The Quest – Announcing the New Adventure

You know that feeling you get when you’re sitting in your car at the grocery store parking lot, asking God what to do with your life, and suddenly He slaps you upside the head and writes it out in the sky in Times New Roman with clouds and rainbows and flying angel babies?

Yeah, me neither. That’s never happened to me.

However, I do know what it feels like to delve, to pursue, to really exert the time and effort to get to know Him and sync up with His passions. That feeling, you know? Gradually, getting an idea of where I fit into particular things He’s doing in the world and what He’s calling me to.

On my end, though, these past two months served me quite a concentrated dose of that process. Though it burned a bit on the way down, the grossly summarised result of that, then, is that for once I actually now know what I’m going to do with my life. I mean, what my next big step in life is.

Oh, all right. Sure. I’ll share it with you.

Ready?

Queue dramatic music. 

Pause for effect. 

 

I’m moving to England.

 

Drops the mic. 

Image result for drops the mic minion

Yes, true story. I’ll be gathering up my life (all one and a half backpacks of it) and making the quick little hop over to London to begin my new life as a professional chocolate-taster’s apprentice.
No, wait. Wrong story.
Missionary. I’m going to be a missionary.

In a way I could sort of say that going through the Discipleship Training School in Norway last year was part of what got me hooked on the idea of working in full-time missions. Over these past six months or so of contemplating my next big step, I knew I at least wasn’t anywhere near done traveling and living abroad; and I started feeling more certain about being in missions and doing volunteer work somewhere in the world. One of the biggest problems was honing in on a location. (I mean, really — when you’re only given the option of every single country in the world, how are you expected to easily make a decision?)
I guess you’re not. For me, it involved a lot of time and a heap of prayer.

I’ve only been to London once, for about seven hours.

Some might say that doesn’t really count.
This time, though, I’ll be going long-term.

Youth With a Mission has a base in London called Urban Key. They’re all about social justice and making a difference by impacting people’s lives in the city for the better; and they have a huge focus on influencing the societal sphere of arts and media. As if there could be a better combination, eh?
I’ll be joining on as staff, which for the most part means my full-time job will be involved in the mercy ministries (working with refugees and people living on the streets,) and church networking. They’ve also asked me to help develop their new creative arts and media internship, Fusion,

I’m looking for people now who would like to give to the work or become long-term supporters for me.
I’ll be there entirely on a volunteer basis, so I’ll be in charge of raising my own support for all my fees and expenses. Basically you’re the ones who can be part in enabling the vision for me. So it’s entirely up to you and how you feel prompted to join in; and I’d love for you to believe with me in what we’re accomplishing over there.  Please consider it, because nothing is too small and no effort will go unappreciated.

If you’re keen, here’s a quick scoop on the easiest ways to give.

1. You can give to me directly using this link.

Though, if you’re interested in receiving a charitable donation tax-deductible receipt, you can either

2. Click here.

Or,

3. Mail a check to

YWAM Tyler
PO Box 3000
Garden Valley, TX
75571-3000

(however, please DO NOT put my name anywhere on the check because it will muddle things up on their taxes. Instead make it out to YWAM and just put my name on a separate little note in the envelope to say it’s for me at Urban Key; this is quite important)

 4. In addition,
if you want to donate directly with a card or set up an Automatic Withdrawal with your account (which is convenient for me because there is no extra processing fee,) send an email to this address: mckenzie.blair@ywamtyler.org.

In each of these cases, you’ll receive your tax-deductible receipt after each donation.

And of course you can also use any other various options:
Venmo
Facebook
Beaver pelts and exotic spices, if that’s how you roll.

My mailing address in the States is

PO Box 1374
Bigfork, MT
59911

And my address in London will be

98 Park View
Wembley HA9 6JX
London, UK

It’d also be splendid if every now and then you could have a little chat with the Lord about me. That’s just a whimsical way of saying please support me in prayer. But seriously, I’m fully convinced it makes a difference; so I would certainly appreciate it.

From now on, I’ll be primarily using this blog to give my updates on life, ministry, work, and travel; but of course I’ll still also keep sharing my profoundly esoteric ruminations and deep cogitations on life, as always. If you’d like to keep up with all of it, go ahead and subscribe, or perhaps even comment below with your email address and I can send my updates there.

I finally got my visa this last Friday, which means now it’s only a matter of a handful of weeks before I leave. I’ll be looking at tickets in the next couple days and aiming for around the last week of June or so. I’ll announce my departure date as soon as I know it.

Please contact me if you want to know more. I’d actually love to talk about it. Maybe shoot me a text or give me a call if you want to hang out. After all, I need to make the best of my last little bit of Montana summer before I go.

Peace.

 

 

The Search for Significance – Part I

Incidentally,

When  a human child is first born, we’re instantly convinced of its incontestable worth even though it’s done absolutely nothing for anybody or for the world or for God;
yet it seems that as we grow older, we begin to cultivate that entangling mentality of determining our own worth by what we can accomplish in life or how well we can do it.
I think it’s one of the most paradoxical trademarks of human nature; but ironically, despite being admittedly productive to an extent, this type of pursuit for significance becomes exhausting and, ultimately, unfulfilling.

At what point do you actually do enough to become enough?
And enough in whose opinion, anyway? Your own? The opinion of other people? What you think is the opinion of other people about you?

Way too often I’ve found myself sustaining the moments where I felt compelled to justify my existence on the earth by what I could do for it whilst I’m here. It seems to me personally that a lot of us subconsciously feel that we need to validate our life — or at the very least our sense of self-worth — by our effectiveness in the world
(or our approval by the world; but that’s another post.)

We all have the need to feel needed, right? That’s a good and normal thing. The problem rolls around when our security is stacked up on our abilities, talents, capacities, or effectiveness, because then suddenly when we can’t find a place for those things, or when we’re not needed, the despondency of uselessness slips in through the gap, and we feel purposeless and consequently worthless.
Some of the same colours paint the mindset for the fear of failure. It would stand to reason that if who you are depends on what you do, then making a mistake or failing at any endeavour would define you as an essential failure, which leaves no room for anything less than an impossibly high standard of perfection.

Image result for batman quotes it's not who you are underneath

Somewhat dismal, isn’t it?
Perhaps Batman was talking more about our actions displaying what’s inside of us, which is necessarily inevitable; but the question here lies in whether our actions give us value.

I have a colossal regard for making the most of the time we have —  chuck the excuses, pull a Nike, and just do it. Life is too short and too precious to try to have it all figured out before getting started on anything worth achieving, big or small.

It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.”
-Leonardo da Vinci

But I think the crucial point hinges on our motivation and why we do things.

The last two months dragged me through the mud in a process of realising that I’d been scrambling to find and fulfill my purpose in an effort to earn my right to approval.

Maybe that’s backwards, though.

Perhaps instead we can learn something from the love for infants and refashion our effort into a pursuit for a significance that comes from approval and value for who we are before we’ve done anything to earn it. Why would the inherent value given to us at birth (or at conception — or even before then) effervesce simply because we became older, bigger, and smarter? We inherit a responsibility to act, of course, when we mature, because to whom much is given, much is required; but what kind of metamorphosis would our lives undergo if we were able to accept the truth that the value placed on our lives has less to do with what we’ve done, and more to do with what was done for us?

Yes. I am referring to an unconditional love from God and the sacrifice of Jesus.

We are so obsessed with doing that we have no time for being. As a result, men are valued not for what they are but for what they do or what they have — for their usefulness.”
-Thomas Merton

I believe everybody has a purpose. I think it’s a given that we’ll be given a calling; but maybe sometimes we try to harvest something from our calling that it wasn’t meant to provide for us in the first place. Somewhere along the line we started believing that purpose gives meaning. I think part of the key to deciphering the enigma, however, is in unlocking the realisation that the call on your life to impact the world is a gift to display your already-inherent value, not a requirement to prove it. Ergo, failure becomes more bearable because it doesn’t affect who we are.

We ought to work from a place of love, acceptance, and significance, not for it.

I think it’s a life-long process, like most crucial elements of being human; but starting down that path can entirely revolutionise the way we live.

 

P.S.

I’d actually love to hear your thoughts on these things. Speculations, skepticism, criticism, appraisal, comments, random irrelevant cogitations. All the toppings. Whether you agree or disagree, I’m open to hear any opinions. All feedback is welcome. We can build on each other’s perspective, and it will inevitably help me write better, juicier content.

Peace.

Of Traffic and Novels

 

I remember getting to visit this one particular library a long time ago when I was still a little kid living in Costa Rica. I thought it was cool because it was an American library, which meant I got to read all the books in English. I suppose it was “official,” as far as libraries go, but looking back now, I realise it was definitely just a person’s house stacked with extra shelves in the living room and hallways all packed with his or her collection of books.

But hey, it worked for me.

I also remember once noticing a piece of paper taped to one side of the shelves, with a funny little story on it. To the extent of my memory, it went went something along the lines of,

As Joe sat for over an hour in his car stuck in traffic, he thought to himself, ‘Why does this only ever happen to me?!’

I thought it was pretty clever at the time. I probably even wished I would have come up with it myself.

Yet, that intellectual batter had a certain rich ingredient of truth which I didn’t quite taste until much later on.
Years afterwards, I eventually moved to the States and proceeded to initiate my own independent life, which of course involved all the grownup things like buying a car and driving to work and, yes, occasionally getting stuck in traffic (or always getting stuck in traffic, when it came to my short stay in Baton Rouge.) The usual.
But then the batter finally finished baking in my comprehensive oven and the realisation hit me:

We don’t ever actually get stuck in traffic, do we?

We become traffic.

*Cognitive super nova*

I thought it was a pretty radical revelation.
My natural compulsory tendency was to support the subconscious supposition that everybody else in the world is getting in my way, getting me stuck, making me late for wherever I’m going, whether it’s just somewhere random like work or somewhere actually imperative like Crispy Cremes. Selfish road hogs. Can’t they see I’m the prime focal point and centre of all existence? Impertinent! And don’t even get me started on rush hour. That’s just an entity other people inconsiderately always create, something I need to avoid since, if I’m not working that day, whatever I’m doing is far more important.

As you can see, I tend to think about myself a lot.

Obviously I’m aware there are all sorts of logically mathematical and statistical factors for how and why traffic happens, such as wrecks and agonisingly slow drivers (Ahem. I won’t mention any names of certain people I know;) but for the general occasion it took a considerable degree of deliberate emotional conceding to admit I was part of the mass — part of the problem, as it were. Sure, without me the traffic would probably still be there…in most cases….no comment….but as soon as traffic “happens” and I’m there, I have become traffic, just like everybody else, for everybody else. It’s not just me stuck, but all of us together forming a massive faceless entity comprised of many various individual deliberations and intentions.

Stuck in traffic, becoming traffic… The semantics don’t matter as much as the mindset behind your apperceptive steering wheel. It’s easy to consider yourself a nameless speck in a mass of nameless specks, and it’s even easier to elevate yourself as the perceptive nexus point in that mass of specks; but the truth is that we each hold an infallibly immeasurable degree of inherent significance independent of any relativity to one another.

I think it’s a realisation embodied perfectly in a word from The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, by John Koenig.
Sonder.
The realisation that everybody has a story, and he or she is the primary character in that story; and in the same way that the mass of humanity flowing around you is made up of all the background characters in your story, you too might also be a background character in their story.

But there’s a richer harvest to be gathered from this crop than just a sorrowful sentiment.

When being the protagonist of your own story becomes less about elevating yourself (for the sake of self-worth) or comparing your story to another, but more about owning your plot and living it well, valuing your life because it was the one given to you, then it becomes an enjoyable story.

I think its okay if sometimes we feel like we’re not doing a good job managing the plot, though, because our worth doesn’t come from what we can accomplish or how well we do it anyway. We’re inherently valuable already. The things we do and accomplish should be an expressive indication of that, not an effort to validate it. With that perspective fueling our tanks, I think we can ride out more freely, more passionately, with the top down and the music blaring.

The sentiment becomes manageable. We can be okay with being the occasional extra in somebody else’s cast of characters, because there’s nothing to prove; and having overcome that need for external, presumably objective validation, I think it becomes easier to extend that extra amount of consideration towards other people, fully accepting them as the protagonists of their stories, allowing them to be the centre of our attention for a moment.

I realised the other day that glancing at another person’s life in passing is like looking at the cover of an epic novel. A brief interaction with somebody is like flipping through the first couple pages.
So we’re all novels. I guess that makes any traffic jam a library, eh?
Too cheesy? Sorry. I’ll let you pretend I never said that.

P.S.

For the record, I would just like to rub it in all your faces that in the nearly four years I’ve been living in Montana, I’ve experienced actual traffic a maximum of maybe two or three times.
Gotta love those wide open spaces, baby.

Procrastination Station

Allow me to tell you about a little friend — rather, an acquaintance — I have who tends to pop in uninvited a bit too often.
Typically, he sneaks up behind me just as I’m thinking of doing something productive, like writing a new blog post or working out, and he distracts me with notions of other things I could do instead. I’m sure you’ve met him before too. Around these parts he’s known as Procrastination.

Okay, whom am I kidding? He’s basically my mortal enemy.

Procrastination is a sleazy creature. I envision him as a skinny little gnome. Skitterish, pointy ears, high-pitched voice. The whole enchilada. He might seem cute at first, but he always shows up at the most inopportune times thinking out loud about all the other things  I could be doing in the moment besides what I was intending to do. His ideas do always seem good, at first. In fact, he’s downright persuasive.

Here’s what an interaction between us might resemble:

I’ll be coming from a delight little walk in the woods feeling all inspired and ultra-spiritual and eager to write a full 1000-word blog post that will generate dozens of new followers and get a bazillion likes and be shared all over the internet, but even before I make to the front steps, the little gnome hops out from the bushes and yells, “Hey, Nicholas! How’s it going? You look so great today. What’re you up to?”

“Oh, I’m just planning to write for a bit,” I respond, still eagerly trying to hold on to all my new brilliant ideas before I forget them.

“Oh, that’s cool,” he quips. “Such great ambition. You’re such a good writer. Maybe some day you’ll actually be able to prove it to yourself and to the world. Hey, you’re probably really hungry from that long walk, huh? Why don’t you have a quick little something to eat before you get to work, you know, to nourish the brain and all that?”

I’m a bit apprehensive. I know I should probably get straight to writing whilst my ideas are still fresh and my motivation is hot, but he does kind of have a point, doesn’t he? I could just eat something now and get it over with so I wouldn’t have to stop for it later on.

“Well, okay,” I concede, “maybe I could; but just something really quick, and then I’ll get straight to it as soon as I’m done.”

“Of course, of course!” he says with a shrill liveliness. “And don’t even worry right now about the clothes you left in the dryer. You can fold those tonight.”

Oh yeah, I think to myself. Those still need to be done too; but he has a point; I should do them later.

As I’m eating, however, he leans over my shoulder and whispers, “You know… you still haven’t finished transferring all the information from your old bank account to your new one. That’s actually important grownup stuff that needs to be done.”

I feel a little offended. “Writing is grownup stuff,” I mumble through a mouthful of bagel and cheese, trying to convince myself that it’s actually true.

“Oh, sure! No doubt about that in the least!” Now he’s sitting on the table in front of me. “But this is more important in the moment; and besides if you get all this boring stuff out of the way first, then you can relax and have as much time as you want to write without having all the other stuff hanging over you.” He says this as he hangs over my plate.

“Well,” I swallow my food and stand, “I guess there is some sense in that.”

“Yes! Yes! It’s the smart thing,” he jitters up at me as I pick up my plate and try to maneouvre around the kitchen without tripping over him. By now most of the motivation from my walk has started to dissipate.

The gnome is still talking: “And since you’ll already be on your computer anyway, working on all that mundane stuff, you could go ahead and finally clear out all those old emails from your inbox, eh? They’ve been there for ages!”

I sigh. “I suppose I should do that too.”

“Yes. Yeeees,” he snickers sinisterly.

Then, however, as I’m sitting at my computer trying to get my “grownup” tasks out of the way, but somehow continuously finding more to do, I see his pointy ears poke over the edge of the desk.
“Hey!” he whispers. “Hey! Sssspt! Hey! It’s been, like, a whole six minutes since you last checked Facebook. Maybe now there’s something new and interesting to look at.”

“Leave me alone,” I command. “I’m busy.”

“Oh, I know! I’m not trying to distract you. It’s just that you’ve been working so hard, and maybe taking a little break will help you relax. Just a couple quick scrolls down the ol’ feed, nothing more.”

Before I even realise what I’m doing, my hand reaches for my phone and I’m scrolling mindlessly down Facebook. Next thing I know, I’m watching cute cat videos and remembering I need to start getting ready to leave for that movie night I had later in the evening.

And on and on.

Now, I’m obviously not trying to disassociate myself from the fault of my procrastination habit and blame it on an imaginary gnome.

(Though sometimes that would make things easier, I think.)
I’m just recognising it for it for what it is — a habit. A bad one.
Fortunately, that’s one of the first steps towards overcoming procrastination.

And I was going to wrap up this post with practical ways to stop procrastinating, but I think I’ll save it for later.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just kidding. I’m not that bad.

Though I admit I did think about it.

Image result for bashful gif

Nearly everything I’ve read on overcoming procrastination breaks down the process into three basic steps:

  1. When it happens, admit to yourself you’re procrastinating.
  2. Recognise why you’re procrastinating.
  3. Enact a strategic step to combat the urge.

The When

Okay, let’s be frank. How often am I really being truthful with myself when I think, “Oh, it’s fine if I eat four more cookies now. It’s the last week of the month. I’ll just let myself splurge this one last time and start really taking care of my diet next week.”

Image result for seriously? gif

Too often I let the fleeting pleasure of the moment suffocate my desire to face reality.

Being honest with yourself is just plain healthy in general.

The Why

The gnome likes to sit on the edge of my desk and catch me in my weak moments. “You’re not really thinking of putting your writing out there just yet, are you? Why not wait a little bit, til you’re actually a good writer? A legitimate writer.”
For many of us it’s probably less a matter of laziness and more just a fear of failure, isn’t it? Or perhaps that all-or-nothing mentality. (“If I can’t do it well, why do it at all?”)

One of my slipperiest slopes is, “Eh, cleaning isn’t that important right now. It can wait. Just keep it somewhere near the bottom of the list and you’ll get around to it when you have the time to spare.”

Yesterday I had to snatch him up by the ears and hold him at eye level.
“Let’s get one thing straight, you little runt,” I said fiercely. “There never really is ‘time to get around to it,’ (and if there is, I’m usually too tired or just ‘not in the mood.’) Furthermore, there will always be something else to do. So no more excuses.”

That sent him scampering off and I was actually able to sit down and start this post.

The How

Willpower is good, but it’s very limited (at least in my case) and it typically tends to run out, oh, I don’t know… usually around the time I smell that fresh batch of brownies in the kitchen or when I hit my first grumpy-bump of the day. From what I’ve learned over my short life, the best way to break a bad habit isn’t so much by exerting energy to avoid it, but by shifting the focus to something else, namely, other good habits. It’s indisputable that what we keep our focus on will eventually determine our actions.

Almost all the articles I found had these same techniques in mutuality:

  • Believing in yourself, and believing that what you want to accomplish is actually important.
  • Rewarding yourself for accomplishing something. (I confess. My problem is that I like rewards for doing nothing.)
  • Concentrating on starting the process, rather than finishing it. That way it doesn’t seem so daunting.
  • Having concrete thoughts on how to practically start something instead of always daydreaming. (I insert the “always” because I actually benefit a lot from daydreaming. There’s a balance.)
  • Creating — blegh! — schedules and deadlines. (Honestly, I’d probably prefer to drink toilet water.)
  • Forgiving yourself for whenever you fail. (That just applies to all areas of life.)

As my friend Steven Jones always says,

Just starting is 90% of getting the job done.

Probably because most don’t even get that far.

There’s definitely a legitimate allowance for taking breaks and prioritising, but when it’s a matter of having a procrastination gnome sitting on your lap saying, “Eh, this is hard. Wasn’t there some folder or something in your documents that needed to be organised?” then usually I know it’s time to do a little exterminating.

No, it’s not easy, but what valuable endeavour ever is? I believe progress is just as admirable as the end results.

Gradually, the gnome starts to feel less welcome, and when he does show up, I bash him over the head with a good Pablo Picasso quote:

Image result for only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die left undone

Peace.

Greener on Which Side?

You’re probably already well-acquainted with the “grass is always greener on the other side” feeling, aren’t you? And you’ve probably already had a few run-ins with its more sleazy counterpart — the feeling that the greener grass wasn’t quite as green as you’d formerly thought, correct?
It’s the naturally indoctrinated mindset that if we just escape this brown, prickly life of ours and hop the fence to trot off to some adventure on fresher pastures, that life will somehow automatically become fantastically fulfilling for us. The sign above the gate reads, “I just can’t wait to get away from this life, outa this town, and go somewhere better. Then I’ll be happy.”
By now, though, the world has long since discovered that skipping out on what’s around us doesn’t fix everything, because discontentment and unhappiness are prescriptions worn on the eyes of the mind and heart, and that’s a perspective that would go with you no matter where you went. (In simple terms, what we try to get away from is usually inside us, not around us.)

Now, now. Don’t get me wrong. Before you come running at me with your portable pitchforks and travel-sized torches, let me assure you I have nothing against traveling, in the least. Rather, I promote it. It’s good for you. I think everybody should do it. Adventure is a legitimate need of the soul for a healthy lifestyle.

The reality though is that sometimes the grass is greener over the hill; but because humans have that pesky yet oftentimes so necessarily useful capacity to acclimate, even if we walked on the greener grass, we’d usually quite quickly forget about it and start daydreaming about another side, where surely there must be even greener grass.
Movement and progress are always good of course, because complacency is like the old stale cheese that you forgot in the back of your refrigerator but decided to leave there because it wasn’t really in the way; but a lack of the capability to appreciate where we are will always prompt us to feel that what we have is never good enough, leading to what I’d think is an unhealthy type of discontentment.

But which one is it then? Are we supposed to always long for more, or are we supposed to be content with what we have?

Um….yes.

Perhaps the real question resonates more to this note: How do we prepare for greener grass?

One of the best ways, I think, to travel for the experience of beautiful things is by first learning how to appreciate the world you already have around you. As Marcel Proust articulates it, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

Beautiful. Sniff. Just….beautiful. Pure gold, right there.

I’d guess that type of appreciation helps to cultivate the balance between a healthy contentment for what we have and a vibrant yearning for more.
Mind you, again — it’s appreciation, not apathy. One is the conscious intentionality to put the iPhone facedown and really pause to breathe in the soothing petrichor of the first real day of spring after a cimmerian winter; the other is like the stale cheese.

In the end, not to sound cliché or anything, but I actually believe that thankfulness — a genuinely deliberate mentality to cultivate gratitude in your mind daily for the things we generally take for granted — is one of the first best steps towards truly “living in the moment,” as so many of us like to talk about but really have no idea how to do. Once you start nurturing a personal sense of wonder for the world already around you, everything you experience in the other pastures — every smell, every sight, every touch, every taste, every sound — is increasingly enriched and made all that much more delightful.

It makes you a beautiful person from the inside out. None of that exhausting pressure of trying to live up to a seemingly-unattainable image or standard you have for yourself. It’s something people see without your effort to show it, and it usually begins to rub off on them too.

Peace.

Sentimentally Significant

Wonder.

It’s why I love the movie The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe so immeasurably much. Aside from being based on one of the greatest books in history, there’s an attention to a specific type of detail that I value in particular, especially since it’s lacked in most other movies.

Wonder and sentimentality.

Wonder 1 Wonder 2

There are so many scenes that focus for an instant solely on the characters’ faces and their expressions; and deliberate time is placed into slowly developing a moment up into something special.

Value is placed on the little beautiful things.

I’m not sure what’s so legitimately great about that yet; but there must be something to it for how impacting it is.

I apply it to life, though. It’s worth taking the time and energy to slow down and notice the small beautiful things that are usually too easy to take for granted. For instance, the way dandelions glow in the moonlight, or how a rainbow appears on a spiderweb if you look at it just right in the sun.

Or how exorbitantly beautiful a girl’s eyes are, the closer you look.

In specific scenes, within a movie, these things feel important, but it seems that sometimes the only way to make our own scenes feel important in real life is by posting them all over Facebook. We feel that our actions and special moments are only validated if other people know about them and care. Problem is that not everybody can always know about them, and most don’t care. Even if they did, though, so what? How much value does a “Like” or a comment or a trophy or cheering crowd really have, in the end? You’d think we should have learned by now that our significance is not determined by what other people think.

We need it to be determined by something, though, right?

Something pure and objective and eternal and loving….

I still like finding and creating special moments in life though, sometimes alone and sometimes with others. They’re like the chocolate chips in your cookies . It just makes life so much more delicious.

Today, this is my favourite song. It’s even more delightful if you sit outside and watch the butterflies whilst you listen to it.

 

36

I woke up at five fifteen yesterday morning, ate some fresh pineapple, and then rode to the bus stop with my cousin in his sleek, super-awesome Range Rover. Seriously, that car is a batmobile.

I rode the bus to the station, and as I walked around searching for my next bus stop, I realised how much I looked like a foreign tourist with my backpack, camo shorts, and flip-flops. Oh, the shame.

After a mild hour-and-a-half ride from San Jose to Esparza, near the coast, I met up with a fantastic friend from Montana who happens to be living in Costa Rica too. He introduced me to the lovely host family he’s staying with, and it only took me two days to learn all their names. Yeah! Record speed!

Breakfast was followed by a day ambling along the coast, complete with the hot sunny beaches, palm trees, sea birds, fresh coconut water, and of course a swim in the Pacific ocean. We even met a Jehovah’s Witness from Germany who tried to convert us.
After the tide tried to steal our phones and wallets from the sand, we headed back to the house and spent the rest of our time on a neighbour’s porch chillin’ late into the balmy night in a true Latino style.

The heat woke me up the next morning — and basically threatened to put me back to sleep for the rest of the day.

Right before leaving, I asked the lady of the house if I could pray for her hand. She had carpel tunnel syndrome and was having to take pain killers. I prayed about four or five times, with the pain lessening each time I prayed. On the last try, her eyes got really wide and she said she felt a lot of heat coming out of my hands. Had to have been the Holy Spirit, ’cause I didn’t feel anything.

Since my aunt happened to be in a nearby town that very afternoon, I got on another bus to find her. She had driven for her three cousins (all of them sisters) because they were coming to help a Catholic priest set up his church for Easter week. I was spontaneously recruited to help as soon as I arrived. Apparently they were all good friends, because, afterward, we all went into the parish and sat in his back patio, joking and laughing and drinking coffee.

The day gradually ended as we drove back home to the mountains. We left just as the sun was spilling fire and gold all over the Pacific horizon. There were six of us in the car: my aunt, the three sisters, one other lady, and me. They talked for the entire two hours, all at the same time. It was no bother to me, though. I was stuffed in the back reading the last couple chapters of my legal fiction novel by the light of the car behind us. The early crescent moon and Venus peaked out conspicuously from the sky just after the sun went down, like little siblings sneaking into their older brother’s bedroom when he’s away.

The purpose of life after all is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and for richer experience. –Eleanor Roosevelt

Home and Onward

I almost forgot to mention that we finally did make it back to Costa Rica from our venture through South America. I’ve actually been here for over a week now.

It’s been delicious for my soul, being home. Whilst we were away, I found myself missing everybody here in ways that I had never quite missed them before. Since this was the first time I’d ever been on a trip of this sort, I suppose it entailed new emotions and experiences; and overall it made me appreciate my people even more deeply.

Our trip was necessarily great. Even though I wouldn’t know how to start summarising the extent of my experiences, I can still glance back with a grin of success: We were transformed. Really transformed. I feel that I’ve been impacted permanently, in many different ways. There were so many things that are normally only ever talked about that I got to experience directly in real life. I faced some prominent fears and personal limitations — and I overcame them. Essentially, I lived one of my biggest dreams. (That doesn’t mean, of course, that the dream is finished; my love for travel has only been further impassioned.)
Not to mention, of course, we learned a heap of “do’s” and “do not’s” concerning various aspects of traveling, particularly “do not’s” for when it comes to crossing borders.  I’ll say no more about that.

This post, therefore, will conclude and end my narrative for our South America backpacking trip (a narrative which only truly was just a glimpse of our full adventure.) Now this blog will again become a dwelling for my ramblings and musings.

The house I call home. (Photo credit to my sister, Haley.)

However, I can’t go without at least mentioning the topic implied by the second half of this post’s title. As it happened similarly with Chrystel, I was presented with the “Now what?” interrogation upon returning.
You see, I’m at that notorious age and position where I’m facing the daunting question of what I’m going to do with my life.
It’s daunting, but I’m undaunted.
Sure, perhaps I have my mild melodramatic moments (very, very short moments,) but I’m honestly not anxious about it. Reason number one is that I know God has plans for me, and He’ll let me know what they are, in due time, if I’m keen to listen. Reason number two  is that I’m very much a live-in-the-moment type of person. People often ask me what I want to do with my life (as if I hadn’t even started yet — what a notion,) and whether I say it or not, I always think to myself, “This is my life; I am already doing it.” At least on a small scale, I’m doing what I want to do, and I hope to do more of it, more deeply, more effectively, always learning and always open to progress. Then, whether it’s college, or work, or perhaps another backpacking trip, I know I’ll make it there gradually and promptly. I do prepare for the future, because preparing is important, but I don’t want to get entangled in a notion of only ever preparing — getting caught in that mentality of, “When I finish highschool, then I’ll really be where I want to be….when I finish college, then my life will begin….when I get that job, then I’ll really be living….when I get married, then I’ll be fulfilled….when I retire, then I’ll be happy….” because I’d arrive at that point and realise I’d spent my entire life putting myself off, waiting for my circumstances to be convenient before I allowed myself to live freely, and fully.

I always find myself saying, “You don’t have to go to college to be successful in life.” In reality, that simply depends on your definition of success. If I find that my success or my dream lies untouched on the other side of a flowing river of university education, then I’ll cross it. Nevertheless, I’ve come to realise that rather than prioritizing a focus on what I want to do, it’s more important to know what kind of person I want to be.

Live now, not later, I think.

Credit to Bethany Appelhans

Credit to Bethany Appelhans

Leaving…Failure

It’s one title with multiple meanings.
We’re nearly approaching our day to leave and head home, so that’s a prominently present reality in our minds; simultaneously as prominent, in these past few days, was the notion of certain failure in a couple of areas. To be more specific, I mean that Chrystel and I were recently both faced with a sense of failure in some of things we had wanted to accomplish or live out. It was worse knowing that it came now so close to the end.
It’s  almost a given, though, isn’t it? –failure when trying new things and endeavouring for great goals. It’s not necessarily required; it’s just a part of life.
That’s why I’ve come to feel that I should neither be so surprised nor so hard on myself when it does happen. Too often, we despair or condemn ourselves when we commit a mistake, as if we’ve forgotten that we’re human and that it’s a natural part of our existence. I was taught that it at least demonstrates that you’re extending yourself beyond your limits and stretching your comfort zone (when it’s fueled by something other than stupidity, of course.)

The most important thing to remember, though, is that we are not defined by our mistakes — or even our accomplishments, for that matter. Your identity still remains intact if you remember why it is that you really matter in life. (You matter because God loves you, to state the simple obvious.)
We concluded that our focus should not be on the mistakes, but on how we deal with them and what we do about them. It can be okay as long as we take responsibility and ownership for our errors. At the very least, we know that’s what our parents will care more about when we get back.

I guess that’s another good meaning for this title. Leaving failure. You leave it behind after dealing with it rather than holding onto the memory and letting it affect you. Grace and forgiveness are really what make it possible anyway. With that, and with not giving up, it usually turns out all right in the end. Keeping hope is massively important; and the reality is that God will always be there to help bring things to complete restoration.

In the end, it wasn’t as dramatically disastrous as we had felt it was in the moment (another good thing to keep in mind.)
Incidentally, here’s the other huge thing I learned: When something bad or difficult happens, and a girl goes into a mood of utter despair and everything is gloom and doom, oftentimes all that’s necessary is to let her talk on and on and vent it all out. You keep your mouth shut and simply nod your head and say an occasional “M-hm. I understand.” Then, once she’s done, you can rest in peace and stop fearing for your life. I’m speaking very generally, of course….

Traipsing Around – Part 9: Transformation

Both transformation and revelation, actually.
Those have been the most characterizing realities of this past month in Santa Marta.
Gracious me. Yes, an entire month. A month of living in the mountains with little electricity and no running water. A month of sweating day and night from the inescapable heat. A month of constant warfare against billions of mosquitoes. (In fact, I’m sure by now I’ve been bit by nearly every species of insect in the Colombian jungle.)
There’s so much more to be said for that month though. It was also a month of both peace and adventure. A month of waking up every day to the pure, glorious green of nature. A month of getting to know some very special and very unique people. And of course, it was a month of knowing God deeper — for real, not just in the cliche sense.

I might also say that for a while, it was one of the most difficult stages of our trip so far. Both Chrystel and I each faced our own challenges, and I’m sure we both felt things we’d never felt before. At one point, Chrystel had told me that this year as whole, for her, has been the most difficult year of her life, and that it was culminated in this trip.
No worries, however. We’ve both learned immensely from the things we’ve gone through; and I’ll confidently say we’re overcoming our challenges.
Before embarking on our expedition, Chrystel also told us that if there was one thing she wanted to see, even if nothing else happened, it was that we would all be changed by the time we went back home. She wanted to see us grow and grow closer to God. That, I think, has been accomplished already.

Speaking of which, the notion of returning home is now finally becoming more of a reality than a fantasy. We’re back in Bogota for about a week; and even though we’re not quite yet done here, it is nearly time to head north towards Costa Rica.