Tuesday, March 29, 2011

*i guess this is dubai

[a collection of thoughts both spoken and written over the past few days...]

the sun is deceptive, the blue skies a tease. though the stage is set for spring, the warm temperatures have flown the coop. winter is arrogant; it's stealing the show. somewhere back in january it finally defeated its stage fright and now its quickly becoming dictator. like a stubborn child its stomping its feet - enjoying the spotlight far too much.

a mountain of muffins!

sundays are for resting. this (school) year i have set out to make sundays a true day of rest - no homework, no worrying about homework, nothing. sundays are for catching up with people, for calling home, for creating things and being. sundays are for singing and dancing, for playing music and making good food. sundays are for book clubs and tea. (ok, who am i kidding, every day is a day for tea.) sundays are for reading and writing, for knitting and sleeping. as i have set out on this journey, it's no wonder that God commands us to take a sabbath - to take a whole day to rest. now that i have begun, i can't imagine not doing it. taking a whole day off is so vital to my soul, to my well-being - to everything. it works wonders, my friends. after taking a whole day off on sunday i am a lot more refreshed to head into a new week - to start doing work again, and doing work well. (because i've learned something about myself this year - i strive to do things whole-heartedly, and if i can't do that, if i am fighting my attention span and simply "getting by" - if i am doing something half-heartedly, i would rather not do it at all. i don't know if that's good or bad, but regardless, that's what i'm finding.) taking a day to rest also reminds me that i cannot do life on my own. it forces me to trust God more.
you should try it. really.

yesterday John David and i talked about this transitory life. i lamented about how i long for a state of constancy - to be in a place for 12 months out of the year, to not have to uproot and leave every time i really start to love a place. . . he spoke of life consistently being poured through our hands - like sand. or perhaps like snowflakes, then leaves, then rain...as badly as we want to hold on to one single snowflake we mustn't. for not only will it melt, but our clenched fists will also cause all of the other unique and beautiful snowflakes to bounce off of our hands, missed opportunities. we must learn that life is constantly changing, constantly sifting through our hands - and we must learn to embrace that process. knowing full-well that our longings for the constant will one day be fulfilled... but for now,

like sun beams we shine on and into the lives of others - the beam matters not, only the source, the sun. being known or remembered must not be our goal. only Christ. we send little rays of sunshine, little snowflakes into the lives of others, but we must know they are fleeting. we are vessels carrying a message dearer than the world can understand. we are vessels- not the heroes, not the healers. we are rays- not the fire burning passionately for the world. we are whispers in a sea shouting of the world to come. 

"We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience. We cannot hide it because our experience is constantly suggesting it, and we betray ourselves like lovers at the mention of a name. Our commonest expedient is to call it beauty and behave as if that had settled the matter...The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things- the beauty, the memory or our own past- are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited."
C.S. Lewis
The Weight of Glory

*the title refers to a band name. all credit goes to the one and only hannah jeane becker. on friday afternoon some friends and i played at our "sophomore sunshine party." it was a a hilarious blast. the name we played under? "i guess this is dubai." it was really funny, and really really enjoyable. and what's even more hilarious is that we might be "opening" for another (really really small) music performance happening next month. hahahahaha. i played my cello a bit, but mostly just sang and played the tambourine occasionally. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

a box of tea tags.

inspired by our dear friends nina and sarah, genny and i set out to collect all of our tea tags this semester - partially to see how much tea we drink, and partially to save the earth. (by re-using them to make cards and fun things like that. :) ) we put them in this little box and each time i open it i am a little bit astonished at just how much tea we have consumed in this short half of a semester. this little box is filled with remnants from all kinds of tea bags - black tea, mint tea, green tea, herbal tea, chai tea, earl grey tea, ginger tea, you name it - we probably have it. some of these teas are strong and dark, bringing energy to my soul and a glisten to my eyes. others are dreamy and smooth, preparing my weary self to sleep through the night. some go well with with scones and breakfast, and others are best alone. this motley medley of tea tags reminds me of life so much, and more specifically - the break i just returned from over the past half week or so.

driving home last wednesday night i laid eyes upon a week not yet crowded with plans, just the way i like it - open and willing to be filled. the week beckoned to spontaneity and gave a warm welcome to last minute adventures. my father also got a glimpse of my week waiting to be filled and he soon threw out a plan; he recommended that i spend some time landscaping, earning money so that i can pay him the necessary amount for school, for car insurance, for car inspection...all of those fun things.

my first reaction was complete refusal, but recalling all of the times in the past where the wisdom of my dad trumps my little ideas - i knew better than to say no. fathers are wise; this i continue to learn. so i agreed; i decided to go and do some landscaping with Fred, one of the sweetest 79 year old men i know.

so each morning save one, i awoke and set out to do some basic landscaping with Fred for about 4 hours. i quickly remembered how much i love being outside doing "manual labor" - doing work that shows immediate improvement, doing work that beautifies and improves the state of something so quickly. i spent the mornings raking and trimming, picking up leaf after leaf after leaf - piling the debris into the little trailer, unloading it in the woods, and then repeating. it was so satisfying. the air smelled like spring, the sun gently pulled back the clouds and nudged me to take off my jacket. i loved it.

more than that however, something unexpected happened. as each morning passed, fred began to tell me more and more about his life. it began with conversation of japan. the news continues to break my heart and the days surrounding the actual event left me stunned. . .

"isn't that something about Japan," he said.
"it's terrible, i can't imagine..." my voice trailed off.
i had no words to say. words only seemed to diminish the weight of sorrow that hung in the air. i did not want to belittle it, i did not want to mar or make light of the issue by feebly tacking words like "sad, bad, unbelievable" onto the event. those did no justice.

i stood and twirled the large rake in my hands. (i'm always fidgeting.) he continued...

"i was in Japan once, when i was in the korean war... it looked like something out of a movie - destruction. where once there was a city, only a few chimneys remained. when we arrived on shore, there were caskets everywhere, caskets with the names and places of where people belonged but would never again return to..." this was only the beginning.

morning after morning the stories continued --- he told me of women and children up to their knees in the slop that soldiers discarded, looking for food -how he tried to feed them but was warned not to, for they might over-take the truck. he spoke of a typhoon with waves like mountains that stretched on for a day - he described to me a young boy they found in the mountains, "his ears looked like 2 pieces of fried bacon, shriveled in the cold." he spoke of a baby crawling in the street, she came out of nowhere. his friend's face was run over by a truck - "if i had a shotgun i think i could have killed him, he looked so miserable." he spoke of regrets. . .

these stories hit hard. my hands stopped sanding, my rake stopped moving - my ears hung on every word that came out of his mouth. my thoughts turned to God, and his deep love for all of these people. how can this be? and what do i do? my heart marveled at this man, so strong, so kind, so friendly and welcoming and courageous - so brave and loving, in spite of all that he has seen.

my heart weighed heavy with pain for the world. with the pain of the world that i have never seen, and perhaps never will. my heart ached. ached for a world i'll never know. for people lost.

...as i would drive away from each morning and into the rest of the day, i drove into sunshine - into blue skies and life. i drove away from the silent mornings and into afternoons spent playing tennis, playing soccer and ultimate frisbee and whiffle ball. i drove away from those mornings and into afternoons spent lost in books, afternoons spent baking and dancing and biking and listening to good music. it was bliss. it was everything i longed for - sunshine and warm weather and grass. sunroofs and singing and bare feet...

it didn't seem right. it seemed unfair in some sense.  

like the box of tea tags, break was an odd collision of opposite spectrums of life. it was painful and raw and heart wrenching, it was beautiful and joyful and good. it was dark and black and strong, it was herbal and sweet and soothing. it was colorful and glorious, it was terribly grey and too hot to drink all at once.

i'm still processing it all. (so i apologize for the unfinished thoughts and lack of good sentence structure.) i'm still trying to figure out what it all means. how do we live well in the midst of this clash? what do i do with this ache in my heart? how do i live well here, in this society and culture so contradictory to what my heart tells me is honest and true and worthwhile? what does love look like? how do i go about praying about this and for this and through this? 

last semester i saw so much of the goodness of God, the beauty and joy that comes from knowing him and seeking him wholeheartedly. this semester i am seeing a lot of pain, some pain is close to home on this floor - some pain crosses continents; it all hurts just the same.

but i know, i know that God is good, and i know that i am called to live in the midst of this tension. i am called to love in the midst of adversity. to seek wholeheartedly when throwing in the towel seems to be the easiest option. so i will not ignore the news, i won't belittle the realities of war. i won't stop reading the news, nor will i pretend that hell is not breaking loose in the middle east. i will face it all. i will learn to walk alongside, to walk into, to immerse myself in the grime knowing that God is good and beautiful and faithful. because he is.


grilled cheese and tomato soup 3x over break :)

also. look what i picked up last night... 

(the little speckled bowl was a "surprise glaze" - maybe someday it will be used for birthday cereal or something; it looks like  a party.)

one more mug will be coming in a few weeks, it's not quite finished...
want to come over for tea? please?

Friday, March 11, 2011


"The sublime is not opposed to the beautiful, and must not, furthermore, be considered an esthetic category. The sublime may be sensed in things of beauty as well as in acts of goodness and in the search for truth. The perception of beauty may be the beginning of the experience of the sublime. The sublime is that which we see and are unable to convey. It is the silent allusion of things to a meaning greater than themselves. It is that which all things ultimately stand for; 'the inveterate silence of the world that remains immune to curiosity and inquisitiveness like distant foliage in the dusk.' It is that which our words, our forms, our categories can never reach. This is why the sense of the sublime must be regarded as the root of man's creative activities in art, thought, and noble living. Just as no flora has ever fully displayed the hidden vitality of the earth, so no work of art, no system of philosophy, no theory of science, ever brought to expression the depth of meaning, the sublimity of reality in the sight of which the soul of saints, artists, and philosophers live.
The sublime, furthermore, is not necessarily related to the vast and the overwhelming in size. It may be sensed in every grain of sand, in every drop of water. Every flower in the summer, every snow flake in the winter, may arouse in us the sense of wonder that is our response to the sublime." 

Abraham Heschel
 "God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism" 


        we took a trip down to the shoreline and watched the waves wrestle one another to the depths. their bubbly white scalps somersaulted and our eyes refused to move. the wind blew strong, like the lion that march has been so far. flecks of water pierced my face, scrunched and wrinkled, unable to remain stolid beneath the weight of wind and water. thoughts of the sublime and abraham heschel danced in my mind. the ocean, though not the goal of the trip, a much welcomed detour.


       plants are growing in my window. like a concerned parent i scoop them up each morning and take a head count... and then a child-like wonder fills my soul as i realize that while i was sleeping, they grew! my eyes scour the soil as though if i just wait long enough, i can watch them grow taller right before my eyes.


      a young girl stands outside my window - her mother beams and takes her photo, the snow and the flag mark her college visit. she smiles- glad to be where she is, yet so anxious for what is to come. how can it be that i was you not so long ago - and soon you'll be me - and each of us your mom...


     studying, because it's love. 


the air hung heavy.
our scraggly strands of hair buckled
beneath both weight and scent.
a solemn sort of gray
graced the empty spaces.

shuffling of feet.
striking organ chords.
these were fitting,

a dense plume of ash
rose like a balloon -
released from the dirt,
from the flames,
from the light . . .

its presence reminds us
from where we've come.



to the rain tap-dance on the windows,
familiar and missed voices,

the raindrop races from beneath a quilt.

read, write,

grilled cheese.
green tea.
waffles and soft pretzels.

blue skies and rest.


Friday, March 4, 2011

Glad to be Alive

Happy Friday!

(sadly, i can take zero credit for this photo.)

Reasons I am so glad to be alive today...

1. It's Friday. The sky is blue, the sun shining.
2. One midterm down, two to go.
3. The brilliance that is Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes. (Please go listen to the album, "Up From Below" now. Do it. And dance. And hum yourself through the rest of your day.)
4. A really crazy/hilarious convocation.
5. America, Land of the Free - Home of the Rave.
6. Planning a trip to Philly.
7.  Yogurt Parfaits.
8. Spring Break is getting closer.
9. Sending a surprise package! 
10. Receiving a free t-shirt in my mailbox.
11. The little circumferences of grass are getting bigger!
12. Discussing a really quick road trip to see the Welcome Wagon play in Lancaster. (I am really longing to go to a show...to listen to live music with good friends.) 
13. Anticipating the most delicious dessert at the Cheesecake Factory tonight (eeeeee!) cheesecake is one of my favorite things.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

hospitality of thought

do you ever have one of those really eye-opening conversations? those times when you are listening to someone talk and you are listening so closely you think you might fall off of your chair? (or couch, in this case) you are hanging on every single syllable like it's the last sound you'll ever hear, every word they say is like water to your parched soul that you did not even know was thirsty. listening so intently because every word that is coming out of their mouth is entirely new to you, they are sharing insight that you have never ever considered before - but now that you consider it, it resonates so deeply with your soul that you cannot imagine going one more day without letting this thought, these ideas, roll over and over in your mind until they weave themselves into your soul and the very fabric of your life.

this happened to me a week ago. last tuesday night, sitting on the couch at our weekly three hour-ish staff meeting - i found myself lost in overwhelming contemplation. (this is surprising, because our new meeting time runs from 9:15pm-11:45/midnight and usually my brain is absolutely shot by this time of night and I am in that stage where everything is funny and nothing serious or the least bit thoughtful comes out of my mouth.) 


so over Christmas break we (meaning the RAs on our staff) were instructed to read and ponder and pour ourselves over this lecture entitled, "From Brokenness to Community," written by Jean Vanier. this was the focus of our discussion at our meeting last tuesday night. we've been examining and talking about this article for a couple of weeks now but last tuesday was the most eye-opening discussion for me. one question led to another and soon we found ourselves contemplating the idea of humility as Vanier talks about it in his article. (you should go read the lecture - this will probably make more sense then. not to mention it might change your perspective on life and people and community.)

humility and brokenness are two things that God has been teaching me a lot about this semester and so i welcomed this discussion on humility with open arms - gladly taking in all that was said. the conversation from humility quickly turned to poverty and what is poverty. are we poor? what does poverty look like? is it only monetary and material? is poverty not about money primarily? as i sat there listening and turning over this concept of humility and poverty in my mind however, John David (our resident's director) brought a very interesting point to the table, a point that i had never before considered. the thought? that perhaps,

our pride is our poverty. 

this blows my mind. 
the more i dwell on this thought, the more sense it makes.

let me back up. what is poverty? in my mind poverty is a lack of something - whether food or money or clothes or knowledge- being in poverty prohibits us from living life fully because we are lacking. we do not have enough. we need more. 

this idea of pride being our poverty however turns the whole world upside down. (Jesus likes to do that, doesn't he?)  rather than seeing poverty as a lack of something...  poverty is too much of me. (and not enough God.) We are poor because we have too much of ourselves. 

and just like material poverty, our pride restricts our living fully. it steals joy, it keeps us from forgiveness - it forces us to choose safety and certainty and "things that make sense." If keeps us from giving generously, from celebrating shamelessly and loving without restraint. our pride cripples us in more ways than we know.

if however, we can allow God to strip us of our pride - if we can hand over our poverty, if we can hand over our lives full of ourselves, then God can give us the richness of more compassion, more understanding, more joy, more love. 

he became poor so that we might become rich. 

we are rich, we are poor. 
we have nothing, we have everything.

so whoever finds his life, finds that he is poor with the poverty of pride, will loose it- will run from it and find the richness of life in Christ. And whoever loses his life- that is, the pride of their life, the poverty of life, whoever loses that can then find new, rich life in Christ. 

and so again we find ourselves in this paradox... because my first thought was that if Jesus made himself poor so that we might become rich - then we too must become poor to serve others - we must pour ourselves out and become poor for the sake of others, but at the same time we must be rich in all the fullness of God so that we can offer something of value to those around us.

my goodness. 

so that's what's occupying my thoughts these days. i don't know if all of that makes sense. i wish i could properly explain to you everything that's in my head and stirring in my heart. it's one crazy adventure, that's for sure. i could go on. i could tell you how this humility lesson is carrying over physically with a knee injury and really tough lacrosse players. haha i could tell you how God's timing is perfect and how his faithfulness and goodness continues to floor me....but i have to go to class. 
there is so much to learn.

i hope you're learning too. 

[i am thankful for this place and these people who are challenging me and helping me to think deeply, to ask questions and seek harder. i am ever so grateful for the wisdom of John David and the obligation i have to spend at least an hour a week with him mulling over the things in my mind, because God knows i need help figuring all of this stuff out. haha]


i hope you all are welcoming march with open arms - maybe there is grass where you are, appreciate it for me, ok? if it's warm - don't wear your coat for me, deal? [because my ears are still cold, my wool socks still a staple, and snow and ice are still reminding me that indeed winter is not over.]

may you live with a heart open today,
and always.