Sunday, August 31, 2008

God Bless You

Tonight, church was incredible. I just can't get over how incredible it was. It's been a struggle here to find a non-English church where not only can I worship with music that won't put me to sleep, but also teaches the Word. I don't want to hear a pastor's opinions - I don't want to hear a bunch of jokes or allegorical stories - I don't need ten illustrations to understand one verse - and I certainly don't want a motivational speech ("you can start that business! And God will help you!"). I just want the Word. Teach me the Word. No more, no less. Just the Word.

I'm starving for the Word; for the Bread of Life that fills me up. I can't live without it.

So tonight when he spoke the Word, explained the Word, taught the was sweeter than honey.

The main text was Numbers 6:22-27, which says:

Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, "Speak to Aaron and to his sons saying, 'Thus you shall bless the sons of Israel. You shall say to them:

The Lord bless you, and keep you;
the Lord make His face shine on you,
and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up His countenance on you,
and give you peace.'

So they shall invoke my name on the sons of Israel, and then I will bless them."

I recommend that you go read it in several different versions, because there are several words there that we take the meaning for granted unless we see it stated differently.

He talked about how when we bless someone, we're invoking the Lord to bless them. We ourselves don't have a blessing to give, but the Lord does. He went through these verses, phrase by phrase, referencing other scripture and explaining the meaning and significance of each phrase. He talked about how when we say "God bless you" to somebody, it actually means something. We are calling upon the Lord to bless that person, and He will. He talked about how God told Abraham, "I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you" and "I will make you a blessing to nations of the earth." He talked specifically about parents speaking blessings over their children and passing that blessing down from generation to generation, like what has happened in his family. He talked about the meaning of a blessing, and that it's not material (even though we often consider material objects a "blessing"). I could go on and on about all that he said and all of scripture that he spoke from, but there's no way I can relate it all on here.

As a result, I felt very convicted that saying "God bless you" is something to take seriously. That I should be saying it more often, and with meaning and conviction, rather than casually in passing. When I have children I want to pray this blessing over them when they go to bed at night. I am an ambassador for the Lord and he has charged me with a great responsibility. I do not want to take it lightly.


Thursday, August 28, 2008

Celebrity Count

Last night I saw Pau Gasol at a pizza place. As you can see from the picture, he plays for the Lakers. He also played on the Spanish Olympic basketball team, who we all know took home the Silver (because the U.S. beat them for the Gold...tee hee).

So I've decided that I need to start keeping a celebrity count, because I've realized that I now live in a city that's kind of like Hollywood - there are celebrities everywhere. The funny part is that I usually have no idea who they are until somebody points them out to me (with the exception of Pau Gasol and 2 other guys), because they're usually only celebrities here and my status as a foreigner also means that I'm generally clueless to these kinds of things.

So here is my celebrity count so far:
1) The guy that plays "Gaston" in Beauty and the Beast here. Normally I wouldn't count stage actors but I saw this guy on TV a few weeks later, so he's a legitimate celebrity by my book.
2) Paco León - he's in a popular TV show here. I saw him walking down the street one night. I actually knew who he was because I sometimes watch the show, so that was an exciting moment. I felt like I was part of the culture for recognizing him.
3) Alaska - rock star (see previous blog about her)
4) Name Unknown - a guy who's in a lot of Pedro Almodóvar's movies. Somebody pointed him out to me at a bar. Apparently he's quite famous here, but I was 5 feet away from him and had no idea. I'll bet he knows Penelope Cruz.
5) Pau Gasol

There was one time when some friends and I were eating at the same place where I saw Paco León pass by and a friend pointed out some other celebrity, but I had no idea who they were or what movie/TV show my friend was talking about, so I won't count that one.

I think that's more celebrities than I've ever seen the rest of my life.

One time I met Chuck Norris at Double Dave's Pizza in College Station. He was nice, and his wife was super excited to meet me.

That is all.


Monday, August 25, 2008


Pretty soon I'll be 24. September 9th, that is. 15 days, to be exact.

You know what that means??

I'm an adult.

Yes, I realize that in the United States you're officially an adult at 21. But at 21 I was still in college. At 22 I was still in college. College is great! It's like Utopia for anybody who has a scholarship or a college fund, both of which I had. All you do is go to class, study, drink lots of coffee, hang out with friends, play mafia and watch The Office. It's great!

At 23 I had just graduated college. I didn't really feel like a real adult just yet. Sure, tons of my friends were getting married...a few even had kids. That's them. But me? I'm still single, doin' my own thing. I moved half way across the world, and while that is a very adult-like thing to do, to me it just feels like another adventure. I have no husband or children, so I can just pack some suitcases and go. And I was fresh out of college when I came here, so people still see me as one of those "crazy young people, flying by the seat of her pants."

But now...24....more than a year out of college...I really am an adult now. Supposedly.


Sunday, August 24, 2008

Random Ramblings of a Rambler

I don't have anything remarkable to say today (do I ever?) but rather just a few random thoughts, comments, observations, etc, and since I live alone in a country where I'm still learning the language, I don't always have the chance to share my random here you go, organized by topic:

I didn't get to watch the opening ceremonies of the Olympics due to Greg and Panda's rehearsal dinner, but right now I'm watching the closing ceremonies. I can't believe the Olympics are over already!! It was so short! It seems like when I was a kid staying up until 2am to watch gymnastics, the Olympics seemed to go on for months and months, so it caught me by surprise when I found out this morning that today is the closing ceremony. Wow.

The Chinese are really playing up the cute factor right now. Who doesn't think a little Chinese kid is adorable? They're so much cuter than white kids and everybody knows it, so they've put a ton of them in these closing ceremonies. Good job, China.

Sidenote: there's this really attractive Korean guy passing out flowers to people right now. When I was in high school I had crushes on all the Koreans.

On my trip home I bought a new pair of running shoes, seeing as how I had worn my other pair four years, trained for (and ran) two half marathons in them, the cushioning was coming out, the rubber was coming unglued...they had seen better days. So today I ran a little over four miles, a HUGE accomplishment for me because about six months after the second half marathon I hurt my back and couldn't run for a while, and it's been an uphill struggle to re-train my body. Every time I get back in the habit it gets disrupted by something, so even though I was up to 4-5 miles last Spring, Summer kicked that in the butt and lately 2 is the most I've been able to run at a time. So while I was SUPER excited about today's four mile run, it came at a price. I now have four nasty, painful blisters on the arches of my feet. Two on each foot. I'm not sure if I got them because my new shoes aren't quite broken in yet, or because my feet just aren't used to running that distance anymore, or if I just sweat a lot so my socks got wet...but I think I'll do pilates or something tomorrow and Tuesday to try and give them some time to heal. Anybody got any good blister remedies? As fun as it is to pop them (ewww, right? It's still fun) that's not the best way to help them heal. Anybody got any prevention techniques?

Free Starbucks:
I'm a self-proclaimed coffee addict, and I particularly love the coffee shop atmosphere with couches, cool music, art on the walls, so even though back in Texas I usually preferred independent coffee shops (like Sweet Eugene's, Coffee Station, or Rockwell's...yum), here Starbucks is really the only place you can sip your coffee on a couch and read a book for hours, but of course, it's expensive. So I try to limit my Starbuck's intake. When I first got here I limited myself to just holidays and special occasions, but after a few months I threw that out the window and now I treat myself to a latte or mocha sometimes as much as once a week. Or if not a drink, then one of their super yummy sandwiches or pasta salads. Yuuum.

So yesterday I thought to myself, "I haven't had a Starbucks drink in two weeks. I want one." I went to the one closest to my house because I've become friends with the people who work there and love to chat when they're not busy. Luis (who no longer works there) liked to draw hearts on my cup, Victor always remembers that I like soy milk, and Wendy gave me my drink for free one day because I was really tired after a long week. So I knew yesterday would be a good day when I saw that both Victor and Wendy were working, along with another very nice lady whose name I don't know, and Luis had come by to say hi. I hadn't seen them in about a month (due to traveling, visitors, etc) and they were so excited to see me that they gave me my drink for free! Wendy even came and chatted with me for 10-15 minutes while they weren't busy. While free drinks are always exciting, the best part is that them giving me a free drink is a sign of something more - they like me. They consider me a friend. They know my order. They chat with me. They tell me about their lives. They smile when I walk through the door. Even when there's a line waiting out the door, they take the time to ask me how I'm doing and fill me in on what they're up to. To me, it's worth the cost of a 3.50 Euros for the opportunity to be talk with them, to encourage them, to be encouraged by them, to feel welcome in a country where I'm constantly reminded that I don't fit in.

I think I mentioned that somebody gave me a violin in April, but due to all of the traveling and craziness of Summer, I've not had a chance to play it much. Yesterday I picked it up and started practicing a bit. Man, have I lost it! So I've got a book of scales and exercises and I'm going to make it a point to practice at least 3 times a week. This week I'm going to the music store to buy a shoulder rest (I've been using a potholder from the surprised me how well it worked!) and a few solos to work on. I want to keep up (or rather, re-gain) my skill so that when I get back to the States in a year or two, I can join an orchestra. I have an awesome violin waiting for me at home and I don't want to lose the skills that I worked for since 5th grade.

I think my favorite flavored coffee is Texas Pecan. Yuuum. My favorite non-flavored coffee is Jamaica Blue Mountain. MEGA yuuuum. My birthday is September 9th. :)

That is all my randomness for now!


Friday, August 22, 2008

An All New Low For Smokers

While the United States succeeded in making smoking taboo by the time I reached adolescence and is progressing steadily in the fight to save our lungs from second hand smoke, much of Europe is only recently catching on and enforcing new non-smoking laws in restaurants and other public places as their citizens slowly make the connection that maybe that shortness of breath while climbing stairs has something to do with the four packs of cigarettes they smoked this week. Northern Europe seems to have embraced cleaner lungs faster than Southern Europe, where chain smoking is still considered a favorite past-time and rather than post signs in windows that say "Smoking Prohibited", many establishments post signs saying that smoking is permitted, just to clear up any confusion in case the billowing plumes of smoke clouding your vision didn't make it clear.

And today the smokers of this country have reached an all new low. While running at the park, a man in his mid 30s passed me (I'm not a difficult runner to pass) and left me in the wake of his wretched tobacco odor. Most people here smell like cigarette smoke all the time and I rarely notice anymore, so it caught my attention that he reeked so strongly even in the open air of the park. And then I saw it: he was smoking a cigarette while running.

This smoker has hit rock bottom. Not even those blessed endorphins released by running can conquer his addiction to nicotine. Not even his tar-filled lungs straining for oxygen can make him put that cigarette down. Truly his addiction has him subdued.

The saddest part? He was still running faster than me!


Thursday, August 14, 2008

Sweet Seventeen?

Yesterday and today I've been listening to lots of Country music while procrastinating unpacking and such.

And it leaves me with a question:

Why is it that in nearly every country song, all major life events take place at 17?

Every first love happens at 17. Likewise, every first broken heart happens at 17. Every loss of a loved one happens at 17. Every first truck accident happens at 17. Every first beer happens at 17 (well...I guess that one depends on the song..). The point is, it all happens at 17.

At first I thought maybe it's because 17 is such an idealistic age. You're still young enough to be innocent without being so completely stupid as 16 when you fall in love any boy who with a cute smile. Maybe it's because 17 is when you're becoming aware that there's life beyond your small town (because you're always from a small town in a country song) and begin to "spread your wings." Maybe it's because 17 is when you start to really think about the future even though you can't quite imagine anything beyond Friday night. Maybe it's because 17 is when your parents allow you more freedom, and thus you find yourself getting into more trouble due to a lack of supervision...

But then I thought, "no, it's none of that."

It's because Country musicians like to draaaaaaawl out their words to make as many syllables as possible, and 17 is the only teen with three syllables.

Simple as that.

Problem solved.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

I'm Back!


I'm back from my trip to Texas, and I had a wonderful time! It was such a blessing to see my family and friends again, and thankfully I was able to spend some really great quality time with both. Here is a quick summary of the trip:

When I first arrived to the airport I had a HUGE surprise waiting for me. My mom, who was supposed to have been on the opposite side of the world, was there waiting for me! She was supposed to have left Texas a few days before I arrived, but due to a strike affecting her airline, she was delayed a WEEK, so after I walked out and hugged the rest of the family, we began walking towards the doors and hiding behind a column was my mom! I started to say "what are you doing here??" but burst into sobs as we hugged for several minutes, with me sobbing in that embarrassing way where you hiccup uncontrollably, and strangers staring at the girl and her mom making a huge scene. It was a happy surprise!

The next few days were spent spending time together - going to church, shopping, going to the discovery science place with the kids, swimming at my brother's hotel pool, eating Tex-Mex, Jason's Deli, Texas Roadhouse (all of those things I can't get here!), swimming at the lake, playing on the swing set...we were non-stop! It was great though - the only thing we didn't get around to was going to the zoo, but we managed to spend tons of quality time without the zoo, so it was okay. :) My niece and nephew are awesome swingers, and Vivi has NO fear and wants to do everything her big brother does! Except wear clothes...she played outside in just her diaper and shoes! It was adorable.

Then on Wednesday my sister's family and I drove to Dallas to take my mom to the airport, and then down to College Station so I could try on the bridesmaid dress. We ate at one of my favorite CS restaurants: Blue Baker!! Afterwards, we let the kids run around the fountain for a while since they had just spent about 5+ hours in the car that day! While playing at the fountain, Vivian kept running up to me giving me tons of hugs. What a sweet memory she left me with!

Thursday after lunch my family and I parted and I spent the rest of the day with Lissy and Greg. I was so thankful for the opportunity to spend so much quality time with both the Bride and the Groom. Weddings are so crazy and often times the couple is so busy that friends and family barely get to spend meaningful time with them, but I was blessed to be able to spend a lot of precious time with the both of them. I love you Lissy and Greg!

Friday was the Rehearsal Dinner and we had a delicious fajita dinner at Pappasito's. It was so exciting to have almost all of our close friends together again - I needed that so bad. I've missed being with people I can just "let go" with and be my goofy, awkward self. I know that I'm safe with them, that they love me, and I love them all so much. God has blessed me with an incredible group of guys and girls that encourage each other, challenge each other, make each other laugh, support each other in hard times, accept each other how we are but hold each other accountable to be what God wants us to be, and I hope and pray that despite our physical distance we NEVER lose the incredibly special friendship that we have. We girls in this picture are just a few of this quite large yet very tight group of friends, and we 6 became close friends our freshman year at A&M and I've learned so much from each one of them. I love you girls!!

The day of the wedding was wonderful. The bridesmaids and house party spent most of the morning at a salon getting our hair done and pedicures, chatting, laughing, eating more Jason's Deli (did I mention that's my favorite??), and enjoying our time together as girls. Then we went to the church to finish getting ready and watch our precious friends make a beautiful commitment. It was a wonderfully special day; one that I'll never forget. Isn't the Bride beautiful?

The reception was lovely. We had a delicious surf 'n turf dinner followed by super-yummy wedding cake. The Bride's cake was gorgeous, and the groom's cake was an XBox360 with game controller. Yes. And if you know Greg, you'll agree that it was perfectly suited to him.

We all had a great time dancing like wild dancing fools, and even got Rick Rolled by the Bride and Groom on the dance floor! It was a night to remember!

After the reception quite a few of us went to Lindsay's house where we watched some Olympics, talked and laughed, and spent a few sweet hours together. Sunday I went to the airport and headed back across the ocean, and now here I am! It was a great trip and well worth it to see my family and friends. If only I had a never-ending budget and could take a trip like that every few months!! But alas, this will have to suffice for the next year or two. Until then I shall rely upon my friends and family to make the trip this direction. Each and every memory of my trip home is a sweet one, and for that I am so thankful!