Monday, June 18, 2012

Explosive Weekend

This weekend Andy had drill. Andy sends me a link on drill weekends with Austin's "Weekend Piks"- things that might be fun for me to do with myself in and around Austin while he's away. I picked the Fredericksburg Trade Days. F'burg is my favorite place to spend a day shopping for random treasures, and eating good German food. The "Trade Days" happen once a month in a fair-ground type area outside of town.
Trade Days draws people who like to buy and sell crafts and "antiques" ;) It's a great example of how one man's trash becomes another man's treasure. I didn't buy anything, but there were some interesting things to look at. Like this booth where there was a disturbingly large collection of doll's heads...

I find that shows like this tend to be overpriced. Even this cactus (which I admit was beautiful) was over $100.

Bones. Weird. People buy this stuff?

Everything for sale- even the kitchen sink.

Trade days has some good eats. I had lunch at a place that smelled like brisket and boasted these Texas flag picnic tables. So Texan.
Lavender grows beautifully in the Hill Country.

Fredericksburg is almost always teeming with weekend shoppers and diners. It's a great place to get away for the weekend.

I had to pick up Andy's favorite treat from the Fredericksburg Bakery- a sweet German pretzel.
I don't know if there's anything you actually need for sale in Fredericksburg. There are dozens of shops full of unnecessary objects that are just for fun- like this little plaque. And the earrings I ended up buying. ;)

Jager Schnitzel, potatoes, sauerkraut. Ohsogood.
Andy was done with drill on Sunday, and was actually back in ATX in time for us to go to church and have Sunday lunch. Afterwards, though, we packed up for an overnight trip to Houston to see my favorite band of all time- Explosions in the Sky. I've loved this band for years, but have never seen them perform live, and even though they live in Austin, we had to drive to Houston to see them play. They haven't done too many shows in the past year or so, and they'll be overseas most of this year. So we were fortunate to get to see them at Warehouse Live in Houston.

Kinda dark, but this is me waiting for the show to begin.

The show was awesome- mesmerizing and powerful. Even Andy really enjoyed it- he even got feisty and told some Chatty Kathies standing near us to pipe down so we could hear the music without any distractions. Thanks for taking me, baby! It was AWESOME to go with you. ;)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

A shocking story

The past week or so I've been immersed in a best-selling crime novel. When I've not been eating, sleeping or hanging out with people, I've been reading this book. I'm not going to mention the name of the book because it's not necessarily something that I can recommend to my students- and some of ya'll read this old blog every now and then when you're bored. Reason being, there's a lot of violence and sexual content that is pretty rough. I try to skip over some of that stuff as I'm reading, but it's still there. Reading the book has given me some pause spiritually. I've prayed a couple of times, "Should I be reading this?" And I haven't really gotten a clear answer "Yes." or "No." But it's been on my mind so much that I found myself journaling about it during my quiet time this morning.

My main dilemma was not actually with exposure to the content itself (like I said, I was sort of editing as I read) but with the amount of time I was spending immersed in murders and exploitation. I began to write about how I felt like my time reading this crime novel would not qualify as time spent dwelling on what is noble, pure, true, excellent.. as per Philippians 4:8. And then, I had to be honest, I found myself thinking (praying, really) about how I don't want to stop reading the book because I like the story- the story is exciting. The characters are smart and adventurous and I don't want to let them go. I'm interested- I confessed- and I don't want to become un-interested.

I sat there and looked at my little devotional book that I truly love, but at the moment, thought just could not compare to the entertainment I've been finding in my crime novel. I know that entertainment is not everything. But I was being honest with my feelings about this situation with God. I like my crime novel. I like my devotional. But they seem so separate from one another. I have the (incorrect) tendency to think that the Bible is all hearts and rainbows (and I mean, there are hearts and rainbows in the Bible) and that if I want a really good psychological thriller, then I'll have to turn elsewhere, right?

I decided to put the Bible to the test, so to speak. I knew the reasons I liked my novel- tough characters, unexpected twists, nothing predictable, definitely no rainbows. So I started flipping through Judges because I've read some pretty shocking things in there before. But I don't think I'd ever read the story that I ended up reading today. I landed in Judges 11- and here's what that story is about. There's this man named Jephthah, who is the son of a prostitute. And he gets booted out of his hometown by his brothers because he's a bastard. Then when his brothers get threatened by an enemy, they come crawling back to Jephthah for help. Well, Jephthah decides that he's going to make a vow to God before he goes to battle, so he swears that if God will give him the victory in battle, then when he gets home, he will sacrifice the first thing that comes out of the door of his house to meet him. And, of course, God gives him the victory. That part of the story is pretty similar to other Bible stories I've read. When you study the life of David, there are lots of prayers before battle and the Lord delivering the enemy into his hands. But Jephthah's story is a little different...

When he gets home, Jephthah's only child, his daughter, is the first one to come out the door to meet him. And he tears his clothes and is so sad because he just made this vow that he's going to sacrifice whatever comes out of his house first. So Jephthah's daughter is amazingly chill about the prospect of getting slaughtered because her dad made a vow to God, and says, "Go ahead and do what you've got to do, but can I have a couple of months to go out into the hills and mourn with my friends because, you know, I'm never going to get married?" And dear old dad says, "sure," just come home in two months so I can kill you. And so she goes out to the hills.

Now at this point I'm reading this story, and I'm like, well obviously something is going to happen during this time that she's out in the hills and Jephthah is going to realize that he just needs to pray and God will provide some ram or something to take the girl's place. I mean, that's how Bible stories go. Except I was looking for something psychologically thrilling.... a little disturbing, violent, even... remember? And God was faithful to show me just that.

Jephthah's daughter gets back from her two months out in the hills crying with her friends, and then her father sacrifices her to God. And that's basically the end of the story.  Judges 11- bastard son of prostitute deals with family drama and prospect of war by making homicidal vow to God, and ends up sacrificing his own child. Shocking, much? I sat there at the kitchen table and said over and over again, "What a disturbing story." Something I hadn't even uttered about my crime novel the whole time I've been reading it.

While I got cleaned up for the day, I was thinking about my crime novel and Judges 11, and I have to hand it to God, He is unexpected and I totally underestimate Him. He gets the victory on shocking stories today- hands down. But, aside from shock value, why is this story in the Bible? Why did something like this ever happen? Stories like this are the kinds of stories that make some people say that they would never put their trust in the "God of the Old Testament" who appears to just slaughter people, or in this case, allow them to be slaughtered, for no apparent reason.

I came up with a couple of clear thoughts. One, Jephthah was the one who made the vow. God didn't require that vow from him, but he made it of his own volition- probably he was thinking that a goat or something would wander out of the house- I don't know exactly, but he was pretty devastated when it ended up being his daughter. This made me think about what Jesus said in Matthew 5:33-37 about not making vows to the Lord, but just letting your "yes" be "yes" and "no" be "no." Jesus is giving people the simple out of just relating to God and men without the drama of a vow, which was new thinking because back in the day, the Israelites thought they needed vows to get God's attention- and maybe they did- but because of Jesus- we don't have to make those sorts of vows. We already have His attention.

Another thought came to mind- child sacrifice- what a grotesque thought- something we surely define as the epitome of evil- and yet, isn't that what salvation is based on? Isn't Jesus God's child? Wasn't He sacrificed for us? I mean, there are no hearts and rainbows to be had at the crux of the story- literally the crux. The promises are only good- the hearts, the rainbows, the peace and righteousness- because of the blood, the anguish, the violence or Christ's death. Jephthah's daughter is a reminder of that violence- the blood that God required to forgive us. I don't like it- in my culture, it's considered inhumane- but God is the one who required death for life. I'm just thankful that the work is done already.

But the final thought has to do with the very issue that the work is done already. I think that God is making a point to me by having me read and write about this story this morning. He is a God of love, of peace, of hope-filled promises. But He is a God of wrath, a God who requires death as the just penalty for sin, a God familiar with evil to a degree that I cannot fathom, and yet completely pure of it, and determined to ultimately abolish it. God wants me to know that He is not some pansy god who just wants me to have warm and happy feelings all of the time. And I like that. I respect that. I crave that. And it means much more than me being entertained by a novel- because this story is true and it tells me something about a Real God who- as C.S. Lewis put it- is not safe, but is good.

So there you go. I'm very impressed this morning with God, His Word, and His willingness to meet me where I am. I think I will finish my crime novel. But I will remember that it is fiction, and I'll keep asking God to help me really dwell on truth- even the shocking parts of it. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


Yesterday I went to the Christian bookstore with a friend to get some resources for a summer Bible study we're doing. I used to love to go to the Christian bookstore, and I would get really excited about all the new titles. I'd feel really motivated and want to read every book. Now, I look around and feel a little more cynical and overwhelmed than excited and motivated.

It's not that there aren't great books out there. I wouldn't have been there if I didn't think there were books that would be beneficial to read. In fact, I am sure that there are books that I need to read. But experience has taught me that a lot of times, people read a book and get all excited about it. Maybe, after reading it, they'll temporarily change a thing or two about their lives. Sometimes people argue or get really emotional about what they've read. But eventually, it all fizzles out. The book goes on the shelf, and people go back to their normal lives, and a few years later, the book ends up in a box headed for Goodwill. This is not always the case. But I've seen this happen a couple of times over the past few years. In fact, I've recently given away one of those type of books.

So why do books that we get all excited about end up in the give-away pile? Am I missing something? Am I the problem?  I certainly could be. The older I get the more certain I become that I am selfish to the core and without hope, except for Jesus. My sin nature affects everything, and I am not pure or good. I think I am being made pure, but I understand that work to be something that is completely outside of myself. So it could be me. It could be that I am overly critical and that frustrating experiences have made me overly cynical. But, I don't think that I'm the only one affected by this phenomena. Otherwise, the books we already have would suffice, wouldn't they? Would we continuously need more books with new messages and cool cover-art if they really were sufficient for our needs? If they were really the answer to how to "do church" or "live in community" or "live fearlessly" or "find financial freedom" or any number of things, then would someone need to keep writing another book on church, community, finances, relationships, etc? I really don't know. I understand the need to keep things updated. My computer reminds me of that almost daily. ;) But so many books come out all of the time. There are the biographies (which I really should read more of), the Christian how-to books that usually feature a larger than life picture of the famous author's face on the cover, looking very smiley and trustworthy- like they are saying "Follow me! I know how to lead you to your financial/self-esteem/marriage/parenting goal." Then there are the Christian romance novels, which usually have a cover drawing of a girl dressed up in some pioneer outfit, looking longingly off into the distance. And recently there are books with simple covers and one-word titles that appear very hip and modern and apparently challenge the way that Christianity has been done for decades. I'm not saying that any of these things are bad or wrong- in fact, I'm sure many of the books are great. But what I am saying is that I'm weary of putting my hope in a book, and weary of seeing other people do the same thing as a group.

I'm not denying the helpfulness of books. I'm reading two Christian books right now, and they are helpful. But really, they're only helpful in that they help me remain motivated to draw near to God, and read His Word for myself. Knowledge is good, but only in that it helps lead to good practice. The problem I've seen in my own life and in groups that I've been in is that we accumulate knowledge from whatever book we're reading and then we never really put it into good practice. For example, I'm a big proponent of understanding human nutrition. I took a nutrition course in college- two actually (one human and one animal) and it was great information. I would argue that everyone should know what I learned in my human nutrition course. But, that information is of no benefit to me or anyone else if not put into practice. I can know all about what I ought to feed my body but does it really matter unless I actually buy that food, prepare it and ingest it? I would say that the writers of most Christian books have in mind that they want to share some revelation that they've received from God or His Word. And that's cool. That's exactly what I do on this blog. But it doesn't really have much power- none beyond the encouragement that we can give to one another to fight the good fight. Their words have power to motivate, but not cause change because people are not powerful enough to achieve their desired purpose in another by their words. Only God's Word can actually cause change. When He speaks, His Words accomplish what He wants. He is the only One in the Universe who can make that claim, and He did in Isaiah 55:10-11. And that's why, after looking at so many of the books on the shelf at the Christian bookstore yesterday, I was not motivated to come back and read all of them. I was motivated to go home and open my Bible. Because when the author of the book speaks, he can motivate me. But when God speaks, He can change me. And I am for change.

I am also for books. I am for reading and sharing stories. But I am for realizing that those books cannot cause change in my life. They cannot draw me closer to God, help me recognize or repent of my sin, cannot give me patience, endurance or strength. They cannot bear fruit in me or anyone else.  Thinking through this helps me not be so overwhelmed by all the titles and cool cover designs. Zondervan is still publishing a plain Jane leather book that has the only real power to generate change and bear fruit in people's lives. So as I read my Christian books this summer, I'm going to be thankful for what God has revealed to the author and thankful for the author's willingness to share, but I'm going to understand that the same thing that happened to the author is only going to happen in me as I spend time opening up my Bible, reading, and talking to God about what I've just read. And since I haven't yet done that today, I better get on it right now.  ;-)

"As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it." Isaiah 55:10-11

Monday, June 11, 2012

Port Aransas

This weeekend, Andy and I took a much-anticipated trip to the beach! We needed to get the road trip started off right. A pound of Rudy's moist brisket did the trick!
Makes me hungry just looking at it!
We got to Port A somewhere around 11:45 and were stressed that we would miss the ferry. We missed the Swan Quarter ferry when we were in the OBX last year, and it was not a fun experience. Little did we know, this ferry was a much shorter ride AND it runs 24-7. Here you see the lights of Port Aransas as the ferry crosses over.
Palm trees at our motel- the Captain's Quarters. Which sadly I cannot say that I recommend. We've got our eye on the Tarpon Inn for our next visit.
But I can recommend Bundy's for breakfast. Great food and terrific coffee. We stopped in both Saturday and Sunday morning for some food and a cup o' joe.
I LOVE packing for the beach. I brought everything we could conceivably need for a day of fun in the sun.

Andy pre-sunburn.

Sun and a book. Yes, please.

More good eats came at dinner when we made our second visit to Port Aransas Brewing Company. We went there last August after Andy's water jump in Corpus Christi. That trip made us decide we had to come back! We've fallen for their crab-stuffed jalapeno poppers. Dip those bad boys in some Ranch dressing to curb your appetite after a day of fun in the sun.

Notice the contrast of Andy's skin tone to the "Daily Brew". Red much? I have no idea how this boy burns so bad! He stayed under the umbrella and put on sunscreen! What am I going to do with him? ;-)
Sunday was a day for kayaking and fishing. We stopped at Port A Outfitters for some bait.

This kitty lives at Port A Outfitters and knows how to take it easy. ;)

We left the island mid-morning and after the short ferry ride, headed to the Lighthouse Lakes Trails. They're kayaking trails. Leave it to me and Andy to find a trail to exhaust ourselves on when we're supposed to be relaxing!

Andy tried his hand at catching some fish, but after getting skunked for about 45 minutes, we decided to take a yak trip to the Port Aransas Lighthouse. We passed by these birds on the way. Sorry it's so hard to see them. The app I used to take these pics doesn't allow me to zoom.
The Port A Light is apparently still functional, but it's only accessible by water. (I think) We passed by with our yaks. Across the channel from the Lighthouse is an uninhabited island that we read was supposed to be great for shelling. Of course, we had to go, but crossing the channel was no joke. It made me think of our other crazy yak trip to Aqua-Palooza....
When we got to the island, we were really surprised to meet this hare! Can you see him just to the left of the bush in the center? Again, no zoom and he wouldn't let me get very close to him before he started to hop away.

But this little crab let us get much closer!

Andy saw the crab in his hole and provoked him to come out with a stick!

After our trip to the shell island (which had more trash than shells, but we did find a few good ones!), Andy tried his luck at fishing again. He caught this little guy not once, not twice, but three times while fishing near the Lighthouse. (By the way, Andy's version of this fishing tale is that he caught three separate small catfish... but I beg to differ)

After paddling for miles and being out in the sun for hours, we decided to call it quits. But not until Andy had a chance to put his line in at a little cove we found on our way toward the lighthouse. Sure enough, he finally caught one of the little jumping fish that had been taunting him all afternoon. We didn't end up with anything worth taking home, but at least he felt a little bit vindicated. And we did get our seafood. We just had to stop and order it at a restaurant on the way home. :)

Friday, June 8, 2012

Summer Style

Welcome to the Wermels' apartment. The look has been updated for the summer. I wanted a lighter, brighter, simpler style for summer. So I spent the first few days of my summer break running around to places like Target, Lowe's and Hobby Lobby, which was not relaxing, but now I think we're in good shape to kick back and enjoy the rest of the summer!
I wore this floppy hat around while shopping...along with some old khakis, and my "I wasn't born in the mountains, but I got here as fast as I could" t-shirt. Cute. ;)
Ready for some fun in the sun!
I keep the shells Andy & I collect each summer. Hopefully we'll make some more additions after this weekend's trip to Port Aransas!
It's hard to see here, but the picture by the door is a print Andy & I picked up on last summer's trip to Yosemite. It shows a flyfisherman in the Merced river at the base of El Capitan. Love.
Improvements were made to the collage. I actually pulled out the ruler this time! Gats is a sweet addition, I think.
Birds-eye view
Arthur the arthropod. A treasure I got in Pennsylvania when I visited Alissa & Dan a few years back.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Perfectly Normal Saturday

 After such a busy year of school, soccer, BSF and Kidstuff, Andy and I are taking some time to just hang out. But before the relaxing and summer fun can officially begin, we needed to be able to access our summer toys- camping equipment, beach chairs, kayaking stuff, etc. Everything was literally piled in the garage. So this weekend, our chore was to clean out the garage. It was sort of tough work, at times, but we enjoyed just having a normal Saturday at home- no drill or papers or games or anything. I realize how totally normal and unexciting this all is, but we used to take pictures all the time and never do anymore. So I figured I'd try to get back in the habit- even in the ordinary...

 We went to Goodwill and picked up these two "heinously ugly" pool blue cabinets for $12. They actually work perfect for housing Andy's wide variety of oils and cleaners he uses to work on the cars.

 What Saturday is complete without a trip to Lowe's? We got some stuff for the garage and I got a Bouganvilla plant.
 And what trip to Lowe's is complete without a visit to the hot dog stand? Hot dogs at Lowe's always remind me of my friend Hannah. She introduced me to the glory that is a Lowe's hot dog. :)
 After Lowe's we went to Sears to get Andy a rolling cart for his tools, but we stopped at the Farmer's Market that sets up every Saturday at Lakeline Mall afterwards and got some local produce.
 Andy was fascinated by this guy who was sharpening knives at the Farmer's Market.

 Before we got down to business in the garage, we took the doggies to "Yappy Hour" at our apartment complex. Really it was just a grand opening of the new dog park, but the doggies had fun. :)
 Makin' progress...
 The ugly blue cabinets work great for storage and will be a work space for Andy, as well. Notice his new cart beside them. He's super excited about it. :)
And this white cabinet was left by the dumpster, so I snagged it to keep our camping equipment. Now I don't have to dig through a plastic bin to find something. Hopefully we'll get a camping trip in sometime this summer... 
Andy is pondering what to order while we wait for a table.
 Our reward to ourselves after a hard day's work was a trip to Macaroni Grill. I got some gift certificates from students/co-workers so we had ourselves a feast!
 Keeping myself entertained while waiting on our appetizer.... I drew a picture of my new plant.
 And Andy drew a picture of his beloved- our 1987 Jeep!
We ate up pretty much everything. A good ending to a perfectly normal Saturday.