Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Social Justice, and my opinion thereof

God recently put me in a really intriguing position for a period of about four months back in the late summer and autumn. I was able to help shape and focus a church's Serve Ministry team. This was a rewarding experience, because I learned so much of what was going on in my backyard, with regards to homelessness, poverty, and general societal brokenness. I know how to help others be involved, and I know about really amazing ministries, that are doing things out in the community.
But one of my favorite parts about the those four months was all of the learning I did about why we serve.

learn to do good;
seek justice,
correct oppression;
bring justice to the fatherless,
plead the widow’s cause.
-Isaiah 1:17

That scripture makes me think of a song, Courageous, which has a lyric that goes "Seek justice, love mercy, walk humbly with your God". I liked that lyric so much that I taped it to the back of my iPod, to remind me of my true purpose here on earth: to shine a light. 

There's a part in the gospels where Jesus is talking about love for him, and talks of serving others because by doing so, we're serving Him. Christ even calls us to be feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, visiting those in prison, etc. 

Wow. Where was I when we covered that in church? Because it never spoke to me the way it did when I was reading that portion in private study. And here's the thing that throws me, consistently: if the church is a gathering of Christians, and Christians are called to serve... then why aren't churches serving? I look at a lot of the churches in the KC area, and I see a lot of "programs". There's sports, awanas, sponsored schools. But where are the soup kitchens, and the food drives. Are we serving the sick, the hungry, the poor?

Image found here

Friday, January 6, 2012

Resolutions and the New Year

I've always been a pretty enthusiastic New Year's resolution type. I've always picked at least one big one and a handful of smaller ones. But as I spent time pondering the idea of resolving to be a better person simply because the calendar is turning over, I realized: this year, I really don't want to make "resolutions", I want to make changes.

I promise not to spend this entire post being completely overwhelmingly cheesy.

But it's a thought, right? That so much of the time, we're so busy thinking of what we'd like to change, we don't actually bother to change.

I think I'll stick with monthly goals instead. As for January, my goal is to: organize five areas of life.

Well there's some room for interpretation, as you might rightly be thinking right now. But I've already accomplished one of my goals. In full. Can you say that for your resolution?

I organized the kitchen counter and a couple of cabinets. It's nothing gorgeous, it's utilitarian, non-decorated, and useful for our family space. But it works all of a sudden. I'm not overwhelmed with clutter when I try to cook. I have place for things. And we managed to sort through things we don't need anymore. We've also resolved to put extra dishes that we don't need in storage. It's nice to have them in case something breaks (especially pyrex, I love pyrex), but we don't need them all in the cabinets.

And I felt so accomplished. I've never felt that way about a resolution. But a itty-bitty, tiny goal.... yes, that I've got the capability to manage.

Images found here, and here

Monday, December 26, 2011

Not posting has almost become the norm it appears. I only remembered the blog because my gmail account generated a reminder about how long it had been since I had posted. Embarrassing, really. I considered abandoning the blogging entirely, but I actually enjoy the process of keeping up to date, writing about travels, bakings, and all the myriad academic things that fascinate my brain. I'm preparing over the next 18th months (don't scoff, it takes a long time to prepare the appropriate research materials) to go to grad school, the applications mostly being due a year from now. I thought writing on a more regular basis might help me get back in practice, especially to self-edit, and to make my sentence structure more coherent.

With that in mind, I'd like to chat about today: Boxing Day. Despite heavy misconceptions (mostly I think, on the part of Americans) it has nothing to do with pummeling other people, and the fact that it is largely used as a day to return unwanted gifts to various retail locations is mostly coincidence.

December 26th historically originates as St. Stephen's feast, one of seven deacons for the original church. The deacons were ordained by the apostles to take care of the "work" of the church; caring for widows and orphans, feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, etc. Of course, there is some disagreement about whether or not St. Stephen's feast day belongs on December 26th, as the Eastern Orthodox adheres to the Julian calendar, putting St. Stephen's day on December 27th, which would actually catapult the day to January 9th on the Gregorian calendar.

But enough of the esoteric nonsense. Sorry.

Traditionally in Britain, the servants of the wealthy and nobility would have worked on Christmas Day, and their employers would have given them the day off right after Christmas. It is also said that in various British organizations, there would also be a wide spread "switch", in which those normally at the top of the infrastructure would become the bottom, and vice versa, but this seems to be highly uncorroborated, and I can't manage to find actual research to prove that idea.

In the modern era, Boxing Day is actually a legal bank holiday in England, Scotland, Wales, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and various Commonwealth entities. Ireland still recognizes St. Stephen's day, and in Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Lithuania, Poland, and the Scandinavian countries, there is a "Second Christmas Day".

I hope you feel thoroughly enlightened.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Welcome Back

What you say? That's a post? You're actually posting on the blog you've neglected since just after graduation? What crazy happenings will go on next?

Yes, it's true, I'm back. Think of the past three months as my summer break from blogging, one that was much needed, because if I had tried to blog before this, the anger/sadness/bitterness that I was experiencing would have bubbled up, out, and over, and no one would have gotten anything out of it. This isn't to say that I'm finished with those feelings. I still battle anger/sadness/bitterness, and probably will for awhile. But for now, God and I are walking a little closer together, and I'm giving myself space in Him to work through those emotions.

I had even started a cooking blog, to help process some of the work-a-holic-ness that came from Mom having cancer and my wanting to take care of her. I found even writing down recipes and sharing dietary tips for the chemo patient was WAY too hard. Between Mom's diagnosis and Jenny dying, mixed up with the post-graduation blues, basic tasks became harder, and I realized focusing on getting through my life day by day was much more important than anything else.

I think working through Jenny's death was probably the hardest thing I did this summer. I found no one could really truly relate to the pain and grief I felt, the absence of her presence in my life was bigger than anything my college friends had been through, and almost no one could comprehend how someone in her sixties could be so close to someone in her twenties. What eventually got through my brain was that only God could comfort me in the loss of what was the closest non-family member to me.

The problem I battled consistently for the first two full months (and then some) was waking up and thinking "I should call her, it's been awhile, I'm neglecting her" and then the wave of grief as it would hit me, almost brand new every time. Once I finally worked through that, and then the last vestiges of anger (although by this point the fight had sort of gone out of me) I was just sad. For me. It was a totally selfish feeling.

August 16th was three months since she died. I happen to not work on Tuesdays, so I just disappeared for the majority of the day. I sat in a coffee shop and drank a latte the way she and I used to do. I went and walked around the cemetery where she was buried and laughed at myself for being so sentimental. I sat near where she was buried and just "talked" to her. Despite how insane I'm sure I looked, I finally felt like I had said goodbye. I think what's bothered me is that I never really felt like I said goodbye. Oh, I was in the hospital with her every day right before she passed, but she was barely conscious of my being there, I couldn't talk to her, couldn't share what was on my heart. Funny enough, I walked out of the cemetery as it started raining and just felt less weighted down with my grief.

My birthday was hard, I didn't even want to celebrate it, but realized in the end she would have smacked me for that kind of behavior. Jenny always made such a big deal out of my birthday, she would always get me flowers and take me out for chinese food. While the chinese food thing is still hard (I'm too sad in most chinese restaurants, although I did finally start craving it the other day) a couple of friends took me out downtown, and bought me flowers. It made it a little easier to slip through the day without getting depressed.

I guess I'm still working on it, even two weeks after all that. I'll keep working on it for a long while I think. But I also know Jenny would be upset if I kept myself from living life (and writing on the blog, she did like following my blog) so I'm giving myself a fresh look for the blog, a fresh post to get all the nonsense out, and then we'll pick back up where we were. I've got some awesome gluten-free reviews to do, some great scriptures to talk about, and some awesome pieces of music to share. I suppose in my mind, living fully is probably the best memorial to her that I could ever pull together.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A True Friend

I assumed my first post after graduation would be dedicated to the feelings of being a graduate, etc. Well, actually, small news flash: it's not that different. But today, my thoughts are somewhere else, and I'd like to ruminate on them.

One of my dearest friends in the world went home to be with God last night. She was in a tremendous amount of pain, and I'm so happy to see her suffering at an end, but I also know that I'm going to miss her like nothing else in this world. I went to see her the other night and while she laid there and struggled to breathe, I struggled to entertain her, my idea being to reminisce with her about all the cool things we had experienced together. What I found was that my hour of babbling about what the two of us had done and where we had been became far more about comforting me, and far less about entertaining her. Jenny was an extremely faithful friend, and highly influential in my life, she opened my eyes to certain things, and taught me a love for other things. So here are a few of the things she influenced the most in my life.
  •  Jenny loved to be active. She didn't know how to sit still, literally. She would tap her foot or jiggle her leg because she just couldn't handle sitting still, she had too much energy coursing through her at all times. I know both of my parents are overachievers and I take after them, but some of that surging energy I learned from Jenny. 
  • She loved art, almost all forms. She and I used to field trip almost monthly to the Nelson-Atkins museum here in KC all through my teen years. We would wander to our favorite rooms, and try to fit in at least one new room each time. We especially loved the English painting from the 17th/18th centuries and the Chinese art rooms, including the temple that came from a hillside in northern China. She did hate all forms of modern art with a passion though.
  • That woman could drink eight pots of coffee in a row. She made me look mild on my caffeine addiction, right up to this last year, she could still tolerate more coffee in a day than I can in a week. It was rather impressive in an odd way.
  • A great tradition she and I had was to go explore something (Nelson Atkins, Independence Square, etc) and then go eat lunch. We favored the Red Dragon but we also tried several fun sandwich shops and loved getting ice cream in the summer. Our other favorite treat was to get chocolate cherry cokes (say that three times fast) at Sonic during the summer and then to go to a park. 
  • Jenny grew up in Liberty, and was a fascinating source of information for all things historical in Clay County and KC in general. Her family was here for more than one or two generations and she had memorized a large portion of interesting material, not the boring dry information you read on plaques, but she would tell engrossing stories about her high school years, and about spending her childhood with her uncle, an artist who knew and worked with Thomas Hart Benton. 
  • One thing I have definitely picked up as a learned habit is a dislike for phone conversations. All conversations for the phone should come with outlines to keep them short. I'm not sure we ever spent more than 30-60 seconds on the phone with each other, and those went something like this:
    • Jenny: "Let's go to the museum on Friday"
    • Karen: "Okay, I'm free until 2:00, so maybe we should grab lunch afterwards?"
    • Jenny: "Great, pick you up at 8:30"
      • *click*
  • Jenny could kick anyone's rear end, thoroughly, completely, entirely. She, my brother, and myself studied T'ai Chi together for a couple of summers when I was still fairly young. My brother, being his normal self liked to smart off a lot about how he was sure he could take her. He generally ended up flat on his back a little stunned after uttering these things. That was especially hilarious for me, because that never happened to Matt in my experience.
  • Jenny loved her church, and God dearly. We prayed over every meal we ate together and talked about books and music and Christianity and the church all the time. She also taught me that it's okay to question, it's okay to be unsure, and it's okay to not know 100% what you believe, and most importantly that it's okay to wait on God to give you answers in His time. 

Friday, May 6, 2011

It's all downhill from here ...

So now here we are, finished with classes as an undergraduate. Ready for the last flurry of rehearsals, recitals, and exams. I've finished 3/6 of my senior projects, two of those being biger than the rest of them put together.
I've carried off a 35 minute piano recital, and a 45 minute composition recital, things people told me I could never do. I thought I would feel accomplished when I finished, but all I really feel is drained.

What's next? I'm not really sure. I'm hoping to find a job (aren't we all?) and to do some great volunteer work, as well as train to run three 5K's before Christmas this year. I hope to be more involved with my church, spend quality time with my family, and to not lose contact with great friends.

This point of life sort of feels like a precipice, I'm standing on it, and graduation is the pushing off part.

Everyone's so ready to memorialize "my last day of classes", "my last rehearsal", "my last performance". I'm not so ready because as burned out as I feel, I'm not so ready to get rid of the last four years of memories.

Stay tuned, job hunt coming soon.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Rants of a Composition Major

Well, this is similar to a previous post, I've been having problems with recital preparation again. A few of the ridiculous things I've heard in the last week:

  • "One musician to another", I'm going to start asking for credentials before I listen to anything beyond this sentence...
  • "I just assumed I didn't need to show up to rehearsal" ... I mean, really? Are you THAT good?
  • "Do we need to rehearse?" Well yes, I would like us to not look ridiculous in eight days time. 
  • "Should I stay for the rest of the recital?" , No, no, please leave, that would be great. *sarcasm*
Yes, it's a colorful week in my world, hopefully musicians won't keep me from finishing my degree.

PS - I love you all, you just frustrate me sometimes.