Sunday, April 29, 2012

Getting Close to the End

Today, I turned in my very last International Studies term paper.

The last of very, very many papers that I've written in the past four years.

I only have 2 finals left, but they are both online and for business classes that I am taking on the side. For all intents and purposes, I am completely done with my International Studies degree and will be the proud holder of a USF B.A. on Friday! I CANNOT FREAKIN' BELIEVE IT.

I've both whined and joked about aspects of my major this whole time. People all the time would hear what I study and go, "Gosh, I wish I could do that!" That always cracks me up because, well, you could. I love international organizations, current affairs, culture, history, language, trade, policy, law, and all the goodies that are stirred around the pot of classes one takes at USF in this program. I had fun watching movies from Soviet Russia, writing case studies on human rights issues in China, and learning how to write in Arabic.

The other day, I thought for a second about how many professors I've had that were from different countries, and was really blown away when I realized what a rich body of knowledge I've been drawing from. I've studied under teachers from: Japan, Puerto Rico, South Africa, India, China, Bulgaria, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Ukraine, Palestine, Ghana, Turkey, and Sweden. And the others have generally travelled all over the rest of the planet. Isn't it amazing to find out the perspectives of people from every other continent at school?

There have definitely been some grody moments in International Studies. I did not like memorizing the acronym-fest that is the IGO/NGO body. (Even that has acronyms, haha.) But if you ever want to know what the UN, UNSC, WTO, GATT, IMF, HRW, or MNCs are all about, hit me up! I was not thrilled at writing a paper on Thomas Jefferson's foreign policy objectives. That class was just evil. I almost fell asleep multiple times in American Foreign Policy, which was for 3 hours at night.

But the rewards have been so great. I've never doubted that I studied exactly what interests me most and fires me up about what I think it is important. I loved putting in the time and care to write a paper on Bosnian war crime tribunals for my Human Rights Class before I set foot there for the first time. My mind really came alive the times we had to formulate ideas on how to end conflicts, how to promote the rights of people all over the world, and how to celebrate the uniqueness of each culture on earth and find ways to interact as one humankind.

This major has had a hugely spiritual component for me. I get on a big soapbox about the idea of biblical, non-biblical, and abiblical things. There are things that the bible makes clear we should do and things we should not do, but there are many things that it makes no note of. So often, we ship a brand of Christianity around the world that has very American/Western instructions for setup. We make it seem like you must close your eyes to pray, that you must dress up for church, and many other traditions that rob us of the beauty of seeing other cultures embrace the purest nature of a relationship with Jesus, and experiencing his delight and joy in a way that culturally makes sense. I love that so many Asian churches all pray aloud simultaneously so that everyone can experience the cries going out to God at once! I love that so many African churches include dance as a form of worship! We Americans get so uncomfortable at such things... why? We are robbing others of seeing how God created their people groups uniquely and robbing ourselves of experiencing so many beautiful aspects of God's creation as human beings!

That seems like a tangent, but I am really passionate about this. And that drive really ties in with my huge interest in International Studies. If I could pick a dream job, it would be sharing the gospel with new residents of the U.S. I love international students and immigrant families. I hope that the Lord opens that door someday. :) But in the mean time, I have this sweet diploma to prove that I am all about the whole world and how neato it is!

I can't believe it's May of 2012. I'm sure more thoughts will come on this soon. But, in the mean time, go Bulls.

Love, Lara

Friday, April 27, 2012

Fabulous Florida

Lately, I've been trying to come to grips with the fact that I will, in the not-too-distant future, have to bid my home state farewell. I really do take this place for granted. Not only does my immediate family live here and most of my friends, and all my university experience, and all that jazz. Florida is a pretty fly place to live! I could pitch it for a living, which is funny considering how I used to be so sure that I couldn't stand the heat anymore and wanted out ASAP back in high school. (I will miss it now! Darn it, Lara!) I especially have a little chunk of my heart in Orlando, the most mischaracterized city in the U.S., at least, probably besides Detroit haha. It's a good thing Darin and I met, we understand each other!

There are a bunch of things that Floridians, specifically Orlandoans, do not get that excited about that blows the rest of the world's collective mind. We are really acclimated to living in a place that is a magical paradise to the other 7 billion people on earth. For example, not that many people (my age, at least) get super jazzed about space shuttle/rocket launches. While people drive to Florida from across the country to see the Kennedy Space Center, that was the worst tourist trap waste of my life and when they shoot things off into space, my mom has to drag me outside to look at it go up. I am so used to those crazy things going up in the sky! Whoop-de-doo! You see a little fireball going slowly into the clouds and then it's over. See how jaded I am!? The amazingness of space flight is lost on me.

The wildlife is another category that we really don't find as fascinating as other people from out of town. A lot of people at my church in Tampa are from a bit farther north, and they are mystified at all the snakes and lizards everywhere. Even Darin is pretty surprised to see those little lizards running all over creation at my parents' house. And he is bummed he hasn't seen a gator yet... I will find one for him in July if it's the last thing I do! I have seen them loads of times at lakes and canoeing on the river. And the goofy herons and cranes everywhere are still pretty cool-looking to me, except when they stand on my car, haha. Florida's animals are pretty crazy and we think nothing of it! (Except when I saw a water moccasin curled up in a forest in September... ugh. Then I ran the heck out of Dodge.)

And the poor theme parks, most of them are not that much fun to a resident of the 407. Now, I completely disagree with people who are burned out from Disney, Universal Orlando, and SeaWorld. I love the crap out of theme parks. I would go every day if I could... at least, maybe for a week and a half, haha. But I would go again a month later! They are so much fun. I am a little sad when other people dread going to Disney because their relatives are in town. It's like people in Paris dreading going to the Louvre. It's a local treasure! I get hating the traffic on I-4 due to these attractions, and maybe the loads of people who descend upon the Mall at Millenia in their non-Disney, non-sunburning time. But I am overdue for a Disney day! I will miss hitting that up when I have friends who work there and can slip me a pass.

I will kick myself if I complain about the weather between now and my departure. Yes, it is very hot. This was the warmest winter I can remember. It is getting to the 90's this weekend. The humidity is torture, especially walking around Disney, for that matter. It makes my hair so poofy that I just don't bother to do anything at all, haha. My wardrobe is mostly tank tops and shorts, which spells t-r-o-u-b-l-e for me in another 7 months, hahaha. It's just the price you pay not to freeze your kituckus off once all year. I know it's nasty out sometimes, but the heat really makes the jasmine smell better in the springtime. :)

In short, I need to create my Orlando Bucket List. I want to enjoy all the zestiness it has to offer before I set up my permanent address a thousand miles upward. I'll be coming back to a blog near you to make that list and check it off this summmer! But in the mean time, I will stand outside in this 90 degree heat and sweat with joy. Raised in the swamps of the Sunshine State, baby!

Love, Lara

Sunday, April 22, 2012

What I Love About You

Tonight, talking on the phone with Darin, I was really struck by just how much I love that guy. It's a shame the rest of ladykind will have to miss out on his goodness, but I am not sharing him for nothing! To me, it is truly one of those non-scientific proofs of God and His purpose for the lives of his children. How we met was so random and could have been prevented or changed by millions of tiny little things. How it worked out for us to continue talking, continue visiting each other, and continue growing together was surrounded by trillions more little miracles. We are so alike and so different; we challenge each other but satisfy each other, too. My mind is still blown by the past year I have spent knowing this man and I am thrilled at learning more in years to come!

I could write an ode about how much I love Darin!

  1. He loves Flight of the Conchords and Freaks & Geeks, my two favorite and somewhat obscure TV shows.
  2. He says some awfully weird things before thinking too hard about if they make any sense, and it usually cracks me up.
  3. He is amazed by my cooking abilities and loves to eat fun food! (Sushi was a definite deal breaker... good thing he is a fan.)
  4. He plays guitar and leads worship at church and Cru meetings sometimes. 
  5. He has a good sense of style. We just look good together.
  6. He is 6'1", aka way taller than me. I feel kind of like I robbed a tall-ish girl of a tall guy -- at 5'3", I am not hard to accommodate -- but I like it this way. :)
  7. He appreciates me looking nice and doesn't make (a lot of) fun of my makeup, nail polish, and dress collections, but enjoys it because I end up looking fancy!
  8. He is a handyman and can fix and make all kinds of things, and is a master house painter!
  9. He is great with kids and so fun to watch when messing around with his nieces & nephews, and kids from his work at the Y.
  10. His sense of humor is pretty darn wonderful. Anyone with a hillbilly mullet wig on hand in the trunk of the car is someone I would be intrigued by to some degree.
  11. He is transparent and honest about everything, we've talked about everything under the sun.
  12. When we have a disagreement or frustrating moment, he is quick to go "LARA! I love you!" and hug me, even when most of the time I don't want him to touch me, haha. (I like to mope when I am upset at myself for messing something up. Just FYI.)
  13. I may be able to cook, but I can't really grill yet, but Darin makes up for that shortcoming. We have made some stinkin' good chicken!
  14. He and I laugh at the same YouTube things.
  15. He likes being near the city, as do I. We are not at all interested in rural living whatsoever. Even though downtown Detroit and downtown Orlando are two totally different places, they are our urban homegrills! (Although soon we will have the SAME ONE AHHH)
  16. He loves all kinds of people and treats them all the same. He would be just as interested in and nice to the president as he would be to a homeless man.
  17. He is bold with his faith! He doesn't think so, but he gets so many opportunities to share it and does so with all kinds of people he runs into.
  18. He is a family guy, and has tons more relatives than I do, but spends time with them!
Oh, there is so much more, but I need to squeeze a little sleep in for my LAST WEEK OF CLASS! YES! I can't believe it! It is a doozy but it can be done!

Have you made a list of things you love about someone lately? It feels great to do and is such a great reminder of the gifts we have in our relationships! 

Love, Lara

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Vent Sesh

Brief vent list, so that I let it out in a healthy-ish way and do not misdirect my frustration at people I love or anything like that:

1. What is the obsession with having 1 year of experience for every job listing on earth? I have dedicated my time in college to studying and doing homework, and volunteering abroad over the summer. That has been a lot harder than sitting at a desk for a year! Can I write that on my resume instead?
2. Why does Florida need Darin to come down 3 days early to get a marriage license because of a "waiting period," which 2 residents from Florida need but 2 visitors don't? (I emailed the Clerk of Courts asking about if 1 is a resident and 1 is not, and they said we have to wait 3 days.) Days off from work don't grow on trees, and I think it's fairly clear that if this is a long distance situation that it is not impulsive, or could be just as impulsive as people coming in from somewhere else. Urgh.
3. Why do apartment complexes lease you out till just mid-July, so that no one would ever want to sublease from you because the dates are so highly inconvenient and useless? Yes, it was my choice to get married around that time, making it difficult to move out at the exact date they say, but man that's a lame time for anyone to move out of somewhere, with school still about a month away and such. Everyone is couch surfing around that time. Stupid.

BOO! I am irritated!!!!

Love, Lara

Monday, April 16, 2012

Who I Am In Christ

Hello! I just got back from our Cru Women's Retreat, where a good group of ladies & I had an awesome time to get away, relax, have fun, and really hear some solid messages about God. I am pretty sure that I gave a talk at some point... haha I breezed the heck right through it and it was a blur! Either way, I got a lot out of preparing it, as I walked through what I have learned over my past 4 years at USF about applying the gospel to relationships. Hopefully sometime I will get the chance to revisit it when I am not quite as busy finishing up school and share more of where I got my thoughts and ideas from in my life experiences and God's word!

In the mean time, I just found a neato list that I got at a Cru leadership meeting that I really love and want to have handy anytime. It's simple and encouraging, pointing us to what the bible says about who we are if we have Christ. I want to make my own copy to hang somewhere that doesn't use Comic Sans (I am just picky like that), but am putting it here for the world to enjoy. I encourage anyone to take an afternoon out to sit and read these verses one by one, contemplating what they mean for us, and go forth confident that we have the greatest strong arm behind us to catch us and push us onward! :)

Who I Am In Christ

I Am Accepted

1. John 1:12- I am God's child.
2. John 15:15- I am Christ's friend.
3. Romans 5:1- I have been justified.
4. 1 Cor. 6:17- I am united with the Lord, and I am one spirit with him.
5. 1 Cor. 6:19-20- I have been bought with a price. I belong to God.
6. 1 Cor. 12:27- I am a member of Christ's body.
7. Eph. 1:1- I am a saint.
8. Eph. 1:5- I have been adopted as God's child.
9. Eph. 2:18- I have direct access to God through the Holy Spirit.
10. Col. 1:14- I have been redeemed and forgiven of all my sins.
11. Col. 2:10- I am complete in Christ.

I Am Secure

12. Romans 8:1-2- I am free forever from condemnation.
13. Romans 8:28- I am assured that all things work together for good.
14. Romans 8:31-34- I am free from any condemning charges against me.
15. Romans 8:35-39- I cannot be separated from the love of God.
16. 2 Cor. 1:21-22- I have been established, anointed, and sealed by God.
17. Col. 3:3- I am hidden with Christ in God
18. Phil. 1:6- I am confident that the good work that God has begun in me will be perfected.
19. Phil. 3:20- I am a citizen of heaven.
20. 2 Tim. 1:7- I have not been given a spirit of fear but of power, love, and a sound mind.
21. Heb. 4:16- I can find grace and mercy in a time of need.
22. 1 John 5:18- I am born of Gid, and the evil one cannot touch me.

I Am Significant

23. Matthew 5:13-14- I am the salt and light of the earth.
24. John 15:1&5- I am a branch of the true vine, a channel of his life.
25. John 15:16- I have been chosen and appointed to bear fruit.
26. Acts 1:8- I am a personal witness of Christ.
27. 1 Cor. 3:16- I am God's temple.
28. 2 Cor. 5:17-21- I am a minister of reconciliation for God.
29. 2 Cor. 6:1- I am God's coworker.
30. Eph. 2:6- I am seated with Christ in the heavenly realm.
31. Eph. 2:10- I am God's workmanship.
32. Eph. 3:12- I may approach God with freedom and confidence.
33. Phil. 4:13- I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

This is a practical reference sheet for any and every question about ourselves in God's eyes, once we have given our lives over to Him because of what He did for us through Jesus. I hope it blesses you as much as it blesses me to have on hand and remember what is really true!

Have a refreshing Monday!

Love, Lara

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Goal Maker

I've always been a big fan of lists. I used to make lists just for fun of my favorite cereals, my favorite flavors of ice cream, my favorite books, just because. It's a really weird thing to do just for fun - you are literally writing down things that you already know for the most part - but there's something satisfying about seeing it organized and on paper to me.

Lots of times, this weird hobby of mine is actually very helpful. I like pro & con lists, and how they help me make decisions about what to do. Making lists of the classes I've taken and the ones I still wanted to take helped me keep on track throughout college (NOTHING came as a surprise to me in terms of credits and whatnot). Making lists of places I'd like to travel helps me figure out what opportunities to keep an eye out for and save my money towards the ones with the most things I want to see, or what's nearby other places I like.

I was really inspired by the blog of a really awesome woman, the pastor's wife at the church I attend, Ashlee Proffitt. I barely, barely know her at all; I think she recognizes my face on Sunday mornings haha. However, I am a big fan of her design business. We have very similar taste in how things should look, I have noticed.

She has a great practice of putting her monthly goals out for all to see, which first of all forces you to make some goals in the first place that have a deadline, and also share them so other people can at least be a little interested in how they are progressing. Being a list fiend, this is right up my little left-brained alley! Oddly enough, the font she uses on her goals list is exactly the same as one I use all over the place. Again, coincidentally similar tastes. (Thanks Learning Curve.)

Although we're already through a good chunk of April, I have some goals in mind that I'd like to accomplish this month!

Spiritual Goals: 1. My roomie & friend Skylar had the great idea of reading through the Psalms downward that correspond to the number of days left hasta la boda. For example, 90 days left = read Psalm 90. Pretty neat! I have done it most days the past week since I thought about it but want to make it consistent.
2. I've been reading the awesome book Changes That Heal by Henry Cloud for USF Cru's Women's Challenge this semester. Unfortunately, I felt the need to back out of it this last month of school due to the billions of things that must occupy my time, but the book is awesome and I want to finish it up in my spare time. Highly recommended, even if you don't think you're all that messed up, haha. :)
3. Scripture memory. Also something I have been doing at Women's Challenge, and need to continue on my own. I love this verse; it really speaks on how to live in a godly community & bring others in.

Personal Goals: 1. Something I like a lot is fiddling around with graphic design software. I have no idea if I am very good at it or not. I did design my own wedding invitations and received enough positive feedback from trustworthy friends that I am confident in sending them out, but that's still a pretty small portfolio, hahaha. I found a nice online course that has more foundational things I want to learn. Gotta jump on it!
2. All semester I've made a point of exercising with Robbie after my Tuesday/Thursday classes. I also walk a lot to class, so I am not too worried about trying to cram in 5 days a week and become super buff. Just building a little muscle tone. It's fun!
3. Marriage + moving = perfect time to dump some clothes I do not wear or do not need. Not only do I have a ridiculous number of pieces that are Florida-tastic and not practical for living in Michigan year-round, but an abundance of free shirts from USF and the like. Can't wait to get it down to the basics.

Relationship Goals: 1. Darin and I have read through 1 Peter together for a while now. Darin proposed that we start reading the same passage together and come back to discuss it, and both of us independently wanted 1 Peter. Can't find an excuse not to with divine guidance like that! ;)
2. We have started the most perfect premarital counseling course humanly possible. It's online (perfect for this LDR situation we are in), biblically-based, AND was on a special for only $55! I can't wait to start it!
3. We usually pray together before hitting the hay, but sometimes we forget. Both of us want to make it more of a habit that we can carry into marriage.

Wedding Goals: 1. Figuring out the food is a lofty goal for this month, haha. I might need to keep it going into May. But making progress in that area is definitely necessary.
2. I am so close to this goal being done that I don't feel bad that the other one is a tall order, haha. I just need more stamps!
3. This is my last full month in Tampa, because I am heading back to Orlando to finish up wedding shenanigans in the comfort of the city in which the party is going down. Not all my lady friends will be able to come down there later this summer, so I am thinking we will have to have a more open-invite fiesta right here in the 813. I am going to bounce some ideas off my friends!

Goals are great! Even if you're not as much of a visual person when it comes to planning and organizing, you owe it to yourself to keep track of some things you are striving for regularly. There's a lot that everyone wants to do but doesn't set out a plan to just do it! Get you some!

Love, Lara

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Another Boring Clothes Post... Or, So You Think

Excited for Easter tomorrow? I sure am! Although I had to buy myself my Easter candy this year --- chocolate-dipped Peeps, what divinities will they think of next? -- I am really pumped for my plans this year. I am going to church in the morning with a fine body of believers to celebrate Christ's resurrection together with worship and learning. Aletheia Tampa has such awesome, scriptural, and relevant teaching, and a great community to boot. I know they do Easter right!

Easter is one of the weirdest holidays for most of the world. A lot of people I know aren't really believers in the basic meaning of why we celebrate it, which is that Jesus died but rose again, conquering death and proving He is the Son of God, who is able to save us too from the grave and take us to be with the Father for eternity. But they sure freaked out at my brother and I for not going home for Easter! I guess they even have a lot of traditions, like a big ham lunch and such, but I guess our family did not make that a regular part of Easter; going to church was the main point. I do want to incorporate some traditions for my future family with Easter, especially hot cross buns. I do NOT know what they taste like but they sound good!

I didn't even mean to buy an Easter outfit this year, but it just happened. I found some amazing cherry red pumps at Target on sale for $8.99 yesterday, and today came across a beautiful white and navy blue dress at Ross for just $12.99 that would look great anytime. They make for a pretty fabulous combo, don't you think? ;)

Again, I could not for the life of me find the actual pieces I got, but they look an awful lot like this. The dress has more of a ripply wave effect but the same colors in the same pattern. I am thinking curling my hair vintage Hollywood-style to go with it! I think I will be rocking this look more than one day this year!

My hope for y'all is a day full of celebration with your families, dwelling on the real reason for Easter and letting the love shown on the cross sink into your heart as you pig out on those Robin Egg Whoppers, aka crispy nuggets of fairy kisses and angel music. I am nuts about those things.

Love, Lara