Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Opposite of What I Deserve

Dear Uncle George,

This weekend, I went to Eureka Springs, Arkansas.  The short of it is that The Boy was supposed to do a check-out dive for scuba diving certification, but he had an ear problem.  Not usually a big deal, I mean he has two.  But in scuba diving, it is essentially the ONLY part that you really need in perfect, working order.

So he was out.

The room was paid for (hello, non-refundable), and well, you know me, I am always up for field trip.

Some highlights from the road include I almost got hit three times, the "Come and Take It" gun flag in someone's yard, having a hot dog at the Carthage, Missouri gas station--home of the Precious Moments Chapel and some girl dressed in volleyball shorts and a yellow, glittery "I am going clubbing at the Palladium in San Francisco" top, Kodiak street in Neosha, I think I saw a dead wild African dog on the side of the road, billboard that said "Are you a Producer or a Parasite?",  learning the reason why you should not keep yogurt in a hot car for five hours--that was not in a cooler, and how it totally stinks to drive a sports car on winding, mountainy roads behind 13 cars following a mini van.  Actually, I am pretty sure I drove behind 2,067 mini vans....which I think were all the registered mini vans in the state.

First stop:  Crystal Bridges, Bentonville, Arkansas
Translation:  Fancy-smancy art museum the "People of Wal-Mart" helped pay for with their beer and discount t-shirt "I am with stoopid" purchases.  It was free, so I don't feel so bad contributing to their bottom dollar now...I mean after all, they have used my Mr. Fun's money to purchase these fine works:

No, this isn't me.
I don't have any white cats or orange blankets.
And as The Girl pointed out, I don't wear lipstick.

This piece is called 
"Val's yuppie scone with a lake front view"

Yes, this is a book I must read.
Could take a while...processing all that heady art

In seriousness, though, there was a piece that spoke to me.  Profoundly.

Poor Arkansas.  It sure gets a bad rap. I didn't know anything about except is is two states after Alaska in the Miss America pageant...(and don't EVEN get me started on that subject this week).  
It is a lovely part of the country.   They were pleasant, friendly and had cool accents 
(which really, since I was a guest in their state, am I the one with the accent?).

It is green and sort of mountainy...not mountains by Alaska standards (bless their hearts) mind you, but for the South.  And yes, regardless of what the locals say, Arkansas is southern to me.

Second Stop:  Eureka Springs, Arkansas 

If you had been to Branson, Missouri and Europe you would agree that they got married and sired a child. I liked it but I would not want to live there in summer, which I am sure is the only time you would want to live there.  But I have already paid my dues with summer, tourist traffic and I am not into doing that again.

How cool is this thing?!
If I had an endless supply of Mr. Fun money, I would have dragged this $3,500 piece home.
I would look at it for a few months and then it would go into the basement art collection 
I have been amassing down there...including Olympic Art, 
an authentic Chinese painted scroll I dragged around China for three weeks 
and a painting that is only known as "The Terrible Awful."

 For those who may not know art, "The Kiss" is considered 
one of the Top 10 art pieces in the world.  The one without Pete the Cat.

As fun as Eureka Springs was, it was what I saw outside of town that touched me most.
It is called Thornecrown Chapel.

It is considered "one of the finest religious spaces of modern times."  It has 6,000 sq of glass of 425 windows.  

And 6,000,000 folks have come to visit it.  As in 6 million.  Six.  Million.

It was built by Jim Reed, a fella who sounds pretty darn nice and giving to his fellow Arkansans.

And as Dave says, Jim loves Jesus. 

As the flier says, "The purpose of Thorncrown is not to point to what a great man did for God; its story is about what a great God did for a man He loved."

I have been to a lot of places that have an explanatory brochure but by far and away, this is the best one I have ever read.  Not only does Jim love Jesus, but so does whoever wrote it. 

It is like they "get" Jesus in a way that I had not completely.  Until now.

And I quote:  
" When Christ walked the earth, He constantly challenged people's ideas about God.  Most everybody believed that when the Messiah came, He would destroy those who were not worthy of God and raise up those who were.  Yet, to those deserving shame and rejection, Jesus gave acceptance and blessing.  Where there was outrageous selfishness and evil, He brought stunning, relentless love.  Everywhere Christ went He seemed to give people the opposite of what they deserved.  Christ fully identifies with us, taking the human condition upon Himself.  He willingly took a place far from God, so we could be near.  When He died, our aloneness died with Him.  He gave himself without measure so that we could have God without measure. Thorncrown Chapel is merely a reminder of these timeless truths.  Because of Christ, there is no place God will not go and no one He will not bless."

I am most certainly one of those folks who has been given the opposite of what I deserve.  I wasn't religiously raised so I have made bad choices, consciously.  A lot of bad choices.  I didn't grow up praising Christ or even knew who He was.  I have gossiped, lied, stole (sorry Sherrie B. I took two Holly Hobby stickers in the third grade from your house), mocked, doubted, waivered, judged etc...you get what I am saying.

A lot of people that I know will say that everyone is like me and we all have gotten the opposite of what we deserve.  Which I am sure is true.  But when you come to the (religious) party late, I can only speak for myself that I am very aware of my "heathen" past because I lived in it a long time.  And sometimes, sometimes often, it comes back to haunt me.

There is one more thing I read in the brochure that struck me:
"It's story is about what a great God did for a man He loved.  This is the plot and potential of everybody's story."

I don't know exactly how I fell into this amazing life....this "story"... that I have been given by the great God that loves me.  I don't know why He blesses me with the opposite of what I deserve.  But what I do know is that He does.


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

What The Missionary Mostly Saw

Dear Uncle George:

I am in a bit of a conundrum (Like this fancy word?  I learned it from The Girl, who learned it from her 8th grade middle school science teacher....who says public education isn't working?).

Here is my deal.

I take a lot of photographs.  It began when I was about 11 and it has spiraled basically out of control since then.  But given that it took 33 years for it to become a full-blown addiction, I think I am doing good.  If I die at 70 we say, I will really only be an addict for less than half my life.  Which then begs the question if you do something for less than half your life are you really an addict?  Of course, leads into that ever-important question of which comes first, the chicken or the egg.  

Mr. Fun said today he thinks I have about 50,000 images that have to be weeded through.  I know they aren't of professional water-skiing husbands (shout of M.E.).  There are about 18 photos that involve people.  They aren't "selfies."  Ok, well, I think there is one....let me find it:

Speaking of selfies, here is an AWESOME article I think all young women and their parents should read:  http://givenbreath.com/2013/09/03/fyi-if-youre-a-teenage-girl/ .  I completely agree with her comments about the posing....arched backs etc....what the heck?  Do you think that looks "sexy?"  First, why at the ripe old age of 13 should you be "sexy?"  Secondly, you look like you need your back popped back into place by my friend, Tracy the chiropractor.

I am pretty sure there about 34,589 of sunsets/sunrises and the rest are of the middle of flowers.  There are some trips sprinkled in there.  I am embarrassed to admit that I haven't even seen all the images from our trip to Alaska, TWO YEARS ago.  I know I looked at some....let me find a couple:

I remember there some sort of reindeer incident

This was a nice family stroll along the river

Perhaps THE strangest site in ALL of Alaska--
And trust me, that is saying something
Wal Mart--Kenai,  AK

You know I was totally open to a family tattoo but you know Mr. Fun--not so much
( I was trying sell the body piercing, but that didn't work out either)

These pictures illustrate my problem.

As I wander about these next two years, I will see a lot of things that won't exactly look very missionary-ish. I am not talking about naughty things like porn or baby kittens (just kidding, seeing if you are still reading intently).  I am talking about things/images that I will not be submitting for mission.  

They may tell a story.  They may not look very "church-y" but they are still things I see.  And as the title says, they are what THIS missionary is saw-ing/seeing.

For example, I went to a car show last week with besties Carol and Dave.  A "Greasarama."  The name itself already says there wasn't a lot of church going on there.  But is was fun.  It was neat to see folks dressed up.  It was a great place to get some photos of rusty, old things which the Church DOES want.  

Uh, wait a minute.  This sounds dumb, but I strangely just answered my own question.

As I was downloading some pictures that I would not be submitting to the Church, it felt weird.  It felt, dare I say, "wrong."  Not that the pictures are "wrong."  They are just wrong for this.  And the Facebook page:

I believe that I have been given an extra dose of God's direction these last two months in regards to the pictures.  I believe because I have the right to act in the name of a missionary and do what missionaries do (they call that a mantle) that I will *KNOW* what I should share here and what will go somewhere else.

So really the title should be "What the Missionary Mostly Saw."

I am glad we had this talk.  You are a great listener.  :)

And regarding my opinion about the chicken/egg question, I am of the opinion the chicken came first.  Clearly.  

Sister Valsy

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The "Eyes" (and Knees) Have It

Dear Uncle George,

Some pairs just don't make great couples.

Richard Burton and Liz Taylor, for example.

wedding two

But some pairs do.  Like knees and eyes.
You don't really see the eyes and knees paired up very often.  At least, not in everyday, ordinary life.

But since becoming a missionary, I have figured out a couple of things.  One, wearing a name badge draws some attention.  Two, everyone wants to have a mission call that involves wearing shorts, listening to music, and doing the Facebook whenever they want.

But one of the most important things I have learned is that I need both my eyes and knees.  Working together.  At the same time.

It's not what you think.  They are not a great pair because they have some torrid, unhealthy connection discovered on a movie set (see above couple).
I got my eyes from my great-grandfather, Conrad, a German from Russia.  They have always been big and brown.  My foster sister, Juni, used to say they looked like cow eyes. And sometimes, it is true, I use them for my own selfish gain. I mean who doesn't bat them lovingly to get some truffles?

Who can deny this face?  

One drawback about having my cow eyes, I also have the same kind of cow facial whiskers.  Man, do I love being middle-aged!  

My knees have been useful to me, as well.  As a fast pitch softball catcher since I was a kid, I spent a lot of time crouched down.  My knees took the brunt of those years, but even still, they continue to serve me well.

The "so what?" of this observation?

My eyes and knees, unexpectedly, need each other.
I have come to the realization that for me and my mission work, my eyes need time....time to listen.

I have found, much like you, that I am doing better photography when I am alone. When I have time to wander around, time to think, contemplate, and time to listen, I do better.  I can listen to God's voice, hear the wind blow, and see the sunshine through the leaves.  I do better when I feel like no one is waiting on me. They don't have to sit in the car, waiting for me to get it right.

What happens after I "hear" what my eyes should hear?

That is where the knees come in.

Sometimes, the right shot isn't in the middle of your body range.  You have to get down....not in a hip hop, gangster sort of way, even though I will say on this trip I did learn who Flo Rida is.

 5 days into the trip

An example of what a shot from the 5 day knees looks like

13 day knees into the trip

A shot from 20 days into the trip--
I didn't have the heart to take a picture of the knee carnage
 but suffice it to say that the best thing I can report is that I still have knees

I know it sounds strange to be thankful for body parts, but I am.  Without the eyes to listen, I could not aim the camera and push the button.  Without the knees, I could not get to the angles that my eyes see.

And without the internet, I would have never learned the dis functionality of the stars of Cleopatra. 
Sister Val