Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Prepare Yourself...

I can't wait for the day that I am out there DOING SOMETHING about this, life completely turned upside down, forsaken comfort and normalcy, and apathy... God stir in my life the pathway to change.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Egypt Team's Garage Sale-- SATURDAY

Hi friends!I want to invite you all to come out to our Egypt Team's Garage Sale THIS SATURDAY, Dec 6th from 8am-2pm!

What: Egypt Team GARAGE SALE
Date: Saturday, Dec 6th
Time: 8am-2pm
Location: 1609 Bush Coat Lane, Austin, Tx 78754 (Jonathan Bowman's house)

In late January of 2009, I am headed to Egypt with nine gals from the Stone to serve the people there in a couple of different ways. As a team, we are each trying to raise $2500 in order to go... and this garage sale is one of our efforts to raise support. We hope that you can stop by and support us... it is a 10-family garage sale (so it should be chalk full of lots to choose from)! Every dollar helps us get one step closer to our goal, so we hope to make some good headway this weekend. If you cannot make it to the garage sale, but would still like to support our team, please email me and I will get you a donor card.

Join us in prayer this week, asking God to provide all the funds necessary for every team member to be able to go. Also, begin praying even now that God would bear fruit through our team in our efforts to serve the people of Egypt spiritually, physically, and emotionally. The things we get to participate in (service wise) are simply amazing and we are all excited to see how God moves in very tangible ways while we are there!

with Him,
anna melvin
The Team: Laura Applegath, Wendy Jo Cox, Michelle Enriquez, Cara Kyle, Melanie Kowalik, Skipper McWithey, Anna Melvin, Leticia Mosqueda, Heather Rountree, and Anita Smith

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Book Review: "Nine Parts of Desire"

A friend of mine who works in India recommended I pick up Nine Parts of Desire back in the summer. I just got around to reading it this last month and found it really fascinating.

The author, Geraldine Brooks, is an Australian-born, Jewish reporter who was sent to the Middle East to cover the emerging newstories of the 90s. Based in Cairo, but traveling throughout the Middle East (including Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iran, Palestine, just to name a few), she was able to push the limitations normally ascribed to women in the culture in the name of "journalism" to get her stories. Granted unprecedented access to some of the regions most notorious figures, Brooks delivers a capitvating memoir and analysis of her years covering the politics, culture, and religion of Muslim-dominated countries. And she specifically revisits her interpretations of the role of women in the region, which varies from country to country.

Having a journalism degree myself, I always appreciate the unbiased investigative look into places and traditions that I find fascinating in their own right. Her Jewish religion (which she does not actively practice) never interferes with her covereage, her Western (Australian) heritage never skews her view, and she does not become enamoured with the culture in a way to twists her reporting.

The biggest critique I have of the book is of no fault to the author... Nine Parts of Desire was published in 1995 after six years of living in the Middle East covering news for international reporting conglomerates. The region, the religion, and the movement of both have been drastically affected post-9/11. So, I am curious what a similar experience would look like for Brooks had the dates of her journey been the last 8 years as opposed the 90s. The world is a very different place since Sept 11th. I imagine the book would be as well.

In the conclusion, Brooks writes a brief analysis of the "fight" Muslim women have against countries which "oppress" them in the name of religion. This is obviously a hot topic and a sensitive one across the world. But she spins the concept of this "fight" in a new way for me that really made me stop and think.

"As Westerners, we profess to believe that human rights are an immutable international currency, independent of cultural mores and political circumstances. At a Geneva conference on the International Declaration of Human Rights in 1993... Iran, Cuba, China and Indonesia (among others) argued that the West had imposed its human rights ideology on nations whose very different religious and political histories gave them the right to choose their own. To me, the argument boils down to this ghastly and untenable proposition: a human right is what the local despot says it is.

"Is it even our fight? As a mental test, I always try to reverse the gender. If some ninety million little boys were having their penises amputated (the equivalent to female genital multilation), would the world have acted to prevent it by now? You bet.

"Sometimes substituting race for gender is also an interesting exercise. Say a country-- a close Western ally and trading partner-- had a population half white, half black. The whites had complete control of the blacks. They could beat them if they disobeyed. They deprived them of the right to leave the house without permission; to walk unmolested without wearing the official segregated dress; to hold any decent job in the government, or to work at all without the permission of the white in control of them. Would there have been an uproar in our countries by now? Would we have imposed trade sanctions and subjected this country to international opprobrium? You bet. Yet countries such as Saudi Arabia, which deprive half their population of these most basic rights, have been subjected to none of these things." (pg 237)

Just makes you think of the struggle in a different light, I think. I highly suggest picking up this book!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Craigslist Obsession

I know its been a while... I am in a dark hole of not writing this month for some reason. But the light in my month is an introduction to Craigslist. Oh, dear Lord, how wonderful that invention is!! I am going back to Egypt in January and am selling TONS of stuff to pay for my trip. And Andy taught me how to use Craigslist and now I am obsessed. I keep walking around my house with my camera all day and picking things out, snapping a few shots, and posting away. I have already sold $370 worth of stuff and have so much more to sell. I got rid of allllll my old Stampin' Up stuff (sniff, sniff), our Guitar Hero game, our 7 foot Christmas tree-- just to name a few! This IS THE YEAR to sell on Craigslist during December, cuz everyone's budgets shrank in the last 60 days. YEAH! EGYPT here I come. Come on, Craigslist, work for me baby!

If you're curious what else is "on the market" at the moment:
  • "24" on DVD, seasons 1, 2, 3, and 5 (missing season 4)
  • Wallace Silversmiths annual Silver Sleigh Bell oranments (9 of them, 1997, and 1999-2006)
  • our Pottery Barn TV armoire (in great shape, just upgraded TVs and our new one doesn't fit)
  • a red velvet with pearl beading Christmas Tree Skirt from Crate and Barrel (gorgeous!)

You get the picture.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Update on JOE

For those of you wondering about an update on JOE, Andy's guitar player who was in the wreck 2 days before we were scheduled to leave for Turkey, here's the latest:

Joe had surgery on Oct 28th to reconstruct his busted up arm/wrist combo. Just yesterday he got his cast off and stitches removed! YEAH! This is the aftermath...
(FYI, that is Lucky in the background running away from the "scary" bionic arm-- he's such a wimp!) They gave him a pretty, flesh-colored brace to keep his little arm safe while it is still healing. I took a short video of him demonstrating how far he can move and manipulate his wrist so far, but stupid Blogger won't let me upload it! But the short of it is: not very much. Certainly can't move it enough yet to play guitar. However, Joe's determined to wiggle and stretch that sucker as hard as he can to get back into playing mode.
Underneath that tape is lots of metal! Permanent fixtures in Joe's new bionic arm. He has several screws and plates intalled while under the knife.

For those of you who would like to help Joe by pitching in to pay for his medical costs and car loan (the insurance isn't covering it and he had a loan out on his car), you can send any contributions to "AUSTIN STONE" (put nothing in the memo line), care of Andy & I. Just shoot me an email (a t x a n n a @ g m a i l DOT c o m) and I will send you our address. We will be collecting funds to help him cover his costs and will turn them in to the church in one big pot. So far, we're looking at around $15,000 (ouch!!!!).

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Big Dog - Small Space

Last night, while Andy's back was turned as he worked in the studio, Applejack made himself right at home... curling up for a long nap in Andy's open guitar case. Mind you this is an 85 pound pup. He looks soooo uncomfortable, but so cozy all at the same time. Andy said he slept like that for a while. My precious Pappy!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloweens of My Past

A few weeks ago, I was thumbing through a few old childhood pictures and stumbed across my Halloween costume from 3rd grade. I wanted to be a BELLY DANCER, so my mom made this costume. I remember wearing it to school and freezing cuz it was late October (obviously) and having to wear a white cardigan sweater half the day-- which really disappointed me cuz it ruined the whole outfit (again, obviously).

Looking back at this now, I find it extremely interesting that even back then, I had a fascination with far-away cultures and women from abroad. Who would have thought that 22 years later, I would be studying and spending time working in some of these very places I used to dream about. Huh?!

  • But while we are strolling down Halloween memory lane, I thought I would brag about some of my other costume choices over the years.

In 4th grade, I dressed up like a giant PANCAKE. I wish I still had a photo of it. My mom and I made it with 2 giant pieces of foam cut into circles the size of me and yellow & brown spray paint bought at Home Depot. We painted the foam in the park across the street from my house. trying to acheive the perfect brown-yellow mixture that said "Golden Brown Pancake with Butter & Syrup"-- which was tricky.

In 8th grade, I dressed up as a PICNIC TABLE (I have no idea where that idea came from). I bought some red & white ginham checked fabric, stretched it over my shoulders with a broomstick balancing it squarely. Then I stapled plastic forks/knives/spoons, paper plates, and napkins in a 6 piece place setting on it. Topped the whole thing off with giant rubber ants that I also glued to the fabric. I won the middle school costume award that year-- as well I should have! However, sitting in class was a challenge.

My sophomore year at UT, was the same year that the KA fraternity got busted by a local news station for duct taping a drunk pledge to tree in the front yard of the frat house to keep him from stumbling around and hurting himself. So, gutsy Anna showed up to the KA house Halloween night dressed as "THE DRUNK PLEDGE DUCT TAPED TO A TREE". I copied his whole outit from the news-- jeans tucked haphazardly into rubber work boots, a confederate flag Tshirt (of course), and a bright orange ski mask/hunting mask, with duct tape wrapped around my mid-drift, carrying a bottle of Jim Beam. When I showed up at the house, the joke did not go over well when they first saw me, but when I ripped off my mask to reveal "its just Anna", I somehow got away with it and ended up being asked to be in 1,000 pictures that night with people who thought it was hilarious.

Finally, my most recent award winner was MARGE SIMPSON from "The Simpsons." I think I was 25?? Anyway, I made a bright green tube-dress out of random fabric from the thrift store, wore bright red high heels, donned an eye-catching blue bee hive wig (I already owned for some unknown reason), made a red necklace out of sparkly red puff balls from the craft store, and topped the whole thing off with 2 inch wide, flat google-eyes glued tothe lenses of John Lennon-style glasses. My cousin and I were celebrating Halloween that night at a bar in Houston and won the best dressed "couple" award... he went as a fireman (the year of 9-11).

Those are by far the most memorable... will I ever dress up again??? How could I possibly top these, so probably not.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Book Review: A Thousand Splendid Suns

Last night I finished reading Khaled Hosseini's latest novel (although its now been out a while)-- "A Thousand Splendid Suns". It was beautiful and tragic. Spanning over 30 years, the book follows the stories of two women living the painful, war-ravaged, daily life of Afghanistan.
Experiencing such things as loss of family, loss of friends, loss of love, loss of country... births, deaths, war, regime change, hunger, abuse, poverty, oppression, freedom, and lastly, refugee life... the whole picutre is painted of what this upended country has been through. To read the "official blurb" describing the book, click here for Barnes & Noble's notes: http://search.barnesandnoble.com/A-Thousand-Splendid-Suns/Khaled-Hosseini/e/9781594489501/?itm=1

I highly recommend picking it up. Separately, in the closing remarks, author Hosseini encourages readers to click on the following link: http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/home to check out the United Nations work to help with the growing needs and circumstances faced by the world's refugees. Check it out.

Hosseini's first book "The Kite Runner" was also a page-turner. He is a very gifted writer and paints an honest, even though tough, picutre of life in his home-country. This book was made into a movie that came out last year. It created quite a stir because of the rape scene of a young boy. So much so that the actual Afghan actors who played the boys had to be moved out of their country to escape cultural threats. Check out this article that mentioned their situation...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Road to Turkey (A Journey Delayed)

Today was our departure for Turkey. But here I sit in Dominican Joe’s sipping my favorite vanilla latte and checking emails. I haven’t written much about our trip to Turkey on this blog because, well, there’s not a whole lot I can say (so excuse me if even this post seems incomplete in explanation). Bottom line, Andy & the band (Rufus McGovern) were going over to play some concerts in clubs (or as a Turk would call ‘em, “Rock Bars”) and we made the decision to post-pone our trip after Joe (the guitar player) was in an accident Sunday that left him with a broken arm.

We’ve been working with our Turkish friends, planning this trip since spring. So today is bittersweet, knowing that the plane we were to be on is now flying en route to the land that we have been longing for. The verse I have been clinging to from the Bible is Proverbs 16:9—“In his heart, a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.”

There has been a lot of turmoil surrounding this trip for the last 6 weeks and I feel I have inappropriately questioned God through it. I repeatedly wondered, “Is this God trying tell us to delay our trip for our own good, or is this the enemy trying to prevent us from going?” However, that mindset negates that God is ALWAYS in control. Today, I can tell God I am sorry for questioning Him, and ask Him to refuel my trust in His plans for my life.

If we had just been experiencing these trials in general daily life (without a trip on the horizon), I wonder if I would have been filtering them the same way? I think the fact that we had a decision to make—“to go or to not go?”—really muddied my interpretation of the attacks we were experiencing. Because I kept wondering, “should THIS affect our decision?” or “is THIS supposed to change our plans?” etc, I was forgetting to FIRST apply the truth that I believe as a follower of Christ, which is: God is the author of all things.

As Michelle gently reminded me on Sunday, “it would be ‘mystical’ to wonder who was causing these things to happen, and followers of Jesus are not mystics—we believe He is always, sovereignly, in control.” Her comment helped to redirect my affections to God. Instead of wondering, “By what hand are these afflictions?” and having that influence our choices, our doubt, and even our joy, I should have grounded myself in who I know God to be.

I went to the Desiring God Regional Conference this weekend, on the subject of JOB: When the Righteous Suffer. A few things that stood out to me, and NOW feel I could apply to these current circumstances, are this:

1) Even if God allows Satan to test us, the enemy is ultimately only the middle man (for lack of a better description). I had always read the book of Job thinking it was the enemy afflicting Job with God’s permission. But even JOB, himself, viewed GOD as the author of his trials.

2) Suffering: the devil uses it to accomplish his goal of ruining your faith, and God uses it to accomplish His goal of strengthening your faith.

3) “Shall we receive good at the hand of the Lord and not receive adversity?” (from Job 2:10)

4) Spoken from God’s perspective: I don’t use my power capriciously—I have a purpose in all that I do.

5) God is doing 10,000+ things in your life at one time—not just one or two. Even though you may only see one or two or ten at a time, He’s still doing 10,000+. When you are suffering, consider that you only have a glimpse of God’s big picture for you.

My friend, Fabs, also sent me an encouraging email reminding me of good truths in the midst of things that are hard to understand: “I’m sure you feel like all your plans are slipping away… but no plan has been lost. God is on His throne and all plans are just being executed by a hand too mighty to be seen and too kind to let us make our own plans… God has prepared good works for us to do, and He will be faithful to see that we do them to the best of our ability…” I can only add: IN HIS TIMING He will work in us to accomplish the plans He’s set aside for us to accomplish. Not my timing.

For now, we are left to increase our affections for Turkey from right here in Austin.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Ordinary People Post

New updated post on my other blog... a testimony of Jonathan & Lauren, partners at Stone who are preparing to move to Sudan in 2009. Picutred to the right is Jonathan, helping to baptize a new believer in Sudan on one of his trips there.

Click HERE to read the blog.

Andy's Guitar Player, Joe

Many of you might have already heard, but I wanted to record the info here for those who've missed the news in the last 24 hrs. Yesterday, Joe, Andy's guitar player, was driving home for a quick nap between the AM & PM services. He was exiting off 183 at I-35 when some sun glared in his eyes, he squinted, (must have swerved a little) refocused, thought he was gonna hit a fire hydrant, swerved to compensate, and slammed head-on into one of those tall, giant cement pillars that hold up the freeway fly-over. The wreck was bad. He is truly lucky he had on his seat belt (cuz if he'd flown through a windsheild he would have connected at 50 mph with that cement pillar). The ambulance took him to the hospital and he broke his arm pretty bad.

He officially broke his radius with a jagged fracture. They tried to reset the bone last night so his arm could at least be put in a sling until surgery. They will have to put screws and plates in his arm. Next, he dislocated (at least) a bunch of the little bones in his wrist/hand. When they reset the bones, some went back into place, but there is still some displacement b/c of swelling. And some of those little wrist bones were chipped (shattered would be too harsh to say, but definately chipped). He can move his fingers and feel them-- which is EXCELLENT NEWS! Tomorrow (Tues) at 1:30, he has a consult/dr appt with the surgeon and they will schedule his surgery probably for Wed now.

The picture above, is Joe's arm in the ER... the part under the orange is his deformed hand, the S-shaped thing in the middle is his forearm, and his real elbow is under the sheet. YU-UCK!

His car is officially totaled, according to the wrecker. And his insurance company has found a loop-hole to deny him a claim and are not paying for any of it. He had a car note, so that stinks. But after seeing the car in person, it truly is a miracle he survived, so the whole insurance/car note dilemma seem small in comparison.

Everyone please keep him in your prayers. Joe makes his living by playing guitar. So now, he's out of work, fixing to have surgery, and will have a long road of rehab. He will need his church family to come around him with love, prayer, and support.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Strange Sounds of My Neighborhood

I decided to work outside today so I could enjoy the gazebo while I punched away at my computer. And boy am I noticing all the bizarre sounds that circle the air in my neck of the woods. Here is just a sampling (remember, we live in South Austin which is queen of weird).

  1. The lady who lives in the back corner of our property is a past life spiritualist, and I am pretty sure she is chanting a ceremonial spell right now. Its this weird trilling, singing, chanting noise coming from the back corner. When we first met her after moving in, she gave us her card which declared her divining services offered for a fee.
  2. The family that lives just out our side door raises peacocks and today, they are quite chatty... peacock noises are pretty freaky if you don't know what they are. Its a strange combo of a honk, a squeal, and a scream. In fact, several homes in our neighborhood have peacocks (don't ask me why this is a trend in South Austin), so when mating season comes along, Lord have mercy-- there is some serious squawking as they try to find each other!
  3. We are one block away from the train that cuts through downtown Austin, so as I have sat out here for the past hour, I get serenading with the warning honks of the incoming trains.
  4. It just started raining and I am sitting under our tin-roofed gazebo... I love the pitter-pat of rain on a tin roof.
  5. The neighbor just down the hill from our driveway is unemployed and sits in his driveway all day and listens to talk radio turned up real loud (not Conservative Talk Radio, just radio stations that talk) and drinks beer... from around 11am till dark. Everyday. For the 4 years we've lived here.
  6. There is a day care about a block away, but up the hill, so you can always hear the gleeful noises of children playing trickle down towards us.
  7. Our neighbor on another side has converted his yard to, essentially, a junk drop for old cars and motorcycles. Right now, he's working on one of the engines so every few minutes he revs up the motor to check the progress.
  8. And lastly, it wouldn't be South Austin without the faint noise of music playing somewhere... In the condos that butt up to the far back corner of our lot, there is a musician practicing guitar in his amp. They all have to believe no one can hear them if they're in their own home, but we all know its true. No complaints from us though, becuase tomorrow it will be Andy's turn to add to the mixture of noise in our neighborhood.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Classic Dog Shots

French Friends

This week our French, church-planting friends, Nicole & Vincent were visiting from Europe. She's a Scot and he is a native Frenchman and they are working in the South of France. They've been church planters for about 10 years (the first 8 in Scotland, the last 2 in France). They are precious to us and we love every time they get to visit! These are a few snapshots from their week here. We got to celebrate their new baby (born after 8 years of trying with no sucess), they got to celebrate my birthday, and we all got to celebrate Robin, who surprised us all with a return trip to the states for the week (sadly due to being sick, but we will gladly take her any way we get her!).
This is the girls, hanging on the gazebo till the "wee" hours last night (Nicky's favorite Scottish word). Lady tried to get in the shot, demanding she too is one of the girls!
Robin loved getting to play with little Etienne (French for Stephen and named after the first martyr for Christ in Acts 7). He is 8 months old and mobile beyond his years!
Vincent loves our dogs, and to hear him speak to them in his French accent is hilarious! This is him trying to convince Lady to sit instead of lick his face... "leh-deeeeeee... seet!"

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A Year And A Day

A family portrait for my birthday yesterday.
Everytime we tried to self-timer the dogs would jump on us...
Only ONE obedient dog pic... the only problem is their backs are to the camera.
Just mom and the kids on her birthday.
Andy and I out at dinner celebrating my big 3-2!


I am wondering how many of you out there (who go to the Stone) have been tempted to go out and have a Chicken Biscuit yet this week? With Matt talking about it on Sunday AND putting a picture on the screen, we were all were doomed...

Andy woke me up this morning at 10:15 saying, "wanna go get breakfast with me?" (FYI, I sleept 19x later than Andy each day and he's always having to peel me out of bed after he's been working for several hours already and is ready for a break.) I sleepily replied, "okay, where?" To which he says, "I don't know...hmm...what about Chick-fil-a?" Ahhh-haaa! Subliminal advertising DOES work!

Long story short, Chick-fil-a serves up another satisfied customer. Thanks Matt-- my diet got a hiatus this morning!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Feeling Too Lame for My Musician Husband

Today, Andy put iTunes on my computer and sync'd my baby ipod. He gave me an ipod last year for my birthday in an effort to get me up to date with this generation. I loaded a bunch of old sermon CDs I had in my bookcase onto it and that was it. But today, he wanted to teach me how to input music CDs in case I decide I want to have some of my old CDs on this fancy ipod thingy.

Now, as if I wasn't already feeling pretty uncool because I am married to a musician and never listen to music... now I was outed that I only had sermons on my ipod... and thirdly-- and this is the worst part-- I flipped through my old (pre-wedding) CD wallet to find a CD I wanted to import during Andy's teaching demo for me and I was flat out imbarrassed! Mind you, I have never been a big music person. Always perferred movies to music, but for your laughing-pleasure, here is a sampling:
  • The Wedding Singer, soundtrack
  • Dido, no angel (not sure I've even listened to it)
  • Jack Ingram, jack ingram
  • 10,000 Maniacs, our time in eden
  • Pretty Woman, soundtrack
  • Madonna, ray of light
  • The Wedding Singer, additional soundtrack
  • Dirty Dancing, soundtrack
  • Will Smith, willenium (funny side-story about karoke-ing this in front of Andy's parents the second time I'd ever met them... a story for another day)
  • Footloose, soundtrack
  • Singles, soundtrack
  • Jerry Maguire, soundtrack
  • Titanic, soundtrack
  • The Bodyguard, soundtrack
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers, californication
  • Some Kind of Wonderful, soundtrack (yes, the movie from 1987)
  • My Best Friend's Wedding, soundtrack

Are you all laughing yet? Cuz, you should be. Let me continue...

  • Austin Powers, soundtrack
  • Forest Gump, soundtrack
  • Charlies Angels, soundtrack
  • Natalie Merchant, tigerlily
  • Moulin Rouge, soundtrack
  • GoGo's, greatest hits
  • Field of Dreams, soundtrack
  • The Living Sea, (IMAX) soundtrack
  • Dixie Chicks, fly
  • INXS, welcome to wherever you are (font is old school dos format)
  • The Cranberries, everybody else is doing it (i cannot even tell you one song on this album)
  • Elton John, CD single of "The One"
  • Pretenders, last of the independants (I think I saw them on SNL one time)
  • Dave Matthews, under the table dreaming
  • Rusted Root, when i woke (I am not even sure I remember who they are)
  • Honeymoon in Vegas, soundtrack
  • Reality Bites, soundtrack
  • Dazed and Confused, soundtrack

There. I am a musical D-O-R-K. Just for your laughing pleasure.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

TURKEY Here We Come!




I just bought the band tickets to go to Turkey. We leave three weeks from today. I am feeling so thrilled inside (although I might could put partial blame on the coffee I had an hour ago-- the first in a week). I am realizing what a weight that was putting on me. I have been feeling so burdened and heavy about the Turkey details coming together, and now that a MAJOR part of the puzzle is complete, I feel a huge sense of relief!

Plus, I budgeted for $13,000 for all our tickets (translator's too) and came out spending just $8,422. Talk about a major break since we are behind in our fundraising!!! That is H-U-G-E savings! We still have a lot more money to raise, but I am trusting God to provide.

I am just simply in the best mood now and wanted to share with my friends...

(FYI, I almost took a picture of my e-ticket to add some visual element to this post, but figured that was overboard, even though I am trying to adhere to Angela's blog rules of "always try to include a visual with your text cuz ONLY words can be boring".)

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

I'm Feelin' a List

Just ending my day and feeling a bit detatched from the blog cuz I've felt such a funk these past weeks. But want to keep you abreast of life in Anna's world (I am pretending you are highly invested)...
  • Watching my "n-th" endless hour of news about the economic crisis. Wavering between total trust/peace and lamet/freakin' about how we might have done things differently. Plus spending too much time listening to the same analysis over and over.
  • I am (overly) interested in seeing how Palin fares verses Biden on Thurs given my personal bent towards caring about foreign affairs. Kinda an unfair match up in that category.
  • Lunched with Heather and Angela today... Angela came with Malachi in tow (per her usual) and I brought Lucky to test the dog-love affect on recovering patients. Heather loved both. I feel inspired to take Lucky around to hospitals for visits because he's so wonderful. But in all honesty, he'll probably stay reserved just for my friend in recovery (I'm assuming there's dog-hospital training).
  • We leave for Turkey three weeks from tomorrow. Yes, I did NOT studder. That's basically tomorrow which freaks me out about every other hour.
  • Andy and I went to the Turkish American Women's Assoc end of Ramadan Iftar dinner last night. So honored to be invited and loved getting to spend the evening with our sweet friends from Turkey, living right here in Austin. Got my dolmas on... all readying my tummy for Turkey in 3 weeks.
  • I talked to Robin today, in the D.R. She is sick and homesick. Everyone out there who knows who I'm talking about, pray for her. She's fought a LOT of illness so far this semester and it makes for hard times down there. I am so glad I got the phone when she called. Lots of tears, prayers, and just needing company. Send her an email!!! PS-- I MISS HER!!!!!!
  • Storytelling Group is rockin' my world. I am so glad that God is stretching me in this area of life... how to talk about Jesus to people who don't know Him in a way that is not limited to Scripture quoting and formal explanations!
  • I am super curious about how Bush & Maris' day went today, meeting the birth mother of their soon-to-be baby boy. I keep blog-stalking waiting for the update.
  • I tried "two-a-days" today at the gym... just getting sick of being unhealthy. But was so ravenous by dinner I ended up having sushi with white wine... but followed by 2 100 cal paks of cookies. I went over my Weight Watchers points. Buggar! Even with the "activity points" I earned from working out twice. Will this weight ever come off?
  • Andy and I have a new TV sitcom stand in till our favorite shows come back: King of Queens. Laughing lots. Surprised we like it. Ok, love it.

The Story of Elijah

This past week in our storytelling group, we were each to prepare a story from the Old Testament. We could pick any story we wanted to... just to get the ball rolling for us to practice storytelling in general. I chose the story of Elijah. Partly because I went to the top of Mount Carmel when we were in Israel last May, so I've seen the place where this happend. But also partly because when I was studying James a few weeks ago, he referred to Elijah as an example of someone who prayed with results.

James 5: 16b-18 says, "The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and wonderful results. Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for the next three and a half years! Then he prayed for rain, and down it poured. The grass turned green, and the crops began to grow again."

So, I was intrigued. I cross-referenced my way back to the story in the Old Testament and was enamoured with it as though it were a page turner. Here's my "storyteller's version" for you.

When King Ahab was king of Israel’s northern kingdom—which was full of God’s people, he did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, and did more to arouse the anger of the Lord than any of the other kings before him.” What did he do, you might ask? Well, God had given His people a command, “You shall have no other gods before Me” and “you shall not make any idol or likeness to worship or serve because I am a jealous God and I show will show mercy to those who love Me and keep My commandments.”

But King Ahab didn’t keep these commands. Instead, he married Jezebel (who wasn’t one of God’s people) and began to worship Baal (Jezebel’s god). He built a temple and altar for Baal and he set up places of worship and sacrifice to this false god. He led all of God’s people into a state of rebellion from God, and led them to worship Baal as he instructed. He really distracted God’s people from worshipping Him.

So what does God do? Well, without much fanfare or announcement, the prophet Elijah bursts upon the scene and, per God’s instruction, predicts a severe drought will come during the reign of King Ahab. Elijah goes to the King and says, “As surely as the Lord, the God of Israel lives—the God whom I worship and serve—there will be no dew or rain during the next few years unless I give the word!”

The no rain thing had a two-fold purpose: 1) a consequence/punishment for disobedience to God (by worshipping other gods), and 2) it was an exercise in redirecting the Israelites’ heart and focus on God.

Elijah prayed for no rain… for so long… and when the people’s attention was assuredly gained, he goes out to meet King Ahab. When the King sees Elijah, he says, “So it’s you, is it?—Israel’s troublemaker?” But Elijah replies “I have made no trouble for Israel. You and your family are the troublemakers, for you have refused to obey the commands of the Lord and have worshipped the images of Baal instead.”

Elijah says to the King, come, I challenge you to a test to determine once and for all which god is the real god. When all the people were assembled on Mt. Carmel, Elijah addresses the crowd saying, “How long are you going to waver between 2 opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him! But if Baal is god, then follow him!” But the people were completely silent. The sting of the truth shut them up for a moment.

Then Elijah sets the scene for the dual. There will be 2 sacrifices. One prepared for Baal, and one for God. Each group will call to their god asking him to consume his sacrifice. And the God who answers by setting fire to the wood is the true God! So the 450 prophets of Baal called to their god all day, all the way until evening, but nothing happened. The sacrifice of the prophets of Baal did not produce a result.

Now it was Elijah’s turn (1 prophet to their 450). As he prepared the sacrifice, he even drenched it with water to make it even more difficult for a fire to start and he dug a trench around it and filled it with water too. Then Elijah prayed “O Lord God of Abraham, Isaac & Jacob, prove today that you are God and that I am your servant. Prove that I have done all this AT YOUR COMMAND. Oh Lord, answer me! Answer me SO THAT these people will know that you, O Lord, are God and that you have brought them back to yourself.”

In a fire-y display of power and majesty, God consumes the offering of Elijah’s sacrifice, proving to the on-looking nation that He alone is Lord God. Immediately the fire of the Lord flashed down from heaven and burned up the young bull (the sacrifice), the wood, the stones, and the dust. It even licked up all the water in the ditch.

When the people saw it, they fell on their faces and cried out, ‘The Lord is God! The Lord is God!” THAT is the result that God desired from Elijah’s prayers. God had wanted His people to return their affection to Him. Having done so, Elijah immediately went and fell on his face praying that God would now release the rains on Israel. And He did. Now that God had regained the focus of His people, He allowed the rains to return. And the people knew it was by His hand. The grass turned green and all the crops began to grow again. And the people worshipped God once again.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I'm Officially a Responder

Okay, so, do you remember a few posts back, I mentioned that I was "Now Sharing Jesus Online"? Well, after applying and going through their paper training, the organization starts giving you online inquiries and emails to respond to. But for the first 30 days, you're still considered "in training," and they monitor/counsel you for a month as you get used to sharing Jesus online with all the contacts that come to your inbox. Really smart on their part, and I have certainly appreciated someone over my shoulder just making sure I had someone to turn to with questions I was having. But as of yesterday, I completed my 30 days! I'm now officially a responder.

But now to the really cool part... In just my first 30 days, I responded to inquiries from:
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Sudan
  • Nigeria
  • Indonesia
  • Jamaica
  • South Africa
  • Algeria
  • UAE
  • Botswana
  • Turks & Caicos
  • Fiji
  • Bangladesh
  • Thailand
  • Egypt
  • and 12 different states in the U.S.

Ya! That's right!!!! I got to encourage new belivers, or recommitting believers, or people who were seeking about Jesus from ALL THOSE PLACES in just 30 days. I mean, how stinkin' cool is that!?!?!? (you set up how many emails you get a week, so you could get fewer if you don't have as much time).

Bottom line, you all should sign up to do this. It is such a joy for me to get to do this everyday. Whenever Andy comes home for the night, I am always jumping to tell him-- "guess where I got an email from TODAY!?!?" It puts me in the best mood. PLEASE SIGN UP... you will love it!

WANNA SIGN UP TO DO THIS TOO (or learn more about it)? Click here!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Stone's New Worship Dude's Wife-- Get To Know Her

Hey all you Stoners out there reading this blog... I just wanted to introduce you to the latest addition to the ever-growing crowd of Stone staff wives: Jamie Ivey. Aaron came on staff in August, or something like that, to help share the load of worship leading with Andy. We have absolutely loved getting to know them so far... seriously good peeps and an incredible addition to the Stone.

Anywho, I just finished my latest article on my Ordinary People blog and its about Jamie. She and Aaron are bleeding hearts for the country of Haiti and would love to tell you why you should care about Haiti too. If you haven't found their blogs, yet-- check them out (Jamie and Aaron). Or you can go to my Ordinary peep blog and read more about her.

But HEADS UP-- Jamie leaves on Monday for Haiti to visit the two kids they are adopting from there (see photo above or Aaron, Jamie & their two Haitian kiddos), encourage and love on some missionary workers there, and witness first-hand the devastation left by Hurricane IKE (you think Texas got it bad... Haiti is in near shambles without a government infastructure that can help). Keep a close watch on her blog this week as she will be posting pics and updates regularly.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A Quiet Phase

I have had a few people email wondering where I wandered off too this week in the blog-o-sphere. Truth is, I haven't felt much like writing. This past Sunday, Sept 14th, was my mom's birthday. She died when I was 25 and I think I find myself missing her more around birthdays than I do on the anniversary of her death. I don't get near as weepy after so many years, but I think I just get more quiet. I don't talk as much. I think a lot more. I just process, internally, the life that continues on around me. Plus, the "semester" really got underway for me this week and I have been busier than normal. That combination has lured me into going AWOL, if just for a week or so. So, thanks to those who've wondered where I went... I will slowly return, little bits at a time.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Trailer for Beyond Belief

9-11 Widows Reach Out to Afghan Widows

To watch the FILM TRAILER, click here.

Today, my good friend Toni and I sat down to watch a documentary we had Netflix'd called "BEYOND BELIEF". We found the website for this documentary while we were training a group of 10 women to go to Egypt this past spring and made mental notes to rent it when it came out on DVD. It arrived in my mailbox last week, and we set up a date-day to watch it together. I woke up this morning, turned on the news while I brewed coffee, and realized our date-day was TODAY- the anniversary of 9-11. And the documentary is about two 9-11 widows and what they did in their grief to reach out to the widows of Afghanistan, where our troops were sent in retaliation from the Sept 11th attacks.

The Netflix package reads: "Two strangers, Patti Quigley and Susan Retik, formed a common bond in their grief when both lost their husbands on Sept 11, 2001. This documentary chronicles what they did with that unimaginable loss, traveling to Afghanistan to meet women there also widowed by violence. Director Beth Murphy follows Quigley and Retik as they discover that although they are worlds apart, they share a kinship with the Middle Eastern counterparts."

The two women started a non-profit organization that helps provide grants to organizations that work with widows in Afghanistan. They train them in skills that help them provide for their families, give them micro-loans, and check-in on them after they've completed the programs. These two women started "Beyond the 11th" with one fundraising bike ride from Ground Zero back to Boston where they lived with their families on the anniversary of 9-11 in 2004. It took 3 days, but they made it back and raised $140,000 to give to Afghan widows. Then in 2006, they travelled to Afghanistan to see the faces and hear the stories of the widows they had compassion to help. After meeting these desperate women across the world, they vowed to return home and keep raising money to help provide a means for these ladies to press on despite the challenges and horrific circumstances under which they live.

Rent this film on Netflix... Go to the Beyond the 11th website and read more about their stories... Donate to help provide food, care, education, and aid to the widows of Afghanistan.
http://www.principlepictures.com/beyondbelief/ (the documentary's website)http://www.beyondthe11th.org/ (the non-profit they started to bring relief to Afghan widows).

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Alter-Blog-o's New Post

I posted my latest article on the Ordinary People - Extraordinary God blog that I have (my "alter-blog-o"). Anyway, wanted to let you guys know... the latest story is about KATIE (pictured above with Steve), a midwife from Austin who is about to move (with her husband and newborn baby) to the Middle East to work at a hospital there. It's a pretty fascinating story. Check it out HERE.

My heart for the Ordinary People - Extraordinary God website is to share the stories people I know personally, or have a close degree of separation from, who God is using to do His work... the point is, God can (and does) use anyone who is surrendered to His will. You don't have to be a super-star Christian, a high-ranking influencer, or even a paid church-staffer. The only requirement is you have to be a follower of Jesus, sold out for His glory. God loves to use ordinary, normal people because it is through the weak that He shames the strong. Read these stories and BE INSPIRED to fulfill His unique call on YOUR LIFE. No believer is exempt from an amazing call to serve and love as Christ's ambassador. Believe He can use YOU...

If you have missed some of my past articles on that websites, here's a short list that you can click on, depending on your interests...
  • Today's post: KATIE-- Middle Eastern Baby Catcher (newlywed and new parent, Katie, heads to the Middle East to be Christ's light to delivering mothers)
  • CARA-- A Broken Heart for the Local Community (a video testimony of her work at the Hope Community Outreach Program)
  • HILARY-- Teaching Strangers in a Foreign Land (she's an adult ESL teacher in Austin welcoming internationals from around the globe)
  • JEN-- Side-splitting Voice of Our Generation (Christian author and speaker living in Austin who's calling women to action for Jesus)
  • WAHIDAH-- A Matchless Ministry to the Handicapped (An Arab woman who opened a daycare facility for mentally and physically handicapped children in North Africa)
  • CAROLINE--India's Orphan Ambassador (local Austin-ite turned non-profit hero who's goal is to care for all the orphans in India, one at a time)
  • ROBIN-- Answering His Call One Day at a Time (an Austin 20-something living in the Dominican Republic working for an educational development program for Hatian immigrants in the D.R.)
  • ABRAR-- Inspiring Me to Expand My Ministry (an Arab woman living in North Africa that does evangelism ministry on Satellite TV yet still spends her days in the slums of her city reaching out to poor women)
  • AMOS-- Just Your Average Guy (a look into how Amos' story, from the Bible, shows us that God uses unsuspecting people to accomplish His purposes... the conception of this whole website's vision)

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Storytelling Experiment

Since the beginning of 2008, I find myself continually being prompted by the Spirit to work on improving my Biblical and testimonial storytelling skills as it relates to evangelism in my life. As I intentionally pursue an increase in relationships with women who don't know the Lord Jesus, I sometimes feel overwhelmed or intimidated or just plain clueless about HOW to share and WHAT to share with them. I read my Bible every day, teach in the Get Trained Ministry, am a pastor's wife, and yet somehow I still get tripped up by the enemy as he lurks to intimidate my outreach. What I realized is many of us know the Bible, but have a hard time recounting it in SIMPLE story form to someone who is unfamiliar with it. We know what God is doing in our life, but would be hard-pressed to explain it in non-churchy terms to a nonbeliever. This was something I began longing to work on.

The more I prayed about how to do this, God kept encouraging me not to go it alone. I sensed that this was a growing theme in some of the women's lives that I know. For us to set out to figure this out together would be even more fruitful. So tonight, our little Storytelling Experiment began. There are seven of us that are gonna meet every week for the next several months to begin figuring out this concept together. Every week we will each learn a new Bible story, practice telling it during our group time, then go out and and share it with someone outside the group each week... all with the goal of firming up this skill so that we will have an entire repertoire of stories ready to go when an opportunity presents itself in everday conversation.

Why stories, you might ask? Because STORIES are memorable, STORIES have power. Shane Claiborne writes in Irresistible Revolution: "Few things have more transformative power than people and stories." Not just that, but 4 billion people in this world cannot read well (if at all). Even in the U.S.-- where education is free and school attendance is compulsory-- 3 out of 7 adults have either Basic or Below-Basic literacy skills. That's almost half, folks! Plus, recent studies note that even people who are literate in the world today would much rather gather with friends to swap stories than to read alone, in silent isolation. Many people who can read quite well would rather watch a movie or TV show or talk on the telephone than read a book or magazine. (information from http://www.chronologicalbiblestorying.com/). Besides people's growing preference, stories are also disarming. Many people who may not come to hear a sermon or go to a Bible study will listen to a story. They aren't as confrontational, so you can tell them to people who would not otherwise discuss spiritual topics.

But perhaps the most compelling reason to learn to STORYTELL the Bible is because God thought storytelling was a great idea... The Bible, itself is basically one large story, made up of many smaller stories. And Jesus, Himself, used stories throughout His life of ministry... someone would ask Him a question and He'd tell a story to give the answer... when the crowds gathered around Him, He used stories to illustrate His points.

I want to know the Bible in such a way that the stories just fall off my tongue all the time! As this experiment unfolds this semester, I promise to post some of the stories I learn to tell. I hope they teach you about God and His heart for you. And I hope that you will turn around and tell God's story to someone in your life who needs to hear about the hope that is found in Christ!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

My First Iftar

My sweet Turkish conversation partner emailed me today to ask if I wanted to go with her and a visiting cousin to watch the sunset on Mt. Bonnell. I hadn't been up there (this is really sad, being an Austin-ite and all) since 1996, so I jumped at the chance to spend time with the two of them! Her cousin is visiting for the summer (doing an ESL program at Rice) before starting university this fall back in Germany. She is a Turk living in Germany (I learned tonight that there are 1.7 million Turks living in Germany-- 500,000 of which are citizens! Who knew?!?!). So, my friend wanted to show her some Austin sights.
We walked Mt. Bonnell, took pictures with the river backdrop, then pictures with the city skyline backdrop,
then pictures with the steep stairs you climb in the backdrop. Next stop, we drove to UT to show her the Tower and the stadium.

Finally, the sun was down and it was time for them to "break the fast". The Muslim holy month of Ramadan started yesterday. For the next 30 days (28 now), Muslims around the world will be fasting from food and drink (even water, which I also learned tonight) from sun-up to sun-down. At the close of each day, they have an "Iftar dinner" where they break the fast together with family and friends. As we drove back to her apartment, my friend asked if I would join them for Iftar! What an honor!

The three of us and my friend's husband all shared a feast of traditional Turkish foods. We started the fast-breaking with a date and an olive (both of which my friend said had holy significance). Then we had soup (The World's BEST Soup, I might add) to ease their tummies into eating. After that, we had a loaded plate of dolmas, an Antioch specialty meat (my friend is from Antioch-- yes, the one from the Bible), vegetables, homemade yogurt, salad, borek... TONS of food! And we polished off the meal with tea and sweets. As if that wasn't enough, in her generosity, my friend sent me home with TWO plates, fully loaded with food for Andy (who was out of town tonight at Breakaway but who she thought might return very hungry late tonight) and a tupperware full of Turkish cookies!

I've said it before, but I'll say it again... Turks are the most hospitable people in the world! I am so glad to have experienced my first Iftar with such a sweet, precious friend!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Do You Need to Get Trained to Live Out the Gospel Better?

I am a copy cat. I just got home from church tonight and saw Angela had written a little promotional blog post about the upcoming Get Trained semester that is about to start at Stone. Sounded like a good idea, so I'm doing a little push myself... Classes start 2 weeks from today! Yeah!

Austin Stone's Get Trained Ministry exists to stir the heart and renew the mind in order to move you to ACTION... Classes cover all kinds of topics, but the underlying heartbeat is to help you get educated, inspired, and motivated to LIVE MISSIONALLY outside the four walls of the church. For the full list of 29 classes click here, http://www.austinstone.org/what/gt_fall08_classes.

But to whet your appetite, here are just a few highlights from the roster...

Sovereignty of God in Salvation (women's class), taught by Angela Suh & Amber Gentry... a 7-week class that not only teaches you about the Biblical, right-thinking about how God calls people to saving faith in Jesus, but also gives you some how-to-share motivation for those in your life who do not yet know Jesus.

Mercy Ministry, taught by Logan Gentry... this 6-week class will be half learning about and half practical application of ministering to broken lives through word and deed. If you find God has been starting to stir in you an awareness of "the last" and "the least", this class will help show you how to respond.

Crossing Cultures, taught by Joey Shaw, Troy Alexander, & Hilary Pepper... a 9-week class that focuses on building skills for cross-cultural interaction in your neighborhood, your workplace, or around the globe. Look around you-- if you know someone economically different, ethinically different, religiously different... those are all cultural differences you can learn how to more easily bridge in conversation and relationship.

Gospel Christianity, taught by Todd Engstrom & Kevin Peck... a 10-week class that examines how the gospel is not just about our receiving salvation, but how it also has implications and applications for our daily life as we represent Christ and fulfill His commands to the world around us.

Encountering the World of Islam, taught by Joey & Krystal Shaw (& me)... a 10-week class that both educates you about the religion of Islam and inspires you to be a beacon of love through relationship building with the Muslim people. With almost 2 million Muslims living in the United States, we need to learn about these neighbors so that we can love them well.

All of the classes I have highlighted above help you to simply make FIRST STEPS in each of these topics. You don't have to know anything about the subject, you just have a learner's heart and a willingness to grow and be stretched. And there are 24 other classes to choose from if those didn't jump off the page at you.

SIGN UP soon, they fill up quick!! http://www.austinstone.org/what/gt_fall08_classes

Friday, August 29, 2008

A Call to Action / How will we answer one day if we fail to intercede?

Last night, my good friend Jen Hatmaker came to speak to the women of Austin Stone. The message she speaks so clearly is one that has been haunting me for the last several months. And with each passing day, the emotional angst I feel about it boils hotter and hotter inside. Somedays, I literally could (and do) scream it is tearing me up so badly. I don’t know how else to let out some of the steam but to stand alone in my house and just yell at the top of my lungs… to no one. Somedays, all I can do is wail in tears, writhing on the floor, the couch, the bed… wherever. Last night was one of those nights. I came home from her talk, and I boo-hoo’d on my couch. Then went and boo-hoo’d in my bed and ended up crying myself to sleep. I am surprised I could even fall asleep because the emotions that stir in my heart about this subject make me feel so restless inside. So, what the heck did she talk about, you ask?! Our generation’s call to action.

In an excerpt from her book, Ms. Understood, which she used in her talk last night, she says: “If you are a woman [or man] born into wealth (meaning you make more than $2/day unlike HALF the world) & part of the next generation, I believe you were chosen—before the foundation of the world—to BE an answer to problems unsolvable until now. This generation was selected for THIS time—a time so promising & passionate, it has never been rivaled. There is a holy calling awaiting this generation. We are the ones.” (p. 178)

“Jesus said that His gospel was good news for the poor, sick, orphaned, and oppressed because His people would BE His hands and feet. We are part of the reason the gospel is good news. If God instructed His millions of followers to care for the poor, and those followers have every resource to do it, then the impoverished have hope. [Conversely, if God instructed His millions of followers to care for the poor, and those followers have every resource to do it—and we DO NOT, woe to us for the wrath that will befall us!] We are the Almighty’s plan to alleviate suffering. Help is on its way.” (p. 180)

Enter you. Enter me. Enter the church awakening from her violent slumber. How will we answer one day if we fail to intercede?
‘God, I didn’t know’?
‘I didn’t have any resources’?
‘I was overwhelmed’?
‘I didn’t think You were serious’?”
(p. 180)
I could also add: ‘I was too busy’?
‘It required me to change too much of how I live life’?
‘It required me to give up too much of what made me comfortable’?
‘I was distracted by work, internet, boys, or church activities’?
‘I didn’t know where to start’?

“Never has so much wealth been concentrated in the hands of so few. (Let’s quickly redefine ‘wealth’: if you make $35,000/yr, you are in the top 4% in the world. $50,000/yr? Top 1%.) The skills, resources, & opportunities for social revolution are unprecedented. With the extraordinary advantages of global communication & technology, there isn’t an international problem that cannot be answered by this generation. We are economically, ecologically, & electronically sophisticated. We are globally organized, positioned for action, & dead serious about social justice & the intersection of the church.” (p. 177)

The only answer for our generation is to BECOME the hands and feet of Christ. Jesus said, ‘From the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked’ (Luke 12:48). Let there be no doubt: Our generation has been entrusted with more resources, wealth, opportunities, and knowledge than any before us. God must think highly of our potential. Let’s not squander our legacy on self absorption or chasing the American Dream, a dream the rest of the world cannot even afford. But may we hear from our Savior one day: ‘Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me’ (Matt 25:40).” (p. 181)

This kills me. And yet, I haven’t quite figured out how to wholly deal with it. Hence, the unrest and inner turmoil that is plaguing me day in and day out. I cannot see how I can respond without changing EVERYTHING about how I live… which feels terrifying. But I have a feeling that it will be the most liberating, satisfying, and peace-bringing shift of my life.

I pray that the Holy Spirit brings continual conviction upon my heart. And I pray that God fills me with boldness to move forward. I pray that He brings the same sense of holy fear into your hearts as well… that He might move you to action. I don’t want to waste any more time. The Bible says our life is a vapor and we do not know when our time is up… I don’t want to end my life still trying to figure out what to do with all this.

To purchase, Ms. Understood: http://www.christianbook.com/Christian/Books/product?item_no=062163&netp_id=510489&event=ESRCN&item_code=WW&view=covers

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

I'm Now Sharing Jesus Online!

I recently heard of the coolest new (to me) ministry ever!!! Two weeks ago, I was opening up some mail from a Christian organization when a little 4-color flyer fell into my lap. Because I saw a veiled woman in one of the pictures (my heartbeat), I actually read the flyer... and was immediately so excited! Here's what it says:
In case you can't read that: "Millions of people search for God everday--online. Global Media Outreach, an internet ministry ... that has websites where thousands of people everyday learn about the good news of Jesus and connect with volunteers through email. Would you like to help respond to emails from people seeking Jesus? Apply to be a volunteer today!" After reading this, I think I inadvertantly let out a little squeal! Then, I flipped it over to find out more...
It reads: "Here's your passport to the world--without ever leaving your home! Easy-- if you can send an email, you can share the gospel! You control how many emails you receive. You decide how much time you spend online. Safe! No one sees your email address and no one can spam you. We provide the training and resources."

How easy and stinkin' COOL is that?!?! I immediately ran and showed the flyer to Andy. He knows better than anyone how -- although I LOVE the church, and ESPECIALLY Austin Stone -- I love the nations and wish I could be used more "out there." With Andy actually working for the church, I know and believe Austin--and Austin Stone--are where we are called by God in this season. He is always re-confirming that in our hearts (its actually pretty neat). But I also have this strong desire to be a light and presence to this world (especially all the parts that look nothing like me and don't resemble my culture). I can go on several short-term trips a year (and I do), I can have international friends who live here in Austin (and I do), but now I could ALSO be a part of sharing Christ across the globe right from my own living room during all the times I am at home. Pretty amazing, huh!?!

This past spring, I heard a girl from Sudan's testimony of coming to Jesus and having to go into hiding. She was from a prominant family in Khartoum and grew up with a strict Arab-Muslim family culture. When she became a believer, they tried to kill her and she ran away and lived in an apartment with a missionary family in town for several months before she got safe passage out of the country. During that time, she wasn't allowed to leave the house (or even walk past the window) and she told me that she spent her days online... learning about her new faith and going to chat rooms made up of people in the Arab World (and particularly countries closed to missionaries) and shared Christ online. That was about the coolest thing I had ever heard of (can yall tell I think this is "cool"? I keep saying that.) At the time, I wondered-- how does someone get involved in that? Now, I know... (I am in no way implying that my Sudanese friend volunteered for the organization that I am now volunteering with... she just had a similar outreach.)

I went to the website on the flyer (http://www.globalmediaoutreach.com/) and did some more research... watched their videos, read all the scoop on how it works, and then decided to pray about this opportunity. After a week of prayer, I applied to be a volunteer in their ministry. I completed the application & references, was approved, and finished the training all within 48 hours. Then last night, I got my first email from a contact! Here's me re-enacting responding to emails last night at midnight:
I was pretty excited! The whole thing was super easy and such a neat way to pray for and encourage believers beyond my reach. Here's me, being REALLY excited about this new ministry AND excited to tell all YOU out there about it... I want to rally some more volunteers from my readers:
If you want to read some stories about volunteers and their experiences serving in this minsitry, click here: http://www.globalmediaoutreach.com/responses/volunteer_stories.html. And if you want to read some stories from people across the globe who have found the evangelistic and discipleship websites and written in, click here:

I sincerely hope that some of you who read this SIGN UP!! What a cool (there I go again) way to be used by our God in this new age of technology and global accessibility!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Miniatures... of Food??

I had dinner with a friend tonight at Kerbey Lane and when we were walking out there were two plates set out at the hostess podium (ones like you might usually find specials of the day displayed). But the plates were almost all empty and white. So much so that it caught my attention. Upon closer inspection, I noticed that-- in fact-- they WERE displaying food. Miniature food. I was so tickled that I whipped out my phone to record this RANDOMNESS!
The picture above is of 3 meals served at Kerbey and a QUARTER from my wallet to show scale. The hostess said all the displays are actually made from the food they are meaning to display. On the left, pancakes/eggs/bacon/garnish... in the center, french toast with powdered sugar sprinkles... on the right, a hamburger with sweet potato fried.
Above, is a close up of the miniature of the burger (dressed with lettuce) and krinkle fries.
Above, is a close-up of the pancakes (with butter and syrup), bacon, and scrambled eggs. I guess Tuesday nights are slow...

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Boy Bonding

We had a band retreat this weekend at the lake (I was the honorary girl/non-band member) and I just have to laugh at the way boys bond sometimes. What did they do? Played pool, fished, beat up their bodies by pulling each other on the tube behind the boat, as band-boys they play songs for each other, and... they play on the internet, together. Two of the guys stayed up till almost 5am showing each other funny videos on Youtube. I busted Joe and Andy at one point with both laptops on the arcade console Facebooking (each other). It reminded me of a picture I caught of them 2 weeks ago in our living room... sitting in the same room, both laptopping. It cracks me up. Girls just don't bond this way.
This weekend.
Two weeks ago.
Side story-- our two boy dogs copy each other in their expressions and poses. It's not exactly "bonding", but it's two boys so there is the similarity in theme. ??? Here are some random pictures to show you what I mean.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

I Applied for a PAL

Before you start wondering if my social life has dwendled to such a place that would necesitate me "applying" for friends, let me explain... PALS is a program offered by the International Office at the University of Texas, Austin.

PALS stands for:
Partnerships to

The program was started in 1993 to introduce international students to American students (now evolved to include any Austinite) for the purpose of practicing language. It has now evolved to be not just a language practice program, but also a culture sharing opportunity for both parties. You apply (online or in personal at the International Office), you get in their system, they match you with an international student, and then whammo-- you have a PAL. You can even request a PAL from specific countries or native languages. You meet with your PAL once a week at the time yall choose, the place yall choose, to do the activity yall choose. That's it.

It is a fabulous way to WELCOME one of the almost 4300 undergraduate international or 7250 graduate international students that come to UT each year. Statistics indicate that vast majority (if someone can find the stat, post it in the comments) of international students never step foot inside an American home-- EVER-- during their time in the states. To me, that is a sad and missed opportunity to love on strangers in this foreign land we call home.

If you live in Austin and want a PAL, I highly recommend you signing up. It's easy. It's fun. And the semester starts around the corner. They will begin matching students the first week of September. Check out their website, http://studentorgs.utexas.edu/iopals/index.html , for more information. If that doesn't work, try this: http://www.utexas.edu/student/esl/pals/join.html

I Can Still Water Ski**

(pictured above is a UT Water Ski Team member, NOT me!)

Ladies and gentlemen, the results are in... I can still water ski**. I started skiing when I was about 5... if you define skiing by nestling between my mom or dad's skis while the boat pulled them up and then I'd stand on their skis while they balanced and moved them around. I first learned to slalom (on my own) when I was in 6th grade. I kept trying all summer by using my double skis and trying to drop one. It wasn't working, so finally I borrowed my high school-aged sister's professional slalom ski and popped right up on the frist try. After that I was hooked. I can't tell you how many hours I would ski. It was my favorite passtime.
By the time I went to college, I felt enough of a pro to try out for the University of Texas' Water Ski Team. Much to my surprise-- and EXCITEMENT!-- I made the team my freshman year. We had tournaments almost every weekend, playing big public universities from Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma. We had to practice at least twice a week too... it was quite a time commitment!
Ski Team Tournaments were comprised of 3 events: 1) the slalom course (my event), 2) trick skiing, and 3) the ski jump. http://studentorgs.utexas.edu/waterski/rules/rules.php This is the website that describes the rule of tournament "play". For the slalom course, basically, as the boat went up the center of the lake, I was to zig-zag back and forth, looping around bouys that were pre-set a certain distance apart from each other. When you finished your first pass at the course-- without error-- the boat turns around and you make a second pass, this time 2 miles/hour faster... and so on and so on until a certain speed and then they start shortening the length of your rope. I was decent. Before the team, I thought I was a rock star water-skier. After being around seriously good teammates, I realized I was just okay. But is sure was fun! I was only on the team for a year before I decided (sadly) that partying was a more important time commitment in my life. I quit the team, but I still skied-- just with family and friends.
When Andy and I were dating, we would go skiing some, but I was embarrassed to ski in front of him (I am not exactly sure why), so I kind of stopped skiing. Then 2 summers ago we had our "motorcycle" accident and my foot hasn't been the same since. It was my left foot that was crushed in the accident, which was my frontward ski foot. I never regained complete control or balance in that foot and was certain that it would mean I wouldn't be able to grip my foot well enough to ski.
But today, I went into Andy's office and declared: "Let's go skiing this afternoon!" Shocked, but up for the adventure, he agreed. After my frist attempt, I realized my foot was not as much of a problem as my complete lack of arm strength to hold on to the rope as the boat pulled me up. I didn't get up. But on the second try, I managed to emerge from the water. (Now this is where the ** comes in) I stayed up for almost 45 seconds. I stayed inside the wake the whole time. My arms were getting weaker by the mili-second. I dropped. But I did it! Now I know it CAN be done... I'll just need to start working on my stamina! It has only been an hour since we went skiing, but the backs of my thighs are already killing me, and my arms shake whenever I try to hold them up. It was worth it though!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Funny in Farsi

After finishing such a heavy read earlier in the week, I picked up "Funny in Farsi" by Firoozeh Dumas. This book is a gem! I found myself up till 2am last night trying to finish it. It is worth the sleep-dep. To sum it up-- it is the memoir of an Iranian woman growing up in America. The way she interpreted and saw American culture through the lenses of her own experience and her family's are just priceless. She moved to the U.S. when she was in 2nd grade and is now a permanent resident, married to a Frenchman, with two kids, living in California-- so this book spans from the 1970s to today. Chapter after chapter she writes about the hilarious esapades of immigrants trying to figure out and appreciate America. This book is so worth your time if you want to instigate a perspective shift in your own mind about what the foreigner's experience is like as they try to adjust and live in this "great" land of ours. Ohhh, and get ready to laugh!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

My Elderly Boyfriend Died

I am having a hard time with the changing face of our neighborhood. Last weekend, I was driving down our street only to find an estate sale going on at one of the houses. I knew this meant bad news. It was the house of one of my favorite old folks... our neighborhood is full of 'em. I'd regularly drive by seeing him out on his front porch smoking and waving at the cars. He was precious and, in my head, was the sweetest old man there was. Andy dubbed him my "boyfriend" and would tease me saying that I would one day leave him for this old man.
So last weekend, I walked through his empty house (pictured above). The estate sale workers confirmed he had passed away last month. I knew I hadn't seen him out smoking in a while, but we've been gone a lot this summer. Each room was full of old people furniture and nick-nacks. I found a stack of old records selling for a dollar. I bought a bunch that were of old organ playing and hymns. He even had an ooooollllldddddd Billy Graham crusade on LP. I got that too. Then I found his stash of pipes. There were about 30 of them. I bought the cleanest looking one for Andy to remember my old boyfriend by.

As I drove away, I got even more sad. Not just because the sweet old man had died. It was that, PLUS what it represented in our neighborhood. Change. Like I said, our neighborhood is full of elderly people living in their old houses on big lots of land. Our street is old farm land complete with 80 yrs old green trees and a big creek winding through it. The houses are on average 1000 square feet. But the land is cause enough for circling buzzards in the form of real estate speculators. Especially given we are less than 5 miles from downtown.

A house not one block from the old man was torn down the year we moved in and NINETEEN homes were put in its place (complete with a skinny road splitting the property down the middle to gain access to all these new homes). Pictured below, this land went from ONE to 19. It not only squeezed every square inch possible into the development, it also paid no mind to the required 5 foot-to-lot-line rule.
Last year, a tiny old house was bought and "added onto," making it one of FOUR houses in the line of a single driveway. They advertised it as "Luxury Homes in the Trees," even though after construction I can only count 2 trees on the once copious lot. Then earlier this year, the cutest little farm house on our whole street was bought. The developers promised to ship the house to a new place, but one day we drove by to see it being dismantled in a way it could never be rebuilt. Today, it is a construction zone for a major development of town homes. Here's the link to the site plan: http://solacityhomes.com/default.asp?contentID=594 where you can see how many homes they are placing on a lot that used to be one precious farm house. Pictured below is the construction in progress.
I know times change, but this just makes me sad. Plus, Robin had always planned to one-day buy that little farm house so we could be neighbors.

The lot next door to the old man who died is the latest victim on our street. It was an 800 sq foot home with an equally old lady living there, but the land was well over an acre. She died this year. The "house" was sold, immeidately torn down, now the land has been cleared and a new sign announces the coming of "SIX Unique Luxury Homes" and the development is called "The Park". Pictured below is the cleared lot, ready for building now. I am scared my boyrfriend's house will be next on the chopping block (he's on at least 2 acres).
It feels like pretty soon Andy and I will be defending our old pecan farm from the vultures as well. Not that the vibe of our street will be worth fighting for anymore after the evolution continues to suck the life out it.