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.

Monday, September 8, 2014

New Adventures in New Jersey

Brian and I have packed our bags and headed up north to begin the new journey known as life in Princeton, New Jersey. 

The normally four hour drive was somewhat delayed by a crazy car fire on 95, but we made it to the ivy halls none the worse for wear last Thursday. Monday then saw my first day as the new Communications Director for one of the most impressive pro-life organizations I've ever seen. 

It's been fun and a little nerve wracking to try something new after so many years in radio, but I have to admit, the slower pace has been good for me. My phone gets switched off every night. I wake up at the refreshingly human hour of 7am and have a full 60 minutes to myself before heading out the door. 

The best part, though, is knowing that I am called to be here and that this is exactly where God wants me to be. Before Brian and I packed all my worldly possessions into a few small boxes and drove off into the sunset, our entire group of friends gathered in our living room to pray over this new chapter in our lives. 

I can't tell you what this did for us. To be surrounded by so many people, all in agreement with each other and encouraging one another made my heart sing. I used to think that I didn't have a solid support group in DC. That's no longer true. We used the time to talk to God and really get a grasp on what this meant for us to be called out. I wondered how long this new mission would take to grow in a new place. 

It didn't take long.

Driving home last night, I was thanking God for the chance to spend time with a new friend and wondering if this was the ministry I was called to. It seemed odd to me that drinking beer and putting together furniture from IKEA counted as powerful, mostly because I really enjoyed it. The second I asked Him about it, God flipped the question: "Who says you can't enjoy doing my work?"

And there it was. After two years of dragging myself to meet God's callings, I had reached a new realization. I don't do these things just because God asks it of me anymore. I do it because I want to, because nothing makes me happier than seeing God reflected in someone else's life. It was an answer to prayer, a confirmation that the time of joy is creeping closer.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

6 Months to Paris: The Nail Challenge

Brian proposed a special challenge for me a few months ago, saying if I could stop biting my nails for six months straight, he would take me back to Paris.

Well, friends. Challenge accepted!

I started the bet by getting acrylic nails applied as quickly as possible. I've had them done three times now with significant success. While Brian will tell you I've slipped up once or twice, I think the photos prove I'm makiing significant progress.

My first attempt was to get nails that looked as natural as possible. I asked for a clear(ish) coat with natural looking tips. The results to the left turned out pretty well and I couldn't really complain about the price ($27 for the full set). The nail set seemed heavy and awkward for the first few days, and I wanted to keep picking at all the miniscule imperfections that popped up.

Eventually, I stopped trying to find new ways to get my fingers into my mouth and started admiring how nice they looked all painted and pretty.

A month later, I walked in with nails that looked like they'd been put through a shredder. Apparently, the damn things start to pop off one at a time after about three weeks. Eric (at the Nails Spa in Eastern Market) was an angel and redid the whole mess with an impressive eye for detail. He even talked me into a blend of bright pink that I never would have tried myself. We tested it on one nail and LOVED it. As you can see, the results were a happy jump into Spring.

A couple weeks later, Brian and I headed out to Luray for a friend's wedding which included manicures for the bridesmaids. We all ended up getting the same color (surprise, surprise). Luckily it was a generic shade of rosy pink that goes with pretty much everything.

My cunning plan is to post new stories and photos with new nails every few weeks until the bet is complete and Brian and I are eating Nutella crepes under the Eiffel Tower.

Check back in two weeks and I'll have have new nail designs and photos. I am having so much fun goofing around with new colors and am totally open to outside ideas! 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Value of Education

Several of my friends from my college days have posted an article written in The Federalist to their Facebook pages this morning. The basic argument of the piece calls into question the value and importance of higher education compared to the massive amount of debt students tend to accumulate as a result.
The article points out that "about $758.5 billion is owed to the federal government" by students for loans. Author Daniel Oliver mainly argues that it's time for Republicans to step up and fight to cancel federal aid for higher education due to its effect on the economy.

While Oliver makes many excellent points, and I agree with the economic premise that it is in no way the government's responsibility to pay for my education, this article misunderstands the purpose of a solid education in the first place. It's not to get a great job or make more money or become more successful. Modern American society wants you to think that, but it just isn't so. College and higher education is meant to drive young (and old) people to a higher standard, to give us a perspective and maturity that would be difficult to attain otherwise. 

The value of my education is not found in my paycheck. It is not found in my BA in Classical Studies.

It is found in the person I became during my four years at Hillsdale. It is found in the circumspect approach I bring to my radio show every day. It is found in the conversations I have with my friends and colleagues about the things that really matter (and even the things that don't matter at all).

It was in college that I learned to write, think, listen and speak intelligently: all of which of which are vital in both the professional and personal fields. My husband and I first bonded over a love of language and a deep passion for truth that I learned to cultivate at school. Any children we may have will benefit from our mutual drive for excellence and stubborn dedication to our principals. Yes, Mr. Oliver, these are qualities that would exist in me without attending a four year school, but higher education is what grew and cultivated these qualities in me to a place where I could use them well. 

Admittedly college is not for everyone, but I believe those who have the determination to complete a degree are better for it, and assuming a student chooses the right school, it is worth the cost of tuition.