Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Reflections on Fall

I know that fall is almost over, but I came across this reflection that I wrote about a year ago when I was reading back through some of my old journals, and I really like it, so wanted to share it (please forgive the run-ons and lack of grammar...). It was written when I was housesitting out in Amissville, as I was sitting outside on the back porch of the house.


I feel as if I am in Narnia Lord. It is so perfectly and devastatingly beautiful right now, gazing out into a sea of green, shades of green, when the world and nature enter this season of passing away; when the trees, instead of glorifying in their strength and beauty, fall and fade into the passing of the season with dignified forbearance. In this last gasp of life, nature, the earth, bursts forth in a flurry of color and warmth, as if to remind us that in death, abundant life is found. The winter, no matter how long and how cold, cannot hide the life that courses underneath it forever.

The mountains rise in the background, gracing the scene with tangible icons of forbearance. Their timeless beauty and grace stands firm, unmovable, with wisdom and knowledge, whether crowned with the greenness of trees or the blanket whiteness of snow.

And coursing through it all is the primal pulse of all living things. The symphony and cacophony of crickets, beetles, birds, and all other insects. Flowers bloom in all their beauty, not ready to succumb to the inevitably of the season around them. And the sun; the beautiful, glorious, life-giving Son; the sun that provides all warmth and light shines its life-giving rays upon all - made bearable by the wisps of wind that breeze through it all. It rustles all leaves, lifting and gently depositing those that have succumbed to death; those whose brief, glorious life adjoined to the branch, has now passed. They will no longer dance with their brothers and sisters because that part of their journey is over. Lifted from the branch, one leaf here, one leaf there floats on the currents of the wind - whether or mighty or soft, and comes to the next phase of its life.

There is a deep magic here. There is a power felt in it all - whether sheer power or love or both, it is mysterious and incomprehensible. It can only be felt and admired and awed. It can only be delighted and reveled in - it is revered. It is revered and loved because its Creator is in all these intangibles - it is the ray of beauty that parts through the clouds - it is the breeze that brushes through my hair and past my face - it is the joyous noise of an unhindered laugh - it is the grace and steadfastness of the mountains - it is the beauty of death and the pain of life - it is the incomprehensible but deeply felt mystery of all the earth that shines in its primordial state.

It is beauty unscathed, untouched by all the awful things that have corrupted life. It is God -God in all His awesome glory and unnerving power and mysterious love. It is past all understanding and reason and can only be felt on soul-baring love and level. There is no understanding this confluence of beauty, death, life, warmth, light, whispers, grace, and forbearance. There is only the heart and the heart cannot put words to the awesome wonder and beauty that God's creation gives to God. Nature worshipping its Creator and the Creator continually gracing and loving His creation. There is no shame, no guilty, no constraints.

Each piece of creation sings forth the song of its purpose and nothing can deter it from doing so - no internal or external force plays upon it, no will manipulates it from its path. It only obeys the will of God and God in turn gives it beauty because of its obedience.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A couple quick reflections on ice-skating...

I had the unintended pleasure this Saturday of going to the ice rink at the Sculpture Garden at the NGA and watching the people skate around for a little while and during the course of watching and observing these people, I had a couple of favorite people:

1. The guy who kept wiping out - this guy was absolutely hilarious and I fell in love with him because he had the heart to keep on trying to skate on, even though he had to have a death grip on the ice rink's railing! There was this one point in which there was a little kid in his way and he had keep one hand on the railing, while reaching around the kid with his other to grab onto the railing and not completely wipe out. There were times that even while holding onto the railing, he would completely wipe out!! It was hilarious and amazing and awesome and gave me a living example of why we should have a good sense of humor, humility, and lots of gumption to keep on trying when we completely wipe out, even when it is in front a ton of people!

2. The couple making out on the ice - It was romantic and one of those moments that felt like it was from a movie, so this particular PDA elicited that "awww" that lives in every girl's heart. It semi-reminded me of the movie Serendipity - one my girl movies.

3. The dad trying to skate while holding one kid in front and another in the back holding onto him! - Again, one of those moments that elicited that "awww" that lives in every woman's heart. And it also made me laugh seeing the other little one clinging onto her dad's back pockets so that she didn't fall down! It was beyond cute.

4. The pros flying around the ice - there will always be those that "fly around" us, no matter what profession or sport or thing we attempt. There is always someone that can do it better and make it look effortless in the process. While there is a certain beauty in that effortlessness and you admire the skill, I have more admiration for the guy who kept on trying even though he completely lacked any kind of skill at all.

5. The joy of the crowd - it is just fun to see that many people enjoying themselves so thoroughly and fully. I wish there were more crowds of people enjoying themselves like that, with pure fun.

A Map and Guide for along the way...

A couple of weeks ago I went to Charlottesville for the day and had one of the best days with the Lord - one of those kinds of days that I have been longing for for so long. One in which through reflection and quiet hours spent by myself, I felt that I saw things in a new light and with new understanding. And though I feel a little trepidatious opening up to the world my thoughts and prayers, I wanted to share this, since it has been an important realization along this Road that I am walking on.

Oct. 28th
Dear Lord,
This is the day that my heart has been longing for. And yet again, it is found here in Charlottesville, in my favorite garden, on a most beautiful, glorious, sublime day. All of nature is in harmony and the only noise is that of the birds, or the squirrel rummaging for food, or the chipmunks rustling in the underbrush, or the wind breezing through the leaves. There are the occasional sounds of people's voices or cars or even the train whistling through the town. But it is silent. I feel silent, at ease, at rest, and I can hear You. I can feel You Lord. I feel You in the warmth of the sun beating down upon me, or in the coolness of the breeze that wisps around me. I can feel You in my heart, reaching for me, asking me to come into Your arms and rest my lonely heart in Your loving embrace. I feel as if the journey has temporarily stopped because I have realized I am walking in circles and I need to look at the Map. I need to study the Map and realize that I cannot find my way without It. Without the Map, I am journeying nowhere, expending my energy in a quest with no end. I can explore many paths on my own, taking each twist and turn in stride, but I will never know when those paths meet the Road, if I don't look at the Map. And the other thing is, I need the share the Map. I need to share the Map with others that I encounter on my journey - no matter where they are in their own. Because for some reason their paths have intersected mine. And because of that, I want to and need to share with them the Map that I have. And maybe, as I meet these people they will help me to better understand the Map. And maybe they will help me to turn down a path I had never considered before.

I think though I oftentimes mistake people on the path as the Map. And for that, I ask for Your forgiveness Lord. That is replacing people for You. That is seeking to fill the need and loneliness in my life with others and not You. Please forgive me Lord. For that is sinful. I ask for Your mercy and forgiveness for seeking and wanting people to fill my life, when in fact it is You and You alone that I want.

And Lord, not only are you the Map, You are also my Guide. You are my Guide on this journey, the One who seeks to walk with me along the path. And when I am thinking correctly, I let You guide me. But these past few years, with a couple of months' exception, I have been walking on my own, not looking for my Guide.

But I am here now Lord. I have stopped. I need to stop, before anymore of this journey goes by. Three years God. Three years Lord Jesus have I been walking, mostly on my own, with an occasional glance at You. I have cried out many times, but rarely have I really looked for You.

And I ask again for Your forgiveness. I am a lowly, lonely sinner Lord. I am one of the worst sinners there is. The guilt and shame of my many transgressions are always before me. And it is because of them also and the shame I have over my weaknesses that I have ignored You. Please forgive me God and please remind me every day that I am forgiven only through Your grace, love, and mercy. I cannot boast of my salvation - I have done nothing to earn or deserve it!! But I can boast of You and Your great power. It is only through Your power, Your grace, Your mercy that I a sinner can walk on the paths You have laid before me and look to You as my Guide and my Map. You alone can fill that need, just as You alone can fill the loneliness that racks my heart.

I love and trust You always - Amen

Sunday, November 18, 2007

A Conductor and an Epiphany

Last night, as part of my day in DC, I went to a performance of the National Symphony Orchestra. Of all the pieces that they played, the most stunning and sublime was a performance of Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade. Incredible does not even begin to describe it - it is one of those things that you have to experience in the moment and words do not suffice afterwards.

The most fascinating thing though while watching the performance was how my eye was constantly drawn back to the conductor. Even during the soloist performances throughout the piece, I kept watching the conductor. There is something so memorizing about the conductor to me. Perhaps it is because during my long love of classical music, I become so familiar with a piece of music that I sometimes pretend that I am the conductor, bringing in the different instruments at the exact time, creating the mood of the piece, setting the tempo of the performance.

While watching the conductor, and simultaneously wishing that I was a conductor, I realized that is what I want to do - I want to be the conductor! I don't want to be the violin virtuoso or the lead soloist - I want to be the conductor, directing the piece of music, bringing all the instruments together to create one harmonious sound. I don't like too much dissonance in my works - but a feeling of harmony, of lushness, of power, of such majesty that it gives you goosebumps when you hear it. I want to be the one directing the big picture. I know all the pieces and the instruments and I see them working together as a whole. I respect my soloists but I also need all the other parts of the orchestra to make the piece work. No one instrument or person is ultimately more important than the other. I am the guide for the work - I make the orchestra come together as one.

That realization, coupled with my experience in Italy this past year, is evolving my thinking and helping me to realize that I want to be a leader and that I can be a leader. I want to be a leader that brings people together to work as one whole, a team of people to create something of beauty and greatness. A leader that works through the dissonances to create a magical harmony that gives goosebumps to those that experience it. A teacher that can guide the soloists into one body. A big picture visionary.

A bend in the journey? Or a sign that is along the way? Whichever it is, at least I feel some definitity...

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Inspiration of Project Runway

One of my absolute favorite TV shows is Project Runway. Ever since I got hooked into this show, back in Season 2, I have been a diehard fan. I love it. There are so many elements that go into making this one of the absolute best reality shows out there (it should have won the Emmy, not Amazing Race, no matter how much you like Phil Keoghan!). Some of my favorite things about this show:

1. The Creativity - I cannot imagine what it would be like to be in a room with all of these creative people. They are all visionaries and are able to execute some of the wildest things I have ever seen, with materials that I can't imagine ever, ever being used for clothing. I would absolutely love being in the room with these people, though I think the reality-prone, practical side of my brain would start to kick in if confronted with an overwhelming dose of creativity.

2. The Judges - I love, love, love Nina Garcia, Michael Kors, and Heidi Klum. I don't always agree with their assessments, but I love their personalities and critiques of the designers.

3. Tim Gunn - I'm sure there are people out there that think Tim Gunn's appeal is overblown. It's not. He is such a good mentor and critic and always wants to see the designers succeed in their challenges, but he's not afraid to offer them advice on their designs or construction of their pieces. His phrase, "Make it Work!" is a priceless challenge to everyone, no matter what line of work you are in - figure out how to make it work!

4. The designers - I don't think there is a more eclectic bunch of personalities on one reality television show than this bunch of people. Some are divas, some are bad-asses, some are genuinely nice. But they all have strong personalities - they are the kind of people, that if you met them at a party, would probably be at the center of several discussions. There aren't too many wallflowers in this bunch!

5. The fashion - I just love it. I love seeing the dresses and collections that these designers come up with. It can be incredible, it can be awful. But it is inspiring to me to see what they pull off - and then whether or not I am inspired by their creations to come up with something of my own!

I am such a dichotomous person - I love both fashion and sports, classical music and alternative hip-hop, working hard and being lazy, history and business. No flippin' wonder I can't figure out what path I'm supposed to take!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Wild Weekends, Sadness, and one of my Life Dreams

This weekend I had the pleasure of attending one of my best friend's bachelorette party/weekend. It was pretty wild in terms of games played and other things done, but as the saying is often amended..."What happens in VA Beach, stays in VA Beach". I do have to say that the highlight of the weekend had to have been at Dirty Dicks, in which the waitress, after being told there was a fly in one of our drinks, says, "Oh, what gets me is when there is a hair in the drink! There are usually flies at the bar anyway..."!!!!!! Not joking - she seriously said that!! I wish I had a camera to capture everyone's faces at the table - priceless.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, I found out this past weekend that one of the people that I work closely with on the travel baseball league that I run finances for, suffered a brain aneurysm. When my boss called and told me about it, it was so strange. I felt so detached and immediately felt like I slipped into "Ok, what do we do" mode, instead of letting it sink in. I wonder if because I have gone through so many of these tragedies, I almost am numb to them now? Or the fact that a lot of my coworkers lately have been suffering personal tragedies (a father passed away a couple of weeks ago, then another's sister passed away from an aneurysm two weeks ago, and then another's aunt passed away from cancer last week) has made it seem almost routine - I usually am the one in the company that notifies everyone and then gets something together to send to the family. I just feel very strange and wish that I felt more and could cry about it, because she is someone that I am pretty close to. I wish there was a different word than just strange to describe what I am feeling, but that is what I feel.

On a completely different topic, I was going through my fabulous sister's pictures on Facebook (who currently is teaching English on a Caribbean island - does her life get any better?) and saw this photo and it instantly captured my heart. It is just a simple picture of the sun glistening off the water with a sailboat in middle. But ever since I have gone sailing (twice now), my heart has been captured by sailboats and the open sea. I would love to take sailing lessons someday. There is something about the huge openness and calmness on the ocean or in the water or on any kind of boat that just enamors and fascinates me. And this picture perfectly captured that feeling.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Spiritual Warfare - The Reality of Christ and Satan

You know, one way to "test" the realness of Christ is to be in ministry for Him. And especially when you are about to do something significant in ministry for Him.

I am a Young Life leader at a local high school in my hometown and last night it was my turn to give the "talk" or the "message" at club last night. This is the point in club in which, for the last 5 to 10 minutes, we get to talk about Jesus and what He has done for us in our lives. My talk was on the topic of Need - how we all have a need for Jesus in our lives and that nothing short of Christ will ever fill the desires, the holes in our hearts. Giving the talk is not my forte. I am not a strong public speaker and when I get in front of a crowd of people to talk about something I get really nervous and feel like my voice is completely shaky and weak and that what I am saying does not make sense. In short, I cannot give the talk on or in my own strength - it requires all the power of Christ within me and in the end, whether it is successful or not, it is because of Christ and my surrender to Him.

This particular talk I had been struggling with all week. I had been germinating ideas and trying to figure out what passage in the Bible would work well, but I wasn't able to solidify any of it until the eleventh hour Sunday night and yesterday morning - with the threads coming to together on Sunday and the writing it out yesterday.

I also was housesitting this weekend (and last week), and had to leave the house where I was staying yesterday morning. So after finishing my talk, I got myself ready and all packed up, and started taking some of my stuff out to my car. And when I opened my front driver side car door, I see glass everywhere and a huge boulder sitting in the front passenger seat. I was in a state of disbelief and shock. At first I thought that it was just a complete and random act of vandalism, but I realized today that something was stolen from my car - obviously not that important since it took me so long to realize it - which kind of makes it more logical to my head and (this will sound strange) easier to stomach. But I was a wreck with the initial shock and the "What do I do?" I hate feeling and being helpless in situations like these, but thankfully I have the wisdom of my dad who helped me figure out what to do, as he often does in times like these.

But in the midst of cleaning up all the glass I had to pray and pray hard to not let this distract and frazzle and stress me the rest of the day. I realized that whoever did this to my car, didn't know about Jesus our his or her need for Jesus, and that is exactly why, or at the very least, why I had to give my talk to my high school kids - so that they did not end up as vandals destroying and stealing people's property.

Then, all day, I was supposed to meet with my boss. But we didn't end up meeting until 6pm - which meant that I had to miss Campaigners. But then we didn't finish until 7:30pm - which only left half an hour for me to race to Club. It's the way things work with me and my boss and any other night it would have been completely fine and not a stressing point - it was just the fact that I was giving the message! But again, I prayed and God heard me - I asked to not let this frazzle and stress me, and it didn't. I was definitely running on adrenaline, but it all worked out for the best (besides me realizing the fact that I am seriously out of shape!).

And then finally, finally I gave the talk and it went well. It was the most that the kids have paid attention during a talk, and that is through no power but Jesus's. I can't claim any credit, because He was there and the kids were tracking with what I was saying. The nervousness was there in my voice, but God was there in spite of it.

So despite the attempts of Satan to get in the way and thwart my peace of mind in the process of giving my talk, Christ's power, which has already conquered Satan and all evil, prevailed. I got to really lean on and experience His power and grace, which is funny, since that is exactly what the topic was at YL leadership on Sunday night. Coincidence? I don't think so.

Friday, November 2, 2007

I love makeover shows...

There is just something about makeover shows and fashion magazines that I love. I love the creativity that they inspire within me. I love watching the feeling of empowerment that the people feel after they go through their makeover. It becomes something that is much more than clothes - through the course of the show you find that the participant often has deep personal and emotional issues that are hidden underneath the facade of their t-shirts. It fascinates me how much a person's appearance can change with different clothes, haircut, and makeup and then how much that changes their view of themselves. I know self-worth isn't ultimately found in our appearance, but it is kind of amazing how our appearance can be a mirror for how much confidence we possess.