Sunday, June 30, 2013

Where to start

How to articulate an experience beyond words? Here I am, in Israel- just finished a whirlwind week of camp. 2 days left. Still a lot unclear for me on why I am here- what I should take away, what I need to know and remember. Where should I go and what should I focus on. I don't feel like I am fully clear on why god wanted me here or what he wants from me.

What I do know is that I feel great. I am happy here. I feel right being here. I am watching something/contributing to something good happening around me. I feel oddly at home. This camp and organization brews magic. It brings out the best in people. 

And! Instead of being restless with the questions- of being scared that I don't know or have any answers- I am just happy to be in the inquiry and wondering of them. 

Maybe all of what I have typed above is vague and seemingly non-concrete. Every day here has been filled with important work and more important play. I have played so hard here- longer than I have in a long time.

More stories for later, but that is what I have for now.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

A magical life

Tuesday morning- putting on my makeup and driving at the same time- pull up to a light and stop behind a school bus of blond 8 year old boys who immediately started smiling and waving. Couldn't help it- my work face cracked and I smiled and waved back. 11:30am- business partner emails me confirmation of our first client who is interested in working with us long term. After work we sit in the heartland- celebrating over a goat cheese salad and a glass of wine. End of the day- pick up the mail to find a check for a $500 dollar donation enclosed and a heartfelt letter from my grandma reassuring me to boldly take on life's challenges. Tuesday night- after ultimate frisbee practice with my team- meet with friends and go lounge on a rooftop in uptown- warm night with lights dotting the rooftops. we sit laughing and celebrating our successful bid for peace event. We discover we raised about $1500, and agree the event overall provided a fantastic evening of ultimate frisbee. With hushed excitement we discussed how to make it bigger and better next year. Wednesday morning last day at work- while closing up all the loose ends in legal and taking apart my cube- 10:30am called down to the Medtronic corporate communications office and offered a high-opportunity job. Experience feeling valued and wanted by a company I have invested so much into. Spent the rest of the day completing my litigation work and thanking my coworkers for all that they taught me and supported me in. One mentor cleared his schedule to have lunch with me. Some of my coworkers gave me flowers and good luck cards and food that fits within my sugar free diet. Many expressed excitement i would be coming back to the company in a different capacity. After work call my dad- he tells me how proud of me he is. Wednesday night- sit on the front steps of matt's house, waiting to drop of a thank you gift and enjoying the smells of his street-side garden. Later, at home with my roommates joking. I write my last rent check and close the door on that financial responsibility. The place is filled with the smell of clean laundry. John brings over "whatever I most want to eat for dinner"- which happened to be Indian. Pack for Israel- wake up at 4:30am and arrive more than an hour ahead of my flight- enjoyed an omelette for breakfast at the French meadow bakery while texting Lydia in china. Chicago- 9:30 am- buy gifts for the host family I am staying with in Jerusalem- so reassured by the notion of being picked up from the airport in tel aviv. Recommend the book "proof of heaven" to a fellow customer. Take out my camera and tri-pod and capture some stunner shots of the O'Hare's underground tunnel- a tunnel I historically have always wanted to take pictures of but in the past didn't have the time or the camera. My mom texts me and congratulates me for fulfilling a dream come true. She's right- this trip is. This whole life is. And now I am sitting on the plane next to a very sunny window- blue sky and blue water above and below me. 

And amidst all of the experiences detailed above- I was stressed. I was worried and anxious and experienced guilt. There is so much left to do and be done- so many things I am not tending to. I worry about letting people down, about my finances and how i am chronically late. I get scared in the face of uncertainty. Maybe I am totally crazy? 

And yet hear I am- on a romantic quest I dreamed up this winter and now with a community of support around me I am fulfilling on. Who would ever have thought it would actually morph into reality? I fly alone yet I feel loved from all angles. My thoughts are dissolving into something along the lines of- maybe everything is intended to work out in the end. Even if its in a messy, unexpected sort if way.

It would be disingenuous for me to say anything else: I am actively living a life that I love. I have the richest and most wonderful of relationships with my friends, family and boyfriend. I have several impending -and exciting career prospects. I am on a wild adventure- fulfilling on a calling and doing something I love, going back to a country I love. I have no idea what is in store for me but I am open to the possibility. 

God has no doubt been at work in my life. Through change and challenge over the last year I have been inspired, humbled, thought new thoughts and dreamed new dreams. I have let go of addictions and inadequacies, only to be faced with new ones. He has brought palatable joy into my life- fulfillment. He has blessed me with the best of people. There is no way I can give back to him all he has given me, so I just hope to continue to make my life sing and dance along the way as a tribute. I do know I am in ardent search of living this life out to a threadbare state of a well-loved stuffed animal. And therefore I bring my rigorous inquiry abroad of how best to contribute to A humanity created in God's image. If we are at all a reflection he is a beautiful being indeed.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Out of Control

I have discovered my worst side often comes out when I feel like a situation is out of my control. I cannot rationalize or move a set of situations the way I want them to. I feel like a uprooted tumbleweed in a 20 mile per hour wind desperately looking for something to root myself to. I get indignant, scared, upset, pessimistic.
I have written about this theme of being disempowered before from different perspectives- turning things over to God, Faith in the face of uncertainty. Yet the feeling of fear, paralyzes, and sinking doubt never gets any better when experienced at its height.  I feel like such an overly emotional 13 year old. I have been having all of these extreme highs and lows-  over the last 2 weeks with seemingly little ability to redirect and contain my emotions. And I think I could chalk most of that experience up to feeling out of control of my life. I could give you a long laundry list of reasons of why I feel especially uncertain these days- though I’m not sure if the solutions are really to be found by resolving those uncertainties.
I did a case interview today with a consulting firm I am considering working for. Although the consultant working with me was generous in guiding me through the problem, I found myself feeling sick at the end and feeling like the problem I had been presented was way out of my reach. I fumbled with the math, got lost in the answer. My usual confidence and poise slipped to garbled words and um pauses of uncertainty. It was painful emotionally to watch myself go through such a performance. Memories of failed LSAT questions came to mind.
Why was this practice interview a tough experience for me? Why was stumbling and failing such an uncomfortable experience? I mean really, it was such a silly little thing, it wasn’t even the REAL interview. And it still left me in a significant slump. And that opened up the pandora's box of everything else. I'm not going to amount to much, Im never going to get a job, Im never going to make much money.... yada yada yada. When I am trying to be in control of my situation, my life, my future- I find the darker sides of my humanity come out. I focus on my image, status, how impressive I am/am not. I fret and worry. I try to get others to affirm and pay attention to me. All the while none of these actions dissipating myself doubt.
The process of being humbled never ends!!!!!
I think all of this indicates it is time for me to get grounded again. To pray, to refocus that everything is not all about me.  Maybe to get out of my head a bit. And yes, that it is ok to LET GO… somehow (like going from a white knuckle grip on the bar of a rollercoaster to putting your hands in the air). To remember to trust that a divine force is working in my life and is providing guidance and love and protection.
God, please lead my life towards the fulfilling, the good, the true. And please give me the wisdom and courage and observation to be able to follow your guidance. Sometimes all I can do is pray, and then face my reality- moment by moment with courage. I will do my best not to judge too harshly what requires me to muster courage and what does not. I look to grow in my ability of being willing and able to embrace my own discomfort.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Faith and Ultimate Frisbee

Yesterday, on a rainy afternoon after a gloomy and stressful day at work I sat on the wet grass, put on my Nike cleats, and began to throw with my teammates. Practice continued, and as the drills, games and conditioning progressed, my focus on the task at hand increased and the concern for the rest of my mental worries decreased. I soon got lost in the catching and throwing of the disc, and slowly stopped focusing on myself as an individual and rather as myself as a teammate. How could I contribute? What could I do to make us collectively succeed? Practice ended and I walked off the field with sweat, rainwater and mud plastered to my skin and unfurrowed eyebrows. Practice left me fulfilled, physically tired- and easily was the best part of my day.
Lately it seems so much of what I am doing in my life that is worthwhile has something to do with my favorite sport and hobby: Ultimate Frisbee. This stereotypically hippy, not commonly known sport may leave people wondering, so what’s the big deal? It is played with something similar to football receiving, Soccer field awareness and Basketball defense. Here is a basic summary of the game and how it works:
To all appearances Ultimate is just another team field sport. And sure, all sports have the ability to teach people good values and practices. Yet in my experience as an athlete- I maintain that Ultimate is something very special in comparison, and is unlike any other sport I have encountered.
What makes this sport stand out from the rest I believe are two things- 1) the culture and community around the sport and 2) the spirit in which the game is played.
On the latter point- Ultimate is a self-officiated sport, requiring players to be responsible for referring the game. The rules have a check and balances system built into it that requires players to call and reconcile illegal plays on the field. This rule system ties into a bigger value set dubbed “Spirit of the game” – and teammates are either “spirited” or “not-spirited” depending on how much respect, integrity and humility they demonstrate on and off the field. Ultimate therefore takes “sportsmanship” to a whole new level in through the structure of how it is played.
This “spirit” I believe creates the compelling culture of Ultimate Frisbee. Tournaments include highly competitive play and athleticism during the game, but also incorporate cheers and social events that have all the teams naturally mingling and hanging out with one another. It is natural to arrive at a tournament and have more friends on other teams you are playing than on the team you are affiliated with. Therefore, players have a strong love and loyalty for the sport, along with a strong sense of camaraderie for everyone who is involved with the game. Ultimate to many represents not only a sport, but a culture, a community and a lifestyle in which people play fair, have fun, respect each other and work together. Ultimate at its core is a value set, and a big metaphor for how to live your life.
So given the above explanation, I hope it is becoming obvious why I see Ultimate not only as a great sport to play and coach, but also as an expression of my faith. The sport provides an arena for me to express and fulfill on what I believe God is directing me to do: treat others with love and respect, bring people together in community and fellowship, be generous, inspire others… the list goes on. That is why it is such a perfect fit for me you see to go to Israel to coach Ultimate, because I see the service I am doing over there as a direct correlate to serving God and living out my faith. What more could I ask for, an opportunity to go abroad and teach people something I love as a conduit for teaching values I believe in wholeheartedly.
And the upcoming event this Saturday a group of us have been planning for the last couple months- Bid for Peace- was such a natural and fun event to create for our community inside and outside the sport. I see the event as celebrating the core of what the sport is about, and is allowing those in the Ultimate community to celebrate all that the sport stands for; by contributing to a cause that uses Ultimate Frisbee to teach people how to treat each other well in struggling communities. And the great thing is, really the event would have never happened if I didn’t have 7 good friends jump on board with me to make it happen. So all the work continues to be highly collaborative, just like how Ultimate is played at its finest.
For you reader, it may be something else. It may be your church, your work, some volunteer organization or hobby- that you hold with the reverence I hold Ultimate Frisbee. If you have something like that in your life, you believe that if there was just more of it, that whatever “it” was is the secret sauce to life, is the thing that can and will change the world for the better. I hope whatever it is for you, you are able to fully participate in it, to spread it, to share its values with others inside and outside the community. And if you do not have something in your life like this, I suggest you go join a pick-up game of ultimate Frisbee.

Monday, June 3, 2013

We are Tragically Flawed

I am on the plane ride home and just finished watching 'perks of being
a wallflower' for the first time. 5 hours to go until I am home in

What have I learned from this trip? Or maybe better said- reminded of?
The importance of not doing this life alone. The necessity of kindness
and grace and compassion. Why humans are such beautiful and other
times desolate creatures. The kindness of a cab driver, a bellman, a
sister. The courage and sweetness of street performers. How we some of
us pay a lot to walk the same walk as someone elses daily commute to
work. How the entire world exists in our relationships with others.

Our worst enemy and our best friend is our mind. We give it so much
power over ourselves sometimes without bothering to train it. I can
walk through paris in awe, i can see the eiffel tower as nothing
extraordinary and focus on my headache instead. Our minds can filter
the light of the past into the present world and color our days black.
Our minds also can ignore the predicaments of pain or numbness by
noticing the beauty of the few on the grass.

Humans are all tragically flawed- like the heroes I used to read about
in Greek mythology and Shakespeare for my English classes. We are
great, well meaning people who yearn to do good and have often at
least one thing that can really take us away from that. And if left to
our own devices we can let that tragic flaw consume us- or at least
stop us. The world is needed- God is required to save us from
ourselves. My tragic flaws I know at least include: focusing on what I
don't accomplish, trying to impress others, worrying about the future.

I write when I feel. I feel sad right now because of how much I and
others can relate to the hero in 'perks of being a wallflower'. How We
know how isolating sadness and loneliness can be. Jonathan would have
loved that movie. i think one of the best parts of that movie was that
the hero never once saw himself as a victim.

And then I think about my friends and family members who have suffered
much more than I have. And then we let what we have suffered dictate
who we say we are. And then how we only accept the love we think we
deserve as the movie says.

That is one reason the story of Jesus is such a unusual phenomena-
because if it is true that his death was a demonstration of his love
to each of us- it leaves us in a conundrum. None of us believe we
deserve someone dying for us- the love that such an act requires. And
yet there it is- and all we can do is hope to embrace that idea- that
gift. What does it take to allow someone to love us? An
acknowledgement that we are at least in some small way worthy.

 I guess what I took away from my trip is that one of the things that
unites people from different cultures and places and backgrounds is
that we all want to love and be loved. I listened this weekend to
people speak in hebrew and french and english- it didnt matter the
words they were saying it was written all over their faces. We all
want to belong, to be valued and respected and appreciated. We all
want a family, a group of friends, a community to serve. We crave to
be heroes but only so far as we are positively impacting our
surrounding world somehow. And many of us fight valiantly against our
shortcomings- doing our best to be better people.

Today- I ask you to do something. To thank someone who loves you more
than you feel you deserve. And then turn around and go love someone
more than you think they deserve.

For in the puzzles of the day to day exploration of what to do and
what is right and who we are and what is good- I think the above acts,
while not necessarily providing all the answers- are assuredly