Tuesday, February 20, 2018

A Very Beachy Weekend

My college roommate, Rachel, and her husband, Ryan, came to visit Jay and me this last weekend — our very first overnight guests. We spent three days living the beach life.

We started our weekend at the Laguna Montage Beach, where the waters are especially turquoise-y, the views atop the bluffs are especially breathtaking, and the dunes are especially tempting to my trick-loving husband:

We had grand plans to leave the beach just after sunset so we could get to bed at a decent time. When Rach and I were in college, our idea of a good time was sitting up late into the night eating cake and gabbing; but now we get a kick out of eating grilled vegetables and climbing in bed by 8. This shift happened much faster than we thought it would, but we are embracing it, mostly because our bodies make us.

But alas, our coveted 8 O'clock bedtime was not to be.

The problem: our beach tent would not collapse. For an hour, our husbands pushed, pulled, jiggled, and wiggled its hardware while winking stars perforated the sky. When their efforts were not successful, they sent Rach and me searching for tools. 

We went to a nearby restaurant, the maintenance door of a hotel, and a hotel lobby, before finding two flat-head screwdrivers. Success! Just as I began my tool-finding victory dance in the Montage Hotel lobby, Jay called to inform us that they had collapsed the tent and were ready to head home.

The next morning, Jay and his volleyball partner trained, and we watched. We buried our toes in the sand, snacked, and sunned, while they sprinted, jumped, and rolled through the sand; and when it was all over, we headed to the water.

It's been a bad year for sharks around these parts:

Obviously we are all very concerned about it.

The rest of the weekend rotated around more beaches and good food.

Jay likes to jump in the freezing cold ocean and then try to hug me. See that look on his face? That's his "I'm about to hug you face." I am poised and ready for resistance.

We indulged in French treats at a beach-side French bakery.

We played volleyball.

We watched some killer sunsets:

And we picnicked after church.

Rach and I tried to be athletic and impressive.

We tried very, very hard.

It was more fun than it was successful.

We asked the boys to enact their own balletic photos, but they preferred the ol' chest bump.

And of course we tried to get a group jumping photo.

We tried very, very hard.

It was more fun than it was successful.

Jay and I managed what my mom called a Sand Figure Skating pose:

We are ready for the Olympics.

Boy, did we have fun, you guys.

A weekend with old friends is about as good as it gets.

Happy Tuesday, my friends!

I'm cheering for you, Home Skillets.


P.S. Techy friends, please help: why do my blogs with photos always adopt a wonky mobile phone format? The photos almost always have weird spacing -- sometimes the text does too -- and I can't figure out why! Is this just the bane of Blogger?!!

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© by scj

Thursday, February 8, 2018


When I was a little girl I dreamed of having a spring tea party in the top of a blooming tree. I fancied I could build a table around the sturdiest part of the tree's trunk, and then sip apple juice (because let's be realistic, folks: back then tea was dis.gusting) surrounded by walls of pink blossoms.

But I never found the perfect tree, and my apple juice tea party remained a whimsical figment of my imagination. Eventually, all that imaginative blossom-y magic multiplied and swelled, until it spilled out of my imagination and into my wide ruled notebook in the form of a short story.

In the story, a sly wizard turns a girl, about the age of nine, into a dandelion seed.

The wind blows the girl-turned-dandelion-seed far away to a distant land before the spell is lifted and the seed becomes a girl again, mid-flight. Surprised, but rather unafraid, the girl falls from the sky and lands in a tree laden with blue apples.

Wide-eyed with curiosity, she plucks one of the plump blue apples and takes a juicy bite. It tastes like cotton candy. Minutes later she shimmies down the tree and discovers she is in an orchard of apple trees, each growing apples of a different color and unusual (but tempting) flavor.

Somehow — and I can't remember how — the girl is discovered by fairies who take her to their house, the Babbling Blossom Tree, where they sit and sip tea surrounded by thick walls of pink blossoms.

It's a story that never got finished (I think I was content to have made it to the tea party in the treetop segment), and it's a story Jay must endure every time we encounter a blossoming tree, like we did last week, tucked away in a corner of Fullerton.

I found me a patient man, I tell ya.

Happy almost-spring, my friends!


© by scj

Wednesday, February 7, 2018


The first two years I was in bed, I fixated on the word "humility." Jesus said nobody can enter the Kingdom of Heaven unless they're humble (Matthew 18), and the Apostle Paul showed me that humility is essential for building a flourishing community of friends. Humility seemed important, and I wanted to figure out what it meant, exactly.

Here is what I came up with: humility is "seeing ourselves the way we actually are." It is seeing that we are both BIG and small. Compared to a perfect God, we are small and weak. We make mistakes all the time. We have very little to offer Him. But because God created us in His image — because we are creative, relational, linguistic, rational, and imaginative like He is — we are the Crown of Creation. We are big in God's eyes. We are especially special to Him. We have a lot to offer the world.

Seeing ourselves as we actually are frees us. It frees us from the illusion that we are big enough to control our lives, that we are strong enough to keep our worlds spinning, that we are the reason our lives are full of good things. Once we're freed from the illusion, we can go running back to our Creator — the One we've all run away from at one point or another. We can run to Him because we know we are especially special to Him.

And even though we have little to offer Jesus, there is one thing He wants from His especially special creatures (and oh! how He wants it!): he wants our hearts. He wants our loyalty, and he wants us to say "Yes" when he asks us to do hard, scary things that lead us right to the heart of Abundant Life. He wants us to be His friends, His kiddos, His Best Guys and Gals. He wants to teach us that we are especially special, and he wants to make our lives more good and beautiful than we could ever imagine.

It's good to be both big and small, isn't it?

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© by scj

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Courage, Dear Heart

Have you read "Voyage of the Dawn Treader" by C.S. Lewis? In it, Lucy, her brother, and Prince Caspian are voyaging across the seven seas, when they come to an island enveloped in a cloud. As they enter the cloud, the light disappears, and they discover it holds an enchantment that turns their nightmares into a reality. They go round and round in the darkness, trying to escape the enchantment, but they cannot find a way out. They are stuck in the nightmare.

As Lucy feels the darkness devour her hope, an albatross swoops into the cloudy nightmare and whispers in her ear: "Courage, Dear Heart." She recognizes his breath as the breath of her beloved Aslan, the Great Lion, who can assume different forms and is the Christ figure in this series.

I have a bracelet with "Courage, Dear Heart" printed on it. I wear it everyday. It's my "jewelry tattoo." I had it made when I felt like I would never escape the nightmare of chronic illness. I wanted to remember that Jesus wants to enter the nightmare with us, to breathe his divine life into us, to give us courage. I wanted to remember that sickness is not the worst thing that could happen to me. A life detached from Jesus' love is. And in some crazy way, God would use the nightmare to teach me His love.

And he has. Somehow, he turned the nightmare into a gift. It is a gift that has, miraculously, eclipsed even the gift of healing. It's a gift I want to give and give and give away.

Hopeful, light-filled Sunday, my courageous friends.


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© by scj

Thursday, February 1, 2018

A Clever Scheme

Jay and I decided to spend our first year of marriage footloose and fancy free, which means we will not parent any pets requiring regular bathroom trips. Just a few months after our wedding, I began to wonder if our commitment COULD function as more of a suggestion than a rule, and I began subtly hinting that Jay surprise me with a Cavapoo pup one day soon. And by subtly hinting, I mean I gave him the name and location of a breeder. 

But then, in a clever scheme, he brought a friend’s puppy home for us to puppysit, and I spent four hours trying to keep our house intact and the puppy alive; and when the dog went home, I fell into bed, exhausted; and is there such a thing as a puppy playpen? (please let there be). 

In a surprising twist that you did not see coming, I have suggested an amendment to our commitment: two years without pets. At least two. Which brings me to my final point: shout out to all the parents of puppies and, even more impressive: humans. You are heroes, and I salute you. (And also: how do you look so chipper and have energy to do important things, like talk and eat?)

 Happy almost-weekend, my friends!


 © by scj