On Christmas and the End of the Year

So far my Christmas vacation has been one fat trip down memory lane.

It started w/ a ‘friend family’ Christmas on the 23rd. We played Cranium (of course) Image

and decorated gingerbread houses and talked about all the things we have in common, including the last decade of friendship. (Am I really old enough to have been friends with someone for 10+ years?)

my house 🙂Image

Jennifer’s house: Image

Carrie’s house:Image

Tony and Andy’s house:

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And then I went to work on 2 hours of sleep.

Then Christmas day we watched family home videos.

And I spent the next two days cleaning out our attic w/ my mom and sorting through years of school assignments and toys. And we found this:Image

And when I finally got tired of being nostalgic I met up with friends for soft pretzels and driving in slow motion in the snow. Because it looks like this:Image

And because my dear brother Troy decided to roll/ total his car last night.  And miraculously, (I mean, really, a miracle) he’s fine.

And now it’s the very end of 2012. The year I graduated. And moved. And grew up just a little bit more.  But most of all, it’s been a year of learning a lot about God and what my life looks like with Him in charge.

And since we are all friends on here I’ve decided to share this (which I journaled earlier this winter) with you- because it perfectly sums up one of the lessons I’ve been learning this year:

“I’m struggling through real life things. Like being brave. And making friends. And being patient. And doing homework. And realizing that God is in control- not me. So I’m learning things. And the thing I’m learning the most is that I can do nothing. I can’t keep myself safe. I cannot motivate myself. I know that I can’t MAKE myself succeed at anything. At all. I can put in the time. I can organize and plan and hope and aspire and make do. But in the end. The very end when all the answers come. It was actually Christ doing all these things. Not me. And I know it. I know it like I know that I don’t make rainbows. or music. or time stand still. I KNOW that God is making my life work.”

And that’s what my year has been and what my life is becoming.  All in one post. You’re welcome. Happy Christmas and Merry New Years!

On Coming Home

I’ve done it! For all these years I tried to imagine life in grad school.  I planned and aspired and worked. And now my first semester is over! What a strange and wonderful thing!

And here is a short story about me coming home. To Indiana.

First, I said goodbye to my school, my neighborhood, and my New York. Dear city, you will be missed. Although it was nice to drive my car and not be squished on the train today.

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Then I awoke at 3:15 am, drug my suitcases down the stairs, and waited for a friend from church to brace the morning and pick me up to take me to the airport.

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This time I was fortunate enough to have a direct flight, which is always nice. However, due to the incoming snow front we experienced some minor turbulence. Which is fine for me. But it was NOT fine for the tiny Dominican lady sitting beside me.  I looked at her half way through my flight as I noticed she was doing an awful lot of squirming. She took this as a cue and dove her head into my shoulder, hiding like a small child from a storm.  When the plane leveled out she glanced up at me in a mix of fear and embarrassment. I told her ‘It’s okay.’ At which point the plane rocked a bit and she took the opportunity to dive into my shoulder again, this time clutching my arm as well.  And so our flight continued.  And with each tousle and roll of the aircraft my new, fragile friend hid in my arm, squeezing it with each three foot plummet.  When we did have a period of only minor cabin pressure changes she was able to sit up and talk with me about her fear of flying.  In Spanish of course.  I did mention she was from the DR right?

So.  All in all it was a nice experience as I was able to tell her that I believe in God and know He had that aircraft in his control.

However, I did learn that my Spanish is a bit…. limited. Do you know how to say: wings, landing gear, wheels, or air pressure? yeah…. need to work on that. I also mistakenly used the verb for ‘to climb’ instead of ‘to jump.’ Sigh. I’m sure that story was confusing.

And when we landed I helped her find her connecting flight to Seattle and went to collect my luggage and wait on the curb for my ride, who I thought would be some person in my family.

And seeing this on my way out reminded me it’s almost Christmas!

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Well, I didn’t have to wait long at the curb before a little VW Rabbit pulled up (which I ignored because no one in my family has a VW) and my dear friend Stephanie got out and confronted me (much to my surprise!)

So the rest of my day was spent in Chicago (which I wasn’t planning but definitely enjoyed).

We had ‘breakfast’ at Cafe Rom and wasted the day away talking.

The beginning:

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The company:Image

The end:Image

The city:  Chicago is pretty different than New York- but I still love it.

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And now I’m home.  For a big fat month.  And I’m choosing to view this as a vacation from real life rather than an awkward disruption.

Plus, I survived the end of the world today.  This Christmas break is lookin up!

Urban Arts Awareness Week

This week was dubbed (by me) to be “Urban Arts Awareness Week” or UAAW. just kidding. I never called it that. But I did walk around like a tourist with my eyes wide open looking for art.

By definition this art could not be funded by the government- I was looking for art as an expression of creativity and identity.  Sadly, most of my neighborhood’s “art” involves “gang tagging” which does qualify since it does demonstrate identity- but isn’t meant for public enjoyment.

So, while I didn’t find any wheat paste or yarn bombing (some urban art staples apparently) I did find some things on my daily commute.  In the process I decided that urban art can use a minimum of three mediums.

The first is music. I heard a total of 3 musical acts in the subway this week. Two were good, one was weird. But I didn’t get any pictures.

The second is fashion.  One thing that’s nice about New York is that there are so many people you don’t have to feel like you need to look like ‘everyone else.’  This lady is taking full advantage of that: (sorry about the glare. it was unavoidable.)

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And finally, we have actual painted street art:

As seen from my train stop/ride (Crime style):Image

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I’m assuming that since we don’t have trees we carve on subways.  If that’s not the reason, I don’t know what is.

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I found these jellyfish on my commute one morning when we got stuck ‘b/c of train traffic ahead.’ It pays to look out your windows.

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Columbia style urban art: (found on or near campus)

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And one of my favorites- Cypress Hills style. This little guy can be found all around town. And he always makes me smile. Though I’m not sure that’s the purpose for him.

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In other news- I’m going home for a month of Christmas break in 4 days. In the mean time- I’m studying for finals. And when I don’t feel like studying for finals I play w/ my little rubber animals (which I got for therapy b/c they are so fun). Just a little FYI.

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Poetry in Motion

I spend a minimum of 9 hours a week in public transportation.  You would think I’d be a pro at it by now.  And you would be correct.  Providing you want to get from my apartment to somewhere I have been before.  Otherwise I’d have to guess.   But you probably don’t know where all the streets in your town lead to either.

So… while my commute is a lengthy one I usually like it.  I like it because I have learned how to be a New Yorker by riding the train.

Becoming part of a culture is more than just knowing about it- it’s actually participating in it.  And I know I’m a New Yorker because I understand things that only New Yorkers understand.  I think things- things that make perfect sense to me now- that people in Indiana have no occasion to think.

And since I’m a list person I’ve decided to make a list- of all the things I’ve learned to think by riding the train.

  1. I’ve learned the terms.  If I tell you that the train to the city is a block from my apartment don’t ask me how far you have to walk to get a subway to Manhattan.  The answer is- one block.
  2. I’ve learned the importance of planning and the cause for commuter impatience.  It’s kind of like when you’re driving your car and you don’t change lanes because you know you’re turning soon.  Well, it’s kind of like that.  But different.  It’s car commuter planning on steroids.  Because when I ride the train I plan for more than just traffic.  I plan for location destinations.  I know that if I hear a train from my apartment and leave immediately I will arrive at the train station at the same time as the next train.  I also know that I get on the J train by this sign I will end up by those stairs- which lead directly to the Q.  And if I walk to the end of the platform for the Q I don’t have to walk far to the stairs to the 1 at Times Square.  And I know going home that if I walk to the end of the platform for the 1 and then take the second stairs (not the 1st like everyone else) to the A I will end up by the ear sculpture at 14th street- which coordinates w/ ending up by the stairs at Broadway Junction.  And if I’m closer to the stairs then I can beat the crowd to the next stairs.  And as the masses get caught riding the escalator I run those stairs and sometimes catch the J and sometimes wait by the sign- but always at the start of the platform because in 4 stops that will put me by the doors to the stairs to the street to my apartment.  Follow me?  Maybe it’s one of those ‘you have to be there things?’  But this kind of planning eliminates more than pointless walking.  It has helped me catch many a train- which is important because missing a train can add as much as 15 minutes to my commute.
  3. I was amused to learn that I’ve also gotten pretty good a reading train related body language.  Checking the shifting weight or rapid running of others as I approach my platform is a great way to tell if my train is here or not.  But on the train the other day I heard a faint sound rise above the music in my earbuds and felt the shift of the crowd and knew a ‘crazy’ had just entered our [subway] car and was talking to himself.  I pulled out my earbuds to check.  And I was right.

Okay. I’m tired of lists now. But I still have more to say about the train.

You see- there are rules on the train.  It’s like we have a bubble around each of us to protect ourselves, to preserve our privacy in a city of perpetual closeness to strangers.  And the fuller the train gets the smaller our bubbles become.  But as the train empties our bubbles grow and shift again- always remaining equidistant from the other circles around us.  What is interesting about this is when people share a circle.  I am forced to shift my space this way so that you can stand with that person.  I watch your expressions and listen to your frustrations and you somehow know to never look at me- never invite me into the conversation.  We have private phone conversations, rides with colleagues, family, and friends- and everyone seems to know not to give input on topics- to live as if we are deaf and listen as if we are spies.  And then my friend gets off at her stop and our spheres of communication separate and I am part of the unfaced masses yet again.

But what is poetry to me about all of this is the way we band together- popping our bubbles with one swift gesture- when the occasion arises.  It may be as simple as clapping for an artist, directing tourists, aiding the sick, or avoiding the strange.  But it is that thing that makes us interdependent individuals individually interdependent.  And until you understand this you are lacking something of newyorkitude (that which makes us NewYorkers).

Abnormally Normal

Last week I went home for Thanksgiving.

I didn’t take any pictures.

But I had a good time.

It was very normal.

I worked 10 hours in the cafe.  I drove in my car.  I listened to WFRN and all our local classics.  I ate homemade bread.  And went to Walmart.  I sat in cushioned benches at church and sang from a hymnal.  I played cranium and watched movies and ate Dairy Queen with friends.  I stayed out after midnight.  I chatted with people in checkout lanes.  And went to a family reunion with 500 other people (who I’m related to- no kidding!)

And it was all perfectly normal.

For Indiana.

And yet so un-normal compared to my life now.  In New York.  Where I sleep in a bed room (and a bed) half the size on mine at home.  Where I physically carry everything I need for the day in my backpack- or go without.  Where I buy metro cards instead of gas and empty streets are a sign of concern, not peace.

And so sometimes I am tempted to compare my two worlds as I shift between them, calling both home.  But I don’t think that’s fair.  Each place is good in its own right.  Each has something good and bad to offer.  It’s not where we are- but who we are that matters.  So I’m glad to be me.  Here.  Even if here sometimes changes.

The Truth About 24 – andotherthingsinmylife

PART 1 of this post:

This year- this week- marked the 24th year of my life.  I am now exactly the age my mother was when she had me. (I say exact since I was born in her 24th birthday.)

I wasn’t sure how my birthday would turn out this year- especially in light of the fact that the people who usually help me celebrate my birthday are so far away from me.

But it was good.  I got sung “happy birthday” to 6 times.  I got 26 cards in the mail. 24 of them were from Vanessa.  Each containing one dollar.  My sister is too clever. I got a cupcake with a flaming candle.  I got dried mangoes and chocolate and dinner.  I got 55 birthday facebook messages and singing from little Honduran children.  Basically, I got blessed.

So I’m glad.  As much as my past self could not have predicted me here, in this stage in my life, I like it.  24 is NOT to be pitied.  24 is to be lived.

“Do not regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many.”

PART TWO of this post:

While having a birthday I have also been ‘up to’ some things worth posting about.

The first is related to Sandy.  This week we hosted some MDS volunteers.  I decided I like doing that.  Today I also helped at Rockaway Beach with our youth group.  Sandy hit 21 days ago and some places are still without power.  Some walls are still covered with mud, marking the waterline inside and outside the buildings.  Some people are still in need of simple things- like hot food, toothpaste, and clean underwear.  My heart goes out to these people as they attempt to pull their community and their lives back together.

My second post worthy thing is related to museums. One of my ‘NY bucket list’ goals was to visit at least 1 museum per month for the 1st year I’m here.  This started out great as I went to the MoMA my first weekend here.  However, October was midterms and I didn’t get to a single museum.  To make up for it I went to two this month with a friend from school.

The first was the American Museum of Natural History.

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The second was the Guggenheim Museum of Art.  The building itself is a piece of art as it was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.  Picasso (in black and white) was the featured artist.  But they also had a great Van Gogh.  Sadly, these are all the pictures I got since photography is strictly prohibited (Although there are no signs telling you this.  You have to wait to be yelled at by a paid personnel in order to find this out.)

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And my last post-worthy thing is food.  It’s just that you should know that we ate at ‘ShakeShack’ on both museum trips.  Because it is good.  If you come to NY I might take you to ShakeShack.  I can tell ShakeShack is good because as we were eating it in the park the people passing us on their way to the restaurant each whispered in hallowed tones, “shhhhakeshack!!”  And really, that’s the only way to say it to do it any justice.

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And to tie the two parts together: here’s the last picture of me at 23, with Theodore Roosevelt in the Museum of Natural History.

“They say you don’t grow up you just grow old.”

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Newyorkitude in the winter

Every day it’s good to learn something new.  Well, newyorkitude isn’t something I learned about today, but I did see my fair share of it. (sidenote: I did learn the phrase ‘ears are hustlin’ today.  i guess it’s the same as eavesdropping.)

Exhibit A:

on the train this morning we were solicited by a beggar. he claimed to be homeless and in need of ANYTHING we had to give.  ‘we all need to help each other’ he said.

Well, one woman decided she just couldn’t handle this.

“Why don’t you give me money?  I’m homeless!  I’ve been without power and water!  Give ME money!”

“He’s just going to spend it on drugs.”

To which the poor man defended himself saying, “I don’t do drugs.”

“Well you LOOK like it! God bless you.”

Her rant lasted the whole time that it took the beggar to walk the length of the car.

And the man next to me laughed (almost out loud) as she called after our homeless beggar.

Exhibit B:

On my train home the conductor announces:

LISTEN UP ladies and gentlemen.  The long island railroad is NOT running right now because of the snow.  There is NO long island railroad.  I would suggest you…..”

To put this in perspective.  Usually the conductor says, “Thenextstopiscalnsdlfiahfhlastreet.  Stand clear of the closing doors.” And somehow we are supposed to figure out what they are saying.

And in other news:

New York is still recovering from Sandy.  I have friends living not in their homes as their homes are still without power and were flooded.  The trains, while running, are not running according to schedule, making everyone’s commute twice as long (partially because not all the stations are open so we (I) have to make different transfers than normal and partially because the trains are not running as frequently as before, creating longer waits and fuller cars).

And in breaking news:

It is snowing. Lots and lots.  On my walk home I was on the phone, sloshing through snow and rain that threatened to spill into my socks when I glanced up and realized my path was obstructed by a branch.  Odd. And a little farther down the block, a whole tree had fallen onto the road.  Not what I was expecting when I left home this morning.  Here are some pictures.

My first steps out into the snow, near campus.Image

I love that my platform is outside.  That way I can see and feel the winter alllllll winter long. Image

And here’s the tree that surprised me. Image

I can tell we’ve had a lot of snow because how high it piles. (obviously)Image

Can you see that?  It’s the snow on our fire escape.  Image

Well. This much snow on November 7th?  I wonder if the mayans thought we’d die in an avalanche on Ridgewood Avenue?  Looks like the end of the world to me.

My First Hurricane

There are more than 8 million people living in New York City right now.  And each of us had a different experience with Sandy.  I know a lot of people at home (and various other places) asked and prayed about my safety through those long hours on Monday and I feel I owe it to them, my prayer warriors, to fill them in on my superstorm experience.  So, here comes my play-by-play.

I first heard about Sandy on Friday morning from a professor.  Over the next 2 days I heard it referenced in different ways but knew it was important when our church announcements on Sunday included, “and all public transportation is closing at 7 pm tonight.”  At this point I was concerned about a group project that was due on Tuesday as we would have no way of meeting up before class.  But once my school announced that campus was closed Monday I decided to relax on Sunday without any guilt of homework (this is a rare opportunity friends, I had to take it).  In preparation for the storm I did my laundry on Sunday as I assumed my traditional Monday morning laundromat visit would not be advisable.  We also filled pitchers and buckets with water and charged our computers and phones, anticipating a power outage.  On Sunday night I also went to the corner store to “stock up” on milk and eggs. At this point the storm was still hours from landfall and our only weather clue of its arrival was a mild, but chilling wind.  And silence.  Since moving to the city I have often missed and seek and savoir silence.  I have learned that some silence is good and some silence is bad.  And silence on a Sunday evening?  That is strange.  No rumble of trains.  No blaring cars.  Or screaming children.  The city was settling in for the storm and I could feel it coming.

Monday brought the promise of a Superstorm.  My mom called and text me continually (much to my roommate’s amusement) to check up on the situation.  Mostly, I was bored.  I found out half way through the day that school would also be closed on Tuesday, canceling my group project.  Life without deadlines is a life without purpose.

But weather-wise- the wind picked up and it rained from time to time.  The storm hit after dark on Monday but it had little affect on us.  I could hear the wind howling a low tone through the town and see our little weedy plants on the fire escape wiping about but I felt pretty safe and sound in my 3rd story apartment without any tall trees in sight.  We did get a call from the electric company saying they may preemptively shut off our power, at which point I became concerned how I would do my homework or entertain myself without life in my laptop.  But they never did cut off our power.

Tuesday morning I could feel our community recovering.  Erleen (my roommate) and I went for a walk around noon and this is what we found:

our first view- our front sidewalk:

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we found some trees down:

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the most ‘flooding’ we could find:ImageImageImage

this tree landed right where VBS takes place each year.Image

the trash fell over:Image

many streets were already clean by noon on Tuesday.

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Needless to say, Erleen and I were a little disappointed to find the midwest has better storms than a hurricane.  So we went home and spent the rest of the day chilling in our apartment again.

On Wednesday school was closed again.  The trains were still down and they can hardly expect us to get to school without the trains.  But we were bored so we got a friend to take us to the mall.  I think this is when I realized the true impact of Sandy.  There people huddled around outlets and relaxed on public couches, obvious to be thankful for the electricity.  The lines for the buses (which opened that morning) were minutes long.  I saw trees on cars and houses and realized my little neighborhood was very blessed.

Today is Thursday and life feels a little more ‘normal’ as I can hear the train rumbling outside my window again.  Public schools are closed for the rest of the week but my campus is officially open.  However, I’m skipping class as we aren’t learning anything new today and my commute would no doubt be very long as there are no trains crossing into Manhattan and I’d have to take the shuttle bus to who-knows-where.  Our church is also organizing a group to help with clean-up efforts so I’m waiting to hear about where and when we’re going with that.

So that’s just one person’s experience with Sandy.  I am very aware of the damage that others are facing as homes have burned down and lives have been lost.  Some of my friends live in evacuation zones.  Some have flooding in their streets.  Some are without electricity.  Some are facing public transportation today.  But I am safe. And sound. And thankful.

A Week of Short Stories and Thoughts

This is a week of short stories.

On Monday I missed my stop on the train.  I had begun to think that I had some kind of ‘internal organ’ that told me when I was close to my stop.  I thought this because sometimes when I’m on a train for a while I think to myself, “I have 4 stops left,” and then discover I am right.  But on Monday I stayed on the train an extra 2 stops without realizing it and had to walk an extra 7 blocks to my house.  This is pathetic considering my stop leaves me only 1 block to walk.

Well, maybe that was a fluke.  I was looking at pinterest and got distracted.  But on Friday I did it again.  This time I realized as the train pulled out of the station that that station was mine!  So I only had to walk 3 extra blocks that time.  Friday’s mistake was due to my weariness but still left me disappointed that I, in fact, do not have an internal train clock.

Which leads me to my next short story.

Friday.  I was on the train before the sun.  (Walking to the train, in the dark, in the morning, is kind of creepy.  Mornings are so calm and very untypical to New York.  I don’t know what to think of them.)  But needless to say, I was tired.  But I didn’t let that get in the way of my day.

More about Friday. 🙂

Friday I did hearing screens on kindergarteners in Harlem for 5 hours.  It mostly involves a lot of smiling and encouraging and making listening to beeps and letting me stick things in their ears sound as fun as possible.  But sometimes we have to wait and we are allowed some time to chat, which is always fun.  But the funniest thing I heard from a kid on Friday was actually DURING a screen.  This was a little girl with some severe attention problems (which, as you can imagine, is a pretty big problem when I want you to sit still and listen to tiny sounds in a quite room) and at one point during the screen she turned around to me and said, “Hey! Turn it up!! I can barely hear it!”  Hilarious. (It just occurred to me that maybe this is only funny to me- because of my field. If so, you can just laugh at my humor instead of my story.)

I also met my fair share of girls with great braids and boys with cute dimples on Friday.  Makes me even more excited about getting a job.

Also about Friday.  This screening event was the first time I’ve really been in Harlem.  Kinda.  My school is in Harlem, but not the ‘real’ Harlem, just the location of Harlem.  But this kindergarten was in ‘real’ Harlem, next to THE projects.  The Projects is a term used to define government housing.  These areas, and therefore Harlem, are stereotyped as being very ‘unsafe.’  Well, I must be pretty use to the ‘hood’ in Brooklyn because I just laughed to myself when the girl I was walking with said, ‘You might want to put your phone away.’  Something about this interaction makes me feel like I belong here.

Also this week, I had my final two midterms for the month.  (I say, ‘for the month,’ because I have 2 more in November and then finals in December.  But for now, I have a little break. 🙂 )

*Insert midterm story here* Before my midterm on Thursday the class was interrupted by the largest bug I’ve ever seen.  In my life.  That I can remember.  It was called a cockroach by some of the girls (who were screaming and standing on the tables) but I’ve never seen one an inch thick like this one before.  And I lived in Central America. That said, the bug was killed and our pretest anxieties were released in the process.

To celebrate surviving my month of midterms (and cockroaches) I found my favorite food truck: Wafels & Dinges

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Needless to say, it was delicious.

And one final thought.  Sometimes people ask me if I like it here in NY.  And I do.  I really, really do.  And I think it’s because I feel God’s grace so much more here, if that’s possible.  But at home it seems easy to be ‘luke-warm’ and safe and independent from God.  It’s just so easy to be comfortable and do what we need to do.  Thoughtless in action.  It’s something about living in a Christian culture that makes Christianity culturally appropriate and therefore, easy.  But here I feel so much more dependent on God.  Before I moved here I thought I would be scared more often.  I mean, NY is scary right?  But I haven’t been scared very much at all, in fact, almost never.  Before I moved here I thought I’d probably be lonely.  I mean, NY is far from a lot of people I love.  But I haven’t even been that homesick yet.  On the flip side, some things have occurred that I wasn’t anticipating.  Mainly these things are related to me being challenged to choose to live consciously.  Like my roommate said one time, here in the city I’m forced to be more proactive about choosing God, because there are so many things here that can easily suck me in.  The culture is not as accommodating to luckwarmness.  Here I must consciously choose, sometimes daily, to think, respond, and even relax differently than the culture around me.  But I don’t think these things are coincidences.  In fact, I know they aren’t.  I know that it is God who is making feel safe and not alone.  It is God who is working out the growth I need daily to survive here.  And I just wanted to give him credit for that.

“Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes but when you look back everything is different.” C.S. Lewis

If a picture says 1000 words

Today I don’t feel like using words.  So this is a photo- montage of my weekend with 2 of my dear siblings all the way from Indiana.  Enjoy. (Sorry about some of the quality, these were all taken on my phone.)

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So basically, we spent the whole day on Saturday just chillin in the city.  We explored on the Columbia Campus (yup- I made them visit my school), visited Grand Central Station, Central Park, and Washington Square Park.  We watched people for hours.  We rode the longest carousel ride ever, had my first Haagen-Daz, and about walked 35 miles, probably, it seemed like.  By the end (actually, by the middle) we were tired but we loved it!  Nothing better than exploring the city with people I love!