Wednesday, August 27, 2008

a vision of myself

This past Saturday evening at my retreat, we had a church service, in which our pastor invited us to regain our imagination, and ask God to give us a vision of where we should be individually and collectively as a church body. He invited us to share our individual visions, so that we can support one another. I've never shared at a church wide gathering before, but I was the second person to stand up. I knew that if I waited to speak, I would chicken out and never stand up. My pastor handed me the microphone, and I began to speak,

"Hey, I'm really nervous to share this. I have a vision for myself, and I actually have a literal picture that reminds me of this vision. It's a picture that a few months ago I printed out and have in my car dashboard to remind me. It's from last summer, when I was in Switzerland, in the mountains. So, picture the most beautiful mountain scene that you can imagine, and me in front of it, smiling and confident. I have a vision of myself as someone who is really confident, truly confident in the Lord, in who He says He is, and in who Hey says I am, and who really believes those things. I want my confidence to come from God, and not from others, and their approval, and what others say and do towards me. Yeah, so, that's my vision of myself, and I wanted to share that with you guys. I'd really appreciate your prayers for this to happen, and I'm not sure how you can help me with this, but any help you can offer would be great. Thanks."

I sat back down, relieved that I had shared this, and listened to many others share about their desires to use their gifts, their desires to be free from certain things, major lifestyle changes they were making, ways that they wanted to be different. After everyone was done sharing, our pastor encouraged any who did not stand but who were touched by something someone shared or who knew them personally and wanted to pray for them, to go find that person and share with them and pray for them. Four women approached me, Amanda from my smallgroup, two friends my age, Elaine and Jen M, and Kim, my new neighbor, a mother who is an occupational therapist and who's husband is a psychologists. Each of them prayed for me, and prayed that I would have this confidence that I described. Amanda prayed that they would be better friends toward me and help support me in this. Kim prayed that she already saw this confidence in me, and that it would continue to grow. I don't remember what Elaine and Jen prayed, but I remembered it also being good and true and touching, and there were happy, grateful tears in my eyes as I experienced the support of these four women.

Afterwards, we all walked outside to watch a fireworks show. As the flames rose and burst, I felt that my act of voicing this vision, and the affirmation I received, of speaking it outloud, of others speaking it, somehow this voice gave power to that vision. I felt and believed that this is something that God wants for me, and this is something that He will achieve. This past year has been full of many doubts, so easily, I feel attacked, rejected, left alone, made worthless. It's sometimes so easy for believe the worst about a situation and to believe the worst about others. But I know these are lies. I know that God is good, and I know that He is my provider, and with me, and taking care of me, but sometimes I feel like He's holding back on me. I know that's not true, but ugh, it's so easy to believe. I have to continue to remind myself that God is good, that he knows what he's doing, that he provides for me, that he never leaves me, that his will is perfect, and that I want his will more than anything. I doubt it, I try to take control, but when it really comes down to it, I don't want to be outside of his will, because He is good. He is good, and this is good.

So I share this with you, friends, family, blog brothers and sisters, because you are an extension of my church, of the body that I belong to. I ask you to support me, and to pray for me, that this vision will become more and more a reality to me.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

two wheels instead of four

For the first time today, I biked to campus. Sometime between 8:18 and 8:20 this morning, I grabbed my backpack, and mounted a borrowed bike to make my way to campus. The weather was pleasant, and the ride smooth, until I reached a slight incline. You never notice the hills around you until you ride a bike. The roads were quiet, and I stopped next to another bicyclist at the University stoplight and found myself panting for breath. Once on campus, I faced more inclines, and began to feel the strain in my thighs. Am I that out of shape that a bike ride just under a mile wore me out, or was there too much weight in my bikepack? I locked up the bike, and headed inside. When I sat down, I noticed that my lower back was sweaty. I hadn't felt any heat, so I blame the backpack for that. But man, I'll sure feel the heat around 5:10 when I leave campus! I checked my cell phone time: 8:32, putting my commute around 10 minutes, maybe a little more.

Back in April, I was given a bike, a purple Hercules in the style of an English 3-Speed. My friend Brad volunteered to work on it, and he degreased the chain and derailleur, replaced the intertubes, and then kept it in his garage for three months untouched, before finally returning it and admitting that he wouldn't have time to finish work on it. In early May, I signed a lease for my new house just half a mile from campus, and made the decision to become a bike commuter. I did not sign up for a parking permit this year, saving me around $250. I drove to school yesterday because I needed to go by the grocery store, so I parked in my "cheater" spot - one of the two parking spots designated for the clients at the clinic where I work. If I need to drive and those spots aren't available, I can park in a parking garage for a few dollars.

I think this is doable. I'm sure that my lung capacity will increase and my leg muscles will strengthen, and hopefully soon I won't feel the strain. In the next couple of weeks, I'll take my own bike to a bike shop to finish getting it tuned up. If I think that I might need a more quality bike to commute with, then I may look into purchasing a new bike or look for something on craigslist. Even if I'm satisfied with this bike, then I may still look into finding a cheap or free second bike, for friends to use. I can also easily bike to a Starbucks and my favorite bar/taco restaurant, La Bodega.

It might be a little sweatier, but I think most days it'll be convenient to bike, and on days when it's not, I still have some parking options. I'm excited about this change, and nerdy enough to write a post about it!

The retreat this past weekend went pretty well - thank you for the prayers! I'd like to blog about some of that experience, but if that doesn't happen, then I'd love to tell you about it another time!

Friday, August 22, 2008

a retreat or something

August is going by in a whirlwind, but it's been a really good month. I just got back from Boston a few days ago, which was an amazing experience and I hope to write about it, and now I'm off again for the weekend for a church retreat! It's at this beautiful camp center, but it may rain :(

This is short, but I wanted to write and ask for prayers. I love this church, but over this past year, I've experienced intense loneliness and a longing for close friends in my new home, a longing that I still don't believe has been fulfilled. I'm excited about this weekend together at my church, but also nervous, because I'm afraid that it will highlight the emptiness I sometimes feel and the lack of connection that I have, instead of being an incredible opportunity for me to connect with God and His body. So, please pray for me, that I will be free from fears, insecurity, jealousy, and loneliness, and that instead I will be led by the Spirit and go into this weekend ready to give and to receive, that I'll just be open to whatever is supposed to happen, and free from too many expectations, good or bad. I think that good things will happen this weekend, I just have my doubts, and I need prayers to help me with all my conflicted feelings. Pray that God will meet my needs, and that He will connect me more with others this weekend, and begin and develop friendships with good, godly people.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

hair, not the musical

I'm getting my hair cut in about two weeks, and considering cutting 4-6 inches off. For the past four years, I've been growing my hair out and with the exception of one haircut, and adding bands or layers, have never done more than trim the split ends at the salon.

I'm proud of my accomplishment and I like the idea of long hair, but I wonder if I'm just growing my hair out just because I can, and not because it's what looks best on me. I never want to be one of those women with long hair that refuses to cut it just because they're so attached to their hair that it's traumatizing to part with it. If you've ever watched a few episodes of What Not to Wear or other makeover shows, then you probably know the woman that I'm describing.

I like my long hair, but the last few inches of my straight, thin locks tend to get wavy unless I use a straightener, which I only do maybe if I'm going out, or hoping to impress someone, or am just bored. And with my hair being so thin, a shorter style could give it more body. Let's break it down more:

Pros to cutting hair:
1. More body.
2. Straightener needed less.
3. Less tangles.
4. Less blow-drying time needed.
5. More professional look?

Cons to cutting hair:
1. Change in look.
2. Letting go of a 4 year goal.
3. Mmmm, yeah, change is the only real con.

Ok, so what are your thoughts? Make the plunge and go shorter? Or keep going and growing?

Friday, August 08, 2008

unique cargo, ugly baggage

I have about three potential blog entries already written in my head, but I've decided to first write the most salient one.

Yesterday, driving along Highway 6, a train passed me. This is pretty common as I see plenty of trains, but the cargo of this train was unique, and like nothing I'd never seen outside of movies. This train was carrying at least 40 military tanks, all desert tan.

Two weeks ago, I saw a dead man on the highway. It was late at night, and several police cars had a lane blocked off. As I approached, I noticed the wrecked cars, the ambulance, the police officers, and then there he was, contorted face down on the pavement. There were people nearby, but no one giving him medical attention, no one hauling him away on a stretcher, no officers collecting evidence, no white sheet covering him, no white chalk outline, he just lay there as car after car passed. I still don't know what happened. Was he thrown from his vehicle? Was he trying to cross the street, and hit by a car at 70 mph? This is the first time I've told anyone what I saw. I don't know that I've ever seen a dead person that wasn't in a coffin, hair and makeup nicely fixed. I'm not even positive he was dead, but why else was he face down in such an awkward position, with no one helping him?

And then there were those tanks yesterday. 40 plus killing machines being transported across Texas, that will eventually make it over to the Middle East. I described it to my mom, and she said, "That sounds like something you'd see in WWII." And it's true, while the technology as change drastically in the past 60 years, on the outside, tanks still look relatively the same. A tank is a tank is a tank, and I felt like I was transported back to a time when reminders of war were an everyday occurrence.

I've felt so insulated from this current war. Yes, it's all over the news, stories, sounds, images, reports, controversies, but it still seems to far removed from my present life. I've had ROTC and Corps friends talk about it, but that's all in the future, none of them have been sent to Iraq yet. I've only known dads of friends who have been sent to Iraq, and while it's affected them, and they've told me about it, it's not my dad, or brother, or cousin, or uncle, or friend.

But this past week I've found myself more interested in the War in Iraq, listening to new reports, reading up on its origins, reading about controversies, reading about horrible, terrible, horrific things that have happened. We all heard and saw the pictures from the Abu Ghraib prison tortures, and just googling the name to check the spelling brought up horrifying images. And what about the US soldiers who raped an Iraqi girl, and murdered her and her entire family? These might be isolated incidents of a deranged and depraved few, and I don't consider them to be representative of our soldiers. But what about the high rate of sexual assaults and sexual harassment against women in our military? I truly respect our soldiers, their families, and their sacrifice. But no amount of email forwards of US soldiers hugging Iraqi children will make me believe that war does not bring out the worst in people. I know that it sometimes brings out the best in people, and purple heart medals and heroic stories are testimony to this, but I believe that many soldiers from Iraq are making a tremendous sacrifice and returning home worse from their experiences, as many sustain traumatic brain injuries and suffer from PTSD.

Am I anti-war? I hate that label, because in our society, to label someone as anti-war also means that they're radically liberal or unpatriotic, but these words are just misguided attacks. I love my country, and I hate war. War is ugly and a result of the fall and the presence of sin in the world, and as Christians, we probably should be against war. I believe that wars are sometimes necessary and there is such a thing as a just war, but I believe that this current war against Iraq was unnecessary. I know that at the time, just about everyone in Washington, reds and blues alike, believed this war to be necessary, but they were making judgments off of false information. Now that we know more of the truth, we're so far into this war, that we can't just pull out, we have to stay and attempt to stabilize the country. I hope that good will come of this, for Iraq and the United States.

I want our nation to make wise decisions about war. I want us to stand up against injustice, with the help our international community, and use our military power for good. I doubt that the Republican party can adequately do that, and I'm not sure that the Democratic party can do it either. I really can't put my full hope in political leaders and policies, but I do put my hope in the belief that one day Christ will return, he will judge the nations, and we will beat our swords (or machine guns, or tanks) into plowshares and need weapons no longer.

Until that day, tanks will roll across the plains, reminding us of our fallen state.

Monday, August 04, 2008

here I go again, my my, how could I resist you?

So, it's almost 11pm, I'm spending what I thought would be my first night alone in my new house, baking cookies, emailing folks, calling friends, watching movie trailers (Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, RocknRolla, W., Pineapple Express, etc), when I hear the jiggling of a door handle. I probably had a few armhairs that stood on end, but instead of going into panic mode, I managed to call out, "Hello?"

Turns out it was my fourth roommate who I hadn't met yet! She's only in town for a few days, but then again so am I, so it looks like I won't be alone during this time afterall! It is kinda weird for us to just meet like this. Basically, my other roommates are a girl I knew from church, her best friend/roommate, and this fourth girl is a friend of the girl I know from church's best friend. But it's nice to finally meet her, but odd that it wasn't an introduction from the other girls. Oh well! Perhaps it's good to get to know her this way, just one on one, without the mediating friends. Or it could just be awkward.

First impression: she seems nice, and is pretty. She looks like Amanda Seyfield from Mamma Mia, which was wonderful, if you love musicals, you should see it.

Even if the next few days are kinda weird having this new roommate that I don't know at all around, it's a good change. I've spent all summer living alone, and before that, 9 months living with a roommate who stayed in her room with the door closed 95% of the time. I need more social interaction and activity my living quarters. Though I don't know these girls all that well, I'm very hopeful about this being a good living situation. The one girl I know from church is just really kind, genuine, mature, and fun. I don't know why, but every time I talk with her, I get a good vibe from her. I feel like I can be at ease around her, which is a good quality in a roommate, and hopefully friend. I really wanted to live with friends this year, but if I can make friends with the people that I'm living with, then that's just as good, if not better.

In addition to the roommates, this room, house, neighborhood, and location are all really sweet. My room is HUGE because it used to be a garage, which means that I can fit all my furniture (desk, dresser, chest of drawers) and upgraded to a full-sized bed and it doesn't feel crowded, and I have my own bathroom. I have downgraded to a shower instead of a full bath, but I never take baths anyway. The house is wonderful. It's old and full of character, which sounds like a euphemism for ugly ("has a great personality"), but in this case, it's really not. Maybe I'll post some pictures, but for now, imagine original hardwood floors throughout most of the house, tastefully colorfully painted walls, a couple of cute pocket doors here and there, kitchen cabinets with unique treasures abounding (pull out drawers? turntable corners? pull out pot hangers?), and the house is spacious, with a living room/dining room, kitchen, then an extra "common room" where the other girls put their desks. This common room/kitchen area is really great, as lots of light spills in from the backyard.

Oh, and the backyard! It's huge, and shady, and I've already started a morning sitting out back drinking my coffee. It's so peaceful, I never used my backyard at the previous house because it was small, and hot, and no decent furniture, and there was a hyper dog, but this backyard is one that I can actually see myself enjoying. I love this neighborhood. It's all older, well-kept homes, and every yard has huge trees, so there lots of shade and greenery. And it's quiet, so you can hear birds. The wildlife is just great, I've watched squirrels playing, and seen dogs and cats around. Our next door neighbors have too adorable puppies that I can stick my fingers through the chainlink fence to pet. By far, the best animal of the neighborhood is Mutant Cat. Mutant Cat has an extra toe on each foot that looks like a thumb, is missing its tail, has a strange bump on its back, drools excessively, and is exceptionally friendly. Mutant Cat has Friend Kitty, who seems to be Mutant Cat's shy sidekick. I see them together quite frequently.

From what I can tell, there seem to be more families than college students living in this neighborhood, and it seems more diverse. I've seen an old woman in hair curlers out watering her yard one night, a couple of black preteen girls riding their bicycles around. A family from my church, the one who the husband is a psychologist that I've mentioned, lives right around the street, and the wife has a few times encouraged me to literally just drop by. When I get my bike back, I'll have to try out this "dropping by" thing and see how it works out.

Finally, there's the location. I drove to campus and parked today in about five minutes, as its about half a mile away, and it's about five minutes from the clinic where I see clients. Phenomenal. Before today, I was a commuter. Once I drove to campus, I'd stay around that area, never going home until my day was over. Today, I went home between work and clients and showered. I would have never done this at my old location, unless I had three + hours to spare. And while I was home, a friend from church rode his bike over here to collect a check I've been meaning to give him for this camp that he sent some kids to. How cool. I cannot remember the last time that I had a friend ride a bike to my house that didn't already live on my street. I can totally dig this.