Thursday, December 19, 2013

Meeting On the Road

Written Dec. 18, 2013

It was a rainy day. Most people don’t go outside on these days. It was my birthday the day before and so we had left over cake. No playing outside equals sitting inside, munchin’ on cake. Deciding that I had done this long enough, I put on my raincoat and left the house in the late afternoon to walk to the Post Office through the misting rain.

There were very few people out. And no one was out on their porches like usual. As I walked, I heard someone jogging behind me. I turned around to see my friend, Happy! I was so excited to see him and now have someone to walk with. (Side note: I always find it such a gift and joy from God when she has me run into friends of mine along my way). Happy told me that he was going to the church to check on something. I told him I was going to the Post Office, which is quite a distance further, and he kindly expressed his shock at the distance I had decided to travel in the rain (about a 20 minute walk). When we got to his church (it sits on the main road we were walking along) I bid him farewell and started to continue across the street. I heard him say something about accompanying him and I immediately jumped around with a huge smile and skipped to catch up with him to the church. I thought to myself, Duh, Elle. This is what people here do. We see each other along our way, join then, and then continue to venture together. Nothing is more pressing then spending time with friends anyway. So, I walked with him to the church and he walked with me to the Post Office and back.  

This happens more often on my way to and from the local grocery store, USave. There are times when I am on my way in and see some friends walking out. We stop and chat and then continue our separate ways…so I think. By the time I exit the store, I see them sitting and waiting for me on the benches outside, ready to walk back with me. I have also been the one exiting the store and met friends just about to go in and they tell me “wait for me, I’m coming.” So then it is my turn to sit on the benches and wait for my companion to journey home with them.

This waiting and journeying has been a blessing to reflect on. I love this accompanying that I get to partake in—as the giver and receiver. But I really love reflecting on the waiting that we do. I have been reading a devotional book for this Advent season called Sacred Space, and for one week I was reading a section called “The Waiting Days.” It starts out by saying “Waiting takes up a large part of our lives. Often we see waiting as ‘nonproductive,’ as a waste of time, and are frustrated.” This is totally how I have seen waiting a lot of the time, as wasteful. In the stories above, I am not sure if these situations would have happened back in the States that I would have waited my friends. The American culture says you can journey with someone, but then when the road splits you continue on so that you get to your destination, no detours necessary. But here it is all about the detours and the friends and sites along the way. It is all about the journey and the waiting. No hurry. Enjoy each moment. Be present where you are. So with that, I encourage you all to journey together. Meet someone along the road and go with them, even if that means that you have to wait. J

Pride vs. Faith in Self

Written Dec. 17, 2013

The difference between believing in one’s self and having pride.

The difference is at the center. Who is there? You or God?

You believe that you can do it; but because of who? You or God?

Confidence that you can achieve and be great; but who is the reason for it?

When you have pride, you feel that you need to be able to accomplish tasks on your own; you are in the center and in charge. Pride; unable to ask for help; feeling weak when unable.

Having faith in yourself and believing in yourself because God made you good is something else. God is in the center. I can do ALL THINGS…here’s the important part that makes the difference…through CHRIST who give me strength. (Phil. 4:13)

I have been reading Rob Bell’s book Velvet Elvis when all of this hit me.

I have pride, and more of it than I would like to admit. This is usually not apparent and easily hidden in my daily life. But since moving and being thrown into a world and culture unknown to me, my pride has surfaced more often than before, and in deeper ways.

I have become frustrated because I am not able to do things that everyone else can do. I have a hard time learning language. I don’t chop food well and it hurts my hand doing it for hours when we help prepare food for weddings or funerals. I forget places and people that we have seen and I feel that I should remember them. I am not Super Woman like I want to be-and it shows big time here. I don’t have tricks to make up for my short comings and I can’t hide behind anything. My Super Woman powers don’t work. And I get upset at myself for failing. My pride damages my mood . I have feelings of inadequacy and am too afraid to ask for help—because why? I should be able to do it myself – pride.

So here is what I have learned (and am still learning as I forget it and then remember and then forget and fail and then remember and forgive): I am not Super Woman. I am just Elle. But being ‘just Elle’ is more than just Elle. When I am just me, and me first, I am the person that God wants me to be, the person God made me to be, good and bad. I am a child of God, loved through and through. I am a part of creation. I was created ‘good,’ which means that I am not perfect. But because I am good and not perfect (finished) there is room for growth. I am not a static being; I am a growing, changing, forming being. And I can do all things because of the One who created me. 

Now back to pride and having faith in one’s self. My pride is because I think I can do it; and frustration sets in when I can’t ask for help (damaging my pride) and lose hope in succeeding. Having faith in my self is knowing that I can because of God. I become full when I believe in myself  and understand that God already does. God chose me. No work of mine can make God believe in me more or less. And asking for help- showing my weakness- only allows for other’s strengths to shine. Not only do I accept who I am fully, but I allow space for God to do her work and let others share the light and strength they have been given.

All of these thoughts were formed from words written by Rob Bell in his book Velvet Elvis, specifically the fifth and sixth movements (chapters). 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Hair Salon

My bus didn’t leave until late on Friday after our retreat. I, and three other YAGM, hung out at the Leiseth house preparing to take the long overnight bus ride back to our site places. I had hoped to have one of the girl’s cut my hair during the retreat, but we did not have good enough scissors. Luckily on Friday, Tessa and Isaac were heading to the salon to get their hair cut and they let me tag along. Fortunately for me the hair salon squeezed me in.

As I was getting my hair washed, I was struck with how similar the salon was to the US and how different it is when I go with my host mom to get her hair done. There were fancy cushion chairs and couches with a table in the middle and magazines full of hair styles. There were crystal looking chandlers hanging from the ceiling and music playing overhead. It felt very…familiar. I sat in a large cushioned chair that reclined backwards for me to rest my head at the edge of the stand-alone sink where the woman used a spray hose to wet my hair and wash it. I then sat in a spinning chair which looked into an individual large mirror, just like the stations in salons in the US. There were four stations. There were even little carts that carried all of the hair “stuff” on them-combs, scissors, brushes, hair dryers, etc. 

As I sat there, I looked at the top of the mirrors and noticed that they had words on them. The four words, one in each mirror, said “Laugh, Love, Live, Hope.” I then realized that there were smaller, cursive words under each. “Laugh often; Love deeply; Live simply.” (I did not even make it to hope because I was so struck by this).  Hmm…simply, eh? When I go with my mom to get her hair styled, we sit on plastic chairs outside in the shade. No fancy sinks, no magazines (although some do have a photo book of hair styles that they have done), no sparkling lights, comfy chairs, or large mirrors; just the wax for her dreads and the yarn and scissors to tie it off.

I sat there, getting my hair cut, holding these two experiences with the phrase ‘live simply’ rolling over and over in my head. What does it mean to live simply? What does it mean to have two very different and both beautiful ways of getting hair done? There are so many more questions of culture, community, accessibility, and influence from others that all I can manage to think about are feelings, and I am not even able to articulate the feelings that I feel, they are just colors inside me. I can’t formulate questions; I can just stand and wonder. No judgment. Just curiosity.


Written on Dec. 5

Her hands.

Her hands are strong. 

They are calloused over from her years of work. They have carried hot pots; stirred delicious food. They have prepared meat, from life to table; sliced, boiled, plucked, cleaned, cooked. 

Dirty clothes become clean through the scrubbing of her hands along the soft wood and slippery soap. They grasp the axe as she splits wood to fuel the cooking fire. They hold onto the broom and mop as she daily sweeps the house floor. They iron, scrub, wash, and cook.  

As tough as her hands are, they are warm and caring. They express love when she reaches out to grab my hand. They are a solid comfort when placed on my shoulders. They are used to greet; a friendly wave; a warm hand shake, pulled into a hug; a gesture of hospitality bringing a cold drink to all guests. 

Her hands teach me. 

They are a part of her body, 

and her being is a part of the body of Christ.