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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Best Birthday Gift

Yay for refurbished cameras!
On January 16th, Michael gave me a card and a wrapped gift. I opened the card and saw that it was signed with many family members’ names in Michael’s handwriting.


A split second later, I realized that it was a joint gift from all those people.


And a split second after that, I started crying.


The only other time a gift made me cry was when Michael gave me my engagement ring, though the tears came not because of the gift but because he was asking me to marry him. This time, another gift made me cry, though the tears came not because of the gift, but because of how loved I felt by Michael taking the time to coordinate a gift that we didn't have the money for and because so many people that I love chipped in to make it happen.

Happy, teary eyes

Inside the box was a super nice camera (Canon Rebel T1i). I used to always covetously gripe about people who owned baby grand pianos and weren’t good enough pianists to properly enjoy them. I am now one of those people in the camera world. But, I am so excited to learn all of its ISO, aperture, and who-knows-what-else tricks!

Off I go:

zooming... aiming...

Success!


Thanks, love!

She's got the whole world on her coffee table.

Thanks, mom-in-law for cooking so much delicious, Thai birthday food!

Tea, cookies, and a candle. I love blurry backgrounds.
Thank you, Michael!
Thank you, Mom and Dad!
Thank you, Uncle Brad and Aunt Sandra!
Thank you, Danny, Erica, and Andrea!
Thank you, Grandma and Grandpa Swanson!
Thank you, Mom and Dad in law!

You all made my birthday so special. :)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Q: What Do Idaho and Sudan Have in Common?

A: Their GDP.

The Economist recently published these maps showing which countries match the GDP and population of each of the fifty U.S. states.

GDP Map:


Population Map:

When viewed concurrently, these maps reveal once again how wealthy the United States is. The Economist points out that even after all of the auto industry's crisis, Michigan's GDP is still the same as Taiwan.

Fascinating.

Now what are we going to do about it?

**check out the interactive online version HERE.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Up to the Mountaintop

Although I am white and he was black, I am a woman and he was a man, I am young and he would have just turned 82, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. inspires me to no end. He embodies the incredible unity between following Jesus and social justice that saturates Scripture but that the Church has attempted to divorce over the centuries. As a minister and civil rights activist, he lived and died to see "justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream." (Amos 5:24)

Take a few minutes today to read this excerpt from Dr. King's famous speech given four years after he won the Nobel Peace Prize (at the age of 35!) and just one day before his assassination. Or if you are the artsy fartsy type, scroll past the text and just listen to the powerful song below. The lyrics, written by Patty Griffin, were inspired by Dr. King's speech.

~

"You know, several years ago, I was in New York City autographing the first book that I had written. And while sitting there autographing books, a demented black woman came up. The only question I heard from her was, 'Are you Martin Luther King?' And I was looking down writing, and I said, 'Yes.' And the next minute I felt something beating on my chest. Before I knew it I had been stabbed by this demented woman. I was rushed to Harlem Hospital. It was a dark Saturday afternoon. And that blade had gone through, and the X-rays revealed that the tip of the blade was on the edge of my aorta, the main artery. And once that's punctured, your drowned in your own blood. That's the end of you.

It came out in the New York Times the next morning, that if I had merely sneezed, I would have died. Well, about four days later, they allowed me, after the operation, after my chest had been opened, and the blade had been taken out, to move around in the wheel chair in the hospital. They allowed me to read some of the mail that came in, and from all over the states and the world, kind letters came in. I read a few, but one of them I will never forget. I had received one from the President and the Vice-President. I've forgotten what those telegrams said. I'd received a visit and a letter from the Governor of New York, but I've forgotten what that letter said. But there was another letter that came from a little girl, a young girl who was a student at the White Plains High School. And I looked at that letter, and I'll never forget it. It said simply,

Dear Dr. King,
I am a ninth-grade student at the White Plains High School.

And she said,

While it should not matter, I would like to mention that I'm a white girl. I read in the paper of your misfortune, and of your suffering. And I read that if you had sneezed, you would have died. And I'm simply writing you to say that I'm so happy that you didn't sneeze.

And I want to say tonight, I want to say tonight that I too am happy that I didn't sneeze. Because if I had sneezed, I wouldn't have been around here in 1960, when students all over the South started sitting-in at lunch counters. And I knew that as they were sitting in, they were really standing up for the best in the American dream, and taking the whole nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the Founding Fathers in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

If I had sneezed, I wouldn't have been around here in 1961, when we decided to take a ride for freedom and ended segregation in interstate travel.

If I had sneezed, I wouldn't have been around here in 1962, when Negroes in Albany, Georgia, decided to straighten their backs up. And whenever men and women straighten their backs up, they are going somewhere, because a man can't ride your back unless it is bent.

If I had sneezed, I wouldn't have been here in 1963, when the black people of Birmingham, Alabama, aroused the conscience of this nation, and brought into being the Civil Rights Bill.

If I had sneezed, I wouldn't have had a chance later that year, in August, to try to tell America about a dream that I had had.

If I had sneezed, I wouldn't have been down in Selma, Alabama, to see the great Movement there.

If I had sneezed, I wouldn't have been in Memphis to see a community rally around those brothers and sisters who are suffering.

I'm so happy that I didn't sneeze.

Now, it doesn't matter, now. It really doesn't matter what happens now. I left Atlanta this morning, and as we got started on the plane, there were six of us. The pilot said over the public address system, 'We are sorry for the delay, but we have Dr. Martin Luther King on the plane. And to be sure that all of the bags were checked, and to be sure that nothing would be wrong with on the plane, we had to check out everything carefully. And we've had the plane protected and guarded all night.'

And then I got into Memphis. And some began to say the threats, or talk about the threats that were out. What would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers?

Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn't matter with me now, because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind.

Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!

And so I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!"

~

I know Kelly Clarkson seems out of place given the subject matter, but trust me when I say that her voice embodies the power of the subject matter. The lyrics are below. Enjoy!



"I went up to the mountain because you asked me to. Up over the clouds to where the sky was blue. I could see all around me everywhere. I could see all around me everywhere.

Sometimes I feel like I've never been nothing but tired, and I'll be walking till the day I expire. Sometimes I lay down. No more can I do. But, then I go on again because you ask me to.

Some days I look down afraid I will fall, and though the sun shines I see nothing at all. Then, I hear your sweet voice come and then go, come and then go, telling me softly you love me so.

The peaceful valley just over the mountain. The peaceful valley few come to know. I may never get there ever in this lifetime. But, sooner or later, it's there I will go. Sooner or later, it's there I will go."

Sunday, January 16, 2011

25




When I hit a milestone or a transition, I love to take time to reflect on all that I have learned. So, in honor of turning twenty-five in two short hours, here are some of my reflections on the past year of my life.

What was the single best thing that happened this past year? 
Watching my husband settle into his new job as a campus pastor. As his wife, it is so exciting to see him finding a career that he absolutely loves and that is challenging in the best way.

What was the single most challenging thing that happened? 
Moving. All my moves up to this point have been to a different state or country. This 40 mile move has been surprisingly difficult. It's hard to fully let go of the previous life. It's hard to fully sink in here. And it's lonely.

What was an unexpected joy this past year? 
Marriage. I am always surprised by how much joy & laughter my husband brings to my life. You'd think I'd be used to it by now. :)

What was an unexpected obstacle? 
  • ...Moving... 
  • Feeling so uncertain about how my future career will pan out. 
  • Getting enough time with my husband during the first few months of the past when he was working 32 hours/week and interning.


What were the best books you read this year?
  • Basic Christianity by John Stott
  • The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
  • The Hole in Our Gospel by Rich Stearns

With whom were your most valuable relationships?

  • Family. From my husband to my in-laws to my immediate family to my extended family -- they are all so dear to me.
  • During the first half of the year, my small group from church. We really hit a sweet spot of intimacy.


What was your single biggest time waster in your life this past year? 
Facebook.

What was the best way you used your time this past year? 
Any time that I spent with friends and family.

What was the biggest thing you learned this past year? 
The post-college are full of transitions, both exciting and painful, and uncertainties, both exciting and painful and that's ok.

Did anyone close to you get married, give birth, or pass away? 
One of my cousins got married in August, another cousin got married in September, and another cousin gave birth to a baby girl. No one died.

Where did you travel? 
I went to Colorado in March to visit family and to celebrate our first anniversary. I went to Utah in May to vacation with family. I went to Madison in September for my cousin's wedding. And I went to Colorado to visit family for Christmas.

What would you like to have this year that you lacked last year? 
Joy despite the transitions and uncertainties, a close female friend or two in the area, and lots and lots of rest. :)

What days will remain etched upon your memory, and why? 
  • The wedding in Madison. It was such a beautiful, fun, significant, and family-filled occasion.
  • The day I was driving down the freeway and a motorcyclist behind me got side swiped by a car and slammed into the back of my car. I will never forget looking into the rear-view mirror, seeing a body flying through the air, and then feeling the impact as it his my car. Thankfully, the poor guys was ok.


What was your biggest achievement of the year? 
Simultaneously working hard (and doing well) in school while not letting my identity hinge on those achievements. I've grown a lot in this area over the last ten years.

What was your biggest failure? 
Losing all my excitement and joy in the transitions.

Did you suffer illness or injury? 
No.

What did you get really, really, really excited about? 
Finding our spacious apartment, finally owning a piano, and my first anniversary.

What kept you sane? My husband, my journal, my piano, and my books. :)

What are you looking forward to the most this year? Settling into our new home, new church, new everything else, and not transitioning to anything!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Love of God

When I remember that He is
The holy, righteous, great I Am
Surrounded by His creation, yet alone, wholly complete
Rightly judging his handiwork with perfect justice
I begin to grasp the love of God.

When I consider my frail being
Created for his glory, yet spitting on His sacred face
Daily adding to and sealing my insurmountable debt
Deserving nothing but His righteous anger
I begin to grasp the love of God.

When I remember the glorious Word
Who chose the confines of flesh to dwell among the broken,
With eyes fixed on the final altar, flesh stretched out
Becoming brokenness for me so that God was satisfied
I begin to grasp the love of God.

When I consider the curtain,
Torn asunder, and his voice of grace that called me in
From death row to my costly place in the Holy of Holies
Debt paid by the creditor, the creditor now my father
I begin to grasp the love of God.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Scrumptious Spaghetti

Sour, watery tomato sauce bleeding all over overcooked noodles should be banned from American society. Try this spaghetti recipe for a change!

My photos made my spaghetti look like shiny
plastic, but it still looks better than bleeding tomato sauce.

Ingredients:
  • sea shell pasta
  • 1 pound of spicy, Italian sausage*
  • four cloves of garlic minced
  • three carrots peeled and chopped
  • three zucchini peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 cup wine**
  • 1 large can of spaghetti sauce (~15-20 oz.)

The ingredients above yield at least eight servings. It's perfect for making on a Saturday, freezing half, enjoying it over the week, and they defrosting the other half a few weeks later and enjoying it again!
*This is clutch.
**This isn't clutch. I'm not sure if it does anything to the taste, but it sure makes the recipe look fancier.

Garlic!
Directions:

  • Begin cooking your pasta.
  • Brown the garlic and sausage. You don't need any oil to do this, the sausage should produce enough.
  • Add carrots and zucchini. Brown some more.
  • Add wine.
  • Add all of spaghetti sauce. Bring it too a simmer.
  • Feel free to add more fun things like oregano, garlic powder, pepper, fresh basil...
  • Serve over pasta and enjoy!

Everything all browned and ready for the wine & tomato sauce.




P.S. This is one of the first recipes I invented. And by "invented," I mean that I didn't use a recipe card, though I think my mom has made spaghetti very similar to this before me.
P.P.S. As always, recipes are merely guidelines. Change anything above and enjoy the variety!


P.P.S. I peeled the carrots so ferociously that I confused my thumb with a
carrot and peeled the top layer of  my fingernail.
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