God Was There.

I just took a walk down memory lane. I don’t know what exactly led me to remember these moments, but I thought I would share my thoughts (as always 😉 )

Maybe it’s just me, but I loved putting on huge concerts in my bedroom. This normally occurred when my mom thought I was in my room dutifully working on homework… nahhh. Unless memorizing all the words to “There’s Gotta Be More to Life” by Staci Orrico or “Virtual Reality” by Jump5 counts as homework. I was thinking about how much time I wasted and how ridiculous I must have looked dancing and singing to absolutely no one. It’s quite embarrassing to think about actually.

But now for my thoughts:

All those times as a girl singing and dancing in front of a mirror, envisioning a crowd of adoring fans watching me… and imagining my crush in the crowd adoring me (oh yes.. the embarrassment runs deep)…

God was there.

There in those moments applauding me. Enjoying me. Enjoying my heart. My spirit. My beauty. There He was all along waiting and craving to be that special one I envisioned in the crowd. To be the one I wanted to delight and impress during all those hours in font of the mirror.

Although I seemed to miss the fact back then that it was always His eyes on me, I can now clearly feel that love and adoration He had for me in those moments that have long since past. It’s because He has that same love for me now as He did then.

It’s also because our God is not bound by time and neither is His love. He can (and has) shown me the love He had for me in my past. He shows me the love He has for me now. He grows in me an anticipation to experience His love in its truest and most perfect form when He returns or calls me home (to quote my favorite song).

What past moments in your life is God revealing His presence and love to you? God doesn’t just promise to never leave our side now, but always. And not always starting now, but always. He promises to never leave us nor forsake us. We’re talking about the God who was, and is, and is to come. He has been, is, and will be by our side.

So where did you miss God? Where do you need to go back in your life and recognize His presence and love? Because He was there. He promises that. I pray that you find Him in those moments when you needed Him most and felt He had abandoned you. Time is not a barrier God’s healing love cannot cross. He is still able to bring you the love you needed in those moments. Nothing is ever “too late” for God. If He were “late” that would imply that time has some type of authority over God. God is never too late to show up.

Even as I’m writing this I’m having a hard time believing and wrapping my head around this. I’m thinking of all the scenarios where God can be “too late.” Of course it’s incomprehensible for me. I live in a world that revolves around the laws of time.

Not so with our Heavenly Father. So let’s trust that it’s never too late for God. That He can let us experience the love He was showing to us in those moments where we couldn’t recognize it.

If there’s one thing I’m learning while being here (South Africa), it’s that God is big and so far outside the reaches of my mind. I’m learning to take God out of the safe box I have placed Him in my head. Outside of the rational, time-controlled mental box and out into the open where I can only observe and fearfully stand in awe. And He’s doing a great job at blowing me away.

Well folks, there’s a peak into my embarrassing past memories and my current thoughts. 🙂 Until the next post!

Cheers!

 

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Tasting His Goodness

I thought I would give the blog another go. Since I’m spending most of my free time documenting my experience through videos, I haven’t had much time to write another post. I also felt like most of my time here could be summed up in my weekly videos. However, through all these fun adventures I’ve been having, I have obviously been changing and learning in incredible ways (& probably indescribable ways – but I’ll still attempt).

I hit my three month mark of being in this beautiful country a few days ago. Its amazing just how quickly and slowly time can pass by. How you can be so excited to go home, yet hate the thought of leaving. How you can feel like a visitor and local in the exact same place. How you can at times feel absolutely fluent and then completely illiterate in Afrikaans… It’s funny how that stuff seems to work.

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Eventually I will sit down and attempt to sort out all my thoughts and areas of growth since being here, because that seems to be the thing that people do after “life-changing” experiences. And although it does sound cliche, this trip has been life changing. But so is every moment we live, whether we recognize it or not. I didn’t realize all those nights I spent as a child laying in bed with my dad dreaming up ideas of how we could add a loft with a spiral slide to my room would turn me into a passionate dreamer. I didn’t know that our family devotions after every supper would create in me an ever-growing desire to follow the Lord and stay curious and disciplined in reading His Word. I didn’t recognize that all the brainstorming sessions for multiple art projects with my professors would push me to be a deep thinker and believe that anything truly is possible. Never could I have imagined that first, I would join a sorority, and second, that all those lazy days spent in the house goofing around with my sorority friends would change me into a woman who is comfortable in her own skin and open to love others.

All of these little moments have played their own special role in who I am today. I have felt the same way during this trip. Yes, there were a few big “Ah-ha” moments, but most of my change has been gradual. Slowly changing me each day. All I can hope is that it’s for the better 🙂

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But enough about how I’m “changed.” I want to talk more about how I am learning to lean on Christ. I’ve nicknamed this trip my “honeymoon” (shout-out to Sharayah and Zach for inspiring the name) because I’ve felt like God has taken me aside during this season of life to just enjoy being with Him. I’m separated from everything that I depend on back home (family, friends, familiarity) and am forced to hold on to Christ while He shows me His INCREDIBLE beauty in creation. It has been such a sweet time of the Lord repeatedly showing His love for me inwardly and outwardly. It’s been a time of slowing down… waaayyyyyy down. This is probably the least amount of stress and responsibility I will have in all my life, so I am learning to enjoy and take advantage of every day. I’m learning how to spend an ENTIRE day just with the Lord. I know moments and days like this are rare. I’m loving every second.

I’ve recently discovered this song by Audrey Assad (a personal favorite) and have made this the prayer over the rest of my time here:

From the love of my own comfort
From the fear of having nothing
From a life of worldly passions
Deliver me O God

From the need to be understood
From the need to be accepted
From the fear of being lonely
Deliver me O God
Deliver me O God

And I shall not want, I shall not want
When I taste Your goodness I shall not want
When I taste Your goodness I shall not want

From the fear of serving others
From the fear of death or trial
From the fear of humility
Deliver me O God
Deliver me O God

And I shall not want, I shall not want
When I taste Your goodness I shall not want

No, I shall not want, I shall not want
When I taste Your goodness I shall not want

When I taste Your goodness I shall not want

– I Shall Not Want – Audrey Assad –

I’m praying that I continue to taste His goodness during this season of life which seems to look a lot like the first two verses of Psalm 23.

The Lord is my Shepherd,
I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he restores my soul.

– Psalm 23.1-2 –

God has proven that He is my Shepherd. He has made me lay down in breathtakingly green pastures. He has led me to the quietest of places. He is restoring my soul. He is teaching me not to be in want.

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Well folks, there’s my sappy “traveling abroad” post. Hope this keeps you updated on my very unprocessed thoughts while being here. Can’t wait to share even more memories with many of you all in person when I return!

Cheers/Aweh/Totsiens,

Landry

The Life of a Terrified Pedestrian

Currently sitting in The Blue Crane & The Butterfly café (known to have the best cakes in town – I agree) avoiding the homework I need to get done for my Small Business Management class before this weekend. So here I am writing my second blog post while in Stellenbosch. I’ve completed my first week of classes/courses/lectures/tutorials and am now in my second week. I’ve settled on four courses to take this semester:

  • Entrepreneurship and Innovation Management (Small Business Management) – just because I’m in another country does not mean I magically become competent in the “business language.” If anything it has made me even more aware at how lost I am in the world of business, but it has provided me lots of inspiration for owning my own business someday and given me more motivation to really teach myself the material (so I can keep up with the others & because the English here is very hard to understand).
  • Africa & South Africa: Colonialisation and the Rearrangement of Societies – I think this will be one of my favorite classes. Again, this is another class that I feel behind in since I am far from a history buff, but the lecturer is so passionate about the subject, which makes it easy to follow along. This class is an English/Afrikaans class, which means the lecturer will mainly speak in English while someone translates in Afrikaans into a headset that some students wear. However, there are times in a lecture period that the lecturer will give some information in Afrikaans or tell a joke (I only know it must be a joke because of the laughter from the rest of the Afrikaans speaking students) and I just have to hope it wasn’t important information or that the joke wasn’t pointed at me.
  • Afrikaans for Beginners – I’m already loving this class and we just had our first official class yesterday. The lecturer is amazing and has already made the whole class feel comfortable making fools out of themselves trying to pronounce a “g” in Afrikaans, which sounds quite similar to making a hockaloogie. I cannot count how many times I was touched/hugged and called ”my love” by the lecturer. Already my type of learning environment. This class is only offered to international students, which means that the majority of people are already speaking English as a second, third, or fourth language and here I am having taken four years of Spanish and can barely ask where the bathroom is… so already at a disadvantage. But I’m staying positive because I’ve been told that Afrikaans is one of the easier languages to learn. We’ll see…
  • Creative Jewellery Design and Metal Techniques – I definitely feel more at home in this class and the way it is set up. The lecturer is a stud. She can make an engagement ring in 5 hours! In our first 3 hour class we have already drilled and sawed out designs on two copper plates and will melt/mold/make them into earrings this week. This class is also only for international students this semester so the class only has 9 students. In the course of this class, along with earrings, we’ll make a pendant, ring, bracelet, and necklace.

Now for my random thoughts so I don’t bore you with a long essay trying to fit all of them together:

  • Cooking meals… Only having the option to get an unlimited meal plan in college has really stunted my ability to grocery shop for meals. I go into the store and am at a complete loss of what to buy for meals. Here there’s 70% less preservatives in all their foods, which means buying less but shopping more often. I’ve relied a lot on eggs, rice, and pesto… and of course the classic PB&J. All that to say, I miss my fully stalked kitchen back home.
  • My strategy to making friends the first week of class: I’ve shared this helpful hint with my fellow international friends trying to befriend locals in classes and have had many success stories. Here’s the strategy – when entering a classroom take a quick glance around the room and try to spot a student sitting by themselves and snag one seat away from or a seat right next to (depending on how bold you’re feeling) the student of interest. From there you casually ask their name, where they’re from, and what they’re studying. Hopefully the student of interest is accepting these advances and engages in conversation. From there the conversation should flow naturally and you’ve made your first classmate buddy. If, by the end of the class, you’re really feeling a connection and feel the timing is right, you go for the big jump in friendship and ask for their number. But keep it casual. Though this may be the most valuable contact you’ll have in your phone, not only for help in the class but also for having a local friend, it is important to remain calm. If necessary, play the “international student who doesn’t realize it might be weird to ask for someone’s number after a 5 minute conversation” card. Follow these simple steps and you’ll have your very own classmate buddy within the first day of class.
  • I’ve fallen in love… with rooibos. It’s everywhere. In their tea, coffee, wine, hand soap, etc.
  • Lots of man-satchels.
  • Stellenbosch is full of beauty… the mountains, little shops, flowers, all the way down to the people. SO many beautiful people reproducing even more beautiful people. It’s a vicious cycle. I’m becoming numb to the model-status of the women, men and children here.
  • I’ve never been so scared to cross the street in my life. In good ‘ole Georgetown cars try to avoid running pedestrians over. Not so here. If you ain’t sprintin, they ain’t stopping. On a happier note, I think I’ve finally trained myself to naturally look right then left before crossing the street.
  • All of my classes seem to be on the opposite side of campus, which is around a 20 minutes walk from my flat. Big change from my normal 2-5 minute walk to class. I’m planning to try out for the Olympic Race Walking team when I get back.
  • On a similar note, I’ve found some dedicated buddies who I’m starting to “train” (workout) with daily. The walk to the gym is a workout in itself since it’s at least 20 minutes away from Concordia (the building I live in). We’ll see how long this lasts…
  • This past weekend I had my first wine tasting with the other students in the AIFS group. We tried three wines and three chocolates that were paired with them. I’m still completely ignorant of the wine culture here, but hopefully with more wine tasting and education I’ll be able to look at a wine menu without being overwhelmed…
  • This coming weekend is the long awaited excursion to the Cederburg Mountains! I’ve been anticipating this outing since deciding to studying abroad in South Africa. We’ll be lodging in cabins in the mountains and will be doing a big hike up the Cederburg Mountains, as well making our meals over a fire and getting to enjoy some impeccable stargazing each night. Many photos to come.
  • Last Friday I got to visit Kayamandi, which is a township minutes away from the heart of Stellenbosch. Townships are the result of apartheid (Afrikaans word for segregation), which ultimately forced Africans to live in a separate community from the white Afrikaaners. Although apartheid no longer exists, these townships still do. There is a drastic difference in the living conditions of those in the townships to those just minutes away in Stellenbosch. It was a very eye-opening and helpful experience for me to better understand the history and current state of South Africa. I’ve learned it’s best to refrain from talking about politics here, especially when you don’t have a wide knowledge of the past and present political issues. So that’s all I’ll say about that for now 🙂
  • Speaking of politics… I do not even have to open my mouth and already I am identified as an American, which then follows with being called “Trump’s baby” or other comments about our president. So much for trying to blend in…
  • Our flat has officially declared Thursday Nights as our party nights. Last Thursday we hosted our first Pancake & Pajama’s party and this Thursday will be our Wine and Cheese night with an “open speaker” for others to share their favorite songs.
  • There’s a water shortage here (something alien to me coming from Kentucky) to the point of catching your shower water with a bucket while it’s warming up. Showers are going to start looking a lot different for me.

Well, that’s all I got for now (besides the photos below)! There’s not as many photos this time because I’m trying to create a small recap video each week, which you can check out on my Facebook page 🙂

Cheers!


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Last first day of class! College has flown by…

 

 

Celebratory lunch for starting our first day of classes
Jewellery Design classroom
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The view from my Afrikaans class
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Ordered a matcha latte because it almost sounded like mocha. I was quite surprised to find a green drink… not my favorite, but the server realized I was struggling and brought me some honey and saved the day.
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With only one art class I’ve been practicing watercoloring as my artistic outlet

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My favorite coffee I’ve had so far (because it is the sweetest one I’ve tasted)
My visit to Kayamandi
Amber’s friends from her church that we went with
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Another celebratory meal for finishing our first week of classes. We like finding reasons to eat out 😉

 

Natasha’s sweet note and flowers congratulating us on finishing our first week of classes (she’s here for research and is not taking classes)

 

Completely forgot the name of this Swedish treat, but it tasted like a fortune cookie with lots of chocolate drizzled on top

 

 

Pizza in a cone from the market we visited this past weekend

 

 

Our group wine tasting…

 

 

…at Waterford Vinyard

 

 

Our driver I think must be a DJ on the side. He was busting the speakers with some good ole’ J Biebs. 
Not pictured: me climbing this tree

 

I’m rooming with a fellow perfectionist. I’m embarrassed to tell you how long it took us to make this calendar to put our flats’ schedules on…

 

 

The “training” pack

 

 

Is it really an official gathering without a poster? More photos to come of our Thursday Night party this week.

 

 

My view while writing this post

 

 

Just a Matie in Stellie

I made it to Stellenbosch, South Africa!

Here’s a quick background of why I’m here:
So last fall semester I knew I wanted to study abroad my senior year but had no specific country in mind. After talking to the study abroad advisor at my school I had narrowed it down to Italy, India, and (his recommendation) South Africa. I’ve learned that the majority of my best decisions are the ones I make on a whim. With that being said, I had already mentally chosen South Africa by the end of my first meeting meeting with my advisor. From there I spent the next semester filling out a mile high stack of paperwork and applying for every possible scholarship. After convincing/informing my parents about the trip, going through hoops to get my visa, and traveling two days I’m finally here!

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Last goodbye with part of the fam!

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My 11 hour flight from Amsterdam to Capetown

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Flying over the Swiss Alps.
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Flying over the Sahara Desert.

As my family, and anyone else who has been around me when writing an essay can attest, I do not enjoy writing. Especially writing in complete and coherent thoughts. So I’ve decided to make this more of an outline where I’ll just list random thoughts or information I think I should share. Maybe I’ll elaborate on the list… and maybe I won’t. 🙂

~I’m here with a group of 14 other American’s from all over the States through the American International Foreign Study (AIFS) program.

~We’re five days in and we’ve finished our orientation with the other 400 international students attending Stellenbosch University this semester.

~At SU this is their 2nd semester.

~I live in a flat with three other girls (all extremely cool) and we each have our own room and bathroom and share a kitchen/living room space. We have a lady who not only cleans our kitchen and bathrooms, but sweeps all of our floors and… get this… washes our dishes! Don’t worry, I still have to make my own bed.

~Flatmates:
 -Amber: I obviously stalked everyone coming with AIFS and learned through social media that Amber went to the same University as my cousin in San Diego. After some more intense creeping I realized she was also a Christian and had been to ZA before. So of course I slid into her DM’s (for Dad – “sent her a personal message through the internet”). I learned that she was going to ZA a month early through her church to help start up a church in Stellenbosch.
-Madison: I’m ashamed to admit that my internet investigative skills failed me. I did not know as much about Madison before I came and soon learned that she is extremely passionate about self-sustainability and has the ability to make anyone feel included. For sure the life of a party.
-Natasha: She was the “mystery flatmate.” Natasha moved in two days after we arrived and wasn’t apart of the AIFS program so we were anxious to meet her. Tasha lives on an island in Western Canada and goes to an art university on the East coast of Canada. Her focus in art is print making. She is at Stellenbosch to help with a professor’s research by teaching an art class at a nearby high school.

~I’ve met lots of friends from all over the world (mostly Europe) and just yesterday got to celebrate Erhan’s (a friend I made from Switzerland) birthday with lots of new friends!

~I’ve run into multiple people while walking on the right side of the sidewalk.

~Mopeds delivering McDonald’s take-out is a common site.

~It’s very rare to find a building with AC or heating.

~It’s currently winter in South Africa, which means it’s around 40 degrees at night and can get up to 60 degrees during the day when the sun is out, which doesn’t sound bad coming from Kentucky, right? Well that’s what I thought before I came… I failed to consider that no heating means no heating, which means if it’s 40 degrees at night it’s going to be 40 degrees when I try to fall asleep. Lesson learned.

~Most shops close around 5 or 6 (sunset) and the streets are mostly empty due to the highly unsafe night life.

~I can get coffee that would put Starbucks to shame for $2.

~When in doubt, just say “lekker.” It’s the Afrikaans go-to word for anything awesome, cool, tasty, nice, etc. Lekker.

~Afrikaans apparently is one of the easiest languages to learn so I’m going to give it a go this semester. Luckily I only need a C or above for my credits to transfer!

~My other classes include; Jewellery making (their spelling, not mine), Africa & South Africa Colonization and the Rearrangement of Societies, Small Business Management, and Social Issues in South Africa. However, I don’t have to finalize any of these classes until the first week of lectures is over. So in the meantime I can sit in on as many classes as I want and then decide from there.

~I’m currently 6 hours ahead of those back home, which makes my bedtime ritual consist of catching up with friends and family. It also makes my news feed very empty during the day, which I’m not mad about.

~Wifi is hard to come by and isn’t super reliable since the internet comes through underground channels across the ocean.

~Stellenbosch students are called “Maties” (Mawh-Tees). They adopted the nickname other Universities gave them by calling them “tomatoes” (Toe-Mawh-Toes) or “maties” because of the University’s maroon color.

~I think I’m supposed to live in Denmark. At the international student’s dinner I sat with a few Danish guys who informed me that almost all of their communication is through sarcasm. Let’s just say that there was never a lull in the conversation and by the end of the night I believe I even almost impressed them with my sarcastic abilities. Thanks, Dad.

~Classes start on Monday, which is when all the local students will finally be arriving on campus. I’m ready to meet some “stellies”!

~Just about every shop in Stellie is a hipster’s dream. Lot’s of succulents, great coffee, and a very clean look.

~Cheap food and even cheaper wine. Stellenbosch takes a lot of pride in their wine because of the multiple vineyards in the area. I believe our program is taking us on a wine tasting tour soon, so I’ll keep ya posted.

Well, that’s all I have for now! Hopefully these photos will do a better job at portraying my time here than my words can:

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Our first impromptu tour of campus led by an exchange student, Gudrun, from Germany who studied here last semester.
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The view from our building.
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International orientation meeting.
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Waiting to get our student cards made.
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Making food and friends.
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40 degree weather at night in a dorm that has no heating = purchasing an indoor heater.
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The center of campus.
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Good Mexican food is hard to come by in South Africa.
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I’m loving the trees here!
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My flatmate is also an art major so we decided to combine our skills and make door tags
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Ruby and Natasha
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Some of the best croissants I’ve tasted since Paris.
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Proteas – my new favorite flower.
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I’m in heaven.

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They gave us blankets so we could still eat outside and stay warm.
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Basic Bistro was so good that we went again the next day!

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My morning tea and rusk.

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I found crepes!

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One of my flatmates Amber.
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The start of our hike up Coetzenburg Mountains, right behind the rugby fields.

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My other flatmate, Natasha.

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Our fearless tour guide, Gudrun.
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The gang that made it to the halfway point (the whole hike would have taken 4-5 hours to get to the top).
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Capetown and the ocean in the distance.

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Meraki, a new favorite cafe.
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The bathrooms here are SO cute! This is the outdoor walkway and washing station of Meraki.
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The drive to Franchhoek for the Bastille festival.

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When celebrating France…
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one must get a croissant.

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