April 1, 2012

Bye Bye Blogger!

I am so excited to be saying goodbye to Blogger. I don't get along well with Google, and Blogger itself has given me some trouble too. More importantly, I've found a much better hosting company where my blog can be structured more like a website. I'm super excited for this because of the dichotomy of my desires to both have a blog that I want others to be interested in AND have a personal journal that I know doesn't appeal to everyone I want to target for other posts I make. With the new blog hopefully I'll appeal to more readers by being able to highlight certain topics, and have the personal side be less integrated.

I'll be keeping this blog for personal reference, but all new posts will appear at my new site. I'm working on transferring particular posts that will be helpful to have in certain categories on my new site. Bear with me as I transfer old posts and try to write new posts as well. I haven't quite figured out how to become a follower, or if that's possible through Google, so if you figure that out let me know, and for now just bookmark it!

I'm also happy to announce a new blog that I am hoping can be a very helpful resource! Fresh and Delicious - a healthy recipe site designed for non-expert chefs. Check it out and recommend it to others!

Thanks for all of your support, reading, following, and comments! I greatly appreciate it. Now, come join me at the new and improved One Love!

March 29, 2012

Prime Lenses: 50mm vs. 35

Back in December, I bought a new lens for my camera. I have a Sony NEX-3, which is pretty much a DSLR, but is about half the size and weight of a normal DSLR camera. One main draw of having a DSLR or similar camera over a point-and-shoot is that you can change the lenses. Read on for some technical insight as to why you would buy a different lens, and what the difference is. If you feel well-informed already, skip down to the fifth paragraph to learn whether you should buy the 50mm or 35mm lens if you are looking for a prime portrait lens.

Most people buy their first manual camera with a kit lens, which is normally a zoom lens with a focal length of something like 18-55m (mid-range) or 18-135mm (telephoto).  These lenses are great because they are very versatile, and give you a similar zoom range to what you are used to having on a point-and-shoot camera. You can shoot a wide angle of view, like a building with a yard in front of it, or a portrait of someone from the shoulders-up, or you can get a close-up of something that's kind of far away. The problem with these lenses is that because they cover such a wide range of focal lengths (aka distances you can shoot), they aren't super great at shooting at any one distance. Basically, you're sacrificing quality for convenience. (You can upgrade to better quality zoom lenses, but they are much more expensive than the kit lens.)

One obvious thing that you are sacrificing is aperture. Aperture is the setting that affects both how much light you can let in when taking a picture as well as depth of field, which is basically how much of your subject is in focus. With a wider aperture, you can 1. take pictures in lower light (because you can let more light in. In the human eye, this is measured by our pupils. Go in a dark room and look in the mirror - your pupils get really large! They are widening to let in more light.), and 2. make less of your picture in focus, making the background blurrier (this is how the human eye focuses. Try holding a pen in front of your face - notice how when you're looking at it, everything else goes out of focus. When you switch to looking at your surroundings, the pen goes out of focus.) Aperture is actually measured as a fraction, so a wider aperture is actually noted as a lower number. The widest aperture I'm aware of in existence is 1.2, whereas on the high end you could have an aperture of 22 or 32.
An example of being able to take pictures in not-very-bright situations. You can tell how dark this room was, yet you can clearly see each band member. This was taken with the aperture at f/1.8 and no flash was used.
This photo and the next are an example of the pen in front of your face illustration. This first picture is focused on the pen -you can barely tell what's in the background!

And now the focus switched to the moss. You can easily see the moss, but hardly notice the Christmas lights.

Eventually people wanting to grow in their photography feel limited by only having the kit lens. They want to be able to achieve creamy, blurry backgrounds that make the subject of their photos stand out more, like real life, and thus look more professional. The solution is buying a prime lens. A prime lens is just one that has a fixed focal length (like 16mm, 50mm, 85mm, etc.). These lens don't zoom, but they excel at the focal length they do offer. They have a wider aperture than a kit lens can give. For example, my kit lens has an aperture that ranges from f/3.5-5. Those numbers represent the widest aperture I can get when I am at different focal lengths. For example, I can shoot at f/3.5 when I'm at the closest focal length (18mm), but when I zoom in, to say 55mm, the widest aperture I can get is  f/5. With a prime lens, like my 16mm, I can only shoot wide angles, but the aperture opens as wide as f/2.8. With prime lenses, not only do you get blurrier backgrounds, but since the lens is higher quality, you normally achieve a crisper focus as well. Why are prime lenses higher quality? Because they are specializing in one thing. A zoom lens has to cover a wide variety of focal distances, so it's harder to get as good quality in each focal length for the price you're paying.

That was all introductory, so now for the point of this article: which prime lens should you buy to get that great crisp focus and blurry background? There are actually a lot of options out there depending on what you want to take pictures of. A lot of people are looking for a portrait lens, which gives you a little bit of zoom so that you can take great, crisp picture of people without having to stand really close to them. Lately, I have seen a lot of people choose to buy a 50mm lens to suit this purpose. I, on the other hand, bought a 35mm lens, which is what I would recommend to others who are looking to buy a prime portrait lens. Why?

I am not really sure the reason for people buying a 50mm portrait lens, but I think it may be because they have heard professional photographers rave about their 50mm. I follow several wedding photographers' blogs and for most of them, their 50mm is their favorite for portraits and all-around shooting. So then if you have a DSLR, why shouldn't you also buy a 50mm? The reason is that the photographers you follow are using professional cameras that have a full-frame sensor, while you probably have an amateur DSLR that has a cropped sensor. What the heck does that mean?

This might sound complicated, but it is actually simple - the sensor on your camera is cropped. If you draw a circle, and then draw a square inside of that circle, you come out with four ovals of space that are a part of the circle, but not a part of the square. Think of a full-frame sensor as being that circle - if you take a picture, you capture everything within that circle. Now compare the cropped sensor to the square - if you try to take a picture of everything within that circle, you come out short. You don't have the ability to take a picture of the whole circle, because your sensor, the square, is too small.
This may sound discouraging, but it's completely fine! That's the way your camera was made. However, it does affect the lenses you choose. Remember how we said that focal length was the distance you can shoot? That was fairly true, but also kind of misleading. Focal length is actually just a literal measure of how long your lens is. So an 18mm lens is 18mm long. Thus, focal length. Now, for someone with a full-frame sensor camera, the focal length WILL also be the measure of the distance they can shoot, which we will call the angle of view. So where's the discrepancy? For people with cropped sensor cameras, the angle of view is different from the focal length. This goes back to the circle/square dilemma. Even though you might possess a 50mm lens (the circle), when you take a picture you will only capture the information within the square, which in this case, turns out to be the same distance you would get if you used an 75mm lens on a camera with a full-frame sensor. This is because if you were using the circle, you would have to move closer or zoom in more to capture only the amount of information contained within the square. Does that make sense?

So, again, why would you choose the 35mm lens? If you want to buy that all-around versatile lens that almost every photographer has fallen in love with, if you have a cropped sensor camera (and you probably do, unless you spent thousands of dollars on your camera) you should buy a 35mm lens, because its angle of view equivalent IS about 50mm. On the other hand, if you buy a 50mm, you may be disappointed when you learn that to take portrait of people, you have to stand kind of far away from them to get their whole or part of their body instead of just their face. Now that may be what you're looking for, but just be warned that it is a fairly zoomy lens. A test you can do to see what focal length lens to get is to just zoom in your kit lens to the distances you're trying to choose between. When I did that, I discovered that I couldn't get very much in the frame when I had it set to 50mm, but when I put it on 35, I loved the amount of subject I could get in the picture. And yes, now that I have my 35, I feel as in love with it as most photographers do about their 50 - it is almost always my lens of choice!
For example, at Adam & Liz's wedding, I was only sitting a few rows back, but I was still able to capture the whole window in this picture by using my 35mm lens.


I hope that was helpful! Let me know if you have any questions. :)

March 27, 2012

Atlantic City, Baby!

Do you know what this is? 

If you couldn't read cause the print was tiny then you wouldn't know that this is an email notifying me that we got tickets to all three nights of the Atlantic City mini-festival*!! Woohoo!!

Let me tell you why I'm excited about it:
-It's only two hours away
-It's over a weekend, meaning less time off work
-I've always wanted to go to Las Vegas, and this is a runner-up (Okay if you think I'm crazy, maybe I am but I used to LOOOVE poker. My friends and I played Texas Holdem at EVERY get-together we had in high school. We also went crazy over the casino after-proms at our schools. So I've wanted to go to Vegas since then.)
-It's a three-night run, which means that we will assuredly hear all different songs every night - no repeats. We usually go to shows in different cities and while you'll never hear the same songs at any given Phish concert, we would definitely hear repeats of a few (literally a few) which isn't as much fun as getting to hear all different ones.
-It's in summer at the beach!!! If you didn't know, that's my calling.
-It's all general admission, so we can get as close to the stage as the crowd makes possible. Normally at GA shows we get within 5-10 rows of people, which is very close and a lot more fun than sitting in the way back of an arena or on the lawn. This also means that we can actually request songs!! (We wanted to do this last summer but were on the lawn for every show.) If you write your song request on a poster or beach ball and Trey (the band leader and guitarist) sees it, he might decide to play your song! They played requests at almost every show we were at last summer.
-I just started learning the bass so by the time these shows come around I'll appreciate Mike's nastiness SO much more!!

*If you are wondering what I mean by mini-festival, I will explain. There is an abandoned airfield a couple blocks from the main area in Atlantic City. They will set up a stage in the middle of it and let everyone crowd around it. If you're picturing a Woodstock-type event you've got the right thing in mind (with less people obviously). This is different from a normal Phish festival where they set up tents with music, games, and other craziness, where they might set up a ferris wheel or other carnival rides, and where most everyone is camping out. We have always wanted to go to a festival so we're excited that this will be kind of like one!! (We would love the experience of camping at a festival, but it will be nice to stay in a hotel and be able to get in the ocean too.)

March 25, 2012

Cooking Again + Strong Lemons

Since getting our new place I've had free reign of the kitchen once again. In our previous place, I didn't always make dinner. I LOVE that I have a husband who doesn't expect me to cook him a fancy dinner every night...or ever. He could eat macaroni or frozen chicken pot pies every day and be completely fine. Our favorite meal is actually Digiorno's (specifically, deep dish crust with meat and breadsticks on the side!). But since my cooking hiatus I've been excited to jump back in. And in the meantime, I've had more problems with my digestive system (due to stress...ugh) and learned more about eating healthy, so I have more motivation to try to cook our food so that we are eating natural, nutritious meals.

I've only tried two things so far but we have loved both of them! I realized like a day after going to the grocery store that the three meals I picked out were all pasta-based, but hey none of them required too many ingredients, and you should know how much I love pasta. 

Every time I post a recipe I feel like I have to say that I'm not trying to be a food blog, but I actually found something that is worthy of sharing! I also like sharing recipes that I've made that really need some alterations or more detailed instructions; since I am not a gourmet cook, I assume you aren't either. The simpler the better. The recipe I'm sharing today made me SO happy because it felt like a Noodles & Co. dish!! This family loves Noods and I hope to find more Noodle-esque dishes to make in the future. We particularly liked this dish because it had so much flavor*, and neither of us had ever had such a lemony flavored dinner before, but it tasted delicious.

Without further ado, Creamy Grilled Chicken Piccata
If you are like me and save recipes without reading them first, let me stop you real quick and just note that you have to marinate the chicken OVERNIGHT before serving. So prepare it in advance! Okay, skip away.
By the way, does anyone else's husband think they're strange for taking pictures of meals before serving them? I also don't like it because you have to rush and take a quick picture before the food gets cold...

Chicken
Juice of 1 lemon (3Tbsp)
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp basil or oregano
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Pasta
2 cups dried penne pasta
2 Tbsp butter
Juice of 2 lemons (6 Tbsp) about 1 1/2 (or less...or more...)*
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1/2 cup half and half (or heavy cream)
2 tsp dried basil
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Chicken
Combine first 6 ingredients and mix well.  Place chicken in a ziplock bag and pour marinade over chicken.  Marinate overnight in the refrigerator.  When ready, grill until done.  Allow chicken to rest for a few minutes and then slice into strips to serve over pasta.

Pasta
While chicken is grilling.  Cook pasta according to directions (10-12 minutes).  Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water and drain.  In same sauce pan, melt butter over medium heat.  Whisk in garlic and lemon juice.  Pour in half and half and whisk until hot.  Add some salt and pepper to taste.  Add the parmesan cheese and basil and heat until cheese is melted.  Check the consistency of the sauce and add some of the reserved pasta water to loosen the sauce if necessary.  Toss in pasta.

Serve in pasta bowls with grilled chicken on top.  Sprinkle with more parmesan if desired (we desired).

*Whit found 3 gigantic lemons, which were all pretty strong, so our dish turned out overly lemon. It tasted good but next time I will definitely use less lemon juice. I suggest you do the same.

I would like to take this bottom-of-the-page time to say that when I turned on the garbage disposal tonight it churned greatly, so greatly that Whit described it as sounding like it was churning cannonballs. I was actually psyched about having a disposal because it's kind of a lame feature, but one we were lacking in Blacksburg, and then it sounds like all kinds of metal inside so I thought we ruined it. Whit saved the day....guess what he pulled out of the disposal? A big ol' rock. It must have fallen in when we were preparing Fishman's home. Whoops.

March 23, 2012

Meet Fishman

Meet Fishman. He's a calm beta fish.

He is Whit's birthday present from me for turning 25. 

We named him after Phish's drummer, Jon Fishman. 

Phish named their band after Jon. Sometimes we talk to Fishman like we're one of the other band members, Mike, the bassist, who often speaks in nonsense. We're weird.

March 22, 2012

The Tour


If you love pictures as much as I do, then you will enjoy this little "beforehand" walkthrough. The apartment, pre-boxes:
let's take a tour!

entry from the front door (notice the adorable window into the kitchen :))

looking back at the front door

living room from inside the entryway (dining room in the back, hallway leads to bedrooms)

another view of the living room (no that is not our tv haha - it is a wood-burning fireplace :))

living room from the dining area (yeah, we have a great patio!)

living room and kitchen from dining/hallway

galley kitchen - it's so pretty but i was obsessed with our kitchen in blacksburg so i still haven't decided how this one measures up. oh yes and we have a pantry! yay!

window to living room & countertop with space underneath
washer & dryer (looking into dining area)

hallway (it looks pretty in this picture haha)

pretty bathrooms

office

not that interesting but i figured i would still give you another angle

standing at our bedroom door (we have a master bathroom and those other doors are closets)

HUGE windows!! <3 <3

and huge closets! (we each have one :))

looking towards the hallway from our room

our patio (whit is calculating)


our view! so lovely
bottom floor (yeah, all of that is ours - it looks so big!)
they gave us this welcome mat! so cute

yay for having our own place again - finally!!

March 21, 2012

A Few Words About Our Move

It feels like weeks have gone by, but it's only been six days since we were in Mechanicsville. Whit and I drove up to sign our lease on Friday, got to get our keys early and unloaded our two cars. The next day we drove down to Baltimore to meet Whit's parents with a full truck and trailer of our stuff, and unpacked our storage unit with the help of Joe and his friend. We drove the stretch from Baltimore to our town one more time and four of our new co-workers helped us to unpack everything in a couple of hours. I absolutely love our new place and having all of our stuff again! Honestly I just feel happier and more comfortable with all of our things because well, we picked them out so we like them! It's hard to live in an environment when you're surrounded by a ton of things you didn't choose and aren't your favorite. I feel much better now. :) 

So you're probably wondering what all has been going on since the move. Here are a few details:
-Our apartment is a lot nicer than our Blacksburg duplex, but I still miss the kitchen space and the built-in bookcase. Character.
-On the flipside, there are several things that really annoy me in our apartment. Like the way the fan is attached to the light in the bathroom so it's always on - I hate that! 
-We live .25 miles from a Dunkin Donuts. Heaven??
-The blockbuster next to us is going out of business, and Whit and I found 10 movies for $2 each. We lost the bag during the move-in and for a couple days I was agonizing over the potential loss of not $14, but the ability to find so many great movies for such a good price. (We found it!)
-The town west of ours is real ghetto. It's just shady. I promise to not go over the bridge alone at night.
-Our town is less ghetto but still kinda...less suburban than I'm used to. I shopped at K-Mart and Kohls for Whit's birthday present. Not that those are bad stores, I would just always go to Target instead if given the opportunity (which I have always had).
-On the other hand, the town we work in, which is about 15 minutes away, has everything you could ever dream of. Including a Cosi that I was unaware of until yesterday! Yummmm. Ooh and the Target there looks like an old barn! It's really cool.
-We have a gajillion and one local pizza joints nearby. Like, really Italian and really local. Italian guys, thick accents, and "regulars." Knowing my love for Italian, you know I'm set.
-We got to go to Ikea! Great in itself, but add that Whit loved going too, and we found great new furniture for our office! Score!
-Our clubhouse has free sodas & water bottles all the time. You can get one whenever you want.
-I used the gym today! It's a really nice walk to the clubhouse & fitness center. I skipped my water bottle and grabbed one of the aforementioned free ones from the lounge. Sweet.
-Yesterday was Whit's birthday! We had the day off but were still unpacking so it wasn't as special of a day as I would like for him to have, but I think he still had a great day. :) His present? A delicious dinner at a nice place downtown...and a fish! We named him Fishman, after Phish's drummer (named Jon Fishman).
-Most importantly, we have felt SO blessed during this whole move-in process! The neighbor who lives above us works nights (and we are on the corner) so we don't have to worry about our sound system being too loud. He also brought us an aloe plant. We met the people who live two doors down from us; they were friends with the people who just moved out and they seem really cool so I am hoping we can be good friends with them! Two of our future co-workers have brought us meals! And lots of other great things :)

March 20, 2012

Hubs is 25!

Today Whit is 25! Happy birthday to him! 

Unfortunately we're still unpacking and settling in, but it is nice that today is one of our move-in days so at least we don't have to work. :) Over the past few days as we've been moving in and figuring out our new place, I've noticed a few things that I love about Whit. These are the little things that get me, that make me smile and be happy about the man I married.
-He completes tasks quickly - if i need help with something, he comes when i call for him. Nothing is lying around waiting to be done for forever.
-He listens to classical music to relax (or just whenever)
-He is funny. It's usually his word choice that makes me laugh
-He doesn't mind wearing the same outfit two days in a row. doesn't care that i haven't taken a shower in two days since he hasn't taken one in three...
-He puts on his pair of REALLY torn shorts because his other shorts would be too "heavy" when it's hot out
-He likes to nuzzle :)
-He is so neat. He likes things to be simple and great, and not have any extra junk
-He likes certain decorations that he thinks are attractive (this made our trip to Ikea really fun!)
-He loves me!

Happy 25th birthday, babe! I love you!

March 16, 2012

Find a City...

...find yourself a city to live in.

(Taken in Camden at the Phish show we went to there this past summer.)
This skyline is the city of our new home! We are finally here!!

Note: This summer, right as we were driving into Camden, "Cities" came on. If you haven't figured it out yet, the lyrics are the ones I posted: "Find a city, find yourself a city to live in." It was so ironic to hear that as we were entering the place from which we could see our future city! We found it!

March 14, 2012

Dallas

This weekend we got to go to Dallas, Texas to see our friend Adam get married. Whit was the best man, which was really cool because Adam was also the best man in our wedding. Sometimes when Whit's friends get married I don't know them as well, so it's still exciting but less personal. I've known Adam since before I started dating Whit though (he used to accompany Whit and I when we wanted to hang out but didn't want it to just be the two of us...SO gracious!), so it was really cool to get to be there for his wedding too. I've met Liz a couple of times but am excited to get to know her better over the coming years. :) 

A lot of our friends were there even though we were mostly coming from the east coast. I loved getting to see everyone, especially since I really felt like I knew everyone that was there (as opposed to not feeling super comfortable with everyone). I love that weddings connect friends but wish we got to see them more often. :) Oh! And can you believe that seriously the three days we were there it was actually colder there than here?? Give me a break. Oh well, it's summer weather now so I am lovin' it! (Umm...and we move in TWO DAYS!!!!! HOOOORAY!)

Here's a little recap (Sorry, I didn't take ANY pictures of the other times we hung out not at the wedding...I should have.)

Whit being handsome :) Oh yeah and Adam waiting for his bride ;)

Liz - so happy!

Adorable (Oh and this venue felt so pride & prejudice...it was rainy and so pretty)

married!

friends!

Liz & her dad did an awesome choreographed dance routine

They played the shoe game (someone asks a question like who is the best cook, or whose family is crazier, and the bride & groom have to choose one or the other without knowing what their spouse chose. it's a pretty funny game!)

Whit giving an awesome toast

Oh did I tell you Dre showed up? Spontaneously. He took it to the next level.

Us with Adam (haha he was overcompensating for having his eyes closed for the other 3 pictures)

March 13, 2012

Praises

A few good things worth mentioning that happened lately:

-My dad had a magic trick that fixed my old computer (Seriously - I will share it with you. Take out the battery and unplug the AC adapter so it's not connected to power. Hold down the power button for one minute. That's it - reattach to power and it works like regular! MAGIC!)

-When Nicole and I got together for lunch last week in Carytown someone bought our lunch for us! By someone, I mean a mystery person. The waitress handed us back our cards after giving them to her to pay and told us our lunch had been paid for! (No, we weren't being hit on...we think it was these ladies/mom & daughter sitting next to us who had overheard us talking about being on staff and woes of raising support)

-I got a bass!! We got to borrow Whit's friend's old bass when we visited his parents last night. Just in time for the move! So now we don't have to find an old crappy one off Craigslist. Score!

-My sweet Mops co-worker made up a basket of move-in essentials and gave it to me since today was my last week of babysitting. SO thoughtful!!

Thank you, Lord, for all these sweet blessings!

March 12, 2012

The Cost of the Sin of Religiosity

When we were in Dallas we had the opportunity to go to the Village Church. Huge churches are the norm in Texas, but this is one of the biggest ones, so I hear. It was very refreshing to go to a church that was a majority people close to our age (we barely have anyone our age at our home church). Matt Chandler is the pastor and apparently popular, but I had never heard of him before. Now, I can see why. His message was AMAZING! It was so truthful and powerful. I was so impressed with the way that he seems hip and popular, but didn't try to be at all (he only made a few jokes which were very related to the message), and didn't hold back from what was hard to say. I particularly enjoyed it because he's so young but his preaching style reminded me of John Piper (my fave ;)). I think it's incredible that there are so many great pastors today. In my seminary class this summer we learned that in the end times, the world won't just get worse and worse; the dichotomy of good and evil will increase. Good and evil will both increase. Obviously the world is pretty evil right now, but it's awesome to see that there are men preaching the Gospel - and people listening to them. I love seeing God at work!

So about the sermon - what did I love about it? For the first time more than ever before I understood the weight of my sin. My testimony is one that may ring familiar with you - I grew up in the church, accepted Christ through a Sunday School class, and went full-force into church attendance mode after that. Basically, I erred on the side of legalism. One problem with that after becoming a Christian is that I was completely blind to my sin. I was a good girl, so my sins weren't the blatant kind; I at times begged God in prayer to reveal my sin to me because I just wasn't aware of it, but I knew it existed. I don't think He fully answered my prayer until today. 

Matt gave specific examples of things a legalistic person holds on to and trusts in within their moral lifestyle: never getting drunk, not cussing, winning awards for church attendance (ha), being a virgin at marriage. He definitely caught my attention because I fit into every category he listed! I knew I always pursued a moral lifestyle, but didn't realize that for a lot of my life I was trusting in my moral righteousness.The passage of scripture we were looking at was Galatians 2, which mentions the difference in backgrounds between Jews and Gentiles. The Jews had so much to lord over the Gentiles - they were so moral! They had the law and they followed it. The Gentiles on the other hand? Today they would be those people raised in homes that never went to church, had a few drunken uncles and multiple babies out of wedlock. But in verse 16 Paul says that neither of those backgrounds count for anything in terms of our salvation. That means that the legalistic person is NOT justified by their works, aka their moral lifestyle. (This doesn't mean that we shouldn't strive to raise our children in a godly home or lead them to Christ. It just means that in terms of justification, background doesn't have an impact. You can be saved either way, but either way you are saved by faith in Christ, not works.)

This really hit me when we started to worship after the sermon had ended. On the screen was Romans 5:8 - "but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." God opened my eyes to see that even when I was a kid trying to do the right thing, I was sinning. And that sin of thinking I was good enough, or trusting in my goodness was bad enough that Jesus had to die! While I was going to church, praying at bedtime, not ever pinky-swearing, not watching bad TV shows, etc, I was relying on myself instead of God. And that is a serious offense. The sin of legalism is so wretched that it cost Jesus His life. It's not any better than any other sin. I am so thankful for the grace of God, especially now, because I see more clearly the price Jesus paid to rectify my sinful life. He saved me - I was doomed, depending on myself, but by His great love He made me alive with Christ. Praise the Lord!

Friends, even after we are saved this is a simple trap to fall into. It's something we need to be on guard of and watching out for. If we center our lives around church, rules, and journaling (haha I just found out that's not even a word despite its use in Christian circles), we might forget to have faith in Jesus Christ. Galatians 2:20: "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."

March 8, 2012

Helping the Poor and Orphans: Stop Kony 2012

One aspect of the Christian life that I think in our culture is often forgotten is the command from Jesus to help the poor, orphans, and widows. It's so easy to forget about this if you're living in an American suburb where you rarely, if ever, see a homeless person or know of any orphans. However, when we read the Bible we are faced with the challenge to care for these people that often slip our minds. I was reminded of this truth when recently reading Money Possession and Eternity by Randy Alcorn. (I highly recommend this book, which is extremely thorough, theologically accurate, and challenging.)

In the Old Testament, God commanded His people to watch over the needy, since there will never cease to be poor around.
You shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him, because for this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’ Deuteronomy 15:10-11

Jesus set the example for how we should act, frequently caring for the poor and healing beggars and outcasts.
"When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return, and repayment come to you. But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous." Luke 14:12-14

James also encourages us with a theme seen throughout the Bible - to care for orphans and widows.
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. James 1:27

I had just finished reading this chapter when I found this video online. If you haven't seen the original Invisible Children movie, make that a priority this month. It's shocking to find out what horrors African children are facing in their daily lives. This recent video is a campaign to not stop until the leader of the rebel army (who has captured thousands of children and forced them to become killers) is captured. The gist of it is that the African armies lack the strategic intelligence to find this man on their own. Obama has put American advisers in place to help them, but they could be taken away at any time. We have to let our government know that we as American people care about this issue. Kony is at the top of the world's worst criminals list. Take that in! It's pretty pathetic that this has been going on for 3 decades while the rest of the world stands back, not taking action because it doesn't involve us. As Christians this is UNACCEPTABLE. 

How can you be involved in helping the poor and orphans? Here's one way: be a part of this movement to stop Kony in the year 2012. I am expectant that this movement will be a game-changer. I want to be part of a generation that sets out to fight evil and wins. Imagine how many other issues could be solved if we as the people step up and demand action from our government, one of the most influential governments in the world. This is history.

March 5, 2012

Decorating our Office

In just ten days we will finally have our own apartment!!! Whit and I lived in our own place for six months after we got married, but since then have been bunking with his parents. It's awesome of them to let us stay with them (and awesome on our savings account), but we CAN'T WAIT to have a space that's entirely ours again!! (And not a 200-year old house! Amen!) 

Of course you know I've been dreaming about what our new place will look like. We have a lot of furniture already from living on our own in Blacksburg. We have a couch, three chairs, bed/headboard, etc. etc. We just got a new table and chairs from my parents from when they moved in August. We can't wait to try it out! It will fit right in with the rest of the theme we have going - dark brown and tan. Seriously, everything we own is those colors (couch, two chairs, kitchen table). I think that those colors are pretty blah. If you know me, I like things to be bright and colorful! However, it's good for me to have these items that are neutral-colored because then I get to decorate with tons of fun colors and patterns!

Anyways, this is getting off-subject. In our old place our second bedroom/office was just a random assortment of things. You know the feeling...just take all the random things leftover and put them all in one place. We had a glass desk, an oak desk, a cherry bookcase, a purple plaid futon, a giant Mediterranean painting, some Phish posters, an ottoman that didn't fit in the living room, a keyboard, and Whit's guitar stuff. Man that place looked cluttered! Everything just kind of clashed.

Well, for our new office I am planning to make it a little more coordinated. In the topic of decorating, I need help. An organized, pull-together theme doesn't come natural to me. I'm too creative - I come up with SO many ideas instead of just one. I know this about myself, so Whit and I have already come up with a life plan so that our house will eventually look neat and beautiful instead of cluttered and not very well thought-out. The plan is that for every room we will have one main color (or maybe two...), and only buy items that REALLY go with our theme. (We saw this in someone's house recently with purple and white and it looked A.MA.ZING.) That means NOT buying anything that doesn't fully match! Wow! That sounds tough. So, even if I find something that I LOVE that's on super cheap sale, if it won't work in the room it's a no go. And, if we find something AMAZING but it costs a little more than something that sorta works, we need to go with the awesome one. It sounds risky, but I honestly think it will save a lot of money in the long run because I won't be buying a bunch of things I find on sale. I think it will be so fun to collect really great items over the years that will make our house awesome. My favorite thing about this plan is that everything we buy we will love! Say goodbye to purchases that are I think are mediocre and I only own them because I got them on sale.

Since we already have furnishings and decorations for most of the other rooms of our house but had to get rid of a lot of stuff from our old second bedroom, I am so excited to implement this plan in our new office! The idea is to have a bright kelly green with black and white. We will also add some fun accent colors in small places (I'm thinking Asian/Indian magenta pattern on cute elephant prints for the walls.)

What do you think?
black rug, green curtains, new white desk, white bookshelf, white frames (already have: black & glass desk, brown and tan chair, guitar & music stuff)

March 3, 2012

Shiny, New, Fast...

computer! 

Sadly yesterday my computer died. It has been struggling for the past few months, going in and out of consciousness occasionally. I had problems with overheating (used a cooling pad), battery (bought a giant battery that doesn't fit in the computer or last as long as it's supposed to) and power (AC adapter is VERY finnicky) so I don't move my laptop around AT ALL. It stays put, right on my desk. I will NEVER move it for fear of not being able to find the right spot for it to charge again. But now the worst problem happened - motherboard failure. This actually happened before and when it did, it fortunately turned back on again several days later. I backed up EVERYTHING onto my external hard drive. That was scary! I updated my hard drive a few times after that, trying to keep it up to date. But since it randomly shut off yesterday, it hasn't so much as blinked. Well, maybe it blinked. The screen got bright but still black, and then shut off again. 

I had had enough, so yesterday we were off to buy a new computer. I had already looked around so my choice was easy. Now I have a laptop that can actually sit on my lap!! Oh my gosh, what a novel idea! It is pretty and white, and has an i5 processor so it's super fast. It will be my work computer (and potentially my home computer as well if my old one doesn't shape up soon) so I wanted it to be fast and have a lot of storage space. The battery lasts forever too! I am currently downloading 28 gigs of pictures onto it from my external hard drive - just the essentials. ;) I finally figured out my iTunes password (I kept guessing the security question wrong! Are you kidding me??), but Whit's version of Microsoft Office doesn't have the full 15-character security key so I don't have any documents yet. Hmm. There's also a lot of important time-sensitive work stuff that I need to get off of my old computer, so, here's to hoping that it turns on again some day!!

March

I'm excited for March! This is going to be a great month. We have lots going on - Whit is the best man at a wedding in Dallas, we move into our new apartment the next weekend, it's Whit's birthday, we will hopefully get to go pick up Tela cat, and then my parents visit. Phew! It should be great though! Here is what I want to see happen:

-continue working out (running and toning) - twice per week
-get tickets to all 3 nights of the atlantic city festival
-have a lot of fun at Adam's wedding
-finish reading Through Gates of Splendor for training
-hang out or skype with everyone I've been meaning to (or at least some!)
-get to 90% of our support raised by the time we move
-MOVE!! (on St. Patrick's Day) 
-don't get snowed in before we have a chance to buy groceries & set up utilities
-plan a great birthday party for Whit
-get a cat!! meow
-get everything set up in our new place in the days we are taking off
-become an official PA resident (license, tags, voting, etc.)
-enjoy a whole weekend off!!!!
-try out an awesome church
-have a great time with my parents
-finish reading Money, Possessions, & Eternity
-start reading The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
-beat my game in Harvest Moon :)

Wow that's a lot. Alright, let's take a look at January's goals. (Yeah, I didn't make any for February.) I didn't accomplish most of what was on that list, but that's okay - I think whether you accomplish all your goals or not, it's very helpful to make them because you'll be more productive than if you didn't. Like I played piano more after making the goals, even though I didn't play every day. Here's what did happen (including February):
-We are at 85%
-I finished reading 2 books (not Atlas Shrugged or the Hunger Games...I decided to take a break from them because I don't think they would be good for me mentally, at least right now)
-I did a quiet time most days and prayed more
-Whit and I made more time for each other
-I worked out once a week except for maybe one time
-I've been taking my vitamins
-I learned to curl my hair! This actually was a goal for January, I just didn't write it down
-I set an all-time record in online Settlers - over 100 points for the month of February!! I'm so impressed with myself because I used to always have like below negative 50. It was sad. I'm wicked good at strategy now though, don't mess with me in a game of Settlers, ha.

March....let's go!

March 1, 2012

Leap Day

Did anyone else have an awesome leap day yesterday?! Whit came up with the most amazing idea - leap day should be a holiday! Umm...why didn't anyone think of that sooner?? It's only once every four years, and it's not even accounted for since it's a completely extra day! It wouldn't cost anyone that much because it's not even supposed to be a day! So I vote for leap day holiday. President 2013, please??

Things that made my leap day awesome:
Being in Blacksburg - walking around downtown and on campus
PHISH announcing summer tour!!! It's like Christmas for Phish fans - oh the anticipation. They would wait til leap day to announce it. I brought my Phish shirt just in case, and was so happy to wear it today! :) 
A great appointment speaking at my cousin's church - we got so much encouragement from the people who attended!
85%!!! Answer. to. prayer. Seriously- we had been praying to get to 85 by the end of February. And it happened just in time! Thank You Lord!!
Watching Troll 2 with the Bethanys - it's the best worst movie. No really, it was rated as THE worst movie on IMDB at some point a few years ago, but now has a huge cult following (I know this because the previous night we watched a documentary on it hahah). It's still like #83 from the bottom. It was pretty bad.
And for emphasis....we are going to Atlantic City this summer!!!! WOOOOHOOOO! Isn't this perfect - Phish is playing a three-night run in Atlantic City on a Friday-Sunday this summer - in an outdoor festival venue nonetheless!! (AC is only 2 hours from our new place, and I've always wanted to go to Vegas so this is like second best haha - rock on!) You will be hearing more about this. :) :)

February 28, 2012

Jamie's Bridal Shower

We pulled it off - the first ever shower I've co-hosted! Saturday we celebrated Jamie and Kevin's upcoming wedding, which seems so close now! I'm so excited for Jamie to get married, and I'm so glad we were able to throw her a shower before I move out of town.

the banner I made! it looked good :)
mini banner over the dessert area
red velvet cupcakes with coffee frosting
mingling
Jennifer, Jamie's little sister
at Danielle's house
opening a thoughtful gift
drink flags and punch
Franklin and Jennifer
me with the bride!