Thursday, February 24, 2011


My brain feels slower. I was recently asked an intelligent question, and I was ashamed to find that not only did I have not much of an opinion or an answer, but I struggled with pushing my mind into an intellectual shape to come to an appropriate answer. Since being home, I've read Victor Hugo, I'm currently struggling through some Faulkner . . . and it grieves my heart to know I'm not getting everything I could be getting.

In listening to an old chapel podcast yesterday by Anthony Esolen, I mourned the truth in what he said -- that our culture is not excellent. Our poetry is self-indulgent and pathetic. My own mind is self-indulgent and weak.

I miss the constant stimulation of college, of being surrounded and challenged by good thinkers. I struggle to think well on my own.  I feel like I have to start over to get my thoughts where they should be.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

the Inchworm my brother

Have you seen an inchworm? They're adorable and also quite ridiculous.

(they're really only cute when they're not close to your face)


Annie Dillard writes of the inchworm in The Writing Life:

"Few sights are so absurd as that of the inchworm leading its dimwit life. Inchworms are the caterpillar larvae of several moths or butterflies. The cabbage looper, for example, is an inchworm. I often see an inchworm: it is a skinny bright green thing, pale and thin as a vein, an inch long, and apparently totally unfit for life in this world. It wears out its days in constant panic.

"Every inchworm I have seen was stuck in long grasses. The wretched inchworm hangs from the side of a grassblade and throws its head around from side to side, seeming to wail. What! No further? Its back pair of nubby feet clasps the grass stem; its front three pairs of nubs rear back and flail in the air, apparently in search of a footing. What! No further? What! It searches everywhere in the wide world for the rest of the grass, which is right under its nose. [ . . . ] Each step brings it to the the universe's rim. And now-- What! No further? End of world? Ah, here's ground. What! No further? Yike!"

Dillard speaks of the inchworm with disgust, but this week, I saw him as myself. As though I had no more sense than this small creature, my life is lived exactly the same way. A sure step of faith, clear leading from God, then ... what! no further? I don't know what to do; I panic, flail, step back, question every decision in my lifetime. Now what, God? Oh. Another step. Another beam of light shone exactly where my foot needed to go. Whew. Wait -- What! Now what? God, there's no further! I panic again, even though mere moments ago I was sure.

I wonder how the Isrealites failed so often, forgot so frequently, remembered Egypt so fondly after all the miracles they had seen ... then I remember they were inchworms too. The disciples literally walked with Jesus every day for years, and they were inchworms so often. Who am I to think I have it together more than they, to judge them as I read the accounts of Scripture? I have the entire story in my hand, while the Isrealites maybe had the Pentateuch, and the disciples had the Old Testament. I have the whole story, can see the connections; I understand that Jesus was the Messiah who came to die, to bring final forgiveness and restoration. And yet, even with my greater knowledge, I have no greater wisdom. What! No further?

My God has never let me down, and yet I panic daily. A job in Blacksburg. What! Student loans. No further? Car trouble. End of world! Father, forgive me. Teach me to live in true faith, in true trust.

What! No further?

I ought to close my eyes and jump.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Monday, February 14, 2011

Andrew weekend!

Guys, I have a virus. Dr. Fiance Andrew has informed me that viruses cannot be killed (or, we don't know how yet), but they lodge themselves in one of your cranial nerves (Andrew says, in this case, either my facial or trigeminal nerve) and live there forever, breaking out and causing havoc every now and then. According to the dermatologist, I have fever blisters. Gross, painful, and recurring. I would argue that this is quite possibly the thorn Paul prayed to God to take away from him.

I learned all about the cranial nerves this weekend. There are twelve of them. I saw each one on a real human brain. Inches from my face.

How? I visited Andrew in Blacksbug! I went to class with him Friday morning and got to go into the anatomy lab and see his cadaver and its brain. I was hesitant, but it was much less disturbing than I expected. It fascinated me, actually; since Andrew finds it so interesting, his enthusiasm and interest were infectious. God did an amazing work when He designed us.

You can learn all about the cranial nerves here!

Despite the bitter cold of Blacksburg (which Andrew insisted wasn't really that cold), I enjoyed my weekend immensely. It's so pleasant to just be in the same room, even if he's studying and I'm reading a book. Just being near him is a blessing. We took walks in the painful cold, ate the best homemade doughnuts I've ever eaten (at Carol Lee's), had supper with some of Andrew's friends from church and watched "The Great Escape" with them (such a good movie), and went apartment-hunting. Oh, and I baked a cake entirely from memory!

We put down a deposit and signed a lease! Hooray! We found an adorable townhouse duplex that's only about ten minutes from VCOM, and equally close to Kroger, Wal-Mart, etcetera. Two bedrooms, one and a half baths, a spacious kitchen, a front porch and back deck, and it's enough off the main road that it feels like it's in the country. Glorious! I'm so very pleased. It really feels like we're getting married; things are moving forward. I wish I had pictures to show you, but I don't. I will in July! 

I'm beginning to feel (a little bit) like a grown-up. Except, apparently, grown-ups don't call themselves grown-ups. They say adults. Go figure.


In other news, it's Valentine's Day! I'm so grateful for all the people God has filled my life with. My sweet and wonderful family (which is now expanding, thanks to upcoming weddings!), my precious and godly friends . . . thank you.

Some people I love very much:


amazing sisters

my bff Linja

three generations of Ridge Haven family
(this is only one and a half, I know)

and a wonderful (actually-related-to-me) family (plus Rachel now!)

Happy Valentine's Day!
Love is a blessing. Celebrate.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


After work today, I dutifully went to the gym (Andrew was kind enough to buy procrastinating me a membership. Now I have to go, since it's his money. Perfect motivation.), where I lifted weights. And by "lifted weights," I mean "realized how badly my girly muscles need help." Part of my job includes scooping ice cream, which means that my dominant right arm is comically stronger than my left. My left arm proved itself a wimp when I did chest presses. A gym employee across the room was watching me, and I'm sure she was laughing.

I had grand plans of making chicken tetrazzini for dinner tonight, so Mom and I went to the grocery store. Our small town has two grocery stores: Bi-Lo and Ingles. We avoid our Bi-Lo as much as possible due to the poor management (we have named it "the Soviet Union Bi-Lo" after one particular day when there was simply no bread on the shelves), so we headed off to Ingles. Chicken, asparagus, pasta, apples, eggs, coffee creamer . . . and then the lights in the store went out. All of them. Darkness, and sudden silence. (Why do people whisper when the lights go out?) We assumed the lights would come back on when a generator kicked in momentarily, so we finished the little bit of shopping we had left, some of which involved using the light of my cell phone to read package labels. Up to the front we went, with our full buggy, to stand in line. Naturally, since the power was out, the cash registers were not working. After about ten minutes, people here and there began simply abandoning their buggies and leaving; then, the manager made an announcement: "They're working on the transformer, and it will be at least a couple of hours." A passing cashier informed us that "the transformer is smoking." Ouch! So we joined the mass exodus from the store, leaving our full buggy by the register (I felt guilty about this) and headed to Bi-Lo.

We left our shopping list at Ingles.
Oh well.
Hurried shopping at Bi-Lo, and made it home about 6:30.
Frenzied tetrazzini preparation, sauce whipping, and baking. Supper at 8.
Absolutely delicious! The recipe, from the amazing magazine Everyday Food, is available here. I very highly recommend it.

How to finish this day?
There are chocolate cupcakes in the oven!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Project Status: Complete!

Remember that old Rudolph clay-mation movie? It used to be my favorite Christmas movie--who knows why. I had terrible taste as a child. Remember the Island of Misfit Toys? I command a similar such place, except I am Queen of the Purgatory of Unfinished Projects. I am, naturally, an exiled ruler from this land. My subjects have no love for me (until I promote them into the real world by completing them).

Since New Year's, there have been more than one promotion! With much help from my mom, I finally finished a shoulder bag that I began before Thanksgiving. It was quite the ordeal, as the pattern was much more elaborate than expected, and this was my first serious sewing project. We had to do some ad-libbing and plan-changing, but it is done!


This weekend, I had the pleasure of making a cake for my boss's daughter. I baked the cake Thursday evening, and the whole house smelled amazing. This is the chocolate cake by which I judge all other chocolate cakes. And not many come close. Seriously.

I spent all of yesterday morning making batches of buttercream and punishing my hand through various stages of cramping for about two hours--from all the color-mixing and then the tedious piping. Her little girl is turning nine, so I decided on something simple and girly.

I'm never quite satisfied with the icing-version of my handwriting; it seems less smooth and flowing. I'm still learning. I do like my swirly flower, and I'm so proud of that shell border. I hate shell borders, and I was so pleased with how this one turned out.

While showing my mom something on the table, I gestured too exuberantly, and knocked about three shells into icing-mush. They were saved by careful removal and replacement. Whew!

I piped those little flowers around the whole cake, and made the grass with an awesome grass/hair icing tip.
Those flowers gave my hand serious pains, and they don't look as neat as I'd like, but I think they're kind of cute. I love how the grass just flops everywhere, like real grass.

Maybe one day I'll be really good. For now, it's fun to know I can make something pretty, even if it's not perfect.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The customer is always right? Plus, a shotgun.

Ladies and gentleman ... what a Friday! It even involved a shotgun and lots of police officers.

Last night at work we got slammed all evening, so we just left some of our mess to clean up this morning (since everyone who worked last night was opening up today). My morning was actually relaxing. I like watching the restaurant come together and prepare for the day. Sweeping up all the crud and crumbs and piles of dirt (seriously. who put that pile of dirt there?), and feeling ready to do my job. I like that feeling.

However, since my boss was home today with a sick daughter, I was left as the only waitress on the floor most of the day. Usually, there are two. Today, it was only me, with the every-now-and-then help of one of the cooks. Our lunch crowd is generally much less relaxed than our supper crowd, due to the time constraints of lunch hours; so, working busy lunches is more stressful. And today, it was pretty much just me. Refilling tea, running the cash register, greeting people, taking orders... and mostly feeling guilty that these customers weren't getting prime service because I was so busy and stretched. Therefore, I become slightly frazzled and stressed. Also, tips are worse because service declines. A yucky cycle.


Two work adventures. One is frustrating, the other funny:

One of the orders I took back to the kitchen somehow got placed in the "finished" stack instead of getting displayed to be cooked. I don't know whose fault it was, but guess whose fault it was to the customer? Yup. Mine. I usually have a hard time bouncing back from guilt trips like that at work.

A mom with three teenage daughters came in after we slowed down. Mom and pleasant-daughter-1 came over to the counter and ordered, while the other two just plopped down at a table. I walked over with Mom's and Daughter 1's drinks. I asked the other two girls if they'd like anything. Daughter 2 answered, "no, thank you." Daughter 3 (aka Lil' Miss Teen Queen) met my eyes and exclaimed, "Yes!" as though my question offended her. She then turned to her mother:

"Why didn't you ask me if I wanted anything?" (in a Hollywood-perfect-Teen-royalty voice) "I am your child!"

Mom: I asked you in the car.

Lil' Miss Teen Queen (to me): I would like a root beer. Bring it to me in a glass like hers (pointing to her mother's plastic cup). Or a to-go cup. Either one.

My brain: Yes, honey. Those are your only options. Unless I pour it down your shirt.

Lil' Miss Teen Queen: And I want some ice cream. (pausing) But I don't want it now.

She eventually ordered six strips of bacon. But I glad she narrowed down her options to root-beer-in-a-cup and ice-cream-but-not-really-just-kidding. Maybe you don't think it's funny, but I was struggling not to laugh as I walked away. It was just so stereotypically teenage: her voice inflection and royal attitude.


Suddenly, it seemed, our late lunch crowd murmered rumors to one another. No idea where these rumors began (who does, ever?), but within moments, everyone was aware that our back parking lot was full of police cars and fire personnel. No one could get in or out of the parking lot. The only thing anyone knew for sure, the one word repeated over and over with surety, was stand-off.

Our restaurant's back door opens to a city parking lot. Across from the parking lot is a large white house, where a man had barricaded himself with a gun. Some tense moments passed, with everyone wondering and a little nervous. The house is close enough for a strong arm to throw a baseball from our back door.

Eventually the situation was dissolved and the man arrested. Read all about it in this short news article.

I came home to a piece of disappointing mail, but a hot shower and supper with some family friends cheered me up. I have to keep remembering that God doesn't love me any less when days are just plain miserable. He isn't punishing me or telling me He's ceasing to care. The gospel is still true, He is still real, and still Love.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Miracle of the Ordinary

Absolutely nothing extraordinary happened to me today.

None of my customers prayed for me, tipped me fifty bucks, or played Harry Potter games across the restaraunt with me. My coffee was normal and delicious, and it eventually got cold. The winter proved its continued existence with grey clouds and drizzling, cold rain. My muscles got sore when I worked out this morning. I finished watching "Julie and Julia" while eating my leftover lunch, and the movie ended the way it always does.

But, you know ... these things that are all ordinary, normal, commonplace and predicatable. Forgettable and ignorable, even. Each one of them is a blessing. I have a job where I earn money to pay student loans and fill up my car, and where my boss is a constant encouragement. My home is warm and smells like chocolate cake. I sipped that cooling coffee while sitting and chatting with my dear friend Laura. My muscles are healthy enough to work out and become sore. Our refrigerator holds plenty of food, some of which will never get eaten.

Paul urged the Thessalonians to "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." (1 Thess. 5:17-18)

In all circumstances. Give thanks in all circumstances. I have never done this. But this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for me, for Millie.

I rejoice in knowing that one day, when the new Jerusalem is my new home, and when God Himself with dwell with us and the name of the city will be "THE LORD IS THERE," (Ezekiel 48:35) then I, too, will be made new. I will be fully capable of worshipping like I was created to, of glorifying God instead of myself.

And, as Sally Lloyd Jones put it in The Jesus Storybook Bible, "and all the sad things will come untrue."

Amen! Come quickly, Lord Jesus!