Saturday, September 26, 2015

Bhangra Blues

Something I've often found myself trying to explain to people is why I seem to be caught between not just two, but three countries. Beyond why I want to be a missionary, is why do I seem to be split between Romania and India? This is actually a good question, one I am still answering to this day.

Romania is, without a doubt, where I am called to minister long-term. It's been confirmed to me by God on a number of occasions. I guess I will find out for sure when I get there in a year. But there has been an irrefutable certainty in my heart that Romania is where I am meant to be.

So why the detour to India? What that a good choice, when I already felt so connected to Romania? These two countries are so extremely different. Why did I choose to divide myself in such a way?

There are two reasons for my choice to get involved in India. Okay, more than two, but I'll simplify it a little. First, India is an amazing place. I first became enamored with it when I was in high school. Why wouldn't it be worth it to concentrate on this country for a while? I've learned a lot, and I feel I understand humanity better by researching this culture. Secondly, I needed to know that Romania was in fact where I was called. Let's say I never got involved in India and always concentrated on Romania and Eastern Europe without fail. I would know no other culture (besides American) and perhaps, one day, I would sit down and think to myself, what if I was wrong? What if I had chosen Romania arbitrarily? I would have less of a perspective on my vocation and perhaps an uneasy heart.

Now, it could be God would have worked that last scenario out anyway, by affirming my place in Romania. I don't know. But I do think God called me to India, for a time. But even yesterday I felt that calling reaching its conclusion.

Last night, I went with my good friend and her best friend to go out bhangra dancing, a popular type of Indian dance. Somehow, even as I was dancing (or, rather, attempting to dance) my mind kept getting all existential on me, making me question what I was doing there. Of course, part of that was because we were some of the only white people there. But I felt out of place in another sense. I work for a mission organization that works in India. I love that job and I know that's where I'm supposed to be. But trying to dance with Indians? I felt like I was cheating on a lover. I should be with Romanians, doing Romanian things, trying to speak Romanian. I think I had a dream last night I was speaking the little Romanian I know. I am coming to the close of one season in my life and entering another. And I guess that's the way it ought to be.

I'd like to end this blog post here, but...it gets a little more complicated. I sponsor a little girl in India, who I met on my internship. She's not so little anymore, but I got a letter from her from India a few weeks ago, and it broke my heart. She wants me to return. She asked me over and over, repeating that she loves me. I want to visit her, but mostly I want her to be happy and healthy, growing up in a safe place. I don't know if it will make things better if I keep showing up in her life again. I will continue writing to her. I love her. But I need to seriously pray through whether returning to India would be what God wants me to do.

Don't travel the world, falling in love with different people and places, studying culture. It'll mess you up. (wink)

Friday, September 18, 2015

What are You Banking On?

I recently lead a "spiritual gathering" among my roommates and I this past Sunday evening. While the phrase "spiritual gathering" sounds, eh, sort of like something a commune would do, (and my residence is, admittedly, referred to as "the Communist tree-house", sigh), all we mean by those two words is this: we are doing something spiritual, and we are all together. So no straight up watching The Bachelor In Paradise (we did that after), and we can't be in separate rooms, but other than that, "spiritual gatherings" are pretty fluid in nature. Wiggle room, room for interpretation. And we take turns leading them. So what do you guys think I did when I led it this week?

If you answered, "led a guided conversation and allowed time for journaling," you're right! While I obviously will not be sharing what people said, I can tell you what my four questions were (if I can remember them...).

My theme for this gathering was the past, the present, and the future. I think sometimes people don't allow time to reflect on all three of those. We might fixate on one in particular, like our terrible/fantastic past, or the 50 billion things happening in the present, or wistfully check off the days until we finally "make it" in the future. I'm guilty of all three of those, at times. But what I hoped for my roomies and I was for us to get some stuff out into the open.

So the first question: If you could say one thing to the person you were ten years ago, what would it be? Once I thought this question through (which came sometime after I said it, ha), I realized that I was already THIRTEEN years old ten years ago. Wow. Anyway, we all shared sentiments along the lines of, I have really learned a lot, been through a lot, done things very differently in those ten years. So, how would you answer the question?

The next question was, what is one thing that God has blessed you with right now, in the present? It can be too easy to rattle off a list (family, friends, health, a job), so I wanted us to pick one, the best one, maybe. What has God done for you now? Not what you are waiting for. Not that great thing that happened to you last year. Now. I think we often forget to see that super obvious thing God has given to us. We are like children who move from one toy to the next, in a way. We get used to the most important blessing, for whatever reason. My answer? The friends I have been making while in Raleigh. I've met some pretty cool people, and I have some friends who I've known longer who I get to hang out with as well. This makes me feel very blessed. Sometimes I get so used to being alone that I forget what it's like to belong with people. It's the best thing ever. (superlative)

My last two questions were about the future. This third one is the kicker, so here goes: What is the one thing you are BANKING on, the one thing you are relying on to happen, the thing you want the most...and what if it never happened? What if God didn't give it to you? What would you do? How would you feel? What next? This question really got me, as, if you can't tell, I was sort of making up these questions as I went. So I was having trouble answering my own question.

What if I didn't become a missionary? That's the one thing I'm dead-set on, even before having kids, even before marriage, even before anything else. What if my mom or dad needed me? What if there was some emergency? What if my health failed me? What the HECK would I do in the States for the rest of my life?

Okay, because that question is really scary, I amended it: what if the thing you want was delayed by 5 years? That's a little easier to swallow, but I think it's still worth pondering. God does not owe us anything. We didn't earn what we have, and we aren't entitled to what we want. We are all just lucky, blessed, fortunate to have a God who gives us good gifts. The only thing we can rely on here is God. Not the gifts, even if having a decently paying job doesn't sound like a "gift."

My last question: What is one thing you want to learn in the future? What one thing do you want to comprehend at some point, when you are older and *hopefully* wiser? Mine was this: I want to understand people who are difficult to understand. I've been through situations that sometimes leave me questioning the human race. I often don't get how certain positive and negative qualities, seemingly incompatible ones, can possibly exist in the same person. How can that possibly happen? People are complicated, and I love that. But I have a lot to learn.

There you have it! If you're wondering what I would do if I didn't become a missionary, the answer is, something involved writing and photography! Triple threat: missions, writing, photo. I guess. Thanks for reading!

If you'd like to support my missions in Romania in one year, please follow this link!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

"Douazeci"

I've been very busy, since the weekend before last, when I started moving for the second time. The last time, God willing, until June 30th of next year. So I apologize for not having written in ages, but sometimes life is happening and it takes a while for enough perspective to accumulate and form itself into a decent post.

I have a new job at the PNC Arena. I work as cashier in the parking lot at my first event in about two weeks. I've sort of been stressing out about whether I'll get to keep my nose piercing, since my boss was unsure if even a clear stud would be acceptable. In case my hole closes up, I've thought about dyeing my hair instead. But I don't really want to do that. I hear once you start dyeing your hair, it's hard to stop. And I like my hair color.

So when I sat down on my new couch after work today, it was the first time I'd gotten to really process how I was feeling. Little stresses like moving in and wondering what my face would look like had consumed my attention. But as I sat on the newly moved white sofa, with the new coffee table, lamp, and the 18 books I shoved in a bag and got for $10 sitting on the shelves, I didn't feel the sort of satisfaction I thought I'd feel. Instead, I wanted someone to share it all with.

I watched the sunlight still pouring in through the window, and the way it lit up the room, which still felt mostly empty. I felt fortunate, and happy to call this place home, but there was something missing. I could have gone downstairs to be with my roommates (which I eventually did do). But instead, I sat on the couch, listening to "Lover's Spit," and realizing the desire to one day be committed to someone was not gone, no matter how busy and preoccupied I might be.

As I sat there, leaning into that quiet feeling inside me, I realized something else. I had not been in tune with God for some time. It can be so easy to go to church and go through my day working for a Christian nonprofit without really chilling with God. I think being still with God is one of the most important things we can do, and yet I often forget to do it myself. Why is it that God wants us to "be still and know that he is God"? What benefit can come from not producing anything, not reading anything, not processing anything, not doing anything?

I'm not going to answer that question outright. I'm not even going to necessarily say that I have the answer. But I do know that listening is a lost art these days, an art that if we can take up afresh, can change the way we live our lives...(oh, that sounds too trite, but I can't think of another way to put it.)

There is one story I'd like to tell, which could have resulted from either my intuition, my charity, or perhaps, from being in tune with the Spirit. The other day I drove to the grocery store, and as I came up to the parking lot, I noticed a family standing on the outskirts of the lot, begging for money. I quickly decided to help them out, not thinking it through, perhaps because there were two small children, unlike other people asking for money, who are typically individual men. Whatever my initial motive, I decided to go up and ask them what they'd like for me to buy them at the Kroger.

As I walked up, I saw that not only did they have two little boys, but the wife was pregnant. I asked them what they wanted, and after listening closely to the man I figured out he was asking for a gift card. Then I asked where they were from.

"We are from Romania."

"Vorbesc putin romaneste!" I said, wonderfully surprised, even though I should have guessed, given their appearance combined with their accent. They were also pleasantly surprised that I could speak their language (at least a little bit). The woman seemed especially pleased. I went in, grabbed some cabbage and tofu and other stuff, and picked up a gift card. I asked the cashier to put $20 on the card.

I walked back to the family, and handed the father the card. "How much?" he asked.

"Twenty," I said. "Douazeci," the man answered. "In Romanian, 'twenty' is 'douazeci'."

Now, I've learned that word before, though it hadn't come to mind. But now I know I'll never forget it.

Sometimes I make decisions based on very little evidence and I stumble upon dramatic results, or maybe God is increasingly sovereign in my life. Increasingly sovereign, if such a thing can be, at least to me.