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?

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.

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.

When in Scotland…

Do as the Scots do.

I just got back from having “tea” with a delightful elderly woman and some of the Chinese girls I met at church. And when I say “tea,” I mean a three course meal with tea and more dessert at the end, followed by a second round of tea with toast and biscuits. The starter was a fruit salad, the main course was baked chicken, and the dessert was cream-puffs and ice cream. This woman, Rita, spoiled me severely. I’m pretty sure I had at least six cups of tea, copious amounts of chocolate and sweets, and I left completely satisfied and a wee bit sleepy! We talked a lot about Rita’s life, faith, America, and China… Rita has been following the Lord “for a hundred years,” she says, but really since she was twenty-two. Her house is decorated with multiple Bible verses, and she started our tea with a prayer of thanksgiving. It was wonderful to be in her house, to be invited in to share the afternoon with her. God is good.

Tomorrow, I’m taking part in another Scottish ritual of sorts: watching the Scotland verses England Rugby match! I’ve never seen Rugby before (except on that one episode of friends where Ross gets totally destroyed…), so I’m really excited to watch the game with some committed fans — Let’s go Scotland!

Have I mentioned yet how much I love living here? I’ve been thinking a lot lately about traveling, about getting out to sight-see and explore the different touristy areas of Scotland… I would still like to do these things, but they just don’t feel like a priority to me right now. Is that bad? For the first month I was here, I would stress out about all the places I needed to go, the things I needed to see, and all the fun trips my peers were planning and how I wouldn’t have enough money or time to join them… But these past few days, I’ve just begun to not care so much about that.. Because it seems that every time I think about trying to go away, I realize there’s something going on here in Edinburgh that I don’t want to miss, like a church event or a hang-out with friends (or tea with Rita). I think — and I’m still in conversation with God about this, but — I think that I’m here to do things like that. I’m here to hang out with people, to build relationships, to encourage and be encouraged… I would much rather be doing that then seeing something once, taking a picture, and checking it off my to-see list.

Don’t get me wrong, I love exploring God’s glorious land, and I really do want to visit the Highlands and see more of Scotland’s beauty… but I think I’m getting better at not worrying about it so much. I want to leave it in God’s hands, and if I make it to these amazing sights, then so be it, but if I don’t, I know my time in Scotland will have still been worth something. I don’t need to see Loch Ness to feel I’ve made the most of my semester abroad. Although I’d love to spot Nessie some time, I know that God has me here for greater purposes than just seeing. He’s led me into relationships that are full of His light, and He’s shown me areas where that light needs to be just a little bit brighter… and that is why I’m here.

God, I’d love to see more of this beautiful country you’ve placed me in, but I’ll trust in Your timing and Your plan. No matter what happens, You won’t let this time go to waste. Thank You for reforming my desires, easing my stress, and helping me to see that there is more to Scotland than seeing the sights — there are people to love, and they are just as beautiful as misty lochs and vast landscapes. Amen.