Monday, December 13, 2010

Desire and Want



Desire and Want are two characters that play huge roles in the drama that is my life. I spend countless hours attempting to deconstruct them and pick them apart in order to understand every facet of each one of them. My desires and wants often tug heavily on my heart, sometimes to a point where I fail to understand them for who they really are. Sometimes I know and feel assured that my desires and wants are God-given, that he wove them with passion into my very being, never to be separated from who I am. Sometimes, though, Desire and Want are parasitic selfish pursuits that mask any work God is doing in my life.

Desire haunts me. Want grasps tightly to me. What if my desires and wants are not what God wants for me? I often desire and then wait to let God hand over the object of my desire to me. When he doesn't, I feel wronged. I ask, "Why was this desire placed in me in the first place?!" I grow in anger and frustration when my heart itself deceives me and pulls me farther from the trust that I owe my Father. Yes, he has given me desires and wants; he has knitted my soul together, complete with all character traits, personality quirks, and desires and wants. These things are also subject to sin, though. Even though God himself lives in me, my sinful nature is still residing there, too. (I hate that.)

Years ago, I desired that God come into my life and tear it up a bit. I decided to follow the truth presented through Christ's death for all of man on the cross, and I knew that would take immense sacrifice. Did I remember that "sacrifice" could mean obeying God to such a limit as Abraham did? Did I realize that I could be asked to sacrifice my own kin? Did I realize that only when my arm was raised in obedience would God send me a sheep in place of my own kin? I don't think I could realize that at the time that I decided to surrender my life to follow God. I am realizing it more today, although I know I am slow at learning these types of things and it will probably take me a lifetime to truly understand.

Desire and Want are the two daughters borne from my very heart and affecting every action I make. Unfortunately, I have not yet stepped out of myself to sacrifice my own kin. Desire and Want are entangled in the web of my sin: my selfishness, my pride, my rationality, my independence...I tend to be really overwhelmed by this. I try to change myself, change the people around me, change my environment, learn about myself more, learn about other people more, but I forget about this one Person who has a bigger effect on my life than any of those things.

Today, I found some good news in a little old devotional book I found years ago called Gates of Beauty. December 13th's entry begins with some very wise words: "We have spoken much in recent years about Christians building the kingdom of God, of letting God work through us; as thought God were a victim of our indifference, stalled until we get ready to cooperate with him. There is both truth and falsehood in believing this. In a very real way, God will use us if we give ourselves to him with humble spirits. But even if we do not, that does not take the initiative out of God's hands."

It is such a comfort to me to remember the magnitude of God's power outside of my understanding of my own power. God dwells in me, and he can change me whether I am willing to let him change me or not. Even when I feel that transforming Desire and Want seems nearly impossible, that I cannot sacrifice my own dear daughters, God still intervenes there. If Abraham would have chickened out of sacrificing his own son, what would God have done? He would have taught him some other really hard lessons to learn in some other really hard way. God does not leave us behind if we are failing to get his message to us (which I feel like I probably do a lot of the time).

The devotional entry goes on, " God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son." How little men had to do with this act of God for our salvation! God took the initiative and sent Christ because he loved us, not because men were ready and clamoring for his coming. The whole story of Jesus is one to give us confidence in God's way of dealing with sin, not in men's way. For even when sinful men crucified Christ, God in his way brought victory out of defeat. 'God so loved the world...,' 'while we were yet sinners, Christ dies for us.' From beginning to end, it is God's hand that controls and acts, turning the pages of history to bring to pass his divine purposes,--while we were yet sinners."

My Father is a relentless pursuer. I hoard up what I think are treasures in my heart and on this earth, and no matter if I surrender those or not, he busts through the door of my heart and pillages any sin that I should be willingly sacrificing. Jesus already died for all my sins; that's why I need to let them go. I need to throw my stored up "treasures" out the window and into the river to be swept away and burdening me no more. Whether I do that myself or not, God will not let me continually flounder, fall, and fail. His love is bigger than my love for Desire and Want. As much as it hurts me to tear Desire and Want from my heart, it grieves God even more when I do not.

Surrender is stripping myself down to bare bones and letting God clothe me in righteousness. God doesn't want to put me through the embarrassment of stripping me down himself, but, like a good Father preparing a child for a long soak in the tub, he will do it if I don't, no matter how embarrassed I might be. He would rather embarrass me than let me destroy myself by sitting and rotting in my own filth.

Thank God for his mercy.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Self-Expression

There are many things I could write about in this post, as there are a million and one things happening right now-- life changes, heart changes, mind changes-- but instead I'll take to tackling the task of rediscovering my love for art.

One of the most fulfilling things about my life as a human is the ability to express myself. Sometimes I can do it, sometimes others do it for me, but nonetheless, whenever my thoughts are put into music, words, or visual art of some kind, I feel so fulfilled.


I am realizing more and more how inexplicable the affect of art on our souls (or maybe just my soul?) really is. I cannot argue to someone why art is so important in the life of people. I cannot make any logical explanation for why I feel a great sense of peace in those moments when I am accepting my emotions and creating something out of that acceptance. I cannot explain to anyone else why someone else's  lyrics and music can make my heart beat in time and rhythm with what I hear. I cannot explain what relief it is to pound my feet on the floor and swirl my hands all in the air along with the insistent bass of an upbeat song. I cannot explain why when I create something with my own hands I feel as though I was able to pull my thoughts through my fingers and display them in a more understandable way. Try talking to me-- see the pleasure I take in each breath and each sincere proclamation from the floors of my heart chambers, at least when the words are there. When they aren't there, watch to see how my heart is reflected. It is equally raw and real.


Some things I really love about art-- Sillohuettes. Darkness. Tints. Shadows. Unexpected twists and turns. Saturated colors. Texture. Depth. Symbolism. Analogies. Purpose. Meaning. Deliberation. Variety. People within their art.


Art is honest in ways that words alone cannot be. Art conveys its honesty in different levels to different people-- no worries about feeling out that awkward situation and searching for just the right small talk to engage in. Art can break the awkwardness with a bold statement, it can mask the awkwardness subtly, or it can present a distracting focus from the awkwardness altogether without feeling the effects of any of those actions. 


I really love honesty and vulnerability because I think people benefit from stepping outside of their fear and comfort. I am coming to understand, though, that not a lot of people can handle the honest me I often present. I am often times really awkward and/or overwhelming or I come off as aggressive/opinionated/emotionally unstable. Unfortunately, I present myself in nautical knot form. Not many people understand the nautical knots I present in the first place, but when I hold back I tie myself into wrongside-out nautical knots. (Try visualizing that one.) People tend to exhaust me for this reason. I exhaust myself already simply attempting to decipher the code of my thoughts, and when I strive equally to express myself to other people, I'm doubly exhausted.


With art, though, feedback from people isn't necessary. I deeply hope that my art can communicate with people like a lot of art communicates to me, but I may not ever see that communication even if it does occur. I would love to see and hear how people respond to my art, but if I never do, I don't mind because of how fulfilling it is simply to create. The internet provides a similar forum of expression because I can post whatever I want to express and not expect anyone to read it or respond to it. I am not sitting and typing this right to anyone so I don't expect feedback. When I expect feedback I am often disappointed, and with the internet I can express simply for expression's sake. For art's sake. Maybe also to shield from disappointment, but is that such a bad thing?















The next thing to discover: how to make mistakes successfully and make them beautiful, in both art and life.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Fall Fiction















The leaves crunched under the rubber soles of her shoes as she carefully and swiftly walked across the greenish-brown lawn on the south side of the park property. The sun was shining and the sky was so blue it made the sun shine brighter, enough to make her slip on her sunglasses as she eyed a nearby tree to sit under. She noticed a woman on the far side of the lawn painting or drawing a landscape and a young couple walking a small dog. It was a beautiful day to be outside and to be inspired.

She rolled out her patchwork blanket under the medium-large tree she found. There was nothing unordinary about this tree, as all the trees in the park were medium-large and losing their leaves as this one was. After unrolling her blanket, she sat to observe and to soak up the sunshine a little while longer. She saw a few more people jogging and walking along the path. She could hear children laughing and shouting, and she strained her eyes to see bits of the playground through the line of trees to her right. The sun warmed her, and she peeled off her sweater before unlatching her case and removing her instrument.

She wondered if she would write a new song about this day: the weather, the unspoken stories of the people around her, or the animals that she had observed. Maybe she would sing a familiar song and someone would walk by and sing along silently. Maybe she would sing a song that was familiar to herself so she could be alone. She laid her fingers across the strings and started playing a melancholy song. The enigma of the melody twisted around her hand, went straight into her heart where it lingered only for a few seconds before bumping off her tongue and exiting through her teeth as words. The words flowed naturally, as if someone was whispering them for her to repeat for the birds or the dogs or the people around her to hear but not fully understand.

The Mask I wear becomes me.
I become the Mask I wear.
They don’t really know.
They don’t care to know.
Their Masks become them, too.

You are you and I am me.
You be you, and I’ll be me.
Do what’s you,
Be who you want to be,
Set free.
Then we can be we,
When you are you and I am me.





Saturday, July 31, 2010

Ch, Ch, Ch, Ch, Changes!

If you put many of the thoughts I have all together and made a movie out of it, it would be one of those ultra-cheesy sentimental flicks, the kind that I wouldn't even bother seeing! haha I am a highly emotional and sentimental person, whether I let onto it or not. I love nostalgia and fairy tales and dreaming about the future and reminiscing about the past and letting my imagination run wild and free. I know why I get along better with kids than adults now. :)

I consider Friday (yesterday) as marking my last day of my "college years." As my work day was coming to a close and I was sweeping up the craft area in the Activity Hall at camp, I reflected on the summer. I had a wonderful summer doing some of my most loved hobbies: being with kids, teaching, and arts and crafts. I worked with some very sweet and wonderful people, who I wish I could have more time with to get to know them better and build more friendships. I have my favorite campers and the ones who may not be my favorite who have made improvements this summer in their behavior and in their fight against a disability. I had wonderful "Counselors-in-Training" that had fun with me and even confided in me by asking for relationship advice. I woke up every morning in a lovely routine to come into my own space, to organize and plan, and to think creatively about my interactions with the kids. I had freedom and flexibility of hours so I could visit faraway friends and just get a day off when I was feeling overwhelmed. I repeat myself: what a great summer.

Things change from here. Not only is my summer ending, but with that ending comes many other ends.

I will no longer make the drive in mid-August to move back into my dorm or apartment at Taylor. I will no longer be sitting in the ever-familiar music building, aka my home away from home. I will never be living in a close-knit community of students and teachers who are committed Christ-followers at Taylor University. I will not come home after classes are over to work a summer job, only to save up some pocket cash for the year.

I am preparing to embark on what I believe to be a great adventure, filled with tons of details and plans that are unknown to me. I am moving away from home, hopefully permanently, and looking to start my life as an adult. There are some details I do know: I know I will be living in an apartment in Indianapolis and student teaching there for the next six months, but after that I really have no idea! It's crazy!

Even though I am looking back on my "college years" and feeling quite nostalgic, I remind myself that I will be meeting new people and kids and hopefully finding a new church and hopefully finding a job that will fulfill my movement into adulthood.

I do have some worries, even though I try to keep my optimism up. I worry that some detail of my life won't be "as good as it could have been" in my mind-- again I'm the dreamer and the idealist who has high expectations for my future-- but then I remember that God is in the business of making all things good, even if those things seem bad to me or hard--
"He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end."

God is faithful and provides a way for me to keep going even into the unknown--
"In this way his love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives our fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us."

In about five days, the things in my life that will be new will outnumber the things in my life that will be old and familiar. That is pretty intimidating. I am so ready to be somewhere and stay there for a while, building some kind of permanent (or at least semi-permanent) life there. I want to settle down and become an adult and find a job and live life. The problem for me is that I don't know when all of that will happen. I hope that when I search for jobs come January I will be able to find something that will allow me to stay there. I don't know, however, if that will happen. Thinking about the possibility of me leaving Indy again to come live back at home makes me very anxious. I want to be away and living my life on my own. Again, God knows me and my heart, and God will provide the way for me to live in peace--
"Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart."

Jesus is the best at making me feel more at ease. Listen to his straight forward message:
"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you willw ear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'Waht shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry bout tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

So true. Even though I have my worries, I don't doubt that God will carry me through and will not give me more than I can handle. He is always teaching me something and helping me grow into a better person outside of my natural tendencies and personality, which can often be uncomfortable but not unbearable. O, how he loves us so...

Even though the majority of changes that seem to be taking place in my life are circumstantial (which is a big enough adjustment alone), I am also asking God to make some heart and mind changes in me as well. This is truly a new beginning for me. If you do pray, please pray that I would learn how to let God truly dwell in my life and transform and renew me as he is transforming my circumstances. Also pray that my change in circumstances is not too overwhelming and that I will rely upon God for any and all strength. Thank you for reading and praying--I love you!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

In light of upcoming festivities--

I had a short conversation today with one of my co-workers who is here from Colombia just to work with the YMCA. Some kind of partnership program. She was telling me about how excited she will be when she gets home and she can eat her mom's food, etc. She said how weird it is that once you are away from your country, you miss it and love it so much more. I commented to her about how when I leave the US I don't feel that way because of the reputation of the US across the world, the wealth we have, and the corruption and brokenness here.

My friend opened up my eyes. She started saying that of course there are tough things going on in Colombia, too, but she is still proud to be Colombian and proud of her country. Drug-trafficking, corrupt politicians who are murderers and thieves, all the turmoil that is going on doesn't take away the fact that there are really great people and great places of beauty in Colombia.

I am generally pretty cynical towards America, but this really made me think. I can still be patriotic without supporting everything that people in my country do. Sometimes I am so black and white in my thinking that I forget things like this. I think that also if I had traveled a lot more growing up and had met a lot more people and seen a lot more places that I would have been able to see that I can love this country and be proud of some things about this country. There are traditions that I resonate with and other I do not, and that is okay, but I should probably embrace the good things about my country and not be such a stick in the mud.



Maybe my perspective is being opened and shaped into something new. I am definitely okay with that. Maybe my opinions of other things will start to change...hmm, maybe I still think that Miss America pageants are celebrating moderate narcissism and surface level beauty...maybe I need to look more into it. Thanks to my co-worker for helping me get in a good mindset for the upcoming patriotic holiday. Thanks to those who have served our country in wars (especially those who had been drafted into war) even though I may not always support war itself. Thank you to those who founded our nation, even though sometimes that foundation is misinterpreted into modern religious, ethnic, and other types of discrimination. Thank you to all who work to make this country better even when it is so easy to get bogged down by all the disagreements, division, and all the other messed up stuff that goes on here.

I am learning to be a patriot. After all, this is my home.




Interesting article and comments at the bottom.
http://www.relevantmagazine.com/life/current-events/op-ed-blog/22131-the-idolatry-of-patriotism

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Ah, Beauty!

Today's the day- the post about beauty. I didn't know when this day would come, but it has sneaked up on me and arrived with haste!

Beauty, ah, sweet Beauty. What is it? Is it a perfect green lawn? Or is it Mozart? Is it da Vinci or Rembrandt? Is it old or new? Is it Hatebreed or Dennison Whitmer? Is it straight white teeth and tan skin? Is it golden pie crusts or the smell of apples and cinnamon? Is it lipstick or fashion or long hair or short hair? Is it the Fibonacci sequence or the golden rectangle? Is it color schemes or shapes or vibrato on the sweetest violin?



Let me explain to you that not one of these things is beauty. Beauty is lying in the tension. Beauty is feeling uncomfortable and knowing that something good will come of it. Beauty is realizing that suffering and pain bring about character and faith. Beauty lies within our creator and his creation, but beauty itself is God himself. He is perfect and we will never be, but when we strive to be like him, we find beauty there. Beauty is tough and sometimes bloody and broken. Beauty is found in darkness, when the light shines through. Beauty is in the everyday mundane moments. Beauty is both sadness and happiness. Beauty is both frustration and resolution. Beauty is risking and vulnerability and seeking the unknown. Beauty is wonder and humility and realizing just how small we are.

Beauty is not a false perception of reality, but beauty is realizing that reality is both the positive and the negative.

So much of what we perceive to be beautiful is based upon a subjective view of beauty-- you either like broccoli or you don't. You like classical music or you don't. You like art or you don't. The thing about subjective views is that they can change. I used to like listening to Mozart a lot, and now I don't. I used to hate avant-guarde composers and their music, but now that I understand it better I don't.

Beauty is constant, whether we recognize it as such or not. Beauty lies in everything that happens and everything that surrounds us, and often the way we perceive things is subjective so we fail to see that things are actually beautiful when they are.

What can we know about someone by looking at them or observing some of their behaviors? Do you know anyone who seemed ugly until you got to know them? Or people that seemed perfectly beautiful, but then they showed their weakness and it seemed ugly to you? People who portray themselves a certain way when they are actually different from that image can actually be saturating themselves in what seems to be ugliness and are actually failing to revel in the beauty of their lives. I know people like that, and speaking of "those people," I am one of them, especially when beauty comes to me in discomfort. I don't want to view the beauty in my life subjectively because I know my perception can be faulty. I continue to pray for humility and an open heart in those moments because I know that God is always growing me and teaching me through those times of discomfort. He is good and never fails at anything. That is an extreme statement, but it's so true. Knowing God's character helps me not to give up when times are so rough.

That, my dear friends, is beauty. Beauty lies in that place of deep understanding and trust in One who is perfect and good.

Saturday, June 12, 2010


The Walrus and the Carpenter
by Lewis Carroll

The sun was shining on the sea,
Shining with all his might:
He did his very best to make
The billows smooth and bright--
And this was odd, because it was
The middle of the night.

The moon was shining sulkily,
Because she thought the sun
Had got no business to be there
After the day was done--
"It's very rude of him," she said,
"To come and spoil the fun!"


The sea was wet as wet could be,
The sands were dry as dry.
You could not see a cloud, because
No cloud was in the sky:
No birds were flying overhead--
There were no birds to fly.

The Walrus and the Carpenter
Were walking close at hand;
They wept like anything to see
Such quantities of sand:
"If this were only cleared away,"
They said, "it would be grand!"

"If seven maids with seven mops
Swept it for half a year.
Do you suppose," the Walrus said,
"That they could get it clear?"
"I doubt it," said the Carpenter,
And shed a bitter tear.

"O Oysters, come and walk with us!"
The Walrus did beseech.
"A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk,
Along the briny beach:
We cannot do with more than four,
To give a hand to each."

The eldest Oyster looked at him,
But never a word he said:
The eldest Oyster winked his eye,
And shook his heavy head--
Meaning to say he did not choose
To leave the oyster-bed.

But four young Oysters hurried up,
All eager for the treat:
Their coats were brushed, their faces washed,
Their shoes were clean and neat--
And this was odd, because, you know,
They hadn't any feet.

Four other Oysters followed them,
And yet another four;
And thick and fast they came at last,
And more, and more, and more--
All hopping through the frothy waves,
And scrambling to the shore.

The Walrus and the Carpenter
Walked on a mile or so,
And then they rested on a rock
Conveniently low:
And all the little Oysters stood
And waited in a row.

"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
Of cabbages--and kings--
And why the sea is boiling hot--
And whether pigs have wings."

"But wait a bit," the Oysters cried,
"Before we have our chat;
For some of us are out of breath,
And all of us are fat!"
"No hurry!" said the Carpenter.
They thanked him much for that.

"A loaf of bread," the Walrus said,
"Is what we chiefly need:
Pepper and vinegar besides
Are very good indeed--
Now if you're ready, Oysters dear,
We can begin to feed."

"But not on us!" the Oysters cried,
Turning a little blue.
"After such kindness, that would be
A dismal thing to do!"
"The night is fine," the Walrus said.
"Do you admire the view?

"It was so kind of you to come!
And you are very nice!"
The Carpenter said nothing but
"Cut us another slice:
I wish you were not quite so deaf--
I've had to ask you twice!"

"It seems a shame," the Walrus said,
"To play them such a trick,
After we've brought them out so far,
And made them trot so quick!"
The Carpenter said nothing but
"The butter's spread too thick!"

"I weep for you," the Walrus said:
"I deeply sympathize."
With sobs and tears he sorted out
Those of the largest size,
Holding his pocket-handkerchief
Before his streaming eyes.

"O Oysters," said the Carpenter,
"You've had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?'
But answer came there none--
And this was scarcely odd, because
They'd eaten every one.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Melody in Four-Four Time


















Stars Climb Up The Vine-
Meg Baird


Sometimes the thing that speaks best to me is a song or two.

I sit in a room alone, or my car while driving for a long time, turn on an epic chorus in a Mumford and Sons song or a lilting strings section in a Keely Smith ballade or a steady heavenly beat in a Psalter's song or a floating melody in a Trespasser's William song and then let the moment speak for itself.

I am a big fan of words, but sometimes words get in the way of melodies and harmonies and rhythms and true expression. Sometimes I can only express my state of being by asking someone to listen to a certain song with me.

Another great moment is when, although pretty rare, I can write a song that expresses me. This is harder for me than identifying someone else's lyrics and melodies as ones that express exactly what I wish to express.

Right now, though (if you desire to share it with me), I am listening to the song listed at the beginning of this post and the music speaks precisely to who I am at this very moment. You can find the song on Daytrotter: http://www.daytrotter.com/dt/meg-baird-concert/20030761-3738132.html

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

It's My Life, I'll Live How I Want


The word “sin” has terrible connotations to much of my generation, I think. I know it even does for me. I grew up avoiding those who used any kind of “Christianese” language because it left a bad taste in my mouth. I didn’t want to talk to anyone that would just tell me how I was living my life poorly and how the “perfect” religion that Christianity is can make my life perfect. I saw right through that. I knew that “Christians” were divorcing their spouses, abusing their children, cursing, getting drunk, and having sex just as much as anyone else I knew. Why would I want to be a part of a group of people that claimed perfection, yet lived by looser morals than I did? No thanks. Preach hell to me all you want. I ain’t doin’ it.

Then, I experienced God (insert Hallelujah Chorus, Anathallo's Hoodwink, or Sigur Ros's Hoppipolla). God is much different than all the denominations of Christianity portray him to be and all the seemingly “fake perfect people” whom I perceived to be dwelling in the church. God is beautiful (that’s an understatement). People are pretty ugly, although I can’t say some of us humans don’t try to be beautiful like God. Others of us, though, need to put ourselves and our perceptions (of ourselves and other people) aside. Probably all of us need to do this to some extent or another. Actually, I know all of us do. I can’t think of one immaculate person that is exempt from that.

The Bible, whether you want to read it or not, says that all people are sinners (again that harsh word).

Really think about it though. We protect ourselves, often at the expense of other people and their feelings. We will do whatever it takes to be the “best” or to have the “best”—lying, cheating, stealing. I can see this in my daily interactions with people. I know you can, too, no matter if you hang with Christians all the time or not. Kids are so raw, and they are especially experts at helping us see how humans can be so screwed up when we fail to let ourselves see it in our own lives. We see how broken families affect kids and usually lead them down broken paths as well (not saying that all kids are future sugar mamas and pimp daddies, but think about people’s perception of marriage now since divorce has become so common—see post below about marriage for more thoughts on that one…).

Whether you are a Christian or not, you are going to have to answer to God and his moral standards.

That’s a tough one. You may not agree with it or think it’s true, but if it is, think about how much that plays into people’s daily lives… every single moment.

We may think that “the way I do things is how my personal world can be at its best,” but what about the way we affect other people? Sometimes choosing to live our lives the way we see fit is the worst thing for those around us, especially if those around us are seeking to show us they care about us. That misunderstanding can often be the biggest slap in the face. I have seen it in my immediate family, even. One person has a strong opinion attached to emotions and all of a sudden they are enemies with their family member who takes the opposite view.

Even worse, God is affected by these things that we do. The picture of Jesus Christ being crucified is often a bloody and violent one, but I do think it is that way to remind us of how much God is hurt by the things we do to his world and in his world. Think about how terrible and how hurt you felt when you were in the biggest fight you have ever gotten in with your closest friend. God hurts so much more than that. We can’t even understand it, which is crazy to me.



I wish I could just shout this on the rooftop (with choreographed dance of course, like in West Side Story) for the whole country to hear: BUCK UP. I don’t mean this in the “American Way,” like “pull yourself up by your bootstraps,” or “be a man.” I mean it in a way that a lot of people have forgotten about or are afraid to acknowledge—own up to your failure. Failure is another way of saying sin has corrupted our lives once again. We all fail. Every day. We fail so hard sometimes. We can’t always be putting ourselves in the right, and we must acknowledge the fact that other people might have a better perspective on situations than we do. Sometimes people want to share their perspective with you so that they can help you or show you they care. Why would anyone spit back in the face of someone who is attempting to show care to them? (Well, I can tell you the answer to that question, but it’s that nasty word again.)

Tolerance is blind and relative. I actually wish the word didn't exist. I think it implies passiveness when there is so much to be done in this world. Grace is much, much different than tolerance. Grace is firm for all people, even people who are wrong and failures (aka EVERYONE). The authors of the Bible write about God hating sin, and we are actually supposed to hate sin, too. That’s awesome because I do hate sin. It messes up so many beautiful things in my life, not to mention what worse things it does in other people’s lives. Lots of times people think that hating sin means helping their neighbor see how sinful they are, but really I think it speaks more directly to our own lives. A faith in Jesus Christ, God incarnate, is equally about our personal hearts and the way we live our lives behind closed doors. Sure, we are also called to “rebuke” one another. Let’s not eliminate that, but instead let’s coat it with vulnerability and genuine care and grace for those to whom we are speaking. Let’s put ourselves aside!

I am extremely selfish, but that’s what makes me a great person to let other people know they are being selfish, too. I can share my experience and my continual struggle with them. God has used my sin to help someone. How cool. I love knowing that I can help people. Sin is funny because it is a hugely alienating thing, but God is so good at taking things that are twisted and horrible and making them good. He helps us use sin as a means for building community and understanding the character of God more easily. If we own up to our failure and begin to move in the direction of reconciliation (with God, with one another, with ourselves, and with the earth), we give God a big door into changing our lives and our little personal worlds, not to mention THE WHOLE WORLD. (breaks into “He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands” haha)

But really, God cares so much! What great news!




(PS- I really love that at the end of all my posts, I realize there is no other thing/being to serve beside the Lord. He is so good, guys, seeeeeriously.)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Love Thy Neighbor

I'm realizing more and more that I am making my blog entries about observations I make about people, mostly through facebook.

That strange fact aside, here's my latest question:
Why do people think they have to be so opinionated?

I wish we would all just see the good in the things around us and not focus on the negative and complaining so much. I especially think this should be true for Christians, who are supposedly full of grace and mercy and love. I'm taking this with a grain of salt, remembering again (as I do in most of my blog posts) that people are so not perfect. That being said, however, people should be striving for perfection. The apostle Paul clearly states that as a purpose of our life on earth.

My main focus is on politics because it's something people talk about and form opinions about a lot. I think there is very many things wrong with American government, but I have no tolerance for people being angry with the current administration (or any administration in any time) and not doing anything about it. The crappy part is that no one person can really do anything about it (unless you have the $$$$ to influence groups of people or the government). Instead, people should be looking for ways to influence their local sphere of influence in concrete ways. Inspire kids to pursue politics for the right reasons: for change for the better, for truly representing the people of the United States, to see the needs of those around him or her, to get to know his or her neighbors and neighborhoods to better represent them.

There are bigger problems in this country than Obama or the Democrats and Republicans working in Washington. The problems lie right next door. Kids' aspirations, parents' inabilities to raise their children, the money that is being sucked out of small businesses, the money that is being poured into consumerism and big business and designer brands and prestige. This country has been established for 230 years, and you would think that with all our striving for science, technology, efficiency and logical reasoning social status would be abolished.

Sometimes things in this world just don't make sense to me. It's a constant reminder of how God has set me apart from the world because I am a Christian. He has transformed and renewed my mind and my way of thinking (and for all Christians). I am able to see the big picture, and I have a perspective that I believe is one that lines up at least in some ways with God's vision for the world. But it is so frustrating to live a life seeing brokenness and being frustrated that things are not the best that they could be. This is how God sees the world, too, though I guess.

Do we realize how much we are breaking God's heart? Do we think about that when we are judging the situations around us? Do we judge with broken hearts or pride in our own way of doing and seeing things? I know this is something from which I am not exempt. I know that my perspective is not always the right way, but I live with openness to discovering the truth and the way that God intends our lives to be. I hardly ever stop and sit on an opinion, and I try really hard not to stubbornly refuse to hear someone else's side on issues. I pray that all people would adopt open-mindedness, and I pray especially for those who represent the love and mercy of the Lord on this earth. May we be a testimony of God's love and mercy and grace through our actions and our words. May we work for his will to be done, not by force, but by love, through our demeanors, hearts, actions, and words.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Am I human?

Today, the ridiculous amount of hard work and hours I have paid thousands of dollars to participate in has come to its culmination. Today I turned in my last take-home final and finished taking my last written final in class. After being hunched over my books, computer, music, and worksheets, meeting with groups for projects, meeting with professors, sending e-mails until my account limit was used up, scheduling every hour of my day, avoiding apathy, caring about grades, tests, papers, homework, portfolios, recitals, performances, forcing myself to be motivated and to make my mind go on when I was exhausted mentally already, I felt robotic, like I was just doing the routine, putting as much of my metallic heart and soul into my work that I could, often feeling like it was ineffective.

I finished my last final this morning (in fifteen minutes, if that tells you how much I was ready to be done), and while I was walking back to my apartment I realized it was a beautiful, warm morning. I decided that I would go rollerblading. I have not done many things that are active (or fun) this year, except intramural basketball, so I was pretty wobbly, but I made it around campus. Right when I was finishing my loop and going uphill, I fell. I wasn't even going too fast; I must have tripped over a stick or something. It hurt only a little, and I was able to get right up and continue on until I got to my apartment.

It was such a perfect reminder of my humanity, though. I was bleeding. I felt pain. I felt my leg muscles aching. I felt my pride hurting because I had fallen in front of the largest boys' dorm. The great thing about it all was that I FELT. I was feeling. I was a feeling human being after living like a robot for so long. Pretty consistently for at least the past three years, although I did have moments of humanity in there.

Thinking about it more, I displayed my humanity a lot. Having to pray through most of my college experience helps bring me back to the reality that I am not, in fact, a robot. I am a person who cannot do everything by myself, despite how much independence I have gained in the past four years. I am someone with emotion, with weakness, with needs, with limits, and God takes me farther when I cannot meet my goals alone. His strength has been my own, and I thank everyone who has been praying for me during my college years. Scripture says that the prayer of righteous man is powerful and effective. I'm definitely coming to understand the reality of that verse in the Bible.

After hard times pass, I usually have a hard time remembering them. Life lessons are often hard for me to learn the first time. You can ask my friends about that one. I come to them with the same complaints and worries about my circumstances and situations. It helps me to write about them in my journal and my blog. I know I have to remember that I am weak and need help, otherwise I will just continue to go through cycles of "I can do this by myself" and "Actually, I am really not in control of my circumstances, and it is a blessing to be where I am."

I know being aware of my vulnerability will always be something I will have to be working on because I can be so independent and self-determined. Pride in those things is a sin, and God needs me to rely on Him so that my life can be used for His purposes, which are obviously more noble and good than mine. His purposes for people's lives always will be better than any good lives we try to live on this earth. We could be doing all the good in the world, and we could get to heaven's gates and God could tell us, "Yes, but you were doing it all because you wanted to feel good about yourself, not because you wanted me to get glory and for people to come to me." So challenging. I hope that you can be challenged to think about this, too.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Greatest Love

I may be naive, but I am asking a pretty pointed question lately as I have seen this happen over and over (mostly through facebook, naturally--that's a different topic to discuss) to people I know well and other I don't know that well at all.

My question is :
WHY GET MARRIED IF YOU AREN'T GOING TO STAY TOGETHER MORE THAN A YEAR OR TWO?

What is the point?

Now, I understand marriage is hard. Hasn't anyone heard especially that the first year or two of marriage is THE HARDEST? Why give up so easily? Why rush into getting married if you are just going to rush right back out of it? What are we missing in society that is not helping people understand the power of perseverence? The Disciple James (1:2-8) tells us some really good things that I cling to desperately so often:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.

I understand that I can't really understand how hard marriage is until I am in it, but apparently working through that unexpected difficulty is what it's all about.

I really just don't know what the answer to this questions is when I ask it:
Do people really come into a marriage thinking that's it's going to be all sunshine and rainbows?


I hope we can stand in this ocean of our love and keep each other from drowning forever! (Gag me.)


Because it ain't. I mean, I have my fantastic views of my future life with Joe, but even in my inexperienced lifeI know that those views are faulty, and I am working to uproot them from my perspective on marriage. If you don't realize that your ideals are false and unrealistic, you probably should think a lot about it before you commit yourself to someone FOREVER. And I don't care what divorce makes us think, we are forever bound to the one we marry whether we spend daily life with them or not. Marriage is a BIG DEAL. Divorce is a BIG DEAL.

Marriage is probably the most significant sacrament that was created by God for people to practice to make God concrete to us. Marriage is all about disappointment because we disappoint God all the time. Marriage is a portrayal of Christ and the Church (the Bride)-- the Bible talks about it innumerable times. The Church betrays Christ through sin and Christ must stay with the Church and forgive. That is exactly the role that married men and women are to portray. One person might be Christ more than the other-- no one says the balance is going to be perfect-- but both people must sacrifice and not give up on one another.

Maybe that's the part we are missing. I think I can definitely draw the conclusion that so many people in this society are breaking their commitment to marriage because they have broken their commitment to loving God.

This is all very relevant to me as I have been dating my very wonderful boyfriend for almost a year and a half now. We have been talking about marriage even before we were dating, not because we are over-committed, jump-right-in crazies, but because we are dating with the future intention of settling down with whomever we date. If we don't agree (or don't know about each others' perspectives) on certain things that would be present in the context of marriage we are not being honest to one another in a very big way. I don't want to date someone (with the intention of marriage in the future) and disagree with them about the way I want to live my life.

I've thought a lot about what happens if Joe and I get married and it just isn't great. Can we fall out of love? Will we fall apart in arguments or in disagreements or in times of stress? What about our physical needs? Will I be able to live with Joe even when we have no money? Will those times be joyful despite trials and troubles?

I think these questions are very, very legitimate, and anyone who is considering marriage should think about these things! Anyone who is thinking about getting married should think about and wrestle with these things BEFORE THEY COMMIT TO BEING MARRIED. People need to talk to a lot of older married couples before going into marriage in order to have correct, realistic expectations about marriage. A lot of times inexperienced people have unrealistic expectations in most things in life, but when we consult our older and wiser resources (they are so much more than that! friends, mentors, mothers, sisters, brothers...) we can glean so much wisdom and have real expectations.

I talked to one of my mentors (he prefers that I refer to he and his wife as friends rather than the formal title of mentors) recently because I was really upset and worried about the amount of bickering and frustration that was taking place in my relationship with Joe (being in a long distance relationship is crappy and beyond tough, but you learn so much). I was questioning our relationship-- should we even be considering marriage seriously? Is this relationship built to last? My mentor/friend/professor assured me that ever since he and his wife started dating (they have been married for 20 years!) they were fighting. I sighed with relief when he told me this. We began to talk more about my personality clashing with Joe, and he went on to talk about how he and his wife clash in their personalities, too. These things were only the tip of the ice berg for our conversation, but even those small things were extremely comforting!!!!!!!

People, understand that marriage is not the end. Things are not going to be "better" when you marry the man (woman) "of your dreams." Guess what? Relationships mostly are hard because all people are sinners. If there is anything that makes sense about Christianity for me it is that fact that all people are sinners. I have experienced a lot of terrible things in my relationships with people (family, friends, boyfriends, acquaintances, etc). I like to call it brokenness.

It's behavior that can only be explained by the fact that people are sinners, and it gives me comfort to know and believe that it is always going to be like that until Christ returns and makes us all new holy and perfect beings. (Can you imagine how great that's going to be?!) It is comforting not because I am a sadist and I am excited for evil to reign and torture our lives until judgment day. No, I am comforted for quite the contrary reason. God reigns over evil and sin, and I don't have to be worried about the brokenness that exists in my life already. It's ALWAYS going to be there no matter who I commit myself to, but God is always making us better people through the hard times in life. He is mending our brokenness constantly (even though most of the time it is really hard to see how he is doing that).

Marriage, instead, is a means to an end. It is a situation that is meant to help us understand how much love God has for his people on earth and to help us understand how to practice God-like love toward other people. That is the essence of Christianity after all. Love. Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Love your neighbor as yourself. The two greatest commandments as quoted by Jesus himself. If marriages are failing, we are losing the single most important model of Christ's love and it will be really hard for people to have hope without Christ. What a sad world we are coming to.

I just wish it wasn't awkward and sort of off-limits to talk to people going through rough marriage things about their situations. I always wonder, though, if I did bring it up, could I help them salvage their marriage? Maybe not me, but God could use me. I'm really being a bad Christian by not stepping into their situations. People always want other people to stay out of their business, but so much of Christ is about reaching down to the dirty and off-limits things and people in life and restoring life. I believe in promoting true community with those that I love and care for (which, really is everyone in the world). Being in a true community is about going to places that are uncomfortable in relationships because you truly care about the people involved in those uncomfortable situations. I want to know how to be bold, but I also struggle with caring a lot about what people think of me.

We think of Jesus reaching out to those in physical need, like Ethiopians who have no running water, or sick and dying people who have no family members, or children orphaned because of AIDS. We forget though, that all people are suffering from the consequences of sin and evil. We should be seeking to minister to American young adults with the same compassion and diligence and commitment as we do with children in Africa.

I am such a coward. I am deathly afraid of what marriage brings. I am deathly afraid of confronting people who are having marital problems so soon in life. I know that Christ tells his believers that he has given them power and boldness (not fear), and it is so bad that I reject that power that Christ gives to me. I know he can work through me in any situation and give me the words to speak to anyone. He has done that many times before. Please pray (if you do) that God will use me as an instrument and a tool and that my pride and hummanness would not hinder that. I know he is the most good anything or anyone can ever be. I am nothing. He is everything. I must let him use me for his good because otherwise I just cause damage, even with my apathy and inactivity in hard situations. Lord have mercy on me and all people, all sinners.


For more reading about a view of godly marriage read this article from Relevant Magazine: http://www.relevantmagazine.com/life/relationship/features/21623-much-bigger-than-qi-doq?utm_source=RELEVANT&utm_campaign=36390f3554-RELEVANT_Weekly_05_26_2010&utm_medium=email

"The ultimate goal of marriage, then, is not happiness but holiness, as husband and wife spur one another along in mutual joy toward Christ-likeness."

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Spring Poem- "The Rest"

“Introduction to the Rest”
The words you forget
Scrawled and Scratched upon the pages of an empty notebook
Suddenly refresh
In your mind you see they’re painted in the clouds behind your eyes…

“The Rest”
From the soil of the earth our imagination grows.
Suppose it's raining out-- the blooms deflecting drops and dodging dew.
Suppose the birds flew through the clouds,
Singing sounds the heavens sought to sing along.

We simply live to see the day when others serve their neighbors
Choosing and never losing what's been lost
In all this chaos consuming us.

On the verge of satisfaction we continue to consume,
But never reach the edge of our appetite,
Refusing to reject what we've always known.

Happiness is false, an illusion, a mirage never made concrete.
Instead the joy of things unseen and selflessness--we'll one day be complete.
Met in the air not to defeat
The one who made us to be free and seek the peace of which he speaks.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

What a Waste

Sometimes I am outrightly appalled by the people that inhabit this country and by the things that those people obsess over. Number one: Entertainment.

I scratch my head and my brow furrows--WHAT? How does this even deserve the attention that American society gives to it? Look at any news station, you are bound to find at least one story about some famous celebrity scandal or celebrity humanitarian effort. What about world issues? Even CNN got in on the celeb gossip when Michael Jackson died, and they earned extremely high ratings across the world. What did he do to gain so much of our attention (not to mention the tears of mourning shed over him as if we all knew him so personally and empathized with his life)? It’s not like he’s the Dalai Lama or anything. Speaking of which, does anyone know what kind of controversy is surrounding the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people recently? Yeah, there’s probably a few of you, but not nearly enough of you in my opinion.

Don’t get me wrong here, it is really hard to keep up with all the things happening in our own country, let alone the world. Not only is it hard to follow day to day changes in foreign policy and domestic policy and UN initiatives, but it is also hard to find credible sources and/or sources that don’t bombard you with less than meaningful “news”. Also, I’m the first one to admit that I don’t pay much attention to domestic and world issues, but that is simply because I am overwhelmed enough with my own issues in my own personal life (I do realize that is no excuse).

My point is that as much as we make an effort to keep up with entertainment news, we really stink at thinking about much else.

A thought:
I am one who watches no TV. None. I can’t imagine what kinds of things people could be doing (either in their own lives or the lives of others) if we eliminated just TV from our culture. What about if we eliminated People magazine, Cosmo, etc? My big question: WHY DO PEOPLE CARE SO MUCH ABOUT THE TRASH IN MEDIA? There are SO many other things to which we could be devoting our time and energy, whether you are a Christian (without works, faith is dead), naturalist humanitarian, or simply not one to respond passionately to world issues. There is more to the world than Hollywood (actually, Hollywood’s quite small in comparison to the rest of the world), no matter what else it is you are interested in. Find something else. Why do some people’s lives have to be elevated above others simply because their music has a thumping dance beat or they had a crazy action/love scene in the latest blockbuster hit? Why do we idolize this side of our culture? Why can’t we lift up the lives of those who need lifting, like girls caught up in sex trafficking (our campus’s new social justice passion)? Can you imagine what one of the girls rescued from that system would think coming over to America and seeing how Americans (and even American Christians) obsess over Miley Cyrus’s latest sex scandal?



Talk about wasting time. I lost track of time caring so much about people caring about fulfilling their entertainment obsessions. I need to go tend to time commitments that actually involve people and relationships around me.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Hindsight

Yesterday and into this morning, seemingly all things in my mind ceased except my circumstances (ie- senior recital extravaganza).

Now that "today" has turned into "tonight," I have been reflecting on that state of mind and how my new state of mind is back to thinking about normal life and classes and homework and the next four weeks (also known as the last four weeks of my college career).

It is truly amazing to me how easily I can forget what it feels like to be stressed out. This past week I was more stressed out than I have been in a long time, so much so that my mind was numbed to anything not having to do with my senior recital. The problem with that is that there were other things happening besides my senior recital preparation, including a paper, a test, various homework assignments, and my Praxis II test (to get my music teaching license). Preparations for the recital, as stated, were enough to keep me preoccupied-- dress rehearsal, reception details, program details, family visiting, boyfriend visiting, practicing and final touches on music, dress and hair and make-up details, etc. Needless to say, my mind has been swimming in the to-do lists covering the various surfaces of my desk.

Now, I feel a huge sense of refreshment and relief. I can't really remember the last time I was truly this relaxed. I feel like I am ready to rock out these last four weeks, and I find great joy in knowing that accomplishment breeds motivation in my life.

Just this morning I was thinking about why I was getting ready to perform and what kind of impact my performance had on eternity. The wonderful thing that I realized is that I am performing not to my own standards or the standards of the music department primarily. I perform for the standards of only my God who loves me and him alone. The great thing is that even though God is perfect and desires that perfection for us, his perfection is one of character and not solely of deed. I realized today that if I am performing for the standards of humans, I have to feel bad about making mistakes because I (as a human) care about performing all the notes right and expressing emotion perfectly as to inspire my audience to be captivated by the music I am playing.

If I am performing for the standards of God, I have only to worry about my attitude in performance. If I am performing solely for the glory of God and am working to humble myself in a way that his character shows through me, that is the most rewarding performance. All pressure to be perfect is off because I know that no matter how well I do, God loves me and is pleased with the approach I am taking toward the performance. I don't have to be nervous about what the audience will think of my performance if the only person I am seeking to please loves me even when I am not seeking to please him at all.

After all, it was God who prompted me to switch to studying music. It was God who, consistent with his prompting in my heart, enabled me and motivated me throughout these past four years to study and improve my musicianship. It was God who gave me a vision of teaching music that focuses on caring about people and teaching people to love beauty because God delights in beauty and creativity. It was God who called me to follow him, and it was he who brought me to Taylor to do so. It was God who provided for me financially in order to get me to Taylor. It was God who provided me an immensely loving community of people who have helped shape who I am while being at Taylor. It is God who continues to provide for my every emotional, spiritual, and physical need.

I have so much to thank God for. So why shouldn't I praise who he is? Psalm 150 says we can praise God through any instrument, through our voices, and through dance. That was my intention for today. I praised God, I showed the audience how loving and gracious God is, through my clarinet playing. It was not for my posterity, but it was to show God that I love and appreciate him and all he has done for me. Can you imagine where I would be if I had just relied on myself or other people around me and not on the Almighty One who reigns over all people and all circumstances? Yeah, it would be a very different place. Probably a really sad and boring place. Instead, I'm at a place of joy and passion, finding peace and rest in the presence of one who is in control when I am completely out of control, frazzled, and stressed. God's goodness and power triumphs over all circumstances.

We serve a God who is so good. We can never be as good as he is.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Senioritis as addressed by the Apostle Paul

Romans 13:11-14

But make sure that you don't get so absorbed and exhausted in taking care of all your day-by-day obligations that you lose track of the time and doze off, oblivious to God. The night is about over, dawn is about to break. Be up and awake to what God is doing! God is putting the finishing touches on the salvation work he began when we first believed. We can't afford to waste a minute, must not squander these precious daylight hours in frivolity and indulgence, in sleeping around and dissipation, in bickering and grabbing everything in sight. Get out of bed and get dressed! Don't loiter and linger, waiting until the very last minute. Dress yourselves in Christ, and be up and about!

Monday, March 8, 2010

American Food and Reflections

Jan 26(27)

I am here in Washington! Land of pizza, fries, Caesar salad, water fountains, and Spanish instead of Amharic announcements after the English ones! The past few days have been kinda crazy-- I got sick all Monday night after that delicious Ethiopian meal (although thinking about Ethiopian food now makes me nauseated) and Tuesday morning. I slept most of Tuesday in order to have some small bit of energy for the flight. I felt better and better as the flight went on, and I had plenty of time to sleep on the plane, which helped a lot. Traveling has gone really, really smoothly this time around, and I am very thankful for that.

I am a little sad that I was unable to participate in Tuesdays activities (especially because I really wanted to find an Ethiopian doll for my niece), though I rally needed the sleep. I woke up in time to pack up and eat as much dinner as I could before we left for the airport. Although I was extremely weak when I woke up, the more I was awake (and the more Gatorade I drank) the better I felt. I'm pretty sure eating at the Fasika Monday night is what made me sick-- when I smelled the injera and wat that Sam sent home with us in some crates, I felt very nauseated. I guess I will have to stay away from Ethiopian food for a while now. It's different than what I expected-- because I really liked Ethiopian food coming into this trip, I thought by this time on our trip I would be craving Ethiopian food and seriously missing it, but since I got sick (and actually before that) I have not been craving it.

It is very strange to look out and see snow on the ground! The small plots of houses and grass are covered in white-- it's a lot different from Ethiopia. I wonder if there is snow in Indiana...? I am ready to go back home, as I have stated in many past entries, but adjusting back to Taylor life will be difficult (only one more semester of craziness!). I am entering a pretty busy and challenging class load, along with a senior recital, an apartment with new roommates, and I still have a whole lot of reflecting to do on this whole trip. I am really excited to share my experience with friends, family, and acquaintances...anyone who inquires!

I have realized that I take some things in my life for granted. Who would've thought that I would come to that conclusion going to impoverished Africa, right? I live s pretty modest lifestyle, but even as a modest American, I am living materially immodest compared to most Ethiopians, yet most Ethiopians find so much more satisfaction in their lives than most Americans. I think because Americans have more options, we have more opportunity to be unsatisfied. Ethiopians are happy because they have no reason to be unhappy. Their life is all they and their parents and their grandparents have ever known including traditional roles, religion, and other family or village practices. I wonder, though, how different the house kids' perspectives are, especially being exposed to Americans as much as they are. As I have commented before, Project Mercy carries a sub-culture that is different from others living in Yetebon, but I wonder exactly or specifically how different those perspectives are. I'll have to think more on that.

It feels great to be home, but I hope never to forget the lessons I have learned and the people I have met in Ethiopia. God is moving in this world.







Tuesday, March 2, 2010

City Love

*Preface*
We left Yetebon to travel to the capital where we stayed with the Tregos, American doctors working with the American Embassy in Ethiopia. They cooked us AMAZING comfort food (including Mexican and bagels) and had satellite TV (the same TV that military people have overseas), which allowed our many sports fans (mostly males) to watch the Champoinship NFL games.

Jan 25

Our big day in Addis!

Today was so wonderful-- we woke up to a luxurious breakfast, headed out to go shopping with our wonderful driver Tamrat, went out to eat at the Fasika ( a restaurant that serves traditional food), at which we ate, danced, and laughed the night away. I was really glad to have the shopping experience we did, even though I was really scared of the haggling that was required of us. It worked out really well, though, because Trevor, a finance major and business-minded man, was in my shopping group. He is really good at haggling.

Our driver knew all the right places to go, and he got us to each place safely. I bought gifts for all kinds of people, and our last stop was an amazing coffee shop that sells its coffee to Starbucks. We spent such a long time at the coffee shop because everyone ordered at least three bags of coffee and the most was nine bags. Take the average and multiply that by 17 and you have a LOT of coffee. I'm pretty sure they ran out of their stock of beans because they had to call someone in to bring in kilos and kilos more. We got back to the Tregos' house with only a few minutes to spare before dinner. We left to go to the Fasika with all our American friends, although Dr. Trego and Andrea were not feeling well and decided to stay back.

The people working at the Fasika were very helpful (I think they were used to tourists) and were kind in helping us know what to do. First we ordered drinks, then Sam (Marta's son and good friend of our team) came, then we went out to get our food from a personal buffet they set up outside for us. They explained to us what each thing was and were even a little impressed when we knew what some things were called (mit mita for example, which is a spicy powder added to things to make then spicier...as if the food needed that!). We went back inside to eat, and then the band began to play traditional songs. After they played some songs (Sam explained to us that they were mostly secular songs, although they had set some secular words to a sacred tune in one song), the dancers came out and dances three dances from different regions of Ethiopia.




We had been hoping that, coming from Yetebon, which lies in the Guragi region, that we would get to see the Guragi dance. We did, and the second time they performed it, they got Nathaniel and Eric (two of our American friends) to go dance with them. They also came out into our group on another song and told us to "COME" as they shimmied and swayed. We tried our best to shimmy and sway our rhythmically challenged American bodies, and although I am sure we looked foolish, it was a blast. I had a great time dancing and being able to talk with those around me. The day was a very tiring day, although I am more awake than most tonight as I went to bed early last night.

It was like one big sleepover at the Tregos' house!


I cannot believe that we will be on our way back in less than 24 hours. As I have been saying-- I am ready, but I know it will be a crazy adjustment. I am just starting to feel comfortable with the culture and just starting to get the feel for Addis. I feel almost like we, as Andrea, Aaron, and Nathanial are doing, are only taking a weekend away from Project Mercy and that we will return to our "normal" lives with the house kids in a few days. It won't hit me that I am coming home until I am there, similarly to how I didn't feel like I was going to Ethiopia until I stepped out of the airport here in Addis on January 4th.




Being on this trip has further convinced me that I am ready to step out of the incubator that is Taylor University and into the cold, cold world to serve God in a big new way (wow, so cliche, right?). There is so much outside of Taylor, though, even though Taylor life consumes you when you are there. I am hoping I can be less consumed when I live off-campus next semester. The next big question, though, is what is life after graduation going to look like for me? What is my next step? What will the next 6 months even look like for me? I am learning every single day again and again about patience for the will of the Lord to be done in my life in whatever way God chooses to do that. It is extremely exciting!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Leaving

Jan 25

Walking to church was like torture, like we were walking to a funeral of someone very close to us. The funeral of our experience. I really wish we could have just packed up and left in the morning and not have drawn out the process any longer than that. We went to church, though, and it is always such a blessing to be involved in the Amharic worship services. The people that worship there belong to a spiritually fervent community who truly seeks to praise God and continually seek him. I have loved the moments where I can enter into prayer in my own language and in my own heart while at the same time, those around me are praying and singing in a language foreign to me, yet God hears us all. I have also loved the moments when I am able to pick out the melodies of their songs and hum along (or even sing along if I can recognize some of the words). The church services are very special.

Today, the kids were all writing us goodbye notes during church (or we were writing what they were telling us to write), and after we performed the congregation prayed for . Some of our team members lost their composure completely and wept before the body of people in front of us. When the kids saw us getting emotional, they started to realize what was happening and also began to weep. We left before the service ended. We tried to slip out, but as the last of us were leaving, some of the kids began to follow us with tears streaming down their faces. Up until that point, I had managed to hold back tears in this very emotional situation, but when I saw that even the smallest children knew what was happening and were crying, and then that some of the older kids who had managed to maintain their composure so far were also weeping and following us, that is when I lost it, too.

When I was walking out of the sanctuary , Jiji handed me a note she had written to me, and I was so touched. I didn't want to read until I got back, as not to draw out our goodbye, but when we were walking I back on the road, I turned and saw that she, too, was following us and began to weep. I tried to just keep walking to discourage her from following. Tesfu, one of our littlest guys, started running to catch up with one of our girls who had built a strong bond with him. I had to stop and catch up with Jiji. I welled up with tears and called her name. The only thing I could say to her was, "You weren't supposed to follow!" I saw she was crying, too, and held her hand (Ethiopian sign of friendship) as we walked and wept together silently the whole way back to the compound.

Heidi and Tesfu


When we reached the dining hall and were saying our last goodbyes, I made sure to tell Jiji that she is so beautiful and smart and to never forget it. She hugged me tight and wept more heavily. At that moment, the memory of our first meeting flooded into my brain-- she had told me I looked like her mother. It is such an honor for someone to bestow that kind of comparison upon you, especially such a beautiful, talented girl on the other side of the world with whom you never knew you would connect so deeply. I am pretty sure I learned that her mother had died, and I wanted to just take her home with me. I will never, ever forget her.

Jiji


I had to leave her and the other children that had followed us back who were also crying and lovingly clinging to our team members because I knew it had to end at some point. I went into the commons rooms and as I wept harder than I had the whole trip, I watched out the window as a few girls lingered back, wiping tears and snotty noses and giving big hugs. It was heartbreaking.

Heime


Sara


Bechernet



After lunch the rest of the church returned, mostly made up of the older kids and young adults. I knew I had to say goodbye to Dembelle, Birhanne, Ahsenofi, Lemlem, and Alemnesh. For the first time, I saw Dembelle and Birhanne cry-- that was extremely hard for me. I was very blessed when, after saying goodbye with a hug and an encouragement to practice guitar, Ahsenofi presented me with a bracelet that he had made for me. The boy is definitely one of the coolest kids I have ever met, like if I was 16 again, I definitely would have had a major crush on him. I know he will do so well in the world and hopefully will be given the opportunity to come to the US for college someday. His English is one of the best I head all trip. I pray those things for him.

Teammates and Ashenofi


I am just extremely grateful for the time that we spent loving those kids and them loving us back. Seeing the love of God move through people and relationships like that is really amazingly moving. Most of the kids hardly spoke English, yet strong, presonal bonds were formed through actions of love and care. That is how the ministry at Project Mercy works, though-- there is no outright, direct evangelistic proclamation of the Gospel message, preaching (except very much so at church), or Bible-thumping at Project Mercy. Christ's love is evident through people and their actions and words. That gives God all the glory and the power in moving in that way. With Project Mercy being situated in a Muslim community, showing the love of God creates the relationships and the opportunities for the proclamation of the Gospel. American evangelism could learn a HUGE lesson from these people. It's so beautiful!

Lynne and friends


Snafikish


Salem