Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Life



















One day you're up high, you're flying through the sky
Got a peaceful mind and everything is all right
Next minute you're face down in it
And then there's just no winning no relief in sight
Life


Some people compare life to a roller coaster with ups and downs.  While some moments take our breath away, others seem like a slow uphill climb.  Yesterday evening, I had the opportunity to go to Coney Island, a nice getaway for New Yorkers.  Sadly, the park is on a decline and on a Sunday evening was nearly vacant.  After having a Nathan's Famous Frankfurter and taking a ride on the Wonder Wheel, pictured above, I braved the height of the Soarin' Eagle.  

Although, I refused to ride roller coasters until the age of 14, I have been on many since.  My experience ranges from the famous Texas Giant to the Amazing Hulk at Universal Studios Orlando, as well as all the coasters at Frontier City in Oklahoma.  But, I was intrigued by a coaster that literally made you "fly like an eagle". 

Step 1: Step onto the attraction and be strapped in.
Step 2: Lean forward until laying flat on your belly.
Step 3: Soar through twists and turns like an Eagle, or Superman.

But, even though the small coaster was spectacular and the hot dog far exceeded my expectations, the real joy of the evening was the Wonder Wheel.  I know a lot of people are not fans of Ferris Wheels, which need to be distinguished from merry-go-rounds or carousels, but sitting above Coney Island and the Boardwalk made me smile.  

So whether you feel like your life is full of ups and downs like the roller coaster, or a continuous cycle of ups, downs, forwards, and backwards like the ferris wheel, remember to enjoy the ride.  That's life.

Friday, July 27, 2012

I Wanna Do It All

I've never met a mountain I couldn't climb, and I usually run full steam ahead into challenging situations.  The greatest challenge of my life: getting everything done in such a short amount of time.  One of our training team members said this last week: "I have so many things to do that I'm going to have to live ten years longer than God intends, just to get it all done."  Although I get to that overwhelmed state quite often, I really enjoy all the things I do, and it's been nearly impossible to convince myself to give things up.

I am a consumer of entertainment and recreation, but I also am dearly devoted to my work, whether it be paid or volunteer.  So how do we balance a life of so much to do, so little time, without giving anything up?  If you're thinking it's not possible, I'd like to propose another solution.


Time-Out


Maybe you're familiar with the typical child law enforcement, but have you ever thought of giving yourself a time-out?  I don't mean go sit in the corner and think about what you've done wrong and how to do better next time.  I mean using those time management skills that you practice daily to re-organize your life and do it all.  You can do everything, but maybe not at the same time.

My senior year of high school, I discovered that my childhood love of golf (which I thought was just my enjoyment from hanging out with my dad) was actually legitimate.  It also helped that my dad was still around to coach me.  However, after playing an extra short spring season, I nearly left the game completely for the next four years.  I always talked of how much I wanted to play again, but I didn't have the time.  This summer, I got to play once.  It was SO much fun, but I had other things that prevented my trips to the golf course from being more frequent.

I'm using my high school education to develop this time-out model.  We play sports "in season", so why don't we structure our lives and the things we love into seasons?  I realize if you have kids, you can't just decide to give them up for a season, but your recreation and entertainment can be compartmentalized so that you can do it all, but not all at one time.

Activities such as golf and swimming choose their own season because of their outdoor nature, but think about all the activities you want to do and divide them seasonally.  I realized that the less time I spend wishing I could do something, the more time I have to enjoy the things I am doing.  So instead of wishing you had time to read a book and play golf, or trying to divide your time between the two, take a time-out.  Play golf while the weather permits and keep that book close for a rainy day or a cold night.

I'll be outside the next two months, although there may be a book in my hands at some times.  I hope you enjoy this season and the next, and the longevity of your life provides season after season of enjoyment and activities!

Dance in the rain, Dance in the sun, Dance for a purpose, Dance just for fun.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Just Passin' Through


Sundays just seem to always be beautiful, and despite the concrete jungle that I'm surrounded by, today was no different.  The weather was perfect, and we departed the hotel at 7:30 am to trek up to White Plains, NY to itinerate (fancy word for sharing our call stories with churches).  Metro 2 to Times Square, shuttle to Grand Central Station, and Metro North to White Plains removed us form the busy city atmosphere and we found ourselves surrounded by big buildings, relatively less but still a lot of people, and a little more grass and open space.

Memorial United Methodist Church opened up their home graciously to us, and as we walked out, we sighed saying "Today, we have been truly blessed."  I know that God's true beauty is in diversity and this church was evidence of that splendid beauty.  With love abounding, they allowed us to share our stories, and in return shared some of theirs as well.  The preacher for the day, Mark, shared with me about his childhood in Oklahoma that I easily identified with, another woman shared her similar love of children and work with children with special needs, and another informed me that she enjoyed learning about small town Midwestern me since she was from a rural town in Iowa.

Itineration and sharing at churches, youth groups, and college ministries is one of the parts of missionary work that I'm looking the most forward to.  But, this morning it took on a new meaning.  I realized that in my five minutes of sharing, I had nearly connected to everyone in the congregation in some way.  Whether they compared me to a child or grandchild, shared a passion, or a part of my background, we found a common ground.  Of course, I love this little game of finding shared interests, so on the way back to the city, I decided to do something a little out of my comfort zone.  Obviously, it takes a lot to get out, but I know once I pop that bubble, wonderful things ensue.

Instead of taking the train back to Grand Central, our friend Darlene advised us to get off the train in Harlem and take a bus, avoiding the city and the subway exchanges.  The bus was packed, so as it started to empty, I walked towards the back where some seats were open.  Keep in mind, my bubble popping was not pre-meditated, but I sat down next to a gentleman who looked probably late 40's, early 50's.  Instead of being that good bus rider that stays quiet, I have this urge to strike up conversation.  I understand this is not common, especially in New York, but as we pass a stage with a dance team performing, I whisper, "Man, I should get off here."  Of course, he is forced to respond, and I proceed to ask him how he's doing (therapist-in-the-making).  He tells me that he's just finished a double shift and is facing the possibility of being called back in soon.  I empathize but realize that it's inappropriate to mention my fatigue from staying up too late on the computer and then going to church early this morning (not to mention my delicious lunch that has put me in a food coma).  After a brief silence, he mentions that his weariness also stems from fasting for Ramadan.  Now, as an educated person, I should know that it's Ramadan, but my knowledge of Muslim and Jewish holidays is nearly nonexistent.  I proceed to mention that I'm not from New York (my mother is now shaking her head, but I did have comrades on the bus) and that I'm a missionary.  I proceed to tell about my love of children and where I'm working in the future, which is pretty much what I shared at church.

Before getting off the bus, I tell him how much I admire his discipline of fasting and he responds by complimenting the work that I will be doing.  He reached out his hand, introduced himself, and said "Thanks for sharing."  I didn't know why I spoke to him initially, but from somewhere, these words came: "When I'm in a new city, I feel like you can't get to know it without getting to know the people, and you can't get to know the people without talking to them."  I'm starting to understand John Wesley's heart strangely warmed, because I got this warm and fuzzy feeling from the smile of the man on the bus.  At our evening session, I shared my story, reminding everyone that we are missionaries outside of church, and our stories can be shared anywhere.  Today's experience was real, even if I was just passing through.

God, it's Your world, and I'm just passing through.  Thanks for keeping it real!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Shotgun Girl

Tonight...was a good night.  After a powerful ten days of discussion, our last night at Stony Point is upon us.  Today  we talked about boundaries and how to engage with people and love people, but keep boundaries that protect us, our placement sites, and our partners in ministry.  We spent a chunk of time talking about wellness and how to take care of our physical selves.  Then, we discussed out itineration for Sunday morning, where we have the opportunity to share our call stories with local churches.  I'm excited to be headed to White Plains United Methodist Church with Laura and Love!

So despite all the wonderful things that happened today, tonight was definitely the highlight.  TALENT SHOW!  First off, I must express that the talents range the spectrum, and we have a lot of people who like to dance.  The group took part in the entire talent show, with many talents of teaching and most talents ending in a group dance.  However, the US-2 group, of which I am a part (Side note: there are MI-3, who are international, 3-year missionaries and US-2, who are domestic, 2-year missionaries) decided to re-write the lyrics of the popular song, "Call Me Maybe" to express our call story to ministry and the doubt that some of us still have, maybe.

For those who are reading this because of the title, I recognize there are several types of people in my life who read this very differently.  Some think, being the "country" girl I am, that I am proud of my ability to shoot a shotgun and hope to someday be part of the NRA (which isn't actually true).  Another group may recognize the JaneDear Girls title (Katie) or understand my struggle with motion sickness and the necessity of sitting shotgun.  The last group, of which I am about to explain, would actually be correct in their assumptions.  I like to be in control, and when I'm not driving, I'm usually the co-pilot.  Notice I didn't say I was just along for the ride.  I am passionate about being part of the action, the navigation.  

So, about this song...My good friend, who I've now known for 10 days, came up with this fantastic idea. (Yay Mistead) and I jumped in to help create lyrics.  However, there were five of us in the front seat and everyone added a little something to make this the next big one!  I hope you enjoy the video.  This is a live sneak-peek, but stay tuned as the official music video is coming soon.  Please pass it, along with my blog to your friends.  Stories are made to be shared, so take the wheel and start sharing!

video

Rain is a Good Thing

I know it's been a few days, but since I have a few minutes between breakfast, doing laundry, and morning devotionals, here's what's on my mind.

I don't like rain.  Never have, and maybe never will.  Surprisingly my community's economy is somewhat dependent on weather and in particular, rain.  Churches praise on Sunday morning when the rain has come, as it rarely does in the summer.  Wednesday, I was once again thankful for the rain like the farmers in Oklahoma.  While we've been at Stony Point for the last 8 days, we have been blessed with a nice place to stay and a beautiful environment in which to worship.  However, the high humidity and lack of air conditioning in the individual sleeping quarters has been far from my favorite part.  After a warm evening and difficulty sleeping, I was so thankful for the rain, and especially the 15 degree decrease in temperature that has continued to keep us cool (and provide me the opportunity to wear a jacket today).

Here's the lesson I've learned from all of this.  At yesterday's morning devotion, we prayed the covenant prayer of the Wesleyan tradition.  In case you're not familiar, here is what it says:


I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee, exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, thou art mine, and I am thine.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven.
Amen.


We reflected on how we have felt called, and I wrestled with the possibility that God sometimes calls us to be empty, suffering, and have nothing.  I feel like I have a purpose, but accepting the possibility of emptiness is quite difficult.  I praise God in the sunlight when I can be active, but I also must be thankful for the rain, even if it doesn't fulfill me.  This morning, think about what things truly bless you, imagine if God had called you into ministry without those things or people, and accept that despite the circumstances, He has a purpose for you.  Whether it be a time of suffering or emptiness, praise God for the ability to be "not my own, but thine".

I hope you enjoy this prayer as much as I did and will make time to reflect on where God has placed you.  By looking through the lens of His purpose, not my own, I feel fulfilled in the emptiness and abundantly blessed with nothing.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Words I Couldn't Say

I am a feminist.  I believe my friends in the LGBTQ community will be in heaven beside me.  I believe in a global economy that doesn't capitalize on the poverty of others.  I believe that race does not define a person but allows us to see the diversity and beauty of God.  I believe in breaking chains of oppression.

Most of these views are accepted by my community of faith, but less are accepted in the place that I call home.  From my experience, I will tell you that those who disagree with me are not bad people and do not mean to harm others.  To them, to US ALL, we must extend grace.  These issues have become normative and ignored in lots of communities.  I have never understood how the global economy places entire countries in poverty until today, and quite frankly, I'm appalled.  Are there others who understand and yet allow these systems to persist, or are we all ignorant?

This may be offensive to some, so I must start by saying I am imperfect, am privileged and perpetuate these issues, and still do not have answers to SOO many questions.  This is not meant to be accusatory, but rather informative.  It is not meant to depress, but impress upon you the severity of your actions.  It is not to satisfy you but to make you ask more questions and seek out truth and justice.  Sadly, my summary of today's events cannot convey the entirety of the issues, but we have to start with baby steps.

Global Economy (A Source of Poverty)
Rick facilitated a discussion about the global economy and started out by involving several of us in a skit to portray how we as a country "help" develop countries and aid them in stabilizing their economy. I realize that there is no way to explain this all simply in my blog, so I will give you the summary: buying the cheapest products that were made at an unfair wage is not helping developing countries.  Hopefully, I can someday share with you the knowledge I gained today, but trust me, the way the IMF and World Bank regulate loans, and by association our support of their regulation is creating a giant mission field in developing countries.  While this information is relatively new to me, I will have to find some way of translating this knowledge to you, but I cannot adequately do it now.

Racial Oppression
Since racial tension is present in our everyday lives, it seems more comprehensible, which is why I move on so quickly.  Today we shared our race stories.  Being from a nearly all-white community, I had very little to share about my childhood except that I lived in a state of ignorance.  I must remind you that I do not blame my parents or community, because I believe we are all in the same boat.  How do you learn about racial matters besides direct communication?  Lord knows I wouldn't look to the media for advice.  So, my incorrect use of Oriental instead of Asian, Indian in reference to Native American, and African-American for any Black person is forgiven by my friends, classmates, and even professors, who couldn't imagine that I had never been made aware of these politically correct terms.  In college, I took an interest in the diversity of religions, cultures, and races.  I realized that in American cities, there is a mixture of races and do effective ministry, I needed to know more.  Thanks to Maurice Wallace, Sharon Holland, and the four African-American studies classes I took between them, I walked away not only educated, but better.  I don't believe that the books and lectures is what educated me, though.  Being in community with persons of different racial backgrounds and hearing their stories helped me understand, and the relationships that I formed broke many unjustified stereotypes that I held.  One of the many thoughts that I had today and couldn't escape was this:


How often do we hear derogatory terms or tell racial jokes and laugh because no one around us identifies with the race we are poking at?  Today, it was mentioned that people had said things to a Black man that were offensive, but as a global church, a global community, shouldn't we all take offense to someone criticizing a person created in the image of God?


Sexual Orientation
This little bit is not going to be accepted well.  I know, and I'm okay with it.  I have to admit that the "conservative family values" of Northwest Oklahoma have always taught me that homosexuality is sinful.  Freshman year of college, I even came up with my own understanding to prove I was not just a product of my raising.  Here's what I've learned.  You can not truly come to understand or appreciate an issue until you have been in solidarity with people who are bound by our judgments.  I sit in a mission training with people of mixed sexual orientations.  Hear me when I say that I see God in them.  They are in full communion with God and are not struggling with the issue of sexuality.  They are at peace with God and we must be at peace with them as well.  As a person who does not believe in arranged marriage and instead trusts people to select their own companion, I do not feel it is my place to restrict another's choice of partner.  Because I am heterosexual, I get to choose and I believe everyone else should have that right.

Feminist Me
This may have been the greatest epiphany of my day and after I ask permission, I would like to credit the person who said this about people who don't claim feminism because they don't want to be mistaken as extremists: "We must reclaim the name of feminism and renew its original purpose."  To this I say, I'm a feminist.  After many conversations and debates, I learned much about the perspective of feminism, and I want to share with you the most important part in my opinion.  Sadly, when I say I'm a feminist I must define what I mean, so I'm not misunderstood.  I believe in the equality of genders.  That does not mean only equality for women but men as well.  We got into an intense discussion about the threat of sexual assault.  While the men did not prepare to walk around at night in the city, the women felt strongly about taking safety precautions.  We identified that most of these were taught by parents who wanted us to return safely, and then statistics of sexual violence came into play.  Something like 1 in 3 sexual violence/assault cases are reported and the odds are overwhelmingly in favor of the woman being the victim and man the perpetrator.  BUT, this was another idea proposed.  Most sexual assault/rape occurs with a familiar acquaintance of the victim.  And, men are also vulnerable, and even less likely to report because of gender stereotypes.  This is my way of saying that feminism and gender equality is not just about women.

Think about it!  Men are criticized for crying in public, ever being vulnerable, and for letting their wives "wear the pants in the family".  Maybe that seems funny to you, but how in the world do we expect to get equality when we don't at least acknowledge the other side of the coin.  Not saying that the men deserve all the sympathy.  Women's attire, expression of sexuality, and place in the professional world were also discussed prominently.  I don't know if we'll ever reach that goal of equality or if we'd even be satisfied with equality, but I do know that the United States is one of the highest ranked countries, when it comes to gender equality (more equal than most).  It's hard to imagine, but in other countries, women are worse off.  We must strive for equality, not only for ourselves but for the greater community of God.

I know that's a LOT to take in.  If you made it to the end, congratulations, and thank you for journeying with me.  I hope that if some of these points do not align with what you believe, you extend grace to me as I plan to do to you.  We have many issues as a universal church and I would hate to see us divided when it will take all of us to break the chains of oppression and end systematic injustice.  I feel like the only way to make these statements is boldly, so forgive me for not putting it lightly or beating around the bush first.  Thanks for reading!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Christ Alone


I will let this speak for itself.  Click the link at the bottom to listen!


When I fly off this mortal earth
And I’m measured up by depth and girth
The Father says now what’s he worth
May he see Jesus death and birth


Don’t measure me by dollar signs
Or bricks and mortar you may find
By Christ alone will I be found
Worthy of that golden crown
Worthy of that golden crown


The value of this life I’ve lived
How did I love, did I forgive
Where did my treasure truly lay
How did I start and end each day


Don’t measure me by battles won
Or some good deed that I have done
By Christ alone will I be found
Worthy of that golden crown
Worthy of that golden crown


May be a pauper or a king
Have nothing or have everything
The question begs, do you belong
Do you sing a resurrection song


Measured by the master’s hand
On only one truth can we stand
By Christ alone will we be found
Worthy of that golden crown
Worthy of that golden crown


-Eden's Edge
Listen Here!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Unanswered Prayers

If I hadn't said I was going to name this Unanswered Prayers, I think I would have called it Ten Thousand Angels.  Tonight was my opportunity to share my calling story.  Of course, I thought of a million ways to tell it, but this is the one I chose, for now...

My life is a country song.  I know it sounds silly, but if I had to sum it up, that’s how I would describe it.  Boondocks, out in the sticks, or whatever terminology you choose, that’s where I’m from, and I’m proud of it.  Our small town has more churches than restaurants, banks, and gas stations combined with a whopping 2500 residents.  For all of my school days, I knew the majority of children grades K-12, and since my mother was an aide in the Kindergarten classroom, most of them knew me. Most people think my childhood must have been lacking so much, without McDonald’s, Wal-Mart, and the yellow lines on the road (we have them now), but what was never lacking was love.  The community, which was more of an extended family, raised me and we still remind each other that it takes a village to raise a child.

My rural upbringing made me fascinated with country music of all things, and I found comforts in the words of a song that can be so powerful, so encouraging.  In junior high youth, we talked about prayer and how God hears and answers all prayers, but I didn’t see the results from my daily requests.  Garth Brooks, a fellow Oklahoma native, tells a story in one song about a romantic relationship he had always prayed would work out, and looking back is now extremely thankful that “some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers”.  I realized that some-, actually all the time, God knows what’s best, so I began praying more for peace and acceptance of His will.  Then, last year in a Sunday school class of adults twice my age, I learned more about God’s response to prayers.  It was a revelation to me all the ways in which God answers prayers.  I thought the standard miracles and feelings of peace, comfort and hope were pretty great, but understanding how He uses people to answer prayers and offer peace, comfort, and hope opened my eyes to a calling.  My childhood love of community and family started making more sense.  They were the answers to my prayers, the comfort and reassurance that I sought.  And maybe I could be the answer to someone else’s prayers.  All this time, I had discounted the ways people had helped each other, removing God entirely from those interactions.  Now, I began to see God, even where I least expected Him.  This brings to mind one of my favorite jokes.

There was a Christian lady who lived next door to an atheist. Every day, when the lady prayed, the atheist guy could hear her. He thought to himself, "She sure is crazy, praying all the time like that. Doesn't she know there isn't a God?"

Many times while she was praying, he would go to her house and harass her, saying "Lady, why do you pray all the time? Don't you know there is no God?" But she kept on praying.
One day, she ran out of groceries. As usual, she was praying to the Lord explaining her situation and thanking Him for what He was gonna do. As usual, the atheist heard her praying and thought to himself, "Humph! I'll fix this."

He went to the grocery store, bought a whole bunch of groceries, took them to her house, dropped them off on the front porch, rang the door bell and then hid in the bushes to see what she would do. When she opened the door and saw the groceries, she began to praise the Lord with all her heart, jumping, singing and shouting everywhere! The atheist then jumped out of the bushes and told her, "You ol' crazy lady, God didn't buy you those groceries, I bought those groceries!" 
At hearing this, she broke out and started running down the street, shouting and praising the Lord.

When he finally caught her, he asked what her problem was. She said, "I knew the Lord would provide me with some groceries, but I didn't know he was gonna make the devil pay for them!"

God answers prayers, but sometimes in very unconventional ways, even with unwilling persons.  However, imagine the impact God can have on a family or a community through one willing individual.  Participating in something so much larger than myself brings about a fulfillment that cannot be found through any other source.  What I have found through my involvement in the Wesley Fellowship at Duke and social justice work is that once I allow God to fully use me, and am in full communion with Him, the blessings are abundant.  

On a mission trip in Shiprock, NM, I was reflecting with the group on where I see God most present.  During Sunday school that morning, we had been with some children who loved on us and treated us like family when we were only strangers.  This is the space in which I see God and feel closest to Him.  Children are the answers to my prayers; they brighten my day, humble me, and inspire me to be greater.  My passion has always been for children who were victims of abuse and neglect, but now I realize that it’s also my mission.  The children at Murphy-Harpst that I have been sent to be in ministry with have varying family situations, but I know from experience that it takes a village to raise a child.  I am excited to be part of that village and the family that nurtures and supports them.  Participating in God’s mission involves seeking out the space where you can be closest to Him in ministry, and I’m thankful to have found that place that I can call home.

Thank you to those ten thousand angels that have led me to this place.  God is good, all the time!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

I Didn't Know My Own Strength

Morning devotionals are powerful, and focusing.  After a nice morning jog, they set the pace for the rest of the day.  Today was special as I experienced a sort of calming peace in the jog and the devotional.  

As I'm running through a nearby neighborhood around 6:45, I spot a deer grazing within inches of the road, innocently standing in someone's front yard.  I momentarily considered altering my path to not startle her (no antlers), but as she looked up at me, I felt like I was being examined.  After she determined I was of no threat, she continued grazing and I ran past less than ten feet away.  This may be normal in the north where deer are not normally threatened by their human neighbors, but where I live, deer associate humans with guns and run for safety at the sight of one.  When I turned back around, I again passed the deer and felt the harmony between myself and nature.

Morning devotional included reflection on the hymn "The Summons", which sparked an idea for my calling story (which is in the works and will hopefully materialize tomorrow).  We moved on to examine our strengths and conflict management styles that will be important for us to recognize as we try to work with and get along with people in another culture, setting, and situation.  For those who know me closely, I thought you may find this amusing.

Strengths Finder 2.0 (My Top 5)
#1 Arranger
You are a conductor.  When faced with a complex situation involving many factors, you enjoy managing all the variables, aligning, and realigning them until you are sure you have arranged them in the most productive configuration possible.

#2 Responsibility
Your Responsibility theme forces you to take psychological ownership for anything you commit to, and whether large or small, you feel emotionally bound to follow it through to completion.

#3 Woo
Woo stands for winning others over.  You enjoy the challenge of meeting new people and getting them to like you.  Strangers are rarely intimidating to you.  Instead, you are drawn to them.

#4 Individualization
You are intrigued by the unique qualities of each person.  You are impatient with generalizations or "types" because you don't want to obscure what is special and distinct about each person.

#5 Belief
You have certain core values that are enduring and cause you to be family-oriented, altruistic, even spiritual, and to value responsibility and high ethics - both in yourself and others.

Conflict Management
I am a persuader, which you probably already knew.  When conflict arises, I rarely try to negotiate or collaborate, which could be more productive at times.  Instead, I expend energy trying to persuade and get the other person to see my point of view.  I think that goes along with the "Belief" and core values, as well as my Type A personality.

My current struggle is to allow others to speak and stand in the spotlight instead of being an attention grabber.  It's interesting to me how even when I try to step back, others have already established me as that person and happily pass the mic to me when it's time to share.  Hopefully, my attempts to persuade them to take a step forward will encourage them to share their own unique perspective.

God bless and good night!
p.s. really enjoying my new friend/workout buddy April :)

Friday, July 13, 2012

Long, Slow, Beautiful Dance

A deep breath and baby steps,
That's how the whole thing starts.
It's a long, slow, beautiful dance
To the beat of a heart.

Today's topics of missionary training were "Theology of Mission" and "Courageous Conversations".  Since I know I don't have time to recount all the information that was presented or even my personal reflections on what was said, I'm going to share what struck me as a weakness and is likely an issue for others as well.

During "Courageous Conversations", we talked about blockers, things that hinder our ability to empower others in a conversation.  Now, it's likely you have been on both sides of this conversation:

Person 1: What's wrong?
Person 2: Well, there's this thing.
Person 1: Here's a possible solution, my opinion, or my sympathies
Person 2: Unsatisfied with the answer

Before, I had never really considered the philosophy behind dealing with others' concerns.  My first reaction, like most, is to try to solve the problem or convince the person that their problem is not that big of a deal.  Possibly, you've heard that when your friend or colleague is frustrated or upset, they're usually seeking a listener more than a problem solver.  After discussing how belittling a person's problems, proposing solutions, and judging their actions may hurt the person more than help, many thoughts came rolling through my mind.

Since I have learned/am interested in issues ealing with children and teens, I recall the advice given to me in some book to respect a child's problems.  Adults have "real" problems, so their children's problems seem menial, but surprise, surprise; in the grand scheme of life, their exclusion from a play group may require recognition from a parent or teacher to ensure security.

Also, after reading more of The Road Less Traveled, I came across a new method or philosophy of problem-solving.  As humans, we desire to solve our own and others' problems fast and efficiently to eliminate the pain.  But problem-solving is a learning process, a way to grow.  Consider this: when we want children to learn how to do math, we give them problems to solve.  How much would they learn if we constantly solved the problems for them, the fast and efficient way?  That seems crazy, but for some reason, when a child is conflicted, we refuse them our time to guide them through the problem so that in the future, they may be able to solve it themselves and in turn, grow and learn.

This lesson was one that resonates with me because of a missions trip to Eleuthera, Bahamas in the Spring of 2010.  We were replacing an old door for a woman whose husband had passed away more than ten years prior.  As we slaved away to pull out 4-inch nails from the door frame, we begged our leader to help us out.  One big tug of the claw hammer and out that nail came, smoothly.  We inquired about the purpose of us spending half an hour to pull out a single nail when he could easily pull out all of the nails in that time frame.  His response stunned and inspired us: Sometimes getting to your destination as quick as possible is not as powerful as being along for the journey.  Like our morning devotional said, "the journey is home".  By living out Missio Dei (God's mission), we find ourselves in a comfortable place.  We are home with God, on this journey together.  Thanks be to God!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Emotional Girl

Today has been emotional, but not in the terms of overwhelming homesickness, anxiety, or sadness.  I have experienced emotions that I rarely manifest.

I'm a pretty loving person, but today as we were driving through New York City (or attempting to), I felt hate for the first time in a long time.  Maybe my small town roots have me trained in small town ways, but I have never been happier to escape a place.  Don't get me wrong; New York is a nice place and I would recommend visiting to anyone, but there are several things about NYC that don't mesh with me and some of my quirks.

First, I inherited my father's ailment of motion sickness.  The large bus to Stony Point wasn't bad, but four hours after my taxi cab ride, I was still feeling nauseous.  Also, for those who know about my need to control motorized vehicles, riding in the backseat of said taxi cab (without A/C) was not a pleasant experience.

Second, I struggle with not being able to see more than 50 yards in any direction.  Buildings on every side gives me a sense of claustrophobia that I am not particularly fond of.  Again, growing up without any obstructions on the open prairie might have spoiled me.

Third, I am normally a punctual person.  I like having a strict schedule and being on time as I see that as a sign of respect to others in the group.  But, in NYC, you never know how long it will take to get somewhere because there is ALWAYS traffic. Thirty miles out of NYC and there was STILL traffic.

Emotion #1 (Anger, frustration, and maybe hatred)

During the Young Adult Missionary training, we will all be sharing our stories of our call to ministry.  Of course, this was supposed to be prepared by now, but I've been trying to figure out a way to say it more eloquently.  So with a little anxiety comes a less familiar emotion, FEAR.  I know I have something to say, but I'm still working on how to say it.  Check back this week for "Unanswered Prayers", my journey to becoming a missionary.

It's amazing how freeing it is to share those emotions and how, for the first time in my life, I'm accepting fear and maybe even hatred.  First lesson of YAMS training:  Just because you're ministering to others does NOT mean that you're done growing or already made perfect.  Boy, does that take the pressure off.

Signing off from Stony Point Retreat Center, upstate NY  

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Independence Day

Sitting in Starbuck's this morning, I was able to start reading my fourth book of the summer.  Besides The Hunger games, which I was able to read at work, I have read two books (Heaven is Real and Digital Fortress) since I stopped working four days ago.  My long list of summer reading continues with The Road Less Traveled.  It has been on my list since I was asked by my friend Ben DeMarco last summer if I had read it.  I inquired about the title to my mom and sister and was surprised to know that my house already owned a copy of Peck's psychological take on "love, traditional values, and spiritual growth".  Three reasons that I decided to read it: Ben DeMarco suggested it; the title contains spiritual growth; and the first line of the book reads "Life is Difficult."  After a few brief pages, I decided that what I read and how I respond should be my new topic of blogging.  Because I always seem to find a message in any book, song, or movie that is meant to merely entertain, I assume I will learn a lot from a book that is meant to instruct.

My first thoughts are on the section about delaying gratification.  Since I recently finished college, I was struck when he discusses with a woman why she does the work she enjoys first and procrastinates from the not-so-enjoyable requirements of her career.  Her procrastination leaves her with one hour of good work and six hours of "walking uphill through the snow".  I laughed because when I had several assignments to do, I always liked to feel accomplished, so I did the easier or more enjoyable one first (usually a psych paper or reading).  Peck remins us that we should do the painful work first (try to finish it an that first hour), so that we can relish the next six hours of doing what we enjoy and are not tempted to procrastinate.

Delaying gratification is learned at an early age.  We always save dessert for last ("save the best for last") and parents give a weekly allowance and remind us that if we can save it for a few weeks, we can buy something bigger and better than spending that dollar each week.  These are the traditional values that don't happen as often anymore, but they are ones that I remember and cherish.  Maybe that's why it helps me to get in my workout in the morning (get it over with).  I enjoy my day more, knowing I've already done the hard part, and the rest of the day is freedom.

Speaking of freedom, yesterday was Independence Day (not only the fourth of July), and as an independent woman, I did what I wanted: shopped a few clearance racks, watched fireworks with some friends, and went to bed early (which I value).  As we remember and pray for our troops who give us freedoms on this earth, we must also remember He who gave us the ultimate freedom.  He didn't procrastinate.  He already did the hard part and blessed us with the easy part of choosing Him and being able to live the rest of our lives freely.  To Him be the glory!