Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Exciting Adventures of My Passport

I've never been so excited to see the mailman
in my life.  I'm 99.9% sure I scared him. 
I decided to update my passport recently.  I filled out a form, took an (awful--like really awful) picture, and sent a check, including a lovely extra fee to expedite the process.  Pretty simple, right?  Oh boy.  Little did I know the incredible saga that was about to unfold.  

The biggest reason I had to update my passport: I'm going to Kenya!  Soon!  So having my passport returned to me quickly was just a teensy bit important. 

About a week after I mailed in the packet, I received an email telling me my documentation wasn't acceptable, and they would need more.  Hmmm.  

Then, the US Government shut down.   I kinda didn't plan on that happening.  

A bit worried, I called the Passport Office.  I luckily reached a nice lady pretty quickly.  However, all she could tell me was that it was "in process." Oh-kaaay.

Two weeks later, I received another email.  

The now two packets I sent in were both unacceptable.  They required still more information confirming the use of my name on official documents from childhood.  Let me repeat: childhood.  I have moved nearly 78 times in the last dozen years so this news caused a bit of distress.

I immediately called my mom (yay for mommy!) and asked if she could dig up some very old forms that the passport office requested.  My fantastic mother, aka The Outrageously Organized File Keeper, found my SAT scores, college transcripts, and even a Health Form from elementary school (it's actually pretty adorable).  She overnighted them to me from Hawaii. I was then required to submit them in person to a Passport Acceptance Facility in my area.  In an hour long meeting, I plead my case (my opening line: "Hi, I'm me."  They laughed.  Nervously.  This whole thing was so weird.  Anyway).  Satisfied with the documents, they sent in the third packet to the Passport Agency in New Hampshire.

Still with me?  But wait, there's more!  

At this point, it's been over a month, and my Kenya trip is right around the corner.  I called again to confirm whether the third packet had been received.  Another nice lady confirmed that it had.  She told me she'd be happy to have someone call me when my passport was processed.  And you know what?  Someone actually did.  I received a glorious voicemail 3 days later from a very nice man in Arizona telling me that my passport was "accepted" (hooray!), but he wasn't sure when it would be created and mailed (uh oh).  I chose to focus on the positive.  Finally--they believe I'm me! 

I was talking to a good friend of mine right after I received this voicemail.  She, as well as several friends and family, was well aware of my fun little passport drama. I was telling her how they were cutting it close and I was really worried.  Amy asked me, "Kalei, are you really worried?  Do you really think God doesn't have this all under control?"  Amy cuts to the chase.  That's one of the reasons why I love her. 

This afternoon, a beautiful Express Mail envelope arrived.  And inside, my beloved passport. 

I'm not gonna lie.  From the moment I received the first email, I was really worried.  During this month-long saga, I was up quite a few nights tossing and turning, wondering whether it would all work out.  But I shouldn't have.  God tells us not to be anxious, and to lift up all of our worries to him.  

This is one of my favorite verses.  It always gives me peace when I'm feeling anxious.  I probably should have meditated on this one a bit more during this trying time! 

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?"  Matthew 6:25-27 NIV

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

What I Learned in Cooking Class

Have you ever heard of ling cod?  Me neither. 
Cooking classes could be one of my favorite activities ever.  I always pick up something new (how to dice an onion without losing your fingers!), and I always leave completely satisfied (taste as you go!).  

Recently I took a ridiculously fun cooking class with a group of lovely friends.  Why was it so fabulous?  Maybe it was the marvelous menu (gold star for Suzy), the fantastic space (hello warehouse kitchen that made me feel like I was on an episode of Chopped), or the incredible chef (thanks Nathaniel!), but the real reason I loved it: I learned a TON!   

From seasoning the perfect kale chip to a baking the perfect brussels sprouts au gratin, I was floored by how many helpful tips I picked up int he course of 2 hours.  

My favorite dish however was pan-fried ling cod.  Having never heard of this fish before, of course I Googled it.  Turns out, it's one of the ugliest fish I've ever seen.  But mmmm so tasty.  A bit of olive oil, some salt and pepper, and a quick salsa verde, et voila!  It was completely transformed into a decadent and delicious, light and flaky masterpiece.  
Tantalizing and tasty 

I love that God encourages us to learn.  At this time in my life, I've been especially mindful of all of the learning opportunities put in front of me every day.  Staying present to these experiences--both good and bad--has helped me to continue growing in my faith. 

Wise men and women are always learning, always listening for fresh insights.  
Proverbs 18:15 MSG

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Hiking in the Forest above the Desert

I heart you, gigantic trees 
I adore hiking, especially in the fall when the air is a little chilly, and especially in a gorgeous and unexpected location like Palm Springs.  Yup.  I took this picture hiking through the San Jacinto forest, on the mountain top above smoking hot, cactus-and-sand-filled Palm Springs.

It's one of my favorite places to hike because it's so completely different from the climate a mere 10 minutes down the mountain.  It was (gasp) 45 degrees up here--there was even snow on the ground.  Then after the fun revolving tram ride and the quick drive back to our rental house, we were laying out at the pool in 92 degree heat.

Anyway, back to these awesome trees.  This picture doesn't do them justice.  These suckers were HUGE.  And yet, in spite of their size, they put me at peace.

It struck me that God is bigger than any of my problems, and that no matter what I face, he's always there, giving me peace.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1

Monday, October 14, 2013

How Do You Start Your Morning?

I just love little pumpkins.  And this little candle.
It's the little things, you know?
I love my morning ritual.  After being woken up by my ridiculously energetic dog (who is thankfully adorable), we take a nice long walk along a beautiful tree-lined creek, singing "Good Morning" to Daisy's friends--fellow dogs and the cutest little cottontail bunnies--along the way.  (I know I sound like Snow White in this little story, but this is seriously how amazing my morning is).

When I get back, I make a warm and hearty bowl of oatmeal with chia seeds and bananas, lightly dusted with cinnamon, and sip Sweet and Spicy Tea with a dash of almond milk.  YUM.

After breakfast, I pull out my Women of Faith Bible and Jesus Calling, my lovingly worn devotional that I've read nearly every day for the last 4 years.  It never fails to comfort me.  But the crazy part?  More often than not, the day's message is exactly what I need to hear.  God is pretty amazing that way, you know?  

"In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly." Psalm 5:3 NIV

Sunday, October 13, 2013

We May Have Overpacked a Teensy Bit

Just 40 ladies (make that 4) packing for a
month-long vacation (kidding-just a weekend).
The lovely ladies of my small group traveled to Palm Springs this weekend for our first annual Fall Retreat.  We booked this little escape months ago and had such a fun time planning our itinerary:  morning devotionals, hiking in the chilly (and snowy!) San Jacinto forest, laying by the pool, a Ryan Gosling/Channing Tatum film fest, making chocolate chip cookie dough (miraculously, we baked a few), and most importantly, just hanging out.  In short, the perfect girls weekend.

Four of us decided to carpool together to save money on gas, access the coveted carpool lane (a must in Southern California, especially on a Friday afternoon), and entertain each other on the long ride. It ended up being one of the funniest trips ever.  

The hilarity started when we arrived at Becca's house, and surveyed the enormous amount of crap we all brought.  Suitcases, duffel bags, and beach totes chock full of clothes, shoes, books, food, and other nonsense. We burst into giggles as we tried to cram every last piece into the thankfully giant trunk of Becca's car.

While we stuffed--rather efficiently, I might add--a tremendous amount of stuff into her car, we were a bit worried how Becca would see out of her back window.  I said a little prayer on the spot. Later I found a great verse that I thought was so fitting for this, or any trip.  (By the way, I'm not advocating stuffing your car beyond belief and then hitting the road; for the record, Becca is a very safe and cautious driver). 

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9 NIV

Thursday, October 10, 2013

I love you soooooo much!

HOORAY!  You're up! Oh I'm so excited to see you!
I waited all night for you! I missed you so much!  
I have the privilege of waking up to this delightful little face every morning (side note: I adore my dog.  While this may be the first post about her, trust that it won't be the last).  In fact, this morning she was so elated when I finally threw back the covers, she did a little happy dance (translation: an extremely adorable butt wiggle). 

How she could possibly be so excited to see me every single morning for the past 8 years completely boggles my mind.  And it's not just every morning that she goes bonkers.  She's beyond thrilled every time I return home--even if I'm gone for 2 minutes to throw out the trash!  The second I fish out my keys, I can hear her bolting to the door, wagging her tail, giddy with excitement that I'm home. 

I feel incredibly lucky to have been gifted this amazing companion, who has done nothing but show me incredible love time and time again. 

If this is the love of a dog, imagine how vast God's love is for us! 

I'm a huge fan of The Message, and this verse so beautifully declares how he feels about us: “I’ve never quit loving you and never will.  Expect love, love, and more love!" Jeremiah 31:3 MSG

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

How to Seek Comfort in the Cold

Sorry this is a bit blurry- the steam fogged my
shot.  Also, my iPhone 4 camera sucks.
Since it doesn't happen very often, we Southern Californians tend to freak out when the temperature drops below 70, and when water falls from the sky.  So brace yourselves, my friends, for some terrible news: today it's a frigid 63 degrees AND it's raining!  

This morning I stepped outside for my walk with my dog, and promptly turned around.  So. Flipping. Cold.  I dug into my "winter clothing"pile at the back of my closet to find a fleece jacket, long sleeved shirt, wool socks, and my Lululemon Wunder Unders.  Ahhh.  Relief. 

For lunch, I had a yearning for something hot and hearty.  I decided on my go-to cold weather comfort food: Udon.  This yummy noodle dish is the Japanese equivalent of chicken soup, but with extra little treats: fish cake, bok choy, green onions, shrimp tempura.  You can throw just about anything into this little bowl of goodness. 

Mmmmm.  I felt warm, satisfied, and happy all over.  It also helped that I had lunch with my incredible Dad who happened to be in town from Hawaii.  We had an awesome conversation, and really enjoyed just hanging out, despite the frosty weather.  Side note: if you think we Southern Californians go bananas over the cold, you can only imagine how arctic this weather was for my poor Hawaiian daddy! 

There is an easy way to be comforted when we're going through a difficult time, like this cold weather front (joking).  God designed us not only to rely on him, but to be in community with each other.  We're asked to seek comfort in him so we can also comfort others.  How reassuring to know that between God and each other, we're constantly giving and receiving love.

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God." 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

It's Pumpkin Time!

How adorable are these little guys?
I love fall--the dazzling leaves, the crispness in the air, the return of football season.  But my favorite part of all--the beautiful PUMPKINS!  

If you're a pumpkin fan like me, I have great news: the food industry has found a way to cram pumpkin into just about anything.  Today at Trader Joe's I found: Pumpkin Spiced Chai, Pumpkin Cream Cheese, Pumpkin Butter, Pumpkin Bars, Pumpkin Oatmeal, Pumpkin Scones, Pumpkin Bread & Muffin Mix.  And an assortment of actual pumpkins.   

At TJ's, you're not just buying a pumpkin.
You're buying a Fall Fantasy. 
I'm a pretty discriminating pumpkin picker. I like to find the really, really weird ones.  Bright orange with lime green ribbons.  Sunshine yellow with a smidgen of coral.  White frost with green stripes. Bumpy. Portly. Scrawny.  

Each one unique and beautiful in its own way. 

I love that God feels the same way about us.  He not only created each of us to be perfectly unique, he thought about and planned each of us long before we were born. 

 "Before I shaped you in the womb, I knew all about you. Before you saw the light of day, I had holy plans for you: A prophet to the nations—that’s what I had in mind for you."  Jeremiah 1:5 MSG

Monday, October 7, 2013

How It All Began

The inspiration for it all :)
At the beginning of this year, I was pretty upset.  Why?  My life had not gone according to plan.  I never imagined that at 36, I would be divorced and jobless.  Add to that a cross country move to a new city where I hardly knew a soul.  It was a dark and lonely time.  And that's putting it mildly.

And then...something incredible happened.  Through a series of crazy events, in 4 short months, my life was transformed.  I found a great church, started my own consulting company, made wonderful friends, joined two amazing volunteer organizations, was asked to co-lead a women's group, and enrolled in Nutrition School.

Oh.  And I found my life's purpose.

By no means am I saying that I have anything all figured out, or that my life is now easy.  But.  When I decided to focus my life on God and his plan for me, everything started falling into place.

One of the most important changes I made was to practice gratitude daily.  To actively seek beauty and loveliness every single day, even when I didn't feel like it.  Especially when I didn't feel like it.  This simple activity shifted my brain from feeling sorry for myself and depressed about everything I didn't have, to being grateful and overwhelmed at everything I did have.

"Seeking Lovely" was inspired by Philippians 4:8, which is easily one of my favorite verses ever.  "Whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, worthy of praise, think about these things."

I promise to find one lovely thing every day to share with you.  My hope is that you're inspired to do the same, and pass it on.