22 February 2013

On the Mountaintop

This week, we made the journey to the Republic of Ireland for our second of three YAV retreats. We stayed at a lovely house in Donegal on Lough Eske, and filled our days with walks by the lough and hiking the nearby Slieve League (highest sea cliffs in Ireland). Our nights were filled with movies, laughter, music and introducing Doug to the television show Arrested Development.

As I prepared this week's service (proofreading hymns and the like), I found myself singing aloud in the empty sanctuary and reminiscing on the awesome majesty I'd experienced with my friends. I know you're all here for the photos, so I'll intersperse them with hymn 187, verses 1-2:

O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder
consider all the works Thy hands hath made,
I see the stars, I hear the mighty thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed;

When through the woods and forest glades I wander
and hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees;
when I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur,
And hear the brook, and feel the gentle breeze;

Then sings my soul,
my Saviour God, to Thee:
How great Thou art!
How great Thou art!

Then sings my soul,
my Saviour God, to Thee:
How great Thou art!
How great Thou art!

Photo credit: Beth Thompson





More photos can be found here

14 February 2013

Anyone can love the loveable

Happy Valentine's Day!

I hope you are all feeling happy and sufficiently loved today. If no one has told you they love you yet - just let me know and I'll send you a Valentine ;-)

In the spirit of this day of love, I thought I'd share a bit from my personal study. I came across Matthew 5:43-44 recently:
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor. (Leviticus 19:18) Hate your enemy.’ 44 But here is what I tell you. Love your enemies. Pray for those who hurt you. ..."

Many people who read this passage feel a bit of a kick in the gut whenever they hear this. Loving mean people is HARD! I think it's important to remember these words, but also to remember that it's not difficult to love those who are kind, or those who fit easily into our categories of "acceptable" behaviour and appearance... but sometimes, it's those who don't seem "loveable" that need it the most.

Reading this certainly made me take a second look at the people I see on a daily basis, and evaluate my actions toward them. I hope you'll do the same.

Love you!

13 February 2013

Lenten reflections

Today is Ash Wednesday, which is strange here.

Rather than heading to chapel at lunch for the imposition of ashes, today was a day just like any other: prep the crock pot for our community dinner before rushing to mums and tots, work on lesson plans til JAFFA in the afternoon. The lesson today was on love and St. Valentine.

I might have forgotten Ash Wednesday altogether if it weren't for the boys from St. Malachy's College (a Catholic HS) at my bus stop on the way home, with the familiar smudges on their foreheads. Even though we didn't practice the imposition of ashes at the church where I was raised, it's a tradition that I have come to enjoy in later years. Not because I feel that everyone needs to see how holy I am for attending services on a Wednesday 42 days before Easter, but because it sets the tone for me: the silence of the chapel as we offer our foreheads sets the somber tone. Trying not to smudge the cross for the rest of the day keeps me in constant reminder of the journey I am beginning.

But today's reading from my Lenten devotional was Matthew 6:1-6, 16-28; which seemed strange for a day when many people in the States would be wearing their faith loud and proud of their forehead.

It was an interesting beginning to this study. How do you reconcile the idea of an outward act for your own reflection and one that could easily be seen as being showy or holier-than-thou? As with anything, I think the answer lies in the motivation of the participant - which none of us are in any place to judge.

On that note, Anna and I (and possibly a few other YAVS) are doing the World Vision Live Life Challenge, if you'd like to join us. For the next six weeks, we will focus on specific aspects of Jesus' teachings: fasting, prayer, giving, thankfulness and service. I will do my best to reflect on our study here.

07 February 2013

6 Months

It hit me today that 6 months from today, I'll be boarding a plane back to the states. It is so strange to think that I'm already halfway through my year in Belfast.

Looking back, I'm sure there are a lot of ways I've changed and adapted to being here. I've learned so much about myself. I've proven that I'm stronger than I think, that I can move to a foreign country, that I can navigate a new city. I've formed friendships both within the YAV program, and in the places I work.

(Most of) the Saturday night Youth Club team
I get to work with kids who are rowdy and hyper and "do my head in" (that's Belfast for "drive me crazy") on a regular basis, but who are also hilarious and smart and fill me with so much joy. Today, C. didn't see me in homework club and asked where I was (I was right behind her); M. asked how much longer until I had to go home (prompting my aforementioned realization). Her granny says she caught her practicing her American accent at home: "I'm Tricia, and I'm from America!"

Working on "maths" in Homework Club
I know I don't always focus on my day-to-day activities on this blog - mostly because it sounds boring when I list it out: helping with homework, teaching kids to make pretzels, reading stories to the Boys' Brigade or serving lunch to pensioners. But what I'm really doing is forming relationships. Letting these people into my heart... which will make that moment when I board a plane 6 months from now so much more difficult.

Story time in Boys' Brigade
All I can do now is make the most of the time I have left!

03 February 2013

Macklemore Challenge

This post is a little out of the ordinary, but I thought I'd mix it up a bit!

I have been a frequent reader of the DIY blog Young House Love for a few years now. Even in my little Kentucky apartments and this fully-furnished house in Northern Ireland where DIY is near impossible, I like to watch the things that John and Sherry do to make their house a home.

So last week, when they posted their Macklemore Thrift Shop Challenge, I was all over it. For those who have never heard of Macklemore, he is a musician that has gained significant notoriety for his song "Thrift Shop", which is hilarious, but also fairly raunchy - so I've included the PG-13 version below:

THRIFT SHOP (PG Radio Edit Clean version) - MACKLEMORE & RYAN LEWIS FEAT. WANZ from Garrett Wesley Gibbons on Vimeo.

Essentially, the song is about going to Thrift Shops (shocker!) and turning other people's discarded items into your own personal treasure. You may have heard me talk about living simply here, so when I'm in need of any new clothes or household items, the many charity shops in my neighborhood are my first stop. They're a bit more expensive than the Goodwill might be back home, but it's definitely cheaper than buying new, and the proceeds benefit charity - so it's a win/win!

There were three simple steps to the challenge:
Step #1. Go to a thrift shop with – just as the chorus of the song says – “$20 in your pocket” and take a picture.
Step #2. Spend that $20 any way you’d like and photograph your spoils. 
Step #3. Find one item (or more) referenced in the song and snap a pic.
Step #1. Thrift shop. $20 (I took the UK equivalent of $20, £12.66).


Step #2. Spend that $20.
OK, I didn't do so well on this one. Since I am living abroad, I have to be careful about what I buy - anything I get here either has to fit into one of two suitcases, be donated (back) to charity, or get shipped home at the end of the year. So I'm picky - which is great for my wallet, but not so great for my challenge. I tried, I really did - I visited a total of SEVEN charity shops, but didn't see anything I couldn't live without on this trip. A few things I might have purchased, if I was at home: 

This writing desk. Fo sho. It was technically £14, which is £1.34 over our challenge budget, but I bet I could have talked the guy down. A little reupholstery could make this a pretty awesome and unique piece. Also, I could make Alice and Wonderland jokes all day long.

This mirror was huge, but some of the silver leafing was scratching off. For £5.99, I'm sure I could think of plenty of ways to update it!

I was also tempted by the heart-shaped waffle iron and manual camera, but held off... for now. I only have a 100 pound luggage allowance, people!

Step #3. Scavenger Hunt.
"it was ninety-nine cents! (pence)"
Funny enough, I have several of the items listed in the song, many of which were actually purchased at charity shops... so I am actually the proud owner of: another man's luggage (£9), that plaid button up shirt (£3), a big --- coat (£5), and of course, the built-in onesie with the socks... (don't worry, I'm also passin' up on those moccasins someone else's been walkin' in)!

And, in the "you're only gonna find that in Ireland" category:

(an Irish step dancing costume)

So, in summary:
I wear your granddad's clothes
I look incredible
I'm in this big --- coat
From that thrift shop down the road