Watch4Whit

a look inside the life of Whitney


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The issue of the hat…

What better way to be inspired to write again than to receive a passive aggressive letter in the mail about a hat! Thank you anonymous writer for rekindling my desire to write! Because this is certainly something worth writing about.

I received a letter yesterday that I thought to be handwritten when I saw my address scrawled quickly on the front of the envelope. After all, written letters are a rare commodity these days, so I eagerly opened the letter. Imagine my disappointment when I saw that the rest of the letter was typed. My initial excitement soon dissolved into further disappointment as I read the following message:

Whitney dear,
 
Could you do me a favor and please ask that gentlemen that sits with you at church to kindly remove his hat when he is in the church building? It offends me and wearing a hat throughout service is not a customary habit by our men nor one that we want started in church. It doesn’t appear to be cold or raining in the building either so I look to you to please take care of this simple request. Thank you. 
 
Signed,
-watching for cooperation
That is the letter, word for word and the gentlemen referred to in this letter is my soon-to-be husband. Disappointment soon turned to shock, then frustration, then ultimately sadness and further disappointment. I just couldn’t believe how poorly this person chose to address the situation.
So, as I sat down a re-read this letter a few times, I tried to analyze and understand mine, and my fiancé’s reaction. I found four aspects of this letter that elicited our reaction:
  1. It was addressed and written to me, not the person (my fiancé) that caused the “offense”
  2. It was anonymous
  3. The writer assumes to speak for the entire church
  4. The writer expects full “cooperation”

I soon realized these are all errors in effectively resolving a conflict. I’ve been learning a lot about conflict resolution lately as I learn to have a better and closer relationship with my future husband. And everything this writer chose to do to address a conflict is exactly opposite of what I’ve been learning. Now please do not misunderstand me. I hold no resentful feelings towards this anonymous writer. I have forgiven them for the initial offense to myself and my fiancé that this letter caused.  This actually became an opportunity to start writing again, to share what I’ve learned about effectively handling a conflict, and also share a concern this letter portrays of a bigger issue within churches today. For that I am thankful. So please continue reading as I explain my response to this letter.

1. It was addressed to me. I should not be in this conversation at all nor be expected to “take care of” this request. I am not the one that offended this person. The writer should have addressed Rob, preferably in a verbal manor, since he is the one that has caused the offense. (And no, neither Rob nor I have been approached by anyone about this apparent issue by someone at our church.) And my reasoning comes from Matthew 18:15-17.

15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector”

I believe this same approach should be applied to one considered to have caused an offense. After all, the person who is offended might consider the offender as having “sinned” against him/her. So, according to Matthew, and Luke 17:3, the person who has been offended should confront the offender directly, in private. So this letter, should have never come to or been addressed to me. Granted, I realize they might not know my fiancé’s name. He is still somewhat new. I choose to give them the benefit of the doubt.

2. It was anonymousNot only was this letter addressed to the wrong person, the writer chose to remain anonymous, again ignoring the need to confront the person that has offended them directly. By remaining anonymous, this person leaves no room or opportunity for discussion. The verses in Matthew speak how direction confrontation can lead to “gain[ing] your brother.” In other words, confronting someone who has offended you is an opportunity to gain a relationship. You might shed light on something they misunderstood, or vice versa. And in this specific case, my fiancé and I would have had the opportunity to explain that he once suffered from pneumonia and is cold natured because of it. Add in a bald head, and a hat is much needed on a cold morning. My fiancé is a respectful and honorable man. He doesn’t wear a hat to incite disrespect or offense. He is simply cold and would rather not shiver and shake the whole pew. But we have no opportunity to share this information with the writer, because we don’t know who it was. Still, I will choose to love this person. I am disappointed and frustrated by their choice to remain anonymous, but I trust that this person is still good willed and simply misunderstands the situation. I choose to give them the benefit of the doubt.

3. The writer assumes to speak for the entire church. The writer explains that the “habit” of wearing a hat is not something “we want started in our church.” This statement makes the assumption that all other church members agree with the writer’s request and point of view. With a church of 500-ish, it is simply improbable that all other persons agree or were offended by my fiancé’s hat wearing shenanigans. (It’s still cold out by the way. The hat in question was most likely a wool beanie). This statement reflects the writer’s expectations of how a church member should look or act, implying that they would not approve of a hat wearing church. This attitude could cause one of two unfortunate consequences. One, my fiancé (and myself by extension) would feel rejected and likely not want to attend, meaning he might miss a lesson or relationship that God had intended for him that day. He might see this member’s actions as an extension of how God views him, and cause him to struggle in his relationship with Him. Two, if others decided to wear hats and this writer continued to take offense of this, then that writer and their family may choose to leave, which could cause similar struggles with others and their faith, and would also hurt the body as a whole, since we are to be one body in Christ.

“For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many,are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” Romans 12:4-5

But again, I choose to give them the benefit of the doubt.  The writer may not have realized the impact of this statement or did not intend to assume to speak for the whole church. Perhaps they do not realize the consequences this attitude can cause, especially when paired with remaining anonymous. Satan may very well be using this small issue of the hat to prevent this person from developing strong relationships with others in the church and become stronger in the Lord. With this realization, I wish even more that I could reach out to this person and “gain a brother” instead of an adversary.

4. The writer expects full “cooperation.” Signing this letter with “watching for cooperation” is no less than an underlying threat. There is a simple implication that something will be done if this request is not met because they are “watching.” This is the most unloving, fear-inspriring, and highly disappointing act of this whole letter. It was that simple sign off that incited the most indignation and anger at first.  But after a little while, I again chose to give them the benefit of the doubt and simply felt the deepest sadness towards the person whom I still believe is good willed and simply misunderstands the reason for the hat. And I fear how often something this simple can cause such barriers between each other when we are supposed to be united in Christ.

The saddest part about receiving this letter is that it is just more fuel to the flame of frustrations my fiancé has faced with the church we attend. If you don’t get with the “in” crowd, then you feel like an outsider, and not really part of the body. I have another friend who has stopped attending because of this very same underlying vibe. There is a sense that you must meet certain standards, dress a certain way, or find the right group to be a part of. Even more so, if you bring new ideas, new thoughts to a discussion, or even the recognition of an issue, should we not engage and discuss instead of judge and ostracize? Why are class discussions so quiet? Why is no one willing to speak up? Is it maybe for fear of being judged, of finding yourself suddenly outside “the group?” I know I’ve felt that fear. But my fiancé has always spoken his mind. He challenges discussions in a loving and respectful way, and agrees when truth is spoken,  wanting others to understand what he has learned and get them to think. It is one of the reasons I love and admire him.

But I again still choose to give this writer the benefit of the doubt. This may have seemed like a simple request to them. But unfortunately, we often do not stop to consider how powerful some small action can impact another’s life. And this letter had no small impact on us. But we have both chosen to see the opportunity this letter brings. We have the ability to show love and grace, and to share the learning points we can take away from this moment. 

I hope that the person who wrote that letter will one day see this. But if not, at least I can share with others what I have taken away from this. And I believe it has been a really great personal exercise in being thoughtful and understanding the deeper issues that this letter has made me aware of in myself and around me. As far as what we will do next…nothing. My fiancé will continue to wear a hat on the days that he needs to, and I support him in that, because for us, it is out of necessity and thus we think nothing of it.

I welcome your thoughts so feel free to leave comments. And thank you for reading!


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Lessons from the Pavement #3: Bad is Good

Ok, I tend to write long blog posts as you may know. And while I love those, it tends to deter my motivation to continue to blog because I just don’t have 2 hours every day to write those incredibly awesome blog posts. And as I observe my boyfriend practicing how to write blog posts in 15 minutes, I envy him and have decided that I’m going to try and do the same, though it may take some time. Here’s his blog by the way, which is also part of his business; you should check it out 🙂

One last thing before I get to the point of this post. If any of you try to search on my blog for a “Lesson’s from the Pavement #1,” you won’t find it. I know, it confused me too. I didn’t realize that my first one was actually a little tweet on my Twitter account. So without further ado, here is #1:

Lesson from the pavement (#1): persevere and suddenly you realise it’s a little easier today than yesterday. #exercise #AIT

Now then, on to #3!

Bad is Good

There is no bad, only good. “Bad” is simply a word that describes the absence of good. So if you only see the bad, then you are not looking hard enough for the good. 

I think God likes to give me little phrases of wisdom, wit, and whimsy. And since I’ve finally started walking again regularly, and because I intentionally do not listen to music or books while I’m exercising, it tends to be the perfect time for me to listen for God.  That’s why you see that phrase indented and bolded. That’s almost exactly how the thought crossed my mind. And I know why too. It’s in relation to having just finished The Shack, which is an excellent book. I would highly recommend it. 

We know that Goodness, Truth, and Love exist because God is those things. That is His very being. So then where does evil come from? Why are there “bad” things in the world? First of all, describing things as “bad” or “good” is completely subjective. It is good for me to have peanuts because they are tasty and nutritious. It is bad for another person because they are allergic. See? What is “good” for me can be “bad” for another person. So the question is, does “bad” or “evil” really exist? Is it not simply the absence of absolute goodness, truth, and love? That’s what God is. God is absolute, and absolutely good. “Bad” and “evil” are just words that describe the absence of Good–the absence of God. You may have seen this argument below, but this supposed conversation between a professor and possibly Albert Einstein really makes you think concerning the presence of “bad/evil”: 

This has a thought provoking message no matter how you believe. Does evil exist?

The university professor challenged his students with this question. Did God create everything that exists?
A student bravely replied yes, he did!”
“God created everything?” The professor asked.
“Yes, sir,” the student replied.

The professor answered, “If God created everything, then God created evil since evil exists, and according to the principal that our works define who we are then God is evil.”
The student became quiet before such an answer.

The professor was quite pleased with himself and boasted to the students that he had proven once more that the Christian faith was a myth.

Another student raised his hand and said, “Can I ask you a question professor?” “Of course”, replied the professor. The student stood up and asked, “Professor, does cold exist?”

“What kind of question is this? Of course it exists. Have you never been cold?” The students snickered at the young man’s question.

The young man replied, “In fact sir, cold does not exist. According to the laws of physics, what we consider cold is in reality the absence of heat. Everybody and every object is susceptible to study when it has or transmits energy, and heat is what makes a body or matter have or transmit energy. Absolute zero (- 460 degrees F) is the total absence of heat; all matter becomes inert and incapable of reaction at that temperature. Cold does not exist. We have created this word to describe how we feel if we have too little heat.

The student continued. “Professor, does darkness exist?”

The professor responded, “Of course it does”.

The student replied, “Once again you are wrong sir, darkness does not exist either. Darkness is in reality the absence of light. Light we can study, but not darkness. In fact we can use Newton’s prism to break white light into many colors and study the various wavelengths of each color. You cannot measure darkness. A simple ray of light can break into a world of darkness and illuminate it. How can you know how dark a certain space is? You measure the amount of light present. Isn’t this correct? Darkness is a term used by man to describe what happens when there is no light present.”

Finally the young man asked the professor. “Sir, does evil exist?”

Now uncertain, the professor responded, “Of course as I have already said. We see it every day. It is in the daily example of man’s inhumanity to man. It is in the multitude of crime and violence everywhere in the world. “These manifestations are nothing else but evil.”

To this the student replied, “Evil does not exist sir, or at least it does not exist unto itself. Evil is simply the absence of God. It is just like darkness and cold, a word that man has created to describe the absence of God. God did not create evil. Evil is not like faith, or love, that exist just as does light and heat. Evil is the result of what happens when man does not have God’s love present in his heart. It’s like the cold that comes when there is no heat or the darkness that comes when there is no light.”

The professor sat down.

The young mans name — Albert Einstein

Now, whether this was actually Albert Einstein, I don’t know, and I don’t really care. It makes a valid point either way. And that is what brings me back to my original statement. Bad does not exist; evil does not exist. They are just words. And even in the most terrible situations, if you look hard enough, if you trust God and remember He is in control and His will is being done, you will see His Good in the end. Because God is Good and God is Love, and He is especially fond of you. 

So look harder. Good is there. 

I welcome your comments! Please share your thoughts on this topic!

 


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14 Days Later: Back to “Normal”

It’s been two weeks already. Two weeks! How did that happen? I meant to post sooner; I’ve been wanting to share some reflections now that I have returned home, but it took a while to get back to a normal schedule.

I was really excited to be home for one singular reason–my boyfriend.  My spirits were high and my eagerness barely under control thanks to my anticipation of being in his arms again. And once I was finally there, it was like releasing a breath that I had been holding way too long. Relaxed and relieved.

IMG_3787He gave me a wonderful surprise when he took me home. I don’t know if I mentioned this, but on the evening of the day I left for Romanian, my absolute favorite author and his co-author were IN TOWN doing a book signing. When I found out, I was devastated that I was going to miss that by just a few hours! Naturally, I told him about it, so that night after he dropped me off at the airport, he went and got a book signed for me and even got a picture with them! I never knew until I saw the book hiding under a pillow on my bed when I got back. I squealed and nearly knocked him over with a hug when I saw it :). It meant so much to me that he did that! And he continued to be Mr. Wonderful during the first half of the week as I dealt with the lasting effects of jet-lag. It was really rough. I was tired nearly all the time, would wake up on and off all night, and had a horrible time trying to eat normally. Going back to work was hard too and I am thankful that it wasn’t super busy that week because I was a zombie. I drank a lot of coffee. But those days are mostly a blur now. It wasn’t until the second half of the week that I started feeling normal again, and by that time, my poor guy caught a nasty cold. Our assignments suddenly switched and I spent the rest of the week helping him get better quickly. So that first week was difficult and certainly abnormal but we got to spend a lot of time together and that was all that mattered to me.

As surprising as this is, once I got over jet-lag, I experienced a little bit of culture shock again as I re-adjusted to American life. I had to re-learn what was normal. It was not as profound as the moments of culture shock I experienced in Romanian. I just realized that while everything was the same, everything felt different. It wasn’t hard to figure out that I had changed, that I had gained new perspectives.  At first it was just a series of emotions that I didn’t understand. I felt a sadness and disappointment for the abundance that people live with here, and yet always want more. I felt a new appreciation, and embarrassment for how much I have, and of that, how little I really need. I felt humbled by the hospitality I was shown there that is greater than the “southern hospitality” version here. And at the base of it all, I wondered if we have grown so used to our freedoms here that we don’t even appreciate them anymore, or fight for them like we used to.

So yes, this trip changed me, like I knew it would. And the one thing that this trip affirmed for me most is that I do not want a typical American life. I don’t want to just work, just have a family, just go to church, just live in a house, and just barely have any kind of real relationship with God, wondering whether I’m really His. I want a life that is fully His to use, no matter where that takes me. I hope it means traveling the world, because I definitely want that. But more importantly, I want to live the life that God promised, a life in full (John 10:10). I want to go out and experience the world, I want to be used by His hand and see the power and purpose He brings about in this world. Because that life is the one worth living. The one that says, even if I had nothing else, I  still have Jesus, and that is enough, more than enough!

It’s a mindset that I have been working towards, slowed by my own doubts and fears, but reaffirmed from time to time, and especially now after I have returned. And I hope it is what will also keep this blog going, because writing it my outlet. It is the way I come to understand myself, God, and the world around me best, and equally share that understanding with others. And the life I hope to lead for God will certainly be worth sharing!

Thank you all for following me throughout this journey. The mission trip is over, but this is only the beginning. Thank you for your prayers and love!

Have a wonderful weekend!


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Day 8: Oh what a full schedule! :)

In one word, exhausted! But certainly in a good way. It no longer has to do with jet lag, I am simply worn out from all the things that are being crammed into my schedule. It is no longer just teach, eat, and sleep, with a little jaunt outside now and then. As the week has progressed, students invite us to see things, to hang out, and I love it!

Well, as I mentioned, I spent my evening last night going to the movies with a group of teenagers. I was the oldest one there, but it didn’t matter. Honestly I don’t think many of them knew just how I was since I still look like a college student. Anyways, two of them were students of mine and another teacher, and they were so extremely hospitable. My student bought my ticket (she got two for the price of one, but still) and bought me a few snacks for the movie as well! As for the movie, yeah….definitely not my kind of movie. It was very intense and of course the zombie’s freaked me out. Let’s just say I did not sleep well last night. Oh, fun discovery at the theatre though. The theatre was in a mall, and when we went back downstairs to the parking garage, we went down a moving ramp! It was like an escalator, but a ramp instead of stairs! It was so weird! Haha. They have them because there is also a grocery store in the mall, which is not uncommon here.

So today, my students are progressing well I think, and I even had an interesting conversation with one of them about why Adam and Eve felt shame about being naked after eating the fruit when they were with each other in the garden. It really made me think and I hope to talk to him a little more about it tomorrow. He didn’t understand why it specifically referred to the shame of being naked when he thought that a husband and wife should not be ashamed to be naked with each other, and even with God because He sees us as we are anyways. We came to the hypothesis that maybe the writer of Genesis used it as a visual and easily understood representation of what it felt like for Adam and Eve when they changed after sinning. In talking to my other teachers, I realize a better answer would have been to make the point that they felt exposed. Before, Adam and Eve were like children. They may have made mistakes but didn’t know any better. But when they sinned, and understood they had done something wrong, they felt exposed I think both physically and spiritually. I hope my student might want to talk about it a little more tomorrow and maybe we will get into a deeper discussion.That was probably the most challenging question I’ve had so far. Most of my students seem to understand and agree to some level about the stories they are reading and do not really ask any questions. So it was definitely nice to be challenged today.

This afternoon, my and my 4’oclock student who is quickly becoming a good friend, went for a walk at 3 so we could spend more time together. We just walked down to the walking street and back, and talked the entire time, taking a few pictures together along the way. Her English is not quite as good as some of my other students, so sometimes it takes a little while to understand each other, but in the end we get there somehow or save it for later. But we had such a good time and she bought me ice cream along the way. We shouldn’t have walked so far though because I didn’t realize just how bad her leg condition is. I can’t really explain it, but please pray for her. She will be having surgery again sometime in July and hopefully that will allow her to be able to walk and be active again. She’s an athlete so it is absolute misery not to be able to even walk for 30 minutes. Still, she said she was ok and had a great time and I can’t wait to go shopping with her next week! She has a vest jacket that I absolutely love so we are going to go try and find me one 🙂

Not only that, but another one of my students and her boyfriend’s mother gave me this beautifully sculpted candle and are apparently bringing me their farm raised honey for me to try tomorrow as well. And I already have plans to go out with two other students next week too! I’m so amazed, excited, and flattered that they want to hang out outside of class and show me around. It’s the best! I mean, the teaching is great, but the relationships mean so much more, and that’s what’s most important in the long run anyways. That’s what God is all about and He is blessing me left and right–every waking minute!

I can’t believe that the first week is almost over already. It feels like I’ve been here so much longer, and yet not long at all, and I am already getting a little sad that I have such little time left. I wish I could be here the whole month and I hope my students have a good experience with their next teacher. Either way, I’m not going to think about the short amount of time and focus on enjoying every moment as much as I can!

Please pray for my students and thank you so much for all your prayers!

PS. If you want to see pictures of me and my friends, please go through facebook for the guest pass. I have made some of them private to protect myself and those with me. So if you aren’t friends with me on Facebook, email me for a pass.

 


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1 Week to Go!

I’m starting to have those “slight” panic moments where reality hits me like a ton of bricks with the realization of how close my trip is now, and how I’m actually FINALLY going out of the country somewhere. Those moments go something like this:

-sudden gasp- “holy crap! Ok. Breath. Phew..wow. It’s so soon!”

Shortly after, my mind would buzz into a string of thoughts about what else needs to be done and what else I need to do to prepare. Am I ready? Have I got everything I need? The first time this happened, this moment of panic, I realized I needed to write down everything I needed to do, then plan it out day by day until the day I leave. So far it has been a huge relief. Those moments quickly pass when I simply remember what I planned for the day, and focused on that only.

Since I have so far been working off that list, preparing has gone rather smoothly. So smoothly, that I’m not used to it and wonder if I am forgetting things. Surely I am. But that’s ok, I’ll be ready to go one way or the other and the hours are quickly passing by. I’m so excited!

Tomorrow I’ll be spending my morning doing a test run of packing. I’m going to locate and gather everything that I want to take, then try to cut back so I don’t take too much. I want to pack light and have room for souvenirs for the trip back 🙂

In this last week, I would like to ask that everyone who reads this would take a moment to post a word of encouragement or prayer, whether it be on this post or future posts in these days leading up to when I leave. I’m really excited but still nervous and would love to know that people are praying for me! Thank you so much and have a wonderful weekend!


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Whether the Weather is Good or Bad

I love weather, especially storms. Thunderstorms, tornadoes, blizzards, ice, hurricanes, you name it. They fascinate me, despite their deadly power. I can’t help but want to watch, pushing the limits of when I can safely do so, and when I probably should be taking cover. But how can I miss such an awesome display of power? So when I thunderstorm rolls in and I happen to be home, I plop myself on the couch or drag a chair to the window to watch like I’ve just been given the best seat in the house on opening night. Break out the popcorn! In fact, on April 27, 2011 when the mideast was ravaged with a record number of tornadoes, I watched my car get pummeled to death by golfball size hail from the portico of my apartment complex. I was so enthralled and amazed by the sight that I didn’t even consider the damage it was causing.

But I also love the quieter moments of weather as well, like yesterday when I decided to drive to a nearby park for my walk instead of my usual route outside my apartment. It had rained earlier that day, and the cloudiness still hung around, sprinkling light showers throughout the evening. I got caught in one of those light sprinklings and it made my walk that much better! Best one yet since I started this routine. Rain seems to make colors come alive, and even more so, the smells!

It’s times like these, whether its watching the raging torrents of a storm or enjoying the quieter, more subtle aspects of weather like a light rain or a summer breeze, that I tend to reflect on how simply amazing it all is. And how much more amazing is the God who created it all. Science may be able to explain how things happen the way they do, pressure systems, air currents, changes in temperature, but that no less takes away from the wonder of it, nor can it take away from the sheer amazing existence of it!

Isn’t it amazing that weather even exists!? It changes so frequently, and does so many different things! And in those moments when I am enjoying the warmth of the sun on my face or the brisk morning breeze of a fall day, more often than not my thoughts turn to God and his power, character, and creativity. Every aspect of weather is a billboard shouting the awesomeness of God! So tonight I’ll sit back and watch the clouds roll by. They may not bring the storm predicted, but I still get to see God painting beautiful hues in the sky as the sun sets. 🙂


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Not a Vacation

Haven’t done my walking route in two days. Friday I was exhausted, sporting a headache by the end of the night and going to bed at 8pm. Super early for me. Yesterday though, I went shopping for a few items of clothing to take on the trip. I know it’s going to be hot so I went looking for lightweight tops that could be considered “business casual.” And I did a lot of walking. So I’d say that counts.

In fact, these past two days have been about shopping for the trip. And as I would go from store to store, I would catch myself in a vacation mindset again. I get excited about the new places I will see, the local shopping I’ll get to do, and the food I’ll get to try. But at the end of the day I have to remember that I have a job to do over there, and it will be challenging. I am there for the people, not myself. I will be there because God has made it possible, and wants me there.

So I again ask for prayers, and specifically that I continue to be excited about the trip, but also be serious about the mission and purpose of it. Thanks to all who have continue to pray for me! I am thankful everyday for this opportunity and how God’s perfect time continues to reveal itself to me.