Wednesday, December 28, 2011

It's a Wonderful Life: 2011 in Summary

Even without a novel to write, it appears that December has flown by.  Mind you, we had multiple parties and outings this month, but it always surprises me to see another month, especially another year, come to a close.  It is that sentimental feeling, remembering the great times that I have had this year, accompanied by both a pang of sadness that those days are over, and that sense of excitement, imagining the unknown that awaits, the glorious joys that will fill the pages of 2012.

When the year began I had no idea what it would hold, but in reflection, here is what I see -

2011 in Summary
*In January I rang in the New Year with my boyfriend in San Francisco and celebrated my 25th birthday with my first surprise party.
*In February my charming Clinton Perry proposed to me with our dear families witnessing at Crystal Cove and I bought my wedding dress.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Goal Accomplished!!!

It has been a long month, and a perilous journey, but I have reached the once distant 50,000 word mark!!  I still have a bit that I want to add before I type, "The End," but I have reached the goal!  I have accomplished the seemingly impossible!  Hurray!!!  And a special thanks to my honey for helping me celebrate!  I have the official winner's badge!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

An Excerpt from The Fall

Hello friends!  I am still writing like the wind, nearing the twenty thousand word mark, but I have heard your pleas to read for a sample, just a little taste of what I'm working on, and I have decided that it is time to let you have it by posting the beginning of my novel.  Enjoy!

An Excerpt from The Fall

Chapter 1 – The Pumpkin Patch

“That one’s good for nothing – it’s all bruised!” Madelyn laughed with a wink.

“Well, I think it’s rather cute and would be perfect for pumpkin carving.  Just think – it already has plenty of attitude and spunk!” Evelyn replied with a grin.

“Yes, just like you.  You two would be an unbeatable combination at the contest.  I’m sure you’ll come up with a splendid design again this year.  What sort of face are you considering making?”

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Fall: A Synopsis

Hello, blog world!  It has been 3 days of NaNoWriMo and I'm staying on track, so that's good.  Well, I am not sure if I want to share an excerpt yet, but below is the synopsis that I just drafted.  I'm afraid it sounds a little cheesy, but hey, it's my first novel, and I'm writing the excerpt after only having written 5,000 of the 50,000 words, so here you go:

Madelyn Campbell is a fun-loving twenty-seven year old, studying Medieval literature and living with her quirky best friend and artist Evelyn in Fullerton.  The story picks up with the girls hunting for pumpkins for a Halloween party in their local pumpkin patch, at which party Madelyn delightedly discovers that her crush, Spencer Moore,  is in attendance.  Progressing through their awkward first date (or is it just a hang out with just the two of them?) Madelyn discovers that despite her desire to be perfect, life is full of bumps and bruises, yet these very bumps, although painful at the moment, may lead to her greatest joy.

Happy writing!!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

NaNoWriMo: 30 Days & Nights of Literary Abandon

National Novel Writing Month (affectionately known as NaNoWriMo) is a challenge to all who have ever thought, “I’d like to write a novel someday…”  Well, this is your chance!  During the month of November hundreds of thousands around the globe (and that is not an exaggeration, as they had 200,000 participants last year) will seek to write a 50,000 word novel (this equates to approximately 175 pages).  Writing begins at 12:01 AM on November 1st and must be completed and uploaded by midnight on November 30th to count.

I have heard about this for years and decided to attempt the seemingly impossible last year; however, less than a week into the month, a charming and handsome man asked me on a date, and I frankly forgot all about novel writing.  Well, it was a whirlwind, but we are married now and settled down a bit, so I have decided to once again attempt the challenge.  I made it to 10,000 words last year.  If I can average 1,700 words a day, then I will make the goal.  That doesn’t sound too bad, until you think about the 2 weddings we have this month, and family vacation, and Thanksgiving…

With hands tied until the 1st, I have a title: The Fall, a decent one-page outline of the basic plot, and the main characters’ names: Madelyn Campbell & Spencer Moore (yes, I will admit that I spent a couple hours looking at baby names online before I settled on these two). 

So please forgive me for being too busy in October to write (my little sister got married last weekend – see my previous post), and I’m afraid I will be a crazy, creative-writing monster for the month of November.  Perhaps, I will post some excerpts from my story if I think they are decent…

The Challenge:  If you have ever thought about writing a novel, will you consider joining me in accepting the challenge?  Join the fun at!  Having NaNo buddies is a lot more fun than doing this all on your own.  If you do decide to participate, let me know by sending me your username, and maybe we can have a writing party!  The more the merrier!!

My Little Sister's Wedding: A Toast

So three months after my wedding, I was delighted to serve as the Matron of Honor in my sister's wedding.  Katie and Iseah dated for three years and have had quite the journey, so it was a joy to celebrate with them on this very special day!  I'm afraid that with all the wedding events, however, I have failed to write any new posts and I have some news (coming soon) which will probably limit my entries for the month of November, but I thought that I would share my Matron of Honor Toast, dated October 21, 2011:

Good evening!  For those of you I have not met, my name is Tori and I’m Katie’s big sister, and on behalf of the Wade family I’d like to welcome you all, and thank you for coming to celebrate with us on this very special occasion!  

As we all know, in this world there are leaders and there are followers.  Although some prefer to wait in the wings, Katie has always been one of those pioneering people who led from her passions.  She was always on the cusp of trends, setting the bar and leading the way.  From shopping to school, she has never been a conformist or apologetic for who she is.  Rather, she steps out and embraces life, especially through seeking to help those in need. 

Katie has been an inspiration to me for her courage and relentless pursuit of social justice.  She has demonstrated her courage from youth, when she served on a missions team to Panama as a junior higher: raising money, traveling to a distant land, and joining a team when she didn’t know anyone else who would be there, and then spending another entire summer working with the homeless in Houston: distributing food and clothing, playing with the children, and even giving some pedicures.  Over the years she has shared stories of some of the troubled youth with whom she has interacted, and it is remarkable to see how she connects with them, gains their respect, and is able to help them.  Even in the face of flying objects, runaway children, and outright defiance, Katie is able to keep her head and deal with the situation.  With her fiery personality and her drive, Katie makes the best sort of advocate, as well as a great friend.

You see, in elementary school Katie and I were close friends, moving often and clinging to each other, that is until, like most siblings, we began to define ourselves by what made us each unique.  We highlighted our differences and had our own friends and ambitions.  Particularly since leaving the nest, however, we have both come to realize that although we are markedly different, we also share some very foundational values – church, family, helping those in need, and enjoying life.

Katie has been there for me in the very times when I needed her most with a sympathetic ear, understanding my perspective and providing her support and encouragement – even canceling her own wedding planning weekend back in July to bring sanity and aid me with mine.  She has been there when others were unable or unwilling, driving out to meet up for sushi or to just remind me with her presence that I am not alone.  She is the kind of person who will drop everything to be there for you when you need her.

Iseah, you are truly a lucky man to have won my sister’s heart.  What a joy it has been to see you and Katie fall in love, and for us Wades to welcome you into the family and to share some wonderful memories these last three years.  You two are such a dynamic and loving couple.  We pray the Lord’s very best for you, our beloved Mr. & Mrs. Angkiangco, as you begin this new and exciting journey of marriage. 

So if you all will join me and raise your glass, I offer a toast to courage, to friendship, and to love…To Katie & Iseah!  Cheers!

~I love you, lil sis!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Groundhog Day: Living for What Truly Matters

Phil: What would you do if you were stuck in one place and every day was exactly the same, and nothing that you did mattered?
Ralph: That about sums it up for me.

You are probably familiar with the storyline, but let me recap it for you:  Phil, an arrogant weatherman, travels to a small town to do a feature on the groundhog’s shadow, gets stuck in the town for the night due to a blizzard that he failed to predict, and goes to bed, only to discover that when he awakens in the morning, it is once again February 2nd.  He is made to relive the same day over and over again, giving him the torture, the license, and finally the freedom to live life however he pleases with no repercussions to follow in the future.  He is arrested, attempts to seduce his producer, Rita, and even tries to kill himself on multiple occasions, but no matter what he does during the day, he once again awakens to his alarm on February 2nd. 

After having pursued selfish pleasures that failed to satisfy, Phil gradually begins to seek to help those in the small town, especially a homeless man, and in the process discovers that he has fallen in love with Rita. He lives with charity and kindness for those around him.  In the end Rita falls in love with him too, and he awakens to the joy of his alarm on February 3rd.

Clint and I have been discussing showing the movie to his high school Bible classes to lay the framework for the year, posing the questions: “What is virtue?” and “What is happiness?”  We see in Groundhog Day that Phil discovers the meaninglessness and futility of pursuing his selfish passions.  He can have whatever he wants and do anything, regardless of the law, but he does not find true satisfaction in any of these pursuits.  It is only when he puts the needs and desires of others above his own, that he finds true happiness and a way of escape from the endless repetition of February 2nd.

Though you have not been forced to relive the same day over and over again, but perhaps every day seems to blend into the next.  Perhaps you feel without purpose or direction.  Perhaps it all seems pointless and monotonous, an unending journey to nowhere.  Or maybe it is not that extreme, but you feel stuck or you are just plain tired.  This film pushes the viewer to consider what truly matters in life.  For what are you living?  Why do you get up every morning?  Are you rolling out of bed simply desiring to fulfill your own pleasures and get your way, or do you rise seeking to love others, pursue the truth, and delight in beauty? 

I think most of us would reply with the latter when the choices are so clearly stated, but what about the little things of life?  What about in the daily grind when you must decide between relaxing for a few more minutes in front of the tv or spending time in prayer?  What about giving a half-hearted effort on that project you have been putting off or devoting all your time and talent to its completion?  What about simply sitting in the pew at church or getting up an hour early and volunteering to serve in the children’s ministry?

Life is composed of these little decisions, the seemingly harmless laziness or the snide remark made under your breath.  It is of these seemingly harmless choices our habits are formed.  How we spend our minutes and hours each day, and what we prioritize will come to define us in the end.

May we choose to pursue virtue and true happiness in the everyday things of life.  May the Lord give us grace each morning that we might honor His name and serve Him faithfully.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

"Beep, Beep!"

The last two weeks I have been working on a side project at work for an upcoming staff meeting in which all my co-workers were asked, among other things, “Who was your favorite cartoon character as a child?”  It has been fun to read the results, and has led me to ponder what it is about these characters that make children drawn to them. 

My favorite character as a child was The Road Runner.  I liked him predominantly for his speed (I ran track in elementary school), as well as his intelligence, his pretty purple feathers, and that classic “Beep, Beep!”  No matter how hard Wile E. Coyote tried every day to dupe the bird with wild contraptions and complex plans, with but a little common sense and speed (okay and inconsistent rules of the cartoon universe), Road Runner was always successful at escaping, leaving Wile E. to experience the pain of the trap himself.

In our evening Bible readings over the past few days, Clint and I have been contemplating the story of Esther, the beautiful Jewess who first wins the king’s hand in marriage and then saves her people from destruction.  Her greatest qualities perhaps were her beauty, her courage, and her humility.  She obediently followed the advice of her uncle, Mordecai, and was willing to lose her life in an effort to save her people.  Perhaps the most famously quoted verse in the book is: “For such a time as this,” referring to the Providential appointment of Esther as queen in order to rescue the Jewish nation. 

As the story unwinds, Haman, a high ranking official, parades through the city and is sorely offended when Mordecai refuses to bow to him, stating that he bows to God alone.  After complex schemes and shady dealings, Haman is invited to an exclusive feast with the king and queen.  Overjoyed with the VIP treatment, Haman decides to make his move.  In the end, however, Haman who had been planning revenge on Mordecai, ends up, similarly to Wile E., with a death sentence, hanging from the very gallows he meant for Mordecai.  And we discover in the following chapter that his 10 sons have the same fate, while the Jewish people are saved.

What an inspiration Esther is of a woman who bravely faces her calling and steps into the role that God has given her to play!  Being named the most beautiful and desirable woman in the land does not go to her head.  Rather, Esther humbly submits to Mordecai and continues to identify with and protect her people.  Oh to have the courage to step into the court of the king, facing certain death, and instead to find life and joy.  The God of Israel protects her and in turn protects her entire nation through her.

May we too be found faithful in the calling that God has placed on our lives and may we walk with courage into the unknown.

Reflection:  Based on their cartoon character choices, others in the office appear to admire a good sense of humor, bravery, the defense of the innocent, as well as general cuteness.  Who was your favorite cartoon character and what did you admire about him or her?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Breakin' a Sweat

My sweaty hands grip the metal and all I can do is keep chanting, “Just a little further.  Just a little further...”

28:00.  The treadmill beeps and my first run at the gym in, oh probably 5 years, is finally over.

“Push the cool down button,” Clint instructs, reaching across the machine to show me where the little blue button is.

“Phew!  I’m gonna be sore tomorrow!  It’s not exactly a walk in the park!”

You see I like to think of myself as a lover of nature, an outdoor exerciser, not a gym rat.  I prefer going for an afternoon stroll in the park or playing ultimate Frisbee with friends, but I must admit that I have not been disciplined in exercise for at least the last 6 months.  I like to think that I can muster enough motivation and accountability on my own to maintain an exercise routine; however, when I am honest with myself, I realize that I’d much rather chill on a Monday evening than do aerobic activity.  The motivation will usually come in spurts, but without a buddy to keep me accountable and motivated, I’m much more likely to daintily sit and read at Starbucks for the evening, than to spend an hour sweating at the gym.

For the past few weeks, however, Clint has been talking to me about a gym membership.  We have discussed the need for good health and that regular exercise is a major component of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.  Additionally, having been married for just over 2 weeks, we are seeking to establish good patterns and create habits that will keep us healthy and happy for years to come.  Together we will work to reach our goals and to maintain consistency.  So we’re still a little idealistic about the whole gym thing now, but the real test will come in October or November when the school year is underway and our calendar is filling up.  That’s why we need to start now and we need to be disciplined and make our health a priority.  By the grace of God and each other’s encouragement, we can do it!

Thus, with a 7-day guest pass on the clipboard, I found myself panting and sweating at our local Bally’s on Monday evening, and honestly I kind of liked it.  I mean I certainly did not want to go to the gym after a long day at the office, but once I was jogging and watching the calories burn, I actually starting feeling pretty good.  Maybe breaking a sweat at the gym isn’t so bad after all!  I think I might be able to get used to this.  Of course, lucky for me, I have a gym partner, my husband, and together we will find the motivation, and hopefully the joy, of exercising and being healthy. 

So say a prayer for us and the next time you see us, ask when we were last at the gym.  Of course, since we care about your health too, we just might return the favor…

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Hello world! My name is Mrs. Perry and I’m delighted to meet you!

Hello world!  My name is Mrs. Perry and I’m delighted to meet you!  Of course, if you ask the federal government it is not exactly official yet (that’s a whole different animal), but for all intents and purposes, I am now Mrs. Victoria Perry. *Pure bliss!!*

What a joy it is to be his bride, his beloved, the apple of his eye!  Now if you are a faithful reader, you know that wedding planning has certainly been stressful and overwhelming at times, but I can honestly say that our wedding was fabulous!  It is crazy how you can sweat all the small stuff along the way, even an hour before the ceremony, but the minute they opened the doors of the church and I saw Clint at the end of the aisle waiting for me, all of my worries about logistics simply melted away.  The time had finally come to be united with my love in the sacrament of marriage and I simply could not stop smiling!  He looked so dashing in his tuxedo and the pure joy in his face, not sure if he should smile or cry, was the very best expression of love that I had ever seen.  As I told him, I kept telling myself to walk slowly, but in my heart, I was running down the aisle to him.

Clint and I thoroughly enjoyed the wedding festivities (bachelor and bachelorette parties were amazing, rehearsal dinner was a relaxing and intimate time, the wedding ceremony was beautiful and sacred, the reception was the height of joyous celebration with those we love, and the honeymoon, staying for a week in a little cabin in Big Sur and exploring the surrounding areas of Monterey and Carmel, proved to be both a refreshing getaway and a thrilling adventure.  With all these major events behind us, memories to last a lifetime, and beautiful pictures being uploaded which captured our joy, I must say, that it is nice to be finally settling into our first place: opening wedding gifts, unloading boxes, assembling furniture, arranging pictures, cooking dinners together, and just being newly weds.

We would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to all of you who have supported us through this journey to the altar (personalized thank you notes will come eventually, I promise), and ask that you please continue to lift us up in prayer, as we discover what it truly means to be one.  As all married couples realize, it is quite a paradigm shift to move from independence to considering your spouse’s needs and desires above your own, to see possessions as not mine or yours, but ours, and to create a loving atmosphere of open, honest, uplifting, and God-honoring communication.

Now a little message to all of my friends who are brides to be: hang in there.  Enjoy the little joys along the journey!  You only have one wedding, so delight!  Take a break once in a while and just enjoy being with your love.  The planning will end and life will eventually settle down and then you’ll be married!!  Trust your family and friends and lean on them for support.  They are genuinely excited for you and want to help in anyway that they can.  Stop to consider the great gift of love that God has mercifully given to you both, and rejoice in His abundant provision!  Stare into the eyes of your beloved and feel the smile begin to form on your lips!

As many have reminded me, the wedding is only the beginning – the marriage is where the true adventure begins.  So here’s to our new adventure as the Perrys!  We’re excited to share the journey with you!!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Bears all things

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude.  It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”
                                                ~1 Corinthians 13: 4-8a

11 days ladies and gentlemen!   Oh my goodness!!!

Well, I must admit that I had a bit of a melt down last week when I realized how much I had left to do in such a short amount of time, but my family came to the rescue.  We spent hours walking up and down the aisles of the local craft stores looking at candles, ribbon, vases, picture frames, and much, much more.  With their aid, I made great strides this weekend and now I have a renewed sense of joy and excitement for the big day!  They transformed the overwhelming To-Do list into an exciting adventure. 

With that being said, I learned a valuable lesson this week.  You see my dear Clint is currently in Notre Dame working on his masters degree and impressing the professors with his thoughtful theological reflections.  I am so very proud of him and excited to see him reaching his dreams, our dreams.  In the meanwhile, I am here in Southern California, alone.  However, this weekend I learned that even when Clint is gone, I am not, in fact, alone.  I am surrounded by a loving family and friends who are excited to help ease the burden.  Bearing each others’ burdens is love.  I have always avoided confessing my weaknesses to others partially out of pride and a sense of independence, but also from a desire to not weigh others down with my problems.  This weekend confirmed again that in admitting my limitations and asking for help, I am actually opening myself to receive love, and those who truly love me do not see it as an imposition at all.  In fact, they quite enjoy being needed and feeling like they have contributed to reaching my dream.  Of course, I am delighted that my love will be returning in 3 short days.  Yippee!!!

11 days until the wedding.  Wow!  I feel so very blessed that my dear Clint saw me amidst the crowd and is as overjoyed as me to go to the altar and spend our lives together.  I always dreamed of my wedding day, but I never imagined that it would ever be so close – less than 2 weeks away!  I still cannot believe it!  Oh my goodness!!!

Thank you for your prayers thus far, and please continue to remember us before the Father in the days ahead.  We so very much look forward to celebrating with you!!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Dance Lessons: One Month Count Down!!!

"When you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance"
           ~made famous by Lee Ann Womack

or perhaps you prefer

"Just dance...
Dance, dance, just, j-j-just dance"
            ~made famous by Lady Gaga

Friday afternoon June 17, 2011.  Wow!  Less than 1 month until the wedding!  So much has happened in the past month: dress fittings, the school play and promotion ceremony for Clint’s junior highers, the NBA finals where the Mavericks won the championship, our engagement picture photo shoot, bbqs, my 3 year anniversary at ECCU, a camping and bungee jumping trip (Clint and the boys), a local bridal shower (me and the girls), a museum and wine tasting outing, a wedding shower in my hometown, signing the lease to our new studio and getting our furniture, and just last night our first dance lesson.  Did I mention that was just our last month?  Yep.  Pretty crazy!

I must admit that as the wedding is getting closer, I feel more excitement, sentimentality, and pressure to have everything in order, so I’m afraid I had a little “bridezilla” moment yesterday.  Now please understand that I am generally not very outspoken or demanding, but as my opinions have been solicited for the past five months for just about everything, I have discovered that I have a lot more expectations, and thus opinions, concerning our big day than I thought.  During a great conversation last night with our reception MC, I realized that the wedding day is not simply a list of events to check off, but a series of special moments, of precious memories to last a lifetime.  I want to be fully present and experience the great delight, to allow myself the freedom to be beaming with smiles or to shed a tear, to rejoice with my love and our family and friends and not to worry about whether the platters are lined up perfectly.  Every bride with whom I have spoken has told me to not stress about the details on the wedding day, but to have a great time.  I take it that they wish they had not stressed so much over minor details, so it is my goal to take their advice.

Excellence is very important to me and I want to put forth the effort to plan a great event, but at the same time, I want to recognize that I cannot control all the factors and that very fact will actually make it an organic and a truly human day.  By this I mean that I do not want a superficially manufactured event, all fake happy smiles and a perfectly designed everything.  Our wedding should be a beautiful day, while remaining open to the uniqueness and spontaneity of real life.  The day will have life and vitality, like the difference between listening to a recording and attending a concert– it will breathe.  It is a once in a lifetime experience where all in attendance are engaged and participate, thus the community creates an experience that can never be repeated.

Take our dance for example.  In our dance lessons last night we told the instructor that we wanted to learn some steps, but not to create a choreographed number.  Clint ought to have the freedom to lead as he feels in the moment, not being overly pressured to remember what comes next and force a step that does not flow naturally.  We want to be prepared, but flexible.  If you know me this might sound a bit humorous, as I tend to be a very scheduled and regimented kind of girl, but Clint so often eases my mind and helps me to feel confident that all will be well. 

In conclusion, say a prayer for me if you have a moment in the next month that we will do all that is necessary to plan and be prepared, but that we will fully embrace the moment and enjoy the dance!

Monday, June 6, 2011

One Bended Knee: Combating 'Mad Dash' Syndrome

“Tomorrow I plan to work, work, from early until late.  In fact I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.”
                                    ~Martin Luther

It’s Monday morning and I am cutting it close again.  Grabbing my purse off the counter, I dump some Honey Bunches of Oats into a coffee mug and pour chocolate soy milk on top, then snatch a spoon from the drying rack and run out the door.  As I drive down Imperial Highway, I pause at each stoplight to munch on my cereal, while trying to precariously balance a bouquet of sunflowers on my lap.  I glance longingly at the picture of a latte on the Starbucks sign as I pass, then suddenly slam on my breaks as the light turns yellow.  Startled, I cautiously drive the last couple of blocks, and pull into the parking lot of my office building.  Turning off the engine I glance at the dashboard – 7:52 A.M.  ‘Late again,’ I sigh to myself.  I pull out my Book of Common Prayer and flip to the Psalms, pausing five minutes to read a couple before jumping out of the car and charging off to the time clock to swipe my badge by 8:00. 

Even with all that is going on I always seem to pull it together and make it to work on time, which is essential, but my goal is always to arrive in the parking lot around 7:40, so that I will have 20 minutes for prayer before I start work.  Unfortunately, this chaotic scene of my juggling act and mad dash to the office has been happening too frequently of late.  I could blame it on too little sleep, quite a bit of stress, so very much change… Yet why is it so easy for me to be disciplined in my punctuality to work, but then to struggle so much with finding time to pray?  Why is it that in the times when I need more prayer, I seem to make less time for it?

In church yesterday, Fr. Scarlett reminded us that one of the ways we display our faith in Jesus is through consistent prayer.  I am generally good at prioritizing in order to accomplish my goals, but I am afraid that becoming a consistent and habitual prayer warrior has not been on the top of my list.  As I continue to reflect on the importance of prayer, I am realizing that although it seems logical that I will have less time for everything else if I set aside time to pray, I am finding that the opposite is in fact true.  Prayer realigns my focus on what really matters.  It deepens my trust in God to provide for all my needs, and lifts my spirits.  Just a few minutes in prayer can radically reshape the course of a day, a week, and ultimately a life.

Rather than a vague “I want to make prayer a priority this week”, I need to literally carve out time for prayer.  Like everything else that I want to get done, at least for now, I need to put it on the calendar.  I need to whisper my prayers for strength throughout the day, taking every thought captive, and then set aside some extended time to spend with Him.  I have heard it said that it is impossible to have a relationship with someone if you never spend time with them. I certainly know this to be true, so instead of thinking about it as “making prayer a priority”, I need to think about it as “making God a priority”.  Now that certainly sounds essential!

Reflection:  How do you make God, specifically through time in prayer, a priority in your life?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

On Bended Knee: Unshaken

“I spit out the blood and dust that coats my mouth, but I can’t spit out the fear.  Buried beneath six stories of rubble, the remains of what was once the Hotel Montana, I’m hanging on to the realization that I live through an earthquake.  I survived!  But, I also know that if I want to make it out of this black tomb alive, if I ever hope to see my family again, it will take a miracle – a series of miracles.

Miracles I’m not sure I  have the faith to believe in.”

                ~Dan Woolley’s Unshaken

I recently finished a book entitled Unshaken by Dan Woolley, a Compassion International photo-journalist, who was buried under the Hotel Montana during the Haitian earthquake in Port-au-Prince last January.  He writes about his fight for survival in an elevator shaft, but what I found most compelling, was his crisis of belief, his struggle to maintain his faith in the goodness of God while in the very depths.  His instincts and memory of a survival tv show provided the material needed to keep himself alive, but it was the battle for hope, the war to control his thoughts and to turn to the Lord in his pain and anxiety.

In crafting his book, Dan parallels his earthquake experience with a recounting of his wife’s struggle with depression, and I found that the two stories interweave beautifully to display the saving power of God and His divine intervention in both situations.  The Woolley’s have seen the Lord’s faithfulness through the most difficult challenges and the darkest times of his life.  Dan and his wife Christy have experienced a renewed passion for Christ and for one another, and it has radically reshaped their lives, and they want to share their story

I found that the book was able to capture my imagination, and my emotions for that matter.  Every time I put it down I kept wondering how he would ever be rescued and how his wife could emerge from such emotional despair.  I simply could not imagine the ceiling caving in on me and being trapped for 2 ½ days with little hope of rescue, nor could I imagine receiving news of my love being missing after a massive disaster, not knowing whether he was dead or alive.

In the depths of their despair Dan and Christy called out to the Lord, sharing their feelings and not seeking to deny or hide their sorrow, pain, or anger.  They turned to the Lord in their hurt and He spoke to them.  Too often we turn away from God when painful circumstances take us by surprise.  Too often we blame God, but are unwilling to listen to His response.  Too often we strive to do all that we can to remedy the situation on our own before approaching our Almighty Father.  In short, too often we fail to pray.

Whether facing our greatest difficulties or the challenges of daily life, the Lord encourages us to pray, to come to Him as we are and to seek His forgiveness, His comfort, and His love.  Why do we so often neglect our Maker, the Source of our very being and the Giver of life, thinking that we just don’t have time or that we can handle it on our own?  Why are we overwhelmed with stress and the pressures of this life?  Why do we live as people with no hope?  Instead, as the author of Hebrews urges: “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace in time of need.”

Yes, let us be people of faith amidst the darkness – let us be people of prayer.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Two Months and Counting...

Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.  And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.  And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb.
                                                ~Revelation 19:7-9

Wedding planning is insane.  That is pretty much the long and the short of it.  Do not believe anyone if they tell you that it was a breeze.  Every wife with whom I have chatted of late has deeply resonated with this sentiment.  It is such a challenge since Clint and I so very much want our wedding to be a special day, yet we do not want to be in debt for life because of it.  Furthermore, I have never been pressured to be so opinionated in my life!  From the type of cuff links on the tuxedos to the colors of the napkins, a decision must be made, and my preference or whim soon becomes reality.  I must admit that it is empowering in a way, but also rather exhausting!

This journey to the altar is certainly proving to be a test of our faith, hope, and love both in God and in each other.  It is so easy to stress and panic when plans are not progressing as desired, or when you discover a typo on the freshly printed invitations, not that I did that or anything...  It is easy to doubt that God will provide when seeking to create a budget and wondering how to have hope for a future with mounting expenses.  It is easy to question the depth of our love and to wonder if this “being in love” is all just a fantasy anyway.

Getting married is serious business.  Las Vegas may advertize drive-thru weddings, but planning the details of the wedding is simply the tip of the preparations iceberg.  Not only are you seeking to create the biggest and most beautiful event of your life, and house hunting for the first time, and seeking to combine two similar, but very different people, but you are preparing physically, spiritually, emotionally, financially, and in every other conceivable way for a lifelong marriage – 2 becoming 1 flesh.  Talk about a dramatic transformation!

As Clint keeps reminding me, planning for our big day should not be a stressful burden.  Instead, our wedding is meant to be a joyous celebration with friends and family of our love and of our gracious Lord.  With each check mark on the task list, I am slowly learning to trust God, that He is good and that He will provide for Clint and me.  New jobs have come when least expected, friends have volunteered to help in their areas of talent, and we found our perfect little studio.  Throughout all of it, more than anyone, Clint has consistently encouraged me and redirected me from fear and worry to trust and faith.  When the outlook is the bleakest and we have just received disheartening news, he is quick to rebuke my lack of faith, to pray for us, and to gently lead me to our Shepherd. 

July 16th is now less than two months away…We truly hope that our wedding will be a beautiful celebration for all in attendance, filled with special moments and precious memories for years to come, because at the end of the day, the wedding is really about the beginning of the marriage—a glorious glimpse of Christ’s love for the Church and the joyous delight at the Wedding Feast of the Lamb!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Justice for all

"In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence."  ~ Bill of Rights, Amendment VI

"Civic duty."  I have heard the term all my life from my elementary Girl Scouts leader to US Government class in high school.  Growing up on military bases, I have always thought myself patriotic in seeking to serve my community and my country.  The United States of America is a great country after all – "land of the free and home of the brave".  At no other time have I felt the burden of citizenship, however, as acutely as this year, because this past month I have had the privilege, and grave responsibility, to serve as foreman on a murder trial. 

Being an LA County resident, I was summoned to report to the Compton Courthouse on April Fool’s Day.  Ironic, isn’t it?  From there, I sat through four days of grueling, and honestly rather boring, jury selection.  I practically read the entire Divine Comedy in a week during my long waiting periods!   Along the way I learned the stories of my fellow jurors and watched the list of 70 potentials whittled down to 12.  At the end of the week I was sitting in seat # 3 and sworn in as a juror.

Because of Easter, we had a two week break between voir dire (jury selection) and the trial, during which I was instructed to not share any of the details of the case with anyone.  This was especially hard with my family and my fiancĂ©, but legal orders and a sworn oath mandated my silence.  I'm glad that I am free to tell them everything now.  Additionally, knowing that I would return to hear a murder case the day after Easter led to an interesting Easter experience during the afternoon Good Friday service at church, reflecting on the excruciating capital punishment of an innocent man and the release of a murderer in his place.

Easter Monday I reported, as so ordered, to the Compton Courthouse and began hearing the People’s case.  “Innocent until proven guilty”, “burden of proof,” and “reasonable doubt” were phrases that had new meaning when theoretical political philosophy was brought to the streets of Compton.  Over the course of the week, we heard the witnesses’ testimony and viewed the physical evidence.  After the People and the Defense rested, we were led in silence to the jury room to begin deliberations.

I had no idea what to expect of the deliberations.  My goal was to have the discussion organized, civil, efficient, and time-effective.  By this time I was using my vacation time, and did not want our deliberations to stretch on for days unnecessarily or for heated arguments to erupt.  Also, I recognized that a consensus was mandatory to reaching a verdict.  Thus, I volunteered to be the foreman, facilitating the discussion and acting as the liaison between the jury and the court in cooperation with our friendly bailiff (I say that ironically, as I don’t believe he ever so much as smirked, much less smiled).

I was delightfully surprised to find all my jury members quite cordial and open to discussion.  Apparently we had all followed the judge’s orders “to not make up your mind about the case until you have deliberated with your fellow jurors”.  The evidence clearly supported a conviction and after a careful review of the facts of the case and the testimonies given, we had all reached an “abiding conviction” of the defendant’s guilt of murder in the first degree.  Unfortunately, the defendant was a young man, just 19 years old, as was the victim whom he shot at point blank range in the right temple.  It is tragic to see the lives of two young men wasted (both the victim and the defendant) ultimately due to the destructive nature of sin.

This experience certainly gave me confidence in the effectiveness or our system, if not its efficiency.  It is quite difficult to convict an individual of a crime, and the evidence must leave no room for reasonable doubt (quite a steep requirement).  If I was ever charged with a crime, however, I would want a jury like the one on which I served, using their common sense and fairness to evaluate the evidence and to come to a conclusion of the facts of the case.  I pray that I need not serve again on such a case, but I would willing do so in order to ensure justice for all, and I encourage each of you to embrace the opportunity if you too are summoned.

May the Lord have mercy upon us and grant us peace.

On a similar note, I joyfully received the news of Osama Bin Laden’s death, and rejoice that he received the justice due for his crimes. 

“We beseech thee also, so to direct and dispose the hearts of all Christian Rulers, that they may truly and impartially administer justice, to the punishment of wickedness and vice, and to the maintenance of thy true religion, and virtue.  Amen.”  ~Book of Common Prayer

Thursday, April 7, 2011


“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”
Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

I have been thinking about names quite a bit of late.  You see, on July 16th I will ever after be called “Victoria Perry”.  Perhaps it sounds a bit dramatic, but I have been “Victoria Wade” my entire life.  I always liked the sound of my name, and the way the “W” flowed from my pen when signing an official document.  I thought it sounded so regal, and I could not imagine wanting to change it.  I am the historian in the family, after all, and was always interested in our genealogy.  By taking another’s name, I am in effect abandoning my heritage.  For anyone, but my dear Clint, I could not imagine doing so.

Well, I am a researcher, so I naturally desired to see what I could find in the wonderful world of the internet.  Google “Perry” and you will find all sorts of ponderings on its origin and meaning.  Here is a sampling:
Welsh shortening of “ap Herry” or “son of Harry or Henry”.
Middle English “perrie” denoting a dweller by the pear-tree.
Norman French “perrieur” referring to a quarryman.
Latin from the word “peregrine” meaning “wanderer/ traveler” or “foreigner/ stranger”.

Now I think the Welsh hypothesis seems the most likely, as it would fall into line with the “Anderson”, “Swanson”, and “Johnson” pattern, although, I suppose there are a “Cook”, “Baker”, and “Weaver” among us today, if in name only.  However, I find the Latin proposition is perhaps the most intriguing.  What does it mean to be defined as a “wanderer or traveler”, a “foreigner or stranger”?  The first translation seems to imply movement, either haphazardly or in a particular direction.  The latter focuses more on the “otherness”.

I am reminded of Hebrews 11:13-16:
“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth…But now they desire a better country, that is an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.”

Much of life seems to be composed of wandering.  There is so much uncertainty in our future, so much to look forward to its fruition, but this leads to some concern and fear in the short-term.  Suffice it to say that waiting is never easy.  Unfortunately, this unknown does not appear to have an end after the wedding.  Instead, I am coming to learn that waiting and the unknown are a part of life.  I always seem to be waiting for something or other--waiting for the right guy to come along, waiting for my car to be fixed, waiting for the debt to be paid off, waiting for…Once I reach resolution on one front, I discover uncertainty encroaching from the rear.  Nevertheless, I am seeking to find rest and contentment amidst the grey, to find joy each day in the journey. 

What a tragedy it would be to jump in the car to travel across the country to move to the East Coast, for example, and fail to recognize the beautiful landscape, blindly pressing forward, complaining about the distance still to go, and simply praying that the car will not breakdown along the way!  What a waste!  Instead, I seek to notice the little beauties around me, from the lovely arranging of strawberry slices on my salad to the sweet good night text from my fiancĂ©.

It is my hope to capture some of that beauty in this humble blog, to contemplate the truth, and to seek to do good.  Will you join me on the journey? 

Reflection - In what way, large or small, have you observed beauty in your life recently?