Thursday, November 8, 2012

Too New to be Old, Too Old to be New

In a recent issue of Entertainment Weekly, a little blurb at the top of a page read:

In: Lucy Punch

5 minutes ago: Lucy Liu

Out: Lucy Lawless

That pretty much sums up the speed at which popular culture operates. Something that is “new” and “now” is only lauded for a short time before it is cast into a black vacuum where it floats aimlessly, either forgotten or remembered with the distaste of being “so last year” or “so last month” or “so 5 minutes ago.” If you don’t wear it now, hear it now, have it now, decorate with it now, say it now or be it now, it’s really too late and too bad for you.

On the flip side, once a trend or a style or a song or a saying or a star or whatever does its time in that inky black space of nothingness, it has an opportunity to resurrect itself in the form of “classic” or “vintage” or “retro” or “antique” or “comeback.” What was forgotten can be remembered with sentiment or regarded with nostalgia or reconstructed and reinvented as “new.”  What once was awesome can be awesome again.

I have some questions about all of this.

What happens in that gap? In the “in between”?

My theory: I imagine all of these trends and songs and styles and people floating around, happy to get a break: songs happy to rest in silence instead of being ruthlessly overplayed on the radio. Celebrities with too much time in front of cameras and in tabloids grateful to rest where no one can see them. Toys and designs and decorations resting under a warm, insulating layer of dust. Fashion trends hung in a closet without gravity, fabric floating as though underwater, free from harsh wash cycles and spilled coffee and the dreaded iron. Free from being handled, used, and worn thin. Left alone to regroup. Our culture is happy to have a break from them and they are happy to have a break from us.

How long does something have to do penance for before it gets a second chance?

Do some of these things floating around in that vacuum of “not new enough, not old enough” wish to come back to life, or are they happy to remain in that blackness forever? Are slap bracelets begging for a comeback or have they given up hope? Will “Pumped Up Kicks” or “Somebody That I Used to Know” eventually be revered as retro classics? Does it have to do with how long it was popular for? Things that were overdone to death take longer to be reconsidered as the newest rebirth than trends that flashed by at the speed of light?

I Googled the definitions of vintage, classic and antique, and found that there are debates about how old something has to be to be considered vintage, classic or antique. Some say 7 years, some say 15 for vintage; some say 20 or 25 years for classic, and some say 50, 75 or 100 years for antique.  So it looks like there isn’t a cut-and-dry formula for how long something has to exist in the vacuum before it’s permitted to come back.

Who decides what the “next big thing” is? Who decides what resurrects and what dies forever?

Do stylists and designers decide all this? Pop culture experts? Does society as a whole shift into new ways of thinking and doing and being that determine new trends and allow us to welcome only certain old styles and ways of doing things back, but not others? Is it based on history?

I remember years ago going bowling and considering bowling shoes. I thought, “People only wear bowling shoes when they go bowling. But what if some people started wearing them as regular shoes? Would others pick up on it? Would it become the next trend? Is it that random and simple?” (I never really went anywhere with it, but you get the picture.)

Do you and I as individuals have the ability to influence culture?

I hope so.

However, it all seems more random than determined, doesn’t it? I mean, certain things come back while others don’t, things can be hailed as vintage or antique at different ages, depending on who you ask, and who even knows the mish-mash of influences that contribute to what is “in” right “now.” Who even knows if there is there any rhyme or reason to what is trendy and hot right now—maybe it’s largely arbitrary. Even more so, if celebrities and stylists and designers are the trendsetters, what about you and me? Do we even have a chance?

I think so.

Even though you could argue that nothing is really “new” anymore, and that every new trend is just a reconstruction or reinvention of something old, I still think we ought to contribute to those reinventions by applying our own creativity and personalities and abilities in our day and age. I think it's part of our responsibility to do so, in whatever way we can, be they reinventions or completely new creations, if that's possible. We don't have to just ride the wave of what others tells us is "new" and "now," desperately trying to keep our heads above water in an attempt to keep up with trends. We don't have to wait for an "acceptable" amount of time to bring something back that we love (well, unless you are talking about permed bangs). In being true to who we are and what we love, we can participate in this mish-mash of new and old, we can make it remarkable, so that it shouldn't even matter what is old and what is new.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Screens, Beeps and Auto-Correct

In the last, oh, I don’t know, maybe 10-20 years, there have been huge advancements in information technology...obviously. We have smart phones and tablets and Google and Wikipedia and texting and Bluetooth and wireless everything and Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest and Netflix and i-this and i-that and i-am-missing-a-bunch,-i-know. We have screens and chargers and beeps and bleeps and buttons and touch screens and i-nformation and i-nstant communication.

OK—it’s really amazing. I really, honestly, often take a second or two to let it sink in that I really just emailed back-and-forth with someone across the world, that I have a friend on Facebook with the same last name as me in Holland who is not family and I’ve never met but we wish each other a “Happy Birthday” on our birthdays, that if I am watching a movie and recognize an actor but want to know what other movies he’s been in, I can IMDB that person and find out, that if I am listening to a song I love but don’t know who the artist is, I can “shazam” that song and find out, that if I am getting ideas for decorating a room, I can Google search something and find out things...phew—this sentence is tired, so it will end now! 

Yes, life today is full of conveniences, and the technologies that have become so commonplace allow for information and communication to be transferred and exchanged quickly, and allow for crisp images in movies and tons of things to experience online, and answers to millions of questions to appear at your fingertips.

The life of this picture of Emmett rockin' out: It was taken by Joel's phone, emailed to me, and then saved to my computer and posted to my blog, which now makes it accesible to anyone with an Internet connection. Obviously...but since I was born in the '80s, this is still really cool.
That, of course, is only one side of the two-sided coin (a coin that lights up and knows your name and has an automated flipping feature).

What’s on the other side?

Well, I have to confess that sometimes I feel a little bit of pressure to keep up with technology. I have had the same cell phone for almost two years, and it’s not a smart phone. Sometimes I ask myself, “Should I have a smart phone?” I can’t even transfer pictures I take from my phone to my computer! I only have room for 50 pictures on my phone! My message inbox and outbox get full so fast that I have to delete all my text messages every month or so! How prehistoric is that!

I don’t have an e-reader, and I’m thinking, is it time that I switched to one instead of reading regular books? Or do I love regular books enough to just keep burying my nose in them and turning those analogous paper pages?

Sometimes I wonder where the line is between holding on to “old technology” because it “works just fine and I like it and there’s nothing wrong with it” and keeping up with technology so you don’t ever become that person who would be lost trying to operate the latest computer, phone or tablet. 

Sometimes I also wonder at how dependent we have become on the type of information and communications “everyday” technology that is standard for most people. This year, Joel and I upgraded our TV and found ourselves dealing with (for the first time, yes, I know, we were kind of “late” with some of this) wireless routers and Netflix and Cinema Now (which, in my opinion, should be called Cinema Some Time) and home networks to which you can connect several devices. This was all amazing at first, but a couple of times, things have gone wrong. Lighting fried our router a couple months ago and we had to set everything up again, which was a nightmare. When we were without internet on our one computer, and couldn’t watch movies through our TV unless it was Cogeco On Demand (not Netflix), and couldn’t watch Youtube videos on our TV or look at photos from our computer on our TV, I felt really lost and frustrated...and subsequently felt kind of “gross” for feeling that way. (Ugh; there is so much going on in the world, that, all right, I felt downright terrible for getting annoyed with all of these technological inconveniences—a First World problem for sure.) What was originally really wonderful is now taken for granted.

I don’t know if you ever feel this way, but it’s kind of like a love-hate relationship with some forms of least with the ones I’ve mentioned above. As much as new things are amazing and revolutionary and make things easier and faster, they can be royal pains in the neck as well. At this point, given the amount of frustration I have had over this year with different things concerning computers, phones, connections, electronic this and digital that, I guess I feel a little hesitant to be wholeheartedly “for” all of this advancement—and then at the same time, I feel a little stressed about feeling that way because I don’t want to be behind the advancement and not understand how the newest things work and what they can do. I know we all have somewhat of a choice—we don’t have to use Facebook, and we don’t have to upgrade our phones every year, and we can spend our evenings reading a real book instead of facing a screen. However, I think that to keep up with and not get left behind the technological train, we can’t deny that this is part of the world we live in. We should take advantage of the great advancements in our lifetimes—because they really are stunning. I am just trying to find the balance between using them to my benefit and getting swallowed by them.

I wonder, then, with the speed of advancements and conveniences, where we will be in another 10-20 years. Are my kids going to want iPods and cell phones, or are they going to want something else because there will be something else a million times more functional than that? Will they say, “Oh my goodness, Mom, iPods are sooooo ancient!”

At what point do these conveniences become inconvenient? At what point does the speed of communication actually start slowing us down with how much of it we do? At what point does the sheer volume of information actually start weighing us down and incapacitating us under it?

P.S. I almost considered not posting this because I am thinking that at least one reader might be thinking, “OK, Christina, you said all that in a blog post that you typed up on your computer and posted a link to on Facebook...a little hypocritical, maybe?”

I hope not. I am going to take my chances because I think this proves my point. I might as well use these technological amenities to be able to gripe about their inconveniences and stresses, right? Isn’t that putting them to good use? Isn't that what they're there for?

Friday, August 17, 2012


Sometimes the idea of leaving this earth without leaving anything “permanent” behind makes me feel a little panicky. By leaving something “permanent” behind, I mean having created something of significance that would last after I am gone—that would last past this generation. Sometimes it is frightening to think that after having lived my life, having done whatever I’ve done, that time would slowly erase me from history—that when I die, I won’t be on earth in the physical sense, and then eventually, all traces of my existence would disintegrate over time: businesses I’ve worked for may close down and anything significant I did there thus rendered irrelevant, my life fading from being a real person that people knew to a vague memory that my grandchildren pass on to their kids to the cloudy image of an ancestor.

Even if I try to create something with staying power—something that will allow me to make my mark on history—or on a smaller scale, a legacy to leave my descendants: a family business that my kids could continue, music that could exist beyond my life, or even actions, thoughts, theories or ideas—even those kinds of things can’t last forever. Things I created, like songs (Zusters), poetry, blog posts, etc. and things I taught my kids may or may not be passed down or repeated down the generations—and “may or may not” is certainly no guarantee.

How do you carve your initials in time?

I’m not sure why I feel this way. I guess I just want to know that my life had a point. If after 50 years or 100 years, it will be as though we never existed, then what are the best ways we should be spending our time? What should we focus more on doing? What should we focus less on?

My thoughts then turned to the Bible, where it says to not store up treasures on earth, where they get destroyed and stolen but to set treasures up for ourselves in heaven, where they cannot be destroyed or stolen (because you will find your heart in company with your treasures). The Bible also compares our lives to a breath of vapour, or a mist that is there one moment but gone the next. Okay, even the holy Word of God acknowledges how our “treasures” on earth are temporary and how short life is on earth!

I want my life to count for something, but I also don’t want to waste my life trying to make it count with things that won’t matter eventually. I guess I want to know that something significant came from my existence, but it is challenging to figure out what to do, without putting too much of a penchant on things that will eventually not exist.  

Once the sun sets on your life, what do you want to have had accomplished?

I guess I just wonder about how in whatever we do, whether it be our passions (which we sometimes lack the time or resources to do) or our responsibilities (which often take up so much of our time) or a mixture of both, we can make it count both in the natural and the spiritual sense.

Maybe up until now, I have limited my thinking to ways that I can keep myself “alive” on earth when I’m not here anymore, but instead, I should be thinking of ways I can invest in the life I will be living when I’m not here anymore—in spiritual terms. Surely, the plans God has for us here on earth have meaning, and they must in some way ultimately lead to impacting our lives or the lives of others even after they are no longer alive on earth. Surely, the talents and opportunities that God has given us on earth should be used—not buried—but invested in ways that can yield a return that is relevant in heaven.

Surely, we can use our lives on earth to create a legacy that can be carried even to heaven. Surely, all that we have to do and get to do, what we want to do and need to do, can be metered and can blend into what makes us us, and that alone has significance...and when we recognize the spiritual part of our existence, can’t we use the present to prepare ourselves for our spiritual future? Is that the kind of legacy we should be working toward?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

You Can't Do This

I love much about music. One aspect that thrills me is the way that somehow, in some ways, contrasting combinations of sounds and elements can become unexpected partners in perfect sync. (This is, I believe, experimentation’s reward.)

When I saw My Son The Hurricane live about a year and a half ago, I was thoroughly impressed, refreshed and energized by their sound. I witnessed, as I watched all of the action on the stage, the successful partnering of what I had thought were two very opposing musical aspects. My Son The Hurricane is a 14-piece band that incorporates musical elements from two very different spectrums: big band brass and hip hop rap. To date, they have released two albums: Check the Barometer in 2009 and You Can’t Do This in 2011.

I’ve been repeatedly listening to You Can’t Do This lately. For sure, with the combination of a brass band and hip hop, there are many upbeat tracks, such as “Cookie Monster,” “Barrachone” and “Honor Among Thieves.”  Those tracks are balanced with an assortment of more serious tracks, such as “Pushin’ Up Daisies” and “The Life Of An Emcee,” yet what I love about the band’s sound is that even the tracks that have heavier lyrics still manage to have a lightness about them (and don’t make you feel depressed). How can you feel depressed when bright, shiny saxophones and trumpets brighten up the melodies and shine up the lyrics? You can’t deny the light, likeable energy of MSTH’s front man, Jason Bergsma, either, regardless of the mood of the song.

Not only is there a substantial lot of instruments contributing to a full sound but also other instruments and voices get a chance to shine in the spotlight and spice up the songs: a killer guitar solo in “Honor Among Thieves,” mellow, melodic acoustic guitar in “The Life Of An Emcee” and the rich, smooth singing voice so different from the rapping in such tracks as “Pushin’ Up Daisies” and “Barrachone.”

As enjoyable as I have found listening to My Son The Hurricane’s music at home or in my car, I am so glad that I had the opportunity to see them perform live. The energy you hear in the recording is multiplied live because theirs is a show that is really fun to watch. When I saw them live, my eyes were darting this way and that, there was so much excitement on stage—so much to take in. Bergsma did not stop moving—he was so full of life—and I could tell he really enjoys what he does. I would have felt tired for him had not the rest of the band members been continually invigorating me as I watched and listened. At one point, the tuba player and his giant tuba parted the audience like the Red Sea and stood there, taking up a colossal amount of space, the player just playing the tuba, surrounded by fans. There was literally no dull moments, with 14 people to watch.

14 [extremely talented] people, clever lyrics, a balance of creativity and control, a balance of brass band and hip hop, light even while serious, a tribute to New Orleans, funky, lively, entertaining, enthusiastic, energetic, even my son loves them, nothing else you've heard sounds the same--

My Son The Hurricane.

“Shout out to all the fellas and the ladies that ain’t givin’ up ‘till they pushin’ up daisies”
-My Son The Hurricane

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

My Head is an Animal

Of Monsters and Men's album cover, My Head is an Animal

Any time an album or a song really resonates with me, I like to write about it. This week, I want to tell you my thoughts on the debut album My Head is an Animal by Of Monsters and Men, just recently released. You have likely heard their single, “Little Talks,” since it’s been played on the radio over the past few months. The song just asks to be sung along to, the lyrics are deep, yet the music has a happy sort of energy to it.

Some people have compared Of Monsters and Men with Arcade Fire, and I can agree with that—they both have the same passion and driving rhythm in their songs. Of Monsters and Men has also been compared to Mumford & Sons in terms of their folky sound, although I think the similarities dwindle from there. The band also has both male and female vocals, comparable to the relatively new-on-the-scene duo Civil Wars.

Who are these people? Of Monsters and Men is a six-person group from Iceland, each person bearing a very intricately-spelled Icelandic name, and you can find out more about them by following the links below. They won an Iceland battle of the bands in 2010, and from there, their fame seeped out from the tiny icy island to the rest of the world. According to a recent Rolling Stone article, they didn’t really expect to end up touring outside of Iceland. What an amazing surprise it must have been for them to see how many thousands upon thousands of people outside Iceland love their music!

I bought the album a month or two ago, basing my decision completely on my love of “Little Talks.” I hoped there would be at least two or three other songs out of the 13 on the album that I would like. To my great satisfaction and excitement, I found my soul resonating with every single song in some way. All the songs on the album are congruent, yet they vary enough to make each one special in and of itself.

I’ll tell you about two other tracks that stand out to me. Even though you could easily listen to the whole album in its entirety every time, sometimes I like to repeat these two:

The first is “Dirty Paws.” It’s the first track on the album; it’s a story about an animal war. Each verse is punctuated afterward by a musical interlude, and by the end of the last verse, the male and female vocals intertwine into a gorgeous, intense harmony that gives me goosebumps every time. The essence of the song makes me feel like I’m listening to a very important legend embedded with a life lesson or something—“Dirty Paws” is powerful like that.

The second track I repeat constantly is “Yellow Light.” Toward the end of the album, the song is almost 5 minutes long but only has two short verses at the beginning. The last three minutes of the song consists of a magical, mysterious melody that would drift and wander if it if wasn’t carried along by a marching beat and some soft background vocals. I can just imagine the band getting together to jam out this song and just playing the same little progression over and over and over for a long time, getting lost in the sweet sound, thinking, “Yes!” The music carries me into an inspirational place where I just want to daydream or write or let my soul float a little...if that makes sense. Try listening to this song in the quiet darkness of night.

All in all, the harmonious theme that attracted me to this album is that, to borrow a term from a song from Weezer’s Red album, these are heart songs. They come from the heart. They reach out, extending past the boundaries of the album itself into the listener’s heart. They pump forth life like a heart, beat with energy like a heart, and proffer love like hearts do. They could very well be songs that soundtrack a significant memory in your life and weave into your story. For me, they will always remind me of the summer of 2012.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

When Life Gets in the Way

A month ago, I had a baby. Just over two months ago, we moved to a new house. I am hoping that those two reasons can justify the lack of blogging over the past while.

Baby Lennon @ 2 Weeks. Photo: StudioVie Photography
I have stressed over the past few days about posting something new this week, finally, and then I ended up not finding the time to do so, until now. Even now, it's going to have to be a short post.

I love to write, so I will not stop blogging. However, I am thinking that for the next month or two, it is reasonable to say that I will probably not write any posts. Unfortunately, I have other responsibilities that take precedence over this blog right now, and until my baby is sleeping more at night and is down to a more predictable schedule (I'm crossing my fingers that this happens soon), my hours are jam packed with him, my toddler, keeping my house and in another week, starting back to work!

Thanks for reading, and I sincerely hope to get back into writing very soon!


Friday, March 2, 2012

What Is Healthy?

Sometimes it seems to me that every couple of months, I hear about another study that has found another food or health product to be dangerous to our health. Moreover, I’m pretty sure that over my lifetime of 30 years, some foods or health products have zig-zagged from being deemed “healthy” to being deemed “unhealthy.”

For example, a few months ago, I read an article that a few people on my Facebook had posted: “7 Things You Should Never Eat.” I don’t know about you, but my reaction as I scanned down the list of untouchables was, “Oh, crap. Oh, crap. Oh, crap.” I think I was guilty of eating all seven things, and on a regular basis. I figured that some of the items I could replace with the healthier alternative, but some of them I would probably continue eating (like regular apples and regular potatoes--those are healthy foods themselves, right?).

Then, my mother-in-law told me about how Johnson’s Baby Shampoo was found to contain an ingredient that releases formaldehyde. My reaction again was, “Oh, crap.” I promptly went upstairs after reading the article to toss my bottle of Johnson’s Baby Shampoo in the garbage. I decided I’d just stick with the organic baby shampoos and washes that you can get at the Superstore and be done with it.

Most recently, my mom told me about an article she read about a study that found high levels of arsenic in cereal bars and baby cereals that contained brown rice syrup. As someone on a gluten-free diet, which limits my options for “healthy” cereal bars to the organic kind that generally contains brown rice syrup, I threw my hands up in the air and said again, “Oh, crap!” That made me the most angry. Seriously?  What next? I am really limited with what I can eat already, and now people are saying that a major ingredient in a ton of organic, gluten-free products is poisonous? What’s worse for me? Eating gluten or eating arsenic? Or eating neither and further limiting my options like a chump?

I wouldn’t call myself one of those 100% organic, super-health-conscious people that will go raw or vegan or whatever just to be healthy. I still buy meat at the grocery store instead of buying organic. Although I use some beauty products that are organic, some still have the odd paraben. However, I would consider myself relatively health-conscious. I have started reading labels on beauty products and will avoid those that contain a BILLION parabens. I figure that being gluten-free steers me into the organic section of stores often enough that I eat pretty well when it comes to “carb” foods like cereals, cereal bars (although not anymore?), pastas, etc. I love trying new recipes for smoothies or baked goods that have sugar alternatives or tons of health benefits. I often have to bribe my toddler with fruits and vegetables to eat his other food, and so I am hoping that I’m making a good impression on him since we always have a wide variety of healthy food to eat.  

Being a pretty average person, then, when it comes to my food and health care products, this kind of rigmarole associated with what’s beneficial and what’s detrimental this week is really frustrating. Should we be cutting out every single thing that someone calls “bad for you”? Is that being responsible, or is that being extreme?

Take coffee for example. I think that over my lifetime coffee has been in the good books and the bad books several times over. (For the record, coffee will always be in my good books.) So what then? Will we find out ten years from now that the arsenic levels in organic brown rice syrup are actually OK, and no harmful effects have been discovered from regularly eating foods sweetened with it?

Also, if we take the attitude that we should avoid what the latest research tells us we should avoid, does that not create some level of paranoia when it comes to food selection? I mean, who’s to say that another well-known, well-trusted, often-consumed food or health/beauty product might become lethal in a few months? Until extensive research is done on every product and every food out there, how will we ever know if everything we are using and consuming is free of health hazards? How will we ever know?

Where do you draw the line? Do you react to every scare out there? Or do you figure that if we’ve been using these products (like Johnson’s Baby Shampoo) or eating these foods (apples that aren’t organic) for decades and we’re fine, that we should just keep consuming/eating them? After all, if I learned anything in my Biology 101 course in university, there are no "causes" for cancer. It's always a combination of events that result in cell mutation--right?

Although these articles frustrate me, I do try to keep some balance with my decision-making. Some products are easy enough to discard and replace with something better. Others aren’t.  While I can appreciate the choices of some people to go completely organic, I am not sure that’s right for my family. Could we afford to go completely organic? Do we have the time to drive to every different place to get all the different organic stuff? Where do you stop? Where do you draw the line?

After all, sometimes I wonder if certain healthy choices are so beneficial that they far outweigh the potential detriments of other choices.

If I use bath products that contain parabens and/or mineral oil, but I eat a lot of broccoli and drink my full quota or more of filtered water every day, then am I at lesser risk of being negatively affected by the bath products?

If I buy ground beef that isn’t organic, but I exercise regularly, is my body then better equipped to face the potentially harmful ingredients in the beef?

If I eat apples that are covered in pesticides, but I wash them, then doesn't that at least reduce the amount of pesticides I'm consuming, and aren't the health benefits of the apple itself enough to counteract the harmful effects of the traces of pesticides?

I hope I don’t sound like I’m just trying to compromise. I am trying to consider these facts and balance them without having to subsist on less and less options (that are often more and more expensive) as time goes by.

What do you think? What is your opinion on all of this? Do you get as frustrated as I've gotten?

Friday, January 27, 2012

A Really Good Gift

When we first listed our house for sale, someone told me that she would pray for the right buyer at the right time, and for everything to work out so that afterward, we could say, “Wow, that was totally God at work.”

Well, that did happen, and so I must share with you what I learned from the whole experience because I believe that without God, it wouldn’t have happened this way.

We basically listed our house to downsize to something a little less expensive and a little more affordable so that I could continue working part-time for the next few years when our kids are small. Our house was on the market for almost 3 months.

When we started looking for houses, we went through one house in particular that we both really liked. We had a really good feeling about the house, and I genuinely believed that it was “our house.” It wasn’t perfect; it needed lots of work, yet I still found myself really liking it. I figured that since I really liked something that I wouldn’t expect myself to like, it must be God giving me peace that it was the right house, if that makes any sense.

We put two offers in on that house, and both were rejected because we had a house to sell. We figured that if it was meant to be, our house would sell and that house would remain on the market for us to buy eventually.

That didn’t happen. I was kind of crushed, and I wondered why that house had seemed so perfect. We began using that house as a benchmark, and honestly thought that there wouldn’t be any other house like it out there in our price range. The thought that something better was still out there didn’t seem possible, so I denied that thought permanent residence in my mind.

As for selling our house—if you’ve ever had a house on the market, you know how frustrating it is. We developed a “code” for preparing for a showing, and we kept to the code, even when we didn’t want to. As my pregnant belly continued to grow, washing the floors continued to get more difficult. We kept on with it, though. I remember the sound of the vacuum cleaner turning on eventually made me cringe with distaste because we had cleaned our house so many times without selling it that I hated the sound.

There were several potential buyers whom we thought would end up being “the one.” We even had a person who had previously lived in our house for 20 years come through! If anyone was going to be the right buyer, I’d put my money on that person! However, we saw no offers.

Then one day this month, we got an offer. We accepted. We hadn’t found a house yet, so we had to act fast.

Somehow, our discussions with our agent turned to a particular house that we had seen on the market but originally weren’t interested in. After a series of events, we ended up very quickly buying that house. A further few events led us to make a decision and take a risk in order to keep the house, and I know we ended up making the right decision.

There are two thoughts that have resonated in my mind these past few weeks:

First, if events hadn’t transpired exactly as they had, we never would have ended up with the house we bought, which is a really good and perfect house. Now that I’m on the other side of this experience, I can see and understand how God has masterfully choreographed a series of events to take place to bring us to where we ended up. Even the disappointment we experienced in losing out on the first house we loved was necessary to bring us to our new house. Moreover, He choreographed events and decisions that would grow us spiritually and teach us some really valuable lessons.

Second, during this whole process, we vocalized countless times that we would have to end up making a sacrifice somewhere. We assumed that buying a house in a lower price range required a sacrifice—whether it be size, quality of construction, location, number of renovations/repairs needed, number of features, etc. Here’s the big “however”: Somehow, we ended up “downsizing” to a house that requires no sacrifices whatsoever. In other words, we’re “downsizing,” but we aren’t.

I grew spiritually through this experience because I learned first-hand the generous, giving nature of God. He gives us gifts “just because.” He gives us gifts with no strings attached.

What was the most amazing gift you ever received for Christmas or for your birthday or just because? In my opinion, the greatest gifts are not the ones you ask for and thus expect, but the ones you never imagined you’d ever receive because they were too perfect to imagine—the ones you never expected because they were too good to expect. The greatest gift is the one that you can marvel over for days, weeks and months after receiving it—in awe that someone put so much thought about you into it and really did find the perfect gift just for you.  

My house-selling, house-buying experience is just one little example of how God loves to bestow gifts on His children. I can’t comprehend this situation in any other way than being a gift. We didn’t ask for it. We didn’t deserve it. We didn’t know it existed or was possible. We even grumbled and complained and were frustrated so many times, like immature children who want to make sure they get something good for Christmas and get upset when they find out they aren’t going to get what they thought they wanted. Thankfully, our childish complaints and tears of frustration didn’t deter God from handing us such a wonderful gift.

Sometimes receiving a perfect, amazing, valuable, special gift can be really difficult. I think many people would prefer to ask for something and know what’s coming. I think many people would prefer to get what they think they deserve—no more and no less. I think many people, including myself, think they know what they want or need and stubbornly tend to reject any other ideas before they’ve even seen or heard them. Maybe it’s human nature.

Through this series of events, we had to decide to take a risk and accept the gift God was laying out on the table for us, even though we didn’t feel we deserved it.

God has an abundance of specially-selected, better-than-expected gifts for all of us because He loves us completely and unconditionally, but it may take some time and experience to grow accustomed to receiving them. Why not start today and open yourself up to receiving and accepting gifts from God—especially the gifts you may not feel you deserve?

James 1:17: Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, Who does not change like shifting shadows.  

Sunday, January 15, 2012


I had been doing so well at blogging consistently every week, and then life just got in the way. However, my lack of blogging over the past few weeks does not reflect a lack of wondering or thinking or questioning things; in fact, I think I have been doing more mental processing lately than usual.

Over the past few weeks, I have been contemplating the concept of perseverance.

Here’s why I’ve been thinking about perseverance: I have been rigorously exercising what I hope is perseverance over the past couple of months while my house has been for sale. If you’ve ever sold/bought a house, you understand completely: it’s not always a fun, easy, straightforward process. It really necessitates perseverance—how else could you handle selling your house (unless you’re one of those lucky people whose house is snatched up a couple weeks after being on the market)?

To share with you my thoughts on perseverance, I have to explain my thoughts on bravery.

I’ve been reading A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin (yes, another great medieval fantasy). Near the beginning of the book, the character Bran is watching his father, Eddard, execute a criminal. Bran is only seven years old, so naturally, he’s a little afraid of what he is going to see. He asks his father if you can still be brave even when you’re afraid. His father replies, “That is the only time you can be brave” (Martin, 1996, p. 18).

I thought that was interesting. Before reading that chapter, when I pictured someone who is brave, I pictured someone fearless when others would be afraid. However, Martin has presented a very different perspective: we can only exercise bravery in the face of fear—when we are afraid. This suggests that a brave person isn’t necessarily fearless; a brave person just recognizes the value or the necessity in facing his/her fears and not letting those fears get in the way of things that are more important (in Bran’s case, keeping his eyes open and watching the execution so as to prove his strength as a “man,” his political standing as a Stark and his likelihood of becoming a knight). The whole situation scared Bran, but he controlled his fears for the sake of something more important, thus exercising bravery.

I wondered if the same logic can be applied to perseverance. I have been starting to wonder whether you can really “persevere” if you are frustrated, disappointed and in the middle of throwing up your hands in the air and exclaiming, “That’s it! I give up! I can’t do anything about this anymore, so I’m just going to let things happen as they will.”

What is perseverance? I found two dictionary definitions:
1.                   Steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.
2.                   Continuance in a state of grace leading finally to a state of glory.

Before this week, I always thought that someone who persevered basically had a calm smile, faith and patience and experienced peace no matter how long something threatened to last for or how frustrating something threatened to be. I pictured someone happy and calm as ever while a series of stormy, time-consuming, challenging events kept appearing and trying to break that person’s resolve to remain steadfast in patience.

In light of what Martin’s characters said about bravery, I wondered whether the only time you can truly persevere is when you are faced with a long, frustrating wait. Maybe perseverance only comes once you have waited longer than you thought you ever could. Down the rocky, seemingly endless road called “Waiting,” maybe there is a point where the maps stop plotting the route, where you’ve done all you could do to navigate yourself through the territory of Waiting, you have thrown your compass in the woods off the road in frustration so that you have no idea where to go, and you pass a sign that reads “Congratulations, You Have Persevered!”

What do you think? Can we still persevere even when we are ready to give up? Then what?

 Perhaps a state of perseverance can only be achieved once we have passed the point of patient waiting and peaceful faith and have come to the point of panicky stress and precarious bewilderment. Perhaps at that point, at which we have gone further than we thought possible, we have reached that state of grace (like in the definition above)—that state of grace in which we stop hoping or trying for something specific to happen, boldly walk past that sign that reads, “Congratulations, You Have Persevered!” throw our situation up in the air and let God have a chance to catch it in His hands and do something about it. Is that where perseverance can be found? Is that how we reach a state of glory?

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you, there is more of God and His rule.” Matthew 5:3, The Message