Posted in Life

Adventures with Maria

Last week, my friend Maria and I visited Biltmore Esates. She’s getting married this summer, and we wanted to go on a trip before that. We like visiting old fancy houses, so this was a good choice.

We had a little apartment for the few days we were there. It was only minutes away from everything we wanted to do, but it was still in a very quiet neighborhood. In the mornings we opened windows and could hear more birds than traffic. The apartment was part of an old, renovated building, and it was an excellent combination of quirky and nice. We enjoyed it.

We spent most of a day exploring Biltmore. The house is enormous (200-some rooms – not that we saw all of them), and we toured it in the morning. We saw tons of pretty things and fancy rooms and impressive architecture. Here are just a few small details:

The view through a door. It looks snowy outside, but it was actually just very misty.
I loved these stairs for reaching high shelves in the library.
A cubby underneath a staircase!
I did not get a picture of it myself, but this painting, The Waltz by Anders Zorn, hangs in the second floor living hall. I loved it.
This was my lunch, winter risotto. The color was a bit unexpected, but it was absolutely delicious.

After the house, we went to lunch at one of the restaurants in the village that’s part of the estate. The place was nice, the food was excellent, and we didn’t wait long at all. We were very satisfied with our choice of restaurant.

After lunch, we explored the gardens for a while. The timing was perfect; it rained in the morning and while we ate, but it stopped when we were ready to wander around outside.

We saw only a minuscule portion of the grounds, but what we saw was beautiful. Not many things had bloomed yet, but the gardens were still artistically designed and meticulously cared for. One garden contained an abundance of tulips. In another we found a pond full of fish, who seemed very interested in the possibility that we had brought them food (we had not). We discovered lots of intriguing paths to explore.

To wrap up our day, we went to see Beauty and the Beast. It was nice to sit down, and we accidentally found a swanky movie theater with unexpectedly comfortable seats.

The trip to and from the place were very enjoyable as well. We had lots of time to talk and listen to music and just enjoy each others’ company.

It was a very special trip. I’m so glad we were able to go.

Posted in Christianity, Thoughts

Infinite Grace

I recently read a book called None Like Him: 10 Ways God is Different from Us (and Why That’s a Good Thing) by Jen Wilkin. It was a good book.

Supposedly it was aimed at women, but I didn’t get that impression. I remembered the fact three times while reading, and all three were because it was specifically mentioned. Which is to say: I think anyone could get useful things out of this book.

The part that struck me the most was this:

He measures our sins, yet his immeasurable grace exceeds them. Mercifully, our sins are finite in number, the product of finite beings:
But where sin increased, grace abounded all the more. (Rom. 5:20)

If you add up all the sins all the humans who ever lived have committed, you would get a number. Admittedly, a number no one wants to spend their time counting to, but if you did, you would eventually get to the end, and you would have to stop.

But God’s grace abounds. It’s immeasurable. Infinite.

You know what you get when you subtract any number from infinity?

Infinity.

Many people seem to struggle with wondering if God can forgive the sins they have committed.

Guess what?

He can.

He has enough grace.

More than enough.

Posted in Christianity, College, Life

Great Books I’ve Read This Year

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
I discovered this book’s existence when YouTube started giving me trailers for the movie based on it. The trailers intrigued me. Then somehow I found out the book’s backstory: The original idea belonged to an author named Siobhan Dowd. She died before she could write it, and her editor asked Patrick Ness to turn the idea into a book. That can’t have been an easy task, but he created a beautiful book. It’s about a boy whose mother has cancer. They yew tree in their backyard comes to life and helps him. It’s an unavoidably sad book, but it’s excellently crafted. The movie turned out great, too. It’s gorgeous and probably the best movie adaption of a book I have ever seen.

A Visual Guide to Bible Events: Fascinating Insights into Where They Happened and Why by James C. Martin, John A. Beck, and David G. Hansen
I impulsively bought a brand new copy of this book at the beginning of the year. I rarely spend money on books I know nothing about (especially new copies), but this turned out to be a worthy investment. As the slightly pretentious title implies, it is fascinating. It’s full of exactly the sort of information I like to learn. I kept reading things and going, “Why did no one ever teach me this before?!?!” It’s amazing how just a little historical or geographical knowledge can help Bible events make so much more sense.

Redigging the Wells by Monroe Hawley
I read this book five years ago for a college class, and it’s one of the few books I kept instead of selling back. I’d been wanting to reread it, and a sermon at church finally inspired me to do so. It’s a study of undenominational Christianity, and it’s a thorough, thoughtful look at the topic. Hawley does not purport to have all the answers, but he’s not afraid to consider the questions.

 

Art Fraud Detective: Spot the Difference, Solve the Crime! by Anna Nilsen
When I was younger, we used to check this book out from the library, and last year I got a copy for Christmas. I was very excited. A gang of art thieves has replaced almost every painting in a museum with a cleverly copied fake, and your job is to find the differences between the fakes and the real paintings to help stop the criminals. It’s a lot of fun and surprisingly difficult sometimes.

This House, Once by Deborah Freedman
This is a delightful picture book I discovered while at a bookstore with my friend Maria. It talks about what the different parts of a house used to be – the door was an oak tree, for example. The illustrations are soft and lovely, the writing is sweet, and I liked it a lot. Maria and I squealed over it.

Posted in Life

I’m Going to be a Librarian Again!

As I mentioned last week, I had an interview Thursday for a job at a library. I did not expect to hear anything more for a week or two, because the most they told me about deadlines was that they wanted someone to start in April, but yesterday I got a call and they offered me the job.

I was very excited (still am), and a little surprised. I mean, I thought the interview went okay, but interviews are just awkward, so it was hard to tell. And for all I knew their other applicants could have been even more qualified than I am.

But I figured that if God wanted me to have the job it would work out no matter how awkward the interview, and somehow they picked me.

I don’t have a start date yet, but presumably that will be sometime around the beginning of April.

I have missed working in a library. I’ll be glad to start that again.

Posted in Life

Last Week

The week since my last post has been more eventful than usual.

Tuesday night, my friend GG came over for a movie night. We watched The Emperor’s New Groove and The Princess Bride. It was a delayed celebration of GG finishing the first round of editing her novel. It was an excellent way to celebrate.

Then we had a tornado warning at 6 in the morning. I don’t think the tornado ever touched down, so it wasn’t as scary as it could have been, but it was quite inconvenient.

Wednesday afternoon I got a call scheduling an interview for a job at a library I had applied for. That’s happening Thursday morning. I’m rather excited. I don’t think I’ve ever been excited for an interview. Prayers would be appreciated.

Wednesday evening, my friend Maria came to visit for the rest of the week. It was really, really lovely to see her; that doesn’t happen nearly often enough. We didn’t do a whole lot, but we had fun. Wednesday night we were both out of it because neither of us slept well the night before, so we sleepily watched the VeggieTales Jonah movie because that seemed like it wouldn’t require much brain power. After it was over, Maria commented, “Exhaustion runs very deep in my family.”

Thursday we got bubble tea and went window shopping in a nearby town that has a nice downtown. We also stopped at the library to get a movie for later in the week. The plan was to watch Despicable Me. There were several copies, and I stood there thinking, “Watch me choose the one that doesn’t work.” Come Friday night, sure enough, there wasn’t actually a DVD in the case. It was a disk for downloading a digital copy, which expired in 2014. So we watched Cars instead.

Anyway. On Friday we also colored, and GG came over (again; she’s a good sport) for the afternoon and the three of us played games and hung out.

At some point very early Saturday morning, my brother arrived home from college for his spring break. Maria headed home that afternoon.

It was a busy week.

Posted in Christianity, College, Life, Thoughts, Writings

College Reflections

Sometimes I think about my college degree and remind myself that it is an accomplishment. It doesn’t always feel like it, but it is. The diploma displayed on my dresser and the summa cum laude cords hung on my wall represent heaps of time and effort and frustration and lack of sleep and months when I would have much preferred to quit altogether.

I’ve been out of college for more than two years now. (Yet people still regularly ask what grade I’m in, so that’s amusing.) I don’t miss it. At all. But recently I’ve been thinking about how certain classes impacted my life, so I thought I’d talk about the two most notable.

We’ll start with the one that’s notable because of its lack of long-term impact: Creative Writing.

I do a lot of creative writing. I have filled up notebooks. Last month I found myself editing a story I wrote before college. It wasn’t awful, but I have definitely improved since then. But that improvement came from practice and talking to friends who write. None of it came from my Creative Writing class.

I don’t remember learning one thing in that class. I remember a couple short stories we read (I didn’t like either of them). I remember that we were supposed to keep a journal and I gave up halfway through the semester because I did not have the time and the teacher never once checked to see that we were doing it. I remember leaving one day because it was the third time the teacher was more than 15 minutes late, which meant students were allowed to leave without penalty, and I hadn’t left the previous two times and I had had it.

Basically, I remember a lot of frustration.

The one nice thing that came out of the class resulted from our final project. During that semester, I had been working on a story entirely unrelated to the class, but I asked the teacher if I could submit it for the final project, and she said that was fine. When she returned it, she informed me that the story kept her up past her bedtime because she couldn’t put it down. It was satisfying that someone who was neither a relative or a close friend liked something I wrote that much, but perhaps not quite worth it overall.

But on a more cheerful subject: Scripture Interpretation.

Rumor has it this is one of the hardest classes at my college. I took it my sophomore fall semester. I saw the teacher (my favorite teacher, incidentally) a couple weeks before classes started, and he asked, “Don’t you know you’re supposed to take Greek or Hebrew or at least Intro to Biblical Languages before you take this class?”

Nope. No one ever told me that. But I wanted to take the class, and at that point rearranging my schedule seemed like more trouble than it was worth, so I stuck with it.

541362_454180244623700_1225700392_nThat was my hardest semester. Not necessarily academically, but in general stress and homesickness. But Scripture Interpretation was a lot of work, so that may have contributed. Most memorably, I took this picture of all the books I used for a one-page paper (though I think it ended up being longer than one page). But in the long run, I did well.

Despite all the work, I’m so glad I took the class. It ended up being my favorite college course. I gained a great deal of respect for translators. I regularly see its influence in the way I read and study the Bible, and that’s something that will be valuable wherever I go in life.

Posted in Life

Starset

In the first of my Alphabetical Music posts, I mentioned that my friend GG and I were going to a Starset concert this month. Last Friday was the day.

16901706_10212384756596827_45659325_n
The sunset during the drive was gorgeous.

It required a short road trip (not even long enough to be called a road trip, really…), which is always part of the fun of our adventures. The only real trouble we had was finding a place to park. There were several parking lots near the theater, but they were all tiny and packed. We found one not too far away on the GPS, and it was large and mostly empty and very promising – and inexplicably closed. Eventually I remembered that I had seen on the theater’s website that they offered valet parking, so we went with that. The man doing the valet parking wasn’t particularly helpful, but it worked.

We weren’t overawed by any of the opening bands. The first was all right. The second just wasn’t very good overall (even though they had a stuffed dinosaur on stage with them). The third was weird. Which meant the all right one ended up being our favorite, surprisingly.

0217172228I am short, and there were some tall people around us, so I couldn’t always see the stage well. But by the time Starset performed, a nice gap through which I could see nearly the entire stage had formed (as you can see by this blurry picture I hastily snapped before they began). This part of the show was very cool. They did fascinating things with lights and electronics. It was a lot of fun to watch. And they ended with the first Starset song I ever encountered (which may also be my favorite), so that seemed fitting.

We drove right back home after the concert. It was a surprisingly exhausting evening; I was beat the next day. But it was fun. And going to a concert for a band I discovered was bizarre and exciting and cool.