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Monday, September 12, 2016

City Project: The Central Perk of Friendship

Wednesday

Wednesday, I had decided, was going to be better than Monday and Tuesday.

Why? Because it was our free day, and I would not have to talk to strangers, feel convicted, or sink into the abyss of lonely inadequacy I had been warding off for the past few days.

Some of the girls from my D-group- Lindsey, Carly, Katie, Cam, and myself- planned to spend the day together, exploring New York, having fun, and just generally relaxing. Carly suggested we first find New York bagels to eat for breakfast, which was unanimously agreed to be an excellent idea.

D-Group <3
New York wasn't quite so ugly to me now. In fact, I was beginning to realize the bizarre, irresistible pull that so many writers have attempted to describe. I won't attempt to describe it, because more talented wordsmiths have tried and failed. I'll simply state that there must be some modern-day magic about NYC that causes everything ugly to become beautiful- skyscrapers, old buildings, crowds of people, shouts, honking horns, yellow cabs, electric lights, and the harsh but rhythmic cadence of New York accents.
Le Bagel

Carly lead us to the bagel shop she had in mind, and it did not disappoint. I opted for plain bagels with plain cream cheese, remembering with a hint of irony the two pieces of advice Mom gave me before I left for New York. "Try a cream cheese bagel and take a picture of it!" and "Please don't fall in love with the city. I don't want you to move too far away!" Well, which would it be Mom? I can't do both.

Things were going pretty well, until Cam decided to, I dunno, be a gospel-centered Christian and not relegate her faith to designated days. 

"How has evangelism been for you so far?!?!" Cam asked, after a few minutes of normal-people talk.*

I took a huge bite of my bagel so I would not be expected to answer. Hopefully, one of the nicer people in the group (meaning, literally anyone but me) would reply.

Cam stared expectantly at Katie, who was sitting next to her. It was a circle question. Everyone had to answer. Fun!

Katie shared some of her experiences, opening up about what she had found difficult and how she had seen God. As an aside, can I just say that Katie is one of the most incredibly honest and kind-hearted people I know? I'm disrupting my narrative and breaking the "good writing rules" by including this insertion, but it needed saying. Katie, throughout the Durham portion of City Project, was my roommate, so she will most certainly appear in these posts again, but I just wanted to say that I admire her so much, and one of the most subtle but significant ways God worked in my life during City Project was simply giving me have the privilege to get to know her spirited, amazing, empathetic, and sassy self. 

So yes, again, I apologize to those who have never met Katie for this seemingly random and irrelevant tangent, but it is relevant, and her willing transparency during early moments in City Project such as this were part of the foundation that lead to the changes Jesus made in me. 

Unfortunately, foundations can be hard, cracked, difficult things to make. You have to dig out a lot of crap before you can even start to pour the cement.

And I, as God, my parents, friends, and my more observant professors can attest, am full of crap.

Cam was smiling encouragingly at me now. I swallowed my bagel and drank some coffee, stalling for time, while I attempted to gather an appropriately humble but uplifting response to all of the amazing feelings and revelations I had been gifted with throughout this oh-so-amazing trip. Yesterday was difficult, because I'm a little shy, but God was holding my hand throughout all of it and really showed me his mercy by...

Screw it.

"I can't talk to these people!" I exclaimed. "I just can't. They're too illogical!"

I glared at my bagel, attempting to avoid eye contact with the other girls. I had nothing else to say besides that. Nothing. I was officially the worst Christian in the history of Christian, and now they all knew, and they would judge me. 

I heard stifled chuckling and glanced up. Lindsey, Carly, and Katie were all smiling warmly at me and giggling. Cam burst into laughter. I tentatively smiled, trying to recall everything I could about typical human responses to gauge if this was a good response of bad response. 

"That is such a you thing to say," Lindsey said, between laughs. "Illogical. Yes. I love it."

???

Lindsey continued, "I know what you mean though. I did not know what to expect when they said we would be talking to people from other countries, but it is more difficult than I expected."

Katie and Carly agreed, and elaborated on their own thoughts and experiences, encouraging me, loving me, while simultaneously not attempting to justify my sinful arrogance. 

"Talking to people from different backgrounds can be hard sometimes. Have you tried praying and asking God to give you the words to say and the patience to say it?" Cam asked.

I poked my bagel, then shrugged. "I had not thought about that."

Cam smiled. "Pray about it! We'll all pray for you too!!!"

Katie, Carly, and Lindsey agreed and offered more encouragement, and then Lindsey went on to answer Cam's question.

There was no judgement. There was no condemnation. They had only offered love, support, and their supplication on my behalf. 

I finished the bagel in much better spirits than when I began, and, oddly enough, I was beginning to grow excited for Thursday. I remembered how God had answered Rich's prayer in it's entirety, while simultaneously encouraging me, teaching me, showing me my sin, and demonstrating the Gospel tangibly to me through the sacrificial love of my friends, who were willing to love me while never making excuses for my sin, who would pray that I would rest in my Savior and trust in him to give me the strength to resist the temptation to be arrogant. I had done nothing to earn this grace from my friends, in fact, in normal-people terms, this would be appropriate cause for a lecture about my borderline racism. But they did not abandon me or condemn me; they rallied around me and swore to pray for my sanctification. If God had done all of that for me through one short, simple prayer, then it had to be more than coincidence. I was wrong in my previous idea about prayer. I needed to pray, because prayer was, apparently, more than asking for a wish from a genie in a bottle. 

And so, I prayed.

Look, I'm not good at this. I'm not good at praying, I'm not good at asking for help, and I'm not good at talking to the people I am here to talk to. I'm used to being good at the things I want to be good at, but apparently, You have something bigger planned. So, I guess what I'm saying is, do something, because I clearly can't. Please help me talk to these people. Yeah. Okayy... bye. Amen. Whatever.

***

*One of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to bloggers is when they ask questions like this??? They exclaim like this!! they ask emphatic questions like ?!?!?!. But, writer though I am, I am incapable of capturing the entirety of the personality that is Cameron in a blog post, so I am forced to rely on the improper use of punctuation marks. It is oddly appropriate. Jesus, through Cam, has a way of making me do things I never thought I would in order to accomplish some larger purpose. For example, I never wanted to be one of those people who turn something trite and meaningless into a "deep", theological pondering. And yet, here I am, typing this paragraph. Haha!!!??!

Dear Supporters,

It's funny how the little things can be so important in retrospect, isn't it? This entire post probably only happened within maybe fifteen minutes of my life, but it is one of the most memorable things that happened to me in New York (Well... memorable and significant. I think the old man walking around Manhattan in a sequined bikini wins memorable). Anyway, I had originally planned to include Thursday and Friday in this blog post, but I'm trying to thank you for your generosity, so I decided to spare you from further exposure to my verbosity. For now. >:)

Friday, August 26, 2016

City Project: Corruption's Such an Old Song

Sunday

My head rested against the bus window- eyes shut, headphones blaring, completely still. I wasn't sleeping. The bus left Raleigh at 5am and I was fortunate enough to get the seat in the back corner, so I had slept for the first few hours of the trip. Now, after nearly ten hours, surrounded by strangers and distantly carsick, I had sunk into a dull alertness. I ignored sight because I would only see people, but I let my other senses take over. The hot window burning the top of my forehead, the scratchy material of the chair, the bizarre smell that can only be defined as "bus" and "movement", and the beauty of Hamilton which was screechingly unbeautiful due to the extreme volume at which I kept it.

I only opened my eyes when the loudness of the others managed to drown out Hamilton. I shot a glare in the vague direction of the offending humans, then tried to focus on what they found oh-so-fascinating.

It was New York City.

I was not impressed.

The already dull light of evening reflected halfheartedly off of rolls of smog which hovered over the gray waters beneath. Skyscrapers were barely visible, and the Statue of Liberty looked more like a lost child trying to catch someone's attention than a declaration of freedom. The bus began crossing the bridge over the harbor, and I got a clear look beneath me. Heaps of trash and scrap metal littered the small patches of land peeking out of the murky waves. Overall, it bespoke of a place so consumed with movement that it ignored anything remaining still, including nature, trash, and (the ultimate combination of the two), people.

This? This is "the greatest city in the world"?

'Alexander Hamilton' had restarted. In New York you can be a new man. In New York you can be a new man. In New...

I turned it off.

I traded sight for sound, keeping my eyes open but my headphones firmly in place. The bus crossed the bridge and began traveling through the narrow and crowded streets of NYC. I wish I could tell you the streets we were on, but I was too busy fighting back my disappointment and analyzing the sights to pay attention. New York was not quite so ugly on the inside as it was on the outside; brick buildings stood next to stone buildings next to cement buildings, all connected only by a tangle of vines and sidewalks. It looked like the fake casual of hipster coffee shops, and I eyed everything with the same cynicism with which I pay millennials, until I realized that this was not fake, this was the original. The thought grabbed my attention, and I attempted to view New York unbiased, just as I had viewed the outside of it.

I was in better spirits when we arrived at our lodgings, enough so to hastily smile and have a quick conversation with Katie, one of the girls from my D-group and one of the few people I knew and liked. We were staying in a renovated hospital, and the people working there got us all to our rooms surprisingly quickly, considering there was one hundred of us. I was sharing a room with the girls from my D-group- seven in all. I was relieved; I was at least acquainted with all of them, and I was friends with the ones I had gotten to know over the past school year.

The rest of the day was fairly relaxing. We had a meeting explaining the schedule, we went to Times Square and ate dinner, then returned and went to sleep.

Monday

The only stable aspect of the New York portion of City Project was the schedule. In the morning, we would attend a three hour class. The class taught the reasons for evangelism, practical steps in evangelism, easy ways to share the Gospel, etc. Then, we would go with our evangelism groups to our designated neighborhood, eat lunch together, then begin knocking on doors in order to talk to people.

We did everything except the last on Monday, and it was a good thing too. I was panicking enough at the prospect of having to work with a group of people I had never met before. I should not have worried. The evangelism group I ended up in was made up of completely amazing people. Getting to know them and their stories was definitely a highlight of New York.

I digress. Instead of knocking on doors, we prayer-walked. Before I elaborate, I need to tell you something about myself prior to City Project: NYC.

I rarely prayed. In my mind, prayer was reserved for asking for help. On principle, I do not ask for help. I prefer to solve my problems myself. And if I can't, well, then I clearly didn't deserve to have that problem fixed in the first place. You all experienced my thoughts towards prayer in my first City Project blog post; I never really prayed about City Project, I simply did what was logical. Logic- that's another thing that added to this aversion to prayer. God gave me a brain. Brains should be used. Therefore, I should use my brain. In my thinking, God already supplied the answer to whatever pitiful problem I could bring to Him. He already gave me a brain.

Of course, this line of thought completely ignores the variables of sin nature tainting thought patterns, my incorrect definition of the word 'prayer', and that logic, as I know it, is a man-made construct.

However, I did pray for other people. I personally did not need help, but other people? Yeah, they definitely couldn't solve their own problems. They needed God.

(...and people ask how I could possibly compare myself to my charming Fee...)

All that to say, I was not daunted by the idea of prayer-walking... until I realized that I would need to pray out loud. I was with Rich, the leader of our evangelism group, and Reaganne, an incredibly wise and kind-hearted girl. I did not want to pray in front of them. In case you haven't picked up on it, I am a tad (hahahahaha) arrogant. What if my prayer was not good enough?

Rich prayed first, then Reaganne, then I had to. At first, I was just trying not to say something stupid, but slowly, my heart began to change. I began to actually pray for the people around me. I genuinely wanted the best for them.

Prayer-walking wasn't so bad. It was basically a "bigger" version of praying for others, the one aspect of prayer I knew how to do.

Then came...

Tuesday

It was time to evangelize.

I was not worried about it.

I had shared my faith before. I knew the Bible inside and out. I knew countless historical, philosophical, scientific, and theological arguments to prove the validity of the Gospel. Evangelizing was going to be easy.

We received no response at the first few houses we tried. Frankly, I wasn't too upset. Yeah, I was totally prepared to share my faith, but I wasn't particularly excited about talking to strangers. I would be content to simply wander the neighborhoods of New York, taking in the sights of worn iron fences and tiny houses shoved next to each other. I was already imagining my return to Raleigh, where I could tell my friends and family of the trials of New York, rejected at every turn, but how I saw God's beauty in the weathered tranquility of the poorer neighborhoods. A few artsy photos and some worn chacos were all the proof I needed of my deep spirituality.

However, Rich was having none of it.

He began to pray out loud. He prayed that a woman would answer one of the doors so Reaganne and I could speak with her. He prayed that we would be invited into someone's house to talk. And he prayed that we would meet a fellow believer to encourage him or her and to be encouraged.

I knocked on a door and it opened. A woman peered out from behind the screen, clutching a blanket around her shoulders. She almost shut the door completely when she saw Rich, and she would not speak to us until he went and sat on the corner of her driveway.

For the sake of her privacy, I'm going to call the woman "Rena". Rena, we found out, was originally from India but moved here many years ago. She believed in Hinduism, and was frustrated that the people in her neighborhood weren't friendlier.

This'll be easy.

Reaganne launched into sharing the Gospel. It was brilliant to watch; she was so kind, so persistent, and so joyful in it's presentation. When she finished, we turned and looked at Rena.

"So, how old are you?" She asked.

I was taken aback. We shared the Gospel, why would she ask such a random question? Did she want us to shut up? If so, that was the most ridiculously unsubtle transition I had ever experienced.

"We're college students, ma'am," Reaganne replied. "We're from North Carolina."

"Oh," Rena said. "You know, I don't believe in Jesus, but I believe in all gods."

I bit my tongue, fighting back the desire to reply with the numerous fallacies she had just committed with the statement.

Reaganne nodded thoughtfully. "Can you tell us more about that?"

Rena then attempted to explain Hinduism, and I attempted to hold back my frustration. Rena constantly contradicted herself, she talked in circles, and never cited any evidence for her beliefs. To finish off her explanation, she said, "And that's why I believe that Jesus is the same as Allah who is the same as Buddha who is the same as all of the others."

I couldn't take it anymore. "You said you believed in all gods, but now you are saying there is only one and they are all the same. Which is it?"

Source: playbill.com, artist: unknown
"Both," Rena replied immediately, nodding her head as if that finished the matter. and giving me a look that implied I should have known this the whole time.

I stared at her, dumbfounded. How, how. could someone have such an abject disregard for logical thought processes that you could genuinely, happily, believe something so baseless? How?

While my brain was still in "does not compute" mode, Reaganne, thankfully, jumped in. "That's really interesting. Hey, you said you liked to read about all the different religions. Would you like a Bible?"

"No, no, I don't have enough money..."

"It's free, ma'am," Reaganne said. "We'll be coming by this way later in the week, and we would be happy to give you a free Bible."

Rena's eyes got wide. "You would do that? You would give me a free Bible?"

"Absolutely! We'd be happy to!" She said. "Let me just write down your name..."

Rena looked touched, but I didn't care. It was a lost cause. The Bible is a book grounded in reality, history, philosophy. I doubted Rena could understand that.

As we walked away, Reaganne seemed encouraged and related everything that had happened to Rich.

I wanted to be back on my college campus with my atheist and agnostic friends. At least they would listen to reasoning.

The next house we knocked on belonged to a older gentleman who greeted us with a big smile. We'll call him Ahmed. He shook Rich's hand, but did not offer to shake mine or Reaganne's. The answer soon became obvious: it was Ramadan, and I, alas, am female.

He immediately wanted to talk about Christianity. Despite his friendliness, despite the fact that he directed conversation to myself and Reaganne, despite the fact that I found myself sitting down in his living room because he invited us inside, I did not want to talk to him.

I'm a feminist*. It is one of the social issues I am most passionate about. I liked to think I was fairly tolerant towards most beliefs and religions, but the utter hatefulness I had seen directed towards women through men was, apparently, too big for me to reconcile with the grace and love of Jesus Christ. As a child, I grew furious when a male friend told me I could never be president because "I was a girl". As a teenager, I was sickened by the intense desire many of my friends felt to get married because they were taught that women should be nothing more than wives and baby machines. And as a college student, I make many of my choices based on the quote "Do something with your life that would make a white man in the 50's angry". It's a righteous anger, but, as I learned, anger and hatred does nothing to change the status quo, nor does it do anything to proclaim the saving grace of Christ, which is the only way to achieve true equality for everyone.

Back to the story. Ahmed told us about how he had grown up Muslim, but did not find it fulfilling, so he tried Hinduism and Buddhism. He did not like those either, so he tried Christianity. He told us about the church he had visited, and then began singing "This Little Light of Mine". He asked us if we knew any songs. Rich pulled a hymn book out of his backpack (the heck???) and began singing "How Great the Father's Love For Us". Ahmed then said that he eventually returned to Islam, but believed in letting everyone choose their own path. He said he believed that all paths lead to heaven, and that as long as you were kind to everyone, you would be fine. Immediately, the arguments against the "mountain approach" to God appeared in my mind, a list of the fallacies he had just committed, evidence against the validity of Islam, but they stopped when he mentioned his daughters and his wife.

He told us that his wife was currently working and he had to go pick her up soon. He spoke proudly of her and her accomplishments, and happily informed us that they had just celebrated their 45th anniversary. He then talked about his daughters, who were college students and were making excellent grades. He showed us a picture of all of them going on a cruise. Besides the smiling faces and loving arms wrapped around each other's shoulders, I noticed that none of the women wore hijabs, and all wore comfortable shorts and shirts.

Immediately, I wanted to talk to Ahmed. I wanted to tell him about Jesus and His love for Ahmed. I wanted to share how Jesus had done everything necessary to save him. I wanted to tell him how welcome he would be at church.

God interrupted my thoughts, saying, "Kaycee, you are a hypocrite and a pharisee. Your desire to share the Gospel has been corrupted by your religion."

I froze. Vaguely, I heard Rich and Reaganne share the Gospel. Vaguely, I heard them say goodbye to Ahmed. I followed them out the door and continued going house to house with them. We did not get into discussion with anyone else, except for a lone man walking down the street with a Bible. Rich spoke to him briefly, though it was a bit difficult, because the man spoke Spanish and very little English. However, Rich communicated that we were Christians too, and the man smiled widely and said he was glad to have met us.

As if to affirm the love He still felt for me, despite my deep mistakes and sin, God reminded me that He had completely answered Rich's prayer.

That brought me a twinge of hope, that I then destroyed with a single word. Coincidence.

I wanted to go home.

***

*Feminists believe in equality between the genders. Jesus believed in equality between the genders. Therefore, I am a feminist. If you want to know the evidence that supports this, I'd be happy to share with you. If you want to debate me on this, you are welcome to try. However, full disclosure, I will win. :)

Dear Supporters,

This is a rather bleak chapter of my City Project experience, but please, don't be discouraged! The personality I was, the codes I lived by, the arrogance with which I viewed humanity... I needed to be humbled. I look back on this and I count it as joy to suffer for the sake of Christ. As I write about the person I was, I am in awe at the work Jesus has done in me. Spoiler warning, but I am so much more confident while being so much more kind. I am so much more wise while being so much more humble. I am so much more aware of why I need Christ to save me, while being so much more empowered by the fact that I am seen as perfect in God's eyes now. Our God is full of what would be paradoxes in our feeble human minds, but He makes them true.

Again, I cannot thank you enough for giving me the opportunity to be humbled in this way. And hey! This is the first place where you can see the spreading of God's word. Both Rena and Ahmed heard the Gospel that day. Praise God for that!

Also, I want to apologize for the long length of time it took me to write this. School has started again, and Summit has been doing a push on campus to reach out with the Gospel to as many people as possible. Amazing things are happening here.

Your support did not just end with this summer, but it is changing the next generation of students. Please, if you are ever having those days when you feel useless, meaningless, and lonely (I know I have those days) just remember that you are a small thread in an endless, beautiful tapestry; a tapestry that needs every single string to be complete, but the threads don't get to see the entire piece of art they are a part of. You don't know all the intricacies and workings of the Gospel on the campus of NC State's campus. Heck, I don't know all of that, but my little thread is closer to those threads than you might be, and I can see how your contribution of one hundred, fifty, five dollars to that random daughter of a friend you barely know is being used by God to change the lives of many. Please, be encouraged! If you ever want to know specifics, feel free to contact me. I'd love to tell you more!

Thanks for reading! NYC- Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday will be coming soon!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

City Project: Many Meetings

Look, I try to make this blog a place where I am completely honest. So here's some brutal honesty for you- I always skip the Many Meetings chapter when reading Lord of the Rings. Yeah, go ahead and send the fantasy police after me, my fellow psychotic nerds. You might want to send the SWAT team as well when I say that I skip it not because I'm a culture-less slob incapable of grasping the full majesty of LOTR, but because it is boring. Call me a blaspheming heathen, but I'd rather read about Balrogs than the reminiscences of Gloin the dwarf and Frodo's struggle to sit on a pillowed chair.

That said, I'm in no place to judge Tolkien for the inclusion of the chapter. Sometimes, meetings are necessary to move the plot along, divulge some exposition, or simply to make the protagonist sit still for five minutes. Regardless, reading about meetings is just the worst.

...

Guess what you're about to do! >:)

After turning in my application for City Project,



surviving the interview,



and then getting approved,



I had to attend many meetings!



Oh, and I had to raise support!



That's it. I'm done with this post. I'm not actually going to write about the meetings, ew. I just felt like trolling people and posting gifs.

You're welcome.

You know, if Many Meetings was just a nerdy rant and then a bunch of obnoxious gifs, maybe I wouldn't skip it. Mr. Tolkien could have learned so much from me*.

*This is called sarcasm, my fellow psychotic nerds. Put away your pitchforks and torches. :)

Dear Supporters,

I cannot thank you enough for being so ready and willing to support me both financially and prayerfully. During the aforementioned meetings, the staff taught us how to write support letters, then how to call people, then how to conduct face-to-face meetings with possible supporters. Now, all of this sounded like tasks Satan would give to his minions in the pits of hell, but I prayed and asked God for strength- steeling myself for the inevitable awkwardness of having to (gasp) use a phone as a phone and then to (cowers) actually talk to a human irl. But it never came. God's grace and mercy and generosity and love was so evident in all of you; I never had to make a single phone call. The immense gratitude I have towards you for being so quick to respond might seem a bit stupid, and you're right, it is, but I would be remiss not to at least mention it. Thank you for allowing God to work through you, and thank you for giving me the opportunity to experience City Project, where, trust me, I had to learn to interact with humans. Lots and lots of humans.

But that's another blog post. ^_^

Friday, July 22, 2016

City Project: The Phantom Menace



Has God ever called you a name?

I'm not talking about the pseudo-spiritual, nonsensical rubbish you hear from church gossips. "Mary Loubellina, God is calling my name, sweetheart. He's just calling my name. Now, Debbie? No, God's not calling her name, did you hear that her daughter wore a skirt that was a full two inches above her knee the other day? That girl is no good, bless her heart."

I'm also not referring to the Biblical instances where Jesus changed the name of individuals to demonstrate various attributes of His person and purpose. That'd be nice, but alas, my life is not prone to deep heart-to-hearts with God. My relationship with God has less civil discussion and more screaming and name-calling, the latter typically on my part, but occasionally on God's. Which leads me to my story.

(Let's all take a moment to appreciate that brilliant and grammatically correct transition, shall we?)

It all began about a month after college started. I had been going to my dorm's CRU Bible study, but it just wasn't working for me, so I asked to meet with someone from my church's college group for information on their program.

This someone turned out to be Cameron, a super cool, super cheerful college graduate with the energy of a thousand squirrels.

Cameron and I met for coffee (as if she needed that caffeine) so that she could tell me about the college program. I soon realized that I should be very afraid of her. Why would I be afraid of perhaps the friendliest person I had ever met? The topic of Myers-Briggs came up.

"Oh, what's your type?" I asked.

"ESFP!" She exclaimed. She grinned at me. "You're introverted, and I'm pretty sure you're a thinking type, aren't you?"

"Yep," I said, trying to hide a gulp. "I'm an INTJ."

She laughed. "We're opposites! That's hilarious!"

Hilarious indeed.

I'm an INTJ. I rarely experience fear.

But y'all, there is nothing more terrifying than a smart and friendly ESFP. With enough strong-willed persistence and cheerful-yet-deadly charisma, they can make even the most cynical of Sherlocks do crazy things.

Fast forward a few weeks. I was now involved with the college program and attending a small group regularly. I loved it. Cameron was in the group too. At the end of one of the meetings, she started talking about some summer college program called City Project, a program which taught Christian college students how to share their faith in a variety of contexts by attending classes, traveling to NYC to meet people from unreached people groups, working for charities and churches, and then traveling overseas to spread the Gospel.

I tuned her out. I smiled and nodded thoughtfully so it would at least seem like I was listening. It's not that I had anything against City Project, of course not, it sounded nice. However, I was going to study in Oxford for the summer. I had decided to do so when I was fourteen years old, and I most certainly was not going to change my plans now. That was that.

As the weeks went on, Cameron continued to bring up City Project and I continued to ignore her. Some nagging part of me (aka God) kept telling me I ought to pray about it, but I ignored that too. Two of the girls in my small group decided to go, and a third was seriously praying about it. Another girl was planning on spending her summer doing a medical program so that she could work towards her dream of helping children in low-income countries.

Me? Every time Cameron brought it up, I started internally humming the Doctor Who theme song. I'm so deep and spiritual, just like our friend Mary Loubellina.

There was only one week before the City Project deadline application. If this were Middle-Earth, I'd be standing within Mount Doom letting the Ring's chain slip through my dirt encrusted fingers into the lava below. So, in a normal/sane person's terms, I thought I was a home free.

Alas, there is always a Gollum to bite your fingers off at the last second.

Cameron texted me.

"Hey Kaycee! You wanna grab lunch or dinner one day this week!? :D"

I grimaced, suddenly wishing I actually owned a Ring of power. Invisibility sounded nice.

"That would be awesome, sure!"

Unfortunately, I'm a real human being, so I don't own a magic ring. Hypocrisy is the next best thing though!

"Yayyyy! :)"

I was so dead and I knew it.

A few days later, I found myself facing Cameron with only a veggie wrap shielding me from her contagious optimism. As always, we had a great time. She is one of the most caring and wise people I have ever met, and conversation with her is never dull. For most of lunch, I completely forgot why I had been dreading the meeting. It wasn't long before I remembered though.

"So, have you thought about City Project at all?" Cameron asked.

"Yep," I replied. After all, I had thought about it. The words "City Project" had gone through my mind, therefore, I had thought about it.

Cameron smiled. "Have you prayed about City Project?"

I paused for a moment, then grinned sheepishly. "Maybe?" Dear God, this is me praying about City Project. City Project, City Project, there I prayed about it, bye!

Before I could formulate a better excuse, I somehow found myself holding a page of information about City Project, gripping a list of Bible verses, and listening to Cameron's rapid-fire description of City Project and all of it's apparent amazingness.

I had my doubts. What could possibly be better than studying at Oxford and possibly going to see 'Harry Potter and the Cursed Child'? (Which, by the way, was definitely not the principal reason I wanted to go to England. Of course it wasn't. I am a cultured and classy human. I wanted to study, explore the historical sites, study some more, and take artsy Instagram photos of teacups and fog. If I just so happened to stumble across a ticket to the expensive and highly anticipated Harry Potter sequel, so what? Mere coincidence.)

"What are these?" I asked, nodding towards the Bible verses.

"Those are some verses to help you pray through your decision!" Cam explained. "You can pick one, or read all of them, or whatever. They're helpful!"

"Cool!" I said. Biased, I thought.

I had a Spanish class that I needed to attend, so I said goodbye to Cam (she said "hola". Cam's good at a lot of things, but Spanish is not one of them). As I stuffed the myriad of papers into my backpack, I internally vowed to look up the Bible verses, and if they were biased in favor of convicting guilting people into City Project, I would simply read the next passage in my Bible study. After all, if God wanted me to do City Project and if He is really so powerful, He could surely say something to me out of any passage in the Bible!

After suffering through Spanish, grabbing a Dr. Pepper, and mentally ramping up my level of skepticism to about a 34 (I'm usually a solid 10... on a 1-5 scale), I returned to my dorm. I tugged the now-rumpled and torn papers from beneath a textbook. I sighed heavily, snatched my Bible from a shelf, and glanced at the verse references.

The first was Matthew 28.

I smirked darkly. The Great Commission. Faaantastic.

But, I had promised to at least read some of the verses. So I looked it up.

Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority on heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations..."

Biased! I slammed my Bible shut. Nope, nope, nope, it was clearly biased. I'm a thoughtful and logical woman. I refuse to read a biased source, even if it is the inspired word of God which is perfect and true. My brilliant human mind proclaimed it biased, therefore, it was so.

I dropped the list of Bible verses on the floor and grabbed my study plan. Psalm 39.

I chuckled to myself. I was about to read a bunch of "praise be to the Lord, mountain of Zion, crush enemies like a bug, grab a lyre and be joyful" verses*. Ha.

I settled back in my chair. I reverently opened my Bible to the passage and began to read.

The first verses seemed fairly normal. It said something about muzzles and staying silent in front of the wicked, whatever. I honestly wasn't paying much attention, I was too busy feeling smug.

The next passage caused the smugness to fade. David was pleading with God to make David aware of his own insignificance in the grand scheme of eternity. Look, I'm all for mind-blowing theological discussions that induce existential crises, but this was not the time! I wanted to read about lyres!

To my chagrin, I quickly learned that God is far sassier than I will ever be.

Man is a mere phantom as he goes to and fro: He bustles about, but only in vain; he heaps up wealth not knowing who will get it.

I stared at my Bible for a long moment, before slowly shutting my Bible as reverently as I opened it, but this time sans the self-satisfied smugness and semi-mockery. I tried to convince myself of the importance of studying abroad in England, but all of my reasons and logic seemed inadequate in light of the fact that I am a mere phantom and any impact I leave or knowledge I gain will be, at best, like the vague whisper of the wind in the mind of a sleeping infant- insignificant and incomprehensible.

There's always grace though. Something within me rallied. If my experience with Esprit de la Rose had taught me anything, it was that there is always grace in the love of Christ. God couldn't leave me hanging with just this. Well, He could, but He wouldn't. 

I opened my Bible for the third and final time. I reread the phantom verse, and my eye wandered to the verse directly next to it in my Bible. It was from Psalm 40.

Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare.

God had a plan for me, a plan that is wonderful and intricate and worth talking about. The contrast between the two verses was stark; was I a phantom or was I significant? After reading the rest of Psalm 39 and then reading all of Psalm 40, I realized the difference. It was God. Psalm 39 was about a man who was trying to make his way without God, Psalm 40 was about a man who waited and trusted in the Lord.

In England, I might gain knowledge, culture, and enjoyment, but all would be vanity when taken without Christ as the center and purpose of it all. On City Project, I might gain knowledge, friends, and enjoyment, but all would be meaningless without Christ as the center and purpose of it all. Whatever my decision, it needed to be made in light of the Gospel; the truth that God so loved the world that He sent Jesus Christ to live the life I could have never lived and then to die the death that I deserved, thus offering me the right to be a child of God, the right only Jesus deserved, if I only put my trust in him who saved me, not in my own strength or works.

God didn't need me to give up England. God also didn't need me to go on City Project. My decision depended entirely on whether God called me to England or City Project, and on whether I would choose to obey Him because I loved Him, or if I would ignore Him because I loved myself.

I prayed. It was half-hearted, grumbling, and quiet, but I did pray.

After I finished praying, I attempted to abandon the out-of-character humility evident in myself. This decision needed to be thoroughly and intellectually analyzed. It was a time for a pros and cons list! Funny, I thought my list was a way to think about my decision while I waited on God's answer to my prayer. Instead, it was my answer to prayer.



...I chose to do City Project.

When I told Cameron, she started squealing and bouncing and hugging, and quietly, I began to get excited too. I was still humbled by the fact that it took God calling me a phantom to get me to recognize the importance of centering my decision on Him, but hey, at least now I get to spend my entire summer in Durham, NC rather than at Oxford University.

Yippee!

*This is an utterly inaccurate summary of Psalms, but a totally accurate summary of my arrogance. Happy to clarify that for you, if you were about to leave a ranting comment, you grace-filled defender of God you. :)







Dear Supporters,

Hello to all of you awesome people! I'm sorry I was MIA all summer. I considered blogging about my experiences throughout the course of City Project, but I could not bring myself to do so. I don't like telling stories until I know the ending. City Project ended yesterday, and trust me, you'll be glad I waited! The reader in me appreciates the fascinating parallels God created throughout the summer, and hopefully, I will be able to adequately highlight some of those for you. As it is, I will be consistently blogging my summer story for the next couple of weeks. Thank you all so much for your generosity and sacrifice in supporting me, even when I was less excited about City Project than you yourselves were. Rest assured, I grew so far beyond the me I am in this part of the story. I can't wait to tell you more!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Spring Cleaning

Quirky? Yes. Insufferable? Oh, certainly. Witty, messy, scattered, sarcastic, and mad scientist-esque? But of course!

I would happily apply these descriptors to my little pink cave.

Dusty? Unused? ...Empty?

I would mumble these adjectives, then cough awkwardly.

It has been five months since my last post and I am so terribly sorry about that, but it really couldn't be helped. College is a whirlwind. Choosing to live on campus has been one of the best decisions I have ever made, but it came with a few natural consequences- one being the lack of time I have for blogging, particularly for blogging about writing.

But I miss blogging terribly, and I won't let college get the best of me!

Though I will have to compromise.

You see, creating blog posts specific to writing takes a heck of a lot more time than simply blogging about whatever. And that's a heck of a lot more time than I have to spare.

But... I think I can manage to blog about whatever. After all, whatever is a quite a broad subject.

Whatever includes writing, so there will certainly be some of that. Whatever also includes rants about dining halls, peanut butter, and dachshunds, so prepare yourself for that as well.

Hopefully, I can make it entertaining.

Well, enough of this chattering.

I've got a pink cave to dust.