May 20, 2009

The Swine Flu Has Made Me a Star

Yesterday while having lunch with a friend outside the St. Louis County Courthouse, a reporter for the local news asked us our thoughts on a St. Louis County resident contracting swine flu and dying. I pontificated for a few seconds...and made the local news! Watch the video here. You have to wait until the very end to see the snippet of me talking, but I am pretty sure my future as a pundit is secure.

May 11, 2009

Songs that Make Me Smile: Hold on to Jesus

So this is the first installment of my new series about the songs on my i-pod that make me smile. One such song popped up on the playlist today, and I smiled. It was Steven Curtis Chapman's "Hold on the Jesus." Yes, I own a few SCC albums, and they were all purchased around the same time and for the same reason - namely, sentimental songs.

This song first came onto my emotional radar during a summer youth group trip in 1998. Interestingly, the camp was held in Wright City, MO, about 40 minutes west of where I currently live. Little did I know at the time that one day Missouri would be my home.

During that week the camp participants spent their days doing manual labor for people in the community who needed house repairs but could not afford them. I remember building a front deck, a back patio, and a little roofing, I think. In the evenings we would have times of teaching, and each evening ended with a slide show with photos from the day. The slideshow would always be set to "Hold on the Jesus," so that song became the theme song for the week. As I reflect back on that week 11 years later, it was a time when some things about being a Christian began to click for me. I started to understand that God really loves me, and He matters more than anything in this world. The idea that I don't have to be good enough for God began to register, and I began to understand that He takes my sin.

Those were pretty profound thoughts for a 14-year-old, but my application of them was limited. In many ways I think my spiritual upbringing emphasized doing the right things. I realize that my impressions (especially 11 years later) might not reflect what was actually said, but there was a big emphasis on doing the right things: reading the Bible, having devotions, coming to youth group, and being part of an accountability group. My church experiences left me with the strong impression that I should always be growing closer to God, and that each year I should be closer to God than I was the year prior.

If this sounds very burdensome, rest assured that it was. Nearly every time of growth I experienced during my teens was tinged with a terror that I wasn't growing enough, or that I would backslide. Add to this the feeling that if I had a struggle in my life, it was because I wasn't doing enough of something good. "If you feel far from the Lord," I recall hearing, "maybe it's because you're not reading your Bible or praying or coming to youth group. That's your problem."

Oy. It's exhausting for me to just think about how hard I had to work to make sure that I was always "growing closer to God." My theology had no room for God's grace, His relentless love, or His sanctifying discipline. I didn't have a growing spiritual life - I had religion.

When I hear "Hold on to Jesus," I remember how much I learned in one week at work camp, but also how much I struggled during those years to just feel good enough for God. Sadly, the whole point of the song is the simple message of Jesus being worth more than all this world has to offer, that He remains constant in a sea of change. I missed the point then, but I don't miss it now.

The song is a blessed reminder that while I'm not good enough, God still loves me. Though my faith is weak, He is faithful. I am the child; He is my Father. And I've left my days of meritorious spirituality behind me (for the most part).

Holding on to Jesus is far more freeing than holding on to religion.

May 4, 2009

The Fearless Fowlers Takes a Stab at Fashion...and other things

I have never, ever, ever in my life considered myself fashionable. My husband had to point out to me when we were dating that I consistently bought jeans 1-2 sizes too big. I prefer flip flops over just about any other shoe on the face of the earth. And accessories of any kind have only made it on to my radar in the last 12 months.

I am not fashionable.

So it doesn't make sense that someone with a complete lack of style would love investigating fashion websites, does it? It's like checking in to see how badly I miss the mark. But each day I find myself checking out what's going on in the world of style, hoping that perhaps reading enough will transmit the information to my brain and make me a better dresser. Crazy, I know.

Because I love these websites so much, I feel the need to share them with you. - In the websites own words, "Three feminist PhD candidates at a Midwest university, on a crusade against the ill-fitting polyester suit of academic yore." Love it. LOVE it. These three women have different styles, different body types, and different daily challenges, and it's fun to see their creative looks and how they get the most mileage out of their respective wardrobes. And they are brainy, too! Very inspiring.

Stuff Under Twenty
- Fashion on a budget (or for people who have a hard time bringing themselves to spend money). What's not to love about a website devoted to fun finds under 20 buckaroos? I've even signed up for their daily emails. To me it's like Christmas shopping all year long.

And my new favorite fashion (kind of) find: Jersey Skirt from Target
This skirt might be the most comfortable thing I have ever worn. It comes in a host of colors and costs less than 15 bucks! I got this skirt on Saturday (in blue) and wore it Saturday night for hosting dinner with friends, Sunday to church, and today to work. Needless to say, this has become a wardrobe staple for me in 72 hours. Fashionable? I don't really know. Comfy? YES!

Perhaps my favorite feature of this skirt is the rolled waistband, which makes this skirt really comfortable. It also works really well for covering a growing baby bump...which I have...because I'm pregnant! That's my sneaky surprise for the end of this post. The Fearless Fowler has a bun in the oven - Baby Fowler is due the first week in November. What new and exciting adventures await!