Thursday, September 29, 2011

Life's not a has more bumps

"Life is a highway, I'm gonna ride it all night long."

Thank you Rascal Flatts for singing a song that belt out on the highway with the radio cranked up. Woo hoo!!! That being said, the lyrics aren't true. If life was a highway, I'd be sailing through smoothly with only some minor slow downs, a bit of construction, and a few crazies around me zooming to get there first.

I can only speak for myself, but my life is a lot more complicated than that. I think my life is more like a rocky path. Yes, it is beautiful. But it certainly isn't smooth all the time.

I have had some amazing experiences and made some cool choices recently. I also have a lot coming up in the next month or two.

Here's a snapshot:

(1) I hiked to the top of the nation's second tallest mountain, Mt. Elbert, at 14,440 feet.
(2) I began sponsoring and praying for a 10 year old girl in Honduras through Compassion International
(3) I decided to stop my church-hopping and go back home to Trinity Episcopal Church
(4) I agreed to speak at said church in two weeks -- eek!
(5) I am also considering an opportunity to work as a youth group leader at said church
(6) I replaced William (Dodge Neon) with my new unnamed darling (Mazda 3)
(7) I agreed to participate in the Tough Mudder Challenge in mid November
(8) I will be turning 23 in less than one month

I initially intended on writing more, but I'm exhausted. I'll share some stories this weekend.


Sunday, September 4, 2011

Your Big Backyard

When I was little, our family subscribed to the magazine, "Your Big Backyard." The kids' magazine shared stories from around the world. I might argue they were stretching the "backyard" a little far; nevertheless, it was exciting to learn about what cool things existed thousands of miles away.

I guess I never grew out of that phase. I want more than pictures of cute furry animals, yes, but the desire to learn more about the world hasn't faded. If anything, it grew.

I was fortunate enough to go to a university with a diverse student population. Drake University may have been in Iowa, but students came from around the world to study in the business school. Win! I made friends from Malaysia, China, Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria, Bolivia, Mexico, Bulgaria, and Vietnam and I have a ways to go before I have what would be considered a solid, basic understanding of their culture.

But I'm getting there.

Last night I spent time with friends from Tanzania. I learned more about Tanzanian, Indian, and Muslim culture. I first saw a Bollywood movie at an Indian theatre. No joking, I was the only non-India n there. It was a little bit uncomfortable to be the minority, but I honestly love putting myself outside my comfort zone. Besides, the movie was great! A good love story plus dancing and singing? I'm there!

Then we headed to the heart of the Indian neighborhood in Chicago. There's an entire street with Halal restaurants! Halal for Muslims is like Kosher for Jews. The biggest difference is just the person who blesses the animals before they are slaughtered.

Before last night, I had never thought about the dietary limitations of some religions. For example, my friends can never just stop by McDonald's and get a burger, or order a steak dinner. All meat has to be Halal.

So that's why they love this street. It's the only place they can get a Philly cheese steak. Dinner is served!

After dinner we headed to Arabia Cafe for tea, hookah, and a belly dancing show. We chatted with the server who was from Syria and found out he and my friends have family living the same city over there. What are the chances?!

I should also mention that during this time I agreed to take on a new, exciting challenge. But here's the background information first. My friend, Nabeel, founded the organization Peak4Poverty. They organized four hikes every year. Three hikes are in the US and the fourth is to Mount Kilimanjaro. They raise money for each hike and all the funds go to orphanages in Tanzania. They support eh education of the children there, so that they can not only graduate high school, but go on to college and begin to break the vicious cycle of poverty. How great is that?

So I agreed to go on a hike. Yes, in three week I will be climbing Long's Peak in Colorado. Yikes!

Now, back to the night. So, throughout the night I learned a lot about their culture. Not only about Halal, but about pan, which is chewed and eaten as a palate cleanser and breathe freshener after meals, about Muslim wedding traditions, some of the different cultures in Tanzania, and how different Indian cultures can be in different parts of the world. It was so much fun!

I am incredibly blessed to have so many friends and experience little snippets of their culture. I absolutely love it. I feel so alive when I learn and grow. I hope God keeps putting amazing people in my life. And maybe I can do some good in the meanwhile. Just like the song says, "Don't stop thinkin' about tomorrow."

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Living on Purpose

"Live on purpose." I don't remember where I first heard this, but it stuck with me. It's really easy to start living accidentally, going about your normal routines, saying hello, driving to work, responding to emails, doing your job, the list goes on and on. Are you doing those things intentionally? That is, do you ever stop and think about why you are living your life the way that you are? Or even if you enjoy your life?

Sometimes I forget to be happy. Silly isn't it? But it happens. I go through a couple days at work, some family drama at home, or maybe analyzing guy problems with girl friends. Then, after a few days of serious, problem addressing, stress inducing monotony, something happens to break my stride.

Sounds and smells usually do it for me. If a smell extraordinarily lovely flowers or hear little toddlers laughing, it always feels as if a spell has been broken. I remember...

I start thinking about God, about love, about joy, wonder, awe, excitement, passion, love...all those warm-fuzzy happy things. Praise the Lord! I'm alive again with a breathe of fresh air and I can continue on my way with a little more "oomph" than I had 10 minutes ago.

So about this whole "purpose" concept. I recently had a discussion with someone about if people's intentions matter when it comes to donating and volunteering to various causes. Does it matter if someone gives $100 to feed children in poor countries? Or volunteers at a soup kitchen? Or gives to Christmas sharing?

Most of us feel most comfortable when those giving want to give, but it's okay if the giving comes from wanting to "look good." Hey, someone gets the help regardless of the motivation, right? But what about if someone is donating because they feel they are supposed to? Without a care one way or the other. Sure, it doesn't hurt those who receive the charity, but does it hurt the donater? I know how I feel after volunteering, revived, refreshed, rejouvenated. I feel alive! What about those who help out of guilt? That cannot be healthy, right?

I still don't know where I stand on the subject, but it's interesting to me, mostly because I had never thought to think about it before. I suppose sometimes intentions do matter. Perhaps.