February 29, 2012

an extra day makes all the difference

Merry Leap Day! An extra 24 hours in our year brings such possibility, doesn't it? 

As you may know, I have an obsession with Ingrid Michaelson. I was lucky enough to be given her new album for my birthday and I. Love. It. It's been playing in my car since I got it but today was the first day I really listened to the words of this song. And I really needed to hear them.

This song is about telling yourself that things will get better if you only wait it out, that things will change if you try harder, and about the day you wake up and find yourself in the same place as when you first starting making those promises.

So on this Leap Day, a toast: Here's to setting things in motion.

PS- If you don't listen to the song, at least read the lyrics.

February 28, 2012

india, in pictures

Lots of photos, minimal text, though there's a story behind each one.

the team

prepping for a thousand attendees

john paul jackson conference
a crowd of street boys came in during conference tear down
little street boy who had the most interesting eyes
I naively didn't know this disease still existed.
a team member praying for a patient at the hospital

village outreach
loved their hair
women working in the village, beating pods off of beans
three generations of women (and my mom)
some kids were just getting home from school as we were leaving
this is breakfast, which looks exactly like lunch

abandoned gold mines, which destroyed the local economy
Praveen looking model-esque
sunset at the gold mines

Praveen and Arya

henna time

Ahnbu is super skilled

no touching anything for a few hours

February 27, 2012

india, part III

Near the end of our time in India, we had the opportunity to travel to some pretty remote villages to meet the people there and tell them about this guy named Jesus. You'd be surprised how many people had never heard His name before. I know I was.

one of the many gods
Out of everything that we did in India, this terrified me to the core. Here we were, a group of Americans, heading into very traditional Hindu villages to tell them that they didn't need to worship the 3 million gods they are burning incense for in effort to seek peace and comfort, that there was only One and He was seeking them. It's sort of a foreign concept to them that there would be a God  created them, who wanted them, who loved them just because.

So we went into these villages, armed with stickers and candy, to meet and pray with people. Our large group of twenty was broken down in to small group of 4-5 and we took one translator with us. (Out of all the people I met in the villages, not one spoke any English, not even the kids who went school.) 

We would walk into the village and speak to the people that were working outside; women doing laundry or dishes outside of their homes. As custom, they would invite us to come inside their house. We would remove our shoes at the door. Most homes were a single room. Sleep mats would be rolled up in the corner and there would be a space for cooking on the other side. No electricity, no TV, no indoor plumbing.

a young woman and her daughter
One of us would usually begin by telling a little bit about ourselves and how we saw God move in our lives. My story went something like this. (Keep in mind this is being translated so I had to speak in short sentences and only use words that I knew the translator would understand, too.)

My name is Hannah and I live in the United States. I have a very large family and have many brothers and sisters. I am the oldest girl.  When I was 19, my mom had a baby and he became very sick and died when he was three years old. I became very sad and my heart was full of pain. I did not know what to do so I prayed and asked Jesus to heal me. Now I am happy and full of joy. I know I will see my little brother in heaven someday.

For real, it was something like that. After that they would usually ask questions. Then came the really scary part: They would want to be prayed for. Out loud. In front of people. And that is usually when I would forget how to speak.  I don't pray in bible language. I pray like I talk to you, like how I write.

 me looking pretty awkward and mute

So many people wanted prayer for healing, which is something that I struggle with so much, having first-hand experience that just because you pray for healing doesn't make it happen. God's not a vending machine. 

I learned quickly that God's power doesn't depend on my level of faith, or how eloquently I pray. To be 100% honest, I didn't expect anything to happen when I prayed for people. But it did. Our team saw so many miracles; I'm talking like instant healings. And sometimes we saw nothing instantaneous. I used to have a really tough time reconciling these vastly different scenarios. Why does God chose to heal one person and not another? But now? Now it doesn't matter. 

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! 
How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! 
"Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?" 
"Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?"
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.

ETA: I originally published these posts in February. Shortly after that, we got an email saying our group was under intense watch by some people who were not so nice and Ravi's life was being threatened. (While it's not technically "illegal" to be a Christian in India, they often come under intense persecution.)  I took these posts down and made them slightly more vague. Now that some time has passed, I'm going to re-post them. Apologies if you're seeing them again in  Reader.

getting uncomfortable

Greetings, friends, and Happy Monday to you!

Since my return from India I'm frequently asked "How was your trip?" This question is so hugely weighted for me that I struggled to answer. How does one summarize such a life-changing experience? Having had two-plus weeks to process, there is one word that keeps coming to me. My trip was confirming.

Let me unpack that a little. As human beings, one of our core desires is to be comfortable. No one likes to walk around in a constant state of unknown or anxiety, which makes us seek the familiar and why the phrase "comfort zone" is even in our vocabulary. 

A little cheesy but accurate.

One of the things that kept me from signing up for the India trip when I first heard about it was that I knew it would push me incredibly far out of my comfort zone. I also knew that by going, I was going to grow and I went with that expectation. And grow I did! Things that would have taken me a year to figure out on my own were confirmed and validated in two weeks... things about myself and who I am, things about God and who He is, and things about the direction my life is heading. It was exciting. It was terrifying. It was worth it.

Here's the thing: Nothing awesome ever happens in your comfort zone. This statement is true when it comes to your faith, your running, your relationships... Growth and improvement come when you take a risk and push past the point of what's comfortable (normal) for you.

This past week was my first full week of planned workouts, including four running workouts for a total of 21.5 miles. My paces look nothing like they did back in October but I'm on my way. Already included in my plan: intervals (albeit short ones) but I'm getting uncomfortable 800 meters at a time.

I'll leave you with this quote. It's one of my favorites.

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now. ― Goethe

February 26, 2012

january new restaurants

Yep, this one is late, too. I'll be back on track this month. Promise. Anyway... In keeping with #3 on my 2012 goals list, here's a list of all the new places I went to in January. And again, since I'm not a food blogger, there are zero pictures and not a heck of a lot of descriptive wording, just enough to prove that I was there!

Kings Wine Bar- drinks
Cute little place with a decent wine list. Just had wine but their food menu looks good. I'll probably go back for food eventually.

Common Roots- brunch
I got veggie enchiladas, no eggs. They came covered in jalapenos which I loved, but it got a little spicy toward the end.

Reg Stag- brunch
Didn't want to risk eating eggs and didn't feel like pancakes so I settled on a Reuben with fries, a Bloody Mary and a few glasses of diet coke. I was fighting a hangover that got progressively worse after this meal.

Prohibition- drinks
Read all about it here.

Monte Carlo- dinner
Marine Salad with shrimp, scallops, lobster and a hard boiled egg! Really fresh, really good.(Random side note: This was the first time I had eaten an egg without getting sick in months. Since this meal, I've gradually re-introduced eggs into my diet without incident. Winning!)

Brasa- dinner
I looked at their menu online ahead of time and was a little worried it was going to be a glorified Famous Dave's. It pretty much is, but the food is amazing. I highly, highly recommend the Apple & Cabbage Slaw as a side.

The Loon Cafe- dinner
Went there after going to Crashed Ice in St. Paul. All I wanted was warm comfort food so I ended up with my go-to sammy, the Reuben.

Travail- the most amazing dinner

February 25, 2012

new and old normal

I've been a little mum about my workouts as of late, mostly because they were incredibly sporadic and I was eager to use any excuse I could to postpone my return to running. Skip a workout for Happy Hour? Sure, I'm going to India for two weeks anyway.... Early morning workout? But I'll have to scrape ice off my car... As you can tell, I was really searching for anything to stay in my state of flabby inactivity.

But no more! I'm back from India and realized my plan of not having a plan won't work for me. Though I'm the furthest thing from Type A, I'm totally Type A when it comes to training. So now I'm back to developing weekly training schedules and logging my workouts and Monday, February 20 was my first one.

When I put my Garmin on on Monday, I noticed that my last Garmin run was October 20, a run of 8 miles at a 7:51 average pace, an 'easy' run for me. Four months to the day of near inactivity (partially voluntary).

So far I've successfully completed five days of planned workouts, including a five mile run with my brother earlier this week. As much as it pains me to say it, this is the New Normal for me:

 Yes, a 9:42 average pace is now my "conversational" pace.

And the Old Normal is this:

Me and my sister Amy. She can pull off brunette.

I was a brunette for a total of 26 days but the blonde is back.

February 22, 2012

how to get into travail kitchen

Hi friends! This post is ridiculously late (I first mentioned my trip here in January ) but I will blame it on INDIA. I reserve the right to use this excuse for my tardiness on most things until further notice.

So Travail. It was named one of America's best new restaurants by bon appetit magazine. And it's in Robbinsdale. For real. My good friend Robert and I went one Friday night in January to celebrate my birthday and his new job at Target.

Read any review on Yelp and you'll find out quickly that Travail is really hard to get into. They don't take reservations because it's a bunch of anti-establishment European-type dudes with scraggly beards and ponytails and tattoos that run the place. In other words, totally my vibe.

The dude in blue is one of the owners, I think. I was trying to discreetly take a picture
of him because I thought he was pretty cute. I'm a sucker for hippie-types.

When you go (which you need to) head straight to the back and ask the bartender to put your name on the chalkboard. We got there around 8 and it was decently crowded but we found two chairs in the waiting area. Order a bottle (yep, a bottle; you'll be there for a while) of wine and an appetizer- I'd go with the cheese plate. Now get ready to wait.

This was so good it almost made me cry. 

After quite a while (maybe 1.5 hours... I had amazing wine and fantastic cheese, who cared about time?!), we were seated at the bar right in front of the kitchen. Friends, if you can sit there, do it! All of the action is happening right in front of you and if you're super nice and charming, the chefs will chat with you and answer all your annoying food question

It was like dinner and a show in one!

Robert and I decided to do the tasting menu which is like twelve courses that you share. Because I'm not a food critic and will pretty much eat anything (seriously), I thought I'd let my Kodak Easy Share do the talking. If you'd like to complain about picture quality, please feel free to buy me a better camera. Warning: Stop reading now if you're the slightest bit hungry. It's about to get real. 

This was a sort of fruit gelatin shooter.
 Interesting. Good. 

Beet salad. When I saw this, I was thinking we'd need a pizza after.

Squid sliders or something like that. Seriously incredible. And different.

Meat plate. Salty and awesome.

Prosciutto wrapped polenta. Yes. Please.
The green on the plate is olive oil. I forget what the orange is (though not egg).

 There was herbed popcorn in the bottom of  the bowl
before they poured in this amazing mushroom soup.
Top five favorite things I've ever eaten.

I don't even remember what this was but I remember liking it.

Scallops with purple potatoes and other amazing things.

A white fish with squash puree. It was after this point that
 I started to go into a food coma. No lie. I was physically in pain.

I did not eat a bite of this but I'm pretty sure this dish was sweetbreads.

Pork. Looked great, didn't eat any of it. So so so full.

Dessert #1- Chocolate covered peanut butter, marshmallow-y things,
 and a macaroon that changed my life. (There's always room for dessert!)

Dessert #2- Make your own "dippin' dots."
Yep, that's liquid nitrogen and we're dropping stuff into it.

After we had made the stuff they scooped it out and onto this plate.
I "burnt" my tongue on the ice cream. Just call me eager.

Quick story: At some point during the night the chefs got a bottle of Jameson from a patron. Being that we were seated directly in front of them, I casually mentioned how Jameson was trouble in a bottle. Approximately thirty seconds later, Robert and I had shots in front of us. Friends, take it from me, excessive food consumption and shots of hard liquor do not mix. Please heed my advice unless you have a very large purse you'd like to vomit in. (For the record, there was no vomiting.)

I did my best to take pictures of everything that came our way but I'm no food blogger and I sort of felt like a weirdo sneaking pictures. I'm sure Robert got tired of hearing Wait, wait, I need a picture first! He's such a good friend! All that to say there was even more food that I didn't take pictures of. You will leave feeling well-fed.

In conclusion, this was one of the best meals that I've had in a very long time. If you can muster up an open mind and a lot of patience, head up to Travail. You won't be disappointed.

February 20, 2012

india, part II

After nearly 24 hours of travel (and learning a few lessons, like how sitting next to a talkative stranger on an international flight is like an awkward first date you can't escape from), we arrived in Bangalore around 12:30 a.m. (India time) and waited to be picked up (and learned that an "Indian 5 minutes" is equivalent to an American hour).

After a very bumpy bus ride, which I remember very little of, we arrived at Campus Crusade for Christ, the first place we'd be staying. While the building had space for hundreds, our team of twenty were its only occupants.

The building was four levels and had an open top level. It was chilly when we rolled in at 4 a.m. and we only had thin blankets to cover up with. I slept in my jacket and sweats but we had to be up at 8 a.m. for breakfast so it's not like it mattered much anyway.

Our room

This toilet gives a whole new meaning to "pop a squat."

And this is the shower. And by shower I mean bucket.

Day 1
In order to keep us awake for the day and acclimated to India time, we had to go shopping. Friends, let me tell you, having to shop while being sleep deprived and supremely culture shocked is an experience. Thank goodness I had brown hair so I blended in. (I say that with only partial sarcasm. My mom has blonde hair and got stopped frequently for pictures or for kids that wanted to see her up close. Can't blame them, she's beautiful.)

Mom handing out stickers to kids

Day 2
these two women were very shy but smiled all the time
After breakfast and a time of prayer, we drove a short way down from our complex to the ACCEPT Center (an acronym for what they do: AIDS Counseling Care Education and Prevention Training). While most of the patients there are adults, they also had a children's home. Most of the kids were at school but four of the littlest ones were there. When we got there, they brought the residents outside so we could sing for them and pray with them. Here's what I wrote in my journal about our experience:

Got there and a group of about twenty residents came out, including four little kids. Sang in front of the group and my knees were shaking so I just closed my eyes and sang. So thankful the kids were there; when it was time to pray I went to them. We played with the guitar and sang Jesus Loves Me, which they knew in English. While singing with them, I couldn't help but cry. One of the little girls kept looking at me, obviously concerned, so I willed myself to stop, which only worked for brief periods.

As cliche as it is to say, smiling really is the universal language and music bridges so many gaps.

After singing we took a tour of the facility and afterward, one of the little girls came up to me, took my hand and led me to the cages of rabbits. She did not speak English but I taught her the names of colors by pointing to objects and saying the color, which she would repeat after me. I can't remember her name but I will never forget her face.

ETA: I originally published these posts in February. Shortly after that, we got an email saying our group was under intense watch by some people who were not so nice and Ravi's life was being threatened. (While it's not technically "illegal" to be a Christian in India, they often come under intense persecution.)  I took these posts down and made them slightly more vague. Now that some time has passed, I'm going to re-post them. Apologies if you're seeing them again in  Reader.

February 15, 2012

four years

Disclaimer: This post is going to fall into the "written more for me than you" category because I need the reminder of where I was, where I am, and where I'm going.

my all-time favorite picture, taken just a few months before
we went back into the hospital for the last time
It's been four years today since Joel went to be with Jesus. I can remember the pain I felt the day Joel died. It's indescribable. On a day when I felt like my world was collapsing on me, I reached for God and He was quiet. I waited in the weeks after for a sense of peace, of relief, of hope, of love... and I felt nothing. So I did something that quite possibly goes against every Christian doctrine: I asked God to leave me alone. Don't pursue me, don't talk to me, don't touch me. And while I know full-well He never left, He did what I asked.

In the video I posted yesterday, John talks about God's willingness desire to love us through mess, through difficulty and through resentment, and how He's not offended by our anger and frustration. Oh my.

About a month ago, while in one of my many moments of why these past four years, I finally heard an answer: Because of the Lord's great love, we are not consumed. I couldn't remember what verse it was or the context of it, but I couldn't get it out of my mind my entire work day. Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed. We are not consumed. 

When I got home that night I found the verse (thanks, Google): Lamentations 3:22. Now the whole book of Lamentations is all whining, a skill I have fine-tuned my 27 years on this earth. But the writer quits whining for a solid five verses (21-26) to focus on the goodness of God. Then these jumped out at me: 28 Let him sit alone in silence, for the Lord has laid it on him. Let him bury his face in the dust- there may yet be hope.... For men are not cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. 


But there's more. 

When I looked up the verse in my little bible, the one that carry with me every day, the bookmark in my bible was on Lamentations 3:22. So there it was, sitting waiting for me for who knows how long. 

I was so broken when Joel died. So broken. But I was not consumed. My family was not consumed. We are here on the other side. Not without pain, not without scars, but we have not been consumed. Because of His great love for us. 

My prayer for you today (and for myself, continuously) is that whatever situation you find yourself in, whether it be grief or pain or anger or waiting, that you come to understand 'how wide and long and high and deep is the love of God.'

Joel, my little bug-  I love you so much but I know it's nothing compared to how He loves us. I miss you and can't wait to see you again.