Saturday, May 16, 2015

Rainy days: a List

1. It's been raining up a storm over here this week. The torrential downpour caught many of us by surprise:

The ol' bag on the head trick. It's a surefire hair-do saver.

2. Sadly, all the storming caused another cactus causality:

One of my succulents is down for the count. I've nursed these little succulents for a couple of years now and have been surprised by how well they've fared in their mason jar homes. Unfortunately, they've flourished a little too well and are now so top heavy I fear another storm might topple them all.

3. I'm happy to report that my replacement for Mella (who replaced George) is still thriving:

Remember Tommy? He is my indoor cactus. Soon after bringing him home and situating him under my northern window, I discovered his full name is "Thomas Melvin," but he prefers to go by "Melvin." The name suits him perfectly as he's everything you'd expect a Melvin to be: quiet, well-mannered, kind and observant.

4. My family of cacti is wonderfully endearing, but Nico, the pup I babysit, has quickly earned my truest love and devotion. I understand now why you dog owners talk about your dogs like they're your kids, send out Christmas cards with pictures of them, and devote entire Instagram accounts to them. Dogs are truly one of the best things of life. I must exercise self control not to post daily photos and videos of little Nico, and I try to make sure my conversations with people are no more than, say, 50% about him.

Since it's been raining this week Nico and I have spent more time inside snuggling. He loves to lie next to me on his back while I rub his belly. He loves it so much that when I stop rubbing he gets up and drapes himself across my stomach, his paws in the air as he waits expectantly for me to continue scratching his belly.

Nico, subtlety is not one of your special gifts.

5. Some of my family members and I video-chatted this week. I was so looking forward to seeing them; however, I ended up seeing very little of them. I did enjoy a rather riotous conversation with a pirate a couple of kitty cats, and a doctor Seuss-ish/Where's Waldo guy, though:

Dad's pirate costume and textual commentary are compliments of his children. Google video chat allows you to draw and insert clip art on the faces of the people in the conversation. It can be an independent or collaborative artistic effort, and the results are always hilarious.

(You're a good sport, dad.)

6. This week my students told me they thought I was a "front row, center seat" kind of student in college. "Most of the time," I responded. "Every now and then I was a 'back row, hood on' kind of student." In those days, there wasn't nothin' like retreating into a good hood when I was tired and wanted to feel inconspicuous. I still love me a good hood, especially on days I wish I could leave the house wearing a disguise. On those days, I wear my APU track and field sweatshirt because it has the best hood in town.

Do you ever feel like you'd rather face the world looking like someone else? Maybe don a mustache and some crazy spectacles before going to the grocery store?

7. Speaking of mustaches. I have a habit of sticking mustaches to random possessions, forgetting I've done it, and then being delightfully surprised when I re-discover them. This here is my Bible-reading journal currently disguised as "Monsieur Pierre."

8. In between this week's storms Los Angeles looked an awful lot like the city of Oz on the distant horizon.

9. Happy weekend, friends of mine! I hope it's full of delights.



© by scj

Monday, May 11, 2015

Puppy Therapy

Everyone, meet Nico, the cutest little pookie face you ever did see:

Nico is my neighbors' dog, but, since they work everyday, and since he's a companion dog who loves people, and since I'm a sick girl who needs puppy therapy, we've arranged for me to babysit him when they're at work.

I am officially a smitten sitter.

Nico knows how to make a girl feel like she's the best thing since a floor full of dinner crumbs. He's also got the hops of a gerbil (seriously, have you ever had a gerbil? Those things can JUMP) so when I let him out of the house, he runs toward me, shaking with delight, and  jumps right into my arms.

Nico is also the snuggler of snugglers. He snuggles in my lap while we watch the sunset. He snuggles next to me while I grade. And last night, in the most endearing act of dog affection on the planet, he came and rested his head on my tummy when I laid down to rest.

I just love him.

Happy Monday, folks. I hope yours was a good one.

Cheering for ya, Skillets.


© by scj

Friday, May 8, 2015

A May health update: prayer requests

Hi Friends,

Lots of you continue to pray for me. Thank you. There have been many times when I've come to the end of my rope and have been tempted to despair but have instead been filled with inexplicable joy. In those moments I think, "Wow. A lot of people must be praying for me."

I'm thankful to have found some Chinese herbs that have provided some relief. I started taking an herb blend a month ago and have since added another blend. The herbs have generally lessened my dizziness, although I still have regular dizzy episodes in which I feel like my central nervous system is going haywire. It doesn't feel like the herbs are addressing the cause of my dizziness, but they have lessened it enough that I can finish the semester teaching. My other symptoms remain unaffected by the herbs.

Having stretches during which my dizziness is lessened has allowed me to more closely observe my other symptoms. The more I observe and collect data, the more convinced I am that this isn't an inner ear autoimmune disease like one of the doctors wondered, although I could certainly be wrong. Other diseases seem like more likely culprits.

Right now we have two significant pieces of data to make sense of as we try to crack this code: 1) the test results indicating my central nervous is being attacked, and 2) my body's responsiveness to the Chinese herb blends. Because the respective sets of data are from totally different schools of medicine (western medicine versus eastern medicine) none of my current doctors can synthesize it to make sense of it all. I need a doctor who's trained in both western and eastern medicine. Thankfully, in June I'll meet with a doctor in Washington who has an M.D., N.D., and a degree in Chinese medicine. I'm also getting some other tests done this month that will hopefully help him to put the pieces together. You could pray for this doctor if you think of it. He has stage 4 cancer but is still practicing.

This periods of physical relief I've experienced lately are a tremendous blessing, but the support of my community lately is a greater blessing. This week I'm praising God for so many acts of compassion:

  • For the single mom who invited me to stay with her and her kids so I'd have care on my sickest days.
  • For the friend who has put work and school on hold the last year as he undergoes cancer treatment, and who offered to help me pay for a particularly expensive test, despite his own limited finances. 
  • For the friend who offered to drive me six hours north to a lab that does the testing I need.
  • For the friend who asked how she could help me, and got out her notepad and pen of paper to record my response. 
  • For the people who have gone out of their way to gather and pray for me. 
  • For the friend who searched for new housing possibilities for me when I was sickest.
  • For the stranger from my church who has offered to clean up and sell my old car for me. 
  • For the family members who have sacrificed time, resources, and loads of energy to help me navigate this. 
  • For the friends who continue to text, and call, and text some more, even when I'm too tired to respond.  

There are lots of ways God transfigures the darkness into light, and the sweet compassion of of his Body in the midst of difficulties is one of them.

I have more prayer requests this week for those of you who are praying:

 1. Patience. A friend of mine sent my recent test results to his doctor friend to get another perspective, and the doctor responded with a couple of diagnostic possibilities as well as a bit of encouragement: diagnosing a rare disease, if present, can take time. Sometimes it can be a very long process. In the meantime, some of my symptoms continue to progress and I find myself getting frustrated with how slow this process is.

2. Peace. I'm anxious about what's going on in my body and I worry about how it will affect me long-term as it remains untreated, whatever it is. I worry that I won't find the right doctors or get the right tests in time. I also struggle with regret as I wonder if I could've somehow prevented this.

3. Provision. I'm hoping for revealing tests, incisive and insightful doctors, and effective treatment.

4. Power. To get through the day, to complete my responsibilities, to follow through on rather tiring doctors appointments. I'm very weary.

4. Healing. In God's time, in his way.

5. Wisdom for the future. Whatever's happening in my body is pretty incapacitating and I often wonder if I'll be able to continue with my vocational and educational plans. Orange County is where my life is — I have a wonderful group of friends, job, church and school here — but if I don't seem some significant improvement in the next few months then I'm going to have to rethink where I live and what I do. I'd sure love to be able to continue with my plans. I feel such a strong calling to be at Biola teaching and studying.

6. That I'll be able to sell my car quickly. I'd like to get up to my parents' house as soon as I finish teaching this month so I can rest with the support of family, but I can't leave until I sell my car.

7. Housing. It's still looking like I'll have to move, although I'm not sure when. Finding housing in this area that works with my rather specific health-related needs is pretty tough. I also don't feel like I have the capacity to move right now.

8. Fruit. I want God to use this season for good, somehow in some crazy way. I hope he'll use it to make me like him, to encourage the Saints, and to complete his Great Commission. I'd like to be more attentive to the good work he is doing right now.

Thank you, my friends. Praying for you, too. Let me know how I can.

Cheering for ya, Skillets,


© by scj

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Training Regimes

It must've been the 11 meet records, 3 stadium records and 2 school records made at the Bryan Clay Invitational a few weeks ago that got me and my track buddies feeling puh-reeettty ambitious.

"Let's have an alumni competition at next year's Bryan Clay Invitational," said one.

"Yes, and everyone can compete in an event they've never tried before. We can train all year in preparation," said another.

Distance from training must make the heart grow amnesic, because somehow, in spite of the perpetual physical and mental exhaustion we endured during our track years, we all embraced the idea with enthusiasm: "Awesome," we said. Then we each picked our new event with great optimism, and that was that.

Sparks, a former hurdler, will be competing in the long jump next spring. He recently messaged us this video entitled, "Day 1 of training" (if you're on mobile you may not be able to play this epic video):


"Ouch," our coach responded.

"Slacker. I'm on day 3," messaged Bibi, along with this picture:

I will be doing the shot put come April 2016 (naturally) and quickly realized my approach is similar to Bibi's: I intend to increase my girth units.

Also, I'm wiping the white board with extra vigor and doing regular hand-to-mouth reps with various desserts. Watch out shot put contestants, you're not going to know what hit you. No, really. Watch out. I'm afraid I won't be able to hoist the shot put where it's supposed to land and it may accidentally hit you.

Gabe is still biding his time as he figures out what event he'll do. He did, however, dig out some old spikes. I'm guessing something speedy will be in his future.

I don't know if Bryan has decided on an event yet. I do know, however, that he's maintaining his javelin skills in a rather unexpected way:

You go, girl! Keep an eye out for Bryan's tooth-losing daughter; I think it's likely she will be at the 2036 Olympics! Also, Bryan posted this video on twitter last night and within hours it went crazy viral. Made ESPN, the Daily Mail, TMZ. That's pretty fun! (If you're on mobile and this video isn't playing, then click on one of links to see the video).

And there you have it: ridiculous ambition, varied training approaches, and a no-doubt memorable track meet in our future. I'll let you know whose training approach gives them the upper edge...

Happy Wednesday, friends.

Cheering for you, Skillets.


© by scj


This spring has been especially glorious and we're especially happy about it. By "we" I mean this tree and I:

Can you see it? He's doing a cartwheel of joy.

I'm guessing the neighborhood's bougainvillea had something to do with his uncontainable joy. On every block there's a tidal wave of flaming bougainvillea crashing over someone's fence and flooding the neighborhood with color.

I wish my iPhone camera could more accurately capture this color.

These flowers are electric. They look like they've been plugged into the sun and have imbibed some of its light. Come to think of it, I suppose that is sort of what is happening.

The butterflies must know the neighborhood is in bloom because they've been out and about lately. They especially love this dappled gully:

When I took this photo I counted 11 butterflies dancing through the flowers.

This gully is delightful. I love its impish breezes, curious wildlife, and its dry, pine-y scent. Dry pine needles are one of my favorite smells in the whole wide world. They make me want to fly and dance and do back handsprings all at once.

I'm glad spring is so very objectively generous. It doesn't discriminate between the healthy or sick, happy or sad, tired or energetic. Its sun will spread warmth across any face. Its pine-infused breezes will tickle any nose. Its flowers will smile at all passers by, its butterflies will dance for all spectators, and its trees will do cartwheels for anyone who will stop to watch.

It sure was nice of God to pack so much easily accessible grace into the world, wasn't it?

I hope your day is full of cartwheel-worthy moments, my friends.

Cheering for ya, Skillets.


© by scj

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Golden Hour

My little bungalow is built into the side of a hill facing Los Angeles. From my backyard I can see all of Los Angeles, Catalina island, and when it's especially clear, the Pacific Ocean. It's a glorious view. I love soaking it in from my deck each day while the birds sing and the trees sway in the breeze. In the spring, I especially love to be home in the evenings when the setting sun turns everything to gold, flooding my bungalow with light.

I wish I could swallow the light from this golden hour. I figure if I could swallow it I could capture it somehow, forever united with it. But since I can't, I snap pictures. Lots and lots of pictures.

Tonight's clouds reminded of long, lean dragons, floating lazily over the vast ocean. When the sun sank into the sea, I imagine it shot light through the water, turning it into a body of undulating liquid gold. The water burned and gleamed, and the scales on the dragons' bellies caught its light and began to glow like embers.

The dragons weren't expecting this. "Whoa, Myrna!" one said to his companion. "My tummy's feeling really toasty now!" I think the cure for dragons with stomach aches is to hover over the ocean during the sunset, allowing its liquid warmth to sooth their tummies like a giant hot water bottle. I'll make the suggestion to the next cloud dragon I meet.

Several minutes after the sun has set, the rest of the sky bursts into flaming color.

Even clouds on the eastern horizon catch the light, forming a 360-degree ribbon of electric pink, purple and tangerine. I like to think our ridge-top enjoys a colorful cloud hug each night.

About fifteen minutes into the sunset the cloud dragons disappeared and blazing jeep tread marks appeared. God and his kids must have been off roading through the sunset tonight. I bet they had a grand ol' time.

Sometimes, after the sky has faded, I feel a little achey, like I've lost something special. But then the valley lights flicker below, one here, one there, until the horizon is flickering with little galaxies and I don't feel achey anymore.

Once the valley is full of light, I go back into my bungalow where I listen to the breeze rush through the trees, and I notice how it sounds like ocean waves.

Ah, glory.

Peace and hugs to you, my friends.



© by scj

Monday, April 27, 2015

A rather shocking surprise

Friday afternoon I was in my bungalow trying to muster the conviction to change from my sweat pants to my adult clothes and feeling rather like this:

when I heard a knock at the door. Curious, I opened it and found my college roommate, Rachel, standing on the other side.


Rachel lived down the hall from me my freshman year of college. We quickly became fast friends and ended up living together for the rest of college and the first bit of graduate school. Those were lovely years full of fun experiences:

We hiked.

We carved pumpkins.  

We went on walks. 

We took each other to the airport.

We dressed up.

We laughed a lot.

Here are some things you should know about Rach: she is kind, encouraging, thoughtful, talented, and gracious. When I was 19 I looked at her and said, "I want to be like her when I grow up." I've been saying it ever since.

Several years ago Rach moved back to her hometown in northern California, and making regular memories became pretty tricky. Our together time became a rare and special treat. So it was wonderful and rather shocking to find her on my front step on Friday. Unfortunately, I was on my way to tutor for the afternoon and she was on her way to San Diego for the weekend, so we made plans to meet up on Sunday.

Sunday morning Rach and her travel buddy and roommate, C, came over for breakfast. It was a cozy affair, but the best part was after breakfast when Rach and I sat at the piano and crooned some tunes. Well, she crooned; I warbled.

Also, I had a head full of curlers. It's a good friend who doesn't bat an eyelash when you serve them breakfast in your spandex, slippers, and a head full of curlers.

When Rach and I lived together, one of my favorite things was lying on the floor next to the piano while she played and sung. If the voices of India Arie and Lauren Hill could somehow procreate, their progeny would be Rachel's voice. She's amazing.

Sometimes, I'd get up off the floor, scootch onto the bench next to her, and we'd make music together, alternating who played the piano and who sang harmony. We still love to sing together, and whenever see each other, we pass the hours playing and singing. Those are golden moments.

Isn't life lovely? You just never know when you'll open your door and find a surprise just waiting to make adult-ing less like a burden and more like a gift packed full of joyous memories.

Rach and I with her friend, C

Rach, thanks for coming. You were the cherry on top of my weekend. Heck, you were the ice cream, the whipped cream, and the sprinkles, too. Your friendship makes life sweeter and I sure love you.

And hey, the rest of you, you sure do add richness to my life. I hope you're well. I'm praying for you. Do shoot me an email to tell me how I can pray.

Much love,


© by scj

Friday, April 24, 2015

Wedding Season: Bridesmaid Dress Tip
It's wedding season, and engagement season, and go-to-JCrew-to-get-a-bridesmaid-dress season, which means for some of you, it's a stressful season. But I've just learned a helpful little tip that'll make procuring your JCrew bridesmaid dress relatively stress-free.

Just call this number: 1- 800 - 261 - 7422

Really, that's all. This is the number to JCrew's Very Personal Stylist line. It will connect you with a personal stylist who will make buying the right bridesmaid dress in the right size much easier.

Here's what my personal stylist did for me:

1. She waived my shipping fee AND shipped my dress to me overnight.

2. She helped me figure out which size would be best for me.

3. I got my dress on sale which, according to the site, means I can't return or exchange it; however, the stylist waived the final return policy which allowed me to buy a couple of sale dresses in a couple of sizes with option of returning them.

Gals, if your wedding party is decking out in JCrew, this stylist line is a great option.

This was just too good not to share!

Hope you're having a grand Friday. Cheering for ya, Skillets.


© by scj

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A case for dancing: five reasons to get groovy

I did not dance until I was 24 years old. Those 24 years were good years, but they weren't without angst.

Every time I heard a pulsing beat, my inner, imaginary dance diva began to tap her toes till her torso swayed. The next thing I knew she was flying feverishly across the dance floor, spinning and dipping to the music. She was a sight to behold. But behold her was all I did; I never joined her.

My inner diva was compelling, to be sure; but she wasn't as compelling as my inhibitions. "I have no idea what I'm doing" I'd whisper when she urged me to join her. "I don't want to make a fool out of myself." So I let her do her thing while I sat quietly, occasionally allowing myself to sway timidly to the music.

But the pain. Oh, the physical and spiritual pain of sitting still to music that made my heart pound with adrenaline and my soul swell with longing to just.move. Self-doubt has a way of precluding all sorts pleasure and joy.

And then one day, when I was 24, I defied my inhibitions (take that, you silly, false beliefs!) and signed up for a salsa dance class at my town's small community center. My roommate at the time joined me, and together we learned to spin, dip, and follow a lead. And I discovered that dance combined two of my heart's deepest joys: athleticism and music. It was love at first dance.

One of my first salsa dance lessons back in 2009

Since then, I've also dabbled in swing dance, two-stepping, and wedding reception free styling, but I've not gotten good at any form of dance. I've been either too busy with grad school or too incapacitated by illness to get beyond the "I have no idea what I'm doing, but boy this is fun!" stage. But that's okay. Dancing, for me, has not been about mastery and performance the way many of my other interests have been. Instead, it has been about personal growth. It has facilitated emotional and physical healing, and has taught me to live more freely and fully.

It turns out dancing, whether in a group, alone, or with a partner, is one of life's greatest gifts. And so, today, I give you a five reasons why you should put on some music and get low, low, low, loooow.

1. Dance helps us to live in the moment instead of the land of "If Only." I'm inclined to take frequent trips to the land of If Only: "If only my life were different"; "If only I had more bacon"; "If only I hadn't screwed up at work yesterday." But when I dance I'm present in my body, in this moment, and I remember why right here and now is the best place to be.

2. Dance causes your body to release endorphins. Endorphins are magical things. They reduce stress and your body's perception of pain, and they increase increase feelings of well-being. They're essentially your body's natural anti-depressant.

3. Sometimes, the best way to eradicate inhibitions is to defy them — when they tell you to do something, go and do the exact opposite. Inhibitions are often rooted in shame. They're a defense mechanism that helps us cover up the parts of ourselves that don't seem acceptable or worthy. But when we bravely bare those "unacceptable" and "unworthy" parts of us, we discover our inhibitions are really just blindfolds preventing us from seeing our worth, and shackles keeping us from living life to the fullest. Dancing, especially in a group, requires vulnerability; and vulnerability, when practiced with safe people, chases away shame. When we bare the parts of us that we're used to covering and people still accept us, it teaches us we're more okay than we realized. That's when our inhibitions begin to crumble.

4. Dance teaches us that our bodies are our friends. I've spent a lot of my adult life criticizing my body's external imperfections. When I got sick, I began to criticize my body's internal inadequacies. My body has often felt like the enemy. But when I dance, I remember that my body is a vessel that opens me to grace. Without my body, I'd never be able to hear pulsing Latin rhythms or twangy country tunes. Without my body, I'd never be able to spin when the music accelerates or sway when it slows. I'd never be able to sweat, or laugh with my dance partners, or feel those endorphins. Our bodies are our grace vessels — our friends.

5.  Dance cultivates solidarity. A group of humans grooving on the dance floor can remind us that we're all the same — we all have the same capacity to enjoy beauty and goodness, to express and create, and to relate to each other with enthusiasm and vulnerability. We're not just animals; we're sacred and unique souls. We're worth celebrating. And let me tell you: dancing is one of the BEST ways to celebrate!

So there you have it, friends: a case for dancing. And hey, if you're new to this whole dancing thing, maybe start by dancing alone in your room (in your "stretchy pants," obviously (name that movie)) before working your way up to a group dance. And when you're ready for a group dance, give me a call. I want to come join you.

For those of you who can't dance because of physical limitations: these limitations can be so discouraging, but I've found a way to enjoy dance in spite of them. Here's what I do when my body's not well enough to dance: I watch other people dance (Youtube!) and then I close my eyes and imagine myself dancing. It helps! It really, does.

Cheering for you, Skillets,


© by scj

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Chocolate Mousse Parfait: dairy, gluten, egg and refined sugar-free

Several weeks ago I had to modify my Paleo diet to accommodate my stricter medical needs. As a result, I've been eating absurd amounts of cauliflower, brussel sprouts, and squash. I've also started having reoccurring dreams in which I am stuffing my mouth with cake, cookies, and slabs of German chocolate. Bless it.

When I wake up from these dreams, my tummy is usually grumbling for something rich and sweet and non-vegetable-y. Enter: this dessert I like to call "The Elixir of Happiness and Spreader of Peace on Earth," alternatively known as "Chocolate Mousse Parfait."

This parfait is dairy, gluten, egg and refined-sugar free, but don't let the absence of these ingredients fool you: this is AMAZING. I made this for the first time last week, and since then, I've eaten it every day. I've also begun to have dreams about eating it. Take that, you dreamy piles of cake, cookies and German chocolate, you. 

Here's what you'll need to make this simple, quick dessert:

For the chocolate mousse:

  • One 14-ounce can of FULL FAT coconut cream*
  • 5-6 tablespoons of pure maple syrup
  • 7 tablespoons of cocoa powder

For the vanilla cream:

  • One 14-ounce can of FULL FAT coconut cream*
  • 3 tablespoons of pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
*optional garnish: semi-sweet chocolate.*
*I prefer Trader Joe's coconut cream. Other brands, like Thai Kitchen, will work, but I find those cans contain more watery liquid and less thick cream than Trader Joe's coconut cream. I used Trader Joe's coconut cream when I created this recipe and suspect the maple syrup and cocoa powder measurements may need to be adjusted to taste for other brands with cans containing less cream.

This dessert requires some planning as the cream needs time to thicken in the fridge both before and after you make the parfaits.

Here's how I make it (serves 4):

1. Put both cans of cream in the fridge over night. This allows the cream to thicken and separate from the watery liquid at the bottom of the can. (Not all cans of cream will have this liquid.)

2. After the cans have had a night to sit, open one can and scoop out all the thick cream, leaving any watery liquid at the bottom of the can.

3. To make the vanilla cream, put the cream in a food processor, along with 3 tablespoons of maple syrup and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Process ingredients until they are thoroughly blended.

4. Pour the cream in a bowl. If the cream is still runny, cover it and put it back in the fridge for several hours (all day or overnight is best).

5. Open your second can of coconut cream and separate the cream from the liquid.

6. To make the chocolate mousse, put the cream in the food processor with 7 tablespoons of cocoa powder and 5 tablespoons of maple syrup. Process the ingredients until they are well blended.

To assemble the parfaits: 

1.  Cut off the tip of one of the bottom corners of a large Ziploc bag to create a piping bag of sorts. Spoon the chocolate mousse into the bag.

2. Pipe the chocolate mousse into a parfait, wine, or champagne glass until the glass is 1/3 full.

3. Make a second Ziploc piping bag and scoop the vanilla cream into it. Pipe vanilla cream on top of the chocolate mousse until the cup is 2/3 full. Your vanilla cream may be runnier than your chocolate cream. That's okay; it will still work. The chocolate mousse base should be thick enough to keep the vanilla cream from running to the bottom of the glass.

4. Pipe chocolate mousse on top of the vanilla cream until the glass is full.

5. If you'd like, grate semi-sweet chocolate on top of the cream for a garnish.

6. Put the parfaits in the fridge to set for a few hours before serving.

Is that easy or what?!

This would also be yummy with alternating layers of raspberries or sliced strawberries. And if you can eat cookies (gluten-free or not), this would be delicious with alternating layers of crushed chocolate cookies!

Bon appetite, my friends (and SWEET dreams!)!

Cheering for you, Skillets,


© by scj

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Everyone, meet some of my favorite people

Yesterday I went to one of my favorite places in the world.

Not the library...

...Not Colorado...

...Not Trader Joe's...

Someplace better:

Azusa Pacific University's track. 

I love APU's track. I love the smell of its hot rubber and the grip of its spongy red surface. I love the hum of excited athletes and the sound of the starter's gun. I love the competitors' intensity and devotion, their guts and glory. But the best part about Azusa Pacific University's track is the people.

Would you get a load of these guys:

These two were seniors on APU's track team when I was a freshman. They are good men who taught me many important lessons my first year on the team.

Lesson #1: If you are leaning over the gutter about to puke after a workout, you should probably drink some orange Gatorade. It will help.

Lesson #2: Kindness, humility, conviction, character, and commitment to Christ are essential leadership qualities.

Lesson #3: Spandex is to track what cream filling is to Oreos. It is necessary for human flourishing, especially during those hurdling workouts.

Yesterday APU hosted the Bryan Clay Invitational track meet. Thousands of athletes and spectators gathered to enjoy the meet, among them a handful of alumni. Boy, it was good to see so many of my old teammates.

My teammates and I didn't watch all of the races because we were too busy catching up and reminiscing. Also, APU served alumni Chick fil A, and it is hard to cheer for athletes when your mouth is full of fried chicken. Oh training days of impressive musculature and low body mass index: you are a distant thing of the past. Bless it.

These people make me feel all warm and marshmellowy inside:

Let me tell you about each of these men.

Bibi (on the right) is one of the first people who taught me about leadership. I don't think he meant to, but I watched him and learned. Bibi includes the outcast and cares for the marginalized. He is loyal and kind and chooses to do the right thing even when it hurts. He cares for others' needs before his own. He's also fun and has a quick wit that sneaks up you and leaves you laughing till your sides hurt. His commitment to serve Jesus by serving others is a gift to his friends, his wife, and his sweet little kids.

On the left is Bryan Clay. Let me tell you a story about him: the first few weeks of my freshman year my teammates started talking about the dreaded 300 workout that would soon be part of our weekly training regime. The pain it inflicted was so intense, it was legendary. Several weeks into my freshman year I ran the 300 workout for the first time, and when it was over I found myself on the ground at the finish line in the fetal position, grimmacing from the pain. You guys: I am not even kidding when I tell you that I briefly wondered if death would be less painful than that workout.

But then Bryan, an APU track veteran, came over to me: "Hey, good work, Sarah," he said. "But your muscles won't relax unless you get up and move around." So he helped me to my feet and supported me as we walked a lap around the track. I have lots of stories like that with Bryan. He goes out of his way to take care of people — physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I think this is because he has a compassionate heart and strength of character. He's the kind of guy you want to win an Olympic gold medal so boys and girls everywhere make him their role model. Oh wait. That happened. I'm thankful that aspiring athletes everywhere have someone like Bryan to look up to.

And then there's Gabe (right). Gabe is tender and hard-working. Kids love him because he is playful and funny. Adults love him because he asks good questions and really listens to their answers. He leads by example and acts with integrity. Also, he is hilarious. I think he must be the best dad to his two little boys.

This here is Matt Sparks.

This here is Sparks and I circa 2006.

Sparks and I were both hurdlers so we spent approximately five million hours together over the course of four years. He's the perfect person to spend five million hours with. He's funny, fast, and is the best inventor of spur-of-the-moment games I have ever met. He also has a way of making you feel like you're interesting and important. That's a wonderful quality.

This is Jarvis. I call him Jarv and he is great.

He didn't get to goof off with the rest of us because he was making sure the meet ran smoothly. He's always helping out like that. Here's what you should know about him: if you ever have a chance to befriend him, you will love him for his loyalty, humor, and authenticity, Amen.

When my teammates and I are together, we talk lots and lots of track. Stats, events, and up-and-coming athletes. We also speculate about what kind of athletic performances we've still got in us.

 Naturally, this kind of talk almost always leads to someone sprinting over a hurdle on the infield:

Now if that doesn't look like an athlete in his prime, I don't know what does.

*No hamstrings were pulled in the making of this picture*

Track is life-changing, there's no doubt about it.  The discipline, the victory over pain, the travel — they all make life rich, like a slab of melt-in-your-mouth Belgian chocolate. But the people are what make track absolutey, positively glorious. It's always the people who make life beautiful.

And hey, the sunsets and stadium lights aren't too shabby, either.

I hope you have all sorts of glowing moments with your people this weekend, my friends.

Cheering for ya, Skillets.


© by scj