Proud and Free

Well that flew by. I arrived to the States yesterday afternoon and back home yesterday evening with all my luggage and limbs in tact, thankful that I wasn’t in transit anymore. I hated that I didn’t get to post once more than I did while I was in Zambia but time and accessibility didn’t allow for it. Now that I’m home I’m excited because I can now begin to post retrospectively. There are some things locked away in the vault that no one is allowed to see yet but there is also general documentation of my trip that I am excited to share. I might as well start from the beginning of my trip and go on from there. It is going to take me a few days to get it all sorted but I did already unpack my suitcase, a record time for me. Typically that would be scheduled for sometime next month.

I couldn’t sleep much at all on the flights home (the multiple 9 hour flights that is.) It could’ve had a small bit to do with the fact that I forgot through one entire flight and a good portion of the other that you can lean your seat back. How do you forget that? I had such a hard time trying to squeeze my huge hair in between the two head rests that pull down because I was sitting at a ninety degree angle. While I felt the weight of sleep deprivation I was so happy to be home that I was still very much awake. The schedule for the evening was arrival in town, greet my family, eat dinner, get a movie, go to my friend Stefanie’s apartment to watch movie, fall asleep during movie and finally find myself wide awake around 3 in the morning because my body doesn’t understand what I mean when I tell it that it’s still nighttime. All went according to plan. We started the movie and thirty minutes into it I gave in to heavy eyelids but then I woke up some twenty minutes later and that was it. I wasn’t tired anymore. By the way, it was one of the best movies I’ve ever seen, perfect for the occasion and the state of my being. So we finished the movie, it was the rare kind you wish would just keep going and never stop. Then we sat around and played some guitar and percussive instruments and when we were done there I said to Stefanie, “I’ve crossed the threshold. I’m not tired anymore.” To which she said, “Want to go on a run?” To which I then responded, “Absolutely.” It was 2AM. So after our run we completed the night with a few other really meaningful activities and finally switched off the lights around 4. That was my jet-lag prevention plan. Throw it off so it doesn’t know what’s coming, then WHAM-O! When it’s time for me to obnoxiously be woken way before the sun by my broken internal clock I will just be going to bed. Take that jet lag. Sadly, I woke up at 7:30 anyway. It was one of the best nights I’ve had.

 

So to start, here’s a video of Liana Kawinga singing the Zambian National Anthem. (this is the owner of the four year old bum that came to rest on my face when I was sleeping on the couch. Could you be mad at that face?)

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Too Tired for Words

Note from Jessalyn’s mom:

A very weary Jessalyn sent these images taken on the soccer field/tent city site in the village of Njabalombe, Zambia.

Smiling Faces

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Get to know these faces. Dora, Austin and my dad

Dora, Austin and my dad

I’m trying to decide what I want to say about today. About an hour ago I dragged a load of camera equipment to the red Land Rover sitting outside of the clinic and collapsed on the floorboard to sit down for the first time all day. It was cold and my feet hurt. I looked up at the night sky covered with constellations and thought about where I was this time last year.  My first July in the states since I was eight was like being in a new country. I thought I knew how hot Texas was in the summer, turns out I had no idea how hot it was. I did so many of those summer things that people do that I’ve never done. There was a moment last summer when I woke up in a house by a lake and as I looked out the big glass windows onto the water I thought about what I would be doing in that moment if had gone to Zambia instead. So much of me in that moment was happy not to be exhausted, cold, not to be covered in dirt. I was happy that I didn’t have to rise before the sun and work till it got dark. I was happy to be hot and experiencing a part of life that’s never been part of mine. Interestingly enough, tonight as I sat waiting for a ride home, I thought the same thing. I was happy to be where I was. We started the cataract surgeries today and we ran into complication after roadblock after complication but by the end of the day, it was slow and complicated but it was successful and I would be at fault if I didn’t say amazing. If I leave with nothing else, I will leave with a renewed trust in the Lord and therefore a peace in the Lord. There hasn’t been a single roadblock since the first day we started that has been able to shake me. Things tend to fall apart but I’ve been so peaceful through it all. I’m utterly blown away by the smooth sailing we’ve had and the amount that has been done in so little time. I’m fairly exhausted in this moment and tomorrow is going to come much quicker than my heavy eyes will be ready for but there’s something about being a part of miracles and blessings and the tangible experience of heaven on earth that surpasses the exhaustion of weak and weary bones. Tomorrow morning, I will watch as the doctor takes the bandages off of Dora’s eye and an old widow will see again. I think though, that as the bandage is removed, so many more of us than just Dora will have been healed of our blindness.

Most nights I lay in bed with my eyes closed and fall asleep to images of Dora on a viewfinder behind my eyelids. I have no doubt tonight will be the same.

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Dora

In order to post I have send the post to my mother who is lovingly posting it from the states for me. Because of the process and the internet connection here they’re a few days behind me. There is a chance that after tomorrow I will not have the opportunity to post anything. There is a chance I will have plenty of opportunity. I hope to be able to share some photos and even video with you. If I had a way I would be sharing everything. Guess you’ll just have to wait till I get back if I don’t succeed.

Zambian Woman with Cataracts

I’ve prayed the past few nights, in a very honest way, that the Lord will face the enemy and face my flesh. I was at the point of not really even being willing to have a good attitude or fight the attacks but that was my prayer, that He would mold me to a person willing and a person who cares to act like Jesus (I haven’t been.) Tuesday was good but by the second half of the day when we went to the village to “warm up,” to get to know the blind woman Dora by beginning to film, to know her home, familiarize ourselves with the scene, practice shots, think out the logistics, etc., I was already overloaded. I was tired because I haven’t slept much in the past few days and the mental stamina it took to take the first few steps Tuesday morning (including the complications that we encountered) was just about all I could take for the first day that this thing, that had been just an idea for so long, began to materialize. It was really more than my overcrowded, over stimulated brain had room for. Dad and I spent enough time together at this point that our fatigue, proximity, and then the pressure combined put us sort of at odds with one another. Not overtly, but I do think that this was one way that Satan found his way into the works. It was by no means a difficult target to hit. My attitude was an easy target as well. Thankfully, I’ve been blessed to be coached in wisdom in the past half year of my life to recognize the distortions and lies that Satan uses to get in the way and understanding the process of a counter attack. I have no doubt that all of that coaching was in preparation for this and even though my attitude was bad and I really was discouraged, recognizing the source of that discouragement allowed me to openly ask God for things I didn’t really feel like asking for and knowing (whether I believed it or not) that my attitude problem, my discouragement and my strong urge to quit was an attack because the day’s progress was a threat. It is so good that God is God and I am not because if I were God and someone said to me, “I don’t want a good attitude but I want to want a good attitude. Give me a good attitude. I don’t want to keep going but I want to want to keep going. Make me want to keep going.” I would say… you’re ridiculous, no. But, as weak as that prayer is I will say- praise God- because even in the sorriest excuse for faithfulness, he is gracious. Wednesday morning I woke, still not feeling the way I would like to feel. A little passion or inspiration couldn’t hurt and it wouldn’t kill me to have a tiny smidge of confidence. I’m inept but I’m not clueless, you know? This was the real filming day. All that we filmed of Dora Tuesday was just a side note and practice. That was a scrimmage & this was the championship. That was the opening act & this was the Headliner.  Today, being a new day, I had enough energy to put on a face like I had a great game plan and even boss some people around but all I had was a vague list of shots in my cranium and a pretty good idea about what I needed. We shot all morning. I left feeling tired but slightly uplifted and pretty confident that we got what we needed. I was thankful that the Lord had answered prayers, I wasn’t aware that he was just getting started. We ended the morning of filming by filming Dora at the hospital at Namwianga, near our home. It’s only about ten minutes in a vehicle to Dora’s village and we drug this poor, blind, asthmatic woman all around and put her through the rigmarole of filming for a long time, so we asked her to please let us take her for a meal before we took her back. She refused. She had already apologized, ashamed, that she didn’t have a meal for us to eat. An old blind woman who lives in a hut on a pile of blankets and rags, who let us drag her around and stick my camera in her face for two days, who didn’t understand what we were doing but was willing anyway, was sorry because she didn’t have food for me. She wanted to walk home from the clinic. Not to be crass, but we really just had to convince her to let us take her back to the village because she’s blind and didn’t know that we were actually kidnapping her and taking her to our house anyway. She couldn’t see so she couldn’t protest until it was too late. Let me tell you that I have known for a few months that I was going to film a person who had cataracts for this film. Three weeks ago I found out that there was a woman (Dora) at a village near by that was basically blind who would be having the cataract surgery during the mission. I met her Tuesday. We found out then that she actually was scheduled to be the very first patient to have the surgery. This is something that has been in the works for months. When we brought her to the house and dad introduced her to the group and then introduced her to the mucembele (Eleanor, the head director) & when she heard the name “Ba Hamby” (Mrs. Hamby) she became elated because as it were, twenty five years ago Eleanor Hamby was asked to come give Bible studies to the women at the village of Tumongo where Dora is from. Dora was one of the women in that group. She didn’t know where she was but when she heard the name Mrs. Hamby she knew exactly who it was. After greeting Eleanor Dora reached up to her neckline and pulled aside the two outer layers of her clothing and showed the dress that lay beneath her coat. Twenty five years ago, Eleanor Hamby had given her a dress. She didn’t know why she decided to put on this dress, the nicest dress she had, the one she intended to be buried in that an old acquaintance who had a profound impact on her had given her so long ago but she did and here she was, unknowingly in the back yard of the woman who had given it to her. It goes on. An hour or so before this I was riding in the back of the truck with Austin, our helpful friend and translator,  from the village and he said to me “Jessalyn, I don’t know who to ask. You see the problem is that she is at great risk where she lives. She is very likely to be bitten by a snake because where she lays is very near the ground and she cannot see. She needs a mattress so that she will not be so at risk.” While Dora was at the house I saw a woman speaking to Austin about the woman. Austin comes to me and he says “Jessalyn, God has answered our prayers today. LaDonna has just told me that she wants to give a bed.” This was all before lunch. As impressive as it was to Austin that God answered the prayer for a bed, and as profound as it was to everyone to see the Lord bring together an old woman wearing a dress given to her and the woman who gave it to her, I look back to months and months ago when the plans for this started. Seeing one piece of the puzzle is impressive but I’ve been thinking about this woman for months. There was no doubt in my mind that the Lord brought this together. Perhaps coincidences do happen, they do not happen like this.

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Photos from Zambia

Here are a few photos from the weekend.  You can read the full post here.

Jessalyn and Liana

Liana and I doing our best to stay awake at Sports Day (one of us was anyway)

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Afternoon in Lusaka

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View of Kariba Lake and the pool

View of Kariba Lake and the pool from the porch

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Girl in Sandbox

Liana the sand mermaid

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Boat on Lake Kariba

Riding on the speed boat on Kariba lake

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From Zambia

Most of the days since we left last Thursday have really just been a blur. We arrived in Zambia early on Saturday morning and were greeted at the airport by some of my favorite little Zambians. For some reason dad and I both have had a really difficult time with jet lag. It probably had to do with the fact that we both left the states already at the point of exhaustion and I forced myself to stay awake at least till they served dinner on the plane. After we arrived we left the airport around 7:30 and by 8:30 we had already gone to Sports Day at the Providence Prep School in Lusaka to watch two of our favorite girls participate (for most of the day.) It would’ve been a great time if I hadn’t felt so much like someone had slipped a roofie in my breakfast tea on the plane. I tried my hardest to stay awake but my eyes were heavy and it seemed like every time I found myself sitting still for a moment I found myself asleep… until the four year old found me that is, at which point I was awakened in a number of different ways. None of which were less than startling. (My all time favorite being the time I later mistakably fell asleep on the couch and a four year old bum came to rest on my face in what I would consider to be a rude awakening.)  Constantly passing between a conscious state and slumber caused that three days span to feel like an entire week because every time I sat down I fell asleep and every time I woke up I had to figure out where I was and what day it was and why I smelled so bad. I stayed a step behind. Each time I woke on the plane I expected to be in a hot bedroom in Abilene with an adolescent red head on the bed at my feet and my roommate on the bed across from me. When we got to Lusaka I fell asleep in the car (and everywhere else) but every time the driver failed an attempt to miss one of the massive potholes it yanked me from my slumber, multiple times sending me into a moment of panic because I genuinely thought that the plane was crashing. I wasn’t on a plane. The confession here is that we didn’t arrive in Zambia and begin to work immediately but we spent some time visiting friends and visiting the lake house… but truthfully I would have been worthless if we had come straight to Namwianga to work. Thankfully by the time we left Siavonga (Kariba Lake) we were both feeling relatively coherent and not nearly as miserable as we had been.

We arrived yesterday evening to an almost empty house because all of the others had gone out to celebrate the fourth of July by the lake. Sadly, I got to rest and settle a bit, but for my dad, being the director meant that he really only had about 30 minutes before our first disaster struck and he was called to be the boss man and do things the boss man does (whatever that may be.) Before he had even finished dealing with the dilemma he was asked to preach at the lecture of the night that started in half an hour. At least he was halfway expecting it this time. We went to church Sunday morning at Siavonga and I sat on the bench (half asleep) wondering at what point they would ask my dad to give the sermon.  I was entertaining myself (and staying awake) by making a wager with myself whether they would ask him beforehand or if they would just call him up on the spot. He had his Bible out so I figured he was ready. Sure enough, a few minutes later during some singing a man from the church whispers to Patrick on my left and Patrick leans to me and says “Tell dad they are asking for him to speak just for some fifteen minutes.” I resented the fact that he made me do his dirty work for him but I grimaced and leaned to my father on the right to bear the bad news and then I realized by the look on his face that it took him off guard. I gave him a look and said “Umm… I expected that. Didn’t you?” He responded something about jet lag and I couldn’t help but laugh at his pain. It was mostly that weird delirious kind of laugh and I was laughing at the sorry pair of us. I felt sorry for him but it came as a relief to me because I did know that it would mean that I would get out of church much sooner if he preached. If he didn’t, there was a good chance that the sermon could’ve lasted for near an hour, or more.

Today is a day I’ve anticipated for a long time. I slept non-stop for the first three days but I didn’t sleep much at all last night. But I spent the better part of the morning meeting with some people about some of the logistics of getting the film done and when I had a moment in between plans I sat down to write this. I was interrupted by the call of duty and have since the completion of the first few paragraphs I have spent the day doing my first bit of film work. To that I breathe a sigh of relief. The odds were still against me this morning. We ran into multiple problems, logistical and otherwise, the majority of which have already been solved. In a way it was the best way the morning could have gone. There were problems I anticipate, expected even, and this morning we ran into complications in the areas I thought were set. There were moments were I rapidly jumped between feeling like crying then clapping, crying then clapping, crying, clapping, then crying again out of joy. And amidst the good and the bad there was also a good bit of feeling like I might hyperventilate and fall out of my chair right there in front of the superintendent of the College. But it’s ok because the Lord will make a way.

Note: Photos to follow soon.

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Word Vomit

A few days ago my house mate and I sat in our room and we conversed about a commission made by our preacher to think of the defining moments in our life that make up the answer to the question, “Why do you believe?” The conversation included my frustration about the black space that makes up the space where my memory is supposed to be, about the frustration that the catalytic moment in the only moment I do remember involves someone I wish it didn’t, and moments of hers that I got to experience as her words vividly painted the scene in the room around her dimly lit face. I expressed my frustration that I struggle to remember my life. I expressed my prayer the night of the commission that if the Lord never grants me memory of my life to at least give me the memory of those moments. There is only one other moment that continues to come to my mind when I struggle to remember something. It is incomplete and I don’t know what it means but a few years ago I wrote about it so because of our recent conversation I decided to repost what I wrote during that season. A season that I spent a lot of time with two little blonde girls that taught me a lot about myself and a lot about God.

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Tired and frustrated the words spill out without cease. The length of the ride is spent in an aggravated word vomit that was an obvious mix of passion, exaggerated reality, and an active imagination. Oh, but it was necessary. I listened and felt as the frustration grew in the short span between point A and point B and then to the point that breakdown was imminent. We got out of the car and I unbuckled both car seats. It didn’t necessarily break my heart, but then it’s impossible to watch without feeling. We’ve been through this before and I wait patiently, knowing that what is said isn’t what is meant and what is meant can be too hard to say. So frustrating, I know. And then there’s mom, bent straight at the waist like a contortionist, holding tight. Listening as the last of the jumble spills out… and finally there is a visible change and I see the rigid little muscles fall limp and she just hangs there defeated, but in her mom’s arms. We have a system by now and I’m not hurt. So we split, and one little and I go for a walk. We walk because a little ballerina pressures me to; we walk because I need to. We skip and hold hands and sit under trees and on the benches and we stop and pick flowers and go back and sit again and it never fails that every time we’re half way home I end up holding the leash, a small pair of pink shoes and a little ballerina. Its gets hot and my arms get weak. My glasses fall over my nose and I can’t reach to push them up cause there’s a little head on my shoulder and two arms around my dreads and my neck… and being able to see isn’t worth letting go. I start to sweat and we’re almost to the corner of my street but my arms and hands start to really ache and all I can think about is how badly I wish I was stronger.. so that I could stay like this as long as I needed to, so that she could find rest in my arms, stronger, so that I could keep holding the leash, a small pair of pink shoes, and a little ballerina.

It seems like every day for the past year has been like coming home from school tired and frustrated and filled to the brim with word vomit. And its been going on and on, and the words that stem from a mix of passion, confusion, exaggerated reality and my desperation just kept coming out cause they had nowhere else to go. Breakdown was imminent.

Her hair hung in front of her face as she gave in and let herself fall into the arms wrapped around her, blonde tufts block my view so I couldn’t see her expression but I knew what it looked like. And when she finally came up her defeat was still on her face but there wasn’t any more word vomit. I see myself in her all the time and I saw it there, my little blonde metaphor.

There I was, out of control, at the zenith of all the pain and all the crap and all the build up from the past twenty years and it showed its ugly face as a jumble of words and an exasperated tone, because it didn’t make sense and it didn’t seem fair and I couldn’t get any answers… and I just couldn’t wait anymore. It spilled out from point A to point B and there I found myself looking back on it all… and things were said that weren’t meant and what was meant wasn’t said… and I was angry. Less so at all the things being said around me but more the silence that painfully cut through all of the noise. But, at the point when my knees finally couldn’t hold me any more and I began the free fall to the to my dingy black carpet, I felt arms at my midsection and my hair fell over my face and I just hung there, defeated. And I can’t take any of it back, and I can’t make it any better and sometimes it unnerves me to think about it at all…and as I watched the events all unfold the other day, I understood her torment was valid, and mine was too. I really don’t understand why it all has to happen the way it does but I didn’t have to understand cause there was nothing else but to fall limp and be quiet.

Now I spend my time sitting in the grass and skipping class so I can put my feet on the dash. I smile every time I feel the wind and smile when I’m sad and I smile when I close my eyes and smile because I know that here in a little bit when I’m tired of walking I don’t have to anymore cause I have someone to carry me home, someone who doesn’t get tired at the corner.

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Poured Out

“She broke a jar & poured perfume on his head.”

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“Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them at any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could.”

{Mark 14:3, 6-8}

Time is dwindling. I’ve entered in the to unfortunate space that exists between two things. I’ve left the place where my film project is in the distant future and haven’t yet arrived at the place where the next step starts. I don’t know what to do to prepare anymore, it’s really just time to jump. I believe that I am as ready as I’m going to be, mentally at least. From my limited experience and from what I’ve  heard from those with more experience, I know that in filming there’s only so much planning you can do before you get to your location see all of your plans fail,  find yourself starting from scratch and wondering why you ever bothered trying to plan in the first place. You can script and plan all you want but when it boils down to it you’re behind the camera & what happens in front of it is out of the realm of your control. (Especially in the non-fiction setting.) Beyond that, I have had extensive experience seeing well thought out plans arrive in Africa and then be immediately obliterated because it is Africa and that’s how she works. It’s as if she is chastising you for trying to control her, and perhaps even mocking you for thinking you could.

This situation has created a dilemma for me because the longer I have to hang out in this ambiguous space the longer I have to become anxious and dream up grandeur scenarios of all of the different ways I can get to Zambia and fall on my face. Sometimes I sit in front of the computer screen hoping that by being ready I give inspiration the opportunity to show up, or I’ll open my silly little granola box journal with all of my thoughts and research and flip through the pages certain that something will give me revelation to know what in the world to do next. I find that to be successful less and less. The real dilemma is the internal battle that happens when I wake up in the morning and lack all knowledge required to feel productive, and we live in a world that demands constant productivity. While my mold is shaped slightly different, having grown up in the culture of constant go, there is an inherent part of me that fits into that mold and in these moments where I have nothing to show for the day I fall prey to that deception of failure.

Success by the standards of the world has a very different definition than success by the standards I follow, yet I live in the world and so do the people around me and those things alone are enough to pull me in two different directions. My quandary is in deciding which I will hold to. A few mornings ago, after a series of frustrating days and sleepless nights that left me feeling mad, I resigned the idea that there was purpose in staying in bed any longer and made my way to my porch. I found myself in Mark at the story where Jesus is anointed at Bethany. That encounter with Jesus has always been a story that marked itself on my heart, and with obvious reasons. As a lady I’ve always found deep satisfaction in placing myself in the story as the woman at Jesus’ feet, pouring perfume over him. This morning however, I heard a new command in it. It said to me, “This is above all.  Your love for me, is above all. Even above the service you do in my name. Jessalyn, time anointing me is more important than working on the film for me.”  

To this I asked myself- “Do you spend enough time pouring perfume over Jesus’ head-even when it’s financially and otherwise illogical?”

The answer has been no. I see through this what has been asked of me in this season, this season that has been so trying to me. I’ve taken the steps but with so much resistance and so full of doubt and so on days where I don’t see tangible proof of his hand I begin to fall back on the pressure to live up to standards that I was never meant to follow. I shuffle my feet around looking for something to do that’s going to satisfy that feeling when the time to sit and pour perfume over him at the cost of my finances and security was inherently and skillfully built into the plan. He has been saying- put me first. Spend time pouring over me first. Don’t spend time on monetary gain and trust me. Pour your time into me. You will always have the poor with you. There will always be another film, another cause, another need. I’ve given you a time where you’re only responsibility is to sit and pour over me at the cost of everything else. You will always have the poor- you will not always have me. 

I haven’t drawn much in years. The opportunity to sit down and spend hours and hours on a drawing is hard to find if you’re not commissioned or established. Typically I am neither, and haven’t found that opportunity in a while but there was a day a while ago that I woke up with only 10% brain function and by late morning had worked myself into such a dither that I gave up trying. I found myself in the alcove full of my old art supplies at my parents and as I was waiting for someone and had some time I decided I would sit down and draw. I looked around me and started to doodle the scene but decided that if I was going to draw I should draw something worthwhile. I found an old picture of my grandmother sitting close by so I took it up and started to sketch. I didn’t expect to finish it and I didn’t expect much out of it, but as I began I felt a shift in my being from producing by thinking to producing by feeling. I couldn’t do anything else, but in that moment my brain was turned off and my heart was turned on and for the first time in days I found success. Drawing is not something that I know how to do, it’s just something I do. I couldn’t teach you how to do it because on a cognizant level, I don’t even know how I do it. I realized I’ve been living in a way I was never meant to live. No wonder I find it so hard to accomplish anything. My mother walked by and made some statement close to “If I could draw like that I wouldn’t do anything else.” A statement to which I started to negate with multiple things, one being, “no you wouldn’t because you can’t make any money drawing…” but then before I completed the thought I realized, “Wait a minute… I don’t make any money anyway!” What fortune! In that moment I found a purpose in this time. I’m not the Lord, but I feel that in part this time of my life has been given to me so I can stop working in a mode that is so different than the way I was meant to function and start finding Him in the things that have been purposefully placed in me. Coming to terms with the fact that I was made to produce work by feeling instead of thinking was a huge relief… mostly because I’ve begun to realize that I may have an undiagnosed case of Attention Deficit Disorder.

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A Time to Keep and a Time to Throw Away

{Ecclesiastes 3:1-11}

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: 

a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace. 

What does a worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time. 

This is going to be a boring post.

I realize that I have almost completely abandoned my posts on the journals I was making out of random things in my house. That went on a momentary pause to give more room for other things I’m doing in my life. I’m certain I will come back to it- some day. It was pushed aside in part because of the Zambia film project I began working on, but it was also pushed aside because one day, not very long ago, I was driving to Dallas &  realized that I needed to move out of my apartment. Within two weeks I was carrying the contents of my bookshelf and half of my closet to the house I had leased. (It was the first house that I found. It was Spirit led and it was perfect.)

In the past five years I’ve been slightly displaced.  I left a lot of my things at home when I started college and then I left the country and left everything here wherever I could find a place to put it. I came back and lived with my parents for a short while, never getting fully settled (and never intending to) before I left the country and most of my things once again. I came back with no place to live and so I squatted in the apartment connected to my parent’s for a short time before I moved into my last apartment where I successfully stayed for fifteen months & managed to somewhat settle my life for a while (for the first time in some time.) In the course of my wanderings, and over the past 23 years of life, I managed to accumulate stuff in multiple places. Having never actually committed to staying put (physically or in heart) there have been things that have been just sitting in wait, for a place to call their own. Now, having moved into a space bigger than the fifty square feet I inhabited before, and having been called upon by my parents to please take my stuff with me for the sake of my mother’s mental health, I have been shocked to realize the sheer quantity of things that I actually own.  I’ve been on a journey through the process of simplification of my own life and to understand what it means to live simply, so to find out in such an abrasive way that I have yet to even scratch the surface of understanding has been rough.  I don’t know if you can tell by the text alone but when I refer to the word “stuff” or “things”  there’s an added emphasis on the syllable in a slightly  derogatory tone because that’s how I’ve come to feel about it in this process- slightly degraded.

I could go on for novels about my understanding on material possessions and the harsh realizations I’ve faced about my own materialism. I could definitely come up with some excuses for having so many really awesome things I’ve collected in my travels, or  for having framed pieces numbering in the hundreds because I’m an artist, or the quantity of books I have because I don’t have a TV…  (I threw the excuses in there anyway didn’t I?) but as there is little end to such a topic and I should probably sort through it in my own life before I go stating my opinions to anyone else, I’ll leave that for another day. I did have a moment of clarity a few days ago as I was sorting through things that I had brought from my studio. There was a box of random things from my drawing table drawers and other things that were thrown together to move out. I began to shuffle through it and I grabbed some papers sitting near the top and shoved them into the trash bag without hesitation. That is when I was struck by a thought that I have now decided was realization that was the reason behind why I was being led to move out of my last apartment. I needed that moment of understanding.

In my desperation to get through all of my stuff that had come together for the first time, I found myself making the decision to say goodbye to things that I had saved because they meant something at some point. I was stuffing the trash can with possessions that I had up until now because for some reason I felt like they were worth holding on to, but I held on to them only for them to be thrown away months later after they sat in the way, taking up my space and cluttering the room. In that exhausted moment, as I walked away from the trash can I thought- This is just like what I do in my life. I hold onto things that take up my space and energy and clutter the room in my heart until there’s just too much stuff to keep it all. Then in desperation, I cry out to God to take some of the junk away from me because I finally have no problem letting go of the things that aren’t important. My perspective has changed and suddenly I realize I’m up to my eyeballs in “stuff” and desperate for my life to be free of the clutter. That’s when I start frantically pulling things off the shelves of my heart because I don’t care about the stuff anymore I’m just in desperate need of the freedom from the things that are getting in the way of the good life promised to me.

Sorry it took so long to post. I didn’t feel like I had anything worth saying.

Categories: Clarify, Simplify | 1 Comment

Transparency and Need

I don’t feel particularly comfortable talking about some things that I consider to closely border the line between transparency and privacy. Even in the event that it’s meant only to set the stage for talking about other things. That is the hard thing about being transparent. It usually sticks pretty close to that line of things that you’d prefer to keep to yourself. In the case of some things, it’s not necessarily that it’s something I don’t want others to know but more so that it comes with a lot of connotations that can cause a distraction from the real matter at hand. What’s worse than feeling that it steals the focus, is the fear that it is viewed as a loaded statement put out with a hidden agenda. I would prefer not to talk about some things than to talk about them in the chance that they seem to be manipulative. Such is the case with my musings today. In order to really let you know what I’m thinking, I have to shed light on my situation and thought process but there is the discomfort of knowing that the focus could potentially be caught on the matter that is actually meant to be the bed for which the actual point will lie. After deliberation I decided that perhaps a preface such as this one could deter the majority of that threat and I can remain transparent and slightly less uncomfortable than I expect to be.

The topic that has caused such inner conflict is that of my finances. In my story explaining why I will be doing film work in Zambia this summer, I touched briefly on the fact that about a year ago I felt the Spirit calling me to give my life’s work away. That call has been fleshed out in various forms over the past year but currently… well, to be honest, it looks a whole lot like not making any money. Initially it looked a lot like just putting aside the growth of my business, then over time as it was pushed farther and farther aside it looked a lot more like not having a business. Between the last film and the submission to do this one it looked a lot like just having random jobs that I was blessed to have and I’m sure that from the outside looking in it looked quite like something else the whole time. Now, it doesn’t take a genius to know that the longer you go without working, the less you will have. So there’s no need for me to get into the specifics of my situation at present.

I preparation for filming, I watch a lot of films. Specifically films that relate to either the subject matter, or the informative format of the one I will be doing. They are usually either boring or heartbreaking. I spend a lot of time on the latter, being inundated with image after image after image of starving children, races subdued, death, thirst, pain. There are times when I sit all alone on my wood floor in front of my computer and I weep as the woes of a broken world flash before me with compelling music behind them. In my “financial low” (we will call it,) I’ve found myself in situations I’ve never been before, being forced to make decisions between “need” & “need more” or “necessary” & “can wait.”  The truth of the matter is that because of the ways the Lord has blessed my life the only way that I will have to face those decisions is in the case of choosing to abandon monetary income for the sake of giving my life (my work) to Christ. The choice to face them. I don’t know if I can talk much more about it on such an impersonal level. I’m becoming uncomfortable with the feeling that I’m making moral statements to a very broad audience. The point is though that I’ve begun to recognize more clearly why it is that the Lord would ask me to do the seemingly unnecessary act of being another poor person in the world.  (Beyond the simple issue of trust.)

There are things I do not buy, there are bills I do not pay because the money is not there. The matter at hand is that I live in a world where my needs are made up needs. I can’t pay for my car registration, the bills accruing interest, the toll fees, I can’t buy new guitar strings when they snap, I can’t go to the movies, can’t afford gasoline, mail with my name on it makes me want to vomit, I pay for the things that will keep me out of jail first and if there’s enough pay for the rest… By all technical terms I have put myself in a pretty precarious situation in life. But daily I’m reminded of the goal & I think on person after person that I see in those films and have seen in the world still so full of hope, or without hope, where need is not based on being able to pay some imaginary interest on a loan that was invented by man’s greed. Need is based on survival. I will never understand that need, never. I don’t feel like I can be an advocate of a people with nothing if I don’t ever comprehend in tangible, undeniable terms of how sustained I am, even in my own “need.” The closest I can come is doing something really kind of crazy, and in doing that put myself in the hands of others because I can’t afford myself. I also marvel at the feeling I get that says that maybe I’m supposed to experience what it is like to depend on the graciousness of others. I’ve always been in the position to give and to be uncomfortable with receiving. I remain uncomfortable with it but there are times when I have to set my pride aside in order to allow for God to provide for me through others. What I’m learning is that it takes serious humility to be in the position of receiving. It takes a big person to ask for help. It takes the submission of our pride to the sake of our needs. Those of us who have always been outside of the life where we are forced to ask others for things, we remain in that pride. I live in that pride. There are so many things I’m learning. It is so overwhelming.

I think it’s fair that you have the opportunity to disagree and I will (lovingly) verbally Judo-Chop anyone who wants to bring to me opposition to choices I’ve made. I’ve been training for a while now to defend, or recognize when not to bother defending, what I’ve spent this year wrestling with and confirming. My greatest achievement has been recognizing that it will not ever make complete sense to the world around me. At first I tried to store up confirmations that I wasn’t crazy. Eventually I began to see instead, that it is crazy. But I started realizing that  John was a mad man and Jesus was homeless and my confirmation lies in our similarities. At this point I’m not vulnerable to any words about if it’s right or not. That doesn’t mean that after a good round I’m not beat up and worn out, but it does mean that no man can undo what the Lord has spent a year doing inside of me. Also, I want to humbly submit that I think we each have a calling of our own and I don’t in any way think that mine has anything to do with the format of life called to others.

[Here’s some images of  faces of the poor I’ve seen in my travels that have impacted me. These are some of the faces that I carry with me.]

[Images from the very top: Woman in wheelchair made from a plastic lawn chair in Zambia; Little boy with one cataract in Kanchindu, Zambia; Women selling trinkets in the slums outside of Lima, Peru; Five year old Maria begging on a dirty pedestrian street in Buenos Aires, Argentina; Snake charmer Marrakech, Morocco; Shop owners son playing with my nose ring on the street in Cusco, Peru; Handicapped boy who visited the clinic in Kanchindu, Zambia; Rudolpho sitting on a deserted street in Buenos Aires, Argentina]

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