Sunday, January 01, 2012

Maybe I'll give blogging another shot...

Well its only been...oh... a year and almost 3 months since my last blog post. And in the interests of it being a brand new year (and one I'm particularly excited about) I thought why not give it another shot? I'm not making it a goal or anything (which I think in and of itself relieves some pressure to try to keep up), but since I enjoy writing, keeping up with the goings on of others and communicating in general, I thought this would be an excellent avenue of choice for just that.

Lists are easy to read, so I'll go with that format today.

Exciting moment of 2011:
1) March - My baby brother's wedding to Tabitha - so happy to have a sweet sister in our family! And she is just wonderful!
2) April - riding my 2nd MS150 - hard but good!
3) April - going on a much awaited first date with Nathan (I'll share more in a bit!)
4) May - my 3rd and toughest year of teaching finishing. I didn't think it would ever end.
5) June - moving into a cute little house with two sweet friends, both named Ashley!
6) June - becoming an "official" couple with Nathan (again - more to come in a little bit!)
7) July - trip #4 to East Asia. I just love that place! Crazy but very sweet trip.
8) September - turning 28 and feeling like I'm getting old!
9) October - celebrating the weddings of 3 sweet friends
10) November - running my first half marathon! I LOVED IT! (and thought I would hate it!)
11) November - buying a new computer. It was much needed and I'm so so glad I did! It has made life a lot easier to have a working computer.
12) December - performing for the 3rd time in Celebration, wearing a tux and tap dancing in the show! Seeing the Lord again work through this performance to touch and change lives I think is my most favorite part though!
13) December - holiday celebrations and parties galore!
14) December - for Christmas, Nathan got tickets for us to go see the Chinese ballet. I've been waiting for 3 years to see that!
15) Watching Baylor have its first Heisman Trophy Winner (RGIII!!), be ranked #12 in the nation in football and watching them (on TV at a fun party!) win their bowl game in fine fashion!`

Eagerly anticipating in 2012:
1) Celebrating the weddings of more sweet friends (including Audrey, a friend I've known since I was 10 and getting to be a bridesmaid in that wedding!)
2) Trip #5 to East Asia in March
3) Reading books - I want to get more in a habit of that because I LOVE to read but dont' get to do it as often as I'd like.
4) Continuing to date Nathan and seeing what the Lord has in store for our relationship.
5) Summer vacation. Its a ways off but I'm excited.
6) My car being paid off! Only 2 more payments left!

Focusing on this year:
1) Deepening - in my walk with and faith in the Lord, in relationships with my friends and family and in my interactions of those I come in contact with in my church, community and work place
2) Organizing - not a strength of mine but something I'm going to challenge myself to be because I highly value organization but have little capacity to actually be that
3) Simplifying - for an overcommitted and super busy person, its easier said than done. But for the above two to happen successfully, this is a must.

And for those of you wondering about Nathan:
1) I said no the first time he asked me out (dumb!) but am so so so glad I reconsidered :0)
2) He is the most humble, patient, encouraging and servant-hearted person I've ever met.
3) We love adventures - doing all those things that you always say you want to do or try but never know who to do it with. It's been fun adventuring with him and we are always planning some new adventure to go on (some real, some not real) :0)
4) He's an engineer and hard-working, very intelligent one at that.
5) We've been dating 6 and half months now and its been a lot of learning, but a very sweet season.
6) I would put a picture, but blogger is being fussy about that. I'll try again another day. But he's very handsome!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Bridal Series - Introduction

Haha. I know what you are thinking. Why would the heck would someone who hasn't even had a date in several years (yeah, shocking - I know! Haha...j/k) name a blog series to be about something bridal?

Well let me tell you.

Better idea - don't use my words. Use the Word.

"Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her in to the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her... And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the LORD." ~Hosea 2:14, 19-20 (ESV) ~

In a recent somewhat passing conversation, the Lord affirmed something in my heart I think he has been stirring up for a little while now. It has been tremendously impressed upon me how I need to be living as if I were a bride of Christ. In such an intimate love affair with Him that nothing else matters. I really have been struggling with a lot of distractions and some tough issues lately. I was really convicted how little I fear, revere, submit, honor and obey the Lord and how little I regard my relationship with Him, my Creator and Sustainer.

So, since I am a verbal/written processor and I feel it is something we as believers in Christ should be living like, I thought I would start a series on this ever deepening walk with Him.

Currently, I feel like I'm in a season of renewal in my love for Him for the purpose of deepening it. I am excited to know Him and the things of Him. The Word is coming alive and I am beyond excited about prayer. Never been in this place before. And its hard and sometimes requires sacrifice, but oh the merit it has!

I also have realized that when I am focused on Him alone, all else falls into place and He provides in abundance and beyond what I can imagine.

This doesn't come without refinement and pruning - He is revealing some core sin issues that I have allowed to sneak into my life and that need to go. Painful at the very least. Sweet though. Very sweet.

So, join me as I walk this road. Won't you come along too in your own life?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Sin is Crawling in My Kitchen

*Note - these are not actual bugs in my kitchen. This picture is from Google Images!
Well, various types of bugs, really. Most are dead now - a few survivors are still creeping around after an intense battle on Thursday night but I don't think they will last very long. My kitchen in my 1 bedroom apartment is about 8x8 and I have set out 8 plastic roach bait things and 6 roach tablets. Clearly, I wasn't playing around.
And then I got to thinking last night about the bug problem in my dwelling. It is so similar when we allow sin to enter and stay and in the dwelling of our hearts! Here's some application points I thought of while driving down I10:
  • Sin, like bugs, is ugly and disgusting and rather difficult to be around.
  • The problem started small - just maybe seeing a few bugs scurry around. Annoying, but I thought not too harmful. Then it started to grow. And I ignored it more - mainly because they were gross to deal with and everytime I touched something in the kitchen, I ran the risk of a bug crawling out. Our sin often starts as just a small thing, not too noticeable or effective. But then we ignore it, thinking it will go away, not really adressing where the issue is nesting. And then it becomes such a big problem, that we are afraid to touch it and just let it be.
  • I tried to get my apartment people to help. They came 2 times to spray. Other people, while they can pour wisdom into your life cannot fix the problem for you. You have to take action and be vigilantly watching over your heart and guarding it, just like I needed to do a better job in protecting my kitchen.
  • I tried a mild bug spray once to try to fix the problem. It failed miserably and in the process almost suffocated my dog. Our sin affects other people (or dogs in this case!) and can be destructive in their lives as well, not just our own.
  • At one point earlier this week, I considered ways that I could just stay in my bedroom where there are almost no bugs so I wouldn't have to address the problem going on in the rest of my apartment. Sin tries to isolate and corner us. And it isn't possible to live like that, just like its not possible for me to never leave my bedroom. I have to go in other parts of the apartment. I want my apartment, just like my spirit, to be a place where myself and others feel welcomed, comfortable and refreshed. They can't do that if bugs/sin are crawling everywhere!
  • Because the bugs were mainly everywhere in my kitchen, I couldn't cook at all and had little desire to go anywhere near the kitchen. This caused me to want to eat out every single night and then that took a toll on my desire to eat healthy. So basically, sin isn't an isolated occurrence. It can lead us into other sin. I was spending more money than I had budgeted for eating out and I was gaining a little weight because of that.
  • I lived in fear of the bugs. They consumed my thoughts sometimes on ways to end their lives. Thats how sin is. It causes us to live in fear and it can consume our thoughts sometimes. Instead of being focused at work or enjoying time with family and friends, I was consumed with thinking about the bugs in my apartment and how to kill them.
  • I avoided the situation at all costs. I knew it had to be fixed, but didn't want to deal with it. Thats how we approach sin a lot. We know its wrong and disgusting, but avoiding it just seems like the easier route rather than addressing it head on and ridding ourselves of the impurities that are indwelling.
  • The battle for my kitchen was brutal. I spent $30 on cleaning and bug killing materials. I suited up with my purple rubber gloves, sprayed my entire kitchen down with bleach, set far too many roach baits and roach tablets out. And I stayed up til 11pm on a school night to fight this battle. Because I waited to address the issue, the battle was that much harder and cost me in my finances, my time and my energy. Sin is like that. The deeper it takes root and nests in our heart, the harder it is to get rid of and the more it costs us. I feel so much better now that my kitchen is clean, smells like bleach and I can see the carcasses of many bugs dying due to ingestion of whatever chemicals are in those baits and tablets. I am able to live in freedom (well, once the carcasses are cleared), enjoy my kitchen and my dwelling that much more. So much like sin. I can enjoy my dwelling in the presence of the Lord because my sin has been cleansed and removed and I no longer live in fear.

So I know thats an absolutely disgusting illustration, but really sin is disgusting. Think about how the Father sees our sin. So true. If only we would come to hate the things of sin as much as I hate the bugs in my kitchen.

Be blessed!

Saturday, August 07, 2010


Oh my friends. I just returned 5 days ago from my amazing trip to East Asia. I'm so blessed and humbled that the Lord continues to provide ways for me to go back there and that I fall a little more in love with it each time I am there.

That being said, it leaves me with an increasingly bittersweet feeling each time I leave. Do I enjoy returning to my bed, my routine and my comforts of home sweet home? Sure! Who doesn't? At the same time, however, I long for and miss the city and country I never knew I would fall so much in love with.

This trip was amazing. I really loved it. I am so blessed that the Lord put this opportunity before me and made a way to go. On that note, did I ever tell you of how He provided the way completely for me to go? If not, I will now! Its too good not to share.

So, 3 years ago, I was finishing up grad school, which was primarily paid for through loans and grants. Each semester, UNT would send me a check because the total amount of loans and grants I had was greater than all the tuition and fees and such. Well, a few months ago, I get an email from UNT. I hadn't been there in 3 years and honestly don't really have much involvement with them beyond the diploma I possess. I opened the email and it said that in the summer session of 2007, the check they had for me had gotten lost or had never been sent and that they needed to pay me that amount soon or I would lose it. I thought that was great! I had no idea the amount and thought maybe a couple hundred dollars or so since it was just for a summer session. I was a little skeptical too, but proceded nonetheless. At the same time, I knew this trip would be on my dime and I was praying and quickly figuring out ways to save over $2000 I needed for my trip. A few weeks later, the check came in the mail and much to my awe and amazement, the check was for $2500!!! Ya'll - the trip cost $2450. Oh my word. I knew at that point that there should be no doubt in my mind whether I should be returning to East Asia or not. The money basically landed in my lap at the perfect time!

Anyways, back to my trip. This trip was so sweet for a few reasons:
1) Since we were just there to hang out with our friends we had made and there were only four of us on the team, the pace was much much slower. This allowed us to really soak in our surroundings, the culture and really take time to observe how the Lord was working. I wouldn't trade that for anything! If I return to teach English again, it will be hard because I enjoyed this aspect so much!

2) I'm a nut for cultural exchange opportunities and this was truly it. We ate where our friends ate, played the games they play with friends (real MahJong and another really fun card game), saw their city, used public transportation (buses!) and even got to go into one of our friend's homes for a dumpling (jiao zi) making party! Amazing!

3) Because we were soley there to be with our friends, this meant a lot of free time to invest in their lives and see how they live and maybe why some of them have the outlook on life that they do.

4) There were some really deep, meaningful , Spirit-filled conversations that took place and I just love that. These conversations, whether I participated or just listened and prayed, keep playing in my head. Its amazing to watch one's countenance when they first encounter Truth and I just love that!

I could go on for hours about the trip and show you my pictures (I actually took some this time - close to 200! That's a miracle for me!).

For now, I will continue to pray for the country and for my friends there and am eagerly seeking opportunities to return, Lord willing!

"For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign LORD will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations." ~Isaiah 61:11~

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Summer 2010

Oh wow. Too long between blog posts, I know. But during the year, my life is rather hectic and then I lose a lot of motivation to do much of anything during the summer/recovery time. But in case you've been wondering where I'm at, here it is in category and list format (I may have gotten some of my father's engineering brain in me - but if I truly had that, wouldn't it all be on an excel spreadsheet??)

What I have done this summer:
  • Cleaned/purged/organized/decorated my apartment - its so nice not living in a setting that stresses me out because of the mess I created.
  • Met with friends for lunch, breakfast, ice cream, coffee, dinner, etc. and just caught up on life with them. My dream job would be to spend all day just listening to people do life and walking with them. Summers allow me to do that dream job a little bit.
  • Prayed and spent a lot of time in the Word. Such true refreshment.
  • Spent more time with my family than I normally do.
  • Spent time alone - very rare for me. Being a true extrovert, this can be hard but its been sweet and refining. The Lord uses my summers to sit me down, do business, refine, sift and speak to me because honestly, and frustratingly, I don't do this very well during the rest of the year.
  • Prepared for a return trip to East Asia! Its been a lot of work (more than I ever expected) to get this set up, but its been good. I'm really thankful for my co-leader, Philip and the rest of our team and can't wait to see what the Lord is going to do in our trip.
  • Missed my friends that were out of town, out of country, busy with work, etc. but prayed for them in that and excited for what the Lord is doing in their lives.
  • Had a mini reunion with friends from Saudi I hadn't seen in like 11 years. I didn't know what to expect going in and was a little nervous, but I enjoyed reconnecting with my childhood and the part of me not many people know too much about or understand.
  • Went dancing (two-stepping) a lot! I enjoy this a lot and want to become better at it. Maybe some lessons in the near future? Anyone want to join me??
  • Started a new budget - the first month is going pretty well with only a few minor slip ups!
  • Started training for a half-marathon. Yes, you read that right. And I know you still don't believe me.
  • Walked through Ruth with the girls in my Sunday school class. Still in progress. So great.

Things I have yet to do this summer but am planning on:

  • Finish sewing my curtains. Yes, they were on my list last year too. Don't judge.
  • Going to the beach or a waterpark.
  • Run an entire 5K. I am up to running 2 miles straight and then doing intervals for the rest. The heat is not helping in my running endeavors. But having sweet, encouraging trainers and friends is!
  • Return to East Asia - coming up Friday! Excited doesn't even begin to describe my sentiments on this!
  • Go to Glorietta, New Mexico on a leadership retreat - I am so thankful for this opportunity and can't wait for all the fun and relaxation that will be had. And its like the cheapest vacation ever - used miles for airline tickets and am only paying $75 for everything else!
  • Creating materials for my classroom - for my blind student and for my SmartBoard. I started my lesson plan overview for the year the other day and am really going to hit it hard when I return from China. I don't want to be in too much of panic mode before August 23. We'll see.

Things the Lord has taught me recently:

  • I need to be a woman of my word. Flaky-ness has gotten me by to this point, but I really don't like it. If I say I am going to do something, I need to follow through and be reliable and trustworthy. If I don't plan on doing something, I don't need to say it.
  • Love is not something you give back once you've received it. I need to love, regardless of whether I have been shown it first or not. Acceptance and approval have been major issues in my life, but they need not define how I love others. True love is selfless and doesn't expect a return. See 1 Corinthians 13.
  • I need to stop playing it safe. As a recovering perfectionist, I only like to do what I know works and will be successful. I sometimes have good, risky ideas for ministry, life, work, etc. but because there lies an element of potential failure, I tend to back away. Since when did the Lord call us to fear and timidity? So in my life, my ministry and my vocation, I really want to start stepping up, making changes, taking risks and pushing others to do the same. Even if I do fail or mess up, there are lessons of great worth in that and I need to relish those moments.

Au bientot!

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Putting the bad days at work in perspective...

But first, some highlights from the past couple of weeks:

*Mosaic Women's Retreat - so amazing! Just watching the Lord working in women's lives is such a passion and joy of mine. And I just completely felt the words of the Spirit speaking through me as I taught/facilitated which is an amazing and humbling feeling!

*Watching the China team form and seeing daily provisions for this exciting opportunity!

*Performing in the Summit Variety Show! I was in a really powerful drama playing the part of a demon (perfect for me, don't ya' think??) and I got to....are you ready for this.....TAP DANCE!!! Too much fun! I think it all went pretty well too :0)

*Inspiration at work - even though it is difficult some days, I've felt really inspired lately as far as ideas for my classroom - activities, lessons, behavior plans, etc. I love creativity!

*Softball is coming soon! Hip hip hooray!

Okay and now a quote that will put any bad day or week or year at work in perspective. I found it in a good book I am reading (The Rest of God by Mark Buchanan)

"When you have had one of those take-this-job-and-shove-it days, try this. On your way home, stop at your pharmacy and go to the section where they have thermometers. You will need to purchase a rectal thermometer made by the Q-tip Company. Be sure that you get this brand. When you get home, lock your doors, draw the drapes, and disconnect the phone so you will not be disturbed during your therapy. Change into something comfortable, such as a sweat suit, and lie down on your bed. Open the package containing the thermometer, remove it, and carefully place it on the bedside table so that it will not become chipped or broken. Take the written material that accompanies the thermometer. As you read, notice in small print this statement: 'Every rectal thermometer made by Q-tip is personally tested.' Close your yes. Say out loud five times, 'Thank you, oh thank you, that I do not work in quality control at the Q-tip Company.'"


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

"Yeah, I'm just clumsy..."

You would think saying that maybe like once a week would be fairly normal. Try 4 times in the past 5 days! Good grief. This is not my week for being graceful.

*I tripped down some stairs and landed with a thud at Bible study on Thursday night in the middle of a serious conversation after returning from the bathroom (always even more awkward when people know exactly where you are coming from!). I had tripped over the cuff of my own pants.

*I have a blister on my left foot from my tap shoe, so while practicing, I took off the left shoe so as to not rub the blister any more. In doing that, I managed to stomp on my left big toe with my right tap shoe, taking some skin off, shedding some blood and leaving a nice purple bruise.

*On Sunday night, I was teaching part of class at Sunday Bible study. I had been sitting on a tall chair while I talked because I was sore from bike riding that morning. As I was finishing up talking, I got down off the chair. As I was doing that, I somehow pulled the chair down with me, turned around to catch it and it landed on my left foot, leaving another nice purple bruise. At least no one will forget what I talked about now! I went out with a bang...literally!

*Tonight, while heading out to go out to dinner, a guy was coming up the stairs in front of my apartment. I stepped to one side to let him past and started down the stairs. Well, tripped down them and landed in the grass is a better phrase for that. And leaving some nice scrapes on the top of my right foot.

Welcome to the life of Lara.