Lessons in Perseverance

What I have figured out so far in my adoption journey is that adoption is a marathon and not a sprint. As with most things in life, I want it to be a sprint. I want to get to the finish line quickly, win the race and move on to the next race.

But the adoption journey is simply that—a journey. It is a step by step process with each step as necessary to the process as the last.

One of the first steps has been to find a home study agency in Texas to partner with my placement agency, Bethany Christian Services. Initially, it seemed an impossible task as Bethany requires a specific type of home study that few agencies in the country use. There were lots of dead ends before we finally came across Children’s Connections, Inc. who has one social worker in their state wide network who is trained in this particular type of home study.

The weeks of Google research, emails and phone calls were an exercise in faith for me. Praying to go back to Lubbock, feeling within my spirit that this was the right step, having that step affirmed by many others—but not being able to see a clear path forward. Either the mountain had to be moved or I did.

Coming up against the mountain drove me to dig deep into the Lord—digging deep into the faith reservoir in the depths of my heart. There were days that the mountain seemed impossible to move, and I wondered about making plans to move myself instead—to move to Colorado where Bethany has offices and could do the home study in house. But I kept digging deep.

I’m typically not a practitioner of “Bible roulette”. I think randomly opening the Bible and expecting a specific word from God wherever you land is a dangerous game that sets up all sorts of expectations of what the Spirit may or may not be speaking. But during this waiting period, when asked at a devotional to pull two verses out of a bag, I had a clear Bible roulette moment, drawing Psalm 62:8 and Philippians 4:6-7.

Now, I don’t think that either of those verses promised that everything would work out, that we would find a home study agency in Texas, and that all would go perfectly according to plan. But I do think that I needed a reminder to trust in the Lord and to continue in prayer and petition before Him. I needed the encouragement to keep digging deep.

With Children’s Connections now on board and the beginnings of the paperwork being filled in, I feel assured that this was one step in a series of steps that will require waiting and digging deep. I’m certain that through this journey I am going to learn more about perseverance than I have on any previous journey. And I’m fairly confident that there will be many times that I will grow impatient and forget about waiting on the Lord and digging deep.

Lessons in perseverance are some of those lessons that we have to learn and relearn over a lifetime, and I think we never learn them perfectly. But I’m thankful for a patient Father who when we fail to persevere, catches us in our stumble and reminds us to keep digging deep.

Lubbock in My Rear View Mirror



I have never wanted to live in Lubbock, Texas.

When I was probably 8 or 9 my family considered a relocation to Austin. The company my father worked for at the time was moving its head office to Austin, and Dad was asked to go.

I loved those few days we spent in Austin, exploring the possible move. I remember house hunting and being simply awed by the place. (There was a house that had a bunk-bed with a slide!) I was so excited about moving and felt that we absolutely had to move to this new and exciting place… But unfortunately the rest of my family did not feel this way. So Dad took another job, and we stayed in Lubbock.

Everything else outside of Lubbock always seemed somehow bigger and grander than this quite, slow-paced town. (It should be noted that Lubbock is a city of just over 200,000 people, and thus not quite as small as some may picture it.) As a teenager, I couldn’t wait to “get out.” I dreamed of other places far, far away. And I did apply to colleges far, far away, but instead ended up attending college in Abilene—smaller than Lubbock and only a few miles down the road. But even still, Abilene was not Lubbock and was close to a far bigger place—Dallas-Fort Worth.

Since then, I’ve never looked back. From Portland to Colorado Springs to Mmametlhake to Johannesburg—never once entertaining the idea of moving back to Lubbock on a permanent basis.

And that’s why I can’t explain it.

I visited Lubbock over the Christmas holidays. I was there to spend time with my family, obtain a South African work permit and prepare my family for the new addition. Sitting in the pew with my family one Sunday, I inexplicably found myself praying, longing to move back to Lubbock. Praying to live in this humdrum, West Texas town with little in the way of entertainment, no hiking trails nearby, and restaurant chains and box stores by the dozens. Where the wind blows a gale majority of the year and walls of dirt are known to come flying along with it. Where trees do not grow naturally and the horizon is as flat as a sheet of paper.
That big cloud is actually a dust storm blowing in.

The prayer seemed somehow against my very nature but resonated so perfectly within my spirit. How could I be praying this prayer?

But that prayer took hold. First my work permit fell through, meaning I would not be able to begin fostering when I returned to SA. Then we found out that if I chose to adopt through the South African courts it would take 6-7years before Hannah would be legally recognized as my child by both the South African and US governments. (Through our Oasis Haven connections, an inter-country adoption will hopefully take 6-12months.) On top of these setbacks, I began to see how much I needed my family, Hannah* would need my family and how much my family needed me.

So the decision was made--at the end of march, I would be moving home to Lubbock.

A friend asked me recently how I felt about moving back. My response: I guess it is time for the wanderer to go home. And I suppose there is something romantic about that idea—something full circle and complete.
I must admit that I look forward to throwing dinner parties and to seeking out the “mom and pop” eateries forgotten amid the chains. To reconnecting with friends from school days and forming new friendships with those who have discovered Lubbock’s hidden charms. To bringing Hannah home and showing her glimpses of my childhood as she lives hers.

It’s a circle that’s ends could not be drawn together until there was a me who understood the me I was created to be. A me full of confidence in my Author, and full of hope where I lack confidence in Him.

As I prepare to move back, what I look forward to most is my first West Texas sunset in twelve years. These are the sunsets of dreams. The kind of sunsets where the pinks, oranges and dusky blues seem almost impossible colors. The kind that bring tears to your eyes, as you watch speechless, unable to fully drink in the beauty. The kind of sunsets that make you pull over on the side of the road just to admire them. These are the sunsets that cause you to lift your hands in spontaneous worship of the Creator God.

And I know that on that day, with that sunset, I will know without a doubt that the wanderer is home.

*Hannah is a pseudonym. In order to protect her identity until she is fully and legally mine, I use "Hannah" in all posts regarding my one day daughter and her adoption.

Hannah’s Prayer

Hannah has long been one of my favorite biblical heroines. I am not sure that most people would consider her worthy of that title. She did not save her people from destruction like Esther. She did not lead an army into battle like Deborah. She did not harbor spies, or leave her homeland and all she knew, or cast off her reputation to wash a man’s feet. Hannah is quiet and meek and really the exact opposite of your typical definition of heroine.

But Hannah’s faith and her willingness to give everything up to the Lord, puts her in that class for me.
I have honestly never wanted to be a mother. I like kids. In every job or volunteer position I’ve ever held, I've worked with kids in one way or another. I enjoy my niece and nephew, have always been close with my friend’s children, and would rather be in a setting that has a great family vibe than one with a trendy nightlife.

But that being said, I never really wanted to be a mom myself.

Lots of people over the years have told me that they thought I would make a great mom. I would give them a “Really? Thanks.” and in my heart think, Sure, but that’s not for me. Too much of a wanderer I guess to even consider the possibility. And while marriage has been on the table, kids weren’t. I guess I thought someday that I might change my mind and think about it, but that was in a far distant future that didn’t exist yet.

And then I met my Hannah*.

One of the children I have come to know and love since beginning work at Oasis Haven, Hannah always stood out. There was immediately a different bond between us—something stronger and deeper than the hugs and kisses or the “Auntie Amanda come see”s or the games and playtimes.

I can’t tell you for certain when I knew that Hannah was my daughter. I just know that one day I knew. One day I knew without a shadow of a doubt that this was my child and the cry in my heart was to be her mother. I prayed and prayed and asked God what to do with this knowledge. My boyfriend was still my boyfriend and it would probably be another year before we would marry. Could it wait that long? Would another family come forward to adopt her? Would my boyfriend feel the same way?

I prayed and cried out to God for months. And often would flip over to 1 Samuel reading Hannah’s story over and over again, commiserating with her longing and her anguish. About the time that I was ready to tell my boyfriend—when marriage plans were being formed and I believed that there was a chance—we broke up. I was devastated.

I cried over him, but I also cried over Hannah, believing her lost to me. And I cried for God to bring another mom and dad for her so that she could have the best in life and a place to belong.

Months down the road, when the grief was less tender, I again began to look at Hannah and wonder. I still felt deep in my inmost parts, that this was my daughter. But what could I do. I was single with no future husband, no future father, anywhere in sight. This didn’t make sense. My family and my best support structures were on the other side of the world. Living as a volunteer in South Africa for so long had depleted my savings. I couldn’t afford to be a mom. But that cry of my heart was still there. Still crying out.

I sat in church one Sunday in August. The pastor talked about family. He talked about adopting his own son. He talked about God’s family. And in the midst of it, I heard God’s still small voice saying, “Hannah’s your daughter, so what are you going to do about it? Trust Me and know that I will take care of all the details.”

After the service, I told my friend (Hannah’s house mom). She affirmed me and a few days later when we talked of it again, after I approached our adoptions manager and shared my heart with her, she told me that she had cried for Hannah when my boyfriend and I broke up thinking that she had lost her chance for a family. She told me she believed I was Hannah’s mom and that she knew this was right.

Since then, every person who knows Hannah and knows my intentions has confirmed it and blessed it. After the shock wore off for my parents and after they went away to pray, they were able to come back with certainty that Hannah was their granddaughter and a pledge to support us in whatever way was needed.

The past few months have been about planning and finding the best way to move forward. We’re now in the final stages before I move back to the US to pursue an inter-country adoption with the hope that we will be able to bring Hannah home forever in 6-12months.

I know that there will still be challenges and roadblocks. I know that this will be a step by step processes. I know that God may still have something else in mind for both Hannah and for me. But most importantly, I know that I need to trust God and persevere. I need to walk forward in faith and hope.

1 Samuel 1:19 says that the Lord remembered Hannah. He remembered her prayer and He was faithful to answer it giving her a child. “She named him Samuel, saying, ‘Because I asked the Lord for him’” (v20). I came home and read that passage again on that August Sunday. I wrote the date by these verses, saying to myself, God has remembered me. And I believe that He will continue to do so, remembering both me and my Hannah.


*Hannah is a pseudonym which I will be using moving forward in order to protect my daughter’s identity until she is fully and legally mine.

Year Twenty-Nine

29 was all at once the worst year of my life and the best year of my life.

A week after my birthday, my long-term boyfriend and I parted ways. We’d been together for a year and a half and just a few short weeks prior to my birthday, he had shared his plans to propose soon and we had talked seriously of a spring wedding in South Africa—flying my family across the world for a traditional Tswana wedding, having a reception in the US for friends and family sometime around Christmas, merging cultures and traditions to create something entirely our own.

And then it was over.

I cried for a week straight and for several weeks after would break down into uncontrollable sobs. There were times that I was sure that I was unable to stop crying and that the grief would be unending. It had been a long time since I had given my heart to anyone and never so completely.

I phoned the counselor who had helped me through the transition from rural Peace Corps life to modern Johannesburg. I leaned heavily on the few close friends I had made. And I waited anxiously for phone calls and emails from home.

Slowly I began to regain bits of myself. Little things that I didn’t know that I had lost. I realized that despite the many good things in our relationship, slowly overtime, I had lost site of myself. Little bits chipped away until I woke up one morning and didn’t know the me who I had become and couldn’t find the me who I was.

compost
Realizing this was when I knew it had to be over. It needed to be over. I needed to find the me that I was and even more the me that God has created me to be.

During this time, I read Bittersweet by Shauna Niequest. In it Niequest talks about “composting for the soul.” I love this idea and I’ve shared the quote here before. Some things in life have to die, to be mulched and turned, and to be subjected to nature’s processes, so that new things can grow—stronger, healthier things.

Through this dying off, through the natural processes of grief, I can come out of 29 and head into 30 knowing that it was a good year. A year in which I have finally grown comfortable with the me that I am and the me that God has created me to be. Although it was the most painful experience of my life, I needed the composting. I needed that pain and those tears. I needed to explore deep inside myself and find the strength and the hope that I didn’t know was there.

Composting seasons are not fun, but they are necessary. If you are in a composting season right now, all I can say to you is to lean not on your own understanding (Prov 3:5), but let the peace of God which transcends all understanding, guard your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus (Phil 4:7). Join in the composting process and know that out of it, something better will grow.
The book world is an interesting business. Not a week goes by that I don't come across two or three books to add to my reading list. On the flip side, not a week goes by that I don't come across books that I simply have to wonder what was the point in killing trees to print them.

Today was another find to add to the second list: The 100 Minute Bible abridged by Michael Hinton and illustrated (yes, illustrated, and no, not a kid's book) by Helen Jenkins.

The question I ask: when did God's Word become a matter of ease and convenience? When did the Word become such an ineffectual teacher that it needs to be "cliff-noted"? (I checked, by the way. There is a Cliff Notes version of the Old Testament and the New Testament. I'm proud to say that Barnes & Noble's version of Cliff Notes, Sparknotes, does not publish Bible Sparknotes.)

What do you guys think? Has the Bible lost its potency in today's society?

My first seminary class is tomorrow. Yes, that's right, ladies and gentlemen, Amanda Peterson is officially a seminary student. My first class is Dynamics in the Spiritual Journey.

Course synopsis: "The foundation of this course is the Christian spiritual journey with exploration of several biblical and extra-biblical models of spiritual development. Soul care involves the ability to discern where directees, in their God-created uniqueness, are on the journey, how hostile spiritual forces oppose progress, and how advance is achieved through the Holy Spirit and the ministry of soul care givers."

In lay man's terms, it's a class on learning to care for my spirit and learning to care for the spirits of others. The class is part of a certificate in Christian Formation and Soul Care which I am thinking about pursuing along with my degree.

My second course this term will be a distance learning course which has not been nailed down yet, though, I'm leaning to a systematic theology course titled Reconciliation and the Healing of Persons. It takes an in depth look at Jesus' healing ministry and its applications for healing of the physical and the spiritual.

I'm very excited to get started and will likely be abuzz with all the fascinating things I am learning. Pray for me as I begin the journey.
Well, this is the second time that I've seen this image appear on a friend's blog in the last 24 hours, and both times I felt my heart drop into my stomach.

I want to pass along this image not to condemn those who spent the hundreds of thousands to build it, but to simply ask why...to simply wonder when Jesus lost the power to speak for Himself, and to ask why a lady who's voice has grown almost silent after a century of crying out for the "poor and huddled masses" can cry that better than the Lord Jesus.

The image below is the newest addition to a Memphis church:


"Ogre's are like onions," Shrek told Donkey. Well, people are like onions, too.

In fact, I think we are much more complex than a simple onion. There are parts of us--hurt parts of our souls from childhood trauma, horrific events, painful memories, etc.--that are like onions, as well. We carefully wrap those hurt parts in layer after layer of anger or sadness or antipathy to the point that healing the hurt is almost impossible.

Humans are like mutated onions.

In the last week, I have been peeling off the last few layers of protection around a core hurt that has needed healing for sometime. It has been a most painful process. But tonight the inside lay exposed before both myself and God.

There was a moment of decision. Do I accept the hurt, feel the hurt, confess the hurt, and allow God to heal it? Or do I wrap it back up in a new layer?

I seriously thought about the latter. For whatever reason, it felt safer. After all, we are dealing with a cosmic God here. He can be rather intimidating, and the truth is that the healing process can be rather painful--as a dear friend who recently had foot surgery can attest.

But I went with the former choice instead. While I can honestly say I'm not exactly joyous right now, I am hopeful and expectant of the healing to come. And more than this, I believe that a cosmic God is the only safe place to turn. I have proof in the love that He showed His son Jesus and in that love that was then turned upon us through grace.
After a small absence, I'm back in the blogging world. Life has been a wee bit busy between work, making some new friends, and a visit from my mom, sister and nephew.

I was just messing around on my My Space, updating a few things, moving a few things around, etc. For the first time in a while, I read my "headline": "Wishing for Egypt or looking for milk and honey?" I put that headline up soon after I moved to Colorado. I was longing for where I had been, but knew that this was the place God wanted me. (He has proved that over and over again.) I felt very much like the Israelites whining to Moses to let them go back to the blistering heat and back-breaking work that was better than trying to conquer the land of milk and honey. (Not comparing Portland to Egypt and slavery here, by the way.)

Since that time, I have seen God prove over and over that He has great blessings for me here and great things to teach me here. I saw it in an awesome conversation I had with a coworker over dinner the other night. I saw it in reconnecting with a friend on My Space. I see it in the people He puts in my path on a daily basis. I see it in the thrill and excitement of getting started in seminary this Fall. I see it in the changes I see being made in me. Old habits being broken and new ones being formed. I see it when I'm in those lonely places missing close friends and family so badly. I see it when I'm forced to lean heavily upon God in those moments.

I've been in Colorado for about two months, and I'm not oblivious to the fact that a great journey has already begun. I can only pray that I will be willing to follow the journeys path.

"When I Get Where I'm Going" by Brad Paisley and featuring Dolly Parton, is a song that has been very important to me in the past months. It's a good reminder for me of where I'm headed and that makes all this very worth it. Take a listen here on my My Space if you are unfamiliar with the song.
You know those ah-ha moments when you catch on to something that you missed before and sometimes you feel slightly dumb for not catching it before? I just had one of those moments.

During my devotional tonight I brought out an old devo song from youth group days--"All in All." It's a standard that no doubt many of you know. If you haven't heard it before, I'll jot down the lyrics at the end of this post so that you can enjoy this "oldie but goody" that can be kind of cheesy if you look too closely at the forced rhyme scheme.

My ah-ha moment:

For the first time, I finally understood what the title phrase means--All in All. "You [the Lord] are my all in all." For whatever reason, I have never thought about this phrase before. I usually focus on the verses and leave out this phrase. But tonight it struck me what amazing meaning this phrase has, what powerful and awesome meaning.

For a quick reference on the definition of the word all (because honestly how many of us have ever looked up the definition of "all"), click here. Notice that every one (all) of the ten definitions denote an entirety. (Also on a side note, check out definition number 7. Dictionary.com almost went country with that one, just pull out a few letters and add an apostrophe.)

So what that phrase is getting at is that God is our everything, our entirety, in every situation, in every thing. That is a big statement. That means that there is not one situation in our lives in which God is not everything for us.

Wow! Knock me for a loop! I really needed to be reminded of that because, you see, I'm an incredibly selfish being. I'm always wanting what I cannot have and am a malcontent in most circumstances that do not involve life going "my way". I'm wanting more when I have all. And as a reminder to my self, that "more" can be anything from human relationship to the latest tech gizmo; it's time to remember that the "mores" in life can be just about anything.

Kudos given to those of you who were struck by the meaning of this phrase long ago. For me a pair of fresh eyes, or maybe ears, has reminded me of a God who truly is my All.

All in All

Verse 1:
You are my strength when I am weak.
You are the treasure that I seek.
You are my all in all.
Seeking You as a precious jewel,
Lord, to give up I'd be a fool.
You are my all in all.

Chorus:
Jesus, Lamb of God, You are my all in all.
Jesus, Lamb of God, You are my all in all.

Verse 2:
Taking my sin, my cross, my pain,
Rising again, I bless Your name.
You are my all in all.
When I fall down You pick me up.
When I am weak You fill my cup.
You are my all in all.
The things I miss most about Portland:

10. The rain. Yes, I miss the rain. It rained today in the Springs like it does in Portland, and I found myself very reminiscent of cool rainy days in Portland.

9. I miss my apartment. I like my new apartment, but I miss the great neighbors that went with the old apartment. I miss my great landlord. And I miss being in such a central location to everything important in my life.

8. I miss green things. More specifically green, flowery plant life. Everything is brown here.

7. I miss the smell of Portland. Portland has a distinct smell that I can't describe to you--maybe something to do with all of the rain and the vegetation. Colorado Springs has no smell good or bad.

6. I miss hearing the goings-on of NE Portland outside my window. Not so much the fighting or the police sirens, but people greeting each other and the jazz music that my neighbor Midget would always play that wafted in my back windows.

5. I miss my life group at Shirley's. I miss her good cooking and the great conversation to follow. I miss all of Shirley's encouragement that she so freely offered me and so many others. I miss seeing her passion for the Lord.

4. I miss Sunday morning worship at PUMP. I miss the hand-clapping and the stomping. I miss Steve sweating bullets as he worshiped his heart out. I miss the smiles and the sound of so many voices in such a small space.

3. I miss the kindergarten class and the youth class that I spent so much time with, teaching them and learning from them.

2. I miss good conversation that stimulated me and caused me to grow and look at my own life and my own walk in different ways.

1. I miss the people. I miss so many smiles. I miss so many hugs. I miss so much love.

So Portland, in case you don't think I miss you. Believe me I do, and maybe I just share all these things that I miss right now because I'm a wee bit homesick. But I do miss you, and I do love you Portland. Lord, bless that city and bless all that I love there.
I keep a small whiteboard in my apartment where I write down statements that inspire me. Sometimes they are my own thoughts. Sometimes profound thoughts of others. Wherever they come from, they are statements that I need to read frequently.

Tonight's new thought to be added to the board: "Keep it simple, Stupid." A phrase we've all heard no doubt, but under it I added three other phrases: Love God. Love People. Love Self.

So why does this thought make the board? Because I daily make life far more complicated than it was meant to be. I truly believe that God meant for life to be simple. When He first created man, He created a thing of perfect beauty that served the purpose of bringing glory to God. That simple.

But sin entered the world and made life complicated as we constantly stress over what is good and what is evil, what is worth worrying about, what isn't, and whether or not worrying is worth it.

Thus why I need the reminder. Because the thoughts of everyday life constantly force life to be complicated. I need a reminder to keep it simple. And it's as simple as this: Love.

And don't try to make it complicated by saying that love isn't simple. Love is God's essence. We are created in the image of God. Therefore, love is part of our essence.

Love. It's that simple.

I really wanted to write a "vent post" tonight, but I just can't. And if I vent anything, let me vent that it ticks me off that this will be the end of my venting due to one of those convicting moments.

Today I spent my lunch break on hold with the Oregon Department of Revenue after receiving a notification in the mail of a penalty on my 2005 tax return. Alex, the incredibly nice government lackey who had the joy of helping me today, discovered that the check that I sent in to pay my 2005 tax was applied to a bill from 2000. Interesting that I had a bill from 2000 considering I didn't even move to Oregon until 2004. I have since written a letter, to be mailed tomorrow, asking for a correction of this problem.

This I wanted to write out in sordid detail in order to somehow make me feel better about the government screw-up and my wasted lunch, but then I read a friend's recent post, then another friend's post. And then I remembered what Jesus said on the matter of government and taxes: give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's (Matthew 22:21).

I have to say that we are blessed to live in the country that we do. I don't think any of us who have seen the horrors of third world life whether directly or indirectly could deny that we are blessed. But I'm not one to stand up in American pride. I'm much more likely to be complaining about the state of the country and it's egotism. But this I am rethinking us well.

Jesus had very little to say about Rome. I believe his silence on the subject was because Jesus lived for a nation and a Kingdom that was not of this earth. Rome was not important to him. What was important was being merciful and loving people. What was important was his message that the Kingdom of God is very, very near.

So maybe if Rome wasn't important to Jesus, the US doesn't need to be so important to us. I'm not saying don't vote or pay your taxes, though the latter was looking rather appealing earlier today. I'm not saying don't enjoy the freedoms you have as an American. I'm just saying maybe it's not important enough to really worry about. What is more important is being merciful and loving people and loving God.
Two stories on Dateline NBC tonight grabbed me. Each a story of heroes. Incredibly different, but heroes none the less.

The first you have probably all heard. It is the story of Lincoln Hall, the Everest climber who miraculous lived after his climbing party had left him for dead. The hero Dan Mazur: the man who, along with two other climbers, gave up his opportunity to summit in order to save the dilusional climber. They lacked two hours reaching the summit. They gave up an ultimate opportunity to save him, even after watching other climbers pass them by to reach the goal.

The second, the story of an American couple, the Salems, who adopted twins from Russia, a baby boy and girl. Two years later, they discovered that their twins had four older siblings, a set of twin girls and a set of twin boys. The older siblings were separated from each other and living in orphanages across Russia. Without a second thought, the Salems did all they could to bring the children together in one home. They pulled off the impossible, despite extreme financial strain and an uncooperative Russian government. All six children are healthy and happy. The Salems, heroes to six Russian children who faced unbeatable odds.

I'm glad to know that there are heroes such as these in the world.

Along with a major move come a few standard questions that people feel entitled to ask to get the ball rolling in conversation:
Where did you move from? Why are you moving here? How do you like it so far?

Then come the more situational specific questions, for instance, when I run into a Christian or when I'm visiting a church:
What's your church history? or What was your last church like?
And then my favorite question: What are you looking for in a church?

This question makes me feel as though I have just stepped into conversation with a real estate agent: Well, you see I'm buying my first home, so I'd like something affordable. A place in a good neighborhood with lots of families, good schools close by. I'd like a big backyard, someplace I can really relax. It has to be at least three bedrooms and two baths. Oh, and I'd really like a white picket fence out front.

Or maybe that I'm standing in the buffet line: Yes, the fried chicken, no I don't want that. Could I have some of that please. Mash potatoes, yes. No, not white, brown gravy. Of course I'd like pie, let's see, I believe peach this time around.

When did the body coming together in worship become a smorgasbord of choice and pleasure? What I'm looking for in a church is as simple as this: a body that loves God and loves people. I don't think it needs to be any more complicated than that.

The buffet line. I can't help but wondering what out of this glorious buffet Jesus would choose. Would He seek out the best worship style, the most dynamic preacher, the friendliest greeters? The most comfortable pews? The most weekly activities? No, I don't think so. I don't think those things are really all that important to Him. We still lack the understanding of what "I desire mercy, not sacrifice" really means. Could it be that all of the choices out there are simply a distraction from what really matters: Jesus?
I've been without internet for almost a week now. Checked in at "hot spots" here and there to make sure I wasn't missing any incredibly important emails, but I've mostly been without.

Today, the cable guy finally came and I now have broadband and wireless in my apartment. I'm a very happy person. I missed email and the internet.

I find Barnes and Noble to be a highly amusing place to work. There is a great mixture of employees and a great mixture of customers. Something I really enjoy. It keeps you on your toes and keeps the day interesting.

Today I got treated to lunch by an author who we are helping to get into the B&N system and doing a signing with next month. Olive Garden, yumm, yumm, and he insisted on buying us dessert. A rare occurrence, but a great one to take part of.

Thus far, I really enjoying working customer service. I enjoy talking to customers, helping them find the book that they are searching for, and seeing what interesting titles they come up with. It's amazing the books that are out there!

I'm almost completely unpacked. I'll put up pictures soon. If you emailed me in the past week, I'll be getting back to you soon. I've got lots of emails to catch up on, so I'll get to you as soon as possible!

I am officially a resident of "Colorful Colorado" (the unofficial state slogan which will be displayed on the new state quarter). What does being a resident mean for me? Well, for starters, it means that I have a job and a home. I am no longer in the ranks of the homeless and unemployed.

Yesterday, Barnes and Noble at the Citadel (an area mall) offered me the community relations manager position. Woohoo! Thanks for all the prayers in this area. I move into my new apartment this weekend and start work on Monday morning with a 7am managers meeting. Lovely welcome!

Top 3 things I like about my new job:
  1. Being able to pay for grad school out of pocket
  2. Using my employee discount to buy books
  3. Full benefits package

Top 3 things I like about my new apartment:
  1. Washer and dryer hook-ups (no more lugging my laundry around)
  2. 5 minutes to work and 10 minutes to school
  3. Cozy wood-burning fireplace that will be great for the winters here (maybe I won't freeze after all!)
I don't have a lot to do right now. I'm in Colorado Springs, without a job, without an apartment, and without friends. I do know people--three to be precise: my possible future boss, my possible future apartment manager, and a friend of a friend who I met this morning at the church service I attended.

Not complaining here. Just stating the facts.

All of this time on my hands leaves time to explore my new city, read a lot, and watch a lot of movies.

So I decided to go see the movie and see what all of the fuss is about. I'm referring to The Davinci Code, of course. I've read the book and enjoyed the thrill of the chase. Dan Brown's tale is hard to put down as it spins you forward through the story, though as a writer I personally think he leaves a bit to be desired. Beyond cleverly intertwined and fanciful theories, Brown's writing is fit for the dime-book shelf in my opinion. But as I wasn't looking for something to stimulate my intellect at the time, I found it an entertaining read.

I can't say that I felt the same about the movie. Meticulously boring. Possibly the worst performance I have ever seen from Tom Hanks (granted he didn't have much of a script to work with). I felt no connection with any of the characters. I could have cared less if they fell in love, died, or found the buried treasure at the end. I just prayed for it to be over and would have walked out if I was not in the middle of the row in a very crowded theater.

I am not a movie or book critic by profession, so please note that these are just my opinions. However, I must say that I am quite amused at all of the hullabaloo over such a horrifically bad movie. Before the movie came out, my stomach churned with disgust any time I heard it mentioned. In my opinion it is something incredibly trivial for so much of the world to be focused on.

What breaks my heart and almost seems laughable to me now is that the Church will spend so much effort on proclaiming the heresy of a movie that even the professional critics dislike, but spends so little effort on teaching people to be Jesus--to move like Him, walk like Him, talk like Him. How many pulpit sermons were wasted on defaming The Davinci Code that could have been spent teaching people to be merciful, to be good neighbors, to be servants.

I can't help but think that Jesus would not have been amongst the raving minions. I don't think He cares one way or another what becomes of The Davinci Code. But I do think He cares about the millions who will see the movie, the millions dying worldwide because of poverty, and the millions worldwide who have yet to know the things that Jesus truly cares about--loving God and loving people.

So my non-professional final criticism of the movie is this: who cares.
Thanks to all those who prayed over my interview yesterday. I think it went well. We'll see. I should hear a definitive yes or no either Monday or Tuesday. And I may possibly have one more interview with another of the regional managers.

In the meantime, I'm hanging out in the Springs. I've found a nice apartment that I plan on signing the lease if and when I get the B&N job.

So until I have more to say, enjoy this picture I took last night of the rain clouds over the Rockies.