Friday, April 30, 2010

project 4:4: the prodigal weeks, week 12

There is a distinct possibility, if it doesn't take me five days to write this post, that I will actually be finished with my March readings before April ends.  My lack of catching up is truly starting to feel ridiculous, so I have every good intention of buckling down and being caught up by May 11.  Up-to-date readers are in Psalms right now and will continue to be through the 11th, so I think I can get through the lives of Saul and David pretty easily and catch up to the Psalm-readers.  Your continued encouragement and support will make it all possible, I'm sure.

In this seven days of reading, I finished Judges, covered all of Ruth and began I Samuel.  Saul is going to enter the picture in the next day that I read, so the time of the judges is at its end.  It's been an interesting journey, peaks and valleys and such. A notably odd story from early in this section of reading is Jephthah and the vow he makes when asking for God's help in a victory, promising that in exchange for God's intervention, he'll sacrifice whatever comes out to meet him when he returns home.  How can Jephthah possibly believe there will be a good outcome here?  How can he really expect that God will delight in a human sacrifice?  Did he think a goat was going to wander out and greet him?  Surely he'd realize that there the potential was there for some near and dear person to come out first.  I've done no research here, but I'm supposing there's some religious influences from the surrounding pagans at work here that Jephthah would make such a vow that had the obvious potential to end in the sacrifice of some person from his household.  God told us back in Leviticus (week 6 or 8 or something) that people who sacrificed their children to other gods should be put to death, so I don't think it was His idea.  It also makes me wonder what would have happened if Jephthah had refused to kill his daughter and keep the vow.  Would God have really been displeased?  Or would He have struck Jephthah dead instead?  It seems fair to me--or as fair as killing one's own daughter.  Jephthah unsettles me.

But on the next page is Ruth, and Ruth makes me happier with its inspiring virtues of loyalty and kindness and selfless devotion.  But though I think there are great lessons to be learned from Ruth's faithfulness to Naomi and Boaz's compassion and commitment to honoring his family, I don't have big important things to say. (But seriously, do I ever?)  Naomi's role in hooking up Boaz and Ruth is a little disturbing.  I'm sure when I learned the flannelgraph version of this story, it definitely lacked the pimping overtones that the biblical account contains.  (Yes, I just said pimping.  Hope you weren't letting the kids read the blog.)

Speaking of flannelgraphs, this week's reading also covered the tumultuous life of Samson.  He really had terrible taste in women.  Using Samson as an example, let's talk about whether or not it's okay to have secrets from your spouse or significant other.  Normally, I'd say it's not, but it sure seems like Samson could have saved himself some heartache if he'd ever been able to keep his own counsel (and then I'd listen and agree with all of you who told me that I shouldn't get an opinion on this one since I don't have a dog in the hunt).  But really, I do think it comes back to choosing a better mate, one who is worthy of trust and able to keep a secret rather than someone who will conspire against you with your enemies.  Frankly, Samson comes across like an idiot in parts of this story.  Wasn't it suspicious that each time he told Delilah the source of his strength, she attempted to subdue him in that way?  Seriously, bro. 

Also recently I heard someone talking about Samson and eating the honey out of a lion's carcass.  It might have been cousin, theologian, scholar, and #1 blog fan.  If it wasn't, we can still count on him to take credit.  But the thing that doesn't get emphasized in the text that the person was saying about it is that because Samson was under a Nazarite vow, he wasn't to have any contact with dead things.  If any old Jew had touched this dead (not to mention unclean before it even died) thing, they'd be unclean and have to wash and do whatever, but Nazarites couldn't be near a dead body without ending their vow.  So how does he get away with it?  How does that not take away his strength?  Why does God give him this wiggle room?  Does it have significance in our lives?  Why don't I know anything today?  I definitely should have gotten that guest blogger because as it turns out, I don't feel full of insights about Samson either.

Just so we're on the same page and I'm being completely honest and stuff, I'm also going to skip over the remaining characters from Judges with no guilt whatsoever.  You can read about them yourselves, if you want, but I've already told you the best bits, though if you're the sort of person who thinks killing and battle and body parts being sent as a message are the good bits, you really should check it out for yourself.

So let's talk Hannah and Samuel and Eli and stuff.  Surely I'll find something to say here.  I've always liked the story of Hannah, of a woman who prayers earnestly and is heard by God, a woman who keeps her word and gives up the child that has been the object of her longing and prayer for years, a woman who entrusts the keeping and protection of her son to God so that he can be equipped for a life of service.  It's sort of like a voluntary, non-killing version of the Isaac sacrifice.  Here's a highly anticipated, beloved child given back to God.  I admire it and respect it and feel a sort of fascination about it because it's the kind of selfless thing that I don't think I could ever do.  It's a story that reminds me that I have a long way to go, but I like the fact that the example is there.  Hannah did a very difficult yet obedient thing, so maybe I can too.

Speaking of obedience, or lack thereof, sometimes good men turn out some really bad offspring.  Nadab and Abihu spring to mind as well as Abimelech.  Hophni and Phinehas, the sons of Eli, were cut from the same cloth.  It always makes me wonder what Aaron, Gideon and Eli did or didn't do as fathers, but ultimately everyone's responsible for their own choices, so I shouldn't go blaming the dads here, I guess.  Unless my #1 blog fan tells me I should.

Samuel's a stand-up sort of guy, and I'm looking forward to digging into more of his life in the next week or so.  I know you are too, imaginary reader.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

idle hands

Back in another blogging life, I once wrote about how having something to do with my hands helps me to focus or pay attention better.  There's more to the story, of course (isn't there always?), including the fact that I sometimes do sudoku in our Wednesday night Bible study.  My friend Jeff called me on what he saw as not paying attention, and for the better part of two years, he's given me a weekly quiz after class to test my listening skills.  He conceded long ago that I really am listening when I work on other things (more recently, I've taken to knitting instead of doing sudoku during class), but we keep the quiz alive because it's fun, and we're both ridiculously competitive.

But I've never brought my sudoku into "big church."  I'd like to be able to tell you that it's reverence that's holding me back, but it's probably something more like fear of judgment.  So when I need something to do with my hands, I have to turn to other sources.  Fortunately at PV, we have member and visitor cards with nametag stickers that have provided an outlet for my fidgeting and occasional creativity.

(Insecure blogger's note:  some of these look really messy in these zoomed in photos.  The tags are about 2 1/2 inches long, so when you're standing a respectable distance from a person's chest, they look pretty fantastic.  Up close, an occasional mess.  Also some of the photos were taken with camera phones, and those pictures are sad and blurry.  But the real deal was impressive.  Trust me.)

It started fairly simple . . . with the same block letters with shading that I first started making in junior high.  What is it about junior high girls and writing names with fancy letters?
Sometimes I do use capital letters, but the problem is that I saved very few of those early, more ordinary ones because I didn't realize the blog fodder for what it was.  I also make name tags for Jess and Shane, and if I have time, other folks who are sitting nearby.

Shane especially loves it when I do cute, girly letters for his name.
This is a pretty standard fall-back style when I don't have a better idea.  Sometimes the letters aren't filled in, or they have polka dots or checks or stripes instead.  But I don't have a pictorial example of any of those fun things.  This one is stuck on my Daily Bible so I can tell it apart from the thousand other Daily Bibles floating around PV right now.
I did one of these fake-calligraphy ones for Lacey too, and I wish I'd gotten a picture of it.  Maybe if she still has it stuck on her Bible I will.

But things in the nametag world got interesting a few months ago when I started doing theme tags instead.  I think Christmas was my original inspiration, but don't quote me on that.  One night I made this . . .
 . . . and I think it's safe to say that all our lives were changed.  I love these snowpeople.  In that same time period, I did a few other seasonal tags:
Pardon the blur.

For a while I was sticking my cute ones to the bathroom mirror in my old apartment, and my greatest regret in life is that I didn't take pictures of them before I had to scrape them off when we moved.  I had a snowflake one that would make you weep.
In addition to seasonal themes (and there are some unphotographed Easter ones that I miss--I made a duck into an S for Shane's Easter tag), I also took to making name tags that connected to the wearer in some way.  This has been the most successful with Shane, who apparently has a lot of easily drawable interests.
Perhaps you can't tell this, but those are comic book covers.
I'm especially proud of making an H out of a baseball bat and a hockey stick. 
Shane gave up meat for Lent.  I made him an all meat tag the week after Easter.

In case you haven't heard, Shane currently has the highest streak in ESPN's Streak for the Cash, and I made him this tag when his was about 21 games in.
I was trying to recreate the style of letter used in ESPN's logo from memory.  It was only marginally successful.  His streak ended almost a week later at 25 (but he's still got the longest streak for the month, so he might still win the cash), and that Sunday I made him the bad luck tag to commemorate the loss.

It's actually the most creative one yet, but it's a bit hard to decipher.  Clearly there is a black cat crossing the path of the S.  The H is on Hurley's winning lottery ticket.  The A is a ladder that Shane walks underneath.  The N is sitting on a table where Shane is singing (apparently people outside our family don't know the charming rhyme "Sing at the table, whistle in the bed, Boogie man'll get you, 'fore you're dead" which our parents used to terrorize us as children).  And the E is on the handle of a broken mirror.
Jess and Shane save some of their favorites on their Bibles (which is how I've been able to provide you with these photos), but Jess overlaps her stickers, so it was more difficult to get individual shots of some of hers--the fact that she's out of town this weekend and had to send me the photos from her phone because my adoring imaginary readers couldn't wait until Monday for this gem of a blog didn't help the picture quality either.  Here are some of her greatest hits (the coloring we can blame on her camera phone):
That's a scarf.  Jess is famous for them.
She was wearing a necklace that day, but it didn't look like this.  The B was a nod to Ugly Betty, whose cancellation was announced the week I made this tag.
Before Jess got her Droid, she was permanently attached to a laptop.  I guess I need to make her one with the Droid now.
The worst rendering of Jess ever created, but the concept was sound--and oh, so appropriate.
A couple of weeks ago, Jess wore a skirt to church that she hadn't worn since last Spring because she had spilled snowcone on it and stained it.  It was still stained, but she decided to wear it anyway.  I made her a snowcone nametag to hide the stain.  It would have worked if she hadn't continuously peeled it back to show people and tell on herself.  That's my girl.
I'm very proud of this idea, but rather disappointed in my inability to draw hands.  That says Cynthia in finger-spelling.  Cynthia knows sign language. 

Sometimes by the time I'm finished with Shane and Jess's tags, I don't have the imagination or energy or time to do a fun one for me.  But I've had a few good ones along the way.  Here are some recent ones that didn't get scraped off the old mirror (but are adorning the mirror at the new place):
Honoring the blog--I think I did this one when I was on my HGTV-link high.
During my handyman phase since the move.  
I did this one the day after our zoo adventure for Hailey's birthday.  Before you ask, the N is made from the legs of a frog.  Somehow people don't get that one.

Now that I've shared my hidden talent, I may update you periodically on the work that I'm doing in nametags.  I know you're on the edge of your seats now.

Friday, April 23, 2010

project 4:4: the prodigal weeks, week 11

My motivation was obviously high after finishing action-packed week 10 because I finished week 11 at top speed on Sunday night.  No explanation for the five day delay in blogging it.  [Lazy blogger's note:  I originally composed that sentence on Wednesday, and I've had to change the number of days twice because I can't seem to finish this post.]

This week's worth of reading covers the end of Joshua and the beginning of Judges.  I'm sure the more action-packed portions of Judges helped this section to fly by.  Though the first day's reading is more land allotments and lists of cities in each territory, and I skimmed unashamedly.

But then we come to Joshua's farewell address.  I told you back in week seven that I'm a fan of the farewell address concept.  And I think that Joshua gives us a fine one here.  He knows how difficult it will be for these Hebrews to live as a holy people, and he reminds them of how it is they came to be set apart and all that God has done for them along the way.  And then he gives them a choice.  I know (though I think I sometimes forget) that they've always had a choice, that everyone has a choice, but I think often in God's covenant relationship with the Israelites, they're dragged reluctantly into place.  Maybe I'm misrepresenting them and God here.  Feel free to ignore me.

But this seems different to me.  This is not the "He's your God.  Keep His commandments" instruction we've gotten from Moses and Aaron and Joshua in the past.  With that, the people still had to decide whether or not to follow the commands (because the choice was always there), but not following carries a stigma and the promise of swift justice.  But here in Joshua 24, he seems to be asking instead of telling:  "Is He your God?"  Like maybe they could choose something else and live, like maybe God doesn't want a reluctant, obligatory commitment.  He wants to be chosen in their hearts and committed to willfully and not because the axe of his judgment and wrath is hanging over them.  I'm sure that's what he always wanted, but I think this is the moment in the story where I really see them making this decision rather than following some man who makes the decision.  And maybe I'm ready way, way, way too much into these couple of verses.

With the death of Joshua (and Eleazar, the high priest), the young nation is really left to make those choices on their own much more than before.  Sometimes they do okay.  They did continue to make some conquests of the land, but none of the tribes is completely successful in ridding the Promised Land of its original inhabitants.  And that's going to come back and bite them.

Judges 2:10 is a terribly sad verse:
"After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what He had done for Israel."
How quickly they forget.  And I think it breaks my heart for them because it flies in the face of one of my favorite passages:  Deuteronomy 6:6-9:
"These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children.  Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Writ them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates."
Clearly a generation couldn't arise not knowing the Lord unless that previous generation dropped the ball.  Oh, Israel.  I'm really glad cousin, theologian, scholar, and number one blog fan reminded me of something about you last week.  You're the one writing this story down.  When you have those colossal screw-up moments, you don't sweep them under the rug or creatively recreate history on your blog.  Instead you record for posterity all of your blemishes and hiccups and failures, right along with your more glorious moments of faithfulness.  Israel, you keep it real, and I have to appreciate that about you.  (And I have to appreciate Mac for the reminder.  Thanks, buddy.)

Kind of like forgetting the crossing of the Jordan, sometimes I forget about all the really odd things that happen in the book of Judges.  Oh, I get the gist of it.  The Jews are bad, God punishes them through some other nation of people, the Jews cry out to Him, and he raises up a judge to save them.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  But many of the stories have some hook, a gruesome twist or a miraculous defeat, and that's the part I really love.  Like Ehud and the sword-swallowing fat of King Eglon.  That is just a morbidly fascinating story--as is Jael driving a tent peg through the temple of Sisera.

(Let me interrupt myself to inquire if I should be offended as a woman that Barak's punishment for not following God's command on the first try is that God allows a woman to be the one to kill Barak's enemy?  I'm not exactly, but  . . .)

The story of Gideon is also in the readings for week 11, and in him we find another reluctant hero.  Anyone notice a pattern here?  God always seems to be calling some person who doesn't want to be called.  Is he drawn to their humility?  Perhaps we're just supposed to learn the lesson that God uses the ordinary to accomplish His purposes.  Or maybe His power is best showcased in their weakness.  God will tell us in a few weeks that He judges by the heart, so perhaps the real common denominator is something we can't even detect.  Clearly His method is sound because He always seems to find the right person for the job.

Veggie Tales: Gideon Tuba WarriorI'd like to be able now (as is my occasional custom) to make a Veggie Tales reference about Gideon, Tuba Warrior, but instead I must admit that I've never seen this one, which is a real tragedy considering my affinity for the tuba and the very real way that being a tuba player is going to change my life.

So God calls the reluctant Gideon and then patiently proves Himself through a couple of miracles.  I love moments like that, when some human acts human and decides to test God, but obviously does it with a decent heart because God plays along instead of striking him dead.  I like it when God is patient.  It gives my hard, rebellious heart hope.  Jerks like me need God's patience.  I also think these fleece miracles contrast nicely with the lack of response from Baal when Gideon destroys his altar a few verses previous.  Gideon essentially gives a slap in the face to Baal, and as Joash says, "if Baal really is a god, he can defend himself," and nothing happens.  No punishment for Gideon.  But in the same chapter, Gideon sees the true God setting fire to a sacrifice, alternately letting a fleece get wet and stay dry, and using a tiny fraction of an army to defeat the Midianites.  God controls each of those situations, proving His God-ness, and Baal doesn't so much as peep.

The last day's reading finishes out the life of Gideon, who kept enough humility after his military victories to refuse kingship, but who obviously didn't spend enough time raising his seventy sons to honor God.  Someone who knows the Judges song needs to tell me if Abimelech is considered a judge because a more worthless individual I'm not sure I can find in Scripture.  His story of deceit and slaughter at least ends with his just punishment, but it's also a fairly depressing note on which to end my week of reading.  Here's hoping week twelve will lighten up.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

soulmates #2

Friends of the blog will recall that I recently declared my intention to marry FHDM, just as soon as we meet (and fall in love).  The next day I embarked on a series enumerating my reasons which continues today.

Since I read Blue Like Jazz several years ago, I've known that FHDM is a funny guy.  And I've known for way longer than that, that I prefer to be around people who amuse me.  But when reading his blog last week, I realized why he's the perfect kind of funny.  FHDM wrote a post promoting a nation-wide yard sale fundraiser to raise money for The Mentoring Project (which is a totally worthy cause, and you should have a yard sale and give them the money).  Anyone who's read much by FHDM will know that the mentoring concept and helping the fatherless is near and dear to his heart, but the post is hilarious and full of irreverence.  I know that irreverent humor makes some people uncomfortable, but it's my bread and butter.

A couple of years ago, my friend Mo, who has a deeply tender heart and is an innate people pleaser, was called to task by the guy she was dating at that time for mildly poking fun at him.  The situation was ridiculous.  Clearly the guy had some major sensitivity issues because he proceeded to try and make my friend feel horrible for it.  Apparently, in his family they don't "make jokes about things that might be true."  Luckily, she's now happily and newly married to someone who will make a joke at just about anything.  But in our little group of friends, "making jokes about things that might be true" became one of our standard bits--because it's exactly the kind of people we are.  And I don't think it's a flaw for us to be those people.  Our jokes and teasing and calling each other on stuff is a byproduct of close relationships and appreciation for each other.  It's cliche, but we kid because we love. 

A couple years prior to that incident, my friend Martha made this precious, heartfelt statement to me and a couple of other friends.  She was talking about the nature of our long friendship and how though other friends may have come in and out of her life, we were core.  It was sweet and emotional, and Martha may or may not have teared up, and I mocked it.  Or at least that's how everyone remembers it and retells the story.  I'm the girl that mocked core. 

Saying inappropriate or at least inappropriately timed things to get a laugh is my default setting.  Mocking, as it turns out, is my love language.  It's not necessarily a good thing, but by and large, it works for me.  And I'm not trying to imply that FHDM is the horrible person that I am, but you can't read some of his writing without getting the idea that it's okay to laugh sometimes, especially at situations that aren't laughable.

It just struck me today that FHDM and I are both the kind of people who make jokes about things that might be true.  And I figure when people like that find each other, they ought to stick together.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

project 4:4: the prodigal weeks, week 10

Sometimes I set ridiculous goals and fail.  And sometimes I set normal, achievable goals and still fall miserably short.  On Sunday, I told Shane that I was going to finish the month of March in the Daily Bible because, of course, I am still woefully behind.  I hadn't made any progress toward that goal until Thursday, and I'm still a good ways off, but at least I feel good about the effort.

Most days I eat my lunch at my desk whether I bring it from home our run out to one of the many convenient restaurants in the River Market district.  Usually there's some decent company and conversation going on in the workroom to accompany my digestion, and on days when we're not visiting the quacketeria (as my boss calls it), the internet provides all the lunchtime entertainment one could ever need.  But the fatal flaw in having lunch in my work space is that inevitably, I find myself doing work during my lunch.  Most days I assume I've spent no more time working during a break than I've spent off-task during the rest of my day and call it even.  But some days, I want to reclaim lunch.  Such was the case on Thursday.

So at 12:15, I gathered my sandwich and fruit and leftover salad from the fridge, loaded up my sunglasses and my Daily Bible, and headed for the charming little library garden.  I sat on a bench, enjoyed the beauty of creation and a perfect-ish lunch while reading about the total annihilation of the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites.  If you're going to read about the complete destruction of several cities and scads of people, you might as well have an enjoyable setting and good food to ease the sting.

The time I spent reading today brought me to the end of another week's worth of reading.  This chunk covered the last bits of Deuteronomy and the first seventeen chapters of Joshua.  So.  Much.  Happens.  I'm not sure how I'll fit all this action into one post.

Moses, our constant companion and spiritual leader since week three of this reading, is gathered to his people.  I end up feeling so sad for him, that he doesn't get to enter the Promised Land because he hit a rock, that he endures all the wandering and the grumbling and the gritty work of covenants and reconciliation and doesn't experience the glorious victories that God brings about for the Israelites because they're keeping their end of the covenant for once.  But just as Moses shared a face-to-face relationship with God in life, it appears that God was with him in his death, and Moses claimed the victory and received his reward for his service as God's mouthpiece.  Well done, Moses.

Joshua, son of Nun (and subject of one of the worst Biblical puns), is commissioned to lead the people in their conquest of the Promised Land.  Several times in the week's reading Joshua is told by Moses and by God to "be strong and courageous . . ."  If I were Joshua, I think I would have begun to get a complex that the Lord thought I was weak and cowardly.  Probably, the point is that conquering the inhabitants of the land is a monumental task that will only be accomplished through divine intervention, and Joshua, as their leader, is going to have to bravely trust in God's deliverance in the face of many enemies and seemingly impossible battles to set an encouraging example for the people, and he does. 

I like Joshua.  He's a leader who doesn't seem to falter.  From the time that he spied out the land forty years ago and spoke up with Caleb about God's ability to hand it over to them to his obedience in carrying out God's conquering plan to his farewell address that is nothing short of a throwdown to current and future Israelites, Joshua stays impressively true to God's purpose, only once slipping a bit when he is fooled into making the treaty with the Gibeonites.  Don't misunderstand me, I like a Bible character with some flaws, and it's often encouraging to me that God uses His flawed creation to accomplish His plans and I'm also not trying to say that Joshua is perfect, but I also get a lot of satisfaction from encountering this guy who seems to be able to live a consistently faithful, obedient life.  He's someone of whom much is required, who steps up with God's help and accomplishes great things.  Good for you, Joshua (Incidentally, my favorite brother is named Joshua, and I think in this respect, my Joshua has much in common with Bible Joshua.)

I sometimes forget about God parting the Jordan until I'm reading Joshua.  It doesn't get the high profile treatment that Charlton Heston's Red Sea parting gets.  But it's kind of awesome that God gives these folks a reminder miracle, a clear, undeniable sign of His presence and constancy and intervention.  If God cares so deeply that their feet don't get wet getting to the Promised Land that he will stop the flow of a river at flood stage, what confidence those Israelites should have about their upcoming conquest.  Unrelated to the rest of this paragraph, but next up chronologically, why hadn't they been circumcising people on the way (Joshua 5)?  Was it just so God could "roll away the reproach of Egypt" in one fell swoop?   

The Sunday that this reading was scheduled to occur, we had a Jericho sermon, and the French Peas' classic, "Keep Walking" marched through my head nonstop, just as surely as the Larry the Cucumber and his pals marched around the walls of Jericho.  It's funny because I know several songs about falling walls in Jericho, but clearly the Veggie Tales version is the catchiest.  What a kick-off to the Conquest Tour of Canaan that the Israelites are embarking upon!  A little marching, a little trumpeting, and some appropriately timed shouting, and God delivers the city into their hands.  What a wake up call to the inhabitants of the land.  The God of all creation isn't playing by your rules.

And then there's Rahab (spoiler alert:  she's going to become an ancestor of some very famous Israelites.  And Jesus.) who recognizes God by his miraculous deliverance of the Israelites and throws her lot with them by protecting Joshua's spies.  Of an entire city, only her family is spared from the total destruction of Jericho, and her salvation will help me through wrapping my head around all those other folks who are not spared.

And Achan.  Oh, Achan, you Israelites were doing so well.  Renewed covenant and circumcision and obedient marching led to your first amazing victory, and instead of trusting that God meant business about the rest of his Jericho-conquering instructions, you got greedy, an act that cost thirty-six of your brothers their lives and dealt a blow to the budding reputation of your people as a nation protected by the one true God.  And for your disobedience, your entire family was destroyed also.  Your legacy is a cautionary tale. 

In the face of the Ai defeat, Joshua proves himself as a Godly leader once again by prostrating himself before the Lord and begging for a return of His favor.  He follows God's instructions to the letter to flush out Achan's deceit, carries out his punishment, and learns military strategy from the God of Angel Armies (which is one of my favorite names for God and how Eugene Peterson translates "Lord Almighty") to successfully overtake Ai.  And Joshua continues to rely on God as the Savior, who sends hailstones on their enemies and makes the sun stand still in the sky.  That blows my mind.  Joshua 10:14 is perfect:  "There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the LORD listened to a man.  Surely the LORD was fighting for Israel!"  Surely.  So the nation of Israel is granted victory after victory against all comers, and the land is divided among the remaining tribes, and there's at least a whole day's worth of reading that's listing all the cities and towns and villages allotted to each tribe, and I'm not ashamed to admit that I skimmed it in my sunshine-y reading garden.

Do you remember Caleb, imaginary Bible scholar?  God does, and this faithful man, one of only two from a previous rebellious generation who enters this Promised Land, receives the land promised him forty years earlier as a reward for his confidence in God's power and protection.  Good on ya, Caleb.

And though by now I've read a few days past the technical end of week 10 and am ready to start talking about Joshua's farewell address, I'll end this post, so I can get back to my reading, and perhaps one day be on track again.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

a bit of a ramble, because I've missed you

I saw #1 blog fan Mac last night and was reminded that I hadn't given the people what they wanted since Tuesday.  Sorry, imaginary readers.  I lost track of time and neglected you for far too long.  (Although I would argue that I gave you such great material on both Monday and Tuesday, that I deserve for you to cut me a break.  But let's not argue, friends.  I'll just do better next time.)

I've got a few posts/ideas in the hopper, but none of them are quite ready for public consumption yet, so I'm just going to meander through the rest of this post with no clear direction.  I'm sure you won't notice the difference.

I was in kind of a foul mood last week.  If you saw me or had interaction with me from Monday through Thursday, I'm sorry for being a grouchy jerk.  I don't know what was wrong or why I was crabby, but I just had the case of the blahs.  Lucky for us all, my moma and the Popster came for a visit, and spending the day getting stuff hung on my walls and some decorative stuff in place lifted my spirits.  Plus seeing my moma just does that for me.  She's good people.  And because we got so much stuff done, there's going to be at least one more home improvement post in your future, I bet.  But not today.

Google Analytics has been my special friend lately.  I love knowing how many people are visiting me here and how they're finding me and whatnot.  It was through the miracle of Google Analytics that I discovered my brush with HGTV internet-stardom--when my visits spiked last Saturday, I discovered that nearly all of those visitors were coming through the same referring site.  I also discovered this week that some decorating/home improvement Spanish language blog had created a post using most of my process pictures and linked to my blog.  I was severely disappointed in myself that I could comprehend almost none of the text, but thanks to the incredibly literal translating efforts of Microsoft office products, I think I got the gist of it.  It definitely seemed from the translated version that the writer may have been trying to pass the project of as her own, but she did link to my blog, so I don't think it was in a nefarious way.  I will say the poorly translated version that I read definitely didn't convey the charm and wit that I used to originally recount the project, but I'm willing to bet that if I could have understood the Spanish without the help of a translator, it would have been lovely.

In other Google Analytic news, it seems as though the increased traffic from the HGTV plug is dying down.  I was back down to less than a hundred visitors yesterday for the first time in a week.  Before this thing happened, I averaged between 20 and 30 a day.  I know the quality of the product really shouldn't be affected by the stats, but I did feel a certain amount of pressure to perform well for all the increased traffic.  The truth that I learned from my stats is that almost none of the new visitors explored beyond the dresser post on which they landed.  My bounce rate increased by about 50% this week (though the fact that my visits were up over 500% sort of made up for that a bit).  I guess it comes down to preferring  a smaller number of readers who I feel like are at least moderately invested in this blogging adventure or a huge number of people who just happen by.  The point of all that convoluted wandering is that I've reminded myself today that stats don't drive what I do here, so it's cool if none of those people ever return--though if they do, I'll be here to greet them with my usual standard of excellence . . . or something. 

And here's one more thing I learned from Google Analytics--and then I promise I'm moving on.  I realized this week that it can tell me what service providers my visitors are using, and I discovered that in the days following my open letter to Penske, I had several visitors originating from their network.  I guess those open letters were more powerful than I realized.  I'll have to use them wisely from now on--though I still have no statistical proof that the Michael Jackson mime found my blog after my open letter to him.

Last Sunday I set a lofty goal and shared it with Shane about catching up on my Daily Bible reading.  I didn't come close on the goal, but I did make some progress this week.  Faithful project 4:4 fans (or just faithful fans of the Bible) will be receiving a new prodigal 4:4 post soon.  But I'll still be five weeks behind.  Sigh.  Speaking of other things I'm behind on . . . I requested all seven books that FHDM recommends to improve one's writing.  Because not reading books I already owned or already had checked out from the library wasn't enough.  I had to bring more books into my immediate vicinity that I wouldn't make time to read.  But I warn you, imaginary readers, if I ever get those seven books read, you won't be able to stay away. 

I want to start food blogging, but I never think about it until after I've already made and eaten something that would make an interesting post.  I'm going to think more about this--my kitchen does have great natural light, so if I were ever home to do any cooking during the day, I think it would make some great photos.  Maybe someday.  Today at the library, I was going to make those dirt cup things with the gummy worms and I would have shown you a picture of that, but no one showed up for the program.

Things are about to get so intense at work that I may not be able to resist blogging about my job.  I'll truly know then that I've run out of decent ideas--or that work has so consumed me that I don't have time for other thoughts.  If it happens, please don't give up on me.

I have discovered what I believe to be the perfect hypothetical question.  It reveals so much about those that answer.  So let me ask you here, imaginary reader, and maybe someday I'll analyze your responses and tell you what they say about you as a person.  Ready?  Here goes:

If you were ordering a pizza for yourself and didn't have to share with anyone, what three toppings would you choose?  You must choose exactly three toppings.  You may explain why if, like me, you can't answer a direct question without justifications and explanations and personal history.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

happy birthday a hundred years ago, hailey

My friend Hailey has the utter misfortune of being born on March 28.  This might not be a problem for everyone, but for anyone who wants me to be a part of his or her birthday celebration, it's a bad time to be born.  The Bird of the Handful came into our lives on March 29 seven years ago before Hailey and I were even friends, so typically I spend Hailey's birthday weekend eating creatively constructed cakes and playing "pin the spot on the ladybug" or "ice cream, ice cream, cone"  or applying eye liner to the Handful and giving pointers on the best way to wrap Uncle Shane as a mummy.

We eventually celebrate Hailey's birthday each year, but sometimes it's on a sad Thursday night or two weeks after the fact.  But in the case of this year's celebration, some things are worth the wait.  Saturday we spent the day at the zoo and had a pic-a-nic.  And it was fairly spectacular.  Here are some of the best moments:

The cast of characters minus Jess:  Rob, the birthday girl, JJ, your favorite blogger, Mo and Natasha

Showing out early and often

Checking out the map before we realized that Robyn is a zoo pro.

Making friends

They're supposed to be cranes or something.

I love the building in the background--and the serious eyelashes on this guy.

The big cats are my faves.

I'm 99% sure that this is Ellen the elephant--but it might be Mary.


You'd look melancholy too if you were carrying around yards and yards or matted hair and giant pouches on the side of your face.

Zoomed way, way, way in to see the baby chimpanzee playing pat-pat.  Cutest thing I saw all day.

We were around to see some docents feeding the great apes and got to hear the story of Brutus who was raised by humans and so learned human behaviors like making eye contact (which he's doing here), which is a very non-gorilla thing to do.

I was so busy co-throwing the best pic-a-nic ever (and taking photos on Rob's camera) that this is the only non-zoo photo I got.  Hailey is holding the most perfect birthday present ever--large polka dot coffee mugs hand-painted by a certain multi-talented blogger.

It was a beautiful, perfect-ish day.  Thanks for being born, kiddo.  

And in the spirit of that one other birthday post I've done, here are the five things I love most about my Hailey:

5.  Hailey's a cuddler.  If you need a hug, chances are Hailey can hook you up.

4.  Hailey knows all my stories and jokes and good times, even the ones that happened when she was still in middle school.  It's good to have a young and spry friend around to remind me of the hazy past when my old memory has troubles.  She knows there's a story for everything.  And she can make things happen, like fetch didn't happen.

3.  Hailey has a love affair with words, which possibly trumps my own.  She reads great books, write great blogs, and makes great conversation with those words.

2.  Hailey loves God and isn't afraid to talk about it and live it and be transparent about it, and that's something that's a continual blessing in my life.

and finally
1.  Hailey has a giant, tender heart that pours out love and loyalty and compassion and kindness.  She's a beautiful person, inside and out. 

And she's my friend for all of these reasons and more. 

Love you, Hailsey, from every side.

Monday, April 12, 2010

handy as a pocket on a shirt

The moving-in process continues at my new place.  Due to an odd kitchen layout, some storage challenges, and a few other oddities, I've done more work than usual in getting this place livable.  But I think when it's all said and done, I'm going to be happier here than I've been in lots of previous apartments.  You've already seen the wildly popular dresser-painting project (and maybe you even saw that my ugly little dresser and humble little blog were linked and mentioned in an design blog).  And while that was perhaps the most ambitious project I've undertaken, I've definitely been busy with other handy projects.  Here are some photographic highlights:

We were completely out of dvd storage room, and without the built-in shelves of our other apartment, I was desperately in need of another storage device.  Enter this trusty little cabinet that I bought at WalMart for very cheap. 

I put it together while I waited for paint to dry a couple weeks ago.  It's not very pretty, but not offensively ugly either, and the black is going to work out fine in that transitioning space between the living and dining rooms.

The same day I bought the dvd shelves, I bought a little tv cart for my bedroom.  Thanks to those handy built-ins at the last apartment (the only thing besides an ice maker that I miss about that place, for the record), I had been using the living room tv stand in the bedroom and had gotten rid of the old entertainment center where the smaller bedroom tv used to reside because it took up way too much room.  So I was in the market for something cheap.  Thank you, WalMart.  When I got it home, I discovered that one of the boards had a corner broken off. 
But I follow instructions, so instead of taking it back to the store, I ordered a replacement part from the manufacturer's website.  Once that came in last week, I was able to throw this one together in no time.  The corner of my room where it's going to permanently reside is still a war-zone of boxes and unpacked containers, so I can't show you the completely finished project--but it's going to look like a tv sitting on a cart with other components on the bottom shelves in a corner.   

Even before I bought these pieces, I was working on a plan for my kitchen.  This new kitchen is odd--and also very much not new.  The cabinets and countertops have definitely seen some better days, and the washer and dryer share space in the kitchen in a layout that defies logic.  But I've kind of been excited about figuring it out and making it work.  So thanks the perpetual sales at JCPenney, I was able to get an island cart for my kitchen and a buffet-style piece for the dining room for less than $300.  I ordered them the week we moved in, but thanks to UPS damaging one and a short time spent on backorder for the other, I didn't get to start making my kitchen storage dreams a reality until last week.  The white piece in the kitchen holds what I needed it to hold perfectly.  It seems to be working out great, and it was mostly painless to put together.

The dining room piece came in on Friday, and I started working on assembly Sunday afternoon.  Though I'm about ready to go pro with all my furniture assembly diagram-reading of late, this was definitely the most complicated project so far--but it also seems the most well-made. 
My electric screw driver was tired by the end of this project.   So was I--and my hair.
But I finished installing the doors this morning before work, and I really like how it looks. 
And now that it's ready to hold the serving pieces, place mats and rarely used kitchen appliances that have been waiting on its arrival, I can finally start to reclaim my dining room from unpacked box limbo.  And that's going to make me a very happy girl.

In other project news, my bathroom window has also been a nagging problem since we moved in. 
It's in our shower, and the sill is definitely too low for the window to go uncovered, but the miniblinds that were hanging there when we moved in were not working for me.  They were gross because they never fully got dry.  Plus I kept bumping them with my elbow when I washed my hair.  They needed to go. 
Our landlord cleaned and repainted the window after we moved in and I discovered the effects of wet blinds on the area behind them.  He sure did a messy job, which I had to work on a bit. 
Robyn's shower window has frosted glass--and a wide tiled window sill to hold products.  I covet that, just a little.  That frosted glass inspired me to find a similar solution.  So I bought a frosted plastic film that came with a fairly complicated set of application instructions.  Lucky for me, I had my trusty sidekick.
After I did the two lower panes, we decided it wasn't really necessary to do the top two for privacy purposes.  Since the shower curtain is always closed, I don't think it's going to look weird, but I may end up covering them all because I have to look at it.  I'll keep you posted.  Also please try to ignore the pink tile in these photos.  I know I try to ignore its existence every time I'm in my bathroom.

Let me show you one last thing before I leave you alone.  This house has more windows than any place I've ever lived, which challenged my meager curtain collection.  I still haven't found anything I want for the double window in the kitchen, but I already had living room curtains that I love that I didn't get to use in the last place because it had no living room windows!  The problem was that I only had one set of my beloved curtains and two double windows in the new living room.  I bought my curtains on clearance three or four years ago, so the possibility of finding another set was a ridiculous pipe dream.  But I didn't want to live in a world where I couldn't have my striped curtains.  So over the phone, my moma affirmed that I could find a solid color set to coordinate and make this new look happen.  I split the panels and used some Stitch Witchery (because my sewing skills are less than basic) to create this custom look. 
I'm still looking for the hardware that goes with the other curtain rod, so the behind-the-couch windows don't have curtains yet, but they will be identical to these though the curtain rods don't quite match because I couldn't find one exactly like my old one.  If I decide I can't live with it, I guess I'll have to go back to Lowe's to get one to match the new one.  Sigh.

Also pretend like that chair doesn't have pink on it.  That's what I'm doing.  This chair used to live in Jess's giant room at our old apartment, but we kind of needed it for the living room here.  I'm coming to terms with its non-matching fabric because it's so comfortable, but if I found a really cheap slipcover that I thought would stay put on it, I'd have it covered in a second.

Here's some great news for my imaginary readers:  my moma is coming to see me this weekend.  I'm going to put her to work hanging stuff on the walls because that is a job that strikes fear into my heart when I try to do it alone.  She's bringing my sweet Grams with her too, so I'm thinking about nice sit-down jobs for her.  She does love to fold laundry, so I may not try too hard to get that done before they arrive.  I don't know if the Popster's coming to play on house-decorating day or if he'll try to find some manly pursuit to occupy him, but he's at least going to come and see the new place, I bet.  I want to show off all my recent home improvement projects to him, since he doesn't read my blog.  I try not to let that fact hurt me.