Thursday, September 20, 2012

Can't Complain (try as I might)

After all the ways Highlands Ranch, CO designed itself around my convenience, I guess my mind was just not calibrated to appreciate the charms of North Eugene. Oh, I like the second-hand stores, the cheap places to shop, and the trails along the river. It's easy to get on the freeway from here, or up to the mountains, or over to the coast. There are a couple of farm stands nearby where Lane County turns rural...  North Eugene is a little bit country (and a little bit rock and roll?)

What I have trouble forgiving, though, is the lack of places on this side of town where you (read: I) can go with a laptop, get on the internet, and work for a few hours away from the house.

Stop me if I've mentioned this before. I have? Oh, I guess I have!

For some reason my narcissistic mind still finds this unforgivable. Libraries, coffee shops, bookstores, where are you? There were six of you within one mile of my house in Highlands Ranch!

Sheesh, guess I've become pretty high maintenance. What happened to the girl who went to Central Asia in the early 90's and shared a dusty house with seven others for several hot summer months with no running water? When did I become so impossible to please?

I was feeling all grumbly about the no-coffeeshop situation again on Monday while driving to one of the places I've sort of settled on when I don't just stay in the house and work at home. Unlike other options, "Vectors Espresso" has free parking, a fairly pleasant ambiance, and plenty of tables, chairs, and power outlets. They don't mind if you stay for a couple hours. They staff are friendly and serve beverages in real cups, not disposable ones. On the other hand, the place is often over air-conditioned, the hours are rather limited, prices are too high, and the shop is a full seven miles from my house (though closer than other comparable places).

On the way there I remembered the area's one-and-only Starbucks. Just as pricy and often crowded, but at five miles off, a little closer to home. It was almost like the Holy Spirit was trying to say something to me... especially when I had no trouble finding a place to sit and plug in, with no one pressuring me to leave, and even discovered funds on an old Starbucks card that reduced the cost of my $3.00 12-oz coffee to only $.57. Took the wind out of my sails - I had to stop my self-righteous internal rant and just send up a humble "thank you." Also got a lot of writing done that day. Which was really the point.

Doing whatever I can to stay motivated, organized, and productive is going to be pretty important this year. I'm still working full-time for the agency ( though I need to give as much of that as I can to support raising) - still managing the ezine (and now with less help than in the past) - and still taking grad school classes (one at a time). Now I've got a second job on top of that. There didn't seem any way around it.

But the new job is such a blessing! I'm doing web-content creation for another ministry that serves the missions community, and it's all right up my alley. Not only will the additional projects help pay our bills, but it forces me to work hard every day. The busy schedule is pushing all those petty complaints like the one about the high price of coffee off my radar screen! Crazy, huh? Knowing there's more expected of me helps me rise to the occasion... brings out the best in me and pushes away the worst. Thank you Lord, for meeting us and providing for us in this new season!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Don't Say Yes to the Dress, I Guess

What David's Bridal is selling these days
The fashions in clothing for females alternately amuse and exasperate me. Boys go about in "shorts" that nearly graze their ankles, while many girls' shorts end just under their hips. Boys' T-shirts cover the chest and have sleeves that flap around the elbows, while women's feature huge scoops and tiny sleeves (if any).

Why such fabric allowance inequalities?

Me, I get cold, so I search in vain for more substantial clothing, then add socks and scarves and sweaters. Until the fashions make a major swing away from skimpiness, I'll struggle to find clothes in which I feel comfortable and not exposed.

I was interested to read a set of guidelines for dress from a conservative Bible church. No, not what clothes their members should wear... or wear at church. No, these were rules governing what a bride and her attendants could wear if they wanted to get married in that particular church.

As you may have noticed, sometime in the 1990s, fussy or flowing gowns disappeared. Now they are nowhere to be found, new or used (though no doubt there are still some in spare-room closets and attic spaces). Any girl who expects to buy an off-the-rack wedding dress or bridesmaid gowns will discover what I did, that most or all today's formal wear is designed to show a lot of skin, or shape, or both.

But this church doesn't want wedding parties to wear what wouldn't be suitable "to wear to church."

Apparently a committee of mature women evaluate the gowns, saving the pastors potential shame and embarrassment of telling a girl she's just too dang sexy. Because that would be awkward, no? I hope the question would actually be resolved in advance, not after the clothing had been selected...

Got these for my bridesmaids,
from J.C. Penney's. Also some
shawls if they needed the warmth,
as it turned out they did.
Personally, I would prefer to wear (or see other people wearing) clothing that passes all these tests. But not sure it ought to be mandated. And, practically, it creates hardship for someone who doesn't want to do their own sewing or invest a huge amount of time and energy in wedding planning (which is quite stressful and expensive enough already).

What do you think of this list? Most all the formal-wear I found broke one rule or another.

1. No strapless gowns or dresses.
2. No spaghetti strap gowns or dresses.
3. No bared backs below the normal bra line.
4. No visible cleavage; the breasts must be covered at least two or three inches above the beginning of any cleavage.
5. Sleeveless dresses must have snug armholes.
6. No dresses cut above the bottom of the knee (that is, while sitting).
7. No slits that bare the thighs; slits must not come above the bottom of the knee.
8. No “mermaid” dresses that snugly follow all the contours of the body.

I think my wedding party would have =almost= passed. But not quite.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Principles of Acquisition

My husband and I recently had a small squabble about how to cook rice. He thought we (I) needed a rice cooker, whereas I resisted, more comfortable with my old-fashioned pots and pans. I had similarly tried to persuade our kids that an ice cream scoop was an unnecessary possession in a house with an ample collection of spoons.

As such household debates have unfolded I've come to realize we operate on different principles. I want to have as few tools as possible, but all of them multi-purpose. (Same girl wants to have one purse or one pair of shoes that goes with everything). Hubs is by no means extravagant - he wants to justify every purchase on multiple grounds. But he does like his shiny tools, and he tends to think anything must be better if there's a cord to plug it in.

Our kitchen has lots of storage space and our wedding guests flooded us with department store gift cards, so the happy solution is that we make room for both approaches. We have the space for both pots and pans, and the small appliances... for universally useful utensils, and for specialized ones.

We got the rice cooker. It works fine and will probably stick or spill less than my rice cooked on the stove. Those ten-pound bag of frozen chicken and a 20-pound bag of rice from Costco should mean there's always something in the house to make for dinner. And since Hubs likes the gadgets, I'll have no qualms delegating the dinner-making back to him - at least in theory. It would help if we weren't both overextended these days. I may have to give in and buy the story about how getting a crock pot would make our lives easier too. So far I have resisted.   

Questions:
  1. What household tools and appliances have you found the most delightful? What do you use the most? 
  2. Which ones seem a waste of space and money for you? What stays in the drawer or cupboard?


Sunday, September 09, 2012

Saturday Service

If a football stadium is the closest many will get to a house of worship, this weekend I had the chance to serve as a doorkeeper in the house of a god.

Not my God, not the God (per Psalm 84:10), but certainly one that commands allegiance and adoration in my new home town. Sometimes known as Mighty O.

More than 50,000 worshipers - most clad in the florescent yellow and forest green of the Oregon Ducks - joined a staff of hundreds of contract workers who coalesced from all over the city and every walk of life.

I had an eight-hour game-day gig with an outfit called Crowd Management Services. I pulled on the bright blue polo shirt I was issued, tucked it into my regulation black trousers, and tried to look tough, non-partisan, and in the know.

My assignment was to stand outside the stadium for about five hours welcoming and directing people and doing my best to answer their questions about which line to stand in. My partner (known only as No. 133) and I were also tasked with chasing away the ticket scalpers lurking on our perimeter, as well as "educating" any member of the crowd who tried to light a cigarette on campus property. This was forbidden.

As the hours passed, I was able to tease out No. 133's life story. I also learned quite a bit from a patron named George, a lawyer from the small town of Hermiston, OR, also a second-generation Duck and father of Ducks. Others gave me various glimpses of their hopes, dreams, and concerns. Many were sporting fashions that in any other venue would look ridiculous - golden wigs, green body paint, etc. Quite a few chose our designated spot as a good meeting place; they called to tell the people they were meeting with (in all seriousness) to look for the woman in the yellow hat. I do not know when I have seen so many men and women in yellow hats. 

As kickoff approached, the crowds outside thinned. The scalpers made their last deals and left. We helped stragglers and lingered until after half-time, when it was time to tear down much of the crowd-management equipment and be redeployed to a stadium tunnel. Halfway through the fourth quarter we were sent to ring the field itself. We turned our flint-like faces to the wall, not the game. This time our job was to prevent the premature access of fans eager to swarm the field.

Per Pac-12 regulations, members of the general public were not allowed on the field until five minutes after the game and when the field was cleared of athletes, coaches, and journalists. We held a long rope and tried to look menacing and courteous at the same time. Only when the gates were open were we, the crowd management staff, allowed to drop our rope and turn to face the field - partly so we would not be hit in the head by the hundreds of footballs being thrown back and forth by children and child-like members of the crowd who had been waiting for their own chance to toss a pigskin.

For someone like me - born without depth perception - a hundred footballs flying at once was unnerving. The sun was setting and a chill quickly descending on the stadium. When the chance came to decide who would stay and who would go, I volunteered to check out. I signed off, handed over the polyester polo shirt, and once again returned to the world of ordinary citizens and Duck fans. I could be confident that my service had not only provided extra padding for our slender finances but had also helped keep the event decent and in order.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Gift-based Ministry Mobilization

Hubs is taking a class on "ministry mobilization." Nerdy girl that I am, I used my Labor Day holiday to go to school with him and check it out. After all, I've been calling myself a mission mobilizer for a long time now. I wanted to see what his seminary professor meant when he used the word mobilize. I wondered how much of what is being taught and written about mobilizing people for ministry, in general, might apply to mobilizing and strategically placing people in pioneering mission efforts.

This week's class explored theological foundations. The professor started by talking about the reality that God, as Creator and Redeemer, made each and every person the way they are on purpose and made them in his image. That's why gift-based ministry mobilization is the way to go. Because everyone is gifted by the Spirit of God for the sake of the common good - for his mission in the world. And when people turn toward God, his power is at work within them to redeem their experiences and to restore and renew them, working his purposes out in and through them.

Anyone who's been a recruiter or mobilizer very long tends to discover this. People ask you, "What kind of people are you looking for? What should I major in? What kind of person do I need to become if I want to serve overseas?" But you can't just talk to them about the job market. You have to ask them questions about who they are, what their story is, what they have a passion to do, what they care about ... and what they've learned about how God designed them to serve.

Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:10-11)