Wednesday, August 29, 2007


So, to continue on my thoughts on yesterday...

When I came home last night from doing errands, there was a party at our building. That is a pretty common scene. One of the women said they had just planned it that day to surprise one of the ladies for her birthday and would I want to come. So, I decided to go for awhile. John and I have gotten to the point where we get invited to most of the neighbor parties now. We usually try to go for at least a little while, but it can be challenging. I am fairly competent with Spanish, but they get to talking so casually and so quickly, and poor John is done after, Como estas? There is also an interesting dynamic in that we are very highly respected by our neighbors. It is flattering, but it can also make us feel like outsiders, set up on some sort of weird pedastal. We definitely feel under observation much of the time. For example, about a month ago, our downstairs neighbors had a horrible plumbing, flooding mess in their apartment, so I made dinner and took it down to them. According to the teenage girl who lives there (and is the building "informant"), when I left, all of the women gathered around to open the food to find out "what white people eat."

Anyway, last night, as I sat there looking around, I realized it was only the women hanging out together. A man or two would float through, but it was "girl time." Some of the time, I just sat, but I stuck it out for the evening and bonded with these women in a way I haven't before. By the end of the evening, there were just a few of us from the building left really talking, and it just felt right to really be sharing life together. That was after they had taught me the Spanish words for underwear and thong! Fun times! :)

Today, my neighbor kids came over for the weekly arts and crafts time I have with them. It is the last one before school starts, so all 12 of them piled into the living room today. After the art project, I let them decorate sugar cookies. Letting kids loose with cookies, frosting, and sprinkles is like letting a wild tiger loose in a butcher shop. They would look at me with wide eyes and say, "We can put whatever we want on them?" Well, in most cases, that meant put it ALL on!!! I had to include a picture of one of the girls' creations because, as you can see, individual cookies can hardly even be distinguished; it's just one giant blob of frosting and toppings! :)
As I was wiping up random globs of frosting, I couldn't help but feel like I was smiling right along with our amazing Creator! Joel (our pastor) was just talking Sunday night about us being created in the image of God who is amazingly creative. There is something in us as humans that longs to release that. For so many, art and crafts and such are a luxury that gets shoved aside in the struggle to make ends meet. Seeing the kids take such delight in doing the projects is a joy and a pleasure. They don't even know yet that they are made to reflect the image of God, but I can see the glimpses of it. Even in the blob you see pictured, it just struck me in this girl's enthusiasm to just extravagantly "go all out" with her cookies. It just seemed such the heart of our Creator saying, This is the extravagance with which I created each of my precious children. I held back nothing. I went "all out."

A "Without" Day

There are days when things just seem to connect with what it seems life should be about. Yesterday and today have been that way. In many ways, they have been focused "without" (my term for the world around me), but it is impossible to separate the inner life from the outer life, so as I connect with the world around me, things connect inside my own heart and mind, and it all just seems like it makes sense.

Yesterday I spent part of my afternoon at Samosa House, a local Indian grocery and restaurant that has become one of my favorite places. I have been going there every Tuesday to study my Hindi and to practice little bits with the folks who work there when I get up the courage. Yesterday the young girl who has been super friendly to me, though she seems a little shy, was working. I ordered in Hindi, and I tried a new dish that I had never even seen before the previous Tuesday when someone was eating it. She had mentioned recently about a festival that was coming up (lots of festivals in the Hindu calendar!), so I asked her about it. She explained all about it to me. I said that I realized after coming in for several months, I don't actually know her name. She seemed a little caught off guard, but we exchanged names. As I sat down to study my Hindi, thoroughly enjoying my newly discovered Bhel Puri and my weekly dose of Chai, she came to the table and told me that if I ever want any help, she reads, writes, and speaks Hindi and would be happy to help me. I've been practicing little bits with her before, and she's been willing, but this was a very intentional offer made to extend friendship to me. I love the tasty treats at Samosa House, and I'm thrilled to have someone to practice Hindi with, but THIS is it--the real reason I go and keep going! A connection made.

I get carried away and write a lot in these entries! I'm going to go spend time now with one of my favorite small people on the planet--Duncan Lawrence--so I'll have to resume my thoughts on my days later. :)

Within My Cupboard

So, I have undertaken a project to organize and clean our apartment. I have been purging our dwelling of all unnecessary items, mapping out a plan for organization, and have grand visions of an efficient and spotless Snowden home. I have accepted the current disaster in our apartment as part of the process, and I was starting to feel pretty good about my commitment to a tidier home. I have always been an overcommitted type-A person who has faced the reality that not everything in life can be in perfect order, and the place where that has played out is in my home. Well, now I have determined to tame this unruly area of my life bringing all things to the standard of efficiency and structure I long for.

With my head in the clouds of my dreams for a brighter tomorrow for the Snowden apartment, I noticed a funny smell in the cupboard under the sink yesterday. As I got closer, I realized there was nothing funny about it! Upon further investigation, while holding back the gagging, I discovered an item (completely unidentifiable at this point) in the plastic bag which I brought it home from the store in had actually gotten to the point of liquifying! I cannot even describe to you the putrid smell from the decaying vegetable corpse that soaked into a spot in the cupboard. How does a person, two people nonetheless, not notice something like that before it gets to that state?!

While I do hope to bring greater organization to our apartment, I accept with humility that I do not now nor will I ever have everything "under control." In fact, at the current time, I have a very pungent odor emphasizing that point lest I forget. Anyone know of a way to get the smell of (*&$%) out of wood?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

thoughts when not sleeping

Brace yourselves if you decide to read this. My mood has been bad this evening, and now with finding myself unable to sleep again, it might not be pretty.
Not being able to sleep sucks.

Sometimes I am able to feel peaceful and thankful about it--a quiet time in the day to pray and reflect and think.
Sometimes it comes in quite handy that I seem to require less sleep than the average human being.
Sometimes it just sucks.
Awake, alone with a head full of swirling thoughts. Augh. Rehearsing the lines of an email I should write. What is this bump on my chin? Mentally checking items off my to-do list from today. Why did I wear these pajamas? Adding to my to-do list for tomorrow. Looking at the painting I can see through shadows on the wall, wondering what is the purpose of art? Wondering what the purpose of anything is.
Swirling thoughts. Piles of thoughts. Sometimes the same ones cycle through again and again.

As I was driving home from my last Hindi class today, I was thinking about how I just cannot get over my hatred of doing things wrong and how that holds me back. In this case, I really need to get over it and practice speaking. Inherent to the idea of "practice" seems to be that it is not a perfected performance. My Hindi teacher would say so many times, "Don't hesitate. Just say it, and I'll correct it if it's wrong." What?! Do something that might be wrong?! I hate being wrong, and I don't like being corrected! Where does this horrifying fear of failure come from? The logical part of me knows that the world will not implode on account of a few wrong Hindi words coming out of my mouth, but the prideful part of me can't bear the thought of "failing" at something, however small or momentary that thing may be.
Pride sucks.

This need for perfection is arrogant, and it is heavy. It is horrible to constantly feel that I don't meet my expectations for myself. How can I? There is always more I "should" do or "should" know or a way I "should" do something better. Only God is perfect, and I am not Him. Why doesn't that sink in to my thick head to walk in grace and stop striving for perfection, which I think saddens Him, maybe even angers Him at the arrogance of thinking I could ever reach perfection. Then that leads me to be frustrated that I have not yet learned to accept my imperfections and my humanity. I've known this struggle, and I've laid it down so many times, so I chastise myself for picking it back up again. Why can't I get this right? (A not-so-clever "righteous" disguise for my perfectionism.)
Perfectionism sucks.

John tells me that I am very good at self-loathing for not meeting my own impossible standards. He knows how much I like to be good at things. :)

Because he knows that, just to mess with me sometimes, he tells me that I suck at sleeping.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

My Language Barrier

So, I love different languages. Love learning them. Hate sounding stupid. I need to get over it and just try, practice it. I am so busy critiquing my abilities in the language that I withdraw from using it! How pointless does that make learning it!
One of my character flaws, perhaps one of my biggest lifelong struggles is perfectionism. I don't like to do things unless they are done well, nay perfectly! I know how utterly arrogant and ridiculous it is. Yet, it continues to block my path sometimes from just stepping out and taking a risk to do something that might not be perfect but would be so good for my growth and, ultimately, my life journey.
Anyway, I have only one more Hindi class left, and I really want to be able to use it to speak with my friends in India. So I just need to suck up my pride, be willing to sound like a 3-year-old for awhile, pray for a lot of grace (more from my self than from others as they tend to be pretty gracious already), and SPEAK some Hindi!

Monday, August 13, 2007

You Can Take the Girl off the Farm, but...

I am realizing that growing up in a Midwest farming community with Mennonite culture on top of it has led me to have an abnormal (and at times) unhealthy work ethic. I used to always think that I had a "good" work ethic, but I am realizing that sometimes it is, in fact, not "good." To capture the essence of the approach to work that is ingrained in me, it is basically, "Work. Work hard. Keep working. If things are hard, keep working even harder."

Now, there are some obvious benefits to this approach. I get a lot done. My approach to work combined with my love for efficiency allows me to get much more done in a day than the average human being. Also, there is value in working hard and persevering through obstacles. So many people in modern society bail when things are even inconvenient, let alone truly difficult.

What I'm realizing (not entirely a new revelation) is that work and "doing" and serving all the times can hold a place in my life that is very imbalanced. I lose track of who I should "BE" at times because I am so busy "DOING"! I get very dissatisfied when I am not tangibly accomplishing things that I can cross off my checklists. I even get very critical of people who have less of a threshhold for work, business, facing challenges, etc. They seem lazy to me because, after all, isn't the way I do things the right way? Yeah, I think that's referred to as "judgmental"--Ouch!

Sometimes my stubborn commitment to being tough and working hard even borders on stupidity. (I say borders to make myself feel better--it is stupidity.) About a week ago, we were helping with set up for a community festival. Very few people showed up, and even many who did sort of stood around waiting for some sort of inspiration to strike or something. So, I dive in full force. I'm not going to stand around and wait for people to help me carry tables. I'll just carry them myself. Now, despite my protests at times, I am a city girl. I do not tote bags of feed anymore. I am not in high school, and I do not lift weights anymore. The long rectangular tables are clearly too heavy for me, but I am determined. When clean-up time comes, there are many more people to help, but I proceed with my same stubborn approach. Several guys comment on me carrying them by myself, which only fuels the fire. One of our church elders says, "My, you're strong." I say, "Actually, I'm really not; it's purely stubbornness." Why it doesn't even hit me at that point as being twisted, I can't explain. I consider myself a logical person, but there are times when others things (pride, stubbornness, etc.) seem to completely cloud that. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately so that I will finally learn one of these days), I was hurting quite badly the next day and a day or two after that!

Maybe someday I will learn to give up my stubborn ways and use the good sense God gave me to find some balance in working hard without needing to maintain some crazy old ingrained, unrealistic, unhealthy standard of what a good work ethic really means. Maybe, with a lot of grace, someday I will have a work ethic that is actually "good."