Dissonance

In my college communication classes, we called it cognitive dissonance, that feeling of friction you get when what you’re doing doesn’t necessarily line up with what you believe.

That’s where I’m at.

Cognitively dissonant.

I’m in graduate school right now, studying human rights and human trafficking. I’m here because I lived in Thailand a couple years ago, where I actually saw human rights abuse and human trafficking happen all around me. I lived it out. And when I got home, there was no way I could do anything but spend the duration of my years fighting those things.

So that brought me to Colorado. To one of the best graduate schools in the country for international studies. And now I spend my days listening to long lectures. I spend my nights reading endless books on human rights. I spend my Saturdays doing hours and hours of research. And I’m learning things that are completely altering how I think about these issues and the needs that exist within this field. I’m getting a better handle on exactly what I want I want to do someday.

But today, I’m cognitively dissonant.

Because I want to be back there. Maybe back in Thailand, because God, how I miss those brilliantly smiling faces gracing my bedroom walls. But maybe elsewhere. Anywhere, really, where I can help. Where I can bring restore dignity and create change. Because as I sit here staring at those smiling faces on my bedroom walls, it’s hard to realize that, for a season, I have left them, in order to live this completely comfortable Western life, to pay a lot of money for this fancy little degree in this incredibly privileged, academic setting.

Dissonance.

Pattaya-198

Pattaya 1 Pattaya 2

And in this same moment I could expound to you all the reasons why I’m here. And I do know I am called here, that this is my role and my task right now. And He whispers those reasons to me daily: that I am being prepared, that right now I am called to learn, that He wants to use my intellect and not just my heart, that before I can create change, I must learn how to best do so. And already in these first weeks of school, my thoughts on human rights and human trafficking have been turned upside down. The ways I thought were best are clearly not. The things I thought I wanted to do are clearly not the most effective ways of bringing the greatest, most lasting change. I can already see how the knowledge I’m gaining is going to completely alter my future. And that’s a good thing. It’s an affirming thing.

But yet.

That doesn’t stop the dissonance. That doesn’t stop the tears that well up in my eyes when I hear my friends’ stories of moving to Africa, or my cousins’ stories of traveling to Thailand to pick up their adopted son, or my best friend’s plans to move to Guatemala, or the stories of advocacy workers right here in Colorado who are changing lives. That’s where I want to be, and sometimes spending an entire Saturday researching “the efficacy of the raid and rescue model” doesn’t quite satisfy my heart.

But I suppose the Lord doesn’t always ask us to do exactly what we want, in our own timing. He doesn’t bring us to what we want, but rather to the things that we are perfectly fitted, by His will, to do. So I trust that. And I trust that these months and years of school are fitting me to carry out His purpose for my life in better waysI trust that while He has me here, He has other people who are bravely and beautifully carrying out His other works. 

So today I’m trusting that the dissonance resolves. Because it always does, right? Just when you think you can’t handle that dissonant chord, when the melody isn’t quite coming together, it does. And when you hear that chord, you breathe a bit easier, and you understand the purpose of the dissonance.

School so far…

Hi there blogosphere,

Long time no talk. It’s just that life in Denver has decided to move at warp speed, and that leaves you, my dear little blog, lonely and neglected. I’m sorry.

So, an update? I’ve started grad school, and it’s no joke. Definitely no breeze-through like undergrad. The workload is never-ending…always another page to read or film to watch or paper to research. Add on a job or two on the side, and I feel like I’m constantly wishing for an extra day in the week. Sleep is oft-neglected. Coffee is oft-utilized. Classes are good, but the workload + content make it difficult to turn off my brain. Studying human rights and human trafficking is tough not only on an academic level, but an emotional one. At times the problems we discuss in class feel too overwhelming to solve and I wonder why the heck I’m studying them. But then I remember that I’m not responsible for saving the world. I just have to be faithful to play my own small part. And for today, that means studying.

What else? I go to the mountains a lot. It keeps me sane. I’ve climbed a couple handfuls of 14ers, and there’s no feeling like sitting at the top of the world, watching the sunrise over distant peaks. Every time I look westward from Denver at those mountains, I’m in awe of the majesty and beauty of creation. I’m thankful I get to live in this beautiful corner of the world.

Mount Bross sunrise

St. Mary's Glacier

Torrey's

Mt. Bierstadt

Other things: I’ve met great friends, found a great church, and live in a great house with great roommates. The logistics of life have settled themselves out, and I have much to be thankful for. I apologize in advance for the coming days and weeks where I’ll be MIA, hiding in the far corners of academia; thus is the life of a grad student. If ever you can’t find me, I’ll be neck deep in human trafficking books and research. Be sure to give me a ring, I’m always in need a good distraction.

Cheers,

db

Officially official {RSVPing to the invitation}

It’s been unofficially official for a several months, but today, it is officially official.

I have clicked the button, I have paid the deposit.

I am going to grad school.

(Insert wild applause here.) Continue reading

Faith and doubt and impossibilities

“When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, ‘Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?’ He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.” {John 6:5-6}

It’s early in Jesus’ ministry. He’s been attracting huge crowds of people who are enthralled with His teachings and amazed by His miracles. They are intrigued by this ordinary looking guy saying and doing extraordinary things. And now 5,000 of them are sitting on the mountainside listening to Him, but they’re hungry. So Jesus and His disciples either have to send them home or figure out how to feed them.

So Jesus asks Philip, “What shall we do?” Continue reading

{a rant}

Twice this month I have had the chance to explain to complete strangers that I intend to get my Master’s degree in International Human Rights.

The first person I talked to about it — a CPA who was doing my taxes — said he admired the fact that I’m doing what I feel called to do, even if it’s not going to make me very much money. Still, though, I could see some wariness in his eyes about the fact that I’m pursuing an ambiguous degree that promises no steady income. Continue reading

learning to be cool-hearted

In Thai culture, there is a deep valuing of what they call being jai yen.

The literal translation of jai yen is “cool heart.” To be jai yen is to be level-headed and laid-back, to allow troubles to simply slide off of you, to be unperturbed when things to wrong. To be jai yen is to be, well, cool-hearted.

It is rare to meet a Thai person isn’t jai yen. We foreigners, on the other hand, are usually jai ron, or hot-hearted. We are uptight, we are easily frustrated by tiny mishaps, we are impatient, we sigh loudly and tap our feet and shift our eyes when things don’t go our way. We get worked up over everything.

I am jai ron.

During my most recent visit to Thailand I was reminded of the value of being jai yen. I was reminded that life is too fleeting to be hot-hearted, uptight and annoyed. It’s too fleeting and too precious to sigh loudly and tap my feet impatiently. Life is too short to allow small inconveniences to upset me. Life is too short to not live joyfully in each present moment, whether good or bad. And in the moments when I choose to be  jai yen, when I live life more gracefully and give out more grace, I am happier. My perspective is broader. My heart is more peaceful.

So I try to be jai yen. And with the Thai people I say mai bpenraino worries…all will be okay…keep smiling.

Cheers. Here’s to being jai yen.

photo by Megan Edmiston

photo by Megan Edmiston

photo by Megan Edmiston

photo by Megan Edmiston

the commonplace things

“We look for visions from heaven, for earthquakes and thunders of God’s power, and we never dream that all the time God is in the commonplace things and people around us. If we do the duty that lies nearest, we shall see Him.” {Oswald Chambers}

I look for God in visions, in dreams, in storms, on mountaintops, in Thailand. And then I find myself back on flat land, back from dreams to the day, the storm has quelled, and I am back in the little Midwestern town I call home. And I find it harder to hear God and so I ask Him where He is.

And He reminds me: He is in this commonplace. Continue reading

The past week, in photos

Some of my favorite shots from the week in Pattaya. Photos by Megan Edmiston.

funny faces

me and mu

Me and Mu…a little giggle monster

cake

Little Cake. So precious.

megan and tip

Megan and Tip

cover photo

Cambodian refugee kids.

nit and nang

Nang and Nit.

me and cambodian girls

megan and girls

Love the drama on Nang’s face (second from right)

me and benz

Benz and me. Love.

smiles, wed slum

Joy.

me and antit

laughing elephant

elephant!

dana sized coffee

That is a Dana-sized coffee cup :)

pattaya