26 January 2013

Reflections on Laura’s 31st birthday

Laura Fall 2012 I met Laura on my first day of 4th grade in Jos, Nigeria. My family had just moved to Jos from Los Angeles—quite the culture shock, I assure you—and we arrived a few weeks after school had started. So when I joined the class, everyone else had already started to make friends. We’d arrived in our new town on Saturday, and over the weekend before that Monday, I had started playing with a few of the girls on the compound. Because I had those initial friends, I suppose I did not pay Laura the attention she deserved until months later.

To be honest, I don’t have many memories of Laura from that far back. She lived 20 minutes away from me (driving) in a different part of town, and I did not get to visit her home very often. Our brothers were in the same 7th grade class and became friends, so perhaps we did some things together that year. I do have a photo of Laura, Ruth Arrowsmith, and me showing off a project we had worked on together for Miss Lewan’s social studies class that year.

The next year we were definitely spending more time together. I remember getting in serious trouble once in 5th grade because I had gone to Laura’s house after school to work on a social studies project for Mrs. Ellis’s class—without permission. Laura’s house didn’t have a phone, so my parents had no way to reach me without driving out to pick me up. OK, Laura’s house did have a phone, even a working phone, but people kept stealing the phone line—the actual physical wire. No lie. Not until mobile phones became popular in the 2000s did we really have a reliable way to reach anyone in her household.

We girls 6th grade 1-26-2013 5-15-28 PM.bmpAt the end of 5th grade, all three of my neighbor agemates moved away, one to Australia and the other two to the U.S. So when 6th grade rolled around, I started spending a lot more time with Laura and with Tammy, my new neighbor. The three of us became inseparable. I have several photos of us from that year, but my favorite is from Crazy Dress-Up Day. We were pretty silly.

Things changed between Tammy and me over the next few years, as I had to return to the U.S. in the middle of 6th grade and was there for a year. Life in Jos moved on without me, and when I got back, all of my closest friends were in the other 7th grade class. The rest of middle school was hard. I often felt left behind from the group of girls I’d had sleepovers with since we were 9. But I spent more time with Laura, until we were again inseparable.

Jr Banquet From that point on, Laura has been my encourager, supporter, confidant, sister, and friend. I lived with her family for three months when we were 16, and her family is my second family. Her father baptized me and officiated at my wedding. If anything happened to my mother—God forbid—Laura’s mom would serve as my mom.

senior year La has seen me through depression, excitement, the deaths of mutual loved ones, middle school, high school, college, marriage, ups, downs, ins, and outs. And every time we’re together, it’s like we’ve never been apart. We’ve laughed together, cried together, been crazy together, fought together, and always ended up being better off for it.

summer 2000 But it’s not just how much I love La and am glad to be part of her extended family. I am proud of her beyond words. She has known since she was 16 that she wanted to be in the medical field. We debated about becoming nurses for awhile after we’d volunteered as dental assistants for a visiting dentist. But we also spent a whole summer (and other vacations) shadowing doctors in the hospital, and I think La knew from the beginning that she wanted to be a medical doctor. She worked her tail off in college but had a hard time getting into m edical school with everything else going on. But she didn’t give up. She persevered, becoming an EMT and then a paramedic, all while studying hard to get into medical school.

Georgia 2001Laura did get accepted into medical school and joined the Navy. Today she turns 31, and in May she will graduate from medical school with her Doctorate of Osteopathy and start working as a licensed doctor in a family medicine residency program with the U.S. Navy. It has been a long, hard road. But Laura has always been a hard worker and one who perseveres. I am so immensely proud of her persistence, her positive attitude, her accomplishments, and through it all her ultimate trust in God.

I love you, La! I know we are far away and don’t get to see each other much, but I thank God for you and all we have been through together. Here’s to your 31 beautiful years and to another 21 years of friendship!

Love, Sa

Unsinkable The Unsinkable Molly Brown - April 1999

with TammyMay 2000Jos 2002 May 2002

spring 2004 Spring Break in Lookout Mountain, GA - 2004

Laura & Carmen & me at Carol's weddingLaura, her sister Carmen, and me at Carol Beacham’s wedding (Spring 2005)

OHare airportBeing silly at O’Hare airport

Reunion 2010High school 10-year reunion – Labor Day 2010

Texas 2012 We flew together to San Antonio, TX, for the Fighting ALS with Jay 5k -  June 2012

17 January 2013

What church means to me

Let me start by saying that I’m not really a very denominational person.

churchWhat I mean is that I don’t hold to the theological tenets of any one particular mainstream denomination. As long as a church believes in the main things I believe in (which I believe are scriptural), I can give or take the timing of water baptism, the timing and understanding of the end times, and how spiritual gifts manifest in believers (among other things). That being said, I’m not a Pentecostal. I do not believe that one must speak in tongues if one has the Holy Spirit. So I’ve never been comfortable in those kinds of churches. I also tend not to go to Lutheran churches because I think it’s a little fishy that only Lutherans can take communion. 

I grew up in a small Presbyterian (USA) church from ages 3 to 12, but I was baptized by sprinkling as a pre-teen, not as an infant. Three years later I was baptized by immersion in a pool beneath an African waterfall out in the bush. That really brought home what baptism meant, made it real to me. (The same amazing man of God who baptized me that year also presided at my wedding nine years later.)

While we lived in Nigeria when I was growing up, we mostly attended chapel services at my school, which is interdenominational. Our services ranged from very Baptist to very Anglican, with everything in between. So I got a taste of different liturgies and a broad spectrum of music. You can see why I’m sort of a mish-mash of church styles.

I won’t attend a church that is led by a professed homosexual or by a pastor who will publicly condone that lifestyle. But neither will I attend a church that doesn’t have anything to say about its members divorcing and remarrying at will, living together without being married, being Scrooges, or being unloving. I believe a church should tell it like it is and use discipline as necessary, along biblical lines.

A church should be a family. It should have love and generosity and—yes—discipline. I know this opens a whole can of worms. (Feel free to discuss your thoughts on my FB page if you feel strongly about any of this.) But this is what I think about a church, or at least the Church.

There isn’t any perfect church. I’ve attended many, and none of them is ideal. But there are some in which I have felt at home, and there are others in which I have felt like a complete stranger, as if I had to ask myself, Who are these people?? I’ve never agreed 100% with any church I’ve attended, but I’ve usually agreed enough to continue attending and sometimes to become a member.

But the one thing I really miss is feeling at home in a church. When I was very small, my family attended Community Church of San Diego, and even after we moved to Los Angeles (and later to Nigeria), we would attend CCSD whenever we visited our extended family in San Diego. It is super small, and while many families have moved on to other places, there are still a few people there who have known me practically my whole life. If any church had ever made me feel at home, it would be CCSD. Another amazing church at which I felt right at home was Grace Community Church of Visalia. We happened to visit for the first time on the day they had a sign-up fair for Bible studies, Sunday school classes, AWANA, and other ministries. And that evening, an intern from the church and his wife brought us cookies and a packet of information. We didn’t even try any other churches in town. That was the first one we went to and the last. Everything Timothy & I did socially was through the church, and that felt right.

I’ve attended other welcoming churches, including First Pres of Coalinga and Church of the Great Shepherd in Wheaton. But I’ve never felt that family-ness except at CCSD and GCC. I am longing,  yearning for that family-ness and closeness for my own little family. I want my kids to grow up with aunties and uncles and friends, with surrogate grandparents (as long as their real grandparents remain thousands of miles away at any rate). I want to fellowship with brothers and sisters, not just strangers whose names I may or may not happen to remember. I want to be a part of other people’s lives, to be able to go to their houses and have them in mine. I want to share in ministry together, to grow together, to reach other people together.

When I attend a small church for six weeks in a row, I’d like someone to actually try to strike up a conversation with me, to find out who I am and what I’m doing here, where I’m from and where  I’m going. How can I get involved in a church that is not interested in being involved in my life? If no one bothers to take the time to get to know me, even a little, after repeat visits, what could possibly entice me to remain and give of myself there?

I know that closeness can take time. I know that I can’t expect to walk into a group of strangers and feel immediately at home. But we’re all believers. We’re all brothers and sisters in Christ. Surely we can put aside our stranger-ness and welcome each other with open arms? Maybe I will just keep attending churches until someone invites me to their home after church (or out, I guess), until someone shows me that I am not just a weird Northerner with biracial kids and a low voice but am actually a child of God who is worth an hour of conversation.

Or maybe I am doomed to float around from church to church, never finding another church home, just attending on Sunday mornings for worship and struggling to get by during the week with other local ministries. *sigh*

16 January 2013

My bucket list (a work in progress)

  • Join my mom in writing the story of her life.
  • Visit North Dakota, Alaska, and Hawaii.
  • Go bushwalking.
  • Run a whole 5k.
  • Get eight hours of sleep every night for a whole week.
  • Learn how to knit.
  • Take my eldest niece to see The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway for her 16th birthday (assuming it is still playing and assuming she wants to go!).
  • Walk 20+ miles of the Appalachian Trail.
  • Watch a meteor shower with the kids—really watch it, lying on blankets and sipping hot cocoa.
  • Eat Persian food in Iran.
  • Climb the Eiffel Tower.
  • Ride a bullet train.
  • Travel to another African country.
  • Go hiking in New Zealand.
  • Read Les Miserables, at least the abridged version.
  • Drive to Alaska.
  • Go snow-shoeing.
  • Ride in a sleigh.
  • Be in a friend’s wedding.
  • Fly in one direction all the way around the world (with stops, of course).
  • Experience zero gravity.
  • Watch a Star Trek movie marathon (of course, the order presents a dilemma).
  • Grow my hair out to below my shoulder blades (for the first time since 2000).
  • Complete all the homework for a Beth Moore Bible study.
  • Welcome my little brother Luke to the U.S.!
  • Be part of a flash mob.
  • Save someone’s life.
  • Go deer hunting with a compound bow, even if I don’t shoot anything. 

06 January 2013

Tastes and tidbits

I can still very vividly remember my first taste of alcohol.

We were in Charlotte, North Carolina, for my parents’ missions orientation when I was seven years old, and we went to visit a Lutheran church one Sunday morning. Everyone was given communion, including the children, and to my surprise, it was red wine.

Ew.

wineIt was really gross. I mean, yuck. Afterward, they came down the aisles and gave children fresh mint gum to chew, but I’ll never forget that first pungent taste.

So I was never really disappointed that my parents’ mission forbade them to drink alcohol (for many reasons). I never wanted to taste it. I was never curious about it. That communion totally turned me off to the stuff.

And when I went to a Christian college that forbade the drinking of alcohol, I thought that was super. I looked down on the students who broke the rules and sipped wine in secret. Not that I thought drinking alcohol was sinful. Obviously, Jesus drank wine (and turned water into wine). But each of us had signed a paper saying we wouldn’t drink the stuff, so it seemed not quite right to break the rules. I’ve heard many, many stories of what can happen from drunkenness, and I would never want to be around someone who is drunk (like the man who dropped his trousers and urinated in the middle of the Cincinnati Greyhound station when I was there at 2am in March 2005). So in college I was one of the happy non-drinkers.

After I turned 21 and was out of school on break, I let two CRC guy friends give me a taste of beer. I tasted it to be polite, but it tasted bitter and fermented. (I guess that’s the idea.) *shudder* Thanks, Jimmy & Ethan, but no thanks!

When I got out of college and moved in with a young and successful harpist, I let her persuade me to try some Baileys on vanilla ice cream. OK, I’ll admit it. That was darn yummy. It was yummy enough that I had it twice while staying in her home.

And it gave me enough courage to try champagne at my cousin’s wedding later that year, when my uncle coaxed me to at least taste it. It wasn’t so bad but not what I’d really want to drink if I had my choice. I’d much prefer Martinelli’s.

So when I visited a friend tonight for the season 3 premiere of Downton Abbey, I agreed to at least taste the sangria she’d made. I’m not a teetotaler. As you can see, I’ve had interesting run-ins with alcohol. But mostly I avoid it because of the flavor and because since moving to a very military part of the country, I have heard of so much calamity and disaster being caused by drunken behavior (including the drunk driver who—a couple months ago--ran into someone’s kitchen while the family was at breakfast).

But sangria wasn’t so bad. I was glad to only have a few sips, but it actually tasted kind of good. So maybe someday I will be able to stomach certain alcoholic drinks, if only to be polite.

Cheers to new experiences.