only help my unbelief

Five things about New Year’s resolutions
December 31, 2008, 8:00 am
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I promised I’d tell you what I think about New Year’s resolutions. Here ya go…

1. New Year’s resolutions are more for December than January.
Christmas is coming up, you’ve been spending more money than you wanted to, you’ve been eating more food than you wanted to, and gosh, there just isn’t time to go to the gym. Instead of cutting spending, counting calories and highailing it to the local YMCA, it’s much easier to sit down and make a list of all the things you’re going to do after January 1. Thus in addition to the general abundance of The Christmas Spirit that everyone is always talking about, you’re also experiencing a happy dose of denial about how much is exactly going to change in the new year. And when January comes and you don’t meet any of your goals, no big deal, because who keeps their resolutions, anyway?

2. There’s no accountability with New Year’s resolutions.
I’m speaking broadly here; maybe some of you do share your resolutions with other people. But I’d venture that most people (bloggers excluded) jot down a few things privately, trying to will themselves to change. It just doesn’t work. We’re quite skilled at lying to ourselves and justifying things into legitimacy. Without accountability, there isn’t anyone to tell you that you’re actually not doing all that well at keeping your resolutions.

3. Most people make resolutions that are virtually impossible to attain.
One year, I made a resolution that I wasn’t going to eat chocolate. Those of you who know me are probably wondering why in the world I would do this. I don’t know. Guess how long I lasted? Less than a day. Another year I gave up soft drinks, and it was hard, yes, but I managed it until my birthday in March, at which time all I wanted was a Coke. So I drank it. And never got back off (or is it on?) the wagon.

4. Most resolutions are made for the sheer purpose of making resolutions or to assuage guilt.
You really can’t expect to succeed if you’re completely void of internal and external motivators. The year I gave up chocolate, I just gave it up because I wanted to see if I could do it. That wasn’t enough. If I had discovered in December of the previous year that I had diabetes and needed to give up sweets, I bet it would have been a lot easier. So if you’re thinking about making some resolutions, make sure they’re things that matter to you. If you want to exercise more, then do it because you desire to be healthy. If you want to read the Bible more, do it because you want to know God – not so you can say you read the Bible in a year.

5. Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. (Psalm 127:1)
If you don’t read anything else I’ve written, read this. If you don’t put God at the center of your goals, your resolutions, your plans, then it’s all a waste of time. Willing yourself to read your Bible every day won’t work. You have to get on your knees before the Lord, ask Him to give you a desire for His Word, and then you have to open your Bible every day. But the thing is, God’s not up there keeping a tally mark system like you are. If you miss a day, you may feel like a failure, but God doesn’t. He’s more concerned with you continuing to press on to know Him than He is with you reading four chapters of the Bible each night. The same is true of any other resolution. If your goals are more financial, ask God to make you a wise steward of what He gives you. If they are heath-related resolutions, then pray for God to let you glorify Him with your body. And then wake up tomorrow morning awash in the grace He so freely offers, grace that is greater than all our sin and failed resolutions.


I don’t know how it went by so fast
December 30, 2008, 11:57 am
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You’d think after almost 23 years of the last year going by so fast, I’d be used to it, but every December it surprises me.

Here are some brief snippets of the past year…

I rang in the New Year with Christian at a friend’s party. He stayed in Columbia for a couple of weeks before school started, and we spent those days watching movies, running and cooking together. In the middle of January I went back to USC for my last semester. As a journalism major, I had “class” every day from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. I wasn’t sure how this would go, because it seemed like a lot of time to be in class, but most of our time was spent out working on stories, taking pictures, and editing the work of our partners. I got paired with the best partner ever. I also started blogging somewhat consistently again.

The second month of the year continued in the same vein as the first, with most of my time spent at the Carolina Reporter newsroom (some days more productive than others) and the rest of my time spent training with my roommates for the Cooper River Bridge Run. Christian came down for Valentine’s Day, and we went to Olive Garden, which we consider an upscale restaurant. I also started helping Sunday mornings in the two- and three-year old Sunday school class, which ended up being a bigger blessing than I ever imagined.

I turned 22 in March, and it was a fairly uneventful birthday. Spring break was in the middle of the month, and Christian came down to visit again. We both received news that we had jobs for after graduation – he would be working at an insurance company, and I had a 12-week internship at The State.

I ran 6.2 miles in the Cooper River Bridge Run the first weekend in April with my roommates Emily and Katie. Christian and I celebrated our two year anniversary on April 7. I continued babysitting a fair amount. At the end of April, life at the Carolina Reporter commenced, and I headed up to Tennessee by myself for the last time. While I was there, Christian presented an extensive paper he’d written for his Hebrew class and also finished up his German comps, which meant he could graduate.

I headed back to South Carolina so Christian could concentrate on his final exams. My roommates and I celebrated the end of an era of movie nights and Moe’s. I picked Christian up from the Charlotte airport the day before I graduated from college, and then we celebrated with my family and friends at a cookout. The day after my graduation, we drove up to Tennessee for Christian’s graduation, then spent several days with his family and friends, tying up loose ends and packing up his stuff. He moved into a new apartment, and we both started our new jobs. We also started to adapt to the idea of being a real boyfriend and girlfriend who could do stuff together whenever they want. I also moved my blog to WordPress and renamed it God, Grammar and Good Eats. We rounded off the month by spending Memorial Day with family and friends.

I settled into the pace of my new job, which had me working Tuesday-Saturday from 5 p.m. It was a rough lifestyle, because it completely readjusted my sleep pattern, and I rarely got to see Christian. I would go over to his apartment a few times a week on his lunch break, and sometimes we would eat dinner at Sonic together on my 30-minute dinner break, and we would spend Monday evenings and the weekends together, but it was still hard. I ate a lot of Moe’s. I blogged. Christian and I joined the YMCA, and I spent many, many mornings there as part of my goal to lose weight (which pretty much failed). Sunday mornings continued to bless me. I changed my blog’s title. We signed up for Netflix to save money on Blockbuster runs, and I decided to move back home at the end of July when my lease ran out. We also went to Christian’s best friend’s wedding at the end of June in Asheville, which was really fun.

I gave up counting calories but kept going to the gym. I struggled with finding a job, but God kept teaching me just to trust him. Christian turned 22, and I chipped in with his mom and grandma to get him his first iPod. At the end of the month, I moved back home to live with my parents and sisters.

I started the month by looking back at the first seven months of the year, much like I’m doing now, but I did it then because I had felt like I was in the valley for most of the summer, and I needed a reminder of God’s faithfulness. I settled back into my old room, which was actually quite an accomplishment considering the amount of stuff I’d acquired during four years of college. Still, being with my family turned out to be way better than I expected. I turned down a job in favor of another one that I hadn’t actually been offered yet. My internship ended, and I suddenly realized how much fuller my life was going to be once I didn’t have to work at night. I got my haircut. Christian and I went to see the Smashing Pumpkins in Charlotte, but it turned out to be a complete bust. I interviewed for what seemed like the perfect job, but God had other plans.

This was probably the most difficult month of the entire year, even more difficult than any time during the summer, but there were bright spots. I moved from assistant to teacher of the two- and three-year-old Sunday school class, and boy, have I loved that. I babysat lot while I looked for a job, which was a difficult process that ended with a lot of unreturned phone calls and e-mails and an abundance of tears. But at the end of the month, God surprised me with a job that paid well and was only minutes from my house. I started my new job September 29.

I started a new blog, which meant I wrote very little here at OHMU. My two-and-a-half year anniversary with Christian brought back memories. I continued at my new job, which I really learned to love.

It began humbly, but ended with a bang. We started the month off with a Reformation Day picnic and I changed the name and design of my blog. The United States elected a new president. Christian and I spent Thanksgiving with his family in Tennessee, and on November 29, he proposed!

The month started with a flurry of wedding planning, but the more I tried to do, the more I realized it’s not as glamorous as it seems. We set a date for the wedding. Christian and I saw our favorite concert in Charlotte. I bought my wedding dress. And then, Christian and I faced some unexpected trials; namely, the fact that his car wouldn’t work after we paid $900 to get it “fixed.” We spent Christmas with my family in a cabin in Asheville, which was really fun. And we’re ringing in the New Year this year by going to get our marriage license and look at some apartments on New Year’s Eve. It’s super exciting to think that next year when I write this post, we’ll have been married for more than eight months!

There you have it. As I looked through old posts and thought about the momentous occasions of this year, I became even more thankful that I took the time to blog about so many of those experiences. I know a lot of people think it’s dumb to share personal things on the Internet, but if nothing else, all those posts mean a lot to me. I had already forgotten so many of the things that happened this year.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you why I hate New Year’s resolutions, and then Thursday, in a bizarre expression of hypocrisy, I’ll share my New Year’s resolutions.

How was your year?

Pictures in which we are engaged
December 30, 2008, 8:00 am
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16 weeks to go
December 29, 2008, 10:25 pm
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It’s a little less than 16 weeks until our wedding, and while I do want to look the best that I can for the wedding pictures that will live in infamy where I like them or not, I also want to start practicing a lifestyle of health that I can keep up once we’re married and having kids. I already go to the gym fairly regularly, but I am hoping over the next 16 weeks to lose 10-15 pounds and get back up to running several miles at a time. Last year at this time, I was training for the Cooper River Bridge Run, but I pushed myself a little too hard and ended up having to take time off from running.

Instead of starting a “fitness blog,” I’m just going to maintain a page over in the right sidebar where I’ll keep track of my workouts and my weight loss over the next 16 weeks. For you RSS and Facebook-ers who don’t feel like visiting my blog’s page, I’ll just link to it once a week so you can see where I’m at.

Suggestions for workouts on the treadmill and elliptical, as well as ab and arm strength training exercises, are welcome. I like to mix up what I’m doing.

Yay, accountability.

The Curious Tale of Mississippi Guy and Derek Webb [Love and Limeade Slushes II]
December 29, 2008, 8:00 am
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Every week until we get married, I’ll be posting a short installment of the story of me and Christian. They’ll all be compiled at  Love and Limeade Slushes as I write them.

I’ve always loved to write, but it wasn’t until I started my blog that December that I began to enjoy the experience of writing in community. The blogging platform Birth Control Emily and I used, Xanga, included user-created groups that allowed you to find others with similar interests. Within a few days of joining Xanga, I was in a group called Xanga Calvinists.

There was a strange camaraderie among the people in that group. If you said you were from Xanga Calvinists, there was immediate rapport. When I got bored over Christmas break, I would read through others’ blogs. Within a few weeks, there were several people I’d gotten to know fairly well through what they’d written.

One of them was a guy who lived in Mississippi. He was in seminary at the time, studying Hebrew and Greek. He loved to read, as did I, so we had a lot in common from the beginning.

We started out talking over instant messenger, then occasionally sent e-mails. I remember the first night we talked on the phone. It was weird, because when you talk to someone only through words and computer screens, you kind of forget that what they say is devoid of all tone or accent or dialect.

I had no idea what his voice would sound like, and I think it sounded different than what I expected. I do remember him saying he thought I would have a much higher voice, like a cheerleader or something, and he was pleasantly surprised that I don’t sound like that at all. I’m actually glad I don’t sound like that, too.

One of our favorite things to talk about was Derek Webb. I had the first two of Derek Webb’s CDs, but hadn’t listened to them in a while. Mississippi Guy recommended his then-new CD, Mockingbird, and at his bequest I ordered it immediately. To this day, when I listen to any song on that CD, I think of January weather, driving to Atlanta, and the new pair of black shoes I bought the weekend we spent hours talking over instant messenger.

Derek Webb was going to be playing at Mississippi Guy”s school in March, and he was on the planning committee for the event. We talked about it a lot, and the more we talked and the more time that passed, the more I started to feel like maybe he wanted me to come to Mississippi.

It was a ten-hour drive, though, and I was pretty sure my parents wouldn’t be too thrilled. Birth Control Emily, who was aware of all that was going on, offered to go with me, though, and so I tentatively started to plan the trip.

We knew, though, that meeting in person would be awkward. And so we decided to try to meet before the March concert. Derek Webb would be playing in Georgia at the end of January, so that become our goal. We would go to the concert, which would be in a public place to assuage any concerns on anyone’s part that we were each meeting some kind of Internet stalker.

I started thinking about what I would wear. A white button-up shirt, my new rainbow scarf. My favorite pair of jeans.

At this point, I was pretty much head over heels, even though I didn’t want to admit it. It seemed like we were a match made in heaven – here was a guy who loved Jesus, hymns and languages, and he actually though I was funny (in a good way, of course).

As the date of the concert in Georgia came closer, though, Mississippi Guy started to act strangely. He wouldn’t really talk about the concert much, and our conversations beat around the bush when it came to talking about whether we were excited to see each other.

I remember tears and prayers, prayers and tears. The previous fall a relationship with a guy had ended for the third time, and although I’m not sure I recognized it at the time, I was still reeling from that. My heart was fragile, and so the prospect of a guy who seemed to care about that and who provided dependability and assurance was like, in the words of the great philosophers Sister Hazel, a junkie to a rush.

I wasn’t trusting God. I was just hoping that if I tried hard enough and showed this guy I cared about him that it would all work out. And so I grew more clingy, more needy, more desperate for this guy to be a part of my life, to know him and to be known.

I don’t know if the straw that broke the camel’s back was something I did directly, or if God was just gently taking him away, but there came a day when Mississippi Guy finally said that he didn’t think we should go to Georgia, that he was kind of talking to a girl he had previously dated, that he had loved talking to me, and maybe if we were just a little bit closer, things could have been different.

He ended whatever it was we had in the best possible way, but that didn’t mean it didn’t hurt. Swallowing acid might have been less painful.

And so, for the entire month of February, I pretty much shut down. I went to Moe’s with my girlfriends, I went to class, I blogged. I went to the gym all the time. Anything, pretty much, to forget the previous weeks.

Derek Webb stayed.

Baby, don’t give up
‘Cause we’re the kind of folks who will always live
Right around the corner from something big
So baby, come on home
You can be the girl on my telephone

But what I thought was the death of a hope was really just God making room for me to come alive. In spring, in March, in the first weeks of warm South Carolina weather, Mississippi Guy would fade into a dream and someone else would show up, with Derek Webb still playing in the background.

Honestly, it doesn’t feel that much like Christmas
December 24, 2008, 2:22 pm
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I’m in Christian’s apartment, sitting on his couch, using his computer. My sister Allison (18) is sitting next to me, trying not to fall asleep.

Christian is washing up some dishes in the kitchen. He only has to work until 3 today (45 minutes from now), but he took lunch at 1:30, so once he finishes the dishes, he’s going to go back to work for 30 minutes.

While he’s gone, I’m going to start getting his suitcase packed. When he gets back, the three of us are going to pile into my car and head up to Asheville, North Carolina, to where my parents, other sister (Dayna, 14 y.o.) and our dog, Teddy have been since yesterday.

Feelings aren’t everything, but it really doesn’t feel much like Christmas. My sister and I were talking about it on the way to Christian’s apartment, and I think it’s because I’m not in school anymore. In college, I would generally be done with school in the first or second week of December, and then there would be at least a week until Christmas where all I did was sleep, hang out with friends and pretty much do nothing.

I worked a half day yesterday, so I had yesterday afternoon to do nothing, but now Christmas is here, and on Monday, it will be back to work.

I think it’s also so different not to be with the rest of our extended family. I’m excited about just being with our immediate family (and Christian), but there’s something about getting in the car for the long road trip to Florida that makes it feel more like Christmas.

Thankfully, my feelings don’t dictate Christmas, though, so tomorrow is still the day we celebrate Christ’s birth. I’m excited about that, because for probably the the first Christmas ever, I really feel like I understand the magnitude of what God did.

And that, my friends, is more than enough to make me feel like it’s Christmas.

Lost in translation. Really lost.
December 22, 2008, 10:52 pm
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I was reading this post over at Amy Beth’s blog about “hot lips” and it recalled to mind my freshman year of high school.

It was the first semester of German, and Frau Linder was our instructor. She was eccentric in that she would make us wear these German hats while acting out vocabulary words. We were unanimous in that we hated wearing the hats.

At the beginning of the semester, we had to pick our German names. Our book had a list of common German names, and so Frau Linder told us to pick one that started with the same letter as our name. Mine was Christiana.

There was a guy in the class, Darryl, who was a senior. If he didn’t pass German I, he wasn’t going to graduate.

One day toward the end of the semester, Frau Linder told us to write down our names on a slip of paper. She put all the slips into the aforementioned German hat and started drawing names to find out who our partner would be for a project.

“Christiana,” she called out, and then reached into the hat for another name. I walked to the front of the room to see who my partner would be.

She paused, not reading the name.

A strange look overtook her face.

“Who wrote this?” she said, scanning the classroom.

“What do you mean?” we asked.

“It says, ‘Dead Lips,'” she said. Frau Linder got flustered fairly easily, but this was really causing her distress.

As the majority of the classroom laughed, Darryl sauntered up to the front of the room.

Frau Linder asked him what he was doing, as she hadn’t called his name.

“But you did call my name,” he said.

Darryl, it turns out, had picked the name Detlef from our textbook at the beginning of the year, but somehow over the course of the semester, it had morphed in a way similar to when you play a game of telephone.

I’m just glad Darryl realized the mistake when he did, because the Germans have enough of a stigma attached to them without people thinking their name their children things like Dead Lips.