Preparing for Advent

25 11 2011

Advent has become my favorite season of the church calendar. It begins four Sundays before Christmas, so November 27, 2011. I have found that participating in this season’s activities helps keep me focused on the meaning of Christmas amidst all of the commercialism and stress of the public holiday season. I am also particularly fond of the symbolism of the wreath, candles, and colors. The wreath symbolizes eternal life, as it is a circle of evergreen. The nuts and seedpods used to decorate it represent resurrection, and the fruits used are symbolic of the fruitfulness of Christian life.

The candles represent the coming of light into the world. The first week, one candle is lit, and each week after one additional is lit until all the candles are lit. The first 3 candles lit are purple, the color used during Lent and Advent to represent penitence. The fourth candle is pink, a liturgical color only used on the 4th Sunday of Advent and on Laetare Sunday during Lent. On Christmas day, the greens are replaced with fresh greens and the four candles are replaced with white candles that are burned throughout the Christmas season (or until Epiphany on January 6). The white candles symbolize Christ.

It is important to remember that the color purple, used during the season, is the color of penitence. This season is about anticipating the advent (both Christmas and the 2nd Coming) of Christ, but it is also about repentance. It is a time to reflect on our sinful condition as we await the only one who can redeem us. Fasting is appropriate but not required during this season (it should be noted that one cannot fast on Sundays or on holy days).

So as I prepare myself for this season, I generally read The Prayer of Manasseh. It’s an apocryphal book, but it is entirely appropriate. At least I think so.

Thou who hast made heaven and earth with all their order; who hast shackled the sea by thy word of command, who hast confined the deep and sealed it with thy terrible and glorious name; at whom all things shudder, and tremble before thy power, for thy glorious splendor cannot be borne, and the wrath of thy threat to sinners is irresistible; yet immeasurable and unsearchable is thy promised mercy, for thou art the Lord Most High, of great compassion, long-suffering, and very merciful, and repentest over the evils of men. Thou, O Lord, according to thy great goodness hast promised repentance and forgiveness to those who have sinned against thee; and in the multitude of thy mercies thou hast appointed repentance for sinners, that they may be saved. Therefore thou, O Lord, God of the righteous, hast not appointed repentance for the righteous, for Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, who did not sin against thee, but thou hast appointed repentance for me, who am a sinner. For the sins I have committed are more in number than the sand of the sea; my transgressions are multiplied, O Lord, they are multiplied! I am unworthy to look up and see the height of heaven because of the multitude of my iniquities. I am weighted down with many an iron fetter, so that I am rejected because of my sins, and I have no relief; for I have provoked thy wrath and have done what is evil in thy sight, setting up abominations and multiplying offenses. And now I bend the knee of my heart, beseeching thee for thy kindness. I have sinned, O Lord, I have sinned, and I know my transgressions. I earnestly beseech thee, forgive me, O Lord, forgive me! Do not destroy me with my transgressions! Do not be angry with me for ever or lay up evil for me; do not condemn me to the depths of the earth. For thou, O Lord, art the God of those who repent, and in me thou wilt manifest thy goodness; for, unworthy as I am, thou wilt save me in thy great mercy, and I will praise thee continually all the days of my life. For all the host of heaven sings thy praise, and thine is the glory for ever. Amen.

How do you prepare yourself for advent? Are there particular scriptures you read this time of year?





Gratitude

14 11 2011

A bunch of my friends on facebook are daily making their statuses something they are grateful for. For whatever reason, I did not join that bandwagon. Probably because I’m typically ungrateful. So here is my attempt at getting up to speed with them. A list of 14 things I’m thankful for and why (in no particular order):

1. I’m thankful that I get to experience life in Barranquilla. It has been challenging and difficult at times, but I know I am the better for it.

2. I’m thankful for my mom and Billy. Without them. I definitely would not have survived my transition into life as a grown-up. They have been there for me emotionally, spiritually, and financially. I owe them an unpayable debt.

3. I’m thankful for my awesome sisters. All four of you mean more to me than I can express. I love that we can laugh together and that we can celebrate each others’ successes and support each other through the “failures.” I love you all!

4. I’m thankful for my mutt Abelard. He has been my little shadow for three years. It’s been a difficult few months without him and I’m sure he’ll have some trouble transitioning back into my care. But I love that crazy dog even when he poops in the house and eats things he shouldn’t and gnaws on my dresser. He makes everyday a little more interesting.

5. I’m thankful for my nieces and nephews. These kids light up my life. I’ve watched some of them grow from adorable little babies who just wanted to curl up on my chest and go to sleep to amazing young adults. And for the younger ones, I’m enjoying watching you grow and learn. All of you make life worth living. I’m so blessed to be your aunt.

6. I’m thankful for my brothers. Ryan, I have some great memories of when we were kids. I hope that we can make more now that we are adults. Jason, I’m so thankful that we were finally able to meet! It’s been a great two years getting to know you and your family. I love you!!

7. I’m thankful for Monica and Alvaro, my Colombian parents. I’m constantly amazed by their generosity and hospitality – not just to me, but to everyone that they encounter. May I learn to be that gracious.

8. I’m thankful for Divine Life. I’ve been a member of this particular community since the summer of 2004. This community has been there to support me during some of the darkest moments of my life. They have also been there to celebrate with me through my successes. I’ve learned more about grace and forgiveness and hope and love from you all than you will ever know. I miss you all and cannot wait to be back amongst you. (fingers crossed that you are missing me, too!)

9. I’m thankful for my dad. He and I are a lot alike in that we are both very hardheaded and stubborn. It is this that makes us argue so much. But I’m grateful that I get to hear his stories a hundred times and that we have a good relationship. It has taken many years on my part to get to this point, but I’m thankful that I won’t have any regrets about our relationship when all is said and done.

10. I’m thankful for Colombian style hotdogs. Seriously, they are delicious. I’m going to learn how to make them before I come home.

11. I’m thankful that I can at least understand some Spanish, even if I can’t speak it yet. It definitely helps that I can figure some things out on my own.

12. I’m thankful for the way God has provided for me to get to Colombia and while I’ve been here. I still need a few hundred dollars to get me home, thanks to a passport issue, but I’m confident that God will handle that.

13. I’m thankful for good friends. I’m thankful that I can laugh until I cry with you. I’m thankful that you forgive my stupidity and let me be myself. I’m thankful that you stuck with me when I was difficult to tolerate. I miss you all!!!!!!!

14. I’m thankful for Skype. Without it, I would be very limited with my contact home. I’m so grateful that anytime I’m homesick, I can call my family or friends and speak in English really fast!

So there you have it, up to date gratitude 🙂





It Hurts Like a Billy-Oh

30 08 2011

This post is very personal.  It’s a bit more personal than I’m comfortable with, but I think that I should share it anyway because people want to know what this whole experience is like, not just the good parts.  Right?

This week was rough.  We’re talkin’ curl-up-in-the-fetal-position-cry-myself-to-sleep rough.

I was lonely.  Not the kind of lonely that made me want to go home.  Not the kind of lonely borne out of self-pity.  It was an entirely new kind of lonely.  It was isolation.  Yes, I have friends here.  Yes, I live with people who speak English.  Yes, I can call home whenever I want.

But I was still lonely.

Have you ever had an experience of loss (a break-up, death, end of a friendship, etc.) ?  Do you remember how it felt like something was literally ripping open your chest?  That’s what this felt like, except without the loss.

I emailed by pastor back home asking him to pray with me and for me.  I told him that I needed an English-speaking friend that was fully, 100% fluent that I could have an easy conversation with (perhaps even a thoughtful, deep conversation) or I was going to have a meltdown.  In typical Chris Green fashion, he encouraged me to embrace the isolation, to lean into God, and to not resent the process.

I’m trying. It’s not easy.  And I’m fairly certain I have some more time in this lonliness before I get the friend I so desperately want…if I get the friend.

Upon reflecting on this time, I was reminded of the book The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis (part of The Chronicles of Narnia).  In the story, there is a character named Eustace.  Lewis writes, “There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.”

He is not very likeable and he doesn’t try to be.  He resents the fact that he is in Narnia and that he is stuck on the ship, “The Dawn Treader,” against his will.  The crew lands on an island where a dragon lives. Eustace, in attempt to avoid work,  stumbles upon the dragon only to discover that it is dying.  He decides to tell everyone that he killed the dragon.

Now, as we all know, dragons are hoarders of treasure.

With the dragon dead, Eustace finds that he is surrounded by all sorts of gold and diamonds and jewels.  He finds a golden bracelet and puts it as high on his arm as he can so that it won’t come off.  Then he falls asleep.  When he wakes, he discovers that he has turned into a dragon overnight.  This discovery of his dragoned self humbles Eustace and he seeks to make amends with the crew for his behaviour, but that’s difficult since he’s a dragon that can’t talk. It seems that he is set to be a dragon forever now.

But then comes this beautiful scene. Aslan comes to Eustace and tells him to unrobe.  Eustace tries to remove the dragon skin several times, but each time he finds that he is just as much a dragon as he was before.  Finally, Aslan helps him.  The way to remove the dragon skin is deep, painful clawing into the flesh.

This is how Eustace describes it:

“Then the lion said – but I don’t know if it spoke – You will have to let me undress you. I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.

“The very first tear he made was so deep and I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know – if you’ve ever picked the scab of a sore place. It hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away.”

“And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me – I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on – and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I’d turned into a boy again.”

All that to say: If I need to be undragoned, so be it.  It hurts like a billy-oh, but it is necessary.  I cannot undragon myself.  If this is part of the process, I welcome it.  I don’t want to be a dragon anymore.





#RealTalk

15 08 2011

Today has been a crappy day. I woke up with a pounding headache that made the sun unbearable. Then my stomach started hurting. Then it started hurting when I would take too deep of a breath. Then I tried to drink some water thinking maybe I was dehydrated. It made the stomach ache worse. Then a friend really hurt my feelings. Which made the stomach ache worse. Then the internet connection isn’t that great so I’m having issues watching my guilty pleasure show The Vampire Diaries.

All this makes me homesick. I just want to curl up with my mutt and sleep.

Tomorrow will be a better day. I’m going to the beach!





Oh, so homesick

4 08 2011

I’m beginning to feel the pangs of homesickness. It’s not that I don’t want to be here, it’s just that I’d like to go home for the weekend and then come right back to it. Well, here is the list I made at church tonight of 23 things I miss. It is no particular order:

1. Knowing the language
2. Abelard
3. Driving
4. New English television (I’m getting caught back up on Friends though – oddly enough, I did the same thing in Kyiv…)
5. redbox
6. snacks in the pantry (mostly oreos)
7. Diet Dr. Pepper
8. Eating at normal times
9. my family
10. text messaging
11. Divine Life
12. baby Jack
13. Chick-fil-a
14. being 80% vegetarian
15. receiving a paycheck
16. my books
17. the Greens
18. Divine Life nursery
19. library dates with Lea Anne
20. the other 3/4 of my wardrobe – BTW – if anyone wants to contribute, I really did NOT bring enough clothing with me (I wear about 2 outfits a day because I’m sweating like a man). I could use some financial contributions. But, if not, I will just deal.
21. independence (aka not asking permission to do something…this is new and challenging)
22. Abelard
23. Abelard

There you have it. I miss home.

 

While I’m at it, I’ll give you the top 10 things I was thankful for this morning. I’m really into lists.

1. my ankles were a normal size when I woke up

2. I was cold last night

3. I don’t have to share a bathroom

4. fans.

5. wireless internet

6. cheese with my breakfast

7. despite my purse’s size, it holds everything I need it to.

8. water

9. the spanish website I found.

10. the very early stages of a tan.





a brief update with some photos!

16 07 2011

My suitcase finally arrived. The airport delivered it to the house. It was a bit strange not going to the airport yesterday, but it was also kind of nice. For the first time in a week, I wasn’t at an airport. I thought that day would never come.

Yesterday I visited the school. It was wonderful. I was introduced to all the classes. The younger kids could not believe that I don’t know Spanish. The older kids were fairly disinterested in me. The middle kids were totally intrigued by me. They had so many questions. When I left the sixth grade class, my translator said the boys were all saying, “bye, my love!” During lunch, I was surrounded by around 15 children that wanted to start my Spanish lessons. They had me saying everything from star to flute. I’m not 100% certain what they were having me say. I was assured it was nothing bad.

I went to the mall last night. This mall is a billion times nicer than any mall I have seen in America. It is four stories in two buildings. It’s classy and awesome. I kind of want to be there all the time.

So, when Monica introduced me to the school and some members of the church, she said that I will be staying for four months….. I guess they only need me this one semester. Perhaps that will change by the time November rolls around. I am prepared to stay for at least a year, so we shall see what happens. I must have misunderstood or assumed or something. Oh well. Four months or a year or ten years: this is an experience of a lifetime and I will take in every minute!

For those of you who are curious, I do have an air conditioner in my room. I only run it at night to save costs. Right now, I’m in my room and I have a fan going, but I’m probably melting. All I know is I won’t be complaining in Oklahoma (at least not for a while). Here are some pictures of mi casa.

my bedroom

my dining room

my living room

So,I was thinking, when this is all over, I can start my life in the states back up wherever I want. I will have so much freedom of choice! What are your thoughts? Where should I go (Stilwell is not an option, sorry!)?





Reporting Live From Miami International Airport

12 07 2011

Airport Watch! Day Four! The mood is intense!

Ok, not really. I’ve been in Miami at least 72 hours. THANK GOD it hasn’t been in the airport only. I have had a hotel each of my three nights here and that’s a really big blessing. Being rested keeps meltdowns away. Yesterday was rather uneventful. I watched a couple movies and ate a turkey burger. But, before the last flight and after it I met two new friends. Let me tell you about them.

First, I met Marc. As we were standing in line to talk to the ticketing agents, an announcement was made in Spanish. During the announcement, the entire line walked away. As we were the only two non-spanish speakers in line, we just stood there waiting for the translation. Our gate had changed. After that, I said, more out loud than just to him, “I was waiting for English.” That sparked a conversation that took us to the other gate. Also, he carried my backpack for me. He called it my rucksack because he’s from London and they make words up 🙂

Anyway, he works for an oil company in London and travels a lot for work. He gave me 2000 in Indonesian Rupiah so I could say I have some of their currency. It’s worth around a quarter. Probably two cents in London. He had an accent. I told him that the only reason our conversation lasted as long as it did is because I just wanted to hear him talk. Oddly enough, he said he enjoyed hearing my accent! I don’t think he knows he’s the one with the accent. Anyway, we swapped emails and we shall see if I have a new friend from the other side of the pond.

My other new friend is Courtney. After I didn’t get on the flight to Bogota, I stood around waiting for the lady at the ticket counter to roll me over to the next flight. I waited for probably 20 minutes before she redirected me to a rebooking booth. She was just being difficult – every other agent handled it for me. Anyway, I stopped at the skytrain to compose myself because after missing 8 flights, I was ready to have a breakdown. I got it together and found the rebooking booth. Courtney got in line behind me and asked if I had missed my flight, too. We swapped stories and she discovered that the next outbound flight for her destination was at noon the next day. I felt like I needed to ask her if she wanted to stay in the hotel with me. Bridge Builder’s covered the cost of the room, so neither of us were out any money. She said she wasn’t a serial killer or a thief, so we made our way to the hotel.

We both agreed that it felt like we had been traveling together all day. It was very easy to share the time together. It wasn’t awkward or scary or anything. Just nice. It was good to have company.

Other than my two new friends, I have not had any other real adventures. I am doing just fine in Miami. I want to reassure everyone that my spirits are up, I’m not in bad sorts, and that I’m not stressed out about this delay. Other than my minor meltdown, caused mostly by exhaustion, last night, I have just gotten along. I have lost track of days and such, but that’s no worry. The flights all leave at the same times everyday, so I just need a clock!

Thanks for all the prayers and support during my Miami vacation! I really appreciate the thoughtful and encouraging posts on my facebook. It’s nice knowing so many people are interested in what I’m doing.

Until next time!