Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Look Back at 2011

What a year, what a year. I never would have believed you if you had tried to tell me all that would occur in these 12 months. Let's take a look back, shall we?

January 2011: I began my last semester at Georgia College with two snow days! We filled these days with sledding, cocoa, friends, and homemade music videos.

February 2011: My good friend Matt and I ran as the Ambassador team representatives for Mr. and Ms. Georgia College. Though I had absolutely no chance at winning we had a really good time representing a fantastic part of the university.

March 2011: A busy month! I visited my brother for a rainy weekend in Birmingham, my roommate from Spain came to visit me at Georgia College, I inducted my mentor into ODK, and I visited my homeland, Richmond, Virginia. 

April 2011: In April I turned 22 with some fabulous friends. We celebrated with a huge ice cream/dance party in our little apartment. We also found Feathers in the hood of my roommate Ansley's car. Oh how I fell in love with this contraband kitten in our apartment. 

May 2011: Oh May! The month where my life changed. My future plans fell through and I graduated with a Bachelors in Spanish and Economics....and I wore a lot of cords which made me feel special. 

June/July 2011: In these two months my future changed. In June Kelley got married and my pastor/friend was God's instrument in directing me down my eventual path. In these two months I decided on a whim to go to India and follow that with a two-year move to Pasadena, California to attend Fuller. I think I spent July preparing because I have no pictures from that month. (I think we went on vacation? And I raised over $4000! And I played for my sweet friend Chelsea's wedding as well.) 

August 2011: August, ahhh August. The hardest month of the entire year. I spent this month in India, teaching at churches and being taught by God in the most real and tangible way I have ever experienced. I could write a book about this month, but I won't bore you here....that is if you are still here at this point! 

September 2011: One week after I stood at the Taj Mahal I embarked on an epic road trip with my Dad. To Pasadena we went, with some fun adventures and boring stretches along the way! 

...And the rest is in the blog. From September to December I have finished my first quarter at seminary (with all As!), become a baby expert as a nanny, gotten adjusted to new friends and places, survived some epic Santa Ana winds, and spent a wonderful Christmas at home with my family.

Who knows what this next year will hold. Based on last year, I am not even going to wager a guess. 

The Ones Worth Something

"Stories have changed, my dear boy," the man in the grey suit says, his voice almost imperceptibly sad. "There are no more battles between good and evil, no monsters to slay, no maidens in need of rescue. Most maidens are perfectly capable of rescuing themselves in my experience, at least the ones worth something, in any case."

-The Night Circus, page 373

Friday, December 30, 2011

"The finest of pleasures are always the unexpected ones." -The Night Circus

It is a quiet day in Pasadena. The kind I relish in for I know that in a few short days the streets will be bustling with activity as we begin our new quarter. Though I have used half a box of tissues and my ears seem incapable of hearing clearly, the day is still very close to perfect. The weather is the kind of dreams, where the temperature is just right and the air smells fresh and perfect. It is the smell of the air and the light sweater temperature that brings back memories of all the great days like this in my past. It is the kind of day where one can curl up and read of a mysterious night circus and dueling magicians falling in love. The kind of day where hours can pass, hours of contentment wrapped in a big chair and an open window, and yet no time seems to pass at all. For in a few days I will be back to the busy hours of schoolwork, class, and being a nanny, but for now, for these hours, I will relinquish all stress and obligations. For these hours I will be engulfed in the blissfully pristine weather and I will lose myself in a novel. I will dive into a world of magicians and love and I will refuse to come out until I have to.  

Monday, December 26, 2011

Yep, I was mistaken. Oops.

There are few points in my life where I admit to being wrong, or mistaken. I don't like to admit my faults because, let's face it, I would prefer perfection. But after this Christmas I have to admit that I was mistaken in my post I wrote a few days ago. I wrote that I did not see the correlation between the arrival of Jesus and a bunch of presents under the tree.

But this Christmas proved me wrong.

You see, there was so much joy in opening presents at my house this year. The gifts represented time, thought, and resources that someone expended for me. As I received my gifts I truly felt loved that someone had put that much effort into finding things I would enjoy. And it hit me. I had been wrong about presents. Not because I realized how much I love presents, but because I realized these presents were about love.

And the love I felt from receiving these gifts was just an infinitesimally small fraction of the love I will feel when I finally grasp the magnitude of the gift God gave for me. These gifts represent the biggest and best gift of love we have ever received, the gift of salvation and redemption through Jesus Christ.

So I take back my rant about Christmas present materialism and I admit that I was wrong. Christmas traditions are about love for each other, and remind us of the great love of our Father.

Happy Boxing Day! 

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Luke 19:28-40

After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’” So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. 
As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 
They said, “The Lord needs it.” Then they brought it to Jesus; 
and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. 

As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. 
As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives,
the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully
with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying,
“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! 
Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!”                                                                   
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” 
He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Reason for the Season!

Oh Christmas season! A week back in the dysfunctional family atmosphere that accompanies the great celebration of Christmas.

On the topic of dysfunction, let me let you in on a secret...sometimes I think the world revolves around me. I know. I know! I went to the planetarium in Hollywood so I do know for a fact the universe does not actually revolve around me...but I like to forget that sometimes.

So I guess in turn....Christmas is not about me. (A hard pill to swallow!)

I know most of you who read this blog believe that "Jesus is the reason for the season!" But I would be willing to bet (ok, maybe not bet, I don't think God approves of gambling...) that we have kind of lost this in the traditions of modern Christmas. We all love Christmas because it is a time to be with family, to eat great food, and to take a break from our busy work days. We love to give and receive gifts (although I don't think materialism and the Gospel go hand in hand), and all of these things are wonderful blessings of Christmas that are fitting. For it is because of Jesus that all these things are possible. But if we really took to heart the meaning of Christmas, I mean really thought about it,  wouldn't we be literally be jumping up and down with joy? Would we not be exchanging excited looks and praising our Father at every moment possible? Would not every day of the season be like receiving the best gift we can imagine under the tree? Because we are not simply celebrating the birth of a baby.

We are celebrating the fact that God, God!, came down to earth to save us. We are celebrating the arrival of the One who took death for us, who is our only hope of restoration. If this day had never come, we wouldn't have the grace and forgiveness we all use up every day! I think that should be the gift we are most thankful for!

I think that we get used to the manger scene. We get used to the joy of presents under the tree and family coming into town. And none of these things are bad. It is great to sing of the silent night. But let us not forget what this day is really all about. This is about the beginning of the end. This is about a love greater than we will ever know on this earth. This is the moment that a perfect God made Himself human so that He could save us from the death that we all deserve.

So for me this Christmas season has been a time to see a lot of my own sin. Really I prefer to focus on the sins of everyone else, but God keeps knocking me in the head. When I am supposed to be thankful and giving, I have been the opposite.

I want to make these last days (and the rest of my life) different. I want to jump out of the monotony of Christmas and dive into true joy and thankfulness. Not because everything has worked out for me this year, but because I am blessed infinitely beyond what I deserve. Those presents under the tree do not even compare to the gifts God has bestowed upon me when I earned none of it.

I am going to jump for joy on Christmas morning. You know why? Because I have been redeemed by the one true Savior.  YIPPPEEEEEEE!!!!!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

To all who have ever been my "chickies"

To my dearest chickies,

Whether you are seven, fourteen, or twenty, I implore you to hear me out. Though I may only be a little bit older I have some wisdom to offer. For I have been where you have been. I have felt what you have felt, and I want to tell you what I wish I would have known.

When the world seems to be ending, I promise you it isn't. Though your heart may hurt or your parents may be mad, the world goes on and those big problems become small. I promise that in years you will have forgotten those things you spent so many hours upset or worried about. So leave them where they are and forget about them.

Instead of wasting time, embrace it. Acknowledge the worry or stress but don't let it overtake you. Live each moment. Enjoy the people you are with when you are with them. Don't let anything get you down, for our lives our precious. You are precious. You have been created and formed by the Almighty God and you are beautiful.

Did you hear that? You are beautiful. You may look in the mirror and only see flaws, but the rest of us? We see your beauty. You were made perfect. You were made in the image of God. And though you long for a man to love you just the way you are (and I promise one day he will come), right now you have friends and family who love you and a God who thinks you are incredible.

I want you to wake up in the morning, look in the mirror, and realize that you are amazing. Each and every one of you. You girls inspire you. You inspire me to be a better person, to love more, and to embrace my Father more. Each of you means the world to me, no matter the distance between us.

So hear me out. Don't waste time being stressed or worried or sad, for we are alive! We are loved! We are young and have so many chances to have fun, to laugh, and to praise our Heavenly Father. Take it from me. I spent years worrying and stressing only to find that it was not worth it.

Because life is too short and too wonderful to be wasted.

My dear chickies. Whether you are seven, fourteen, or twenty I implore you to hear me.

You have been created for a purpose. Embrace your beauty. Praise your Father often. And live. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Night of Stars

I have officially been inducted into Los Angeles life. I have met a star.

This afternoon some friends and I made the trek into LA/Hollywood to do some sight seeing. First stop, The Griffith Observatory. We saw the famous Hollywood sign, the whole city in lights, and of course, we learned about some stars. (The real kind, that is). We had our own personal guide- an astrophysicist and engineer, a.k.a. my overqualified TA for my missions class. It was great to learn about the amazing universe our God created.

And then....

We met the other kind of star.

We headed from there to The Grove which is a swanky outdoor mall in LA. Really we went because they had fake snow bubbles and it was the only chance to see snow at Christmas here, but we got a lot more bang for our buck. I was on the lookout for celebrities because I heard they sometimes shop here, but for the majority of the evening there was no such luck. We ate at the Farmer's Market (I had tortilla espaƱola and almost died of happiness. I miss Spain!) and then we danced in the fake snow and went to shop around a bit.

Just as I had stopped my search for stars by friend Mark says casually, "Hey, those are the guys from the Glee Project that just passed us."

I don't know what came over me, but I did the only logical thing to do in this moment. I turned immediately around and started following them, dragging my friend Elizabeth by the arm. I don't know why I did it, but I love the Irish kid that has been on Glee and I just wanted to see his face. Its weird, I know, but I was starstruck,
Mark, on the other hand, was totally cool. As I was blindly stalking these kids into Barnes and Noble Mark calls out, "Hey Damien!" Damien (the star) turns around and Mark (being again, so cool and casual) tells him that he just wanted to shake his hand (Mark also knows another guy that won the Glee Project so he had a point of common interest with them). I too shook Damien McGinty's hand, asked him if he was having fun filming Glee, told him he was doing a great job, and wished him and his friends a Merry Christmas.

It was the best moment ever.

I, my friends, met a real star.

The great thing was, these kids are just starting out so they had no egos at all. They were so kind and willing to chat with us. And I heard the Irish accent with my own two ears. So now, for your viewing pleasure, follow this link and click on the "Who are you?" video. Then continue marveling at the fact that I met Damien McGinty and didn't get in trouble for stalking him through The Grove. 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A SoCal Christmas

Ahhh Trader Joe's. A Christmas treat paradise. This afternoon I made the short drive to Christmas joy with my windows down, blaring Christmas music as a sweet 75 degree breeze flew through my car. The sun was shining, I was wearing leggings as pants (more on that later), and I realized, I might love Christmas in Southern California. I don't know if it is ironic, a paradox, a juxtaposition or just plain crazy, but a Christmas that feels like Easter is really awesome. 

In other news, I have found a new love in Los Angeles. 

Some may think of LA and think of smog, overcrowding, or traffic, but not me. Oh no. I think of two sweet words. . .sample sale. Yes my friends I have discovered the gem of LA! Sample sales! A sample sale is a wonderful world where designer clothes are sold for really cheap. My good friend Jess introduced me, and being a good Carpenter (I get my bargain hunting skills from my dad) I find a thrill in getting the best bargain possible.

So today's bargain I have to announce is a beautiful $428 coat that I got for an incredible *drum roll please* $50! That's right folks, that is basically free!...ok, not really, but that is what I tell myself when I  spend fifty dollars worth of grocery money on a coat that is obviously necessary. It isn't like it is 75 degrees in December here or anything.

Ooooh. Ahhhh. I know take it in. It is a beautiful coat. I wear it no matter the weather.  If you could see it closer you would see beautiful buttons. Best. Bargain. Ever. 

And this is where the leggings come in. I know there were gasps when I wrote that I wore leggings as pants. You all thought, really? Meredith? We hate that trend! Oh how many times I ridicule the girls that think leggings are appropriate to wear in public. But alas, I have given in to the sample sale world. Sample sales have a dress code, a dress code of "wear whatever you can try clothes on over." So this morning I joined the legging-pant mafia as we trekked into the sales. But don't worry. Moving to California I have not gone completely crazy and I vow to not wear leggings as pants again...that is, unless I can find $5 jeans. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Can I get a Woop!Woop!

And with that my friends it is finished!

Around 45 pages later, after a plethora of in depth research, and a lot of hours, I have finished all THREE of my research papers due for finals week.

 I am officially FINISHED with my first quarter of seminary. Can I get a whoop! whoop!

Now to three weeks of bliss. No schoolwork, no classes. Just me, the Christmas spirit, and free time.

Get ready Georgia because I am coming for YOU! 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Be sad no longer!

To my dear faithful blog readers (all 1 million six of you),

I know it has been a hard week. You check every day and you think, "Why hasn't dear Meredith posted about her oh so interesting life?" You missed the thrill, the adventure, the suspense that is my daily doing. I bet it was hard to even go to work. You moped around, sad, maybe a little lost.

Well feel lost no longer! I am back! Since the Santa Ana winds blew in last week things have been crazy (in an awesome way). Check out this video to see the damage done to Pasadena. Those winds were nuts! The winds also blew in my sweet friend Amanda. Being a flight attendant she is the only friend who can afford to visit me....because its free. It was an amazing weekend, the best yet. Of course Amanda fit in so well with my new friends here (because lets face it, I only make awesome friends. So awesome+awesome=super awesome) and we saw the city, bought clothes at a sample sale, and of course ate at In-and-Out burger. We played some poker until the dealer took away our chips for lack of competition and we made delicious meals while watching football (don't know if I should be sad or happy about the Georgia loss). All in all it was fabulous.

It is also finals week around here. While I was galavanting around town with Amanda the rest of my peers were in the library. I got a lot of "how do you have free time???" but I don't know the answer! I just do. Life is too short to just write papers all the time. So now I am writing this post as one more bit of procrastination. On the positive side, I can now tell you everything you ever wanted to know about Mark 8:27-9:1

1 week and 1 day until this city girl comes back to the country. I can't wait! 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Santa Ana Winds

*I would like to thank the movie The Holiday for being the only reason I knew what the Santa Ana winds were. I honor you with this post.*

As I lay here in my bed, in my matchbox apartment, the Santa Ana winds rage outside my window. The sound is like thunder and the trees are swaying very precariously. Sirens continue to wail through the streets and the streets themselves are completely littered with debris. These are the most powerful winds I have ever experienced. Part of me wants to go outside and get lost in the winds, to feel the strong breeze whip across my whole self, but of course I know that would be dangerous, so I don't. These winds just seem like they can make you feel alive, like you are a part of something bigger. They are majestic in their ferocious power and to me, they are amazing.

But as I lay here in my bed, in my matchbox apartment, I know that there are hundreds in the Los Angeles area that are homeless and have no shelter from the winds. As I admire the wind's power, they fear the destruction. The sirens are not a distant sound for them, they are a harsh reality. This is a wind storm like I have never seen, but I am safe and many are not. I thank God that I can make the decision to stay inside, but I pray and I pray that He will protect those who are not as fortunate as me tonight.