11.24.2011

Thankful.

So often I take for granted all of the gifts I've been given. Sometimes I think that because I've never suffered, I can't be a true Christian, for all Christians suffer. But this just enables me to see all of my blessings as hindrances. I don't thank God for everything he's given me; I complain about my 'good' life. I'm glad that we have a holiday every year on which I am reminded of the many, many reasons I have to be thankful. It may be overly commercialized; it may have no real point; it may lie about history...

... but it serves to remind us, at least once a year, that we are blessed.

I celebrated Thanksgiving tonight with my small group from church here in St. Andrews. I was the only American. It felt wonderful to share a bit of my culture and a few of my family traditions in a different culture with new friends. As we sat around the table eating pumpkin pie, I felt overwhelmed with thankfulness. I am thankful that my dad could afford to send me here. I am thankful that my parents know the value of education and cross-cultural experiences. I am thankful that they love me enough to let me go. I am thankful for my brothers and sisters in Christ around the world. I will always have a home, a family, in them.

I am thankful for languages (and having a knack for them). We live in a world full of special little histories. I am thankful that languages are the window into those histories.

I am thankful for the friends from all over the world who have taken the time and energy to get to know me, to care about me. I am thankful that Texas, Tennessee, Scotland, and Greece have given me those friends.

I am thankful that I hail from the greatest state, but that I have the opportunity to study in the greatest city. I am thankful that every place is different.

I am thankful for music and for words and for the ways that those mediums allow us to express our most intimate thoughts.

I am thankful for family, for their unconditional support and love. I am thankful that I have been blessed with the best nephews and niece there ever were. I am thankful that I have siblings to fight with and to trust. I am thankful for my large extended family and that they are intentional about seeing one another.

I am thankful for the countless examples in my life. Those people have influenced me in a very real way.

Finally, I am thankful for the cross. I am thankful that I have a God, a heavenly Father, who loved me enough to send his own son to die in my place. I am thankful that I have a Savior who was willing to go through no small amount of humiliation to be my scapegoat. I am thankful for the resurrection. I am thankful that the tomb was not the end. I am thankful for my Creator, my Author, my Redeemer, my Lord.

I am thankful for Thanksgiving, for how it reminds me of all that I have to be thankful for. I hope to spend more of my time being thankful and enjoying my blessing. The suffering will come.

11.02.2011

"As the German philosopher Jean Paul once remarked, language is nothing but a 'dictionary of faded metaphors,' or in other words, our vocabulary is a treasure-hoard of worn clichés."
- Guy Deutscher, "Standing on the Shoulders of Clichés"

recently.

God's been pounding things into my head recently.

1. Through the renewal of my tutorials for my thesis, I've been thinking about language. The more I think about it, the more I'm convinced that linguistics is something I need to pursue. I'm fascinated by endangered languages and I want to single-handedly try to save them all by learning them and then forcing them upon my future children.
I learned last week that one of my professors' research assistant worked with Wycliffe Bible Translators in West Africa for two years at the beginning stages of translation. This is a person with passions similar to my own. It is missions, it is linguistics, it is Bible translation. Hello? That is me.
Last Sunday was Bible Sunday (in Scotland, at least). A man who also works in Bible translation spoke in church. He then prayed: for the 2000 people groups that don't have the Bible in their mother tongue, for the men and women in the field right now attempting to aid in that process, and for the people who feel God calling them in that direction. Hello? That is me. I almost cried.

2. I'm translating Philippians this semester. My church's evening service is working through Philippians right now. There are numerous allusions to the Suffering Servant Songs of Isaiah 52 and 53 in Philippians. Yesterday at Christian Union, the speaker presented just that topic and related it to Acts. Today it came up in Hebrew, where we were translating Genesis 37.

3. I'm also translating many of the Beloved Son narratives from Genesis this semester. My church's morning service is working through similar passages as well.

This is getting ridiculous. In some of these cases, I'm not entirely sure what God is trying to tell/teach me. But He has my attention and I'm listening, ears wide. It's been a long time since things have felt this right. He has me where He needs me. He's using my circumstances to repeatedly bash me over the head with these topics.

Keep 'em comin', God.

10.27.2011

Letting go of bitterness.

I've spent so much time over the last few years feeling bitter. The circumstances that caused my bitterness haven't really changed. But I've changed my attitude. I've let go. I'm not in charge anymore.

Greece changed me. My teammates helped. God moved. My prayer life has seen a drastic reforming. I'm so thankful for this summer, for what it taught me, for how God used me. 

Even if nothing else has changed, I have. And that's what matters. 

I am thankful that my life is not my own. 

Thy will be done. 

9.29.2011

change.

Classes started this week. In order to understand how I'm feeling about this semester, there are some facts of which you need to be reminded.

Last semester:
- 20 hours of class time each week for 6 classes (with way more homework than I could possibly complete)
- overcommitment in extracurriculars
- a lack of focus, spiritual health, general well-being. stress.
- Nashville

This semester:
- 4 hours of class time each week for 2 classes, which are only on Tuesday and Wednesday [hello 5 day weekend!] (with what seems to be a very manageable amount of work)
- memories from this summer to fill my heart and mind
- more than enough time to breathe
- involvement in just 2 societies
- Scotland
- feeling God everywhere. knowing Him.

Can you say excited? Happy? Dreading next semester already? I can :)

It also helps that I have N.T. Wright (or 'Tom') as a professor.

Wish you all were here!

9.28.2011

Worship

Here at St. Andrews, there is only one Christian organization. That means that there is no disunity among Christians. There is no competition for new members. They love each other and support each other, no matter their denomination. And they don't just sweep difficult theological issues under the rug, but they also don't allow those issues to get in the way of worship or their relationships with one another.

I went to the first main meeting of the Christian Union last week. We packed out a pretty large venue (St. Andrews-wise at least). It is a time for Christians to gather to worship, pray, and hear teaching from a number of university and locally affiliated pastors. I was expecting that. I was expecting normal.

But guess what?

I cried. I love singing, but I don't usually cry. We sang "Prince of Peace," a song I've known for many years. True, it is a powerful song in its own right, but it isn't just a song for me anymore. In Greece this summer, Tyler noticed the worship band at Kamp Kalamos practicing it. He went over to help them with the key. Being the wonderful servant that he is, he also wrote out the lyrics for me (side note: we would often sing songs in Greece with tunes that were very familiar to me but the lyrics would be just out of reach). That day in Greece, I fully experienced worshipping God in the presence of Christians from around the world. It was so blatantly obvious that we serve the same God for the same reasons. The team was singing as loud as we could in English, but that had no chance of covering up the sound of voices singing the same lyrics to the same melody in another tongue.

Well, the other night, here in Scotland, we sang "Prince of Peace". This time, all of the voices were praising the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ in English. This time, only the accents were different. This time, I was surrounded by people I didn't know, in a place I'd only just arrived. Once again, God was pressing into my heart that there are Christians all over world. They struggle with the same things I do. They have the same hopes and fears. I am not alone here. No Christian is ever alone, for we are all connected to one another around the world in a very intimate way. We may not always sing the same songs. We don't all speak the same language. But we worship. And our voices rise up together. If only in this, we are one body--unified, whole.


P.S. We also sang a song to which I didn't know the English words. But I did know the music. We sang it in Greek this summer :)

9.20.2011

A Scottish Beginning

Hello from Scotland!

I've been here four days now. I'm pretty much settled in, but I'm definitely still working on the jet lag. I think. Or I'm just tired.

My roommate is wonderful, as are all of the people in Sallies (my hall). When I moved in bright and early on Saturday, another student and her father helped me carry my suitcases up to the top floor even though she was on the first. And because I'm on the top floor, I have a fantastic view of the castle ruins and the sea. Apparently this side of the hall is colder. I don't really want to find out. Ha. But the view is totally worth it. I also love my room. It's way less hospital-esque than dorm rooms at Belmont, and the whole building itself is absolutely gorgeous! It's only 80 years old but it is modeled to look like it belongs to the town of St. Andrews. That means that it is completely stone and has this fantastic roofline (meaning that my room has slanted ceilings!). We have a common room, a dining hall with long wooden tables, a reading room, a wooden central staircase, and cubbies for the post! I love living here!

The town is adorable. Seriously. It's tiny and quaint and perfect.

Sallies gave me quite a comforting welcome. My first couple of meals had dishes reminiscent of Greek food (bread and nutella, spanakopita, and stuffed peppers).

So far, I've had my face painted to look like the Sallies' shield, I've danced at a Scottish Ceilidh (pronounced kay-lee), tried Irn Bru (a soda that's famous in Scotland but that nobody likes because it tastes like liquified bubble gum), and I've fallen more in love with the Scottish and English accents (I didn't think it was possible).

I can't believe that I'm living here! It doesn't really feel like a foreign country. I go off wandering around town on my own all the time. Nothing is more than a 15 minute walk away. There are always people around. It's quite fantastic. I already know that December is going to come way too soon, and I'm not going to want to leave this place.

By the way, I've seen more rain in the past 4 days than I've seen in the past 4 months. Texas, I'm trying to send it your way!

9.13.2011

pages.

I'm quite proud of myself. I've read 15 books this summer. Only one of those was a reread :) Granted, it was a longer summer than normal, but I also spent two months out of the country.

Here's the list:
Abba's Child by Brennan Manning
The Reason for God by Timothy Keller
Radical by David Platt
Surprised by Joy by C. S. Lewis
Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges
Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Neither Here nor There by Bill Bryson
The Clothes on Their Backs by Linda Grant
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo and Lynn Vincent
The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
Miz Lil and the Chronicles of Grace by Walter Wangerin
Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos (the reread)
Belong to Me by Marisa de los Santos
Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert

They were all great reads; some I probably won't read again. It was definitely a good summer if only measured by a standard of pages. It was a good summer for other reasons, too :)

And remember: I still have a flight across the pond before my summer ends...

9.09.2011

be strong and courageous.

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." - Joshua 1:9

Joshua was afraid. He was about to lead a people into an unknown land. Moses, their leader, had just died. Joshua had much to live up to.

I'm not usually nervous about traveling. There are always the normal fears about security, take-off, landing, etc., but this time, I'm worried about everything. I think it's because although I've gone to Europe many times and flown by myself many times, I've never flown overseas without another American (even if I didn't know them very well).

This verse is comforting. God was with Israel in Egypt, with them in the desert, and would be with them in the Promised Land. God was with me in Greece (without a doubt), He's been with me in this period of loneliness at home, and I know He will be with me in Scotland.

I have nothing to fear, for the LORD my God will be with me wherever I go.

7.31.2011

Airport

There is sorrow. There is joy.
There are memories. There are expectations.
Bittersweet.
Exhaustion. Noise.
Hopes. Fears.
Tears and happy reunions.
Uncomfortable.
Awake.
Stress.
Home. Far away lands.
Place of transition.

7.24.2011

family

Kamp Kalamos is over. And what a wonderful week it was! Sadly, we fly out in less than 12 hours. 12 hours...

I'm a bag full of mixed emotions. I want to cry out of sadness and confusion, but I'm excited to see friends and family. Much has happened since I've been away. Long story short: my friends and I had a house in Nashville, and then we didn't, and now I have a new house with fewer friends. We have three days of debrief after our arrival in Atlanta tomorrow, and I was planning on staying with a friend for a few days after that. Now, we are going up to Nashville to move our stuff from one house to the other. The point: don't expect a very succinct and processed blog post about this summer right away. I've struggled to process much at all in terms of how I'm growing and learning, and with a whirlwind next few days I don't think it'll get any easier. Debrief will help, but I may not be able to blog again until after I make it all the way home to Houston on Saturday.

Back to Kalamos and the point of this post: The theme for the camp was the Church as a family and what that looks like in a number of situations. There were lessons on respecting elders in the church, lessons on the body of Christ, lessons on the different roles of people working in and out of the church, and lessons on relationships among Christians and what they should look like. At Kalamos there were teens from evangelical churches all over Greece: from Volos (oh, how wonderful it was to see them again!), from First, Second, and Third Churches in Athens, and from many others. There were also teens from across the world, most of whom spoke Greek. We worshipped together as a family at least twice a day, most of the time singing in Greek, but there were some times when we were able to recall the English lyrics ("Who Am I", "Here I Am to Worship", "Prince of Peace"). I don't think I can describe to you what it is like to truly worship alongside other languages if you've never experienced it. Language really is no barrier. Despite singing in two different languages, we were fully united as one voice praising our God, our Lord, our Jesus. We know Him the same. We worship the same God, with the same voice, under the same stars, which He created.

I know intellectually that I have brothers and sisters all over the world. That's also a fact that's become even more obvious to me as I've begun to pray for a different country everyday (thanks David Platt). But coming here? I've now met those brothers and sisters. I know exactly how they need prayer and support. I can see their hearts and their struggles. They feel like my brothers and sisters, and I love them dearly. Nothing, not language, not distance, can separate me from them, just as nothing can separate me from the love of Christ. Why? Because the love of Christ has been poured out onto each and every one of us. And this week that love was poured right back out upon one another.

I lived in a tent with the 11 youngest girls at Kamp. They are 12, 13, and 14 years old. They love playing bougello (water fights) and making farsa (pranks). They're young and innocent. They may not have opened up to me very much, but that doesn't matter to my heart. I love these girls. I love them like I love my best friends, like I love my sisters. I could never forget a single one of their faces. While I would much rather be with them to watch them grow, thanks to a world of internet, I can still keep in touch and watch from afar, all the while praying earnestly for them and waiting for God's timing in allowing me to return.

My heart feels so full, but I know that all this loving is making it work, just like any other muscle needs work to grow. This tightness in my chest, this heart that feels like it'll burst at any minute? It's a heart that's growing and stretching and learning how to love more abundantly, more selflessly, more purely. It's learning to love because it's been loved first.

Join me in prayer for our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world. But join me in prayer especially for our siblings in Greece that I now know personally. Because I've blogged about various ministries I've been involved with here, you can see just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the kinds of prayers needed in Greece. As I begin journeying home, let me know if you'd like to talk about this summer. I might need a few weeks to organize my heart and mind, but I assure you, I will LOVE to talk about these amazing servants of Christ and how you can be praying for them.

Well, I'll blog again from America. I can't wait to see you all!

7.14.2011

.the beginning of the end.

It all ends here.

We leave tomorrow morning for Kamp Kalamos, a camp for Greek teens. Our team will be running the games and living with the teens.

When we return from Kamp, we will have ONE DAY left in Greece. It's strange to look around my room tonight and see nothing but suitcases. Greece has been home for these past two months. I feel connected to the leaders here, the congregation here, the places here.

Kalamos is our one last ministry, our one last week as a team. It's going to be a hard week. We are going to be tired, hot, and itchy. We are going to lack quiet time and time as a team. It's going to be a challenge, but it will also keep our minds off going home and saying goodbye to each other.

At Kalamos, we will be reunited with the youth we met in Peireas, Volos, and Athens. It's going to be amazing to bring everyone together in the name of the gospel.

Prayers are definitely needed as we hit the home stretch. Thank you, supporters, for allowing me to be here.

I'll be without internet until July 23. We head home July 25. I'll talk to you all soon!

7.10.2011

God is moving.


Hello, all,

Sorry for the blogging hiatus. We don’t usually get back to the Bible College until pretty late and I head straight for bed.

I want to tell you about a huge opportunity we had last night. Exarchia is an area of Athens known for its crime. If you remember the huge riots in December of 2008 in response to the killing of a teenage boy (they protested police brutality), those took place in this neighborhood. It’s near the university so many of the residents are students. There isn’t a huge immigrant population, but it is an immigrant-friendly area. Compared to the rest of Athens (and Greece really) it’s the least religious and most postmodern neighborhood. In America, that wouldn’t be a good thing. But here in Greece, that is actually a fantastic thing for the evangelical church. Those who are against the government tend to side, or commiserate with the evangelical church. Just as they’ve been attacked by the government, so has the evangelical church been attacked by both the government and the Orthodox Church. They don’t go running to the church or anything, but they aren’t automatically against it.

But here’s how God is working: three men have moved themselves and their families into this neighborhood with the intention of planting a church. Right now they are still in the gathering stages, getting to know the community and its struggles and needs. They are forming connections and relationships. Greeks don’t trust one another. They trust no one. If these church planters walk in and start beating them over the head with Bibles, the people will flee. They are truly trying to become a part of Exarchia. They are intently listening for God’s direction, already having uprooted their families in response to God’s call, just as Abram did.

The three planters took my team and another team (from Canada) into the neighborhood to show us around and tell us about the process. They split us up into three groups so that we wouldn’t stand out and so that we could all hear what was being said. As we concluded our tour I thought about how much of an impact would come from these men taking the time to share their ministry with 16 strangers. The needs of this community, the planters, and the plant itself are now going out to two different countries, at least 16 different churches, 9 universities, and countless supporters and prayer warriors. The Lord multiplies loaves and fishes, doesn’t He?

Here’s what you can pray for right now:
- The planters are still trying to gather some young families from the church who would be willing to relocate to Exarchia
- The planters are exhausted. They aren’t being paid for this. They are missionaries, but without support. They have jobs but are trying to devote all of their time to developing relationships and making a presence in the neighborhood.
- The planters are also lonely, trying to uproot themselves from their home churches and implant themselves into a harsh environment.
- That the church would continue to support this ministry. Historically, the Greek Evangelical Church has been extremely introverted. They don’t reach out. They are comfortable where they are and don’t make too much effort to share that. The planters need all the support they can get.

There are many, many more prayers that this plant and this neighborhood need. It meant more than a lot to me to see this plant in action and to hear the hearts of the planters. I can’t wait to talk to you all about it in person.

God is moving. He’s not a God that doesn’t work among His people. He loves.

I'm still excited that I'm here. I'm supposed to be here. God had is hand over all that went into the making of this trip for me and my teammates. We shared with another missionary here tonight about how we all came to be here. It's pretty amazing what God can do.

In Him,
Kelsey

6.30.2011

Festivals and Tournaments

The kids of Neos Kosmos, a mostly Albanian area of Athens:
I'm helping a little girl walk on stilts.

I'm getting help from a girl I taught to walk on stilts so that another girl 
can walk on stilts. 
Teamwork!

An intense game of tug-of-war. I'll have you know, the girls won both games.
The Diablo. I cannot do this.

A group game called splish-splash. It was the kids' favorite.

We even had a clown!

Bob Hill (a missionary and professor at the Greek Bible
Institute) put on a magic show for the kids as a way
to introduce them to the gospel.

The kids were enthralled by the magic show.

Camille ran Twister. A sweet girl helped her translate, and in 
the process, Camille learned her colors in Greek!

Elise was our master face (well, mostly body) painter. She 
can paint a dinosaur or dragon better than anyone.

The hula hoops were a big hit.
Camille made some awesome braided bracelets for the girls during
a tournament.

The tournaments are well attended. They all get into the games.

There are big kid teams...

... and little kid teams.

After the games were over, the older boys requested some "boy" 
bracelets.

All the supplies were purchased for the festivals and tournaments with our ministry funds. Thank you for your support! You made this fun possible!

6.20.2011

Just a little prayer update.

Friends, family, prayer warriors-


I have a few requests this morning that I'd love for you all to know about and pray about.




We start festivals today! You can pray for patience, especially in the language barrier. None of these kids will speak English; they are all Albanian and speak Albanian and Greek. You can also pray that God opens my ears and mind to hear and translate, because I know that I could communicate but I've lost so much of my vocabulary and with the change in pronunciation, I'm not noticing that I know what people are saying. 
On that subject, I've got a pretty awesome story for you really quickly. When we were in the Red Light District, an old woman ambled past those of us who were standing on the street and praying. She said some things that I didn't understand, but then she said, "Blepo kala, efharisto." I wasn't really paying attention because I didn't expect to understand. But I did!! She said, "I am seeing good, thank you." You have no idea what that felt like. I know that ordinarily, I wouldn't have understood what she said. But God allowed me to remember.  He gave me that gift. He let me use my studies for the benefit of encouraging our team and for a glimpse into the heart of a Greek woman. Seriously, whoa. 

Also, you should pray for our team's health. Camille was sick yesterday, Emily was sick before bed last night, and Joanna got sick early this morning and still doesn't feel well. My room is well so far, and WE WILL DEFEAT THIS! We keep telling each other that we aren't going to get sick. So far, it's working. But I did make the mistake of not putting on any sunscreen, so my body hurts a bit every time I move...

Thank you all! Your support and encouragement allows me to be here. I am blessed.
In Him,
Kelsey

6.17.2011

Whirlwind

These last few days have been interesting. Some rough, some relaxing.

On Sunday, we attended First Greek Evangelical Church of Athens for the first time. It's the church at which we will be spending the rest of the summer. After church, our team and a bunch of other members of the church changed into matching shirts and headed to clean up Mars Hill (Acts 17- the Aeropagus). You can see the whole city from that giant rock. It's right next to the Acropolis so it's also a fantastic view of hte Parthenon. We had been cleaning for about twenty minutes when we paused to watch a storm roll in across the city. It didn't take long for giant (I mean GIANT) raindrops to start falling on our heads. Obviously, we headed down off the giant rock in the middle of the city and huddled beneath trees lower down. As we tried to wait out the storm, lightning struck the Acropolis and a mound of stone tumbled down. It was such an awesome display of God's power. He didn't need us to clean that hill. He didn't (and doesn't) need us for anything, but He has graciously allowed us to work for Him and His Kingdom. We needed that reminder though, and it stands in stark contrast to the day that followed.

On Monday, Dina (the wife of the dean of the Greek Bible Institute) took us into the Red Light District. She works with Nea Zoi ("New Life" www.neazoi.org), an organization that enters into brothels to offer help and support to prostitutes, whether they are there willingly or whether they've been trafficked into Greece. Dina works to form relationships with these women. You can't go into the brothels and meet different women every week and never follow up. Dina knows these women. She knows their pasts, their families, their hearts. She's been working with Nea Zoi for eight years, and in that time, she has only helped about five women out of the brothels. The newest and biggest problem right now is the need for a safe house for the women once they come out. Right now, there's really no place for them to go. The closest Christian house is in Thessaloniki, but these women need to stay close to Nea Zoi for support or they'll return to prostitution. A young girl in the United States began raising money for a safe house, and it's because of her that the project is even off the ground.
Our entire team went into the Red Light District, but Dina took one or two of us girls in at a time. Everyone else stayed outside to pray. There are 300 brothels in Athens alone (prostitution is legal here). It's a heartbreaking sight. We would pray with our eyes open because we were in the most dangerous area of the city. That meant that we had to watch as man after man walked through door after door. I cried. I don't think that I can possibly explain what I felt that day. Men walked around in daylight, on their lunch breaks, talking on their cell phones, and holding their heads up high. They had no shame. Some would walk out one door and into another. It could have made me hate all men, but instead I would think about the men standing next to me. Tyler, Trevin, and Jaimeson stood solidly beside us, praying just as hard and feeling just as heartbroken. I don't think I've ever felt real righteous anger, but every time a man walked in or out, I asked God to forgive them. To forgive them for the hurt they were causing themselves, their families, the girls. To forgive them for their perpetuation of sin. To forgive them for their pride. I've never done something so hard; my heart has never broken so sharply. I don't know how Dina does it every week.
Satan has dominion over those streets, but I saw God at work. Pray for Brothel 19. Dina is friends with the madam there and is hoping that she will convert her brothel into a prayer house.
I pray that when I return home, I don't remain blinded to such prevalent sin. Atlanta is the human trafficking capital of the world...

A praise! Emily arrived late Monday night safe and sound! Our team is complete!

Tuesday was a complete turnaround. As a break for us after a hard day and as a way to break Emily into our team and this country, we were tourists for the day. We went up to the Acropolis but noticed a threatening sky so we headed into the museum first. We then walked up the hill to the Parthenon. It was the perfect day. It was cool and the sun wasn't so intense. We took tons of photos.

Wednesday was supposed to be our first day of work with the teens in downtown Athens. However, as you probably know, there were strikes and protests in the city. We decided it wasn't safe enough, especially with baby Carter. We stayed back for the day and cooked for ourselves. Most delicious meal yet! It was also the night of the lunar eclipse, and we had a stellar view from on top of our roof. Spectacular.

Yesterday we had orientation for the youth events (the festivals and tournaments) we will be putting on and helping with. I was nervous about how this would work, but I'm feeling so much better about it all. I can see how God will be working through us in these kids. I'll talk more about that once we get started in that ministry.

I have so much running through my mind. Pray that God helps form my thoughts and mold my heart.
This country needs so much prayer. So much prayer.

καλη νικτα
"Good night"

Love,
Kelsey

By the way, Camille has a couple of wonderful blog posts on Nea Zoi and our time in the Red Light District.

6.11.2011

For Your Trash

γα τα σκουπιδια
"For your trash."

Sorry for the long hiatus, but we spent the last week in Volos, a city about four hours from Athens. As Meletis, the pastor there, said, "We are washing the feet of Volos." We were welcomed into his family and his church, but all we wanted to do was serve them. I know that we will spend this whole trip wanting to serve others, but being served so much greater in return.

We picked up trash around Volos for three days, and we spent one afternoon passing out bags at a busy intersection, hoping that instead of throwing their trash out the car window, they would put it into the bag and then put the bag in a garbage can. We would walk up to car windows, say "γα τα σκουπιδια" (the only phrase Meletis taught us), hand them a bag, and hope that they understood. We handed out 2500 bags in just a couple of hours. It was amazing what kind of response we received. There were people who turned the bags down, but they were greatly overshadowed by the many more who were thrilled to have something for their trash. The bags were also an advertisement for the Greek Evangelical Church in Volos. We picked up trash on beaches, in parks, and along the side of the road. We were honked at in appreciation quite often. Meletis has a uniquely congenial relationship with the Orthodox Church in town, so we were never criticized for our work. The last day, a man walked up the other side of the fence we were cleaning and invited us to see the archeological dig that was happening on his property. It was an amazing gift.

The Team. Trevin, Rachel, Camille, Elise, Joanna, me, and Tyler on top. After day one of trash pickup.

Our view while picking up trash on day one.

Throughout the week, we formed pretty close relationships with Meletis' children and the other youth in the church. Our second night in Volos, we joined the youth to watch Fiddler on the Roof. We haven't stopped singing "If I Were a Rich Man" since.

On Sunday we joined for worship at the Greek Evangelical Church in Volos. Angela, Meletis' wife, is from Massachusetts, and she graciously translated for us through headsets. It was nice to be able to understand the sermon this time. That morning was also the first time that we have taken communion since our arrival here. It's always an adjustment to learn how different churches take the sacraments, but we just observed and followed along. After lunch, we headed to a little church about two hours from Volos. It's in a village called Karditso, which means "little heart". It's right in the center of Greece. They congregation there is seven people large, and the average age is about 70. Only four years ago did the church start up again. They had been facing so much persecution in the past, that the congregation that had been around fell apart. Every time they would meet, people would throw rocks at the windows. They don't have a pastor though. Pastors from the surrounding areas take turns driving out there. There is a book store in the village that needs someone to run it. Whoever runs the book store will pastor the tiny church. Pray that God will find the right person for that job. Instead of a sermon that night, Rachel, Camille, and Trevin gave their testimonies. It's difficult to give a testimony here because we have to pause after every phrase to allow for translation. These three did an incredible job! The congregation appreciated having us there and sharing with them.

After our second day of picking up trash, we headed to the beach for some much needed relaxation. We may or may not have eaten gelato twice that day...    :)

On our final day of trash pickup, we only worked in a small park on the beach. We collected at least 50 bags of trash in that one area. We didn't even make a dent in the trash that was there. We ran out of garbage bags and had to quit. It's amazing that there can be so little concern for clean streets and beaches in such a beautiful part of the world, of God's creation. I'm becoming so much more aware of how I'm treating this earth that doesn't belong to me.

Before Wednesday night Bible study at the church, Meletis took us to Meteora, a fantastic part of Greece. It's home to many monasteries, 11 of which are still in operation today. These monasteries are suspended on rocks that jut straight up out of the ground. I have no idea how high up they are, but it's high. It's how steep the rocks are that is the most impressive. It definitely makes one wonder about how monks ever got to the top to build in the first place. Meteora was actually the first place we went when I came to Greece on vacation two years ago. Had you told me then that two years later I would be spending the summer serving the people of Greece, I would have laughed. It's always been a dream of mine to be here doing God's work, but I never really thought it would become a reality. God works in mysterious and wondrous ways, and I am thankful that He has given me this opportunity and provided me with such amazing support. On Wednesday night, Tyler, Elise, and I shared our testimonies, once again allowing for translation. I was very afraid to do it. I have never shared my testimony, and I don't particularly like it either. But I had it written down so that I wouldn't get nervous or confused. God definitely pulled me through.

After Volos, we returned not to Peireas, but to the Bible Institute in Pikermi, outside of Athens. Our mentors, Christi and Jaimeson were here to meet us. They had only made it to Greece the day before because their school is on the quarter system and had finals in June. Friday night we were blessed enough to attend the wedding of two members of First Greek Evangelical Church here in Athens. It was a packed wedding, with a wonderful sermon (again we had translator headsets) and gorgeous ceremony. We felt like a part of something powerful.

We have been given a better idea of what we will do for the remainder of our time, but everything is subject to change. We will mostly be working with youth by helping out at the festivals, basketball tournaments, and running the teens camp at Kalamos our last week here. Today was our first day of attempting to clean at Kalamos. The whole camp is open air, so a year's worth of dirt and pollen was caked onto the floor of each cabin. We spent today sweeping. We will return to continue cleaning every Saturday for the rest of the month.

Our final team member, Emily, should be joining us any day now. The plan is for her to be on a flight arriving in Athens on Monday night. Please be praying for safe travels and efficient preparations for her. We are all very excited to have a complete team finally!

God has been showing me so much of His heart, really breaking my heart for what breaks His. As Americans, we have it easy. The evangelicals in Greece are deemed heretics by everyone (because almost everyone is Greek Orthodox). Even in Greece, we interns don't face much persecution. We aren't heretics because we are Americans and they expect us to be protestants. But they think that evangelicals are going against their people and their ancestors and their culture by not being Orthodox. Pray for these people, for the evangelicals and the orthodox. Meletis asked every day we picked up trash for forgiveness for those who created the mess. What an example of hope and faith!

After church tomorrow we will be picking up trash in Mars Hill. You should all read Acts 17 in support and preparation.

σ'αγαπω
"I love you"


Feel free to follow along with Elise, Tyler, Camille, or Emily. If you'd like to see more photos from our time in Volos, click here. It is the blog of one of the youth at the church in Volos. His name is Alex, and he picked up trash with us every day.

6.01.2011

Acclimation


καλησπερα!

I feel like we’ve been here forever already! Each day goes by slowly, which I love. Greek time is the best. We start our days no earlier than 10 am. Lunch is between 1 and 3. We tend to take naps in the afternoon :) All of the stores are closed from 2-5 ish so there’s nothing else for us to do. Hahaha! We eat dinner no earlier than 8. We’ve still better pretty tired so some nights we are in bed between 11 and 12. However, all of us girls are in one room, which means that a couple of nights we staying up until 2 am talking about our pasts and doing some good girl bonding.

The mosquitoes here are vicious. We killed five in our room before going to bed last night. Unfortunately that wasn’t all of them. I woke up with two few bites on face and a few more on my arms, hands, back, and sides. I’m so glad I brought Benadryl gel. It’s been saving all of us from scratching off our skin. I think it’ll be a little better once we are at the Bible College. There will be less access to our rooms for the bugs.

There’s been no lack of food, that’s for sure. Vicki continues to feed us well, often commenting on the fact that we don’t eat enough and are all too skinny. Her sister, Lily, has been doing quite a bit of helping out these last couple of days as well. As I write this, she’s in the kitchen preparing something delicious. Since my last post I’ve had slouvaki, Spanish tortillas, cherries, some kind of melon (I’m not a big fan of melon. I don’t like honeydew or cantaloupe at home, but by golly, this was stellar), numerous ice cream desserts, strawberries, mashed potatoes, some kind of cooked potato in oil (really wonderful), Greek salad, some kind of sausage, chicken, ham pasta, and more nutella than I care to admit. I need to stop eating. I’m worried about not fitting into any of my clothes by the end of the trip. I warned my team that they might be seeing quite a few appearances of my sweatpants…

On Sunday night, we went to hear the men’s choir from Moody Bible Institute in Chicago at Second Evangelical Church in Athens. They were phenomenal! They sang in English mostly but closed with a few Greek hymns. We got to talk with them after the concert. It was nice to talk to other college-aged Americans about what we were doing here for the summer. They were very nice and had been having an awesome time touring Greece. They just headed to Cyprus, so please pray for travel mercies for them.

On Monday, we cleaned up around the church. Judging from the amount of stuff we took to the trash, it really needed to be done. Pavlos had mentioned it on Sunday at church so a few of the church members came to help us. It was another wonderful opportunity to meet more people and form relationships. One of the men was telling us about living here in the 60s and 70s during the dictatorship. He and a few other members of Greek Evangelical Church in Peireas were sent to jail for something they didn’t do. They were there for three days before they were cleared, but because they were falsely accused, the church was given the freedom to operate without persecution. His point was that sometimes God works through trials and sufferings. The time they spent in jail was awful, but it was worth it. He also told us about all the times the church building (we are living above it) has been destroyed. It was destroyed a number of times by the Orthodox Church before they were given freedom, and it was bombed during World War II. It’s amazing. Through persecution and hard times, they always rebuilt. They knew that the spread of the gospel was more important. It’s something I need to remember.

Tuesday morning, Vicki took us to another market. This one had so much food! Everything looked absolutely wonderful, especially the fruits. That’s where the cherries and melons came from. We brought tracts with us to hand out. They were just small flyers about the gospel. We weren’t ready to actually hand them directly to people yet, so we did a sort of reverse pick-pocketing. We would hold a tract surreptitiously in one hand and then drop it into someone’s basket when they weren’t looking. I was quite a chicken at the beginning. During our first walk through, I only gave out 3 of my tracts, but I started to feel better about it towards the end. When we left I only had two left! Proselytizing is illegal here so we have to be careful about what we say and do and how we approach it. We don’t want to overstep our boundaries. I ask for prayer in this area. I think we are all afraid of broaching the subject with someone that doesn’t want to hear it. I, for one, haven’t taken the chance. Pray for courage and direction. Pray that God gives us clear and safe opportunities.

This will be my last post for at least a week. We are going to tour the Bible College tomorrow and are taking some of our stuff over there (like my computer) because we leave for Volos on Friday, and I don’t want to take everything. I’ll be off my blog, email, and facebook. If you haven’t heard from me, don’t worry. We will be picking up trash with the church members in Volos. That’s how they grow their congregation. No one in Greece picks up trash (or throws it in trash cans) so it’s unusual to see and causes people to stop and ask why. Pray that we have many opportunities to share the gospel. Pray that our team grows even closer. Pray for health, safety, and stamina.

Please feel free to read the blogs of my teammates as well. Tyler, Elise, and Camille all have blogs.

I love you all, and I appreciate all of your prayers.

In Him,
Kelsey

5.29.2011

A Warm Welcome.

I don't think I'll need to eat again for a few months after I get home. Seriously. Vicki is doing all of our cooking, and she's incredible. Yesterday we had tyropita and baklava for lunch and chicken and rice for dinner. Today she and a couple of other women from the church cooked stuffed green peppers and stuffed tomatoes. Oh my goodness. So tasty. We paired those with feta and tsaziki. We have bread at every meal. At church this morning one of the women (they call her the "church mama") gave us chocolates with hazelnut that she made for us when she woke up. Yum. For breakfast we are on our own, but our kitchen is stocked with anything we might want. We've been eating cereal, toast with honey and jam (and now nutella. We bought some.), ham and cheese, and leftovers (such as the tyropita with artichoke). We are very well cared for that's for sure.

It's obvious that God specifically put our team together. Rachel's family is from Mexico so she speaks Spanish. I wouldn't have said that would really be much of a help here in Greece but Vicki, her sister, and some of the other women in the church are from the Dominican Republic. Vicki has been here almost 30 years and is completely fluent in Greek, but since we aren't (yet), we speaks to Rachel in Spanish. I think it's a blessing for Vicki as well. She has to spend so much time with so because she does the cooking. I think she'd be very bored if she couldn't talk to us. And because we can communicate, she took us down to the harbor yesterday and the market today. Many of the Spanish speakers in the church joined us today for lunch. Camille said, "I'm so thankful that even though we speak three different languages we can still fellowship." What a God thing!

We have been reading questions from a book Rachel brought called If. One of them was, "If you had to nominate one person you've known personally in your life for sainthood, who would it be?" At the time, I couldn't really come up with anyone. Since the past few days, we've all agreed that we would nominate Vicki. She's a blessing to us, for sure. We are hoping to cook for her one night this week before we leave for Volos. We won't be staying at this church after Volos, but Vicki said that she'd like to invite us to her house one evening for dinner after we return. I'm serious, this woman is incredible.

At church this morning, Popi translated for us in the pew. It was a real challenge for her because there were seven of us and she was trying not to speak too loud. I didn't catch most of the sermon because of that. But I didn't even expect to have translation, so anything was awesome. I recognized some of the hymns we sang! The Koine Greek is coming most in handy in church. That's the vocabulary I know. I could translate quite a bit of the hymns, but I got lost when I tried to use my Greek New Testament. I'm excited to improve and learn more. Tyler got up and said a few words on behalf of the rest of us. He did a wonderful job with his phrasing so that it could be translated. He also wrote out one sentence in Greek that he could say as well as our theme verse (Philippians 2:13). The congregation clapped. He did an incredible job with pronunciation and everything! I would have frozen up.

Tonight we are going into town to Second Evangelical Church to hear the choir from Moody Bible College. We are all excited for that!

Tomorrow we are going to be working here at the church doing some organization and anything Pavlos needs for us to do.

I'm amazed. We've been here for two days. We haven't done any work per se and we are still infants in the language. Yet God is at work. His hand is in everything we do. We feel him. We're learning. He's directing our plans. We may not know much about what we'll be doing, but God does. It's a comforting thought.

καλησπερα, everyone!
In Him,
Kelsey

5.27.2011

Arrival


Pre-Field Training is over. I learned more than I expected, that’s for sure. We had serious time (seminars on child abuse, spiritual warfare, humility) and fun time for team bonding (I kayaked, ran an obstacle course, swung from a rope into the lake, climbed a rock wall, and played tug-of-war). My team is great. There were seven of us at Training, but one more intern will be joining us in mid June when she finishes school and our mentor and his family will join us around the same time. I’m excited to meet them. I think we are all ready to welcome them into our team. Those heading out for long-term missionary positions were at a weeklong training at Ridge Haven as well. Our team had the opportunity to meet and talk with a couple that is raising their support right now to be long-term in Greece. They are hoping to be here by January. They were extremely encouraging for all of us, and it is amazing to know that not only has God called us to serve here for two months, he has also called this wonderful family to serve his people in Greece for years. They’re praying for our time here. We’re praying for their preparation and funding.

We arrived in Athens this evening. We are exhausted but happy to be here. We’re going to bed early tonight and hoping to wake up at a reasonable time tomorrow. There has been a slight change in plans and living arrangements because students are still living at the Bible College (graduation is tomorrow). The pastor of Greek Evangelical Church in Peireas (the port city right outside of Athens) picked us up from the airport and brought us here to stay. We have tomorrow off to recuperate and acclimate ourselves to the area. On Sunday we’ll be joining the church for their service in the morning and may do something special for them on Sunday night.

All the way from the airport, I tried to read street signs and billboards. I think my pronunciation has finally improved, but I have the vocabulary of a one-year-old. I’m hoping that’ll improve quickly as I try to communicate with some of the people here at the church these first few days.
They had dinner ready for us when we arrived, and it was delicious! The members of the church we’ve met so far seem happy to have us here. They’re very welcoming.

As we were warned, the Greek sense of time and planning isn’t very strong. We know that we’ll be headed to Volos in about 6 days to serve there for a week, but we don’t know what we’ll be doing until then. Pavlos, the pastor who picked us up, says that there is plenty he is going to have us do around here in Peireas. The team is flexible, and we know God has a plan for our time.
After over 24 hours of travel, it is a huge relief to have arrived safely and with all baggage in tow. Thank you for your prayers for travel mercies. It’s finally sinking in that I’ll be living in Athens for the next two months.

I ask for prayers for our quick recuperation and good sleep. Pray that when we meet the church family here on Sunday, we are welcomed and that we can communicate somehow. There are other teams arriving on their fields all over the world today as well. Please keep those interns in your prayers. We met them at Training and will reunite with them at Debrief in two months. They are headed to Mexico, Peru, Japan, England, Ireland, Scotland, New York, Kenya, and Ethiopia and all need prayer for doing God’s work.

Good night!
Love, Kelsey

5.22.2011

Friend.

It was great to see my best friend today. I miss her. She's going to have an amazing summer galavanting all over the country. Luckily, we'll return home the same day. Perfect timing.
She's the first person I called after inquiring into the Greece internship and a huge influence in my life. I wouldn't be where I am today without her. It's weird to be so different from someone yet so similar. I can't wait to come home and see her and hug her and tell her about my summer. Emails will be our only connection for the next two months.

I'm leaving tomorrow. It feels like I'm leaving everything despite the fact that I'll still have internet access. I'm stressing out about not packing something, but I can pretty much find anything I've forgotten once I get to Greece. But I'm so ready! I'm excited to meet everyone I'll be working with for the summer! Atlanta/North Carolina, here I come!

5.19.2011

Transitioning

It's a time of transitions. Beware of this post-- it goes all over the place.

I'm halfway done with my college career. Hello, what?


I feel dizzy just thinking about my year. I don't think I'll ever know which hemisphere I'm in or get over any jet lag. I can't wait! I have a wandering heart and mind. I haven't left the continent in two years. I know it doesn't seem like very long, but I'm getting restless. I don't think I'm meant to be here, in the United States. I know I needed to grow up here. I know I'm blessed beyond belief, but my heart longs for somewhere else. Or maybe I'll feel like an alien anywhere. Isn't that how it's supposed to be? This isn't my home. I am a foreigner on this earth.


Sophomore year was hard. Really, really hard. This past semester I took 19 hours. 19. I worked my behind off. And I survived. I did well. And you know what? I think I learned (or started to learn) how to balance my life. I made other things, like bible study, a priority, even when I had mounds of homework waiting for me. I think my relationships improved. I feel more involved, more like I belong. I'm proud of myself for working hard, doing well, and not sacrificing fun or what I wanted (just a little sleep... or maybe a whole lot of sleep). My mentality is that I'll sleep when it's done. Sometimes, that didn't mean much sleep, or any at all (remember this?). But I also know that I could catch up again come summer. I do have all those long flights to look forward to. Ha!


My world is changing. I'll be blogging for the next two months from Athens, Greece, where I'm serving with Mission to the World and seven other interns. I know the basics of what we'll be doing, but I don't know how anything will really go. I'm impressed already that I'm not stressing out. But I'm not surprised. If you haven't noticed, God's hand has been overly obvious throughout this whole process, from Wendy asking me, out of the blue, if I'd like to go to Greece this summer, all the way to my support come through in such a huge way. I've never felt God work this way in my own life, and I cry every time I think about it. In Greece, there isn't much of a sense of planning out daily schedules or abiding by timeliness. God is preparing my heart to embrace that piece of the culture. It's one that should be enjoyed and savored, but if I don't recognize that and learn to love it, I'll spend the entire time antsy, bouncing my knees.

Blogging during this time will be a way not only for me to share updates of what we've been doing and how God's been working, but also for me to ask for specific prayer needs of the people, the churches, us interns, and myself personally.
I'll begin that right now. The team is working on pulling together the last of the funding, but everyone is doing well. What a huge praise that is! We've all seen just how much God can provide, especially in His perfect timing. I think our greatest concern for the moment is packing and travel plans. We arrive for Pre-Field Training on Monday in Atlanta/North Carolina. We will fly out to Greece on the following Thursday. My prayer for the people in Greece is that they accept us. I pray that God is working on their hearts right now to prepare them for our arrival. I want to be able to form real relationships with them, to learn who they really are, to not impose my own opinions on who I think they should be. Personally, I need a ton of prayer. I'll need that prayer the whole time. Preparing my testimony is a daunting thing. I don't 'like' my testimony. It's not impressive, and I don't understand how I can speak to anyone through it. I'm also concerned about the language barrier. I want so badly to be able to communicate. I keep thinking that my two years of Koine Greek have got to count for something! But I don't know the vocabulary and the pronunciation is different and I don't know if they conjugate the same way. Good thing I know the names of all the letters. Ha! I'm hoping that I'll be able to pick it up quickly though.

My prayer requests will change as we move forward I'm sure. I don't know how often I'll be able to blog, but I'll do so whenever I can.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, for all of your support, your thoughts, your prayers, your encouragement, and your love. Send it all the way to Greece, please?

I am excited for how God is bringing me into this brand new phase of my life. I can't imagine a better transition. I'm saying hello to a new day.

Dr. Byrd began most Greek classes with this word: καλημερα. 'Good day.' Hey, at least I can greet people!

So, καλημερα. Welcome to a new day.

5.07.2011

Fully Funded!!!!

Praise the Lord!
I am over fully funded for Greece with just 28 sponsors! How powerful is that?

I am blessed, I am blessed!

God has placed amazing people in my life: people who love the Lord, who love to give, who love one another.

Raising support was nerve racking. But God provides. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

I didn't know this process could be so emotionally and spiritually rewarding. I thought it was supposed to be difficult and disheartening.

But... I think I know where I'm supposed to be this summer :) It's clear now.
God is calling me to serve His people in Greece, and thanks to the enormous support of friends and family, I can answer that call.

I'm crying right now, considering all of the prayers you've been sending up on my behalf. I am shocked and blessed and thankful.

But here's the thing: don't stop now. Keep those prayers flowing. That is the. most. important. thing. If you haven't sent in support yet, but were planning to, let me know. I'm going to check with my team and make sure that no one else needs help.

I can't get over how blessed I am.
I hope I never do.

5.03.2011

Sending

"Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I send? And who shall go for us?' And I said, 'Here am I. Send me!'"
- Isaiah 6:8


Whelp, you get what you ask for.
So ready.

{Heartache and Joy}

Wow. I have never felt so conflicted before.

Believe me when I say that I am beyond excited for Greece in less than three weeks and Scotland in just a few months. But I hate saying goodbye. This feels way worse than it should. I think its because of what I'll miss. I'm afraid of being forgotten, of things changing so much that I'm no longer needed or no longer fit in.

I'm saying goodbye to people who won't even have the same name when I return. We can no longer have the kind of relationship we have now. I'm missing weddings.

Why does this have to be so hard? Why must I sacrifice?

I've blogged before about home. No matter which home I'm at, I feel constantly pulled towards the other. What happens when I spend seven months in Europe? How far from home will I feel then?

Heaven will be glorious. Everybody I love, from near and far, from America, from Europe, from all over the world, will be together rejoicing in the God Most High. It will be a congregation of sinners who are no longer sinners. And even then, I'll be in such awe of the glory of God that I won't care if I'm alone or if I'm surrounded by millions of people. That home will be perfect, and I'll never wish I was somewhere else.

I'm excited for the coming adventures. I know that God is in control, that He is leading me, that this is right. I just don't know the purpose. And when compared to all of the heartache I feel, it's hard to remember and trust in His plans.

As I attempt to prepare my testimony, please pray for me. I've always been kind of disappointed in it. However, RUF tonight was encouraging in that regard. I'm learning to recognize where in my life I've struggled and how God has worked with me through those struggles.

4.29.2011

All Nighter

I feel like a real college student! (think Pinocchio)

I just finished a paper. It's 4 AM. I have class at 8 AM. Rather than risk oversleeping and missing my classes in the morning, I am choosing to stay up.

Good thing tonight just happens to be Royal Wedding :)

4.27.2011

{Blown Away}

I'm so blessed. I have friends and family who are beyond generous.

They're giving in service to the Lord, but I can't help thinking that these people believe in me and in what I'm trying to do enough to donate such large sums of money.

I'm shocked that they would consider me worth it. That they think I can do enough great things in the lives of others to warrant that.

I recognize that I'm blessed and I thank God everyday for putting these people in my life, who have always supported me in prayer and are now supporting me financially.

But wait. I can see Satan lurking. I can see him using this as an opportunity to make it all about me and how my friends and family view me. This is all about God. This is all about His kingdom. This is all about how He is able to work through me: an imperfect, fallen, human vessel.

This is not about me.

How humbling. How blessed am I!

Continue to pray that the support comes in. Pray for the support for the rest of my team as well. We are all struggling with trusting in God to provide. But if He wants to, it will.

4.24.2011

Christ is Risen - Matt Maher

Christ is risen from the dead,
trampling over death by death.
Come awake, come awake,
come and rise up from the grave.

Christ is risen from the dead,
we are one with him again.
Come awake, come awake,
come and rise up from the grave.

O, death. Where is your sting?
O, hell. Where is your victory?

The Next Few Months

Month One:
Georgia, North Carolina, GREECE.

Months Two, Three:
Serving my Lord in Greece!

Month Four:
'Merica.
21st birthday! in Florida!

Months Five, Six, Seven, Eight:
Studying in Scotland :]

Month Nine:
Return home. Move in to my HOUSE. Start back up my normal life in Nashville.


Whoa. That's a whirlwind next nine months! Someone keep me sane! Can you imagine the jet lag involved in this?

{Easter}




He is Risen. 


Praise the LORD!


4.21.2011

ADULThood.


We destroyed that For Rent sign (not literally, of course).
Alyssa's ballet moves killed it.
Why?
Because that house isn't up for no rent no mo'.
We be ADULTS.

We get keys on May 1. 
Be jealous.
You only wish you were as cool as us.

Flea Market Friday for bedroom furniture?
Yes, please.

We're more excited than little kids at the place with all the inflatable bouncy things!

4.13.2011

News

I don't know why I've been absent for so long. My school work hasn't been too bad, although these next few weeks are going to be rough.

I do have a few quick updates for you all though:
1. I need to raise $7331 in the next 10 days. I thank God daily for my home church. They are so supportive of missions. Thanks to them I have $1040. I have a long way to go...

2. I bought Chacos and I am soooo excited for them! They'll be the perfect shoes for Greece this summer and for ever after. Thanks lifetime warranty!

3. I'll be living with five wonderful girls next spring in a beautiful house after I return from Scotland. Casa del sexaaay! I love my friends, and I'm so glad we all get to live together. No brothel law will stop us (it actually won't; eight girls is the limit)!

4.04.2011

Alone.

Superfluous. Replaced. An inconvenience.

Uninvolved. Unimportant.

I don't really think that anyone will be at all bothered when I'm out of the country for the rest of the year. And I don't think anything will be different when I return. If anything, I'll be forgotten. More alone.

At school, at home, at church. With 'friends' and family and extracurricular groups.

Do I mean nothing?
Then again, what about me is worth the effort for someone to try?


A message to the world: I know you're on your cell phone 24/7. I'm going to pretend that my text messages never reach you instead of recognizing that you're just choosing not to respond.

4.03.2011

Belmont=Musical Talent

My school is crazy talented. I am blessed to go here. I'm surrounded by music. The students here don't just like music as a hobby- they are music.

This afternoon I went to my friend Melissa's Senior Composition Recital. She presented four or five of the pieces she has composed in her time here at Belmont. I was honestly blown away. My favorite piece (well... I guess I had two favorites) is called "Two clappers and a fiddle." She wrote the piece for "big" hands, "little" hands, and a violin. Incredible. I couldn't follow any one of them. The clappers were using their entire bodies to make these sounds. And Melissa had composed it. How do you even do that?! The other piece I loved was her final piece, "Consciousness." She said this was the most personal and introspective piece she has written. It had to do with naming consciousness (think Elegance of the Hedgehog). I won't pretend that I understand it completely. The way Melissa's mind works does not resemble mine in any way. She thinks in music and notes and rhythm. She sees something and it automatically translates into a melody for her. My consciousness gives me words instead. This piece was composed as a piano solo. Our friend Syneva played piano (and cello) for the recital, and I do not know anyone who knows their way around that instrument like Syneva does. No normal person could possibly perform what Melissa composed. I didn't even know it was possible/legal to play the strings inside the piano. How do you even notate that on a score? Melissa is ridiculously talented, it was a beautiful recital. I would like Melissa to create the score for my life.

This evening I went with some friends to see The Drowsy Chaperone, which our musical theater majors were putting on. Musical theater is the most difficult major to get into in the School of Music. It is the only major that has a quota. Over 100 people auditioned for musical theater for the fall. Belmont accepts 15-20. These students have to sing, dance, and act, and they have to be really great at all of it. This musical had a loooong tap number. Holy cow was it good! They tapped and sang and remained in character. One of the tappers also had to roller skate blindfolded on stage later in the show. I would recommend this musical to anyone, anywhere. I don't think I have ever seen a more entertaining, funnier musical. Obviously, if you could see the cast of Belmont students perform it, that would be the best. If you can't, I'm sorry, but you should still go see it if you have the chance.

Sometimes, I feel unbelievably untalented. But most of the time, I'm thankful that I go to a school where I can attend four or five music events for free in one day and know that every one of them will be of professional quality. As I said before, music isn't just a hobby. It's their life. Their present, their past, their future.

It's amazing how differently God forms each one of us. Yet we all have a unique purpose for the Kingdom.

4.02.2011

Happy Week!

It's been quite a whirlwind of a week!

Recap:
I beasted my huge test on Monday.
I found out I'll be officially going to Greece for the summer with MTW! Now to raise support...
Belmont told me that I've been approved for study abroad in Scotland in the fall!

Not a bad week despite this nasty weather (I refuse to return to winter).

If you could all do me a huge favor and pray for me as I continue this process with MTW. I do need to raise quite a lot of support in a short amount of time, but more than money, I need prayer.

After all this waiting, things are happening! God is so good!

3.30.2011

A prayer.

God,
You are so faithful. You know my heart and you bless me. You've created me with specific talents and passions and given me a heart for your people across the globe. It was you all along. There was nothing I did on my own. Your hand was over me at every step of the way. I'm so thankful. You are αββα, and you love me. I am blessed.
Continue to guide me. Never let me forget your purpose for me. Remind me daily of how unfailing your love is. Help me to keep my eyes and mind focused on you. Allow me to do your will.
There is none greater than you, God. I want to serve you all the days of my life. I want to love and care for your people as you do. I have heard your call; I will go.
You are holy, and you are perfect.
I love you.

Isaiah 6:8
"Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?' And I said, 'Here am I. Send me!'"

3.29.2011

Israel

It's been four years to the month since I went to Israel. Woah.

My friend Jordan left today for the Holy Land for two weeks. She's going to absolutely love it, but it's also putting a huge strain on her semester. Please pray for her as she travels and as she returns to a giant mountain of homework. You should also follow along with her at Idle and Blessed as she blogs throughout her journey.

I'm so excited for her to come back. I've never really had anyone with whom I could talk to about Israel. It's going to bring it all back to me, and we can compare photographs and memories and experiences! I tried to tell her what to look forward to, and I ended up telling her everywhere we went and everything I saw. Ha!

Israel is a big part of who I am. I would not be the person I am nor the major I am without that experience. I'm thankful all over again for what God taught me through the land where He first revealed himself. I can only pray that God gives Jordan this same kind of experience.

Mercies.

I don't deserve heaven.
If the world were fair, we would all be headed straight downtown.
But there's hope. And it's glorious.
God is merciful.
How great is that?

I cannot be good enough. No matter how legalistic I am, I will never stop sinning. But the more I recognize my sin, the more I can see how great of a sacrifice Christ made on that cross. The greater my sin appears, the greater the gospel appears.

I fear the Lord. I want to fear Him. If He wasn't a God to fear, then He's nothing, powerless. It's awe inspiring. He has the power to send me to hell, and I deserve it, but He loves me, and He is merciful upon me.

It might sound like a horrible thing. It's not. I'm encouraged, and I'm hopeful.


There's a remnant.

3.27.2011

Prospectives

I love prospective students, and I especially love their families, their parents.

But I'm sorry, nine hours in a bright red polo early on a Saturday morning is a struggle. A real struggle.

One good thing: we had five students visit for the School of Religion! I think that's a record for me, and it exceeded my goal (four).

Well, I'm headed to sleep. I'm pretending to ignore the fact that I have a giant test on Monday that I haven't started studying for.

I hope you all had prettier Saturdays than I did. May Sunday be your day of rest.

3.26.2011

Lack of Self-Control

The Border's closest to me here in Nashville is closing. The sale started Thursday.

My resolve? one book.

My purchase? two.  Oops?

I carried three around for about half an hour and put back the hardback even though it sounded super interesting. I'm proud of myself for that at least.

Radical by David Platt
Neither Here Nor There by Bill Byrson

I read a Bill Bryson earlier this semester for a class. That one, The Mother Tongue, is about the English language and how it is the way it is. It was extremely entertaining and informative at the same time.

I really want to read this new one. Right now. I'm trying so hard to resist. So hard. I don't have time to start it right now and I know that, but it keeps staring at me.

I love new books.
I love old books.

I don't want our society to advance to a paperless, bookless society. I'll miss the smell of the pages and the way books look on my shelf.

What would you miss most if we stopped printing books?

3.25.2011

A Compilation of Thoughts.

This has been such a long week. It hasn't been too horrible, but very, very long. And this weekend is going to be rough. Real rough.

I'm starting to get Greek and Hebrew confused. Not a good sign.

I turn papers in without reading over them.

I fall asleep in any building on campus. In public.

I fall asleep in my wooden desk chair in the middle of translating.

I have failed to do all of my work.


But I don't hate it. I think, at least I hope, that I'm having more fun this semester. I spend a lot of time by myself but I also see a wider variety of people when I do see people.

I think my life is actually moving forward, progressing. I'm not just taking classes.

Yes, there are times that I'd like to be a normal college student. But really? Can anyone see me happy like that? I can't.




On a side note, it's starting to sink in that I'll be spending most of the rest of 2011 in Europe. So darn excited!

You'd all like blog posts from there, wouldn't you?

And you know what, Luce, this blogging every day thing isn't all that bad. Thank you for the challenge.

3.23.2011

The End of Childhood is Imminent.

"Dobby never meant kill. He only meant to maim or seriously injure."

I watched Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 tonight in Belmont's student life center. Before it's been released on DVD!!

I love the movie, but I hate that the end is approaching. Harry Potter has been one of the largest parts of my childhood. It's weird to think that something that's been so me for so long will be all over in July. There's one last premiere, and, chances are, I won't be able to attend.

The Facebook group "Reading HP 7 was like killing the 7th horcrux of my childhood" is no joke. That's what it feels like. A huge part of what made me who I am has a true finite ending, and it's quickly approaching. A part of me will probably die the day part two is released.

I guess this just serves to remind me not to find my identify in anything but the eternal, the infinite. I should not be known as "a Harry Potter fan," and if that's all people are seeing, then something's wrong.

Excuse how ridiculous this sounds, but people should know me as "a Jesus fan." At least He won't come to a screeching halt on me after all these years.


It's strange having to say goodbye to my childhood, and for a number of reasons I don't want to let it go. But my ultimate purpose doesn't lie in my childhood, in my twelve-year-old self.

Much of who I am is a result of my fanatic love for Harry Potter and all things book related, and I do believe there was a point to that; however, I can't rely on it any longer. It has an end, as do all things.
Eric and Olivia

The Show Ponies