book review: The Noticer

there are times in life when all we can do is hang on. circumstances, relationships, stress, work… all these things and more sometimes seem to serve only to barrage our lives with yet one more thing, robbing us of a vital, precious commodity: perspective.

it’s at this moment in a person’s life when Jones, the main character in Andy Andrew’s The Noticer, walks into their life, bringing with him his gift for seeing what others fail to notice. Jones brings with him the perspective that seems to get lost in the barrage of every day life.

whether he is talking to a homeless young adult with no clue of what his next step will be, a couple on the verge of divorce, an elderly widow who believes all her best days are behind her, or a business owner teetering on the edge of losing it all, Jones’ words of wisdom and clarity-inducing questions bring the needed perspective.

we all need people in our lives who really see us...really see us. The Noticer is an excellent reminder to us all that while we all need these people in our lives, we also need to be Noticers for those around us.


the two towers

(my goal while i am on vacation this week is to post at least one picture a day. i tend to take photos only when i am in europe, or on special occasions, so this is my attempt to make phototography a more regular part of my life.)

i have been repeatedly told that i am the easiest person on the planet to buy for. if it has anything to do with paris, it's pretty much a given that i will be ecstatic.

this year for my birthday, i got two Eiffel towers. a small one, which is a photo holder, and a larger one. and i love them both. actually, i've been sitting here looking at them for a while, and realized that i should share the joy.

i hope they make you as happy as they make me.


movie by candlelight

some of my favorite weekends in life are when angie & i can get together. i am super excited that this is one such weekend. we spent the day at niagara-on-the-lake, then headed back to streetsville, with a plan to eat italian food from the new restaurant in town, andiamo pasta plus, (which i will say is almost ridiculously good) and watch a movie.

but after we picked up the pasta alla nonna and the butternut squash agnolotti and were heading home, i got a phone call saying that the power was out at home. so we made a small detour, and ate our pasta at starbucks, where they still had power. good coffee. good food, there were no complaints!

then, just as we finished eating & began the long five minute drive home, we got a call that the power had just come back on, so we headed home to watch The Kingdom.

so there we were, all comfy, relaxing in my living room when we heard a noise that can only be described as a loud 'BOOM', which was immediatly followed by the lights going out again.

so, fortunately, the portable DVD player was charged up & ready to go, so i lit a combination of candles & tealights, and we continued watching the movie on a slightly smaller screen.

how thankful i am for both technology and good friends that don't allow the party to cease even when the world is blowing up around us.


time to vacate

i am on vacation.

and not just any vacation... a NOTHING vacation. apart from a visit from a friend and one appointment, i have no actual plans for the next nine days.

this could not come at a better time. it's been almost three years since my last vacation that did not include a missions trip, a brother's wedding, christmas or mom's stint with cancer. it's been a long time, and i am ready to vacate.

there are a number of things that i would like to do, including visit the new AGO (which i cannot believe i haven't done yet), get to oakville to visit with a friend, get back in the morning writing habit, and read about a million books.

it may not be paris, but i am looking forward to this nonetheless...



i crave a simple life.

or at least i like to think that i do.

when life gets crazy, when and i'm overrun by demands that i brought on myself; when the clutter of things that i have collected seems to revolt and take control; when the meaningful conversations are drowned in the sea of "'hi, how are you doing?' 'good, how are you?' 'fine. bye.' 'bye.'" ones; when i no longer feel like i am actually living my life, but instead i am its puppet.

Oswald Chambers wrote this in yesterday's entry in My Utmost For His Highest:
Our Lord must be repeatedly astounded at us-astounded at how "un-simple" we are. It is our own opinions that make us dense and slow to understand, but when we are simple we are never dense; we have discernment all the time.
once again, i am faced with the reality that i need to simplify. the challenge becomes greater as there are more areas of life which are so easily becoming un-simple. only a few years ago, who would have guessed that we would have such complex on-line lives? email, twitter, facebook, MSN... as much as i am an advocate for *most* of these things, and, admittedly, it would be much more difficult to do my job without them, they do cast yet another un-simple shadow over my life.

let me ask you...

what are the unsimple areas of your life?

how do you simplify?



it seems that for as long as i've been alive, i have struggled with an inaccurate view of God. when i fall short/mess up/sin/be a general disappointment, i have a tendency to ignore God, for fear that he will be angry, and i do not want to face his perceived wrath.

tonight at 1825 i got a different picture.

we were talking about John chapter 21, when Peter decided, after Jesus' death and resurrection, to go fishing, and the other disciples hanging with him tagged along. they fished all night and got all of nothing. then, as the morning sun began to show its face, a man on the shore, a man they didn't recognize, told them to throw their net on the other side of the boat, which hit the payload. then, they realized that the advice giver was no ordinary man. he was Jesus.

Peter, in a brilliant act of impetuousness, instead of waiting for the boat his friends were getting jumped into the water and swam to shore. the last time John mentioned Peter in his book was on the resurrection morning. in a foot race to the tomb, Peter arrived second, walked in to the tomb and saw that it was empty. the previous time before that was when Peter denied Jesus three times.

not a shining moment of discipleship glory. quite the opposite. but here is Peter, and we will never know what went through his mind as he swam the distance between the boat and the beach, but i know that if it was me, i would have worried about what kind of reception i would get. disappointment, anger, cold shoulder...

the last thing that i would have expected would have been breakfast. but that is what Peter, and the other disciples got. when Peter could have expected a berating, he got breakfast, and a chance for a healing conversation with his Savior.

a God who cooks breakfast... and paves our way back to a relationship with him.

if it wasn't true, who could come up with this stuff?!


a good day

today was the last day of my life as a 42 year old.
and, at the risk of sounding like martha stewart, it was a good day.

alicia & jenn arrived at my door with birthday daisies & coffee first thing this morning.

we drove to the St. Jacob's market, where alicia got a plant.
{not this one, but one very similar}

the biggest pile of grapes i've ever seen.

some of my very favorite vegetables...

how could you not love all the vibrant color?

leaving the market

the cafe gardenia, where we had lunch.

after lunch, and a quick trip to the bakery, we drove home. then tonight, jenn, alicia, laura & erynne came over and we ate the chocolate & skor mousse{es?} from the bakery and watched the movie Amelie, which was set in paris and all en francais.

on the way home, i was telling the girls about a madeleine l'engle quote i had read about aging. it is so perfect, i believe i will read this quote on the eve of every birthday, just so i will always remember.
"i am still every age that i have been. Because i was once a child, i am always a child. because i was once a searching adolescent, given to moods and ecstasies, these are still part of me, and always will be... this does not mean that i ought to be trapped or enclosed in any of these ages...the delayed adolescent, the childish adult, but that they are in me to be drawn on; to forget is a form of suicide... far too many people misunderstand what 'putting away childish things' means, and think that forgetting what it is like to think and feel and touch and smell and taste and see and hear like a three-year-old or a thirteen-year-old or a twenty-three-year-old means being grownup. when i'm with these people, i, like the kids, feel that if this is what it means to be a grown-up, then i don't ever want to be one. instead of which, if i can retain a child's awareness and joy, and be fifty-one, then i will really learn what it means to be grownup." {madeleine l'engle}
as previously mentioned, it was a very good day. i am truly blessed to have these amazing women in my life.

good night. the next time i write, i will be able to add '43' to my growing list of ages.



this is the coolest thing ever: my dad leaves for his first missions trip tomorrow.

he and others from my brother's church are going to guatemala to build ten houses in a community where their church has previously visited.

if you are at all missions minded, then this won't seem like much to you. if you've ever boarded a plane, train or anything else and went somewhere else to serve people you've never met, then you already get it, and you might not see the greatness that inspires me here.

but this is my dad.

my dad, who was born with the same wanderlust that flows through my veins, but who lived a responsible, steady life, working for most of his years inside a Chrysler plant to support four kids, at least one of whom i can tell you was not in the least grateful at the time. my dad, who got to go on his first {and only-so far} trip to europe by winning a corny joke contest. my dad, who, like me, always wants to go somewhere {see his comment at the end of this post}. my dad, who has supported and prayed for and encouraged me in all my missions endeavors.

my dad.

as a little girl, your dad is the hero who can do anything. then, somewhere along the road to puberty, you start to think you don't need him any more, and he becomes less heroic and more prosaic. then, hopefully one day, if we are patient and observant, we get to see our dad become the man that God has intended him to be...and realize that all along, he has been our hero.

i love you, daddy!


everything i need

for a girl who struggles with contentment, there is always something else. something more. something remembered. couple that with a perceived superpower of thinking i can go to the grocery store and remember everything without a list, trust me, it is a recipe for disaster.

i have been to the grocery store three times this week in an effort to get everything i needed for today's easter dinner. then, last night, i realized that i was missing two key ingredients, without which, the cake would have been covered only with icing sugar. not the dessert experience i was going for. (fortunately alicia rode in on a white horse and brought me thing missing ingredients!)

on a non-grocery note, there are days when my discontentment rules me, and all i can think about are the things that i don't have. things i always thought i would have, but, for whatever reason, they have not made it to my life. if left unchecked, this mindset can lead to some bad decisions, ranging from the mildly ridiculous to the the epically stupid.

and then easter rolls around. easter, when we are reminded that the reason our Savior needed to die was because we could never have paid the cost to stand in a holy God's presence on our own. that despite all the gifts, talents, charisma, money or anything else we may possess, it is simply not enough, and no matter how hard we work or try, it will never be enough.

but Jesus, with his unprecedented sacrifice, was enough. no more, no less than what we all needed to cover the nakedness of sin that was exposed long ago in the garden called Eden. Jesus was everything we could possibly need.

everything I need.

and for someone struggling to be content, this is exactly what i need to remember...


splendid palace

a couple of weeks ago, while visiting friends in detroit, we had the pleasure of visiting the Detroit Institute of Arts, a place that i have not visited in close to 20 years. i've always been an easy sell when it comes to art galleries. to have the ability to experience the creativity and imagination of people who have been dead for longer than i've been alive always fills me the best sense of anticipation.

walking in, the first thing i saw was this quote on the wall:
how enchanting to walk about...among those splendid palaces, those churches, those marble & bronze [statues]...
~Guiseppe Baretti, 1766
...and it only got better from there.

my favorite artist, Vincent van Gogh's Bank of the Oise at Auvers.
i always feel a bit more human simply being in his presence...

George Seurat's Le Crotoy Upstream.
pointillism never ceases to amaze me...

art on ceilings is always impressive...

life imitating art.

the DIA's front entrance.

wrought iron & unusual, ornate windows...
two of my favorite things.

this so reminded me of something you'd see in the Louvre...

...and this reminded me of the fountain Tom Hanks built in The Terminal.

i probably took 20 shots of this beautiful sculpture.
it was so perfectly suspended in the light...

i really do love ornate windows...



given that 2009 is my self-proclaimed year of conquering irrational fears, when i came across this Madeliene L'Engle quote, i knew it was a keeper.


holy & hidden

we all have our TV addictions. i have two right now {possibly three, but the jury is still out on Kings}. the number one show is LOST. i don't care how much they distort time/reality whatever-- i am going to be there until the end. my secondary addiction is another one i've had since the series began, Grey's Anatomy.

recently i happened upon season two of Grey's for a ridiculously low price, and was compelled to purchase it. since i do not have any sort of regular television {cable, satellite, old-fashioned rabbit ears} to watch, DVDs have become my entertainment. so over the past week, i've watched a fair bit of the show.

one episode has stuck out in my mind. a woman refused to have a risky operation to cure something wrong with her brain {tumor, aneurysm... something like that}, because her illness had woken both her and her marriage up. she said the for fifteen years she had been sleepwalking. her husband had his main focus on his job, and their relationship was a ghost. but since her illness, she had realized how much she loved life, her husband, and they'd been travelling and had fallen in love all over again. so, she didn't want the operation for fear that it might actually work, and they would return to their sad, sleeping state.

it really is too easy to live life in auto-pilot. to let one day meld into the next until weeks become nothing more than a pile of melted wax, one former candle indiscernible from another. why is it we need the big things {illness, death, tragedy, etc.} to make us realize that the life we are living is our ONLY life. these days, this day is the ONLY day. we don't get do-overs, and if we waste it, or worse yet, not even realize it's happening, that it's gone.

i believe that when Thoreau wrote, "I wanted to live deep and suck the marrow out of life," he had to have gotten it. he had to have understood our tendency to skim over the dailyness of life, writing it off as insignificant and unworthy of full attention.

all this leads me to one of my favorite Frederick Beuchner quotes, which i've quoted here before, and in all honesty, i will do again...
listen to your life. see it for the fathomless mystery that it is. in the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis allmoments are key moments, and life itself is grace. {F. Buechner}
may you search for and find the 'holy and hidden heart' of your life today...


book review: This Is Your Brain On Joy

I’ve always been a pretty firm believer that you can judge a book by its cover. And the cover of This Is Your Brain On Joy has a pretty spectacular cover, so my hopes were high as I cracked open the cover.

My theory, as usual, was not incorrect. Dr. Earl Henslin’s book examines the concept of joy, not only the emotional aspect, but also the physical, environmental and nutritional factors that contribute to the joy we all seek. It’s too easy to beat ourselves up due to the lack of joy in our lives, and write it off as a spiritual deficiency. Dr. Henslin tells us that there are other contributing factors to a lack of joy, and presents us with a plan to reintroduce joy to our lives.

The book starts with some fairly technical language, but once you get past the initial introduction to the regions of the brain, there is an assessment you can take, which will help you see which area you may want to focus on. Then, the following chapters outline the ways that you can improve your brain health through diet, exercise and supplements.

My personal favorite aspect of the book is that it goes farther than the usual things to improve your health. There are music, book and movie recommendations to aid in the process, both for adults and children. The book definitely takes a holistic approach to the rediscovery of joy.

If joy seems to be eluding you, I wholeheartedly rencourage you to pick up this book.



it's friday, and it's raining. today as i sat at my desk, i could look beyond the monitor, and see the rain hit the new parking lot in waves. as long as i'm indoors, i like it when it's windy as it rains. it's almost as if the drops take on combined form... no longer simple, individual drops just falling towards the earth. banded together, they are a force to be reckoned with.

we humans are much the same. left on our own, it's too easy to simply fall into a pattern of existing, simply falling towards our eventual destination. unchecked, we can allow habits and patterns into our lives that will never allow us reach our goals. we can waste untold hours sitting in front of a computer or a television or a movie screen. we can miss hearing, or sharing, words of encouragement and love that could provide much-needed sustinance.

left alone, it is hard to be the people we are called to be.

for this reason, i am so grateful for the friends and family who regularly encourage me, share their lives, laugh with me, and even occasionally kick my butt when i need it.

without you all, i am fairly certain that i wouldn't even like me!



i almost lost my café americano when i saw this:

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