Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Broken Record: Blessings Greater than Challenges

There are things I could say but I would just sound like a broken record. Because though I have challenges, they are so much smaller than my blessings. Though sometimes things do not go my way, my life is so much easier than the lives of so many. So I cannot complain, I cannot lament, because my life has been redeemed by Christ and I can ask for nothing more.

I miss the reservation, I miss my high school girls in Fayetteville, and I desire to be more connected with the ministry in India, but what I must realize is that this kind of problem is one that not many people in the world have. It is to have been impacted by so many people, loved by so many people, that I cannot physically be with them all and help them all. I must trust in the only One who can reach to those I love and cannot be with.

This blog has made me realize the constant repeating cycle of my emotions, my experiences, and my life. So tonight I will just rest in thankfulness and not worry about finding the words. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Title is Always the Hardest Part.

Today I ran 3.5 miles. Ok, ok fine, I ran at a jogging pace and intermittently walked to catch my breath, but still, that's pretty impressive right? I don't think I have ever moved my two feet that far on purpose in my life. Part of my motivation was to finally get in shape, be healthy, and look awesome. The OTHER half was because at the end of 3.5 miles was the most glorious market one can imagine. At the end of 3.5 miles is South Pasadena, the super cute part of town with little shops and an old train station and things of that adorable nature, and when I reached the market sweating (ew), panting, and tired I swore I was in farmer's market heaven. It was like a fair that happens every Thursday. Vegetables, samples, ethnic foods, more vegetables, oh my gosh I was in love. I almost forgot that I was sweating bullets as I wandered off like a distracted kid in a candy store. It was simply glorious.

So the plan is to run to the market every Thursday and buy my fresh produce and eat delicious street food with friends. Doesn't that sound lovely? As I sit here with that accomplished kind of ache in my muscles I am just hoping that maybe I can learn to sweat less so as to impress that cute guy at the tomato stand....

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Laughing Babies, They Always Getcha.

I started back at work this week. It is a lovely reprieve from organizing and reorganizing my room (my tendency when I have no homework and don't know what to do with myself). I discovered on Monday that my sweet little boy I nanny has grown even more adorable since I left two months ago and has taken to waddling around the house which is quite amazing really. What I love about him is that as he waddles around he will just take to laughing. Nothing funny is happening, nothing I can see is that amusing but as he walks he will just laugh and laugh and laugh. When this happens I generally begin to laugh too which makes him laugh more and in the end I think we might just both be copying each other and laughing for the sake of it, but in all reality the laughter brightens the whole day. As we laugh for no apparent reason other than his joy at life in general I have come to think that I want to live my life more like him. The joy of living should be enough that we relish in the small victories and we have fun at the most mundane tasks. If we all just took to laughing at random moments in the day I am convinced that the whole world would be happier.

If you can't steal away a child that just learned to walk (this is not my recommended option) I hope that you will take my advice and laugh a little more today. Laugh for no reason! You might get some funny looks from your coworkers or the strangers passing you on the street, but I can almost guarantee, life will become a lot more enjoyable. 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Transitions

The transition is always the hardest part. It isn't hard in the way that (I assume) running a marathon would be hard or in the way that moving to Uzbekistan would be hard, instead it is a quiet kind of toughness. It is the kind that you almost miss because everything is so beautiful and every place you go is so good, but it is a quiet stirring in your soul that keeps reminding you of the things you are missing. It is the longing to be in many places at once but at the same time the joy that you have been so many places and that you love the place you are in at this moment, right now. It is going to Laguna Beach with friends and coming home to a quiet apartment to watch a movie, but at the same time feeling a little guilty. Feeling that you should be in the other place, holding them through their sufferings and loving them through their mistakes. It is the feeling of helplessness that being so far away means being useless. But then (and this is the part that makes it quiet) it is knowing that God has us at every moment, right where He wants us. And right now he wants me here, recovering from a long summer, a hot day at the beach, and preparing me for what He has in store next. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

From Cliffs to Concrete

So I am back. I went from cliffs to concrete and rez to riches. It is quite the adjustment. As I left the reservation the other day I cried for quite a few miles. It was the good kind of tears though, for I was sad to leave because the rez had become another home for me. I grew to love my teenagers there, my Apache family, and my ministry family. They changed my life as any experience does, and driving back into Pasadena I already longed to be back with them. It is that desire to be in two (or more) places at once that becomes commonplace when so many places have impacted one's life. At the same time I am very happy to be back in Pasadena. When the elevator door opened to my floor it smelled like Fuller and all the memories of my year here came flooding into my mind and the smile returned to my face. I was tired after the long drive but waiting here for me were wonderful friends, frozen yogurt, and the anticipation of my second year here at Fuller.

It is hard to reconcile my head and my heart right now as I return to the city. My heart still aches for the pain and hardships on the reservation and my head cannot just push what I now know and have seen to the back of my thoughts. As I return to my huge closet and nice things I feel so utterly middle class and my own room provides a sort of culture shock. How do I live this life knowing what I know about the reservation? How do I reconcile the life I led this summer with the life I lead here? Being on the reservation has changed me in ways that will be so beneficial to the rest of my studies here at Fuller, but how does one do life when they left their heart in the hills of Arizona?

Praise God that He has the answers and will use this summer to form me and mold me as He prepares me for what is next. What I do know is this, I have been blessed with experiences beyond what I deserve and I would not have traded this summer for the world. Thank you for praying for me, for walking with me through my thoughts and struggles, and for being a part of each leg of my journey!

Now, let's see what kind of adventures this year will hold :) 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

A Portrait of my Father's Love

He kissed her newly formed face and smiled at His most recent creation. He had loved her from before the moment she was formed and He wanted her to know before He let her go into the world. As He sent her down He whispered, "My child, I have created you for big things." And at that a cry came into the world and she had arrived. 

As a little girl she was always full of spunk and as she ran she always felt God running with her. She had loved Him since the moment He had kissed her newly formed face. She never doubted His love for she had felt it, seen it, held onto it. And as she grew older she clung to the quiet voice that reminded her, "I have big plans for you." 

But she grew older, and the world grew tougher, and every now and then she would forget the kiss and the whisper. She would begin to run and lose her way, but He would be there. He would pick her up and dust her off when she fell, would calmly drop hints to return to the right direction, and calm her weary heart when the burdens seemed too much to bear. And each night, as she went to bed, whether with smile or tears, He would quietly whisper, "My child, I have created you for big things." 

And she listened, she followed where He called, she cried when it got hard, and He would remind her of His love. And when it all became too much, when the sadness around her threatened to overwhelm, when the threat of going this path alone would loom, when she felt that this must surely be too hard of a process, she would remember and she would look up. In that moment she saw His face, just as she had when she was little. His eyes were sad because her heart was, but she was amazed at the compassion, empathy and love she saw there. In the midst of her weariness she heard Him say, "I know this hurts, but you have to remember, I created you for bigger things. I have so much more in store for you." And as she gazed into His face she remembered that indeed she had been created with a purpose. He must have known she could handle the sacrifices, the heartbreaks, the loneliness, because He had given her this calling from the moment she was born and He had created her with all her strengths and all her flaws. She flashed back to every moment in her life where God had always picked her up when she fell, always brought the right people into her life when she felt lost, always opened the right doors and provided for her needs. So she picked herself up, with the help of those He had surrounded her with, and began to walk on. 

God smiled as He took her hand and she felt the wind whip softly across her cheek. "My child," the wind seemed to say, "I have created you for big things, and I will not let you go there alone." 


Saturday, August 11, 2012

Saturday Morning Thoughts

It is a quiet last Saturday on the rez. Yesterday was full, full of activity, sorrow, and Chinese food buffets. Though my time is ending here the hardships are not. I am still learning how to walk with my students through their pain and fears even though I have no answers, but I consistently find it a blessing that the girls are willing to talk with me about their struggles and their hardships in their homes. My heart is burdened for their pain, but God is continually working with me. 

Speaking of God working with me, the last few days I have had the chance to read a phenomenal book recommended to me by my darling friend Julia. The book is Passion and Purity by Elizabeth Elliot and is the best book I have ever read on matters of the heart. I am being challenged as I read, and the words seem to float from the page and lodge themselves directly into the crevices of my heart. I am learning to be patient, to trust in the Lord, and each day when I open the book I feel like Elizabeth was writing just for me in this exact moment, like she is a close friend that I have talked with for hours. One of my favorite quotes so far (there have been many) is this "...but the things that we feel most deeply we ought to learn to be silent about, at least until we have talked them over thoroughly with God." I have a problem being silent. I like to spew out all of my feelings, my plans, my ideals, and I usually want you to do the same to me. But I am learning that the passions and desires of our hearts must first be discussed with the One who created those passions, and we must be faithful first to His calling and His desire. I am very thankful to Julia for introducing me to this book at this time in my life, for it seems that each word has made me stronger and led me to be more of the woman that God wants me to be, despite my constant mistakes and sinful nature. 

I implore you, man or woman, no matter your age, to go out and buy this book.  While you check Amazon and order your copy I am going to go join my roommate in a day of baking, laundry, and well, more baking. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

A Light in the Darkness

It is my last week on the reservation, and just as the first, the pain, suffering, and bad decisions are still so present. I have learned how to deal with the pain a lot better than the first half of my practicum. In the first four weeks the pain and stories sat like bricks on my back until the final piece of straw was lain there and it broke. The second time around (or second half that is) I have been able to receive the stories and sightings with sadness (for these things should break your heart) but at the same time not let myself be overwhelmed by them. God has taken each moment of other's pain that I begin to cradle closely and picked it up, easily and calmly, as He puts it on His own back. The burden has been much lighter.

The other night I was up on Prayer Mountain with a team and I was thinking of all the pain I had witnessed since I have been here: the dysfunctional and abusive relationships between parents and children, the marks on the arms of my girls, the bad decisions. It was so dark outside, and it reminded me of the darkness present on the reservation I looked down upon. As we sang worship songs and prayed over the view of the town all I could do was look up at the night sky, for the stars had become magnificent. When we had first arrived I had been rather disappointed, for the last bit of daylight was still peaking over the mountains and the stars were barely visible. But then the night grew darker, and the stars got brighter. Eventually they seemed to multiply like sparks off of a firework and I could even see the traces of the Milky Way. I realized then that the brightness of the stars in the dead of night was just like the reservation, or any place really. It is when the world is at its darkest that we as Christians should shine our brightest. It is when things get hard, when pain and suffering abounds, that our light should be most vibrant and most apparent to those around us. God knows each star and placed them all in the heavens, and so much more does He know each of us and our placement on the earth.

It gave me motivation, seeing those brilliant stars. It reminded me of what my life should look like, and it gave me peace to know that I was to serve a mission, a mission for the Creator. I decided then and there that if those stars could be so bright and so beautiful in the dead of night, then so would I. I would be the light God has called me to be, and allow Him to hold me up when my temptation is to wait until sunlight returns. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Amish in Apache Land! (A surrriously exciting post..to me)

Oh the people that you meet! This summer has been a spectacular time to meet new people from all over the United States. I have met "small world" connections from Indiana, even someone who went to my same university in Georgia! Last week I met some men from Kentucky who sang the twangiest old country hymns up on a mountain that I have ever heard, and this week I have had what I consider a great privilege....a group of Amish are in town! That is right folks, old order Amish are on the Apache reservation. Who would have thought it! These ladies are from Indiana and are from an order that still drive horses with buggies, do not ride bikes, do church in German, and make all their own clothing. In meeting these gals I jumped right in because, let's face it, I am an extrovert and I LOVE meeting people who live culturally different.

So as I sat down to dinner with a few of the Amish girls I got right to the point, asking the important questions. "So, do you guys ever wear pants?" I asked. They answered me no, so I pressed on. "Ok, but the real question is, have you ever worn pants?" Interestingly enough they wear sweatpants under their dresses in the winter. Can you imagine never having worn a pair of jeans? I can't! Anyways, after twenty minutes of knowing them (I don't need long to make friends) I decided it would be so cool to go live with them for a few weeks. (I basically invite myself over. Flaw or strong point? Who knows.) The visiting youth pastor of our team this week looked at me like I was a nut and commented that in fact he had never seen anyone so enthusiastic about Amish. I can't help it, its who I am! So with some fresh and sassy new friends (they may not have electricity but these girls do not lack spunk!) I am heading towards some Amish peanut butter and some sewing lessons before the week is over. So cool, right?

Ok, I know, being so excited about making Amish friends on an Apache reservation in Arizona is a little crazy, but for one, helllooooooo what a mixture of cultures in such an unlikely place! And for two, I think it would be such a good experience to live their lifestyle for a small time, to be devoid of outside distractions and amenities, to live off the land, make my clothing, and live in community. That just sounds like a fantastic growing experience.

And let's admit it, I can never have enough friends.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Indian Summers

A year ago today I had just arrived in India. I was tired, weepy, and luggage-less. I had traveled by myself for over 24 hours and everything was different. I was overwhelmed and I could only guess as to what God had in store for that trip, let alone for the next year.

One year later I am spending my summer with a different kind of "Indian." I had no idea I would be here when I ate my first chapati and tried on my first sari, but how blessed the road has been to get here.

God has taught me a lot since I first landed in that foreign land by myself last summer. He has taught me about trusting Him through the unknown and about the importance of talking to Him, even telling Him the littlest things. Mostly I think He has taught me how much He cares. I can tell He cares because each opportunity He has given me has made me grow, as a person and as a Christian. I have been challenged, made uncomfortable, and been so very very blessed. Last year this time I was shopping with my new Indian family, eating a blessed omelet, and buying a new Indian wardrobe. This year I have just come home from hanging out with 75 middle school and high school students at the first youth group event of the year. Hanging out with my Apache kids is a joy I never would have imagined when walking through the streets of Southern India, but both experiences are ones I would not trade for any other.

I cannot thank God enough for the opportunities He has provided for me in the last year. It has been two Indian summers and I would not trade them for the world.


Shout out to Ron for the title of this blog post :) 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A stream of consciousness writing that may not be worth reading

There are a lot of things going through my head that I thought I would write about today. I penned a beautiful piece on the mixture of cultures and religions at the Sunrise Dance preparation I went to yesterday, but maybe that will show up later. I thought about writing about the joys of spending time in encouragement, bible study, and prayer with three of my teenage girls yesterday, and that probably will play a part in this post because it is important, but there is a lot on my mind. Or maybe nothing on my mind, who knows. I think I might just type and see where we end up at the bottom of the page.

It seems to me that there are so many things in this life vying for our attention. When we don't have a boyfriend we spend time dreaming about it, when we do have a boyfriend we spend time fretting over if this is really what we wanted after all. We spend time in work and then we have to think about spending time in rest. Then when we are resting we just think about all the other things we could be doing. School starts soon and instead of thinking about today we think about what will come after school and how to get there (maybe that one is just me). At any rate, there are so many things going through my head sometimes that I cannot just enjoy the day I have, the moment that is now. Today I baked a pie, organized my suitcase, and read a bunch of articles online about what it means to be a man, to be a woman, to be single...I read a lot. And I think about my life and my blessings, and then I think about my three girls I met with yesterday. I want them to go through high school looking towards the future, but also being content with where they are now. I want them to be content but not too content because I want them to strive for something more. I want them to love God enough to sacrifice friendships and popularity for Him. I want them to be unified and I want them to love each other.

And as all of these things swirl around in my head I have to stop because my pie is out of the oven and if I don't stop swirling I might just stick my face in it and eat the whole thing. Yes, I may be having trouble deciphering what God wants from me but maybe I just need to calm down. Maybe I just need to  talk to Him more and stop trying to decipher what in my head is the answer. What if I just loved on my girls for the next two weeks, prayed for this ministry I am working with, and baked a few more pies? I think things would be pretty good, because we aren't going to have all the answers and we are going to make mistakes, but if I love God and love my neighbor I think life will turn out just fine.

So that is my ramble. I don't really know if I got anywhere with it or figured anything out but that is what came out of my fingers on the keys and I think I will just leave it there. God is good, pie is good, and life is good. Who cares what comes tomorrow because today is blessed and I am happy to be given another day. And yesterday I got to pray with three beautiful girls who have the potential to bring change their generation on the rez because God is moving in their lives and they are listening. And I get to be a part of it. I would say that in the scheme of things, there is really nothing to fret about at all.