Friday, May 30, 2014

She'd Be Proud

     Today I spent most of the day helping my grandma (Mamadee) sort through pictures so that they could be put in albums. Some of those pictures were of me when I was younger, from times I can remember and from when I was really young. As I looked at those pictures, I remembered a little bit about things I aspired to be when I was a little girl, and I realized that I am someone who the younger me was really like.
     For some of the years of my childhood, I really wanted to be a writer and I believe I have begun to accomplish that. If I could tell younger me that things she wrote would be published in the newspaper, and that she would have a blog that people actually read, I think she would be so excited. If she knew that she would get to go to college and sit and have discussions about books with an educated, intelligent college professor who really knew how to discuss that kind of thing, she would love it.
     If she knew that one day she would travel all the way to Honduras on an airplane and experience a real life mission trip, she would hardly believe it.
     Sometimes I have a bad habit of comparing myself to other people my age, which never makes me happy. When I realize that other people my age have real jobs and serious relationships, I sometimes think I must be doing something wrong. What if I am trapped in this phase forever and never move forward? But then I realize that sometimes the younger me felt the same way. She worried that she would never grow up and that she would never actually achieve those dreams, but guess what? She did. I need to remember that when I start worrying about what everyone else is doing. I hope, that eighteen years from now, I am someone who eighteen year old me would be proud of.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

For Real?

    I think it was at least a year ago that I read the book Heaven is for Real, and it was not really something
This is what the sky looked like when I left the movie theater.
I don't think that's just a coincidence
that impacted me right away. I thought it was a very nice story, but my mind kept trying to find loopholes and prove it false. It seemed like something that could have been made up as a publicity stunt or a way for the author to earn money (and the author does talk about the family's financial struggles), so I just decided it was a nice story that may or may not be fully true and stopped thinking about it. If you haven't read the book or seen the movie, here's a brief summary."
     Heaven Is for Real is the true story of a four-year old son of a small town Nebraska pastor who experienced heaven during emergency surgery. He talks about looking down to see the doctor operating and his dad praying in the waiting room. The family didn't know what to believe but soon the evidence was clear."
     Today I had the opportunity to see the movie, and I was pretty much transfixed throughout the entire thing, This story could have so easily been adapted into an overly dramatic fanfare or even a mockery of the story, but it wasn't. It portrayed in a very honest way the little boy's simple trusting explanations of what he had seen, and also his parents' hesitancy to fully believe it and the way their community reacted when the situation became public. The way the movie showed how even the boy's father, who is a preacher, struggled to believe his son, made it so honest and real. I don't think it could have been made any better. It was actually hard for me to focus and take it all in because it was just so emotional for me.
     So do I believe the story now? I think so, but that's not really the point. I think there are two reasons I felt so impacted by this movie. The first one is that Heaven is where my friend Scott is now, and also two of the children I met in Honduras, and that causes me to think about Heaven more than I ever had before. When your friend moves away to somewhere that you've never been, you probably want to learn as much as you can about that place. I like to learn about Heaven because it makes me feel closer to Scott and those children and reminds me that I will see them again one day.
     The second reason I felt so strongly about this movie is that it reminded me of that childlike faith that is harder to keep the older I get. I remember in my first semester of college I was in history class and we were learning about Jesus as a historical figure and the boy sitting next to me said. "You have to be really unintelligent to believe in that." I remember that was pretty shocked by his comment and it made me question my own beliefs. It made me wonder if believing in something I've never seen is faith like I've always been taught, or just ignorance and stupidity. I eventually got over that worry through a lot of thinking about what my beliefs mean to me, and if I remember correctly a conversation with Chandler (my go-to friend for all of my pressing questions about faith and silly complaints about the drama of being 18 :) ) . Anyways. now that I've let myself go on that tangent we can move on.
     The Bible says that to enter Heaven, we must have the faith of a child. As I grow older, I struggle with retaining that faith and balancing it with "intelligence". I think the simple faith of children is one of the reasons I enjoy being around them so much. It is nice to be around people that haven't been influenced by the realities of life so much that they have to think of everything in a logical way. This movie shows how much a child's willingness to accept what he believes can impact other people. What if I was that confident about what I believed, and not so worried about what other people think?
     So what if in the future it it is revealed that this story was a scam all along? What if that little boy was just reacting to anesthesia and dreamed the whole thing? That would be a sad thing to accept, but regardless I know that I was impacted by this story today. I was reminded that it is important to live everyday with the knowledge that Heaven is a real place that I will be in one day. I also need to be more concerned about sharing my faith so that Heaven can be a reality for many more people. So I will hold on to that childlike faith for as long as I can, and this summer as I am around children at VBS and in Honduras I will try to remember to listen closely to them, because sometimes God's voice is heard most clearly through the mouths of children.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Learning to Be Bold

     For me, the easiest way to find something to write about is just by observing the different situations I am in throughout my daily life. Eventually, I will notice a common theme that is on my mind a lot and sometimes it something that I can write about. I have recently discovered one of those common themes in my life, so that's what I decided to talk about today. (Let's just take a moment to acknowledge how pointless that introductory paragraph was. Too many English classes have influenced this writer. Okay, moving on.)
      One of the hardest parts of trying to find a job, at least for me, is just having to walk into places and ask people if they are hiring. Last summer I was lucky enough to not really have to go through this process, so it's not something I have much experience with. It is a very awkward exchange, and I don't really enjoy it very much. But I have gotten to the point where I want a job bad enough that I understand that it is a necessary thing to do. Despite the reactions I might get, I try to remember that the more I try, the higher my chances of getting a positive answer are.
      In the same way, being on a mission team that needs to raise money requires some awkward promoting. It is uncomfortable to do things like go in public places and ask to put fliers up, and approach people about buying tickets to our fundraisers, but the simple truth is that we need money to make this work and fundraising is how we get it. It may not be our favorite thing to do, but I think we all have learned the importance of this step in the process.
     Being bold is not something that comes naturally to me. I would be happy if a job would just fall into my lap, or if I could just let someone else do the advertising for our fundraisers, but that is not realistic. Sometimes in life it is necessary to be bold, and that is not a bad thing. It just means that I am becoming confident enough to believe in what I am trying to accomplish, and having the courage to act on that belief.


Sunday, May 25, 2014

Hope in All Seasons

 When I started this blog, I was in a very happy season of life. I was still feeling the positive changes in my perception of myself that happened in Honduras, and I was busy with college life. It's not that I've gone all the way back to the unhappiness I felt most of the time before Honduras, but these past few weeks have not been the happiest of my life. I am trying to remain happy and optimistic despite my unsuccessful job search (9 attempts and zero successes so far), the lack of constant solid friendships in my life right now, and my very limited social life. Now I will admit that I am showing hints of just being a melodramatic teenager, but in all honesty these things are weighing me down. In seasons of life that feel like this, it is hard to constantly think of things to talk about that are happy and uplifting. So today, I just decided to be honest. Right now I feel worn out from always trying to "look on the bright side", and so I'm not going to try to come up with some positive spin on all of these feelings.
What I will do is try to remind myself that this is not a permanent season of my life, and that there are plenty of good things happening in my life that I need to focus on. This morning I went to the beach service that our church has on occasion, and it was a very refreshing experience. The message, although bittersweet, was very comforting and something about being out on the beach that early in the morning was very peaceful.
The beach is actually a very nice place to be at 8 AM. Who knew?
Although going to that service didn't take away any of the things I am dealing with, and they are still on my mind, I was able to find a little bit of peace. I was reminded that through all seasons of life there is hope, and hope is a powerful thing. I may not be thrilled about how my life is going right now, but because of hope, I can believe that they can change for the better at any time.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Welcome Back

     Today I went to the bank to cash a check for my trip to Honduras in July, and as I walked up to the teller I was met by a greeting that took me by surprise. I guess she recognized me from my other recent trips to cash checks, so maybe the "welcome back" shouldn't have been such a surprise, but it caused me to think. Now, please know that I am in no way trying to brag. This is not really "my money", it is just something I need for this trip and it is something I do not take for granted.
     Because there are so many people in my life who are willing to support me, in financial and other ways, I am going to be able to go back to Honduras and experience again one of the best times of my life. That is, in a way, another way of being "welcomed back". It amazes me how many people are so willing to support me and seem to have so much confidence in me. People are willing to be generous and trusting enough to invest in me and this trip, and believe that their funds are being put to good use, and that's really amazing.
Came home from cashing one check to find another in the mail.
     Fundraising is sometimes my least favorite part of the trip, because of the stress it involves. It is an important step in forming a friendship with the rest of the team, but it also brings to light the fact that a certain amount of money is necessary for this trip to happen, which stresses people out. When I sent out fundraising letters I felt a little strange about it, but the result has been a positive one.
     I guess my point in all of this rambling about money and fundraising is that I have learned a lesson from it. Money is necessary for mission trips, but it is also just an object. Pieces of paper and little coins that when added up, allow us to go experience this trip and do what we feel we have been called to do. Again, I am no way trying to brag, I am very thankful for the generosity of so many people. If you want to take advice from a teenager who has no business handing out financial tips, this is what I would say. Money is a necessary part of this mission trip, but, to me, it does not define the trip. It is simply part of the process to get where we are called to go. I have learned that money is a big thing, but God is bigger, and I hope I never let money stand in the way of something I feel I am meant to do.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The 50th Post

     Today marks the 50th time I have written a post for this blog, and it seems like I just started. I am so surprised and thankful for the amount of support I've gotten already. I can't believe so many people take the time to see what I have to say so often. Sometimes I feel silly doing this, but I have discovered that people really are getting something out of reading what I write, and that makes me very excited.
     I didn't really have a goal in mind when I started out with this, I just thought it would be a fun thing to try. As of right now, I have decided that I want to try to blog every other day for a year at least. I thought that since I have reached this little milestone I would share with you my goals for the blog.
     In July when I go to Honduras, I am hoping to bring my computer with me and blog from there so I can tell you all about the trip as it is happening. The place we stayed at had Wi-Fi last year, so I am hoping that plan will work out. I think it will be exciting for me to be able to share that experience with you while I am experiencing it as well.
     The other thing I want to do is to broaden the content of the blog. I think my main focus will always be writing about my thoughts like I do now, but there are other things I want to try and incorporate. I definitely want to start using actual photographs sometimes instead of always using a quote for the picture. I have even thought about doing things like reading a book and reviewing it or something like that.
     Whatever happens, I am very excited with how this is going so far. I am having fun and learning to share my thoughts in a somewhat mature and productive way, and people seem to have positive reactions, and that's really all I could ask for.


Monday, May 19, 2014

Lessons From Folding Laundry

     Sometimes there are lots of exciting things going on in my life that I can't wait to blog about, and sometimes I can hardly think of anything at all. Today was one of those days. Today my day consisted mostly of helping with the laundry and running a few errands, and although it feels good to be helpful, it was not a particularly exciting day.
    Lately it seems like my life is suffering from a lack of excitement. I have had to realize that I'm not always going to have friends to do fun things with 24/7, because that's just part of life. I guess part of growing up is accepting that you can't have fun all the time. But right now I just feel discouraged. I don't have a job, and it's not for lack of trying to get one. I'm glad to be helping at home, but household chores just feel so repetitive sometimes. I admire my mother for running a household for all of these years, because I am already having restless moments and I've only been helping with a small part of everything for about a week.
     So since I am too stubborn to break my schedule and just not blog on boring days, I had to come up with something to say. It's not the most exciting thing you'll ever read, but maybe that's okay for right now. I guess the conclusion I came to is that I have to realize that even though chores aren't new and exciting, they are a necessary part of life. In order for a household to run smoothly, there are things that need to get done on a daily basis. I was intrigued by the verse below, because it mentions that women should attend to the ways of the household. That's definitely not something that our culture stresses to women, and probably seems old fashioned. But the Bible is not stamped with an expiration date, and it's not something we can change over time to fit our culture. So the next time I am bored with the work of helping out around the house, I will try to remind myself that although it's not exciting or glamorous, it's all part of what Godly women do. It might take me a while to be excited about that, but I still have some growing up left to do.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

What I Don't Believe

 There are some feelings that should be kept private and not broadcast over the internet. That is something that can easily be forgotten when feelings are really strong and it's so easy to just carelessly type something without thinking much about it. Since I've started this blog, Iv'e tried to be very careful about being mature about what I say and I try not to publish a post before praying about it, because I don't want to get so caught up in my own love of writing that I say something out of line. There has been a topic I have wanted to blog about for a long time that I have always been afraid too because I don't know what people will think, but I feel like now is the time. I don't have that many readers right now, and I doubt any of you are particularly concerned with arguing with a blog written by and 18 year old, so after a lot of thought and prayer, I'm just going to do it.
     When I was about 16, I started encountering a situation that, for lack of better words, really freaked me out. I was at the age where I finally had a license and could go places by myself, so that's probably why it started happening around that time.The first time I remember it happening is in the locker room at the YMCA. I was minding my own business, doing what you do in a locker room, when I was approached by a woman who handed me a little piece of paper and invited me to her church to be "healed".  Now I want to remind you that I had never seen this woman before in my life, and I was minding my own business trying to get dressed so I could go home, not to mention I was only 16 or 17 years old. I had no idea what to say, so I just mumbled something and got out of there as fast as I could.
     This type of situation has happened again several times, most frequently in Wal-Mart, and here's why I have issues with it. A stranger approaching a teenager for any reason is already slightly awkward, but the fact that people feel the need to go out of their way to tell me that there is something wrong with me that they have noticed and want to fix just seems downright rude to me. By inviting me to these "healings", people are essentially saying that God has told them that my disability needs to be taken away from me, and that he for some reason needs their help in this process.
     The way I see it is this. God does not make mistakes, and he didn't accidentally give me this disability. Even though I don't know what it is, I know there is a reason for it. Furthermore, if he decided to take it away from me, I don't think he would need to enlist the help of other people. Being put in this awkward situation at such a young age was a very uncomfortable situation for me. I didn't know how to react to being approached by strangers about something I didn't consider to be any of their business in the first place. Had I not had this experience, I might me a little more likely to believe in "healing" if I was someone else with a different life, but because of the circumstances, it is not something that I have any faith in. I believe that God can heal people if he wants to, but at this point in my life I don't agree with people who feel that they need to be part of this process. It has been a struggle for me to understand this situation, because I know that there are many people who strongly believe in this concept, but I just don't agree. I have just had to learn to accept that it is a situation that I am probably always going to encounter from time to time, and stand by my beliefs about it. Having to put a lot of careful thought into determining my beliefs about a situation like this has taught me a lot about my faith. I do not feel like I am being disobedient by having these beliefs, and I feel proud when I can present them maturely and be confident about them.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Finding the Balance: An Exploration in Forgiveness

     Sometimes I feel like what I am supposed to do and what it would make sense to do are the polar opposite. This is an issue I often have with forgiveness. I always find the "70 times 7" verse and the "turn the other cheek" verse when I'm looking for verses about forgiveness, but my brain tells me that if I keep on constantly forgiving people for the same thing, I am just going to get hurt again. So my struggle is, where do I draw the line? Do I take that verse literally and forgive everyone exactly 490 times? Somehow I don't think that's how it's supposed to go. I think it means I am supposed to forgive as many times as is necessary, but that seems like a bad idea to the logical side of my mind because once I make the decision to forgive, I worry that it seems like I'm giving permission for people to hurt me again. I'm tempted to think that people will figure out that I will keep forgiving them and think that they can get away with continuously hurting me.
     I am at a place in life right now where I am realizing that there is a certain way I expect to be treated, and I have accused several times (not by reasonable adults, thankfully) of expecting too much. I am having to learn the hard way that expecting to be respected can leave people with the impression that my standards are too high or that I am overreacting. I have often worried that by expecting to be treated a certain way, I am not being forgiving like I'm supposed to be, but on the other hand, I don't think God expects me to be a doormat and allow everyone to walk all over me. I am having to find a balance between respecting myself and being obedient to God, and it has been hard.
     So I guess what I'm doing right now is trying to find the perfect balance.I haven't been able to find a specific verse or had a moment of realization on the answer to this problem so far, but I'm not ready to give up just yet.  There must be a way to be a forgiving person without allowing myself to be constantly taken advantage of, and I hope I find it soon.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Realizing Who I Am

Missionary-a person sent on a religious mission, especially one sent to promote Christianity in a foreign country.

     In the past, when people have referred to me as a missionary after hearing about my trip to Honduras, I have always felt a little unworthy of the title. I have always pictured missionaries as people who go to dangerous places and sleep in tents or huts or something and talk about Jesus all day. When I was in Honduras, I really felt like I was doing more playing than preaching.  In the same way, I always brush it off when people say I am a good writer. I guess it's just part of my personality to be really reluctant to accept compliments. But today has been a day of realization for me, and here's why.
     Today someone told me that I really am a good writer, and something finally clicked in my head. People say that to me frequently, and I always convince myself that they are just being polite. But when it was said to me today, something changed and I realized that it's been said enough times by enough people that maybe I should start to believe it. Maybe I need to realize that acknowledging my talent isn't arrogant, and that I should embrace it and be thankful for it. 
    In a similar way, I finally understood today as I was sitting around the table with my mission team that the term "missionary" can apply to me. I am a person who is preparing to go on a second mission trip, and although I don't really like the wording "promote Christianity" I am trying to share the love of God with people. I have come to understand that sometimes the first step to sharing that love is just to make a connection, and the best way to connect with children is to interact with them and let them know that you care.  I don't have to be walking dangerous streets preaching at everyone I meet to be considered a missionary.

    So I guess the lesson of the day today was that I need to work on acknowledging things 
about myself when people mention them.I guess acknowledging my talents and being proud of the things I feel called to do is not arrogant unless I start to brag about it. I think it's time for me to start learning how to accept compliments and acknowledge who I am becoming. I am a missionary, I am a good writer, and I am learning to be proud of myself. 

Our mission team (minus two members), enjoying dinner after our hard work passing out flyers for our next fundraiser.

Joy and Amy are ready to drive to Honduras right now!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Good Fight: A Story About Abi

     When I left Honduras, I thought all of the surprises were over. I thought all of the challenges had been completed, and that I could live comfortably with my memories until July when I go back. I soon found out that that was not true when a baby we took to the hospital later died, and I am having to experience that feeling all over again today. Last night I was informed that one of the girls we met at the orphanage, named Abigail, has passed away.
     Abi had been battling cancer, but you would never know that from her attitude. She had one of the hardest lives imaginable, battling cancer at such a young age while living in an orphanage where she was probably not given all of the comfort and support she needed, and yet I can honestly say that she was one of the happiest people I have ever met. She was always smiling and positive and ready with a hug when I saw her. She had lost a leg and used crutches, and it did not seem to slow her down at all. She had accepted her circumstances and made the best of them, and never complained about all of the things that would have been so easy to complain about. Her attitude was an inspiration to me.
     I know that I am supposed to be happy that Abi is in Heaven and is no longer suffering, and I am. But I am also very sad. I know what it feels like to lose a close friend, and I experienced something very close to that when I found out about Abi. I don't want to try to pretend that I understand this situation, because I really don't. Why would someone have to spend their whole life suffering, and then not even get to experience what it would be like to grow up and hopefully get out of the conditions she had to live in? Abi would have done such great things for her life, but all I can do now is try to accept the fact that this was God's plan for her. I know that she lived her short life with a happiness that some adults will never find, and I am sure that I am not the only person whose life she had an impact on. I don't have a way to tie all of this together with a pretty bow or attach some kind of moral to this tragic story. All I know is that I will always be grateful for what Abi taught me by living the way that she did.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Without a Mother

     Today as I was driving and listening to the radio, and then while I was in Wal-Mart, there where reminders of Mother's Day everywhere. There's nothing strange about that, because it's coming up very soon. But I kept having a weird feeling in my mind like I was forgetting something. I knew I hadn't forgotten about my mother, so I figured I was just frazzled from being in a crowded store. Eventually I got home, turned on my computer to write this blog, and everything clicked. I saw my Honduras pictures and realized that this holiday suddenly has a whole new meaning, because now I have met many children who do not have a mother. Some of them may have lost a mother to death, and some to abandonment and other various situations, but regardless of the reason, all of them are living as children without mothers. I'm not trying to say that they are not being taken care of at all. They have workers that do the best they can, but no one can fully replace a parent.
     They don't have someone to always kiss their scraped knees when they fall, or to make sure they are tucked comfortably into bed at the right time every night. Their basic needs are taken care of, but they don't know what it's like to have the special extra attention that a mother would probably give. No one is there to take pride in their accomplishments and console them in their sorrows. No one to worry about them and discipline them, and to love them unconditionally in the way mothers can. They don't have a mother to do for them all the things that my mother has always done for me, and thinking about that made me really sad.
     It's hard to know where to go with this, because I don't have a solution to this problem. I don't have an idea that will make it all better, and I don't think anyone on earth is capable of that. So where do I go from here? I could just say that they don't have mothers and that's really sad, the end, but that doesn't seem right. I think that this is one of those times where I have to realize that while I can't fix the problem, maybe in some way I can make it a little better. When I return to those children this summer, I can remember the feelings I had today and put extra effort into loving them and paying attention to them without rushing. I can remind them that God loves them like a parent would, and that they are never alone. And I can show you, my readers, a little sliver of insight into the lives of these children and ask you to maybe think about them at this time that is all about something so special and influential that sometimes seems so basic, but that they do not get to have.
I wanted to put as many faces as I could into one place so that everyone could see the children I can't stop talking about.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Too Much Stuff?

     If there's one thing I've learned from the process of moving out of my dorm, it's that I have a lot of stuff. Getting all of that stuff out of my dorm, and sorting it all out now that it's home, is a long process that isn't too exciting to me. It's time consuming and it takes patience, which is something I don't always have.(Fortunately Mama is way better at handling the moving process than I am, so that helps)  But it has made me think about something I often forget, which is that I have a lot to be grateful for. 
    Honestly, I normally wouldn't stop to think about that, but I'm always trying to think of things to blog about, and since most of the things I blog about are inspired by events in my daily life, I was trying to find and interesting way to talk about moving out of my dorm, and that's what came to mind. I was getting annoyed at the moving out process and just ready for it to be done with, when suddenly I was reminded of something I learned in Honduras, which I seem to have forgotten way too quickly. (Yes I know, you're probably getting a little tired of my random Honduras stories, but there's just so many of them and they seem to always fit so well into what I write.) I remembered how the girls I met there would carry around their possessions with them throughout the day in duffel bags on their backs, because they didn't want to leave things in the rooms where they slept and risk them being gone when they came back. That's hard for me to imagine for two reasons. First, because I don't know what it's like to have to constantly guard all of my possessions. The closest I come to even thinking about that is locking my doors when I leave my dorm, but that's just a precaution. The chances of someone trying to take my things are very small compared to what those girls worry about every day. 
     The second reason it's hard for me to imagine is because the fact that these girls can carry all of their earthly possessions in a bag on their backs shows me how much I really do have. While I'm getting frustrated about all of the stuff I have to pack, unpack, sort and put away, there are many people like those girls who hardly have any possessions at all and can't even imagine having the problem of "too much stuff". 
     Sometimes it seems that the more things you have, the happier you will be, but I have always been taught that that's not true, and the girls in Honduras really proved that point. The amount of possessions I have should not be what determines my happiness. I also need to learn how selfish it is of me to complain about having too much stuff. I need to realize that I have a problem that many people would love to have, and they would be a lot more grateful about it than I have been. 

Monday, May 5, 2014

Is "Nail Polish Namer/ Teaching, Writing, Stay at Home Mother" a Valid Career Choice?

     From the time children are very young, they are constantly asked what they want to be when they grow up. It's fun when you're little, because you can answer that question without actually having to think much about it. It's not until you get older that people start steering you towards "growing career fields" and large salaries.  When you're really young and you say you want to be something silly like a princess, people think it's cute.They don't point out to you that there isn't a monarchy in America, and even if there  was, you would have to be born into it.  I remember when I was pretty young, I discovered Nancy Drew books at my grandmothers house, and I loved them. For a while I thought it would be really cool to be a detective like her, until I got a little older and realized that she is a fictional character who is constantly in dangerous situations and isn't earning a salary. I figured out that maybe that wasn't the best career path to take, so I moved on. For a while during my early teen years, me and one of my best friends were convinced we were going to start a photography business together, until I eventually realized that that was highly unlikely to work out, so I moved on again. I eventually decided that I wanted to be a writer, and I decided that journalism was what I wanted to pursue. I stayed with that for a long time, and really enjoyed it. But then, I started to realize that journalism isn't what it used to be. It's being taken over by social media and technology, which isn't a bad thing, but not what I pictured.
     Deciding to consider careers outside of Journalism was a difficult decision for me. It was a dream that I became very attached to and worked hard at, so changing my mind about it was scary. So here I am today, trying to figure out what my path will be in life. Suddenly teaching feels like a good choice, which confuses me because that's something I never even thought about before last summer. ( I guess that's what happens when you go on a mission trip with teachers!) But I also admire the way my mother stayed home and raised me for 16 years, and when I have children I think I want to raise them that way. I also don't want to give up writing, because I love it and I find satisfaction in it. Writing helps me process my thoughts, and helps me feel calm and clear headed. Oh and by the way, how do you get to be the person who names the nail polish colors?  I think that would be so fun. (Okay so I'm joking about that last one..kind of.)
So suddenly here I am at almost 19 years old, and I'm not entirely sure what I want to do with my life. That makes me feel strange, because I'm not good with waiting. I want to know what the goal is right now, so that I know what steps I need to take to get there. I want to know if I'm ever going to get married, so I can figure out if the stay at home mom thing is even an option. I worry that I won't ever pass all of the classes I need or get the GPA I need to continue to a 4 year school. I want to know for certain that I am choosing a path that I can be happy with, because careers are pretty much for life. Thankfully, I have my parents to calm my overactive mind and remind me to focus on short term goals that will make the long term goals possible.My mom is really good at helping me understand what needs to be done in the present, in order for my future plans to be possible.  I remember when I was still in high school and my dad took me to look at a college that was out of state that I had heard was a good journalism school. We looked around for a while, but I just had a weird feeling about it. He pointed out what I was already starting to realize, that it was going to be way too expensive unless I got lots of money from the government for things I don't feel right getting money for. ( I don't believe I should get paid for having a disability.) I also probably wouldn't even get into that school with the low GPA I had. I'm pretty sure he knew that I wouldn't want to use the "getting money" option, and now I realize that he probably knew when he took me there that I wouldn't be attending that school. But when we got back in the car after looking around, he told me something that I will never forget. I don't remember exactly what words he used, but he said that no matter what I thought I wanted to do or tried to do, God's plan for me is what would ultimately end up happening. I thought that was such a profound thing to say, and it was a moment that has stuck with me ever since. He also told me that he wanted to be happy with what I did, and that was more important than how much money I made.
I constantly have to remind myself that God's plan is bigger than what is happening in my life at a particular moment. When I am panicking about everything falling into place and knowing what the end result will be, He is trying to prepare me for what he has planned for later. It's frustrating for my impatient mind to be still and wait, but I am trying to get better at that. I'm learning to live in today, and let God take care of tomorrow. I bet He has a pretty great career picked out for me.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

But Then She Grew Up

No one ever called her beautiful, or even pretty really, and she noticed that. She was the girl who everyone called “nice” and “sweet”. At her young, vulnerable age, those were not the adjectives she wanted by her name. She wanted to remove “nice” and “sweet” and replace them with “beautiful” and “pretty” She was good at noticing things, and she realized that pretty is what mattered to the world at her age. Many people told her that what’s on the inside is more important than outer beauty, but she wasn't ready to believe it. She was mad at her body, mad because it didn't work the way it was supposed to, mad because it wouldn't let her be an athlete, or even wear cute outfits  without having to cover up things. Mad that it was all scarred up as a result of ugly surgeries, which were a necessary evil she wished she could forget. Mad that it was flawed in ways that couldn't be hidden.
    But then she grew up. She deliberately chose to try to love herself. She began to understand that pretty will only take you so far, and in the real world you need some other qualities to get by. She realized that pretty won’t help you pass your classes, or get you genuine friends. Pretty doesn't cause permanent happiness. Pretty won’t get you to heaven.
    To be completely honest, she still didn't look in the mirror and  see a beautiful girl. She still didn't like to look at pictures of herself. Her scars and imperfections were still there, and they always would be, but she began to realize that they were permanent symbols of everything she had survived, like imperfect badges of honor. She began to find happiness in more important things. She began to spend less time thinking about what she looked like and more time focusing on making friends and being present in the moment. She began to take pride in her accomplishments and that pride helped start the rebuilding of her confidence.

    She accepted that she would never be beautiful by the world’s standards, and accepting that fact allowed her to get on with the business of living life. So she would never be the beautiful one everyone was mesmerized by, and she would never be one of those girls who is constantly complimented on her looks. She realized now that there were positive qualities about herself that she could focus on, instead of the things she didn't like. Now she finally knew that even though she would still go through days when her confidence was low, she would find a way to be okay, because for the first time she saw beauty inside herself that couldn't be reflected into a mirror.
Young Jennie who was not yet worried about the world's opinions of her, and older Jennie, who is trying to regain that state of mind.

Friday, May 2, 2014

10 Things I Learned From My Freshman Year of College

1. Just call all professors "professor". Some people are really obsessed with the letters behind their
names and the titles that go with them, and "professor" is way easier to remember that Dr Her Royal Highness Queen of Higher Education. (Okay so maybe that's a slight exaggeration but they sure do love those titles)

2. Sleep when you can. The whole concept of going to sleep at night and waking up in the morning does not apply to college, and naps are suddenly acceptable again.

3. Go to events that offer free food. When you do all of your own grocery shopping and food preparing, you start to understand how exciting it is to eat food that you didn't have to prepare or pay for.

4. Get out of your dorm. Make sure you actually leave your room at some point and participate in activities. That's how you meet people. Your T.V. will still be there when you get back.

5. That stuff they warned you about is real. I was probably a little more innocent and naive than most people entering in college, which is why it took me a little while to adjust to the fact that all that stuff they teach you not to do in all of those DARE sessions in middle school is actually a reality. Luckily I realized that just because something is available doesn't mean it's a good idea. I'm going to need my internal organs and my sanity for a long time, so I don't want to cause unnecessary damage. (parents and concerned adults,  please erase what you just read from your memory and know that I know how to behave :) )

6. Don't forget to study. Maybe there are some people who can get through college without studying, but I'm not one of them. Few things are more satisfying than passing a test after working really hard to prepare for it

7. People will question you, so be ready. As a college student, I have met people with many different opinions and beliefs, and I have had to learn to be ready to defend my point of view and to listen politely to opinions that I don't necessarily agree with. I am happy that I am learning how to be more outspoken.

8. Don't forget to have fun. Studying is important, but college is one of the only times in life you will get to hang out with your friends pretty much whenever you want, so don't forget to enjoy that.

9. You will be okay, it's not as hard as you think it is. I remember when I first came to college, I was very excited but also had a small secret worry that I would fail at the whole being independent thing. I did just fine.

10. Distance doesn't ruin relationships that are real. 
I have come to realize that real friendships don't go away just because I don't live near my old friends. I still talk to all of my good friends from home, and my friendships with them have continued to grow while I have been making new friends here. Also, I learned that family will always be family, and no matter how I am, my parents will always be my parents, and though I may not always seem thrilled about it, I am glad that I will always be supported and cared for no matter how old I get.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Throwback to Honduras Volume 3: Making Margarita Smile

     Well, the end is in sight. One final done, two to go. Today my mental energy is consumed by studying and preparing to move out of my dorm, so it feels like a good day to take a break from coming up with new topics to share another Honduras memory. Today I want to tell you about Margarita. She is one of the girls I met who really made a big impact about me.
     Margarita never said a word to me. I'm not sure exactly what her situation is, but she doesn't talk, and I often saw her sitting alone. One of the first days we were there, something made me decide to go sit by her. I guess that in a way, I know what it's like to feel different and alone, and I felt drawn to her. I didn't really know what to do at first, I knew she probably wasn't going to talk to me, and i didn't know enough Spanish to say much to her. I did know how to say hello, so I did, multiple times. I'm not sure how long I was sitting with her that day, but during that time, the interaction I had with her left me feeling like I had met a long lost friend.
A picture of Margarita that I keep on my desk. 
I love how she always has that peaceful look in her eyes, despite her circumstances.
     I felt kind of silly just sitting there saying "Hola" over and over again, and Margarita must have agreed, because gradually a smile began to appear on her face. The moment I saw that smile is hard to describe adequately, because it was such a personally significant moment for me. In that moment, I felt validated. I realized that I was on a real mission trip for a real reason. I stopped blaming myself for all the things I couldn't do, and stopped comparing what I was doing to what everyone else was doing. I realized that sitting on the floor with Margarita in that moment was something that God planned, even if it wasn't exhausting work.
     Over the next few days, I spent much more time with Margarita. I made sure I hugged her and spent some time with her each day, and I got to see many more of her smiles that I loved so much. Saying goodbye to her at the end of our trips was one of the hardest moments ever.
     There's something special about Margarita. Maybe you have to meet her to fully understand it, but she just means so much to me that I had to tell you about her. Margarita helped me understand that everyone has a purpose and no person's purpose is more or less important than anyone else's. Though I'm still working on it, she helped me to begin to realize that my differences don't make me less significant than anyone else. I am so glad I met her, and although I know the chances are small, I hope that I am lucky enough to see her again this summer. Either way, I will always remember her smile, and the lesson she taught me without saying a word.
Me with Margarita and another girl who meant a lot to me, Aracely. It's not a good picture of me, but I love it because I am with both of them