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.

A Letter to My Mission Team

When I first heard that there was a mission trip going to Haiti over spring break, I could feel it in my veins that I NEEDED to go on this trip. I do not exactly remember my motives for deciding I wanted to go on this trip, however. It could have been anything from getting to travel (which is a passion of mine), spending time with my sorority sisters, being able to play with kids, etc. Whatever my thought process was, I was pumped. The mission trip was put on by Chi Alpha, which is a christian organization on my college campus. I had met several people who were active here and even went on a super fun retreat with them before. I just knew that this trip was going to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Weeks before the trip, I started to prepare my heart. I wanted so badly to make a difference in Haiti. However, the more I tried to get my heart ready, the more doubtful I became of going on this trip. Everything seemed to not be in my favor: I was not raising enough money, I was getting very ill, I had very little details about the trip (which made me nervous), the Zika virus was coming out with reports that it was spreading more and more, Facebook posts went viral about “why mission trips to Haiti are not making a difference” and so on and so forth. What was worse was other people were getting sick and doubtful as well, which fueled the anxiety I was already having. Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, was telling me that I should not go on this trip. I was scared.

I buried these feelings I was having and went anyways. I was still excited, I was just very nervous. I did not bring my fears and my worries to God like I should have. Instead, I just let them consume me… like the Devil wanted. Looking back, it all makes sense. The Devil hates this. He hates when people share the love of Jesus. He hates when people are getting their hearts ready for God’s great plan. He prowls and he attacks. He has no limits. Ephesians 6:11-12 says that we need to put on the whole armor of God…we do not know the schemes of the devil…and that we wrestle against the spiritual forces of evil. I can only thank God that I still decided to go, because let me tell you.. This trip was out-of-this-world and life-changing. But… I am not writing this to tell you about the trip. I am writing this about my mission trip team.

This team is silly. There is no other words to describe them. They are constantly laughing, constantly smiling, constantly joyful. On the outside, they seem nothing but goofy. I had only had recreational encounters with most of this team and thought that this was the only side of them they had. I even questioned how this trip was even going to mean anything because I truly thought they did not have a serious or emotional side. I mean.. I was always good at reading people, I MUST be right. But man, I was SO wrong.

I first want to talk about the men on this trip. Although the men were highly outnumbered by the girls on this trip, it was impossible not to constantly feel their presence. They were the one’s who set the tone for each day. Their energy spread like wildfires; when they were laughing, we were laughing, when they were quiet, we were quiet, when they became vulnerable, we become vulnerable. I saw a side of each one of these men I had never before seen in my life. The stories and testimonies that they shared were powerful and relatable; they longed to tell what Christ had done in their lives. They were not ashamed of their pasts- they were only thankful that God saved them. They were prayer warriors. They were constantly brought to their knees, constantly praising God with their bodies, constantly encouraging and uplifting others. They were the first to be outside every morning spending quiet time with the Lord. They were the first to help unpack bags, carry huge water bottles, hold open doors, let the women eat first, and to set up and break down. They treated all of the ladies with kindness and gentleness, always respecting our own vulnerabilities, strengths and weaknesses, and emotions. The Holy Spirit ran rampant within them; I could see it in their faces and hearts everyday. Thank you boys, for being leaders and examples of God-fearing men on this trip.

Now, my fellow ladies. It is impossible for me to generalize all of you. Each one of you all are so different, so unique, and so beautiful in your own ways. From worship and bible study leaders, to pageant girls, to prayer warriors, to the adventurers, to the jokesters, to the soft-spoken, to sorority girls, to the opinionative. If I had one word to sum up the women on this trip it would be “teacher.” There was not one woman on this trip I did not learn immensely from. These girls love with boldness. They are eager to listen, eager to share hard stories, eager to learn from others, eager to offer affirmation, eager to defend, eager to support, and eager to invest. A common goal of all of these girls was striving for better relationships. Multiple conversations came up where they wanted to connect with God and others more deeply. They wanted to love and be loved deeper. They embraced the people of Haiti with open arms, with adoration and acceptance. They connected with the Haitians despite the language barrier. They did not let anything stand in their way. These girls were DEPENDENT on God. They had experienced things in their life that they can only turn to Him to heal. They were more than willing to repent of their sins so they could be filled denser with the Holy Spirit. Some spoke quiet, intense prayers and others spoke bold and inspiring prayers. They talked about their hopes and dreams with such passion that made me excited for my own future. We had future women in ministry, mothers, doctors, engineers, service women, and so much more- all of these to further His kingdom. I have never felt so close to a group of girls more quickly. I will forever remember staying up late talking about the events of the day, being extremely silly, protecting ourselves from bugs via extreme bug nets, having rap battles, eating so many cheetos my stomach would burst (literally), singing together, praying together, and sharing our testimonies. I feel free and liberated because of each and every one of you girls lives and have so much love for you all. Thank you for serving the Lord and teaching me to trust in Him without any hesitation. Thank you for taking the road less travelled even when it means hardships. Thank you for not conforming to what the world wants you to be and being a light to so many other girls who are struggling everyday to choose between right and wrong. You ladies are so special, so beautiful, and so wonderful.

So here’s a little word to the Devil- you lost! God has won. Never will you win this battle. “…and if our God is with us, then what could stand against?” Nothing can stand against the men and women of God. Our God had a way of bringing completely different people together who compliment each other  Everyone on this trip was so unique and so different, there is no other way to describe it. We were each a puzzle piece, a different size, shape, and form, yet we fit together to create this beautiful, perfect picture that depicts what God wanted to happen on this trip so elegantly. God’s hand was with us the whole time- there is no doubt about that. I can only wait and see how God uses his people to further his righteous and divine Kingdom. I am ecstatic to see what the future holds.

 

Shout out to the team: Alia, Hallie, Bailee, Charles, Chris, Daniel, Gabby, Haley, Jeanne, Josh, Kaliya, Kandice, Kayla, Kelsie, Megan, Meghan, Michael, Rachel, Ryan (gimp), Carli, Stephen (with us in spirit), Sydney, and Taylor.

I want to say a special, special thanks to a few people: Gary for leading us, Russ for doing basically everything, Gabby for being a light, Carli and Charles for being bold in their testimonies, Kayla for being an awesome Bible story teller, Jeff and Suzanne and for being our parents for the week, the cooks for the incredible food, the bus driver for keeping us safe, and the wonderful people who let us stay in their homes.