Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Befriending a Bosnian...

For those of you who don't know, I am taking a Spanish class on Tuesday nights. Tomo una clase de espanol los martes :) See? It's working! The class is through UVA's continuing ed program, and its not for credit so it attracts a great range of people with many reasons for taking the class. One is taking it to help her son through high school Spanish; another woman promised herself that when she finished her phd she would do two things: learn to play the violen and learn to speak Spanish.

My favorite reason so far, however, is that of Azur. Azur is a middle-aged Bosnian man who is taking the class with his girlfriend, Kate, so they can have a common language! He is learning English alongside Spanish by taking this class, and he and Kate have quickly become my favorite people to talk to admist our confusion.

Tonight I got time to talk to Azur during our break and after class. He left Bosnia in 1996, after being a soldier in the Bosnian war for two years. Time out: Azur is over six feet tall, with greying hair down to his waist, bright eyes, a slight build, and missing a few teeth. When he said he was a soldier I involuntarily laughed. "I know, I don't look like a soldier do I?" Azur said in response. He then went on to explain that in his country, when the war with Serbia and Croatia began there was no way to escape.

Bosnians were landlocked between their two enemies, and as Azur put it "You had to stay becuase you couldn't get out. And you had to fight because you had to live." He doesn't strike me as the type who would sign up for military service, and he confirmed that as he spoke of the need to protect the women and children behind him.
I had mentioned that I knew Charlottesville was a national refugee center because our church has tried to reach out to refugees in the city. Azur was surprised to learn that I went to church... when I invited him to come visit Trinity he said "I do not go to church. Where I come from people get made fun of for going to a church or a mosque." When I assured him that he could come without being mocked, he replied "I grew up as a Communist." We continued our conversation about church after class, about the tension between "religion" and "just God"... between guilt and grace. I am looking forward to future conversations!
How often on a Tuesday evening do you get to talk to a refugee from Bosnia who has killed people simply to stay alive and who now plays chess to make money?
Welcome, friends, to Charlottesville.
** for more information on Charlottesville's refugee program check out this article:

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Apple Harvest Festival Fun

So it's been months since I last posted. Although many ideas cross my mind, I never seem to actually sit down and update what's been going on in my life or share some thoughts. I will try to be better on behalf of my sweet friends overseas who love to catch up!

Even though it's 90 degrees today in Charlottesville, the fall festivities around town have begun! This morning Clark and I met up with Stephen and Kathryn Trivette and their little girl, Savannah, to go to Carter Mountain Orchard. This weekend is the orchard's Apple Harvest Festival, complete with giant pumpkins, local vendors, live music and of course their famous apple cider donuts.

I had never been to the orchard before and I was literally jumping around like a 5 year old when we arrived! We listened to a bluegrass/gospel band for awhile and then took off into the orchard with Savannah atop Stephen's shoulders to pick apples! In his pursuit of the perfect apple, Clark climbed several trees, knocking down about a dozen apples for every one he actually picked.

In the past two years, I've grown to LOVE living in Charlottesville and the combination of a small town and urban life. Today's adventure to the orchard was a sweet return to country roots, though! Speaking of sweet... all those apples went into this pie!

my very first apple pie... completely from scratch!
dang gina its good.

Monday, July 16, 2007


I just finished reading the blog of some Trinity sponsored missionaries in Uganda (http://paradoxuganda.blogspot.com/) and am still overwhelmed by the testimony of God’s provision for their medical mission there. Government and NGO funding ran out for one of their nutritional programs, and through word of mouth (and blog) individuals have stepped in to give money towards covering the cost of maintaining this program for an entire year! The monthly budget is $1600, which covers food and supplies for about 50 children at $1 per child per day.

Obviously this is an incredible blessing to the Myhre family and to the children they serve, but it is also such a huge reminder of how God provides through his people. Every time I read this blog my heart hurts to see the physical pain these people live in, but I also rejoice knowing God is caring for them through these organizations and through the daily labor and prayers of His people in Uganda. I admit, I am jealous to see God work like this in my own small-town American life. To have needs so BIG that only God could provide…. And to give Him praise for His provision.

The thing is, although our meals are all but a guarantee here and we have access to education and health care… we are not without need. I myself have believed the lie that we are capable. A problem? We can fix it. Sometimes a crisis hits, and we hit our knees… but most days I can go through my daily routine and even my work in a church and could have never asked the Lord for His help. There is a balance, of course; I am not suggesting that we are devoid of any reasoning, capabilities, or talents and helplessly need a divine babysitter. I am suggesting that if I knew, really knew, God’s power and strength and believed Him for what He has promised I would acknowledge that I want to be a part of what He is doing every day.

Philippians calls us to step out of our anxiety and into prayer, asking God with thanksgiving to give us His peace and meet us in our need. It doesn’t say, Call when you REALLY need me. How many times a day do you get anxious? Stressed? I want to learn to ask Him to meet me in the little things, and to pray that He will show up in a BIG way.

It is tempting to me to go to Africa again—to experience the overwhelming need and rely on Jesus being alive to get us through each day. That would almost be easier than staying here in Charlottesville, pushing aside my “ability” and relying on Jesus. How do you pray Africa-sized prayers in a small town?

Saturday, May 26, 2007

yard sales and goodbyes

It's about 8:30 on Saturday morning... Ellen woke me up as she left the house to go running and as my head hit the pillow to go back to sleep I heard the sounds of little girls laughing and saying, "HIII MISS ELLEN!" from across the street.

I smiled, and threw on tennis shoes.

These three girls have been a huge part of our lives for the last nine months. Maria and Psalms (the beautiful 7 year old girl on the left) moved here about a week after we did in August because Maria was completing a nine month graduate program at the JAG school here in Charlottesville.

They were some of the first neighbors we really connected with here, and on the first day we discovered that Maria had to be at class everyday at 8am, but Psalms didn't get on the bus until 8:10 each morning. Thus began months of the doorbell ringing right at 7:45 :) Psalms would hang out with us each morning-- we have played countless games of War, colored many pictures (some of which are hanging in my office), and dropped about 50 ice cubes into steaming mugs of hot chocolate.

Over the year it has been a challenge to watch Psalms in the mornings-- not because of her behavior by any means! She's the most polite child and we are all "Miss" to her! But between the three of us balancing breakfast dates or the need to catch some more sleep, it has really drawn us together to have to figure out who can get up with her each day. At times we have gotten frustrated... and there are other mornings where I lay in bed and hear the doorbell ring and think in my unwilling heart "Nooooooo".... then I hear Ellen's door open and her sleepy voice greet Psalms, "Want to play cards?" If anything, it has made the three of us more of a family... we just borrow other people's children. :)

About a month ago Maria's husband, James, packed up their house in Texas and brought their three year old, Zion, to join the party here on Short 18th. Yes-- Maria and James have been apart the majority of this year! It's always so sweet when a visit is approaching because Maria and Psalms count down to the day. The whole family has been here for about a month as they get ready to leave this place. Maria has been stationed in Germany for the next three years beginning June 1.

So today was another morning of being greeted by the voices of little girls, and sleepily pulling myself together to go spend time with them. Today wasn't a school day... just a special one as I know it's the last Saturday they will be here.

The whole family has been hard at work at their house manning a yard sale... when Maria moved here they bought most of their stuff at Goodwill so that they could just get rid of it at the end of the year. I spent about 20 minutes just hanging out with little Zion this morning while Maria sold off a child's bed, some puzzles, and some of the girls' clothes.
I will miss this family. They are Christians, and it was sweet to share fellowship with them and to pray for them during their time here. Who knows, maybe one day I'll get to visit them in Germany! We are already praying for who will rent their house next... it's a tiny one, but we're hoping for another family whose life we can be a part of.
I love this city, this neighborhood, this street.

Friday, May 18, 2007

article on beauty...


check it out girls... its really good!

being beautiful...

This is a beautiful article written by Nicole Nordeman about the pressures of being "beautiful" by the world's standards... I breathed a sigh of relief just reading the comments from artists about how they feel the same pressure I feel every single day.


I am used to this time of year being about gearing up for a summer at camp. Four years of camp life had gotten me used to the no make-up, overall wearing days being standard. But now, living in Charlottesville the city of beautiful people, I have to make an extra effort to avoid getting caught up in the materialism of life and appearances.

My sweet friend, Joy, is on her way to Liberia tomorrow, and she writes about this very thing on her blog just a day before she leaves for the missionary life: http://finding-joy.blogspot.com/

Check it out :)

Friday, February 16, 2007

pondering patience...

As I sat in my car waiting for the light to change and let me out of the Gold’s Gym parking lot, I haphazardly flipped through the radio stations trying to find some song that fit my mood. Settling on a local station, the DJ soon came on, announcing that the singer of the previous song had recently been seen with his “on-again model girlfriend” which was a surprise because it had been rumored he was cheating on her. The DJ declared that this made no sense, because, “If he wasn’t a musician no one would want to go out with him,” she pronounced.

I caught myself glaring at the radio, and thinking of every person listening to considered themselves “not cute” and how they must be feeling about their social status now. Apparently you need to be famous and attractive to get a date. I rolled my eyes at the cultural implications as Bon Jovi’s “I’ll Be There For You” began to play. The light was still red.

“If they make us sit here this long, the light should at least stay green longer,” I thought as I inched forward just in time to see the SUV in front of me slide through the intersection at a pace just slow enough to leave me stranded behind the thick white line.

Eventually, I got my chance to escape the parking lot. Heading down the hill, I was greeted by the glow of red break lights as three lines of cars stood waiting for the next light to grant them passage onto the 250 Bypass—the Road Home. The radio was momentarily eclipsed by the sound of yelling; glancing to my left at the oncoming- but-not-so-much-moving traffic, I saw a man in a green pick-up truck, window rolled down, exercising his freedom of speech. Loudly proclaiming the injustices of traffic, he used several expletives as he rolled forward about a foot. Apparently others agreed with Angry Pickup Man and a few disgruntled honks squeaked out of the cars behind me.

“Goodness. Chill out,” I breathed.

I glanced at Angry Pickup Man now directly to my left, and hypocritically thought, “If he had Jesus he’d be more patient.”

Yes, at the moment I was calming sitting in my car, grooving to a now unknown R&B song, relaxed and far from using horn to express my opinion. Seemingly patient. But I harbor a terrible habit of grinding my teeth, grunting, and yelling “GO SLOWER!” at cars in front of me. I seem to keep my inner traffic gremlin quite tame when I have passengers in the car, but once alone he leaps out and rides shotgun. This is something that surprises me daily, as I find myself exasperated that the people on the main thoroughfare don’t have the courtesy to let me turn left and don’t seem to realize how important I am at that very moment. So do not be fooled my endorphin-induced calm… I am not a patient driver.

But the small encounter with impatience did get me thinking (one of many great distractions you can use to keep the traffic gremlin quiet while sitting in rush hour traffic). Do I really want people to know Christ so that they will be more patient at a stoplight? So that horns will sound less frequently?

“Of course not,” I rebuked my own thoughts. “Being patient is more than just resisting the overwhelming urge to yell and slap the steering wheel in frustration. We wait for a lot more than a green light.”

Or do we?

Sex? Nope… the vast majority of people aren’t waiting to have sex before marriage. What’s the point? As I drove down the highway, I passed a few fast-food restaurants… we don’t wait for meals to be ready—we just grab it on our way. If we want it, we just go get it. I remembered a commercial I had seen at the gym last week for Urge.com, touting the slogan “Obey your urge.” We are a desire driven culture. Is there even a place for patience within it?

“Ok, but I’m saving up for a car right now. I have to be patient because it’s going to take me about two years to have enough money to buy one,” I reasoned with myself.

I turned right onto a side street, bypassing the rows of car dealerships on Pantops Mountain.

“But if you wanted to, you could stop saving and just take out a loan, have the car the same day,” Self countered.

I came to yet another stop light—thankfully the last in my ride home—and paused across from Jak & Jill’s Diner (rumored to be the first fast-food restaurant in Charlottesville actually). “Do we appreciate the time, effort, and skill that goes into a great cuisine? Or would we rather have a hamburger and “world famous” milkshake?” I wondered. Having grown up in a family that appreciates great food, I love to enjoy a meal that’s been carefully prepared. But even today as I ran on the treadmill I was tempted by the efficiency of the Hamburger Helper commercial in front of me. When I am a wife and mother will I take the time to make homemade meals or opt for quicker options?

“Ok what about art,” I asked myself. “We still stand in front of paintings and wonder at the hours it must have taken Van Gogh or Degas to layer the paint, adding detail after detail. Masterpieces take patience.”

“Oh really?” Self cleverly countered. “Are you sure we are not just taught to value that masterpiece because of the price tag? Surely if it costs this much it is worth a lot.”

Self 2. Me 0.

Stumbling upon the realization that we value something, not for the amount of time it took to prepare or create, but simply because the monetary cost dictates its worth to us, saddened me.

Will technology’s value overshadow art in our society, not because it is masterful, but because it is expensive? Thoughts of the blue-glow of computer screens masking the shadowy beauty of Rembrandts many self portraits flooded my head.

“Is there anything for which we are willing to be patient?” I asked.

“Ah… more importantly, can you prove that anything is
worth your patience?”

Point, Self.

I made my last left turn, and drove home to microwave my dinner.