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