Contagious Coffee Habit

Resonance: the reinforcement or prolongation of sound by reflection from a surface or by the synchronous vibration of a neighboring object

For those who don’t know, a few months ago, my family was foreclosed on. We moved in with one of my dad’s musician friends who was gracious enough to house the three of us. Even though it was an adjustment, the Lord’s hand was on it in various ways. For one, my brother’s college is only ten minutes away, so whenever he was sick or something needed to be dropped off, we didn’t have to make a long trek across town and back through Atlanta traffic. Dad has been able to make more music connections and mom has made some business connections. Me? I feel kind of stuck. I am grateful for time to study and work on my own little projects, read, and dream, but I miss having my own space. I don’t feel like an intrusion per se, but the house is austere and not very homey. The neighborhood is beautiful, but their house doesn’t have a front porch (*sniff* not a sore spot at all…) and I stay cooped up in my room a lot because my bedroom and study area is all in one. I don’t know anyone around and finally ventured out to a coffee shop recently. (And I finally even visited a church yesterday!) All this to say, most days are fine, but there can be a few days that I really feel the change and some homesickness even.

Usually I make a French press every morning. Coffee has a way of warming my body and feeding my soul. It creates a sense of normalcy and routine. Anyway, one morning I wandered downstairs and starting prepping my coffee. The daughter of the couple we’re staying with came into town a few days to surprise her mom with a visit and she was standing around in the kitchen too. The mom took a cup of coffee from the Keurig and started spooning sugar out of our sugar container to fix up her cup of goodness. The daughter exclaimed, “Mom, when have you started drinking coffee?!” She laughingly gestured at me and said, “Because of these people.” I was amused! Here I was going about my routine, probably in my thoughts as usual, and this consistent habit of mine had rubbed off on the wife we’re staying with!

In that moment it was apparent to me how easily we can influence or rub off on other people when we’re consistent in our habits (whether good or bad, mind you!) when we’re not even trying to make an impact. This should cast a sobriety over our own hearts, because none of us are islands. People are always watching and gleaning, for better or for worse. So what habits and messages are you consistently sending off? Are you a thermostat (setting the tone) or thermometer (matching the tone already set)?

~Lina Marie

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Cooking Insecurities

Quondam: former; onetime

I used to HATE cooking.

Whenever someone asked me what my least favorite thing was to do, “cooking” was always my prompt reply. Surveys requiring responses for disliked hobbies? Oh, easy. Cooking.  Young men would ask how I would plan on taking care of my future man in culinary ways; I told them to mind their own lives, and I’d cross that bridge when I came to it.cooking-knife-vegetables-meats-cutting boards

Growing up, I was a perfectionist. I liked things to be done a certain way, and I didn’t like to look bad. (Who am I kidding? I still don’t!) Because of these silly fears, I chose not to try out multiple things in fear of failing and being “found out.”

Additionally, I was a homeschooled child. Unlike many of my friends who were one of 5 or 8 or 10 children, I was one of 3. I was four years old when my baby brother was born, so I didn’t have to grow up babysitting or taking on household management to help my mom out. We were all babies.

I watched with envy when my friends could cook up a find tasting meal, change a babies’ diaper, or wrangle kids effectively. Babies would cry the instant I touched them, and I really didn’t know how to cook. Thank God I loved (still do) cleaning though. At least I wouldn’t be a complete lump on a log who just ate and did nothing to contribute.

From those moments on, a soul with mounted insecurity swore to never have children or never cook. It was easy to hide behind my fears and make pseudo-promises to myself. I didn’t have littles in my life, and mom did all the cooking. (Or the nights she was in no mood to whip up a meal, trusty old chips & salsa/cheese & crackers quieted my hunger pangs!)

As time passed, I began digging into the “whys” of my avowed statements. It wasn’t the fact I merely thought cooking took forever, and I was too lazy so no bueno. I realized it was my self-imposed limitations and prides/fears that inhibited me from living out these enriching tasks, namely cooking.

To take a load off her plate, my mom asked me to start cooking several months ago. I initially balked at the request, but since I’m not a terrible daughter and for the sake of her task load, I started. At first, I hated it. But over time, I realized that enjoyment started creeping into my mindset. I actually started looking forward to the process and cooking for loved ones.
Now, I welcome mom’s feedback and corrections. I find joy in the experimentation and the verbalized “yummy!” from my family or friends. It’s no longer about how I look but how I can serve my loved ones. And quite frankly, what does “perfect” look like anyway?

~Lina Marie

What Is This Bitterness I’m Tasting?!

Physiognomy: the outward appearance of anything, taken as offering some insight into its character

Have you ever woken up one morning already craving a smoothie? I climbed out of bed, already scouring for fruits and healthiness before making my French press of coffee (let me tell you, that’s pretty rare.)

It wasn’t hard to find what I was looking for. Pineapples. Bananas. Unripe mangoes. (Ehh, we’ll put those in there anyway.) I was reminded we had frozen blueberries and strawberries in the freezer in the basement, so I hauled both bags up.

Our blender sucks. I always have to put the soft ingredients in first to give the other fruits some “lubricant” to get pulverized as well. It makes a whirring noise that sounds like those annoying lawn-care machines you wake up to on a Saturday morning. (Or let’s be real. The one’s that wake YOU up on a Saturday morning. Ugh.) I have to keep shaking the darn thing to mix all the fruit up.

In addition to the berries and fruits, I like to sprinkle in cinnamon, pour in flax seed, spoon in peanut butter, and shake in some chia seeds. They’re all rich in protein and have other beneficial properties.

For a long time, we had a bag of organic Neem powder sitting in our dish cabinet. I had no idea what it was, but when I opened the bag and took a whiff, it smelled like wheatgrass. (I mean, if something says “Ayurverdic Herbs”, it ought to be healthy, am I right?) Shrugging with indifference, I tossed in some Neem powder happy to be extra healthy today.

Once the smoothie was all mixed up, I took a spoonful to see how it tasted.

Hmmm, perfectly sweet and tart and…EWW. Why does this smoothie taste bitter?!

Horror of horrors. I didn’t realize Neem powder was bitter!!! I ruined a perfectly good smoothie out of ignorance. (*long, dramatic sigh*)

Not one to be wasteful, I bore the bitterness, telling myself to be grateful that at least my body was happy even though my tongue kept yelling at me. It wasn’t a bitterness that affected one area of your tongue, but spreads throughout your entire mouth. It probably took me an hour to drink the whole thing.

After a few big mouthfuls, it dawned on me how like life this smoothie was. We hope for sweetness and have a variety of different blessings in life that resemble it. But then we add something to our lives that adds some bitterness and we have to suffer the consequences later. The Neem powder resembled something else I already knew about, so I assumed this imposter would be alright too.Smoothie-neem powder-morning

But you know what? Life is usually never always sweet. There will always be something bitter, undesirable, distasteful that ruins the season or lot. However, we can focus on how frustrating it is or see it as character-building and stretching.

I finished that smoothie like an Olympian finishing a grueling race. You ain’t beating me today! I win.

~Lina Marie

realAre you interested in what Neem powder even is and the amazing health benefits it possesses? Click this link here for more information. Health on!

Pride Goeth Before the Ball

Outform: external appearance

A friend invited a group of us for a gathering at her house. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but since I lack a refined fashion sense, I threw on my Chacos per usual. (Because whether you go shopping or hiking, they’re perfect, am I right?)

I arrived at her house and walked down a cobblestone stairway before being greeted by a spacious, green backyard and some people playing volleyball in the distance. I was grateful it wasn’t raining, though I knew the mild weather would attract all the mosquitoes. (I’m such a mosquito magnet. UGH!)

I played volleyball for three months in high school, but that was almost seven years ago. And I didn’t grow up in an active, sporting family. I hardly go to the gym and my idea of “booking it” is lounging with a captivating read, so I Volleyball-Summer-Backyard-Friendswas interested to see if my old athletic chops wouldn’t fail me.

I was one of two girls on my team and the other girl clearly played volleyball regularly. She served exquisitely, volleyed every ball, and spiked a few times. I’m usually a pretty confident person, but I noticed I was shaking from adrenaline (or nervousness?). I HATE looking bad and sports always has a way of exposing me. Most of my serves veered off at an embarrassing angle. I didn’t hit the ball hard enough to go to the other side multiple times. I cost our team a few points. (Crazily enough, I managed to spike the ball and punt it to the other side during another play. Needless to say, I didn’t know what the heck I did. Not talent, my friends. Just blessings.)

After a few games, I was ready to go inside and nurse my mosquito bites (and, ahem, pride). I even squinted warily at some of the warrior, athletic beasts and had the audacity to think they probably weren’t as good at writing, dancing, or singing as me. Anything to make ourselves feel better. I may have seemed confident and even decent, but as the old adage goes, “appearances can be deceiving.”

How I managed to be on the winning team all three times, I’ll never know.
~Lina Marie

 

 

 

Floating Epiphany

Notandum: a thing to be observed or noticed

Oh no, her lips are pursed!

Her body language looks like she’s not interested and already has some defenses to make.

MOM! Just give it a REST…

Mom and I were in an office with the two owners, a husband and wife, of this particular business. We had come to pitch some ideas about website redesign, social media upkeep, and other business promoters. They wanted to grow and we were there to help throttle them into a new and exciting time.

Except, I wasn’t doing much pitching. I was just listening to my mom propose interesting suggestions while I was battling my discomfort and hushing my fears.

You see, I’ve never been one to embrace conflict and tend to err on the side of people pleasing. I like to be liked. If I sense a whiff of disagreement, my natural instinct is to change the subject or jump more on board with whomever I’m communicating with even if I disagree. I also don’t like selling people anything. An idea. A book. Myself. Forget it. Getting a “no” sucks, so I’d rather just smile, nod, and agree.

The wife looked like she wasn’t quite following or understanding or agreeing with what my mom was saying, and it took everything within me not to brush over the subject and move unto more agreeable topics. The objections the wife had were fair, but sometimes we cling unto things that gave us success in the past rather than trying new formats that might bring us new successes and opportunities in the future.

And that’s where it clicked.

Here I was internally fighting against my selfishness, my “default” when reagirl-butterfly-statue-kneelinglly, I had no reasons to feel this fear at all. Holding unto old fears, old ways of thinking, old ways of doing things might have had their place at point but need to be re-evaluated for usefulness or benefit.

Conflict is NOT bad and NOT to be avoided. Friction and growing pains may be hard, but that’s where the good stuff happens. New ideas are shared. Relationships are built. Risks are taken. Understanding takes place. Deals are signed.

And really, a “no” isn’t that bad. There are a myriad of reasons why someone may say that and that “no” may just mean I need to figure out a new way of doing something.

After what seemed like an eternity, we stood up, gave hugs, shook hands. We toured the floor, happily admiring the amenities and hominess the place provided. As we were leaving, I noticed a statue of a little girl with a butterfly in her palm on the counter near the door. Immediately, I shook my head in amused laughter, because it seemed like a perfect representation of the solution I needed.

Children are so trusting and carefree. They’re inquisitive, explore, and ask “why”. They’re awed by every new experience and new discovery. They learn quickly. They tumble, fall, and may cry, but get right back up and keep running.

The butterfly in that little girl’s hand was once a caterpillar. It squirmed on the ground, on leaves, on trees. But not until it died to itself — essentially becoming a living sacrifice — that it blossomed into its true nature. A butterfly.

I want to die to my fears. My selfishness. My embarrassment. My pride.

And with every new experience, I hope to be mindful of those opportunities to grow. I want to be a like a child, absorbing and contributing fearlessly.

I must take note.

~Lina Marie

 

Be Brave When the Winds Blow

Mutable: subject to change; inconstant

The annual summer concert in the park, played by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, was in peril of not happening because of Georgia’s wavering weather!

A close friend and I had planned a day out in Atlanta to visit a cat cafe (that’s its own story. Haha) and stay out there for a summer concert at which we’d meet up with other friends. I mass texted several friends a few weeks prior, inviting them to the concert, but every time I looked up at the sky, my heart constricted in worry.

Why does there have to be so many clouds!? The weather forecast went from a 70% chance of rain to a 40% chance and now it’s climbing back up again! Was that thunder or an airplane? What if rains out and cancels our plans? Those clouds look really dark…

I’m not even a worrywart, but these thoughts kept plaguing me while I patiently listened to my friend share about her heart matters. I decided enough was enough and that we’d brave it.

After parking and making our way to the lawn where the concert would be, I was feeling optimistic. Granted, the sky didn’t look breezy and beautiful, but a lot could happen in two hours before the start of the concert.

A friend joined us 30 minutes later and with him, brought ominous looking clouds. The winds gained speed, the trees wildly danced, and my heart sunk. Mr. Friend annoyingly pulled out his fancy, virtual weather map and talked knowingly about the direction of the gathering storm. I looked out at the lawn where other spectators had arrived early to claim a spot; some were hurriedly gathering their belongings to flee.

It started to drizzle and then rained steadily.

*looks at phone* 6:15pm. A lot can happen in an hour and fifteen minutes…!

People were wrapping themselves in their picnic blankets and tarps. We jokingly discussed hiding out under the already set-up stage. Or watching the brewing storm through the window of a nearby building. We chose to stay and be brave.

After some time, the weather subsided and the concert wasn’t rescheduled after all. I looked up at the sky during the onset of the live music and noticed the left portion of the sky was blue with light gray clouds and the right side was cloaked in dark, stormy clouds. And you know what? It stayed like that the entire time.

The music played on and we had a blast!

I suppose it does pay to commit and be consistent when your circumstances seem undesirable and flaky, eh?

~Lina Marie

 

Music Speaks When Words Cannot

Lachrymose: tearful or given to weeping; inducing tears

My younger brother was invited to participate in a piano master class at Reinhardt University last week. It’s a time of intense enrichment, connection with other blossoming pianists, and sharing with the community.

My mother and I made a trip at the end of that week to listen to his performance. The program listed him as the last performer. (I won’t say some “save the best for last” smugness didn’t wash over me a little.) The other musicians had their merits and gifts, but when my tall, handsome, serious brother walked unto that stage, he carried a presence no one else possessed.

Sitting down on the bench, he closed his eyes, mentally prepping himself for the performance. The moment of silence was almost breathtaking. My brother wasn’t classically trained throughout his entire piano “career”, but his hard work and persistence was evident as he made the keys sing. The notes he fingered made your heart soar, withheld your breath every few moments, and caused your mind to climb into the rich, emotional journey of the music.

Personally, classical music has a way of stirring eternal longings in my heart. It causes a blanket of peace to settle over my heart like snow that clothes the hills and valleys, giving it an ethereal, majestic quality. It shifts your mood and induces reflection. Beauty is the silencer of all discord.

As I sat, mesmerized by the music, tears welled up out of nowhere and slipped down my cheek. How is it that music can express sentiments better than words can?

After what seemed like one moment, the music ceased and the sound of enthusiastic applause took its place. My heart beamed with such sisterly pride. Gratitude swept over me as those that had chosen to give him a chance congratulated his work.

I pray that as he continues his ascent into mastery, the hearts and minds of listeners would be touched by the beauty of life and reminded of its Creator. Isn’t that what life is all about?
~Lina Marie

realMy brother was invited to play in New York City this August by a non-profit called Project 142. Its objective is to give blossoming musicians a chance to perform on a wider platform. Please check out his GoFundMe page for updates and more information. Any layer of support is much appreciated! https://www.gofundme.com/JesseNYConcert