I wrote this a few weeks ago, it was just one of those days. It has been very lonely sitting in my documents file, so i’ve giving it room to breathe in the world.
Do you ever wake up and just feel off. Just like there is all this stuff just under the surface in your mind but the mundane things of life make it so you can’t take the time or focus the effort to dive into those wanderings. I’m not entirely sure, I could probably just do a stream of consciousness list of all the things that I can just grasp the fading wisps of. The same list of insecurities, doubts, and hurts that continue to build character in me, haha.
Days like this I want to just keep driving right past the exit to California. Take the day and be in my head, not have to talk or put effort into anything outside of myself. I spent so long trying to get out of my head and here I am wishing for some time to spend wrapped in that place, can anyone say masochist?! No, I think it’s more that I have these feelings and being who I am, I need to figure out these emotions, it’s not enough to feel things, I have to understand the origin and find a way to combat them. If I wake up feeling discontent, the backs of eyes battling back tears, it’s not enough to know I feel crummy, I need to over analyze why.
Some days I just want something special, something out of the ordinary. I can recite my schedule for the next 2+ weeks by memory and I know for the most part, that’s the way it’s all going to play out. There is nothing new, my life feels like it’s stuck on this wheel that is going to play out the exact same the rest of my life. I know many take comfort in that, and I at times appreciate a good routine. But today, the thought that nothing is ever going to change, that today I’m going to punch in another day the same as the one before it and likely the same as the one coming after, it just makes me want to lay down in the road. (not suicide mine you, just that adrenaline of chance, I use to lay in the street as a kid, it was actually calming, to stare up into the sky, focus on the sound of cars…lets remember I lived on a low traffic, dead end street- not as crazy as it sounds)
This isn’t me needing adventure, although that would be good too, it’s more just a need for something new. A need to believe that things can change, that there can be more to this life than work, family and friends and the circle goes on. I know eventually even the new will become worn and tired out and maybe that’s part of what makes me feel this way, the realization that all beauty and joy is temporary. I know this is nothing original and my claiming it as my own probably evokes in you a bile reflex, but take comfort in knowing I am utterly and totally aware that I am as cliché as the next guy, and probably just as self-involved and pompous too. But indulge me these few words, just to get them out of my head and down in a way that semi-resembles thought.
I don’t know what it is, but today, today I want more. I what a grand gesture, a beautiful moment, a surprise. I want to be reminded that life is filled with so much love and joy and that these days help to build into those. I want to believe that my life, me, I’m worth more than a job, a commute, time in front of the tv screen. I want real connection and intimacy, I’m tired of just playing social niceties. At times I feel if it’s not genuine, I just want to cast it off, I don’t feel like continuing to play this game, plaster on the smile, turn on the cassette tape of small talk that comes falling out of my mouth. I guess I want to be reminded that even this dumb routine, the simple things I do, they matter. That even though no one is waiting each morning to see my face or hanging the moon and stars upon my every thought, I’m worth it.
Or maybe I just need a nap
So, I’ve been on a 4 year blogging hiatus and recently have decided maybe it would be enjoyable to add a few more thoughts to this little spot of mine on the internet. Before my blog was about my time living in Bogota, it served as a way to stay connected to family, friends and supporters. Since then I’ve spent a few years living it up in Las Vegas and am now currently living and teaching in Missouri. It’s been an interesting route I’ve taken but I’ve experienced some pretty sweet things along the way.
I’m not going to pretend I’m a superb writer or that I have any new, unique thoughts but I do enjoy some times the way my words fall onto the page. I also really enjoy getting feedback, sharing and participating in interesting conversations. So, my hope would be that this blog could maybe ignite some more of those in my life and maybe in others’ as well.
My hope is to be as honest in this space as possible, which could mean at times peoples’ idea of who I am may be tested. I might write or say something that doesn’t fit into that illusion of who you think Maggie is. I’ll go ahead and apologize for all that reworking you’re going to have to do in your mind but if you’re expecting something other than genuine self-expression, this may not be the blog for you. For any strangers out there, you won’t have much of a problem with that.
I can’t say exactly what I’ll share in this space or what my main goal is in writing, other than some times I just have these thoughts and I write them down and I kind of wanted a place for them other than my unread documents.
Well, nothing like a nice big, fat piece of humble pie! So literally three hours ago I was already putting thoughts to word in my mind for my next post, describing the wonderful afternoon I had with the 5th grade ministry today, until something else came up.
I was walking back from dinner with my friend Marianne and we were discussing blog posts and in particular another teacher ‘s and how great his blog posts always are. She began to talk about feeling awful every time she read them, I casually agreed, thinking she meant because he writes so well. Wrong, she meant awful, as in convicted. She began to describe one of his more recent posts about his experience working and living in Poverty, commenting on our once a month ministry attempts and different struggles with selfishness. I’ll admit initially when I heard this I got a bit defensive. Thinking, “Well, duh we can only go once a month” and “hello, what do you expect from young kids, they’re still learning”. But, then as I rushed home and read the words myself, I realized I wasn’t defensive on my students behalf, no I was getting all up in arms because I knew my illusion of “ministry” and pride were coming crashing down.
As I read his blog, about what it’s been like for him and his wife, living amongst the poor, sharing life in this community but also bridging the gap to our more affluent community, I felt my heart drop to my stomach. Reading his words, I begin to recall some of my own statements from previous conversations and secret prayers. I have thought for a long time that I had a passion for working with poverty, but im seeing the evidence of my life declares otherwise. I had for a while kicked around the idea of moving into an intentional community in a poorer neighborhood, but the one night I spent there I was exhausted and ashamed of the selfishness I faced in myself. I found my romanticized idea of going to live and love in such a community was way off the mark and I quickly rushed back to a lifestyle I found more comfortable to my ego. One where I still get my selfish desires but then I can also tell myself im pursuing this “love” by serving on the weekends.
I find myself disgusted by this, this reality that I am no closer to living out this genuine love or life. I want to get to the place where I want to do the difficult things, approach the situations that are challenging and I just might not be sunny, smiling, happy go lucky Maggie, but I choose to do it anyway. Jesus called us to love and serve, he never said we were going to be happy or comfortable, in fact he said we are blessed in our suffering.
As I write this I find it is easy to be radical in writing, but am I really ready to live out this mantra in a day-to-day life setting? What does this look like for my life in reality, beyond written statements and empty words? Does God even want for me to live in such a community, or have my rose colored glasses, tinted the scenario a bit for me? It all sounds well and grand when picturing a life modeled after mother Teresa, but am I really cut out for such things.
In these moments I see clearly my selfish desires and nature and it makes peace and sleep equally difficult to find. I currently imagine a battle going on inside, between these two contradicting desires. One of these desires being for comfort and happiness and the other for a more genuine, challenging lifestyle. In saying this, im not trying to disprove other peoples’ way of life, I believe we are all called to different ministries and lifestyles but I also believe we have all been called to love and serve, whichever capacity this may be. For me, I’ve always told myself and occasionally others that my desire was to love, serve and live with the poor. But, now facing that desire, knowing from the beginning such a path will lead to difficulty, I wonder how much of it previously was selfish motive.
I have discussed recently the ease and almost ego boosting feeling we can get from working with the poor. Its easy to love those who we feel are forgotten and in need of it, building ourselves up as the givers of such love. In reality, how well are we loving people when we label them “forgotten”, “poor” or “them” Consciously or sub-consciously putting ourselves above them. I don’t want to pigeon hole myself to love any one demographic of people, in fact that would be a huge misrepresentation of God’s calling to love, we’re called to love everyone.
I’ve been finding in my time here it has been more common a difficulty to really love and serve the rich. And in some ways I can find myself developing a sense of pride comparing myself to their obvious material wealth. For instances we often like to quote the Bible passage where Christ is speaking with a rich man and in discussion the man asks how he can get to heaven. Jesus first replies that the man must keep all the commandments. At this the man, proudly states he has done so. So then Jesus goes on to say, sell all your possessions and follow me. At this statement the rich man turns and goes away, because he had much wealth. At this point Jesus makes the famous statement that it is more difficult for a rich man to go to heaven than a camel to go through the eye of a needle.
The more I have thought of this passage and related it to my life, I’m realizing that material wealth isn’t the only “rich” there is. I think this “richness” can also be comfort, ease, even happiness. Anything that keeps us from following after Christ can be these “possessions”. My inability to give up these selfish desires to truly follow after Christ, could be keeping me from the life he has called me to live. Again, I am no theology student, but this is what I’ve been thinking on. And regardless of accurately relating this passage to my situation, I am still finding myself being challenged and that is good enough for me.
I must admit I fear putting this post out for the world to see, knowing there is a great chance I will ignore this epiphany and continue living selfishly, but I still felt the need to process all this in a forum in which hopefully others will gain some insight and provide me with some wisdom.
When I decided to come to Bogota in my mind I was coming to teach, I never expected to learn so much from a class of 5th grade students.
The past month my 5th grade class has been raising support and preparing to feed sandwiches to children in down town Bogota. Watching them as they come together, passionate about serving God’s people, has encouraged me more than any inspirational speaker, church retreat or well-written book. I’ve enjoyed the many discussions we have had about what it looks like to truly love people and the coolest part is it’s all being shared with 11 year olds.
This past Saturday we finally got to put to action all our planning and passion. We met in the early morning, crammed into a tiny van and began our trip to Barrio Santa Fe. Once we pulled up to the sidewalk it was obvious the change in neighborhood from our familiar privileged area to the rougher environment of poverty. I’ll admit I had had my hesitation about bringing 5th graders to an area notorious for drugs, prostitution and trafficking but as explained to my class, some times the Lord calls us to do dangerous things and we must have faith that regardless of the situation, His will be done. So with a hint of maternal caution I waved the students out of the van and the short distance to the entrance of the “Jungle” We filed into a huge concrete building, surrounded by walls of chipped cement, gray interior hosting nothing more than more gray. We were welcomed by the sound of children running, yelling, and most importantly enjoying themselves. As our eyes adjusted we noticed an assortment of games, ping-pong tables, basketball, play house even a rock wall. Every form of childhood enjoyment was present and it was difficult to imagine the lives of these children being any different than our own. It was obvious to everyone that this was a place of fun and more importantly safety and love.
As I got some time to discuss with Stephen the amazingness that is “The Jungle”, he explained to me the dire importance of offering this safe haven, this place where the kids get the opportunity for a few hours to just be kids again. Here, there were no worried eyes about when the next meal would be, what would set off the next beating, or which was the better way to avoid the harsh realities of the street. There wasn’t any sign of the pain these kids live through, simply carefree fun. We spent the next two hours just running all over this warehouse of a playground, playing and sharing moments of joy with these children who were starving for love and acceptance. I had the opportunity to hug, play and laugh with this kids, sinking into the realization that kids despite their situation all have the same desires.
After a brief time of songs, skits and a bit of group work we were finally able to pass out our sandwiches, that we had been looking forward to for so long. We stood in the doorway, as 200 kids filed their way out, several avoiding leaving at all cost, all hungrily accepting the sandwiches. As more and more children passed through we begin to recognize a few and quickly realized that kids were sneaking back in to go back through and receive another sandwich. My students at first found this behavior dishonest and became frustrated but as one of my wise beyond her year’s students pointed out, it simply displayed their hunger and deep need.
After all the children finally were back out into the reality of their harsh, difficult lives we had a few moments to debrief the time with our students. Wonderful moments were shared and it was at the very end that I realized the impact this day was having not only on my students but me as well.
Throughout our time there I had had several students come to me complaining of being hungry or thirsty and I at first was frustrated but quickly remember their age and understood its difficult to see much beyond ourselves at any age, especially when so young. Well, when it came time at the end and we had sandwiches prepared for ourselves I mentioned that the Jungle sees these kids various times throughout the week and what a great thing it would be to leave the extra sandwiches for them. I wondered aloud what they thought about possibly going hungry an extra hour and leaving these sandwiches for the kids for the rest of the week. The question wasn’t even fully formed before all my students quickly replied that of course we should leave them, we could go without. It truly was the highlight of the day for me to see such selflessness come from so young.
Yet as with all good things there are often also times of difficulty. While playing we did have an accident, where one of my students was swinging and the rope broke, sending her quickly to the hard concrete floor. At first it seemed well handled but as time went on we realize the need to take her to the hospital. She had hit her head with great force and it was now apparent there was something really wrong, with her slurred speech and inability to walk. The decision was made to take her the hospital and I will admit it was hard to concentrate on anything much beyond the fear and worry. As it turns out, the student is doing much better and after some test and observations she was able to go home that same day, but it definitely served as a reminder of the things that can happen and how little control we truly have.
Over all, as I reflect on the whole process of this ministry I am overwhelmed with pride for my students and such a joy found in renewed love and passion for serving. As we get geared up to prepare for next month’s sandwich ministry I am feeling so privileged to have the opportunity to do such work. To be able to take my students to serve and love the forgotten is such a great gift. Imagine being able to give your students the experience at such a young age of what it truly looks like to live out your faith, its incredible. At any age to experience such tangible love and striving for such Christ-like living is beyond words.
What to do when all your thoughts aren’t necessarily able to be summed up and packaged quite so nicely as a blog post, this is what you get.
Things have been moving at warp speed and I feel I have been struggling to comprehend and reflect on any of it fully. There are lots of thoughts, feelings and concerns about next year, really struggling to figure out what to do, but all of that is nothing new. School has been pretty good, busy as usual, and work as always. But, one of the silver linings amongst all the other stuff is the 5th grade sandwich ministry we are preparing to do.
Last semester my 5th grade English class read a true story of a 5th grade student who started a feeding program in her hometown. After reading we had some really great discussion and decided as a class it was something we would like to try here in Bogota. So this semester, when a fellow teacher and his wife moved to a rougher neighborhood down town, an opportunity presented itself. Which, it’s a really cool situation that I could write a whole other blog explaining the wonderfulness that is their hearts and ministry, but we’ll stick to 5th graders. Anyway, it came about that the last Saturday of every month the ministry has a kids program called the Jungle. So it worked out perfectly for my 5th graders to prepare and serve sandwiches as well as love on some peers. It was later we found it would be over 100 kids, which the more the better but the reality of the price of things began to set in. Yet as always the lord has blessed us. The first day my students took around some jars at break and lunch and miraculously raised over $100. It has been so amazing and encouraging to see my students’ passion and excitement for this ministry.
Today, Stephen, the teacher that recently moved down town, came to speak to my class and it was awesome to put simply. He came just to give them an idea of what they would experience and help them to understand a bit more of these children’s lives. While he was talking I was so moved to hear of the wonderful, intentional love that is happening in the neighborhood and then to hear my students participate in the discussion of how to best love these people, it brought tears to my eyes.
It all reminded me of the passion I used to have for being intentional in my relationships, especially with the poor. It brought back my time in San Francisco, how I was transformed from this me vs. them mentality. This idea that I was the GIVER, the one that had something to offer and they were only the receiver. I’ll never forget the beautiful time and growth I had there, to realize that God loves us all the same and we are all called to love in the same way. This reenergized passion got me to looking over some of my writing from that summer and I stumbled upon an entry and felt the need to share it in this blog since there isn’t much more to sum up.
“I found that to truly serve is to love, without judgment, without hesitation, and without distraction of agenda. I often look for validation in the worthiness of those I serve; or in the act of placing myself above those I help by labeling myself the helper or giver thus naming those I serve as the needy or broken, some times I even addressed them as the lost. Yet, isn’t it that we are all lost, we aren’t called to serve simply because we are able but because we are loved and for that we are to love. Love in a genuine and authentic way, a way I don’t believe comes naturally. I think I know whom I am here to serve, that I have an idea in my mind how this will go, I can picture the faces of those I will touch, I even have some sort of rehearsed statement of faith. But, by doing this I limit God to my plan, I limit myself in who and how I can serve. To fully do this I believe is to really love and humble ones self. I hope that I am able to humble myself daily, put myself aside and open my eyes to the plan God has. Maybe I will be called to serve the people at a homeless shelter, but possibly it will be one of my coworkers, or one of the students, perhaps a leader and even just as possible a passerby on the street. I think I try to take control of my life, of my service and build myself up to create this illusion to myself and to others that I am doing God’s will. Yet, often in doing this I lose sight of God’s will and replace it with my own. And it’s then that I find it difficult to be genuine and authentic and truly love others and then ultimately hard to truly love and serve God. That action of simply loving another person, whether it be passing out sandwiches or just sitting with them on the sidewalk sharing life. I also learned that to do ministry is to simply share life with those around you, sharing love and life. In order to this you need to meet those where they are, live in the community they live in, eat where they eat, understand the struggles and conflicts of the people. To truly connect and develop relationships is the way we are called to minister, to disciple. If you look at the life of Christ you will see his actions, he sat on the hill and shared stories, he went to dinner with the social rejects, he talked with the people the community shunned or had forgotten. He didn’t just silently walk pass and break his heart, he didn’t come for a week with a full agenda of service projects. No Christ, he met people’s deepest needs for connection, acceptance and most of all love. It is my fervent prayer that I can learn to truly love, to love in such a genuine way that it becomes second nature I don’t want to have to think about conversing with some one, or sharing a meal. I feel to fully follow Christ is to deny our nature and develop a passion for the things that Christ holds dear, people and relationships.”
There’s not really any good way to put these words to motion, so I’m simply going to put fingers to keys, words to page and let it all tumble out how it may. Uncensored, so if you have a preconceived notion of how things are suppose to go, or who I am necessarily, you may want to stop reading here.
Quick game of catch up, just had Christmas break, family came down for a wonderful trip, I was able to show them around and celebrate a great time. Made a trip out to the coast with some friends, experienced some new and exciting things, really beautiful places. Yet, also mixed in these moments was one of life’s tougher curve balls.
There I was, sitting along side the road to Cartagena, our taxi stalled out, surrounded by all sorts of interesting sights, sounds and unfortunately smells. It was there, amongst this mishap of events I received a call from my mom (yea I know, who is my cell phone provider), with the news, grandma has passed away.
I’ll be honest I’m not sure I’ve fully let this sink in, a week later and it still seems pretty inconceivable. I’ll admit it is common practice for me to push things down deep where they don’t have to be dealt with, thus the explanation for not fully accepting this loss. As one can imagine such an event causes some major life reflections. For example, I recall sitting one night in our hostel in Cartagena, out on the balcony, listening to some moody tunes, attempting to comprehend the news; and as I sat, thinking to myself “Am I ready to become the type of person who is so disconnected from family and friends that I am unaffected by a death”. I mean what kind of person doesn’t go home for a funeral. Sure everyone said stay, tickets were unbelievably priced, but here I was on vacation, supposedly enjoying life. Is this path I’ve chosen one that requires losing piece of your former roots. Do you become harden by the distance, I’ll admit despite my title of missionary, I felt like I had loss a bit of humanity at the way I was so coolly reacting to such news.
So begins my new internal conflict, does choosing a life after Christ cause us to sacrifice what we always thought mattered most? The passage that keeps coming up in my mind is from Matthew 8, starting at verse 18: “When Jesus saw the crowd around him he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus Replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Another Disciple said to him, “Lord first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus told him, “Follow me and let the dead bury their own.”
There are lots of things that can be said about this passage and maybe the way i’m relating it to my experience is theologically wrong, but here goes. I’ve been pondering this idea that often times when called to follow after Christ we have to make sacrifices, die to ourselves daily. I guess I always thought that those sacrifices would be a car, toilet seats, certain conveniences, not necessarily family and friends. Sure, once again I’m being dramatic, but I think I’m on to something. Often we try to understand who God is, understand His will for our lives, and we get to a point we think we have it some what figured out; what he’ll ask of us, what he desires for us, yet it’s hard to comprehend what all we might actually have to give up.
I’ll admit when this thought occurred to me I wasn’t too pleased. I mean, why would God call me away, ask me to choose between Him and priority of loved ones. I know the Sunday school answer to this one; Of course God is above all other things, number one priority. But when it really comes to having to make that choice, it’s not as simple to answer. And then to wonder, would God really ask us to choose?
The only life I’ve ever imagined living was one traveling the world, chasing after God’s will. Yet, as I am here living it out, thousands of miles away from what I always thought was the most important thing in life (material wealth of course) family and friends, I’m finding it at times harder than anticipated. I’m beginning to question what it is that matters most in this life, who do I want to be, what purpose is there to it all. I know, I know I was to suppose to figure all this out in college. Yet, here I am, same questions different setting.
I believe whole heartedly that there are people doing amazing things for Christ in Mid-Missouri, so I am in no way saying that God is calling me to this life lived for Him and it automatically means I must go live in the jungle. I realize God can use me wherever I am, that no matter my path, glory can still be brought to His name. I can’t be clear enough in the distinction between what I take to be God’s will and what it might actually be. I feel at the moment it is to be living abroad, but as with most things with God’s will, I really have no idea what He wants. My struggle is with this tug of war going on between this desire to experience fully following after Him, experiencing this world and loving the people in it and a life shared with the ones I’ve loved already for so long.
At what cost is this life, is there a way to live out both? I thought there was, a way to balance it, I mean in a world with skype of course it’s possible. Quite possibly my sadness is blurring everything a bit for me, but I feel already I’ve missed so much. What other deaths, births and moments shared will I miss? When I am old and gray, what will I look back on with regret, missing the world or these moments? I want to be fully abandoned to the will of God, ready to go where he leads, problem is I’m not sure I’m ready to choose that over shared moments and life with family and friends. It seems confusing that choosing loved ones in a way could be choosing to be disobedient to God. Again, I am in no way saying that if I were to move back to Missouri that I think I am choosing to be disobedient, because honestly I’m not hearing a whole lot of anything from God concerning next year, so who knows. Quite possibly He wants me home. The real contradiction doesn’t involve God’s will at all, simply just two of my own. Deciding which aligns with God’s will is the tough part.
Which brings me to a point made today in a devotion given, God is to meet all our needs. I know that I’ve always struggled with looking to others to fill my needs for comfort, acceptance, love, and joy. And to be honest it was no sooner than last night I was calling out to God to bring me someone or something to fill these needs in me. Fighting with myself the entire prayer, knowing deep down I was asking God to provide something or someone that He already can, will and wants to fill. So today when the exact words and message was shared I was a bit annoyed at God’s blunt response to my prayer but also amazed at His quick and timely answer.
So I am praying that in all things God can fill me, He can be enough. Whether I choose to stay in Colombia, move to Missouri, Vegas or some other random place, that He will meet my needs and ultimately be all that I desire, despite what I tell myself. I pray that through this I will find some balance between the life I thought I always wanted and the life I’ve enjoyed so much thus far. Of course this is a work in progress.
I’m not sure of all this and I know it’s a lot to process and quite possibly the moody jazz floating about in my room in causing heighten emotions and more extreme perspective on the issues at hand, but here is where I’m at, take or leave it. As always, feel free to let me know what you think.