Thursday, December 8, 2011

That scene from Garden State.

That's the only way I can describe the way it has felt, returning to the states.
If you've seen Garden State (I'm not saying it's the most appropriate for all audiences, but it's definitely a beautiful film worth watching), you will remember the scene when the main character sits on a couch during a party while everyone around him moves in a fast-forwarded blur. That's how it feels to be back for me. All of a sudden, the trip was over and I was back into the world I left and things were moving so fast around me but I couldn't move or speak and I didn't even know how to begin to share stories or pictures or experiences and I certainly didn't know how to re-enter normal life and can everything just pause for one second while I catch my breath or find a spot to focus on before I get dizzy and fall?
But God is faithful and it's getting better, thanks to close friends and family. And being back, I see and feel that God is blessing me with an earthly home, an earthly family, and a purpose to live out. For what more could I ask?
As the Christmas season approaches (I guess it's already here!), I pray you would celebrate Jesus' birth, life, death, and resurrection, and that you would look forward, lamps lit, with anticipation for His coming.
Joy, joy, joy to the world indeed!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Is this real life?

Tonight is our last night in Sydney, Australia, but more than that, it is our last night abroad. Tomorrow we will re-enter the States for the first time in 3 months (to Hawaii!!!) and it is really a strange feeling. I realize I haven't been as consistent with blogging as I had planned, but in my defense, I have excuses. Internet has been super spotty in New Zealand and Australia... Plus, it really is just a pain to type long things on an iPod. So here I am with a new blog, though I'm very unsure what to even write about.
For starters, I suppose I will run through the highlights of our time in NZ and Aus. Skydiving was amazing... Not scary, just fun. :) Blackwater rafting was so incredible!! We basically spent five hours rappelling, tubing, ziplining, and free-climbing in a cave. Also in NZ, we got the chance to stay in a Marae, or traditional village of the native NZ people, the Maori. That is a whole other story in itself. In Cairns, Australia, we spent a day scuba diving and snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef. This was by far the scariest of all the extreme sports, but so worth it. In Sydney we have gotten to see a show at the Opera House, hike in the Blue Mountains, spend some time at the beach, visit Hillsong Church, etc.
Ok. So I do realize how braggy this post could sound. But I say all of this for one reason. So many people, myself included until this trip, buy into the lie that traveling and experiencing it all makes life full. People (particularly those in my generation) buy into the delusion
that a simple life means a meaningless life. While traveling is wonderful, I am here to
tell you, as someone who has been blessed to experience a lot, that nothing brings deep joy and satisfaction like the privilege of knowing Jesus Christ and being adopted by His blood into the Kingdom of God. Knowing Him more, being challenged by Him, watching Him transform my relationship with Logan... Those are the highlights of this trip for me. Honestly. And for that I am so thankful. I cannot wait to see what God will do next semester at OC. Whatever it is, I am believing that a new season of dedication and obedience is on the horizon. I would so appreciate your prayers for the OC campus, as there are so many who call themselves Chistians yet are completely unacquainted with Christ.
On a random note, Logan and I have been listening to a lot of sermons by Matt Chandler, a preacher in Dallas, Texas. The man know how to speak the Word of God!! I highly recommend his lessons... God has really used them to renew Logan and I's relationships win the Lord and bring greater commitment to our faiths.
Blessings to all of you and in the spirit of the Aussies, Happy Christmas season!!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Life in Ibaraki...

is so wonderful!
I really do believe that this home-stay part of the PacRim trip is what makes it so so special. I have been completely immersed in Japanese life, culture, and language, and I really do think I'm learning! I am so blessed to have an amazing host family and second host family (Logan's house parents, Yasuko and Yoshihiro). Noriko-chan, my house sister, and Yuuki-chan, our friend, have been so welcoming and wonderful to me and Logan. And Noriko's family is just the best. Her mom is hilarious and so cute, and although she speaks hardly any English, we somehow manage to make some Janglish conversations. Nori's dad is so so smart, so he knows several really fancy English words, like constitution, atomic energy, etc. What Japanese person knows words like that? Only my otoosan. The Ibaraki Christian students have been so incredibly hospitable to us. I feel like an honored guest. And the days have just been so full of fun. Recently, we went to Tokyo Disneyland for a day while it was decorated for Halloween! So fun. And yesterday, we got to go to the most wonderful on-sen (public bath house) right on the ocean.
Today, we got to have a conversation with a Buddhist monk, and that was such a incredible experience to me. I've been struggling to find a way to communicate my religious beliefs in a culture and a mindset so different from mine, so it was really interesting to speak with a Buddhist monk about beliefs and practices.
As I mentioned in the last post, Japan has been both wonderful and discouraging and challenging for me.  More than anything, I have come to realize that this world offers me nothing that I can't gain from my relationship with Jesus. I am on an amazing trip around the world to some of the most monumental sites in human history. I have also had some amazing opportunities to cross cultural boundaries by having conversations with people from China and Japan. But those are not the moments that stick out in my memory from this trip so far. They are not the moments that most completely blow me away. I am most humbled, amazed, captivated by the moments when I see God working in those around me or in myself. And the more I meet people who do not have the privilege of knowing Jesus, the more I feel the urgency for the knowledge of Him across the world. While I have clearly seen that people can live good lives without Jesus, I can't find anything in the world that compares to the joy and blessing of knowing Christ.

I hope that all is well for those at home. I miss your presence in my life!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Discovering the Story.

I'm an English major, so I love words.
I love the process of finding just the right word to fit in just the right place. I love hearing and learning new ones. I love languages, literature, speeches, etc.  I especially love that moment in language learning when the new word no longer directly correlates to a word of my native tongue.  It takes on a whole new life... set free from the bindings of the foreign words used to describe it.
First in my heart when it comes to the love of words is writing and the process that goes with it.  When I write, I sometimes feel as if the story (poem, etc.) is writing itself.  It truly is as if I am discovering the words rather than writing them... like they've been written all along in invisible ink, and all I'm doing is taking a blacklight to them.  Today, I discovered that that's how my life feels, too.  Never in a million years did I dream that I could be living with a dear sister in Japan for one month.  Never in a million years did I dream I would travel the world as I'm doing now.  But God knew.  He has been preparing me, for the entirety of my life, for moments like this.  I think sometimes (particularly as Americans) we feel that we are writing our destiny.  But I'm not... I'm just discovering it.
And it's a good thing, too, because the Lord of the universe is a much better author than I.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

I am now settled in Ibaraki, Japan, and it is such a blessing. 
I SO appreciate living in a home, having a routine, and having two sisters that I can spend time with, laugh with, love on.  Each day truly does feel like a gift.  Probably because they all are.
But, the days and gifts come with culture shock and identity crises and struggle.  I have been so encouraged here by the warm hearts of the people in Japan and the incredible hospitality, but I have also been discouraged in so many ways.  Since Japanese people live in line with a defined moral code and they typically have joy in everyday life, it is hard to see how Christianity is even applicable here... particularly with my generation.  Japanese people are mostly atheists, and I can now at least partially understand why.  To them, religion is not necessary.  They have a good time, they are happy, they are kind to each other, etc.   What's the point of religion?  I came with the task in mind of trying to represent Jesus well and glorify Him, but that task seems so large in light of the culture here.  And so it's been a little difficult to deal with.  But here's the truth that I have to continually repeat to myself: God desires that we know and love Him.  Not so that we will be good people, and not so that we will feel happy all the time, but simply so that we can know Him.  He is too good to ignore, too wonderful to go without.  So even if the Christian morality seems inapplicable here, Christ is more applicable than ever.  Please pray for me, that God would use me to reveal Himself.  I can see the beautiful love of Christ covering the people here, but they cannot often see it.  Pray that their hearts and eyes would be opened.  I don't take this task lightly at all, because I cannot think of anything more important than knowing the love of Christ.  But also, please pray that I do not let Satan use these circumstances to burden me, as if I were responsible for saving souls.  Pray that I would be confident and bold in doing the task in front of me, and that I could leave the rest to God.  

All that being said, I'm having an incredible time.  It seems almost unreal, how much fun I'm having here.  And I'm loving being completely immersed in the language in culture.  I pray that you, too, would have your eyes opened to God in a new way, and that His magnificent love would surprise you today!

Friday, September 30, 2011

ID me, please.

Hello all! We are safe in beautiful Kyoto, Japan. Soon we will be heading to Ibaraki for our homestays, and I cannot tell you how excited I am. Already, Japan is so different from China. For one, everything here is clean. I mean SUPER clean. Oh, and I don't have diarrhea anymore, thank the Lord (maybe that's too much info for a blog, but it has become one of the main topics of my conversations here so I guess I'm desensitized). It's so peaceful and natural here... I love it.
Needless to say, though, there have been struggles. I have experience culture shock on this trip moreso than ever before. And it's no easy task maintaining an identity when everything that you feel makes you who you are is miles away and nothing ever stays the same. So tonight, I really felt God whispering to me who I am, and I think it can be shared with all children of God. I really believe this to be the identity of all followers of Christ. I hope it blesses you wherever you are. Your prayers are sooo appreciated, and you are missed.

I am Hallie.
I am a child of God, created in His image to bear His image around the world. In the mundane and the mighty, I am called to LIVE-truly live-for His glory and to walk in the path of His freedom. I am called to sacrifice, to give mercy, and to love unconditionally. But I am also called to fight fiercely and work diligently against the Evil One and anything that is not of Him. I am enabled to enjoy Him, to be made glad in Him, to live joyfully and righteously. And I am privileged to give Him all praise for all things. This is my Christ-given, cross-ensured identity, and today, I will embrace it to the fullest.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Reporting from Beijing!
It is so incredible here...the history is amazing and humbling, and the people are wonderful! A man on the subway the other day actually ran up to me to give me the one yuan I left in the ticket machine. One yuan is equal to 16 American cents. So sweet.
I am learning so much, mainly finding that God is so much bigger than I thought He was. I have spent so much time of my life living unaware of the ways in which God works all over the world. But I am finally realizing that He has been at work long before I could fathom Him. As we drove into Beijing for the first time and I saw a Chinese flag waving, I heard Him whisper, "Yes, this is my nation, too."
Highlight so far has been meeting the Mother Teresa of China, Mary Chiang. She works with blind people to teach them a skill and give them musical instrument lessons. They played their traditional Chinese instruments for us, and it was so amazing.
I do miss America (mainly the food), but I am so happy to be here. Best wishes to the states!