Monday, November 26, 2012

Day to day life...

I have always been weary of the "day to day". I don't ever want to fall into a routine where the days blend together and I can't quite pinpoint moments that have impacted me. Let me assure you, that while I am falling into a routine of comfort and confidence in what I do, the days are no where close to ordinary.

The whole point of this year was so that I could give my time and efforts in a physical act of sacrifice and dedication to the refugee community. Not only am I gaining practical experience, I am also learning humility in spades. The stories that I hear and the people I interact with remind how blessed I am, but also how much I have to learn from those around me. 

Lutheran Refugee and Immigration Center is the only refugee resettlement agency in South Dakota. Hundreds of refugees a year pour into the state, which obviously has a huge impact on the community. In the past year, in Sioux Falls, over 400 refugees were resettled, and in a town of 160,000, that actually makes a huge difference!

I work mainly with those refugees who have been in the country for a year or longer, and are eligible for their green cards. This is an amazing opportunity to finally get a piece of plastic that symbolizes stability in their lives. No more fleeing from corrupt governments or individuals because of their ethnicity or beliefs. While living in America may not be smooth sailing, quite the contrary actually, at least they are safe. While I may be cynical sometimes of our government and Americans in general, I have found a new appreciation for the freedom we have, while people are fleeing for their lives across the world, dreaming for a freedom like ours. 

While a lot of my job is scheduling, filing, making phone calls, copying, and mailing notices to clients, I also get a lot of time to meet with the clients one on one. They come with random questions about their applications, or whether or not we would be able to help them. It's my favorite part. I love interacting with these people, and it's really shown me that being an immigration lawyer is where my heart is. 

When talking to the lawyers, I love hearing their success stories. A client they never thought would pass the written part of the citizenship was sworn in as a US citizen today. A family that has been waiting for their father to come to the United States for a decade has finally been reunited. Our Immigration law does not have much room for sympathy, so it takes a lawyer to be the sympathetic one to the client, and then turn around and present it in a functional, reasonable way so an immigration office would approve the case . It's a taxing job, but one of the most rewarding. 

I also get to travel once a month to a small town, about 2 hours from here, that has suddenly seen an increase in Karen refugees, the same ethnic minority I stayed with during my village stay in Thailand. Huron, a small town of about 12,000, has received hundreds of Karen refugees a year, most of them working in Dakota Provisions, a turkey processing plant that distributes gourmet sliced turkey (eaten a turkey sandwich at Panera Bread? thats where their turkey is from!). I got a tour of the kill floor, and man, am I glad that our clients willingly, and happily, do the jobs that most Americans shy away from. A job is another symbol of stability in their lives.

Me getting a tour of Dakota Provisions

The impact that the refugees have had on this small town is amazing. So much so that 60% of their kindergarten class is made up of ESL students. It's amazing that this town is suddenly coming in contact with such diversity, but also poses a challenge, especially when it comes to the resources needed. One of the lawyers and I get to go once a month to help the refugees with their green card and citizenship applications, which has been one of my favorite parts of working at LSS so far. 

I am going to leave you with this prayer that I found especially meaningful, and have taped it on my mirror to remind me why I do what I do. 

"You have made me known to friends who I knew not. You have given me seats in homes not my own. You have brought the distant near and made a brother and sister of the stranger.
I am uneasy at heart when I have to leave my accustomed shelter; I forget that there abides the old in the new and there also You abide.
Through birth and death, in this world or in others, where You lead me, it is You, the same, the one Companion of my endless life, who links my heart with bonds of joy to the unfamiliar
When one knows You, then alien there is none, then no door is shut. O grant me my prayer that I may never lose the bliss of the touch of the one in the play of the many" 
                                 - Friends who I know not                  The Heart of God: Prayers of Rabindranath Tagore

And on a less serious note....
This is another reason why I love my job :)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Living my life in constant 4 part harmony...

Things have been going pretty dandy out here in the Midwest. It's definitely a change of pace from home (literally I leave the house to go to work, come back, cook dinner, and go to bed....what have I become..), but I really like it. I didn't realize how much I would over extend myself at school and at home, and it's definitely good for me to learn that I don't always have to be doing and seeing things in order to live a fulfilled life.

There are times when I really miss when I went to Pittsburgh to be in one of my best friend's wedding and not being exactly sure when I was going to see everyone again. Or when I'm craving Thai food or falafel....or Chipotle or Chick Fil A.  Or when I wish I could just throw a frozen dinner from Trader Joe's in the oven instead of cooking, because I know it would have tasted better than anything I could throw together myself.

And then I remind myself that I have committed to a year of simple living. I don't need all those things in my life right this second. I can contact my friends via Skype, Facebook, gmail chat, or Facetime (thank God for the Internet!). I have really enjoyed cooking new recipes, instead of going out to eat all the time. I'm pretty much exhausted when I come back from work anyways, so there really isn't much time for other things. I also share a car with my house mate, so sometimes I'm literally stuck in my house unless I want to bike in the frigid weather (I usually decide to stay home.....haha)
Some of the food I've attempted to cook, and have taken a picture of:
Spinach Quiche
Zucchini Potato pancakes ( tasted one failure)

Tomato Basil Soup

My boss and I attempted to create a Thai meal

Speaking of, it's COLD here. I mean I knew it was going to be cold eventually, but fall lasted for 2.5 seconds. I was all like "oh look at all the pretty leaves!" and the cold and wind were like "muahahaha"....and the next day all of the leaves were on the ground, and there was frost and a wind chill of 25.  I think I wore my fall coat once. Fortunately, my mom expressed shipped out my winter coat that I was just going to wait and get over Christmas.

Most of my "out of work" activities have been centered around either one of my two churches.

Sermon on the Mount Mennonite Church is the church that sponsors my house. There are 30 members, on a good day, and they are all people that I swear you would find in a sitcom, which I absolutely love. They are some of the most amazing, quirky, warm hearted people I have ever met. They always take me out to dinner after church, or give me all their leftovers, or invite us over from random game nights. I was even invited to the Central Plains Mennonite Women's Fall Retreat. I was literally the only person under 55, but it was awesome. All of these women were so devoted to peace and reconciliation in the world around them, and I couldn't soak in their knowledge and wisdom enough.
Beautiful lake where the retreat was held

My retreat mates :)

Mennonites have their own traditions, foods, songs, and ways of worshipping. I did not realize how much of the culture behind being Mennonite I didn't know. Every single song is sung in 4 part harmony in church. There is no worship leader, just a piano that everyone follows along with. Its like being in a choir all the time. Mennonites have their own hymns that they use, mostly old hymns from when they were in Germany or Russia, but some newer ones as well. They hymns are mostly focused on peace, loving your neighbor, and reconciliation, which is most of the theology of Mennonites! Fancy that. The service is super informal, with the pastor giving a meditation, and leaving a response time at the end for people to comment on the sermon. This is where many of the members go on their tangents... for instance the sermon could have been about resolving conflict in the church, and then at the end the whole church is discussing the proper way to prepare pork. 

I have also learned a lot about the history of Mennonites as well.. about how they fled to Germany and Russia to escape persecution in various parts of Europe, and everything was fine and dandy there until they started getting persecuted again, so in the early 1900s they fled to the United States...most ending up in Pennsylvania and the Midwest. Because they do not believe in any sort of violence and focus on pacifism  many Mennonites fled to Canada during the Vietnam war to escape the draft.  There is still so much history I need to learn, but I find it fascinating. 

My other church I attend is a non-denominational-esque church called The Ransom, with modern worship and services. It fills the spiritual holes that the Mennonite church leaves, and vice versa, so I'm really getting the best of both worlds. I'm involved in college aged (a bit of a stretch for me but I don't care.. haha) bible study, where I've met a bunch of lovely people and really enjoy going to it every Tuesday night. 

So that is me, and how I've been trying to dip my feet into my world around me. I always have trouble jumping head first into things, I'm more of an observer than a leaper... so I'm really glad that I've been slowly creeping my way into people's lives. Things are good, my friends. I'm so blessed. And thank you all for your thoughts and prayers. 

The other day it was actually nice outside, so I took a photo tour of Sioux Falls to post here! I'm still working on editing it, and it should be up by the end of the week. 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Great faces, Great places

OH GOOD GOLLY. Have I been the worst at keeping a blog or what? I'm sorry I've kept all my devoted fans waiting for so long.. all 2 of you (Hi Mom and Dad!)

All kidding aside, I know many of my friends, family, and members from my church from back home have been wondering how I'm doing up here in South Dakota, and so I decided I should ease your anxious waiting and give everyone an update.

For those who haven't been following my every move (how dare you not know everything about my life....sorry now I'll put all kidding aside...), I have moved to Sioux Falls, South Dakota to volunteer for a year with Mennonite Voluntary Service!

I'm sure you may have many questions after reading that statement. What in the WORLD is in South Dakota, you may ask? What are Mennonites? And definitely the most important- do I have to wear long skirts and a bonnet?

Good questions, my friend. I have struggled with variations of these questions, in all shapes and sizes before coming 3 weeks ago. In the following posts, I am going to attempt to give an overview of what I'm doing, why I am doing it, and what it entails for my future.

A little over a year ago, I had just come back from Thailand feeling all this pent up emotion about what I had experienced and the different people I had met. Along the way, I was able to learn from many about the conflicts in Burma and the many refugees living on the border in Thailand. I can't pinpoint exactly why or when, but I knew I was meant to work with refugees resettling in America. I just knew. I feel this burning passion to help those who have been forced to flee their homes, come to this overwhelming country with nothing but their clothes on their backs, often separated from their family, and many of them victims of severe violence and torture. They feel lost, scared, yet hopeful. It's this dichotomy of pain in the past, struggle in the present, and hope for the future  these people experience that draws me to them. Their insight on life, their cultural backgrounds, their beliefs, traditions, and history bring something different that I could never get enough of.  Every time I learn something new, educate myself on the issues, or meet a refugee, hear their story, I know this is exactly where I belong.

After I graduated, I knew that I wanted to volunteer for an extended amount of time with refugees, not only to gain practical experience, but also to give up my time and my talents in order to help the most vulnerable population in the world in a physical act of sacrifice, an outward statement of my dedication.

Mennonite Voluntary Service fit that description. Mennonites have a long standing tradition of valuing peace, standing up for social justice, and working towards reconciliation, in the world and within the church. I knew that was something I wanted to be a part of, at least for a year. We also are paid a very small monthly stipend, a way to live in solidarity with the people we are trying to serve. There is also this Mennonite subculture that is FASCINATING, coming from a sociological viewpoint, but I'll save that for a later post :)

MVS placed me in Sioux Falls, SD. You, me and the rest of the world goes "whhhhhhhhat.... are there even refugees in Sioux Falls?" The answer is:YES! Or else I wouldn't be here. Duh. I'm working in the one office in Sioux Falls that resettles refugees...but they resettle over 2,000 refugees in this area a year! Seriously, if you think about the ratio of refugees to the overall population of Sioux Falls, its absolutely insane, especially since they ALL come through the Lutheran Social Services Refugee and Immigration Center here.

Sioux Falls, despite being cold and in the middle of no where, is actually an ideal place for refugees to resettle. First of all, there are jobs. Low skill jobs, and there are many of them. Second of all, housing is cheap. Third of all, its a small city. Most of these refugees are coming from literal makeshift camps, and they have lived there for over a decade. Can you imagine going from living in a canvas tent to New York City? I don't think so. At least Sioux Falls is more of a friendlier transition. And cheaper. And since there are already large populations of Bhutanese, Somali, Sudanese, Ethiopian, Liberian, and Burmese people here, more refugees are drawn to where their families and friends are. They just keep coming! Which, as a side note, also means there are lots of great places to eat.  :)

SO. That is my brief overview of WHY I'm up..what I've been doing! Stay tuned! :)
Love and miss you all,

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

music: Sins are Stones by John Mark McMillan

When I can find  Christian music that speaks to the realities of life, that reminds me of how much my Savior has done for me, I embrace it. A lot of Christian music does not do that for seems to me they try to sugar coat everything- but every so often I'm introduced to a song that just speaks straight to my heart. This past weekend, I found such a song....Sins are Stone by John Mark McMillan. I absolutely love the message and the imagery.

Also..this video is pretty swell. It's not the original album version, because they are performing it live...while sitting on someone's front porch. Simple and wonderful.

Monday, July 30, 2012

life:: old towns and engagements

This week has been chock full of activities (what is a chock anyways? questions that never get answered).
Recently, I've been relying on my iPhone to take a lot of pictures for me, because my camera is so chunky and heavy. But this week, I decided it was time to be a little more adventurous and use my camera. I didn't realize how much I missed it! Definitely will be carrying around that fat thing more often.

Old Town Alexandria
Old Town Alexandria is such an OASIS in D.C. I love that it's small, colonial, cute, and they have period themed actors...always a plus. SUCH good food, chic shops, and you can sit along the Potomac.  Perfect place to explore with friends.
I mean...this place is called "Bread and Chocolate" What's not to love. Unfortunately it was closed... I need to go back.

We ate at Fountaine, an amazing cute little cafe that sold sweet and savory crepes. I got the Moroccan crepe- spinach and feta with a mint yogurt drizzle. OH MY GOSH. so good. I tried all of my friend's dishes too and spied on other tables... I really don't think you can go wrong with anything there. It has a really cute atmosphere too.

 We walked around in the rain, kind of got lost, and pretended like we owned different houses. How we didn't' get arrested....I don't know. Ran into an old time ice cream shop to wait for the rain to end. The best kind of day.

Saturday...drove with my best friends to what seemed to be a cookout with my friends from high school...but in actuality was a set up for a proposal :) My best friend got engaged in the pouring rain with all of us watching on, and it made me SO very happy. We are full steam ahead into wedding planning, and I can't wait.
Check out that ROCK

 Other pictures from this past week:
Ebenezers Coffeehouse- really cool coffee house on Capitol Hill owned by a church!

Friends eating at Nando's Peri Peri

China town exploring
That's all folks! This week has ALREADY got enough for a blog post, so it will be really interesting! Hope you are all enjoying this as much as I am.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

book: The Peach Keeper

The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen

Lord knows I needed a light, fluffy, book after the last two I read that left me sad and mopey. The Peach Keeper was EXACTLY what I needed.

I'm a huge fan of Sarah Addison Allen's books. They are always so fun, with a bit of magic and a ton of Southern charm. Super girly and fun, with themes of friendship, romance, and self discovery. If that doesn't shout summer read, I don't know what does.

This story follows Willa Jackson- a previously prankster and wild girl that returns to her hometown of Walls-of-Water reformed, after her father's death. She has to come to terms with the new, calm, reasonable person she believes she is now, and how the town used to perceive her. The Jackson family also used to be town royalty, the richest family living in the largest house that could be seen from all angles on the hill. Their fortune was lost, in a tornado of scandal, forcing her grandmother to build a new life on her own. Now, the grandmother lives in a nursing home, unable to communicate or respond when Willa frequently visits and takes care of her. Willa strives to live outside of the shadow of her and her family's past, focusing instead on her sporting goods store and cafe, determined to create a normal life for herself.

Paxton Osgood is part of the richest family in Walls-of-Water in the present, and seems to have it all together. She is in charge of the Lady's Society club, which has placed its focus on renovating the old Jackson home, the Blue Ridge Madam, into an inn that can be used for their upcoming gala. She was popular, pretty, and put together in high school, some of the many reasons why Willa stays away from her. However, Paxton's grandmother is in the same nursing home as Willa's, so their paths frequently cross.

Suddenly, long buried secrets have been uncovered during the Blue Ridge Madam's renovation, that throws both Willa and Paxton into a whirl wind to find answers, a road that leads them to their grandmothers. Along the way, they find love and friendship in two places they never thought possible.

The characters grab you in this book. I love how Sarah Addison Allen makes you feel like you know each individual personally, and I think its because everybody can find a little bit of themselves in every character portrayed. She also is gifted with the art of description- I really felt like I could picture Walls-of-Water in my head, with it's many waterfalls,birds, and strange magical occurrences that somehow fit seemlessy into reality..

I would have to say this is my 2nd favorite Sarah Addison Allen book. Nothing can beat The Girl Who Chased The Moon in my eyes. If you haven't read that yet, do so. You won't be disappointed.

I'm going to close with one of my favorite quotes from The Peach Keeper:

"Happiness is a risk. If you’re not a little scared, then you’re not doing it right."

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

music: Chains of Love by Ryan Adams

I really like this song. Super chill and super easy going. I love Ryan Adams voice- its like a mix between Bono and Bob Dylan, which is awesome in my opinion.

Also, he's married to Mandy Moore! I like to think that he's singing this song to her....while she's like dancing around like in Princess Diaries, or maybe running away like in Chasing Liberty. They don't seem to match, but I love couples that don't match. And apparently they are locked up in the chains of love and nothing can separate them....good for them! :)

The music video is a little dizzying...but fireworks do come out of the guitars towards the end! So that's always worth seeing.

I hope you enjoy this song as much as I do!

Friday, July 20, 2012

life: The Day I Ate Delicious Falafel

Because I leave for South Dakota a month from yesterday (YEEPS), I have felt compelled to Carpe Diem (or CARP DEEIIIMM as my high school English teacher would say), especially when it comes to the beautiful city I am so privileged to live near. Inspired by a local blogger who takes her kids, eats, and explores DC, all while looking the most edgy...I decided to try and chronicle a recent trip to Adam's Morgan I took.

First of all, this summer has been the summer of new friends. I've been able to meet people with a lot of similar interests to mine at various functions for interns in DC, especially interns interested in human rights law or immigration. It has been awesome to have deep meaningful conversations with people who think along the same lines as I do, and I've learned a lot from them. 

They are also super adventurous and love trying new things! This week, one of my new friends and I decided to explore Adams artsy, thriving neighborhood in DC, popular for its nightlife among 20 somethings and famous for its good food. 

We decided to hit up Amsterdam Falafel because, first of all, falafel is one of my favorite foods, and second of all, Washington Post's going out guide named it the number one place that all Washingtonians should go to eat. And it definitely lived up to it's reputation. It was SO SO GOOD. Warm fresh falafel in a pita, and then there was a toppings bar with literally anything and everything

They also gave you sticks so you could stuff all the stuffings in the pita, which was such a good idea because I always have problems with the falafel falling, making me look like a fool. AND there was  a tahini dispenser, which was amazing cause I always want more tahini than falafel places give me.
My toppings of choice- cucumbers, some green tasty stuff, tomatoes, TONS of tahini

After that, we walked around the neighborhood for a bit. Visited some shops, looked at the buildings. The row houses in Adams Morgan are gorgeous. Each a different color, and all of them have big rounded windows that look like they would be perfect to build a day bed into, overlooking the city. The best reading nook ever. Dream home right there.

Cool shop with lots of colorful things
View of Adam's Morgan
We got so invested in the neighborhoods, staring a people's houses and watching dogs in the dog park (maybe we were a bit creepy but whatever) that we ended up in Dupont Circle...and decided to go to Mr. Yogato for frozen yogurt. I'm a big fan of frozen yogurt-so good, so many toppings, AND Mr. Yogato has trivia that if you get right you get a discount. They also have board games, and pictures on the wall of people who have eaten there 100 days straight. Basically its craziness. And I loved it. 

Also the trivia question: Think of 4 words that end in "DOUS", and think of 4 countries that only have 1 vowel in their name (not including y). It's super tricky my friends.

Other fun things this week:
Finally reached Gold Card Status at Starbucks. Obsessed. 
Shadowed my boss at a meeting she had with the White house. Loved the architecture of the Executive Office Building. So cool

Sometimes D.C. takes my breath away. 

TAP Root beer Float from Urban BBQ. Can't get much better than that.
This jacket has been in my church's lost and found for 5 months now, so I decided to give it a home. After I take out the shoulder pads. 
Thats it for right now...check back next week for my song of the week, a new book review, and some more descriptions of things I've been up to.

book: Behind the Beautiful Forevers

 Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo

Usually, I'm not a big supporter of non-fiction. Unless it's by Lauren Hillenbrand (who wrote Seabiscuit and Unbroken...if you haven't read either of those do so now..they are so GOOD) I'm usually not interested. I tend to pick topics that I think will be interesting, and then half way through I've lost interest through all of the technical jargon and mumbo jumbo that tends to accompany dry, non-fiction books.

This book, however, was able to captivate me. Katherine Boo, a writer from D.C. (local! :)), was able to catch the human story in a way that was captivating and thought provoking. Boo spent years researching and living in a slum outside of the international airport in Mumbai, India. The stark contrast between a flourishing city in an economic boom, and those stuck in a poverty still lingering from the country's caste system, is striking.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers followed the stories of individuals, real people living real lives. You were able to relate with their dreams and hope that they succeeded. I had a hard time remembering that these people were REAL, living, breathing individuals out there in the world. Their stories were so different than anything I had ever heard, the horrific things they had to endure seemed like they should have come out of someone's imagination.

Boo does an excellent job reminding us that behind the poverty statistics and numbers, there are beings that live and dream like everybody else. This story was really thought provoking, and I recommend it to anybody ready to see  a harsh view of reality.

Friday, July 13, 2012

music: Tourist by Yuna

This song has been following me around lately. Literally, I've been hearing it everywhere. Yuna is awesome because:

  1.  she ran rock the head scarf like nobody's business;
  2.  she's from Malaysia;
  3. she is all about displaying common human emotions through her music, in a really honest and endearing way.  

I love this song because it really shows the inner conflict someone can go through when they love someone a little more than that someone loves amazing feeling most likely coupled with hurt.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

We found friendship in a pretty great place....

As I get ready to move on to the next phase of my life, I've been thinking a lot about different relationships that have impacted me. I feel like I have been scrambling in this one month I have left to spend time with literally any and every person that means something to me. I have felt a little spread thin, and a little unable to express my emotions.

Looking back on my college years, I not only see some of the best years of my life, but also the years that shaped and formed who I am. The past two weekends, I have been visiting friends that mean the world to me....and both times I had long rides back to reflect on where my life is going and where I've come from. It makes me so nervous to move so far away, but I know that these people will always be there for me....and I will always have the time we had together to hold close.

Friendship does not matter whether you are on the East coast or living it up in the Midwest...all that matters is that I know these people were placed in my life for a reason.

This next month, I'm spending every waking moment with my friends. Literally, I do not have a free weekend until I leave...but I wouldn't have it any other way.

Even though everyone and everything is changing, there is one thing that won't ever change: the laughter, the adventure, and the friendship.

You know you have pretty great friends when you can watch a sitcom...and think "MMM yeah my friends got you beat."

This has been a LITTLE deep for I'm going to end with this.

Dance it out

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Book Thief

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Wow... did this book do something to me. It took me a really long time to get into it- I would pick it up, and put it back down, and pick it up again for a month. There was nothing catching to me about the plot, the narrative is told in an unconventional way that is hard to get used to, and the story does not follow linearly....but somewhere after the 10th time I put it back down I found myself invested in the characters. The layers of depth of each character kept growing and growing- until they became these complex beings with real human emotions and reactions, something I could not tear myself away from. 

This story is narrated by Death- a spiritual being that hates war, hates suffering, and is reluctant to bring mass quantities of souls away from the Earth. Death has compassion and a heart that seems deeper than many humans- cares more about individuals than Hitler and the Nazis. Death is haunted by humans. Death becomes invested in the story of one girl- Liesel- who steals books just for the sake of learning. After being torn away from her biological family, she moved in with a foster mother and father during World War II. Her foster father had a love for humanity deeper than the ocean, for playing the accordion  and for rolling his own cigarettes. He saw right through the Nazi plot and cared for each individual person that he came in contact with.

 She also became best friends with a boy named Rudy, a boy content on saving the world and was passionate about justice. Together the went around town, going on adventures until they grew older, and their eyes were opened to the reality of war and hatred.

This story provides an alternate view of the Holocaust that is not usually portrayed. It comes from the viewpoints of the Germans, those Germans who were strong and stood up to the Nazis, but also lived in fear of the party's retribution. It displays the struggle between right and wrong, between saving yourself or loving your neighbor. 

This story, albeit somewhat difficult to read just because of how slow moving the plot was towards the beginning, left me in tears. I am not a big crier, but I felt so strongly for each of these characters and loved as they loved. This story goes beyond plot to look at the inner souls of each character and the struggles of humanity. If you are ready for a book to make you think, a book that will have you laughing one second, and two seconds later will have you crying...then go for it.

Thursday, April 26, 2012


Yesterday, as I got off from work, I was starving. Didn't get a chance to eat breakfast, and I didn't get to leave for lunch until 2. First, I stopped at Starbucks and had a nice conversation with the barista. Feeling good, I decided to walk to Chipotle and maybe get a burrito, sit outside, and enjoy the sun shining on the Inner Harbor of Baltimore.

I walked slowly through the mass of people, taking my time as I was pondering if I wanted carnitas or a veggie burrito. People were shuffling by, focused on their own priorities as the moved, dressed in their business suits that classify them has important people working within the financial district. Going against the flow was a woman, wearing a Ravens hoody and a loose pair of jeans, tears streaming down her face, pleading with people for a meal.

People kept walking by, not even bothering to acknowledge her, not wanting to recognize the pain that she felt. I can understand where they are coming from. Everyday on my walk to work, I pass by the same people who ask me for spare change. We have been taught as a society not to give them money, because they might use it to fuel a hypothetical addiction they may have, inadvertantly telling them that their lifestyle is acceptable.
As this woman walked by me, I was so tempted to just pass on by and get my burrito. I wouldn't have to bother myself with it, and it would be just all the other people I pass and ignore. But I couldn't. I couldn't look at her and just see her as a little blip in my day. I turned around and said "Sure, I'll buy you lunch. Where would you like to go?"

Immediately, she claimed "PRAISE GOD!" And went on to tell me that she has been praying for anybody to come by just to give me a meal, that she had to run away from her husband who had tried to kill her, and that she had a two month old. She was currently staying on the couch in a friend's apartment, but she hasn't had anything to eat in 3 days because all of her money has to go towards feeding her baby and buying diapers.
I was taken aback. The first words out of her mouth were "PRAISE GOD."  Would those be the first words in my mouth in that situation? As we walked to  7-11, she told me about her church, about how she became a Christian, about how God saved her and her baby from the abusive situation, how she named her baby Anika because in Greek in means "very beautiful," and she liked that it meant something in the same language of the Bible. She told me about how she prays for everything, seeks guidance from God about all situations in her life, from what to name her baby to where she is going to find her next meal.

As we stood in the check out line at 7-11, I was struck with out friendly and personable she was, and how strong her faith in God is. I've been moping around, upset with my life because I'm not near any of my friends, grumbling about how sick I am of the food in my house. In my life full of stability and comfort, I have been refusing to lean completely on God. This woman relied FULLY on Him, even though her life was something I could never imagine, hardships that I have not come close to experiencing. How could she praise God through all of that, while I was having trouble praising God through just my miniscule trials? It all came crashing down on me.

As we walked out, she gave me a huge hug and said she was so glad that she made a new friend who believed God like she did, and I walked away. I've been kicking myself every sense. Why did I walk away so quickly? Was simply giving her a meal enough? I regret the way I acted, the way I handled things.

At work, we've been reading this book called "When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor and Yourself" by Brian Fickett and Steve Corbett.

When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor. . .and Yourself

This book is all about how, when we throw our money and our resosurces at those who are in need, we are demeaning them as people. We are saying that they need our help because they can't do it themselves, and are putting them down spirtually and emotionally. Instead, we need to find ways to help them by empowering the individuals.

While buying this woman a meal may have helped her immediate needs, there was so much more I could have done to help her emotionally and spiritually. I could have found out her information so I could have made a long lasting connection. I could have contacted her pastor and found out how I could help her through her church. At the least, I could have told her how much she had impacted me and changed my way of thinking in just an hour. But I did none of these things. I gave her my resources without building her up emotionally and spiritually, without empowering her.

While we help people, we need to make sure that we are empowering them as individuals, through Christ. We need to make sure that more than just their physical needs are met. I wish I could have done the same for this woman and her baby, but I didn't. I'm hoping that she will run across someone that could give her more than I could.

Please make it a priority to empower people as you go through life, and see more than just their physical needs, but also their emotional and spiritual ones, if you attempt to assist them in any way possible.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Always Searching

I've always admired people with blogs, real blogs, that people check every day because they are actually interested in what the writer has to say. I don't know if this blog will become one of them, because I'm not particularly good at anything that I can show people how to do, I am not very good at giving my opinion, and I'm not the artsiest, smartest, or most well bred person out there.
However, I felt like I needed a space to share the things that are constantly going on in my head, even if know one reads them. Don't get me wrong, it would be great if people did! But I see this as a place where I can chronicle things that I've enjoyed, changes in my life, people I've met, as I better discover who I am and the person I want to be.

I just graduated from college, so I'm undergoing some big changes in my life. What career path do I want to take? What kinds of things do I actually like? I think of how much I changed from 12 to 14, 14 to 16, that I'm 22 I feel like I need to chronicle these changes because I am shaping into my adult self, my self that is going to be more permanent. 

ALL  that being said, I'm going to use this place to talk about books that I've read, music I like, food I've made (and eaten.. :)), people I've met, places I've discovered, the blessings and trials, the things God has been doing in my experience diary. I want everything to be tangible and real, something that I, and others, can look back on and feel like they are reaching into the world, discovering something new.

So who am I?

My name is Kitty.

Thats me...and yes that's my real name.
I'm super social... I get my energy from being around people. And I love meeting new people, learning from them things I could have never known on my own. 
I love to sing. I feel closest to God when I sing, I can feel Him moving through me and around me. People always comment at the amount I smile...especially when I'm singing. I can't help it. I just love it too much :). 
Even though I love being around people and on stage, I also love the time that I get to spend by myself. I love to wander around cities and towns, exploring what they have to offer. This comes from years of traveling, exploring different cultures, meeting people, eating different foods. 
I love to read. I'm always in the middle of a book, and I love the experience having your imagination in the hands of a writer who can take you so far away, to places you could have never imagined on your own.
I love music. Any and all. People always make fun of my music library because it is so eclectic- one minute Yo Yo Ma, the next Kanye West- but thats what I love about it. I love how music can affect your mood, the way your feeling, can bring life to a room or can somber it. 

Other things about me?
I love NPR.
I drink coffee out of the same mug every morning.
I flip flop from being a vegetarian, and eating steak. 
I have been to over 20 different countries. My favorite? Living in Thailand. 
Haven't met a food I didn't like (except celery. Hate celery)
I know I can be really good friends with someone the moment they make fun of me. I'm naturally drawn to sarcasm.
My favorite color is grey. Or turquoise. And I love how yellow is used to contrast both of them.
I always have plans for decorating rooms floating around in my mind.
I'm notoriously messy...something I'm really working on. 
I'm always behind on the multiple TV shows I'm watching, and I have a problem with seeing characters from TV shows as my real friends. 
I love to laugh. 

Alright..well thats enough. Check back here for reviews about books, food, music, and stories from my different adventures!