God Can't Be Kept Out

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

It's a pretty common issue every year around this time:

"Keep the CHRIST in Christmas."

But this year, in light of recent events, blame is rampant.

If only we had kept "under God" in the pledge of allegiance...
If only we had allowed prayer in schools....
If only...

...As if God is somehow punishing those kids and their families for the laws set in place by their government.

Or worse- that those laws actually erect some kind of invisible barrier that, try as He might, God just can't seem to penetrate.

Call me emergent, but I just don't think that's how God works.

"God can be wherever God wants to be. God needs no formal invitation. We couldn’t “systematically remove” God if we tried.

If the incarnation teaches us anything, it’s that God can be found everywhere: in a cattle trough, on a throne, among the poor, with the sick, on a donkey, in a fishing boat, with the junkie, with the prostitute, with the hypocrite, with the forgotten, in places of power, in places of oppression, in poverty, in wealth, where God’s name is known, where it is unknown, with our friends, with our enemies, in our convictions, in our doubts, in life, in death, at the table, on the cross, and in every kindergarten classroom from Sandy Hook to Shanghai. "

-Rachel Held Evans

I encourage you to read the rest of Rachel's article here

I for one believe that prayer should be kept in schools, that the name of God should remain in the Pledge of Allegiance and on our money, and yes, that we should remember what Christmas is truly about.  But I also believe that we should not make God so small that we think we have any power to control where He is and will be.

Our Hearts Are Heavy

Saturday, December 15, 2012

For children we never knew.
For families we'll never meet.
For a society in which we fear raising our own unborn children.
For a world that yearns for a Better Future, yet which we are reminded daily is still in the clutches of evil.

I recommend this article to everyone who may wonder how to properly console. We will all face devastation of some sort at some point in our lives, and we will also all be given opportunities to console others in devastating circumstances. It is very important that we know how to do it well.

Dealing With Grief: What NOT to Say

I leave you with this food for thought from Morgan Freeman. It's really harsh, to be sure. But it is true and poignant.

“You want to know why {these shootings keep happening}. This may sound cynical, but here’s why.It’s because of the way the media reports it. Flip on the news and watch how we treat the Batman theater shooter and the Oregon mall shooter like celebrities. Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris are household names, but do you know the name of a single victim of Columbine? Disturbed people who would otherwise just off themselves in their basements see the news and want to top it by doing something worse, and going out in a memorable way. Why a grade school? Why children? Because he’ll be remembered as a horrible monster, instead of a sad nobody.

CNN’s article says that if the body count “holds up”, this will rank as the second deadliest shooting behind Virginia Tech, as if statistics somehow make one shooting worse than another. Then they post a video interview of third-graders for all the details of what they saw and heard while the shootings were happening. Fox News has plastered the killer’s face on all their reports for hours. Any articles or news stories yet that focus on the victims and ignore the killer’s identity? None that I've seen yet. Because they don’t sell. So congratulations, sensationalist media, you've just lit the fire for someone to top this and knock off a day care center or a maternity ward next.

You can help by forgetting you ever read this man's name, and remembering the name of at least one victim. You can help by donating to mental health research instead of pointing to gun control as the problem. You can help by turning off the news."

Christmas Bucket List: LA Edition

Saturday, November 24, 2012

It is my humble opinion that no place on Earth does Christmas quite as well as Heidelberg, Germany.

Chicago hosts a pretty lovely holiday season as well:

And despite the fact that yesterday's official kickoff of the holiday season rang in at a whopping 80 degrees, Los Angeles offers plenty of things to do to get into the Christmas spirit.  Here are a few of my favorite ways to celebrate the season in LA and the surrounding areas, as well as a few new things I'm hoping to try this year!

1. Go see the Hollywood Christmas Parade: This Sunday (November 25th) 5:30 PM.  I have vivid memories of going here with my cousins and anxiously awaiting the float with Santa.  I also remember it being quite chilly! More info here
2. Ice skate at Pershing Square (right under the LA Times Building): Because seriously... nothing says Christmas like ice skating.  More info here
3. Visit Disneyland: If you can afford it, this is a no brainer.  There is no more magical time at the Happiest place on earth than the holidays. Do me a solid and ride the Haunted Mansion.  When  it's decked out like Nightmare Before Christmas, it's my favorite ride at the park.
4. Visit Mount Baldy: If your holiday season just isn't complete without snow, mount baldy is a perfect local fix.  Spend the day sledding down hills and grab dinner at the Mount Baldy Lodge.  Extra points if you're able to snag a seat by the fireplace!
5. Gawk at the Fashion Island Christmas Tree: Most years this tree takes the cake for the nation's tallest, and it's a tradition for my family to take a trip down here the week before Christmas.  There is also an ice skating rink, a place to take pictures with Santa, and of course tons of great stores and restaurants!
6. Shop at Renegade Holiday Market: (Dec 8 & 9) I was introduced to Renegade in Chicago and was immediately hooked.  I was over the moon when I found out they host craft fairs in other big cities as well!  Admission is free and the fair features handmade goods and original artwork from sellers all across the country.  More info here
7. Drive Through an Awesome Christmas Light Display: Here are a few that I have been to or heard about-
Rancho Cucomonga- Info here
Santa Clarita/ Saugus- Map here
El Segundo "Candy Cane Lane"- Info here
Altadena "Christmas Tree Lane"- Info here
Eagle Hills in Brea- Info here
8. Go See The Nutcracker: For just about every year since I can remember I was either in the ballet or went to see it.  Christmas just doesn't feel quite right without it! This year there are performances at Pepperdine's Smothers Theatre.  Tickets here
9. Listen to Live Christmas Music: LA has quite a few "sing alongs" which I think would be so much fun to go to! If singing isn't your thing there are also great choral and instrumental concerts throughout December.  More info  here
10. Take Part in Heritage Square's Lamplight Celebration: Take a tour of local Victorian mansions while A Christmas Carol is recreated live.  Does it get cooler? More info here
**Bonus for 2013 (hopefully) Walk Through Griffith Park's DWP Lights Display: This awesome tradition is on hiatus for another year due to the construction at Griffith Park, but log it away in your memory bank- it's worth it!

What are some of your favorite holiday traditions in your city?


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

This can be a confusing time of the year.

In all seriousness, I find myself conflicted during the holidays.  I know I should be thankful.  I want to be thankful.  Yet I'm finding myself focusing so much more on the things that I'm lacking.  Sometimes these are material things, but more frequently they are intangibles:

I wish I had more time
I wish I had more friends
I wish I were more stylish
I wish I were more creative

Ungratefulness is a snowballing habit. The more we complain, the better we become at finding things to be unhappy about. And guess what? By cultivating feelings of ungratefulness we actually make ourselves less happy! A 2010 Study in the Wall Street Journal reported that adults who feel grateful have “more energy, more optimism, more social connections and more happiness than those who do not... They’re also less likely to be depressed, envious, greedy or alcoholics.”  

We've all heard the adage that the grass is always greener on the other side.  I'm coming to realize that doesn't have to be the case- in fact, the grass is greenest where you water it.  By making a daily commitment to cultivate a disposition that defaults to thankfulness we can grow habits which will spill over into every area of our lives.  We can start with the simple act of counting our blessings.  

Look for things to be grateful for, and you will start to see them.

If we truly committed to living this way it would change everything.

Our friendships.
Our marriages.
Our jobs.
Our ministries.

I know that, like all habits, implementing this into my life will take a lot of practice.  But it's something that I want to continue even after the turkey is gone.  As my first baby step, here are ten things for which I am especially thankful today:

I am thankful for my caring, loving, patient, selfless husband
I am thankful to live so close to most of my family
I am thankful for the new family I have gained
I am thankful for pets
I am thankful for coffee
I am thankful for democracy
I am thankful for the wonderful friendships I am surrounded by
I am thankful that God made us able to enjoy eating (think about it... what if we just photosynthesized?)
I am thankful for my health
I am thankful for my eternal salvation in Christ

What are some things that you are thankful for today?


Monday, November 12, 2012

Since moving into our house Ty and I have had a lot of conversations about hospitality.  We made a commitment even before we got married that we were going to be intentional about reaching out to others and welcoming them into our home; regardless of the size or condition of that home.  We have been very blessed in that we are currently able to stay in a home with two bedrooms.  We recognize that this is not normal for a couple of our... er.... current economic standing, and thus we also recognize it as a gift from God that we want to use for His glory.

As we have attempted to make people feel welcome in our home we have come to realize that there are two types of hospitality which we hope to demonstrate. 

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The first is the type that prepares.  This hospitality plans and awaits and searches pinterest for far too long at work.  It anticipates the arrival of guests, it cooks delicious meals, it sets the table, it washes the sheets.  The best example I can think of this side of hospitality is found in Mrs. Morrow, who is one of my best friend's mothers.  Every time we visit Mrs. Morrow we are greeted with slippers, welcome baskets filled with toiletries and treats, and a warm meal.  It's obvious every time we visit that she has worked to make us feel at home and loved.  This kind of hospitality shows the side of Jesus portrayed in John 4:2-3 in which He explains that He will "prepare a place for [us.]"

Image via

The second is the type that accepts without condition.  This type of hospitality was exemplified by my parents.  I have vivid memories of various people knocking on our door in the middle of the night because they had nowhere else to go.  One was a neighbor whose husband had beat her.  One was a family friend who relapsed. There were times when people would show up for dinner without warning. There was a child in the neighborhood who would walk through our front door in the middle of the day because his parents refused to pay attention to him. I had friends all throughout high school who would get into fights with their parents and just needed a safe place to stay for a couple hours. My parents never turned anyone away; regardless of the cleanliness of the house or how much food had been made or whether or not there were enough beds in the house, my parents welcomed everyone into their home with open arms. Sometimes this meant that our guests had mac n' cheese for dinner and had to sleep on an air mattress in the living room, which was a disaster because it hadn't been cleaned in a month. It didn't matter. Though there was no preparation or anticipation, there was acceptance. This type of hospitality shows the side of Jesus portrayed in Matthew 11:28 in which He says, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."

I've noticed that it can be difficult to embrace both of these types of hospitality.  Most of us probably lean more toward one than the other but by no means are they mutually exclusive.  I'm working on sharpening my skills with the first one, and I'll have a good chance to practice on Saturday!

What are some ways that you practice hospitality toward others?

"I Love You Because..."

Thursday, November 8, 2012

I've been seeing this craft pop up incessantly on pinterest:

Looks pretty cute right? What a great thing for married couples... reminding one another of the many things for which they are loved and appreciated.  Here are some of the examples I've seen:

I love you because you are so darn sexy.
I love you because you took care of the baby last night at 3 am.
I love you because you always put the toilet seat down.

There's something that bothers me about this fundamentally, though.

While I believe that appreciation is a valuable and necessary aspect of a healthy marriage, I also believe that our love for our spouse should not be dependent on looks, actions, or even character.  I know that is kind of a bold statement, but I truly believe that our model for marriage is Christ's relationship with His Church.  Our love should be without condition and without precedent.  Romans 5:8 is the perfect illustration of this kind of love:

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

He didn't Love us because we were faithful, good, trustworthy, or noble.
He didn't Love us on the condition that we loved Him in return.
He just Loved.

(okay that last one isn't actually a word, but you get my jist.)

And what does He ask of us in return? Here's a hint- It's not
"I loved you, so you better love me back."
(Sometimes I'm like that with foot rubs.)

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. {1 John 4:11}

So Tyler, if you are reading this, I want you to know that:
I appreciate how darn sexy you are.
I appreciate how you take care of the baby cat at 3 am.
I appreciate that you always usually put the toilet seat down.

But my love for you will continue even if none of those things do. 


Monday, November 5, 2012

Ty had this past Thursday off work so we enjoyed an extra-long weekend.  On Thursday night we went out to the Arts district and there are a few gems there that I would feel selfish not sharing with you.  If there are any girls reading this who are desperate to impress a guy (hello, Amanda circa 2010) these three stops are sure to win him over.

1. Angel City Brewery: Unfortunately they are currently undergoing a huge renovation so they may not be opening up again until the end of this month.  But I promise it is well worth the wait!   Located in the old Roebling & Sons building (Roebling was the engineer who built the Brooklyn Bridge) ACB doubles as a brewery and an art gallery.  Walking along the halls, admiring (and pretending to understand) local art whilst sipping a craft beer is enough to make even me feel hip.

2. Wurstkuche: This is not where you go for an authentic German experience.  (You can head over to Red Lion Tavern for that.)  This is where you go to eat sausages stuffed with sundried tomato & mozzarella, drink fancy overpriced Belgian beers, and stuff your face with the tastiest truffle fries known to man dipped in fancy sauces that probably don't exist in Germany.  Seriously.  Spring the extra 2 bucks for the truffle fries. Just trust me.

3. The Pie Hole: At this point all the beer and sausage and fries are probably making you feel like you need to be rolled across the street.  That means you're doing it right. Luckily the final stop is literally right across the street, so only a minimal mount of rolling will need to occur. (Though, contrary to popular belief, boys tend to find that very, very attractive.)  The pie hole is cool.  Way too cool for me to set my non-moccasin-clad-feet into.  But when pie is involved all social confines go out the window.  I was mildly intimidated when we walked in, but that disappeared as soon as we got our slice of Mexican chocolate pie.  Get it. Split it.  It's cute and really necessary.  You will not regret this decision.

Okay, moving on to the real purpose of this post.  Besides a fabulous date night, another very important and wonderful thing occurred this weekend.

Just look at that face.

 We welcomed Gatsby into our home!  We saw this little guy at the pound on Saturday (it's a frequent hangout spot for us) and just fell in love.  Originally we weren't planning on adopting a dog until after my position at Pepperdine was finished, but we couldn't wait.  He is a one year old cocker spaniel/ setter/ who-knows-what mix who was abandoned by his former owners.  I can't fathom how someone could abandon an animal... especially this one.  He is super smart, extremely well behaved, and a total lover.  He's too big to sit on my lap but I don't have the heart to tell him that.  We love him a whole lot and are really looking forward to the day the cat does too.

Trial by Fire

Monday, October 29, 2012

Image via

One of the defining moments in Tyler's faith was when he was a young child and watched his house burn down.  He said that in that moment, as he watched his home go up in flames, he knew that Jesus was real.

1 Peter 1:3-9 reminds us that fires happen; both literally and figuratively.  They aren't God's way of punishing us.  They often aren't even a result of anything we've done.  They are the result of a world that is fragile and broken and susceptible.  God uses these situations, though, to reveal Himself to us:

3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, 4 and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. 5 And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see.

6 So be truly glad.  There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. 7 These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.

8 You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. 9 The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls.

Tom Felten derives three truths from this passage.  They are directed toward marriages, but I believe they can apply to faith and our other relationships as well:

Trials can torch the stuff of this world, but they can’t burn away true faith and love. There is a “wonderful joy ahead” (1 Peter 1:6) for those who persist in their faith and in loving their spouse—even when material things or other precious things have been lost.

Trials can refine faith and marital relationships. When you choose to “love [God] even though you have never seen Him” (1 Peter 1:8), even as the stuff you see is crumbling around you, your precious faith and marriage is being tempered—made stronger (1 Peter 1:7).

Trials are temporal, but God’s promises are eternal. Keep your focus on Jesus and your great reward of salvation (1 Peter 1:9) when the fires of this world are raging around you. They’re simply sacred flames that can purify your faith and marriage.

What are ways that you remind yourself of God's Truth and Promises during times of trial and fire?

Our Wedding Part IV: Reception

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Okay, let me just say this- I am fully aware that the incessant posts about our wedding are a little obnoxious. This is the last one, I promise.  I'm not even going to make excuses for myself here, I'm just going to go ahead and embrace being that girl for the time being.

Now that that's off my chest, Let me tell you something about our wedding day. It was balls hot. The entire week leading up to the wedding was a pleasant high-of-82 kind of week.  Not on July 21st though.  Sacramento was gearing up for the freak thunderstorm stunt it was going to pull on Sunday so not only was it in the 100-degree range, it was also humid as all get out.  You will see in the following pictures that everyone was a hot sweaty mess, myself included.  But you know what? I don't think many people really cared (and if they did they had the decency to not tell me).  I sure didn't!

{Thank you to our sweet friends Josh and Hilary at Bleu de Toi for our awesome guestbook!}

(Didn't I say you would  just wither up on the floor from the sweetness that is the Carpenter children?)

Let me just tell you a quick story about this lavender.  A couple weeks before the wedding I was standing in the grocery store, buying a bundle of fresh lavender and wishing we could have it at the wedding.  It's a Scottish wedding staple and I just love it.  Unfortunately, the wholesale flower market from which we were buying did not have any.  As I was in the checkout line at the grocery store, the man behind me said "you know... if you want more of that, I have a ton of it in my front yard."  I jumped at the prospect and got his information.  The next day The Jayneses and I were at a friend's 4th of July party, and out of nowhere lavender man walks in!  Turns out he was good friends with the party hosts.  He ran home and brought back a huge bucket of lavender that he and his wife had picked for us for the wedding.  They also let us come over later that week to pick the rest of what we needed.  If that's not evidence that God cares about the little, insignificant details in our lives, then I don't know what is.

We were so thankful to Ty's parents (and the neighbors!) for letting us have the reception in the backyard

This picture of my daddy just kills me...

the dancing face.

Thanks to everyone who was there for giving us such a special wedding day.  And thanks to everyone who reads this blog for letting me drag this thing out for the past three months.  You really are the tops!