Sunday, April 12, 2009

Been a looooooooong time!

What's been happening with me?

Well, I was laid off from my job a couple of days after my last post. You'd think that would have allowed enough time in my day to blog more often. Oddly enough, it's been the opposite for me. I haven't been able to make the time to do this in months. Obviously.

I truly feel that this layoff has been a blessing in disguise. I've felt for a long time, now, that God has been calling me to do something else (what that is, I have no idea), but I was comfortable in my job, I loved the people I worked with and it was a good company. Even all that aside, I had a JOB and in this economy, that's pretty amazing in and of itself; so, I wasn't about to risk leaving a job that I was comfortable in and people that I liked being around. ESPECIALLY considering I had no idea what direction to take.

But, let me tell you... as soon as I heard that there were going to be layoffs in our company, I KNEW that I was going to be let go. Not because I was a poor performer, nor would it be because I lacked seniority; rather, I knew it was going to happen because God's will is going to be done and if I'm not going to willingly leave my job, then God was going to push me out of the proverbial boat so that I can walk on water towards Him.

So, here I am. Trusting God to provide for me and to guide me in the next steps of my life and I've never been more excited!

Now, on to more important things... today is Easter! Praise God for the indescribable gift of His Son and the tremendous sacrifice He made on all of our behalf's. If you ever have to wonder if God is good, just look at the cross. He loved, and loves, us so much that He was willing to take human form, come down to earth, live among us for 33 years and then die a criminal's death... all to reconcile us to Him. All to ensure that our sins would be forgiven. And, all to ensure that we would have an eternal home with Him in heaven. How amazing is that???

To top it off, all we need to do is to accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, repent of our sins and ask God into our hearts. We don't need to say a certain prayer a certain number of times. We don't need to complete 'x' acts of service. We don't need to try so hard, period. Not that we shouldn't be the best people we can be and not that we shouldn't live to be of service to others, but those things aren't what will get us into heaven. Only God's grace and mercy can accomplish that feat.

However, I can tell you that I, too, am extremely guilty of trying to 'work' for my salvation. I know how broken I am. I know how selfish and messed up I am. Maybe that's why I can't fathom that God wouldn't expect me to earn my way into heaven in some way. Sure He says that His grace is enough, but He can't really mean that, can He? I surely must need to do something. At least, those are the thoughts that run through my mind time after time... no matter what I know to be God's truth, those thoughts still creep in.

However, today, at Easter services, one of our Pastor's commented on something that I had never thought of before. He was recounting the story of Jesus being on the cross between the two crucified criminals. The one criminal was mocking Jesus, saying that if Jesus was really the Messiah, why doesn't he do something and get them all off of these crosses. The criminal on the other side of Jesus spoke up and said that both he and the other criminal deserved to be on those crosses, but Jesus had done nothing and in no way deserved this punishment. He then asked Jesus to remember him when he came into His kingdom. Jesus replied that he would be joining Jesus in paradise that day. Now, this criminal could literally do nothing. He was nailed to a cross. He couldn't temporarily jump down and feed a few hungry people. He couldn't jump down and preach the gospel. He couldn't jump down and heal sick people. Yet, because he acknowledged Jesus and who He is, Jesus assured him a place in paradise. Notice that? It wasn't because of anything the criminal DID, rather it was WHO he believed in and WHO he accepted as the Messiah. Another great illustration that God provided us of His grace. I pray that I remember the story of that criminal every time I feel inclined to try and earn my salvation versus accepting it as the gift, that it is, from God.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Spring has Sprung

I guess that Southern California does have seasons.

We just have them at the wrong times of the year. As I mentioned previously, this year we had Fall during Winter , and now this.

Check out these pictures taken today from my backyard.

Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't daffodils Spring flowers??? They certainly aren't Winter flowers, I know that much. You can't blame the flowers,'s been, on average 80 degrees the past couple of weeks. I think our screwy weather has confused my tulip and daffodil bulbs.

Friday, January 30, 2009

One Cheeseburger, Animal Style

Seeing as I have nothing better to talk about this evening, I'm going to keep going on my topic of things that I would miss if I ever moved out of state...

Cheeseburger, Animal Style**
Small Diet Coke

That would be my typical order.

**Animal Style = Mustard is grilled on the burger and it is served with grilled onions (no thank you), extra sauce (think- thousand island dressing) and pickles.

So, what is it about In-N-Out that makes them so popular? It's obviously not their extensive menu (3 items). For me, I love that the hamburger bun is a little crispy, the meat patty is thin and the sauce and pickles make it extra delicious. Everything is fresh- even their fries. You see them using this machine to julienne sack upon sack of potatoes. Plus, everything is made to order. Nothing is standing around under heating lamps, and, come to think of it, they don't even have heat lamps. Additionally, the joints are always kept clean and the staff is always exceptionally friendly. No matter how many times I go, I always check under my soda cup to see if they still print them with John 3:16 and on the burger wrapper (I think?) is a verse from Revelation.

One heads up, though... if you are ever visiting CA and going through their drive thru, you may be asked the question, "is that for here or to go?" The first time I heard that in the drive thru, I looked over at my sister with this dumbfounded look on my face and mouthed, "here or to go???". Wouldn't the fact that I'm in my car just naturally lead to the presumption that this meal was 'to go'? I have come to find out, however, that when they ask you that, they are really asking, "are you going to be eating your food in the car or waiting until you get home?" Because if you are eating it in your car, they will wrap the burger so that only half of it is wrapped up, thus allowing ease of consumption and the place it in a box top, versus a bag, for easy accessibility. They will also provide you with a paper tray liner so you can lay it across your lap and avoid spilling all over yourself.

The only downfall to visiting an In-N-Out is the wait. If you come during peak times, the lines in the drive-thru can, easily, wrap around the building and the lines inside aren't much better. Because everything is made so fresh, you also have to factor in a longer wait to receive your food. But, it is SO worth it!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I Heart Trader Joe's

When I contemplate the future and where I'm going to live, I can't help but think about the things that I would miss about California. I'm not talking about family and friends, because that's a given; rather, I'm talking about those things that I've taken for granted as my everyday part of life. Of course, there's always the weather. I love the snow and experiencing the different seasons, but would I want to live in the snow? Shovel myself out of my driveway every morning? Drive to work on a sheet of ice? (or maybe it would be more accurate to say 'slidding' to work on a sheet of ice) Probably would get old really fast. Recently, while friends across the U.S. were experiencing weather that registered in the negative degrees, I was out and about in 80+ degree weather.

Aside, from those things, I'd have to say that one of the things that I would miss the most would be my Trader Joe's. Notice how I said 'my'? I'm very possessive of it. But, honestly, I don't think that I would ever miss it, simply because I could never move to a state that didn't have TJs. It ranks right up there with Target for me. I actually look forward to and get excited to go to TJs because they have so many different types of foods and there have been few, if any, things that I haven't liked. Everytime I go, there's something new to try.

Similar to Target, it's one of those places where I go in with a list of 3 items and I come out with 15 additional items, aside from what was on my list. Take today for example. I went to TJs to purchase eggs and Vanilla Bean Joe Joes. I came out with a plethera of items that included...

Vanilla Bean Joe Joes. One of the items I actually went to TJs for. If you haven't tried these, you really must. I could sit and eat an entire box in one sitting. They're even organic. Before eating these cookies I held the firm belief that organic should stay in the food groups it was made for- vegetables and fruit. To me, organic + cookies = tasteless cardboard.

Veggie Chips...again two words that don't really go together, but they are addicting. (and I can validate eating an entire bag because they have 'veggie' in their name)

And don't even get me started on their frozen Mac and Cheese. Y-U-M! There are 3-4 different cheeses and I just heat it up, add a little salt and I'm good to go!

One of the new items they had this week was the frozen Snickerdoodle Cookie Dough. Now, I absolutely LOVE to bake. If I could do it all day long, I would. But, when it's midnight and I have a cookie craving, I can just pop one of these out of the box and have warm, homemade-tasting cookies in 8-10 minutes. Can't wait to try them out!

Did I mention that I love Trader Joes???

I actually don't even go to the grocery store anymore unless I need something that TJs doesn't carry. I will drive 20 minutes to go to my local TJs vs. walking down the street to Ralph's... I love it that much! And, don't even try to distract me with those imitation Trader Joe' know... those stores you call "Whole Foods".


Next time I want to spend $5 on one apple, I'll go to Whole Foods. Until then, you can find me perusing the aisles of TJs; and, for those of you who don't live near a Trader Joe's, you have my condolences.

Monday, January 26, 2009

No Room to Complain

I was initially going to say that if you feel like you have it rough or if you’re having ‘one of those days’, take a look at this video. But, on second thought, I really don’t want this video to serve as a vehicle to make you feel better about your life. Grateful- yes. Humbled- yes. Angry- yes. And, I’m sure that it will make you re-evaluate your day and the problems you may be experiencing, and that’s fine- things do need to be put into perspective. However, given the choice, I’d rather that this video disturb you. I’d rather that it anger you because it sometimes takes those emotions to motivate us to action.

Please realize that I’m really not trying to come across as condemning or self-righteous because I’m just as guilty as the next person, if not more guilty. I make assumptions all the time. I assume that someone else will take care of it. I assume that it’ll just get better on it’s own. I assume that one person can’t make a difference. But, really, I’m just making excuses and it’s not even that I’m making excuses to anyone in particular, rather it’s like I’m trying to justify my lack of action in my own mind. I’m trying to make myself feel better.

I’d really encourage you to watch the video all the way through. It can be easy to press ‘pause’ and turn away, (I did a couple of times) but these kids and so many others like them around the world, don’t have the option to press pause and turn away from their lives. They are faced with these circumstances all the time and not just for the 9 minutes you’ll spend on this video.

I don’t have answers. I don’t know what I’m going to do with this information yet and I pray that God will give me some insight as to the next step I should be taking. I did, however, want to provide you with a couple of links to world-wide organizations that offer you the opportunity to sponsor a child in a third world country, if that's something you feel led to do. These are reputable non-profits and they truly do some amazing work around the world. Just click on the banner below and it will route you to the website(s).

World Vision (having trouble with the banner)

Sponsor a child online through Compassion's Christian child sponsorship ministry. Search for a child by age, gender, country, birthday, special needs and more.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Happy (Belated) Birthday to Me!!!

I’m definitely not in the category of draw-attention-to-myself, all-eyes-on-me type of person. I’m very comfortable being in the background, persay …. but, not in a pathetic-wallflower sort of way. I just don’t need all eyes on me. It’s too much pressure. If they’re looking at you, then they’re judging you- whether good or bad, and I don’t want to be on the receiving end of anyone’s critical eye. I’m more than critical enough of myself… I don’t need someone confirming my insecurities, thank you very much. I do a fine job of that on my own.

But, there is one day of the year that I don’t mind attention. My birthday. I certainly don’t need over-the-top attention, but I like it when people acknowledge it and I LOVE it when it lasts over several days (i.e. birthday dinners, get-togethers). I definitely do cringe a bit at turning another year older- not so much by the number, but I just have always had ideas in my head of where I would be in life by this point and this ain’t it! But, I can also look at the things that have happened that weren’t expected, and, really it’s pretty cool the route God has taken me, the opportunities He’s afforded me and the multitude of blessings He’s given me. I really can’t complain.

This birthday did not disappoint. I had a great time!

Although my b-day was several days ago, I’ve delayed posting about it, not because I’m upset over it, but because of the ridiculous amount of time it takes me to upload photos to blogger! It’s 2009. They really need to offer a drag and drop option. Instead, we have this tedious process of browsing for the photo, uploading the photo (and you can only do 5 at once) and then you have to look at the mess of html coding (or whatever it is) and try to figure out which picture is which and then place them where you want them on your blog. It’s a pain. Ok. My rant is done. (for now)

So, here’s my birthday in pictures, or as it’s better known- the I-didn’t-stop-eating-for-five-days-tour. That tour is done. I visited several cities, ate in numerous restaurants and just finally finished the last of the leftovers last night. :)

The family was in town prior to my birthday, but before they left, we went out for a birthday dinner to OC Mining Company. If you’ve never been there- go. It’s up on a hilltop overlooking several cities and it’s beautiful at night. Most of the restaurant is set up so everyone has a view. The food is good and plentiful as well!

My wonderful co-workers also got in on the birthday action. They decorated my cubicle and brought in this A-MA-ZING cake. It was some combination of three layers of marble cake, filled with cheesecake filling and chocolate mousse filling. It was all topped in ganache, whipped cream and strawberries.

Went to Disneyland on my actual birthday and spent about ½ day there. During which time, we rode on several attractions, people-watched and if you’ve never people-watched at Disneyland, then you haven’t ever really people-watched- the most ‘interesting’ people come out of the woodwork to go to DL…and it’s not just locals- you have a veritable parade of freaks from around the world at your disposal…you simply have to take time when you visit just to watch everyone walk by. And, of course, ate more food. We went to Café Orleans for lunch because I love love love their Monte Cristo Sandwich. It’s, essentially, a heart attack on a plate. Turkey, ham and cheese on white bread (you’re probably thinking that doesn’t sound so bad, but just wait)… said sandwich is then fully dipped into a batter and deep fried to perfection. It is sprinkled with powdered sugar and you are given raspberry preserves to dip it in. YUM-MY! Then the kind waiter, who knew it was my birthday because of the donut-sized button DL gives you to wear all day (yes, of course I could opt out of wearing it, but what’s the fun in that? I want people to say ‘Happy Birthday’ to me). As he brought us our bill, he also brought a Mickey Mouse shaped beignet (another deep fried delicacy) dessert over and a birthday card that was signed by the Café Orleans staff. Very nice touch!

Before leaving the park I stopped at the Candy Palace and picked up the most adorable Minnie Mouse themed caramel apple. Don’t ask how much it cost. I’m embarrassed that I bought it for that price, but it was a one-time thing, never to happen again.

Later that evening, my sister and her boyfriend took me out to dinner to a Mexican restaurant where I proceeded to have a 4-item combo dinner with a taco, enchilada, tamale and a couple of flautas…not to mention the obligatory chips and salsa we had beforehand. My sister’s boyfriend gave me a bouquet of flowers at the restaurant, so the waitress knew it was my birthday and, again, as we are waiting for the bill, she and 4 other employees walk up, slap a sombrero on my head and sing a birthday song. Did I mention that they brought along with them an ice cream sundae. What was that ice cream sundae sitting in? Why a deep fried bowl of course.

We then made our way over to the movie theatre and saw Bride Wars. Cute movie – I liked it. It was a no-brainer, which is what I was looking for. Then presents and lemon cake.

The next day I met up with friends for church and they took me out to dinner at Chili’s for my birthday. I had these chicken crispers (aka small pieces of fried chicken). The girls obviously told the waitress we were there for my b-day. So… at the end of the meal, they brought over a chocolate-molten-cake-ice cream-sundae-piece-of-heaven.

The next night a couple of my girlfriends took me out to Italian food- SO good and such a cute location. The dessert that night was a chocolate chip cannoli.

Lastly, on Wednesday I got a call from the front desk at work and my lovely friend sent me flowers! They are so pretty and they brightened up my day significantly.

I hope that everyone has as great of a birthday as I did this year!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


I've been thinking alot lately about how I truly don't fully understand or comprehend the gift of grace. And, I'd be willing to wager that I'm not alone.

Grace means that the price for my sin has already been paid, and try as I might, there is literally nothing I can or could ever do to earn my salvation.

Yet, I still try. I try to say the right things. I try to do the right things. I try to think the right things. But, there's always that voice telling me, "you don't deserve this- you need to prove you're worthy", aka earn my way to heaven. Well best of luck Julie, because I'm right- I, in no way, deserve God's grace. Nor will I ever be deserving of it. Today, I was reminded of this scripture:

"But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

Romans 5:8

"While we were still sinners."

God didn't wait for us to 'measure up' or become deserving before He saved us. It was in the midst of our messiness, in the midst of our brokenness...that's when He chose to save us.

Not only did He reconcile Himself to us while we were still sinners, but He reconciled Himself to us in the most sacrificial way possible. He sent Himself to dwell among us- to suffer through pain, heartache, betrayl, hardship and degradation. Then He paid the ultimate price in dying a horrific death on the cross.

For us.

Not only for you and me, but he died for the people who caused him pain, who put him through heartache, who betrayed and humiliated Him. For the people who nailed Him to the cross. I don't know about you, but if someone degrades me, my first response is not one of love and it's certainly not one of being willing to die for that person. But, thankfully for us, Jesus was willing. Wow- He must not only like us on occassion, but He must really love us with a love that can never be understood by a human being.

Why, then, do I have such struggles? Why do I think God has given up on me- not because He's unloving, but because I'm so unworthy of His love. I mess up on a daily, if not hourly, basis. I mean, really...exactly how many times can I expect God to forgive me? How many times can I count on Him to extend grace to me?

I can't help but know, in my heart, that God's response to that question would be:

"How many times? Every single time, that's how many times."

I like the analogy I've heard at church several times of imagining grace as a gift under the Christmas tree. Imagine it was your gift to your child. You'd sacrificed your time and energy to pick out the perfect gift for them and couldn't wait for them to open it up. But, then they open it and get a forelorned look on their face, immediately hand the gift back over to you and say, "I don't deserve this- take it back". I would imagine you would be a little disappointed and upset at their reaction, and perhaps irritated. Now, picture that your child opens the gift, breaks into a huge smile, jumps into your arms, thanks you over and over and immediately begins to play with the toy. Wouldn't that reaction be better received? Wouldn't you be thrilled and filled with joy? I'm sure so. Don't you think God would rather we be the excited child in this story vs. the one who tries to hand the gift back?

I think that you and I (especially) have to just stop trying to figure grace out, because grace is inherently unexplainable and indescribable to begin with. We just need to accept it for the free gift that it is and say 'thank you'.

God's Riches At Christ's Expense