Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Learning to Touch the World (a shout out of sorts to my alma mater)

Hmm...it appears that I have not blogged in oh, 6 months. Yikes! I went from sometimes writing multiple times in a day to nothing in 6 months! This is the normal life cycle of any blog, diary, journal or anything other name you can give non-required writings of whatever subject matter enters my brain. I love to write, thus I get excited to write and spend a lot of time doing so. Inevitably life gets busy and suddenly I find myself without time for such indulgences as writing. The journal I started when I left for Belize is another example, although that little book has more pages filled than any other of its kind in my life. Still, the latter writings are intermittent and random, ranging in content from personal bible studies to chronicles of our honeymoon to Costa Rica. Which, now that I think about it, never was completed. I believe I stopped jotting down the list of happenings after we left Playa Negra and headed to La Fortuna. Perhaps I'll finish before the memories fade. 

Isn't that the point of journaling? So one can go back and fondly reminisce over past events? No, in my experience the content of journals often becomes dated and full of not-so-fond happenings. Not always, but often enough. When I was a kid, I would start a journal or a diary full of my thoughts, and after a few weeks I'd tear out all the pages on which I had written and burn them. (We can talk about my pyromania another day....).

But I digress. I didn't intend to write about writing. I guess I'm justifying the "gap" like anyone was losing sleep over it. *sigh*

Now then. Learning to touch the world. This is/was the motto of the College of St. Scholastica, where I attended college and grad school. Six short years of learning and growing in my own mind. It's funny that I attended a Catholic college, yet it wasn't until about two years after graduation that I started to really grow in my faith. Anyway, billboards, banners, postcards, and any other publication the school put out featured those words, "Learning to Touch the World." To me it was a nice concise version of the school's mission and vision. That all students would not only learn what is necessary to get a degree, but to put it to use to impact our world. It sounds good, it attracts students, it makes parents feel good about the tuition checks they are writing or students feel good about the ridiculous student loans they are incurring to get that degree. Me, I never felt any strong push to get out and touch the world. I felt a push to make an impact within my little world of Physical Therapy. I wanted to be awesome, I wanted people to think, no, to know that I'm awesome. And I wanted to make a lot of money. 

Well, I probably should have thought about that whole money thing before I a) went to private school funded by scholarships and later entirely by student loans and b) decided to be a physical therapist. Apparently this field is notorious for having really high education costs that are disproportionate to annual salary. That's not to say I regret it. I love my job. But if wanted to make a lot of money, I should have gone to medical school. 

As it turns out, this whole "learning to touch the world" thing had much more impact on me than I realized. I can touch the world, but not by just becoming a well-known amazing therapist like I always wanted. Rather, my draw to touch the world led by my relationship with Christ. That means that every day when I go to work, when I'm driving to work, when I go grocery shopping, when I volunteer in college ministry, when I go on mission trips, when I run a marathon (sorry, half marathon...), when I visit my family, when I get married.....EVERYTHING I do can touch the world. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength....(Philippians 4:13), and everything I do can be used by God to be a light in the lives of each person with whom I interact. I may never see the impact or result. But as I look back at the little seeds that others planted in my heart in the 25 years before I was saved, I am hopeful that my life has planted at least one of those seeds for someone else. 

Living this way changes everything. And for me it all started to change last October and through my mission trip to Belize and the months following. I feel less selfish. I feel less of a sense of entitlement. I think about what I've been given and I am thankful. I want to give to others. I want to give my time, talents, abilities to others. I want to touch the world. 

Now in that, I am realizing (greatly due to the insights of my wonderful husband) that it is easy to lose myself in trying to live for others. I don't think God wants that either. So in the bustle of going to work, making a home with my husband, serving in ministry, being a friend,  and everything in between, I am going to make a point daily to do something that is purely Amanda. So that when I do go out to touch the world, I am a whole person. So I will play guitar, read a book, read the bible, write, run, hike, yoga, sleep, paint, watch a movie, get a pedicure or do whatever thing that day that will rejuvenate me. Ultimately that will allow me to be better equipped to be there for others. I'm living my life with everything and giving everything to God. It's the least I can do, right? 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Be Transformed by the Renewing of Your Mind

And I'm back. Ok I've been back for a couple weeks. But I've not had the words to start writing again, until right now. If you know me at all, then it's probably hard to believe that I don't have words at any point about something, but there it is. Basically, I just didn't know, and still don't know, just where to begin. Things are just so very different since my mission trip, and really the events immediately preceding it. It's difficult to pick that starting point and go. So, here. we. go.

My personal legend. This is the central concept of this whole blog endeavor. What is it for which I am living life. Ok, I cannot completely answer that right now. It's too existential. But, I can tell you that the way I'm living my life is changing, and my ideas of a legacy as well as just the simple day to day is fundamentally refocused. This is going to take me days to articulate.

This verse from Romans 12 keeps coming back to me. It came up before I left, then during a daily debrief/devotional time in Belize, and again and again. "Do not conform any longer to pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind."
Cognitively I got was this was saying, but it took a while to really grasp what it means in my life. I think both my mind and heart have been undergoing the transformation and renewal. I'm seeing my world and priorities through a new lens. A totally simplified way of describing it is that I'm no longer happy with "normal". And really, I don't think I ever was happy with "normal".

I'm reconsidering "The American Dream" that we all work so hard to achieve. It's recently dawned on me that I have no idea what it even is, and I've been busting my butt for years to get it. Is it the 2 story house with a picket fence and 2.5 children and an SUV? I recently heard about a study that people who make $25,000/year say if they made $54,000, they would be living the American Dream. People who make $90,000/year say if they made $190,000 they would be living the American Dream. So essentially, the American Dream is described in monetary terms as twice whatever it is that you have.

So our dreams revolve around how much stuff we have? One remarkable thing I saw in Belize, is how much joy a person can have in their lives, when they literally have nothing material. We played with children who don't have x-boxes, TVs, ipods, cell phones, toys, or sometimes even shoes....and they were the happiest children I've ever seen. They are creative and imaginative. And social and loving and affectionate. They are poor and happy. How many wealthy, depressed people do you know?

This is what we'll call the tip of the iceberg of what's going on in my mind and heart. I'm tired, and getting sleepy so I want to take advantage of my fatigue. I've not slept well since I returned from Belize. Well, there are exceptions, but less than you can count on one hand. I'll get more into this another time. But when I get sleepy, I sleep because it's so difficult to come by these days.

One last thought on the renewing of my mind. Giving is a huge part of this story. Today, for the first time in my life, I gave $2 to a man holding a cardboard sign on a freeway offramp. I've had soapboxes and opinions on this. But I've realized that as a believer, when I'm stopped at a light, and there is a person asking for money or food or whatever, I tend to avoid eye contact and justify reasons not to help. Then I wrestle with the conviction I feel in my heart and try to explain it away to ease my mind. Today, I had the two dollars in my purse. Two dollars makes essentially no impact in my world. But for this man, it does. And perhaps he will use it foolishly, or perhaps he's lying or faking misfortune. But I decided in that moment I made eye contact, that I need only search my heart. Whatever this man does is between him and God. God asked me to help, and I did. That's as far as that story goes for me. I drove through the intersection without conviction, without apology, and without guilt. My heart was at peace.

The conviction I experience when I turn my head in these moments come from a warning and an encouragement in scripture:
Proverbs 21:13: "If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered."
I need my Savior too much to be ignored.
Micah 6:8: "And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."
What do I want to do with my life? To do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly. (yes, this is the official "mission" of Mission Community Church. I don't think they'd mind my borrowing it. In fact I am confident they encourage people to live it).

Friday, November 5, 2010

Preparing for Radio Silent

In less than 24 hours, we will be well on our way to Belize. Or at least Dallas, but you get the idea. That first step of getting on the plane, will be big. I'm too excited to really find a word better than "excited". It's sort of surreal. So much planning, anticipating, praying, preparing. Finally coming to fruition.

It's going to be interesting to be "unplugged". I know this is part of the experience and challenge, to leave the electronics at home. But after the hurricane, we're not even positive if the option is available to plug in as power is intermittent at best. No phones, no computers, no radio, no hair dryer. We are truly unplugged.

I am definitely of the generation of people whose smart phone is a lifeline. It's how I connect to people. I can call, email, text, facebook.... I'm never more than a few taps away from pretty much anyone with whom I'd like to interact. It's also entertainment, organization, planning. It tells me when my bills are due, when I have appointments and meetings, what the weather is doing (everywhere). I'm even in touch with God on my smart phone (come on, you all know the Holy Bible app on the iphone is awesome!).

But guess what, billions of people around the world get by without a phone. Or really anything but the true essentials. Food, water, shelter, and each other. Some have even less. This feels like a huge culture shock and being drop-kicked out of my comfort bubble, but when I really think about it, it is silly to even give a second thought. I can surely survive a week without it. I will connect with the people around me, and with God. It will be such an adventure!!

That said, I also will not be blogging, obviously. The plan is for a group blog, but again that depends on the electricity situation. If you're interested in what I/we am/are up to...there are several places to look.

First, the group blog. csmissions.wordpress.com and follow the links for "Belize 2010 team".

This is where I will be. It may not look quite like this after the hurricane.

This is the mission website with more photos and information

I bought a beautiful journal to take with me. I'm not huge on journaling in general, as I prefer the implied audience of blogging. It opens up my creative mind for writing. But now that I've been doing it consistently, and have people reading it, I feel inspired to journal in lieu of blogging to document my trip, experiences, emotions, and everything in between. I will certainly share some of it when I get back.

Many of my loved ones are worried for me (even more are excited). They are nervous or afraid of the travel to another country. Of people who hate Americans. Of hurricanes. All I can say is that I have faith to core of my soul that this is what I'm supposed to be doing. I am not afraid. If it's meant to be the end of my story, then I trust God in that. However, I also have faith that God isn't done with me. This is the beginning. I'm not finished here. I take comfort in trusting it to Him to protect me and bring me back home. And with everything going on in my life in these past weeks, I have joy in the fact that I have something to come home to.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 28:11

Monday, November 1, 2010


Be flexible. We'll plan but be ready to be flexible. Flexibility is key.
This has been the resounding message from Day 1 of planning for the Belize trip. What? So I should go to yoga more often? No, silly...they're saying Type A-ers shall have an extremely difficult time letting go of control and adapting to the inevitable changes in "plans" for a mission trip.

I tend to be more on the side of "go with the flow" when it comes to, well everything. I know this is part of my personality that people around me love, as it drives them crazy. But, I figured it will be advantageous will the whole "be flexible" thing.

So....we haven't even left yet and things have changed. And changed some more. And changed yet more. And guess what....probably not done with the changing. I'm not freaking out yet, but some of the changes make me a little sad. I've learned to trust God in these moments, but it's still a bummer. Unfortunately we had another team drop out for personal reasons, and our fearless leader was replaced with just under a week before departure. I don't know the details, and if I did, they're not mine to share. All I know is that they are not going, and I wish they were.

For me, I think it is God continuing to challenge me to lean on Him alone. I could see that I was starting to lean on this person for comfort and strength going into the trip, as he was our leader and a friend (well he is still a friend, but not one who is going on the trip). I'm certain this change was not brought only simply because of my journey and struggles, but I do see how it will directly impact me in this trip. I have always considered myself an independent person, but I see now the pattern of codependence in emotional matters. Yes, I can change a tire, smash a cockroach, and hang a painting. I can build a bookshelf, move a couch, and unclog a drain. Yes, yes, we're so impressed. But whether things are going well or really bad, I lean heavily on the people around me for support. I know I don't have all the answers, and I can't do it alone....however, my inner circle doesn't have all the answers either, and sometimes I am just too much for them to hold up (I am six feet tall, after all...). I feel God pulling me towards him for this support, love, and clarity I seek. And with the call the be uber flexible this coming week, I think I will need to reach to Him more than ever.

In my sadness and bummed-ness, I am thankful for the lessons learned. I hope, no I know, that the other people involved will come through at some point with better perspectives of why things turned out the way they did, and that they and we will be stronger and closer to God because of it.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

I Will Survive, Keep on Survivin

1 week. 7 days. 168 hours. 10,080 minutes.

Made it through 1 week. Sleep deprived, lonely and 5 pounds lighter. But 7 days stronger. 168 hours wiser. 10,080 minutes closer to God.

I'm gonna make it.

The Guitar Story

As time goes on, I'm losing the details of the guitar story aka Best Birthday Ever. So I think it's time to document it.

Way back in the day I wanted to learn how to play guitar. I made a weak attempt involving a dvd and a friend who played by ear, and never really got anywhere. When I started college I pretty much gave it up.

Fast forward 10 years and I think I'm too old to learn such a skill. However, some gentle encouragement of a dear friend helped me realize that this dream wasn't dead.

I knew it would be a while before I would be able to buy a guitar, an amp, lessons, etc. Then my birthday rolled around. A group of my closest friends and I went out for an awesome hibachi dinner. I knew I wasn't getting a guitar for my birthday, but the surprise was so much better than just opening up my dream guitar. My new bf at the time had orchestrated my family and friends, whether he had met them yet or not, to make it happen. I didn't get the electric guitar, but at present time I did receive funding for the lessons, the guitar or whatever other accessories I wanted....and then of course was the fischer price guitar. Trust me, that's the only was to learn how to play.

No one had ever done such a sweet thing to surprise me. I was able to arrange to start lessons with my good friend who is an amazing guitarist and teacher....a stark contrast to my HS friend who just played then handed me the guitar and said "ok now you do it!".... I started shopping for the perfect (beginner) guitar, I consulted with my rockstar uncle for suggestions. The suggestion led to an offer to borrow one of his guitars that were yearning to be played. I politely declined learning on the Warren Haynes signature Les Paul, despite the fact that it happens to be exactly what I want to play. At this stage I would be afraid to touch it. He sent instead the perfect sleek royal blue semi hollow body. I couldn't have picked a guitar better suited for myself.

I suddenly had everything I needed...
I've now been playing for about 3 months, and while I certainly have a long way to go before I can start touring, I have come quite a long way from figuring out how to hold it and tune it. Today I even figured out how to play one of my favorite worship songs (now two for two...). I'm picking up some the "Best Rock Guitar Songs Ever". Seriously that's the name of my book....And you better believe that includes Crazy Train!

Sister Christian is next on the list, by popular demand. ;)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

No Diggity, No Doubt

**disclaimer** this quickly became quite tangential, personal, and full of God. It is not even close to what I originally intended when I opened my computer. However, I am not editing it. Read on if you dare....

I'm trying to figure out this self-destructive tendency we employ when we are hurting. I can't quite tell if it's intentional, subconscious, or what. Is it because emotional pain is so intangible that we need a physical source to legitimize it? These questions come to me because I am a total girl (contrary to popular belief especially of certain guy-friends of mine) and I find myself doing stupid girl things in sad times.

There are certainly productive ways to distract ourselves and even move towards healing, but even in the midst of those things there are either over-compensatory behaviors that become destructive, or more subtle actions that undermine the process. Here's what I'm talking about....some people work out, HARD, when they are upset. Ok fine...I'm a PT. I get that exercise releases endorphins, calms us down, and improves our overall wellbeing so sleeping and energy come more naturally. But hitting the extreme of that can cause exhaustion, malnourishment, and actual musculoskeletal injuries.

On the flipside, you may find that you just don't have the physical or mental capacity to go run or whatever your sport is. So then you get more lethargic and achy and fat. Throw in comfort food, and we all see where this path leads. This coming from someone who has had frozen dairy products for dinner on three occasions over the past week...

Sleep deprivation also is not helping my cause. I've slept fewer nights than I've eaten ice cream. This clearly is not a choice. I love sleep. I typically love dreaming, but even my vivid dreams are forsaking me right now and I wish I could forget them when I wake. Boo. I honestly can't tell you if I've showered every day this week. I have made it into work every day, but somehow I've reinstated my caffeine addict status. It may, or may not have something to do with the not sleeping.

I'm getting way off course with my own examples.....there are many other things people do to "cope". Driving too fast, skipping out on work and responsibilities, drinking too much, having sex with inappropriate people, breaking things and destroying memories. Why do we do this? We are only harming ourselves more in the long run? It just doesn't make sense.

I'm trying so hard to reach out and fall into God's loving arms, and let Him take care of the hurt. Unfortunately in the context of eternity, the result can feel like it takes foreeeeeeeeevvvvvveeeeerrrrr..... But still I trust, that in His time, my heart will be healed.

Is it that simple? No, nothing is ever really simple. But I think hitting the pain head on with the Creator of the Universe in your corner is certainly more productive than punching walls or dabbling in early onset diabetes.
All we have to do is trust. Not obey first. Just trust. I have been listening to sermons, reading scripture and other text all week, and received so much love and advice. It's overwhelming to put it all together. The common theme....leave it to God. Every bit of it.

A lesson learned here is that my heart craves love and acceptance. I have abandonment issues and have suffered with loneliness off and on for as long as I can remember. When I find love, I have a paralyzing fear of failure and losing it. And then I fail and lose it. What I'm finally realizing, is that no person will ever fulfill that need in me. Only God. I will elaborate on this later....but for now will end with this:  1 John 4:18 says, "There is no fear in love. But perfect loves drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love."

New topic.....You may or may not have noticed how much I pay attention to music. Song lyrics and titles plague my brain like a natural soundtrack to my life. I take comfort in relating to songs, and more recently in creating music. Now back to my being a total girl, I am drawn to music on an emotional level. I often hear a song that just captures my heart at that moment, and I like to share it because it feels like I'm letting people in to what I'm feeling inside. It's come to my attention that No Doubt, one of my favorite groups for years, has two prominent break up songs, and I can't decide which is better. I kind of want to take a poll. One is heart-wrenching, soulful, vulnerable and true. The other is the in your face, screw you, I should have known better anyway message. One aims to commiserate, the other to get over it. Both make me sing.

Don't Speak

You and me
We used to be together
Everyday together, always
I really feel
That I'm losing my best friend
I can't believe
This could be the end
It looks as though
You're letting go
And if it's real
Well I don't want to know

Don't speak
I know just what you're saying
So please stop explaining
Don't tell me cause it hurts
Don't speak
I know what you're thinking
I don't need your reasons
Don't tell me cause it hurts

Our memories
They can be inviting
But some are altogether
Mighty frightening
As we die
Both you and I
With my head in my hands
I sit and cry

Don't speak
I know just what you're saying
So please stop explaining
Don't tell me cause it hurts
Don't speak
I know what you're thinking
I don't need your reasons
Don't tell me cause it hurts

It's all ending
I gotta stop pretending who are are

You and me
I can see us dying
Are we? 

So that is quite a contrast from......


I kinda always knew I'd end up your ex-girlfriend
I kinda always knew I'd end up your ex-girlfriend
I kinda always knew I'd end up your ex-girlfriend
I hope I hold a special place with the rest of them
And you know it makes me sick to be on that list
But I should have thought of that before we kissed

You say you're gonna burn before you mellow
I will be the one to burn you
Why'd you have to go and pick me?
When you knew that we were different, completely

I kinda always knew I'd end up your ex-girlfriend
I kinda always knew I'd end upyour ex-girlfriend
I hope I hold a special place with the rest of them
I kinda always knew I'd end up your ex-girlfriend

I'm another ex-girlfriend on your list
But I should have thought of that before we kissed

Your wildness scares me
So does your freedom
You say you can't stand the restrictions
I find myself trying to change you
If you were meant to be my lover I wouldn't have to

And I feel so mean
I feel in between
Cause I'm about to give you away
For someone else to take
Am I making a mistake?
All the time that we wasted

I'm another ex-girlfriend on your list
But I should have thought of that before we kissed

We keep repeating mistakes for souvenirs
And we've been in between the days for years
And I know that when I see you I'm going to die
I know I'm going to want you and you know why
It's going to kill me to see you with the next girl
Cause I'm the most gorgeously jealous kind of ex-girl

But I should have thought of that before we kissed

Either way...I adore Gwen for so eloquently capturing what girls feel like when they are rejected. Maybe I'm immature for agreeing with it and sharing it, but if you're reading my blog, it's because you are curious about me and what I'm thinking and feeling. This is what I'm thinking and feeling today.