine to (pointless, time-wasting) entertainment be complete.

Despite all of my new toys, I did not spend the week sitting in my bedroom watching TV.  As noted above, I was out and about quite a bit.  In fact, I WAS going to watch some shows as well as a movie on Tuesday evening, but I never got around to it.  Earlier in the day I met another neighbor (in the last 6 years, I met one of the seven neighbors on my wing of the driveway; in the past 10 days I have met four more).  He was sitting outside with his mom (who was visiting) eating lunch when I was going out to get the mail, so I stopped to chat while they fawned over Penny.  Turns out he is the anchorman for Channel 6 news.  They were extremely nice, so I stood and chatted for a bit before heading back home.  That evening, as I arrived home from dinner, I saw his mother sitting outside with another guy who I assumed was the guy's partner I heard about earlier that afternoon.  I headed over to introduce myself, was invited to join them for a glass of wine, and headed home 2.5 hours later.  Nik even gave me a hug as I was leaving!  They were SO nice and I am looking forward to developing deeper friendships with them.  I took some pasta salad over on Wednesday and we exchanged numbers.  Now that I have phone numbers for 5 of my 7 neighbors, I decided that a little neighborhood cookout was in order.  That will hopefully be on the docket sometime next week.  I love having (and knowing!) neighbors!!

So, to answer the world's persistent question: No, I am not bored.  Not bored at all.

Just poor.

The good news is I got set up with some temp work starting Monday (I will be working on the financial side of the medical system which I am actually fairly excited is something I don't really understand at all, but I field a lot of questions from patients about insurance and billing, so I'm hoping to learn a lot!).  I will probably miss all of the freedom that comes from not having any sort of schedule, but it will be good to get back to work (and stop spending money).

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Mid-Year Resolutions

It's June 12...seems like a good time to post some mid-year resolutions since I missed the New Year's boat this year.  I actually prefer to review my previous year and think about the coming year around my birthday instead of at the turn of the calendar year.  I started thinking about some of these in April, it has just taken me a while to get them on here and several have just developed over the past few weeks.  So, here are some things I am hoping to focus on during my 28th year...
  • Slow down.
  • Study Thailand.  (Find 4 good books about Thailand's history, leaders, current politics/issues, and culture)
  • Go on a solitude retreat quarterly.
  • Set my alarm every morning.
  • Buy a puppy. Train her to be a certified therapy dog.  Visit people in the hospital.
  • Re-start my gratitude journal.
  • Host a weekly women's morning coffee/fellowship/prayer group as a ministry to the women of Salt and Light.
  • Buy a new table that would enable me to host a weekly women's morning coffee/fellowship/pray group as a ministry to the women of Salt and Light.
  • Finish memorizing Ephesians.
  • Leave town less.
  • Visit Westminster Theological seminary when I am in PA in August.  Meet with someone from the Masters of Arts in Biblical Counseling program.  
  • Write out a list of all of the implications of moving to Philadelphia and going to school (church, work, house, tuition, community, family).  Seek God's direction.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Week in Review

I'm not working right now.  I think I have a stress fracture in my foot.  I had an MRI on Thursday and should get the results tomorrow (Monday).  Being immobile while having copious amounts of free time in the summer is bittersweet.  It has been nice to have time to catch up on life, although what I REALLY want to do with all of my beautiful days off is walk, bike, play tennis and do all sorts of other things you can't do with a stress fracture.  But the week hasn't been a complete bust....

I tried making coconut tapioca pudding for the second time.  The first attempt was a disaster.  I threw it away.  I don't remember the last time I made something and then promptly threw it away.  Not sure I've ever done that.  Gross.  I just remembered what it tasted like. Even when I flipped my lasagna onto the floor, I picked it up, washed off the noodles and reassembled.  Anyway, I gave it another shot today and used a different kind of coconut milk.  It's better, but still not like the stuff I had at the Oak Center General Store (a sweet little house/farm/store/concert venue where the farmer's wife and daughters make amazing food for you to eat while listening to local folk bands in the attic of their old farmhouse above the storefront.  Seriously. Love. It.).  I think my issue is with tempering the egg.  Does anyone know how to properly temper an egg?  I added hot pudding a Tbsp at a time - almost 2 cups worth - before adding the egg mixture to the pot, but it didn't seem to matter.  This round of pudding tastes better, but I still ended up with visible egg curdle in my pudding.  Kind of looks like I just added a touch of scrambled egg and mixed it all up.  I'm not used to unsuccessful culinary experiments and, frankly, I don't like it.  With each passing year I feel more and more like the kitchen is my domain and I don't like being shown-up by a hot sugar mixture.  I can't decide if I'm going to let the pudding win or if I will continue to seek victory over it and its finicky ways.  I'm leaning toward admitting defeat.

Speaking of defeat, I killed a red-winged blackbird.  Did you read that?  I killed one.  I'm still trying to wrap my mind around it.  Sometimes when they fly in front of my car, I wish I could hit them, but we all know how unrealistic that is.  Well, earlier this week as I was exiting off of the highway on my way home, I saw one on the shoulder of the exit ramp.  I swear I have a sixth sense for the dumb things.  I see them ALL. THE. TIME.  As I was approaching said bird, I noticed that it wasn't flying away like birds typically do at a certain distance.  Before I could even think about what I was doing, I had turned my wheel and punched the gas at just the right moment, careening onto the shoulder of the exit ramp straight toward the little devil....and I GOT it!  I had an exceptionally brief moment of pure elation followed by a guilty "what-did-I-just-do/who-have-I-become" moment.  I mean, doesn't serial killing start with cruelty to animals or something like that?  But does it count as cruelty if the animal attacked first (and second, and third, and fourth, and fifth....)??  Besides, they are still winning the war.  I just won one little battle.  But, hey, I finally. won. a battle.

You guys, I tried burning incense this week.  I bought an incense burner in Bolivia in 2005 but I have never used it.  I found some incense I thought I liked in Nepal and excitedly bought a pack so I could finally break in my burner.  I really like incense.  It reminds me of sitting around a plate of rice with a goat head on it and wearing our hijabs in the UAE or of walking into a variety of street-side shops in Nepal.  So I was looking forward to having a new "thing."  "That girl who burns incense."  Well, let me tell you, burning an incense stick at 8pm on a Monday night in the kitchen of your townhouse in Rochester just doesn't have the same....ambiance.  I still really like the scent of it, but I was also constantly worried it would set off the smoke alarm.  And I couldn't shake the feeling of it being a Monday evening in Rochester.  Something just didn't mesh.  Ah well.

I bought the Romans "Precept upon Precept" series from Precept Ministries.  39 weeks of study, 195 lessons in all.  I also obtained the entirety of Pastor John's Romans Sermon Series. 225 sermons.  Over 160 hours of preaching.  I intend to listen as I work my way through the Precepts study.  So, if you're looking for me any time in the next five years, I'll be in Romans....

I went to the clinic to donate platelets on Tuesday.  I usually have to wait a year after I travel, but I was told that since Kathmandu is not a malaria area, I was okay to give again right away.  Well, it turns out that one of the cities we were in is 30 feet below the malaria elevation cutoff (which is 12,000 feet above sea level).  30 FEET!  I told them I stayed on the "higher end" of the city, and reminded them of how tall I am, but it turns out mosquitoes can still bite your ankles and therefore my blood is bad for the next 343 days.  Boo.

I spent some time with the cutest dog in the world.

I went to The Avengers (I. LOVED. it!!!!  HIGHLY recommend.  Jeremy Renner is one of my favorite actors, and I was a little sad when he got overtaken right away, but all's well that ends well.  Hoping his character will be even more prominent in the sequel) and Men In Black III (I liked it for what it was....Brolin's impression of Tommy Lee Jones is spot. on. and reason enough to go see the movie).

I met some more of my neighbors.  A new couple moved in across the driveway in November and I have never made the effort to venture over and meet them.  I saw she was out in the yard one afternoon planting flowers, so Penny and I headed over to make a friend.  We hadn't been chatting for too long before Penny attracted another neighbor whom I have met briefly but never really talked to, and the three of us stood in the hot summer sun and had a lovely conversation.  Yesterday I happened to notice smoke billowing from that neighbor's grill, so I headed over, rang their doorbell, and helped them put out the raging fire that was consuming their dinner.  I felt bad for them and their ruined dinner, so I took some pasta salad over today.  I like feeling neighborly.

Tuesday was a monumental day for me.  I paid off my home equity loan/second mortgage/lien/whatever else you want to call it.  YAY!!  Now my only remaining debt is the primary mortgage on the house.  If I can stick to my plan, Lord willing, I will have that paid off in 7 years and be completely DEBT FREE!  Woo hoo!!!

I, along with 3 of my colleagues, presented a proposal to the Nursing Administration at work.  I won't go into a lot of detail since we are still working out details/agreements, but I will say that having the opportunity to affect the operation of a hospital-wide system and remake one of the roles in the nursing department at one of the world's leading health care institutions is pretty darn cool.  I even had one of those "wait-a-minute-...-am-I-really-doing-this" moments.  Also, it turns out our Nursing Administrators are really nice, down-to-earth people.  I love living in the Midwest.

I bought a TiVo.  I was actually calling TiVo to cancel the service to my current TiVo. I was also talking to Charter, asking if they could remove my expanded cable package but leave the cable box to function as a DVR.  If you ever want to do a study in contrasts, talk to customer service at TiVo and Charter in the same day.  Un.Be.Lievable.    When all was said and done, I returned my cable box/DVR and bought a TiVo box to replace it.  It is true that it has a few more features than the cable box, but honestly, more than anything, trusting that TiVo will work with me regarding any future issues, that they will be fair in their business and that they will be honest with me was 85% of what swayed my decision.  They were incredible.  Like, Apple incredible.  Dare I say....maybe even better....

Oh, and, last but not least, I spent three minutes reminiscing about the good 'ole days....

....and then I grew a few ideas in the garden of my mind.  But those are things for a different post....