Sunday, May 30, 2010

i will give you dreams in the desert

i will give you dreams in the desert
to guide you safely to that place you have not yet seen.

i will give you dreams in the desert

i haven't been remembering any of my dreams as of late, so i'm going to go in a bit of a different direction with this first part. dreams in the desert. when i think of desert i think of a lonely wasteland and when i think of dreams i think of either those things that come when you sleep or hopes and aspirations. so, i will give you dreams in the desert. hope in those lonely, faraway places.

slovakia is far from being a wasteland, but i would be lying if i said it was never lonely. the loneliest time for me so far has been right after a visit. right after i got back from hungary and time with stef (and with my fellow central european yagms), i was lonely. i missed her.

in the same way, saying good-bye to my mom at the train station in košice was hard. it was, perhaps, especially hard because i wasn't seeing her off at the airport - things were a little bit less secure. in those lonely times, i got the dreams i needed in the form of memories. going through the pictures that we took while we were together let me remember the good times and good moments that we shared and gave me strength to move from missing them to continuing here in slovakia.

other dreams have come in the form of encouragement, love, and listening ears when i have called in tears because of some insignificant (and, at times, not-so-insignificant) thing that happened. i have been given dreams as people remind me why i'm here, affirm god's call in my life, and continue to make me feel connected.

to guide you safely to that place you have not yet seen.

when i first began my yagm journey, i knew i was going to that place i had not yet seen; i had never been to continental europe, after all! i knew that god was leading me and that if i could truly follow my heart, follow god's spirit, then i would get there safely. as i now look towards heading home (nine months fully tucked away and barely more than two left at my placement), i have a whole new perspective.

there's an interesting poem about two gretels (hansel is in there briefly) that someone passed along to me (with reflections about returning home from global service, which can also be found here, for those of you interested - which should be everyone reading). in it, the two gretels have forgotten the breadcrumbs and when the suggestion comes to turn back, there is no way without the crumbs. that is a bit how i have felt. even if i were to try to turn back, there would be no way. i left no breadcrumbs, and even if i had, the birds would have eaten them long before now.

but the good news is i don't want to turn back. i want to keep going. geographically, yes, i will be "going back" or "going home," but that is not all. i will also be "going away" and "leaving home." home for me, for a long time, has been where my heart is. right now, my heart is in many different places, on at least a few different continents.

when i return to the united states, after all of the experiences i have had this year, i don't expect to be the same. i don't expect others to be the same as they were when i left. i don't expect anything to be the same (except that a cloudless sky will hopefully still be blue), which means that it won't be easy to return. but one thing i know, god will guide me safely to that place i have not yet seen. the holy spirit, full of hope and comfort, is with me now and will continue to lead me, guide me, and hold me tight in her arms.

i will give you dreams in the desert
to guide you safely to that place you have not yet seen

Thursday, May 27, 2010


ok, i just need to share this with someone, so what better place, than here on my blog?

ok, in my journals (i'm on my second, i started it may 4th), i alternate writing in blue and black ink (easier to tell the days apart). i am still on the same blue pen that i have had since we arrived to bratislava. i am now on my third black pen, and even it is not quite performing like it used to!! random, right? well, what about when you consider that all of the black pens i've been using are somehow connected to lutherans/lutheranism?? that's right, not so random anymore, is it?

ok, so the first one is technically a decorah chick hatchery pen, but everybody knows that's like going to jerusalem and saying that the israel museum isn't connected to jews/judaism!! for better or worse, everything in that country is connected to judaism!!! even the churches and mosques!!! so, the first pen is my decorah chick hatchery (i've now gone through two in my life...they're wonderful pens and i really like just can't replace the inside part of if any of you go to the hatchery, i'd be everso grateful if you could snag me a pen :-D), one of the top two attractions in the lutheran holy land...i mean decorah...

the second and third are both from elca global service...conspiracy? give your volunteer missionaries great pens that they really like, but that will run out so that they have to come back to the usa to get more from you? yup, that's right. it's a global lutheran conspiracy. giving out black pens that will run out so that people will always keep coming back...

here's hoping this pen lasts until i'm safely back in the usa, because if not, i'm not sure where i'm going to get another black pen in blue pen-filled slovakia :)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

you will learn to eat new food

you will learn to eat new food
and find refuge in new places.

you will learn to eat new food

all too true. though i finally figured out how to share some food from home (brownies and then sugar cookies now that monika has a cup measure), i have definitely learned to eat new food, and am still enjoying it :)

here in slovakia, one of the biggest changes (aside from lunch being a bigger meal than dinner) was that after soup (the typical first course for lunch) the second course can easily be something sweet! buchti na pare (a type of steamed bread, oftentimes with jelly in the middle, and melted butter and cocoa or poppyseed powder on top) was one of my first discoveries. there's also the many different versions of pancakes/crepes (which i've actually succeeded in making!!! ...under monika's supervision and with her guidance), and spaghetti with chocolate!! that was probably the most surprising.

bryndzové halušky, from a dinner with stef in the czech republic (they called it slovak halušky)

in addition to sweet foods, one of my new favorite foods is bryndzové halušky (apparently a national slovak dish). bryndza is a type of cheese made from sheep's milk and halušky are like noodles (can be made using potatoes or just flour, water, and an egg), but are more like gnocchi. there's a special strainer-type thing that you use to get from the halušky badder to halušky noodles. after making the noodles, you combine them with bryndza, sour cream, and if you want you can put some bacon (usually homemade and with way more fat than in the usa) with it, too. it is výborne!!! (slovak for basically incredible, amazing and fantastic all rolled into one word) there are also other kinds of halušky, but bryndzové halušky's my favorite :)

typical "rodinky" (family group) food, chlebíčky in the front, coffee, kecy (snacks), and koláč (cakes) in the back

the final food is chlebíčky
. chlieb is bread in slovak. whenever we go over to someone's house in the evening, or have our family groups, or celebrate a birthday, there are always chlebíčky. chlebíčky are made like so:

slice of bread + butter/spreadable cheese/some sort of spread + meat (usually ham or salami) + egg (a slice or wedge of a hard boiled egg) + some sort of veggies (slices or wedges of the following: cucumber, tomato, pepper, radish, pickle, etc) + cheese on the top (either a small slice or a bit of shredded cheese)

they are delicious and make up my dinner whenever i have them :)

and find refuge in new places.

i have also found refuge in new places. i have found refuge in holding hands and hugging andrea, conversations in englak/slovish with katka, d-rom (roma dorast-youth group), the girls' bible study group and mládež, rodinky (family group). i have found refuge in monika's hugs and card games with my family. i have found refuge in time spent singing songs with kids in náboženstvo and besiedka (religion class and "sunday" school).

i have found refuge in weekend skype calls home to friends and family. i have found a lot of refuge in writing each day in my journal (i'm now on journal number 2!!!) and on my blog. i have found refuge in drawing - whether it's drawing worksheets for
náboženstvo or drawing the view outside. i have found refuge in the books i read and the conversations that i have. i have found refuge in prayer; my time to talk with god.

now, as i look forward to the next 2-3 months, i wonder where i will find refuge when i get back. will it, too be in skype calls with friends and family, but now those in slovakia? will i find a new community within which i can find refuge? how will that refuge be different when i'm at seminary in chicago? will i still write in my journal each day? how will i bring the refuges i have found here in slovakia with me home?

you will learn to eat new food
and find refuge in new places

Saturday, May 22, 2010


no, not what would jesus do, but: where would joy develop?

i'm stealing this from a friend, but i feel like i need to reflect on this right now. so, as i think about my surroundings, the past almost nine months, and the months to come, here is where i think joy would develop.

joy has developed and continues to develop in the family i have found here in rankovce
joy has developed and continues to develop in the friendships that have formed with roma and gadje (non-roma)
joy has developed and continues to develop in the small communities of which i am now a part (rodinky, mládež, dorast, združenie pre lepší život, etc.)
joy has developed and continues to develop in breakthroughs with language and the miracles of communication
joy has developed in time spent sharing my joy here with those who bring me joy back home, especially my college roommate, stef, and my mom

joy is continually developing in the stories i get to hear from people here. stories of life, sickness, friendship, love, challenge, and joy
joy develops in gatherings filled with songs, conversations, prayers, and laughter.
joy develops in the quiet time of reflection each morning
joy develops in the mastering of double digit multiplication :)
joy develops in support from home (in the states), from here (also home), from god, and from within
joy develops in the midst of the darkness, when i'm not sure how to move forward, and then i remember that "i praise you, for i am fearfully and wonderfully made"

joy would develop anywhere, if we let it. in the darkness, in the light; in the midst of groups, on our own; in the face of adversity, surrounded by support. right now, i keep trying to remember that joy would develop wherever i would let it. the key is to let it develop :)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

set out in the dark

set out in the dark.
i will send fire to warm and encourage you.
i will be with you in the fire, and i will be with you in the cloud.

set out in the dark

when i set out for my yagm year, i was in the dark on a lot of things. i didn't really know what i would be doing, what it would be like, or anything like that. i set out, knowing god was both going with me and already waiting for me, calling to me from rankovce, slovakia. there is very little in my life of faith that lets me see everything that is coming. in fact, there always seems to be some dark; some unknown to wrestle with, but if i were to try to wait until i could see in plain light all that is to come, more likely than not, i would spend my life waiting, never quite seeing everything that is to come.

the dark is filled with the unknown, one of the scariest things for many people. when it is dark, imaginations can take over filling your head with scary things, but we know that god is the light that will fill our darkness. when we set out in the dark, the light comes to us. the light meets us where we are and, though it can be hard to look directly at it, and though it may not show all the things before us, it helps us know the way we've come and where we're headed - at least for now.

i will send fire to warm and encourage you.

i love fire. i know, there's that whole "fire and brimstone" thing, and that's not so great for me (perhaps because i really don't know what a brimstone is), but your average, everyday type of fire: great! when i worked at camp, i would relish in the smell of my clothes and my hair after spending time around the campfire. roasting marshmallows for s'mores. singing songs. telling stories. listening to don simonton talk about the beginnings of rainbow trail. huevos in the morning. the smell of brisket cooking all day during family camp. shishkebabs for senior high. time spent snuggling together watching the flames and feeling the warmth. fire has always made me feel good. it has, indeed, warmed and encouraged me.

so, imagine my joy when in our backyard here in rankovce, i found: a fire pit! in the villages, it is common to have "opekačky" during big get togethers. klobasa (sausage) is provided, along with bread, ketchup, mustard, onions, and maybe a few other veggies. the sausages are put on sticks or skewers and each person heads to the fire to cook their own. the cooking time can be filled with anything from conversation to singing to quiet reflection. by the end, we are all warmed, encouraged, and satisfied from the fire and the food. god is in the fire that brings us together, that renews and warms us, and that gets us ready to be sent out into the world, to carry that small flame inside us.

i will be with you in the fire, and i will be with you in the cloud.

ok, i've already talked about my love of fire, so here's the flip side. first of all, in the exodus story (the reason why passover is celebrated), exodus 13:21-22 states,

"the lord went in front of them in a pillar of cloud by day, to lead them along the way, and in a pillar of fire by night, to give them light, so that they might travel by day and by night. neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people."
in this case, the fire and cloud were in front of the israelites and provided safety and guidance. here in the world, fire and cloud can provide rejuvenation and nourishment for nature. as humans, many of us have also come to fear fire and clouds.

fire destroys our material possessions and clouds can cause rain, which also destroys our material possessions. though the two are found throughout nature, when they cross paths with humans, they are most likely going to be despised, or even feared. but, maybe that's the point. maybe the point is to take something that can cause destruction and fear and let it be the symbol for god, so we know that when things are hard and we're hurt or afraid, god is there. god is with us in the fire, in the pain and heat and persecution. and god is with us in the cloud, in the flood of information, accusations, and tears.

god is with us in our joy. in our dances and songs around campfires, in the nourishment from food cooked together, in the rain that waters the earth. god is with us in the fire, and god is with us in the cloud.

god is with us in our pain. in our burned houses full of memories, in the wartorn parts of our world, in the flooding throughout the world. god is with us in the fire, and god is with us in the cloud.

set out in the dark.
i will send fire to warm and encourage you.
i will be with you in the fire, and i will be with you in the cloud.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

do not take time to explain to the neighbors

do not take time to explain to the neighbors.
tell only a few trusted friends and family members.
then begin quickly, before you have had time
to sink back into old slavery.

do not take time to explain to the neighbors.
tell only a few trusted friends and family members.

as much as i tried to explain where i was going and why, it was hard to articulate the true reason i was coming to slovakia. i understand the wisdom in these two lines. when trying to explain to everyone (a necessary part of getting the spiritual, emotional, and financial support i would rely on throughout the year), i found that what was extremely clear when it was originally decided (god was calling me to the yagm program in central europe to work with roma here), became a little foggier each time i had to articulate it.

sometimes i feel like an explanation involving god's will requires some other explanation as well. an explanation that is logical for people. this wasn't the case for everybody, yet i still felt like me saying "i feel god calling me to this place" was not enough. so, though i definitely didn't follow this advice and instead told as many people as possible, there is wisdom in not trying to justify everything to other people. some stuff is just between me and god and if others don't understand those things, i am not responsible for making them understand it all.

then begin quickly, before you have had time
to sink back into old slavery

that i did. i started off and when it came time for each decision, the answer was YES! when i was invited to the discernment retreat (dip), the immediate answer was yes! when i was told i had slovakia or hungary and given time to think, i made myself wait at 24 hours before responding with YES!! each thing that i did involved me making the decision, not consulting others, but feeling and knowing that it was the right decision and following my heart, following god.

once you set out, once you begin, there is no way to go back to where or how you were. once i began this journey and i left home, i knew i would not be the same, i cannot (no matter how hard i could try) go back to how i was before i left. i am different. i am a new creation, every day i have new experiences, every day is a new adventure filled with pain and joy and laughter and tears. each day i change even more. each day i am more sure that i cannot go back to before i came. this is where god has called and placed me and the only way to go is forward. there is no going back, there is no way back to egypt, back to slavery. the red sea has closed behind me and i cannot cross it again.

do not take time to explain to the neighbors.
tell only a few trusted friends and family members.
then begin quickly, before you have had time
to sink back into old slavery.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

my big adventure

it all started when i heard fraňa say "pol piatej" (30 until five) and understood it to mean 5:30. my plan was to walk over to herľany to visit with fraňa and talk about a few things, so at about 5, i headed out. on my leisurely stroll, i took this pretty picture:

this is a picture of the rankovce skaly (rocks) lit up by the sun with everything else in the shade from clouds.

when i arrived, i realized the blunder (after being told that i was late). fraňa was still around, so we got to talk. i got to look at the rocks they have (opals and such), which they found around herľany. i got dinner, and we got to talk about what we needed to talk about. after that, instead of just sending me back home by the same road i took to get there, fraňa, martin, šimonka, and their dog, kahlo, decided to go for a walk with me along a trail going basically right from their house to the path to the rankovce skaly. as we walked, the sun was setting (which wouldn't have happened if i had been on time), and i got to see this:

two pictures from the sunset. on the right, you can see the sun setting behind the tatry (slovakia's most famous mountains), which are apparently visible from rankovce when it's clear out.

then, when we were walking, fraňa and martin wanted to show me where the old jewish cemetery is/was, so we took a detour...through the water and mud. needless to say, in my chacos, my feet got soaked. as we were coming away from the mud, kahlo, decided he wanted to get up close and personal, so he jumped up on me, leaving me looking like this:

note the dirty feet, pants, and you can't see the dirt on the fleece, but it's there, luckily monika was doing a load of laundry the next morning :)

then we ended up going around back, so that it would be easier for fraňa, martin, and šimonka to get home. the gate to the back, however, was locked, so i ended up jumping it...well, climbing awkwardly over it.

the gate hopped and my adventure family

overall, it was a good time had by all, i needed to take a shower anyway, and my chacos could probably always use a good washing :)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

only surrender to the need of the time

only surrender to the need of the time -
love justice and walk humbly with your god.

only surrender to the need of the time

time. in each country i've lived in, time as worked a little bit differently. in argentina, when something started at 3pm, you were expected to show up at 3:45ish. slovakia is no exception. things don't really have to start on-time. it's not as vital as it has been (for me at least) in the states. not only that, a lot of my time has been spent just being. i've written about this before, but oftentimes, it is just "being" that is most meaningful.

today, i was invited over to fraňa and martin's
for sunday lunch. martin brought my friend and i over straight from church and we spent the afternoon with them. we started out with (a delicious) lunch and then had ice cream and coffee (from a coffeemaker!!) on the patio while we talked. then we headed inside where we had keksy (snack-ish things) and talked some more. before we knew it, it was after 4:30!

the need of the time here is to be with each other, to take time to talk (and, oftentimes, to eat). the concern is not about "getting down to business." i don't worry about what we need to talk about or figure out, it's about spending time together, trusting that we will get to what is important, and we will be better off for the winding road we took to get there than if we had taken the 8 lane highway straight there and back.

love justice and walk humbly with your god

micah 6:8. one of my favorite verses. love justice. what does that mean? for me to love justice involves ubuntu, the concept that my humanity is completely bound up in your humanity. if you suffer from injustice, then i, too, suffer from injustice. if you are discriminated against, i am discriminated against. if you are hated, i am hated.

justice also involves making things right. justice is not vengence. it is not a way to get back at the one who did you wrong. it is a way to recover from the wrong experienced. it's not always fair, but it is a way of understanding the world that brings humans from all ends of earth closer. it brings us towards a common understanding. justice is a way of increasing the love in this world.

walk humbly with your god. for me, humility can seem like a really easy thing, but in reality it can be really hard. i can be proud, occasionally arrogant (proud taken to the unhealthy extreme), but i can also take humility to the unhealthy extreme. i can take it to the point of shame. there are things in my life about which i have been made to feel ashamed. i have had to hide them from others out of fear or uncertainty.

walking humbly with god means not being ashamed. not being ashamed of who you are. not being ashamed of how god created you. not being ashamed of god. when much of the world tells you that you are worthless (whether it is because of the color of your skin, where you were born, which language you speak, how much money your parents make, who you love, etc.), it is easy to feel shame, and sometimes nearly impossible to feel proud or walk humbly with your god.

walking humbly with god means resting in the comfort of the one who made you, who formed you in your mother's womb, who has counted every hair on your head. it means knowing that god loves you more than you could ever comprehend. it means knowing that you are god's good creation.

it also means knowing that each and every person has been specially made by god. that each interaction you have is with one of god's beloved children. being in awe of that fact and being in awe of the god who made us while standing together with all of god's children to love and work for justice is walking humbly with your god. walking humbly with god means walking with the least of those our society rejects and dismisses.

only surrender to the need of time -
love justice and walk humbly with your god.