Faith

Eveybody’s grown up, and then there’s me.

Seeing how many of my former classmates are all “grown up” with boyfriends, fiancés, husbands, kids, houses, cars and down-paid student loans have made me think thoughts that felt distant when I was at Augustana, but suddenly very close now that I’m here in Norway.

I’ve felt a combination of relief and gratitude for the freedom of not having to “grow up” yet; of not having to worry about buying a station wagon, finding a job, planning family vacations or weddings, arguing about how to raise the kids, and about making secure, logical and reasonable life choices.

But in between that relief and gratitude, there’s doubt. Logical doubt. Tempting shortcuts rooted inside comfort-zones. So many easier options, secure options, reasonable options.

“Am I making the right decisions with my life? Is my dream worth hundreds of thousands of dollars? Am I the only one in the world not wanting to settle? Should I settle?”

Photo: Mirjam Lavelle.

You see, Norway is a paradise for secure, logical and reasonable life choices. I’m surrounded by people who’ve done it all the “right way.” You know, the way banks, parents, teachers, coaches and neighbors have advised you to do things from the day you were born.

The Utopia for comfortable and predictable lifestyles is right here in Norway — everywhere I turn I see logic screaming for attention.

Still, I choose not to listen.

Please don’t get me wrong; my heart bubbles of joy when I see people who found their way, their job and their loved one. I’m thrilled to see that their relationships are thriving, that their coffeemaker was on sale, that their station wagon runs well, that their honeymoon-tickets were cheap, that their baby said a word, that the lawn is recovering from the winter and that their student loans are paid down. I’m happy for them, I really am.

But I also know that behind my occasional moments of doubt and temptation for “the comfortable,” I have to continue working towards my dream; the dream that won’t be satisfied by having a house, a car, a coffee-maker and a nine-to-five job.

In the midst of all the noise, I need to follow my heart and trust God.

Photo: Mirjam Lavelle.

So, what am I trying to say?

– In my head there’s nothing logical about NYU Tisch, or even attempting to apply to the program. Less than two percent gets accepted, and it’s so expensive that regardless of how fast I say the number, it still takes a great deal of syllables to pronounce the cost in its entirety. Meanwhile, I could have studied for free at a Norwegian university, settled with my journalism degree, gotten a normal job and started saving up for that station wagon — but once again I ignored logic and went with my heart.

Sometimes I feel confident in the decision, and sometimes I ask myself what in the world I’m doing.

Yesterday fit the latter description. I felt freaked out when I thought about the tremendous amounts of money that goes into my dream, and about the things I sacrifice.

But I tell myself that even if I’m not close to buying a house or a car, and probably can’t afford anything big enough to earn the name “apartment” for quite some time, I’m at least fueling my dream the best I can.

I don’t need a perfect lawn or a nice coffee-maker for now, I need to make films.

The rest is up to God.

Maria

Thank You

I left you hanging a little longer than I would have wanted after my previous post, but so many small details had to be put into place before I could share the big news. Now, however, it’s time!

I apologize to the few individuals who already know about this but started expecting some other big news after reading my last entry. If I already told you it means you’re a part of my inner circle, so try to see that as something nice.

If you’ve read the blog regularly, you probably know that the three letters N-Y-U have been the source of a lot of excitement—and despair—for me over the past few months. You may remember my post, “So very bittersweet,” about how I got accepted to the graduate film program at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, and about how I was $30,000 short and couldn’t go. I was heartbroken, but I told God that I wanted to walk on His path, with or without NYU. I let it go, right there in that moment and chose to trust His ways, while I started looking at other—and more affordable—ways to fullfill my dream of becoming a filmmaker.

But then, some things happened behind the scenes, and I wrote the follow-up, “Mysterious Ways,” where I shared that I was suddenly just $15,000 short. Changes in the budget and several donations from family, friends and strangers made the whole thing seem a little less impossible — but still not quite within reach.

In the weeks that followed, I was asked to do a number of interviews with the media, and I told all the reporters that “Yes, I’m going to NYU, and I look forward to starting my studies there in the fall.” When I didn’t say anything on the blog, some of you probably thought “oh, she must have found a way to pay for it then.”

At that point I had only told a few people about my secret because I wanted to wait for all the paperwork to to be completed. But now I can finally write the words:

Thanks to God’s amazing grace, my family’s support and the tremendous generosity of Mary Hart and Burt Sugarman, I now have the money I need to attend the first year at NYU!

I honestly don’t know what to say. I’m still blown away, and I realize that this sounds like one of those stories you only see in the movies: “Foreign girl without financial resources gets accepted to prestigious university, and a Hollywood-couple—whom she has never met—watches her zero-budget documentary and decides to give her the help she needs to fulfill her dream.”

This is the short version of the story, but the truth is that most of this happened without me knowing. My family did what they could to help me on my way, but when they couldn’t go any further and had to let it go, some people picked up that near-doused torch before the relay eventually ended up in Los Angeles where Mary and Burt ran the final leg of the race.

God surely works in mysterious ways.

I did not see this coming, and words cannot express how grateful I am. I laid down all my plans of going to NYU that day when I wrote the first post about it, but there was a way there all along. I just couldn’t see it on my own, and I needed help to run the distance. I don’t know how I’ll finance my 2nd and 3rd year in New York, but I believe there’s a way for that too.

I want to thank my family for doing everything in their power to help me make this happen, as well as my friends and the Augustana community for their support and encouraging words.

I want to use my talents to honor God, and I will do my absolute best to make sure these resources are well-spent.

Love,
Maria

Graduation

This weekend was special in many ways, but mostly because I graduated! I have now officially completed a Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in journalism and a minor in theatre from Augustana University. I’ll need at least a handful of blog-entries to reflect upon these three years on the American prairie, but before I delve into that, let’s talk about the day.

Photo: Jessica Ruf.

Up until this weekend, this whole thing called “commencement” was something I’d only seen in the movies, so the fact that I—inside a packed arena with hundreds of students and thousands of spectators—got to wear one of those flat hats and a tent-sized gown was an almost surreal experience. It was so formal and ceremonious that I, at one point, told myself I wouldn’t be the least surprised if I happened to run into the Pope or Harry Potter on the way out.

If you think I’m exaggerating, please remember that in Norway there’s no such thing as a graduation ceremony when you finish your degree — unless you’re a nurse or want to host it in your own living room, of course. So excuse me for being a little overly fascinated with everything from the “faculty regalia” (aka the professor robes) to the “tassel turning” (when the President of the University “bestows” the degree upon you, and all the graduates move the tassel from right to left at the same time to symbolize that they did it!”).


Photo: Jessica Ruf.

Anna and I also happened to be on the news that day, so if you want to see what that flat hat looks like with a moving head inside, please consider clicking on the video below:

We were simply waiting for Elin outside the restrooms when we were approached by the reporter, so those of you who now think I seek out the media to put my face on your TV-screens better think again, haha.

 

Photo: Jessica Ruf.

Even if we didn’t all have our parents with us there in the Arena, Ana, who works in the dining hall at Augie was a great supporter. No less than five nationalities in one picture: Irene, me, Ana, Carina, Anna and Elin.

And then the mandatory “holding-the-diploma-in-front-of-a-greenscreen-while-smiling-like-a-sorority-girl-picture.”


Photo: Jessica Ruf.

Once the ceremony was over, Anna’s parents adopted me for the day and threw an amazing open house-party for the two of us.

I’m so thankful for the opportunity to be a part of the Augustana community, and even if this chapter is about to come to an end, my heart will always have a tint of navy and gold. More about that later.

Also, I have some huge news to share later this week, so stay tuned!

Photo: Crystal McDowell/Pinterest.

Blessings,
Maria

Seven days of spring

Thanks for all your love and get-better-messages I’ve received since I told you about my hospital visit last week. You’re truly amazing <3

After a week of laying in bed, eating nothing but bread and baby servings of french fries I now feel much better. Several pounds lighter and a couple of shades paler, but better! Thank God.

It’s been a week of contrasts. When I started to feel sick last weekend, it was snowing and I was—like I mentioned in my previous post—freezing my butt off (mostly because of the fever, but still). And now, as I took on my first day back in the world, I had to deal with sunshine and 28°C (83°F). It felt like I had slept through a whole season! Which I probably did, in South Dakota terms. Spring must’ve been last week.

Just a screen sample from a video I shot to illustrate what snow looks like.

Oh, and before it fades too far into the past, I just want to share something fun! Right before the whole kidney thing I had the pleasure of attending a so-called “friend raiser” event with the Bishop Dudley Hospitality House (the homeless shelter where we shot “Over the Bridge”). I was honored just to be invited, and enjoyed the fact that I could see the gala venue at the Hilton downtown from the inside, but I had no idea what was awaiting me there.

In hindsight I see that I probably should have taken the hint, but oh well. I just remember thinking people were unusually welcoming, “but hey, these people run the biggest homeless shelter in the state — hospitality is their thing,” so I didn’t think twice about the fact that everyone knew my name or wanted to say hi.

Apparently I was “the guest of honor” — something that only became clear to me when I was asked to step onto the stage area in front of a 170 people crowd to receive a “Sincere Appreciation Award.” I did not see that coming, but I can’t express how much that particular award means to me. When Sarah and I started producing “Over the Bridge,” our main goal was to raise the awareness of homelessness, and by receiving this type of recognition from the people who sacrifice blood, sweat and tears to help the people in need in Sioux Falls, it feels like we succeeded.

We have won several awards for the filmmaking aspect of it, but nothing felt quite like receiving a humanitarian award for the work we did. The circle was suddenly completed, and I now know that Over the Bridge has fulfilled its purpose.

To God be the Glory.

Photo: Naras Prameswari.

Maria

Not how I wanted to start my week

I don’t really have the energy to write this post, but I’m so bored that I’ll do it anyway. Besides, it helps distract me from the piece of bread I’m trying to eat with my complete lack of appetite.

So, if you’ve been following me on social media, you probably stumbled across this “gorgeous” picture on Sunday:

Well, it’s been a bizarre couple of days.

On Friday I noticed some weird back pain that I automatically blamed on the hard workout I had done earlier that morning. I was so busy I didn’t even notice that my appetite was unusually low or that the pain was clearly different from the feeling of sore muscles.

And on Saturday I felt exhausted, but I had, after all, had an extremely busy week with homework, workouts, meetings and film events (I’ll tell you more about the latter next time) so nothing strange about that. My back was still bad, but hey, after having spent almost a decade as a competitive athlete, some back pain is nothing to whine about.

I then went to the movies and had some ice cream that I was unable to enjoy because it made me nauseous, but I thought it was just stale.

Then on Sunday it dawned upon me that maybe all these things were related. I felt absolutely horrible in the morning, and after church two of my friends said I “seemed a little off.” Meanwhile, I kept wondering why my room was so frickin’ cold. I bundled up in layers, laid down in bed and suddenly woke up three hours later. I never ever nap, and a whopping three hours is not like me. I kept shaking because of the cold, and was seriously considering calling maintenance to ask if they were trying to give us frost bite by keeping the dorms so cold. Haha, just kidding, I knew I had a fever at that point.

When it didn’t get better and my stomach had decided to join my back’s rebellion, I called the doctor to ask what to do. So, before I knew it I was in the ER and got diagnosed with a kidney infection.

“Ah, that’s not so bad,” I thought to myself.

Then I googled it:
“A kidney infection requires prompt medical attention. If not treated properly, a kidney infection can permanently damage your kidneys or the bacteria can spread to your bloodstream and cause a life-threatening infection. Kidney infection treatment usually includes antibiotics and often requires hospitalisation.” – mayoclinic.com

Okay then.

Last night the pain got so bad I literally thought I’d pass out, so I was put on IV painkillers and even had to get a CAT scan.

According to my friend Jennifer, this type of pain is “one of the worst ever… ranks right up there with having a baby.” She’s had a kidney infection herself, and is expecting her second child this month, so I think she would know.

I have no idea how I caught this crap. Apparently it can be caused by an untreated UTI, but I haven’t noticed any such thing, so only God knows how it found its way to my kidneys. But I was discharged from the hospital this morning, and have medical leave from school until next week. I feel almost guilty for not going to class, but I think some relaxing will do me good. I’ve even promised my professors to rest … writing this post may be pushing it, but please forgive me.

I want to give a huge thanks to my friends for their incredible support and encouraging words. Love you.

Also, I finished eating that piece of bread I was talking about in the intro. I feel very accomplished, and nauseous. But oh well.

FaithSeeds.com

Blessings,
Maria

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