Thursday, December 30, 2010

December 15, 2010

I've been waiting for this day for a while. It's the first day of Christmas are bidding farewell left and right.

At camp, kids go home after just a week. A week is long enough to get to know the excited side of a person...4 months is long enough to get to know the ups and downs, ins and outs of someone.

On September 21, I noted that I was afraid to grow to love work here. I knew it'd hurt to leave it. On October 8, I wondered why we make new friends when we know it leads to more farewells.

As excited as I thought I'd be to see the students off, I'm getting a little lonesome. It will be nice to have a break, but I don't want to have the break without the students. The campus is going to be reallllly empty.

I think I'm afraid of being happy because whenever I get too happy something bad always happens. -Charlie Brown (Charles Schulz)

I've been avoiding liking life here. I like life at home so much, I don't want to be missing a life away from home when I get back. I've been guarding my heart, unwilling to be happy, comparing life now to life I know.

I'm going to miss this.
I knew I would.

I don't regret allowing myself to love it.
I thought I would.

I guess it's (kind of) like having kids. You know they're going to ooze from every orifice, but you want to have them anyway. You know they'll cry and whine and moan and keep you home and away from social outings with friends, but you want to have them anyway. You know they're going to grow up to be teenagers and act like they hate your guts, yet you want to have them anyway.
I know these students won't remember dilution equations next year; I'm lucky if they remember it for the period. I know they won't pay as much attention as I like while I'm explaining their homework for the umpteenth time. I know they'll show up late to class, and won't turn in their work, and will glare at me when I shush them in the library. I suspect they won't open up and spill their life stories...
yet I still want to serve them.

How much greater and more vastly unfathomable is the love of a King who would serve a nation that despises Him?

Life in Books

Reading of home is like reading a worn edition of a classic. I can read of snow and cold and fireplaces, but it's simply a distant memory that I can feel long ago, an environment that I can relate to; the characters are no more real than Huckleberry Finn or Oliver Twist.

Perhaps it's a defense mechanism. I can read the story, enjoying the mood and the scenery and the emotions of the characters, but I don't have to be wrapped up in them. I'm not missing from the story. I don't have to deal with those feelings if I don't feel like it.

It's easier to believe that home is on pause, frozen in the pages of a book. A "to be continued..." that has a 10 month hiatus between editions.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Here Comes the Bride

Marriage = green card.
Marriage = popularity and fame.
Marriage = Jessica's near future?

Daniel speaking with 60s-man
Meet Daniel. A couple weeks ago, three hearty men (in their 20s, 30s, and 60s respectively) and one ill-informed lady took to the hills for a Sabbath afternoon trek. Daniel is from the Maasai village, a friend of the 30s-man. Daniel offered to show us around the hills.
Jessica is an mzungu (foreigner, European, white person, etc.). Jessica is also a female. These two qualities combine to make a prime candidate for a wife.

"So, Jaysca; you are not married?"
"Nope. Not yet..."
"And you live in the United States?"
"Yep! In cold Wisconsin."
"I've always wanted to visit America...will you be married soon?"
"Uh, um, yes! As soon as I get back home. Yep."
"Oh. ...You have friends?"

Oh boy.
I wonder how many cows I'm worth?

A Tale of Two Packages

It was a simple package; an off-brand ziploc bag with a message in permanent marker: "For Jessica Stotz. A taste of Wisconsin." The contents were invaluable: two slabs of cheddar and colby jack cheese (certified Wisconian) and a bottle of Wisconsin-brewed Sprecher root beer. Oh, beautiful joy.

Friday, December 24, 2010

An unedited, unlabored, unrestrained bbbbblah

It's Christmas Eve.

I haven't battled the crowds to get that special something for my family members.
I haven't made my yearly snowman/snowangel/dash through the snow barefoot.

I've just dined on mashed potatoes, green beans, and meatloaf (with Bullseye!) with two other Maxwell families.

I'm more worried about my family than I am about myself. This is a good thing.

If I had a choice, of course I'd be with my family now. But I wouldn't trade in this meal, either. I guess I'd choose to have all three families together...but Mom would accuse me of being too political. ;)

Christmas Eve is going to be ok. I'll love Christmas Eve a year from now too, though. I'm just praying that Christmas at home is happy. I feel special that there's a Jess-sized hole there, but I hope it's the kind of hole that makes people happy when they notice it.

Merry Christmas, family. I can't wait to celebrate it with ALL of you...maybe the shepherds will be there, too.

Journal Entry

Unto us a Son is given; unto us a Child is born. He shall be our King forever. Worthy is the Lamb, Who became flesh and dwelt among us! He shall reign forever and ever! Glory to GOD in the highest, and on earth: Peace to men.
Come (again) quickly, Lord Jesus, for we have this hope.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Ahh, the Power of Cheese

What am I doing right now? Enjoying a little piece of heaven.

Even I had forgotten how absolutely wonderful Wisconsin cheese's a good thing there's no one else in my apartment to witness my face-stuffing, finger-licking snarfage. Oh wow. It's like a candy bar, but better. I can only bear to eat a small chunk at a time. Oooh the sharp bite! The rich aroma! The slightly squeaky texture! Mystery friend from Union who sent me this taste of Wisconsin, you are loved. Oh so much.

Happiness. Wrapped.

Merry Christmas. Seriously.

(Santa agrees with me: watch this)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Jessica's Recipe for "Happily Exhausted"

1 brunch, cooked and served for 100 people
1 water park
2 water slides
1 pool
1 nap in the sunshine
1 amazing candlelit supper with SMs at a lovely house on the hill
Songs around the piano, as desired
1 Skype date with friend until 12:30p
1 sunrise on the mountain at 5:40a
4 bumpy rides in 2 Land Cruisers 
1 breakfast of mangoes and granola
1 30 minute nap
1 Maasai "friend" looking for an American mzungu wife (So, Jayssca, you are not married? You are
        young? Are you married soon? Do you have friends? I have always wanted to visit America...)
4 hours of hiking in the rocky highlands, traversing rocky/dusty/slippery/grassy terrain between 1800m
        and 2500m altitude (*wheeze*)
1 locked apartment door
1 forced entry
1 shower (oh, glorious day)
1 water heater turned BBQ grill
2 paving tiles heated upon above grill
4 pieces of pizza from said grill
896 spiders and webs cleaned from corners of church
1 late-night nap
1 Skype date with the parents (first time to see them in 4 months!)

    Combine all ingredients in a 40hr period. Bake under African sun long enough to get two different sunburn lines. Bundle into bed to recuperate.

    Things to look for at an African water park

    • Men in Hanes. Nothing else.
    • Women in white t-shirts and shorts. Nothing else.
    • Boys wearing red tights. 
    • Men wearing wind pants and wind jacket set.
    • Swimsuits worn OVER shorts.
    • Lifeguards without a lick of red on them.
    • Bellows echoing from the mouth of a water slide as three grown men splash into the pool, giggling at themselves while a gathered crowd chuckles and points jovially.
    • Numerous shaded huts, but no chairs to sun by the pool.
    • Hundreds of HUGE smiles.

    Saturday, December 18, 2010

    The Wise Man and a Student

    "Wise teacher", the pupil asked. "Why is it that when I am more closely aligned with the Way that I am more plagued by troubles and find it harder to follow what you teach?"
    "Walk with me," he replied.

    As night approached, they came to a clearing with a small fire surrounded a small handful of travellers as they paused on their way. They stood in silence, facing the flames, until the teacher finally spoke.

    "Do you see your shadow?"
    "No, teacher; I do not."
    "Because it is behind me."
    "Turn to look at it. Is it very clearly defined?"
    "Not as defined as a man face to face, but I can distinguish it as my own."
    "Is the shadow dark?"
    "Dark enough that I can see it clearly, Sensei."

    The wise man stepped closer to the flames, watching the sticks crumble, spitting sparks as they fell. The disciple stood beside him.
    "Do you see your shadow?"
    "No, teacher; I do not."
    "Why is this so?"
    "Teacher, you know as well as I! It lies behind me."
    "Turn to look at it. What does it tell you?"
    "It is sharper than before; more defined. It also appears darker than the previous shadow, in contrast to the light around it."
    "So you tell me that as you came nearer to the source of the light, the shadows became more pronounced and darker, more easily distinguished?"
    "Can a man very far from the flame trace his own shadow?"
    "Not without another source of light, no."

    "And where do you stand in relation to the shadow and the flame?"
    "I am between them, sir."

    "You have spoken wisely. The closer you are to the source of the light, the darker shadows seem. Coming closer to the light makes the darkness appear darker, making the distinction between darkness and light less grey.  Even things that did not appear as shadows in dim light are exposed as such when brought near to the flame's brightness.
    "Notice also that as long as you face the light, the shadows are unnoticed. But turning away from the light shows you a dark reflection of yourself, not the true you. Only the Light can expose what you truly are.

    "Both the shadow and the Light fall upon you. You choose which to face."

    Wednesday, December 15, 2010

    Rumbly in my Tumbly

    I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat; 
    I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink.
    To the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, you did it to Me. Matt 25:35, 40

    A long, bumpy, precarious drive into the brush brought a caravan of Maxwell vehicles to the outskirts of a Maasai manyatta. Clad in their brightly colored clothes and armed with their cylindrical jugs, women lined up to receive bags of rice, beans, maize, and salt, and to fill their containers with clean water.

    I was hungry, too. 
    Boy, did I feast.

    Monday, December 06, 2010

    The Door Says "Pull"

    We are gifted, aren't we?
    Push back the thoughts.
    Push through the impatience.
    Push against the constraints.
    Push back the memories.
    Push through the anger.
    Push back the frustrations.
    Push against the unexpected.
    Push against change.
    Push through the day.

    Push. Push. Push. Push.

    Silence! Be still. . .

    The door says "Pull".

    Stop pushing. Let your Gentleman open the door for you.

    Doing Hard Things

    I don't do very many hard things here.
    I get enough sleep, no intense physical labor, no studying...

    But I sure do a lot of things I don't want to do.

    I'm surprised by which is harder.


    Thursday, December 02, 2010

    The Night 'Fore December

    'Twas the night 'fore December, and really quite swell:
    'Twas Jessica's town day; time to rest for a spell.

    First she and roomie sped off to the store,
    Unfortunate parking left a vehicle sore.
    Their countenance dimmed and their spirits more lowly,
    They pulled into Nakumatt's parking SO slowly.

    Quick shopping returned them to school in a flash
    Fifteen minutes late for the piano bash.

    Jess listened with pleasure to hear students start
    Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, and even Mozart.
    She enjoyed every moment, and when it was o'er,
    She turned to her apartment for an afternoon snore.

    No snoozing awaited in her apartment once bare;
    It was time for a deco fest, to make house guests stare!
    The festive doorway
    Reindeer and snowflakes and bulbs doors adorned
    To combat a sickness of those home-forlorned*.

    Now all too soon it was time for the game
    When Ms. Jess would suit up, not looking the same.
    Her mask she would don and her pads she'd arrange...
    For a floor hockey goalie she didn't look strange.

    A minute hand's trip round the clock time had passed;
    The Lightning were down 7-1 at the last.
    Jess cleaned up alone and scurried to dinner,
    Wishing oh wishing that she were the winner.

    Upon her arrival to the bustling café
    Her roommate rushed out, meeting halfway.
    "It's our night for worship!" she cried with a rasp;
    "Tonight?? In an hour?" dear Jess' voice gasped.

    Others 'round her were eating, but she just could not –
    Appetite disappeared for a pizza served hot.
    She dashed to the place where the meetings are held;
    There held her hands still and her nervousness quelled.

    They picked out three songs in the span of a minute –
    Each one was chosen for three chords within it.
    D, G, and A: an accompanist's friends
    When she's simply a pianist who fully pretends.

    Jess' topic of Tofu was chosen last second,
    Recycled from Improv when last minute beckoned.
    "You taste like your friends, so choose wisely now!
    "If you hang out with pigs, you'll taste like a sow."

    She stayed up real late to prepare for the 'morrow,
    She's quite sure it's packed full of grief, strife and sorrow.

    All that's now happened was December's eve.
    December 1st you just won't believe...

    Jess woke up and showered and dressed to the buttons;
    The chores on her plate were far, far from nuttin'.
    She hurriedly prepped for her afternoon classes
    To sub for a friend's test to drive with the masses.

    Elementary it was, but not Dr. Watson:
    3rd, 4th through 6th, and a girl from Wisconsin.
    It was fun! It was grand! But it ate up the morning.
    Soon it was lunchtime; it seemed without warning.

    She scarfed her food quickly and ran to the lab
    Surprisingly Jess was still feeling quite fab.
    Chem I came and went, followed right by Chem II,
    Just one Physics lab and the day's almost through!

    4:20 bell sounds, and she's off with a dash –
    Meets the maintenance man who's shaved his mustache.     (No Shave November's met its end!)
    She's Clark Kent of science as she ducks in her room:
    Seconds later she's out in her PE duds; zoom!

    Jess jogs into class with no minute to spare,
    But does not find all of her girl students there.
    She's tempted to "tardy" but is feeling quite gracious:
    Her students' malingering is far from malacious*.

    An hour has passed; skipping rope, giggles too:
    Ms. Jessica's day of days is almost through!
    She cleans up the gym, eats her food, cleans the lab...
    Comp lab supervision is last on her tab.

    Then she goes for a run to let off some steam:
    Five minutes, ten minutes, twelve and fifteen.
    Thirty-five is the finish, and the end of her play –
    PTL she can look back and say, "Great good day!"

    Now if you're feeling just like your day's overwhelming,
    There're bills to be paid, and the children are yell(m)ing*:
    Don't forget Who knows all of His plans just for you:
    "I know them," He says; "Let Me help you through."

    *No. These are not words. But I am also not a poet. Deal with it.

    Sunday, November 28, 2010

    Journal Entry

    I'm sitting on the floor in front of the oven, watching my week-old pizza reheat to a crispy delight. It's strange: I'm on one side of a transparent door, the pizza on the other. The cheese is bubbling and browning, and the crust is curling. It seems as though it might be painful, even unnecessary, but I know when it's best to take it out. It's strange to be so close, so much a part of the pizza (???), yet so much different. I can't see or feel the heat, as the pizza does. Hmm. Food for thought... ;)

    Slum Dog Millionaire

    I'm overly rich. I was so abundantly blessed by our outreach trip to the Kibera slums today, I don't have much to say. Today was a day I'll relive when I'm toothless and suffering from senility; hopefully that's at least a half-dozen decades from now.

    A group of about twenty students, eight faculty/staff, and over 300kg of clothing, flour, sugar, shortening, rice, & beans took a bus ride to the outskirts of the Kibera slums to distribute food and clothing to women and children who needed it most. We gave away bag after bag after box of goods, and received more than our fair share of smiles and giggles. There were a few bags of candy floating about too, but they dulled in sweetness compared to the bright eyes and huge grins on the faces of the kids who each had their own lollipop.

    A picture's worth a thousand words...get ready for a six-digit word count.

    Kibera slums' vast expanse of rusting tin roofs. Kibera is the second largest urban slum in Africa.
    A dump just outside the slums. Trash is only slightly more concentrated here than throughout the city.
    Children and mothers from Kibera sing songs and recite scriptures for the wazungu.
    This will be in heaven. No doubt.
    I fell in love...
    Distributing flour, sugar, shortening, rice and beans to the families.
    Lollipop! Show me your tongue...
    Consolata (in pink) asked for my hair tie. A real commodity here, I guess.
    Susan got my other hair tie. And a piece of my heart.

    Friday, November 26, 2010

    Thanksgiving Dinner

    It all started with this post about my sisters. It's the holiday season. Holiday = family. Maybe I'll just skip the holidays...

    I've never been so ready to cry over a mountain of mashed potatoes in my life.

    I waited forever in line to get a plastic plate heaped with potatoes, gravy, gluten, sweet potatoes, and - wait for it - pumpkin pie with whipped cream. I turned to find a seat in the cafeteria reverberant with shouts and bellows and chairs squeaking across the floor, and found that the occupied tables were each filled to their four-person capacity. I found a seat at an empty table near the corner. When I raised my bowed head, I looked at the empty seats around me and the full plate before me and melted. I looked at the clock pronouncing twelve minutes until my next class and despaired.

    He's determined to defeat you. Resist him; he'll flee.

    I'm determined to let him lose.

    I'm thankful to have traditions at home that I miss.
    I'm thankful to have friends that understand me and still want to be my friend when I willingly put an ocean between us.
    I'm thankful for the ability to call home from half the world away.
    I'm thankful to have a family that I'd rather be with than away from.

    The Stotz Family, December 2009

    Wednesday, November 24, 2010

    Journal Entry

    There's a reason that Satan is Jesus' archnemesis.
    He's the closest thing to a worthy opponent.

    My life in a nutshell:
    Satan attacks!
    Jessica's discouraged.
    Jesus launches a counter-attack!
    Jessica's floating on cloud nine!
    Satan attacks!
    Jessica = boo.
    Jesus' counterattack!
    Jessica = all is well with the world.

    As soon as I feel my feet are under me, they're swept out from under me and the wind's knocked out as I hit the floor.

    Hmm... kind of like a tagteam boxing match. I'm spiritually recharged! I head out into the ring with Stan, arms flailing wildly... Satan smirks as he flattens me with one jab. Jesus picks me up, dusts me off... same thing, over and over. Finally, I tag Jesus in and Satan is retreating. I'm rejuvenated: "Let me in! Let me in!"
    I'm up! I'm down. I'm up! I'm down.

    When my world is shaking, heaven stands.
    When my heart is breaking, I never leave Your hands.

    Jessica, do you love Me?
    Lord! You know I love You!
    Feed my lambs.
    Take care of my sheep.
    Feed my sheep. (Jn 21:15)

    Consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds. (James 1:2)

    You, oh Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light. (Ps. 18:28)

    Come, Lord Jesus.

    Tuesday, November 23, 2010

    One at a Time

    Jesus didn't die on the cross for the mob. He didn't sacrifice everything to save an angry group of humanity screaming for His blood. No. Wrong.

    Disclaimer: Blah blah blah, I'm a whiner, blah blah.

    It's Thanksgiving week. Everyone is packing up their things to head home, making travel plans, drooling over daydreamed turkey/tofurkey, and cramming for those terrible tests all teachers spring on students before vacations of bliss.
    I'm not packing. I'm not drooling, either. And I'm not cramming for tests. These are all things to be thankful for...right?

    Nearly 15 weeks gone. Wow. Three weeks until Christmas break...

    My friend Hannah, an SM in Chuuk, messaged today that someone stole her rose-colored glasses.

    My rose-colored glasses are sliding down my nose, and I don't feel like pushing them up anymore.

    But you're in Africa!, you say. That's so amazing!
    Yes. Yes it is. But I don't get to share it with anyone.
    Many times, a picnic lunch in the park with a handful of friends from home sounds a whole lot more enjoyable than a trip to the game park with loads of lions, cheetahs, and gazelles.

    Iiiiii don't know. A case of the Thanksgiving blues, I think. And the cure is as elusive as a 7 year-old's sleep on Christmas morning.

    But then...
    I spend 2.5 hrs on four Physics problems, reworking them each time a new tutee arrives. I get to work with students one on one. I get to know the hamsters in their heads as they furiously spin the wheels of cognition. I get to watch their eyes light up as they comprehend what they believed incomprehensible. I get to know them as individuals.

    And that's what makes life worthwhile.

    Jesus didn't die on the cross for the mob. He didn't sacrifice everything to save an angry group of humanity screaming for His blood. No. Wrong.
    Jesus died for individuals. He served individuals. He never required the sick and lame to queue up and take a number. "Go, blind man #249; your faith has healed you." "Little girl #391, I say to you, get up!" Nope.

    Bartimaeus saw. Jairus' daughter lived.

    Live life one person at a time, one day at a time. Jesus did.

    Sunday, November 21, 2010

    Journal Entry

    Being an SM can cause quite an identity crisis if "Who am I?" has the same answer as "What am I?" No one here knows me as an improviser or a climber or as a successful student. Most don't know that I love to make people laugh.

    I am Jessica.
    I am a Stotz girl.
    I come from northwestern Wisconsin (and I love it there).
    The only worth I have comes through my Best Friend.

    Thursday, November 18, 2010

    Love, Kirsten

    One year.
    Uno año.
    Mwaka mmoja.

    One year has passed since November 18, 2009, when Kirsten Wolcott finished her race for Jesus.

    Kirsten Wolcott, born 1988
    "Kirsten Wolcott, a junior liberal arts education major, died on Wednesday, November 18, while serving as a student missionary in Yap, Micronesia. She was teaching second grade at the Yap Adventist School.
    Kirsten graduated from Richmond Academy in 2007, where her senior year she served as the school’s yearbook editor. A diligent student, Kirsten graduated from academy with high honors and was on Southern Adventist University’s distinguished dean’s list."

    Jessica Stotz, born 1988
    "Jessica Stotz, a junior/senior Physical Therapy major, lived on Thursday, November 18, while serving as a student missionary in Nairobi, Kenya. She is teaching PE and science at Maxwell Adventist Academy.
    Jessica graduated from Wisconsin Academy in 2007, where her senior year she served as the school’s yearbook editor. A diligent student, Jessica graduated from academy with high honors and was on Andrews University’s distinguished dean’s list."

    Love, Kirsten.

    I can't help but wonder how Love, Jessica would read. Would it be oxymoronic, without love, without compassion?
    I am humbled.

    Live like Jesus every day.

    Monday, November 15, 2010

    Journal Entry

    Lord, I know You have things under control, but I think I'll help.
    I wrestle the measuring cup away; the bread falls flat.
    Stop making your own plans, Jessimica; let Me handle everything for you.

    SMerfing is hard. Not physically, but mentally, emotionally. I battle every day to keep my guard up, to stay positive. I feel as if I have nothing to blame my downs on.

    I've become a hermit to protect myself, to run away from problems. My room is my haven. lightbulb is burned out.
    I don't feel like letting this little light of mine shine.

    Bloated Results

    I've had seeds on the mind as of late. At the beginning of the Intro to Missions class at AU, Pastor Dwight K. Nelson is typically the featured presenter. Since I took the class twice (without failing; try that one at home), I got to hear his "A seed must die to produce fruit/You have to go out, but you don't have to come back/You are a seed" sermonette; very good, and it prompted my previous blog entry (props to DKN!). At the end of Pastor Dwight’s talk, he gave each of us a small bean as a reminder of our job as a seed.

    I kept my bean.

    My bean sat on a shelf for 6, 10, 19 months, then hopped an ocean in my green suitcase.
    The plan? Plant the bean in my mission field, and use it as a constant reminder of the daily death to self I would need to take.

    Step 1: Plant the bean.
    I choose some soil near the compost pile, filling my tiny terra cotta pot loosely with the clay-like earth. I moisten the soil carefully, then press the bean beneath the surface. Time for You to do Your thing, God.

    Step 2: Observations.

    Day 1: Dirt.

    Day 3: Dirt.
    Well, maybe this isn’t a spring bean, but a summer, fall, or even winter bean.

    Day 5: Dirt.
    The dirt must be too dense. I’ll see what’s wrong…
    I dig the bean up carefully, probing cautiously for tender rootlings.

    No roots.
    No leaves.
    Just a soggy, swollen, bean.

    I replace the dirt loosely, hoping to have rectified the problem.

    Day 6: Dirt.
    Hmm. I need to check again.
    Up comes the bean!
    Still swollen.
    Still soggy.
    Still rootless and leafless.

    After 2 weeks of watering the soil, I finally gave up on my object-lesson-turns-real-life-across-the-ocean dream. What kind of sign is that for my upcoming year? A seed that dies with no fruit; it simply dies, turgid and forgotten...

    Unexpected Object Lesson #1:
    Resurrection is best left to Jesus. Once you’ve died to self, don’t dig self back up! There’s no better way to uproot the fruits of Christ’s work than to put your self in the middle of them.

    Unexpected Object Lesson #2:
    Don’t get comfortable. Dying to self might be easy at first; a warm, nourishing environment and all the Living Water you can drink up. But when you refuse to sprout, you simply become soggy and unpleasant. People might not even recognize you as a seed. You’ve deceived yourself into thinking that you’ve died to self, when really, you’ve taken a gift to be shared and hoarded it for your self-righteous self.

    When you’re planted, sprout.

    Sunday, November 14, 2010

    Mom Rocks My Socks

    I just finished hanging my laundry. My once-white socks patterned with black notes and Music are paired and hanging from one clothes "peg". My music socks were a gift from my mom.

    Look! New music socks! (March 2010)
    I'd never have thought to get myself music socks. No one can see socks anyway, right? But it's ridiculous how much I like to wear them. I save them for special days. I like how they feel. I like that I feel like a musician when I wear them. I really like that they remind me of Mom.

    She's got a knack for giving little gifts that mean a lot. A small cow bell, SmartWools, mini mechanical pencils, colored staples... I love that not many of you would be as excited as I am about these trinkets; it proves that they were an individual, special gifts. What makes these gifts the best is the idea that I'd never ask for them because I never knew I needed or wanted them. But now that they're mine, they're things I wouldn't want to live without.

    If you...know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him! [Matthew 7:11]

    Imagine having God draw your name for the Christmas gift exchange...
    But wait: He already did! 

    Friday, November 12, 2010

    Life at Maxwell Retirement Home

    Welcome to today's edition of Life@MRH! Our guest writer today is Jessica (Room 4B).

    Another day in the life @ MRH. We're pretty much in lockdown on the campus, though it is spacious enough for a nice walk, and the wildlife is plentiful. My room is attached to the main living center; I've done well enough to live on my own, sharing a kitchen area with a roommate! I have to wait for Town Day to load up in the facility's vehicle and get my town fix for the week (I haven't gotten my hair done yet, but the day will come).

    The trespassing, toast-plucking,
    breakfast gnawing perpetrator
    In other MRH news, kitten Maxie pulled my toast from the toaster, gnawing on a corner of the slice and leaving it soggy, betraying her illegal trespassing on the kitchen counter. Talk about gumming food! We've placed a request for feline dentures.

    Bingo! Everyone's favorite retirement game. Wednesday was the day! I was able to teach a whole new crop of future bingo-ers the ins and outs of the sport. To disguise it as a class activity, we used chemistry books and periodic tables. The students filled in the Bingo grid with symbols of chemical elements, and I called out the names. After a few bingos, we mixed it up (some had a hard time keeping up, but it keeps the mind sharp you know!) and filled in the grid with names while I called out the element symbols. Those young whipper snappers claimed they didn't have fun, but their rapt attention and excited, hand-waving "Bingo!"s betrayed their true feelings.
    Our Element Bingo sheet

    Future events in the Home: 
    Wheelchair races down the hallway! Creating a hammock out of oxygen tubing and dangling from the ceiling to frighten the nurse! "Forgetting" to fasten the back of the hospital gown! Smiling at young children, without dentures in!

    Life@MRH: Why live anywhere else?

    It's a Hard Knock Life

    I often find myself wishing that life here was tougher. I came expecting a situation that would push me beyond my limits and drive me closer to God, yet I landed in the American pavilion of the African Epcot Center. I have to escape the compound to even see Africa. My living conditions are more illustrious than I've ever had on my own: electricity, hot running water, fast internet, supermarkets, cars, cell phones . . . is this my mission field??

    I wish I were required to work harder; I'd have less time to think and ponder and mull. I really do have time on my hands, but I always seem to squander it. My first appointment daily is at 8:30 a.m. Many nights I work until 10 p.m., but I still feel as though I've been busier in school than I am here. I worry that when I come home, I'll have stories of safaris and souvenirs, but nothing to show of service.

    I wish I had real, tangible things to complain about, like lack of food or water or electricity or plumbing or cooking or, well, anything. Instead, I just get grumpy, and I can't blame it on anything but me.

    I've been placed here for a reason. God didn't plan for me to rough it. He planned a place that was like home so that I would learn to lean on Him in familiar situations, not just tough ones. This is training for life.

    Wednesday, November 10, 2010

    Journal Entry


    We try to get by with a generator, but inevitably we must return to true power.

    Tuesday, November 09, 2010

    How to Prepare to be a Student Missionary

    Be sure to eat balanced meals from the
    four food groups shown above.
    1. Learn how to find free food.
    2. Learn how to stay up 'til all hours of the night.
    3. Learn how to get your Jesus on every day.
    4. Learn how to do things at the last minute.
    5. Learn how to appear as though you know exactly what you're doing at all times.
    6. Learn how to subsist on a diet of only bread, water, noodle packets, and old tortillas.
    7. Learn how to fall asleep in 2.6 min.
    8. Learn how to fall asleep ANYWHERE.
    9. Learn how to pack 18hrs of sleep, 10hrs of picnicking/outreach/games/potlucking, and 4 hours of churching into one 24hr Sabbath.
    10. Learn how to recycle money: return bottles/cans, dumpster dive for bottle caps, clip coupons, bake your own food, go to restaurants at closing time to get free food, make friends with cooking people (free food), food that is free, free food, etc.
    11. Learn how to search each piece of a loaf of bread carefully for mold before eating it, removing just those parts that are moldy. Why waste a good piece of bread?
    12. Learn how to navigate confusing maps and schedules.
    13. Learn how to explain complicated equations that you yourself scarcely understand, using strange analogies including merry-go-rounds, superheroes jumping off buildings, and turduckens
    14. Learn how to clean your living space with less-than-perfect cleaning items, e.g. a half-eaten mop; aged, viscous Lysol; knock-off window cleaner; and newspaper.
    15. Find your creative Jesus outlet. (Improvise!)
    16. Learn how to call people late at night and early in the morning (U.S.: free minutes. Abroad: avoid waking the sleeping, beauty)
    17. Learn how to see the Jesus in others. Even when they try to hide Him.
    18. Learn how to fell a tree using only duct tape and a pen light (ok, not absolutely necessary, but helpful)
    19. The turducken.
      The strange "food" helpful in
      explaining composition functions.

      The best way to prepare for student missions?
      Become a college student.

      It's true! College prepares you for life.
      ...more or less.

      Journal Entry

      I've often wished that life here was tougher. I came expecting a situation that would push me beyond my limits and drive me closer to God, yet I landed in the American village of the African Epcot center. I have to escape the compound to even see Africa. My living conditions/amenities are more illustrious than I've ever had on my own: electricity, hot running water, hi-speed internet, supermarkets, cars, cell phones... Is this my mission field?

      I wish I were worked harder; I'd have less time to think and ponder and mull. I really do have time on my hands, but I always seem to squander it. My first appointment is at 8:30 am. I'm not really running non-stop throughout the day (except Wednesday...)

      I wish I had real things to complain about, like food or water or electricity or plumbing or cooking or, or anything. Instead, I just get grumpy.

      I've been placed here for a reason. God didn't plan for me to rough it. He planned a place that was like home, so that I would learn to lean on Him in familiar situations. This is training for life.

      But am I training lives?

      Journal Entry

      I'm not very much like You, am I, Jesus?

      No. Not really. But I've been offered as propitiation for your sins. Your iniquity has been laid upon Me. By My sacrifice, you who are being made holy are perfect forever. (Heb 10:14). My Father has reconciled you to Himself through Me.

      So no; you're not like Me. You are held blameless in the sight of the Father.
      And no; you don't deserve it.

      I love you.

      Monday, November 08, 2010

      An Evening in Kenya

      I stand in the gym, drinking in the steady breeze blowing through the building. Not too warm, not too cold, but just right; the sort of breeze that envelops you without suffocating you. I turn to watch a white flock of sacred ibises fly past trees splashed with magenta, lavender, green, yellow, and red, tinged orange by the setting sun. I stroll down the front access road, stooping beside a rose bush heavy with pale pink, fragrant blooms, reminded of my father by their familiar scent and of my mother by the flower at the peak of its blushing beauty.

      So. This is Kenya.

      Friday, November 05, 2010

      Good Things

      Andrews University Physical Therapy!
      First shirt from Andrews since I became a student.
      That's wonky.
      1. Eating beans and rice with Taco Bell hot sauce.
      2. Eating a Twizzler.
      3. Eating a KitKat.
      4. Saving a Reese's PB Cup for later because it's just too good for an ordinary day.
      5. Lying in bed on a rainy morning, reading the Student Movement.
      6. Having a box of chewy Honey & Oat granola bars at my disposal.
      8. Jif peanut butter.
      9. A new t-shirt from the program I'm missing out on this year.
      10. Receiving my first package.

      This Little Light of Mine

      Let there be light! And there was *flick* *tink* *flicker* *buzz* *toink* *flash* *poink* light.

      The story of the lighting in my apartment.

      Within the last week, however, the lightbulb in my main light fixture has been dimming. Not that noticeably, really, but I finally realized last night that it needs help when I walked toward the light switch, finding that it was already on. I mean, the light works, but it doesn't fulfill its function.

      Let your light so shine before men...

      Am I "so shining", or just glimmering a bit?

      Wednesday, November 03, 2010

      Life in Africa #3: What a Cheetah

      So, I petted a cheetah. With my hand. In real life. WOW.
      Jess with nameless cheetah.
      We didn't have time for introductions.
      (I might dub her/him Akbar. Why? Who knows.)

       I also saw a zebronkey.  
      Or zedonk. You choose.

      That's life in Africa.


      I'm not doing well.
      I'm struggling.
      And it's hard to admit it.

      I come from a family in which the women are strong and independent. We'll chop the wood that needs chopping and move the fridge when we mop. We're willing to pitch in and work hard until the job is done. We don't need coddling. We don't like to burden others with things that concern us.

      Perhaps it's a pride thing. Asking for (and even accepting) help is the last resort.

      Failure isn't an option. If I can't do something well, I simply don't do it at all. I only commit to that which I can complete with success.

      Now I'm trying to stand tall and shoulder burdens myself, and I'm crumbling. All I need to do is lean. The Everlasting Arms are waiting.

      Tuesday, November 02, 2010

      Journal Entry

      I'm tired of trying to prove myself. I have to fight to be right (or, at least, heard to be right) and fight to be useful. Everyone wants to be useful, and I'm not good at creating jobs. I don't like being a leader, but I also don't like being bossed around. If I need instruction, I'll ask.

      I selfishly want someone to think I'm special. I know people here care about me, but I want to be the most special to someone here. Is that selfish, or normal? I think that's why so many missionaries are married.
      And why don't I let fellow SMs be my special one? Am I just too picky, or would it be forcing a friendship?

      I'm afriad of anything good, because if it's too good, I'm afraid I'll lose it.

      I feel far from You here. I should tak You as my special someone, but it's hard. I feel mopey. I'm a two=week Puddleglum. Help me out of my funk.

      Monday, November 01, 2010

      Fighting Sleep

      I had a long chat with fellow SM Tyson on the trip back from the Mara. We shared frustrations of feeling inadequate, unimportant, unadventurous. While Maxwell is in Kenya, it seems as though it was just transplanted from the U.S. with a plop. Everyone speaks English, Saturday night activities mirror those we did at our respective Adventist academies Stateside, and U.S. Government is one of the required courses in the curriculum. Our jobs keep us busy, but not as busy as we’ve been in college. We’re fighting against sleep, rather than fighting for it. How can what we’re doing really be important?

      My very wise aunt, who served as a missionary in Russia for six years, offered this point of view:
      I [have] realized that Missionary, to me, just means "Sent, with a Job To Do."…It didn't feel glorious, or special, but I was useful."

      I've been sent. Time to get working.

      In Response to "Looking Away"

      The pastoral Maasai culture is filled with cattle, sheep and goats. Livestock are the lifesource of these people, their main food traditionally consisting of blood, meat and milk (now maize meal/ugali is added to the menu). Driving through the southern Kenyan countryside, I’ve seen innumerable brightly clothed herdsman keeping their flocks by day, trekking tirelessly after their livelihood with a staff and a stick.

      Whatever you did for one of the least of these…you did for Me.

      Sheep and goats are in every ditch and gully around Rongai. You watch more carefully for sheep while driving – apparently, goats are smart enough to get out of the way.

      Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these…you did not do for Me.

      Goats are naturally independent, while sheep seem to be distant and aloof. Goats will seek their own shelter more readily than sheep. Sheep have a strong flocking instinct and become agitated if separated from the flock.

      The King will say to those on his right, ‘Come you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance.’

      Why are we asked to be sheep, and not goats? Goats seem to be the more intelligent, self-sufficient creature of the two; wouldn’t it be logical to strive to be such?

      He will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’

      Sheep need a shepherd. Goats don’t think they do.

      Savior, like a shepherd, lead me.