Friday, March 11, 2011

The Apparent Project: helping feed Haiti one necklace at a time
















Tonight I had the incredible joy of helping several women (and a young man) in Haiti.

No, I didn't go on a mission trip.  And no, I actually didn't go anywhere near Haiti, but I helped the poor there nonetheless.  What I did do was attend a jewelry party sponsored by The Apparent Project and bought a few birthday gifts as well as a few necklaces for myself.

This jewelry is beautiful, handcrafted, and stunning with creativity!  The beads themselves are made by taking cereal box cardboard and rolling it up very tightly to form a bead that is then glued and lacquered creating a unique and (in most cases) multi-colored bead.  These hand-made beads are then strung along with other seed beads and are formed by the imagination of the artists themselves into colorful necklaces, bracelets, and earrings.

















I cannot explain the feeling of seeing the smiling face of the artist who created your special treasure and being able to read their story on the small card attached to the jewelry.  For example Rosaline's story:  "Rosaline is a single mother living in a tent with her two girls.  She has had to give up several of her children to adoption and is now learning to work and save money to rent a house and care for her remaining children."  You can see for yourself exactly who your money is going to and how it will help.  Its a powerful thing.

The best part is that it is so easy to be a part of The Apparent Prjoect!  My church (Cornerstone-SCV) supports Three Angels Children's Relief in Haiti and Three Angels has now come along side with The Apparent project to further the opportunity for the poor to learn ways to suppor themselves.  It's like the old idiom says, "If you give a man a fish you feed him for a day, but if you teach him to fish you feed him for lifetime."  The Apparent project is teaching these young women and men to 'fish' and we can be a part of this here in the US!



Check out the website and contact The Apparent Project if you are interested in hosting your own party.  You can make a difference in Haiti too!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

sucker for a happy ending

The other day I started my fourth novel.  I'm pretty excited because the idea for the plot has been ricocheting around my head and finally came to rest in one place long enough for me to pin it down with words.  The first few chapters came followed by the rest of the plot with me holding on for dear life hoping I could write it all down in time!  Its a new thing for me, writing the entire plot out first, but I think it's helped in keeping my writing more cohesive.  If I know where I'm going, I know how to get there (hopefully).

When I wrapped up the ending I got to thinking how cliche it was.  But, upon further reflection, I realized I liked cliche.  Ok, in all honesty I don't like it to the point where you can guess, nearly word for word, what the plot will be and by the second chapter you have the book wrapped up in a pretty bow of understanding. That is just boring.  I thought over the many books I'd read recently and summed them up in my mind, bringing them to reckoning.

Of each of them I asked, "Plot, what makes you so good?"

The answer came in the form of a happy ending.  I love a happy ending.  Sure - give me trial, give me temptation, give me pain and hurt, but you'd better give me a happy ending to look forward to.  I know this is not true for everyone.  Some enjoy pain and strife.  The muck of life.  But I've come to terms with the fact that I write not to say something that's never been said before in a profound way, but instead to remind my readers that God's way is best with a more simplistic representation.  Hum, maybe simplistic is not the right word, but what I mean is that I'm not writing from a platform.  I'm writing from a place in our minds and hearts that desires love and happiness and, in this way, pointing to the fact that God is the only True Giver of these things.

Sounds like a lofty goal, I know.  I'm not saying that I have achieved that or even hope to in this lifetime, but it is my goal nonetheless.  I want nothing more than to point to the Lord in my writing.  In the case of this book, my theme is the fact that God works everything (even the most random, painful details) together for His good.  It sounds simplistic but yet is so much more difficult to show than you'd initially think.  Yes, the plot may be something you could guess at, but I hope (and pray) in the end it comes to a conclusion that, though expected, satisfies.  And in that satisfaction, I hope that it points to God.

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On a side note, I'm currently inspired by Beautiful Things by Gungor.  AMAZING!

Friday, March 4, 2011

scars

We live in a world that leaves scars.  Scars on our person, scars on our psyche, and even scars on our hearts.  I looked down to my hands the other day and saw the remnant of a scar from a long time ago and instantly the entire scenario that surrounded me getting that scar was playing vividly before my eyes.  I remembered the area I was in, the feeling of the day even, and the moment that I realized I had injured myself pretty badly.  The tears that poured from my eyes at that moment were pretty intense, though the memory doesn't bring up the physical pain, just the memory.

Why don't scars heal completely though?  I know there's a scientific/medical response to that question, but I'd like to go more deeply than that.  Every scar that I have is tied to a memory, and instance, and with those scars I am also able to remember growth!  They may lessen in appearance as they heal, but the passing of time doesn't make the memories go completely.

I have to wonder about emotional scars.  There are the small ones that cut you to the heart but are able to heal within a short amount of time - possibly 6 months to a year (this is short within in respect to a lifetime).  But, there are also the more deeply wounding scars.  The ones where it felt like the person ripped you heart apart, spread it out bare for all to see, and then poured salt on top of it with vengeance in their eyes.  Those scars take a much longer time to heal, if they every do completely.  A lot of the time these scars can only come from people that are close to us.  From those we love.

There are also scars associated with times in our lives.  These wounds are scrapped across our souls at a time when we feel like we cant move on.  When all that was light around us is swallowed by darkness and we think there isn't a way out.  We begin to heal when we come out from under the weight imposed by those deep wounds.  This is when we are able to see the reason for those wounds in the first place.

Each instance of scaring involves pain.  The healing process is different with regards to each as well, but I think the telling thing is the scar itself.  What you do when you look at a scar is what matters.  For instance, the scar on my hand, I look back to the time when I got it and smile now because I see a foolish mistake I made but how it has made me much more careful in the future.  Or maybe an emotional scar that has now healed - when you look on it, do you only rememberer the bad times? Or can you rejoice in the fact that you are now past that hurt and on to a new life?  Even the deep, soul-wounding scars that ripped you apart when they happened can be turned into something positive.  The goal is to be able to look back and remember where you were, what the situation was, and how God brought you through the trial.  

I think we have scars of all forms for the simple reason of remembering and then turning that remembrance into praises of thanksgiving.  God created our flesh, hearts, and minds with the ability to heal for a reason, but He also created the simple reality of scars.  The crucial element is in the way we remember those scars.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

thoughts on love

I've been thinking about love recently. It's a tricky thing, isn't it? I think it's safe for me to assume that the majority of humans desire love. Whether it be love from parents, friends, a spouse, children, or even animals - we love love!

But why?

There are a lot of things we think will satisfy us and make us happy. Sometimes that takes the form of money - if I just get xxx amount, I'll be happy. Sometimes it's things - if I just get xxx thing, I'll be happy. But, more often than not, I think we actually convince ourselves that if we just 'get' love, we'll be happy. It makes me think of a song on a live John Mayer album I have. It's in the middle of a song and he starts talking about life and his 'philosophy' on things and he says, "I've messed with all the approaches but one and it's gonna sound really corny but that's just love...I've done everything in my life that I wanna do except just give and feel love for my living." He goes on to describe the love he's not talking about by saying its not a "roman candle firework hollywood hot pink love" but instead he's talking about a "I got your back" kind of love.

Sure, that sounds great! Let's all give and get that kind of love...

But wait - how do you do that?!

This is the crux of the matter. We dont know what real love is! You could ask fifty different people and get fifty different answers based on what each person feels is the most loving thing. A mother of five might say the most loving thing is when her husband gives her a night out with her friends whereas a herion addict might say the most loving thing is her boyfriend giving her a needle. Obviously, these are two drastically different ideas but both portray the fact that we dont know what love is because we're basing it on the wrong things.

The Bible says "God is love" (1 John 4:8b). Wow! So, God is love but what does that mean? It goes on in that same chapter to say, "In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins." Propitiation basically means an atonement/making amendes/restitution for the sin that we have all committed.

That thought should completely blow our minds.

This love - the true love - of God is so big, so wonderful, so infinite, so powerful, that when a sacrifice was demanded, God made the conscious decision to sacrifice His own Son - not someone else's son. He had originally (in the Old Testament) set up a way that sins were atoned for (through sacrifice Gen 3 & 4) and, rather than change that principle, he followed His own rules and sent Christ to be the perfect sacrifice to shed blood on our behalf, freely giving us a way to come to God. God loved His Son. Jesus wasn't some pawn that God used to fix everything because it was easy. No, Jesus was God - in a way that our minds can't completely understand - and He laid down His life for us willingly because it was the only way. "By this [Christ's sacrifice], love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgement..." (1 John 4:17a).

Back to my first point. Everyone loves love. Why? Because God is love and even when we are lost and dont believe in Him, He created us in His image and therefore we have within or very being a desire for love which, in essence, is a desire for God. We'll keep searching for the perfect love until we realize that it is only within God that we can truly find satisfaction. Only God can show us and give us genuine, lasting love.

"pour yourself out"

To me, Elizabeth Elliot is one of the most incredible women! She has lived through singleness, marriage, death, being a widow and single mother, marriage again, death again, being a widow again, and then marriage one last time. Add to these credentials the fact that she has written numerous books that encourage and strengthen women from a Christ-focused perspective, and you have a winning and quite formidable combination. She is an amazing woman.

Currently, I'm reading "Let Me Be A Woman" which is a book that she wrote to her daughter a few months before she was married. It's not just focused on those about to be married but on women as a whole. I've read it before and I'm finding more and more gems within it this time as well. In a chapter I recently read she explained that single women have found full and filling lives from the simple truth of learning to "pour yourself out". I want that. What better thing than to be about the work of God?

I think this has to be taken into careful consideration though. I mean, a single woman could become so focused and so busy that she could become overwhelmed or that she could find herself as self-sufficient when the Lord would not desire that for her. I don't want that to be the case, of course, but I do want to be so focused on the Lord that He is what is filling me. I desire for His purpose to be my purpose. For His love to be what I show to others.

Within the context of all of this, another book that I'm reading entitled "Becoming God's True Woman" is also helping me to see that, no matter where I am or may be in my life (single, married, widowed) I am to seek after what God calls me to be as a woman. I think of 1 Peter 3:3-4 that says, "Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight." I desire for the Lord to cultivate a gentle and quiet spirit within me now. I don't want to wait for some appointed time or marriage or anything but instead be about His work NOW. As Elizabeth also says, singleness is a gift (and she reminds us that we do not choose our gifts) and that while you are gifted in that way, you must use the gift and exercise it to the best of your ability until God sees fit to change your situation (and gifting).

I may become weary at times and I may have a lot on my plate, but I wouldn't give any of it up for a more comfortable existence filled with a lot of free time and no direction or purpose. I know that God will give me strength to make it through and that is what matters.

Make sure that, in whatever situation you are in, you are learning to "pour yourself out".