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Archive for December, 2011

Shattered lives…

I met up with a dear friend the about a week ago and was able to just chat about this that, and everything else. Mom and I met her again the other day and did the same. We talked about family, friends, hardships and blessings. She talked about her husband and how hard it has been after losing him, and I tried to think of what I could say to make it better. Problem is there isn’t anything someone can say to make it all better. There are, however, a lot of things that can help, and a lot that can hurt. I think that’s the thing that gets us. We’re so afraid of saying the wrong thing, that we don’t say anything at all. It’s just like how Christians are so afraid of saying the wrong thing about Jesus that they don’t say anything at all.

This was actually a big part of our discussion. Not saying anything, or hearing anything because of this big fear that we’ll get it wrong. And yet the biggest thing you can do is just go with your heart. Don’t say what you think they want to hear, or what other people tell you to say. If you haven’t gone through what the other person is going through now, don’t say “I know what you’re going through.” Sometimes the best thing to say can’t be done with words. Sometimes you have to say it with shared tears, holding each others hands, or a big hug. Sometimes it’s just shared silence. It’s not always going to work 0ut, but you can’t learn if you don’t try.

In any case, during the second conversation, an image struck me. While our friend was talking, she said that her life has been shattered so many times already. She was tired of having to pick herself back up again, and wondered how many more times she’d have to go through this. She wasn’t sure she could do it again. Through all this, I saw a glass sphere in my mind being dropped and shattering. When you try to put it back together, there are pieces that don’t fit anymore and others that seem to be missing. So you have to break the pieces even more until they do fit.

Yet each time even one of those pieces breaks, it’s heart wrenching. To know that some of the breaks have to be self-inflicted is hard, and to know that others will happen when you think everything is finally going okay is so painful. Before long, you have something that has been broken and put back together so many times that you can’t tell where one break ends and the next begins. The sphere is nothing but ever-smaller fragments being pieced back together.

 

It hurts me to know that her shattering isn’t done yet, and that this is so hard for her. To make it worse, I’m afraid I won’t be able to help much once I’m back in school. Hopefully our conversations helped a bit. I know they meant a lot to me and my mom. I just hope that when it seems too hard for her to try to put the pieces back together, there will be someone there to help her out.

 

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too far away and yet too near…Good thing God is here

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is official. I only have one week left of classes. Then it’s homeward bound for a couple weeks before the great trek to the Holy Land. I am incredibly excited, and yet I don’t want it to end. I am certainly ready to part ways with all the assignments (only two left, which I am quite effectively avoiding by writing this instead) but I don’t want to part ways with the people. I am so excited to be going home and seeing everyone again, and yet I feel like I’ll be leaving half my family behind in Dubuque.

This semester has resulted in hardships, broken hearts, strained relationships, and many many tears. And yet it has also supplied uncountable hugs, laughs and guffaws, welcoming smiles, and a deep connection with so many wonderful people. It seems wrong to be parting ways when we’ve meshed so well in the short time we’ve had together. And I should clarify that, while the junior class is absolutely amazing, I am talking about more than just these classmates. I am talking about the families here, the faculty, the staff, the church communities, and those amazing random connections with strangers in the stores and around town.

This advent season, the emphasis on waiting is more alive in me than ever before. Waiting to finish classes, waiting to go back home, waiting to see friends and family back home, waiting to…  Yet, amid all this waiting, my heart is constantly shifting back and forth between anticipation and hesitation. Going back to one family means parting ways with another. Finishing one semester means the next is approaching ever closer.

But there is one thing I am always eagerly waiting for. In this advent season, I am actively waiting to celebrate the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We should be constantly celebrating Jesus Christ and awaiting his return. In trying to attend to the chaos of emotions swirling through me in this last week of the semester, it is so great to have God in my life to center and stabilize the whole amazing, chaotic, beautiful mess of the world that I am living in.

When I think about God’s love for all, it makes this transition time easier to handle. I can find the strength to finish the semester through God’s love. I can celebrate the upcoming return to home knowing that God’s love still connects me to the wonderful people here, and has connected me to those back home while I have been away. God gives me the courage to continue on this path to ministry. Without God, I wouldn’t be here, I wouldn’t be able to handle it all, and I wouldn’t be me. I am a child of God. Thank God for our life, our salvation, our everything.

As always, God Bless

St. Nicholas

I’ve been feeling on top of the world for a good part of the last two weeks. I had an amazing thanksgiving with my family, got to participate in worship at St. John’s again, and was humbled by so many people’s generosity. I am stunned by how kind-hearted so many people can be. I want to thank everyone for their kindness, and let everyone know that I am thanking God each and every day for all the people in my life.

I would like to share a story from today that perfectly portrays the wonderful generosity and love in the world. Despite a weekend a little too full of Greek, I managed to have a blast with my Wartburg Family. We partied it up on Friday night and had an amazing time watching the Muppets latest movie on Saturday. On Sunday Mary and I drove to Madison in order to welcome home Deb after her returning flight. It felt good to have her back home with us. Sunday evening went surprisingly well with Greek and my Moodle post done before midnight. With Monday morning, the peaceful and familiar pattern of classes returned with (perhaps a first) no papers due for the entire week.

Today, after a mostly peaceful day of classes and studying, not to mention working for a little bit, I returned to my room and found a package in my doorway. On top of the gift bag was a note,

 

Paul,

Happy St Nicholas Day!

 

May this small gift bring you joy this season.

 

 

No signature, no hint, just the note and the bag. And what was in the bag? Shoes. A pair of beautiful, brand new shoes. Not shoes with cracks in the bottoms, holes in the sides, or pieces of plastic breaking off inside. These shoes are perfect. I stood there stunned, just looking at the bag in my doorway. When I finally picked up the bag and looked inside, I was glad I had made it at least a couple steps into my room. I couldn’t hold the tears back, and am crying once again just writing this. Sobbing might be a better word for it.

After I managed to compose myself, I went back to the library to ask Martha if she’d done this for me. After all, she did ask me my shoe size before, and it’s certainly something she or her husband would do. She said it wasn’t her though, so I’m still left wondering who could’ve done this. Trouble is, there are too many people to choose from.Everyone here is so full of love and compassion, and (while I may be a bit biased) I think our class is the best of them all. We just sort of work together.

As I told Martha, it’s the sweetest, most thoughtful thing someone has done for me. Someone bought me shoes when I needed them. Someone cared for me. Looked out for me. I honestly cannot even begin to put into word what this means to me. I just wish I knew who it was so I could give them a big hug, thank them as well as I’m able, and hopefully find a way to return the favor. Hopefully they read my blog and can see this note. If so, consider this a paltry cyber hug until I am able to give a better one in person.

Two Sundays ago, Dave Wentland asked me to put a list of what I need up somewhere so people would know what to get me. I didn’t know how to respond to that. I have what I need, already. I have friends and family who love me. Today has reinforced that again in my heart. What I need is love, and that’s exactly what I have. Thank you. Really, truly, from the bottom of my heart. Thank you.