Monday, March 31, 2014

Northern Cali Adventures

We love our weekend adventures & ever since we moved, it's been great living here as well as being tourists.  I think we've seen more of California than lots of people who have lived here their whole lives.  The last several months I've worked at least part of the day on Saturdays though so we haven't been able to go far.  This past weekend we went to the Saturday night service at church though so we had all day Sunday free.  We drove up to the Sonoma & Napa area & had a great time!

These were a few of our favorite places...

We're not drinkers, but love the wineries that are all over northern California.  They're beautiful & the landscaping is great & it's really cool to see them different times of the year & at different phases in the process.  This was our first stop.

Next we drove into Napa & had lunch at Oxbow Public Market where I had the greatest grilled cheese I've ever had.

The market has lots of little restaurants & shops to walk around.  I've never had a blood orange & have been wanting to try them lately, & finally found some!

Next we went to Bouchon Bakery in Yountville.  They're known for their macarons & we'd never had any, & they were great!  I always thought they were just for looks & woudln't really be good, but that was definitely wrong!  We tried passionfruit, espresso, & salted caramel, & all three were good.

Our last stop of the day was Castello di Amorosa in Calistoga.  A San Francisco man with an Italian heritage went over to Italy & fell in love with it.  He came back, opened his first winery, & then eventually built this huge castle just the way they would have been built in Italy.  Even the bricks were brought over from Italy.

We went on a tour of the castle...chapel, underground tunnels, & even a torture chamber.  Grayson was like a little boy, he was so excited!

The grounds are huge & colorful & have interesting animals just roaming around.

The castle was definitely our favorite, & a place we'll have to take people back to when we have visitors!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Grace Upon Grace

This week the She Shares Truth devotional is finishing up Jonah, chapters 3-4.  If you've missed these, you can catch up here.  I've loved these past few weeks of opportunities to share.  She Reads Truth is a beautiful community of believers & one I've loved being a part of.  {If you haven't heard, they're currently working on an app & you can help fund it here!}

Last week in the first two chapters of Jonah, we saw how he was afraid of what God was calling him to.  He tried to run, & that got him thrown overboard a ship & swallowed by a fish.  We can understand how he would be afraid.

But in chapter 3, when Jonah finally obeys God & takes His message to Ninevah, the people listened.  Once he delivered the message, they immediately began to fast.  I love this because, against all odds, contrary to everything Jonah had expected, the people responded in a positive way to the message God delivered through Jonah.  This wasn't just pure, dumb luck.  It wasn't the Jonah was an excellent orator, or was really convincing with the words he brought.  It was because God had prepared the way.  He knew when He sent Jonah what the response would be.

And then in chapter 4 after Ninevah begins fasting, Jonah is...upset.  God called, he ran, God called again, he went, he brought God's message, the people listened...& now Jonah is not happy about it.  I immediately want to jump all over him & shake him, asking "what are you thinking???"  But then I wonder how I would feel.  "Okay, God...I did it, they listened, now they're remind me why I had to come do this?  Couldn't you have just told them yourself?  Or sent one of the believers who were already in Ninevah to tell them?"  I'm sure Jonah felt a mixture of emotions.  Relief that his message was accepted with ease, anger that he had come all this way & didn't even have to put up a fight, embarrassment that he hadn't just obeyed in the first place.

But what I wonder is this: how often do we misunderstand the purpose of God's commands?  I'm sure God did want His message delivered to the people of Ninevah.  But do you think maybe it was of equal importance to Him that Jonah be the one to deliver it?  I think so.  He could've asked anyone, but He chose Jonah.  It's just as likely that God's real purpose in asking Jonah to go to Ninevah was about teaching Jonah to obey.  It was about teaching him humility, trust that God knows what He's doing, & compassion for the Ninevites.

A book I read recently was comparing a person who had lived for Jesus all her life to someone who accepted Christ on her deathbed.  Obviously the first scenario is preferable, but the second girl is no less a child of God than the first.  All it takes is one breath on this earth taken in complete surrender to God to seal us forever as His.  But I can see where it would be frustrating to have done everything right, & then see someone who does the complete opposite until her last breath, then changes, but receives the same inheritance as you.  This is basically what was happening with Jonah.  He didn't believe the Ninevites were worthy of forgiveness or that they deserved a chance to repent.  They'd shown their wickedness over & over & he was ready to be through with them.  But God saw fit to look on them with mercy & relent from His plan of destruction.  This is the attitude we should have towards others.  It doesn't matter if we think they're deserving of God's love; in reality, no one is.  It doesn't matter how many times someone has screwed up, or how many times they'll still screw up in the future; God offers grace, & calls us to do the same.  I believe this lesson He was teaching Jonah was just as important to Him as saving an entire city of people.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


I think rain is kind of magical.  It's nature's white noise.  The perfect rain scenario is a storm at night, with temperatures just perfect to sleep with the windows open.  It's extra magical if you have clean sheets on your bed & have shaved your legs that day.  There's just not much better than that.

Yesterday afternoon just as I was about to do laundry, I realized it was raining outside.  I suddenly had the urge to get out my oil paints that I haven't used in evidenced by the fact that I had to use pliers to open them...

I sat out on my balcony with a great playlist & the rain & just painted.  Using oil paints always makes me think of my favorite art teacher in high school.  With a noisy classroom, every time she said something about linseed oil, I heard "Lindsey."   

I dream of the day I can have a house with a craft room (which I will call my "atelier" like in this book I love) like one of these...but for now I'll enjoy our apartment balcony & rainy afternoons.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Get Up!

The She Shares Truth devotional this week is from Jonah 1-2.

I love how God uses Jonah's story to show that He can use any means that He chooses to get our attention.  First, he calls out to Jonah.  He tells him in verse 2 to "get up!" & go to Ninevah to call them out on their sin.  But Jonah is afraid & tries to run away from God.  I think most of the time what God calls us to might also cause us to fear.  Think about all the times in the Bible that God sends an angel with a message for someone.  Many of those times, their first words are "fear not."  What God calls us to can be big & scary & way out of our comfort zones.

So first, the Lord Himself speaks to Jonah.  Jonah runs, boards a ship in the opposite direction of where God called him to go, & a huge storm arises.  While this storm is going on, where is Jonah?  Sound asleep in the bottom of the boat.  He was completely unaware of what God was orchestrating all around him.  Then in verse 6, the captain comes up to Jonah, still sleeping, & says again "get up!"  I love that the captain, not a believer, uses the exact same words with Jonah that God used when He first called him to go to Ninevah.  Get up.

God doesn't need us to accomplish His purposes.  With our cooperation or not, His purpose prevails.  He could've easily chosen another vessel to take His message to Ninevah, but He invited Jonah to be a part of this plan.  When we say "no" to God, we're hurting ourselves.  He delights in using us to play a role in his grand story, but He doesn't need us to get from point A to point B.

Sometimes God uses a storm.  Sometimes He uses another person.  Sometimes He uses a big fish.  But He knows how to get our attention.  And often once He does, the first step is to get up.  We don't have to understand the whole plan.  We don't have to know steps A-Z.  We just have to get up & obey.  We have to have the faith that God is going to carry us along this journey. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Welcome, Sunshine!

The past few days have been little tastes of summer & I've loved that.  Some of those little bits of sunshine & summertime...

I love days when I can open the windows or sit outside & paint.  And summer means lots of color!

Saturday afternoon we made homemade lemonade & drove to Santa Cruz.  

We'd never been to the Boardwalk there, so we went & rode the "Sky Glider," where we could get some good pictures.

I love this one where you can see the fog coming in over the ocean.

After that we drover over to Pleasure Point to watch the surfers for awhile.

Today after church we went to the nursery to look for a new watering can.  Our herbs are finally starting to really go!  I say our, but the term is used very loosely...they're Grayson's babies.  I just get to look at them, & soon, eat them!

I've never really cared that much about plants, but I wanted everything at that nursery.  I do want to get some hanging baskets to put on our balcony, but I really can't wait until we can actually have a yard & plant things.  Especially in California, since fruits grow so well!

I loved this weekend of sunshine.  I love winter & cold weather, but after a taste of summer, I'm ready to welcome it with open arms.

Friday, March 14, 2014

My Sin Held Him There

This week the She Shares Truth Friday devotional is on Psalm 38.  (See last week's here.)

I've often thought, when reading Psalms, that one moment it's "woe is me," & the next moment David feels like dancing before the Lord.  They can seem so back & forth.  But I think that's one thing I like about the's real.  We have phases like that where you have a horrible day one day & the next you feel like you're on top of the world.

Is Psalm 38, David writes out of his despair.  In verse 3 he says, "because of Your anger, my whole body is sick; my health is broken because of my sins."  Reading through these verses I kept asking myself one question:  am I offended by sin?  We're usually pretty easily offended by the sins of others, but what about our sin?  My sin?

As Christians, I think we tend to focus either on sin or on salvation, but not always both.  I tend to not be as concerned with my sin as I am the mercy, love, grace, & goodness of Jesus.  But the reality is, if it weren't for our sins, we wouldn't need Him.  If we were perfect, there would have been no reason for Jesus leave Heaven, walk this earth, & take on the weight of our sins.  So as important as it is to understand His grace, it's also vital that we recognize our own sin.

Even though we know we're sinners, do we really grasp the ugliness of sin?  We know well the effects of sin; we understand guilt & conviction.  But, whether it's murder, or just not talking to your neighbor & showing God's love when you should have, all sin is a separation from God & that's what makes it such a big deal. 

There's a song that my mom sang in church when I was a child.  Does He still feel the nails every time I fail?  Does He hear the crowd cry, "crucify" again?  It was my sin that put Jesus on the cross.  It was my sin that held Him there until He cried, "it is finished."  It's a lot easier to admit that Jesus died for me than it is to admit that my sin is why He did it.

To truly understand what we are saved to, we have to grasp what we are saved from.  Understanding the ugliness of our own sin is always followed by a but.  Sin, sin, & more sin...but then there's grace, mercy, forgiveness, & salvation.  That "but" is the heart of the Gospel.  It's the moment that we recognize our need, & Jesus gloriously steps in.  We see an example of this in verse 15; after David has gone on about his sin, & even the physical effects that it is having on him, he says "I put my hope in You, Lord; You will answer, Lord my God."  We have every reason to place our confident hope in Jesus.  He has already paid the price to purchase us.  He's right there waiting.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Married & Dating

Whenever people ask my mom how we are or what we're doing, she says we're dating.  We only dated for three months before we got engaged & then everyone knows that the months (four for us) between engagement & wedding are consumed by just that.  You're no longer dating, you're planning.

So this is true, we're dating.  We've still only been married a little over a year, & it's not like we have kids to plan around, but this is something that's important to both of us & we don't ever want to stop.  Dating looks different in every stage of life, but it never has to end.

When we first moved to California, we'd just spent a ton of money on a cross-country move, paying to get out of our lease in Georgia, paying all the initial fees of a new apartment in California, not to mention all that it costs to change licenses, registration, tags & everything.  And all of this on one income.  Seven months after getting married.  Money was tighter than it had been for us before (& we're still only on one income + a part-time job), but I think it's a myth that dating has to be expensive.

I certainly don't claim to know everything, especially since we've only been married a little over a year.  But dating is something that we're good at right now.  There may be phases in our life later that we struggle.  But for now, this is some of what we've learned:
  • It's important to agree upon what is important to spend money on. I may not get to go shopping for new clothes every time I want to, & I can't have every piece of home decor that I pin on Pinterest.  Our guest room still has a mattress & box springs sitting on the floor because when we have visitors a few times a year, a bed isn't really that important right now.  I have a computer I hate that has needed replacing for a long time, but it's not a priority.  
  • That being said, don't be afraid to spend any money.  Even when money is tight, it's not good for anyone to just stay home all the time, eat the same foods every week, & never do anything the requires a little bit of money.  For example, while we're living in California, we want to go & do things that we wouldn't be able to afford if we were having to fly across the country to do so.  Like going to Yosemite for a long weekend or celebrating our 1st anniversary in Lake Tahoe.  
  • Going & doing doesn't have to be expensive.  Grayson is really good at finding deals on hotels & restaurants (Groupon & Living Social always have something).  For Valentine's Day, we bought a Groupon deal for this nice little restaurant right on the water in San Francisco.  With as many coupons as there are online these days, it's very doable.  Before we eat anywhere or buy anything, I look online for coupons.  The Retail Me Not app is great & comes in handy all the time...just this week I've used it twice.  We don't coupon for groceries because I just don't want to take all the effort that that requires, but we also don't buy many name brands.  There are some things we're sticklers about, but a lot of things, the off brand is just as good & often healthier when you look at the nutrition facts.  Even if you only look for deals for dates & unnecessary purchases, that saves a lot.
  • Most of what we spend money on is for both of us.  But there are some things that are a priority to me that aren't to Grayson, & vice versa, & you have to be okay with those things.  Grayson likes movies & phones & I like clothes & makeup.  I don't generally get excited about going to see a movie because I know, most likely, I'm going to fall asleep.  But Grayson likes to go, so we get tickets at Costco (a few dollars cheaper) & we go.  He is a software engineer & writes apps for phones, so obviously, when a new phone comes out, he usually wants it.  But he takes such good care of his that he can sell them on Craig's list for pretty close to what he paid for them, so he never spends very much on a new phone.  Grayson is happy wearing the clothes he gets for Christmas & birthdays, but he knows I like something new every once in awhile, so he makes that a priority.  Plus I'm a great sale shopper :)
  • Thankfulness goes a long way.  I try to always say thank you when we go out to eat, or anything like that.  Even though any money we have belongs to both of us, Grayson is the one working a full time job & I never want him to feel under appreciated.  And not a night goes by when Grayson doesn't tell me thank you for making dinner.  He's really good at noticing when I've cleaned the apartment, or vacuumed, or ironed his clothes.  When you are going to live with someone every day for the rest of your life, it's good to feel appreciated!  
This is just a little bit of what we've learned in the last year or so.  I think it's really important to set that precedent early in marriage.  It's easy to get lost in planning dinner, grocery shopping, paying bills, going to work, going to church, & forget that before you were husband & wife, you were boyfriend & girlfriend, & your relationship is still supposed to be fun!  I want dating to be such a habit for us now that when we have kids & busier schedules, it's still something we see the importance of making time for.  I love this quote from Boyd Bailey: "Intentional marriages set goals to get better: dialogue daily, date weekly, depart quarterly" (whole devotional here). 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Embracing the Mess

Every time we drive through San Francisco, I think "this street would make such a pretty picture without all those cables & power lines."  All the colorful houses, busy streets, & cloudy skies are so pretty...& then there's all that mess of cables.  I've even wondered if I could possibly edit them out...

As I was beginning to have the same thoughts yesterday, it hit me.  This is what we do with our lives.  We try to hide what's not pretty.  We try to cover it up & pretend it's not there.  If we don't think about it, don't talk about it, & certainly don't draw attention to it, maybe it will go away.  But that's not how life works.  We have to embrace the mess.

Life is messy.  It's full of mistakes & brash words & missed appointments & spilled coffee & bad hair days.  But then there's grace.  And that grace opens our eyes to such undeniable beauty.  Life is full of mistakes, but then there's forgiveness.  And brash words, with time, can be replaced by encouraging ones.  Missed appointments can be made up.  And as for spilled coffee & bad hair days, sometimes those just happen & there's nothing you can do about it.  But why do we try to hide these things instead of just embracing the fact that life is messy?

I took these pictures, & then bumped up the contrast.  Instead of trying to hide the mess, I made it stand out.  It's real, it's there, it's true...why not just embrace it? 

As a culture, in trying to present the best part of ourselves, we often present something that's false.  The Church is just as guilty of this as anyone else, maybe even more so.  Just because we have Jesus does not mean we go through each day as if it's a musical.  Be real with people.  Let them see the mess.  We might just find that embracing our own mess, we find others with the same messes, & there we build community.  Instead of trying to hide what's not pretty, why not just accept the grace that covers it?

The beauty of the Gospel is not that God overlooked our sin because we hid it so well.  It's that He saw our sin & He made provision for that.  He put on skin & came down into the mess we made.  To me, that's like Jesus picking up a pile of dirty laundry & putting it on, & saying "that's okay, I'll take care of this."

Friday, March 7, 2014

Wishin' & Hopin'

This year during Lent, She Reads Truth is calling for readers to write their own devotionals on Fridays.  They choose the Scripture for each week & then readers can link up their posts each Friday.

This week the Scripture we're looking at is Psalm 130.  When I am reading the Bible, I like to read the whole passage, & then go back & look at each verse (& sometimes in several different translations), so that's what I'm going to do here.

Verse 3 - Yahweh, if You considered sins, Lord, who could stand?  The commentary in my Bible (HCSB Study Bible) say "All would be lost if God made no provision to let sins go."  I agree with part of that statement.  All would be lost, & God did make a provision, but He didn't just let sins go.  Once we confess, He forgets our sin & washes us clean, but they were paid for in blood.

Verse 4 - But with You there is forgiveness, so that You may be revered.  I love that the focus here, in this verse about forgiveness, is on God.  Forgiveness is for us, but it's about Him.  We are forgiven not only for our sake, but so that we may learn to fear Him more.  The more I look at the Bible, the more I come to understand that each little part adds up to a big story of Redemption, & that every part of it points to Jesus & exists to bring more glory to God.

Verse 5 - I wait for Yahweh; I wait & put my hope in His word.  I feel like we use the word hope as a "Christianized" version of wish, when in reality they're very different.  I can say that I wish California was closer to Georgia, but I have no basis for thinking that either state may move.  The hope we have in Christ has a foundation.  We can have assurance in Christ.  Any other religion is based on work; you can be the best [insert religion here] that there is & still not have assurance that you will receive any reward for that, & certainly will not receive salvation.  Jesus = assurance.

Verse 7 - Israel, put your hope in the Lord.  For there is faithful love with the Lord, & with Him there is redemption in abundance.  The English nerd in me commented to myself that the first part of that verse is an imperative sentence with an understood youYou, put your hope in the Lord.  Here David turns from telling us about the hope he has in the Lord & encourages others to place their hope there as well. 

This hope we have is personal, but it's not private.  It's specific to each of us, but it's made for each person.  It's to be shared.  The Gospel is a story meant to be told.  It has everything we could ask for.  The stage is set; we have the back story.  We have the drama & the love story, & sometimes even the comedy.  We have the climax of the Resurrection & are left with something that changes us forever.  It's greater than any other book we could read because there's nothing that can be added to make it one bit better.  There's no part we would leave out because the whole story is the story of our own Redemption.