Tuesday, April 25, 2006


Since it's been way too long since you've heard about my gastrointestinal system, I have an update! :) Today I went for my first checkup in three months and Dr. Z is very happy with my progress and bloodwork and appearance and everything! He has given me an all clear to enter back into a fully functional, normal life! PRAISE GOD!

And as positively wonderful as that is, the most exciting part of the day is that I got my feeding tube out today!!! Lots of exclamation points!!!! I hope you've never had to have one, but hopefully you can appreciate that it is a GREAT relief to have it removed. The feeding tube is a wonderful tool and served it's purpose very well for me, but it was time for us to part ways. After having a nearly literal "thorn in the side" for 5 months, it is pure joy to be done with it! As soon as I sat up from the table after it was removed, I could tell the pain and soreness that were practically immediatley gone. Please pray that I will never have to have one again, as I will pray that you never experience it, either.

The one not as good note, from the day was that my doctor wants me to have a test done tomorrow to be sure everything is okay. The ONE GI test that I have never had done, and hoped to not experience til I was 50. I'll let you figure it out. Wish me luck!

And thank you all so much for your prayers and encouragement through all of this. Just as pain shared is lessened, joy shared is magnified!

Sunday, April 23, 2006

A little taste...

I love Sundays. Well, I love one particular event on Sundays.

The Lord's supper, the Eucharist, communion, whatever you call it-- is a time of great depth and importance and meaning.

Pages upon pages have been written on this topic, but today I'll focus on one of many reasons why it's special for me.

I imagine that time as a sacred place where Christians all over the world are united at the table with Jesus. As I reflect, faces and names and memories of my brothers and sisters throughout the world go through my mind. And even though we're far in geography, culture, and language, we're together in spirit for that time.

I've left pieces of my heart all over the world and my friends have taken some with them as they've gone out, too. Goodbyes are awful, but reunions are sweet. One day we'll witness the greatest reunion of all, but for now I think I get a little taste of it every Sunday morning.

Yet another time when saudade is just too perfect...

Saturday, April 22, 2006


We're going from music recommendations to a book recommendation (obviously I'm a little vain about my taste ;) ).

But really, yesterday I started reading "Captivating" by John and Stasi Eldredge, and it's fantastic. If you fall into one of the following categories, you should read it:

If you're...
  • a woman
  • related to a woman
  • married or engaged to a woman
  • dating a woman
  • friends with a woman
  • have a daughter
  • or one day would like to fall into one of those last four categories
... you need to read this book! I guess that covers just about everyone. :)

I'm only about halfway through, but it has already touched me deeply. It talks about the deep needs and desires of a woman's soul, and how they're not signs of weakness but characteristics of God shining through in us.

A lot of books about Christian womanhood deal mainly with being a good wife, good mother, or preparing to become one of those.

This book fills a desperate need in our world and especially in the church-- the validation of femininity. That's the word that keeps going through my mind as I read... I feel validated.

So, this is an official sojochick recommendation. Thanks to Mer for telling me about it. I just might have to read "Wild at Heart" now (the men's version written by John Eldredge). Lord knows I could use some education to the male mindset. :)

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Good Stuff, Vol. 1

I've never been really "into" music. My family never really listened to music when I was going up, save at church and those Acappella tapes on long car trips (can I get an amen from the CofCers? :) ). But I think while I was in Japan I kind of changed. Music became my companion and my link to home and expression of thoughts I couldn't formulate. And I was surrounded by music lovers, which also helped.

I'm always very reluctant to buy new CDs, because a CD is a big investment (yeah, I'm cheap) for a lot of songs you're probably not sure of (since maybe 1 or 2 songs per CD gets on the radio). But over the years at times I have struck gold in CD investment, and there are some I just love and don't think I could live without.

It's hard to be a good CD! For me to be really happy with a CD, I only allow 1, ~maybe~ 2 mediocre songs. But I have realized lately that I've built up a treasury of good CDs.

This series will be my list of "good CDs" that I highly recommend. I've highlighted my favorite songs, but remember, they're pretty much all great!


For the first installment in this series, I want to start with the four artists whose entire treasury of work I love. :) But I'm going to slightly limit myself and recommend a few specific albums. But if you'd like to take my word for it and buy all of their stuff, go for it! ;) And note that all of these are singer/songwriters, so they're writing all their own music. I guess I have a soft spot for writers.

Chris Rice-- Have I mentioned on the blog that I like Chris Rice? :)

  • "Past the Edges"-- you've probably heard, "Smellin' Coffee" and "Cartoon Song" (yes, I heard the moan); lesser known gems, "Naive," "Thirsty," "Missin' You"
  • "Smell the Color 9"-- you've probably heard, "Smell the Color 9," "The Face of Christ"; lesser known gems, "Belong," "Coming Home Tonight," "My Prayer"
  • "Living Room Sessions"-- an instrumental CD of classic hymns in arrangements by Chris Rice, it's all fantastic
  • "Run the Earth, Watch the Sky"-- my favorite!; you've probably heard, "The Other Side of the Radio," "Come to Jesus,"; lesser known gems, "Everything's OK," "Wonder," "Smile," "My Cathedral"

Relient K-- Incredibly clever lyrics, managing to be both funny and poignant. And fun to rock out to now and then. :)

  • "Two Lefts Don't Make a Right, but Three Do"-- gems, "Getting Into You,", "Mood Rings," "Overthinking," "Am I Understood?"
  • "MmHmm"-- gems, "The One I'm Waiting For," "Let It All Out," "More Than Useless," "Be My Escape"

Derek Webb-- Modern day prophet, plain and simple.

  • "She Must and Shall Go Free"-- gems, "Lover," "Beloved," "Wedding Dress," "The Church"
  • "Mockingbird"-- gems, "A King and a Kingdom," "A New Law," "Rich Young Ruler"

Stephen Curtis Chapman-- Touching songs and one of the most beautiful voices in music.

  • "All About Love"-- gems, "How Do I Love Her?" "I Will Be Here," "I'm Gonna Be," "I'll Take Care of You," When Love Takes You In"
  • "Speechless"-- gems, "What I Really Want to Say," "The Invitation," "Speechless," "Great Expectations"


Any "amens" or "what are you thinkings"? :) Are there any artists you guys feel are worthy of buying the whole collection?

Sacrifice and Self-Searching

God gives us material for sacrifice. Sometimes the sacrifice makes little sense to others, but when offered to God is always accepted.
~Elisabeth Elliot

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting.
~Ps. 139:23-24

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

I just got on my travelin' shoes...*

Methinks I owe my public an update on what I've been up to lately. I've been out and about!

I went to Stephenville a week ago for the wedding of a dear friend, Gina, and it was great but a little strange. The trip was strange, not the wedding. :) The wedding was beautiful, simply stunning. I think I say this after most weddings, but Gina was the most beautiful bride ever. The service was simple but elegant, and I was so blessed to be able to share that sacrament with them.

Old friends-- Becky, Carrie, Mara, Gina (the bride), Nina, Ann

Going "home" after 5 years is peculiar... you've never seen such surprised faces as the people at church, whose expressions went from the "polite stranger" face, to the "I know you but where from" face, to the "OH MY GOODNESS!" face. :) It was great. I got to play whirlwind catch up with lots of people, and it was really interesting to try to sum up the past 5 years in 30 seconds. Hahaha, let's think-- I finished college, went to Brazil 3 times, been seriously ill twice, lived in Japan and don't really have a set future. That's about it!

I guess my whole experience was validated when one old friend saw me, ran up and gave me a big hug and said, "Welcome home!" Home. Yes. It is.


After a few days in T-town I suddenly and quite unexpectedly made a trip to Searcy, Arkansas, most often known for being home to the mighty fighting Bison-- Harding University. I got the chance to visit with several people I hadn't seen since my last campaign to Brazil in 2004 (we worked with a Harding campaign). I had lovely time on the campus, which is always simply stunning at this time of the year with the blooming flowers, and got to remanisce over lots of good times. I had wonderful hostesses (muita obrigada Cynthia, Angela, and Kelly!). And I got to see my dear A-Lo (aka Amanda).

Amanda, Cynthia and I lived together for a week of our campaign in the city of Itu. Our homestay was actually a woman who was out of the country and left us her condo. I have a thousand funny stories about that week, which had they been shared with anyone else would have made it miserable, but with those two we can still laugh hysterically about the night we got stuck in the elevator or when the key broke in the door at 10pm or our complete and utter lack of food in the house.

Cynthia, Ann and Amanda attempting to scrounge up dinner

Ann and Cynthia

Annie Pooh and A-Lo (Ann and Amanda, and there are only 2 people in the world allowed to call me Annie Pooh ;) )

I love catching up with old friends.


Back to OKC next week!


*Gold star to the person who can identify the title reference! ;)

Monday, April 17, 2006

Self-Indulgent AI Blog

I am hooked on American Idol. This is my first season to ever watch an episode, except for a random night in Singapore when I saw Bo Bice perform "I Think I Love You" by the Partridges (Simon hated it, I thought it was awesome). AI and Desperate Housewives are the only two shows I'm currently feeling any loyalty to. And after resisting thusfar, I have decided to give into the temptation and write my own meaningless opinions down.

My favorite remaining contestant is Elliot Yamin. I think he has an amazing voice, and America needs to get with the program. The Elliot program. But I know he's not going to win-- America's too superficial-- and he has been in the bottom 3 for the last two weeks. Are you people nuts?! But whatever happens, I hope to be buying his CD someday. I became keen on him when he sang one my all time favorite songs, "Moody's Mood for Love" a couple of months ago in the early Hollywood stuff. That song is hard but super cool and he did it bea-u-tifully. :) He's overcome a lot of medical disabilities, and I can surely feel for that! The man's deaf in one ear and still sings on key more than the other contestants!!! But more than sympathy, come on folks! He's the best voice on the show!

But the one who I think will win it all is Chris Daugherty. He's cool, he's got the image and the attitude and the "Creed"ish (or if you're into Third Day, Mac Powell) voice. He really won me over by pulling off that version of "Walk the Line." And you've got to love a family man. :) But-- I think his winning American Idol could kill his rocker credibility.

Kelly Pickler-- cute, I guess, if you're into syrupy obliviousness. I still can't believe she had the cajones to sing "Bohemian Rhapsody;" that song should definitely be left to karaoke rooms (right Jeshika!). But hey, she kind of pulled it off. I'm with Simon, "That should have been horrible-- but was alright."

I have low toleration for prima donas, so Paris has gots to go. She did do well with "The Show Must Go On" this week, though. But good grief, she's 16. Please don't dress her like a dominatrix.

Oh and what are we to do with Ace. I think he's very beautiful, in a lovely kind of way. Great smile, great eyes, great skin... but the hair puts him over the top. It's all too perfect. And the smile he gives after a performance when he's holding up the fingers for the number to dial is about as plastered on as possible. He's got to go. Soon. He has only impressed me once, way back when he sang "Butterflies" by Michael Jackson. And I think all of America gagged when he fondled his scar during a song (well, except Paula). That totally blackballed him. But he is beautiful. :)

Taylor Hicks, Taylor, Taylor... what are we to do with you. You came in so cool and edgy and different and weird. Now you just seem to be whoring out your weirdness. No more random "Soul Patrol!!" shoutouts or spasmish dancing. We liked that! That's what made you quirky! And play the dang harmonia-- the people have spoken!!!!!

And Kitty Kat... I think her voice is fabulous and the stylists have made her hot. Big strong beautiful voice-- reminds me of Christina Aguelira (not the image-- the voice). A jazzy Christina.

Bucky, we were sad to see you go. I liked you. Ace should have gone before you. You had a perfect song choice with "Real Good Man."

Mandisa, seriously, what was up with that?! Not the greatest song choice, but hello! Mandia and Elliot easily outsing the competetion, I think. But I think Mandisa is a super gracious and Godly woman who will do fabulously after this.

From the "How we miss thee, thou didst leave us too soon" files-- Sway, Gideon and Will Makar

One note to makeup-- last week the males-- especially Elliot, Chris, and Ace, were far beyond the amount of makeup a man can wear and get away with. WAY to much eyeliner, WAY too much pancake foundation.

As for the faculty and staff of American Idol, I would like to say:
I love you Ryan Seacrest! :)
Paula, lay off the "medication" or whatever it is that's making you act drunk. Stop flirting with Simon. Stop having diarreah of the mouth when trying to find ways to describe the performances.
Randy, you're cool, but the namedropping and the "dog"ing need to be trimmed back. :)
Simon, I will grant that you are usually right. But instances like the night where you openly admitted you didn't like country music or "not getting" Mandisa's Christian song are really subjective and stupid. "Not getting it" doesn't mean they didn't sing well. And yes, we all know that you make millions every minute off of this show, so stop acting like you despise the process.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Good (?) Life

“If you find God with ease, perhaps it is not God you have found.”

— Thomas Merton

Although I have not been through anything uncommon to man, I have seen some trauma in my life. And on bad days, usually in church, I look around and think, "These people have no idea what it's like to be broken. They sing songs about loving God and having faith when they don't know pain."

This is unfair on a couple of levels. First of all, I don't know everyone's story. Who am I to say what they have and haven't been through.

Secondly, I had an epiphany a few weeks ago. I thought to myself, "what if their trial is having an easy life? What if the obstacle of their life and faith is not having to struggle for it?"

My faith has been purified and refined (and will continued to be) through struggle. I'm an idolater at heart, and it is always tempting for me to put my faith in things more tangible than God. Whether it's my friends, my roots, my home, my education, my health, my ethics, my career... at some point I have been broken in each of those issues and have been forced to see that they aren't my Savior... they aren't going to be unwaveringly faithful to me.

Although I certainly would have never asked for some of the trials I've seen, I'm grateful for the opportunity to be broken in the hands of the Master then reconstructed in his design.

I think it's natural instinct to want to protect ourselves and look out for number one, but maybe we should start living with a little more reckless abandon in order for God to use those experiences to shape us.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Hodgepodge and so forth

Just got back from a fantastic week in OKC. I think I talked to about 1000 people during my stay and loved every minute of it. I imagine heaven as being like the forum on OC's campus in springtime, and we will just shoot the breeze under the bright blue sky against the green trees and a slight breeze (alright, so that last part isn't like OKC :) ).

In OKC I also had some grrrrreat food, so I'd like to give my mad sojochick blog-props to Cafe de Taipei, Cafe do Brasil, and Ted's. And of course Donna's oishii roast. Yum!!!


Church Sunday at Memorial Road was one of the best Sunday mornings of my life. First I went to class with one of my favorite people and met the people who had been faithful prayer warriors for me while I was sick. They were excited to meet this Ann girl that they'd heard so much about. And after services I got to go to the International Ministry potluck, a group of people I grew so close to during my college years.

But the worship service was the kicker. It was focused on missions (my weakness of course), and they introduced two new mission teams MRCC is going to support. One was a team of four families to Vienna and the other is a team going to Poland. I'm friends with several of the folks going, so it was especially personal. But talk about pulling the heartstrings. We started by singing "There's a Stirring" (a song I've never really thought to be lyrically compelling, but perhaps morbid), and as we sang it each of the team members took turns standing up from different places in the auditorium and walking to the stage. Then of course there was a great video montage of the different missions around the world MRCC supports (Campinas-- tears!). Kent challenged the congregation to get involved in missions. MRCC's goal for 2007 is to get at least 1000 people involved in missions, whether domestic or international. Then we sang "There's a Stirring" again and of course I cried because it hit a little too close to home. I'll never sing that song the same way again!


"I feel as if my skin is the only thing keeping me from going everywhere at once."


In the latest list of songs that tickle me is "Hips Don't Lie" by Shakira. Despite the fact that I can appear very nerdy, I'm a sucker for a song with a catchy tune (I used to think that was a cop out for teenagers to listen to crap, but I believe it has some validity-- ie, "My Humps" and "She Bangs"). Although the new Shakira/ Wycleff Jean collaboration is very worldly and immoral ("my hips don't lie"... now there's a piece of tried and true wisdom), I love the line that says, "You make a boy want to learn Spanish."

Were I to design my ideal language learning curriculum, it would involve alcohol and amor. I learned in Japan that alcohol greatly loosens the tongue and gives one confidence to speak in another language. And of course, what is greater a motivator than love? In the words of Donald Miller, "Our 'behavior' will not be changed long with self-discipline, but fall in love and a human will accomplish what he never thought possible."

Yes, liquor and love. I will be the best teacher EVER. ;) Or perhaps just the most popular. Who's ready to enroll? ;)


Tomorrow I head out to the old homeland, Stephenville. I wrote a few weeks ago that I was going for a wedding shower, but that didn't materialize due to bad weather. I'm going for the wedding of a girl who was my best friend for years. I'm looking forward to it; I haven't been to a wedding in a while. And it is fabulous to see my friend find happiness.