Fasting from Facebook

This year for lent, I have decided to take 40 days off from Facebook.

I came to my decision about what to do with this wonderful time before the Easter season by realizing that 1.) I wake up, check my email and Facebook every day before I get out of bed (of which I am also fasting from…no technology in bed during these 40 days!), 2.) during study breaks, my default was always Facebook, and 3.) I get so nosy. Granted, people put information and pictures on Facebook (myself included!) to be seen by others, but seriously, I want to practice minding my own business for a bit! (1 Thes 4:11).

So…what will I do with the time I would normally spend stalking (just call it what it is, people) friends, making comments on pictures, and updating my status (I am becoming more and more convinced that I become more and more narcissistic the more I use Facebook–do people really care what I have for dinner??? 🙂 )

Well, since Lent is purposed to bring believers closer to God, I would like to use that time for some self-examination and some God-examination.

1. In the morning, I will take the few minutes I normally took to check my email and FB to read a daily Scripture. That sounds like a good start to any day to me!

2. Study breaks – whatever happened to just sitting back, closing my eyes, and appreciating silence? Listening to podcasts, writing a hand-written note, SLEEP…those are some ideas. Do you  have any???

3. Those times when I am waiting for someone and my hand automatically reaches for my phone and presses the beckoning blue icon — well, I am thinking I should stop and smell the roses, or just do some good old fashioned people watching. Maybe making a list of what I am thankful for. What do you do when you have a few minutes of waiting time?

So, here’s to my little “unplugging” experiment. I welcome ideas, as well as ideas on what you are doing for Lent!

Mid-Semester Update!

Fall 2011 has been quite busy for me. Fabulous, but busy.

This semester, I started my practicum training. Denver Seminary has a counseling center on campus, Shepherd’s Gate. It offers discount counseling services to the community, counseling provided by students (i.e. me!). People get counseling, and I get practice. All of the sessions are recorded and I meet with two supervisors each week. I have 5 cases and I can’t believe people see as many as 30 in one week — I am so exhausted after just 5! Although it’s challenging, this practicum experience has been extremely positive and helps me to apply my course-work in realistic ways. I can’t believe they trust me in a counseling room alone with clients! But, this reality helps me to depend on God more and more — I am realizing each day how much I CAN’T do without His influence, wisdom, presence, and power.

The first weekend of the semester was Labor Day. For the past three years, a group of college friends and I (Team Austin!) get together somewhere in the country. Our first year, NYC, last year, Nashville. This year, Denver! We had a fabulous time hiking, dining, and lounging in parks.

In Wash Park's flower garden.

One of my new favorites! Cajun-style brunch. Beignets galore!

Later in the month, my parents came up to visit and meet Dave’s parents. We took a tour of his dad’s sod farm and then had steaks at his parents’ house. It was so fun getting our families together and in the same room. And Remy was so happy to see her “grandparents”. 🙂

Dave and I took a short trip to the mountains to take a look at the amazing aspen trees and their new yellow coats. Another purpose of our trip was to purchase our season ski-passes. Copper Mountain, here I come!

Golden Aspens

Remy!

Denver also got its first snow in October. Before Halloween this year. Apparently, it’s a big deal here if snow comes before the 31st or not! Of course, the day it snows I have an 8 am class. Go figure.

First snow! On DenSem's campus

Dave turned 41 on October 19th. We had a very nice steak dinner at Del Frisco’s. I had my first medium-rare filet — it was so good!

Last weekend was probably one of my favorite parts of the semester. Dave and I took a trip to Austin, TX for a football game. I haven’t been back to Austin since I moved here. When we landed into ABIA, a sense of peace came over me and I just felt at home. My friend Rebecca came to pick us up at midnight and had two other friends in the car to surprise us! Just love my Austin community. We stayed at my old house on 37th and I got to reminisce with my old roommates, Emily and Mackenzie. I felt right at home again! The next day, I decided to show Dave some great Mexican food. We took a lunch trip to Trudy’s and went all out with queso, burritos, and lunch specials.

Later we took a walk around the UT campus on our way to the stadium. I journeyed down memory lane as I showed him my favorite spots. We then met my parents and friends at a tailgate where Dave was gifted his very own UT shirt from my  mom.

Dave sporting his new UT apparel!

Hook em!

A great day for college football! Kansas Jayhawks vs. UT Longhorns

I LOVED showing Dave my favorite parts of UT games and being a part of the crowd at DKR again. Again, I felt right at home and as if no time had passed. In the end, the Horns pulled it out without letting Kansas score at all!

The tower is orange!

On Sunday we attended the Austin Stone — the third major time I felt at home. I enjoyed being back in my old fellowship environment more than I can express. It was such a privilege showing Dave where my faith had grown over the past 6 years.

Overall, it’s been a great semester! Continuing friendships I started in the spring, exploring Denver, experiencing my first fall (it really is a season….something this Texan really hasn’t seen before!), testing the waters of counseling, and working to bring my worlds together.

Just 6 more weeks to Christmas break!!!

Ouray Trip

Dave and I have been super travelers this summer. He went to China for most of July (after our great drive to Texas) and I went home a few times during his time abroad.

After he got home, we took a Colorado-exploration trip. We went to Ouray, CO with side trips to Telluride and Salida. This area of CO is known as Switzerland of America, because the mountains are comparable to the Alps. Here is a photo-documentary of our trip! This will probably be the prettiest blog I will ever post!

Our bed and breakfast in Ouray, Spangler House, was AMAZING! Gourmet food, hot tub, private baths and comfy beds. The hosts were so helpful and MADE our trip — they gave us the best places to go.

Spangler House. It's actually a lot bigger. You can see the roof of the second floor behind. You can also see the "Alps" in the back ground. We had the best views from this place!

First stop: Crystal Lake

I don’t have a professional camera, but you can get a sense that these mountains are pretty Alp-ish!

Day One Destination: Clear Lake

Our drive to Clear Lake was breath-taking.

Our lunch spot that day was a remote glacier lake: Clear Lake. It’s quite different than what I know as Clear Lake (Texas).

Dave preparing our picnic among the wildflowers on the shore of Clear Lake. He definitely has some romantic-setting skills!

Day Two Destination: Telluride

Our B&B host told us about a great backroad to Telluride. Here’s what we found…

We found a great fence overlooking the Telluride mountains.

Amazing aspen grove.

We had quite the views…

We found a point that looked over numerous valleys. We christened this spot "Top of the World." Breathtaking.

Our destination was this great waterfall.

At the top is a water power plant. We drove all the way to the top of the falls to watch it in action.

The plant is actually housed in that little white building.

By the way, we saw our first bear ever (for both of us)!

Day 3: Destination Backroading in the mountains, on a search for a particular field of wildflowers.

Again, our B&B host told us about an area outside of Ouray with some amazing sights.

We had quite a gorgeous drive.

One of many abandoned mines along our way.

Our final destination and lunch spot.

Wildflowers and snow on one mountain.

We got pretty good at taking our own pictures.

Our little marmot friend.

  

After this adventure, we drove to Salida and stayed at The River Run Inn, a B&B on the Arkansas River. We were the only people staying that night, so had the run of the huge house to ourselves. Full kitchen, laundry machines (important since we would be traveling to Canada in two days!), movies, pillow-top beds, and amazing views made this last night amazing!

View of our B&B backyard. The Arkansas River is right below, complete with lots of river rafters.

Needless to say, this was quite a perfect Colorado-summer experience. I HIGHLY recommend taking a Ouray-Telluride-Durango trip sometime!

Stay tuned for my Canada/Prince Edward Island blog!

Colorado Hike

Colorado is beautiful in the summer, and I really want to take advantage of it. I have wanted to take Remy on hike in the mountains, so this morning I decided today was the day. Just 30 minutes outside of Denver is a gorgeous area called Evergreen. I found a bunch of trails with various difficulty levels. I chose something relatively moderate so I could just enjoy the scenery.

Trailhead. Wildflowers are everywhere!

 

This particular park has a special dog-off leash area. We hiked the trail and then played around sans leash. I want to share the beauty with some pictures!

Along the way Remy found her first chipmunk! She chased it up a tree and didn't take her eyes off it for a good 3 minutes.

 

Resting...the altitude got to both of us.

Wildflowers

 

Remy during her off-leash time.

Our view from the top.

 

I will definitely be returning to this beautiful place. Come join me!

My Summer So Far

I finished my first semester of seminary! I can’t believe it. It was quite the trek. But I did it, and did it with flying colors.

Summers in Colorado, if you haven’t been, are pretty close to perfect. Although I miss family and friends a ton back in The Great State, I don’t feel a whole lot of remorse after hearing about the weather ya’ll are having. So sorry. I prayed for major rain today.

My first summer adventure was a 10 day trip to Texas with Dave. First we went to our family farm where he met my family — we all had so much fun together. We went to Houston and took a tour of NASA. A Houston native, I have never been and can’t believe it. No family outings or school field trips. But, thankfully Dave wanted to do something “Houston” and that was one of the first things on our list!

The Saturn 5 rocket at NASA. This is only about 2/3rds the size! Dave is on the right.

Then we drove up to Ft. Worth for Sarena and Brad’s wedding (hello Mrs. Wright!!!). Dave got to meet all of my friends–it’s so great when your circles can merge! Overall the wedding weekend was a BLAST — my friends are the best and extremely fun.

Austinites at the Sarena's rehearsal dinner!

Me and Dave at the rehearsal dinner.

Getting ready to send the beautiful bride down the aisle!

We were provided with light-up guitar glasses and rings, maracas, and of course silver MJ gloves at the reception.

After Texas Trip #1 (another is coming in a week!), I immediately dove into a one-week class at school: Missions and Counseling. Although I don’t feel called to counsel missionaries or live overseas for an extended period of time, I grew in my understanding of people, counseling, and my own faith. My days since the end of class have been spent working on assignments (while sitting by the pool of course…). I did take a small hiatus and spend a few days at Dave’s cabin about an hour outside of Denver. Quite close to a Colorado paradise.

View from Dave's cabin. I would be jealous too.

My next big summer event is taking a road trip back to Texas (the farm) for a family reunion during the 4th of July. Dave and I are taking a couple of days and are getting to bring REMY!

I have also found a church I think I will stay at (Mission Hills)! I have gotten involved with the children’s ministry — Kidstuff got me addicted and I need my weekly kid-fix!

Anyway, I hope ALL of you are doing well, wherever you are. Send me updates!

Until next time…

What I Miss and What I Love

I have been the biggest slacker when it comes to blogs. Not that I haven’t wanted to, but it unfortunately has taken the back seat. So, I decided to take some time out from my major papers, tests, projects, and class to give you an update.

I have 4 weeks left!!! I can’t believe it. I have learned so much, have formed some really great relationships, had a great spring break with some amazing friends, and even have time for some 80’s fun.

Some ladies from the counseling program. A release from school was much needed.

I made a list before I left about things I love about Austin and things I would miss. I promised an update, so here it is!

Things I Love About Denver

  1. Double turn lanes are everywhere
  2. The multiple running trails accessible from my driveway
  3. 45 degrees feels like 55. 65 degrees feels like 80. (but see # 3 below!)
  4. No allergies!!!
  5. Seeing the mountains (and usually a sunrise — beautiful, but I can’t wait for summer sleep-in days) every morning when I walk outside
  6. The closeness to the slopes — it takes me 1.5 hours to get to Copper Mountain. Compare this to vacationers who unfortunately spend hundreds of dollars for plane tickets, about 100 dollars for lift tickets, lodging expenses, hours of travel, and spending money on food.
  7. More than two Whole Foods stores; plus the plethora of Sunflower Markets and Natural Grocers

What I Miss About Texas

  1. Central Market (and HEB. Safeway is ridiculously pricey for low quality, and King Soopers just weirds me out.)
  2. The Austin Stone
  3. Having 4 seasons. Last week, it was 70 degrees one day and snowed the next
  4. Being “normal” for having a Texas license plate and a longhorn sticker on my car – no one lets me switch lanes here and they usually honk at me in small parking lots.
  5. Mexican food!!! It’s unimpressive here. Even the margaritas are watery.
  6. Local restaurants – Trudy’s (especially the Mexican Martini!!!), Austin Java, Foodhead’s, Taco Shack (can’t find a good breakfast taco anywhere), Moonshine Sunday brunch, Z-Tejas, Galaxy Cafe (love the mac and cheese), Hoover’s Chicken Fried Steak, Hula Hut (tubular taco!)
  7. The ubiquitous music scene
  8. Good BBQ (have you noticed how much I list food?!??!)
  9. The numerous free festivals/events/celebrations
  10. Mopac — never been on a prettier freeway (even though the traffic is horrible!)
I have had a lot of people ask me if I am going back to Texas for the summer. First of all, that is a silly question. How many people do you know travel/have traveled to CO during the summer to vacation? I am sure it’s more than 1. So, I will be staying here, but I do have two trips to Texas planned, so I am not completely forgetting you guys. 🙂 I wish I could have my people and my favorite Texas places, and CO weather all in one spot!
I will be taking a 1 week course on Missions and Counseling, will volunteer with Street’s Hope (an org that works with women sold into the sex slave industry IN DENVER), and catch up on some of the concepts I didn’t get to fully study during this semester.
I am open to visitors, so come check this place out!!!

The Spirit’s Role in Creating and Redeeming

I keep telling some of you about how great my professors are. The one mentioned most, Dr. Hess, is my OT professor. I sound like a broken record when I say he is one of the most brilliant Bible scholars I have ever encountered. He talks for 3 hours without notes (except the Bible), never hesitates with students’ questions, and could tell you more about the Dead Sea Scrolls than you thought possible.

Our class two weeks ago blew me away. After talking about ancient manuscripts for an hour, Dr. Hess switched gears and discussed the Bible with us. We talked about Genesis 1:1-2 for two hours. Two verses in two hours. That was not enough time to discuss God’s first words about His Redemptive story.

Art by Christopher Koelle, as found in "The History of Redemption." See http://www.historyofredemption.org/

The most exciting thing about the lecture was the discussion about the role of the Holy Spirit in Creation, and His continual involvement in the Old Testament narrative with a purpose of CREATION and REDEMPTION.

Creation

Setting the Stage: The author of Genesis 1 poetically describes God’s masterful creation of the universe. In verse 2 he says “Now the earth was formless and empty.” In Hebrew: tohu wa bohu. This is basically a poetic way of saying that there was no support for life. Next, he records “darkness was over the surface of the deep.”  Now, what exactly does “the deep” mean? The Hebrew, tehom, describes subterranean waters. It describes a “potentially powerful” force; something unstoppable.

Genesis 1:2 continues, “…the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”  Hebrew for the use of “Spirit of God” in Genesis 1, is ruach. The word actually means “a mighty wind.”  (No, not something imagined by Christopher Guest.) And “hovering” connotes a bird flying back & forth, waiting. Waiting. There is a powerful potential, a tehom, underneath this ruach and He is waiting for something to happen. So, the Holy Spirit, this mighty wind, is connected to powerful subterranean waters.

The Red Sea

Fast forward to another connection of the Holy Spirit with water in Exodus.

In Exodus 14, The Egyptians army, the most powerful in the world, is pursuing the fleeing Israelites and have cornered them against the Red Sea. Moses states: “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Ex 14:13)

“Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the LORD drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.”

Then the LORD said to Moses, “ ‘Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may flow back over the Egyptians and their chariots and horsemen.’ Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing toward it, and the LORD swept them into the sea. The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen—the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived.”

The “strong east wind” is the Holy Spirit, ruach. And the use of the word “waters” is the same Hebrew word, tehom that describes the “potentially powerful waters” at the beginning of creations. Except this time, the waters realized their potential.

After this miraculous event, we see a people created Israel. “And when the Israelites saw the mighty hand of the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant…In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed.” (Ex 14:31, 15:13).

Return From Babylon

Another important event in Israel’s past, the exile from Babylon, also includes a reference (though more vague) to the Holy Spirit being a part of creating and, especially, redeeming the remnant of God’s people.

Some scripture sregarding God’s leading Israel back to their home are found in Isaiah).

First, God describes how the OLD Israel is going to suffer. Isaiah 5:5-6

5 Now I will tell you
what I am going to do to my vineyard:
I will take away its hedge,
and it will be destroyed;
I will break down its wall,
and it will be trampled.
6 I will make it a wasteland,
neither pruned nor cultivated,
and briers and thorns will grow there.
I will command the clouds
not to rain on it.

Second, Isaiah: 40: 23-24. Here,  God has destroyed Babylonian authorities. Notice the words (bolded) that are similar to our past references to the Holy Spirit as being a mighty wind. There are different Hebrew words here than in Genesis, but the meaning is the same.

23 He brings princes to naught
and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing.
24 No sooner are they planted,
no sooner are they sown,
no sooner do they take root in the ground,
than he blows on them and they wither,
and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff

Third, Isaiah 55:12-13  God is talking to the Israelites about how He will lead them away from Babylon.

12 You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.
13 Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper,
and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the LORD’s renown,
for an everlasting sign,
that will endure forever.

“Led forth” here is another description of the Spirit’s work; the word literally means leading a triumphant army from exile. From the WBC (Isaiah) this term connotes that  “heavenly messengers recognize the significance of the announcement. God’s plan is being put into effect. Glorious results will follow.” God will recreate His people as they are lead back to their home.  They will become a New Israel through a New Covenant.

If this is WAY over your head; don’t worry. It’s way over mine as well, still. But,  hopefully you can get the gist that God is amazing and will stop at nothing to keep freeing His people, redeeming them, recreating them. And how amazing is His Word! He is so crafty.

************

Dr. Hess is also one of the kindest people I know. He prays before each class; last week he prayed that people without a home would find shelter and clothing to protect them in this weather, and that God’s hand would be over the situation and the Christians in Egypt. Our hearts were turned off of ourselves for a few seconds and onto others. So refreshing.