Friday, January 27, 2012

Twenty-Six Memories

Today is my golden birthday.

At 7.19pm EST I will officially be twenty-seven on 27 January 2012.

I thought it would be fun to look back at twenty-six memories from my life. My memory is not sharp enough to remember the exact chronology, but I will begin with the older things and work my way forward... There may be photos if you are diligent to read to the end. :)

1) Family vacation to Colorado (Estes Park, Mesa Verde), Four Corners, and the Grand Canyon. I lost my blanket on that trip, which was pretty sad, but the trip itself was good (minus the cantaloupe).

2) I was maybe 3 when I remember playing and singing on our front deck and asking Jesus to "come into my heart and never come out".

3) Hannibal, Missouri - Samuel Clemens home -and- Herman, Missouri - winery visit. I mostly remember this from a family photo, but I do remember the winery, it was cool to see the wine barrels, and the playground "dirt" was made of shaved corks.

4) I was a sheep in the Christmas play at one of the many churches we attended when I was young. Yeah, sheep don't get lines. (And I doubt that sheep are redheaded, either.)

5) When I was 7 I learned how to ride a two wheel bicycle (thanks to my older sister, Megan). I also met our new neighbours that day... Brittany and Jessica were my best friends growing up! We played settlers, office, sailors, clowns, detectives, and every other imaginable game we could think of. We also washed cars, sold vegetables, sold whatever Jessica had to sell for her choir group, etc. Yay for enterprise and pocket cash! (Okay, mine went to the bank... So I could pay my taxes. Yes, I thought that way when I was a kid.)

6) AWANA - I liked Sparks the best as an attendee, but Jr. High the most when I was a leader-in-training. Probably because my dad was the teacher and we talked about real stuff.

7) Summer Bible School at Walnut Grove Chapel. Two weeks every summer of memorising chapters of Scripture, catechisms, and daily verses. Plus songs, games, and new friends. How could you go wrong there?

8) Art lessons from a variety of teachers, though Mrs. Oberting and Mrs. Adams were my favourites.

9) Waking up on Christmas morning to a BLUE bicycle! I don't even know if I got other presents that year, but I didn't care. And for some reason, I really remember that Sarah got an Acapella tape that same Christmas.

10) This one is in bold because it is perhaps the highlight of my entire childhood, and even now is one of my favourite things: Reading stories with Dad. My earliest memory of reading with Dad is of him reading the Bible to us after dinner each night. Dad would also read bed-time stories to me and my sisters most nights. I remember reading all of the Narnia books, To Kill a Mockingbird, Ivanhoe, Puddinhead Wilson, The Prince and the Pauper, Penrod, Penrod and Sam, Seventeen, several Louis L'Amour westerns, Waking the Dead, Farmer Boy, Fairy tales, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, and Tidings of Comfort and Joy (which Dad and I re-read this past Christmas when I was home). I know we read other books, and we re-read Narnia all the time. Plus, Dad is the best story-teller for Jack and the Beanstalk bar none.

11) Not to be left out, I did also read with my Mom for school. We read the Little House on the Prairie books, Otto of the Silver Hand, and other fiction books that went with what we were studying. But mostly, I am thankful for my Mom reading a Psalm or Proverb with me and my sisters every morning and praying with us. This has to be a big part of helping to establish a daily quiet time in my life.

12) Working to clean Redbrush Camp and turn it into InPursuit, a SpringHill camp (I never officially worked for SpringHill, however). Taught me a lot about how much I complain, and was the place where I began to desire to make my faith my own, not just my parents' beliefs.

13) Spanish and art class with a bunch of homeschool friends... I actually do not remember much about either class - what I gained most from those semesters were my two best friends in high school: Britt and Beka. Britt is still my best friend to this day and I am so thankful for her continued friendship, even though I am not always good about keeping up with her. We have gone from talking about bands and boys and God, to talking about school, work, heartache, God's faithfulness and goodness in spite of our circumstances, and life habits. Similar topics, but there is much more depth now!

14) Homeschool National Conventions: These experiences from 2001-2007 gave me the chance to travel, make lots of awesome friends, helped me to begin to think and reason more, and inspired me to learn about new things (like photography, debate, government, etc.)

15) TeenPact: I learned a whole lot about state government, living with other people, leading other people, how to present myself better, and ultimate frisbee. I began to gain more confidence after becoming filed staff for two Indiana classes in 2005. Oh, and TeenPact GA is where I first drove on the Interstate - unbeknownst to anyone who was in the car with me. I grew up a lot because of my time around TeenPact events and people.

16) Homeschool state conferences helped me take responsibility and learn to converse well with adults (well, to converse more with them - I have always enjoyed talking with 'grown-ups' who were cool).

17) Summer 2003: I graduated high school, read Lord of the Rings for the first time, my grandfather passed away, and my parents drove me out to Colorado to attend a two-week worldview class called Summit. This was indeed a life-changing year.

18) Working at Summit on Summer staff 2005-2010: I learned a lot about acting my age, leading a small group, Creation, Fall, Redemption, family/marriage, loving people - even when they are hard to love, books, various theological topics, taking responsibility, trying new things, and much more. I specifically remember 'The Upstairs Girls' (Lexy, Savannah, and Jessi) from 2007 who restored the idea of being friends with girls in my head and heart. I am forever grateful to God for that summer and fall.

Furthermore, I have made my closest friends at Summit (ahem - Sarah Beth Vosburg! Reese! Chels! Kasey! Andréa! Noelle! And many, many more of you wonderful folks - so many I shouldn't even try to list you!) and have been challenged, encouraged, strengthened, and loved in a way I didn't know was possible.

19) Summit Semester 2006 and 2007: I learned a lot in class in 2006, but the 2007 S2 class will always be my family. Even though I was on staff I learned much in and out of class, made a lot of mistakes, was given a lot of grace, deepened my understanding of a good life, love, death, and more through poetry, stories, and real life community.

20) In 2009 I worked two jobs at once (a first for me), one of which was at a public school, the other was a cleaning job. I learned a LOT about loving other people where they are, speaking the truth when it was hard, and loving kiddos.

21) 2009 was a big year: My grandmother passed away in January, and I moved to Colorado that autumn. I cannot express how glorious it is to have my own home!

22) November 2010 will always be memorable for me. The week of awesomeness started with finding a lovely hardcover set of Lord of the Rings for $9 at the the Thrift Store. It progressed to a good conversation with Kevin Bywater about Summit Oxford, and then the unbelievable happened: I was offered a chance to go to Oxford by an anonymous donor (my eternal thanks to you, friend!). Within 4 days I had gone from normal life to receiving funding, applying, getting my lack of college credit waived, getting references from two Semester professors, and getting an acceptance e-mail. Soli Deo Gloria!

23) Everything about Oxford: walking to tutorials - and the library, Tesco, church, evensong, the open market, through historic passageways and up bell towers - and really anywhere else I need to go. Riding the bus to Kevin's and class there. My flatmates, hallmates, and the Summit gals downstairs. My friends at the kebab stand. The C. S. Lewis Society and walks home with Jake.

Tea and Cranford with Kasey. Watching films, wearing scarves (on one's head), working out, and ridiculous antics with Andréa, Kasey, and sometimes even Jacqueline. Group dinners. Chelsea visiting over my birthday. Trips to London and Cambridge with the OSAP group. My favourite trip: Portsmouth and Master and Commander afterwards. Walking around Magdalen College and Addison's Walk. The New College Cloisters.

Hours spent researching and writing in the library. The book exposition in the spring. Visit to the Kilns (Lewis's home) when my sister came to England. My parents visiting! Walks through Port Meadow and around Oxford at night with the Summit girls.

24) Baptism, Confirmation, and first Anglican Communion: 10 April, 2012 - St. Mary Magdalene's Church, Oxford, England.

25) Getting my writing published on the Summit Blog; getting good marks from my tutors; and learning a lot about Islam that I never knew before (both from reading, and first hand from my Muslim friends).

26) My birthday morning in Oxford last year: sleeping in and a surprise breakfast with all of the Summit girls. They made crepes with fresh fruit (blueberries, strawberries, pomegranate, and bananas), and even had Nutella, and of course, a bunch of tea. They also gave me my Eynsham mug, which I drink from almost every day.

The afternoon was also wonderful, with tea at The Rose on High Street. Everyone came and Rose and Jordan even paid for my tea and scones. It was a wonderful day!

Those are my 26 memories - if I had been extremely clever I would have started each with a successive letter of the alphabet. But I am not extremely clever. I am just an ordinary girl who has been blessed with extra-ordinary blessings all of my life. I am thankful for God's goodness in all things, and His magnificent kindness to me.

Truly, 'The LORD has done GREAT things for us, and we are filled with JOY!'

~ Johanna

Post Script: I would be remiss if I didn't say that my sister Sarah's wedding and the birth of my Nephew (JJ) were also life altering events. :)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sword, Arrow, Warrior

'War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend...'

~ Faramir in The Two Towers, by J. R. R. Tolkien

Recently I discussed pacifism with one of my dear friends. We skirted the issue a good bit due to our diametrically opposite views on the matter. When I heard the above lines spoken by one of my favourite Lord of the Rings characters, it gave me pause. Tolkien said eloquently and briefly the heart of why I am thankful for our military warriors. It is what they defend that I love, not the warfare that is used. Yet without the weapons of warfare our country, our freedom, and our lives would belong not to us, but to someone else.

My deepest thanks and appreciation to our military - past and present... and those to come. And my gratitude to Tolkien for penning this gem.

~ Johanna

Thursday, January 19, 2012

And We Are Filled With Joy!

The LORD has done great things for us, and we are
filled with joy.
~ Psalm 126:3

It's be one of those kinds of days... It is my dear friend Carrie's birthday today - knowing her fills me with joy. Then the day progressed with a new Two Towers chapter by Phil, hiking Red Mountain with friends, dinner and tea at my house, good conversations, and life simply lived. Thank You, Jesus!

~ Johanna

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Love is Stronger Than Death

How does love construct a self that is stronger than death? It constructs my I, not my me; my subject self, not my object self, who I am, not what I am.

What I am is determined by my heredity and environment; my without is determined from without. This is not stronger than death. But who I am is determined by my free choices to love or not to love; my within is determined from within.

This inner self, or who, is not of a given size, like the body, but is elastic. I am as much as I find my identity in, or identify with, or care about, or love. I am not a little ego imprisoned in a bag of skin; I am as big as my love. By my love I construct the self that is stronger than death.

~ Peter Kreeft, Love is Stronger Than Death (pp 42-43)

Do you agree or disagree with Kreeft?

Surely there is a difference between who we are and what we are. Does love construct the 'who' we are? If so, is it our own love, as Kreeft says, or another's love? Is it human love or divine love that gives us our identity, our strength over death?

I will post my further thoughts in the upcoming days, but I am curious to know your thoughts, dear Reader.

~ Johanna

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

I Will Lift My Eyes...

I will lift up my eyes to the hills—
From whence comes my help?
My help comes from the LORD,
Who made heaven and earth.

He will not allow your foot to be moved;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, He who keeps Israel
Shall neither slumber nor sleep.

~ Psalm 121:1-4 ~

Morning Light: Double Exposure

~ ~ ~

~ Johanna

Morning Light

Good morning, Sunshine!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Nunc Dimittis: Simeon's Prayer

LORD, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace according to Thy word. For mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, Which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people; To be a light to lighten the Gentiles and to be the glory of Thy people Israel.

Glory be to the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end - amen.

The mystery is revealed before St. Paul pens it. The shocking offer is given before the Messiah can even speak. Simeon declares that the Christ child is God's salvation to all people. He will be a light to lighten even the darkness of the Gentiles. This is a stunning announcement to the Jews, God's 'chosen people' throughout the Old Testament.

Yet, looking back to Genesis 12 one sees this promise given to Abraham: "And I will make of you a great nation [Israel], and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonours you I will curse, and in you all the families [nations] of the earth shall be blessed." (vv 2-3, ESV UK, Crossway)

The Messiah who comes through Abraham's seed is so great that He will not only redeem His people, Israel, but He will gather all nations to Himself. He shines His light in the darkness and it must flee.

I find this proclamation of Simeon's to be an overwhelming kindness from God. The Jews do not deserve to be God's specially chosen people. The rest of the world (the Gentiles) certainly do not deserve the offer of salvation. In fact, no one does. It is remarkable - no, sensational - that God would offer salvation to anyone. We all like sheep have gone astray, says Isaiah, each of us has turned to his own way. There is none who does righteous, declares Paul. Even our motives behind doing good are often (perhaps always) tainted.

Even so, God the Father chooses to love those who spit in His face, who stomp on His grace, He loves us enough to send His Son to 'wear man's smudge and shares man's smell' and take the punishment that we deserve. By His wounds we are healed, cries Isaiah. And so we are. Yes, even we Gentiles who sat in darkness have seen a Great Light.

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

~ Johanna

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year: Discipleship At Any Cost

Lord, I give up all my own plans and purposes, all my own desires and hopes, and accept Thy will for my life. I give myself, my life, my all utterly to Thee, to be Thine forever. Fill me and seal me with Thy Holy Spirit. Use me as Thou wilt. Send me where Thou wilt, and work out Thy whole will in my life at any cost, now and forever.
~ Betty Scott Stam

Last year on this day I arrived in Heathrow International Airport, London, England. I met two of my very best friends. I saw the lights of London from an aeroplane. I caught my first brief glimpse of Oxford. I rode in a bus and a minivan on the left side of the road. I made my first trip to Sainsbury's. In short, I commenced four of the most stretching, rewarding, challenging, gruelling, wonderful, and inspiring months of my life.

This year I look forward into a mist of uncertainty. I have a few goals regarding classes and a job that I would like to apply for. There is the ever growing list of books that I want to tackle. Much Scripture that I want to read broadly then study in-depth awaits my eager eyes and heart.

There is no England, no promise of 6 or 8 hour days in the library, or the gloaming hour reverently passed in evensong. This year, if growth will come it must be at the tutelage of the Holy Spirit, my own bank account, books at my fingertips, good conversations, asking better questions, and perseverance in daily study. If I seek a deeper relationship with God then I must be willing to invest more hours in prayer, seek good commentaries, and read, read, and re-read Scripture. I must be willing to let God change my selfish, arrogant, wretched self into a woman clothed in humility, authority, strength, and holiness.

Already I feel the tug between my flesh and the Spirit. So far the flesh is winning the battle... But I know and am confident that the Spirit will win the war. It is a matter of seeking His strength daily and saying 'no' to the temptations of sloth, gossip, idleness, anger, lust, pride, and smug self-righteousness. Discipline is about to become a word I cannot ignore or set aside. Indeed, Discipline and Surrender are about to become my closest companions.

Father God, I submit to You 2012. It is Yours, and so am I. Rid me of myself. Cause me to decrease, that You may increase. Teach me holiness and love as I have never known them. Let me know You. Let me see even the train of Your glory, that I may understand how great You are. Let me see more and more of YOU.

May I, too, pray with sincerity: Fill me and seal me with Thy Holy Spirit. Use me as Thou wilt. Send me where Thou wilt, and work out Thy whole will in my life at any cost, now and forever.
~ Johanna