Israel!

In January, Heath and I (and my parents!) took advantage of an amazing opportunity one of Covenant’s professors offers every two years: a two week tour in the Holy Land! If you know me, guided tours have not been my mode of travel in the past. But with the varied and changing dynamics in Israel, plus the opportunity to learn from Biblical scholars and a local guide, this seemed too good to pass up (and it was!). I took fairly copious notes and photos, so this is just a smattering. Please let me know if the comments if you have any questions or would like more details about somewhere particular.

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Learning From and Listening To

Last week, the deaths of Alton Stirling, Philando Castile and the Dallas officers echoed (and I should mention the daily St. Louis reports of conflict resulting in the death of someone on one side or the other).

When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.
– Psalm 32:3 (NIV)

As the news and my Facebook feed are filled with opinion after opinion, the last thing I want is to add my voice to the clamor. And amid the strife that is wrenching a divide between us, you don’t need my story, to categorize me as friend or dismiss me as “other.”

We should use our opinions to start discussions, not to end them.
– Madeline Albright commencement speech to Scripps College, May 2016

If you insist, I’ll admit leaning to one side. But I want to hear, truly hear both.
Let me weep for the black communities who live in fear and who mourn their loved ones killed – by police, by their brothers, by the system that failed them.
Let me weep for the officers and families who sacrifice their comfort and lives for the safety and peace of our communities.

In reality, you can be pro-cop and pro-black, which is what we should all be…You shouldn’t have to choose between the police and the citizens they are sworn to protect.
Trevor Noah

Love for my black neighbors and friends and Christian brothers and fellow humans made in the image of God compels me to anguish the disparity of our experiences. For too long, I did not know their stories. And now that I have begun to see, I cannot forget, and I cannot stand by idly.

To me, this is the great divide in the world today — not between liberal and conservative, rich and poor, or between any one race or creed and all the others, [but] between people who have the courage to listen and those who are convinced that they already know it all.
Madeline Albright’s commencement speech at Scripps College, May 2016, emphasis mine
Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer
you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you take away the yoke from your midst,
the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness.
If your pour yourself out for the hungry
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
and your gloom be as the noonday.
– Isaiah 58:6-10

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Post Script

Please, tell me your story, your perspective. I want to hear. I hope you will listen to mine and to others’.
Articles that have compelled me to think lately include the below.

I, Racist – “White people are in a position of power in this country because of racism. The question is: Are they brave enough to use that power to speak against the system that gave it to them?”

Black Cop to America – They Call Me Uncle Tom – “I would ask questions, and would only get emotional responses & inferences based on no facts at all. The more killing I saw, the more tragedy, the more savagery, the more violence, the more loss of life of a black man at the hands of another black man….the more I realized.”

White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard to Talk To White People About Race – “These privileges and the white fragility that results prevent us from listening to or comprehending the perspectives of people of color and bridging cross-racial divides. The antidote to white fragility is on-going and life-long, and includes sustained engagement, humility, and education.”

Justice for Black Lives Must Begin With Us (Part One, Two) – “It’s much better to learn from than to learn about… As the Body, we need to lead in the model of listening and hunting for those true Gospel opportunities and allowing those to shape our opinions rather than statistics and tweets and these things.”

When a Pastor is Also a Police Officer – “Whites need to recognize that millions of people in this country have not benefited from the same background and privilege that they have. And blacks need to recognize that not all police officers are bad.”

Plot twist

As of yesterday, I have read 1000 books [in my life] [as chronicled on Goodreads, which is not quite accurate, because I did not start keeping meticulous reading records until the mid-2000s, and so my prolific elementary reading days are not wholly reflected in this number]!

I am also halfway to my goal of reading 104 books in 2016.

2016-reading

Of all my various and changing goals, reading is arguably the easiest for me to achieve. Blogging, writing in general, exercising, improving diet, etc…often doomed to failure. Reading? Oh, you got it.

(Although honestly compels me to admit that of the list of 27 specific books that I plan to read in 2016, I’ve only read 3 so far.)

(Another side note: if you’re wondering about those goals I mentioned in my last post [eons ago], they’re going okay. I’m on 4 of 8, all have gone pretty well through each of the phases, and I’m doing a decent job at keeping them as habits, not just things to cross off [although I do like crossing things off lists]. I haven’t maintained a 2 minute daily plank, but I’m doing a 10-deep-breath plank [~1 minute]. And the current habit I’m working on [wall sit] is a good addition so far.)

Change is weird. Even gradual change. I have this pretty weird but probably normal personality of really not liking change, but also loving adventure. I guess it’s just a matter of perspective. Being sanctified (ie changing): I resist. Being challenged to have an adventure (ie skydiving): let’s do it! I need to change (haha, not-so-punny-pun not intended) how I look at the personal growth that God intends for me. I don’t know about the futility of resistance, but it’s pretty silly.

So here’s to change…growth and adventure and reading and goals and skydiving (but really…skydiving. It might happen.)

A Beautiful New Horizon

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calendar by karen k. wang

Totally stealing this from Diana at Our City Lights (who got it from tumblr).

2016 is going to start February 1. January was a free month trial.

Yesss…this week marks the feeling of making progress. While New Year’s Resolutions aren’t my jam, you can slap some goals between two slices of bread for me any day (I crack myself up, and Heath on occasion). But really, I do like goals, and making them whenever it comes up…a new year, a big change, a birthday, a Monday, you name it.

The middle of the month was a mental lull for me. I wasn’t exercising, I wasn’t writing, my office was a mess (let’s be honest, it always is unless houseguests are coming), and I felt no motivation. This past week though a couple of things came together, and I feel like maybe I’m getting the hang of this.

On Saturday, I joined a nearby-ish YMCA with the intention of doing some of their group classes, since I have little to no interest in just working out in a gym. On Sunday, I reviewed the list of classes and was grumpy because a 6am class means I have to get up at 5:30 (it’s been mostly 7:30-8, if we’re being honest, which we’re obligated to be since this is the internet). Yikes! And an 8:30am class means I have to rearrange my work schedule, and an evening class means rush hour traffic/throwing off meal scheduling. So Monday, I came up with the idea of doing yoga at home with Heath! Since he gets up early already (5, yikes), and having some kind of accountability (since I’m mostly an obliger) is great for me, plus he has expressed interest in yoga to stretch and increase flexibility, it seems perfect. We’ve done it (at varying times between 6 and 6:45) the last three mornings, and it makes my day so much better.

a) I’m getting some movement/exercise in
b) It gives me a great window before work to read my Bible (my first new habit for the year), read other stuff, wash dishes, get stuff done.
c) It is so true that not being active/occupied is demotivating. When I have a slow day, I am even less motivated to do the laundry or do anything other than loaf around. But when I start the day doing something (not mindlessly checking Instagram), I stay productive through the whole day.

This wasn’t a New Year’s goal, but it just came up and no time better than the present! Plus, this past week I listened to Gretchen Rubin’s Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives, and while it wasn’t the greatest book evaaaaar, it was helpful and motivating.

So, all that to say, I’m feeling good going into February. (And Heath just got all his syllabi [syllabuses?] this week, so he’s probably more on the overwhelmed side of the spectrum.)

(I don’t have resolutions, but [even before I read that book] I’m working on some new habits, see after the jump for more on that)
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the time that is given

This morning I’m listening to the Lord of the Rings soundtracks, and it’s an emotional journey. Not only am I familiar enough with the films to see very clearly what’s happening with the fellowship, the music reminds me of the valley that cradled my childhood and coming-of-age. To a certain extent, the stories of Tolkien also carried me into adulthood.

From today's timehop

This past weekend, I embarked on the epic journey of sorting through photos, memorability and resuming the task of chronicling the life I’ve lived since college. This endeavor arises, in part, out of realizing how many small boxes I have of nostalgic ephemera (the prospect of moving in 1.5 years already has me winnowing and s-l-o-w-l-y purging). Unfortunately, I’m also a fairly thorough person, so I can’t just categorize and chronologize my existing photos…oh no…I need to make sure all the pertinent photos have been printed as well. Luckily, I am mostly current through 2009 (I realize that year is now 6 years past, but let’s remember that 21 years that are up-to-date!). As I looked through full albums and digital photos from a 2007 family trip to Alaska to choose some for printing, I was and am bowled over by how much life has already been given me to live.

Arguably one of the best projects I’ve ever done is a daily calendar. Every year, I write something for every day, and then the next year I can remember what happened one year ago. Basically an analog timehop, now that I think of it.

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Two years ago, on this day, we were in Minnesota to celebrate the marriage of one of Heath’s cousins (just two-and-a-half months married ourselves). Three years ago, I was in New Zealand, couch-surfing in Rotorua with a lovely couple, and I went to a Maori hangi (not unlike a Hawaiian lu’au). It was Thanksgiving back in the US, and I remember smiling to myself that part of the dinner offered at the hangi included stuffing and cranberry sauce.

This week the US celebrates Thanksgiving again. I have a lot give thanks for.

Oh the Places We’ve Eaten [Part One]

So, you’re thinking about visiting me in St. Louis – fantastic! Just so you know, we’ve done some research on places we can go to eat.

Breakfast
Let’s Go Here

  • Winslow’s Home [University City]
    Love this general store/coffee shop/farm-to-table restaurant. The menu is small but delicious and well-put-together.
  • Half and Half [Clayton]
    Heath loves their breakfast, and I like it. I’ve found their regular menu doesn’t usually suit my tastes, so it’s always disappointing if their specials menu doesn’t excite me.
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Not my fave, but I’ll include since we haven’t found many breakfast places

  • First Watch [everywhere]
    I’d never heard of it before STL (and thought it had something to do with emergency services…), but there’s often a line here. We’ve been once, and the food was pretty good, the atmosphere just leaves a lot to be desired imho.
  • Rooster [Downtown]
    The food good, but not good enough to get me all the way to downtown for breakfast.
  • City Coffeehouse & Creperie [Clayton]
    Good crepes, but the process of ordering and the cramped nature of the restaurant on a weekend made it unlikely we’ll return.

Lunch/Dinner
So Good!

  • Brasserie by Niche [Central West End]
    Great for a special occasion
  • Seoul Taco [the Loop]
    Delicious Korean-Mexican fusion. The food truck doesn’t always have all the options as are at the restaurant.
  • Mission Taco [the Loop]
    And the classic tacos. To be honest, I like Cantina Laredo’s better, but these are still worth a repeat visit.
  • Mai Lee [Brentwood]
    For those Vietnamese cravings (pho! bahn mi!)
  • Cantina Laredo [Clayton]
    $3 house margaritas and half off tacos for happy hour! Yum!
  • Sugarfire Smokehouse [Olivette]
    Barbeque!

I’d Eat That Again

  • Pi Pizza [various]
    Try their deep-dish, twice-baked cornbread crust pizza. It’s good.
  • Katie’s Pizza & Pasta [Manchester]
    Fun bistro environment, tasty food and drinks.
  • 5 Star Burger [Clayton]
    Pretty self-explanatory…burgers
  • Chuckaburger [Overland]
    Your classic, cheap drive-in burger.
  • Nick’s Pub [Dogtown-ish]
    Dive bar with prices perfect for the seminary budget
  • Three Kings [the Loop]
    Good, classic pub food

Other places of note

  • Juniper [Central West End]
    The Southern homestyle cuisine just does not do it for me. They do it well though, and the atmosphere is great.

Coffee/Other
The number of times I get out of the house to go to coffee is not a lot (there aren’t any spots nearby. I’d probably like Blueprint, but I’ve never been there.

The London Tea Room [Tower Grove South]
Lovely spot to buy tea in bulk, or stop to have a cuppa and scone.

There are a variety of wineries west of the Missouri River. We’ve visited Chandler Hill (ritzier, spendier) and Sugar Creek (more home-y atmosphere, can bring your own food). Would recommend either.

St. Louis Stuff
that we mostly don’t understand…

  • Imo’s Pizza. If you’re here for a long time, you should probably try it. Some people love it, most don’t.
  • Ted Drewes Frozen Custard. It’s pretty good.
  • Toasted Ravioli…had it once at a pub and wasn’t blown away, so don’t plan to order it again
  • Gooey Butter Cake. Actually have not tried this yet. Don’t even know what it looks like.

On a clear November day

In Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, she quotes E. L. Doctorow as saying: “Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” She astutely points out this is excellent advice, not only for writing, but for life.

I would argue that blogging is not like writing a novel, but today I’m operating under that premise: although I am not writing with the “big picture” of this blog in mind, this blog post will contribute to the greater whole.

Sidenote:  I really, truly could spend more time pontificating about writing/blogging than actually producing content. It is a fact that, one (arguably two) of the creative essays I wrote [for a grade] in college was written largely out of a stream-of-consciousness meditation on simply the act of writing.

Talking about Lamott’s application re: life is a little too deep for this post. Just talking about writing is arguably a lesser use of time – yours specifically, but perhaps mine as well.

So, here’s a little illumination from those headlights into my life of late.

I read a lot.

I have started listening to Christmas music. And I’m not one of those people who has historically been all crazy about the holidays prematurely. But between periodically working on a Christmas card, Christmas shopping, and burning delicious candles, it was time for the soundtrack to match.

Minimalism is eternally an ideal that I anticipate never achieving. Oh well. I get rid of things here and there, and in a good month I get rid of more than I buy at goodwill (a vase and picture frame last weekend!).

We have done some cool things lately, but I should save that for a post I’m going to go write right after this regarding St. Louis stuff.

There isn’t really a photo for this post, so I’ll leave you with this favorite clip: