Saturday, May 26, 2012

Some Unsolicitated "Wisdom"

I think it's funny how there are things we pick up along the way.  Things that no one ever says but life teaches us to be "true".  The sad thing is, they aren't true - not even a little bit.  I think we all have these.   Experiences, interactions, realized dreams, and deferred hopes shape us greatly.  They are different for us all.   The thing about these untruths we come to believe is that they can be unlearned just as they can be learned.  It takes more time and more work but in the end, it is worth the effort.  So here are some things I have relearned in response to my misconceptions (and am most likely still learning):

Not all friends are forever friends.  You love them for a season and they love you back.  While the evolution of friendships is sure to occur, it is not always easy or painless.  While it is easy to place blame, you can't.  Life leads us in different paths.  But in the end, you are thankful for their role - for what you learned from them and for how you grew from their influence.  I can think of people I wish were still a present role in my life but are not.  I miss them but can now look back in thankfulness for the time we had together.

Some relationships never end.  Despite moves, career changes, set backs, and life itself, some friends are with you through it all.  Oceans and continents may separate you but some friends are beautifully stubborn - they won't leave you.  They often love you in spite of you or anything you can say/do.  These are rare and are the joys of our lives, not to be taken for granted.

No does not mean the end.  There are so many things that we can hope for in life.  There are the big ones that change everything (life stages) and the little one that make life fun (days off of work).  Yet, when hope in deferred, it really can make the heart sick - especially the big ones.  However, just because life takes a turn, it don't always lead to a dead end.  It can mean a shift in paradigm, a refocus, a new way to view the world/situation.  Often we have no say in how things will turn out but we do have a choice in how we respond to them.  In the joy, we sing.  In the disappointments, we turn to Plan B or Plan F or Plan V.  What we never do is give up.  Hope is the one thing we cannot afford lose.

You cannot be everything for everyone.  This people pleaser struggles here.  Despite every effort you can put in to someone/something, you will at some point drop the ball.  That is okay.  People have different needs and we cannot meet them all.  To think we can is vain.  Yet, when things don't work out, we cannot fully blame ourselves.  Yes, there are times when we must take responsibility for our actions but we cannot take on things that do not belong to us.

We cannot take ownership of things that don't belong to you.  In all types of relationships, in curveballs thrown at you, in the highs, and in the lows, you cannot take responsibility for the actions, opinions, and demands of others.  You are responsible for yourself and no one else.  You are made just as you are - your personality, your relational skills, your mannerisms, and so much more.  This is what defines who you are.  This is all you can give, all you can offer.  No one can negate that and you cannot belittle that.  Are we perfect?  No.  Are we free from growth and self improvement?  No.  At the same time, we are who we are and that is a beautiful thing!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

So This is Love

For 32 years, I've had the huge blessing of watching a love story be told.  It is a story of a man and a woman who met in a funeral home - her with an eye patch and him only there to get a friend to leave him alone.  It went from first impression to a first date.  According to her, that was all it took.  One date, one kiss.  Yesterday they celebrated 36 years of marriage.  Through it, they have blessed so many more than just me.  Yet, as their own, I get the benefit of seeing first hand what a healthy marriage looks like.  I've seen what it looks like to disagree and to be on the same page.  I've seen them lovingly roll their eyes at each others cheesiness.  I've seen them fight for each other.  I've seen them fall in love over and over again.  They work together and play together.  They've built a family, a life, a story.  I'm so aware of the fact that I'm blessed beyond words that my parents are still together.  No, not just together but together in a love that continues to grow.  Happy 36th, Mom and Dad!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Losing Life

Last night at church we sang "I Will Follow" by Chris Tomlin.  It is a song that has significant importance to me.  It was my theme song through the decision process of whether to come to Egypt or stay in the states.  It was the song that was playing when Egypt became a reality.  Every time I hear it, it reminds me that I am right where I need to be.  It is confirmation.  It is calming.  It is peace.

The second half of the chorus goes: 
Who you love, I'll love, 
How you serve, I'll serve, 
If this life I lose, I will follow you

Last night I realized this is a song that will ever evolve for me.  As we sang it I had this thought:  It isn't a matter of IF this life I lose but a matter of WHEN this life I lose.

I think that we are in a time of serious self focus - how to make me happy, how to better myself, how to make life easier for me.  And by we, I include myself.  It's easy to sit back and think about what would be best for me.  What can I say or do to make myself feel good?  What would be fun for me?  What is easy and convenient?  But that isn't what life is about....

When I stop considering others, I don't love.  When I don't consider the consequences of my actions and words, I don't love.  When my time is spent focused on me, I run the risk of not serving.  This life isn't about self focus.  It's about loving others.  It's about putting myself second and seeking the best for those around me. It's about learning to let go of my own desires - sometimes even my own hopes.  It's about sacrifice.  That's what love is.  Letting go of self for the betterment of those around me.

That's what we're called to do - to love, to serve, to shed our selfishness.  

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

To Be Thought a Beauty

Tonight I was checking on things one more time before going to bed and I saw that my sister posted this:

L was quiet on the drive home from MDO. Why? "Because I love Daryl and he said I'm not pretty." So it begins.

First, I just have to ask this question:  Who is Daryl and why has he completely lost his everloving mind?  In 15 years he will look back at this amazing three year old and hang his head in regret for what he said.  I mean, just look at her:

Now don't get me wrong, it is my understanding that she is every bit a three year old.  But that's just it, she is three years old.  She shouldn't be hearing that she isn't pretty at three years old - even if it is from a three year old boy.  I'm so thankful that she has amazing parents, especially a father, that won't let that take root.

Overreacting aunt?  Maybe a bit but I think not.  Knowing that you are beautiful is something a woman needs to know.  I've been encountering it a lot lately from women of all ages:

- In my class is a little girl who is just a tomboy.  Not just tomboy but TOMBOY!  However, when you look her in the eyes and tell her how beautiful her smile is, she lights up from the inside out.
- I was changing at the gym the other day and I overheard some girls that looked about ten years old talking about which is better: to be called pretty or beautiful.  I so wish I had a recorder to have captured those few minutes.  It was so funny in the sweetest of ways!  When I mentioned it to Jen later that evening, she and I both immediately knew the correct answer - beautiful!  We too have thought about this.
- I'm reading a memoir of a girl, her father, and their relationship as told through books they have read together.  I've just finished the part when she was 16 and her dad got choked up at the sight of her about to leave for the prom.
- I've been in so many conversations with girlfriends lately about their desire to get back in shape for _______ (insert name here).  They want to be beautiful for him.
- I know wives that after years of marriage, they still want to be beautiful for their husbands.

For years I thought is sounded vain and silly, this beauty thing.  I don't anymore.  It's a part of being a woman.  We are so hard on ourselves and just want to know that someone sees it in us.  Not just someone but someone that matters.  It doesn't matter if we are three years old or 103, we want to be beautiful.  To be told you aren't pretty or to just simply be ignored is damaging to our hearts.

So my sweet Liz, if I were not so far away I would scoop you up, look into your lovely eyes, and tell you how you are the most beautiful three year old I've ever seen.  Every word of it would be true.

Friday, May 04, 2012


A week ago right at this moment, I was walking through the streets of the Old City in Jerusalem.  Never in my life did I think that would be a sentence I could honestly type.  When Emily invited me to join her on a quick trip to Israel, it was a dream come true.  Not being overdramatic or exaggerating, Israel has been a place I have only dreamed of.  It is a place of history.  It has been the home of men and women I have grown to love and admire over the course of my lifetime.  Having never met them, I have always dreamed of seeing the places they wandered and made their homes.    I've long been of the idea that you don't know a person until you see where they are from, until you see their home.  This was my chance.

We flew in on Tuesday night and stayed in Tel Aviv.  My few short hours there reminded me of Austin.  It made me really happy to be somewhere so familar.  We got up and drove up the western coast the next day to Mt. Carmel.  I kept saying over and over again, "It's so pretty!"  In fact, it was beautiful and I was so engrossed in it that I didn't take any pictures.  It was a national holiday so by the time we made it to Carmel, it was closed.  I didn't care though.  I got to see it.  I got to see where one of my favorite events happened.  It was nothing like I expected it to look like.  This is the only picture I took in the area.  You can kind of see it in the background.

After Carmel, we drove over the Galilee.  Still so beautiful and peaceful.  As we drove around, I made the comment to Emily that being there felt like home.  I can't explain it.  I have always struggled with feeling at home wherever I am.  Ironically, Israel naturally felt like home after only a day.  We got to see that Israeli Memorial Day is similar to American Memorial Day - barbecues, swimming, and lots of friends/family.  We saw the countryside, went to a museum with a boat dating back to the time of Christ, and of course, the Mountain of Beatitudes.  It was so lovely right on the Sea of Galilee and overlooking the area.  The garden that has been planted there was stunning.  Calm and beautiful.

Church of the Beatitudes

Galilee Countryside (sea, mountians, vineyards, and towns tucked into the hills)  So beautiful!

After Galilee it was time to head south to Jerusalem.  Along the way we drove along the Jordan River and looked across into Jordan many times.  It was amazing.  Throughout the trip, we never got anywhere near Palestinean territory.  This was the only time we encountered it and even then, it was a blink of an eye.  Where we were and how we drove made it easy to forget the situation there.  Unfortunately, its not that easy in real life.  It is interesting to love a place and stuggle with its politics all at the same time.

Once arriving, we parked outside the gate and walked into the Old City.  We were staying in the Muslim Quarter so we entered through the Damascus Gate.  As we entered, it was like walking into the Khan.  I instantly thought about Jesus clearing the temple.  It was loud and chaotic but it settled down the further into the center we got.  We settled and set out to look around/get our bearings.  We found our way to the Armenian and Jewish Quarters.  These were my two favorite quarters.  Since we were in the Jewish Quarter, we made our way to the Western Wall.

The Western Wall was one of my favorite places on the trip.  It was incredible to be there and to be surrounded by people worshipping there.  When I was actually up at the wall, I was accidentally bumped.  I opened my eyes and there at my feet were the prayers of women who had been praying throughout the day.  Along the base of the wall were prayers in every language.  It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen in my life.  The only thing that touched me more was looking around to see the men and women that looked about my grandparents' age.  These were men and women that have waited their whole lives for this very moment.  They were experiencing a lifelong dream come true.  It was moving like few things I've ever seen.  As if those two things weren't enough, a sweet little girl topped it off for me.  She had gotten seperated from her family and was running behind them calling for her Abba.  It made me smile.

After the Western Wall, we walked around the Old City a bit more.  There were beautiful sights and churches everywhere.  Here is one of the churches on the Via Dolorosa.

There are many more pictures I could share but this is a long enough post as it is.  After walking around, we went to a neighborhood outside the Old City to this fantastic Kosher restaurant.  It was a first for me to choose the meat or dairy side of the restaurant/menu.  After an amazing dinner, we went to this frozen yogurt place Emily knew of where you could create your own flavor.  So yummy!

The next day we decided to walk the Via Dolorosa.  We looked at the map, found the locations and meanings of each station of the walk and took off.  On the way, we stopped in the Armenian Quarter and went into St. James church.

We also went out to Mt. Zion.  We went by David's Tomb and tried to find the Last Supper location.  Along the way, we saw the Church of the Dormation and a Fransiscan church.

After this we walked up to Gethsemane.

This is a view of the Mercy (Eastern) Gate from Gethsemane.  You can see it closed up and the cemetery in front of it - all to prevent the Messiah coming in.  Honestly, I had forgotten about this until Erin asked me about it when I got back.  I just happened to have this shot and am now so thankful for it!

We also decided to walk up to the Mount of Olives instead of coming back later.  It made for some amazing views of Jerusalem.  We were able to see the Old and New City, the Kidron Valley, and the cemeteries of the city.  This is also the best view we had of the Dome on the Rock since we aren't allowed to go in.

After a few minutes of enjoying the view, we went continued on to the Via Dolorosa.  It took a few hours but was such a interesting experience.  I liked how many different traditions had a role in presenting the stations of the cross.  While some were more meaningful to me than others, it was an amazing thing to see how others responded to it.  Again, there are photos of each station but I think this one sums it up pretty well:

After we went through all fourteen stations, we made our way out to another location others believe Jesus's death and burial site.  It was just outside the Old City and was another place that was significantly meaningful to me.

That night we went to have Ethiopian food for dinner.  It is Emily's favorite and I was up for an adventure.  It was tasty and I'm really glad we went.  Afterwards we went to find the frozen yogurt place again but quickly realized it was offically Sabbath.  Everything was closed except for trusty McDonalds.  Thank goodness they have pretty good soft serve!  As we were walking around, we saw some orthodox men walking to synogoge singing and clapping happily.  I so wanted to video them but have enough sense to not be that person.  We also saw people coming and going to synogoge as we walked around further.

The Old City walls at night:

The next day we headed back to Tel Aviv for our flight back to Cairo.  It was the morning we got an hour back of our time.  We still have no idea how that happened.  We also received the most thorough security sweep known to man.  Thank you Egypt for being such a great neighbor!  That extra hour came in handy with that hour and a half search.  We made it in and then made it back to real life.

I loved travelling with Emily.  She has become one of my favorite people.  She makes me laugh but can also hold some great conversations.  From light car ride talks to discussing the history of the region, it was a blast.  It was fun to be driving along and see a sign for Mt Nebo, pull out her Kindle, and seeing what happened there. (Where Moses saw the Promised Land and then died).  That happened several times.  We were so busy enjoying it we didn't get a single picture together.  Despite that, I'm glad my first trip to Israel was with her.

It was an amazing trip!  I was talking to a coworker on the bus yesterday morning and he said something that I totally agreed with.  Israel is one of the most alive places he has ever been.  He said that you can go to Roman ruins and ancient temples around the world but they have obviously ended.  Israel has been here for thousands of years and it is still here.  It's so true.  It lives and breathes generations of life.  I loved it.  I loved it so much that I booked a return ticket for June.  Fours days was NOT enough time.  The plane, guesthouse, and a tour are booked.  My list of things to see is in the works with some places already set.  That week won't be enough time either.  Israel will be that place I love more and more.  It will be that place where I can't go enough.  Israel, how I cannot wait to see you again!