Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Reading Challenge of 2010: March

10:24 PM
I'm three months into my reading challenge of 2010. So I should have finished 12 or 13 books by now. Well, I have 14 checked off my list and feeling pretty good about it! My friend Becca is working her way through the challenge as well. I've enjoyed having someone to share this with. Even though her and I choose totally different books, I love the harmless competition it inspires. When she texts me to tell me she's finished another, I know I've got to get back to the book I put down 2 weeks ago. It just makes it more fun! I challenge you to set some reading goals for yourself. If you are like me, once I was no longer required to be reading for school, I didn't really want to pick up another book. But then I'd remember how much I loved reading as a kid, and the excitement I would find from being lost inside a story...and I'd want that back. So that's what this challenge has become for me. A way to recapture my love of books and of reading, and to increase my knowledge at the same time. Maybe 50 is too ambitious. Start smaller! My friend Kim is the mother of a 2-year-old bundle of energy. Her reading goal is 12 books this year [no, not picture books to her little guy, either!] and she's already at 4. Way to go Kim! So find some books that pique your interest. Utilize a resource like Goodreads and get reading!

Burn by Ted Dekker

So I decided to switch gears again this month and start out with some Christian fiction. Now, this isn't a genre I always love, despite the fact I am a Christian. I am, shockingly, rather picky and cynical when it comes to authors I devote myself too. One such Christian fiction author is Ted Dekker. I discovered him several years ago, and became quite a fan of his supernatural/spiritual/action/adventure themed tales. I just finished his latest, a collaboration with Erin Healy [his second collaboration with her] and was pleased with the result. In Luke, Jesus says “No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money." Dekker's Burn is a literal tale of just principle. The story opens with a gypsy community in New Mexico hard at work with their festivals. Janeal Mikkado, Robert Lukim, and Katy Morgon are three best friends enjoying their teenage fun and folly within the only world they've ever known...the gypsy way of life. Janael, the leader's daughter, however often dreams of life outside the community, and for this reason is approached by a man threatening her father's safety. Janael is forced to choose between the love of her family & friends or the love of money& freedom. The result of that choice leaves an inferno of disaster, with only three survivors. As the story fast forwards, each character lives their life unaware of the other's existence. Until they are faced again with a mutual enemy who scarred them all. I was afraid of some heavy-handed spiritual tones, but was relieved not to find too many parts of that. The story starts slow but does become compelling, and about halfway through it becomes hard to put down, which is why I love a good Dekker story. It's a true tale about the reality of dying to self and Matthew 3:12 “His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire." It wasn't my favorite book of the year, but I'm glad I read it and am still a tride and true Dekker fan.

In the Woods by Tana French

I’ve been anxious to read this one for months now. A good psychological thriller. Set in Irish countryside, In the Woods opens with a story of 3 young playmates enjoying a summer of mischief and ecstasy. But the summer turned tragic when 2 of the children went missing. The third was found with blood soaked through his shoes and not a memory of what happened. That boy grows up, and becomes a Murder Detective and dedicates his life to solving terrible crimes, while his own past was still one big mystery. He gets assigned a child killing case, and it brings back that painful summer once again. I started it early in the month, and it took me almost the entire month to get through it! French’s writing style is detailed and elaborate that it was hard to read at times. The 3 main characters were quite interesting, I enjoyed each of their stories and relationship to one another. The case itself was full of suspense and agony, leaving the reader curious if it would ever get solved. I did have some complaints though, aside from French’s painstaking writing style. I picked up on the conspirators much earlier on than was enjoyable. I love trying to figure out whodunit, but I love being surprised and outwitted by a good mystery writer. For about 50% of the book, I was waiting for the police to make the same connection I had made. They did. And it was unsatisfactory. I also did not enjoy the random pop culture references thrown in…The Simple Life? Ricky Martin? Sex and the City? Really? Also, not every loose end was resolved. I pray to God there’s a sequel to this storyline in the woks. I read the plot description of French’s next book, The Likeness, and while some characters reoccur, it’s not the storyline that needs resolution! So, I would half-heartedly recommend this. Better than some, but much worse than others.

Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel by Rolf Potts

Travel is something I am incredible passionate about. I love the thrill of a new place, a new people and the journey to get there. And as life takes me, I’ll be moving overseas for the first time next year for long-term. So when I ran across Vagabonding by Rolf Potts, I thought it could be a helpful read in preparing for my time overseas. It was that and more. Vagabonding is a comprehensive look at long-term world travel from every aspect. Potts, a vagabonder himself, did an incredible job painting a realistic picture of life on the road. Each chapter opened with quotes from fellow vagabonders from all walks of life, a profile of a ‘famous’ traveler, and a quote by a travel-inspiring literary writer. Potts approaches travel from not only the romantic, whimsical point of view, but also the practical side. Beginning with “Why vagabond?”, he makes a compelling case for long-term travel that our American culture just doesn’t seem to embrace. He talks about when to plan, and when not to plan, as some of the greatest adventures happen organically. Potts explains the importance of immersing in the cultures one travels to. Experiencing a culture from a hotel room and guide book is not the same as experiencing it through the eyes of the locals. He writes about the difference between travels and tourists, and as a traveler we see what we see but a tourist sees what they came over. Potts outlines the difficulties and the unglamorous side of being a world traveler, but keeps a healthy perspective and balance overall. Each chapter ends with fantastic tip sheets and more resources. This little book was quite a find, and I’m sure I’ll be referencing it the months to come. If you’ve ever considered long term travel, don’t read this one, because you’ll quit your job tomorrow and hit the road. It’s that inspiring.

Box 21 by Anders Rosslund & Borge Hellstrom

Last year, I read an incredible Swedish thriller by Steig Larsson called The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. I think I finished it in about 7 hours. I followed it up with it’s sequel, The Girl Who Played With Fire, a few months later. I was so hooked into this series. The third, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, releases later this year. After reading Larsson, I decided to research what other gems Swedish mystery authors were writing. I discovered Rosslund & Helistrom’s Box 21 because it not only fit this genre, the entire plot was focused on sex trafficking in Sweden. Finally found a copy at a library and read it in a weekend. It was no Larsson thriller, but still a good read. The authors very graphically used the sex trade as the backdrop for the mystery. Two victims…badly beaten…and a cop stuck in the middle. I loved/hated these characters. My heart broke for the girls being abused. I felt anger towards the people involved. And then I felt annoyance for the lead detective. By the end of the book, I was so fed with them. Ewert Grens, a detective of over 20 years, had suffered extreme personal loss while on the job at the hands of one criminal. And he has spent his entire career ensuring that this criminal got his due punishment. So landing a case with two abused prostitutes really didn’t align with his vendetta mission. Everything he did was selfish, and he took others down with him. His partner, Sven, started the story as a noble man, intent on finding the truth. But by the end, he walks the same murky waters as Grens. All the while, girls are being bought and sold, beaten and raped, humiliated and degraded. It’s not an easy topic to read, especially when I have so much emotion on the topic. I’m glad I read it, but re-read, I will not.


Saturday, March 27, 2010

Traveling in My Own City

9:19 PM

One of my favorite things about traveling is taking pictures. I'm a bit of a shutterbug. I think I I'm not an awesome photographer, but I love the art of it. Sometimes I get a great shot, and sometimes it just captures a memory. Either way, it's one of my favorite things. Well, I haven't traveled anywhere lately and I've been itching to take some great location pictures. And it hit me the other day during my long commute through of most of downtown Tampa, that there are some beautiful locations right here! So my sister and I spent a Saturday driving & walking through parts of Tampa and taking pictures of whatever struck us as interesting, beautiful, or unique. Here are just a sampling of some of our pictures...

View of Tampa from across the Bay at Ballast Point Park

Lunch at datz deli in South Tampa

Historic & beautiful Plant High School

Hyde Park Village shopping

Plant Hall on the University of Tampa campus

One of the many buildings that makes Tampa skyline so beautiful!

The Tampa Theatre is one of my favorite places in all of Tampa!
A secluded house of worship

Hillsborough High School in all its glory

Hillsborough River at Sulphur Springs park

Ybor City


Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Growing Pains of Adult-hood (and How I Failed Lent)

11:50 AM
This was the first year I had ever participated in Lent. I was very much looking forward to, oddly enough. I think I anxious for the discipline of fasting to translate into the discipline of spiritual growth. I started out real strong. I was praying more and reading chapters of Scripture daily and journaling regularly.

But as the days of Lent wore on, nothing was happening. I wasn’t watching TV by myself anymore, but I began filling my time with other just-as-useless activities instead of focusing on spiritual growth. I expected for this fast to push me towards a regular time with God. But instead, I just became annoyed that I was so behind on LOST and missed the delivery of Jim & Pam’s baby on The Office. And I became frustrated. And quit.

Did I just fail my first Lent experience? And, am I that addicted to my TV that I can’t turn it off for 40 days? These questions hurt to ask myself. I’m preparing to be a missionary for crying out loud! My time with God should be consistent at the very least. Or did I put too much pressure on this season of Lent? Was I expecting too much for these 40 days? Or maybe I just realized things about myself that I wasn’t expecting to realize.

One area I feel completely overwhelmed by is the area of discipline. I was counting on a 40-day fast to miraculously transform my lack of discipline. And, shockingly, it didn’t. it’s not Lent’s fault. It’s my own. My greatest strength [thanks, StrengthFinders] is Adaptability. I’m easy-going to the hilt. And while this can work to my advantage [i.e., moving to Cambodia!], it can also work to my disadvantage. By being so flexible, I don’t set anything in concrete. Whether it’s financially, spiritually, physically, or intellectually, I struggle setting hard and fast achievements for myself. And if I do make a feeble attempt to set them, I barely give myself the chance to meet them, before giving up.

I’ve survived so far with my lack of discipline. Or perhaps I’m finally in a stage of life that doesn’t force discipline upon me [high school, college, etc…]. Either way, I don’t think I can continue like this. The time has come for real responsibility, real commitment, and real discipline. Am I becoming a real adult?


Saturday, March 20, 2010

Some Things Are Just Universal

3:29 PM

This post has been entered in the Grantourismo Travel Blogging Competition. Check out Grantourismo and Home Away Rentals!

Tomorrow we were going to the lake. I was so excited! The lake isn’t nearby, and so it would be quite a treat. It had been awful hot lately, and we could benefit from a cool, relaxing swim. My housemates and I stayed up all night packing lunches for our friends and us. Barbecue chicken and rice would be a perfect lakeside lunch.

The next morning we were up before the sun. Who had the towels? Did anyone call for the truck we were taking? Bathing suits…check. Change of clothes…check. Lunch…check and check! We loaded up and set off.

We were glad we got there early, because it wasn’t easy to reserve a pavilion for 50 of us! We set down our belongings and hit the water. What a beautiful site! Mothers chatted about their children and fathers discussed work. As the children laugh happily and the teenagers splash energetically, I sit back and take in the breeze and breathe deeply. I love days like this. I open my eyes and see a herd of malnourished cows wander by. And then I remember I’m in Cambodia.

After swimming, we lie out the mats on the floor of pavilion and begin to share lunch. We brought the white rice wrapped in banana leaves we picked from our backyard and the barbeque chicken. Other families passed around the vegetables & fruits they had prepared. A basket of skewed frogs passed by, and I kindly refused. We had so much food that no one could possibly be hungry.

As the morning turned to early afternoon, and the daily naptime approached. The huts were lined with hammocks, so I cozied up and fell asleep to the sound of Khmer singing, kids laughing, and water splashing. A day at a lake never felt so good.

We load the 25 of us back into the flatbed pickup truck that brought us, and set out for home. My white skin is slightly burned, but it didn’t matter. The driver decides to take a shortcut through the Angkor Wat temples, and I am wide-eyed at the structures before me. Suddenly, we stop as police officers surround the truck. I look around anxiously. Were there too many of us in the back? Were we speeding? The officer gestures emphatically and points back the way we came. The driver turns the truck around and I ask what just happened. We had been stopped because I was white and didn’t pay to be at the temples that day. All non-Cambodians must pay to visit, and I had not. Guess I stood out a little more than I thought. I had been in Siem Reap for two weeks and forgot to notice that white people were not so common.

We arrive home, unload supplies, and settle in for the night. The lake water still reeking from our hair, we decide to have a night of beauty. We had a station for hair washing, for hair styling, and for manicures and pedicures. I was living in a house full of women, so what did you expect? Some things are just universal.

Does the post resonate with you ? Does it inspire you? Have you had similar experiences? How do these kind of everyday experiences compare with visiting a major tourist sight? I'd love to hear your thoughts!


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Letters, Love & Prayers Vol. 2

10:41 AM
Dear Family and Friends!

I can’t believe it’s 3 months into 2010 already! My travel start date is getting closer and closer! And that is exactly the reason why I wanted to update you on what’s been happening with my upcoming journey to Cambodia and the ministry I will be doing there.

I’ve really been using these months before I leave as preparation. Preparation of my heart, of my mind, of my finances, and of my spirit. I’m attempting to teach myself some of the local language, Khmer, which is proving to be an overwhelming task! I’m also planning on learning some basic Cambodian cooking. I wasn’t crazy about the food, so I’m hoping to practice on preparing some dishes and acquire a taste! Or it’ll be my year of rice. I’ve also been working towards making myself debt-free! Thankfully, my debt is small, and with some budgeting, I should be completely debt-free by September. This is a huge deal for me, to be able to travel without the stress of bills and payments. It will be quite a relief. We’re also right in the midst of Lent, and this year I chose to participate for the first time ever. I’ve been purposeful with my fasting to use my extra time in prayer and study to ask God to prepare me spiritually for this journey. I don’t think I’ll ever be “ready” spiritually, but I know He will uphold me and sustain me as needed.

I’ve also been networking a ton, through friends and acquaintances, and even through my blog and Facebook. It’s been exciting to see the people and organizations God has put in my path during this season. And I know this is only the beginning of things to come. I’m always looking for more networking contacts, so if you’d be interested in letting me come and speak at your church, small group, Sunday School class, youth group, one on one, or other gatherings, I’d love the chance to share what God is doing in Cambodia and how others can be a part of ending sex trafficking. Please email me!

I had an amazing opportunity in February to help fight against human trafficking in our own state. I spent 4 days in Miami Beach leading up to the Super Bowl. I went down the Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking, and we partnered with 5 other organizations for this outreach. Our goal was help identify missing children and to provide outreach & awareness to people regarding sex trafficking. I love opportunities like this, since I will be fighting against sex trafficking in Cambodia. So I feel that any experience I can get is good experience for the ministry ahead. The night outreach we did consisted of observation, watching and looking for underage girls who have been prostituted. When we were able to identify someone, we’d approach them with a brief interaction and get in their hands a safe hotline card that they could use to get off the streets. We approached several girls and handed out many cards. Some were receptive, others just blew us off. But the important thing was that we made contact and let them know that help was available. We did this for 3 straight nights. The other aspect of our outreach was focused on community awareness. We walked around to businesses, like hotels, restaurants, bars, shopping centers, and handed out information on missing kids from the area, as well as tips to identify someone who could be a victim of sex trafficking. The card also had the national hotline so tips could be reported immediately. We had mostly positive response, especially in regards to looking for the missing kids. They didn’t seem quite as enthused knowing we out there trying to help prostitutes, but that’s OK, it’s all part of why we are out there, to change the public perception. By the end of the weekend, 2 missing girls had been located, and 6 leads had been reported. One underage girl was off the streets for the night, and countless others had been contacted. Also, an out-of-state man was arrested in Miami Beach on sex trafficking charges. He had been found with girls that he was prostituting out during the Super Bowl and one was underage. That news release and more details about my trip are on my blog: http://bindingthebroken.blogspot.com in the “Miami” section.

As far as new information on the DTS [Discipleship Training School with YWAM], I officially got my acceptance letter! So my start date is September 23, 2010 and I’ll be reporting to Orlando, FL.

My biggest prayer needs right now is continued persistence in preparation and discipline. I really want to make the most out of my last 6 months here, and not miss out on ministry that God is doing. Also, I still have a great financial need for this trip. The training school costs have been broken down like this: I need $1,060 by August 13th, which is 1/3 of the Orlando Lecture Fees. Then $2,130 by September 13, which is the remainder of the Orlando Lecture Fees Balance. October 22nd is when I would need the international airfare, which would vary from $1,000 - $1,8000 depending on location. The final amount due of $1,700 by November 30th, covers the Field Assignment Ground Fees. As of right now, I don’t have any of this amount. I have great faith that God will provide this amount and beyond to begin my “life in Cambodia” ministry fund, and I’m excited to see how He is going to do it! I would ask you as supporters to pray and see if God is leading you to financially contribute to this ministry.

Keep in contact with me through my email: joy2theworld82@gmail.com and my blog: http://bindingthebroken.blogspot.com.

If you are interested in financially supporting this upcoming missions project, you can donate online through PayPal on my blog or by check. Make checks payable to YWAM [Youth With a Mission] and mail to myself [email me for mailing address]. There is no need to put my name on the check anywhere, as I will be sending them straight to YWAM myself.

Thank you so much for your prayers and encouragement. I can’t wait to update you again with more news!

Ruined for the Ordinary,

Joy Engdahl


Monday, March 15, 2010

Just a Little Crush

7:52 PM
Most people have a “type” of person they are attracted to. Some are obvious, some less so. For example, one friend of mine has a pattern of dating guys who were over 6 foot tall and worship leaders. (This was funny because she’s like 5’4”). Another friend of mine found herself dating guys without jobs. (Thankfully, the man she married has one!) Some girls like athletic guys, and some girls like the artistic types. Well, I never really thought that I had a type, I’ve dated a wrestler, a software engineer, a nocturnal waiter, a community theatre junkie, and a radio DJ. But as I began to look back over my crushes, the guys I’m attracted to or just drawn to, there are some definite patterns. Three patterns actually…

The Promiscuous Pastor-types. That just sounds awful to call them, but wanting to sound clever, it is also the truth. I will begin by saying this pattern is thankfully in my past, but it was definitely evident in my life. These guys were really active in church leadership, and I served alongside of them. I’m sure my attraction stemmed out of my desire to do ministry and wanting to marry a man who did the same thing. Because I knew that I will be working in full-time ministry in some form, I had been looking for guys who also had similar callings. But I was young and na├»ve, and fell for lines that were just ridiculous. Although it took longer than it should, I broke this pattern. But a man who is following God’s call into full-time ministry [especially missions!], still makes me pause.

The Young Emo Abstinent Adults. And I mean young. Like 19. 20. 21. Because of my work, I meet guys totally sold out to the program that graduate from high school and keep volunteering with us, even through college. I’ll usually meet these guys at events, or through former students or something, and we’ll start talking about our matching TOMS shoes and love for Bon Iver and loose leaf tea. We have music tastes in common and general overall outlook on society. We’re all about service and fired up about changing the world. And, oddly, abstinent. That is very odd in our generation. For the majority of people today, dating requires sex. But not in my life. I know that sex is something I am going to save for my future husband. And nobody but him is deserving of that much of me. Maybe that’s why I’m drawn to this type of guy too. I want my guy to have standards and for him to be respecting himself enough to wait for me, just like I am for him.

The Beer-drinking, Bearded, Cigar-Smoking Musician. This is the kind of guy I see the most regularly. Because it describes ¾ of my church. (The other ¼ are girls). To me, these guys are cool and comfortable. They are passionate and intelligent. They are just as likely to quote from Will Ferrell’s Anchorman or Talladega Nights as they are from Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet or Soreen Kierkegaard. They listen to bands no one has heard of and find spiritual significance in everything. Add a few tattoos and a deep V-neck, and that’s my kind of guy. And I’m pretty sure this has evolved over time and the crowd I now hang with. I pretty much just described every guy at my church. I love that I attend a church that reaches so many men. For some reason, most men are less likely to attend church on their own. But not at my church. I think it’s great that I can be surrounded by so amazing godly men, married and single, that I respect and can learn from and encourage.

So those are my types. The types of guys, for better or worse, that I’m drawn to. More often than not I just end up with some good friends. Which is perfect for me right now. I hope marriage is in my future one day, but I am perfectly happy and content with my life status right not. As John Mayer says so eloquently, “Nowhere to go, nothing to be, I’m perfectly lonely”.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Be our Guest!

12:06 PM
I'm officially a guest blogger! Collective Lens, a site that "promotes social change through photography", asked me to write about human trafficking in Cambodia. They are a great organization that is seeking to raise awareness about all kinds of global issues. My article was published today and I'm quite excited! Check it out here!


Monday, March 8, 2010

Sweet Sound of Acceptance

1:40 PM
So, I'm gonna let you in on a little secret about myself. Beneath my cool, calmed, go-with-the-flow demeanor, I still worry. Not about little day to day things, but about the big stuff. The stuff that will effect my future. Stuff I have no control over. With the direction my life is going, a lot of things have been up in the air, and I've tried not to, but sometimes the worry just creeps in. I've been specifically worried about my acceptance to the YWAM Discipleship Training School this fall. It's the first step I have to take in getting back to Cambodia full-time. I applied for the school in November, and here it is now, March, and I had no word. As a result, I've been hesitant to really go full-force into fundraising, with the slight doubt that I may not attending this school in September if I don't get in. I've been moving forward as though I'm going to be accepted, but until I get that final word, I was just unsure.

Well, today, I was talking to my friend, pastor's wife, and all around awesome Sarah, telling her about my frustrations with not being accepted yet, and not having heard anything from them in awhile. She told me she would pray about it and hoped it would work out, and just encouraged me to keep seeking God through it all. It was comforting to have had relayed my worries to someone else and I felt at peace again about. And then, not even an hour later, I get a call from YWAM Orlando, telling me I'VE BEEN ACCEPTED!! I was stoked! Finally...confirmation and acceptance in what I've been planning. God is good! I love when prayers are answered, but I find it so rare when they are answered so speedily! So thanks Sarah, thanks GOD, and let's get things rolling!


Thursday, March 4, 2010

My Blog Won an Award!

4:16 PM

Hey check it out! I got an award! My dear friend Kim passed this blogging award on to me just the other day. I like to think I bring a little sunshine with my posts. I've been blogging on and off for a year or so now, but I've tried to focus on it since my Cambodia trip last August. When I knew I was going to start the incredible journey back, I wanted to share that journey with as many people as I could. I know my little blog doesn't attract a ton of readers and probably never will, but I enjoy knowing that I have a space that I can share information with the world. Whether it's something I've experienced or something knew I've learned. So thank you, dear readers and followers of my travels, reads, and [sometimes dull] life experiences.

To keep the Sunshine Award chain going, I'd like to pass it on to my friend Becca. Becca blogs like no other, and one day I hope my blog can grow up and be like her blog. She's clever and witty, insightful and creative with a writing style all her own. Check out her blog and follow her through life at a non-profit, a pro-football family, organizational and party planning tips, book reviews and life lessons. You won't be disappointed!