Teach for America Day 2: Unexpected Adventures in the Phoenix Sun

My TFA Experience

Sacaton Red-on-Buff decorates the pottery of the Hohokam people Sacaton Red-on-Buff decorates the pottery of the Hohokam people

 

Day two with TFA and AZ is sizzling. 102 degrees and rising. But I love the sun and we just got back from the Pueblo Grande Museum. We got to look at some clay artifacts. Ceramics has a very special place in my heart so I’m still giddy from looking at Hohokam art.

After exploring the museum, we also got the opportunity to hear from three wonderful speakers about ethnic and cultural diversity in Arizona and immigration. As future teachers and leaders, we are encouraged to educate ourselves on the subject and offer students a platform to tell their stories as well as open ears to listen and learn from them. One of my fellow corps members commented that issues with social class and inequity transcend race. Often times we are all working and hoping for the same change. Communities…

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Metamorphosis: a gift, a new life and a very hungry caterpillar

To the optimists whose hearts are willing to listen to good news

My sister Karina has always had a knack for gift giving, but this time she hit the nail right on the head. Before we left for the airport Saturday morning she handed me a small blue bag and instructed me, “Don’t open until you’re in Phoenix.”  I tucked it into the picnic basket that I had found in salvation army.  Her gift did not go through security undetected.  An officer pulled me aside and checked the basket.
“Any explosives or fire arms in here?” he joked.  He sifted through my beat up NIV, pulled out my chopsticks and shin ramen cup noodles.  “What’s this?” he held Karina’s present. 
“No idea, Sir,” I said, “My sister gave it to me as a going away present.  I can open it if you like.” 
“I’ll put it through the machine and see.  If I need to I’ll open it.  Haha, hope your sister isn’t one for practical jokes.”  He took away the blue gift bag.  My curiosity was fueled.  The officer came back. 
“Hahaha, that would have been a good one.  You would have been so mad.  Here, you’re all clear.  Have good holiday, Miss.” 
I smiled and took my basked away and made my way to gate F10 and took a seat near a window where I could see the sun rising.  Immediately I tore into the little present.

photo (1)A week prior, we had taken a trip to Mitsuwa Mart in Arlington Heights and I had debated buying a Japanese translation of The Very Hungry Caterpillar from the bookstore.  But I ended up putting it back on the shelf.  Karina seized the opportunity and recruited our kid brother and our friend Victor to distract me while she made the purchase.  She tucked the book inside her purse and returned to us, cool as a cucumber and just in time for green tea ice cream.  Those sneaky ninjas were so careful not to spill the beans that I never suspected a thing.

I read through Harapeko Aomushi on the plane and was surprised I fully understood it.  Of course the book is written for children and completely in hiragana the most basic characters of Japanese writing.  And it does help that I know the story in English by heart: “In the light of the moon, a little egg lay on the leaf…”

I’ve been holding back on writing about my obsession with butterflies because it seems a little childish.  But as I make this new transition I feel that it’s important to recognize what God has been teaching me since last August.  At the end of the summer of 2013, I was offered a part-time position in Grand Rapids, but I turned it down because in my heart I knew God was asking me to go home.  I found Christ as a freshmen at Hope College and knew that going back meant trusting that God would provide Christian community and a job.  Not only that but I learned that going back to Steger meant coming to terms with my old self.  My house alone is filled with relics from 18 years lived without knowledge of Jesus’ love and grace.  It was during this period that God began speaking to me through butterflies.  I can’t pin point when it began.  But suddenly I saw them every where.  On the cover of a devotional that my Japanese professor gave to me for my graduation.  Printed on the inside of a mug at my Tia Jessie’s house.  At the museum of science and industry, My friend Lauren and I watched a the Flight of the Butterflies in the Omnimax theater. For Christmas my mom gave me a butterfly necklace and for months it served as a reminder of the familiar verse: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come (2 Cor. 5:17).

IMG_20131222_205457  IMG_20140107_162033  IMG_20131109_193638 (2)

But I didn’t feel new.  I was working at an incredibly challenging alternative school (ironically called RISE) and the tough work environment made me irritable toward the people I loved.  I asked myself, what the heck? you’re supposed to be representing Jesus Christ and look at you now!  And the butterflies kept coming along with temptations to return to my old self.  On the worst days, the butterflies were more like mosquitoes that I swatted away. On the best days, they were a reminder to step into the life that God has called me to live in Christ.

So as I read through this simple children’s book on my way to a new life in Phoenix, AZ, I remembered the complex reality of being born again in Christ.  I remembered the hunger.  How nothing would satisfy me though on Monday I ate through a whole apple and on Tuesday through two pears and on Wednesday through three plums and on Thursday through four strawberries and on Friday through five oranges and on Saturday ate through a plethora of things that I was never created to eat and made me sick.  And finally I ate through a green leaf.  This leaf to me represents God’s word.  And when I ate of it, I was transformed into something entirely new.  Everyday, I must accept this new life and choose to rise and fly.

Those pesky butterflies still follow me wherever I go.  But I feel like I’ve stepped into a different season and the metaphor has been etched into my heart. I am grateful to God for his patience and grace.  He has lead me into this desert land and I am eager to meet him here in a brand-new way.

Relevant verses (click link to view in context):

1. Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst” (John 6:35).

2. Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again” (John 3:3).

3. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6).

Hey! Expect an update with pictures from AZ and reflections from induction and job training with Teach for America coming soon! Peace!

I wanted to be …

Aside

Big. As a kid, I’d stand as tall as I could beside my mother and father to measure my progress. I began to set higher standards when I noticed most of my friends had outgrown my parents. At five foot one (and a half), I don’t see eye to eye with many people in Holland, Michigan.  I’ve always wanted to grow (at least another half inch). My 16-year-old little sister passed me about a year ago. People now wonder what year she is in college and ask me if I’ve graduated (high school) yet. On the bright side, according to teenagehealthfreak.com Karina won’t grow much taller, and I can compensate with high heels.
Lately, however, I’ve had this peculiar desire to shrink. It started at Vineyard Church with a little girl in pink leggings and a purple too-too. During worship she led her father by the hand to the front row of the church. As if under a lampshade during a hide-and-seek game, she couldn’t see me and (as far as she knew) no one could see her. Her tiny feet tapping and spinning on the carpet. Her eyes wide open and her heart lost and found in the presence of her Father. “If I were only two feet tall, God,” I prayed, “I’d be willing to be a fool for you.”
I want to tell you something you don’t know. I’m afraid that collectively you know everything. If that were true, you’d be God, and I’d be a monkey’s uncle. We haven’t even begun to understand this world much less the things of the Kingdom of God. So instead I will tell you something that we all know. Whether we accept it or not, that is a different story. God is bigger than all of us. He’s created a universe so ginormous that we don’t even know how big it is. How do I compare myself to an eternal God? How do I measure up? Am I even a bug on your wind shield, God? In the presence of my maker, who am I?
I am tiny and lost in this enormous universe and so are you. Praise God for a love bigger than ourselves. We are found in the presence of our Heavenly Father. As many times as you have heard it Hope College, you are significant in Christ Jesus. Through Him, we have all become Sons and Daughters of God. We are small, but we are loved. Take His hand and make yourself a fool for Him. You can’t see us, and (as far as you know) we can’t see you.