An Hour Of Wolves, And Shattered Shields

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Happy Lent, everyone! For all of you who are observing it, stick in there – it WILL be worth it! For those of you who aren’t, have fun watching us for the next 40 days.

For those of you who aren’t of the Christian persuasion, I guess I should probably tell you about Lent.

“Ok, Google – cheat for me:”

Lent is a 40-day period of preparation for Easter Sunday and one of the major liturgical seasons of the Church. A penitential season marked by prayer, fasting and abstinence, and almsgiving, Lent begins on either Ash Wednesday (for Latin Rite Catholics and those Protestants who observe Lent) or Clean Monday (for Eastern Rite Catholics and Eastern Orthodox) and ends on either Holy Thursday or Holy Saturday.

Lent comes in many different forms. Some people give up food as a community, some people fast (or give up) things they feel like they’re placing before their spiritual lives (maybe you’ve seen some people bowing off social media) and others do none of the above. Like me.

To clarify – yes, I am fasting. But this year I felt like I needed to do something a little different.

Enter dramatic pause

So, I’ve decided to do a 40 day negativity fast (#notreallyworthadramaticpause).

Rather than Googling what this “means” I’ll tell you what it means to me.

The Bible has a lot to say about how Christians interact with the world around them. There are verses about loving, about caring, about serving – and then the ones we’re not quite as eager to discuss: The ones about turning the other cheek.

This is not a green light for people to come and punch me in the face, because for the next 40 days I won’t punch you back. I will punch you back.

What I’m talking about is on a spiritual level.

See, I’m a fighter by nature.
When I was little, more than anything, I wanted to be an Amazon woman (thanks for the documentary, PBS). I wanted to fight in battles, and conquer kingdoms and learn epic archery skills (the last of which I did start). I wanted to fight. I’ve always wanted to fight.

And it took me a really long time, as Christian, to realize that’s okay.

I think a common misconception about Christianity is that women are supposed to be these meek and gentle creatures sitting in the corner knitting.

And while I do knit, and I love its cathartic values, that’s not my idea of the life of faith for a woman.

NOTE: Being meek, gentle and sweet are NOT bad things, for those who are naturally that way.

But I’m not.

I’ve always preferred to think of myself as someone who follows more the example of the biblical Deborah. For those of you who don’t know the story, think badass awesome chick who leads armies and generally dominates at life, because men aren’t stepping up to the plate. (Judges 4)

But something to remember, even for us fighters, is that there are times when you need to find peace in the uncomfortable places or times God calls you to. Sometimes, we reach a season of needing to learn trust.

“The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14

A great, totally hypothetical, example of this is when you’re, I don’t know – living in a foreign place, and being COMPLETELY out of your comfort zone. Exhibit A: My life.

For me, natural instinct says to kick and scream and punch people (metaphorically) – but God tells me to rest.

So I sit.

I “rest”.

I pout.

I complain.

*For the record, sitting in a corner complaining isn’t finding rest in a situation.

France has been hard, harder than I ever could have imagined. But it’s in this place that God has told me, for now, to rest. And over the past few months I have been doing the very minimal value of that.

More than anything I’ve been complaining, I’ve been self-pitying and I’ve been finding every excuse to sit on my bible, rather than read it. Because, hey – I’ve been through a lot (factual). I deserve to be able to curl up in a ball and listen to angsty music!

But if God wanted me to listen to angsty music for a year, I think he would have given me a time machine back to my high school self, not told me to move 5000 miles away from home.

So, with this in mind, I’ve decided to dedicate my Lent period of time to fixing the deep seeded problem that has become my perspective on my life.

Where there is self-pity, I will look to serve others.

Where there is anger, I’m seeking peace and self-reconciliation.

When I want to outwardly project my fears and insecurities, I will take them instead, and leave them at the feet of my Saviour.

Where there is doubt, I’m remembering the promises that brought me to this place.

And where there is winey-ass (sorry mom) me, I will remember that there is purpose to every breath I am given.

Lent started on Wednesday, so I’m only a few days in, but I can already tell you one thing – it IS NOT easy. Human nature wants to complain. Why? Because, to be honest, it feels good. And it’s societally acceptable. Just look at how many social media outlets we’re given to FML our lives.

But my challenge, over the next month is to remember where I came from, and who fought on my behalf to bring me here.

It wasn’t by accident that I landed in Paris for a year – no one accidently lands in Paris for a year. This year was a pretty hefty detour from what I had “planned”, but that doesn’t mean I’m not on the path I’m supposed to be on.

So, join me, will you? Let’s strive to look at our lives and the world around us with a different lens. Let’s begin to uncover and unmask the places in our hearts that have brought us into areas of complaint, instead of action. And most of all – let’s fight a good fight.

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To Boldly Go Where No Woman Has Gone Before

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The print that I bought. Love love love.

For a healthy chunk of my childhood Tuesdays nights meant two things: Popcorn and fresh fruit/veggies for dinner and piling in the living room to watch Star Trek. At the time it seemed perfectly normal that our family nights consisted of Sci-Fi shows. Another example would be that every Christmas we would marathon a Sci-Fi series (ex. All the X-Men movies, every Batman film ever created etc.). This was our normal. And it wasn’t until I grew up that I realized not everyone had such a geek infused childhood.

Since I was reared on a heavy serving of Sci-Fi and fantasy, it’s no wonder that I’ve always gravitated toward those things even in my adult life. I read comic books. I watch pretty much exclusively Sci-Fi/Fantasy TV shows. I wake up to the Doctor Who theme song every morning on my alarm clock. The ring tone on my phone is the Legend of Zelda theme…dubstep. Have I earned my geek badge, yet?

One of my new favorite girl power geeks is Jane McGonigal, who is a game designer and author. If you want to look her up, I would highly suggest watching one of her TED talks (especially the one about how gamers are going to change the world) – they’re all amazing. In one of these talks she says:

“Gamers always believe that an epic win is possible and that it’s always worth trying, and trying now. Gamers don’t sit around.” 

And while my gaming is definitely not up to par with a professional grade (gaming was always my brother’s thing, and we’ve talked before about how I kept away from things in his corner), I think this quote is fair of geeks in general. Being raised as a geek really shaped who I am because it taught me that, while there are obstacles (black holes, empires to destroy, Klingons) to overcome, there are always ways to overcome them.

Having stories of dragons, spaceships, other worlds, heroes, warriors, heroines and hobbits helped form my own foundation of one of the most important keys to success: grit.

The get back up and try to save the world again mentality.

It doesn’t matter if it takes 10 years of episodes *cough Stargate, you keep fighting for what you believe in. And sooner or later, you’ll make a difference…or die trying (and then having an epic burial where your body, grasping your brilliantly shining sword, soars over the edge of woodland water falls in a hand built elven boat).

Either way, the point is developing the desire to always find a way to conquer obstacles. It’s a skill that I think the instant gratification culture of today misses all too often, and is something that I really hope to impart to any kids I work with/ever have myself.

It’s pretty rare that I really disclose how much of a geek I am to people, but since I’ve been in Paris I’ve been trying to get better about it. Despite popular opinion, I’m actually extremely shy by nature, so it’s really hard to put myself out there and really present the things that interest me.

But this past weekend I got an amazing opportunity to go and hang out with some of my fellow geeks at the Paris Manga/Sci Fi Convention and it was So. Much. Fun.

I can honestly say it was the first time I’ve felt at home in France, because even though everyone around me was speaking French, I was able to share so many other commonalities with the people around me. I got to rock a Cosplay and revel in the panels that were in English (translated in French) and it was so cool to see other Whovians and think, “Wow. These people live 8,000 miles away from where I come from, and they love the same fandoms/TV shows/comics that I do!” It was a pretty bonding experience. Especially when I sat next to a group that dressed as all 12 of The Doctors.

My favorite moment, though, was when I found TinTin (or, rather, his cosplayer) who I actually yelled at in a crowd of people in order to get a picture with him. Like I said, I’ve always loved comics, and TinTin is a series that I’ve read probably 10 times. All 20+ of them. (It’s all about priorities when you’re a kid.)

Another amazing part of the show were the artists who were lined up doing live drawings in the styles of their work, and selling their prints etc. I LOVED being able to watch professional artists draw and illustrate. It’s so rare that I felt like it was such an honor. And I bought, and had signed, a Daenarys Targaryan print which is now hanging on my wall and that I LOVE.

All in all it was a perfectly refreshing experience. I feel like I went on vacation even though I never left the city. And the best part? There’s another one next weekend.

Allons-y! May the force be with you.

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Me and TinTin! I was so happy I have a ridiculous grin on my face. Also I got to hold snowy – win.
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Me and The TARDIS.
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Me and my Cosplay as Mels from Doctor Who.

Even Heroes Get Homesick

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Paris, France

“But all night he dreamed of his own house and wandered in his sleep into all his different rooms looking for something that he could not find, nor remember what it looked like.”

Right now I’m making my way through the forever-favorite book, The Hobbit. I know, I know, all the rest of you read it in 7th grade when you were sporting rainbow braces, but I was off busy doing something else, and never had the chance. With the movies coming out, though, I decided to make it my book for the summer (one of a few).

Obviously it isn’t summer anymore. So I guess I didn’t quite make my deadline…but I’m still determined to finish the book, and I couldn’t be more happy with my decision.

One of my favorite things about J.R.R Tolkein is that, when he writes, he doesn’t romanticize the struggles of the adventures (which, personally, I think kind of makes it more romanticized, in a way). Throughout The Hobbit, again and again and again, he writes that Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit longing for home. No matter where he is, how good or bad things seem to be going; he remembers the tranquility of his hobbit hole and longs for it.

I don’t know about you guys, but I often find myself reading books that seem to coincide exactly with the kind of encouragement that I need. Or maybe, I find the encouragement in the books I read, because I need it.

Regardless, if there’s one thing you should know about me it’s that: I love adventures. I love living them, I love writing them and I love hearing stories about them. I love holding my breath while watching adventure movies, getting caught up in narratives and being on the edge of my seat – eyes wide and ready for the grand conclusion.

This hasn’t changed from when I was a kid and I’d spend weeks reading stacks of books about people who took their circumstances and turned them into stories worthy of being passed down through generations. That’s what I wanted then, and what I live for now. I want my life to be a story I can read back to my children; something that will have them on the edge of their seats, anticipating the part when mom _________________ (fill in the blank).

Adventures aren’t just something I think are necessary, but essential for my life. I need to travel, explore and see new things. I need to have my breath taken away by landscapes and oceans, to meet incredible people and take my place among the millions of experiences the world has to offer.

But the perspective of an adventure can be pretty different when you’re in the middle of it vs. when you’re hearing it second hand. Hungry wolves chasing after you might sound exciting from the security of your living room, but while you’re actually running from them– breath staggering, panic stricken eyes wild with fear, it’s probably not quite the same feeling (although, I’ve never been chased by wolves, so correct me if I’m wrong).

As humans, it’s in our nature to romanticize the past. We tell embellished stories (especially in my family) of what happened, who was there and how many obstacles there were; a foot long puddle turns into a raging river, a 10-inch trout becomes a 60-foot whale.

The stories get passed down from one person to another and then to another and another, until nobody even knows, for sure, what the facts are. As the details trickle down, from one person to the next, details get lost and scrambled in translation – especially emotions such as fear or uncertainty; finally, we’re left simply with the grand tales of bravery – unaware that the hero or heroine was having panic attacks before they made their brave, life altering, world saving decision.

I know personally, when I look back, I have a habit of romanticizing my past.

Somehow things always seem better when they’re not in the present. Life seems so much more exciting in the future; so much more secure and certain in the past. But if I’m honest, I realize that just isn’t the case.

Right now, I’m struggling with a Bilbo Baggins mentality.

Maybe I don’t live in Middle Earth, but I would consider my life an adventure right now. I’m in a strange place, with a strange culture and language surrounding me. I have no idea what the next year of my life will entail. But, all in all, life is pretty great right now.

So why am I still longing for the past?

I love the family I’m working with, I couldn’t have asked for a better match in personalities, tastes, hobbies and general atmosphere.

BUT…here it comes: I’m homesick.

I don’t really want to admit it, because I thought maybe I would miraculously overcome nostalgia (and I did for about month) but this week the homesickness has been hitting pretty hard.

It’s not saying that I don’t love the adventure that I’m on. I’m making awesome friends, getting to try new experiences and generally loving life – but there’s still a part of me longing for my hobbit hole (aka Seattle).

I miss friends, I miss my routine, I miss my bike, being able to call people up to go watch the sunset at Golden Gardens, or to WOW to drink bubble tea; I miss speaking and hearing English, and I miss being able to effortlessly talk to random people when I go out.

It’s expected and normal for us to want what we had before, whether it was bad or good, it was known. And who wouldn’t want to be somewhere they know over somewhere uncertain?

But right now, I’m reminding myself of the beauty in learning to love something I’m uncomfortable with. And let me tell you – sometimes it is VERY UNCOMFORTABLE to be living in a country that is so different.

But that’s part of the adventure, right!?

I’m so thankful for all of you who have encouraged me, sent me mail (which seriously makes my week) and have generally uplifted me during this transition. I feel so lucky to have such an amazing community around me, and I’m excited for what’s up and coming in my life – even if it means missing my city a little in the meantime.

Seattle will always have my heart. And striking out into the unknown can be extremely intimidating at times. But I’m learning to accept the fact that even the greatest heroes and heroines sometimes find themselves longing for home.

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I found a beret at a Paris street fair. Needless to say: J’adore.

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