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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.