December 26, 2009

A Very Handmade Christmas

Christmas Gifts 001

Merry Christmas! Or, more accurately, Happy Boxing Day! And if you really want to get personal, Happy Half-Birthday to ME!

Christmas this year was wonderfully low-key. My favorite gift by far was the simple gift of my brother and dad removing the exercise machine that took up about a quarter of my room. They also helped me move in my desk and bookshelf, a task I couldn't do by myself.

Other highlights? Anna's gift to Ken and I of matching mini notebooks complete with golden retriever puppies on the cover, an Espresso machine from Ken (who may have purchased it mostly just to use it himself, but hey, I'm not about to complain), a beautiful scarf from Tanzania that my uncle brought back after a mission trip, and the tiniest bottle of Chambord (airplane size!) you've ever seen from Aunt Karen. It's adorable. Aunt Karen has mastered the art of stocking stuffers by stuffing them with the most useful things: chapstick, mini Tide pens, tissues, mini lint rollers, and - since my 21st birthday - wee liquor bottles. It's awesome.

As far as gifts I gave? I'll share a few:

I made a pair of fingerless glove/mittens for Ken
Christmas Gifts 007

Christmas Gifts 013

a scarf for Aunt Karen

Christmas Gifts 021

Christmas Gifts 025

and another scarf for ...someone. Not telling who, since I haven't given it yet.
Christmas Gifts 018

Christmas Gifts 020

So that's that! Also, since I've been home, I'm making full use of my Dad's super fancy digital camera. So that's why I've had all the pictures lately. It's fun! And what a blessing to be home right now -- I've spent all of my time with  my family and it's terrific. I love them very much.

December 22, 2009

Oh, Hi!

My name is Stef Walker, and I'm a college graduate.

I think?

We got mega snow here in PA this much so that I drove home on Friday night and missed my graduation ceremony at Kutztown on Saturday. I was a little bummed about it at first, but after the skies stopped dumping the 11+ inches of snow on my hometown, I got over it. Wanna see what I mean?

Snow! 026

Snow! 080

Snow! 037

Snow! 057

Snow! 068

Of course, Anna, Ken, and I had to play in it. Anna's flinching because Ken had an entire shovel-full of snow he was about to throw on her.

SO. What's next, you may be asking (you and everyone else I know...sheesh)? I cleaned my room BIG TIME on Saturday, and I'll be doing the same thing to my entire house over the next few months. I'll be substitute teaching and painting and sorting and helping my family move into their new house. I'll be knitting and crocheting like cuh-ray-zay because I acquired an incredible boon of beautiful 100% wool yarn for FREE from a company that went out of buisness in Reading, PA. You want to see that too? Oh, Okay.

Yarn 001

Yarn 008

Other plans for the next six months? I'll be hanging out with my brother and my grandparents. I'll probably still spend my weekends going places and doing crazy things. And I'll be looking for like, you know, a real job too. So if you hear about any of those anywhere -- let me know.

But other than that, life is excellent! And preparation for the Christmas season is in full swing. Today? Cookie baking and shopping. Good stuff :)

December 11, 2009


With all the craziness of the end of college, I haven't spent enough time really digging in to the advent season. Once in a while these little moments of wonder flare up in me, and I think to myself: "I should really be spending more time on all this stuff!" but then I rarely follow through. And the more time I actually do spend thinking about the incarnation of God as man, the crazier and crazier it seems. How magnificent, how ludicrous, how utterly unfathomable that the Lord of All, the Alpha & Omega, the great I AM would squeeze himself into this little, tiny, squishy baby. For me.

O holy Child of Bethlehem,
Descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin and enter in,
Be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us,
Our Lord, Emmanuel.

December 3, 2009

Sick day...

Ugh. I'm home sick today with a cough and some of that "general malaise" that comes with a cold. I don't think it's anything more serious than that, but I figured I'd better rest up instead of spread it around at school to my babies.

Speaking of my babies, they're wonderful. Really, they are. I'm teaching high school kids now, and they're...lots of things. Funny, endearing, ridiculous, lazy, surprising, and sometimes a little crazy. I taught them how to crochet, a task which they picked up (well, most of them) with incredible speed and talent. They're like little iPod cozy and hacky sack factories now!

Yesterday I had the blessing of being able to just sit and chat with one of my students for a class period. I had a prep period and was grading some projects while my co-op worked on some things in another room. One of our students came to the classroom during her study hall to work on her crochet (she's making a beret, and she's pretty much an all-star) and I got to just listen to her tell me about her family, her hopes for the future, and her faith. Like....tada! Here it is! I use the word blessing to describe that, because it really was. I'm so honored that she wanted to share that with me, and furthermore, that I would even get that experience while student teaching is just so amazing to me. It reminds me that teachers are more than people who hand out knowledge. I want to know my students, not just teach them.

So other than that, life is going well. It's moving quickly, too. I'm graduating in 2 weeks from Saturday, my senior art show opens this Sunday, and I'm finishing up the last of my homework this week.

And Thanksgiving? It was wonderful. I much-needed break to spend with my family and start to sort out some of that future stuff. While there's still much uncertainty about where I'm going to be, I think some of the pieces are starting to fall into place. And I'm content with that much.

October 19, 2009

I'm kind of failing at this, aren't I?

Wow, it's been a while. Sorry about that! I think about writing, but then I go and do something else, like write a lesson plan or something crazy like that.

Student teaching is flying by! I'm finishing up with my first placement this week. In fact, because it's a six-day cycle, I'm saying goodbyes all week to my students. It's pretty sad. I've been given drawings, cards, hugs, and even a round of applause from my addition to a lot of other less tangible lessons. They're crazy, their lives are impossibly hard, but they're so sweet and they work so hard! Well...most of them do. I'm feeling sentimental, so I'm being a bit generous.

Other than teaching, my life is pretty normal...I went home last weekend and went to see Where the Wild Things Are with Ken, HS Beth and Anna. It was, um, kind of a downer. I mean, it was beautiful and well done, toed the line between sweetly heartbreaking and devastatingly painful. There's kind of a sinister thread that runs through the whole thing, with each wild, childlike scene reminding you of how cruel and broken childhood can be. By the end HS Beth and I were both tearing up while my sister tapped me and saying "WHY IS THE MONSTER CRYING???" I wanted to answer her with "Because life is awful and broken and relationships are impossibly complicated!" but I settled for " he's sad." Or something.

This Saturday I'm going with the Thayers to visit Whit, and I'm going to Virginia next things are picking up! And starting next Monday I make the switch from poor, Hispanic, elementary school to rich, white, high school. So that should be interesting for sure...

September 19, 2009

Really, iTunes?!?


Other than having the worst recommendations EVER from iTunes, my life is good. Teaching the little babies has been educational, to say the least. Today I had lunch with my former CIT director, which was wonderful. And tonight I might go to a FIGHTNIGHT PARTY.

So yeah, life is good!

September 5, 2009

What Will Stay?

I feel like I must update this more when I'm at home than any other time! Well, maybe it just feels that way because I've been so busy lately. A short update:

I moved to Lancatser last weekend and got started with my student teaching on Wednesday. The kids are adorable! I'm in Lebanon at an elementary school where the kids are primarily Hispanic and totally cute. Seriously, the first graders melted my heart a little. Sadly, the school has struggled to make AYP with their test scores for the last several years, and they've cut the art program to the point where I only see each class once every 6 days for a grand total of 30 minutes. Imagine trying to teach anything to a group of 8 year olds in 30 minutes, let alone the prep/clean up that's required for an art class! But it's a challenge I'm excited to face. My co-op is great, and even though it's kind of a long commute (around an hour each way), the time in the car is good time to mentally prepare for the day and to debrief when it's all over.

I had a four day weekend this weekend, which seemed a little silly, but it'll be a good way to ease into the student teaching. Yesterday, I had lunch with Amanda in Lancaster and then drove home through some holiday traffic.

So now I'm home. For a lot of reasons, being home right now is really good and really hard. There are some potential changes happening in my family that will be great in the long term, but are hard to process today. I'm sorry for being vague; nothing bad is happening or going on...just some thoughts my parents have been having about THE FUTURE. Good thoughts, but still...change is hard.

And today is hard. It's been 15 years since my mom passed away, as of today. For that reason, home is where I need to be today. I'm able to spend time remembering in the right context...but that somehow makes it more difficult. Walking around my house and being in places where my mom used to be...well, it's just hard to comprehend sometimes. And 15 years? That's a lot, too. I can't really believe I've lived this much of my life without her..and yet, it seems only natural, too. What else have I known? But even though today is painful, it is good to spend time remembering.

August 17, 2009

11 Weeks Later...

Well, I'm home. What a summer.

It was difficult. I'm exhausted.

I forgot about the physical work that is the CIT job. I forgot how exhausting it is to clean 350 dishes after every meal, or to scrub every sink, toilet and shower, or to sweep...everything. By week 11 I didn't want to touch another dish or broom again. My feet and back and hands ached by the end of each day. But through all of that exhaustion and pain, the Lord gave me deep satisfaction. There's something amazing about watching all of that work get done in a little amount of time. Watching hundreds of bowls and plates go from being disgusting to completely clean in a mere hour is almost miraculous. Doing these jobs was a reminder that God created us to be people who work. And yes, there were days (especially by the end) where it got harder and harder to take joy in work, but I loved being able to come home and think about all of the things I'd done that day.

And for all of the physical exhaustion, there was the emotional and spiritual exhaustion that comes from living in tight community for a long period of time. Ministering to the girls and trying to meet their needs as a mentor and friend took all that I had. I learned quickly that "all that I had" wasn't very much, so the Lord had to step in for the rest. Living in community also means that, eventually, you're going to see and experience your own brokenness and the brokenness of the people around you. I learned so much about intentional community this summer; how do we address our brokenness with each other? How can I meet your needs, and how can you meet mine? What a blessing to be able to ask those questions of people who know me and love me. And what a blessing to know that we are able to know and love each other because we are known and loved by the Father first.

I'm still reflecting a lot about this summer. I loved my job so much. I loved working with Geraud, I loved living with Lauren, I loved being with my CITs, and more than all of those things, I'm seeing (and loving) how the Lord is transforming me in real and concrete ways.

I learned more this summer than I could'v hoped for, and more than I've been able to fully process. Last night, Whitney spent the night at my house and we just debriefed the summer for a few hours. It was a blessing to verbally process the things that are happening...I'm excited to keep doing that.

Camp happened. It happened in a big, big way...I'm glad it happened, I'm glad I got to be a part of its happening, and I'm glad - in some ways - that it's no longer happening. It's time for the next stuff to happen.

But for right now I'm sleepy and ready to do nothing for a while. I've made plans and committments to friends with whom I'm going to be intentional, and I'm ready to spend some time with my family. I might go to Pittsburgh this week for a Pirates game, and Washington over the weekend for a Steelers/Redskins preseason game. I might go to the Thayers after that and spend some time with my second family :)

It's good to be home, even if it's a tough transition to be away from so many people whom I love...but the Lord is faithful and I'm where I need to be.

May 29, 2009

Aaaaaand, I'm OFF!

I leave for camp today! Which means I may or may not write in this blog...but that's okay. Because the summer is going to be wonderful!

If you think of it, it'd be awesome to have prayer for the campers and staff as we work to do some serious ministry this summer. Please be praying for effective training, safe travels, and open hearts that we would hear God's word and be struck by it anew. And pray for safe activities - from rafting to paintball to GOLDRUSH! The Lord prepared some incredible things for this summer, and I'm SO excited to see what those are going to be!

May 25, 2009


Well, I'm in the home stretch before it's time for camp...I head out on Friday, which means I need to spend this week organizing and packing up my stuff for the summer. It's hard to believe it's already time for this; I feel like last summer just ended! But on the other hand, I'm getting almost giddy with excitement...Friday can't come soon enough!

So today is Memorial Day. Yesterday in church we had a supply pastor filling the pulpit because our pastor is continuing education in Georgia or something. And yesterday had two possible directions it could've gone in: Ascension Day or Memorial Day. We went the Memorial Day route.


I'll clarify the "ugh." I put a lot of stock in Memorial Day. I have a lot of important people to remember today. I'll go visit a grave, I'll take flowers, I'll remember my loved ones. I know that, traditionally, this day is meant to honor veterans and their sacrifice for our country - I'm fine with that too. It's important to remember the cost of war (though I think it's quite telling of our culture that we find it so easy to forget that cost - casualties from both sides, that is). Here's where Memorial Day get's mucky for me: when it becomes GOD BLESS AMERICA (AND NO WHERE ELSE) Day.

The pastor who preached yesterday didn't really hammer that point home, for which I'm grateful. However, he spent little to no time discussing scripture and a whole lot of time talking about remembering the cost of freedom. You want to talk about that? Fine! But don't do it from the pulpit. God's heart breaks for our lost ones as much as it breaks for the soldiers on the other side of the line. We're not a country executing vigilante justice, or the swift hand of our angry God. We're a nation of broken people, who ask for God's blessing because of our brokenness. Not because of our awesomeness. So when we spend our Sundays contemplating how our nation is out there "puttin' a boot in the ass" of terror, I think we're focusing on the wrong thing.

We should ask God to bless America because we, like all people, need God's blessing. Not because we're the only country in this world who's finally got it right. Because...well, we haven't.

ANYWAY. I'm probably preaching to the choir on that one, but whatever. Now I'm going to go enjoy my Memorial Day! I have loved ones to remember, and loved ones to be with. I hope you can do the same :)

May 18, 2009

Post-California & New Adventures

California was beautiful!!!! And I had a wonderful time meeting Lisa's friends and seeing her school, her coffee shop (what a weird thing to say is "hers" but she spends a ton of time know how it is), and her church. I love seeing where my friends live, especially when they're far away. It's fun to know their context and being able to match names to faces and locations to images.

Speaking of images, here are some pictures!

The view from Pepperdine University

This is a view from Pepperdine University. That campus was...incredible. Hello, ocean!


Malibu! There's a man in the bottom left hand corner who looks like he's showing off his butt, but I don't think he is...

Sunset from Santa Monica

Sunset from the Santa Monica Pier

The Getty

The Getty! A sweet museum with beautiful gardens, a nice collection, and no contemporary art! (We asked to make sure we hadn't missed it.)

Fountain at the Getty

One of the many fountains at the Getty

Flower Trees

Flower trees from the Getty gardens


Tourism! I made Lisa take me down to the Chinese Theater. We were in Hollywood anyway for church, but this photo proves I'm still a tourist.

Lisa & Me


Anyway, today I'm just relaxing at home. I have some fun stuff going on tomorrow, Wednesday and Thursday. And on Friday High School Beth and I are going to catch a movie and hang out, which will be a nice time. And a week from Friday? Helloooooo CAMP!

May 5, 2009


Well, I go off on the first leg of my adventure today in about an hour. I'm driving down to the Thayer's house tonight to hang out with Mr. & Mrs. Thayer (but um, not Whit or Liz...) and then tomorrow morning at 6 in the AM I'll be departing for the airport. And then (after 6 hours on a plane) I'll be in CALIFORNIA.

Try not to miss me too much while I'm gone.

The only thing bumming me out right now is the fact that it's Two Stamp Tuesday without CB and Marilyn(d). Buuuut...other than that, things are awesome.

I'll be back with pictures and stories, I'm sure!

May 3, 2009

Home, Sweet Home's true. I'm finally home. Actually, I've been here since Wednesday...I've just been busy doing lots of fun things like cleaning my room, hanging out with my family, and helping my 8-year-old sister clean HER room. Which was a disaster...the room, not the cleaning. The cleaning was a success! Hopefully she'll start to learn how to keep it that way, lest it devolve into the wreck it was before Saturday.

I'm home tomorrow still, and then on Tuesday I'm driving down to Galena, MD to hang out with Mr. & Mrs. Thayer (love them!!) for the night. Then Wendesday morning...I fly! And around noon California time, I'll be hanging out with Lisa!

I also heard from a friend of mine from high school who's been living in LA since we graduated. I haven't seen him since high school, but we might try to catch up while I'm out there. It's strange how someone can go from being in your life every day to...well, not at all.

I've been thinking about that a little with Kutztown semester isn't going to look like this one at all. I'll be living with CB (yesss) which will be a lot of fun...and if I weren't living with her, I'd probably be dreding next semester entirely. But there will be a lot of my friends from this year whom I will pretty much never see. And that's a little bit of a bummer.

And speaking of school - I had a nightmare last night where I failed one of my classes and was trying to beg my painting professor to change my grade. Ugh, I work up anxious about it. And while I know I don't have anything to worry about...well, it made me worry. Not that I usually need much encouragement in that department...

Anyway, I'm going to bed! And tomorrow I'm packing and probably running a few errands. I have a car full of stuff to take to Goodwill, and a few things I need to buy for my trip. WOO California!

April 26, 2009

A Disciple's Renewal

O My Savior, help me.
I am so slow to learn, so prone to forget, so weak to climb;

I am in the foothills when I should be in the heights;
I am pained by my graceless heart,
my prayerless days,
my poverty of love,
my sloth in the heavenly race,
my sullied conscience,
my wasted hours,
my unspent opportunities.

I am blind while light shines around me:
take the scales from my eyes,
grind to dust the evil heart of unbelief.

Make it my cheifest joy to study thee,
meditate on thee,
gaze on thee,
sit like Mary at thy feet,
lean like John on thy breast,
appeal like Peter to thy love,
count like Paul all things dung.

Give me increase and progress in grace so that there may be;
more decision in my character,
more vigor in my purposes,
more elevation in my life,
more fervor in my devotion,
more constancy in my zeal.

As I have a position in the world,
keep me from making the world my position;

May I never seek in the creature what can be found only in the creator;

Let not faith cease from seeking thee until it vanishes into sight.

Ride forth in me, thou king of kings and lord of lords,
that I may live victoriously,and in victory attain my end.

That's a prayer that I've read about a million times, and every time it never ceases to strike at the heart of what I should be seeking. I like liturgy and other written prayers because, more often than not, someone else can articulate what I'm feeling better than I can.

April 24, 2009

The Count...Censored.

I just got back from a nice lunch with my step-mom after packing up the family van with half of the stuff from my dorm. I no longer have a minifridge, a tv, a rug, or most of my clothing. This is a terribly exciting thing for me, because it makes the end of the year that much more tangible.

Tomorrow morning is the Praxis II. Which means I should think about studying for it right, well I'm not. And I probably won't. 'Cause I'm really mature and stuff, you know?

Today I took my last undergrad test! LOVE IT. That felt good, too.

I don't think anything else profound has happened lately...OH. Wait.

Okay, listen, I saw this video and it's incredibly inappropriate, but incredibly funny. I mean, it's actually "censored" so it's not traditionally inappropriate, but it's funny because of the implications behind the censoring. Um, so don't judge me, but I laughed for about 24856 years after I saw this video.

Also, it's nothing new or anything. I'm not claiming to be on the cusp of internet hilarity. I just know it when I see it, that's all...and you will too, I promise.


April 22, 2009

Thank You Day

California 1

Today was Thank You Day at Kutztown. I have no idea what that means, except that I got a free t-shirt out of the deal. Which is pretty sweet, if you ask me. Maybe they're thanking me for getting all of my money? I'm not really sure.

Anyway, speaking of school - my time living here (since I'll be in Lancaster for next semester) is drawing to a close.

I'm going to pause and think about that for one moment...


Today was my last day in painting and watercolor. It was my next to last art history class. Tomorrow will be my last early field class. On Friday I take a test, and then...

...then it is finished.

Well, except for the Praxis II at 7am the next morning. But that hardly counts! And then the end-of-the-year fun begins: Dana visits, Wing Night with CB and Marilyn on Monday, and then a Dip Party (I might be making the famous buffalo spinach artichoke dip) and the Swain Art show on Tuesday. And then HOME!

Also, it's worth noting that I'll be in California in two weeks.

Do you know what California looks like? It looks like this:

California 3

And this:

California 4

Oh, and a little of this:

California 2


April 19, 2009

CCO and Chorus Concerts

What a beautiful Sunday! It was so nice at home - sunny, warm, breezy...just a perfect spring morning and afternoon.

I went home after my day sitting in on CCO training on Friday. My interview went well and the day was pretty fun. I didn't know that Tiffany Okel would be there, so it was pleasant surprise to know someone else who was there as a perspective staff member! It would've been a little awkward, otherwise. Though there are a lot of Ligonier people who are involved with the CCO, so I actually saw quite a few familiar faces.

The whole CCO thing is pretty crazy to me right now. I'm excited, apprehensive, nervous, and curious all at once. There are lots of thoughts swirling around in my head about all of this, but what I keep coming back to is the fact that the Lord will put me where He wants me. I'm not sure where that calling is right now - as an art teacher or as an employee of the CCO, or as something else all together - but I know I'll end up there in time.

I had some really good conversations with my parents over the weekend about the CCO stuff. They're pretty supportive of me in this, which is important to me. It's good to know that they're backing me up, even though it might seem like I'm doing something a little crazy.

Anyway, the weekend at home was great! I went to a community chorus concert last night in my high school's chapel. I googled it to find this ridiculously beautiful picture that I did not take (it's just as beautiful inside, believe me):

The Chapel

The Mercersburg Area Community Chorus is directed by my great uncle, and is made up of around 100 area musicians who do Christmas and springtime concerts. Not only is my uncle the director, but my dad, grandma, and other uncle all sing in it, while my aunt plays the bassoon. And there are about 5 or 6 other people from my church or high school that are involved as well. So beyond my familial obligation to attend, it's beautiful music! Incredible, really. Last night they performed Ralph Vaughn Williams' Dona Nobis Pacem and the orchestra was just breathtaking. Do I sound like a nerd? I am one. Sorry for waxing rhapsodic about this, but it's pretty cool to see my family do something so awesome.

Today was great too: church, lunch with the family, a little baking, and then a nice drive back to school. The weather is supposed to become chilly and rainy overnight, but the weekend was so beautiful that I don't really mind :)

April 15, 2009

Two Stamp Tuesday!

Yesterday was Two Stamp Tuesday at Rita's, so CB and I made the trek out to the closest one (about 15 mins away) and braved the rain for some deliciousness.

Once we were back in the warm car and out of the blustery rain, I realized that I couldn't feel my fingers. Those cups get cold! After complaining to CB about this, she excitedly jumped out of the car.

Two Stamp Tuesday!

Moments later, after she dove into her trunk, CB resurfaced with a proper cup holder: one of those foam soda can holder things. It was excellent, as was my mango gelati.

In other news...tomorrow is my last day of teaching at Swain. Sad day! I've really grown to love those kids. It'll be hard to say goodbye to them. After school tomorrow, I'll be driving out to Ligonier for the night. I'm staying in Leeanne's house (even though she won't be there because she's on vacation) and then at 7AM on Friday I'm driving out to Antiochian Village to go to a CCO interview. It's something I've been praying about and thinking about a lot lately. I finished my application yesterday, and I'm going to have first interview over breakfast. I'm not really nervous right now, mostly because I've realized that if the Lord is calling me to work for the CCO, then I will. If not...I'll go where he leads me.

Then Friday night when I get back to school...well, I'll be "hitting the books" as they say. I have LESS THAN TWO WEEKS (HALLELUJAH) before the summer!! So I just have to pump out some finals and take the Praxis II and pack up all my junk.

And THEN on May 5th I'm driving down to visit Mrs. Thayer (love her!) and on May 6th I fly out of Baltimore to visit the one and only Lisa Lockwood.

So basically, I'm ready to be in California.

Oh, and then CAMP. LOVE IT.

April 8, 2009

When I Grow Up...

...I want to have a real kitchen. As in, I want to cook real foods with real ingredients. Local ingredients. ORGANIC Local Ingredients. And all will be well, and all will be delicious.

Except for a few things: 1) I'll be a poor art teacher for a while, surviving on PB&J, 2) I may or may not be in a region where I have a regularly accessible farmers market (my home town's closest is probably 45-50 minutes away) and 3) I'm so used to having whatever foods I want, when I want them. I realized that I have no concept of seasons regarding most foods. I'm used to having whatever, whenever. In fact, the only clues I really have for what's seasonal come from either holidays (like pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving) or growing up on my grandparents' farm. They raised sweet corn, strawberries, melons, and potatoes. My parents have a tomato and pepper garden in the summer. That's about where seasonality ends for me.

So while I wouldn't dream of eating sweet corn in say, January (you've never had sweet corn until you've had it the day it was's beyond words) , I'm used to having things like blueberries or squash or broccoli any month of the year. On one hand, this pretty awesome. I can eat a huge variety of food all year round.

But on the other hand...well, you probably know the story. Carbon footprints, inorganic compounds, outsourcing of labor to industrial farms...none of it is a very pretty picture.

I'll turn to Lauren Winner (love her!) for some thoughts. She's referencing the author Barbara Kingsolver (author of the essay "Lily's Chickens") in the following quote:

"Why is Kingsolver so committed to [eating foods only while in season]? Because shipping food from greenhouses around the world is America's second-largest expenditure of oil...As Kingsolver explains, 'Even if you walk or bike to the store, if you come home with bananas from Ecuador, tomatoes from Holland, cheese from France, and artichokes from California, you have guzzled some serious gas.' To eat seasonally (and locally) is to enact a politics of reduced consumption." (Winner, Mudhouse Sabbath)

I don't say all of this to be some eco-green-hippy-christian. I've just been thinking about it. I talked to my friend High School Beth last night for a while about that concept of "my future kitchen" and it just got me to thinking. Mostly I was thinking about these delicious Mushroom and Asparagus I eating them right now? Wait, I'm not? Hmm...I'd better go do something about that...

PS - I've got mad love for food blogs...except for how much they want me to have a fully stocked kitchen and Whole Foods on hand (I have neither). If you want to check out some beautiful food (and find the recipies!) check out FoodGawker, where they gather the prettiest and most delicious foods of the day...mmmm....

April 6, 2009

Monday, Monday

I am not feeling this Monday. It's rainy, I'm tired, and the realization that I didn't get any work done this weekend is crashing down right I mean, it will all be okay, but there's a lot to do today and tomorrow. And over the weekend. And for the next 3 weeks. Oh dear...

The good news is that I have AT MOST 24 days left to my semester. Love it!

In a different vein, I've been reading The Imitation of Christ since I finished up one of my other books this weekend. It's great because the text is divided up into small sections, so I read one or two a day and think about it. Last night I read this:

"If men used as much care in uprooting vices and implanting virtues as they do in discussing problems, there would not be so much evil and scandal in the world, or such laxity in religious organizations. On the day of judgment, surely, we shall not be asked what we have read but what we have done; not how well we have spoken but how well we have lived."
- Thomas à Kempis

I think there's a lot of wisdom there, especially since I'm the kind of person who prides myself in being knowledgeable. And not just because it's good to learn (obviously I believe that, as a future teacher) , but because I like to feel like I know a lot. I need to get some perspective on how my knowledge is being used or should be used.

And one more quote:

"I would rather feel contrition than know how to define it"
- Thomas à Kempis


April 5, 2009

Candy Sushi!!

Here are pictures of the AWARD WINNING masterpieces I made with College Beth on Thursday.


We wanted to use green Fruit by the Foot, but I don't even know if they make that stuff anymore. So we had to use some ridiculous "Berry Blast!!!!" flavor - aka neon blue. But it worked out anyway!


As you can see, we were pretty tenacious in our pursuit of detail - bamboo mat, little grassy things, chopsticks, etc.

The most amusing part is that neither College Beth nor I eat sushi. I mean, I've had it, but not any particularly good experiences. Not that I haven't enjoyed what I've had, but I've never gone out just to eat sushi. And CB is pretty much against it, due to its raw properties. So a lot of what we made came from very careful research (...Google).

And, for the record? These were not particularly tasty. I love all of the components because, well, they're candy! But the overall "flavor profile" is weird. CB and I balked when we tried them, but some people insisted they were really good. These are probably the same people who insist that regular sushi is really good. So try at your own risk! They are, however, reaaaally easy to make.

Today was AWESOME. Because I did NOTHING. I finished a book, I watched some basketball, and I started knitting some socks. Which is tough, because I'm using double pointed needles for the first time...I just started them, so we'll see how it goes!

April 3, 2009

April Showers and All of that Stuff

Topiary at Longwood Gardens

There's a lot going on in my life right now. I'm busy at school, because it's the last couple of weeks of class. I have projects, lesson plans, papers, paintings and tests coming up. I have two more weeks of teaching at my Early Field school, which is unbelievable. I only have 27 days left to the semester! How is that possible?

But enough of that. Here are some good and exciting things in my life:

- Yesterday I went on a field trip with my co-op and 7th grade students to Longwood Gardens! I'd never been there, but it is huge and beautiful! All of my watercolor lessons for the students culminated in spending the day wandering around and painting. They all did pretty well, if I do say so myself.

Topiaries at Longwood Gardens

The boys in my group got tired of painting flowers, so we went outside to the Topiary garden for a while. It was a beautiful day! On the way home, we got caught in traffic because of a bad accident on the turnpike, so we ended up sitting without moving for about 40 minutes. And here's the thing about 7th graders: they think that "bus" means "big yellow drama-box." I can understand some of the confusion, but it was a little crazy. They were singing and yelling and whatnot (typical) and everyone seemed happy. And THEN, when we finally got home...half of the girls were crying!!! What?!?! I think it was over a boy, which is pretty funny because all of the boys are pretty nerdy. Ahh, to be 12 again...

- College Beth and I entered an "Edible Art Contest" yesterday with our NAEA (National Art Educators Association) club/chapter thing here. We made candy sushi, using rice crispy treats, fruit by the foot, mike and ikes, and sweedish fish. And we had green icing as wasabi and chocolate syrup for soy sauce. We bought like a bamboo matt for it and everything, so we went all out. They were pretty incredible if you ask me...and if you ask the judges, since we TOTALLY WON. We got a $20 gift certificate to a place in town called Spuds where they make crazy french fries. And...well it was exciting. Hopefully I'll get pictures (I forgot to take my camera because I'm dumb) and post them soon!

- I got new books in the mail to read!!!

New books to read!

The Relevant Bookstore had a sale last week where all of their books were $4. They do a series of books called "Foundations of Faith" that are small collections of cornerstone works. I bought GK Chesterton's Orthodoxy from them a while ago and I loved it. So when I saw that their books were mega-cheap, I shelled out and picked up The Imitation of Christ by Thomas A Kempis and Foundations of the Christian Religion by Blaise Pascal. I'm in the middle of two other books (sometimes I have poor self-control when it comes to finishing books before starting another), so it might be a little while before I get down to work on these, but I'm excited to read them.

- I got my LCCC Contract in the mail yesterday! So once I fill that out and send it in, it will be official. I'll be CIT directing, apparently. How is that possible?! I'm still a baby. I feel like I was just a CIT last summer. Well, maybe that's an exaggeration...but still. This is weird. In a good way.

So...that's that! And now I'm going to enjoy my friday. I'm supposed to meet with my CCO leader on campus this afternoon to discuss things, and I have a few phone calls to make. It should be a nice day, despite the constant rain.

March 30, 2009

Excerpt No 4

I'm almost done with that incredibly long reflection I wrote a while ago. I had an email from a friend this morning that reminded me of these things once again. It's so easy to forget where my focus should lots of ways it's been scattered about this semester. So here's the last chunk of this thing. It's good to re-read it and remember to what I've been called.

The path is this, and this alone: to love the Lord first with great energy and passion, and through that – and only that! – to let His love overflow in me and on to the people in my life. The things that change through this formula are this: for one, I will put my energy into loving the One who will always satisfy me fully. I will not face being left alone; I will not face feeling unloved or under-valued. I will be enveloped in the all-consuming love of my creator who has called me His own, His beloved, and His child. What a radical thing, to believe that in its actuality.

Secondly, the overflow of love will come naturally out of my love for Him, meaning it will not spring from the desire to feel loved. That desire, in fact, will already be met, leaving only the desire to show selfless love. Knowing that I’m satisfied in Christ allows me to love my friends and family without the cruel undertow of unsatisfied expectations. I have to re-direct my thoughts to Him, instead of to me. How is making this gift, writing this letter, sending this message going to bring glory to God? Am I doing it for the sake of a response? Or am I doing it because God has gifted me with talents and with friendship, and the natural outflow of these things is a letter, phone call, or gift for a friend? Do I honestly love them through Him? Or do I love myself through the works of my hands?

To do this – to love in this way – would be unbelievably transformative. It goes beyond the words and gifts, and is connected to every part of love and friendship. Selfless love can only come through the honest love of Christ. When I finally invest in Him, then I’ll be able to share the things I feel without them making me feel guilty or foolish. When I’m loving my friends selflessly, I don’t have to worry about talking about the things on my heart, because I’m not doing it to get their approval or to hear them tell me I’m awesome. I’m doing it because of honest feelings and the need for community. I want to be able to talk about my mom without feeling like I’m digging for pity and attention. I want to be able to sit down at my computer and not feel chained to Facebook. I want to be able to make a phone call without wondering if I seem like a creep because I called earlier in the week. I want to send an email without worrying about looking clingy. I want to let go of this selfishness, because when I finally do, I will be able to be the friend I want to be. And I think that I’ve been that friend in some ways, but it’s come at a cost. To lift the burden…oh, how wonderful! What a relief, to love the Lord first and freely, and then to love my friends without anxiety or pain. To be satisfied in Christ and in His love, instead of weighing and judging every message or letter – that would turn my world upside down.

It's true. It would. Ahh, so much of this still resonates with me...I have so much left to learn. So much in me needs to change. But it will come in time, effort, and God's grace.

March 29, 2009

Grove City and Grocrey Bags

Well, the weekend is drawing to a close. And it was a very enjoyable one, that's for certain. I went out to Grove City, which included seeing a Jinks' senior recital, raspberry chocolate chip pancakes, something called dessert theater, and just nice times spent with good friends. My trips to the other side of the state are equal parts exhausting and refreshing. On one hand, it's a lot of time and money to get out there...but on the other hand, it's so good to recharge with some people who love you.

So now I'm back at school and getting in gear for the week. I'm pretty much over the sickness that plagued me for the last several days, and this week should be full of fun. What fun, you ask? Well, on Tuesday I'll be spending time with Amanda who is home on spring break. I'm also making stuff for the Edible Art Contest on Thursday with College Beth. And on Thursday I get to go on a field trip with my kids at my early field school! AND I don't have my first class tomorrow, and I'm class-free on Friday! Wonderful :)

On a separate note, I just found this website demonstrating how to use plastic grocery bags as yarn. And can I just say, THANK GOODNESS. I try to be as environmentally conscious as possible, but sometimes I just fail miserably. One really obvious manifestation of that failing is the rather large pile of plastic grocery bags stored up in my room. I've kept them because I can't bear to throw them out, and I'm glad to have finally found a way to use them.

So hopefully I can make something super cool like THIS. How exciting!

March 23, 2009

A New Week

Ughhh my brain feels like mush and I can't stop sneezing. And it's Monday morning. I got a cold this weekend that's taking it's toll mostly by making me feel totally exhausted. It's not the worst cold I've ever had, but it's pretty inconvenient, I'll tell ya that much!

But other than feeling sick, things are going well. My weekend was very nice; I went home to celebrate my sister's 8th birthday and my grandfather's 80th birthday. We had a big party with all of our family, and there was delicious food and poems and crying and a lot of love. It's unusual for that side of my family to be about how much they care for one another, so it was great to hear people saying it.

I had an art history test this morning. It probably went well...right now I'm just glad it's over. Remember the brain-mush thing? Yeah. Me too.

So, I should be showering, getting stuff ready for painting, or doing my homework. But I think I'll opt for a brief nap before going off to painting for the rest of the day. I have a watercolor painting due today too. What's that? You want to see it?! Ohh, okay! Here it is:

Watercolor of the Farm

It's of my grandparent's farm. And it's due today...soooo thankfully it turned out pretty a-okay.

Anyway, that's it for now. I'm exhausted. I'm ready for the weekend. This week should be pretty painless; I don't have to teach on Thursday and I'm driving to Dana's on Friday night! We're going out to GCC this weekend to see our friends and to catch Jinks' senior recital. So that'll be nice. And hopefully by then this cold will be loooooong gone!


March 17, 2009

St. Patrick's Day

HAPPY ST PATRICK'S DAY! Hopefully you're out there enjoying the day safely. Today has been...well, interesting. On days like today, sometimes I find it much simpler to use bullet points to sum things up. Sooooo:

- Really enjoyed my Art Education practicum class, where we discussed inquiry-based learning. I'm a nerd.
- Went to Cabelas with College Beth and Marilyn. If you haven't heard of Cabelas...well, you obviously aren't from where I'm from. It's the like the Mecca of hunting, fishing, and all things outdoors-y. We went in search of boots. Our search turned up empty, but we did get to see well over 100 dead animals including, but not limited to: white tailed deer, a skunk, a gray fox, a moose, a black bear, a mountain lion, a ruffled grouse, grizzly bears, polar bears, mountain goats and some turkeys. Additionally, we visited the "Bargain Cave," the "Gun Library," and the Aquarium. That's not in quotes because there is really an aquarium in this place. There's also a restaurant. And an two story "mountain" complete with a waterfall and all of the aforementioned stuffed and dead animals. And outside is a 20 foot long sculpture of Native Americans canoeing with a moose in their boat. It's a magical place.
- Enjoyed a drink with Marilyn. Which was very suiting, since it's St. Patty's day. The drink started out very vibrant, since we used a melon liquor that's pretty much the color of green apple Jolly Ranchers..but it ended up looking like snot, since Marilyn added - among many other things - cranberry juice and ginger ale. Unlike every other student at Kutztown, however, we only had one drink. The bar opened at 6am this morning, so that should give you an idea how things are going here.
- Saw many, MANY students who've devoted themselves to Ireland for the day. In a very liquid way, if you catch my drift.
- Watched "Fievel Goes West" while enjoying the green drink mentioned before. That movie is...well, I loved it as a child. But in retrospect, it's pretty creepy and weird. Why is there a Russian Jewish mouse in the Wild West? And why are their cats with cleavage? And why is there a really fat cat in a tiny tshirt, pretending to be a dog? These are many of the questions I asked myself while revisiting this classic.

And, to finish up this St. Patty's day post, here's the trailer to one of my favorite Irish movies: Waking Ned Devine...hilarious!

March 15, 2009

Excerpt No 3

The weekend! It's almost over! What a shame. I didn't do much this weekend and it was awesome. Also, I'm sorry for the text-heavy posts lately. I wish I had more pictures, but other than finding those lame photoshopped pictures of like, glowing crosses or ridiculous stuff like that, I'm not really sure what to use. I'll just have to knit more stuff to share on here, I guess.

Anyway, CHUNK NUMBER 3!!! Here it is:

What it comes down to is the motivations in my heart. Am I acting out of selfless love for the person in my life? If that’s the case, I should not enter into the act of showing love with the expectation of receiving it in equal measure. True love is going to come from the love I have for – and more importantly from - God, not the love I have for or from my friends. And I know these things, really, I do. But I’m broken, so more often than not, I write letters so I can get letters. I make phone calls so I’ll get phone calls. I compliment to get compliments, give gifts to get gifts, and pour out my energy and thoughts into a person in order to get them in return. I’m self-serving in the worst of ways, because it’s disguised, making me look like such a wonderful person, while inside I anxiously await the response for my own pleasure. And remarkably, I am never, ever satisfied with the result. When I write an eloquent letter or email telling of the great qualities my friend has, the response is never quite as meaningful or powerful as what I’ve built up in my mind. When I spend hours creating a piece of art, or stay up until 4 in the morning painting a picture, or spend money to send packages full of mix CDs and art and scarves…when I pour out hours and hours of my time and energy into creating something for a person with the motivation of feeling that love in return, I am always let down. I am never satisfied. The giving is broken by my sin. Think how wonderful giving could be if it were rooted in love from God!

Before now, I didn’t realize the cost of this attitude. I didn’t realize that it goes beyond me and my insecurity. This hidden selfishness is harmful not just to me as I continually set myself up for heartbreak, but it rather exactingly erodes the bonds of friendship I have with people whom I love. I loved those friends. I really, honestly did. But the mistake of putting my love solely on them…of course heartbreak ensued. What foolishness made me think anything else could happen? And how can I now, at my age and experience, intentionally continue down this path of misguided love?

March 14, 2009

Excerpt No 2

Aaahh, the weekend at last! It felt so good to sleep in today, even though the fire alarm for my dorm awoke me at 4:45 this morning. I live in such a large dorm that when we have fire alarms, they only evacuate three floors: the one where the alarm was set off, and the two above and below it. When you're not among those floors, you get to listen to a terribly repetitive announcement that goes something like this: "Attention. Attention. An incident has been reported in the building, but does not affect your floor. Do not use the elevators or leave your floor until you have heard from the automated emergency message." And that repeats over. And over. Very loudly. At least I didn't have to leave my bed, however!

I taught two 7th grade lessons yesterday, one of which was observed by my supervisor. The lessons went well, and my supervisor gave me great feedback. She's wonderful! And I've found that the Lord really provides me with enouragement when I need it most. Over the last 3 years, as I've begun to wonder if I made the right decision about Kutztown and Art Education, He's put professors or situations that remind me that I'm where I need to be. It's good to be reminded of that once again.

So today I finally get to relax and let go of worries! Spring break was full of homework, but this weekend isn't, which is great. Leeanne might be stopping by on Sunday as she travels about this side of the state doing promotions; it'll be nice to see her and get even more excited about this summer (if that's possible).

To conclude, I'll throw in the next chunk of my reflection I started to share last time.

"In high school I poured out so much ridiculous, manufactured pain on a close friend of mine. I expected so much from her, knowing that what I asked was out of a vain desire to feel assurance or pity or love. Had I just been a friend, I could’ve had something much more meaningful. Sure, it was a time of growth and pain…but much of it was selfish and demanding.

And another case – oh man. Talk about self-destructive. There are so many examples within that relationship where I let go of sensibility and dove headfirst into this hedonistic attitude that enveloped me. From the fall of senior year (How was that awful time in my life ever defined as “good” by me? How could I not see what I was doing?), to the winter when I let my heart be abused and mistreated, to the spring when, in an unbelievably pathetic turn of events, I gratefully – gratefully! - welcomed this person’s friendship with no questions asked. Gracious? I wish it were rooted in that. But it was rooted in feeling loved again, no matter the cost. And that I held on to that for another three years of aching self-doubt and insecurity…what a sad story.

I guess the good news is this: I can look back on that and see how broken those relationships were. Had I some self-control or a bit more wisdom, I could’ve salvaged a friendship, or saved myself a lot of heartache. I’m amazed at how easily I gave myself over to someone who was so thoughtless with my heart. And I’m amazed at how selfishly I demanded the attention and energy of someone that I said I cared about. And I did care! Oh, I did. And with great devotion, and great, exacting care I would tell and re-tell the people in my life how fabulous I thought they were.

Why do I do that? I mean, I still do. Does it stem from wanting that same assurance? Probably…well, at least partially. It’s equally unhealthy to criticize something about me that’s valuable. I think nurturing is a gift of mine, particularly through words of encouragement and gifts. So while I was blinded by my willingness to feel loved to the point that I would let myself be hurt (or would even hurt others) I think I equally feel the desire to pour out that love on the people from whom I demand it."

March 12, 2009

Excerpt No 1

Remember how I said I didn't have any time for this thing? Well, turns out that I do. Mostly because I'm procrastinating...classy, I know. But I'm exhausted after teaching all day, and I need to gear up to do it all again tomorrow. Fun! Actually, I really love my kids, and today was a ton of fun. But I'm still tired.

Anyway, I mentioned a while ago that I recently re-discovered a reflection I typed up in September during my post-camp recovery period. Since writing it, I've re-read it a few times and it continues to ring true with me. So I've been editing it a bit, and I'm going to be posting sections of it on here for a while. At least, that is the plan.

So here's the first excerpt! Forgive me if it seems really self-indulgent. I was going to post a really huge chunk of it tonight, but I think it would be too overwhelming, so I'll spread it out...prepare yourself! The next few days will be reflection-laden.

"I’ve spent the last year – well at least the last six months – being very self reflective and completely unaware of myself all at the same time. How is it possible for a person to spend all of their time thinking about themselves and coming to no conclusive emotion or realization? And at the same time, I can tell there are things that have changed about me, and I know I’ve had some pretty profound realizations about how I’m different and how God changes my worldview. But I’m so scared that these observations aren’t actually weighted in God or in me, but – as always – they’re rooted in the love, affection, and attention awarded from the people around me. I’m so, SO caught up in that world. I know that I am; I know that it’s probably more destructive than I’m willing to admit. Have I lost the ability to know how I’m actually feeling?

What have I learned? How have I changed? Where is God in all of this? What is healthy about my emotional state? What’s unhealthy? These are questions that I know I need to ask…I need some sort of awareness of these things. It’s time for some reflection.

Sitting around waiting for phone calls or AIM messages or emails or Facebook messages to confirm my value and worth is a ridiculous course of action. It’s unhealthy. It needs to stop. How do I shut off that desire for satisfaction through other people? That has been a source of pain and confusion in my life for many years. I have to think about how my attitude has affected my relationships in the past. In reality, the ways in which I rely on other people to define me and assign value to me have caused significant damage to all of my closest relationships in the past several years. "

DUN-DUN-DUUUUNNN!! Cliff hanger! I know, I know. You'll hear all of the juicy (and...embarassing?) details of my failures in a later post.

In the meantime, I'm going to watch The Office!

Busy, busy, busy

I'm back at school, and the week has been really, REALLY busy. I taught all day today and will do the same tomorrow, but this weekend I should have time for some serious blogging....riiiiight.

To tide you over, here is this:

What were people thinking in the early 90's????

(From Best Week Ever)

March 3, 2009

Spring Breaaaak!!!

Woah, I'm home! It's spring break! But it's very cold. Luckily, my home did not get hit with the massive snowstorm that wrecked the other half of the state this week. Had I been at school, however, I would be wading through a lot of snow...I can live without any of that right now.

Break so far has been pretty enjoyable. I had a doctor's appointment, I got new glasses, I've been working on a painting, I took my sister to Brownies and Dance lessons today, my brother and I cooked dinner, I've made hummus and guacamole - both of which were delicious, and I spent some quality time with my dad.

I still have a ton of work to do on my painting. It's due on Monday and I'm pretty unexcited about it...but we'll see.

Anyway, plans for the rest of break? Wrapping up the painting, taking pictures for watercolor, planning some lessons, going to Soup Night at my church, making cookies for my brother, and finally (here's the good stuff) going to Culpeper on Friday to visit Lindsay! And Dana is coming! I love them. It'll be great to see them and spend some time together. And on Sunday it's back to school...and back into the fray.

There's a lot to do, but it'll all get done. It always does, somehow.

February 26, 2009

Oh dear...

I have a problem.

little birds

All I want to do is knit stuffed animals.

Maybe this stems from my long-time love of stuffed animals as a child. I owned hundreds of them. You know those little nets you could hang in your room and fill with toys? Mine was so full of fluffy friends that the hooks pulled out of the walls. I could barely sleep on my bed, and I LOVED it.

Little Birds

And this all started innocently enough, with little Rascal, who I shared with you earlier. I knitted Anna another kitty (he's purple and yellow, and he still needs a name...suggestions are still welcome) and all was well. And then, I found this website and...well...I've only made the birdies because I'm running out of stuffing, but folks, it's not looking good.

LIttle Birdy

I might be investing in one of those stuffed animal hammocks again soon...either that, or everyone i know will be getting little birdies in the mail!

February 25, 2009

Ash Wednesday

During my senior year of high school, a friend and I decided to fast on Ash Wednesday. To me it seemed like no big deal. We'll just be hungry and tomorrow we'll have breakfast and that will be the end of it. Everything went according to plan - we didn't meet for breakfast that day, we attended the school's chapel service and got the ashy smudge on our foreheads, we didn't eat. Well, sort of. At around 4 o'clock, my friend went through quite an ordeal. She'd begun to feel lightheaded and woozy, and decided that she'd better eat a few Triscuts. After doing so, she was wracked with guilt - so much so that she called her mom in tears, confessing that she'd broken her fast.

Now, we all had a good laugh about it the next day over breakfast (which is what we were officially doing: breaking our fast). It seemed much less grave after we'd eaten our waffles. Why was she so torn up over a few Triscuts?

The further I get from that incident, the more I realize that my friend was delving deeper into the discipline of fasting than I was. I secretly patted myself on the back for outlasting her that day. "Look at me," I thought, "I can handle this fast. Not a big deal at all." But while I may have physically fasted, I certainly did not spiritually fast.

So what is fasting? Why do we do it? And does God really care about clandestine Triscuts in the afternoon?

Christian fasting, particularly Lenten fasting, is rooted in Christ's fasting in the wilderness after his baptism. Those 40 days and 40 nights are refleclected in our 40-day (not including Sundays) period of Lent, where Christians often "give up" something in rememberance of Jesus' sacrifice. I've found that often, at least for me, my choices of what to "give up" for Lent revolve around my own self-betterment. What vices should I abandon for 40 days? And is my willpower strong enough? Often it is my will, not the Lord's will. And furthermore, when I am tempted by those vices, I look once again to my own ability to resist them.

While considering these things, I turned to the book Mudhouse Sabbath by Lauren Winner. Winner, a former Orthodox Jew-turned-Christian, writes about Jewish spiritual disciplines and their redemption and place in Christianity. Winner shares a story similar to that of my high school friend. Once, while in college, she ate a salami sandwich during the Fast of Esther, one of the required Orthodox Jewish fasts. Later, she asked a rabbi about whether or not God cared about this sandwich. His response:

"When you are fasting," he said, "and you feel hungry, you are to remember that you are really hungry for God."

And that, I realized, is what I missed during that first Ash Wednesday fast in high school. I was hungry, and I let my willpower carry me through. My friend was hungry, ate, and realized that she allowed her body to rule over what her spirit told her. She recognized her hunger for God, where I just recognized my awesomeness. Mudhouse Sabbath again:

"Rabbi M's words make it clear that, like the liturgy, the fast accomplishes a repositioning. When I am sated, it is easy to feel independent. When I am hungry, it is possible to remember where my dependence lies."

Today, I'm fasting again. I'm trying to look at it not as a battle of my will vs. my stomach. I'm trying to see it as my hunger for God, made corporal.

February 24, 2009

Rascal, the Knitted Kitty

My sister's 8th birthday is coming up. What do you get for the little girl who has everything, and who only wants MORE High School Musical stuff? The answer? Meet Rascal, the Knitted Kitty:

kitted kitty 009

He's cute, isn't he?

Yesterday I stumbled upon the pattern to make Rascal. It's SO simple! You can find the pattern here.

kitted kitty 001

Making Rascal was a lot of fun, mostly because it doesn't take very long. I'm a novice knitter, and it shows in some ways. Rascal is a little wonky and lumpy, but he's still cute.

kitted kitty 003

I'll be making my sister a different knitted kitty, now that I have a feel for the pattern and so on. Hers will probably be purple or blue.

kitted kitty 004

I love making hand-made gifts for people. This year for Christmas, I think I only bought one or two gifts for my friends and family. Being an art major means I get to spend my time making things that end up being pretty good gifts for my loved ones. But I love making something especially for someone. There's something special that happens while you're creating something with a person in mind; you spend that time thinking about them, praying for them, and loving them - even from afar.

kitted kitty 008

And if YOU want to learn how to make a knitted kitty, you can do it! Just go to that link. You know, the one up there! Or the one right here! And if you're thinking that you'd like to make a knitted kitty, but you can't knit...well, just learn! It's a pretty easy thing to do...I'm sure there's a little old lady at your church or in your community that would love to teach you. And, if that doesn't pan out, the Internet is FULL of knitting help. There are videos, tutorials, forums and tons of blogs devoted to the craft. Most of my knitting knowledge came from the power of Googling. So it! It's a ton of fun.

Finally, I need to think of a name for the kitty I give my sister, unless I want all my hard work to be named "Troy" from High School Musical. So if you have any creative kitty names, feel free to share them!

February 22, 2009

Persecution, the Church...and Watercolor

It's Sunday! And I went to a different church this morning (I do that a lot - mostly because I'm not here much on the weekends, so I don't really have a "church home" here)

Sadly, the service I attended today set my teeth on edge. I'm not sure if I my response is entirely justified or Biblical; sometimes my personal values and beliefs cloud what is true. But sometimes I think my response is grounded in truth...and I think today that was the case.

Now, I'm SURE this church is rooted in the Bible. They are brothers and sisters in faith. They seek after the Lord. They want to love Him and serve Him; I acknowledge that wholeheartedly. But today's sermon frustrated me in many ways. The preacher spoke on the passage in John where Christ warns his disciples of persecution due to their faith (the end of chapter 15 and the first few verses of 16). The crux of the sermon was that we, as American Christians, are persecuted by those who hate the faith - particularly those in our government. There was lots of talk about things like pro-life pastors being arrested for protesting, laws being passed that "attacked the faith" and so forth. The pastor suggested that we should all be memorizing scripture not because it is important to have the Word in our hearts, but because one day (possibly soon!) being a Christian may be illegal in our nation.


To suggest that the greatest dangers facing the American Church today come at the hands of our government is foolishness, to me. That kind of religious-right agenda puts a bad taste in my mouth, and in the mouths of many. Sure, there is merit to discussing issues like abortion - but there is much more than just that.

The American Church (oh what a varied body she is!) cannot wallow in its "persecution." We cannot point fingers at atheists, or pro-choice people, or our government. The dangers facing our church are much deeper and much closer to home than that. The dangers in our church come from within - from apathy, complacency, from being satisfied with the status quo. They come from our culture of consumption, entitlement and me-first-me-only thinking. They come from alienating others with a message of hate, or - on the other side - from being passive and postmodern in our approach to the gospel.

There is so much work to be done. Work that goes beyond mailing postcards of fetuses to senators. Work that involves loving others, not shouting at them. And even if I don't share the views of this church (I'm one of those Demi-crats, you know), I am as much a part of the problem. I know that I fail to meet the demands of the gospel. I am broken, too.

That being said...the rest of my Sunday has been enjoyable! And really, even If i don't agree with that church on that, it gave me something to think about. And that's a good thing. After church I had lunch with my roommate and some of her friends, and I just finished a watercolor!

Still Life

See, there it is! I was really nervous about watercolor before I started this semester. I'm an oil painter usually, and the method is very, VERY different. But I'm starting to get the hang of it, which makes it much more enjoyable, that's for sure.

So now I'm just going to enjoy the rest of my Sabbath. I might make some granny squares, or do a crossword, or call a friend. It's a nice, snowy day to enjoy.

February 19, 2009

Baby Whale!

Baby Whale

Listen. If you can look at these pictures and not fall in love with this baby whale, there is something wrong with you.

Baby Whale 2

I mean, look at that smile!!

And before you get all judgmental and say things like "Stef, why are there baby whale pictures on your blog? What do they have to do with anything? What kind of free time do you have, that you can find and blog about pictures of baby whales?" I will explain to you that I have a theory that the Internet itself is built by pictures of people dressing up their pets in costumes. So sometimes it's necessary for me to do research about the internet's construction. Secondly, I have a habit of finding and sending these images to a friend of mine who claims to be repulsed by many of them. But I think she secretly loves them. She loves them when they're of bunnies, but when I send her chinchillas wearing hula outfits (that's for real) or BABY WHALES she's unimpressed.

Her feelings about the whale:
"He looks emaciated."

"Days With My Father"

Days with my Father

I just found a website that is poignant, beautiful, and downright depressing.

It's a photojournal of a man's father, who is now 98, living without his wife and without much in the way of short-term memory. It's pretty incredible. To navigate the site, just move your cursor to the bottom of the page, and click to move to the next picture.

But to warn you, you might tear up.

My day was good today - I taught at the Swain School all day. Well, actually I did a lot of observing/helping today, but I did a demo for some 5th graders. They're learning to make gargoyles out of air-dry clay, so I made one to show them the process. And it was fun...big time! The air-dry clay isn't like regular clay (which is kiln fired) and isn't like modeling clay (which never dries because of its oil base), but has the texture of modeling clay with the benefit of drying completely in about a week. So next week, I'll have my very own gargoyle. I sound like a little kid, talking about it! But it's pretty sweet, quite frankly.

I also had a few frustrating moments today: an unpleasant phone conversation, a lot of exhaustion, feeling a bit under the weather, and some windy cold weather that makes standing outside pretty painful. But I have one class tomorrow and then a whole weekend to recover! Which might result in a lot of blog posts, because I don't have much going on...just some watercolor painting. And good things happened today too, like gargoyles, a cool lecture this evening, and a nice phone conversation with Laur.

Finally, I talked to my Grandma Walker tonight. She's THE BEST. We usually talk every Sunday at 5, but last weekend I was returning from Jubilee, and this weekend she'll be in Charlottesville, VA visiting my aunt and her family. So we caught up tonight, which is wonderful. My grandfather's birthday (we call him Pepop) is coming up in March, and Grandma asked me to read a poem at his birthday party. So I have to find a suitable poem...suggestions are welcome! I feel like the pressure is on, because Pepop be lovin' the poetry. I don't want to bring something lame, you know?

February 18, 2009

The Internet is Somethin' Else: Creating a Fake Band & Album

Sometimes I find interesting things on the internet...and what better place to share those things than RIGHT HERE?

So here are the rules:

1 - Go to Wikipedia. Hit “random”
or click
The first random Wikipedia article you get is the name of your band.

2 - Go to Quotations Page and select "random quotations"
or click
The last four or five words of the very last quote on the page is the title of your first album.

3 - Go to Flickr and click on “explore the last seven days”
or click
Third picture, no matter what it is, will be your album cover.

4 - Use Photoshop or similar to put it all together.

5 - Post it

album cover

On Reflection

About every six months I find myself in a place where I try to sort out and make sense of where my life is, and where it is going. Usually this happens at the end of the summer and in the middle of winter. I reflect at the summer's close after a few months of working at camp, and again in winter when I feel far-removed from those experiences.

I think it's that time again.

In fact, I think it's providentially become that time again. A few days ago, I organized the Word documents on my computer. Nothing fancy, I just threw all of last semesters papers and journals into a folder marked for my senior year. As I was sorting, I cam across a reflection I wrote in early September entitled "it's time for this." And I could not, for the life of me, remember writing it.

Now, I guess I should preface this a little. Sometimes I get overwhelmed by the things I'm experiencing, and the best way for me to get a handle on things is through typing and typing and typing. It's cathartic. But when I go back to those writings months later, it's usually with some mortification. I get easily embarrassed by the things I write - mostly because I've grown out of feeling those things by the time I go back to them.

Which is why a blog may or may not be a sound choice.

But I I found this "writing" or whatever and, well, it's good that I found it again. Insightful, I know! But really. I wrote a lot about a subject that I've been encircling in thought and action for years: love. Woah, I know, PROFOUND! What a big deal! But it's true...I've spent a lot of time in Scripture, prayer and discussion over the subject of loving one another, loving God, and being loved both by Him and by others. It's a dizzying thing, after awhile.

While some of the entry is a bit personal, I think I'll be revisiting it and sharing some of the things I'm still sorting out.

In the meantime, however, I need to muster the courage to go to my painting studio. I enjoy painting, but it's been a struggle this semester. I'm floundering for anything meaningful right now; mostly because I'm still trying to sort out where I am, let alone where my art can be. So...we'll see how that goes.

February 17, 2009

Bill Strickland & The Manchester Craftsman's Guild

Bill Strickland, originally uploaded by modefstef.

This weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Jubilee Conference in Pittsburgh, PA. If you haven't heard of it, it's a huge gathering created by the CCO that is made up of college students from around the Pennsylvania/Ohio/West Virgina area. The goal of Jubilee is to get college students thinking about how their faith intersects their everyday lives - everything from their profession to social justice.

The conference usually features a few big-name speakers from the Christian community. Over the last years people like Tony Campolo, Lauren Winner, and Donald Miller have all been among the keynote speakers at the conference. This year, a man named Bil Strickland gave an incredibly moving talk about his organization, The Manchester Craftsman's Guild.

Bill grew up on the north side of Pittsburgh, in a high crime area. He discovered the power of art while in high school, after seeing his art teacher throwing some ceramic shapes in the art classroom. After learning to be a ceramists himself, Strickland began on an incredible journey to bring opportunities to everyone from his neighborhood. He started by teaching kids off the street in a basement of an apartment, and since then his organization has expanded to the vision of eventually having similar arts institutes in 200 cities - 100 in the US and 100 abroad.

Now, this kind of story matters to me, because...well art education will one day be my profession. To hear this man's story of going from the depths to the heights is empowering. But more than that, I think that Bill Strickland gets at something more than just art education. During his talk he focused on the importance of setting high standards and providing high quality experiences to everyone. In fact, one thing he said stuck with me in particular:

"You see, we found out that the only problem with the poor is that they don't have any money. And that's a curable condition."

Too often we don't see the poor as people. We see them as problems. Bill Strickland decided to love, support, encourage, and care for the poor in tangible ways. He and his organization set high expectations for their students, and give them the tools to reach them. And they do.

What if we started seeing people as people again? It's time to get some humanity back in here.

If you want to check out the MCG, the website is:

You can also read a article about Bill here:

February 16, 2009

Navel-Gazing At Its Finest

A blog. I'm creating a blog.

This is a mixed-reactions moment for me. I'm doing it intentionally and voluntarily, so obviously I think that there are some good aspects of blogging. On the other hand, it feels a little vain and even more silly. What am I going to write about in this thing? I think the goal will be to share the little things I enjoy daily - art projects, poems I find, snippets of internet culture, prayers written by people wiser than me, and a few thoughts about all of these things.

And I will probably just write about how ridiculous my life is, in general.

To start, I'll share my current project (aside from all of the work that goes into my fine education, that is). I learned how to crochet a few weeks ago, and since then I've been hard at work on making granny squares. Eventually (as in, 30 years from now at the rate I'm going) I'll crochet all of these cute little squares into a quaint afghan to enjoy forever!

Here is the blanket that inspired it all:


And here's about how far I am now (I have a variety of the squares hanging on my corkboard at my desk, so that I can be inspired by them and pick up the hook to keep going):

granny squares2 004

At any rate, they're fun to make and they don't take long. And I love putting together colors! I'm excited to see the blanket as a whole on that distant day when it becomes a reality.

Well, so there's a start. I'll share more pictures of the granny square blanket as it progresses.