Saturday, January 17, 2015

A Saturday Morning List

Well good morning, friendlies. This morning I am sipping tea in a pair of cozy sweats while birds sing happily in the sunshine outside my window. It's the perfect morning for compiling a list of randoms:

1. It's finally fall here in the sunny southwest, now that we're in the heart of January. The trees are showcasing vibrant colors, and we're all showcasing them on our Instagram feeds. Hey, better late than never, Jack.

This is my cousin Kamden's photo. She is lovely and funny and smart and I love her, amen. She also has a beautiful food blog you should check out here.

2. Last night I had a dream that 1/4 of Orange County's trees were covered in snow; 1/4 were in full bloom; 1/4 displayed dazzling fall colors; and 1/4 sported feathery green leaves. "Living in Orange County is very seasonally confusing," I mused to the friend who was driving through OC with me.

The night before that I had a dream that Tim Tebow and I were set up. We went on a date that involved a lake, jet skis, and dinner on the dock, but in the end, the romance just wasn't there so we went our separate ways.

Dreamland never ceases to bore me, that's for sure.

3. Last week was a week of firsts for me. I ordered take-out for the first time, and I made popcorn on the stove top for the first time.

When I was a kid, my mom made popcorn with an air popper. Growing up on air popper-popped popcorn (say that five times fast) makes it nearly impossible to really enjoy microwave popcorn, sort of like eating German chocolate  makes it nearly impossible to enjoy Hershey's. But the stove top popped corn? It's just as good as the stuff from my childhood.

4. It's also been a week of seconds. This week we started our second annual Jackson book club. The last two Christmases my parents have gotten each of us kids a book by Timothy Keller. In the several weeks after Christmas my mom has spearheaded a weekly Google chat book club discussion.

Last year we read and discussed Every Good Endeavor (which was excellent, by the way), and this year we're reading and discussing Keller's newest book, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with GodWe're also reading the biography of George Muller, a preacher and founder of orphanages, who prayed with great expectation and experienced glorious, jaw-dropping answers to his prayers. I'm enjoying reading the biography alongside Keller's book, as Keller's book gives us principles about prayer, and Mueller's biography gives us pictures illustrating the principles.

Thanks, mom, for making this book club happen. It's becoming one of my winter highlights. 

5. It rained here last weekend, which made for spectacular cloud-streaked sunsets when the rain finally stopped.

Glory hallelujah.

6. Oh my heavens. This is itty bitty monkey is just the cute.est (click here to be redirected to the video if it's not showing up on your mobile device):

And so is this baby panda's first snow day (click here to be redirected to the video):

7. I just told a friend I was praying that the Holy Spirit would gladden her heart with reminders of the God the Father's goodness, the Son's sacrifice, and the Spirit's loyalty. It's a prayer I'll be praying for myself and you all this morning, too.

Signing off, over and out, peace to you all,


© by scj

Saturday, January 10, 2015

A final farewell

This weekend, at the top of my to-do list is "Go to the cactus store."

My family of succulents is still thriving, but George, my most favorite miniature cactus? Well, he's not doing so hot. In fact, he can't feel hot anymore. He can't feel cold either, because George has passed.

You may recall that I started worrying about George a few weeks ago when he began leaning to the right and eventually toppled over, revealing an ooey gooey center.

The day before I left for Portland last month, I checked to see if George's pieces had miraculously fused together, but alas, he had begun to melt into a puddle of green, like the Wicked Witch of the West. George, you never deserved such a dastardly fate.

The day I returned home from Portland, a friend and I enjoyed heaping bowls of soup in my little bungalow before spreading out on the floor for a good chat, because lying on the floor and talking is one of the best things of life. At one point, I yawned and stretched my arms across the carpet above my head, when I felt something bite my hand. I flew upright and cautiously examined the floor, looking for a ginormous man-eating spider of some sort. That's when I saw the prickly culprit: George, or what was left of him anyway.

He was just a little nub of a cactus looking like an itty bitty porcupine, or a sea otter's nose, or a caterpillar that ate one too many steroid-injected cherries, or one of the Wicked Witch of the West's warts.

I'm not sure how he got from his little glass pot on the table onto the floor, as the house was locked up the entire time I was in Washington. No windows were open, and no humans (or pets) were around. Perhaps he knew his days were numbered and sky diving was on his bucket list, so he bravely took the dive from table to floor.

I hope your last adventure was a grand one, George. You deserved one heck of a last hurrah. I sure will miss you. You're going to be a hard friend to replace, but I'm going to try anyway. Because warm-hearted, hilarious cacti are great to have around.

I hope your weekend is restful and punctuated with surprising adventures, my friends.


P.S. Come on over one of these days. We can watch the sunset together.

If I had edited this photo, then it might have looked a bit more like the sunset looked in person. But I didn't. So you'll just have to imagine this sunset was approximately 1,000 times more spectacular in real life.

© by scj

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Do you want to build a snowman?

Last week we Orange Countians experienced a New Year miracle: it snowed. 

For weeks before my Christmas trip to the PNW, I'd hoped for snow upon my arrival. There is little that tops a white Christmas in Washington, especially when you're used to year-round SoCal sun. But when I arrived, there was nothin' but rain. So I returned to my Orange County sun with my snow boots unused. And then, on New Year's Eve, it snowed in Orange County. Six inches of beautiful, powdery snow! Revel in that, you lovers of irony, you.

Earlier this weekend, a friend and I went searching for leftover snow. Deep in Silverado Canyon, we found some.

There wasn't much snow left, but there were piles here and there... we decided to make a snowman. I'd like to introduce you to Eli, the cutest squirrel-sized snowman you ever did see:

Just get a load of that face:

I grew to love Eli in the short amount of time it took to create him. In fact, I didn't know it was possible to feel such fondness for a snowman. But he was just packed with character and charm, and it ached a little bit to leave him sitting all alone in the woods.

My consolation upon leaving him was that the sky was blue, the birds were chirping, and the scent of moist earth hung in the air. I imagine his afternoon was lovely indeed.

Hoping your afternoon is lovely, too.


© by scj

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year!

The first day of 2015 will be over soon and very soon! How was your day? Was it remarkable? Ordinary? Full of hilarity, or introspection, or discouragement, or inspiration? As my friend Jeremy likes to say, "Tell me everything!"

I sat down a bit ago to journal because the first day of 2015 was not what I'd hoped it would be. I did not spend the day thinking glowing, hopeful thoughts as I'd hoped I would; I did not go to the places I wanted to go or do the things I wanted to do. And when I began to look back over the day whilst brushing my teeth 20 minutes ago, I did not have visions of rainbows and unicorns dancing through my head like some of you might have. (Did you? If so, you must do a remarkable job brushing your teeth). I think you could say I've spent the day in a funk.

I couldn't pinpoint the exact source of the funk, so I decided to journal. The process of writing, for me, works sort of like a miner who crawls into the mines to search for and retrieve whatever is of worth in those deep, hidden spaces. Writing helps me discover what's really going on in the mines of my soul when plain old introspection cannot.

I was about to write an opening line in my journal along the lines of, "Well this day was hard," when a little voice (maybe a miner who'd been in the mines for awhile) said, "write a list of all the good stuff about today, first!"

So I did. One line of good stuff; semi-colon; another line of good stuff; semi-colon; another line of good stuff; semi-colon. Seventeen semi-colons later and most of the bubbling, inner dissonance that had been swelling in my soul throughout the day was gone. Peace had replaced it.

I often try to practice gratitude when the funk settles, but I do it in my head, not on a piece of paper. The mental approach has never worked for me the way writing my list tonight worked. There was something magical about writing it all out. I'm reading a book called Anatomy of the Soul in which the author explains that the act of writing your story can rewire your brain in ways mere thinking cannot because of how writing integrates both the right and left hemispheres of the brain. So maybe I should do this whole gratitude list-writing thing more often.

And so, in order to celebrate and set a precedent for the New Year, I've compiled a short list of the things I am grateful for today:

1. Yesterday, shortly before I went to a New Year's Eve party, I had a cup of hot chocolate. And there, nestled in the cocoa, was A RAINBOW. As my friend pointed out, the bubbles in the cocoa looked like clouds.

If that's not a delightful end to a year, I don't know what is.

2. These band-aids my sister got me last year:

Now you understand why I sort of look forward to paper cuts.

Also, these have the potential to seriously improve my teeth-brushing experience.

3. My family.

I loved growing up in a family with four kids. I loved my mom and dad's creativity and sense of adventure. I loved the church my parents raised us in. I loved the cul-de-sac we grew up in. And now that the six of us have grown through decades of life together, I love 'em all even more.

4. Clean flannel sheets and fleece pajama pants. That's two things, but they go together like donuts and milk; wind and sails; Bert and Ernie; ice cream and cones; bacon and...well, just about everything.

5. My friends.

Some of the crew at our Black and Gold New Year's Eve party

They love to dance.
This photo doesn't do justice to this group's mad moves

They love to laugh:

They love to adventure, travel, and talk late into the night, and best of all, they love Jesus and are fiercely committed to serving him. 

6. You guys. Writing here — processing my life with you — feels comfortable, like fuzzy slippers and a cuppa rainbow hot chocolate. I also love hearing from you and keeping up with your lives via your blogs. If I haven't met you, shoot me an email! And if you have a blog, send me the link, I want to read it!

 7. God's grace. Sometimes I close my eyes and I think of the most gracious people I know, and I imagine that I can bottle up all their grace. Then I imagine pouring that bottle of grace into the expanse of God's grace. It's like pouring a teardrop into the ocean. It's mind-blowing and heart-swelling that Jesus, the King of Kings, is not only mindful of us, but is also drenching us with his unfathomable grace in every new moment of every new day.

I pray we would all grow in our understanding of how high, deep and wide is God's love for us in 2015. Happy New Year, my friends!

Sweet dreaming (and catching up on sleep) tonight,


© by scj

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Christmas festivities

Hello, friends! Merry late Christmas and happy early New Year!

I hope your holiday week has been peaceful and joy-filled. Mine has been full of family, rainy window panes, and cozy fires. It's also been full of Swiss chocolate, Belgian chocolate, Austrian chocolate and American potato chips. I've experienced a Christmas miracle in which I can eat whatever I want without repercussions. And by "experienced" I mean "imagined." Because imagination is part of the magic of Christmas.

Early in this festive week our dear childhood girlfriends, Elizabeth and Anne, came into town for a slumber party. Elizabeth and Anne are like second sisters to us. We grew up in the same cul-de-sac and even home schooled together. Most of my best childhood memories are with them.

Circa '94 or so. From left to right: Aaron, Marc, Me (in the back), Anne, Rebecca, and Elizabeth

Not long after Elizabeth and Anne arrived, my brother and sister-in-law came into town, completing our Jackson crew. And then, more dear family friends, the Longs, came by for pizza and general merriment. Any weekend plan that includes Elizabeth, Anne AND the Longs is a good weekend, indeed.

Left to right: my beautiful sister-in-law, Natasha; my beautiful sis, Rebecca; and the beautiful Jena Long. Lots of beauty on this couch.

The oldest of my two brosefs, and Grandma

Throughout the week, we interrupted our bouts of busyness with fireside lounging and long walks in the nippy winter air.

I love walking in the Pacific Northwest. The air is clean and brisk, and the horizons are verdant and mountainous.

Pirouetting into a honeyed horizon. From left to right: Mom, Me and Rebecca

One night, we all crammed in the car and headed to Peacock Lane. Peacock Lane is a street in Portland on which every house is decked out in lights. We didn't get many cool light shots, but we did snap a photo of the crew, minus dad who was home preparing his Christmas Eve service sermon:

Dad, we missed you on our outing!

We did manage to get one picture of the entire family on Christmas Eve:

We also managed to get about a thousand other pictures of Christmas festivities because my brother Aaron I have an affinity for documenting family events. Between the two of us, our pictures will have our hard drives moving at the speed of molasses any day now. (Do you picture-taking types keep your photos on external hard drives?)

This picture cracks me up.

When I am home I have a habit of stealing my dad's sweatshirts and coats (because they are big and warm and cozy), as I have in this picture. Sorry dad.

My last day home my sister and I went to an old family friend's house for the most delightful almost-new-year's tea party. Oh my goodness, just look at this table!

 How lovely to have such dear friends in such a beautiful part of the country. And what a sweet end to a full week.

I hope your week has been full of pockets of sweetness, too, my friends.

Happy celebrating tonight!


© by scj

Monday, December 22, 2014

In which I take a trip to Uranus, among other places

Well, it would seem that all of the germy bugs I've evaded this semester have conspired to regroup and infect me this month. After succumbing to two bugs earlier this month, I came down with bug #3 this weekend. So much for my raw garlic regime. Its germ-fighting strength isn't all it's cracked up to be.

I didn't get a fever this weekend so my sleep has been pretty restful. It's also been dream-filled. Last night I had a dream I went to Uranus for the weekend. Apparently I'd found some sort of tube that transported people to different planets. Jackpot discovery.

While on Uranus I made a point of asking the planet's inhabitants if Uranus is pronounced "Yur-in-ous" or "Yur-anus." "It doesn't matter," they told me. "Whatever you'd like."

So there you go. Now you know. 

Fortuantely, I didn't get sick until my second day in Portland, so my first day here I got to enjoy a healthy afternoon in the brisk air at the Christmas tree farm with my mom, grandma, brother and his girlfriend. The rest of the Jackson troops didn't arrive until later in the weekend.

Here I am at the farm with my old friend, Mrs. T.

Mrs. T. and her husband own the Christmas tree farm. Mrs. T. has prayed faithfully for me for 29 years, and these days she writes me regular letters to inquire about my life and to tell me how she's praying for me.

I love seeing her when I'm home, and her Christmas tree farm is one of my favorite places in the world.

It's got a petting zoo complete with miniature horses, goats, sheep, and pheasants.

There are few things in this world as delightful as having a baby miniature horse nibble oats from your hand. It's giggle-inducing, to say the least.

The little horsie eating out of my hand was a NIBb.ler. He didn't need oats to induce nibbling. He'd nibble our fingers, knuckles and gloves whenever he could. Nibble nibble nibble nibble.

The goats were especially hungry little critters. Either that, or they were just goats. Goats are like the football players I shared a training room with in college: they like to eat whatever, whenever. And my, how the little goaties strained and pushed to get some o' them oaties. (Don't mind my cheesy rhyming. I'm in a cheesy rhyming mood. "Twas the Night Week Before Christmas" and all).

Try to win a staring contest with a goat. It's easy. If he doesn't smell food on you, then "he gone." (name that TV show).

I grew up going to the T.'s tree farm every year growing up. Everything about it gives me warm and fuzzy nostalgia.

This nativity scene in the barn makes me feel eight years old all over again:

Every year, after we'd chopped down the perfect Christmas tree, we'd gather around the fireplace near the nativity scene and sip hot chocolate while munching on miniature candy canes. Happiness must taste like hot chocolate and miniature candy canes.

This year, Mr. T. fired up the tractor to give us our own private hayride tour of the farm.

Mr. T. is driving the tractor that is pulling the hayride. Can you see his green hat peaking through the front window?

Well would you look at that: all three of these ladies have known me my entire life:

And I've known this handsome guy all his life:

He makes me laugh more than anyone on planet earth. Come to think of it, he also makes me laugh more than anyone on planet Uranus.

(How did you pronounce that now that you have official Uranean permission to pronounce it however you want?)

A hayride at sunset down a pine-scented lane is one of the best things of life. It was the perfect way to start my Christmas stay here in the Pacific Northwest.

Pine-scented, peaceful December 22nd to you, my friends.



P.S. How fabulous is my grandma?!:

P.P.S. Guess what I woke up to my second night here? A FIRE ALARM. Thankfully, there was no fire, and there were no trips to the ER.


© by scj

Friday, December 19, 2014

Finals Week

It's finals week which means I am tired. Except saying I am tired is like saying Colin Farrell looks decent. I am not tired; I am EX.hausted, and Colin Farrell does not look decent; he looks DE.lightful.

Can I get an Amen?

For me, finals week has a habit of holding all sorts of strange happenings. Last week, I told my exhausted and overwhelmed freshmen that my very first college finals week was like something out of the twilight zone.

One night that fateful finals week, I was in a sleep so deep it might have taken Prince Charming's kiss to awaken me had a bunch of unruly college guys not pulled the fire alarm in my dorm instead. That alarm did the trick and woke me up in a disoriented stupor. I sat up, my ears ringing, and noticed thick smoke hanging in the room. This is it, I thought with panic. I am going to die in a fire on the second floor of my freshman dorm. On cue, my heart started racing and adrenaline charged through my body, and then, just like that, I stopped breathing. My very first panic attack.

Prince Charming's kiss would have made for a MUCH nicer story.

A few seconds later, the smoke I saw disappeared. It turns out I hadn't awakened fully when the alarm rang, and I had dreamed up that smoke. The panic attack evaporated about as fast as the imaginary smoke, and I filed out of the building onto a grassy field adjacent to the dorm with a few hundred other girls, where we remained for thirty minutes — until about 3 AM.

The next day I studied and ran my little heart out, and then, after dinner, while I chatted and laughed with the girls on my hall, my breathing suddenly grew labored and I struggled to swallow. When my symptoms didn't subside, my R.A. called campus safety and had them take me to the emergency room.

By that point, it was almost midnight, and I was scared and tired. Thankfully, my roommate accompanied me to the ER so I didn't have to be alone.

Freshman year in the dorm: my roommate is the brunette on the right

By the time we arrived at the ER I could breathe more easily, and by the time the doctor saw me I was back to normal.

"I think your body is still experiencing the effects of the panic attack you had last night," he speculated. "Go home and get some sleep and you should be fine."

So the campus safety officer — a seasoned officer in his forties — drove my roommate and me back to our dorm where we fell, once again, into a very deep sleep.

A few hours later, there was a knock at our door. My roommate stumbled out of bed and opened the door to find the campus safety officer from the night before holding my phone. "Sarah left this in my car last night," he said. He held out the phone, but before my roommate could take it, she fell on the floor in a dead faint and began having a seizure.

For a moment, the officer stood there watching her twitch and writhe on the floor, her eyes closed and her face sheet white. And then — and this is the point in my re-telling of the story where I laugh until I wheeze — he looked at me, his head cocked and his finger pointed at her limp form, "Is she okay?" he asked.

I looked at him incredulously, rushed to her side and responded, "NO! She's fainted and is having a seizure. CALL 911!" So he did, and minutes later the paramedics were there, leaning over her as she came to.

I had finals and couldn't accompany her to the ER, but when she returned she was okay and all was well. She was wearing the same yellow ER bracelet as the one I'd gotten the night before. We have a picture of the two of us wearing our matching ER bracelets, our hair in a state of disarray, our sweats rumpled and baggy. I'd post that picture now except it's buried in a box in my closet and I am too tired to fish it out. Because: finals week.

Finals week. It never ceases to be the bearer of... good fodder for future stories, or, at the very least, weird happenings.

Last week, the night after I told my students about my very first finals week disaster, there was a storm warning in my area. Because some people were told to evacuate the hills near my house in case of fires caused by fallen electrical lines, I checked my fire alarm before I climbed in bed, just to be sure it worked in case of a fire in my hills. It did work, and I fell into a deep sleep.

A few hours later I was awakened by an alarm that sounded like a banshee being tortured. This is it, I thought. The lines are down and my house has caught on fire. Finals week and fire alarms are like cookies and milk, Lucy and Ethel, salt and pepper, Jack and Jill, peanut butter and jelly.

I flew upright and quickly assessed the exits in my bungalow, looking for an exit that wasn't blocked by growing flames. But there was no sign of flames and no smell of smoke...

I looked around, perplexed, and noticed my cell phone flashing on the window ledge next to my bed. The screen read "Flash flood alert" and the banshee alarm was coming from my phone, kindly alerting me at 3 AM that I could drown if I decided to go driving that night at 4 A.M. I sleepily silenced my phone and went back to sleep.

The next night, I was awakened by a stomach bug. And a couple of nights after that, I was awakened by lightning and thunder. So yeah, not getting a lot of sleep over here, but I've also not had a single trip the ER, which is a finals week victory.

Water, water, everywhere!

And all these storms are doing wonders for our air. They're scouring it, removing every patch of smog so it is crisp and clean. The view of the ocean from my backyard looks like it's been upgraded from SD to HD.

We southern Calfiornians aren't used to all this water, though, which probably explains why I found this boat lying by the side of the road on my walk this morning:

Someone took that flash flood warning very seriously.

Merry week before Christmas, my friends!


© by scj