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To the friends, family, and random passersby who read this blog–

I have accepted my invitation to serve as an English teacher in Namibia from August 2010 – December 2012.  I feel a multitude of emotions about the future—excitement, fear, hope, longing, peace.  I see the experience ahead as one filled with Light.  I look forward to sharing it with you.  You can follow my new adventures here:

martindell.wordpress.com

Here is a passage that I feel best illuminates what’s in store:

Where can I go from your spirit?
Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
If I take the wings of the morning
and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,

even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me fast.

Psalm 139:7-10

I pray we will all trust in this grand God who is with us wherever we go, and that we would all try to serve and love no matter where we are.

up, up and away

A member of our agency’s Board makes his living by flying over the Great Salt Lake and scoping out good brine shrimp spots, then directing boats to those spots.  He has his own two-seater plane, and he graciously offered to take me on a flight before I left Utah.

The plane is from 1954 or 1955.  It is made of fabric-covered steel & aluminum and weighs about 1,000 pounds.  Quite light.

While in the air, he asked if I wanted to take the wheel a bit.  I tried it out.  He had me turn to the right, level it out, turn to the right, level it out.  I was frightened, not because I felt I had no control, but because I felt I had too much control.  When I moved the steering wheel, the plane moved!  No more, please.

When we got out of the plane, I said, “That was fun!”
“You handled that with remarkable aplomb.  At the beginning you were careful, but it was…cautious yet robust.”
“Really?  Huh.  Maybe it was just your smooth operation of the plane!”  Curious, I pressed him: “How could you tell I was cautious?”
“Because of the questions you asked.”  (Or how tightly I cinched the seat belts?)  “But, it’s pretty rare to handle the motion as easily as you did.  I was wondering how you’d do….”
” ‘Cautious yet robust.’  That’s going to be my next personal ad.”

I had to brag about that only because it helps reassure me I can handle such things…take risks but also be careful…and be ROBUST.  I hope I am how he described me, and that those skills come in handy in the future.

I think the difference is in expectation.  I didn’t expect this plane to fly like a smooth, giant jet.  I expected it to have those gulp-worthy dips that make your stomach plummet.  So those dips didn’t come as a surprise.  Certainly there were times when I was scared.  I remember when we got r-e-a-l-l-y close to Mt. Timpanogos and I wondered just how close we would get.  The rocks below looked like giant sharks snapping at me with pointy teeth.
Or when I saw that we’d gone through half our fuel but weren’t halfway done with the trip.  (There are actually two fuel tanks, so I was only reading the one.)
Or right before take-off, when I shut my door, then leaned on it and it popped right open.
“Yeah—it doesn’t really latch.”

But I’m still here!  I didn’t die!  That was fun.  I am going to miss this scenic, unique place.

Mt. Timpanogos from the back side:

See where the water is purple/pink? That's from bacteria.

Red water? More bacteria!  On the other side is green water.

The red water is from more bacteria!  The green water (on the other side) is a little deeper.

Neon green water?? How many colors are in the Great Salt Lake?

My talented pilot pointed out the red gatherings in the lake, which are brine shrimp.  Or, the shrimps’ eggs.  If you view this video, you can kind of see some trailing lines of their eggs.
There were other giant red patches, and apparently that means the shrimp are stressed out!
Pretty cool day off.

Christ

The story of Christ is what once, somehow and somewhere, we came to Christ through.  Maybe it happened little by little—a face coming slowly into focus that we’d been looking at for a long time without really seeing it, a voice gradually making itself heard among many other voices and in such a way that we couldn’t help listening after a while, couldn’t help trying somehow, in some unsatisfactory way, to answer.  Or maybe there was more drama to it than that—a sudden catch of the breath at the sound of his name on somebody’s lips at a moment we weren’t expecting it, a sudden welling up of tears out of a place where we didn’t think any tears were.  Each of us has a tale to tell if we would only tell it.

—Frederick Buechner, A Room Called Remember

Thanks, Josh, for the Switchfoot Hello Hurricane CD you made me. I heard this song on Monday and was really struck by the simple power of the bridge part:

Hallelujah
I’m caving in
Hallelujah
I’m in love again
Hallelujah
I’m a wretched man
Hallelujah
Every breath is a second chance

Just the day before, my oldest brother and I had been talking about the concept of “surrender to win,” which can apply to so many aspects of life—repairing a relationship, overcoming an addiction, finding intimacy with God…. That really hit me with the line “I’m caving in.” Caving in can be a good thing, especially when it comes to surrendering to the power and mystery of God. I know I for one have held out and been stubborn about certain beliefs of mine, relating to God, but finally I had to cave in. And it was freeing. Humbling and freeing.

I’m so glad every breath is a second chance!

David and me at the Delicate Arch, in Arches National Park

We packed a lot into one trip!  David, Jon, and Sherry visited me for eight days this past week.  Here were some of the highlights:

Lake Blanche hike in Big Cottonwood Canyon...the river was so overfilled and just gushed out its banks. I didn't care for the trail this time of year, because the end was all snow-covered, and the lake itself was frozen. As we hiked, Dave pointed out evidence of avalanches.

Rock-climbing in Ferguson Canyon. I just had to include this shot of Dave's calf muscle...that thing scares me.

Are Jon's feet even holding on to anything?

Bear Lake, about two hours north of Salt Lake, on the Idaho border...pretty green water.

 I had never seen Canyonlands National Park before, and I found it beautiful: 

Overlooking the White Rim Trail, where Jon & Dave descended to camp overnight by the Colorado River. It's amazing how many thousands of feet in elevation you can see down.

While they hiked, Sherry and I did too---to Upheaval Dome, a weird formation tracing back to a meteor hitting the earth. Then we went back to the hotel in Moab and had the pool to ourselves!

Do you like my new Moab T-shirt? Groovy.

It was a really nice time getting to know my siblings better.  I enjoyed hearing stories of David’s high school antics, and I also liked when Sherry had us all answer the question “What makes you happy?”  Is it bad that the first thing I thought of was…not my morning time with God…not the rich conversations I have with friends…not creating music through piano or guitar…but…

“A lot of foods make me happy.”

Don’t forget to bring a towel!

On Saturday I joined gal pals Jessica and Sarah for a 10k race.   We finished in an hour and nine minutes, using the Galloway plan where you run five minutes, walk one minute, run five, walk one, etc.   It really conserves your energy and makes the race enjoyable.  Sometimes it actually makes you finish faster than if you’d run the entire way.

Dad completely made fun of how long it took me to run 6.2 miles, saying, “Were you going forward the whole time?”
“Listen, we took walk breaks!”
“Yeah but were you walking forward when you did that?”

We also ran the last 1.2 mi straight through instead of taking the walk breaks.  And we sprinted at the end.  That’s my favorite part.  I feel so tired at the end of the run, but it is one last shot of adrenaline—especially with people cheering!—and it makes all my muscles turn to mush.

Here’s a picture of Sarah and me at the finish line…Jess had gone on ahead for the last mile and shaved off three minutes from her finish time!  She’s incredible!

I did make a New Year’s Resolution to run a half-marathon this year, so I’ll keep training with Sarah and Jessica and see what happens.  I think it’s doable.  I feel you can do pretty much everything using the Galloway plan.  I thought it was a wussy way out at first, but now I would have it no other way—it is just SO ENJOYABLE.  You look forward to the run instead of dreading it.  And it becomes about the enjoyment of the process, the journey, not just getting it over with.

Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Is everyone familiar with the “mudflap girls,” those decals that some people put on the back of their vehicles?   They look like this:

I find the stickers sexist, because they’re celebrating not the full package of a woman, but just her body—and only a stereotypically “beautiful” body at that.

Yesterday while I was out driving, I saw a car with this version of a mudflap girl decal:

I got an absolute kick out of it.  I vowed I would find a way to tell the driver what an awesome sticker it was.  I trailed him for a few blocks, then pulled up beside him.  Fortunately, his window was rolled down.  I rolled down my passenger side window and pointed to him.  “I LOVE the sticker on the back of your car.”

“Oh, thanks,” he laughed.

“I’m so proud of you for having it.”

“I’m glad you like it.  Yeah, I hate those other ones.  They drive me crazy.”

“Me too!”

He nodded.  “Smart women rock.”

“Thank you!”  (Meaning, “thank you for saying that,” not “thank you for complimenting me, a smart woman.”)  “I agree!”  (To demonstrate my own intelligence, I stumbled over my next words: “I wanted to tell you that…like…several stoplights ago.”)

We eventually parted ways, but I think we both felt a little lighter and brighter after the encounter.

*          *          *

My brothers often like to poke holes in whatever opinions/arguments I have, so I can just anticipate their argument on this one: “Are you saying that only women who score high on an I.Q. test are the ‘smart women’ who ‘rock’?  Isn’t that objectifying women too, but now instead of for their physical appearance, you’re rating them based on their intelligence?”  No, I’m not saying that.  Nor, perhaps, is the driver of that other vehicle.  But women who think for themselves, who educate themselves (like through reading), and who know they are more important than their physical bodies…those are the smart women who rock.

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