Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Week 2

Things I've learned at training so far:

-Black widows live in Pasadena
-Eating doughnuts before dinner is a bad choice. Almost always.
-Wear sunscreen...or have a roommate who is willing to peel your skin off for you.
-Trust that God has you where he needs you...no matter how difficult or uncomfortable the circumstances.
-There are indeed some people even more awkward than I am. Praise the Lord.
-Appreciate the little things.
-Sleep is my friend. So are ant traps.
-Russian is a very difficult language to learn.
-Be willing to be vulnerable.
-Chocolate milk still makes life better.
-God's plan extends beyond relationships, occupations, and comfort. He may bless us with these things but that doesn't necessarily mean they are ours to keep forever.
-Air conditioning is a beautiful thing.
-It is in fact possible to live without my hair straightener. Life is a little frizzier though.
-Risk being known.
-Jillann is my hero.
-Some people play games involving planting beans. It's weird. And kind of fun.
-God provides for my needs (strength, finances, friendships, etc.)
-Even if it all seems overwhelming at times...his mercies truly are new each morning.
-It's okay to fail.
-It's only been a little over a week and I miss my family and friends like crazy. I realize how easily I take them for granted.
-Life will never be the same.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

But even if he does not

Well, I suppose this is my first official Russia adventure update. I'm currently in Pasadena and about halfway through my first week of training. It is so odd to think I haven't even been gone a week. It feels like I've been away forever! Already, I'm feeling used to being here and I'm excited about my team and my roommate (who is actually going to Kazakhstan). I've certainly had my moments of uncertainty, fear, and doubt already but thankfully my friends, family, and most importantly God, have reassured me that this is exactly where I need to be. The reality of what lies ahead is finally setting in. I am about to move to Russia for a year. Sounds cool right? Yes. It also sounds a little different after our sessions on language, culture shock, living conditions, crime, corruption, and poverty. It doesn't change the fact that I want to go, it just drives home the fact that this will indeed be an incredibly challenging experience.

Yesterday we had a session entitled "grappling with reality" The purpose of this session was to lower our expectations and paint a more realistic picture of what life overseas will actually be like. We talked about the dangers of living overseas...about police corruption, domestic violence, theft, sexual harassment/assault,alcoholism, etc. Such things happen across the world but when we are taken out of our own familiar surroundings and put into a place where our knowledge of such things is limited I guess things might be a little riskier (sorry, mom). I think we all walked away from the session feeling encouraged that there are steps we can take to remain safe, but also a little uneasy about what we may face.

Later in the afternoon I was talking to my roommate and we were discussing how scary it is to think that such things could happen to us. She told me she had been reading in Daniel and a particular passage stuck out to her. As she read it to me, it gave me chills. In this passage Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are about to be thrown into the fiery furnace and they respond to the king in this way:

"If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up."

We will go overseas, with the confidence that we are under the Lord's protection and he will keep us safe. But even if he does not, God is still God, and we will love and serve him regardless.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

I like it

"If you always do what you've always done
you'll always be what you've always been."

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Russia Blog

So I've made the decision that A Mosiac of Thoughts IS my Russia blog. Originally I had intended on creating another blog to share my experiences, lessons, and adventures in Russia but the more I thought about it the more I realized the experience doesn't begin when I step off a plane. It began a long time ago and my current blog has played a role in documenting it. So-stay tuned if you're interested in my journey! We've only just begun...

(P.S. I'm we're in Pasadena...slightly tired but very ready for Disneyland tomorrow! Training starts on Sunday!)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

One More Day

"The only thing more unthinkable than leaving is staying;
the only thing more impossible than staying is leaving."

~Eat, Pray, Love

Monday, July 13, 2009

"Perfect Preparation"

Truth is, I'm a bit nervous now. There. I said it. I'm nervous. I leave for California in two days and then it won't be long before I'm off to Russia. As I often do, I was reading through some of my journals tonight and read an entry written four years ago. I find comfort in the fact that my time in Russia is not an isolated event. God has used the things in my past to prepare me for it, and I believe he will use Russia to prepare me for whatever is next.

December 17, 2005

"There is something about safety that traps you. It draws you in and doesn't want to let you go. Perhaps it is the comfort or stability that we feel that keeps us from moving on. Or maybe it is the fear of what we will face if we step out-out of our houses, out of our bank accounts, out of our schools, out of our country...out of our control. Ironically, there is much danger in safety. I went to a womens event at church tonight. Around me were several dozen women, all cute and cheerful. Sometimes I think about how easy it is to appear like you have everything together. As I watched these women eat their homemade cookies and talk to their friends, I couldn't help but feel a little bit of dread. I could easily see myself in their shoes in ten or fifteen years and I wonder, what type of life is a safe life? Go to work, take care of the kids, cook dinner, kiss your husband, go to bed and start over. This isn't to say that great good can't come from this lifestyle. I don't doubt that some people are called to such a life. But what if I'm not?

My own self-doubt and insecurities bind me to a certain level of safety without my even knowing it. Look at my life now. My family, my church, my friends, my school, the people around me, the decisions I make-for the most part they are safe. People would think my life a success if I graduated college, became a kindergarten teacher, got married, had kids, and lived a "good" life. But I can't help wonder what God has to say about that. I wonder if that would be how he would define success for my life. The way I see it is there are plenty of people who would love to live a life like that and will search for nothing more. What could God do with me if I was willing? If I laid my dreams before him. If I gave him my dreams of a husband, a teaching job, children, and ultimately my safety and security- and laid them before his feet? How would things be different? In what ways would the direction of my life change? Maybe nothing would change...or maybe nothing could stay the same. We sang a song tonight that declared whatever we go through in this life, that it will all be worth it. I want to go beyond my own plans. How do I expect to follow an unsafe God when I am wallowing in safety? How do I expect to feel his touch when I am wrapped in my own security?"

Friday, July 10, 2009

Blog Theft

I had a whole blog written out and then when I went to publish it, an error message came up and it was lost. What the heck!? No matter, in my reading of other's blogs I came across this one and it's way better than anything I would write. Can you post someone else's blog on your blog? I don't know but I'm about to. This is by Richard Dahlstrom, pastor of Bethany Community Church in Seattle. (raincitypastor.blogspot.com)
Read it. It's good.

The Shore or the River...

"This morning's reading from the "Divine Hours" (my guide for morning prayer) speaks of God's advocacy of behalf of the poor needy. My initial reaction is to say, "Really? Advocacy? Has God been to Sudan lately? Or Palestine? Has he seen the tents under the viaduct in Seattle, or on the outskirts of Fresno?"

I continue down this path of skepticism and challenge to God's declared truth until I think to myself, "I'd better stop thinking this way, or else I'm going to start doubting everything" as if I'm in a raft, headed towards a waterfall. I desperately paddle for the shore by looking for some way of harmonizing declarations like these with my experience. "Ah, the poor" I say to myself; "they're poor because..." and then I complete the sentence with any number of assessments I've heard down through the years about poverty: things about laziness, and corruption, unbelief, and deficient political systems. I'll throw in a praise chorus or two about how God blesses those who love Him and suddenly realize that I'm no longer being swept towards the edge, but am paddling safe in a theological eddy.

Comfortably resting at the ideological shore, no longer doubting God's word, I catch my breath. As I recover from the scare, I realize that, while there's safety on the shore, this is a place that's bothering me. It's bothering me because, when I'm honest, I realize that the answers that got me here are lies and generalizations. I look back to the river and see that there are hundreds of rafts heading towards the waterfall and plunging over. They're filled with people living in tent cities, or refugee camps, or dumps outside Manila and Delhi.

Slowly, it dawns on me that I'm not alone on the shore. I'm there with millions of others who, like me, have answered the hard questions with insufficient answers, answers that are ultimately justifications for the unconscionable gap between the rich and poor of this world. Those on the shore can find a treatment for every ailment and even for things that aren't, from erectile dysfunction to undersized breasts. Those stuck on the river can't afford aspirin or shoes, and have no access to clean water.

My answers plague me as insufficient, and so I cry out to God: "Why aren't you doing something?"
"Because you're my body" replies the Voice, "and you're sitting on the shore."

Appalled at the rightness of His answer, I protest: "Look at the risk! If I jump in..."

"Yes, I know, but jumping in is what I do. Unless, that is, my body is in rebellion, refusing the respond to its own head. That kind of paralysis is personally disabling. What's worse though, is that, stuck on the shore, my body's refusal to be where I want it to be is killing millions."

We who are on the shore are singing. We're reading our Bibles. We're arguing about Calvinism and debating whether the future of the church is "house", "emergent", or "mega." But the arguments are happening on the shore while 30 thousand children a day drop over the edge of the falls.

Make no mistake; the river IS risky. Sometimes people in the river get killed. Standing for justice gets people tossed in jail sometimes or worse, branded as a heretic. That's why the shore is so heavily populated these days. There's campfires and kum-by-yah.

I don't know where I'm going with this metaphor (this is, after all a blog of "musings"). I suppose I'm trying to paint a picture that says, "Sure, we all need to moments on the shore to catch our breath and restore our strength. But I began by wondering why Jesus isn't helping the poor, and the answer, of course, is that He will, but only to the extent that His body, the church is listening to Him, and responding. This is Wes and Heather serving in Bolivia. This Walter. He's in Ghana. This is Spilling Hope, a water project for Africa.

Don't get too comfortable on the shore. Jesus wants his body in the river."

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


I feel crazy and I don't know why. I hate having emotions I can't identify or attribute to any one particular thing. Life is weird.

And I'm tired of the waiting game. Let's get this show on the road...