three things

Okay, here we go. I’ve made my decisions and here are the three goals from my list I’m going to be focusing on for the rest of the year and into 2011. I’ll introduce each today, and give you my plan in general, then start a weekly-ish post on each to keep myself accountable and y’all updated.

One: number 9, develop a Rule of Life and stick with it. Our home church in Seattle, Bethany Community Church, has been focusing on Rule of Life for a couple of years and I love the idea, I just have procrastinated on actually making it my own. The idea is all about cultivating habits and spiritual practices to deepen one’s relationship with God and walk with him on a daily basis. From these habits and this relationship will also stem habits of service and connections with one’s neighbors. Over the next week, I will be taking inventory of what I am currently doing in terms of spiritual disciplines and deciding, prayerfully, where I want to be and what God is calling me to. I won’t be making it too rigid so I don’t set myself up for failure, and I will be selective with what I share on this blog; after all, this is between me and God. I will write about my journey with this Rule of Life on Mondays.

Two: number 10, perfect my aria package. Lately it’s been easy to forget that I’m a singer. The process of moving countries and working 5.5 days a week has robbed me of my stamina in the singing realm. I have so many desires and goals, but no practice regime to speak of at the moment. So here’s the process: first, I will make room in my life to practice four days a week. Ideally, I’d be singing every day, but I just know this isn’t possible right now. Once I get there, I’ll figure out ways to make use of other time, but first, I just need to get my chops (and high notes) back. Second, I will find a teacher in Vancouver. Money is tight so I don’t know how often I’ll be able to take lessons, but I need guidance and someone else’s expertise. Third, I’m going to choose the five arias I want in my audition repertoire and work them to death until they’re perfect. For those of you who aren’t classical singers or opera geeks like me, an aria is a song from an opera, and I need a bunch of them ready to sing for auditions. So ready that I could be shaken awake at 2 am and sing them with such perfection and passion I could make a statue cry. I’d love to be there by next fall for the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. We’ll see. I’ll write about singing on Thursdays.

Three: I want to be at my goal weight by March 1st. (Okay, this isn’t on the list, but I’m breaking my own rule and I’m totally okay with it.) I started losing weight by exercising and using an iPhone app called LoseIt! in May, and I’m halfway to my goal, but I took a break from actively working at it while I trained for the half marathon. I will (starting TOMORROW, really) get back to tracking what I eat and working out to lose weight and get my whole body, not just my running legs, in great shape. I’m planning to kick off with 30 days in a row of Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred (lame, I know… but SUPER effective) and running 3 times a week with one long run on weekends. I may be setting myself up for failure with Christmas just around the corner, but I’m sure going to try! I’m deliberately not sharing my exact goal weight online, by the way. Everyone’s body is different and numbers are only partially useful. I’m also going by how I feel in my clothes, and how much energy I have. I have a number in mind but I want to remain flexible about it. How’s that for a wishy-washy goal? but I know what I want and how I’m going to get there and that’s what’s important. I’ll write about eating and exercise goodness on the weekend.

Can I do it? Only time will tell. Stick with me to find out! Happy Thanksgiving to my lovely friends, family and readers in the good ol’ U S of A!

can’t buy me love

Last night, we wanted to watch a movie, but didn’t feel like braving the streets of Vancouver to pick one up. Since we’re the last human beings on the planet without Netflix, we watched one from my collection: a lovely little movie from the 80’s (the outfits give it away) called It Could Happen to You. I love everything about this film except the fashion. A good-hearted policeman wins the lottery, insists on splitting it with a waitress because he promised her half his earnings as a tip, and spends the rest of the story defending his decision and generously and creatively giving his earnings away. His wife, meanwhile, spends extravagantly and becomes obsessed with wealth.

This message of generosity and contentment comes at the perfect time for me. We are having to learn how to live on one paycheck, and my life-long definition of the word “need” is being called into question on a daily basis. I’m doing my best not to become frustrated or indulge in self-pity, which would be so easy; we chose this road, and the consequences are going to refine us into better people. People, I hope, more poised and ready to live out God’s Kingdom in our city.

This is all so easy to say, though, and much harder to do. If I were to put a hole in my favorite jeans today, normally I would go out and buy some replacements. Wouldn’t you? Instead, I need to look at our other needs, my wardrobe, and decide how important the pants really are. The easy thing would be to just go jeans shopping (well, sometimes it’s not so easy…). Marriage adds another element entirely: what if Nate needs pants too?

I’ve been dwelling lately on Jesus’s sermon on the mount in Matthew 6. The picture here is so poignant: if I believe that God is big, and loving, enough to feed birds and clothe flowers, why don’t I trust him to take care of my needs? When I worry about whether I can afford my favorite lunchmeat in this expensive city, or wonder when I will ever be able to go shopping again, I’m taking matters into my own hands and there’s really nothing I can do about it aside from act out of my own lack of trust. This is and adventure, though, and I truly desire to learn how to live simply (in a real, tangible way) and trust the Lord, Jehovah Jirah, to provide for His child. From this trust, I hope to develop a generosity that doesn’t look back, that causes me to find pure joy in providing for the needs of others, no matter how small.

Besides, the Beatles were right, weren’t they: money can’t buy me love. And love I’ve got.

why I’ve been a bad blogger

Here I am again, and it’s already been over 2 weeks since my last post. Sorry people! Seems life here is busier than I ever imagined. It’s busy in a good way, though… not just working and studying hard (which we are!).

We started attending our new church at the beginning of October, and it’s going really well. Neither Nate or I have ever been to a church this small (3o people on a good day) and our paradigm of what “church” is supposed to be is shifting quite a bit. As the new worship pastor, Nate’s only the second staff member, and even the teaching pastor is only part time. The focus is so much on community, and not so much on program, which is truly refreshing. Already, I feel like we are getting to know the other members and they really want to know us. It feels so obvious (like every other aspect of this journey so far) that this is where we are supposed to be for this time of our lives. I expect to learn a lot from being a part of such a small community, and I anticipate that God will use this time to prepare us for whatever is to come after.

We’ve also been busy with visitors, which has been so much fun! It’s been all too easy to get settled into our routine and forget that we live in a vibrant, beautiful city with so many places to explore, so when people come, we have to show them around! We’ve been to Stanley Park and Lynn Canyon, Kitsilano and Main, downtown and even along the sky-to-sea highway to Squamish. It makes me feel a bit less isolated to know that good friends and family have a sense of our home and where we are. More visitors are always welcome!

And, I’ve been busy with new friends! I’m blessed to be getting to know some lovely ladies from all over the world whose husbands are also studying at Regent. My new friends from South Africa have helped me put this transition in perspective: we still have all our belongings, our car, and the same time zone and currency name that we had before. Vancouver isn’t so far away from home.

In fact, it is quickly becoming home.

nothing's better than a visit from your best friend!

October sunshine

the beautiful Howe Sound

the little monkey I watch 3 days a week

good friends at Prospect Point


marital musings

I found out last night that a woman I respect deeply is in the process of becoming divorced. This was hard to hear, especially from her; they’ve been married for many years, built a life together, had children, and from the outside, it’s looked like perfection. After hearing her tell me that it’s been far from perfect, though, I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes a marriage solid and what I can never take for granted. Just because right now I can’t envision that happening to us doesn’t mean we aren’t immune to the innumerable things that can tear a relationship apart. The statistics alone are enough to instill some healthy anxiety (is there such a thing?) in me, even while in newlywed blissful dreamland.

I told this friend last night that I feel so lucky to be married to someone who truly makes me want to be a better person. The way he does this most is by drawing me deeper into my relationship with God. I believe that keeping God at the center of our marriage will strengthen us for the difficult times (which I know will come), but the “how” of this is pretty complicated. We pray together sometimes and worship side by side frequently (when he’s not playing guitar up front). On so many levels, though, we experience God so differently that it’s hard to do together. I expect it to become more difficult still when he starts seminary in three weeks and is immersed in an intense, academic view of theology, scripture and deity.

This friend encouraged us to keep a date night tradition, and to take picnics, even especially when life gets busy and everything seems to be getting in the way. I think this is some of the best advice out there, but so hard to implement on a regular basis.

You married folk: how do you do it? What have you done tangibly to strengthen your marriage and put your spouse first? Or if you’re single, what have you seen in marriages you admire?

30 things

I’ve been inspired lately by a few other bloggers’ lists. They have taken different forms and sizes, but all have something in common: goals and dreams. Since I’ve been thinking so much about goals lately, and having decent success with one in particular, I decided to take on this task. So, here we go:

30 things I want to do before I turn 30

1. finish a half marathon 11.21.10 in 2:14:13

2. audition for a real opera company

3. plant a garden

4. keep a garden alive long enough to harvest it

5. make new friends

6. keep the old

7. commute entirely by bike and public transit

8. read my Bible more

9. Develop a Rule of Life and stick with it

10. perfect my aria package

11. compete in the Metropolitan Opera Council Auditions and NATS Artist Award

12. have a baby

13. continue learning how to be a good wife to Nate

14. see the Aurora Borealis

15. hike part of the Pacific Crest Trail

16. ride the STP (Seattle-to-Portland)

17. start a music school (or at least write the business plan)

18. star in a local opera

19. raise a puppy

20. become a local-ivore

21. become more politically aware and active

22. cook my way through a classic cookbook- Julia Childs or Mark Bittman?

23. see NYC

24. attend a professional conference for teaching voice or Kindermusik

25. start a neighborhood gathering or community dinner in our home

26. become a better piano and guitar player

27. write songs and play gigs

28. discover how to live more simply

29. learn to live in the moment

30. write more letters and cards

We’ll see how it goes! 5 years and a few months. Can I do it?

P.S. I know you’re reading this… but I don’t know who you are! Leave me a comment, ’cause I want to hear about you, too! What’s on your list?

poor-man’s sustainable eating

“Sustainable” is the catch-word of the year, at least in the Northwest. Everyone, from individuals to businesses (even McDonalds!) is jumping on the local, free-range, organic bandwagon. The idea has appealed to me for a long time, but without the financial ability to shop solely at PCC or Whole Foods (aka Whole Paycheck), I had basically abandoned the concept of going totally local or organic.

I read a few articles last month, though, that renewed my desires to make this a priority. Each of them waxed eloquent about the benefits, for body and earth, of eating and shopping sustainably, and one even outlined 50 “easy” steps (see the July/ August issue of Whole Living). Some of the tips were really helpful; others, a few steps too far down the hippie-lifestyle road (which I’m not sure I’m willing to travel, yet). I’ve decided I’ll try baby-steps. Jumping into the pool may be the most efficient way of entry, but the water is cold (and expensive) and I’ll ease into this one, thank you very much. At least I have my suit on!

Here are the simple things I’m committing to do, whenever possible, in hopes that I will increase my efforts over time:

1. aiming for local produce. It may be more expensive in some cases, but if there’s any truth to what people say about the nutrition value decreasing the further a veggie has to travel to get to my mouth, I’m willing to sacrifice a few cents per item.

2. visiting farmer’s markets as often as possible. There’s one in Madrona on Fridays on my way home from work, or several to choose from on the weekends. Markets are so much more fun than Albertsons and I’m much more likely to buy all kinds of beautiful fruits and veggies, which helps my health goals, too. I love to think I’m supporting local farms in the process. I don’t want to think about what I’m going to do come winter.

3. meal planning a week in advance. This should have been number one because it enables me to do the rest easily, and  I’m proud to say I have a three-week streak going! If I know what we’re eating for the next 7 days, I don’t have to make speed trips to the supermarket, where the local and organic options are so limited. I have also gotten pretty good at planning how to use up the produce I buy before it goes the way of the yard waste bin, using the same ingredient in multiple recipes so I waste less. Not to mention, when I know I’m going shopping, I have no problem remembering about:

4. bringing my bags. So obvious, and in vogue these days, but great to do.

5. eating in season. A little more difficult, depending on what I’m craving (or Nate, for that matter). But in terms of availability and price, in season produce is always going to be the best bet. The book Simply in Season, a wedding gift from dear Oregonian friends, has given me lots of ideas of ways to use ingredients in their prime. I may experiment with canning or freezing summer fruit, berries, and tomatoes soon. I’ll let you know how to goes.

6. buying items in bulk. Not only does this save some serious cash-ola depending on where you go, but if you get really serious, you can bring your old plastic bags and be an earth-saving over-achiever.

Of course, all my habits are bound to be re-set come September when I have to search for new markets and grocery stores in BC. But once these become second-nature, I’m excited to experiment with taking this lifestyle further. If this is one thing I can do to be a good steward of the earth God has given us, and keep my little family healthier in the process, I’m in.

What do you you, or hope to do, to eat sustainably?

beyond blessings

I must be thick-skulled, because I am astounded and somehow surprised every time God provides for me in an amazing way. I should be expecting it; most of the time, I’ve even asked for it to happen. Still, down to the teeniest of answered prayers, I see a major miracle.

Lately, these miracles have come in the form of every detail of our move to Canada being taken care of before we even had a chance to worry about it. We were given the idea to move to a less expensive apartment after Nate got accepted to school; within a week we had found new tenants for ours and a great new (month-to-month) apartment to live in, saving us significant cashflow in the long run. The slightest whim brought about a full-time job for me doing what I love. The first apartment we look at in Vancouver turns out to be wonderful and about the best deal we could have found.

The wonderful thing about all this (as if being divinely taken care of wasn’t great enough) is that God doesn’t seem to be only interested in our survival. All of the ways he has provided for us have brought wonderful blessings along with them. From the garden awaiting my feeble beginner’s attempts at sowing and reaping, to the new families I will be singing and building relationships with, to the intentional community we will become a part of soon, God’s love and attention to detail is obvious. It is becoming more and more clear to me that God doesn’t just want us to get by. He truly wants the very best for us and is willing to go to great lengths to give it to us, if only we pay attention for his movement in our lives.

I want to become a person who so trusts God that I never worry for my own happiness, much less my well-being. Too often I try to make things wonderful on my own, building walls of comfort around me and making choices based on my desires, not necessarily where I feel is God leading me. The more I lean into the Lord and trust Him in all things, the richer and fuller my life will be, and the more I will be equipped to be a blessing to those around me. I need to be willing to accept the hard things, too, and I know they will come. But today I pray for the grace to thank God for all He has blessed us with thus far.

“Delight yourself in the LORD and He will give you the desires of your heart.” -Pslam 37:4

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