Reading backwards.

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I looked all over the word search for the words listed.  They were all sports words, and most ended with “ball.” It should have been easy to spot them.

Granted, I was trying to make phone calls simultaneously, but, still – I’m almost 19.  I should be able to handle a sports words search.  It wasn’t even that big.  The letters were all in English, my first and best language, the one that I know and love.

Turns out, not all the words are written left to right.  Sometimes, you have to learn to read backwards in order to solve the puzzle.

Tricky, tricky.

Backwards reading isn’t a common skill for people to develop.  They don’t teach that in elementary.  It isn’t a perspective that is typical (unless you read in Hebrew, in which case backwards reading is totally normal.  Keep on doing that.) or really even accepted.  If you went around speaking backwards or reading signs and books backwards, you would have a path of life that was radically different than other people’s.

But regardless of whether you learned how to or not, sometimes you have to read backwards.  Sometimes you have to flip your brain around and think differently.

That is, if you want to find all the words in your word search.



Mysteries on Valentine’s Day.

I was going to blog about the hunt for the flowers that my boyfriend sent me (since they were supposed to be delivered to one place and ended up in another), but that ended up being pretty simple.

Here they are:

Valentine’s Day is one holiday that I have barely any insight into.  Thanksgiving?  Oh yes, I can talk about being thankful.  I know what graciousness and gratefulness and mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie are all about.  (I mean, I know there are gaps in my knowledge, but I can at least fill up a few paragraphs with something thoughtful)  Christmas?  Again, there are some things I’ll never understand, like why God so loves the entire world in an unconditional way that He sent the only son He had to live in humility and teach us and die for us.  Also, I don’ t think I’ll ever get why people like eggnog.  Maybe that’s just me.

But Valentine’s Day?

Here, I’m a little at a loss.  Love is a mystery.  And I don’t think I’m qualified to write about it.  But here’s what I do know:

  1. It’s not just about romantic love.  And if it is, it shouldn’t be.  It’s about loving your friends and family and the cashier at Jewel-Osco and the lonely guy in your class and the people who wait on you at dinner.  
  2. It’s a great opportunity to wear lots of shades of pink, especially since you wouldn’t be able to get away with that on a normal day.
  3. It’s also a great excuse to eat whatever you want.  I mean, I can justify eating anything any day because I just have the power of justifying: e.g. It’s Thursday, which it almost Friday and I have a paper to write, and it’s cloudy so naturally I should eat two nutella cookies and a truffle pig.

So, there’s my three cents worth.  Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone.  Show some love to lots of people today.  The Jesus kind of love, because that’s the best kind.

Piggy blessings.

I don’t usually eat pigs, but when I do, they look like this.

DSCN4987It’s a truffle pig.  And the sun is shining, so obviously you know why I’m happy today.  Seriously, a truffle pig!  It’s both adorable and delicious!

Getting mail from the people I love who are far away is one of my favorite things, so I like to honor those care package senders publicly.

You’ll notice that my mom has included a pair of knee socks in this one (one of my favorite things) as well as coffee, cute cards, and homemade cookies.  She knows me so well.

It’s the little tastes of home that warm my heart and remind me how blessed I am.  They make me wish that it was March 8 and that I was on board a plane to Minnesota too, but that will come in time.

In the meantime, I’m still canoeing down that river, and the water’s shallow right now.  But I’ve got Nutella cookies and truffle pigs in my boat to give me energy to shove.

Lightening the canoe.

Life can be like floating down a river on an inner tube.  I’ve done this before and thoroughly enjoyed it.  It was such a nice time of relaxation.

Then sometimes, life is like canoeing down a river that’s too shallow for the boat so you have to get out and push it through some sections.

I’m referring, of course, to the fact that my homework and other work load was light… until this week.  All of a sudden, drafts of papers were due, lab reports needed to be written, editing needed to happen, shifts at work started, and groceries needed to be bought.  And my body requested that I add sleep to the list.

The time is shorter than the amount the canoe of duties asks for, but that’s just when you have to hop out of the boat and shove a little.  Jesus rides in my boat too, and He helps with the shoving when it’s needed.  Let’s be honest; Jesus shoves much harder than I do.

The water will get deeper. The best thing about weeks like this is that when they’re done (if I press on to the end and finish everything), I will have a checklist with lots of responsibilities checked off.  My canoe will be lighter and will glide through the water with more ease.

I’ll lighten my canoe by keeping this short.

My kind of “Dear Jon” letter.

I’m trying to not blow away or fall asleep at inopportune times today.  The danger of blowing away is real, folks.  The falling asleep part is sort of dumb because I got seven hours of sleep last night.  I should be fine.  I would be fine, if I didn’t absolutely need at least 8 hours every night.  A nap sounded good around noon, but there’s just no time for that since you can’t multi-task while you sleep.

So, instead, I drank another cup of coffee.  My fingers are flying across the keyboard now from the caffeine rush.

Why did I go to bed after 11 last night, you might ask?  Well, as I mentioned in my last post, I went to see Jon Foreman, Fiction Family, Noah and Abby Gundersen, and some other fabulous people at the House of Blues.  And it lived up to my expectations, 100%.

There is only one thing that could make it better: getting to tell Jon Foreman what his music has meant to me these past 10ish years.

I can see that going very badly though, if I actually got to meet the guy.

I’m such a big fan! I’ve listened to your music since I was in 4th grade, and obviously, I’m not anymore.  That was a  long time ago (what are you saying, Ashley! You sound so stupid!), but I still love everything you’ve ever written.  It’s so inspiring. (and now you sound exactly like every other adoring fan… there’s no way he’s going to invite you to go on tour with him)

So, instead of fumbling through something like that in person, I’ll write him a little letter.

Here, you can read it:

Dear Jon,

I had just hit double digits when I started listening to your music.  The Beautiful Letdown was the first album I bought.  At the time, my musical taste consisted of a strange combination of Jump 5, Barry Manilow, Paul Simon, and the Disney kids, but that started to change when I began to listen to Switchfoot.

I liked your music back then, and I haven’t ever stopped.  As I mature and continue to listen, it takes on a whole new level of meaning.  It’s real music, the kind that inspires and challenges and confuses all at the same time.

Switchfoot, Fiction Family, your singles, they all have a special place in my heart and on my playlists.

I’m almost 19 now, and I still can’t get enough.

Thank you, Jon.

Also, I wish we could do lunch sometime.  I think we’d be friends if we really got to know each other.



Giving time.

Here’s what’s real right now:

  1. My black Skechers are absolutely soaked right now from 2 miles of walking in the rain.  Also, it was totally worth it to be at church this morning.
  2. French toast with friends makes a great Sunday lunch.
  3. There are a lot pages of writing that are waiting to be edited.
  4. John Mark McMillan is singing me through it.
  5. Tonight, I’m going to go to the House of Blues to hear Jon Foreman and friends play at an event with To Write Love on Her Arms.  I feel incredibly cool just saying that.  I also feel like they’ll have a “coolness” detector at the door, and when I walk through I’ll be rejected since I wear Skechers almost every day and participate in Skirt Wednesdays (which is exactly what it sounds like) and talk to myself a lot.

Thanks to posters up around my school, Lent isn’t going to sneak up on me again this year.  It almost did last year, since I forgot that we start that in February.  It’s just a sneaky season.  Or maybe I’m just forgetful.  Either way, I’m ready for it now.  So when it starts on Wednesday, I’ll be prepared.  I’ve been thinking.

I started thinking a couple days ago about how I wanted to be intentional about Lent this year and determined that I didn’t want to give something up for the sake of giving it up.  I really don’t eat that much chocolate.  At this point in my life, I’m completely obstinate about never giving up coffee.  I gave up Facebook last year, and it was great.  But I want to do something different, another experiment.

Then, this morning, as my pastor was talking about tithing, I thought about what I’ve been giving God lately in terms of my time.  We have breakfast together every morning, but sometimes I chew while I talk to Him and get distracted by how tasty the muffin that I’m eating is.  Or, because I haven’t had enough coffee yet, I go off into a trance and stare at my big toe for a while and forget what I was saying.

I think God deserves more commitment than that.  And I sure as heck could use more of Him.

I have 24 hours in a day, right?  I sleep about 8 of those (and since I know that sleep is really important, I’m going to tithe out of the time that I’m awake), so there are 16 left.  What if I committed to spending an hour of my time with God every day?

I suppose I’ll have to answer that at the end of Lent.


Metaphors for life.

DSCN4926Tonight, as we ate a hot fudge sundae out of a seashell-shaped bowl at Margie’s Candies (actually not our original destination, but we missed our stop while I was giving someone directions to Navy Pier… ice cream was a good back-up plan), Liesel realized that our beautiful sundae was a great metaphor for our friendship.

I am the mint chocolate chip scoop.  She’s the coffee ice cream.  Those two flavors complement each other oddly well.  She doesn’t like whipped cream, and I’m not a huge fan of nuts on my ice cream.  So, naturally, we took care of those for each other.  In addition to that, all the things we have in common are like the hot fudge that is drizzled over the whole thing.

It was a beautiful picture.  And a tasty sundae.

As you may have noticed, I did a little bit of re-vamping on my blog this week.  The sidebar looks different.  There’s a tag cloud there now, where there used to be archives.  (I’m sure that doesn’t seem like a huge difference to you, but trust me, it’s big.)  Wordpress takes all the tags that I add to my posts, and they put the most-used ones on there.  I’m pretty proud to have “cupcakes” listed on there, as well as “juice of life.”

This is going to sound cheesy, but it’s really not cheesy or sappy: I want Jesus to always have the biggest tag in my tag cloud.  Is that a weird, blogger-oriented metaphor?

Sometimes, I make Jesus ride in the backseat.  Sometimes I even try to remind Him to put his seatbelt on.  And then I make Him duck when we drive past certain people who might not want to see Him.

That’s not where He belongs.  He belongs in the front seat, driving.  He’s the one who reminds me to put my seatbelt on, and He probably should be ashamed to be seen with me in public.  But He’s not.

So, as part of my efforts to keep Jesus in the front seat, He’ll also always be the biggest in my tag cloud.

Commence weekend with Jesus.


Thoughts from the stationary bike.

There are some days where multi-tasking is a necessity. So you blog while you’re riding the stationary bike up a mountain. (I know that it doesn’t seem like it makes sense to ride a stationary bike up a mountain while on Illinois, where there are no mountains, but it works. Just trust me on this one.)
Today’s one of those days where I didn’t expect it to be hailing when I walked outside. So, pretty much like everyday. Unfortunately, it was hailing.
The pluses of a day like today when it’s raining and there are multiple things screaming to be done are that when the day is over, there will be much less on my plate. I will have gone to class and re-learned stoichiometry, biked up a mountain, written a paper about ethics in alcohol advertising, helped a friend study for microbiology, and maybe even have taken a break to bake muffins in the middle there.
It’s so much more helpful to me to focus on how achieved I’ll feel when I’m done than to remind myself how much there is to do.
It’s all about perspective.
And the perspective from a stationary bike is pretty good.

Giving the benefit of the doubt. sort of.

I had to stifle a laugh this morning in my philosophy class.  Let me paint the picture for you:

My brilliant professor was beginning to talk about Immanuel Kant, the German philosopher.  As usual, I was writing down all the important things, trying to get down everything that would help me understand it later when I look back at my notes and need to translate it into a paper.  I’ve got charts in my notes and arrows.  There are little scribbles in the margins.  I have at least three pages of notes by the middle of the class.  Granted, I write sort of big, so it might be more like 2 pages of normal handwriting.

That’s when I happen to glance over to the notebook of the big, bulky football player next to me.

Here’s what he had written down:

“Immanuel Kant”

And that was it.  So, according to him, Kant exists.  That’s all he’ll know when he looks back at his notes.  There once was a man named Immanuel Kant.  And maybe he’ll remember that he was a philosopher.

I so badly wanted to pause time for everyone but me and this guy so that I could ask him some questions.

1.  Why are you here?  You don’t have to be.  You could have picked a different class to fulfill this requirement, one that wasn’t philosophy of political ethics.

2.  What good is that little bit of note-taking going to do you?

3.  Oh, you’re going to remember everything he’s saying without writing it down?  Mind sharing your secret?

4.  But really… why are you here?

These are the questions that haunted my morning.  Why would you take a 2000 level philosophy class if you didn’t want to learn about major philosophers?   I mean, if you’re going to take notes on anyone, take notes on Kant!  Because I took notes, I can tell you that after Kant published his works, every single year at least 2,000 people write things about them.  And that number hasn’t decreased at all over the years – it’s gone up.

But you, tough guy, you won’t even take notes on a lecture about him.

I am very obviously passing judgment on this poor, unsuspecting guy.  Perhaps I should give him the benefit of the doubt that he loves this class.  He actually took in everything that my professor said and will repeat it to his roommate over dinner tonight.  He actually called his mom right after class to tell her how excited he was about learning about Kant.

Benefit of doubt = given.

Taking a jaunt.

I forget about walking sometimes.  Not that I don’t do it everyday, for a significant portion of my day, but I forget that it doesn’t always have to be about the destination.

Sometimes, it’s about the journey.

I typically walk to get places.  You could say that I’m not much of a meanderer.  But I had a realization today that walking for the sake of walking is really nice.

Liesel and I walked and talked.  We weren’t going anywhere, didn’t have an agenda.  We just had a half an hour to walk.  And – minus the part where a car inconsiderately sprayed us with slush – we had a lovely jaunt.

Sometimes I think I’m walking through life with a destination, but really, I have no idea where I’m going.  Not for lack of thought or dreaming, just lack of true foresight.  I’m walking with a clear view of the next block, but beyond that, things are fuzzy at best.  And there’s always a chance that someone or something unexpected will cross my path along the way.

Thank goodness for metaphors.

It’s comforting to me that it’s not an all-out-sprint, not a 50-yard dash to get through life.  (to a person like me who hates running, especially on treadmills or for more than 2 miles… I really do wish I enjoyed it)  I don’t even think you could call it a marathon.

I’m pretty sure we don’t run through life.  There are some parts where you have to speed walk a bit – or at least, you want to.  I’m pretty sure it’s a walking pace, sometimes a stroll.  Either way, it’s one foot in front of the other, without knowing exactly what’s ahead, when you’ll turn, when a car will almost hit you (or splash you with slushy water).

We walk by faith, not by sight, right?

I can’t see where the next two weeks are going to take me, much less where I’ll be in five years.  It’s anxiety-ridden, that realization.  It’s wrought with knots in my stomach.  But walking by faith is the way to go.  Walking with Jesus into the future – not the far off future, the tomorrow and the next day future.

Step one: start walking.