Tuesday, July 30, 2013


I've missed you, friendlies! I've felt quite unwell the last week, and had to put the ol' blogski on the back burner.

Since I've been resting, resting, resting, I don't have much to report. Except that I discovered I prefer sweetening my homemade ice cream with honey, not stevia; and I've started putting dried coconut in my smoothies. My daisies have contracted the same fungus that invades my potted plants each summer, and I wish I had grown carrots in my garden this year.  Oh yes, and I've officially concluded that online dating is not for me.

It's not that there aren't great guys online. I was pleasantly surprised by the abundance of good-looking, smart, hard-working, Jesus-loving guys who are online.

So, if you're single and you're in a place in life where you just.aren't.meeting.singles, then sign up! Pronto! What are you waiting for?!

But wait. First, check out my series on dating from awhile back, just to make sure you're doing everything you can to meet the eligible singles in your area.

If you're doing everything you can — attending social gatherings, initiating conversations, making new friends, "laying out the welcome mat," "knocking on the door" — and you're still not meeting singles, then online may be the place for you.

But if you're in an area that's saturated with young professionals the way my area is, then you may want to avoid online dating.

Especially if you're an introvert.

Unlike extroverts, introverts are energized by alone time. They aren't necessarily shy, and they don't necessarily have an aversion to social activities, but they recharge away from crowds where there's peace, quiet, and all sorts of space for introspection.

I am an introvert. I love people, but am always drained after a social event. For every hour of socializing, I need at least four hours of alone time to recharge. I would be wonderfully content living on a virtually unpopulated mountain in a cabin at the end of a long gravel road.

Despite my affinity for alone time, I've been taking the advice I delineated in my recent dating series, which means I'm socializing as much as I can. As a result, I've been meeting scores of eligible guys along the way.

But all this socializing takes its toll.

And I really don't have the stamina to continue all this socializing AND go out on dates with strangers with whom there will likely be no chemistry.

Something has to give, and it's certainly not going to be my alone time.

So I've hung up my online dating hat. I much prefer meeting men in person when I'm out and about. It's natural, and, since I plan on hanging out with my friends anyway, it doesn't require any time or energy beyond what I already intended to expend on the social excursion.

And now, as I close this chapter on my online dating career, I'm going attempt to give some "advice nuggets" from my very short online dating experience, for all you introverted daters:

if you're meeting lots of Christian singles in your social circles, then keep on keepin' on with that social life! I think it should take priority over online dating, if you have to choose between the two.

(A caveat: my dating advice has never led to marriage, ever. At least as far as I know. Just keep that in mind, man).

These organic relationships will likely be much more valuable to you than the "relationships" you develop with the singles you meet via an online dating site. You may not develop anything romantic with the people you meet via social networking, but it's likely you'll run into them again. And you may even become friends with these new folks, which would be really lovely.

It's less likely that you'll develop friendships and have intersecting social circles with the people you meet online, especially if you're in a big city, like I am. I think this is because online dating facilitates "hit and run"-type interactions. You meet up with a perfect stranger; assess potential; and then most likely part ways forever and ever, amen. It's just online dating culture.

And listen, the new friends you make while socializing have single siblings, kids, cousins, and friends of their own — who knows but that one of their connections will be your golden, matrimonial connection!! And who knows but that one of your friends will become their ticket to a life of martial bliss!

If you're an extrovert who can handle online dating and a social life like the one my single friends recommend (here), then go for it, man! More power to you! (And more exposure for you). You are truly the dating energizer bunnies of this world, and for that I am in awe of you.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have my final online dating-facilitated date tomorrow, and I need a good night's sleep to recharge this introverted battery of mine. ;)

Sleep tight!


© by scj

Friday, July 19, 2013

Thursday Things, on a Friday: "F-l-a-b"

1. Some friends and I went to the Orange County Fair on Wednesday to celebrate my dear friend's birthday.

I haven't been to the fair in years. I've either been A) way too busy to do anything social-ish, or B) way too sick. Now that I'm recovering from busyness and illness, I get to enjoy a rather thriving social life. It turns out social lives are way.fun. Who knew.

Unfortunately, the wrinkles that are slowly forming around my eyes and across my forehead have been accompanied by a tendency to get queasy on any ride that spins quickly. It's a shame, because I've always loved quickly-spinning rides.

So I stuck to non-quickly-spinning rides like the ferris wheel and this amazeballs slide.

2. Whilst at the fair we determined that, should I ever cut bangs, it will look A) decent:

or, B) awful:

Given my odds, I don't think I will be cutting bangs anytime soon.

3. I am hoping my white raccoon eyes in the above pictures are a trick of the light. If not, then I may want to consider removing my grapefruit-sized sunglass lenses when I lay out...

4. I've been home since Monday, and I haven't had a deep belly laugh since then. That's because little brother is up in Washington, while I'm down here. And boy, that kid makes me laugh till I cry. Every.single.time. we're together.

5. In one of the college English classes I teach I get to teach my students to identify logical fallacies. I think I will use Macklemore's "Same Love" to do this.

6. Fair music makes for good dance-walking music. And dancing-walking at the fair makes for cool pictures.

Photo credit: My dear friend Tammy.

7. I just remembered I had a dream last night that I was dating Ben Aaron, the dance-walking king
(Click on the link in #6 to check out Ben's dance-walking video).

8. I recently started a tutoring business, which means I get to spent time with students in K-12th grade these days. Yesterday I was working on reading with one of my 2nd grade students.

We were playing a spelling card game, and I noticed he had the letters to form the word f-l-a-b.

I knew he wasn't familiar with the word, so I helped him out.

"You can spell the word 'flab' with your cards," I said.

He sounded it out and correctly formed the word.

"Flab is the loose skin and fat on our bodies," I explained.

His eyes lit up. "Oh!" he said. "My mom has LOTS of that!"

Just one of a thousand reasons I love working with kids, folks.

Happy Friday, y'all! I hope your weekend is just grand.


© by scj

Monday, July 15, 2013

Toppling the idol of beauty

Posted simultaneously at Sturdy Answers.

This morning I looked in the mirror, and instead of criticizing the bags under my eyes, or fixating on the imperfections in my body, I noticed how my eyes were full of light and my body was healthy and strong. The realization made me smile.
Mornings in front of the mirror have not always been this way for me.
When I was in college, I learned to criticize and condemn my body with the best of them.
There were days when I’d anxiously stand in front of the mirror and notice how I didn’t look like the girls in the magazines — how I didn’t have the bust of a Barbie doll or the hips of an adolescent boy.
And so I’d pull out my imaginary plastic surgery pen and mentally mark my unsatisfactory appearance black and blue.
Then perhaps I’d try a new, ineffective diet. Or maybe I’d wear baggy clothes that covered the parts of my body that brought me shame.
But none of these things made me feel beautiful.
So I turned my attention from the cultural standard of airbrushed external beauty, and looked instead to the Proverbs 31 woman in all her enduring, internal beauty.
And holy cow, I sure didn’t match up to her either.
Where she was generous, I was apathetic and ornery. Where she was clothed in strength and dignity, I was wearing old yoga pants and a wrinkled T-shirt.
The awareness of my inadequacy made me feel heavy with guilt. And so I carried with me a secret burden of shame: I was not the woman I should be. Not only was my body not enough, my soul was not beautiful.
adam and eveAnd like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, I tried to cover the things in my soul that brought me shame.
Sometimes I tried to be generous in order to cover my ugliness. Sometimes I tried to be disciplined to make myself valuable and appealing.
And then, after years of struggling to make myself beautiful, I got sick, and was bedridden for the better part of two years.
And it was during those years of helpless stillness that the Holy Spirit began to change the thoughts I had when I looked in the mirror.
First, he revealed to me that the anxiety and insecurity I felt about my body were signs of idolatry.
I had valued culture’s definition of beauty more than I had valued God’s definition of beauty.
Sure, my head knew that the cultural definitions of beauty are always changing, whereas the definition of true beauty flows from God’s unchanging character.
But we don’t live from our heads; we live from our hearts. 
And the anxiety that poured out of my heart indicated I had often given our cultural definition of beauty of the utmost importance.
This kind of idolatry can send us frantically trying to make ourselves valuable by conforming to a standard of beauty other than God’s.
It can prompt us to treat our bodies like they’re our own — like they’re plastic to be cut, shoved, and shaped into our own image.
It can make us treat our bodies like they’re a dispensable means to our self gratification, to which we ascribe goodness based on whether or not they will live up to our impossible cultural standards of beauty. Idolatry leads us to objectify our bodies.
During my time of illness, the Holy Spirit also revealed to me the problem with my attempts to make my soul beautiful.
My desire to cultivate inner beauty was rooted in a genuine desire to be like Jesus. The problem was, I was trying to become like Jesus through my own power, on my own terms.
I often used obedience, spiritual disciplines, and service to try to lessen my burden, my sense of spiritual failure. I tried to make myself the kind of woman God would love. I tried to relieve the burden of shame that Christ alone can relieve.*
My heart had not understood the bottomless depth of his love, and the sufficiency of his grace to make my soul beautiful.
Over the course of my illness I spent a lot of time in the Gospels. As I read, I was especially drawn to Jesus’ talk of the kingdom of heaven.
“The kingdom of heaven is here!” he told his followers. “It’s invading your lives and making them new.”
I was reminded that the kingdom of heaven is where God is re-making our souls good and beautiful.
In the kingdom of heaven there’s more to beauty than skin-deep beauty that fades, or even inner soul-beauty that bears God’s image. There’s a third layer of beauty: the Spirit of God who activates our inner person and recreates an enduring, inner beauty described by God.
And oh! how I wanted to more readily and regularly open myself up to the Spirit of God who is making all things new and beautiful.
Then I read Jesus’ words in Matthew 18:3-4:
“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
The doorway to the kingdom of heaven is humility, or a right understanding of who we are in relation to God.
It’s in humility that we first realize our need for God, and are then welcomed into the kingdom.
And it’s in humility that we daily learn to more fully open ourselves to the invasion of the kingdom of heaven in which we’re being re-created.
When we’re humble, we see how small and weak we are next to the God who sculpted the mountains, breathed stars into the sky, and kissed life into Adam’s dusty body.
And God’s bigness and goodness should engender our trust. If we’re humble, then we’ll believe the things God tells us about our beauty.
If I’m having trouble believing God, then there’s pride in my heart.
Pride convinces me that my attempts at making myself beautiful are helpful and healthy — that somehow I know better than God.
Humility teaches me that my body and soul uniquely reflect God, and opens me up to the Spirit of God who is activating an inner beauty in me that looks and smells like him.  
So I am learning to listen, in humility, to what God says in his Word about the beauty of my body and soul.
My attempts to make myself like the Proverbs 31 woman taught me I can’t force humility. It’s something only the Spirit of God can cultivate in me as I obey him, so I’ve been learning to open my heart to the work of His Spirit.
And the more I do, the more I see my beauty clearly: through the eye of the only Beholder who matters.
Next month I’ll write (over at Sturdy Answers) about some of the ways I’m learning to open myself up to the Spirit of God to make me humble, so that I can rightly understand and grow in beauty.

* I’m thankful for the role Dr. John Coe’s lectures on moralism played in helping me to understand the attempts of the hidden heart to assuage its shame and guilt.
Image credit: www.harpersbazaar.com, gerhardy.id.au

© by scj

Friday, July 12, 2013

Tonight's big game

There's a big roller hockey game here in my home town tonight. So I'm donning my childhood roller blades and hitting the pavement, my second-hand hockey stick in hand.

Little brother's been training me this evening in preparation:


(How do you embed Instagram videos?)

© by scj

Thursday, July 11, 2013


I'm up at my folks' house this week for a quick visit. 

There's no place quite like the Pacific Northwest in the summer.

The mountainous horizons lined with evergreens:

The homegrown blueberries (and Oregon Ducks):

The tree frogs:

The socks with sandals:

The little brother who never ceases to make me laugh until my sides hurt:

In this picture I am trying to feed Marc a blueberry. I thought it would be a fantastic photo op.

He, however, did not.

Notice the look of humored incredulity on his face.

Oh Sister, for how long shall I have to put up with you shoving blueberries in my mouth during photo ops?

But if you look closely — I mean really closely— you can see Marc's more subtle look of delight.

Oh Sister, how glad I am to have you at my side as you help me truly relish this evening. Summer has been empty and meaningless until this moment, here with you. 

He secretly loves my photo ops.

Do you see it?

It's a good thing I'm so good at uncovering my family members' deepest, truest feelings by interpreting their body language.

Take for instance this photo I took of my other brother while FaceTiming this week:

At first glance, it might appear as if he is thinking,

I will conquer the world in my sick sunglasses and slick suit.

That, or,

Where did I park my car?

But trust me when I tell you he is actually thinking,

The only way my life would be cooler right now is if my sister were walking under this expansive, Canadian sky with me.

Body language interpretation is one my most advantageous skills. It adds a lot of value to my life.

Also, if you could pretend you didn't see the picture of me looking fairly comatose in the upper righthand corner of my FaceTime photo, I'd appreciate it.

Thank you kindly.

Anyway, there are loads of other reasons I'm glad to be up here this week.

But one of the best reasons is this lady's also in town:

February, 2013
Grandma's in the house!

Holla, holla, hoooooooolla!

© by scj

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Hula Hoop of Gratitude

Posted last month at Sturdy Answers.com
On cloudy afternoons you can often find me sitting at my kitchen table sipping a cup of tea, my eyes glazed over with daydreams about travel.
I may be imagining a hobbit-style backpacking trip across New Zealand, a picnic on the beaches of Spain, or a motorcycle ride through Chile. And you can be assured that at some point I’m traveling via daydream to the Land of If Only. It’s one of my most frequented destinations.
If only I were making more money.
If only my body looked like it did in college.
If only I were married.
My visits to the Land of If Only leave me dissatisfied with my job, indifferent to the freedom of singleness, and oblivious to the ways my body opens me up to all sorts of pleasure. And yet I keep going back.
And with every trip, I accumulate more stamps in my passport.
— Ingratitude —
— Pride —
— Anxiety —
— Despair —
They’re all I have to show for my travels to the Land of If Only.
The aftermath of my trips isn’t unlike the aftermath of the first human trip to the Land of If Only, back in the Garden of Eden.
You could have more than you do; you could be more than you are, the Serpent hissed over Eve’s shoulder.
And Eve, she was blind to the sight of light dancing through the fragrant fruit trees in front of her. She was deaf to the sound of Adam walking through the garden, humming her a love song his actions had never contradicted. She had forgotten that just that morning she had laughed over a cup of coffee with God.
Instead, she ventured into the Land of If Only, doubtful of God’s goodness and determined that her ideas about what her life should be were better than his. Ingratitude reared its ugly head, pride fed it, and then the two of them wolfed down Adam and Eve's joy. And ever since, we’ve been fighting ingratitude, pride, and their accompanying misery.
My years of inhabiting a sick body have taught me that when I’m traveling the world via daydreams, I had better pack gratitude in my suitcase. Gratitude kills pride and is the key to contentment. It ensures that my imagination won’t take me to the joy-sucking Land of If Only.
And so I am learning the importance of noticing the good gifts of the present, and practicing the spiritual discipline of thanking God for those gifts.
I have found that taking time to play is one of the best ways to learn gratitude for God's goodness.
Every now and then you can find me and a few girlfriends traipsing across the park, hula hoops in hand. My friend Meg is a hula-hooper extraordinaire, so she gives us newbies advice:
“Pay attention to the way the hoop feels as it travels around your waist. With time your body will figure out how to keep it there.”
So I notice.IMG_1724
Around and around it goes.
In front.
To the side.
To the side.
Rolling slow and steady, rhythmic.
And then I notice how my chest rises and falls with my breaths,
the water in the hoop sloshes and swirls,
and the light creeps through the trees and lands on my shoulders.
And I feel thankful to be inhabiting this moment in my body.
IMG_4431Several weeks ago a friend and I discovered some caves while hiking. Delighted, we climbed up into crevices and inched across steep ridges. We played in the sand we found in one cave, and sang the Lion King’s “Circle of Life” on a rock platform in another. We became completely absorbed our play, fully engaged in the grace around us.
Our hearts didn’t race with anxiety.
Our minds weren’t preoccupied with worry.
Our bodies weren’t tense with stress.
And as we gloried contentedly in God’s vast playground and the bodies he gave us to explore it, we couldn’t help but feel grateful.
Regular play helps me notice the unparalleled joy of living in my body, in this place, in this moment, rather than fantasizing about the Land of If Only. When I laugh with delight, or feel the fuel of adrenaline, or experience the satisfaction of creativity, I’m mindful of the way God wired me with the capacity to enjoy these things. And so, with ever increasing eagerness, I open my arms wide to God's goodness, knowing that a daily embrace of his generosity is the passport to a life of joy. 
 © by scj

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Five (unimportant) things

1. I just noticed that the "send" button on my updated Yahoo! mail account is in the shape of a paper airplane. The realization tickled some deep part of my soul.

2. Sometimes, just as I am about to fall asleep, deep, rattling, Darth Vader-esque breathing startles me awake. And then I realize it's my breathing that's got me wondering if a corrupted Anakin Skywalker is sitting on my pillow, and I laugh myself to sleep.

3. I have been watching and re-watching an Instagram friend’s video of her 3-year old daughter this week. In the video, the little girl is singing a song I learned as a kid about the dangers of being too busy (“Busy, busy, I’m dreadfully busy!”). The lyrics must have gotten lost in translation though, because instead of being “dreadfully busy,” she is “rectally dizzy.” 


4. This evening I leaned back in my anti-gravity chair and watched the clouds streak their way across a cerulean sky. They were wispy, chalky, pearly, shifty things.  As I laid there, I was keenly aware that God was watching them mosey lazily across the sky with me. And then I realized that, since I've been feeling healthy, I don't watch the clouds mosey nearly enough. Oh how quickly I forget what's important.

5. If you do not have an anti-gravity chair you need one. It will change your life. That and peanut butter pie. But if you had to choose one, I'd say go with the anti-gravity chair. 

I am hoping it lives up to its name and is not only crazily comfortable, but also works magic on my recently-forming wrinkles...



© by scj

Image credit: static.ddmcdn.com

Monday, July 1, 2013

Online dating adventure, day 8: Unexpected

Well, I've finally sort of settled into this whole online dating thing. I continue to laugh aloud at some of the messages I get, and I giggle my way through lots of profiles. So many funny guys.

The part of me that is fascinated by reality t.v. shows is also fascinated by all these men's online profiles. I love analyzing the way they market themselves, and the differences in the way Christians and non-Christians approach online dating and self presentation. I love analyzing the way the respective groups' online approaches compare to their in-person approaches to dating.

One thing is for sure: the social media age has made all of us our own best PR reps. ;)

I've been pleasantly surprised by the number of professing Christian men on this non-Christian dating site. There aren't tons of them, but there are enough that I'm chatting with a several interesting guys right now.

Interestingly, non-Christians seem to be much more inclined to ask me out for drinks in the first email, whereas Christians take a slower approach. I'm not quite sure why this is, but it's given me great fodder for speculation.

My most fun interaction thus far has been unexpected.

My first day online, I got an email from an intelligent, active, funny, successful man. Holla. I checked his profiled, didn't see any signs that he was a Christian, but figured I'd do my due diligence and write him anyway. Who knows but that he hadn't finished setting his profile up. Or something like that.

I told him I was looking to serve Jesus with someone, and asked if he'd be willing to share his thoughts on life with Jesus.

His response was thoughtful and earnest, but made it clear that, although he believed in God, he wasn't a follower of Jesus.

He said he couldn't understand how a good God could send people to hell, nor could he imagine that Jesus is truly the only way to the Father.

So I responded with a couple of sentences speaking to his objections. I told him I understood them, and had grappled with the same questions in the past. I also told him we wouldn't be romantically compatible, but that I loved digging into this stuff, and would be glad to dialogue with him about it online.

Hours later, he responded with a series of objections to and questions about Christianity. And we've been dialoging about them since then.

It's exciting and energizing whenever God lets us participate in the work his Spirit is doing in the lives of others, isn't it?! I'm loving this. So much good stuff coming out of this impulsive adventure already.

© by scj