Archive for March, 2013

Today, before dawn, Bart and I rose, sat in cold plastic chair outside in the chilly morning air, and celebrated Resurrection morning with a group of people we don’t know. This is certainly not Easter as we are used to celebrating it, but Jesus is still alive regardless of where the Taylors might be living.

Luke 24: On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.

Mary and Mary Magdalene had a task they intended to accomplish. However, when they got to the tomb, they were taken aback by Jesus not being in the tomb. I’m sure they were upset, frightened, maybe even angry that something malevolent had been to His body.

Of course, we’ve read the ending and we know what happened, but they didn’t know. Finally, Jesus appeared to them and proclaimed His resurrection to them. But it struck me this morning that often I am set on a task, even a very well intentioned one, and can completely miss something even more astounding that God has in store.

Likewise, a couple of disciples traveling that day were caught up in the details of the moment and missed what was right in front of them.

Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him. (Luke 24:13-16 NIV)

Jesus, unrecognized by them, asks them what they were so earnestly discussing.

One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” (Luke 24:18 NIV)

Yep, Jesus must have been living–er, not living?–under a rock the last few days to have missed that one.

He then begins to explain to them the whole plan of redemption from creation to that moment, finally revealing Himself to them before miraculously disappearing before their eyes. Then they marvel in one of my favorite passages of Scripture:

They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32 NIV)

I don’t want to be so caught up in the details that I miss Jesus. It’s been four months without finding a church, without finding our place in the community, and it’s easy to ask Jesus where He is. But He’s not under a rock anymore; He’s alive and working, even if it’s a little hidden to me in the midst of all the details and the things I’m doing. Hopefully I’m not the one so far under a rock that I don’t see it.

He is risen indeed! Happy Easter, everyone.

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A few weeks ago, we were again sitting in a Sunday School class at a church we’d never been to before, surrounded again by people we didn’t know. The teacher was a nice, kind man who welcomed us warmly. I remember from his lesson when he mentioned the movie Ben-Hur, one of his favorite films that he happened to come across on television the day before and was compelled to watch again. He recounted a few scenes in the movie that he found particularly touching and moving to him.

I was curious because I had never seen the movie before, though it is highly regarded as a great film. I decided to rent the movie from Netflix last week. Though it came promptly, it arrived at a somewhat busy time–one doesn’t have to be all that busy to not have time to sit down with a 222-minute film to do it justice. After being gone over the weekend and having busy evenings full of unpleasant chores such as finishing the taxes, we finally got the opportunity to start it on Wednesday evening. Being so long, we still ended up splitting it over two evenings, finishing it last night.

I didn’t know what to expect, really, apart from Charlton Heston and an epic chariot race. While the movie is over 60 years old now, it is still compelling and featured impressive cinematography; films of our day never have the sophistication of these old classics.

The story is about a Jewish man, Judah Ben-Hur, who lives in Judea at the same time as Christ. While Jesus is accomplishing His earthly ministry, Judah falls from his high station, becoming a slave of Rome but finding freedom and a new life after an act of heroism. However, this new lease on life doesn’t free him from the bitterness of revenge he harbors for the man who initially ruined his life. His life is strategically intersected at multiple points by the Christ, who gives him the will to live and, ultimately by His death, frees Judah from the hatred he harbors.

In retrospect, our delay of watching the movie was not accidental. Rather, I feel that I was meant to watch it during Holy Week, as I mentally and spiritually tried to walk with Jesus to the cross. While I wouldn’t recommend getting one’s entire theology from this movie alone, it showed me a perspective of Jesus that I confess I don’t often think about. Two millennia after His appearance on earth, it’s sometimes hard to think about the ascended Savior as a physical person who walked the earth. But putting oneself in the sandals of a Judean who saw Jesus teaching on the mount or witnessed His face as He carried the cross to Golgotha–the characters in the movie were in awe of the face of Jesus. Even in the agony of the cross, they saw a love beyond understanding when He looked at them, and they understood He was suffering it all for them personally.

I am guilty of so often making my faith dogmatic, apologetic, or even theoretical, and completely forgetting the personal. While He was on the cross, He thought of me and my sins. Today, in heaven, He stands before the Father, interceding on my behalf. “Father! Forgive her; she has no idea what she’s doing.” I also fail to comprehend exactly what judgement I was to face before God; I know I’m a sinner, but do I really know that I’m a sinner? Do I understand exactly what Christ has saved me from? I don’t think I’ll fully comprehend it from this side of Heaven, but when I stand before the throne of righteous God, I will. And I will be more thankful for the cross then than I ever could be in this life.

Ben-Hur did leave out one significant detail of Jesus’ death, and that is His resurrection. The movie ended at the cross, but the story doesn’t end there. It’s Friday, but Sunday is coming.

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Bart and I are sitting on the couch this Sunday night, capping off an entertaining weekend with some unwinding before it draws to a close.

About an hour ago we returned home from a short trip south. We were returning the favor of a visit to our friends who came to visit us last month. I had “Wagon Wheel” in my head all day Friday since we were “hopin’ for Raleigh” that night.

Despite leaving work early and supposedly getting a head start, we spent a whole lot more time hoping than driving, as traffic on I-95 south from DC to Fredericksburg was a nightmare. In 4.5 hours (the time it should have taken to drive the whole way), we went 71 miles, averaging 17 mph. We did stop for Qdoba burritos in there, but still.

It was also timely that Darius Rucker posted his new “Wagon Wheel” video, featuring some of the cast of Duck Dynasty (epic win!), on the very same day. I had to watch it somewhere around hour six for a boost of motivation.

Finally, we made it out of the worst of traffic and cruised in late, tired but happy to be there.

We had modest plans for enjoying the town, but the weather was grey and dreary and cool. We managed to walk around the Durham farmers’ market, enjoy some food truck fare, and wander downtown for some unusual treats at Monuts donut shop. But this annoying, lingering winter that we’re having instead of spring didn’t inspire us. Lacking the appropriate weather for more activities, we spent a good deal of time just relaxing, hanging out, and talking. At one point we calculated how many years of college the four of us had between us…that was a depressing activity. We played with the dogs and made cookies, we watched a movie and chitchatted. We went to church with them Saturday evening and went out later to stuff ourselves with some yummy Indian food.

This morning it was raining and cold. Again uninspired by the weather, we finally mustered enough motivation to go out to the only place we could think of to walk around where it was warm and dry…the mall. While not all that exciting of a vacation destination, it was actually kind of nice to get out a bit.  Afterward, it was time for us to head home. Hopefully on our next trip to Raleigh we’ll be able to do more. I also hope we’ll have more time, because we do have other friends there we didn’t get to see this trip.

It rained for a while, then it began snowing with big, fat flakes nearly all the way back. I am so very done with this late winter. I thought it was just me complaining that it wasn’t warm enough yet, but evidently it really is a late and crappy spring. Winter has been hard enough with the move, and I’ve been antsy for the freedom of fairer skies. Maybe after this round, it’ll finally be over…one can hope.

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I totally get March snow. In Colorado. I expect blizzards and blizzards of snow there. What on earth is it doing snowing in Washington, D.C.? At least it’s just a snow shower that has no hope of sticking to anything, but still. I guess it’s Monday morning, so what else would you expect? It is absolutely time for spring to make its entrance, which it shall formally do on Wednesday.

Bart and I had a pretty low-key weekend, probably because we’re saving up our awesome weekend-ness for the coming one. More details on that as it transpires! This weekend, we went to a seminar at a local church, ran a few errands, exercised, poked at our taxes some more, visited yet another new church, relaxed by the fire, and finished a DIY home project we’ve been working on the last few weeks (the details of which should also be forthcoming). All in all, a nice weekend.

Now it’s time for a new week, and likewise a new Goal of the Week. My first priority for this week is to finish said taxes. I think I finally have the federal part done, so now it’s time for the two state returns, and then I can be rid of this nastiness until next year. I realize many people have much more complicated returns than us, but I did work two jobs in two different states, moved across country, sold a home, and graduated from a degree program this year…I’m just glad it isn’t more complicated than that.

The second priority for the week is to keep exercising each day for 20-30 minutes. I feel good when I do, and getting stronger and fitter is surely a good thing. I also have it in my head that I’d like to start running again when the weather improves (I confess: I’m a wimp. I hate running in the cold), so indoor training is a great way to keep my endurance from flatlining while I wait to hit the trail. I really need a 5K to train for specifically this spring…

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Today is one of the most revered nerd holidays of the year…Pi Day. Every March 14th (3-14), math and pastry enthusiasts alike join to celebrate our most beloved irrational number. Enthusiasts of European-style dates join in shaking their fists at Americans. They’re just jealous that they never get a Pi Day.

One of these days, I am going to actually make a pie on Pi Day. I wanted to this year, but we have some last-minute dinner plans with a friend in Arlington, so I won’t be cooking today. Maybe next year.

Instead, I leave you with the pecan pi(e) that Bart made especially for me on Thanksgiving after I asked him what was for dessert. Very clever, dear.

Happy Pi Day!


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Four months

One third of an entire year ago today, Bart and I pulled into our new driveway in Maryland. Four months sounds so much shorter than one third of a year. Time has that funny way of feeling like it has passed both incredibly swiftly and painfully slowly at the same time. Our settled-ometer continues to read a little higher every day, but I’m still at the point where I tell people “I’m new here.”

Bart and I have weathered out an entire season on the East Coast now. Theoretically, winter is over and now there is naught but to look forward to a warmer, more exciting time of year. We will finally be able to complete many things on our to-do list that were unappealing prospects during the chill of winter, plus just generally enjoy life at home with a little extra daylight and some incentive to get out of the house in the evenings.

We still miss Colorado, though, and all our friends there. Still don’t really have friends here; still haven’t officially decided on a church. Maybe spring will also bring more opportunities to socialize.

On deck for the Taylors:

  • Visiting Civil War battlefields
  • A cherry blossom cruise on the Potomac
  • Baseball season!
  • Visit the zoo
  • Walk around on the National Mall and in town
  • Tour Arlington National Cemetery
  • Make some name rubbings at the Vietnam Memorial
  • Zip lining in Rockville (this is totally Bart’s idea, not mine)
  • We can visit a real beach now? Just whenever we feel like it?
  • Jaunting up to NYC
  • Did I mention baseball?


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Well, my least favorite day of the entire year has come and gone, but its effects still linger. Worse than the day after Christmas, worse than Election Day, worse than tax day, Daylight Saving Time is my least favorite day of all, though it is undoubtedly my most favorite time of year for a gratuitously ranty blog post.

So what if it gets darker later in the evening? News flash–that has already been happening daily since the winter solstice in December! And this will continue to happen through the summer solstice in June, automatically without any help from arbitrarily resetting one’s clock.

Likewise, the sun has been rising earlier each day. However, now that we’ve dorked around with setting the time, I’m back to driving to work completely in the dark. And just when I was maybe starting to get slightly accustomed to waking up at the ungodly hour of pre-six-a.m. to avoid the worst of DC commuter traffic, now I’m staggering and bleary-eyed again. Eight years of grad school didn’t drive me to the coffee machine, but this just might.

I feel that all the typical arguments in favor of shifting the time–saving energy, encouraging commerce and activity for more hours after the work day–are more than offset by the drawbacks and annoyances–the cost in time and money of changing clocks, the disruption of sleep, decreased productivity, etc. It is far from obvious that it makes a positive impact.

The name itself irritates me in a manifold manner. First, contrary to colloquial speak, the correct term is Daylight Saving Time…not “savings” time, which undoubtedly slips much more freely off the tongue; hard to blame anyone for throwing the extra “s” in there. However, the term would be most grammatically correct by adding a hyphen, daylight-saving time, since “saving” is used as an adjective here. You could liken the term to one such as “labor-saving device” if that helps you get the drift of what someone was trying to do grammatically with the term. Of course, this argument would only bother someone as grammatically obsessed as me.

I don’t have children, but on behalf of parents everywhere I also point out that confusing a child’s sleep schedule twice a year is neither pleasant nor edifying.

So don’t let the thrifty little name fool you; if Congress can’t even save money, what makes them think they can save time, too? :p We are merely artificially shifting hours around like we own the place, but the actual movement of sun and stars are firmly out of our control. Any touted benefits do not, in my opinion, outweigh the consequences. Plus, I’m already not a morning person, so giving me more reason to be grumpy is not exactly in the world’s best interest.


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The F-word

As you know, I moved to Washington, DC in November of 2012 to begin a new job as a civilian worker in the Department of Defense. That means, as of Friday, March 1, I am now one of those hundreds of thousands of government workers who will feel the effects of the sequester, barring any alternative resolution in the next 45 days (I’m not aware of any at this time). While I don’t wish to be too overly political in my blog, it would be inconscionable of me to not give due diligence to this subject, especially since this one is personal.

I’m sure you have your own political opinions about the size, nature, and purpose of the federal government. But I do believe there are fundamental issues with the income and outflow of Washington that urgently need to be addressed before we wreak more havoc on the coming generations. Sequestration, in my understanding, wasn’t meant to be an actual solution; however, for lack of agreement between members of Congress to do anything else, this relatively small forced spending cut (really just a brief slow-down of spending increase), supposed to be a threat so inconceivable it would motivate urgent action to prevent it, has become a reality.

While the scope of the cuts are indeed quite small, it is the way in which is it brutally implemented that is so dire. First, Congress has decided to squabble over personal crusades instead of taking care of basic day-to-day needs, so for the umpteenth time in many years they haven’t passed a budget for 2013. All government agencies are forced to limp along under the reduced budgets of a Continuing Resolution. On top of already strained operations came the sequester. Instead of targeted, intelligent reformation across the board, it indiscriminately slashes at one vital sector of the government: defense. Since Congress could not make a reasonable compromise to avoid sequestration, the DoD, already stymied under a continuing resolution, was forced to make a plan to somehow take this hit while still providing fundamental, necessary military service (though even that will be affected). The major way in which they have chosen to do this is implementing the F-word: furlough. Civilian employees will be forcibly given a 20% reduction in pay by mandating leave without pay for one day per week. This is not to exceed 22 days between the end of April and the end of the fiscal year in September, at which point the 22-day clock can reset again for the 2014 fiscal year, if it comes to that.

Keep in mind that, on top of this, the government is also set to run out of money (again) around March 27 and to hit the debt ceiling limit (again) in May. Government shutdown, anyone?

While there is a furlough plan and there doesn’t seem to be any current effort to change sequestration, that doesn’t mean it will ultimately come to any or all furlough days. At this point we’re all waiting to see what happens. I am incredibly thankful that, while annoying, we will not be hard pressed by the short-term prospect of reduced pay. However, if it were to be a long-term thing, it’s hard to say that continuing to live in DC on a reduced salary would be feasible. Say what you will about how overpaid government workers are, there is a reason for some of it: for the majority of government workers living in the District area, the cost of living is sky high and there has to be some compensation for them to even afford basic groceries, gas, and rent or mortgage. And while we will be okay at the moment, Lord willing, a lot of people I know will be in dire straits without their normal income.

In the vast scheme of things, the amount of money being cut really is small, hardly enough to solve actual budgetary issues. And blind hacking at one of your vital organs doesn’t strike me as the best way to perform life-saving surgery on the body of government. While I have my own personal opinions, I certainly don’t have the answer for how to solve things. I’m optimistic it can be done, but sometimes that optimism runs a bit thin. Regardless, I’m evidently stuck in the middle of it and left to make the best of it. Hey, at least with one day per week off during the summer, maybe I can hit some afternoon games with the Washington Nationals! 😉


Obligatory disclaimer, just in case: These thoughts I have expressed are my own; I don’t intend to speak on behalf of the Department of Defense or government or Navy. So let’s be chill! 🙂

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This morning, Bart and I made our first casual trip downtown by ourselves. Our previous excursions to Federal City have been quick trips with friends, and it’s been awfully cold to just volunteer to walk around downtown. But today we ventured out to explore a bit.

In previous excursions, we had various reasons that required driving, which isn’t very fun (as I have described previously). This time, we hit the metro. We took a quick metro trip once immediately after we moved but haven’t had occasion to since. It’s definitely the most convenient way to get downtown, though, if you don’t for some reason need your car. While DC’s metro is a bit pricey (the fares are also scaled by peak vs. off times, but parking is at least free on the weekends), if you consider having to pay for parking in town, it’s not so bad. In anticipation of more trips into town, I ordered us some SmarTrip metro cards that give us a bit of a discount and provide the convenience of scanning and going, no standing at the automatic kiosk scratching our heads and trying to figure out how much the fare is from outlying stop on the Red line to the National Mall.

DC Metro

DC Metro

On this trip, we popped out literally one block from our first destination, Madame Tussauds Wax Museum. I wouldn’t have thought to come here, but I found a Groupon deal on admission, and it seemed like a decent excuse to get downtown. We saw the wax effigies of many movie stars, athletes, and celebrities. The claim to fame here is the Presidents Gallery, where you can walk among the likenesses of all our nation’s presidents. Madame Tussauds encourages you to get up close and personal with their figures, so we got some pics with some of them. Here I am with the Gipper. Somebody tear down that wall!

The Gipper and me

All in all, it was fun and quirky, but I definitely wouldn’t have spent more than we did with the discounted tickets. It took us less than an hour to wander through. From there, we wandered a few blocks, coincidentally past Ford’s Theater.

Ford's Theater

Ford’s Theater

We had lunch across from the FBI building, and proceeded to the National Archives. There we saw the original founding charters of our nation: the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights (sorry, no photos allowed).

There’s something incredibly weighty and proud about reading the direct words of our founding fathers as they labored for decades to provide this nation with the best form of government possible to imperfect human beings. It gives you incredible respect for our democracy and makes you want to fight to maintain it. Or it should.

I can think of a few people who should maybe walk a few blocks west on Constitution Avenue from their workplace and gaze upon these documents again sometime.

We also saw an original Magna Carta from 1297, which was really spectacular, too. Then there were some exhibits on some of the many types of information housed by the national archive. One can go there and actually research through the billions of documents housed by the Archive, but that wasn’t within the scope of our day.

From there, we could have wandered some more, but it was ridiculously cold and we were a bit tired. We’ll save a lot more exploring for warmer weather. We hopped back on the metro and scooted back home, where we’ve actually been pretty productive. In fact, I tackled both of my goals of the week, so those are done (though talking to my friends is really an ongoing process :)). Bart and I even team cleaned the bathroom and non-wood flooring in the house. I hate cleaning.

All in all, a fun and productive Saturday by we the Taylors.

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