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Advent- Preparation for Terror at Christmas

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“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5

Like many, I enjoy the hype of the Christmas season. The lights, music, and parties just do it for me. Last week, the church I was visiting celebrated the first week of Advent- a time of preparation for Christmas that believers have observed for centuries. As much as I love the tradition, I have heard it a thousand times and tuned in and out while Mike, a father of six I’d never met before, expertly held a baby in one arm and a microphone in the other while reading from his notes. … Something about Peace, Joy, Love, Hope.

These words are significant to me, but just familiar enough to assume I could still experience the season without 100% engagement. I had no idea my heart, and everyone else in the room, would need this time to prepare us for far more than December 25th.

Church let out and the workweek started like any other. Mike most likely kissed his wife and the top of six little heads before heading out the following Wednesday. I, too, was working when I received a phone call that the world’s newest mass shooting site was San Bernardino. My heart dropped. My fiancé is a firefighter for the city and had been working on a triage training for the department. I turned on the news, knowing I’d see him but still shocked to actually spot his blue uniform at the scene. I watched and waited for what felt like hours while the news reported they were still looking for shooters and sweeping for bombs designed to kill first responders… I prayed for everyone’s safety, and personally for Scott’s. We’re planning a wedding, a life.. Lord I am NOT prepared for you to take that away.

Finally, a text

 “I am ok”

Mike’s wife waited and waited to hear anything from her husband. Their church was praying for his safety and asking the community on Facebook to pray as well. How could she be prepared for the news that came later that night? How could any wife and mother prepare to hear her husband was a victim of an evil and senseless attack?… It’s devastating.

All I can do now is picture this father at church. What was he saying? Why didn’t I pay more attention? Thankfully, Church of the Woods posted a video, which I encourage you to watch here. Mike and his family read Luke 2:6-7. His words draw attention to the preparations God made for Jesus’ birth. When Mary and Joseph could’ve asked, “Why didn’t you line up a better spot for us to have this baby?”Mike offered that it was exactly how God designed it. This seemingly wrong situation was actually an example of Gods, “focus and order.”

Wednesday’s gruesome tragedy and others like it leave many of us with opposite feelings- chaos and a lack of attention from God. Where are you? Why are you letting this happen? We blame each other. We buy more guns. We argue on TV and around our dinner tables. We distrust our neighbors whom we don’t truly know in the first place. We don’t feel safe or provided for and fear grows.

And some of us will go back to church on Sunday for the next week of Advent secretly wondering, What’s the point? Why light candles and sing songs? These words and traditions feel awfully cute and thin in the wake of lives lost. I can’t decide if these words- the verses, prayers, and truths we tell each other this time of year are not enough… or all we have.

Are they missing the point or are they the point?

They can’t be both.

Mike said God gave his son to be, “The Hope of the World.” Jesus is our only Hope or he is not.

Mike said, “Our hearts are meant to be a manger for Jesus.” While this sounds like a greeting card, in reality, it is the opposite. If you know anything about Jesus, you know he will change everything if you truly let him find a home in your life. He will take the things that are natural to you and me- revenge, fear, self-preservation and ask us to follow his example and do the opposite.

To experience peace during war.

To choose joy in the midst of sorrow

To actually love and forgive our enemies. To not give them our hate, even in the face of murder. To build meaningful relationships with people who look, talk, think, and act differently than us. To never see them as anything other than people.

None of this makes sense or feels right in the moment. To actually live out Christmas would be the hardest thing we’ve ever done, and exactly what this world desperately needs from us.

As details come out regarding the two shooters, I keep hearing things like, “Were they extremists?” “When did he become radicalized?” and it bothers me that the terrorists have monopolized and tainted these words. Truthfully, if we lived like Jesus we would be the radical ones. I believe our lives would look extreme. Our message would spread- not with guns, hate, and terror, but with peace, joy, love and hope.

I’ll admit that it feels too hard, especially this week. It’s heartbreaking to think of the victims and their families. We all want justice and change. We all have different ideas of how to get it and play different roles- armed services, parents, cops, students. Regardless, we can truly only control ourselves. I can’t help but be inspired by the image of a dad, nervously corralling five kids on a stage Sunday morning. In the end, he left a powerful final memory for his kids by leading Advent- a meaningful tradition meant to prepare them for far more than a holiday.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Support for Mike’s family here.

Support for victims of San Bernardino here.

image from etsy.com

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To My 10-year-old Self

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Dear Ten-Year-Old Self,

Today’s a big day for us. One of our dreams came true. How do I know? Aside from well, being you, mom found our old diary a couple of months ago.

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You’ll be happy to discover God did not give you your first wish of becoming a boy (I liked the reasoning but not the choice). No, you are still very much a female, who somehow managed to become a writer. And today your first book released (despite starting sentences with ‘and’ and misusing punctuation all the time. Turns out they pay other people to fix that sort of thing.) You are just starting out and hoping you get to write many more, each better than the last.

My first instinct was to end this letter with a bit about calming down. You sound like a huge dork in that entry..which we are. In thinking on it, I decided you and I should just stay the way we are. Stay passionate. Stay vocal. Stay open to changing courses. Keep telling the truth, even when it’s embarrassing. We need to learn to listen better. We could also cook more at home more, spend less money, and take better care of this blog. All in all, you’ll be happy to know we’re doing pretty great. No need to keep editing your own diary. Go easier on yourself.

I hope I’ve made you proud,

Cindy from the Future

 

PS One day, Mark is going to have a little baby girl who gives him a run for his money:) Justice has been served. It’s awesome.

Also, I know you won’t listen, but if you could avoid the baggy pants phase and raisin lipstick, that’d be great.

Cheers!

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Trip. Trip.

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In the middle of the health saga, I got an email from my youngest brother, Matt, that simply said,

“I think you need a trip”

I knew instantly he was right. Traveling has always been a great source of inspiration, reflection, and plain old happiness for me. I hadn’t had much of that lately and it was time to schedule something to forward to. I clicked on the accompanying travel deal link he’d sent and turned to my friend/co-worker, Sullivan, sitting next to me. All it took was, “Want to go to Ireland?” and before long, we were off.

I don’t delude myself into thinking anyone wants a play-by-play of our vacation. Instead, I’ll give you short highlights from our three cities.

Dublin

Overall Impression: I found Dublin friendly and spirited. It was exactly how I pictured it in the best way- rolling green hills, live music, and cobblestone streets.

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My Favorite Thing: The pubs! If only the bars here were half as fun as the ones in Ireland….

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Amsterdam

Overall Impression: It’s a large, busy city with tall beautiful buildings and adorable house-lined canals everywhere you turn.

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My Favorite Thing: I loved the vibe in the city. It feels modern and open-minded. I was thankful for the escape and chance to ask myself why I think a certain way or do certain things.

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Copenhagen

Overall Impression: Charming and upscale. They spare no expense in Copenhagen! They burn candles at the table, set out fresh flowers, and wear real furs. The food is made with the same touch and tastes incredible.

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My Favorite Thing: This meal. Smorrebrod: An open face sandwich paired with homemade schnapps.

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Also, biking through the city.

 

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Overall, if I had to pick one favorite spot from the trip it would be the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland. Standing on the edge gave me exactly the feeling I flew thousands of miles to experience.

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Since it was winter we had the cliffs all to ourselves. Sure. We were covered in rain, but it was totally worth it.  I highly recommend traveling in December over July.

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Aside from skipping the crowds, you get to see all kinds of Christmas Spirit! It’s unreal.

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 Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen

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 Amsterdam

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Dublin

I had such a blast with Sullivan. We turned to each other on several occasions and said, “Is this real life?!”

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I wouldn’t change a thing.

 

 


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New Year

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I’m sorry I’ve been so MIA on here… I thought I’d do some reflections from 2014 and wishes for 2015 to fill in the gap and kick off a new year.

For the past few years I’ve picked a word, or rather, a word has picked me, to describe the year. I don’t usually do anything with the word except notice and smile at how well it fits the people, situations, and feelings I’ve experienced. This year, I thought I’d share 2014’s theme word on the blog- Peace.

At first glance, peace is a strange pick for my 2014 because it was anything but peaceful from the outside. I moved, ended a relationship, and finished final edits on the book while battling a health issue. In the words of my counselor, “It’s too much.”

Yet in the midst of lots of crazy, peace forced it’s way in to my life in more ways than one.

The quickest version I can spit out of what happened is that I was feeling bad for a long time- extreme fatigue, confusion, hair loss and cold… always cold. In June, my blood doctor (that’s what I call her) checked my counts and immediately started me on iron infusions three times a week. These were rough in that they took three- four hours and the medicine knocked me out, sometimes for the rest of the day.

Ain’t nobody got time for that.

My general doctor found a tumor and recommended surgery. The first two surgeons I met with didn’t think they could remove it without messing up things in my funhouse. (Meaning I wouldn’t be able to have children in the future). I met with several surgeons and finally found one that I trusted.

Which was good.

Because an MRI he ordered came back and the tumor looked odd and possibly like cancer. He decided to do a more invasive surgery right away. The next day my blood count had fallen all the way back down to my pre-infusion levels and I got a picc line put in that I wore for the next couple of months. I went in for surgery the following week and thankfully it all went well. They were able to remove everything, keep the funhouse in tact, and there is no cancer. I was off from work recovering for a month and continued iron treatments. I got my picc line out in December and have resumed a normalishhh, slower paced life.

2014 was definitely a strange year for me. I’m still discovering and piecing together it’s significance. I learned and grew in several new ways and in no particular order, I’d say the following:

  1. I learned was forced to have patience. I used to go to the doctors once every three years. Once I started going every day, sometimes twice a day, it took over my life. You sit and wait, freezing. Then they call you into another room. To wait. And freeze. In a paper gown. The doctor eventually comes and you are no longer the smartest person in the room, even when the topic is you. You try and remember half of what they say and focus on not crying. You wait again for results and an open appointment slot and move slowly forward on in your journey. I had to learn to trust others and get on their schedule. It felt unnatural…but once I gave in, it was sort of peaceful and I grew to enjoy my new pace.
  2. I learned to do less. My brain wouldn’t work most days, either because of low iron or medication. I had to be ok with simply doing less. It wasn’t easy at first but it was a good opportunity to let go. Since I didn’t really have a choice, this, too, eventually felt peaceful.
  3. I was reminded that my future is not up to me. It was rough thinking about the possibility of never having kids, wondering what surgery would be like, and envisioning battling cancer next year. It was over the top and I discovered there is actually a peace at work when you are in the midst of chaos. It turns out when there is nothing for you to control- no details you can handle, no idea what to even begin worrying over… you just let it all go. For the first time, I truly felt like everything was completely in God’s hands and it was oddly a nice release.
  4. I am extremely grateful and impressed by doctors and nurses. I am a floored by modern medicine and how freaking smart people are. With all its needles and surgery and pills and ways of healing- it’s like magic. I think there’s a time and place for natural remedies and I hate how it’s become an either or conversation…. Im glad we have access to both.
  5. I became thankful for my own health and healing. I made a lot of friends and have extended family members who are fighting far more serious health battles than my own. Their tests don’t come back with good news, their treatments don’t always work, and they haven’t yet recovered. It makes me very sad, and sometimes guilty. I don’t understand how God makes these choices. It’s a heavy, heavy burden and I have a newfound respect for people fighting for their lives. While feeling the effects of the actual illness, it’s exhausting scheduling appointments, filling out forms, paying bills. It’s a full-time job getting well.
  6. I let go of trying to be cool this year. Not that I really was ever under the impression I was succeeding at it before, I just learned there’s an identity shift that takes place when you are sick. You used to see yourself as healthy, active, and young, and then all the sudden you are no longer all those things. It’s humbling and often embarrassing owning your new limits. It was hard to admit to others and to myself that I was broken. You try impressing a first date wearing sterry strips and a picc line. You’ll feel positively geriatric when you have to ask them to walk slower, sit on a bench, and ignore the fact that you’re about to pop a narcotic. … I had to let a lot go.
  7. I learned I am more loved than I imagined. I love my friends and family, but still put the expectation on myself that I need to give back to them. I guess deep down, I viewed it as a conditional love. It’s a two-way street and I have to make an effort to earn and keep them in my life. This was a time in when I clearly had nothing to offer anyone and it was uncomfortable. I remember a moment in the hospital while three friends were visiting and I couldn’t stay awake. I fought hard to keep my eyes open, feeling terrible they’d come all the way to see me. Right before falling asleep, I saw their faces and I could tell- they didn’t care. They truly didn’t. They weren’t visiting me to get something from me. They weren’t expecting anything out of me at all. They came to give to me, plain and simple. That moment, and several like it after, gave me peace. I try to wrap my head around the idea that God loves me know matter what I do for him… but it still feels like I have to do a lot for him most days. My friends and family were a tangible picture of that perfect and unconditional love this year. There’s peace in knowing you are loved NO MATTER WHAT. You don’t always have to earn it. You don’t always have to be in a place where you can reciprocate it. This is wild to me! I don’t think I’ll ever get over the love I received during this time. The meals, visits, carried out trashcans, texts, phone calls, cards, flowers… I still can’t even believe it.

So what am I taking in to 2015? So far this:

It’s a wonderful thing to let go. It’s peaceful when you throw up your hands and realize you can’t do it all, and you don’t have to. Crap is going to happen, and when it does, you’ll get through it. God prepares you and gets you through. He uses loved ones, strangers, and experts. You learn, you grow, and you’ll be glad it happened at some point. I think I’m actually getting better at knowing this truth in the moment. I am excited for what’s coming in 2015, and I know there’s a lot of work ahead for me…but I want to somehow hold on to my newfound peaceful pace.

What about you? Any reflections or hopes? I’d love to hear.

 

 

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Dec 8-The last night I had to coordinate my outfit with an IV…. I don’t miss the challenge.

Photo by Etsy.com

 

 

 


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A Good Bad Day

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Today did not start out as one of my best. After cramming in some work at the office, I rushed out to get my uterus shot. I think the doctor needed its picture taken, or something tested. I’m not totally sure. I was more focused on pretending I didn’t see the needle instead of gathering details.

That’s how the day started.

While leaving the doctor’s office, my friend Amy, who happens to be one of the new writers coming out on the blog and a contributor in my book, sent me a screen shot of Who’s Picking Me Up From the Airport on pre-sale at Barnes&Noble.com! Naturally, I freaked out! I had no clue it was out there and a real live thing! I replied to Amy, “Thank you for sending!! I really needed some good news right in this moment.”

I had intentionally scheduled some playtime with my niece directly following my appointment because I knew she would cheer me up. It’s ok to emotionally use kids in these situations, right? When I got there, my brother and I went online to see the book for ourselves. There it was! We were super excited and he Instagrammed a picture.

Eventually I left to meet my friend Linnsay for dinner and lost track of time catching up. Leaving the restaurant, I looked at my phone and it was blowing up! Me and my sore uterus had more love and support notifications from friends and family members than we knew what to do with! I couldn’t believe people would take the time to share the news. I can’t begin to tell you what it meant to me. THANK YOU to those of you who  spread the word and celebrated with me tonight!

The book officially won’t release until February 3, but you can pre-order a copy on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com

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Today was a clear reminder that some days start out.. ahem, less than desirable, but can turn around big time:)

Good night!

Cindy


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Great Outdoors

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Like many of you, I am recharged by the outdoors and am grateful I got the chance to get away to the Sierras this past weekend. Far from cell service, traffic, and a crazy schedule, I slowed my thoughts and took in God’s creation. It had been far too long since I’d lost my breath over stars, the freezing temperature of a lake, or power of the rain and wind. I know these experiences are gifts, but when you’ve gone without, they can also feel like needs. John Muir said, “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.”  I agree. I needed to come home with chapped skin, knotted hair, and a little pee on my shoes. I needed the reminder that for all man’s accomplishments, nothing has come remotely close to matching the beauty God has created.

“The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship.” Psalm 19:1

Photo by the Fireman

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Cindy vs. Morning

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Hello there!

It’s been too long… As I berated myself for the hundredth time for never blogging, the fireman suggested I just start and not worry about coming up with something amazing. Then he sent me a blog idea- an entire blog devoted to coffee! I’ve reposted her Coffee vs. Tea post below:)

Will this post change your life? Ehhh..probably not. But it’s fitting since I’m starting at the beginning. What gets me out of bed every day? It’s not family, love, God, or my passions. I hopefully live for those things, but truly the one thing that gets me up is coffee. In my head, I make the same deal every single day- if I get up, I can have coffee. It’s my one tried and true habit.

I try to make it at home to save money, but some days end up at Starbucks to save time. At which point I regret my decision and silently curse the folks in front of me ordering decaf lattes, or worse- frappacinos. Don’t they understand 6am-9am is about survival? This isn’t Treat-Yourself-Time. It seems reasonable that they should be allowed in past 10am.

Anyway, below are the benefits of drinking both coffee and tea. Don’t you just love anything that tells you your daily vice is good for you?!

P.S. My favorite mornings are when the fireman surprises me on his way home from shift with a coffee delivery.

Not kidding.

What gets you out of bed?

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Easter Dress

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7b64e5262ac1a134534a1b86f0cd29beOne of the best ways to celebrate Easter is finding a new dress! Shopping for one with my mom is my favorite tradition. It should probably be church, or family dinner, or something of that nature. But it’s not. It’s always been about the dress for yours truly. And besides, I feel it should count for something that I’m putting in so much effort for the big day.;)

There are lots of good ones out there this year! Here’s a few of my window shopping favorites:)

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Whatever you celebrate the day in, I hope you feel loved and beautiful!

XOXO

Cindy

Photo by: rekitanicole.com , Lover Chelsea Shift Dress, Victoria Bekham Silk Midi,  Flounce Layered Shirt Dress, Rebecca Taylor Colour-Block Lace DressSkytop by Lauren Moffatt 

 

 


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Mouth in the Dust

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Good morning.
Mondays…Ugh.
Between the items I didn’t get to on my weekend to-do list, and the ones I already know I’ll miss or mess up this week, I feel frazzled. On my commute, I tell myself I’ll  do better and this week: I won’t skip workouts, neglect friends and family, and fail at writing. All my planning berating only reminds me just how behind I’m starting off today.
There’s a picture of the person I want to be in my head and she takes a lot of time, effort, and work. (She of course makes it look effortless) She has time for everyone in her life and for herself. If she only gets up earlier, tries a little harder, and learns from her mistakes, she can be real.
Today, as I exited the freeway and parked in front of my office, I remembered a verse someone read in church yesterday that I wanted to look up. I figured it would be a good idea to start there before doing anything else. I opened my computer and looked up Lamentations 3:20-29
“Surely my soul remembers, and is bowed down within me.
This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope.
The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.
‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I have hope in Him.’
The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him.
It is good that he waits silently for the salvation of the Lord.
It is good for a man that he should bear the yoke in his youth.
Let him sit alone and be silent since He has laid it on him. Let him put his mouth in the dust, perhaps there is hope.”
Here’s what stood out to me this morning-
His lovingkindness and compassion never fail. They are new every morning.
Every Monday. Every day, I get to start over and He isn’t disappointed or frustrated with me and my shortcomings from yesterday. He looks at me with kindness, no matter how unkind I am to myself.
The Lord is my portion. All the stuff I think I have to do and achieve to secure the life I want are not what I am actually sustained by. He is my portion and He’ll give me what I need to do. Bonus- He’s portioned controlled. If I take on only what He’s asking, I won’t have more or less than what I need.
Wait, Seek, Be Silent, Mouth in the dust. I love that image! Mouth in the dust. It’s like the writer is shouting “JUST STOP AlREADY AND BE QUIET!”  People like me need that:) Why is it so hard to just stop? Why do I start ever week thinking I can get to everything if I rush? If I just wait, seek, be silent, and literally put my big overused mouth to the dust, He’ll help me handle the things I’m trying to control. Then, and only then, do I have the hope being the person I believe He wants me to be.
Ahhhh….That’s better. Monday. Mine feels a little more manageable. Hope yours does, too.
XOXO
Cindy
Image by Lyrics And Life

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Sara Lindsay Music

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Hey! Please allow me to introduce you to my lovely, talented, and warmhearted friend Sara. She leads worship in Long Beach and has just written her own full length worship album. She has a few days left on her kickstarter if you’d like to help support. I mean really… couldn’t we all use more quality worship albums by women?!:) Give her website SaraLindsayMusic a visit and check back to see when her album is available!

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