October 29, 2011

saturday snapshot...

We get the most interesting snow around here--it sticks to leaves but not to cement!

October 28, 2011

grasping at...

I have several posts in the works, but they are all long and thoughtful and not quite coming together. So instead, how about a bit of a ramble?

I've been thinking a lot lately about doubts, specifically about doubting God. Now, I've never doubted God's existence, nor that he created the universe, that he's in charge, that Jesus is his son, and so on. That part has always been easy for me. I've been a Christian now for over twenty years and as far as knowing God is real, that's solid.

I even have full faith that God will take care of my friends, that he knows what is best, and that in the end, things will all be as he dictates they will. But sometimes along the journey I have periods of doubting that God is going to take care of ME. I've seen his provision in the lives of people I know--the check that comes for just the amount of the house payment the day it's due, the bag of groceries left on the doorstep, those sorts of things. I've seen friends get jobs right when they needed them the most, seen barriers to dreams lifted just when they needed to be. Yet when I am in desperate need of such movements from on high, they don't seem to be around.

I try to trust God to be the provider for me--especially since I'm a single woman equipped with skills and talents that don't earn money. I would love to see God's provision in a tangible way every day--I'd be very thankful for it. Yet in times like these, where I am at the end of funds and every possible light at the end of the tunnel is snuffed out before it's bigger than a pinhole, it's hard for me to believe that God is taking care of me.

Amy Grant (stop cringing, I like her) has a song that puts my struggle into words. It asks, "Will you protect what you already own?" God has me; I am his. That's not in doubt. But sometimes I find myself wondering if he's going to protect me now that he has me (I know, in my mind, that he will, it's the heart that trembles when the lights go out). Every time the door slams in my face, every time I feel shoved closer to the edge of the cliff, I wonder if God's going to catch me. And since he does know me, knows my situation, knows my needs, but is silent about it, and he doesn't open doors, I wonder why.

I know he has his reasons--I just, as usual, wish I understood them.

Despite the doubt, I keep holding on. It's all I know to do. Hold on and wait until he does come through.

I'm not really looking for responses here--just figured that I'd put it out there in stark honesty. Thanks for listening to my waverings.

October 22, 2011

saturday snapshot...

We went to the Tetons in August--first time I've been there in at least 30 years. Stunning!

October 15, 2011

saturday snapshot...

This is a shot from inside the now closed Wyoming State Penitentiary. I took this on our tour in August.

October 8, 2011

saturday snapshot...

Last year, Dara took me to Denver to celebrate my 32nd birthday--we dined at a crepes place on the 16th Street Mall where I took this photo.

October 6, 2011

the smell of competition...

One of the CleanPlace teens and I got into a discussion last week about competition. I think I rather surprised her when I said that I find little value in it and have never much cared for it. Since she is a rather driven young lady who competes in several things (debate and music competitions), she was trying to convince me of the merits of competition. She pointed out that it can help build character, sharpen skills, and encourage you to be better. For herself, she loves what competition has done in her life.

And while competition CAN do those things for SOME people, I had to point out that it does not do that for a good lot of people. Many of us, if given the chance, decide not to be competitive.

Personally, I dislike competition for several reasons. First off, I find it to be negative. There is one winner and the rest are losers. I don't care what the competition is for, but I would put good money down that those "losers" were often very good at whatever skill it was they were competing in. But because there can only be one (or three, if we go Olympics style judging) winners, the rest must, by definition, be losers. Just because I'm not as good as Judy Jumper at long jump doesn't make me a loser, it just may mean that Judy has longer legs than I do. But how many kids have cried and though something wrong with themselves because they didn't win at long jump or the talent show? Too many.

Second, competition is selfish. You know the old story of the race at a Special Olympics where one of the runners falls down? And all the other runners stop racing and help that one up, and help him or her to the finish line. You know why we all forward that message? Because despite the fact that they are supposed to be competing, these runners set aside the prize for the sake of others. Competition says "me," "my," and "mine". "My team" will crush yours. "The prize is mine." But we were not created to be alone--we were created to live together.

And that brings me to the third point, which is the newest, and came to me after the conversation (as I was reflecting and polishing my thoughts). Competition is, perhaps, unGodly. God did not set it up so that only one person gets to go to heaven. He welcomes us all. God did not say that only the person who prays the best prayer will get to heaven. Nor the person who can speak in the most tongues. God never asks us to be better than any other one of His children--He simply asks us to be the best WE can be.

As I thought more about it, I realized that since God created us each uniquely, that to pit our gifts and talents (yes, skills!) against each other may not be glorifying to Him. He would rather see us each excel in the gift, use it to the extent that He gave it. And since the talents come from Him, we should not lord it over our fellow man if God did not give him the same measure.

My young friend (who was really just enjoying a debate, she does see some of my side, though I'm not sure she will ever agree with it, loving competition as she does) feels that the positive aspects of competition outweigh the negative. I, on the other hand, see other ways in which to get the positive aspects without the negative. I don't need to compete against my fellow writers in order to sharpen my skills--I can work with them in critique groups to polish both their work and mine. I don't need to go head-to-head against a friend in order to learn about their skill--I'd much rather sit down and have them share and teach me. As for the character building that they always say comes with losing, well, life is full of loss. I hardly need competition to hand me that lesson.

So, what do you think? Do you like to compete? Has it been a good or bad experience for you? I'm interested to hear your thoughts!

(Note: I am all up for friendly, goofy competitions like games and silly stuff. It's the serious stuff that I'm more addressing. So yes, I'll crush you at a game of Nertz, but only as long as I know we'll not think the less of each other at the end of it!)

October 2, 2011

september reading review

A once-a-month review of the books I read.

The rating is the same as Goodreads--5 stars means "it was amazing," 4 is "really liked it," 3 is "liked it," 2 is "it was okay," and 1 is "didn't like it."

Anne of Windy Poplars by L.M. Montgomery (3 stars)

Fourth in the Anne series, this one coves the three years between Gilbert’s proposal and their eventual marriage (which happens at the start of the fifth book). I didn’t like this one half so much as the first three, and I think that’s largely because it was largely written as letters from Anne to Gilbert. I missed the antics and situations that Anne always finds herself in. There were a few, but not enough for my taste.

The Bride Collector by Ted DekKer (3 stars)

It had been a few years since I picked up some DekKer, so I snagged this one when I saw it at the library.

It's classic DekKer--thriller, spiritual elements, smart characters, and rambling plots that you let him get away with because he usually goes somewhere interesting with them.

It was good--but there were a few things that bothered me. If you want to see more, check out my review on Goodreads.

What I Didn’t See by Karen Joy Fowler (3 stars)

This is a collection of quirky short stories. I really liked the title story, the rest of them didn’t make a huge impact. Good writing.

Prayers for Sale by Sandra Dallas (3 stars)

I got this one for just a few dollars right before vacation, but didn’t get to reading it until after we got home. The story of an elderly woman who grew up in a mining town in the Colorado Rockies, this book feels a bit more like the collection of short stories that it started out as rather than a novel. I think Dallas tried too hard to make it a novel, and the plot she overlaid onto the stories was a bit flimsy. The book has character enough, but I’m unlikely to read it again.

Labyrinth by Kate Mosse (3 stars)

I picked this one up at Goodwill for about $2, and I can say that the money was not wasted.

Mosse does a good job of weaving her story lines together (something I'm always a bit in awe of because I don't plot well). While other reviews have criticized her lack of character development and her tendency towards description, without giving away too much, I can say that what she did do took a great deal more effort, and in the end, I think it worked very well.

The book is cleanly written (my internal editor did not rear up at all), and the story is engaging.

Note to my younger friends--this is an 18 and older book.

To the Hilt by Dick Francis (4 stars)

Dick Francis is the favorite author of my friend Dara. This is the first book I’ve read by him, and I have to admit it was fun. With lots of humor and touching moments, Francis crafted a solid story that kept me very engaged. His writing wasn’t anything special, but it was clean. And his main character was adorable. I’ll be picking up more of Francis’ work in the future.

October 1, 2011

saturday snapshot...

Wow, it's been a week. I have a few posts in the work, but for now, enjoy this picture of one of PayCay's kittens.