December 30, 2007

Guest Blogger: Naomi

Born, raised, and now living again in North Dakota, I am definitely a country girl at heart. But I've got to admit...when I got into town on Friday night and rode with Simple Guy and Girl in the city, a part of my heart felt right at home.

That "home" feeling certainly has something to do with the fact that I have been here countless times over the years to visit my very dear friends. When Simple Guy first moved down here, Simple Girl and I would road-trip almost every month or so to come and visit him. And since my two dear friends conveniently started sharing a home and a last name (what a great wedding!!), I've made a point to spend at least a week with them every year. Needless to say, the city has become more than familiar...a second home almost...and when I'm here, I realize how much I really have missed it.

And although it certainly plays a significant part, I think there's more to that "home" feeling than just being familiar with the shops, streets, and the buildings in this city.

What really makes me feel right at home here is the company of friends who have become family. Friends with whom I share a deep and rich history. Friends with whom I can sit, year after year, reminiscing about the past and dreaming about the future. Friends who know me well and love me still. Friends who challenge me and encourage me. Friends who speak the truth in love. Friends with whom I strive to follow and serve Jesus Christ. My very dear friends, Simple Guy and Girl.

You both make this city "home" for me. I love it. And you.

December 27, 2007

A Practical Christmas

You know you are getting older when all you want for Christmas are practical things. Simple Guy and I were thrilled with our gifts this year….they were very practical! Between the two of us, here is what we received:

· 2 beautiful chartreuse green leather boxes to go with the others I have at home for storing my cards to sell

· Bulgari Aqua cologne….wow, this smells amazing!

· A great-looking black wool waist coat that is a throw-back to the 50’s and a nod to Jackie O’s great sense of fashion

· 2 pairs of crafting scissors to use when cutting delicate ribbon for my cards (Simple Guy is very excited about these because that means I will no longer use our Wusthof kitchen scissors) and 4 rolls of my special crafting tape

· Aveda products: Beautifying Oil- a lovely oil to be used anywhere on the body that is great for dry elbows and other rough patches of skin; Tourmaline Eye Cream- a miracle worker; and a Shampure-scented candle

· A handmade tea set

· A lovely multi-functional “satellite” bowl from MoMA

· A Dolly Parton CD for Simple Guy and a Shane and Shane CD for me- both have already been opened and listened to

· Candles from Restoration Hardware- these burn so well, nice and even

· A fancy brown headband

· A handsome Bosca leather wallet engraved with Simple Guy’s initials

Thanks to everyone for the great (and practical) gifts!

December 21, 2007

Merry Christmas

This really is the most wonderful time of the year. The lights, the food, the festivities, the music……it all comes together one time each year and makes for the most magical existence for all of us.

I love Christmas more than any other holiday. As a child, I loved it for the obvious reason of getting presents. But now that I am older and know the true meaning of Christmas, I love it for the only reason I know will last all the remaining years of my life: it’s the time to celebrate the birth of The One whose death ransomed the lives of us all.

Merry Christmas to you!

December 18, 2007

Fully Alive

The other morning I ran errand and did something I have not done in a long time- put in a favorite CD and drove down 94 with the music as loud as I could take it, taking in each lyric and feeling like each song was written for me. One of the songs that came on has a line in it that I just love: “The glory of God is man fully alive.”

Think about that. God is glorified when we are fully alive. Alive in the sense that we are not burdened with the troubles of this world- big and small; we are not living in guilt or staying angry; we are not enslaved to lies, food, work, etc. But alive in that we are free of anger and extend forgiveness; free of guilt and ask for forgiveness; free of the pursuit of things like fast cars, big houses, and designer clothes to make us happy; free of only thinking of ourselves, but rather seeking to serve others; free of wanting, but rather being content with what we have.

I am glad to be alive. I am thankful that I just now got to take a breath…oh, and there’s another one! I do take my days for granted, but today I am so aware of what a gift it is to be alive.

December 16, 2007

Simple Guy: Part II

I get a kick out of Simple Guy. Our life together is scarcely dull, but rather filled with impromptu singing and dancing, lists of things to do, and shared mochas from Caribou and lattes from Starbucks. I feel so blessed that our journey started out on a long and winding path of being friends for over 7 years before we began to date. I believe that it is our strong foundation of friendship that keeps us having so much fun and enjoying each other’s company.

Sometimes, in the quiet of my heart, I thank God for the chance just to know Simple Guy; to know this man of honor and integrity; this man of virtues; this man of abundant joy; this man of compassion and tenderness; this man of God. Just to know him is a blessing, so you can imagine how it must feel to be married to him!

Honey, the world is a better place because you are in it. My life is better because you are in it. My cup overfloweth.

December 15, 2007

Our Favorite Place to Be

Tonight Simple Guy and I are tucked away in our little den in the sky (we live on the 10th floor) overlooking the white-washed city and knowingly nodding to each other that we are glad to be safe and warm inside. Simple Guy is working and I am making candy (toffee and peppermint bark). I love these nights- when we are home together and doing our thing in the glow of our Christmas tree and a few carefully selected lamps. I am all about the lighting.

The den is our favorite room in our place; it has the best view and the coziest feel than any other room in #10H. I have many memories sitting in this den of ours……laughing with friends and family on the phone; hearing for the first time that a shop owner loved my cards and wanted to sell them in their store; listening to Simple Guy sing his way through working a long night; checking in on friends and family who have stayed a night or two (or seven or eight if you are Naomi!) because this is also our guest room; and sweet times with God when I am alone.

Our home is a haven and our den is our landing pad. It’s where Simple Guy and I do life together. One day we will move from this place and I am already wishing we could pack up the den along with our dishes and paintings. I have already decided that our next den will be painted the same color as this den- Sherwin Williams Tanbark; it’s the only way we can take our favorite place with us no matter where we go next.

December 12, 2007

Looking in the Mirror

When you look in the mirror do you like what you see? I don’t mean your physical appearance, because we all wish at one time or another that our hair was straighter or longer; our eyes were a different color; our nose was smaller; or our you-know-what was even smaller than our nose! No, I mean do you like who you are as a person? Do you like what you are putting out for others to see and be at the receiving end of?

I am not always happy with what I see. I can be judgmental. I can run out of patience. I can be rude. I know we all struggle with these and other things, but I can only take responsibility for myself and my actions.

The other day I was finishing up our Christmas shopping and as I got into what was one of the longest lines I have seen in a long time, a woman brazenly cut in front of me. Now logic told me that my wait in line was not going to be lengthened a significant amount of time because she was only one person, but logic takes a back seat in moments of being wronged! While I was polite in that I did not rebuke her for her wrong-doing, I was completely rude with the dagger eyes I tried to pierce into the back of her head the whole time I stood behind her. Yes, she was wrong to cut in line, but I was just as wrong to glare at her.

In the end, my dagger eyes did not remedy my aggravation or cause this woman to kindly apologize and allow me to get back in my rightful place in line. No, instead it just fueled in me a need to tell her off and make her feel bad. But what good would that do? Is that what this world needs more of- others putting people in their place and making them feel bad?

My name, Justine, means “full of justice” and I have found that this is the most appropriate definition for me. I have really grown into its meaning over the years. I have a strong sense of justice; of wanting to right wrongs; of wanting people to experience the consequences of their actions, especially when their actions have caused harm to another. But, and this is not all too surprising, being “full of justice” can take a negative turn when it becomes vengeful and allows no room for mercy and grace. I have to find the balance in being "full of justice.”

Two years ago I met that challenge the hardest I can remember through a person I worked with and the wrongs I saw they were afflicting on others. I primarily stayed in the mindset of “bring this person to justice and make them pay for what they have done,” but it wasn’t until a year later that I realized that I was wrong in my thinking. In my pursuit of wanting to bring this person to justice I left no room for mercy and grace for them; I left no room to love this person.

I have had to learn to love mercy, grace, and forgiveness more than I love the pursuit of justice. I still desire justice when wrongs- big and small- have been done, but I am learning how to align my need for justice with God’s wisdom and command that we love one another just as we love ourselves. It’s hard- I’m not going to lie- but I am liking more what I see in the mirror when I do things His way.

December 11, 2007

"Politician's" Wife?

Apparently I am now a "politician's" wife. Last night, as I was making my way through our lobby after the election, I received several congratulations from people I didn't even know. And, best of all, I got a few knowing nods from Board members past and present- the nod of "say goodbye to your husband because he's all ours for the next two years!" One of the current Board members said to me "Guess you won't be seeing much of him now." I said, quite frankly, "Not if I have anything to say about it" and gave him my sweetest smile.

And tonight, as the lady who receives packages for us in the mail room opened the mailroom door to hand me my package, she said "Congratulations.....he is on the Board!" and she gave me a wink. I, surprised she stayed up to speed on these things, could only think to say "Thanks......I think."

Upon entering our building, I saw not one, not two, but three flyers announcing Simple Guy's and the other two new Board members appointment to the Board. Now everyone knows that the guy who lives in 10H is on the Board. Here's to coming home and finding slips of paper under our door with pepople's laundry list of things they want done around here and I can forget about quiet elevator rides when people see who they're riding with!

December 10, 2007

We Have a Winner!

Tonight Simple Guy was elected on to the Board of Directors of our building! He made a run for it last year but did not get enough votes, but tonight he was the star of the evening with everyone in our tier (there are three tiers that make up our entire Association, our tier has the largest number of residences than the other two tiers combined) giving him their support and well wishes.

In order to fully appreciate the importance of the Board of Directors at our building you have to live here. This building is as political as Washington D.C. and those that serve on the Board and the decisions that they make are either loved or not so loved by their constituents and fellow tenants. Most often, the Board ends up being comprised of mostly residents from the other two tiers simply because their votes have more weight than ours and people typically like to vote for people in their own tiers. The reason theirs votes have more weight is simple: the bigger your unit, the higher percent of ownership you have in the building and votes percentages are based on unit sizes.

And tonight we were facing the possibility of having all of the Directors be only from the other two tiers if Simple Guy would not have secured his spot on the Board. There is no doubt that Simple Guy will do a fine job on the Board; he will be a fair voice of reason and financial responsibility (the Board manages a budget over $1 million!) and he has the advantage of being liked by both sides of the aisle (we do not have Democrats or Republicans here, but rather those that are for capital improvements and those that are opposed to them).

Life in this building is very different than life in our apartment that we lived in before we bought this place. There are expectations of buildings where we live that other buildings do not have to worry about and when you live on this stretch of property there are even expectations of you. We never sought out to live here- it just happened that way and while we both feel very fortunate to be here (you know real estate- location, location, location!), we do not take it too seriously that we are here.

At the end of the day, it’s not a big deal- the whole Board thing and all- but we are trying to be the best stewards of our money and investments (and this place is our largest investment) and it seems wise to have a voice in how things are being run around here.

Congratulations Simple Guy! Or should I now be addressing you as Mr. Board Member?

December 6, 2007

My Mom

The other day Jason and I got in the elevator in our building and upon seeing myself in the mirror, I declared, “I look my mom today.” Jason, without missing a beat, simply said “You look your mom every day!” Sometimes I see it, but most of the time I do not, but where facial resemblances may stop short, there are a few things that I have most definitely inherited from my mom:

Insatiable need to rearrange things
Overall low tolerance for learning anything about technology
Using household items for purposes not originally intended
Absolutely despising fluorescent lighting…..well actually , overhead lighting in general
Baking because I am bored
Loud noises putting me on edge

I’d say that most, if not all, of my neuroticism is from my mom. The apple does not fall far from the tree, especially in my case.

I was born to my mom nearly 30 years ago and I once joked with her, “You had me at hello.” From what I can gather, I was attached to my mom since infancy and would scarcely let anyone hold me but her. My parents divorced when I was 3 and I lived with my mom, so she became THE parent in my life. My mom was my world and as long as she was around, I felt safe and happy.

I have thought about what life must have been like for her, raising two daughters on her own, and can only imagine the range of emotions she must have felt, especially in the quiet of night, when she had time to think. Surely, there must have been times when she was scared; upset; filled with anxiety; felt in adequate; and perhaps wondered how this all came to be. A mother’s life is truly a life of sacrifice. When I think of all the things my mom gave up just so we could have what we needed, and often what we wanted, I feel very grateful to her.

One of the coolest things my mom ever said to me (I can’t remember if it was in person or in a card) was that she liked me. Sure, she loved me, she is my mom after all, but she liked me- the person I am. You know what they say about family- you love them, but you may not always like them. But with friends, you spend time with them because you like them; you like who they are and what it feels like to be around them. So I thought that was a pretty great thing to hear from my mom.

I love my mom, of course, but I like her, too. I have enjoyed the transition we have made in our relationship and it has been neat to get to know her more as a woman, and not just my mom.

Mom, thanks for all the memories I will carry with me forever: making chocolate chip cookies just because; The Washcloth (sorry, this is a long one to explain to those of you who do not know what I am talking about); eating “pretty” dinners (all the colors on the plate); watching “Terms of Endearment” so many times we memorized the whole movie; decorating our Christmas tree while listening to the Beach Boys; rearranging furniture like it was a sport; and so much more.

But more than anything, thanks for loving me all these years. As a parent, the best thing you ever did for me was love me. As a woman, you have shown me the importance of friendships. As a person, you have shown me the importance of giving back to others.

Even now, after being out on my own for over 12 years and being married, I still hope I make you proud and give you a sense that you did well in raising me. I am really thankful that God gave you to me to be my mom.

December 2, 2007


Katherine and I met the first day I started at Trinity. She worked in the Student Development office and was the one to show me to my new office and get me situated. Just a few days after my first day at Trinity, we roomed together at a staff retreat. We totally hit it off.

Katherine is grace. I don’t think her name means grace, but it should. Imagine a beautiful, tall willow tree whose branches gently sway in the breeze and whisper in the wind. This is Katherine.

Because she and I worked in Student Development, we shared in the experience of working with students, especially women, and mentoring/counseling them. When I was at Northwestern, I admired so much some of the women on the SD staff and longed to be like them. I’m not certain that any of the students I worked with at Trinity felt the same way about me, but I know how important it was to me to have women to look up to during those formative years.

I can only pray that if I have a daughter some day and she goes to college, she will have someone like Katherine to be a model for her of what it means to love and serve the Lord, and love and serve others. As her mother, I’ll do my best to show her these things, but in case she was not paying attention when she lived with me, then surely I will rest better knowing that she is learning from someone who is as wonderful as Katherine.

Katherine and her husband Geoff have become good friends to Simple Guy and me. We vacationed in Door County together this summer. We have shared a good number of dinners together over the past four years and played a few games after some of those dinners. Most recently, we shared in the grief of the passing of Geoff’s mother. While we can never know or feel the depth of the loss that Geoff and Katherine and their family are experiencing, our hearts ache for their loss. It’s difficult to see others hurt and know there is nothing you can do to ease that pain.

We are grateful for their friendship and look forward to more dinners, games, and perhaps another vacation together.

December 1, 2007

I Used to Be a Worrier

My mom likes to remind me that I used to worry about everything: learning how to write cursive; thinking that a headache could be a brain tumor; learning how to drive; marrying someone who wants kids because I was terrified of childbirth (I still am feeling anxious about that one because I have married someone who wants children….and no, this is not an announcement!)

I went through a horrible phase of worrying about my mom dying when I was younger. If she was not home at the time she said she would be, I had her dead and would sit staring out the windows crying for her. Once, I went so far as to call a hospital and the police wondering if she was in an accident. Luckily for the both of us, I moved out of that phase; although I still get a little scared about something happening to her despite her constant declarations of “Don’t worry, I won’t hurt anyone” when I warn her to be careful before one of her trips. Mom, you will be happy to know that Jason now says this, too!

My worrying was still pretty bad in college, although the subject matter shifted from cursive writing to what should I do with my life; where should I live; whom will I marry, etc. But, and not all at once, my worrying subsided when I began to understand more what worrying is. Worrying is a useless waste of time. To worry about things unseen or yet to come is a life-robber. To worry is to not trust God.

There is a passage in Matthew 6 that talks about the lilies of the field and the birds of the air- do these not have exactly what they need? Are they not completely cared and provided for? We as humans, as those that are created in the very image of God, are even more valuable then flowers and birds, so why would we not be provided for just as much? Why would He not concern Himself with what troubles us?

There is a difference between worrying and being aware of “obstacles,” as I like to call them. God has given us two very important tools to be able to navigate in and out of those obstacles. The first is a brain that can think through consequences, dangers, etc.- things that can come about from obstacles- and try to dissipate their impact. The second, and most important, is prayer. We have a direct line to the Father to cast our cares upon Him (as He instructs us to do in 1 Peter 5:7) and leave them there.

I am not saying I do not worry anymore, because I do. But when I find myself worrying I try to quickly give that up to the Lord because my worrying is based on things unseen or yet to come; things only the Lord can know. I need to be about the business of the Lord’s- to concern myself with why I am really here; why I have breath; why I am in the lives of the people I know and love.

We are only given so many days on earth and I want to make them count. No one will ever remember or be eternally impacted if I worry about this, that, or the other.