Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Surrender to Love

Whew, it has been awhile since I wrote a blog post. Books tend to get me thinking which gets me to write. It is too bad that I spend most of my time reading fiction that doesn't require thinking. I just started "Surrender to Love" by David Brenner. It had been recommended to me, and I happened to have it in my library of books. I thought I would spend my lunch breaks reading so I could feel productive. I am a fast reader, and this book is short. However, I just spent an hour reading 18 pages and getting choked up. This book might need to be a cry yourself to bed read.

Here is where it started for me, "Imagine God thinking about you. What do you assume God feels when you come to mind?" (pg. 16)

Try it. You might be surprised.

I thought I had made some progress on receiving and feeling loved in the past couple of months. Wrong! I came in confidently with a pen to paper, and my hand surprised me with what I wrote. I was shown that I still haven't learned this one yet. My list described that God is disappointed in me, frustrated, and I believe my sin is the first thing that catches God's attention. I even tried to think of a positive thing to write because I knew I should have one, but I knew even if I wrote it, I didn't truly believe it.

Brenner explained how life circumstances do shape what we believe about God. Yes, I have heard that one. Then he overwhelmed me with these words, "The truth is that when God thinks of you, love swells in his heart and a smile comes to his face." I got choked up again as I typed those words. They overwhelm me, and I don't understand how they could be true. 

Sin is an issue but just as kids mess up, parents can be disappointed but it doesn't dilute their love for their children. God is slow to anger and rich in mercy.

I volunteered at VBS this summer, and my issue with love came up...again. There was a child that I had a very difficult time loving. I didn't know so much attitude could come out of such a little body. Leading into that week of VBS, God had impressed on me how much he loved these kids. He was going to use me to show them how much he loved them. 

Every night, I would think of these kids from VBS and pray for them. Whenever that difficult child's face came to mind I kept thinking that God's love didn't quite reach to them. Yes, I had that terrible thought. I realized the thing that bothered me most about this child is that I saw myself in them - prickly and slightly unlovable. At the end of the day, I believed that God couldn't love me either.

So I am going to keep reading and asking God to breakthrough to my scared heart. 

"And he loves you deeply, recklessly and extravagantly - just as you are. God knows you are a sinner, but your sins do not surprise him. Nor do they reduce in the slightest his love for you." (pg. 18)

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Choose Joy

It's 5:11am, and I am wide awake....again. I didn't get to bed until 1:30am because every time I laid my head down I felt nauseous and my thoughts were running. I attempted several remedies that continued to fail. I remembered drinking mineral water at my childhood best friend's house to ease nausea so I gave that a try. It seemed to be working so I rested my head, and it did the trick. However, my bladder woke me reminding me that it was full. 

As I was trying to go back to bed, I thought about the day that just passed. I realized I forgot to ask my friend about the "Choose Joy" conference she spoke at, a conference about infertility. Mindy I still want to know how it went. I actually have those exact words above my bed. One, it is a cute print. Two, I think of them like a dream catcher that will be covering me while I sleep, and they are just fighting the negative thoughts that try to consume me throughout the day. 

I sat with those words as insomnia continued to befriend me. I have another friend who struggled with infertility for years, and I remember many lunches where we both described our desires and the struggle we were experiencing with those desires being unanswered. We gave each other space to answer honestly about how you worship God in the midst of pain and unanswered prayers. We talked through the book, "One Thousand Gifts" and learned gratitude and choosing joy despite those unanswered desires. I remember the lunch we had when she told me she was pregnant, and I remember the tears that came streaming from both of us.  Even though her prayers had been answered and mine had not, I had hope. Her story gave me hope. God gave me her story so I could remember to hope. 

She gave birth to a healthy boy a couple weeks ago, and I was overwhelmed by the God I worship. My heart was full for my friend and her new little son. I don't always understand God's ways, but He is penning together beautiful stories. 

I then started thinking about a couple weeks ago when I went to Fish Fest and just realized how crazy believers sound and behave. If I was looking in, I might think these people have definitely swallowed the Kool-Aid. I still have moments where I wonder how do I know my faith and my God are real? What if the world is right, and I am part of some made up religion trying to control me? I am then reminded of stories that I have heard from other believers that point to His existence, and I reflect back on my own story of redemption and grace. I am flooded with peace, and I know deep in my soul - I worship the one true God. 

I have watched my brothers and sisters struggle through hard situations. I have watched prayers go unanswered. In the midst of it all, I have seen so many choose joy. Joy which comes from hope. Not to say there wasn't kicking and screaming before the joy, but God is gentle and patient with His children. He reminds us that He sees us and meets us even in those hard times. He has good planned for us. 

The past couple of weeks I have struggled to create space for silence and solitude. I have prayed several times that God would see the desire I have to spend time with Him and that would translate to me actually creating space. Let's just say it hadn't happened. I just finished crying after realizing it took insomnia caused by nausea, caused by a full bladder for me to create some space. 

God, you truly work in mysterious ways.


Thursday, May 22, 2014

NYC - Day7

Our final day had finally come. Our flight didn't leave until 8pm so we had part of our day to get in some last minute things we hadn't seen yet. We packed up the little room, and we left our bags with the hotel. The only con to my carry-on was I had to wear my bulky airplane clothes on a long and warm day. I also just realized that we might have both been done because we hardly have any photos from this day at all.

We picked up breakfast on the go, and we took a seat on a park bench in Central Park to eat it. We walked through Central Park in order to go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Met, as most know it. I was a secret Gossip Girl watcher, and I remember wanting to take a photo on the steps because that is where the girls used to eat their lunch. Lame, but I have no shame typing it. 

Those awful boots!
The Met is crazy with all the art they house. I feel like I had a similar experience as when I wrote about MOMA the day before. I left wanting more time soaking up the art. Art that held so much history, so many stories that speak even though centuries have passed.
VanGogh - Self Portrait
After our too short of time at the Met, we walked around the Upper East Side for a bit. I thought I would get the chance to see a real life Serena, but I remembered they never had to walk anywhere since they had drivers. Silly me! 

We took a train to Chelsea so we could get a glimpse into the neighborhood and also check out Chelsea Market. I loved this little place. It had small little eateries that were pretty unique as well as a handmade goods flea market. I bought two brownies from Fat Witch, one for shopping and one to take home. Yummy!

We then walked along the shoreline, and Ken went to check out the Chelsea Piers and Sports Complex. I couldn't tell you anything about it since I needed to have a seat. My feet were killing me...again. BUT, I do remember that in "Serendipity" this is the place they go to hit some golf balls. 

I just realized this day was so full of stuff and my feet were killing me that I have no recollection to the timeline of these events. I know you would have never known, but Ken would be reading this thinking I have this all wrong - it's probably true. I was delirious most of the day. As I have been typing this I was thinking the reason I was so exhausted and spent was because we hadn't had lunch. At some point, we went to the Farmer's Market in Union Square, but it didn't have too much to eat from. We were able to get fresh pressed juice, but we opted for hotdogs from the corner guy. I should have gotten two or three when I look back on that day.

We took a stroll through the Art district so we could catch the Metro to Tribeca. The film festival was happening while we were here which meant we probably could have seen some celebrities gracing a red carpet or two, but I don't think it made it on our radar. This neighborhood was the first time I felt I was seeing New Yorkers, not tourists, just living out their daily lives. We saw nannies taking kids around in strollers and people grabbing their groceries, just being. 

We headed to Washington Square Park which I wish I had experienced at the beginning of a day or a day I was not so exhausted. I remember seeing this park on Friends or at least the arch. This square was the perfect place for people watching. Seriously, it was like heaven. However, the thought of all those people were draining me at that moment. I couldn't even take another photo. My smile would have been a terrible fake if I even tried. 

Ken could see the signs of hangry, and he got me out of that place. We were able to walk by parts of NYU, a very open and spread out campus. Ken was incredibly smart and ducked into a little shop to get us some slices of pizza. My energy level started to pick back up, but I was pretty quiet along our walk. I know Ken probably thought I was mad, but I just didn't want to complain about the pain that was consuming my feet. We finally got on the metro, and he asked what was wrong. I told him all that would come out of me at that moment was complaints or tears so I had opted for silence. Once I mentioned this though, I started crying. My feet hurt that bad. I think we did the most walking on this day, and I could feel it. 

We grabbed our bags at our hotel, and we rushed to catch one last train. I told myself I would buy some peanuts from the street vendors, and I did quickly. They were delish! I was looking forward to this train ride because I knew I would be able to sit for awhile as we trekked to the airport. Nope! It was full most of the way. I must have looked horrible because a mom let me have her seat. I was able to sit for three stops before we had to get out. I knew in a couple of hours I would probably be thinking about how much I wanted to be standing, but right now I was going to enjoy resting my feet. 

So that is it. My wonderful birthday present to NYC. I am truly grateful even though I had some of my worst lows. I am actually still processing my emotions from that trip, and I won't allow the negative to outweigh an amazing trip. I will give myself some grace for not always acting gracefully and try harder in the future to speak my feelings or to recognize hunger before it strikes.

Thanks, NYC! and THANK YOU, Ken!

I am going to add some videos and pics from Ken's GoPro that I just uploaded so didn't get the chance to add them to the appropriate days. Also, the videos are terrible quality once I uploaded them to Blogger, sorry!  




Leaving for NYC

9/11 Memorial
Statue of Liberty
Brooklyn Bridge

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

NYC - Day 6

I was feeling the pressure this day. Our trip was coming to an end, and I knew there was still so much more to see. 

We started the day off with what I believed to be another iconic food you have to get while in NYC, a bagel with loads of cream cheese! I yelped "bagels" and found a place semi-close to us. It also happened to be Easter Sunday. We didn't wake up in time for a service, but we ran into people who had. New Yorkers were dressed to the nines in their best Sunday outfits, and they even remembered their Easter hats. There were lines outside of churches. It was refreshing.

The line for this bagel place was a little ridiculous and don't even think about finding a place to sit. Turns out, everyone else had yelped bagels that morning. The shop of choice: Ess-a-bagel. There were so many options of bagels and cream cheese. The cream cheese assortment included fresh blueberry to veggie to lox already mixed in. Ken was a little frustrated with the line so he was going to get some coffee at a nearby shop, and I was going to bring our bagels over. Two solutions: he didn't have to wait in line, and we would have a place to sit.

I asked Ken what he wanted, and his reply was: onion bagel and blueberry cream cheese. He totally threw me off on that one. He left, and I debated whether or not a I should change his order. I remembered my control issues and told myself this is what he ordered it is not your job to question it or think you know better. It is funny how God can use the most random moments as teaching/growing moments. You might think this was a quick moment, it wasn't. I went back and forth for 15 minutes. In the end, I walked up to the counter and asked for exactly what he wanted. The guy gave me the most perturbed look, and I repeated it. He made the bagels with hesitation. 

I walked out proud of myself because I am making progress even if it is something as simple as bagel ordering. The bagel combo didn't win Ken over. However, he chooses adventure even with food. I fell in love with my plain with strawberry, and I bought a side of scallion which was also amazing! I came home and tried to replicate 

After we had fueled up, we decided to just walk around Madison Ave. since we are avid Mad Men fans. Little did we know there would be a huge crowd out for Easter. They all had hats with Easter decorations. It was the Easter and Bonnet Parade. I was the overwhelmed introvert who could only focus on walking one foot in front of the other so I couldn't even think of taking a photo. Here is a photo I found from the event on the internet.

We headed over to Grand Central to do an audio tour. Grand Central is beautiful and has so much history. The audio tour was great because I could sit down while I took it all in. We learned that the famous windows of Grand Central serve as transportation, light, and allow air to come in. How functional. There are two separate staircases that were made at different times so then also made slightly different. The reason behind this is so archeologists in the future will see these differences and know they weren't made at the same time. I love little details like this - they get me excited inside.

Tiffany's Clock - the 6 is a window that opens

The Meeting Place
After we completed the audio tour, we went to grab a bite since they had afood court on one of the levels. I chose to have dessert from Magnolia Bakery which is where the ladies from Sex and the City would buy their cupcakes. I had a red velvet cheesecake since they were out of cupcakes. Ken actually chose food, smart guy. 

We made a pit stop at the Chrysler Building. We weren't able to go any further than the lobby though which is too bad because it looked pretty great inside. We admired the outside and grabbed a few photos before moving on.

We wanted to make sure we saw MOMA (Museum of Modern Art) which was established by Rockefeller's wife who loved modern art. She bought art and hid it from her husband often. I wish I had more time to just sit and marvel at the works, but we didn't since it was almost closing time. We saw famous works of art, and I was amazed that I was getting to see them in person. I took art history, and I have seen replicas or photos...but here they were in person. Questions kept filling my mind about the artist's and their stories. Did they know one day their art would be displayed for all to see? What inspired them? Did their parents approve of them being artists? and on and on the questions went.
Van Gogh
Frida Kahlo
Andy Warhol 
Once the museum closed we had to decide on dinner. Our tour guide many days ago, suggested Katz's Delicatessen. He told us to make sure to tip them before they started HAND CARVING our meat. He said this is the only place that still hand carves. When you enter the restaurant you receive a ticket that you are advised not to lose or you will have to pay $50. Yikes. You order at the counter, and I gave my tip. He placed a plate of sliced meat for me to enjoy while I waited for my sandwich to be made. Drool. I ordered a $20 pastrami sandwich. Dear me! It's funny when it comes to food how my brain doesn't process the price tag until later. They dish up your sandwich with homemade pickles. This girl loves pickles! Once when I was a wee gal, I opened up a big whole dill pickle jar (can't even do this as an adult) and ate all but one. I told my mom I saved the last one for her. I was always so giving. A whole jar. I have always meant business when it comes to food.

Ken and I were silly and didn't share a sandwich. Which meant I was left with half a sandwich, sad day. I had been tempted to get cole slaw and knishes, but I sure am glad I didn't. We were absolutely stuffed. This is also the place where they filmed a section of "When Harry Met Sally."

I know we stuffed ourselves, but we were not done yet. It was our last night in NYC, and we had to go out with a bang. After dinner, we made our way to the Upper East Side to visit Serendipity. My friend, Rebecca recommended this one, and I have also always wanted to go here. I am not sure if you have seen the movie, "Serendipity" but this is where the seed was planted. When I got home the movie was on that weekend. I watched it twice, back to back.

Ken ordered Frrrozen (yes, they spell it this way)Mint Hot Chocolate, and I ordered Peanut Butter Frrrozen Hot Chocolate. They were not like fraps, but they weren't like shakes either. They were delicious though. Ken's was much better than mine. If you don't get the chance to visit NYC, you can have it in Las Vegas. While we enjoyed our desserts, we had entertainment from the table next to us. They were having the most difficult time figuring out how to split their bill. I pride myself in knowing my friends and I have never had an issue with the tab. $0.25, right Dawn?

I wasn't sure how much longer I was going to last, not because I stuffed myself but knowing that dessert was not going to sit in my lactose intolerant tummy for too long. BUT...we had to walk by the infamous Bloomingdales, and FAO Schwarz, and the Plaza, and, and... If you don't know me, Home Alone is one of my all-time favorite movies. I used to watch it EVERY Sunday after church growing up. It wasn't even the official VHS. I had recorded it from the TV, but it didn't matter. I loved it, both 1 and 2. If my stomach would have tolerated it, I wish we could have gone into The Plaza to see the inside, but it was time to literally run back to the hotel.

Trump Tower
The Plaza
Let's just say I didn't have an embarrassing story come out of this experience, but I was very close. I am so glad our room was big, with lots of windows, and an air vent in the bathroom....NOT! Dear me and poor Ken. Thank God for good smelling hair products and iTunes. TMI, I know, but it wouldn't be the same if I didn't share it all. 

Goodnight, one last time NYC!

Monday, May 12, 2014

NYC - Day 5

As I was choosing photos from this day, my feet got tired just remembering how much we walked. I hope you enjoy them free of pain. Also, this was our best weather day. 60-65!!

We decided to start the day at the Empire State Building. We just wanted to pick up tickets for later that evening, but the line was way too long though. We wanted to do Top of the Rock during the day and Empire State in the evening. We decided to wait on the tickets because Ken was getting hangry. Yes, he is not immune. We had Dunkin' Donuts for the first time this trip. Nothing to write home about, but I guess I also had a bagel there and not a donut or coffee. 

The famous Macy's which I wanted to pass by but not go in is right next to the Empire State building. You could lose a day there easily. 

Next on our agenda was the Brooklyn Bridge. We thought we would bike across the bridge, but the foot traffic was too heavy. It was one loooonnnggg bridge, but it was pretty spectacular at the same time. 

My married friend Katie told me about this word, "compromise". It has been the thing she has had to work on the hardest as a newlywed. I felt it shortly after crossing the bridge. Ken wanted to walk around the neighborhoods before heading back to Manhattan. Since I am a to-do list person, I mentally checked it and nowhere did I see walk around neighborhood. The tourist in me wanted to go on the next tour and be stuck in line at another landmark. He was spoiling my plan. Her word hit me, and I got over myself...just not entirely. 

I have recently noticed I have an only child attitude sometimes and when I don't get my way I throw a fit. It's not a loud fit but more like I am not going to speak to you because I didn't get my way. It's like I am trying to make you regret making that choice which was obviously not the right choice. Yes, I know how ridiculous I sound. Halfway through my tantrum, I realize how immature I am being so instead of getting over it I beat myself up about it. I begin spiraling down, and I literally have to shake myself out of it. I am working on this, believe me. First step, acknowledgement.

When I finally got over myself I was able to see how incredible this little walk became. We had a great view of the city even better than when we were on Ellis Island. I would have missed it if I hadn't been told about the word "compromise". p.s. I am not usually a horrendous person to travel with, I was just feeling a little off on this trip.

We were finally done with Brooklyn, and we were headed back to Manhattan. We were going to eat at a place called Eataly. Two different people recommended us to go here, and it was amazing! It reminded me of the eatery at Harrod's in London. This place was divided by the following categories: espresso bar, gelato, chocolate, beverages, wine, beer, dairy, salumi, seafood, butcher, olive oils and vinegar, mozzarella, bakery, pastry, cheese, produce, homemade pasta, meat,etc. It was a place you could shop like upscale grocery store, but it also had restaurants featuring the products they sold, Italian products specifically.

We had an hour wait for the pizza/pasta restaurant so we went and had some charcuterie. Dear me! honey and fig and brie and prosciutto...mmmmmm! p.s. I just checked online, and it looks like Eataly might be coming to LA as of April 30, 2014!!!! Tracy, life group trip?? Ken and I had homemade ravioli and opted out of the pizza since we were planning that for dinner.

Right outside Eataly was the famous flatiron building. Ken kept telling me I would know what it was once I saw it. I kept disagreeing. I then saw it and immediately said, "Oh yeah, that's on Friends." Oh, Friends how much you taught me! 7, 7, 7!

We decided to head over to Chelsea to check out the High Line. It is a 1 mile linear park built on a former elevated railroad track. They have revamped it as this walkway with an aerial greenway. Thanks, Wikipedia! It was nice to feel like you were in the city but also felt like you were in a quiet little neighborhood watching the city. Along the path there were food vendors: gelato, gourmet popsicles, adult beverages, etc. 

Yes, I love everything about him.

I was enamored by these windows!!

After walking to the end of the line, we decided to walk to Penn Station to decide our next stop. Turns out, Madison Square Garden is connected. We went to see if we could do a tour, but we were out of luck...Disney on Ice had taken over. We went into Penn Station to come up with a plan and also to buy me some hand sanitizer because I kept getting sick, and it was probably because I kept forgetting to wash my hands before eating, all those subway rails I kept holding. TMI!

We decided to head over to Greenwich Village. A friend from church, Jenn Lewis recommended spending some time here. She also gave us our dinner recommendation for the evening. Bleecker Street Pizza - the grandma slice. It was named best pizza in NYC by the Food Network three years in a row. It certainly earned it. We followed dinner with gelato from Grom. Their motto, "Il gelato come una volta" (the ice cream as it once was). It was a little pricey but good enough for me! I had the salted carmel with Sicilian almonds. 

Grandma Slice. First day of sun, and Ken's nose took a hit.

Nonna Maria Slice

We decided the night was still young, and we could stop by the Empire State building to get those tickets up to the observatory. The line seemed to be almost non-existent. We were here, we thought why not? If only my feet could have known what was ahead. Small-looking line, but a line nonetheless. We stood for hours after a very long day, but it was one of those things where you had already waited this long you couldn't just leave. We finally get to the elevator, and we go up...finally! However, you had to take another elevator up to get to the 86th floor. Why?? Dear me, why?? We had to wait again, and it was torturous. While we waited, Ken and I invented a people mover that could be used for lines so you could sit, and it would move you along. Almost like the conveyor belt at the grocery store. It knows when to stop.

We finally get to the top, and it is SOOOO COLD! The wind was trying to blow us off the roof. After waiting all those hours, we were on top for 10 minutes and immediately had to rush back inside. We got some blurry photos, and we couldn't wait to get back to the hotel. Oh, wait! Now we had the opportunity to stand in another line to get back down!! We ended up taking stairs for part of it because I could not wait again.

This is my pained smile face

I could not wait to see this sight.

our Hotel