On Lent, Loss & Remembrance

It’s just struck me that, long before we had the knowledge and research and psychologists, church leaders knew a thing or two about behavior change.  We don’t change ingrained habits and thoughts in a day or two; even after a week or two we are likely to slip back into old ways.  But 40 days?  That’s a good start to change, to a new perspective, to remembrance.  I’m staring at my bowl of lentils and brown rice, and part of me is selfish and irritable because they aren’t what I WANT right now.  But the other part?  The other part know how unbelievably, how extraordinarily blessed I am–really, I am filthy rich.  I am the world’s 1%.  I am the camel trying to go through the eye of the needle. 

I’ve been heavy-hearted these last two weeks.  February/March last year held loss, a lot of it: a very close family friend, my dear Oma, a young girlfriend, and a cousin’s grandfather.  It felt like all I did was work and travel for funerals.  It felt like we were getting beaten when we were already down.  I’ve realized I’ve not really grieved, not fully.  That terrible two weeks really started what’s turned out to be a crazy year.  After all the funerals, I had two out-of-country trips, decided to quit my at-that-point-very-stressful job, resigned and started the hectic process of closing out a patient panel, decided to move to Baltimore for grad school, searched for housing from afar, moved out of my lovely home with my great roommates and neighborhood, left church/friends/community/volunteering that I loved and (finally) felt deeply connected to, moved halfway across the country (in a crazy interminable road trip which I survived mainly due to the presence of a dear friend), started a new grad program in a new place, tried to make new friends/community, find a new church and grocery store, and generally make a life here.  Just as all that was getting settled, my grandfather died.  I’m telling you, this year has not stopped.  If I were the hamster, I’d have worn the wheel out by now.  So I recognize a need for some rest, time to grieve and process and find solace, to remember.  I’m not sure when that will come as my program apparently believes we are all robots and not humans.  Perhaps spring break.  Maybe summer.  But I know that it needs to happen. 

This weekend I had the opportunity to road trip up to Philly for the Justice Conference.  It was good to get away (even if that meant 10 of us crashing at a rowhouse of a friend of a friend), to be reminded.  That the work of doing justice is hard, it is challenging, it requires perseverance, it is messy, it is uncomfortable, it will be opposed–but it is good.  And every once in awhile we are given an incredible glimpse into the stories, the lives, where justice was brought out of injustice, beauty from ashes.  Really what I hoped for out of this weekend was not anything fresh or new (after all, the call is from of old: love mercy, do justly, walk humbly with your God); but rather it was to be reminded, to remember.  To fan the flame that flickers in the midst of a self-centered, self-gratifying culture in which it is far to easy to ignore and avoid the orphan, the widow, the disenfranchised, the homeless, the oppressed, the abused, the poor, the slave, the unwanted.  To be reminded that we are not alone, that we will never be left alone. 

I’m ready for March, for spring, for promised newness. 

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because, really, isn’t blogging an excellent form of procrastination?

from time to time i’ve thought about writing again.  i’m fairly convinced that a good proxy indicator of my mental, emotional, and spiritual health is how much i’m writing.  and lately all i’ve been writing are 20 page research papers.  which, in my most honest nerd moments, i don’t mind (though these all-nighters are for the birds! i’m too old for this).

i live in baltimore now.  i had crab cakes for dinner last night.  the weather is cold, wet, grey, and rather depressing–but seeing the harbor every day is a nice benefit of life here.  i can’t believe that enough time has passed that it’s already staring me down, asking what i’m going to do next.  because it’s time to think about the next thing, and if you know anything about me, you know i’m 1) clumsy and 2) incredibly indecisive.

and the answer is, i don’t know what i’m going to do.  my classmates’ combined stress over job hunting is starting to become palpable.  and i have my moments, my crises when i think, “why am i taking this class? why am in this program? am i even supposed to BE here? what will i do next?! i have to figure it out! i’m going to fail! i’ve ruined my life!”.  ah.  the lies we tell ourselves.

the truth is, i don’t know. i have some hopes and dreams (and a whole lotta debt to uncle sam.  no thank you for the current interest rate on student loans), some visions that are a little more tainted by cynicism than they were a few years ago but yet won’t die–because they are true, and they are worth striving for.  my path to where i *think* i’m going will probably twist and turn more than i want it to, and i will fight and struggle and rebel along the curves, but in the end i will know that it was good, and He was faithful, i’m ok, and there are people and a Cause worth fighting for.

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On this wet dreary winter day, not so unlike another wet dreary day halfway across the world 5 years ago, I am pressed hard under the “Why?” of loss.  Why a precious, young, whole-life-ahead-of-her mother, and friend in Addis Ababa?  Why today, in Mississippi, a wise, faithful saint/professor/husband/father/friend?

I can’t answer this question.  I cringe away from platitudes, cliches.  It is so far beyond my understanding, my ability to comprehend the whys and wherefores of an all-knowing God working in a broken, pain-and-loss-filled world.

It makes me long, anew, for the “on earth as it is in heaven”.  Because THIS is not how it was meant to be.

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Chipotle Peppers and Other Conundrums

How are you supposed to store all the leftover chipotle peppers once you open up a can and only use three?

While the peppers went in a soup that is simmering, I decided to use up some random bits in my fridge and make this yummy quiche (yes, it’s crustless.  I don’t particularly like crust, especially not the soggy kind). I think I should get nutritional (brownie?) points for managing to work kale into 3 of my last 4 meals:-)

Why does it always seem like there’s some big major life decision hanging over me?  Does everyone feel this way?  It is my cultural bent to be more productive and have more stuff and see more and do more and just more more more that makes me feel as though I’ve always got to figure out the next thing RIGHT NOW?  Or is it just my admittedly sin-screwed nature of wanting to know it all that won’t let me rest?  Or a painful collision of the two?

In any case, I’m trying to figure out how to rest in what I’ve been given here, in Dallas, TX, USA while still being intentional about engaging in the future I believe He has for me internationally.  Part of this has meant reading, soaking in the wisdom of others.  Here are a few books I’ve read, am reading, or ordered from Amazon already because I’m an overachiever.


The Hole in our Gospel

A Severe Mercy

Mother Teresa

What are you reading and cooking??

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planning the wrong wedding

It’s far too easy to lose perspective, to be so overwhelmed by the struggles, tasks, sorrows, jobs, plans, decisions, etc, etc that fill our days.  I long to instead to press on with my mind set on things eternal.  Everything else “grows strangely dim” when viewed from that reality.

When we arrive at eternity’s shore
Where death is just a memory and tears are no more
We’ll enter in as the wedding bells ring
Your bride will come together and we’ll sing
You’re beautiful

phil wickham

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waiting for perfection?

Subconsciously I think that’s why I don’t write much these days.  Because it’s not perfect.  Life is hard.  And somewhere that I haven’t found yet there is a balance between “woe is me” pity and quiet acceptance that suffering is real in all of our lives.  I pray for the quiet acceptance, and even the joy born of being transformed and pried away from all the things I cling to for security.

One of the sweet things these last few months has been the ability to READ again, and I’m not talking textbooks and journal articles here.  I’m reading Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women (Author Geraldine Brooks) today, and realizing, ashamed, yet again, that my world is so small.  I recently finished Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream (Author David Platt).  I think I underlined half the book.  Really.  I’d heard all the hype about the audio series and book, and I don’t really like fads (I thought I hated 3/4 sleeves shirts when they came out too.  Turns out I like them.  I don’t, however, think you will every catch me in skinny jeans).  But, seriously, I think if you live the West, and especially in the USA, you should read this book.  It’s true, convicting, enlightening.  We live insulated, self-protecting, self-exalting lives, and we like to pass it off as good and moral and Christian while there is a world dying for food and the Bread of life.  And it’s wrong.  I’ve SEEN that world, and I still struggle with this.  It’s a battle for our souls, this pull of money and status and career and security.  I want my treasure to be elsewhere.  It’s not going to just happen, though.  We have to go to war for it.  Which brings me back to point a, of not feeling “ready”, perfected, equipped for the battle.  Lies again.  Oh for courage to stand up again, to persevere on!

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Dallas, Africa, Dallas, Haiti

Friends, I’m still alive.  Which means God is still sustaining!  Now that I’ve finished grad school and am about to settle into what I hope is a bit more of a stable season in life, I want to be intentional about re-connecting with many of you.  For the next few months at least, I will be staying in Dallas.  I’ve accepted an NP job at the clinic where I’ve been working in staff education and admin for the past year.

By way of a brief catch-up, I spent 5 wonderful, hard, challenging, encouraging weeks in Ethiopia and Sierra Leone this spring alongside a team from Baylor.

Baylor Africa 2010, Langano, Ethiopia Clinic

We saw many hundreds of patients, we were challenged to use skills not often tested in school, we held dying patients, we wished we could do so much more–but through it all we saw the compassion of the Father.  If you want to catch up a bit on that trip, check out this blog written primarily by our wonderful professor, mentor, and team leader http://homepages.baylor.edu/lori_spies/?cat=718

Baylor Africa 2010 Team at Faith Hope Orphanage in Freetown, Sierra Leone

VERY rural clinic outside of Freetown, Sierra Leone

Post-Africa, I spent a whirlwind month and half in Dallas trying to finish up all of the necessary coursework and clinical hours to graduate.  Graduation alongside dear friends and classmates was a joy—but it was a bit anticlimactic as we all had to then start studying for national boards.

Graduating with the other musketeers--Ivorry, Jamie, and Rebecca. Could not have done it without them!

I took mine in mid-June and passed (thank you Lord!).  Since then I’ve been working part-time at two jobs, my dear friend in NM got married, and I’ve reveled in evenings not constrained by papers being due!

A few weeks ago, I got an email from an friend who had served on a short-term team to Ethiopia while I was living and working there.  She was headed to Haiti with her church from the Baltimore area and their team needed a last minute provider to fill an unexpected gap.  It was a crazy time to make such a decision amidst a wedding, being out of state, starting a new job, etc–but He confirmed that it was right, so I said yes.  I bought a ticket and 9 days later flew out to Haiti to join the team.  Link to this blog to catch up on our time there: http://www.gcchaiti.blogspot.com/

I got back from Haiti late last night (or early this morning) and am trying to recover from exhaustion, a GI bug, sunburn, and very dirty laundry!  It was such a privilege to serve alongside such a wonderful, grace-focused team.  Haiti was, as expected, hard–so much devastation, disease, and despair.  We pray for the peace of that place.

So that’s me.  Alive, blessed, and happy for filled pages in my passport:-)

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