Monday, February 28, 2011

devotional thought: doing life together

something i have been reading, writing, and thinking about recently is the concept of doing life together. there are many facets to this topic, but i think there is much to be said for coming into someone's presence, sharing their burdens and joys, challenging and encouraging them, and seeing both their mess and their glory.

we are relational people. even me...the hibernating hermit introvert...i am a relational person.

which means we are supposed to be in one another's lives. we are supposed to share and invest. even (and especially?) when it is hard. when we feel weakest. when our shame is weighing us down. when we feel worthless.

the point of community-of being relational-is that we are a body that works together for the purpose of loving God and loving people. we are gifted in different ways so that where one is weak, another is strong. and the point isn't to rub that in someone else's face--it's to teach us our need for support and encouragement from one another.

we don't love well because we don't trust. if we truly did life together, we would be transparent. we would trust each other enough to show our scars. we would entrust our past sins, our present struggles, and our future worries to one another. our vulnerable faith in each other would cause an overflow of love.

'such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. if we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. we love each other because he loved us first.' 1 john 5:18-19

what is keeping you from trusting?

Friday, February 25, 2011

picture this: one cool thing about winter

this is a cool fountain in marion. i don't really know what it's for. there's a sign by it, though. maybe i'll read that sign one day.

i took this picture on my way to work yesterday. don't worry. i was at the stoplight, so i was being safe. ish.

you can't see the entirety of the coolness in this picture. but half of the fountain was frozen, and half was flowing. if i had more energy, i would tell you how that is sort of a metaphor for my life in the winter. or something.

here are three questions for you instead:

what are you up to this weekend?
is it snowy where you are?
how many weddings have you been invited to thus far in 2011?

i'll start in the comments section. meet you there.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

my favorite...girl scout cookies

this is obvious.

the answer is clearly tagalongs. duh.

they are delicious and do not overwhelm you with any one flavor.

they are dangerous, though, as are all girl scout cookies. seeing as how they are chock full of two of my dumb allergies (sugar and soy), girl scout cookies, and tagalongs in particular, make me tell secrets. and be very itchy. some people (you know who you are, and i don't want to point fingers, but i am very clearly on to your game, lady.) abuse this power.

girl scout cookies are my kryptonite.

what can i say? we all have to suffer.

so what's your favorite girl scout cookie? please explain in detail how you could possibly think it's better than a tagalong. because it isn't. no matter how much you love caramel. or mint. or shortbread, but who actually picks those as their favorite? (yes, i am trying to start a fight.)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

why i am a writer: i might be dead inside, but i have too, too many emotions

i am a writer so i can



and everything

that happens to be bottled up inside of me.

and sometimes...

it's a crapload.

what do you need to release? go ahead...get it off your chest. you'll feel better.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

faith and school: my role as an encourager

i think one of the coolest things about my life right now is that i get to do what i love (be with college students in a very intentional way) while i am in school to gain mad skills in doing what i love. are you tracking with me? good.

most of my friends in the counseling program are not in the student development track. they're doing things like marriage and family therapy, addictions counseling, school, clinical mental health, etc. so they have to be in more classes before they get to start their practicum or internship hours--in other words, they don't get to be as hands-on as i am at this moment.

in case it hasn't been clear from my various posts and or conversations you have had with me, i am really enjoying what i am doing right now. i feel very alive. full of joy. affirmed on a daily basis that the choice to leave wisconsin and embark on this grad school adventure was the right one for me (on many levels).

so one of the super sweet things i have been realizing over this semester is that i can--and should!--share my joy with my classmates and friends. it is easy to get overwhelmed and stressed out by grad school. and if you're not doing something you love, it's possible to get frustrated and want to give up. which means i can step in and encourage my friends. i can cheer them on.

i've never really been one to 'fake encourage.' i think it is fun to lavish genuine excitement about life on my friends who are stuck in the weary cycle of classes and work. joy begets joy.

Monday, February 21, 2011

30 by 30 update: full steam ahead

well, despite the crappy ol' turn of weather, i have just been in the best mood lately. which makes me think i should have more to report on my 30 by 30 activity, but...not so much.

1. (get my master's degree) this semester is awesome. busy, but amazing. so many good things. really enjoying classes and time with students. go, team!

2. (pay off debt to dad) it's down to $2400. bit by bit...i'd probably be more excited about this if i wasn't also accumulating student loans at the same time i am paying him back.

9. (road trip with mj) it might happen this summer, if we both head out to colorado. waiting to see. either way, super psyched about seeing colorado friends in a few months. woot!

11. (monthly cooking segment) i made this rad meal, and it was soooo good. got any ideas for next month?

12. (plan a project reunion) i have had lots of random thoughts floating around my head for this one, but nothing is actually on paper yet.

16. (finish my book) clearly, i am not done with my book. there probably would have been some sort of announcement about it. BUT...i did take two solid, uninterrupted hours to work on it yesterday. i worked on the structure, created a general outline, reworked part of the beginning, organized and shifted some things, and did some editing. very super productive for me.

17. (sit in abe's lap) if the weather cooperates, then i am heading north for spring break. and i have every intention of plopping down in mr. lincoln's lap if that's the case.

22. (paint something) i was so close on this one! we had to do a crafty sort of project for group counseling, but it used little foam pieces, yarn, and glue. no paint. shucks.

25. (go on a blind date) i have been talking to my people to make this one happen. hasn't yet, though.

29. (read 100 books) haha...well, i am reading many books at the moment. i just haven't finished any of them since january 21st. since the semester began, however, i have read nearly 1000 pages (split between 5 books and various articles). the sad thing is, i know we read so much more last semester.

so that's the big old update.

are there any items you want me to edit or even completely change on my list?

Friday, February 18, 2011

picture this: the haircut

well, i can tell you one thing about myself after about 37 attempts to take a picture of myself that showed my hair falling correctly and captured my eyes open but not in a scary/way too excited way: i suck at taking pictures of myself. and i will always be my most critical observer.

i am not great about pictures anyway, because when i smile big, my eyes get squinty. and i tilt my chin up, no matter how hard i focus on not doing it.

also, i think we all know that i do not care about my hair, if it is done, or what it looks like.

according to many eye witnesses, this is a cute haircut that matches my personality well and looks chic and sassy. super. i cannot get a picture that encapsulates all of that, so you will just have to make do with this (i'm not sure why my hair has kind of a reddish tint to it):

but you should know this is how i felt the whole time i was taking pictures:

ps: i did make a couple of attempts to photograph the back of my head, but those were worse failures than the front. so...sorry. you can't see the layers and whatnot. just believe that they are there.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

my to write...

ok, people. i do not get paid for plugging stuff on my blog on thursdays. i just love the crap out of this stuff and want to tell you. (but if someone does want to pay me, i am totally amenable to that idea.)

today, i am going to share my deep love for moleskine notebooks. if i had the financial resources, i would buy every single version they make.

i am the current owner of a soft cover 12-month monthly notebook and at least three hard cover pocket ruled notebooks.

these little guys are balm to this writer's soul--they fit in purses (i know--i only own one and rarely carry're missing the point), you can tuck them in your backpack, and if you just want to take a walk without a bag, they fit in your back pocket. glorious.

but the planner? oh. my. heavens. i am obsessed with it. this is my second year to use one to schedule out my life, and it makes a world of difference. it is ideal. its fabulous features include (but are not limited to):

big days of the week so i can write assignments and coffee dates.

an extra space at the end of the week where i can conveniently plan out my blog schedule for the month.

blank, lined sheets between each month (which i use to detail out each minute of each day. ok, not minute by minute. more hour by hour.).

gobs of blank, lined sheets at the end of the year for writing whatever i want. i keep many lists here.

a pocket to hold miscellaneous items (especially post its).

look at this page and tell me you do not want to own every single notebook. i mean, ARE YOU KIDDING ME? tiny notebooks for writing music, recipes, wine...i could just die. that is how much i love them.

and i do not own this one, but i desperately wish i did. i can't tell you why except that it just speaks to my heart. i also love the adorable little flippy reporter ones.

do you love moleskines? which (if you can possibly choose) is your favorite?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

why i am a writer: people believe in me

i have been writing poetry, stories, and songs for as long as i can remember. in many ways, my writing is therapeutic for me. but it has also been the same for other people--particularly in high school. high school is a time of high emotion and uncertainty...a time of questions and other words, a time that is ripe for literally writing one's heart out.

a dear friend of mine gave me a card during our junior year of high school. i framed it and take it to wherever i happen to be living because it reminds me that i am a writer and people believe in me. this is what it says:

'you are a lover of words. one day, you will write a book. people turn to you because you give voice to dreams, notice little things, and make otherwise impossible imaginings appear real. you are a rare bird who thinks the world is beautiful enough to try to figure it out, who has the courage to dive into your wild mind and go swimming there. you are someone who still believes in cloud watching, people watching, daydreaming, tomorrow, favorite colors, silver clouds, dandelions, and sorrow. be sacred. be cool. be wild. go far. words do more than plant miracle seeds. with you writing them, they can change the world.'

i have had this since 1998. i let those words play over and over in my mind because they encourage me. they remind me that one sixteen year old believed in another sixteen year old.

and i know she still believes in me.

at our ten year reunion this past august, another one of my friends asked if i was still writing.

i know she believes in me, too.

i know that even when i don't believe in myself or the things i am writing, other people still believe in me.

whose voice do you hear in your head or heart, encouraging you to keep going?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

faith and school: the joy of facilitating

i have mentioned that i lead a breakout group of students each friday. last semester, i had all freshmen. this semester, though, i have 16 transfer students, ranging from freshmen to seniors. it is certainly a different vibe. additionally, i have significantly more men than women--a huge rarity in any class at a small school.

this past friday, we had the most magnificent discussion i have ever facilitated. i was glowing as we sat there. i barely had to say anything--the conversation really carried itself.

i much prefer the one-on-one coffee dates i get to have with my students to our larger discussions, but the way this dialogue unfolded was so excellent--it made me so happy and proud to be a part of this community.

we had some heatedly different points of view (on rather volatile topics)...and anyone who wanted to had the chance to share their thoughts. the way my students handled themselves--the openness with which they received opposing ideas, the grace they poured out in their responses to one another, and their deliberate choices to really hear each other...WOW.

just one of the many reasons why i love what i am doing in this stage of life. :)

Monday, February 14, 2011

devotional thought: be.loved.

a lot can be said about love on a day like today. i know (based on sitting on campus today) that a lot of negativity exists, even in the christian realm, toward a day like february 14th. i think that's a little bit sad.

does valentine's day remind me that i am single? well, sure. but let's be honest. i'm pretty aware of my singleness every day. so i don't think that's good cause to hate on one particular day over another.

last week, one of my students asked me if i felt like i was behind because i was 28 and single. i replied that it was a loaded question with a layered answer. but simply, yes and no. yes, i want to be married and popping out babies. i think i will be a fun wife and mom. and many of my friends are doing that and loving it right this second. high five to all of you. but i also have to answer no to that question because being a single woman has led me to this place i am at right now. i love what i am doing; i get to pour into college students; i feel affirmed and loved every single day. so i am thinking i am right where God wants me to be.

and as a woman who has been chosen and redeemed by the creator of the world, i can choose to celebrate his love for me. it is pretty deep...far deeper than i know. and he is more faithful than anyone around me. he never fails me. he has given me more grace and more chances than i could ever earn. man, how he loves me! let's celebrate that, huh?

little blogging world, i love you. i am thankful for this community that gives me the space to write out little bits of my heart. happy valentine's day.

Friday, February 11, 2011

picture this: hold your horses

this week's edition of 'picture this' will come on sunday. and it is dedicated to miranda.

i am full of mystery. :) week was awesome.

how was yours?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

my favorite...running shoes to make other people buy

once upon a time, in a faraway land called wisconsin, i worked for a little company called finish line. in what seems like a different lifetime entirely, my favorite part of my job was taking care of customers. customer service is important in most jobs, and especially so in retail. but i mean something beyond just good customer service: i loved connecting one-on-one with customers, learning why they were in the market for running shoes (training for a marathon? starting to work out for the first time since...ever? cross-training? trying to impress a dude at the gym?), and then helping them find the *perfect* pair of shoes. there was nothing more gratifying than knowing they were excited to get healthy (or get a man). i loved seeing people try on different shoes...and when they put on the right ones, their eyes would light up.

man, i must have really liked it if i can look back so fondly on those dark days...

anyway, more than any other type of shoe (and this can be verified by a quick look in my closet), i LOVE running shoes. but i am totally biased. i have been a runner* forever.

my first race in wisconsin was the crazy legs. and i needed shoes. so, although i had already been spending significant portions of my paychecks on lots of [sporty but non-running] shoes at finish line, the first pair that i bought for actual athletic purposes were these:

these are my asics gel-1120s. i got them, and i loved them, and then made every customer try them on after that. they have some gel (but not enough to make them outrageously expensive), great arch support, they breathe well, and they're very light. these are good shoes. and at least two faithful readers of this blog own them because of me.

you are welcome.

i should mention, though, that not everybody has cool shoelaces like this. you only get extra special shoelaces if someone's cat has a bad habit of eating every pair of shoelaces you own. hypothetically speaking, of course.

do you have a favorite pair of running shoes? what is your favorite style of shoe to wear?

*mmm, yeah, ok, i'm very conditional about my running these days. it's mostly when a frisbee is in the air. but still.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

the monthly cooking segment: a little bit of everything...

announcer: hello, boys and girls. welcome to this month's edition of 'food you wish holly had cooked for you but instead ate all by her lonesome.' today, our lovely contestants are mr. steak and mr. salmon. say hi, everybody.

audience: *applause*

announcer: let's get to know our contestants. mr. steak, tell us: what do you bring to the table?

steak: i bring a lovely grilled charm, a smoky cajun flavor, and am warm and pink on the inside.

audience: oooh!

announcer: and salmon, my good fellow, what can you tell us about yourself?

salmon: well, i'm pretty in pink, good for the heart, and just a little flaky. *grins sheepishly*

audience: ahhh!

announcer: how will holly choose between these two excellent choices?

audience: *troubled murmurs*

announcer: what's that? she doesn't have to? well, folks, this is a new one on me! i have never seen the lady take both of them home! *laughing* well, i guess there's a first time for everything. tune in next month for another exciting installment.

audience: *applause* *joyful dancing*


i don't mess around, people. i am serious about my food.

bam: steak. grilled. some salt, pepper, chili powder, and some cajun sauce. yup.
wham: salmon. grilled in a dab of olive oil. a little pepper, a pinch of garlic salt, and some mushrooms to top it off.

and if you thought my grilled potatoes were good before (and i know some of you do because that was the only thing you ever really asked me to make when we lived together), i took them to a whole new level:

kapow! i added asparagus. that's right: red potatoes, sweet onion, mushrooms, asparagus, salt, pepper, olive oil, cayenne pepper, chili powder, and some garlic salt.

go ahead and be jealous. they were awesome. here's what they looked like, cooking away:

and here's the final product on the plate:

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

more things i am learning in grad school

1) aunt betty is really selfless and gracious. she cares for people well. i am the uber-undeserving recipient of that care.

2) not everyone appreciates sarcasm. and i am apparently really sarcastic.

3) i LOVE meeting with students. i am constantly surprised at how much i enjoy spending time hearing about their life stuff. they are awesome.

4) i have subconscious methods and layers of self-protection that i have not even begun to uncover. it's true: i'm still a work in progress.

5) grad school is preparing and equipping me for something in the future, but it doesn't matter what that happens to be. i have really specific purpose and joy right where i am. holy bananas!*

*yes, i did just shout out to lily. the three year-old. who does not read my blog.

Monday, February 7, 2011

devotional thought: in the midst of migraines

i've been sick for a few weeks now, and the past couple of days have taken an interesting turn. i have a cough...which, by itself, would not be so bad. but i am also *wildly* prone to migraines and sinus infections. so this cough has become a sort of vicious beast--to the point where i will stop what i am doing so i can hold my head in both hands while i cough. there is so much pressure that it feels like bad things will happen if i don't hold on.

i don't really feel like being around people or reflecting on my spiritual development when i feel this way. i don't have any desire to sit at work, stare at a computer screen, or pay attention in class.

it can be quite problematic.

i'm currently huddled on the floor of a room, tucked in the corner so my back and head are both supported. i'm sure it's an odd sight for anyone walking by.

my days are fairly scheduled out so that i stay on task--blog, homework, coffee dates with students, etc. but when i feel like this, my body says, 'NO.'

no filling each spare moment.

no trying to get ahead.

no super intentional conversations with classmates.

just stop.

you know, i don't think sickness and pain are punishment--i think they're a byproduct of a sinful world. and the more i contemplate my case, i am coming around to the thought that God uses my migraines as a gift.

[i am a bad recipient of gifts. especially this kind.]

in my life, migraines tend to be less-than-gentle reminders that i cannot do everything on my own, that i am weak despite my posturing, and that being still and resting is a very holy thing to do.

my beloved is most certainly here in the midst of my migraines.

where have you experienced God in your midst lately?

Friday, February 4, 2011

picture this: he's the piano man

this is my younger brother, travis. or, as he is affectionately called around our house, lonny, skippy, or tubby. this is a picture of him playing piano. (the fitness orb is a whole other story.)

here's the context:

in my family, all of us took piano lessons when we were kids. some of us took them longer than others. some of us still play. and some of us are very talented pianists. (don't be fooled. despite my liberal use of the word 'us,' i am not actually one of those still-playing and very talented children.) travis took piano for approximately five minutes. ok, it was probably closer to two years. the point is, he didn't like it and didn't stick with it.

cut to 4 days ago. picture this scene: it's probably 9:30 pm...i'm in bed, reading and winding down. travis is in his room, bellowing 'it is well with my soul.' (i was later informed that he had been singing hymns all day, so it wasn't completely out of the blue.) suddenly, i hear him knocking on aunt betty's door and asking if she has a hymnal. out of the kindness of her soul, she digs one up for him, and he plops down at the piano and bangs out his part. i am not sure how long this lasted, but i think it was at least an hour.

over the next few [snow] days, he and betty jo dug up more music he could play--including christmas carols. t bone has been logging practice hours at the piano, hammering out chords, singing, and having a merry old time.

hilarious and delightful.

i think he shows great potential.

what is something you love about one of your siblings?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

my favorite...pens!

if i have the option, i stick with uni-ball vision elite pens.

they come in lots of colors, but if you know me, you know i prefer BLACK. oh, if you don't know me, black is my favorite color. please save speeches about absence of color. i don't pick apart why you like mauve, do i?

is anyone's favorite color mauve?

off topic.

anyway, these are my favorite pens.

they butter. you don't need to scribble on your shoe to start them. they do not leak. i think the box actually says you can take them on airplanes. i don't fly that often, so i wouldn't say it's a high selling point for me...but i'm not that familiar with your flying habits, so i cannot speak for you. maybe some of you need to know that kind of detail.

i write a lot. and i write quickly. and sometimes in a big, sweeping fashion. (like, say, i don't know, when i am signing checks and stuff.) so a smooth, perfect flow of ink is highly important to me.

so what's your favorite type of pen?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

why i am a writer: freedom

i am a writer because
words are freedom.
truth is present in poetry,
and it doesn't have to make
sense to anyone but me.
i will not share the meaning.
you can read it how you like.
i am a deep well,
so draw from me
what you wish.
every last emotion,
everything i've experienced-
or never once felt-
can be dumped out of my
and heart,
rearranged as the
mood strikes me,
and i can breathe again.
i've been set free
by the creator.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

faith and school: vbv time and again

vulnerability breeds vulnerability.

i could write those words every day for the rest of my life, and it would not make them less true. vbv is a phrase i picked up on summer project six and a freakin' half years ago (holy bananas, where has the time gone?!). i got my first taste of what it meant to be truly authentic with people--to share deep, real things and see myself through others' eyes of grace.


here in the student development world, we call it 'modeling behavior.' as counselors, we are expected to do the things we ask of our clients. so in my c
ase, it means modeling authenticity and vulnerability. (within appropriate boundaries, obviously.) it means investing time and energy into being very present for the students with whom i am meeting.

several times since this semester started, i have been blessed by seeing my students be vulnerable right in front of me. super cool. you know how i know this is not about me? because i know i am not naturally good at being vulnerable and authentic. i have had to work really hard at those things.

and that's the point.

it is not something i am great at doing, but when i *faithfully* put myself where God has called me to be [with students] and trust that his grace will be apparent in me, when i share some of my story and believe that it is his pleasure to use janky jars of clay like me, and when invest time [and coffee],

glorious things happen.

i have not yet developed into the woman i am called to be, but i am constantly affirmed in my decision to step out and try this.