An Invitation to Deconstruction

What comes to mind when you hear the word "deconstruction?" Does it sound intimidating, challenging, complicated, insightful, fun? It's likely a mixture of all of the above. Yet this deconstruction has been one of my very favorite parts of being in graduate school thus far. 

Last Fall I sat down with another student in my program who was about to graduate. I asked her what advice she'd give to someone just starting out, and she said with a slight smirk on her face, to "expect deconstruction." I thought it was a funny thing to say, but just a few weeks later, I experienced this firsthand. 

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Deconstruction is fancy term to explain what happens when you begin questioning everything - from values to beliefs, worldview, bias, and actions. It's a bit unnerving at first, but the end goal is ownership and a lifestyle of action and reflection. In short, deconstruction helps us understand the "why" behind what we do, believe, say, and think. 

How many of you would say you're able to articulate why you do certain things, believe certain things, or say what you say? For most of us it's second-nature; however, when we take the time to examine and reflect on our actions, we open ourselves up to growing and changing. It takes courage to deconstruct and it is my goal to invite you into my deconstruction process so that it becomes a bit easier (or more accessible) for those of you reading. 

I'm in a class right now about ethnicity in the United States and we are in the process of deconstructing cultural values and worldviews. I am realizing how much my Middle-American upbringing has influenced me. It's quite amazing (and humbling). 

Like it or not, each of us is a product of our culture. We grow up being nurtured in a specific cultural context and learn to adopt the worldview of that culture. According to one of my professors at Fuller, "a worldview is a complex multifaceted fabric of beliefs, often submerged, concerning the world - what it is, how its parts interact and the places of humans." In short, worldview is how we see the world. 

There's no right or wrong kind of worldview, contrary to our Western "black and whiteness." It simply exists. I prefer things to be clear and explainable, though that's not really realistic or possible. I hope to continue examining specific cultural values, like time, progress, individualism, and invisible realities. My hope is to move toward other cultures, continue deconstructing my American worldview, and learning to set aside my differences to embrace others. 

Have you ever thought about why you believe what you believe and see what you see?

Consider this your invitation to start exploring the "why" behind what you do and why you do it. Ask friends of different backgrounds what they see and do and compare it to your own understanding. There will likely be differences, but it's important to note these differences are not black and white or right and wrong. Their just different. Self-awareness of our worldview can be a powerful tool in learning to build bridges in community!

From Trekking the Andes to Sitting in LA Rush Hour Traffic

How did I get here? I’ve asked myself this question quite a few times since landing in LA a little over five weeks ago. Just before I was backpacking into mountain villages in Peru #livingmybestlife. 

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In short, I came here to start grad school and got a job to support myself (because life is twice as expensive in SoCal than small town Texas). In many ways, I fulfilled a dream coming out here, and truly I’m grateful. But all dreams come with small moments, too. 

I’m not very good at small moments. Instead, I live for the big, grand adventure, fantasize about taking risks, and constantly have to be doing something. But most of life isn’t like that. Most days it feels small, even when fulfilling a dream. 

I was sitting in traffic a few days ago (I commute an hour both ways to work), and the still small voice started whispering again. Though I leave a little later than most commuters, I’m still making quite a trek from Pasadena all the way to South Bay in Torrance. The elevation changes and so does the temperature, and most days I drive right through downtown. Each time I pass through, I think wow, so this is what it feels like to live in LA

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There are perks, to be sure, but when you haven’t moved in 20 minutes and the podcast you’ve been listening to gets old, it’s easy to lose perspective. The phrase that still voice whispered was “vantage point” and I feel as though I have been given a gift to appreciate the small moments, all of which add up to something really big. 

I’m extremely grateful I had the courage, the support system, and the means to make a big move like this. It’s opened so many things for me. And I want to stay thankful, to see from this vantage point of what a gift this truly is. Today I even thanked God for traffic - I’ve gotten to catch up with friends and family on the phone more than I anticipated, because what else do you do in a car for two hours a day? (I’m also on the hunt for all the podcasts, so HMU if you have suggestions). 

A little over a month ago I was trekking through mountain villages in the Andes mountains - hadn’t showered in days, packed everything in a backpack, and was doing what I love most. But today I’m sitting in the outside patio in front of my office building wearing heels that hurt my feet and eating the cold lunch I packed last night. I actually mourned having to become one of those meal planner people, but it’s honestly the only way to manage eating well when you are gone from 8 to 10. 

I’m sure the small moments will continue to build as my classes at Fuller begin. I imagine myself staying up well into the night writing papers and listening to audiobooks on my drive to and from work. But all of those moments make up a big, God-sized dream - and that’s significant and big and exciting. 

For the first time in a while, I feel as though I have clarity and focus and even an appreciation for small moments. Because I’m seeing from the right vantage point. And because I’m staying thankful. 

A couple days ago at Fuller’s orientation, President Mark Labberton said “smallness is the antipode to worship.” (If you’re like me and had to look up the word antipode, let me save you some time - it’s basically a fancy way to say opposite). When we worship (and stay thankful) in each moment, no matter how small, life gets bigger. And that’s the point at which I want to keep seeing.

Transition: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

Two nights before I left for Peru I had a major freakout moment. My poor friends sat and listened to an unfolding of grief, frustration, anxiety, and doubt as tears spilled over and I began to ugly cry - and I mean ugly. Am I really going to move half way across the country? Do I have to start over? Why am I going to Peru, again? Shouldn't I be saving money? Am I going to lose all my friends? Who decides to pick up their life at the drop of a hat like it's no big deal? It is a big deal! Am I crazy?!

The questions began to surface and then everything spilled over, as if it was the first time I had allowed myself to actually feel all of the questions in the back of my head. To be honest, I almost backed out. But after listening to my emotional long winded rant, my two dear friends encouraged me and gave me space to be heard and to simply be. 

I could have chosen to say no to this next step. And it would have been ok. But years ago I decided I wanted to be a yes woman - no matter the cost, no matter the risk, no matter how my actions were perceived by others. So I said yes. And here I am an hour or two outside Pasadena at a sweet little condo at Big Bear Lake getting ready to move all my belongings into my new home. 

Transition has afforded sweet moments, too, to be sure. Two nights ago as my mom and I were driving into the Grand Canyon, we raced to the first viewpoint to arrive at the perfect moment to catch the last of the sunrise over the canyon. It served as a reminder that I'm catching the good moments, arriving at the perfect time. 

Throughout this cross-country journey, I've spent little pockets of space in some of the most beautiful places. We spent the night at a Bed & Breakfast in St. Elmo, Colorado, hiked the Grand Canyon, and walked the trails at Big Bear Lake. Whenever I pause, taking in the beauty of the space around me, it does something in my spirit. It's as if I'm reminded of how big the world is and how small I am. And it's good to feel small. 

More to come on my cross-country road trip (including my tips and recs for long drives!). Thank you for tagging along with my biggest adventure to date!

There's No Place Like Home

Maybe it's because my team has started to feel like family, or maybe it's simply the charm or character of the city that's drawn my little heart in, but Cusco has started to feel like home. And for this Kansas girl, there's no place like home. With less than three weeks left, I want to capture my favorite things about this city and share them. Perhaps some of you will get the chance to visit some day and feel the same. 

As I'm writing this, our taxi driver who drove my friend Ben and I around to look at apartments four months ago sat down next to me, remembered my name, and asked me about our team and our time here. These people are so trusting, so generous, so family

I think that's the word I'd use to describe this culture compared to others I've interacted with before. From our landlords across the street, to the ministry partners we're working with in the city, our team has felt so included (almost to a fault), valued, and welcomed. Our landlords come over nearly every day - sometimes with good news, sometimes with bad, or sometimes just to say hello. Last week they even invited me to join their family vacation! 

After experiencing this culture (and weighing lots of options), I am so excited to start my Master's at Fuller Seminary in Intercultural Studies with a concentration in Race, Culture, and Reconciliation this Fall. I've always wanted to go back to school, and for the little explorer inside of me, this seems like the perfect fit. 

Traveling for me isn't simply about enjoying new places or adding to my bucket list; it's much more than that. It's about learning new things, challenging myself and ways of thinking, appreciating things about people I am different from, and developing a more holistic picture of our world and how we were made to function in it. 

Cusco has been no exception. I've learned to embrace people quickly (and quite literally through their familial greetings) and let my walls down. I've learned to allow more time for people and for tasks. I've learned a little Spanish and explored so many local gems. Though I will be sad to leave, I'm excited to step into what's next. 

Cusco feels like home, but soon, so will Pasadena, California. Next I'll be stepping into another culture, similar to my own, yet much different than my little Midwest hometown or my six years in the South. For me, experiencing new cultures is a way to keep learning, growing, and challenging myself as I step outside the box, explore, take new ground, and become who I was created to be. 

My Deepest Insecurity & Greatest Strength

Ya'll want to hear one of my deepest insecurities? Well, here goes. I've always been a mover, shaker, gotta keep going kind of girl. Oftentimes it's really hard for me to stay in the same place because I'm constantly dreaming of going or doing something new. So when someone says "you're all over the place", it cuts deep.

My life looks different than a lot of other people my age - I'm not married. I don't have a house. I haven't stayed in a job for more than two years at a time. I don't have kids. On the surface my life may seem "all over the place" or even irresponsible. But then I think to myself, my life is grounded in something unseen and in Someone much bigger than me. 

I signed up for a life of adventure and risk and I'd much rather keep moving than stay put and wake up one morning to find myself stuck. Don't get me wrong - there's nothing wrong with being married, having kids, working a steady job. All of those things are admirable in my opinion! But for some reason, my life has taken a different sort of turn and I wouldn't have it any other way. 

A friend told me recently that she wished she had the courage to take big risks like I did and I honestly didn't think much of it. But now I'm learning to embrace the risk-taker and dreamer inside of me as a strength. It's made me more acquainted with failure, that's for sure. I think we all need a dose of reality and must learn to persevere in the midst of failure. To get back up again and keep risking - that requires a hell of a lot of courage. 

I may be "all over the place", but I'm also courageous and willing to take risks. One such risk was my decision to spend the summer in Cusco, Peru this summer. Though I could have been working, saving money for my next transition (among a million other things), I decided to spend the summer giving my life away, surrendering my rights, adventuring into unknown places, and coming ALIVE in the process. 

The photos above were taken at Lake Titicaca last week. The lake sits on the border of Peru and Bolivia at over 12,500 feet, making it the highest lake in the world. If you're ever in Peru, I'd highly recommend making the trip. 

Further Up & Further In: Cusco, Peru

Well, I live in Cusco. And though it's been harder to breathe at over 12,000 feet, I'm confident this is where I'm supposed to be this summer. The risk feels great, but the reward greater. As I sit here in a little coffee shop in San Blas, I'm reminded of how much of me comes alive in the context of new cultures. My little explorer heart feels as though I can truly exhale and pioneer like I was made to do. 

To me life often mirrors the ascent up a mountain, as if I'm constantly climbing toward the next season, the next stage or next step. I've read and re-read Hinds Feet on High Places so many times my copy is torn in several places, but this allegory resonates so deeply with me. 

I heard a friend once speak of this same allegory. She said the higher you climb, the thinner the air and the fewer the companions. And as I've nestled into my little home in the Andes for the summer, her words have been ringing in my ears as I realize how right she really was. 

As I climb higher, step forward, going further up and further in, the air certainly gets thinner. It's as if my body is responding to the next level and I must learn to compensate for the new altitude. The companions grow fewer as well. The crew that started at the bottom is no longer together and yet I find myself thankful for the unlikely ones beside me.

This summer I have the privilege of climbing with a team of 35 interns and co-leading with some of my dear friends. We've already trekked into remote villages in the Andes (and interacted with some of the most precious people who had never seen foreigners before), served an orphanage outside of Cusco, picked avocados, walked all over Cusco, and even attended a Peruvian salsa dance class. See below for some pictures and highlights from my time so far and keep up with me on Instagram