I have never believed that a blog is a place to post thoughts that you know are only going to lead to your friends reading it and "consoling" you. I feel rather strongly that there should be a difference between one's blog and one's personal journal. That said, I have felt a drive to return to this blog to share thoughts that have been back-logging in my brain for the past few months. Some have to do with my future, some with my present, some with my writing (though that is nearly non-existent at this point), and some nothing to do with me at all. This is going to be a terrible post, overly dramatic and written only to relieve some pressure in my own brain. I apologize for wasting your time. Of course, if you turn back now, very little of your time will have been wasted....
Who knows if I will even post this, but here are my jumbled thoughts.
1. Lately Facebook seems to exist solely to remind me of the things in life I so not have. My friends are getting dream jobs, or at least working. My friends are meeting new loves, settling into established loves, creating new humans to love, spending time with loves. My friends have friends that they spend time with. I am not complaining about what I am doing or the opportunities I have. In three weeks I will be graduating from law school. I live in a community that loves me, and have a support system I do not deserve and many would kill for. I am more blessed than I should be. But some of the choices I have made have left me lonely, frustrated, and a little bit dreading the future. I feel like sometime around 25 I may have lost myself, and as I look at those who are or were a part of my world that seem to be finding themselves, I fear my pattern of wandering may be leading to a life alone, knowing no one well, including myself.
2. Connected to this, I am a bit afraid that I have made a huge mistake. I went to law school with a vision of what I wanted to do with my life. I still have that vision, but I have not taken the steps necessary to make the vision come to fruition. I fear more than anything that I will settle into a life of simply "getting by" and will never chase what I really am meant to do. Part of this is because I have no fracking clue what I am meant to do. This is what I know about me: I love people deeply. I truly believe that if I can do something to better another person's life, it is my duty to do so, and without much concern for my own life (not being a dramatic martyr here, just saying that if an action inconveniences me, I do not believe I should shy away from it solely for that reason). I know that when I hear of people being kind or loving to each other, especially strangers, I feel that this broken world is pieced back together, at least a little bit, for a little while. I know I desperately want to play a part in that. I know I do not currently know how to make that happen.
3. The world is a dark place, I know this. Lately, it seems that the world is an angry place, that mankind has the constant dogging anger of a person who has been walking three days through humid swamps while chafing and hungry. People are looking for reasons to hate and fight. The internet has become a place to equally learn of the wonders of the world, and spew hatred to those who also seek to learn of the wonders of the world. Governments, and the men and women who run them are seeking to take what they can from the people before the people get fed up and fight back, not preserve people's rights and better the world. The people are seeking to be given as much as they can form their governments without having to give anything back. People are killing people over misinformed hatred, loneliness and lovelessness gone unchecked, and pain exacerbated by isolation. The world saddens me, and I must find a way to bring laughter, light, and love to it. With all the things I don't know, I know this is one thing I must do. And you, dear reader, must do it as well.
4. Call the Midwife. I admit, I watch it. I am in Season 2 right now, catching up on Netflix. It is a girl show all the way. Women living and learning together, delivering babies and finding love. There has not been one proper fight scene that I have seen. Testosterone is at a critical minimum. So why do I watch it, neigh love it? Why do I tell people that I watch it, unlike when I accidentally watch the Anne of Green Gables cartoon for three hours (that has never happened...stop judging me)?
I love it because it highlights people fighting to better the lives of everyone they meet. Women from homes filled with dirt, sweat, and the slop of life are treated with dignity and loved for the gifts they bring to the world. Broken people, whom society has given up on are sought after and redeemed. Literally, the nurses and nuns of the show fight, and I mean FIGHT for the lost souls of the city. Unwed mothers (the show is based in the 50s) find no judgment, only concern for their health. Compassion is not a show put on, it is the breath of the characters lives. The show is a reminder of what happens when you stop worrying about your own comfort and position, and seek to make the lives of those around you better. And at least the first season (maybe the second?) is based on an actual memoir, so I love it even more knowing that, while romanticized, the stories are based in true experiences.
There is an episode where one of the nurses must go into the home a war veteran whose legs are covered in ulcers. She must clean them so they do not become infected. The man is elderly, and has lost his wife and sons over the years. He lives alone in an apartment that is filled with bugs, because he cannot clean the place on his own. The man is lonely, and wants the nurse to stay for a drink with him. The state of the apartment gets to her, and she retreats. However, her boss sends her back, explaining that she is to serve him no mater what her discomfort is. She does, and a loving friendship develops. It leads to the man having some truly happy and wonderful moments as his life comes to a close. It cost the nurse some comfort, and her time, but is helped her to see the world differently, and with a loving eye.
The point of this thought, in my overly long and not well thought out set of thoughts, is that as I watch the show I am struck by the thought that if people truly would serve one another, without thinking about what they will get out of the interactions, if people will put aside their abundance of comfort to ensure that their neighbors receive greater comfort, the love will be like a balm on the angry world we live in.
I am a follower of Jesus Christ. Some think that makes me a fool. Others may just assume it makes me a hypocrite and loudmouth. Think of it what you will. The teachings of Jesus state plainly that my purpose is to love my neighbor as myself, and to look after the orphan, the widow, and the prisoner. The more I contemplate these teachings, the more I see that if I follow these instructions, I may make the world uncomfortable with my love, but I will not have room for judgment of others or to get involved in fights of faith. When you are literally covered in the filth and grime of others, but loving them all the way, you do not have time to argue with people on blogs about whether other people on other blogs are good enough people. Instead, you are busy loving real, actual people. It is a way of life I continually wish to pursue with more success.
5. This is the last one, I promise. If you are still reading, you must be a friend of mine, or you started and you feel that you must finish, and you just wish I would get on with it. So I shall.
Beauty. The world is full of it. Some of it is natural. Scientists have recently discovered a plant in Chile that can change its appearance to match that of the plants around it. If the leaves on a tree grow long and thin, this plant will do the same, but if the next tree has short, multi-pointed leaves, the plant will change again to match those. Absolutely beautiful and wonderful. And a great basis for a super-hero-from-science-gone-wrong story. Some of the beauty in the world is man-made. Poetry, painted art, sculpture, photography. But also the joy of sharing life with other humans. The joy of knowing that your best friend is about to become a dad, or that another best friend just had her third kiddo, or that another friend has found love. These things highlight the beauty of the simplistic mechanisms of life. But they are beautiful. And I (we) need to remember to focus on those more.
Okay. This is a horrible post. If you are here, of you have come this far on this journey, I apologize. Hopefully the next time I wander through this place, I will bring something of better quality. And maybe some humor. Or a picture of a cat, the internet still likes those, right?
This past weekend I participated in a negotiation tournament with my school. We flew out of state, tourneyed it up, and flew home. The experience of the weekend is not what drove me back to this blog to share a thought. It was the experience on the way home that I came back to this long-neglected place to write about.
One of the professors who had coached us and taken us to the tournament had offered myself and a fellow student a ride home. We came off the highway into a notoriously not so great part of town, and were driving through to drop my fellow student at his home. As we passed a street corner, we came upon a couple who were obviously fighting. The man was grabbing at the woman and yelling, while she fought to get away. Standing a few feet away was a small child, maybe 3.
We were already driving when we saw it, and were past the scene before we all registered what we saw. At that point, my professor slowed down, and you could tell he had a decision to make. He was a Lexus driving white law professor (though admittedly, the Lexus has 200,000 miles on it) in a predominantly African American neighborhood which is known for night time violence. He had two students who, while adults, were under his "care" as he drove them home, and he did not know what the situation we had just passed was really all about. BUT, he also knew that if he left it, and there was trouble, he would have been the guy who drove on by.
So he turned around. We went back. By the time we got there, the situation seemed to have diffused, and they were all in a car, getting ready to leave. There was no more violence visibly present. So we drove on.
In that moment, I got a closer look into what kind of a man my professor is, and I was humbly awed by it. I like to think it is because he grew up playing ball in New England, and that baseball players are just naturally good guys who never shy away from a fight when someone is in need. And that may have played a part in it. But what I saw went even deeper than that. What I saw was a man who knew that something had to be done, and, even though it was not technically "his business", he took the steps to make sure what needed to be done was.
As we drove away he said, "You know, back in my day, with three guys in the car, we would have swung back, jumped out, and explained to the guy he was going to leave the lady alone. Nowadays, you have to worry about guns." I share that to show that he was not planning on being some foolhardy movie star hero, who would jump out and set "those" people straight, ignoring danger and laughing in its face. He was going to call the police. He was going to make sure the child was not in danger. He was going to put himself in the place to do the right thing.
Which is impressive. I had spent the entire weekend with him, and knew I liked him, both as a professor and as a person. I had seen his friendly and affable side, and even been comforted by his words of encouragement. But tonight I saw something of the man he is made of, and it inspired in me a desire to be a man made of similar stuff.
Okay, since I am apparently still showing, and I do feel a stirring of thoughts in my heart, I will try to come back to this forum. My heart is a bit heavy these days, so the posts may not be as joyful as they once were. Though I am seeking joy in all that I do, so we shall see.
As for this post, I have some thoughts on bravery that I want to explore.
Many of you, dear readers, know that I have a heart for the crushed souls of this world. I am currently attempting to gain a law degree to better equip me to fight some of the world's greatest atrocities, including, and most likely focusing on Human Trafficking. No doubt I will write more on this in coming months and years, but that is not the true focus of this post.
I decided earlier this year that as I learn all about lawyering, I also needed to balance my education by learning much more about human trafficking. Not just where it happens, but how, why, who is behind it, who is victim of it, and who is complacent in the battle. To that end I have begun to read several books, blogs, and articles. In the current book I am reading, I have just come across a part where a woman who was part of a labor enslavement ring in Florida stood up at her enslaver's sentencing, and spoke against him. She is 4'10", has been forced to labor in fields doing work that I know would have me begging off within an hour, and has done so with little or no pay. She has seen this man beat, torture, and even kill those who acted against him. She knows that should he get a light sentence, or indeed ever get out of prison, that he will be look for revenge, and she will be in his sights.
And she testifies anyway.
She testified to a judicial system that for years ignored her, that allowed her friends to die, that implicitly told her she was of little to no value, and she did so to make sure justice was done.
That is bravery I can hardly fathom.
I like to think of myself as brave. I have been called upon investigate scary noises for neighbors, walk through dark basements to flip breakers, and once even waited for and intercepted a burglar who had been robbing one of my work sites (did I ever tell my mother about that? Hmmmm). However, the more I learn about the world, the more I see those acts as bravado. They were done to show the world how powerful I could be. There are people in this world who have shown true bravery.
Testifying against your abuser is bravery I will probably never even touch.
I go to school with two men who have served our country in the military. They have walked through dangers I can not even pretend to know. Not to show off, but because that was the job they were assigned to do. They are brave.
Corrie Ten Boom chose to hide and protect Jews in her home, even though she knew that doing so could (and eventually did) result in her own arrest and abuse. She did it because she knew that doing what was right and pleasing to the Lord was far more important than living a comfortable life in troubled times. She, and her family, were brave.
My mother was just a few months ago diagnosed with breast cancer. Recently, she found out that she will indeed have to have a mastectomy and chemo therapy. As our family dealt with the news that what we had hoped would be a health blip was going to be a health battle, it was my mother who sent out multiple emails and blogposts to encourage us. She made sure that while we were feeling crushed by the pain of the situation we focused on the blessing God has provided for her and our family. As she heads into this scary and unsure time, she is choosing to lead her family. That is bravery that humbles me.
I have no idea what the Lord has in store for me over the next few years. I suspect that whatever it is, it will give me the opportunity to meet many more brave people. I will consider each meeting an honor, and an opportunity to better understand what bravery is. I also may be called upon to show bravery myself. I won't lie, part of me wants the test. Part of me fears it. However is may present itself, I pray that when the time comes, I show the courage and bravery of a woman confronting her attackers, of soldiers walking into enemy territory, of a family confronting evil with unwavering faith, and of my mother, leading her family through her own dark hour.
I also pray that it will not involve spiders. If it does....I am screwed.
Remember last month when I posted that I was starting an adventure? And then I disappeared? Well, no worries, dear reader, I have returned. The particular adventure the Lord has put me on this summer has taken a great deal of my time, my mental capacity, and my energy. I would sit to write something, and would come to an hour later with drool running through my beard. So I waited.
So here it is, my midsummer post:
Thus far this summer has been....
In other words, it has been, thus far, what an adventure should be.
I have met amazing people.
I met a man who was once arrested outside of Jerusalem for trying to sleep there. He wanted to sleep outside of the city like Jesus had. He laughed as he told the story now, 30 years later, and realized how odd and perhaps dangerous he must have seemed.
I met a woman who runs an Alpaca store, which has two Alpacas in the side yard, just for customers to play with.
I met a man who looks like Santa Claus, and for one of my staffs, has acted like him, blessing them at every turn.
I also met a toy maker who looks very much like the man above, but have no picture proof yet, maybe someday soon. This particular toy maker also happens to have an amazing knowledge of railroad history in the northeast. Yeah, we talked for a good long time....
I have met a man who loved the out of doors so much that he has dedicated his life to preserving and building a park in the heart of Rutland, Vermont. He has done this for ten years, has never been paid to do it, and has spent every "free" moment fighting to make others see his vision for what it can be. YW partners with him to build and preserve trails within the park, and the youth who work beside him get a better lesson about servant leadership than any sermon could ever teach.
I have met more pastors than I can list here, and they have each been a blessing to me as well as my staff. They have listened to concerns, taken people to dinner, coffee, even put myself and one of my staffs up in a hotel for a night so they could relax and enjoy the 4th of July. They have prayed for us, interceded with community for us, and opened up their churches and homes to us.
And I have only listed the community members I have met! That says nothing of the youth leaders and youth that have poured through my sites this summer, and how awesome they have been. Or of my staffs, 12 amazing people who are sacrificing sleep, comfort, friends and family, and at times, sanity, to be the hands and feet of Christ this summer. They are a blessing to so many, and deserve their own post entirely...maybe next month :P
God makes people so intricate, interesting, and unique. I have been blessed to get to know so many of them on this adventure.
The adventure is not always pure joy. Sometimes it is hard. Really hard. Sometimes I want to just walk away, ask someone else to take over, and go home to watch Memphis Beat. I get asked questions. A lot of questions. So often, I feel that I am out of answers before noon. I have tasks, some involving paperwork, some involving the less fun side of people management, that I hate. Some of them I dread. People can be difficult. Ministry is almost always difficult. Mixing the two makes for more problems than I could have ever imagined.
But this is my joy.
That God called me on this adventure not to fulfill my own desire for a fun summer before my next life step, That God called me on this adventure not so I could tell awesome stories. God did not even call me on this adventure so that I could spend the summer serving and learning about Him (though this is a wonderous by-product of it all).
No, my joy comes from the fact that God called me on this adventure because He built me for it, and it is to His glory that I fulfill it. He called me on this adventure because he wanted to break me of my all too often tendency to rely on myself and my own abilities for success. He called me on this adventure so that I could turn every moment over to Him, and then work hard to make every step, and action, every word be glorifying to Him.
So whether I am petting alpacas or helping a tired and discouraged staff member through one last interaction before the youth leave; whether I am sitting up late laughing with my staff about their crazy weeks or comforting a crying staff member whose burden makes me weep as well, whatever the moment, I find my joy in this adventure for the Lord. I am humbled each day that He called me to it. And blown away each time He provides the energy, wisdom, or sometimes just the smile that I need to get through each moment.
Let the glory of this adventure be to Him whose adventurous heart created us all.
P.S. I also saw these Moosen the other day. Further proof that my adventure is awesome.
Here I sit, alone in a room at the First United Methodist Church.
My bed is an inflatable double high Coleman that my parents blessed me with by buying.
My desk is a tiny children's table, which my knees do not nearly fit under.
I am surrounded by a bag full of my clothes, binders in which my summer's tasks can be found, and office supplies my wonderful padre sent me.
Outside of these walls my four staffers wind down their days. They have worked hard, preparing for a summer of working hard, all in the name of the Lord.
On Tuesday I leave here, and head to another site. There I will re-inflate my bed, drag my bag inside, and share a day with another staff of four, amazingly hard working, God loving and serving people.
On Wednesday I will drive 7.5 hours and once again set up camp. I will spend a week and a half with my third, equally as amazing staff. I will be blessed by their hearts to serve, and the stories they already have about the amazing communities and peoples they are encountering.
Then, I will start the circuit again. This summer, I have no permanent home.
I will be lonely, tired, stretched, and confused. I will be called upon to solve problems which I feel in my heart I have no business trying to resolve. I will be brought to the edge, and beyond, of what I think myself capable.
I will be blessed beyond what is accountable in a silly blog post.
I will meet saints of the Lord who will make my simple air mattress nomad life seem like that of a well established king.
I will hear stories that will remind me that the God I serve is just and loving.
I will see faces that will remind me that all of my thoughts have been thought before, and God has heard them all, and still He listens.
I will have my heart broken for those whom God's heart breaks for.
I will see God's splendor in the mountains, in the towns, in the lakes, waterfalls, and people I meet.
I will be so blessed this summer it will shatter my reality of God's blessing.
For I cried out that I am a wanderer, and I needed an adventure, and God heard and delivered one.