Dec 30, 2014

delighting in 1000 gifts // part 6

I am so grateful for being inspired by Ann Voscamp's book, One Thousand Gifts, to daily write down three gifts/blessings in this past year. With just one day left of 2014, I am looking back at more blessings from this past year. It's been an year full of adventure as well as hardships, but through it all, God was so faithful. 

Here's a review so far:

And now here are some of my favorite gifts from this past summer:

#645-#651. I spent my birthday with my handsome Texan in his city. He had sweet surprises all day long, such as peonies (my favorite), antique shopping in an adorable little western town outside of the city, amazing authentic bbq, & he agreed to watch Pride & Prejudice with me. Best. Birthday.Ever. 
 #682-#692. Family beach getaway at my favorite beach in the Pacific NW, Cannon Beach. Quality time with each other (and with our adorable niece and nephew!), great seafood, early morning Bible study with the ocean view  while everyone was still sleeping, exploring lesser known beaches such as Oswald West and Hug Point, holding my toddler nephew during the 4th of July firework show on the beach. So much fun and so relaxing!

#709. Encouraging and heart-felt condolences, flowers, and prayers  from friends and coworkers when my beautiful grandma passed away this past summer. We had lots of time with extended family as well, which helped us grieve as well as celebrate the legacy she left behind in such a large and amazing family. 

#717 -#726. A few weeks later, a weekend trip to an uncle's lake house with several aunts, my grandpa, parents, and a few cousins. My sweet grandpa was able to do what he loves (fish) while being surrounded family who love him. It was so great to be with family without plans or itineraries. Just to be together and enjoy the blessing of having family to hold onto during the grieving process of loving our beloved grandma.
My uncle and grandpa's early morning fishing session
#730, #741. Fresh flowers from a farmer's market near my apartment. All summer long, I stopped every Thursday after work. 

#757. Starting a new series called All of Nature Declares. I really enjoyed looking at different aspects of nature that "declared" the beauty and faithfulness of the Creator!

#758. Working at a pediatric clinic where my coworkers and bosses allow (and actually encouraged!) me to take time off and lighten my schedule to help me deal with a difficult season of anxiety and feeling overwhelmed.  I thought I'd look weak and incompetent, but instead I felt supported and appreciated.

#763. My two youngest brothers slept over one night in August and we had a blast!

#764-#783. My Handsome came to visit me in August. We explored the Pacific NW in all its summertime glory! Some highlights included day trips to the Cannon Beach, Seattle, and the Columbia Gorge.

Since I haven't quite finished sharing all my favorite gifts of 2014, I'll share some more in the first few weeks of 2015 to help kickstart another year of looking at the everyday blessings that otherwise can go unnoticed in the busy (and oft times painful) seasons.


Dec 23, 2014

books of 2014

One year ago, I worked on goals for this year. One of the goals was centered on reading. An avid reader in my younger years, I had become so busy in recent years that I hardly ever read for pleasure. So I wanted to challenge myself for 2014: Ten books in twelve months. I figured it was roughly one book a month (with some grace period in case I got behind). But, as I dove into a series of books, I soon reached my goal halfway into the year! I changed my reading challenge from ten to eighteen books, I met my goal! 20 books in 12 months! This may not seem a lot to some, but for me, it is a great reminder that I can make time for something that gives me great delight. It meant decreasing distractions like Pinterest and television, but in exchange, I gained so much more! I learned world history through novels, studied theology, and "met" a few people who did not allow their handicaps to keep them from pursuing their purpose.

Here are the twenty books of 2014. I recommend each of them!
(And check out my goodreads account for other favorites!)

Ghost Boy by Martin Pistorius (my review)
Hudson Taylor by James Hudson Taylor
Fanny Crosby: The Hymn Writer by Bernard Ruffin
Open Your Eyes: 10 Uncommon Lessons to Discover a Happier Life
by Jake Olson & McKay Christensen (my review)

Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
The Golden Key by George MacDonald
Leota's Garden by Francine Rivers
Bianca's Vineyard by Teresa Neumann
Domenico's Table by Teresa Neumann

A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by W. Phillip Keller
The Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler (my review)
Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way by Shauna Niequist (my review)
Cold Tangerines: Celebrating the Extraordinary Nature of Everyday Life by Shauna Niequist
Hope Rising: How Christians Can End Extreme Poverty in This Generation by Scott Todd
Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist by John Piper (my review)
Meet Me in the Meadow: Finding God in the Wildflowers by Deborah Hedstrom-Page
Loveology: God. Love. Marriage. Sex. And the Never-Ending Story of Male and Female by John Mark Comer
Whispers of Hope: 10 Weeks of Devotional Prayer by Beth Moore (my review)

currently reading
Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
Jesus Among Other Gods by Ravi Zacharias

What books did you read in 2014? Any that you'd recommend? 

 Carl Vilhelm Hols√łe "Girl in an Interior" 19th Century

Dec 19, 2014

delighting in 1000 gifts // part 5

I am sitting in my favorite spot in my apartment (my armchair in the corner of my living room), sipping on eggnog, listening to a Christmas playlist on Spotify, and smelling the scent of an Anthropologie candle nearby. What a delight and joy to have time to rest and reflect some of my most memorable blessings, or gifts, of this past year.

Here is a recap of the first four parts:

Here are a few more gifts of 2014:
#356.  A long talk with my neighbor-friend about some of my worries and fears. I am so blessed to have her in my life. She brings so much joy in my life, whether sharing in our silliness, encouraging and uplifting me in times of stress and confusion, preparing meals for me, or dropping off groceries she bought for me, she is a gift. 

#383. The smell of fresh-cut grass and hearing birds chirping during an early spring jog on a nearby trail.

#404. Enjoyed seeing cherry blossom trees during a visit to Seattle in the spring, both at Greenlake Park and at University of Washington (here are more pics from my trip to Seattle, here and here)
#435. Going through A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 (by Phillip Keller) with my boyfriend via FaceTime, emails, and phone conversations. I quickly realized what a wise man he is. I learn so much from discussing different books, sermons, and Bible passages, and it's very humbling when he reminds me that he learns a lot from me as well.

#446 - #481. Speaking of my boyfriend,  I had several pages in my 1000 gifts journal listing little blessings from his first time visiting me. It was the first time we saw each other (other than FaceTime) since we met 2.5 months prior to this visit in April. We ate plenty paleo and gluten-free meals, hiked, walked hand-in-hand alongside the downtown waterfront, and took a trip to the coast (here are a few photos, though I left photos of him out of the post since we were still keeping it on the downlow).

#511. As I was charting at my work station, a little girl returned from the bathroom to the patient room her mom was in. But before entering, she softly knocked on the door and began singing "Do you want to build a snowman?" from Frozen. Her mom eventually opened the door, saw a few of the staff smiling at her, and embarrassed, grabbed her daughter back in the room, but not too fast for the little girl to look at us and sing "... ok, bye". It was pure perfection!! So adorable!

#541. After a productive day cleaning my apartment, I rewarded myself with taking my beach cruiser for a ride around the nearby farms on a sunny spring Saturday.
#589. Quiet time at a nearby cafe for catching up on blogging, reading, letter-writing, and journaling.

#607-#631. Road trip to San Fransisco with siblings (adventures where shared on posts, including: Redwoods National Park; bike ride along San Fran's Marina District and over the Golden Gate Bridge into the adorable town of Sausilito; a castle in Napa Valley; and beach-hopping from Carmel to Monterey.

So many gifts in the first six months of 2014! Excited to share some more gifts from the second half of the year! Stay tuned!

Dec 6, 2014

delighting in 1000 gifts // part four

In October, I started sharing some of my favorite blessings from the last twelve months of writing in my 1000 gifts journal. Inspired by Ann Voscamp's book by the same title, I wanted to challenge myself to daily fix my mind on the gifts of each day rather than the hardships. I don't know about you, but I naturally gravitate towards the worst part of the day as I try to lay down and sleep. Rather than counting  blessings (or atleast sheep!), I count my failures, regrets, and fear. And then I wonder why I can't sleep well at night! But from my first gift that I wrote down in October 2013 until my 1000th gift I penned in November 2014, my heart and mind have seen the hope, rest, and joy found in fixing my gaze on the may blessings or gifts that have been showered upon me.

 But do not miss the point. The gifts themselves are not the means to an end in themselves. They are meant to point me to the best Gift Giver.

"So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask Him."
<< Matthew 7:11 >>

"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change."
<< James 1: 17 >>

Don't get me wrong here. I had a hard year. Anxious thoughts seemed to rule over my peace and joy for a good portion of this year. Yet, and that is a big YET, God was faithfulHe was faithful in the days that it seemed my hand could not move the pen fast enough to write down each gift from the day.  He was also faithful when I stared down at a blank sheet and wondered if I was being a fool for trying to think of a good thing that happened during a ridiculously hard day. His character did not change, which meant His gift giving did not cease. Rather than obvious gifts that were easy to recount, these days held buried treasures that, once found, brought tears to my eyes once I realized that God was there in the midst of my darkest moments this year, still giving. 

As I look back at some of my favorite gifts from this year full of gifts, I can truly say that I am blessed. Not in a fluffy #blessed way, but in a deep-rooted, held-in-the-Everlasting-Arms type of blessed. I was reminded during this gift-counting year that God is the best giver. He gives and gives and gives. This year, He has given me gifts that changed me physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. He is an all-encompassing God. He does not stop at financial blessings like paying off a school loan or having enough money each month to pay off rent, though I can praise Him for both this year. He also gives generously in supplying our social needs such as a loving community of people to build us up and point us to Him and speak truth into our lives (again, a gift I am so thankful for this year). And the giving does not stop there. 

He gives through the life-giving words of His written words, the Holy Bible. 
He gives beauty through a dazzling sea of blue or a majestic sunset.
He gives hope through a new dawn each day that is brimming with possibilities.
He gives second chances when we think we've reached the end of our rope.
God the Father gives and gives and gives.

And the best gift of all? The most extravagant gift showcasing His unfailing love? "For God so loved the world, that He gave."  God gave us His Son, Jesus. But, Jesus was not passive in this giving. He gave Himself to us as well when He surrendered Himself to the Father's will to become our substitute for what we deserved. He gave us the life we could not have ever given ourselves.
God the Son gives and gives and gives.

As Jesus returned to heaven, He promised to keep on giving and gave the gift that keeps on giving. He gave the Third Person of the Trinity: the gift that comforts, corrects, guides, encourages, and points to God the Father and God the Son Jesus.
God the Holy Spirit gives and gives and gives. 

No, I am not the fluffy blessed that has become synonymous with a prosperity-focused theology or ideology. I am blessed in the sometimes jagged gifts that I oft-times want to initially skip over, but later on see the deep love that brought the gift. I am blessed with both loud gifts that are easily noticed and joyfully celebrated. Yet, still, the quiet and shy gifts that wonder if they'll be noticed at all (or even if they're wanted). 

As I find myself in the rush and busyness of the season best known for giving gifts, I hope that I (and you too) will be reminded of the God who gives and gives and gives. 

I shared some of the early gifts of the last year (here, here, and here). Now, here are a few more gifts (that all occurred in February) that rocked my world in 2014:

---> 264. Heart-to-heart conversations with close friends and sharing them exciting news about a new handsome Texan I had recently met & would soon become my amazing boyfriend :-)
---> 265. Sushi and a sister-date to watch Frozen!
---> 273. After a long, hard few days at work, an out-of-town friend called and left an encouraging voicemail with truth-filled words that my heart desperately needed to hear. It was certainly a "God moment" because we hadn't spoken for a while and she said she had thought of me and wanted to call.
---> 274. The heaviest snowfall of 2014 in the Pacific Northwest personally meant a four-hour commute from work and wondering if I'd make it home without my car being totaled by angry drivers. But my handsome Texan sent sweet text messages to read when my car was at a dead stop behind hundreds of others. Once home, I treated myself to hot cocoa, Wives & Daughters (its a must see for any Jane Austen fans. Y'all would love Elizabeth Gaskell!), Skype chat with the encouraging friend from #273, warm beef veggie stew, and walking around my apartment complex in the moonlight shining down on the snow-covered complex. I made snow angels for the first time in ages! 
---> 306. Visiting my BFF in SoCal. We laughed well, ate well, and adventured the sunny beaches well. It was so good to finally hang out with her again!

Aside from being the longest 4 hours of my life, it was also a very beautiful drive as the snow came down in buckets
Walking in a Winter Wonderland at my apartment complex. I will never forget the peace and solitude of that night.
Two weeks after our snow storm, I find myself looking at this view near Laguna Beach!
BFFs reunited at last!

Dec 2, 2014

goodbye November // hello December!

Oh, dear, I seem to have fallen off the face of the blogging world lately! I cannot believe it is the December! Can I get a hip-hip-hooray?! I love December! 

November was a busy month, but I managed to complete most of my monthly goals. One big bummer of November, though, is that I had hoped to post more of the Delighting in 1000 Gifts posts where I shared some of my favorite blessings/gifts since starting my Ann Voscamp-inspired 1000 gifts journal last November. I read her thought-provoking book (aptly titled One Thousand Gifts) last November and it changed the way I looked at small, everyday blessings that were gifted upon me by a loving Heavenly Father. Daily chronicling gifts, both big and small, helped me focus on the positive rather than the negative each day. This nightly exercise truly helped me through some seasons of anxious thoughts in the past year. I hope to share some more of these gifts this month, so stay tuned (see the posts so far: one, two, three )! 

I am excited about my "goals" for December! They are all fun things I want to do during this busy holiday month, so it will be a joy to do each of them!


November Goals
>> Write to my Compassion Child
>> Pack atleast 4 Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes and continue to announce it at church so more people will be involved with this awesome ministry! (packed 8, plus helped my sister lead the first OCC Shoebox Packing Party at our church, where we packed 79 boxes! We collected 315 shoeboxes from our home church! That is a record in the many years we have lead it!)
>> Get to bed by 11 on work nights (I got to bed by 11:30 most nights)
>> Pray before opening my Bible and doing any Bible study (still working on this)
>> Continue to journal 3 blessings/gifts every day (finished the 1000 gifts!)
>> Snail mail: 3 letters in the next month 
>> Work out atleast once a week (sadly, NO!)
>> Read atleast 1 work-related article or powerpoint notes from my NP program
>> Meditate and memorize a new verse
>> 1 new recipe (Paleo Crockpot Enchilada Soup)
>> Check my online budgeting atleast once this month
>> Start a new book (read all of Bianca's Vineyard in about a week. It was a great novel!)


December Goals
>> Write to my Compassion Child
>> Pick out a tree from a tree farm
>> Enjoy our family's Leavenworth trip (last year's trip to this winter wonderland).
>> Buy gifts for my secret santa and a few others 
>> Get to bed by 11-11:30 on work nights
>> Go to my first NBA game (Blazers vs Spurs)
>> Pray before opening my Bible and doing any Bible study
>> Blog atleast 3 more posts from the "Delighting in #1000 Gifts" series
>> Snail mail: 3 letters in the next month
>> Work out atleast once a week
>> Daily read the advent She Reads Truth study, O Come Let Us Adore Him. The study pack is gorgeous!!
>> Meditate and memorize a new verse
>> 1 new recipe
>> Check my online budgeting atleast once this month
>> Start a new book
>> Enjoy the week with my handsome mister when he visits! So many exciting Christmas-themed plans, plus spontaneous free time to relax and just enjoy being together. 

Lastly, here are some photos from some of my favorite memories in November!

I had a sister date at our city's Japanese Garden!
  . . . and then I surprised my Texan mister  with a long weekend trip filled with plenty of spontaneous quality time! I am usually a planner, so I made a point to make hardly any plans this trip so we could just enjoy being together. It ended up being so joyful and restful! I am truly so blessed!
We love Lebanese/Mediterranean  food! I think we have it during each of our visits.
I've always wanted to see a ballet, so I was so excited to see Vivaldi's Four Seasons!!

We had a fun time packing Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes at our first annual packing party!
 Got a few hours to meet up with a very dear friend for lunch!
 A delicious Romanian-inspired Thanksgiving meal! I had more turkey, but it was just so good, I couldn't wait for the photo to be taken, hence half of it is missing!

How was your November? Did you achieve your goals (if you made some last month)?