Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Beginner's Guide to Breaking the Language Barrier

    Last year as I was preparing to go on a mission trip, I was so excited that I didn't think to worry much about the fact that I was going to a place where most of the people don't speak English. This year, I really meant to learn some Spanish but I somehow never got around to it. It might seem like trying to get anything done with people who don't speak your language would be very impractical, but I learned that there are ways around it.
    Last year we had two translators who traveled with us, girls around the same age as me. They were so fun as well as helpful and I feel like I became friends with them. I know that at least one of them will be travelling with us again this year, and I'm so exited to see her again. Since there were only two of them and ten of us, we couldn't always get them right away when we couldn't understand something, but they would eventually get to us if we couldn't quite figure it out. They also stayed with us when we were doing individual lessons and testimonies, and translated our words to the children as we spoke. They ordered our food for us when we went to restaurants, and once or twice had some fun incorrectly teaching us how to order our own food and laughing at the reactions we got from whatever we were actually saying.
    Although I didn't learn fluent Spanish during those 10 days, I did pick up a few things, and although they may be exclusive to this particular mission trip, they are kind of interesting, at least to me.

Uno mas- One more. Usually refers to candy and the more accurate meaning is "As many as I can convince you to give me"

Tia- The dictionary definition is Aunt, but it is a word the children at the orphanage use to refer to the women on the mission team, and it is quite an honorable title in my opinion because it seems to symbolize trust and respect from the children.

No!- I didn't need a translator for this one. I guess children who don't want to do something have a universal language.

Agua- Water. Usually referring to the water bottles we were carrying that we were't really supposed to give to the children but did, because they needed it more than us. This word was used as a demand to pass water to everyone, and quickly,  if you happened to be the person sitting at the back of the van near the cooler after a long, hot day.

I was surprised at how little of a problem the language barrier actually was. There were a few confusing moments but overall it didn't seem like a big problem. The children mostly just want love and attention, and I learned that you don't even have to speak the same language as someone to love them. Like I find myself saying about so many aspects of this adventure, it just works out somehow.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Where's the Worry?

     Today, our mission team met to begin packing the supplies we need to take with us to Honduras, and I was once again surprised at something that has been missing the entire time I have been preparing for this trip. You see, last year I had never been out of the country, or even on a plane and I had read somewhere that the place we were going was the most dangerous city in the world, which caused me to have worry along with my excitement. This time around, I'm just worried at my lack of worry! I know what to expect, and I know that I won't be doing anything that I can't handle. and I'm just ready to go.
    In my opinion, getting ready for the trip is more stressful than the actual trip because there is so much to get done and it can be overwhelming to figure out how everything will work out. But every so often in the stress of preparing, something will happen to remind me what we are preparing to do, and it's suddenly all worth it again. I am so proud to be part of a team, it really is one of the best feelings ever. I'm happy to be doing something that I know is right for me and I know that no matter what worries come along, this is what I'm supposed to be doing, and I will be provided with everything I need to do it.
A few of the items we have collected to take with us. The children in Honduras love to do so many of the same things all children love to do, and it's so inspiring to watch how thankful they are for the smallest things.

Monday, June 23, 2014

So Emotional!

     Two weeks from tomorrow marks the beginning of this summer's most exciting event, my second trip to Honduras. The fundraising is complete, the flights have been booked, and all that's left now to do is get everything packed up and make last minute preparations. But aside from the preparations you would expect to come along with a mission trip, there is another element that I don't talk about as much, the emotions that happen with a trip like this.
     I struggle a lot when I'm trying to tell people about my experiences on this trip last year, because I always feel like whoever I'm telling just isn't quite getting it. It used to frustrate me when I felt like I was pouring out my heart and all I got in response was "Oh that sounds so great!" or "It's so nice that you went and did that!" It sometimes seems like the only people who get what I'm saying are the people who went on the trip themselves, but when I think about it, I guess that makes sense. How can you understand something you've never experienced. So, while maybe no one but me will benefit from this, here I go again trying to explain what the big deal is about this experience.
    First, you have to accept the fact that you only have 10 days to do something that you would need a lifetime to do completely. You have to realize that you're not going to fix everything and give these children the life that they deserve. All you can do is love them while you're there, and that will never feel like enough. While you're trying to wrap your head around that, you're receiving love everywhere you turn. Children that have not ever been shown love are somehow being more loving and genuine than most people ever are, and your heart has to be prepared to take in all that love and accept it without questioning if it is deserved or not. When you find it hard to love yourself, it makes you very vulnerable to have all of that love being offered to you. On the last day, after what feels like the fastest ten days ever, you have to tear yourself away from a mission that feels incomplete and return to a world that hardly makes sense anymore. You have to resume normal life in an overly privileged country where no one understands how lucky they are and people constantly complain about things that now seem so irrelevant. Things that used to seem so important now seem silly, and you are constantly longing for genuinely meaningful experiences like you had during those 10 days.
     I don't know why I keep trying to explain it, because it honestly doesn't matter if anyone else understands. This experience is something I know is important in my life, and it's okay if no one else understands. I guess I'm just hoping that if I keep talking about it, at least one person will be impacted in some way by all of this vague, emotionally charged explaining I am trying to do.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

You Never Know Who's Watching

     I don't know what made me think of this, but it has suddenly popped into my brain that I said something this week I shouldn't have, and I wish I could take it back.
    There are a lot of people that go to my church that are a little younger than me, and I feel like I have gotten close to a lot of them which makes me happy. There aren't many people there my age, so I tend to stick with the youth still because I feel like I know them well. It is important to me that I am a good example to them, even though no one has ever told me that I need to be. It might be all in my head, but it's something I have thought about a lot.
    Anyway, getting to my point. I was around some of them this week and I said something that I hope they won't remember. Right in front of at least two younger girls, I looked at a picture that had been taken of me and said "Oh, I look so fat!". It has suddenly occurred to me that this was not a good move on my part.
    While I still stand by the fact that I did not look good in that picture, and it was pretty lighthearted because they were trying to catch me off guard for the picture anyway, I wish I hadn't said that in front of them, because I never want them to say that about themselves. They are about to be at an age (if they aren't there already) that is full of insecurity and exposure to the messages that society sends about appearance. If they haven't already, they will soon start to come across articles, commercials, and peer pressure about getting skinnier and looking pretty and keeping up with trends. Instead of being encouraged to find confidence in doing what they love, they will probably be tricked into trying to find confidence by looking good. They will have to survive in a world that loves to promote looking good and doesn't care much about being nice. 
     As someone who has had a lot of insecurity and still has some doubts sometimes, I should know not to talk that way around them. They are beautiful and I don't want to be the one that makes them think it's okay to doubt that. I want them to find confidence in being interested in learning things and exploring and pursuing their unique interests, instead of constantly having to worry about what they look like.
    I can not stop all of these girls (and the boys too) from the challenges of growing up and I know that. I am a very small part of their lives and they are not my responsibility. This little comment I made probably isn't something they will even remember, but I sometimes have a habit of saying bad things about myself out loud and I never thought about how they might notice that. From now on, whenever I am around people younger than me, I will try to remember that they are hearing what I saying, so I should probably keep the negative thoughts to myself.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A Whole New Look

     When I decided to start a blog, I must have been having a moment of uncharacteristic courage. It probably helped that I was miles away from anyone that would read it, and that I had lots of fun, positive things to write about at that time. It did not occur to me in that moment that there would come a time when I would experience emotions that are not necessarily something I want to share with people, because they are not easy to admit to and they are not reflective of who I want to be as a person. 
    When I lost my job, I experienced many emotions, none of them good. I was sad, shocked, confused, and more and more as each day passed, angry. I was angry that someone thought they could treat me this way and get away with it, and angry at the realization that this may not be the last time I experience a situation where I am treated wrongly because of my disability. Many people I talked to encouraged me to take action about the situation and stand up for my rights, which I did try to do. But I did not get immediate results, and that was very frustrating to me. I felt that I had legitimate complaints that no one was listening to and I didn't let it go after I had done everything I could do. I started to become very consumed with anger, and it was not a fun state to be in. Anger is a hard emotion for me to process because I honestly don't feel it very often. I am more likely to become upset and hurt over things as opposed to directly feeling anger.
     Through a lot of unpleasant discussion and realization. I am finally starting to accept that it's time to move on. I made the situation about my job known to every legitimate source I know of, and there's nothing else I can do at this point unless I take it to a whole other level where I just don't want to go. I have to accept that this situation is not going to end with some dramatic display of justice where everyone is put in their place and I am the winner. As hard as it is for me, it's time to let it go and focus on other things.
     I know that it's going to be hard for me and I know that there will probably be times when I backslide into my anger, and hesitate to trust new opportunities because of the way this one turned out, but I am ready to try to be happy again.
     Since this is a time of moving on for me, and I was tired of looking at those boring blue mountains, it seemed like a good time to redesign the blog. I hardly know anything about doing that, so I basically just clicked on different things until I came up with something that looked good to me. Knowing me, I will probably look at it tomorrow and want to change it again but for now I am happy with it. I hope this is the beginning of a return to discussing things other than anger and hard times, and that this  choice to begin letting go of anger will be a defining moment for me.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

To The Graduates

    One year ago tomorrow,I graduated from high school and it has been one of the best years I can remember. I have changed a lot, and started to figure out who I actually want to be when I'm not trying to be exactly like 400 other people. Today another MHS graduation will take place and a new group of eager graduates will be released into the real world. This inspired me to share some things I have learned since my graduation.

Not everyone is the same. To me, high school seemed to be all about conformity, and it just didn't work for me. When I got to college, I was amazed to see how different everyone was, and how no one seemed to mind. In college it seems that people are more concerned with having fun and getting passing grades than trying keep up with what everyone else is doing, and I really like that.

Learning differently does not mean you are stupid. In high school, it often seemed like it took me forever to understand what I was learning in certain subjects. Teachers taught a certain way, and if I didn't get it then it must mean I "wasn't applying myself" and just needed to "try a little harder". When I started college I started to figure out how I learned best and apply it to my classes. I made tons of flash cards and went to some tutoring, and did a lot of studying. College professors are more approachable than I expected, and most of them seem to really be on the student's side and willing to help however they can, and that has been very helpful.

You don't have to have it all figured out. When I graduated, it seemed like I needed to know exactly what I wanted to do with my life right away, and I really thought I did. But things change, and I realized that I actually wasn't sure of my plans yet, but I also realized I still had time to figure it out. Don't keep on pursuing something you change your mind about just because you think you have to. You don't want to end up with a lifelong career that you aren't happy with, and now is the perfect time to take things slowly and make sure you pick something that will make you happy in the long run.

BFF's are a rare breed.  When you are growing up, there are usually people you think you will be friends with no matter what, but distance is a true test of friendship. People grow apart, and it's a hard thing to deal with. You will probably have to learn the hard way that having the same friends for your entire life is very rare, but you will also find out who really is there for you no matter what, and you will meet new people and form new bonds with them. I have learned that the term "best friend" may not even be a good thing because I have many different friends who benefit my life in different ways, and it seems odd to imply that one of them is the best.

You will be fine.It's okay to be confused and even afraid sometimes, and to worry about how your life is going to turn out. At this time in your life a lot of changes are happening and it can feel like a lot to handle. Just remember how many people have survived this stage of life and turned out just fine, and don't forget to take an occasional break from trying to figure everything out and just enjoy life, because it goes by fast.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Shortest Job Ever

   I know that my last post was pretty vague, and I guess this one is too, but there are certain things I know I need to be careful about saying when  they can be accessed by lots of people. I am hoping to be able to write about other things that are probably more interesting very soon, it just seems odd to ignore this event in a blog that is  basically about my life and the things that affect me, so here we go.
      I know that life isn't fair. That is something I figured out quite a long time ago. Sometimes, though, it just seems that that point is illustrated in an especially painful way.
      Monday, I was unexpectedly "let go" from the job that I started last week because the person in charge of me said that she worried that I couldn't handle the physical requirements. I do not agree with the way the situation was handled, but at the moment I'm not brave enough, and don't think it's the right time, to go into detail on that aspect of the situation. What I will say is that this is a hard thing to deal with, for me and for my family. There are a lot of feelings to process and it's just overall an unpleasant thing to have to think about.
     Things like this are hard for me because they require me to think of myself as a disabled person, which I obviously am, but for me it's usually in the background of my mind. Sure I wake up every morning and put my braces on, but for me it's just become a part of my routine and it's not something I really think about., just as you probably don't wake up and spend time considering things about yourself that are just part of who you are, like your height or the color of your eyes. All my life, I have been treated pretty normally by my friends and family. They accept me for who I am and help me when I need it without making a big deal out of it, and I like it that way. But everyone, no matter if they have a disability or not, has to face unfairness at times, and it's never fun.
     As a Christian, I am taught to be kind and forgiving and all of those good qualities, but as a human, I would sometimes rather be angry and protest and fight back than act rationally and "be still". I also believe that being a Christian does not mean that I have to let people treat me unfairly and be okay with it, especially in situations where the law may even forbid certain treatment. It is hard for me sometimes to know when to stay quiet and when to speak out. It seems that part of growing up is finding the balance between standing up for myself when I have been treated wrongly and making my voice heard, while remaining as respectful as possible and not becoming mean or trying to seek revenge.
     This is an incident that has made me feel hurt, confused, and discouraged and I'm sure it will take me a while to fully process all of my feelings about it.  I really enjoyed having a job to go to and being able to see people I knew while earning money, and I wish it didn't end this way. The last thing I want to do is say something I will regret, so I will just keep some of my feelings to myself and try to act maturely as I am speaking about the situation. This has not been a happy time in my life and it will probably always be painful to look back on, but I am hoping that in time I will be able to learn something from all of it and I am trying to believe that this job just wasn't God's plan for me.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

I Don't Quite Know What to Call This One

     Wow, it's hard to know where to start with this one.  I always want interesting things to happen in my life so I have something to write about, but this is a little much. I shouldn't say too much right now, because the situation is still recent but I'll try to briefly explain it without saying something I will regret.
     Basically, I was  suddenly let go yesterday from the job I was hired at last week because of reasons having to do with my physical abilities being questioned. It is still very fresh in my mind and there are many thoughts going through my head about the whole situation. I am sure that it will take a while for me to process all of it. For now, I am just going to limit what I say about it and maybe say more when some time has passed.
     Since there are so many things I need to mentally process right now, I am probably not going to be able to come up with a groundbreaking new topic to blog about for a while. That being said, I decided at the beginning that I want to blog consistently for at least a year, so I have decided that the show must go on, even if this episode is very vague and confusing to my readers. I apologize if none of this makes any sense, I just have a lot on my mind and I am trying to be very cautious as this is a very emotional time. I promise that I will be back to writing about less touchy things that make more sense pretty soon, I just know that sometimes if you don't have anything nice to say you shouldn't write about it all over the internet (actually I think I just made that up).
    So to you, my readers, I raise my glass (well actually my can of cherry Dr. Pepper, I'm so sophisticated). Thank You for always being so supportive of this blogging journey I have decided to travel, even when my emotions get in the way and I don't quite make sense.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Reality Check

     I am the kind of person that tends to become fixated on things that I get interested in. When I decided to start a blog, I was excited because people actually read it, and several people complimented me on it. Over time however, I started to drift away from my original purpose of writing what I feel is important for me to write and remembering that my ability to write is a gift from God. I began to get frustrated with the lack of increase in my number of readers and tried to promote my blog more than I probably should have. I was starting to forget that this is meant to be a fun and meaningful thing, and that it is not going to launch a revolutionary writing career.
    Flash forward to today as I was sitting in church. Three youth that I have gotten to know had finished their confirmation class and were joining the church. The way they spoke and the things they said were far beyond their years, and I felt almost like a proud older sibling watching these younger youth take such an important step so gracefully and maturely.
    But then, I realized something that I would rather not have. I realized that they are members of the church now, something that I am not. All at once I began to question myself about many things. I have never even been baptized, and I am not a member of the church that I love so much. I had thought about becoming a member this summer, but our pastor who I have become so familiar with is leaving and it doesn't feel like the best time. I began to ask myself what right a person who has never taken these steps of being baptized or joining a church has to write all of these lofty thoughts about my faith and and ask people who know far more than me to read them. What qualifies me to be saying these things and expecting people to accept them?
     I turned these thoughts over in my head for a while. I didn't want to stop the blog, because it is something that I enjoy. I finally came to the conclusion that I should proceed with a more humble approach. True, I have never taken the official steps of publicly affirming my faith, but that does not mean my faith is not real. I hope that the right time will come for me to officially join the church, but for now I am not going to worry about it. I know that I have an ability to write, and using that ability to share my faith the best way I can is what feels like the right thing to do. I do not claim to be an expert on religion, and there is a lot that I do not know. I do however know how to write, and how to talk to God and ask him to guide me in what I say. I am only human, and times like these will happen where I will become discouraged and confused. But these times will pass, and when they do I know I will be glad that I decided not to give up. Thank You for taking the time to read what I write. I am no expert, but I truly do have only the best of intentions from this point forward.

Friday, June 6, 2014

It Just Makes Sense.

    Tomorrow (or actually today since I am writing this the night before I post it), we will be having our last fundraiser for the mission trip. As we were at the church setting up, I was thinking about how it all came so quickly, and how it's becoming so real that I really do get to go have this experience again. There is always a small part of me that wishes someone would ask me why I chose to go on this mission trip in the first place, and why I am going again, but no one ever has. So since I decided to share my feelings with whoever chooses to read them although no one asked, I figured I might as well continue this trend and answer the question that no one asked.
     I chose to go on this mission trip last year because I felt that I was called to do so, and I am choosing to go this year because I am certain that I am called to do so. I don't use the term "called" very often because it is such a strong word, in fact I don't think I've ever said it out loud, but it feels appropriate here because that's how strongly I feel about this. I chose to do this because despite having to accept that some people I formed bonds with last year will not be returning with us, despite not being able to attend all of the fundraisers and get to know the team this year, despite every negative thing my human mind could dream up, there was never a moment when I considered that not going was even an option for me.
    I wish so much that I could explain it in a more profound way, because as I writer I'm not a fan of letting such a big thing sound so simple, but the truth is it just makes sense and that's really all there is to it. It just makes sense to me to go to a place where I feel so loved, and where I feel that I really am doing something meaningful. Last year I got on a plane, which I have never done before, and flew to a place that I had read was the most dangerous city in the world. So how could it be that as soon as we arrived at the orphanage and I received the first of many hugs from those children, I felt like I had found something that I didn't even know I was searching for?
     There are a lot of things in life that are hard for me to understand and accept. Things like the fact that I will always be different because of a condition that I had no choice in having, and the physical, and now maybe even mental, consequences of that condition. Things like accepting the fact that any friends of mine could be gone at any moment, and that leaders that I look up to often have to move on to other things.
     The experience of being with these children in Honduras was unlike anything I had ever experienced because there was absolutely no doubt involved, and nothing that had to be figured out. This sounds more like a love story than a description of a mission trip, but it just made sense. It just felt right. I felt like I was doing what I was born to do, and never stopped feeling that way throughout the entire trip. I felt like I was reuniting with long lost friends, when in reality I was meeting completely new people who didn't even speak my language.
I am constantly trying to explain how much this mission means to me,and I just don't feel like I'm doing it well enough, which makes me think that maybe it's time to stop trying. Maybe it's not my job to make everyone else understand what I do. That's why for this post, I will take a break from trying to convince people to please read my blog and maybe even share it. Maybe it's time to realize that I've said what I feel the need to say, and that this is not all about me and my desire for people to get something out of the things I write and for the amount of people who read my writing to grow. I think it's time for me to realize that God will take care of exposing the right people to the things I am saying, and whether that means zero or a hundred people should not be something that I try to control.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Points of Light

 Today our mission team had a fundraiser at Chick-fil-a. and in all honesty it was not one that I approached with much enthusiasm. I was tired from working a new job three days in a row, and very frustrated with the lack of interest in all my and the rest of the team's attempted promotion of this fundraiser and the one Saturday. It can feel very discouraging when people work hard to put a fundraiser together and no one seems interested. But as soon as I arrived at this fundraiser, my mood began to improve and I forgot that I was tired. As I joked with my fellow team members and socialized with the people who came to support us, I realized that this fundraiser was not a failure at all and that I had let myself become defeated too soon like I tend to do.
    As I was driving home, I was in a far better mood and excitedly daydreaming about the trip that will finally be happening in just over a month (don't daydream and drive, kids!) I realized that I am getting ready to relive the best time of my life, and still finding a reason to be in a bad mood. Why is that? I don't want to be a negative person, and I certainly don't want anyone to get the impression that I am not excited about this trip, because it is pretty much the most exciting thing ever.
     I think sometimes it just seems easier to be negative. Sometimes tiredness and stress get in the way and I forget that I have so many things to be excited about. As I came to this realization, the first lightning bugs I have seen this summer appeared in front of me, and it was a really meaningful moment. Little points of light created by God to remind me that I am not called to be a grumpy, dreary cloud, but a light that shines in the darkness. I am so ready to go back to Honduras and hopefully be a source of light to those I am lucky
At the ruins in Honduras last year. I'm so excited to make more memories like this
enough to be with throughout the trip. 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

What's Your Name?

     I don't have a very long, complicated name, but somehow I often find myself having to clarify what it really is. I have had to explain to many teachers that no, it's not short for Jennifer and correct many people when they pronounce it as "Jeannie". It can be an annoyance when people don't get my name right, and I often find myself inwardly frustrated every time I have to correct someone.
     Names are a really fascinating thing to me, and I have always liked to think about what I might name my children one day.
In the Bible, it seems like lots of people were given names based on what God's purpose for them was, and I think that's really cool. In a way, it makes me imagine what it would be like if we were all identified that way. Imagine if every time we introduced ourselves, we identified ourselves by who God intends us to be. I don't know exactly what that would be like, but I imagine that it would really throw some people off, but also remind us who we really are.
   I am Jennie, but that's not all. I believe certain things, and I know that I need to act in a way that reflects those beliefs. I know people that seem to just naturally act in a Godly way and it shines through their personality. I strive to be that kind of person, and am trying to learn to be that way despite my personality flaws. I want the way I live my life to be a reflection of who and what I believe in. I'm not there yet, but I am determined to keep trying

Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Winds of Change

      In a way, one of the hardest parts of going to college was coming home and realizing that the world I left behind did not come to a complete standstill and await my return. Obviously, I knew that this would happen, but I guess I didn't realize the effect it would have on me. Although I'm sure people missed we while I was gone, their lives continued to move forward and change in the same way that my life moved forward and changed when I went to college. That's not a bad thing, because of course I don't expect everyone to just sit around and wait for me to come back. It's just strange because I'm suddenly back in the life I was away from for most of nine months, and while most of the big things haven't changed, there are differences that have occurred in both my life here and in myself now that I'm back that I did not expect.
     Now that I'm here for the summer, I have to figure out where I fit in this little world I left for a short time. It's taken me a while, but I've accepted that these feelings aren't so out of line. I went from the life I'd always known to a very different life and then back again. I know that people go off to college and come back all the time, and maybe most of them never had any problems adjusting. But it took me a while to adjust, and I learned something from it. I learned that I am capable of adjusting to new circumstances, of being independent, and of thinking for myself. I also learned that some things that I don't want to change, do so for a good reason that it may take a while to understand.
     Change can sometimes be a scary thing. It causes uncertainty and doubt, but I've learned that it also has a good side. Without change, it would be pretty hard to grow or learn anything, and if nothing ever changed I would miss out on some pretty great parts of life. Because I got through this phase, I now know what it feels like to leave, and to come back, and I know that I can survive it. Because I know this, I can leave for new adventures when they come along, and know that I can always come back, because even though lots of things change, I am now better equipped to handle that change and see the good in it.