My school year so far has been a roller coaster of ups and downs. On the bright side, I have been doing well in my classes, I finally think I know what I want to major in, and I am having a ton of fun with all my friends. On the not so bright side, I have been going through something I never have dealt with before- a death of a family member. My grandpa passed away on September 30th unexpectedly. The weird thing was about this was that September 30th is my birthday. It gets weirder, he died mid afternoon (they aren’t able to pinpoint the exact time), and I was born twenty years ago at 3:27 p.m. I can’t help but feel comforted in the fact that my grandpa entered heaven around the same time on the same date as I entered God’s Earth. Also, I feel much more connected with my grandpa knowing that God planned it this way and that he was present through it all. To me, this is evidence that God is active in our lives.
I have come to peace with my grandpa’s death and have the closure I need, but I’ve been having a few consistent trains of thought over the past month. Mainly, I just feel overwhelming lucky (just in time for Thanksgiving). I have learned to be so much more appreciative of everything I have over this past month. I feel grateful to have gotten to know all my grandparents and learn from each one of them. I am incredibly lucky to have a supportive, loving family and friends who accept me for who I am. It’s super easy to get caught up in our busy lives and go through the motions but I want to change that in my life. I want to not only continue stating what I am thankful for, but actually act on it. I want to show the people who I love that I love them whenever I can, whether that includes calling my aunt on my walk home from class, writing a letter to my grandma, texting a friend to come over for coffee, or just being completely present in conversation. I encourage you all to not only reflect on what you are grateful for, but more importantly act on it. Doing so will undoubtedly improve each day and will make a relationship with God continue to grow exponentially.
This semester is the start of the end for me. Ok maybe that’s an over-dramatization, it is just my senior year of college, but when peppered with questions like “what are your plans for after college?”, I can’t help the freak out that comes with not knowing. To put this in perspective, I’m the most comfortable about my future when I have a plan. I may have come into college unsure of what I wanted to major in but at least I had a plan to follow. I wanted to continue in Architecture and there were plans for other majors if I had chose to switch. Now looking out at the vast opportunities for life after college I can’ help but to feel a bit overwhelmed and daunted by a future that can’t be planned or foreseen. I realize that a good portion of professionals don’t work in the same field as what they majored in and I’m not really worried about that. I just worry because I keep asking myself “how do I get to a point where I love what I’m doing if I don’t know where to start?”
So instead of dealing with this grappling thus far I’ve run the other way and ignored the problem and that’s not working. Time to try something new; accepting that right now it’s okay to not have the answers. Yes the deadlines for graduate school are quickly approaching with the end of the semester and life continues to move and I have no choice but to move with it. So I’m accepting that I’m confused and unsure about my future as of now. I’m instead going to focus on fully enjoying all of the wonderful things in my life- my friends, my family, my classes- with the knowledge that with some creative wandering, hard work, and passion I will end up where I need to be. Do I still have freak out moments where I can’t help but question where I’m going with my life? Yes, but I don’t let these moments overwhelm me because they’re generally the fault of bad days (and no matter what, I’ll have those once in a while). As I taught one of my Italian friends this last spring, I’m taking “baby steps” towards the only thing that is clear right now, graduation. I may not know where I’m going after that, but I know that with enthusiasm, determination, and the loving support of my family and friends I’ll figure something out, and that’s good enough for now.
(can you tell today was a good day?)
This semester has absolutely been a whirlwind and I’m only half way through it. I’ve been busy juggling all of my commitments – school, work, family time, student groups, volunteering, etc. I’m loving every minute of it and I’m definitely trying to enjoy it and soak it all in because this is my last year of college. I’m officially a senior set to graduate in May, but this is only my 3rd year in college. I’ve worked hard to get to this point and I’m beyond ecstatic to be graduating early, but I’m forced to make “grown-up” decisions sooner than my peers. Instead of deciding what classes I’ll take next year, I have to make decisions about my future plans and career. This is definitely not an easy task, especially for a self-proclaimed planner! One of the reasons I am able to graduate a year early is because I strategically planned every single semester of college and I have the next 7 months completely planned out in my planner. (See what I said? I’m a planner :). ) However, the days and months immediately following my graduation ceremony in May are totally blank. What comes next?
At the beginning of this semester, I was fortunate to get to attend the Mumford & Sons concert. One of their songs, Awake My Soul, definitely speaks to how I’m feeling right now. Here are some of the lyrics:
And now my heart stumbles on things I don’t know
My weakness I feel I must finally show
Lend me your hand and we’ll conquer them all
But lend me your heart and I’ll just let you fall
Lend me your eyes I can change what you see
But your soul you must keep, totally free
Awake my soul
This song reminds me that even though I don’t know what comes after graduation, I can trust that God has big plans for me that He will reveal when the right time comes. If I could, I’d plan the rest of my life, so my heart is stumbling and I’m definitely feeling weak because I don’t know what comes next. However, it’s important for me to believe that God knows my future and is holding my hand through it all because with Him by my side, I’ll definitely conquer life after graduation!
How do we find balance in a time in our lives where there is so much going on? On top of classes and homework, we have clubs and jobs and sports and friends, all life giving activities. But how, in all of this action and commitment and stress, do we find time for ourselves? I’ve been struggling with this issue of balance for almost my entire college career and, warning, there is no easy answer. Initially I ignored the problem and only when I felt extremely overwhelmed did I realize that once again my life was really out of balance. I had left no time for self-reflection and questioning and was losing my self in school and my commitments. You’d think that since this has happened more than once, I would catch on and understand that I can’t try to take on everything at once. The problem is, I just can’t seem to help myself. There are so many interesting courses to take, so I take more credits than necessary and there are equally as many great ways to get involved on campus. With that in mind, cutting back on what I’m invested in isn’t a viable option. So instead I’m left with a giant juggling act and I’ve never learned to juggle. With everything in the air, something is guaranteed to fall and that’s okay. One of the biggest helps when you’re stressed out and anxious is to acknowledge that you’re overwhelmed, and that it’s an acceptable feeling. Also you’re not alone, at one point or another, or possibly too consistently, we all feel the same way.
At these points, it’s hard to take time away from everything that seems to be piling up to just take time for ourselves but it’s often what helps the most. Set aside time for a walk, meditation, baking, self reflection, sleep, asking question that probably won’t be answered right away, what ever YOU need. Even if it’s just for 15 minutes every other day, its important to take time do something that helps you find your center and forget, just for a moment during the day, all of the things that stress you out.
I’m in the process of researching for my senior thesis and so I’ve taken many trips to the library and borrowed many books. One book I stumbled upon is entitled “Slavery and the Churches in Early America.” In this book, the author tracks the church’s stance on slavery from 1619 to 1819 (acknowledging different denominations and their different stances). And I’ve got to say, it is a really disheartening read. The church’s stance essentially ranged from apathetic to approval. Only the Quakers really took a stance against slavery at this point in history. The book hits home with its final sentence, “Self-proclaimed and widely recognized as the nation’s “conscience,” the churches appeared to be saying that drinking whiskey or enjoying sex without marriage was more scandalous than holding people as slaves.”
Wow. Like wow. Talk about a huge stain on our history of the church. And it’s far from our only one. Reading this book, I couldn’t help but wonder what book will be written about the Christian church 100 years from now. Will that book finish with the sentence “Self-proclaimed and widely recognized as the nation’s “conscience,” the churches appeared to be saying that loving someone of the same gender was more scandalous than allowing people to freeze on the streets”? Or “than bombing citizens in foreign nations”? Or anything else that the church sits by and lets happen today?
This week, our campus was visited by some hate-preaching Christians. I didn’t see them myself, but from what I could gather from other’s accounts, they were your run-of-the-mill hate-proclaiming crazies. But they bore our name as Christians. When we encounter these hate-preaching Christians, it’s really easy to shrug it off and say, “Well that’s not who we are. We’re real Christians.” Which is a cop-out. Because for some people, this type of Christian is the only type of Christian they’re interacting with. Mainly because those types of Christians tend to be the loudest. But why is that? Isn’t love more radical than hate? Why can’t our voices be louder? Aren’t there more of us? If we are God’s hands and feet and we show God’s love through our actions, shouldn’t our actions speak louder than their words?
We can’t cop-out and shrug those Christians off as “not Christian.” Because they bear our name and whether we like it or not they’re staining our history. Instead, we need to bust out the Tide and make our loving voices louder.
A glimpse at the musings of the LCM Food and Faith small group:
Bread is fascinating. I know it seems like a mundane and perhaps boring food, but stay with me here. It takes simple ingredients, at its core just consisting of ground up grain and water, and transforms them into a delicious and completely altered form. Through the complexity of chemistry the inedible becomes not only edible, but incredibly valuable. We value bread so much that we have given the driving force of our world (money) a nickname that comes from bread (dough). Bread has started revolutions in its absence (French Revolution anyone?) Even more importantly, it is the basis of almost every culture’s diet. If we went on an international culinary bread tour, we could eat baguettes from France, focaccia from Italy, soda bread in Ireland, naan and roti from India, dark rye bread in Russia, tortillas in Mexico, pandesal in the Philippines, bannock from North America, or mantou in China (“Bread”, 2010). Bread feeds the world, and gives us all common ground. It is something that both feeds our bodies and soul as well as brings us into community.
To me bread is more than my morning toast; it represents the core of my faith. Simply eating requires me to rely on God’s abundant gifts. Gifts of nature, talent, and time that are shared not only with me but with my friends and families, bringing us together over the sharing of a meal. It is rather humbling eating something that has been made for some 30,000 years, something that was shared on the communion table. The simple gift of bread becomes a platform for community, a moment to share in faith and to sustain us as we live out our beliefs.
At the same time, bread can be a challenge to our beliefs. It provides an interesting lens to look at the global food crisis. As a culture, we value and romanticize the bread that is homemade and local; bread that reminds us of Tuscan villages or of Mom hand kneading dough. Some say this romanticized notion of bread is what could fix our food system, if only we could all go back to making bread and other foods locally and in a healthy way. At the same time, this is not economically viable for less wealthy nations. Citizens of small poor communities cannot afford to spend all of their time growing and harvesting grain and manipulating it into bread, so they utilize mass production and preservatives. It is simply not viable nor sustainable for their communities. So here we are, with an interesting question. What is better: eating in an environmentally friendly way that is not viable and even detrimental to small impoverished communities, or feeding the world processed and preservative-rich white bread that is cheap and plentiful while possibly hurting our bodies? We have a rather murky situation, one that also brings interesting questions to a Christian community. How can we share God’s gifts while protecting his creations? I certainly don’t have an answer. All I know is that a still have a lot to learn from bread.
This rant brought to you by:
A big, warm HOLA from Buenos Aires, Argentina. I’ve been exploring and digging through the layers of this beautiful city for six weeks now… Holy moly. This is (apparently) about the time that homesickness sets in during a semester abroad. I definitely miss my family and friends like crazy, but Skype and Facebook have made staying connected fairly simple.
This past week, however, I noticed that I was feeling a different kind of homesickness. I’ve officially named it, “Community sickness.” For all 21 years of my life, I’ve had an amazing spiritual community present in my life. Communities that pushed me to ask and answer challenging questions, supported me through difficult life experiences, celebrated my successes, and helped me create my morals and values. Thanks to these communities–LCM in particular– I now notice the absence of curiosity, integrity, hospitality, service, and justice.
I was CRAVING to share my spiritual experiences/”God Sightings”/life-giving moments with a community, so I sent a frantic e-mail to three Pastors that have supported me through my faith journey, asking for connections in Buenos Aires. They all responded within 24 hours with words of wisdom, names, and places that would help me fill this void. I also reached out to my program coordinator here in BA, and she gave me the address to a Methodist church close to my home-stay.
I decided to check it out and figured I could hide in the back and sneak out if I felt uncomfortable. Like a good little Lutheran, I arrived 15 minutes early to claim my pew. Besides the choir practicing, I was the first one there…so much for blending in the background! I sat down and an energetic Argentine man (the Pastor) came running toward me, greeted me with a, “Bienvenida!” and a kiss on the cheek. He asked where I was from and then asked what church I went to in the US. His response when I told him I was Lutheran literally brought me to tears: Ahhh, sí! Somos familia! Ahh, yes! We are family!
Everyone who came in greeted me with a kiss on the cheek or a friendly wave, and the congregation ended up being around 40 people. I’m pretty sure God was hugging me for the next hour and a half… I felt so comfortable, and I couldn’t stop smiling/crying. The congregation was a beautiful hodgepodge of varied ages, colors, languages, and social classes…
Lady who sings louder than anyone else and somehow makes tone-deafness sound beautiful: check.
Old man who sings lower than anyone else and makes it his personal responsibility to set the pace of the hymn: check.
80 year-old organist who plays at his own speed and doesn’t notice that he’s two measures behind the congregation: check.
Young girl constantly giggling and bouncing from pew to pew, unable to pay attention: check.
I was able to understand (for the most part) the sermon, and I’m pretty sure it was written for me. Or maybe I understood what I wanted to…? In a nutshell, it was about asking important questions, accepting when the answers aren’t always there, and searching for ways to strengthen your faith in times of trial.
When it was time for communion, everyone gathered around the altar at once. It was so powerful for me to hear the Words of Institution in Spanish and to share the meal with beautiful strangers. The pan de vida was passed out to everyone, and after we all received our bread, the Pastor exclaimed, Comimos! We eat! The same happened with the wine and, Bebimos! We drink. I’ve never been a part of such an intimate communion… it was beautiful.
Still standing in front of the altar, we were asked to share our prayer requests with the congregation and our prayers were then held up by the entire group. Again, a very unique and intimate experience.
After the service, I was approached by various members of the congregation inviting me to a Friday night group for students, concerts, and other events around the city. A stellar representation of hospitality 🙂 I left la iglesia feeling re-energized and full of life. I practically skipped home, smiling the whole time.
Maybe I was so moved by this experience because not once did I feel like an outsider. I was greeted immediately as I walked in, and felt the presence and beauty of the Spirit through hymns, prayers, and hospitality. As I was leaving, an older woman yelled, Chau, mi amor! Hasta luego! Goodbye, my love! See you later! Maybe I felt so connected to this community because it echoes the values of LCM and embodies the spirit of who we strive to be.
It’s kind of cool to feel this void, acknowledge it, and respond to it. I’ve learned that I need community. I know what a strong community looks and feels like because I’ve been surrounded by them for 21 years, and for that, I am incredibly thankful. As the semester continues, I encourage all of us to reach out to the girl trying to hide in the back pew. Continue to push your boundaries in hopes of creating a community that fosters curiosity and leaves people skipping home, wanting to share the good news.
Paz y Amor,
“How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen?”
Habakkuk is an interesting guy, I’ll tell ya that. Pastor Kate introduced the two of us this past Wednesday at pause. Now you see, I thought he was going to be like Isaiah with lots of questions and curious to seek more and more of God, but let’s all be real here: he was calling God out. How long did he have to wait? How long was he going to ask questions? How long was he going to have to keep spreading the good word of the Lord if he didn’t even have the answers himself?
Sometimes I feel like Habbakuk and I should’ve been best friends (I mean, if we had lived at the same time). Of course I’ve had my “Oh, so that’s who God is” moments, but like any other college student, well, any other person living on Earth in today’s world, I’ve witnessed and asked God this question. “How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen?” Now, you see God and I have always had a pretty good relationship. He’s led me to find camp and all that comes with it, to know that there’s a pretty special guy waiting out there for me, and more about how to live my life as a follower of Christ. When I started the school year, I was pretty excited. But of course, like anyone, there were some burdens that came with that. I haven’t had time to tell a lot of people about what’s been happening, but I felt called to recently and thought this could be the place to start.
My mom was diagnosed with colon cancer back in May and to be honest, I haven’t thought about it too much, which is probably why I just haven’t been able to tell people yet. At first, it came with all of the hard questions like “What stage are you in?” and “How much cancer is actually in your body?” And although it wasn’t fair, I thought about the worst. And I never really asked God why the whole thing was happening. Over the course of the summer and up until now my mom has been handling the chemo relatively fine, but she occasionally has low counts in her body. That means if anyone gets her sick, she could be in serious trouble. She also tells me she is tired and never has enough energy to complete a lot of the things she’d like to. Part of me wants to just say, “God, I know everything is okay and You’re dealing with it” but the other half wants to say “Really? After all this time and You’re going to put my mother of all people through this?” It really hurts my heart to be conflicted in such a way that goes against God and what I believe in (in a sense), but sometimes I just am so upset with God and I don’t get my questions answered. How do I continue to love and be loved with a situation that is bigger than myself or anyone else to handle?
On top of that, my great-grandma passed away just last week and I’ve recently lost someone who was a great friend to me. Now, I’m not trying to be like Habbakuk in the sense of being a complainer (sorry buddy), but how does God put up with things like this? I know He didn’t purposefully want this to happen, but how can He just sit around and expect me to deal with all of it?
I found peace in the same answer He gave to Habbakuk:
“Look at the nations and watch—
and be utterly amazed.
For I am going to do something in your days
that you would not believe,
even if you were told.”
And now every time I think about my mom or every other crazy thing happening around me, I will simply remember this: For I am going to do something in your days that you would not even believe even if you were told. That, my friends, is why I am Christian and Lutheran and why I believe my God will come to heal and change and love all things.