Friday, December 31, 2010

Mmmm, Mmmm, Good

Last night after a wonderful night eating out and going to a movie with Nate, we headed to Wal-Mart for a few necessities - toilet paper, lunch bags, tissues, a humidifier.

We went through the grocery section looking for some New Year's Eve goodies, and I didn't find anything, but I did find one treat that brought on a laugh.

For those of you who don't know me very well, my favorite treat is barbecue ribs. Now, I love sour cream; I love cheese sauce. However, I really, really love barbecue ribs.

Well, at Wal-Mart, Nate and I were passing by a freezer case and a box of chips sat outside them. I also have a weakness for chips. The name on the outside of the chip bags drew me in, and I pulled out the burgundy bag to show Nate with a small - Baby Back Ribs chips.

I just laughed, and I started to put the bag back with the others. Yet, the $1.50 price tag grabbed my attention again, and I grabbed the bag for the cart.

Nate just laughed and shook his head, "Don't even act like you're not going to get them."

I guess he knows me better than I even know myself.

I tried them today, and I was amazed that the chips actually tasted like ribs. They didn't just taste like barbecue, but they had an interesting rib flavor.

Who knew technology could bring about meat-flavored chips? It's interesting thing, an everyday moment, but one that I really enjoyed. Food doesn't seem all that special, but really it is a small joy that people in this country probably take for granted.

Whether it's your favorite flavor of Doritos, Cheetos, Fritos or regular potato chips - take a bite and enjoy the simple flavor while you treasure the ability to buy them.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Close-by friends

I have really great friends. I've never been a person who needed a lot of friends. I love to have just really close friends, people who truly care about me and my life. I want people who want to spend time with me instead of me wanting to spend time with them.

Throughout my life, that has really been hard for me to find.

I made some wonderful friends in college. Friends that I could be perfectly happy having without ever making another friend again.

However, none of us live within an hour of each other.

So yes, we still talk. We blog; we call; we text; we e-mail. But it's not the same as having someone where you can say, "Hey, you want to run to Wal-Mart with me?" "Do you want to grab some dinner tonight?"

I'm so blessed that I have always had Nate, and that I have him so close now that we can do the everyday stuff together. But it's still nice to go out with other people sometimes.

The past couple weeks we have spent time with another couple we met in town. They are a few years older than us, but really, at our age, age doesn't really matter with friends. It has been nice to spend time going out to eat, playing video games, watching football games. It's nice to have a guy for Nate and a girl for me.

Last night, we went out to eat and then spent some time just acting like kids by playing Kinect on XBox and Band Hero. I even got to play with their little dog, Sunny, which was nice because I really miss having a dog. You forget how much comfort laying your arm on a little warm body with soft fur makes brings.

But I was talking about friends, not dogs.

As life brings me to new places, places that I never imagined I would be, it takes me away from loved ones and friends I have relied on in the past. It makes me stretch my usual personality out from quiet listener to open talker. Sometimes that's hard.

However, the reward - friends - is quite worth the work.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A backwards Christmas

If you haven't, please take the two minutes to watch this entire video. Trust me; it's worth it.

This video was played at the Christmas Eve service at Bettendorf Christian Church. I'll admit, I didn't get what was going on at the beginning. I didn't understand why they would put on a video that talked about someone not believing in Christmas.

However, when the video started playing backwards a sense of awe filled me. I thought it was an amazing look at the transition that happens when people become Christians.

You see, we have life backwards a lot. It's not just about Christmas. We have a lot of life backwards. We think life is about making the most of our time. We think life is about us. It's about having fun. It's not. Life is not about us. Life is about God.

I also wondered while watching this video, how the writer came up with that. I'm impressed by the attention to detail that a story can be read backward and forward. Palindromes are cool, but this is beyond any palindrome I have ever seen before.

Monday, December 27, 2010

On the way home

I drove back to Bettendorf on Friday, sludging through the ugly winter weather to spend Christmas with the family. It took me about an hour longer than it should have, but it wasn’t anything compared to the ice trip Nate and I took last year — which we really shouldn’t have.

It was nice when the trip was over and I reached my destination.

I spent the holidays with family and friends.

I left on Sunday for home.

It took me a little over five hours to get back, not bad for holiday traffic. And although the trip home was much shorter than the trip there, it almost seemed longer.

I think we all probably know that sensation that going home always seems more tedious than leaving. For some people that might be because all the fun is over and now is the chore of going home. However, for me it is usually the opposite.

I love to go home.

The miles stretch out as I look for familiar signs. Those signs used to lead to Bettendorf. Now they lead away.

Now the signs are small towns that I pass through. Houses that I recognize. A curve in the road that signifies only a few minutes left.

And the moment I pulled into town my body relaxed. I still had to go to Wal-Mart to pick up some groceries and water-repellent for my new leather boots, but I still was calmer.

I was home.

To me, coming home is a wonderful feeling. It meant getting to my apartment. It meant getting to Nate. It meant not having to drive anywhere else.

As I write this, I wonder what going home will really feel like someday.

Yes, I have a home now. However, this isn’t really my home. I didn’t start out on Earth. My home is ultimately in heaven.

How will I feel when I finally reach that destination?

Instead of just a few hours of traveling, my body is tense after years away.

What will it be like when I finally relax and won’t ever have to travel again?

It’s not something I can answer right now, but I think it’s interesting to think about.

Even when I’m home, I’m still on the way home.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Colors of Christmas

Although Christmas is known for its red and green color combination, lights on homes, holiday ornaments and festive wrapping paper add all different varieties of color to the season. However, all of them can tell a little bit about the true meaning of the holiday.

Red: The redness of a newborn's skin will eventually lead to the red blood that Jesus shed on the cross, blood that set believers free.
Green: Most trees in the Midwest are brown and dead-looking right now, but evergreen Christmas trees are still a vibrant green. It's the color of new growth, a color that shows us that during the season we remember our savior's birth and the opportunities we have to grow in our faith.
Yellow: The star above the inn where Jesus was born twinkled yellow in a brilliant night sky.
Purple: The color of royalty, purple reminds us that Jesus was born in inauspicious circumstances but was still the most royal of all royals ever born.
Blue: During the winter months, the sky remains gray and cloudy much of the time. However, when the clouds blow away, a brilliant blue sky opens like a mirror of the oceans. Sky and water, vast areas like the freedom of choice that we are given by God.
Gold: Expensive and meaningful gifts - gold, frankincense and myrrh - were brought to Jesus on his birthday.
Pink: A color that is normally associated with women reminds us of the young woman who traveled, pregnant and ready to give birth at any moment, with a man she was not yet married to to give birth to the savior of the universe.

Colors are more than just beautiful; if you start to contemplate them, there might be more meaning that you realize.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Columnists around the world will focus on Christmas today as they write. They will probably try to find something unique to say about family, friends, the spirit of the season, Jesus’ birthday.

I want to talk about what Christmas is really all about — presents.

Wait, did she say presents?
Yes, I did.

However, I’m probably not going to talk about what you might think. Christmas isn’t all about getting presents. It’s not about spending money. It’s not about wrapping presents. However, Christmas has turned into being all about giving presents.
Stores are packed with people buying items to give away from November through December. Streets in cities are backed up for miles as people try to rush to stores. People are honking as someone tries to cut in the back-up. People are pushing to grab the last Pillow Pet on the shelf. People are yelling at others who try to cut into the store line.
Somewhere we lost the true meaning of giving gifts.
When Jesus was a baby, the three magi traveled miles and months to bring him elaborate gifts. They didn’t worry about the cost or the trek. They just wanted to give him what he deserved.
Giving gifts is an important part of Christmas today. It is a time when we sacrifice a little of our time and money to give a loved one a memento of how much we care about them. Gifts are more than just a beautifully wrapped sweater or toy; they are a symbol of how much we care.
It doesn’t matter if the gifts you give are homemade, store-bought, inexpensive, expensive, wearable or edible. Gifts should just be from the heart. Even if it cost nothing at all, everyone should have something underneath the tree.
So I hope that whatever you have under the tree today that it was not bought out of haste or carelessness, but that it was hand-selected with careful thought and love. I hope that whatever you receive is a token of the love that others have for you.
When you look at whatever was under the wrapping with your name on it, cherish it. Look at it not as a gift but instead as a token of love, an icon of appreciation.
So Merry Christmas, and may your life be filled with love today.
And as important as presents are, there is one thing that is even more important this holiday — Jesus is the real reason for the season.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas surprise

Tonight I took part in a Shop with a Cop event, wrapping presents for the underprivileged children who got to spend the city's money to make their holidays more special. The children piled in the Wal-Mart Subway, most with parents, awaiting their chance to join one of the city's police officers in holiday shopping.

Now the shopping is up to the kids. They can buy items for themselves, or they can use the $50 to purchase gifts for family members.

The first little girl whose gifts I wrapped had picked out two items for her brother and another for a friend. The second little boy was too young to really know what was going on, so his dad picked out gifts for him. The next boy picked out a present for his grandpa, a woman named Connie and a game for himself. The last little boy picked out a skateboard and model car for himself, and a small pack of Pokemon cards for a friend.

I took the wrapping paper and covered the gifts up. I wonder if these would be the only gifts they would receive on Christmas. Did they already know what they were getting? Did they have to pick out their gifts themselves?

My favorite part about Christmas gift-giving is buying presents for others and wrapping them nice and pretty. However, for my own gifts, my favorite part is the surprise.

Many kids scope out where their presents are hidden by their parents. I however did not like to peek. I didn't want any hints. I didn't want to shake the presents. I love to be surprised when I open a gift on Christmas morning. I haven't really changed since then, although it's to the point where I do some of my own Christmas shopping to make it easier on my parents.

I think surprises are fun. Knowing what is going to happen can build anticipation, but there is nothing quite like the first moment you learn you are getting something or going somewhere. That fresh excitement is something that doesn't last long as anticipation takes over. However, when you are surprised, the fresh excitement seems to stay throughout the entire event.

In life in general though, I haven't really been good at letting surprises happen. I am much more of a planner than I should be, although I have gotten better through the years. Life is always a surprise, always tricking us to expect one thing and get another.

Since I love surprises so much, I guess I should just let days fall where they may. I should just let moments happen. I should just let God surprise me with all he has in store.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Fun and fancy free...e-cards

I put a snowman together, watch candles flicker and more without leaving the comfort of my desk chair thanks to e-cards. What a great way to celebrate a season, a special day or just to tell someone you are thinking of them.

Cards have always been a simple way to tell someone you care, but now that we don't have to pay for them - or even write in them - by sending an e-card, it is even better.

I sent a Christmas e-card today, and it took a whole minute to select, address and even write in. I got a response saying the card had been sent and that it had been read. You don't get that in regular mail.

Cost shouldn't be an important part of receiving a gift. And a card is a gift, if even it is free. The gift of an e-card is really learning that someone is thinking about you, someone cares for you, someone holds you in their heart. Knowing that you are special and appreciated is the greatest gift anyone can ever receive.

Make someone's day less everyday by sending them an e-card today. It's fun, it's easy and it's free. You don't have any excuses.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A little laughter

Last night, before my boyfriend Nate went to work, something wonderful happened - we laughed.

I am an extremely ticklish person, pretty much any part of my body can be tickled if the touch is right - squeeze my sides, graze the bottoms of my feet. It started off as a little tickling. Then we just wrestled around a little bit. After the laughter started, it just didn't stop.

Laughter does a body, and a mind, good. It just feels wonderful to release a random giggle, even if it is for no real reason at all. Sometimes, laughter just overcomes me in what I call a laugh attack. A small quip gets me started, but my body just takes over, and I can't stop the chuckles from flowing.

It's a little part of life, laughter. A few chest convulsions and some air escaping - however, the healing power of laughter is endless. No matter the stress or anger you have built up inside, some laughing can help you let it all go.

A little laughter, a big payoff, an everyday moment that can have special benefits. Enjoy a little laughter today.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A seed in the wind

What's more appropriate than a dandelion seed blowing in the wind when contemplating everyday moments? I don't think another picture could truly illustrate what I mean to do with this blog.

Our days on Earth are numbered, and they blow away as quickly as a dandelion seed in the breeze. Through the years, I have learned to appreciate every moment we are given before it floats off, never to be returned. And, like dandelion seeds, those moments we take advantage of might just act as an inspiration to someone else to grow into something bright somewhere else.

Dandelions are often taken for granted. They are often viewed as ugly and boring. However, when I was little, I would grab a handful of dandelions, put them in a small glass of water and present them to my mom as a gift. We can view our everyday moments - the simple and seemingly unimportant parts of our lives - as ugly and boring. If you learn to treasure those moments though, if you realize that those moments are gifts from God, from one who loves us, you will realize that even everyday moments are ones to be treasured.

The only thing that doesn't work with the dandelion analogy: dandelions are weeds.