Thursday, August 27, 2009


Strange to say, I really don't like change. You might find that amusing, considering that in the last several years I've gone from cleaning houses full-time to being a senior at a major university. And you'd be right, it is pretty funny. Yet, I don't find most change a whole lot of fun. I really prefer to stick with what I've always done, even when it's obviously time to move on. And my clothes are a pretty good example of that. Let me elaborate here for you...

Since I've left the cleaning business, it's time to change my wardrobe. I can get rid of a number of t-shirts and pants that have tears, bleach marks, and permanent stains in them from my work. I can wear my nicer clothes to class if I want to, and I can start looking to expand my wardrobe so that I can go to church or interviews and look like the person I want to be: positive, self-assured, and intelligent.

This isn't all that easy on a student budget, I can assure you. I'm a constant visitor to thrift shops and consignment stores, looking for items that will
A. Look good on me.
B. Go well with the rest of my wardrobe
C. Not cost so much that I have to skip groceries for the week.

I can find myself spending a whole hour just going through the racks of shirts, jeans, and skirts, looking for just the right item, piling each find over my arm until I have a load to take to the dressing room for that most important moment: the mirror test. Stacking my finds in the dressing room, I try on each item and stare in the mirror, trying to see how each piece makes me look. And it can be interesting, really! The color that looked good out in the store now makes me look a bit washed out. The trendy top hits me at the wrong spot in my midsection, and emphasizes, well, that I'm bigger than I want to be! (Ooops, better not have that burger for lunch after all, hmmmm?) The jeans are too long, too short, too baggy or too snug. Back in the pile they go. And yet, I fooled myself into thinking they looked good, because they look just like what I usually wear, just in better shape. Good thing I tried them on before I got to the check-out.

Then, it happens. I put on a blouse that is a different shade than I normally wear, a slightly different cut, and there it is. It makes my eyes more blue, my hair more silvery. It fits just right across the bust and my midriff. And it goes with a skirt and a pair of pants I already own! Perfect! We have a winner! I take my much smaller pile of goodies to the checkout, and head for home. And I have a change to my personal style that I can live with.

It's the same with my internal changes. I'm not comfortable making changes in how I look at things, in how I live my day-to-day life. And yet, looking at it, I can tell that my old habits and thoughts just don't fit me anymore! They bind or chafe, don't match what I've come to know over the last few years, don't cover the right spots. They're unsuitable for everyday use, and yet I stick with them because they're old comfortable friends, like my bleach-stained work shirts.

But like my old shirts, it may be time to let them go. Take a look at things in my life, hold them up to the mirror and see if they're really what I should be wearing, or whether they're due to be replaced with the new things that I'm learning and being shown. I'm learning, little by little, to see myself as who I really am in Christ, and it's time to look and act like that person I was created to be. Time to take off the old me, and put on the new, the one that I'm finally getting to know something about.

So, next to the front door of my apartment, there are several bags of clothes waiting to go to the thrift shop. Time to move out the old and make way for the new.

Got anything old you need to get rid of?

Your better-dressed sister,


Friday, August 21, 2009


It's TIME! School has started at last!

Of course, it's not like it used to be. When I was a kid, school was new notebooks, crayons, and that perfect outfit for the first day. It was also wondering who my new teacher was going to be like, if I was going to have friends in my class, and if lunch was going to be any good. Pretty simple stuff here. Now, it's paying for my parking permit, purchasing my textbooks, getting ink for my printer, and using my student funds to pay for as many things as I can in advance, so I don't have to worry about them later. Oh, yeah, and so I don't accidentally spend that money on something less important. Been there, done that.

But it's still a bit of a thrill, packing my backpack with some of the enormous stack of books required by five different professors. Picking my outfit out for the first day. Packing my lunch so that I'm not sucked into the Atrium, home of our campus Chic-fil-A. Printing a class schedule so that I can remember the room numbers. And leaving my apartment early so that I can catch the bus up to main campus. Later on in the semester, it will seem a bit ho-hum, but right now, there's still a thrill to pulling up in front of the main library and joining the throng of students on their way to class. Especially since just a few years ago, I never would have thought I'd be here!

Now that I'm in my second year here, I've managed to learn a thing or two about how to get everything (mostly) done. And unlike some of my friends, I've got to have a routine, structure, to make it all work out. (I'd love to be one of those people who never stress and still seem to get good grades, but I'm not from that planet!)

I have to get up and go to bed around the same time each day. With rare exceptions, I'm up around six and in bed between ten and eleven. Why? Because if I don't, I start getting cranky, tired, and majorly dependent on caffeine. Yeah, those of you who know me well remember times that I was sucking down major amounts of diet Pepsi just to keep my eyes open. Not going to happen this year, if I can help it.

I have to spread out my work. When you just have one or two classes, you might be able to get away with throwing together your projects and papers at the last minute, and you might even manage to get decent grades doing it, if you're a good enough writer. But when you're looking at five different classes, professors, expectations, you had better plan to be working consistantly. Or, you're going to be pulling some major all-nighters, and you still might not get decent grades! See the last paragraph: might work for some people, doesn't work for me. At all.

I've got to take care of my body. When I'm under stress, I tend to overeat and under-exercise. Constantly. And anyone who doesn't think that being a full-time student is stressful has probably managed to forget what it's like. So, instead of going through the drive-thru at Wendy's for the third time this week, I need to take advantage of the tiny kitchen in my apartment and cook something that's half-way good for me. And instead of always taking the bus up to campus, I need to take the 30 minute walk from King Village to Poe, where the majority of my classes are. I've done it many times before, I just need to work to make it a habit.

I need to rest regularly. When everything cranks up, my classes, my church, my obligations, I tend to schedule things seven days a week, in a frantic effort to keep up. This time, I need to remember that it doesn't work. If I have too many obligations, I need to trim them back. And I have to have a rest day, weekly. This summer, for the first time, I chose a day for nothing but rest: no homework, paid jobs, or chores. Period. And I was still able to handle the load. This fall, I need to do the same thing, and make sure I don't slip back into my old habit of being constantly on the run. Friday may not work, this semester, but I need to choose a day and make it stick. Having a sabbath rest day just seems to make the rest of it work better.

I need to remember my friends. When I'm busy and stressed, I tell people I'm FINE. (One of these days, ask me what that really means, it's funny!) I might be struggling with a paper, lonely, wishing I was elsewhere, but I still tend to say that I'm fine. But I need to spend time with people who care about me, who can ask the right questions and not think that fine means much of anything, and who make me laugh and forget my stresses. I love my friends, and they love me. The last thing I need to do is stay away from them when I need them the most!

Finally, and most important, I need to remember God, and why I'm here. I need to spend quiet time in prayer, in studying scripture, in just being in His presence. When I do, I am reminded that there is a reason that I am doing what I am doing, and it's not just to get a degree. I'm here because God has called me here. And when I'm stressing the most, that is what I need to remember. Where God guides, He will provide. He's done so all along, and I know He's faithful.

So, I'm off to do some reading for class. One of 'em, anyway.


Your running sister,


Sunday, August 16, 2009

Can you hear me NOW?

I like loud. Yeah, I understand, I'm not supposed to, it's not good for me, but I like it anyway.

For the last several years, I've been a singer in a band called "Third Watch". We are the worship band for Evergreen United Methodist Church, but we are also a kickin' cover band, specializing in music from the sixties, seventies and eighties. In other words, just about anything that our Fearless Leader, Barry, is interested in. May I say, in all modesty (or lack thereof), WE ROCK. (The picture is of our band in an earlier incarnation, but I'm the chick on the microphone, of course!)

I spend several hours a week in rehearsal and performance with my band mates. And this week, we needed a lot of rehearsal time to pull off FL's plan: a performance of Huey Lewis' "Power of Love". Our keyboard guy and our horn player both had a lot of hard work to pull off the eighties sound that the piece needed, and FL worked up a cool guitar solo to go with it. But it took a good three hours of rehearsal time on Saturday to put all of the disparate pieces together so that we sounded like a band, not just five people making random loud noises.

After a while, the sound came together, in spite of various and sundry problems with the sound system. Time after time, the monitors (the set of speakers aimed at the musicians, not the audience, to give them an idea how they sound) would cut in and out. We'd stop and work on the board, the monitors, the amps, just about anything we could think of, trying to get everything to sound right consistently. And we thought we had it nailed down.

Move to this morning's service. We opened the service with "Power of Love", and it went pretty well, as well as the rest of the praise set. Yet, the sound system continued to cause us intermittent problems. And the sound levels needed to be constantly tweaked from the board. Yikes! It's a very good thing that we have excellent people doing the sound, because once the band cranks it up, it is no longer able to deal with the glitches, it's all in the hands of the sound guy. We were able to concentrate on doing what we came there to do, lead the congregation in singing to God, and leading into Pastor D's message for the morning.

Thinking about this, I've come to two conclusions about this morning:

First, sometimes your best efforts aren't going to be quite good enough. We're a good band, no doubt about it. But sometimes, in spite of the group's talent and our best efforts, it's not going to turn out the way we want it to. This morning, we were LOUD. When you have a trumpet, double keyboards, and a bass going, plus singers, (in a small sanctuary!) your sound levels can sometimes be somewhere in the neighborhood of overwhelming!
Even when we are doing the best we can, and using the gifts and talents that God gave us, it's not always going to be the way we want it to be. That's part of being human, and it can be humbling from time to time.

Second, and more importantly, accepting help is necessary! Sometimes, we need help from our sound guy, who is up there working on the board to even out the sound, and bring the volume down to a level where it isn't painful to the audience. Sometimes, it's other people with suggestions on what they liked and didn't like. Sometimes, it's volunteers who want to work with us, so that we can do even more interesting music.
In day-to-day life, it's the same for all of us. Accepting help and advice may sometimes be annoying or painful, I know. It is for me, that's for sure. But, since none of us know everything, it's good to listen to the people that God sends into our lives, and accept their help when we need it. Take it from a fairly loud person, sometimes I need to hear that I should tone it down!

So, another Sunday ended, another week begins. I hope I can manage to remember this long enough to use it as my fall semester gets started this week.

Let's make some music together!

Your (no microphone necessary) sis,


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

In the planning stages.

One week till classes start: a phrase that scares and excites me at the same time. Next week, I start my senior year at NC State University, something that I never would have thought I'd be doing, and it makes me incredibly nervous. I have one week, just one week, to get all my plans together, make sure my class schedule is straight, figure out my budget, wrap up my old job and say goodbye to several clients who have become friends over many years. I need to finish getting my books online, see about getting my truck inspected, get to Fayetteville somehow to update my military family ID, and get my eyes checked in preparation for getting a new set of reading glasses. Oh, and get my apartment cleaned up. My desk, as usual, is covered with small piles of books and papers, some of which should be recycled and others that need to be filed.

Did I MENTION I have just one week left?

I need to see about getting my summer credits from Wake Tech transferred here to NC State, review my espaƱol from previous classes, work on writing for my graduate school applications, and look over my review books for the GRE. I should be getting some cooking done and in the freezer, so that on the nights I come home from class tired and hungry I can stick something in the microwave and have something healthy to eat. And I need to take at least one day, ONE day, to rest. Last year, I took a day out of the area with my cell phone off, reading and writing in my journal and praying. Am I going to have time to do that as well?

In one week. Yeah, I do believe that's going to work. Uh-huh.

As usual, my plans and expectations for my schedule are meeting the cold, hard wall of reality. I am capable of a lot, and in the last few years I've come to realize that I'm able to do more than I had realized. Yet, I am not Superwoman. Nor should I start thinking I can be her.

But I can't throw up both hands and decide that because I can't do everything I want to do, that I should give up and not do anything. I've done that in the past, and believe me, it doesn't work. My job, should I choose to accept it, is to do the best I am capable of doing, and trust that God will be with me to give me the strength and wisdom I need to get it done. That's doable.

So, time to pick the most important things off the list for the day, and get started on them. I think I have enough time to get some writing done while the laundry runs, and before I have to leave for this afternoon's appointment. ¡Vamanos!

Your busy sister,


Sunday, August 9, 2009

Dig deep!

I like to garden. Sometimes, it can be difficult, since I live in a studio apartment in the middle of downtown Raleigh, but I manage. My church is in rural northern Chatham county, so, being on the unofficial landscaping committee, I get to play in the dirt on a regular basis. There's plenty of space to experiment with flowers and shrubs, and nobody seems to care what you do as long as it's not invasive. (Uh, well, let's not mention the St. John's Wort that almost took over an entire bed and was eyeing the lawn. I won't, if you won't, okay?) Since I don't live near the property, I have to be careful not to plant anything that needs major amounts of water or attention. We're not in the desert here, but there's long enough between rain storms that you want to plant drought resistant greenery any time you can.

We have a really nice landscape going this year. The rudbeckia (black eyed susans) have self-seeded into several beds other than the one they were originally planted, but seem to be happy. Likewise, several purple coneflowers, some lambs ears, and two surprisingly big crepe myrtles. After trying to dig one of them out and having it resprout, I've decided to live with it in its current bed and enjoy the shocking pink blooms. The flower in the picture is lantana, which is in two of the beds and doesn't seem to mind heat and humidity. Oh, and the deer don't eat it. Did I mention the herd that occasionally grazes the flower beds? Oh, my.

You can learn a lot from being a gardener, and some of it I've even managed to apply in other parts of my life.....

1. Watch what you're doing.
The property here has more than its share of things you don't want to accidentally touch. In thirteen years, I have rarely managed to go through a gardening season without being thorned (jerusalem cherry, holly bushes), bitten (fire ants, yellow jackets), or touched by poison ivy.

In the same way, there's stuff in my day to day life I need to watch out for. If I know there are situations where I tend to slip up, or things that tempt me, then I need to avoid them. Some things I've gotten into over the years have had consequences worse than poison ivy, so learning to watch out for them is important!

2. Weed regularly.
Most of us hate to weed. It's a lot more fun putting in flowers and dreaming of how good everything is going to look when we're finished. But when you don't weed very often, it can get ahead of you. WAY ahead of you. There's an old gardener's saying: "one year of seeding is worth seven years of weeding". Pull weeds while they're small and few, and you'll save yourself many hours trying to save your overwhelmed petunias from the crabgrass, believe me!

Habits can be the same, in some ways. There are times when my habit of spending a lot of time online, or drinking a lot of diet Pepsi, or not paying attention to my finances has come back to bite me! So, I need to pay attention to my habits while they're minor, before they have a major affect on my study time, my waistline or my finances. If I don't, they can get bigger than I can handle without help.

3. Don't forget to water!
When you put a plant in a bed, it's under stress. It needs plenty of water to start establishing a new root system and to be healthy and happy in the location you've chosen for it. If you get distracted and forget to give it regular drinks, especially when it is getting settled in, you can find yourself with a dead plant, or at least one that you'll be lucky to manage to nurse back to health.

We need water, too. We need to be aware of what we need, both physically and spiritually. When I neglect to eat healthy, to get enough water to drink, to exercise, I feel it. I get tired and sluggish, and it makes it harder for me to get everything done. When I neglect to spend time in the scriptures, in prayer, or in worship with my church family, I feel it too. It becomes more difficult to handle my everyday stresses, and I feel more distant from God and my friends. Seek out water, don't wait till you start feeling wilted.

4. Live and learn.
No matter how long you've gardened, you can always learn something new. Over the years, I've managed to plant things in wrong places, forgot to water, had my plants frozen, had my plants eaten by deer, dug up by squirrels, or in some cases just decide they didn't like where they were and die on me. I have managed to hurt myself in various and sundry ways, and on occasion managed to find myself in a doctor's office trying to explain just how I managed to get hurt!

If I was easy to discourage, I'd think this was an awful hobby. But I've learned so much in the meantime. I know more about what will grow here, what will thrive on heat and (some) neglect. I've found out what the deer won't eat, and where to plant what the deer like so that they don't immediately graze it to the ground. I've learned to ask my friends for help, so that someone can come in and water plants from time to time, or so that someone can cover the plantings when there's going to be a late frost. And I've learned to identify and avoid (most of the time!) the poison ivy, fire ants, and jerusalem cherry so that I don't end up back at the doctor's office. I've also learned about patience, endurance, persistence, and having a sense of humor. I've learned that being transplanted won't kill you, whether it is from one bed to another or one city to another. And in spite of weeds, drought, and hungry deer, (or whatever circumstances I'm thrown into in my life), it's possible to thrive.

So, if you're up this way, come garden with me. I'll share my tools and my water bottle. Oh, and I'll show you what a fire ant nest looks like, before you pull up a clump of crabgrass and disturb them. It'll be fun, really! And think of all the things we can learn.

Your sunburned sis,


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Hit refresh, already!

For years, I blogged. Two different times, two different sites, two points in my life that I really wanted to have my say, but both times I ran out of time and energy. I am now a full-time student at North Carolina State University, and between work, school, and more church jobs than I'd care to admit to, I was a bit overwhelmed, y'know?

But now, I'm back. It's a point in my life where I've left behind a number of things that made my life somewhat "normal". Yeah, normal is a relative term here, I know. But I've given notice on my job, dropped some of the multitude of things I thought that I was responsible for, and decided to aim at the few things that I knew I was supposed to do.

For example?

The beginning of my senior year. I will be taking a fairly heavy course load this year, aiming at graduating from State in the spring of '10, and as a psychology major, my classes won't be easy, to say the least. Hence the "leaving my job" thing. I've worked as a housecleaner for twelve years, and though I found it a bit boring sometimes, it was still what I was used to. Now, I've been spending a large portion of my tiny income on the gas it takes to drive TO my job, and it's time for it to change. So, I'm taking my student aid, and living on a tight budget so I can have more time to study.

Graduate school lies ahead. I am aiming at having my first application in by the first of November, and I will admit it's making me a bundle of nerves. Just a few years ago, I would never have considered applying at schools like Duke and the University of North Carolina, but I feel a definite pull in that direction. So, a good portion of time in the next several months will be spent trying to explain to two elite schools why they should accept me into their student body. Hooray?

And finally, the call on my life. I know, it sounds strange to me, too. But over the last two years, I have felt a pull that I can't deny. I've finally realized that listening to that call means that I will be applying to Duke Divinity School, and seeking ordination as a deacon eventually. I am being drawn (some days with my cooperation, some days kicking and screaming) toward being a counselor. I spent months going through the "who, me?" stage, followed by "you've got to be kidding!", finally segueing into "alright, alright, I'll do it, but You've got to help me explain this thing!"

For those of you who know me, none of this is probably news. But I'm grateful for your support, nonetheless. And for those of you who will get to know me through this season of my life, and through this blog, I hope that you'll decide to hang out with me as I walk down this road that I didn't even know existed. I've hit the refresh button on my life, one more time, and hit the road again. Let's do it together.

Your hopeful sister,