Saturday, April 30, 2011

Slow Burn...

There once was a low.
Then there was a high.
Now there is a slow burn.

To my readers in the UK, proceed with caution, because talk of leaving for home is involved in this blog.

You know, I always saw student missionaries in a cookie-cutter way, no offense.  They seemed to go off to serve like they were the pick of the spiritual litter and then returned home even more amazing, ready to blaze some more trails.  Any drama that didn't have to do with the stereotypical mission field had a tight lid on it, because it always seemed that life's mess got put on hold so the only struggles they'd have would be in their new posting.  The whole thing looked so clean cut.  Sure, it changes you, but there's an orientation class to prep you and a re-entry retreat to prep you some more.  Case closed.


Thanks to life experience, which never waits - let alone for when you're ready - I'll bet every student missionary who's ever left home was grateful for their orientation class but still felt scared to death and not ready to leave home as they numbly went through the airport red tape.  I'll bet every student missionary had at least one or two either unresolved or ongoing situations back home when they left.

You see... I wonder if I'm a bad student missionary for being thrilled out of my mind to return to my beloved Berrien Springs on May 21, 2011.  Because I hear that "the awesome ones" didn't want to leave when it was time to go.

Do NOT get me wrong.

I don't even want to say that I'm leaving a piece of my heart in England.  That doesn't do the past 9 months justice.  A piece?  Just a piece?  Are you kidding?  "Well how about half?"  Oh pleeeeeeease, let's not get anatomical and mathematical.  Metaphors can get a person into so much trouble...  Too bad they're so handy so often...

They did tell us beforehand that where we were headed for 9 months would become a part of us.  But that still sounds so clinical...

Something torn takes longer to heal than something cut or broken.  It's not something easy to analyze.  You just have to give it lots of TLC, do whatever else you can & pray.  As it heals, start rehabilitating what got torn.

My junior year at Andrews University (2009-2010) ended and many beloved, true friends left.  Tear.
I stayed in Berrien Springs - my hometown.  Problem is, I couldn't "go home" in my hometown now that school was over, because my parents have moved to California.  But I stayed there 'til the end of June to be with the friends who lived there and hadn't left.  I sang in the choir at GC and was temporarily reunited with some friends I'd shared goodbyes with 2 months prior.  And we said goodbye again.  Tear.

Then came time to leave my two best friends (Kayleen & Christie), close family friends, mentors - and overall the most familiar geography I'd ever known - to go to "my house" in California.  Tear.

My time in California was only a lonely stepping stone before completely leaving the country.  Lonely because while I love my parents and soaked up the quality time with them, you can't help but struggle with loss when you go from a year full of friends all around you to not being able to see or touch any of them, though I was grateful to still talk on the phone with a few of them.  And there was the undertow of burnout; being free of class pressures but not knowing how to still my soul, since my restlessness wasn't a physical problem, though it certainly affected me that way.  I could not have worked a job very well during that time, (though I couldn't get one anyway) but I was going nuts feeling I had nothing to do except pack when my visa came through...  Asleep or awake, bad mood or fair, I always had a feeling - right behind my temples - that everything I thought I knew was falling apart and any control I'd ever had was slipping through my fingers though I was trying to cup them together...  That was a bad slow burn.

Then my visa came through, I got everything packed (which meant transporting all my stuff to the living room + my 4 suitcases [I'm determined to go home with only 3] and sleeping on the couch 'til the deed was done; I watched nearly every film in the house, packing to leave took so long), almost threw up on the way to the airport and after taking "send-off" pictures with my parents, I made myself put one foot in front of the other through security & customs.  My face felt so hot...  Maybe all the blood rushing to the area because of all the self-control I was calling on...  I waited for the flight to board, eventually got on the airplane and FINALLY it left ground.  Tear.

I don't recall feeling torn about adjusting here.  I felt like part of me could finally collapse, though that was not something to be showy about.  Being a student missionary calls on every energy reserve you've got, but it's not about you - it's about the menagerie of people you're serving.  A menagerie is certainly what I got, since my post was a church.  Apparently, my main title is youth worker, but heavens I didn't feel that way at first.  There's a club for most age groups in the lifespan (neatly bookended by Toddler Club and Senior Club), a committee for most of the clubs, Main Service for traditional Sabbath worship and Parallel for alternative Sabbath worship - Parallel is a reclamation ministry.  Sara and I have been involved in the committees, the clubs and the clean-up.

You get quite the inside look at a church when you don't just work in one but you live there, too.  As student missionaries, while we're encouraged and reminded by some personalities to take care of ourselves, other more intense types are worried about appearances because of the judgments people make from the outside and the internal results that follow.  We're instructed to make sure our tanks get refilled with fuel, except that we're human beings dealing with other human beings who all have mismatched clocks, clashing schedules and emotional needs, which sometimes seem like land mines.

On the flip side, it's working with PEOPLE that makes this all work.  I believe we can each find at least one thing lovable about someone we don't know or don't get along with very well.  And as you work with people whom you know even better and have a better mesh with, the lovable traits rack up.  When you live to see what's lovable about a person - not just what drives you crazy or makes you furious - like this, it then makes those you know you love such a pleasure...!

There's been a LOT to love about Watford and the people I've lived & worked with here at Stanborough Park Church SINCE MY FIRST DAY HERE.

I started to fall in love with this place and its people in October.  I don't remember the date but I remember it was a Tuesday night when we were cleaning up in the kitchen after Pastor Boyle's Tuesday Talk.  I like it that I can't remember every single detail.  It makes the one thing I vividly remember more magical.  The one thing was that someone made me laugh (not the first time), but a scale got tipped somewhere inside and more laughter started to come - I bent in half and came back up still laughing.  I was no longer laughing just at the joke - I was laughing for the feeling of joy bubbling up inside of me again.  Not all laughter is the same...  Something began to change for me that night.  That is one memory that did not get lost in the rush.  Afterwards I started loosening up, hugs and conversation once more seemed natural to me a little at a time.  I wondered what had been my problem for so long...

And now I'm leaving in 3 weeks.

While I've been content to let life at Andrews University continue without me and to know the dramas through Facebook, I never didn't miss my people from back home and I never didn't wish I could be there for both their struggles and shining moments, of which there's been a lot this year...

I'll get to see them again soon in a slow trickle through the summer and then BOOM school starts at the end of August - woohoo!  I'm ready to face classes again at last.  But while I'm biting the bit to return to what's familiar, I know it will never be the same as it was.  It's one thing to hear about the drama through the internet, but it's another thing to return and BE in the effects of said drama.  Tear.

When I leave here, the lives of more people I love and the events of a place I don't yet know how badly I'll miss (it WILL be badly) will be going on without me and once more, Facebook/Skype will be all I've got to stay in touch and share love with.  Tear.

And then Sabbath morning (April 30) I received an email letting me know my Grammie - who has been on hospice since February - is likely to pass away in the next 2 weeks.  Max.  Mom and I set a time for me to get on skype so I could say, "I love you," but for a yet-unexplained reason, that fell through and I still haven't seen her since I got the news.  Tear.  Promise of a future tear.

Right now is another slow burn, but unlike last summer, I don't feel lonely, mistrustful or miserable.  I think I feel right now what Paul wrote about:

"We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed but not in despair..."
2 Corinthians 4:8.

I feel perfectly capable about my responsibilities.  When I do them, these days, they seem to fly right past me.  Yet life is not easy.  But life isn't horrible at all.  Right now, life feels 6-7 months pregnant with mysteries that will later be solved and promises I know will come true but aren't true yet.  Life feels like a heavy backpack, but I know there's nothing in there I don't need, so I don't mind the weight.  I'm surrounded by people who love me and I'm returning home to more people who love me and who are anxious to see me.

Word has gotten around here that I'm leaving soon (not everyone has Facebook) and nearly everyone has commented on how I must be feeling mixed emotions.

Mixed emotions?

Understatement of the year.

I can only really call it a slow burn.
It's a good burn, but a slow one all the same, and I'm feeling all of it.

It fills me with gratitude for all that's been.
And it pours in a hunger to spend lingering evenings saying goodbye to people but without the pressure of me actually leaving the day after.
You know those memories that feel like a little piece of heaven...
You just forget the world for awhile and enjoy each other...

This slow burn makes me cry with relief when I think of going home soon.
And as I cry, a warm feeling spreads over at the thought that reunion is coming very soon.
Reunion with the people and the places that I just KNOW a part of me somehow feared I'd never see again, since I'd never left them that way before...


ALL OF THIS makes me think how unspeakably wonderful it will be to go to heaven someday.  We'll all have each other.  No more goodbyes, no more pain, tears, slow burns or distance.  No more "it's complicated," no more danger or risk...  We'll get to enjoy adventure and know we're safe at the same time.  We can rest without shame, because the spirit of frantic busyness has been sent to the abyss.  We can shriek and sing for joy and revel in what and who we love - all without shame or worry of how it'll affect one another, because in heaven, all will be as it should be.  As it was meant to be.  As it will always be at last.


Coming down from those glorious thoughts - which are sometimes just heartbreaking on earth - I'm not in pain.  I feel it on the fringes sometimes, I know there'll be crying to do and growing pains and all that, but God has done a new saving work in my hear this year.  I'm still a bit tender from some parts of the process, but the dragon scales are gone.  A whole big "new leaf" adventure is ahead of me!  I'm excited about it :-)  God has definitely been a shepherd to me this year.  I've been silly and stupid plenty of times.  I've needed a lot of leading.  I'm grateful He gave me the grace to see my errors so I could try to make it right with people here in England I messed up with and others who aren't in England.  I think God has been able to use me this year, because I've been stunned and humbled by how people have responded to my service performance - particularly on certain occasions when I felt very out of shape to do my job.  To God be the glory for my successes and second chances.  And soon I'll be flying home.

Until then, bring on this slow burn!  I know I'll never have these 3 weeks back again...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

News Flash! :D

Your year of service will strip away all your masks and false selves AT LEAST between you & God, AT MAX for everyone to see.  Yes you'll go back home changed, but some will return home feeling reborn.

Service is against sinful nature.  A year of it will lay open who you really have been all this time.  Your familiar atmosphere that is SO MUCH of your identity's push & pull is GONE.  You have to show 'em what you got, because it's ALL you got when you leave home.  For all of us, it's not a pretty sight at first and for some, their fear of such nakedness makes the necessary stripping almost traumatic at heart.  It's unnecessarily so, but they'd spent so long in bondage to lies rather than believing in the life God has to impart.  Terror vs. trust...  Oh the tyranny we choose to live in sometimes because of the fear of risk.

The beginning of this process is like when a medicine does exactly what it's supposed to: there's a notable reaction.  And as is the case with much medicine, it's a highly unpleasant experience initially.  It's the pain of healing from something that's recently been done to save your life.  Like a surgical scar, and the more invasive or messy the operation was, the more painful the healing.  But don't throw the baby out with the bathwater, because it's the pain of HEALING.  We get distracted by the word "pain."

I think God gets us to give a year of service not just because of the effect we'll bring about but also for our own salvation that we're too blind to see we desperately need, since our self-reliant efforts and reinforcing environments make us think we've either got it made or that we're doing okay.

By God's grace, I pray that you'll be able to experience what I've been blessed to recently come into: I don't care about being right or clinging to pride.  I'm over the humiliation of being humbled and I wish I could stay in this valley of humility where it isn't so world-ending to find out you're wrong, where being shown your mistakes can be rejoiced over because your desire for God's truth & love is so strong in comparison to anything else that the burn of confession, repentance and asking for forgiveness is eclipsed by God's grace and presence.  I know what I'm feeling now is God's grace.  It's not a plateau of my own, not a formula I've worked out.  It's a gift, so while I'm living this gift, hear my praise!


This year I've been very weak at times.  No, not like I've felt weak - I mean I made poor choices in my job here and in my life.  In this year of service, I've felt the least spiritual and the temptation of the secular has never felt so strong and seductive even while I knew it would be my soul's swan song.  There have been times this year when I felt incredibly alone.  Mostly alone.

And I don't think God's ever been closer to me...!

Like when you can only see one set of footprints in the sand, you complain and then God explains, "That was when I was carrying you."


I think being a student missionary should, can, and will take you to the end of yourself.  Everything that can be will be shaken.  And if you'll let your walls fall to the ground - so your need of God isn't just an awareness you procrastinate on - healing can begin.

We're so used to being the walking wounded.  Our deep desires scare us; we're so used to the shallows and the clutter that keeps it from feeling like a swim at all...  Imagine what life being healed by God's grace, mercy & love could be!!  Most definitely it would be more abundant!!  But it seems too good to be true...  No, beloved.  Could anyone be more generous than God?  It seems risky, wrong, or both to try trusting in a way that feels like spiritual hedonism, but I invite you - if you know while reading my story is yours too - to embrace what may feel like painful physical therapy at first, but the more you recuperate, the closer you are to re-entering TRUE life again!  Maybe for the first, spine-tingling time :-)

There's a lot about my future that I don't have control over.
There's a lot about my future that I can't predict or plan for.

But right now, I'm living God's gift of grace that's helping me see again and get my muscles back.  I'm getting my heart back at least between me & God, though who knows what's in my personal future.  I have more joy each day.  It's not like a drug, but like a currency from plugging into God deliberately after awhile even though I didn't feel like trying at first.

God's goodness is bigger than pain or pleasure; it pervades both... I read something like that earlier today.  But if life keeps having these cycles of storm vs. springtime & summer, then why open my heart for God to do His thing if a storm is inevitable in my future?

I've got 2 answers - one of heart & one of logic (since the heart has reasons that reason knows not of):

1. Logically, each storm God has brought me through meant many LESS opportunities for storms in the future because of how He helped me grow, taught me & sustained me.  Storms are part of the journey home.  Each storm is different and harder than the one before, but that's because Satan has to fight dirtier to figure out how to hit you where it hurts because God keeps making His children stronger for the REAL fight of our lives right before He comes again.

2. Here's the answer logic would cynically sneer at:

When love and life and healing are being poured back into your heart a little more each day in ways that make you feel your most recent hell hole was nothing, in ways that make you not care about the upcoming storm, why wouldn't you bathe in it while it's there?  Drink it in!  Nothing made by the hands of man can do that.  No human hands can make you feel that much out of this world.  It's something only God can do.

Since these moments are God giving us more than the bread crumbs that puppies snap at, the least we can do is have that puppy mentality and gladly, heartily watch for what falls to us and grab it!  God smiles when we do this.  He didn't create us to be His robots or puppets.  He created us for life, love & joy.  So I invite you to pray that God reveals His heart to yours.  It's a less practical and more personal prayer, but if you mean it and keep it up, not only will you not be sorry, not only will the soreness go away, but you'll one day soar again.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Mission of Loving

Oh the bliss...

Right now we're experiencing a 2-week Easter Holiday, so while it's next week that my personal holiday from SM life begins, this week has been incredibly light, praise God.  This Sabbath is the Messy Church (Easter Theme) that I volunteered to coordinate, but with the help of more experienced women, it hasn't been as scary as I thought it would be.

I don't have all the pieces put together yet, and there's so much that my godless perfectionism could pick a fight with about life, but I feel God leading me out of my black hole and it makes me SO HAPPY.  This isn't a pendulum swing, but like a springtime walk.  Slow but beautiful and ... not too slow, for the record.  This morning I read a quote from Oswald Chambers I thought was wonderful:

"'Ye shall receive the power of the Holy Ghost' - not power as a gift from the Holy Ghost; the power IS the Holy Ghost, not something which He imparts." (My Utmost For His Highest, April 12)

I've learned these last 2 years more than ever how risky it is to hand me a "full cup" as Ellen White calls it. I'm glad that God doesn't just hand us power in all its potency - that He never leaves us and never ceases to be our tenderly teaching & loving Abba.

You know something else that's nice?  Like really nice?
The English spring is blooming here at Stanborough.  The trees are getting leafy and some of them have white & pink blossoms.  We also have lots more sunshine than we've ever had.  The weather isn't consistently warm yet, but it all produces the lovely heartache that we love about spring after so much winter...  There's a calm smile inside of me these days.  And it's there most of the time.  Like God's giving me a gift and patiently teaching me how to take care of this gift, since what I'm best at is pendulum swings - oh the glorious highs and the dastardly falls...  But this is different.

Francesca Battistelli - awesome Christian artist - sings this song called "Worth It" and it's about love.
There's a line of it that goes like this:

"Love can steal your pride
But love won't let you hide
It takes everything you've got
Love's not easy
But it's worth it."

It's bondage to cling to pride.  Sometimes you have far more peace in the risk of trust & vulnerability than you ever EVER will in hiding & licking your wounds in silence.  Humility after so much pride & "toughness" is initially uncomfortable, but afterwards it feels so nice to just let go and let God's correcting love come in.  He also comforts and counsels...

Here's the link for the whole song:

I thought I'd share this poem I wrote almost a year ago.  It was a gift to newlyweds, but there's so much in it that isn't exclusive to marriage that I'm taking the suggestion of a friend and posting it here on my SM blog.  I hope you're blessed by it.  It's inspired - I could never have written it on my own with my cloudy brain by itself...  I think that if you ask God to help you re-interpret parts of it, it fits being a student missionary - it fits BEING A CHRISTIAN - like a glove...


To marry is to meet, mesh and meld together
Two separate beings becoming a new one
To marry is to embark on the best and worst of times
The worst for the work and war of loving each other uphill
The best for the blessing of your beloved being finally, completely yours.

We live in a world at war against love
But we are a people made in Love’s image
We were made for the mission of loving:
God first, His people next…

For the greatest commandment, and the second one like it,
Were molded to make the Great Commission:
Showing Jesus to others:

For to know Jesus is to love Him
And to love the Lord Our God
Is to be turned over and over
Back to your beloved
With a heart made new to love another day.

Love is not a feeling
But it is something you can feel
Love is a choice; God’s very character to cultivate
It’s a choice you’ll often have to make
Despite the road your sense would have you take.

There’s a surplus of the world’s view on love
So, here is the eternal supply of God’s Truth on love:
Patience over haste
Kindness over callous
Being sincere and hating evil
Clinging to good and keep up your spiritual zeal
Sharing with the needy
Practicing hospitality
Rejoicing with who is joyful
Mourning with who is mourning
Living at peace with – not in power over – others
As far as it depends on you.

Perseverance in the opportunity of opposition
Because failure isn’t the falling
It’s the choice to not return.
Don’t take revenge; vengeance is God’s
He will repay the measure of abuse
Do not ever pass it on.
Forgive and keep no record of wrongs
Difficult?  Yes.
But better to climb to life
Rather than to slide to death…
Don’t delight in evil – not even at a distance.
Always protect each other
Always choose to trust each other
Always hope against hell’s say
Always persevere.
If you do all of these things,
You cannot lose, for love never fails
And this great summation
Is what it means to love.

God Himself loves you both like this
And His love is everlasting, captivating…
His love is who He is.
It is safe in His arms,
So trust in the LORD
Don’t lean on your own understanding
But forever consult the One
With your whole horizon encompassed in His gaze.
If in doubt, wait on Him.
If in pain, be still and know both that and who He IS.

If you put God at the center of your union
As your cornerstone and lodestar
The closer you grow to God
The closer you’ll grow into each other.

The more white space you give Him
The more of His image can be painted
The more of Your love story He can write
It’s His love abounding from you both…
Binding you together.

Saying “I do” was just the beginning
Your courtship was the easy prologue
For marriage is fabulously hard.
The real adventure has just begun!
And now Christ is sitting in Your married hearts
Waiting for choices to paint his portrait
With the colors of the fruit of His Spirit.

More white space means more story
And more story means more opportunity
To receive and redistribute His gifts
For a good thing kept covered inside
Soon becomes rank and bitter
So receive God’s love
And keep giving it to one another
Then share it to others to return it to God
For whatever you do to the least of these
God counts it as done unto Jesus.

The more you practice love
The more loving you will become
The more like Jesus as you keep becoming one
God’s glorious, beautiful genius be praised!
For the more like Jesus you become
The more you resemble who He made you to be
You become who you really are…
Never alone, but together!

For the blessing of God on your marriage
Remember and revisit the Beatitudes
For the sermon Jesus preached on a mountain
Is the map for the steps of your journey in marriage.

Blessed are the poor in spirit
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
The poor in spirit know their lack
They are unashamed to ask and to beckon.
By maintaining this mutually sweet spirit of poverty
You’ll always both beckon and be there for each other.
Remember that the kingdom of heaven
Was once compared to a mustard seed:
Though starting small, it grows up huge
And provides shade against a future scorch.

Being poor in spirit is key to the others.

Being poor means you will mourn at times
But you are blessed by the promise of comfort.
Being poor means you must be meek
For you’ve nothing of your own to boast about
All good things come from the Father above
But you are blessed that your poverty is the vacancy
Into which you’ll inherit the earth.

Being poor in spirit means you hunger and thirst
But you are blessed by the promise of sustenance. 

Being poor means you won’t hoard mercy, hence your poverty
It was heralded and returned back to Jesus
So you are blessed by mercy continuously cycled back to you.

Being poor makes you pure in heart, not puffed up or packed tight.
There’s no clutter keeping the eyes of your heart
From the blessing of seeing who God IS.

Being poor makes you a peacemaker, not a power-seeker.
You have no possessions to want power to protect,
For your treasures are stored in heaven.
Making peace takes steps to Christ;
You are blessed and known as God’s own.

Being poor means you’ll be persecuted
For the righteousness God gifted you.
Persecuted because you chose to not grab power
Through earth’s gritty riches.

Being poor makes you easy to persecute:
You have no high walls against ridicule from the world
But you are blessed, for being poor in spirit
Is the fruit of belief in God,
Which makes perishing impossible!
Instead, the kingdom of heaven – eternal life –
Knowing the heart of God is yours!

Outwardly you will age, wrinkle, and waste away
But inwardly you can be renewed day by day
In being poor in spirit, you will fix your eyes
On the unseen eternal, rather than the tactile temporal
And therefore you will not lose heart.

You just have to choose
Over and over.
And by doing this together,
So much the better!

You may be in love in a world at war
And the blows against you will likely be unfair
But with God, you freely have the LOVE
The one thing that is never stagnant, but ever steadfast
The one thing that makes all things new:
The one thing unlike all else…
The only thing that never fails.

May God bless you both
As you build a home and haven
Of faith, hope, and love,
While remembering: the greatest of these is love.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Treasured & Overwhelmed.

I am treasured.

I am overwhelmed.

I am overwhelmed by a treasure.

The treasure treasures me.

It is overwhelming.


Every human heart is a treasure.
And this treasure weighs a great deal.
When you're not feeling the weight of it, you're experiencing the vastness of it.  

Human hearts are so alive but can be so deadened...
Human hearts are so delicate yet they can survive so much...


When I had just barely turned 19 a certain painful event took place in my life where I was publicly embarrassed and shaken off by an older friend I looked up to and trusted.  I was stunned, felt very betrayed and it changed me forever.  To me, it made no sense, was completely unfair, and was just WRONG.  "Not right" and "wrong" were the only terms I could find for it over and over as I tried to put myself back together while being flabbergasted by the pain.  What I hated even worse is that I was made to feel like there was something wrong with ME.  Later, this person offered an explanation that they had felt extremely pressured by my relationship to them.  But there was nothing remotely apologetic; in fact an earlier letter I'd hand-written and delivered saying I forgave this person was responded to with a brief email saying that I'd gotten it all wrong.  To add insult to injury, I had not initiated this friendship...

Here's the thing...

I can now understand much more of this person who hurt me, though that situation has several differences to my current one.


Not all my new understanding that is bubbling up softens my view of this past event.  While I initiated - as a student missionary - this situation that now overwhelms me, I have not made any promises or said anything that future actions would betray.  I've been a clear communicator and rather than making this precious person feel that there's something wrong with them, I've patiently sought to teach/enlighten about the concept of boundaries and I've lovingly shared ugly truths when necessary.  I have never acted as though it's a breeze to me to do what I do - I've been very clear to relay that I'm no angel.  Sometimes I feel like a jerk for doing the right thing, but I remember it's helping the other person's health and it keeps me from being completely depleted.

It has not been easy to keep this up.  My inner reactions look nothing like my outward appearance, but God helps me keep going and I've sworn that I will not cause the sort of pain I was forced to experience.  I've come to grips with a lot of the crap that's happened to me because I've deliberately sought out the lessons to be learned from them, but that doesn't mean a lot of what happened to me was not wrong.  I've sworn that I will not let what's happened to me change who I am into what I despise.

The difficulty peaks sometimes, because as I get older and experience new things, I see the logic in other people copping out & cutting moral corners.  Logic is very attractive to a brain like mine, but the heart has reasons that reason knows not of.  I don't care that Satan's sugar-coated lies make SOME sense.  They don't lead you home.  And so I'm committed to the hard road.  Plus, just because I was proactive in the aftermath of being emotionally wounded doesn't mean everyone who gets wounded will do what I did, which life has taught me very clearly.

And so I have a responsibility to CHOOSE patience when I'd rather scream and lock myself in a tight space to calm down.  Choosing patience doesn't mean you feel patient.  Oh no it does not...!
Merciful heavens...

Here at Stanborough, it needs to be considered to be careful how much you encourage attachment, since we SMs leave and then teens have to deal with loss.  I definitely haven't been encouraging the attachment that has overwhelmed me since it bloomed, but just because I'm leaving in less than 2 months doesn't mean I'm going to slack.  It's a tight-rope to finish out my remaining time here without a landslide of sorts...

I struggle sometimes between being grateful for closure about previous situations when other people allowed me to blindly adore them and dealing with the resentment at realizing previous older "mentors" weren't all they seemed and were in fact unbalanced with wrong priorities while acting as though life would line up for me if I'd be like them.  I'm grateful for how God has sustained me through past scenarios and for how He is sustaining me now.  Like I said already, being patient doesn't mean feeling patient.  Choice is indeed a powerful thing and the power looks like this:

You choose to control your expression, you choose your words carefully, you choose to maintain a loving demeanor while not going overboard "lovey-dovey" while also choosing to not be chilly.  On the other side of the wall that is your face, you are crying on your knees to God, begging for what it takes to make it through the next 5 minutes.  And every 5 minutes you repeat this process.  And people think you feel as patient as you look and that you're as calm as you let on.  This is how you build true strength, because on our own we are all leaky vessels.  Even the people who love each other the most want to strangle each other sometimes.  But though it's a nearly irresistible feeling - especially when it spikes - it's not an enduring one and with God's help the feeling becomes controllable; the choice to not indulge it more & more easy to make.

'See, there's nothing WRONG with the person who has latched on to me that isn't wrong with all of us.  There's no "outstanding sins" and nothing to be ashamed of.  There's heart matters, there's struggles, there's need, there's emotional scarring and unhealed wounds.  That is simply life.  It's a different "w"-word: weight.  It's not wrong, it's weighty.  There was nothing hideous about me when I was 19.  I wasn't a criminal or a crazy person.  I was human.  My heart was heavy and it had struggles.  I see a lot of myself in this person I've been drawn to help, which is part of what tugs at my conscience & heart strings.  The weight has to be handled carefully with God's help and the help of older people.  And part of this correct handling is to teach - not force - this person to be more independent and wise.  When you're forced - like I've been - to become more "independent & wise" it isn't that simple.  Rather than truly independent, the result is to become more solitary and the source of the neediness isn't really addressed - the method of coping just gets more creative.  Rather than learning godly wisdom, there is one more convert to the acidic, cynical worldly wise crowd.  Undoing these ripple effects is not easy.  Frankly, I'm still struggling with the results of what other people's insensitivity pushed me to acquire, though I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and I'm pursuing wholeness.

In the interim, I'm grateful - and kind of in awe - that God has made it possible for us to impart what we only partially possess.  He's a Genius Creator and Generous Comforter & Counselor.


I know God treasures me.

I'm so grateful my heart doesn't overwhelm Him...!

I'm so glad for the treasure of getting to feel overwhelmed by how GREAT our God is... thankful for those moments of beauty that hit me just when I'm feeling calloused or exhausted...

Being treasured by God is to be protected and taught.
Being overwhelmed by God's beauty is receive rest and renewal.

I'm tired right now, but I'm still thankful.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Blue Skies ... And in contrast: a proper RANT.

A line I love from the film "Sense & Sensibility" (based on Jane Austen's excellent novel) is when Marianne Dashwood and her younger sister Margaret have taken a walk in the countryside and it starts to properly POUR rain.  Margaret never wanted to come along and whines, "I told you it would rain!"  Marianne pays her no attention and says the following memorable line:

"There is some blue sky!  Let us chase it!"

She promptly starts to run down the hill (not wearing sneakers) and falls, spraining her ankle.

It's April today.  The month of March is over, and in it was a great deal of pouring rain.  And it was very busy.  VERY.  For several months - not merely this last one - I've been making sure I was getting by and hanging on and making spiritual progress here & there, because I didn't feel up to chasing blue sky, not to mention there were times I couldn't see any to chase; it was a time to settle in and serve and I'm sorry to say (uncomfortable to admit) my relationship with God was more on the back burner than it's been in awhile.  Now I think God is slowly showing me bits of blue sky to pursue.  I don't feel that it's without risk; not at all or else I'd have been racing by now...  So I'm thankful for that gift of His...


I'm not as frequent a blogger as others, and a good bit of what I write about isn't just detailing what I do but also what's happened to me as a result of all this - the gems I have to share from struggles and successes.  I wish I could write more because I have SO many stories, but I'm so busy doing what I do (or recovering from it) that I have little time & energy to write...  Also, my blog is read by people here in England, so I feel it would be disrespectful (and in some cases a violation of confidence) to reveal everything I have to tell.

I mentioned in an earlier blog that the UK is similar to the US in a lot of ways.  If it were more different, it'd probably be easier to select tales to tell and sharing what all has happened would be a bigger motivation.  Becoming an SM here at Stanborough Park Church has greatly involved my personal life & affections.  While I refer to the teens as "my teens" that's getting a little more awkward to say here in England (not so much on this blog) because they're not my spiritual guinea pigs and never have been.  Beforehand they were strangers who intimidated me, and now they're my friends and family in varying degrees.  I love them and will miss them more than I can say...  But nevermind about that now.

To write in more detail would be to pull the plug on my personal life and theirs, which I can't just DO...  It definitely is a JOB to work here, but what the job IS is living a new life.  Even when it's my day off or when I'm not in the middle of an event, I'm being watched and people continually adjust their opinion of me.  While it'd be so much simpler to brush off or scoff at some people's complaints (since some just ARE ridiculous), I can't because it'd look bad.  I just have to swallow it down with grace.  Believe me, sometimes I want to retaliate, make myself heard and get some stuff to just QUIT because of how trivial it seems to me, but I can't.  Not to mention, people WILL NOT hear even the best persuasion unless they're open to it.  They'll literally will against hearing.

My fellow SM (Sara Baptist) is a choleric-sanguine, whereas I am a melancholy-sanguine.  She is primarily a doer, secondarily a talker.  She is a complete extrovert and often makes me crazy.  I am primarily a thinker, secondarily (close second) a talker.  I have DEEPLY ROOTED introvert needs but have the appearance of an extrovert, which screws up people's expectations about me.  I know for certain that I make Sara as crazy just as often as she makes me crazy.  But despite our differences, we are good friends and have bonded over our taste in food, a portion of our taste in films & music and the fact that we're apparently the two SMs who invest the most in our hair & makeup compared to the last two sets who've worked here.  For all the people who've sometimes joked that they think I have ADHD, let me tell you that I know I don't have it, because Sara does and I now have almost 8 months experience of living with what it REALLY is like.  For whatever reason, she is nearly incapable of sleeping past 6-8 hours and most nights sleeps for less than 6.  I am not that way at all.  I am a deep sleeper and since I am an intense person who expends a great deal of energy after waking up, I have major needs to recharge my batteries physically in sleep as well as emotionally in time alone.  I don't remember the term, but when I took my first psychology class I found myself in reading that some people's bodies keep track of the sleep they lose and won't feel rested until that sleep is made up for.  I carry this burden.  I am NOT lazy or slow, this is just the way my body works.  If I get only 4 hours of sleep one night, it doesn't matter if I get 8-10 the next night.  My body still carries around the deficit.  It's not a nifty or pithy thing in my life, but I have to deal with it.  Once, when traveling to the Middle East, in recovering from jet lag, I slept 21 hours in a row.

When I first arrived, as I've covered a few times, I was depressed beneath the surface and so I slept extra on top of taking a long time to recover from jet lag.  Since my job as an assistant in the bookings center is to get up at whatever time necessary and set up rooms, I had to face a lot of early mornings as a ROUTINE.  I'm a caffeine addict for a reason, as you can see, but even caffeine is no help when it's hard to wake up in the first place so that it can be ingested at all.  Once in early October, we had - what I thought - was one of the meanest bookings schedules EVER.  In addition to the other random bookings, we had to have a big room ready by 7:30 AM (tables, chairs, drinks table,  & projector/sound I think...? + cleaning up when the day was over) every day and serve breakfast, lunch & supper.  I can't quite remember if there was a 3rd meal, but there were definitely 2 and one was breakfast.  After they'd finished, we had proper dishes to do, since they weren't using paper cups, plates & utensils, like most bookings.  There was a morning that week, when I'd gotten up for the early bit, but having gone back to bed during the breakfast meal, I'd slept through the doing of the dishes, which Sara was not happy about.  I wouldn't have been happy either!  My boss (I have so many of them, this one is Michael who's in charge of the bookings aspect of Stanborough) asked if I was alright and then said I needed to get myself under control.  I had no defense; I had a struggle, I'd made a mistake I was sorry for and I could only be embarrassed and agree.

A few days ago, Michael has told me that he has complete confidence in me and describes me as "very reliable."  I was so glad to hear that affirmation from him!  Because I worked VERY hard to tidy my personal struggles (and preferences) so they wouldn't cross lines into my work & responsibilities.

Something ridiculous that I wish I could make others quit is their joking about my "sleep life."

This is the most recent example, which made me angry, which is why I'm typing this blog:

Earlier this evening, I was rehearsing in the sanctuary with my pianist because I was asked about a week ago to sing for the baptismal service tomorrow.  We met up before the teen vespers began so we could hopefully get it done (the song is simple) beforehand so I could stick with all my responsibilities.  We didn't quite finish on time (but the teens seem to deliberately come late anyhow, with a few exceptions) and I got a call from the youth pastor asking where I was because one of the teens had asked and someone else joked that I must have been upstairs sleeping.

Really?  At 7:30 PM on a Friday, THAT is what I'm doing??


There's still a little red on the edges of my perception right now.

There's an option that no one seems to think of: since I've been awake, present & dedicated to all my usual responsibilities and have been POURING myself into NEW ones that I VOLUNTEERED for, why can't that stupid joke begin to get shut down by the people who know me?!  Where is the loyalty??  I don't give my own loyalty & effort IN ORDER to get it back, but I'm sure I can get an amen or two (at least) that it's VERY NICE to have what you give returned back to you; i.e., to at least NOT get what you DON'T deserve.  I know that life is unfair, but this is a rant, so I'm say it like it bubbles up.

The loyalty is as simple as saying,

"That's not funny anymore; I'm sure she's around here somewhere."

It's as simple as taking the affirmation given to me in private and turning it inside out as a defense to someone saying something ridiculous...!  Since affirmation given in private by a man who doesn't suck up or mince words is VALID, then why can't it be just as valid - even more so - when interacting with teenagers on scene??

Remember how I said Sara's the extrovert and I'm not?  How I was not hip as a teenager?  She blends so well with the teens she's nearly one of them.  I love her - warm fuzzy feelings & everything - she's my friend, and I don't judge her differences from me.  But I'm never going to BE her.  My gifts and abilities mean that I'm capable of growing to getting along with the teens, being their friend - and occasionally counselor - but I also get very involved in things that Sara doesn't.  It doesn't mean I'm less dedicated to them, it just means that I get spread a little wider.  And what Sara does with the teens and for them is EPIC.  She's an amazing events planner and is fluent in speaking "teen."  I'm capable now, but the stuff she does without breaking a sweat is stuff I'll never be able to do without stressing.  Sara is friends with all the more popular teens, and I connect more readily with those on the edge and a few who are flat-out rejected.  But since they're not as socially prominent, it's less seen or more easily forgotten what I do for people.  I listen when some girls want to cry and I pray for/with others who are so depressed that they hide in their hoodies, while most people look at them like they've got a bad rash.  The more socially prominent teens aren't all that interested in opening up & dealing with their crap so my friendship with them can only go so far.  It's fantastic that Sara gets along with them better and for a longer time than I do - they have as good a connection & reason to come to church socials because of her friendship as the depressed, troubled & rejected kids do because of mine.

There's a conflict here between Main Service & Parallel Service.  Parallel is less traditional; an alternative with a lot of heart and less ... pomp & circumstance, if you'll forgive me.  I was mistaken for a "main service" person over Christmas break since I'd spent so many Sabbaths in there.  Main Service reminded me of home while I was still adjusting; it was more of a comfort zone.  Being mistaken this way disturbed me because I support Parallel's ministry and STRONGLY disagree with people who say it's "not doing what it's supposed to be doing" just because people attend Parallel & not Main Service.  Church is about JESUS, not which room & style you choose for worship.  End of story.  When I was informed of this misunderstanding, I threw myself into Parallel and have pretty much not seen Main Service except on the first Sabbath of every month when there IS NO Parallel Service.  I get called to do a lot of musical favors in both Main Service or in afternoon/evening services.  When Messy Church happens, since I'm not a natural with kids & crafts, I help prepare food in the kitchen & set up chairs & tables.   Trust me, I made mistakes and wasn't always at the right place at the right time when I was learning the lay of the land, but now I FIND places to be helpful when the instant options aren't what I'd be a great aid to.  And at Stanborough Park Church, several different places need help at once when events are happening.

I also get angry that my differences with Sara continue - by some - to be interpreted so she is the ninja and I am the slow follower.  I'm not slow or stupid.  I take longer to process things and I don't have ADHD which basically forces me to always be on the go, nor was I born with such a hearty sanguine streak that I can't stand to be by myself.  And what gets me is that some of the same people who highlight this difference between us criticize/make fun of Sara behind her back just because she doesn't apologize about who she is or try to hide it, and continue to compare her to a former SM who is Sara's best friend.  Sara also has a beef (though she presents it with a smile) to not be seen as stupid just because she's a social butterfly; she's incredibly smart - someone it's not wise to mess with.  Both of our personalities block people's perceptions of our true worth sometimes.  Yet since Sara is more of an overt doer than I am, there is this struggle I'm ranting about that she does not share with me.

Not only was Sara not home-schooled, but she hasn't been living with her parents since she was 15.  We're both 21 now.  I was home-schooled and while I did shoot into the dorm as soon as I started college, I kept coming home in the summertime.  Sara loves to argue, debate, get things done, talk, laugh and just zoom, zoom, zoom!!  While I am definitely an avid & animated communicator, and while I'm capable at completing tasks and fulfilling responsibilities, I'm not super-choleric and always on the go.  I'm an artist and a feeler.  I get recharged - not depleted - by being alone, and I'll readily admit that my congeniality wanes to a very forced & plastic form when I'm depleted, and I very well may APPEAR slow since it takes MORE effort to piece things together and/or understand in a HURRIED situation though I'm getting pretty good at it now...  What makes me good at my job NECESSITATES that I not be always on the job, whereas others have the luxury of being energized by never quitting.  Such an annoying phenomenon to live with...!  Even more annoying that Sabbath is the least restful time of my week.


What happened to Sabbath in our church?  The Sabbath DAY and the Sabbath PRINCIPLE of breathing OUT, not just breathing in...!

It's as if we maintain our Seventh-Day Adventism by making sure that lots of Christian busyness happens on Saturday, when what God wants it to be is admittedly against the grain of our culture: to set the day aside for HIM.  To calm down and stop working.  To let the fussing CEASE!  We want people to come into the church because we say a relationship with God is important, but there's so much DOING in the church that there's less time than ever to do what DOES build a relationship with God; unplugging from people & life in order to plug into God.  He is a jealous God and while it's a blessing that we can pass up popcorn prayers as we go through our days because His Holy Spirit is always with us, we shouldn't treat it like cheap grace and never make the effort - let alone shame those who do make the effort! - to spend extended time alone with God!!!


I'm angry that of all things, this stupid joke about my sleeping habits (never mind all the on-the-spot jokes & pokes I smile & brush off at how my personality is different from Sara's) makes me feel guilty for taking care of myself in an extremely basic way.  Tonight I wasn't off at the cinema or shopping when it was time to put some chairs out, and for heaven's sake it was only chairs!!  (And good grief, the bulk of the teens didn't show up for the next 15 minutes!)  I was right across the hall doing something I NEEDED to do - not for myself - but as a student missionary.  SHEESH!!  Being irresponsible, being absent, being rude in social situations: bring on the corrective criticism!!

But oh wait...

I AM responsible.
I'm NOT absent.
I AM polite in an almost SPARTAN way...!


My "sleep life" hasn't caused a problem for the past 5 1/2 months.
Sleeping is a very basic need.  I APOLOGIZE (with a bow & flourish) that my body works differently than others' do.  WE ALL need to recharge our batteries, I work very hard and I'm sick of this dumb joke and even sicker of people continuing to let it slide like it's still a current issue and then lecturing ME because someone JOKED.


Get a life.  Get some glasses to fix your vision, because I haven't been doing anything wrong or missing anything for a VERY.  LONG.  TIME.