Wednesday, March 14, 2012

"This is awkward, let's go..."

The other day I was helping a local church with a book table by passing out literature about God, DVDs, and information about the church.  This is something I do at least two times a week.

While performing this community services over the last several weeks, I have struggled within my heart.   You may be asking “why”.  I'm not sure of the exact answer.  I do know that it has to do with the fact that I've never passed literature out to strangers in previous experiences.  I also think it has to do with the fact that I feel like I'm not educated enough.

Yes, I finished high school.  Yes, I've been in college for about three years now - one year even being at Bible College.  However, while part of me feels like  I know a good bit about God and the Bible, I have realized that I don't know enough.  What if an unbeliever asks me a question I can't answer?  What if I am not clear enough in my answer?  The way I answer a question may impact someone's life, either for good or bad.  

On Monday, we were out once again out doing this service.  It was a very cold and windy day here in London.  (Let me just state, cold is normal here, but it is not usually that windy!)  I usually pass out the booklets provided, but for some reason, I felt lead to pass out DVDs about the history of Jesus Christ.

As I was passing out the DVDs, two young women walked by me.  They looked like they were about my age.  I asked them, "Would you like a DVD?"  They asked me what it was about and I told them it was about the life of Jesus.  By their attire, I could tell they were from a different belief system.  However, they were curious and said, "Sure", as they each took a DVD into their own hands.

As we were standing there, I tried to strike up a conversation.  I told one of the girls, "That is a beautiful scarf you have on!  That's a really pretty color."  She and her friend agreed.  Then one of the girls said, "Okay, this is awkward, let's go."  They then turned away and started to walk another direction.

Thinking this conversation was over, I thought to myself, "Man, Crystal, you should have said more!  You should have tried harder to hold a longer conversation!"

Watching the girls walk away from the place where we had just had our brief conversation, I saw them look towards our book table.  Something on the table must have caught their attention because they stopped to take a look.  Before I knew it, the two of them had a short conversation then turned around headed back my way.

Once they returned, they looked at me and said, "Okay...we have a LOT of questions."  With a smile on my face I replied, "Okay, great!  I cannot promise that I can answer all of your questions but I do promise to do my best."

These two girls indeed had a lot of questions!  We stood there talking for about 20 minutes and they must of asked at least 15 questions that afternoon.  Some of those questions included:
  • Why is the cross the symbol of your belief system?  Isn’t it ironic?  Shouldn't you hate it and shouldn't it make you angry, if God's Son died on the cross?  Why do people wear it and seem proud of the cross?
    • No, we shouldn't hate the cross.  In fact, it's a good reminder for us of Jesus' love for us as his people.  He willingly came down to this earth to save us from our sins.  God sent Jesus knowing that he would be mocked, beaten, and hung on the cross to die for us in a painful death!  How can this not reminds us of God's love for us??  It not only represents His love, but it also represents the new life we can have in Heaven one day if we believe and follow him, because He also came back three days later!
  • Why would God let his own Son die on the cross?
    • Again, for His love for us!  He knew that the perfect offering had to made for us to be able to join Him one day.
  • Do you believe all the stereotypes of our religion?  Do you believe we're all bad people?
    • No, I do not believe all of the stereotypes.  What I believe is that we all have stereotypes no matter what our religion nationality, gender, etc.  Some people will fit those stereotypes, but the majority does not.  I believe that we are all people.  While we all come from different beliefs, language, culture, etc, we are all people of emotions.  We all have a story to tell, emotions that are felt, pain, anger, sadness...We all experience life and death.  We have families, and many other similar situations and emotions.  We are all people who need love.
As I mentioned earlier, there were a LOT of questions.  I did my best to answer them.  Even though this was my first time talking with people of their belief system, I feel like I answered their questions well.  Honestly, I firmly believe that God put the right words in my mouth.  They kept asking question after question...I would answer one, they would ask another right away without even two seconds to pause.  Every question they asked, I had an answer for - and I know that's only because God was supplying the words!

In summary, we talked for about 20 minutes.  They both took home a DVD about Jesus and His life.  With God’s help, I was able to answer at least 15 questions that they asked.

My prayer?  In the end, I hope and pray that they not only heard what I had to say, but listened as well.  I pray they soaked in what I had to say about God, Jesus, and Christianity.  I pray that a seed was planted in both of their hearts throughout our conversation.

Please pray with me.  Pray that they watched the video and that they end up with more questions that they want answered.  Pray that a desire to learn more was planted inside their hearts and minds.  Pray that the right people will soon cross paths with these two beautiful girls and that they can help them learn more and help guide them.  Pray that someone will see them as people who need to see and understand true love - the love only God can give them.  That it's a person whose actions and words reflect God’s love.  Pray one day that I can meet them again, even if it's in Heaven.

The Travelin' Chick,

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Learning Lessons

Since I've left home I have learned a lot.  I think it's quite impossible to travel, live overseas, and to live with many people from different cultures and to not learn anything.  I've learned not only about other cultures, but also about myself, God, and general life things.  What are some of the lessons I have learned thus this far??

About Other Cultures
I learn something new about other cultures, countries, and states daily.  Korea, Switzerland, and Germany are some that I learn a lot about, as those are the countries where my housemates are from.  Obviously I am also learning a lot about England, as this is where we are all living. There are many other cultures represented in our groups but those are just to name a few.  We learn about customs, languages, traditions, and cultures of the countries.  Some of the things that I've learned have either been told to me verbally or I've just picked up on some customs with my senses of hearing and vision, as I interact with my new friends.

To Laugh
Leaving home and our hard year of 2011 I have learned to laugh again.  This might sound silly to some.  But when you have one hardship after another, you sometimes just forget to laugh.  I mean, I laughed when my baby cousin did something silly or at a funny line in a movie.  However, it was a different kind of laugh in comparison to the one that I am referring to.

I remember a point when I was in Germany and I was laughing.  Not only was I laughing, but I was laughing hard.  In the midst of the humor and laughter, I had tears come to my eyes as I realized, "I don't know the last time I've laughed like this.  I forgot to remember to truly laugh."  

It's been said many times around our flat, "I love your laugh!"  Thinking my laugh was no different than anyone else's I was confused.  No one has ever told that I have a great laugh.  Curiously I asked, "Why do you love my laugh??  It's just an average laugh - or so I thought."  Answering me my friends told me, "Your laugh comes from your heart.  It's a real and true laugh."  This is something I had never been told before.

Ecclesiastes 3:4 comes to my mind as I realize that this is a season of laughter for me.  I mean, don't get me wrong, being in London and living here has had both it's up and downs - but in it's ups and downs has been many moments of laughter.  True, deep, side aching, tear inducing, pure laughter.  (Luke 6:21 was also a verse I recently read.  I was weeping, now I am laughing.  Yes, I still mourn during some moments or days as mourning is not a stage but a process…but there is MUCH laughter in my days, over powering the moments of tears.)

I love grass.  I love trees.  Pretty much?  I love nature.
London is a city.  One, very big, historical, beautiful, city.  The only time you see trees and grass is if it's in a park.  While the parks are gorgeous, I've realized that I miss trees and grass being naturally placed around me.  I'm not a big nature girl but it has hit me that I am living in a very big cement city.  This has made me realize my likings of grass, trees, flowers, and nature.  It's something that I think I've taken for granted.

Who I am...My identity...
This truly could have a blog posting all on it's own.  I’ll save what I have to say about this one for a later date.

I Speak with a terrible British Accent
My British friend recently challenged me to speaking with a British accent.  I had mentioned one day that I had dreamt all night long with a British accent.  From that, he told me, "Ok.  On February 22nd I expect you to speak a total of 20 words and two sentences with a British accent."  A couple of days later I challenge him back, "I'll do the British accent if you do the American accent."  We had a deal.

A couple of weeks later, on the 22nd of February, I had him do his American accent (Which I had to bribe him in the end with trying an American candy, Butterfingers.).  I then did the British accent.  This was the conversation that followed:

"How did I do?" - Me

"Better than the first time." - My Friend

"Did I do the accent for you in a previous attempt?" - Me
"No..." - My Friend
"Thanks for trying to make me feel better anyway." - Me

Soooo...At least I tried?? ;-)

To Speak Slowly
Living with an international group that does not speak English as their first language, you learn to take your time as you speak.  I never realized how fast I sometimes talk.  Since leaving home my speech has slowed down and I have learned how to explain words and phrases when I am not quite understood.  My friends are learning English, and to an extent so I am I.  (Learning to focus on the meaning of the things that I say, why I say things, etc, etc…)

To Cook
At home I LOVE LOVE LOVE to bake.  Cooking?  Not so much.  I've not had much expierience with cooking.  

Here in London we all have to take our turns to cook.  I'd say I cook once about every 10 days.  (There are eight of us in the flat, and we schedule people to cook during the week days.  The weekends are completely up to us.)  I've only cooked twice, but the girls have survived so far!

Not only am I learning to cook, but I am learning to cook with what I have.  Working on a budget different than my parents, and living in a culture that is not of my own, we have different resources.  There are some dishes I know how to make at home.  To make them here, I would have to be more creative in the creation of these dishes.

To Tell My Story, My Testimony
Most of the people that I work with here in London don't know my story.  There are a few who do know my story, but again, that number is few.  

The other day we had a class to learn how to tell our testimony well for certain situations.  During the class we were to write out testimony/story out, and then to get into groups to share what we had written.  This way we could help one another tell our stories better and to tweak it a bit if need be.  One of my closer friends here in England that I met while in Germany told me, "Crystal, you know, I've never actually heard your testimony before.  I am intrigued."  He knew that I had a rough year in 2011, as it was mentioned in passing, but I hadn't really had the proper opportunity to share my story - especially since it's not the happy-go-lucky, put a smile on your face, type of story.

Before coming to Europe I never had to tell my story.  Or, at least, the portion of 2011.  Even Facebook and my blog haven’t “heard” the complete version of my story.  However, when traveling, people often ask, “What is your story?  What has brought you here?”  

On my blog and through Facebook I’ve been able to summarize portions of my story, one chapter at a time, as I was living through the difficult year.  Now I am being asked to share my story in a summarized version.

I love to tell and write stories.  For some odd reason, though, my own story is a story I struggle to write and to tell.  I know that this portion of my life is an important part of who I am and my testimony, yet I struggle to find the right words and way to describe my story.  God brought my family through a lot.  And while we are not in the middle of an emergency, I still feel as though God is showing me things from last year and that I am still mourning some things time to time, and am definitely still healing.

While I struggle to figure out a good way to tell my story, I do know that my story can be a powerful one.  The first time I told my story in Germany, I made a girl cry.  I mean, my own story made me cry while in the middle of it, and I even cried while telling my flat mates a summary (which, for me, crying around others is a rarity, and I hadn't ever cried before while telling story…but again, I guess this has to do with the fact that I am still healing...and ever since the first time that I cried while telling my story, I've had to suppress my tears from falling when telling my story.), but I never realized the impact it could make to another person until she had tears flowing out of her eyes.  Since then, my story has brought tears to at least two other people.  It's interesting how when I feel like I am terrible at telling my own story, God still uses it to move other people.

I know my story is a powerful one.  It is my goal to use it and to learn how to tell it well.  It is my goal to be more willing  and open to share my story, pain and all, and to even be vulnerable.  My story is an emotional one and I need to learn that it's okay to shed a tear or two when telling it.  It still affects me, and it's okay to let people know that with a drop of a tear.

To Heal
Being in London I am keeping busy working and doing many things.  Although I’ve come to work, I’ve found that leaving home and the situations behind me has become a great way to heal.  Community with others, leaving things behind me, laughter, time with God, worship…It’s all playing a part.  My views on certain things have been refreshed and I am seeing some things from different and clearer perspectives.   I’m still healing, but since leaving home I finally feel as though healing is occurring.  (Different people, surroundings, and fewer reminders are around me of the deaths and illnesses.)

Being here there have been ways I've seen how some healing has taken place.  For example?  Today I held a 7 week old baby.  This baby is less than 10 pounds, probably closer to 7 pounds.  This is the first baby I've held since holding my 14 ounce niece, Ashley, in July.  Honestly...I thought it would be a hard thing to do, to hold a living, breathing, precious baby once again...Knowing the last baby my arms held was my deceased niece.  I've been here for about 6 weeks and it's taken me these six weeks to muster up the energy to hold him.  Don't get me wrong - I've wanted to hold him, but mentally, emotionally, I just couldn't yet.  Today was a good day emotionally.  His mother asked me (as she was going to go get herself some tea), "Do you  want (to hold) a baby?"  Instantly, to my surprise, I said, "Sure!", realizing it was a really good day for me.  

There have been some days I definitely couldn't of said "sure!"  There are some days in the future I am sure I won't want to hold a tiny little baby, but for this being my first time since holding Ashley, I think I did well.  I wasn't sure if I'd cry or how I would react.  Shockingly, I didn't cry.  I was just in awe, soaking it all in.  For the most part it felt really good to hold him.  It just put me in awe to have this little baby in my arms.  It put me in awe of how much my niece did look like a baby, just much smaller (and developing).  God's creation of a tiny little child...That put me in awe.

To Live in the Present
I don’t want to live in the past.  I don’t want to completely dream about the future.  I don’t want to mentally live back home in California, living off of homesickness. I want to live now, in this moment, in this place.  I want to focus on the present, my current location, the tasks and people in front of me.  If we don’t live and focus on the present, we’ll miss out on a lot.

I Enjoy Games
I've always liked to play games (board games and card games).  However, I've not really spent much time playing games in the last few years.  Recently I've rediscovered the enjoyment of playing games with others.  My list of games I'd like to own has been growing since I've left home!  I'm learning a lot of games, but am also fascinated that you can have five different people from five different countries playing a game that is familiar to all five of us from different countries and cultures.

To Pray
Don't get me wrong: I prayed before I came here.  I prayed during my application process, choosing my location to go to, etc, etc.  I prayed for other things as well before coming.  For family, friends, and prayers of thanksgiving and praise.  However, since being here my prayer life has grown and is stronger.


Those are just some of the topics that I am currently learning about.  Some are topics I’ve learned, some that I am still in the process of learning.

The Travelin’ Chick,