South Africa

I’m officially going to South Africa! I will be spending July to November this year in Stellenbosch, South Africa with a study abroad program through my school.

Since I’ve been writing so many scholarship essays to help me pay for studying abroad, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I might learn and bring back with me from ZA (South Africa). I thought I would go ahead and share what I’m most excited about since this is my next upcoming adventure (besides our family roadtrip to NYC this week to get my study permit)!

It’s hard to imagine what this upcoming adventure might teach me without looking back at my other trips throughout the US and abroad. So… I’ve compiled a few photos so we can take a trip down memory lane and relive how these trips impacted me most.

First up: Paris, France.

This was quite the embarrassing stage for me because not only did I think this pink hat was wildly stylish, but I also thought it would be the coolest idea to purchase a pair of “heelys” so I could roll through the streets of Paris. Clearly this was my first time being immersed in a different culture. However touristy our trip may have been, this is where I believe my desire to travel to new places really began.

Next up: the many cross-country road trips I’ve enjoyed with my family.

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Whether trekking to California or circling Lake Superior, I’ve learned that the journey is the destination. Some of the most impactful moments I’ve had on these trips have been when things haven’t gone as planned.

Like that one time our hippy-painted, 12-passenger van broke down in New Mexico with a student driver behind the wheel. But without that bump in the road, we would have completely missed discovering the Blue Hole—a 100-foot deep body of water that is one of the most popular destinations for Scuba divers in the US.

Lastly, my most recent trip: Iceland.

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Besides being blown away by the magnificent landscape, what I enjoyed most about this trip was the community. I loved learning about the unique Icelandic culture from our AirBNB hosts, but in a country where puffins outnumber humans, I most enjoyed the camaraderie I built between the 15 other adventurers that went to Iceland with me. Because it was such a short amount of time we learned how to squeeze the most out of every moment. On the car rides back to our AirBNB’s we would debrief about our favorite moments of that day, which I would journal before bed each night.

Although all of these experiences have been impactful, none of them have been long enough or out of my comfort zone enough to really change the way I see the world. Spending my whole life thus far in one culture can tempt me to believe that this is the right way to live, the only way to live, or the best way to live. When in fact my culture is one of thousands that all have found their own way of answering the same questions.

I want to immerse myself in another culture so I can experience the beauty of learning another way of life. The Inuit language has 53 different words for 53 different types of snow. Studies have shown that Inuit men and women actually see snow differently than those who speak languages that only have a few words for snow, simply because of their native language and culture. This linguistic relativity is perhaps just a small example of how a cultural immersion can alter someone’s mind. By immersing yourself in the Inuit culture, perhaps you would begin to see 53 different types of snow like an Inuit does. And if that is possible, maybe by immersing myself in the South African culture I can begin to see like a South African, think like a South African, and dream like a South African. The mind is fluid but as such, can develop ruts very easily. I’m worried that by having spent my entire life in one culture I am at risk of creating a deeper and deeper rut that is harder and harder to change. So by opening up this new space in my mind from my experience in South Africa, I believe that I will learn how to love others with less judgment. I believe that I will be able to try new things with less fear. I believe that I will be able to approach problems with more possible solutions. When I return from this experience of a lifetime, I truly believe that I will be a different person, and so much better for it. But don’t worry, not too different of a person… I will still be sure to come on here and bore you with all of the new exciting things I’m learning. So please, stay tuned 🙂

Word for the New Year

Why did God choose to save me when my perfection only comes from Jesus? The one thing that makes it possible for me to be with God is what Jesus is and offers to be for me. If my identity is founded in Jesus then why did He have him put through torture and death in my place when He already had Jesus? God, you are in need of nothing. If you saved us because you were lonely, then wouldn’t that mean you needed company to feel/be whole? But maybe that’s not true. You created Adam and while he was perfect he still longed for a companion. But you have the Holy Trinity and the angels. So why did you do it?

Lord, is this all truly out of love for me?

If this is true, this changes everything. It changes every word in the Bible, every scenario in my life. The Creator is in love with me. He loves me. His words are filled with love, even the commands. He can be trusted. Hasn’t He already proven Himself worthy? He can be trusted with everything, even my heart. I can fall in love with the Creator without fear, because He holds my heart with strong hands. He doesn’t promise safety. He doesn’t promise sunshine and daisies daily. He promises to love us. And who could love us better than the creator of love Himself? God is love. Love is God. Who are we to question the way He loves?

As this year starts this is the question I want to ask: What is love? It seems like a silly question, but does anyone really comprehend its full meaning or potential? I’m not talking about the sin-stained love we give and take from each other, but the pure and holy love that drove God to sacrifice His Son. What does that look like? I’m not sure, but I have a feeling this year will be a time of not only learning more about love, but about trusting and depending on God, having deeper and more valuable relationships with others, experiencing joy and humble confidence, and enjoying complete contentment and rest. In these first few days I have already been blown away by the depth and consistency of this wildly passionate Creator’s love. I can’t use enough adjectives to express the revelations I have been having this month, but that won’t stop me from trying ;). I can’t wait to continue to be wowed by this awesome God we serve…

And then of course share these “wows” with you. 🙂

Freedom to Celebrate

 

The message this morning at Southland was on a topic that I have been made very aware of in my life this summer and is an area that I will have to continually work on to become more like Christ (quick apology for my grammar and sentence structure. I still suck at writing but when something hits me in the face, like this message did today, I have to at least try to write it down). It was about comparison and the effect social media can have on this area in our lives. Social media fuels comparison, but only if we let it. It’s easy to use social media as a platform to promote our “perfect”-selves. And I’m not saying that you should post all the disappointing and depressing things in your life on social media. I think it’s good to focus and highlight on the areas in your life that give you joy instead of dwelling on the negative things, but we have to be careful about our motives. In the message this morning, the pastor also talked about how comparison fuels competition. And this competition can affect our posts. We make posts about our lives that we think “one-up” the lives of those who we are following. But as Christians we are not better or worse than those around us, we are just different. The difference we have is contentment. And this contentment fuels celebration. Since we are free from comparison and competition we are free to celebrate others and their lives. We have the freedom to scroll through our social media and truly rejoice with those we are following and the lives they are living. They played this song at the service today and these lyrics about the freedom Christ gave us really stood out to me:

 

Nothing’s gonna hold me back

 

My chains fell off

My heart was free

I’m alive to live for you

I’m alive to live for you

Amazing Love, how can it be?

You give everything for me

You give everything for me

 

I’m free to live

Free to give

Free to be

I’m free to love you

 

Jesus Culture, Holding Nothing Back

 

I want to take this freedom with me into this next semester. The freedom to choose celebration over competition. The freedom to selflessly serve and love those around me. To rejoice in their successes. The freedom to live out the life God carefully and creatively planned for me because of the loving sacrifice His Son made on the cross.

There’s something so wonderful about sustaining life, which I have found out as a plant mom (not pictured: my two dying herbs and succulent). But what is even more wonderful is giving life. I’m not talking about giving birth, although I’m sure that’s wonderful in an extremely painful, mysterious sort of way. I’m thinking more on the lines of giving life to others, through encouraging words or thoughtful gestures. Lifting others up in what you say and do. This is something that, although I think is wonderful, I struggle with a lot. Especially when it comes to other women. Why is it so easy to look at other women as competition, as something to measure ourselves up against? I do this all the time, I look at other women’s strengths and weaknesses and see how mine compare. I’m jealous of their gifts and talents and see those things as something my gifts and talents have to compete with. Although “the culture” (movies, social media, songs, etc.) is promoting this idea that women have to be in constant competition against each other, God has a whole different view on the subject. He created us all unique for a purpose. God gifted each woman (and man) with different attributes/characteristics of himself and because of that we are able to compliment each other with our unique gifts. We are able to best represent God when we work together and use our gifts to lift one another up. But when we are constantly tearing each other down (whether out loud or in our minds) we are, essentially, doing the exact opposite.

So I just wanted to encourage myself and all of you to put an end to this popular world view that women are at war with one another. It is so destructive. And that is why I am making this post, mainly as a reminder for me, but also as an apology to all of you I have been comparing myself to and viewing as competition. This may not be something that everyone struggles with (in fact-sometimes I feel like I’m the only one because I have such wonderful friends that love on me & others so well), but it is something that I have been convicted of and want to change. So first I want to apologize to all of you. Second, to encourage all of us to start looking at one another as teammates and viewing each other’s strengths as assets. And to then go a step further; highlight and showcase these strengths. Encourage and uplift one another. Be a life giver. 

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.

Romans 12.3-6

Stealer of Joy

Fear is a stealer of joy.

This was very evident last night when we were watching our neighbor light off fireworks in our cul-de-sac. Expecting these to be little sparklers, we sat right at the edge of the cul-de-sac only to find out they were legit fireworks. After two or three our neighbor lit another one, and as she was running for safety we saw a firework shoot off sideways a few feet from her head and then another one, still horizontal, but in a different direction, and then another one. At this point Jordan is no where to be seen and Mom is running away with her lawn chair. One more goes off in a different direction and at that point I finally realize I should run for the trees because if there is another one it should be shooting in our direction next. Praise the Lamb that there were only four fireworks in the packet and that we all made it out alive, though some of us with PTSD. All that to say, the rest of the firework show was spent in a crouched, ready-to-runaway-from-any-danger position. And when your brain is running through all the possibilities of disaster and escape routes it makes it near impossible to enjoy anything, including fireworks.

That, my friends, is the power of fear. It takes away any real joy. That is why I love today’s verse for #30daysofbiblelettering. God is able to demolish any traces of fear. He is the CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE, what can possibly stand up to Him? Not man, that’s for sure. The only one we should be fearing is the one who protects and loves us more than we can ever know. I hope this is as big of a comfort to you today as it was for me!

Take Heart

I’ve been dreaming of creating a blog with all of the sisters for a few months now because I think they all have really cool lives that should be documented somewhere and now it’s finally happening!  Yay!  Unfortunately, I have not been gifted with writing (like my sisters) nor do I really enjoy it (ask my parents who’ve had to deal with my emotional meltdowns when attempting to write an essay–bless you, mom and dad).  The only time I am motivated to write is when it’s about something I’m interested in or something I’ve learned that I feel like sharing with the whole world (and I guess that whole world gets to be you, so sorry).  This post is going to be closer to the latter and is one I wrote last semester during one of my few free moments. Enjoy:

Monday, April 18th, 2016

Sometimes I get so frustrated because I know that there is a perfect, beautiful heaven waiting for me where I can spend every moment in the presence of my Savior and yet I am stuck here on earth.  Why can’t God just zap me into heaven right now?  Doesn’t He love me and want to spend eternity with me as well?  Why do I have to be stuck in this “almost” stage?  (I apologize, sometimes I get a little dramatic and wallow in self-pity).

My friend, Sarabeth, read me a portion of a book she was reading, Dug Down Deep, a few weeks ago and it basically says this; that we live in an in-between stage of the “already” and “not yet”.  Jesus has already given us salvation but has not yet fully freed us of the presence of sin and death.  This was comforting to her because it meant that she didn’t need to be frustrated by ongoing struggles with sin because God hasn’t completely demolished sin.  But for me, it was frustrating.  Why can’t we skip this whole “not yet” deal and move on to the partying with Jesus?  There are many answers to this question but one that hit me in the face a few minutes ago was that I was complaining about a completely free (yet extremely pricey), unimaginable, beautiful gift that was given to me because I wanted the whole gift right now (what a brat, I know).  But not only has Jesus given us salvation and the promise of eternal life, He has also given us yet another beautiful gift while we are still on earth:

“Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.  For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit… you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

-Acts 1.4-8

Though I complain, I forget the wonderful gift God has given me now, the Holy Spirit.  It’s nothing I can comprehend.  It equips me to be a witness to those around me and gives me strength to live this life God has planned for me, a life in which I will get to participate in the sufferings of Christ.

I know that whatever happens life will be hard and I will undergo persecutions just as Christ did, but there is a joy that is to come that will outshine all the hurt and pain.

“I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.  I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.  I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.”

-Philippians 3.8-11

And one last passage for you all and then I’ll end my monologue.  This passage seemed appropriate for today because in my last class we were discussing pregnancy/birthing and I thought I was going to throw up or faint from sympathy pains.  After the wonderfully detailed depiction of child birth from my professor, I wondered why any woman would willingly choose to put her body through that torture.  Then I remembered this passage:

“I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices.  You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.  A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world.  So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy… I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”

-John 16.20-33

Although life is no heaven right now, I can go into “battle” knowing that God has already won the war.  What a great way to live!  I don’t need to worry about what my future holds because God is already there and He has already claimed the victory.  He has my life in His hands and He has already created a beautiful plan for it.  I can’t wait to see what happens next 🙂

-Landry