Thursday, July 1, 2010
The end of this last school year was especially poignant for me. I still find it hard to believe that practically all the people I started with are gone. Sitting in the stadium seating as I watched friend after friend walk across the stage wasw hard. Of course, it still won't settle in completely until the next schoolyear starts. I'm fairly certain I can claim oldest undergraduate next year. It'll be strange.
On a different note, I've decided that Courtney will not be allowed to disappear for two months ever again. Since she's left, I've received one lengthy e-mail from her and read three blog posts. I don't like it. It's the first time we have been this out of touch since the moment I met her, and all I really want is to hear her voice, plain and simple.
Anyway, the day calls. Work to do.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
As I sit here in the quiet stillness of my room, the faint notes of Death Cab for Cutie playing in the background, I am caught up in nostalgic introspection. These past nine months have been a complete whirlwind of activity. This inexorably leads to the need to write, to organize my thoughts in words, a skill that G-d has gifted me with.
There's so much that has happened, so much that I have done, so much that I have learned.
At moments like this, I cannot help but be caught up in the inexplicable revelation that every step that I have taken has been part of the wonderful tapestry that G-d has woven me into. It is a wondrous idea, an honor, and yet... incredibly humbling.
I was given an unparalleled joy as I spent four and a half months roaming the countrysides of England, Ireland, Scotland, and France. I learned many things that are easy to put into words: the simple beauty of the Scottish Highlands is breathtaking, the City of Lights is captivating, and I love playing volleyball.
The other life lessons are not so simple. Some concepts and lessons will always exist without adequate words to express them fully. I've always known but now have felt that faith cannot and should not exist in a vacuum, which was one of my strongest motivations in how I spent the next semester.
The almost fortnight that I had between arriving at home and starting the next semester was far from enough time to readjust to being back in the states and get organized for returning to another challenging semester at school--my fifth eighteen credit hour semester. The truth is that I always adjust to the different textures and characteristics of other cultures quite well, but I always struggle at readjusting to my own.
This last semester has been... wonderful, crazy, ridiculous, busy, and exhausting all at once. I know that I spread myself much more thin than I should have, but I thirsted for so much activity, perhaps attempting to balance the social void that I had felt the semester before.
I was lead to pledge to Kappa Chi, a coed Christian service fraternity, a step that I still probably would not have taken if I had not been allowed to pledge after the official pledge date. The joy of participating in this group required my Sunday and Monday evenings.
On Tuesdays and Wednesdays I spent my time discussing, learning, and praising G-d through two fantastic Bible studies. The first one, I attended with many old friends and was able to use this time as one part of many moments that helped me ease back into my amazing group of friends. I had missed them.
I also started attending Intervarsity steadily for the first time this past semester, and I'll admit that going to watch and hear Courtney play her cello (also known as Elgar) was part of the attraction. But it was also a great experience getting to praise the Lord and becoming more familiar with some people that I had barely known.
And on Fridays, of course, I kept on attending and assisting with the running of SCF's Focus--the main meeting that I have been attending every single Friday that I have been in town. I had missed that fellowship, I had missed delving into that wonderful group.
This last semester has been full of wonderful surprises--even if one in particular sticks out--as well as some disappointments. I miss having the now Amanda (Bechtinator) Nally around at school. Words cannot express how dearly I treasure her friendship, and I've missed being able to see her, even if I am extremely happy for the season of life with which G-d has blessed her. I've also had to bid farewell to so many people that I care about and will miss. Graduation is tough.
At the same time, I've gained a great new group of friends, some that had always been floating around on campus and some that had only just arrived this past school year. I've also been blessed with a wonderful girlfriend. Although no especial event or story really marks the beginning of our relationship, I feel as if something should have. I was captivated by Courtney the moment I met her on my first day back at campus; there was just something about this girl that I could not ignore, something about her that.... drew me, attracted me. It has been a wonderful difficulty adjusting to having a girlfriend around on a daily basis, but a simple joy at the same time.
Even though I could turn this novella into a complete novel, given the time, the soft covers of my bed are calling me. However, the end conclusion of this entire school year is rather simple: a G-d created tapestry, an ordained plan.
I cannot wait to see what comes next--an anticipation that is surprising and exhilarating.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Such a simple question for such an overwhelmingly cosmic answer, an answer that every member of humanity is searching for every day. So, I found myself asking G-d, once more....
What does it mean to live?
Living means never listening to fear.
It means knowing when to say yes, when to say no, and when to wait with patience.
It also means accepting that I'll always eventually make the wrong choice.
It means diving into the unknown.
It also means appreciating the scrapes, bruises, and cuts I get when I do dive.
It means letting go of even the most simple plans the moment that G-d changes them.
It also means loving Him and praising Him every time this happens.
It is a dynamic, challenging, changing cacophony of music and silence, emotion and logic, need and desire.
It is as steady as the quiet, constant movement of a tectonic plate.
It is held within the most simple of glances, encapsulated by wordless communication.
It is held within a quiet whisper and vanishes the moment I attempt to grasp it.
Friday, January 2, 2009
What effect has this past year had upon my life? What lessons have a learned, what trials have made me stronger? Which ones made me weaker? With how quickly the last six months of that year passed, even three weeks have been too little time to process everywhere I have been, all the people I have met, and all the lessons I have learned.
Out of it all, only one lesson truly rises above the murky surface of my musings. I've spent too much of this past year being swayed by fears, by the faint whisperings of the possible detrimental effects. It's not to say that my attention to these whispers has always or even often resulted in decisions different than those which I would have made, but they have been unofficial guides that I refuse to recognize any more. G-d is my Anchor, my Saviour, my Source. Only in Him do I ever truly live, and without Him, I slowly wither away.
My resolution for the new year? I don't have one. I could spend hours trying to make a list and fail to even write down one thing. I just want.... G-d. I want to be directed by Him, healed by Him, and sustained by Him.
And I know He will. I look at this past year... I gained another best friend, more patience than I thought I could contain, and learned more about what it means to be myself. I've been shaped by world travels, sharpened by so many amazing people, pulled closer to my Lord and Saviour. Life never stops changing, never stops challenging, never stops pulling me away from what I am comfortable with, but it never stops being...
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
This Sunday was one of them. My Saviour met me. He found me where I was, he touched me as I worshiped Him among my fellow believers for the first time in months. How wonderful is our G-d! He did not stop there, His presence followed me. I ended up at the house of a family, the members of which are old friends of mine, and I got there as they were ending their house church meeting. In that final prayer, G-d used a simple man to speak His simple words, ones that were precisely what I needed to hear.
This is how great my G-d is; this is my astounding Lord who saves.
This late evening, I have found myself caught in the past, glancing through some of the many memories clouding my thoughts, but lead through them by Yeshua. As always, I see things that I would do differently now, but rest secure in the knowledge that it is the experience of those moments that have made me into the person that I am today.
However, I saw something different in them today. I clearly saw... a thread, a plan, a design, a purpose in a brief flash, a transient moment. Everything that has happened in my life, big or small, has been part of his continuous process of molding and shaping me more into the person he has destined me to be with each day. I rest secure in that.
I can still see that the process is by no means close to nearing its end, that the work He has left to do in me and through me is gargantuan. But at this moment, I can only find my heart echoing the words of a favored song toward the throne of G-d: "You know the way / I've let go the need to know why / For you know better than I."
"The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace." Numbers 6:24-26
Who knows what joys He has waiting for me around the next bend, behind the next tribulation?
Sunday, December 14, 2008
How am I supposed to capture my experience in the beautiful Paris within these swift scratchings on a page? The entire time I was there, moment bled into moment, memory into memory. I do have distinct recollections of the specific monuments and buildings that I visited, but when I attempt to pierce the dreamy fog of my experience, I find it difficult to separate one museum from another. This is not because I didn't treasure every painting that and sculpture that I could, but there was just too much art to take in at once!
Even now, I can still dwell in awe upon the The Raft of the Medusa, gaze in rapture at Psyche and Cupid, or even stand in amazement before Nike of Samothrace. So many pieces of art struck me and enthralled me that I cannot begin to ever remember them all.
However, the beginning is always a good place to start. My friend Laura and I had the opportunity to leave Harlaxton on November 12th, a Wednesday afternoon. So, we caught a train to Nottingham and then made it to East Midlands Airport. From there, we flew into Paris. When we first arrived, I realized that Paris was going to be the first place I really had to work hard to navigate. But, after some work, we made it to our hostel, this first one being where we spent two of our four nights.
The next morning, we took off and begun our exploration of Paris at a place that I had always wanted to visit: the Eiffel Tower. The line was not too long, so we got up to the third and uppermost level of the tower pretty quickly. I still cannot decide what I liked more, the tower or the view. Looking around, I saw Notre Dame Cathedral for the first time far off in the distance, caught a glimpse of the Arc d' Triumph, and even spied the Louvre. It is just an absolutely gorgeous city, one easily dominated by this iconographic tower, an engineering marvel.
From there, we went straight to the Arc d' Triumph. There was a small, pleasant museum inside of it, but nothing extravagant. I had always envisioned seeing this monument, a dream which was not disappointed. The friezes that decorate the outside of this arch are magnificent. Once again, I found myself wistfully wishing that my own country was so dominated by historical markers while I gazed over this city from the top of this wonderful piece of architecture.
After that, we made it to the Louvre, which was the first French palace that I ever approached, but definitely not the last one. After all, the number of French palaces is almost without number. With so many large buildings that can have no other possible purpose, it is no wonder that so many museums are housed in Paris. I remained in the Louvre until it closed, and I focused mainly on sculptures this first time. I saw a lot of Greek sculpture, the Venus de Milo, Nike of Samothrace, wandered through every piece of sculpture I could find, and found myself transfixed before Cupid and Psyche. Something about this piece of artwork simply captivated me. I also did make it to a group of paintings, which included the Mona Lisa (which I found less impressive than the world does), The Raft of Medusa, and Liberty Guiding the People, just to mention a few.
That evening, Laura and I had a mix-up when we tried to regroup, so I continued on the Orsay Museum, which is full of works by pre-impressionists and impressionists. I can still see a painting by Ingres before my mind, which is simply the first of many artists that flitted across my vision that night. I still remember my surprise at seeing two rather large paintings by Toulouse-Lautrec, my joyful relaxation at seeing more works by Degas, an eager fascination with a Van Gogh, my peaceful enjoyment of Monet's light study of Rouen Cathedral. I wish I could vividly remember each and every painting, but I cannot. Memory is like a sieve.
I made it back to the hostel that evening, and the next morning we had to continue on to our next hostel. So, we made it to Gare Lyon and started wandering around. At one point, I asked a Frenchman for directions in English, he made it clear that he did not understand English, but asked if I knew Spanish. Thus, an American got directions from a Frenchman through Spanish. It was quite entertaining. We eventually got where we were going, and then hopped back onto the Paris tube and went to the very heart of the city—the Île de la Cité upon which Notre Dame Cathedral stands.
It was so utterly... majestic, so uniquely impressive. I've seen cathedral after cathedral, church after church ever since I've been here, but the uniqueness of each one never ceases to surprise. I loved the chance to explore the cathedral and then to go up into the two main towers. However, seeing the inside of the bell tower was fabulous, the largest bell being the pinnacle of the journey, which Quasimodo would have rung only on special occasions. ;)
After that, Laura and I grabbed a quick lunch before we went back to the Louvre. I blazed through as much of that museum as possible, knowing that I wouldn't be able to make it back there for some time. To finish it off, I added some more prints and postcards to my collection. We then tried to go back to the Orsay Museum, but had my knowledge of museum hours proved themselves inaccurate. After that, I went back to the Louvre again, discovered that I had displaced my museum pass, and so just grabbed some dinner before grabbing the tube back home.
However, the third and final day proved to be a ridiculously busy day. We started off with some time well spent at the Orsay Museum, and this time I added to my already large number of prints and postcards. Instead of tackling the whole museum again, I stopped by The Spring by Ingres, Manet's Olympia, and The Fifer, also by Manet. After that, I went up and just resolved into quiet contemplation of the impressionist gallery.
From there, we went to the Orangerie Museum, which had eight absolutely magnificent waterlily paintings by Monet, as well as another set of impressionist paintings—and there's a series by Renoir that catches my focus every single time. I can't help but find any of these particular paintings captivating when I lay eyes on them. After that, we went to the Rodin Museum and I got to see the original Gates of Hell as well as all of the pieces of sculpture that it inspired him to create. It was absolutely spectacular. I loved it.
A quick saunter over to Napoleon's Tomb was the next on the agenda, which had the misfortune of taking a while. It was in an area behind a cathedral, one which I actually found unremarkable for a cathedral. After that, it was back on to the tube. Laura then went back to our hostel and I continued on to the Eiffel Tower again and walked up to the second of three stories because it was cheaper, even if my feet were rather upset by the end of it.
After that, I ended my last free time in Paris with a night river tour of the Seine. My time at Eiffel Tower and upon the river truly revealed with this magnificent place is called the City of Lights! It was absolutely gorgeous. It was so enjoyable to simply sit back and listen to the history of the place, even if I cannot remember a word of it now.
The rest of my time was spent stopping by the Gare du Nord to grab some train tickets back to London, and since the best prices were for the earliest train in the morning, we took it and arrived safely back in Grantham.
Despite how much time I spent there, I need at least another week there to see everything I want to in the time that I would like to. So much to see and so little time.
St. Paul's Cathedral was, without a doubt, the least religious one I have ever set foot in, though the word 'religious' is not quite right. I think the words 'Christ glorifying' might get the point across better. This cathedral was all about celebrating the military exploits of Britain, with a section behind the altarpiece devoted to Americans that died, if I remember correctly, in World War II. I found more references to Admiral Nelson than I did to Christ. It was a glorious cathedral, and I greatly enjoyed going up to the balcony surrounding the outside of the dome and getting a magnificent view of London, but it was difficult to truly find G-d there.
From there, I met up with some friends, and we made a stop at Twinings on our way to Trafalgar Square. I could not resist, I just had to get some tea and a couple gifts.
Now for one of the most amazing highlights of my time over here, which still strikes me as quite ludicrously funny. We got to Trafalgar Square, we being Annie, Jon, Bethany, Katie, Leil, and I, and started eating lunch. After a few moments, Katie decided to see if one of the pigeons would take a bite out of her apple while Katie held it in her mouth. I still chuckle when I remember seeing her bent over on the steps in front of the National Art Gallery trying to entice a pigeon to bite a piece out of the apple in her mouth.
Of course, then we started making it even better. We all had raisin packets in our sack lunches. Using this resource, many of us became pigeon whisperers—we started using raisins in our hands to get pigeons to land in them or on our arms. We had such a blast! I had two or three on my right arm at one point in time... of course, this was a motif of the day—my friend Ana had actually caught one before we went into St. Paul's Cathedral.
Then, once we finished having our fun, we found a sign just a few yards behind us.... One that said there is a possible 500 pound fine for feeding pigeons at Trafalgar Square.... Lucky that there weren't any police around, eh?
After that, we finally made it to the National Art Gallery, and they have quite a few phenomenal paintings, but it was my second trip, so I focused on the pictures I wanted to see more than trying to cover everything, which for me means focusing on paintings from around the impressionist period. I enjoyed myself. From there, it was off to see War Horse, which was an absolutely fantastic play. They puppetry of the horses was astounding it was just a wonderful story.
The next day, Laura and I remained because we had made plans to see Les Miserables. So, we had a good, lazy sort of day. We walked along the Thames River, passing by the Globe, and eventually stopped at the London Eye. When we got on, it was pretty cloudy, but by the time we had made it to the top, the sun was shining bright and the rain had already made its escape. It was a splendid day.
Les Miserables was simply breath-taking. The actor who played Jean Valjean had a magnificent tenor—very clear and distinct. I also greatly appreciated the differences between the play, novel, and movie that I've seen. I like how Eponine is portrayed in the play. A lot. Overall, it was just marvelous, simply marvelous.
The next morning, all we did was return to Grantham since I had a volleyball game that afternoon.
Asking for time to decipher the signs...
- What is there to know? I'm just another guy trying to figure out what it means to truly love, to truly live, to embrace life to the fullest. If I ever get some answers, I'll let you know. "So live on, / Breathing in every sigh / Hurt and joy / Truly living life to its fullness / Leaving no dream unturned / Or unfulfilled / Live on / Life awaits" -excerpt from "Nostalgia" by me.