Tuesday, April 24, 2012

the best week yet

I was telling one of my friends that last week was just the most incredible week ever, and she told that I have too many of those "most incredible weeks."  Well...maybe so.  But hey, I'm totally okay with replacing an amazing week with a yet more amazing week, and if that amazing week gets replaced in the future, so be it.  So last week was the best week--yet.

that photo on the left? it's going to be johnny's official photo when he's famous.

You've heard me talk about TeenPact, probably.  In a nutshell, it's a government and leadership class/hands-on crash course in government in and around your state capitol and participating in mock process of what our government actually does (elections, legislature, etc.).  But besides that, beyond that, above that, TeenPact is centered on Jesus.  Our motto is "changing lives to change the world."  It's raising up informed, impacting young people to be leaders in our country for God.

garrett literally fell out/down right after that last photo... heheh.

One of the ways TeenPact puts that into practice is through its class staff--all of which are former students and usually between 16 and 20ish.  It's young people that have caught the vision and want to return to lead and impact more students with TeenPact.  I did TeenPact as a student for two years--as a first-timer and as an alumni.  This year, I was honored to be accepted as a staffer for my state class.

It was incredible.

In my personal opinion, it's basically impossible not to have fun at TeenPact as a student.  Sure, you're pushed out of your comfort zone, and you have to do a heck of a lot of walking in heels, but it's the best experience ever by the end of it.  Working as staff was just the coolest thing because it was like being there and doing it, but seeing it all behind the scenes, and actually making it happen.

our perfect semi-awkward-looking "let's pretend we like each other" pose ;)

When it came down to it, staffing was remarkably simple.  That isn't to say that there aren't stretches that must be made and obstacles to be overcome, and it isn't to say that we don't strive for excellence in whatever we do, but you do it and then it's done.  It was full and fun, and crazy and exciting, and surprising and impacting, memory-filled and over all just good.  I got to see the students grow, and grow along with my fellow staffers too.  That's the crazy thing--that all the staffers are kinda thrown together and pretend to be friends even if we've never met before.  And yet there's this connection between all of us, like we know we're friends right away.  It's the neatest thing to work along with these people.

Baah I can't say enough.  Just get yourself to a TeenPact class pronto.  You won't regret it.

I also learned two things during the camp sessions: one, that I would not make a very good worship leader, because I would just want to keep singing forever.

And two, on a more serious note, how absolutely important absolutes are.  Like, absolute truths.  It's something that has been more or less slapping me in the face for a couple weeks now--and it basically boils down to God.  If there is no God, there are no absolute rights and wrongs.  The world likes that.  People can do what they want, believe what they want, think what they want.  Truth is relative.  If, however, there is God, we have absolute truths, absolute rights and wrongs.  The world doesn't like that very much, but one of the speakers during our state class put it this way: we as Christians are privileged to hold certain opinions.  Namely, that God tells us rights and wrongs, and we have the honor and the duty to hold true to those.  It's rather macroscopic in proportions to think about, but gee whiz is it significant.

staff dinner on our last day

Besides that, I just gained a deeper appreciation for people--not only our leaders but everyone around me.  It's crazy how the smallest thing I do has the potential to impact someone else so much.  I'm so challenged to live more purposefully.

Over the past weekend (which has been one of the weirdest of my life), I've been mentally trying to figure out things about myself.  Now I have all these crazy questions about possibly staffing with TeenPact in the future and what that would mean with regards to college and yikes I should have my life planned out...but I don't.  And that's okay.  Because it's in God's hands.

And God is good.

Just like last week was good.  Really really good.  Yeah.

♥♥, Jenn

Sunday, April 15, 2012

I'm on board.

first two shots sooc. third taken by my brother.

Have you ever had that feeling where you just really want to be content and grateful and happy, but you keep running into a ditch?  It's hard sometimes.

My best friend moved to Texas.  Ruthie--I know you've heard me talk about her.  She got a spectacular job offer and she is going to be spectacular down there and I'm so very happy for her, but she just moved thirteen hundred miles away from me.  And wow, I'm going to miss her.

The very day after I returned from Florida for an intense and incredible spring break, a new quarter started at my college.  You see, I was really hoping that spring would be my easy quarter, because I have so, so much going on (which is mostly fabulous stuff, by the way).  But with restrictions in courses and scheduling and credits, I ended up registering for four classes--the most I've ever had.  And to top that off, I have afternoon/evening classes this quarter, which means none of my nights during the week are free.  Which...is frustrating and difficult.

But a week and then two passed, and I began to realize that I am actually very blessed in what came my way this quarter.  I may have more classes, but French 101 is easy, Vocal Technique is exciting, and Computer Design has next to no homework.  Plant Biology...we won't talk about the fact that my professor is super hard to understand and I just don't care for plants.  At all.  But there even ended up being a great lady for me to work with in labs (to say my mind is not scientifically-oriented is the understatement of the century).  I only have class three times a week, whereas in the past I've had four.

No, I am not always a happy person.  That first part of the quarter I was not very pleased.  But then I realized: be grateful for what you have.  I can't tell you how many times I question this crazy college deal.  My last years of high school would be incredibly easy, laid-back, and stress-free if I wasn't going to college full-time.  But hey, I should be so thankful that I have this opportunity to save myself time and money.  And I am, truly--it's just hard to see the big picture sometimes.

This weekend has been a sit-back-and-look-at-the-big-picture time.  I've been able to think and focus and prepare.  Pro-life outreach at my own campus.  Worship/message/service for college students.  Applebees with cheese sticks--oh, and friends too.  Singing a lot, and listening to Les Mis a lot.  My first official senior shoot with my friend Olivia.  Planning information/schedules/travels/visits for a rather grand trip (I'm telling you, my spring is crazy good)--don't worry, you'll hear more about it later (do I use parantheses and dashes and slashes too much?).  Dinner with my mom and sisters.  Buying tickets to see Newsies on Broadway in New York City at the end of the month (cannot contain my excitement!).  Mentally/physically preparing for TeenPact, which I'm super excited to staff all of this week.

I have so many opportunities and ambitions and adventures stretched before me, waiting.  I know God has a path for me.  I'm not saying it's easy, and I'm not saying it's clear.  Most of the time, it's neither.  I still don't like having late classes, and I can't believe my best friend just moved halfway across the country.  But with what I have, I'm blessed.  This life is beautiful right now.  It has its potholes and detours and ditches, but the bumps in the road haven't thrown me off yet.  It's still a beautiful ride.  And I'm so very grateful to be on board.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

two thousand years

(These are my extraordinary red heels.  I love them.)

I do not mind telling you that within me I find the Easter message and the reality of the Resurrection more beautiful and glorious than the Christmas scene. Christmas tells us that Jesus was born; that He was born for the humiliation of suffering and death and atonement. But Easter is the radiant and glory-filled celebration of Christ's mighty triumph over the grave and death and hell! When Easter comes, our voices are raised in the triumphant chorus: The three sad days had quickly sped; He rises glorious from the dead! There is the real beauty! This is more than the beauty of color; more than the beauty of outline or form; more than the beauty of physical proportion. In the living Christ is the perfection of all beauty; and because He lives, we too shall live in the presence of His beauty and the beauties of heaven, forever!  - A.W. Tozer

Happy Easter, my friends!  I hope you ate a lot of chocolate, hunted for eggs, wore springy dresses, and remembered this most importantly: Jesus didn't die for all of us--he died for each of us--and he rose again in victory conquering death and my sin, and the celebration has lasted two thousand years.  My Savior is alive!


Friday, April 6, 2012

so about the hunger games...

To those of you who love them forever and ever amen...read on.
To those of you who are sick of hearing about them (oh, can I relate)...read on.

Let's start at the very beginning--a very good place to start (Sound of Music, anyone?).

caution: spoiler alert.  sorry.

I read the first book of The Hunger Games trilogy on the way to/from Florida during my spring break.  Yes, I went into them with a rather cynical attitude--I had heard so much about them (and yeah, too many people gave away spoilers) that I wondered if it would really stack up to its reputation.  But I also dove into it fully expecting to be convinced of its incredibleness and to be a totally converted fan by the end.

So, I finished it.  Aaaand I had to process it for awhile afterward.  I was in the van with some definite Hunger Games fans who were all eager to know what I thought.  My honest answer at that point?  It was weird.  I didn't really know what to think of it.  I didn't care for the way it ended with Katniss being all indecisive with Peeta, for one thing.  But honestly, I wasn't emotionally involved at all.  It made me sad when Rue died, yeah.  And somewhere in my brain I thought, "Hey, kids are killing and being killed.  This is bothersome."  But it didn't bother me, not personally.  I didn't get wrapped up in it.  Which, when I actually thought about it, is kinda bothersome in and of itself--that I wasn't bothered more by the horrific plotline.

All in all though, I didn't dislike the book.  I really didn't.  I just thought it was...weird, and interesting.  And after getting through it, I honestly could not understand where the huge obsession came from.  It wasn't bad, but it definitely wasn't spectacular.

So what was I to do?  I saw the movie.  I was excited to see it.  I thought that here at least, something would impress me.  People who love books don't rave about movies made from them if they stink, right?  Wrong.  I didn't even care for the book that much, and I'm still a book purist.  There were just little things I didn't appreciate that had been changed--where the mockingjay pin came from, Katniss not screaming Peeta's name when she finds out they both can live, the way the ending was so awfully incomplete.  And before we even get into my real thoughts about the movie, what the heck was going on with the shaky, close-up cinematography?  I didn't care for that at all.

But.  But.  It was a good movie, as far as standards go.  And I guess that's what I'm really wanting to write about.  Standards.

I really don't mean to hate on anyone who liked it--just...think about this.  I know there were people that sobbed during the whole movie.  I, once again, was not emotionally involved at all.  I was sickened by what I saw onscreen, but I wasn't...touched.  I gathered no message, I saw no redeeming points, and--blasphemy, I know--even Peeta himself did absolutely nothing for me.  The only part that remotely made me want to cry was when Katniss volunteers for Prim, and that I'm pretty sure only because I can relate to the whole sister thing.  The rest--nothing.  Sure, it was sad when Rue died, once again.  But what about the rest of the deaths?

Are we supposed to be somehow happy when Thresh beats that girl against the Cornucopia, killing her, sparing Katniss?  Should we be glad that there's "one more down" when Cato snaps the boy's neck or Foxface is poisoned?  Should we be rejoicing when Cato gets mauled to death (and oh, thank you to whatever movie makers decided to cut that part short)?  Why are we entertained by this?

Now please--don't think it's just that I "can't stomach blood" or "get freaked out easily" or even that I never watch movies where killing takes place.  I can, I don't, and I do.  But should I be okay with this?

There's this sick sense of irony in fanship of The Hunger Games.  I've heard the argument, "Hey, Katniss and Peeta didn't agree with the Games.  All the districts had to watch them and they didn't like them either.  We're not saying it's good--we know the Capitol is evil."  Well first of all--the districts, watching the games...they are fictional.  Okay, glad we got that straight.  But we are real, we are really watching this, and we're not even being the districts.  We're being those colorful people in the Capitol with their ridiculous attire and insane love for the "fun" which is the Games.  We say how awful it is that the Capitol would force the Games plus make people watch them, and yet we're the ones in real life out supporting it and watching it for entertainment.  And obsessing over it and not caring that 22 children had to kill each other out there.  But it's okay because the only characters we care about survived.

Bah, the more I think about it, the more disgusted I am.  Seriously, America?  This is what we're obsessing over?  This is the only taste we have?  This is what we enjoy seeing on screen?  Are we so desensitized that this no longer bothers us?  What is wrong with us?

To summarize how I put it on facebook:

I read the book and was not impressed and enthralled like everyone said I would be. I was hardly emotionally involved at all.
the movie (the style of which I actually found kinda obnoxious with the whole shaky, out-of-focus, way close up deal) just took it to a whole different level and the more I think about it, the less I like it. it's not the killing itself...goodness knows I've read/seen enough of that on screen. I just think there's a strange irony in the fact that in the movie, they say "what if everyone rebelled & didn't watch the games" and watching it we're all like "yeah, how sick it is that they do that"...and yet in real life, we're the ones actually watching it for entertainment. ugh. so messed up.
I gave it the benefit of the doubt, guys. I went in thinking I would like the hunger games just like everyone else. in the end it's rather sickening, and it just doesn't stack up to real, good literature.

So that's my opinion.  It's rather strong, I know, compared to all the love the story gets.  I know there's two more books, including a revolution against the evil Capitol.  Argue with me.  Tell me if there's some redeeming quality I missed.  Because dang, the only thing I caught was a sense of sick, sad irony.