Sunday, March 27, 2011

Be Yourself

If your circle of friends is at all like mine, you have probably noticed that a lot of people are getting married these days. So, as my roommate (and maid-of-honor) brainstormed about what kind of website to create for a competition, we landed pretty quickly on the idea of selling bridal products online. Though we loved this idea, we found that the competition is vast and fierce for this industry. Our solution came when we found a whole seller through whom we could sell personalized gifts and decor. No bride is going to be able to walk into any department store and find flip flops personalized with her bridesmaid's names or an aisle runner with her special date written on it. Our products are unique and allow each bride to be herself--hence the birth of our name: We've found our niche and absolutely love the products we're selling.
It's certainly been a fun learning process creating this website and I would love for you to check it out!
Check out our great selection of personalized gifts and decor! And let me know what you think!

Monday, November 29, 2010

A Clearer Focus offers its readers breaking news on a variety of topics from Local News to Sports and Entertainment. Headlines today in the Business section? How to avoid losing money during Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Entertainment? “Winter’s Bone” receives the top prize in Gotham Film Awards. In the Living section, readers can post pictures and compete for who has reached the most impressive travel destination in 2010. And this is only a taste. Our culture has focused in on one objective: being the best. Having the most money. Winning the most prestigious awards. Even being recognized as the most well-traveled LA Times reader.

Even the virtues we teach our kids is saturated with this message: You can do anything you set your mind to; Nothing is impossible; Reach for the stars; You are a winner, never forget that. These messages may seem harmless and even necessary to building a self-confident young American. I believe they are necessary for that goal. But is that—a self-confident American—really what I want to be?

I’m wrapping up my semester of focusing on 1 Peter and have to recite it for my final project in just a few days. The temptation is to memorize it well, get every word perfect, so that I can say that I did it. I memorized an entire book of the Bible. What a great achievement!—Or, is it? The very words I’m memorizing challenge this inclination. In Peter's final words, the last several sentences that I’m still struggling to get down, Peter gives specific instructions to the elders, then to the younger Christians and, finally, to all the believers. “Clothe yourselves, all of you,” Peter exhorts, “with humility towards one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble’” (1 Peter 5:5). With this understanding of God’s stance towards the proud versus the humble, Peter continues with another imperative: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that at the proper time he may exalt you” (1 Peter 5:6). That he may exalt me. Those are attractive, easy words for an American like myself. But I can’t forget (I literally cannot forget) the beginning of that verse. Humble myself? Try to find that on your newspaper’s website: Staying Humble while you Await Future Exaltation. But that’s exactly the point: God’s ways are not the world’s ways. This difference is a theme in 1 Peter and it is emphasized countless times throughout the Bible.

As I finish off the semester and prepare for my final few months as a student, this verse needs to stick with me. I'm living in the world and I am constantly under pressure to present myself as: the top student who has earned the “A”, the most hardworking student employee who deserves a raise, the most qualified individual for that high-paying dream job. How am I supposed to “humble myself” as I construct my last essays, work my last hours, and carefully craft my resume and cover letters that are all supposed to reflect a high and exalted “me”? 

It has to be a constant, daily surrender. It has to be a heart-realization of my identity. Not as perfect student, best worker, or most employable college graduate, but as part of “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own possession.” My purpose, then? Not to be the best and reach the top, but to “proclaim the excellencies of him who called [me] out of darkness and into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). 

God has me in this stage of life where, yes, I do have to try to present myself well and reach some high goals. But that doesn’t change my identity and consequential purpose; rather, it gives me all the more opportunity to move into that purpose. Through school, through work, and definitely through my future career, God can (and will) use me to proclaim his excellencies—to make Him known to a world that is out of focus.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Out of the Swamp

I've been thinking a lot lately about—my hair. I really need to get it cut. And maybe I should start curling certain those annoying parts that don’t curl naturally. I want to look professional for my job. And around campus because I am constantly passing potential employers, so nice hair is important. And so are nice clothes. And necklaces. I have some of those, but I wear them a lot. Maybe I should get some new ones, or is that a waste of money? Clothes are much more important. And I’m sure Blake would like to see me in some nice new clothes. He’d probably also like it if my hair looked better…

Welcome to my brain. I could go on, but I'll spare you.

Sadly, unless I am actively reigning in my thoughts, this is the materialistic, trivial swamp I often let myself fall into. God has convicted me about my over focus on my external appearance many times, but it wasn’t until my study through 1 Peter that the specifics of my problem really made sense to me.
In his letter to the dispersed church, Paul exhorts women specifically. He writes:

 “Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the wearing of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” 
1 Peter 3:3

At least I can be affirmed of one thing from this: as a woman, I’m not alone in my preoccupation with how I look. It appears that, for centuries, women have been spending so much time adorning their outer shell, that the actual person is often neglected. We have to be told to remember we are more than our shells.

I recently heard a saying: “Your inner beauty never needs makeup.” While this is very true, I think it gives off the impression that inner beauty is easier to maintain than our appearances. What a lie that is! It would be much less painful for me to spend a weekend shopping and getting a haircut than it would be to cultivate a “gentle and quiet spirit” from my stubborn and defensive one. Thankfully, God has grace and He will help me. 

As I think about preparing for my upcoming marriage, I couldn’t be more thankful for this passage. Peter continues his message to women when he encourages them to imitate the “holy women who hoped in God” in the Old Testament. He gives the example of Sarah through whom we receive the simple, yet extraordinarily difficult, exhortation to submit to our husbands. Submission is an extremely beautiful thing in God’s eyes that takes no small amount of “adorning” to achieve. Yet, the slew of wedding magazines, websites, and even input from friends is screaming the message that the wedding, the onset of my marriage, has to be beautiful—on the outside. Let’s perfect my dress, my hair, my make-up; the flowers, the linens, the lighting. While I the want the appearance of my wedding to reflect the underlying beauty of this covenant relationship, appearance should not be the focus. Yet, unless I can reign in those thoughts [how long do I want my hair to be for the wedding? I don't have a necklace nice enough for the big day...] outer appearance will become my focus. 

And so I pray for grace and for help from the Holy Spirit to climb out of the swamp of pointless thoughts and adorn myself with a quiet and gentle spirit.


Monday, October 18, 2010

Come (what) May

I am finally a good way into my senior year and there are 2 predominant questions asked of me at every family gathering, every social event, every church fellowship: 

1. “What’s your major, again?” 
2. “Oh, ok…So, what’s next?” 

Well-meaning questions, I’m sure, and even questions that I have naively heaped upon seniors who endured this path before me. While the inquirers mean well, however, their questions translate to me as: 

1.“Who are you, again?” 
2.“Oh, ok… so how will you make yourself useful to the rest of us?”   

Have I have spent nearly 4 years at this place called  “university” only to become a proud owner of an English degree? No, I'm also expected to do something about it. A degree is a badge of identity that implies that consequential action is going to sprout out of it.  
Come May 2011, I will be a college graduate. So, what will I do about it? This question plagues me—until I remember that, though that will be part of my identity after I leave college, it will never be the central component of who I am. I am God’s daughter and my actions should always sprout from that identity first and foremost.

I’ve been spending a lot of time in 1 Peter this semester and have been consistently encouraged by this point. Peter is writing to Christians who are being killed for speaking up about God’s transforming power. Peter reminds them of their identity in Christ and encourages them to continue in their proclamations:  

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a people for his own possession that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness and into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).

Peter understands that, while it is important for Christians to understand their identity, you can’t just stop there. God did not transform us so that we can just sit around and admire our makeovers. He changed us so that we might proclaim His good works—tell the world about the One who “called us out of darkness and into his marvelous light”! It’s a seal of identity that should naturally sprout proclamations that make Him known.

Come May 2011, I will be a college graduate. But, more than that, I will still be a part of God’s beloved people. I may not know what day-to-day work will sprout out of my English degree, but I do know that proclamations of my God’s excellencies will continue to flow from my identity in Him.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Marvels of Maui

My last post laid out the beauty of a city that reflects the creativity and influence that God has given to mankind. Vacation #2: the "magical" island of Maui. As we decended on the Hawaii, the sun was beginning to set and our captain took the scenic route around a few of the islands before landing. We had the privelage of getting an areil view of the bright green islands scattered delicately upon the the glassy blue Pacific. A soft bank of clouds hugged the shoreline soaked in soft pastels from the setting sun.

That was just the start, slide one, of the masterpieces that God had in store for us. The next morning, thanks to the time change, we all woke up before the sun and we watched the island come to life as the sun awoke to warm the beaches.

Maui sunrise

We spent a lot of time snorkling--exploring the world that God has created that man hardly ever gets to see. The thing that stuck out most to me? Color! The Hawaiin ocean is filled with fish and coral of so many different colors. The most memorable snorkling event, I must say, was swimming in a cove with four huge sea turtles. We got so close that Blake actually got to touch one! Seeing this environment that is so different from our own reminded me of how big and creative God is. And how little I understand of how big and creative he really is.

My favorite part of the trip was probably at the end of the Road to Hana. Rather than looking at the Seven Sacred Pools, like most of the other tourists were doing, we decided to take the hike up to Waimoku Falls. The hike took us to gorgeous views of lush valleys and streams and through the depths of a bamboo forest. The bamboo was my favorite part of the hike. The stalks were so high that we were shaded from the harsh sun and were tempted to think night was approaching. When the island breeze rushed by, the bamboo clanked together to compose a soft, almost ominous serenade.
We emerged from the forest and found ourselves at the bottom of a 400 ft waterfall. It's size was enough to take your breath away. And yet, the cascade appeared soft and peaceful.
Waimoku Falls

This trip was a wonderful reminder of the kindness of our Creator. He creates animals, waterfalls, flowers--moments--that delight both himself and his children. My best friend just travelled throughout all of Europe on a 10 week study abroad trip this summer. She told me about a conversation she had with a friend she made there. They were in London, a place they had both visited before, and she recognized that she was much less enthusiastic about the sites the second time around. She contrasted that experience to visiting places like Yosemite. She recognized that places of natural beauty never get old; there will always be new flowers blooming, new animals to discover, and a waterfall will always be a reminder of God's beauty and power.
I'll let the rest of the pictures speak for themselves.

Hike to snorkel destination
Fallen flowers
Blow hole
Last night- dinner in Lahaina.
Cant wait for our Honeymoon to Hawaii in June!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Beaufiul Bricks and Beaches

My summer consisted of two very different vacations: one to the heart of Boston, rich in history and architecture, and the other to the natural paradise of Maui.

Boston was amazing. I had never been to a large city before and the sky scrapers, old brick buildings, and sparkling night skyline were breathtaking. I think one of the neatest parts about this city in particular is the beautiful intertwining of the old and the new. the historical and the modern. life then--when the country was fighting for its beginning--and life now. Now, when a day care worker changes a diaper in a window overlooking the tombstones of Franklin, Revere, and the victims of the Boston Massacre. A lot happens in a couple of decades and I couldn't help but wonder if the members of the Continental Congress would have ever imagined that, 200 years later, Boston's city hall would be littered (I mean--decorated) with signs rooting on the city's Irish-themed basketball team.

In short, Boston offered a lot of food for thought about humankind: our progress, our digressions and distractions, our past, and our future. I rejoiced over the creativity that God has given man. That we can reflect his heart for creating in something as simple as a delicious Boston creme pie to something as innovative and beautiful as Old Ironside. God's design for this world is so much bigger than my four-year plans. Getting even a small glimpse of history, seeing it in front of me, was a great reminder of that.

Reflections on the natural beauty of Maui to come...

Thursday, July 1, 2010

A Very Necessary Prayer

"May God truly convert all that have been convicted, and awaken all that are dead in tresspasse and sins! May he confirm all that are wavering! And may you all go on from one degree of grace unto another, till you arrive unto themeasure of stature of the fullness of Christ."

George Whitefield

Beauty in a Barn and a Blanket of Snow

Beauty in a Barn and a Blanket of Snow