Symbolic Attire

I can’t think of too many things more symbolic than wearing a team jersey or uniform and knowing you belong to something bigger than yourself. I’ve recently been accepted to a women’s racing team (road, gravel, and mountain biking) and when one of my teammates and friends gave me this year’s jersey, I simply felt like I belonged. Perhaps for the first time in years, I belonged to something bigger than “me.”

There is symbolism in things we wear and put on every day. Wedding rings and bands are symbolic to a deep relationship between two people and whether those people are physically together or not, a bond exists. Men’s ties and other jewelry for men and women often symbolize high status in work or society. Wedding attire- the dress, suit, and tux- is symbolic to a huge life event in many people’s lives. Even the logos that represent the brands and companies that we give our money to say something about us.

There are many examples of symbolism in material things in daily life.

But for me, something clicked just a few days ago and I had a deep recognition of who I am and what I stand for because of that team jersey that was handed to me last month. And with that recognition came a deep sense of responsibility too.

By putting on a team jersey or work uniform you represent that organization, group, team, brand or company. When you wear your uniform or jersey, you’re proud. You’re making a statement to the world that these moments aren’t just about you as an individual, but they are about your team or organization beyond you. (I have to chuckle because maybe this is by default… you need a job and you have to wear a certain uniform for work, even if you hate it. I remember this being the case at times in my life as well.)

When I race, I get to wear my team’s name. When I ride for training, more people will see our logo and colors. I’m one part of a greater whole that matters and is making a difference for women cyclists in my area. One example of how this changes me is that I’m going to go out of my way to follow road rules and practice good bike etiquette, especially when I’m in my team jersey.

So too, the importance of the jersey I get to wear for my team doesn’t end when I take off that shirt at the end of the day. I’m still “me” and I still belong to that group, with or without the name and logo on my back for all to see. I should be practicing those road rules and etiquette always, not just when in uniform.

This idea of belonging AND representing my team well really struck home a few days ago. Whether I’m wearing my jersey or not, I’m still a part of a team and group. And I want to bring honor to the group at all times, not just when I’m riding with the colors and logo of the team.

Whether we recognize it every day or not, we all represent something bigger than us. Our families, schools, churches, teams, places of work all make up pieces of our lives and groups that we belong to. And my realization the other day was this: I belong and don’t want to misrepresent the team that is important to me. I want to build the team up at ALL times.

A side note, I think this is why social media can bring so many problems to people’s lives and why supervisors and companies care about following their staff on social media. The online world matters as much as the behind closed doors, private, offline world.

Awareness of belonging to a team and how to represent that well comes with a growth in responsibility and character. It lasts beyond taking the uniform off at the end of the day. Day-to-day, we need to be aware of how individual actions and attitudes reflect outward on those groups and organizations that we belong to, and to not let wearing a jersey or uniform change how we should be behaving and acting as representatives of our groups and teams. Even our families’ names matter… and to bring honor to our family means acting with wisdom and making daily, healthy choices that help and not hurt our families.

In the end, reflecting on belonging and who I represent matters. I don’t want any organization to be brought down because of me; I only want those I work for and with to be lifted up. As individuals a part of teams, our actions really do matter for the greater good, or downfall if we aren’t careful.

What groups are you a part of? Have you ever thought of how you represent where you work, or the teams you are a part of even when you’re not in uniform? Does this change your perspective on how you move through the world on a day-to-day basis?

{Q&A} Lauren Takes Study Abroad to a Master Level

I was bit hard by the travel bug when I studied abroad 3x in my undergrad days. But when I found out my dear friend Lauren, whom I met in Spain 5 years ago on one of these trips, was going to get her Masters in Columbia I was inspired by her love for adventure. She took study abroad to another level and learned everything from how Colombian’s put cheese in their hot chocolate to how medical interpretation is a way to help native Spanish speakers.

unnamed 2

1) What school are you at in Columbia? Why did you choose that school?

I am in grad school at Universidad de La Sabana. It’s a peaceful, well accredited campus right on the outskirts of Bogotá, Colombia. I would mostly say God is the reason I ended up there.

2) What are you studying exactly?

I am studying “Pan-hispanic Linguistics” which is the fancy term for diving into the different dialects of Spanish spoken around the world in a certain pluralistic and inclusive approach. The extensive geography of Spanish speakers around the world calls for a certain tolerance and respect for those with different dialects. Without going too deep into the politics of things, basically Spain is not the norm to follow for “correct” Spanish, but rather each country has their own norms and nuances that should be equally accepted. This is a new direction of thought, but it is changing the politics of the language in beautiful ways.

unnamed 4

3) For your thesis, what was the process of deciding that different Spanish dialects could be an issue for medical translation?

I saw the issue of medical interpretation between different dialects of Spanish and American English while I was an intern at the Colombian Medical Academy… There are essentially endless amounts of Spanish dialects once you delve into the different regions, countries, cities, neighborhoods, and households of native speakers… Many countries in South and Central America are not up to the technological ease of access of info we have in the states. Since the vernacular greatly varies, we are doing a disservice to patients when we try to fit them into one box of Spanish speakers.

4) What do you hope to accomplish in the future with your new degree? Where do you see your Spanish medical translation taking you?

There is something very special about bridging the gap between cultures and languages that I absolutely cannot get enough of and I simply want to be an advocate for those who may struggle getting that help due to the language barrier. So for me, it’s simply an empathetic intention to serve others by relaying information between different languages. That is the kind of stuff that gets me excited.

As far as where I see this taking me, with more experience I would love to participate in mission trips or programs such as doctors without borders to help interpret in predominately Spanish-speaking countries.

unnamed 3

5) Were you surprised by anything you learned during your 2 years abroad?

I was surprised by how I learned things. Though I think general knowledge is great, I loved being able to dive deeper into different aspects of the Spanish language, pragmatics, dialects, and so much more. I remember times when I would get teary eyed because I truly was so moved and excited about what I was learning!

There were a few surprising cultural things as well: people will not eat wings if they do not have plastic gloves on; they love cheese and put it on almost everything (even in hot chocolate) there are so many holidays, sometimes 3 a month; it is normal for people to interrupt someone being helped in line to get help faster.

6) Did you live with a family of other students? How did living with a family help your adjustment to Colombia?

I lived with a family my first year in Colombia and with other students my second year.

Living with a family definitely was a blessing in my adjustment because I got to learn some of the nuances with Colombian Spanish, cultural habits, and how to navigate in a big new city. The lady who owned the home was maybe 5 feet tall and 100% a firecracker who skipped lines and spent a long time getting ready. I got to try many authentic Colombian dishes while living with the family. Home cooked meals are always the best. The family I stayed with was my first community so I leaned on them a lot.

After being more established, I moved into a cheap place with 2 other girls I met at school in my program. I missed living with a family in a squeaky clean apartment, but I also enjoyed more independence living on my own.

unnamed 5

7) What was your biggest struggle in moving to a new country and culture?

Community, connectedness, and patience in the process were my biggest struggles in the beginning. I lived abroad in Spain for 5 months so the culture shock process was not foreign to me. First you love everything, then you feel kind of sad and homesick, then you start to adjust. I do not put it lightly that I deeply struggled at first and often called my mom asking her what in the world was I thinking. What made that adjusting period the hardest was my lack of community at first. Before moving I felt bold and courageous for going to a place where nobody knew me, but whether it was a dose of humility or not, I quickly realized, shoot, I want people around and I don’t have to be courageous and bold all of the time. I struggled with not knowing anyone more than I thought I would, because I didn’t have anyone in my same frame of reference to relate my struggles with.

unnamed

8) What is one way that your relationship with God has grown during this time?

Anytime I am out of my comfort zone God seems to feel more present in my life; it’s part of the reason I seek to be uncomfortable. I don’t like getting so settled and forgetting about leaning on God. Columbia was an amazing experience, but sometimes a lonely one as well. I had to invite God back into the role of being my best friend, my redeemer, and my strength.

I started practicing grace and forgiveness towards myself for little and big things. I tried to not worry so much about how my day would unfold, how exciting it would be, how unique it would feel, and I focused on living. I am still working on this last part (that seems to be a tough one for me!).

I am pretty good at being alone, but sometimes I just want people around. I think God showed me that my life won’t always be full of solo time, so it’s good to soak it up and learn about myself. I guess you could say I really tried to slow down and invite God into the nooks and crannies of my soul—some needed to be dusted off and shined, and some needed to be reorganized, but the beauty of cherishing alone time (even if it was too much sometimes) and inviting God into even the most simple days helped me grow stronger and closer to Him.

Growing Pains

GrowingPains.png

Sitting at a family dinner this past Holiday season I was struck by a conversation centered on growing pains. At the table was a 6 month old baby girl, and her mother mentioned to the group that her first teeth growing in and how she was teething and in pain. Then the conversation turned to a 60 year old having pain in her feet as she did simple things like cleaning and laundry. Then my cousin mentioned when he was 10 or 11 how much pain he was in for a couple of years, simply growing! Growth spurts do that to tall people.

I’m only 5’1″ and except for 1 or 2 achy nights in 5th grade, I didn’t have many growing pains as a young girl. At least not physically.

Emotionally and spiritually is another story.

This past New Year’s I got pretty, pretty happy. So happy that I don’t remember falling to my knees a couple of times throughout the night. Club and street- if I were sober I would have gawked at the drunken girl with a pink flower in her hair, unable to stand in her high heels or walk straight.

My soreness the next morning prompted my question to my friend, “Alison, did I fall last night??”

“Yeah. You did. A bunch of times,” was her simple reply.

Pain. Pain in my body, but mostly pain in my heart for being that reckless and careless to my limits with drinking and numbing out the other pain that got me to that point. Anesthetizing my heart with too many glasses of wine and mixed drinks, all the while dancing to loud music, and picking up random guys, points to more than just a cray cray New Years.

“What’s wrong with me?!” I’ve asked myself a few times this week as more bruises showed up on my knees, legs, and a distinct hand print from a man that left purple marks on my forearm as whoever he was picked me up.

Growing up isn’t easy. It’s painful. From little baby teeth, to achy joints just from growing, to aging bodies that we hear about from our elders.

But the pain that’s not so easy to see… that we hide away with a smile, or stare blankly at the wall depressed, that keeps us up at night in worry, that makes our hearts ache, that makes us cry silently in the shower so no one else will hear… it’s those pains that I’ve almost gotten used to throughout my middle school to post college years.

It’s those pains that I want the most freedom from.

It’s those pains that I want to escape.

And I KNOW, without a doubt… I’ve learned the lesson enough times… I can’t just numb those pains with a bottle, fake laugh, and kiss from a stranger in the night. It doesn’t work.

No, no. These pains need something, Someone much stronger and more powerful than too many drinks and stranger’s lips.

The reality is after a night like New Years, I realize how desperate I really am for an answer to my aches and pains. Heartache and growing pain. It’s not easy, but there is a way to heal…

I think like losing weight, or training for a triathlon, or working up in a career, all of which are slow, daily processes… the growing pains of the heart and spirit can be healed, but it looks like a slow process of turning to God, giving up the crap instead of just “dealing with it”, and being okay with good days and bad days. It’s a battle and a marathon, not a walk in the park.

Healing, freedom, and escape come through the Man who gave His life on a jagged cross, and then rose 3 days later for me and for you.

John 10:10 says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

That’s Jesus talking. That He came to give life ABUNDANTLY. I know the destruction substances can cause. I’ve experienced that from the thief. But I feel like it has been a while that I’ve experienced an abundant life through Him… almost like I don’t deserve it.

I have about six New Year Resolutions for 2017 (in 2016 I didn’t make any), but my main resolution is to let Jesus have more of my heart. To trust Him like I used to when I was a little girl. To let Him take the growing pains and make them something beautiful. To discover with Him this abundant life that He came to bring. That I’m worth it to Him.

And though like training for a triathlon or getting ahead in a career, the process of letting Jesus take control of my growing pains might seem slow some days… we will make it together. And that will be a beautiful thing.

To 2017.

To an abundant life in Him.

Shades of Green.

Danist SohPhoto Cred: Danist Soh

I live in a part of the USA overrun with a diversity in weather for lack of other diverse things that could mark this town and region.

Fall is colorful or grey; there is really no in between with bright skies and orange-red leaves one day that turn to a stark grey barrenness as soon as the wind shakes those leaves from the branches. Winter brings ice, snow, sleet, and a bitter cold that reaches its fingers all the way to my bones making it miserable to be outside, or like that one winter, it was in the 50’s for most of January; one just never knows. Spring is wet- colorful like fall with tulips, red clover, and other flowering plants- but it is a long time coming as often it can snow in April and rain through May; sun where are you?

But it is July now, so I want to focus on summer. Summer in my area is marked with rain and overcast skies most days. Sometimes the rain comes out of nowhere in a black-grey, thundering mass rolling through the sky, that pelts the earth with big, hard raindrops. The rain cools down the mugginess and humidity that makes the air heavy. Rain also takes care of the bugs, giving a brief respite to the buzzing around my ears; mosquitoes that just love my skin; bees that have a knack for picking me out to explore and chase around in circles, leaving my friends in peace; or, my favorite was yesterday, I was writing at a park and a daddy long-leg spider literally climbed 1/2 way up my calf before I felt him on me and I karate chopped him off my leg. Gross!

It is these humid, rainy, buggy days that put me in a state where the “grass is greener on the other side.” Moving to the northeast of the US from sunny, southern California, the grass is not literally greener as there is an intense water deficit in CA. But I yearn for the long, dry, sunshiney days that CA is known for. Picnics are never cancelled on account of the weather and the term “rain date” is a foreign concept. I long for heat where I don’t feel sticky, beaches, and palm trees reaching for the cloudless, blue sky above. And most of all, I miss orange and fuchsia sunsets showing off above the ocean.

classbbrainforest.comPhoto Cred: Pinterest- ClassBB.wordpress.com

The rain where I live keeps me inside and I worry about summer getting away from me. When I do go outside, there are the perils of before mentioned bugs and insects and the black garden snake with white stripes lining his back that I saw in my mother’s garden.

Then, in a brilliant moment, the rain disappears and I see a rainbow shimmering in a hazy arch- such a mysterious array of color that MUST have a leprechaun with a pot of gold at the end of it. The clouds part and a mist rises from the trees into the sunlight, radiating an ethereal beauty. The downpour subsides leaving a dripping from the wet leaves in it’s wake, sounding like faint music. And when I inhale, the earth smells mossy, sweet, clean, and refreshed.

Rick McEwanPhoto Cred: Rick McEwan

I realized after the last storm that the sun always shines again and when it does my favorite color green shimmers in various shades of hunter, jade, and sweet lime. Green is everywhere in this piece of the USA that I live during summer. And it’s beautiful, life-giving, fresh, and rich.

It takes the rain to bring out the full force of green in the gardens and woods around me.

Bringing this to a personal level, I can’t have that rich, beautiful, colorful life I imagine for myself with out the rain and storms of life to grow me. Like the earth and gorgeous summer green that marks the east coast, the hardships of growing up are necessary for me to reach my potential.

Whether it’s the job application and resume dance that seems to lead me further down an endless, dark tunnel and I just want to give up; the dysfunctional family drama that seems to pop up just as I am ready to forgive again and take down the walls I’ve built to protect myself; or the financial stress of not having a steady paycheck to pay for medical bills or the last visit to the mechanic for my car…

I have the hope from watching the world around me that these clouds of life will clear! The rain will stop. And in the storm’s place will be a rainbow, sunlight, mist, a unique beauty, a new song, and most of all a full, rich, thriving life in the shades of green that are unique to me. So let’s be real. I love the rain. The world needs it.