Let your faith guide your faith

It has been about 7 weeks since I tried to move to England. It has also been about 7 weeks since I had faith in anything. I’m frozen in a place of loneliness, brokenness and listlessness. Last night was the first time I have felt energized in, well, 7 weeks. I went to church. I sat in a room with people my age and realized we’re all trying to figure things out. I felt less lonely. Though some had more figured out than others and a whole lot more figured out than me, none of us are where we will be in 10 years. I’m still just not sure if I have room for faith right now. Church was great but not because I “felt” God, it was because I was surrounded by happy people. The things that stopped me from going to England were not lack of drive or motivation or passion, they were logistics and not having enough paperwork. Was that God saying hold up or was that my incompetence slamming the brakes on my future? Let’s be honest. I don’t have a degree and all my experience is short term. England was a huge step forward. It was a chance for some longer term community development experience. My dream future feels further away than ever. So, I don’t have faith. I have worry and half-filled job applications at grocery stores and retail outlets.

About 7 weeks ago I had faith. I had faith in a future. I had faith that things would move forward. I had faith in myself. I even had a little faith that God was still holding me.

None of these are particularly wrong or bad but they are incomplete. My plans to leave my worries behind and finally start my life were incomplete. I’ve spent the last 7 weeks picking up broken pieces of myself and putting them on a shelf. I’ve had little energy or motivation to do much else. I started reading adventure books just so I could feel the thrill that I was so close to experiencing for myself. I read about a man who walked the entire length of the Amazon. I felt incredibly jealous and started asking friends if they wanted to go camping. I feel the same jealousy when I see friends living their dreams in far away places. That was supposed to be me. I’m supposed to be living my dream. Instead I’m stuck here, lost.

Maybe this seems petty. Of course I know there are worse things happening to better people, but I’m still alive. I still want to be happy. I hope this means that I allowed to grieve selfishly for just a little longer. I just want to sit still for just a little longer. I’m afraid to send those job applications because I still want something better. Maybe that’s faith. Maybe that’s all I got. Its supported by pride but maybe its something.

I heard a song the other day called Carry Your Will by the Mowgli’s. The bridge stopped me in my tracks and it is the title of this post. “Let your faith guide your faith.” The rest of the lyrics are pretty great too, but this part stood out the most to me. It makes me think of stepping forward. Not walking or running, but taking it slow. Letting my tiny bit of selfish faith in one thing guide me to faith in another bigger and more useful thing. And then letting it happen again. One baby faith-step at a time. Moving forward will come again and I hope it is as exciting as the last time.

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England

So, here is what happened:

I got deported. I applied for a year-long visa, was denied but I decided to get some more paperwork together and try my luck at the border. Things did not go so well. My stay in England lasted all of 2 days and I spent my one night in a very comfortable airport detention center (no sarcasm there, the detention center was really comfortable. It even had a comfy couch and a big screen TV). Though everyone was very polite, or maybe that was the accent, my world was slowly breaking as I waited for more news on my “case.”

An emotion-free timeline of my time in England:

My flight landed in London about 10 minutes early, 6:30 UK time. I followed the crowds to the appropriate Customs Checkpoints with every intention of breezing through. US Passport holders are not required to have a visa for anything less than 6 months. Once my year-long was denied I opted to shorten my travels to somewhere around 6 months, though I did not yet purchase a return ticket to prove this decision (this will be important later). When it was my turn to hand my passport to the nice British lady, I was nervous but ready to move forward. She scanned my passport and saw that I was denied the visa and asked why and I explained it to her. She asked how long I planned to stay now and I answered. She asked how I planned to support myself and I explained that I had some funds and would also be supported by my hosts. Then she asked me to sit down to the side and wait for her to return. After about an hour and a missed connection flight she escorted me to an interview room where we go over all the details of my trip in detail. Then I’m moved to a waiting room where more very nice British people offer me sandwiches and drinks. I waited, fell asleep, woke up, and waited some more. About 4 hours in my name is called. I feel hopeful but they just told me I need to go get my bags off the belt. Once we got back from that I was notified that I was denied entry and would be returning to Dulles International Airport the next day at 11:20 am. The reasons were justified. I needed better proof that I could financially support myself and I did not have that return ticket for the end of 6 months. Even after my hosts offered to purchase the ticket, the decision could not be reversed. Then they left me to wait some more until it was time to head to the detention center. I rode in the van to the center with two couples both seeking refugee status. They were dropped off at a different place and a young woman wished me luck as she stepped out of the van. I was processed and given an ID and then shown my room. The lobby was very welcoming; a ping-pong table, big comfy couches, and that big screen TV. There were three less than twin size beds and a small TV in the room. I was exhausted by this point so I fell asleep pretty quick. I was woken up at about 5 am and escorted back to the Border Control waiting room that I spent the entire previous day. When it was time for my flight I was escorted to my gate and my passport was handed to the lead flight attendant to be given to me once we landed. We landed and I got a cab to the Amtrak station and chugged on back home.

So, here I am. Back in Virginia Beach.

My heart is broken, to say the least. I had plenty of time to process the unfortunate turn of events in between all the waiting and the waiting and the 7 hour flight and four hour train ride. I only told a few people I was back and I am so grateful for their support. I felt tricked. Not by anyone in particular, just tricked. By life, maybe. Yea, life tricked me. Actually, I could have been more prepared. I think taking the blame is later in the healing process, though. I’m not ready for that yet.

The waiting room was filled with all sorts of different people on very different roads in life. A few got good news and headed to their UK destination. The rest of us, well, we mostly waited. We were heartbroken together but all for different reasons. Maybe someone was visiting family or escaping a dangerous situation. That waiting room was a humbling place to be. I was waiting alongside 3 Indian girls, a Ukrainian couple, 2 Spanish men, 2 other Americans, an Asian girl, a West African woman and her baby and another couple from somewhere in the Middle East. To be honest, I wish I had been a little less self-absorbed during those waiting hours. I wish I had made a friend or two or at least heard a story.

As for trying again, I have looked into what it will take and it is pretty expensive. I am currently working scrap hours at the one job I was able to get back and do not have a car (I sold it so I would have more funds for the trip, ironically) so saving is difficult. I think I want to try again. I don’t quite know what God is trying to say here, though. I can’t lie about that one. I loved the idea of spending time in England helping my new friends at Urban Expression, but maybe I romanticize my calling?

Where do I go from here? What do I do now? What do I do here?

A note on adulthood

I’ve been an adult now for 7 years, 2 months, and 26 days. I have one word to describe every second that has passed so far: MESSY. My life is a big, happy, sad, and in-between mess. There is no order, no clear direction, and no obvious light at the end of this dark, responsibility-filled tunnel. The worst part? I made this mess. 

Today, as I was thinking about this stupid thing called adulthood, I wondered why I am so stunted. Why are my finances such a wreck? Why don’t I have a degree yet? Why am I living in a less than ideal, but cheap little room instead of my Pinterest-inspired dream apartment? Why don’t I have a puppy? Why don’t I have friends who want to hang out all the time? Why don’t I have a boyfriend? Why can’t I afford to keep gas in my car or food in my tiny cabinet? And why on earth am I the only one who seems to be struggling?!?!

It was a humbling moment when I sat down and answered myself.

Me.

Sure, rough times happen, but there is no one to blame but myself. I spent too much money at World Market and that’s why I am not eating dinner tonight. I slacked off in school and blamed it on “lack of support” and now I don’t have a degree. I am terrible at saving money and that’s why I now share a teeny-tiny house with a family, 2 cats, a bird, a hamster, and a corn snake. I have eliminated my privilege to choose a privileged life-style. Up until now I had somehow made myself believe that I would still be ok and come out on top even if I made bad decisions. Really, I think I convinced myself that my choices weren’t so bad. Today I woke up.

This alarm clock in no way cleans up any of my mess. Not in the least. I still have a negative balance in my bank account, no gas in my car, a flat tire on my bike, and a living space that makes me want to pitch a tent in the woods. But I also have a best friend who just got engaged, an interview with the Peace Corps, an incredible, though part-time, job at the Virginia Zoo, and a happy garden. Like I said, a mess. But it is my mess. I have to claim it. I have to clean it. I have to stop blaming others for it and I have to stop asking God when am I going to be ok? God gave me the ability to decide. He gave me a brain that can say “NO” to World Market and “yes” to breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

It all seems so silly when I bundle all my bad choices together. I need to overcome the desire for privilege. I want to be able to say yes to spending money on cute things; I want to drive my car; I want to eat out at that dimly lit and overpriced hipster restaurant; I want a cool phone that can do everything short of fly me to the Moon. You know how many of those things I need? Yea, none. I need stability. I need balance. I need food. And it has taken me waaaaaaaay too long to figure this out. I’m sure it has always been in the back of my head but was always overpowered by my desire for style and an easy life.

Well, now I am trying to sell most of what I own and am working 3 jobs that high-schoolers could probably get. I’m riding my bike 13 miles to get to work. This lesson is being learned. And that’s all I can do right now. Wallow and learn. Cry a little, throw a pity party, and then keep learning. Put some plants in the ground, hop on my bike, and learn a little more.

 

Young, Wild, and FREE

2013 was a dead end. There’s no better way to say it. There were highs, sure, but mostly life kind of just fell apart on me. The year ended in the worst heartbreak I’ve ever experienced. It was the kind of heartbreak that changes who you are. It wasn’t just the boy that broke me but school and finances too. Not to mention all three of these happened in the same week. At the end of that week I thought my future was over. Scratch that, for the last 3 months I’ve thought my future was over. Everything I wanted and thought I could achieve was gone. The perfect guy – nope. A degree within a decent amount of time – nope. Rent and other bills paid on time – ha, no.

I was done. My soul was small and my confidence was spent. I was extremely lonely and had nowhere to go. The worst part was that each of these broken things were my fault in one way or another. Especially school. I was angry. It is one thing to process pain when it isn’t your fault but to know that it was my own choices that got me here, well, it only made me ache deeper. I didn’t even want to talk to anyone because I knew it was my fault. I kept it in as a sort of punishment for making such bad decisions.

Now, I know these problems are small compared to what others go through. Trust me, I do know this. But is this a reason to belittle myself and ignore the prospect of healing? Never. The one piece of advice that I got from two people was something that I will keep with me forever. Its ok to be sad and angry. Its ok to throw things and wail and cry. When you lose something, mourn that thing. Heck, don’t even be graceful about it. Just do it. Heal. Let the process happen. “You were made for more” but you can’t get to the “more” part until you get past this part.

So that’s what I’ve done. I’ve tried to hold it in but instead I’ve just decided to throw things and cry. A quote that appears in my Pinterest feed every so often says “You will find that it is necessary to let things go simply for the reason that they are heavy.” I find this to be quite true. Once I realized that there was nothing I could do to change the events of that week from Hades I still held on. I was doomed and deserved the weight.

But, well, that’s not really true. “You were made for more,” she said. More. Life will not be what I planned, but it will be more than this. So, I decided to take a break and try a do-over.

I need to fall in love with life again. So I am leaving all these things that remind me of heartbreak and I’m heading out West. I’m actually not sure where at this point but a friend told me about this thing called WWOOF. It’s a network of organic farms that host volunteers. In exchange for labor the volunteer gets free room and board. Sounds awesome. So, that’s what I’m trying to do for the next few months. I want to learn more about things I love, like growing food, hiking, sustainability, being outdoors, and animals. I’ve dreamed of going to the Grand Canyon so that’s why I chose to head West. I leave in March and I have no clue what will come after. I do plan to get back in school, don’t worry! But I am not going to limit my experiences just to finish in a more traditional time frame.

Once I let go, I mean really let go, I realized that there is nothing here for me. I have no other logical place to go so I’m making up the steps to my own dance. I’m moving forward. My hope is that I heal and grow. I pray that I can find faith in a new way. I’m terrified of what’s next. I’ve gone out on a limb before but I’ve always had a plan B and usually C and D close behind. This time I have no reserves, just hope. I’m afraid to fail again and make more wrong choices. But forward is the only place I have left to go.

So, here I go.
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True love does not wait.

“True love waits.”

This catchy phrase defined my adolescent years, and to be honest, a few of my adult ones. Now I’m at the age where I feel like I’ve been “waiting” long enough. Where’s this guy that holds all the love I’ve been waiting for?! Did I miss something?!

Hell yea I missed something!

True love does not wait. It surrounds us. It always has and always will. Over the last few years this has been a hard lesson to learn. My brain has had to work really hard to re-establish how I picture and feel love. It is not romantic – its bigger than that. Now, I certainly do not believe I am meant to live a single life, but I don’t need a man in order to feel love. Love is my youth pastor who did more for my life than he’ll ever know. Love is in the face of the Ethiopian baby found in a dumpster, now infected with TB…she smiled like nothing was wrong in the world. Love is in the selfless Ghanaian teacher with no supplies who wakes up every morning to make hungry children laugh and sing. Love is the long and deeply personal talks in the darkness of the sketchiest hostel in the Czech Republic. Love is the honest words of a friend, “Be brokenhearted for a bit, mourn that piece of your heart you’ve lost.” Love is the unbreakable friendship that started on a road trip through the Smoky Mountains and then through the mountains of Romania. Love is that boy that turned my stomach into a butterfly zoo, even after he left. The list of love is infinite. Literally. Love is people and support and honesty and community. Its real. It is not a man (who, by the way, is probably not thinking about you. He’s probably watching football or farting or doing some other manly thing). Don’t get me wrong, you will see love in your man, but that is not the only place you will see it. Don’t limit the way you experience love like I have. Love is not waiting. You’re the one waiting. Stop it.

Love is here.

Share it. Take it. Wrestle it. Experience it. Throw it like confetti at a birthday party and let it fall. Don’t be stingy. And, most importantly, stop waiting for it.

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Wheresoever you go…

Take your time.

Breathe it all in.

Don’t consume yourself with busy. 

Be still. 

Breathe. 

Love.

Sometimes living can be quite distracting for me. Usually I want to be busy all the time but then I just get all stressed out and consumed by the busy. Sometimes, most of the the time, I need to just calm down. But its more than just calming down. 

I got back from Romania a few months ago. I promised blog posts and updates and pictures along the journey but never got around to them. Sorry guys. But I have a confession, I didn’t pass up the blogs and photo editing because I was too busy. Instead I decided to enjoy every second of where I was when I was there. It was a difficult transition once I got to Romania. First of all, jet lag had my brain all sorts of confused. Then, we got our itinerary for the trip, I realized that a big chunk of our time was not planned for. So what was I supposed to do for those hot hours every afternoon? Why am I not busy? Why am I not moving? Give me something to DO!

Those spare hours made my experience a crazy kind of special. I connected with some of the most beautiful and surprising people that I wouldn’t have had I been busy. I was able to explore Romania and take in all the sights without being rushed. I wasn’t a tourist, I was an explorer. Wandering the streets, inhaling the city smells and waiting for the cows to cross the dirt road, were some of my best moments in Romania. 

Don’t get me wrong, the children were wonderful. We held “club” most weekdays with elementary age children and boy did we have fun. Children are the same no matter what language they speak, how dirty their feet are, or what their home is like. They all want to be kids. They want to laugh and smile and play and, of course, they want to cause trouble. 

Now that I’ve been home for a few months I’ve realized that something crazy. I take me wherever I go. Let that sink in for a second. I know it doesn’t sound all that crazy. I swear I don’t have split personality disorder. I went to Romania hoping for change. All sorts of change. I wanted to change lives, I wanted to change minds, and I wanted to change myself. There’s a quote by Confucious that I learned of right before I left. It is pretty popular and it says, “Wheresoever you go, go with all your heart.” I loved it as soon as I read it. It sounded romantic and adventurous so I took it with me. However, my focus was on the “wheresoever you go” part. I want to go to so many places. Any place; fun places, challenging places, happy places, faraway places. About midway through week 2 in Romanina I started to hate this quote. I started to realize that if I wanted to be changed by my experience the second part of that quote was pretty crucial.

“Go with all your heart.”

All of it? Really? Some parts of my heart are pretty dark, sad and full of doubts and insecurities. I didn’t want to drag all of that to Romania. But I needed to. If I wanted my darkness to be truly changed by my experience I needed to  have it with me. If I wanted my insecurity to be changed into confidence that change needed to be a part of my experience, not separate. If I wanted God to wash away my doubts, those doubts needed to be sacrificed at the bottom of that dove painting above the altar at that tiny village church where we shred love with children living in poverty. Change would not happen if I didn’t take me wherever I went. All of me. I had to learn to let my experience affect me. I had to pause and take my time. I had to change.

And I did. Romania still affects me and I hope it always will. As I continue to build experiences on top of more experiences I hope they will all change me. Not for my sake but for Love’s sake.

So, always remember, that “wheresoever you go, go with all your heart,” allow your heart to be changed and affected and broken and healed. And take it all with you, always.

The fun part…

Great news! I have raised the money for the flight! A million thank yous to everyone who prayed and donated! The trip is less than  2 weeks away now and my heart is overwhelmed with excitement!

I just wanted to add a quick note to mention that we still have a small amount of raising to do for supplies and other travel costs. I still need to purchase travel insurance (they won’t let me go without it) and the team needs a few craft supplies. The insurance is $103 and I’m thinking the supplies for the whole team will be somewhere around $100. If you a surplus of anything in the list below and want to donate stuff (rather than money), shoot me a comment and I can email you my address. Keep in mind, we need at least 200+ of each of these things (except the soccer balls), so even if you only have a few of something, it WILL help us and save us money!

What we need:
Brown paper lunch bags
(for lion puppets)
colorful, but mostly orange and yellow tissue paper (also for lion puppets)
deflated sports balls, mostly soccer/kickball (because who doesn’t love some soccer at camp?)
Balloons – of every kind, i.e. normal, water, for balloon animals…
Key rings (for fishy shaped key chains)

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We all want these kids to have a blast at camp this summer. Most of the kids we’ll be working with don’t get an experience like this in their lifetime due to discrimination against the Roma people. We want to show them that God’s love does not discriminate.

Think back to when you were a kid – how did you know someone loved you? They spent time with you, they played with you, maybe they even gave you gifts. We are going to show God’s love through camp TAG and we would love for you to join us through things as small as a soccer ball. Send a note with your gift and we’ll be sure to pass it along!

Thank you for standing with me thus far! You are wonderful!

 

If you would like to contribute financially please use the “PayPal Donate” button on my previous posts. THANK YOU!  🙂