Monday, December 6, 2010

"Encourage me, and I will not forget you"

The title comes from a longer quote by William Arthur Ward: "Flatter me, and I may not believe you. Criticize me, and I may not like you. Ignore me, and I may not forgive you. Encourage me, and I will not forget you. Love me and I may be forced to love you.”

I love that quote.  Encouragement truly nourishes the soul, so much so that it's unforgettable.  It's so important that God (by way of Paul) tells us to "encourage one another and build each other up" (1 Thessalonians 5:11).  We all need encouragement.  Some of us just need it more than others.

I'm one of those people who needs a lot of encouragement.  Throughout most of my life, I've struggled with my self-esteem.  It comes from a lot of factors, and I feel like a yo-yo sometimes.  I have times where I feel really good about myself to the point of being prideful, and then I have other times where I feel like I'm the worst.  Sometimes, and especially recently, I've felt like I have no self-worth or that no one really cares about me.  I know in my head that this isn't true, but I can't seem to get my heart and my feelings to agree.

I had been struggling with these feelings for a while (at least, continuously) when I went to Cru's leadership celebration.  We all got encouragement sheets where people could write down things about us, things they were encouraged by or blessed by or enjoyed about us.  My negativity was so bad that I didn't even think that many people would write on my sheet.

I went about writing stuff to other people, and when I got my sheet back, I was blown away.  Some of the things people wrote included that I was an "awesome leader and beautiful woman of God", that I had an amazing heart,  and that I inspire them to work harder.  One person even said that "you do so much for our movement, it wouldn't be the same without you".  These comments really touched my heart.  Knowing that people care about me and think these things about me helped dispel all the negativity I had been feeling.

So if you're reading this and you're one of the people who wrote something on my paper, thank you.  You have no idea how much it means to me.  I am so blessed to be a part of this wonderful group of people, and I thank God for all the people he has placed in my life!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Sometimes, God's as subtle as a hand grenade

Do you ever have those days (or weeks) where it seems like God is really trying to impress something upon you? -Or that (as was the case for me recently) he's hitting you repeatedly over the head with something?

That's basically a summary of my week. At Fall Retreat, I again heard people talk about why I should go on a summer project and why it's a rewarding experience and all that jazz. I've been actively looking for quite a while now for a trip to Kenya, preferably with the Global Aid Network. However, their only trip to Kenya next year is during fall semester, and there's no way I can go. That makes me really sad. (There are a couple more posts about Kenya from this blog if you want some background information and don't know the story.)

Anyways, my goal was and I guess still is to go to Kenya this summer. I don't know if this will happen, but I'm trying to look at other possibilities as well. So I decided to look at the Summer Project website when I got back to Tucson after Fall Retreat. My heart is really in what the website calls "serving a community in words and deeds." Basically, my heart is in helping people in physical ways and sharing the love of Christ as I do so. Kenya fits perfectly with that (see picture above of the Kibera slum in Nairobi). But I knew that there was need in other places as well, not just Kenya. So I looked on the Summer Project website and looked specifically at humanitarian aid-type projects. I came across a few promising trips. There's one that's three weeks in Chile doing earthquake relief, another that's inner-city Detroit (my birthplace! well, downtown Detroit is, anyway), and a couple GAiN projects to Ukraine, Siberian Russia, and Western Russia. But no summer trip to Kenya. And surprisingly, I wasn't (and still am not) devastated. I mean, if God wants me to go to Kenya, he'll open the door.

But anyways, I'm still not sure what God wants me to do this summer. I feel led to go on a missions trip; that much is certain. See, that's kind of where the "subtle as a hand grenade" part comes in. So I had been praying and thinking about going on a missions trip this summer for a while, but I wasn't exactly sure what I was supposed to do. Well, me being the silly person that I am, asked God to make it very obvious what I should do. God must have taken me literally. Wednesday night at Cru we talked about the importance of missions in a global context. I was like, "okay, God, I think I get it." Then came the hand grenade the next morning. I was doing my devotional, and no joke, this is what it said.
God wants to use you not only to share the message of the gospel, but also to help others who are in need. Ask him where he wants you to begin doing "good works." But beware: if you ask Him for a ministry, He may give it to you!
One week later, I know what I should do- I just don't know where. But I'm trusting Him to show me!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Photo Blog up!

I just started a photo blog at http://191photos.blogspot.com/
Check it out!

"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands."- Psalm 19:1

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

9-11-10... It's been nine years

Yes, I know this is a couple days late, but I didn't have time to post it on 9/11 or the subsequent days. Oh the life of a college student.
Anyways, I wrote this poem about the events of that day so indelibly etched into my mind.

The chaos
the pain
the fear-
It's like it was yesterday.
I watch the footage again
and my heart still hurts,
Even nine years later.
So many lost
and so many we're still losing.
But our resolve is strong-
We may have lost the fight,
but we will win the war.
They may break our hearts,
but they will never shatter our resolve.
They cannot win.
They will not win.

This video(courtesy Youtube) is one of the best tributes to the events of that day that I've seen.
video

Additionally, one of my favorite poems was written about 9/11. "The Names" by Billy Collins was read to a special session of Congress in the days approaching the first anniversary of the attacks. The text is below. He describes it better than I ever could.

The Names
Billy Collins, 2002

Yesterday, I lay awake in the palm of the night.
A soft rain stole in, unhelped by any breeze,
And when I saw the silver glaze on the windows,
I started with A, with Ackerman, as it happened,
Then Baxter and Calabro,
Davis and Eberling, names falling into place
As droplets fell through the dark.
Names printed on the ceiling of the night.
Names slipping around a watery bend.
Twenty-six willows on the banks of a stream.
In the morning, I walked out barefoot
Among thousands of flowers
Heavy with dew like the eyes of tears,
And each had a name --
Fiori inscribed on a yellow petal
Then Gonzalez and Han, Ishikawa and Jenkins.
Names written in the air
And stitched into the cloth of the day.
A name under a photograph taped to a mailbox.
Monogram on a torn shirt,
I see you spelled out on storefront windows
And on the bright unfurled awnings of this city.
I say the syllables as I turn a corner --
Kelly and Lee,
Medina, Nardella, and O'Connor.
When I peer into the woods,
I see a thick tangle where letters are hidden
As in a puzzle concocted for children.
Parker and Quigley in the twigs of an ash,
Rizzo, Schubert, Torres, and Upton,
Secrets in the boughs of an ancient maple.
Names written in the pale sky.
Names rising in the updraft amid buildings.
Names silent in stone
Or cried out behind a door.
Names blown over the earth and out to sea.
In the evening -- weakening light, the last swallows.
A boy on a lake lifts his oars.
A woman by a window puts a match to a candle,
And the names are outlined on the rose clouds --
Vanacore and Wallace,
(let X stand, if it can, for the ones unfound)
Then Young and Ziminsky, the final jolt of Z.
Names etched on the head of a pin.
One name spanning a bridge, another undergoing a tunnel.
A blue name needled into the skin.
Names of citizens, workers, mothers and fathers,
The bright-eyed daughter, the quick son.
Alphabet of names in a green field.
Names in the small tracks of birds.
Names lifted from a hat
Or balanced on the tip of the tongue.
Names wheeled into the dim warehouse of memory.
So many names, there is barely room on the walls of the heart.


Whether it's been nine years or ninety-nine years, we must never, ever forget.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Life isn't fair... and that's beautiful

This morning's devotion was about how though God has superhero-like powers, his are tempered by love and mercy. He doesn't simply give people their comeuppance; he has mercy on them and doesn't give them what they deserve.

How many times have we complained about the fact that life isn't fair? I know personally that I complain about it a lot. But why is it only a complaint when we're holding the short end of the stick? Why do we not complain when something benefits us and isn't fair to someone else? It's because we're inherently selfish.

But really, we should be aware of the fact that nothing in this world is fair. If we lived in a fair world, we would all be destined to live apart from God forever. But because God loved us so much, he decided to look past what we deserved and instead give us a gift that we had no way of repaying. How is that at all "fair"? We don't deserve this gift of eternal life, and if God was completely powerful and just without love and mercy, we wouldn't have gotten this gift.

No, we don't consider the fact that what God did for us goes against the "fairness" we so desperately long for in this world. We don't realize that we shouldn't want the world to be fair, because if God and the whole world were perfectly fair, there would be no point to living. We would be separated from God for all eternity because a just god without mercy cannot bear to look upon the unjust. It was that mercy and love that caused God to send his son to make us just. Titus 3:5-7 says "He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life."

There's a quote that I love from the Relient K song "Be My Escape." It says "The beauty of grace is that it makes life not fair." Grace is the catalyst for the greatest change the world knows. It makes an unjust world just. It enables millions of people to change from sinners to saints. It is truly a game-changer.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Recap of the summer (since I'm a horrible blogger)

I'm sitting here all alone in a dorm room (well, at least it's a nice one!), reflecting on what happened this summer and what is to come this year.

First things first: in case you haven't noticed, I'm horrible at keeping this blog up to date. That said, I hope to update this more often. We'll see if that actually happens. It probably won't.

Anyways, moving on. I didn't go to Kenya this summer. I know- lame. I didn't go to Italy either- double lame. I didn't even get a job, unless you count two weekends of housesitting!

Honestly, I'm quite disgusted with the way I spent my summer. I realize now how big of a mistake I made not in going to Kenya. That is truly where my heart lies, at least at this point. I keep checking the Global Aid Network site to see if they have a trip there next summer, but so far, no luck. I made a deal with God that the next missions/Christian aid trip I found for the summer would be the one I apply for, and the only trip GAiN has to Kenya next year is the same time as the beginning of the semester. There's no way I can go on that trip and still go to school, and my parents won't let me take a semester off (especially since it'll be my senior year!).

I don't know what to do. I keep praying that GAiN opens another trip to Kenya or reschedules this one. I really want to go to Kenya, and I've been thinking about taking a year off after graduation before I go to grad school to join GAiN around the world. I don't know what that would look like, but I'm keeping it in mind.

I've fallen in love with the culture of and people of Kenya. I guess I have to thank Robin Jones Gunn for that... her book Coming Attractions started this whole thing. :)

Wow. That's a heavy post. Even though this is short, I'm going to end it here and explore the dorm some more (since I really have nothing else to do at the moment). Hopefully, I'll post more soon!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Time flies!

Whew! I just started this blog, and already I'm failing to update it regularly. It's been what, two weeks since I last posted anything?

Things have just been kind of crazy lately. I had spring break last week, and you'd think I would get to relax. I thought I would be able to relax, but we had family come and it was just go go go all week. Don't get me wrong, I loved seeing family, and I'm really glad they came, but I just felt like spring break went wayyyyy too fast.

But now it's back to the grind for 41 days (I'm keeping track on the whiteboard in my room). That's how many days until the last regular day of classes. I just feel like there's so much going on. I feel like only Thursday nights and Fridays are chill days for me. Saturday and Sunday I've got to do my reading and homework for the week, and Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and most of Thursdays are a blur of homework and class and Cru activities.

Don't get me wrong, I love most of what I have on my schedule (I could probably do without school, but that's not really an option. :p). It's just a lot of stuff going on, and sometimes it's hard to keep it all going. I almost feel like a juggler trying to juggle like 15 different... whatever it is a juggler juggles. :)

And on top of all that, I have to start making decisions about this fall and this summer. I really wanted to go to Kenya with Global Aid Network, but I got into that kind of late. So the leading frontrunner is a archaeological excavation in San Gemini. It's in my area of study, and it's an amazing opportunity, but I almost feel like I lack the passion that I had for the Kenya trip. But with the Kenya trip, the deadline is tomorrow, and there's no way I could get 1500 dollars by tomorrow. Okay, well it could happen, but it's incredibly difficult to do.

I'm just confused, and honestly, I'm tired of trying to figure out what God wants me to do, because I feel like he's not making it clear enough for my puny little human brain to understand. I know I have to see things as he sees them, but it's hard. It's really hard.

Well, I think that's enough for tonight. I'm probably going to curl up with Persuasion for a little bit tonight (second readthrough :p) and maybe go to bed early. I have not been getting enough sleep at all lately.

Anyways, I hope that whoever you are that is reading this (hopefully somebody is...) has a far less complicated life than mine. :) Good night.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Kenya and the Summer

I got the book Coming Attractions by Robin Jones Gunn for Christmas. I had wanted it for a while- it's the third book in a series, and I loved the prior two books. I knew it would be a good book, sure, but I had no idea that it would affect me the way it did.

If you don't want the ending to be spoiled, stop reading here. If you don't care, well... keep reading. :) At the end of the book, Katie, the main character decides to go to Kenya for an indefinite amount of time. Well, that got me thinking... what if I went to Kenya? It had always been an idea kinda in the back of my mind. Along with Ethiopia and a couple other countries, I wanted to visit Kenya at some point. But it had always been just one of those things that I wanted to do but had no definite plans. And it was something I wanted to do for no particular reason, just because I wanted to be able to say I could.

In Cru (Campus Crusade), they make a big deal of Summer Project, which is basically a summer missions trip. So I went to look at what Summer Projects they had in Kenya. There's one with Global Aid Network (GAiN) and one with StudentVenture. The GAiN trip is May 28-June 10 and is going to work in churches, a small slum (with a clinic and a small school) and helping the Maasai south of Nairobi. StudentVenture, on the other hand, works with high schoolers in Nairobi and nearby Nakuru.

But looking at these summer projects got me looking at others. I found a project that was 6 weeks in Paris. Paris. No, not in Texas- in France. :) I LOVE Paris. I'm so obsessed with Paris that I have a map of the area and even a Metro map. That was a definite option. There was also the trip that our campus partners with in the Dominican Republic. That one ministers to the 160,000 or so students in the local university. I honestly considered that one mostly because it was the partnership with our campus.

But I'll be honest, I was kind of hooked on Kenya from the start. I read a lot about it, and honestly, I thought about it a lot. I forced myself to think about the pros and cons of the other trips and several field schools I got information on (including one in Kenya- but once I saw that that one was like 6 weeks in a tent eating beef jerky... I decided against that one pretty quickly after seeing that). I bounced around from Kenya with GAiN to a primatology research program to an archaeological program in Italy (God shut that door when I later found out it was canceled).

Then I realized that the GAiN trip to Kenya said it required experienced missions experience... I haven't been on many mission trips, so I figured I couldn't go on that one. I was disappointed because I felt like God was really giving me a heart for humanitarian aid-type projects, and I also felt drawn to Kenya. But I didn't think I could do both.

So I began to think more seriously about the StudentVenture project. I was practically set on that one. But then I talked to a friend who had been on a StudentVenture project, and she said some things that made me think that it wasn't the right choice for me. Besides, I don't think my heart was ever really in reaching high schoolers.

I kind of stopped thinking about summer plans because I was so disappointed and frustrated. The deadline to apply for summer projects passed without me applying- due to the fact that I didn't think I was being called, not because I was slacking and didn't think of it, although I admit I had a small amount of apathy towards the trips, quite honestly. Then I began thinking of other GAiN projects. They have three more I was thinking about- in Western Russia, Siberia, and Ukraine. I requested information on all three, as well as on Kenya, even though I didn't think I was going on that one.

Well lo and behold, when I get the information of the trip to Kenya, they say I don't need any prior experience. It would have been nice to know that before that point. So with literally like two weeks to raise support before the registration deadline, I could have made the decision. But I didn't. There was something holding me back. And to this day, I don't know what it was.

I still have a passion for going to Kenya; I will probably go next summer. I find it very ironic that I have next summer planned out when I don't even know what's going on this summer. The leading contender right now is an archaeological excavation in Italy (see left). It works with my major and minor, I get college credit, and I get to spend six weeks in Italy! Plus, I wouldn't have to miss my friend's wedding! :)

I guess what I've learned from all this is that I need to trust God more. I don't know if all of this was to get me to go on a trip or just to consider it, but I feel like I honestly said, "Okay, God, show me where you want me to go and I'll follow you to the ends of the earth." Maybe I won't be going to the literal ends of the earth this summer, but is it enough that I was willing to? Is that what God was trying to teach me?

I have more thinking to do on this topic, but I have many many things to get done today, so for now, I should probably end this blog here. I'll leave you with this verse from Jeremiah (29:11). "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.'"

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Getting Started!

I really should be working on my annotated bibliography due tomorrow, but oh well. I'm hoping this will be a fun experience and who knows, I might be able to reach/touch people with it. I hope so, anyways.
I'll post more soon, but for now, I just want to welcome you to tag along with me on this crazy journey I call my life!