Sunday, March 24, 2013

31 Years

Today is my 31st birthday and I have been reflecting on my life.

Life has been tremendously fun and interesting over the last 31 years. If it were all to fall apart tomorrow and I were to have nothing but suffering I would have absolutely no reason to complain. I am a decrepit being who has had my eyes opened to the sovereignty of God. God continues to bring me both pleasant and challenging events both internally and externally for His glory. This is by far the utmost reason for my thankfulness. Though despite this more than sufficient gift of grace, He has given me far more common grace than I deserve.

-My childhood was one of ease and enjoyable experiences in the beautiful state of Montana. I was able to grow up well-fed, well-educated with a myriad of modern comforts and conveniences. I had many extracurricular activities, many friends and a great family. And yet, He deemed fit to give me more grace.

-My married life has been one of excitement and joy. I have been given a husband who continues to lead this household in God-honoring ways. Jason is such a supportive and enjoyable husband. I never knew married life would be this great. Through his leadership of this family, we've traveled to many countries, taught the kids a love of God, the outdoors and soccer, and done so much more in our daily life than my routine ways would have given us. I have been given two children whose personalities are so much more fun than I had anticipated. Being a mother has caused me to be less selfish and learn how to teach others. And yet, still more grace.

-God has given me life-long friends that cause me to grow in further knowledge of Him through expositional study of the Bible. He has given us the Nelkins who we can grow old with as best friends. He's given us a church body in Colorado that has taught us why God saw fit to have a church age.

These and so many more graces I have been given by the One who has authority over all things. So, for all this and so much more I am eternally grateful for 31 years.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Not So Far Away

I had the privilege of flying back to the States for a week in January for the funeral of my grandpa. I had a journey of 6,900 miles and 24 hours to reach Colorado where I hopped into a car with my sister and drove for 550 miles and 8 hours to Montana. No, this isn't a math story problem, but I state these numbers because I believe most people think that to be a great distance and time commitment. I suppose it is.

But, after 12 years of traveling to many countries and waiting in many airports, I've gained a perspective that I think few have. The world is a very small place and getting anywhere by plane is really a relatively quick and reasonably priced venture. We've seen friends in 17 or so countries while living on a shoe string income by American standards. We're able to visit relatives in Tennessee and Montana on a fairly regular basis as well. It struck me starkly on the flight back to the States this time because the trip was put together so quickly. Isn't it absolutely amazing that it can take humanity a day and a half to travel around the world to see family?!

From friends and family alike, we still hear amazement and trepidation at the thought of spending time in foreign places. But the reality of the commonality of mankind on this planet has been pushed forward more and more strongly the more we travel. People treat each other much the same for many of the same reasons (depravity and common grace) here as they do in our home state of Colorado. Yes, there are cultural and religious nuances everywhere, but that's exactly what they are. Nuances.

Our lives are in some ways quite long, so spending 10 years or 10 hours living or traveling in a foreign culture doesn't seem like such a long time to me anymore. 

"Come now you who say 'Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.' Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. INSTEAD, you ought to say, 'If The Lord wills (inshallah) we will live and also do this or that.' But as it is, you boast on your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. Therefore to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin." James 4:13-17

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Where's My Brain?

Everyone has stated that this is the toughest semester of the four semesters at our language school. I wholeheartedly agree since in the last two weeks I broke out in tears during grammar class AND had my brain shut down all last week. I've never experienced such a response from my brain before. It literally felt as though so much had been stuffed in there that my brain refused to give me any information I needed and kept demanding that I just take a nap. I have a newfound appreciation for the job of school that my kids experience every day! So, in search of information on why my brain reacted this way, I found this helpful information:

By the time you reach adulthood, learning a foreign language is a struggle – even after you memorize grammar and vocabulary, there's no guarantee that you'll understand a fast-talking native speaker, and when you stop studying for even a month, you seem to forget everything you'd learned.
Children's brains, on the other hand, are hard-wired to let them pick up languages with ease. Plus, a new study finds that even adult brains can re-wire themselves to mimic the brain patterns of native speakers – and this effect is amplified if they study by immersing themselves in a foreign language, rather than sitting in a classroom. And when they were not exposed to the new language for five months, their native-speaker brain patterns actually got stronger.
The new finding contrasts with previous studies, which indicated that similar levels of language learning could be achieved by both studying grammar rules in a classroom setting, or "explicit training," and immersion in the language, or "implicit training," defined as "training that engages…learners with the target language but does not provide any explicit information or direction to search for rules." But these studies failed to examine students' brains.
Researchers from Georgetown University Medical Center and the University of Illinois – Chicago used an artificial 13-word language, Brocanto2, to describe a computer game. While the artificial language's small vocabulary allowed subjects to learn it fairly quickly, its grammar was relatively sophisticated, mimicking the rules of Romance languages while diverging from the participants' native English grammar.
Next, the researchers separated 41 adults, who spoke only English, into two groups at random. One would study Brocanto2 through explicit, and the other through implicit, training. To standardize the brain scans, the participants all had to be right handed.
After studying and practicing the artificial language, the subjects listened to Brocanto2 sentences that were either correct or contained grammatical errors, and they had to press buttons to indicate whether the sentences were "good" or "bad." While participants underwent testing, EEG electrodes monitored the electrical activity on their scalps, which allowed the researchers to build a picture of their brain activity.
While both groups achieved similar proficiency in the artificial language, their brains weren't as evenly matched. Only the brains in the immersion training group processed language like native speakers' brains would. And even after five months of zero exposure to Brocanto2, the brain patterns in both groups only became more similar to those of native speakers.
"The results demonstrate that substantial periods with no [language] exposure are not necessarily detrimental. Rather, benefits may ensue from such periods of time even when there is no [language] exposure. Interestingly, both before and after the delay the implicitly trained group showed more native-like processing than the explicitly trained group, indicating that type of training also affects the attainment of nativelike processing in the brain.
This was an article in from the io9 website:

All this makes me glad that we have this opportunity to immerse ourselves in this culture. Even if it does often make me want to take a nap!

There's another interesting study cited here: