Childlike Wonder (Reading)

IMG_1663Growing up, my family’s biggest shopping adventure was to the Salvation Army.

As a kid, I would head straight towards the back left of the store. Past the jewelry, past the clothes, past the toys. I had one aim: books. I now joke about how my mom would tell me that we could only afford one option for me: a new shirt or a couple books? And the answer was always books. One of the employees knew my love for The Babysitter Club and Sweet Valley Twins/High books, so she would put them aside. I started to make a written collection of all the books I had in those series so that I wouldn’t waste my mom’s 25-50 cents on duplicates.

Without fail, those memories make me think about my life now. How I make more money in a year now than my mom did at that time. How instead of reading, I spend six hours on a Saturday watching The Mentalist. How the idea of buying a $15 book doesn’t phase me much. How I don’t save very much money even though I have no one to support.

What amazes me most about my childhood is how my mom made it work. For real. Like how even? But I also feel awe at the eleven year old girl who would hide out in her room all day in the summer just to read. How incredible that when given the choice of clothing or reading, I chose to read. It amazes me because it isn’t the choice I would make now. I would pick both. If I could not afford both, I would pick the clothes and trust the book to still be there when I could afford it. On Amazon. With free 2 day shipping. But growing up, that option wasn’t there. The book may not be there. I knew I would not be able to buy it new. My chance was now. I don’t think I ever had a book on my bookshelf that was left unread. That became something that happened as I got older, and books became more of a status or a second-option. I formed a “To Read” list, something I never had growing up. Growing up, it was simply “grab whatever looks good at Salvation Army and beg mom to spend an extra dollar on me today.”

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Yes Please – Amy Poehler
(Train Reading 2014)

Last year, I read 32 books… some were fiction, some non-fic. This year hasn’t been as successful: 8 in total and it’s nearly August. Last year, from when I got my job until the end of the year, I felt as though I were on a mission to re-dive into a passion that I had forgotten. I checked most out from the library, but bought a few of them. I read many YA fiction because I love them, and I have to stop letting “status” be an issue. I put books down that I wasn’t enjoying and didn’t finish them. I paused reading Amy Poehler’s book to read a fiction book, and then picked up Yes Please with an eager heart.

I don’t have a “point” in posting this blog. Only to remember what it felt like to love reading more than anything else. Even the 32 books I read last year were mostly because I had the time: I spent over 2ish hours on a train or waiting for a train each day. I honestly could have read a LOT more. I wasted a lot of time.

Lately I’ve been playing a lot of sodoku on my phone. Or binge watching Criminal Minds or The Mentalist. I never lose my desire for storytelling, but I lost my desire for reading (4 of the 8 books I read happened over 2 days. So the other 4 are all I’ve read this year outside of that. And half of Mindy Kaling’s book was read last year. So. 3 1/2.) Right now if I could make more time in the day, I don’t even know what I would want to fill it with. Sleep, if I’m honest.

Here’s that secret, I guess: we do have time in that day. We can make more time. I don’t need to watch 10 episode of The Mentalist on a rainy Saturday, but I do.

As a child, I distinctly remember going to Barnes and Nobles once in the year 2000 to actually buy. I imagined what it would be like to find my name among the authors of B&N. (I also realized how awful Horak was for a last name. Would anyone buy a book from an author with the last name Horak? Then again, the last year I’ve read 4 books from an author whose first name is Rainbow. Anything is possible.) My mom had a surprise for me. She wanted me to pick out a couple books to buy. What the HELL does a 9 year old do in that situation? One who is used to used, beat up Sweet Valley Twin books and hoping to find one she hasn’t read on the shelves of a Salvation Army (Also unrelated: PRAISE to authors who write stand-alone plotlines in all of their series. As someone who didn’t have access to buy books in order, this was seriously so good.) Suddenly I’m surrounded by brand new books, and I can have anything I wanted. Guess what happened?

I couldn’t decide. I was frozen. My mom suggested what was on the display: the latest Harry Potter book. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I shrugged; I remembered picking up the first book from Salvation Army, reading one chapter, and putting the book down (which I never did) because it was confusing and weird. But it was so popular that I decided I would try again. So we bought books 2, 3, and 4. THREE BOOKS. AT FULL PRICE. HARD COVERS. What comes next?

I ate those books up as quickly as any used book I had ever had. Suddenly I had finished the fourth book, my mom was shaking her head in despair (I understand now why I never got books as gifts), and I was READY for book 5. (And sadly would have the longest wait between books for that.) By the time the last book came out in 2007, I remember pre-ordering two copies so that my high school boyfriend and I wouldn’t have to wait for the other to finish. Which to me means that within a few books coming out in a series, I went from a girl to whom a new book was a lavish expensive and rarely done… into a girl who didn’t mind spending an extra $20 for the convenience of reading the latest book right away. It means a lot to me that I still have all my copies of those books. While their popularity was great and the obsession was fun, a completely different person read those early books as who read that final book. Like Harry, I changed with the world I fell into.

I would love to stock Salvation Armys and Goodwills across the country with books (if I thought they were going to sell it for a quarter.) I think people who buy used books at those places and sell for a profit are jerks. I think the desire to read and know more and have more stories has helped turn me into the type of person I am: someone who desires to grow and to understand people better, someone who is not content to live only within her own world.

All this to say, keep childlike passions close to your heart. Remember what you would have done at all costs as a kid.

For the Sake of the World Around You, Christians, Please Grow in Love

image1At some point in my young adulthood life, my views on most social politics changed. This is anything but uncommon. You grow up believing in certain truths, but then your eyes adjust to the world around you.

I’ve mentioned this before, but my first “ah hah” moment took place in an APU classroom. I was incredibly conservative on all issues and got into an argument with a very liberal professor. He believed he was right in saying that Jesus would approve Obamacare. That if he were a politician, he would sit on the board and vote a big YES. Besides my own agenda against that, that argument didn’t sit right with me. He asked me why I disagreed and I told him, “Because Jesus wasn’t a politician. That wasn’t what he came here for.” And as soon as the words were out of my mouth, I felt them come back and slap me across the face. Because Jesus wasn’t a politician. That wasn’t what he came here for. Continue reading

Nigeria (and the Memories I Have)

Catherine and me shortly before I left

Catherine and me shortly before I left

Sometimes I feel guilty about my time in Africa. Whenever someone asks me why I was in Nigeria for two months, I feel a need to disclaim the “mission trip.” I didn’t really do anything physical. I was mostly in class. I left early. I feel like a mission trip failure: I want to say, “Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t make a difference.”

My friend Brydee, who lives in New Zealand and I have yet to meet in person, sent me a link to a short speech by To Write Love On Her Arms‘s founder, Jamie Tworkowski (first name twinssss!). Anyway, something about it reminded me of the way I felt in Africa.

I refuse to commit to more than one blog because I seem to really suck at writing commitments, so I need to get it out now.

I kept a journal when I was in Africa. My friend Noelle gave it to me. And a friend at church, Brittany, told me that her suggestion to me was to write every single day. She told me that I would regret it if I didn’t. Brittany didn’t talk to me a ton, so I took that as a very important piece of advice. So I did. I filled Noelle’s journal with all my African stories.


Shalom and me being typical

Opening it up to a random page, I found “11 Feb 2012″ (I started even doing my dates like an Nigerian.) “Last night, Jules, Judith & I watch Wild Child or whatever it was called about an American – a spoiled rich one – being sent to a British boarding school. The American, of course, wins the boy, expels the evil girl, & wins the lacrosse team by the end. Aye. They made fun of me b/c the girl used so much hand sanitizer. Lol. We had to wake up today at 7am to go to a bible study in the church. I have been coughing & sneezing all day…”

There’s more, but I’m trying to make a point that my time in Africa was not about “missions” the way we talk about it. It was about people. I got the very unique opportunity to be totally submerged in another culture… one that is wildly different from the only one I know. But I was living a normal life. I was watching a B-movie with a couple of girlfriends while they teased me about my differences from them.  I literally did that a couple weeks ago. Life. Just like it is here. Except with onions in my pancakes and no running water on base.

Personally, I am a relational person. It’s where I find purpose. It’s where I can see God working in me and in others.

“I have chosen the way of truth; Your judgements I have laid before me. I cling to Your testimonies; Oh Lord, do not put me to shame!” Ps 110:30-31 // “How I feel about going home. Lord, don’t put me to shame. Soften hearts with understanding, that people know this is from you,” ends my journal entry from 7 March 2012.


Nanman, Judith, and me

If I want to have purpose again, I know that I need to sacrifice the need for physical appearance. What I mean by that is that… instead of getting caught up in how it looks like I am doing emotionally or mentally, I need to trust that the Lord will expose what is true. I am not well. I mean, I’m OK. I don’t struggle with thoughts of suicide. I’m not depressed. But I’m lonely. I feel purposeless. I feel small and insignificant, and I don’t know where God is in all of this. I feel tired, I get anxious, and I usually pull out one drink before bed just to calm my mind a little before I try to sleep. I don’t seek God. Lately, I just haven’t felt like God is peace.

In Africa, I felt that way. I knew that God was the Lord of Peace. In all of the stressful and scary things that were happening to me in a country I was unfamiliar with, God’s Presence was always enough to give me some kind of peace. (except when I was on those motorbikes. SCARY.)

Do we lose God in the day-to-day? It’s bizarre to think we can lose God. That’s not even slightly theologically correct. God’s always among us. But being aware of His Presence. Understanding that this life will bring you troubles, but God is bigger than your troubles, and His presence is a constant reminder to keep holding on, to keep going, to keep pushing through. As Christ did. As Jesus always did. Did we lose him in the bible classes at the Christian Universities? I think I lost the awareness there before I ever stopped by the bar with my friends.


Jules and me

Someone in Nigeria once expressed to me that she thought this man she knew was “too smart for his own good” because he let the academic mindset rule over biblical truths. Being an American, I thought she was wrong. (Good old Americans.) Now I get what she meant. Not to say that classes themselves are bad in any way. They’re great tools. But if you let it be your Bible time… you can lose what you know about God. And when your beliefs change and your long-held theology is challenged… you can lose what you know about God.

There is nothing I can do but hope that He is doing something so much greater, and that He is still using me somehow. In the speech by Jamie, he says that there are parts of our past we wish we could erase. They haunt us. Earlier today, I thought about things I wish I could erase. I thought of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and I thought the consequences would be worth erasing very specific memories. So it caught my attention when he added something along the lines of “But there are memories that make you happy. People you got the unique experience to meet.”  My first thought was Nigeria. My first thought was laughing with Jules over sarcasm and how we were the only ones to ever get sarcastic jokes in movies. There was a time when I was home, and it had nothing to do with my surroundings. It had only to do with the people that I was around. It happens no matter where you are in the world.

There are memories that make us smile. Things that remind us of what we would hold onto; things we would never want to erase. Oh, how grateful I am for the gift of memory. Despite it all… despite it all.