Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Valleys of Shadow and Rivers of Joy

Today I was so discouraged on the phone with my mom. Some of you know my car has had some issues lately - the A/C went out, the interior, driver's side, door-handle broke, I "tapped" the concrete pole on the way into my parking garage and broke the light casing (a little). These are just the repairs I haven't taken care of.... because together they are over $1,000. No biggie, really, I can live without A/C and I can roll the window down to open the door - and since I don't have an extra $1k laying around, its probably for the best.

But then on Sunday I was working on my computer and needed to back something up to disk. And my disk drive was MISSING! Yes, it was missing - as in not showing up on my computer, not showing up anywhere - I tried putting CD's in it, I tried putting DVD's in it - nothing. It was working, but it was like my computer had CD/DVD drive amnesia. I spent a bunch of time searching the internet for help, and tried a few things, but most of them were too technical for me. I took it to the Student Technology Center today to have them see if they could figure it out - no luck. I would have to check it in for a few days to have them take a look at it. A few days that I just don't have until after finals are over... and they are closed after finals.

So I left, thinking, well, at least I don't really need the drive right now - I don't need it to write papers or get on the internet. And I told my mom about the problem and she did some troubleshooting (like, "Maybe you can get an external hard drive.") - which was really sweet.

But at the end I just said, "It just seems like there have been a lot of things like this, this quarter." I was feeling pretty bummed out. I don't have money to fix my car, I don't have money to fix my computer - UGH!

I was sitting back at home later in the afternoon, and was on my computer. And I'm not sure why I did it, but I thought, "I'll just check it out and maybe the drive will be there!" not really believing that it would be.

And would you believe it.... IT WAS THERE!!!! I was able to make the CD for a friend, which was a huge blessings, and I was so grateful for the Lord's blessing in that moment.

There is no reasonable explanation for why it disappeared. And there is really no reasonable explanation for why it is back. But it is. And I am so grateful to the Lord.

It makes me think of the Jars of Clay song, where it goes "I will sing of your mercy that leads me through valleys of shadow to rivers of joy." Obviously, this was just a little valley of shadow compared to some of the valleys I and others have experienced this year, and my joy is small compared to some of the highs I've had this year. But I think that it matters that I sing even in the valley I was in today, and even in the river tonight.

Final word on this issue:
I am shocked over and over at the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. That he hears the whisper prayers of my heart and provides specifically for me. I am grateful for his precious care of me.

Christmas in a Studio Apt

I love decorating for Christmas. There is something warm and homey about Christmas decorations to me, and when I lived far from my parents and later far from all family, Christmas decorations somehow connected me to them.

Now I live in a 400 sq ft apt, and there isn't really room to put up my Christmas tree, and other decorations. There's barely a flat surface on which to place a candle or a snowglobe. But as I was thinking about spending the next three or so weeks here and wanting to have a little "home feeling"... I decided to make a mini Christmas for myself. I'm not finished yet, but here is a picture of my first decoration... a little Christmas tree.

I bought a couple shelves to put up on the wall (for candles originally), and at Target I found a little tree and some mini ornaments (I actually have mini ornaments in my christmas boxes, (baylor themed) but they are at home in storage, so no go) and it fits perfectly on the shelf (if I only pull out the front branches...) along with some tea lights and a little nativity scene. I have a few other nativity scenes which I think I can make fit here and there, so if I have time this weekend while at home, I may bring them back with me.

Anyyway, here is a pic of my decorations (thus far).

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Hopelful Romantic

Ok, I can admit it... I'm a hopeful romantic. I don't want to say "hopeless" - because I have hope. But if being hopeless romantic means that there is no hope for me recovering from my romanticism... then I suppose that is more accurate.

Its important to note that I am not simply a romantic, sappy soul. From my youth I have loved mystery and adventure stories as much as romance stories. Growing up my favorite books were Agatha Christie and Dick Francis mysteries and James Bond adventures, alongside classics like Little Women, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Gone with the Wind. I was more picky about movies, not liking movies that showcased violence and death (even though those things were present in the books I was reading) - I didn't like graphic violence.

But to bring us back to the present moment.... I still like adventure stories and mysteries, and I love comedies (both books and movies), but I love romance, too. I love movies and books that tell sweet stories of finding love. One of my favorite books is Pride and Prejudice (I think because it has a great romance and comedy), and I love movies like You've Got Mail, Hitch, and Notting Hill, among others. I was watching the end of You've Got Mail tonight, and thinking about why it is I like romantic comedies so much.

I know they sometimes are contrived (some of you would say always), but there is something compelling and enjoyable about watching the dance of people falling in love, of seeing the highs and lows, and hoping that love can really happen, that love exists. I think there are spiritual parallels to the great romance. And I watch them in hope that I will encounter a love like what I see - one that makes me laugh, and sometimes makes me cry, one that is mutual and with respect.

Here are just a few of my favorite romantic movies (comedy or drama)
Pride and Prejudice (A&E version with Colin Firth)
You've Got Mail
When Harry Met Sally
Stranger than Fiction
The Holiday
Charade (with Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant)
Notting Hill
Music and Lyrics
Love Actually
Sound of Music
Dirty Dancing
Return to Me

OK, readers.... what are some of YOUR favorites?

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Lament

(Recently, I incorporated making a hymn to the Lord each morning as part of my quiet time - sometimes I sing existing songs, but I am trying to write my own each day - or at least say it each day, I hardly ever write it out. Today, I had some sad news from a friend of a significant loss, and instead have a lament.)

Lord your ways are good, yet how can we understand this loss?
How can I trust that your purposes will continue when humiliation and embarassment accompanied by unbearable pain are my only companions?
How can I find hope in the midst of a hole so deep that the only light comes from the pain in my heart?
How can I encourage others when this experience is unexplainable?
Where are you Lord?
How long will you overlook my sister and brother?
How long will you ignore the cry of their hearts?
How long, oh Lord, will you forget them forever?
Soothe their tears Lord,
meet them in the place of abandonment and comfort them.
Give them courage and boldness to trust you again and again
though again and again You seem to fail.
Lord, you know that hope deferred makes the heart sick,
so prosper their hope and provide.
Your ways are unsearchable, beyond my understanding.
I know that you are good, and I know that you love.
I know you will not abandon or forsake.
Do not be absent now, Lord; provide deep comfort and peace to their souls.
Remember your servants, remember that we are dust, and help them.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

My life... 11/16

Here is one of my many "study piles" that develop as I'm studying. And one of my latest study partners, Tanya. Tanya lives in my building (she is basically the only person I know in my building, and is a first-year, working on a Master of Arts in HEOC - which is my same program, only I'm on the PhD track.) I met up with Tanya and another friend of ours, Ophelia, at the Kerckhoff coffee shop on campus yesterday to study.

Today, I'll head to church, come home and eat a bite for lunch and then go back to studying until the Amazing Race tonight (which is my official "cease fire" for the day!). The girls say they'll be at Kerckhoff again, so I will likely walk over to campus and enjoy their company while I work.

Study pile: folder holding all the articles I need to read for this week, daytimer, research idea notebook, and my phone... I tell myself I can only look at the internet on my phone once per hour. :)

This is Tanya after I asked her (naively) a question about one of the students in class. Clearly, she thought my question was ridiculous. I love her expression here.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Fallow Ground

This year I decided to take a year off – of leadership. By that I mean I decided not to get involved in ADPi, not to volunteer with any other student organization, not to volunteer in leadership at my church (when I found one) until after my first year of graduate school at UCLA. This decision was not made specifically to honor the Sabbath year, so don’t read it that way. It was a survival method for me – I knew this first year would be challenging and I elected to protect my time and emotions by ensuring I was not overcommitted (at least not until year two, when I would have a better idea of what I was getting myself into).

But this morning, as I was enjoying my quiet time, I was thinking about the biblical and agricultural principles of providing the land with a Sabbath rest. One of the neat things about living in a farming community in Illinois was the opportunity to see Corn and Soybeans planted and also to see plots of land lay fallow in their off year. From how I understand it, Corn is a particularly taxing crop for soil. It takes a lot of nutrients out, and so if you continue to sow those seeds, you will get decreasingly good soil for your crop. Every so many years, then, the farmers will leave the plot unsown, in order for it to rest and be restored. (this farming example is poor, and likely incomplete, but it serves its purpose)

The bible also talks about resting the land every 7th year. I love that there is a biblical principle for people (resting every seventh day) that also applies to nature (every 7th year). There is a great symmetry in it, and a reminder that our God is not only the God of Humans, but truly the God of all Creation. Anyway, the principle of the Sabbath is very important in the Old Testament. (click here for verses) And it is a principle that I think is important to our lives today – especially in instant-everything world we live in.

As I was thinking this morning, I was considering how much I am looking forward to next year. I am excited to get back involved with undergraduate students and to potentially serve as a sorority house manager or advisor. I am in good anticipation of how the Lord will call me to serve in the next year – though it is a long way off.

If I had gone straight from Baylor to UCLA volunteering, I would be worn out. It certainly would have been difficult to go from advising ADPi at Baylor to at UCLA. I would have missed the women so much! It is nice to know that I can be refreshed this year by the Lord and work on the things He wants me to (like regular bible study and prayer, etc), and know that this is my Sabbath year. A year dedicated to getting refreshed and recharged and preparing myself for the next opportunity to minister for Him.

And so tonight, as I stop studying for a night, but take care of other things – groceries. Housekeeping, reading, and watching a movie, I am grateful that the principle of a Sabbath is so important to those of us who are in Christ. And I’m glad that the Lord set an example for me of rest, because without it I would be trying to read right now, and not doing a very good job of it!

** Should we keep a Sabbath? My friend, Derek, argues that this is not a law we must obey based on the New Testament commands and covenants (Jesus apparently does not repeat this command during his ministry). But I disagree, to some extent. I think that Jesus, in his New Testament comments regarding the Sabbath, tries to redeem the idea and meaning of the Sabbath from the Pharisees who had made it into something legalistic. Jesus continually clarifies that the Sabbath is not meant to be a time of legalistic observation: – be wise – if you need to water your flock, or rescue an animal from a ditch, by all means do it; be wise – if someone needs help on the Sabbath, don’t withhold it just because you are not supposed to work – help them. The law of God is bigger than the Sabbath. I think Jesus didn’t reemphasize the keeping of the Sabbath because he expected people to keep it. But I think he doesn’t expect us to keep it in a legalistic rigid way like the Pharisees did.

Biblical principles regarding the Sabbath

Today I was thinking about Sabbath rest. We are studying the Life of Moses in BSF and right now we are on the 10 commandments. There are different forms of the Sabbath in the Old Testament, but they are closely related. The verses below apply to my next post – I wanted my post on “Fallow Ground” to be smaller, so I decided to post verses in a separate location.
A smattering of references to the practice of Sabbath in the OT:

Exodus 16:23 – “Tomorrow is to be a day of rest, a holy Sabbath to the LORD.”
Exodus 20:8,10, – “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work…, for in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

Exodus 23:10-11 – “For six years you are to sow your fields and harvest the crops, but during the seventh year let the land lie unplowed and unused.”

Leviticus 25:4-5 – “But in the seventh year the land is to have a Sabbath of rest, a Sabbath to the LORD. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards. Do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the grapes of your untended vines. The land is to have a year of rest.”

Leviticus 25 also addresses the “Year of Jubilee” (my favorite!) – where after seven Sabbath years (49yrs), the following (50th) year is an entire year set aside to honor God. In this year, everyone returns home to the family property (which may have been sold away, but now all property is redeemed to its original owner), slaves are freed (redeemed to their families), debts are repaid or forgiven; everyone is placed on equal footing again. It is a year of celebration for the goodness of God!!

Later in the OT, the exile of the Israelites into Babylon is partly in response to their non-observance of the Sabbath. Scripture says that during the 70 years the Israelites were exiled, the land was being redeemed and having its Sabbath rest. (2 Chron 36:21)
Through Isaiah, the Lord blessed those who kept the Sabbath: “If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the LORD's holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the LORD, and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob." (Is 58:13-14)

For more bible verses on the Sabbath, check out and search on "Sabbath"

part of the problem

Part of the problem I have with posting, I recently realized, is my distracted attention-ness. I want to post, I open my computer to specifically post.... and then I get distracted by something else. I'm like a little puppy.

I want to post about fallow ground and the biblical principle of rest. Will do so - hopefully later today.

Clearly, I must abandon my (brief) resolve to post daily. :) Forgive me?

Love, Tiff

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

History, Herstory, and a brief look at life

Well friends, I am happy that election season is reaching its apex and end.

Here is what I think (and I know that some of you will disagree): both Barack Obama and John McCain are good men. Both of them could have been great presidents.

I'll be honest though... I'm a cynic. Its my Generation-X-ness. I want to believe that President-Elect Obama will enact sweeping change across our Capitol and the US at large - changing government for the better, bringing in health care and education reforms.... but I don't really believe that a President can do all of that. I think our system is arduous and broken.

I think my cynism would be reversed if Mr. Obama offered Mr. McCain a position in his administration.... THAT would be unusual government and I would think it was awesome.

Other comments: I am thrilled that America has elected a person of color to be President! 140 years after America almost fell apart over the issue of slavery, and less than 50 years after America had to fight to give civil rights to all of her citizens. It is pretty amazing, and as I think of it, and as I contemplate the pervasive racism in America that still exists today, I can only be thankful that a wide and substantial portion of the population supported this man and the principle that anyone can be president of the united states!

I also wonder how long it will be before America elects a woman to this office (or even to the party nomination). Women fought for years to be allowed to vote; however, they are still underrepresented in positions of leadership and power in America, and they still earn $.76 to ever $1 a man earns in America.

I am thrilled for my friends who have said that now their kids will have a person who looks like them in the oval office. I wonder how long it will take until our girls have a person who looks like them - of any race or ethnicity, in the oval office.
Last entry for tonight:

I live in Los Angeles county. It is the most populace county in America (I believe) with over 4 million registered voters. There are more registered voters here than in 13 individual states!! (crazy, huh!) This county is as diverse in categories (gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, etc) as anywhere I have ever lived, or can expect to live. Today 82% of voters in LA county turned out to vote - which is the highest turnout since 1986 - and maybe ever, here.

There are a lot of issues on the ballot tonight here in CA that are divisive and which people care really strongly about. Regardless of the results, I hope that all can unite, and try to move forward in a spirit of grace and caring.

And ultimately, I pray that the love of God would shine through those that know him, that we would be caring and graceful, and that through our demonstrations of love everyone would come to know Him...... regardless of the results of this election.