Saturday, December 25, 2010

up until a few hours ago i would have told you that learning how to drive stick shift has been the hardest thing i have had to learn how to do thus far in my short twenty years of life. but that was before i opened the most peculiar package from my dear brother.

(back story: this year as siblings we pulled names for christmas. instead of trying to buy presents for everyone, when all of us are either in college, soon in college, or post college (which means, we're all broke.) we decided to focus just on one person - and buy them a thoughtful present that was affordable and kind to our bank accounts. secretly i had hoped that zach had pulled my name because he always gives the most thoughtful and unique presents. i think his love language is gift-giving and i am glad to be on the receiving end of it. :) from a tandem bike to a vespa mug from italy, to the jumping antonio who hangs from my rearview mirror to the nicest running sneakers and a darling bracelet...i couldn't help but secretly hope that he pulled my name this year.)

so this morning when i awoke i saw a very, very large box sitting in front of the Christmas tree with  my very own name scrawled in sharpie on it. "To Ashley, From Zach - Merry Christmas!" A smile quickly spread across my face as i crept closer just to make sure i didn't read it wrong. it was indeed for me.

the gift giving began and soon it was my turn to open the huge present from zach. he carried it over carefully and placed it before my shining eyes. as i gently pulled back the wrapping paper and removed the tape from the cardboard box my eyes soon fell upon a bicycle tire wheel. just one bicycle tire wheel. a squeal of excitement jumped from my heart as i realized what zach had purchased for me... a unicycle!

zach makes all of my dreams come true. 
haha :) 

so this brings me back to the hardest thing i have ever attempted to learn in my life. it is no longer learning how to drive stick shift, although in some ways the two activities are quite similar. namely in that until you "get it" ---- you are the most dreadful and sorry sight. haha 

[also. i now have a new-found respect for people in the circus, particularly the ones who ride unicycles. if i were ever in the circus, i could not be the unicycle-r. i would probably be the bumbling clown who trips over things and gets water thrown in her face. i should think however, that people in the circus would be quite interesting people to spend time with. maybe someday i will find myself a circus family to follow around. :) ]

anyway, so about two hours of practicing later i only have two really sore legs, a few splinters, and a humbled heart to show for it. haha i am making progress however, i can now balance for approximately three seconds.

when i first stepped onto the unicycle i was in shock as to how hard it was going to be. somehow in my mind, i could pick it up like pogo sticking, or hula-hooping, or one of the other random hobbies i had as a child. no, no my friends. unicycling is hard. every muscle in your body counts. every movement matters and sends you soaring forward or backward or  directly into the pavement.

it takes patience. and practice. and more patience. and some more practice. and then some more patience.

so for christmas i received a unicycle. but i also received a harmonica. something else that i thought would be easy to pick up. (i am really naive and silly.)

but this semester i have been learning a lot about patience. and how beautiful it is to work with your hands at something for long periods of time until you get the end result that you intended. (but you don't always get the result you intended, and that's ok too.)  when i look back over this semester, it has been a lot of hands-on learning, a lot of patience learning, a lot of feeling...and i think i am learning that i am the kind of person who really enjoys things that require all of you. things that require you mind, body, and soul. things and activities that are hard and challenging and tedious and yet so incredibly fulfilling. now granted, sometimes these things are really frustrating and they make me want to throw my hands up in the air and never try again, but it's in the choice to try again (and again and again) that wonder and patience and grace can begin to grow inside of a person.

i think that's why i like knitting.
i think that's why i have a growing interest in gardening.
i think that's why i like the prospect of learning how to ride a unicycle.
i think that's why i want to learn to play the harmonica.
i think that's why i love meeting people and really getting to know them. really, with my whole heart.
and i think that's why i like following Jesus.

...because it's hard. and challenging. it requires every single inch of me. it requires every thought and emotion. it requires everything i can possibly offer, and even that isn't enough. but the good news is that God's grace is sufficient. and recently i have been learning that he redeems my mistakes. i keep living and trying and striving to bring a smile to his face and often times i end up stumbling - but his hands always reach out and meet me in my stumbles and he redeems my mistakes. somehow he reaches out and meets me just where i fall short, and every time he redeems what i am feebly trying to do and somehow brings good out of all of my failed attempts. i am learning that God can use us in mighty ways, broken and foolish as we are. and so i keep seeking, keep trying, keep learning...

and i'll continue to get up on that unicycle- i'll keep holding onto those wooden benches that keep sliding splinters into my fingers. i'll keep almost falling on my face. and i'll keep slobbering all over my new harmonica in attempts to play a song. i'll keep putting everything it takes into learning because if we're not learning we're not growing...and if we're not growing we're dying. (thank you, dan pfisner.)

so i encourage you to go embark on an adventure that seems far too big for you. start learning something that is going to require all of your attention in order to master it. pick up an instrument, buy a unicycle, knit a scarf. poor yourself completely into something and see what you come up with in the end. take a pottery class. better yet, poor hours into something and then give it away. watch how the works of your hands can bless others. (and not just bless them, but inspire them!) plant seeds, grow trees, take up running, train for a marathon, bake bread, do a puzzle. no more of this instant gratification stuff - be patient, enjoy the process, learn to make mistakes well, learn to try again. go learn something, you'll be glad you did. :) 

(and if you can't come up with anything to learn, come on over and we'll learn how to ride a unicycle together!)

and this my friends, is what i am so excited to learn for life, i am SO excited that this is a lesson i get to continue to examine and learn and poor myself into...

"Finally as soon as the community of the disciples is born, Jesus sends them: 'Go. Go and announce the good news to the poor, but go with nothing- not even two pairs of sandals. Don't take two tunics, don't take any money, don't take any food. Go with nothing. Go poorly and do the impossible.'
What is the 'impossible'? It is liberation. To liberate people from the demons of fear, of loneliness, of hatred and of egoism that shackle them. To liberate people so that they also can love, heal, and liberate others. But in order to do that, you must go in poverty and experience the life of God flowing within your flesh. You will give life but a life that flows from the heart of God. You will bring people to new life, a new hope..."
from, 'From Brokenness to Community' (a lecture given at Harvard by Jean Vanier)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

mom, these balloons are the best. they have been such a wonderful floor bonding stress relief  activity :) thanks a million for the best packages, ever.

In the midst of finals week, late nights studying, cold mornings that refuse to snow, and the longest presentations of my life... a few things have been making my heart really glad.
really completely happy to be here,
with these people,
in this place.

(if you haven't realized it yet, i'm completely a list person. i make lists all. the. time.)
and when i don't feel like i have time to sit down and write you a novel, i list. :)

things that make my heart glad:

1. Receiving an avocado for Christmas! (people know me so well, haha)
2. Printing pictures from the semester and then hanging said pictures on my closet, refrigerator, world map, etc.
4. Motivational text messages in all capital letters, haha
5. hip-hop music
6. being reminded that i am small.
7. HOME on friday! (for an entire month. hallelujah.)
8. Craft Sunday
9. singing the 12 days of Christmas with Monet
10. the chance to take a final that i missed yesterday. (that's right, i wrote down the wrong date of my final. i missed my final. my professor could be giving me a zero for 30% of my grade. but thank God he's being gracious and allowing me to take it tomorrow. should i bake him a cake or something? haha)

"Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts. Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice (!) Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always. Remember the wonders he has done..."
1 Chronicles 16:8-12

[hopefully a longer, more informative post will come soon soon soon. my heart is so full. this semester has left me with such gratitude and joy and gladness and (hopefully) new knowledge and love ...and right now i just don't have time to depict it accurately for you..i have my hardest and most important final to study for. 

Sunday, December 5, 2010

it's the last week of classes, people.
the last freakin' four days.
and then finals.

(this is how i've been feeling.) 

[let's just get this out of the way. when i write things down they seem less overwhelming, less frightening.]

things ashley has to do before she comes home:

1. finish a 12 page paper on discrimination against refugees in the United States.
2. (start..) and finish a paper on adventure education programs in urban settings.
3. plan and give a 30 minute presentation on urban adventure programs.
4. study for, take, and pass three finals. (and by pass i mean get at least a B+ as the scholarship requires...)
5. apply to the Wilderness Immersion Leadership Development program (which might take place in British Columbia! Or California!) 
6. spread lots of Christmas cheer on this floor.
7. sing in a coffee house with hannah and other lovely friends. (play the finger cymbals!)
8. go ice skating at Frog Pond
9. take Alegra to the cliffs of Magnolia
10. go to the Wenham Tea House 
11. eat squash soup and celebrate the end of a semester at long hill farm
12. make a Christmas dinner with the wonderful RA staff
13. perfectly time Christmas surprises for the girls on this floor.
14. go sledding on cafeteria trays.
15. host a birthday chocolate fondu

Hm, looking at that list- there are lot more fun things to accomplish than serious, hurray! this makes me feel not so bad for spending the last few days knitting and listening to sufjan stevens Christmas album. it has been such a dilemma deciding how to use my time. just last night i was learning how to knit hats, which is GREAT! but also bad timing because now all i want to do is knit hats for everyone i know...and definitely not research and write eloquent and intelligent sounding papers... 

(oh, and if you happen to be wondering about those awesome red glasses. those are my study glasses. i put them on when i am having a hard time focusing. they are worn often during finals and midterms. they have little "blinders" on the side  which are supposed to help me not look at anything else. unfortunately i think they're so funny that i often  spend a lot of time looking around at people when i'm wearing them just to see what they do. (haha.) i do think however, that they help. i know it's all psychological, but seriously - how else is a girl supposed to focus when it's  CHRISTMAS TIME?!)

(i thought this post wasn't going to have anything really "thoughtful" in it, for i have been too busy to be thoughtful, (haha) buuuuut, maybe here's something. but don't get your hopes up. seriously, don't.) 

so i babysit these two children named maxwell and monet. approximately four mornings a week i get them dressed, feed them breakfast and drive them to school. sometimes monet teaches me how to dance, sometimes we spin around in circles on the kitchen floor until i feel like i'm going to throw up, sometimes we play monopoly but most days we do art projects. one day a week i pick them up after school too and on those days i really feel like a mom. anyway, so this week was monet's birthday (she turned 6). i gave her a birthday present on friday (a stamp pad and some animal rubber stamps- she loves all things art.) and we played with it for a bit before school. i soon realized however that time was passing quickly and it was approaching 8am - "brush teeth and comb your hair" for school time. so naturally i asked monet to go brush her teeth and comb her hair. she pranced off to the bathroom and came back with a headband in her hair (which seemed somewhat brushed, although every knot was carefully avoided...) but did not brush her teeth. i asked her again to brush her teeth after telling her that i didn't hear the water run... (not to mention that she wouldn't let me "smell her minty fresh breath" which is what almost always happens after they brush their teeth) and she refused. defiantly, she curled up in a ball on the little rug in front of the refrigerator and wailed. "i am NOT going to brush my teeth." (well, why monet?) "i just do NOT WANT TO!" and the tears flowed. (this girl is queen of all things drama, why do i always babysit really dramatic children? is this payback for something? or perhaps preparation? haha who knows.) so the crying continued, and continued, and continued. she remained curled up in that ball for a long time wailing and expressing what a tragedy it would be to brush her teeth when she just didn't want to. 

not knowing what to do, i tried to pull the "come on monet, you're 6 years old now" card and tell her that 6 year olds surely don't whine and complain about things so simple. i tried to tell her that 6 year olds don't throw fits. i tried, boy did i try to convince her that brushing her teeth wasn't going to kill her. (or even hurt her for that matter. haha) it took me threatening to take away her special privilege of choosing what song we get to listen to on the way to school to get her off of that rug and into the bathroom. . .  

but you know what? earlier this week i was just like monet. not in so many tears, but my heart was in that position - that fetal position curled up on a rug refusing to do the simple things that i just need to do. i was 5 years old again, being upset about all of the things i have to do. things that don't hurt or require so very much of me, but things i just don't want to do. like write papers, and study for tests and prepare presentations, like go to meetings and classes. i was overwhelmed and annoyed, frustrated at the workload that kept piling on. for one of the first times this semester i felt really stressed. every night that i planned on really getting work done turned into some kind of party or distraction. (haha) i was frustrated with the way i was spending my time and avoiding my studies. i was torn between doing the things that i need to get done, and the things that i want so very badly to do. (specifically the Christmas things...) 

but if 6 year olds don't throw fits anymore, then surely 20 year olds don't either. it's rather silly isn't it, to complain about the things that i must get done. these things that are helping me to learn and grow. these things that are helping me get a degree in something i really care about. it's silly to complain when so many people will never get to attend college, or even high school for that matter. it's really selfish of me. really terribly selfish. 

so i'm trying. i'm trying to buckle down, put on my study glasses, and get things done. (and not just get things done, but to get things done well. and with a smile, even.) at the same time however, i'm trying to slow down, to make time for the people around me and the little events along the way. i'm trying to appropriately plan study breaks and time to do things that don't involve work. i'm trying to make time to notice the sky, to run (in my new running sneakers!), and to sleep. i'm not very good at this yet, but i'm trying. 

[because as we were reminded in the most beautiful advent service this morning, when Jesus came to this world as a little baby, the busy and bustling people of the earth missed it. they were distracted and occupied with their own agendas. i don't want to miss hearing the baby cry this Christmas. i don't want to miss the angels shouting. i want to be as still and watchful as the shepherds. because the shepherds knew. and they rejoiced. oh, did they rejoice. ]

this whole Christmas thing is taking captive so many of my thoughts. 
Jesus, as a baby
The Word became flesh
God in-dwelling
Mary, giving birth to the Christ

it's the craziest, most beautiful story i've ever heard. 

(and to close,
a prayer for Christmas.)

From Guerrillas of Grace:
"Patient God,
this day teeters on the edge of waiting
     and things seem to slip away from me,
          as though everything was only memory
               and memory is capricious.
Help me not to let my life slip away from me.
O God, I hold up my life to you now,
     as much as I can,
          as high as I can,
               in this mysterious reach called prayer.
Come close, lest I wobble and fall short.
It is not days or years I seek from you,
     not infinity and enormity,
          but small things and moments and awareness,
              awareness that you are in what I am
                   and in what I have been indifferent to.

It is not new time,
     but new eyes
          new heart I seek,
               and you."

i will be seeing you soon dear lancaster family! 

Monday, November 29, 2010

my heart is so full,
my mind is juggling a million thoughts and ideas.
i scarcely know where to begin;
sometimes translating life into words appears unfair.
Life is too big for words. 

but still i will try. forgive me in advance for a somewhat random post. so much i want to spill onto this blank white page, but i fear it may not all come out as gracefully as it circles in my mind. 

So the past five-ish days i spent at home, and oh what a joy it was!
(Here are some snippets of my mind's wanderings in those times and spaces.)

I returned:
to a sleepy house and a long-haired brother, to a clean room and tupperware full of cookies and brownies!
I returned to a family now composting! I returned to find chickens in the neighbor's lawn, chickens that
sometimes share their bounty with us! :) 
It's nice to have a place to return to.

I LOVE coming home. As college wanes on, I think my love for being home swells and swells. I love  being given the biggest and hardest of hugs. I love taking my shoes off in the mud-room. I love coming home
to a clean room. I love helping in the kitchen with Leah and Kayla. I love the youtube videos that Zach shows me
like clockwork every time I'm home. I love hearing dad laugh. I love seeing the new changes taking place
around the house. I love having a fire in the fireplace all day long. I love simply Being. Home. (not rushing 
around here and there and everywhere.) I love reading the Hobbit and knitting... because I can :)
I love running with Jonah and Zach. I love talking to Uncle Bill in the kitchen. I love family games.
I love not setting an alarm, but still waking up at 8am. I love hearing Jessica prance around the house;
I love hearing her laugh. I love looking out the window. I love watching the sky. 
I love walking around in wool socks on wood floors.

Nearly every hour of daylight was spent in the kitchen on Friday. From morning until evening Leah, Kayla and I baked and baked and baked some more. We were preparing for "The Great Friday Night Tradition" of additional family, and feasting and games! When I looked back over the day however, (much to my surprise) the day did not seem wasted to me by any stretch of the imagination. Preparing and dancing and laughing and singing and kneading and boiling and mixing and flouring and rolling ... it was all so fulfilling. There is something about working with my hands that I absolutely love, something that I think we have slowly migrated very far from. At times we are such an abstract generation. We learn only in our minds, we process only on paper and in word documents and in conversation--- but how often do we learn with our hands? Do we learn by doing? And more than that... how often does what we learn affect the way we live? The way we talk and interact with others? How often does what we learn affect... anything? (and, is it really learning if it's not changing anything?) I've been thinking about learning recently... and thinking about how to learn something means, I think, to change the way you live. I think that when we learn something it should change something within us- whether that's a thought process or an action does not matter as much as the change itself. Learning produces change. Growth. An alteration in our lives. 

So on Friday in those hours spent in the kitchen, I learned how to make cinnamon buns. The process is long and slow and at times tedious, but oh so wonderful. It's a recipe that has been made over and over again by my mom on special occasions and now I finally know how to do it too. Baking things for people, especially something as delicious as homemade cinnamon buns,  is one of those ideal situations that I often think about but scarcely practice. I love the idea of making food for people and providing for people. I love using my hands to make food: kneading love and care and prayers into dough and then sharing it with people I hold close to my heart is a beautiful thought. At school I have been baking as much as possible but Friday was the first time that I spent the majority of my day in the kitchen. 

And you know what? I didn't hate it. In fact, I really, really enjoyed it. 

Do you know why this is so encouraging to me? Such a blessing? . . . let me back up, 

So, I have this dream. A dream of one day having a "house full of people" a "holistic house," a house where people can come and stay - where people can be loved and cared for, listened to and helped...a house where I can be hospitable for life. A house where we teach one another what we know, art therapy, pottery classes, baking, etc. A house for those who don't have a home, but also a house for those who only temporarily need a home, for travelers per say...a house for anyone and everyone. I want to have a big house with lots of beds, a garden out back, and love wrapped up in every breath. I want to be hospitable for life. I want to be like Jane Addams.  (look her up, she started the Hull House. She kind of lived my dream. :) )  So in this dream what I do is listen to people, help people get back on their feet, love people, care for people, and make a lot of food for people. So you see? Making food is this ideal in my mind, or, at least was an ideal... making food and sharing it with others is something that seems ideal to me... but on Friday I realized that I spent the whole day in the kitchen and enjoyed it! It was not a hassle; it was not annoying... in fact it was lovely and life-giving! Just like living in the woods on La Vida, just like gardening and learning about agriculture, this was another ideal in my mind but once I tried it out - I realized it was so satisfying and fulfilling. 

God is so good. I don't know if I will ever have a house like this, or have the opportunity to serve people in this way... but I do believe that God places dreams in our hearts for a reason. And I do know that he has been stirring up passions within me for all kinds of awesome things and they just might work together perfectly for something such as this, for this dream tucked away in my heart. (although, it keeps slipping out, it keeps coming up in conversation and making my heart race.) 

Whether or not I someday can oversee this holistic house I DO know that 

         1. Always, I want my things and my home to be shared with others. Wherever I live, you can live too, ok? [If everything we have is given to us from God, then it's as much of yours as it is mine. We're just temporarily over-seeing it, learning how to be a good steward of it.]
           2. I want to have a garden and provide food for people.
           3. I want to have chickens :) and bees! (for eggs and honey of course.) 

My goodness how much more I want to say! If only I had words and time to express to you the gratitude and joy within my heart, but I suppose this has gone on long enough... so here's two last remarks. 


Today I am thinking about how thankful I am that relationships are messy and hard. Relationships are not for the faint of heart and for this I am glad. They require so much thought, so much prayer... they are cluttered with emotions and feelings and words and ideas. Relationships change and provoke and hinder and strengthen and grow and it's all so beautiful. I'm learning to be thankful for the challenges that relationships present, the wrestling matches relationships stir within my heart. I am thankful that relationships require so much of us, for this they are valued and held in high regard. I am also thankful that our earthly relationships can only flourish when our relationship with our Savior is in tune, thankful that his relationship harmonizes the rest of our relationships. I am thankful that God knows this heart better than anyone else; I am thankful that even though I don't know what I want, or what I need --- God does. In short, I am thankful for relationships that I don't understand and don't quite know how to navigate through.. for they humble me and remind me that I am small, that I know little and must rely heavily on my Savior. I am thankful for times of uncertainty and questioning, for out of these comes growth. I am thankful that relationships require prayer, how good it is to cling to God in prayer. 


A (silly) winter poem:

the earth crunches beneath my feet,
it too knows that another year is coming
to a close.
Its balding scalp is proudly covered
with traces of white icicles left over
from a brisk night.
It's aging too,
like all of us. 

The trees have shed their clothes;
for the next few months they will wait.
Standing patiently, not covering up their
frozen fingers. For months their life
will be hidden on the inside.
We will see nothing but shadows,
and sadly we'll complain-
until spring returns with her magic wand 
and draws life out
of their fingertips once more.

But winter too is a season,
a season that mustn't be enjoyed
simply from inside our cozy fireplace lit homes.
The icicles long to crunch beneath our feet,
and the cool air wants to make
our hearts skip and remind us,
that life is not meant to be lived
only on the inside.

(a special thumbs up to heather, korinne, and rachel...
my secret readers and faithful friends, who love me even though
i forget to respond to text messages and am bad at keeping in touch :) 
i love you girls dearly.) 

Friday, November 19, 2010

unseasonably warm, fun, spontaneous, bountiful, life-giving, learning, beautiful, heartfelt, adventurous...
these words best describe november so far.

these days have been so full of life that i scarcely know where to begin. moments tumble one after the other   , bursting at the seems with love and joy and newness. i'm continuing to learn and grow and be challenged and changed and stretched. God is so faithful, my friends. so faithful and good. 

here's a random collection of photos and thoughts of what i've been up to these days. 

1. Last week a friend called and surprised me with a really cheap ticket to see the one and only Sufjan Stevens at the Orpheum in Boston! The concert was magical...such a piece of art. There are no words to accurately describe it. Music will always blow my mind and touch my heart in a way that nothing else quite can. I am so thankful for music and the ability to hear, to listen, and enjoy sounds put together in all kinds of ways. (If you are even remotely a fan of Sufjan Stevens, PLEASE go see him in concert. I guarantee it will be worth it...but just as a warning: you might not be able to talk afterwards (because you are awe-struck), you might not be able to stop laughing and smiling, you might want to hug everyone you meet, you might want to dance and sing and shout, you might not be able to fall asleep for hours - (but if you have a test to study for the next day then that just works out, haha) but go. it'll be so so worth it.) 

please pardon the blurry photos. it's impossible to capture such brilliance.
especially from a balcony. :) 

2. This past weekend we had an RA staff retreat. It was glorious. We spent Friday night at Joqui's house, one of the RAs in Chase (our sister dorm) and it was lovely. Her mom made us the most wonderful food; her family is so hospitable and kind. They cared so deeply for us. On Saturday we walked to a park that overlooked the river/Boston. I spent the majority of the time climbing trees. : ) On Saturday night we drove to Cape Cod and had a rather silly adventure trying to find the house we were staying in. Turns out the guy whose house we were staying in gave us the wrong address so we spent about 10 minutes searching around the wrong house for the so called 'hidden key" -- fortunately the man who opened the door to find about 14 people standing in his year wasn't too peeved. bahahahaha! The rest of the weekend consisted of more good food, really funny games, and a whole lot of rest. It was such a refreshing time to be together and not have an agenda to follow. I am increasingly thankful for all of these dear people who I get to serve alongside this year. 

the tree that pleased us for quite some time.

it was a bit difficult to climb, but SO entirely worth it. that person with the white shirt on is me :) and that spot was by far the best tree seat i've ever found. i'm considering just having a house full of trees when i grow up, who needs furniture? (haha, don't worry mom i'm kidding...)

this branch was like a small trampoline.
so naturally we had all kinds of jumping contests on it.


3. On Wednesday night we had a "pre-thanksgiving floor feast" and my oh my what a feast it was. Genny and I had all kinds of random vegetables from long hill (the garden that we volunteer with) and so we threw them together with much success! Genny made delicious potato, squash, leek soup and I made biscuits, swiss chard, and apple crisp. We also had some carrots and pomegranate and stuffed acorn squash and of course tea and hot chocolate :) Mmmmm. More wonderful than the food however, was the beautiful fellowship and atmosphere of love and encouragement. I am so eternally thankful for each of the girls on this floor. They never cease to amaze me and God's hand so perfectly placed each of them here; it's incredible. My heart wants to burst with joy and love. 

(this floor eats cheese like it's going out of style.)

So that's a snippet of what I've been up to recently. And to end, here's a sample of what's been on my mind. You should go look up C.S. Lewis' "The Weight of Glory" and read it all. Ok? Ok. But for now.. here's this: 

"The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbor's glory should be laid daily on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken. It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you say it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. . . There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, art, civilization- these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit-immortal horrors or ever-lasting splendors...Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbor he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ vere latitat- the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden."

C.S. Lewis

(a few final photos of other random activities: a hoe down and apple cider pressing! these are for you, mom. since you miss "seeing" me. :) )

Friday, November 5, 2010

ambiguous:  of doubtful or uncertain nature; difficult to comprehend, distinguish.

i noticed that the word ambiguous has been seasoning my conversations quite often as of late. perhaps this stems from my desire to greatly expand my vocabulary upon hearing how our vocabularies have become increasingly smaller over the years. (i know, i know, ambiguous is not a crazy awesome word that people never use, in fact it's probably quite common, but for me- it's a step. baby steps people, baby steps. afterall, you're listening to the girl who says "like" between every other word.)

today as i again used the word to describe a certain scenario i thought about how relevant the word ambiguous is to my thoughts these days. ambiguous seems to be the best word to explain my mind's wanderings over the past week, my thoughts are on overload and my brain feels like it's about to burst. (i'm learning how to be thankful for this, rather than letting the overwhelming weight of learning about this huge world press heavily on my shoulders.)

so much information, so much data, so many new ideas, so much suffering (in the world), so much to learn, so much to question, so many stories to hear and learn from . . . it's difficult to comprehend.

the things i am hearing and taking notes on, the videos i am watching, the statistics i am reading about, the lectures i am sitting through --- they are all a mysterious swirl of color in my mind and i'm trying to sort them out and focus on the beauty that learning is...the individual colors rather than the ominous cloud of black they make when they all mix together.

how does one begin to process a personal story shared by a holocaust survivor? it's hard enough to believe that those atrocious acts took place...but even worse than that is hearing that a second holocaust is brewing? (seriously, why am i so unaware?) what is going on in israel? how do i make connections between what i am learning about israel now and what i learned about israel in philly this summer? what does it mean to learn something? does it mean to know? to believe? does learning something change the way you live? does it change you at all? ... what is the tea party movement? populism? what was the significance of the midterm elections that just took place in massachusetts? why am i so ignorant? what is truth? is truth only truth if it's universal? how do we distinguish between truth that is only culturally true and truth that is universally true? how does one live completely and totally in the moment ("Be Here Now"), invest themselves in their current community, know and tend to the needs in this place, ... as well as be aware of the rest of the world that is hurting? how do we balance being completely present and being completely aware of what our brothers and sisters around the world are going through? it seems like an unfair balance to approach. it seems sticky and hard. why does everything get more complicated as you grow up? i thought the goal was simplicity... "my job is to complicate the simple, to show you that the world's problems are big and complex and simple answers aren't going to cut it anymore." (professor) how am i to react to the staggering statistics about our country? that our minimum wage is really just a poverty wage? that the school systems are unfair? that a woman gets paid 77 cents to every dollar a man receives? that racism still exists? (and this i am even sensing on my floor.. these issues are getting closer and closer to home.) what do i do when i hear that the amount of water it takes to produce 10 pounds of steak could provide enough clean water for a family for a YEAR? ... i'm trying to learn and understand, but i feel rather inferior. i feel silly and stupid a lot of times. i feel inadequate. tuesday night as i sat on the floor of a lecture hall listening to the deep voice of Mr. Irving i felt this heavy weight that the responsibility of learning is. "THERE IS SO MUCH TO LEARN" is the thought that tumbled in my mind over and over again. i think the Hebrews were right when they said: 

"Life is for learning and learning is for life." 

and still,
God is good.
 i am trying to strain my eyes and see that this learning, the ability to know and grow and change is a gift. i must not get frustrated with all there is to know and learn; i must be thankful. how wonderful it is to think and ask questions and discover! is this not what i craved for? this desire to ask questions, hard questions...this desire to iron out what i think about things, this desire for wisdom and knowledge.
(now if only i can not stop at the questions, but relentlessly seek the answers.)
to live well and full and as alive as possible, . . .
to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God,
that is what i'm after.

in other news: 

1. november has begun! can you even believe it? time is flying. i don't know how i feel about that. i feel like i'm getting old when someone asks me how my semester is going and all i can say is, 'it's FLYING! where does time go?!" (but, i am SO excited for thanksgiving and christmas, eeeeeeeeeee ! )

2. november means the dress project has ended. how full of clothes my closet is! i was rather overwhelmed standing before all of those options on november 1st. . . (it was a good experiment.) 

3. i am trying to grow an avocado tree. (mom, i opted for a tree rather than a necklace, haha! laugh at me and shake your head as you will.) i hear they're good for climbing. :) i figure it will be a great graduation present to myself someday (because that's how long it will take...bahaha) yes family, that means the basil never grew even after all of my tender love and care. (although i can't bear to throw it out, it still sits on my window sill...even shriveled i can't imagine getting rid of it. we've been together for at least 6 months now!) :) maybe a future in gardening is not my call . . . 

4. did you know that it only takes a letter FIVE DAYS to get from Israel to Wenham, MA? (and it takes TWO days for one to get to philly? the mail system is strange.) did you also know that getting a letter from Israel is the best thing that happened to me today?!? i nearly cried from excitement.  

5. i am learning how to ballroom dance.

since fall is quickly coming to a close,
some photos to commemorate: 
(i apologize for the poor quality of them.)

what is october without a pumpkin to carve?

elisabeth and her beautiful artwork,
it's a whale! (with jonah on the inside of course)

mmmmmmm : )

not only do i love tea and pumpkins and fall,
but i also love my brother who gave me this mug
more than all of the other things mentioned.

let's just say that carving pumpkins is not my forté by any stretch
of the imagination. :)

brian on the other hand, is a pro.

a blurry/awkward photo of happiness.

: ) 

a dying basil plant :( 

an avocado ! (hopefully thriving. . . only time will tell.) 
p.s. don't fret, i researched avocados - i promise it's supposed to have those 
things stuck in it. haha 

one last thing.
if you want to read some frightening statistics,
and perhaps think hard about our role as citizens of this country,
and maybe if you're willing,
 make some changes as a result-
read this:
(just be careful, it might frustrate you greatly. remember, learning is a gift.
there's always something you can do, no matter how small.)  

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

so...i need new running sneakers. ask anyone who has seen me running, or who has seen me getting ready to go running, or has gone running with's clear. and it's been clear for oh, at least a year. the tattered brown "champion" shoes that i run in were never intended to be running shoes in the first place. when i purchased them quite a few years ago i simply wanted a "classy sneaker" instead of a chunky running shoe - because i did not EVER see myself as one taking up the running hobby. as i started this new college adventure however, i slowly began to recognize what a joy running is. what wonderful stress relief it is! not to mention peaceful and beautiful and life-giving.

as i began to run more and more times a week, for further and further distances, my shoes quite obviously became excessively tattered with each additional mile. i'm not big on spending money however, and i never was a girl who loved to buy shoes, so putting off the decision to buy new shoes was never a difficult one to make. and at this point, these shoes have been with me for so long, we've been through so much together, so many adventures we have shared!- how could i just toss them to the wind? but today as i ran i looked at those sneakers i pulled them over my feet for another brisk run i again noticed the lack of rubber between my socks and the ground, i tied the laces fraying at the end and glanced at the little (little may be a relative term...) holes growing on the outside of either though my feet themselves are defiantly digging their way out of the poor little brown shoes, deciding on their own that running barefoot would be better than foolishly tricking myself into thinking that my feet are protected. and as i ran my usual loop, more than once i whimpered as i felt a sharp stone digging into the ball of my right foot. (this has become such a problem that my foot continues to hurt for a day or so after a run with too many stones in the path of my right foot...) to anyone else it is apparent, i need new shoes. i need to stop making excuses and let these little guys go - for they are of no use to me and in fact often bring me more pain than anything...

but... this post is about more than running shoes. these thoughts don't end with my realization that i need to make a sacrifice and shell out some money for some good shoes so that i can continue running and not hurt myself, possibly hindering my running future unknowingly. in fact, this trail of seemingly irrelevant thoughts are ironically quite relevant to our relationship with God and this never-ending adventure that we find ourselves in. let me explain . . .

this morning i read this verse:

"Teach me our way, O Lord,
and i will walk in your truth;
give me an undivided heart,
that i may fear your name."
Psalm 86:11

that 3rd line gets me: "give me an undivided heart" as i consider what that might mean i picture myself standing before God grasping onto my ancient brown sneakers. i see my stubborn heart, my heart unwilling to release my grip on certain things in my life, too afraid of losing the comfort or the pleasure that things bring me. i hear my voice making excuses, oh so many excuses! 

and you know what's ridiculous? the things we often hold onto are NOT helping us, they are not bringing us joy or life by any stretch of the imagination - and in fact they are hurting us, just like my tattered sneakers. and what's even crazier... is that our defiant act of holding onto things, refusing to sacrifice and let go causes God even greater pain. and that hurts my heart. that blows my mind. and yet... it's so easy to continue to hold our little brown sneakers tightly to our chest like rebellious children. it's easy to cling to them, to their memories, to their comfort, to their familiarity. it's much harder to lay them down and pick up whatever it is God intends for us to have. when we're holding our old sneakers it's rather difficult to realize that God wants to offer us something far greater, something that will enable us to continue running farther and more gloriously than before. He's dying to offer us a brand new pair of sneakers that will support and comfort and help us, and yet so often we just settle for sore feet because it's easier. it's more convenient. it's safe. . . (or so we think) 

so i've had this picture of an open hand before God in my head recently. it is so fitting. it's what i long for. a hand open before God acknowledging that everything i have has been given to me. acknowledging that everything given to me is simply on loan, and i must learn to be a good steward of it. an open hand that offers every part of me up to God, not just the parts i want to. an open hand recognizing the fact that God gives and takes away, and that's ok. an open hand that offers generously what i have been given, to others. living with open hands before God, this is what i long for. 

a heart undivided, a hand open. 

daily it is a task of untying our sneakers and laying them before God - recognizing and trusting that what he has to offer us is far greater. it's laying down of my plans, my dreams, my hopes, my desires, my worries, my doubts, my fears, my inadequacies, my sins, my relationships, my life...knowing that in Him i can trust. 

so here's to running with a lighter step and a joyful song, because with God my feet are secure. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

home things. . . 

1. showering without flip flops on.
2. finding hummus and grapes in the refrigerator!
3. brilliant orange flowers outlining the front yard.
4. baking.
5. making apple sauce.
6. harvesting potatoes and peppers and tomatoes with my dad.
7. collecting leaves.
8. pressing said leaves.
9. coloring.
10. watching my dad use a chainsaw like a pro.
11. skipping through the woods.
11.5. child-like.
12. driving stick shift.
13. drinking tea, eating cookie dough.
14. familiar roads.
15. the most brilliant sunsets.
16. sleepovers with sisters.
17. central market ! 
18. pumpkin scone. 
19. sam lewis park.
20. grown ups who fly kites. 
21. holding hands in prayer. 
22. friday family movie night.
23. mom, dad, leah, zach, kayla, grandma, and pop pop. 
24. round robin.
25. rest.
26. noticing life.
27. the best nachos in the world.
28. homemade guacamole.

...someday when i grow up i want to have a garden.
i want to learn how to grow my own food and cook it well,
for lots of people.
(this year i have been volunteering at a local garden and it brings me more joy than i could have imagined.)
i love playing in the dirt.
i love conversations that take place while picking peppers.
i love  learning how things grow.
i love learning that broccoli turns into a flower if not picked in time!
i love how everything grows so differently.
i love how colorful and beautiful food can be.
i love how creative you can be with food.
i love coming back to school and making food with friends new and old.
i love riding sandy (the tandy) to and from the garden.

i am really interested in the culture of food,
this clash of food and community that is so... GOOD.

harvesting vegetables is like a treasure hunt,
but better.
because you get to EAT the treasure.
(instead of putting it in a shiny box somewhere to collect dust.)

hurray for life!
life not just in this flesh that walks on the earth,
but life that lives in the soil!