Sunday, April 24, 2011

Giant Meat

A few years ago (back in my college days), I had the delightful experience of a global economics course with an especially interesting professor.

I had had other classes with this professor, and poor girl, there was always some sory of tragedy happening in her life. To say the very least, she was a tad unstable.

In this particular class, during a debate, our professor announced that nothing we said counted anymore. From that moment on, we were not allowed to speak an opinion, or argue a notion, without "quoting a giant". Well, to say the least this threw us for a loop. We looked back at our syllabus, we looked at one another, my dear friend Beth raised her objections and questions...but no, the debate was over. None of us had prepared "giant meat" so none of us were allowed to talk. (Giant meat-the bulk of your debate, the MEAT of it, should come from someone with at least a graduates degree-someone published and acknowledged as a professional in their field).

Well the talk of Giants, and giant meat, and eventually meat treats lasted all year, with the class expectations growing mroe absurd on an often daily basis. But, like it or not,this idea of "giant" has stuck with me.

When hanging out with a friend a few weeks ago, I left our time together thinking, she is a "giant" of the faith. And, she has been a "giant" in my life.

It is fun to think about the people who are "giants" in your own life-the people who have shaped and formed you, encouraged you, challenged you, the people you look up to.

Thank you Giants. You are the Meat Treats in my life. =)

He is Risen

Christ is risen indeed! =)

Happy Easter friends!

Easter....thank you Lord for your sacrifice, your love, your friendship, your resurrection. Thank you for your church.

Church...Mark and I are so happy to be plugged in at Hope. Last weekend we were able to spend 2 days on a retreat with the staff and spouses. It was so wonderful to get to know these incredible people-to laugh, play, worship, and learn together. It has taken awhile...but we are feeling so very apart of this church.

Thank you Jesus for your church.

Saturday, April 9, 2011


I hate it when the tears come at the wrong time, in the wrong place, in front of the wrong people. But god has given me what my mother has called a "sensitive spirit", and sometimes....tears are unstoppable.

I am required to attend a monthly para training at my school. Yesterday was one of such trainings. These trainings require a certain amount of "homework" each month, and this month was no exception. We were to bring a box of meaningful items/objects and prepare three stories about our life with a few different prompts, including, "my earliest memory". There are a few girls that I always sit with at these trainings, but much to my frustration, someone else asked me to join them at their table, and I felt I couldn't resist. Of course, even in these small things I think God is at work, as He uses the smallest of things sometimes to remind me of His purpose for me.

We were to split into groups of 4 to share our memorabalie boxes and our stories. I was with a good friend of mine close in age from Burma, and a Nepali man and a Burmese man. They told me to go first and I shared-some lighthearted objects, a funny story of a family vacation spent honking our car horn from the hotel window in the hopes to startle people.

***** shared her earliest memory. Her grandmother leaving the military base her family lived on (as her father was a commander in the Karen opposition army) to collect one of her cousins as her cousin's family members were missing (killed?) and she was living with friends. When her grandmother came home she told young *****, "this is your new sister".

****** shared being sent to a boarding school during his pre-teen years as he tended to be a slightly "naughty" boy. Upon returning home one year he discovered his country was in turmoil, and his families lives were in danger. They crossed the border to India, then ended up in a refugee camp in Nepal. He never returned to his school.

Then... ***** shared. He, for some reason, I have grown very fond of. He is not Karen, he is Burmen, and he has spent much of his life in a Burmese prison as he has actively protested against the Burmese government. Because of his imprisonment, and commitment to his cause, he has nothing for himself. No wife, no children, no possessions. He comes to the U.S. as an asylee, he will never be able to safely return to Burma. His story is as follows:

"When I was a little boy I spent everyday talking with my mother and baking. I was good at language and even at 3 years old was able to communicate everything to my mother. We spent the days talking about everything together and one day I told her I wanted an electric car. She told me she did not have enough money to buy me an electric car, but she would give me a piece of candy instead. I told her I didn't want candy, just the electric car. Every day I asked her to give me an electric car, and every day she told me there was no money. One day after I asked for the car, she told me if I kept asking her for the electric car she would hit me. I told her if she hit me I would run away from her. She said that if I ran away from her she would run after me. Then I told her that maybe I could run so far away, that no matter what, she wouldn't be able to follow me, she wouldn't be able to catch up with me, and most importantly she wouldn't be able to tell me what to do.

Now, I am a grown man, and I have finally run so far that my mother cannot find me, cannot catch up to me, and even though more than anything I want her to tell me what to do, she can't."

Let me tell you people, tears. I asked if his mother was still living in Burma, and he said she died two weeks ago. I mourn for my friend, and shed tears over the injustice of it all.

We were asked to respond to each story with the following prompt:

I wonder why....
And I wonder why God allows such hurting, such sorrow.

I wonder why I wasn't born in Burma and God didn't use me as an activist, and why **** wasn't born in the U.S. with memories of car horn pranks.

I wonder why I care so deeply about a conflict half-way across the world, that I am still barely learning to understand.

And I wonder how people DON'T care about a conflict that leaves people motherless, fatherless, torn up, jailed, beaten, abused, and displaced.

I just wonder about the ways of this world and cry because I don't understand and feel so bad for people who have had to experience suffering and sorrow to the millionth degree that I have.

And I wonder, if God has given me such a heart for these people and these places, why I am not in a place where I can live out my passion more adequately and fully.

And then I wonder, maybe that's why I'm at Place in the first place. And perhaps, despite how challenging it's been, that is why I should stay there.

I was wrong

about Beth Moore, that is. I have gone through my entire adult life thinking she was ridiculous, and not possibly anyone I would ever enjoy.

And I was wrong.

I am doing a bible study with my church entitled "Psalms of Ascent". And yes, Beth Moore wrote it, and yep, I watch an hour long video of her speaking every week. And, surprise, I love it!

Ya, she's a little more girly than I. But she is also scholarly (much to my surprise), and honest, and genuine. And even though it seems that her and I live life pretty differently, what we can and do agree on, is that we want to live life honoring God. And let me tell you, she is doing a much better job of that than I, so I have put our differences aside, and have decided to learn from her, she is my big sister of the faith.

Last week she described an experience she had in South Africa, which reminded me of an experience that I have had in Ethiopia but forgotten about. She was able to spend time with some women in the various stages of health issues brought on by AIDS. They shared with her their stores-how they have come to be infected with AIDS, how their family and friends have reacted to them, and how they have managed to keep the faith. I too have sat with a group of women, who, in broken English, or kind translators, shared with me the exact same things. I was such a child then...unable to process all that I heard and witnessed on that trip. But I remember crying as they told me, and feeling ashamed of my tears, as they were so triumphant in their worship to God. I remember being humbled, and now, 6 years after that experience, I am humbled even more so. I am grateful that that memory was reminded to me for many reasons. And I am grateful that even in my young age, I have had many ...important and growing, and odd experiences.

God is (and has been) preparing me for a great work. When I look to the past I see that the Lord has done great things for me. As I look to the future I expect that the Lord will do great things for me. As I wait here, in the in-between times, I expect and trust that the Lord WILL do, has promised TO DO....great things.

The Truth about the Ways

(if you were to ask me)

I know everything there is to know about the conflict in Burma.

I know everything there is to know about the history of my friends, the Ways.

I have learned to understand all the feelings that those friends of mine could possibly feel, and have shared their suffering with them.

They are our best friends and we know them (and connect with them) in a deep and profound way.

But sometimes:
(if you were to watch)

20 minutes can go by without a word being spoken.

I, or one of them, might attempt to communicate a thought, a plan, a feeling, or an idea, and then give up mid-sentence as we realize that the concept is too hard to explain. My Karen, or their English just isn't up to it.

Silence is easier than talking...cause talking can be exhausting.

And here, really, is the truth:

I love and connect with my friend the Ways in a deep and profound way. And sometimes, silence IS easier, because their vocabulary is just so limited. And I have mourned and mourned over all the things we cannot discuss because we don't have the words. And I have mourned and mourned and mourned over all the feelings they cannot express because their adjectives consist of "good" and "no good".

For months now, Maung Way has been telling us his job is "no good" and that his hand is "no good". He works at a meat packing plant in Greeley. They move over 2,000 cows through their plant on a daily basis. He cuts the same piece of meat every day. If you can imagine lifting your right arm into the air and slicing with a diagonal motion...well that's what he does. For eight hours a day, usually 6 days a week. And that is what he has done for the last 2 and a half years.

Last week he informed us that he has taken a leave from his job, in the hopes of finding a new job. He can simply no longer continue performing this job as he is in constant pain (did I mention he uses his crippled arm, he was shot in the hand at one point during his time in the Karen Liberation Army).

When he told us he had quit I was shocked, and worried. He has enough money to live off of for 3 months. But it got me thinking...he wasn't shocked by this decision, he has known for months that he simply cannot continue on in this way. He has known that he had to change jobs, he has even been asking us to help him find a new job. And had I known what he was TRULY trying to communicate to us, I probably would have looked a littler harder for a job for him. I probably would have been a bit more sympathetic when he told me about his arm while rubbing oils on it.

If only I listened more carefully. Listened and watched beyond the few words we can exchange. Because, people, you better believe that their hearts and ours are knitted together with the deepest of love and the most precious of affection. We are just limited, and the limitation is so discouraging. But I know that we have touched their lifes in an inexpressible way, and that God has used us to bring hope, and peace, and a clearer picture of His love for them. And I am here to confess that God has used them in the same way for me and Mark.

So ya, sometimes there are awkward moments. And alot of times there is alot that isn't said, that can't be said. But by God's grace, my mind will keep working during those silences, and my heart will hear the words that are unable to be expressed. And one day, whether it's on this earth or in Heaven, we will sit down and talk for days...reminisce of days gone by, laugh about some of the stupid things I've done, and we will hear all about their hopes and dreams and feelings and past.


Next week our school will be hosting an "International Night"- displaying various booths, representing various countries and people groups-complete with food and cultural entertainment. In preparation for that night, a handful of displays have been set up throughout the school. I have managed to read and look through a few of them, and have found the various marriage/childbirth/coming of age/and burial rituals extremely fascinating.

And of course....they have gotten me thinking.

One of the Asian birthing customs that I heard about (Pakistan? Malaysia? can't recall...) greatly inspired. As soon as the child is born the father picks him up and whispers in his ear:

"God is Great."
"I bear witness that there is none worthy of being worshipped except Allah."
"I bear witness that Muhammed is the Apostle of Allah."
"Come to Prayer."
"Come to Success."
"God is Great."
"There is no object of worship other than Allah."

The desire is for "Allah" to be the first word that the child hears, and for the notion (and act) of worship to be introduced immediately.

If you attended Mark and I's wedding then you know that every minute of our ceremony, every word that was spoken, was planned and rich with meaning. A wedding is a wondrous celebration, but also (in my mind) a sacred moment that is to be set apart. A wedding is a new beginning, as two people start their lives together. It is important to take the time to incorporate one's most important life values at this "new beginning". How much more important, then, is it to celebrate and set apart a birth of a child, introducing the life values you most want to teach to your child?

We have decided that in some form or fashion we would like to adopt this Muslim tradition as a family ritual, to begin with the birth of our first child. We would like to write a prayer for each child during their pregnancy, and for that prayer to be of the first words they hear. We also intend for each of our children's names to be our prayer for their life-and that will be included in the prayer we first pray over them when they are minutes into this world. And of course, of course, I am aware that perhaps the circumstances of our child's (children's) birth will be chaotic, with many people entering in and out, and so maybe this will be out of place in a hospital room. But it will be done...because I want to live this life with my devotion to Christ on the forefront of my mind, my heart, my lips. And my deepest prayer and longing for my children is that they too might devote themselves to our Lord. I want my children to know that the first thing I said to them involved their Savior, I want to read their prayers over them at every birthday celebration. I want them to know, as I know now (even without any plans to conceive a child),that they were divinely created and purposed.

And then a few weeks after their birth I want to have a "Baby Shower". But instead of games and presents, I want it to be a ceremony, much like a wedding ceremony. A dedication to raise my child in a Godly manner. A time for loved ones to gather round and hear my heart, my prayers for my child, and to pray them with me.

This, I think, is something that those Pakistani (?), thos Malaysian (?) families, got right.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Spring Break

This last week has been one of my favorite weeks ever spent with my husband.

Spring Break...does a mind, body, and soul some good. (and a house, apparently)

I (and my husband) have cleaned out 4 closets, rearranged 2 living rooms, painted a microwave cart (to be used as a vanity), added wonderful contact paper to spruce up some old furniture, bought a new bookcase for our overwhelming amounts of books, created 2 chalkboards with a little wood and chalkboard paint (and love), planted an herb garden, re-upholstered the boxspring mattress of our guest bed, and in general have clean/organized everything. (with the exception of a few small boxes I have yet to go through).

(The house is almost exactly how I want it to be. Alas, my break is drawing to a's so hard to get projects done whilst working a full week.)

But don't get me wrong...this last week has been full of fun too! Mark and I have recently purchased bikes and over the week got to do a lot of bike riding on the Platte Trail behind our house. On Monday we rode our bikes 12 miles to downtown denver. Wonderful, Glorious, Exhausting! =) I am super proud of myself though!

We got to dine at some of our favorite places this week, and try some new places. We hung out with dear friends and loved each other well. We looked at puppies at the puppy store. We laughed, worked, planned,soaked up the sun, and cleaned together. We enjoyed each other to the fullest extent. I CANNOT wait until this summer. An easier way of life is within reach...

But for the next 40 work days... I will grin and bear it. I will dream of the golden sun, since apparently winter isn't over yet. I will dream of night time fires and grilling out. Hundreds of vegetables fresh from our garden. A puppy that cuddles and wiggles. A hammock that sways in the wind, and folding patio chairs that aid my future tan. I will dream...oh, I will dream.