Saturday, June 20, 2015

New City, New Church

One of the first things I started looking at when I decided to move to Austin were churches. After eight years at North Park Covenant Church, I was excited, if not a little trepidatious, about looking for a new church.
I'm not looking for a carbon copy of my previous church, intact I feel quite the opposite. While I love certain aspects of NPCC, I've never been sold on the whole package. But I learned to appreciate or at the very least accept the things about the church that I was unfamiliar with. A great example would be the musical style. I love music and for the last year and a half was a member of the choir. I learned a great deal and appreciated the music, even though it wasn't my taste per say or what I grew up liking. North Park had a terrific use of liturgy, and observance of the church year. They had a good progressive theology, and a strong traditional identity. These are all great things.

One Sunday I visited Austin Stone Church during one of their evening services. It was my first church visit here, and I really didn't know anything substantial about it before going in. I parked my bike, took a complementary cup of coffee and casually wandered over to the info table before being greeted enthusiastically by Benry. Benry is a church's dream greeter. Friendly and very happy to answer any questions you may have. We talked for a few minutes and I gave him my schpiel,  just moved here from Chicago looking for a new church. 

It quickly dawned on me that I could visit every church in Austin, bring my list of requirements, and have it not matter. Maybe it's more important that I come to every church and simply ask the question How is the Holy Spirit at work here? And what is coming out of that work? then ultimately ask the question Would I be good for the work that is already being done here?

Sure there are a few things on my list that make it or break it requirements, but maybe the list as a whole isn't the most important thing. Maybe ticking off the boxes to see if a church fits all of my needs overlooks a great deal of what the church is actually doing.

My prayer is that over the next few months the Holy Spirit gives me eyes to see how and where any given church is ministering. Then hopefully the question will not be Is this church good enough for me? and instead become, Am I going to be a beneficial addition to this church?

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

North Park Covenant Church: A Love Letter

In just a few days I'll be packing my belongings into a Budget Truck and driving them down to Austin, TX; where they will sit in storage for three months until I decide on a permanent place to put them.

There was a time during my eight year stint in Chicago, when I thought that I may just live at 3406 W. Foster Ave forever, and keep going to North Park Covenant Church until I died, then be cremated and inturned in the columbarium.
But No.
My dream of having a wedding in that beautiful sanctuary, having Brian play the theme to Star Trek Voyager on the organ, and walking down the aisle barefoot probably won't come true.
But that is ok.

I have often compared my relationship to North Park Covenant Church to a marriage. We met in the Fall of 2007, dated for a couple of years, then in 2010 I decided to become a member. I remember actually walking down the aisle that day and agreeing to fully be a part of this church body. Then about a year later I wanted a divorce. I wanted to divorce North Park a couple times, but I didn't. I stayed and slowly but surely I saw this church, and myself, grow and transform. I saw things that we had talked about in board meetings and in Veritas sessions come to life. I was proud that I had been there to be a part of that and to witness it.

Being a part of this church for the past eight years has been one of the most challenging and rewarding parts of my life, certainly of my adult life so far. I don't think anything has caused me to grow and change as much as being a part of this church has.

It has made me prioritize what is most important
It has kept me candidly honest
It has given me a wonderful group of friends
It has been my surrogate family
It has been my anchor and stronghold in times of trouble
And it has repeatedly frustrated and angered me to no end

For every one of those things, I am eternally grateful.

I have always loved music. North Park made me realize just how much I loved it, and loved sharing it. I love being in the choir (even though I still think that having a good voice doesn't automatically mean you should be in the choir) I love sharing my voice. I'm so thankful to Randall, Brian, Chuck and Sharon for being my teachers.

I love children. And I love that Harry and Tobin were two when I started and now their ten. I was Minister to Toddlers for only three years, but I have loved seeing them grow from the sidelines. I love that I have seen my friends have babies, and I have gotten to help them raise their babies. I love the trust that exists in the church that we will raise these kids together. I hope one day that will be true for me as well. I'm thankful to Libby for employing me in the first place, and even more thankful to her and Elise having worked with them both on the Board of Christian Formation.

And thanks to North Park, I now love 16 inch slow-pitch softball. And that doesn't have much to do with my athletic prowess or incredible stamina, but it is thanks to Anders Johnson, Pete Strom, Charlie Peterson, The Brothers Meyer and their brides, Jess and Rach, and so many others who I am lucky to count as friends.

I love the people of this church, and I treasure the fact that they've been praying and caring for me not just during this time of transition, but for the past eight years of my life. I couldn't have asked for a better last Sunday to have.

Monday, December 8, 2014


Winter is here!

I've been getting underway with ways to prepare for the ice and snow. Here are some of the things I have been up to.

1. Insulating Windows
Last year my apartment could barely keep it's head above board in the sub-zero temperatures. My gas bills were so high, and I couldn't keep more than one space heater on without blowing a fuse. This year I was determined to get this under control and insulate my windows early. It took my roommate and I over an hour with two hairdryers (and three blow fuses) to just get our living room window done. I also put up some heavier curtains for some added insulation and light control.

2. Bike Ready
My winter bike was in bad shape from last year. I had a friend of mine work on it, and replace a few parts, but even after that I still needed to have my back wheel completely replaced. The whole thing added up to $180 in parts and labor (but hey at least it's not a car) and I'm back on the road. To keep everything running smoothly have to oil my cables and housings, and fill up my tires at least once a week. I always carry my lights, extra pairs of gloves and ear wraps, and use my trusty windbreaker.

3. Skin, Hair and Nails
My skin and hair definitely dry out in winter. Coconut oil has been my balm of choice for about a year. It's great from my skin, hair and nails. I've even been using it to clean my face. Just apply in circular motions and wipe off with a hot towel. I did an oil treatment for my hair last night with coconut and grape seed oils. And with all the oil I'm applying, I just rub the remainder into my hands and nails. I've noticed a lot less breakage, an softer cuticles.

4. Winter Wear
Most of my winter clothes have held up great. But every year I always need stocking, wool socks, and under layers for the season. For work, I just throw on a skirt and sweater and I'm ready to go.

5. Warm Up
I love making soups and stews this time of year. I'm still making my way through a batch of potato soup I've made, and I made a big vat of oatmeal for breakfasts. This is a great way to portion out my meals. This time of year when food is all around us, I try to do my best to keep my portions regulated.

Hope this gives you some ideas for keeping warm this winter.

Currently in Advent

Current TV: Sons of Anarchy, How to Get Away with Murder, Jane the Virgin
Currently Natural: I just got a bunch of product from Ava Anderson Non-Toxic. I hosted a party earlier this month and got a bunch of stuff for free in my order. I can't wait to try it all out. I also ordered some wonderful handmade soaps from Pines and Pineapples. I'm going to write a separate post just about these two businesses.
Current Celebrity Crush: Charlie Hunnam, hot damn. I saw one picture of his bare ass and proceeded to watch 5 seasons of Sons of Anarchy. #sorrynotsorry
Currently Craving: Not a damn thing. I'm still stuffed from Thanksgiving dinner. I just finished the last of my pumpkin pie and and some leftovers. I don't think I'll eat a thing until Christmas.
Current Recipes: Coconut Pumpkin Pie, Potato Soup
Current Drink: Hot Mulled Apple Cider
Current Lesson: About a month ago my current roommate told me she would be moving to campus. I'm bummed, but I understand. This event has prompted me to address a couple things. Do I want to keep changing roommates every nine months? Can my life withstand this revolving door of people coming and going? And if it can't, what can I do to change it?
I'm praying very seriously about some changes for 2015.
Current Blessing: I'm going home for Christmas. That's the biggest blessing I could ask for. I miss my family, I miss Texas, and this is one break I definitely need.
Current Song: O Come O Come Emmanuel, I also picked up She and Him's new album "Classics"
Current Need: I typically keep my opinions to myself on social media when it comes to politics, religion and current events, but this needs to be said. We are in Advent, the season of hope. This world is aching for redemption and reconciliation. Police brutality, high racial tensions, violence, unrest, injustice. Come Lord Jesus, come.
Current Holiday Tradition: My roommate and I went and saw "The Nutcracker" on Saturday night. I grew up watching the ballet on TV, and I saw this performed live in Houston when I was in high school. It was amazing to see it again, hear all the familiar music, and enjoy some exquisite dancing.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Currently October

Current TV: The most exciting this so far about the official debut of Fall 2014, is that my shows are back. OUAT, Castle, Agents of Shield. I'm a big TV buff

Currently Natural: I love finding recipes for natural non-toxic beauty and household products. I just bought a few new essential oils to make Thieves.

Current Celebrity Crush: Scott Michael Foster... yum

Currently Craving: Speaking of yum. Now that a chill is in the air I'm craving fall foods: soups, stews, pumpkin bread, macaroni and cheese.

Current Recipes: Last night I made a banana bread and prepped everything to make mini apple pies.

Current Drink: My pumpkin spice coffee is my go to every morning. I did make a recent beverage blunder. I purchased some apple wine from Gene's, and it's horrible. I don't think mulling could even save it. I may just let it ferment more and turn itself into vinegar. It already tastes like it.

Current Lesson: I don't know if I have ever worked this hard. I have never thrown myself into a job the way I have with this one. In one month I'll have been there a full year. Every job has it's joys and frustrations. And of course this is no exception. I'm thankful for the edification that comes my way through work.

Current Blessing: While this season has been kind of hard on my personal life, I am so thankful that I have great foundation. I have a loving family who I can call on at anytime, I have great friends who have lasted with me for years, and I have a wonderful church family who is right here when I need them.

I did an exercise recently, that feels hokey, but is needed. I wrote affirmations of myself in my journal. Things like, "I am enough." "I deserve love."

It feels weird to write these things out, let alone say them out loud. But I have noticed that I often (as many of us do) think about my self in negative ways. I think I should be doing more, and if something isn' going well, then it's my fault. I needed to take a step back an choose to insert some positivity from myself, not just waiting for others to say these things about me.

Current Song: At work I listen to Pandora. I have a broadway/show tunes station, and my favorite things to listen to are the tracks from Spring Awakening and Avenue Q.

Current Need: A massage

Current Ailment: My allergies are just going berserk. I'm sneezing all. the. time. Big powerful sneezes, one right after the other, where people have to stop and ask me of I'm ok and stuff.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Do The Thing

I just finished up my first month of tae kwon do classes.
For almost my entire life I have wanted to do martial arts. And for most of that time I have always had a reason not to (money, time, other commitments.)

A couple months ago I was coming back home from work on a Saturday. Bryn Mawr Ave was closed off to host Korean Fest, and the Pirates of the Caribbean theme was playing. Now if you have the sheer audacity to play the Pirates of the Caribbean theme, you'd better be doing something fucking awesome.

I hear this, and as always beg the question- for what purpose? The purpose was a martial arts demonstration, particularly one lady on stage who was showing self defense maneuvers in the most bad-ass possible way. I stopped and watched the rest of the show and really enjoyed it. 

I rode away afterwards and the tough occurred to me. I have always wanted to learn that. Why haven't I done anything about it? 

This has been a growing year for me. This has been the year that I've tried to do "The Things". 
The things that I have always said I wanted to do, or would do but never have. 

I joined choir. 
I went to Chicago's Comic Con
I started Tae Kwon Do

It's a start. There's still more to do. There's still so much more that I want to do that I have put off or rationalized away. 

But this is good. Really good. 

I'm actually really really good at this. And the thing is that I always knew that I could be. I always knew that I was capable of this and that my body could do amazing things. It wasn't just that I walked in and started, it was also that I nailed an axe kick on my first try. 

That's what's up. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Let's Review!

I've been on an extended blogging break, but I thought I'd come back with a review post of some new and old favorite products of mine.

Off we go!

Frozen Swag
 Our pastry chef at work made me this cake for my birthday. It's and Olaf ice cream cake. I can't even.
I picked up two items at Hot Topic, this "Let It Go" ring and the phone cover pictured below. I love the ring, but wear it sparingly because the metal is pretty cheap quality and turns my finger green.

The phone case however is working out great. I've never had a case on my Android S4, because I keep it in a pocket in my wallet. Android cases are generally harder to find and less available in stores, so I did have to special order this from Hot Topic. But it's working out great, and still fits in my wallet which is an absolute must for me.

Star Trek and Comic Con Swag
 I broke out my Uhura dress for Wizard World Chicago. But while I was there I also purchased a new "red shirt". Say what you will, but I love it, and I also ordered a "red shirt" for my nephew Elliott.

I ordered a TNG communicator from Amazon a week before the convention. I had hoped to rush order it, but that was a lost cause. The morning of the convention I check my e-mail and had a notification that said "Delivered" So I rush downstairs to find absolutely nothing. Nothing in my mailbox, nothing in the delivery section. Nonetheless, I put my disappointment aside and go to comic con.

Of course while I'm there I spend an absurd amount of money. My new red shirt,
a TOS Reboot style insignia, a few movie shots, and an autograph.

It took another week for my TNG communicator to arrive. I had to make a couple calls to the post office and to Amazon, but the post office tracked down the package and it got to me. 

Essential Oils

Everyone knows I love my essential oils. Last week I had a cold, and these were a lifesaver. Pictured are Lavender, lemon, grapefruit and diluted peppermint. I added lemon and grapefruit to my water. I use the diluted peppermint to ease headaches and inflammation.

Clean and Green Beauty

I've heard a lot about this product from Sephora called "Glam Glow" it's insanely expensive, but really popular. Of course I took to Pinterest to find a "homemade" version. This may not be exactly the same thing, but it is a natural, non-toxic, clay based mask that feels great on my skin. I like to use this after I exfoliate my skin (every two days or so) and leave it on. It has lemon and tea tree oil, so I don't use a toner afterward. I just wash it off and moisturize with a little coconut oil and frankincense.

Last summer I switched over from a chemical sunscreen to a natural one. This year I have dumped my antiperspirant and switched to an aluminum free version. It's kind of hard to find a natural deodorant that is just as effective as it's chemical counterpart. But they are out there. Right now I am using Trader Joes brand deodorant. It's inexpensive and actually does a good job of keeping me dry and smelling nice.

I'm going to continue to search for natural and homemade alternatives to conventional products. I'm becoming more and more aware about what ingredients are in our everyday health and beauty products. I definitely want to write more about this and what alternatives are available. 

Food Creations
These days, I am not making as many meals these days. After long days at work I tend to reach for what is convenient. But last week after too many pizzas and pot pies, I just got the urge for something real and homemade. I went grocery shopping and that night came up with this killer chicken parmesan. It's butterflied chicken breast pieces, breaded in flour, breadcrumbs and parmesan. The chicken is fried in oil until golden, then I add a can of tomato sauce, and cover in mozzarella cheese and a little more parmesan. What makes this recipe work is that I use my cast iron skillet as the only vessel. It can go from stove to oven at any time. This way I know my chicken is cooked evenly, and the cheese can melt properly.