Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Life's Not Fair, And Here's Why That's Actually A Good Thing.

This blog post is up later than normal. That's because it's a busy week for me, and also because I was trying too hard to write about something I didn't even believe in. Today I am discouraged and I am exhausted, and I was trying way too hard to find some silver lining to place around my feelings, and salvage some moral lesson  from my discouragement to wisely share with you. After struggling with this for a while, something clicked in my head and I came to a conclusion. This is my blog, that I have decided to write because I want to. It is not an assignment that a teacher has given me, and the only requirements it has are the ones I decide to implement for myself. I do not have to find a silver lining when there just isn't one. 
I realized that I am living in a society that is obsessed with convincing everyone that everything can be fair, and that if you simply try hard enough, you will succeed. But the hard truth is, the world is an unfair place. No matter how hard we try to convince ourselves otherwise, unfair things will keep happening and showing us the truth.
     As embarrassing as it is to admit, sometimes as a Christian, I mistakenly expect that God will reward me constantly just for believing in Him and behaving like a "good Christian". Something in the back of my brain tends to think that because I remembered to read my devotional this morning and was polite to people who annoyed me throughout the day, I will have a great day free of disappointment. But at the end of the day, I have to face the reality that the world is an unfair place, no matter how I act.
     It's easy to get really mad about this, and to really be mad about how unfair the world is. It's tempting for me to question God when things aren't going the way I think I should. But through all of these disconnected feelings that my brain is trying to piece together into a message that actually makes sense to my readers, I realized something that helps put the unfairness of life into perspective.
     The most unfair thing that ever happened is a man being brutally put to death for sins he did not commit so that I can have an eternal life I don't deserve. That's not fair to Jesus, because he didn't do anything wrong, and on the reverse, it's not fair to me because I did lots of stuff wrong and I still get rewarded in the end. So the next time I get caught up in all the unfair things in my life, maybe I need to stop and realize that if life was fair in every aspect, I wouldn't get to go to Heaven. I need to realize that if I want everything to be fair, then technically that means I have to admit that I deserve to go to Hell. I certainly don't want to go there, so the next time I am tempted to complain that life's not fair, I will try to stop and realize that unfairness is going to work out in my favor in the end.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Spring Fever?

     If I had to describe the way I've been feeling lately in one word, I would say restless. Finals are coming up, and I know now that finals week in college is a stressful time. It's not like high school when the final can only change your grade by a few points. No, these finals are seriously important, and it's easy to get stressed really quickly. To add to that, we're starting to have nice weather now, which for some reason makes it even harder to focus on studying. I even feel guilty taking "me time" to blog sometimes, especially since it seems like I only have about 12 readers now, but it's just not something I'm ready to give up yet.
     Besides having finals on my mind, I have just been feeling unsatisfied with other things. I sent in a resume for a summer job that I really want, and it's starting to seem like my chances aren't looking so good. I am also in the process of making changes in my academic life that I know are necessary, but seem like they go against everything I have tried to avoid in the past.
     To top it all off, my mind has decided that now would be a great time to start thinking about Honduras more frequently. It's hard to push that excitement aside and focus on getting through this next week and a half.
     However yesterday I had a small breakthrough in my restlessness. I heard a Matthew West song that I have never heard before, which was of course quite exciting to me. Now excuse me for a minute while I go into overly emotional song interpretation mode, I promise this won't happen often.
     As I listened to the lyrics, I was thinking about myself. Not in a narcissistic way, I just felt like I could relate to it. Matthew West wrote the song after he met a little girl with Down Syndrome. Obviously I can't directly relate to that, but I do know what it's like to feel different. A few lyrics in particular stood out to me. And I confess when I first met her, I was thinking life's not fair. But then she threw her arms around me, and it all became so clear, God bless the last ones. 
How often do I let myself dwell on the unfair aspects of life, and compare my life to everyone else's? How often do I get frustrated and discouraged when things are hard for me. I was reminded of the girls I met in Honduras, who taught me that you can be happy even when you are is a situation that seems completely unfair and undeserved, one that you never asked for. It's so easy for me to get caught up in the issues of everyday life like grades and finding a job. It's easy for me to think of myself as "less than" because of things I have no control over.  But deep down I know that thinking that way is not productive, and won't help me at all. Being discontent about these things happens when I forget that I am this way for a reason, and that there are actually things in life more important that final exam grades. I can't wait for this period of restlessness to be over, and to go back to Honduras and regain my perspective on what's really important.

Friday, April 25, 2014

The Hardest Lesson

     The hardest lesson I learned in high school wasn't found in a textbook, and I wasn't tested on it. It's not even something a teacher told me. The hardest lesson I learned in high school is that death isn't reserved for old age.
     Now I know that sounds incredibly morbid, but I don't think there is really a sugar-coated way of saying it, nor do I want to find one because it's a fact of life. I had always been taught that no one is guaranteed tomorrow, or even the next minute, but it's not something I ever really had to think about as a child. When I was a junior in high school, I was forced to think about the fragility of life because of events that occurred that affected me deeply, I didn't know how to process it. It seemed totally unfair and wrong to me that people who were young and had their whole lives ahead of them could suddenly just be gone. I struggled with it for a long time, trying to find the answer as to why some people's lives are cut short. It has taken me a long time to realize that I will never know that answer here on earth, and there is no one who can fully explain it to me. I had to learn to stop asking why, and start understanding that life is a gift that I should appreciate.
     What I eventually came to understand is that life on Earth is a temporary thing. Heaven is the ultimate destination, and Earth is just the journey. Knowing this, I realized that there is no time for anger or grudges. Every minute I spend being angry or harboring unforgiving feelings is a moment of happiness I have lost. I still fail at this a lot, but I try to remind myself that negative feelings are a waste of time. I also learned that I need to love people now, not when I have free time. There's always time to listen to someone who needs to talk, or to give a hug to someone who needs it.
     Something I'm still working on is learning to live in the moment. I can't change what happened yesterday, and tomorrow is still in the future, so I need to take time to appreciate today. I need to be present in the moment, and enjoy the things that are happening right now, instead of worrying about what could happen tomorrow.
    I guess what I'm trying to say is that I understand now that I don't have unlimited time in this life. I want the majority of the time I do have to be spent in a positive way, loving people and being happy as much as possible. Sure, sometimes bad things will happen and make me sad, and sometimes I will just be in a bad mood. But overall, I want to live life with the understanding that my small problems are not as important as they seem, and I want to always remember that love should be my top priority.


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

It's Okay To be Smart

This time of year, I am seeing a lot of people getting tours of the campus. I always wonder what brought them here, because Richard Bland isn't exactly anyone's dream school. It's a two year junior college that aims to transfer you to a four year university. Maybe like me, they were told by their guidance counselor that this would be a good option to boost their GPA and improve their chances of getting into a four year school. Seeing these people makes me think of when I was the one choosing a college, and it has also made me wish I could go back to my high school years and tell myself something.
     I wish I could go back and tell myself that it's okay to be smart. That may sound like a strange thing to say, but I honestly don't think I realized that in high school. My high school often seemed to me like more of a social club than a place to get an education, and intelligence didn't seem to be a thing of particular value to many of my peers.  Girls in particular are allowed to believe that it's more important to be pretty and fit in than to foster your intelligence and learn, and I think that's really a shame.Why are we led to believe that being pretty is the only way to be attractive? Why can't society let young girls believe that kindness and compassion and a having a passion for something are more important than what you look like. Because of these facts and my insecurity, I often hid my interest in learning. I found out quickly that being excited over a book we were reading in English class, or speaking up when I knew the answer to a question and no one else was answering it, was not the norm. It gets weird looks from people, and leads to being labeled a nerd. Because the high school years are so much about conformity and blending in, I did not allow myself to reach my full potential, and that is something I regret. I wish I had realized that school is for learning, not developing popularity.
     I also wish that I could make my former self understand that smart comes in different forms. Not all smart people are good test takers or quick learners, Sometimes being smart is about figuring out what you as an individual need to do to accomplish your goals. Just because you learn differently than someone else does not mean you are dumber than them. I wish I had believed my parents when they told me that, and I wish more of my teachers acknowledged it. It has taken me until now to accept that I sometimes learn differently from other people, and that sometimes I learn slowly, and that does not make me dumb.
     So I guess if I could speak to my high school aged self, I would tell her to be assertive and go against the crowd. I would tell her that achieving popularity is not the point of school. I would tell her that your level of popularity in high school has little to no affect on your life after graduation. I would tell her to not be embarrassed when she actually enjoyed learning. I would tell her to figure out how she learned best, and take advantage of it even if it was different than what everyone else was doing. I would tell her that it's okay to be smart.

Monday, April 21, 2014

What I Want Sometimes

     I try not to spend a lot of time thinking about the fact that I have a disability. There's nothing I can do to change it, so there's really no point in dwelling on it. Occasionally though, I go through times where I struggle with it. Lately I have been going through one of those times.
     Some of my complaints may be superficial. I know there are more important things in life, but if we're being honest, sometimes that's not the point. Sometimes I just want to wear a dress and be able to wear cute shoes with it, and not have to wear socks up to my knees to cover my braces.Sometimes I wish I had a body that was tall and slim, not short and stout and covered with scars from various surgeries. Sometimes I want people to stare at me because they think I'm pretty, not because they think I walk funny. Sometimes I want to run around and easily keep up with everyone. Sometimes I want strangers to look me in the eye when they talk to me, not at my feet.  Sometimes I want people to base their first impression of me on my personality, not on the way I walk, which I have very little control over. Sometimes I want to stop discovering new areas of my life that my disability affects.  Sometimes I just don't want to be me.
     These feelings, I suppose, are not politically correct. I am supposed to believe that the world doesn't judge me on things I can't help, and that everyone is equal. But I am no longer a child, and I know that the world doesn't work that way. I know that people are going to make judgments of me that I can't change. And, though people will probably try to convince me otherwise, I know that I will never be considered beautiful by the world's standards.
     The good thing about the times where I think about these things is that they are usually short. Pretty soon, I will become distracted by life and these thoughts will recede into the back of my mind. But when these thoughts do come around, I try to remember that God made me this way on purpose. He doesn't see me as less than other people. In His eyes, everyone is equal. Hopefully one day, I will learn to see myself the way God sees me.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

A lot like Judas

     It took me a while to find something to write about today. I didn't want to ignore Easter, but every Easter related topic I could think about had already been done. I think all of my readers know by now that Easter isn't about a bunny, so I ruled out that topic. I've heard the Easter story many times, as I'm sure you all have, and it was hard to find a new perspective to discuss, but I think I did it.
     As I was re-reading the Easter story that I thought I knew by heart, one character stood out in my mind. Judas is usually thought of as the betrayer, the guy who sold out his friend for a few coins. It's easy to write him off as a villian and move on with the story. But when I really stopped to think about it, I realized that I am a lot like Judas. When things are easy and there's no temptation around, I can let myself think that I am doing just fine in my relationship with Jesus, and that surely nothing will change that. But then I have to face reality, and in reality I sin. I get angry and jealous and judgemental. I don't always speak up and defend my faith, which is the same as betraying Jesus like Judas did. While I would like to say that I am like Jesus, in truth I often act more like Judas.
     But what if Judas hadn't betrayed his friend? The betrayal set the rest of the story in motion. It was all part of the plan. Was betraying his friend the right thing for Judas to do? No, but God used it piece of the puzzle. A rough, jagged ugly piece maybe, but without it the puzzle would be incomplete.
     Realizing this gave me a new perspective on my sins and shortcomings. I think instead of getting so mad at myself when I do the wrong thing, I should start to see my bad moments as part of the plan.   I still need to ask for forgiveness and acknowledge when I am wrong, but I need to stop holding on to my guilt. I need to let God take the rough, jagged pieces and smooth them down until they fit into the puzzle of His plan.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

My Brother's Keeper

    Conflict is essential to a writer. I don't enjoy conflict in my everyday life, but if I didn't have problems and things that make me mad or challenge me, I wouldn't have much to write about. Writing gives me the ability to introduce a problem and then resolve it, or at least attempt to. Today, I was fully planning to write some cheerful, Easter related words and take a break from the heavy stuff, but then some events occurred and I changed my mind. There's something on my mind, and I'd like to talk about it.
     I am living outside of a small town for the first time in my life, which is something I've always wanted to do. It has many advantages and I'm meeting many new people from different backgrounds. It's been a very positive experience overall, but there's something about it that really bugs me sometimes. Because people here haven't known me my whole life, they sometimes make broad judgments based on single facts that I have no control over. For instance I once mentioned in an "About Me" speech that I had to do that there are no stoplights in my hometown. I just added that fact in because I needed to take up time and I thought people would find it interesting. As soon as those words came out of my mouth, I could see everyone's expressions change. This fact was more shocking to people than I realized it would be. That wouldn't be a big deal, except that people continued to bring it up after class, and I could tell that some of them were speaking down to me at that point. It was as if they believed that just because I come from a small town, I am not intelligent. I would like to believe that the number of stoplights in my hometown is not what determines the level of my intelligence. I would like to think there's more to me than that.
     This incident came and went, and I got over it pretty quickly and stopped thinking about it. And then something else happened that really set me off. Someone who had met my brother only once described him to someone else as an "average redneck". Now let me explain why this made me so mad.
     I wouldn't have a problem with the term "redneck" being applied to my brother if it was in a positive, non-judgmental way. But the way that some people use this term, especially outside of Mathews, is very derogatory. When I asked this person to explain what they meant by describing my brother this way, they implied that rednecks are (and I'm paraphrasing the general idea) people from the country who like to hunt (which they see as killing innocent animals for fun), aren't all that smart, and tend to be racist.
     I may not talk to Seth much, and I may sometimes say things about him that aren't very nice, but as soon as someone else says something negative about him, that sibling loyalty instinct comes out and I want to get defensive. Yes, my brother enjoys hunting, and yes, I went through a phase of not liking that. But now I see it this way. He has become very educated on how and when to use a gun. I remember him going to all kinds of hunter safety stuff when he was younger. Although I still feel a little sad when I see a dead deer that he or my dad has killed, I realize now that hunting is a type of sport, and am glad that he knows how to be responsible with a gun, and to only use them for hunting and maybe (hopefully never) in a rare case of self defense. (I have also become less sympathetic towards the deer now that I can drive and they feel the need to run out in front of my car unannounced.)
     Yes, my brother hunts and likes to work on his truck and do outdoorsy stuff. He is also extremely intelligent. He's probably the most intelligent person I know. The amount of information in his head fascinates me. Surely someone studying Agribusiness Management at Virginia Tech can't be considered dumb. He is also not racist or hateful. Sure he might say things sometimes that aren't very nice, but who doesn't? He really is a very kind, caring person who I love very much.
     So when this comment was made about my brother, it got me thinking. Why do we as a society feel the need to slap a label on everyone? Why can't a person enjoy certain activities or come from a certain place without having their intelligence questioned? Maybe we should stop rushing to judge people by superficial things and take a minute to see who they really are on the inside.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Sheep of Salem

Sometimes I worry that I am too open about my emotions on this blog. Since I'm not sure who exactly is reading it, I sometimes worry that I will say something that will somehow go wrong and cause trouble. But for me, it is hard to write without exposing my emotions. Writing is the way I express my emotions, so I just always pray that what I post will be something that glorifies God, and does not have a negative affect on me or the people who read it.
Today I am going to continue to share with you my emotions, because I want to talk about something I feel strongly about, youth group. Before I came to college, my youth group really was one of the most important parts of my life. For a year or so, our church didn't have official youth leaders, and when we got three new leaders, I was determined not to form an emotional attachment to them. I had learned from past experience that realistically, youth leaders are only temporary. I don't say that to be mean or disrespectful, I just feel like it's a fact. So when we got three new youth leaders, I decided that I would be polite and respectful to them, but I would not form an emotional bond of any kind with them, Now, anyone that knows me and knows who I'm friends with can tell you that I obviously failed at that.
During my senior year, youth group was my comfort zone. I knew that on Thursday nights, I would be with people who loved me and treated me well. I knew that I would learn things that would help my faith grow stronger. I soon realized that I was the oldest member of the group, which became I role I take very seriously. It is through youth group, and the role of being the oldest that I started to feel that God had a plan for me that involved leadership of children or youth. This is something that I have had to put a lot of thought into, because I had planned on having a career in journalism. I had taken every opportunity I could find at school and in the community to hone my skills as a journalist. I was becoming confident in that area, so when I felt that God was calling me away from it, I was anxious. At this point, I'm not sure exactly what the future will hold. I think I know what I want to do, but I think there will always need to be a writing opportunity in my life, for the sake of my sanity.
Coming back to my original point, I am so thankful for my youth group, and now I realize how important a group like that is in a teenager's life. I know that it won't always be exactly like it is now, and I'm not mad at anyone over that. No matter what the future holds, I am so thankful for my years with the Sheep of Salem. Those really were some of the best times of my life.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Falling in Love

The professors statement annoyed me at first. Why would she assume that we all know what falling in love felt like? It’s like the world expects that by a certain age everyone must have that experience and if you don’t you need to start worrying.  I wanted to say “No, I actually don’t know what falling in love feels like.” Sure, I've had crushes, but there has never been a boy that has fully captured my heart, swept me off my feet, and all that other flowery stuff Shakespeare rambles about. No professor, I don’t know what it feels like to fall in love.

     But later, I remembered something. I remembered walking into an unfamiliar place in an unfamiliar country, completely out of my element and not knowing what to expect, and I remembered the open arms of those children I can’t stop talking about. I remembered how they immediately and unconditionally loved me before I even knew how to love myself. I remembered how happy I was during those 10 days, and how excited I get every time I think about the fact that I get to go back again. So I think maybe I was mistaken. Although it was not the romantic kind found in Shakespeare’s sonnets that the professor was referring to,  I think I do know what it feels like to fall in love. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

By Our Love

Being a Christian was so much easier when I was younger. All I thought I had to do was go to  church, which wasn't hard on my part because my parents took me, try to behave the rest of the week, and believe in Jesus and God.  As a child, you aren't forced to think about the deeper issues. You are just taught that if you believe Jesus is the Son of God and you confess that you are a sinner, you get to go to heaven. It all seemed so simple back then.
As I got older, things got more complicated. I started to realize that not all people agree with my beliefs and that even people who are Christians disagree with certain beliefs of other Christians. Suddenly I need to know exactly where I stand on issues that have to do with my faith. Everyone suddenly wants to know what I think about homosexuality and why I go on mission trips and why I believe what I believe. For the first time in my life, I am being asked to defend my faith. I am realizing that some people my age see Christians as hateful people, and I think that's largely because of the media. The Christians shown on T.V. are extreme groups with hateful messages. They march around with signs trying to point out everyone else's sins. They spend astronomical amounts of money and time trying to stop everything they don't agree with. Because of that, when some people learn that I am a Christian, they associate me with those people. They think all Christians are haters.
On the other hand, some people think that Christians need to agree with and support almost everything. They think that if I don't love everything everyone does all the time that I'm not being a good Christian. Thinking about this reminds me of something I remember my mom telling me when I was little. I had gotten sent to my room for something I did, and in all the dramatic glory of a child being punished, I proclaimed that she didn't love me anymore. I don't remember the specific details of this event, but I remember her response. "I still love you, I just don't like your actions right now." What this taught me is that I can love people without liking what they do. It is my job as a Christian to love everyone, not to like everything they do.
I realize that as I get older, my faith will be questioned many times. People will continue to ask me to explain my beliefs, and some people will disagree with them and even laugh at them. There will be some questions that I don't know the answers too. There will be other Christians that I don't agree with. I am in the world, and the world is a place full of conflict. So how am I going to deal with this? Well, I'm not completely sure yet. All I know is that love is the most important thing. There are so many verses about love and how important it is to love one another. So maybe it really is as simple as it seemed when I was a child. If I can learn to be loving while standing by my beliefs, maybe I am headed in the right direction. I don't have it all figured out, and I don't think I ever will, but I do know how to love people.

Friday, April 11, 2014

233 Days

 300 days ago, I walked across a stage and someone handed me a piece of paper signifying that I had survived the awkward drudgery of high school.
284 days ago I turned 18 and people told me that I am now and adult and joked that I am now legally responsible for my actions.
233 days ago my family helped me move into my dorm and said goodbye, and I started on this strange and awesome journey of independence.
  For 233 days, I have experienced the beginning stages of what it's like to be an adult. I have gotten a glimpse into what it's like to be responsible for yourself. I have been in charge of my own schedule and had to figure out how to solve my own problems. I have experienced tornado warnings, broken appliances, and early morning fire drills. I have made new friends and come to the realization that I don't need to worry so much about losing the old ones.
   For 233 days, not counting when I have been home for breaks, I have not had face to face conversations with my family and friends at home. I have not been there when my mom gets home to ask her how her day was. I have not taken my dog for his evening walk. I have not been there to visit with my grandmother when she is sick and hear her say in her joking way that she's just getting old. I have not sat down for dinner and heard my dad tell me I look nice today, even when I really don't. I have not walked into the bathroom to find my brothers dirty work clothes on the floor, or seen his goofy antics that always kept me laughing.
   But what I have learned is that I have been getting prepared for those 233 days for 18 years. I have been taught what I needed to know and raised in a way that prepared me for the world. I know now that it is okay that my childhood is a thing of the past. No matter how old I am, my family will always be my family. I have learned that I really like college, and that overall I am happy here. Some days I miss the way it used to be, but then I remember that my family and my true friends will be there for me no matter what. I realize how much I like the direction I am headed in, and I smile and move forward on this journey of life.

*At the top is the slideshow my mom made for my graduation party. I have been wanting to use it, and this seemed like a fitting time.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Wrong Generation

     I should probably warn you that I might not make much sense today. After writing an 8 page research paper on an extremely uninteresting topic, I'm not sure my brain can form any more logical sentences, but I'll try. I do complain a lot about it, but there's something exciting about writing these long stressful college papers. Spending long hours in a library citing scholarly journals is something that I have to admit I find a strange enjoyment in. It makes me feel like a real writer. Anyway, now that you know this might not make sense, I'll get to my point.
     It seems to me sometimes that I am living in the wrong generation. People are always saying that I'm wise, but wisdom doesn't really seem to apply to my age group. I like that people associate that trait with me, but I can never figure out how to take advantage of it. Wisdom seems to be for older people who have been around for a long time and have learned from life experiences. Society does not expect college students to be wise. Our society assumes that college is a time to go wild and experiment with crazy and sometimes dangerous things, and then we can laugh about it later if we survive. My problem with this is that I just don't get it sometimes.Things that other people my age think are fun sometimes just don't logically make sense to me.For example, I sort of know what it's like to be "in an altered state" because I have been on multiple painkillers after I had surgery, and I was confused and grumpy. I just don't see the fun in that. Now, I don't even know if those two things can really be compared to each other, but either way it makes me think.  I guess there's a part of me that wants to be wild. I have a little bit of a rebellious streak somewhere in me that wants to do crazy things, but the logical "wise" side usually shuts it up.
     I have struggled with these thoughts a lot. A part of me worries that I am being too serious and missing out on something. But after thinking about it for a long time, I realized something. Nowhere in anything I've learned from my parents, or at church, or reading the Bible have I heard that it's okay to do the wrong thing because you're young. That's just something society believes, and I don't have to go along with it. So for now, I'll just try to stick with what I know is right. I'm sure at times I will do some dumb things that I know I shouldn't just because "I'm in college!", but I hope those occasions are rare. And who knows, maybe some day I will figure out a way to accommodate that little rebellious streak that insists on popping up from time to time

Monday, April 7, 2014

My Favorite Word

     Since I like to write, I like knowing interesting words and their meanings. I like to try to find impressive words and use them as much as I can. Out of all of the words I know, I have a favorite, and it probably isn't what you would expect. It isn't even an English word. It's a word I learned in Honduras, and used quite frequently. It is manana. Now I can already tell that this entire blog post is going to frustrate the editor in me because there is supposed to be a little squiggly line that I think is called a tilde over the first n, but I can't figure out how to make that happen correctly on my keyboard and I probably shouldn't waste away my day trying, so please ignore my incorrect grammar for the sake of getting my point across in a somewhat timely manner.
     The reason I love this word so much is because of the meaning it holds. If you don't know, Manana means tomorrow in Spanish. But to the children in Honduras I was so lucky to meet, it means so much more than that. From the moment we arrived on the first day, they were already asking if we would be back the next day. The reaction they had when we said yes was one of excitement and happiness. For these children, knowing that we would be returning was a meaningful thing. I guess it's because they don't have a lot of people who they can consistently trust, but I could tell that something about us returning each day was very important to them.  Countless times each day, children would look to me with a very serious look on their face and say the words I did not need a translator to help me understand. "Hasta manana?" They wanted to know if we would be back tomorrow. Being able to say yes was such a good feeling. It formed a bond that I can't really explain, but it felt as if we were someone these children could count on, which I think is something they desperately need.
     From this simple word that was said so many times throughout those 10 days, I learned so much. I learned how important it is, especially to a child, to have someone you can count on. I learned to live in the moment and appreciate each day, because just as we could not be there with those children forever, no one will be on this earth forever.
     On the last day, having to say that we would not be returning the next day was emotionally almost impossible to process for me. I missed my family, but my time in Honduras felt incomplete. I felt that God still had more for me to experience there. I knew immediately that I would do whatever it took to return again, and experience more tomorrows with those amazing children.
     Manana is a word that, to me , is filled with hope. It reminds me of the bond I formed with the friends I met in Honduras and the lessons I learned from them
, and that is why it is my favorite word.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Jesus Loves Me, This I Know

A while back, I thought of a topic I would like to blog about, but then I hesitated because I didn't know if it really applied to my life or this blog. But I have been thinking about it, and it's something I want to tackle, so here we go.

What is Love?
 Don't stop reading! This isn't what you think it is. I'm not going to tell you that I have fallen in love, or tell you a sappy story about some boy. For all of you readers who are hoping to get a glimpse of what in the world I'm doing with my college years, I can tell you that I am not currently, nor have I ever been "in love". That was awkward, let's move on. For a long time, my idea of what love is was the same as that of most teenage girls. I thought that love was when you have a boyfriend and he holds your hand and takes you on dates and tells you you're pretty. Lovely, right? The thing is, that was not part of my high school life, and it concerned me way more than it should have. It was not until I went to Honduras, and then moved  away to college that I really began to understand that what high school students think love is isn't really what it's all about. I have gotten older and wiser, and I have gotten away from the small town where people are always innocently asking "have you found a boyfriend yet?" On a side note, that question always confused me. Where exactly and I supposed to "find" him? That expression implies that I am supposed to be searching for him, and I'm not sure I agree with that entirely. Anyway, at the age of almost 19, now that I'm starting to figure out who I really am,  I am beginning to understand that love is about more than boyfriends. There is a different kind of love, a non-romantic kind that doesn't get enough recognition.

Love is when a child you've never seen before in your life, who doesn't even speak your language, greets you with a big hug.  
The experience of arriving at the orphanage in Honduras and the way we were greeted by the children there is one of the most impactful learning experiences I've ever had. They did not ask questions, they did not judge. They immediately showed us unconditional love, and I'm still to this day processing the depth of that expression. It is one of the greatest examples of love I have ever seen.

Love is having friends you can count on. 
I have amazing friends. I have friends from back home and new friends I have met here. Because of immaturity and small mindedness, I used to be afraid to tell female friends that I loved them. Now I realize that friendship is a form of love, and I try to tell my friends I love them often. Long phone conversations, random texts.  laughing over silly things, or discussing deeper issues, and just knowing that there are people who are there for me no matter what is a great example of love in my life.

God is love
I've always known that God loves me, and he sent Jesus to die on the cross to save me. I have always been taught that, and I remember singing "Jesus loves me" as a little child. But as a child, there is no way I could fully grasp the concept of someone sending their only son to die to save me because they love me so much. It's still not something I can fully wrap my head around, but what I do know is this. What the world tells me is love is not what it really is. It's not a man who will prove his love with attention and worldly things, it's a man who gave up his life for me before I was even born, so that I could live forever. 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Is Chivalry Dead? An Open Letter to Young Men Who Probably Will Never Read This

Dear young men of the world,

   I bet you're wondering what this letter is all about, and I'll get right too it. It seems that some of you are no longer concerned with the concept of being gentlemen, or have never considered the concept. I would like to encourage you to rethink that. Here's why.
     As I was walking my bike back across campus to my dorm yesterday after the chain broke, I was passed by several boys, some who I knew and some who I didn't. Some of them said hello, but none of them asked what would seem to be the obvious question "Why are you walking beside your bike instead of riding it?" which in my mind is followed by "Here let me take it for you." Now let me pause right here for a disclaimer. This is not about me having a disability. I was perfectly capable of getting my bike back to where it needed to be, but that's not the point. The point is that not one guy tried to help me out. I probably wouldn't have noticed this if I wasn't so particular about manners, but that's just how I am. That's not the only recent incident where I noticed the absence of men with manners. On several occasions, guys have walked in the door in front of me and not paused to hold it for me. There are few things more annoying to me than having watching a door shut in my face while some unsuspecting fellow goes on his merry way. The most annoying scenario, which has happened several times in the recent past, is when a guy holds the door for the girl in front of me and then lets it close on me. What's that about. Are you guys thinking "Hmm this one's really pretty, I'll hold the door for her, but that girl behind her isn't all that great looking, so no need to hold it for her." Maybe that's not what you're thinking, I don't know. I just know that it's annoying and slightly insulting. Am I too particular? Maybe, but my father and brother are gentlemen towards me most of the time, so that's probably why I've come to expect it.
     Now some of you are probably thinking that I'm old fashioned, or that I'm being a spoiled brat. But I'd like to point out something. I will hold the door for a guy that is a walking behind me if I get to the door first. I'm not opposed to doing things for guys. When my male friends come over I offer to make them food. I don't think that I should never have to do anything just because I'm a girl, and I think that women should respect men. I think we often complain about you guys more than necessary. I think that women are often guilty of liking guys just for their looks, just as guys are with girls. I'm just tired of being the girl who guys complain to about not being able to find a good girl. I'm also tired of having doors slam shut in my face.
     I guess what I'm saying, Gentlemen, is that I'm tired of hearing so many guys say they can't find a "good woman", and then  a few sentences later say something about physical attributes. Because I feel like what you really want is a good woman who looks like a supermodel, is always in a good mood, and doesn't expect anything in return. It's not completely your fault, you are constantly seeing women in the media who have spent thousands of dollars on their appearance and thinking that that's what girls actually look like. Newsflash boys, it's expensive and time consuming to look like that, and I'm trying not to actually do well in college and not spend money that I don't have, so the whole looking beautiful thing isn't a top priority right now. And in your search for this wonderful woman with superhuman beauty, some of you have forgotten to be polite to the average ones. And if I was a betting person, I'd bet that you are going to end up with an "average girl" eventually because you will realize that you like her personality despite the fact that she doesn't look like a Kardashian. So guys, how about trying those manners you were probably taught as a little boy.  How about you stop complaining about the perfect girl you can't find and treat the ones who are around you respectfully.
     Lastly, to all the boys who have held doors for me, carried things for me,  let me walk out of the elevator first , and had genuinely nice actual conversations with me, I thank you. Your efforts have not gone unnoticed. The world needs more men like you. If I have sons one day, I will do my best to raise them with manners and make sure that they know how to treat women, and people in general, respectfully. I don't think chivalry is dead, it's just a little weak right now.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

An Epiphany in the Gym

     Today while I was at the gym (attention parents and former physical therapists), I had an epiphany. Cue dramatic music! Yes, readers, I had a mental breakthrough on the exercise bike, and it was a great moment.
     When I got to the gym, I was the only person there, which was nice. I was just getting used to it when I was joined by another girl. Now I'm probably going to make myself sound like a creeper right now, but I promise I was not staring at her. She was in my line of vision and I couldn't help but see her. What I immediately noticed was that she did not look like the kind of person who needed to be working out. She was one of those tall, blonde skinny girls that are usually found in magazines. As she began her workout, I could tell that she was no stranger to the gym. As I sat there pedaling away on that exercise bike, I began having flashbacks to some feelings I had in high school, and old familiar insecurities were creeping up.
     When I was in high school, I was completely jealous of and intimidated by female athletes. To my young ignorant self, they seemed to have it all together. They have a team full of friends, and the adoration of the male population.  Also, high schools glorify athletes. They promote them, praise them, and make them feel important (At least my high school did). Add that to the fact that they were gaining popularity for doing things that I am not physically capable of doing, and you get the mindset that controlled me, the jealous, bitter non-athlete. So when I saw that girl today in the gym, I was starting to have those feelings again. I was comparing myself to her, and feeling pretty bad about my small little workout. But just as I was sinking back into jealousy, the song on my iPod changed and the epiphany began.
     I think there are songs in everyone's life that are very meaningful because they are associated with a certain memory. 10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman is one of those songs for me. It is a song that we listened to frequently in Honduras, and it always takes me back to the trip. It is even more significant because people on the mission team who had been to Honduras before already loved that song, and now have a connection with them because I understand why. Anyway, I'll get to my point.
     As that song played, I was reminded that I am not who I was in high school. I never got the chance to be one of those athletes I envied so much, and I survived anyway. I graduated and got to experience the real world, went to Honduras and discovered who I really am. Some people are athletic, and I am not one of those people. But I have other talents and passions, and I am learning to find confidence in those things. So, I continued with my workout, and felt proud when I was done. It was a great feeling. I am so thankful that the mindset of high school Jennie is a thing of the past. That girl was crazy.