Thursday, May 21, 2009

Big Mouth

Today was my annual dentist appointment and, after a week or two of severe heat and cold sensitivity in one of my teeth (don't you wish that word could be tooths?), I was convinced that I had finally created my first cavity. Much to my relief, it was not a cavity. The problem? I use a toothbrush that's too big for my mouth, causing irritation in my gums. This information should not be surprising, considering someone asked me if I still had my baby teeth when I was in high school. "Big Mouth" was never my nickname in a literal way; I really do have one of the world's smallest adult mouths. Next time you see me, check it out. I'm okay with it, but it does mean that I now have to brush with a child's toothbrush. "Do you want a fairy princess one?" my hygienist asked. "Sure, why not?" I replied, thinking how this would really help my I-look-younger-than-I-am-problem. And yes, the toothbrush has Ariel on it...and sparkles...and is purple...and fits my teeth just right so that I don't have exposed gums that make my teeth hurt. So, here's to all you little mouths out there: suck it up and join the recommended age of 5-7 year olds who use the same size toothbrush. Now you don't have to just be a kid at heart; you can be a kid in the bathroom too.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Another must-read

Many of you think that all the books I recommend are depressing because I'm a sucker for non-fiction and reading about life that is...messy and imperfect and difficult. I feel like we learn the deepest during times of great desperation and despair, so I try to learn as much as possible from these people, gleaning wisdom, experience, and understanding into lives that have seen many more valleys of death than my own.

Immaculee Ilibagiza's book, Left to Tell, is one such story, as it recounts one young woman's experience living through the Rwandan Holocaust of 1994. (If you haven't seen the movie Hotel Rwanda, you might consider watching it. It tells the same story and is one of those movies that you're glad you saw, but never want to see again). After reading this book, it's hard to imagine that I was a middle schooler then, probably stressed about exams or my jammed locker when something so awful was going on across the ocean. Without giving away too much of the story, Immaculee tells her account of growing up in Rwanda, hiding in a tiny bathroom with seven other women for three months to escape imminent and violent death by Hutu rebels, and her faith in and dependence upon God throughout her heartbreaking experience.

Only in America do we expect life to be easy and then question God when it isn't. Only in America do we think we deserve happiness or have a right to peaceful living. Of course, we all wish for and desire that, but we certainly do not deserve it. God has made two promises concerning crisis and tragedy and neither includes a carefree life. He has promised that 1) We will experience it in our lifetime, and 2) He is good and ever-present. Some contend that those two statements cannot coexist, but as with so many Biblical truths, it can--and really has to be--both and.

After reading this book, I am more aware of suffering around the world, more grateful for my own country--even in the middle of a recession--and more challenged to depend on God in the midst of difficulty and trial, trusting that He has perfect and redemptive plans for me. This book is a quick read and such a vivid reminder that out of the valleys of death come deep, rich, refined gems of hope.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Shamelessly branded

About a month ago, my trusty L.L. Bean hiking boots finally gave out as the rubber sole completely disconnected from the shoe. These boots had admittedly been through a lot; several countries and many a hiking trail later, it's more surprising that they lasted a decade than that they broke. I loved these hiking boots, so I got on L.L. Bean's website and online chatted with a customer service representative who was friendly, helpful, and sent me links to the correct forms I needed to print. I sent the boots back free of charge, fully intending to simply have them repaired. However, L.L. Bean has a policy that if you ever return anything you bought from them that has broken, they will replace it free of charge--amazing. My shoes were so old that I didn't even know the name of the style I had, and I didn't see anything like the online, so I opted for a new pair of Keen hiking boots in case they weren't able to repair the old ones. A few weeks later, there was a brand new pair of hiking boots in my mailbox...along with a $20 check because the Keens cost $20 less than my original pair! So, they actually paid me to buy new shoes! I don't buy from L.L. Bean often (partly because their products are so long-lasting), but you can bet that this happy customer will be purchasing merchandise from this company again.