Monday, January 14, 2013

Year of Dresses

Hi readers! If you have Facebook, click the link to see a personal statement by me on style and what we should think about while choosing clothes.  And please vote for me as well! ModCloth is having a Year of Dresses contest, this is my entry.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Happy New Year! Or, Why Life is the Best Ever

In Mexico people are desperate for you to buy stuff from them. A lot of it is pretty worthless. Cheesy t-shirts (Marijuana spelled like the McDonalds logo, anyone?), fragile wooden toys, slightly outlandish jewelry, bags of all shapes and sizes made from colorful woven yarn, and ponchos in ridiculous colors. The vendors will do anything to get your American dollars including lie, (“I remember you! You’ll like this, I promise!”) and make you feel guilty (“, I can’t sell for lower. I have to feed my family!”).

In Mongolia it’s a little different. The giant market is full of all kinds of useful things including canvas and rope to build your own home, saddles and bridles for horses, electrical plug adaptors, sunglasses, purses, warm clothing made from camel hair, richly colorful traditional wrestling boots and robes, musical instruments, bright orange furniture with painted flowers and designs, pocket knives, leather wallets, and vintage swords.  No one is calling out, begging for your attention, desperate to exchange goods for money. In fact, they don’t even take US dollars. I still have a wallet full of Mongolian tugrik if there are any takers, by the way.

I can’t believe it was only a year ago that, donning a party hat and lei, I welcomed in 2012 with a toast of sparkling cider at my good friend’s house, way past our bedtimes.  I had no idea what an amazing, life changing, wonderful 365 days was ahead of me.  
I had no idea that it would bring a trip halfway around the world to the most beautiful country I had ever seen.
I had no inkling of the children that I would fall in love with, wrap my arms around, and wish to never leave behind.
I had no idea that some of my best friends were waiting for me in states across the country. 
I had no idea that I would, over the course of the summer, board an airplane 9 different times for a total of nearly 50 hours, not including the 7 hours I wandered up and down O’Hare waiting for United to get their act together so I could fly across Lake Michigan. 
I had no idea that I would stand on stage and receive the 3rd place trophy for Lincoln Douglas debate at the Concordia Challenge. 
I had no idea that I would be the only girl standing in the picture of the top 8 finalists in debate at NITOC.  
I had no idea how much diving into the Gospel of Mark could bring depth and answers and inspiration to my life.
I had no idea what challenges and joys my relationships would bring me.

Trying as hard as I can to avoid cliché in this blog post, 2012 was genuinely the best year ever. I learned so much and have so many incredible memories.  If you think about it, the lessons and experiences you gather from a year have a lot in common with the souvenirs you bring home from a trip.  Sometimes you have to pay a painful amount but afterwards are so glad to have them. Sometimes they turn out to be useless junk you wish you’d never seen. Sometimes people are desperate to convince you to adopt their own worldviews and ideas, but everything they have to offer is fake and clumsy and does more harm than good. Sometimes they are wonderful to find, wonderful to have, and wonderful to remember. And sometimes they come by surprise and without charge, like a gift.

2012 brought me valuable self-confidence and maturity.  Taking French at the community college stretched my perceptions of myself and others and life itself.  I’m happy to report that now, the tiny stinging criticisms that used to deflate me into a rubbery, subservient mess, now bounce off and merely add to the fun and interest of being around people.

It brought me almost daily resolve to be as kind and loving as possible toward others, because that is my duty and purpose as a human.  People are messy.  That’s one well-hammered lesson. People are also starving for love, as I learned in both Mexico and Mongolia. The mission trip to Mongolia was probably the hardest week of my life.  It wasn’t even the Mongolians that changed me so much as my own teammates, from my own country.  The amount of pain and struggling hidden inside almost every single person was heartbreaking.  Thankfully a lot of healing happened on that trip and the terrible stories that people I’d come to love--after only knowing them for a week!--shared had happy endings. But they opened my eyes to the amount of suffering that goes on beneath the surface for more people than you think. A lot more. It creates a gaping, desperate need to love, love, love people as hard as we can. I still have far to go, but this year’s lessons helped me find the path.  

It brought me trust that everything is going to be okay.  God is good and He really does work everything out for the best because He loves us.  I wasn’t always okay this year.  Turning 18 brought me a trial by fire of being an adult. I had some really tough things happen and encounters with terrible people.  Try working 14 hours straight with a possibly demon possessed woman who mocks and harasses you at every turn: for eating, for texting, for talking, for being quiet, for doing your job thoroughly and correctly, for not getting drunk, for being polite, and for not talking more like a gay person does.  By the end of the day I was in tears but after the frustration left I was okay and stronger because of it.  

It brought me a new sense of adventure, and dedication to the idea that life is beautiful and it’s our job to pursue it and help others to see it and never forget just how crazy and wonderful every single minute can be if we know how to look.  Never pass up the chance to gallop a wild stallion up a valley in the middle of Asia. Even if it means abandoning the guide. I promise I didn’t, uh, intend to leave  him behind.

It brought me closer to people that I want to spend the rest of my life with because they are the best things about being alive.  Hugs, conversations, hanging out and laughing with family and friends, those were really the best memories I could have made.

So here lies my dedication to the old year, and my toast to the new!  2013 is going to be even better, I know it.  I’m thrilled about both what I know this year holds and the things that will surprise me.  Here’s my list.

This year I will:

Be the nursery teacher for my local Community Bible Study classes. I get to be in charge of the babies and play with them for two hours every week! I’m so excited!

Continue to coach and judge speech and debate tournaments.

Have my first regular job and save lots of money. Currently crossing my fingers that Pier One finally calls me back.

Open my own Etsy shop. 

Complete or be well on my way to finishing my AA and BA.

Be more efficient with my time.

Ruthlessly dig through my desk and closet and get rid of anything I don’t use or love.

Try to be kinder and more loving every day than I was the day before.

Blog as regularly as possible. Write, write, write.

These souvenirs of another year lived and enjoyed may cost a lot. They may be hidden among a lot of things I’d rather not have seen or heard (I’m looking at you, Mexico, with your unseemly t-shirts on display). But they’ll be worth it because really, what about life doesn’t make you glad for every single second and thrilled to death because you can’t wait to learn more?

Happy New Year. :)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Shiny Rocks and Stable Rafts

     A good friend of mine and I recently decided that someday we want to build a raft and float away on an adventure, Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn style.  Turns out building a raft is relatively simple.  If you tie the logs and poles together right, it seems as though a raft can be a pretty stable flotation device.  They can carry you, an adventure buddy, food, elements of shelter, or anything else you might need, like a big trophy that looks like a shiny rock.  We haven’t tried building a raft yet, but when we do I’ll let you know how many NITOC trophy rocks will fit.
     Tuesday night I was trying to muster the willpower to finish St. Augustine’s City of God which is the most difficult tome I have ever read, because of the sheer enormity and depth.  The second to last book, XXI, talks about the eternal punishment prepared for those who belong to the City of Men, rather than the City of God.  Towards the end of the book, Augustine explores the difference between the two.  He says that those who belong to the earthly city do not have Christ as their foundation, but those who belong to the Godly city do.  Having Christ as your foundation means that all of your works are based on Him, and He is preferred to anything else in the world.  Augustine quotes Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15: “Each one should be careful how he builds.  For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.  If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light.  It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work.  If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward.  If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.”  
     For some reason, the image of a raft as a kind of foundation came to my mind and wouldn’t leave.  It’s a surface on which to put everything you might need for the journey of life, but in order to even get started you first have to build your raft.
     Today I graduate high school.  I love looking forward to what is ahead, but I never want to lose sight of what is behind.  ‘Part the first’ of my life is over, and that’s where the basis of the story is begun and the foundation is laid.  I’m so glad my parents used my education at home to help me build a raft based on God’s Word and my Savior.  Now as I and my fellow graduates move on through life, we’ll be adding onto that foundation.  We have to make a definite choice to build with gold, silver, precious stones, things that will survive the testing of the fire on judgement day.  If we fail to make a conscious effort, I have no doubt that soon we will end up with piles of wood, hay, and straw.  Those things will quickly ignite and be gone, leaving nothing but a blackened stain on our raft.
     My family knows that I love to make beautiful things.  Crafting has always been one of my special niches.  I want to continue adventuring on my raft, my foundation, my Jesus, and I want to add as many beautiful, eternal things as I can, by His Grace, so that by the end of my life I look back and see that it was not wasted.  With high school behind me I want every year to be even more productive.  It will not be easy, but it will be worth it.
     Last week I competed in my very last speech and debate tournament, the 2012 National Invitational Tournament of Champions.  Speech and debate has been the best experience of my life, and it was an amazingly wonderful end to my career.  I finished with a pretty satisfactory level of success and have two more small trophies to add to the others on my shelf.  All my trophies from past years and tournaments have been made of shiny plastic.  NITOC 2012 gave out trophies made of crystal, sparkly rocks, and shimmery geodes, as an ebenezer to the speakers’ theme: Jesus as the Rock, and a nod to the location of Colorado, land of the Rocky Mountains.  I’ll add these new rocks onto my raft.  They won’t outlast the fire, but they’ll remind me until then of the lessons I’ve learned and the skills I’ve acquired in the first seventeen years of my life, and those are things I don’t ever want to forget.

Friday, June 1, 2012

I Can't Wait to Kiss the Ground

     Lately I’ve been out of my mind, and out of ideas, trying madly to get all my school done before the National Invitational Tournament of Champions, which is known to speech and debate kids as NITOC and yes, is just as awesome as it sounds.  But pretty soon, as in two weeks from tomorrow, I will graduate and this craziness will be over.  I’ve never been so utterly swallowed up in school in my life, and I can’t wait to kiss the ground whenever I touch back down, as Adam Young’s delightful song says.
     Yes, I missed writing last week, and this hardly counts, and next week I’ll be at NITOC, so unless I happen to have a lot of free time and WiFi I will miss next week’s, too.  Actually, not having WiFi would be more helpful to writing a post, now that I think about it.  But anyway, thank you for being patient as I finish all my school and prepare for said debate tournament.  It will be my last one ever.  I will miss competing but I’m moving on to some wonderful things!  
     This summer, I get to start coaching speech and debate at the Fifth Annual National Institute for Homeschool Debate at Concordia, hosted by Concordia University of Irvine, California.  It’s going to be an amazing week and if you’re interested in joining debate you should sign up with no hesitation.  Please check out the website or comment here if you’re interested.  I promise, you won’t be sorry!  It’s focused on Christ as the reason why we hone our debate skills, you will learn more than you could believe possible, it is the most fun week of your summer, and the faculty there is fantastic.  Trust my personal experience, I’ve been going for the past two years and am unbelievably thrilled to get to be on staff this year!
     The other reason I can’t wait for summer is that I’ve been accepted to go to Mongolia on a missions trip with Samaritan’s Purse’s Operation Christmas Child to pass out shoeboxes.  Look for more posts coming up!  I’ll definitely be writing about preparing to go, and especially about what it was like when I get back.  I already used so many adjectives about debate camp I’m not sure what to say here for fear of being repetitive or watering down the meanings of all those great words.  Hopefully it will suffice to say that there aren’t enough words to express how I feel about the trip, no, not if I used a whole dictionary (Anne Shirley again).  
     Finally, I have a mini-series that I’m thinking about writing up for the summer and I’m kind of excited about it’s potential.  Also, if you have any ideas for posts you’d like to see, please let me know.
     So, because I will likely be looking up quotes about economic security or applications of personal freedom if there is internet in Colorado (no of course I won’t be on Pinterest or Facebook or Polyvore, why do you ask?), expect the next post to be June 15th, the day before I graduate.  We’ll ramble about how life is short and my purpose and ultimate endings and unknown beginnings or something like that then.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Friendship

"The friendship is not a reward for our discrimination and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each the beauties of all the others." -C.S. Lewis
God and my parents have taught me a lot about friendship. I certainly have made, am making, and will make my share of mistakes, but through all those problems and embarrassing situations, I have learned so much.
When I saw this quote on a blog my mom was reading one morning at breakfast, it immediately seemed so true, so poignant. You know those moments when you are tuning/playing your guitar and you hit that low 'E' and BAM you know it is spot on, perfect, at last? It was kind of like that.  For you non-musical speech and debate type people, think of it as finally finding the perfect solvency advocate, except instead of explaining succinctly why we should adopt your carefully prepared, precious case, it clearly states a philosophy that your life experience has been developing inside your mind that previously you couldn’t articulate.
I love quotes.  They’re like evidence about how life works, from people who have been there.  This one is important to me because I think a lot of the time, we look for friends in the 'cool' people, the beautiful, the cute, the popular. Once we push, shove, and trample our way into their elite circle, we think we have it made. But we realize something pretty quickly.
It's not real.
That group of people, who seemed to have the 'good taste', the best friends, the most fun, the twitter-pating conversations, aren't really 'friends' at all. They are merely an intrigue of disguises, trying desperately to hide their own insecurity and faults by trampling on those of others. You and your friendship don’t matter to them, except when they can be used as a tool for their own gain. You try and get their attention, only to be shoved back onto the sidelines, blushing, knowing that you aren't truly accepted.
Trust me. I've been there. It leaves you feeling worthless, and upset.
But that's where true friendship comes in. More often than not, your best friends aren't the ones you chose because of looks, possessions, or that cute older brother/sister you want to get to know. 
True friends are the ones who you know love you for who you are, for the beauty God has placed in each and every one of us, and that those who really love you, your 'kindred spirits' as Anne Shirley would say, can see.
True friends are the people you can be yourself around. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them." Isn't it great have people who fully accept you with all your foibles, and like you anyway? People who don't mind if you do something, well, stupid? Because they know what you are really like, and won't reject you just because you aren’t considered cool, aren’t willing to act the way they want you to, or do something embarrassing like totally trip on the edge of the basketball court (not like I have personal experience with this or anything...). True friends won’t forsake you even when you say something they don’t like to hear.
Always remember that no matter who rejects you, to God, you are beautifully, wonderfully, perfectly made. Those who really love you can see it.
And that will never change.
I thank God for all the amazing, true friends He has given me.  To those of you reading this who stand by me and love me even when I don’t deserve it, a thousand thanks.  I love you guys so much.
You are all so wonderful! And so is C.S. Lewis.

Friday, May 11, 2012

But Dismiss Your Fears

What are you most afraid of?
How you answer that question reveals an awful lot about your character.  Sometimes I can tell easily how a person would answer by just watching and listening.  For a couple of my good friends, I’ve even asked them.  I like to know.  It helps me understand them better, and I hope that maybe sometimes, because I know, I’ll be able to help them avoid or relieve their fears.
A while ago I decided to try and think carefully about what I feared most.  The list I came up with is 5) spiders; 4) being misunderstood; 3) losing someone I love/heartbreak; 2) wasting my life/messing up; and 1) torture.
That last one must be some kind of irrational fear, because no one else I know seems to have the same cold dread of seeing someone tortured that I do.  My only experience with this is in movies and TV shows, but I simply can’t stand it.  I used to make my family forward through the scenes in the Pit of Despair in the Princess Bride long after my younger siblings could handle it.  I still can’t really handle it, and I’ve had several people tell me they just don’t understand.  I don’t understand how they can watch that stuff without flinching, but I guess that’s how irrational fears work.
Something that’s not on the list has been bothering me for a long time: the fear of God.  The Bible states very clearly that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” in Proverbs 1:7.  I want to find this knowledge, but I can’t seem to be ‘scared’ of God.  Instead, I find myself marveling at His indescribable grace.  I cling to Him because life and my inability to cope scare me, and I know His love is all I need.  If anything, I’m scared of myself, but definitely not of mercy.  Ashamed, maybe, but not fearful.  
Too often I worry about what other people will think, and if they’ll misconstrue my words or my actions.  Jesus said in Matthew chapter 10 that we shouldn’t fear those who can only kill the body.  Rather, we should fear the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.  I get the concept--don’t worry about what people think or what they’ll do to you.  Instead, fear what God thinks of you and His judgement.  In the end, that matters so much more than being misunderstood by people here on earth.  God will never misunderstand or mistake His judgement.  Knowing myself, if standing judgement were up to my own deeds that would not be a fact in my favor.  I want to be free from all fears except the fear of God, but as Adam Young put it, “I’m scared to death that I’ll never be afraid”. 
I asked a friend what they thought about this the other day.  They answered that the Bible seems to be talking about a very different kind of fear.  Sort of like how fearing the discipline of your parents is different from fearing spiders or things that go bump in the dark.
But the Bible also says “Don’t be afraid” over and over and over and over.  365 times, I’ve heard.  And we’re told why in 1 John 4:16-18: “We know and rely on the love God has for us.  God is love.  Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.  In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgement, because in this world we are like Him.  There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
Life can be a scary sort of adventure sometimes.  As I approach graduation from high school, more and more uncertainties about the future pop up and clamor to be worried about.  But I know and rely on the love God has for me.  I am by no definition perfect in love myself, but I’m committed to living my life in His love as much as I can, because perfect love drives out all fear.  Looking ahead, I know that as Mumford and Sons beautifully phrased it, “There will come a time, you’ll see, with no more tears.  And love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears.”
God is Love.  He will not break my heart, but dismiss all my earthly fears, leaving only the concern that I please and glorify Him.
I don’t need to fear being misunderstood.  I don’t need to fear losing loved ones or heartbreak.  I don’t need to fear wasting my life or messing up.  God understands me completely.  His love is perfect.  And He has a plan.  

Friday, May 4, 2012

In Loving Memory ["You just hide and watch me!"]

     A very special man was born seventy three years ago last Monday.  He worked as an aerospace engineer for Douglas Aircraft, Fairchild, and Parker Hannafin.  I could point to the exact parts on the rocket Saturn V and the space shuttle Columbia that he worked on designing.  I am so proud of him.
     He married the queen of her high school senior prom, Gretchen Kintz, where they lived in South Bend, Indiana.  The young couple packed up their belongings, down to classy ties and spiffy wrist length gloves, and moved to California.  Soon they had a family: Bob, Jim, Steve, Jere, and Eileen.  Their fourth and youngest son, Jere, is my dad.
     My Papa, also named Jere, led a wonderful life of resplendent integrity.  On a driving trip I recently took with his wife, my Nana, I asked her to tell me more about him.  She described how brilliant and funny he was, and yet he never put anyone down.  He and his best friend were political opposites--a Republican and a Democrat--and yet they they had hours of conversation and never once argued or had hard words.  That’s a rare  and priceless quality.
     When he wanted to celebrate something, he didn’t splurge.  Instead, his favorite treat was to buy himself a Payday bar.  Even though I adore chocolate, I also love Paydays, for Papa’s sake.  
     His humor came from an amazing spectrum of knowledge, referencing books, movies, newspapers, history, music, and more.  A conversation with him must have been a like a collage of all the above, held together by delightful wit.  I wish I could have talked to him.
     Papa valued family and relations so highly that my dad didn’t realize until he grew up himself that any of their relatives had any problems.  His dad always spoke highly of every single one of them, and hardly said anything less than complimentary about anyone else.  He loved people, and loved making them happy.
     A few years ago, my family and I took a road trip to Washington, D.C.  We saw plenty of  things along the way, but the best treat of all came from a little town in Virginia.  Nana and Papa had been dear friends with a couple named Don and Sue.  Don had since passed on, but we got to have dinner with Sue, her grown children, and their children.  Before we ate, Sue beckoned my dad and I over to a little table by a window.  She handed us a blue paper bag full of paper.  “These are all the letters your father wrote to Don,” she said.  “I thought you’d like to read them.”  We hadn’t expected anything of the kind, but she couldn’t have given us a better gift.  There were so many letters, we spent hours in the car on the way home and around our dinner table while my dad read them aloud.  Some made us laugh.  Others solved long standing family mysteries.  Sue had given us a treasure.
     Running through each letter was a theme of constant optimism.  Papa seemed to have made it his life goal to cheer Don and Sue, and give them something to laugh about.  He told them about special concerts he and Nana had gone to see together, the hijinks of his kids, and sent newspaper clippings or comics he thought Don would enjoy.  He was very newsy, and through page after page of beautifully handwritten words, I finally got to know a man I have long admired and missed.
     When he was only fifty eight, Papa passed away from a horrendous tumor that gave him brain cancer.  I was two years old.  Before the tumor took him away from us entirely, it first stole parts of his brain.  He could no longer come up with the words he needed to convey what he meant.  Papa couldn’t remember how to talk, but we’ll never forget what he used to say.  We still quote him all the time.
     When someone asked him for something’s price, he’d answer:
     “Oh, about a buck three eighty.”
     When one of his kids complained that they wanted something, he’d remind them:
     “Yup! And people in hell want ice water.”
     When there was an unpleasant job to be done, he’d roll up his sleeves and say cheerily:
     “It’s better than a poke in the eye with a hot stick!”
     If you asked him what was for dinner, you wouldn’t get a more satisfactory answer than:
     “Fried jambo leaves and hominy grits!”
     He liked to remind himself that hard work and determination made everything easier:
     “It’s no hill for a climber.”
     My all time favorite was saved for occasions when someone told him that what he was attempting was impossible.
     “You just hide and watch me.”
     Although I remember plenty of stories about Papa, I don’t know if I remember knowing him.  The closest is remembering the time, not long before he passed away, that he pulled me in a wagon from his house to the corner, one house down.  That memory might just be because I’ve seen a picture.  If I had a time machine, the first thing I’d do is go back and meet my Papa and talk to him.  I miss knowing him.  I miss him so much.
     But even if I never meet him in this life, I will see him again.
     I remember the night he died.  My cousin Mckenna, who was three, and I were playing dress up. One hat, and one of Nana’s shoes each.  We also sat together at the piano and pretended to play a duet.  But I don’t remember Papa.
     He passed away in what is now my room.  All of his family was gathered around, except my dad, who had gone to the kitchen.  A few months earlier, Papa had been asked to play one of the three wise men in a Christmas play.  He couldn’t speak by that point, so he had no lines, but he had a kingly costume.  Nana asked my dad if he’d seen pictures from the performance, and he hadn’t, so he left his dad briefly to see them.  He found the pictures in the kitchen and looked at the smile on his dad’s face.  Papa was wearing crown as part of his costume.  At the moment my dad saw the crown, Papa passed away.  My dad knew this was God’s way of telling him that his dad was now in heaven with him and had received the Crown of Life.
     Papa, I love you and I miss you.  If not for that tumor, you would still be here with us, alive and well.  Thinking about you makes me sad, but writing about you is my way of remembering you and reminding myself that one day I’ll get to meet you.  Right now, you’re living in eternal perfection with your Savior.  And that makes me so glad.
     Love, Carey. <3
     “There will come a time, you’ll see, with no more tears.  And love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears.  Get over your hill and see what you’ll find there, with grace in your heart and flowers in your hair.”