Friday, December 4, 2009

C is for Christmas

      I seem really bah humbug about Christmas this year. I keep thinking there must be something wrong with me, and it might be partly true... but I don't know, I just don't know how to rationalize buying things for people when we don't need anything. I hardly even want anything. Of course part of me wants a lot of things, like new clothes, shoes, etc., but I don't need any of those things.

      I am starting to appreciate the pretty decorations,and I enjoy the holiday movies. But you know what is really weird... I was thinking the other day about how we say "Happy Holidays" so that we don't offend people of other religions, and I'm cool with that. But then I thought, why are we putting up a tree at Tabor if we are trying not to be biased toward Christianity. And therein lies the problem! A second later, I realized that, duh, celebrating Christ's birth at Christmas time has nothing to do with putting up a tree. The two are not related. So Tabor putting up a tree doesn't say anything about us favoring Christianity (though it does show we are not endorsing Hanukkah or Kwanzaa).

      So this is why I'm kind of bah humbug. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with us enjoying our Christmas music, egg nog, tree decorating, shopping... but if we are equating those things with celebrating Christ's birth, then it is wrong. What's great about all the holiday decorating and such is that you get to do it with your family, and spending time with your family is a great way to worship God. And I don't know, I just don't even remember the last time my family spend time decorating together. My dad decorates the tree by himself because he wants it to look perfect. No homemade ornaments. We don't read The Night Before Christmas. I stopped believing in Santa when I was 6 years old. I started a club in 1st grade for kids who didn't believe in Santa and got in BIG trouble with my teacher (because most 6 year olds believe in Santa!).

      It's no wonder that I'm disillusioned and not all that thrilled about Christmas if all my experiences show Christmas to be about gifts. But knowing Christ and celebrating His birth is what I am most interested in. And I don't feel like God wants me to use my resources to buy gifts that people don't need. It's not spiritually healthy to encourage materialism, and it's not environmentally healthy to create more waste. But I do know that giving is important. I wish we could give to someone else, as a family. Volunteer together or donate our money to something that will offer something greater, something more in need to others. At Tabor, the case workers have clients who keep their heat at 55 degress so they can afford food, people who don't have beds, people who can't afford diapers for their babies. How can I celebrate Christ's birth in light of this? Where do I go from there?

      I read that your Christmas budget should be no more than 1.5% of your annual income. Which for me is about $150. So the question is how can I worship God with this $150? How can I worship Him with the few days that we are given to spend with family? I don't know.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

B is for Birthday

Well, it has officially been 23 years since I came out of my mother's womb. I can't believe how time flies by.... I think a little reflection is in order...

10 years ago
(a poem I wrote when I was in 6th grade)
Boys, boys they are so hot.
I could die right on the spot.
He looks about 18, but so what?
Cuz he has the world's cutest butt.
I've never seen a boy so tall.
I'm sure that he plays basketball.
His muscles are so big, so scary.
It is him who I am going to marry.
5 years ago (from my xanga blog)
Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Currently Playing
By New Found Glory

its 9 days till my bday! im so excited, even though i can't have the cool dance party thing i wanted to have. so lets see... what have i been up to since i last wrote... i'm going out with JR... but other than that, i guess theres no other exciting news. oh! i was in the penny saver yesterday on the cover, for lancaster idol. some lady came and interviewed me and alyssa at school. it just occured to me today how many people could be reading this xanga... hi everyone! whats up! so at quiz bowl the other day, we almost beat e town on the last round! i was so excited, and i actually buzzed in and got a question right! the question was , the atomic number of an element is the same as what, and i said protons! and then we got a bonus question about snow white, and of course i knew all those answers. it had 4 parts... 1. which dwarf is always in a good mood? 2. which is the only dwarf without a beard? 3. what do the dwarfs do for a living? 4. what song do the dwarfs sing to and from work?
answers...1. happy 2. dopey 3. miners 4. heigh ho, its off to work we go.
did u get them all right???!!!!

That stuff cracks me up. I'm such a quirky person. This is proof that I always have been weird!

So back to the present... I had a really great birthday week. Last Wednesday night, Jenn (my bible study co-leader) organized a surprise party for me at bible study. DaShawn (a friend at Millersville) was downstairs waiting in the dark, and when we walked in and turned the light on, DaShawn turned his iPod on and started dancing and yelled SURPRISE! It was such a great night!
On Thursday, my actual birthday, my friends at work surprised me with a box of donuts and apple cider. Sherry (a fellow VISTA) made a Twilight birthday card for me :o) We went out for Chinese for lunch, and Mary treated for me. Then Megan made me broccoli, chicken, and rice cassarole for dinner, and TJ came over, too. Then we watched Twilight!
On Friday, I had off work, so I went up to LVC to visit during lunch, and Julia and I went to go see New Moon. I liked it a lot! Then I went home to go to Millersville for a joint birthday party for Jon Love and me. He turned 21. So we pretty much had a big dance party. Also, we played musical chairs.
On Saturday I went to Millersville to Cafe Expressions, a coffee house open mic thing that a few students had organized. I got to sing "Blessed," which I was super excited for. It didn't go amazingly well because I was thrown off by having to sing leaning over a podium. I don't know why I was nervous, but I really was. Afterward, I wished I could go back up there and ask to try again. I could have done much better, but I don't know what happened! That was my birthday gift to myself--getting to sing.
So that's a rundown of my birthday festivities. It's sad that it's all over, but now it is Thanksgiving! I am so THANKFUL to get to see my family!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

cup of pee

      I think that a Church with a true community is like a group of students standing in line holding a cup of urine. Oh wait, let me back up a little... so every year, the student athletes have to get a physical at LVC (and other colleges, too I'm sure). The last thing you have to do is a urine test, so they give you a dixie cup--yes, a paper dixie cup--and after you've urinated in the paper cup, you come stand in line to wait for testing. When I was a junior, it was the worst because all athletes were getting their physicals around the same time, so honestly, I waited in line with a cup of pee for at least half an hour to an hour. Just holding my pee. The cup started getting soggy. My friend Allie stood there with her fiance holding her cup of pee. That's just the kind of stuff you don't want anyone to see, even when you are at the doctor's office. But there you stand holding your own urine. It feels so... I don't know, vulnerable. Exposed. And dirty. But it's not so bad since we were all holding a cup of urine. Everyone was in the same place.
     So I think that a Church should be like that, too. Church should be a place where people feel welcome to stand there vulnerable and exposed and be accepted. They should not feel condemned. Jesus told the adulteress that he did not condemn her. Why aren't we more like that? I think if we shifted our attitudes and views of other people's sin and didn't condemn them, we would stop condemning ourselves, also. We would move to a place of openness with our community, so that we can actually walk together in our faith. We could feel comfortable sharing with one another in our struggles. We need to find the right balance between no condemnation and accountability because that's where Jesus is waiting to offer transformation. How do I love and accept others while keeping them accountable in following Jesus?
     I think if I could just face the ugly truth that I, too, am standing there holding a cup of pee, I wouldn't be so condemning of others. Cuz if you don't do the urine test, if you are too embarrassed to stand in line with a cup of pee, well, you can't be an athlete at LVC. You won't know if you are healthy or not.
     I, too, stand here with my dixie cup of pee with all the rest, so there's no reason to be ashamed. How can we condemn others, laugh at others, when we also stand with a cup of pee? And if I could have the courage to hold my cup, maybe others would see that it's okay to be vulnerable.We could move to a place of acceptance and no condemnation in the name of Jesus.
     So yeah, I think that a Church ought to be like a group of students holding a cup of pee.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A is for Asian

     This past weekend, I went to an Asian-American Leader's Day with InterVarsity. It was for Asian-American students and staff. The conference was in Baltimore, so I went down Friday and stayed until Sunday at Joy's house to spend time with Joy and Vanessa.
     Saturday morning, I got up all ready and excited for the conference... it was a 10 minute drive from Joy's house, so no stress, right? WRONG! I started off by missing my exit off 645, so I thought, no big deal, I'll just take the next exit and turn around. Well, the next exit was 83. UGH! Again, no big deal, I turned around on 83, and then was able to get on 645 and take the correct exit. Only here's the catch... there were two exit 26's... one was York Rd-North, and the other was York Rd-South. I took the first one since it corresponded with what the directions said. The only problem is when you're coming from the other direction, north and south are opposite what they would be from the right direction. This is scenario A, entitled "Why I Am To Blame." Scenario B is simply that the directions were wrong, or "Why It's Not My Fault."
     Well, whoever's fault it was, I didn't get there until an hour and a half late because I was in the wrong town. Same road--York Rd... but wrong town. I was looking for a 7000 address, so driving down York Rd had me at 1000, 1020, etc etc, then 2000, 2020, and so forth... it was SO LONG! So I said, God, please let these numbers go faster! And then all of a sudden, I was at 10000. God is funny. I giggled and said, no not that fast, God! So I turned around, 10000....9838...9800....2450. SAY WHAT?! Yes, it goes from the 2000's to the 9000's. And I know that IV's regional director isn't a liar just trying to mess with me, so I know this Central Presbyterian Church exists! So I just keep driving back and forth, thinking I must be missing it! That's what the guy at Wendy's said. But the nice man at the gas station hit me with the truth: you're in the wrong town! 7000 is WAY down on York Rd. Well, good to know! I wasn't happy with his news, but it was nice to have someone who knew what they were talking about. (Perhaps that's why the Harvard implicit test told me that I have a slight preference for Arab-Americans. Because of that man!) Gosh this is a long story, I'll skip to the end... So I wasn't in Towson like I thought I was. The directions that google maps gave me could have been a lot simpler. I was really frustrated, but I got there. It was just 15 minutes down the road, in Towson, not Timonium.
     Well now to the good stuff, Dakota, the regional director of IV in the Mid-Atlantic region, was kind of heading up the conference (when I say conference, I mean there were about a dozen students). Our speaker was supposed to be Greg Jao, another regional director of IV and author of a few famous books, none of which I have read, but still, an author! I was so excited! But his car broke down in New York, and he didn't make it. So Dakota vamped. I'm surprised at how great it was, in spite of not having a speaker! Praise God! Also, we ate Vietnamese food. I was never more proud of being Vietnamese... that food was AWESOME! (That was just hyperbole, I am proud of being Vietnamese for many other reasons, don't think I'm terrible haha.)
     We talked a lot about our sphere of influence as leaders. Who are the people that we feel comfortable reaching out to, and who are the types of people that we don't tend to feel as comfortable with? How can we change this? How can we challenge ourselves to reach out to other types of people? What kind of differing values do we have that might lead to conflict or miscommunication in our fellowship?
     It helped to renew for me the reason that I'm interning with IV. College is such a different situation than high school because it's a chance for those who are Christians and grew up in the church to take their faith as their own because their parents won't be there to make them go to church or anything anymore. It's also a chance for those who have never heard of Jesus to encounter him. That's why campus ministry matters. And the reason that this conference was specifically for Asian-American students is because having a minority in that leadership role opens the door of possibility in the mind of other students. An Asian-American IV staff is a witness to other minority students for them to know that leadership is a possibility for them, too. So I thought that was cool. I met a lot of cool students who really are leaders on their campus and really have a heart for their campus. And IV is a chance to minister to students who want to change the world... you know, Gary Haugen, the president of IJM, was in IV when he went to college? Yep, true story.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

the cost of freedom

        It costs me $10 for a soccer ball. I can afford that. But a $10 soccer ball is affordable because it is hand-stitched by slave labor. If I want a soccer ball that is guaranteed to be made by free labor, it costs $30. And it is so damn hard to choose a $30 soccer ball when you have the option of the $10 soccer ball.
        It's the same problem with free range chicken eggs. We would rather pay $1.50 for a dozen eggs of chickens who are cramped in coops rather than paying $3.50 for free range chicken eggs that come from chickens who have been raised in a healthy, sustainable manner. Well, it's not the same problem. But it's still shortsightedness that cripples the future moving towards healthier practices.
        What is the cost of freedom? It's a $30 soccer ball, for starters.
        But even I, who care so much about human rights, have trouble buying the $30 soccer ball. I bought my soccer ball before I knew that my $10 soccer ball was made by slave labor, and I have trouble even looking at it. It's tainted. It's like stealing. 27 million people in forced labor around the world even though slavery is illegal everywhere. 15 million children in slavery. Making clothes, soccer balls, and bricks for me. I'm not saying that I can solve it. I'm not saying that me choosing the $30 soccer ball is going to eradicate this evil of modern-day slavery. But it's me taking a stand in whatever way that I can. It's taking a stand for justice.
        It's easy to be apathetic about something that seems so far away--something that we don't have to see every day. But it breaks my heart to know that I benefit from the injustice in this world. I don't even have words for it... it's one of those things that just silences you because it's such a huge ache on my heart. A blog I stumbled across once while researching slavery seemed to say it best:

"Of my own ambition I would never think to become a living sacrifice for those in need, but Christ bears in me a love for the broken that breaks me deeper day by day. His divine invitation to dine with Him has introduced me to His heart. During our conversations He speaks of the physically poor and abused, the mentally impaired and deceived, the emotionally neglected and bankrupt, and the spiritually asleep as if His joy depends on healing every one of us. The longer I linger with Him, the more my joy depends on it, too...
Oh Christ, bear in us strength in our weakness by granting us faith in our fear and hope in our hurting and purpose in the pain as we face injustice, in order that we wouldn't lose heart. May Your power be made perfect in our weakness as we step out in the measure of faith You have given us to be Your hands and feet. Go before us to loose the chains of injustice, to set the oppressed free, to shelter the wanderer, to clothe the naked, and to provide for the poor not only physically but emotionally, mentally, and spiritually - which are of eternal importance. We ache not to build our castles in the sand that today stand and tomorrow fall, but to further Your Kingdom that will come tomorrow and stand for eternity.
Oh, haste the day! I live for it! But until then I will ache. And though my heart feels so heavy I count the weight as a blessing ordained by God instead of a burden as long as every ounce serves to motivate me to abolish injustice and continues to inspire me deeper into the precious heart of Christ.”

What is the cost of freedom? I think it's being willing to give up some of our own freedom to face these things, though it's hard to hear. All I know is that as I dig deeper into God's heart, there's no way to avoid God''s deep desire to set the captives free. I don't have a solution of how to make this happen, but I know that I want to, have to be a part of loosing the chains of injustice.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Shift 09

        Going into our fall conference this past weekend, I was really excited BUT, also, really nervous about not getting enough sleep.That sounds weird, right? I mean who worries excessively about stuff like that? That's what God said to me this weekend... he's like, seriously, Jess, seriously?? So me, being, most likely, the only person excessively worrying about not getting enough sleep over the weekend, barely slept at all Friday night. For some reason, I just couldn't sleep. I tossed and turned for a few hours, cried about it, then tossed and turned some more. I think I slept for about two hours. I had to nap in the afternoon (for another two hours). Then I was looking forward to going to bed really early on Saturday night (plus getting an hour for daylight savings), but that didn't happen either. We ended up having a Millersville leader's meeting that went until after 2 AM. Something that Betsy said this weekend really rang true for me, and it wasn't even in reference to me and my lack of sleep; Betsy said that there are better things that this weekend has to offer than sleep. Which brings me back to what God thought of my excessive worrying about not getting enough sleep: "Seriously, Jess, seriously? You think not getting enough sleep is such a huge deal? Well, in that case, I'm going to NOT give you enough sleep. And you will STILL be okay." Touché, God, touché.

        So Shift consisted of the South Central area InterVarsity chapters: Millersville, F&M, Elizabethtown, Dickinson, York, Penn State Harrisburg, and LVC (but no one came from LVC!). There were 60-70 students, I think. I forget. It was a really great time to spend with Millersville students, meet new students from the other schools, and lead with other staff (aka my wonderful friends). The speaker was a friend of Bret's, Nick Peterson, who is just a really awesome man of God. It was a really challenging weekend for all the students and for me.

        I saw God working all the students. I was blessed to be a part of the worship team. We had a practice session about a week or so before Shift, and I was just struck by this awesome opportunity to worship God with those who have quickly become some of my best friends. It's what heaven must be like: 24/7 of worship team with Betsy, Jesse, Evan, Megan, and of course, George. As part of the worship team, I was able to see how God was working in the students. They sang with such passion and just seemed so open to hearing what God had to say to them.

      Shift is a chance for students (and staff) to hear how God is calling them to make a shift in their lives. At the end of the conference, the students were given an invitation: accept Jesus for the first time, make an adult decision to follow Christ (claim their faith as their own instead of their parents), or committing something they have or hold precious to God. So many students went up there to write on a post it note. A few accept Christ for the first time, many others chose to claim their faith as their own, and tons of students wanted to go deeper and give more of themselves to God. How incredible!

        Another activity that we had as a response after hearing about John 8, the adulterous woman that the pharisees wanted to stone. Nick paints the picture of this woman who was caught in the act of adultery, meaning she was probably naked or half naked. And everyone knew about this sin. He contrasted this with the way we like to cover up our sins. As a response to this lesson, we had black posterboard that students could write down the sins they felt needed to be exposed. Jesus gave no condemnation to this woman, so we can make a shift from shame ---> no condemnation. Well, I still feel shame, apparently, because I had a hard time believing that a lot of people would go up and write their sins down. But they did. And during worship, they had the opportunity to erase those sins from the board, knowing that Jesus offers no condemnation and says, "Go, and sin no more." Most people were able to erase their sins from the board. I was really moved by the overwhelming amount of people who exposed their sin, and it was just so evident that God was working to cause a shift in students' hearts. Which brings me to our Millersville leader's meeting that went until 2 AM, we had a "Let's Stop Pretending" meeting where we intended to expose sin that we felt was holding us back from becoming a closer community as a fellowship or just discuss problems we had in the fellowship. At first, I was like, seriously, it's midnight! Then I thought, seriously, it's 1 AM! But by 2 AM, though I was exhausted, I saw that God was bringing us closer together.

        In other news, we got to have an open mic night which Millersville totally dominated! haha I got to read a poem, and something happened just like the poem wished for! I seemed to stop people dead in their tracks with my words. People stopped playing games or talking and were listening to me. Also, Mary and I played gaga, a fun game of Israeli dodgeball. We were the last two left in the game (because the guys thought it would be funny). It was hilarious and ridiculous, as things with Mary and me usually are.

Well, clearly, God had better things in mind for this past weekend than sleep.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

feeling worse before feeling better

        So last week on Grey's Anatomy, the episode was a really cool mystery type thing... there was a fire in a hotel, so there were some burn victims in the hospital. There was one boy who had been looking at a college, and his burns were so bad... he looked like one of those diagrams of the human body in a text book that shows all the muscles and nerves. I mean, his burns were seriously that bad that you couldn't even tell there was skin on his body. It was really gross, and I could hardly look at it. The doctor that was supposed to be helping out was crying about it; she just couldn't handle seeing it, and the other doctor told her to pull it together because that boy needed her. He had every nerve in his body exposed, so he was feeling everything, and things were going to have to feel worse before they would get better for him. Arizona, the doctor, told Lexie that she had to "talk to him about his future and remind him that he has one past all of this pain."
        I really identify with having every nerve exposed on my body. But I really guard against feeling that. I guess that's what everyone tends to do... I don't want to be broken completely. I keep trying to hold onto the pieces so that it doesn't have to hurt so bad. I keep feeling like I can't afford the time and energy to cry it all out. The other night when I was crying, I kept worrying that I had to wake up in the morning, and I was losing precious sleeping hours. There's no time to think about it, pray about it, cry about it. And when I do pray, I feel like I can't spend my time praying about my brokenness because there is so much else to be praying about like my family, my friends, Millersville, LVC.
        But it does always feel worse before feeling better, doesn't it? It just has to. Something has to die before you can be reborn, and death is painful. It always is. I wanted to die peacefully in my sleep, but that just isn't possible. It has to hurt like hell, rip that band-aid off, and then move on. Because God promises that this is not the end. He is always moving, always restoring. But sometimes when God moves, mountains crumble, and that's scary because nothing is the same after God arrives.
        Hurting sucks... change sucks... but God is good. And He promises that this is not the end.

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have already overcome the world." -John 16:33

Friday, October 23, 2009

hope is scary sometimes

        Did you know that we use the word "hopefully" incorrectly most of the time? For example, we might say "hopefully, I will win the lottery." But hopefully is an adverb, which means that word must be used to describe an action. To analyze the parts of speech of that sentence, you must ask yourself: how will you win?And the answer to that question is not "hopefully." I know, who cares. Other than me anyway. ;-) We all know that "hope" is a verb, as in "I hope it doesn't rain tonight." But I feel like we never mean it as much of an action. Are you really hoping? Merriam-Webster defines hope as "to expect with confidence." Hope is scary, though. You're expecting something with confidence, which sets you up to come crashing down if something doesn't happen as expected.
        This is something we've had to face recently with IV at Millersville because our dorm talks didn't go as expected. We had high hopes that God was going to move in huge ways. Betsy had been praying for 15 people to come to each dorm talk. And that didn't happen... So what does that mean for us? We didn't even come close to that. I walked onto campus that night thinking that dorm talks were going to change my world. And they didn't. So if I'm being honest, yeah, I was disappointed. At our leadership team meeting last week, Betsy asked, why didn't God do more? Then a student asked, do we think God didn't do enough? So I've been wrestling with this a lot. Why didn't God do what we thought He wanted to do at dorm talks? And the default answer is that God didn't want to do what we thought He did; He had something else in mind. But I don't like cliche, default answers.
       But I think our disappointment just shows that we desire for God to do big things. There is so much healing to be done in this world, and we long for it. We long for God to heal every heart at Millersville, and so yes, we are always hoping that He will do more. So there's a balance between praising God for what He has done and waiting expectantly for Him to do more.
        Hope is scary sometimes. That's what my friend Joy said the other day. I asked if she thinks she will get back together with Joe because they had broken up two days prior, and she said that she does, but hope is scary. Expecting something with confidence? Definitely scary.
        My friend Sarah said something to me and another friend, Dana Beth, about showing the new International Justice Mission film at Millersville, and we all agreed that we want to make the event happen. And I am feeling so excited and hopeful that God is going to bless this event and open people's perspectives to learn about modern-day slavery. In the midst of being excited, I remembered last night about the previous experiences I have had with trying to plan IJM events. Last semester, we had a women's violence awareness week, something like that... and as part of the week, I planned showing the movie Holly, which is a movie about slavery. And no one showed up. I had to remind myself that it wasn't anything personal; people were just disinterested. But it sucked. So I thought last night, oh no! What if no one shows up again?! For a split second, I thought maybe I didn't want to go through with planning this event. It's easy to be skeptical after facing disappointment, but I pray this would not be the case for IV at Millersville. I pray that we would try to have outreach events again, and that we would hope for God to move. And I pray that, above all, we would just always remember what God said to Job when Job questioned his circumstances. "Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation..." Check out Rob Bell's Nooma video about Job entitled Whirlwind. He goes through God's whole response, and it's really crazy to hear it all out loud.
        I saw this quote that said, "Everything will be okay in the end. If it's not okay, it's not the end." That's the truth isn't it, that God will restore everything. It will be okay in the end. Hopefully, I wait on the Lord. And it's not scary when I'm hoping for Him because He will do more. After really long conversation about the dorm talks and our disappointment, one student, Wes, said that he felt God asking him, "If you were doing this for My glory, why are you upset? Because I'm not."

1 Then Job answered the LORD and said:
 2 “I know that You can do everything,
      And that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You.
 3 You asked, ‘Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?’
      Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
      Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
Job 42:1-3

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


        At Millersville the other night, we had Contact, and we were discussing whether or not we would forgive our spouse if he or she cheated on us. Almost everyone (who spoke up, at least) said that they would forgive someone for cheating on them. They said that we all make mistakes and that we are supposed to forgive because God forgives us. Well, of course that's true; I can't argue there. But I felt like I was the only person who flat out said they wouldn't take someone back after he cheated on me. Though I will say, from the way others spoke, they hadn't had someone cheat on them. So that definitely makes a difference in the way you see it.
        I find cheating to be the most despicable thing ever. I've done it once, I must confess. I was about 14 years old, and I kissed a boy that wasn't my boyfriend. I actually still regret it because it's so not me to do something like that. It wasn't me then, either, so I don't even know how that happened. In any case, that's irrelevent. Just thought I would confess.
        Anyway there I am, listening to everyone say that they would want to work it out with their spouse if he or she cheated and wondering what the heck is wrong with me that I wouldn't even consider it. Should I be more merciful? More forgiving? My friend Tommy brought up that there is a difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. There is a way to forgive someone that doesn't mean you have to stay with that person. Of course there's also the difference between an affair and a one time thing, but either way, I don't think I could stay with that person. Even if it's my husband. Even if I'm not one who usually supports divorce as an option.
        It's just that cheating breaks my heart so much. I've seen it, and I just feel like it destroys lives. It's not just about the spouse who is betrayed, but it's about their children. I wonder, what will the daughter think when she finds out her father is having an affair? How will her perception of her father change? Will she feel that security that a daughter should feel in knowing that her father is there to rescue her always? What will a son learn about what it means to be a man? The same is true for the inverse, of course. What will the children, whether young or fully grown, learn about marriage and commitment if the spouse leaves the one who cheated? Will they learn it's okay to just leave when times get rough?
        On the other hand, if a woman forgives a man for cheating on her (well, assuming it was a one time thing), will this teach the children a good lesson; will it show them what it means to truly show grace and mercy in the toughest situations? Will it show them what forgiveness means and how the process of reconciliation works?
        I know that we are unfaithful to God all the time. I know that we choose other lovers over Him. That's what our talk at Contact was about the other night, but I just can't stop thinking about this marriage thing. Is it true that because God always takes me back, I should stay with my husband after he cheats on me? I don't know, and I pray that I will never have to actually wrestle with these questions. But it's definitely something that challenged me the other night because I didn't realize that others would seem to have so much more mercy than me. Of course, it's all hypothetical, so who knows how someone would actually deal with this situation. I think I've been pretty forgiving. I think I've taken someone back after he has hurt me a lot. And I know that is a very different situation, but I don't know, I guess it seemed like my downfall... thinking that reconciliation was possible when really, it just wasn't. Forgiveness, I can do. And maybe that's all I should have been doing. Reconciliation didn't work. But I don't know if I really tried for it, prayed for it, or even knew how much we needed reconciliation to go forward. Sometimes I just pretended it wasn't there. It seemed easier than dealing with it all.
       Well, I don't know any of the answers. But the one thing I do know is that I can't keep blaming myself. C'est inutile.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

free pizza

     So today Mary and I went out to eat for lunch at Mamacitas with her friend from CHOC (Community Homeless Outreach Center). His name is Norbert. Mary really connected with him when she was volunteering at CHOC during our urban project this summer. The guys at CHOC play Spades all day, and Mary loved playing cards with them. So Mary and I ordered a pizza ahead of time, and we planned on paying for it, but Norbert insisted on paying. I was holding my $20 bill, and he put his ahead. I didn't know what to do. This is a man who has only a little bit of money to begin with. But I think it probably made him feel good to be able to treat us for lunch.We had a really good time at lunch just talking. But I felt really bad about him treating us. He wouldn't even take the leftovers, which makes sense because he's homeless... he would have to carry it. So here I am with a free pizza AND the leftovers for a future meal. I've been blessed in excess.
     Mary and I were upset that Mamacitas is only offering their special deal on a large cheese pizza for $6.60 on Mondays and Tuesdays now, so we had to pay $10 for the pizza. We didn't think that WE had the money for it. Then Norbert just up and pays for it. It was really an eye-opening situation. It was a real life situation of the parable of the poor woman who offers up the only money she has and how that means a lot more than a regular person giving a lot more money. It was a lesson in giving for me. Betsy is always talking about radical hospitality, and I think that treating someone to a pizza is radical hospitality.
     I'm getting more and more exposed to hospitality. I never was before because my family doesn't usually have guests or anything. My car actually broke down this morning (in the middle of an intersection), and I called my dad to come save me. So he shows up and says that the problem is that there isn't enough gas in the car. How embarrassing! But it's a good thing it isn't a serious problem, you know? So yeah, I call my friend TJ to ask if he has a gas can, and he doesn't... but he knew someone who did. So TJ goes and gets the can and puts gas in it. He brings it, and sure enough... that was the problem. Well TJ brought like 2 gallons of gas to me, and my dad insists on paying him back for it. TJ said it was fine, and he didn't need the money back. But my dad gave him $6 anyway. My point is... my dad does not accept hospitality. He even wanted to pay my uncle when my uncle invited our family over for crabs. That was just ridiculous because of course my uncle wanted to treat everyone!
     I tell this embarrassing story of my car "breaking down" to say that I'm classically trained not to accept hospitality. I felt really bad about calling TJ to ask for help. I felt like I was really troubling him. But because my family doesn't like to let others help, I'm not really good at showing hospitality myself. I do love to treat people, give gifts, and come to the rescue. But sometimes it isn't my first instinct. My first instinct is to split the bill evenly and make sure it's exactly even. My instinct is to say that I don't have the money for the pizza. But if Norbert is willing to use his limited money to treat us to a pizza, then I need to be willing to do the same.

Luke 21
 1As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. 2He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins.[a] 3"I tell you the truth," he said, "this poor widow has put in more than all the others. 4All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on."

Thursday, October 8, 2009

falling apart or falling together

     Sometimes when I write poetry, I come up with one line that the rest of the poem is really centered around. It's like, the entire poem was meant to culminate in that one line, such as "in my life, you are the poetry." It's like the perfect clincher statement. So naturally I love songs that have thought provoking statements to end with. The song "Closing Time" came on the radio this morning on my way to work, and I was reminded of one of my favorite clincher statements: "Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end."
     That's how my life is feeling lately. I am at such a new beginning of my life, which is really great, but also really sucks. I have lost certain things that meant so much, such as my relationship with Ryan, my youth group involvement, and my life at LVC. Which just plain sucks. But the beauty of it all is that while I can be falling apart, I'm being remade. New beginnings are exciting... but something has to end in order for that something new to begin. And I hate that because I really like to hold onto things forever.
     Reminds me of one of my poems, written in Aug of 2008... "The moment when I realize that you are where I began and not where I begin, that is when I can truly start again." How liberating it is to be in a place where all the stuff you thought were la creme de la creme really weren't all that perfect to begin with! On one hand, it makes me question myself and my judgment. But it's also just amazing as a reminder that God is so much bigger and better than all these things that I thought were so great. It's humbling to be reminded that God has better things in mind, and I don't have it all figured out, but He does!
     I could fight about it all I want: "But God, I love Ryan! He loves me! Why isn't that enough?!" "But God, LVC is where I belong, and I don't want to be anywhere else!" "But God, I just found this youth group that I love! THAT is where I most feel your presence!" But here I am in a new place. That was then, and this is now. And I don't want to sound too "don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened" because cheesy things like that bother me. And that kind of answer does NOT comfort someone. But I do want to praise God for these chapters in my life, even though they are over. And I praise God that endings mean new beginnings! Praise God that I can give up that fight, let it go, move on.
     I think if I were to write a poem right now, the clincher statement would be something about how falling apart and falling together go hand in hand. Once you fall apart, you realize that you are beginning to fall together in a much more amazing way than you ever were before. Maybe being on the brink of falling apart is exactly where God wants to meet me.

Monday, September 28, 2009

what i mean

[I wrote this last December but never posted it. It was somewhat interesting.]
Meaning is so complicated. Just the other day, I wanted to send a poem on email, and I admit that I was sort of hesitant to do it because I was afraid it was making too strong of a statement. But since I believe that some things don't have a moral implication, as in, there is no right answer per se, I made the decision to send the poem and accept whatever subsequent reactions would come. So there I am about to send this email when mozilla suddenly cuts out! Oh man, I was so mad! I thought to myself, is this a sign that I'm not supposed to send this email? But I quickly shook that off and decided that if it happened twice, THAT would be a sign. So I write the email again, and this time, webmail cuts out! I couldn't believe it happened twice! Then I asked Julia if she thought that was a sign, and she said this: maybe the fact that you think it means something means something. How deep is that! I thought it was so cool. That's totally what we do all the time! Meaning gets so convoluted when we put our own fears and desires into things. It's so frustrating! Do we even know what we mean when we do things? If I don't know why I'm doing something, how in the world could someone else figure it out?
BUT on the other hand, meaning fascinates me (obviously). It's the literature freak in me who likes to analyze EVERYTHING. I really notice in myself that I see my life as a novel. I see foreshadowing, irony, climaxes, metaphors. Not similes though... I'm not a fan. Similes are like a herd of wild boars charging down the savanna. Whatever that means. As if we needed a reason to use the word "like" more than we already do.
Anyhow, when you act a certain way, doesn't that reflect how you feel about something? Maybe it's just subconscious, and you aren't even aware. I don't know.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

keep singing

I once asked an "if" question that was: Would you rather be a really great singer but think you aren't good... or not have a good voice and think that you do? The first option seems a lot better. But if you think you aren't good, you'll never sing. So what good is that to the world? It's just like when I was a kid, and I told my mom she couldn't sing well, and that made her stop singing. Not that she was under the illusion that she was a great singer, but still, it seems that it would be much better for her not to know.
When praying one evening with my bible study co-leader, Jenn, I was struck by her words: that I would know that I am making a difference, that my place here at M-ville matters. Because you know what? I don't feel that way most of the time. I feel like I'm failing. I feel like it's all crashing down. It's like I'm that person who is a good singer, but I think that I'm not. And what good is that to the M-ville students? It reminds me of this kid who sang at Jump Start, a middle school BIC conference I went to... there was a talent show, and this kid just got up there and sang the song "Don't Laugh at Me" acapella. I mean this kid wasn't Billy Gilman or [insert child prodigy's name], but God shined through him that day in amazing ways. He got a standing ovation. Plus I'm sure that none of those kids knew that song, seeing as it was popular when I was in middle school, and that was only in country music circles. Actually, I tried out for the Brownstown talent show in 6th grade to play "Don't Laugh at Me" on the piano. hahaha!
I say all this to say that I'd much rather be the person who sings just so-so but thinks that I am good. Because that's the only option that results in me singing. God can't work through me if I've handicapped myself in believing that I'm a failure and will be forever. God can only work through me if I keep singing, knowing that the story doesn't end here with the failure. What a beautiful truth it is to know that God's story always ends with a win! My weakness results in God's strength.
Of course, when it comes down to it, and you find that things didn't work out as expected, you will ask yourself, was it just an illusion all along? And frankly, it very well could have been. Whatever you thought it was, well maybe it wasn't. But that doesn't mean it didn't matter, that it was a waste of time, that you made some wrong decision. And I'd much rather live under the false pretense that it was real rather than to risk the tendency to "be safer"--to protect myself--next time. Even if it seems like ignorance, I must keep singing.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

feeling blessed

Last night I got the chance to visit an F&M IV event called The Well. My roommate Amber was sharing her testimony, and so I really wanted to be there. As I was sitting there, I was thinking that I am so blessed to be able to still go to lots of campus events at both Millersville and F&M. It's so great to share in the ministry of other campuses because the "Christian community" on these campuses are so different from LVC. In general, I'm just feeling really blessed lately. How lucky I am to be living on W. James St. in our awesome house and have the wonderful roommates that I have! How lucky I am to have made such great friends that I just love spending time with. There are other things that have been difficult: my job, my IV internship, finances. But I was just struck this morning with how blessed I am.
We studied the beatitudes last night for bible study, and it was interesting to look at the things that Jesus calls a blessing, as opposed to what we normally think is a blessing. I don't usually consider it a blessing when I'm mourning or when I'm meek. But it's in those times, when we are "poor in spirit," that we are completely aware that we are relying on God. We are completely helpless and reaching our hands out. That is when we're blessed. And that's how I feel these days. I have been so blessed with the support of great roommates and friends, but I want to consider it a blessing in these times when I feel weak and like I am just failing at everything. I want it to be a blessing to be meek and to seek peace... even though it is often the harder road. Blessed when the sun's shining down on me and blessed on the road marked with suffering. My heart will choose to bless His name.

If I were into Twitter, my update would be that I'm watching Tristan and Isolde right now, which is really different from the book. I'm home sick from work. Today is TJ's 25th birthday, and we're all going mini-golfing to celebrate. Don't know if I'm going to ZUMBA tonight yet.

`You're thinking about something, my dear, and that makes you forget to talk. I can't tell you just now what the moral of that is, but I shall remember it in a bit.'
`Perhaps it hasn't one,' Alice ventured to remark.
`Tut, tut, child!' said the Duchess. `Everything's got a moral, if only you can find it.'
-Alice's Adventure in Wonderland

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

kissing you was too hard

Kissing you was too hard.
It always fit the formula:
Take a risk, go out on a limb,
See the results; it’s always worth it.
But you finally being less than 87 miles away,
Finally starting to ease up and just love,
Finally feeling like it’s okay,
it finally felt like less of a risk to me.
Time tested and failed, but we still prevailed,
And so all I could think was, finally.

Kissing you never made this any easier,
Not that I thought of it as a solution.
But there was always some sort of comfort
In knowing that kissing was okay,
That I could feel what I felt,
And you could too.
All I wanted was for us to just be.
But we couldn’t do that.
We started the fire, we precipitated it all
With our shoulds and shouldn’ts and should haves.

But all I wanted was for it not to be so hard.
I was not interested in drowning again
in the plaguing questions of what your words counted for
when your actions or your body language didn’t match up
with the rhetoric you professed to me.
And now I wonder what was the gain
In risking my heart, putting myself on the line
When I am left with nothing but poems
with haunted memories seeded between the lines.

In the end, there’s “I should have” and “I shouldn’t have,”
But how could I have ever known
That the desire to learn to love you as Christ would have me do
Would lead me to a place without you.
And since this is where I stand,
Should and shouldn’t don’t matter anymore,
Which is more freedom than I ever knew I needed.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

the moment everything changes

I was at Rosario's recently, and a wonderful couple came in. Now I hadn't seen Ray and Cindy since last summer, but that's because I had been away from Rosario's all the school year. But as it turns out, they hadn't been in for a long time because Ray has cancer. He has a rare cancer that he just got surgery for a month ago or so. So now he is recovering. Praise God, he is healing! I saw him a few weeks ago, and he couldn't taste food at all. He ordered tomato soup and ate about half of it. The next week, he ordered lasagna, and he ate a bit of it. He ordered a kid-sized spaghetti this past week, and he ate all of it. He is slowly beginning to taste food again. The first day that I saw him, I was sort of angry and wondered why God would do that to such a great man. But I realized that it is so amazing to watch Ray being healed. It's possibly even more amazing to watch how Cindy takes care of him and stays by his side. They are so brave.
Another thing that happened recently was my friends Allison and Spencer losing a good friend of theirs. Their friend John from school died in a car accident about a week ago. John was one of Allison's best friends. It hurts my heart to think of the pain that Allison and Spencer are going through with losing a friend suddenly.
It makes me think about my life and how angry I get when things change all of a sudden. I am healing right now from my recent break-up with Ryan, which is hard for me because my life feels so radically different, and yet at the same time, not that much has changed. Life keeps going on at the same rate; it doesn't stop. About the break-up, I'll just say that I know it was the right thing, though that doesn't stop it from hurting at times. I think it was for the best, and I do feel some freedom from the confusion that was plaguing me. But as much as I saw it coming for a few weeks before it happened, it felt sudden. And as we were breaking up, IV students were worshiping downstairs singing the words "you are so good." It wasn't irony to me that something painful was going on with me while others were declaring that God is good; rather, it was a reminder that even when things hurt like hell, God is good. And that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him.
Life can change so suddenly. You could find that you or a loved one has cancer, or you could lose a loved one in a car accident. I was asking God the other day why things have to happen like this. And He reminded me that if there is no pain, no sickness, no sadness... then we can't have healing. And healing is so incredible. What a beautiful manifestation of God's grace it is to watch Ray get better every time I see him and to hear Allison say that she knows that everything is going to be okay even though she has lost a good friend. It makes me realize that I, too, am going to be okay--that because in all things God is working for the good of Allison and Spencer and Ray and Cindy... He is also looking out for me. And that is the faith you have to hold onto in the moment when everything changes.

Do not fear for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. -Luke 12:32

"Though I don't see, I still believe there's a purpose. You're the eye of the storm. God is good all the time, even when little girls die." -"Eye of the Storm" by Cool Hand Luke

Monday, August 24, 2009


I've been reading a lot of C.S. Lewis lately. Just snippets of his books, since what I have is a devotional type book called A Year with C.S. Lewis. I really, really, really like C.S. Lewis and everything he has to say because he just puts things in such a way that makes sense to me. Often times, it's things that I've thought about, but he puts them in much better terms.
So one topic that has struck me lately is forgiveness. He talks about how, often times, when we ask forgiveness from God, we make up excuses for why we did what we did. But there's a difference between forgiving and excusing because excusing means that the person was not to blame for what happened, while forgiving means that they did something, but you will not hold it against them. So you can pray that God would forgive you for something, but really, what we're really asking is for God to accept our excuses. So sometimes we feel like we have repented, but really, we have "satisfied ourselves with our own excuses."
Another important point he makes when we are forgiving others is that sometimes we don't want to forgive others because that means we are acting like it didn't happen, but really, if that were the case, then there would be nothing to forgive. It doesn't mean that if a person broke a promise to you, you have to believe him the next time. But you must "make every effort to kill every taste of resentment in your own heart--every wish to humiliate or hurt him or to pay him out."
AND to bring these two points together, he says, "The difference between this situation and the one in which you are asking God's forgiveness is this. In our own case we accept excuses too easily; in other people's we do not accept them easily enough."
I like to make excuses. A lot. When I apologize to people, I tend to explain what I was thinking or why I did what I did... but that's not really apologizing. It's like this quote I read when I was at VISTA training: "Never ruin an apology with an excuse."

"A great deal of our anxiety to make excuses comes from not really believing in it, from thinking that God will not take us to Himself again unless He is satisfied that some sort of case can be made out in our favour. But that would not be forgiveness at all. Real forgiveness means looking steadily at the sin, the sin that is left over without any excuse, after all allowances have been made, and seeing it in all its horror, dirt, meanness, and malice, and nevertheless being wholly reconciled to the man who has done it. That, and only that, is forgiveness, and that we can always have from God if we ask for it." (The Weight of Glory)

And I guess unless you learn about God's forgiveness and really, really understand it, you can't fully forgive others. Or yourself.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

My Twitter Updates For The Past Week

-Came to work today and noticed my computer wasn't on my desk. Someone walked up the fire escape, broke a small window pane, and stole my work computer out the window! And my little pink dog too! (Monday)

-Stayed up really late last night watching The Island. No, not with Leo DiCaprio. It was about clones. I don't know how I felt about it (Tuesday morning)

-Finished typing up No Room in Lancaster by Grace Wenger, founder of Tabor. Grace Wenger is my hero! She was passionate about social justice and race issues. She also taught English at Millersville. I thought she was just a cute little Mennonite woman! (Tuesday afternoon)

-Mary and I made egg sandwiches for dinner. They were goooood. We also watched another move... (Tuesday evening)

-I'm in charge of a Day of Caring event now that The Ware Institute at F&M will be doing. We'll be cleaning up the sidewalks! (Wednesday morning)

-My heart hurts. (Wednesday afternoon)

-Everyone loved my baked mac and cheese with toppings at potluck! I am a really good cook! I just can't stand doing it. Takes too much time (Wednesday evening)

-Really? It's only Thursday? Really? No rest over the weekend? Oh, merde... (Thursday morning)

-I'm famous. My stolen laptop made the newspaper. (Tuesday afternoon)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Walling In or Walling Out

Jalaleddin (don't ask me if that's spelled right) Rumi once said, "Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it." I wonder if that's true. Is it possible that it's hard to experience love just because you've built up a resistance against it? And what happens if you do find those barriers? Can you change them, get rid of them?
The other day I was at my Grandma's house, and she has a path behind the barn that leads out to the field. I used to go on walks behind there when I was younger. Last summer, I would go running on the path through the field. On Sunday, I went sprinting through the grass, running as fast as I possibly could, kicking my flip flops off because they just slowed me down. I just left them there and kept running until I couldn't possibly go any further. But I still didn't feel like I had ran enough. So I ran again, and I stopped only because the grass ended, leaving me at a place where the cornfield met the dirt path. I could have run up the dirt hill, but it was too muddy. So I just lay in the grass, catching my breath from sprinting.
I wonder if that is the running away, the barrier. Is that action me running away (in the figurative sense)? Everyone says how bad it is to run away from things, so my head always says "stop running away, Jess." I wrote in that poem that being covered only comes from after being exposed to the sun. Vulnerable. But what does that mean?
Even if you recognize in yourself the areas where you put up walls, can you knock them down? Can someone else knock them down? I guess only God can, really. Do you really have to know about the walls before they come down?

And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.

To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, 'Good fences make good neighbors'.
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
'Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it
Where there are cows?
But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down.

-Robert Frost

What I'm finding is that God doesn't like us to hold onto our safety too closely. I've always craved stability and safety and comfort. But God wants us to give our money freely, not worrying whether we will have enough for ourselves. So maybe He wants us to stop building walls and risk. It reminds us that He is the only constant. And if I put up walls, I start thinking that I'm protecting myself, taking care of myself. And that's not the case. God is the only one who takes care of me.

God speak truth to the walls we've relied on instead of You.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Lavender Petals

The feel of your skin brushing my arm
touches me like a thousand lavender fields
during a June’s mid-day walk in Provence.
The scent is intoxicating, too much, not enough,
I can't decide whether to run into the field--
taking in every morsel of beauty,
lying down only to rest in the comfort
of knowing that I'm surrounded,
that I'm just one step closer
to being one with the flowers
and memorizing their feel, their movements.
That's what I want--
to feel like nothing separates me,
nothing separates us.
There's not this force that blinds me,
this sun reflecting off the petals,
this brightness that I have to hide from
because it's too much.
Or it could be.
I just want to rest in it all,
take it all in,
just let it be.
Mais je peux pas.

That's what it feels like.
Mes sens tout sentent,
being exposed,
and wanting to be covered.

But being covered only happens
I risk exposure
to the sun.

And maybe in the end,
it will all have been an illusion
from the very beginning.


Wednesday, August 5, 2009


"Many years ago, during a wreck of a Californian ship, one of the passengers strapped a belt on himself with 200 pounds of gold on it. He was later found at the bottom of the sea. As he was sinking: Did the man own the gold? Or did the gold own him?"

So it all started with me fighting with Bret and Betsy about money. I felt that they were asking for too much money for the urban project. Why we should need $1200 for a five week period was just baffling to me! That’s a lot of money. I kept telling them that it’s not that I don’t trust them, but I just use money very conservatively (and by conservatively, I mean conservatively in areas where it’s convenient), and I don’t like other people being in control of the money, especially if I’m asking people at my church for this money. But by the end of that long sentence, don’t you get the sense that I actually don’t trust Bret and Betsy? And if I don’t trust Bret and Betsy with the IV urban project funds, doesn’t that extend further to say that I don’t really trust God with those funds? Since God has given them the authority over the project, shouldn’t I trust Bret and Betsy as a representation of my trust for God? No, I didn't ask myself those questions then. I've only recently begun to consider this concept of submission and trust a little more since Ryan has read a book about authority recently, which forces the topic that I like to avoid. But more on that some other time; this entry is about money.
During the project, we talked a lot about poverty and how we use our money. Of course I’ve thought about these issues and cared about these issues, but my view of money and materialism was really challenged at the project. One night while we had reflection time, God was really prompting me to gather some of my clothes and ask the others at the project to do the same so that we could donate a bunch of stuff to Water Street Mission together. As I was going through my stuff, I was listening to a song called “Rich Young Ruler” by Derek Webb. The song lyrics say, “I want the things you just can’t give me.” And there I was, holding a sweatshirt that I really love, and I felt myself saying, “No, I can’t give this one away. I love it.” Then my next thought was, “Oh crap, that means it’s exactly the one I have to give away.” So I did. Later that night as I lay in bed, it kind of haunted me; I kept wondering if I could just have my sweatshirt back. But that felt like stealing from God. I thought of another line from the song where Derek Webb describes Jesus digging through our trash can, and that’s when I said, “No Jesus, I will not let you dig through my trash can. My sweatshirt is yours.” Why does my stuff have such a hold on me? Praise God that He’s changing my heart. I gave away a bunch of stuff that night and a bunch of stuff when I got home. At the project, we really explored how God might want us to use our resources.
Here are some quotes that really stuck out to me:
--"According to scripture, we are no more free to do whatever we want with our money than we are to use our bodies to sleep around." - Kevin Blue
--"If we are determined to waste God's money, it would be better to throw it into the sea than to spend it extravagantly. At least throwing money into the sea hurts no one, while spending it needlessly on ourselves poisons all who see it with pride, vanity, anger, lust, love of the world, and a thousand foolish and hurtful desires."- John Wesley

Well now I’m an AmeriCorps VISTA. (I didn’t think I’d identify myself as such, but it really is becoming something significant in my life.) I make $385 every other week. We are just above the poverty line. VISTA is a program that deals with poverty, and by paying us at that line, they are forcing us to live at the level of those that we are helping, which is a really incredible opportunity. But it’s hard. My rent right now is $400. (Praise God that it will be going down with the addition of other roommates.) I have been studying these types of things, and households whose rent is 30% or more of their income per month are considered severely cost-burdened. I pay over 50% at the moment for rent. So yeah, how I spend my money is even more of a pressing topic now. It would be easy to stop giving away so much because of my tight financial situation. I mean I have to take care of myself, right? But God has really prompted me to start tithing my income, which means that I am giving away $80 out of my $770 per month. I’ve really gotten so much joy out of tithing. I give $30 per month to church offering and $50 to different non-profits. I give $25 every two weeks to a different organization, which I have been enjoying so much. God promises that He will provide for me. If I'm willing to spend myself on behalf of the poor and oppressed, He is going to take care of me.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

it's a nice day for a blood covenant

At chapter camp, Mary learned about covenant making in Old Testament times. They used to take an animal and cut it in half. Then they would let the blood drain out from the center, and each party of the covenant would walk through the blood. They would stop in the center to discuss the terms of the covenant. The blood of the animal signified that you would do to the other party as to the animal if they break the covenant, as well as signifying the sacrifice you would make for them—that you would give up your life as the animal has done. This is what happens in Genesis when Abraham and God make a covenant, but God actually goes through the blood twice since Abraham is sleeping during this and can’t do it himself. We’re not strong enough to keep a covenant with God; He has to do it all. Anyway, Mary was taught that they used to do this at weddings back in the day. How disgusting, and yet, how powerful is that?! I looked online for some verification that it was true about the blood covenant at weddings, but I didn’t find anything. But I like believing that it’s true. It just goes to show how important a marriage covenant is. It’s a serious thing. We should still use the blood covenant at weddings because then maybe people would understand the commitment they are making when they get married.
Well, I say all this to say that this past weekend, Debby, my former roommate, got married! She and Tyler met on (yes, it works!), and they got engaged only five months after they started dating. Isn’t that crazy? But if it’s right, it’s right. They are perfect for one another it seems, and I’m just really happy for them. The wedding was on the beach at Cape Henolopen, DE. It was so laid back, which just really fit with their families. When Ryan and I got there, they were swimming, and then Debby said she had to go change into her dress. We all ate, and then they had the ceremony. It was just a short ceremony, and we all stood on the beach. Vanessa caught the bouquet, although technically, it was a man who caught it because Debby threw it out of the range of all the single women, and Vanessa ran for it and stole it from the guy. Then she gave the flowers to me :o) It was so great to see Vanessa, Joy, and Debby! It was sad that Rasa wasn’t there, though. Ryan thought it was great how laid back the ceremony was because usually, it seems the bride (and the mothers) are so stressed that they can’t even enjoy the day. Well, you know as well as I do that I will be stressed whenever I get married. It’s just my nature to be uptight about things! That’s actually one reason that I didn’t want to have a traditional wedding before. I wanted to go get married in Ireland outside of Hore Abbey (seriously, look it up, it’s so beautiful). I don’t want the stress of picking out flowers and dresses and centerpieces and songs and locations to take away from the celebration of a covenant. At one point, the only reason I did want to have all that traditional stuff was for the pictures. I will want to have a nice photographer who will take artistic pictures—that I know for sure. Oh, and another reason I didn’t want a traditional wedding was because I’d forget about the fact that the day isn’t all about me. I love the idea of everyone focusing on me and thinking I’m beautiful and stuff. But first off, there’s also a groom involved, and he matters too. But more than that, I don’t want to focus on me on that day. I will want to be focused on God and me and [insert soul mate’s name here] making that covenant together with God.
In any case, I know I’m not ready for that yet. But someday. And on that someday, I’m going to imagine us walking with God through blood. Except that God is going to walk through that blood twice on behalf of us because making a covenant like that in the way that God intend us to can only be done through Him.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

my new house

It bothers me that I don’t write in my blog that often. Not that many people are following this or anything. If you have been wanting to read all about my life and finding my blog to be outdated, I’m sorry. ;-) It is my dream to have a column like Sex and the City, so I should be staying on top of this blogging! From now on, I will set a goal of updating once a week. All my friends used to have xanga, in which we updated daily about the goings on of high school. It was pretty boring stuff, generally… For example, here’s one of my last xanga entries, written on April 26, 2006
“i dont like when ppl throw bugs at me. its not funny.
i'm going to see kutless and falling up tomorrow with some friends, and its free!!!
might have to do a presentation tomorrow in english, a little scared about that
the only major thing i have to do (other than finals) is a criticism of one of the literary writers that we are reading in brit lit. 5 to 8 pages, which means 5 pages of course.
i hate elections”
So my fear with this new blog was to start writing entries like that. That would just be a shame. BUT I do have stuff to say. For today, I will tell you all about my new house. I live on W. James St., which is a nice, quiet street right now, but it is two blocks from the F&M campus, so once school starts again, it will be very loud, I’m sure! The block I live on is typically a sorority/fraternity area, so I don’t know what to expect! By the way, I live with Mary and her sister Megan. We are looking for two other roommates, and God is really blessing us with possibilities for roommates recently! I have a lot of hope that it will work out. Two more roommates will make the rent $240 a month. God’s taking care of me; of that, I’m absolutely certain. That doesn’t mean that I’m not at all afraid of how the rent check will be paid and how I will afford food. But I know that it’s all going to be okay. It’s only money. I'm more and more reassured that God is taking care of me since Mary called from her orientation saying that one of the other VISTA volunteers is interested in moving in with us, and we are having someone over to see the house today. These two people could potentially be our two roommates. God only knows, as of now. But it is reassuring anyway.
My job is going well. I love all the people I work with. The hours are flexible, so if I want to start at 10 AM and go until 6:30, I can do that just as long as I get my 40 hours in. And it's not too professional of an atmosphere, so those things are just perfect for me. And I already mentioned in my last entry about why this job seems perfect for me.
As for IV, that hasn't started yet. The urban project was great and gave God the opportunity to stir my heart in very specific ways--ways I will be mentioning in my next post. :o) Other IV things, I'm blessed to be working with Bret and Betsy and entering a network with all the other IV staff. I've met a bunch of them, and I really like them. They are wonderful people. I don't know if I will want to be an IV staff at the end of this year, but we'll see where God leads! Other other IV things, I should start thinking about fundraising.
Okay, that's all for now. Thanks for listening :o)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

all my life has culminated to this...

My job is going to be interesting. I had a meeting with my boss yesterday, and suddenly, a light bulb clicked. It’s like all my life has culminated into this. I realized it when she mentioned making a creative video to show to youth. I love making videos, and I am sometimes pretty decent at it! Also, I ALWAYS am the one to get up and talk to people about serious issues, and that’s what I’ll be doing here. I’m not the one talking to youth groups about love, I’m talking about homelessness. Talking about serious things is what I do best! And looking into the future, it’s good for me to make contacts with schools now because that’s what I want to do someday is to start a non-profit that would benefit urban education and get them the school supplies that they need, and I want to do that through other schools raising money and donating supplies.
This job is gaining the experience for me to go out and get people to care about a cause and to do something about it!!
I'm kind of terrified about having to call people up and ask them if I can come speak to their students. It's hard to know how to go about these things, but I just really feel like God is preparing me for what's to come in the future!!
How exciting and terrifying all at the same time. God is so good!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Urban Project - Week 1

When I got to Lancaster to start the Sidewalks Project, I admit, I had a really bad attitude about it. It made me really mad to think about not talking on the phone for a month or being on the internet when I wanted to. I like my freedom. So what happened was I moved into Bret and Betsy's house (IV staff) in Lancaster with 4 other girls. We had orientation for a few days just to start understanding why we were here. We got to meet some of Bret and Betsy's friends, which was really cool. Some of their friends intentionally live in the city, and we got to hear about their lives and their faith that has led them to Lancaster.
This week I am working at Lutheran Refugee Services with one of the other girls. It's a great place to be. The people who work here are wonderful. Sarah, the other girl I'm working with here, just started an ESL class for the kids of the recent refugees. We had the first class yesterday, and there were 9 kids there, ages 4-16. They were all Chin Burmese except for 2 Iraqi kids. They knew more English than we thought, we were ready to start with "hello, my name is" but they knew that stuff already pretty much! Then we did cute stuff like teaching them action verbs by actually doing the stuff. Dance, stop! Run, stop! Run fast! Run slow! hehehe But the cool thing was seeing these cases we had heard about turn into real people. I suddenly saw how important the work here at LRS is. Today I'm working at the front desk, which is scary because I have to answer phones and figure out the phone system. But the good thing is I get to blog!! The other girls are working at Water Street Rescue Mission.
Next week, I'm going to Philly for VISTA training for my actual job at Tabor Community Services, and I will start there the following week (29th). It has been interesting seeing God in new ways. I feel like people in the city are much more friendly than in the suburbs (at least where I live). But I guess you encounter people differently in the city than you do in the suburbs. When you're in a suburb, you see people at WalMart or Turkey Hill... but here, you see people on the streets or sitting on their porches.
Last Sunday, we went to a church called In The Streets. It was very charismatic, and I am not used to things like that. The church was very diverse culturally, which was cool to see. A really awesome thing was that the guy who leads the youth came up front with his wife and talking about how they are taking the youth to a retreat this week, and the pastor said how the guy wasn't going to get paid time off his job... so the pastor decides right there that he is going to give them $100 to help pay their bills. Then he asked for 9 other volunteers to do the same, and people just started raising their hands! I couldn't imagine people in my church being so generous. The wife was crying because she was just so touched. It was really awesome. BUT they had a prayer time at the end, and we saw some guy like convulsing as someone prayed for him, then he collapsed on the ground. I didn't know what was happening to the guy. Anyway we are going to a different cross-cultural church every week, which will be really cool.
God is challenging me to see everyone as His children--the homeless, the refugee, the business man. We come back to that who the hell do I think I am statement. It has just been interesting living here with everyone because no one makes fun of me for putting toothpaste on my pimples at night or wearing 3 braids at night to make my hair curly. I'm not used to people not making fun of me. Even when it is in jest, I still get made fun of.
OH we watched the movie Amistad last night, and it was WOW! There was some nudity I def could have done without, but what a fantastic movie. It is about slaves in Africa who led an uprising on the ship when they were being brought to America. There was a guy translating English to Mende for the lawyer, and the lawyer said something about "what I should have said," and the translator said, "I can't translate that. We don't have should in our language, either you do something or you don't." Then the African man who was imprisoned said, "What kind of a place is this where you almost mean what you say? Where laws almost work? How can you live like that?" I thought those quotes were really interesting.
Alright, I guess that's all for now.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Psalm 9

I will praise You, O Lord, with my whole heart - I don't want to hold back anymore. And I don't want any more conditions or ways I think you should be loving me. I just want to let you love me and allow myself to love you in return.

I will tell of Your marvelous works - I want to live my life in light of Your majesty, especially with my family and those with whom it is easy to be comfortable without intentionality in our interactions.

I will be glad and rejoice in You - when things don't make sense. When it is easy to just get angry at people, I will choose to look to You and rejoice in You, knowing that You are taking care of me.

I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High - because I am nothing without You. I will praise Your name, not my own. Give to God what is God's... and that's everything. That's all of me. You deserve all of it.

Do not let man prevail. Put them in fear, O Lord, that the nations may know themselves to be but men - who am I? Not because of who I am, but because of who you are. Oh God, ask us, " Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Can you lift up your voice to the clouds, that an abundance of water may cover you?"

I will praise You with my whole heart, I will tell of Your marvelous works, I will be glad and rejoice in You, I will sing praise to Your name - because You alone are worthy, and I cannot even stand without your strength soaring through my heart, my veins, my muscles - without Your breath of life granting me the honor of praising Your holy name.

Thursday, April 30, 2009


“Impossible,” she said, “It can never be…unless”
“Unless?” he asked, “What do you mean?”
“I mean I need you to fix…”
“Me? Fix? What can I fix?”
“Fix this because it has to be you.
“Fix this because otherwise…”
“Otherwise what?”
“Otherwise we can never be”
“Be what?”
(“I’m saying if you want me,
You have to be a man”)
“She won’t be happy either way,
Whether we’re together or apart.”
(“but I want to be together”)
“We need a solution.
I don’t know what to do unless…”
(“unless you want me enough to be brave”)
“I don’t know.”
“You do know. Just tell me.”
(“Tell you that if you love me,
You have to do something now?
You have to say something,
You have to fix this.
You should want to fix this.”)
“Unless you say something…take action”
“ Why do you need action? I love you…”
(“Then fix this.”)
“…But we can’t be together if this tension remains…”
“That’s what I was trying to say all along!”
“Really? Then why didn’t you just say it?”

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Why Bother

It is the worst feeling to feel like you shouldn't bother doing something because you aren't good enough. It's interesting how that works. I mean sometimes being around greatness can inspire you to greatness. That's how my brother feels. He feels honored to be friends with very talented and intelligent people. It keeps him on guard to be the best he can be. I don't know, it's just hard for me because sometimes I'll think that I'm a good singer, and then I just feel so completely the opposite when I'm around others. It makes me feel like, why should I even bother? For instance, I tried out for some solos in choir, and I felt like I sang really well! But I didn't get any of them. So what does that mean for me? I also felt this way at my band practice the other night. The new members for next year were at practice, and there's a new girl who will be filling my shoes. I felt like everyone was complimenting her, and I didn't even have a place in the group. It was such a strange feeling for me. I mean, Ryan and I share music. So Sarah was sharing music with us, but it was too hard with three people on one set of music. So I just stepped away and was awkwardly positioned the whole practice. I just felt so inadequate the whole night since they were complimenting her harmonies and stuff. It made me feel like they probably don't think I'm a worthwhile member of the group because I can't harmonize like that. I felt like why should I even bother being there. I know it's ridiculous. That's the old me coming out.
But the real reason I'm bummed is because my writing hasn't been the best lately. I don't know why. I guess it's because I've lost my muse. Or perhaps I've said everything already. That scares me because what if Ryan isn't the one, and then some other guy comes along someday... will I not be able to write poetry about it because I've already said it all? If so, I mean, I wouldn't regret it because I love some of the stuff I've written. Anyway, that was not what I was meaning to write... I think the main reason that I haven't been able to write lately is because I feel like my writing is no good. When I start reading the blog from Cornerstone church and the amazing talent in writing these people have, it makes me feel like why should I bother writing because nothing I write even comes close. Jake has this gift with words that produces these descriptions that are so acute and passionate. It almost makes me jealous. I try to think that his style of writing is just different than mine; mine is more just direct and honest. That's what is so intriguing about my poetry--the directness and genuine nature of it. I don't know, that's what I always thought anyway. I've just been feeling discouraged because it feels like my dreams are being shattered as I realize that I'm just average. I never wanted to be average.
It makes me wonder whether I should even be reading that blog, if that is how it makes me feel. On the other hand, don't I want to be in the presence of greatness so it can inspire me? I don't know!!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Sun and Rain

I was looking at the grass tonight, and it was SO green. It was probably greener than I've ever seen grass before. Of course they just sprayed it with fertilizer or whatever, so that explains it. But I just got to thinking about how grass needs sun and rain to grow. If it's just rain, it will get flooded out, and of course you know what happens to those worms in the rain. It's important to keep the worms in that soil!!! But then the sun is so important for the grass to do it's photosynthesis or whatever. I'm no scientist. My point is, grass can't get by with just the sun. And it can't survive on pure rain either. For grass (or any plants?) to survive, they need the perfect balance of sun and rain.
I always try to wish away the rain in my life, but I guess it's important. If it was sunny all the time, I'd dry up and shrivel away. Or die of thirst.
I'm reminded of an interesting quote I found online by Kahlil Gibran: "We choose our joys and sorrows long before we experience them." Do we? Does that make it my fault? And if I could do this all over again, would I? Or would I change it? Would I wish it never had happened?
All I know is that it hurts like hell. It is raining and pouring, and my worms are exploring... the pavement... where they die... and all I can do is keep praying for more worms. All you can do is have faith that the rain is making the grass green, and at the end of it all, there will still be some worms for my soil.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


When I was in 9th grade, I was dating this guy named Ben. We were dating at the end of the school year, and then the summer came around. All of a sudden, it seemed like everytime I called him, he was busy playing basketball. His parents said they would have him call, but he never called! So I just figured, Ben must not like me anymore. Then last summer, I met a guy at work, and we realized we had a mutual friend in Ben. I learned that this guy was the one playing basketball with Ben! I know this is totally random, but I was thinking about this the other day, and it made me smile. It was kind of a strange emotion because I really just experienced God's goodness when thinking about that memory.
That's weird, right? But on the other hand, why is it so weird to experience God in things like that? Actually, when I reminisce about the past, it is often an outpouring of praise for God's goodness. Sometimes it's a praise that He has taken me so far and taught me so much since that time, but other times it's just His glory made manifest in the innocence and silliness of my teenage years.
You remember me mentioning Cole and Jozay, my middle schoolers who started dating? Well, Jozay broke up with Cole because "he was just so weird... he dances all the time!" That's the kind of stuff I'm talking about. I see God in that so much. God's glory shines in the innocence of middle schoolers. Someday, I pray that Jozay will look back on breaking up with Cole because of his incessant dancing and praise God for the silliness.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Junior Highers

I just got back last night from a junior high retreat with the youth group at my church. It was a really great weekend, and I really enjoyed getting to know the junior highers more. Relating to junior highers is way different than senior highers. In senior high, kids are more set in who they are. I'm closer to that age, so I can really be open with them and give advice that they can understand and relate to. With junior high, the kids are so innocent. I know they aren't as innocent as I like to pretend, but they haven't experienced a lot of things that really define a person.
I had a lot of conversations this weekend with the girls about the boys they like, and it was really sweet to hear the one girl get excited about hugging the guy she just recently started dating. Cole and Jozay started dating on Thursday night after youth group. Sam called Cole and asked him out for Jozay, and he said that Jozay needed to call herself because if they couldn't talk directly, things just wouldn't work out. So Jozay called, with Sam still on the line, and they had a three-way phone conversation that resulted in Jozay and Cole getting together.
Junior high is a really cool age because people are so innocent. I mean how simple of a fact is it that if Jozay can't talk to Cole directly, things won't work out, but it is one of those simple truths that we sometimes forget when we're older. With their fresh minds, they know these things so Cole makes sure that he and Jozay are able to actually talk. What would be the point of dating if you aren't actually going to talk to the person? Now that we're older, things just seem so much more complicated. Granted, there is a lot more stuff to communicate when we're talking about a person we want to spend our lives with or whatever. But sometimes we can't really communicate how we feel to that person. Did we forget how you have to be able to communicate to make a relationship work?
The girls were telling me lots of stories about a missions trip they had all gone on. They had a lot of fun stories like how one girl wouldn't get up off the floor, so another girl sat on her. I feel like it is this kind of conversations that really make you closer to a person because you are seeing their personality. I know it isn't that deep, but those stories are the day-in and day-out occurrences that made that person smile. With stories like that, you could never run out of things to talk about.
In fact, I was just thinking about how my roommate Joy and I have conversations about silly, little things like when you know you're expecting your period, so you're hyper sensitive all the time, thinking that you just got it. Sorry that's kind of gross, but it made me smile when I thought about that conversation because it was just so random and trivial, but it made me feel close to Joy.
There's something about the innocence of a junior higher that strikes me because I love those little stories, and I love getting excited about hugging a boy. That's actually why I told Sam it is okay if she changes her mind about who she likes. If she likes one guy on Friday and changes her mind to like another boy on Saturday, that's okay. They have a lot to learn, that's for sure. But to see the way that Cole can know that if you're dating someone, you need to be able to communicate... well, as simple as it sounds, it's so true. He's going to grow and build on that, and it's cool to see that he has a solid foundation to build on.
That's what impacting junior highers is all about because junior high is the foundation. I know we tend to remember our middle school experience as something we wouldn't want to do again, and we were so silly chasing after boys all the time and whatever... but that innocence that they have is something to be treasured. I really value the opportunity to be a person that the kids can look up to and trust because as much as I can impact them, they are impacting me in ways that no other experience can do. God is really working at PBIC, and it just makes me so excited sometimes that I want to roll around in a field of wildflowers or sing at the top of my lungs so that everyone could hear how amazing God is!