Monday, January 11, 2010
Monday, November 9, 2009
Thursday, October 29, 2009
I love YouTube. Because of this simple site, I've fallen in love with online personalities like Debra (of Jackie and Debra), Dave Barnes, Judy Grimes, and Hitman Breaker of the Eye. Their performances are hilarious, wild, insane, and, frankly, genius.
But there's one online video that's really struck a chord with me. It was produced by my friend, JJ Starr, who is a senior at Pepperdine University. He's an aspiring videographer and, if you ask me, he's already made his mark as a documentary filmmaker. He spent the month of October filming the sunrise from different vantage points in Malibu. What he and his roommate learned throughout the filming process was so profound to me. I won't over-analyze what they taught me; instead, I think that you should check it out yourself.
(As an aside, I'd like to share the photo below as a reminder of how brilliant Shea Miller is for dressing up as our favorite YouTube character, Debra, for Halloween last year. If only I could relive that night...)
Today's topic was a difficult one to face. The question Libby posed was, "What is the last thing God showed you about yourself?" That's hard, isn't it? God's always showing us things about ourselves, and most of the time (in my case, anyway), they aren't necessarily lovely things. Sure, He reminds me on a daily basis that I'm worthy of His grace, that I'm loved by amazing people, and that I'm created in His image. But as far as my actual character goes, I feel like God usually is looking down at me, smiling shyly and laughing to Himself, thinking, "C'mon, Rach. You're almost there, but not quite."
So I digress and make the following point: God teaches me a lot of things. I don't always recognize them until it's too late. That would be the case regarding the most recent lesson I've learned. Usually I consider this a blessing but sometimes, like right now, I view it as a curse: I love people. I could probably be with people all the time if that were acceptable. I have an addictive personality, and I don't hesitate at packing my schedule full of playdates with friends. I've even been known to move into friends' homes without asking permission first because I love spending time with people too much (see the previous post re: 21228 Pacific Coast Highway).
As I said, I typically view this appreciation of others as an asset. However, I've noticed the toll this particularly "addiction" (if you will) is taking on me since I've moved to Dallas. I didn't really know anyone when I moved here. I've been spending my time reconnecting with former classmates at Pepperdine or meeting with friends of friends. I've loved the adventures I've had while I've met new people. I've consumed too much fried food at the Texas State Fair, jammed to U2 at the new Cowboys stadium, reveled in the bliss of Mambo Taxis from Mi Cocina, danced to wedding tunes in the small town of Sherman, cheered on the Cowboys (though secretly rooting for the Bears) while nursing a beer, and sipped on vanilla chai at hole-in-the-wall cafes throughout the city. The point is, I've been busy. And while that's largely due to the fact that I love people, it's also related to the fact that I am afraid of being alone. And now, on this Thursday night, I find myself absolutely exhausted, both physically and emotionally.
I'm not afraid of an empty apartment, or of the dark. Instead, I guess it's that I'm anxious when I don't have plans or commitments. I think it's because society teaches us that busyness is equivalent to success or worth. Add that to my love for people and it's not so surprising that I have distaste for being alone. I think the other component that factors in is that it's much easier to spend time alone when you know that have a community of friends than when you're unsure of whether or not that's true. Don't get me wrong--the friends I've met here are amazing. But I've only been in Dallas for six weeks, and it's obvious that my best friends still all live in California. I feel the need to make plans so that I can eventually establish the community I'm seeking in Dallas that is just like the one I had in Los Angeles (and San Francisco and San Diego).
What God is teaching me, though, is that I must find my worth, my value, and my peace in Him. While He has blessed me with amazing people who demonstrate His love for me on a daily basis, He's asking me to be content with him, trusting that the community I desire will fall into place according to His timing.
Tonight I decided to take a break from my whirlwind schedule. I got a manicure and pedicure, took a hot shower, made a spinach pizza, drank white wine, and enjoyed the newest episodes of "The Office." And for the first time in awhile, I felt relaxed and at peace. Here alone in my loft with nothing on the agenda, just hanging out, me and God. And Michael Scott.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
I take way too many pictures. That's a relatively well-known fact. I always carry two cameras with me: a Nikon D60 for shooting the important stuff of life, and a Canon PowerShot for recording video and sneaking into "photo-free" zones. In fact, in my iPhoto I currently have 17,549 pictures (the enormity of that number just registered with me, and frankly, even I feel overwhelmed by its sheer size).
So trying to choose my favorite photo out of all of those options is nearly impossible. There is one picture, though, that strikes me as an all-time favorite. It's the image above, which captures one of the best adventures I've ever had in Southern California. Brody Smith, Dave Kob, Erin Macdonald, Mac Smith, and I decided to spend an entire Sunday sailing from Marina del Rey to Malibu and back. It was an impromptu event planned, literally, the day before the trip took place. We spent the day basking in the sunshine, toasting champagne, grilling great food, having dance parties, deflecting the attention of our crazy captain, Don, and illegally swimming in the ocean after we'd been instructed not to. It was perfect. And in the midst of the insanity, Don snagged my camera and captured this photo, which is now framed on the wall that I've dubbed my "hall of fame" in my apartment in Dallas. Don failed us in a lot of hilarious ways on our sailing trip; fortunately, capturing the joy evident in this photo was not amongst his shortcomings.
This picture is important to me for reasons beyond the bliss of that day spent sailing around the Pacific Ocean with fabulous friends. It signifies the integration of a beautifully, randomly connected group of people. Just one month prior to our sailing adventure, Erin, Dave, Mac, Brody, and I did not regularly pencil each other in to our schedules. In fact, half of us were in L.A. while the other half lived in Texas. I'd like to take the time to thank 21228 Pacific Coast Highway for bringing us together.
Mac and Brody, who are a pair of brothers that I befriended while at Pepperdine, were taking a hiatus from their Texan lives by spending the summer in Malibu. Generously, they lent me a key to their beach house while they vacationed in Florida with their family for 10 days. They also gave a copy of the key to Dave, one of Mac's fraternity brothers. Coincidentally, Dave and I met during my freshman year of college, when we spent the majority of our Intro to Journalism class making fun of each other. We hadn't reconnected in years and here we were: Roommates. I knew that Dave and I were destined to forge a new, fantastic friendship when I awoke to him jumping on my bed one morning, shrieking, "Get upppp, it's time for work!"
Fast forward three days: Erin comes back from a trip to Napa Valley and promptly moves in. At the same time, Mom was visiting and she took Erin (who was already her second daughter) and Dave (who became her second son) under her wing. The four of us (in addition to Nick Mason and Chris Jones, who are amongst Mom's other favorites) spent the weekend together and had a blast. We became family.
And then the Smiths returned. To their surprise, they learned that the three of us would not, in fact, be moving out. Can you blame us? We were living in the most picturesque home in all of Malibu with some of the greatest people this country's ever known--and trust me, neither of these claims are exaggerations.
If it's not evident through the words I've written in this post, I'll spit out my confession point blank: I fell in love with this group of friends in a way I never thought possible. We come from different backgrounds, friend groups, career paths, and geographic areas. And yet, the thing I continuously craved was time with this special group of people. I believe that it was our differences that bonded us together. Erin's passion for adventure reminded us to enjoy each and every day as the gift that it is. Mac's generosity taught us to be thankful that we have much, and to reciprocate by giving to those who have little. Dave's brilliant sense of humor encouraged us to laugh constantly, even if sometimes it means taking a break from this serious world to laugh at yourself. Brody's sweet spirit allowed us to contemplate the concept of stepping back from it all to drink in the beauty that constantly surrounded us. And we all believed in the therapeutic powers of an impromptu dance session, which served as a reminder to never forget to celebrate the little things. It was so much fun to watch our adventures unfold, knowing that while the summer would eventually end and that our lives would take us in different directions, we would forever share the bonds of 21228, Don Ivanko, and our friendship.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
My darling friend, Libby Senna, and I have engaged in a blog challenge. We picked seven random topics and must write about all of them within a two-week period. It doesn't matter which days we write, necessarily; rather, we just have to get the posts done. It's supposed to be a lesson in accountability and conditioning. I hope that the challenge forces me to practice writing on a consistent basis, and that it encourages me to continue writing after we're through.
The first topic revolves around the issue of choosing a favorite quote. I think Libby and I both agree that selecting one phrase and titling it "favorite" would be impossible. Instead of trying to pick one thought, I'll choose a sentiment that I've been reflecting on recently.
I just finished Donald Miller's new book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. The book review will come in a separate post (whenever I get back to THAT blog idea...hopefully this challenge will also serve to inspire me to continue reviewing literature) since I don't have the time to write about it now, nor have I been able to accurately assess how I feel about the piece in its entirety. Regardless of my thoughts about the story as a whole, there were some passages that really jumped out at me because of how strongly they related to my current stage of life.
The book is about storytelling, and about how we are essentially responsible for creating our own stories. God gives us the tools to make our own decisions and though He knows the outcome of our choices, He offers us the opportunity to live our best life, should we be up to the challenge. The following quote from Miller's book really stood out to me for the way it encourages readers to embark upon adventurous, life-changing journies:
- We have to get up off the couch and turn the television off, we have to blow up the inner-tubes and head to the river. We have to write the poem and deliver it in person. We have to pull the car off the road and hike to the top of the hill. We have to put on our suits, we have to dance at weddings.
This is something that I have found to be so true, and I'm thankful that Miller's words reminded me of this sentiment. I'd like to believe that I have an adventurous spirit, which I'll attribute to my friendship with Erin Macdonald. When I came to Pepperdine as a freshman in 2004, Erin and I cemented the foundation of a friendship that will only continue to flourish and grow. Though we were raised in Wheaton together (and made many hilarious memories growing up), it was at Pepperdine that we became as close as we are today. So much of that is due to the way Erin's outgoing and thrill-seeking personality affected me and shaped my character. She taught me the importance of walking through every figurative (and sometimes literal) open door, whether that's achieved by accepting an invitation to attend a barbecue on the beach or it's just the decision to dive into the ocean, fully-clothed, after a good run. Since then, I've always attempted to invest in the opportunities presented to me, as large or small as they may seem. Weekend trips, semesters abroad, living situations, afternoons outdoors, and impromptu vacations have all been decided upon based on my inability to refuse to accept anything less than extreme. Sometimes that gets me in trouble; other times it allows me to continue walking (or sometimes sprinting) down the path that Christ has set before me.
This isn't to say that I'm great at being adventurous or outgoing; to be sure, I fail at achieving that goal on days when I just can't get myself together. The point is, as Miller's quote reminded me, a journey-seeking life is one that I should be attempting to live. God gave us the tools to write amazing stories. He's asking us to intertwine the concepts of mystery, suspense, adventure, comedy, faith, and (only sometimes) drama in order to structure a story so great that we praise the One who gave us the resources to live it.
As Miller pointed out, God is not a puppeteer who controls our every action. Instead, He patiently waits for us to discover the loveliness of life on our own, allowing us to stand in awe of what He has created. He quietly encourages us to take part in the moments worth remembering. Maybe that's done by choosing to live in a trailer park in Malibu, or by deciding to eat only frozen yogurt for lunch...or breakfast. Maybe that's accomplished by taking impromptu trips up to Point Dume to photograph the sunset, or by buying a flight to Denver to visit an old friend. Maybe that's achieved through watching a foreign film, or by sweating through a Bikram yoga class. However it's done, the goal is to explore the beauty that exists in everyday moments. In coffee. In sunrises. In loft apartments. In fried cookie dough. In service trips. Equally in the great as in the small. And the whole time, being cognizant (that's for you, John Joyce) of the Creator who made it all, reveling in the treasures set out before us solely so that we can reciprocate by offering praise to the One who loves us most.
Throughout this post, I've thrown in some photos from some of my favorite spontaneous adventures. Some are huge choices or events while other decisions or happenings may appear small. Yet they all comprise memories that are essential to my very being, components that have aligned themselves to create Rachel's story.
Adventure #2: Going to Ghana after meeting Pam Cope resulted in passion, purpose, and, ultimately, a career with Touch A Life.
Adventure #3: Lunching with Miss Erin Macdonald, the teacher herself. I mean, why not go to Malibu hot spot, Geoffrey's, for two meals in a row? The restaurant boasts the best view in town as well as the tastiest crab cakes on the coast.
Adventure #4: A Memorial Day Weekend to be remembered: San Jose del Cabo 2009. A trip that was once dreamed of eventually came to reality, thanks to everyone's desire to reunite from all around the country and seek out adventure.
Adventure #5: Redefining the lunch break at White Rock Lake Park in Dallas (my new hometown), camera in hand.
Adventure #6: New Year's Eve 2009 in Nashville with Carter. Such an impromptu decision turned into a weekend of good food, great dance moves, and the best time spent catching up with friends.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Celebrating the Spences in Napa Valley.
:: It's like I waited my whole life for this one night
It's gon' be me, you, and the dance floor. ::
-- Chris Brown
Brad Blakey is always the best date because he unabashedly loves to dance. He was my date to Pi Phi formal my senior year at Pepperdine and that was when I realized how much I appreciate it when people can dance anywhere, anytime. Besides the fact that I adore him, this was a huge factor in my decision to ask him to be my date to Karli and Nick's wedding in Napa Valley. Another good thing about Brad is that he doesn't seem to mind when I repeatedly want to get down to Chris Brown's, "Forever," my favorite dance party jam. And by repeatedly, I mean every day.
I would prefer to have dance parties on a daily basis, but because of jobs and other such limitations, I've resigned myself to the fact that I'll just have to wait for epic occasions like Kar and Nick's nuptials (although sometimes, I admit, I've been known to host impromptu dance parties in parking garages, friends' kitchens, and grocery stores). In those situations, I depend on a date like Brad to be just excited about the evening's dance party as I am. And he always lives up to the expectations I have for him. In fact, he usually surpasses them.
I've noticed that many people are uncomfortable with strutting their stuff on the dance floor, and this realization has allowed me to learn how much I appreciate those people who don't give a care in the world what others think about their moves. So here's to you, Mr. Blakey, for always being the perfect date, the perfect friend who will never fail me on the dance floor.
Also, I would like to have the acoustic version of "Forever" played as
my first dance at my own wedding someday.
Please, no one steal this idea.
my first dance at my own wedding someday.
Please, no one steal this idea.