A long weekend

A long weekend

It was a long weekend…in more ways than one.

With Hurricane Isaac victims in great need, I was up at odd hours trying to work from home–getting the word out, raising funds as well as possible, trying to help those impacted the most. For my part, it included 3:00am emails and 5:00am writing sessions and so much more.

But my sacrifice is small compared to those who lost so much. I pray that my efforts, as comparatively insignificant as they are, can help impact the lives of those in real need right now.

And in the midst of it all, I managed to sneak in a few moments of weekend bliss. One thing I know: Starbucks, Five Guys and Cold Stone should not all be in a nice, neat little row…or at least we shouldn’t mix said row with a Saturday afternoon hour of free time.

Starbucks, Five Guys and Cold Stone.

Husband and I had Norfolk Tides baseball tickets that we hadn’t yet used, and this was the very last weekend of the season. So we headed to Harbor Stadium for a Sunday evening game, which (in typical Combs fashion) got rained on. In fact, by the time we hit the 6th inning, all those people in front of us in this photo had left, which gave us quite a nice view.

Norfolk Tides minor league baseball game.

I grew up going to ball games. We would attend at least one Orioles game a year, sitting in the bleachers behind the outfield–hardly able to see the action but having the time of our lives. In more recent years I have attended Orioles games wherever I happen to live…like Cleveland or Chicago. But being the only one in orange always made me feel like an outsider. Coincidentally, the Tides are a farm team for the Orioles, so I felt right at home with orange birds all around.

Baseball game with Husband

However, the rain ended up canceling the fireworks (boo) and causing a delay in the 8th inning. We were down 7-1, so Husband and I decided it was time to go get dry. As it turns out, they never did return to play, so 7-1 loss it is.

In other news I attempted my first batch of grape jelly all by myself. I’ll share more about how it went later. And Husband and I blanched and froze a good batch of green beans freshly picked from our garden. Looking forward to eating all this yummy-ness this winter!

Green beans from our garden.

How was your holiday weekend?

Mary, Martha, Migraines and more

Mary, Martha, Migraines and more

Coffee Dates with God

I was recently having a gmail chat with a dear friend that I don’t see nearly often enough. I was horribly missing her companionship and perspective in my life and began completely unloading all the thoughts that have been rolling around in my head.

In the middle of the conversation, this came out:

I’m trying to find the balance between being uncomfortable where I am (stretching) and yet still having peace…working hard and adhering to all those proverbs about sowing/plowing/working/being like ants, and also adhering to Scripture that says “be still” and Jesus’ example of leaving the crowds to be in the garden or the boat to rest and pray…balance is hard

If I take the time to sit down, I feel lazy… if I exhaust myself running around, I feel like Martha…

This is the crux of my life right now. And its a tough one to figure out.

I know the story of Mary and Martha, and every so often it makes its way back to the forefront of my mind. I don’t want to be a Martha…but how do I become a Mary?

So much of Scripture also commands diligent, hard work: One who is slack in his work is brother to one who destroys. (Prov. 18:9) And perhaps most applicably this summer, the comparison to the ant: Ants are creatures of little strength, yet they store up their food in the summer (Proverbs 30:25).

And one of the most compelling to me–Proverbs 31. Most of this Scripture passage refers to business, work, and responsibilities. It says things such as “She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family” and “She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks” and “She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.” How does one live up to that example and yet still be a “Mary”?

How do I become this diligent, hard working, providing wife without losing the ability to sit at the feet of my Lord?

Scripture said that Martha was “distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.” Boy does that describe me sometimes (especially during the holiday season…which isn’t too far away).

Shortly after my conversation that sparked these thoughts, a migraine hit me from out of nowhere…I’m talking serious vision disturbance, distorted equilibrium, severe pain, nausea… Bad.

I left work early and went home to rest. The severe pain eventually subsided, but the residual pain and fogginess remained. It’s what I call “migraine hangover.” For two more days I was forced to slow down, take my time, not expend so much energy, not get distracted by my long to-do list.

Perhaps it was my body forcing me to give it what it needs…even to my own detriment and pain. I needed to slow down. To take things one little step at a time, approaching my responsibilities with care. To not get “distracted” by preparations and responsibilities.

It was a reminder that I need balance.

Perhaps the best answer to my quandary is simply to counsel myself with the words of my Lord: “You are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one.”

*Sigh*

*Sigh*

I always know when it’s been a long, hard day…or too much life over the weekend…or just plain too much stress.

By about 2:00 in the afternoon I start taking these deep breaths and letting them out slowly in a long sigh.

It’s not that I don’t like my work, on the contrary–I love my job. And I love the people that I work with. But sometimes, long days of dealing with poverty can be overwhelming. Especially when added onto the stress of real life and all the personal “stuff.”

Hot tea

I begin to close my eyes for a moment, breathe deeply, and bolster myself for another hour, or two, or three. I push the breath out of my lungs, feeling the power and presence that the art of breathing affords me. It’s a simple thing that reminds me–I’m alive. I’m human. I’m not the energizer bunny.

I kick off my shoes, because really, they’re just a hindrance to my comfort.

I also make hot tea (like today’s choice of Trader Joe’s Well Rested herbal concoction) and allow the steam to penetrate my reluctance to open my heart to yet more burden. I take a few sips, reminding myself of the comfort of home, and family, and the love of my Lord. And I know that I have the strength, the courage, and the perseverance to go another day. Or at least until 5:00.

“Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you.” – Psalm 55:22

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life…But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” – Matthew 6:25, 33-34

Mutually exclusive

Mutually exclusive

Mutually exclusive

Good and hard aren’t mutually exclusive. Neither are love and hate.

My job is good. But it is hard. In fact, I love my job. But I hate why I have to do it.

Does that make any sense at all?

A little background info might help. I work as a writer for an international humanitarian aid organization. Every day I am immersed in the world of severe poverty. Our current media campaign revolves around the tragedy of human trafficking.

It’s hard. It’s horrible. I don’t want to have to write about this. I don’t want to have to write down the shocking statistics or heartbreaking stories of those who have been forced into slavery.

But I do it because it makes a difference. I do it because it’s good. Because it’s right. Because it’s worth it.

And tonight I’ll go home, make myself a cup of hot tea, do a little yoga, and maybe read a book. I’ll try to forget what I do for a little bit. But not really, not really ever forgetting. Because these amazing, strong, resilient women and children deserve to be remembered.

A few deep breaths and the knowledge that I am doing something about it will help me sleep tonight.

“It’s better not to believe, because if you believe, you don’t sleep nights. And how can you eat? How can you drink a glass of wine when you know?” – Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor, when asked about those who don’t believe stories of genocide

Homelessness: What can I do?

Homelessness: What can I do?

One of the things that has truly been on my heart lately is the plight of the homeless in my city. I truly have a heart for humanitarian aid and disaster relief (which is why I consider myself SO BLESSED to be able to work for an international aid organization). In my local community, though, this largely translates to helping those living in shelters or on the streets.

When I lived in Billings, Montana, my church had a very active homeless ministry, and in spite of the intimidation of the unknown, I joined the team.

It was one of the best things I did during my college years.

I learned so much, and I really learned to have Christ’s heart toward the homeless. Not pity, not necessarily even sympathy, but definitely love, unconditional love.

When I moved to rural Ohio, we didn’t have much of a homeless population, but my church offered a free community meal to anyone who was struggling to provide enough food for their families, so I volunteered with that program.

But since moving to Virginia, I haven’t done as much volunteering as I would like to. I find graduate school, work, and marriage requires most of my time and energy.

So what can I do? How can I help when I don’t have any more time or resources than I am already giving?

This year for Christmas, I want to spend a portion of our discretionary money on supplies to put together homeless packs: small bags of shelf stable food and hygiene items. Things like granola bars, water bottles, toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo, etc.

And I want to keep a few of these in my car at all times, to hand out to the homeless that I see along my usual routes through town.

It isn’t much, but I believe that it can make a difference. I have ignored these people for too long. I want to show them Christ’s love. And I am willing to sacrifice some of my meager spending money to make it happen.

TC 24: My Job

As it is the first day of November, I am going to start a thankfulness countdown to Thanksgiving.

Today I am thankful for my job. Just like anyone else, my Monday mornings can be the worst. But I am lucky to be able to remind myself how much I love my job.

Really.

I love my job.

I work at an international humanitarian aid organization, where I am part of the integrated media team, developing web and print media to connect our field workers with our supporters.

I get to work every day toward a goal that seems almost unattainable, and yet we make progress. I get to use my writing to break the cycle of poverty, to feed the hungry, to offer hope to the broken. I get to see tangible change.

I wish everyone could be as lucky as me, I truly do. Because when you work for something you really believe in, work itself is a joy–even on the hard days.

I am thankful for my job.

A long week

It seems that every time Friday rolls around, I’m thinking the same thing—boy was that a long week! Will a week ever just be a week?

Sure, part of it is some extra stress as I get used to me new responsibilities at work and one of my supervisors is out. And yes, I am working full time and taking a graduate level class and trying to work on my thesis. But really, life is going to continue this way for a while. So I might as well get used to it.

A few things I’m learning:
• Don’t attempt to do homework after working all day and cleaning the barn in the evening. I’m exhausted.
• Don’t schedule date night after work and barn for the same reason.
• Drink lots of hot tea at work in the morning; it makes the day feel a little calmer.
• Don’t plan to do too much on the weekends.
• Don’t stress too much over the state of disarray at the house while simultaneously trying to renovate the bedroom.
• Don’t attempt to do homework unless I have the house to myself.
• Purchasing a new dog toy/bone can be very helpful in getting homework done.
• MAKE time for friends; they’re more important than a clean floor.
• Wake up early enough that the morning isn’t rushed; it’s worth giving up 15 minutes of sleep.

In other news, the walls of our bedroom are completely prepped and Bob is going to be priming today (since he has the day off and I am working). If all goes as planned, I should get two coats of color on tomorrow. I might have to wait until Monday evening to do the glaze, but it should all be wrapped up in a few days!

Then perhaps on to the kitchen walls…