Giving Thanks

Last Thanksgiving I sat in 95 degree heat with tears streaming down my cheeks as my nieces sang a song for me over Skype.  I was glad to be in Bolivia, but spending the holidays away from my family was harder than I had ever imagined.  I made it through Christmas with not-as-many tears, but this year I have had extra reason to give thanks as I get to spend both holidays in the US with most of my family (minus Heather.  I will miss having her around for the holidays.).

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Toasting the day with sparkling grape juice

Our Thanksgiving was nothing too special—we went to my brother and sister-in-law’s house and had turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberry, and pumpkin pie.  The basics. 

Highlights of the day were:
- Waking up and using my parents’ new juicer.  Our juice consisted of celery, carrot, orange, apple, lime, cranberry, broccoli, cumcumber, ginger, and more I think.  Deeeelicious!
- Getting to see my grandpa.  He just moved into retirement housing, and this was his first holiday without my beautiful Grandma Kay.  We all missed her. 
- Todd and Nicole had prepared a beautiful antipasto which is a  tradition in our family (because of our Italian relatives) that I had completely forgotten about.  It was beautiful, and we all got to finish putting it together.  Eat with delicious French bread that my mom brought made for a perfect appetizer.
- After we prayed, we all went around and said what we were thankful for.  I, of course, was thankful to be in the States.  My brother made a nice speech about being thankful for family that almost made me cry.
- Watching the Packer game!!!  My first full game since before I left for Bolivia (although I am required to keep up on the stats if I want to have significant conversations around here).
- Going home and unpacking Christmas decorations with my mom and dad. 

What a wonderful day!


On Being Back

My last few months in Bolivia were like injecting my veins with friendship speed.  Every day was celebrating something, and I had no end of cool people to celebrate with because they were coming and going, in and out of my country and city.  That's missionary life.

And missionary life was good for my friendships here in the US too, at least for those last few months.  My Facebook wall was always full of kind notes about people excited to see me when I got home.  Home.  As if that place existed to me anymore.

Now I've been back for just under four months.  I'm just beginning to feel settled into a semi-permanent job, a church, and a house.  And I am not on friendship crack anymore. And it's hard for me.  Maybe selfishly, but I liked being the novelty.  I was the gringa who could speak Spanish to my Bolivian friends, and my friends in the US were willing to excuse my bad communication and forgetfulness because I was serving the Lord in a foreign land. And the missionaries.  They were friends who understood my adventurous spirit and why I was willing to serve the way I did.  But my friends in Bolivia, even if they wanted to, do not have consistent internet access to stay in close contact.   My friends here can see my faults up close and personal, and I am just me again to everyone.  

How do I learn to be me, without a ministry or a cultural barrier to cover the parts of me I'd like to hide?  How do I exist exactly as God intends me to in this normal life?  This life means some nights at home with a book, and some days without phone calls. I like those things, but I'm not used to them.  Call it reverse culture shock, call it my third culture, but adjusting to do.


Life is not poetic

In case we become discouraged because our lives seem ordinary.

“The colored sunsets and starry heavens, the beautiful mountains and the shining seas, the fragrant woods and painted flowers, are not half so beautiful as a soul that is serving Jesus out of love, in the wear and tear of common, unpoetic life.”

- Faber (from Streams in the Desert by Mrs. Charles E. Cowman)


Being Watched

I have hardly lived in my new house here in the Phillips neighborhood for two weeks now, yet in the last few days I found out that two of my students live on the same block as I do.  

Having students so close to me is a privilege and also a responsibility.  Apparently little second graders have lots of time to peer out their windows; they've both mentioned seeing me go out to my car or check my mail.  I want to be the teacher that leads these kids to the truth, that tells how they can live to their potential.  I guess now that my every move is being watched I need to make sure that I'm setting that example.  Is my life speaking Christ?  Are my actions showing that I'm not content to fit the mold that society says I was made for?  

Pray for me, that I would be bold to speak when the time calls for it, and that my example, even from car door to house, would be a light that shines for all to see.


I Won!

I have been entering blog giveaways for quite some time, thanks to Amy, my blogging friend who seems to always win the coolest things.  I am proud to announce that today I won a really cool book!

I entered a while ago on Noel Piper (my pastor's wife)'s blog, and had forgotten about the giveaway.  What a pleasant thing to come home to!

Especially now that I am living in a neighborhood where poverty is a daily reality, I think Aaron Armstrong's book will be good for me to read.  Can't wait to open it up and dig in!


Not All Daisies and Roses

I have had this dream of living in a lower-income urban neighborhood for several years, and I didn’t choose it to be my dream because I thought that each day would leave me feeling like all was right with the world.  I was well aware of some of the struggles that I would see and hopefully eventually be able to help with, but thinking through things and living through things is different.


Seeing students take home packs of food at the end of each week so that they won’t go hungry (on school days many students eat breakfast, lunch, and a snack during the day).  Never being able to talk about but knowing that some of my students have hard home lives (sometimes they choose to share things with me that break my heart, and it’s hard to know what I can and can’t say to comfort them).  Hearing the neighbors fight.  Noticing judgment in someone’s eyes just because of the color of someone’s skin.  These things make my smile a little plastered on sometimes in school. 


How do we live with this?  How and what do we fight?  I’m here now, living where I thought I’d be useful.  Just how do I become useful?


Insider Outsider

This weekend I was made an offer that I couldn’t refuse for a gym membership in the ritzy neighborhood just a few miles away from my house here in Phillips. I’m glad for this opportunity because I do need to get in shape, and winter in Minnesota isn’t the best motivator for outside workouts.  The gym is really nice and I think that I get healthier just by walking in the door.


But this new identity that I have, member of this gym, makes me feel a little more like an outsider in the circles I am working to be a part of.  I have the extra spare change per month that my membership will cost—families I know are struggling just to put food on the table (which was me last month, but with only myself to support and no debt, my financial situation didn’t take very long to become semi-stable).  Why didn’t I use this extra money to help out those families?  What about the time that I will spend at that gym instead of building intentional relationships with my neighbors.  Was it really worth it?


How do I live in this world but not be of it?  Where is the line between being a responsible young professional and living an abandoned life of grace?  Is there even a line?  Can they possibly flow together for this missionary-wannabe?  I challenge you to pray for me as these questions become a part of my daily struggle, and also to examine your heart to see where your motives are for seemingly inconsequential decisions that you make each day.


I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.

- Psalm 130:5-6


I’ve moved!

After two months of the daily commute, of living over 30 min. from work, school, and church, I am happily settled in a beautiful house in the middle of the Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis.




Yesterday when I got home from work one of my new housemates had also just gotten home, and she invited me to go with her to walk to the local Somali mall to get a cup of chai.  On our walk it was clear that our neighborhood is far from perfect—our house has just been remodeled and is in good shape, but several need lots of TLC, young kids walk themselves home from school, and threatening graffiti is a reminder that we need to be cautious.  However, this area is wonderful, too.  Our two white faces in a sea of black at the mall, friendly greetings from people who recognize my housemate on the walk, and people flying by in the bike lanes before it is too cold to run errands this way.


There are many here from people groups who are completely closed to the gospel.  I pray that the light of our house will shine beyond just the front porch and into the hearts of those who need Good News.


I am feeling so content to be where I am right now.  I live within walking distance of the school I work at.  A walk around the neighborhood makes it clear that I am the minority, and the young women I live with are excited to be here as well.


I just want to clarify that I don’t want to write about where I live without leaving out the cultural and racial diversity that exists, here, but I never want to sound or be prejudiced in my words.  I am here to create justice and equality, so if my words ever sound prejudiced, please leave a comment!  After growing up in Scandinavian Wisconsin, I’m still learning how to correctly express what’s on my heart when it comes to the racial injustices I see in the world.