Friday, September 28, 2012

A Shift, But Not A Positive One

Every day we make choices. And the hope is that we make the right choices, that we choose the good outfit and we fill our time wisely, that we treat other people with love and we never say the wrong thing. And as much as I tell myself that I do make the right choices and as much as my mother swears to me that I am perfect, the truth of the matter is, in the last month especially, I have not succeeded. It seems that in the last few days I have been given a continual wake-up call that I have in fact, been oblivious to my true actions and their consequences. For the past month I have been different than what I would say is my normal self. I thought I was fine, being myself, being emotional when appropriate, angry when called for, and doing what needed to be done. In my mind my summer had been hard therefore I was entitled to some time to process and recover, to be alone and be upset. But what I was really doing was being selfish and isolating myself from those who have cared about me through the whole process.

It takes quite a friend to tell you the truth and not be afraid of the results. I do appreciate those kinds of friends and I am blessed to have a few here in California, the kind that don't validate your bad behavior but remind you of your true actions. I don't like the feeling that comes along with the truth but the pain of knowing your faults is helpful for the change you hope it brings. You see, I was blind to my own faults, and when my friend peeled the layers off of my eyes, the layers of self-pity, preoccupations, and selfishness, I realized that the truth was I haven't been honoring my commitments.  I don't know what I thought I was doing or why I have been the way I have been, but in truth tonight I feel quite regretful. I have lost an entire month to a bad attitude.

What makes me regretful is that this person is not who I am. I feel like my reputation is usually that I am bursting with positivity, always available to help people out and make new friends, and always giving more than I take. But I think I got mixed up in California. I figured since I was only here for two years none of those things were important. I didn't need friends, I didn't need to get involved or be known. I left college and I got lost and when it came time to make choices, I made the wrong ones. Instead of choosing to make the most of my time here I have covered it in negativity and self-seeking motives.

So tonight there is the feeling like someone just pulled a lot of bandaids off my skin really fast, but I am hoping that in realizing this, the skin under those bandaids has become new. All the scrapes and bruises that I caused this past month, all the mistakes and times I have been selfish and wrong are healed because of grace.

Look at that, full circle. The name of the blog is revealing grace, but maybe I never realized that God's grace is revealed when we are at our worst. When we have failed those around us, when we have chosen an attitude of negativity instead of joy, and when we have reached our lowest point, this is when we realize that God's grace is big enough to cover that. And this is when we see that in turn, the grace of God's people can also be big enough to cover our sins and our failures.

I hope that those here at Fuller who have loved me through all my ups and downs will be rewarded richly in heaven, for I am not sure I would have put up with myself if the shoes had been on the other feet. I am undeservedly blessed by these friends and as sad as I feel for wasting the last month I choose to take this wake-up call as a new start. Tomorrow is a new day and I intend to live in the truth that I have been covered by the grace of the one true God.

And if that doesn't make someone positive then I don't know what does.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Three Cheers for School!

Emotions run high and low on this blog, probably because when I don't have strong emotions posts are boring. Therefore you guys only get the best and the worst of my daily life. Interesting for you I hope! Today is a post of joy. School has started. It is the day many young people dread and the day I look forward to with giddy anticipation. By the time my class started last night I had been up for over twelve hours and had worked for 10.5 of them, but as soon as I got home and threw on my backpack I was totally pumped. Obviously this could make me a total nerd but I prefer the term "lover of learning".... which actually makes me sound even nerdier. Anyways, here is why I love the fact that school has started:

1. The weather is finally turning California cool. Today I read on the grass under a tree and it was perfect and Anne-of-Green-Gables-like. There was a pesky ant and crazy squirrels but in this moment of positivity I am pretending they were not there.

2. New friends! Now, no snarky comments from my old friends here saying, "But Meredith you told us you didn't want any more friends." I know, I know, but we all know I am being stupid when I say that and that resolve lasts for two minutes until I meet someone nice and immediately become besties with. I can't help myself. As much as I don't want to love people, I love a lot of them. So new friends it is, and what a joy to go through this stage of life with them. I love that my struggles and transitions here can help the next slew of people who are doing the same thing a year later. Community at its finest.

3. Books, reading, lectures, hooray! I love love love that I get to learn about the Old Testament writings from an adorable old British man in a three piece suit. He is so lovely I just want him to invite me over for tea in his garden (no really, I think he has a garden.) And I get to be in a class where we actually take time to pray for each other (novel idea really!) and then I get to read about politics and Christianity and totally freaked out but excited because I actually can use my Econ background and oh my goodness my nerdiness is overflowing and I simply must stop.

So I will just say:

I love Fall quarter. I love the bustling campus, the relationships, and everything that goes along with it. No matter what challenges are ahead, happy days are here my friends. Plus my awesome brother sent me the new Mumford and Sons cd so my ears are blissfully unaware of any noise the difficulties in this life may try to suppress upon me for at least a few days. God is good my friends, all the time. 

One of the first days of freshman year in college. Three of us in this picture are now in seminary or have completed seminary. Who would have thought! 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Inevitability of Chaos

I love this picture. I was in Southern India, seeing some sights, and I wanted my photo taken with the amazing background I was surrounded with. The aim was to look gorgeous, well put together, and world-traveler-esque in my Indian outfit on this foreign land. Well, the wind got the better of me and right as the picture was snapped my long shirt flew up, revealing my pale stomach and my three-sizes-too-big pants. In the moment I had no idea what to do as I assumed this was most inappropriate yet also had no way to stop the crazy winds. When I looked back at the picture I simply laughed, realizing that this was probably the one that most captured the essence of my trip. Though I was trying my best to fit in and do the right things I was still being blown about by the wind and in the end I had to realize that sometimes things don't turn out as planned. Sometimes you just have to go with the flow and realize you really have no idea what you are doing. 
I just put this picture up by my desk (you can too if you want...just kidding...that might be weird) so everyday I will see it and remember. I want to remember to laugh at the unexpected, to stop trying to control the wind, the unknown, and embrace the impact of my surroundings. It reminds me that life is an adventure, and as hard as we try to do it all right, sometimes things won't go our way. This is the beauty of the journey. It is these windy moments that remind us that we are just a small piece of the plan. Ultimately we have to give up trying to control everything and simply trust that God will give us the ability to do the best that we can. 
It is the chaos in the midst of serenity that can either drive us crazy or lead us to raise our hands up and let God take over. I choose the second. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Who Knew Being a Soccer Mom Was So Much Fun?

Let's face it. For the last few days I have been a grump. I have eaten copious amounts of chocolate, spent an entire day sleeping and watching movies, and been rather snappy (not in the good way). I might blame it on the amount of perkiness and pretend joy that the producers of Let's Make a Deal made me have last Friday, but in truth it was a bit more than that (read my last post).

So I want all of my readers to know that I have officially found the cure to grumpiness and a slew of bad days:

Soccer practice. 

Now before you all begin to worry that I really have gone wacky I will assure you that I of course did not attend soccer practice because I joined a soccer team. We obviously all know that sports are not in my repertoire of fabulous qualities. I was actually attending the soccer practice of a 2nd grader. (Yes, be jealous of my life).  Tonight I was babysitting for one of my favorite families and I got to meet him and his six year old sister at soccer practice and let me tell you, I felt so cool. Going to soccer practice is like a whole new level of babysitter. Plus, hanging out with these two kids is fabulous and more like vacation then work because we get to eat ice cream and discuss things like the ice age and road trips, and why the inside of their house has obviously turned into a jungle so they must naturally brush their teeth in the stream and take showers in the waterfall. It reminds me of how fun life can be and is such a reprieve from my daily life. Who knew that playgrounds, magic capes, and imaginary adventures could be just what I needed to perk me back up again?

In addition to soccer practice I of course received a lot of wisdom and reminders of the pressure I was putting on myself which also aided in my journey of transition home from the rez. As I have been reminded, God loves those kids so much more than I do and He has me where He wants me right now, so obviously He has everything under control. (Why do I ever lose sight of that?) I am surely blessed with many great people to walk with me on this journey.

So tonight I will go to bed dreaming of the family that I will hopefully have one day to take to soccer practice, being grateful that I have three families here that show me what I have to look forward to and give me a little practice. 

And I will praise God for these trials and growing moments, while rejoicing that He has blessed me with these treasured evenings to simply let go of my worries and be a kid again. 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

A Pervading Ache for A People I Love

Everyday we wake up and we have no idea what the day will bring. There is always the potential for amazing joys and gladness, which is our hope, but some days also have some sadness. Today is one of those days. I rejoice because I just came home from a bonfire on Huntington Beach. Talk about the good life. Around 45 Fuller students were there as we soaked up some sun, ate dinner together, and cooked s'mores on a beach bonfire. It was like an episode of the OC except we all love Jesus and weren't dressed so fancy. It was an amazing time of community and simply refreshing to be by the open water and the cool breeze.

But my heart is so sad. It is like I can't shake it. I don't want to forget about the reservation, but every day my heart aches for my students there and I can't focus on anything else. I get a call at 4am or a facebook post and I immediately go into worry mode, wondering if my kids are ok, if they are getting into trouble, if they are on the right path. And then I get an email that tells me that everything is falling apart. My Apache girls, that I love so much, are splintering and I am not there to catch them. Reading that update it took every ounce of sense in my body not to pack up my things and move to the reservation immediately. I cried because I have such hope for them and I just wanted to go, because my girls need me. I just know that if I was there then maybe I could help them, heal their relationships, be that listening ear and guiding hand.

Yet I am not there. I am here. And it hurts so much I can hardly stand it. How can I live my life here when my Apache kids are falling left and right?

I know that God has placed me at Fuller and that my learning here enables me to help better. I know that I could move to the rez right this minute but that I still couldn't fix all my kids. But all the same, I love these kids like they are my own. I understand why they do the crap they do and I believe that if I was there then I could help them. I would at least have the chance.

So what do I do? I sit, rather helplessly, here in Pasadena, praying fervently that God is where I cannot be. I pray that He will pick up my kids and move them in the right direction, that He will do what I cannot.

It is a dilemma, because I don't want to pray that my heart ceases to hurt for them, but at the same time, how can I care for them and live my life here?

It is a lot of questions, and right now I don't feel like I  have a whole lot of answers. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Ticking Clock

The clock next to my bed is an old-fashioned looking one that makes that *tick tick* noise as the seconds pass. Yesterday I looked at the clock and realized that the second hand was actually shivering between two points with each sound, so the ticking meant nothing. 

Maybe this is why time seems to be moving so slowly these days.
 Maybe the clock wasn't ticking away time after all. 

Friday, September 7, 2012

Summer Livin'

Ahh, early September. The beginning of the school year, going back to work, the daily grind, hours and hours and hours of free time...wait, is that last one only me? I know you are starting to hate me right now but honestly the amount of free time I have currently is ridiculous. I have organized our freezer, painted and repainted my nails, rearranged all the furniture in my room, and read three time is starting to wear on me. But don't worry, I won't complain. Since I know as soon as the quarter starts I will be inundated with paper writing and schoolwork (despite popular belief at Fuller that I can write papers in roadrunner-like speed) I thought I should try and make the most of my free time in LA, while on a strict(ish) budget. So here are a few pictures of where my LA adventures have taken me in the last two weeks. Maybe if you mix up some homemade salt water and put on the sound of seagulls you can pretend you are adventuring with me.
Manhattan Beach
A metro ride to the Dodgers Game. Go Dodgers! 
Malibu, where surfing was born. The day was cold, overcast, and rainy but anything is fun with a good friend and surfers with nice muscles.  
Laguna Beach! Just like the tv show but with less drama.

Downtown LA. This trip was so fun. We ate pastries at Homegirl Cafe and met some amazingly nice people.  

Next stop, work. This is to prove that I really do have a job but it is taking care of this cutie, so really, its still pretty great.

Ahh to be young and free. What a great detox after a busy and taxing summer. Lots of sunshine, friends, and a clean clean apartment. Care to join me? 

Monday, September 3, 2012

A Debrief and a Full Breath of Air

I recently had my debrief for my time at the reservation. Sometimes things like a debrief can seem silly but after 25 minutes of conversation I felt like I finally took the first deep breath of air that I have had since I came home. As we recapped I was teary-eyed, thinking of my teenagers and their potential and struggles. This experience was so heavy and it still weighs on me, but not in a bad way. It is simply that I will never be who I was before my summer on the reservation. I will never see the world in the same way and I will never process the happenings of my life the same. 
When asked, I realized that my biggest encouragement on the reservation was that I was able to build relationships with some of the teenage girls. These girls are so closed off and quite a few of them started off hating my guts. Yet the fact that by the end they would pull me aside and talk to me about the things they did not know how to deal with was the power of Christ. I could never have built those relationships in and of myself. 
So as I debrief in my nice apartment with a heart that is still aching for the reservation, I feel so blessed. I am blessed to have had such a deep and difficult summer. I blessed to have been given the chance to be angry at God, to argue and be mad at Him, and then to see the ways that He is moving. I have been blessed to be a part of the lives of these kids, in hopes that these 12 will be the difference.
So I will finish with this. We took twelve kids to the Native conference in Missouri this summer and those are the 12 that I was able to have relationships with for the next six weeks on the rez. As my advisor pointed out, in Jesus’ ministry it only took 12 disciples to turn the world upside down. I think my 12 have the potential to do the same. Just like Jesus’ disciples they have their faults, their misunderstandings, and their flaws. But with prayer, community, and love I believe that they can break the cycle of generational poverty and start a process of change in the name of the One who saved them. 
In the end, I think I have discovered that my heart is full and heavy, and I will never be the same.