Beautiful Snapshots

I was asked to share a story from my time at a camp in Ukraine, but I struggle with story writing.  So instead, let me share some of the beautiful things I witnessed.

I saw a young and sweet boy, whose mother left him, share his darts with a girl and teach her how to throw them just right.

I saw a group of girls help clean the dishes after a meal with smiles and laughter.

I saw forty-two children live together, laugh, play, and make new friends.

I heard the laughter of many amused kids as I did my best to talk and play with them in my broken Russian and Ukrainian.

I saw the many sweet notes that they sent each other every day through the camp mail box.

I heard the sorrow and grief of a young boy as he shared his thoughts about the war between Russia and Ukraine through a poem he wrote.

I saw a boy catch and release a lost bird that had flown into the building during lesson time.

I heard the overwhelming sound of the children thanking the kitchen women after each meal.

I heard a joyful noise as all of us raised our voices to God in praise through song.

I held a girl asleep in my lap as we traveled home over bumpy roads in a hot bus full of kids.

I opened my hands for an acorn that a child gave me as he left the bus.

Camp has so many more memories that I will never be able to put into words.  I love the children and the staff and I will always remember this week!

Morning Praise

As I was about to fall asleep last night (or rather, this morning) at 4am, I began to notice the sounds of the birds awakening outside my window.  I don’t know about you, but birdsongs make me happy.  It immediately made me think about all the verses in Scripture that talk about creation praising God and giving Him glory.  The birds are certainly whistling His praises right now–on and off–as a new day begins.

I’ve never had any desire whatsoever to wake up early and go to bed early.  I typically prefer to stay up until 12 or 1 and get up at 8 or 9.  But after hearing these bird whistles this morning I think I could definitely want to change my sleep patterns a little (well, ok, a lot).  Wouldn’t it be amazing to get up with the birds and praise God before everyone else is even awake?  Maybe it wouldn’t be at 4am, I’ll admit that’s a tad early unless I plan on going to bed at 8.  I have been thinking recently of the necessity of getting more sleep and moving my sleep schedule back a couple of hours, so this gives me a tiny reason to give it a go this summer.

While I’m on the topic of birds, I wish I knew what birds whistle which birdcalls.  My grandmother and my sister are good with naming birds, flowers, trees, etc… maybe they’ll teach me some of their wisdom this summer. 🙂

Side story: This morning it poured rain and I didn’t have time to take the tunnels to class.  Why not?  Because I slept until 10 minutes before class.  Anyways, I had no idea it was raining and so when I opened the door of my dorm building I was quite surprised–but also very happy!  For some inexplainable reason, rain makes me exuberant.  I can’t even explain it, it just does.  🙂  So, that was my wonderful Friday morning in the rain, wet, and thoroughly drenched, but also very cheerful.

Plus: it’s spring here now and all the flowers are blooming!  It’s the most gorgeous and glorious thing.  🙂  People complain about the smell or the pollen, but just look at the trees!  The trees we have on campus, … let me see… the 17 or so in the plaza plus the 2 or 3 by the student center and the couple inbetween that and the library are just so full of life and color!  Green, white, and pink!  I’ll try to remember to take some pictures to share with you all.

Grace, Love, and Joy

As sleep seems to be eluding me once again, I have decided to finally make myself write again.  So many ideas of topics and posts have swirled through my head in the last couple of weeks, but I didn’t write any of them down.  So as my state continues to be mostly closed due to the ridiculously cold weather (-14 F (-25 C)) and very heavy snow, I’m finally ready to write at least a couple of my thoughts down and share them with you.

Transitioning to college has been an interesting things.  At first I was on a crazy high of new excitements and adventures, then it lowered to a more realistic picture of my new reality which had its ups and downs.  And now that I’ve been home for Christmas break, I’ve gone into a more reflective mood.  I was told by wise people in my life to enjoy my time at home (in highschool) because once I moved out I would never have a time like this again.  It’s so true.  I love college, but it’s become my new home.

Being back in my room reminds me of why I loved it so much.  On sunny days I was surrounded by a cheerful natural yellow light as I lay on my bed reading.  My bookshelves covered half of one wall and I could find any book I owned instantly although they weren’t ordered in a fashion that would make sense to most people.  My little brother slept on the other side of the room and during the day he would play legos on his train table.  The fish tank made a cheerful noise in the background which helped block out some of the crazy sounds that naturally arise from being part of a large family.

Now the room has been reverted to the boys’ room.  Both of my brothers sleep side by side and almost all of my 400+ books are packed away in boxes in the attic.

After sleeping on the floor a couple of nights and then on the sofa, my littlest brother (14 years younger than me) graciously offered to let me sleep in his bed (my old bed) and he would sleep on his old bed on the floor next to his brothers big bed.  So that is where I’ve finally landed until I return ‘home’ in a couple of days.

Every night I’ve been home for the past week or so my little brother has come to sleep with me in the middle of the night.  One time he woke up screaming, the poor guy.  You can’t really refuse when your little brother is upset and is asking you to comfort him.  But inevitably a couple of hours after falling asleep with him curled against me, I’d find myself on the very edge of the bed with him moving against me almost pushing me off.  He moves a lot in his sleep and likes to use up a lot of bed space.  A twin sized mattress (or even smaller, the sofa!!) can be challenging when one of the two people moves a lot in his sleep.  :p

Last night I had finally decided that I would simply carry my brother back to his bed if he came over again because I needed to sleep and not stay awake worrying about him falling out of bed.  But then I heard him say, “I can’t fall asleep” (around 1 am) and he climbed out of his big brothers bed into mine.  It was so sweet.  Of course, later, the same thing happened that always happened.  But before that I had time to think.

I was trying to figure out what exactly to write in my next blog post.  Somehow I jumped to thinking about a comment one of my closest friends made to me recently in a really good 3+ hour conversation.  I don’t remember the specific comments before it, but we were talking about my reaction to forgetting things.

I hate to forget anything, and I told her (when asked) that I get upset with myself when I can’t remember or I forget something.  “Why?” she asked.  “Do people typically have perfect memory?  Is it a common trait to be perfect in that area?”  After about a half second of reflection I replied, “No.”  She then asked me why I expected such a high perfection of myself when no one else expected it.  I said I didn’t know.  I simply did.

My next thought (last night) went to how I view myself and God.  We are called to walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8).  We are not called to walk perfectly and then walk around in shame when we fail.  God wants to walk with us through life, not just in the ‘perfect’ parts (as if there are any of those anyway).  He calls us to a relationship with Him.  Even when that means sharing with Him that you don’t even want to give up parts of your life, He’ll take that.  He’ll walk with you and gently guide and discipline you.  He’s not sitting up in heaven with a ruler smacking His fist demanding to know why you failed yet again.

Instead, like a Father, He is right beside you to pick you up, comfort you, and hold your hand as you persevere towards godliness and holiness.  He gives you grace even when you can’t give it to yourself.  One reason I think so many of us struggle with accepting and giving grace and love is because we don’t truly understand how much grace and love God has given us.  If we did, our lives would be radically different.

Little by little God has been revealing Himself to me over the past couple of months.  His grace is so beyond anything I could ever imagine or deserve!  And yet He keeps giving it!  And the joy that comes from truly knowing God (instead of knowing about Him) is beyond anything I’ve ever experienced.  One reason I haven’t written is because I don’t even know quite how to put into words all the things God has been revealing to me about Himself and about me.  It’s a challenge to explain my experiences to you, but I’ll try as I start my second semester.

Although I’m learning about grace and love my outward actions have not changed much.  It has to affect a heart change before I can expect my attitudes to have a lasting change.  So, if you wouldn’t mind praying for me I wold be very grateful.  I will be praying for you that God would open your eyes to the relationship (or a deeper relationship) you can have with Him.  It’s the only thing that will truly give your life meaning and it’s what you were made for–to know and worship God!  🙂

Prayer requests:
~For God’s grace and love to penetrate deeply into my heart–so much that I would be able to extend grace and love to myself and others.

~For everyone here at Moody to be growing in their relationship with Christ Jesus–that we would be overflowing with Christ’s love, joy, and grace that it would naturally flow into the lives of those around us–believers and unbelievers.

~For a realization day to day, hour to hour, that I’m in constant communication with God.  Wow!  How awesome is that??!  That I would remember and worship Him all day every day.

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
~1 Thessalonians 5:16-18~

~ College ‘n’ Chicago ~

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  • Bullet points of my last month in College in Chicago.  Enjoy!  🙂  (in no particular order) (p.p.s. The tone of this particular post shifts considerably all over the board… just bear with me and realize that I am really happy to be here and besides the long-ish section, I’m doing ok, and working through stuff with people.  I share my honest feelings at the time of the particular happenings without going into more details (the ‘boring’ stuff) about what happened afterwards.
  • My roommate is awesome.  She and I get along but we almost never see each other because of our completely opposite schedules.  We’re the ‘opposites attract’ situation.  Random fact: she falls asleep within 5 minutes of lying down!!  She’s amazing like that.  🙂
  • Chorale is AMAZING!!!  I absolutely love it!!  I can’t overemphasize how wonderful chorale is.  🙂  There are 31 of us, and although we are small, we have a very beautiful sound.  I’m most excited about some of the beautiful chords in a couple of the songs, as well as this one song we’re singing in Indonesian (it’s quite challenging!).  We memorize all of our music, though I’ve only memorized one piece so far (practiced over 14 pieces).  The chorale retreat really helped me get to know everyone – but I can’t share the initiation stuff or chorale traditions.  You’ll just have to join chorale to find out what happened. 😉  🙂  Every time I go to practice, I feel like I’m a music major and I fit in.  It’s a new experience to be among so many people my own age who love music like I do.  I’m not sure this will adequately describe what I do, but, when I sing a song I tend to add my own melody/harmony to it instead of singing the regular harmony.  At least, on more modern songs.  I don’t always do that to old hymns, etc.  But pretty much everything else gets something added.  The other people here do it too!!  🙂
  • I’ve got a babysitting job once a week for 3 hours with children whose parents are attending MBI.  Tonight there were around 7 or 8 children.  All of them were under the age of 3 or 4 (at the oldest) and most of them were on the younger side.  I spent most of the time holding a little boy named Benjamin and just holding him as he made himself cry for no reason.  After spending over 15 minutes trying to distract him, I simply gave up and just sat with him.  Oh, and I ate dinner and fed him his bread stick in little bits which did keep him quiet for a while.  I love working with children, though I was really tired around 2 hours into it.  I don’t even know how much I’ll get paid (or when, because of paperwork).  🙂
  • Hearing the radio during babysitting playing contemporary (pop perhaps?? no clue what genre) songs that I haven’t heard for over a month now.
  • Naps.  I can’t say I’ve really ever been able to nap in my life before (well, besides when I was a child).  But now??  Taking a nap is a common thing in college.  It’s a wonderful thing!  There’s nothing better than a short (or long!) nap to give you energy for the rest of the day. And no, coffee is not better than a nap.  The only thing not cool is when it ends in a nightmare that haunts you for the rest of the day… now -that-, I could live without.  =P
  • Everyone has their own specific favorite thing to eat in the SDR (student dining room).  For me it’s cheese. 😀  For one girl, it’s hot chocolate.  Another loves cereal.  One only eats salads.  One loves peanut butter with every meal.  It’s quite interesting and amusing. 🙂  We all tease each other good natured-ly.
  • *looks at tiny spider crawling up dresser*  Me: “I hate spiders.” (as I kill it with the nearest thing I can find)  Roommate: “For someone who hates spiders, you certainly don’t sound scared.”  Me: “It’s complicated.  I hate them, but I don’t scream or freak out… I would normally capture it and take it outside, but living in a dorm makes that a bit more complicated.  I’ll kill spiders I find in my room here.”
  • “You’re checking those out for pleasure reading???” *surprised voice of the librarian*  Me: “Yeah.  I love languages.” 🙂  I think I was checking out a book on Arabic script, a book on the Ukrainian language, 2 books on Latin (for singing in chorale, not because I’m studying that language), and 2 Linguistic books.  You know what I love about college??  I’m here.  I’m a college student.  I’m confident in that.  I can be myself.  It doesn’t matter if I don’t fit in.  It’s totally new.  Not that I don’t always try to not fit in… I do like to fit in, I’ll admit that.  But it’s so nice to not have to worry about fitting in all the time.  I’m in, already.  No one else can take that away.  🙂
  • College girl/partner in a weekly project: “Judgmental much??” (sarcastic/joking tone) after I had commented, “That man just walked across the street a minute ago.”  I mean, come on, he walked across the street while on his phone, stood on the other side and then walked back.  Who doesn’t notice things like that??!  😉  My response (admittedly a little miffed): “No.  I just notice details.  Besides, he speaks Arabic.”  (yeah, I know, that -totally- makes it non-judgmental if it relates to a language)  xD
  • Roommate: “You aren’t a city girl, are you?” -walking around for 45 minutes completely lost in downtown Chicago-.  Me: “Well, not exactly.  I’m from a suburb.  How can you tell I’m not from a city?  And you aren’t exactly a city girl either.”  I was genuinely curious to know what sets me apart from ‘everyone’ else (besides the actual fact that I’m not from there).  R: “You walk differently – smaller strides.  You ask constant questions about where we are and you look nervous.  You chatter. You notice everything.”  Me: *thinking: didn’t they tell us to be aware of our surroundings in every safety class I’ve ever taken?*  “Really?  How do people walk?”  *she demonstrates*  Me: “Oh, well, I have short legs, so of course I don’t walk like that.  It would be awkward.  Do people really not notice things like I do?”  (notice the constant chattering, haha)  She just shook her head.
  • So the noticing thing has come up a lot now.  I guess I’m observant.  And I’m happy to be that. 🙂  What fun would life be if we never saw anything?
  • Multiple people at different times: “Did you get my text/voicemail?”  Me: “No.  I don’t use my cell phone ever.  Remember?  I told you that.  I also don’t text.  Do you have my e-mail?”…  I think I’ve explained this to everyone on the campus (it feels like that sometimes).  I think I’m one of 5 people out of 1000+ who don’t text/use their phones ever (if they even have one).  Besides the bars never are high enough for me to call anyways so it is almost pointless (where as everyone’s more expensive phones get great reception here).  I’m a tiny tiny bit frustrated when people ask me if I got their texts/messages when I distinctly remember telling them specifically that I *almost* never use my phone.  I wasn’t kidding.  I don’t.  I don’t even remember to turn it on, so I’m sure next time I -do-, it will pop up with about 10 new messages and texts.
  • For part of a class assignment, I have to read the entire Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy).  Although I will admit to it being quite a long read, and not always the most engaging reading in the world, God’s been teaching me things through it (well, of course, what else should I have expected?  Even though not all of the O.T.  (Old Testament) laws apply to us anymore, there’s still much to be gleaned about God and his character and other things related).  Maybe I’ll put up some of my specific notes/thoughts sometime in a future post.  Sticky notes are THE best!!  🙂
  • It’s almost 2:30 in the morning and I’m awake.  WHY??  No clue, but I’m awake and it might have to do with the nap nightmare I had this afternoon.  It involved life sized ant/bug/THINGS/creepyTHINGS, and eating them, and them being bad and taking over, and me floating in the air (the only non-creepy/ok part), and other things.  It was just generally disturbing.  :\  I can usually put things out of my mind, but this one just pops up whenever I least wish to remember it.  At least it wasn’t worse.  I have had at least 2 much worse dreams before.
  • CPO!!  🙂  It’s so cool!  You can send people on campus notes/gifts/letters or send mail to anywhere else as well.  When you’re in college it’s really really fun to get mail!  Scratch that.  It’s ALWAYS fun to get mail and packages. 🙂  My parents surprised me and sent me (through a friend, and not through CPO, now that I think about it…) a box with all sorts of things.  I only expected a new (replacement) backpack (because my ‘new’ one broke within a week or two of using it), a personal item and a computer foot (my computer has 4 and they have fallen off a couple of times).  Inside, however, was a bag of gummy bears (totally unexpected!), a bag of trail mix, a bag of dried fruit (my favorite!), and a box of cheese crackers (and probably other stuff as well, but this was a couple of weeks ago).  ^__^
  • I’ve never had the opportunity to live with this many people my age or even spend most of my time with people my age.  So the first week (/2 weeks) was a social high.  It was crazy and I’m convinced that I was running on pure energy from people.  Then I sorta crashed and had/am having a “sensory overload”.  I had that at home, but at home… there were 9 other people, not over one thousand (ok, more like 100+ that I actually know personally, but still!  It’s a lot to take in all the time (virtually all the time)).  I think this point could get rather lengthy so I’m going to split it up into a couple of points.
  • First off, let me say this.  I absolutely love the dorm floor I’m on.  😀 The girls here are amazing!  There are around 30 of us (18 freshmen) on our wing of the floor and I know the huge majority of them and get along with all of them.  We all have bonded really well in the past 4 and a half weeks.  You know what’s even more exciting???  Unless you specifically request to be moved, you stay on the same floor all of your college time!!!  ^__^  That means I’ll be with most of these girls until we graduate!  How cool is that??
  • We’ve got a good mixture of girls.  We are studious but we also have fun.  So, I think it balances nicely.  There’s always someone asking about how you did in a quiz (since we’re mostly in the same classes this first year) and discussing what they’re reading/studying.  It’s not a competition, but we talk about it all the time.  We certainly aren’t lacking for social events though, either.  I haven’t even gone to most of them (don’t worry, I’ve hung out with people, just, not at coffee places).  Each floor is assigned a ‘bro’ floor.  We have an awesome bro floor (and yes, I started almost every sentence with the word “We”) and I’ve gotten to do 2 events with them.  We also eat all of our meals with them.  We don’t have to, but it’s fun having a specific place you are invited to sit in.
  • The girls on our floor are about 2/3 late nighters.  The other 1/3 go to bed early or aren’t ever on campus so I have no idea what their schedule is.  So, there are always people around.  ALL the time.  In class.  In between class.  In the hallways.  On campus.  On the bus.  On the streets.  In your room.  In the bathroom.  You’re literally with people almost all of your waking hours unless you purposefully sequester yourself off by 1) listening to music on headphones/earbuds, 2) physically disappearing into the library (which also has people in it, but they’re supposed to be quiet-er), or 3) locking your room door whenever your roommate isn’t around and just being alone.  The only think time (reflective thinking) for me is when it’s quiet and no one is trying to communicate with me.  When I’m by myself.  If you go to bed at 12 or 1 every night and you’re up at 6:30, around people all day, doing homework in your room as your roommate studies, or girls come in and out, etc., and girls make noise in the halls, and then you go to bed it is a cycle that never ends.
  • I’m an extrovert, and I love people.  But this is too much of a good thing.  So, if you’re a college friend and you’re reading this don’t think I’m mad at you or don’t want to be friends if I’m listening to my iPod once and a while between classes or I just don’t seem in a talkative mood.  I just need to spend some time thinking and I can’t do that if I’m constantly interacting with others.  The noise here can be overwhelming to me.  In certain classes (2, to be exact) the class consists of at least 70 students.  When we have a break??!  The noise just overwhelms me.
  • I want to hang out with you guys (friend).  I haven’t hung out much in the past, so I love doing that!  I love you guys, actually, college is amazing and I’ve met and am making some wonderful friends.  🙂  I do want to hang with you guys!  Just not all the time every day of every week of every semester of every year… you get the point. :p
  • I’ve never had this problem with friends before, but then again, I’ve never been in this sort of situation.  At home I could just disappear to my room and turn up my headphones all day because I was homeschooled.  I have classes every day all morning here, so I will be around people (guaranteed) at least half a day (which is good, and I like classes) for 5 days a week.  Plus chorale for 4 hours every week, and my PCM once a week for over 4 hours when you add up the travel time + actual service time.  (PCM – practical Christian mission)  Plus all 3 of my meals every day since I’m currently on the 20 meal plan.  Plus the campus groups I’m in, or looking to join.  Plus everything else – i.e. life.
  • I think I’m being over redundant because it’s so ridiculously early in the morning.  Remind me not to get myself started on a touchy subject again at this hour of the morning.  I think you’ve got the point.  I went from having a lot of time at home to myself (almost all of my time) to think and do things alone to being in an atmosphere where you’re expected to spend almost all of your time with people all the time.  And it’s rude if you don’t.  Well, I’m an adult now, and that doesn’t give me an excuse to be rude.  However, I can express myself and politely ask for space once and a while and respect (and be respected by) others.  We’re all on an equal level here (ish, ok, there are upper class men/women and I respect you guys, I just mean in general we’re all here as students).  Most of the people I saw at home were my elders/adults in my life.  I like to please people even when I’m frustrated, annoyed.  Though I’ve been told I don’t hide my feelings well, so maybe they’ve always known they just ignored my facial expressions.  Who knows.  xD  But, next time I need space I’m just going to admit that to whomever happens to be trying to talk with me at the moment in a kind way but completely dead honest.
  • My RA says I’m … oh, I can’t think of the word she used,… but if you combine outspoken and honest together, you get the idea.  I’m blunt.  I say what’s on my mind, without always thinking how it will be taken.  I think in black and white sometimes, or just spew out whatever I observe (see points far above this one).  I notice things and I haven’t learned the art of patience.  I just learned how to ask questions.
  • This blog post pretty much shows my point.  I’m overstimulated so little things (such as friends wanting to talk, which is a perfectly natural thing) bother me when they shouldn’t.  The other thing that bothered me this week was when 2 different people signed me off (or tried to) on an attendance sheet when I was right there next to them.  They meant nothing by it, and in fact were trying to help, which is awesome.  But all 3 times (no, my math is right, just one person did it twice because I didn’t comment the first time) I was very upset.  The first time it happened I was more surprised than anything.  The second time I was just shocked the person did it again and I said so and said (not so politely) that I would be quite capable of crossing my own name off the list at the next class.  The third person didn’t even have a chance to cross off my name because I sorta jumped all over her as soon as I heard her ask where my name was on the list.  I still need to apologize to her for that, actually, because she was a bit startled at my upset response.  I’ve already worked out the disagreement with the other girl, thankfully. 🙂  That’s another adult thing… apologizing, asking for forgiveness, and working through stuff.
  • It’s hard work!  College isn’t easy.  There’s always homework – reading, quizzes, book reports, essays and projects.  Dealing with this many people all the time is really hard for me.  There’s always conflict to work through in some way, shape or form.  They require a lot of us here at Moody and they keep us busy.  I love it, but I won’t sugar coat it.  🙂  I wouldn’t trade my experiences here for anything else.
  • Last, but certainly not least, is God.  Wow.  He’s teaching me sooo many things here!  I won’t go into them because that’ll be another long topic and this one is already over 2600 words long!!  :O  But in the first four weeks alone, I’ve seen His faithfulness, His love, His holiness, and His forgiveness.  Wow is all I can say.  God is at work here and I’m so glad He invited me to be a part of life here at MBI.  🙂  Now, it’s 3 am and I need to sleep!  (don’t worry, I don’t have to wake up until 9 tomorrow because 2 of my normally scheduled classes were cancelled), 6 hours of sleep here I come!!Oh, if you want to pray for me:
  1. Sleep.  I can’t seem to sleep well (if you hadn’t noticed).  My brain just does not settle for one reason or another.
  2. That I would clearly hear and understand the Holy Spirit’s guiding on my life.
  3. Continued growth in time management skills (I can always improve here, can’t you?).
  4. That I would be able to find a balance between building intentional relationships (another thing I’ve never really done in RL) and having some time alone when I can process my thoughts (besides bedtime).
  5. That my roommate and I would continue to get along well and be able to be honest about the things we disagree on.  🙂  So far, so good!
  6. For the general health here.  Sanitation isn’t quite where I’d put it (not in any part to blame on the college, the cleaning people are great!  It’s due to the people living here), so when one person gets sick it spreads very quickly.  I thought a family of 10 was bad.  A family of 1000 is much worse.  :p

Thank you!

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One of the girls on my floor decided to write this verse on my wall ‘white-board sticker’. 😀

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