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27 November 2009 @ 10:04 pm
“He satisfies you with goodness; your youth is renewed like the eagle” (Psalm 103:5).

“When You send Your breath, they are created, and You renew the face of the earth” (Psalm 104:30).

The first verse is the promise of youth being renewed. The second talks of God renewing the face of the earth – a broader promise which reminds me of the verse in Romans 8 about all creation groaning for redemption.

An amazing concept, renewal. It means God actively intervenes to repair damage and make something new again. Someone’s heart. The entire face of the earth. That is a beautiful picture.

This year, I’ve experienced what I’d term renewal in several areas of my life. It has meant a return of optimism. It has meant a fresh bubbling of hope. It has meant leaving behind difficult, painful past experiences and reaching forward to new pursuits and friendships.

For me, renewal looks like this in real life. I spent two years, from summer 2006 to summer 2008, in Germany. A barrage of experiences created a wealth of memories. My mind needs only a tiny trigger to trip the hammer and fire off a blast of images, emotions, laughter, and tears. When I moved to the States and began a challenging new job last fall, I did not realize what tempest still raged inside me. For months, I cried frequently and experienced an ache and longing I’d never felt before. I longed to go back, but I knew it was not the place for me any longer. I missed the places, the language, the missionary culture. Most of all, I missed the people. Seeing a group photo of my dorm girls, much less watching one of the year-end videos my coworkers produced, could instantly prompt a fit of weeping. Part of my heart was ripped out, savagely, and the wound continued to throb and fester for a long time.

Because my departure and transition to the States was so emotional, I neglected to fully recognize what had happened. I saw only its immediate effects, like a trauma victim who is dazed, feeling only pain and seeing blurry images. Now, after many months of healing, I can look back and see the experience more clearly. I can see that I invested a lot at Black Forest Academy; very slowly, sometimes unintentionally, and then deliberately. I loved many of my dorm girls and coworkers to a great depth; I embraced them as family. No wonder, after such investment of myself, it devastated me to leave.

“Devastated” is a good word for how I felt. Although I knew life would go on, I had a hard time picturing a community or a job as fulfilling as those I found at BFA.

But after devastation came renewal. As I look backward now, not from any great height or spiritual vantage point, but still, as a more stable person, I see that God began the process as soon as I reentered the States. As I nursed my wounds and cried my tears, He began to surround me with a community of friends and family here. As I complained to Him that no one here understood what I’d been through, He showed me that there were plenty of people willing to listen to my stories. As I stumbled through the first few months and struggled in my first year of teaching, I often felt cynicism creeping close. I experienced hardship. It was difficult to see that things were getting better – but they were. I was adjusting. God was renewing me.

This fall, I’ve recognized the renewing work and seen it come to near fruition. My second year of teaching is wonderful: I love it. I’ve recently moved out on my own, with a dear friend as a roommate, and am loving the settled feeling it brings. I look around and see people to love, a community to belong to and invest in, and new opportunities to pursue. I don’t know what the future holds, or even what is around the immediate bend in the road, but I know this: that my God is a God of renewal. Restoration. Rebirth. Re-creation. He has healed wounds I once thought irreparable. He has restored hope where it was dead. He has melted away cynicism and replaced it with trust in His abundance.

(As an addendum for LJ readers, I mainly blog now at I Wonder as I Wander, my Wordpress blog. Please catch up with me over there!)
31 March 2009 @ 11:45 am
Lately, I've been anxious and scattered in my thinking. My schedule seems to fill with unexpected items that clutter my mind and increase my anxiety for fear I'll forget to fulfill a commitment or not do it well. As always, I fear failure. I cringe when my imperfections are brought before my eyes through mistakes. And, I've realized, the rising anxiety also reflects a fear of my life becoming a waste -- an unfruitful existence.

There's a bookmark shoved in my Bible at the start of 2 Peter, and for some reason I keep flipping to that page. Verses 3 and 4 of chapter 1 are underlined, with the reminder "BFA 2007" written in the margin. Those were the theme verses of my second year at Black Forest Academy. I pondered them then, with bland thankfulness, but they return to me now with a greater force. As I read the whole passage this morning, I thought about the practical side of what Peter is saying.

For His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. By these He has given us very great and precious promises, so that through them you may share in the divine nature, escaping the corruption that is in the world because of evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with goodness, goodness with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with godliness, godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they will keep you from being useless or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godliness, brotherly affection, and love. It helps me to narrow the focus and recognize that these are the fruits of a life lived in Christ. Maybe part of my recent scattered-ness comes from emphasizing the wrong qualities, or seeking after false satisfaction? I don't know. But it heartens me to know that I have permission to narrow my focus to these fruits as the most important. And, of course, the best part is the promise in verse 3 that I don't have to conjure them up. His divine power has given me everything I need.

The tools, the means, are present, but... am I using them? In many ways I feel "blind and short-sighted" like "the person who lacks these things." Once in a while I get an epiphany of His perspective but so much of my life, I feel, is in the fog of human misunderstanding.
I feel: contemplativecontemplative
06 October 2008 @ 11:33 pm
Give Me the World Give Me the World by Leila Hadley

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
Since I can't give this book 4.5 stars, I rounded it up to five. This is the travelogue of Leila Hadley, a 25-year-old who embarks on a journey around the world via plane, train, and (mostly) sailing vessel, with her small son in tow. She does this in the 1950s, when such an action raises eyebrows. But throughout the book it's clear Hadley does not mind what people think of her. She's spunky, but she has limits.

The appeal of this book, for me, lies not with Hadley as an individual but with her capability as a writer. She is brilliant. Her descriptions of India, of the Middle East, of Greece, and of sailing for months on a schooner with four scruffy Americans -- all are astonishing in their clarity and beauty. More than almost any other author I've read, Hadley painted complete pictures in my mind. I feel like I went along for the ride and emerged, at the other end of her book, with my own vivid memories of the streets of Bombay and the ruins at Rhodes. Travelers or not, everyone should taste Hadley's prose: it's like eating a slice of literary cheesecake.

View all my reviews.
I feel: calmcalm
02 October 2008 @ 11:31 pm
Did you watch the vice presidential debate tonight? Do you think Palin did well?
I feel: curiouscurious
13 September 2008 @ 11:10 am
Leaving a Trace: On Keeping a Journal Leaving a Trace: On Keeping a Journal by Alexandra Johnson

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
I found this book very inspiring. Those of us who love the idea of journal keeping but have a hard time with consistency will enjoy Johnson's lavish descriptions of stationery shops and various types of journals, not to mention her numerous ideas and prompts to help you unlock creativity and start writing. She writes a book whose main premise is to sing the praises of keeping a journal, asserting that those who do are "leaving a trace" not only for the next generation, but for themselves. Johnson highlights the ways in which journal keeping assists in self-understanding. Not only is writing a therapeutic exercise, but it preserves your thoughts and impressions in a way that's impossible through means such as photography, videos, or mere memory. Journals preserve what you felt and what you thought, not merely what you saw.

View all my reviews.

A Return to Modesty: Discovering the Lost Virtue A Return to Modesty: Discovering the Lost Virtue by Wendy Shalit

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book is excellent. I love the way Shalit confronts liberal ideologies about sex and turns them inside-out, exposing the destructiveness of our culture's "anything goes" mindset. Every woman who has grown up in the last 30 years should read this book. Even those of us who were raised in a protected subculture (in my case, homeschooling) can glean a lot from Shalit's exposure of the social norms in public schools (I never encountered the peer pressures she and many others faced). More importantly, this book helped me understand why there seems to be no dating culture outside of religious subcultures, and why the "free love" touted by 1960s feminists is anything but "free": on the contrary, it comes with the side effects of rampant divorce, abuse, abandonment, and emotional pain.

View all my reviews.
I feel: calmcalm
30 August 2008 @ 04:27 pm
Bring on the chocolate. So I have a legitimate reason to love dark chocolate. And perhaps this explains why most Swiss and German people are healthy and fit. Mmmmm.
I feel: calmcalm
15 August 2008 @ 11:07 pm
1. Where is your cell phone? upstairs
2. Where is your significant other? where?
3. Your hair? curly
4. Your mother? tired
5. Your father? yellowjacket-murderer
6. Your favorite thing? books
7. Your dream last night? hmm
8. Your dream/goal? love
9. The room you're in? living
10. Your hobby? thinking
11. Your fear? danger
12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? hmm
13. Where were you last night? Sullivan's
14. What you're not? dating
15. Muffins? mmm
16. One of your wish list items? back-massager
17. Where you grew up? K-ville
18. The last thing you did? Olympics
19. What are you wearing? pajamas
20. Your TV? off
21. Your pet? sleeping
22. Your computer? on
23. Your life? transitioning
24. Your mood? decent
25. Missing someone? LOTS
26. Your car? Corolla
27. Something you're not wearing? contacts
28. Favorite store? H&M
29. Your summer? fun
30. Love someone? yes
31. Your favorite color? umm
32. When is the last time you laughed? today
33. Last time you cried? Monday?
I feel: tiredtired
02 August 2008 @ 09:13 pm
Who knew Jerome K. Jerome could be so profound, especially in a book entitled Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow?

Let us have done with vain regrets and longings for the days that never will be ours again. Our work lies in front, not behind us; and "Forward!" is our motto. Let us not sit with folded hands, gazing upon the past as if it were the building: it is but the foundation. Let us not waste heart and life, thinking of what might have been, and forgetting the maybe that lies before us. Opportunities flit by while we sit regretting the chances we have lost, and the happiness that comes to us we heed not, because of the happiness that is gone.


There is no returning on the road of life. The frail bridge of Time, on which we tread, sinks back into eternity at every step we take. The past is gone from us for ever. It is gathered in and garnered. It belongs to us no more. No single word can ever be unspoken; no single step retraced.
I feel: thoughtfulthoughtful
22 February 2008 @ 02:16 pm
As humans, we like to categorize. Compartmentalize. As Christians, we like to talk about “learning a lesson” and imagine filing it away in our cabinet of spiritual accomplishments. We say, “God taught me a lesson about patience.” Wouldn’t it be nice if we could check off that box, sign the paper, and file it away – finished forever? “Yep, I’ve learned that one. I’ll never be impatient again.”

It gives me a sense of control to think of my walk with Jesus as a college course with a syllabus. God lectures me and I complete the assignments. Once I turn them in, they’re done. Never to be revisited. I might get a good grade or a lousy one, but either way I’m moving forward and can lazily forget what I’ve just learned. I only learned it so I could do well on that test or paper, right?

The Christian life is too complicated – too mysterious – to comprehend in this way. It’s not a series of papers to be completed, or a hallway full of magical doorways to walk through. I have no tangible way of measuring my progress.

There’s a paradox here that I don’t understand. On the one hand, God tells us that we have everything we need for life and godliness. He tells us to be perfect as He is perfect. In some sense, every believer already possesses perfection of character. God chooses to see us through the lens of Christ, omitting our flaws because He paid for them on the cross. On the other hand, we’re living in an imperfect world surrounded by imperfect people. We mess up. We fall down. We get up. We say we’ve learned our lesson, but we often make the same mistake again. This is the frustration of life on earth.

So I can’t say how I’m doing or how far I’ve come. I dare to suggest that those questions don’t matter. I can’t improve my character. God has to do it. I am “improving” only as much as I am surrendering to His work in me.
I feel: contemplativecontemplative
30 January 2008 @ 11:10 am
This is the same test that we had all the girls in our dorm take for a dorm fellowship last year, and most of them were heard squealing "ewwww!" from the computer room when they reached the question about being "kissed unexpectedly." ;-) (We tried to find a test online that was related more to friendship and familial relationships, but this one was the best we could do and it has, well, kind of a romantic twist, doesn't it?)

I feel loved when...

The Five Love Languages

My Primary Love Language is Quality Time

<th colspan="2">My Detailed Results:</th>
Quality Time: 10
Words of Affirmation: 7
Physical Touch: 7
Acts of Service: 6
Receiving Gifts: 0

About this quiz

Unhappiness in relationships is often due to the fact that we speak different love languages. It can be helpful to know what language you speak and what language those around you speak.

Tag 3 people so they can find out what their love language is.

Take the Quiz!
Check out the Book

I feel: contemplativecontemplative
I hear: Defying Gravity - Kristin Chenoweth, Idina Menzel, Ensemble