Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Celebrating a Bride-to-Be

Last weekend I had the honor of attending a lovely bridal shower/bachelorette party in tribute to my friend, Heather, celebrating the marriage of her and her husband-to-be, Rico.

A close friend, Amanda, hosted the event. She went with a picnic theme. The decorations looked great!

Loved the centerpieces.

The party favors were homemade bath salts Heather's good friend from home brought for each of the guests.

Well done Amanda.

I was excited when the food came out: fresh fruit, sandwiches, pasta, and spinach salad. It couldn't get much better than that. 

A delicate feast!

This was a fun idea: Sharpie pens + popsicle sticks + a jar. Each guest wrote down a date idea and put it in the jar. Later, the married couple can draw from the jar and go on whatever date the popsicle stick suggests.

Another activity: Amanda made little envelopes. Each envelope had a picture of a random (mostly very good-looking) man inside. One of the envelopes had the groom. Whoever opened his photo won a prize.  

Heather's envelope had the groom. What are the odds...

There were lots of laughs all around.

But then...

What is this? Not what you think. No, not strippers. Well...sort of, but not really. We are much too sophisticated for that. They actually put on more clothes at the end of the dance than they had at the beginning. Haha.

It was still highly amusing. Heather liked it. ;)


I was so glad to be a part of her celebration. I'm looking forward to their wedding this weekend!

Congratulations are in order for the happy couple!!!


Monday, August 27, 2012

Short Story #2: Paneradise

The restaurant had the same exact smell every time I walked in. It was a blend of baked goods and cleaning chemicals, with maybe a little coffee bean aroma thrown in there too. Not a bad smell, just a work smell. It was the smell I smelled so much, I forgot I was smelling it. 

I had arrived. Promptly, as always. I walked through the doors with purpose. It was 8am.  

Joe was the manager in charge. He swiped me in, "Welcome to Paneradise." 


"You're on dining room." 

Excellent. The dining room had been my life all summer. I owned the dining room; from the upper level, to the lower level, to the bathrooms, all the way down to the back of the house, all of it, mine.  

I went to survey the damage. The trash was full by the brewed coffee.

I grabbed two trash bags from the back of the house and headed toward the coffee stand. There was a group of customers, younger men and women maybe in their thirties, chatting about the rain. I stood in the middle of the entryway, not sure if I should ask them to move or just wait until they noticed me with the bags. One guy did notice. He grabbed his friend by the shirt and pulled him aside to make room. I was apologetic. 

"Sorry, let me just change the trash here real quick." I said, opening the cabinet door and taking the trashcan out. The rest of them stepped away and muttered their consent. I looked inside the cabinet. Trash was everywhere. Without a second thought, I got down on my hands and knees and crawled into the cabinet like an animal. At this time I was very aware these people were still watching me. These coffee sippers, dressed in business casual--suits, ties, skirts, heels--were looking at me bending over, rummaging through trash with my bare hands. I tried to remember what pair of underwear I put on that morning; I hoped to God it wasn't showing. 

One of the men muttered something and they walked off.

The trash smelled bad; very bad. Always, the trash smelled just putrid. I started walking to the back of the house, my thoughts still hung up on those business people.

I heard a voice to my left. "Excuse me, Ma'am?"

It was a middle-aged guy. He was sitting at a booth with a woman, I assumed his wife. I looked behind me and realized I was the only associate in the dinning room. Ma'am? I thought. Do I look like a ma'am?

Rule number one of Panera Bread Associates: no jerks. We were all pleasant workers, painfully pleasant. I pulled off not being a jerk quite well, better than most I think.


He was looking at my name tag. "How do you say your name? Is it Diane? Deena?" he paused, "Danny? Dah---"

I wondered if I should wait and let him continue guessing. I looked down, making sure I was still wearing my own name tag.

He seemed like a nice person, intelligent even. He probably had a good job. Most likely he knew how to "do life." After all, he had lived a long time; longer than me. Why then, I wondered. Why do people like him guess my name? That was probably the third time it had happened that week. He asked me how to pronounce my name. This can only imply one thing: he doesn't know how to pronounce my name. That was totally acceptable, not unusual, and in fact quite common. But then why? Why do they try to guess? All of them do it. All people, everywhere, guessing my name.

Rule number one: no jerks.

I was kind and gracious. "It's Danae." I said. I said it clearly, projecting my voice. I said Dah-nay, giving a slight emphasis on the nay and not the dah. 

"Danae." He repeated, thoughtfully.

I smile. "Yes." I lingered, not sure if I was free to dispose of the garbage still in my hand or not.

"That's a pretty name." His wife said.

"Thank you." I nodded my head, smiling again. I looked in the direction of the door leading to the back of the house, then down at the dingy bag of garbage in my hand. I realized I was still nodding my head.

I noticed the couples' dishes were empty. Again, without thinking, I asked, "Can I get those out of the way for you?"

"Yeah, sure." The man said, leaning back in the booth.

I immediately realized this was a mistake; a rookie mistake. I was attempting to carry too many things at once. This was hazardous and risky. No, it was downright stupid.

"Are you sure you have all that?" The woman asked.

I figured it was go big or go home. "Oh yeah," I said, "I've carried a lot more before, trust me." I was confident, reassuring, suave, and professional. But then...the orange soda. I noticed the orange soda; I watched it in the tiny little cup. My hands were incapacitated with trash and the weight of the dishes. There was nothing to be done except watch the tiny cup tumble off the tray, onto the table, and finally seeping into the man's light khaki slacks.

What to do? I needed to apologize of course; apologize a lot. I needed to give more apologies than necessary and sound genuine. I was genuine! I sincerely felt horrible. The woman even complimented me on my name...

We needed napkins. Who drinks pop in the morning? I thought. Maybe it was really watered down orange juice. Regardless, spilling on a man's pants was not good. I dropped all the dishes back down on the table and left the putrid bag of trash at the couple's feet and went for the napkins. I returned promptly. The man could take care of his own pants; I wiped the table, being careful not to let any more orange soda/juice drip off.

The man was obviously peeved. He was wearing some pretty nice slacks--and such a fine, off-white color too. After a minute, the couple said something about needing to go. They got up and left the booth.

To my surprise and delight, all of the dishes, cups, trays, and trash made it to the back of the house in one trip, and the couple didn't complain to Joe. Success.

The rest of the morning was uneventful. It consisted of me bringing dishes back, cleaning them, wiping tables, and brewing coffee. Then lunchtime hit.

Lunchtime at Panera Bread reminded me a little of Walmart on Black Friday. I imagined there could be a line of people charging in from the back of the parking lot, screaming, pushing, shoving, dying...

No, not really. Lunchtime was just really busy.

To make matters worse, people were hungry. The restaurant had table service, so costumers sat down and waited for their food. I could always tell who they were. I was not a server usually, I just walked around looking for messes to pick up. Nevertheless, they watched me. Like starving creatures with hungry eyes, they watched my every move. They Looked at my hands, noticing only my dirty white rag. They asked with their blank expressions how it is that I only had this one pathetic rag and no food at all...

The children were by far the best part of my job. You see, kids, bound by some unspoken law of prepubescence, never manage to finish their food. They don't even come close. Instead, perhaps they organize little clubs or social societies determining who was truly the most gifted at discovering ways to destroy their meal and display it to the rest of the world. 

When families left their tables, I couldn't even be upset. I was honestly impressed by the sheer magnitude of the mess left behind. These children did things I would never think of: full bags of potato chips dumped on the floor, stomped on, crushed into thousands of tiny pieces, glued down by streaks of peanut butter or soup. Also, combinations of jam and peanut butter spread across seat cushions and along the walls, Macaroni noodles arranged in the crevices and lining the seats of the high chairs. Soggy bread could be found everywhere, along with cookie crumbs, spilled milk, juice boxes, dirty napkins, wipes, forgotten toys, food we didn't even serve, and disturbing pictures. Trust me, I've seen it all.

It was not so bad, really. I stayed busy and time went by fast. Soon my shift was over and I clocked out. With the employees discount, I bought a nine dollar salad for two bucks. I ordered it to go. I always ordered it to go; never would I linger there longer than necessary.

I walked out the door with a sense of accomplishment. The shift was over. Just another day in Paneradise.

My summer job is over! School is now fast approaching. Gearing up for my junior year. Thankful to be getting a degree! No matter what age you are, higher education is always worth it!

This post ended up being much longer than expected. I hope it was enjoyable. I'm probably not going to have the time to write like this after the semester begins.

I'm enjoying the bit of free time while I can.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Before You Knew Her....

This week Danae is at cross country camp.  Literally 5 minutes before she ran out the door to leave for Spring Arbor, she handed me a Post it note with her blog login and password and told me to write an entry on her blog this week for you faithful readers.  Inwardly I panicked because my writing does not compare to hers.  For the past several days I have pondered what to write about…… even thinking about it long after I should have been asleep at night.  So to lift my conscience I’m finally making time to sit down and write.  What better topic to share about than this blog’s writer, Danae Marie....... 

The world became a better place July 9, 1992 when at 11:08am Danae Marie Dracht was born.  When my Mom was pregnant with Danae we didn't know she would be a girl.  Back then it wasn’t common for a mother to get an ultrasound midway through her pregnancy like this era.  Everyone had to wait 9 months to find out the gender of a baby.  After Danae’s birth when I was told I had a baby sister, I was thrilled!  I was 5 years and 9 months old at the time.

Danae was “the easiest child to raise” in my Mom’s words…… and she truly was and still is an easy going person.  Even as a baby, Danae was a determined person.  She would constantly spit out her pacifier only to cry for it a second later.

Our Dad got smart and rigged up a way to keep the paci in her mouth by propping a roll of wallpaper against a chair which kept her from spitting the paci out. 

Danae could have been the Shirley Temple of her time with her bouncing brown curls and sweet demeanor.  Ironically, Danae was a natural born tomboy and mostly preferred dressing like a boy and doing whatever her big brother Nate was doing. The two of them were inseparable.  You couldn’t find one without the other as they would play for hours together. 

On occasion Danae would humor me and play with baby dolls or have a tea party for our teddy bears, but Nate was her best bud.  One time when Nate and Danae were painting at the kitchen counter, Nate spilled red paint on the carpet.  He told Danae to claim that she spilled it when Mom asked…… so she did.  Our Mom wasn’t mad at Danae because she was young enough to have such an accident with paint.  It wasn’t until years later that the truth came out about that story.

I would be missing a huge chunk of who Danae is if I left out that she is a unique individual and always has been.  As a child, she was notorious for dressing rather oddly.  She once wore 5 layers of shirts in the summer.  Only God knows why.  She also put on all of the random gear that was in our garage like a jump rope, garden gloves, bike helmet, and Dad’s work goggles, and waved at every passing car on our street.

Once after watching Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, she was inspired to mine for diamonds like the dwarfs did.  So she pounded a hammer to the drywall in the entry hallway and left 5 feet of dents in the wall.  Only wallpaper was able to cover up those deep marks.

Another time after Mom took Danae to get her hair cut, Danae felt like her bangs were still too long so she hacked them off with a pair of scissors herself.  It took a few months for her hair to grow back right after that.    She was also incredibly imaginative and dressed up in one our Dad’s t-shirts, rigged up a turban for her head, then proceeded to walk down the road with her “sheep” who was really the family dog, stating she was "David" from the Bible.  Growing up with Danae was never dull to say the least.
Eventually in the midst of everyday life and the passing of years, Danae grew up.  Danae is beautiful, intelligent, and has large aspirations for her life with Christ at the center.  I feel blessed by having Danae for my sister.  She inspires me to branch out of my comfort zone and to live life to the fullest.  Love you Nae!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Art Week

My brother Nate is going to be an art teacher soon. He starts his student teaching this fall. He's excited, and a little apprehensive I think. For some experience, he organized a week-long art class for my little sister Brielle and a few of her friends.

He organized the class in the log cabin my dad built in our back yard. Such a fun environment to learn in! 

I think he really did enjoy preparing for the projects.

Pretty sure this paint is ten years old, it looks familiar. I think I used it when I was Brie's age.

Obviously, Brielle loved the class, and also getting her picture taken.

The girls made several different projects throughout the course of the week.

Today, when I stopped by, they were painting landscapes and sunsets. 

As you can see, my dog has no idea why she's in this picture. 
Success! They loved it. Everyone benefitted. Beautiful. Just beautiful. Look at those smiling faces! Ah! Priceless.

Good luck Nate! Just one more semester. Welcome back to elementary school!

All for now,

Monday, August 13, 2012

What it Takes

What it Takes

It was Monday. Sometimes waking up is hard. I was groggy, reluctant. There was only one driving force that brought me to my feet: food. Good lord, I was so hungry.

It was Monday. Someone left 2 teaspoons of milk in the carton. I let it drip onto my cereal. I added water from the tap. Gross. Mondays are hard sometimes. No, they're just like any other day. It's in my head. 

The best part of the day was over. Breakfast was done. 

Now the gears were shifting. I knew what was coming. I had two hours. The countdown began. But I felt so clean. It was so hot outside. I had a lot of other things I wanted to do. No, I just didn't want to run. 

But I must. Unless I died or severed my limbs before 9:00am, I would be running. 

I checked my training schedule. It was circuit day. The schedule read: 

800m run (3 min bike)

40 squats 

30 sit ups

20 pushups

Oh that wasn't so bad. I could do that, anyone could do that. But then...

20 pull ups. 

Repeat in reverse order. 

Dang it. 20 pull ups? Who were these Crossfit people anyway? Who came up with these workouts? Normal people would not, in fact could not lift the girth of their entire bodies into the air not once, not twice, but twenty times by the sheer strength of their arms and back. Madness. Utter madness. 

I also checked my milage for the day. Only four miles. Good. That was do-able. That, I could do. 

Fast forward two hours. It was time to go. I gathered my things, preparing for the gym. I opened the door. The air felt thick, almost sticky. I sighed, looked up...

No car. 

My older brother must have taken it. Oh. Too bad. I could't go. Bummer. 

I went back inside. I started taking my shoes off. My sister was home. I pretended to be upset. 

"Nate took the car, I can't go workout."

She didn't flinch. "Take the truck."  

Take the truck? "Take the truck" is basically synonymous to, "Go kill yourself." 

"The truck" was an enormous, precariously threatening piece of machinery. I didn't drive the truck. Ever. I was not a dangerous person. The truck was not necessarily dangerous either, but combined? We were deadly. 

So I took the truck. 

I made it out of the driveway. Miraculous. I was so adept. I was James Bond. I was a master at the wheel. The road looked so strange. So tiny. The truck seemed to swallow it. I winced every time cars whizzed by, convinced they were going to side-swipe me. 

At four-way stops I was completely composed. In charge. I made eye contact with other drivers. "Yes," I said with my eyes, "this is my truck, fear it."

I parked the truck successfully at the gym. Another miracle. A guy pulled up next to me in a tiny little car. Sucker. I thought.

The following sequence of events are flash backs from the gym, as I complete my workout, to the road, as I run. 

First, I'm in the gym. The workout has begun. 

Biking first. I can't figure out how to adjust the seat. It's too high, I can't reach the pedals. So I just float, bobbing up and down as my legs go to work. The handle bars seem low, I have to bend over really far. My back is to the giant mirror lining the wall. I glance over once, the reflection of my butt looks huge, like I'm trying to stick it out really far. I'm not. This is ridiculous. I think. 
Second, I'm running. The beginning of every run is the same. I am fresh, clean, poised. I imagine I could be on the front of Runner's World magazine. Movement is effortless. I am invincible. Also, I am running on a sidewalk! Ah! The glorious sidewalk! A perfectly paved road, just my size. Just for me. No cars, no dirt or mud, just beautiful, flawless pavement.  
In the gym, the biking is done, thank God. I dismount. My legs feel unstable. Onto squats. Squats are fine. I add 30 pounds extra weight. I think maybe I should add more but I don't. I notice there are a lot of men on this side of the gym. Women do the cardio machines, men lift the weights. It's an unspoken rule here. I decide that I won't feel weird squatting in front of these men, but I feel a little weird anyway.  
Back to running. My body already feels disjointed from the Crossfit workout, my muscles are uncoordinated. Up ahead are two runners. I will pass them. There is no question in this matter. 

They are both girls, maybe my age. They have noticeably long, blond pony-tails that swing back and forth. They are tall, slender, with colorful outfits. I think they remind me of prancing ponies maybe. Yes, definitely like horses, with blonde tails. Their arms are tucked close to their bodies, with their hands almost inside their armpits. Their arms look like wings, yes, little wings that sway back and forth across their body. Horses with wings. I think there's a name for that. I can't remember. They're talking. They don't seem to hear me coming closer. They take up my entire sidewalk. I also notice there is long grass on either side of my sidewalk. I cannot slow down. I have no choice, I make the plunge. 

They hear me now, directly behind them, bounding through the long grass. They stop talking. They look a little startled. I smile and manage a "hi" before passing them. I did enjoy passing them. I really do enjoy passing.   
In the gym, squats are over. Sit ups are easy. I decide to come back to the pushups later and go straight to the pull ups. Oh, these dreaded things! The inhumane, impossible standard I will undoubtedly, unquestionably fail to reach! I cave. I cheat. I use the fancy little foot thing that helps me weigh less. Oh, the humility of it. One day. I tell myself. One day I will not use this crutch. Now thirty pounds lighter, twenty pull ups still hurt. I try to muffle my groans. Nobody in a gym ever wants to sound constipated. Yet, somehow, often we do. Maybe it's a good sign, maybe it's because we're trying so hard. Good or bad, I definitely sounded constipated by pull up number fourteen. 
Still running, with the pony-tail runners left far behind, the glamorous Runner's World cover image is now forgotten. My facial features are distorted. I am hot. My form is breaking down. I am disgusting. I am sweating. I sweat too much. If "sweat is fat crying," as inspirational Pinterest quotes would have me believe, the fat in my body screams bloody murder. It wails uncontrollably. It nearly drowns me with its tears. 
The first set of pull ups are done. Now my favorite: pushups. I love them, only because I am good at them, and because they don't make me sound constipated. I count them off in my head, 5, 10, 15, 20.... I think maybe I should do more but I don't. I tell myself I could do more if I wanted to, that satisfies my conscience. Great. My first set is done. Now I just have to do everything all over again. 
It was supposed to be an easy run. I remind myself of this as I plod up a hill. However, I've always believed "easy" to be subjective. I don't really go easy. I could see the top of the hill. I was already there. I could feel it. Everything inside me, my mind, my spirit, my very soul were on the top of that hill. Now, I was just waiting for my body to catch up. 

Running is not like flying. When you fly, you glide through the air. When you run, your legs pound on the ground. There is no similarity. Now over half way done, my brain has sort of shut down--or zoned out. I think most of the oxygen is going to other parts of my body. I now only think about two things: 

One: Keep moving. 


Two: It will be done soon. 


Don't let anyone tell you running is glamorous. It is not. It is hard. Even if you're an Olympian, it's always hard. Yet, it is beautiful, and this is why: 

Running is freeing. With patience, your mind overcomes your body. 

Your body forever desires to be still. To be at rest. To be comfortable. When you are running, you are none of those things. 

Your mind is always going. Always working. It never sleeps. 

Two worlds--your body and your mind--are always at war within you. When you run, your body submits. Your mind becomes master. The two merge together, they work together, and it's beautiful. When you stick to it long enough, your body not only endures, but engages, it performs. Your body is able to do something impressive. 

In the middle of a run, obviously, you are moving. It's almost as if kinetic energy in your brain propels you forward. You don't have to think about moving forward as much as you have to think about stopping. Your body has accepted the motion, and will continue to be in motion, until you decide to stop. It is your mind, not your body, that carries you. When I am healthy, when there is no pain or sickness to slow me down, there is no other feeling I find quite as freeing as running. 

Wow. This was a really long post.

Happy Monday to everyone! 


Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Day of Water and Sand

Summer is closing in all too soon! As natives to the west side of Michigan, our family decided to soak up the sunshine and relish the sandy beaches of Lake Michigan before it is all too late! And what a day we had! 

My older sister, Corrine, is back from Texas for a visit with her two kids, Brayden and Maelyn. They couldn't get enough of the water. 

A quote by Margaret Atwood:

Water does not resist. Water flows. 

When you plunge your hand into it, all you feel is a caress. 

Water is not a solid wall, it will not stop you. 

But water always goes where it wants to go, and nothing in the end can stand against it.  

Water is patient.  

Dripping water wears away a stone. 

Remember that, my child. 

Remember you are half water. 

If you can't go through an obstacle, go around it. Water does.

I am so thankful for my beautiful family and the memories we share together. I'm learning it's the little things in life, the small, seemingly insignificant experiences we go through, that are truly the most memorable in the end.

I do not know how long I will be able to enjoy such days with my family. Two years from now I could be living on the other side of the world! I will soak up the time with them like one soaks up the sun! Memories will last a lifetime. An abundant means of support, love, and connection lie within the family.

Until next time,

Monday, August 6, 2012

Belated Birthday Surprise

I met my dear friend, Jenissa, for coffee the other day. She and I have been best friends for almost as long as I can remember (we met when I was three or four). We were neighbors, we grew up together. I hadn't seen her since before my birthday, she surprised me with a gift. A beautifully handmade journal!

She made everything herself from scratch: added the stamp, the lace, even the binding! Isn't it lovely? The wrapping paper was handmade as well. I love homemade gifts! I spent several minutes just admiring its beauty. 

This is us when we were about seven and nine, with matching dresses of course! Ah, so many years ago! We have shared several tears, smiles, dreams, and laughter over the years. How grateful I am to still hold a close friendship with her! She has had a monumental impact on my life. I would definitely not be the person I am today without her influence. 

“You can go through life and make new friends every year - every month practically - but there was never any substitute for those friendships of childhood that survive into adult years. Those are the ones in which we are bound to one another with hoops of steel.”
― Alexander McCall SmithThe No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency

“The best mirror is an old friend.”
― George Herbert

Tis the privilege of friendship to talk nonsense, and to have her nonsense respected.”
― Charles LambThe Life, Letters and Writings of Charles Lamb

“A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow.”

“The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, not the kindly smile, nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when you discover that someone else believes in you and is willing to trust you with a friendship.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

All for now, 

Saturday, August 4, 2012

More Than Provincial Living

The City of Xiamen
I. LOVE. TRAVELING. Familiar is good, nostalgic, but there is so much value in experiencing new things. I love the obscurity of the unknown and being completely out of my comfort zone. I am probably romanticizing it a little, there's a lot of culture shock and homesickness that comes with traveling, yet, being stripped of all comforts has a life-changing, eye-opening, irreversible impact on a person. You can't walk away from such an experience and ever be the same again. Different cultures fascinate me. I like tasting new food, meeting strange people, and doing things that scare me a little. Maybe I'm a daredevil. Different is terrifying, it's not always enjoyable, but I try to embrace my fear

It's like public speaking (I know...just work with me here). I'm terrified of getting up in front of people and talking. I get shaky, my heart races. But that's why I love it! I love the adrenaline rush, the pressure. It invigorates me. Haha. Maybe I am a little crazy. Yet, I feel like the risk is worth it. If I have something that I can share with other people, why would I keep it to myself just because I'm scared of putting myself out on a limb? 

I think in general, people in the West need to get away from their comforts, to open their eyes to what's going on in the rest of the world.
Next spring (January 11-April 26) I will be studying at Xiamen University in the Fujin province of China. I am seriously pumped! I just got accepted. There's going to be ridiculous amounts of paperwork to figure out, but I'll get through it. Here's and overview of the program I'll be going through: 

{Information taken from this link}
After spending the first eight days of CSP in Hong Kong, students are then hosted by Xiamen University for ten weeks throughout the semester. Xiamen University is located by the South China Sea in sub-tropical southeastern China. CSP also spends two weeks in the ancient capital city of Xi'an (as part of the History module), a week in rural China for a service project, and a week touring sites in Beijing (the Great Wall, the Summer Palace, the Temple of Heaven, Tian'anmen Square, the Forbidden City) and Shanghai. Overall, you'll spend time in the northwest, northeast and southern regions of China  a wide sampling of a huge and diverse country. 
Here she is, the beautiful university of Xiamen. Yes, there is blue sky and grass in China. 
Your eyes do not deceive you, there is also a track! See it? The odd, redish-orange rectangle in the back? 
I can't express how much I am looking forward to this trip. I've wanted to go to China since I was ten. China has a unique place in my heart. Nine years ago, my parents went through the adoption process to bring home my little sister, Brielle, from China. She is now a beautiful ten year old little girl. I often forget she is adopted. She is my sister, "wo mei mei" the Chinese would say.

I was too young to go with my parents at the time, but since my sister's adoption, I've wanted to go to China myself. Also, I want to take Brielle back. I want her to see her heritage, the place she was born. Although she is an American citizen, I want her to appreciate Chinese culture as well.

To be perfectly honest, I want to live in China and teach English. When I tell people this, I admit I've never been there before. I guess I'm glad I'll be able to experience it for a semester first. It will give me a lot of perspective.

But why China? I ask myself this question. There's the obvious connection within my family, but why else? I don't know. I honestly can't say. I've come to this conclusion:

I don't want to live a safe, comfortable life.
I don't want to hoard the years I have on this earth in the safe compounds of my familiar surroundings.
I want to know more about life, the way others live it.
I want to share my faith; to give an opportunity for others to understand--not just hear the gospel, but see it lived out.
I want to make friends with people unlike myself.
And ok, I'll be honest...I want an adventure.

I realize I can do this anywhere in the world, but I feel God has directed me to China. Until he calls me elsewhere, this is where I'm headed.


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

In the Eyes of the Beholder

beauty |ˈbyoōtē|noun ( pl. -ties)a combination of qualities, such as shape, color, or form, that pleases the aesthetic senses, esp. the sight.

You desire to be beautiful. Everyone does. And I'm not just talking women. Don't blame the media, or the innumerable controversial images you are bombarded with daily. In your heart of hearts you long for it.

Initially, we think maybe we just want to look good, but in reality it's something else, something better. Perhaps we don't even know what it is.

I believe we desire beauty in everything. We want to create it, master it, be surrounded by it. Subconsciously we look for it, and if we don't find it, something inside us aches for it. There is goodness in beauty. Beauty emits joy and pleasure. It has the ability to gratify more than merely our sense of sight. It calms, soothes, even comforts our spirit.

Do you agree with me so far?


Beauty is also a tool. Just like most good things, often beauty is twisted and vain. It is abused, exploited, and manipulated for ulterior motives.

Furthermore, beauty is misunderstood.

Like art, it is difficult to define beauty in its fulness. What makes something beautiful? Are there stipulations? Not in most cases. Different cultures, different people, see beauty differently.

Perhaps it really is in the eyes of the beholder. I have met people who are not physically beautiful by today's standards, and yet their confidence, their joy, their humor, their heart, and their love create in them a greater sort of beauty.

All this to say:

You can find beauty in things that do not seem beautiful. Do not judge too quickly! Do not be oblivious to the presence within the body--the soul. Beauty is not found in the image. The mirror is not our standard, our mind is.
“If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself, tell yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches; for to the creator there is no poverty and no poor indifferent place.”
Rainer Maria RilkeLetters to a Young Poet
I hope you find this encouraging! Look for beauty in unexpected places; not only within yourself, but within others.