[april 2013]

HopefulLeigh has been hosting these monthly What I’m Into link-ups for a while, and I’ve been reading (see: stalking) them for a little bit now and decided to finally get in on the action. Why? Well, why not? I’ve enjoyed getting to peek into other bloggers’ bookshelves/ipods/brains, plus I like the idea of taking some time at the end of each month to look back at what I’ve been loving and gather it all up into one place. Hey, I’m a hoarder. Better on the internet than my desk drawer, right?

So here we go…what I’m:

reading (on paper):

  • A Song of Ice and Fire (aka, the Game of Thrones series). My lil bro got me into this series and I’m hooked. I’m halfway through the fifth book, and then – gasp – I’ll have to wait for the next one to come out.
  • Finally got into the Eragon series (The Inheritance Cycle). Can I just say, I totally thought this series was a trilogy and was confused when the third book ended without coming to a conclusion? Turns out there’s four books. Surprise.
  • 99% of the time, I am not a devotional person. However, Cory Copeland’s We Are Not Hoodlums is changing that. I’ve been taking in an entry a day with my breakfast, and it is so good. We’re talking simple, straightforward truths that manage to rock my world. Sometimes you need to go back to the basics and remind yourself what redemption is.

reading (on screen):

listening:

  •  newly obsessed with Emeli Sandé. girl can sing.
  • also obsessed with “Cups (When I’m Gone)” aka That Song From Pitch Perfect That Everyone Is Obsessed With. Anna Kendrick’s acappella version is fantastic, but this director’s cut music video was recently released and now I can’t get enough of this version, either.
  • discovered Gregory Alan Isakov, and let’s just say “3 a.m.” has been on repeat for a while.
  • I’ve been listening to needtobreathe’s “The Heat” over and over again. this album is just too good, guys.
  • here’s this month’s Spotify playlist for your listening enjoyment. it’s a little random.

watching:

  • my TV-watching has been a little sporadic, and I’m behind on my usual shows: Once Upon a Time, Parks & Rec, and Bones all have some episodes sitting waiting for me. I’ll get around to it…eventually.
  • Doctor Who is back! I’ve managed to see three episodes so far. Honestly, I’m a little underwhelmed by this season’s DW. Here’s hoping I start to like it more.
  • been catching up on Psych. let’s talk about how I am Burton Guster. I even drive an Echo. Sadly, it’s not blue.

loving:

  • my Kindle, aka my baby. When I said reading, on paper? That’s a lie. It’s really all e-ink on my trusty little Kindle, which goes everywhere with me (including all over Europe) and miraculously hasn’t gotten broken yet.
  • my Chacos. guys. CHACOS ARE THE BEST. breaking these suckers in was possibly the most painful thing I’ve experienced, but it’s totally worth it. I’m gonna be rocking the best/worst z-tan by the time I get home.
  • getting out + about in Malta. I’m in class all day erry day, but there’s been some adventuring happening on the weekend. Jumping into the blue blue Mediterranean? Visiting the Malta at War museum? Loving the sunshine? check, check, and check.
  • friends, late nights, silly and serious conversation. countless cups of tea around the table. lazy mornings. s’mores.
  • was able to meet up with a good friend in Florence and spent four delightful days walking, seeing, eating, and just being with her. the food. oh, the food. Europe knows how to do pastries.
  • letters from home. with everyone thousands of miles away, getting a card that’s traversed the ocean can make me smile like nothing else.

 

remember what I said about pastries? (Budapest)

 

what have you been into this April?

 

my God provides. [East Africa update]

There’s something you should know about me. Something you maybe (probably) already know.

I am afraid.

Of lots of things. (Spiders.)  I’m anxious about showing up in a new situation and having no idea how to behave. Nervous about traveling alone. Worried beyond belief about life in general, as the title of post-grad-job-searching-20-something looms on my horizon.

And let’s talk about how I worry about Africa.

The overwhelmingly daunting task of raising the $3,995 I need for this trip. The idea of flying to a brand new country, with a group of people I don’t know, to participate in some form of ministry. Having to talk about my faith and my life with strangers, whether one-on-one or (ack) in front of a group.

What if I don’t raise the money? What if my team doesn’t like me? What if I’m bad at the ministry? What if I get sick? What if I say the wrong thing? What if I pack the wrong clothes? What if there are spiders?

I’m anxious about everyday life in Greensboro. I’m a basket case when it comes to international missions.

But something happens when you spend two weeks traveling around Europe – which, by the way, I just did. One week with a friend, four days on my own, and then another four days with a different friend.

You better believe I was anxious about this trip. 15 days, 3 countries, 5 cities. I did my research, I wrote down directions, I Googled everything I could think of (“how to use the bus in Italy”), printed off all my hostel reservations and plane tickets, crammed my belongings into my backpack, and prayed. A lot.

I prayed for help when we were lost outside Venice. I prayed that I wouldn’t miss my shuttle to the airport in Paris. I prayed that I was getting on the right bus every time I got on a bus. I prayed for good hostel situations, and sunshine during my days. I prayed for guidance every single time I looked at a map. I prayed safety over my entire trip.

And oh, He provided.

We traveled by plane, train, bus, boat, subway, taxi – and all was well. Hostels were found. Planes were caught. I never got lost. All the things that could have gone wrong – nothing really went wrong. And I was blessed in so many little ways on that trip. The woman who overheard us talking waiting for the boat in Venice, and gave us walking directions to Piazza San Marco, which we wouldn’t have seen if not for her. The incredibly kind metro officer in Paris, the third one I spoke to when my 5-day ticket wasn’t being accepted by the machines, who replaced my ticket for me where the others hadn’t helped. My friend April’s host mother in Florence, who invited me over for a home-cooked Italian meal – three nights in a row. The owner of a cafe in Budapest who handed us free slices of cream cake after we had finished our pastries. Hundreds of little things, little provisions, that left me with a smile on my face and a heart rejoicing thank you, Lord.

I learned so much during those two weeks. Traveling Europe is a crash-course in life, and easily one of the most intense growing experiences I’ve had so far. I expected to face my fears of traveling alone, but I didn’t expect to learn so much about trust, provision, and prayer.

These truths I learned: There is no worry too small to take to Him, and no gift so small it doesn’t deserve praise. And in ways great as well as small, God provides.

My God is God in Venice and Paris and Budapest and Malta and Virginia and North Carolina. My God is God in Africa, too. My God listens, my God protects, my God guides. And my God provides.

What then have I to fear?

East Africa update time!

July is getting sooner and sooner. It’s surreal, because here in Malta I’m so focused on the rest of the semester and the end of the semester and going home…and then a week later, I’m gone again and off to Africa. As the trip grows closer, I’m getting more excited – but also more nervous. I’ve been telling myself on a daily basis that God is good and God provides.

I’m so, so grateful to everyone who has donated to my fundraising and continues to bless me with prayer and encouragement. I couldn’t be doing this trip without you, and your love and support mean the world to me. My 75% deadline is coming up soon! I need to have raised $3,000 by May 1, which is just a week and a half away! I need another $655 to meet this deadline. Please, if you haven’t yet, prayerfully consider supporting me on this trip. Any donation, no matter how small, makes a difference. And I promise donating is quick and easy! All of the details can be found on my support page. Or you can click this, which takes you directly to AIM’s donation page! Just fill in my name, select “The Passport”, and you’re good to go.

As always, thank you. From the bottom of my heart.

when this is about you and me and our bodies.

This, oh this – this is something I get up in arms over.

My heart aches and breaks for you, you who hates what she sees in the mirror. You who wishes that this here was a little less jiggly and that there was a little more curvy and all of this was just  a lot less.

I want to rant and rave at this world for making you buy into the lies, scream and shout about the head games and the judgemental words and the impossible standards.

I want you to know that you are worth more than your weight, your body is so much more than a size, and you are beautiful in ways that you don’t even know. Girl, you need to own that skin you’re in like it’s a custom-made couture gown, because it is, and it was made for you by a master tailor who deals in muscle and bone, hearts and souls instead of silk and satin. You might not know it yet, but he sewed strength into your limbs and grace into your lungs, and he measured you for patience and kindness. He wrapped you in dreams and hopes, and they look better on you than sequins and lace.

You’d better own that skin you’re in, because it’s the only one like that in this world and no one else could ever make it look as good.

My heart hurts from all the hate that’s been thrown around. All the hate you’ve been thrown and all the hate you’ve been throwing back at yourself. Girl, there’s a whole world out there and you ain’t got the time to waste with all that.

And if I could, I’d invite you over. I’d bake you cookies and we’d eat half the dough before it went in the oven, and the other half as soon as it came out, and there would be no talk about regretting or running off those cookies. I’d make you a cup of tea, strong and sweet, and I’d make you space to be. Just be. Be full of thoughts and secrets and desires and all those things that give you your you-ness.

And in that space, maybe you can find the courage to claim beauty. To believe that the words I’m and beautiful could snuggle together in the same sentence without that cold hard not shoving itself in between. To slip on confidence like your favorite pair of jeans and wear it out the door and right into the world.

Because maybe, maybe if you can start to see the beauty that you have, if you start to believe it – well, maybe then I can, too.

Because the truth is, as much as I rant and rave, scream and shout, I buy those lies. Because as much as my heart aches for you, it has little forgiveness for me. I can’t find grace in the mirror, only thighs.

Because I can tell you to love yourself all day long, but I talk the talk a whole lot better than I can walk the walk.

And I’m tired. I’m tired of constantly being at war with myself. I’m tired of not liking what I see. I’m tired of wrapping myself in insecurity and doubt. I’m tired of hating. Cause there is a whole world out there and I ain’t got the time to waste anymore.

Here’s the thing about loving yourself: loving. In the verb sense of the word. Loving yourself is not a magical state of elevated being that you somehow achieve. Oh, no.

Loving yourself is work. Loving yourself isn’t easy. Loving yourself is waking up in the morning and claiming beauty. Loving yourself is telling your tummy that it is fearfully and wonderfully made. Loving yourself is running because you want to, not because your mental calculations of cookies consumed + calories burned aren’t equal. Loving yourself is eating peanut butter straight out of the jar sometimes. Loving yourself is a daily decision to walk out of those lies and walk into the truth and work that custom-made skin of yours.

Loving yourself is stubbornly, persistently, consciously believing that you are Beautiful. and Strong. and Worthy of being Loved.

Because oh, you are. and so am I.

i’m (not) going to change the world. [east africa update]

let’s talk about Africa for a second.

because there are some thoughts that have been bouncing around inside my brain, and I need to force them out of my fingertips and onto the screen in order for them to make sense to me.

in case you didn’t know – and you probably do – I am going to East Africa. just to make sure we’re all on the same page: in just a few short months, I’m going on a month-long missions trip to either Rwanda or Uganda.

good? now let’s talk about going on missions trips.

When I tell someone that I’m going to Africa for a month, their reaction is fairly predictable: that’s awesome! that’s going to be such a good experience! it’s great that you’re going to help people/make a difference/change the world!

yes. it is pretty awesome. yes. it is going to be a good experience.

no. I am not going to change the world.

I hope and pray that by the grace of God (and that alone is the only way this could ever happen) that my presence in Africa will help people, that it might make a difference in at least one life, for one day, for one moment.

but that’s just God working through my fragile and broken jar of clay. That’s not me.

and – also – that’s not why I’m going to Africa.

when you say you’re going on a mission trip or doing volunteer work, there’s this expectation that you’re setting out to do! and help! and change! and make better! that you’re going because you have a desire to see the world become a better place and you have a passion for teaching English or loving on kids or building wells or whatever it is.

People go to Africa because they want to help, and love, and spread the Gospel.

That’s not why I’m going to Africa.

and don’t get me wrong – I do want to help and love and spread the Gospel. those things are pretty much listed on the second page of the how-to-be-a-Christian manual (that doesn’t actually exist but you know what it would say). and who doesn’t want to see the world become a better place?

I’m going to Africa because the Lord asked me to go to Africa.

it seems selfish to say this, in a way. that my main interest in this mission trip is not doing good or helping people. I’m going because I believe that God is going to use this trip to teach me, and I want to learn.

I’m going because I’m being sent. and by being sent, what I mean is Jesus was basically like “yo, get your butt on this mission trip and go to Africa, and I’m going to keep making it obvious that you need to go until you say yes.”

(that’s a paraphrase.)

and I’m saying this to myself more than to you. because when you’re telling people about your mission trip to Africa and you’re hearing “wow! you’re going to do such good things! you’re going to help people! you’re going to make a difference!” you start thinking yeah, maybe I am.

no, I’m not.

because if good things happen – if people are helped – if a difference is made – it is not me. it’s God.

and sometimes I need to feed myself a slice of humble pie, and remind myself how things really are, and that sentence above is that delectable dessert.

I’m praying that God would use my time in Africa to let His glory be known. Praying that He will use me, that He will give me words and actions and ways to share His goodness and love on His people. and I’m praying that whatever He’s going to teach me – whatever lesson He’s preparing for me – that my eyes and my ears and my heart would be open to it. that I would receive it and listen. that I would take it to heart and let it change me.

because let’s be for real – if I were in charge of the world-changing, we’d all be in trouble.

 

and now, to the update…

my 50% fundraising deadline is April 17th. and I’ve met that deadline. that’s right: I am now 50% funded. (50.8%, to be exact).

I can’t tell you how incredibly overwhelmed and humbled and grateful I am for all your generosity and support. I was worried that I wasn’t going to make this deadline, but: my God is a God who provides. and teaches lessons about trust on the way.

I still have another $2,000 to raise. I’m going to keep praying, keep trusting, and keep posting links to my support page whenever possible.

(subtlety is my strength. obviously.)