Friday, December 30, 2011

The Sixth Day of Christmas

On the Third Day of Christmas I hugged my co-worker Tanya, roommate Nicola, and my other roommate's mom Jayne.

According to legend, the sixth day of Christmas is a reminder of the six days of creation. So, today I'll spend at least 60 minutes writing/journaling/reading my playwrighting book. In other words, creating.

Merry sixth day of Christmas!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Third Day of Christmas

On the Third Day of Christmas my true love gave to me: Three French Hens.

Christian tradition holds that the "three french hens" are the three kings bearing gifts. Today I will do some gift bearing of my own and give three people hugs.

So, does that make me the french hen? I probably should have thought that out a little more.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Grownup Lessons from Childhood Fashion

My favorite Disney character is Peter Pan. While my childhood chums would brush their hair trying to make it gleam like Cinderella’s, I wore my green leggings and would jump off any surface I could, think happy thoughts, and try to fly. There are certain memories from childhood that are simply too great to say goodbye to. Included in these fond memories are some of my favorite outfits and ensembles, and I’m on a quest to reclaim them. I still dream of flying – but now I do so wearing an empire-waisted dress and a pair of green tights. It’s still like Peter Pan – just grown up.

Embroidered jeans

My favorite pair of jeans as a child were flare legged and each back pocket had a large embroidered butterfly. I loved these jeans because they felt special. No one else had them. They might have had similar jeans, but these felt like they were mine and no one else’s. Childhood lesson: Find one item that makes you feel ridiculously beautiful and ridiculously special. Because, you’re both of those things!

Babydoll dress

I had a babydoll dress that I’d wear almost every day, usually with a pair of leggings and tennis shoes. I loved it because I looked like a girl, but I could run and keep up with the boys. It felt like I was free to be whatever I wanted! Childhood lesson: Who cares if your clothes fit your “image” – wear what makes you feel confident regardless of the labels.

Spandex lace shorts

My mom has a framed picture of me wearing Barbie roller skates, a Minnie Mouse shirt, and cotton spandex shorts with black lace around the hem of each leg. It was the first thing I ever wore that made me feel like a rockstar. Childhood lesson: Find an iconic accessory – a pair of shoes, necklace, pair of earrings, etc. – and declare it your rockstar item.

Long dresses

I wasn’t allowed to wear jeans to school until I was in the sixth grade. Once I graduated from college, I began pining for the dresses of my childhood because believe it or not, I could do more in dresses than I could in jeans. Childhood lesson: In my long dresses I could ride a bike, run around, crawl under things, and never get in trouble for being indecent. I was fearless! So in honor of that kid, put on a maxi dress and then go climb a tree.

While being a grownup can be great (hello happy hour!), we’d be doing ourselves a disservice if we forgot about the childhood us with the calloused feet and skinned knees. When’s the last time you felt like a superhero? When’s the last time you climbed a tree? Sometimes reclaiming your childhood is as simple as putting on the superhero costume – or a pair of Barbie skates.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Last week I wrote an article about ways to transfer carefree bohemian style to a professional workplace, and Ina over at published it as a guest post!

Here's a quote from the article:
"In the truest sense of the word, those who are bohemian are those who embrace and enjoy life. The bohemian look is about freedom, art, and beauty. If you can’t wear your hand crocheted sweater to work, then make sure that you take at least one moment to sit down by a river and sketch (regardless of your artistic ability), lock yourself in your bedroom and sing full voiced to your favorite songs, or spend a night with your closest friends drinking wine, laughing until you cry, and eating great food."
Check out the full article here. I'm loving this freelance writing thing, and will be trying to post more original posts about fashion, etc., on my own blog in the coming weeks.

I love that my blog is refining myself and I'm kind of figuring out what I want it to be exactly. I think I'm going to start developing "things" that I do on my blog - like the monthly challenges, thrift store shopping, etc. Any other ideas that have been fun or successful for you and your blog sense?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Of Senses and Sacrifices

I am currently reading through the Book of Leviticus with one of my high school girls, and I have to say that I am really excited as I haven't read that book since high school. When Clara and I read Genesis and Exodus together, the questions we answered were analytical (who are the main characters, what happens, etc.) whereas the questions we are answering for Leviticus make frequent connections to the New Testament and are asking us to contextualize the passages. I thought this was a better way to go since Clara has never read the Book of Leviticus and I didn't want her to get scared by it. There's so much beauty and meaning that I would hate for her to miss!

Little did I expect how challenging I would find answering my own questions to be. Leviticus 2 discusses the grain offering, and like everything else in the book, does so with abundant detail. One of the discussion questions was "why is it significant for grain to be used in the offering?" Pretty simple, right?

I started thinking about grain - everything grain is used for, the way it tastes, the way it smells, etc. I reread the passage and the description of the offering came alive. What I saw was that all five senses were being engaged with this sacrifice: you SEE the grain being prepared, you SMELL the grain as it is mixed with incense and olive oil, you FEEL the grain as you bake it either in the oven or in a pan, you HEAR the sounds as you and then the priest prepare the offering, and finally you TASTE the offering as the aromas fill the air. I think Aaron and his sons were actually the only people who could eat the offering, right?

It struck me that this sacrifice and all other sacrifices described engaged all the senses in such a dynamic way. Why is there the need for that? As I wrote in my journal I started thinking about sin - how no act of sin is tied to an action that then dies. It spreads out and impacts other people, often in ways that I and others fail to realize. It can sometimes be all consuming and all encompassing. Maybe the reason sacrifice is so sensory is because the magnitude and the impact of sin is communicated this way. Maybe it's God saying "You thought that sin was just about the act of greed/pride/lust/anger, but by having this sacrifice touch each of your senses, I am showing you how much sin impacts your heart and others. I'm also reminding you of how deep and wide my love and grace is."

I'm not too sure is as clear as it was in my head. What really got me going was thinking about the biggest sacrifices I've made in my life and the way they do seem to require my whole self, all five senses. I can SEE the way my decisions impact others. I can FEEL the way sacrificing is painful but necessary. I can HEAR God as sacrifice makes my heart more tuned to his voice. I can SMELL the pleasing aroma that I am created to be and I can TASTE joy as I live with passion.

What do you think? Is there a link between the senses and sacrifice?

Friday, September 23, 2011

The 8 Pound Slump

I lost 25 lbs my senior year of college - I think I am one of the few people who can say they weighed less when they graduated from college than when they first started. Immediately after graduation I went on a 2 1/2 week trip to the Dominican Republic and the diet of fried plaintains, beans, rice, incredibly dense apple pancakes, and more caused me to gain a lot of it back - and I never lost it again. Since then I've gained all 25 lbs back (and some months a little more).

What I've noticed about my weight loss journey is that I lose anywhere between 7-9 lbs, I get excited, and then I get discouraged because I realize how much further I have to go. So, this time around I'm trying to not look at the mega finish line and simply concentrate on 5 lbs at a time, but right now I'm in the 8 lb slump. To try to break myself out of my typical slump, I am trying to concentrate on my non scale victories that have been achieved over the past 2 1/2 months.

1. My cargo pants are almost too big to wear, even with a belt.
2. My cheeks (on my face) have contours again!
3. My dimples (on my face) are more prominent.
4. I've started running again and will be running 5 miles on Sunday.
5. I signed up for the winter pineapple classic with a friend, which should be a blast.
6. I have been drinking a ton of water.
7. My vegetable consumption is through the roof.

So, there we go. I have felt my motivation slipping this week, but hopefully my 3 mile run tomorrow, the 5 mile run on Sunday, and the eating well this weekend will bump me out of my 8 lb slump and into the land of the 10 lb victory lap.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

September Goal: Visiting a Place I've Never Been, Part 1

Over Labor Day weekend Jaelithe, Rachel, and I went to Bellingham to visit Maggie's apartment and see where she is setting up shop. While I've been to Bellingham before there were a few spots we visited that I had never been to before. The day started at church with Rachel, and then doing my best "I'm so confident I don't even care that the guy I had a crush on is sitting at church with another girl" impression while talking to some friends after the service was over. From there we went to my house where Jaelithe loaded her stuff into Rachel's car and the sounds of my Bellingham mix CD's and the kind of road trip conversations that only girls can have filled the vehicle.

We spent the afternoon going on a REALLY long walk in Bellingham in very in appropriate footwear. Jaelithe got the worst of it as evidenced by the huge blisters on her feet the next day. We stopped at a gorgeous park, talked some more, ate pretty good pizza (it's no Pagliacci!), had weird conversations with a very drunk man at the Bellingham bus stop, walked a little more, ate ice cream, and played cards.

The weirdest part was by far leaving Maggie's house the next day. I realized that we were all driving to Seattle where we lived, and that Maggie was not coming with us because she didn't live there anymore. Granted, not too much has changed! I've seen Maggie once a week since she's moved, which is more than I see some of my other friends that still live in Seattle. But, it feels like this huge sign of adulthood and growing up. Jaelithe got married, Rachel just started a new job, Maggie moved to Bellingham, and I...

...and I might be going back to school to get my Masters of Divinity starting in the fall. But more on that later...

Thursday, September 1, 2011

What do I want?

Back in the spring I helped teach a class at my church about our gifting within the body of Christ - how our spiritual gifts, personality, experiences and more make us who we are. One of the weeks I led was about our passions and our desires and how they are a useful indicator of how God made us. I had the class do several exercises where they wrote down gut reactions to prompts to try and uncover what they really wanted and what they really felt about a variety of topics.

When I taught this class I sat with a piece of paper and a pen and asked myself - "Suzanne, what are your deep wants?".

I couldn't list a single one.

A couple weeks ago Maggie asked me flat out if I wanted to date or if I wanted to be single.

I wasn't able to answer her.

Two nights ago I lay in bed trying to get to sleep and in a moment of transparent prayer told God that I was going to unabashedly, unashamedly, ask him for everything I wanted.

I wasn't able to ask for anything.

Of course there are things I want for others: I want my mom to meet a wonderful man to be her partner the rest of her days, I want my little brother to be introduced to a great Christian friend in New York, I want Maggie to be successful in Bellingham. I just can't ask for those same things for myself. Often when people ask how they can pray for me, I don't know what to say. I know there is such a thing as contentment, but I'm not certain if I'm experiencing contentment or if I am completely dulled to what I want.

Maybe I am content! Maybe my soul is deeply satisfied! But when faced with a point blank question about what I want, shouldn't I have an answer? Oh, Lord, what do I want?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Fresh Starts and Fresh Stats

For the past 9 years I have had the same email address, and it recently was deleted as my mom got rid of her comcast account. Now I am using a gmail account, and let me tell you, the transition has been bumpy. I thought I could go for a simple kind of thing. Taken. Maybe a suzannectownsend? Taken. stownsend? Taken. 1,000 easily conceivable combinations? Taken. Which is why I now have a weird mix of my name, initials, and random numbers. For those of you that have wondered, the 473 means nothing.

Getting my email address account switched over from my blog was one of the biggest ordeals. It required that I invite myself to be an admin on this blog and then delete myself from the blog. While my posts have stayed in tact, all of my stats, all of the blogs I followed in my dashboard, and probably many other settings I have yet to realize have been reset. There is now 1 view on my profile, and that was from myself.

It's weird, but my email address is one of my pieces of childhood. I created that address based on a nickname a substitute teacher unintentionally gave me that caught on especially amongst my theatre friends. It was connected to my mom's account - while my own it was ultimately managed by her. A couple years ago my brother and I took over our own cell phone bill and I took the payments for one of my credit cards. My mom still helps me out by paying the bills for two of my credit cards, but I'm hoping that in the next year I can take those on as well.

Is 26 the year where I am going to be experiencing more fresh starts? I've already dabbed my toe in a few pools of new adventures: thinking about grad school, moving to a new house, saying goodbye to friends leaving Seattle.

For a while all I had written for info "about me" on my blog was: "Hello world. My name is Suzanne. Bring it on." I'm holding off on writing the new entry. For now at least.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Spilling Hope: Decaffeinated.

I just read my blog stats and my most viewed post was the one wherein I discussed the last person I kissed. That post received 167 views. The post with the next largest amount of views was 22. My friend Chrissie says that people like reading about other people getting lip action. I'm afraid the post disappointed some people as it wasn't too salacious. 

Well, it not be as sexy, but I have had many thoughts about Spilling Hope the past couple days. Spilling Hope is an initiative my church began two years ago that asks us all to simplify our lives and from the savings of that simplification to give generously to a clean water campaign that drills wells in Africa. We work with an organization called Living Water International that drills and repairs the wells in the communities of Uganda, and this year we are expanding our partnership with Uganda by working with World Relief to empower churches to be agents of change. It's an exciting time!

This year I have decided to give up coffee as part of Spilling Hope. At first it was going to just be purchased coffee, but today I decided it would be all coffee. I never used to buy coffee, but two things have happened the past couple months to make it a once and sometimes twice daily habit. 1) I nanny 3 days a week for 2 hours quite early in the morning. I take the bus downtown and from there take another bus to my nanny family's house. However, there is a wait time of about 20 minutes until my second bus comes. And there is a Starbucks right next to said bus stop. So, I've been sitting and reading my Bible while enjoying a cup of coffee or some tea. 2) Neptune Coffee right near my work serves up a delicious cup, so to chase the memory of Starbucks from my brain, I often get a latte from Neptune. 3) I discovered that coffee + steamed whole milk = heaven. 

Today I'll be looking up how much I've spent on coffee over the past 50 days and donate that amount to Spilling Hope. It's going to be really embarrassing. So, why give up all coffee? Mainly because of what coffee represents to me. It represents comfort, convenience, and entitlement. Why shouldn't I get to have a latte? Don't I deserve it? Isn't it my right to spend my money on whatever I want?

In short, no, it isn't. It's become exceedingly easier to justify spending $3-$8 on beverages than it has been for me in the past. I used to get excited to buy a latte once a week, and now it is a part of my daily routine. It is a poor financial choice for me. I rarely have perfect ease with my finances, which means I don't tithe 10% of my income, and I don't pay as much on my student loans each month as I would like. But...I'm able to afford $80 a month in coffee? 

Spilling Hope for me this year is about sacrificing some of my comfort and convenience, because I'm acknowledging that the health and comfort of others takes priority. I already feel like this year the practice will be transformative and actually lead to some long lasting changes rather than a one-time commitment. 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

To think or not to think

Which yoke is better? The one I carry
or the one these oxen are carrying?
I wish I could turn my brain off sometimes. I think that is part of the reason I go through long seasons where I don't read my Bible because when I do there's just too much to process and too much to be overwhelmed by. When I read my Bible for teaching prep or during the service, I feel like my brain doesn't go 1,000 miles a minute every single day. I am able to engage and wrestle with scripture in the moment, and then just live a blissful Christian existence. When I'm not as invested in reading scripture, I almost feel more freedom in my faith. What I'm starting to realize is that in the freedom there is little growth. I know a lot of people that can experience bliss and growth in their faith at the same time. I'm wondering if I'm one of them?

I say this in the midst of a brain stimulating conversation with a friend who lovingly suggested that maybe I'm a little overcritical. I say this in the midst of reading the Book of Hebrews and having a hard time with some of the theology that challenges my ideas about the relationship between the old covenant and Israel, and the new covenant and the church. I say this in the midst of worrying about the trajectory of the church's theology as a whole. Who in their mid-twenties worries about the trajectory of the theology of the Body of Christ?!?

So, there's this biblical mandate to spend time in the word and commune with God. When I listen to this mandate, I do find life and am reminded of who I am in Christ. But, I also am confused, made to feel uncomfortable, and unsettled. Ignorance is bliss, right? I know that it's not a bliss that is lasting -- it's a bliss that leads me away from the path of abundant life. 

I guess what I'm experiencing is twofold: 1) I'm experiencing that the words of Hebrews is true: "Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart." Hebrews 4:12, 2) I'm experiencing that the following words of Christ are a unique promise: "Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30. While his yoke is easy and his burden is light, there is a yoke and there is a burden. Jesus doesn't promise here that he's getting rid of the yoke or removing our burdens. The burdens we carry are better, but they still exist.

I know that the emotional and spiritual dissonance I experience from thinking too much is a better burden, but sometimes I'd rather change it in for bliss. 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Just call me Gandalf

Maggie and I are leading our high school girls group through this book called 7 Secrets to a Health Dating Relationship. It's based off of a passage in Ephesians 5 and the "secrets" are all about being a kind of person and looking for a kind of person. The idea is that if you seek after someone who expresses wisdom, hope, discernment, joy, gratitude, etc. and if you aspire to do the same thing that the relationship will be healthy. 

When we talked about wisdom, we talked about how sometimes when we think of wisdom we get an image in our heads of man like Gandalf - old, bearded, and cryptic with their words. We don't think so much about a teenage girl, or a college aged guy, or a soccer mom. 

I'm helping teach a class at my church. Last week we talked about spiritual gifts and my friend Nancy said that spiritual gifts are a way that God endows us with talents beyond our normal capability. I sometimes feel this way when I teach. I can almost feel it as I'm preparing a talk or a teaching of some sort; that the content I am preparing is beyond me and that God has gifted me in that moment to prepare a lesson. So how does this relate to wisdom?

Over the past couple of years (Brenna, if you're reading this, you started it) some of my friends have used the word 'wise' to describe me. And honestly, it never ceases to amaze me. I guess I just don't think of myself as being a person of wisdom. The cool thing is, that I think that's kind of the point. The fact that I can't conceive of myself as a wise person, and yet my friends see me as one, is evidence to me that God is at work in my life. Unfortunately for me, this wisdom thing seems to be out of my hands. I'm inspired to say certain things at certain times, but other times all I can do is listen. I kind of wish this wisdom thing worked a little more like my brain being shaken up like a magic 8 ball. 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Good Enough

When I was in middle school, I was an avid writer. My teachers thought I was better than I ever thought I was. There was an opportunity to take a master class with a local northwest writer and my teacher selected myself and 6 or 7 other people, all older than me. Some were even in high school. Wow. One of the people in my class wrote a story called "Good Enough" and it was about a young girl who admired her older brother but how nothing her older brother did was ever good enough for their mother. Her story was actually selected to be published in a literary magazine that the school made and included full colored photos. Both were of a man sitting on a curb wearing a hooded sweatshirt. The first one he had his head in his hands and the second he was looking at something in the distance. Feelings of sorrow and hope. You could almost read it in the photos: "today I'm not good enough, but maybe tomorrow I will be."

Whenever I hear the phrase "good enough" I think of that story and those images. 

I've made some mistakes while at work the past couple of days. What's the big deal, right? Everyone makes mistakes. Often I feel that while everyone WILL make mistakes I SHOULDN'T make mistakes. I know that I'm not perfect, and I don't expect I ever will be upon this earth, but when I make a big flashing mistake it's hard for me to overlook. 

Rob Bell gave a series of sermons on forgiveness that I've listened to multiple times. One of the sermons was called "Living by the Books" or something along those lines. He talks about this system of checks and balances and how many of us approach others with an accounts balance sheet. We list all of their good deeds in the (+) column and all of their bad deeds in the (-) column. Whichever side has a greater balance is what determines the amount of effort we put into the relationship. Rob suggests that often we approach God with this same book of checks and balances. The whole point of the message was reconciliation and how Jesus came to destroy the books.

What I realized yesterday and today, in between lots of crying, is that I live my life by "the books". I don't determine or measure the lives of others by the books, but I measure my own by them. When I make a mistake, I can almost see the calculating of my balance in the eyes of others. This system, I'm sure, is in my imagination but it feels very real. One mistake and I'm back at ground zero and feel I have to make things up to those impacted by my error. 

How is it I can counsel my high school girls and friends in not needing to be perfect, and believe in a God of grace, but convince myself that at the end of the day trying my best and falling short just isn't good enough? Maybe I need to reed The Ragamuffin Gospel again.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Dating is like a box of chocolates

I had a dream the other night I got married. It was a weird ridiculous dream. For one, I got married in my junior year prom dress. For two, my husband and I never spent any time together. For three, my reception was at McDonald's. Anyway, I mentioned this dream to a couple people in my office and someone responded "speaking of marriage, my wife has someone they wondered if you'd like to meet." We ended the conversation with me agreeing to meet the guy if it was in a pretty casual environment, like all of us going over to my friend's house for dinner.

Some of my friends would jump at the chance to get set up, and here I was feeling quite uncomfortable and approaching the idea with mild trepidation. I started thinking about why I felt that way. Is it a fear of commitment? A fear of abandonment? Fear of rejection? Poor self-image? 

The more I thought about it the more I realized that it really stems from a fear that I'm not going to be okay. I'm content with my life. I have a great house, wonderful friends, a good job, and a church that I love. I'm really happy with it all. And I'm happy being single. What happens if I open up this pandora's box and all of a sudden I need and want a relationship when I've never felt like I really needed one to begin with? 

The only analogy I can think of is a kid who has never had chocolate before. The kid sees that other people enjoy chocolate and they imagine that they would probably enjoy chocolate too but they don't feel the need to eat it. What happens when that kid finally does have chocolate? He freaks out, that's what happens!!! He all of a sudden realizes he wants more and more. Or, he could realize that it makes him sick and from here until eternity he is the one kid who doesn't eat chocolate.

I'm afraid that I do the dating thing and then all of a sudden my contentedness goes right out the window. I will become the person incapable of being single and equate my wholeness with those times when I have someone's hand to hold. But what if the other thing happens? What if I try the dating thing and I just don't want to do it at all? Sometimes I feel like I am just built a little differently than most people. And it's kind of exhausting to tell you the truth. It's hard to see the things that my friends want and desire and to not want or desire them for myself. 

So, dating is like a box of chocolates. But it's a box of chocolates I'm terrified to even try, both because I'm afraid I'm going to love them too much but even more so because I'm afraid I won't. 

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Prompt 29: Your talent

I've never really thought of myself as a talented person. Ever since I was a kid I wanted to be visibly and noticeably talented: be able to dance, figure skate, do gymnastics, sing, play an instrument. My heart has honestly always been a little sad at knowing that I was never really good enough at any of those things to continue them on into adulthood. I'll never sing at an open mic. Or perform dance on a stage. Or be good enough to be cast in a show. It feels like everything I really wanted to be good at I was only ever middling at. The violin. Theatre. Dance. Cloning animal species. You get the point. 

I think this is a pervading feeling in my life. I am always afraid that I will never be as good, as funny, as pretty, as talented, or as interesting as those around me. This is something God is working with me on, and taking spiritual journey again this past year is continuing to help me in see myself as God sees me.

I think I am talented in some things but when I stand next to someone who has the capability of bringing down the house with their singing talent, my ability to creatively craft a Bible study or write a thoughtful card doesn't seem so significant. 

I guess talent is in the eye of the beholder. There are some people that would never want to get in front of a crowd of people and dance, act, or play an instrument. They might admire those that do, but they have no desire to have those performing arts be one of their talents. Another thing if that sometimes with my talents, when I fail at them the consequences seem more severe. It's a burden I don't really want. If a dance makes a misstep during a performance, they might feel embarrassed or get scolded, but they haven't harmed anyone. When I fall asleep on the job and don't exercise a gift of compassion or temperance, the misstep hurts my heart, and I'm afraid it might hurt others as well. 

Definitely a stream of consciousness post. Time for bed!