Category Archives: My Stories

When Healing Isn’t What You Thought

Disclaimer: this is a little long and pretty honest, so read at your own discretion.

“I, too, have known years of waiting – years of hoping and praying and dreaming of a cure no doctor could offer, years of waiting for a healing encounter with Jesus. Every new morning  was a reminder that I was promised no healing and guaranteed no end stamp on the condition I carried. . .It was in the middle of these questions and prayers and confusion that I found myself waiting for a God I couldn’t always make sense of or understand. But I met him in the waiting. And for me, that changed everything.” Ann Swindell, Still Waiting 

Every time I get my period without medication, it’s a miracle. Like a “Jesus really came through” miracle. Not the kind that is easy to talk about, but still glorious nonetheless. I want to share with you why.

I got my first period right after my thirteenth birthday.

And as you should be at thirteen, I was so excited. It meant I was less of a kid and more like my twenty-year-old babysitter who I thought was pretty much the coolest person since Hilary Duff.

This was my face after realizing my period had started up again in the airport before our trip to Europe. Shoutout to my grandma who found pads at an airport kiosk! Little did I know that my period wouldn’t stop for another 5 weeks.

I didn’t get my second period until months later. And it lasted for six weeks. Six weeks. That’s six weeks of PMS, cramps, and hormone levels, on top of my already crazy adolescent emotions. Tired, overwhelmed, and anemic, I saw the only gynecologist who would take on a thirteen year old. Pitying the poor, exhausted girl in front of her, I was put on the strongest birth control she could prescribe. It seemed like a one-stop-shop answer.

As the months went by and my birth control prescription kept changing because of insurance, it became alarmingly apparent that something wasn’t working. I had noticed a little weight gain and increased lethargy, but it was my emotions that proved to be the most concerning. I was on high levels of synthetic hormones and, at fourteen, I was self-aware enough to realize that something felt very, very wrong. When asked by my parents, I would describe myself as feeling detached, apathetic, and unaware. I felt like I was watching my life instead of living it, like I was in a daze or a dream. I didn’t seem to care about anything in a life that, months before, had been vibrant and energetic. I found myself wanting to sleep as often as possible, though often struggling with insomnia at night. There were daily headaches. Hot flashes. The need to hide my birth control from my church friends to avoid being questioned.

By fifteen, doctors were concerned enough to take an ultrasound and fifteen vials of blood. As they massaged the ultrasound machine over my abdomen, my thoughts were less about my impending diagnoses and more about how awkward it was going to be when I peed all over the examining table. I made it out of the examining room sans embarrassment and waited for answers.

“We don’t really know what is wrong. But you probably have PCOS.”

PCOS, or polycystic ovarian syndrome, is an endocrine disorder that affects 1 in 10 women. As a syndrome, the diagnosis comes from your symptoms and there is no cure. It’s categorized by cysts on your ovaries, irregular periods, weight gain, insulin resistance, anxiety, depression, insomnia, digestive issues, and infertility. I was like the poster child for genetically inherited PCOS. It varies in strength and affects every woman uniquely and individually.

It’s hard to struggle with things that aren’t visible. Most PCOS symptoms aren’t, and the ones that are, like weight gain, can always be blamed on something else. When you acting irritable, exhausted, and anxious, it’s easy for people to write it off as annoying. It’s harder for people to “get it,” to believe that something really is off, when they can’t see it. And when it’s attached to inherently female issues and hormones, it can make people a tad uncomfortable.

at a dance competition in 2009

So, silently and often alone, I tried to fix it myself. I kept a journal. I spent time with Jesus. I tried to maintain friendships. I ate healthy. I danced competitively. But despite my best efforts, I still did not feel like myself and I continued to gain weight.

And that began to cause other problems. Dance teacher’s told me that if the XL leotard didn’t fit that they would have to special order a bigger size. We would be measured for costumes and our measurements would be called out, which all the girls would later compare. We’d try on our booty shorts and, while everyone else complained that theirs were falling off, I struggled to make mine not look like they were tailor-made for a stripper. Friends would bring cupcakes for their birthday and I would feign a stomach ache. Without realizing it was happening, my world suddenly became about how I looked, what I weighed, and what I ate. Getting a solo or mastering a triple pirouette didn’t seem to matter when I heard girls snickering about how I was the biggest in the company. My crushes were exploited for laughs and my body was used as a punchline.

My medical diagnoses swirled with the reality of my teenage life into a perfect storm of disordered eating. I would go hours without eating. I would count calories. Skip meals. I would come home from hours at dance to do more workout videos. On occasion, I’d jam a toothbrush down my throat to try and make myself throw up. Then, when I got hungry, I often found that I couldn’t stop – I’d binge on a whole jar of peanut butter or pack of cookies. And I’d beat myself up about it, crying myself to sleep and vowing to do better tomorrow.

junior year of college, hiking in Colorado, on a new medication and feeling very sick

When I lost weight, people would comment. When I gained weight, people would comment. Everyone had an opinion on my body and everybody had an opinion on PCOS: if you lose weight, it’ll go away. Everything will stabilize if you would just lose 10, 15, 20lbs. One gynecologist even suggested that I tried belly dancing, offering that maybe my weight gain was just a workout plateau. I tried every medication – ones to help stabilize my hormones, ones to help lose weight, ones to help with insulin resistance, ones to help regulate my period, ones to help with my headaches or insomnia. But none of it worked.

 

With every new doctor, every new lab result, and every worsening symptom, I kept crying out to Jesus: Why won’t you just heal me?

He healed the woman with the problem of blood and all she had to do was touch His clothes. My problem felt eerily similar and yet, month after month, the headaches, the weight gain, the mood swings, the insomnia, the irregular periods journeyed with me. Jesus, in your power and for your glory, won’t you please heal me?

That is still my prayer.

For me, full healing still hasn’t come.

But the funny thing about healing is that it doesn’t take completeness to see miracles. It doesn’t take victory on the other side to assure you of Christ’s presence with you in it. In a season that reminds us of the blessings of God in the midst of waiting (advent), I’ve come to see my journey of healing the same way.

Because while PCOS, it’s associated symptoms, and the remnants of my teenage eating disorder still creep their way into my daily life, I’ve found healing in vulnerability. I’ve found healing in people who believed me, who didn’t tell me to try not eating after 7pm to lose weight, but instead cried with me as I told them my story. Who believed that when I told them that I was experiencing gut-wrenching stomach pain or that I couldn’t fall asleep until 2am, that I wasn’t exaggerating.

I’ve found healing in giving myself freedom, in the permission to both enjoy my life and be honest about my physical pain or emotions, especially when they mean leaving a situation. I’ve found physical things that work – vitamins that help supplement low levels, always having ibuprofen on hand, watching silly TV shows when I can’t sleep, or not eating breakfast until later in the day.

I’ve found healing in clinging to Jesus when the day feels long, stress emphasizes my symptoms, I can’t fit into an old pair of jeans, or it all just feels like too much. I let Him take my tears and frustration and anger. An incomplete healing propels me closer to my Savior, as I put my hope and expectancy in Him and the empathy He demonstrated on the cross.

My story of healing isn’t over, but in reality, none of our stories of healing are over. I know, with full confidence, that all Jesus would have to do is say the word and my cystic ovaries would look shiny and smooth. My wacky hormone levels would be balanced. My sleepless nights would be peaceful and I wouldn’t need carry a sweater around in the summer. But if that never happens, it doesn’t make Him less loving or faithful.

cliff jumping in Turkey, in the summer of 2017 – living into the freedom and hope of life in Christ

For as much as I believe that the Lord can heal my PCOS, I know now that He may not. I may never have biological children. I may always get headaches, have digestive problems, struggle with insomnia, and find myself unable to regulate my weight. But you know what? That isn’t the worst thing because it, quite literally, keeps me clinging to Jesus. I recognize, everyday, that I cannot do this without Him.

My hope is in the healing and redemption of eternity, not of this life.

My hope is in my risen Christ.

I won’t be living in a redeemed body until I’m standing before my Jesus, face to face. And if that means I have to carry PCOS in my bones (or, more accurately, my reproductive organs), for the rest of my life, that’s okay. He gets to

chose the story that brings Him glory. And, as He’s proven time and time again, He is faithful.

Holidays in Ministry

I remember coming home from Palm Sunday service in April, with a full and exhausted heart. I shuffled through the front door of my college house, hands full of overflowing tote bags, into what was an equally full kitchen. I remember being greeted with a dozen high-pitched welcomes and rapid-fire questions that I’d grown to expect (and now miss): How was church? Were you teaching? How’d it go?

The conversation quickly shifted back to the previous topic: the sweetness that everyone had experienced at their Palm Sunday services. Friends talked about how they’d cried when the children skipped down the aisles, waving palm branches. They commented on how moving the presentation of the story had been, how tangible the Spirit was during worship, and how relevant the sermons had been. Partaking in communion during holidays usually carries a different weight.

I just listened, laughing to myself. That hadn’t quite been my experience…

I don’t know what our palm processional looked like because I was in the back, consoling a crying toddler and convincing my middle schoolers that waving palms was still cool. I found myself in the middle of a palm branch duel between brothers, being smacked by the branches as I threatened to take them away. I ran, in my heels, to find extra palms (or, let’s be real, probably a stick from the parking lot) because, inevitably, someone didn’t get one.

For everything that’s moving, beautiful, and meaningful in a church service, there’s someone behind it who’s making it happen.

I’m specifically talking about ministry-related events here, but the principle extends further: at stores, restaurants, events – whatever it is that we’re experiencing, there’s someone on the other end who is doing all they can to make it happen.

That isn’t to say they don’t love their job. It isn’t to say that people are bitter about what they’re missing or that they are dying to be appreciated (if they are, maybe it’s time to give them a break). This isn’t a complaint about spending my Palm Sunday morning playing games with pre-teens; believe me when I say I loved every bit of it. My Christmas Eve will be spent as the liaison between the middle schoolers who we’re letting plan the program and the kids they’ll be directing in it. But I’m pretty sure I’m living the dream here. I’m choosing to have youth group on my birthday because I love what I do. 

I love my students more than I ever thought possible. I love watching them fall in love with Jesus. I love watching them play stupid games, care about re-decorating their youth room, or hanging out with each other after service. How can this not be the best job in the world?

It’s not a complaint.

It’s just a reminder not to forget.

Don’t forget the people who are working behind the scenes. Don’t forget that the things you enjoy, the things that are causing you to meet Jesus – they don’t just happen.

For every beautiful children’s program, there’s a tired, overworked (and probably really happy) children’s director. For every craft or candle that gets passed out, for every giving tree tag that you pull off, there’s someone behind the cutting, glueing, and assembling. For every moving sermon and powerful worship set, there’s a pastor, worship pastor, and any number of people running the AV system. For every service that is made reverent and special by the removal of your kids, there’s someone whose missing service to watch and teach them. They’re probably missing the holiday, or at the very least, the church service, with their family.

It’s lesson planning, lots of Dollar Tree runs, papers all over the bedroom floor, too many questions and decisions, weekend work days, justification for buying reusable tote bags every time you stop at the grocery, and too many hugs, laughs, and sweet moments to count.

It’s a whole lot of the faithfulness of the Lord. And a whole lot more of His grace.

If you’re in ministry, I hope that you love what you do. I hope that it feels like the very gift that it is.

We wouldn’t trade it for the world.

And, we love hearing that you find what we’re doing meaningful and moving. Just don’t forget that we didn’t experience it like you did. Be gracious in the way you speak and be cognizant of the subconscious reality of making those in the background feel like they’re missing out. We may not talk about the sermon, the program, the worship, or the processional, but it’s encouraging to hear that you met the Lord in it.

We’d also love to talk about our students, the craziness of the morning, or that we met Jesus too, if you’d like to listen. Sometimes, all we need is someone to get as excited about memory verses, new technology, or an injury-free event as we are.

With another busy, holiday season, where things in ministry tend to pick up instead of slow down, remember to be kind. Encouragement, gratitude, and just simple noticing goes further than you might think.

There’s a lot that goes into the 5 minute video that you’ll see on Sunday morning. Someone is making a last minute sprint into the grocery to pick up items for communion. The handouts that you’re getting, the graphic on the screen, and the quietness of a service sans children – yep, someone is behind all of that.

Managing the program. Putting together the videos. Troubleshooting the unforeseen challenges. Teaching students about what it means to love Jesus. Sometimes it feels rewarding, sometimes it feels thankless. Sometimes we come through that door on cloud nine, amazed at the works of the Lord, and sometimes we come ready for sweatpants and a nap, unsure if we’re making a difference.

Holidays, when your life is ministry, can look quite different. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

How to Navigate Transition

I just fell down the stairs. I was walking downstairs to make a cup of coffee, my drug of choice for writing a month’s worth of Sunday School lessons, and I slipped. It’s been awhile since that happened and I forgot just how terrible it is. I slid my way down half the staircase until finally running into the closed door at the bottom. It was loud, it was ungraceful, my cloth pants only added to the speed at which I was tumbling, and more than anything it hurt.

Because drawing an analogy may give some meaning to the pain I’m currently experiencing . . .

. . . sometimes transition feels like suddenly slipping down half a flight of stairs.

You think it’s all going okay until a few steps down and suddenly you’ve spontaneously lost your footing. Once you start slipping, panic and frustration set in, as you find yourself seemingly unable to stop the fall. So you brace yourself for the crash.

Part of why I hate falling down the stairs, aside from the obvious things like throbbing pain and sacrificing my dignity, is that I know it doesn’t have to be that way. I’ve done staircases enough to know they can be done with grace and poise. More than that, I’ve seen enough movies to know there’s nothing better than the feeling of walking down a spiral staircase in a ballgown and having the whole room freeze and turn to watch you descend. I may not have had that experience yet, but I’m convinced it exists and that I need a staircase for it. Not only does walking down stairs not have to be a bad experience, it can actually be a great one.

elevator-suitcaseTransitions don’t have to feel like falling down a flight of stairs. It doesn’t have to be such that you feel yourself bracing for the impact of all that is new, overwhelming, and intimidating. Transitions don’t have to be bad and rough; they can even be wonderful, if you’re watching your footing before you step.

That doesn’t necessarily mean all transitions are going to be flawless. Sometimes you slip on the stairs even when you’re paying attention. We would have much fewer funny videos if people never fell down the stairs. Sometimes a hard transition leads to the kinds of funny, transformative, growing stories that change our lives or lives later on.

Here are three principles that give my life a sense of meaning and stability. I, as a 22-year old with limited life experiences have found these things helpful, and hopefully they can help you or give words to things you should pursue in walking through your next or current life transition:

  • My relationship with the Lord and a sense of His nearness in my life is foundational and going to change.

The one thing that has provided the most stability and peace in any transition is my relationship with the Lord and sense of His nearness. When my life is oriented towards His glory, no matter what is going on, there’s a bigger sense of purpose. In that, there are two reasons that I’ve noticed my relationship with God changes during transition, regardless of how big or small the transition actually is.

One of them is harder to articulate because it’s inherently unseen. The Spirit of God often feels different in different places. That’s not to say that God is changing or that His relationship to us is different, but there are spiritual realities present in lives and places that we can’t see. Verses like 1 Peter 5:8 and Ephesians 6:12 give us a sense of these unseen realities. My relationship with God felt different in Georgia than it does in Illinois, which is different than it was at Wheaton College, which is different than it felt when I visited India, which is different than it felt in Costa Rica. The Spirit of God isn’t changing but the spiritual realities of these places changed my emotional and sensory experience of my spirituality. It’s hard to explain because so much of what’s going on we won’t know this side of Eternity, but even just knowing that my relationship with God is going to feel different in different places gives me a peace and an elasticity in being okay with those changes. He may feel closer or farther away in certain places; that doesn’t necessarily mean His proximity has changed or that I’m doing anything wrong. It means it’s okay if it feels or looks different.

The other reason my relationship with God changes in transition is more concrete: often during transition, my routine changes. A new job may mean that mornings with the Lord aren’t as viable as they used to be, or that a 6am quiet time may feel harder than an 8am one. Sharing a room with someone may mean that late night worship sessions aren’t exactly respectful or hospitable. Moving away from friends may mean that spontaneous Bible study conversations aren’t as readily available. When the places that I engage with the Lord change, my experience of Him innately changes. While we may not be able to change the spiritual realities with anything other than prayer and a pursuit of discernment, we have direct control over the patterns, practices, and rhythms of our lives. Knowing the things that consistently bring you life and revitalize your relationship with Jesus are critical in transitioning into new schedules and routines. It may look different – the time, location, and structure may change – but if you know what your soul needs, you’ll be better able to build it in during transition and keep the foundation that’ll help with your footing.

  • The people in my life and my interactions with others give my life inherent meaning, regardless of whether they’re deep or momentary.

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I used to think that is was only the closest and deepest relationship that actually mattered and meant something to me, but as I’ve navigated transition, I’ve realized that it’s often whoever is standing in front of me that gives my life meaning. Things like doing work in a coffee shop so that I can interact with the barista, spreading out trips to the grocery store to talk to the clerk, working out in a popular gym, making small talk with people in the office, or listening to middle school student tell a joke make my life feel significant. These interactions don’t have to be profound; they often aren’t. They just have to be present. There’s something about standing face-to-face with another human being that gives life a sort of significance. Actively putting yourself in places where there are people naturally increases a sense of meaning, especially if you make the time and expend the energy to engage with them.

With that, taking the time to invest in deeper relationships is vital in navigating transition. Relationships take time, so take off the pressure and expectation that this needs to happen immediately. Beginning to develop meaningful relationships beyond a small talk conversation in the check-out line also gives life meaning. If this can happen before the throws and heat of the actual transition, it makes the process that much smoother. In that, don’t be afraid to let previous relationships change and shift. That doesn’t mean those relationships have to die – life-long friendships are an incredible blessing – but holding tightly to the relationships and connections of a previous season often hinders people from living into the new ones. Comparing the people of a new season to those of an old one only increases the challenge of stepping fully into what is new. Delve into new relationships with the understanding that they are not going to be the same as the people of your past, but they are critical in providing a sense of meaning and seeing what the Lord is doing in these new places.

  • An others-oriented perspective, direction, or projects shifts the focus off self and offers a sense of something bigger than just you.

Just because my relationship with God feels solid and I’m engaging with people doesn’t necessarily guarantee that a transition is going to feel smooth; both of those things can still be oriented towards me. In my experience, nothing offers a sense of meaning more holistically than focusing on others. It doesn’t have to be big and can literally be anything that orients you towards others. It can be something as simple as giving money towards something that you’re actively engaging the stories of – give towards a cause and then watch documentaries, videos, and talk with people about it. It can also look like volunteering or opening your home. Make it personal; let it be something that matters and something you enjoy. There’s lots of talk about doing things with a “savior” mentality or out of a sense of privilege, so guard yourself against that. But getting outside yourself and doing something that diverts your attention to someone or something other than you can return dividends in living with a sense of joy and purpose. Even just being aware of your co-workers, bringing them coffee because you noticed they had a hard day, or stopping to buy the homeless man on the corner a burger can offer a sense of life beyond your needs, wants, and hardships.

maddie

One more analogy for you. It’s too simplistic of a picture, since seasons, experiences, and relationships often overlap and affect one another, but it can be helpful in navigating transition: our lives are like a row of shelves and we get boxes for each season. Putting things in a new box is difficult when you haven’t completed the former one, capped it, and placed it on the shelf. If you keep looking through the old box or refusing to put it on the shelf, it only makes starting a new box that much harder. Begin a transition by giving yourself permission to sort through, celebrate, and lament that which is ending. Organize the box, label it, throw away that which doesn’t matter, and keep that which does – give yourself space to acknowledge what the Lord did beyond your expectations and that which went unfulfilled. It’ll make it easier to snap on the lid and focus your attention on what the Lord is giving you to put in the new box, whether the previous season was one of pain or blessing. Pulling out a new and empty box on the foundation of your relationship with Christ, knowing that it all may look and feel different, pressing into your interactions with people, and focusing on others and causes outside of yourself, will hopefully make it easier to begin filling and celebrating the new box and the work of the Lord in the new season.

Happy transitioning.

Stuck in Montreal

I’m currently avoiding two research papers, so I thought I’d engage in some good, old fashioned procrastination and tell a story. A couple weeks ago, I told you a little about what the Lord was doing in my heart over our Spring Break adventure to Europe. This is one of many stories from that trip. It’s not a deep or profound story, just a funny one. It’s the story of fourteen college students who were just trying to make it back to the States. Sit back, grab some popcorn, and enjoy a laugh on this dreary Thursday night.

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It was a spring break for the books. What had initially started as a few friends dreaming about a post-graduation trip had spiraled into this much larger group of best friends planning to galavant through Europe for twelve days in March. The week was jam-packed with six countries, thousands of miles of driving rental cars, a new hostel every night, and long days of sightseeing and skiing. By the morning of our departure from Belgium, we were exhausted but our hearts were content. The week had been full of the kind of laughter and memories that don’t fade with time.

A 5am wake-up call on Tuesday morning had us all packed up and ready to make the 3 hour drive from Brugge back to Brussels. Speeding through traffic, the biggest concern of the morning was whether or not we would make it back to the airport for an 8:30 rental car drop off. There were also concerns about whether or not people were going to be sick in the cars; traveling sickness, dinners that don’t sit well, and fervent driving made for some tense moments. Yet, consistent with the flawlessness of the rest of the trip, each of three cars made it to the airport on time. Saying goodbye to the one member of the crew with a different flight (which would be to his ultimate benefit), our group of thirteen settled down at our gate. We boarded our 10:30am flight from Brussels to Montreal.

Knowing all about jet lag, we knew not to fall asleep on the flight. There was some light dozing, especially given our general exhaustion and early wake-up, but we knew that we were going east-to-west. And we knew that it was daytime in Chicago. We had to stay awake to reset our body clocks. So we entertained ourselves with movies, conversations, and reminiscing about the trip. We rotated seats, found comfortable positions, and shared all the food we had stowed in our carry-ons. Towards the end of the six hour flight, attention shifted from entertainment to preparation; we had 45 minutes to make our connecting flight and everyone needed to be ready to go. No one was getting left behind. We were all going to make it back to Wheaton by 5:30pm. We’d be back in time for people’s Tuesday night classes (after all, we’d already missed the rest of Monday and Tuesday classes – per a calculated decision to visit Paris and Brugge).

The flight debarked and we jogged through Canadian customs to our next gate. Delayed. We hadn’t yet sat down when we got wind of the storm that was looming overhead. Rumors of canceled flights buzzed all around us and the airport quickly turned into a ghost town. Canceled. Deliberations about what we would do if the storm got worse began, while everyone maintained hope that it wouldn’t come to that. After talking to AirCanada representatives, we were all put on an 8pm flight, optimistic that they were still going to try and get flights out in what was quickly becoming a dangerous blizzard. It hadn’t even been an hour after getting our new boarding passes that we were informed that all flights out of Montreal had been canceled. We were definitely not making it back to Wheaton by Tuesday.

We were given taxi, meal, and hotel vouchers for the night. Deciding to enjoy the now empty terminal, we took our time at dinner, enjoying another night of being together. We picked up our checked bags that had never even made it onto another plane. Through Canadian customs again, we finally made our way to the taxi pick-up. Little could have prepared us for what we saw next – a line wrapping around the baggage claim terminal several times. Shocked, we asked around to see just what this line was for and how quickly it was moving.

It was the line to get a taxi. It was rumored to be four hours long.

9pm turned into 10pm, which turned into 11pm Montreal time. On our Belgium schedule, it was nearing 5am. We’d officially been up for over 24 hours. And you could tell. Everyone was losing it.

Taxis were having trouble getting through the blizzard, meaning they were coming infrequently. And there were a lot of people trying to get out of the airport. Committed to the idea of sleeping in a hotel bed, and having already waited for three hours without much progress, we ordered Ubers. They weren’t coming fast, but it was more promising than the taxi situation. Splitting up, we said goodbye to half the group and piled in an Uber XL.

17265106_10203060488990244_7776941568471860566_nWhat followed was the most surreal Uber experience of my life, aided by the sleep deprivation I was operating from. Our Uber driver insisted on keeping the windows open, to keep them from fogging. As we were being snowed on in the backseat, traffic turned what should have been a 15 minute drive into a 2 hour one. We barely moved outside of the airport terminal for the first 45 minutes. Even though the other group’s Uber had left after ours, not taking the highway had saved them several minutes. Although, at one point they had gotten stuck in a snow back and had to push the car, so I suppose it all evens out. When they reached the hotel, apparently they asked if we had checked in yet. Obviously, we hadn’t. The only logical assumption was that we had crashed and died. Yet, without international data plans, they had no way of contacting us. And we had no way of reassuring them that we were still just stuck, wet, cold, and sleepy on the highway.

After the most expensive Uber of our lives, we finally pulled up to the hotel. The lady behind the desk handed me a key. I grabbed my backpack and upon finding that we were unable to work the elevator, we hiked up to our room. My friend following close behind, I unlocked the door and flew into the room, wanting to crash upon the bed. Much to my surprise, there were already people in the beds. Hm. We’d been given keys to someone else’s room. Pushing my friend out the door, shh-ing her along the way, I dropped my stuff and ran back down the stairs. I was hysterical. Uncontrollable laughter made it difficult to form coherent words. I managed, between laughs, to get out that someone was already in that room. The woman asked if I was serious. I was. It was 2am. I was very serious.

We finally got to sleep. In a room without other guests.

The next morning, we made our way over to the airport bright and early, ready to get home and convinced we couldn’t miss our 1:00pm flight. At least it wasn’t snowing anymore. We hadn’t even all gotten through customs and security when talk began circling back – the flight had been canceled. Sitting at the gate of yet another canceled flight, we watched this time as a plane took off for O’Hare. Too bad all the flights were full. Too bad the airports were all backed up.

The kind AirCanada woman informed us that the next open flight was scheduled for 11:15am – on Thursday. Everyone lost it, in their own personal way. Anger. Tears. Silence. Verbal processing. This meant missing almost an entire week of classes, job interviews, meetings, and appointments. Our homework was hundreds of miles away and we were still stuck in Montreal. Going back through customs to the front desk, we inquired about hotel and meal tickets. Since it was only 2pm on Wednesday, we had a long way to go until Thursday.

One of the guys who’d planned the trip chatted with the woman. Was there anyway that any of us could get on a flight before Thursday? I’m not sure what happened in those fifteen minutes that he talked to this attendant, but somewhere, in his persistence, she found 9 seats on a flight from Montreal to Toronto, then Toronto to O’Hare. The catch? It was leaving in thirty minutes.

Like in a scene from a movie, we threw nine passports at this woman and proceeded to have nine passports and eighteen boarding passes thrown back at us. We exchanged them while we ran. She said she’d work on the rest of the paperwork but that we needed to go. Calling the gate, she demanded that they keep it open for the nine students who would be running up to it. Then we sprinted. Through security. Through customs. With all of our luggage, because there was no time to check anything. This motley crew of college students was not about to miss the flight. And we didn’t.

Now, one would think that’s where the eventful proceedings end, except that when we got to Toronto, settled into the gate fifteen minutes before boarding, there was an announcement over the loud speaker: can I please see MacMath, McDonald, Westergren, LaRusso, Bergthold, Fritz, McGee . . . That’s us. We shuffled over, like the desperate students we were. She asked if we had any of the necessary paperwork to get on the flight, besides the boarding passes; we didn’t. She said she’d work on it while they began boarding. The paperwork never came. Even though we had boarding passes, they wouldn’t scan without the other documents. Whether because they sensed our desperation or were convinced they could work out the details later, the kind people of AirCanada let us on the flight. Officially undocumented, having been through Canadian customs multiple times, with a dozen previous flight registrations, and carrying luggage bigger than the overhead bins – we finally boarded our flight to O’Hare.

I’ve never been so relieved to see the Chicago skyline. There may or may not have been tears.

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And so concluded the extra day of spring break that none of us had anticipated. It was the most surreal traveling experience that I’ve had to date. A memorable 48-hours with some of the greatest people I’ve ever known.

And I wouldn’t have traded it for anything.

The Old, Old Story (revisited)

Yesterday I posted something that I had been asked to write in one of my classes (the Old, Old Story). We were given two pieces of paper and ten minutes to write our retelling of the narrative of Scripture. While colored beads and the Roman Road crossed my mind, I ended up telling the story that… Read more. . .

The Old, Old Story

In the beginning, God created . . . . . . and He created everything. Every star, every blade of grass, every rock that has eroded into the sea. Night and day, every animal, every insect, every wave, He created. It was all beautiful and very good. Then, He created man and woman. He loved… Read more. . .

Overseas.

I let the papers slide from my hand into the recycling bin and climbed onto my bed. Across the room I could still see the corner of the support letter papers I’d printed out, mocking me from the trash can. Pictures from previous trips lined the bottom of blank pages where I’d planned on writing heartfelt… Read more. . .

Because I’m With You

During my time in Asia, I visited this place called the Home of Hope. The name is kind of a misnomer, however, since the atmosphere seemed to suck every breath of hope out of my lungs. I remember my eyes stinging, whether from the equatorial sun radiating off the concrete slab beneath my dusty flip flops or from… Read more. . .

Youth Director?

I walk into the mustard yellow-walled youth room. Minutes before they’d called my name out after worship: “make sure that later you meet our new youth director, Maddie!” Everyone had turned to face me, sitting in a back row by myself. I waved, sheepishly. The whole process of arriving at this position has been so… Read more. . .

when do you become a cross-cultural worker?

Does it happen when you actually set foot in your new town or country? Is it when you raise support or when a missions agency agrees to take you on? Perhaps it is when you agree to live sacrificially and people associate your love for the Lord with what you do? Or does it happen when you make… Read more. . .