Lately, I’ve been listening to this song a lot:

And I mean A LOT.

I love every word of the song. I’m serious. Every verse has struck a chord in me at some point, depending on the circumstance I find myself in at that moment. And I haven’t yet found a circumstance where I don’t find the song encouraging.

So have you clicked “play” yet?

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Contentment, revisited

Oh hey, blog. It’s been a while.

If you want to know a little something about me, just look at this blog. Not so much at the content of the posts, but at the blog as a whole. You’ll notice a girl who was really REALLY into this whole having-a-blog concept, you’ll see seven thoughtful (if I do say so myself) posts, and then… crickets. 17 months of crickets, to be exact.

I’m like that.

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Memorial Day 2012

Cantigny 018

Photo credit: Michael Kappel

This Memorial Day weekend, I decided to visit the First Division Museum at Cantigny Park in Wheaton. After years of visiting Cantigny with my family, and usually rushing through the museum, I had been wanting to go by myself and take time to walk through slowly and read everything. Memorial Day weekend seemed like as good a time as any! Some might say that walking through a museum alone is a lame way to spend a holiday weekend (and they’re probably right), but it was worth it.

The U.S. Army’s First Infantry Division is the oldest division and has seen action in most major conflicts since its formation in 1917. Turns out, there’s more information packed into the museum than I remembered, so in two hours, I had only gotten through the first half of World War II.

At each exhibit, I was struck by the sacrifice of the men of the First Division, from their first victory in WWI at the Battle of Cantigny, France, to their harrowing invasion of Omaha Beach on D-Day. The first American casualties in WWI came from the First Division, paving the way for thousands more who have given up their health and their lives for the sake of their country.

One especially incredible story is that of Private First Class Daniel R. Edwards, who won the Medal of Honor for his service in the Battle of Soissons (WWI):

Reporting for duty from the hospital, Private First Class Edwards took part in fierce fighting on the first day of the Battle of Soissons, 18 July 1918. An exploding shell pinned Pfc. Edward’s right arm between rocks of the trench wall. He freed himself by severing his arm at the elbow and binding his wound. He then killed four Germans and took four prisoners with his .45. He escorted his prisoners back to the American lines, forcing one of them to carry his shattered, severed arm. While doing so, Pfc. Edward’s legs were shattered by an enemy shell that exploded close enough to kill one of the prisoners. He directed the surviving prisoners to carry him the rest of the way. He was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Calvin Coolidge. Pfc. Edwards was also awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his heroic efforts at the Battle of Cantigny, where he was wounded prior to this action.

What’s amazing is that, in those two hours, everything I read was about just one division in only two of the wars in our nation’s history. As much information as the First Division Museum displays, it barely scratches the surface of the full story.

So with that, thank you to all the men and women who have given so sacrificially to this country. Your individual stories so often go untold, lost in the bigger picture of battle and war; but each one of you deserves to be remembered for the risks you have taken, and the losses you have suffered, due to your service.

How you are choosing to remember this Memorial Day?

You say “ancient history” like it’s a bad thing.

Take one look at my 25 in 25 book list, and you’d think I’m making terrible progress. And you’d be right.

Sort of.

The truth is, I have been reading books. Honest. They just haven’t been “for fun.” Which isn’t to say that I haven’t enjoyed them. I’ve enjoyed (some of) them, but since I didn’t choose them myself, I just can’t put them on the list.

For the past two years, I have taught a literature class to middle schoolers at a local homeschool co-op. Each year, we study a different time period in history, so our books take place during that era as well. 2010-11 was the final year in our four-year cycle, so we were studying the year 19oo to the present (more like 1950). Easy. This year, we went back to the beginning – as in, the Genesis 1:1 beginning – and are ending up in the earliest stages of the church. Not as easy.

Making the transition from the 1950s to 6000 B.C. was a little tricky. To be honest, I had hardly any background knowledge on the topic heading into this year. And I’m the teacher. So, needless to say, we all learned a lot from the books, not so much from me. And that was okay.
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A Tale of Two Football Players

from Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

This week the game of football lost one of its stars. At the age of 43, former San Diego Charger Junior Seau was found dead in his apartment, after an apparent suicide. Family, friends, and fans were left to pick up the pieces of a life that ended too soon, and the question on every tongue was “Why?” Why does someone who seemingly has the world in his hands choose to throw it all away? Why do we not see this coming? Why do we always assume that 19 successful years in the NFL, millions of dollars, multiple successful businesses, three beautiful children, and the adoration of  teammates and fans will somehow save a man from all his pain? Why do we call that same man “selfish” or “weak” when he ultimately decides his pain is too much and none of the good he has is worth living for?

Even if we give lip service to the truth that “money can’t buy you happiness,” I think most of us have it in the backs of our heads that somewhere there is a line you can cross, an invisible threshold that carries a person into the magical realm of “enough.” If you have $100 in your wallet, then maybe you think that line lives somewhere around $1,000. If you have $1,000,000, maybe “enough” is $2,000,000. Or maybe “enough” isn’t a number. Maybe it’s fame, glory, and screaming fans.

We’ll never know what this “enough” is because no one has ever received it from the world. Junior Seau clearly didn’t. There’s a lot of speculation surrounding this story, so I won’t pretend to know what was going through Seau’s mind in those last moments. But regardless of the causes of his depression – chemical imbalances, concussions, run-ins with the law, etc. – Seau’s fame, glory, screaming fans, and money were simply not enough. For him or for anyone else.

So what’s the answer?

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80 things a wonderful grandpa does:

1. Marries a very beautiful grandma
2. Takes you for “coffee breaks”
3. Tells the hearing aid joke… over and over again
4. Invents a zip sled by attaching three skis to each other
5. Says “I’ll be dipped” until you throw him in the lake
6. Teaches you to water-ski
7. Learns to accept the fact that you will never actually enjoy water-skiing
8. Teaches you to drive the boat
9.  Gives you your first boat driver’s license
10. Puts up a stoplight in his basement so you can ride your bike on the “road”
11. Finds and refurbishes a Power Wheels Jeep for you
12. Helps you build bird houses
13. Helps you build horse stables
14. Helps you build footstools
15. Figures out the best ways to keep squirrels out of the bird feeder
16. Eats oatmeal for breakfast every single morning
17. Never figures out a quiet way to make breakfast
18. Falls asleep in his favorite recliner
19. Makes lots of stops at McDonalds for “senior coffee”
20. Builds electric shock machines Continue reading

25 in 25

Last spring, I bought about two dozen books at various library book sales. Since last spring, I’ve read exactly 1 1/2 of them. I’ve read several other books in that time, but I have to admit that most of those were books I had to teach for my literature class… ones I was forced to read.

This is not acceptable.

Poor book sale books. So pretty on the shelf but collecting dust for the past year.

Believe it or not, I used to love reading. I’d read every night before bed and for hours during the day. I wasn’t necessarily as much of a bookworm as others I know, but it was something I enjoyed.

Then college happened. There was just too much going on, too much to do – both for classes and for fun – and reading just didn’t happen. The only times I remember reading simply for enjoyment while in college were during the summer, and most of those when I was on vacation with no internet or TV.

It bears repeating. This is not acceptable.

So when I turned 25 two weeks ago, I created a little challenge for myself. Read 25 books, for fun, while I’m 25 years old. For many people, this would not be a challenge. But since I’m no longer a devour-er of books, this seems like a decent number to shoot for. Plus, “30 in 25” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

If you want to keep track with me, click the “25 of 25” tab on the menu bar. I also have a list for movies, which may seem a little counter-productive… but that list will go away if the book thing just isn’t happening. I promise!

Maybe blogging about this will help me stick with it, especially on those days when Pinterest and Facebook seem more fun (today is one of those days). Maybe YOU can help me too, by recommending books and yelling at me when you see I’m slacking off. Really let me have it.

If you’re also a would-be reader who has succumbed to the allure of everything-but-books, create your own challenge! Even you in the how-on-earth-do-you-find-time-to-read-that-much category can join the fun. Try to read 50 books in a year or something nutty like that, then share your list with me! I’d love to have some sweet discussions and make this more of a community activity.

With all that said… any recommendations??

Oh the Deep, Deep Love

On constant replay…

Oh the deep, deep love of Jesus
Vast, unmeasured, boundless, free
Rolling as a mighty ocean
In its fullness over me
Underneath me, all around me
Is the current of Your love
Leading onward, leading homeward
To Your glorious rest above

Oh the deep, deep love
All I need and trust
Is the deep, deep love of Jesus

Oh the deep, deep love of Jesus
Spread His praise from shore to shore
How He came to pay our ransom
Through the saving cross He bore
How He watches o’er His loved ones
Those He died to make His own
How for them He’s interceding
Pleading now before the throne

Oh the deep, deep love of Jesus
Far surpassing all the rest
It’s an ocean full of blessing
In the midst of every test
Oh the deep, deep love of Jesus
Mighty Savior, precious Friend
You will bring us home to glory
Where Your love will never end

Blogs are a funny thing.

For years I’ve thought I should probably have a blog, not because I necessarily have incredible things to say, but because it just seemed to follow the typical progression of my life. When it comes to new things in the world of the internet, I’m usually not too far behind the trends. I’m certainly not on the cutting edge, but I try to catch up pretty quickly. I like to think I’m simply “fashionably late” to all the best internet parties.

However, blogging is the sad exception. I’m a good 10-15 years late to this party. There are a number of reasons for it, ranging from kind of silly to flat-out stupid. But when you boil it all down, I basically had one big issue:

I had created an imaginary list of rules that were prerequisites for good blogging. A bunch of rules that I just couldn’t follow. Rules that said I had to find one topic to write about for the rest of eternity, or had to be at a more interesting certain stage of life, before I could have a blog worth reading. I would say things like, “Well, when <insert major life event here> happens, it’ll be a great blog topic.” Or “If I spent more time reading books about <insert topic here>, then I could write a really fun blog about it.” Or a big one (thanks to Pinterest): “When I become more creative, this blog will write itself!”  The perfect blog post was always a year or two, or twenty, down the line.

My thoughts about a potential blog often wandered into the unknown. Instead of planning the blog posts of life right now, I’d plan the blog posts of future me. Pictures of the perfect wedding in the perfect location with the perfect husband. Descriptions of the perfect birthday parties I’d plan for my perfect children, with every perfectly crafted detail in perfect place. Mouth-watering stories of the perfect recipes I’d make in my perfect kitchen with my perfect appliances, for the picky (though no less perfect) little boys I would have, with of course the most perfect names. Perfect homeschooling methods and perfect vacations with perfect family friends would follow. Even life’s struggles (nothing too tragic) would be handled with the perfect amount of heart-wrenching emotion. Blog awards for my perfect blog would be the next step. And if all went well, a perfect book would eventually be written about my completely, utterly perfect life.

And while the actual thoughts in my head were far less organized, and consequently didn’t sound quite so ridiculous as they sound now, what they betrayed was more than just a gigantic case of writer’s block. The scary truth: if those were my ideas about a simple blog, what were my ideas about my life? If a perfect blog can’t exist unless all the prerequisites are in place, is life somehow empty if the “necessary” pieces of the puzzle (as defined by me) are missing?

My discontentment regarding blogging revealed my discontentment with my life. What I was really saying all that time was, “My life’s not worth much until I get this or do that. Everything until then is just passing time.” Mentally, I’ve been aware of discontentment for a long time, but I never saw how it covered almost every aspect of me.

In an article in the book Fantasy, Betty Blake Churchill writes about what she calls the threads of discontentment: envy, cynicism, bitterness, and sin. These ugly little threads make us – make me – see the life God has provided as not enough. But, as Churchill later writes, the contrasting threads of a life focused on Christ, thanksgiving, and community, lead to abundance, the “peace of God which surpasses all comprehension” (Philippians 4:6)… contentment. Hence the name of this blog.

So maybe it’s not blogs that are funny things, maybe it’s just me. Normal people probably don’t analyze blog-writing like this. In fact, by writing this, it’s fairly likely I’m losing some of the readers I don’t even have yet. And that’s okay. What I’ve realized is that I really just want to blog, and the “perfect” conditions will never come. But maybe if I can focus my thoughts on the things in the right now – the lessons I’m learning, the things and the people I love – and write about them, I can start to weave together the strands of contentment in my own life.

This isn’t to say that every post will be serious… because, between you and me, I like a lot of un-serious things, like cupcakes and football and cute babies. It’s also pretty fair to assume that this won’t be the most cohesive blog ever written, because the things I like are way too diverse for that (i.e. cupcakes and football and cute babies). It’s even possible that some of my posts will still carry the stench of discontentment, because, as the Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 4:11, contentment is something we learn… and I feel like I’ve only just started learning it. So grace is always appreciated.

Needless to say, I’m not sure what this whole thing will look like in the end. Time will tell.
I can guarantee one thing though: not every post will be this long.