Monday, February 27, 2012

An Inglorious Romance

Confession: I grew up reading romance novels. Before you think poorly of me or my parents, I need to make a clarification. I didn't read run-of-the-mill romance smut, but rather run-of-the-mill Christian romance smut. I'm just kidding; there wasn't anything indecent in the books I read, but looking back on it, there were a lot of false ideas presented to me in them about love, romance and marriage. The stories I read made me long for the day when it would happen for me. There would (of course) be a man with a piercing gaze who would arrest me with that look in his eye. There would be the moment where he would tenderly brush the wisp of hair off my cheek and reach for my hand and whisper something in my ear (except whispering creeps me out, so maybe we could skip that part). He would be strong and tender, bold and sensitive. He would woo me, patiently endure my occasional tantrum and constantly inspire me with his love, frequently resting against whatever doorjamb was nearby...does this sound familiar to any other fellow romance readers?!

Second confession: I have had a couple of almost romances. And by "almost" I mean "not even close" and by "romances" I mean, well, judge for yourself.

If my love life up until now was written into a Christian romance novel, the title would be An Inglorious Romance.{Disclaimer: All names and many details have been changed to protect the identity of the individuals involved. I have embellished and rewritten many of the moments. Why? Because it's my story. Enjoy.}

One of the chapters might read something like this:

It was summer and if there's one thing summer brought with it, it was hope. Hope for new experiences to be had, new memories to be made and new love to be found. Amara was thinking two out of three wasn't bad but then maybe she had spoken too soon. She had one of her biggest events of the season left yet and how could she have forgotten it? Her students had been planning, dreaming, scheming about it for months - CAMP! They would be at the beach and everyone knows that saltwater eases away the stress of everyday life and the ocean breeze brings with it endless possibilities. It would be a combination of these two factors and student karaoke night that would bring Amara and Eric together, albeit briefly.

Karaoke always brings out the best and worst in people, Amara thought. The same two girls had been at the mic all night, belting out Disney ballad after Disney ballad. How many more could there be? And then, she caught a nervous movement out of the corner of her eye. Who was that? She paused in the middle of the conversation she was having and heard the strains of a country love song and she knew. Something mildly mortifying was about to happen. Eric stood before her, gulp, held out his hand, oh my, and said, "May I have this dance?" whoa.

"Here? Now?" Amara questioned. She was a master at deflection.
"Yeah, come on," Eric patiently waited.
Amara looked about anxiously. They were at summer camp, surrounded by students and they were the leaders!
Was there anything in the training manual about dancing by moonlight with fellow leaders? although her mind was racing, she could come up with nothing really good to say, but she still tried.
"Me? You want to dance with me?"
Eric was persistent.
"Yeah, c'mon."
"Okay," she loudly acquiesced. One sure-fire way to make this situation less romantic was to talk loudly. Perhaps it was her aversion to whispering that led Amara to feel so strongly about this.
Eric appeared unruffled.

And so, the dance began. Hand on waist, hand on shoulder, hand in hand. Agh.
Amara was horrified.
She could feel eyes on her - the eyes of her students, the eyes of fellow leaders, but it was Eric's eyes that she felt most of all. She knew he was waiting for her to lock gazes with him, but that was something she couldn't handle. It was a happy coincidence that Eric was an inch shorter than her, making it easier to maintain a comfortable view of his forehead.

When will this song end? Why did he think this would be an appropriate time? How many people are watching this right now? These thoughts kept Amara busy while she maintained an endless stream of loud babble to hopefully ruin this moment, whatever moment this was.

And then, the song was over. The spell was broken. Not even the sea breeze could convince Eric that this hope was a possibility. Amara was awkward. And dodgy. And loud. No, this wasn't a romantic match.

There you have it. A true life awkward romance.
And while the ocean, the moonlight and country music might have been great ingredients for some wildly romantic scene in a book, in real life, they were ingredients for a wildly awkward encounter. I think about how brave Eric was to try that...and I think about how frightened and unsure and embarrassed and confused and yes, freaked out his move made me.

I think about how many times my romantic notions have been completely turned upside down by real life. I have been very disappointed by this, but most of these disappointments are due to an incorrect perspective on my part. All those times I've been disappointed in my lack of a boyfriend, I failed to see that I was in the midst of the greatest love I would ever know.

There is One who woos me, who loves me in spite of my occasional (or not so occasional) tantrum, who constantly inspires me with His love. He sees the worst in me, yet chooses me just the same. His love never ends. As I know Him more deeply, I become a become a better person, one more concerned with the needs of others than I am with my own. It is a divine romance. Zephaniah 3:17 says,

"The LORD your God is in your midst, A victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy."

I looked up the word "rejoice" in the Hebrew. It is the word גִּיל, transliterated "giyl" and it means "properly, to spin around, to leap for joy, to rejoice," and it is very similar to the Arabic word meaning "to dance." This verse is part of a prophecy pertaining to Israel...but still, I wonder...would He dance with me?

I know the answer. He's waiting. I am ready.
What about you? How will you answer the question, "May I have this dance?"

It is impossible for me to write this without thinking of a beautiful song written by a very talented, very dear friend. It is the divine invitation to the dance and it will bless you. Click here to listen and select the last track entitled, "May I Have This Dance?"

Friday, February 24, 2012

Favorite Things Friday

Friday's in the house!!!


It's been a long week.

But I have seen afresh, in many ways, how God's grace is sufficient. He is always enough. Always good.

I'm grateful for the way He's brought me through this week...and also very, very grateful that today is Friday :).

Let's count up some of our favorite things, shall we?

This week has been a "Readers are Leaders" kind of week. I have read a lot, and in turn I have found some gold mines of truth. And gold mines of truth will always be one of my favorite things :). Here are a handful of my favorite reads from this week. May they encourage you as they did me this past week.

This post from Ann Voskamp on her blog, A Holy Experience. I read this on Monday morning and was instantly challenged by this quote:

“When God moves us out of our comfort zone —- into places that are way bigger than us, places that are difficult, hard, painful —- that even hurt — this is a gift.We are being given a gift.These hard places give us the gift of intimately knowing God — in ways that would never be possible in our comfort zones.”

This post on the Desiring God blog about motherhood. No, I don't have kids. No, I'm not pregnant. No, I am not at a place in my life where motherhood is even a viable option. But the gospel transcends life stage and marital status. This quote at the end of the post was particularly convicting:

"Live the gospel in the things that no one sees. Sacrifice for your children in places that only they will know about. Put their value ahead of yours. Grow them up in the clean air of gospel living. Your testimony to the gospel in the little details of your life is more valuable to them than you can imagine. If you tell them the gospel, but live to yourself, they will never believe it. Give your life for theirs every day, joyfully. Lay down pettiness. Lay down fussiness. Lay down resentment about the dishes, about the laundry, about how no one knows how hard you work.
Stop clinging to yourself and cling to the cross. There is more joy and more life and more laughter on the other side of death than you can possibly carry alone."

The call to invest in others and lay down our lives for their sakes applies regardless of whether or not you can claim any little people as dependents on your taxes.

This is an article in Relevant Magazine that Maurie had told me about.
11 Things to Know at 25(ish). It's definitely worth a read.

"This is the thing: When you hit 28 or 30, everything begins to divide. You can see very clearly two kinds of people. On one side, people who have used their 20s to learn and grow, to find God and themselves and their dreams, people who know what works and what doesn’t, who have pushed through to become real live adults. Then there’s the other kind, who are hanging onto college, or high school even, with all their might. They’ve stayed in jobs they hate, because they’re too scared to get another one. They've stayed with men or women who are good but not great, because they don’t want to be lonely. They mean to find a church, they mean to develop intimate friendships, they mean to stop drinking like life is one big frat party. But they don’t do those things, so they live in an extended adolescence, no closer to adulthood than when they graduated."

And lastly, this post (which is actually an excerpt from this book)...on marriage. I know what you're thinking. Why on earth is this girl spending so much time reading about mother hood and marriage? 2 words: gold mines. The gospel truths in these posts applies to me in my singleness just as much as it does to a married woman.

"Forgiveness is a gospel issue. In our hurts and wounds, we can lose sight of the truth that no one has been sinned against more than God. No one has been more wounded, grieved, hurt, betrayed, and mistreated than God...therefore our forgiveness of our spouses [read:anyone who's hurt you] has very little, if anything to do with them. Instead it has everything to do with God."

Straight truth...for a single woman, for a married woman...and yes, even for a man. And P.S. the sermon series that goes along with this book is also worth a listen.
Now time for the lighter gourmet coffee. Maurie and I are big believers in Dunkin Donuts Cinnamon Spice coffee. This past week we found something that is giving Dunkin a run for his money. Harry & David's Moose Munch coffee. Seriously Delish.

Confession: I don't like cooked fruit. It's a texture issue. This leads to lots of weird, semi-hostile conversations. They always end with people being outraged and saying stuff like, "What do you mean you don't like apple pie???". What can I say? Mushy apples aren't my thing. So sue me. My blanket "no cooked fruit" policy was challenged this past week when I saw this recipe for Pear, Cranberry, and Gingersnap Crumble. It just looks so...good. Perhaps I'll make this and give cooked fruit one more try. But mark my the first hint of mushiness, my cooked fruit escapades will come to an abrupt end.

I've been rocking the ponytail A LOT lately. A little too much probably. I actually curled my hair before coming into work this morning, and I have had multiple people act like they don't recognize me. That was my first clue that maybe I had overused the ponytail. Moral of the story? If you consistently put zero effort into your hair, you will get 10 times more compliments when you actually do expend a little energy on the old hairdo :).

This messy pony how to is calling my name.

Remember my food-by-mail obsession? It continues. Look what I just found on the handy dandy world wide web...
Yep. Chocolate Covered Cheerios. If that doesn't make you holla for a dolla, I don't know what will.
Some free desktop wallpaper from Fossil (found here).
These cute Je t'aime coffe cup wrappers. A*dorable. Found here.

And because one DIY is not enough for this week. Here's one more for you. And really...what girl doesn't need a Macaron Coin Purse??
Who remembers that the Oscars are Sunday? And for the record, I. Am. PUMPED. Let this Oscar party serve as inspiration for you to host your own Oscars soiree.

And side note: while we're on the topic of award shows...who watched the Grammys? Because the Civil Wars 60 second performance was too legit to quit.

This commercial from J.C.Penney. Doesn't it just make you love February?

Ben Rector= favorite. The song "I Wanna Dance with Somebody"= favorite. The combination of the 2: instant favorite.

P.S. I have to give my sister Anna a shoutout for making me aware of this one. Thanks, Nonnie!

Happy Friday!!!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Little Bits

I haven't written much lately. I got rather occupied with the business of living and also began doubting that my writing was accomplishing something. In this age of blogs, everyone has something to say. And everyone wants others to tune in to catch whatever it is that they're saying. It all began to feel very cumbersome...and the weight of keeping up with the Joneses of blogging really starting sapping my creative energy.

I've been doing lots of reading lately:
required reading for the church staff

personal reading - challenging and inspiring

my daily devotional - John Stott has been a real encourager

re-reading this as I lead a class over it, so many truths to be lived out!

personal reading - an AMAZING book that I highly recommend to all guys 
Why did I read that last book, you ask? I work with students - some of whom are male - and I wanted to know how to encourage and equip them to be the men that God has called them to be. It was a great book!

I have been recovering from slicing my thumb: a caramel apple from my cousin Sarah, a knife and some carelessness all combined to almost force me into the ER. I chose instead Walgreen's where I bought liquid bandage, a splint and some tape. My thumb is still attached, so I *think* I made the right call.

You know those squeaky shoes little kids wear that notify anyone within a block of where they are at all moments? They're cute on a 2 year old, but a pair of my favorite black flats have started to do that same thing and I'm positive it doesn't have the same effect.

I have started having tea every afternoon. I hit this slump right around 3 and have made it my little serendipity. I have a set of beautiful floral teacups and saucers and a tea caddy in my office and just steep myself a cup of blueberry green tea and sit back and enjoy. It really picks me up; all I need is someone to bake scones for me everyday! :)

I have been listening to this cd non-stop for a couple weeks:

It's not new, but it has so many beautiful songs on it that it is worth searching out and buying (if you don't have it already). My favorite song is the title song, "Albertine," which includes the powerful lyrics, now that I have seen/I am responsible/faith without deeds is dead. The call to social justice is one that has been loud in my heart lately.

I leave you with some of the quotes that I have been pondering:

"One might perhaps paraphrase Jesus' favorite epigram, which he seems to have used in several different contexts, in this way: 'If you insist on holding on to yourself, and refuse to let yourself go, but determine to live for yourself, you will lose yourself. That is the way of death, not the way of life. But if you are willing to lose yourself, to give yourself away in love, in the service of the gospel, then in the moment of complete abandon, when you think you have lost everything, the miracle takes place and you find yourself.' " - John Stott, emphasis added.

"God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house. God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives. God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war. God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives, and God is with us if we are with them. 'If you remove the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness, and if you give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in darkness and your gloom will become like midday and the Lord will continually guide you and satisfy your desire in scorched places' " (Isaiah 58:9-11). - Bono, 2006 National Prayer Breakfast.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Happy Birthday Kristi!

Last week my older sister, Kristi turned 33! I want to wish her a Happy Birthday...via OneSingleVoice!

What is there to say about Kristi? We are %100 is funny that we come from the same two people...She is blonde, I have dark brown hair, She has straight hair...I have curly, she is a romantic...I am not, she is 'Lord of the Rings' and 'Star Wars'...I am 'Gladiator' and 'RED', she is put together and organized...I am fly by the seat of my pants. She is a wealth of what I call useless facts, even though I find myself calling her all the time for information...I call her Kristipedia. She is smart, she is loyal, she is a daughter of the King, a sister, a wife and a mother. She oozes talent I wish I had...and she is funny without meaning to be!

When my parents brought Kristi to the hospital to meet me right after I was born, Kristi took one look at me and started crying..."I wanted a pretty sister". Now that is love, you see I had big eyes and no hair...that was my look the first few years of my life:). Kristi is currently one of my biggest cheerleaders and I am grateful to have a sister that loves me as much as she does!

Kristi sporting a cowboy hat...she was such a cute kid!

Kristi and Dad!

This is my favorite picture of us...we used to spend our summers in Delaware at the beach with my mom's parents...this was taken at the Marina!

Kristi and I at our Uncles wedding...we LOVED these dresses! The best part is once mine was too small I then got to wear Kristi's :)

Yes, you can laugh at this! We rocked the matching outfits growing up! This picture is typical...I was always up to can see it on my face in every childhood picture!

Here we are on the steps of our townhouse...our first place! We are sitting with one of our favorite people, Dorie Van Stone! It is so nice to have a sister to live crazy roommate stories!

...then she left me for a boy!

Zipping her into her wedding dress!

Here are a few from our Sister Vacation with Maurie and Millie...Seattle '11!!!

Here is one of the first baby bump pictures...Kristi was just a few weeks prego!!!

We went Sea Kayaking...because there was a baby on board Kristi got to ride with our guide Kona Greg...he was a trip and a half! :)

Here she is today...33 and getting ready to have her first baby!

Happy Birthday Kristi! I am so glad we are sister's!!!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Day of Love

Valentine's Day has come and gone...and I'm still here! The day shaped up to be something much different than I expected it to be, but very full of love. Here's what shaped it:

- Mom & little brother fly to Houston to spend time and help nurse my grandfather who is recovering from a cracked kneecap. This happens Monday morning.
- I spend most of Monday with little sisters, meet up with rest of siblings at Subway for lunch, read school lessons, cook dinner, prep taco meat for dinner with Millie and my Monday night Bible study and make and store special coffee cake for the kids to have on Valentine's morning (I still spend the night at my house since my dad is here).
-Valentine's Day I spend in a staff meeting, at one of the local high schools for a student led Christian club I help with, prepping to lead my CRU (Campus Crusade for Christ) leaders' meeting, running home to make a chocolate sheet cake and helping Millie with a special V-Day dinner with our dad who was sick with something. We ate and then ran to CRU where we spent a couple hours (and that chocolate cake) with 15 very special college students and then, in the middle of that, Millie had to leave to go pick up the little sisters from their babysitting gig.

The past few days have been very full and in them I have learned one of love's greatest lessons - to be present. Right here is where I am and right here is love.  It has been the little things - cooking for the family, reading lessons with my sisters, listening to my student-friends talk about living out the gospel on campus, giving and receiving hugs, soaking up God's Word - that have made my week so sweet.

I haven't kept up with my e-mails, texts or writing, but living in the present has a way of rearranging things in a way that eases out all the extra and leaves behind only what matters. And it is that nucleus that holds satisfying, deep, wonderful, life-giving love.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Favorite Things Friday-It's baaaaaaack!!!


It has been SO long. So, so long since we have had a FTF together.

I accept full responsibility for this.

Life whipped me good for the past couple months.

But I'm back...and I'm bringing all my favorite things with me. This could be a long one, folks. Consider yourself warned.

Favorite thing #1: my siblings-they're better than your siblings. Okay...maybe that was an unfair statement. But my point is, my siblings are hilarious and fun and awesome. We recently had a sibling jump rope competition. For the record, nothing brings families together like watching your 19 year old sister repeatedly get whipped in the face with a jump rope...or watching your almost 6 foot tall 13 year old brother do triple axels and high kicks while mysteriously maintaining his jumping cadence.
The only thing that could top the sibling jump rope competition? An impromptu sibling rap off after dinner one night this week. Let it suffice to say that while no one in the Bratcher clan will be giving Lecrae a run for his money anytime soon, watching white people try to find their rhyming flow and beat box was one of the highest forms of entertainment I have yet experienced.
This post from Paul Tripp on relationships. So many good truths encapsulated here, and such a good reminder that even when relationships are messy and hard, God's grace is sufficient.
My latest weird obsession? Food by mail clubs. I know...strange. But seriously, you can be part of Fudge-by-mail club?
Sign me up. Or what about getting gourmet ice cream by mail? Yes, yes, and yes.
Oh...and did I mention you can get "the world's best donuts since 1965" by mail? Like this peanut butter filled chocolate donut. I'll take one...a day...until I die.
Ooooh, yeah. It's just a matter of time until I have to be removed from my house by a crane due to all of my food-by-mail ordering.
This bag from Kate Spade. She nailed my breakfast philosophy on the head with this one.
Toms. They're permanently on my list of favorite things. 2 things are making them especially favorite right now...

I'm in love.

It's awards season...and I recently discovered my calling in life: God wants me to be a fashion critic. Those years I spent in college pursuing a degree were all for naught. My witty and original quips such as "She looks like the mother-of-the bride in that dress!", "That dress is hideous!", and "Didn't she wear that last year?" have confirmed my calling. If only I could get a refund on my college tuition...
I jest. Here are some of my favorite looks from the red carpet :).
Maria Menounos rocking the yellow sparkles.
Dianna Agron in ruffles and a belt. Win/Win.

And the winner is...Stacey Keibler with the oversized bow on the back of her dress. Naturally.

This Deep Dark Salted Butter Caramel Sauce. It looks divine. It's on my hit list for recipes to make ASAP.

This glammed up friendship bracelet on Etsy (where else?). It's just like the broken heart necklace that says "Be Fri" but more chic.
This video from Toddlers and Tiaras. Can something be simultaneously appalling and awesome? I think after watching this video, you will understand how the answer to that question can be a resounding yes.