Thursday, February 12, 2015

28 is awesome!

Yesterday was special. It's such a corny thing to say but it's true nonetheless. Brian took me to dinner at a new Thai place where we received great service and just enjoyed the night out. Brian had obviously worked to plan this and had thought through the details.

Despite the amazing array of options, I couldn't resist my usual favorite and ordered a giant platter of Pad Thai. I'm sure I'll still be consuming the leftovers next week.

After a glorious rendition of "Happy Birthday" from the staff, wee went home to enjoy a slightly different version of my mom's famous Kahlua Cake and my first screening of "High Fidelity". I made it about half way through before Brian dragged my sleeping corpse off the couch and tucked me in. 

28 is looking good.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

One Year, So Many Adventures

We’re a little behind the eight ball this year, but 2015 is off to a great start. Christmas was with my family this year and included all the usual crazy along with a Brewster sized photo and all of us holding our breath that the latest family addition (my nephew would arrive before everyone returned to their allocated coasts. Alas, James is scheduled to arrive on Wednesday when Brian and I will hopefully greet him through some form of video streaming.

January started out with its traditional resolutions made over brunch at Murphy’s and the adventure of barn sitting for a friend. Brian began a temporary job working with a local church while I slugged my way to my morning news show at 4am. February was a little easier since my birthday always makes me forget the tough stuff. My brother Max came to visit which meant we could cheer the Seahawks to a Super Bowl victory together (despite protests from a few doubters). This was followed quickly by CPAC and a rather unexpected trip to the circus. 

To be honest, March held more for Brian than it did for me. After CPAC wrapped up, Brian was offered an opportunity to spend three months in Florida organizing the annual “Walk in My Shoes” for an organizations called Lauren’s Kids. Being apart for so long was tough, but we soldiered through. I spent a few days riding horses in West Virginia and helped plan a wedding shower for my dear friend, Mary. 

By May, Brian and I were more than ready for our little getaway to Key West where we spent a week doing all the beach things. A local tourist group taught us to snorkel (I swear I saw a shark but Brian doesn’t believe me). We made a point of stopping at each of Hemingway’s “favorite” bars and even toured a rum distillery we discovered quite by accident. The real highlight though was Blue Heaven, a local outdoor eatery with some of the most amazing pancakes I’ve ever tasted. We added a few extra miles to the Honda and drove all the way back to DC over the weekend. I’m telling you, this is something that everyone should add to the bucket list. 

Not long after we unpacked our suitcases, we packed them up again and drove to a glorious little cabin in the woods to celebrate Mark and Mary’s wedding. Having never been a bridesmaid before, I really enjoyed every second of this three day party. Mark and Mary thought everything through and really made the rustic setting special. I will admit that getting up the next morning to run my first 5K was slightly difficult but totally worth it. 

My mom, two sisters and little niece, Lucy, all joined me in their white t-shirts for our first ever color run. None of us knew what to expect, but by the time we finished, we knew we’d do it again. I’m definitely not a runner, but doing something like this was just us girls was a laugh riot, followed by a well-deserved brunch at Ted’s Bulletin (homemade pop tarts included). 

Things really picked up in July when we headed out west for a Dalke family reunion. A week in Seattle is always a blast, but when you get EVERYONE from my side of the family together, it’s a madhouse. And even though the pool, the giant trampoline, and the tractor games were all super fun, the best part was getting to reconnect with people I hadn’t seen in years. We just had a great time climbing Mt. Rainer, eating junk, and telling great stories. 

Shortly after this trip, three crazy things all happened at once: my radio station folded and closed its doors, I was offered a new position with a company in Princeton, and I was accepted into a German journalism fellowship. It was a lot to swallow in a few shorts days, but after hours of prayer, Brian and I made the decision move forward and see what God had in store. We were given a grace period of about three weeks to pack up and enjoy some time together before the big move, so Brian booked a last minute cruise to the Caribbean and off we went. For the first time in months, we felt like we could really relax and focus on one another. On such a big boat with so much free time, we talked and listened and enjoyed everything.  By the time we got home, we felt refreshed and ready to pick up the next big adventure. 

We drove into Princeton a few days early to set up shop and scope out our new town. The Monday after Labor Day, I started work with a sense of calling a purpose that was a little different from my previous jobs. A few weeks later, my grandparents stopped by to help us unpack our new little house and a month later, I was off to Germany for four solid weeks of cultural immersion that left me both exhausted and impressed with God’s creative abilities. We started in Berlin with about a week of breakfast talks, tours and high security meetings that would have been impossible to get without the program’s assistance. We then moved on to Cologne, Leipzig, Bruges and Brussels. Every day of that trip gave me something new to consider or some piece of information on Germany’s story of which I used to be incredibly ignorant. 

Brian was able to join me for the last week of the program in Munich where ate more pretzels and drank more beer than is generally considered healthy. We took a day trip to Salzburg, Austria (narrowly escaping the Sound Of Music tour) and took a million pictures of mountain ranges that can only be described as majestic. 

Thankfully, November passed without too much effort and Christmas arrived as a blessed completion to the year’s traveling. After four years on the East Coast, we were able to spend the holidays in Seattle with my family, being way too loud, eating way too much and exploring the city’s many, many Christmas offerings. 

On New Year’s Day, Brian and I sat down and made our resolutions for 2015. This was little different; we feel calmer than we did a year ago and more prepared to listen. We’ve been praying for many of the people we’ve met this last year, and we hope you find 2015 a happy new year, surrounded by God’s blessings. 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

No Guilt in Life, No Fear in Death

"Edge of Tomorrow" was my favorite summer movie of 2014. Not because of the awesome special effects or the sci-fi action sequences. It was a story that was honest about war, about winning, about sacrifice. When Lt. Col. William Cage asks how to win the war against the aliens, the answer is very simple. "You have to die ....every day."

When Brittany Maynard killed herself last weekend, it hurt me in a way I wasn't expecting. I don't know why, but I honestly thought she might change her mind. When she didn't, I realized all over again just how broken we are as people. As human beings, we don't have the right to be selfish, to decide our own fate. We think we do; we think we have control because the illusion makes us feel better. But giving in to that illusion misses the point. In life are given choices regarding how to live and sometimes how to die, but our winning and losing is ultimately based on sacrifice. Are we willing to see past ourselves and live (or die) for someone else?

Our bodies — their life, their death — don't belong to us. They belong to Christ. He bought them. They are not ours to dispose of as we will. They are his, and they exist for His will, and His glory. The scariest part of death is that it often includes suffering, but how we suffer and the way we handle it can speak much louder than simply giving up. 

I have to include the issue of abortion here too. People say suicide is the ultimate selfish act, but I wonder if this is entirely accurate. Every time a woman like Leila Josephine or Emily Letts shouts her abortion story from the rooftops, I have to question just how selfless abortion really is. Women like this often say that it's better for children with birth defects or broken families to die before they are born, that somehow an $800 death requires genuine sacrifice. The real sacrifice is more complicated than that. Giving up your pride, your body, and yes, your life for the next nine months (or even 18 years) asks more of a than than many young people are able to understand. it's much easier to pay up and take a day off for an outpatient procedure.

This selfish attitude even extends to sex, a casual, often meaningless act that has become individualistic rather than intimate with a focus on one's own pleasure rather than a shared ecstasy. 
The sentiment is expressed in the repeated mantra: "My body, my choice". 

I want to be clear here. I'm not suggesting that every woman who has an abortion does so with intentionally selfish motives. As Theresa Bonapartis said in her letter to the New York Times editor, "No woman joyfully enters an abortion clinic." The decision itself, however, remains an ultimately selfish choice that only considers one person. This is where the argument from the left is so persuasive. It, like abortion itself, focuses solely on the mother. The left ignores the child while the right is accused of ignoring the mother. Chiaroscuro (the organization I work for) does neither, but focuses on the idea that abortion hurts everyone.

When a woman screams "This is my body!" she means it is hers and hers alone; she refuses to sacrifice her body for the life of another. It reminds me of someone else who said those same words before brutally dying so others could live. A body shattered and destroyed for you, not preserved for myself. 

When former coach of NCAA champs the North Carolina State Wolfpack, John Valvano, accepted the inaugural Arthur Ashe Courage and Humanitarian Award, he could barely walk up to the stage. His body was visibly giving up on him, but he wasn't giving up on himself. He was sufferinig, but that suffering inspired millions of people. It made a difference to the players he coached and the people who knew him.
And then there are are people like Lauren Hill, a Mount St. Joseph University freshman with terminal brain cancer. Lauren was diagnosed with diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma shortly after deciding to play basketball for Mount St. Joseph. Her one dream was to play college ball. This week, that dream came true when she scored the first and last shots of her team's winning game. While Hill was only on the court for a total of 47 seconds, she made it count.

Stories like Hill's and Valvano's are the stories that show suffering matters. It hurts, it sucks, but in our pain, we show other people that the impossible is possible. Suicide, abortion: these are just cop outs, missed opportunities to show the world that life matters. 

The truth is, it's not about me. To win the war "you have to die...every day". You have to die to yourself and realize that what you want, what you feel, is not as important as your impact on other people. You matter more by understanding that you don't matter. We have to fight hard to give up our own self interests, because that's the only way to change the world.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

My Adventures in Germany

Unless you stalk me on Facebook, you may not be aware that most of my October was spent running around Germany. The RIAS Berlin Kommission sends about 12 US journalists overseas twice a year to talk to folks familiar with German history, government and culture. 

We started in Berlin with about a week of breakfast talks, tours and high security meetings that would have been impossible to get without the program’s assistance. Every day gave me something new to consider or some piece of information on Germany’s story of which I used to be incredibly ignorant. The best part about spending extra time in Berlin though, was the opportunity to experience all the things I didn’t get to do when I was there in 2011. The Bundestag, for example, holds more historical relevance on German government in one building than many of the theaters and museums I visited on my last trip. We climbed to the glass dome and saw a spectacular view of the city and enjoyed a first class tour of the German senate. 

Most folks explored Checkpoint Charlie and sections of the Berlin wall, but the most striking moment in Berlin was our visit to the East Side Gallery. For the last several years, artist Kali Alven has been working with the German government to secure portions
of the Berlin wall for artists to translate something negative into a positive new identity. It’s difficult as an American to describe what the wall means to someone who lived within its borders, but walking through the exhibit, it is hard to deny the power behind it.

Many of our conversations throughout our time in Berlin centered on getting a better understanding of just how recent the mistakes of World War II and the Cold War are to Germans now. For us, it is a somewhat distant memory, a moment in history that came, shocked, and faded away again. To them, these memories are very fresh and still have a direct impact on political and cultural decisions. My friend, Hannah, for example, explained to me that many young Germans have chosen to delay marriage until much later than their parents and grandparents, who raised them to enjoy a better life than what they experienced behind the wall. This, by the way, is why I think the country’s birth rate remains so dangerously low. Politically, although Germany maintains the best economy in the European Union, the country steadfastly refuses to utilize its military defense system as a general practice as a result of the disastrous outcomes of its last two major military campaigns. This, I admit, surprised me. Although I know Germany’s history well enough to understand, as an American, I found the lack of military strength and prowess unusual. 

Germany also displays a certain lack of national pride. Up until her success at the World Cup in 2006, Germany never wore the flag, never bragged about her accomplishments and no one ever said he was proud to be a German. While this attitude is slowly changing, the reformation is very slow in coming. Football jerseys are rising in popularity, young people are turning out in drives for matches, but there seems to be a temperance to it that never fully reaches patriotic pride. 

In Leipzig, however, I did discover two triumphs of which Germany can certainly be proud: that is the churches and the food.  Despite a fee on church members throughout the country that seems to be discouraging a whole generation against Christianity, Germany seems to take a certain pride in religious architecture. Every church I visited in Leipzig had significant historical impact. St. Thomaskirke housed an organ designed by Johann Sebastian Bach, while St. Nikolaikirke marked the gathering place for countless peaceful protests that changed the city’s history. We spent most of the first day touring the churches and walking Leipzig’s beautiful campus before joining RIAS alumni for dinner. 

Dinner in Leipzig was its own unique experience. Since the menu was completely in German and my translation skills are minimal at best, I was forced to rely on the culinary expertise of the journalist seated next to me. When the food arrived, I was as shocked as everyone else to discovered that I had ordered a Bavarian delicacy known as a pig’s knuckle. The massive plate of food was surprisingly fantastic, once I sliced my way through two inches of crispy pork fat to discover the deliciously tender meat beneath it. This, my friends, is something everyone must try once. 

The next day, we took a two hour train ride over to Cologne, home to one of the largest cathedrals I have ever seen. It took my breath away from the outside, but the majesty and detail inside truly impressed me. We weren’t able to stay long as a train strike forced us to leave early, but we did manage to tour the local state television station, RTL. 

This is where I began to understand the distinct differences in American and German programming. What impressed me was that, despite state sponsorship, very little of the actual content is directly influenced by politics or the government. These stations also moved beyond hard news into areas like entertainment, educational programming, and youth shows. This level of thought and creativity was displayed at every city state station we saw as well as the two federal stations. I don’t personally think this system would work in the United States, but I enjoyed seeing it play in a country where most people seem to appreciate the content, despite being compelled to pay monthly dues for the programs. 

Our last stop on the tour was Brusells. While technically a Belgian city, it has a great deal of direct influence on the German political and military sphere. The first full day was spent meeting with members of the European Union, touring the facility, sitting in on press conferences and discussing the latest issues facing the EU. Much of the first half of the day was old information from my days at VOR, but once we got the press conference, things started to look interesting. I discovered that not only does the EU offer free technical broadcast services to members of the press, the organization is also open to direct questions on any topic during daily press briefings. 

Our last official meeting of the program was with NATO. This was really a special opportunity for most of us since a briefing on this level would be almost impossible without RIAS. After a rather intense security screening, we were met by the press liaisons and escorted to some fascinating briefings on NATO’s inner workings and updates on the organization’s international relations with Russia.

For me though, the real highlight of the trip was Bruges. The group spent our last evening there, and I still can’t get it out of my head. The place really felt like Disneyland for adults.  We all took a boat tour of the
city before walking towards the city square and listening to the bells play an evening concert. RIAS made sure to send us off in style with a glorious farewell dinner, which of course, included vast quantities of beer. It was one of those nights that stays special even when the food and friends disappear.

It was a long trip, and I was naturally exhausted before arriving home, but RIAS has certainly earned my respect for the professionalism displayed during this fellowship. I think we all learned to truly appreciate Germany as a country, but also gained a much better understanding of her history and approach to the news. It’s an opportunity that, as a journalist, you really hope comes along at least once.