Sunday, December 19, 2010

Deeper and Wider.

People who return from being student missionaries for a year are always changed.

It seems to be dawning on me that the change comes from beginning a brand new life.  It's hard to say that you're beginning that life from scratch, because the new environment that you enter as an SM is actually abundant, in my opinion.  But it's abundant with what is foreign to you, because you've left home.  It feels like you're making a new life from scratch on the inside ... probably because our choices as individuals have never meant as much before.

As university students, we had a cafeteria and a dormitory.  So much of our lives were organized so we could focus on our studies.  And before college our parents took care of us while our siblings either sanded or heightened our rough edges.  :-)

Taking a year OFF from school part-way to be a student missionary is like taking a year of life ON early.  Life = of work, time off, play, relationships & rest.  School is a learning process we need - especially since our world has developed so much - but life in school isn't the life most people are living.

This year off from school isn't like a temporary internship for the career we're actually pursuing; not unless you're really lucky with where you got posted as an SM.  I think it's like a temporary internship for character.  Things get put into perspective.  What wasn't justly thrown at you finally falls off.  What you never should have taken on finally sheds.  I think these are the results of living in an environment of service.  In an environment of loving others with our actions and hopefully our words as well.  Love is a collection of choices, not feelings, and often ('seems like most of the time, the older I get...) those choices MUST be made regardless of the feeling at hand, or else it isn't love- it's of-self.

Love is patient.  It's not impatient.
Love is kind.  It's not mean or deliberately cruel.  It's being thoughtful of the feelings of others.
Love does not envy.  It's content vs. covetous for what others possess.
Love does not boast.  It's modest of heart and speech.  Not self-deprecating but modest.
Love is not proud.  It's humble.  Not self-loathing.  It looks into the eye of the other person and keeps the eyes of the heart fixed on Jesus Christ.
Love is polite.  It does not dishonor others, while still adhering to uncompromising truth.
Love is not self-seeking.  It doesn't not take care of itself (we are supposed to be temples for God's Holy Spirit), but it isn't myopically self-focused.
Love is not easily angered.  It doesn't not get angry, (even God gets angry) but it makes sure the journey to anger isn't rash; it pursues blamelessness.
Love keeps no record of [forgiven] wrongs.  Forgiving is like letting go of a heated rock[offense].  It's heavy and only burns you to keep carrying it.  Yes, it was handed to you but that's no reason to hurt yourself by hanging onto it.  Keeping no record of an unforgiven wrong is denial.  Make sure your heart is all on the table with God and then let Him help you clean the house of your heart.  Keeping no record of wrongs is a strength-building task because forgiving an offender doesn't change them even though it liberates you.
Love does not delight in evil.  So often, evil is veiled or sugar-coated.  Too often, evil is accepted as normal.  It's very difficult in our society to not delight in evil.  Especially when an evil means is supposed to justify an end.
Love rejoices with the truth.  Again, this is difficult.  The truth can hurt and is often ugly - not pleasing to the eye of the beholder.  Truth, these days (when there are so many "understandable" options around what is right), is harder to embrace than ever.  It has ramifications.  A key word that is helpful in carrying out this act of love is the word "rejoice."  Joy and happiness are not the same thing.  Happiness is more of a feeling.  Joy is a deeper, calming knowing that joins hands with God's peace that passes understanding.  We can trade our sorrows and shame for the joy of the Lord about the truth.
Love always protects.  It doesn't let someone get hurt when it could otherwise be prevented or averted.
Love always trusts.  This is tricky, because people are consistently untrustworthy.  Even your loved ones let you down.  When you love someone, they don't stop being human; disappointment on some level is inevitable.  So who do you always trust?  God.  God is the only one 100% capable of keeping promises and doing the impossible.
Love always hopes.  Another definition for hope is desire, I recently learned.  It's keeping the wanting - the thirst - alive in spite of soul-crushing circumstances.  It's always darkest before the dawn and God's love is more faithful than the morning.  Hope does not disappoint.  In Proverbs (somewhere - forgive me for not directly quoting) it says that hope deferred makes the heart sick.  But don't stop hoping.  God will attend to your wounds and in the end, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger - especially in matters of the heart.
Love always perseveres.  Perseverance is the carrier of hope.  Perseverance is done by choosing.  God made our choice a special creation.  He wanted creations who would love him back, not be obedient robots.  This allows for rejection of Him, which is extremely sad, but it also allows for eternal life which - when we get to Heaven - we will find out has been cheap enough indeed!  Our choice is a special creation because Satan cannot force our choice (but don't estimate how dirty he'll play) and God will not force our choice (but don't forget God will never give up on you, never leave nor forsake you).  I think that perseverance in all that love entails is why Love Never Fails.  If you employ your impregnable choice over and over in persevering alliance with what can never fail ... God's blessings can never be robbed from you.  Until we are in heaven, Satan will always try to bring us down - especially those of us who work to actively choose God - it's the result of the war on our souls; symptoms of the Great Controversy in the spiritual realm that we can't see with the eyes of our flesh.

Clearly, to love one another is a high standard.  It is not a joke.

There's a quote that says to shoot for the moon because even if you miss, you'll land among the stars.  Only God can love perfectly, but when we try to follow this standard (walking with God & listening for His specific guidance is necessary for the application in our individual situations), it changes us.  And when we're trying to follow this standard for a whole year because it's our job and because we chose this job (whatever you think of yourself, be encouraged: nobody trips & falls into the life of an SM; you made months of choices towards where you're at, God saw it all, still sees it and is with you, helping you), God nurtures and leads us to love others and to be transformed by His love working through us.  His Holy Spirit conveys what we can't put words to and intercedes for our needs in a language we could never grasp.

I think that - whether you have seen it yet or not - a very likely theme in every SM's experience is healing of a sort.  What I've come to learn about healing is that it's not the same as restoration.  Restoration is pure gift.  We don't have to work to receive it - it's grace.  Healing, on the other hand, is neither glorious or easy.  Healing requires active participation.  Healing is mundane.  Healing brings joy but not a steadily happy high (which isn't natural anyhow).  Healing isn't glamorous.  There's no euphoria in healing.  Sometimes the healing began because of a painful, spiritual operation on your heart that you couldn't even understand at first, making the first leg of your journey laborious like nothing you've ever known.  Being an SM can scrub off the crud from your soul.  For some that means you finally begin to value yourself more highly.  For others, it means an uncomfortable look in the mirror.  Being an SM can reopen wounds that never healed correctly so they can finally be ministered to.  I've discovered there's a wealth of ministry received as an SM in ministering.  Only by love is love awakened.  I never saw it coming that in being a student missionary I was entering a year of feeling more loved and laughing more often than I ever have in my life - and it's for exactly who I am; no one else.  Nobody tries to shove the square peg that I am into a round hole.  All this love & joy I've received came about because I'm working hard for people and for events that have nothing to do with me...!  Who knew, huh?  Being an SM can also call upon spiritual muscle that you've never exercised, making you sore at first but eventually stronger.  At the end of the healing journey, you start really living again.  And for many who've finally healed after a life-saving operation or after kicking a long-time disease, re-entering life has never been so sweet.  I think that's the event we see - the spark in ex-SMs' eyes - when they return from their post and pick up where they left off.

But you know what's really beautiful?  Your SM post isn't a laboratory.  It's a real part of the world.  The people you bond with are real people.  It's not like the Pevensie children in C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia who have to leave at the end of each story and have no control over whether or when they can return to that beloved country.  Our lives are deeper and wider because of our year of service.  Because of our year of aspiring to love.  Love always leaves a mark.  It isn't a small world after all.  We return home to the friends we miss having made new friends to drive us through "the missing experience" all over again, but the pain of temporary parting is only the poignant piercing that we have such wonderful people to miss - that we have been enriched so greatly.

So I invite any SMs who are reading this to think about how God has been healing you and enriching you this year.  I invite you to pray and ask Him to reveal what He's been doing in your life.  Even if you feel you've already got a handle, with God there's always more to know and more love of His to feel - infinitely more :-)  It's the Christmas season and we're away from our families.  Ask God to bring His love and His glowing intentions home to your heart for Christmas; it's a joy that surpasses all others and a joy that cannot be taken from you.  I got the idea to also ask God to make me into a Christmas present back to Him (since He gave it all up for me) and see where that leads.  It's one of the many ideas I've had in how to make my Christmas unique, since it's my first away from home & family.

God loves to give good gifts.  Love is never out of season, but other things often are.  If you feel like something you want isn't happening or coming to you at the time you'd like, remember God loves to give GOOD gifts.  He wants the timing and the ripening to be perfect so that it will be sweet - so that you will feel it everywhere, once it's yours - if indeed you're meant to have it.  But a prayer request God always answers YES to is when you ask Him to reveal more of His heart to you.  And He never tires of responding over and over and over again.  I'm praying that all of you experience something beautiful with Jesus during this unique time.

To any fellow SMs who are reading this - and to the rest of you - I wish a Merry Happy Christmas!

With love,


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Baby Steps & Migraines...

Today in Toddler Club we had a craft.
We don't always, but lately we've been having them more & more.

When I first started helping with Toddler Club I didn't feel comfortable at all.  A great deal of it might have had to do with my steady mood at the time (which as you read in an earlier blog was pretty low in the first several weeks, underneath the surface), but it's true of me - good mood or not - that I'm not a natural with toddlers (babies are different) unless I know them to a degree.  For the past 2 months, I've been more of a behind-the-scenes helper; I don't "speak toddler."  I've been getting more & more comfortable with my life here and with Toddler Club and today our craft was making future Christmas ornaments out of salt/flour/water dough rolled flat and cut into shapes.

There have been other crafts I helped out with.  But today was different.
There was no discomfort in leaving the kitchen and approaching the table where mothers were helping their little ones add flour to the extra sticky dough and then pound, roll or pat the dough flat.  :-)  I helped a little girl named May make 3 future ornaments; a flower, a star and a musical note.  I taught her how to pat it flat (we didn't use a rolling pin) and then led her over to the counter where I put her ornaments, one by one, onto the tray.  I asked her if she wanted to see her work on the tray.  She nodded and I picked her up & set her on my hip and made a fun fuss over her while I wrote her name next to each of her ornaments on the oven paper in the pan (I don't know the proper name for what I call the "oven paper" - oh well).  May.  May.  May!  Yay!  :-)

I felt part of Toddler Club today in a way that was more than helpful.
It was a baby step forward and I was really happy about it - still am.  :-)

And then came a huge surprise!

There's a little girl named Zoe whom I have adored since I met her when I first got here.  It's been one-sided.  She's one of the prettiest toddlers I've ever seen, very charismatic, very attached to her mother and very picky.  You feel special if she likes you :-)  For the past 2.5 months that I've been here, she's looked at me with a blank expression and turned away.  I've only ever seen her smile at other people.

But today... WOW.

Today, Zoe recognized me for the first time and smiled at me without quitting!  When Toddler Club was over and we were cleaning up, I tried picking her up and she loved it!  Her mom went to go & pick her older sister up from preschool and when I set Zoe down and turned my back to help put toys away, I heard her start to cry and whipped around to see if she'd hurt herself.  No.  She just didn't want me to put her down!  I was in blissful shock for the next 45 minutes!  When her mother (Anne) got back, we basically switched roles and I kept asking, "Are you sure this is the same baby??"  Anne herself couldn't believe it when she picked up Zoe and asked if she wanted to come back to me.  Zoe actually wanted me back!!  I was invited to babysit anytime,  LOL :D  As long as Zoe was perched on my hip, she was totally happy - I managed to still help pick up/drag big toys over to "the loading area" right outside the closet door where they belong.  Whenever I put her down, she cried and came over and grabbed my legs and reached her arms up for me to hold her.  WOW.  WOW.  WOW.  Twice, from a distance, she actually ran to me with open arms!  (The way toddlers run[bob] is so adorable!!)  When she did that it was SO much fun to lift her up high and then dip her low & backwards & blow raspberries against her tummy.  I'm still kind of in shock.  I hope this "new Zoe" is for real and lasts over the next few days so I can get a picture of the two of us the way we were this morning!  

Honestly, it felt like a miracle.  :-)


Last night was my fourth migraine since arriving here.  I only get usually 1-2 migraines PER YEAR and yet last night was my fourth in a 3 month time frame.  Yikes, right?

Migraines always feel like the end of the world - they feel like nothing is more painful.  And when they're over, there's not a more refreshed feeling you'll find.

I only get migraines because of stress letdown.  Once an ordeal has passed (of whatever nature) that was truly stressful enough, I'll get a migraine.  Now, this is my first year NOT in school since I can remember.  I've been in school my whole life.  And ironically, my former years had sleeping habits and eating habits that were unhealthier and undisciplined versus now.  Yet now, the migraines are piling up.  Beforehand, I had less personal peace and way less time to assess my life (past & present).  Yet now, the migraines are piling up.  There's a blood vessel on the back left side of my skull that comes right around to the middle of my forehead, and when some new major stress relief happens: migraine.

But you know what?  I've found a silver-lining - even more than that - a golden BLESSING in these migraines!  My burdens have practically stretched me in half.  When one is released, I go "boing!" like a coiled spring released.  Funny, because crying in Pilgrim's Progress is described as, "the springs in her head were loosed."  Except that stress-release doesn't automatically entail crying and the springs loosed in my head are streams of stress, which utter their dying screech in the form of my throbbing left blood vessel.  A gut feeling suggested double-checking the differences between right-brained & left-brained people.  So I did.  And btw, when I tested for this originally, I was pretty 50-50 between the two but more of a lefty...

Left Brained
Looks at parts

Right Brained
Looks at wholes

Both sets of descriptions describe me.  But I think a lot of my inner conflict (melancholy-sanguine, go figure) has come from these traits warring with each other.  When I was little, my mom always called me "her sunshine."  Yet, no sooner than after turning 13, I was picking up way more left-brained traits as coping mechanisms with what was hard, painful & unfair about life & relationships.  Hence the conflict.  I was a right-brained toddler and grew up into a well-meaning but conflicted young woman who people know as gifted, loving & forgiving but equally capable of intense vitriol & mistrust.

Since coming here to England, I've been healing so much from more than just what was recent.  I've been understanding and growing so much more.  I think that these migraines are my body's way of communicating that the excess of left-brained traits are sloughing off more & more as I return more to the design God had for me.  The changes in my heart make me feel both unfamiliar & like I've come home.  So funny how those two can cohabit, but they can.  It's as if I'm becoming someone I've always known I truly am, but I haven't seen her in ages - I've been grasping on to so much that I thought I needed to for far too long. 

But now I'm learning to let go of very old possessions & attachments and turn life-changing corners.  I'm more willing to embrace mystery outside my comfort zone.  I'm learning to trust God more steadily and keep going forward whether it's on a high plane, lower in the daily mundane, or in a random lull.

In the thick of my left-brained way of life, I never would have thought NOW would be possible.  

Now, I don't look forward to the next migraine.  I am not a masochist by any means.  
I wish there could be another way that was less painful and debilitating for my body to communicate stress letdown to me, but if another one happens, I can remember that it's like I'm living the Bible verse & song lyric that say: 

"Tears may endure for the night, but joy cometh in the morning ... I'm trading my sorrows & shame for the joy of the Lord."  

God is SO good.  Amen and amen.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


I came here to England to be a student missionary.  To serve.  To fill the cups of others.

I came here to England feeling like I had a cup so empty it was dry, but determined to do my best.

August 20, 2010 - November 4, 2010 = my own cup is so full it's quietly & steadily overflowing.

God's miracles have a unique, artistry about them...  life here wouldn't come across as glamorous, but I feel like a jar of clay that's been crushed for God's glory to shine through the cracks but not broken.  I feel like I'm the one that has been deeply ministered to, even though I've been a busy bee since September began.  Ministered to by the people here and by God in the times I've had alone with Him.

Every other Sunday, I help with the Pathfinder club from 10AM-12pm, doing whatever they decide to ask of me.  One Sunday had a Pat's Sale and it was unbelievably busy.  Another one had a waitressing gig for a dinner that filled up the Cedar/Sycamore room more than I thought possible.  We used all the nice dishes and we almost emptied the china cabinet.  Cleanup took 3 hours.

Every single Monday, I'm assigned a Bible study with a little girl who's supposedly too young to be baptized, but wanted to start getting ready.  There's a special curriculum that we go through and through the few times we've met, I've been falling in love with God as my Abba all over again.  I'm only 21, but this little girl made ME feel old when I asked her the assigned question, "What is your favorite thing from this lesson" and she answered, "that we can trust God."  I felt old because I envied her innocence - how easily childlike trust comes to her.  It made me realize that life has done things to me and yet how God has brought me through with my faith intact and still growing, by some miracle...

Every other Monday, I help with Senior Club, which meets from 2-4pm.  Sara and I go down at 1pm to help them set up chairs and get all the teacups & cake ready.  From 2-3, they have a speaker or some sort of live entertainment.  At 3:00 we help pass out tea, coffee & cake on trays.  From 3-4 they do interactive things.  This Monday we had Senior Club and their interactive activity was a quiz - we only had time for 2 categories: Art & Literature (+) Entertainment.  I've been falling in love with older people since Senior Club first started up again in September, but this week I saw a bunch of forever young and sparkly people who had simply lived long enough that their bodies couldn't keep up with their souls.  I had a ball and my heart was uplifted.  We were all laughing and chattering and it was such a fabulous afternoon!  I felt an infusion of hope - no matter what life throws at me, by my free will and God's grace, it will not have the last say, and in heaven it will have NO say whatsoever.  In heaven, there won't be any more pain or tears.  Only joy.  Only love.  Forever.

Every single Tuesday night since a-date-I-can't-instantly-remember-in-September, we've had Tuesday Talks.  Sara and I go downstairs at 5:30pm to help set the tables (6-7 tables with 8 people per table = approximately 48-56 people) and prepare the light meal.  By 7PM we're helping serve it, we eat our own before desert and then put desert out.  Right before 8:00 everyone who came, not just the people on staff, gets together to clean up and put the dinner chairs into rows where we sit and listen to the Tuesday Talk. At 8:00 there's the opening announcements & theme song (Above All), a special music and our speaker Pastor Boyle, who is Irish and quite the character.  He gives the most wonderful talks, and then says things away from the pulpit that make your jaw drop (or eyebrows pop off) but he's a good egg.  No one like him.  :-)  Since I was little, I've known-of and experienced actual pastors (or just preachy people) who live a double standard.  Those people cause pain or they make you sick or do a combination of both in some sort of succession.  It's one of the oldest categories in history that some people "may know all the right answers but have a heart that is no pilgrim at all."  Pastor Boyle is unlike anyone I've ever met, which was refreshing to begin with, AND he's not a double standard.

Every Wednesday is my day off.  Most of the time I spend the day "in" which doesn't signify boredom at all.  I have chatterbox capacities, but I'm still an introvert with introverted needs who has all the appearance of being an extrovert.  On Wednesdays I sleep a little extra, read in books, journal, listen to audiobooks (or sermons/seminars online) and watch movies or TV episodes on my laptop.  I'm a student missionary but I'm a 21 year old female, and I do have a definite media intake - no smoke screen.  Sometimes Wednesday evenings I spend time with Sara or with another one of my friends here and sometimes it's a day all in.

Yesterday was a Wednesday and it was unique: my friends Dennis & Diane (both recently retired) took me to Windsor Castle for the day - it was a complete treat, not to mention they're one of the most precious couples I've ever met.  Dennis and I are both speak quite quickly in general and have a great deal of sanguine.  Diane is more laid back but just as friendly and incredibly sweet with a good sense of humor.  Dennis and I are both the sort to joyfully show affection for any loved ones nearby.  I was taking pictures of them on a park bench when we'd finally finished our tour and I said, "I have something kind of inappropriate to ask you - will you give her a kiss for the picture?"  Dennis piped up that there was nothing inappropriate about that and turned a fast 90ยบ to kiss Diane soundly like it was one of his favorite things to do in life.  :D  Being around people for whom love & life is so simple has drained out so much of my unnecessary speculative thinking and has replaced it with a sweet calm (thank you Jesus) that doesn't need to think as much or as hard about life.

Thursdays I've already blogged about.  Thursdays are Sara's day off and my day on my own.  Last week was half-term break and for some reason that affected our bookings and my Thursday was as empty as a Wednesday!  Today it's back to normal and I returned to it with renewed energy and zest to wrestle my responsibilities to the ground and show them who's boss with a smile on my face.  I still (and always will) pray before Thursdays start.  Depending on God when things were especially hard at first is just as constant (or more as I adopt it?) now, except it's less of a choice from need and more of a choice because I'm mellowing into seeing that life is better this way.  I'm 21 years old and still single, so there was a time when my relationship with God had the theme of Him filling in the blanks for my nonexistent boyfriends, not to mention Him healing the wounds of the handful of guys I fell in love with who were each a painful "swing and a miss."  Before that, I was just getting to know God personally which was different than in theology and routine.  Now, I feel like my personal relationship with God has taken on the theme of embracing Him as the Heavenly Father He's always been - my Abba.  Daddy.  Most of the time I call Him Abba when I'm journaling these days.  I think it's because He's stretching me to live a life bigger than the majority of women I see around me who date and get married while I'm not.  It's as liberating as it is initially painful, and I'm experiencing more steadfast - not pendulum - gratitude than I ever have in my life.  Thursdays it's the two of Us, taking everything on and doing it better and more efficiently than the week before.  I love Us.

Fridays tend to be quiet for the most part (there are booked rooms to set up & take down nearly every day of the week - those are a given; what I've written about are the interpersonal jobs vs. the ever-present chairs, tables & hot drinks).  In the evenings, we set up chairs for YU (Youth Unite), which is basically teen vespers.  When YU is done, we set up the chairs (except for 1x a month) for Parallel Service the next day as well - that fills up the whole room.  YU starts at 7:30 and is usually done before 8:30, but if it's a creative vs. guest speaker format, it can go past 8:30.  There's an opening prayer, ice breaker & speaker.  Short & sweet.  Whether we have a big or small group, I think each Friday night is special.

Sabbaths are rarely restful.  Sabbaths are the busiest, buzzing days of the whole week.  Yet I feel like God's Holy Spirit comes extra close to those of us working behind the scenes to make the worship services happen so that there's a gracing of restfulness inside of us on this seventh day when we're doing so much.  There's fellowship after the main service and it's sweeter and more mellow vs. fellowship during any other time of the week, because Friday happened, their own Sabbath has arrived and the next day isn't Monday or Thursday: it's Sunday - they can still breathe easy for a little longer.  It's like their experience of Sabbath still hops onto us like a good germ, somehow.  Sorry, 'can't think of another metaphor right now...  Some Sabbaths have an afternoon event, some Sabbaths we go to someone's home for lunch and a quiet afternoon of just hanging out and other times we just stay in.

Saturday nights are usually full of socials.  Most of the time it's a social for the teens, once a month is a social for the young adults and once a month there's a free Saturday night: no social.  There are sometimes lots of people, sometimes a medium group and sometimes less than 5 who show up.  Last Saturday night we had only a few kids show up, but we turned on music and had a fantastic time carving pumpkins, which I haven't done since I was VERY young.  And you know what?  We had a ball!  Most socials consist of buying juice & pizza after the sun goes down (since social doesn't start 'til 7:30 but sunset is between 5-6pm) and picking an appropriate movie to watch as a group in the flat (when lots of kids show up, the flat feels so big when it's packed...).  Other times, we play games whether it's video games or interactive games like Uno, poker or ping pong (yes, poker happens).


When I first arrived, like I said earlier, my cup felt so empty I thought it felt dry.  I didn't feel a genuine smile from the inside out for the first 2 weeks.  I've traveled all over the world: culture shock wasn't the issue, so much as the shock of being in a brand new place with NO familiar faces.  Utter newness.  On top of that, my heart was still very invested in several people who were already in my life and none of those situations were easy ones.  I'd laugh when I watched sitcoms or when someone did something funny, but I didn't feel like I'd laughed out loud because there was joy actually inside of me until 2 weeks ago, and I remember it because right after I let out the laughter I felt shocked and heartwarmed all at once: I was laughing again.  I was coming alive again.  I was getting my heart back.

My first plan (as a future student missionary) was to be a student dean at a private academy somewhere.  It wasn't a bad idea, but I'm so glad that Japhet de Oliveira though I'd be bored doing that and got me over here instead.  I'm pretty sure that I was experiencing burnout at the end of my spring semester, 6 months ago.  I turned in my last two big papers after graduation because I had one teacher who was more than kind and another one who offered to fill out an incomplete for me so that I wouldn't fail his class.  The day those two professors were supposed to turn in grades, I was ready to just let myself be screwed to the wall for not finishing.  I don't know how they did it, but both of them got ahold of my mother's cell number and got my cell number and called me.  I cranked out the shorter paper just before the deadline for one teacher (I'll never understand what makes some teachers believe in me the way some of them have), and the other professor filled out an incomplete for me that gave me until May 13 - a Thursday - (yes I remember the date because I cried like a baby when I FINALLY FINISHED) to complete my first 10-11 page exegesis.  Yikes.  I never found out exactly what my grade on that specific paper was, but I passed the class and have never been more grateful for a "C" in my life.

God knew I needed to NOT be in a school environment, even if it was just as a student dean.  I've been able to take stock of my life here with the different place, different pace and brand new faces (outside of Facebook).  I've been able to not just look at what's happened in my life recently, but what's happened in my whole life.

God knew it would be good to work in a church.  I have always gone to church.  Some experiences shoved me through the ordeal that made me realize I love God more than I love the church and THEREFORE I stay in the church because it's His body and made up of all His children, lost and found alike.

God knew I needed the healing of being removed from my old environment, despite the MANY loved ones that ARE still in the place I'm going to return to in 2011.  Here there is new air to breathe, new food to feed upon, a cleansed and adjusted perspective.  Here, there is so much more rest than I've known for being in school STRAIGHT for the first two decades of my life.  I joke to people who ask if I'm being overworked that being in school vs. being here is like having an electric cattle prod to my brain 24/7.  I love it here.  I don't feel overworked at all.  I'm the student missionary, yet I feel so ministered to that it makes me want to cry when I allow it to sink in (since actually full-on crying as often as the inspiration comes to a crier is not efficient or appropriate).

God knew that I needed the rebuilding and strengthening of being in a mini-sized situation that resembles real life vs. being in school.  No more tests or grading.  It's about serving, helping and loving.  Sometimes I have to go into a situation, grit my teeth against the stone in my chest and pray, "God I don't want to be here, so I really need Your grace to get me through it without depressing other people" whereas other times I feel like jitter-bugging through my day!

I don't have much of an ending for this blog.  I didn't even plan to BE blogging; my fingers sort of blurted this out when what my plan had been to type 2 lines saying that I'd blog soon,  LOL :-)

And maybe this is appropriate - reflective of how God's getting me out of my old cycles & pendulum swings; not everything has a perfect ending or taper - it just goes on.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Communion Sabbath

Today was my first Communion Sabbath at Stanborough Park Church.

During the foot-washing, after Dejan's sermon (from which I've included my notes at the bottom), I was helping Deana to sing some children's songs after her children's story, so I didn't participate in the foot-washing this time around, though I did partake of communion.  After everyone had returned to the sanctuary, I sang Chris Rice's "Untitled Hymn/Come to Jesus" and the bread and juice were passed out.

I very much appreciated some of the little differences...

Deacons in black suits came to the platform and were given actual metal trays with wooden handles containing the bread/body of Christ - not wicker baskets with a paper towel inside to service as a lining of sorts.  They were certainly divisible and small portions, but they didn't look like they'd encountered a cookie-cutter.  When it was time for the juice/blood of Christ, similar trays with little holes for the cups were brought.  I was absolutely stunned when I realized I was holding an itty bitty cup made of actual glass that would later be washed and dried - not disposable plastic.  These nicely made, quality trays all stacked on top of each other beautifully and were pleasing to the eye, though not ornate.  I didn't notice until we'd finished communion in what detail the communion items had been covered.  Basic white cloth covered everything (there were even smaller wooden trays for the people on the platform, btw) and on top of the larger trays that stacked was a special white cloth that had stitching of a cross and what looked like lace on the edges.  Afterwards, it was carefully and symmetrically placed once again over the trays - the most beautiful and obvious covering for what had held the symbolic body & blood of Christ for Communion...

I've been somewhat of a snob.

When I first came to Stanborough Park Church, I genuinely did go on about how wonderful the people were and that was a distraction from culture shock about the church itself.  I grew up in Pioneer Memorial Church.  Everything there is very shiny and modern-looking; parts of it are almost impersonal and sterile compared to Stanborough Park Church.  I love PMC.  I grew up there - it's home for me, and there's a great deal I love about it, but right now I'm talking about Stanborough Park Church and not one place in this world is 100% perfect.  Stanborough Park Church isn't like PMC.  The colors aren't the same and the furniture isn't as new.  But you know what?  I've gotten over myself.  I love it here.  This place is a blessing.  I feel like I'm in a real, lived-in church where people throw themselves into what needs doing.  It has edges and textures.  It is very human, and for being so human (though no place is free of cliques or sinful nature) it's almost as if the Holy Spirit is more welcome.  Aspects of PMC are very perfectionistic and make one feel as if one's happy face & shiny shoes must be worn to church or else don't come - stay at home.

And at the same time, you'd think that a big church like PMC could afford to invest in more quality instruments of delivery for Communion, considering what the ceremony and symbols are all about.  And since PMC is such a big church, you'd think that there'd be more than enough people to pitch in and do the tad bit extra kitchen duty necessary to clean the small utensils so they're ready the next time we gather to remember with Jesus Christ the Son of God did for us out of love that we still had the option to spurn.  I've been amazed, humbled, and inspired to keep growing at how willing people are to just pitch in and help until a job is done; I don't hear fussing about who did it last time or why one person's hard week makes them exempt of getting their hands dirty.

Every church has its own set of issues and shortcomings, but they appropriately pale when people come as they are, come together, commune - not just on Communion Sabbath - over getting closer to God and bringing the Good News of Him to the world ... when we contribute a little more (or a lot more) to times of spiritual ceremony even if it means other things come up a little short for a time - what we give to God and to each other is never short, but filled to overflowing.  That's what God wants!  We, the church, are supposed to be God's body.  Sometimes it seems like church is a fabulous-looking, stylish made-up and manicured woman on the outside with unaddressed or even undiagnosed diseases on the inside.  I know that seems harsh, but I don't feel I'm exaggerating, I really don't.  Today, church was like being around a healthy, happy woman whose heart was in love with the One who loves her most and who had a spirit of peace and joy - church was beautiful and my heart was restored by being in it and part of it.  She wouldn't have been asked to be on a magazine cover, but I'll bet Leonardo da Vinci would have wanted to paint her portrait and she would have been a runner-up to the Mona Lisa for the inexpressible and unforgettable expression on her face.

That was church today, for me.


(Notes from today's sermon)
"Not a Fan" by Dejan Stojkovic
October 9, 2010 - Stanborough Park Church
Communion Sabbath

Luke 9:23: "Then he (Jesus) said to them all: 'If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.'" (NIV)

The time to define the relationship is a very awkward time; it's when most people run.
Defining the relationship is hard.

Selfish people like free relationships because you get everything you want from the other person, but not everything that person has to offer.

Jesus wasn't interested in fans, but in FOLLOWERS.

Dejan shared a story of someone who wanted to leave the church because he didn't like his preaching.  Dejan called him about it (natural course of action) and the man said, "Every time you preach, I feel like you're trying to interfere with my life."

Dejan joked but was also serious about the part of Jesus that is "slightly Serbian" --

"He came to practically kill our lives so He could give us brand new ones."

There are very few material things that are comfortable about following Jesus.

Prosperity evangelism is wrong.  Being poor doesn't mean something's wrong with you.

Is your relationship with Jesus because of convenience or commitment?

He mentioned a new group of people known as "Flexitarians" - they define themselves as vegetarians who occasionally eat meat.  (?????)  (For the record, I - Chloe - love my vegetables, but after today, I'm extra glad I've always called myself an omnivore!)

A mistake parents make: Bringing up your children in the church, but not in Jesus.  (When it's the former, but not the latter, it sadly doesn't matter if you do everything possible for your child via church & Sabbath school.  Children can't have salvation or heaven through their parents.)

We seem to want to make nice gentlemen and ladies of the church rather than rebels who will live and burn for Jesus Christ.

Is Jesus one of many to you?  Or is He the One and Only?

Communion can be a time of change, a time of decisions, a time of commitment.

What about you make a small commitment today?  (That one struck me - Chloe - as special: I think we've begun to strike down commitments as being of no value just because they're not big - the little bits add up - I liked the thought of making & keeping one small commitment at a time...)

Churches can change from a group of people who gather every Sabbath to a group of people who will do anything for their Savior.


Happy Sabbath.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Afternoon Tea = POOF! A New Respect for Waitresses

So...  Today at 1pm I knew Sara and I had agreed to help Pat with "Afternoon Tea" (scheduled from 3-4:30 PM) but I had no idea something that sounded so quiet would wind up being so boisterous - at least it felt that way for those of us on the servicing end of things...  Fridays in general are kind of quiet, so it came out of nowhere that I wound up being busily on my feet for 5 hours straight.

A woman named Angela (new acquaintance as of today) helped me get 12 square tables out of the closet in the Cedar/Sycamore room (that's the title of the big room that gets used the most, btw; it has a divider to be used when necessary) and put 4 chairs at each table, i.e. for 48 people.  Then we covered them with paper table cloth (much easier to clean up, btw), a single rose & table number in a vase at the center of each one, menus, advertisements for a sale on Sunday, plates, utensils, teacups & saucers.  And then we went into the kitchen to prepare sandwiches & plates of various cake slices.  So much around here is either buffet or cafeteria style (they get up w/ their empty plate & we serve the line until they've all gotten dinner) that I was completely surprised when Pat told me I was going to be her only waitress and handed me a small notebook & pen.  Luckily, Sara was able to join me about 15-20 minutes later from another job (we'd been accidentally double-booked) but even though Sara, Pat and I were all taking people's orders and adding up the totals (it was a cancer foundation benefit, apparently) it was a perfect beehive.  However, something happens to me in events like this: I switch into a mode where I'm practically a robot for whatever needs doing - personal thoughts or taking anything personal isn't an option; it's not even on my mind to realize it's not an option!  This robot state of mine has developed as a nifty side effect of "baptism by fire"/being dropped in the deep end (as a friend here put it when he assigned me two extensive/big responsibilities for Parallel Service 2 Sabbaths in a row during my very first month here) in regard to what is expected of me as a student missionary.  It certainly makes the time fly...

Before I knew it, things were winding down and I was amazed I'd been on my feet for 4 solid hours without realizing it.  The kitchen was a perfect mess and we were still clearing the tables of all their trappings & dirty dishes.  But when people leave and it's just cleanup time - that's actually becoming my favorite.  The frenzy is dead and what's ahead is predictable: perpetual whirring morphs into constant, steady movement of either vacuuming, one of a myriad tasks to do with dishes, packaging food or something else that I'm possibly forgetting.  There's so much to do for cleanup purposes when these events are over that it's actually easier than something less hectic.  That may sound confusing, but let me explain: if the event was less busy or massive, there would be less to do and less of a mess, so there would be lulls in the process here & there.  Whereas, after events like this, a random cluster of people band together in this remarkable spirit of teamwork and since the mess is so obvious and extensive, everyone just does what needs doing without stopping and for you realize it, everything's been taken care of and the kitchen is serene.

But in closing, I'll revisit the title: a new respect for waitresses: seriously, during the first 5 minutes I was scared to death that I wouldn't write things fast enough, that I'd mess up details or forget them or whatever.   I slowed down a tiny bit and just kept breathing in & out and putting one foot in front of the other.  The more people's orders I took, delivered and the more bills I totaled, collected & gave change for, the less scared I felt.  But it didn't feel like it was something I always knew how to do; it took a stretching - I'm grateful for my robot mode because in retrospect if I was in any sort of a personal mode, I would have freaked out for sure.  It was my first and comparatively brief stint as a waitress, but I felt like I learned skills of a bigger comfort zone than I previously had and that it happened very quickly.

Waitresses are my new heroes.  They keep their cool, rapidly take down large orders in what must be an unbelievable shorthand and manage to do it with a smile, calling you "Honey" as they do so, whether you're a good customer or a jerk.  Seriously.

I'm so glad it's Sabbath.
I'm so glad this is the Sabbath we don't have the responsibilities of Parallel Service, though I love it.
I'm so glad that I can go to bed earlier this Friday night than usual.

I'm just so INCREDIBLY glad it's SABBATH!!!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Understanding Thursdays

Occasionally I mask a complaint about Thursdays on Facebook by telling my Thursday to "bring it!" or that "you will not defeat me."  You see, Wednesday is my day off, and Thursday is Sara's day off.  Frankly nothing here is massively hard to do, but Thursday is when Sara and I are not partners; it's the day when I'm on my own.  I wouldn't mind it so much, except that it's like being thrown in the deep end.  Right after the day when I don't have to do anything, I'm prepping booked rooms & helping out with toddler club and Sara's not there.

I emphasize again, none of it's hard, it's simply the contrast.  There's also the issue that I'm not a morning person unless you're talking about the wee hours of the morning - when I still haven't gone to sleep yet...  And on Thursdays, there are typically bookings that need to be ready between 8-9:30 AM, so I have to get up early and trot around to get the rooms ready and then it's off to Toddler Club.

I look forward, in a way, to the solitary work; I just like it better in the afternoon.  Why do I look forward to it?  My iPod.  That's an odd answer, I know, but on my iPod are old and newly forming playlists as well as audiobooks and a bit of dramatized Narnia by C.S. Lewis.  Unless I'm extremely tired, I don't take audio content in well while I'm sitting still and doing nothing.  So while I'm retrieving, filling & plugging in semi-heavy water heaters, grabbing tea & coffee, sugar & milk & spoons for the rooms, setting up tables & chairs, (which is all mostly just motor activity vs. mental) I do a lot of important thinking & processing.  There's something about my hands and legs being so busy that it makes my brain really receptive to music & books...

Toddler Club is a festival of cuteness, but somehow it's honestly not really my thing.  Plus, I've been battling a cold this week and so it's not a great idea to be near the children anyhow - I head to the restroom every time I need to blow my nose and wash my hands immediately afterwards.  I love babies & toddlers, but I need a relationship with the baby to be happy to see him/her no matter what time of day, and so when it's a mass of cute toddlers I barely know, I'd be more likely to be social in the afternoon, but since that isn't the case (and I wouldn't trade with Sara; she has two Toddler Club shifts on Wednesday - I've only got one on Thursday - she loves it, btw) I classify it as character development and a patience laboratory.  I don't dislike it, it just doesn't really register anywhere, so I go and am as helpful as I can be, taking initiative whenever I can and I'm slowly getting to know the parents who come.

I don't think I've explained already that Toddler Club for me is 9:30-11:30 AM every Thursday.  Mainly mothers bring their children (I've never seen two parents of the same child come to Toddler Club...yet) and they play with the toys we set up, put on simple dress-up clothes while the mothers (and the occasional father) either play with their kids or sit & talk with each other.  At 10:30, sliced bananas & grapes are handed out as well as sippy cups half-filled with diluted juice.  There are also generic biscuits for the toddlers.  For the parents who come, tea, coffee & hot chocolate are available as well as fancier biscuits with chocolate & whatnot fillings.  We get the toddlers' fruit & sippy cups ready so they can just be passed out, and I'm on standby to make whatever hot drinks the parent wants.  At 11:15 is "tidy-up time" where the children and parents get the little toys into boxes and drag all the bigger items into one big pile/area.  At 11:30 the parents are leaving & we clean up.  We sort through the small toys (they go in specific bins) and put all the large play-house type things in the closet, clean the cups & spoons with our NIFTY 10 minute dishwasher (I seriously wish we had them in the states!!) and lock up by about noon.

Thursday afternoon holds a few free hours and then anywhere between 3:30-5pm, I'm returning to the booked rooms to clear or tidy them up.  To tidy means to leave tables & chairs and just take care of the hot drink table & water heater, whereas to clear means to make the whole entire room look like no one was ever there - the whole shebang.

Thursdays are something I pray about on Wednesday night because while they're well within my range of abilities, I don't want to work up any resentment over something that's technically trivial.  So I tell God I don't really like Thursdays and I feel intimidated, but I remember that Thursdays have always been rewarding - not something I've begun to resent and I leave it in His hands.  I genuinely feel like God helps me get up early with much more ease than on other days; Thursdays may feel harder because of the contrast with my lovely Wednesdays off, but they feel like a day in the week when God and I get closer.  So I have a funny conundrum: I dislike Thursdays in anticipation, but I'm grateful for them in the end.  Cheers.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Updates Coming Soon!

The "September Swing of Things" was kind of a precursor to when the swinging really started, so to speak.  Life at Stanborough Park Church has been great but BUSY lately, hence the infrequency of my blogging.  So, I wanted to state that soon I will blog about our trip to Thorpe Park (yikes!), Toddler Club (weekly cuteness but at a groggy morning time for me) and Messy Church (a monthly event to reach out to families with small children).

More blogs WILL happen!!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The September Swing of Things

I was told when I first arrived that I came during a funny time - when not much was happening, because "everyone's away on holiday" but that things would begin getting busy when we turned the corner of September.  Today is September 9 and for sure, a lot more has happened in 9 days than the last 11 days of August when I'd first arrived here.

In the last several days, I attended my first meeting to plan Messy Church and my first meeting to plan Parallel Service.  I've been booked to plan Parallel's song service on the 18th and then to plan the entire service on the 25th.  We spent 3+ hours disinfecting toys for Toddler Club (which happens Wednesday & Thursday every week, but today's my day off, so Sara is downstairs with the little ones & their mothers; I'll be there tomorrow) and on Monday (i.e., a few days ago) we helped out with our first Seniors Club which happens every other week.  There have been 1-2 days where Sara and I were on our feet all day helping set up & take down rooms that were booked by various groups.  Last night there was something called Tuesday Night Talks (?) that apparently has been done before, but not recently.  I was asked to give the special music, for which I sang Give Me Jesus/Balm in Gilead.  Before I sang, I was helping set up tables, chairs, place settings & helping get the light dinner ready (+helping serve), which began at 7pm prior to the actual service, which began at 8pm.  After the special music, we had the sermon and then Sara & I helped pack up the room and get it ready for Toddler Club, which began this morning at 9:30.

For a little clarification, since that paragraph probably felt like a blur of information, I'll try & start from the top & give my understanding of these services & functions...

Messy Church happens once a month, and it is what it sounds like - a church service that's ... messy.  It's oriented heavily (I think...) towards families with small children but is also for anyone who wants to come - it's quite the event!  Crafts for the kids, etc.  The responsibility I walked away from that meeting with was to try & put together a song service.  Parallel Service happens 3 Sabbaths out of every month.  The 4th Sabbath, everyone gathers in the main sanctuary.  Parallel Service happens right across the hall from the sanctuary in the larger hall that seems to me to be rented the most whether for a club, birthday party or reception of some sort (the 2 funeral receptions I earlier blogged about were in this room).  It's more casual and less traditional than the main service, and is oriented towards people who don't usually go to church, haven't been to church recently or just don't go to church very much at all.

I'll pause for a moment and say that I've seen MANY modes of outreach here at Stanborough Park Church.  The church has many rooms that are rented by various groups, which apparently gets them exposed/aware of the SDA church and shows how we're just as approachable as anybody.  The clubs for toddlers & seniors aren't just for SDA members, but because it takes place in this particular SDA church and is mainly planned & run by SDA members, people who aren't part of our church get drawn in in a very friendly & genuine way.  I think it's great stuff, because frankly I've never seen outreach done like this; it's unique, it's all over the place and because of how they work it into so much of what they do, it comes across (at least to me) as seamless.

Back to Parallel Service.  I like both the main service and Parallel.  For any reading who go to PMC, I'd say that  the main service is a little like 1st service and Parallel is more like 2nd service, except that the main service really does remind me of 2nd service and Parallel also feels like it's got a good dose of the Friday night vespers available to AU-Students.  I hope that made sense...

In the meeting to plan the next Parallel Service, we talked about wanting to get creative worship back in the program, so it's a matter of brainstorming & prayer.  Your prayers would be welcome too!!

Since Toddler Club hadn't been happening during the summertime, the lady who's in charge (my kingdom for a better memory for names!!!), Sara and I pulled out all sorts of toys (it's a good-sized storage closet-full!) and disinfected the plastic ones in hot water with a special baby-bleach.  I didn't realize until later that my hands still smelled like bleach even though I'd washed them about 5 times for other reasons!  Hmm...  But we spent 1 hour on a Wednesday night and then 3 hours the next Monday morning getting all those toys done, and we weren't even there to work on all the toys!  That should tell you how many there are...  After I've actually been present for a round of Toddler Club, I'll have something to blog.

The Monday that we spent 3 hours cleaning toys, we had an hour off for lunch and then were back down at 1pm to help set up for Senior Club.  I thought it was absolutely charming!  Yes, the room was full of elderly people, but it didn't feel that way.  It's run & prepared-for & attended-by seniors, completely.  Between 1-2pm, people were buzzing around, setting up chairs & preparing hot drinks & cake.  At 2pm, everyone else arrived and they went into the sanctuary for an hour of classical violin & piano music given by what looked like 2 accomplished siblings from the congregation who'd volunteered or been volunteered :-)  At about 3, the music was over and they came into the room to sit down for a video after their cake & coffee.  The video was a little documentary on otters in actual wildlife vs. a famous novel depicting otters.  The whole thing was precious!  I'd never seen anything like it, and I thought it was wonderful.  After they left, we put away the chairs & vacuumed and made sure the kitchen was taken care of.

Yesterday (Tuesday) we weren't really busy until about 4pm.  Sara & I closed up a room that had been booked at 4pm and went upstairs for a little longer, then we came down at 5:30 to set up-for and help during the Tuesday Night Talk.  Just for review, there was a light supper between 7-8pm, then at 8:00 there was a welcome & announcements, theme song, special music & sermon.

And now it's today!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Jet Lag, Two Funeral Receptions and A Shower Drain.

Stuff has begun to happen since I last blogged, so here I am again.

I'm continually told that August is still slow because "everyone is away on holiday," but that starting in September, which is right around the corner, I will become extremely busy.

I think I'm finally getting over the jet lag, at last.  My first few days didn't have anything scheduled in them, which was brilliant, because switching over to an 8 hour time difference was very whacked and lopsided at first.  I meant to "stay up all night" on the flight to England, but I didn't mean to do it again; sometimes I just don't notice how the time flies at night and then - hey is the sun coming up out my window?  Today (Friday) I woke up after a night of vivid dreaming and I felt awful.  It was an early migraine.  I hate migraines, but when I'm changing time zones, it's a good sign: it means the adjustment is finally taking place, not to mention I had what I needed to nip it in the bud, so it wouldn't (& didn't) bloom.

*sigh of relief*

On Wednesday, Sara and I had to meet a lady named Pat at 8:15 in a frequently used room of the church to set up for a funeral reception.  We only needed 2 tables with 8 chairs per table, so we were done with everything in about 30 minutes.  Then we came back at about ... 10:30 to oversee everyone's arrival and make sure everyone was happy.  Then we cleared the remains into the kitchen, washed dishes (they have a dishwasher that only takes 10 minutes per cycle!!!  WOOT!!!) and put everything else away except for a few things that'd be used the next day.  As for the earlier step of overseeing the reception itself, a congregation member Sara nor I had ever seen before (and Sara had been here for a month prior to my arrival) was quite bossy with us for being a complete stranger, though we agreed that his "suggestion" (I'm being polite) of offering to wait on the more elderly people regarding hot drinks (even though the whole thing was a buffet) created a good vibe for us.  I found out that I like being a semi-waitress and it comes quite naturally.  Later on I'd talked to Sara about how friendly & warm everyone was; I was prepared - from my minimal research of life in England - that they'd all be much more uptight than I've discovered them to be.  Sara let me know that what I'd read applies to people who live a "proper British" lifestyle, and on top of these people being more down to earth, they're also part of our Seventh-Day Adventist family.  The lovely gentleman, Dennis, who picked me up from the airport made the excellent point that in the Seventh-Day Adventist church, "everywhere you go, you're family."

On Thursday, we got up at the same time to set up for the next funeral reception, which was triple the size and took much longer.  But our call time to return wasn't as early so we still had a fairly good breather in between.  Sara had another commitment in the afternoon, so by the time people began to arrive from the service, she had to leave, so it was mostly up to me, although Pat had introduced me to a couple who would liaise with me throughout.  Again, although I had to stay on my toes, it went very well and I loved taking care of everybody, repeating answers to several people asking me the same questions, etc.  When they were all finally gone, I changed out of my nice black & white stuff into jeans & a t-shirt to tackle the mountain of dirty dishes and trash.  Oddly enough, I was looking forward to it, because I stick in my earphones and get lost in my thoughts and a playlist while I scrubbed the cups & saucers to kingdom come.  It's actually therapeutic, though I used to hate doing dishes years ago.  Think about it: you're processing your thoughts and trying to figure things out or just let stuff come to the surface, listening to a playlist of your own making and with your physical eyes you're seeing coffee & tea stains come off dishes; you get to see what your effort does, rather than wrestling with feeling pointless; a coffee smear is no match for the scrubber side of a soapy sponge wielded by a melancholy young woman.  Life's mysteries can't be solved in a day, but after the 1 hour & 24 minutes of my playlist, I'd had some new epiphanies and finished all the dishes.  I moved on to another playlist in my iPod to get all the chairs stacked & moved and most of the dishes put away.  And then Sara got back just in time for us to tackle the tables together.  At that point we called it a day!  I can't remember if it was 7:00 or 7:30, but I think it was 7:30 because we were finally able to kick up our feet in the flat close to 8:00 and I realized that I'd spent approximately 10 out of the 12 hours I'd been awake on my feet.

Btw, I figure that the 3 people who said this to me would get a chuckle out of me passing it on: they were very keen on me knowing that funerals don't happen constantly in Watford.  :-)  I responded that I understood, life just happens this way, sometimes.

To conclude, there was a mini-crisis in that our walk-in shower decided to not drain properly (hopefully the unmentionable yuckiness I removed from it will help our dilemma) leaked into the rest of our bathroom and part of the carpet in the itty bitty hallway outside the bathroom door.  Almost as soon as I was finished showering, Deanna(sp?) & Dejan were calling to stop showering if possible because the water was leaking to the floor below, which included their bedroom!  I'd already quit and we got the water pushed back towards the drain.  A few hours ago it stopped dripping into the hallway downstairs, which was the last holdout; it stopped leaking into D&D's room much sooner.

Tonight I went to some of a Friday night gettogether for the youth but was picked up early for my first song service practice.  The practice was for something called Parallel service.  Time-wise and schematic-wise it is a church service held parallel to the family service at Stanborough Park Church.  It's designed for people who haven't been to church in awhile or who don't go to church often; it's more active and less traditional, but I'd say it looks like about the same amount of heart, effort & planning goes into it as into the other church service...

I'm really loving the church family here as I continue getting to know them.  They're warm, sweet, funny, caring, and all of it feels incredibly genuine.  They seem to be happy with me and I feel very blessed by this experience so far, since I'll confess that Saturday night - a little more than 24 hours after arriving - I broke down in tears in my bedroom because I felt so overwhelmed.  But I spent time with God (it felt like a reaction of survival) and did not go to sleep still crying.  Each day has been better than the one before as I make Stanborough Park Church more and more my new home.

Happy Sabbath & Goodnight.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

FINALLY my first blog from ENGLAND!

Well, it's been a little over 48 hours since I arrived here.  Whenever I'm not feeling disoriented by how new it is, I feel sort of ... the opposite!  I feel like I've been here for a few weeks and that is ONLY due to 2 things, I'm sure: God's grace before as well as during my arrival and how friendly and caring practically everyone has been to me.  I expected that people would politely greet me and warm up over time.  I wasn't prepared for such friendliness and care that caught me off guard by how genuine it was.  I've NEVER experienced anything like it from brand new acquaintances, especially people who are in a position for ME to possibly disappoint.

In the waves where I've felt disoriented, I tried to spend time with God and a calm came back.  However new 99% is, the 1% that's the same is the existence of the haven God's love is.  In the few times I've had private worship since coming here, it seems to swell really big and put what intimidates me into perspective.  God's love has an especially highlighted contrast against my status as a newcomer, and I am taking advantage of how much easier it is to want to spend time with Him to build a stronger reliance.

On Sabbath I was introduced to the congregation and met bunches of new people, today (Sunday - even though I'm typing in the wee hours of Monday morning) my partner Sara (wonderful new friend, btw) and I didn't have anything to do, and she says the same about tomorrow.  Today she showed me around Watford and we walked for a few hours.  Tomorrow I'll probably grocery shop...

I need to go to sleep since I've stayed up too late already, but I wanted to post this and say that in contrast to feeling so nervous that I was nauseated when we drove to the airport, I feel awash with the sense that God is taking care of me, and I praise Him for how well He lovingly provides and reassures.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


Hello there.

I haven't actually zipped shut my suitcases yet because everything I've got is in them and I've got one more night at home.  But tomorrow I'll sit on them to zip 'em shut :-) and around noon (California Time) we'll be leaving to drive to San Francisco (which takes awhile from the house) to get me through all the airport red tape so I can be on a British Airways plane that leaves at 6:55 PM tomorrow night.  It's a 10' 05" flight.  Oh boy.

But then... ENGLAND!  Huzzah!!!  I am incredibly excited!!!  Yesterday I felt scared for the first real & extended time, but after - ahem - letting that out, I've been quite chipper about my upcoming flight ever since!  I'll start having "real" blogs for you after I get there.

I first began traveling overseas when I was 6 years old.  My 7th birthday was celebrated in Kenya, Africa - we were there for about 2 weeks.  Since Africa (my first mini-adventure), I've been richly privileged (a benefit of home-schooling's scholastic flexibility; I'd imagine it'd be hard to airlift a private school...) to spend time in Jamaica (10 days), Jordan & Egypt in 5 weeks (2.5 in each), Honduras (10 days), Italy/Austria/Germany/France-2 weeks, Jordan again for 6 weeks (longest away from home) and then Bermuda for 10 days.  I love traveling and I love other cultures and I love being out of the States.

I am about to be in a new country & new culture for approximately 10 MONTHS.

The only thing I can imagine about this upcoming trip is a possible list of places to visit in whatever free time comes my way.  I'm thrilled by this new leaf!  And on top of that, this leaf is from a brand new tree!

I pray that I'll be sensitive to God's leading and soft enough for His use of me and the gifts He's given to me.  Please pray for my relationship with God.  I can't give what I don't have.  And however imperfectly it's been, I've been pursuing God all my life: when I let my determination to spend time with Him slip because I'm discouraged for whatever "reasonable" reason, I begin to misrepresent myself and Him.  My desire is that any & all feelings of disorientation will drive me to rely on God more, rather than less.  Please pray that I'll be both teachable and giving.  Pray for a growing spirit of service.  That's why I'm going in the first place - this is not supposed to be about me, but about God- everything is supposed to lead back to Him.  It's my sincere hope that aside from informational updates & anecdotes that my blog relays to any & all reading how wonderful and worthy Jesus is.  That God is love and we know God through what Jesus did and that His Holy Spirit is always with us to comfort and to counsel.

I'm not a great one for endings, but I'm a great one for tangents.

Goodnight & God bless you.

(Err... semi-good morning: it's 1:40 AM!  Who's scurrying off to bed?  That'd be me...)