Saturday, October 24, 2009

Christmas is Coming; The Goose is Getting Fat

Can you believe it's almost November?! I can hardly stand it. The entire month of October, I've been looking forward to the 23th because of the costume party Taylor and I hosted. It was a huge success: 50 luminaries lit up the long driveway to the house, 30 hotdogs were consumed, and 27 friends showed up. We had Mario and Peach, Paul Bunyan and Babe, the Blue Ox, an Electrical Outlet, Barbie and Ken, Barbie's Horse, a Building Block, G.I. Joe and many others proudly sporting costumes. It was a very good (and very exhausting) night.

But now it's over, and the house it all cleaned up. My feet hurt, and it's back to looking forward to Day of Prayer and then Thanksgiving. It's amazing how fast time goes . . . even when it feel to be going as slowly as the drip from an IV. But is still presses on, and we get carried away with it even if we're not looking. So, I intend to look. A little prayer card that I got on the Emmaus Walk had an incredibly sobering prayer on it. I will now misquote the entire thing and try to give a brief summary:

"God, thank you for this day you have given me. Please help me see how valuable this day is. I want to use it for good and not evil, for love and not hate. Whatever I do with this day is important, because at the end of it, I will have traded a day of my life for it."
Rather sobering, isn't it? Even if it's just going to Costco or doing homework, by the end of it, that day will be gone, and we can never get it back. So that prayer is mine for you today. As Annie Dillard writes, "There is no shortage of good days. It is good lives that are hard to come by. A life of good days lived in the senses is not enough. The life of sensation is a life of greed; it requires more and more. The life of the spirit requires less and less; time is ample and its passage sweet."
Choose the life of the spirit.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

I Can't Believe It.

I made a pact at the beginning of the semester that when I'm driving somewhere, I'd only listen to 90.5 -- the Classical Station. I created this pact because I was disgusted with a song I heard (I really don't even know what it was) when driving back into Dayton after I arrived home. So, whenever I'm in the car, I listen to classical. And I love it.

So in the car yesterday to go have dinner, and a song was playing on the popular rap channel that I do like. So I listened to it until it ended and paused to see what the next song was. Naturally, I had no idea what the song was, for it's been for months since I've really listened to any popular music channels (I just recently figured out that the "Party in the USA" song was by Miley Cirus). But there was one line that the rapper "sang" that caught my attention: "Her love is so WIFI."

I decided the song is not worth three minutes of my time and changed it in time to listen to the last half of a concerto by an artist I'd never listened to.
But that line stayed in my head. It made me sad for a generation of people who believe that love can be something without commitment, come-and-go, and no-strings-attached. When I think of love, I think of my parents. Theirs is a love of complete commitment, staying-for-a-lifetime, and everything-comes-with-it-(including-the-junk). I would never in my wildest dreams have constructed a simile of that stripe.

It makes me sad, oh it makes me so sad.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Back in the Swing

I'm back at Bryan. Students are in the fourth week of classes, and most of us are already swamped. I had lunch with a good friend, Anna, last week; it's strange to see how people change and grow after only three months of being gone. She had a hard, yet invaluable, summer back home. We talked of our summers and memories that were made, and then we talked about freshman year. It seems like so long ago that I was assigned to a hall with girls I would eventually come to cherish. Time flies so quickly; and suddenly, as I type this, I feel like the narrator from "Our Town." But when we push past good memories, we can see how God so gently gives us example after example of his goodness.

I've got class in a few minutes, and I don't want my umbrella in the hallway stolen. ;) I'll check back later.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

I'm moving from Romania tomorrow; I'll be in Budapest for three or four days until I fly westward. It's strange feeling attached to a place I may never return to. I felt attached to Rome for its timeless beauty, but Romania only hangs on to hints of a beautiful past. In shabby building that need a good sandblasting, you can see remnants of the city that once was the Second Paris. I didn't think there would be too much sadness in leaving this city, but I was wrong. Because I have fallen so in love with all of the wonderfully godly people here, I have also seen the charm this city holds.

A friend of mine wrote a poem about the beauty he saw in the city of New Orleans; it was reminiscent of Sandburg's "Chicago." After living and thriving in a place, it is hard to let go of it. Even if the beauty is extremely hard to find, it is still there. I was wrong when I told my mother that "I am allergic to this city which places no value in beauty." This city does value beauty, and if you don't believe me, just research the Rose Park in Timisoara.

One lesson I have learned that I will pass along: don't think that you can understand the effects of communism until you listen to the stories of those who stood in the square when the Revolution started. The changes happened for them. Their prayers were answered that day in 1989.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

This is a story that I haven't told as much as I should have; therefore, I feel like this is a pretty decent place to practice telling it. Whether or not you've heard it before, bear with me. It's really the only story I have worth telling.

All my life, I've lived with the tension of wanting to hear from God and sense His presence and being petrified of what might happen once He does. I would thirst for God's voice but was afraid that once He spoke, I would have to listen. I was afraid that if He did show up, I would somehow end up an old maid in China taking care of orphans. No offense to Chinese orphans, but I had other plans.

Eventually, the thirst and the longing started to overtake the uncertainty. I so longed for God's direction, that the fear eventually subsided once I realized the peace that comes from resting in Him. There is a song by Jennifer Knapp that I have known for a long time; I have a few favorite lines that always stay with me: "So turn on the light and reveal all the glory/I am not afraid /To bare all my weakness knowing in meekness/I have a kingdom to gain." Those lyrics sum up all of the anxiety that I felt as well as the peace the comes when our weakness is made perfect in Christ.

Since then, I have struggled with various areas in my life, but I know that God promised His unfailing love to me. I always take comfort in the fact that God knows and answers the prayers in my heart that I am too ashamed to utter aloud. The same tension still rears its ugly head, but I know that with God holding my right hand, He will lead me in triumphal procession [even if it leads me to China].

Thursday, July 30, 2009

There are two things that I truly look forward to doing once I am west of the Atlantic.

The first is driving a car. It has been well over two months since I sat in the driver's seat of a vehicle. That seems so strange to me, but when I think about the driving tactics of most Romanians, I get the urge to yell "shot gun!" and run to the passenger's side of the car. Anyone who thinks that Americans need driving lessons should learn how to drive in Romania. I'm almost certain that we could hold a nationwide NASCAR race featuring every licensed driver. A person must not have any fear of death in order to merge into traffic here.

The second thing that I anticipate is honest-to-goodness people watching. It's hard to enjoy this leisurely activity if you're wondering what people are talking about. Maybe they're discussing the weather . . . or a futbol game . . . or a kidnapping on the news . . . or the plot to kidnap that girl who's listening to our conversation. See what I mean? Speculation can only go so far.

Once back home, Taylor and I will need to head to our favorite people watching spot for dinner. The food is amazing, and how often do you get to listen to truckers talk about what highway they were on during 9/11?! Not often, therefore I'm game.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Do you ever put something off for so long that you begin to dread it for no apparent reason? Something that is unworthy of putting us ill at ease seems to take on the awful, shadowy form of the unknown simply because you've waiting so long to get around to doing it. That's how I feel about camp this week. It's an English camp, for Pete's sake! I already speak English, and to top it off, I will be taking care of the only people that can't even speak intelligibly! Why am I dreading this?!

I think it's because we are so off schedule, and my brain must be reverting back to survival mode . . . If she's waiting so long to go, there must be some danger in it! Maybe whatever is at that camp will try to harm her! I should make her worry so that she can prolong the trip even more! Yes, that was Kendall's Brain speaking (but Kendall's fingers still type no matter who is speaking). Maybe my body will force itself to become sick, like those men who became paralyzed shortly after their numbers were called in the draft.

Or maybe I'm just a dofuss who overreacts to things. We'll soon find out, for we're leaving tonight at 8 o'clock to drive to the camp.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

In the Heat of Timisoara

All day today my mom and I have been taking care of my dad; he's suffered from heat exhaustion all day long (and came dangerously close to a heat stroke). He probably should have been hospitalized, but none of us trust the hospitals in Romania. It's been a struggle all day praying that his skin will cool down, but most of the day he's just been in a lot of pain that we can't help in any way. Thankfully, my mom's mom was a nurse (they say all of that medical expertise just got passed on to her).... :)

We had planned on leaving for an English camp tomorrow morning, but that's not going to happen. We'll be staying in our apartment giving my dad fluids until he is able to fully recover. A huge wrench in our plan, but maybe God knew better than to allow us to arrive on time. My parents were going to be presenting a seminar on using business English and teaching the DISC profile test . . . all we can do is remain thankful that the other folks working the camp are incredibly flexible.

This post doesn't hold any great musing on deep topics, but I can admit to being incredibly thankful for all of the prayers spoken on behalf of my father. It's been a long day, but please continue to pray.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

I don't know why I didn't actually publish this in the summer....

A place that simply lacks beauty. For some reason, I imaged that a God who thought up the wide smile of the sun-flower would make it impossible for a part of His creation to lose beauty. Now, I'm no seasoned aesthete, but post-communist Timisoara is pretty lacking in the aesthetics.

Even as I type this, I realize that from my limited, finite mind, there is roughly one billion holes in my logic. Yes, man can destroy the Earth, and he can neglect it and refuse to nurture the creation, but that does not take away from the worth of his children. Because we are bearing the image of the ultimate Creator, this place is not completely barren of beauty. So, my quips about being allergic to a place with no beauty is moot. Yes, these buildings need a good sand-blasting and white washing, but the majesty of each person's Creator shines through these dingy streets.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

My Olfactory Senses Were Assualted by Communism

While I was in the shower today, a cool breeze was coming through the punched-out window. Usually whenever I hear the phrase "cool breeze," I think of a tropical island, a comfortable hammock, or a shady spot to read a good book. The same could not be possible for the breeze I encountered, for with this breeze came the scent of Romania.

Some people have extremely fine tuned olfactory senses. Wine connoisseurs are somehow able to find earthly, nutty, or berry flavors in their drink, so I should be able to figure out the scent I've grown so accustomed to. Would you like to know what Romania smells like? I'll tell you the recipe: lots and lots of cigarette smoke, grits (the Romanians call it mamaliga) and roughly 42 years of Communist oppression. The grime that builds up when people don't care about beauty, the anger, confusion and addiction brought about by a government unworthy of your trust, and a classic form of Romanian sustenance.

That is the odor that pervades my life in Romania. But every now and then some fresh air comes wafting in; let us pray the fresh air isn't just a breeze, but the constant rush of a Mighty Wind.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Speaking Their Language

After a grueling week of day camp at The Potter's House, the most rewarding thing seemed to be when any of the adults finally started speaking a given child's language. That doesn't mean I now understand Romanian, or that my new Irish and Northern Irish friends picked it up in two days, but at certain times, you could tell that we understood the child, and they understood us.

Yesterday my mom roped me into teaching some of the kids the Hustle; I never thought the things I learned at a high school dance would come in handy. After lunch, I eased my way to the open cement slab and started dancing to "Oh, Ancient of Days" with my mom and the other ladies working the camp. They quickly caught on and some of the kids did, too. It was fun, but I didn't really think it stuck, so we moved on to the next idea to keep the kids occupied for at least one more hour.

But when we walked into the Potter's House this morning, a little girl named Loredonna (pronounced Laura-Donna) ran up to me asking me in choppy fragments of English if we would dance soon. We quickly nodded our heads, and in the back of my mind I was rather surprised she thought to ask about it. After breakfast had ended, we found the CD that had the appropriate song, and soon we were hustling like nobody's business. I was speaking her language. She couldn't help but have an extremely proud smile on her face as I continued to give her two thumbs-up and say "Bravo!" in a pitiful attempt at an Eastern European accent.

She was such a natural when it came to dancing that she wanted to teach me a dance, as well. We were able to share the experience of being teacher and student. I couldn't help but think that Mr. Harle would be proud of my feminist pedagogy. We each messed up, but we both encouraged the other that our dance-moves were worth not pooping out on.

She was the hardest child I had to part ways with. I know I won't soon forget the moves to her dance, and I hope that every time either of us hears the classic tune about the Ancient of Days, that our instant urge will be to Hustle. I know my first thought will to be to take three steps to the right.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Tired Feet

"When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. 'Do you understand what I have done for you?' he asked them. 'You call me 'Teacher' and 'Lord,' and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet.'" John 13:12-14

Not until I moved to Romania have I realized the huge deal washing feet can be. I've had my feet washed by several people over the years . . . folks in San Diego, the Seniors at Bryan, my wonderful boyfriend, and others than wanted to make sure I knew that those who lead need to serve.

Every morning, I have to muster up the strength to go through the hassle of getting ready, for I know that wherever we go, I'll be tired and sweaty whenever we get there. It takes practically half a day to get anything, and by the time we're done, my feet simply ache. Especially while my parents and I were in Rome, the evening brought tired, dirty feet (and a beautiful twilight!). But the next morning, I would have plenty of strength to walk through the city again.

In the first century world, the sojourner's tired feet would be the first thing to discourage a person from making a long trip. But my King stands ready at the end of my journey, waiting with towel in hand, for us to come and rest before him. That makes the pain in my feet a much smaller issue than my fallen spirit would naturally make it seem.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

"On an Evening in Roma"

After seeing the major sights in Rome, there is still one thing that stands out more than any other. At the Borghese Gallery, I was given the chance to sit and observe sculptures by Bernini and countless other famous artists. With all of the breathtaking artwork, none were more beautiful than a painting by Jacopo Zucchi. I've inserted a picture I found on Google Images, but nothing can really do it justice. Sorry if you don't like nudies in your art, but I just find it breathtaking. I always feel such a sorrow for Psyche after she knows who her lover is. I do think C.S. Lewis captured the story perfectly in his book, Till We Have Faces.

In short, Rome was spectacular. In my mind, there really aren't enough right words to describe it to someone; all I can say is that you have to go there. You have to stand in the middle of the Colosseum, sit at a edge of the Trevi Fountain, and walk to the top of Palatine Hill. Everyone (even those who are not deeply religious) need to stand in awe of the awesomeness of St. Peter's Basilica.

Even as I bumped along the cobblestone roads to the airport, I kept thinking that I'll be back in Rome some time. My Chacos may be a little more worn out at that point, though.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

I Still Learn a lot From Them

After years of arguments, fights, pushing, shoving, growing, and moving, I cannot begin to describe the kind of impact my brothers have had on me. Yes, I know, that cliche "we've-grown-to-love-each-other-more" kind of thing is bound to rear its ugly head at some point, but it's different than that. I've often wondered what kind of childhood kids have when their the only kid in a family.

God made us to be relational, and it wouldn't be much fun not having another little person running around with whom you could relate. I'm always afraid that I won't learn all that I could from my brothers, but then I stumbled across Conner's blog, and I realized that my learning from them doesn't end just because of age or distance. I won't see Conner and Amy for two years at least. That's a pretty hard pill to swallow, but I think I'll be able handle it. Cameron was in Saipan for a year, and I made it out alive.

I just hope that I've made a similar impact in their lives, for being the youngest qualifies me for a lot of learning and some teaching. But they have taught me to think deeper and reach further than I naturally would . . . or else I'd be the Washerwoman for the rest of my life.

Friday, June 19, 2009

My European Home

While driving through Hungary, I realized the landscape seemed to be a carbon-copy of Ohio. If you know me, you'll know that Ohio landscape is not a great start for a 60 day trip.

But as I sit in the living room of my parent's small block apartment, I try to think back on any expectation I had for Romania. My mom refused to show me the pictures of the apartment in Tennessee for fear that I wouldn't come. That was motivating! For the first time since 2nd grade, I'll be sharing a room with my brother; it should be interesting to say the least.
The picture is the view from the bathroom window; I chose that view because I liked the fact the window was punched th
rough the wall. All of these apartments were built by the government during the communist era. Some pretty wild things went down, and Romania is just starting to bounce back from it. At first I wondered at the little country houses that were painted any color of the rainbow, but then I realized that these people had been so starved for color for so many years. It is sad, but it makes sense. I absolutely love living with the bare essentials, though. I think that is certainly something I could be happy with . . . a small apartment, a kitchen big enough to cook, a fridge big enough to hold drinks and a few perishables, and a bedroom that is cozy. As long as I can look at the sky and have a good book next to me, I'm satisfied.

The next picture is of my father and me. Yes, I'm wearing one of thoooose scarves, but it's only because I'll be able to say, "Oh, this? It's just a scarf that I got when I lived in Europe." ;)

Sunday, June 7, 2009

"When the lesson's over, you'll be with me..."

So, after a month of IT work, my time there is done. I have gained a love and respect for all the cooky guys who work in there, but most of all, I've learned to ask questions. Being in a completely foreign environment has given me a healthy respect for those who have expertise in an area of which I know absolutely nothing.

One man, James, was always helpful in explaining the importance of what we were working on, and I am forever grateful for that. Working hard is something that I can say I hadn't really done before. Sure, I've sweat and gotten backaches from things I've done, but I've never felt to great about washing my hands at 4:30 and seeing little brown bubbles slip into the sink. If anything, I will no longer complain about BCNet. :)

I'll get to see my parents in roughly 3 hours. Hooray! I am very ready for them to be back. It will be a fun wedding, but I must say, I've been kept in the dark on a lot of it. I don't even know if it's in a church or outside. Alabama in summer... let's pray it's indoor.

Friday, May 29, 2009

My Life in Mayberry

For the first time in a while, I was able to experience small town charm. Listen to this:

After eating a quick lunch on the edge of the courthouse lawn, I walked over to the bank (only across the street) and withdrew a little money. I crossed the street without even worrying about any passing cars and wandered over to the farmers who sell their produce every afternoon. I walked down the street, and every step of the way an older farmer or his wife warmly welcomed me to their stand. I finally ended up at the last one and bought an apple tart and a small jar of homemade strawberry jam. After paying the old man in overalls, I started crossing the courthouse lawn to head back to my truck. I was suddenly taken aback that I was walking in the shadow of a building that held the likes of William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow. As I looked up to the top floor where the famous trial was held, I saw a policeman standing in the window. I suppose I was staring a little long, for he finally spotted me and waved. I grinned and waved back. The smile that I shared with him could not leave my face. I opened my door, turned my key to make my little red truck jump to life, drove up the hill, and went back to work.

I felt like I should see Barney Fife step out of the police station while Aunt Bee gave me a recipe for biscuits. It was absolutely perfect, and it made me fall in love with small towns all over again.

Monday, May 25, 2009

13 Days and Counting

In exactly thirteen days, I will go (along with my love) to pick up my parents from their long flight into town. I haven't seen them since we said good-bye in the parking lot of Cracker Barrel. I ate at Cracker Barrel for the first time in roughly six months yesterday. Maybe that's my small way of readying myself. Either way, I am very ready to see them again.

Today is my first Memorial Day away from family. I hardly know what to do with myself, for there is no one to let me know that I need to help with some project or help get ready for a picnic. All I know is that today is another day I do not have to work, and therefore I am thankful. Is absolutely everything closed on Memorial Day? Some things MUST stay open. Funeral homes. Ice cream shops. Parks. Those things have to be open. And hopefully Rafael's down in Soddy. They have THE best Italian food this side of the Atlantic.

I should probably go ahead and get my day stared. Oh, funny story: that bird house I mentioned? It was supposed to be enough wood for two, but we need to reuse different pieces so many times that we could only make one. While Taylor and I were driving past Lowe's, looking at numerous weekend warriors of home improvement, he asked, "Why don't we have a Memorial Day project?"
"We made birdhouses! That was project enough for us! We can just say we built a house!"

Have a good Memorial Day; thank you, veterans.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Board Games and Other Thoughts

After watching a Monopoly game continue for roughly five hours, I cannot begin to describe how much I love being the first player to go bankrupt. Not too many feeling can compare to the joy of watching two other folks wiggle in their seats because they are too prideful to quit playing. Just in the past hour I've watched little baby birds sleeping in a nest, taught a friend how to play backgammon, and win a game of Connect-Four. 

I also built a bird-house today. I painted it "Water Flow" blue . . . it is beautiful. It's hanging on a telephone pole so that I can see it every time I drive to work. I know it's too late in the year for a bird to nest in it, but there will be plenty of time for nature to break it in. By this time next year, I should see a mama bird popping in there to feed her babies. 

While building the little home for my winged friends, I began to remember how blistering Tennessee heat is. I had been spoiled by tame Michigan summers, but now I am back in the wild heat of the South. I was only painting the house a few minutes before I my hair was sticking to the back of my neck. They say women don't sweat; they glow. That's a huge lie. I've spent a good deal of time trying to be a proper woman, but it's rather impossible sitting on a front porch in the  blazing heat. I suppose the "proper" thing to do is excuse yourself and wander gracefully into the house. I wandered in and made a crash landing for a nap. 

All in all, it has been a fantastic Saturday. 

Thursday, May 21, 2009

This is a Start

I never pictured myself as someone who would sit down at a computer, pick out a few thoughts that swirl around in my mind, and end up throwing them into the humming world of the internet. I also never thought that I would work for the IT department at my college; after all, it's not common practice for a student to put down a Western Lit book in order to help with a computer problem. None of those things really matter, though, for the point of this blog is to glean more experience and try something new. I will doing quite a bit of traveling this summer, so I though this would be a tranquil venue for capturing the places and people I bump into along the way.

For now, the most interesting thing I've done all day is plug in speakers for a woman who happened to be too confused to find their little electronic home in the back of her modem. Not too stimulating, but it is still rather satisfying. Maybe it's the teacher in me longing to experience that moment when the light-bulb suddenly turns on. Or maybe it's the boredom screaming for me to leave my desk. Either way, it was still satisfying.

I get off work in exactly 3 minutes. Then the day is mine! The end of the work day is the beginning of my own little adventure. How will I spend this "time between the times"? Where will I find myself when the sun dips behind the plateau?