Saturday, May 22, 2010


I have a confession to make. I have written on this blog about the glory of nature and how I believe that every creature is sacred. Well, I lied.

House centipedes, or gazillion-leg bugs as I call them, are of the devil. I despise them. They bring out the worst in me. I think of myself as a peaceable person. I don't often shout. I am almost never violent. But all of this changes if there is a centipede in my house. I yell, threaten, and curse the creature's offspring. I get out the bug killer and spray half of the can on the leggy thing. And then I cower in another room until my husband can remove the body.

Why do I cower? Because the real reason that I despise centipedes is because they scare me. Bugs and creepy-crawlies in general don't bother me much. If there is a spider in the house, I take it outside. I've held snakes and had pet lizards. But I'm afraid of centipedes. And that fear leads me to do things I wouldn't usually do and say things I wouldn't usually say. I am not proud of this part of myself.

This goes beyond bugs, of course. Don't we all have areas of our lives where we give in to fear? Taylor Haley spoke at my church a few weeks ago and said that fear and faith cannot exist at the same time. That idea has been resonating with me. I've been trying to seek out these areas of my life and choose faith over fear. I've also been trying to live the famous quote by Eleanor Roosevelt and do one thing every day that scares me. These things that I'm doing are small things, but they are meaningful leaps of faith, a good beginning. It feels amazing to trust God and start to let go of my fears.

I'm making progress, but it is going to take a lot of growing before I am ready to befriend a centipede.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


I just took the Belief-O-Matic sorter on BeliefNet. I hadn't taken it in several years, and I thought it would be fun to take it again. I love personality/belief sorters (I don't call them tests because they don't have right or wrong answers.) -  from something like Belief-O-Matic, which has a funny name but is actually serious, to the silly ones on Facebook like What Part of a Fairy Tale Are You? (I'm the magic wand.) I took time to really think about my answers for the Belief-O-Matic and not just click the answer that I have heard the most. I really had to dig deeply for some of the questions. I agreed with my outcome. It had changed slightly since I last taken it, which I feel reflects some of the shifts in my beliefs.

I'm not against sharing my results (and I've already talked about my faith some on this blog), but I don't want to seem to be promoting one branch of my religion over another. When it comes to faith and religion, I think conversations are often more divisive than anything else. They turn angry, even hateful, as one religion (or branch within a religion) accuses another of blasphemy. Ironically, such behavior goes against the tenants of many, if not all, of the world's major religions. I do shy away from talking about my faith sometimes for fear of a hostile conversation. Discussing disagreements in beliefs is good. Keeping an open mind and hearing what someone else believes while exploring your own views can lead to growth.

I wanted to share this sorter because it helped me to explore my faith a little bit, and I thought someone else in cyberland might enjoy it too. BeliefNet has information about many belief systems, and you can explore this information without taking the sorter. Read, explore, discuss, but please, don't let differences in beliefs lead to hostility.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Cat Dumbbells (or How Pets Improve Your Health)

My dogs, Marley and Melvin

I just read an article on WebMD called "27 Ways Pets Can Improve Your Health." I have always loved dogs and was interested to learn more about the health benefits they can provide.

Therapists prescribe time with a pet to help combat depression. Fifteen to thirty minutes with a pet lowers cortisol (stress hormone) levels and increases serotonin (your brain's happy juice). I didn't realize that some therapists have also started using dogs in therapy sessions. 

Certified therapy dogs visit patients in hospitals and nursing homes to boost their mood. (I actually hope to get my dog Marley certified some day.) Dogs can also be trained to help people with epilepsy, diabetes, and Parkinson's disease.

Owning a dog or cat lowers your blood pressure and your risk for heart disease, and children who grow up with fuzzy pets are less likely to develop allergies and more likely to have strong immune systems.

And, this was my favorite part of the article, while discussing how pets can improve your level of physical fitness it said that "some people like to use their cat rather than dumbbells when doing weight training." Fantastic.

(To hear what my dog Marley has to say, check out TheMarleyBug on Twitter.)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

This Book Is Overdue!

This Book Is Overdue! How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All by Marilyn Johnson has been circulating among the staff at the library where I work. It's an enjoyable read about modern libraries and librarians. Her stories show that the librarian stereotype - a prim bespectacled woman shushing patrons while surrounded by dusty piles of books - no longer applies. Each chapter examines a different aspect of modern libraries in the digital age.

Chapter 6, "How to Change the World," explores a distance learning graduate program, mainly for students in emerging nations, that is "designed to give people around the world some useful tools for promoting social justice: a program that would enable students to remain in their communities while learning how to investigate, document, and fight injustice using the Internet." Full scholarships and laptops are given to students from emerging countries, and they all meet in Rome for two weeks before pursuing the rest of the degree online. I had never heard of anything like this. I love the thought of providing access to information to students and communities who did not have it before and, as Johnson puts it, "creat[ing] and activist community across language barriers and time zones."

Chapter 10 dives into the New York Public Library including the Design by the Book video project, which followed "five young artists from their visits to the NYPL to their studios to their final art projects." The idea was to use library resources to inspire artists' creations. I think that is a fantastic idea! (Here are links to the other three videos: Episode 2, Episode 3, Episode 4.)

These are just two of the stories in This Book Is Overdue! Others include librarians standing up to the FBI, librarians taking to the streets during political conventions to provide information to protesters, and the librarian craze on the virtual world Second Life. Johnson isn't a librarian and you don't have to be to enjoy her humorous and informative stories.

Monday, May 10, 2010

All Creatures Great and Small

I was asked to start writing "green" articles for my church's newsletter, the Spire. (Please don't judge us by our website!) This is my article for June.

My husband and I went to the Pittsburgh Zoo today. I love the zoo. Until the last year or two of high school, I thought I was going to go to college to become a zoologist. Animals amaze me, and I can’t help but see God’s power and wonder in them.

We walked by the Kodiak bear at feeding time. The zookeeper was throwing entire pieces of fruit – pear and oranges – and the bear was catching them in his mouth and eating them whole. This must not be a big deal with you can grow to weigh upwards of 1,400 pounds, but it awed Jason and me. To be just yards away from an animal of that size, that possessed such raw strength, was overwhelming.

After we watched the Kodiak eat dinner, we watched a mother otter and her baby. They were cuddled together, the baby wiggling and snuggling into the mother, and the mother grooming the baby. I couldn’t help but see God’s compassion and nurturing Spirit were in these two small animals.

I always think of how God nurtures and protects his creations when I look at the weedy seadragon, which looks like a seahorse that started to sprout leaves. When the seadragon swims into the plants in the aquarium, you almost can’t see it. God thought to make the seadragon’s body resemble its habitat so that it could hide from predators.

God thought to provide strength and protection for his creations, but I also think he had fun when creating them. Some of the animals that we saw just looked ridiculous. The ostrich is a silly-looking bird. It is huge – five to nine feet tall – but has a very tiny head. The mandrill is a primate whose snout looks like it was molded out of blue and red plastic. The Reeves muntjac is a tiny deer that is smaller than our dog.

I encourage you to go to the zoo, or just go into your yard, and open your eyes to see God in the creatures around you. Be amazed, be overwhelmed, or just have a good laugh.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Enough Time

This is a time of transition in my life and I've been using it to evaluate how I use my time. I often feel overwhelmed - too busy, too much to do, not enough time to do what I want. I think I'm just one of many in our country who feel that way. At least in the US there seems to be an understood correlation between amount of work done and sense of self-worth. We brag about how hard we work, how few hours we sleep, and how we never have time to do what we enjoy. And unfortunately, I find myself falling in to this.

I don't want to live like this. Life involves hard work, but it also involves joy and rest. I think many Americans have totally lost the concept of a Sabbath, a day (or even a few hours) of rest. There are times when I think of activities that I usually enjoy doing as things that I have to do or should do, and that takes the joy out of it. Our self-talk is incredibly important, and I don't want my life to look like a giant To Do list.

I want to enjoy my job and grad school even though they are areas of "work" in my life. I also want to intentionally spend more time doing things I enjoy, and I want to give back to the world around me. When looking into all of the activities and volunteer opportunities that I am interested in, I was overwhelmed. There are so many worthy causes to which I could give my time and energy! This made me think of  Rob Bell's sermon Jesus is Difficult, Part III. I've listened to this sermon so many times that I can almost recite it word-for-word. It covers a lot more than I am going to touch on, and all of it has great meaning to me.

Rob Bell talks about Jesus healing people in a village, and after a day, Jesus is ready to leave:
You have a village going, "Stay with us! Stay with us! Stay with us!" Begging him. Real needs... You have real, pressing good things he could be doing. In fact, I would argue, great things he could be doing... And at some point, to all of these good, pressing, urgent, real needs of real people, at some point he walks away.
He reads several scriptures saying that Jesus was going to Jerusalem because that is what God has called him to do, and then continues:
He's oriented everything around Jerusalem. So everything that he does, every interaction, every aside, everything is gaged or run through this filter of "does this prevent me or help me get to Jerusalem?" So what he says yes to and what he says no to are dictated by this larger goal and mission of he's got to get to Jerusalem... Now this doesn't prevent him from being compassionate, generous, and spontaneous.
To live in a way in which I am that attuned to God's will! That is what I want. There are so many good things that I can do, but as Rob Bell encourages the congregation to write down: I don't have to do it all. That is hard for me to wrap my mind around sometimes, arrogant as that is. I don't have to do it all, which is good because I can't do it all. But, I can do something, and I am thankful that there is exactly enough time for the important things in my life.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Controversial Subject

From my journal on April 28, 2009

While stopped at a red light a fairly busy intersection on my way to work yesterday there were a dozen people with large signs that read "ABORTION IS MURDER" with graphic pictures of aborted fetuses. I was tempted to pull over and have a conversation with one of them.

"Hello. I don't necessarily disagree with what you are saying... I am not a proponent of abortion. I don't think anyone is pro-abortion. I do feel that it is taking a life, and I have a hard time with any human extinguishing another human life. I worry about the government regulating a woman's health, though. And an even greater worry is that if the government were to make abortion illegal, women would still get abortions. Some would visit certified doctors who would perform the abortions safely though they were breaking the law. Many other women would end up having abortions in unsafe ways that would result in the deaths of mothers and children.

But even if I agree with you, I am not sure what you are trying to accomplish right now. Do a large number of women with unwanted pregnancies drive this way at this time of day? Do theses signs disgust them into keeping the baby? I think it would be more effective to teach comprehensive sex education in schools, including how to have safe sex and what an abortion entails. Kids are going to have sex whether they are taught about it or not, so we should teach them how to be safe. I don't think many girls (or women for that matter) know what an abortion really involves. I am not opposed to sharing the graphic details, but I think a real conversation would make a greater impact than a large sign. Also - and this is huge - to truly eradicate abortions, we need to combat poverty. If people had greater resources (education as well as the financial means to purchase contraceptives), the abortion rate would decrease greatly.

Though I am saying these things, I strongly believe that sex is meant for marriage and not before. I think that parents have a responsibility to instill moral values in their children. They should talk openly about sex and why it is important to wait, instead of using fear tactics or simply avoiding the subject altogether.

So, those are some of my thoughts. I think it would be great if you could work to lower or even eliminate abortions, but I just don't think that standing here with these signs is going to change anything."

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Risk to Blossom

"And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud
was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."
                                                                            -- Anaïs Nin

Big changes are coming in my life. This is my last week at one of my two jobs, and next week I'm going to start grad school. I took this job intending to stay for six months. That was 27 months ago. I have been planning to go to grad school since I was an undergrad student, but things kept happening to change my plans, and I put it off and then put it off again. Staying at this job became safe and plunging into grad school became scary. I am happy that I was able to have this job - I've learned a lot and I've made good friends. But... I've known for a while that it is time for me to move on.

The unknown is frightening, though. I know what to expect in my current job, and with my two jobs on top of my husband's, we are ok financially. I don't know exactly what to expect in grad school, and losing one of my salaries is going to make money tight. In many ways it would be easier to stay where I am, in the safety and security of the known. But, I know this isn't where I am supposed to be anymore. There are many seasons in life, and this season in my life is almost over. It is time to take a leap of faith and move on.

I thought I would be scared, worried, and upset. I don't always adapt well to big changes. But, I'm excited. I feel that this is what God is calling me to do. I've been praying for trust... and I feel peaceful about my decision. It's scary, but it is exciting, which is what life is like. No life comes without conflict, and that is what makes it interesting (read A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller to learn more about that concept). So now, it is time to get ready to blossom.

Sunday, May 2, 2010


I don't think my brain can comprehend that. Forty-eight thousand people live in that tent city. Though, according to the article, most people don't actually have tents. There are only 114 latrines for all 48,000 people. Can you imagine? In all honesty, I cannot. 

I have been blessed beyond belief in my life in so many ways. I have always had a house in a safe area to call home. I've always had plumbing and electricity. I've always had clean water and healthy food to eat. I even had my own bathroom at my parents' house. It took me some time to get used to sharing the bathroom with my husband when we got married. I can't begin to comprehend sharing it with 422 people. Four hundred twenty-two people! And because of the lack of sanitation, disease runs rampant. I won't get started (at least not now) on my views about the healthcare system in the United States, but it is worlds beyond what is available in Haiti.

In a bit over a week, I'm going to start grad school. This is after I went to a four-year college for undergrad, which was after Kindergarten through twelfth grade in a very good school district. In the tent city in Haiti, it is estimated that 250 children out of 13,000 are able to attend school.

All of this breaks my heart. I don't understand it. And I don't understand how I constantly forget how blessed I am - how I take so much for granted. I don't want to forget Haiti. It isn't on the news 24-7 anymore (not that I watch any of the 24 hour news networks - another topic I won't get in to now), but that doesn't mean that Haiti isn't still suffering from extreme devastation.

I have two friends who went to Haiti at the beginning of this year. One was there during the earthquake and the other went a bit after it happened. Both shared photos, videos, and stories with me. My husband was supposed to go to Haiti in February to help at LaCroix Haiti New Testament Mission, but his trip was canceled due to the earthquake. We hope to go together sometime in the next year. There is so much work that needs to be done, so much love to be given. I hope that I can give at least a little bit. And until then, I pray for Haiti, and I rejoice in the many blessings in my life. In the words of Jane Austen, I want to "feel the importance of every day, and every hour as it passes."