America, Art, Beauty, Celebration, Culture

St. Valentine

I’ve always heard that “when you meet the right one, you’ll just know.” Or “when you know, you know.” And I’ve never understood that before. That certainty that the person you’re with is the person you’re supposed to be with for life. That sureness that this relationship is right. 

Everyone talks about these committed dating relationships and how they end in a pretty ring and a picture perfect wedding. But no one really talks about how they start. Oh sure, anyone will tell you their love story. You can trace it all back to the day everyone met. But, I’m talking about more than that. The part that they don’t tell you. The part that is unseen by the rest of the world. The inner workings. 

I am a person with what I hope is a good amount of resolve. When I set it in my mind to do something, I’ll work to get it done. That’s not to say everything that I set out to do works out. It’s also not to say that I’m invincible. But, the first step to getting anything done is determining in your mind what your goal is and going after it. 

This is what no one told me about committed relationships.

You have to be ready for one. 

Not ready in the: I wish I had a boyfriend to go out and do fun things with. Or the, I’m single and everyone else has someone, so I need someone too. Or the, I’m reaching my mid-twenties and society is telling me that this is the time for me to find my person.

I’ve never been in a serious relationship before. And I can blame that on not meeting the right person yet, not “clicking” with the guys I’ve dated, I could even blame them and say they weren’t ready. But in all actuality, I’m realizing I was never ready. 

And there is nothing wrong with that.

There is nothing wrong with not being ready to settle down. There is nothing wrong with having goals and ambitions that have nothing to do with a relationship. There is nothing irresponsible about living a happy, healthy single life. No one can tell you what your timing will be, when you’ll be ready or if you’ll ever be ready. There is no time stamp on when love has to come about. 

Because even if we’re ready, we can never really plan for love anyway. Sometimes, it just happens. 

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America, Art, Canada, Culture, Family, Funny, Outdoors, Summer, Travel

For Hire

I’m not quite sure how we ended up in Toronto of all places, but we’re here. I assumed we’d fly through Chicago then north into Canada from there. That seems the most direct route. But, we were routed through Houston, then had a direct 4 hour flight from there.


Have you ever been bumped up from an economy flight to first class? Yeah, me either. 

But, apparently, if this happens to you, when they scan your economy ticket at the gate, the screen lights up and it makes a happy little sound and you know you’ve hit the jackpot. The reason I know this is because it happened to Jake, who was standing in line in front of me.

 I hoped my ticket would make that happy little sound too, but it made the regular scanning noise, sealing my fate for my cramped little seat at the back of the plane and a lukewarm coffee, if I was lucky. 

Jake politely reveled in his win of the day, while the Frenchman behind me tried to talk him into trading seats. But, two minutes later when we boarded the plane, the Frenchman and I decided economy wasn’t so bad after all. 

Jake happened to have won a seat right next to a screaming infant. The Frenchman and I bid him adieu and made our own jokes about how he had to sit by the be’be.  

As usual, I was seated on the last row of the plane. And as I took my seat, I could still hear the little guy next to Jake yelling. 

Some people might not expect this of me, but I’m not really great with kids. Kids are okay, I don’t dislike them. And they don’t dislike me. We generally get along. They smile at me and I smile back. We make small talk with each other. They hold my hand and look at my bracelets. But, I just don’t really know what to do with them. 

I’m fine with little babies, they pretty much just eat and sleep. If they’re crying, you have about three options for what they need. They’re pretty predictable.

But, from around 1 on to about 7, kids kinda baffle me. They can almost take care of themselves, but not really. They’ve got strong little personalities they’re developing. They don’t like coffee, they generally don’t like vegetables, they’re just not really that compatible with me. 

Jake, on the other hand, loves kids. He knows exactly what they want, he knows how to talk to them on their level, he can engage them, and they love it. If there is a kid in the room, they naturally gravitate towards him. 

I settled into the flight, talking to my new French friend, and putting on my headphones to watch a movie. As the flight attendant came to ask me what I wanted to drink, I took my headphones off and noticed that the be’be had finally quieted down. 

I resumed my movie, until something caught my attention. 


Jake. Walking up and down the aisle, carrying the now content, be’be, also known as Peter. 

Apparently, Peter’s mom couldn’t get him to calm down, so she handed him off to Jake. Peter’s dad and older sister were sitting in economy and as Jake walked by carrying Peter, the dad thanked him for helping out with the boy. 

Unbeknownst to me at the time, Peter had been throwing a fit in first class, in the seat between Jake and his mother. His mom had tried calming him to no avail, but Jake grabbed him up, set him on his lap, and he became content. “Peter likes you, Jacob” was the mother’s consent, and thus, Jacob and Peter were a pair. 

The family was Nigerian, and from what I could tell, the saying “It takes a village to raise a child.” is used in the most literal terms there. 

Upon getting off the plane, Jake told me that he had been commended by the flight crew for making that flight enjoyable for them and the other passengers around him. He also informed me that he had been invited to Nigeria, in case we ever wanted to visit. 

I don’t think we’ll be going anytime soon, but I am having him add Nigerian Nanny to his list of job experiences on his resume’. I’d hire him any day. 

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America, Art, Culture, Religion, Travel

Word? 

I feel like I haven’t written in awhile. Except I have. I literally write almost every day. Not all of it is noteworthy or in this case, blog worthy. I have half written ideas, notes, thoughts, cards, lying around everywhere. So, I guess I feel like I haven’t posted anything in awhile. Which I haven’t.

I recently learned to write my name in Arabic. Useful, right?

 

I love words. I always have. The spelling, the way we use them, different meanings, they’re so fun to me. Probably not everyone agrees, but I definitely think so. I love people who speak English as their second language. They make me see our words in a whole new way. People always ask me if I speak a second language and I always say no (because I don’t)

But, I feel like understanding English as a second language should count as my second language. Am I right? When I get my nails done, I always leave there knowing their complete life story, so that should count for something, right?

I met some friends in Jordan and they all speak Arabic with English as their second language. I was messaging one of them and I used the word obvious. And he said he had never heard that word before, so he wanted to know the exact meaning and how he could use it and wanted to hear me say it so that he could get the right pronunciation. Which probably wasn’t right because I will admit that I might have a slight accent. But, he got the idea.

I really like finding and using words that second language speakers haven’t heard or used before. It’s an especially proud moment when they later use the word I exposed them to in a conversation.

 

My first Conversation English group

One of my Korean friends in college pointed out to me that I said the word hopefully a lot. I used it in a sentence one time and she said, I’ve noticed you use that word a lot, so I’m going to start using that word too. How strange is it that a word you use completely unconsciously can become associated to you specifically by another person? I guess if I’m going to have a word associated with my pattern of speech, hopefully is a good one.

 

Jayoung , I taught her to fish and “hopefully”

We are what we do repeatedly, but I think we also are what we say repeatedly. The words we use, the things we speak, that all matters.

I read one of my posts out loud recently as a summary of our work with the Syrians. It was weird for me, more than I thought it would be. As I listened to the story being told first hand, I wrote notes so that I could write about it later. The woman telling the story didn’t make me very emotional. Writing the post didn’t make me emotional at all. But, something about reading the words I had written out loud, hearing the words spoken, got to me. It made me see the story in a new light.

There’s a verse that I love that says: our mouths speak from that which fills our hearts. (That’s the Brittney version. To read the Jesus version, check out Matthew 12:34 or Luke 6:45)

To me, that indicates that what I say is reflective of the condition of my heart. Which means I need to pay attention to what I say, to how I speak, to the words I use.

Because forget about sticks and stones, words have the power to hurt. They also have the power to heal. To encourage. To shine light in dark places. So, choose your words carefully and think before you speak.

Word?

Word.

(If you didn’t understand my last reference, it’s okay. You’re just not as hip as me. It’s fine. Don’t worry. I’ve got a picture below that will fill you in.)

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Art, Middle East, Religion, Travel

Oh, Little Town of Bethlehem

I can officially mark Palestine off my travel list. We ventured over there to see the Nativity and where some believe was the site that Jesus was born. (Everyone knows Bethlehem is located in Palestine, right?)

Entering Palestine

 

It’s neat to see these sites, but a lot of them are now located in old churches, which built buildings to commemorate these events. So, for the birthplace of Jesus, you climb down into this church to a small room where they believe the manger was and where Mary birthed Jesus. As a traveler to the Holy Land, I expect to see these sites. However, do I really believe they can pinpoint the exact piece of ground where our Lord was brought to Earth? No, honestly, I don’t.

 

Commemoration of the Nativity

 

Some of these things, I understand how they can confirm. We went to the Mount of Olives, overlooking the Kidron Valley and the city of Jerusalem. I understand how they can know for sure that these are the correct sites. They’re specific geographic locations.

As we were passing from Israel into Palestine to go to the manger site, we saw the wall that separates Palestine from Israel. Our modern day Berlin Wall. I honestly can’t tell you how I feel about the wall. I don’t know enough of the exact political background and I don’t live here. I don’t know how I would feel about it if I did live here, so I can’t give an opinion one way or another.

What I do understand is that there are Palestinian radicals that do crazy things and the wall is supposed to offer protection. However, by building it, innocent Palestinian people get caught in the middle of the conflict.

I took a lot of pictures of the wall. And I was thinking after we visited the manger site: I came here to see these holy sites and yet, I’m interested in this wall. Why? The Lord spoke to me about this. We come to this place to see where He was born. But the point is, He was born. He lived in this place. He gave His life for us. And, because of that, we can have life abundant and eternal.

To me, when I see this wall, it reminds me of the lost people Jesus came to save. It reminds me that only 1.5% of Israel’s population is Christian. And only 3% of Jordan. It breaks my heart. So many people walking through this world without knowing the greatest Joy there is.


Don’t get me wrong: I love seeing these holy sites. They’re truly moving. But, I don’t want to worship the site that Jesus stood on.

I want to worship Him.

I want to remember the reason why He came. And I want to live out that Gospel calling to the fullest.

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Art, Europe, History, Travel

Da Vinci Code

I have this theory that all travel pictures are repeated. And I think I’m finding it to be true.  

Cathedral of St. John the Divine

    

When we were in NYC in October, we happened by this huge church. Everything looks pretty big there, but this looked like the biggest building I had ever seen, which is saying a lot since it was situated around skyscrapers. It was just massive. So, we went in and found out that it is the fourth largest church in the world (by area). And, the fifth largest is located in Milan’s city center. The Duomo. I had no idea I was even working my way down this list. I don’t even want to know where the others are. 

The Duomo

There are lots of old churches in Milan and when we walked by one yesterday, I commented that I felt like I was living the da Vinci Code. I had forgotten that Jake bought us tickets to see the Last Supper. Which I learned later is housed in the exact church we were walking by when I said that. 

 

Santa Maria delle Grazie

 
Seeing this masterpiece was a process. You have to buy tickets three months in advance. I never knew this, but it is actually painted on the dining room wall of this old monastery. So, you have to be in Milan to see it. I guess I just thought it was a painting that could move from museum to museum. 

To see it, you have to go through two dehumidifying chambers before entering the huge dining hall. Lucky for us, while we were waiting, an English tour came through and I got to hear their guide explain the details surrounding the painting. 
  
The Last Supper was apparently a popular topic to paint during Leonardo’s time. However, all the paintings prior to this depicted the moment when Judas Iscariot was revealed as the traitor. They show Judas seated on the opposite side of the table from Jesus and the Apostles, which puts all emphasis on Judas. As Judas is sitting on the same side of the table as the viewers of the painting, it symbolizes that we are all sinners alike with Judas and that our sin separates us from Jesus. In these typical depictions, Jesus and the Apostles are showing no emotion, as the Apostles are considered Saints in the Catholic tradition and thus are above expressing human emotion. 

Da Vinci’s depiction was completely different and revolutionary. It shows Jesus at the center (the actual central point of the piece is Jesus’ temple, which the rest of the picture is painted in reference to). It depicts the moments before the traitor is revealed, at the peak of emotion when the disciples are shown trying to figure out who will betray Jesus. 

  
This was not a point of view that had been painted before, and apparently people began coming to the monastery to see it soon after it was finished. Did I mention that it took him 4 years to paint it? To think of devoting 4 years of your life to a single piece of work is a little mind boggling. Unfortunately, he didn’t use a painting technique (fresco) that was conducive to painting on plaster. He painted on dry plaster and the painting began to disintegrate soon after it was completed. Then the church was damaged due to a bombing in 1943 during World War II, which led to further destruction. Luckily, the integrity of the painting has been restored and is now closely monitored (although they estimate that the current state of the work is about 50% diminished from what it originally was).

When we went into the dehumidifying chambers, the guides covered nothing about taking pictures in the dining hall. But the moment we were inside and a lady brought out her camera, it was made known that NO pictures were to be taken. Which was extremely disappointing to me. Not because everyone needs to see the actual painting. Everyone knows what that looks like. 

I was disappointed because it is hard to explain the magnitude of it. This room is huge, with a high, arching ceiling. The Last Supper is painted on one end of the room, while a huge painting of the crucifixion is at the other end. Leonardo painted it while on scaffolding because it is so high up on the wall. The size of it really is astounding. 

So, I did what any good older sister would do. I coaxed Jake into sneaking a picture. Because we all know that I am not discreet enough to commit criminal acts. Plus, the other lady got a picture before they told her not to, so I figured it couldn’t hurt. So, here it is. 

  
Let it be known that Jake risked being thrown in a dungeon to take this. You can thank him later. 

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