Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A calling...

“....they get ruined for anything else.” My friend, Joe, who happens to be the senior pastor at our church, said these words yesterday as he was speaking about people who are called to be missionaries. He was talking about how after they have an overseas experience nothing is ever the same again. 

As I sat and listened, I so deeply identified with his statement that I could have stood up in the middle of class and shouted, 

“YES! Thats me!! That happened to ME and I’m WRECKED over it!!” 

I didn’t shout or yell, though. I just sat there. All folded up and cozy in my chair, emphatically nodding my head to such truthful words.

My first mission experience was my junior year of high school. I was sort of a late add-on. A group of my friends went to a different church than I did and their youth group was going, and somehow I got invited. I had no time to raise the money, but I still sheepishly asked my mom if she thought it was possible. Money was always a rough topic with both my parents since the divorce, so I really was bracing for a straight “No.” Instead she said she would see if her and my step-dad could swing it, and she would also call my dad about it. All I could do was pray, but if I can be honest, I didn’t expect either parent to come up with the money.

I will never forget the morning my dad dropped the check off. I was in my zero period weight class which was located, at the time, in the cinderblock windowless building behind the high school. I heard my dad’s truck and then saw the door open. I walked over to meet him and he simply held out a folded check. “I know your sister had this same opportunity around your age, and I think it would only be fair for you to have the chance, also.” I hugged him, thanked him, and walked back inside. But my stomach was doing somersaults, as sheer elation overwhelmed my being.

The trip took place over Spring Break that year, and we drove to Baja Mexico over the course of two days. The group of students was probably 15 or so, three of them being some of my best girlfriends. We were going to work with a pastor and his family whom the church already had relationship with. I honestly didn’t know much of what to expect beforehand. I knew only a few words in Spanish, and definitely was not even remotely comfortable with trying to conversate in the language, let alone tell people about Jesus. I also wasn’t comfortable in a ‘vacation Bible school’ setting, nor did I play an instrument. I could kick a soccer ball, I could work hard and I could make jewelry out of hemp twine and beads. 

But those three things took me miles.

During that providential week we prayed. We laughed. We mixed cement by hand, with shovels. We dug ditches. We painted the church. We ate authentic food, including raw oysters. We celebrated the pastor’s son’s birthday. We sang, off key, in a language we didn’t know or understand. We ran near the seashore. We played with kids. We simply loved on people who, by the grace of God, through His Son’s blood, are family. 

And it was powerful. In my life, it was supernaturally powerful.

The trip home and the first few days back were a mosaic of emotions. I cried. I laughed with my friends. I had trouble eating because I felt guilty for having so much. I sat on the floor in my room and wept because I had met families of eight who lived in a house the same size.

But God had began a work. In March of 2003, I unknowingly gave my Creator permission and space to redirect the trajectory of my life, and He did so in a mighty way. Since then, no other pursuit in life has satisfied that deep longing. The few times I've been overseas since are the only moments I can look back on and honestly say my soul was finally satiated. 

I became ruined for anything else.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

To the guys:

Can we chat for a minute? 


I had an experience today that made me feel a range of emotions, all the way from furious to sad. Now before you stop reading because this is a woman talking about emotions, just give me a minute.

I was out on a run. Minding my own business. Releasing stress, staying healthy, being athletic. Dressed appropriately. Minding. my. own. business. I ran past a couple of guys who were stepping onto the bike path. As I ran past they proceeded to make some off color comments, ending in the phrase, “Sup, girl?” 

Disclaimer: I understand this is not all of you, nor most of you, but again, please stay in this conversation.

But can we address this? From a male perspective: does that really work? Does that really seem effective?
Maybe women have made it that easy for guys. Maybe the standards for a man have been reduced to mere wolf whistles and cheesy/vulgar pickup lines. Possibly enough women have responded that it seems acceptable, but can I just say right now, it. is. not. 

I am a woman. I am a wife. I am a sister, daughter, cousin, aunt, friend. I have a successful career, volunteer in the community, and can change the oil in my car. I love fly fishing, rock climbing and art. I wear dresses, jeans, t-shirts, shorts, tanks, sweaters, boots. I scream and yell at football games, and I still hoop in a gym full of guys. And I know more than a hundred more women who are the same way.

And all of this makes me a PERSON. A human being. 

Not an object. So please, don’t treat me like one. Be better than that.

Dads, uncles, grandfathers, mentors, teachers, coaches: please value character over performance, every time. Please lead young men to be gentlemen. Demonstrate how they do this. 

And honestly, lets keep my gender accountable as well.

Ladies, be a lady. Learn what that means. Learn how valuable you are, and do not use your beauty or body to exploit anyone. Ever. Value things that matter. Like honesty, integrity, grace, wisdom, patience and compassion. Set standards and don’t bend on them. You’re worth every ounce of respect you expect to be given.

I was enraged by the comments, but also deeply saddened as well. I want better for coming generations. I want better for my brothers. Better for my little sister. For my nephews. Better for every young man and young woman I know. Because if we continue to reduce one another to objects for our own use and abuse, we will destroy each other.

Thanks for staying in the conversation.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Overseas Family

Traveling is an integral and completely vital part of my life. Though I don't get outside the United States as much as I'd like to, I crave it on a daily, almost hourly, basis. In my blood, deep in my bones, there exists a need to hear other languages, walk unfamiliar streets, and eat foreign food. I used to consider it a plague, something to be ignored and gotten past, but I've learned to accept it as part of myself. And fortunately, its a part of a lot of people who are very close to me as well. Even as close as my older sister, my sister-in-law and her family. And I love that they are where they are.

I love it until I come to face to face with the reality of it.

At the end of last week a car bomb was detonated in Beirut, Lebanon, killing at least three people and leaving over 80 people injured.

Bomb. Detonated. In the city my sister lives in. 

About a year ago my husband and I had the opportunity of visiting her in Lebanon, and we really enjoyed the country, people and culture. However, since leaving, a veritable civil war has erupted in Syria, increasing tensions in neighboring Lebanon exponentially. My sister has been great at explaining if we have any reason to worry, and up until this weekend, we didn't. But stuff happens. And people respond violently sometimes. And sometimes, it scares the living shit out of me.

I don't have to write about who my sister is to me. She's my sister. A best friend, mentor, confidant and pillar in my life. Childhood grew us together in ways most people don't experience, and I have turned to her wisdom more times than I can remember. But now I can't get past the fear of where she is. I try to ignore it, but honestly, I'm scared and worried. I don't have a positive spin on it, this time. I have faith that she won't try to act as a vigilante and will board the first plane home if the situation worsens. Selfishly, though, I wish she'd get on a plane now anyway.

But that is only because of my own fear.

A fear that is acting selfishly, one-sided, narrowly-visioned. Its the risk of loving people, and respecting their free-will: it might end up hurting you. It might end up scaring you. But free-will is what makes us human, what makes us individuals. We can't very well attempt to rob one person of it without always expecting it of others, which will rob the world of a lot of incredibly beautiful things. Things that came out of places of danger and fear.

So now I will just pray and hope for her safe return.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”                                    - Mark Twain

Monday, September 24, 2012

On longing...

I've been reading this book lately that has been wrecking me.

As most things my sister gives me, I have to wait until I'm ready for them. Whether new music, a 'good' book, or even an article of clothing, I have to wait until my heart is ready for it. Regardless of how excited she is about it. Which is comical because we have similar taste, and enjoy many things mutually.

So, as always, when she handed me this book and said "It's SO good! I really think you'll enjoy it," I tried to be excited and start the book right away.

Epic fail.

I lasted three pages and slammed it shut in frustration with an inner exclamation of, "this is incredibly boring!" I re-shelved it and there it stayed for most of the summer. (Kind of embarrassing when my sister asked how I was liking it and I explained I hadn't started it yet...) But then I watched a movie that got me excited about the Camino del Santiago, which consequently is what the book is about.

I gingerly picked it up again.

I fought through the introduction (side note: I despise introductions. I find them boring and wordy, and I just want to get to the 'good stuff') and got into chapter one. I was hooked.

The author, Phileena, and her husband had been missionaries overseas for years. Day after day after day of giving of themselves to those they had set out to serve. But also copious moments spent not taking care of their own hearts. This granted them the time to take a sabbatical, the first 33 days of which they spent walking the Camino, an ancient pilgrimage route that ends at the burial place of James, son of Zebedee. The book is written along her journey, but walks the reader through the steps of contemplative spirituality as much as it walks along her Camino journey. Its a beautiful ongoing metaphor.

The part that is really getting to me within the last week or so, however, is a section in which she writes about longing:

Longings are like growing pains in that their origins can be difficult to trace, and yet they give indication of something deep and profound, something immediately true of us. In that respect, noting our longings and looking more deeply into them can function as a sort of "thin space," in which God pierces our desires and then redeems them with a more devout understanding for how we can live in relationship to God, one another and all of creation. (p. 58)

These words are probably the most direct avenue I have ever encountered to describe what I've wrestled with for most (if not all) of my life since turning 16. In that year I went on my first overseas mission trip, and I have never been able to be the same. That week in Mexicali brought forth a longing in my heart that has not found satiation ever again, save for the handful of times that I have been blessed to be overseas again.

And like most things, I've tried to brush it aside. I've attempted to hide it, disguise it, smother it. Like an unwanted birth-mark, I've tried to say it wasn't mine. Partly because it's different, but mostly because it's difficult. It is exhausting to constantly long for something different from life.

It is exhausting, but also amazing. It is on purpose and for a specific reason. This truth doesn't make it any easier, but it does shed a different color light on the situation.

And so I sit, read this book that is wrecking me, and long for a time when I will see these desires become reality.

Thursday, August 30, 2012


Have you ever thought about how you introduce people? Like if you were at a movie with a friend and saw a coworker. What adjectives describe the person you're with and which would you choose to express their relationship to you?

Some introductions are easy: "This is my husband." "These are my sisters." "This is my best friend."

But sometimes it can be more complicated than that.

How do you introduce a friend's parents who were more like surrogate parents to you than just her parents? What about a friend who has walked through more personal crisis with you than the average acquaintance?

I was thinking about this tonight as I was in a very similar situation. In a place where a lot of people know me, and out of context very dear friends showed up. It was interesting to me the words I thought of to describe their relationship to me. All endearing. All full of the gratitude I feel having them be a part of my life. I chose words that showed affection and love, rather than just the basic descriptions. I wish I did this all the time. Sometimes I feel like I waste the moment to inadvertently share with the friend how much they mean to me. Instead of "Hey, this is our pastor," I wish I would have said, "This is our very good friend, whom happens to be the head pastor at our church."

Sometimes I rock introductions, and sometimes I bomb them.

But it still interesting to think of how I would introduce those I care about...

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Batman in Colorado

The recent events in Aurora, Colorado are nothing but tragic and heart wrenching. It impacts everyone personally, also, because the people killed and injured were simply doing something they enjoy doing: going out to a movie.

Its never easy to understand when life is taken recklessly.

And then there's Batman.

Not the black spandex clad superhero, but the man who depicted him in the movie those innocent people went to see. Christian Bale went to visit those affected by the tragedy in their hospital rooms. Went to be with them in their time of need.

I can tell you from personal experience, visiting people at the hospital is not a fun thing. What do you say?
"How are you?" "Um. I was shot. In a movie theater. I watched people die right in front of me and I was scared my life was over also. But I'm ok, y'know. I'm here."

Hospital rooms are not places you go to 'hang out.' But still he went to visit complete strangers. To thank the hospital staff who received those injured individuals. Again, from personal experience, I can say that sometimes its just as debilitating to be the person who helps the injured as it is to be the injured.

Say what you want about celebrities and their behavior when they are drunk or high or whatever, but when it comes down to it, they are humans. I'm not writing this to defend any person's destructive, embarrassing behavior. What I'm saying is that we all make mistakes. We all have too much, go too far, say things we wished we hadn't as soon as the syllables leave our tongues. Fortunately for me (for the general public) there isn't someone there with a camera to have proof later. But as soon as your name is known and your face recognizable, the stakes are raised. It is the way it goes.

I'm just glad that at the end of the day, their is still good that can come out of tragedy. There is still humanity and hope.

Thanks, Mr. Bale, for reminding me that strangers matter. That people, even in our broken and messed up states, matter.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Two things

1. I want to learn how to sail in the worst way. 2. These waters would be beautiful to spend some time on. Can't you imagine jumping off the side of the boat into that crystal clear goodness??