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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

On Grace and the Guthrie

My journal entries do not often make it to places of public viewing. That is partially for privacy's sake and partially because I generally use a different writing style in my journal and it is not as easy and/or entertaining to read. That being said, I wrote a journal entry on Sunday evening that sounded an awful lot like a blog post to me. Maybe I chose the wrong medium*. Or maybe my creative writing neurons were inspired by N.D. Wilson's "Notes From the Tilt-A-Whirl" (which I HIGHLY recommend) and it spilled over into my journal. Regardless of the reason, a blog post written - even if written in a journal - should prolly be posted. And so it shall be.


*In retrospect, it may be a good thing this post did not make it's way directly to my blog. If it had, it likely would have ended up with some ridiculously cheesy title like "The Storm Within" or "The Drama-Causing Drama." What providence.

12/12/10

2nd biggest storm in Rochester's history. The roof of the Metrodome collapsed. Someone probably died on the road today. I spent 20 minutes of my afternoon crying because I couldn't make it to Minneapolis to see "The Christmas Carol" at the Guthrie with my sisters.

I am curled up in my sweats next to the heat of my fireplace reading N.D. Wilson's "Notes From the Tilt-A-Whirl" by the soft glow of my Christmas tree as I watch the sun set over a snowy horizon and I am feeling very blessed in my disappointment.

It is amazing how narrow my perspective has gotten. It is disgusting how ego-centric my world is.

I just had a profoundly first-world emotional crisis.

I'm not saying there is no room for grace in disappointment here. I LOVE my sisters. I love theater. I have been excited for this particular night for over a month. It was my Christmas present. I am going to feel something.

So I wept. I wept over lost entertainment as I stared out the window at 18 inches of entertainment that fell last night. And I learned that when the veil of control is ripped from my face, the sting makes my eyes water.

I don't like having my plans messed with. I don't like being reminded that I do not exert absolute control over my own life. I don't have time for displays of divine power. I had a show to see.

So I cried. I cried tears of sadness and disappointment. Valid tears. But also tears of self-pity. Tears of frustration. Tears of anger. I was a two-year-old and I was not getting what I wanted.

I was whining.

I was forced to trade the beauty of a stage for the beauty of wind-cut snowdrifts and I was not satisfied. God's stage was not enough. I wanted a human stage tonight. I wanted to see the story I was expecting, not the one I am currently being told. This story about a God of power and beauty, a God who can stop entire cities overnight, a God who can foil your plans for the day and top it off with an orange sky burning up a white horizon thereby making your soul sing, a God who created fire in all of its eye-drawing mystery and comforting warmth - this is not the story I wanted. This story makes me feel small. Vulnerable. Humbled.

The seats at the Guthrie are very comfortable.

I am still disappointed that I am missing the play, and yet I can't help but feel God's hand of blessing all around me. I was fully prepared to feel pouty all night; rather, in spite of myself, my eyes have been opened to another drama unfolding around me. Except this time I am not relaxing comfortably in the audience. This time I am on center stage. And, if you pay close enough attention, you will find beauty in the story. Even in the shadowy parts. Even in the disappointment. More beauty than you will know what to do with.

This night did not turn out how I expected. I wanted ghosts. I got grace. I wanted to watch Scrooge change but I was transformed instead. I wanted to be inspired by his changed perspective. I wasn't expecting to actually have to change mine.

I wanted to be reminded that there is grace for people like him. Instead, I was destroyed (in the best sense) by the truth that there is grace for people like me, too.

This is not what I wanted. This is not what I had planned. This beauty. This display of power. This reminder of my own small-ness. This was not how I intended on spending my evening.

And yet as I read about the beauty of God's Art (sidenote: this is in reference to N.D. Wilson's view of the world. Read the book. Seriously.), as I ponder how numb I have become to the world's marvels, as I try to learn something about the Artist from the snowdrift in front of my garage, I wonder if this is not the best story for my night afterall.

It has only been two hours since I made my tear-laden decision to stay home. I am amazed at how different I feel. I am still disappointed. There's no doubt about that. But I am also surprisingly content.

I didn't get to go to the Guthrie tonight. Instead, I learned that I have a faith issue and I was reminded in a myriad of ways that I am loved and known by my Creator. It might not have been as much "fun," but these lessons from the shadows will probably serve me better as my own story unfolds.

I guess I'll go to the Guthrie next year. And, should my memory be blessed with a vivid recollection of this night, I may even see a bit more of myself on that stage. I may not feel as removed in the comfort of my theater seat. It may make for an even better story.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Good News/Bad News

Good News: Much to my delight, I found $5 in my coat pocket twice in the past week.


Bad News: It was the same $5 both times.


Ridiculous News: I still put it back in my pocket after the second time that I found it. (To my credit, I didn't have access to my wallet at the time). Maybe I'll "find" it again next week...

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Poem

Happy Thanksgiving, friendsies! Here is my new favorite Thanksgiving poem for you to enjoy.

THANKSGIVING (A CONFESSION AND A PLEA TO THE ALMIGHTY)

O God, Magnificent Confounder,
Boundless in mercy and power,
Be near me in my apathy.

Be near me, Savage Dreamer,
Bright Igniter of Exploding Suns,
But not too near. I’d like to live,

By your grace, just long enough
To taste another perfect steak.
And to see my children marry,

And, perhaps, to pen a memoir.
Great redeemer of my lechery,
Bright Dawn of Blessed Hope,

Lay waste to every prideful thing,
Each black infraction of your law.
O Swirling Storm of Holy Anger,

Be patient with me. I’m certain
I will make a second gluttonous
Trip to the festal spread of food.

And I might as well admit, O King
Omniscient, I plan to make a third.
And that will lead to sloth, I know,

If only for the afternoon. Awake,
O sleeper! But not yet, not yet.
I want to dream a dream of light

In Heaven’s towering splendor.
I long, my Lord, to walk its streets
Or better yet, to drive them.

I’ve always wanted a motorcycle,
A cool one that blats and rumbles
Like a herd of flaming zebras.

I could totally impress the ladies
With my holy rolling zebra steed,
But only by your perfect pleasure,

Ruler of the angel armies, blaster
Of the horn of strength, would I ride
The golden highways awesomely.

O Wisdom of the Ages, speak!
Sing to me of secret knowledge
Open wide the gates of truth,

And let me learn it, by your grace,
Through the medium of television–
Smartly written situational comedy,

Perhaps, or an epic space opera.
Let me taste the honey of your word,
My beloved savior. Seriously. Save me

From my wit, my words, my songs,
My sin, my bad poems, my vanity,
My every single human impulse,

Except the ones I like and am able
To justify using my corruptible
Reason, my imperfect understanding,

And my belief in your inexhaustible
Forgiveness. When I awake, saintly,
I will consume a dish of pumpkin pie.

And, as I politely swallow a belch,
I will lean my heart on yours, Almighty,
To whom, alone, is due thanksgiving.

-Andrew Peterson

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Night the Sky Cried

My trip to Nigeria was filled with a-whole-lotta good and not-anything-really-all-that-bad, so really, I have no complaints. Even this story is not a complaint. It’s just a story about my one not-so-favorite incident from the trip. And it directly led to one of my favorite moments of the entire trip. So it is a bittersweet memory for me. Emphasis on the sweet.

It all began one rainy day at sunset…

We were on our way home from Ibadan (an 8-10 hour drive that we undertook to visit my friend Warren who is teaching there for two years…post about that visit coming soon…) and we got stopped at a police checkpoint. Chinwe and I were in the backseat and Ike was riding shotgun with our personal driver who had been hired to drive us to Ibadan and back. There had been a crazy number of checkpoints throughout the whole day and we managed to get almost to the end of our trip (about an hour away from home) before we got stopped. So that is something to be thankful for.

We ended up being stopped at the checkpoint for about 20 minutes and it was a very stressful 20 minutes for me. Let me tell you why.

The policeman waved us over to stop us and almost as soon as our driver rolled down his window, the officer started yelling. Loud, angry yelling. And that is how he talked to us the entire time that we were stopped.

Now, if you know me well or have ever been in a stressful situation with me, you probably know that I hate yelling. Hate. Abhor. Detest. I clam up, shut down and instantly tear up. It stirs up in me one of the most uncomfortable feelings that I experience. I hate it. And he was yelling.

Strike one.

The officer asked our driver for his papers. He took his license and then continued to press him for this certain clearance paper which the driver did not have (and, if I understood correctly, probably does not exist). He made us open up the back of the car, open our bags, etc. All the time he is asking for the clearance paper. And all the time he is yelling.

Chinwe kept explaining to me that all he really wanted was money – that “I need your clearance paper” is police-officer-speak for “I am going to make you pay me.” And, “There is no such thing/I have never needed it before/I don’t have that paper” is driver-speak for “You’re not getting my money.”

And so the game/conversation/argument continues.

So the officer and the driver went at it for a while. The guard had the driver’s license so we couldn’t just leave. The officer started asking the driver where he had gotten the car…yelling, yelling, yelling…and I just tried to stay quiet in the back and pretend like the assumptions made because of my white skin were not causing and/or complicating the situation.

At one point, the officer walked over to my side of the car and told me to open my door.

Strike two.

At this point, I was pretty scared. I didn’t know what to expect, didn’t know what to say, didn’t know what to do, etc. I sheepishly opened my door and he stood there an arm’s length away with his AK-47, yelling. Chinwe advised me to pretend like I didn’t know what was going on, but I truly did not need to pretend. I had no idea what the guy was saying. It may have been the accent. It may have been the buzz in my head from all of the raised voices. I don’t know if it was fear or ignorance that blocked my ears, but either way, I did not understand one. single. word that came out of that man’s mouth until he started asking me if I even spoke English. Finally he gave up and let me close my door. Praise Jesus.

After some more heated discussion with the driver, the officer said something about going to the police station (again, if I understood correctly, it was under the premise that he was going to show us the paper that we needed once we got to the police station). He came back around to the passenger side, and made Ike get in the back with us. He climbed in the front seat and directed us to start driving. Before I know it, we are driving down the road with this yelling man and his gun in our car.

Strike three.

At this point, I am officially what I would call “shook up.”

After driving a short distance, Chinwe and Ike gave the officer some money. He took the money, handed our driver his license, got out of the car and we were on our way. Just like that.

Now I had a new problem. The whole ordeal had stirred me up something fierce and all of that fear was now pooling right behind my eyes.

Here’s the thing about being a crier: When feeling a negative emotion (usually sadness or fear, although sometimes anger, too), it is nice to feel like that emotion physically leaves your body through your tears. It is a fairly simple, healthy way to expel unwelcome feelings. On the other hand, when you are in a situation where you can NOT purge through tears (i.e. in a car with three other people, two of whom you barely know and none of whom are nearly as upset as you are) that pool of emotion just sits there. It does not evaporate internally. It must be drained.

It was too much for me in the moment, so I did end up crying there in the car, although it was considerably reserved compared to how I felt. Chinwe just reached over and held my hand. And she kept holding it. I kept crying. She kept holding. Her other hand was sometimes on my knee, sometimes hooked around my arm, but all the time my hand was held. I have no words to describe the comfort of her touch in that moment. I decided right then and there that there are few things greater than a friend who knows the comfort of a hand held in silence. Even if the whole rest of the trip had been a total bust (which it absolutely wasn’t), that one moment so endeared her to me, it would have made the whole trip worth it.

So, like I said, bittersweet. Emphasis on the sweet.

I cried hard for a little bit but then I took a few deep breaths and tried to dam up the best I could. My eyes leaked the whole rest of the way home (1 full hour. Ugh.). I felt like the slowest dripping faucet ever. I liken the tear-dammed feeling to having to pee really, really bad – you know, when you can’t even carry on a conversation or think straight because all you can focus on is NOT peeing. It was that same feeling requiring the same amount of concentration, only I was trying to keep my fluids in my eyes, not in my bladder.

I also spent most of that time thinking about the reality of life abroad in light of the situation. The whole interaction (along with a lot of other things I had already been thinking about in Ibadan) got me thinking about whether I am actually cut out for living abroad after all. Maybe it gets easier with exposure. Maybe things make more sense with more intentional culture learning. Or maybe instead of the proper fire in my belly, I have fear pooling behind my eyes. And I don’t really know what that means for this future abroad that I have been “planning” for so long. So that whole train of thought just added a whole ‘nother layer to the emotion of the situation.

When we finally arrived home, I went to the bathroom, drained the fear out of my eyes into a fistful of toilet paper and promptly flushed it down the toilet.

And then I sat down and wrote this:

“Sometimes, when I was little and it was raining, I would pretend that the clouds were crying, that the sky was sad. But as I watched the raindrops roll down my window, mirroring the tears tracing trails on my cheeks, I wondered if I hadn’t been wrong this whole time. Maybe the sky wasn’t sad after all. Maybe the sky was afraid. Maybe the sky looked down on our world and saw injustice, racial division, anger and systems of corruption that seem overwhelmingly unfixable and maybe she was afraid for us. Afraid of what we have become. And maybe the sky pooled her fear behind the clouds until it ran over and the sky and I cried together.”

Regardless of the reason, I hope the sky has someone who will hold her hand, too.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Another Mother

I have been blessed with a handful of “mothers” in my life. This is not to discount the role that my true mother has played – there isn’t a soul on earth that could ever compare to her. The love she has shown me, the sacrifices she has made for me, the joy that she brings me – I am at a constant loss for words to describe the place that she holds in my heart.

But there are still “the others.” Beautiful women who have played significant roles in my life and the life of my family. Women who have loved me well, who have cared for me, who have taken interest in my life, been generous with me and wanted well for me.

Just when I thought I couldn’t possibly be any more blessed by the number of “mothers” in my life, I found another one.

In Nigeria.

This is Mrs. Edeani (my roommie’s mother who we visited in Nigeria):



Isn’t she beautiful?

If I had to describe her in one word, it would be “amazing.” I know that is kind of a general term to use, but it is the most fitting, all-around descriptor. If I had to describe her in a lot of words, a few of them would be generous, hilarious, loving, kind, beautiful, hospitable, spicy (that one is in regards to her cooking :-D), and motherly. Also, she smells good.

It was an absolute joy and blessing to be in her home for 2.5 weeks. I felt cared for, thought of, protected and loved. I felt comfortable and relaxed. We laughed. We hugged. We talked. She fed me, housed me and lavished me with gifts. She told me she loved me. I cried when we parted.

There were several things I expected to come from this trip. Being blessed by the discovery of another mother who made me feel so well loved and cared for was not necessarily one of them, but it was a welcome surprise, indeed.

I thank God for this woman. (And for her daughter. But that’s a whole ‘nother post).

Thursday, November 4, 2010

African Ant Story (to be read "A frikin' Ant Story")

I have been irrationally afraid of ants ever since 5th grade.


Why, you ask? Well, allow me to tell you...


As I was going to bed one night, I happened to notice a large insect of some sort running along the edge of the bookshelf that sat on top of one of my dressers. The insect was so large and so grotesque I didn’t even know what it was at the time. At first I decided to just go to bed but I eventually decided I wouldn’t be able to fall asleep imagining this mutant bug running all over my room.


I got out of bed determined to kill it. I ran to the bathroom and grabbed approximately 18 Kleenexes (I am a firm believer that the level of disgust in squishing a bug is inversely proportional to the thickness of your barrier, hence the 18 Kleenexes for 1 unidentified intruder). I returned to my room, stared at the aberrant pest for a long time and worked up my bug-squashing courage. Finally, I raised my hand in preparation to strike and the tiny beast ran behind a Benadryl bottle on my bookshelf.


Not only was it ugly, but now it was hiding so that it could sneak back out under the cover of night and crawl all over me later.


It had to die.


I visualized my attack and ran through at least one “dry run” where I practiced picking up the Benadryl bottle (without actually picking it up) and striking with my other hand, just to get the timing down.


Finally, I was ready.


I snatched the bottle up with my right hand but before my left hand could go in for the strike, dozens of these Frankensteinian creatures began to flood off of my bookshelf. Dozens. Like, probably 50. Or more. They were running around like crazy, knocking into each other and falling off the face of the bookshelf onto the dresser below before making the final plunge over the edge of the dresser and onto the bedroom floor.


I ran to my bed screaming and curled up in the fetal position. Naturally.


Upon hearing my blood-curdling scream, my parents came running to my room (Literally. They both ran to my room) where they found me curled up in aforementioned fetal position screaming “Bugs!! Bugs everywhere!”


Only there were no bugs in sight.


I’m pretty sure my mother immediately started praying for her baby’s sanity while my dad started looking around the room trying to figure out what the heck I was talking about. I finally told him to pick something up and as he lifted another stationary item off of my bookshelf another hoard of six-legged creatures came flooding off my bookshelf.


It. Was. Disgusting.


Long story short (…or long, actually….) they were ginormous carpenter ants that were hyped up on a four-month sugar high. Earlier that summer, my cousin had given me a caramel apple sucker. I took one lick and decided I didn’t like it, so I put the wrapper back over the sucker and laid it on my bookshelf. And left if there. For four months.


And now the sucker was completely gone along with all of the pez in my pez dispensers.


And there were ants ev.er.y.where. Everywhere. Hundreds. Literally hundreds of ants. In my bedroom. Invading my personal space.


I didn't sleep in my room for two weeks and I have hated them ever since (particularly the large, fast ones. Sugar ants and other similarly-sized relatives never really bother me).


Now, to my credit, I will say that I have gotten over a lot of the revulsion I feel when I see ants. For example, when I was in Ecuador in ’03, I had the opportunity to eat lemon ants (little ants that live in logs and actually taste like real lemons. They run back and forth in a hollow little twig and you just stick your tongue in there, scoop up however many you can and eat them. Awesome.). At first I refused, but suddenly I was the only one in my group who hadn’t licked the lemon ants out of the communal log (yes, there were several disgusting things about the whole process) and the pressure was on. I finally worked up my courage, convincing myself that if I just lapped them up and swallowed really fast it wouldn’t really be that bad.


I stuck out my tongue, scooped up the ants and BAM! instant cotton mouth. I couldn’t swallow. Could. Not. Swallow. I could feel those little critters running all over my tongue and up the side of my cheeks.


Ants. In my mouth. Running around.


Have I mentioned that I hate ants?


Nevertheless, I ate them. I did eventually swallow. See how good I am at conquering my fears?!? And, in case you were wondering, they truly do taste like lemons. (But I would still rather just suck on an actual lemon. Pulp can't run up the insides of your cheeks).


Anywho, that is all back story. What I really want to tell you about is the (A)frickin’ ants in Nigeria.


I don’t know exactly how far into the trip I was…I had been in Nigeria long enough to be fully convinced that I loved being there, but that still only narrows it down to “sometime after the second day,” so that is not entirely helpful. Regardless, my deep level of enjoyment was a good buffer for me when I encountered The Ants.


It was another beautiful, relaxing, lazy morning in the Edeani house. I had already enjoyed my morning fare of fried plantains and hazelnut coffee while lounging in my pajamas and reading my book (have I mentioned yet that the trip was awesome?). At some point I moseyed my way back up to the bedroom and settled in to write for a while.


Eventually, whilst looking up from my journal to ponder a thought, I happened to notice an ant running along the top of my purse which was sitting on the desk not too far from the bed. The sight was not all too startling to me considering I had seen the occasional ant around the house and, naturally, it is buggier over there so that is too be expected. Nbd.


A little known fact about me is that I actually really enjoy watching bugs, especially if they are “working.” It fascinates me to think about what they think they are doing and what kinds of instincts lead them to do the tasks that they do. As a matter of fact, earlier that day when I was in the bathroom, I had watched in fascination as one ant came in under the door, scurried over to where 5 other ants were bustling about in what appeared to be random chaos, and then proceeded to turn directly around and lead them in a straight line down the wall and back out underneath the door where he had come from. It was almost as if those 5 had been told to wait there until their leader came back to get them. I could practically see them communicating with one another and then heading out on some sort of mission. I mean, they certainly looked like they were on a mission.


Ants. On a mission. On second thought, I didn’t like the sound of that.


I snapped back to the present time and glanced over at the ant…wait 3 ants…5 ants?!?!....running around the opening of my purse. 2 more ran up out of my purse while I was watching and joined them on the precipice. There were no ants anywhere else. Only on my purse.


Uh oh.


I took an instant mental inventory. It wasn’t long before “open pack of lifesavers” appeared on the list.


Enter 5th grade flashbacks.


Begin the pep talk.


“Okay, you can do this. You CAN do this. Just go over and look. Go see how many you can see. You have to do something. And you can’t just go get Chinwe. You are way too proud for that. They are ants for goodness sake. Just go look. You did this to yourself. Now fix it.”


I finally decided that dumping the entire contents of my purse onto the middle of the bedroom floor was the only way to 1) get an accurate assessment of the problem, and 2) convince myself there were no more ants in my purse. So that is what I did. I grabbed my purse by the tips of my fingers (imagine how you would grab a purse if it was on fire and you will get a pretty accurate mental picture) and proceeded to dump it as fast I could.


And then I froze.


I just stood there staring at my spilled purse guts while 13 ants ran around in a confused fury.


I would rather there not be any ants, but I will say that 13 is a LOT better than hundreds (thousands?).


It was at that precise moment when my roommate, with movie-script timing, decided to come upstairs to check on me and see what I was up to. What she found me “up to” was standing in the middle of the room holding a shaken-out purse and watching ants run around the pile near my feet. By the look on her face, I don’t think that is quite what she expected to find.


Needless to say, she set about quickly putting an end to the life of my purse ants while I stood there like a bumbling idiot trying to explain why she found me how she found me and trying to convince her that I had NOT been standing there like that for long (although it may have been ever-so-slightly longer than I was trying to make it seem...). Not only did she kill the ants for me, she even swept up the tiny debris - the kind of carpet-clinging debris that can only come from a shaken-out purse - while I went and threw away my partially-eaten lifesavers.


Moral of the story?


I hate African ants just as much as I hate American ants.


And I love my ant-killing roommie.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Somewhere

I have decided that is where I need to start.

Somewhere.

I have been on an unintentional blogging hiatus. I was already aware of this, but I was reminded of my blogging dearth last weekend when comments were made by four different people over the course of 24 hours.

Ok. I get it. I will blog.

My blogging paralysis is 60% due to my schedule over the past two months and 40% due to not knowing where to start with all the things I want to write about. Over the past ten weeks, I have spent a week in PA with my family, a long Labor Day weekend at the cabin with 20+ people, 2.5 weeks in Nigeria with my
roommie, a weekend in the cities for Desiring God’s national conference and a weekend in Chicago for an amazingly beautiful and meaningful “family” wedding. I also went to the state fair, had a dear friend visit and stay at my house for two weeks, read 8 books, watched 16 movies, heard Storyhill in concert twice and saw Wicked for the third time.

Simply put: there is a lot I want to blog about and I don’t know where to start.

So I’m just going to start somewhere. I am going to try not to stew over organizing it like I usually would. It may not even be chronological (if my psyche proves strong enough to withstand such disorganization).

In this case, I guess “somewhere” is one really long excuse.

Oh well. At least it can only get better from here.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I Am Who I Am

Earlier today, I made a list in my journal titled "Things to Think About."


It is 3 pages long.

It's been years since I took Myers Briggs, but I think I'm still an introvert...

Friday, August 20, 2010

Packing List

A few items from my list of "Things to Take to PN:"

  • 6 books. Over-ambitious, I know, but I like to have options. I think I need to hurry up and leave before I add any more books to the list.
  • 2 seasons of How I Met Your Mother. Again, over-ambitious (or is making a TV-watching goal, by definition, under-ambitious? I suppose it depends on your view of TV-viewing ). My sis has never seen it and I plan on laughing with her as much as possible.
  • Malaria pills. Because I leave for Nigeria in 19 DAYS!!!!!
  • My Flip-Video. Oh boy...this is going to be fun....but I'm not going to say anything about it until I return. :-)
  • My computer and a couple of old journals. I plan on FINISHING my Nurture Program application with the intention of starting in October when I get back from Nigeria. Praying for diligence on this one. Feel free to join me in that prayer.
  • A neck pillow. Because I work until midnight tonight and my flight leaves - LEAVES, as in takes-off-from-the-ground - at 0530 tomorrow morning. And I still need to finish packing. Brutal. I am setting three alarms.
  • Sweatpants and a long-sleeved T-shirt so I don't get myself in a situation where I would have to wear the slanket again.
  • A couple of piano books so I can enjoy the full-sized grand piano.
  • My appetite. Oh man, we eat so well when we're there.

Ok, so my appetite isn't actually on my list, but the amazing cooking is definitely one thing I am looking forward to. That, and the jet skis. And the sun. And all the Rook games. And teaching my mom another lesson. And morning devotions on the floating dock. And lazy days on the "party barge." And reading. And laughing. And dancing to Carole King. And Rita's. And executing our plan to make my other sister feel not-quite-so-bad that she can't come this year. And watching movies. And cuddling with my mama while we watch Law & Order. And listening to my dad sing while I play the piano. And hanging out with my extended family.

Can't wait!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

BWCA

Last week I had the privilege of spending 4 days in the BWCA (stands for Boundary Waters Canoe Area, although I think it should stand for Boundary Waters: Canoes & Awesomeness) with 5 amazing girls from Rochester.


Here is a summary of some of the highlights and lowlights from the trip.

Highlights:

  • Despite my body being riddled with mosquito bites, I was spared from getting any mosquito bites on my eyeballs thanks to Chinwe spraying highly concentrated DEET directly in my face at point-blank range. Love you too, roommie. :-)
  • I got to 2nd base with Rach on our first night in Ely. I don't think it was intentional but it sure was funny. (In her defense, she was genuinely looking for a "foot vent" on my sleeping bag. She just happened to be looking all. over. my sleeping bag).
  • Only having one set of clothes. The only clothing decision that needed to be made was "Do I wear my shirt or do I not wear my shirt." I consistently chose to wear my shirt. But I did ask once if I could not wear my pants. And the answer was no.
  • Napping in the hammock every afternoon.
  • The. most. amazing. stars. I. have. ever. seen.
  • Sleeping on an island.
  • "Sleeping in" until 6:30 one morning. It was accidental (we didn't wake up to the usual 5:30 alarm) but no one seemed to mind.
  • Crying as I cuddled with Rach beside a dying fire and realizing that although I was crying tears of sadness because I hate to see her leave, they were mingled with tears of profound gratefulness for years of friendship, meaningful memories and precious time spent together.
  • Singing silly songs with my canoe-mates while ignoring all warnings of the impending rocks. Oops.
  • Figuring out on the third night that my Thermarest sleeping pad actually has a valve you can open to let air in. This accomplished two things: 1) It actually helped keep me warm at night, and 2) It gave me more than a 2 cm barrier between myself and the rocky ground. Awesome.
  • Becoming "that group" that people envy on the portages due to the incredible efficiency we had developed by the last day.
  • Morning prayers with my canoe-mates.
  • Seeing all sorts of different strengths come out in my friends as we worked together, accomplished goals, encouraged one another, ate, played, canoed and just generally survived in the wilderness.
  • Eating better there than I eat at home (steak, fried potatoes, bacon, chicken fajitas, pancakes, pudding, etc.).
  • Mastering the independent canoe hoist.
  • Winning Nertz with a 5 card handicap. And a lisp.
  • No cell phones, computers, or any other technological "noise."
  • Wearing my pink and silver "Las Vegas" fanny pack (courtesy of Emily Lundberg) all over the boundary waters.
  • Breaking in my KEENS!!!!!! Holy buckets. I. Love. Those. Shoes. Wanna climb up the side of a sheer, wet rock cliff? Put your Keens on and I bet you'll get traction.
  • The surroundings. Obviously.

It. Was. Breathtakingly. Beautiful.

  • The amazingly yummy strawberry malt from the Ely custard shop.



Lowlights:

  • Waking up Thursday morning and feeling that all-too-familiar neck pain that has come and gone over the past 18 months. I was sufficiently worried that it would render me useless for a majority of the trip, but between snacking on Ibuprofen and keeping my muscles warmed up with all the activity we were doing, I actually managed pretty well. The really intense pain didn't start until the car ride home on Sunday and thankfully started to ease up a little this morning.
  • The mosquitoes seemed to be particularly attracted to my upper, inner thigh area which is a fairly awkward place to scratch. Thankfully, no one in the wilderness really cares that much.
  • The 170 rod (0.5 mile) portage. It would have been rough had it merely been a rocky 0.5 mile hike with a 52 lb canoe on my shoulders. Add in some massively tight shoulder muscles and an occasional-to-frequent sharp nerve pain starting in the shoulders and shooting up the neck and it was downright brutal.
  • Having to finish fajita #2 when I was probably already sufficiently full after fajita #1. But I asked for it. So I had to eat it. All of it. Because there is no garbage. And it was brutal.
  • Overdressing on the final afternoon (because I had been so, so, so cold the two prior nights and I didn't want to have to change again before bed) and getting overheated to the point that when I finally bit the bullet and began to disrobe, I asked in all seriousness if I had to wear pants while sitting in the tent playing cards with the girls. (The answer was yes. I had to wear pants.)
  • I. Was. So. Hot.

  • Cleaning up after the fried-potatoes-and-bacon meal and ending up with pitch. black. hands (from the potato skillet) and a ring of bacon grease in the wash bucket that measured appx 1.5 inches in height and 0.5 inches in depth. Gross.
  • Not seeing a moose.
Favorite:
  • Game: Throwing ropes over branches to string up our food at night. Or Wildlife Bingo which I may or may not have made up.
  • Moment: Leaning against a rock watching the sun set over the water that was lapping gently at my feet and listening to two dear women recite God's Word by memory while one of them played with my hair. I can not think of any way I could have possibly been happier in that moment. The only bad part was not being able to decide if I wanted to close my eyes because I was so at peace or keep them open to watch the golden sun set over the glassy water so I just kept opening and closing...opening...closing....
  • One-Liner: When we were on attempt #4 in looking for an acceptable food-bag tree, using our teamwork to throw ropes up in the light of our head-lamps and trying to keep our mosquito bites in the double-digits (fail) and I said that at any moment I was expecting a "leader" to come out and say, "Okay, you guys are doing great. Good teamwork. Keep trying to solve the puzzle, except now Jill is blind and Emily can't talk," to which Chinwe added, "And I have a lisp."
  • Bedtime cocktail: 600mg Ibuprofen and 50mg Benadryl.
  • Outfit: The one I brought.
  • Afternoon activity: Napping in the hammock (when hung at an appropriate height).
  • Picture:

The trip. was. amazing. And even if we hadn't had an amazing trip full of fun and laughter and beauty and teamwork and steak and meaningful memories, I think I would still go back just for the feeling of taking a shower and lying down in a warm, soft bed after 4 shower-less days in the wilderness and 4 nights of sleeping on the ground. That one single moment would have made it all worth it even if every. other. single. moment. hadn't already made it one of my favorite trips ever.

BWCA 2011 - Can't. Wait.

(More pics here if you're interested.)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

One Sad Tater

It is true that a few years ago I made a secret group with a couple of friends of mine, just like a bunch of 5th grade girls. And it is true that it was one of the first things that made me feel truly settled and at home in Rochester. And now it is true that I am the only tater left in town. Or in the state of Minnesota, for that matter.


I am so happy for my friends. I love seeing the different roads that God is taking them on and the amazing stories he is weaving from their lives. I am encouraged by their faith in God's leading and how they trust him in such a way that it gets them excited about things they might not otherwise be excited for. I am thankful for every precious moment I have had with them and I refuse to say "It wasn't enough," because every minute I have spent with them and every way I have been loved by them was nothing but an outpouring of blessing from above.

So I will be happy. I promise that tomorrow I will be happy. But for tonight, for just this one night, I am giving myself permission to be one sad little tater.

Love you, girlies.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Dear WORLD, You Can Do Better. Love, Eva

Disclaimer: I enjoy reading WORLD magazine. And to some degree, I hesitate to even write this post because for as much as I enjoy WORLD, I don't write about it very often (therefore I rarely say anything positive about it) but now that I got annoyed by one measly little article, I am going to post about it. So....take this for what it's worth.

That being said, I am really annoyed. And they need to be accountable for their stories - both the content and the writing - so I am going to critique it.

There is an article in the July 17, 2010 issue of WORLD about hosting foreign exchange students. The journalist apparently interviewed a (conservative Christian) family who has hosted several foreign exchange students to find out their motives for doing so and what rewards they have reaped from their experiences. The article also plugs a particular program that connects exchange students with families who are willing to host a student.

Here is the first excerpt that bugged me:
Since host families choose students based on website profiles, wise host families learn to read between the lines. Their German student turned out to be very independent and surprised when she discovered that the Odums expected her to obey a curfew and eat dinner with the family...In retrospect, Odum says maybe the girl was giving signals about her independent streak when she expressed on her profile a love of hip-hop music.

Stop. The. Train.

Are we still stereotyping people based on the kind of music they listen to?!?! That is soooo 1989. I thought we had moved on to much more advanced stereotypes that pitted the Christian t-shirt wearers against the Harry Potter readers and the homeschooling families against those who are secretly liberal. But hip-hop lovers vs. family dinner eaters? Puh-lease. We are way too mature for that.

Newsflash: Hip-hop is NOT the new independence and I can just about guarantee that the exchange student was not secretly hoping that you would pick up on her independent "signals" in her profile. Chances are actually pretty good that she simply likes hip-hop music. Period.

Gripe #2: The article ends with this quote from the Odums, in reference to their exchange students: "We try to keep them safe and love on them the best we can."

Love on them? Really?

Compare that sentence to this one: "We try to keep them safe and love them the best we can."

Do you notice the significant difference in meaning?

Me neither!!

So why do you add the extra word???

To my knowledge, people have been loving others since the beginning of time, but we have just begun to love on people in recent years. I do. not. understand what concept was sooo lacking in the idea of loving someone that necessitated this addition.

It doesn't change the meaning. It just sounds Christianese-y. And ridiculous. So don't use it.

$0.02

I love you, WORLD. You are a legitimate Christian news source with respectable journalism and high standards. And although I will continue to love you in your rare moments of poor writing and editing, I refuse to love on you because I know you can do better than that.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Tears for the Broken and Beautiful

Wow, this is powerful.


The pain, the brokenness, the hope, the truth, the beauty.

So many tears, I don't even know what some of them are for.

Most of them are for the hope.

(p.s. The video is not 10 minutes long. Only 4:30. Not sure why it says that.)


Cardboard Stories from The Austin Stone on Vimeo.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Day I Didn't Dance

There was a flash mob in Rochester tonight.

And I knew about it beforehand.

And I had the chance to participate in the flash mob.

But I didn't.

Because I had to work.

Now, you may not understand the severity of my disappointment, but let me assure you - I was dis.a.ppoint.ed. Being in a flash mob is absolutely, totally, positively on my bucket list and this may be the closest I ever come to being able to participate.

I got the details from a friend who was in it and was able to coordinate my dinner break at work so that I could go downtown and watch (which, I must admit, did not help at all with the whole "I really wish I could have done this" thing). Part of the montage included the song "I don't wanna work, I just wanna bang on my drum all day," and in that moment, I could not have agreed more. I didn't wanna work. I just wanted to jump into the mob and bang on my drum. Well, that might be where the analogy breaks down. But you get my point.

On the shuttle ride back to work, I was thinking about how very extremely bummed I was that I had to work today. Now, I want to be sure you understand that I LOVE my job. And 99.5% of the time, I love going to work. But, on a very rare occasion, I can get a little resentful about having to work. So far, in my four year medical career, those moments of resentment have been reserved for "days-that-my-grandmas-die" and "days-when-there-is-a-flash-mob-in-Rochester."

So, really, quite rare.

But today was one of those days and I was in a little bit of a foul mood after not dancing in the mob.



But then I went back to work.



Back to my sick little toddler who was all smiles and giggles; who has all kinds of nasty bugs roaming around in his bloodstream making him very, very sick; who was born prematurely and, through no fault of his own, lost almost all of his bowel to necrotizing enterocolitis and now needs a new gut; who developed severe liver failure secondary to the treatment he was receiving for his bowels and now needs a new liver as well; who loves tractors and trains and balls; who we are trying to keep healthy enough to get multiple major organs transplanted early next week; who wasn't wanted by his own mama; who lives with a foster mom that is one of the most amazing, loving caregivers I have ever worked with; who gets disconnected from all tubes, cords and treatments for three hours a day so he can "just be a kid." For three hours a day.

Back to work where I sat on the ground and played trains and tractors for an hour before my little buddy crawled up in my lap and asked me to rock him.

Back to work where his sick little body fit perfectly in the crook of my arm; where I rocked him to sleep and then rocked him for another hour just for good measure; where the weight of this precious boy felt so good in my lap; where his peaceful little snores rumbled comfortably against my chest; where I rocked, and rocked, and rocked.

Back to work where my resentment escaped with a soft little chuckle as I laid him down in his crib and watched him snuggle in with his elbows out and his hands folded behind his head, just like the old man he will probably never become.

I may not have danced today, but I still rocked, and that's good enough for me.

Visa Days

You know what I love even more than tape days?

VISA DAYS!!!

My Nigerian visa was granted today which means I am OFFICIALLY going to Nigeria in 55 days.

YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The first time I sent in my visa info, it was sent back to me with a whole checklist of things that had not been included (or HAD been included, but not in adequate form - for example, I needed a letter of invitation from my host and apparently the letter I sent in was not a letter it was "just a note." Hmm. Okay.).

So I called the consulate, clarified a few things (mostly about the difference between "notes" and "letters") and tried again.

When I got home from work last night, I had a slip from the post office saying I had a package to pick up from the Nigerian Consulate. When my first package came back, my roommate suspected that it had been rejected due to the speed with which it was returned. Well, this second package was just sent off last Tuesday and it was already returned by Wednesday morning, so I did not take that as a good sign.

I spent most of the night trying not to be hopeful. I actually had two different dreams where I opened up the package to discover that the visa had been granted (it looked different each time and neither one was what it actually ended up looking like) and by the time I awoke this morning, I was fairly convinced that I had to have gotten it, mostly because I could not figure out what else I could possibly do to meet the requirements. I actually scolded myself a little, thinking, "You are being SOOO optimistic. The paperwork was only at the consulate for 4 days. Visas don't get granted in 4 days. You better cool your jets or you are just going to be that-much-more disappointed if you didn't get it."

I drove to the post office hastily, waited impatiently in line and picked up my near-barren package which felt much, MUCH too light and non-bulky to have all of that returned paperwork in it. All I could feel was my lonely little passport.

Loneliness has never felt so good.

I tore open the package and found a visafied passport. My optimism was not misplaced after all!

That was the next-to-last piece that needed to fall into place. I am vaccinated, funded, visafied and ready to go.

Now all I have to do is rip up the rest of that paper-chain...

Tape Days

I love tape days.


Tape days are the days when the link I tear off of the paper-chain is the one that is taped to the mantle thereby causing a whole loop of links to fall.


Before





After



I feel like I countdown a whole 8 inches worth of time on tape days and it makes me feel oh-so-much closer to the greatly anticipated trip to Nigeria.


And then for at least another week, maybe more, I patiently persist in the slow, arduous climb back up the hanging loop.

But I am not going to think about those slow-progress days today.


Today is a tape day.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Cut Loose

I love stories. And music. And live performances of any sort (i.e. theater or sporting events).

So when a bunch of actors get together and tell a story through music, I am in my happy place.

I guess what I am trying to say is that I. Love. Musical. Theater.

Therefore, during weeks like this one when I get to go see TWO shows, I get pretty excited.

I went and saw Footloose at the Chanhassen with a few of my favs last night. It was fun. The last time I was at the Chan, Mr. "2-4-6-0-whaaaaaaaaaaan" ruined Les Mis for me forever, so I was a little wary about going back. I am happy to report that the music exceeded my expectations (which isn't saying a whole lot since I purposely set the bar about as low as it could go).

But really, it was good. I would even go so far as to say that the Chan redeemed itself last night. I was impressed not only with the quality of the performance (as compared to Les Mis) but also with the depth of the cast. The leads were decent, but the supporting roles were even more vocally impressive, so that was a huge plus.

I also enjoyed the fact that it was just a fun, laid-back musical to enjoy with fun, laid-back friends. By the time I got the theater I had already cried 5 times that day (can you say super-duper-hyper-emotional?!? That's unusual, even for me!). They weren't bad cries. They weren't even sad cries. Well, one was a sad cry, but it was in response to a situation on So You Think You Can Dance, so that probably qualifies more as "pathetic" than "sad." One was in response to an inspiring So You Think You Can Dance dance that I have already watched approximately 7 times, two were in response to inspiring blog posts about people overcoming tremendous obstacles in their lives and the last was while singing along to Les Mis on my way up to the Chan. Not sure why, but the music at one particular part of "At the End of the Day" gets me every single time. So, it was a nice break from my hyper-emotional self to just "cut loose" and enjoy a (mostly) light-hearted show.

Even better than the show itself was the company. Emily seemed to be a little worried that we wouldn't have anything to talk about at our table. I unknowingly averted that disaster by bringing along one of my new favorite books to read to my fellow table mates during halftime of the show. I am not entirely sure if my table mates were laughing at me, the book, the seamless segue with which I introduced the reading or the speed with which I hid the book when the waiter came around but, regardless, I guess I would consider the reading a complete success on all counts.

Now I get to look forward to seeing Into the Woods performed in somebody's backyard on Friday. I had never heard of the show before this past weekend, but a friend of mine gave me the soundtrack to listen to and I already love it! It was written by the same guy who did Wicked, so I guess I should have expected that.

What a great week.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

My Hitchcock Life

Some of you may know that my sister often refers to her "Seinfeld Life." What she means is that the sort of things that happen to her on a semi-regular basis could easily pass as Seinfeld episodes. And generally speaking, it's true.

Well, I have determined that I have a "Hitchcock" life.

It was Saturday morning, 4th of July weekend. The sun was shining, the air was cool and I was out for a lovely morning run along my usual running route. I was just about to hit the half-way point when I suddenly felt like there was something in my hair near the crown of my head. Before I had a chance to even think of what it might be, I heard a loud "CAW! CAW!" just above my left ear. I simultaneously ducked and turned my head to see a crow-sized bird grabbing at my hair with his dirty little claws.

At this point, I was both frightened and disgusted.

The crazed bird flew up to the telephone wire where it rested for about 5 seconds before it jumped off again, wings spread, dive-bombing straight for my head. I screamed, ducked and covered my head (elementary-school-tornado-drill style) until I peeked up to see the bird once again perched on the telephone wire, cawing angrily at me.

What. The. Heck.

It seemed that as long as I was facing the bird it was content to merely caw angrily from above, so I walked backwards to the corner (20 yards?) where I finally felt like I was a safe distance away to resume my run. I made it about three steps before I realized I had a severe case of post-adrenaline-rush-shaky-leg syndrome and I proceeded to walk the rest of the way home with a dirty I-just-had-a-bird-in-my-hair feeling. Ick.

I spent the entire walk thinking about that stupid bird. I could not figure out what I had done to provoke its attack. My first thought was maybe it wanted to make a nest out of my hair. My second thought was that maybe I had a worm in my hair. Realizing how irrational (although not entirely improbable) that thought was, I amended it to thinking there might be something that looked like a worm in my hair. Thirdly, I thought for a brief - or a not so brief - moment that maybe satan sent the bird.


(This is not the place to discuss my tendency to overspiritualize things, but up until that moment I was having one of the most intimate times of prayer and Scripture recitation that I have had in a long time and after the attack, I did not pray any more the rest of the way home. I just thought about the bird. This led me to think that maybe satan sent the bird to distract me. Turns out they actually just suck as creatures.)

I returned home having still not settled on a theory of what provoked the attack. I didn't even know what had attacked me. I did some research that afternoon and discovered the perpetrator was a red-winged blackbird. Here is a visual:


Apparently these birds are extremely territorial and fairly aggressive. They are known for attacking larger birds (including birds of prey and herons and, um, humans) that come into their nesting area. Also, they usually attack from behind.

Awesome.

Over the next few days I discovered 5 other people who had been dive-bombed by these birds in the past two weeks. I was very disappointed by this information. I was hoping my experience was just some freak thing which I could expect to never happen again. Instead, I found out it is just the nature of these birds to attack and apparently I run right through their nesting area.

Again: Awesome.

Fast forward to Tuesday morning. I was due for another run. I awoke that morning in a state of firm decision to not let one stupid little experience ruin my perfectly convenient summer running plan. I suited up and took off on my running route keeping an eye on the surrounding telephone wires. I walked about 30 steps before I spotted a red-winged blackbird perched high above at which point I promptly turned around and ran across the yard back to the house.

I stood in front of my garage for a solid 5 minutes in complete indecision about whether or not I could make it all the way around the 3-mile block with such paranoid fear weighing me down. I finally decided that if I didn't go that day, it could be weeks...months...summers....before I ran that path again and I refused to let a 3-ounce bird determine my ways.

So, I took off on my run. Again.

I quickly discovered three things on this run:

  1. Red-winged blackbirds are ev.er.y.where. Everywhere.
  2. Paranoia does not suit me well. I find it completely exhausting.
  3. It is hard to run in a straight line when you are looking backwards over your shoulder at a bird.

For the most part, things were going smoothly. Some of the birds were ignoring me. Some appeared to be indifferent to my presence. And the two that seemed to be cawing in my direction were avoided by a mere crossing of the street.

Before I knew it, I was back at Saturday's battle ground. I quickly scanned the telephone wires all the way to the corner and everything looked clear. Free at last! Maybe it was just a freak experience afterall!

Then, suddenly, out of nowhere, I see a red-winged blackbird flying straight down the path toward me, eye-level, wings extended, heading for my face.

My FACE!

(Oh, I should probably mention that in my research I also read that if you are attacked by these birds, the best thing to do is look them in the eye. I thought that was the most ridiculous thing ever. You can hardly even see a bird's eyes. Ok, back to the story.)

I got in my best fighting stance (picture high school wrestler at the beginning of a fight) and stared right into his beady little eyes and when he was a few yards away, he relented and swooped back up to the telephone wires. He rested for less than a second before taking a second dive at me, this time from above. I stood my ground, stared right at him, and off he went, back to his perch.

And then I ran away.

I started sprinting back up the hill in the direction I had come, half looking over my shoulder, half running backwards as I went. He dove a couple more times but never came too close.

At this point, I knew I wasn't going to make it through the gauntlet, so I took a detour through the nearby senior living center. I was ever-so-slightly on edge at this point since I was basically just running along the other side of the grassy marsh where this bird (and maybe others?) had his nest. My eyes have never scanned a field so quickly or so frequently.

At one point six red-winged blackbirds flew up out of the brush nearby. SIX! Seeing six of them together startled me as I began to realize how much more terrifying it would be if multiple males were trying to defend their territories at the same time. I began to wonder what a group of red-winged blackbirds would be called. My inner monologue went something like this:

Wow. Six of 'em. What would it be like to have six of them diving at you? What would you even tell people? "I was attacked by a - what - of red-winged blackbirds." A gaggle? No, that's geese. A herd? Nope, cows. Hmm.

Legion.

I was attacked by a legion of red-winged blackbirds.

That must be it.

I made it past the field unscathed and continued my run home. I am proud to say at this point I had not had any sort of an adrenaline rush whatsoever, even when I was staring at the bird while it flew right at me. I felt prepared for the standoff and I thought I handled him pretty well even though I did still run away. But not until after I stared him down twice. It was a Camp Lebanon tie.

I continued to remain extra-alert (and by "extra alert" I mean "at no point was I not watching the trees/telephone wires/sky/fields for red-winged blackbirds"). The few blackbirds I did see I simply kept my eye on until I felt like I was a safe distance past them. It was exhausting, but it was working. I was nearing the end of my run and I was proud of myself for using my stare-'em-in-the-eye knowledge to ward of further attacks, yet I was becoming increasingly annoyed by the exhaustion that comes from being super-uber-hyper-alert to anything that moves and from spending approximately half of my run looking over my shoulder to prevent an attack from behind.

At one point, I actually thought the exact words, "This is no way to live!" (mildly melodramatic, I know) and I finally decided to stop letting a 3-ounce bird ruin my morning run. That one bird obviously had his nests over in that one grassy corner of the block and now I was on the opposite corner and needn't worry abou-BAM!

Bird in my hair.

No lie. I was being dive-bombed. Again. I screamed. I ducked and covered my head. I thought "Are you bleepin' kidding me?!?!?" And I felt the zingy rush of adrenaline coursing through my body. Attacked from behind, startled, and once again feeling the dirty bird-in-my-hair feeling, I began to wonder if I would ever be able to feel safe outdoors again.

I have not run since.

And I hate red-winged blackbirds.

The End.

(My hair has been called a bee's nest, a bird's nest and a rat's nest. Last year I got a bee stuck in my hair. This year a bird tried to grab the hair right off my head. I am not looking forward to 2011.)