Pinterest A Grateful Life Lived: 2014

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Don't Melt Under the Holiday Stress!

Here in the Midwest, the weather is "blah" and college students like myself are facing the depressing notion that finals are right around the corner. A relaxing holiday and Christmas merriment at home aren't going to happen until I get through three exams, two essays and two projects.

That paragraph alone might be a bit of a downer, but take heart: It gets better. See, I'm a Christmas fanatic- I think j inherited that from my grandma (here's a shoutout to ya Grammy!). Needless to say, I've been outfitting my apartment with the cutest little Christmas touches and seasonal decor. It's the first year I have a real "place" to do that with.  

While students around me may be griping and groaning, I'm belting out "Hark the Herald Angel Sing," my longtime favorite carol. Stress may be around me but it will not consume me! This little melting snowman might succumb to it all, but not this girl!

I doubt Jesus intended for us to stress out about getting to the holiday resting, and then to turn around and stress about that as well. In fact, there were very little expectations that first Christmas. All that was awaited was little baby Jesus and the provision for Mary and Joseph to deliver Him. Everything else was just extra- the "party" with the shepherds, the gifts from the wisemen and even the fancy Christmas donkey that got them to the manger.  (RELATED: Deck the Halls with Gifts for Runners)

My point is: We get so wrapped up in the consumerism, that we often miss out on Christ's message this time of year. I for one, have often declared that" it's not Christmastime until...." or "I'll be able to relax and celebrate when..."  But what if we just expect Christ this year? Easier said than done, but there's something to be said for declaring that we CAN celebrate now because our focus isn't on the holiday lights or even the believed traditions. Our focus is on Him.  He alone is the Perfect Gift, and we know that He was born. No amount of schoolwork- or any work- should be able to delay the joy that comes with such knowledge!

So, if you see me walking around with headphones on and my eyes focused on a stack of notecards, be sure to wave. I'll stop my Christmas playlist and my test prep to wish you Merry Christmas! I'm not waiting till I'm done with my last exam, to rejoice- and you shouldn't either!

Merry Christmas!

RELATED: Christmas 2013 in Pictures
RELATED: 2013 Wildlights at the Zoo

Monday, December 1, 2014

Wildlights at the Columbus Zoo

     Ever since I was little, the Zoolights have been a Christmas tradition for my family. My parents used to bundle us up and load us in the wagon where we would get courtesy transportation around the zoo, complete with hot chocolate. While no one pulls me in a wagon these days, the experience is still one I treasure.  As the years have gone by, the lights have only gotten bigger and brighter, as well. That gives me another excuse to go multiple times!
     This year, I went with a friend the day after the lights opened. We had to go early because of conflicting holiday schedules. "Do they have anything like this in Florida?" I asked as we stared in awe at a 28-foot tree of lights. "No," she said after a minute. "Not that I know of."
     She had never been to the Wildlights before and it's safe to say that both of us had a great time. I'll certainly return- at least once- before the animal return to center stage and the lights dim  on January 4th. But here are some pictures from this year's zoo lights.  (RELATED: Christmas 2013 in Pictures)
     If you get the chance: grab your own friends or family and head to the Columbus Zoo. Start your own holiday tradition: You, your loved ones and three million LED Christmas lights. If that doesn't get you in the Christmas spirit, you may just be the Grinch! :)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Say Goodbye to Barbie?

     Like many of you, I grew up with Barbie...and Stacie and Kelly and Ken.  I ogled at the little Kelly dolls in Target checkout lines and I loved going to my cousins where we would turn the family room into a Barbie kingdom.  At that age, I paid little attention to the minuscule waist and large breasts.  The toned legs and perfect makeup seemed trivial compared to where Barbie would adventure next.  Yet, when you put it all together: Barbie is a package deal of perfection.  She gives little room for flaws or originality.  While I personally don't know if Barbie truly reinforces poor body image among girls, I certainly don't think she discourages it.  That's why I was so elated to see this in the news the past week:

Say hello to the Lammily doll.  According to TIME Magazine, the doll will be available for purchase and delivery this Wednesday.  Created by Nickolay Lamm, the doll's selling point is it's realistic appearance.  That includes normal proportions, curves, a realistic face and-- GASP-- feet that aren't tiptoed!  In fact, her feet- as well as other body parts-- are pliable and reflect the active Lammily doll.  As I read the article, I grew more and more impressed with the toy.  There are even "Lammily Marks."  They are clear vinyl stickers like stretch marks, acne, freckles and moles that can be place on the doll.  I'm partial to the dirt and grass stained stickers as a former tomboy myself!

The coolest part of the TIME article was the accompanying video which shows girls reacting to the doll.  The overall consensus seemed to be that the Lammily doll appeared ready for adventure: real adventure.  Better yet: The girls saw her as beautiful.  A little boy even commented that she wasn't so thin, that she looked more like his mom.  "She looks like my sister," another girl said.  "She's really pretty.

It's just a doll.  So what's the big deal?  The thing is, girls have role models.  They look up to the women in their lives and seek to emulate them.  But when society presents a different ideal, it creates a discrepancy and girls are often pulled into confusion about who they are supposed to be.  If young girls are able to play with a doll that reinforces healthy weight and real beauty: imagine the difference it will make on confidence. (RELATED: The Perfect Christmas Gift) As someone who knows the reality of poor body image and eating disorders, I applaud Nickolay Lamm for his recognizing this problem in society that is negatively impacting girls.

RELATED: Great Games for the Whole Family!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

November Adventures at the IMA

The Indianapolis Museum of Art is a great place to go when in need of a relaxing afternoon. Better yet: it's only 5 minutes from campus. While I've posted about the IMA before, I thought I'd show you some of the fun I've had there lately.  (RELATED: Matisse Life in Color Exhibit)

My friend and I went last week for an Asian History class assignment and got to explore the Asian art. Some of it was pretty neat!

Then, I went yesterday for my creative writing class. It was really cool because or professor gave us the assignment to go and find a really cool piece of art. Then, we were supposed to observe and write about it for about ten minutes.  

I decided to just let myself roam, instead of going straight to some art pieces hat I know and love. I wanted something new, so I prayed that God would show me something really cool. And He did. Look at this awesome, glass ship that I found:

 See that woman walking toward me in the upper left hand corner? She promptly informed me that I was "too close to the art."  Oops. I guess I just take my sleuthing and inspection job seriously!  "I'm just advising you," she sternly said after I profusely apologized. I had half aims to apologize to the lifeless piece of art as well. It seemed like the ship was very keen on keeping its distance from curious college students like me. Needless to say, I quickly finished my observations after that and headed on my way.

Don't get the wrong idea though, the curators at the IMA really are a friendly bunch, and they make the experience all the better. I hope to return soon to check out some more art. After I write my story in the boat, though. And next time, I'll keep my distance. As Lenny Pepperbottom adequately said, I want to tell that art: "Hey, you're pretty neat, but I respect your distance."

RELATED: Visiting Indianapolis

How Deep is Your Pit?

Nothing can stop or hinder our God! How amazing is He? 

I was reading through the Psalms the other night and found myself just in awe of how powerful God is. However, this is out of context. What we don't see is the long account of just how unfaithful David was and how unfaithful we are as well. We aren't talking about God redeeming His people from a terrible accident or unmerited offense- though He does do that. We're talking about redemption from the pit that choosing sin has landed us in.  (RELATED: God' Glory)

See, God gives us instructions to flee from sin for a reason. It's messy. It hurts us. It breaks apart families and  crushes dreams and ceases life. But the cool part is that God has, with "(His) arm, redeemed (His) people."  There isn't any getting around that: We are messy and He still stoops down to us.

It's a message we hear over and over and over. But I would argue that it's so rote, we have dimmed its significance. We have forgotten just how HUGE it is that we, in our sin, have blatantly broke. the heart of God by turning from Him and that He- in never ending mercy- still takes us back when we realize we goofed up big time. 

That is something I am so, infinitely grateful for. If you're like me, there are times you've taken a shovel to the ground and dug away at your pit. If that's where you are now, I want to encourage you: Christ is better. There is fleshly pain in choosing to walk away from sin. But there is also freedom and joy and life. There is the promise of redemption, no matter how far we fall. Maybe that means you lay down the shovel with me, and plop yourself down in the dirt. He will come and He will renew a broken and contrite spirit. Make the choice to surrender today, and Christ will be right there, ready to wipe the dirt off your face.

RELATED: Forgiveness

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Butternut Squash Fries

One of the coolest parts about living in an apartment is that I no longer have to walk down four flights of stairs to get to a kitchen.  Granted, I'm no Martha Stewart, but I have been having some fun cooking this year.  Exhibit one: Butternut Squash.  My parents sent me some back in October and I realized that while Butternut Squash soup sounded delicious, it also sounded time consuming and difficult.  Besides, I was much more intrigued at the idea of Butternut Squash Fries.  I mean, I've seen them done on Pinterest, but I felt challenged to discern if I too, could make a vegetable taste delectable and "fry-like"

The instructions I perused online suggested peeling the squash so the cutting would be easier, but I'm a college student and a vegetable peeler is not among my kitchen cutlery collection. Thus, I grabbed our sharpest knife and made sure the bandaids were in close proximity (I only nicked myself, by he way).

1. The first thing you need to do in the fry making process, is preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

2. While the oven is doing it's thing, you do yours: Grab the knife and carefully begin cutting the squash in half.  
3. From there, slice the pieces so they look like fries.  Make sure not to cut them too thin or they'll stick to the baking sheet...I found that out the hard way.  
4. Spray your baking sheet(s) and begin laying the fries down.  Place them close to each other, or else you'll never fit them all onto even two sheets.  After that, feel free to dust them with the flavorings of your choosing: salts, spices, you name it.  I went two routes.  My first batch was "sweet" and I coated them in cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice.  The second batch was "salty," coated with a pinch of salt, garlic salt and some parsley.

5. Put the fries in the oven for about 15-20 minutes.  Stay nearby though, as the cook time varies with your fries' thickness.

6. When they look like they've crisped, take them out and flip them over.  Once flipped, they won't take as much time on the other side, probably only 10 minutes.  And once they're done, just let them cool and enjoy.

Pretty easy, right?!  I thought it was fun to try and my roommates and I agreed that the salty fries went over much better than the sweet ones.  But play with the recipe yourself.  I'd love to see what you come up with!  In the end, I found the process to be quite fun, but a little time consuming.  Good thing the squash produced such a large batch of fries.  I stored them and was eating them for a good week!  I'd love to hear if you've tried making butternut squash fries or any other healthy treat!  I'm game for another food-experiment if you've got one that you want me to try!  Just comment below :)

See some of my other healthy food posts:
Frozen Yogurt Bar Face-off!
Make your own Sushi
Healthy Omelets 
Making Spaghetti Squash

And So: I Give Thanks

Remember me?  Yes, it has been quite a while.  And while I hate clicking on a blog only to see there haven't been any new posts, I had to focus on life for the past few months.  It's been crazy busy, but really good.  It's been an uphill battle, but the view is better the higher you climb.  So I hope that you'll give me some grace and welcome me back to your screen as I attempt to re-enter the blog world.

God has been showing me so much, school has been enlightening me with information and the months have been flying by.  Today, I'm looking out the window and there is snow on the ground.  Anyone want to tell me how that happened?  I am very excited for Thanksgiving next week, though.  There truly is so much to be grateful for.  I have been blessed with loving family and friends, an awesome university and so much more.  Yet, I'm struck by how easy it is to take things for granted.  That was something I found out this past fall when I had numerous medical appointments to get to and no way to get there.  I would ask friends and take taxis, but I came to the point where my bank account was draining quickly and my friends weren't texting back.  The stress was really getting to me and I was even stranded at the doctor's office for three hours on one occasion.  The ride service I had hired didn't come back.  So I found myself lounging in a Starbucks until the ride service owner came to get me and I chatted with her Cheetos-eating son on the way back to campus.  Not the best experience.

     "Well, is he hot?"  My older brother texted
     "He's like 7....." I answered.

And thus went my day.  Needless to say, I didn't hire that particular transportation service again.  But I did have to find a way to get around.  After discussing things with my parents, we decided that getting a car for me was really the only viable option.  That led to a frantic car search during my fall break last month.  We drove from car lot to car lot, even stopping at lots we saw along the way.
"Where's dad?" I would ask.  "Oh, he stopped at a lot on the way home, just to see what they had."

Finally, on a frosty Saturday morning we pulled up to a small car lot in Hilliard and my eyes locked on Dronda.  She was sitting in the corner, shiny blue and waiting for a responsible college student to give her adventure.  I was that college student.  In all honesty, the two-door Acura didn't appeal to me too much at first.  But I took it for a spin and began to grow accustomed to the heated seats and smooth ride.  I liked the Butler blue color and the roomy front seat.  And sure enough, on a rainy Sunday afternoon, the blue Acura and I posed for a picture and Dronda left the lot for good.

Dronda-- because any dignified car must have a catchy name-- has been such a blessing.  Yes, she takes me to appointments and to church.  But she also has relieved the pressure of finding rides, the angst of crossing friends off the "ride list." Yet, at the core of it all is a lesson in love.  I am loved.  I am blessed-- both by my parents and by God.  I don't deserve to have a car to drive; yet, I have one.

It also got me thinking.  In light of how blessed I am, I wouldn't dare put a scratch on Dronda.  I see the great responsibility that comes with the blessing and I want to be a good steward of this car that is on loan from my father.  In the same way, God has given me this body that I have abused for many years.  I have pushed it too hard and loved it too little (RELATED: Relaxation).  But Dronda has reminded me that there is a sense of responsibility in a gift.  And I shouldn't even think of not treating this body with anything but respect, for it is a gift from my Father.  Funny how God teaches us these things, isn't it?

So, in conclusion: expect more posts from me in the near future.  They may or may not be about my adventures in Dronda.  But they sure as heck will contain a lot of gratitude.  This blog is called "A Grateful Life Lived" for a reason, and I often forget that.  I'm grateful for this car, yes, but I'm chiefly thankful for what it has shown me about undeserved love.  That's something else I can't wait to tell you all about-- what God is showing me about love-- but you'll have to click back soon for that one.  But you, like myself, have a lot to give thanks for.  I hope you'll take a minute just to think about God's little signs of love and thank Him for those things.  They might be little, but they aren't insignificant.  They make the biggest statement of all.

RELATED: What I'm Feeling Grateful For!
RELATED: Grateful for God's Presence

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Back at Butler for round two!

I promise, I haven't fallen off the face of the planet.  I have been crazy busy and getting adjusted to life again at Butler.  To spare myself the agony of writing a super long post-- and you all from having to read said post-- I'll keep it reader friendly.  I realize you want to read a series of long paragraphs just as much as I want to write them...  So here are some of the big updates from the past few months:

I spray painted this bookshelf!
1. I'm in an apartment this year!
Yay!  No more dorm living for this girl!  I am living in a campus-housing apartment with three other girls and am majorly loving it thus far.  I am also in a much better emotional state this year.  Add that to the fact that I can now walk around in my slippers and make my own meals, and I am not homesick like last year.  In fact, I don't think I've been homesick at all yet.  There are times when I wake up and wish I had my family or want a hug from mom or dad, but there's a difference.  Last year, I loved Butler but desperately wanted to be at home were it was "safe."  This year, I love home but I want everyone else to be here at Butler where I am having such a great time!

2. I'm not running right now
I firmly believe that I'm imperfect.  Though I can't stand that at times (RELATED: Imperfect Progress), I do know that when I acknowledge those imperfections and flaws, it allows God to move in me and it frees me of the pressure to perform and be perfect.  So, in the spirit of vulnerability, I am sharing this update.  I'm not running right now because I was not at a healthy place-- physically, emotionally or spiritually.  I had swept the issue of anorexia under the rug last year and coasted by, but God brought me to a place of desperation where I realized that I couldn't live like that anymore, and I decided that I wouldn't live like that anymore.  I cannot wait to share all God has been showing me, with you all, during the next few weeks.  As I have opened up my heart, God has been pouring in His mercy and healing and it has been amazing to watch Him restore me.  Nope.  I'm nowhere near finished, but I have a greater hope than ever that God is moving.  For the first time, I am truly surrendering to that and I'm not going back to the past.  I'm learning to fight for myself, to surrender to God, to rest, to listen, to study His word, to breathe in His's a spiritual bootcamp!  And I am so so glad that I have a God who not only hasn't abandoned me, but has declared me righteous and free.  So I'm fighting for freedom like never before :)

3. I'm keeping busy!
Yay for the bottom bunk this year!
Even without cross country on my plate, I'm still keeping super busy!  I am making time and effort to be more social this year and make friends!  As I have started letting my walls down, I've noticed something crazy: people actually like me!  That's not to say I should look for approval from others-- already got enough problems with that-- or that everyone will like me. But I am feeling more at ease to be myself, and like who that young woman is.
Aside from shenanigans with friends, I have my first shift for work tomorrow.  I've never had a legitimate job where the government takes my money, so it's pretty exciting.  Basically, I got a job at the Speaker's Lab where students aid other students with speeches.  I decided to only work two hours a week and the pay is minimal, but I applied before I knew I would even get paid: I'm doing it for the experience and the boost for my resume.  Plus, I love to help others with speeches and it should be really fun.  I'm also volunteering again at a school for blind children (Click HERE for an awesome story from last year!) and will start that this Tuesday.  I can't wait to see the kids again and interact with them.  God showed me so much through my time there last year.

4. Classes
As nice as it would be to fill my time with the things listed above, I am at Butler primarily to learn, so I do have classes and homework and all that (shoutout to my homework for inspiring me to blog right now rather than get ahead for next week!).
As depressing as that sounds though, I really can't complain: I love all my classes.  I am really excited because it is the first semester where the classes I am taking are all things I am genuinely interested in.  The professors are very passionate and the classes are challenging, which I love when it is a subject that interests me.  I'm taking:

  • Spanish for Written Communication
  • Promotional Writing II
  • East Asian Interactions (required social studies, but very interesting)
  • Electronic Journalism
  • Creative Writing
Spanish is my favorite so far, although it is also one of the hardest.  I thought I would love to just have summer forever, but I've found that-- for the most part-- I have been eager to get back learning.

5. Spiritual Growth
One of my favorite verses lately. We need to focus on God,
not our problems or our issues! He is waiting for us to
turn to Him and let Him handle it!
As I mentioned above, God has really been working in my life.  There is so much to share that I'll have to take it in chunks. But I want to encourage you all that God is always with His children.  He has brought His word to life for me and is teaching me to pray with passion and courage.  I am enthralled more and more every day.  Though this is one of the hardest spiritual battles of my life, it is also the most rewarding because I am seeing the layers of pain, sin and bitterness slowly peel away.  It is super slow, but I've been writing every day and it is so cool to go back and see where I was just a month ago.  Thank you Jesus!


That's all for now!  And now that I have broken the month long silence, I promise to be popping up on your screen more often-- if you choose to read my blog, that is.  I have a lot of fun stuff to share and will hopefully inspire and encourage you all in the process.  Peace out and happy Saturday!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Shale Hollow Preserve Metro Park

(Photo credit: Shale Hollow Preserve website)
     On my never ending quest to be an excellent babysitter, I recently stumbled upon Shale Hollow Preserve in the Lewis Center area.  I've taken the kids I watch to Highbanks and Alum Creek Dam, and they love exploring around and wading in the water.  But Shale Hollow Preserve is a brand new metro park and I was eager to see if it would meet the kids' standard for a good park.

     The park is located off of US-23, across from the Kroger and tucked back by a boat storage company.  I had seen online that it had some streams, so I was hoping it would be fun for the kids, who love water (RELATED: Babysitting and Boat Making).  There was a small parking lot in the entrance, surrounded by a grassy prairie area with a path that looped left and right.  We went left, down toward the woods and enjoyed a nice stroll among the large trees and green foliage.  We soon came to a stream and the kids eagerly looked at me, "Can we go in?"  I nodded, because I was thinking the same thing, and we wandered along the creek as we skipped stones.  We were discussing who had the stone-skipping record when we came to a clearing area that had very clean bathroom facilities and a picnic area.  Inside the bathroom, there was a map depicting the main loop (which we had just walked on) and the "off-trail exploration area" that was just beyond the clearing.
     I was so impressed with the exploration area!  It was perfect for kids.  There was even a small scavenger hunt that directed the kids from one area to another, giving clues in boxes.  At the fifth box, there was a nature stamp and a small booklet where kids could sign their name.  Although the stamp ink was dried out, I was still pleased with the scavenger hunt and the kids loved looking for the next clue-- such as "near a row of benches," which led them to an area with log pews by a campfire).
     After the scavenger hunt fun, we meandered along the creek, skipping rocks and looking for the perfect walking stick.  The creek seemed to be a very long one because we walked along it for at least half and hour and it still continued on.  It was flanked by a large, shale cliff on the left and beautiful rolling hills on the right.  The stream ebbed and flowed over the shale rocks and created many little waterfalls and deeper pools of water that the kids loved splashing in.

     All in all, I was very pleased with Shale Hollow Preserve.  The creek was a hit with the kids, the scavenger hunt provided a lot of fun and the trails and facilities were well maintained.  At first, the children were upset it wasn't the kind of park that had a playground, but they decided that it was pretty awesome by the time we returned to the car.  I would highly recommend packing your own picnic lunch and heading out to Shale Hollow Preserve.  It is a neat little park that is undiscovered, and an excellent location for childhood exploration and creativity.  Something tells me it won't be undiscovered for long.
(Photo Credit: Shale Hollow Preserve website)

 Check out my articles on other fun, free things to do with kids.  Whether you are in the central Ohio area or not, I've got plenty of ideas HERE!