Thursday, April 29, 2010

from IL to AZ and back

Back to the real world.

I just returned from an amazing week-long vacation in Arizona. And by amazing, I mean... amazing.

I am blessed with a very generous and kind aunt & uncle who have a guest house and family center attached to their home in Paradise Valley. Their home is built into a mountain. Literally, you can climb their backyard to the top and see the city below.

This past week, 4 of my other great friends joined me to stay there and relax in the sun, enjoy the pool and jacuzzi, and go out on the town. Some highlights & memories of the week:

-Flying into Phoenix on Wednesday afternoon around 10:30 am, just in time to... lay out in the clouds. It was overcast, so we spent the rest of the day grocery shopping, which took place at 3 locations: Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, and Alberston's.

-Waking up to a frigid and cloudy day on Thursday. We decided to spend the day in Sedona at Tlaquepaque, and ate lunch there.

-Deciding to drive from there to the Grand Canyon, which we thought was in Flagstaff.

-Taking a detour to stop by Oak Creek Canyon to see my family's cabin there, on the way to Flagstaff.

-Driving through the switchback mountains, and into a snow storm once in Flagstaff.

-Finding out, while in Flagstaff, that the Grand Canyon was still an hour and a half away.

-Forgoing the scenic site (which most of us had already seen, anyway) and going shopping at an outlet mall instead.

-Going to Jester'z, a family-friendly comedy club with people who specialize in improv. It was hilarious! We quickly made our presence as the girls from "Illi-NOISSSSE."

-Visiting Starbucks at least 8 times.

-Eating at amazing places (2 meals which were free!) at PF Chang's, Ruth's Chris, In N Out, 25 Degrees, & Marcella's.

-We enjoyed 3 different yogurt places, all with the same general theme: You grab a cup, put as much (or as little, but in my case, AS MUCH) yogurt as you want in whichever flavor you choose. You can combine flavors, choose just one, or mix them. Then, you head over to a long stretch of toppings which include but aren't limited to fresh fruit, candy pieces, and syrups. A make-your-own ice cream delight: you pay for what you pick, based on weight.

-Laying by the negative-edge pool with beautiful scenery, pure blue-sky days, and good company.

-Spending some cool nights in the jacuzzi's hot bubbles.

-Climbing Camel Back Mountain with Holly, Tracy, and my cousin, Stefanie. It's quite a climb... a little challenging, but very fun, and definitely worth it!

-Eating at Cibo's, an amazing pizza place at a charming place in downtown Phoenix with the Knochels (Bethany, Tyler, and Andy), and a couple others, including Carissa K. Topping it off at Lux, a lovely coffee place tucked away in a vintage-y building with a lot of mac-users and delightful iced coffee.

-Our visit to Sprinkles. They have numerous cupcakes- you pick your flavor and they give it to you in a lovely little bag. They even had a gluten-free cupcake for Heather with a big "G" on it. I tried the peanut-butter chocolate cupcake- it was very tasty.

-Assigning oxymoron names to everyone on the trip:

-Seeing almost all of my AZ family & friends while on the trip. I love them all, and I love that place!

Below are some pictures so you can have a visual taste of our trip. Love you all, be back soon. T

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

You Need a Gardener!

In 4 hours, I will be waking up. I hope to go to sleep within the next hour or so-- the lack of sleep will be compensated for when I arrive in Arizona tomorrow morning around 10:30 am.

I am heading out with 4 of my awesome friends, and we will be staying with my aunt and uncle for a week. Hooray! Arizona is beautiful this time of year... nice weather, and blooming splashes of color.

Last night, Kristi and I worked in our little garden at the back of our office. Up until then, it was full of dead rubbish and garbage. We cleared away sackfuls of leaves and sticks, and dug up weeds. Underneath all of the lifeless filth, we uncovered dark, rich dirt and vibrant greenery. There were also little bricks that formed what I thought was a little pathway in and out of the garden, but was more of a pattern. It was a hidden treasure.

We only finished one side of the garden. Each side is separated by our long side walk that leads up to our back door. As you look from side to side, it's clear which area has been worked upon. One side is still full of garbage, and dead, useless items. If left alone, over time, it would only collect more trash and pile up, looking even worse. Every once in awhile, perhaps a green bush or little tree would poke it's way out of the litter, but the general idea in looking at that patch is to conclude it needs "a lot of work and tender, loving care."

Then, you look over to the other side. The dirt has been freshly ground; the green life that is there is easy to see and evident in its display, and there is no doubt that some work has been done to shape it up. There may be a few random weeds that were missed or may need attention, but overall, the picture is pleasant.

Analogy: The side that needs desperate help represents our life before Christ. The side that has been tended to is our life after we have accepted Christ. There's a huge difference between the two. One side may seem OK if you ignore all the trash that is on top of it, but at the end of the day, the space that will shine and that will reap the greatest benefit from the Sun is the garden that has been given a gardener.

I'll let you connect the dots on the rest of that; It's officially 12:02 and I need to head to bed. Just wanted to share my thoughts before I take off for the desert.

Love you all! I'll return soon with stories from the southwest, and perhaps even pictures.


Monday, April 12, 2010

Coffee & Sheep

Well, my posts lately have been long and heavy, so I decided to post something a little more fun and light-hearted.

So I have 10 nieces and nephews under age 10. I love them all. But there's no one quite like Beau. He's 3, and he's goofy.

Two of my favorite quotes from him:

"Coffee coffee coffee I WANT COFFEE!"

And the other one happened tonight. I was eating dinner with him and his siblings and he was looking at his cousin Sylvia, who is 7 months old.

"Oh, it is laughing," he said.

"Honey, the baby is a 'she," his mom pointed out, assigning the proper pronoun.

"A sheep. It's a SHEEP!" he said.

This kid is a lot of fun.

In other news, my knees are healing quite nicely. They are still a little tender to touch, but I am thankful for the quick recovery. Since my accident, I have purchased knee pads and a helmet. Hold back your laughter... I am simply trying to learn from my mistakes. And to be completely honest, I actually quite love my helmet. If anything, that's what is going to kill me is a head injury. So the helmet has to stay. I'm willing to work out an "as-needed" contract with my knee pads, but I consider the current time period as needing them. If by some unforeseen chance I would fall again and hit my knees, it would be a really bad thing.

So. These days, I bike in style. Heather even biked alongside me the other night (after making fun of me.)

I saw a movie last night I would highly recommend. My mom and I ordered a large bucket of popcorn and I'm not ashamed to say that we had the whole thing gone by the time we were 10 minutes into the movie. In fact, she went out and got a refill, and we ate about 1/3 of that.

I love popcorn.

Anyway, the movie-- it's called "Letters to God." It's a Christian film, and often times these religious films are poorly casted and a bit cheesy, but this one was overall very well put together. Not to mention an enormous tear-jerker. I cried through the whole thing. But it was SO good, awesome message, and I love it that movies like this with a worth wile story are making it to the big screen. It's based off of a true story. It's about a kid who has cancer who writes letters to God and puts them in the mail. The mail man gets them and doesn't know what to do with them. Anyway, I don't want to say too much more without spoiling it.

So I walked out of that theater looking like a disaster. Seriously. But I love crying through movies because then it means that it meant something. It told me a heartfelt story. It moved me emotionally. Any any film that can do that has done its job.

Well, I'm hungry. I had an idea about an hour ago to eat a bowl of Lucky Charms and so now I should go make it happen.

Love you all! And loving this weather!


Sunday, April 11, 2010

Going to Jail

I was sitting in church about a year ago, and one of our ministers talked about his experience at the jail that morning during his afternoon sermon. Every Sunday morning, one of our ministers will visit the jail and have church with the inmates there.

As I was listening, his story touched me. Something about hearing about these individuals who were incarcerated struck a chord in my heart. I'm not sure why; I have had little to no experience with those in jail or prison, nor have I ever been surrounded by those who would live a lifestyle that would put them there. So the fact that I was so intrigued didn't really make sense. But then, God's calling never usually does, does it?

I shared my thoughts with a close friend, and she expressed the same interest. We decided to research the jail ministry in our church further. I spoke to a woman at our church who I knew was involved with the women's jail ministry. She pointed me to another older brother in our church, who was very excited to hear of our interest and got the ball rolling for us.

Part of the process included a lot of paperwork and a background check. Once this was all finalized, I drove over to the facility to get a badge that would allow me to go into the jail as a volunteer. All of this went down over the course of about 3-4 months, and by this time, my friend who had also been interested had been accepted at Focus on the Family Institute in Colorado and had moved out there.

Part of me was a little apprehensive that I was now in this alone, but the other part of me was determined to stick it out and see what God had in store. So I did. I attended the jail with the lady I had initially talked to, just to get a taste. After that Fall, I would be put on the 2010 Jail Schedule for the year, which meant I would be the leader of the women's "church" on the Sunday mornings that I was scheduled.

My first time there was an experience. The way it works is this... upon arrival, we wait for everyone else from our church who is coming to be a part of that morning (a minister comes to do the mens' service, as well as a song leader and another support person). Also, an older couple from our church whom I have come to adore over the past several months, always come. They have both been involved in the ministry for years and really have a heart for it.

As people arrive, you sign in with the lady behind the glass window at the front. She is usually quite chipper and happy to see us. There is a little box that she puts a clipboard and sign-in sheet in, as well as "volunteer" necklace tags, and those get transferred over to us. After we sign in and put on our tag, we wait by the big, solid door on our right. It clicks, and then you can open it. You then step into a small vault area where there are little boxes with keys to put your cell phone in, if you brought it. You cannot advance into the next area without the door completely shutting behind you. In fact, the door will not open unless the other is closed.

Once you hear it click, you open that door to step into a long hallway with several doors and rooms. One of the rooms contains a bunch of Bibles and Christian literature that we stack up on before heading off to our separate areas.

You then walk down the hallway. The women that we see are in an area on that level, so we walk to this room, wait for the door to click, and open it. There is a big open area with security in the middle. All around you are glass windows with people who have been brought in overnight. There are sometimes people who just stare out the glass at you as you walk by. You have to pass through this area to get to the pod where our women are. You go through another door, and talk to the security at the desk in that room.

She will call for anyone interested in coming to "church." There is a multi-purpose room with a table and chairs in which we use. We enter through the door from the open area; the inmates enter from the door connected to the multi-purpose room.

Some Sundays, there is 1 interested in coming, and some days there are 6-8. It just depends. Usually, there are 2 groups that come, so there may be 1 in one group and 5 in another.

"Church" is comprised of having a prayer, reading a passage from the Bible, sharing thoughts and discussing it, and then closing with prayer requests and another prayer. I have found that on the mornings that I go to lead church, it really causes me to study the Bible in a different way than ever before. As I prepare a study for these ladies, I really have to search the Word; not just merely read it, but study it, know it, and be able to explain what it is saying. It is challenging and rewarding for me.

I love it. I really do. There have been some sad, sad stories. It has really been eye-opening for me and has allowed my perspective on life to get a little bit broader. I really have a heart for these women and have compassion for their circumstances. I realize that there are 2 sides to every story, and chances are, when you are behind bars, your story will always come out in favor of yourself. However, I have sympathy because there are so many who have made terrible choices due to the background they grew up in, the people they associated with, and the only lifestyle they knew. You do what you know. Not to make excuses for poor decision-making and foolish choices, but I have realized that just because I grew up in a loving Christian home with good morals instilled in my heart doesn't mean I wouldn't have made the same bad choices as some of these women had I been in a different situation.

The bottom line is that we are all sinners. It doesn't matter if you live in a Christian community with a Bible-believing church and a wonderful circle of friends or if you are behind bars; either way, you were born a sinner and have a choice to make.

I have seen heartache and loss. I have seen mothers cry because they are separated from their children. I have seen hearts that struggle to forgive, faces that are beat up and bruised, and women who are 6 months pregnant with nowhere to go. I have seen hurt caused by divorce, and women who have been thrown out on the road with only the shirt on their back.

When I am there, I feel like I am in a whole other world. I feel like I take the journey with these women as they tell their stories, sometimes in anger, sometimes in tears, and sometimes in remorse.

Today, I was scheduled to go to the jail. It was by far the most touching, eventful morning I have had. When I arrived, the waiting area was busy. There were quite a few people there. People will often wait there on Sunday mornings to bail out those who came in on Saturday evening. We all signed in, and as we were opening the door to go into the vault area, the older man from our church whom I respect a lot and who has his heart 100% in this ministry turned to me.

"There is a young lady over there who is crying," he told me, motioning over to one of the chairs. "I tried talking to her but I just can't connect. Would you want to try talking to her?"

I looked over. Sure enough, there was a young girl who was in tears.

"Right now?"

"It's up to you," he said.

I turned and walked over to where she sat and took a seat next to her.

"What's the matter?" I asked.

I felt like anything I would say or ask was trite at this point, but I didn't know what else to do.

From that question, I received a jumbled stream of emotion and tears as this girl explained a fragmented version of what was going on. I looked at her; She had a tattoo on her right arm, and fuzzy pink slippers on her feet. She smelled like alcohol, and it was 9:3o in the morning. From the looks of it, she had been crying and was pretty upset.

The first time around, I didn't really understand what exactly was going on. I eventually gathered that her boyfriend, who had just returned from Iraq last month, was brought in last night. Most likely, he had gotten in the middle of a fight with his stepmom, who was a piece of work, and had taken the blame for whatever public disturbance had occurred.

"It's not fair!" the girl said. "I just don't understand why this happened. How could this happen? He has done nothing. He never gets angry, why is he here? They should take me, they should just take me," she said.

She kept cursing, and as she talked, she became angrier and angrier.

"Seriously, I am so angry right now, I am so close to punching that wall right in front of me," she threatened.

The lady behind her then turned. It was at this point that I realized she was with her.

"I know you are angry right now, but you need to try to stay calm. If you get upset and do anything, you will just end up where he is," she pointed out.

"I know, I know," she said.

During all of this, I knew I needed the Spirit's help. What do you say to a girl like this, with this situation? It's hard enough to comfort someone in a situation you yourself have been through. But this?

Somehow, I was able to offer words of comfort and agreed with the lady with her, telling her that she was wise to stay calm, even though it was hard, and even when emotions are high and anger is so potent, to remember that everything happens for a reason.

"It doesn't seem fair that he's in there," I said, "But you'll soon know why, and even if it wasn't his fault, maybe it happened this way for a reason," I said. "If he isn't the type to get upset or angry, then perhaps he is the one who will handle the situation best."

"I'm so sorry," the girl kept apologizing, "I know I'm just being a baby. I'm just crying like a baby. I'm sorry."

I looked at this girl, who was so torn up and a little uninhibited. Behind all of her turmoil and her "rough and tough" facade, she was a beautiful person. For a moment, I imagined what this girl could do as someone who turned her life around to Christ. How influential this fiery, passionate girl could be.

I told her that I had to go conduct church for the women.

"Before I leave, would you like me to pray with you?"

At this, a split-second transformation took place in her and her eyes lit up as if that was the best idea she had heard all week. And perhaps it was.

"I would love that," she said, and grabbed a hold of my hand.

As I prayed, she had a death grip on my hand and I could tell that she took in every word that I said. It was such a Spirit-filled experience.

Afterwards, she gave me a huge hug and kissed my cheek.

"Thank you SO much," she said.

"You are welcome. I hope everything works out for you," I told her.

"No, I hope everything works out for you. God bless you for talking to me," she said.

With that, I received another huge hug.

"I'll be praying for you," I told her.

I then headed back to do church with some other women. I walked in on another emotional experience. Three women were there waiting with the other older woman (from the couple) that I am with on Sunday mornings.

I sat and listened to a story of how one of these women was beaten, tried to drink away her sorrows, and ended up in jail. She has 3 kids who she have never been apart from for more than 4 days, and she has no idea where they are. She sobbed to us.

At times like those, it is hard to offer comfort because I feel so unseasoned. Yet, that is all I can do. And with the Spirit's help, I can do it. Often, all these women want and need is someone to listen and to care, and to take the time to be there, if only for 20 minutes. I think after every single church service I have been at, every woman will look me in the eye and thank me sincerely for my time. The security guards and staff at the jail are not trained to be warm and fuzzy. They are trained to protect themselves and the other inmates from each other. And most of the individuals who arrive at jail aren't ending up there because they were nice. So these women are daily surrounded by people who don't care, and it's a rare treasure to find someone who does.

If anything, though, these women are teaching me more than they know. I am privileged to have 20 minutes of their time. Some of them are Christians who have veered off the path; others have heard of God and believe in Him and the Bible but have not made a commitment; and some are completely lost. Whatever the case, they are all souls, just like me. And there is something about the brokenhearted and vulnerable that just squeezes my heart and makes me want to be there.

After all, had I grown up in a different environment than I did, I could be sitting there, too.

Love you all...


Tuesday, April 06, 2010

My Crash

There is a reason why I am not into extreme sports. Or sports in general. I would much rather be behind the lens of a camera while visiting the soccer field, volleyball court, or swimming pool. We enjoy our hobbies, right? Well, sports are not on my list.

I do love to exercise. Although anymore, walking seems to be about the safest option for me. I used to roller blade ALL of the time. Loved it. I went almost every single summer evening with a good friend, and we had a nice little route we would complete while chatting away. Well, when you do something often enough, while you should improve over time, it always opens up more margin for making a mistake. I can recount 2 huge wipe outs in my years of roller blading, all in which resulted in some nice injuries.

My newest love has been riding my bike. I love it. Last night, I really wanted to go on a bike ride. The weather has been very pleasant… in the 70s, mild & warm. Last night was the perfect evening for a ride. So I hopped on my bike and pedaled off, taking a route I often walk on with a friend. After the route was complete, I just wasn’t satisfied. The night was too nice to leave behind, so I just kept going. I biked all over town.

I had headphones on and unfortunately, I had forgotten to put my ipod in its case so I was holding it in my hand to avoid dropping it. Every once in awhile, I would look down to select a song or to advance to the next one, as I wouldn’t like what was playing.

I decided to end my trip after biking down the street right by our High School. It is literally 3 blocks away from where I live. While doing so, I was approaching the busy street we live off of (Jackson St.), but I was also preoccupied with my ipod, trying to select the perfect song to end my wonderful trip. As I was doing so, I noticed that out of the corner of my eye that Jackson St. was approaching much more quickly than I expected. Without looking up and in a split second, I panicked and slammed on my hand brakes.

Big mistake. My bike jolted, stopping immediately and literally launching me off of my bike. I knew what we coming but could do nothing to stop it. My knees were the first thing to hit pavement, followed by the rest of my body landing on top of my bike and my hands on the road. My ipod safely hit the concrete and escaped with no scratches. Figures.

It was painful. I have always wondered what it would feel like to be hit by a car (weird, I know) but now I don’t want to know. The instant shock was to my knees… they hurt pretty bad.

I was literally horizontal on the ground, on top of my bike. I felt very out of control. In order to regain some sense of composure, I immediately stood up and picked up my bike. My pants had a hole in the knee. I had no clue what damage had been done, but pride caused me to start walking my bike on home without making a show of it. No tears, no emotion, I just started walking as if I had simply dropped my phone on the ground and had bent over to pick it up. As I approached Jackson St., I noticed a lady who was walking her dog who had turned around and was gawking, and most likely saw the whole thing. I smiled sweetly at her and kept walking.

Once I was at the safety of my driveway, I parked my bike and sat down on the step and examined my injuries. Pulling up my black pants, now equipped with a hole to the knee, I saw that I had completely skinned both knees and big, red patches were there. I had a knot the size of a golf ball on my right leg, and my feet were a little scratched. Amazingly, my hands suffered the least damage, just a simple road burn from landing so hard and fast.

I limped inside and cleaned up my wounds. Today, everything is doing alright. Nothing too life-altering, although I will have some nice black and blue bruises on my knees, and I may not be kneeling for awhile. Also, I noted that a lot of the strange positions I find myself in while taking pictures on photo shoots may have to change.

I am thankful that I didn’t knock teeth out or fall flat on my face… thanks to my knees for footing most of the crash.

As I think about all of this, though, it really is confirmation that I’m in the right field—doing something creative, safe, and for the most part requiring no coordination or athletic ability. Not that roller blading or riding your bike requires too much athleticism, and actually, my fall was moreso due to a panicked attempt to avoid biking into oncoming traffic rather than biking technique, but, you know. Well, that, and distraction due to my ipod. I’ve been avoiding buying one of those arm straps for my ipod but maybe it’s about time.

So here I am. Doing what I do best. I won’t stop biking… love it too much. But next time, I’m going to be more careful.

Love you all!


Saturday, April 03, 2010

Prayer Doesn't Work

A friend and I frequent Barnes & Noble about once a month with what we call "B&N Nights." We go there, browse the aisles for about 25 minutes, and then eventually find ourselves sitting with a stack of books and a couple of magazines in the cafe, sipping Starbucks and chatting or flipping through the pages of our literature.

I love these nights. There is something so tangibly wonderful about a bookstore. I love the idea of book in hand, coffee in other, and aisles and aisles of endless words on paper.

On one particular B&N evening last November, a book caught my eye. I have to admit, it wasn't the title so much as it was the colorful spine. I picked it up and it read, "Six Prayers God Always Answers."

Now the colorful cover took a backseat to the title. I would be traveling to Texas that next weekend in a car, and so I knew I would have plenty of time to read. I made the purchase.

The fact that I just finished reading it last week doesn't back up this statement very well: I loved it and found it to be so very interesting. Then I should have finished it sooner, eh? Especially during those 24 hours I spent in the car to and from Texas. Or if not then, during the next several hours I spent in a van from Illinois to Georgia and back. And at the very least, if not then, then on the 16 hour flight to and from Africa this past January.

None of the above. I tend to be ADD when I read books. I love to read, but it's really hard for me to read for long periods of time, no matter how good the book. Furthermore, I treat books as I do situations in my life. It goes along with my personality type of ENFP... I get bored of one thing quickly and move onto another. It doesn't mean I won't come back. It just means I can't stay there for long periods of time. In this way, new projects bud at any time, and several projects sit unfinished. As I have gotten older, I find that I am better about sticking with one thing to completion. But as for this book, it took me about 4-5 months to finish it. In fact, the other day my friend asked me, "How many books do you read at a time?"

It was a legit question. Never just one. In fact, currently I am in 3 different bible studies and until recently was reading 2-3 books at a time, as well. I like variety.

Anyway, this particular book was one that I forgot how much I truly enjoyed until I would start reading it again. It really made me think, and often times made me chuckle nervously as chapters would come to a close and would give me a reality check on my own life.

The very first chapter is entitled, "Prayer Doesn't Work."

The whole book is like this. It almost gives you a double take. What? Prayer Doesn't Work? The words would beg you to read more, posing controversial phrases and statements that made you hope would end in a truthful conclusion. And although sometimes I was doubtful, it always did.

The first words of the book read, "Prayer doesn't work. God does. We often get that confused, don't we?"

It's true. To say "prayer doesn't work" almost seems preposterous until you think about what that actually means. Prayer can't work without God. We pray to God, the One who makes everything work. So at the end of the day, no, prayer doesn't work. God does. But we pray TO God.

I was recently reading in my Martha & Mary bible study book, and a story there struck me. The story talked about our relationship with God and how we spend time with Him. In the story, it outlined it as a man who would go to a quiet, secluded den every morning and spend 20 minutes there with Jesus (who in this story, was in human form). He would sit and talk with Him, and they would both enjoy that time together. As days went on, the man really liked being able to go and talk with Jesus one on one, share his problems, and have someone there to support him.

However, the man became busy, and every once in awhile would miss a morning of this time with Jesus. One week, his life had gotten so busy that he forgot to go at all. As he was passing the door to the den, he noticed Jesus was still in there at the time they usually met. The man peeked his head inside the door.

"You're still here?" he asked.

"Yes," Jesus replied, "I am. I am here every morning."

"Oh," the man replied. "I didn't realize you still came if I didn't show up."

"You see, the problem with you is that you see this time as a step to your own spiritual growth," Jesus told him, "But what you don't realize is that I also enjoy this time with you."

Maybe that doesn't speak to some of you as it did to me. It may even seem painfully obvious. But to me, it was a real eye-opener. Not that I don't think the Lord enjoys spending time with me, but that I may not see it from the right perspective. I often see my time with the Lord as "an aid to my own spiritual progress." And, it is that. But it's also so much more. It's a relationship builder. If I am supposed to imitate Christ and know Truth, how can I do that without investing in a relationship with the One who will show me how? And a relationship isn't just one-sided. It's not just me + an Almighty God up on His throne, some untouchable, distant, all-powerful being that I send a request to every now and again and memorize verses about. It is a beautiful, special relationship that is formed between myself and the Lord Jesus Christ, and it's not just for my enjoyment only. He enjoys time with me, too. He enjoys time with all of His children. After all, He created us, each and every one unique. Just as a father loves to spend time with each of his own earthly children, why would my God not enjoy spending time with me?

Sometimes, I guess it's just hard for me to grasp. When I think about God enjoying that time as much as I do, it blows my mind. Really? And, as I say, it's not rocket science. Of course He loves and cherishes that time. Yet He doesn't need us. He doesn't need any of us. But He desires our closeness and our relationship. He wants it. He is jealous for it. In fact, I was just reading in the Bible the other day a metaphor describing that our love for Christ should be just like the love we reserve for that one and only spouse in our life. Pure, undefiled, and only directed to one person: and in this case, that is Christ. So while God is God and He could do away with all of us and this entire Universe with the snap of His fingers if he wanted, He still cherishes us and our time, and the relationship we build with Him.

So, we can pray all we want, but ultimately, it's not prayer that will change anything. It's God who will. Yet it's through that avenue of prayer, the requests we make to God, and the relationship we build because of prayer that induces God to work.

May we continue to fervently pray in pursuit of an amazing relationship with God.

Love you all!