NaNoWriMo

It’s that time of year again. Writers and aspiring writers all over the world are getting ready for the crazy insanity that is National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo). All of their planning, or lack thereof, is gearing towards this goal of writing 50,000 in the month of November.

Last year was my first attempt at this massive project. I didn’t get very far. Life was far to crazy with term papers, homework, choir, and everything else that was my senior year of college. A year later, I have graduated college, gotten myself a job, and spending my downtime with my family. I have made the decision to attempt NaNoWriMo yet again.

I am going to be working on the same story as last year, but I’m starting from the beginning. I’m scrapping all of my previous work. I’m not throwing any of it away, but I’m not going to be looking back on it while I start over. It’s taken me a while, but I’ve finally decided on the backstory and history of my story. I had been playing with several different ideas but nothing concrete, and my story suffered from it. Now, I have more of a clear idea of the world I’m writing about and where my story fits inside of it. I’m starting to get excited about writing it all down. We’ll see what happens next month.

I’m home

After the insanity of “living” on three different buses, hopping on and off airplanes, and riding in multiple vehicles this summer, I am finally home. I’m back from all of my travels, and life is finally starting to slow down. After moving so fast for so long, I finally feel like my life is moving at a somewhat regular pace.

Right now, I’m working for my dad on the ranch checking and fixing irrigation equipment. I’m looking for a job, which is difficult, especially in the area I live in. Hopefully something will turn up soon.

I found a yearlong ministry training program in Ireland that I am really interested in participating in. If I apply and I’m accepted, I’ll be leaving in August 2015. The cost of the program is a fair chunk of money, so I need to start saving for it now. It is through a mission’s organization, so most raise their money through support, but I’m tired of asking for money for trips and programs. If I can get a job, then I can work and save the money, hopefully, without having to ask anyone for anything.

I feel like I’m free falling. Anything can happen. Nothing is set in stone. It is scary but, also, exciting. We’ll see what God has planned.

I graduated! And I’m still running around like crazy

It’s been just a little over two weeks since I graduated from college. It hasn’t quite sunk in yet. It has been nice not having to worry about registering for classes and buying books, but part of my brain still hasn’t come to the realization that when school starts back up again in September, I will not be heading back down for another semester of classes. I’ve been told that’s when it hits you the most, when the academic school year starts back up and you aren’t participating in that cycle for the first time in 17 years.

Everything has been so busy this past month with preparing for graduation, finishing up projects, papers and other assignments, moving out of my on-campus apartment, and packing for choir tour. The School of Theology had an awards ceremony during the afternoon on the day before graduation in the afternoon, and there was a Baccalaureate/Alumni Initiation Ceremony for all the graduates and their families and friends in the evening. Graduation was a busy day with check out, getting last minute things for tour, and then the actual ceremony (which was looong…there were a lot of us). I had a nice dinner with some of my family and friends after the ceremony.

While I may be done with classes and graduated, I am by no means “done.” As I’ve been telling everyone, I’m done at the end of June.

The morning after graduation, I woke up bright and early to pack up on a bus for 2 weeks of choir tour. We had our final/homecoming concert last night. I’m home for a few days, which is really nice, before I head back down to Southern California. I leave for Poland with my choir for a music missions trip in less than a week, and we have a couple of days before we leave of cultural training and other preparation. We’ll be gone for about 10 days. I’ll be back in the States for a little over a week before heading back overseas to Ireland for a different missions trip that will be about a week and a half. After that, I’m sleeping for a month. I kid…mostly.

Questions on an application

Not too long ago, I was filling out an application for an internship that asked what my Christian faith looks like and how I live it out. It took me a while to come up with an answer. I wanted to present myself in a positive light, but at the same time wanted to be truthful about where I’ve been and where I am now. After several days of struggling to answer this question, a night of insomnia and prayer produced this.

I talk with God. My goal is to listen to Him and obey. I don’t always get it right, and sometimes I outright ignore what He is trying to tell me. I’m not perfect, but God is. I love God, and I aim to serve Him with all that I am.

I have been a Christian for as long as I can remember. According to my mom, I accepted Christ at the age of two and a half. I grew up in the church as the daughter of two active members, my father being one of the elders of the church. It wasn’t until the age of seventeen that I developed a more personal relationship with Jesus when I attended TeenStreet, a Christian conference for teens in Germany put on by OM, also known as Operation Mobilization. It was there that I had a breakthrough in my faith, and, in many ways, it was a defining moment. I decided there that I wanted to give my life over to Christ to be a disciple. I wanted to do what God wanted me to do. It was there that the beginnings of my “listen and obey” foundation began.

During my four years of college, my faith has strengthened and grown. I developed strong friendships with other young adults who I have walked alongside for several years. We have encouraged each other, cried together, laughed together, prayed for one another, and studied the Bible together.

The all-women’s ministry choir I am a part of has been a large part of this growth. I have done life some of these women for three years, and others only a semester, but we have done our best to embody our sisterhood in Christ. We sing about God, His love, and work hard in order to perform our best so that God can use us as a tool of encouragement, love or hope for each other and our audiences.

My professors have questioned me, tested my faith, and pushed me to continue to grow in my faith. It is a common joke that Bible majors end up leaving with more questions than they came in with. If there is anything that I have learned from my classes, it is that Jesus is Lord and I don’t have the answers. It was a difficult lesson to learn, as I like to know the answers to things. However, after all of the theology, Bible and ministry classes, I have come to the conclusion that there are a handful of non-negotiable Truths and those are what I am going to hold onto. Jesus Christ was fully God and fully man. He was born to the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried. On the third day, He rose again. He died for my sins, and I am free because of it.

The campus pastors at my university have walked alongside me these past few years and have been extremely encouraging. When I had given up hope, the campus pastors held onto that hope for me until I was able to hope for myself again. They stood by me when my life was in flames, and they rejoiced with me when the Lord performed miracles. They remind me of the good things the Lord has done for me when I get discouraged.

I listen to God. I pray. I go through phases of just how much I read my Bible, but I do read it. I read other books, theology based books and devotionals. When I don’t have words to say, I find a worship song that fits the situation and I sing it. Other times, I draw, paint or dance. I journal as a way to communicate with God. I am by no means a perfect person; I make mistakes. I said that in the first paragraph. I go through different seasons. I am human and therefore am bound to err. Even in all that, I am a sinner saved by grace who loves God with all of her heart and wants to please Him in all that she does.

(UPDATE: I did get an interview, but both those in charge of the program and I decided that ultimately I was not the best fit for their internship.)

Survivor

How often does that label get tossed around? I sure don’t feel like a survivor. I’ve done a lot and gone through a lot, but I haven’t gone through many of the terrible things out there that I know others have. I feel like my experiences don’t even compare. And they don’t.

However, I shouldn’t get down on myself because my experiences were not “as bad” as another person’s trauma. It isn’t our place to belittle one person’s trauma while elevating someone else’s. Trauma is something that shouldn’t be compared.

Many people have told me that I’m strong. I have a hard time believing that one as well. I have deal with panic and anxiety on a daily basis. I have had flashbacks that render me frozen and shaking. Why would anyone call that strong? Their reasoning is usually related to the fact that I haven’t turned to drugs or drinking as a coping strategy. I still don’t see it.

The closest anyone has ever gotten me to agreeing with them on that was when they told me that my strength is big because my strength is as big as the God that is in me. Wow. My strength is as big as God’s because my strength comes from him. Cause for thought, huh?

I still don’t like to label myself as strong. I’ve been through a lot, and I have survived. I have God’s strength inside of me, and I have been gifted with resilience that enables me to bend without breaking in storms, much like bamboo. I still have a ways to go and a lot that needs to heal. But you know what? I’m going to be alright. It may not be in the way that some people would use to label as alright, but that’s ok because what matters is that I’m ok.

Don’t Sugarcoat It

Forgiveness is hard. It isn’t easy. And it isn’t a cure-all magic pill.

We shouldn’t sugarcoat forgiveness or any of the other hard things in life that are steps toward wholeness. We complain when medicine tastes gross, but we take it anyway. Its purpose is to assist in the recovery process, it isn’t there to taste good. It isn’t candy. The same goes for forgiveness. It isn’t something that tastes good. It’s something that we want to spit out. Then why is it that we seem to think that it should be otherwise? People accept that medicine is gross but helpful. If we accept it for medication, why not for forgiveness?

Time Does Not Heal All Wounds

Wounds heal with the proper care and treatment along with time. Time alone does not heal a wound. If something goes untreated, it can fester and turn into an infection. You need to clean it, put ointment on it, and bandage it up. In some cases, the wound is bad enough to need a bandage change, antibiotics, a tetanus shot, and maybe even a trip or stay in the hospital. You can’t leave these sorts of things alone.

The same goes for mental illness and trauma. You can’t put it to the side and just hope that it goes away. It doesn’t work that way. It needs to be talked about, written about, and shared. It isn’t easy; it’s super hard to do. But once it’s no longer just you in this bubble of pain and hurt, others who love and care for you can help in tending and caring for your mental wounds and scars. That in and of itself is priceless.

Isolation

I don’t always have a proper view of myself. I have struggled with low self-esteem and still do sometimes. I have major, major, major trust issues. I tend push all of my emotions to the back. I can’t handle other people not being able to handle them, so it’s better for everyone if I just box it up. But that isn’t true. It is a lie. An awful, isolating lie.

When I’m isolated is when I have the most issue with all of my problems. It is when I’m attacked. I do well, and then I hit a downward spiral that takes me out of commission for a while. Sometimes, it can be for months. That is being human, though, I suppose. Maybe I’m not fooling myself when I think I’m doing better. Maybe I really am but happen to hit a pothole in the road that makes it seem as though I’m not making progress. And, maybe, I’ll never truly be “better.”

God can heal me, cleanse me, and make me whole. I’m sure of that. I don’t think that His view of healing, cleansing and wholeness match up with mine all the time however. I know I have issues, but I’m getting better with God’s help. It doesn’t matter if I’m surrounded by loving, caring, and understanding people, although it does help, or I’m a hermit on a mountain. God is the one in charge, and at the end of the day, that is all that matters.

I forget that a lot. I need reminding, and sometimes it can take a few months of loneliness and apathy to crack into desperation, which then points me back in the right direction. Funny enough, once I’m back on the right track, the problems don’t change, but how I feel and approach them does.

Not being in a close-knit community of believers is tough. When I’m home, I miss my school and my friends. However, this is not unlike what it might be like once I graduate. Friendships require work and effort on all sides. I’m not going to sit idly by as they disintegrate just because I don’t see these people 24/7. But as important as people are to me, I can’t become dependent on them. I’ve made that mistake enough, and I’ve been on the opposite end of it one too many times. All that does is end in pain on all sides. To expect all of your needs to be met by another human being is asking to be let down, disappointed, and quite possibly, heartbroken.

You can’t place all of your hope in people. People are human. No one is perfect, and that is ok. The only being able and capable of providing what you need is God. It doesn’t matter if you have people or not. God can and does work through people, but He isn’t confined to just that method.

Trust God to take care of you. He will. It’s a lesson that I am constantly learning and relearning. I’m not perfect, and I’ll certainly slip up somewhere at some point. The thing is, I have an ever so patient Heavenly Father willing to love and care for me without hesitation. If that isn’t the best gift ever, then I don’t know what is.

You know you have Jet lag when…

You sleep during the day and are wide awake at night.

You wake up at 2:30am and can’t fall back asleep until 6am.

You sleep until 2:30pm after not being able to fall asleep until 6am.

Sleeping pills don’t help.

You are wide awake at an hour where no one should be awake unless it is finals week.

You get up and start doing things at random hours of the night because lying in bed is boring, and you want something to do.

You watch as the sun rises, and light enters your room.

You hear your siblings’ alarm clock go off, and you realize that the entire night just passed by without you getting any sleep.

You have a longer than average conversation with God because there is no one else who is up at that hour to talk to.

You go through and organize your photos.

You clean out your inbox.

You finish a long blog entry that you had been putting off.

You work on forms that need to be turned in.

You realize that exhaustion isn’t the issue…it’s that your body clock is just screwy..

You shrug and hope that the sleeping pills will work tomorrow night.

You are willing to try and keep yourself awake for more than 24 hours just so you can attempt to correct your messed up body clock.

Stranded in Hong Kong

So, once we finally get to the airport, say our goodbyes, and get on the airplane, you would think that it would be smooth sailing from there. False. We sat on the airplane wondering when we would take off for about 3 or 4 hours. Hong Kong weather was going haywire, and our captain had no idea when we would be able to leave. Heck, air traffic control didn’t know when we would get to leave. Eventually, we got into the air and made it into Hong Kong at 5pm.

We got our carry-on bags and hurried off the plane to try and make it to our next point – someone who would tell us what to do next. As we talked with some of the attendants, another American that was trying to get onto the same connecting flight to LAX informed us that when our plane had landed, our connecting flight had taken off with standby ticket people in our seats.

We followed two different ladies, and our group ended up being split into two separate lines. We moved to the line for Cathay Pacific. Once we got to the front of the line, we were told that they couldn’t do anything to help us because our starting ticket was through Dragon Air, not Cathay. So, we moved to a line at Dragon Air. Some waited in one line, and I waited in the other. Chaos ensued. We all got to the point of..just give us a flight back to the States. New York, Chicago, LA…just get us back there. And give connecting flights to get to where we need to go from there. Just get us back to the States. We almost got somewhere. And then the booking system crashed.

They apologized profusely and said that they would be putting us up in a hotel for the night. We got stickers to put on, and we got to go through customs. Another Hong Kong stamp for our passport. We followed this lady to where the hotel shuttles are, followed a guy to another place where we would wait once again. Our hotel shuttle finally showed up, and an hour later we were in a Royal Garden hotel. It is 9:50pm. We are given meal vouchers for dinner, breakfast, and lunch along with our room keys. They front desk informs us that dinner would be served on the 3rd floor at 10:15pm.

Checking into the hotel

Checking into the hotel

Steph and I went to our room, dropped off our stuff, and then we headed downstairs to meet up with everyone for dinner. Dinner was amazing. There was all sorts of food – good food. And dessert was amazing. Tiramisu, mousse, brownie things, a huge chocolate fondue fountain with marshmallows and cream puffs to dip in it, as well as a Haagen Daz ice cream bar. I think that everyone had at least two plates of food and then one or more plates of dessert. It was a great way to end the night and have all of us relax after a crazy day.

Kaylee, Janelle, Kevin

Kaylee, Janelle, Kevin

Stephanie

Stephanie

Jesse and Chase

Jesse and Chase

We woke up early and met downstairs at 5:30am the next morning. When we checked out and turned in our remaining meal vouchers, they handed us sandwiches and orange juice since we would be missing breakfast on the 3rd floor at 6am. We rode back to the airport, and thus began day two of trying to get home.

Headed back to the airport to try and get home

Headed back to the airport to try and get home

And we don't care

And we don’t care

Chase and I gave up on the lines after a while. We sat on the floor with everyone’s bags and recorded several videos as a form of stress relief.

Working out connecting flights

Working out connecting flights

DSC04730

Quinn is done beyond done

Quinn is done beyond done

After 4 1/2 hours of running around, being sent in circles, and standing in multiple lines, all of us FINALLY got tickets to LAX on a flight that would be leaving at 12:55pm.

We have tickets!

We have tickets!

We made it through security, got another stamp in our passport, emailed our families, got some starbucks for the wait, and then *finally* made it onto the plane which landed up in LAX on April 21, 2012 at 10:40am. It was an extremely long day.