20 December 2010

A Very Holy Night

I have admitted to my slight obsession with Christmas music before. I simply love Christmas music. But this year I have only purchased one new album plus one song – I have a weakness for anything Jack Johnson, even if it's "Rudolph". It is a miniscule, almost negligible amount, especially in comparison to previous years. But it is part of a larger symptomatic problem – the lack of Christmas cheer. I have been suffering from general malaise, a bit of the Grinch has crept into my heart this year.


With the lack of fresh music I have been listening to K103 in the car; the station plays Christmas music all day every day from Thanksgiving until Christmas day. This year, with my glum outlook, I have listened more critically to the music that comes through my rattley speakers. One song caught my attention and I couldn't help but think about how the lyrics reflected some seriously bizarre theology:

Hang your stockings and say a prayer…
He doesn't care if you're a rich or poor boy,
He loves you just the same.
Santa knows that we're God's children,
That makes everything right.
Peace on Earth will come to all
If we just follow the light
Let's give thanks to the Lord above,
'Cause Santa Claus comes tonight.

Do you recognize the song? Are you singing along now to "Here Comes Santa Claus"? I've sung this song countless times, but had never thought of the ramifications of what it is saying. Is Santa Claus one of God's 'agents'? How does Santa know that we're God's children and how does that make everything right? We're to thank God for Santa Clause? It is weird, to say the least. This year all of the "fun" fluffy silly Christmas songs have left a sour taste in my spirit. I have been craving the hymns and songs that reflect the true reason of Christmas. I need to be reminded of what we are actually celebrating. I need to get back to Jesus.

Another song also caught my attention, but for the reason of its theology being good and sound, reflecting the nature of the season, and this year I feel the truth of it more than in years past.

Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
'Til He appear'd and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

"Until the soul felt its worth" – that phrase from "O, Holy Night" struck me like a lightning bolt one day. Until the soul felt its worth – my soul felt its worth – my soul has worth – because Christ came, my soul can know its worth - my soul has worth to God, so much worth that Christ came as a little baby to redeem it – my soul has worth because Christ assigned it, by His proxy. What a marvelous thing! Let us rejoice, be thrilled with the hope that Christ has given us, for no longer are we chained by sin and wayward; we should offer up a proper response:

Fall on your knees…
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/O_Holy_Night - this link has some interesting historical background on "O, Holy Night" as well as different translations.

19 December 2010

Feelings of Failure

This evening I went to the Christmas program for the Spanish Fellowship at church. I have been attending the Spanish Fellowship most Sundays since the fall. While I tend to baffle the people with my presence, especially when I give the 'deer in headlights' look to whomever talks to me, they are gracious to let me join them. Lupita was one such person. A kind faced older lady that sat next to me one evening. After the service she turned to me and started rattling away in Spanish with such rapidity I couldn't make out a single word. I panicked. I couldn't even think of the words to say "I don't understand." I just stared at her blankly trying to recall any Spanish at all. Thankfully she asked in English, "You don't understand?" "No, I'm learning Spanish." "You do not know Spanish?" "Very little." "But you understand the pastor." "No, not really." "You do not understand the pastor??!!" "No, I get the big idea, that is all." I tried to explain that I am learning Spanish and I need to hear it and be surrounded by it. She was utterly confused as to why I would come spend 2-3 hours on a Sunday evening at a Spanish service when I don't understand what is being said. Tonight, I would have agreed with Lupita, I am a bit crazy. It was a rough night and my Northwest Americana culture made it jarringly obvious that I was out of place. Pride goes before a fall. As I walked in to the chapel I was greeted by familiar faces, who in turn recognized me as a familiar face. Between my trip to Honduras, holiday events, and special events at church scheduled for Sunday evening it has been six weeks since I have been to the Spanish service, so I was thrilled that I was remembered; maybe even a little prideful that I was starting to 'belong' to this group. The chapel was unusually packed for a Sunday evening, but it was the special Christmas program.

I have observed that in Latino culture, it is not expected that during events, such as a church service or graduation ceremony, you are to sit quietly in your chair. Instead, ladies talk, people are constantly getting up, moving about, children are free to do just about whatever at any volume without being hushed or scolded to "be quiet" or "be still." Frankly, I don't understand this aspect of the culture. I would love it if someone could explain it to me. Through my lens I see it as disrespectful of whoever is speaking and of those around who would like to be able to give their attention to the speaker. But I don't think in Latino culture it is a sign of disrespect. I really don't get it. On a normal Sunday I have learned to sit towards the front on the left hand side, as that is where more of the serious adults sit, and therefore tends to be quieter; unlike the rear right hand side where the young teenage girls sit and talk in un-hushed tones throughout the entire service. On a good day, due to my hearing issues, I have trouble listening to one person and tuning out any other voices and noise. Add in listening to another language and the difficulty quadruples. Tonight, sitting in the balcony, it was nearly impossible. It was an evening of chaotic noise. Children were running back and forth in the balcony, up and down the stairs, each step a loud hollow thudding sound, crying, giggles, squeals of play, and the constant hum of chatter nearly blocked out the noise coming through the speakers of the singers and the actors performing on stage. All the noise pained my ears, made my head ache, and my heart race with the agitation. After 30 minutes I started checking my watch, wondering if I could just slip out. I battled the urge to holler, "SHUT UP AND SIT DOWN!!" I started praying, "Lord, help me. I'm starting to lose it." An internal battle was waging. I tried to deflect the battle by trying to surmise what this behavior reflected, tried to find the rational explanation of how the adults around me were seemingly un-phased by the cacophony going on around them; all the while telling myself to keep my butt in the pew and not to runaway. After all, this is their culture, it isn't going to change, I am the outsider who needs to learn how to cope and adapt. I lasted another hour, until after the drama was finished and the pastor's wife had given a short sermon. When someone started explaining about the gifts for the children I grabbed my coat and purse and slipped out. I walked down the stairs of the balcony to see a young child in the planter area with a cup scooping out the white rocks and tossing some on the floor. Where were his parents? I wanted to scream. Stepping into the cool moist night air, the noise level immediately dropping to a quiet hush, I could feel the wave of calm come over me and my heart rate slow to a normal level. Letting out a deep sigh, the self-recriminations quickly flooded the quiet space. "How do you think you can live in Honduras? You can't just leave when you are living in the culture. You failed tonight."

The feeling of failure is burdening my heart tonight. I know there is some truth to my reproaches, but also that satan is twisting that truth to make it worse. Yes, there will be points of conflict between two differing cultures and I will need to learn how to manage those points better. But no one gets it perfect all the time, especially when they are first encountering a new culture. There will be other times when I want to walk out into the quiet of the night like I did tonight, but will be unable to, and how I respond then will be more of an indication of whether I'm failing or not. For now it is enough to start recognizing that this is going to be a point of contention between myself and Latino culture, and to start finding ways to adjust and minimize the friction. Lord, help!

Prayer for Sunday

Taken from "scientia et sapientia" - the blog of Western Seminary's Th.M. program, posted by Marc Cortez (click on the title of the post to see the original blog post):


O Lord our God, you wanted to live not only in heaven, but also with us, here on earth; not only to be high and great, but also to be small and lowly, as we are; not only to rule, but also to serve us; not only to be God in eternity, but also to be born as a person, to live, and to die.

In your dear Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, you have given us none other than  yourself, that we may wholly belong to you. This affects all of us, and none of us has deserved this. What remains for us to do but to wonder, to rejoice, to be thankful, and to hold fast to what you have done for us?

We ask you to let this be the case in this hour, among us and in all of us! Let us become a proper Christmas community in honest, open, and willing praying and singing, speaking and hearing, and let us in great hunger be a proper Communion community! Amen.
~Karl Barth (1886-1968)

10 December 2010

New Insights

It has been a quiet week at work with Jon out all week. I've become very accustomed to his presence and it has been missed. But I do have a good Jon story that I have been saving up, so in honor of his birthday last week, here it is:

Jon and I started ambling towards the elevators, embarking on our daily trek across the street to Starbucks. As we pass Joan's office Jon glances in at her office and exclaims, "Oh, she's got Christmas lights up! I freakin' love it! We have them up in our room too." I was startled at such a strong declaration, but quickly started laughing. A love of Christmas twinkle lights doesn't exactly jive with the dyed black hair, tattooed hard rocker persona of Jon; although I know him to be a complete goof-ball. What did make perfect sense was that he was just now noticing the lights Joan had strung up in her office for Halloween - the lights were, after all, purple and orange. Yes, Jon is Mr. Observant. It is several days after Halloween and he is just now noticing. When prodded he confessed that he and Melissa strung up white twinkle lights around the bedroom over the weekend. But his favorite type are the bubble candle lights. He continually surprises me.

And now, a few other random work related stories for your enjoyment at my expense.

I went to lunch with some co-workers the other week. As we drove back to the office Bryan and Steve were talking about a home that was for sale. This quickly deteriorated into why Lake Oswego is so awful and why no one in the car would want to buy a house here. To which someone made the smart remark:
"Excuse me your entitlement is showing!"

I started to feel a little picked on, after all, wasn't I a product of Lake Oswego? I felt compelled to stand-up for my hometown. To which Kristi tried to comfort me with this:
"I recognize that you grew-up in Lake Oswego, but I will not acknowledge it. You do not fit the LO stereotype; you're nice and sweet and don't look down on everyone."

Really Lake Oswego isn't that bad, is it? Sure the school song sounds a little superior -"...stands a school in Lake Oswego ranked among the best. Lake High standards will not fail..." Pshaw! We are sooo not elitist! We're just the best. A fact is a fact.

Sharing a kitchen with everyone on the floor can be rather annoying. Especially when a portion of your coworkers are young wet-behind-the-ear "men." These boy-men don't understand the logic of rinsing dishes before putting them in the dishwasher. That is if the dishes make it that far. And they certainly do not have a clue as to the science of how to load a dishwasher. I try to squelch my OCD tendencies and only take care of my own paraphernalia. But some days, it can't be helped, I have to do the dishes and rearrange the dishwasher to suit my methodology. On one such afternoon my co-worker Adam came in and thanked me and mentioned that it also bugs him. I teasingly said, "These young guys haven't figured out that their mother doesn't work here!" After a dramatic pause, a deep inhale, slowly, as if speaking a deep wisdom, Adam said "I think their mother does work here. Think on that!" Oh, dear!

One of the projects that I have been working on this fall reached a major milestone so the project manager decided we should celebrate. The team was very kind to postpone the celebration until after my trip to Honduras. We all left work early and went to this place called "Players" which is part bar, part games. I had to wander around a bit before I found the group upstairs playing pool, already working on their first drink. I knew that Wei, a co-worker, had left the office at the same time as me, but she was no where to be found. About five minutes after I joined the group, Wei did as well. She had gotten lost and had trouble finding the group too, but she had some help, "I heard your laugh and followed it to find the team."

28 November 2010

Riding in the Rapidito

The boys had spent the whole day at Villa Linda Miller, working on digging out the trenches for the foundation of Roger’s house; I had only joined them after lunch. The blister on my thumb proved I had put in some work, shoveling dirt and rocks that Miguel had loosened with the pick-ax. I even took a turn wielding the pick-ax as well, but hit a big rock and sent the head spinning. Those of us still at the work site slowly came to a halt around 4 pm, all but Axelito who had spent a good block of time after lunch lazing around was still busy. I dug into my backpack, below my camera bag, and pulled out a fistful of fun-size Skittles packages. Handing a package to David who was standing in front of me, he quietly asked for all of them. I possessed a great treasure in my hands. Too tired to stand up and hand the Skittles to the others I started pitching them. David tried to intercept them but lack of height and the need to be wary of the trenches prevented him from snagging any but those that I threw at him. Spastic Miguel managed to snag most of them, but he was good at making sure others got their share, passing around what he caught. It perked people up a little, but not enough to get back to work.

Shortly after wards we packed up for the day, loading the tools into the two wheelbarrows and slowly trekked back to the medical clinic where the tools would be stored until the next day. Having stashed the tool we walked down to the soccer court where the guys stood behind one goal watching the current game and playing with a dead headless snake. The weight of my backpack and tired arms led me to find a place to sit. Taking a cue from the Micah boys I pulled out my Shuffle and stuffed my earphones loosely into my ears. Sitting on the stone step listening to Mercy Me I admired a nearby house that is painted pink and let my thoughts drift to imagining my life in a few more years living in VLM or nearby. Ideas of how to be part of the community, having weekly dinners for smaller groups of the boys, growing vegetables, using the pink house as a base designing my house and wondering if Juanca could build a trellis, I also decided I should have a dog. My reverie and name picking for my future dog was broken by Miguel and David coming to beg for more candy. Before I could reach through the layers to fish out more the rapidito van appeared and Roger and all the guys started piling in. Since none in the group spoke any usable English I had to take that as my cue that this was our transportation back into the city. “Henny-fair, aqui! Aqui!” Miguel yelled out from the back row of the van with a vigorous patting of the seat next to him. I wrangled myself and my bag into the back seat next to Miguel who is alternately very cool and ignores me or is overly affectionate. While he had been mostly ignoring me all afternoon, he suddenly turned affectionate when I sat down. Despite being hot and dirty he sat right up beside me and pulled my arm around his shoulders. It was actually helpful as I could grab the end of the bench seat and brace myself as we went over bumps and around corners. We sat there both with our own mp3 players going. It wasn’t long before Miguel became curious about what I was listening to. Picking up the earbud that I wasn’t using, he stuffed it into his ear. His face registered complete surprise. I don’t think he expected to hear what he did. My shuffle has all of my faster, more rock style music as I use it to keep my tempo up when working out. I can’t remember what song was playing at the time, but it was one of the more driving songs that I have loaded. I don’t know what kind of music he thought I would be listening to, but it certainly wasn’t what he heard. He took control of my Shuffle pressing fast-forward after listening to three or five seconds of a song. Miguel was surprised again when he came across songs from Los Micah Boys; he actually listened to half a song of theirs before hitting fast-forward again. His face was really quite amusing as my music tastes continued to surprise him as he sampled most of my music. But Miguel managed to surprise me as well. Since I use my shuffle to workout, not all of the songs are heart-thumpers, some songs are on there for cool-downs. One song is Hillsong’s “Stronger.” It has kind of been an anthem for the Micah house this year. Michael Miller had played it for me in August and I downloaded it shortly thereafter. To my surprise this is the song Miguel stopped on. At Micah they have been singing it in Spanish, my version is in English, but no matter. Miguel didn’t push fast-forward, we listened to the whole song from start to finish. I was quietly singing along, which elicited a broad grin from Miguel when he caught me and him moving an ear a little closer so that he could hear me as well. As soon as the song was over, he went back to his speedy fast-forwarding until it was time to get out of the van.

It may sound strange, maybe it is, maybe I’m making more out of it, but the fact that he wanted to listen to all of that song, that particular song, despite being in English, caused some “motherly” pride to well up in me. I would like to think that it shows some depth, some serious connection to his own spiritual life. It’s a song he knows well, he knows the words, it would have been easy to blow by it as ‘that old same familiar over-used song’ but he didn’t. I hope it means the words still have meaning and impact, are sinking in to the deeper conscious, helping him know and believe that God is stronger and capable of doing great things in his life, that Miguel is making Jesus Lord of his precious life.

Chorus:
You are stronger, You are stronger
Sin is broken, You have saved me
It is written, Christ is risen,
Jesus, You are Lord of all.

23 November 2010

This Sin Wrecked Chaotic World

Monday last I attended the Body Off discipleship class that Brian Wiggs organizes. It is required for the guys in the Micah Tech program, but there are others from the neighborhood who attend as well. While slightly awkward being the only girl in the room I wanted to hear the stories of the two special guests who were speaking that night, particularly Doug from Tigard. At the end of the evening Drew, the other guest speaker, asked us to each pick another person in the room to pray for before we left. He started in one corner and had that person pick someone, the person they picked chose who they were going to pray for, and so forth until everyone in the room had someone to pray for and was being prayed for. My heart melted a little when the young boy picked me. By my turn there were only two people left, so I chose the one whose name I remembered - Eduardo. His prayer request was to be reunited with his family; he was estranged from his wife and two young children. He hadn't seen them for some time and he really wanted to do what it would take to be with them again.

Last night, one week later, Eduardo was killed.

He came from a hard background- drugs, gangs, and violence. He had been in the Tech program which is how he started coming to the discipleship program, but was kicked out some time ago. Last January his friend Alejandro had completed a six month drug rehab program, paid for by Micah. He was killed last night as well. Perhaps two murders are not significant in a country with the highest homicide rate in the world. But it wasn't just these two. About a month or two ago, these two young men had gotten drunk and murdered someone. A few people knew about it at Micah but kept quiet about it. For several reasons it was wisest to just keep silent, play dumb, and continue to love these guys and try to help them make better choices and turn their lives around. It wasn't without risk, they had made "jokes" about some of the staff that could have been taken as threats. Showing grace and extending the love of Christ was a choice that wasn't always easy for the staff. Eduardo and Alejandro were truly conflicted, wanting a different life but unable to make the choices that would help them leave their current life behind. Last night they made more bad choices. Whether they were high or drunk I don't know, but the two of them murdered a second person last night, a young man named Johnny who had recently started attending the discipleship class. I don't have an explanation or a reason why. Does there need to be one? But the news spread in the neighborhood of what these two had done and the neighborhood decided enough was enough and took justice and retribution into their own hands. The police are spread too thin and too ill-equipped. Just like the first murder Eduardo and Alejandro committed went unsolved, so will theirs.

While the news this morning rattled me a little, having just met and prayed for Eduardo. What has disturbed me is that the three deaths have caused Juan Carlos to lay low. He used to run with these guys in his former life and the concern, as it was related to me, was that the neighborhood, caught up in the frenzy of fighting for a sense of safety would not remember that he is living a new life now, that they would seek revenge for his past actions. While I feel calloused for not caring more about Eduardo and Alejandro, my heart starts to beat faster at the pace of panic when I consider the possibility of Juan Carlos being killed. I dearly love Juan Carlos and treasure his friendship; his death would shake my world.

I know I must not look to the circumstances around me but turn my eyes to God, the sustainer of all life. He holds my life, Juan Carlos' life, all of our lives, in is capable hands. I must trust in his sovereignty otherwise the chaos of this world wrecked with sin is too much. Not only must I trust in my Creator, but I must do battle, for this life is being played out on a battlefield, a war is going on. Casualties are incurred on both sides; my life may be asked of me. The reminder today of how brutal this war can be makes me wish that I could protect all those I love, all of my Micah family, but I will not falter in the face of evil; in fact it helps solidify my resolve to come alongside my boys to fight over them, for them, with them. One day this war will be over and done with, Christ reigning supreme. That day has yet to come, and so onward we march, soldiering on.


Me with my Honduran brother, Juan Carlos

19 November 2010

Choices within Choices

Today I had a choice, a choice between two competing desires and expectations. While I don't want to waste a single moment to be with the boys who I came to Honduras to enjoy, I also know that I needed rest and all too soon I'll be heading back to Portland and resuming my job for which I needed to attend a webinar this morning. I could have easily gone into Micah this morning, hidden myself in some corner for the webinar and then been around to hang-out with whoever was left at the house this morning and the Tech School guys. But I told Natasha I would stay at the house, attend my webinar, and help Daisy with the cooking for Nightstrike; although I kept the idea in the back of my mind of heading into Micah as well. When I woke up at 8:50 this morning I realized that I would be staying at the house and only had a few moments until the 9:00 webinar. My decision was made for me by the desperate tiredness of my body.

I heard the rain hitting the metal roof early this morning, a pleasant drumming sound, that lulled me back to sleep. But not once did I hear the Wiggs clan as they got ready this morning and left the house; nor did I hear the dogs bark their departure. I slept soundly, my body craving the rest it needs to recover from this nagging illness. So here I sit, still in my pj's, at my computer, the webinar over, IPod plugged into my ears, Daisy has arrived and is starting the laundry, I'll help her cook for Nightstrike later, after I put on clothes and get ready for the day. But first I must shake this sadness and regret.

A sadness at the realization that I have a return ticket that will be used in one week. That this time next Friday, I'll be starting my journey back to Portland which is home, but yet is no longer home. Regret that today and this weekend will be "wasted" in that I will not be able to build relationships with Micah guys. Today is about Nightstrike which doesn't include Micah guys, but will still be good. This weekend Roger is taking the guys on an 'excursion' so they won't be around. With the self-inflicted pressure to make every day of this short visit count, I am anxious about the weekend. What can I do to make it worthwhile? But as I think about it, why do I have such a narrow definition of what is "worthwhile" that only includes relationship building time with Micah guys? Isn't finding a way to serve, encourage, minister to Natasha and the boys of value? (Brian will be gone this weekend.) Of course it is! Who knows what God has planned for this weekend, maybe other opportunities to be with staff and develop those relationships will be possible, which is just as valuable and possibly more important. Maybe there will be an opportunity to be out and about, seeing and learning more of this land and culture, which is also very valuable.

So the question for this weekend, as it is for life, am I willing to allow God to take His proper place or will I try to usurp Him? Will I create the open space in my agenda for Him to interrupt? Will I put aside my expectations and self-made road map, and be open to God's leading, guidance, and movement? Will I take my eyes off of pinpoint specifics to take in the whole vista He has laid out before me? Will I be stubborn and unmovable, or be fluid and allowed to be moved by God?

14 November 2010

My Heart is Home

I didn't admit this to anyone, but I was really nervous about coming back to Honduras. I was sure the boys wouldn't remember me, after all I had only been one of many, many visitors this summer. And if they did remember, that they wouldn't remember my name and only be politely welcoming. Nothing could be further from the truth. I was welcomed back with such enthusiasm that I was overwhelmed and surprised. Surprised more by some of the boys who I hadn't connected with a lot previously were very excited to see me, Miguel Fugon and Junior in particular. And the ones I had connected with before welcomed me back with so much warmth that my heart was about to burst. Wilmer is one of them. I went with the group of visitors to view two potential sites for Micah 2.0. In between the two sites we stopped for lunch at Flora's house. I found a spot on a bench and soon Wilmer joined me, sitting right up against me. After we finished eating and plates were disposed of, he continued to sit beside me occasionally trying to tell or ask me something, wrapping his arm around me, leaning his head on my shoulder, holding my arm. Michael Miller was taking a group on the tour of Villa Linda Miller and I thought for a moment of joining them, hoping that maybe we'd go to the top of the water tower and I might get some better photos than last time. But I wasn't about to bring an end to this quiet moment with Wilmer. We can't communicate much, thankfully Jeremy was on the other side of Wilmer and able to translate, but as Wilmer was laying against me I didn't need a translator when he quietly said, quiet enough that I wondered if he even meant me to hear, "Te quiero mucho." (I love you much.) "Yo tambien, Wilmer." (I also, Wilmer.) He pulled my arm against him tighter.
It's a crazy thing, I believe a God thing, that I can love this kid so much.


Wilmer, the son of my heart.

Returning to the Micah house from our tour of properties, I ended up in the back of the red pick-up. Once we pulled up outside the Micah house I was sitting on the top of the tailgate, swinging my feet over when all of a sudden, there was Hauner right beside me with his big goofy grin. I squealed, "Hauner!" and wrapped my arms around him while still sitting on the tailgate. He gave me such a big bear hug that I was pulled right off the truck and held against him with my feet dangling. When I was able to get my feet on the ground and gain some space I asked him how we was, "I'm happy, I see you!" Ahh! I had some time to kill while waiting for Brian Wiggs to finish up what he was doing and until Natasha arrived to pick us up. So I found a spot in the courtyard to sit and Hauner joined me, holding me close telling me how happy he was that I was there. We talked about the upcoming graduation ceremony, his plans for the future, and I made him promise to introduce me to his girlfriend later that night. He also started playing with my camera, which resulted in the goofy photo below. The big lug. I love this kid.

There is something about the Micah boys. They have a way of entering your heart that changes you, changes your priorities, changes your plans, changes your ambitions, changes your life.


Hauner, mi niƱo grande.

03 November 2010

HOme-DURAS!

I was having a hard time waking up this morning. The alarms had all gone off, snooze hit multiple times, and yet in bed I remained. Desperate for a few more minutes of sleep that would surely be the relief I needed for this constant tiredness. I had woken from a dream that was stressful and even though I knew it to be a dream, the agitation remained. It would be awful to be in Houston for a layover on my way to Tegucigalpa and realize the only clothes I had were the ones I am wearing and my party dress, but no short sleeved shirts and no underwear. It would be cause for panic and in my dream I was in a tizzy. I think I'm worried about packing for my trip! In an effort to wake-up and shake the anxiety I reached for my glasses and my phone. Still sprawled across the mattress I checked email to see if Natasha had, by chance, answered the email I sent last night at 11 pm. To my delight she had. My day was made by her closing line:

"Looking very forward to you getting HOME!"

01 November 2010

Inspiration

A friend had a quote some time back on her Facebook page that I found fabulous. In fact I used it a few posts ago. The quote was taken from a blog that has become my favorite mid-work mental break destination. The writing is lyrical and thought provoking, the photography beautiful, a feast for the eyes. It's rare that you come across a blog that is truly great in our information, over-saturated digital world. So I pass it along for your delight...

http://www.aholyexperience.com/

I particularly liked this recent post:
What the Heart Really Knows: Why Memorize Scripture

31 October 2010

Triumph in the Rain!

Race day! I WILL be STRONG!

The sun shone beautifully for all of 30 minutes.

I did it! I actually did it! 13.1 miles through torrential rain, sunshine and sprinkles I walked/jogged all around Portland; from downtown, out towards the industrial district, across to Barbur and Terwilliger, back downtown. Not only did I meet my goal - to beat the police car that marks the time limit herding walkers towards the finish line - but I beat it by 17 minutes and change. On top of that, I wasn't last in my age group. I finished strong, able to sprint the last three blocks. My legs could have continued - at a slower pace - but my feet, oh, my poor, poor feet, they wish I would have stopped after mile 4. As revenge for ignoring the throbbing burning sensation in my toes, the two pinky toes developed nice blisters, but the right index toe can only be described as horrifyingly disgusting. It really did not like walking for such a distance, especially in shoes that sloshed half the time.

Why, yes! I will pass you on the left!

Overall, I'm quite pleased. It felt great to be the one passing others, to feel strong and capable. To consider this time last year I could barely walk a mile, the distance I've traveled figuratively is mind-boggling. So thank you Dr. Keenen, Lisa, Mom, Damon, and my Foot Traffic University training group for your part in getting me to this milestone. Up next, the 5k Jingle Bell Run for Arthritis on Dec. 5th. I think it's time to back off from the distance goals - at least until I find a better pair of shoes; my new goal is doing a 5k in 30 minutes or under.

Proudly showing off my finishers medal!

Poor, poor toesies!

20 October 2010

Pride & Glory

Tonight. I decided that...

I AM A
Nut Case!


I have been training for a half marathon since the end of July. Not very well mind you, but at least halfheartedly training for a half. I only made it to about half of the group runs/walks. I've only logged about half the miles I should have. I've been plagued with feet issues from shoes that are just a smidge too small and toes that are just freaky weird (thanks, Dad!). But my determination to complete the race was 100%. Even though my preparation has been halfhearted (or half-witted) it has been my primary focus. I have skipped social engagements, gotten woefully behind in homework, all so that I could hit the pavement, trails and gym as often as possible.

Last Saturday was our final group walk/run before the race. Once again, I took a wrong turn and got lost, making up my own course as I went, keeping an eye on my fancy watch to gauge when to turn around to hit the mileage I wanted. My pace was easy as I was testing out new shoes, I only put in about 4 miles. I headed home determined to get some yard work done before the rains hit later in the week. So it wasn’t until the afternoon that I got around to showering, after which I started to trim my toenails. As I was clipping away my toenail on my right second toe started to move around and then lifted, flapping like a loose sail in the wind. Disgusting! I started poking around the toenail on the left foot and it too was lifting but had not separated from my toe as much. With a bad case of turf toe losing the toenails was inevitable but so gross. I wasn’t sure what to do, I was freaked out. Bandaging them up I decided to ignore them.

I knew loosing the toenails would happen eventually, but was hoping it wouldn’t be until after the race. But I couldn’t pretend there wasn’t a problem, I couldn’t just leave them bandaged until after the event. I had to call my podiatrist and see what was going on. But with that call came fear and apprehension that I may not be able to do the race. “What if Fitzy says it’s a bad idea? What if he tells me I’ll be doing much more damage if I continue with my plans?” It was then that I realized how much my ego and pride were invested in this little venture.

Doing this race was not just a personal goal, like a New Year’s resolution, this was a declaration. A triumphant return to my life. A demarcation of the official end of the recovery season from surgery. I had completed the flat half marathon on July 4, 2005 - it was the last race I did before inflicting the final injury to my back that led to the surgery. It seemed poetic justice to do another half marathon to signal my return. I have been focused on making this statement for the last three and a half months. I had been almost bragging about it in the last few weeks. I was feeling pretty proud of my accomplishment and it wasn’t even reality yet. I wasn’t sure if I could take the humiliation of backing out. Would my recovery be less true? No. Did it mean I hadn’t accomplished anything? No. It would mean that my pride would take a hit; it would not have the crowning glory I had planned. And that was almost more painful than my toes.

On Monday the doc trimmed off the old toenails to reveal teeny misshapen new ones underneath and gave me the go-ahead for the race. I exhaled relief, and signed with resignation; what can I say? I’m complicated. But I started to think about my priorities, about pride and the Biblical view of pride. I was starting to get uncomfortable. Then Tuesday came. I had my one year follow-up with the spine surgeon. He was impressed that I was doing a half marathon, but also admonished me to walk most of it, that a half should really be the cap for my distances; and then he checked that I wasn’t doing anything really crazy like bungee jumping or skydiving. I may be a nut, but I'm not stupid. I guess doing lots of halfs are not in my future, even with a bionic back. But that wasn’t going to stop me from doing this half. But Wednesday hit like a semi-truck. As I was getting ready for the day a muscle down my neck started spasming. I ignored it with the logic it would work itself out. But as I was driving to work, to see my blind spot I had to turn my whole body – not good. Thankfully my chiropractor was able to fit me in at lunch. I still had to support my head with my hands to lean my head back, but I could at least turn side to side which was a major improvement.

So despite banged up toes, warnings from the spinal surgeon, and a neck that is out of whack, come Sunday I am tackling a half-marathon. Yes, I am a nut case! But one who is going to “Run Like Hell” for 13.1 miles and feed my pride and make my statement!

27 September 2010

360 Days Later

It has been one year since my spinal surgery on 9/28/2009. Am I 100%? Not quite. Was it a success? Absolutely! A few weeks before my surgery I went out for lunch to a Chinese restaurant and found this in my fortune cookie:
"A bold and dashing adventure is in your future within the year."

I taped it to my monitor at work. A sign of hope for a better future. The months following surgery were rough. But God's mercy has wiped my memory of how bad the pain was. I remember sobbing at my first physical therapy appointment because of the agony, but I don't remember the pain. And that is a blessing. Getting a bionic back has meant a new lease on life. A world that seemed lost to me has been regained.
Consider this evidence:
A month before surgery I was introduced to the Wiggs and the Micah Project. Ten months after surgery - to the day - I arrived in Tegucigalpa, Honduras for the first of many visits to come.

Last Thanksgiving my cousin Rebecca asked if I was still interested in missions. I told her that I was and in fact was thinking God is calling me to a group of street boys in Honduras. This Thanksgiving, I'll be with those boys! That in itself is wonderful, but being able to consider missions again is amazing.

In the spring, The Micah Project newsletter happened to mention that graduation would be November 13th. I put it on my calendar with a pipe dream of being in attendance. By the mysterious economy of God, that dream is going to come true.

Five months before I did the final injury to my back I completed my first half marathon. I thought it would also be my last. October 24th I'll walk/jog my second half and I'm on track to be at my fastest pace ever (which isn't saying much, I'm still pretty slow). And am planning on doing another half in December. I'm moving, I'm active, I've got my groove back!

As surgery was drawing ever closer my inability to cope with the possible negative outcomes were taking a toll. I started to see a counselor, which I have continued to see. It has been a year of bold growth personally.

Life is just better, it's good even. The nerve running down my right leg likes to occasionally freak out, a not so subtle reminder of what I dealt with constantly for years. But it isn't painful, just a nuisance. The vast majority of the time there is no pain. Not being in crippling chronic pain really changes my outlook. In the last year I've made some bold statements and dashing moves. Life has been interesting. But watch out world - I'm just getting started! God has been gracious, He has been mighty in my life and in my healing. All thanks and praise to Him!

24 September 2010

Conversion Conversations

Me: "Should I send you the training plan for a 10k this fall? What about "How to improve your marathon training?""

Jon: "No, way! Stop trying to convert me! You can talk about religion all you want, but stop trying to make me work out!"

21 September 2010

Love is a Many Splendored Thing

A couple weeks ago the group that went to Honduras did a Micah Team Report after the evening service. We watched the amazing video Jeremy created. After wards there was a 'townhall' style forum where people posed questions to the panel of Micah trip participants who alternated answering. We had a great time sharing about Micah and would have continued for hours more if allowed. The last question of the evening was, 'How has this experience impacted you personally and your faith?' I didn't share my thoughts that evening, but, if you'll indulge me, I will here.

The trip was a culmination of nearly a year of learning about the boys and the ministry. The story of the lives of each boy transformed from a two-dimensional list of factoids into a multi-dimensional spectra-colour person. The stories became alive and real, as if I had walked into my favorite novel and was able to interact with all my favorite characters. Actually, that is exactly what my first night felt like. As we walked into the Micah house and could take in the view, not limited by the border of a photo, and hear the boys talking and joking, I kept thinking - "This is so surreal! It's real, it's all real. The boys are real." The boys are indeed very real, and have made a significantly real impact in my life which can be summed up with one word - love.

Through their friendship my understanding of what it is to love one another has greatly expanded. But it reaches much further than that, my heart knowledge of the Father's love is so much richer for knowing these boys. Somehow in the process of learning to love the Micah boys simply because I am choosing to, I understanding in a new way how God loves me just because He wants to. It's a simple truth that has finally found its way from my head to my heart. And it has been so liberating.

God loves me just because He wants to. It isn't any inherent value of my own, not because of my potential and how I could be used, my accomplishments are not the reason; quite the contrary. If I were to be judged according to my own disposition and actions for my worthiness to be loved by the Sovereign God I would fall horribly short. For on my own I am rebellious and selfish, doing things the Lord despises. That is why God's love is so amazing! That while I was rebellious, He loved me. He loved me to the point of death so that my sins were atoned for and I would no longer be an enemy of God. Because of His love, I have worth. "But Christ did not die for us because we are valuable; we are valuable because Christ died for us. It is not for us to say to one another, "Worthy are you!"—which is the mantra of a great deal of modern psychology. Instead, we turn to God and say, "Worthy are you, O Lord our God!" (Rev. 4:11)."1 I am not worthy, and never will be, I can set aside all striving and insecurity.

I'm discovering a beautiful cycle, that as I know God's love more, I love Him all the more, and as the love between me and my God grows, my love for Micah grows, and the more I love Micah, the more I love God. Over the past couple months I feel like the Grinch at the end of the story whose heart grew three sizes. My heart is growing and expanding, coming alive. Even on the hard days, when I say "no" to my own wants so that I can say "yes" to things related to the boys. Or when they run away and my heart aches, it grows larger still as I see myself in their rebellion, addictions, and poor choices and know that I love them still, as God loves me when I continue to sin.
I am learning that love is a many splendored thing!

"I have loved until it aches, and found that the love consumes the ache, so there is only love---much more love" Ann Voskamp

1Love Needs No Reason by Mark Galli

20 September 2010

Logos + Mac = A Very Good Thing

Logos makes some of the best (maybe even the best) Bible resource software. I've stuck with a Windows based computer for years because of this program. It was more important to me to be able to have Logos, than to have a Mac. Now I can have the best of both worlds! Logos is now available for Macs! Yay!!

Check it out here:
http://www.logos.com/mac

05 September 2010

No, Not the Scrooge Kind

When you hear the word "ebenezer" what comes to mind? Ebenezer Scrooge? The famous Charles Dickens' character from A Christmas Carol is the only reference most people would have for that funny word. A character who is remembered more for his miserly ways than his turn of countenance at the end of the story. Those who have been part of a church that sings hymns may remember another use of the word, a line from the song, "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing,"

Here I raise my ebenezer;
Here by Thy great help I’ve come;

The word actually shows up in1 Samuel 7:12, the Israelites defeat the Philistines, after Samuel has offered a sacrifice. Samuel puts up a stone in memorial and names it Eben-Ezer - a 'stone of help.' The name Eben-Ezer also means "God has led us thus far" or "Thus far God has helped us."

Genesis 31:52 and 35:14-15 are a couple other examples of building pillars, stacking stones - Ebenezers - as memorials to important events. There is a verse somewhere, I can't find the exact reference (if you know it, tell me where to find it please), that talks about building stone monuments as remembrances of what God has done, a testament to future generations; 'when your children ask why this pillar is here, tell them of the great works of God.' It sounds like Exodus.

Anyhow, I latched on to this idea of "stones of remembrance," collecting my own personal ebenzers several years ago. I pick up stones at the places I travel to whether it be the Oregon coast or the Israeli desert to Picacho Park in Tegucigalpa. Sometimes, if I happen to find an interesting one on a walk around the neighborhood I'll pick it up too. So what do I do with these rocks? I use a Sharpie (you know I always have at least one with me) and write a word or two or a verse to remind me of a time where God's faithfulness, intervention in my life was more palpable. I keep them in a pitcher on my kitchen windowsill so that when I need encouragment, when I need to refocus, when I need a reminder of who is really in charge, I can reach in and grab a stone and remember what God has done in my life in the past and know that He is faithful, He will continue to work in my life.

For almost a year now I have been looking for a specific stone; a heart shaped stone. I have known what I would write on this stone, but have not been successful in finding the stone itself. I started my summer at Cannon Beach and had spent quite some time searching for the elusive heart stone. I even found one that sorta looked heart shaped but I accidentally dropped it in a drive way made out of gravel and it was lost. Labor day holiday weekend found me at Cannon Beach again, it is one of my favorite places after all. This most recent trip I had success. I actually found two. The only issue is that they are not palm size, more like fist size, the fist of Andre the Giant - they won't fit in the pitcher, so they are now sitting in my front yard. But now I have two - do I use only one? Or do I come up with a second word? The word that has been mulling around in my head waiting for a stone is... (drum roll) MICAH! Not surprising, is it?

So help me out peeps - which rock is more heart shaped? Which one should have Micah scrawled on it? what should happen to the other rock? Any suggestions for another word?

What would be written on your ebenezers?

01 September 2010

The Phantom Critic

I feel the need, the need for speed. No, that's not it. I feel the need to defend and explain myself. To whom? No one in particular. The phantom critic, the person who has read my post-Honduras update and is bashing me for referring to Hector and Wilmer as "my boy" and questioning my "motherly love." I questioned my word choices as well. I tried to think of another way to describe what I feel towards the Micah boys, because it is not just Hector or Wilmer who are "my boys" - they all are, and that really is the best way to say it. I know, I know, they aren't really mine, truly, they belong to God. The love I have for them is most akin to a maternal love, and wouldn't any mother call her sons "my boys" with the understanding that they are her responsibility, they have been put in her care, entrusted to her by God. And that is not unlike how I feel; that God has imbued me with a deep love for these boys that is motivating me to help carry the responsibility of raising and caring for them. I just can't come up with a better word than "maternal" to describe it.
I have no desire or illusion of being their mom, they have mothers. Some are involved in their lives, some have passed away, some are absent, some are a positive influence, some are not, but they have mothers - and it isn't me (we need an equivalent of the African notion of "Auntie"). What I can be is an adult figure who loves them, just as they are, who will stand beside them through their ups and downs, a stable positive constant, teach them how to navigate life, encourage them to be their best, point them to God, training them up in the way they should go, who will continue to love them even when they throw it back in my face. Why? Because that is what God does for me every single day. It's all about the love of Jesus. Because He loves me, I need to share that love. Because He first loved me, I can love my boys. Because He loves me, and has given me this love for Micah, I will do the hard work of loving. To the boys, I'm just one of many visitors that came down this summer; I'm just the crazy gringa who spoke gibberish that no one understood, who spit water on Hector, kissed Wilmer (and others), and had a camera permanently attached to her hand - that is, if they remember me at all. Before I can be that 'caring adult figure' I have to earn the right, earn their trust and respect, prove myself, before I can speak into their lives. That will take time, years, and it won't be easy. But I am driven to take on this challenge by the love of Jesus. What other source could give me the strength to sell my cute home (and my books, which may be more painful) and move to Honduras? It's all about the love of Jesus, baby!
And there I go again, talking like it's a done deal!

This is my response to that phantom critic who lives in my head, and hopefully only there.

*One more note about Hector, "the son I didn't know I had." If I had ever had a son, I'm certain that the resemblance in personality and temperament to Hector would have been uncanny. That's all I meant.

Honduras Updates

Call me paranoid, I'm fine with that. But I didn't want to post on here about my trip to Honduras until after I was back. I didn't want it known to anyone on the web that my house was going to be sitting empty. Now that I'm back (and occupying my house, any potential robber can go away) I'm posting my pre-departure update and my post trip update.

Pre-departure can be found here:
HondoUpdate#1

Post trip update can be found here:
HondoUpdate#2

The fonts and some of the links got mixed up along the way. They are still readable, just not as pretty. And the links, well... copy & paste, my friends!

Who needs words when there are pictures:
picasaweb.google.com/stregerlady
An album for each day I was in Honduras.

26 August 2010

A Typical Joniffer Conversation

Jon: I don’t like the sound my new belt makes when I sit down.
Jenn: You got a new belt!?!?
Like three weeks ago! I’ve been waiting for you to notice.
I’ve been gone, then you were gone. Plus, I didn’t think you would ever replace that other belt. Did it finally disintegrate?
Pf… that belt is instructable! No, I just couldn’t find one I liked. Or, indestructible.
Ha! Ha! Belt, you will go through the keeper and stop at this hole, and tighten around my wait.
Yes, I instruct my belt every morning. “Belt, today you will hold up my pants.”
Ugh! You’re wearing a brown belt with shirt that has black?! What a faux pas!
Is that not okay?
You shouldn’t mix the color of your accessories. Although I’m wearing a brown belt and black shoes. But I intended to wear brown shoes but changed my mind once I was downstairs and didn’t want to go back up to change my belt since I was already late. I figured my sweater would cover the belt anyhow, so it wouldn’t show.
How do you know this? Does everyone know this rule? Was it something you were taught or just know?
Ah.... yeah, I guess it was taught to me.

14 August 2010

Love

Today I've been trying to collect things for the garage sale next weekend. While trying to get one box down from a shelf I sent another one upside down, spilling its contents - old journals. I couldn't resist taking a peek as I started to put them back. I found a quote, maybe from a sermon, from July 22, 1992, that is worth sharing:

"Love is an action of caring for others like God does for us. We can't show love without knowing God. Nothing proves our love for God more than our love for others. Love is an attitude, love is a prayer for a soul in sorrow, a heart in despair. Love is goodwill for the gain of another, lover suffers long with the fault of a brother."

I think I'll stop reading there before I'm mortified by my younger self. :)

13 August 2010

The Inbetween

In the early hours of the morning while irrational thoughts make perfect sense, contradictory ideas can co-mingle happily, and the alarm isn't loud enough to break the spell, my mind creates a happy place. This morning as I hit the snooze and while drifting into that nether place I started to think about what I should wear today: 'Yay! Street kid soccer tonight, so grubby jeans, and not a white t-shirt like last week, that was a challenge to get clean and I want to play with Esther.' My next thought, 'My feet are cold, there is a sharp chill in the air coming in; I didn't expect that from the forecast last night. Good thing if it's really going to be 90 today.' And then reality starts sinking in - street kid soccer is in Tegucigalpa, the weather is for Portland; I can't go to street kid soccer if my feet are cold. My heart sank as the truth came into focus. I am no longer in Honduras, haven't been for a week, playing with Esther at soccer will have to wait - much to my disappointment.

Today was filled with thoughts of remembrance about last Friday, my last real day in Teguc. It filled me with longing to be back there. A deep ache welled up in my chest as I thought about how much I missed the boys. Oh, I miss 'em like crazy! I know the longer I'm back it should become easier, not quite as sharp & intense, but I don't want that. It's good motivation to be diligent in learning Spanish, among other things. I love these boys and that isn't going it change.

While the in-between of sleep and awake allows me to happily remember, and believe I am in, Honduras. Once awake I find myself in a different kind of in-between; living in Portland but having my heart in Tegucigalpa. How to navigate this in-between is uncharted territory.

18 July 2010

Bumper Beauties

Art comes in many different forms, and I enjoy many of them, one of the better forms being classic cars. The size of the engine is irrelevant, it is the swoop of the bumper, the gleam of the chrome, detailed door handles - that is what I enjoy. This weekend was the Concours d'Elegance in Forest Grove, the better classic car show in Oregon. It had been a few years since the last time, so today Dad and I went again. I still had the borrowed Lensbaby and the cars would be a great source for testing it out. It was a challenge to get the focal sweet spot just right. The field of view is quite narrow so to get a whole tire within the frame I had to be relatively far back, which was hard to do considering the number of people milling about. My favorite continues to be the early 1950's Corvette. The BMW Isetta was beyond cute. A beautiful Cobra could be felt in your chest as it rumbled by up to the stage. An intriguing find was a Tatra, a sports car made in Czechoslovakia during the Cold War era. How did it makes it's way from Communist Czech to Milwaukie, Oregon? One beautiful 1948 Ford was being shown by the original owner. Dad and I couldn't decide which should be classified as the antique - the car or the owner. So many beautiful cars, I think I was born in the wrong era. (more pictures here)

16 July 2010

Friday Funnies

It has been awhile since I've posted any of my office interactions with Jon. Since he made me laugh to the point of nearly squirting tea out my nose I thought I'd share.

I was half listening to Jon as he talked about this website he had found last night of pictures of an exotic gun collection of a busted drug dealer. Or at least that is what I thought I heard, I wasn't really paying attention. He mentioned something about the odd pets these type of people have, but couldn't think of one. I offered the suggestion of "komodo dragon." "Yeah, like that! Weird animals." To which I off-handedly said, "Did I tell you that I almost ran over a peacock the other day?"
Stunned silence. I took a slurp of my ice tea.
Slowly, an awe filled response, "That may be the most awesome sentence I've ever heard." It was at this point that my mouthful of tea almost came out my nose.
Somehow I managed to swallow it down and answer the ensuing questions, it was a couple weeks ago, on a side street in Lake Oswego, yes - I stopped and stared it down until it moved to see if it was real, and no - I didn't question if I was crazy and seeing things, didn't occur to me. Oh, it was too funny.

A little later we were walking to Starbucks and a tabby cat went shooting across the street with amazing speed. Jon exclaimed, "Geez! It's like wild animal kingdom out here!"

As I walked back to my seat at Starbucks with drink in hand I noticed Jon was staring at my right forearm. "What did you do this time?" he asked. "You're just now noticing it? I've had this bruise all week." With an exasperated sigh, "You know how unobservant I am." Of course I told him a prolonged detailed story of how the vacuum cleaner attacked me. To which he just shook his head.

Missy, Jon's wife, cut his hair the other day and he has been fussing over it constantly ever since. "As soon as I cut my hair, I wish it were long." She did a really great job, but he can't figure out what to do with his bangs. We both have that issue. I offered him one of my little clips that I keep in my desk. "While I do wear barrettes and make it look good, I'm not going to do that here."

As we were waiting for the elevator to head out for the day, "You know how bad my memory is and how unobservant I am; each day for me is brand new. I get to do goal structures today? What's that? Sounds like fun!" Ha! Ha! Yeah, you keep thinking that, Jon.

Bonus funny story from Thursday:
I walked back into our office with my lunch that I had just heated up. Jon asked, "Why do you always do that?" "Do what?" "You always heat up your lunch right before a meeting." "But I'm hungry." "But we have a meeting in 15 minutes." "What? I thought we had more time." "I always feel bad for you. You heat up your lunch and eat two bites before you run off to a meeting and it just sits here getting cold. I wonder if I should cover it... but I don't. You need someone to take care of you." "I know, I do." Jon was a little surprised at how quickly I acquiesced. "Isn't that in your job description? I think that is the whole reason you are here, (in a silly voice) 'Take care of scatterbrained Jenn.' "

10 July 2010

Garage Sale for God's Glory

Two years have passed since the last garage sale endeavor of my mother's and I. Not quite enough time to forget the pain, annoyance, and work involved in having a sale but the stuffeth over floweth, so a sale will be had. My brother moved to New York City last week and left everything he didn't want or need (e.g., dishes, pans, etc.) with my parents to deal with, including a vehicle and a townhouse - anyone need a 4Runner and a garage in Beaverton to park it in? I keep a container in the garage that is my designated donation box. The past year I've been saving it up for a garage sale. When Janelle was up visiting over Memorial Day, she helped me purge the stuff in my garage. The box is now heaped and other boxes have been pressed into service. Unfortunately I am on my own to purge the rest of the house. It won't be very thorough, it's not as if I am moving to NYC into a teeny shared apartment, so why bother? Why, indeed. Because of God's glory.

Having a garage sale for God's glory may seem rather strange. If our purpose as Christians is to bring God glory, it requires us to be refined and purified from those things that detract us from this goal. We need to remove whatever idols and little gods we have in our lives which dilute our passion and effectiveness. Like a professional athlete who trains with diligence, perseverance and determination to receive glory in their sport; likewise, Christians should be training too for God's glory. We are in a battle, we need to be fit warriors.

Still wondering how a garage sale fits into the picture? I live in America, a culture known for it's consumerism. We are consumed with having stuff. This does not bring God glory and traps our heart. Stuff in itself is not bad. A couch is a comfortable spot to sit and write my random thoughts on this blog. Some stuff is necessary, even nomadic tribes and ascetic monks have some stuff. But what happens when a single person has too much stuff? They get comfortable, sated, complacent, immovable. Being comfortable and content isn't necessarily a bad thing, but when that is valued more or keeps a person from following God's leading it isn't a healthy place to be. I recognize that I am getting closer to that line than I would like; my comfortableness is making me uncomfortable.

As I talked with a friend last night, sharing a budding idea about moving, she asked in dismay, "You have such a great home. You would give up all of this?" I realize it is a very un-American attitude to think of selling my home, most of my possessions, pick up roots. Yet I don't want to be so comfortable that when God says, "Go!" that I stammer with excuses of being comfortable, settled, and unable to obey. My answer to the question from my friend, "You would giver up all of this?" was - "Absolutely." A conviction doesn't mean it will be done easily. I have many fine things that I inherited from my paternal grandmother, items I have never once used - they don't fit my lifestyle, but they are my connection to grandparents I hardly knew, a substitute for the relationship that wasn't there. I also have items from my maternal grandmother, not quite as fine but greater treasures because of the dear relationship with my grandparents. Passing these things along will not be easy, heart-wrenching actually as I have made them a substitute for the person they represent. Since I am not moving imminently, those items will be held on to for a little longer. I want to use the gold filigree Wedgewood demitasse cups at least once before I sell them.

Many other things have no connection to relatives that are just taking up space and weighing me down. Taking inspiration and a cue from my brother, I'm starting a purging process. Making room for something new in my life. Ironically, my new House Beautiful magazine arrived this weekend and the theme is 'small living' and each article talks about paring down to the essentials, small spaces needing to be uncluttered. How nice of God to send me another source of inspiration and instructions. I better wrap this up, I've got work to do!

28 June 2010

"DUSK" is NOT a Time

I've been picking up my camera fairly regularly lately. It is still too much of a mystery of how to operate it and get the results I want. The only remedy is experimentation and lots of use. So the Tigard Balloon Festival seemed like a great opportunity to try some different environments. In the evenings they have "night glow" when the balloon owners turn the burners on just enough to inflate the envelope but not lift off. Sounds like a great photo op, doesn't it? The night glow was scheduled to start at "dusk." Dusk. What time is dusk?

I waited until the sun was just about down, 8:30 pm this time of year, and headed over to the park. I asked the first parking attendant - "Are they still doing the night glow?" "I am sure they are, they like to wait until it's good and dark." he answered. I asked the next parking attendant who took my money, "Is the night glow still going on?" "I don't know, probably." I was feeling much less confident but paid the fee anyhow. At the admission gate I asked once again, "Is the night glow still going on?" "If you hurry, you may see the last few. But the ticket is good for all weekend, you could come back tomorrow for the launch." Argh! After paying to park and the ticket I turned down the street to head to the park and was met with a wall of people - leaving! I raced down the hill and made it to the entrance just in time to see the last balloon go down. I was so mad. Dusk! Dusk is NOT a time!! I was there, may as well make the best of it and take some long exposure shots of the carnival rides.

Once home I was still grumbling that I had forked over the money for "nothing." I decided I'd show them; stick it to the man! If I had to pay for a weekend ticket, I was going to take advantage of it. Despite the fact I wasn't going to bed until a little after midnight, by gum, I was going to get up at 5 am and go to the balloon launch! That'll show 'em! How silly, like anyone would care; I was only depriving myself of sleep. The balloons would wake me up at 6:30 when they started floating over my house, might as well wake up early and join them.

I still had a bad attitude in the morning. I was determined not to pay anymore money for this weekend adventure so I parked on a side street and hoofed it to the park. It may have been my bad attitude that motivated me to skip sleep and go early to the balloon launch, but it ended up being great. The balloon launch was really fun and interesting. I spent a couple hours taking shots, some actually are good. Since I was up, might as well get my workout in. I was already dressed in my gym clothes so I headed straight to Tualatin H.S. to use the track. To my delight, some of the balloons were landing. I grabbed my camera and ran to the other side of the campus, following a balloon as it came in for a landing. After it came down in the parking lot, the crew tethered it to a trailer and truck and started giving rides! Without the crowds around I was able to get up close for some shots, talk with the crew and learn a lot about hot air ballooning. Best of all, I got a ride! We only went up maybe thirty feet, but it was fun. It ended up being a great morning. Now how often does a bad attitude lead to a great day?

The Big Red Box

Sometimes, I scare myself. Today I had one of those moments. I was wandering through The Container Store checking out what was on sale. Down one aisle I spotted a box, a big 12x17x3 red leather lidded taffeta lined box, on sale. After hemming and hawing, trying to convince myself to get the paperboard version that was a little less than half the cost of the red one, I went with the leather one. I could justify it because I plan on having this box for a long time to come. There is a very specific purpose for this box: to hold all the ephemera that constitutes the memories of my life. My memory has more holes than a fine Swiss cheese. Keepsakes of good times are stuffed into various boxes, envelopes, etc. to jog my memory, fill in those holes. But there is too much. Thus the red box, I'm limiting myself to what can fit inside this box. Plenty of things can be scanned and stored away electronically. But for those things that I want to hold onto the original, they'll go in the red box- and only the red box. Why pare down to just this one box? Simplicity, less clutter, focus on the essentials... and if I happen to move, it will make it a little bit easier.
Okay, just imagine the bottom box in a deep red.

22 June 2010

Heading to Honduras Hoping for a HUG!


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