Monday, November 25, 2013

Waiting for Aslan to Move

Posted simultaneously at Sturdy Answers.

Winding our way through Dale and Jonalyn's "White Woods"
Winding our way through Dale and Jonalyn's "White Woods"
A few autumns ago, the Gold Gathering group and I were hiking through the splendor of the Colorado Mountains when, on Jonalyn's cue, we stopped walking, ceased our talking and listened. I hardly dared to breath, straining to hear what she heard. A few seconds passed and then I discerned the far-off, almost imperceptible burbling of a brook. It was the last of winter's melted snow winding its way down the mountain. As we stood and wondered at the tinkling music of melted ice, I thought of C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, in which it is always winter but never Christmas.
In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the wicked White Witch has cast a wintery enchantment across the land of Narnia. For centuries snow suffocates the once-living land, and fierce, freezing winds send living creatures scurrying into hiding. Fauns, beavers, wood nymphs and dwarves ache to escape the icy jowls of winter, or to at least have freedom to celebrate Christmas. Oh, to have a reason to celebrate the towering snow-covered pines and knolls frosted with fresh powder!
And then, one glorious day, the fierce whip of icy wind and silence of falling snow are replaced with the sound of far-off liquid laughter. Icicles begin to shrink and wink in the sun's warm light. Droplets cascade down snow-burdened boughs like tears of thanksgiving.
The White Witch sees the changes to the world she’s kept a wintery prison and shudders. But good Mr. Beaver lifts his head, and joyfully announces to his friends,  “Aslan is on the move.”
Aslan, the great Lion, is the rightful king of Narnia. For centuries Narnia’s inhabits have waited for him to come and banish winter. And now, he’s prowling the land, melting ice and snow so the land can live again, and freeing Narnia’s inhabitants from the Witch’s rule.
The highest of High Kings may be called Aslan in Narnia, but here we call him Immanuel, God with us. We called him that 2,000 years ago when he came to live among us, die for us, and rise again to show us that winter's death will not have the last word. Two thousand years later we continue to call him Immanuel. The Lion of the Tribe of Judah is not sitting somewhere far off watching his followers sweat, heave, and weep as we struggle to love him and live well. He is in us, among us, fighting for us. He is on the move.
Over the years I have come to know well the cold darkness of winter. And so I have begun to learn to listen close for far-off gurgles of melting snow — for sounds of life in a wintery world. My listening begins with asking Immanuel to show me what He is currently doing, unseen, for his glory and my good. He always shows me.
He shifts my attention from the darkness of winter to the tart zing of fresh cherries and the warmth of the sunlight falling through the window. He shows me that the recently reduced medical bill and the discount at the doctor are signs he’s on the move, working for my good. He reminds me that the Facebook message from a long-lost friend, the cookies fresh from a neighbor’s oven, and the belly laugh I had with the grocery clerk are signs of unexpected life sprouting.
But even as I learn to listen for sounds of spring, there are days when it seems like spring cannot be found. There are weeks when all I can see is icy gray. There are seasons when all I can hear is my heart creaking from the weight of the snow. During these seasons I am learning to hope, for my heart’s loud groaning is not a sign of its imminent wintery death. Groaning is the sound of ice that thaws: my heart's gradual softening, in spite of suffering, yet another sign of Aslan on the move.
Image credits:;

© by scj

Friday, November 22, 2013

No small feat

This week Winter tromped into Orange County carrying two enormous buckets of water that she promptly dumped on us. Then she turned the county's thermostat down thirty degrees, and threw back her head and laughed a menacing, icy laugh. And now I'm wearing three layers, my hair is wrapped around my neck like a scarf, and I am huddled next to the space heater, thawing my hands so I can type.

What I'm trying to say is, it's officially in the low sixties.

And I'm officially a sun-spoiled winter wimp.

But I'm a sun-spoiled winter wimp who's can wield a drill like nobody's business. I am proud to announce that, after what felt like an indomitable streak of mishaps, I hung two sets of curtains without giving myself a black eye, fat lip, pulled muscle, or slight limp. 

I am woman and I overcame.

And let me tell you, hanging those suckers was no small feat. My place is really old, and I swear my walls are made out of a virtually impenetrable combination of plaster and cement. The drill couldn't actually get through the top layer of plaster.

But thanks to my protective eyewear, a hammer and nail, and the brute strength of an ox, I hung 'em.

It was such a vigorous, sweat-inducing affair that I was peeling off layers faster than you can say "winter wimp." Best endurance workout I've had in awhile. Between my curtain workout on Tuesday, and the strength training workout I had whilst carrying three full boxes of donuts for my students across campus on Wednesday, I'm looking to get in great shape this week, folks.

Although tiring, all this rigorous training has been worth it. My students hungrily and happily devoured the donuts, the curtains have home-ified my little place, and my triceps are considerably less jiggly. Minus the part about my triceps being considerably less jiggly.

Hey, I'll take what I can get, Jack One victory at a time, man, one victory at a time.

Hoping your week has been full of mishap-defying victories, folks.

Happy weekend!


© by scj

Monday, November 18, 2013


Today I accidentally ate nine pieces of bacon. It was my brain's fault. It was full of happy endorphins that transported me to a world in which bacon does not raise cholesterol.

Hours later, I am writing from the fetal position. It turns out my stomach doesn't do well when it's stuffed full with crispy pieces of pure joy.

The good news is my hair smells very *strongly* of bacon. No doubt people in line behind me at the grocery store could smell it. And no doubt I was a hit with my tutoring students this evening. Adverbs and the distributive property never felt so good. Hey, I am full of cutting edge motivational techniques, Jack.

In other news, a few days ago I accidentally gave myself whiplash. Some friends and I have a running music video text exchange, and it was my turn to create a music video for them to enjoy. I sang into my hairbrush with gusto, swaying to the pulsing melody. And then the chorus swept over me like a powerful, thrashing wave, and I the next thing I knew, I was head banging like it was 2002. An hour later, I was popping ibuprofen and moaning to my sister over the phone about my bodily aches.

And so, my accident-prone streak continues

Tomorrow it must end, though. Because tomorrow I am hanging curtains. With an electric drill. God help me.

I'll keep you updated.

Happy Monday!


© by scj

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Family trick

Gents, unless you are of the ponytail-wearing variety (one of my very favorite varieties!), then this post won't be terribly relevant to you. But if you like to keep your hair long and wild, then read on. And if your name is Colin Farrell, then feel free to contact me.

Here I am on a hike in Julian, California.

I am laughing with my dear friend, Tiffany. I am wearing three-too-many layers on a rather warm evening. I have not washed my hair in five days. But you can't tell, can you?!

I don't love washing my hair. It's quite thick, and takes ages to dry. It's also very fine, which means it's easily damaged by regular washing and blow-drying. So I try not to wash it more than 1-3 times a week.

The thing is, I'm not one of those glorious people with an eternally dry scalp. My hair starts to get greasy after about 2-3 days. Luckily, there's an old family trick that's saved me the hassle and hair-damage of regular washings and dryings:

Plain ol', nothin' fancy cornstarch.

I think cornstarch is actually the main ingredient in dry shampoo. I don't use dry shampoo, though, because: a) it's smells too strongly of perfume for my liking (and allergies), and b) it's much more expensive than cornstarch.

Instead, I just dip my fingers in a can of cornstarch and rub the cornstarch into my roots, along my part. If my hair is greasy all over, then I rub cornstarch all over my scalp.

The blending of corn starch into the hair does require some patience and skill. Because my hair has darkened as I've aged, I have to spend more time massaging the cornstarch into my roots; otherwise, I'd look like I was wearing a powdered wig. Brushing my hair after I put the cornstarch in also helps it to blend nicely.

If you have really dark hair, then it may be difficult for you to avoid the powdered wig look. But hey, you never know what you can do with some patient, careful massaging. I'm not sure, but I believe my dark-haired cousin has used cornstarch with great success. You'll have to try it and let me know.

The key is blend, blend, blend that powder so it eliminates grease and isn't noticeable.

If you have fine, slippery hair, this will give your hair more texture, allowing you to style it with greater success.

It really is a gem of a family trick.

© by scj

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


Fact #1: This weekend, after rather violent skirmishes with my vacuum cleaner, some piping hot honey roasted pecans, and a misplaced dresser drawer, I got a black eye, fat lip, and mild limp. Then, while dancing, I tweaked a muscle in my back making it hard to turn my head from side to side. I've decided to buy myself a human-sized bubble.

Fact #2: This morning I was coaxed out of my little bungalo on the hill by the sound of loud machinery. Outside, I found a handyman doing something handy with the property plumbing and septic tank.

"There are three people on this property, and too much water without a place to go, so we're re-routing it," he explained.

Septic tank handiwork makes me nervous, so I was poised and ready when, minutes later, my bathroom sink and toilet started spewing and the floor began to flood with dirty water.

Fact #3: I am waiting for a tree to fall on my house. It just seems like the sort of thing that should happen this week.

Actually, I've not been feeling well the last two days as a result of a flare-up from my illness, which makes dealing with these little inconveniences much more difficult. It also makes it easier to join the Little Red Hen in her refrain: "THE SKY IS FALLING!!!!"

My best solution to avoiding this refrain is to think on what is good and true about God and my life. And the truth is, this weekend was fun. It was full of friends, long walks in the sunshine, and a lunch with family.

Here I am with my uncle (dad's little brother), aunt, and a couple of my cousins.

We had lunch at "Wind and Sea," a restaurant situated next to the harbor. The window views and sunshine were glorious.

After lunch, we walked around the harbor, window shopping and taking pictures. It doesn't matter that I've lived down here for ten years; I still can't put my camera down when I'm at the harbor.

At one point we stopped to watch the Parrot Man. He is often hanging out at the harbor showing off his parrots and answering parrot-related questions from passers by. I pulled out my camera to take a photo of him.

"Put your camera in your pocket and come here," he said when he saw me.

So I handed my camera to my cousin, and the next thing I knew I was covered in parrots.

First, he handed me his prized white parrot. She was so soft and docile.

Then, he asked me what country I was from. "Well, um, the, uh, United States, uh, of America?" Unless I am speaking to or teaching crowds, I don't do well in front of them. I forget important things, like what country I'm from.

He responded by setting his red parrot on my shoulder and his blue parrot on my head, to go with his white parrot, of course. It was a very patriotic parrot party. Sorry. Alliteration made me say it.

This is my, "Uuuuuuuh, are these guys potty trained?" face:

They really were fun birds. And there is something about feeling warm weight on your body. Babies, puppies, hot water bottles, parrots. It just feels comforting, man.

The parrot man really wanted to put on a show for the growing crowd, so he started switching things up.

"Put your hands on your hips and look sassy!" he said.

"Keep it up!" he encouraged.

"Now look up in the air!"

"Now go and have yourself a good afternoon!"

Fact #4: We did.

Friends, I hope your Tuesday is full of patriotic parrots that can distract you from spewing toilets, metaphorically speaking of course.



© by scj

Friday, November 8, 2013

Autumn tea party

Two years ago something really lovely happened: I met a group of girls who like tea parties as much as I do.

This last Sunday two of these gals threw their annual autumn tea party. It was the perfect excuse to continue speaking in the British accent I'd polished earlier in the week.

Unfortunately, almost every picture I took of the girls who attended is fuzzy. We tried to rectify the problem by capturing photos of ourselves with four different phones, but not a single one of the results was clear. How strange.

It could be that we were having too much fun to hold the phones still...

Yes, that's probably it.

This year the group of girls who attended was rather large, so the party was held in a local clubhouse.

There were goodies galore,
"Sips and Sweets"

cool drinks and hot drinks,

and, of course, tea cups for days. At this point in the photo tour I'd died and gone to heaven.

There was also a craft table, at which we could make little tea "hats."

The girls put so much thought and effort into the details of this party.

It was just the most delightful way to end the weekend, dahling.

© by scj

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Across the sky

While hiking in Julian the weekend before last, I walked past this giant tree trunk, uprooted and charred by the most recent forest fire.

When I was a kid I'd draw pictures and write messages across our brick hearth with bits of burnt wood. They reminded me of the charcoal pencils my mom would use to make black and white sketches. There was always so much possibility in those little black sticks.

This blackened trunk looked to me like a giant charcoal pencil, packed with enough "ink" to fill the whole sky with pictures and messages. I found myself imagining God's giant hand picking up that giant pencil and writing me a message across the sky.

What would he say, I wonder?

What I hoped he'd say came to me quickly. It must have hovering on the surface of my secret heart. And you know, thinking about what I'd hope God would write to me across the sky has changed my prayer life this week. It's revealed a deep, aching desire in which I'd like God to be intimately involved.

So maybe, before you rush off to finish plowing through your day, you could stop and consider what you'd hope God would write across the sky for you. It might change the way you pray today, which might make your day lovelier.

© by scj

Monday, November 4, 2013

Girlfriend getaway

I can go a week without chocolate, sunshine, ocean waves, tea and scones, and even deep belly laughter. But I cannot go a week without spending time with my girls. I love them, and I need them, and I am so thankful for them.

Which is why the weekend before last's girlfriend getaway to a cabin up in Julian was lovely, delightful, marvelous.

Guess how many nights we were away?


Yes, we have a problem. Well, I have a problem. Mine is the giant, green suitcase to the right. Hey, give a girl a break: I needed to be sure to have several sets of sweatpants to choose from. You never know when you'll need an extra set of sweatpants.

On our way there, we stopped at a little roadside country store with fresh farm produce. I found the cutest little green duck just waiting for someone to take him home.

The air in Julian is clean, the colors are autumnal, and the pace is slow.

It was the perfect place to lay around talking. And talking. And talking. That's pretty much all we did.

We didn't even get all the luggage into the cabin before we were all lounging on the swing trying to solve the world's problems.

We are a psychology-loving group who cares about emotional health and loves talking about spiritual formation and relational dynamics. Our conversations turn into wonderful adventures traversing further up and further in to each other's minds and hearts.

We did eventually leave the porch for a sunset hike into the woods,

where we found a clear-water creek,

and tromped across large clearings glowing with dusky light.

We like each other.

Gosh, I love these girls. They are vibrant, intelligent, kind and fun. They fill the empty nooks and crannies in my secret soul places.

After our hike we made ourselves a yummy dinner and a roaring fire. And then we curled up by the fire and talked.

Then we went to bed, and talked some more. Talking into the dark, long past bedtime is one of my most favorite things.

The next morning we made breakfast, and talked until the sun was high in the sky and it was time to head home.

And by that time we really had solved the world's problems. Until next time, anyway.

© by scj

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Just a spoonful of sugar

The last month has been hard. Okay, the last year has been hard. Okay, the last three years have been hard. I've been hard-pressed to figure out how to deal with all this continued hardship. What I wouldn't give for some rest, I tell ya. 

But for now, respite from the hard stuff doesn't seem to be God's plan for my life. So I've been learning to press on. The best way I've found to do this is to recenter my heart on God's goodness and involvement in my life. I'm learning to do this by noticing and celebrating the ways God daily shows me his love and grace. 

Awhile back my mom suggested that I also consider building things into my life that I can look forward to.

I think Mary Poppins would would agree with a resounding, "Yes! Do it! A spoonful of sugar always helps the medicine go down."

Mary Poppins' advice is practically perfect in every way.

And then, this week, as per the suggestion of a friend, I decided to be Mary Poppins for a friend's Halloween costume party.

When I was a kid I loved the creative challenge of making my own Halloween costumes. My favorites include a bumblebee who sold honey from a portable honey stand, a half a sandwich (a friend was the other half), and a bag of jelly beans.

I also just generally liked dressing up.

Left to right: honorary sister Annie, Me, little brother Aaron

Honorary sister Elizabeth, sister Rebecca, and me

My childhood friend Lauren and I had some of the best dress up get-ups I've ever seen

The ol' tape-the-nose-trick.

So you can imagine that dressing up as one of the main ladies from my childhood was a delightful prospect. Very delightful indeed.

And glory of glories, it was something new to look forward to!

Boy, you would have thought I was 9 years old the way I grinned with anticipation while sewing my bow tie and and putting the finishing touches on my felt hat.

The finished product did make feel like I was nine years old all over again.

And really, who doesn't love an excuse to talk with a British accent for a night? Also, I've discovered an interesting phenomenon: if one person is speaking with a British accent, then everyone around that person will also begin to speak with a British accent. It is truly wonderful.

This tall frappucino needed a spoonful of sugar.

A friend had the actual Mary Poppins umbrella and let me borrow it. Isn't it perfect?!

Mary Poppins is the perfect party costume for introverts... ;)

We had lots of fun taking pictures.

All in all, it was a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious kind of evening!

Just exactly the spoonful of sugar I needed.

© by scj