Friday, January 7, 2011

In Honor of Peak 8's Black Diamonds, Breckenridge

Nearly four years ago, I chose to make Colorado my home because of this season called winter. White fluffy goodness spread over mountain peaks, speckled with fur trees and ski lifts. Could it get any better? Keystone, Aspen, Vail, Loveland, The Beave, Arapahoe Basin, Winter Park, Copper... and then Breckenridge. The latter 8 I found much to my liking, Breck not so much.

When I first moved to CO, I was invited to stay at a friend's ski in ski out condo at the base of Peak 9, Breckenridge. I thoroughly enjoyed being able to roll out of bed, brush teeth, have a little breakfast, and hop on the ski lift. No complaints there. I also enjoyed the fact that when we were done skiing and had soaked in the hot tub awhile, we could just walk outside the door and be in a charming little mountain town filled with art galleries, gear shops, ski town bars, and nice restaurants. It is a picturesque place, the site of Dumb and Dumber's "Aspen."

But the skiing, I wasn't crazy about. Breck requires a lot of traversing and cat walks to get across the mountain, you've gotta ski a green to get to a black. In my past three speed-thirsty years, I have reluctantly skiid Breck because that's where my ski buddies were going. Not my fav, I always said.

Well the chips turned when Dan recently introduced me to the "Runs off Chair 6" Peak 8. There are about five nice long bump runs, all of a fairly equal challenge, and located in somewhat of a valley where the sun does not create "surprise" ice under the snow. More recently I have become like a kid standing behind the rope at Disney Land, Can we go in? When are they gonna cut the rope? I want those runs, the runs off Chair 6, Peak 8. I want them bad.

Those are the runs that I have gotten down before, and I can get down again. They are the runs that make my quad muscles burn, and leave me at the bottom lusting to go back up and conquer it just one more time. Its kind of like going surfing, I can't get enough.

I like the moguls because they challenge me, well first they scare me, and then once I get into the middle of them, I am determined to get down... and then they don't scare me anymore, they are merely obstacles to be overcome, obstacles that will make my quads and my lust burn more.

As I was making my way down recently, Dan was a mere speck at the bottom of the run, it was just me and the mountain... I realized that with moguls, you often times choose your course, you have to, but inevitably (for me at least), speed will cause me to change it, or perhaps I will catch an edge and have to take a different route through the bumps, then choosing another course, always planning my decent a few yards out. It can be dangerous, as I am a mogul-amateur, to plan my decent all of the way down. I choose my route, just a few yards, a few bumps ahead, and when derailed from this path, I adjust and choose another.

I laughed recently when a friend of mine told me that her younger sister has a five and ten year plan for her life. I didn't laugh at this young woman, but I laughed at the irony... of life. And I thought of my lesson from the mountain.

No doubt I need intention, a goal in mind, a plan for achieving that goal in order to get anywhere that I want to be. I carve out my own life, I make it what I want, absolutely. But what about that place where I get going just a little too fast, and I have to take a small detour in order to not ski out of control... then I find I'm on a new path, having to navigate a new way down, and perhaps a better way. And what about that edge that I catch, not knowing its coming, I may lose my bearings for a moment and have to reroute in order to maintain control on my skiis. And then there are those places where it gets a little steep, and I begin to feel like I'm in over my head, much in the same way I did on a surf board, when the ocean was angry, and I knew I was out of my league, and needed to go back to the beach. It is then that navigating my way across a steep spot and onto a new course could save me a broken leg or a broken neck.

Some of my best moments in life have been those detours, or reroutes that I had not anticipated when I originally plotted the course. I will get down the mountain, I will eventually meet Dan at the lift, but it doesn't hurt to reroute a little bit here and there, to test my limits, to learn what works and what doesn't, to leave room for the unexpected.

A five year plan is an ambitious undertaking. I wouldn't deter anyone from making one. I say go for it! But within that plan, leave room for change, growth, grace for yourself when you catch an edge. Maintain the flexibility to change your course if need be, and always leave room for life's surprises.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Behind... Ahead

Happy New Year!

The end of December and beginning of January is a season of deep reflection for me. My Birthday comes December 22nd, and 3 days later the celebration of the birth of Christ, followed by the changing of the year six days later, bringing about both a sense of departing and a feeling of newness.

Wow, its a loaded season, but oh so good! About six years ago I began the practice of writing a brief entry on "The Year in Review" on my Birthday. I entitle each one with the age I am finishing up... year 28, year 29... you can do the math! It is fun to look back and recount those moments that I don't ever ever want to forget, and at the same time acknowledge the lessons learned, and moments of hurt, confusion, the "growing pains."

Christmas, put simply, is just the bomb! I have always looked forward to the entire advent season... the feelings of anticipating "the most wonderful day of the year", the constant parties, fabulous drinks, fabulous food, seeing old friends, hearing from friends who live far away, preparing gifts, the living room filled with the warmth of the lights on the tree... an entire season to spoil the people you love with gifts and grattitude, and party till the punch is gone. I have a hunch as to why this is, but the Christmas season just seems to get better with time. I am no longer a tyke, who can't wait until the sun comes up on Christmas morning so that I can devour my presents like Ralphie did, wondering if my "Red Ryder Bee Bee Gun" is under that sparkling tree; I am a big girl now, and the significance of the celebration has taken on an even stronger thrill. Its hard to explain, but I'm going to try...

I think the longer I live life, the more injustice, pain, loss, loneliness, and brokenness I witness others experiencing, and I experience myself. There is nothing worse than taking care of a child in the hospital who is there because they were physically harmed by the people who were supposed to love and nurture them. The unadulterated optimism of a child meets the cold reality of a world that is very broken. And despite our human intellect, education, technological advancement, and progressive industrialization, its still broke. Good people get cancer, children are hungry, and there are car accidents happening all over the world, every second. The more I observe "the broke part" happening to the people I love and to myself, the deeper the grattitude sinks into my soul, Thank you Thank you Thank you Jesus, for coming. God, thank you for delivering on your promise of sending your Son to our world. Another round of punch, please! There has never been a better reason to celebrate!

Put very simply and in purest cliche, I love Christmas!

So then comes the New Year. Summing up the old year has already been done on December 22nd, the greatest party of the year has already taken place on December 25th, so what's left?... its time to look ahead. I have been given the gift of another year... more time, more love, more learning, more hurting, more growing.

I've never been one for New Year's Resolutions. Not really sure why. Perhaps its for a similar reason that I do not give things up for lent, and I refused to see "The Titanic" when it came out, I waited 5 years for my first viewing. If the band wagon is going one way, I am likely trying to run in the opposite direction. Its not always the best direction, but its my natural inclination.

I do however, like to wonder about the year ahead, what I desire to accomplish, where I'd like to travel, what unexpected adventures might pop up, the surprises that await me. I suppose the part about "desire to accomplish" is just a fancier way of saying "New Years Resolution." Haha! I've been beat! I am officially on the bandwagon!

So in the Spirit of New Year's Resolutions, I sat down this afternoon to write, and these words came to my mind:

"Wilbur, you have work to do."

One of my most favorite movies is "Amazing Grace" which portrays the life work of William Wilberforce, a tenacious and long suffering Brit who persuaded Parliament to end the Slave Trade in England in the early 1800's. The preacher of his youth, John Newton, played by Albert Finney, urges the young politician to get back to work, the work that would ultimately spare hundreds of thousands of lives, and stated quite simply, change the world.

Now my work isn't on the scale of saving thousands of lives. But I am inspired every time I watch that movie or hear those words, you have work to do. I watch it over and over to remind myself that God accomplishes good on this globe, in the midst of all the ugly stuff we hear and see on the news, we are capable of works of incredible justice and good, with His power, His help, His prompting. And often times the works of good are those that we desire most.

Right now I want to sit down and write words that will encourage people to live fuller and stronger and harder. To live with more joy, purpose, and depth. To live without fear, in total hope, immersed in a deep sense of peace. To know that there is nothing in this life, no barrier, obstacle, offense, injustice, that cannot be overcome. Though death is inevitable for all, even then, one's spirit cannot be crushed. This is why I write, it is the desire of my heart.

And so Wilbur, you have work to do.

But if writing is the desire of my heart now, then why is it so damn hard to sit down and do it? Why can I come up with a long list of "better" options, often times very good things such as skiing Vail, cooking a fabulous meal for Dan, coffee dates with friends, or even volunteering for Project Cure? And eventually my excuses digress into the more mundane life tasks such as putting gas in the car and folding laundry. To the lessers I say Good riddance! I'll fill up on the way to work tomorrow, and I will dig my socks out of the pile when I need them. And to the greaters I say: prioritize, be diligent, Vail is not going anywhere, and you cooked dinner for Dan last night. Bottom line, don't let the fear of failure stop you. Don't replace what you really want to accomplish with a lot of very good things.

Of course I write this to myself, my own personal pep talk gone public. And yet I believe very strongly that we all have been made to do something, we all have something special to offer the world, and if we don't do it, the world will be a lesser place. It sounds like a hallmark card, but I believe it entirely. In the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer,

"A calling exists when your deepest gladness meets the world's deepest need."

I hope this is your best year yet...

Monday, December 27, 2010

Things I don't do

I recently picked up a good read entitled "Bittersweet" by a budding author, Shauna Niequist. Its a collection of her experiences, reflections, and lessons learned, in page-turning blog-style. One of the chapters I found most enjoyable was entitled "things I don't do." The title itself was very intriguing to me. I recently had a self-actualizing moment when my boyfriend gave me a lovely blank journal for my Birthday, and told me that it was for my "thoughts and lists." CAUGHT - I am a list maker, likely one of the most severe cases, and yes, I have begun keeping with me a small book in which I write my lists and carry them over from day to day, those tasks which I have not yet completed.

I recall two of my best friends discussing how they too keep "to do" lists, and will actually include in their lists something they have already completed in order to be able to experience the thrill of crossing out a task, and feeling that wonderful sense of accomplishment. I love it! Well, ladies, I have a new solution, its called the "things I don't do list," a list that provides multiple opportunities for checking off and crossing out!

"Things I don't do" was inspired by a chapter in Shauna Niequist's book in which she laments about the common American dilemma of "not having enough time to do everything I want to do." She reccounts the advice given to her by a good friend: "Its not hard to decide what you want your life to be about. What's hard is figuring out what you're willing to give up in order to do the things you really care about."

Ahhh reality... you mean I have to give something up in order to be able to do the things I really want to do? My immediate reaction to this is... that's not fair! I want it all! So there you have it, the truth, I am both human and American, in the purest form.

I want to be able to work full time, cook every night, make all of my christmas gifts by hand, see Dan every day, ski powder whenever it comes, blog daily, always have a clean house, design and make my own clothes, travel to an exotic place each month, volunteer at church every week, work on my book eight hours a day, do relief work in Haiti for a couple of weeks every month, get on the eliptical for 2 hours each day, and have coffee dates with all of my very best friends weekly. Of course these are only the first things that come to mind, the reality is, there are many many more.

So rather than focusing on all the things that I want to do and simply don't have the time for, I decided to make a list of the "things I don't do." Of course smoking cigarettes and sleeping with strangers are the entirely obvious, but I tried to make this a realistic list, including a few things that are very easy for me not to do, along with some sacrifices.

So here goes...

I don't...

1) Make my bed every day... its a special occasion when I make my bed.
2) Get up at the crack of dawn on my days off... I usually sleep in until 9:00. I would like to be able to get up earlier and enjoy the morning, but 12 hour shifts usually wipe me out and a little extra sleep is needed.
3) Try to change people... not only is it morally wrong in my opinion, but an extremely fultile use of time.
4) Complain about traffic jams or long lines... doesn't make any sense to complain about it if I can't do anything to change it.
5) Do my finger nails... I would love to have beautiful, lady-like hands, but the fact that I wash them 100x/day at work makes this desire nearly impossible.
6) Write Christmas letters... not such a huge stretch there.
7) Get to work early... I'm not getting paid for being there early, so why not sleep a little longer and arrive on time?
8) Assume to be an expert on anything. It is my goal to be a life-long learner.
9) Sign up for classes or activities to keep myself from getting bored. Bored does not exist in my vocabulary.
10) Eat scallops
11) Make my own pie crusts... Safeway makes them for me.
12) Think that anyone is ever beyond hope... at times this is a stretch, as I am exposed to some pretty ugly life realities with my work, but in my core, I do believe that no human being is ever beyond hope.
13) Needlepoint
14) My hair before work - it goes up in a clip. Sometimes I wish I could have beautiful hair at work, but it just gets in the way, and babies love to pull long hair!
15) Keep an immaculately clean house... there will always be a little dust on my shelves. I would rather go outside and play in the mountains, than clean.
16) Ski in bad snow just for the sake of skiing... forget it! Alas, my 4 years in Colorado have turned me into a snow snob!
17) Ever ever ever root against the Red Wings. Obviously.
18) Call in sick to work when I'm not. This is no stretch for me. I have been stricken with a severe midwest work ethic, that somehow I have never outgrown.
19) Go on crash diets... I love food too much
20) Get regular pedicures... they are more of a treat for me.
21) Floss every day - flossing usually happens about 3-4X/week.
22) Make cakes from scratch - I always use a mix.
23) Drink diet soda or cheap beer. PBR makes me want to vommit... perhaps I can blame my snobbery on the state of Colorado (i.e. land of beer) as well?
24) Keep a garden (this will probably change someday... I love gardens and growing things to eat)
25) Triathalons. Would rather get a root canal.
26) Twitter... I tried it once when Hugh Jackman was offering $100,000 if you could convince him in 100 words or less why he should give his money to your charity. He didn't pick mine, haven't been on there since.
27) Eat mayonnaise, mustard or undercooked asparagus... okay, maybe this one isn't such a big sacrifice! They all make me gag!
28) Work night shifts... I get too sick and crabby!
29) Scrapbooking... again not the hugest sacrifice for me.
30) Watch Michigan play OSU... prozac puts extra stress on the kidneys
31) Cook dinner every night... Chipotle and Whole Foods cook a fabulous dinner, and every night!
32) Watch the news... I need to maintain a good emotional reserve for what I encounter at work.
33) Spend time with excessively negative people who are energy draining. I also try to avoid people who are highly critical, or competetive with me (off of the court), including people who expect a lot and give very little. Life is simply too short to invest time here, but I wish them well.
34) Always fold the laundry... sometimes I am digging clothes out of the pile on my bed... works just fine as long as I can find what I'm looking for.
35) Watch T.V., save for the fall, when new Mad Men episodes begin.
36) Worry about other people's problems... they don't belong to me. I will pray for others, and offer advice when it is requested of me and I feel its appropriate to give, but worry is simply a waste of my time.
37) Go to the mall during Christmas - okay, maybe I can't entirely avoid it, but I try to.
38) Hold onto stuff I don't use or place a huge value upon, haul junk from place to place every time I move. I moved enough times that this practice has become engrained in me... I love to donate "stuff" and throw "stuff" away!
39) Update my electronics as soon as something newer and better comes out, as evidenced by my 10-year old T.V.!
40) Go into work when they call and beg me to come in on my days off. I need my rest and relaxation! It's called "R" time... Rachel Time!
41) Always voice my opinion. Sometimes its not the appropriate time or place.
42) Worry about the opinions of people I don't have any respect for... this one comes pretty easily.
43) Put energy into arguing politics - its exhausting. I will do this on occasion, when another person's views will challenge me and open my mind, and when I feel that my own views are being received in a similar way. However, I am very mindful of the situation, my own state of mind, as well the as reception when I choose to enter into these discussions.
44) Keep a daily journal - I usually write in my journal once or twice a week.
45) Sew my own curtains - Pottery Barn does a lovely job.
46) Ski the back country - the back bowls at Vail are about as Back Country as I go.
47) Buy clothes I'm not in love with
48) Go out shopping just to shop. I usually buy clothes online and have them shipped to me.
49) Live for the fulfillment of other people's expectations. I did this a lot when I was younger... talk about a severe waste of time.
50) Skydiving or parasailing. I used to be a HUGE risk taker. I'm not sure where that part of me went. Still comes out from time to time, but not when it comes to my life.
51) Keep in touch with every person I've ever known.
52) Pick fights with people or stir up drama... are you kidding me? Life has enough drama when you're not asking for it.
53) Crazy mountain bike trails. A nice simple trail with good views puts a smile on my face. I don't need cliffs, huge rocks, jumps, bloody shins and scars.
54) Belong to a gym. I think its wonderful that other people belong to gyms and I have nothing against them, but I am happy with my ski pass and the eliptical downstairs. The gym is just one less place I have to get in the car and drive to.
55) Change the sheets weekly. Since I am the only one sleeping in them, who cares?
56) Adhere my life to a timeline or plan - life never goes the way you plan it out, no matter how much planning goes into it. I like to have a loose structure with short term goals, the timing of which lasts no longer than a year. I like to leave plenty of time and space open for the unknown, and those spontaneous adventures that always come up!
57) Marathons. Kudos to those who do them, I am very impressed, but my own desire barometer is at 0.
58) Eat entirely organic food. I like to eat organic, and I treasure my trips to Vitamin Cottage and Whole Foods. But I also indulge my cravings for Doritos and Mike N Ikes.
59) Serve on multiple committees at church - I only do 1. One is what I can do well.
60) Worry about or try to solve problems that are beyond my sphere of control, such as the war in Afganistan.
61) Pursue extra certifications that aren't going to change the way I do my job, or the quality of care my patients receive from me.
62) Iron.

Live hard, live well.

Monday, December 13, 2010

What I Want for Christmas

Sometime back in the 90's, during the years of my youth, Amy Grant came out with what I considered at the time, a pretty cheesey song entitled "My Grown up Christmas List."

"So here's my lifeful wish
My grownup Christmas list
Not for myself but for a world in need

No more lives torn apart
And wars would never start
And time would heal the heart

Everyone would have a friend
And right would always win
And love would never end

This is my grown up Christmas list"

What a dumb song, change the channel, I thought in my 14-year-old mind. I'm going to throw up.

When I was a little girl, a teenager, and even a young adult, Christmas was about getting that thing I really, really wanted. Much in the same way that Ralphie dreamed, craved and fixated on his beloved Red Ryder BeeBee Gun, I too had my deep deep desires of the heart... a Baby Feels So Real, Strawberry Shortcake's pie kitchen, Annie's Mansion, Pink and Pretty Barbie. And then there were the later years... new Alpine Skiis, Gerbeaux jeans, my own CD player, the hundreds of books I could not live without at the time and still very much want to read.

Now one of the greatest delights of my year is watching Grace and Jack dive into their presents with all of the joy and excitement I can so much relate to from my youngsterhood. They scream and giggle and nearly explode with kid gusto as tissue paper flies across the room. As I watch them tear open their presents with unadulterated enthusiasm, all I can feel is delight in its purest form.

Who of us does not look at a sparkling tree surrounded by presents and not remember the awe that words cannot describe, wondering if the treasure that we so much craved was in one of those heavenly packages? We were all little people once.

I'm not sure when my childhood present cravings faded, sometime after the year 2000. It certainly didn't happen overnight, as with many realities in life, time makes its changes. Sometime during this past decade, the thrill of opening the present I'd been dreaming about, the thrill of material possessions themselves, just disappeared... shazam, caput, no more. Where it went, I have no idea... perhaps it is floating out there over Lake Michigan, beside the cloud of profanity that Ralphie's father spun as he battled the furnace on Hester Street so many years ago. Who knows? Shazam, caput.

And now here I am, sitting beside the Christmas tree, no longer a blonde haired, blue eyed baby girl, wondering what happened to the last 30 years, reflecting on the lyrics of what was an annoying top 40 Christmas song during my high school years. Maybe my materialistic desires have changed over time, as most things do in this life. But there is one thing that has not.

As I sit here and contemplate those things that I really do want for Christmas, there is a little blonde-haired, blue eyed girl sitting here with me, the little person that I used to be, filled to overflowing with innocence and optimism, a child who does not yet know deep disappointment, injustice, and cold reality.

When I am dangerously honest with myself, these are the things that I want for Christmas:

*I want every child in the world to have a mom and a dad. And not just any mom and dad. Parents who adore and delight in them. I want the word orphan taken out of the dictionary.
*I want the war to stop. I want the taliban to get over themselves, get rid of their guns, and start feeding the homeless, and building schools so that little girls who've never been able to go to school can get an education. I want all of our troops to come home to their families, and never leave again.
*I want there to be no need to take our shoes off at the airport because we have nothing to be afraid of.
*I want all of the people in the whole world who have a diagnosis of cancer to receive an immediate clean bill of health.
*I want every disabled person in America, in the world, to never be shunned or mistreated. I want every person who is blind, deaf, or has a mental impairment to feel like a valued member of society.
*I want Dan to be able to go deer hunting with his Dad today.
*I want every minute reseemblance of racism to disappear from this planet for eternity.
*I want efficient and fair distribution of food, good nutritious food, for everyone in the world who is hungry.
*I want Detroit to be the #1 city in America for quality family living. I want the hood cleaned up. I want the public schools to thrive.
*I want the kids in Uganda to not get malaria anymore.
*I want every person in Haiti to have a home to live in, a home that is safe, where they have access to clean drinking water.
*I want conflicts to be reconciled and forgiveness to prevail.
*I want the world to be peaceful.

This is my grownup Christmas List

Monday, September 20, 2010

On Wealth...

I recently returned home after a short stint in Haiti with an organization called Global Orphan Project.

Ahhh Haiti... fried plantain, dusty roads, constant sweat, isuzu trucks loaded down with 40+ people, women with necks of steel carrying loads of 50 pounds on top of their heads, pot holes the size of a backyard pond, children playing soccer on concrete, vicious thunderstorms, rain beating on tin rooftops, green mountains, car horns as a means of communication "here we come," goats grazing in mounds of garbage, unwelcome dogs resembling rats, aggressive driving, traffic jams, naked toddlers waving 'bonjour' from the road side, Haitian Campa, Carribean glory... this is the world that robbed me of my heart nearly 14 years ago. Damn, its been a long time. And yet it was only a moment ago.

During the past week a member of our team asked me if Haiti had changed much since 1996.

"In the way that people live, not really," I replied. "The lifestyle is the same, but there are other changes. There are a lot of cell towers, a whole lotta rubble, and pain from the losses of January 12. You can see the pain and shock still in the eyes of some of the children. However, the most obvious change to me, is that the world is paying attention now. Haiti is on the map."

When I think of the word "map" my thoughts go instantly to a memory from my first trip to Haiti, 1996. I was talking with my friend Gesner (Joosnay in Creole). We were the same age, 19, and yet we had grown up in entirely different worlds. It was a gift for me to know Gesner, and his world, which was far far away from my affluent suburban upbringing.

I was wearing a T-shirt that was popular at the time, displaying 50 flags of various prominent nations around the world. I remember him studying my shirt then saying,

"Where is my country? I don't see it here. Where is Haiti?"

I went and found some markers, and together we drew a huge Haitian flag on the back of the shirt, 10X the size of the other flags. I wish I knew where that shirt was now, I wish I knew where Gesner was now, and hope to God that he's alive. They are paying attention now, Gesner, the world knows Haiti.

Now I have been convinced for a long long time that God exists, but when I look at Haiti, I know right down to the very nucleus of my existence that God is real. When I see the fingerprints of China, France, the U.S., Canada, and other nations responding to the cries of people trapped under the rubble of starvation, homelessness, AIDs, illiteracy, isolation and loss, I know that all human beings are image bearers of a compassionate God. We have within our DNA the potential to carry out works of immeasurable good, this we cannot escape, whether we acknowledge God or not, the potential for good explodes from within.

Another question asked of me during my recent week in Haiti was this:

"What is wealth?"

Crazy... I had begun thinking about this question on my first trip to Haiti in 1996, and here is my answer now...

Wealth is the smile of a child, that makes you want to freeze time and study all of the joy that radiates from the eyes that know they are loved by you.

Wealth is seizing the opportunity to comfort a child who is experiencing, almost hourly, the shock of her home crumbling, as the earth moves uncontrollably beneath her feet. The tenderness of your hand on her shoulder, and your presence of love communicates to her that there is life beyond loss and stability beyond chaos and fear.

Wealth is the glory of an orange and purple sunset over rolling, grass-covered hills. You are wealthy when you have the opportunity, the time, to sit and watch the sun go to bed.

Wealth is sincere gratittude when you receive a bowl of rice and beans that will allow you to sleep without hunger. Being thankful for a place to rest, a roof to keep the rain away, and a bowl of food. Thank you, God, that I will not go to sleep hungry tonight. Thank you for this meal.

Wealth exists in community, where people care for each other's needs, and depend on the others in order to survive. I had the privilege of meeting the little baby who had been featured on a 60 Minutes episode back in March of this year. Her life came as the result of the rape of a slave girl, child slavery being a common practice in Haiti. What a horrific beginning to life, and yet this baby has a fan club of over 80 children, and nearly a dozen mothers to care for her. This is the gift of community.

In Haiti, wealth is abundant. Yes, people are hurting from loss, suffering from disease, still hungry, and illiterate, and yet the lack of "worldly" wealth (money, houses, status, cars, cocktails, designer clothes, season Broncos tickets, international travel, and much more) creates space for abundant love and simple gratitude to expound. Uncluttered by worldly wealth there is room for love to grow and be experienced, unchoked by the distractions of materialism. It is very difficult to understand or experience this simple love and joy when every posession/experience I could ever want is close within my reach and ability to obtain.

Americans aren't wealthy, we're distracted. With everything that money can buy, most Americans (myself included) pacify the deepest needs of the heart with monetary pursuits that offer temporary comfort and yet never truly fulfill our deepest human needs.

While I was in Haiti, our team visited 6 orphanages. This was one of the wealthiest experiences of my life, unmatched by a Tiffany's shopping spree, or a Napa Wine Tour. Even better than an undefeated Wolverine football season. In the eyes of God, these children are the diamonds that some people bleed and go to the death for in the diamond fields. They are gold and precious jewels to the God who is love. To have the opportunity to love and serve, and be loved by these orphans is an experience far too expensive to be bought.

Three years ago Tom Brady, New England's irreplacable QB, made this statement in a press conference: "Why do I have 3 Super Bowl rings and still think there's something greater out there for me? I mean, maybe a lot of people would say, 'Hey Man, this is it.' I reached my goal, my dream, my life. God, its got to be more than this. I mean, this isn't, this can't be what its all cracked up to be."... the reflection of a man who has supposedly "arrived at the top" of what our American culture values most. His honesty is both chilling and heart breaking.

In the years between my first trip to Haiti and my return visit, I have lived very well, not wanting for much, which isn't in itself a bad thing, I will not judge the heart's motives of anyone but myself. I am very grateful that God reminded me in a very real and physical way of what is completely valuable and precious to Him.

I will keep the sand of Haiti in my shoes, and remember what it truly means to be wealthy.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Low Country

It doesn't matter whether I am baking in the middle of 90 degree Denver, listening to the children play in the tree next to my yard, or resting on the dock in my bikini at Lake Louise, listening to the hum of ski boats pulling laughing kids over boat wakes on tubes... when I read Pat Conroy's description of th Low Country, floating down a river on Sullivan's Island, following the tide out to the Atlantic, I can almost taste the sea salt on my tongue, and breathe in the sweetness of Pametto breeze...

"In the summertime, the salt water that floods the creeks and bays and coves of South Carolina is warm and sun-shot and silken to the touch. It did not hurt or shock to enter the water, but soothed and washed away the frazzled nerves of our runaway week. The creek was dark with the nutients gathered in the great salt marsh; you could not see your hand if you opened your eyes underwater. We were swimming in a part of the Atlantic that the state of South Carolina has borrowed for awhile. Now the tide was hurtling back, drawing the essence of its marshes, the blue crabs lying in wait for stragglers who would soon be prey. As the tide receded the oysters would be locked tight, retaining a shot-glass-full of seawater that would hold them until the next full tide; the flounders hidden in the mud flats; the mullets flashing in quick silver sea grass; the small sharks nosing around for carrion; the blue herrons straight-legged and heraldic in the motionless hunt; the snowy egrets - the only creatures in the Low Country - whose name invoked winter - staring at the shallows for the quick run of minnows... we remained wordless for the first 100 yards, remarkable only in our stillness and the rightness of the moment."

Love it.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Taste of Heaven

"Sometimes its hard to tell where earth stops and heaven starts."
Monterey, June 2010