7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 5)

--- 1 ---

Someone asked me today how my week was.
"Crazy hard and super cool."
That about sums it up.

--- 2 ---

I blogged a bit earlier this week about the "crazy hard" piece of it.

Summation: I came face to face with the reality that all too often I put my trust in money - instead of in God.  Tuesday's events and my reactions to them revealed that all too clearly, and I ended up eating some serious humble repentance pie.  Plus a couple of Cadbury eggs.

I spent the next two days in mental and emotional recovery.  And in further consumption of the Best. Easter. Candy. Ever.

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And in case you were not tempted by the obvious link in the words Best. Easter. Candy. Ever...

This is what you would have found:

(Logic - for the win.  (HT: xkcd))

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So the "super cool" piece of this week?  (you know, beyond the fact that the God of the Universe knows the ever-so-insignificant-detail of my affection for Cadbury eggs...)

Today, a very dear friend handed me $200 and told me, "This is a gift from your heavenly Father, who loves you."  Later, she texted me to say, "You'll have to get used to receiving extravagant gifts.  I think Papa has many more in store for you."

That $200 was exactly what I needed to cover all the expenses associated with an unexpected opportunity that will equip me to be better at my job.  As of Tuesday, I thought I was going to have to turn it down, and it was heart-breaking.  And now?  I can go.  God is sooooo good.

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Speaking of which: I had an unexpected opportunity last night to hang out with three of the coolest kids on the planet.  This may have included watching the middle 1/3 of the original Karate Kid movie.  (I have still not seen the new one, on principle.  And am choosing not to look too closely at why said principle did not stop me from watching the newer versions of Cheaper By The Dozen and Freaky Friday.)

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I've finished the "Web Fundamentals" track at Codecademy, and moved on to the next one, and all I have to say at this point is that jQuery... is confusing.  And possibly lethal.... (in the event that your brain implodes while attempting to comprehend it).

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Which is why I find it slightly surprising that spontaneous combustion doesn't play a wider role in this video:

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Lenten Lessons: fasting, integrity, and really dumb ideas

It has always seemed incredibly ironic to me that while fasting, of all the spiritual disciplines, drop-kicks me into dependence on God faster than anything else, it does, at the same time, bring out the absolute worst in me.

I suppose it's fitting - fasting being a physically cleansing activity - that it seems to do the same thing spiritually, but good golly gosh - it's neither pleasant nor pretty.

Two unexpected things (both related to finances) have happened in the past twenty-four hours that have shaken my trust - and showed some serious flaws in its foundation.  It seems I've been building my trust on the wrong things again, instead of on the solid rock of God's Word and character.  To say that God is faithful and in the next breath freak out about something that may or may not happen is to build on sand.  To choose the easy way (depending on credit) at the cost of integrity (even if no one would ever know) is again to build on sand.  And houses built on sand can't stand.

Today had some really tough moments.  Moments when the fruits of the Spirit were scarcely visible and the muck of my sin, pride, and extreme lack of faith dominated the scene.  It was horrible.  I cried - a lot.  I cried because I felt abandoned and unheard, because I could not see how God would come through.  I cried because the consequences of past sin (in regard to how I've handled/viewed my finances) justly affect my present reality even though those wrong choices are covered by grace, and it feels unfair, although it isn't.  And I cried because I know that God is faithful and true to His word and His promises, because I know that trying harder isn't what earns grace - that you can't earn it; it's a gift, and you have to receive it, and that sometimes life is just life and you can't control it and it is - somehow - all going to be okay, and that accusing God of not caring enough about you to give you what you want is one of the dumbest ideas ever.

And God, in His goodness and His grace, waited until I was done with my fit, and then spoke quietly:  "Go buy yourself some Cadbury eggs."

Permission to splurge.  To do something kind for myself.
To stop dwelling in the negative, and to choose hope.

So I bought the eggs.

They are sitting here on my table - Easter eggs: a symbol of life - and better still, chocolate, which inevitably makes me happy.  They remind me that the God of the Universe, who knows the deepest cries of people who live in far worse circumstances than I do, heard my cry and answered in a way that He knew I'd understand.  He knows me.  He sees.  He hears.  He cares.

And He waited until the muck of my sin was out in the open and then patiently began cleaning it up.  "You can't control everything.  But there are things that you can."  So I folded my laundry and did the dishes.  Sorted thru the junk mail and recycled a ton of clutter.  And caught up on a few of Andy Stanley's leadership podcasts - including one on Integrity (from July 2012).

A woman of integrity doesn't take the easy way out.  She does what is right, and God blesses it.  By the end of the podcast, I had chosen not to take the easy way.  And within minutes, a solution to one of the problems presented itself.  Whoa.  The other one (if it even exists) is more complicated.  It'll take time.  But it is not impossible - not for God.

And I don't have to see how He will be faithful to know that He will be.

Ironic, that I could forget that, while practicing a spiritual discipline that is meant to bring me closer to Him.  And yet - in the end,  I guess it did.  And I shed some things along the way that will leave my spirit lighter, provided I don't try to pick them up again.

Andy Stanley tells of a prayer he's prayed daily for years, and I think it's one worth adding to my personal liturgy:  "Lord, give me the wisdom to know what it right, and the courage to do what is right, even when it's hard."

It just goes so much better that way.

And this Cadbury egg I'm having for dessert?  It's seriously sweet.

Related posts: 
Fasting Makes Me Grumpy - February 2008
Fasting, Repentance, and Freedom - February 2008
Lenten Journeys: Learning to Breathe - February 2010

7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 4)

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Happy Lent!  I know that sounds weird - Lent involves giving stuff up, right?  Usually stuff we love.  It can feel less than exciting, and more like a chore.  Something we're supposed to do.  (How many days are there left in Lent?)  No other season invokes in me the desire to whine at Jesus, "Are we there yet?" than Lent.  And yet - Lent is typically the time I spend the most time focused on dying to myself and drawing closer to God.  So ... happy Lent.  With all its hardships, it is still going to be an amazing season.

--- 2 ---

This year's Lenten journey, for me, is likely going to involve a good deal of fasting - not just from one thing, but from entire meals.  Not because I like it, not because it's fun, not because it's super-holy - but because I don't know of a single other spiritual discipline that drives me to God as quickly.  Fasting puts me in touch with how want-driven I can be.  It also gives me a colossal headache, which in turn gives me the opportunity to practice displaying things like patience and joy - against all odds.  It reminds me that how I feel in any given moment is not necessarily indicative of reality.  And it puts me in touch with how very much I need God's presence and intervention on a daily basis.  (This is no less true when I'm not hungry, but I sure do remember it a lot more often when I am!)

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One of the fun things about my job is that I get to go fishing on a lot of church websites for ideas and new inspiration.  It's fun seeing what different churches are doing to make an impact in their communities.  This year it looks like at least three lucky people are walking away from Valley Family Church with a new car on Easter Sunday.  What a creative way to bless families in need!

--- 4 ---

Speaking of creativity, one pastor built a drop box - for babies.  He's making a difference one life at a time, and his story is absolutely inspiring:

I am so looking forward to seeing this documentary this summer!  Visit The Drop Box website for more information on how you can help build a new orphanage for these little ones.

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This week has held a lot of ups and downs; one of the ups was a spontaneous coffee chat with a dear friend who showed up while I was working on Valentine's Day to buy me a cup of coffee and chat.  He brought me an entire bag of Reeses' Peanut Butter Cups.  Happy day!

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One of the downs?  My work week felt something a little (er... a lot) like this:

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Which is why I'm sure that going to Codecademy is a brilliant idea.  Surely on the far side of a bit more education,  I will sound smarter guesstimating that something might take a couple of hours.  Give or take.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 3)

It's been a very diverse week here in Happyland.  I took an inordinate amount of time off this week, mostly by accident.  Ish.  I mean, I meant to take time off.  Just maybe not quite so much of it...

It was worth it, tho!  


Monday was the 2nd session of a 3-session virtual conference for pastor's wives and women in ministry.  It's called JustONE, put on by Leading and Loving It, and I have to say, I'm really glad I signed up for this.  It's just an hour and a half each week, and there are eight different showings of each session, so it's easy to find one that works with your day.  I've learned so much from the speakers so far.  Like with any good conference, there's a little bit for everyone, so not all the sessions have resonated in the same ways - but I've had the chance to hear from some very strong female voices that I'd previously never even heard of.  The conference is free, so I'd highly recommend popping on over to their website and registering for Week 3, which begins on Monday morning.


My favorite speaker by far this week was Michelle Meeks.  Michelle spoke on finding freedom within busyness - something I'm still trying to figure out on a day-to-day basis - but her talk challenged me to look at how easily I forget, in the midst of the chaos that is my life, that He is with me; that I am not alone.  (And then I promptly forgot, again, as soon as the chaos resumed.  But writing about it has reminded me, so maybe there's hope?)


Lent is quickly approaching.  I had a really humorous conversation about this with someone last weekend.  She was planning to give her heart to God for Lent.  "Never mind about the rest of the year," I said without thinking.  (Filter, Happy, FILTER!!!!)  Fortunately she found it funny - and is now considering a different approach.   ;)


Many thanks to the Unvirtuous Abbey (whom I discovered this week via a friend who shared a FB post of this retweet) for retweeting a relatively funny, if slightly sarcastic prayer, on behalf of those who will be giving up chocolate for Lent this year - considering it starts the day before Valentine's Day.  Hahaha.  Whoops.


I registered this week for a conference called Bold Boundaries, which is coming to Chicago in April.  I've been reading the blogs of some of the speakers for this conference for awhile now, and am looking forward to hearing them in person!  Gender roles within the church have experienced a great deal of confusion over the past few decades, and I think that many of the voices at this conference are speaking into that creatively and wisely.  This post from Kathy Escobar really got me thinking this week.

- 6 - 

We got 8 inches of snow yesterday.  It was the first real snowfall of the season, and the world is beautifully white.  I love snow.  It's so pretty.  :)

As the first one home, I took the first shift for shoveling - about 4 inches altogether at that point, plus the three foot pile at the end of drive from the plows.  It was great exercise.  I'll confess tho - I think there were only about 6 square feet of snow left to shovel off the driveway when I finally registered that the shovel I was using had, yes, been laying on top of a snowblower in the garage...

- 7 -

Music is such an interesting thing.  I'm always fascinated when I hear a new (or new-to-me) cover of a song, especially when it's a song I really liked.

This, however, was not a song I liked.  At all.

I almost didn't listen to the cover because of the original.  Now?  I might actually like this song.

Worship Leading 101: Condensed

This is truly amazing.

You may need Kleenex.  ;)

Compassion - Checkpoint #1

At the beginning of January, I joined the OneWord365 Community and chose "compassion" as my one word for the year.

I knew it was going to cost me something.
What I didn't really register is that one of the things it will cost is my pride.

The first thing I've learned about compassion is how little of it I seem to have for myself.  I can have a tough day, or screw something up, or say the wrong thing, and my instant response is to berate myself for it (sometimes for days) - whereas a friend can tell me with tears in her eyes about how tough her day was, or how she made a poor decision, or said the wrong things, and my instant response will be one of grace and compassion, calling out what's true about her as a person over and against the facts of her day or a situation, and reminding her who and Whose she is.

I can read verses like Psalm 103:8, which says: "The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love" - and know that a Christ-like attitude imitates this - but to have this perspective towards myself is challenging.  To be compassionate and gracious towards myself, to not be mad at myself when I "get it wrong" (especially if I knew better!) - wow.  Not my first response.

Admitting it out loud means acknowledging that this needs to change.  It means that on a tough day, when I'm not succeeding in holding it all together or "getting it right," I need to be able to walk in grace without arguing with it.  I know that His grace covers all my sins and shortcomings, and that I am a work-in-progress - but all too often I expect justice when what's mine is gracious compassion.

One of the things the Lord has been whispering so often to my heart this past month is that He understands me far better than I understand myself.  He knows every thought, every motivation - and He knows where they came from.  He is in the business of taking the broken and making it whole - and He is doing that with me.  And He sees past the flaws to the beauty He's bringing out of me.

So a little over a month in, I can already say that "compassion" was a good word for the year.  I don't think I realized how much I really need it - especially from myself.

7 Quick Takes Friday (vol.2): The Fighting Buffalo Edition

Well, I'd meant to blog this week, I really did - but hey, 7 Quick Takes it is.  (Thanks again for hosting, Jen!)

1.)  I've learned a lot this week about conflict resolution:

    a) I am still really bad at it.  but...
    b) I'm better than I used to be!

So on the upside - I actually chose to confront someone when I was angry this week.

On the downside - I did it really badly.

So please allow me to present you with a few Happy Guidelines To Better Fights:

2.)  Never fight over email.  Your tone-of-voice in an argument matters - and no matter how clear and logical you think you're being,  the truth is that if you are in any way, shape, or form irritated, it will come off that way.  In person, no matter how difficult, will always be better.  Your facial expressions, classic tells, and your heart will come thru sooooooo much better in person.

3.) Don't assume your perspective is accurate.  You're mad.  So of course you're right.  (and, um, no.... you're not.  Your perspective is only half of "what just happened there"...

4.) Ask questions.  Seek to understand.  So something someone said torqued you off...  Why?  And why did they say it?  Did they mean what you think they meant?  Or are you having a bad day?  (All of a sudden.  Which can happen.  Usually because there's something going on under the surface of which you weren't aware.)

5.) Assume good intent.  If the person you're fighting with is a good friend, it's likely there's been some kind of miscommunication at the heart of whatever the "real" issue appears to be. Again - ask questions.  Have the guts to say to his/her face: "This is what I heard you say, and this is how I feel about it."  But be prepared to hear that you heard wrong in the first place.

6.) At the end of the day, what matters is unity.  Not being right.  Not being wrong.  Just... getting it right.  Back to good.  Back to the way it's supposed to be.

and  7.) Never underestimate the power of a good, well-timed, and heart-felt laugh.  It can make or break your day, no matter what's happened in it.

So, say... for an extremely random example...  you were once chased by a bison.  But you later found out that other people have tamed them, and had adventures while riding them that inspired songs.  Which may or may not be available for purchase on iTunes.

You could find yourself spending more time that it's worth watching videos like this one, and laughing hysterically (which is always good for you):

Who knew buffalo were so handy against (were)wolves?