Monday, May 25, 2015

A Podcast About Home

Finally, after many months I not only have finished my honors thesis, an hour-long podcast produced and recorded by yours truly, but now I also have found a stable site to link to it!

In this podcast you will hear five unique voices and stories, all exploring ideas of home and homemaking. This includes the tale of a British war bride, a Habitat for Humanity homeowner, and me! to name a few. So if you have some free time (or like to multi-task) grab some headphones, find a comfy chair or a sponge and dirty dishes, and be ready to be touched by some incredible people, and their powerful stories:

https://soundcloud.com/lauren-berg-7/a-podcast-about-home

Saturday, May 9, 2015

The Beautiful Unknown

It's hard, not knowing. I certainly felt that as I waited to hear back about potentially working in New Zealand after graduation. It's a roller coaster ride of incredible hope and excitement and excruciating doubt and apprehension. But finally the answer came: No, I will not be going back to New Zealand.
At least not this August.

The relief of finally knowing quickly faded. Because now my whole future, at least after this summer, is a big question mark. Where will I work, live? And not only that, but there is an aspect of grieving at the same time. Intentionally or not, I had begun to imagine what it would be like to go back to New Zealand, remembering the way the sun rose on the Kaikoura beach with a sense of hope that I would see it again soon. Or thinking about my homestay family and their two young daughters, wanting to see them at church, stop by for some tea or milo, see their new house. It's a really painful thought to not know when I will go back, or even if I will ever return.

Even if I had gotten the job, if I had been returning to New Zealand this August, that only temporarily solves the problem of the unknown. After a year or two in New Zealand, what next? Will I then begin my life in the states, the job searching and apartment hunting, then finally face the huge question mark of unknowns?

Regardless of future acceptances or rejections, my future will be a series of unknowns. Rather than think of it as a problem, I want to think of the unknown as something beautiful. I'm glad I don't know. Not because it might be really painful at times, but because I can't wait to be surprised by the good things, small and big, that happen in my future. Who knows what friends I will make, what new homes in cities and buildings I will live in, what new skills and passions I will develop.

It is spring, a time of hope and renewal. Even as one hope is dismayed, more are sprouting up, tiny little hopes just waiting to bloom. So as I enter into my last week of college before graduation, I look into my future with faith, and call it the Beautiful Unknown.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

"Senior Moments"

Lulu wants to ring the Bell
I have "senior moments" some times. I have flashbacks to freshmen year, with all its random memories and hodge-podge friend groups. The night we went around campus tracing outlines of each other in chalk, or snuck into all the buildings after dark and took photos with my roommate's stuffed monkey, Lulu (wow, we were such...interesting... freshmen). My phone contacts hold memories of those once close friends, including "Hubby," and "Tennis Dude," "The Bestest Asian Eva" and "Freshie fresh"about a freshman (now junior).

But those senior moments have moved on from just cute nostalgic memories to earth-shaking profound realizations. Well, at least they're pretty momentous when they hit me seemingly out of nowhere, Like yesterday: I realized that after school finishes my success will no longer be measured in grades. GPA won't matter anymore. I can define my own measurement of success. How freeing!

I still don't know what the future holds for me. But that's true for even those of us who have jobs or schools lined up. So I choose not to stress about it. Why ruin the last few weeks left of my college career by stressing over my future, which is held in God's hands? And I know even if it is tough (my graduated friends all say it is) it will still be good. Because seasons of rain cause us to grow, not just the sunshine (to paraphrase The Oh Hello's).

I've been practicing falling in love three times each day. Sometimes I fall in love with the way the morning light pours through my window in the morning, or with my apartment mate's quirky behaviors. But mostly I fall in love with little things about my college- the sound of music during chapel worship, or favorite paths in the woods. I'll miss it. It was good, despite all the tension and difficult growing pains we have been experiencing as an institution. But I know I'm leaving it in good hands, with smart, capable, compassionate people. It's time to go. And it is good.

Maybe that's why they call them "goodbyes."

Saturday, April 11, 2015

[Silence]


            Like any monumental experience, studying abroad can often be portrayed in solely positive terms: “It was so beautiful; the people were so hospitable; I wish I could go back” (all of which I say). But just as valid a part of a long-term experience is the less-than pretty moments, the conflict that causes you to grow often more than the good times.
            At first I was oblivious. Between the beauty of the snow-capped mountains and freedom of less stressful academics, I couldn’t understand what anyone would complain about. Initially it was the cold. We jokingly signed a petition “for a fireplace in every room.” But then the group began complaining about the grading system, receiving lower marks than expected. Before long it was the schedule, the professors, the entire study abroad program — nothing was free of fault. Negativity was contagious, spreading unchecked until sometimes it overshadowed all the positive things that were occurring as well.
             As someone who generally tends to see the world in a more hopeful light, I began to feel ostracized from the group, not understanding how they could adopt such a negative and critical perspective. Was it even helping their situation, or cyclically serving to perpetuate their misery? I can understand camaraderie over things that are difficult or different, but what I observed was something that quickly got out of control, leading to gossip and ultimately discouragement. I, intimidated by the group mentality, kept silent. But I wish I had spoken up.
            Gordon is no stranger to conflict. Even though I was away last semester, I still picked up on dissent and criticisms directed at the college. I acknowledge the need to think critically and be able to pinpoint and recognize flaws with the need for improvement. And I admire those who speak up in the face of injustice, who seek to right wrongs and strive for healthy, life-giving change. But I’m worried that with our criticisms and focus on the negatives we are losing sight of everything for which we have to be thankful and hopeful. Not just mere optimism, or a shallow positivity that seeks to ignore wrongs. Rather, I’m talking about a deep gratitude that is fully aware of the many wrongs and obstacles we face, yet can still declare “Praise be to God!” if only because of the single fact that Christ lives. It is so easy to forget how much we have to give thanks for, and even harder to practice. But it is vital to a healthy Christian community.
            Even though I did not speak up while abroad, I wanted to speak about Gordon’s conflict here, just a little. I hope that others, when facing conflict, would have the courage to challenge oppressive negativity, and remind others of our call to give thanks in all circumstances.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Country Roads, Lead Me Home

I have dreams, sometimes, that I'm back in New Zealand.
I'm talking to my friends in the program, and we are standing in the kitchen, like we also tended to do whether it was really early in the morning or really late at night. As I wake up I vaguely hope that I will open my eyes and realize that I'm in my little twin bed with the white and blue striped sheets, and see the sun pouring through the edges of the bird-patterned curtains. But I wake up in Massachusetts with heaps of snow towering over my head, and sometimes with a little heavy feeling over my heart, that I have come to call homesickness.

I hardly ever (I won't say never) felt homesick in New Zealand. There were a couple times in the beginning when it would have felt easier to wake up and find myself safe at home with my family nearby. And as we began to invest in one another as a tight-knit community I began to miss the connection I had had just months before in a big barn of a house called Dexter. But overall I was overwhelmingly grateful for each new day. Who knew what the day would bring-- hiking, or biking, laundry washing chats, dance parties with the dishes, soccer games in the backyard, and always some delicious food and good company full of a satisfying mix of deep and fun conversations. I could have, and would have, stayed in Kaikoura, New Zealand longer, a year even. I have that conversation sometimes with one of my good friends from NZ. We just decided we are going to board a flight and head back tomorrow (shouldn't be too difficult to plan something like that last minute, eh?) I won't say that this was everyone's experience; some people had a really rough time with being away from family and friends for multiple valid reasons. That just wasn't my experience.

Mt Fyffe sing-alongs
But now as I replay different memories from this past semester in my mind, I feel homesick for New Zealand. It's not even the big memories either; it is the small moments, like packing lunches on the West Coast trip, or wandering onto the back deck catching some sunshine during our fifteen minute breaks from morning class. It's the feeling of holding warm tea in a beloved mug and sipping it slowly. It's that first evening when I told people I had just met that I compulsively play with my hair, and no one believed me (yet). Or that last evening standing in the kitchen with friends, emotionally and physically exhausted but not wanting to go to bed and end that last full day in the Old convent we had come to love, to call home.

They say people eventually find their way back home, that it pulls at them, tugging invisible strings connected to their very core. I have a feeling I'm going to eventually find my way back to New Zealand

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Unchartered Territory

I got two Bibles for Christmas. Not really sure what that is supposed to mean. But I've been reading the one because not only is it a read-the-bible-in-a-year Bible, it is also in chronological order (according to some historians). So as I have returned to Gordon College for my final semester of undergraduate education, I've been reading the stories of Joseph and Job.

I'm not sure if you know the stories of Joseph and Job, but I'm finding them very relatable at this time of my life. Joseph is the beloved son of his father, but a source of jealousy for his brothers. Even though God gives him visions and dreams of his future success and leadership, he quickly finds himself sold into slavery by his very brothers. Even in Egypt as a slave he faces even more injustice, and is thrown into jail for doing what is right. There he stays for several years, but he never loses faith in God, and remains hopeful. Soon after the dreams come true, and he is released from prison and put in charge of all of Egypt, second only to Pharaoh himself. I'm leaving out a lot of awesome details but it is an incredibly inspiring story.

Then Job. The man who is faithful to God, even when his faith is tested with disaster after disaster. His livelihood and wealth is stolen and destroyed, his family is killed by a powerful wind collapsing their house, and Job reacts by continuing to praise God.

So, I've never been sold into slavery. I've never been thrown into jail, nor lost all my possessions and family in a single day. God willing none of that happens. But these stories give me hope because I similarly look at the future and know that God has promised good for me, but don't see it yet. That is the definition of faith- believing despite not seeing. From what I've heard, sometimes those years of transition after college can be very difficult. I might not like the job I work in, I might not find a job, it might be very lonely or intimidating. But it is those years of trial that forged Joseph and Job into truly righteous godly leaders. Bravery and confidence can not come without traveling through the unchartered territory.

The last time I was this nervous about my future was the first few months of my freshmen year. And in that time I wrote a prayer based on the story of Joseph. So for those other seniors graduating or those simply needing encouragement about their uncertain futures, I leave you with a few lines from that prayer:

My future is unsure. But always in your hands. Help me to trust you once again. You provided Christ in a seemingly unfixable scenario. Because of your great love I believe nothing is impossible for you....
Remind me of my humility as you restore me with your mercy.
Amen

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Homemaking in New Zealand

Dusky Dolphins

It was really difficult for me to say goodbye to all the lovely people I just met 3 ½ months ago. We have shared so many adventures together: watching little blue penguins waddle up to their burrows, spotting Hector’s dolphins swimming off the beach, then jumping in the water and swimming with Dusky Dolphins, one of the most playful dolphins in the world. And those incredible events just happened in our last week of classes! There are so many stories I could tell— of almost being blown off Mt. Fyffe, or beach campfires under starry night skies with the Milky Way shimmering across the dark horizon. Yet, I don’t want my semester just to be the accumulation of great experiences, consuming the best a place had to offer because I was able to afford it. For me, I believe this semester was more about the people with whom I shared these once-in-a-lifetime moments.

It is not surprising that, once again, I return to the topic of community. Time and again, whether it be La Vida camping adventures or intentional living (e.g. the Dexter house), those memories have been so significant to me because of the people I lived life with at the time, and it is just as true with this most recent adventure in the Old Convent. Days before hopping on the plane at Newark New Zealand bound, I reflected that while everyone seemed to be excited about the beautiful scenery I would see and the wild experience I would have, I was more interested in the community that would be formed in my program, the 15 other names on a piece of paper.

But of course, the community of Kaikoura is more than just the inhabitants of the Old Convent. My church, New Life, played a major role in investing in me and encouraging me to live life with them.
Honestly, I don’t know how they do it. Every four months or so they have new young American faces. They always know that our time in New Zealand is temporary. And yet that knowledge does not stop the members and pastors from inviting us over to their houses for lunch, or to go diving with them. If we sang, they encouraged us to sing with worship. In my case, when they found out I played the violin they got a couple locals to donate me TWO violins, one of which was electric! And of course they
were more than enthused to have me join in worship with them those last three Sunday mornings in Kaikoura. It was not only that they were hospitable and welcoming, but that they genuinely wanted to get to know us better, to invest in us and challenge us to be as involved in their community as possible with the time we had. They made the wider community of Kaikoura, not just the folks at the Old Convent, my home as well.

While it is hard to leave a home, I have returned to my other homes in New York and Massachusetts. I am able to reconnect with old friends and family, to continue those relationships that have shaped those particular places with beautiful memories. As I continue along the path God is leading me, I will probably continue to create more homes wherever I go, because that is exactly what Christ promises to those who are faithful and follow Him:

“'No one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life.’” Mark 10:29-30