the suitcase is out of its usual hiding place.

passport and all the other important travel documents are on my kitchen table next to the orange Lug travel wallet.

i have checked the weather in NYC for next week more times than i can count.

the many items on the to do list are slowly gaining check marks {and some happy faces} next to them.

four days.

that's all that stands between me and my very first visit to New York City.

in case you've never noticed here before, i'm not a good wait-er. and this last week before i head off towards an adventure tends to be torture for me, as if i let it, the anticipation could consume me.

but this time, i'm trying something different. yes, i am excited, and yes i cannot wait to get on that Porter airplane on saturday, but i'm trying to savor the expectancy. sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. but i'm trying.
between the wish and the thing lies the waiting. | proverb


favorite things...

a little late this week, but worth it, i think...

the clutch
i am the original lover of 'big purse' syndrome. perhaps it is the minimum number of thing that i consider must-carries in whatever happens to be the bag du jour {wallet, Moleskine, pencil case, book—at least one, hand cream...you get the picture}. or maybe it's just because they are pretty in a grand sort of way, but i will admit to having some of the largest bags known to woman-kind.

but it really doesn't explain my new-found love of the clutch. tiny yet oh-so-pretty bags that if i was very, very lucky i might be able to get my tiny copy of Jane Austen's Emma and some lip gloss in, but not much else. i've recently started using a black clutch that used to be my grandmother's, and then my mother's, which just makes me so darn happy. then yesterday, at lunch with silvia, we came across the one pictured. it's velvety and absolutely perfect in it's clutchiness. {yes, i know, but i'm still using the word} it was ridiculously on sale, so i have taken it upon myself to give it a good home. it may be new, but it is definitely a favorite!

St. Jacobs
living in windsor, ON, one of my happy places was on the other side of the Detroit River, and north on I-75, Frankenmuth, MI. it is a happy, quaint little German town, complete with the world's largest Christmas store, and the Birch Run shopping outlet just outside of town. one of the saddest things about moving up here was being so far away from one of my truly happy places. one place that has saved me is the small Mennonite town of St. Jacobs.

the farmer's market outside of town is so perfectly full of beautiful fruit and vegetables, not to mention flowers and t-shirts you'd never in a million years wear but still laugh at, and a myriad of things that you had no idea that you needed, no idea how you might use it, but strangely, find yourself considering anyways! the town is perfection in its quaintness, with the black and white store being easily in my top three.

today, in just a couple of hours, my friends, alicia, barbara and jenn will arrive here to pick me up, and we are going to go to St. Jacobs. how amazingly perfect is that?

God's grace
like so many people, i have always struggled with understanding and accepting God's grace. unmerited favor. on my best days, i accept and try my best to understand it, knowing that without it, i am nothing. other days could find me wallowing somewhere between feeling that given all the mistakes i have made, i couldn't possibly be a recipient, to thinking that if i could only do it myself, i'm sure God would appreciate it more.

i make no claim to be the most intelligent person who follows Jesus.

but considering the amount of time that i think about God's grace, and how desperately i need it myself, i was reminded last night that i too often withhold this life-giving thing from those others.

can you say hypocrite?!

so, today i am grateful for God's grace, that not only saves me, but also helps me to remember that i still have far to go... but i'm not going it alone.



i have my friend AJ to thank for the discovery of this simultaneously heartwarming and heartbreaking find...


a good day

yesterday was my 44th birthday.

i feel like i'm lying by writing that last sentence, because in so many ways, i don't feel old enough to already be 44. it almost feels like pretending to be a grown up, which, coincidentally, is how i feel mostly anyways!

but regardless of exactly how many april 19th's i have seen, it was a most fabulous day. from the balloons and streamers outside my door when i left for work, to the many happy birthday wishes from friends and family of all sizes, to cupcakes and coffee, to Cold Stone Creamery ice cream, to cherry cobbler delivered to my door, to the best small group in the world... one thing is most certain: i am the most blessed girl ever.

{and yes, even at 44, i still think of myself as just a girl!}


favorite things

i took a bit of a hiatus, but am now back with more of my favorite things...

the art for PORTICO's current series
i love my job. i get to create all kinds of fun things and see them come to life and be used throughout the church. right now we are in the middle of a series on the book of Acts, that has four different parts to it. when i initially worked on the art for the series, i had four concepts, and figured that one would cover the entire series. this Mac/power button idea was the one i desperately wanted to win. but we ended up going with a different look for each of the four sections, and this is the one for right now. i don't normally hear feedback on how people think the bulletin looks {unless it is negative}, but for this one, i keep hearing how much people like this one!

composition notebooks
i love paper. i love books. so it really only follows that i super-freaking-awesome love composition books. they remind me of being in school, especially the new ones, when the possibility of all the book would contain was still a mystery. before my hopelessly left-handed self sitting in an equally hopeless right-handed desk could make a mess of it. these days, now that my handwriting has been cured by the creation of more 'gauche' environments, i use them for my morning pages, the three pages which i attempt to write every morning, and this week i just began using the pretty flowery one for my new Life Journal. all composition books are great, but if you can find ones that are pretty, it is pure bliss! {oh, and if you find them, let me know where!}

learning from my mistakes
okay, i don't always love learning from my mistakes... especially since sometimes the lessons continue to follow me throughout the years, like this one! but the good thing about learning a lesson the hard, painful way is that you don't ever forget it. this is one that i discovered while sitting in a worship service on Easter Sunday morning, 2007.

i had, actually, thought that this particular mistake was now only a legend, but someone recently unearthed a whole stash of what is known by PORTICO staff as The Queers Brochure.

a bit of background... we had to put together a brochure quickly, i think i started it on the Tuesday before Easter, and my brilliant printer had it to us before we closed the office on the Thursday before Good Friday. let me just say that bad things happen when suzi doesn't have enough time to do things well, and actually see what the final product will look like. the inside of this four-panel brochure had a header that read Questions and Answers. unfortunately, when it was folded, if someone happened to open it the wrong way, the heading, with only the first three letters of 'questions' and the last three letters of 'answers', transmogrified into Queers.

the lesson? take the extra time to know EXACTLY how something will look in its final form.

* * * * *
these are a few of my favorite, if not always unpainful, things.

have a happy, happy weekend.


body & soul

while doing yesterday's Life Journal, i came across these verses...
Jonathan said to his young armor-bearer, “Come, let’s go over to the outpost of those uncircumcised fellows. Perhaps the Lord will act in our behalf. Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few.”

“Do all that you have in mind,” his armor-bearer said. “Go ahead; I am with you heart and soul." | 1 Samuel 14:6,7 {emphasis mine}
the Israelites were at war with the Philistines, and one day the king's son, Jonathan, comes up with what can only be described as half of a plan. and given his words, i'm not even sure it is the good half of this plan!

i don't pretend to know what it would have meant to be the armor-bearer to the king's son. was it an enlisted position, or was it more of a servant or slave thing? i don't know, but i don't think it matters... because of his words.

"I am with you heart and soul."

there is no doubt here. no wavering. regardless of the plan, or lack thereof, this young armor-bearer is with Jonathan, whether or not God will act on their behalf.

i find beauty in this.

working my way through a patch of relational disappointment, this idea of being with someone body and soul rings strong in me, and is making me so much more grateful for those whom, by their actions and words, i know are with me, even if it has to be more soul than body at times.

you cannot be with a large group of people in this way. one would be divided and not able to be there for anyone if they chose to be there for everyone.

so, this morning, i am thinking about and praying for my people...
  • the family without whom i would be an asocial puddle.
  • the BFF, with whom all the laughter and tears we have ever shared rings like an opus in my memory.
  • the co-worker/friend who graciously caffeinates me, listens to me rant and occasionally talks me off ledges from monday to friday.
  • the friend who tries to solve the world's problems with me from a table at Starbucks every weekend...
these are some of my people... those i am with as 'body and soul' as i can be.

my heart is filled with gratitude.


even more patience...

well, i had fully planned on posting on Saturday... but clearly, it didn't happen!

i am way off my usual schedule, sleeping in until the un-suzi-like hour of 7:00 am, and finding it difficult to get back into routine. Pastor Doug's saturday night sermon on disruptions could have been preached just for me.

just so you know, i am fully aware of the fact that i'm MIA right now, and i am working hard to get back to my usual habits.

and because i have made you wait...
The Wait
by Ranier Maria Rilke

It is life in slow motion,
it's the heart in reverse,
it's a hope-and-a-half:
too much and too little at once.

It's a train that suddenly
stops with no station around,
and we can hear the cricket,
and, leaning out the carriage

door, we vainly contemplate
a wind we feel that stirs
the blooming meadows, the meadows
made imaginary by this stop.



usually, right here on my blog, on a friday, you would be reading about my favorite things.

but this week, you'll have to wait another day.

to tide you over, here is one of Rilke's poems, this one about my favorite month...
Out of an April
by Ranier Maria Rilke

Once again the forest is full of fragrance.

It lifts the soaring larks

up into the heavens, which lay so heavy upon our shoulders.

It is true, one could see the days through the branches, how empty they were,—

but after long, rain-filled afternoons,

come the newer hours

overflowing with golden sunshine,

before which, the sore windows of the distant

facades of houses
flee in reverence with beating wings.

Then it is quiet. Even the rain goes more softly
over the stones' peacefully darkening shine.
All sounds tuck themselves wholly away
under the glistening buds of the bushes.

see you tomorrow...



it's been a long day.

went to church. had coffee with L. met dad at the airport. drove the four hours to the motherland.

then dad and i walked into the same room in the same funeral home that grampa was in ten months ago... and back into family that i didn't realize how much i have missed over the last decade and a half.

i've said it here before, that life gets so crazy and busy that it is hard to do all the things that you want to, and unfortunately it is the relational things that tend to get dropped.

tonight, not having made more time for my extended family seems like the stupidest thing ever.

He is risen.

the Christian religion asks us to put our trust not in ideas, and certainly not in ideologies, but in a God who was vulnerable enough to become human and die, and who desires to be present to us in ordinary circumstances. | Kathleen Norris
* * * * *
today, after this morning's easter worship service at PORTICO, i will meet my dad at the airport, and we will drive down to the southern most part of the country, for the funeral of my uncle silvio.

i've never been on a road trip with just dad before. usually dad goes on road trips with my brothers, and when we lived in the same province, mom and i did go on one or two. so while the reason for the trip is one of sadness, i am happy for the chance to do this with my dad.

it is a wonderment to me that it has been over ten years since i have seen many of my aunts, uncles and cousins. it will be good to be among people with whom i share so much history.

i love this quote by Kathleen Norris, and it fits with how i'm feeling today. as much as we would like to believe that we are invincible, death is as much a part of life as birth. after all, tomorrow evening i will walk through the doors of the funeral home that only ten months ago i walked through to say good-bye to my grandfather for the last time.

two funerals in ten months.

in the past ten months, we have only had one new arrival to my immediate family, making the exit from this world more ordinary than the entrance.

i need a God whose desire is to be in my ordinary circumstances. mostly because i'm not always sure i can handle the commonplace on my own, even on a good day.

so, this morning, my heart is filled with gratitude and worship for this risen Jesus.

He is risen, indeed.


favorite thing

for a short week, this one has really packed a punch.

i've had some pretty heavy personal stuff to work through.

my baby brother became a daddy, and we welcomed Gabriel Edgar Phaneuf into the world.

i saw some art that i began four years ago finally completed, and used as PORTICO's set for Easter.

last night, dad's oldest brother, my uncle silvio, passed away.

then, this morning i attended our Good Friday service, and was once again reminded of God's great sacrifice for us.

given a week filled with such highs and lows, leaves me with a different kind of favorite thing for today. a favorite thing i could not do without. one i would be nothing without.

today, my favorite thing is God's love...
        ...for people who love him back imperfectly.
        ...in spite of the stupid things we do.
        ...regardless of what happens in our daily lives.
        ...for sinful, messy people like me.


review: Chasing Dandelions

every now and then, if you're lucky, you come across a book that helps you understand your life in a way that you didn't even realize you needed to, until you begin turning its pages.

Sarah Cunningham's Picking Dandelions has been just such a treat for me.

Sarah chronicles key moments in her life, from her childhood as the daughter of a pastor in Michigan, to her years at a college that more chose her than she chose it, to her many outreach experiences, to her gig as a church's 'Director of Outreach' because, as she writes, "overzealous social activist didn't sound as good on business cards", and beyond.

using the analogy of summer's ever-present dandelion throughout the stages of her life, this beautiful and unique spiritual memoir shows how, if we are observant, the extraordinary can be found in the ordinariness of life. Picking Dandelions reminds us that our conversion, like life itself, is rarely as linear or straightforward as we would like it to be…but beauty can be found in the chaos if we choose to look for it.

i love Sarah's storytelling ability. her conversations with Mr. God, a homeless man she met at a Chicago warming shelter are brilliant. for those of us who weren't able to go to New York City and hand out water to firemen and rescue workers in the days immediately following 9/11, she offers a beautiful and heartbreaking look into those days. couple that with the fact that she was even brave enough to ask her brothers what they thought her biggest flaw was. having three of my own brothers, whom i fear would be far too willing to answer such a question, i cannot help but admire her gutsiness.

{she ends the chapter where she questions her brothers with a perfectly ironic sentence, which happens to be one of my favorites, "I am a paragon of maturity."

with a distinctive and fresh perspective on life and its many challenges, reading Picking Dandelions is more like spending a perfect, sunny afternoon with a good friend at the coziest cafe you know.

it is not too much to say that through this book, Sarah has inspired me to live a stronger life.

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