My Bundle

This picture actually taken by one of the kids of Cebu, Honduras

Honduras. Six days. Where do I begin?

A mission trip is such a deep, intimate, life-changing, overwhelming, uplifting, holy, draining, beautiful, amazing experience.  Every day is an overwhelming onslaught of deeply sensuous encounters. These smells, tastes, sounds, sights, emotions, tactile sensations are sometimes collected as individual fragments, and some combine into a larger piece. I feel as if I have a bundle of these memories and moments collected from Honduras. The bundle is not necessarily a burden. But each piece must be removed and inspected before it can be found a more permanent place in my heart and mind.

I process things best externally. That is… Some people must turn things around and around in their own minds to process it. For me to be able to put something – a memory, an experience, a decision – to rest, I need to share it. Oftentimes it is torture to me if I do not have someone I trust close by with whom I can hash out this thing. To verbally and thoughtfully toss it back and forth, until I begin to understand and come to peace with all its facets, or enough of its facets. But sometimes… sometimes I cannot begin this metaphorical game of toss because I do not yet have the means within me to communicate it. So it marinates, mostly unconsciously, for a while. I often repeat one small phrase over and over in my mind. And then, in a rush, I can paint the picture for someone else. And then I can begin to grasp it. At the very least, I can move forward.

Tonight is one of those times. I have held onto the top item from my bundle for four weeks now. It has always been just beneath the surface of my thoughts, always ready for me to stare at it when there is a break in my thinking. It is 12:30. I have a funeral to go to in the morning. But as I was taking out my contacts, the words came rushing in. I could not let it go so I have turned my computer back on.

I have seen poverty before. Deep, desperate poverty. Hopelessness. Need so intense it seems wrong to be described with the same word I use when I say I need groceries or I need an oil change. I have wept and my heart has been broken. This was my eighth mission trip. But each new expression of that gut-wrenching, breath-stealing poverty is something you can never be prepared for. No matter how many ways you have seen it. My heart was sucker-punched one more time Saturday afternoon, our last day in the village.

Every day, our three small groups broke to gather together for lunch. Because of sanitation concerns, we could not eat food cooked in the village; we had it catered in from a trusted source. Each mid-day we would group chairs in a circle in one of the schoolrooms, holding our styrofoam containers of lunch on our knees, sharing that morning’s happenings and hoping to find some respite from the heat in the limp breeze of two weak fans. We ate just as a team both as a chance to regroup our emotions and strength, and also I think from the guilt of eating a comparative feast in front of the kids. Not that it mattered; we always had an audience at the window and open door (the school is open with just metal grating at the windows and doors).

That day, I saw it right as I stepped through the schoolroom door. The large, blue, metal trashcan piled high with our discarded styrofoam lunch boxes. The flies crowding around, finally able to settle on the food which we kept waving them away from during the meal.

The children grouped around the trashcan, opening our boxes and eating our leftovers. Hungrily feasting on our trash.

“One man’s trash, another man’s treasure,” suddenly seems an ugly, crass adage when you have seen it in its literal, harsh, naked truth. I felt sick. It is just not part of my world nor yours; it is a foreign experience, impossible to ever wholly understand from our culture of privilege. For us, at its best, garbage is food for the dogs. In fact, just the day before – animal lovers that most of us are – we had collected some of our leftover lunch to spread out for the skeletal, mangy dogs which roam the village. It never even glimmered as a thought in our minds that what we consider food fit for dogs would be a picnic for the children we were growing to love so dearly.

I knew to stand and watch those children eat my garbage would finish me for the day. I’d like to say I swooped in, gathered the leftovers into a miraculous meal a lá Stone Soup and cooked up dinner to feed the entire village. But I didn’t. I turned away. And I am not ashamed. No one can save an entire village, or even one child, from hunger in the work of one short-term mission trip. No… my work was to be present to these children, to give all my energy to loving them with the love of Christ. I knew in a split second that if I was to respond to God’s call for this trip, I had to step away or I would be too sapped grieving for these children who do not know enough to grieve for themselves the indignity of hunting through garbage for lunch.

And yet… this first piece from my bundle. What do I do with it? I firmly believe that every person, every experience, every encounter in life doesn’t just happen to us, but is entrusted to us. We aren’t sent these things to hone our character or teach us a lesson about ourselves, although often they do. But we are stewards of these experiences and the question for each is, “how now shall I live?” How does this impact and change me, yes, for myself, but far more so for the world? What would God have me do with this? How do I take this… this part of the bundle and use it for the Kingdom?

I have no answers for this little vignette I was given. But I know in sharing this, I have taken the first step towards finding out God’s purpose in His gift.

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Ta-da!

Well… the day you’ve all been waiting for! The Charlie + Lu store is up and running! It’s been up for several days… I did a sort of “soft opening” announced only on Facebook. There’s just a few choices listed right now, but I am planning to add more this week. I’ve sold three pairs of earrings already! I feel like a workin’ woman again. 🙂

Friday afternoon I went to lunch at the Brooks Art Museum with two ladies from church, and also visited the great French Impressionism exhibit. I was in heaven; ironically enough, most especially so with the very first painting which was actually NOT impressionistic but presented to show the common style against which Impressionism was so radical. It was a Bouguereau, my favorite painter (besides Rembrandt).

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Also… I’ve added a link on the left side-bar to “like” Charlie + Lu on Facebook. I’m trying to keep the FB page up-to-date with news and announcements. I’d love it if you “liked” us! I say “us” because it sounds cool I’m including Charlie and Lucy.

Speaking of cool… is it just me who feels special when I’m in Target and the lights turn on as I walk down the frozen food aisle? I’m not going to lie: sometimes I pretend I’m using the Force.

Okay… that’s it. 😀

xoxo
Alanna

Errrr…

…so the launch isn’t happening tomorrow. Not ’cause I’m a chicken! I am going to borrow some photography equipment from a friend so that I can take really good product pictures (important for Etsy), but I can’t pick the stuff up ’til Monday. I want to do this the right way so I’m delaying until Monday evening, probably Tuesday morning because I have Bible study on Monday evening. Also gives me a little more time to get some more product ready (started some one-of-a-kind necklaces and got a scathingly brilliant idea for new earrings today!). This week sort of ran away from me… I thought it wasn’t busy but then all of a sudden things popped up.

Last night I ordered kraft jewelry gift boxes! I have a great idea for my C+L packaging and I’m excited to get the boxes and make it a reality. I’m still silly and nervous about this venture, but I’m back to being excited. How fun to package up things I’ve made in a box with beautiful trimmings and send it off (or deliver) it to people I love! Can’t wait for my first non-friend-or-family purchase. Assuming that happens! Haha. I’ve got a pretty decent marketing plan, if I do say so myself. It’s currently all in my head, but I’m going to try and write it down this week and make some specific goals. As evidenced by the previous post, I do best with a list of goals to accomplish, rather than leaving just a nebulous idea to achieve.

I am SO excited for tonight! My sweet friend Daria and I are getting together to make some yummy food and then we’re going to sip on caffeine ’til midnight for… :::drumroll::: the midnight showing of Harry Potter! WOOHOO! Will definitely take some pics – it is a momentous occasion and a momentous end to an epic era. *wipes away a tear* Er, an epic era I joined less than 2 years ago. I wonder if they will follow the book or have a different, surprise ending…

Oh my… that makes me crack up EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. And of course now I’ve got it in my head. “I’m Harry Potter, Harry, Harry Potter…”

I never wrote those post ideas from the other day – they’re awesome though, so I still will.

xoxo
Alanna

Returning and 30 Goals

 I’m back. I was a zombie for the first week back from Honduras, and then I had a self-doubt-induced blogger’s block. But this week I’m trying to set a little more of a schedule for myself and I’m trying out specific trips to Panera for the sole purpose of blogging and job hunting (yeah, still). I nannied again for a few days last week and realized that I get a lot more accomplished when I’m in a different setting than home. Oh and see my pretty hair flower? It’s blazingly hot pink in person… a gift from some friends years ago when they went to Hawaii.

AND… big news is I have *officially* set Friday – yes, this Friday the 15th, as the launch day for Charlie + Lu! WOOHOO! Much of my blogging self-doubt was really based in self-doubt about an Etsy venture, but I am determined to push through. Because, really, what the heck is wrong with me that I actually had a tummy summersault writing out that I’m officially launching? Etsy is pretty much the easiest venue in which to start. I can direct all my friends from around the country to the shop. I don’t have to shell out more than the $0.20 per item listing fee.  If people don’t want to buy, I don’t have to deal with the in-your-face rejection I would at a craft fair. I’ve had LOADS of enthusiasm and encouragement from everyone who’s heard my idea. And for goodness sakes, it’s been a dream for several years! In fact it’s even on my “30 Before 30” list of goals to accomplish in the next almost-four years (I made it last year after my 25th birthday).

Hey, great idea… I should share my list with you. Hoping I can find it. Okay… here it is, with comments today in bold and accomplished goals crossed out:

1.       Run a ½ marathon  December 4, 2010

2.       Read all of Dickens’ works

3.       Be debt free (current debt) – I specified current debt because I think my current level of date is a manageable goal to pay off in 5 years – but if, say, I get married and buy a house, that debt won’t be included in the goal.

4.       Start an Etsy shop – Almost accomplished this one!

5.       Start painting again

6.       Sell 5 paintings

7.       Return to Brazil

8.       Return to Japan

9.       Mission trip with church – June 22-27, 2011

10.   Be fluent in Portuguese

11.   Be fluent in French

12.   Be fluent in Spanish

13.   Visit every state once (finish) – I am convinced that Puerto Rico will become a state on August 9, 2015 (day before my birthday). Perhaps I should schedule celebrating my birthday in Puerto Rico just in case…

14.   Learn Toccata and Fugue in d minor by Bach (and play in church)

15.   Write 500 letters (handwritten – no computer!) – I planned this to be about 2 letters per week and so far… 0 written. Oops. Need to get on that.

16.   Learn to crochet granny squares and make a blanket

17.   Write a business plan for a non-profit

18.   Buy a DSLR and take a photography class

19.   Read Les Trois Mousequetairesin case you couldn’t guess, that’s The Three Musketeers, in French (the original language)

20.   See Bryn Terfel with the Metropolitan Opera in NYC

21.   Buy and wear a bikini – okay, as someone committed to a certain level of modesty, I’m going to qualify that what I have in mind is a vintage-y, more covering bikini… but it kinda represents a sort of good body-image/self confidence thing to me… I dunno if I can explain it, but it makes sense in my head, ‘kay?

22.   Swim with dolphins

23.   Go on a destination-less road trip

24.   Donate blood – I am needle-phobic to a certain degree and have issues passing out with shots/IVs, so this is actually the most scary one to me… I am betting I accomplish this on August 9, 2015 – the day before I turn 30

25.   Learn to do solo hand-bell ringing (and play in church)

26.   Swim in the Gulf of Mexico

27.   Sponsor at least two more Compassion kids

28.   Achieve 500 followers on my blog – I had another one in mind at the time, but I reserve the right to change this to C+L

29.   Finish scrapbooking my Brazil trips

30.  Memorize a book of Scripture

There ya go… and, yeah, this was totally and completely inspired by Janel! She does her goal list a little differently, like 30 before 30 for the year before she turns 30. I went big and gave myself five years and some rather big goals. The travel is going to be the tough one. I’m not dead set, “I will be so disappointed in myself if I don’t accomplish all of these” about this list. I’m not even going to consider it a failure not to complete it all because I know it’s kind of a big list. But I thought it would be fun to have a list of fun things to accomplish. I like lists and goals. I’m not much competitive with others, but I’m fairly competitive with myself. I’ve always kept some sort of bucket list, but I figured I probably wouldn’t start doing those things if I kept my end goal as “when I die.”

I have a bunch more post ideas, but I’ll probably future date them so you don’t get all overwhelmed with posts. I need to pace myself.

xoxo
Alanna