Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Continually Challenged

A few weeks ago, a dear friend challenged me with who I am at work. My job is one that I love, but I’ve always held myself back a little bit because I want to honor the culture that has taken years to cultivate. I knew in getting the job that there was a reason I was meant to be a part of this group. I enjoy the company, the work, the heart, etc. but I also know that I’m meant to bring something a little different to the table. What am I supposed to bring? And how do I intentionally do it?

There are a few things that I know that I carry and am meant to deposit everywhere that I go. First is helping people see their potential, and moving into a place where they are living out of who God created them to be. Most Christians don’t truly know who they are, or what God has destined for them to do. For some reason churches and people and books and the world have told us that we aren’t actually as powerful as God says that we are. That we aren’t as significant. That we don’t have as much to offer. But God says with Him all things are possible (Matt. 19:26), that He is giving us all authority and power to do the things that Jesus did (Luke 9:1-2), and that we will do even greater things than Jesus did (John 14:12). We are no longer sinners, but saints that have been set apart. And I want to help people see and grab ahold of their true potential.

The second part of that is hearing from God on behalf of others. Hearing what He loves about people, how their skills can be used, what strengths He’s given them, and what makes them different from everyone else. Everyone needs to know that the world needs who they are. They carry something no one else does, and not stepping into that is depriving the world of a wonderful gift.

Thirdly, (I’m still learning what this looks like) I carry an atmosphere of freedom. I want people to feel completely free to be themselves around me. I try not to get offended easily (still a work in progress), and give people permission to ask questions and grow in their own time. I don’t want people to have to perform around me in any way, because honestly true relationship can’t happen if someone always feels like they have to perform. Or look a certain way. Or be a certain way. I know there are certain people that make me feel insecure, so I want to be very conscious of the kinds of comments I make, especially if they relate to topics that could be sensitive for others. Hopefully some of my life’s events have prepared me for a variety of these opportunities and how to and how not to handle them.

These things are all part of who God created me to be. And everyone is beautifully and uniquely different, and I love that I get to interact with so many different kinds of people. Sharing life stories and experiences. Thoughts and questions. The valleys of “process” and the mountains. These are the things I thrive on. Doing relationship. So over the next few months my goal is to learn how these things "fit" at work. How do I add value to my office? To my colleagues and friends?

This is only the beginning, but a part of a very rewarding and hopefully fun process.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Curtain Project.

I went shopping this weekend and had ZERO luck finding curtains for our den. The art we have has such a mix of neutrals, burnt orange, lime, and bright turquoise. I ended up buying a few options but none of them felt quite right. So I grabbed these beauties out of a drawer upstairs (the ones I couldn't live without from West Elm, but had no home for), and threw them up on the rod. Not too shabby, huh? The darker shade is a mushroom-ish kind of color with a little bit of brown and a little bit of grey. The in-between color is a light but bright blue. So not the most matchy-matchy, but I think they look pretty good!

We also painted our formal living room (ugh. aren't formal living rooms outdated yet?) a light grey that is really pretty, but it doesn't get a ton of light so the living room almost looks darker than the dining room. But whatevs. I'll pretend that its my favorite paint job I've ever done to save myself from the shame of it looking clash-y.

And we hung three pictures above our bed to the tune of $7.50 a piece thanks to Michael's and their love for coupons. One is of San Francisco, one is of Grand Teton, and the other is of the sunset over Beirut. I'll post a picture of those later (when my bed is made). They are really beautiful.

Slowly but surely we're makin' progress! Now I'm ready to stop working and start new books and catch up on TV shows and cooking endeavors. And also find ways to re-claim the friendships I lost throughout this housing transition. If I owe you a call - I WILL CALL YOU. AND YOU WILL ANSWER. Jk. You don't have to answer, but I do love you and want to talk to you. Badly. So please answer. :)

Love love.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

iPhone Bliss

So last week my Blackberry kicked the bucket. When my vowels and #2 key didn't work, it was hard to call AAA for help when my gear cable shifter snapped last weekend. Luckily someone let me borrow their phone, but what if I had been on the side of the road?

So Patrick finally said, "enough is enough."

After my car was dropped off at the shop, and Patrick had picked me up, we went straight to Verizon to get an iPhone 4. I had only been DREAMING of this day for 3 years, and it was finally happening. No more t-mobile. No more blackberry. No more gimp keys or slow website access. And so I came home with this beauty.

I'm new to the whole iPhone world, but I'll let you in on my favorite app right now (other than Words with Friends which if we're being honest was my sole reason for wanting this phone in the first place). It's called My Fitness Pal. I know that sounds lame, but it allows you to track every meal, snack, amount of water sipped, as well as every kind of exercise you can imagine. I put in my ideal weight, what I am now, and it gives me a goal caloric intake to shoot for each day. (I also learned that if you have to write everything down, you're more apt to stay healthier and lose weight quicker).

Last night I joined LA Fitness which was a long time coming, I just hadn't taken the plunge. And this morning I went to kickboxing and then did some weights. I plugged in all the machines, weights, and the class that I did, and My Fitness Pal gave me back a few calories for the day! Probably because I started off with -400+ because of my workout. I am trying to get into a habit of working out because if I don't have a routine or people to do it with, I will sit on my couch. ALL DAY.

So here is an example of what a food diary can look like on the app, and the kind of information My Fitness Pal gives you (this is not mine, but I would love for my goal to be 2010, and not 1650). I hope that this (and Fiona) will keep me motivated each week to stay on top of my fitness goals. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Book Reviews

Over the last few weeks I've read 3 books that have been VERY different, but really good.

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown: The story is great, but not one of Brown's best (especially not after Angels and Demons and The Da Vinci Code). Similar formula to Dan Brown's other books, yet set in Washington, D.C. which adds a dimension of familiarity. I'd recommend it if you like Brown's style and ability to make symbols and history come alive in unexpected ways.

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese: This book felt like an attempt to be like The Kite Runner, but fell slightly short of that goal. It is about twin boys that were born in Ethiopia of an Indian nun and a British surgeon. The nun died giving birth and the father fled once Sister Mary Joseph Praise died, unable to handle a life without her. The sons grew up in Ethiopia studying to be doctors, and one son fled to the U.S. after some political strife in Addis Ababa. It took about 300 pages to get into the story, but in the end it was well worth the read. Dense, but rich and insightful.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins: This was a very fun read. Good for all ages although written for a younger audience. Set in post-Apocalyptic America, 2 teens from each of the 12 remaining districts are chosen to participate in the annual Hunger Games. It is a fight to the death and can only produce one victor. The arena is set up for the "Gamemakers" to produce storms, fires, winds, and other calamities to force those in hiding out in the open. The entire country watches the televised games each day, yet the participants have no connection to the outside world until the Games are over. Well worth the read if you need an easy-to-follow, fun, and thought-provoking book.

I'm always open to book suggestions, so feel free to share any good books that you've read!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Grey, You are beautiful.

This past weekend we painted our dining room grey. And I LOVE IT. The room has white bead-board around the bottom half and gets tons of light during the day, so I think it looks really classy and nice. I'm pretty sure my mom's jaw dropped to the floor when I told her I wanted to have not one, but two rooms be painted grey. But Pinterest has told me that grey is "in", so I assumed it to be the final authority.

So here is our room freshly painted. I re-stained the chairs so they haven't been added to the table set-up just yet. I'm also working up something great for the walls. And for the table. And by working up I mean I'm spending hours on Pinterest pinning the endless possibilities I'll never be able to afford.

In a dream world, our dining room would look something like this.

And here is the newest addition to our den. Again, sorry for the phone picture. It brings in turquoise, lime and burnt orange which will be great to incorporate over the next few months in vases, pillows, curtains, etc. I wish there was more of a blue palette in the picture but I can't have everything.

It makes me feel good to have some sort of design progress. Slowly but surely this is starting to feel more like home.

In other news, my progress with Lucy the dog has been somewhat lacking. And by lacking I mean to say that I have kind of a terrible attitude about her. How in the world do you paint your nails, re-stain furniture or make dinner with a 52 pound dog nipping at your feet, sitting on your legs, or whimpering when you ignore her? Although most people probably peg me for a neat freak, I do not however like swiffering her fur off the floor every third day. Or lighting candles continuously to mask the smell of our downstairs. Nor do I like having to walk into the wet grass so that she will feel comfortable enough to walk into it herself and pee.

But the good news is Lucy is still alive and happy as a clam. The bad news is that I am not a good sport when it comes to revolving my life around her. When I have other things I want to do without distraction. Like read my book. And paint my walls. And watch reality tv. And craft.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Family Time

Last night Patrick and I got home from the beach. Going to the beach each summer has been a tradition in my family for 25 years. Each year we rent a house, put up a tent in the sand and spend hours and hours talking, laughing, singing, drinking, eating. It's been an incredible tradition because it has forced everyone to connect each year and to keep up with each other as we've all gotten older. There are 18 of us and each year it seems we get bigger and more diverse. We are so blessed to have each other and to get to go through life together.

Here are some highlights from past trips and family gatherings. I didn't take one picture from this trip so none of these are super current. But they still exemplify who we are in some way!

A group of cousins and Annie (on the far right) in the ocean.
Annie is the woman that makes it all happen. She turns the big 8-5 this year!
A pool-side shot, minus Libby Gray, Jill, Joe, and Walter.
In our family there is freedom to wear whatever you want...
to give age appropriate gifts for all birthdays (tattoo sleeves and drinking games for my dad)...
to write raps and make up songs for each other...
to singe your hair while trying to light your cigar in a fire pit....
to have potato guns and potatoes at a wedding shower just because you're in Idaho...
to eat LOTS of fresh foods and to try new recipes....
and to teach your grandmother (who is 84) how to play pool.
Here's a great tent shot.
And an old fave of Annie, my dad, Walter, Maggie and Sloan.
One picture that I wish I had was one from the year that we built a lady in a coffin out of sand.

I hope everyone gets to experience the same unconditional love, generosity, respect, culturing, artsy-ness, drinking habits, and fun that my family exhibits. I wouldn't know how to do life without these wonderful friends.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Mission Trips - Trust me, you need to know.

Every year my organization sends hundreds of people to Kenya and Haiti. I admit that we don't have all of our kinks worked out, especially because all of our in-country staff is native Kenyan or Haitian...which automatically sets teams up for a different kind of experience than an American would expect. Part of my job is to train leaders and to send them out as prepared as they can be for the "unexpected." But I'm learning quickly that no matter how many people are "flexible," they're not actually flexible when it comes time to be flexible.

So I have a 2 tips for you if you are a potential trip leader, or even a trip participant on a short term mission trip:

1. Be Flexible. This almost always means that your schedule will change, you won't have information as quickly as you like it, and the information you get will probably not be as thorough as you prefer. Now, it is my goal to give our team leaders every ounce of information that I possess. However, it is sometimes more difficult than you might realize when we only work in very rural communities without electricity or running water. That means that the email I sent this morning might not get answered until the end of the week, if it gets answered. That DOES NOT mean that I/they are neglecting your team, are withholding information from you, or trying to set you up to fail. In fact, it means the exact opposite. That you have an opportunity to step into a new level of faith. To pray that God would direct how you prepare, and to be ready "in season and out of season" for whatever gets put in front of you. If you say "I can be flexible, I'd just like to know more in advance when this is happening," that probably means you're not actually going to be flexible. American mindsets and processes have the potential to rob us of an incredible experience that could have happened if we were just ready to do what God had orchestrated for us to do. And almost always its in a way that we least expect.

2. Be honoring. Find what is good in a culture. Learn what God is doing and partner with that. The food might be prepared differently, the beds might be hard or you might not have air conditioning. So what? You're not there to be served, but to serve.

What does it look like when you complain about your bed to a hotel staff member that doesn't even have a bed? What does it look like when you make a face at the dinner table to a family that prepares you a meal, and they used 3 months wages to make your experience the best it could be? Your reaction can make them feel so honored and valuable, or make them ashamed or embarrassed that they aren't good enough for your company. We need better control over our words and our actions. Honoring can be uncomfortable, stretching, or even painful, but it is the currency of the Kingdom. So we have to get better at it. The way you honor will make or break your ministry on your trip.

It's the trip leader's responsibility to set and maintain the culture of their team. Most people need to be shepherded, encouraged, and reminded of how good God is and how much potential there is for Him to work through them on a trip. It is easy to get side-tracked, so a good leader needs to be able to rally people back together on why they're there, who they're serving, and what it means to honor (not just when something goes wrong, but continually).

So there you have it. Follow these guidelines and you'll have the perfect team and trip experience. JK- it might not be perfect. But it will be better than it would have been had you not read this. Thanks for reading!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Art Decision

This was my final decision. Judy Paul's "Garden" ordered off of Overstock.com. It is 40 in. x 40 in. so I hope it will be big enough for the gaping hole above my couch. I love the weirdness of it, and I think it will bring some much needed "life" to the room. Later on I might order a second piece from Judy Paul that is similar. She has 6-7 that are this style but with different pictures and sketches and designs. But for now, this will be it!

Thank you for your wonderful patience and advice! I can't wait for it to come in so I can finally move forward on the rest!