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Flashback: A young Hailey, approximately 3 years old, outside her Texas home with her fearless dad who is killing the mean ants in the yard.  What young Hailey does not realize is that when her fearless dad sprays the aunt hills with poison there is not instantaneous death, so being overcome with the feeling of  victory she stomps on the ant hill as a mark of dominance.  To her horror, however, the angry mean ants start scaling her little leg in military formation.  Thankfully her fearless dad saves her and she escapes the battle with little to no injury.

Present Day: Hailey is back in Texas, but she’s no longer little, but the mean ants, a.k.a. fire ants are equally if not more mean.  Since that ill-fated day of misjudgment in battle along side my fearless dad, I’ve learned to be cautious since my apartment complex has these demon ants everywhere: wear tennis shoes, watch where you step, don’t stay standing in once place too long when dark.

However, today none of this mattered as I lost big time to the angry beasts.  This morning I took the pups out to use the restroom.  Our puppies are amazing, truly, we love them so much.  Aria, the black one, is our little sweet heart who loves love more than all things (a true golden retriever’s heart) and Gracie, the gold one, is our athlete full of energy and always looking for fun.  Both are learning very quickly, however there is one habit of Gracie’s that is quite difficult to break: barking. She barks at everything, including nothing.  Because they haven’t had all their shots quite yet we haven’t been able to socialize them, so anytime she sees a dog or a person Gracie will bark as loud as she can for as long as she can.

So this morning one of the maintence guys came walking around the corner while we were outside Gracie proceeded as usual with the barking.  I crouched down near her trying to distract her, she was unfazed, but I remained calm firmly telling her no after each bark, which became more and more muffled (her muffled barks are seriously the cutest thing ever), I was excited about the progress we were making when I saw them.  Fire ants, scaling my puppies leg, already reaching her thigh. Oh Crap. I looked down to see that the place we were on was a giant ant hill, and the ants were all over and in side my tennis shoe.  My shoes are now compromised, and I have approximately 6 nickel to quarter size welts on my ankles and hands.

Though typically I do love all living things and really can’t bring myself to kill any animal or insect (I save spiders by taking them outside my home rather than stomping on them, no shame) today’s event has inspired me to give to you a kill list of the 4 worst insects of all time.

4. Sprickets  (spider crickets): these mutants just freak me out.  I don’t know if I would say I want to kill them, but I probably wouldn’t object to someone volunteering the act.  A cricket with spider legs, freakiest thing ever.  Which way will it jump? You have no idea but you know it will go far with those long spider legs and cricket spring power.  

3. Mosquitoes (Damn bloodsuckers): Twilight fan? look no farther, vampires really do exist only they don’t shine in the sunlight or have super strength. But they do live by feeding off of animal’s and human’s blood.  They spread disease and cause skin irritation.  Thankfully you don’t need a wooden stake to kill these bloodsuckers, so don’t hold back, eliminate them.

2. Ticks (ew): Confession time, I totally have a phobia of ticks. These lazy worthless insects live by latching onto living things for long amounts of time, spreading diseases which include lyme disease.  I can’t begin to tell you how much I hate these things, they freak me out.  So if you see one kill it.  Be sure to press it between two hard surfaces  or it won’t die (I recommend using a hammer).

1. Fire ants (demon maniacs):  This one is hard for me to write, because typically I love ants, they are just such hard workers I really admire them.  I’m not alone in this either:

“Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones. Learn from their ways and become wise!”

-Proverbs 6:6 NLV

That’s right! The bible admires ants too! They really are awesome.  HOWEVER fire ants take this trait of good work ethic to an unacceptable level.  I’m sorry I stepped on your ant hill, but you may consider a different location (location location location).  Seriously moving in military like fashion to attack young children and puppies is unacceptable.  They will not hesitate to attack, so neither should you.

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Though being a blonde is oh so much fun, this week I received a coupon for Garnier Nutrisse in the mail and decided to go get a box and try it out! I mean, if it’s good enough for Tina Fey then it’s got to be good enough for me!  Picking one color was hard, at one point I was definitely looking at the blue (life’s too short for one hair color right?) but went for a natural light brown.   Now I have a new hair color to go along with my new city.

I really am starting to fall in love with this city.  I love the stacked highways, the tropical flowers, the unique neighborhoods inside the city, the skyline downtown, the one way roads, the parks that are everywhere, among many other things.  I’m honestly surprised because it’s been so long since I’ve felt excited.  Everything about this time of life is so exciting: looking for a new job, discovering new roads and places, meeting new people, everything is brand new.

Still, there are also times of feeling lonely, inadequate, and as of this week stressed (trying to pass the certification test and pay for a program we still just can’t afford).  Because of this, my favorite part of the week is always Sunday at 1:00.  No matter how confusing or overwhelming a week is Tim and I get to church and I feel peace.  Sunday means going to the one place that makes me feel closest to my home and being around people who love the same One I love, and I just have so much peace.

Today at church one of the staff actually asked us to help with communion and the benediction.  I was so happy they had remembered us (I’m a slow mover with people… I mean it took me like 3 years to date Tim), and it was just a great reminder that God is watching, a reminder I needed.

Looking forward to the next week, Tim and I will keep praying for our Air Conditioning to work again (right now having someone come fix it just is not possible), trying to manage the stress of taking my certification test (I have terrible test anxiety), and trusting God with the rest, which is hard seeing as we don’t even know what “the rest” is.  I just need to breathe, focus on the step ahead of me, and continue enjoying my new city and now my new hair!

This past week was one full of both ups and downs.  Starting on a positive and grateful note, the ups include, but are not limited to: Finding out I could actually have a job by the start of this school year as a full time teacher, being accepted into the teaching program I applied to, celebrating 1 month of marriage with Tim, mastering the “sit” “down” and “come” commands with our pups (mastering may be a bit of a stretch…), a sudden excitement for my new home, driving the big highways in the rain (scary but I’m still alive so totally a success), and finding tadpoles in a puddle outside of church on Sunday.

Now on a still grateful but also realistic note, the downs of the week included: not trusting God, struggling to trust God, trying to decide if I want to trust God, questioning if I have ever trusted God, and wondering if God is out to get me.  Tim and I had many a late night conversation as I once again wrestled within myself. Seriously, how many times have I read or heard the story of Exodus and scoffed (yes I am using the word scoffed) at the people of Israel for not trusting God after he had show them countless miracles while delivering them from Egypt.  I mean, how could you not trust God after He parted the freaking Red Sea for you? Yet, here I am doing the exact same thing.

God has seriously been so good to me.  His love for me includes but is definitely not limited to: relentlessly pursuing and loving me, making a home in my heart, being patient when I am hesitant, overflowing me with His grace in my shortcomings, and granting me peace to be human and imperfect while still making me into a new creation each day.

Still, I honestly wrestle to decide if God is truly for me.  I wonder if I’m a joke to God, something for Him to point and laugh at, if I’m not important enough for Him to help me through this trying life, and if I’m someone He created to fail.  God may not have parted a sea for me (though that would be cool), but the list of things God has done for me does not even crack the surface of incredible experiences I have had with Christ.  Yet, just like the people of Israel I doubt endlessly.

All of this culminated this week when Tim and I had to decide whether we would tithe this month or hold off and make the payment for the teaching program I’m desperately wanting to begin.  We chose to hold off (keep reading).  This led to more night time conversations and crying (on my part).  I was sure God was done with us, that we pulled the last straw.  Once again, I was making my loving God into a controlling and grudge holding jerk.  Once again, God broke through and showed us His love.

At church Sunday, the sermon happened to be about the difference between being a fan of God and being a worshipper of God (the latter costs something, the former is more of an admirer).  God spoke to my heart: Will you trust me?  10 percent.  10 percent of what I give is what I ask.  Will you trust me? Will you trust that I know your circumstances? Will you trust that I will provide? 10 percent of what I give is what I ask, will you give it? Will you trust me? Sigh.  Once again, God showed me He was not a demanding God.  What He asks for goes so much deeper, is so much bigger than a list of rules that I have to try to live up to.  How do I keep missing this? The choice of tithing was something so much bigger than a rule, it was a matter of trust.  Were we going to trust God? He ask for 10 percent of what He gives, do we trust Him? Do we trust in what He gives and what He asks back? Do we trust that He will take care of us?

Well, needless to say, we changed our minds, we chose to trust. Things will be delayed, but the Lord has a plan.  He knew what we would have, He knows what we will need.  What He has provided does not permit me to begin the teaching program as soon as I had hoped, but I truly believe He knew this would be the case, and I believe that there is some reason for why I won’t be starting it this month, and I trust that reason.

And with that, so many other things fall into perspective.  By taking my eyes off of what I see, off of myself and my own circumstances, by looking to God instead, I am filled with peace.  By focusing my limited perspective on the One with perfect perspective, my problems shrink and I am refocused on a kingdom mindset, rather than a worldly one.  I know the topic of tithing is touchy.  My hope is that people don’t read this and form a perception on me based on Time and I’s choices, good or bad.  Instead, I truly hope that readers will see my humanity for what it truly is, human, and see God’s goodness and grace that are a part of the Love that He truly is.

The weird, mysterious, great thing about all of this is that I continue to go about my normal life.  In my heart I hold a peace that transcends all understanding, a Love that is eternal, and the knowledge of my journey towards the home that I long for, all the while making grocery lists, doing laundry, scheduling appointments, caring for puppies, etc. This life is just weird, crazy, fun, sad, broken, hopeful.  After this week though, I am once again glad that life is not all that I live for, however grateful I am for this journey, and all the ups and downs it brings.  For the downs because they bring me wisdom and healing, drawing me closer to my Maker, for the ups because of the great and simple joys like the success of being accepted into the teaching program or finding tadpoles in a puddle which bring life and laughter to this present journey home.

It’s true, after three weeks of marriage both Tim and I agree that marriage is not a fairy tale, and that we have no idea what we’re doing.  We’re pretty much ok with both of these things, not knowing what we’re doing can be unsettling at times though.  We have a whole life to work out together from scratch.  How will we handle money (crazy how much money comes up in the real world, no wonder Jesus talked about it so much, I feel like Tim and I have to talk about it all the time!)? How are we going to find a new community? What cell phone plan should we get? Stick to smart phones or go to basic for a while? How will we spend the holidays? What should we eat this week? What TV show will we watch tonight (please not soccer… oh man does this make me a bad wife?).

Already Tim and I have run into a whole lot of questions and we have only a few answers.  Combine this confusion with Tim’s increased work schedule and my consequent loneliness in my new place during unemployment and we just have a whole lot of crazy.  My biggest worry during all of this though is whether or not God is paying attention.  I’m like a little kid lost in a big city (seriously, Houston is huge), and yes I have my best friend, but is God watching? Does He really care? Is there a plan, or does He save plans for those who are in full time service to Him? Are Tim and I not clocking in enough hours to earn a plan?

Of course the answer is YES God is watching, YES of course HE cares, YES there is a plan, and don’t be silly.

I would like to say that all of this is ok, and the questions don’t bother me, but that’s just not true.  The truth is, the world is a scary place with so many pressures, and as I venture out into this world with my whole life ahead of me, it is really hard for me to trust that God has my back.  Because from my perspective it’s hard to picture a God that is capable of loving everyone fully and totally, and equally.  I’ve seen bosses pick favorites, teachers pick favorites, friends pick favorites, and I have never really been among the favored.  So during this time when I am so confused it’s hard to remember that God is not, that He is good, and that yes, indeed, he is taking care of me as I prepare to start a teaching program and while I figure out how to be a wife to my husband as those who are on full time staff at churchy church of the mother theresas of the world (ccotmtotw… it exists look it up!).

So what do I do then? Well I take Tim’s advice, or I try to and r.e.l.a.x. Tim fills one of our Libbey wine glasses to the  brim with Welch’s White Grape Juice (we splurged a little this week) and I start a blog while the puppies sleep and Tim finishes up some work.  We don’t have it all figured out, but we’re going to do our best to enjoy this crazy ride of mismatched furniture, young puppies, excessive use of Google Maps, job hunting, Netflix, and yes, juice in wine glasses (it makes us feel fancy!).  We’re young newly weds and we’re soaking in all of the craziness that brings, hoping to trust and honor the Lord through all of it.

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