Thursday, 29 April 2010

What Destroys Beauty

I have had a lot on my mind lately. I mean a LOT. I won't go into detail, but my life just continues to grow more hectic daily. There are so many things that are out of my control and must be entrusted to the unlimited strength and power of my Almighty God.

I have had a lot of time to think about everything going on and I have most certainly asked "Why?" about a lot of things. It got me to thinking about how God created everything and He declared it as good. It was beautiful. The garden was beautiful. The animals were beautiful. The plants were beautiful. And the people were beautiful. Their relationship with the Lord was beautiful. But then Satan (coincidentally once the most beautiful of all the angels) came in and worked his deception and twisted truth. And he destroyed the beauty that God so lovingly created. He perverted it and twisted it into something it wasn't.

How often does he do this in our lives? God blesses us with something beautiful, and Satan does his very best to pervert, to distort, and to destroy. He tries to convince us that his "beauty" is better. That what he has to offer will satisfy us more. Sometimes we listen, and sometimes all we are left with are broken pieces of the original beauty.

The wonderful thing is that God is a god of redemption. He doesn't leave us in a state of depravity - He loves, He saves, He conquers, He rescues and redeems!!! He can take the pieces of something so broken we don't even remember what it once was and put them back together into something beautiful again.

I am so thankful for this. And I am so thankful that I don't have to worry about taking control or micro-managing each situation on my plate right now. God is in control and always has been (despite my best efforts to control things myself), and it is much better that way.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

On how this past week was like a movie

Ok. So. This is one of those stories where I can try and try and try to exactly get the point across to you just how ridiculous my week was and you will never fully get it...but I am going to try anyway (so it will be lengthy). Because this week has been so ridiculous, it seems more like a plot for a comedy rather than my actual life.

Last week kicked off with a killer Monday. I had a school group coming out for 3 days, and Anne had another school group coming out (at the same time) for 4 days. However, instead of me staying around camp and actually hosting my group like I am supposed to (and like I would like to), I drove into Kerrville to see the doctor. Because Oh My Gosh my throat hurt. I mean, I felt like I had tried to swallow hell. So I go into the doctor, find out I don't have mono (good) but do have strep (bad). They prescribe me some drugs and after hitting up HEB and buying popsicles, ice cream, pudding, and soup, I head home.

Matt comes by to take care of me and make sure that I get my rest (not my strong point) Monday evening and all of Tuesday. He is wonderful. He makes all my meals. Watches whatever movie I want. Takes care of my every need. But I still feel horrible. And I still just really want to be able to spend time with my group and take care of them while they are here!

I make it into work Wednesday morning just in time to see my group leave ("Hi. I'm Lauren. Sorry I haven't seen you the whole time you were here. Oh, you're leaving right now? Ok, bye!").

Thursday morning I wake up and go straight to the kitchen where I learn that the water pipe busted during the night and main camp has no water (thank goodness I didn't try to shower). And lots of kids and staff are sick with some weird stomach bug that causes some pretty serious diarrhea. And there is no water. So toilets can't be flushed. We get buckets of water from the pool so that people can flush their toilets. You know. Because diarrhea is gross.

We get water back. We then learn that the water might be what is causing the stomach yuck. What with all the rain and flooding here recently, some nasties may have washed into our well. Awesome.

10:30 rolls around and I am sitting in my office when a fellow staff member walks in, looks at me, and says, "You and Emily know you have to be moved out of your apartments and into your new house by dinner today, right?" No. NO. I had no idea! I knew it was going to hopefully be sometime soon, but now? Right now? Today? By dinner? Nope, no one told me. Is this a joke? No, it's for real? Ok. Haha...!!

Have you ever been told you have to be completely moved out of your house and into a new house in less than 8 hours? And have your old house clean? Spotless? Me either, until Thursday. I must admit I actually thought it was pretty funny. I mean how else can you deal with a situation like that? You can either get really mad and frustrated at something you can't change...or you can think it is hilarious. The latter sounded like a much better option to me and everyone else at camp.

We take the first truck load of stuff up to the house and run into one of the Amigos (the guys building all the houses) who says, "You aren't bringing all that stuff up here to move into this house today, are you?" Yes. We are, actually. You see, we were told this morning that we have to be moved into this house by tonight. To which he replies, "Oh no..." and then starts talking rapidly in Spanish, rushes into the house, and starts talking to the other Amigos.

Getting funnier, right? (Did I mention that this whole time it is drizzling??)

We then have to return the truck to Meredith so she can drive into town and gather produce for the weekend.

And did I mention the other (not my) school group has not left yet (or that my uncle and second cousin were 2 people in attendance)? Their bus is late. Like an hour late. Funny! And the retreat we have this weekend is a men's retreat. Some men show up (a day) early and are walking around camp smoking cigars...before the 6th grade Lutheran kiddos leave!

Finally their bus arrives, gets stuck in the circle drive (oh how to not hit all the rocks?!?!), and eventually makes it out in 20somethingish minutes. And we find a vehicle that should suffice to move the rest of my stuff (when did camp get this vehicle? We rebuilt the engine? The stick came out while driving it last week? Cool, hope it works!). At this point there are 6 staff helping us move. When a small SUV is packed with your stuff, only 2 people fit in (the front seats of course)! So we had 4 people hanging on to the OUTSIDE of the vehicle as we drove treacherous dirt roads to my house. And one of the people hanging onto the outside of the vehicle was pregnant Erin! What the heck was she doing out there?!!

Somehow, by the grace of God (and lots of help from our friends), Emily and I were moved into our new house by 3 pm (and when I say moved in, I mean all our boxes were taken into the house and quickly placed on the floor wherever was most convenient at the time). And then we got to go clean all of camp! Yay! And then cook dinner for the 40-some-odd men who came early (we knew they were coming though).

I have spent the past few days feeling so disoriented. I didn't know where any of my stuff was. I mean, I knew it was at the house, but what box or bag did I throw it into?

It is now Saturday and we are just now moved in enough to be able to sleep (on the bed I borrowed from friends today) in the house. I am looking forward to it. Wait. Did I tell you that I don't have any furniture? Oh, well I don't! See, I have been living in the Cowboy apartment which is fully furnished. So I don't have ANY furniture. No dresser for my clothes. No bedside table. No couch. No chairs. No table. One bookshelf.

Looks like I am going furniture shopping sometime soon!

Like I said, crazy week. Ridiculous. It might not actually sound that funny when you read it, but I promise it was. It would truly make for a good comedy (I think the visuals and the irony help out a LOT). I truly did try to convey with accuracy what has transpired the past 5ish days (and mostly Thursday), but I know it's probably one of those had-to-be-there things.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Ok, so I read this book because my friend and soon-to-be-roommate-for-only-a-month-ish Emily said I should. We were talking about books and reading and how much we liked reading books (imagine that!), and she told me it was her very favorite book. So I read it!

Written by Jonathan Safran Foer, this book is different from any other book I have ever read. The main character of the story is 8 year old Oskar Schell, and main part of the story is set in 2003. Oskar's father died in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and things just have not been right since. Oskar is a ridiculously brilliant and eccentric child, and his mind is fascinating. He deals with the grief of his dad's passing by beating himself up (giving himself bruises). When something makes him sad, he says it "gives him heavy boots". I am really interested to know where that came from!

Oskar narrates most of the novel, although there are 2 other narrators at various points throughout the book, as well (more on this later). Because Oskar is brilliant and eccentric, his viewpoint is captivating. At the same time, Foer does a good job writing a narration from a child's point of view. It can be rather comical!

After his father's death, Oskar finds a key in an envelope in a vase in his dad's closet. The word "Black" is written on the envelope. He goes on a lengthy quest through all of New York to find the lock that goes to the key and to discover the significance of said lock and key. On this mission, he meets all sorts of people and makes some new friends.

I haven't decided if his quest was really a healing process for him. I guess it was a healing process, it was just different from what I expected. I don't think there was as much closure as I would have liked.

The other 2 narrators are Oskar's grandparents who narrate their lives starting in Germany and ending...somewhere. Oskar spent a lot of time with his grandmother and was really close to her. He had never met his grandfather. All three narrators have one unifying quality - tragedy. Each of the three have been through extremely traumatic experiences.

One other thing that makes this book interesting and unique is the use of pictures throughout the book. Pictures often take up entire pages, showing you things that Oskar sees along his journey. Some pictures included in the book were of a 9/11 jumper, someone who chose to jump to escape fire and the imminent collapse of the building (Oskar has singled out the man in this picture as possibly being his father - there is some resemblance). At the end of the book, Oskar rearranges the pictures of the jumper so that when you flip through them, he is floating up toward the sky as opposed to down towards the ground.

I had a difficult time with the fact that the book included pictures of an actual jumper. It was just really difficult for me to know that in that photograph was a person who had a life and a family and had to choose between a number of horrible deaths.

Overall though I think I enjoyed the book. It took me a while to figure out if I liked it or not. Like I said, totally different from anything I have ever read before. And not something I would have just picked off the shelf to read myself. But I am glad I read it. It was interesting. It made me think. It made me feel.

So would I recommend it to you? Probably. I would say if you truly enjoy reading and you are looking for a book that is different and interesting, then go for it!! I will warn you, it is not a conservative book. There are a few curse words here and there. The book touches on topics of bullying, suicide, depression, bombings, terrorism, grief, pre-marital sex, broken marriages, and abandonment. In Oskar's words, sometimes it gave me heavy boots. I am glad I read it. I don't regret reading it, and I don't feel like it was a waste of my time. Will I read it again? Maybe. Probably not.

Have you read this book? Any thoughts on it?

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Bookworm




You probably don't know this, but I love to read. I love love love LOVE to read. I always have. I don't remember a time in my life where I have not had a book that I read before I go to bed. I was the kid who loved the Book It! program at Pizza Hut and thought it was incredible that I got free pizza for reading books I already wanted to read!

I was the kid who would read ahead in my reading class even though the teacher told me not to.

(But isn't it funny that instead of wanting to teach reading I chose math and science?! I guess it doesn't matter much since I'm not a teacher in a "real" classroom anyway!)

Most people probably don't peg me as an avid reader, but believe me, I am! You can ask Matt!

I remember when my mom bought me the Chronicles of Narnia series. I was in 4th grade and it was through a Scholastic book order. I thought she had bought them for herself and didn't want to read them - I had no clue what they were about (and therefore no clue what I was about to get myself into when I first cracked the cover of "The Magician's Nephew"). Since then, I have read the entire series over 40 times.

I read The Boxcar Children. And the Sierra Jensen series. And the Christy Miller series. And the China Tate series. And A Wrinkle in Time. And Goosebumps (even though I wasn't supposed to). I read almost everything I could get my hands on.

I'm not much different these days. I still really like (and stick to) certain genres (my favorite authors include Jane Austen, C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, J.K. Rowling, Ted Dekker, and Madeleine L'Engle), but every once in a while I branch out.

I just finished a book by Jonathan Safran Foer called "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close". Not something I would have picked myself, but it was good. I will hopefully write somewhat of a review on it later.

As of yesterday I have started the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan. And so far, it's pretty darn good.

I think it would be cool to start writing about the books I read, although I don't know if anyone would even be interested. I think I will do it anyway! :)

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Processed

Well, it has been one week (and a day) since rice and beans month officially ended for me. I have had a lot of time to process the experience, and I think it will be interesting to even further process through writing about it.

I really didn't have too much trouble sticking to the simple diet of rice and beans for several weeks. When it was new it was hard. But the next few weeks weren't bad at all! I got excited about meal times (mostly because I was ravenously hungry)! Rice and beans were tasty (I created a concoction with grilled onions and garlic, and it was so good!!), and it was sufficient to fill my hunger needs.

When it got interesting (and incredibly difficult) was the very last week. Once there was only one week left in the rice and beans month, people started commenting. And asking me what the first thing I was going to eat was. And I started thinking about all the foods I had missed out on (including foods that I hardly ever eat anyway...). And all the food that I wanted to eat (and I think this is evident in my previous post). And then life got a lot harder. I was so tempted to give up (especially the night before it was all over - we had a Princess and the Frog party for one of our staff, and there were beignets, gumbo, and jambalaya, and homemade ice cream!). It was the hardest it had been since the third day!

I think the big difference was that when the end wasn't in sight yet, I didn't think about it. I didn't think about other foods. I was completely content with the simplicity of the rice and beans meals. But when I lost my focus (or switched my focus to something else), it got really hard.

I think because of that switch in focus near the end, when I was able to eat other foods again, I went crazy. I had so much sugar the first few days, it was ridiculous. I continuously made myself sick.

Since then, I have had time to re-evaluate things and remember that I SHOULDN'T eat so much sugar. And that I want to treat my body well. And that I was supposed to have LEARNED something this past month.

It really gives you a lot to think about. I don't know whether to consider the millions and billions of different food options we have available to us in America as a blessing or a curse. Are people in Africa content with their simple rice and beans diet? Or do they constantly wish for variety and excitement in their food? I would like to think the former. How can they miss something they have never had? Or maybe this is extremely ignorant of me. I guess I just know that when I didn't dwell on what I didn't have, I was completely content (and even happy) with what I did have.

And that right there is a million dollar revelation.

So how can I apply that to my eating habits here at camp? How can I make healthy choices? How can I exercise portion control? And self control? How can I be a good steward of my body and of the food that is provided? And how can I apply that to the other areas in my life, as well. How much time do I waste dwelling on the way I wish things were, or what I don't have? (How shameful is that?!) How can this experience translate into more than just a month-long commitment? How can it be a permanent lifestyle change?

Seriously. How?
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