A New Life Given to Trash

One moment, a trash dump site; next moment, a colorful sight of beauty. This brings to mind the verse in Ezekiel: “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezk. 36:25-26, ESV). God takes us–no better than a pile of rubbish–and makes something beautiful out of it as we face endless crashing waves. Something to think about the next time life brings you trying circumstances.

TwistedSifter

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Photograph by Jef Poskanzer

 

In MacKerricher State Park, near the city of Fort Bragg in northern California, you will find a beach littered with glass. Over decades of crashing waves the glass has been smoothed and rounded, transforming the shoreline into a colourful palette of pebble-like glass and sand.

 

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From 1906-1967 (the start date is up for debate), seaside towns were known to use the coastline as dumps, Fort Bragg was no different. After the devastation of the San Francisco earthquake the streets were filled with rubble and trash was dumped on the coast for the ocean to wash away. This of course, included plenty of glass.

 

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It wasn’t until 1967 when city leaders and the North Coast Water Quality Board realized what a mistake it was and sought to relocate the dump…

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Quoting Shakespeare

I love the textual intricacies of Shakespeare’s works. It requires one part creativity and two parts sleuthing to figure out what was meant originally by the playwright and what intended and unintended meanings the reader/audience can gather from the various versions. This is one among the many reasons why I’m excited at the prospects of seeing King Lear performed by the Dallas Theater Center in the very near future. I’m going to geek out and cuddle up with my copy of the RSC Shakespeare Complete Works and a cup of coffee this weekend to prepare for the show. Giddy with excitement!

British Museum blog

Jacopo de’ Barbari, Bird’s eye view of Venice, a woodcut. Italy, 1500.Dr Peter Kirwan, University of Nottingham

As you walk around the exhibition Shakespeare: staging the world, you’ll see objects drawn from across continents and time periods, all linked by Shakespeare. Sometimes the connection is to Shakespeare’s life and immediate world, but more often it’s the quotations from his plays that frame the exhibits and create the overarching theme of the exhibition. When seen in this fragmented way, it can be easy to take the words for granted, but in fact their presentation is less than straightforward.

Take the quotation that illustrates the birds-eye map of Venice, drawn from Love’s Labour’s Lost:

I may speak of thee as the traveller doth of Venice:
Venetia, Venetia,
Chi non ti vede non ti pretia

The Italian proverb translates roughly as “Venice, he that does not see thee does not esteem thee”, and captures the wonder experienced by those standing before de’…

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A Tale of Two Birthdays

Thirty years ago today, a mother of an infant girl stood in line with borrowed money in hand to register the birth of her daughter who was born more than a month ago on November 5th. Reeling from the recent bankruptcy of the family business, she could not find the money for the birth registration. But she and her husband could wait no longer because if they did, their daughter will be held back a year in school. They had to get it done before the year’s end.

This is how my tale of two birthdays began. I was born on November 5th, but all my official papers say December 27th. Most people that know me know that I have two birthdays, but few know exactly why. Now the whole world knows.

This is my modern-day rags-to-riches tale. I don’t often consider myself as a rich person, but when put in perspective of from whence I came and compared to most of the world’s population I indeed am rich and blessed beyond measures. The immeasurable blessings seems to have poured out all the more this year. In 2012, I finished law school, passed the Texas bar exam, started a great job I enjoy going to daily, and passed the patent bar exam just yesterday. I also finally escaped an unhealthy and unholy relationship that lasted much too long. I have learned great life lessons and redoubled my devotion to Christ. That–finding again the everlasting treasure–was the best of blessings I could ask for that I didn’t. It’s a good thing that He knows what I need and gives it even when I don’t ask for it.

The first thirty years of my life have been a great ride. I don’t feel any different, but the big 3-0 is a milestone. I’d like to celebrate that milestone with this song I’ve enjoyed for a good while now. Here’s to another thirty ahead (Lord willing).

Food for Thought Today

Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. (Gal. 5:26, ESV)

A Reflection on Gratitude

[I am finally fulfilling my promise of reviving this blog.]

The idea for this blog post has been floating around in my head since the night of Wednesday, September 5, 2012. It was a late night at the office, and I finally decided that I had to leave the office to feed my cats. (I know, I’m beginning to sound like the crazy cat lady.) I got into my car, started the engine, and the radio came on to my usual station of NPR. (It’s not about the political leanings, folks. I just can’t stand commercials, pointless talk radio, or teenie-bopper music. Oh God, I sound like an old woman. I digress…) It was then I snapped out of my work-home-work-home routine and realized that we were in the middle of the Democratic National Convention that week. The speaker of that moment was Ms. Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic nominee for the 2012 United States Senate election in Massachusetts. About half way through my very short commute home, Ms. Warren said the following:

It wasn’t always this way. Like a lot of you, I grew up in a family on the ragged edge of the middle class.… I was waiting tables at 13 and married at 19. I graduated from public schools and taught elementary school. I have a wonderful husband, two great children, and three beautiful grandchildren. And I’m grateful, down to my toes, for every opportunity that America gave me. This is a great country. I grew up in an America that invested in its kids and built a strong middle class; that allowed millions of children to rise from poverty and establish secure lives.”

One sentence out of her entire speech stuck out and really resonated with me–to the point that I could not and did not forget it until 2.5 weeks later today. (Granted, I did look up the transcript to get an accurate quotation…)

“I’m grateful, down to my toes, for every opportunity that America gave me.”

I didn’t know who Ms. Warren was, and, even now, I only know what little Wikipedia tells me about her (which suggests that we have a lot in common). This post isn’t about politics. I favor neither party, and I am an equal-opportunity offender of political extremists of any kind because I believe in collaboration and compromise (but that’s another blog post for the future). But what she said in that short sentence was what I have been feeling for the past few months. I, too, am grateful, down to my toes, for this amazing county that God has used to bless me with grace upon grace.

I am grateful that my parents had the foresight and the courage to leave behind the only world they knew for the first five decades of their lives to give me and my sisters an opportunity for better lives. I am grateful that, though they didn’t even know the words “American dream,” they knew that America is the land of opportunity for their children. I am grateful that America welcomes men and women of every tribe, tongue, and nation to write the new chapter of the great American story. I am grateful that America provided jobs for my parents who spoke very little English even though those jobs were hard on my parents’ bodies and paid not nearly enough. I am grateful for my incredibly hard-working parents who never took a day of vacation for themselves so that they can provide for my sisters and me.

I am grateful that American public education system has been very good to me. Public education gets a bad rap, but I’ve had the fortune of being blessed with wonderful teachers in Washoe County School District (WCSD) in Sparks, Nevada. If it weren’t for those talented teachers who took a great interest in my success, I would not be where I am today. I am especially indebted to Mrs. Varis (nee Murray) for instilling a love for science early on in my educational career. I am grateful for Mrs. Perrault for making English fun for me; it was in her class that I read my first book in English cover-to-cover all on my own. I am grateful for Mrs. Curley, who started a mock trial team at Sparks High School in my senior year. If it weren’t for her, my shy, introverted self back then would not have dreamed of joining a program where I’d be forced into a public speaking role. Little did I know that that I would fall in love with the idea of becoming a lawyer. I am grateful for Mr. Geyer, who inspired me to enter the Science Fair, and put me in touch with a professor at the University to be a mentor for my project. It was that professor, Dr. Fuerstenau, who planted the idea that perhaps, just may be, it is possible to become a lawyer without being a political science major. And, boy, was he right. There are countless other teachers at WCSD who deeply touched my life and changed me for the better. Some of the best years of my life were at WCSD. So, even when every last person in America knocks on public education for failing our children, I will beg to differ and tell them how thankful I am for all my public school teachers.

I am grateful that America provides public financing for college and ample opportunity for private scholarships–both merit- and need-based. My parents–despite all their efforts–could not possibly pay for my two older sisters’ and my college tuition. If it weren’t for Pell Grants, Nevada Millennium Scholarship, and all the other scholarships available through Mackay School of Mines (regardless of the name change, it will forever remain Mackay School of Mines for me) and College of Science, I could not have finished two bachelors degrees without any debt or burdening my parents. If it weren’t for Stafford Loans and research grant stipends, I could not have completed my masters degree with minimal debt. And though I often complain of the enormous debt that SMU Dedman School of Law has bestowed me, I could not have even dreamed of going to law school if it weren’t for Stafford and Grad PLUS Loans. I have not done enough research to weigh in on the debate of whether it is good or bad for the government to be in the education business. But one thing I do know for sure is that I am grateful for all the financial opportunity that America has provided for me so that I can pursue higher education to my heart’s content.

I am grateful that on July 18, 2011, this nation allowed me to call America “my country” by naturalizing me as a citizen. I am grateful for the opportunity, privilege, and the responsibility of voting. (Which reminds me, I need to register to vote. So should you, my friends, if you have not done so!) I am grateful that now I will have a say in shaping the future of this great nation even if it is only one voice.

But, most of all, I am grateful that coming to America translated to coming to Jesus for me and my family. To say that the going was tough for our family during the early days of living in America would be a gross understatement. It was then that God put us in touch with a community of believers who took us in and treated us like family. In hindsight, God uses the most difficult trials of our lives to draw us to Himself.

Is this an exhaustive list of all that I am grateful for? No. Such a list would take blog posts upon blog posts. I just listed a few that related to how I am grateful for the opportunities that America has given me. And I’m only 29 years old and have lived in America for a little short of 19 years. I can’t imagine what the future holds for me. Whatever may come, I’m just grateful to be an American.