51-60 of 100

This latest batch is a diverse bunch of books. From pen pals to psychos, from time travel to space travel, I’ve read some tales! I’m still four books behind but determined to catch up.

NON-FICTION
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Why do non-fiction books always have such long titles? Nothing beyond the colon is necessary. It’s like movie previews these days! They give everything away.

Everybody needs to read Half the Sky by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. Everybody. It’s about women, the strength and the struggles and the abuse and the education and the empowerment and the beauty and the brokenness and the dignity of women everywhere. (Nonfiction, Feminism)

In general, the best clue to a nation’s growth
and development potential
is the status and role of women.
– Half the Sky, Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed reminded me in all the most amazing ways of Glennon Doyle Melton. Cheryl and Glennon both have this wonderful ability to see someone, to really see them, and to speak boldly and lovingly into that someone’s very self, and to challenge and comfort. When you’re doing reading Half the Sky, read Tiny Beautiful Things. (Nonfiction)

My grief is tremendous
but my love is bigger.
Tiny Beautiful Things, Cheryl Strayed

I Will Always Write Back by Caitlin Alifirenka and Martin Ganda with Liz Welch is super endearing. I was bracing myself the whole time for some horrible disaster but nothing came! It’s just the true story of selfless giving that stems from pure friendship. (Nonfiction, Africa)

Searching for God Knows What by Donald Miller is, unfortunately, a book that probably could’ve stayed a blog post. While Miller’s point is a good one – that being a Christian is about a relationship, not a formula – it’s not enough for a whole book. It quickly became repetitive, which made me want to skim, which meant I almost missed some of the good points! Not my favorite from Donald Miller. (Nonfiction, Religious)

I like the Bible. Now that I
no longer see it as a self-help book,
it has infinitely more merit.
It has soul.
– Searching for God Knows What, Donald Miller

LEFT AN IMPRESSION
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Sever by JM Miller was intense! I read it in one day, in two sittings. The story jumps back and forth between past and present, the past informing and explaining the present. The past is basically just a sequence of sex scenes, but I like that the author didn’t try to make a teenage relationship what it wasn’t. The teenagers of Sever acted and talked like teenagers and I appreciated that. (New Adult, Romance)

Stone Alliance is the second in the Demon’s Heart series by Emily H. Bates. I really enjoyed the pace of this book. It keeps moving, there are no unnecessary or prolonged conversations and it makes for a quick and exciting read. I’ll definitely be eagerly awaiting the next installment in the series! (Young Adult, Fantasy)

MEDIOCRE
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The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson reminded me a lot of The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells only I didn’t really like Greta Wells or her story and I did like Katharyn/Kitty and her story. In fact, I wrote a blog post about it! (Historical Fiction)

The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood was entirely too long. I know that is a common complaint of mine and it’s not because I don’t have the stamina for a long book, it’s just that I don’t have the patience for a lot of words that don’t actually say anything. This one jumped between past and present, like Sever, only Atwood doesn’t clue you in on that and it took me a long time to figure out how the two parts were connected, and by that point I didn’t really care anymore. This was my least favorite of the bunch, which was a disappointment because I loved The Handmaid’s Tale and The MaddAddam series by Atwood. (Historical Fiction)

It wasn’t so easy, though,
ending the war.
A war is a huge fire;
the ashes from it drift far,
and settle slowly.
The Blind Assassin, Margaret Atwood

This Night So Dark by Amie Kaufman is actually a short story but I counted it as one of my 100 books because a while ago I read half of Seveneves by Neal Stephenson, which is justifiably long (881 pages!), unlike some books I know, and then my rental of the ebook expired and I couldn’t get it back because there’s a wait list and now I don’t think I’ll ever go back and finish it. So half of Seveneves + 1 short story = at least 1 book. Anyways, This Night So Dark is part of the Starbound series that I started years ago and am anxious to continue reading. This installment is nothing earth shattering, but it informs the overall narrative. Here’s a story from when I was reading the first book in the Starbound series, These Broken Stars. (Young Adult, Science Fiction)

Armada by Ernest Cline was underwhelming because I recently read Ready Player One and it was awesome. If you are a lover of Science Fiction, though, I’m sure you will enjoy Armada. I was afraid it would be a poor man’s Ender’s Game (of which I am a big fan), but Ender’s Game is referenced a few times in the story, so Cline is nobody’s story mooch. I was also afraid it would be just like Ready Player One because I read that Armada also included a lot of 80s and early 90s references and centered around a video game, but while the two are definitely written in similar styles, they are two completely different stories. (Science Fiction)

More book quotes: Words, Wisdom, etc.

 

I’ve lost weight

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Over the past couple of months I have lost some weight. I’m not sure how much because I don’t own a scale and even if I owned a scale to weigh myself now I’d have no idea how much I weighed before, because I think the last time I weighed myself was 2 Christmases ago. All I know is that in October of 2014 I weighed 240 pounds and that in August 2016 I weigh, well, less than that.

I know I’ve lost weight despite my not owning a scale because my collarbones stick out a bit more, my one pair of jeans that used to be kind of tight are falling off, my feet look skinnier (didn’t know that was a thing), and I can kind of feel my hip bones sometimes. Plus everyone keeps telling me I look skinny.

Accidental weight loss is the only kind I know, since I’ve never had any desire to do the things one generally does in order to lose weight (eating right, exercise, giving up my delicious fountain sodas, etc.). Not to mention the desire to be skinny, which I haven’t felt in years. But since I’ve been so successful at my unintentional weight loss, I thought I’d share my stumbled-upon wisdom, the method to my unanticipated success.

Step 1: Eat a lot of fast food. Like, eat fast food at least once a week for about ten years. Make sure you always get a large Coke/Dr Pepper/Cherry Pepsi.

Step 2: Get a job that doesn’t require a lot of movement. Do a lot of sit down activities. Play a lot of board games. Read a lot of books. Watch a ton of Netflix. This will set the losing weight bar super low.

Step 3: (This is where things start happening!) Move to a city that doesn’t have any fast food restaurants. Become forced to make your own food. Build your diet around cheap and easy options like eggs and pasta and free fruit. You can acquire free fruit by moving to a house with numerous fruit trees and also by being nice enough to the motoconcho drivers that he thinks he might have a shot at dating you so he’ll bring you fruit.

Step 4: Get a new job, a job that requires you to work about twice as hard for about half the money. Even if there were fast food in your new town you wouldn’t be able to afford it! Make sure your new job requires a lot of lifting and is in a building with stairs. Be sure to be easily distracted and forgetful so you have to go up and down the stairs more than necessary.

Steps 3 and 4 really go hand in hand, of course, because once you get home from walking up and down stairs all day the last thing you want to do is cook, so you’ll settle for half a pineapple or two hard boiled eggs with crackers for dinner. The transitional stress will curb your appetite as well, making you want to eat less for at least the first month in your new job/home. Added bonus!

So there you have it. Four easy steps to a lighter, more exhausted, certainly more poor you.

 

i am grateful (for m).

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I am grateful for the mystery of peace, for the way my fears and anxieties and worries and complaints melt away in the presence of magnificent mountains. On the back of a motorcycle, on the way to town, mundane day to day moments are made wonderful by the towering presence of the mountains. They’re right there. They’re steady and immovable and they don’t change. But You tell me my faith can make them jump.

I am grateful for missions. For the people who packed their belongings in coffins because they really did love Jesus more than anything. I am grateful for ministers. For servants and teachers and humble leaders.

I am grateful for my. My my my my. My town, my mountains, my neighbors, my church, my legs that carry me from here to there. I am grateful for a change of pace, for a challenge, for a new mission, a reason to be more.

I am grateful for music. Sweet music. Talented humans with songs in their souls, putting pen to paper, keys to keyboard, fingers to string, to keys, to heart. I am grateful for the notes and the melodies that say things my very self recognizes. I am grateful for the way YouTube will play another full album after the one you’ve chosen, so that I find myself making a bed and hearing these words sung for the first time – If it weren’t for second chances, we’d all be alone. I’m grateful that that’s true. That I’m not alone. That I need another chance. But so do you.

I am grateful for my. My my my my. My house, my stuff, my bed, my dogs, my cats, my boss, my job, my friends, my mom. For my mistakes and the mercy that is marvelously bigger than my mess-ups.

I am grateful for Michaels. They have all taught me how to be bold and better and fearless and fun and myself. (Especially the one who didn’t get it.) I am not to be toned down. I am grateful for modesty when it means exactly what it’s supposed to mean. For magic and make believe and imagination and making things up. For movies! For escape and trying something new. For learning from art.

I am grateful for my. My my my my. My body, my mind, my words, my apologies, my stumblings forward toward something bigger and better. Toward something more.

 

Your life, your feelings

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A friend of mine recently discovered she is pregnant. On the day she found out for sure, she cried. She was bummed. And then, because she is a human woman, she felt guilty for not feeling how she thought she should feel. This baby, this little peanut growing inside of her now, was not planned. She and her husband already have two kids – one girl and one boy. They’re set. This wasn’t the plan.

The first thing I said to her when she confessed all of these feelings – the disappointment, the guilt, the weight of others’ expectations – was this: “You are allowed to feel your feelings. This is your body and your baby. Nobody can tell you how to feel.”

I read a blog post fairly recently written by a parent who tells their child, “Your body, your rules.” I like that. I get to decide what I put on my body, what I put in my body, who touches my body and how, how I feel about my body, what I use it for, what I don’t use it for, etc. Our bodies are the only things that are 100% and essentially and forever ours. Your body, your rules. If you want to feel sad about this crazy and wonderful thing that is happening inside your body, newly pregnant friend of mine, you are allowed. If you want to feel angry about this horrible and terrifying thing that is happening inside your body, newly diagnosed friend of mine, you are allowed. If you want to feel awesome about the gorgeous and strong things happening inside and around and because of your body, plus-sized friend of mine, you are allowed. Your body, your rules.

Additionally and similarly, I like this rule – “Your life, your feelings.” If something big (or small) changes in your life, nobody gets to tell you how you should feel. But might I advise you, friend, as I advised my newly pregnant friend? If what you’re feeling about your body or your life change is negative, don’t get stuck there.

Not long after getting my dog Fred I decided I wanted a second dog so Fred could have a pal. When I finally did get George I took him home and I cried. On the roof of my apartment building with my adorable new puppy and my over the moon excited first puppy, I cried because I realized things were different and they would never be the same as they were pre-George.

This is the story I told my newly pregnant friend, taking care to emphasize pre-story that a puppy is not the same thing as a baby! I told her how I had to take those few moments on the roof to grieve the life that I had with my one dog and acknowledge that that part of my life was nice but that is was over. It’s okay to feel sad when something ends, even if something exciting is beginning. Your body, your rules. Your life, your feelings.

But after the grieving or the sadness or the outrage, we seek joy. We reach for it, we look for it, we surrender to it, we choose it. We take the time we need to cry on the roof, to cry in the kitchen, to look at our beautiful children and realize our time as “family of four” is almost over. We say goodbye and we reminisce. And then we decide to live fully present in the glorious right now. In our bodies and in our lives and in our feelings.

Note to Self 4

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The simplest way to practice godliness and to show love is to ask for forgiveness when you mess up. Which means being aware enough to realize when you’ve messed up and humble enough to admit it. Another simple way to actively love your neighbors is to invite them over for dinner. Who doesn’t love free dinner?

The Bookseller and Parallel Universes

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Last night I watched the last episode of Raising Hope. I had previously watched the first 2 seasons on Netflix and for some reason had come away with the impression that it got worse as it went on. But when Netflix added the last two seasons I watched them all and laughed until the very end! It is true that once (SPOILER ALERT) Sabrina and Jimmy got married the show became less about them and Hope and way more about Burt and Virginia. But I don’t think anyway was complaining. Burt and Virginia are excellent.

Anyway. There’s an It’s a Wonderful Life episode where Jimmy sees what his life would’ve been like if he hadn’t had Hope and in that episode (or in another one, I’ve watched all four seasons in less than a month!) Virginia mentions the movie The Butterfly Effect and how she’d hate for the past to change because then she might have to sit through that horrible movie again. Oh, Virginia.

My rambling introduction is that the “what if?” question has been answered before in different mediums. More than a few movies, TV shows, and books have explored what a character’s life would’ve looked like had they made one small decision differently. Most recently I read The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson which explores two possible lives of the main character, Katharyn/Kitty. One small event in her life changed the trajectory in huge ways. Throughout the book we’re taken back and forth between the two lives, not really sure which is real until the end.

It reminds me of another book I read recently called The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells by Andrew Sean Greer. Greta, as a side effect of some electric shock therapy, finds herself living three different lives (as herself) in three different time periods. It seemed a little far-fetched to me, but it explores this same idea of one person’s life having multiple, plausible outcomes. (This is a good review of Greta Wells.)

All of these fictional explorations have got me thinking (again) about the parallel universes in which I live, about the small choices (and big ones) that changed the trajectory of my life forever. Many, many times during my first two years in San Pedro I thought about what my life would have looked like if I had stayed in Ohio. Would I be married by now? Still living in Springfield? Teaching English somewhere? Would I be a mom? A foster mom? A single lady with a bunch of cats? Oh wait, that’s this life…

In The Bookseller the single defining moment in Kitty’s life is a telephone call. In one life she hangs up about a minute before she does in the other life and that makes all the difference. In one life she is happy and content and has great relationships with her best friend and her parents. She’s single, helping her neighbor kid learn to read, and loves her cat. In her other life she’s a wife and a mother who ultimately had to choose her family over her friend and who (SPOILER ALERT) has lost her parents to a plane crash.

I wonder what the defining moments in my life have been. Obviously the big decisions like where to go to college and to move to the Dominican Republic have greatly affected my life in big ways. But what truncated phone calls or random interactions with strangers have brought me right here to this moment?

It is very tempting to simplify things like destiny and God’s will to one straight line. It was God’s will for me to get that parking spot (#blessed). It was God’s will for me to go to Cedarville and destiny for me to move to San Pedro. But I think we oversimply life (and consequently God) when we think about things so linearly (which is a word!).

I could’ve stayed in Ohio and gotten married and become a mom in any sense and I could’ve done great and wonderful things. I could’ve taught a lot of kids and been a good friend and become more like Jesus there in Ohio and I don’t think God would’ve been made at me for not moving to the DR. I think destiny would have shifted with my decision.

I could’ve moved to Paraguay and been the perpetual 15th wheel (I student taught there during my senior year of college and arrived about the same time as five fresh outta college American teachers who all quickly paired off with each other and other teachers). I could’ve learned Paraguayan Spanish and adopted a Paraguayan dog and lived in the teacher apartments and picked up some Korean.

But I didn’t do those things. I moved to San Pedro and taught at Las Palmas and then moved to Jarabacoa and read The Bookseller after watching four straight seasons of Raising Hope. Life is so big and in this day and age for a young, single American, the opportunities are endless. It can be so tempting to get caught up in “what if?” For a long time I was caught up in “what if?” I thought that what I wanted most out of life was a husband and I thought that in one of those parallel, shock therapy induced, dream universes I surely had a husband, so maybe I chose wrong? But I can’t choose wrong. Because it’s my life and I’m the boss (despite what my dogs think).

A couple weeks ago this gorgeous Dutch couple was staying at the hostel. One night I was talking to the wife, answering her questions about how I ended up here and what I did before. She said that she had a similar story – that she had taught for a few years and then had to take a break. She said that break felt a little meandering, that during that time they had to scrimp and save because she wasn’t making as much money, that it didn’t look like a decision that made much sense, but after that break she was able to go back to teaching with a much clearer idea of who she was and what she wanted and was capable of. She encouraged me – “You made the right decision. It’s going to be great!”

If we’re moving forward, stretching out toward things like goodness and love (which never fails!) and friendship and hope and help, there are no wrong decisions. This life we’re living right now is the best one because it’s the one with YOU, with ME. We make the best of what we’re given. We love where we’re at. It’s going to be great!

Selfies

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When I first got Instagram I was super self conscious about selfies. I didn’t know what to do with my face and I didn’t know if I was even hot enough for selfies. Nowadays a week doesn’t pass without me posting a selfie. Why? Because I’m vain? No. Because I believe selfies wield a special and specific power. I believe that selfies promote self love. The good kind.

I’ve posted before about women I needed to see. Well over the past couple of years there have been some selfies I needed to see. When I see goofy_ginger‘s crop top selfies my first thought is, “She’s beautiful!” And then my second thought is, “If her stretch marks are beautiful, maybe mine are too.” When I scroll through effyourbeautystandards I see beautiful women (and men!) before I see back rolls and double chins. So if their back rolls and double chins are gorgeous and fierce and strong and adorable and brave, maybe mine are, too.

To love someone, to love something, you have to get to know them/it, right? To fall in love with a person takes time and effort and looking and seeing and listening. Well, it takes the same time and effort and looking and seeing and listening to fall in love with yourself, too. Selfies helped me fall in love with myself. Not in an “I’m the greatest” way, but definitely in an “I’m great” way.

Brittany Gibbons once had sex every day for a year. I know this because she wrote about it. One of the things she wrote about was how having sex every day for a year changed how she viewed her body. She and her husband each listed their five favorite things about her body at the beginning of the year. At the end of the year, their lists were much more specific and uplifting. They practiced celebrating her body until it became natural.

Now, I’m in no position to have sex every day for a year. But Brittany’s experience practicing celebrating her body in specific ways has stuck with me. What do I like about my physical self? What do I like about my emotional/relational/spiritual self? Asking and answering these questions are how I fall in love with myself. How I practice self care. How I become more like the person I was created to be. And selfies help me answer these questions.

Selfies allow us to celebrate ourselves and to celebrate each other. Selfies are fun and shameless and courageous! You know you’ve seen people by themselves on a plane or at a subway station or in a Starbucks taking selfie after selfie trying to perfect the angle and the lighting. That’s bold! And good for them! Because selfies are fun. Because ourselves are worth celebrating in bold and shameless ways.

Get to know yourself. Look at your face. Isn’t it beautiful?

 

41-50 of 100

I finally made it to the half-way point! I’m five books behind schedule but still trucking along.

MEH
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Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng should be an awesome mystery tale. The first line is “Lydia is dead.” I mean, talk about an opener! The thing is solving the mystery means learning about how awful Lydia’s family is. There is virtually no one to root for in the story. It’s a real downer of a book and when we finally find out how Lydia died it’s a real anticlimactic letdown. (Mystery)

I loved the message of Bill Konigsberg’s The Porcupine of Truth. I’m glad he wrote it. But most of it is just a little too on the nose for me. God, God, God and gay, gay, gay. Nothing subtle about it. BUT Konigsberg does manage to make you think rather than tell you what to think, which I really appreciate. The last few chapters of the book are golden. (Young Adult, LGBT)

I’m done letting them own God.
Nobody gets to use God as a weapon
against me anymore.
I just reject that stuff.
Nobody owns my God.
– The Porcupine of Truth, Bill Konigsberg

WWII
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I have read more than my fair share of WWII books but All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr was unlike any other. Written in the present tense this story is told from the perspective of two very different young people playing two very different roles in the war. Doerr didn’t go for shock and awe. He told a story of humanity. (Historical Fiction)

It strikes [him] just then as wondrously futile
to build splendid buildings, to make music,
to sing songs, to print huge books full of colorful birds
in the face of the seismic, engulfing indifference of the world –
what pretensions humans have!
Why bother to make music
when the silence and wind are so much larger?
Why light lamps
when the darkness will inevitably snuff them?
– All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr

Somehow I managed to make it to 26 without reading Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut. I’m glad I finally got to read it. I enjoyed it immensely. I loved the quick moving narration and the imaginative elements. (Fiction, Classics)

THRONE OF GLASS
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It’s been awhile since I read past the first book in a series so Sarah J. Maas did something I liked! I didn’t move on to the third, however, because our girl Celaena started getting a little ridiculous and hypocritical and dramatic about things. But besides that I really enjoyed Throne of Glass and Crown of MidnightIt’s fun reading about an assassin who also happens to be a teenage girl. I think Maas does a good job of balancing Celaena’s orphaned teenage girl side with her violent murdering side. Plus she manages to throw a romance in there (which, let’s be honest, was the main reason why I read the second book) and a scene where the girl totally rescues the guy. (Fantasy, Young Adult)

You could rattle the stars.
You could do anything,
if only you dared.
Throne of Glass, Sarah J. Maas

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I definitely understand why Me Before You by Jojo Moyes is so popular. What a love story! What I don’t understand is why anyone would want to see the movie after having read the book. I can’t put myself through that again. I read this on an airplane and cried like crazy. Snot and tears everywhere. My first thought after you-know-who you-know-whats was that this is like The Fault in Our Stars for grown ups. Except this book did change my perspective a bit on you-know-which issue. (Fiction)

You only get one life.
It’s actually your duty
to live it as fully as possible.
Me Before You, Jojo Moyes

Aziz Ansari really impressed me with Modern Romance. He really did his homework and has some wise things to say about how we start and build relationships these days. He quotes statistics and studies but also says things like “bing bong” and “wackadoodle.” I just pictured Aziz telling me all of these facts and coming to all of these conclusions and I loved it. It was really fun reading this book but I also feel much more enlightened when it comes to relationships in the 20-teens. (Nonfiction)

We want something that’s very passionate,
or boiling, from the get-go.
In the past, people weren’t looking
for something boiling;
they just needed some water.
Once they found it and committed
to a life together,
they did their best to heat things up.
Now, if things aren’t boiling,
committing to a marriage seems premature.
Modern Romance, Aziz Ansari

FAVORITES
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I was really nervous to read Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo because I had heard about the intense sexual assault scenes. But I had forgotten how desensitized I’ve been from watching every episode of CSI and Criminal Minds. This was the best two perspective book I’ve ever read. I never rushed through one narrative to get to another. In fact, it was always a nice surprise when we switched perspectives. “Oh, Salander! I forgot about her!” I said that reading In Cold Blood was like reading an episode of Criminal Minds but this book was even more so. I loved it! (Mystery)

I just think that it’s pathetic
that creeps
always have to have someone
else to blame.
– The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson

Reading Ready Player One by Ernest Cline was possibly the most fun I’ve had reading a book ever. It’s about video games, which usually wouldn’t be fun for me, but it’s totally interactive and immersive and about relationships and the devolution of humankind. All of that takes place within the context of video games, yes, but it all comes together to be a very full, exciting, and impressive story. (Science Fiction)

 
More book quotes: Words, Wisdom, etc.

 

Pity party

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Some of my most clarifying moments have come during a pity party.

My last pity party (besides today’s) took place about a year and a half ago. I was actually here, in Jarabacoa, staying at the hostel by myself for a little get away weekend. You know, to read on a couch different from my own and watch Netflix on a TV screen rather than my computer. The usual. I had just found out that the guy I really really liked and with whom I was working up the nerve to have the talk was dating someone (who was not me) and had neglected to tell me about it. So I sat on the bed and cried for a while. But my kind of pity party is a productive pity party. So while I cried, I thought and I processed.

I thought about what would’ve happened if things had gone my way and we could’ve had that chat about our feelings. I thought about (what I thought was) the best case scenario – he likes me too and we decide to give this thing ago! Then I thought about what that would look like with us living in two different countries and all. Would he move here? No, probably not. Did I want to move back to the States? No, not really. In the end I realized I didn’t actually want to date him at all and boop boom bam problem solved, pity party over. Now of course there are still times when I think of him with what I’m sure is a wistful twinkle in my eye but at the end of the day I know it all worked out for the best even if it hurt for a while.

A week ago yesterday I moved in my new house. When I moved into the house there were neither lights nor power, even though I was told I would have both. The electric problem was resolved that same day, a week ago yesterday, but the water problem has yet to be completely resolved. Most of the time I just roll with it, turning on the pump to take a shower, hauling buckets full of water from the cistern to the toilet so I can flush it, and washing my hands with purified water. But today! Today I wanted to do laundry. And I thought it would be cool because I would just turn on the pump and fill up the washing machine, then drain the water into a jug so I would have toilet-flushing water right on hand in the house. So convenient! Almost as convenient as tanks that just fill themselves up.

So the first part of the plan went great. I turned on the pump, filled up the washing machine with water and clothes (and detergent and fabric softener of course) and then let it rip. The first cycle went smoothly and then it was time to drain the water. I had the hose leading into the old empty jug and it started filling up quickly. Then, when the washing machine was about half empty, it just stopped draining. I couldn’t figure out why! So I sat down and threw myself a pity party.

I cried about the water situation, about the ant situation, about how gross all these freaking bathrooms are, about how I can’t just walk out of my house and find a moto anymore, about how Kristin and Melissa aren’t here, about how much mud I’ve tracked into the house, about how the grass needs to be cut, about how I don’t have an outside trash can so I don’t know what to do with my trash, about how I haven’t blogged or written anything in over two weeks, about what a crappy prayer partner I am, and on and on.

Just one week in my life in Jarabacoa doesn’t look exactly how I was envisioning in. This is mostly because it’s only been a week and (surprise!) I’m not a master at my job yet so it takes up a lot of my time and energy. I recognize that new things take time and that I have to be patient with myself. I also recognize that it can be so easy to fall into bad habits and patterns. So during my pity party today I started thinking about small changes I can make to create a life here in Jarabacoa that ushers in the kingdom, that makes great, big space for the Spirit, and that makes me look more like Jesus.

FIRST I need to get internet in this house. This might seem counter-productive to my kingdom, Jesusy goals but I have realized (after a week without internet in this house) that it’s not. My thinking this past week has been, “I have internet at work. I don’t need internet at the house. It’s just another way to waste time. Plus it’s one more bill to pay.” My thinking during my pity party was more along the lines of this, “Every day I come home from work and watch Will & Grace DVDs. That is not productive. The internet inspires me to write, inspires me to read, connects me with friends, connects me with job opportunities, and fills my house with pretty music.” So that’s happening tomorrow.

SECOND I need some friends. I know that friends aren’t things you can just order up like the internet. I know that real relationships take time. I know that having friends that aren’t like me is important and valuable to my development. I also know that I have been having imaginary conversations in my head with Melissa and Kristin because up until now I didn’t realize the value of having a good friend around who understands what you’re going through. (I appreciate and love Melissa and Kristin for more reasons than their relatability and availability. They’re great.) So far my only friends are Dominican guys. Oh and my boss. And they’re all great, you guys. So great. But my poor boss is going to get so tired of me if I don’t find some more American friends to talk to. One of the ways I’m hoping to achieve this one is by getting my butt to church.

THIRD I need to do things every day to get this house in order. I need to be up the plumber’s butt until every faucet and toilet in this house works like it’s supposed to. I need to buy ant traps. I need to clean everything. I need to buy more lightbulbs. I need to make a big long list and start crossing things off! Not only for my own sanity (I definitely feel most comfortable in (mostly) clean and organized spaces) but also because JEHOVAH JIREH and I’m most likely getting a roommate starting in August.

Yesterday I went to a BBQ with my boss’ family. I spent about half the time with my boss’ kids (you know how I do) but I also mingled with real live adults and ate really good food. The BBQ was at the home of a woman named Shirley. I’m really hoping Shirley and I can be good friends. She is an American but has lived here for a number of years and just recently built herself this gorgeous and adorable cabin up on a mountain. As she was showing me around the cabin yesterday she said that this life has always been a dream of hers – to have a cabin on a mountain. I told her how that’s my dream, too! (Except I’d rather be down here looking up at the mountains.) Just that quick exchange with Shirley yesterday reminded me that in many ways I am in charge of my life. I am in charge of where I live, where I work, and most importantly, my attitude.

What is my Jarabacoa dream? It’s not pity parties on the steps outside the laundry room (although they are productive!) and it’s not hours of TV every night after an exhausting day at work. So I’m taking control and taking responsibility of my own life. And you can, too! So many Facebook statuses and tweets and Snapchats and memes are about “getting out of here” and “one day…” Make that day today, you guys. Spend some time crying if you need to. Make a list of the concrete changes you can make today to close the gap between what your life is and what you want it to be. Make room for the Spirit. Treat people like you want to be treated. And use the internet to fill your house with pretty music.

If I speak in the tongue of a national, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I wear the national dress and understand the culture and all forms of etiquette, and if I copy all mannerisms so that I could pass for a national but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor, and if I spend my energy without reserve, but I have not love, I gain nothing.

Love endures long hours of language study, and is kind to those who mock his accent; love does not envy those who stayed home; love does not exalt his home culture, is not proud of his national superiority, does not boast about the way we do it back home, does not seek his own ways, is not easily provoked into telling about the beauty of his home country, does not think evil about this new culture. Love bears all criticism about his home culture, believe all good things about this new culture, confidently anticipates being at home in this place, endures all inconveniences. Love never fails: but where there is cultural anthropology, it will fail; where there is contextualisation it will lead to syncretism; where there is linguistics, it will change. For we know only part of this culture and we minister to only part. But when Christ is reproduced in this culture, then our inadequacies will be insignificant.

When I was North American I spoke as a North American, I understood as a North American, I thought as a North American; but when I left the United States I put away North American things. Now we adapt to this culture awkwardly; but He will live in it intimately: now I speak with a strange accent, but He will speak to the heart. And now these three remain; cultural adaptation, language study and love. But the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13 made personal

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