Bikila :)

I got some pretty fantastic new shoes…and I wanted to share my excitement and show off their funky-sporty stylish-ness.  They are the Bikila edition of the five-finger Vibram shooes.  Amazing🙂

I also recently bought some TOMS…so basically now these are the two pairs of shoes I live in.  They both make my feet happy and my face smile🙂

Approachable: to be neither intimidatingly beautiful, nor so very unattractive

There has been plenty happening recently that I have intended to keep record of in my posts, but I have yet to discover how some people have time in their day-to-day life (which includes an 8-5 job, necessary life tasks like eating and sleeping, cleaning, art projects, keeping up on relationships, working out, reading the Bible, etc.) to stay consistent in their blog posts.  If there is an unknown secret, fellow bloggers, please share.

And, I do actually keep a private journal as well, because I don’t always wish to broadcast all I am thinking to everyone else (or even the very few people who read my posts)(I know strange right…I mean why wouldn’t I want to put everything on-line, haha, some sarcasm might be included right there :)).  Thus not only do I have a public blog to keep up to date, but private writings as well.  And sadly, both as of late have taken a bit of a back-seat to everything else going on.  But, being one who functions best when I can get a few of the hundreds-of-thoughts-floating-around-in-my-head down on paper…I have felt the repercussions of not taking the time to write.  Still, all these things mounting up was not enough to provoke me to write, until I realized this thought which was brought on by a girl I met at the gym, and lead to the title of this blog.

The story goes:

I’m in the locker room at the gym putting on my new Vibram Bikila shoes, (more on these later, because they are awesome and deserve recognition) when a girl stops and asks me “do those really work.”  I was a bit confused by her phrasing, so I asked “how do you mean.”  She said, “like can you actually run in them and stuff?  Are they comfortable?”  I proceeded to tell her how they did work and were totally fantastic and comfortable and all around great…we talked for a bit and then as we are concluding our conversation she said something that pretty much made my day, and I had no idea I had ever even wanted to hear this…but she said “yeah I saw you wearing them a few days ago and I thought I would ask you about them, because you seemed like such an approachable person.” Wow…I don’t know why but this just made me smile. 

Maybe to some people it’s not that big of a deal, but let me just explain a bit about all the things this comment made me think about and then maybe you will understand the implications of such a statement.

As a girl, and I’m sure other girls can relate, I wish to be thought of as beautiful.  Yet at the same time I get so very intimidated by those other ladies who I do view as beautiful.  I mean, those really amazing looking girls that you see and you kind of want to go to another room because you know you don’t stand a chance catching anyones attention next to her :)  Haha…but I’ve started to think maybe some of these outstanding people actually have a hard time meeting other people because everyone is so intimidated by their beauty.  Therefore, I have decided being just averagely nice looking might really be where it’s at…at least when it comes to making friends🙂

I mean seriously, if you look friendly…being neither so far to one side or the other of the stunningly-attractive vs. not-so-attractive spectrum…you end up with random people feeling comfortable enough to talk to you.  And that really is a beautiful thing🙂

Anyway, the point to these ramblings is just to say…there are times I don’t feel very confident, or amazing, or beautiful…but God has really been blessing me lately with the ability to meet  people and make new friends, and for this I am soo thankful.  I am beginning to see in my life the fruit of praying for something…and seeing God come through in a way I would have never expected.

I was asked the other day by a new friend if I had always been this outgoing and talkative towards people.  The funny thing is…I wouldn’t have really said I was that “outgoing” of a person until I stopped to think about it.  And while I can’t really pin-point a time when I suddenly became as comfortable/excited about meeting new people as I am today…I do know that God has been sculpting me to be this way via numerous events in my life including: moving when I was a kid,  going to college in a state different from my friends and family,spending times at summer camp, my various job opportunities, traveling to Europe, and now a new job in a new city all on my own.  I remember being faced with these various instances where I realized…if I didn’t put myself out there and try to get to know people…I wouldn’t have friends.  And I truly believe from the effort I put forth and the prayers I prayed about meeting new people and establishing good relationships, God has measured back to me an uncanny ability now to connect with people and encourage them to feel at ease and able to talk to me.  I do not take it for granted, but have come to realize how truly amazing it is to have God’s love and joy flowing so directly in my life that other people are drawn to it. Because I know on my own I do not have the charisma and magnetism it takes to meet people like I have lately…and I contribute it completely to the fact Jesus is in my heart and is blessing me.  As I said before I am thankful and overjoyed by this fact and by the wonderful people it has brought into my life.

Therefore…here’s to being “approachable” because if I had to pick between being really beautiful and being the type of person someone could come up to and ask a question or talk to easily…I would definitely pick the latter🙂

You Won’t Relient Until You Have It All…which is exactly what I would want :)

Sweet sweet friends and family.  I am blessed by the messages and posts I received in response to my last entry.  In addition to all those comments, suggestions, opinions, etc. sent to me, I also have continued to pray about clarity, peace, and comfort on some of the issues I struggle with.  While God has yet to mega-phone down to me direct answers to some of the complex stories penned in the Bible…he has highlighted other key factors that help to secure me further in His embrace.  

Like I said last time, I did not and do not expect anyone to have all the answers to some of the questions I ponder…and I know even though I feel better about some of them, others will continue to erk me from time-to-time.  However, it is reassuring just knowing I am not the only one who sometimes feels overwhelmed by the craziness and greatness that is our God as described in the Bible.  So often I see, listen to, and hear about other people who seem to have everything so together, or at least so determined and set in their faith…and I think maybe I am missing something.  Maybe I have overlooked some key ingredient that if I could just grasp/discover/whatever I would be like them. 

While that is not exactly true (there is not some “magic” piece of information or whatever I was expecting that just makes the Bible and God easy to understand)…I am somewhat correct in that assumption.  The key ingredient I believe is Focus.  Everyone is given the same information the same situations and yet where you place your focus can turn everything completely around.  Sometimes in my attempt to understand EVERYTHING I end up discounting the huge truths I DO understand and therefore get carried away in the minuet details.  While these details are vital for adding context, rich-ness, and depth…they are NOT the main point!!  The Focus and essential element to draw from the Bible truly is that Jesus Christ came to Earth and gave his life to save mine, and everyone who believes in him.  This the IT of the Bible.  Jesus changed everything!  He put the focus on new things and rocked the world of the Old Tesitment…and as I was reminded by a Christian I admire for her faith…the story of the Bible is to give us background, knowledge, instruction…all as it is related to JESUS!!

Now, I would love to share with you all some of my favorites from the quotes and comments I received after my last note.  I found these passages quite enlightening and whether you struggle with some of the questions I raised or not…I think everyone could benefit from considering these thoughts and hearing these encouraging words:

Gen 4:3-In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD.
Gen 4:4-But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering,
“Cain brought fruit to the Lord,but it wasn’t the best he had or anything special. Abel brought “fat portions” to the Lord implying it was the best he had. All throughout the old testament the Lord demands the “first-fruits” from His people.” – EP (This was something I had also noticed…but it was reaffirming to hear it from another friend) 

“I don’t know if you have ever read the Chronicles of Narnia series, but my favorite book was the 3rd one: The Horse and His Boy. The main character is not Narnian and has no knowledge of Aslan, yet throughout the book there are interactions with lions. Lions chase them across the desert and almost eat them; they prowl outside their camp and terrify them at night; they seriously maul a companion and almost kill her. At the end of the book you discover that it had been Aslan all along. He chased them across the desert so that they would outrun the men bent on their destruction. He prowled outside their camp to keep real marauders at bay, and he injured the girl because she had maliciously beaten a Beast of Narnia at the beginning of the book. You learn in that book, more so than in all the others, that Aslan is not a tame or safe lion, but he IS good. Our God is not tame or safe. But He is good.” -MT   (I love the last two sentences and it is SOOO good to remember.  Our God is NOT just mushy and soft and while he does want everyone to be saved and to accept his love…he gave us free will.  And while he is for grace and mercy, he is very much AGAINST SIN and as individuals of free will we are obviously capable of sin.  Sometimes I forget this and just see him as happy-go-lucky all the time.  I think it is key to recognize he is so much more complex)

“I think the point though is not so much questions/answers, as much as the point that you are seeking to know God more. He sees this, and hears all of your prayers. Of these things I am sure.” -SC

“I feel like, yes, we need to pay attention to the Old T because it’s full of amazing insight and lessons, but it was written in an ancient time before Christ, and I can’t imagine a time more dark than one without the Son of God…….I think it’s ok not to be able to answer all those questions, and if a non believer asked me about the contradictions, Id suggest to them ‘put away the OT for a bit and read the New because that’s where Christianity is born’…I feel like everything changed when Jesus was sent to us.”  -AH

“When you said that Hagar did nothing wrong, you missed the point. Of course she did. Whether Sarah gave permission doesn’t matter. Who is Sarah to give permission?? Not God.” -TD (This is SUCH a good point and I had never really thought about it that way.  In this instance I still feel like Hagar got the short end of the stick, either she followed Sarah’s orders and got in trouble or she disobeyed her Mistress and would have probably gotten in trouble, but it is true this is my decision of right and wrong and God is the ultimate judge.)

“I think the first thing you need to do is ask ‘What am I sure about? Really, really, really sure about.’ Start from there…After you’ve got down what you truly believe, read the Bible as a story of those beliefs playing out. Don’t get too bogged down in the details. See it for what it is, a story…and it’s a big story…it’s a story of redemption, of God turning dust into man and man into saint.” -CC

“We do live in a unique time, though, where God’s grace is being extended in a way that is not fair… ‘The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.'(2 Pet. 3:9)… it’s not fair that we get grace extended to us when we deserve wrath as much or more than those we read about in the OT.” -SH

These were just snippets of some of the amazing and supportive letters I received.  In no way are these yes or no, or hard facts to my questions…but they were exactly what I needed.  The Lord encouraged me to step out and take a chance with telling people “hey sometimes I just don’t get God” and while God is probably up in Heaven chuckling and saying “Yes, that is exactly the point” he still rewarded my efforts to grow closer to Him.  Not only did Jesus highlighted the beautiful network of believers I have in my life but he used them to increase my desire and assurance in Him.  And that is just perfect.

I hope to blog more about my experience this year as I read through my Bible.  Therefore, if you, as a reader of this blog, would like to hear about a specific story or topic from the Bible, or just in Christianity in general…I’d love for you to write me about it and I can see how I can incorporate it into my blogging.  I’m refreshed from this experience because it reminded me of all the wonderful brothers and sisters in Christ I have around me to challenge me, pull me up, and support me…and it also showed me how I can be a light to my brothers and sisters as well…and both of those things are very good.

Well, this has been another long post.  Thanks for sticking with me.  Look for a new post here in a few days detailing my whirl-wind week out in California!!  Yes, it was my first “business trip” [I know I’m becoming all grown up :)] and I attended a TechKnowledge conference in San Jose…but I lucked out and managed to have time for sight-seeing including a day trip to San Fran and visiting friends as well…so it should be a light-hearted, fun little post.  I even have pictures🙂

Thanks again to everyone who wrote me.  Please feel free to continue to post me things if anything comes to mind.  I wish you all a lovely night and look forward to writing again soon. xoxo

I want your blood to flow inside my body and I want your wind inside my lungs…

I am so excited and nervous to write this post, and as usual my mind is going 100mph and my hands can barely hope to keep up🙂 because there is just so much I want to get out.

I have always known I was the Lord’s “work-in-progress” and while I have gone through periods of growth before, in these past few days I have been amazed repeatedly to realize how little I have known, and how much there is still yet to know.  God has totally been rocking my world lately and just moving in my heart and it has been both fantastic and horrible at the same time! I realize this is exactly what I have been asking for, and yet even as it comes it is not enough and I want more and more of Him.  I knew asking to know Jesus more would not necessarily be easy, but I was hardly prepared for how dumbfounded, confused and turned-around I would feel.  BUT, and this is a huge but, in the midst of all this unsettling and shaking of my heart there is a crazy…JOY.  ( I was going to say excitement, but joy describes it SOO much better.)

Ok, that gives you an introduction for this post, and now I must break and say…Thank you God for music!!  Music has always been a powerful channel through which God has spoken to me, and in the past few hours a few songs have really resonating in my heart.  Also, Jesus…thank you for the sermon this morning…and the message and encouragement it gave me to write this.

Today I attended a church in downtown Joplin and the pastor spoke on the letters to the Ephesians.  His focus was on praying…for thanks…and for one another…and one of his questions to us was how often do we pray for others?  And how often do we actually give thanks for things instead of just asking for physical desires that we think will make us happy?  From here…he progressed to why do we feel like we need/want these “happy” things…more often than not it is so we can grow higher in status…and thus have some type of power and impression over other people and our lives.  And because we do hold power and control and image so high…we are not often likely to ask for help…nor prayers.  Why?  Well, I know for me it is because I am embarrassed.  I am embarrassed I don’t have control or strength or skills or whatever it is I think I should, and I want people to think I am pulled together and standing-correct….

At this point in the sermon everything seemed to click into place and I realized God was calling me to write out some of the questions I had been struggling with lately and actually see what his other children had to share.  He wanted me to ask for help.  To lay down my facade of being this solid christian who knew where she stood in God’s Kingdom…because while my heart DOES know this…my head is slow to follow. 

That said, at the beginning of January I began following the One Year Bible plan, and it has been AMAZING.  I really believe this is one of the reasons why I have been feeling and struggling with my faith more…but struggling in progress.  As many of you who know me know…I am a question asker.  Thus, as I have really began to dive into the Bible…SO many questions have arisen.  And these questions I have let erk me and swirl around in my head because I was too ashamed/embarrassed to ask anyone.  I was too afraid to let others doubt that I was this super, well-founded Christian.  I see some of my friends, and read some of their blogs, and hear other people talk…and they all just seem so SURE of everything.  They seem so in-tune with what God is saying to them and why things happen and so solid in their faith…and i couldn’t bring myself to allow these people to see my short-comings in my faith.  So there I was, wrestling on my own, but now I am ready to let others see, in the hopes of actually allowing what I have been praying for to happen…because I all I want to do is Love My Jesus More and know him fuller, and deeper.  He gave me my brothers and sisters in him to encourage me in that…so here we go.  I would appreciate any insight, thoughts, opinions, etc.  Some of these I have an answer in my heart, and some I know there might not be a for-sure answer…still I guess I am just hoping to see how other Christians handle these areas of the bible and of our faith.  Like I said, I have thought on these for a while…but usually I would just try to push it down so I wouldn’t have to deal with it.  But I know I can not grow like I WANT to grow without at least looking at them, because I KNOW some day there will be a opportunity to tell someone about my Abba, and when they ask me these questions…the answer “oh I just don’t think about those things” isn’t going to win any hearts to Jesus🙂

Questions:

1. Regarding the story of Cain and Able…why did Abel find favor with the Lord over Cain?  Did not Cain grow things from the ground just as  the Lord had instructed Adam in Gen. 3:17-19?

2. In Genesis 21:8 why are Hagar and Ishmael sent away?  They didn’t do anything wrong.  Sarah and sent Hagar into her husband…what did she expect to happen?  So why do Hagar and Ishmael have to suffer for it?  True God does bless Ishmael too…but not like he blesses the line of Issac.

3. If we are supposed to forgive and pray for our enemies…Why in Psalms (an example would be 18:37-42…but there are plenty others) are rath and destruction called down upon our enemies?  And not just in Psalms, but various stories throughout the Bible “Godly” men pray to God for their enemies not to be saved, or forgiven, but overtaken and run through.  Why?

4. We are told not to think ourselves self-righteous or good on our own account…and yet as soon as we do truly realize our ugliness, sin and disgusting state…we are told to believe we are NOT junk and not beyond redemption. 

But if this is the case ( that no one is too far gone for God…) Why was Pharoah, or the Pharisees or priests in Jesus time, not saved?  Why did God “harden their hearts”?

These things just do NOT make sense to me.

5. And then the whole life of Jacob.  I mean why do we make such a grand deal about God being the God of Jacob?  Jacob did NOT seem like a great guy.  He cheated his brother out of his birthright, and tricked his Father, and didn’t seem to regard the Lord nearly as highly as his Father had until he became an old man…which by that time God had already blessed him with a large family, and animals, and goods…

6. There are numerous stories in the Bible where I find myself wondering: What made this character more worthy of blessings in God’s sight than the other…when neither one seem to have done anything that amazing or that horrible. I mean it is definitely refreshing to see Jacob, or Abraham on some occasions, question or wrestle with God and still be blessed by him (obviously since we are also sinners and not perfect it is fantastic to know God does Love/bless us even when we are not at our best)…But there are also people in the Bible who seem to make no worse mistake than those previously mentioned and yet they don’t seem to find as much luck.  I mean, for example…Lot’s wife.  All she did was glance back and BAM!…piece of salt. 

So…all these questions make the Church and a song by Misty Edward so perfect…Mystery.  Because even though I have these questions and they do frustrate me…I just want to “waste my life to search (Him) out.” Because He’s “a mystery, so intriguing, a mystery, so enviting…He saved himself for the needy, He saved himself for me…”

The other two songs that have been drawing me closer into the Lord would be Skeleton Bones by John Mark McMillan (which we sang this morning and I just fell IN LOVE with it) and the song Let me Love you More also by Misty Edwards.  Both of these songs perfectly describe my raw desire to simply LOVE the Lord.  I want Him in my life more and more.  Ha, which is another thing also reiterated this morning.  The pastor was speaking on how we continually ask God for more, usually in regards to Earthly things.  He told a little story about his young daughter who uses sign-language sometimes and one of her most frequent signs is the sign for “more.”  And all I can think is how I want to know More of God with my head, with my heart, and with my hands. 

These past few months, moving out on my own and living in a new town, meeting new friends…God has really been embracing/shaking me…but I pray he doesn’t stop.  I may not know everything, or understand everything…but I DO know I love Jesus and I want to be able to live and express that passion for Him more completely.  Thus I will continue to search him out and attempt to live in his light.  The Lord has brought into focus a lot of ugly ugly things that I think and do lately…and all I can hope is to give it all to Him over and over and relinquish my grip and desire for control in my life.  Because I am not perfect, but I am His workmanship and I am BEING perfected for when you think about it…I already HAVE his blood flowing inside my body and his wind inside my lungs…I am HIS and I have this one life to Love him with…and I will🙂

In conclusion, Thank you God for the friends who read this🙂

Learning…What Love Really Means…

So many wonderful, funny, exciting things have been happening lately.  I feel like the best way to get them all down would be in good old-fashioned list format.  So please join me as I count off the little miracles and nuances of life lately.

1. I have the COOLEST boss.  And no I am not saying this in hopes of getting a raise (besides that has to go through a few more people than just her, but anyway).  Now before you go saying your boss is just as cool, let me ask you…did your boss invite you to her Dodgeball Birthday Party?  Yep…that’s right.  My boss is in her early thirties and for her birthday she held a Dodgeball tournament with some of her closest friends and work pals.  Thus, last Friday night you would have found me with some of my new favorite people chucking balls across an old YMCA gym.  This is a prime example of how F-U-N the people I work with are.  After snumerous lovely rounds of dodgeball we all headed to a local pizza place where we chatted and chowed down on some quite delicious pizza and beer if I do say so myself.

2. I am loving the new friends, and rekindling of old friends, that is going on in my life right now.  Seriously, God has blessed me so big with some of the girls I work with and one girl inparticular outside of work named Beth.  She is a HUGE delight to be around, and I actually joined her, her fiance, and her family for a lovely Sunday morning church and then games and lunch this last Sunday.  I would be quite content if I was able to spend every Sunday in such fabulous company.

3. Beth and I already have plans in progress for a Dance Party (you know the kind you play on a Wii or an X-Box) for this weekend.  It is going to be awesome.  I am heavily considering buying glow-sticks🙂

4. Another new friend, from work, Katie…is probably one of the sweetest people I have met in my life.  I love listening to her talk about her daughter (who is about two) because she is just such a cute Mom :)  Plus, we have plans for some major musical movie watching in the future.  I am thrilled to have someone who likes movies as much as me.  Plus, her husband loves to smoke meat, and let me just say it doesn’t get much better than friends, smoked meat and a movie :)haha

4. Time for two slightly embarassing, strang, funny stories:

a. I have recently purchased a large water jug (like a 1 gallon kind) to keep at work.  My thought was, this way I can walk down to the cafeteria (which is where we have filtered water) only once every couple days and then have good clean water for a while at my desk.  The only problem with this genius plan is that the jug does not fit under the spout of the filtered water dispenser…which means I have to fill up a cup, pour it in the jug, fill up the cup, pour it in the jug, repeat, repeat…so obviously it is a bit time consuming and if anyone else is wanting water…a bit awkward.  So I figured I just needed to go get water at times no one else would be getting water…aka not at lunch time.  Therefore the other day, there I was mid afternoon filling up my jug.  I had probably filled and dumped about 5 cups so far, just taking my sweet time when a noticed a lady approach out of the corner of my eye.  So I turn around to tell her she can go ahead, and there…directly behind me was this guy…just standing there…waiting.  I had no idea when he had arrived, but from his stance it seemed he must have been waiting/watching me fill up my giant jug for a while.  I was quite embarrassed, and later when I asked some ladies who had been siting at a near-by table how long the man had been standing behind me…they laughed and said like almost the entire time.  Weird.  I mean the guy was like a ninja…I didn’t hear him at all…and then he just stood there…patiently waiting…as the I, the strange girl, was off in her own little world as she dumped and poured her water into her jug…oh the funny things that happen at the water filter station🙂

b. The other day I was at the gym working out in a gym class…and as I was jumping rope I kept thinking..man I think I stink.  Ok, now let me clarify first…no one smells great when they workout…but everyone kind of has there own personal smell and it usually not that horrible (for most people who have decent hygiene anyway, but that’s a different story).  Anyway, I usually don’t smell like this…I mean this was BAD.  I kept thinking oh my gosh, the people next to me are probably like “that girl reeks.”  I mean, I was thinking “I AM that person at the gym that everyone secretly avoids because they smell bad.”  And this was really bothering me.  One because it did smell bad and I hate smelling bad, and two because I was embarrassed thinking maybe other people could smell me.  SO there I am, smelling bad, and thinking this is so NOT how I usually smell, what is up with me…Then it hit me…the shirt I was wearing was one I had worn in a mud run.  Ok ok I’m sure some of you are like “Why in the heck do you still have a shirt you wore in a mud run” and the answer is, well there isn’t a great answer but I had liked how the shirt fit, and I thought I had gotten it clean.  But apparently I was SOOOO wrong.  I could barely finish the class before I ran to the locker room and took of the shirt…within minutes it felt like I had taken a shower.  The smell was gone.  I had NO IDEA that shirt could have smelled SO BAD.  ICK.  I threw it in the trash can, though a strange part of me was like…oh I bet you could wash it and it would go away…but I stayed strong.  (T-shirts are especial hard for me to part with for some reason…don’t ask) But now the smelly, nasty, old mud-run shirt was in the garbage and I changed into the extra shirt I had by luck brought with me and left the locker room feeling like a field of flowers.  Moral of the story…don’t save clothes you Mud-Run in…not a good idea🙂 hahaha.  I know, I’m silly.

There are more numbers to add to this list…but I’m tired of writing for now, so check back soon for the “continued” version of this post :)  Which, haha, I just realize will explain why I named this post what I did.  I hadn’t gotten to that point yet…but I will cover it, now worries.  Night.

Standing in a room of mirrors, like celebrating a new year; perfect for glancing back and looking forward

Wow 2011 is here!!  The first thing actually that the date 2011 brings to mind is that it will be TEN years since 9-11, and that just sends my head spinning.  Ten years ago REALLY?  I mean I still remember what I was doing then…I was in high school.  Then I think HIGH SCHOOL!?  I’ve been out of high school for six years this spring!!  Its been six years since I have done drill team, or competed at volleyball or track, or really even seen many of the people I went to school with back then.  Naturally from there I progress to realizing, not only am I a high school grad…but a college grad…and it will be two years out of college this spring.  And while it seems strange to think high school was six years ago…it really seems strange for some reason to realize college was actually two whole years ago.  I still feel pretty much the same as I did while I was at UNL…But not…and most of that “but not” developed in 2010.

So for those who have been dedicated readers this will be a little recapping for you…and for anyone new to my blog…here is basically my 2010 in a nutshell:

God truly blessed me with tons of learning experiences, growth opportunities, adventures, friendships, and wonderful memories. I began the year, living in Owasso Oklahoma with my parents and working at the Cheesecake Factory in Tulsa.  I worked at the Cheesecake for about 9 months total from Fall 2009 to Spring 2010.  While depending on tips (aka customer generosity) as my sole source of income proved challenging at times, general I really enjoyed working at the restaurant, meeting and serving people, and joking around with my co-workers.   Anyway, that is only where the year began :)  Around mid-April…I quit my job at Cheesecake, packed up my one LARGE backpack, kissed my family good-bye, and hi-tailed it over to Europe where I spent the rest of April, May, June, and July traveling, exploring, and learning.

To say the least…it was an epic time in my life.  One of the best things I have EVER done for myself, hands down.  I met the most incredible people, experienced different cultures and languages, actually saw some of the amazing architecture I had learned about for years in school, and really developed a better sense of direction.  Direction not necessarily in my life, haha that is still hanging in the balances, but physical direction.  Now, I seem to very rarely get lost when walking around and almost always know which way is North.  Kind of funny how aimlessly trekking around in cities will do that to you.

Reminiscing on some of the highlights from my trip, I must mention: going canyoning, going to a Spanish football/soccer game, visiting 3rd and 4th cousins, missing trains, driving cars in Rome, surfing for the first time ever, biking through Italian country-side, meeting and traveling with my now good friend Tyler from Boston, couch surfing, and much more…but truly this only brushes the surface of all I encountered and experienced on my trip. Therefore, I highly suggest you look back over the months of April, May, June, and July on this blog and really allow yourself to live vicariously through my European-adventure posts.

But my vagabond lifestyle in Europe couldn’t last forever [or at least it needed to end for a while :)] so I caught a plane back to the States.  I had a delayed change-over in Boston, so I could visit my new friend and experience another city I never had before, and then finally returned to Oklahoma, my family, and… job searching.

After a few weeks to recover from my trip, and attempt to start organizing the some 8,000 pictures I had taken🙂, I began the necessary steps of resume updating, portfolio perfecting, networking, and job googling.  The job hunt was long, tedious, and frustrating.  Taking me everywhere from Oklahoma City to Dallas, TX.  I actually stayed a month just north of Dallas in Plano with my Aunt and Uncle while I attempt to interview and meet with people in the city.  While the job related part didn’t great or horrible, staying with my extended family was a lot of fun.  It had been a long time since I had the opportunity to stay with them long than a day or two, which had usually just been at holidays and my entire family was also there, so it was a neat experience.  My Aunt and I got to go to hot yoga classes together, my Uncle and I were able to joke around and pester on another, I helped prepare food for and attended their super fun neighborhood dinners, went to the Texas state fair, and just got to spend some quality time talking to them about life.  So even though I went down to Dallas looking for a job and didn’t find one, I still gained so much from the time I had with my Aunt and Uncle and from the interviews I did get to participate in.  Plus, I also got to reconnect with an old friend and past assistant teacher I had learned under when I was in college.  He now lives in Plano too, and we were able to have dinner together and catch up.  So all in all, going to Dallas/Plano was really good…but it didn’t bring me a job.

Nope, that special honor was saved for…random…Joplin, Missouri.  And while I must admit Joplin was probably not my first choice for location…I have been working here since the first of December and I have really enjoyed everything about it since I moved here (well, enjoyed everything except that there is no CrossFit!!).  A month into my first as I call it “big-girl-job” and everything is going just swimmingly.  The people I work with are fantastic, encouraging, and super fun.  I am titled the “Learning Specialist” for the company, Leggett and Platt, and basically my job description includes designing and developing training material for various subjects and audiences throughout the company.  I have learned so much just in this first month, and after being out of school for a year and a half I have welcomed the new intellectual and skill challenges.  Still, the whole adjusting to an 8 to 5 job is taking some time.  It is still quite a struggle some days to not want to go outside and run-around, or go to the store and look at things, or call my friends/family, or just play on the internet…because hey I basically had whatever schedule I wanted for a while now.  But I am adjusting, and my boss is super patient with me when every so often I have to pop into her office because I needed to get out from behind my desk and computer🙂

In addition to my new job, I now have my first solo apartment too.  I know 2010 was definitely a year of “first”.  My apartment is really just perfect, with two bedrooms and two baths.  I have outfitted it out quite nicely I think, and while I still have a few boxes and odds and ends still needing a place to go…I am beginning to feel quite at home in my new digs.  Plus, my parents really spoiled me at Christmas and got me a sweet new television, so now I am all set for movie nights and curling up on my couch🙂

So, after all that, here I am…looking back at 2010 and stepping forward into 2011.  As I look over all the living that I did in 2010…I realize 1. that it was a huge year for growing and changing in so many many wonderful ways.  And 2. that it was year in which God really let me focus on me and discover more about who I am and who I want to be.  Getting to travel really opened my eyes to potential and possibilities.  It made me question, seek more, and discover things about myself, our world, and how those two things fit together.  Truly 2010 was a blessing in more ways than one.  I think it was so important that I had that time to really just be myself, with myself, and developing myself and not really worrying about anyone else.  While I feel that sounds somewhat selfish…I think everyone needs a good chance to experience who they are apart from all the other people and places they know.  By doing so you are able to realize just how good those other people are, or in some cases are not, for you.  It allows you to value having other people in your life, but also appreciate that God made you individually and separate from them.  Now, on a new note, I do feel like maybe 2011 is my year to be about other people.  God gave me so much last year, and this year I really want to be able to share.  Now that I do have a salaried job, I have a more consistent schedule and money flow.  Things are a bit more predictable, and I am praying instead of getting bored with this predictability I can use it to help other people and contribute in ways I have not been able to before.

I have recently been doing some google searches for places to volunteer, and the last few Sundays I have been visiting different churches in hopes of finding a new Church family.  This last Sunday I was invited by one of my new, super sweet co-worker and friend Katie to her church in south Joplin.  While I don’t know that I’ve decided to quit my search yet…I was blown away by the kindness and friendliness of their pastor.  He actually sent me a personal e-mail telling me how much he enjoyed meeting me, and how fun I had been, and because I had told him some about Europe and my love for activities…he even invited me to come play volleyball on Sundays!  And this is no small church either.  So that was really cool.

Anyway, I’ve gotten of topic a bit…so I just want to wrap up this long post with some of the thoughts that have been on my mind regarding this next year:
1. So much happened in 2010, I really have no idea what God has in store for me for 2011.  But just knowing I have him, my family, and some really great friends (both old and some quite new) I am sure that there are going to be some really great memories ahead.
2. As I’d said…I feel like God really gave me a chance to be just Rachel in 2010, so I’m excited to maybe expand that realm and show God’s blessing, grace, and love to other people in 2011.
3. Though I have always known this, my past month experiences of starting a new job, moving to a new town, becoming an independent young woman…I still have SO much to learn.  Haha…but that is ok, and I just need to remember to be kind to myself and to have patience as I seek out new wisdom.
4. I am attempting to start a “Read the Bible in One Year” plan…so hopefully I can stick with that.  I think it would be a really good thing in numerous ways.
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I’m leaving this list open-ended for now.  Pretty sure there are things I might add to this later, but for now…here’s to 2011 being the best year yet.  Full of surprises, more growth, new friendships, experiences, challenges, and joy.  I appreciate all of you who read my blog and I wish you all an equally wonderful year.  Big Hugs🙂
Cheers to a year full of laughter!  Similar to smiling…they’re my favorite😉