Friday, December 31, 2010
Thursday, December 30, 2010
It was the summer of 1978. My mom was 19 and had just finished her freshman year at Samford University and dad was about to turn 21, having completed his junior year at Gardner-Webb. Considering that my parents both grew up all over the world, I have to believe it was God’s providence that brought them both to the same small camp training in the mountains of Virginia.
Christian High Adventure (CHA) is an outdoor adventure program that teenagers participate in each summer. My mom was going to be working at Crestridge, a camp for girls, and my dad at Camp Caraway, but the two-week leader training for both camps was held together.
It’s kind of crazy that my mom ended up there in the first place. My grandmother had seen an ad for CHA in a Christian magazine and cut it out and sent it to my mom, knowing that her adventurous and daring daughter would be a perfect fit for that program.
Mom signed up for it right away and headed across the country to embark on a new adventure, having no idea that she was about to meet her future husband.
When mom tells the story of the first time she sawmy dad she always gets a big smile on her face. “I was just standing outside getting ready for the training and then I see this tan guy with dark hair run and jump over the fence and I thought, ‘Man! He’s a hunk!’”
By the time the two week adventure was over, my parents knew that they wanted to stay in touch. They began dating that summer and when they went back to their colleges, they kept in touch by writing letters.
Through the years, their friendship grew, and on December 30, 1982, they were married! I asked my parents today what the hardest and easiest years of their marriage were. They both agreed the first year was the hardest because of the adjustments and changes, but said that it gets easier and easier every year.
My parents have set such a great example for me and my brothers of what a godly marriage looks like. Of course no marriage is perfect, but my mom and dad have always strived to put God first in their marriage and that has given our family a happy and healthy foundation. I’ve been blessed to have such wonderful parents who love each other so much and allow God to lead them as a couple.
Happy 28th anniversary, mom and dad!
Saturday, December 25, 2010
For over 20 years, our family has spent Christmas at "Tarheel Lodge," a cabin in the mountains of North Carolina. When we pulled up to the snow covered lodge today, I was flooded with memories: Opening presents, playing with my cousins, hearing Papa tell stories, eating Grandmother's chocolate fudge, snowball fights...so many fun times!
Now that I live on the opposite side of the country, I treasure these moments with family more than ever before. What a blessing it is to be able to celebrate the birth of Jesus with my favorite people in such a serene, nostalgic place!
Merry Christmas, friends!
Thursday, December 16, 2010
To this day, when I come home one of my favorite things to do on a lazy day is look through the hidden things in our attic. Though we live in a different house now, I still ended up with the bedroom that connects to the attic. I like to go out there late at night when the rest of the family is sleeping and see what I can discover. I don’t know what it is that I love so much about attics. When I open up the attic door, it smells….old, and a little musty. But there’s something about that smell that I love. It brings back memories. When I’m on the floor in the attic looking through old keepsakes, it’s like I’m lost in time.
Tonight was one of those nights. I wiped the dust off of an antique trunk and as I opened it I was giddy with excitement. It probably wouldn’t be that exciting to anyone else, but the hippie spirit within me was overjoyed as I reached in and pulled out an old suede leather jacket that my mom wore when she was a teenager in the 70s. I tried it on and sure enough…it fits! Can’t wait to rock it.
I came across clothes I wore as a baby and letters my parents wrote to each other while they were dating (kinda makes today’s communication via facebook and texting seem a little less romantic!) My favorite find of the night was my “treasure box” from when I was in the fourth or fifth grade. This is a big wooden box my granddaddy made and painted for me for my birthday one year.
It’s been years since I looked through this thing. So long that the paint had melted and stuck to the wood so I had to pry it open. It’s funny the things you think are “treasures” when you’re a kid. I was reminded of what an odd, quirky kid I was (and still probably am) as I sifted through the contents of my beloved wooden box. Inside I found:
*a large stick
*lots of rocks and seashells
*pieces of carpet
*an altoid box with hardwood floor samples inside (?)
*locks of my own hair (I would save it after I got it cut)
*all of my baby teeth (along with a note from my mom to my dad which read: “Hey Babe! Would you put a dollar under Meredith’s pillow? She pulled a molar.” Guess that’s when I found out the tooth fairy looked a lot like my dad.)
*a few happy meal toys
*an empty skittles wrapper (pretty sure it was from a boy I liked)
When I got to the bottom of the box and realized I had looked through all of my “treasures” I laughed a little. Those things were obviously special to me at one point in my life. However, now a candy wrapper, a stick, and locks of my own hair don’t seem like treasures to me.
I wonder if this is what it will be like when I get to heaven. I’ll look back on all the things I treasured on earth and chuckle. It all really is pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of things, huh? Just a thought.
Okay, I’m off to find more treasures in my own little Narnia- my attic closet!
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
After saying our goodbye's, my immediate family would load up and drive to Georgia, where mom's family lives. Papa and Grandmother live in an old farm house. I love the big rooms, the wooden floors, and the smell of delicious food that always fills the house from Grandmother's kitchen :) When we're all there- it's a full house. I think it's 18 of us now. The cousins usually hang out in the back room while the adults visit in the front. There's always so much laughter and fun. We truly enjoy being together.
This will be the second year in a row I've missed out on Thanksgiving with my family. Last year it didn't bother me too much. Probably because I was on the beach in Maui and didn't think too much about it :) This year is a little different. Since I'm in grad school, I'm doing a lot of schoolwork this week and simply can't make it home for the holiday. I get a little sad when I think about all of these traditions taking place without me. I wish so badly that I could be there, but I am also thankful that God has placed me here in San Francisco for this season of my life.
Since I won't be there for my family's annual "What are you thankful for?" question, here's my own little list:
-Deep friendships. I have been so blessed over the years to have some truly amazing friends. You know those people you just really connect with and can completely be yourself around? I like to call them my "kindred spirits." I'm thankful for those ladies (Natalie, Holly, Karlie, Candace, Beth, Alicia, Jamie...to name a few).
-Opportunities to travel. So much of my life has been impacted by my travel experiences. I absolutely love travelling the world and experiencing new cultures. Being in San Francisco the past few months has been an adventure and I look forward to many many more in the future.
-Music. Whether I'm listening to the radio or strumming on a guitar in a quiet room, I'm thankful for the gift of music. It's one of the ways that I love to connect with God.
-Family. I can't even express how thankful I am for my family. I'm thankful for a dad who is wise, kind, and is such a servant. I'm thankful for a mom who is full of joy and makes everyone around her happy. I'm thankful for Nathan, who has always been just as much of a friend as a brother. I'm thankful for Tay Tay, who I will always consider to be my "baby" brother. He knows me so well and can make me laugh when I'm having the worst day. I'm thankful for my grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins. Even though I don't get to see them as often anymore, I'm so blessed to have such a loving and fun family!
-Fun. Let's face it. We all need a little fun! I'm thankful for sillyness and laughter and random, spontaneous things that make me happy :)
-Community. Community is super important to me. Wherever I am, I want to feel deeply connected to those around me so that we can share life together. I'm thankful that I'm in the process of developing a community here in San Fran. It takes time, but I can see how God is working around me to create community and that makes me excited!
-Diversity. I deeply value getting to know people who are different than me. I learn so much from my friendships with people from different cultural or ethnic backgrounds. Life would be so boring if we were all the same, so I am thankful that God created so many different kinds of people.
My heart is overflowing with thankfulness and joy.
Happy Thanksgiving, friends!
Saturday, November 20, 2010
Okay Meredith, you have two 15 page papers to write this week.
Where should I study?
Hmm...I think I'll go to Starbucks, yeah, that'll be a good place.
(find cozy chair, order caramel brulee latte, listen to Christmas music playing in the background).
Man, this is relaxing! (turn on computer...mistake #1).
Before I can start writing, I should probably check my e-mail...something important could have happened.
But someone wrote on my wall. I should check it out. (log onto facebook...mistake #2).
An hour later...
Well, now that I've looked at the wedding photos of the girl who sat next to me in high school English class but haven't talked to since, maybe I should start these papers.
(photo album from Hawaii pops up on newsfeed).
Oh...Hawaii! I miss that place. (spend a solid 10 minutes staring into space, day-dreaming) Maybe I'll just look to see if there are any cheap plane tickets real quick.
(go to travelocity.com... mistake #3).
Since the tickets to Hawaii aren't really on sale, I'll just browse around the other airlines websites. You never know when you'll find a last minute deal!
Wait a minute. Even if I find a last-minute deal, I can't take off school, and shouldn't really spend the money. Bummer.
Okay, seriously, back to this paper.
Man, I never procrastinated this much in college. What happened to me in Hawaii? I should seriously improve my study habits.
But before I do that, I may as well just write a blog about it.
Yeah, that's what I'll do. I'll write a blog about procrastination while I'm procrastinating.
Sunday, November 7, 2010
One day I was coming back to the dorm after a long morning of classes and was looking forward to my daily 2:00 nap (oh, the joys of being a college student!). While I was about to go in my room I noticed the housekeeper carrying two large trash bags from the bathroom. I had seen her in passing before but had never really paid much attention to her.
In my heart, I was having one of those “I know I should talk to her, but I’m really tired” conversations with God. Somehow I knew he was nudging me to give her a hand.
“Can I help you with those bags ma’am?” I asked nervously.
She looked startled but as she looked up at me her expression softened and she said, “Well…if you don’t mind. These bags are heavy!”
The middle-aged African American woman seemed tired and from the look in her eyes, I could tell she had had a rough life.
I introduced myself as I lifted one of the bags and carried it outside.
“It’s nice to meet you, baby. My name’s Donna,” she said.
I smiled when I heard her loud, friendly voice.
My heart was still pounding, so I knew God was telling me my conversation with her wasn’t finished yet.
“Are you hungry?” I asked, “I don’t have much, but I think I have some candy in my room.”
“Girl, you know I could use some chocolate!” she said with a sly grin. I had a feeling that Ms. Donna and I would get along just fine.
Ms. Donna came into my dorm room and plopped down on my not-so-comfortable futon.
I brought out my candy stash and as we filled our mouths with Reese’s cups and Snickers bars we developed a friendship that would grow over the next few years.
After that day, Ms. Donna would stop by room during her rounds. She would pop her head in with a grin and say, “Hey baby girl! You got any candy?!”
I would always laugh and say, “You know I do, Ms. Donna. Come on in!”
My futon became her place to rest in between mopping and taking out the trash. One day when I came back to the dorm, my roommate had a puzzled look on her face and told me that a housekeeper had come by looking for me. By the end of the semester, she knew the routine and would offer Ms. Donna a piece of candy on the days I wasn’t there.
I quickly learned that Ms. Donna had indeed had a hard life. She was raised by various family members and dropped out of school when she got pregnant at 15. She never finished school and was in and out of trouble most of her life. She had just recently gotten out of prison and was struggling to make ends meet when I met her.
On the outside our friendship probably looked strange: A twenty-year-old “good girl” and a fifty-something ex-prisoner. But I think that God brought Ms. Donna into my life to teach me that though Ms. Donna and I were different, we both needed Him in the same way.
One day Ms. Donna confided in me with tears in her eyes, “I don’t have no life. I don’t have nothing. I’m just a piece of junk. I make $6.15 an hour, Meredith.”
My heart broke for this lady. I was deeply saddened, not only by her situation, but by the fact that it had taken me a whole semester to even make eye contact with her.
God had placed Ms. Donna in my dorm, on my hall, and for months I had simply passed her by, busy with my Bible studies and homework and social activities.
I painfully began to notice the similarities between myself and the religious leaders in the parable of the Good Samaritan. In the past, whenever I had read about the priest and the Levite who passed by the dying man, I always thought, “Those hypocrites! They are the reason people are turned off by Christians.”
I guess I had always hoped and assumed that I would fall under the category of “Good Samaritan.” But this time, I saw myself not as the Good Samaritan, but as the one who passed by the man who was beaten, naked, and hurting.
I couldn’t even count the number of times I have passed by hurting people without even noticing them, because, well…I didn’t notice them. I tell you this story about Ms. Donna not to portray myself as a Good Samaritan, but to point out the hundreds, maybe even thousands of Donna’s I could have encountered had I been more observant and more willing to reach out.
Sometimes it’s just easier to do my own thing; To listen to my iPod when I’m walking down the street or keep my head in a book when I’m sitting in a waiting room. I use my busyness as an excuse to not go out of my way to help others. But what if I was more like the Good Samaritan? What if I allowed God to use my hands, feet and heart to love on others every day?
My friendship with Ms. Donna has grown through the years. After I moved out of the dorm, we continued to meet on campus to talk. I would always leave our meetings with my sides hurting from laughing so hard! Though we live far apart now, I still communicate with her through letters and phone calls. I have learned a lot from Ms. Donna and God has given me the chance to share his love with her. I never would have had that opportunity had I not listened to that nudge I felt from God that day when I was on my way to take a nap.
I want to have more friendships like the one I share with Ms. Donna. I want to notice people and be willing to reach out to them. I want to listen to their stories and learn from them…even if it just means eating chocolate on an old futon.
Saturday, September 25, 2010
I guess it's the simple things that I miss while I'm away. Like tonight I was just sitting around the piano with my brothers belting out to the Beatles in 3-part harmony. I wish I could do that more often. I miss taking a walk with my parents every night (even though I have to jog to keep up with them). And I've missed being close enough to go watch Taylor's sporting events and see Nathan's tap recitals (HAHA- had to throw that one in there, Nate :)
The other night I was able to go down to Campbell for the Chinese Moon Festival. I had forgotten how much I miss that place. As I was driving around campus, I was flooded with thousands of memories and I just had a huge grin on my face! Those four years of my life were so transformative and awesome. I was reunited with many friends, most of them international students that I haven't seen since I graduated. I was giddy for hours, laughing and reminiscing on the great times we had shared together. My favorite moment of the evening was when I surprised my friend Chioma. She had no idea I was in town, so I just opened her door without knocking and poked my head in. She was in her robe and was taking out her weave so there was a huge pile of hair on the floor! I tackled her and then we just burst into laughter!
In a way, I wish I lived closer to home, but I know that God has placed me where I am and He is continuing to provide for me. I really am happy to be in California, but it is so refreshing to be home.
Today my friend Natalie got married! I met Natalie in Sri Lanka four years ago and she's been my best friend ever since. We've traveled all over the world together and have shared so many crazy and unique experiences. I remember many nights in Sri Lanka when we would stay up late talking, dreaming about our future husbands. Our joke was that our toes would always wiggle out of excitement when we thought about getting married one day! I was so thrilled that Natalie's wedding day had finally come- and boy were her toes wiggling today!
Last night I stayed with her and we talked for a while until we eventually fell asleep. I said, "Natalie, do you realize this is probably the last time we will ever have a sleepover?" It was strange to think that in just 12 hours my best friend would have a new last name and her life would change drastically.
Today was full of giggles and flowers and nerves and tears and everything else that comes along with a wedding. The ceremony itself was really special and was truly a time of worship and committing their marriage to God. I am so happy for my friend. I hope one day my toes will wiggle too! Until then, I'll just be "Aunt Mary" when she starts having kiddos :)
...It's good to be home :)
Thursday, September 16, 2010
It's been a month of change and exciting new experiences. I've been adjusting to living in a new place, starting a new job, new friends, and am a part of a new church.
I absolutely love Mill Valley (where I live). It's just 10 minutes across the Golden Gate bridge. I'm close to the city, but far enough away that it's really calm and peaceful around here. I actually enjoy jogging here, surprisingly! It's just more inspiring when you can run along the water and see the San Francisco skyline in the distance.
I'm taking 4 seminary classes and they are going well so far. But oh my goodness...I forgot what it is like to study! I have spent so much time in the library it's ridiculous.
Perhaps the place I've gotten the most education though is at my new job as a nanny. I'm working for a family in Mill Valley with a 4.5 yr. old, a 2.5 yr. old and a 2 day old (as of today!) I'm definitely learning basic life skills that will help me both now and in the future if I'm ever a mom. Today we had a "water fun" day. Basically I let them loose with the hose on the deck and watched (from the inside!) as they soaked themselves. Dinner is always the time when milk it spit on the dog and pants are pooped in. But they really are sweet kids and I always come home with a good story!
As far as church/ministry goes, I got involved with a church plant in San Francisco called Big Fish For God. The vision of the church is to reach young adults and college students. I felt led to join this plant and help start an International student ministry. There are tons of internationals in the city, which was one of the main reasons I chose Golden Gate in the first place, so I'm pretty stoked to be involved with this ministry. I'm still praying for direction, but I know God will provide.
I know I've only been here a month, but I think God has already spoken to me pretty clearly about a couple of things and I've taken away some important lessons.
The other night I walked up to a hill on campus where you can see a good view of the city. It was really late and quiet and it was a good time for me to be alone with Jesus. I sat up there for a while in silence and tried to hear from God. Sometimes it's really hard for me to just listen to Him, but this particular night He spoke very clearly to me. It wasn't audible, but the words he spoke to me resonated deep within my heart. He said, "You love serving me more than you love me."
Ouch. As soon as I heard this from God I felt so convicted because I realized it was true. I always say, "I'm passionate about missions." or "I LOVE international people." But my primary response should be "I love JESUS!" Isn't He the reason I'm passionate about everything else?
Since I started seminary I have been BUSY busy busy. The weeks run together and schoolwork is never-ending cycle. It's a challenge to keep up a consistent quiet time, but God spoke clearly to me that it is essential to spend that daily time with him. Without it, I'm just going to go through the motions, stressing myself out, until I get a piece of paper with my degree on it. I want my seminary experience to be so much more than that. I want it to be a time of spiritual growth, fellowship with other believers, and a chance to serve my community. These things are only possible when I'm in constant conversation with Him.
I'm constantly being challenged and refined. I mess up every day, but thank goodness He is merciful, right?
Here's a picture from a few weeks ago when I walked the GG bridge with some friends.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
My brothers Nathan and Taylor and I just had the adventure of a lifetime. In just six days, we explored our country from east to west. Our destination was Mill Valley, CA where I will be a student at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.
Our journey began in Garner, NC, with pit stops in Nashville, Oklahoma City, Albuquerque, Kingman, and Santa Barbara.
Before we left, the thought of spending 50 hours in a car in only 6 days sounded completely miserable to me, but as we went along, I seemed to have no sense of time. Our days began to blend together. We listened to lots of music, had good conversations (some deep, some ridiculous), and enjoyed seeing parts of our country that were foreign to us.
We even made up our own games. One game was to try to come up with a sentence that no one has EVER said before. I wasn’t too good at it.
Taylor’s best response was: “The universe told me to put down the toilet seat.”
I don’t know if it was because we were exhausted or because we had been traveling for 15 hours that day, but that comment sent all three of us into a hysterical fit of laughter. It was unstoppable. It got so bad that my eyes were watering and I thought I may have to pull over!
We drove through 8 states and got to stop and see friends along the way. I was able to visit with friends in Nashville, Arkansas, New Mexico, and California.
The Grand Canyon was definitely a highlight of the trip. I’d say it’s exactly what I expected it to be, a GRAND canyon! It was so HUGE. It stretches wider and goes deeper than you can see. As we walked around the southern rim, I was amazed at the enormity of this wonder of the world.
Just as beautiful as the Grand Canyon were the sunsets we saw in New Mexico and Arizona. Shades of blue and bright orange blurred together over the jagged rust colored mountains. We must have said “wow” 1,000 times on this trip. There just wasn’t a word to describe the beauty of the moment.
Tonight we are in Santa Barbara, which is our last stop before we arrive in Mill Valley tomorrow evening. Santa Barbara is the closest thing I’ve seen to Hawaii on the mainland. The mountains descend into the ocean and palm trees sway along the coastline. The difference is that the weather is crisp and cool, like an October day in North Carolina.
Tonight we watched the sun set from a pier and then came back to our hotel. The courtyard has a heated pool and a fireplace. It was the perfect setting for a night like tonight. The three of us dipped our feet in the pool and lay down, gazing at the stars in the dark sky, with palm trees surrounding us.
It was silent for a while. Then Taylor voiced the thing all three of us were thinking.
“I’m afraid this might be the end of the Brunson kids.”
None of us wanted to admit it, but I guess reality is beginning to sink in as we’re nearing the end of our trip. I’ll be in California for the next two years, Nathan will graduate from college this year and probably move somewhere else, and Taylor will be heading off to college soon. Before we know it, we will start getting married and having families of our own. All of us knew that moments like tonight will now be a rarity.
As a girl who enjoys change and independence, I was surprised to feel my eyes well up with tears. It wasn’t a completely sad moment. It was more a reflection on the great experiences we have had, not only on this trip, but throughout our whole lives. I am overwhelmingly grateful to have the family that I do. A family that truly enjoys being together, yet loves me enough to let me explore and follow God’s call, even when that means being away from them.
As we continued to look up at the stars with our feet dangling in the warm water, I put my head on Taylors shoulder and smiled.
“This isn’t the end of the Brunson kids,” I thought. This is simply the beginning of another phase of our lives. It may look a little different, but we’ll always be family.
Thursday, August 5, 2010
I often find myself in this position when I’m facing a task that is far too daunting to complete on my own.
Since I was a little girl, I’ve had an independent nature. When I was just six years old, I got on an airplane by myself and went to visit my grandparents for a week. Being on my own didn’t faze me, even as a child.
As I’ve grown and matured, that independent spirit has gone with me. I enjoy going places on my own and being put in situations where I don’t know anyone and have to find my own way.
Sometimes, though, I need a sharp reminder that I am completely incapable of doing anything on my own.
This tends to hit me right before something significant is about to take place. For example, the two summers that I worked as a counselor for Fuge camps, I had a breakdown the night before the first day of camp.
Just when I thought I was prepared and ready to lead a group of students, I was suddenly terrified at the thought. I vividly remember the night in 2008 when I was up late preparing my Bible study room for the campers that were to arrive the next day. I was shaking in fear that I would fail at my job. I kneeled down on the dirty tile floor and cried out to God to equip me for the task that was ahead of me. God truly humbled me that night and showed me that it is foolish to try to do anything apart from Him.
I’ve experienced this before I go on mission trips as well. I can be completely packed and ready to go, but if my heart is not prepared for service, I’m not prepared at all. Before I went to Sri Lanka this year, God really shook me. It was almost as if He was saying, “Just because you’ve been to Sri Lanka many times doesn’t mean that you can do this on your own. You need to trust in ME.” I needed that reminder.
Tomorrow I am embarking on another journey. I’ll be leaving my home, my family, and all that is familiar to me, and heading to Golden Gate Seminary. A few days ago, I had another “facedown” moment where I was completely humbled and cried out for God to strengthen me with His power.
As excited as I am, I definitely have some fears as well.
This is perhaps the biggest leap of faith I’ve ever had to take. At times, I second guess myself and wonder if it’s really necessary to go to the opposite end of the country where I don’t know many people. But then I’m reminded of the clear sense of direction I had when I chose which school to go to. I know that God is faithful and He will always, always provide. The key is to make sure that I’m dwelling in Him…not in myself.
So as I make this transition I want to be constantly aware of God’s greatness and my weaknesses. And when I start to think I can go through life on my own, I pray that I will once again fall facedown, desperate for God.
Saturday, July 17, 2010
I've been a bad, bad blogger.
Instead of stressing myself out by writing a novel about the past two months, I'll just give the cliff notes version.
This summer has been a whirwind of adventure, fun, and relaxation. Once I got back from Hawaii I had about six days at home before I boarded another airplane and went across the world in the opposite direction.
Destinaton: Sri Lanka.
This was my fourth trip to my beloved country and boy did it confirm how much I love that place and those dear people!
God rocked my world. I was reunited with some of my best friends and I can't remember the last time I exerienced that much joy. When I pulled up to Hikkaduwa (my favorite village)it felt like Christmas, my birthday, and my wedding day combined...that's how EXCITED I was! Tears of joy streamed down my face as I hugged Hashinka and Kasun and picked up Dineshika, who had grown up so much in the past three years!
What a blessing it was to be back. When I left this time, I had a peace and a strange feeling that my time there may never be "finished." For as long as I live, I want to make an effort to return to those people. This trip in particular I had a sense that I could definitely live there if God called me to. I feel more at home in Sri Lanka than I ever have in America. So anyways, I'm open to that possibility :)
Once those two weeks were over I spent time visiting family in Georgia, went to Centrifuge in Tennessee as a chaperone with my youth group, and spent the week after at Caswell for World Missions Week. Each of those experiences were wonderful and different.
This is the first full week I've actually been home so it's been nice to hang out with family, visit friends in the area and at Campbell, and just reflect on the recent and upcoming happenings in my life.
I miss Hawaii a lot, but at least flights from SFO to HNL are reasonable!
So now I'm home for a few weeks gearing up for the big move to.....San Francisco! This trip has completely crept up on me but now that it's so near I'm getting very excited. My brothers and I will be leaving the first week of August to drive across the country.
It'll be a looooong trip, but hopefully a fun adventure for the three of us. We'll stop along the way and see many States I've never seen before.
As excited as I am about going to Golden Gate, I don't know that I've fully comprehended how drasticly my life will change in a few weeks. I think it will be a good change. Just like Hawaii was. People keep asking me if I'm nervous about the move and I can honestly say that I'm not. I enjoy going new places, meeting new people, and being faced with new challenges. To me, change makes life more exciting and it causes me to rely on God more than I would if everything was comfortable.
So I'm ready to embrace a new phase of my life and discover more of who God has created me to become. I pray that He will mold me more and more every day to be more like Him.
Saturday, May 29, 2010
I am sitting on an airplane right now, thousands of feet above the sea, and already thousands of miles away from Hawaii.
I can’t believe I’m gone. This whole week has been emotionally draining. I knew the end was coming, I just didn’t want to acknowledge it.
The word “Goodbye” began to flow off the tip of my tongue from saying it so often. Farewells are never fun for me, but these goodbyes have been some of the hardest I’ve ever had to say.
I guess it just feels so permanent.
Yeah, I’m sure I’ll come back to Hawaii often. But it will only be for a week here and there. I won’t live there. I won’t be a part of the IBF church family any more, I won’t see my friends on a daily basis. I won’t be able to drive 5 minutes and see the most breathtaking view I’ve ever seen every day.
I know that change is imminent and eventually, this year of bliss would have to come to an end.
I still feel sure that God has called me to go to seminary next year and I rest assured that He will provide new friends, a new community, and new adventures.
But part of me is nostalgic as my heart aches to turn this plane around and go right back.
I still clearly remember the day I came to Hawaii 10 months ago. I was absolutely thrilled, overflowing with energy. A brand new adventure was in front of me and I was just getting started!
Today felt like the polar opposite of that day.
The normally sunny, beautiful Hawaii was rainy and gloomy all afternoon. It only added to the sorrow I felt inside. I said goodbye to dear friends all day. With each goodbye, my heart ached more and more. Soon it was time to go to the airport. I put my bags in the car and took one last look at the place that has impacted my life so greatly and drove off, not knowing when I will return.
For the most part, I had held myself together up until this point. But after I checked in and had to say goodbye to Joy, Roger, Amy and Karlie, I couldn’t hold it in any longer. Roger prayed for us and as he did, tears began to flow.
I simply couldn’t believe it was time to go. I was sad not only about parting with some of my closest friends, but I was sad that this amazing phase of my life is coming to an end.
As I waved goodbye and walked toward the security line, I was crying so hard I was embarrassingly wailing. In the process of trying to crawl under one of the security lanes, I knocked over a pole and made a scene…whoops!
We’ve been in the air about five hours now and I can’t stop thinking about the amazing people I’ve left behind. But I’m beginning to see leaving in a more positive light.
Instead of tears of sadness, my tears now come from thinking about the incredible experience I have had in the past year. I feel like I have changed in many ways. I’ve gained experience and relationships with people from all over the world; People that I really hope to visit in their countries one day.
I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to serve as a missionary in Hawaii. I could have gone straight to seminary or gotten a job that paid a decent salary. But I wouldn’t trade this year for anything.
This year I’ve been able to live on my own on one of the most beautiful islands in the world. I developed an appreciation for nature I never had before. I faced adventure and went on hikes, traveled to three neighbor islands, explored a volcano, did every type of “diving” possible! (cliff, sky and scuba), began to take better care of myself health and exercise-wise. I learned how to share my faith in a way that is not intimidating like I once thought. Overall, this year has been one of growth and maturity.
Praise God for the work He is doing in my life and for the things He has taught me in Hawaii.
This will most definitely be one of the most memorable years of my life.
The Hawaii chapter of my life may be over, but I’m looking forward to the next steps. I’ll be so happy to be reunited with my family in a few hours and with my Sri Lankan family next week. And seminary is just around the corner.
Thanks for journeying with me,
Friday, May 28, 2010
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
The summer of 2005, my dad asked me to go with him to Sri Lanka to help with tsunami relief. Well, maybe he didn’t really need me to help, but I think he wanted me to be exposed to that part of the world and see the needs of the people. A week after graduating from high school, I hopped on a plane and flew halfway around the world to a country I had only seen on a map in my World History class.
I had traveled out of the country several times before, and I had seen poverty. But nothing could have prepared me for the heart-breaking scenes I would see when I stepped out of the airport into the hot, humid, dirty, beautiful city of Colombo. On the ride down to Galle, my eyes were glued to the side of the road. What used to be people’s homes was now nothing more than a pile of mud. Houses and people were swept away. We stopped at a tsunami camp along the way. People had been camping out in tents for 6 months, waiting for homes that were promised by the government, but in reality not expected to ever be built. A woman ran up to me crying, begging me in her language to help her. Her children were starving, she lost her husband, she had no money…she was nothing but skin and bones.
My eyes were wide in disbelief. I was frightened and confused. My heart was breaking. The needs were so overwhelming that it felt hopeless. Like there was nothing I could do that could possibly make a difference. I wanted to run away and burst into tears. Instead, I sat on the dirt floor of this ladies’ tent and did the only thing I could. Listen. I was silent most of the time. I mean, what do you even say in a situation like that?
The next summer I was able to return to Sri Lanka for 10 weeks. A year and a half had passed since the tsunami, yet still, people were suffering. Being there for over two months allowed me to develop deep friendships with the people in the villages and at Calvary church. I became known as “Merry,” since my name is difficult for them to pronounce.
One of my favorite things was driving up to my favorite village (Hikkaduwa). The kids would hear our van coming down the dirt path and would run from every direction, smiling and eager to play. “Merry! Merrrrry!!!” they would sing, “Play?!”
I fell in love with the people. They became my “akkas and ayyas”, my “yaluwas” (sisters and brothers, friends). The family I lived with became like family. We would sit around the table and laugh, despite our cultural and language barriers. I loved worshiping with my church family at Calvary. The church was so hot I always left feeling as if I had been baptized in my own sweat, but I didn’t mind. It didn’t matter that the guitars were out of tune and the sermon was in a language I didn’t understand. I realized that God is the same in Sri Lanka as He is in my air-conditioned church in America. People all over the world encounter Him and praise Him in unique ways. That was just one of the many lessons I learned.
By the time August rolled around, I wasn’t ready to go home. I loved the simple life I had found on that small island in the Indian Ocean; The life of waking up to Buddhist monks chanting in the distance, drinking Milo on the front porch of our bungalow, wearing shorts and a t-shirt every day, and never wearing makeup or fixing my hair. The life where possessions don’t matter. All that matters is family, and spending time with people, and praising Jesus. Instead of watching movies on rainy days, we would play carrom for hours, laughing and goofing off.
I knew I would miss it. I just didn’t realize how much. The next few months were really tough for me. I struggled when I got back to the states. I don’t know that I would call it depression, just extreme homesickness for…Sri Lanka. My heart ached to be back on that island. To play with those precious children again and show them that they are loved by a God who is bigger than any wave that could threaten to sweep away their hopes for the future.
I couldn’t stay away for long. The next summer I went back again, this time for six weeks. When I went in 2007, I felt in my heart that it would be my last trip for a while. I wanted to experience other things and travel other places, but I needed to go that last time for closure and to soak up every smell, feel and sound of my beloved country.
That summer was beautiful. I had a wonderful reunion with my friends and met new people as well. My faith was challenged and strengthened at the same time. I wept as I visited a dying woman in a mud hut in a distant jungle. I rejoiced as I witnessed God heal a paralyzed man in front of my eyes! As my weeks in Sri Lanka came to an end, I was filled with heartache and joy at the same time.
It’s been nearly three years now and though I’ve experienced and changed much since that last summer, the memories I have of those dear people are just as vivid as ever. I see their faces on my wall every day and pray for them. I think a part of me will always remain in Sri Lanka.
I’m so happy to say that I will be traveling back to the most special place in the world in just over a month. This trip will be shorter than most, only two weeks. But it will be long enough for me to be reminded of the beauty of that country and its people. I realize many of the children probably won’t remember me because they were young at the time. But I remember them. Dineshika and Chompee and Hashinka and Ashini Hansika. I can’t wait to hug them and show them pictures from when “Merry Akka” used to play with them.
My heart is singing. It’s good to be going home.
Sunday, April 25, 2010
There's something very satisfying about marking things off of a to-do list. It makes me feel like I'm working towards a goal and it's liberating to accomplish those tasks. But today as I was journaling in a cute coffee shop in Kailua, I realized how depressing it would be to have accomplished all of my life goals by the time I'm 23. Impressive, yes...but it would kind of take away much of my ambition and excitement for the future.
So I decided that while it's good to have dreams and hopes for the future, I don't want my life to be all about marking things off of a list. I want to live in the moment and soak up every precious second God has given me.
There were three things left on my list that I have yet to do:
1. travel to every continent (still need to go to Africa and Australia)
2. get married and have kids (don't have much control of this one, but I'm still holding out hope!) , and
3. work in an orphanage in Africa or India.
I'd still love to do all of these things one day, but I guess that recently I've come to realize that maybe those goals aren't what I should focus on.
Maybe instead I should be living each day as if it was my last, looking for ways that I can delight in the here and now and bring joy to other people's lives. I still feel young, but I'm probably already a third of the way through my life. This world is so temporary. Even if I accomplish every goal I have in my lifetime, the reality is that no one will know or care, quite frankly.
But if I spend my time pouring into other people. Being selfless with my time and resources. Serving and loving others. Maybe, just maybe, that will make an impact on someone.
So I have a new life goal. Maybe it'll be my life mission statement for now:
Live each day as if it's my last. Treasure each moment. Laugh. Enjoy being with those I love. Do everything without complaining. See the good in every situation. Love people, regardless of whether they love me back. Show the world what God's love is all about.
Now there's a goal I don't have to worry about accomplishing by this time next year. I'm pretty sure it'll take a lifetime...but at least I'll have a goal to work toward by the time I'm 90 ;)
Sunday, March 14, 2010
Karlie, me and Yoko at my bday party
Since I'm in a list-making mood, here are a few goals I have before I leave Hawaii.1. Go sky-diving
2. Go to Kauai or Molokai
3. Take advantage of the beautiful scenery by being outside and exercising at least 3 or 4 times a week.
4. Share my faith with friends who don't know Jesus.
5. Wear sunscreen. As much as I'd like to think I've built up an immunity to sunburn, the lobster I see in the mirror right now is telling me otherwise.
That's all for now. Hope to have a more substantial blog coming soon.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
I felt like that the other day. I had been constantly surrounded by people for the past week and my time with God had been cut short. Other than reading a few chapters of the Bible before closing my eyes each night, my "quiet time" had been lacking the depth and intimacy that I've known in the past.
I needed to get away and just be alone with God.
So I packed my bookbag, grabbed my guitar, and headed off to Spitting Caves, my favorite spot on this island. I'm pretty sure I've blogged about this place before. It's hidden in between two multi-million dollar houses up in a subdivision about 20 minutes away from where I live. You walk through a narrow path and climb down a few rocks and when you step out, you are standing on huge cliffs with the ocean crashing about 30 feet below. It takes my breath away every time.
I was the only person out there. I could imagine that I was the only person on the earth and Jesus had come to meet with me on that cliff. I had brought my Bible and journal and other books, but I didn't crack a single one of them open for the few hours I was there. The majority of the time I simply sat and admired God's creation.
My ipod was playing a song by Christy Nockels called, "A Mighty Fortress." I was so moved by the words.
"Our God is jealous for His own
None could comprehend His love and His mercy
Our God is exalted on His throne
High above the heavens, forever He's worthy
We will keep our eyes on you
We will keep our eyes on you
A mighty fortress is our God
A sacred refuge is Your name
Your kingdom is unshakeable
With You forever we will reign."
So as I'm listening to this song and singing at the top of my lungs, I look out in the distance and I see whales spouting water and flipping their tails! I laughed and couldn't contain my joy as I watched God's marvelous creation. I felt like God was putting on a show just for me. As if the whales weren't enough, a pack of dolphins swam right beneath me. They jumped up in the air and did flips and played with one another as if they, too, were experiencing the joy that I had at that moment.
I stood on the edge of the cliff and looked into the deep blue water. As the breeze blew against me, it was almost as if I could audibly hear God whispering, "My daughter...this is how much I love you." Though the sun was warm, my skin was covered with goose bumps. It was one of the most intimate worship experiences I've ever had.
I felt like God was wrapping his arms around me and showering me with his presence. It was as if God was singing me a love song. Though I was completely alone out there, never in my life have I felt so loved. I was so overwhelmed in that moment that I began to feel tears on my cheeks. Before I knew it, I was weeping...I just couldn't understand how God could possibly love me so much.
I lifted up my hands and reached as high as I could in an attempt to get even closer to God. If only I could reach out and touch him. I felt so free and so overwhelmed with God's presence. I didn't want to leave.
Once the sun began to set and I had to head home, I took one last look at the ocean and made a mental note to never forget that day. I knew that this would be one of those "spiritual markers" that I will look back on and remember how much God loves me when I begin to doubt .
I was still in awe as I was driving home. I prayed out loud, "Man, God....I should spend time with you more often."
And it's so true. I wonder how many moments I have missed out on because I am so consumed with myself. That day God really showed me that every day He is eagerly waiting for me to spend time with Him. To dwell in His presence and just sit with Him and talk to Him.
I want to experience this more. And I have a feeling it doesn't have to be on a cliff with whales and dolphins. He is waiting for us every day to come to Him and experience His love in the simplest ways.
God, sing me another love song.
Friday, January 29, 2010
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
It's Wednesday, December 16th, and I'm on my way home to Raleigh from Honolulu.
I get to the airport and try to do the self check-in deal and get this response: "We were unable to complete your transaction. Take the information card to an agent for assistance."
"Hmmm….weird," I think to myself as I take my place in the back of a very long line snaking its way around the desk with only two people working.
After waiting in line for 30+ minutes, it is my turn. My bag weighs 46.6 pounds. Phew! I made it under the 50 lb. limit! But the lady at the counter has a puzzled look on her face. "Yikeseeeez" I think.
"Ms. Brunson, we can't seem to locate your ticket." She goes on to tell me I should have a paper ticket (which I don't have) blah blah blah. She calls someone and I wait 30 more minutes. Another lady comes and fixes the problem, apologizes for the wait, and gives me a ticket that says "Gold lane" on it. This makes me feel special. At this point I have 30 minutes until my plane leaves. All I need to do is clear security.
I proudly take my place in the "gold lane" only to discover that they are letting people in the other lines go ahead of me.
"But they aren't GOLD!!!" I wanted to yell…but I didn't.
I get to the dreadful conveyor belt where you have to strip down and unpack your bags. I know I'm running way behind schedule and I'm nervous about missing my flight.
"This is wasting my time," I think as I place my bag on the belt, forgetting my laptop was inside.
"Whose bag is this?" a security lady yells while holding up a black book bag that ironically reads "student missions."
"That's mine," I sigh as a man lectures me on how laptops have to be put in a separate container before you can put it through the belt thing. He takes my bag and puts it through the belt again which seems to be getting longer as the seconds tick by.
I have no time to reassemble my belongings, so I take off sprinting with my backpack flopping behind me, my purse clinging to my side and a reusable grocery bag full of cookies securely positioned under my arm.
But before I make it out of security, a man stops me and says, "Ma'am, mind if I have a look in your bag? I need to make sure you don't have any fruits or anything."
At this point, I'm frustrated. "All I have is cookies," I say as he begins to slowly inspect every single item in my bag. He finally hands it back and as I get in my running stance again he says, "How about your purse?"
"SERIOUSLY?! Do I look like a terrorist?!" I wanted to say as I opened my purse and showed him my harmless camera, wallet, phone and chapstick.
"Okay, you can go," he said.
So I take off sprinting and run right up to my gate which appears to already be boarding.
Out of breath, I hand the lady my ticket and she says, "Um...Ms. Brunson, we haven't called your group yet. You are group 4. This is first class. You need to wait."
My days of being a gold member were short-lived, but I embraced the dejection with humility and took my place in line with the other low-lifes like myself.
Group 4 is called. I hand the same lady my "ticket."
She says, "This isn't a ticket…he took your ticket back there right?"
I don't know who "he" is and I sure didn't give him anything, but I smile and say "Yes," and she allows me to proceed.
I take my place in seat 19A, conveniently placed in front of a screaming baby (as if I don't hear enough of those every Tuesday morning J)
The movie actually looks like it will be good. Hallelujah! I plug in my headphones…no sound. "Yours must be broken," the flight attendant says. Awesome.
I'm getting hungry but don't want to pay $10 for the Boston Market meal, so I opt for the $4 cheese and crackers. I get four small crackers, one piece of cheese, a small box of raisins, and a small bag of peanuts (I remember the days when those were free on airplanes!)
I devour my lunch and order my usual airplane beverage: Cranapple juice mixed with Sprite. The flight attendant hands me a can of Sprite and a can of Cranapple juice. Then she gives me a cup of ice….and then holds out another cup of ice.
I stare at her blankly. "But…I…only…need…one cup of ice because I mix the drinks together…" I'm slowly thinking. "Is she trying to give this to me? Or maybe the girl next to me?"
Finally she says, "Taaaake iit" like she knew I was clueless.
With a confused look on my face I take the second cup of ice while thinking that American Airlines is killing the environment by giving out completely unnecessary plastic cups.
I down my cranberry/sprite concoction while the ice melts in the other cup. I drink both cans. After all, dad always tells me to drink plenty of fluids when I'm flying so I don't get dehydrated.
Well…my bladder isn't that big as it is and when you drink two cans…you gotta GO!
I'm in the window seat, so I ask the girls next to me if I can please slip past and go to the bathroom. I go and come back, feeling much better. Not 15 minutes goes by before I have to go again! I try to hold it out of embarrassment for having to go so much and don't want to ask the girls to move again. I hold it for a few more minutes when all of a sudden…dun dun dun… TURBULENCE!
"Ladies and gentlemen, please fasten your seatbelts and remain seated until the light goes off." With each bump we hit my bladder is telling me I should have gone earlier. The girl next to me is trying not to throw up (she doesn't like flying and this is the worst turbulence she's ever experienced). I, on the other hand, am trying not to wet my pants.
The seatbelt sign is still on, but I have no other option. I defiantly unbuckle my seatbelt and cling to each chair that I pass, trying not to fall on my face. The bathroom seems so far away.
The flight attendant is buckled in her chair and says to me, "Be careful, the seatbelt sign is on."
I laugh nervously and say, "Sorry…I gotta go."
The silver toilet with weird blue stuff in it looks like a beautiful throne and I breathe out a sigh of relief. I never knew what the white handle in the bathroom was for until that moment. I held on for dear life as the plane shook violently beneath me. But at that point, it didn't matter. I was exactly where I needed to be.