Sunday, August 21

the future

Nepal is in my future. And even as I am immersed in my current season, composed of many seconds of decisions making up days, my eyes are ever set on a little country the size of Tennessee, far across the sea. 

How odd, to have my present life invested in North America, to pay rent, pay tuition, go to church, make friends, ride the bus, while spending so much time envisioning life in a country 8,000 miles away among people whom I have never seen. How inconvenient, it sometimes seems, to think so constantly of my life in Nepal and remember that my life is not currently in Nepal. 

It is odd to have so much knowledge and stock in a culture that I must learn about second-hand. And it's odd to speak in the future rather than the present tense. 

My heart is ready to be in South Asia. The Lord put this call within me long before I recognized it. And while it can feel like an inconvenience that I am still waiting and preparing to make my home there, the Giver of Good Gifts has granted me these months of training, preparing, sharing of my passion, and sanctification for the betterment of my work once I am actually on the ground. 

And so I know that this is a season of preparation, a season of joys in North America, a season of sewing together the many lessons the Lord has given me. I know that this is a season the tapestry of praise that my life is will grow. Strings are being weaved as my eyes open wider to see the glory of the Lord. 

I am reminded of Ecclesiastes 3.  
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
And even as I can ruminate on the difficulties of this season of waiting, of looking forward while struggling to see present, I am again choosing joy. I am resting in the fact that there are seasons for everything under the sun, and my current season is pleasing unto the Lord.

And even in the unknowing, in the struggle, I am comforted that the Lord has given me sufficient sight just bright enough to take the next step knowing where my foot will fall. Later in Ecclesiastes 3, it is written that "He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end."

I walk with not only Nepal in my heart, but eternity. Neither of these destinations can be seen in this moment, but they are set firmly in my heart.

So I will walk in joy through each of the proper times for anything under the sun. I am dancing when it is a time to dance, mourn as it is time to mourn, sew and create in their time, and tear apart and begin anew when that is needed. Even my impatience in this current season, as it is a time to wait rather than to run, I am reminded that "everything God does will remain forever; there is nothing to add to it and there is nothing to take from it, for God has so worked that men should fear him" (Ecclesiastes 3:14).

God has determined all of his work and his work will remain forever. I cannot add to it. I must merely do what it is time to do. Even if that means it's time to wait.

With eternity in my heart.

If you would like to know how to be a part of my future (and much anticipated) work in Nepal, please let me know.

In great love,

Monday, August 15

how incomprehensible

For the past two days, I’ve been driving through mountains.
On either side, they have risen up
Surrounding me
Often, I am plunged into half-light,
their shadows casting a darkness onto our car

I take off my sunglasses
I feel the sudden change in temperature
It’s over within a few minutes
And I am once again squinting surprised.

In my prayers journaled last night,
Night air chilled and settled on the meadows beneath the mountains,
I praised the Lord that I got to see more of his characteristics
Revealed through the works of his hands which I had never set eyes upon before.
I praised him that the seeming crinkles, the jagged peaks,
Were reflections of his own glory.
And I realized.

I realized that He alone knows the depths of the mountains.
He knows each hollow and incline on those peaks,
Just as he calls each star by its own name.
And as I am enveloped in the shadows of the mountains,
I am silent in barely recognizable distress.
As I begin to understand that I cannot even comprehend the smallness
Of my own body, my life, my vision.

I am under the cover of He who called the mountains to rise up
From their tectonic dwelling under the soil.
The God who knows each hollow and who is larger and even more incomprehensible
Than these mountains I am seeing with brand-new childlike eyes
His presence is larger and far more constant than the mile high shadows cast over me
And in his Largeness,
He cares for me.

How incomprehensible.  

Sunday, August 7

a day in the life: canada edition

My time for the summer term is drawing to a close. Finals have threatened to swallow me whole, most of my conversations revolve around emotions surrounding exams. And while I don't pretend to hide my excitement that I'll soon have a break, I also know that by next week, most of the friends I have made in the past two months will go back to their homes, though a few will return for the fall term.

I can't say that this summer hasn't been full of times of stress and frustration. It's been rather like a day at the beach. The view is beautiful, the sun is warm, but I find that my feet are stuck in the sand and waves continually crash against me, knocking me over. I have just enough time and stamina to get to my feet again before the next set hits me.

Back in February, I posted about what a typical day looks like. The tradition bears repeating. Without further ado, a day in my life...the Canadian edition.

6:45 am

Wake up deep under my covers, to the tinkling of the beginnings of my alarm. Steel myself for what's ahead.

Riding onto campus in the morning - a sped-up video of my beautiful
morning bike ride can be seen in my FB page
Getting ready has to be typical no matter what area of the world you're in. Lunch prep, washing face, makeup. Chatting with roommates. Simplicity.

7:30 am
Bike to school. I live 4 km from my university, in an adorable little yellow house in an adorable little tourist town. It usually takes about 15 minutes to bike this distance.
The air is particularly cool. Normally BC summers range somewhere in the 80s, but this summer has been very cool (though we did have some warm weeks when I arrived at school sweaty and grumpy). Sometimes fog is hanging, slowly rising from the fields as I ride by. I never miss an opportunity to look in wonder at this beautiful place. This sense of wonder usually lasts until I reach the steep hill about 7 minutes into my ride. Cars rush by in naive ease, feet merely touching the gas pedal as I hit something more like a gasping pedal, shifting my bike down and praying that the chain won't fall off [again].

Even if I start out the ride with goosebumps, I always glide into the bike rack breathing heavily and wishing I could shed layers. The video above shows a very sped-up version of my bike ride home in the evenings.

All of my classes are in one building. Even though we are part of a Christian university whose campus we are on, we operate pretty separately.

8:00 - 9:00 am

Got to love those palatal, uvular, pharyngeal, and epiglottal sounds...

Articulatory Phonetics class, Monday through Friday. I somehow got through 4 years of university with only one 8 am class and now I have one every day?!

This class is dedicated to examining and understanding all of the speech sounds that languages around the world work. We transcribe these sounds using the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet). With almost 7,000 languages in the world, that is a whole lot of sounds to encounter. Even after a degree in linguistics, I was in for a shock with this class.

9:00 - 10:00 am

View from the couch (Common Room)
After Phonetics, I usually go upstairs to the common room. I spend a lot of time in this room, lunch happens here, socializing happens here, studying happens here, napping happens here.

10:00 am to 11:15 am

Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I have a class called Language and Cultural Acquisition. Basically, this class teaches you theories of language learning and then you put them into practice by planning and implementing language lessons with a lovely Thai speaker once a week for an hour and half.

On Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday I have my Survey class.

11:25 - noon

Chapel! During the summer months, there's some type of chapel held every day in the same rooms we have class in. These have fed me so much spiritually, as they are delivered by people who have been in the field and who understand the perspective I look at the world through.

12:00 pm - 5:00 pm

On days that I don't have Phonetics lab (1:15 - 2:30) I spend this time working on homework. Even with "only" three classes, the course load is heavy. Because it takes 15 minutes to get home, I stay on campus all day. This has actually been awesome because I am in a mindset of getting. work. done.

6:00 pm

Dinner! I'm part of cooking groups, so one team cooks for all of the students, one team cleans up afterwards, and the other two just get to enjoy and be thankful it's not their week to cook or clean.

This is held in the dorms, where most of the summer students live. I made the choice to live off campus for cheaper rent and the ease of not having to move in between semesters, so it takes intentionalality to spend time with all my friends who live on campus.

~ 7:30 pm 

Head on home! As the sun begins to set, the world comes alive. I get to ride down the huge hill I rode up in the morning. As I get close to my home, there are fields on my right, soft grass of the golf field on my left, and always the mountains in front of me. On clear days, I can see Mount Baker in Washington, always taking my breath away.

Most days, I relax by watching a show on Netflix. I'm disciplining myself to immediately sit down with my Bible these days. And there's studying, always studying.

Days are discussed with sweet roommates, joys and successes rejoiced over and failings given a sigh and encouragement.

Breeze through the window above my head, light from my lamp soft against the wall.

The day closes.

And another to begin.

Monday, August 1

something brand new

I'm learning something beautiful about art.

I'm learning that it's okay to be a beginner. It's okay to give myself permission to learn something new.

Last night, I found myself sitting at my desk, the blinds open and the air cool. And I was painting. I was painting something I'd never put to paper before. A landscape. I posit that it is impossible to be any kind of artist living in one of the most beautiful places on Earth and not develop a desire to paint the world around you.

The resulting was simple, layers of watercolors mixed with experimental colors and questioning brush strokes. Soon, coniferous trees would be added. And if I'm honest, I will admit to you that it was a YouTube video tutorial that gave me the confidence to take the leap. 

And I am okay with that.

When I begin to doubt myself, when I am about to make a particularly significant personal breakthrough and a nagging evil thought pushes into my head about the unworthiness of my effort, I think of a quote I read a few months ago. Right before I came to Canada, I picked up a book about watercolor painting. It's a book from somewhere around the 50s, written by watercolorist Adolf Dehn. His words have stayed with me.

He writes:
"[The student] must, if he will become an artist, have a passion sustained by patience, a daring not afraid of failure, a quality of seeing and feeling life and nature intensely. He should also have that even rarer quality sometimes called talent - the ability for putting down on paper the intensity he feels. When he becomes depressed by his fumbling efforts, as undoubtedly he will, he must remember that the first one thousand water colors are the hardest."
I remember that no work is done overnight. I remember that I am not competing for an artistic title, I have no one to compare myself to. The realms of creativity in this world are endless, a true mirror to the breadth and depth of our calling to reflect all the creativity of our artistic Creator God. And I remember that this artistic endeavor was never about me anyway. It was always about revealing God's glory.

I consider the art supplies I have acquired in the past 6 months. I started out humbly, index cards with sharpie and child's watercolor pans. The paint grainy and the brushes made for my mom's acrylics.

I own a lot more than that now, multiple paints, calligraphy nibs, inks, pads of specialty paper, and several mixing palettes for paints. I've learned a lot in the months since I stepped into Hobby Lobby with the purpose of buying real watercolor paper and a paint palette. And now, as I learn more, I look at that paint palette and realize that one I bought isn't really well suited for watercolors at all; I would be better off with a different style, one with a technical name that I know now and didn't then.

I'm looking at that palette. And I'm looking at those cheap paint brushes I thought I was getting a good deal on. Now I know that I effectively wasted money I could have been putting towards a better brush that would have actually done what I wanted it to. But I'm not angry at these mistakes; they serve as a reminder of the lessons I've learned.

And now I'm thinking that this might extend a little further than my collection of art supplies. I'm thinking how a year ago I was just beginning to figure out how exactly to begin this new phase of life. How could I share with people around me this fire that the Lord had lit inside for those far across the sea? It seemed impossible.

But I gave myself permission to be a novice, to learn something new. And I made mistakes, I said the wrong things. And I could regret my fumblings, but ultimately they are the sign of my growth. I didn't know the words to say then. I do now, in the same way that I can now look at paint brushes or paint palettes with a knowledgeable eye I didn't possess 6 months ago. The Holy Spirit has been with me the entire time, from stepping off the plane for an intensive two-week orientation course, to standing in front of a body of like-minded individuals with my shaky hands to tell them exactly why I am doing what I'm doing with my life, and to crossing the border and becoming a novice once again.

Displaying 20160724_093205.jpg
It's a beautiful thing to stand back and watch the Lord sanctify you. To see Him encourage you when your heart feels faint and you would rather just stay in the town that you love and with people who love you. To see Him hush the attacks of the Enemy who subtly bullies you into thinking the task is too big, the chasm too wide, or that the paints would be wasted in your hand.

John Piper once said, "If you are sufficient for your task, it is too small."

So whether it is praying for strength and clarity in painting a simple landscape or praying for strength in loving my neighbor as myself, the task is only achievable when I know that I am insufficient in myself and sufficient in the power of God.

And I remember that quote once again, that this every-growing art and this projection of my life is a "passion sustained by patience, a daring not afraid of failure."

And when I become depressed with my fumbling efforts, as undoubtedly I will, I must remember that the first one thousand watercolors are the hardest.

In love,

Sunday, July 24

my faith isn't a hobby

I've been giving some thought to the security of being in God's hand lately.

Since I've moved to Canada and begun an intensive summer term, I've been struggling with my quiet times. I get up every morning around 6:30 and I'm away from home for 12 hours of my day. I've never been someone who skipped a quiet time; I consistently found time for the Word and journaling throughout my college years. But now, in a time when I am surrounded by other believers and classes that confirm my future work, I am struggling.

And there is a lot of guilt felt there, guilt that I don't read enough, pray enough, worship enough.

But therein is the grace of God on bright display for my weary soul.

Therein is the reminder that even if I read my Bible all day, talked to the Lord without ceasing, I would still not be good enough to have earned the gift of the Gospel he has given freely.

And it's a reminder that if not for the gift of the Holy Spirit living within me, I would have walked away from my faith a long time ago.

I am thankful that, even while I struggle maintain the discipline of quiet time with the Lord, that I do not fear.

I have absolutely no fear that my faith will be torn from me.

I do not fear that I will "drift away" from God because of this.

I am overwhelmed with the knowledge that even if I set down my Bible, the cover closed, the Lord's promise will not depart from me. He has called me to him, set me apart, sanctified me, and continues to hold me tightly.

I'm reminded of Jeremiah's word in Jeremiah 20. After being abused by the people he had been sent to prophesy among, Jeremiah calls to God with a cry of despair. He's exhausted, he feels defeated, demeaned, and misused. Yet he cannot depart from his calling. The Lord won't let him go.
But if I say, "I will not remember Him or speak anymore His name," then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire shut up in my bones; and I am weary of holding it in, and I cannot endure it (v. 9).
A few verses later, he writes how those around him look eagerly at him to torture him.
But the Lord is with me like a dread companion; therefore my persecutors will stumble and not prevail (v. 11). 
I have no mob after me, no one mocking me except the depths of my own sin and guilt. My own nature is enough to wage battle against myself.

But the Lord won't let me go.

Our God is not a God of guilt; He calls us away from our shame. But He is a God of conviction who is not satisfied to let us wallow in our (my) laziness and self-indulgence. The more days I have gone without reading the Word or spending true time having a conversation with Him, the greater the pressure in my bones. The greater the frequency of going to bed thinking, "I'm too tired right now, if I don't go to sleep now I'll be exhausted tomorrow, I might as well not read," the greater fire burns. A fire in my bones which demands exercise, demands recognition. I am exhausted from holding in my praise.

As a being created for the sole purpose of offering up worship to the Creator, I grow weary living without pouring out praise. Even if I don't recognize why I'm so exhausted. 

And that is ridiculously comforting to me because I know that if it was truly up to me how I praised God (or if), I would have chosen a life of fleshly desires. I would have given up on my Savior so quickly, perhaps in those first couple months of being a believer when I questioned whether I was even a Christian. I know this because I have have a lot of "interests" in 24 years. Most of them have not stuck around.

I've had pets that quickly lost their novelty when I realized how much responsibility I would have to take care of a living being. I've had hobbies which were an intense part of life for a few months and now sit as sad reminders of my own frivolity.

But after five years of following Jesus, I can say that this is not a hobby. It's not an interest. It's a ransomed life, an identity, a calling...a privilege.

And so I continue to struggle to open my Bible when I come home from a day of classes, homework, relationships. And I rejoice in the many moments God reveals Himself to be in front of me. And I strive and pray for fingers which will reach for the Word more easily tomorrow. 

But in the struggle, I thank the Lord that I do not strive in fear that God will cease caring for me, that my faith will be another former hobby sitting on a high shelf. I have already been called redeemed, I am always going away into the far country and always returning home prodigal, always saying, "Father forgive me," and He is always bringing forth the best robe (Valley of Vision, 'Continual Repentance')

Do not despair, fellow believer.

Sunday, July 17

little did I know

It was yesterday morning, hands around a travel mug, eyes bleary, gaze towards the bay surrounding Vancouver. It felt too early to be awake and traveling on a Saturday. But as I continued to stare at the water meeting the cliff, something began to stir in my heart. A deep, deep feeling of surrealism. Finally, thoughts clearing as the mist rising to reveal the islands in the bay, I realized that I had driven this same route five years ago. Memories began to surface, feeling so distant that I questioned whether they were even my own.

On a June morning, months before I had entered college, my sister and I had stared at these same islands, marveled at the same mountains.
After a hike in BC - 2011
The road was the same. The cliff above us remained looming. But what a different person it was who sat in the passenger seat in 2011. Recent high school grad, heart full of fear, mind confused, faking certainty... I had sat next to my sister, clutching a printed off list of directions, eyes wide towards the view.

When I eighteen and driving along Highway 99, I said to myself, "I have to come back to this place." It was mesmerizing. Little did I know that the Lord had long planned that I would indeed get to come back to this place.

Five years later, I am making the drive once again. I live an hour to the east, a small town where I am attending classes in preparation for a career in South Asia. I'm making the drive with friends, our destination to the north. A day hike to a glacial lake.

I questioned whether it could have possibly have been me whose memories I was now replaying.

What a marvelous God I serve, that he has made me new.

How little I knew at eighteen, riding along Highway 99. I didn't know that in two months, I would come to call myself a different name: Redeemed Child of the Most High God. That I would soon look at the world in a very different light. I didn't know that the Lord had already placed a calling on my life, one which He had already settled out the details.

A hike in BC - 2016
I remember telling my sister that I hoped I would get to come back to this place someday. Merely five years later, I would live here. And little did I know that I would be completing classes to be able to begin a career overseas.

I was then unaware of the blessings that the Lord had in store for me. For the purpose that would be laid before me, the overwhelming peace that would settle upon my shoulders.

Maybe I won't live in the U.S. my whole life, I had considered. That dream felt all the more tangible as I stared at sights I had only ever seen in magazines. Little did I know what the Lord had in store, of the ache for completely different mountains, 8,000 miles away, that I would develop. Little did I know.

An "unfocused gleam of truth" (C.S. Lewis) had cast its beam upon me during that short trip in 2011. It came into focus only when the Lord drew me to him. Little by little, year by year, He has given me more of His heart, allowed me to understand more of what He would have for me.

And I am sure that in another five years, I will look back on this time once again, and shake my head. I'm sure I will once again say "Little did I know." But for now, I am standing in thanksgiving for what I do now. I am thankful for this season. And I'm thankful for a God who was not satisfied in who I was back in 2011.

Sunday, July 10

finding change is fun here

Ten things I’ve learned since moving to Canada:

1. Finding change here is way more fun.
Toony (left) and loony (right)
The other day, I was walking across campus on my way to my morning class and saw a coin in the parking lot. I stop for pennies in the States so picking up a coin was second nature. But I was way more excited this time around because it turned out to be a dollar (a loony).
2. It is sweet to be in a community of people who are in the same stage of life.
By no means do I want to make less of my time in Arkansas; I cannot tell you how much I appreciate everyone in my life. I feel blessed to have been given the gift of sharing the passion the Lord has given me. I have valued living with my dear Williams family, have valued the chance to walk through marriage, new babies, and new careers with my friends. But it is a new experience to share in life with those who feel passionate about the exact same work I do. It’s exciting to be able to speak life into one another, to share in the spiritual lessons we have learned regarding moving overseas.
3. It’s hard to start new things.
The Real Canadian Superstore...this isn't my superstore
though, because mine has a Canadian and BC flag flying!
Even though it’s actually been pretty fluid getting to know everyone in the university, it’s still been a challenge figuring out how to begin all over again. I spent years cultivating my life in Conway and getting to the point where I was comfortable and knew where I stood…only to start from the bottom once again. I’m figuring out a new banking system, new grocery stores, and new modes of transportation.
4. Finding a local church body to be a part of is super important.
I don’t mean to make this a list composed of only challenges. But this has been a big thing. I don’t like church hopping. I want to find one body and plug in quickly. This can be a challenge when I don’t have a car. I also don’t have a lot of time to spare in bouncing from church to church (since I’m only here 7 months). I’ve been going to a fellowship about a block from my house (can’t beat that) and I’m finally beginning to meet some sweet brothers and sisters. But man do I miss my Christ Church Conway family! I miss attending a church in which there was a deep feeling of love and support, sermons that I trusted (without feeling on guard), and worship that truly fit with my natural way of worshiping God. Not that my local BC church does not value these attributes, but there is still a long way to go before that trusting relationship has been established.
5. This is like nothing I’ve done before.
And that’s exciting! There’s something to be said for moving to a brand new place by yourself. I have found Canada to be just different enough to make things fun. This weekend, I was able to borrow one of my roommate’s cars and drive into the city by myself. I spent some time at Michaels Craft Store, went to the bank, went to the produce market, and picked up groceries at Superstore. I got back home from that trip feeling like I was on top of the world. After a month of relying on others for rides, it was gratifying to feel like a “real” adult again.
6. The Lord has been kind to me.
He has shown himself in small and sometimes odd ways. For example, I shared in Point 1 that I found a loony on the ground. Well, that was an answer to prayer. I was about to go to the grocery store and in order to get a cart, you insert a loony into the handle which then disengages a lock that attaches the carts together in the corral. In order to get your dollar back, you have to return the cart to the corral. Good incentive, right? Well, I didn’t have any Canadian cash right then so I was wondering how I could get a loony. God provides! Similarly, after worrying about my lack of water bottles for hiking, I came across my preferred water bottle (Nalgene brand) at the supercenter with a great sale..
Snow on Mt. Cheam
7. Hiking is no joke here.
Even though it’s been a weirdly rainy summer here, I’ve been able to get out and do a couple good hikes in the mountains surrounding us. It’s an awesome workout, new views, and as my friend says, a good excuse to hang out with people

8. Canada is not the U.S.
I know that might sound kind of obvious. But seriously, Canada is not America. Before moving here, I kind of considered Canada a slightly cooler version of the States. But in truth, it has its own unique and awesome culture. And the BC culture is way different than cultures in other provinces too.
9. Some pronunciations are rather different.
We’ve had heard the stereotypical Canadianisms. The “eh” at ends of phrases, the “sohrry,” etc. But my Canadian friends also pronounce words like “taco” as “tacko.” This works for “Mazda” and “pasta” too. I might add an “eh” to my sentences sometimes, but never will I ask you if you want to go eat some tackos. But, as a linguist, it’s fun to be among so many people from different backgrounds.
10. It’s up to me to represent Arkansas.
There are a couple of us from the South, but no other Arkansans to be seen. When I was opening my local bank account, the worker asked me where “Ar-kansas” was. It made me smile. It’s an understandable confusion!
11. And a bonus one…God has mercifully given me ways to practice my art here.
If left to my own devices, I admittedly wouldn’t make time for my art. Classes are challenging, I’m on campus for 12 hours a day, and there are just other less taxing ways to relax. But the Lord knows what I need better than I do. First He gave me the chance to participate in a T-shirt design contest for our summer session (my designs was one of the two that won!) and I’m also working on a special project with a friend and fellow student that is giving me reason to try out Nepali calligraphy! 

All in all, life is great. The Father is kind, He provides, and He has gone before me in this season. 

Grace and peace to you, my dear people. Go in peace.

In love,