My Amazing, Ever-Changing Faith

faith in motionIn so many ways, I could deeply relate with this article I discovered about spirituality written by a gentleman who once authored a blog called The Agnostic Pentacostal. Interesting blog title, no? I was instantly intrigued by the concept. I resonated with it so much, as I believe it reflects much of the truth of my current situation as a believing Christian who is slowly becoming more and more willing–even eager–to admit those three scariest of words . . .

“I don’t know.”

Let me say up front that I have struggled with pride all of my life. Literally from infancy. I have wanted to be right more than I have wanted anything else in life for as long as I can remember. If knowledge is power, I was on my way to world domination. I just wanted to know all the right answers . . . understand all the mysterious concepts . . . believe all the important truths.

And that was what my faith stemmed from.

I was raised as a member of the Christian faith from day one. My parents were and are devout. They taught me unconditional love, but they also taught me right from wrong–and I clung to that. Now I didn’t just know the right answers. I didn’t even just know the right things to believe. I knew the right things to do. I knew everything that mattered.

Of course, as children how can we really know what matters? In high school and especially in college my faith was shaken by the simple and common experience of coming into contact with other people who “knew” what they believed just as much as I did. I experienced extreme stress as I wrestled with what I knew to be the truth, what others knew to be the truth, and whether or not any of us actually knew what we were talking about.

I became a debater. I thought it was my intelligence that made me so argumentative. Later I became willing to admit that it was my stubbornness. Looking back, I now know that it was fear.

Pretending that I knew the meaning of life or where I was going to go after I died forced me to pretend that I knew everything. Abortion, women’s roles in the church, sex, drinking, the afterlife–I was master of it all. I had to develop a persona–a fake me that looked like a girl thriving on confidence, hyper-intellectualism, and sometimes humiliation of people who pretended they knew were talking about. The girl was such a hypocrite.

I hated that girl. She had to go.

One day I had a conversation with my younger sister about a “truth” that we had been taught growing up that she had drawn a very different conclusion about in her adulthood. I was still clinging to my Sunday School lessons and was so ready to tell her how wrong she was. Then I had a thought– “I love my sister. Why would I hurt her feelings by telling her she’s wrong when I can’t prove that?” It honestly hurt me to think about it. “What if–what if she’s not wrong?” I swallowed my pride, smiled and said the unthinkable,

“You could be right. I don’t know.”

She smiled too and said, “Wow, you’ve changed.”

I can’t even begin to explain or describe the peace that has come over me since making this change.

All I know is that I like the me who admits she doesn’t know better than the me who thinks she does.

Now I don’t want to know the “truth” or the “right answer” nearly as much as I want to

  1. know myself,
  2. know the people of this world where I’ve been placed,
  3. and know the God who placed me here.

That is faith to me.

I don’t know why bad things happen . . . but I will praise God in the midst of them.

I don’t know if homosexuality is a sin . . . but I will not sin by casting judgment.

I don’t know if I believe in evolution . . . but why not? I have evolved so much myself in such a short time.

I want to keep evolving. I want to keep changing. I want to keep moving. My faith is a fluid thing, and I think my God wants it that way.

Advertisements

The Twelve Commandments of Spanish Food

DSCN5356After a surprise weight gain due to stress at the start of last summer, I’m finally taking the initiative to get back in shape. I’m going to a great gym and I’m eating great food. As I try to discipline myself to cook wholesome and healthy meals for our family every night and to plan ahead so that we can pack healthy lunches for work, my thoughts inexplicably travel back to Spain.

I’ve heard it said that the Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest in the world. I don’t know about that (I mean, look at number 1 on the list below), but I do know that we have never had more delicious food than what we ate in Spain, we have never eaten larger quantities of food that what we ate in Spain, and we have never weighed less as adults than we did in Spain. I can’t figure it out.

DSCN5300 DSCN2034 DSCN1663 DSCN1583 DSCN1648I have therefore set out to dissect some of the secrets I have learned about standard Spanish eating habits.

The food moves in mysterious ways.

  1. Thou shalt cook everything in gratuitous amounts of olive oil goddess nectar, as I like to call it.
  2. Thou shalt eat an “introductory” dish, then a meat or fish, then a dessert. In that exact order. Or else you’re weird. And we will laugh at you.
  3. Thou shalt eat fish. Lots of fish.
  4. Thou shalt not forget the power of garlic. Feel the power . . .
  5. Thou shalt pack as much protein as possible into one dish–beans, eggs, cheese, fish, didst I mention fish?
  6. Thou shalt glorify potatoes, especially in fried form.
  7. Thou shalt recall that animals like ducks and rabbits have meat on them, too. What’s so great about chicken and beef, anyway?
  8. Though shalt eat a sissy breakfast of one meager miniature donut or something like that. The coffee is the important thing.
  9. Thou shalt eat bread with everything. One loaf per meal is a good way to start.
  10. Thou shalt not touch thy food with thy hands while eating, rather with thy bread. Seriously, dip that bread up in there!
  11. Thou shalt not bother to remove bones, skin, shells, pits, etc. from thy food before cooking. Thou wasteth time if thou does so.
  12. Thou shalt drink wine and/or beer whenever the heck thou wants.

BONUS: Thou shalt not get fat no matter how much thou eateth!

DSCN1673 DSCN5899 DSCN5357 DSCN1619 DSCN1631 DSCN5754 DSCN5755Okay, so I’m just being silly. A lot of traditional Spanish eating habits like loading up on starchy potatoes & bread and eating an eensy-teensy sugary breakfast are probably not good life choices.

On the other hand, they definitely have some things right:

1) High-protein, 2) low-fat, 3) whole foods.

These principles have actually been sort of the guiding light in my healthy eating journey. You’d be surprised how many opportunities you have throughout the day to swap out unhealthy snacks and meals for high-protein, low-fat, less-processed alternatives.

For example, I just enjoyed a delicious loaded shells and white cheddar mac n’ cheese dinner made with cottage cheese and Greek yogurt instead of butter and milk. I also piled on grilled chicken and chopped kale greens. It tasted way better than if I had just whipped up the boxed macaroni and cheese on its own, and it was full of nutritional content.

IMG_0259If the Muse moves you, these three tips (and not the 12 goofy ones above) have the potentially to help you burn fat and gain muscle. Why not give them a whirl?

Awkward and Awesome Thursday: New Do and Doin’ What’s New

Christmas tradition of dressing up and heading to the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra

Awkward:

  • Joshy was gone on a business trip from Sunday morning until last night. I was all alone without a car and pretty gosh darn miserable 😦
  • We didn’t make it to the Rochester Philharmonic Christmas concert last night until the intermission. Boo. 
  • Finding an internship for next semester. None of the places where I really wanted to work have responded to my query letters.
  • Josh bought me a whole crate of clementines because he knows I love them, and by today they were completely devoured by mold!
  • He also bought me two Christmas presents today and literally could not keep them a secret. He told me within hours of buying them, hahaha!
  • The Thurston’s childhood kitty cat is very sick. Prayer’s appreciated! Mom is really upset.

Awesome:

  • New look! Or should I say, old look back again! This was my hair circa 12th grade. Mid-length, dark brown, and bouncy. Josh is a big fan.
  • Having hubby back! I came in to work today, and Stryker said, “Is Josh home? I thought so. You look super extra happy today.” Well, I am!
  • My honey made a lot of big sales while he was gone. Save up that moolah!
  • A ragtime version of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” written for an orchestra and a xylophone soloist. That happened at the Christmas concert!
  • Josh’s parents are having their bathroom remodeled by a guy from Birmingham. The one in England.
  • Making super-cool personalized Christmas presents for the family. It’s a secret! But I’ll tell later 😉
  • Off to spend Christmas with my side of the family in PA by enjoying a matinee of Les Miserables on Christmas Day.

Hunger Games Beauty from the Runway to the Arena

Don’t judge, but I waited until The Hunger Games movie came out on video before seeing it . . .

Yeah, I’m almost four months behind the bandwagon, but I saved six bucks! Besides, why shouldn’t we keep talking about this both well-loved and controversial work of pop culture for months and even years to come? Especially since it’s progressive fashion and beauty elements have so prominently influenced high-fashion trends and vice versa ;-).

I’ve been wanting to write a post like this for ages. I admit that it would have been more powerful if I had written in it Spain when the film first came out, but I felt like such a poser speaking authoritatively when I hadn’t even seen the movie for myself.

Possible Inspiration for Hunger Games Beauty

While the world of the Capitol supposedly exists in some extravagant distant future marked by outlandish fashions, hardly a single beauty look described in the book or depicted in the movie hasn’t been realized already by a current or past fashion designer.

My theory is that to make the styles seem futuristic, film producers and designers (and maybe even Suzanne Collins way back when she was writing the book), assigned haute couture looks to the Capitol’s everyday citizens. In fact, these citizens would probably look very familiar to us if we were all more easily influenced by high-fashion beauty trends.

Peroxide and Pastel Hair
As the vain Effie Trinket, Elizabeth Banks rocked a plethora of bleach-blonde wigs spritzed with pastel colors, one of which (lavender) was almost the exact shade featured on Proenza Schouler‘s models in Spring 2010. The coloring style found on these and other runways could have provided some definite inspiration for Effie’s lightly colored locks.  
The Braid
Braids have been in fashion for a while now, but nothing could have prepared the world of hair and beauty for the explosion of the single, over-the-shoulder braid caused by Katniss’s signature look. Which fashion forward designer first rocked the look in true hipster fashion? Alexander Wang back in Fall 2010.

Pink Smoky Eyes

Pink eye makeup is another favorite of Hunger Games‘ Effie, and less recently, of high fashion designers everywhere. Even if it’s not always extreme as Burberry Australia‘s interpretation, I have to say . . . If Chanel is doing it, it’s probably a good idea.

Gradient Lips

Shimmery two-toned lips are a popular trend in the fictional Capitol. The dynamic lip look often called the “petal pout” because of the increased lip fullness it suggests has been everywhere from Gucci runways and Burberry ads to British Company magazine‘s high-fashion issue. This ombre lip look, not surprisingly, took off in the high-fashion world shortly after the ombre hair trend took hold in street style culture.

Gold Glitter Eyeliner
Lenny Kravitz seems to have de-throned Johnny Depp as our new favorite man in eyeliner, perhaps because his incarnation of fashion-wise stylist Cinna opts for a shinier option. Who knew that gold eyeliner and even real gold-leaf eye shadow has been swarming the runways from Fendi to Vivienne Westwood ever since Spring 2011? This has become so popular that Emma Watson even tried it on for size at last summer’s Deathly Hallows premiere in New York. On the other hand, we do give Cinna credit for being the first dude to rock this look.

Bejeweled Beauty

Believe it or not, rhinestone beauty spots and butterfly lashes are not the sparkliest things to hit high fashion in the Capitol’s world or our own. Check out these loud beauty looks from this year’s Galliano and Dior runways.

Green Skin

Although she didn’t make it into the movie, prep team member Octavia was written into the Hunger Games novel as having green pigmented skin, perhaps not unlike this controversial look Fyodor Golan sent down the runways last fall. Let’s hope this is one style that never catches on.

Fitness Minute: 5 Elements of a Happy Workout Routine

I’ve never been particularly into New Year’s resolutions. For some reason the month of January is always a hectic time for me and not particularly ideal for taking on healthy new lifestyle habits. I am instead a practitioner of the summer resolution. The change in routine and the slowed pace of the summer months provide an ideal environment for me to start something new and challenging.

This month I have started a serious workout regimen for the first time in my life. I am aiming to do either a cardio workout or weight training every weekday, but usually end up working out 3-4 times a week. Now, I am not an athletic person, and I have struggled with significant asthma for my whole life. Motivation can be a hard thing to come by for me.
Fortunately, I have discovered 5 things that make my workout sessions more tolerable and even enjoyable.

1. A Purpose

And I don’t just mean, “I want to be healthy.” Try to be as specific as possible in your purpose for working out. Think along the lines of, “I want to have more energy at work.” “I want to lose ten pounds to fit into my new dress.”“I want to tone my leg muscles to look sexier for my man.”

If you have a specific goal in mind, it will be easier to see exactly how the sometimes difficult exercises you are putting yourself through are helping you get closer to that goal.

2. A Pal

I know we don’t all have friends or family members whose schedules allow them to be our permanent workout partners, but any time you can work out with someone by your side is a plus.

Even if you aren’t working out with anyone you know, I challenge you to strike up a conversation with someone at the gym. We’re all shooting for the same thing–health and fitness–so a sense of camaraderie is very powerful.

3. A Pet Peeve

It might sound like a strange thing to strive for, but having standards and making choices can be very empowering experiences.

For example, I don’t like to work out in the weight room when it’s just me and one other guy. Mad awkward! Unless it’s Joshy, of course. This pet peeve means that if I’m planning on pumping some iron and there’s some well-built jock hogging the weight room, I usually opt to go running instead. In this sense, I’m not running because I have to. I’m running because I chose to.

Just a silly thing that helps to motivate me 🙂

2 more motivation tips after the jump!

4. A Preoccupation

This is a fancy P-word for a distraction. Something to keep your mind busy and stop it from thinking “Omigoshthisishard!!!”

To get through even 30 minutes of full-out running on the treadmill, I need something to take my mind off of my burning lungs and legs. My go-to is The Food Network. I know it seems ironic, but for me it is perfect motivation. I have what I’m working for hanging right in front of my face, like the old carrot-on-a-string trick. Reading is also a great use of time spent on the treadmill, elliptical, or stationary bike.

5. A Post-Workout Pamper

I’m not talking a junk food binge! Try something that will be good for you as well as feel good–just a little something that you can look forward to as a reward for all of your hard work. Personally I like to hop into a cold shower and then gradually ease my way up to warm. It’s so refreshing and relaxing! My other pamper if I really feel like I deserve a treat is a green tea or peppermint tea smoothie. Delicious and energizing is just what I need after burning some serious calories.

What are some of your “happy workout” secrets? Do you have any personal tips for staying motivated throughout a workout plan? Share about your experience in the comments!

Awkward and Awesome Thursday: Big, Fat, Hairy Ordeals

Awkward:

  • Using up over an hour of mine and two good friends’ time to recolor my roots for the first time without professional help and washing out the dye to find . . . no difference.
  • My roots! They won’t go away!!!
  • Still haven’t gotten ice cream. I need to make this more of a priority.
  • Motion sickness to the max on the bus ride to Segovia. Maybe it’s because I haven’t ridden in a car for a month and a half.
  • Whitney Houston’s untimely death. RIP, lovely lady.
  • Getting pegged with snowballs by punks on the Segovia aqueduct.
  • Spanish kids are boogers.
  • Being about half-way through our adventure in Spain. Part of me feels like we just got here, and part of me feels like we’ve lived here forever.

Awesome:
  • Valentine’s Day! It was so nice to have the girls over for a little bit and then get to relax with my honey. White chocolate cherry popcorn, strawberry cream cake, and Malibu Libres 😉
  • Otherwise lovely trip to Segovia.
  • Meeting Pablo, Luis, and Lupo. Nice boys (men), one and all.
  • Already being done filing our taxes! Ah, sweet relief!
  • Also, tax returns. Thank ya Jesus!
  • Tortilla sandwich. It’s potatoes. And eggs. On a sandwich.
  • Shakira. One thing you have to give this woman is that she is DIVERSE. She can transform from Lady Gaga to Lil’ Wayne to Kelly Clarkson to Faith Hill in the course of one album. And she sings in both English and Spanish!
  • Working on a short film project with the class. It shall be epic.

First High-Fashion Shoot: Part 1

Finally, I’ve finished editing the photos from the most wonderful photo shoot with the most wonderful Kelly Sullivan! There are tons, so I’m planning on posting a new batch every few days, dividing them according to “themes.” In most cases, this just means according to outfit, but not necessarily.
Little disclaimer: Some of these are very unique and feature a variety of photo styles, but some of them are very similar to each other because they’re just variations on the same pose. Hang in there! Don’t get bored on me. Many of them are very nice.
Thank you again, Kelly!

**UPDATE** If you’re wondering what happened to the other photos in this post, Josh and I decided (a little late, admittedly) that they weren’t all appropriate for the blog and took them down.
Favorite pic of me ever! Facebook cover for life, haha.
 
 
Stay tuned for more in future posts!