Thursday, December 13, 2007

Sleepless in Tempe

It is 6:18 AM, and I haven't slept tonight.

This is probably the fifth night I've had like this in the past week and a half. I'm not cramming for finals. I'm not doing much of anything. I just can't sleep.

Here are the recent happenings in my life:

- I didn't get into the nursing program.
- I'm going to be in a wedding on the 22nd of December.
- On the 23rd of December, I'm packing up my clothes, saying goodbye to my dog, and moving my life back to Northern California.
- I'm spending my spring semester in Dijon, France.
- I've applied to 5 nursing schools (ASU included, for the 3rd time), but there's no guarantee that I'll have a spot waiting for me when I get back to the States.

I'm not sure where my life is headed, but I hope it's somewhere wonderful.

Part Ten: Boredom

I don't think that I was bored for one second while I was in Namibia.

Mornings were spent at school.

Afternoons were reserved for naptime. Cierra and I never managed to fall asleep. Instead, we'd play cards. Do laundry. Talk. Read outside.

The most exciting afternoon outing was walking to the Spar, the local grocery store. We'd walk over to buy Cokes, chips, and chocolate. There was a phone and a computer next door to the Spar, so we'd call or write home. We would see students from school and say hello.

Midway through the trip, Cierra, Cat, and I decided that we needed to tan. After all, we were on summer break, right? We took our sleeping bags into the backyard and laid out. It was absurd and wonderful.

Most nights were spent watching Justin, the two-year-old son of my trip leader, dance. At two years old, he was a much better dance than any of the Navigator team.

We played music. We asked about each other's life stories. We wrote silly songs

We would dress up. One night, we decide to style our hair and wear skirts to dinner, which was always at the boys' house. When we showed up, they asked why we were so fancy.

"Where are you going?"
"Out. To the club."
"What club?"
"Oh, you know...some really exclusive club. We hear that they're going to feed us."

I loved spending time with my team and inventing things to do.

Part Nine: Mweshipandeka

School was amazing and difficult. Girls would heckled me as I tried to teach, asking questions that would make me blush. Two minutes after class was over, they'd be giggling with me, trying to teach me Oshiwambo, exchanging addresses, asking how to avoid temptation. I loved them.

Their faces and stories haunt me nearly every day.

Johanna, who was panicked about passing her Grade 12 exams, who wanted me to pray for her

Olivia, whose fiance beats her. She stays with him, even though she doesn't love him. She says she's never loved him.

Rocxy, whose only goal that week was to teach me Oshiwambo

Frida, who asked for my copy of "Choose to Wait"

Julia, one of the bravest girls I've ever met. She dropped out of school to have her baby, and then came back. She wants to be the future of Namibia. She wants to be a marine biologist. I deeply desire to know how she is, how her daugher is, what God is doing in her life.

I returned to our house angry and exhausted. I don't understand a culture where a young girl is beaten by her boyfriend, and all she knows how to do is laugh. I cannot accept a society where there is an epidemimc of young women dropping out of school because they are carrying their teacher's babies. These men are supposed to protect and educate these young women, but instead, are using one of the few lucrative professions in Namibia in order to exploit them. Yes, these things happen in the United States, but we agree that they are not acceptable. In Namibia, I got the feeling that nobody cared. Nobody wanted to change the system. These girls were expendable; they had no value.

I would tell my stories to my teammates, often in disbelief. I craved someone to tell me that it wasn't right, and to give me a vague idea of what I should say.

Part Eight: The First Day of School

We were terrified about dancing. I mean...let's be honest...when a group of white college students dances in front of an assembly of African teens, do you expect them to be impressed?

They laughed. We knew they would, and hoped that they wouldn't, but we weren't surprised when they did.

After our assembly, we broke up into groups of two or three and taught classes. I didn't quite know what to say. How was I supposed to start? Would they ask me questions? How should I relate to them? What did I want to say? What if they didn't pay attention? Who in the world decided that I was capable of talking to African teens about abstinence when I wouldn't feel comfortable doing the same thing in my native country?

My first day at Mweshipandeka High School was too full and too real.

The young man who feigned disinterest while Robin was talking, but later came to ask me questions about HIV. He didn't want to get tested, because he was afraid to test positive. He couldn't have been older than sixteen.

A Grade 12 classroom with no books on the shelves.

Things that were heartbreakingly difficult to hear, and impossible to respond to: "I've heard that in the United States, they have the cure for AIDS, but they just want us Africans to suffer."

Kaylen and I walked into a Grade 9 Home Sciences class. They didn't have a teacher. As soon as we entered the classroom, the girls started screaming. "Can we hug you?" they squealed. We both said yes, and had girls running toward the front of the classroom. After a few minutes, most of them returned to their seats. They asked about the United States. Did we know any famous people? (No.) Were we movie stars? (Of course not.) What do you think of Namibia? (It's a very nice country, and I love the people.) We talked about sex, relationships, abstinence. One of the girls in the back asked if we were missionaries. I was taken aback, because yes, I was a missionary, and I hadn't realized it. The thought of being a missionary terrified me. This girl, Priscilla, wanted to be a missionary, and wanted to know how you become a missionary.

Those Grade 9 girls stole my heart that day. For the rest of the trip, all I wanted to do was hang out with them, laugh with them, mentor them. They were so incredibly open, and wanted to tell me everything about their lives: the good, the bad, the embarrassing, the exciting.

After their class, I went back to the gym and nearly cried when telling one of my teammates about the amazing love that these girls had shown me. These girls were yearning for someone to guide them, listen to them, care about them.

Part Seven: The Wedding

I love weddings.

I'll watch weddings on TV. I'll browse wedding planning websites. I'll beg to be invited to weddings, because I LOVE WEDDINGS.

Part of my time in Namibia included attending a semi-traditional Oshiwambo wedding. Needless to say, I was thrilled. I couldn't wait. A wedding!

The night before the wedding, our team helped decorate the church. We didn't have much with which to decorate. Toilet paper. Food coloring. Balloons. But somehow, we made the church look amazing. Toilet paper and green food coloring turned into polka-dot crepe paper. We ran toilet paper bows down the aisle. We hung balloons from the ceiling; Jerome balanced on a ladder while a whole crew of guys held onto it.

The most amazing part of the night before the wedding was when Rico, Jerome, and Ashwin sat in the middle of the church and started singing hymns in flawless harmony. At that second, I thought I'd never be able to go home. How had I lived for nineteen years without this?

The morning of the wedding found the girls' house in complete excitement. We swapped clothes, eager to dress up, even though "dressing up" only meant showering and trying to find something semi-clean/not-too-wrinkly to wear.

The ceremony was lovely. There was at least an hour and a half of worship music, then a sermon, and then the actual wedding ceremony. The wedding party DANCED down the aisle. I don't think that I've ever been to a more beautiful wedding. I loved every second of it. (True to the concept of "Namibian time", some guests were still arriving after the kiss!)

After the church, everyone headed to a local water park to take pictures with the bride and groom. The park had waterslides, a mini zoo with monkeys, and springbok roaming the grounds.

After taking pictures, we waited headed home, changed into jeans, went to the reception site, and waited for everything to start. We waited. And waited. And waited. In Namibia, the new couple goes to the bride's reception first, and then to the groom's reception. We were guests of the groom, so our reception was delayed a little bit...about two hours. At this point, it was late afternoon, and we hadn't eaten since breakfast, but we were too excited to complain.

The couple finally showed up, accompanied by Oshiwambo women in their traditional dress. According to custom, the groom must wait at the gate for his father to come and welcome him in. Evidently, it's also a custom that the father make the son and his new bride wait. At this point, the guests were going wild, ululating, dancing, singing.

The bride and groom made their way into the tents. There were gigantic plates of food, and more types of meat than I've ever seen in one place at one time. We ate and laughed and drank too many Cokes and danced with complete strangers. It was the simplest, most beautiful, most joyful wedding I've ever had the honor of attending.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Part Six: First Reflections on Oshakati

We lived in two houses: one for the boys, one for the girls. We slept on foam mats on the floor. There were six girls in my room, and four in the other. We had two bathrooms. One shower, for bathing. One bathtub, which would soon be used for washing clothes. We each had a backpack, a sleeping bag, and a few outfits. Cat was allergic to wheat and had brought a suitcase full of gluten-free food. Anna, Kaylen, and Aften had lost their luggage somewhere along the way, so we shared clothes, soap, antimalarials.

We arrived in Oshakati on a Thursday and would not start school until Monday. The first few days were spent experiencing the culture. Enthony and Andrew introduced me to Oshikandela, a thick yogurt drink. I wasn't a fan, but whenever we stopped for gas or went into town, they would buy some.

I'd spent my whole life being "Mexican-American", whatever that means. I was intermediate. I was brown. I was a woman of color, wasn't I? But as soon as I stepped foot on African soil, I was white. In Namibia, there was only black and white. I was an American. From the way that I looked, people knew exactly who I was and where I was from; for me, it was unsettling.

Most billboards in Namibia feature condoms or alcohol. I wasn't shocked by the fact that there were condom billboards, but I was surprised by the sheer number of them. However, they were completely outnumbered by alcohol ads. Nearly every other shop that we saw was a bar. I asked Bonita if alcohol was inexpensive in Namibia. She told me that it wasn't, and didn't say much more about it; people would rather spend their hard-earned money on alcohol than on food or clothing.

I wondered if my heart should break more for those living in economic poverty or in spiritual poverty. I was experiencing a lot of guilt at this point. Guilt because I had never known what it meant to be in need. Guilt because I lived on my own and rented a room that was bigger than some of the shacks I was seeing. Guilt because I had never washed clothes by hand. Guilt because I was born halfway around the world and rarely ever thought about this side of the world.

I was very quiet during the first few days in Oshakati. I didn't want to speak and allow my thoughts to seem less real, or more frivolous. Andrew had quickly become one of my closest friends on trip. "Where are you?" he would ask me. "Are you overseas?" It seemed that if I wasn't lost in thoughts of Tempe, I would forget about it altogether. I would steal quick memories of my ASU friends, salt river tubing, my dog. But most of the time, I was still in Namibia, wondering how to respond to the things I was experiencing.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Part Five: The Bakkie

I spent the first three hours of the trip in the back of the bakkie (truck) with three other people. Cierra, Cat, Jerome, and I squished ourselves into a camper shell, on top of the mattresses we would be sleeping on for the next month. I was glad that it wasn't hot; I couldn't imagine sitting back there in the summer heat. We played cards. Jerome talked us into trying biltong, which is Namibian beef jerky. We told Jerome that we wanted to be Namibian. He told us that we would be on probation for the next three days, and that we needed to learn the national anthem.

By the time we stopped for lunch, we were grumpy from hunger and queasy from riding sideways down bumpy roads. We ate fried egg sandwiches that we'd brought along, and bought french fries and drinks from the grocery store.

The drive was long, and I had ample time to think about my expectations for the trip. Here is what I wrote in my journal that night:
"I want to listen more and speak less. I want to care more about what others are saying and to daydream less. I want to live with a deeper understanding and a greater concern for what life looks like, and how people around the world live. I want to focus less on words that hurt me and more on blessing others with what I choose to say. I want to speak scripture as everyday language."

Part Four: Hodygos Training Centre

We saw zebras from the airplane. And springbok. We stepped off the plane, and I was in AFRICA!!! It was surreal. Lacey, Jameson, Merrilee, and I were finally reconnected with the rest of our non-Namibian team. They were waiting for us, and for their luggage, about half of which made it to the airport in Windhoek, the capital of Namibia. We loaded our bags into the bus and drove the hour from Windhoek to Okahandja. I don't remember much from the drive, because I was exhausted. However, I DO remember that we saw baboons on the side of the road and that was the highlight of our drive.

Hodygos Training Centre is located in Okahandja, and it is "home base" for Youth for Christ of Namibia. It's your typical bible camp/weekend retreat/ministry training campus. There were cabins with bunkbeds, and a dining hall, and a worship center. YFC has a program called Short Term Missionary Training (STMT), which is a year-long Bible study program. The STMT students live on Hodygos during their training, and their focus is the outreach on which we would be going. YFC of Namibia also has a team called Generation21 (G21), which is a dance and drama team that goes into Namibia schools to preach the gospel and talk about abstinence.

The first night, we barely had enough energy to make it through dinner. We sang, ate, and headed off to bed. We also took our first shower since we'd left the States. I was so tired that I almost forgot to wash the shampoo out of my hair.

Our first few days at Hodygos were pivotal for team bonding. We went into Okahandja to exchange money and to see the town. The girls in my cabin, the girls who would be going to Oshakati, stayed up late, talking and giggling, getting to know each other. Our group would be going to Oshakati with the G21 team, which was significantly smaller than the STMT team. We saw the G21 team dance during our time on Hodygos, and we were very impressed. They were AMAZING. They taught us a few of the dramas, and we spent time before meals trying to pick up some of the African dances. We were awful, but willing to learn.

My biggest worry in the first few days was the food. I hadn't eaten beef for about seven years. It sounds silly, but I spent most of the first week praying for stomach, praying that I wouldn't get sick.

After a few days of rest in Okahandja, we packed up the trucks to make our way to Oshakati. Our trip was delayed two, three, four hours, because one of trucks was in the shop. We spent time getting to know each other better. Playing music. Chasing dogs. Chasing babies. Making lunches. This was our introduction to "Namibian time", which is nothing at all like American time. When the truck was back from the shop, we packed it up, and left on a 9-hour drive north to Oshakati.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Part Three: Up in the Air

It takes a long time to fly from Phoenix, Arizona, USA to Windhoek, NAMIBIA. I think it's somewhere around twenty-three hours in the air. I spent a ton of time in an airplane on the first few days of my trip.

I called my parents in my last few minutes at the airport. My mom's family was in Hawaii for our yearly family reunion, so they all yelled an enormous ALOHA!!! at me. I also got the good news that my cousin Maddie had gotten engaged while they were there. It was great to hear, but my heart was a little sore hearing that my family was on vacation without me, getting engaged without me, and mostly that I would be without them for the next month.

I've been on airplanes before, but the majority of them have either been flights between NorCal and SoCal, or California and Arizona. I was amazed at how huge the plane was.

Here's something silly:
I love airplane food.
I love the way it looks. I love how neat it is. I love that the flight attendants ask you whether you'd like chicken or beef. I love drinking tea, because it makes me feel classy. I love airplanes. I think they're exciting.

I watched "Pan's Labyrinth", "The Holiday" (for the third time) and listened to hours and hours of Simon and Garfunkel. I should have tried to sleep, but I was still too excited, knowing that I would be in AFRICA in less than a day.

*Side note*: At this point in time, Africa was still AFRICA!!! in my mind. New. Unknown. Exciting. All capitals and three exclamation points. AFRICA!!! [It's not that Africa is any less exciting to me now that I've been's just that now I have a deep, real love for the continent, whereas before, all I had were eager expectations.]

We landed in London around 11 a.m., and our flight was scheduled to leave Heathrow around 9 p.m. Our trip leaders handed us passes to the Underground and let us loose on London. At this point, none of us had slept much, and we were carrying all of our carryon baggage. For me, this meant that I had to carry my pillow around London. Also, I was wearing a tie-dyed shirt, while Cierra, one of my teammates, was wearing a shirt with Cheeseasauras Rex on it. Needless to say, we weren't exactly incognito, and I'm sure that people could easily mark us as American tourists.

Cierra and I walked around London for about two hours. We ate at Quizno's, tried to use the internet at McDonald's, and saw the sights. Here's a quick rundown:
- Big Ben was much sparklier than I ever imagined.
- The London Eye was very big.
- We talked to the bobbies, and they pointed us in the direction of Tony Blair's house. The day we were in London was also the day that Tony Blair resigned, so that was interesting, and somewhat exciting to be there.
But mostly, we just walked around in the rain and laughed at the absurdity of US being in LONDON and going on to AFRICA!!!

The team got back to the airport and hopped on the plane which would take us from London, England to Johannesburg, South Africa. I ended up sitting between Cierra and a young man named Conrad, who was travelling from Switzerland to South Africa. He was 17, and we talked about skateboarding, skate shoes, South Africa. By this leg of the trip, my team had discovered Tylenol P.M., so we spent most of the flight getting some much needed sleep.

Our flight had been a few hours late getting into Jo-burg, so my team was running through the airport, trying to make it to the correct terminal. However, for some reason, Merrilee, Jameson, Lacey, and myself got bumped to a later flight. The best part about this was that we got free meal vouchers, so we bought chocolates and sodas and sandwiches and spent some time in the Jo-burg airport getting to know each other better. We ended up on the same flight as the Namibian rugby team, who sat by Merrilee and invited our team to see a match (which sadly, didn't happen, because we didn't have time).

Finally, almost four days after I'd left Phoenix, I was in Namibia.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Part Two: Training in Maryland and Seeing D.C.

I'm so thankful that my team got a chance to train together before we left the States. If we hadn't we would not have been as close as we were, and we would have been wholly unprepared to teach Namibian adolescents to "Choose to Wait".

It was reassuring to see some familiar faces from my Colorado orientation in March. We sat outside for hours talking about great leaders, and what sort of wisdom we could glean from them. Jameson and Lacey, our trip leaders, told us what to expect from the students at Youth for Christ in Namibia, the food in Namibia, the music. The weather in Maryland was perfect: mid to high 80s with birds singing. It was a welcome relief from the Phoenix heat I'd been living in for the previous month and a half.

Some of my favorite memories of orientation are:
- Watching Jameson and Lacey try to remember the hand motions to some of the African songs
- Making crazy sandwiches (cheese, hummus, and Cool Ranch Doritos was the favorite of me and Cierra)

- Sleeping on the floor and giggling all night long because we were so excited about the adventure we were about to begin
- "Choose to Wait" skits
- Eating Chinese food as a big family

Something I was really struggling with was the idea of "mine". I was seeing this trip as "mine" and hoping that "I" would experience and achieve things when in reality, it was all God. God had given me the strength, and the courage, and the funding. This was a theme in which I would fully immerse myself during my time in Namibia.

Our team didn't have time to walk around our nation's capital, so instead, we climbed on a church bus and did a driveby tour of Washington D.C. We saw the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, the White House, and so many other things. On our drive there, we saw Georgetown. I'd love to go back to D.C. and spend more time there someday.

After our driving tour, we went to the airport, and prepared to leave for Africa.

Dear Mr. Healy

*** This is something I wrote about a man for whom I possess a great deal of respect. He passed away last week. Please keep his family and his students (both former and current) in your prayers, as his death leaves a huge crater in so many hearts. As a dear friend of mine, put it, "It's crazy to think that our teachers could ever leave us, when we were the ones who left first." ***

Dear Mr. Healy,

When I first met you, I was an awkward 11-year-old, all knees and elbows, and my voice was the only thing that made me stand out from a line of child auditionees. I was far too tall to be auditioning for Amaryllis and I didn't know the first thing about theater, but on your stage, I met Tristan Rumery. Jordan Rumery. Jordan Gomez (who even back then, was trying to go by Jordan DeRea). Emily DeMaso. Phil Kan.

Two years later, I was back, using theater as a substitute for band. In my first few weeks, you taught me to connect with my pain, my joy, my confusion. I was young and unfocused, but you were training me, day by day. I'll never forget that "Cavalcade" rehearsal where I auditioned for a solo. It felt like my whole world rested on those sixteen bars; you made me sing the whole song. That's what you made me do. You asked me to do one thing and than proved that I could do ten times more than I ever thought.

I auditioned for "Oklahoma" and was stunned not only to get a callback, but a callback for Laurey! I was too green, and certainly too untrained. But it was enough to get me to stay, enough of a goal for me to keep working.

Sophomore year. "Once Upon a Mattress". I was second runner up. It was a show I didn't care much about, but I learned invaluable lessons from you. "You never get a second chance to make a first impression." "First time, every time." and my favorite: "Time is money, and we're going broke." You taught me to be a professional, even at fifteen years old.

Junior year. I started to audition with community theaters, but was unable to perform with them after I failed my driver's test. I got an understudy role in "Grease", and I was frustrated. There had been weeks of build-up, people who had seen my audition and praised me for it. But I kept that to myself, and did my job. My understudy night was one of the most rewarding performances I've ever had.

Senior year was my dream come true. I was able to show you everything you had taught me on a night during "Scrooge" where all the lights went out, and I sang. By myself. No microphones. No lights. No piano. Just me. But it was you, Mr. Healy. I never would have been able to do anything even close to that, had it not been for your guidance. I was nominated for an Elly for vocal directing; I thought I'd just been helping out with harmonies during class. "Les Miserables" was more than anything I could have asked for. I cried after my audition, because I thought I did so horribly. And I came out with the romantic lead. I was sick the whole time, from auditions to closing night, and never for a second thought about asking for an understudy to fill in for me. You taught me that. Without you, I would have whined about my voice every day of rehearsals. But because of you, I did it without even thinking. The show had to go on.

You were my first director, my first employer. You helped me decide where to go to college and what to study. I spent much more time in the theater than I ever did at home. On an application, you once wrote that my weaknesses were "naivete and an overwhelming desire to please". In many ways, you knew me better than I knew myself. I wonder if you knew about everything I faced during those years, all the trouble I got myself into when you didn't have me in rehearsal. I'm sure you did. You always knew the things we least expected that you would know. You guided me through everything, even though I had no idea.

You hugged me on closing night of "Les Miz" with tears in your eyes, and I was stunned. I love you, Healy. My life has been irreversably changed because of you, and for that, I owe you the world. I hope you're dancing enough to make up for all the years you couldn't and belting out songs in your deep baritone voice. This world is a better place because of you, and I know you've taken the musicals in heaven to a whole 'nother level.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Part One: Airports

I'm trying to remember how it felt to leave the USA. I'm sure I was terrified. I'm sure I didn't sleep much before I left. I know that I watched a lot of movies in the days before I left. You see, I do this thing I like to call a "stress coma", where I become so anxious that I just stop moving, and stop doing anything productive. I'm sure I did that; I always do before something big happens.

I left Phoenix around 1 am, on the morning of June 22nd. My first flight was from Phoenix to Houston, on one of those tiny little planes that make me doubt whether or not we'll get blown away by a strong gust of wind way up at 30,000 feet. I tried to sleep, but couldn't. I read a book, "Band of Brothers" by Stephen Ambrose.

I stopped in Houston, and felt like there wasn't a single person in that airport. I brushed my teeth and took my anti-malarials, feeling very grown up and very young at the same time.

Then I sat. And sat. And sat. And didn't sleep, because I was afraid I would miss my flight.

A tiny Mexican lady came up to me, asking if I spoke any Spanish. She was headed to Oaxaca and couldn't find her gate, because she didn't speak English. I'd been to Oaxaca before, and hearing that she was headed there made my heart soar. We talked a little bit about her daughter, who lived in Houston. I was impressed by her courage, impressed by the fact that she was navigating around an airport and a country where she couldn't speak a word of the language. It brought me a lot of peace, knowing that this little woman in red patent leather pumps wasn't letting anxiety hold her back.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

There and Back

So I went to Namibia. And I served the Lord. And I left my heart in Africa. And now I'm back.

We didn't have much access to internet while we were in Oshakati, so I was unable to blog about everything God was doing in us and through us. Honestly, I don't know that I would have been able to do a very good job of writing about everything God was doing. It was BIG. It was amazing. It was wonderful. It was difficult. It was real. I feel like I've promised to write all my stories, and I will, but I think that I'll need some time to process and a lot of time to readjust.

I'm back in California, back at my mom's. I've visited my grandparents and wrestled with my brother. I've gotten my film developed and been shocked at how little I was able to capture. Also, my flash was out of synch with my camera, so I have a roll or two of less-than-perfect photos. I guess that's the thrill of using film and not digital. I'm relearning how to sleep in, although I've had a few nights of being wide awake at 3 a.m. because my body thinks I'm still in Africa. I'm playing with my mom's cats, catching up with old friends, and seeing my world through completely different eyes.

I'll be back in a little while, when I'm ready, and I'll share stories of God's goodness.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Seventeen Days

I leave for Namibia in seventeen days.

It's pretty unreal, to say the very least.

My passport arrived at my mom's house, and it's currently somewhere between El Dorado Hills, California and Tempe, AZ. Passport? Check.

I got a bunch of shots yesterday and I'm in for some more on Thursday. Shots? Check.

My fundraising is where it needs to be, which is a huge blessing. Fundraising? Check.

Plane tickets? Check.

Sleeping bag? Check.

Amazing team? Check.

I'm seventeen days away from spending roughly a day in flight, and flying into a time zone which is eight hours ahead of my typical time zone. Needless to say, I'm freaking out.

I'm going to Namibia in seventeen days. AAAAAAAAAHHHHHH! Crazy.

Monday, May 28, 2007

I Have No Idea What I Want to Be When I Grow Up

At seventeen, I had my whole life planned out. I was going to go to school in San Diego, study biochemistry, sing in some choirs, and leisurely make my way to medical school. I'd become a pulmonologist and focus on pediatrics. I'd do theater on the weekends to blow off some steam. I had a brilliant, flawless plan for my life.

I remembered this in church on Sunday, as we celebrated the graduating seniors. Sitting there, I realized that I have no idea where my life is headed. I feel like so much of my life is contingent on waiting. Waiting to get into nursing school. Waiting to figure out where God wants me to live after I graduate from college. Waiting to see what this summer will bring. I'm halfway through college, and I've never been more confused about who I am and where I'm going.

It's a blessing.

It's counterintuitive for me to see it as a blessing, but it is. Even though I have absolutely no clue where I'm going, I know Who I'm following. I'm serving a God who loves me and cares about every step I take. I'm the daughter of a King who works for the good in everything, even when it hurts and I don't understand.

If I'm going to be honest, I have to admit that I often struggled with trusting God to work for the good in my life. Some days, I walk around paralyzed with fear, because I don't have a carefully scripted plan for my life, and the happenings in my life don't fit into the map that I've drawn.

But when I step back, it's all good. It's all a blessing. Life is hard, and confusing, and wonderful. There aren't any second chances, which makes any small success a devastating victory.

In the past couple weeks, I've had the opportunity to move into a beautiful condo with four amazing ladies. I have a boxer/pit bull puppy who is beautiful, sweet, and fun. I'm finishing my nursing school application before I leave for Namibia. I've been working a lot, and spending time with friends when I'm not working.

I have no idea what fall semester is going to look like, and I'm ecstatic to see how it is going to work out.

To God be all the glory.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Exciting Photos of Exciting People

Confession: I'm not great at this blogging thing. I don't know if anyone really reads this, but if they do, I would think that they would be bored by my lacking of new information. So here is what went on in March.

At the beginning of March, I went to Colorado Springs for a summer missions orientation. In addition to meeting my trip coordinator and finding out more about my trip, I was able to meet some of the people on my team. Here are a few of the ladies on my team when we went to Garden of the Gods. Leslie, Sara, Kindra, Cat, me, Cierra, and Paige. We're all pretty focused on fundraising right now. I'm excited to meet the rest of my team in June and to spend some hard, fun, rewarding time in Namibia.

This is a picture from the Navs Spring Break trip to San Felipe, Mexico. While we spent a lot of time playing on the beach and eating fish tacos, we set aside a day for serving the people of San Felipe. We split up into a few groups. One of our groups laid electrical wire at an orphanage. My group helped a missionary who had been at a hospital for seven years. He had to move back to the States, because his wife's father had become very ill. It was a really emotional time for him, and we were glad to be able to help in whatever way we could. We mostly moved furniture and boxes, but we also spent a lot of time cleaning the hospital, because it had been closed for two years. There were dead cockroaches EVERYWHERE. It was pretty gross. My favorite part of the day was getting to talk with two other Nav girls about what God is doing in our lives lately and what He has been teaching us.

This picture is really, really fun. One of the Nav girls decided that we needed to have a talent show. This is my Bible study, and we decided to dance and lip synch to "Pop! Goes My Heart" from the movie "Music and Lyrics". It was cheesy, campy, and awesome. We won third place, which means that we get to perform again at the end of the year party; that's the trophy between me and Carmel, the girl in the orange.
Also, if you'll direct your attention to my profile picture, you'll see that I cut my hair. After nearly twenty years of long hair and a lot of thinking about it, I decided that a change would be good. So now I have short hair, which is a new, fun experience.
Only three weeks left of classes! A little more than two months until I leave for Namibia!

Monday, March 5, 2007

Where did February GO???

I feel like time has been sprinting away from me. February was especially busy because of my musical, Valentine's Day, and visits from my family. Here's a quick summary in pictures.

This is a picture of me and my seventeen-year-old brother, Aaron. He's an amazing musician, and I think that he's already mastered the "rockstar look". Aaron and my dad flew out to Phoenix on Valentine's Day, and came to see my musical the weekend after Valentine's Day. One afternoon, when we were driving to the theater, we saw the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile. When we were kids, my brother and I absolutely LOVED the Weinermobile, and my greatest ambition was to sing the Oscar Mayer Weiner jingle on the commercials. Anyway, we had quite the photoshoot with the Weinermobile. It was great to have my family come out and visit, because one of the hardest things about going to school in Arizona is being so far away from my family.

These are a few of the beautiful ladies that I have the honor of co-leading in a study on the book of Romans. Val, my co-leader, was driving the van, which is why she's not in the picture, but she's an incredibly wise, amazingly fun woman. From left to right, Maggie, Krystal, Lauren, and Carmel are some of the most hilarious girls I've ever had the opportunity to hang out with. On Valentine's Day, we decided to give Paul and the Romans a break, and instead, we took a field trip to the movies to see "Music and Lyrics". We laughed, we talked in loud voices, we carried around roses, and we ate some funfetti, pink-frosted, Valentine-heart-sprinkled cupcakes. The thing I love most about studying the Bible with these ladies is that we live our lives together. We're able to come together once a week and share our struggles, our triumphs, and our questions. I'm way too blessed to have them in my life and I love them like crazy.

Here a couple pictures from my musical. I was involved with a musical called "The Wager", which was the biblical story of Job, set in modern-day Manhattan. Our production was the world premiere of this musical, which was a fantastic experience. I played the role of "Julie", the oldest daughter of "Jonathan Brytson" (our Job character). In a nutshell, the musical was about a man who has everything: wealth, power, a happy family, and a perfect life. "Lou" (the Satan character) makes a wager with Jonathan's mentor, "J." (the God character), saying that if J would cease with Jonathan for thirty days, Jonathan would turn from him and curse him. J agrees to the wager with Lou, on the condition that Jonathan himself will not be harmed in any way. Lou causes Jonathan's three children to be killed in accidents. Jonathan's wife commits suicide. Jonathan's business fails. Even through all of this, Jonathan is able to retain hope. At the end, J is victorious, and Jonathan realizes that the most important things are not your external possessions, but your hope, your love, and your faith. All in all, it was an amazing experience. I was able to do theater for the first time in a year and a half. We performed in a 1600-seat theater. This is a picture of me, Javier ("J."), and Kaitlyn ("Rebecca", my sister in the musical)

My mom also flew out to see me. She came to see my show on closing night. I was so excited to see her!

These are a few of my friends. We lived together in the dorms last year, and we all live on the same floor again this year. Matt, me, Cassie, and Alicia.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Forgiveness and Faithfulness

God is so faithful.

That's something I should remind myself of every day and something that I don't reflect on nearly often enough.

God is faithful to me.

I had an experience yesterday that humbled me to the point of tears. The story goes back to my senior year in high school, to a friendship with a person who meant a lot to me. Literally overnight, that friendship was gone because of a few silly words and some serious awkwardness. Overnight, I lost one of my best friends, and I was sitting there, trying to pick up the pieces. I cried. I prayed. I wanted to forgive, but I also wanted to hold onto all the hurt that I was feeling. It was six months before this person and I talked again, and even then, nothing was the same. We couldn't talk in the way that we once had. Our friendship wasn't the same. I'd forgiven him for the hurt that I had once felt, but there was never an apology, and we never talked about what had happened in our friendship.

Yesterday, out of the blue, he e-mailed me with an apology. He apologized for blaming me for the demise of our friendship. He apologized for throwing our friendship away and told me that I'd been a good friend to him. This meant a lot to me, because I'd convinced myself that we hadn't been that close, that it was all in my head, that our friendship was simply casual. It touched my heart, this two-year-old apology that I'd given up waiting for. I cried because I'd already forgiven him, and I didn't need an apology to make me feel better.

"The LORD is faithful in all his words and kind in all his works." Psalm 145:13

When I give my pain to God, He is faithful with healing my heart. I don't understand how his faithfulness is so great and I am so often able to ignore it.

I stayed healthy during the performances of my musical. God is faithful. I'm doing well in my classes. God is faithful. I'm going to San Diego this weekend with dear friends to spend time with other believers. God is super-faithful.

God loves me, and He is faithful.

Friday, February 9, 2007

I'm Going to Namibia?

After nearly half an hour of trying to figure out what I'm doing with this whole "blog" thing, I've finally gotten it to work. So here we go.

At the beginning of August, I was presented with a booklet of summer mission trips and asked to pray whether or not God was calling me to go on a trip. "Namibia AIDS" was the first trip that piqued my interest. I want to help people, especially in the field of healthcare. I prayed about Namibia, asking God to work things out financially. A week later, I received a contract for a musical that I was in, saying that I would be compensated *very well* for my time spent in performance.

A few months later, I was back in school, back in rehearsal, back in the world of worrying about my needs and not trusting God to meet them. I had given up the idea of going to Namibia because I told myself that I needed to work this summer. I needed to pay rent. I needed to keep a steady job. I needed to do all kinds of "important", "adult", "responsible" things. I had started my application in November, well ahead of the December 1st deadline, but on the last day of November, I was nowhere near ready to turn it in. Val, a woman who has been discipling me this year, encouraged me to apply anyway, even if my application would be a few days late. When I went on the internet to begrudgingly finish my application, I found that the deadline had been extended to January 31st. I felt God smiling at me in the way that He always does when He wants to show me something and I try my hardest not to pay attention.

Midway through January, I still hadn't finished my application. In my own mind, I'd stopped thinking about Africa, and about summer mission trips in general. But God had other plans. He kept putting people in my life to remind me about applying. Finally, I gave up and decided just to go far. My application was a few days late, but at least it was done. I felt like I'd done my part by applying. I wasn't sure why I applied, but I only knew that God told me to do it, so I better follow directions.

Yesterday was the 8th of February, and I got an e-mail saying that I'd been accepted to go this summer. "You're going to Africa!" my friends screamed, full of joy. I was terrified. "I might go to Africa," I said, trying to avoid the very real possibility that I might board a plane in a few months and fly halfway across the world. "I still have to get a passport, and fundraise, and besides, I might go to training in March, and they might decide that they don't want me anymore." I was terrified. I AM terrified. I have to fundraise a ton of money. I have to trust that God will take care of not only the money for the trip, but also my rent, my car payment, money for textbooks in the fall.

I hear God, and He whispers the same phrase He wakes me with every morning: "Trust Me." He extends His hand. I place my tiny hand into His, and although I'm still nervous, He is there to calm me. I'm not sure what this summer will bring. I know that it will be difficult, and will very likely be more difficult than I could ever expect. But with my Father's track record, I can fully trust that His plan is perfect. I'm trusting in you, God. Here we go, Abba. Take me to Namibia.