Sunday, January 15, 2012

A peace of mind...

Today I felt peace. God really laid something on my heart during worship. I heard His voice whisper into my ear, "I am here for you, you have nothing to fear, just trust me". The lesson today was in Luke chapter 12 where I was reminded not to worry and not fear, for God is near. All I need to do is "Let go and let God" and know that He will provide. Since I have moved to Portland I have experienced a vast amount of change in my life to where I have become emotionally exhausted. I've been happy, I've been sad, I've smiled and I've cried, I've been excited and I've been scared. I've been confident, confused, and self-conscious. All of these emotions I have buried deep within and tried to cope with them all by myself instead of casting all of my cares upon Him. In result, I have become lost in my path, tripping over my own feet, and left with no sense of direction. It is difficult to stay focused on what God has in store for me here while I have been desperately seeking approval and social acceptance through 'finding a job'. I want to be respected, I want to be successful, and I want to be responsible. I want to make my family proud.

It is easy to become restless in external expectations and pressures of society. Maintaing a positive attitude is this constant struggle and dealing with the disappointment in this never-ending job search. I wish I could feel a sense of relief in obtaining security. I am frustrated with feeling failure.  Sometimes I even dread answering the phone when I feel like I don't have 'good' news to tell, something that would make me feel like I fulfilled my purpose.

Lately, God has really captured my attention in teaching me that there is a lot more to life than how we make a living. A lot of people let their occupation define who they are and their purpose in life, which overlooks the sole purpose God gave us life. I can see God's hand at the work in the experiences I have had so far in Portland. I have found a wonderful church family to connect with and I feel very welcomed in their community. I know all the people I have met and the relationships I have started to build have all been God's work at hand. He has opened up doors of opportunity for me to use my gifts to serve and strengthen his kingdom. I know he will continue to bless me if I keep placing my faith in Him and let Him take complete control over my life. This truly has been one of the most valuable experiences in my life, a true test of faith. I came here trusting in His vision and plan for my life, but it easy for that to become muggy and unclear when I try to take the lead. I have never been more dependent upon God's direction and provision in my life than I am right now. I am in a very vulnerable stage in my life which has allowed me to grow spiritually in a closer walk with the Lord.

My heart is filled with joy and thanksgiving. I am comforted by knowing that I serve a God who loves me unconditionally and will provide for my every need. I feel His presence in providing me peace. No matter where I am in this world and no matter how far I am from the people I love, I can ALWAYS proclaim His name and He will comfort me. His love will never fail me. Praise be to God!

I know I can face each day, no matter what they may hold, by proclaiming Psalms 118:24 "This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!"

Saturday, January 7, 2012

God is so good.

I am wrapping up such a wonderful week that I feel compelled to share it with everyone. God has showed me a sign of hope and prevision this past week and I felt His the comfort of His presence in the things going on in my life. For those of you who don't know, I got a job doing some freelance work for a pet pharmaceutical sales company to help them design a kiosk to display their products in local pharmacys. Over the course of last weekend and the beginning of the week, I was finishing up some design schemes they wanted me to pursue for an upcoming presentation with some of their potential partners. I had been communicating with them through email, getting feedback on my designs so far, and had arrangements for me to come into the office on Tuesday to discuss the design so far. The discussion went well, they were pleased with what I had done. I unexpectedly spent 8 hours at the office that day, touching up some details on the design. Within the time I was there, I received an email from a guy responding to my craigslist ad for the roof top storage I had posted for sale. I posted this ad about 3 weeks ago, and had never received any responses, so I was thrilled I had a prospective buyer. He wanted to meet up that evening to get it. So within the past few days, I feel financial stable and successful, which is something I have felt guilty about since I have been here. I have been applying for jobs everyday and hardly getting any feedback. But I keep pushing on…. I put in 24 hours with the pet pharamaceutical sales company getting a $25/hr rate and got $75 off of the car roof rack! So that will help pay the bills and groceries (which aren't cheap at whole foods stores) for a while.

On Wednesday, I signed up to volunteer with ReStore Center that is with Habitat for Humanity. It is a big warehouse full of reclaimed building materials and 80% of their sales goes toward Habitat for Humanities building project. I helped one of their employees paint some frames he had made for one of their projects. It was rewarding to help spend some time not focusing on support myself, but for supporting a greater cause. I am going to make volunteering their on Wednesday part of my "weekly routine" (which has yet to exist, everyday is indeterminate). On Wednesday night, I went to a gospel group in my neighborhood with the Bread and Wine church. The two leaders are from the south, Terri and Don. Terri is from Arkansas and Don is from Shreveport. I was thrilled to get to interact with some people from the south and not have to worry about my incompetent knowledge of natural herbs and their healing powers. Don was really excited to meet someone from his home town. Small world, I know. I met their youngest son, who is Madeline's age, and the first thing he asked me if I could cook him some creole. It felt good and comforting to get a small taste of home. Terri and Don both went and met at University of Arkansas, so I got to see some 'hawg' paraphernalia displayed around their home. They were so excited to learn my younger brother had just started his freshman year there. They were such nice people and the other people there were young families/singles with some kids. We had a great time of fellowship and prayer. I am looking forward to becoming involved with their gospel group regularly on Wednesday evenings. Their house is only 3 blocks away from home, so I may go visit Terri for an afternoon cup of coffee one rainy afternoon.

On Thursday I hung out with my new friend Jessica. We have really connected and I have enjoyed spending time with her. We are both going through the same stages of life and occasionally get home sick, so we are each other's comfort companions. We both like to invite each other to different social events we are interested in going to and in need of a 'pic'. I was excited to find out that she recently moved into a new house really close to mine. We got together with a few friends she had met at the hostel and all went to a meditation class. It was an eye opening experience for me, but I found it rather soothing and refreshing. I used the meditation as a time, which lasted for a whole 2 hours, for me to clear my mind and aleviate stress. It was relaxing to practice thinking about nothing, in a silent, warm candelit room, lying still on the floor and feeling the musical vibrations reverberate in the room. While I was laying there I was thinking "Be still and know that I am God". It felt wonderful to recite continuously in my head while forcing my mind to stop racing and listen to the beauty of silence within the room. Only in the Northwest would I pursue going to a meditation class, its pretty routine around here. Everyone meditates, does yoga, and eats raw veggies and drinks fresh herbal teas. Like I have said before, I am learning something new everyday. But no matter how many new things I am learning and exposed to, I still remember who I am and where I came from. I will not loose my 'ground', just expanding my horizons. I like learning new things about different people and their customs. A lot of the new things I am learning is interesting knowledge on healthy, everyday habits I can adopt in my personal life and my attitude towards the environment.

On a closing note, I hear that I have some family members back at home worried about my vote in the upcoming election. Just so you know, I am going to register 'independent' here in Oregon. But, I do not plan to vote for Obama, so no worries. Though, I cannot say I am a true republican, I am just a 'free thinker' that will take all matters into consideration. Im not too excited about either candidate, therefore I haven't taken special interest in this year's election. But my roommates tune into NPR while they're cooking so I am exposed to what's going on, I just don't follow it that closely. Im sure I will see some passionate political campaigning soon and I can't wait to share some stories with you. Until then, I miss you all and will keep in touch.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

I hope you are all having a wonderful Christmas Day! I know I haven't blogged in a while, so I figured today would be a great day to connect and catch up! Christmas morning was quite different for me this year; waking up in a new place, across the country, far far away from my beloved family. I was sad not be able share the traditional memories that were always made on Christmas morning and making the 'rounds' around Dixie, visiting each Carlisle family's home to see what everyone got for Christmas. I was also sad not to be at Carlisle Christmas this year. Thankfully technology helps provide a wonderful alternative to dealing with the physical separation through skyping during the whole event, for 1.5 hours!!! I truly felt like I was there in the room. Thank you all for making that so special for me. I hope this is the only Carlisle Christmas I will be missing. I really enjoying watching Lola and Jack perform their traditional Christmas program (it tugged on my heart) and also see everyone exchange their presents. You two put on quite a show. Lola, you are a very enthusiastic and dynamic dancer! It made me miss you both very much, you are so special to me! I have all of your Christmas cards hanging on the fridge!

So, I know you are probably wondering how I am spending my Christmas holiday…About two days ago, I was looking for a church service to attend on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day and found a few churches I started to research and look further into. Jeremy had told me about the Acts 29 Network that Crossroads (The Bridge) is connected with and there are two churches here in Portland that were also involved with the network. So, I contacted a man named Josh from the Bread + Wine church to ask him about how their church was celebrating Christmas. It said on their website that they were not going to be gathering as a congregation, but within their gospel groups, which would be like the community groups at Crossroads (The Bridge). So, he invited me to goin his gospel community group for brunch on Christmas Day at 11 am. On Christmas Eve, I attended a traditional Christmas Eve service at a Covenant Church, where they had a candlelight singing of "Silent Night". I got teary-eyed during the candle-light service because of the memories it brought back from my childhood at the Presbytrian church I grew up in. It made me wish I was with my family, sharing this special memory. After the service, I headed to the grocery store to make some delicious peanut butter cookies to bring the the pot-luck brunch the following morning. When I woke up on Christmas morning, my roommate Willoughby was in the kitchen making his breakfast, so I joined him and made me some fried eggs and dripped coffee. We sat and visited at the breakfast table together and then proceeded with our day- he was headed off to his families house (about 2 hours south of Portland) and I was going to get ready to walk to the brunch, which was about 15 blocks down from my house. When I arrived at the brunch, I didn't know anyone and had not previously met anyone before coming, but I immediately felt welcome. Josh and his wife Laura are a young couple (about Emery & Jeremy's age) with a precious year and a half year old daughter. There were other young couples, singles, and next door neighbors there as well. I also got to connect with Josh's sister who was my age and visiting for the holidays. Josh and his sister are both from Fayettville, so small world…his sister said it was good to hear my southern accent because she lost hers (haha). I get comments on my accent all the time…Anyways, everyone had a lovely time, eating, fellowshipping, and getting to know each other. Afterwards, I headed home to Skype with my family and got to see my grandparents Gee & PopPop before they headed back to Haynesville. It was very special that I got to see everyone and be a part of their Christmas celebration. After I skyped with them and watched them open up their presents, I cleaned the house to get ready for a few friends to come over for dinner. Maria, Jessica, and Amanda came over and we all shared a Lybian dish, I made a spinach-pecan-blue cheese salad, and then Jessica brought over a Mexican dessert. We all ate well, like you're suppose to do for Christmas-stuff yourself. It was a great evening, everyone left around 11pm and I headed off to bed so I could get up and start to begin a normal 'running routine' and use my new GPS watch. I went running 9 miles today, it felt good and cleansing to run off the holiday treats.

Here is the crafts that I made and tried to sell, the "12 days of Christmas" from Portland. At first, I made one for my family, and decided it was clever and creative idea that was worth selling. I wasn't able to sell any because I didn't finish them until the day before Christmas Eve. But, it made for an interesting experience. I learning I don't like 'vending' on the street corner…..putting myself out there with the other vendors and beggars. Some of the places I tried to sell I was standing on the opposite side of the sidewalk as a newspaper vendor. But, it was worth giving it a shot. It just wasn't the right place or time. I tried selling them at the market and outside of two of the local grocery stores. I think people weren't 'shopping' for gifts anymore with Christmas Eve approaching so closely. Oh well, maybe next year I'll make a lot and set up a booth in the 'Crafty Wonderland' annual show.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The job hunt...

I know everyone is curious about my job situation as well. No, I have not found a job yet, but I am putting forth my best effort. I am slowly learning how difficult it is to find a job here, not solely based upon my experience, but from what I hear from locals. As easy as you would think it is to obtain a job at a coffee shop or restaurant, service jobs are more highly valued than back at home. Unfortunately, I do not have the knowledge of the organic and local foods and don't hold a UCCL card, so I don't know if I met the requirements for the restaurant industry. But, I am still going in and trying….I am going to an interview session this Wednesday. I just want to find a job where I can make some money while I am waiting for firms to start hiring. Of course, my first choice is to obtain a job with a firm, but there aren't any hiring at the moment. Business is slow during the holidays, but I am preparing a special Christmas package to personally hand out to some of the firms. I am excited because I think it will grab there attention. Since I  have better printing options here, it is going to be well designed and professional. I am also writing each firm a more personal and direct letter to help show my special interest in their firm. It is really important for me to make a good first impression, because I'm not going anywhere! : ) Applying for a position with firm's here is different now than it was in July, because I'm not just visiting…..I am living here now. So, I have to start following projects that firms are working on right now, share my interest in learning about their sustainable practices, and become involved in the architectural community. Although some of the firms I am interested may not be hiring now….I will be back, I will become the fly on their wall until they have a position available. So I am going to do whatever it takes to get their attention and show them how committed I am to architecture. After talking to someone at the AIA office, I learned about committees and volunteer opportunities I can start becoming involved with to help me meet local architects and start networking. I have to start building my foundation from the ground up, and that is the best place to start. So I am going to join the Committee on the Environment (COTE), Women in Architecture and Related Design (ForWARD), CitySCAPE (non-profit organization put on by a local firm), and attend meetings fro brainstorming ideas for Oregon's Design Conference. I also plan to volunteer for SCRAP and Habitat for Humanity's ReStore; both in which are large warehouses that buy-sell reclaimed materials.

Im excited to start my foundation here in Portland. I love it here so far and I am enthusiastic about building my network and start meeting members of the architecture community while building relationships with people. I feel like this is where God wants me to be and I know He has a purpose for me being here. In the meantime of attending committee meetings and volunteering, I am still putting together some of my photography and art pieces to display and sell at local coffee shops. I know I can make some good extra cash off of some things I enjoy creating. I also check Craigslist daily, looking for work, and I will continue to pop into restaurants, coffee shops, or other places I feel like I would be a good fit to work in! Keep me in your prayers! I love and miss all of you so much!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Settling in....

Hello all! I know its time for an update on what I have been up to since I have been in Portland for two weeks now. The first week I spent at the hostel, I spent most of my time refamiliarizing myself with the city and learning how to get around and where things are. [And taking lots of photos!] Now I have spent about a week in my new house and I am settling in great!  I finally have my room all situated to where I can call it my new "home away from home". Emily told me I could me I could adjust her room to my liking by taking things off her wall and putting up my own decorations wherever I wanted to. At first, I thought it wasn't worth the trouble, but after I spent a few days here, I decided just unpacking my clothes and toiletries wasn't enough. It didn't provide a sense of comfort, like I was actually living here as opposed to just visiting for a few weeks. So, I hung my sculpture piece, an old feed sack, some rabbit key hangers, and of course all of the fun Halloween animals Lola cut out, which are filled with letters from my sweet family, are hanging above my bed. I also put my quilt on the bed (which came from Mama D's house), my dad's old guitar is propped up next to the wall, and my scrap-yard bunny that Aunt Paige gave me rests by my chair on the floor. I also proper the old-charred farm house door up against the wall as my headboard. It feels homy now with all of my stuff around. I like having the little reminders from home. Aside from my room being situated, I am also getting along great with my roommates. My first night here, Willoughby had made some delicious spicy thai soup and invited me to have dinner with him and his dad (who is also the landlord). I can tell he comes from a good family, with a similar background from mine, after visiting with his dad. His parents live about 2 hours away, so they pop in from time to time. Both Willoughby and Michael are excellent cooks, and I occasionally get to have a taste of what they're cooking. I thought I was a good cook, but they make me look like an amature. I'm having so much fun watching and learning from the 'extravagant meals' they prepare for themselves. Nothing is done halfway, they homemake everything with fresh, organic, and of course 'local' produce and seasonings. For example, Willoughby had a batch of apples that were going bad, so he boiled them up and seasoned them with cinnamon and fresh shaved ginger to make homemade apple sauce- it was so good! We have a kitchen stocked with homemade seasonings and spices in small zip-lock bags!

On the subject of food…Portland's community is really aware and cautious about what they eat!!! Most people here live a pretty healthy lifestyle. Shopping for food has been one of the biggest adjustments for me, because nothing is familiar, especially all of the whole-food brands which are either whole-wheat, whole-grain, gluten-free, free-range, vegan, or soy products. Some of the fresh produce even looks odd to me, like its a foreign plant…..I'm wondering what in the world is that, where did that come from, and how do you cook with it? When I went to the alberta co-op grocery store the other day to get some ingredients for a cake, the only option I had was to buy organic molasses. I have also tried a vegan brownie, it tasted ok…a little dry. Every time I go into the store, there is someone giving free food samples of a new fresh-local product which they share all of the details of it's ingredients; what gluten-free or soy products its made from and which free-range local farm it came from. They know they're stuff, and are proud of it, proud to be local! As much as I can be overwhelmed with the fresh-local-organic lifestyle they uphold here in Portland, I am impressed by their community pride and support for local food production.

It is not just the food that they have local pride in, just about everything is made local here. I have been into to so many cute boutiques and shops that are selling hand-made crafts and goods made by local artists. There's clothes, wallets, purses, jewelry, belts, hats, beanies, stationaries, stamps, and much more little things that are handmade (with designed price tags made by the artists). It is very evident, while walking around and exploring the shops and streets, that there is a strong creative class here, everything is well designed and presented at the highest quality. It's a little intimidating, but also exciting to be around a community that values and strives to uphold a strong art and design culture. But, it can be a little exhausting because there is so much out there…so many good designs and avant-garde (top-of-the-line) designers that it makes designing extremely competitive.

I have also already started to make new friends. It doesn't take a lot of effort to meet people here. Everyone I interact with has been super friendly and welcoming…whether I am at the coffee shop, bus stop, or the grocery store, I am always greeted with a friendly and genuine hello, "how are you today?". Most of the time, the greetings evolve into a nice conversation. I feel like I am living in a fairy tale land sometimes where everyone is happy to be alive, loving their jobs, and comforting one another. I have yet to see someone be rude, bicker, or complain. I think everyone here must have been read the Berenstain Bears book Manners when they were a child because they are so courteous and polite! People always tell the bus driver 'thank you' when they are getting off the bus. It doesn't matter to me that I hardly know anyone here because I feel embraced by the sense of love and care by the community. One of my new friends, Happy, that worked at the hostel invited me to his friend annual Christmas party the other night. Yes, his name Happy, and he is happy! I baked a spiced ginger-apple molasses cake to go with the spiced wine he was going to be serving at the party. When I first walked in, I knew no one, which would have initially scared me, but I felt very comfortable and welcomed by everyone I met along my way to find 'Happy'. My cake was a big hit, everyone loved it! Most of the friends I have made have been either through Happy, people I met at the hostel, or people I have met on the bus. Almost every time I am waiting at the bus stop someone initiates conversation with me and I immediately make a new friend! Happy has been a great connection because he has introduced me to a lot of girls my age that I am becoming friends with and swapping digits. My new friend Jessica, who is 23 and relocating from New York, invited me to see a few bands play at a charity event the other night. We danced, mingled and had a good time. Since she also just relocated to Portland, she will be here for the holidays and we plan on doing something together for Christmas! So no, I will not be alone : ) But I will miss my family dearly during Carlisle Christmas and Christmas morning, especially Luke's first Christmas : ( I hope we can Skype so I can feel like I am there!

Here's my new address:

5707 NE 12th
Portland, OR 97211

Also, here is a link to my website if any of you would like to check out the photos I have been taking. This website is my digital-online portfolio of all of my architecture projects as well. The link to my photos is under the 'colorful' project labeled 'urban photography'

Love and miss all of you so much! Merry Christmas!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

I found a temporary place to call home!

God is good! This morning, while I was enjoying my morning breakfast, I got a text from Emily [whos ad I responded to on craigslist] about my coming over today to meet her and her roomates and see their house. I had an appointment to come by tomorrow, but they were all available today! So I caught a bus over to the Alberta Arts District to go check it out. They had a lovely home and we all made great conversation in their living room for about an hour. I got to give them my background story and tell them all my friends and family back home. I also told them about Dixie and its very special and unique environment I got to grow up in and be close to my family. They were very interesting people that come from similar backgrounds, coming from good families. So, here's a shout to my Aunt Paige & Aunt Claire...I think you would approve because they are acceptional people! Maybe you could meet them on skype one day : )

Emily (whos room I'd be taking) is 31 and a letterpress printer, and the roomates are Willoughby (Will) who is 25 and a cook by trade and also maintains an extensive garden during the growing season, Michael is 28 and is an enthusiastic brewer/fermenter who plays the mandolin. There house is in the Alberta Arts district, right where I want to be...close to unique shops and resturants within an art community. Here is the link to some pictures of their house they had posted on the ad:

I am pretty excited about it! I will be staying there Dec 3- March 13, which gives me enough time to find a job and figure out a more permanent living situation. I will be staying at the hostel until then...A friend of mine that I made here are going some gospel event together tomorrow. It's so fun to make new friends and experience new things! I couldn't be happier! : ) Love and miss you all!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Just go for it!!!

After going through the Saturday market, I started to brainstorm and try to think up some ideas for what I could possible make and sell at the market. Something that would give me some extra cash on the weekends. After leaving the market and walking over the Burnside bridge, I started taking pictures of various urban 'findings' like I normally do, things that inspire me...such as graffiti, posters, sidewalk signs, storefront signs, street signs, and a various pieces of urban furniture. All of these things help me to construct a collective and 'raw' image of the city; ultimately creating a 'psychogeograpical' map or collage. While I was shooting photos, I started to wander what it would be like to see some of the reoccuring colors and textures of the city seperated from one another; collectively concentrated into one composition. So, today I picked the color blue. Here are all of my random findings...this is just a rough taxonomy of all the images I took, I will take these photos and items I found along the street to create a collage/painting. The other colors I will do are red, yellow, orange, green, grey, and black/white. Each day will have it's on color (aka) one color for everyday of the week. I figured this could be a fun daily exercise for me to walk around and take photos and look for found objects within a specific color field. On Saturdays I could either sell my collages as a collection or individually. Well see how popular they are...I figured it was worth a shot! Ill let you all see the final product whenever I finish them. First, I need my own room so I can have some space to work...which will be very soon!