Friday, February 12, 2016

Glad I never got my treehouse

"How was it?" Those three, little, predictable words make me cringe as they generally signify two things: A) My adventures are over, and B) Now I must attempt to summarize them in one word or a few digestible sentences. (Don't get me wrong--I love telling the tales, it's just that it's helpful when people have more detailed questions 😁). For those of you insisting in the broader, generalized version of how it was, it was everything. It was awesome and it was awful. It was terrific and it was terrible. It was "wow" and it was woe. I was all aboard a roller coaster of emotions. And the radio was playing a slighted version of a classic, "Favorite Things":

Raindrops on everything cuz' it's rainy season,
Ants and Mosquitos and Maggots for no reason (it's the weirdest, GROSSEST story!),
Peeing outside and compost toilets NOT fit for a king,
These are a few of my UN-favorite things 😣

I grew to accept the geckos in my room. 

However, feeling isolated and alone during my two weeks in Malawi was harder to swallow. It was especially difficult to discern my place and purpose there as I didn't feel welcomed or comfortable. I felt like this was my mountain AFTER the mountain. Not another one! I'm not strong enough. I read this excerpt from Jesus Calling while I was there volunteering. 
     "Be willing to go out on a limb with Me. If that is where I'm leading you, it is the safest place to be. Your desire to live a risk-free life is a form of unbelief. Your longing to live close to Me is at odds with your attempts to minimize risk. You are approaching a crossroads in your journey. In order to follow Me wholeheartedly, you must relinquish your tendency to play it safe."

That hit it right on the head. I asked for this limb by name. I begged God to send me to this picturesque haven that seemed perfect on the computer. He listened and sent. I followed. I was willing. And as soon as I got there, that limb felt very flimsy and unsettling. You realize just how uncomfortable climbing trees are in the first place and the risks involved. You could fall and break a leg. You could scratch your elbow. You could poke your eye out with a pointy branch. It could happen 😜 Immediately I wanted to be in the comfy, carpeted treehouse. I wanted to drink my warm tea with the contentment of being on solid ground. But on the limb I had to stay for at least those few weeks. On the limb that was flimsy enough to test my trust but had ALWAYS been sturdy enough to support me. And not to mention offer me incredible views and the platform to jump and fly. 

This goes without saying, but, it's HARD to be uncomfortable! However, at the same time, it very much draws you to growth. Being uncomfortable helps you see things in new ways and be forever grateful for things not usually even on your radar, like flushing toilets, hand soap and the feeling of being clean. While my experience in Malawi wasn't quite what I expected, one thing remained constant: God provided. He sent me an angel named Evelyn on the bus to help me at a time of need. He sent me prayer partners back home to continually encourage me day after day. He sent me gorgeous scenery. 

Moreover, He sent me to the prison, of all places, to find Him in the most powerful way. I never would have expected that. Those guys I met in the prison had the most reverence and wisdom of anyone I met in my two weeks there. The scripture reading today says, "When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’" 

I saw God there. I felt Him. I talked about Him there, but more than that, I talked with Him. I sang with Him. I couldn't help tearing up each time I went there as I realized in humbleness that we are ALL sinners. We are all on the same page and we are all in need of mercy. My experiences in the prison were worth my moments of mild discomfort in my time in Malawi. He filled my heart full and sustained me throughout my time. It was worth it.

So I owe Africa a thank you. Thank you for your gorgeous skies. Thank you for entertaining me with views of playing monkeys while using the toilet outside. Thank you for the opportunity to see my first moon rise and increasing my appreciation and interest in stargazing. Thank you for quenching my thirst with your Carlsberg beer and demonstrating what a relaxed attitude and pace really look like. Thank you for your golden, delicious mangos and your super-sweet pineapples. Thank you for turning me more vegetarian after riding in a boat with a live chicken that was supposed to be my lunch (I refused to eat my new friend and ate rice and veggies instead.) Thank you for showing me that less is truly more and how joyful and content people can be who have almost nothing. Thank you for helping me perfect my peeing-outside technique and saving me from ever seeing a snake while doing so.) Last but certainly not least, thank you for increasing my tolerance level far beyond my expectations and helping me to remember how brave and strong I am. 

Now when I think about that flimsy tree limb God was calling me on, I'm thankful I never got my comfortable treehouse. God desired my trust. I followed, hesitant at times. What happened in the end surprised me. He didn't strengthen the flimsy branch, but instead he strengthened me so I could hold on for the wild ride.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

My Everest

Monday, Jan 11, 2016- Day 1 of hiking Mt. Meru in Tanzania is in the books! AND no one feels completely miserable...yet. The coolest experience was seeing giraffes in the wild as we were just starting our climb. We also saw lots of monkeys, bushbacks (similar to deer), and some buffalo roaming the open plain. The climb was nice and easy at first and then, like the altitude, slowly elevated and made us winded. We hiked a total of 5 hours in the Arusha National Forest and saw Mt. Meru hovering over us as we climbed. It was nice to feel so small next to God's creation. I'm praying that I stay mentally strong and that my sore feet last the journey. I'm excited to break out the letters of encouragement I gathered from a few friends/family as a surprise to the other three girls. We have a steep 3-hr ascent starting in the am and our armed ranger, Milton, and guide, Freddie, will be leading the way (and their b.o. wafting 😣). I took my first bucket bath alongside my friend (HELLO, BONDING EXPERIENCE!) and then we had a nice dinner of leek soup, fried fish, potatoes, steamed veggies and warm tea   (All supplies, cookware, and our backpacks were carried up by our gracious porters-- most of them using their heads!) We were thankful to head back to our room (called Bushpig!) to call it a night. Bushpigs for life, forever oinking with my gals Chrissi, Jenny and Rachel. We are ready for more. Bring it on, Day 2.

Tuesday, Jan 12, 2016- Holy literal shit! How the bathrooms have gone back in time! Now we must teach ourselves to poop in a hole from a semi-standing position. My most primitive experience yet 😳 I am officially and most definitely outside my comfort zone. We started the day around 6:30am thanks to the loud African birds and humans, too 😉. Rachel gave us a pep talk, Mama Viviano inspired us via the letters and I prayed Psalm 121 for our journey during our breakfast of eggs, avocado and pancakes with PB and banana. We hiked STRAIGHT UP for 4 hours -3,000 ft- (thanks for your dedication to the cause, lungs!) and shared lots of heart along the way. I can't believe how well we are tolerating being at 12,000 ft! As if that wasn't enough, Jenny and Chrissi hiked Little Meru while Rachel and I rested, read, exchanged massage and prayed for positive attitudes. It was raining and foggy during their entire 2-hr hike so we expected the worst when they got bank but they blew us away with their smiles and great outlook. We are calling it a very early night (aka earliest I've ever gone to bed.ever.) as we have to wake at midnight for breakfast and hiking SUMMIT starts at 1am!!!! Nervous about tomorrow!

Wednesday, Jan 13, 2016- What a crazy bad dream of a day, starting at midnight when they woke us for our breakfast of cookies and peanut butter. At 1am, we set off into the pitch-black starry sky with headlamps glowing and started out supposed-to-be-5-hours-but-turned-out-to-be-7-hour hike to the summit of Mt. Meru, Africa's 5th tallest mountain with a height of 14,980 ft. HOLY HELL! Hardest physically/mentally/emotionally/spiritually demanding day the 4 of us have ever had in our lives!! I definitely did not think I was going to make it to the top many, many, many times throughout the journey. But all 4 of us pushed well beyond our physical and mental limits and did the impossible. That was my Everest. It will always be. No other day has ever been that hard. It was BRUTIFUL. I would classify the "hike" as a combo of: rock-climbing, scaling, bouldering, climbing and mountaineering all in one. It.was.insane. Absolutely insane. We walked the first 6 hours in darkness (so happy as then we couldn't see how high, tough, scary, dangerous, etc, that we could see on the way back 😢) and imagined the scene of the Three Wise Men as they followed the bright star just as we followed the lit headlamps of fellow hikers in the distance and the brilliant stars in the night sky. All of us ended up crying, laughing, and praying desperately along the way. The letters of inspiration were crucial at this point as we rallied to the tune of "Toasties to the Top" [insert laughter and renewed hope] from our beloved Allison and repeated "inch by inch, life's a cinch" thanks to our dear friend's mom. I prayed like I've never prayed before. We sang, told stories, inspired/affirmed each other and were constant reminders of love, strength, and bad-assery...for 7 hours straight up and then 3.5 hours back down. By the grace of God and beautiful, pink, healthy lungs, we all made it to the top!!!! We were only allowed a few pics and 10 min top to collect our delirious selves and muster the strength to undo all that we just did!!!! Then it was back down the hellish, rocky boulder terrain of quicksand and around the "knife edge" wall only equipped with a chain link to prevent one from plummeting to his death. But God didn't let our feet stumble. And He indeed was our strength. So thankful for our Christ-like porters Tobias and Morris and their gentle, compassionate souls that assisted us in our journey, the tricky parts of the route and in carrying our things. They also did their part of inspiring us and singing us songs in return. So blessed to have them as I know I could NOT have done it without them. Once we made it back down to our camp, we got to rest an hour, eat lunch and then pack up to HIKE ANOTHER 3 HOURS!!!! 14 hour day on 3 hours of sleep with barely any nutrition and no water for the 2nd half as it ran out, with aching knees and feet from very steep descents and stone paths. Oh, and pouring down rain to top it off! Jenny coined it well- we all will likely have low-grade PTSD after this day. What a grueling feat that made me so damn proud of myself and my kick-ass gal pals!! We are so ready to get off this majestic mountain and NEVER do anything of the sort EVER AGAIN!!!

Thursday, Jan 14, 2016- I'm actually sad to leave the company of our awesome porters, chef, and climbing crew but my feet are so ready to get off this damn mountain. David, our our Good Earth Tours office guy, met us back at the original hotel for a 'chit-chat' and said there were a few changes--no safari game drive today (good! I probably would have slept through it!), but because of that, we have been UPGRADED to a 4-5 star hotel!!!! This is the most luxurious place I've ever stepped foot! What a beautiful change in pace, cleanliness and pampering!!! It felt like someone just handed me a million bucks! They greeted us with cool, CLEAN washcloths, a glass of champagne, cookies and the friendliest, brightest smiles 4 exhausted hiker girls ever did see! Our hilarious safari guide "Bushbaby" accompanied us and will start up the Land Cruiser in the am. Alas, tonight is time enough for the most rewarding and thorough shower, leg-shaving, 5-course meal, wine, and connecting with back home and the outside world. I'm in a blissful state as I drift to sleep in a king-sized bed with a mosquito canopy net, wood-fire burning in the room and warmed sheets. This is NOT real life, but tonight I will most definitely take it :)

Friday, January 8, 2016

Déjà vu

This is my sentiment as I pack up today for a month of Africa. A month of unknowns, likely hardships and moments way outside the comfort zone, insecurities, anxieties, fear, pain, etc. Five years ago today, I was packing for a year of service volunteering in an orphanage in poverty-stricken Peru. When I feel like I have experienced this moment before, it's because I actually have. It's so easy to let anxiety lead the show, take the ropes, steer the wheel, make decisions (or avoid making decisions) because of fear. Five years ago as I was readying myself for the adventure, I had some blips along the way too--poor planning and feeling disorganized--to the point of misplacing my passport and needing to postpone my trip in order to find it!!! I was so pissed at myself. Fast-forward to current day: poor planning and disorganized mess= scrambling at last minute, feeling like a human stress ball over trying to get a new location to volunteer and getting sick from all the stress. But what a lesson in having HOPE and seeing God's faithfulness YET AGAIN. When you leave room for Him to work and expect miracles (thank you, Allgeyers), it becomes SO evident that it was NOT YOU who made it happen! Looking back in the rear view mirror of my life, He's always come through. 100%. I'm definitely leaving room in my backpack for God- I would hate to attempt an adventure without Him. I'm counting on His grace to fix whatever I screw up! 😜

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Another year older and wiser (so I think!)

Ready or not-- the big 3-0 happened. I'm actually ok with it. Even though I'm not married with a baby on the way (like I pictured myself at 30 a ways back), I am embracing where I am in life and what is in store for me still. I've picked up some insight along the way and decided to compile it. So here's 30 lessons from my 30 years. Can't wait for the next 30!

1. There is ALWAYS, no matter what moment in life or time, something to be grateful for.

2. A few deep breaths can help in any situation.

3. A massage can make any day FABULOUS!

4. I feel happier/nicer when I exercise and eat right.

5. My mom bakes pure, genuine love into chocolate chip cookies, and I aspire to that.

6. Some days you just need a pedicure to help you feel pretty.

7. Singing is one of my biggest passions; it is one small, easy thing I can offer to anyone at anytime.

8. Making people smile and laugh absolutely makes my day.

9. The world is not fair. That sucks.

10. My day is fuller when I start it with prayer.

11. My nieces have given me some of the most joy-filled moments of my life...but I am still sooooo far from being ready for kids of my own.

12. My year-long service opportunity in Peru has taught me more valuable life lessons than I still have even processed.

13. Every day is another chance to get outside of your comfort zone.

14. I am worth the small indulgences of having fresh flowers in my room, a delicious-smelling candle burning, fancy perfume on-- just because.

15. I can ALWAYS be better at loving.

16. I never knew the impact my grandparents would have on me; I still tear up just thinking about them.

17. Whenever I'm sad, I know of 3 sure-fire ways to get me out of my funk: volunteering, playing with puppies and spending time with children.

18. Life is too short to not travel to as many places as possible.

19. Each person has a very unique story to tell. Stop long enough to listen and they might just tell you the exact thing you needed to hear!

20. The more I learn about life and love, the less material stuff matters.

21. I'd rather be fulfilled by my job rather than my paycheck.

22. Life is a lot easier once you accept your flaws, your past, yourself.

23. Truly living life is much more entertaining than watching other people do it on tv.

24. It is not possible to fill other people up when you haven't filled yourself up first-- and this starts with drawing on God for love and patience.

25. If you do the same thing you always do, you get the same thing you always got.

26. Don't underestimate the power of simple joys: beautiful weather, your favorite song coming on the radio, a great parking space that opens up at the perfect time, etc.

27. If you don't know how to fully resolve a situation, an "I'm sorry", home-made baked goods, and a solid hug can't hurt.

28. Sometimes you need a few days of watching daytime television to make you WANT to go back to work again!

29. I couldn't have gotten to where I am without my amazing parents and awesome community of friends.

30. God ALWAYS provides- maybe not in the way we expect or want, but He always follows through for our higher good.

Look at me! I'm 30 and in a kimono!

My amazing friends that came out to celebrate me! How lucky and blessed am I?! Thanks for all the birthday love!

Location:St. Louis, MO

Friday, April 6, 2012

Jelly beans vs. Salvation

What is the very first thing you think about when you hear the word 'Easter'? Just like that ink-blot test, you don't get time to reflect and choose which word you THINK you should think-- but really...did you say Peeps? Easter bunny or basket? Cadbury eggs? Jelly beans? Robin eggs? The media, grocery stores, and shopping malls have brainwashed us into thinking that Easter is ONLY about those aforementioned things, or at least the first thing that many think about. I am equally disgusted and saddened. What about God proving His unconditional love for us by dying a gruesome death? I never saw that image on an Easter egg. Or how about Him bearing all of our sins so we can have a shot at eternal life?? That makes me feel a whole lot better than a bite of a Reese's egg. Tonight at the Good Friday service at church, I was so overcome with emotion, thinking of Jesus' ultimate sacrifice, dying even for the people who were flogging him, spitting at him, insulting him, and making him bleed to death. There was no "guarantee" that these people would eventually come around and love Him and thus, making it "worth it". It was loving without expecting a SINGLE THING in return. I looked like I was cutting onions during the service--my facial fountain was flowing! But I was thinking, in the rare incidence that someone should ask me why I'm crying, I would say, "Why AREN'T you???" This is my Savior that was just brutally murdered on a piece of wood for no reason, except to prove His tremendous love for us. If I can produce a few tears while watching The Biggest Loser (I know--I'm a big loser!) or reading a fiction novel, why shouldn't I show at least a LITTLE emotion at the death of The Lord of Love?! Are we THAT distracted? Are we THAT hardened? Are we so disconnected from our center and core reason for being? But as you know, this story does not end in tears, but in uncontainable joy!!!!! Jesus has risen!!!! Some of us are living like that fact has no relevance or affect on them. He has the power to change your life if you let Him. If you thought Peeps, Cadbury eggs, Robin eggs, Reese's eggs, and chocolate bunnies were good, those things got NOTHIN' on Jesus! Get ya' some Jesus this Easter! Love, peace, and Easter joy to all!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

I'm goin' to Trujillo in my mind

Generally speaking, I would say my mind drifts back to Peru and my experiences there almost once a day. What a profound impact that special place and those precious people have had on my heart! It took a little while to adjust back to "American standards", but I have to say, it's not too difficult to get sucked back into going 90 miles an hour, overcommitting, and buying things you don't need. I've felt this blog coming on for awhile, but literally "have been so busy"...I hate that excuse. It's so overused and keeps you from really giving 100% to all the "yes's" in your lives that you want to commit to. The ability to stop, breathe, blog, reflect,etc, was not something I had to think about in Peru; there was way more free time than I almost knew what to do with. Here, it's a little different: juggling four different kinds of work I enjoy, spending time with family and friends, training for a 1/2 marathon, ensuring my dog gets her walks, volunteering, and all the other daily happenings. If I don't intentionally stop and make time, I will get sucked up like I used to pre-Peru. Just having this awareness is powerful. As an occupational therapist, I'm constantly telling my patients to stop activities in the middle, before they are finished, to breathe, take a break, conserve their energy. I realized I can apply my own teaching to myself and my life! How often do I stop and do that? To breathe in some fresh air, to take a nice run under a sherbet-colored sky, to be truly present during conversations without checking your cell phone or even texting during it! I'm GUILTY. However, we have the power over our own choices and decisions. Last week, I made a conscious choice to cancel a previously-planned event with two friends because I desperately saw my dire need to stop before crashing and burning. I'm starting to listen to both my body and soul and hear the whispers of God I usually can't hear because I am moving at the speed of light. The world is too loud. Take a moment and just be still in the silence. At first, it may be awkward. We feel the need to fill it with radio, noise, texting, tv. But just for a minute- be still and know of God's presence and love for you.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:St. Louis, MO

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Eagle has landed!!

Well, actually I landed one month ago, but I guess I'm still on "Peruvian time." My Christmas elf greeters made the transition from a bizillion hours on an airplane to home sweet home even sweeter. I am soooo lucky!

I even got the pleasure of hanging around Santa.

Getting fancy for New Year's Eve with some fabulous ladies...

2012--BRING IT!

While I miss my niños and volunteer family dearly, I am feeling so blessed with each passing day. God is really loving me through amazing friends, family, and opportunities. I am asking God to embrace me as I surrender to Him and uncertainty. Thank you all for your support and prayers.

Machu Picchu

Kelly held a little lamb, little lamb, little lamb. Two days old to be exact.

More holding of lambs...

Picturesque Lake Titicaca

In a home-made reed boat near the Floating Islands

From the Lou' and I'm PROUD!


One of my favorite pictures I took

More pictures to post later--give me another month!

Location:St. Louis, MO!