Friday, December 28, 2007

The Spirit of Christmas

This Christmas I never once got into the spirit of things. Christmas was just another day - like any other - except for the fact of all the food and the presents and the reading of the Christmas story. But I just never really "felt" anything. It's actually been like that pretty much for the past eight years since Mom passed away just after Thanksgiving. Dad keeps telling me that it will be different when I have my own family, but until then I just kind of go through the motions. I do try and remember and focus and am grateful for the true meaning of the season. The time that has been set aside to remember Christ's birth. And for that I am truly thankful.

In spite of the lack of feeling I have during this time of year, God has used this time of year to show me that the birth of Christ is also an amazing time for the rebirth of people I know. Although I didn't get into the season, I'm so glad the Spirit is part of this season.

In early December 1999, we had a memorial service for my mom at our house. We had just moved into the neighborhood about nine months earlier and hadn't had a significant time to really know our neighbors before mom got sick and eventually passed away. But we invited them and everyone we knew to the service. Dad and I had found every picture we could of Mom in all the photo albums, put them on poster boards, and hung them around the entire house. We wanted to give people a chance to see who Mom was in all of the areas and times of her life. It was really cool and gave people the chance to really see what kind of life she had lived.

We also had lots of food and drink and music playing. For the main part of the service, people were crammed into the living room and dining room and we stood in the foyer and spoke. Dad read a letter he had written as did I. We also had our pastor there to share some words and one of my mom's best friends played the guitar and led the group in a couple of praise and worship songs which was awesome. We also opened up the floor to anyone who wanted to share stories or reflections. It was such a joyous time of sharing life together. The cool thing is that a lot of our neighbors came as well and many of them were not Christians.

Fast forward one year to November 2000. Billy Graham came to Jacksonville for a week long crusade. I sang in the choir and it was a really cool time. A couple weeks later one of our neighbors was moving with his wife and son to the west coast of Florida. I saw the truck and went outside to wish them a safe move. The husband came up to me and started talking to me which was suprising because I had rarely talked to him. He said that he had been wanting to talk with my dad and I for a couple of weeks but never got the chance and since they were leaving that day he wanted to share something personal with me. I was a little unsure of what he was going to say, but I listened as he shared his story with me. He said that both his wife and mother were Christians but that he didn't take his faith very seriously or really think much about what it meant to be a Christian. He wasn't even one I don't think. He said that he and his wife had come to the memorial service the year before and during the service he said that he felt a presence, he felt something and that he had spent the past year looking for what that was. When the Billy Graham crusade came to town, he and his family went and he said that during that Crusade, he went forward and accepted Christ as his Savior. He said that he finally found what he had been looking for during the past year. I was of course blown away and so excited and humbled. I told him that the past year of grief and mourning and challenge was all worth it. And I have believed that my mom may have given/lost her life, but through that another life was saved.

So this year, my dad tells me about running into another neighbor of ours who we hadn't seen in at least six years. He had also become a Christian recently but his wife did not and they have gotten divorced. But he is confident that God will restore their relationship. In talking with my dad about his salvation, he also mentioned that he had felt a presence at the memorial service and that it was part of what started his spiritual awakening and journey. I was so thrilled to hear that. Another life changed and reborn through a life that was lost in death. GOD IS INCREDIBLE!

Then while I was home for Christmas, one of my dad's childhood friends was also saved. He didn't grow up in church but has had a tough life and recently joined AA to get his life back on track. He's 60 and by himself, divorced and just having a tough time. My dad, with help from family in California, was able to get him to a church on Christmas Eve. Turns out our family in CA has some connections with Saddleback Church (Pastor Rick Warren - A Purpose Driven Life) and so my dad's friend went there, heard the salvation message, received Christ and was baptized...all in one day! So cool. The local pastor of a Saddleback church plant is already in touch with him and I'm so thankful for Dad sharing the Lord with this guy over the years. He called my dad because he said he was the only one he knew who knew anything about God and spiritual things. It just goes to show you that we do have an impact in others lives. Not just in the loud and blatant ways we share Christ, but also in the way that we live our out faith and invite others to witness and share in the journey.

The Spirit of Christmas is not just goodwill among men or the birth of a baby - it is the Spirit of God bringing rebirth in the lives of those who are lost.

Twisted Christmas

So I went to Florida for a week and hung out with my Dad and stepmom as well as a couple of friends. It was a very chill time eating, sleeping, reading, drinking, playing Scrabble and all around just enjoying kicking back. The most interesting part of the week was probably taking advantage of the nightlife with my Dad and stepmom. There is a new club/bar that has opened up at the Beaches and they had gone there a few weeks earlier with a bunch of their friends. They had such a fun time that we went and got our groove on for a couple of hours. It was a little strange dancing to Britney Spears with my dad and stepmom but we had a great time overall.

Here's where all the fun went down at The Twisted Martini!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Christmas in the City

On Sunday afternoon, I went to the Kennedy Center with my friend Greg for a Christmas sing-a-long with the Master Chorale of Washington. I have another friend who works for them and was able to give us tickets. It was amazing. And I saw a couple more friends at the performance as well since we all know the same girl. It started and ended with the Chorale walking through the concert hall singing acappella with candles in the dark. Absolutely incredible.

The sky was amazing too as a storm was just blowing through. It was wild and wooly weather that gives me such a thrill. I think its my Irish roots waking up.

Thanksgiving in the Big Apple

I headed up to New York City to spend Thanksgiving with my friend Yao and his girlfriend Monika. They are moving to Canada in a couple of months and this was probably the last time I was going to see them in the U.S. for a long time.

I met Yao about four years ago when he called me looking for a student club that brought international and American students together. At the time I was president of the International Communication Student Forum in grad school and Yao was studying here for a semester. Although the group was for people in my course of study and not exactly what Yao was looking for, we really hit it off and talked for about 30-45 minutes on the phone that first day. I was really thrown for a loop when he told me his name was Yao, because he was speaking English with a French accent. Of course I found out he had been studying in Paris for a few years although originally he is from China. So we became friends. He moved to New York City later that year and met Monika, an immigrant from Poland. And they have been together ever since.

I really like the two of them and was looking forward to celebrating a very American tradition with them. Monika made her first turkey and they had all the trimmings. A Swiss friend of theirs came over to join us and we had a wonderful meal together. During the weekend, we went to their local bagel joint for breakfast, had excellent dim sum in Flushing, New York. Walked 5th Avenue and drooled and petted the very expensive shoes in Bergdorf-Goodman. Had a delicious lunch at a tiny Korean deli on a side street somewhere in Manhattan. Met up with a Canadian friend of mine from Florida and attended Times Square Church with him and his mom.

We also had coffee in Greenwich Village which is where this picture is taken. Cheers to you Yao and Monika!

Tis the Season to Party!

This past weekend was the company holiday party. I asked my friend Josh to be my date for the evening because he's cute and so fun. And I was right on both accounts.

For those curious about the details of the dress - it was a little black number with gathering in the front ending on the side with a bow of sorts. I wore high heel peep toe red heels that strapped around the ankle. I will try to post a picture of the entire outfit when I get one. Jewelry consisted of some small very sparkly dangling snowflakes and an heirloom diamond ring I inherited from my mom.

Here is a little pictorial journey of the evening:

Our prom-esque picture.

I tried for a cute picture.

We just couldn't seem to get ourselves serious enough for a good picture. I'll blame the food, drink, and dancing at the party :)

This is Josh big pimpin'. His roommate gave him the ring before we headed out the door. That's one way to make a statement.

We ended our evening at another restaurant celebrating my friend John's big 30. He and I met over two years ago when we were on the same team headed to Ethiopia for a missions trip. Happy Birthday!

Justin, John, Tara, Me, and Josh

Friday, December 14, 2007

Vacation 2008

So I'm starting to think about vacations for next summer. I had several small ones this year including one week in Montana which was awesome. But next year, I really want to splurge and have a super duper vacation.

Here's what's getting me excited at the moment:


I don't know who I would go with yet or if I would try to organize something myself or pick up with a tour or something, but any and all suggestions from the blogosphere is much appreciated.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Weight Watchers Update

Another weigh in, another loss.

This week I'm down another 1.2 pounds. Which is good but a little disappointing since I have been working out a bit more. However, I'm still not super consistent, so hopefully next week will be better.

I have also cut out eating the frozen meals. They did contribute to a greater weight loss, but its not realistic for me to spend the rest of my life eating them. I needed to come up with better eating habits with normal food.

I can't believe it has been four months since first starting this. Amazing how quickly time goes by and how slowly the weight comes off. Of course slow and steady is the way to go right :)

October 10 is when I posted my greatest weight loss of 7.4 pounds. With a month off, I gained some back, but I'm close to that again. Here's hoping next week will show my biggest loss yet.

Now for the stats.

Starting Weight: 153.8
Current Weight: 147.0
Total Weight Loss: 6.8

My reward for losing 10 pounds: A one hour (or longer) massage. I can't wait!!!!

Foreign Service Update

I have been silent on this topic for quite awhile, but thanks to one of my readers I was reminded to put up a little more information.

Currently I am 76 out of 96 on the consular list. My eligibility expires in October of 2008, and with four more classes being hired, my chances are slim. But I'm persevering and am planning on taking the exam again in March. If I fail, I will have to wait until March of 2009 to take it again so this could be it. We'll see.

I'm still excited about the possibility of being part of the Foreign Service although I am nervous as well about the changes and the challenges that I will face. But I know that I keep coming back to this opportunity over and over again and I continue to be excited and hopeful.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Random Things

I am eating the new Portuguese Kale soup from Au Bon Pain and it is delicious. I highly recommend it. I even sent an email to Au Bon Pain letting them know how yummy this new soup is and how many of their soups are great for people in Weight Watchers.

In that same vein of active consumer, I also sent an email to one of my local NPR stations telling them that they have lost at least one listener on Sunday mornings since they moved their Stained Glass Bluegrass show from the regular station to HD radio stations. I don't have an HD radio and don't plan on getting one, so no more awesome Sunday morning music on my way to church. I'm bummed. I also included my age in the email so they know that I'm not a 72 year old lady on a Sunday drive but a member of their key constituency.

This weekend I realized for the millionth time that I have qualities that I'm sure are annoying to others. In fact, these qualities/habits are annoying to me, but I can't seem to figure out how to quit doing them. Like Paul said "I do the things I ought not to do and don't do the things I ought to do" (paraphrase by Lisa Overman). It's frustrating and I'm hopeful and grateful that I have forgiving and ever loving friends.

Chivalry is alive and kicking as evidenced by a friend I spent time with this weekend. I'm so grateful for good mama's and good papa's who instill these wonderful traits in their children. And I'm grateful for children who act on these traits and make others feel special just by doing the small things.

Even though he was just a dog, I still miss Paddington and I'm so thankful that I have friends who are sympathetic to me and were so understanding and caring when it came to that loveable crankpot. That makes me feel good.

Although it seems that I'm a pretty open and honest person, I keep a bajillion things to myself and especially am not prone to sharing heartfelt things in a larger group ie more than three. I was vulnerable in a group of 10 this weekend and am hoping that it wasn't too much or too crazy. I'm grateful that many of them are my friends and know me and love me anyway. Yeah for Christian friends!

I love this soup :)

When my dad mentioned my single status again I got mad and told him "what am I supposed to do? Walk into a store and buy one?" (meaning a husband). I thought it was a pretty smart comeback. I'm sooooo grateful for other incredible 30 something single women living in this city that totally understand and feel the same way that I do - that I do want a family, I do want a partner in crime, in love, in life with kids, but that I don't want to be the desperate 30 something woman with a one track mind.

I still want to go in the State Department. It's scary especially if I'm single - but I figure if I get the chance, I should take advantage of the opportunity.

Love to you all. My dear friends both known and unknown. You are special, you are God's creation, you were created to know God and to make Him known. If you don't know that or don't believe that, let me know. It's true and you deserve to know the truth.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Return of Weight Watchers

So I have continued going to Weight Watchers but haven't been as consistent in following the rules :)

Today we started another session and I'm really kicking it into gear again. So here's the stats (in pounds)

Starting Weight: 153.8
Current Weight: 148.2
Total Loss-To-Date: 5.6
My Goal: 15 lbs (138.8)

So that's the update. I'm hoping to be down another 4.4 pounds before going to Florida for Christmas. I think that would be fun! My dad would wonder where I am :)

Love to you all!