Changed

one day soon, i will go,

back to what was so well known.

but this place, once quite strange,

feels oddly more like home.

in this time, i have changed;

and more than I can say.

it simply happened over time,

a little, day by day.

mother to, seventeen,

has made life quite full;

they’ve filled and drained my heart, of Love;

and sanctified my soul.

i still wonder at what point,

my life, and dreams were lost;

into their sweet, young hopes,

which somehow, made mine thrust.

He never told me, of the pain,

I would feel for them;

Stories, memories, surfaced up,

Owned by each one’s name.

And feeling deeply, my soul bore –

Their burdens that gave age –

To the book of my life,

Their tears on every page.

Yet, the sunshine in their smiles,

Brightened like the morn,

And Christ Himself walked our hall,

Helping Love be borne.

With every word, there was growth,

As we learned to talk,

But even more, to Listen true,

And keep our ears unlocked.

Who could guess that in one year,

These girls became my friends,

Not a job, nor a task,

But Beauty built to the end.

I did not bring them into the world,

Yet I have learned each cry;

This thing, maternal, grew within,

And I doubt it will ever die.

And, who can speak of settling,

When constant change is known,

Packing is their expertise,

And thousands of miles they’ve flown.

So when life felt unsettingly,

My fear was swallowed whole,

By their courage, aged and true,

That soared inside their souls.

“Are you here?” one asked of me,

“…Or simply biding time?”

I choked up, holding back my tears,

For leaving seems sublime:

A family at home to support,

Through a time so very tough,

Yet how did I think one year in Kenya,

Would possibly be enough…?

But the next chapter awaits,

And the pages must turn;

To Home, I’ll go and embrace new life;

My heart, for Africa, will always yearn.

Posted in Africa, Poetry | Leave a comment

beneath my feet

Their lives are broken,

As cracked as the red, dry dirt,

Beneath my feet, under my toes.

I smell the angst of poverty.

I sniff the dung of the cows,

I climb the hills of weighted burdens.

Every crack; like one small piece of sorrow.

Connected to the next,

As sorrow upon sorrow runs through the landscape of their lives.

Yet they smile,

Greet me, “Habari!”

Looking, watching, for

Cheering hope, in each hello.

Their hearts are troubled, their souls are dry,

Their bodies, truly, daily die.

So when the rain comes, heavy down,

Upon the dry, unfertile ground,

They look with wonder, up at the sky –

To see if God is passing by, saying:

“Deliver me from this pain,

The lifetime lived in such mundane.”

Watching, they lift up their hands,

From the broken, weary land,

At such a time as this, I bleed.

In my heart, for Liberty.

For joy and love to free the chained,

The blind, the sick, the poor, the lamed.

And, can the One truly save,

These lives, their hopes to re-pave?

Upon the broken, cracked brown path,

I prayed that souls would be kept from wrath.

Under the arms of tree spread wide,

I prayed that Faith would come alive.

For if there is one thing to fear,

It’s eternity spent in fire and tears.

In this land, where Time stands still.

I pray the Lord will redeem our wills.

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old year, new year

Old year, going, take with you,

All our failures, sorrows, too;

Memories of bitter years,

old regrets and futile tears –

Fret and envy, greed and spite.

Take them with you, pray tonight.

Pride too lofty, dreams too crude,

Hate, with all its venomed brood,

Discontent, our subtle foe –

Old year, take them, as you go.

New Year, bright as dawning youth,

Bring us Fatih, and love of truth;

Kindly thoughts of one and all,

Charity for those who fall,

Strength to help and zest to cheer,

Hope to banish doubt and fear.

Bring us quietness, content,

When our brimming months are spent.

Old year, here is our farewell,

New Year, hail!  We wish you well.”

Thomas C. Clark

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Christmas Greetings!

Dear Family & Friends,

John 14:1-3 says, “Let not your hearts be troubled.  Believe in God; believe also in me.  In my Father’s house are many rooms.  If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may also be.”

I write to you from a new room.  That’s right: I’ve made the jump and moved from Gaithersburg, MD to the Nation’s Capital this year.  I’ve been working downtown since the fall of 2010, but the 75 min. commute each way finally got to me, and as I continued to build friendships and work relationships in the city, God led me in my decision to move and ‘set up life’ in a new local community.

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So, as of October 15, I am now ‘on the Hill.’ (No, not over the Hill quite yet…just living on Capitol Hill.)  My new roommate, Christin Siems, (pictured middle) attends a church called GraceDC, hails from Dallas, Texas, is a true Artist and Playwright, loves children and nannies for a family full-time, and makes great scones.  In the past 6 weeks, it has been a joy and blessing to live with her, and I am thankful to God for bringing us together and providing me with a new friend.

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Christin also joined our family for Thanksgiving, and so I was particularly blessed to be able to spend the holiday with both my family and good friends!

But I am jumping ahead.  2012 has been quite the year for me personally and for the Jansen family at large!  No doubt, I’ve had my fair share of challenges and disappointments; but, God has proven Himself to be faithful once again, and I am convinced that the words of Octavius Winslow have rung true in my life this year: “Christians can never sink beneath the Everlasting Arms; they will always be underneath them.”

In January, I visited Nora and Travis in Phoenix, AZ for a brief – but sweet – trip.

DSC_1125Playing “Auntie Em” for a week is always a blast, and it’s been fun to watch my niece Kate (4) and nephew Grant (2) grow up and start to become these unique little people with dynamic personalities, talents, and even particular senses of humor.  They keep Nora and Travis on their toes, but I can’t think of better parents to care for them and help channel each one’s strengths.  Here, Kate and I are pictured with my face masks, which she loves.

In February, my career took an exciting turn towards an international non-profit organization, Meridian International Center, where I am Memberships Manager in the Department of Development & External Affairs.  Since living in Kenya, I have continued to have a passion for international affairs, and the opportunity to explore and cultivate this passion through Meridian was not one I could pass up!  Meridian’s mission is to advance and strengthen public diplomacy between countries, cultures, and communities, both locally and abroad.  As we are uniquely positioned in Washington – home to the international diplomatic corps and all of their representative embassies – Meridian has been bridging U.S. and foreign leaders together for more than 50 years to dialogue about current global issues and strengthen international understanding between public, private and diplomatic sector leaders.  In particular, Meridian is known for its implementation of the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), which has educated and equipped 66,000+ emerging leaders from around the world.

As Memberships Manager, I support Meridian’s Corporate Council, Council on Women’s Leadership, and Rising Leaders Council, which are compromised of corporate representatives and individuals who support Meridian, engage in our mission and initiatives, and benefit from the Center’s network, programs, and events.  One of the greatest highlights of my year was helping to plan and facilitate the Global Business@Meridian Downtown series, breakfast dialogues for our corporate members with featured Ambassadors.  Between June and December, I organized breakfasts with the Ambassadors of Turkey, Brazil, and Singapore.  At each on – hosted by a Corporate Council member – guests hear the featured Ambassador’s insights into business and trade in his country, and then engage in a dynamic Q&A session.

Other 2012 highlights include Meridian’s D.C. Premiere Gala on September 12th of the “Half the Sky” documentary based on the bestselling book, “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunities for Women Worldwide”; and, Meridian’s 44th Annual Ball and Global Leadership Summit on October 12th, which included 24 pre-Ball Embassy-hosted dinners.  Below, with Ball guests, and meeting America Ferrera, Actress & Advocate of the Half the Sky movement.

Ball HTS

In the springtime, I enjoyed a variety of activities, including: being a bridesmaid in my friend Demi’s wedding down in Durham, NC…

Demi's wedding

…facilitating a couple “tea and talks” for a group of 9th grade girls, visiting Florida for a long weekend, going to Lake Anna with a group of girlfriends, attending a classical piano concert at the Swiss Embassy, co-hosting a Cinco de Mayo party with my best friend Britt and Mom, taking long bike rides, and cultivating a veggie patch at Meridian’s campus garden.

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besties

In June, I promoted and participated in Local Food for a Global Impact,” a fundraising event put on by Opportunity, International (OI), one of the largest U.S. micro-finance organizations, to advance their 2012 agricultural campaign:

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Since 2011, I’ve served on the leadership team for Opportunity’s “Young Ambassadors ” D.C. chapter, which broadly support OI’s mission and seeks to raise awareness of its global campaigns and initiatives at the local level through events and meetings for young professionals. “YAO DC” is a great outlet through which I can cultivate my love for entrepreneurship, and belief that micro-finance ventures and micro-loan solutions truly are successful avenues through which we can make a true difference in the lives of men and women from developing countries, such as my dear Kenyan friend, Emily Maingi.  [Above: pictured with two girlfriends, Buki and Alexandra, who I introduced to YAO-DC.]

I can pretty much sum up July and August as swim, bike, run.  Day in, day out, I was training for my first international distance Triathlon!  I had completed a sprint-distance one in October 2011; but, this one – “The Nation’s Triathlon” on September 9 – was the real deal: 1 mile swim in the Potomac, 23 mile bike-ride out towards the MD border, and a 6 mile run near the monuments.

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The triathlon was a blast to train for and complete.  Having not trained strictly, I was surprised to place as well as I did in my age group – so, I think there will be another triathlon to come in 2013.  It is just much more dynamic than a marathon (in my opinion).

One of the best parts about my final weeks of training was being able to do long, open-water swims down in the Outer Banks of NC, where our family vacationed together in late August.  We returned for the second time to a great rental house, “Gift by the Sea” in Corolla, where we celebrated Travis and Nora’s move back East and also rejoiced in God’s provision of my Dad’s new job at Avendra, a national hotel procurement company.

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DSC_0199 DSC_0335CSC_0438As many of you know, the past 4 years have been a long and hard road for my Dad and our family at large, as my he faced health challenges.

Today, I can honestly say that I have witnessed a miracle.  The Lord has not only provided spiritual, mental, and physical healing for my Dad, but has been bountiful and faithful in giving him the opportunity to work again in a field he knows well and enjoys.  Our beach house name – “Gift from the Sea” – was a timely reminder to us to give thanks for the gifts of family, the ability to spend quality time together for a week, Kate and Grant’s contagious joy, practical provision for all of us to go on vacation, and most of all, the restoring grace of God in my Dad’s life and in our family.

In November, Peter and I co-hosted the 2nd annualFriendsgiving” at his house for 22 friends to kick off the holiday season.  Having been a guest at the first Friendsgiving in 2011, I enjoyed this opportunity to help Peter host and draw our distinct and mutual friends together for a potluck meal, great conversation and laughter, and of course, lots of good wine to share.

Friendsgiving

Last year, Peter’s friend Kaveh offered a prayer in Arabic, and this year, my friend Kip provided a Kenyan blessing over the food before we ate.  In such a culturally-diverse city and nation, it is always neat to acknowledge one another’s backgrounds.  While Peter handled the turkey’s, I prepared some fresh veggie dishes, purchased at the one-and-only Union Market!

I also turned 27 on November 23rd, which according to some is “the best year of your 20’s.” I have yet to discover if that is true, but I can say with confidence that I am looking forward to another year of opportunities to: grow personally and professionally, build relationships in my new local community and church, Redeemer of Arlington, and take advantage of the blessing of having my family and Grandma (now in her 80’s) so close.

DSC_0471_2 My Grandma, who continues to amaze me with her cheerful outlook, wit and humor, gave me a mini vacuum for my birthday (yay for responsible, practical adult birthday presents! :))  Despite some health challenges this year, my Grandmother can STILL read a book faster than I can, use vocabulary words that I’ve never heard of, and tell a darn good story without saying “um” or “like”…the older I get, the more I realize how much wisdom comes with age, and that I have a lot to glean from her.  Today’s economic downturn is not a surprise to her – she lived through the Great Depression and World War II, followed my Grandfather to Nigeria in the early 60’s for work and raised small children under rural conditions, and much much more…!
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I also hope to visit my brother Peter after he re-locates to Austin, TX next February, and travel back to Africa for business and pleasure.  As I have time, I am also resolving to start practicing piano again, and am considering taking a semester-long language course this winter (possibly Swahili or French), which I hope will better prepare me to return to East Africa in the future.

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As we approach Christmas and celebrating the Grace that appeared to us in the face of Christ, I am reminded of the good hope we have in God’s unchanging character:

Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind…remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose…I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.” [Isaiah 46: 8-11]

The tradition of writing “updates” around Christmastime is not a coincidence. Recounting all that has transpired this year – and all that God has done in our lives – is good for our souls, because we so easily forget His many providences, blessings, and the tapestry of grace that He is weaving in and through us.

Just as we need to remind ourselves of the miracle of God being made flesh and coming to earth to save the world from their sins and sorrows, so too, we must remember “the former things” that have occurred in our lives this year.  And, as we ponder these things, we are built up in good hope that He will AGAIN be faithful to us in the New Year.

We do not yet know all His purposes and plans to come, but we can – without a doubt – trust our Father in heaven who caused us to be born again into a living hope, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for us.”

May you experience the richness and fullness of Jesus Christ this holiday season!

Emily

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a new place, new things to ponder

I am standing in a new place.  And, with this new place comes fresh inspiration to write again. To reflect, to ponder, to capture moments, to challenge, to invent, to improvise, and to record.

In the past three months, I have undergone much personal and professional transition.  Moving to D.C., first in July to the NW and then again in October to the NE; finding a new church; planting seeds of new friendships; adjusting to a different commute, budget, and local community; new responsibilities and opportunities at work; a new roommate; finding a new gym; switching my car tags and insurance; and, even simple things like hunting down the best produce and prices at local grocery stores.

My new local neighborhood is wonderful.  I hear the trains blowing their horns as they steam into Union Station, a one mile walk from my apartment.  I smell coffee brewing at the local Barista up the street.  I can walk to the new H Street area, to Eastern Market, and yes, even to my brother’s house.  I step outside and can run down to the National Mall within 15 minutes.  And, trees’ glorious leaves are like picture frames – colorfully lining the streets – with its branches dancing on the sides of buildings and row-homes everywhere you look.

All this transition has come pregnant with questions.  Questions related to my routines, habits, relationships, priorities, commitments, time, calling, ambitions, and so much more.  And, at times, all this change can be overwhelming, especially when old things can be so comforting and familiar.

But, the opportunity to freshly assess each of these things has been wonderful.  At church, our congregation is going through a study on the book of Ecclesiastes.  Last Sunday, we studied the famous “A Time for Everything” passage, in which Solomon (the author) assesses the  cycle of various seasons of life, and the reality that God sees, controls and lovingly guides all of it from beginning to end.   And, out of all of the lines in this poetic stanza, none rings truer than, “A Time to Plant, and a time to Pluck Up what is Planted.”

There is a time to break down boxes, and a time to cast things away, to lose old things and stuff.  That has been done, and with it has come a new room of simplicity, order and peace.

The decorating is still in process, but I’ve gone with a blue-gray and red theme.  The thing I love most in my new room is the Red Iron Bed. This bed belonged to what I believe was my great-great Grandfather, who lay in this bed sick in a hospital ward in North Carolina after World War I, having contracted TB.  It was originally white (following the common practice of hospital beds to all be white-washed), but when passed down to my Grandma, was painted bright Cherry red.  In her words, “Because it needed some pep.”

Now that the boxes are unpacked and the trash tossed and the old shoes donated, it’s time to plant: fresh seeds of grace, love, truth, friendship, discipline, prayer, service, outreach, mercy, holiness, and wisdom.  Of course it will take time to grow.  It always does.  Often years!  And, in a city known for being fluid and transitional, there is an even greater body of time for true community to be established.  But, as the phrase I cherish says, “He makes everything beautiful in its time.”

Speaking of things being made beautiful in its time…it was THIS exact time last year that I was first introduced to Meridian International Center, and have now been working at Meridian for nearly nine months.  Here I am pictured with guests at our recent 44th Annual Ball on October 12.  It was an incredible evening, both to attend and in proudly representing this organization.  Other photos are here and here.

And now, the calm before the storm.  That is, Hurricane Sandy.  Good thing I’ve been reading Unbroken this past week — talk about the ultimate story of survival.  If you haven’t read it, you MUST – you will not be able to put it down.  Just don’t read it late at night – you might have dreams of sharks 🙂

Posted in Daily Thoughts | Leave a comment

.Mercy.

I’ve been reflecting on Mercy this week.  Both because I’ve been in need of it, and been shown it, but also because I’ve been given opportunities to extend it.

We as humans tend to swing from one end of the spectrum of faith to the other: either doubting God for His provision of good things into our lives, or doubting God for His sovereign will to allow difficult things into our lives.

On one hand, we are standing with open hands before God hoping He will pour out rich blessings of joy that fulfills long-awaited desires; on the other hand, we are standing with closed hands before God silently wishing that He will not pry open our hands to accept trials and challenges and disappointments.  In both scenarios, there is one thing that we are ultimately subject to and in need of, and that is Mercy.

Mercy brings blessings and gifts into our lives so that we will exalt and praise our Savior and God will be glorified and magnified; Mercy brings trials into our lives so that we will become more like our Savior, share in His sufferings, and so that God will be glorified in our weaknesses and humanity and dependence.  The question is, can we equally, joyfully, and humbly receive both scenarios into our lives, peacefully balanced in faith between the scales of God’s unchanging character, purpose, and merciful disposition towards His children?

The definition of Mercy is: compassionate or kindly forbearance shown toward an offender, an enemy, or other person in one’s power; compassion, pity, or benevolence. 

If we daily live in perspective of who we really are (sinners who deserve God’s righteous wrath), trials will actually begin to pale in comparison to what we truly deserve, which is eternal punishment and isolation from the Father.  When/if God does pour out specific blessings and fulfills exact desires we’ve had for days, weeks, months, and yes, even years, we should be absolutely astounded at His sovereignly ordained benevolence and kindnesses.

Compassion essentially means com (with) + passion (empathy).  With empathy.

So, when Psalm 103 says…
“As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.”

and when Isaiah 54 says…
For the mountains may depart
and the hills be removed,
but my steadfast love shall not depart from you,
and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,
says the Lord, who has compassion on you.”

…we can rest assured that He is speaking the truth.  The Lord shows His children empathy, and does not remove His covenant of peace and steadfast love from us.  Wow.

Over the past two years, my family has been in the Crucible.  Depression, Unemployment, Broken Relationships, Clouds of Uncertainty/Unclear Futures, and the Tension of hanging in the balance between ultimate ruin and seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.  And, in the words of my dear friend, we came out as Gold.  One has to go through the fire to be refined, so that the dross burns away and out can come Gold.  And, today, we are in awe to see the many blessings that God has suddenly and collectively poured upon our family – all at once.

Did God pour out the blessings because we had done things to “earn” them?  No, because Mercy is benevolence towards the undeserving.  Did God pour out the trials because He shook His head at us, and thought that we “deserved” them?  No.  He has poured out blessings because of His mercy, and He allowed trials because of His mercy.  He equally has acted in perfect wisdom, control, and love — and ultimately, His perspective is eternal, timeless, unchanging, and quite above our judgment and understanding of earthly circumstances.

So, when we look at the Future, whether it seems fortunate or foreboding, what then shall we say in response to these things?  “If God is FOR us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare His own Son, but freely gave Him up for us all, how will He not also, along with Christ, graciously give us ALL things?” (Romans 8)

God is worthy of our Trust, my friend.  He is worthy of our Praise.  He is worthy of us literally giving Him our very hearts, and saying to Him, “Lord, abide here.  Dwell here.  Reign supreme in my heart, because You created it for YOU.”  I pray that in ever-increasing ways, we as God’s people will find FREEDOM to give our hearts, lives, desires, and circumstances to Jesus, exclusively, unreservedly, freely, joyfully, humbly, and HOPEFULLY, knowing that He will always act in perfect wisdom and power and love towards His own.

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A new adventure…

This summer has been a bittersweet time of hello’s and goodbye’s.

In early June, I had the joy of meeting some incredibly interesting people at the Young Ambassadors for Opportunity (YAO) June 12th regional event, at which we raised awareness and funds for Opportunity, International, an organization that specializes in micro-loan solutions for emerging communities around the world.

After a busy two months of work in May and June, I celebrated with my friend Alexandra as we sent her off to Rwanda for four months in early July.  It’s been such a blessing to see how God is already using her in ministry and service with those in her local community…

Two weeks ago, I moved to D.C. into an apartment with my dear friend, Megan Roberts.  Megan and I met in April through Alexandra, and are now roommates!   Not only am I living with an incredible friend and woman of God, but am also five minutes from my office, within walking distance from Trader Joe’s, Georgetown, local pool/tennis courts, and Dupont Circle.  After two years of making the long trek from Gaithersburg to DC every day, I am just astounded to have roughly 12 hours a week back in my life to do other things!

With this move to D.C. came goodbye’s – to living at home, to being a part of my church of 25+ years, Covenant Life, and being a housemate for a year and a half with my best friend, Britt.  As I think back on the past two years, the word that comes to mind is sustained.  God sustained my parents through the darkest hours of their lives, and our family through significant unknowns.  God sustained my church, pastors, and lifelong friends through painful and challenging relational trials.  God used my church family to care and pray for our family.  God used Britt to help sustain my joy and faith.  God sustained my parents’ ability to keep their home.  God sustained our souls from unbelief, hopelessness, and doubts.

God also sustained my brother Brett on his four-month study abroad trip to Israel – it’s been fun to have him back 🙂

I also just welcomed my new friends, Ben and Becky Bouman-Buursma to DC this past week!  Becky’s Dad and my Dad were college roommates at Calvin College in Michigan back in the 70’s, and after meeting several years ago, Becky and I have maintained a friendship from afar.  Ben and Becky just moved here after serving in Jakarta, Indonesia for two years, and we have already enjoyed hanging out and are looking forward to fun times to come.

And, now, in one week, my amazing sister Nora Shank and my brother-in-law Travis, and my niece Kate and nephew Grant will move back East!  After seven years of them living in Phoenix, AZ, they have decided to take a job here in the DC metro area and settle back in this area this fall.  What a blessing!

On top of that, my Dad got a JOB three weeks ago after searching and applying and praying for nearly a year to find full time employment.  After just one week, he LOVES his new job and is already jumping right into his new role.  For those who actively prayed for this provision, THANK YOU!  He has come so so far, and we as a family are rejoicing in God’s faithfulness.

And, if it couldn’t be more perfect timing, we are heading back to our beloved beach house, “Gift from the Sea” in the Outer Banks of North Carolina on August 25th for our annual family vacation!

As we enjoy this “Olympic” season, I am reminded of Hebrews 12:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

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While My Days Go On

“For us, whatever’s undergone,

Thou knowest, willest what is done,

Grief may be joy misunderstood;

Only the Good discerns the good.

I trust Thee while my days go on.

Whatever’s lost, it first was won;

We will not struggle nor impugn,

Perhaps the cup was broken here,

That heaven’s new wine might show more clear.

I praise Thee while my days go on.

I praise Thee while my days go on;

I love Thee while my days go on:

Through dark and dearth, through fire and frost,

With emptied arms and treasure lost,

I thank Thee while my days go on.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning, 1806-1861.

These stanzas comes from Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poem, “While My Days Go On.”  I’ve been thinking through these words all week – what does it truly mean to trust, praise, and thank God, while my days go on?  And, days really HAVE gone on!  Since my new job at Meridian started in February, I have literally been in tunnel-vision mode with this new calling and undertaking.  It has been exciting, challenging, tiring, eye-opening, and fulfilling.  It has given me fresh dependence on God for daily – and hourly – grace.  And, now, on this holiday weekend, I’m finally taking a deep breath to reflect on the past 90 days, and how God has faithfully – and powerfully – met me.

February kicked off with my friend Demi’s wedding down in Durham, NC.  It made for a fun road trip with three girlfriends, making new friends, lots of dancing, celebrating, and of course, good Southern BBQ, which was served at the wedding dinner:

Demi’s Wedding, February 2012

Then, my new job started at the end of February.  Since its beginning, I have been swept into the exciting world of diplomacy, ambassadors, embassies, international affairs and news, and working with U.S. corporations/organizations who are doing business and establishing relationships in specific regions worldwide.  I feel like I am working AND in school — in addition to my responsibilities, I have also had the opportunity to conduct research on specific countries, and this has kept my mind fresh to glean insights and new knowledge in ways I could never have anticipated.  While I am still climbing a steep learning curve, I have been so well-supported, and so appreciate my co-workers, who are patiently teaching and helping me. Despite a difficult commute from Gaithersburg, I wake up every day excited to go to work, and that is such a meaningful motivator.

In March, a highlight was planting my own garden plot on Meridian’s campus.  Any employee who wished to participate was assigned a particular plot, and could plant whatever they wished in their little box.  I chose to do Mint, Tomatoes, Hot Peppers, and Super Snap Peas.  I must admit, I’m not much of a gardener, so it’s a good thing that Meridian’s landscapers help take care of the plants, the watering process, etc.  I do check on them every once in a while, but can’t really say that I am ‘managing’ my own produce — yes, I know, sort of a cop-out on cultivating my true gardening skills, but what I can?

In April, I had the privilege of spending a weekend with these girlfriends on Lake Anna.

Lake Anna, April 2012

Alexandra (second from the right, moving in) has become one of my best friends in the past 6 months, and we were all there to celebrate her 27th birthday.  I can’t remember the last time I did this, but all of us girls stayed up until 2am on Friday laughing, enjoying fellowship, talking, sharing questions, pondering scriptures, and eating cookies.  While all of us girls attend different churches in the greater DC metro area, we have all found common ground in Christ and in the Gospel, and our friendships have become such a rich source of perspectives, views, and experiences of the Word and God.

Alexandra has been such an incredible friend to me, and we always laugh at how much we have in common, including a passion and love for Africa.  Alexandra has this thing called, ‘I Love My Life’ moments, and has shown me the beauty and freedom of thankfulness, and regularly cultivating a heart of gratitude for the many blessings in life, including friendships.

To usher us into the merry month of May, my Mom, best friend Britt, and I hosted a smashing Cinco de Mayo party, which included fresh Tortillas overnighted from Britt’s hometown store in Tucson, Arizona.  We had over 50 people come, and it was such a blast to serve fresh Watermelon Sangrias and Mint Mojito’s, along with Chicken Enchiladas, Quesadillas, and fresh salsa and quacamole.  The house was loudly filled with laughter and conversation, and out in the back-yard, people enjoyed corn-hole competitions.

Cinco de Mayo Party, May 2012

Also this month, I’ve been enjoying a lot of road-biking.  Just yesterday, I joined a Triathlon Road Bike Club and did 40 miles for the first time ever.  It took me 2 hours and 40 minutes, and I was completely spent at the end.  Of course, I credit my lucky jersey from Bill Held, and perhaps a bit of endurance, but mostly just my stubbornness and sense of self-competition 🙂  Still, it was great training for my Triathlon in September in D.C., and so I hope to continue to build my endurance and strength throughout the summer.

Brett comes home from his study abroad in less than two weeks, and then we’re only 3 months away from family vacation in the Outer Banks in NC the last week of August!!!

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Local Food for a Global Impact

Save the Date: An Opportunity Summer Reception – Local Food for a Global Impact

TUESDAY, JUNE 12

Virtue Feed & Grain, 106 South Union, Alexandria, VA 22314

Chapter: YAO-DC

As many of you know, I have the privilege of serving on the DC Chapter for Young Ambassadors for Opportunity (YAO), which is an amazing team of young professionals and entrepreneurs around the globe who team up with Opportunity, International to advance micro-finance loans and on-the-ground banking solutions in developing communities worldwide.

On Tuesday, June 12, we’ll be learning about the challenges specifically facing small-scale subsistence farmers in Africa and how you can be a part of the solution.  Join us at Virtue Feed & Grain, which features local and sustainable products that create a global impact.

Interesting Fact: Every three out of four malnourished children in Africa are the sons and daughters of farmers, the people who grow the region’s food. Most African farming families fall into the category of subsistence farmers.

Opportunity International is reaching remote villages to empower subsistence farmers to yield a more bountiful harvest for their communities.

See attached for more details on the event:

DC Hunger Event sponsor_04-12-12

Ticket prices are $75 per ticket, with a $25 donation included.

A discounted contribution of $65 is requested from YAO Members.

Please contact me with any additional questions or in regards to sponsorship of a table.

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Springing Forward…Laughing

We sprang forward today. 

Ahh, lovely Daylight Savings Time…yes, when you lose an hour of sleep, but the evenings become suddenly lighter for longer.  It always makes you feel like you are springing forward faster into warmth and away from winter…into light and laughter…into cheerful colors, and fresh flavors, and mellow melodies.

And, in the quietness and stillness of yesterday and today, I somehow found myself laughing.  A lot.

I laughed over Spanish Red Wine with two of my girlfriends last night when discussing recent witty remarks made by a friend, and the intense Organizing job I had for a client yesterday.

I laughed at midnight when I should have gone to bed early, and was trying to clean out my G-mail Inbox and discovered old, miscellaneous G-chats shared with friends over silly things in our college years, during my year in Kenya, and much more.

I laughed at Brunch this morning when one of the girls in my 9th grade discipleship group shared in the realm of talking about our Fears that she is afraid of the man-eating Catfish that lives in the Amazon.  (Not, of course, laughing at her fear, but laughing at the uniqueness of it.)  Google it – you will be scared, too.

I laughed when Lisa O. and I skyped from Kenya to MD, and some of my dorm girls’ – now Juniors – appear in the Skype screen and screams and shouts ensued of, “Hiiiii, Miss Emily!!!!”

I laughed when Britt, my roommate, and I walked up to the local Starbucks today and on the way back, she says, Chocolate Whipped Cream Frapacchino in hand, “You know, you burn a good amount of calories when you walk.”

I laughed when Britt and I were enjoying our Starbucks drinks on the front lawn, and spontaneously made a ridiculous Video for Brett, my brother, who is currently studying abroad and whose presence is very much missed.

I’m laughing.  You know the saying, “Either cry, or laugh.”  Or, from Proverbs 31, “She laughs at the days to come”?  Well, that’s what I’m doing this spring, I suppose.  Whether it’s laughing AT myself or with another person, or about something, I want to live this year laughing.  Laughing at what was, what is, and what will be.  It’s too short to NOT laugh.

What keeps us from laughing?  And, why did God create Laughter in the first place?  Is laughter a bi-product of joy, or does it specifically propel joy forward?

I think we so often focus on trying to muster up JOY, (in a very spiritual sense,)  especially when facing trials that tug our Joy away from our minds, hearts, spirits.  Or, we intensely strive to make sure we find Joy “in God alone,” that we forget that our God is also the Creator.  The Creator of family, friends, good food, a blue sky, a hot cup of coffee, wit, chocolate, a spontaneous surprise or blessing.

JOY is the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something satisfying or keenly fulfilling.  And, laughter is the good medicine we take into our souls to stir the emotion of joy.

Fear blocks laughter from having its full effect on our souls, I think.  And, I’m learning – through new challenges and unknowns and worries and responsibilities – that it’s much better to use my energy to create laughter and joy, than it is for me to drain myself by weighing my mind down with fears and anxieties that I can neither control, nor solve.

And, so, I’m springing forward…laughing.  Are you?

 

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