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Trendy Christianity

The Bible has no disclaimer saying “this might offend you, read with caution.” Similarly, this post will have no disclaimer at the end telling you that what you read is “to each his own.”

Let me tell you something, Christian to Christian, believer to believer. Maybe you are not a believer, but you have noticed this trend with your Christian friends. Here it is: WE (Christians) ARE MIRRORING THE WORLD.

What? Let me explain.

In trying to be inclusive and loving to everyone, which in itself is a good thing, we are becoming no different than the world around us, except for the big fat Christian label we place on ourselves. This is dangerous.

With that being said…listen. The church is not for us. It is not a sanctuary for ourselves. The church’s purpose is to glorify the Most High, the Father of the Universe, the Creator of life. Its purpose is to learn about Him, to honor Him through our fellowship, to love in the name of Christ.

Hip music. Concerts. All black. MacBooks. Densely highlighted bibles. Big churches. Blogs. Coffee shops. Enos. Perfect Instagram’s. Bible apps. Cool shoes. Hebrew tattoos. Journals with pages and pages of calligraphy.

If you took all of it away, would you still be in love with Christ?

This has become a new and hazardous comfort zone for so many Christians (and non-Christians). Christianity now has a concrete “look.” We know what to do. We know what songs to sing. We know the cool bloggers and the trendy speakers. We know what to wear.

A couple of days ago, I attended the Passion Conference in Atlanta. A woman who I respect immensely, Beth Moore, came and spoke some powerful words. I was deeply convicted about something God had placed on my heart for months now. She alluded to this…

We, millennial Christians, are sacrificing the truth of the Christian faith for “love’s sake.”

The TRUTH that we are abandoning is this: we are no longer foreigners in this land. We blend in. We make following Christ easy, lukewarm, concrete, hip, and fun.

Let me tell you this. We are called to be foreigners, outsiders, temporary residents.

1 Peter 1:1 calls us EXILES.

1 Peter 1:17 calls us FOREIGNERS.

1 Peter 2:11 calls us SOJOURNERS.

I do not know about you, but I am tired of living “trendy.” I can never keep up. It is exhausting. It is like high school all over again. I want to live by the Holy Spirit, the Holy Book, my convictions, through worship and praise. What an adventure!

What I am NOT saying is this: coffee shop fellowship and intense Christian jam sessions are bad.

What I AM saying is this: when our lives no longer reflect the cross, when our lives are comfortable, when we no longer hurt, when worship becomes something to put on Instagram, when we value ourselves and our image more than Christ, when shortcuts in our Christianity become the norm, when we no longer reflect on our own sin, when we gain a taste for inclusiveness but lose a taste for God, when are motifs are self-righteous… that is when it all becomes blasphemy.

Yes, world, use social media and artwork for the glory of God. Use instruments and fill arenas with people to glorify God. PRAISE GOD FOR THAT. But also let us die to self. Empty ourselves of our own ambitions. Suffer for Jesus. Bear disorder. Become comfortable being uncomfortable. Lose our pride.

Let us Christians become like Christ in His death.

 

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You Are Not Alone, You Are His (A Letter to the Newly Single Girl)

To Whom It May Concern,

I have seen you hurt and broken. I have seen you not want to come out of your room. I have seen you unable to throw away his things because you still believe the same loving boy is going to knock on your door with flowers and your favorite candy. I have seen you twiddling your thumbs over the send button hoping that text will bring him back. I have seen you look at his pictures and Snapchats wondering why he seems so much happier without you. I have seen it all.

My soul breaks and my body aches for you, because beautiful girl, I know where you are. I know you feel unlovable and unworthy and unhappy. It is such a fresh wound, even months out. You think you are fine and then you see him with someone else and your heart feels wrecked all over again.

I do not want you to fear the future. I want to look you in the eyes and tell you that one day you will be able to see him and not feel shattered. However, I know that is the last truth you can believe right now.

Here is my heart. I am writing this because I have seen my friends broken and depressed and alone. I speak that heart language. I can relate. I want to offer my two-cents on hope and empathy and truth.

You are not “replaceable.” In fact, you are very much irreplaceable. Every experience, all of the good and the bad, every fight, every laugh, and every memory is unique to you. There is no one in this world who will make him experience the same things that you did. God brings certain people into our life and He takes certain people away. That boy was taken away from you, but you will grow from the experiences you had together if you let God help you. Someone may be better equipped to be with him, but that does not take anything away from you. Him loving someone else does not mean you were unlovable. It means that God loved you enough to give you something better. 

One day, you will get those butterflies again. You will be able to invest in someone again. You will be able to be vulnerable without fear of getting your heart broken. Someone will love you with all of your quirks and flaws and goofiness and mood-swings. This was the hardest thing for me to grasp. After devoting so much of yourself to a relationship that did not work out, why would anyone ever want to do that again? Replace your fear with faith. My promise, you will have the energy and heart to love again.

Re-invent yourself in your singleness. Take a good, long, hard look at what worked and what did not work in your previous relationship. Focus on becoming the person you want to marry. Discipline yourself, ask God to heal your heart, and ask Him to help you grow in this season. Singleness is a time for immense spiritual growth. Do not underestimate what God can do in your season of waiting.

Lastly, there is no time limit on when it is acceptable to “date again.” I have had friends find their person two weeks after a break-up and friends who have taken years off dating. However, I know dating is scary. It can be the ultimate thing that affirms that our past relationship is over. Just make sure you pray that God has fully healed your heart before you do date. Do not “rebound” date when you should be using this time for healing and growing.

 Worth The Read

John 15:16

Ephesians 1:4

Deuteronomy 20:4

Remember that you are lovable. And you will be able to love again one day.

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Inner Disposition

Let me fill you in on a little secret of mine.

Before I truly embraced my relationship with Christ, I would watch Christians. I would watch what they said, what they did, and how they treated others. To be honest, I was not that impressed. I did not have the best experiences with Christians. Often times, I felt judged, looked down upon, and excluded by them. They did not have much credibility in my mind. They called themselves Christians, but the only things that set them apart were their judgmental and close minded attitudes. I knew I never wanted to be that person. This completely turned me off of Christianity, religion, and Jesus.

When I started walking with the Lord, I knew I never wanted to be like that. But lately, I’ve been realizing how difficult that can be. It is difficult to love everyone. It is difficult to be inclusive. And sometimes I really suck at being a Christian. It really hurts to admit that. Sometimes I do things and realize that my integrity with people might have been tested. I am scared that others might look down on me. I fear that I am not set-apart. I get anxious that I might be the Christian that I used to dislike. It is a huge insecurity of mine.

I DON’T know how to be the perfect Christian.

But I DO know that I should pray these things daily

1. To love others well.

2. For my credibility to not be shaken.

3. To be set-apart.

This morning, I fell into that insecurity again. But God blessed me with some wise friends because they offered me the encouragement I needed. They reminded me that following Jesus is tough sometimes. Christians are held to a higher standard and sometimes we fall. It makes us human. That is what the cross is for.

In the wise words of my friend Alia… “When Christians fall, we don’t fall into an empty abyss to be lost and gone forever. We fall into a net that God placed there before hand because he knew we would fall. It’s kind of like a trampoline. We fall only to get right back up again.”

Here is some simple truth…

Psalm 103:12, MSG

“As high as heaven is over the earth,
    so strong is his love to those who fear him.
And as far as sunrise is from sunset,
    he has separated us from our sins.”

2 Corinthians 7:10, MSG

“But those who let distress drive them away from God are full of regrets, end up on a deathbed of regrets.”

2 Corinthians 4:16, MSG

So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.”

Remember that God is radically renewing us and eternally changing our inner disposition. Don’t be discouraged when insecurities get the best of us.

 

 

thankful

Extra Large Goodwill Sweatshirts and Hand-Written Letters

Thanksgiving is officially upon us and it is one of my most treasured times of the year. It’s a time where tradition runs prevalent in my family. We always travel to a familiar home with the funnest of dysfunctional family’s and eat lots of food while playing with dogs and babies.

During this season, I have learned how to cultivate gratitude. Some days it is really easy to be thankful and other times it is a lot harder. I am learning how to count my blessings, from the big things to the really small things, and it has been the most rewarding practice.

About a month ago, a particular speaker at an event I attended, Bryan Bulmer, spoke on this. Particularly, he encouraged us to read, listen, or write something positive as soon as we wake up in the morning. I started to begin my days with telling at least one person how thankful I was for them. Whether a text, email, or (my personal favorite) a hand-written letter, a detailed description of what that person means to you goes a long way… for them and for you.

I encourage you to do the same. I have seen the effect it has had in my attitudes and relationships. Whether it be starting a gratitude journal or just letting those around you know how much they mean to you, it is so important to be thankful on a daily basis.

If you are unsure of what to be thankful for, I have compiled a list of some off-the-wall things to be grateful for. Make your own; it could definitely be your next Thanksgiving around-the-table dinner conversation.

25 Off -The-Wall Gratitude’s

dog slobbers in the mouth

hallmark holiday movies

flickering flame of a candle

changing color of the leaves

extra large Goodwill sweatshirts

aroma of fresh coffee

pretty-packaged gifts

hugs from distant relatives

handwritten letters

old quilts

hot bubble baths

sweet potato casserole

fuzzy socks

pens that write really well

oven timers

boys who come to the door when they pick my sister up for a date

handcrafted wreaths

hair appointments

picture frames

smells that bring back old memories that you can’t quite put your finger on

downtown’s

inside jokes

automatically connecting to wifi

good-smelling boys

clothes straight out of the dryer

 

xoxo and happiest of Thanksgivings!

 

 

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Stay Rad

Accepting grace used to be a foreign concept to me. I did not know how to embrace this wonderful gift. I so often felt trapped by my sin, like I had four walls constantly surrounding me that defined me. Spacious living and boundless freedom were never supposed to be in the cards for me… or so I thought.

One night, I sat on my living room floor with my good friend Carli. She had recently discovered what freedom was. She knew what it was like to be in complete darkness, see the light in the far distance, and run for it with everything she had. She had joy and dance and laughter tattooed upon her life and all I knew was that I wanted what she had.

As we were sitting there, my eyes swelled up with tears. All I said to her in that moment was “I want your freedom.”

I was

burdened

heavy

lifeless

dull… because of my sin.

Galatians 5:1 says “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

Writing this, Paul knew that is was possible for Christ followers to be “burdened again.” He knew that obstacles in life could recurrently bound us to slavery.

 

Slowly but surely I had to learn how to…

Reveal my sins.

  Accept his Grace

             Deny picking it back up.

That’s pretty… RAD… right?

As a permanent reminder of this radiant gift Christ has given me, and to always remember to accept His grace especially in the present, I tattooed a sound wave (that two of my best friends spoke) of the word “freedom.”

So here is to freedom, tattoo’s, and staying RAD.

hangover

Vulnerability Hangover

Once upon a time… or two times… or maybe 250 million times… I told someone something that I immediately regretted. I have walked away from certain conversations feeling naked and exposed. I have woken up some mornings with flooded anxiety about something I shared with someone the previous night.

This is what I like to call a vulnerability hangover- a.k.a. shame.

So what’s in a shame?

Shame is the ultimate fear of disconnection from people. It is the result of rejection or fear of others not accepting us. Shame is the voice in our head saying “if you share this, others are not going to accept you” or “because you told them this, they are going to see you differently.”

I am unworthy of love.

I am not pretty enough to accomplish that.

I am not successful enough to do this.

I am not good enough to talk to them.

So, I am here to tell you this- having a vulnerability hangover actually has… NOTHING…to do with vulnerability at all. This said “hangover” is a result of shame, which can lead to some other really ugly things.

depression, anxiety, substance abuse, eating disorders

Recognize the brutal lies the devil tells you and start believing that what makes you vulnerable makes you BEAUTIFUL! Rest assured that the darkest thought you could have, the lowest point you can feel, and the furthest place you could run… His grace will always meet us there.

  1. Remind yourself that you are worthy of love and acceptance.
  2. Surrender to your vulnerability.
  3. Have the courage to be imperfect.
  4. Your life is your art.
  5. Vulnerability is most definitely NOT a weakness.

But God doesn’t call us to be comfortable. He calls us to trust Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn’t come through.” ~Francis Chan, Crazy Love

Stay encouraged!

xoxo

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Turn Your Mess Into Your Message

There is something so neat about people sharing their stories with you. It is a way to connect, laugh, and cry with each other on such a deeper level. They can be inspiring. They can be heartbreaking. They can send chills down your spine.  But as much as I love listening to them, thinking about sharing mine terrifies me.

I was asked by my small group leader to share my testimony. WHAT. My insides were screaming “no” but I politely responded with a “sure.” My anxiety levels were through the roof.

How do I even share my testimony?

What will people think of me?

Is my story “too much?”

With a troubled and confused heart, I prayed and asked God to show me what to share and how to share it.

Ironically, Passion City Church had sent me a free trial of their new devotional called “Simple Pursuit: A Heart After Jesus.” Two days after I said that prayer, the title of the devotional that day was “Your Honest Testimony.”

How cool is God.

Through this, I was taught a couple of things

  1. I am not sharing my testimony to reveal all of my deepest darkest secrets.
  2. My testimony is not “too much.”
  3. Testimonies are for giving real examples of what being brought from death to life really means.
  4. They show how radical a life change in Christ can be.
  5. Our story is not meant to lie dormant.
  6. Reveal how he breathes life into us e v e r y d a y and how His grace is, was, and always will be enough.

Testimonies are stories of hope and redemption. It is so important to be honest- do not worry about covering ANYTHING up. Speak boldly and be enthusiastically proud of your rebirth in Christ.

He has chosen us for our weaknesses, not our strengths. This magnifies our need for Him. Our stories are meant to be told.

“But Paul and Barnabas didn’t back down. Standing their ground they said, “It was required that God’s Word be spoken first of all to you, the Jews. But seeing that you want no part of it—you’ve made it quite clear that you have no taste or inclination for eternal life—the door is open to all the outsiders. And we’re on our way through it, following orders, doing what God commanded when he said, “I’ve set you up as light to all nations. You’ll proclaim salvation to the four winds and seven seas!” When the non-Jewish outsiders heard this, they could hardly believe their good fortune. All who were marked out for real life put their trust in God—they honored God’s Word by receiving that life. And this Message of salvation spread like wildfire all through the region.” Acts 13:46-48

I encourage you to share your testimony with someone. Ask Christ to give you the courage to share your story of being brought from death to life. If it encourages just ONE person, you are furthering the kingdom of God and that is wondrous. 

 

 

morning

Breakfast Dates with Bae

Mornings are my favorite. Call me crazy, but I would much rather wake up early and drink my hazelnut coffee on the back porch than sleep in. The a.m. is such a beautiful part of the day. Knowing that I might be waking up to fiery-colored sunrises, retro coffee shops, and messy hair makes me so much more grateful to be alive. I’ve always heard people say “What you do in the morning determines how the rest of your day will be!” And that’s why I love mornings so much. What I do in the morning sets the tone for the rest of my day.

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Gabby challenged me. In her words, this is what she proposed- “You should join me in the Matthew 6:33 20-day challenge.”

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Although I thought this might add one extra thing to my plate, I went ahead and said, “Okay! What does that entail exactly?” Basically it’s putting God first for 20 days and going out of your way to seek him first and meditate on His word, Gabby responded. She told me the first thing I needed to do when I wake up is start with a prayer or devotional. There’s no limit on how long, even if it is two minutes, she said. But make an effort to pray and seek God first in: your time, mindset, thoughts, words, finances, relationships, conversations, blessings, food and drink, and attitudes. Everyday write down one verse on the front of the note card and what you learned/how it relates to Matthew 6:33 on the back.

So why am I telling you about this? During college, I had always been the occasional “devo” kind of girl. I may or may not spend 5-10 minutes in prayer or reading a scripture depending on if I had enough time. But coming into this school year, I knew I wanted Christ to be an all-consuming part of my life. Not exactly knowing how to go about doing this, I started with disciplining myself to spend time with the Lord every morning. Not just a quick devotional, but actual quality time. I started having breakfast dates with God.

We are so cute. I would make muffins and hazelnut coffee nearly every morning (or occasionally go to Daylight Donuts for some glazed donut holes). I made my “date space” on my back porch. The date essentials included a blanket to snuggle up in, my bible, and maybe a guided devotional (which is currently Jordan Lee‘s BeLoved series). I practiced showing gratitude to my Savior, confessing what I’ve been going through, and asking Him help me live my life for Him, whatever that means.

There is complete irony in Gabby asking me to do this challenge. I had already felt convicted to do it, but her challenge confirmed it in my heart. Anyone in this day and age knows the term “bae,” which stands for “before anyone (or anything) else.” This may be a stretch, but what if “bae” could be the modern way of saying “seeking Him first.” Christ should be before anyone or anything else and we should seek Him first in all of our activities.

Personally, I had to give up some of my leisure time. As much fun as it is to lay in my cozy bed while watching Friday Night Lights, I started to put Him first in my leisure (a.k.a. lazy) time. It has been so rewarding. My days lately have become far more fulfilling and productive. So I challenge you! What efforts are you making to put Him before anything else? What might you have to put lower on your list so God can come first? 

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Getting High

“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” James 1:2-4

Well, what about when we are hurting, God? What about when the test and challenges seem like too much? What happens when we feel like giving up?

The first time I can ever remember my heart truly being broken was when my Poppie passed away. I had never experienced someone so close to me die. It all happened so suddenly; I remember the phone call I got from my mom when she informed me of the tragedy and all I could say was “No no no, I love him. This can’t happen.” I can still feel that perpetual gut-twisting moment when I thought about how he would never get to be the preacher at my wedding (as we always dreamed about together) or how he would never see me graduate high school.

The second time I ever had my heart-broken was not too much longer after that. It was my freshman year of high school, after the break-up with my first real boyfriend. I was soOoOoo in love and so head over heels with this boy and truly thought I was going to marry him. He was the first boy to ever shower me with love and affection and gifts and kind words. I was devastated when things did not end up working out. No matter what I did and no matter how much I begged him to take me back, he was gone. I felt completely and utterly out of control. He had moved on to the next better, prettier, and smarter girl and I was just “me.”

At this point in my life, I was unable to see past all of this. I chose to go down a completely destructive path trying to numb the deep pain that came along with rejection and loss. I soon realized that if you numb something long enough, it becomes cold- and that is exactly what my heart did. I made myself numb to feelings and emotions and intimacy. Instead of living life the way it is supposed to be lived, with zest and spontaneity, I lived it through boys, alcohol, and shallow friendships. I was constantly searching for something that would get my mind off of whatever hardship life threw at me or whatever sadness I felt. Eventually, I built a tolerance to these worldly highs and was left in a dark, cold, and scary place. Nothing could get me that good feeling anymore; I was emotionally exhausted. 

So many people can relate to the inner distress that comes with having their heart-broken. Whether it is a traumatic experience, the end of a long-term relationship, or the death of a loved one, not one person is exempt from the pains of this world. When your heart is broken, you have two options- you can choose to take the worldly, destructive path that brings temporary satisfaction or you can choose to take a different path. I want to tell you about the different path a recently took that really did help me be “okay”.

Heartbreak is inevitable. Recently, I rediscovered that painful feeling once again. Yes- the nausea because you physically can not eat, the anxiety that consumes your daily life and the exhausting thoughts constantly running through your head. I understand it from the core of my being because if you are anything like me, you feel things DEEPLY. When I love, I love hard and when I hurt, I hurt even harder. But something in me told me that I can not take that path that I did in high school. I can’t go to that dark, cold, and scary place again. I needed to do something different. I needed to FEEL better- physically, spiritually, and emotionally.

SOOOOOOO….

I ran to Jesus. Not only did I run, but I full on sprinted. During college, I truly found my relationship with Christ, but still felt some uncertainty when it came to trusting Him with all of my being. All I knew is at this point, I had to hand everything over to Him. I spent my days and nights in prayer, the Word, and in Christian fellowship. I asked Him to HELP me trust Him because it was hard. I prayed for Him to give me strength and peace and let me tell you… He was SO faithful.

There is no place so desolate that we cannot find Him there.

So after being vulnerable with you guys and gals, I want to tell you the ways I sprinted to Him in case you literally have no idea how to (because at one point I didn’t either). God works! He is the only one who can fully heal a heart and transform your mind.

  1. I started my very own War Room. I wrote down the desires of my heart. I wrote down comforting scripture. I wrote down long, deep prayers. I hung up pictures of people I needed to pray for during this time. I did this all in my closet (just like the movie war room:) and that became my place of comfort. I would sit in there all hours of the night just talking to God.
  2. I asked God to HELP me trust him fully. I never understood how someone just “trusts” God 100%. That was always a hard concept for me because I can’t physically see Him. So I asked! And once again…He was faithful.
  3. Open up. I love to bottle up my feelings and pretend like they don’t exist half the time. I have a bad problem of living in denial. Find someone to open up to and be completely honest with them. For me, that was my mom. Her and Christ became my ultimate safe space.
  4. Acknowledge God multiple times a day. Whisper to Him thankfulness. Sing to Him his goodness. Meditate on His sovereignty.
  5. Stay in the Word. It gave me instructions on how to make it through the days where I thought I couldn’t. Start in Romans! I found so much comfort reading this.
  6. Surround yourself with people who bring you joy! Even if you don’t feel like it… do something with someone. Don’t be alone with your thoughts too much. It is so easy for the Devil to speak lies into your head and heart if you are not constantly guarding them. Which brings me to the next point…
  7. Don’t let the Devil steal your joy. The Devil is real people. He is out for YOU and he is out for ME. I verbally tell the Devil that he can not have my peace, my joy, or my life.
  8. annnnnnd last but not least- God doesn’t offer a “quick fix” for the healing and restoration of our hearts. He offers us peace and comfort- but that does not make the heartbreak go away. He transforms us during this time. He builds our character, prepares our hearts, and builds our trust. When we feel weak and want to take the “easy” way out, remember that we are only hurting ourselves in doing so. He wants to make us stronger and we need to let Him.

REAL QUICK let me tell you about this miracle I had during this experience! At one point, when my anxiety was so bad it felt like I could hardly breath and move, I got on my knees. I prayed and begged for Him to take it away because it was so debilitating. And in that moment, I physically felt the anxiety leave me. LITERALLY, from my tips of my toes to the top of my head…gone. Now tell me that isn’t a full on miracle. I FELT it. That verified all over again what a personal and loving God He is.

Thanks for letting me share and be REAL with ya’ll! Hope you learned a little something and I encourage everyone to be more vulnerable to themselves, others, and Christ!

Check out my sweet, sweet friend Jenny’s blog for more love on this topic

Galatians 5:1

xoxo

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Jet Lag

Don’t be scared to walk alone. Don’t be scared to like it. There’s no time that you must be home, so sleep where your darkness falls.

Dream your dreams but don’t pretend
Be friends with what you are
Give your heart then change your mind – 
John Mayer 

Is there any comparable feeling to knowing your suitcase is packed and you are about to travel 9,000 miles away? Planning out my next adventures (or where I am going to eat) is a natural high for me. I live for the moments when I can say “Yes, I have been there!” or “I am going there soon!”

I was blessed with the awe-inspiring opportunity to travel abroad this past month to the two most alluring countries in the world: Australia and New Zealand.

When I was accepted into the discover abroad program at the University of Georgia (after waiting months for someone to drop out because the program was so popular), the same adrenaline rush that comes from going down the first hill of a roller coaster hit me without warning. The lessons I was about to learn, friends I was going to make, and the mistakes that were bound to happen were dangling in front of me… I just wanted that day to be here already. I wanted so badly to step on the airplane that would make the experience feel real.

Like others, I was not thinking about the potential hardships that would come from traveling abroad. I was not thinking about the fact that my phone and wallet might get stolen or that one of my friend’s passports would fall into a river while bungy jumping. Nevertheless, lessons have to be learned one way or another so why not have them while swimming in one of the most beautiful places in the world such as the Great Barrier Reef?? I would like to share what I learned about myself while studying abroad, for I truly believe the moments I experienced were transformative.

Learning to Get Lost in the Moment:

After my phone was stolen, this lesson hit me in the face like a brick. Not only could I not use my phone to look down at during awkward situations, but I could not take the pictures and videos I wanted to. After anxiety filled days and restless nights, I had to learn to let go. I learned to breath in the fresh air a little deeper and immerse myself in the natural landscape of the land or the beautiful man-made architectures. I was urged to journal more about my experiences, such as star gazing in Canarvon Gorge and swimming with wild Dusky Dolphins in Kaikoura, rather than staring through a camera lens so much. I was able to notice different aspects of people that I never would have noticed if I was looking down at my phone every other minute.

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Kaikoura, New Zealand

Building Confidence:

The hardest part about losing my identity (basically) was that my parents were 9,000 miles away. There was limited cell service to sort this out with my parents on the phone. They were not readily available to comfort me or to offer immediate answers on how to fix the situation. After realizing that everything I lost is replaceable and that I was still alive, my perspective changed. I cherished the short Facebook video chats I got with my family or the sweet emails telling me how much they missed me. They were confident that I could overcome this; their energy poured into me. Without the security of a credit card or cell-phone, I had to place my trust in God as my father-figure in a way I had never experienced before. He was not going to let me fall. I was here for a reason. If that’s not a confidence booster, I don’t know what is.

Not Everyone Thinks Like Me…. and That’s a Good Thing.

Fortunately, this program provided one-on-one time with the local people of each area. Hearing how they choose to live their lives was fascinating- it is so different than in the United States. I often got asked the question: “Why didn’t you take a gap year?” (the second most frequent question I got asked was how I felt about Donald Trump…..). This was something that never even crossed my mind…it’s not what’s expected of us. The expectations are different and it makes me question how our own assumptions are shaped. Learning to respect people’s ideas and perspectives by listening and absorbing their words helped me understand why I personally value certain things. Even if I do not agree, I feel like my stance is constantly becoming more and more well-rounded.

Taking Chances

Oh boy did I take some chances…..like jumping out of a plane 12,000 feet in the sky??When a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is presented to me, I learned to take it (this cures fomo pretty nicely) Do everything you can. Feeling brave and empowered can only help people in the long run. I am not scared to go out of my comfort zone anymore…I already took the first step.The experiences we have while were young help shape who we will become (I don’t know about you, but I wanna be a really freaking awesome person). I want be able to say “Yep! I’ve done that!” to everything….well, almost everything. So, despite what your parents told you, if your friend jumps off a bridge, YOU DO IT TOO (aka bungy jumping).

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Queenstown, New Zealand

Humbleness

Without the help of my parents, graduation money, generous donations and prayer, this would not have been possible. My parents have provided me with an amazing life that I never fully appreciated until I went overseas without them. I hope to be able to provide the same experiences for my future family as well. I am so blessed to have people that miss me when I’m away and people I can’t wait to come home to. Travelling makes my time at home or school more fulfilling. I appreciate my friends, memory foam mattress, and good Mexican food a little more.

And Yes, You do Start to go Crazy After 48 Hours Without Sleep. It’s OK, you’ll Eventually Get Used To It.

 

Resfeber (n.)

the nervous feeling before undertaking a journey; the restless race of a traveler’s heart before the journey begins, when anxiety and anticipation are tangled together. 

 

By the way… watch my short YouTube video that sums up  my trip quite nicely. Not pictured is swimming with dolphins in freezing water (and some people witnessing a sperm whale), seeing sharks while scuba diving, 500 cows wandering in the middle of the road, getting kicked out of a restaurant for falling asleep, and a huge New Zealand sheep farm.

I hope whoever reads this is inspired to GO. Become the best storyteller ever.