This is where I am going to move all the stuff I've written about my passage in one long writing.

I started blogging about my passage and it transformed into something way longer than I expected. I guess I'll post it in segments. Also, some of it is personal, so reading this, you may not get the full story. If you're a lady, you know what happened. If you're a girl, you'll have to wait till your passage to know how it really is. If you're a guy (of any age), you'll just have to wonder I guess. :)

How do I begin to describe the amazing journey my sister and I undertook? Maybe I should begin at the beginning, but this story begins long before Saturday, April 17th at 9:30 AM. It begins months, and even years earlier as we both began to find our place in the body of Christ, how we struggled with our peers and cried over losses when friends were taken out. Several times, we nearly went down ourselves, but somehow, Saturday morning, I awoke ready to take on the next and biggest step so far: Womanhood. We were given lists of tasks to accomplish to help prepare us for this day, and so as I began getting ready to leave, I wasn't very nervous, which is weird because I usually get nervous about much lesser things than a passage. (At my graduation, I was miserable to be around, and when required to give speeches, I'm exceedingly...unpleasant.)  This morning however, the only side effects I felt were that I couldn't eat, and I didn't talk much, just watched all my friends and the ladies in my house rush around in a frenzy, hair half-done, speaking cryptically when they noticed that I was in the room.

At about 8:15, I was driven down to Joy's cabin. They had me close my eyes and led me in slowly by the hand. I was seated in a chair and then told, "Ok, open your eyes!" I was skeptical that the delicate, pink dress in front of me was mine. It was beautiful, but my eyes were drawn to the one in front of Nichole. There was so much detail on it; I couldn't believe that someone would put that much time into something for me. It took a little bit to convince them that my stunned silence was overwhelming gratefulness, not that I didn't like it. The next 15 minutes were spent getting my hair twisted up and into a braided wire headband that Rushi had made for me. I couldn't believe it was actually mine, it was so beautiful.

     I then changed into the dress and waited for Nichole's hair to be finished, which took a little longer than mine.  Waiting there was the first time I felt a twinge of nervousness. Do you really know what you're getting yourself into?, my mind asked. A little late for doubts, I replied and resolutely walked out the door. It was then I found out I had to enter on horseback. Apparently, I was supposed to have a practice horse ride days before, but it hadn't worked out with my schedule because they couldn't tell me about it. I stood for a moment, trying to figure out how to climb up into a saddle in a full-length dress, and then made a rather undignified scramble up onto the horse. After we arranged my skirts and the other girls climbed up, we waited, hearing snatches of the speeches being made on the stage. I have to admit, that was the most nervous I was the entire day. I heard my name every once in a while, and people laughing, which was the worst thing since you couldn't hear what they were laughing at, I heard, ..."she struggled with that for a while, but..." What did I struggle with? The horse kept trying to sniff my foot, and I kept trying to kick it away without letting Samantha see when I heard the music start. At the last moment, Esther decided she couldn't ride a horse and carry the flag and threw it down.

     As soon as the horse started walking, I was totally fine. I straightened my back and held my head high, and for the strangest moment, I felt like Joan of Arc, riding home after a huge victory. I had worked long and hard to get to this place and time, and I rode in with my head held high. I looked over and saw Nichole being led in on a white horse with ribbons braided into his mane, surrounded by little girls dancing and carrying flowers. Even though I didn't know this was on purpose, the first thought that went through my head was, She looks like a queen. I was dreading trying to climb off the horse and keep my skirt down, but somehow I must have managed it. Nichole slid down gracefully (of course), and the little girls ran to give her the flowers. Those sweet girls noticed that my hands were empty (I was supposed to be carrying the standard) and they remedied that by handing me half of Nichole's flowers.

*note to anyone wondering why we looked like we were at a funeral, these little bugs kept flying into our eyes, and there was nothing we could do except kind of squint and hope they went away. I had someone ask what was wrong.

     The Messenger girls danced then, and then pulled us into the dance and then they whispered, "Walk over to the ladies now." I had been warned they'd ask us rite of passage questions, and I started to worry they'd do that now, but as we walked towards them, they began to sing the Bride song and formed an aisle leading to the door of the Town Hall. I walked through, feeling my nervousness drain away, glad I had managed to make it through without tripping once...thought too soon, I stumbled on the hem of my dress and nearly fell. Couldn't I have got any of the gracefulness in my family? Sigh... I couldn't help but pause on the porch and look back at my family in the field. I didn't feel an overwhelming feeling of leaving my childhood behind, or any momentous, recordable thoughts besides, "It's going to be an AWESOME day." Then pushed open the door and stepped inside.

                                   Waiting to see the dresses

We both instantly know there was a swap. Check out Nichole's adorable expression! 

Nathanael, talking about Nichole.                  

Abba, talking about me.

My grand entrance 

                      My beautiful sister

Little kids are so sweet! 

                                   Believe it or not, these flowers are not for a funeral. :)

  The Messenger girls!

Walking to the ladies. We look so different...

 Me                                                   Nichole

Singing the Bride song and walking up the aisle. :)

Anne and April, sisters at heart

"Sisterhood, as we all know, is about what we have in common," April began. She and Anne began listing everything they have in common: their husbands are considerably older than them (and both men have amazing taste in women, of course), their engagement rings are identical, their weddings are the same month. Their oldest children were born the same month, a year after they were born. The next children, 4 days apart. "And of course, it helps when you dress alike and your hair is alike!" Anne adds at the end. "And we like the same cold cereal, eaten dry." 
"What are you talking about?" Jenn asked. And they talked about the true meaning of sisterhood, that it's deeper than having things in common, or even being born into the same family. It's about being there for each other and being able to trust each other.

It's a two-sided relationship, where each gives, not just takes. They then each said what they contributed to the sisterhood of the village. Each woman then stood and joined the circle, holding hands each pledging to give what she had to the village. Some said honesty, comfort, faith or life: the word we all think of when we think of them. Love and trust and even magic. (Can you guess who that was?) Some people said the ministry they were part of, like midwifery or being a doula. All together, you could see how the sisterhood would not be complete without each part. Nichole and I had been asked to think about it before the passage so we were ready with our pledges. 

"I pledge gentleness," Nichole vowed, and I pledged strength. (I guess a little explanation is necessary here. A few years ago, Amma had been meeting with the Messenger girls, and she gave us a word that she felt was our strength and weakness. Mine was strength and Nichole's was gentleness. On our outing before our passage, the Messenger girls had given us a quote that they felt linked our words together and proved once again, that neither of us would be who we were without the other.
"Nothing is as strong as gentleness, and nothing is so gentle as true strength." 
This was repeatedly referred to throughout the day, so I guess we chose well.)   

This group also gave us a necklace: a double wired necklace, a glass cross, and several colored beads. Each color represented different traits and personalities, and they said to remember, each time we wear the necklace, to remember we are wearing the sisters around our neck, and also, the necklace isn't complete without all of them.

This pitcher is overflowing with water, if that isn't evident by the picture, but it started out empty. The ladies who were in the service group set up a big jar of water, and each woman in the room came and put one cupful of water into the pitcher. It filled very slowly, and it took very many scoops to fill it, but by the time each woman had put her portion in, it was not only full, but overflowing. It was a beautful picture of how each woman has to do her part to make the whole.
Each lady had chosen quotes about service that they read that gave a picture that service isn't just work, it's choosing to give yourself, all of yourself, for others and for God.

They also gave us a broom with these words on it:
I will live to carry your compassion, to love a world that's broken, to be Your hands and feet. And I will give with the life that I've been given and go beyond religion to see the world be changed by the power of Your name.
These are the lyrics to a song, and they felt that they embodied their message to us. The broom was to represent the hidden work we do that no one sees, true service. They used sweeping as an example: the floor is swept three times a day, at every cleanup, and yet, because of our lifestyle, it always seems dirty. Sometimes, it doesn't seem worth it to sweep it one more time because no one notices when you do it, but when it isn't done, everyone can tell. It must be done. 

I feel so blessed to be part of that sisterhood.

I have a lot I want to share from the sacrifice group. The first is a letter that Becky read.It's totally awesome and inspiring.
 I'm part of the fellowship of the unashamed. I have the Holy Spirit power. The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made--I'm a disciple of His. I won't look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still. My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, and my future is secure. I'm finished and done with low living, sight walking, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tame visions, worldly talking, cheap giving, and dwarfed goals.
I no longer need preeminence,  prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I don't have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded, or rewarded. I now live by faith, lean in His presence, walk by patience, am uplifted by prayer, and I labor with power.
My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my way rough, my companions few, my Guide reliable, my mission clear. I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, deluded, or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of the enemy, pander at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.
I won't give up, shut up, let up, until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up, preached up for the cause of Christ. I am a disciple of Jesus. I must go till He stops me. And, when He comes for His own, He will have no problem recognizing banner will be clear!

I keep finding conflicting messages about who the author is. A lot of people seem to think the author is Dr. Bob Moorehead and the other popular belief is Henry B. Eyring. Others say that it was found on a scrap of paper in the house of a pastor in Zimbabwe when they were searching his home before or after he was martyred. I honestly don't know, but God does. Regardless of the author, it's totally awesome.

It was brought to my attention this morning that I'm shamefully overdue in writing...I guess it's hard to remember people actually read this, so I get busy and forget to write. I'm sorry. Something I've already begun doing, is copying all the posts about my passage and copying them onto a separate page on my blog. There is a link to it on the bottom of the page.

To take up where I left off with the sacrifice group.

They next told a story about a stick of bamboo. I don't have the exact copy with me, but the general summary is that a gardener has a beautiful garden, and his most favorite plant in it is a tall, strong, beautiful stalk of bamboo. One day, he comes to it with a knife and tells it that he will hurt it. He begins carving into the bamboo. Though it is painful, the bamboo knows that the gardener loves it and wouldn't hurt if for no reason. When the pain is over and the gardener stops to inspect his work, the bamboo sees that the master has carved his name into the bamboo so everyone would know that it and all its beauty belongs to the gardener. The bamboo is filled with pride and joy.

Later, the gardener comes with a hatchet. He cuts the bamboo down and strips it of all its branches and leaves and all its beauty. He then cuts it in half and carves out its heart. He then uses the bamboo for irrigation, bringing water to the fields and bringing water to other people. When the bamboo sees the joy and life that it brings by sacrificing itself, it is glad that the master used it.

It's a beautiful picture of sacrifice. We can never know why God puts us through the pain He asks us to. He asks us to give things up and strips us of all that we hold dear and all that we believe is good and beautiful in us. And then, when we find there is nothing good in us at all, then and only then can he use us to bring life and joy to others.

One very important part of being a woman which the value of is often underestimated is hospitality. It doesn't seem like much. In fact, it's kind of boring, tedious work that isn't appreciated very much or noticed by most. But it's one of those things that if done carelessly or half-heartedly, everyone can tell. I'm one of those people that don't think to thank those who take the time to make a house a home, but I am probably the first to notice (and complain) if a room is messy.

Hospitality is more than cleaning. It's taking care of people who may never know what you've done for them. A well-known fact is that Mercy used to do hospitality for visitors. A very little known fact is everything it entailed. Not only did she clean the guest trailer, but she made sure there was food in there and she didn't stop at preparing the house. She took the family under her wing and checked on them while they stayed there and if she couldn't, she made sure someone else did. A small detail that even less people know is that while she  was cleaning the rooms and making the beds and cleaning the bathrooms, she prayed for the family that would stay there. She asked God that the family staying there would feel the love that went into preparing a place for them. That is true hospitality.

Mercy is only one outstanding example of hospitality. Each woman in the hospitality group told stories of times they'd been taken care of, and times they'd noticed hospitality was lacking. Something Joy pointed out was that hospitality is the love and care that goes into the preparation.

The ladies then bent down and washed our (Nichole's and my) feet.  This was a little hard for me. I can't help but still feel like a child in the presence of these ladies, and as the day went on, I was more and more overwhelmed. (More on that later....) In any case, I didn't feel I deserved to have my feet washed. I had to keep reminding myself that Jesus washed the feet of his disciples and when Peter refused to let Him, he (Peter) was rebuked for it. That thought helped me feel a little less...undeserving, I guess.

They also gave me one of my favorite things I received at my passage. It was a small white shoulder bag with two thin and one wide blue stripes along the flap, just like the Sisters of Charity (Mother Teresa's ministry)'s saris. Mother Teresa is perhaps the most well-known embodiment of hospitality. I now keep my bible in it and seeing that bag hanging by the end of my bed is a constant reminder of her.

We also got to the keep the basin and pitcher, which were beautiful.
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