Recommendation Time

I’m going to do something a little different on my blog today. You’ve probably noticed that I haven’t posted very much in a while. Believe me, I’ve noticed too. (You can see how hard I tried last time and couldn’t really produce a complete post.) So today, instead of producing something of my own, I wanted to take some time to share what I’ve been listening to, reading, and watching lately. It’s recommendation time!

Listening to: This Bell will Ring by The Weatherfolk.
IMG_6450I feel so cool right now. I’ve actually sat down and had dinner in the flat where this album was recorded, with the people who recoreded it. The Weatherfolk are some American worship-leader-missionary friends I met in Scotland, and they just released their first full-length album for FREE on Noisetrade. Please go check it out and support them. The song “City of Stone” was written about Edinburgh because they fell in love with the city just as much as I did, and they want to see the Kingdom come alive there. I only ever heard it when they sang it live in coffee shops, and I cried every time. I’m so glad it’s now available for constant listening!

Also listening to: “Arms of my Father” by Hope Dialect
Hope Dialect isn’t around anymore, but they had a reunion concert last summer, hence the video. I only recently became friends with the awesome lead singer guitarist dude, the dude killin’ it on the violin, and the dude rocking out on the drums, so all their stuff is new to me. I’m still discovering new favourites, and I love it. Right now, I especially love this song “Arms of My Father,” which has been on repeat during my commutes the past few days. “You said nothing can tear me away from the arms of my Father…”

Reading: The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis
I just stared this the other day after finishing a couple books in the Orson Scott Card Ender series. It’s a highly entertaining series, but the plots and the stories consumed me, and I needed to take a break and check out some more nonfiction. Here’s one of my favourite quotes from The Problem of Pain so far: “We were not made primarily that we may love God (though we were made for that too) but that God may love us, that we may become objects in which the Divine love may rest ‘well pleased.'”

Also reading: Small Still Voices! That’s right, we’re back from hiatus, and we’ve already got some great posts up this week. Keep a look out for my contribution coming on Friday.

Watching: Blue Like Jazz based on the nonfiction book by Donald Miller
I own this movie, but I recently discovered that it’s now available on Netflix. I saw the movie before I read the book (sorry, Donald Miller) because I was fascinated by the film’s story. The film-makers ran out of money, and the fans rallied behind them to fund the project through Kickstarter. And it worked. (In other news, The Weatherfolk funded their album and Hope Dialect funded their reunion show through Kickstarter too.) If that’s not enough reason for you to check out this movie, I’ll go on: The nerd in me thinks it’s a fascinating exercise in adaptation. In many ways, the movie is not at all like the book, but in other ways it is a perfect adaptation of the heart of the book. It’s also fascinating to see how elements of the book had to be changed to fit the movie-mode. There are cartoons in the book, guys, like sketches and stuff. And yes, they do make their way into the movie. It’s also interesting in that it’s art made by Christians about faith and the search for faith, but it doesn’t restrict it’s audience to only Christians, and in fact it doesn’t fit neatly into the category of “Christian film” either. All-in-all, it’s worth checking out.

Here’s the thing about Blue Like Jazz: it’s going to get a reaction out of you, and it’s going to surprise you. It made me uncomfortable. It made me angry. It made me laugh, and then it made me feel uncomfortable for laughing, and then it made me laugh again. I confess I was getting pretty heated in my seat in the movie theater watching the protagonist be a complete jerk and worrying about how poorly this movie seemed to be representing Christians to the non-Christians who may be watching. And then came the ending scenes. If this movie doesn’t seem like your cup of tea, please stick it out until the very end. The ending solidified the story for me and it made me go, “Yes, yes. People need to see this.”

Doing: I’ve been trying to take more pictures now that spring is here and the flowers are in bloom. This isn’t a recommendation (unless you like photography) so much as it is a chance for me to post a picture. So here you go! IMG_9357

What have you been listening to, reading, watching, and doing this week?

What I Should’ve Been Saying

IMG_5454I wanted to write this post as an apology. If you’ve been following my blog at all for the past year, you’ve probably noticed that I talk about Scotland a lot, and mostly I talk about how hard it is for me to enjoy life here when I miss life there so much. I do miss it, that’s true.

However, last night, for the first time in a really long time, I spoke with a friend about my experiences in Edinburgh. I didn’t speak about myself, or how much I miss Scotland, or how much I want to go back for my own selfish reasons.

I talked about what God is doing in Edinburgh and how that excites me, whether or not I’m there physically to be a part of it.

That’s what it’s all about, and I’m sorry for not talking about that more. Because God is doing some crazy things in Edinburgh. He is drawing His children from the ends of the earth to the Scottish capital to reveal Himself to them and to raise them up and send them back to the nations. And that excites me.

And whether I get to be there to be a part of it in two years or twenty, or even if I have to remain a witness only through prayer on this side of the pond, God is still up to some crazy awesome things, and that is all that matters.

So today I rejoice over what God is doing on the other side of the Atlantic, and I pray that He leads me back there soon– but even more eagerly, I pray that He continues to establish His Kingdom in Edinburgh and that His glory would be revealed to the nations through the people that meet Him there. <3

Thoughts on Leaving

It’s like leaving Edinburgh all over again,
except this time I don’t have anything to go back to.

I’ve found my home, again, here among my family, and now I’m leaving it, for a place that I don’t even consider as home anymore.

As i sit here and think about my last two days in Colorado, I’m hit with vivid flashbacks of my last days in Edinburgh–

Of waiting for the bus on George IV Bridge on my very last day and crying at the golden-rosy-hew Old Town gets when the sun sets. I was crying because I had fallen in love, and that was the last time (hopefully only for a while) that I was going to be in the city that had captured my heart.

I start crying right now just thinking about it.

But I’ve got that same feeling now about leaving Colorado. Only I think this one’s worse, because I don’t really have anything to go back to.

My dad’s staying here, and I’m leaving my family to return to Maryland, live in a friend’s basement, and finish the last semester of school.

Not because I have a strong conviction that God has called me to do this,
Not because I have any kind feelings toward Maryland or a desire to serve there,
Just because that’s the way life’s going. Because God didn’t give me peace about transferring or dropping out with only a semester left, but he did give me peace about my dad needing to move to Colorado and me finishing what I’d started.

But I still don’t want to go back to Maryland. Sometimes my flesh and the devil like to tell me that I messed up somewhere along the way, that I took to long too finish school, or chose the wrong school in the first place, or the wrong location or vocation, and so now I’m being punished and have to finish out my sentence in misery.

But that’s not true. That’s not the way my God works.

Just because I don’t have this humongous assurance that I’m “supposed to” be in Maryland doesn’t mean God isn’t going to do some glorious work there in me and through me. I can’t always trust my feelings.

People tell me all the time, “Faith is not a feeling.” And I’ve always agreed with them. I’ve said, “Yes, that’s true. You have to have faith even when all hope feels lost.” I thought I was good at that, in believing in God even when I don’t feel Him.

But only now, I think, am I actually beginning to understand what that truth means in my own life. I don’t feel any strong conviction or desire, I don’t feel hopeful because of any promise or prophetic word. And yet, God has made promises. God has spoken over my life.

God promised me that all things would work together for my good, and for His.

God promised me that He would never leave me nor forsake me.

God promised me that Maryland would be a spring, a launching pad. (And I have to believe that that means I won’t be stuck there forever.)

God promised me that He would make a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.

God put a desire for the nations in my heart, and He promised me that He is the One who satisfies.

I don’t want to go back to Maryland. I can’t see the road in front of me. I don’t have a job. I don’t have a plan for after graduation. I don’t even know what my new house looks like. And I don’t know how I’m going to thrive alone and separated (by states and oceans and busy lives) from the people I care about most.

But I do know that God never goes back on His promises. He never changes His words. He is not sly or deceiving. He is good, and He loves me, and He is with me wherever I go and whatever I choose.

lost at home

It’s strange to think that the last time I published a post I was caught in the middle of a whirlwind life in Edinburgh, Scotland and loving every twist and turn. Now I’m back in the United States, running back to my blog after over a month of absence, staring at the ‘edit post’ screen as I listen to the song ‘Between’ by Courrier over and over and over again. My time in Edinburgh came to a close last Tuesday, and I have cried every day since. I feel like I’m throwing a tantrum, clawing ferociously at my American life, kicking and screaming as I’m dragged away from all I became, from all I knew in Scotland.

Let me just stop right there and point out the dramatic lie. As I’ve been preparing to return ‘home,’ God has spoken numerous times to my friends in Edinburgh and has told them to tell me that I’m not going backwards. Literally, He has been very adamant about getting the message across to me that coming back to America is not a backwards slide, that I’m not going to lose what I gained. On the contrary, I’ve been given words like ‘Taking off’ and ‘Launching pad.’ I’m supposed to be going forward, so God says.

However, I’m beginning to notice that it’s easy to feel like you’re going backwards when you don’t know what going forward is supposed to look like. Because I don’t. I have no idea what’s supposed to happen in my life right now. I have no idea what the next step is; all I know is I want to finish school, but I’m dreading being stuck in this state for another year… and school doesn’t even start for another month anyway.

That’s why I think it’s so interesting that one of the songs I’ve gravitated towards while being back is titled ‘Between.’ Because that’s where I am right now. Between. Between what I really don’t know, but I have to trust God that what He says is true. I have to trust that I’m not going backwards, but forwards. It’s just so hard.

‘the day between the soil and the sky / the emptiness, a void, a heaviness, a sigh.’

‘and i don’t know, i don’t know, i don’t know how / to follow, to follow, to follow’

‘in the silence i am tricked into thinking you’ll forget / and i’ll be stranded like a man in a mine…’*

But God, You are so faithful. You won’t forget. I don’t want to be tricked.

You have been so faithful in Edinburgh:
speaking to me, leading me to friends, drawing us closer together and closer to You, providing the money for what i needed when i needed it, directing my steps, giving me two churches to call home, and filling me with strength and encouragement daily.

You were faithful there. You will be faithful here.

A way in the desert. Streams in the wasteland. See, I am doing a new thing!*

God, You are so good. I have to trust in Your promises; I can’t go backwards.

*Lyrics to ‘Between’ by Courrier
*See Isaiah 43:19

Some jumbled thoughts for you.

Well, folks, we’ve gone from three posts in a week to almost four weeks with no posting at all. I apologize for my inconsistency. I really want to try and keep this blog updated regularly, especially for those of you that have been supporting me in this journey and deserve more than a few sporadic updates. That being said, this post is going to consist of a few random thoughts and details for you, in no particular order. :)

Fall is almost over in Edinburgh and winter has already begun to set in; the smell of frost is in the air and Christmas preparations are well under way. I love it!

I’m currently working on my last three papers for the semester, and they’re all going to relate to Scotland in some way. (I know, I’m super clever and deserve extra credit.) Anyway, once they’re done, I’ll have two and a half weeks to enjoy Edinburgh without having to worry about school work, and then I’ll be on my plane back to America… It feels so surreal.

As I’ve mentioned before, I feel pretty peaceful about my short amount of time here. I’m not freaking out about seeing the rest of the country or going away every weekend, and I’m not completely sure why, but I think it might be God telling me that I’ll be back here some day, that I shouldn’t feel rushed in Scotland because my time here isn’t over in December… That’s just a thought, but we’ll see where He leads.

One important thing I wanted to mention: The other day, someone from back in the States told me they hoped I was enjoying my ‘vacation.’ Now, they were joking, but it struck me and I haven’t been able to put that word aside. I’m sure most of you don’t believe that I’m in Edinburgh for vacation, but I just need to state it for my own sake — this is not a vacation. I’m not here to relax by a beach. (Although I imagine most Edinburgh tourists aren’t here to do that either.) This is not an escape, or a getaway, or a holiday, where I just go away for bit and then return to my normal life. This IS my life. I live in Edinburgh right now, I study in Edinburgh, I go to church in Edinburgh, and I’m here to learn what God wants to teach me. I’m grateful that I get to live out this season of my life in an amazing city that I get to explore every day, but please don’t call my life a vacation.

Anyway, putting all that aside, I just wanted to thank you. Thank you for reading this blog, for liking my facebook statuses and photos, for replying to my tweets, for praying for me and encouraging me.

Lastly, I just wanted to leave you with some words the speaker said at church today:
“God deems this fallen humanity as something worth fighting for.”
Amen. Our God is so good, may you see His glory on this wonderful Sunday.

A mad god’s dream

I’m two months in to my life in Scotland and two months away from leaving this place to go back to my home in America. My mind’s already starting to wander towards the things I’m looking forward to when I return. (Among the unimportant things on that list: my own washer and dryer, a garbage disposal, pumpkin spice, buying in bulk…etc.)

HOWEVER. I live in Scotland, man! I don’t want to be rushing my time here just because I’m missing the little comforts and conveniences of home. So with that in mind, I’ve been compiling a little list, a list of the things I love about Edinburgh. Here is an excerpt, in no particular order:

1. Looking out my window and seeing this every day:  

2. The fact that ‘tea’ never means just tea, and that biscuits/cookies are almost certainly included whenever you have a hot beverage (even if it’s after a three course meal).

3.Seagulls. Now, most people think this is weird, as I don’t know too many people who think seagulls are cool, but to me, seagulls represent the seaside of my childhood. I grew up on the beach, but I’ve been living away from the ocean since I turned 12, and it’s nice to just hop on the bus now and be at the beach within a half hour (althought it’s freezing!). I can see the water when I walk around the city, and it’s nice to hear the cry of gulls as I do my homework.

4. Accents. I know it sounds silly, but I really do love just listening to people speak around me. I think it’s going to be quite a blow to come back to university in the states and have to listen to professors speak in an American way.

5. Pretty money. Sorry, America, but Scotland’s money is just prettier than yours.

6. This city is a literary goldmine: Dark winding spires, stall pointy steeples, imposing themselves against the vast black sky… Deserted ancient graveyards illuminated in the rays of the afternoon sun, raindrops twinkling on the stones… It’s impossible not to feel inspired in this city. Granted, most of my blog posts, as you’ve seen, have been about having writers’ block here, but I think I’m just still letting the city sink in, and even though I probably won’t produce a great literary work while here, I just enjoy walking and observing this city steeped in history and beauty.

7. Occassionaly seeing this guy around every now and then:

8. Feeling like family at the churches I attend. I don’t mean this as a slight to American churches, I’m just saying that I will miss the families I’ve grown to be a part of while here in Edinburgh.

9. That being said, when most Scottish people say farewell, it’s never a final goodbye, only, ‘Bye just now.’

But hey, I’m not leaving yet! I’ve still got loads of Edinburgh and Scotland to enjoy, experience, and explore. I don’t need to be itching to get home just yet.
I’ll end this post with the poet Hugh MacDiarmid’s description of the city that reminds me of how blessed I am to get to live here ‘just now.’ <3

But Edinburgh is a mad god’s dream
Fitful and dark,
Unseizable in Leith
And wildered by the Forth,
But irresistibly at last
Cleaving to sombre heights
Of passionate imagining
Till stonily,
From soaring battlements,
Earth eyes Eternity.

City of Wonders

I just got back from watching a fireworks concert — if I wasn’t already in love with Edinburgh, I’m pretty sure tonight would’ve cemented that love for me. It was magical.

First of all, I’m blessed to have a park just outside my window. I noticed that people were setting up blankets and sitting out on the green, so I decided to join them. The fireworks were being set off up at the castle, but this park offers a great view — and it’s where the locals go.

Blessing number two, the people behind me brought their radio, so they were broadcasting the orchestra concert as the fireworks were going off. It was so much better that way, given that the music and the fireworks were made to go together, and it just synced up perfectly.

I loved sitting out on the lawn with the people of Edinburgh enjoying one of their famous summer events. Although, the word “summer” is debatable, because my feet almost froze… Either way, it was still wonderful. I loved the cheering, the laughter, the applause… It reminded me of the fourth of July, and I’m just a sucker for those times everyone comes together to celebrate and enjoy life. I sat among seasoned veterans and new international students just figuring out that the event was happening. I applauded with old Scottish couples and families with young children. It was a great night.

I know I can get nights like that everywhere, I mean I just mentioned that the same thing happens in America on the fourth of July… But you must understand that in Edinburgh, everything seems different. It literally feels magical, the magic of centuries of history we’ve never known…

There’s magic in listening to classical music as you watch fireworks dance over the top of a stone castle. Where can you find that in America except at Disney?

I was starting to feel very homesick tonight, and yet all I can do is write about how wonderful Edinburgh is… I think God is reminding me that I’m going to be okay here, that He’s already here and working, and I’m going to love experiencing new facets of Him and of His beauty in this place.

I invite you to come with me on the journey. Thank you for tuning in as I explore this city of wonders.

Note: I’d like to post more photos, but it takes forever to upload at the moment… Hopefully I can get more up over time. <3