Tag Archives: summer

summer updates

To those of you who are praying for me, planning on supporting me, or are just generally nosy, this is for you. I’m here to give you more than just the “my trip was great; it gave me lots of pieces of things to process” answer about what the Lord is doing and how the summer has been. Thank you for your patience in giving me space to do the emotional work of sifting, journaling, and verbalizing all that I needed to before being able to produce an update like this. Also, thank you for letting me do it over writing, because we all know I articulate myself better that way.

I appreciate your patience. I’m grateful for your prayers. And I literally couldn’t do this without your support. I’m going to try and move through this as systematically as possible.

First: I graduated college and moved back home.

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At the beginning of May, I officially checked “get a Bachelors” off my bucket list. While it was somewhat of an overwhelming time, finishing up undergraduate and graduate finals (I started an accelerated masters program in the Fall), saying goodbyes, and packing up a house where ten girls had accumulated stuff, it was also a sweet time of reflection on all the things the Lord did over the past four years. I’m so so grateful for the preparation, the growth, and the friendships that have come out of my time living at Wheaton. I can honestly say that I’m not the same person I was four years ago, for so much the better. It’s been neat (and sometimes strange) to watch my friendships transition into long-distance and to watch my friends move into new stages of life. But honestly, I’ve been ready for this movement for awhile. I started moving in a life outside of Wheaton when I began teaching with World Relief, working for the church, and meeting with sending agencies back in the Fall of 2016. My senior year was a wonderful time of sealing up that season of my life.

Despite the fact that I said I never wanted to move back home, it has been more of a seamless transition than I could have anticipated. It’s been a nice change to come home to open and empty spaces, something that rarely happened in a house full of ten girls. I’ll be living here for the next year while I finish up my masters, saving money on rent, and commuting 45-minutes to school. Part of me sees it as a time to honor my parents and all the sacrifices they’ve made over the past twenty-two years; a time to invest into my familial relationships, especially if I do end up moving overseas. One of my best friends from school will also be living here with me, so I’m pumped about that as well.

Second: we went on a family vacation.

For all the reasons this trip intended to be memorable, it was. The three siblings were reunited for two weeks, and more than that, I got to share a room with my sister and catch up on life. We got to hang out with our cousins and celebrate our grandparents. It was a meaningful time of being together. We’re fifteen years out from the first trip my grandparents took us all on and it was sweet to bring a level of closure to the season of being young, unattached, wide-eyed kids.

This trip was also significant in ways that weren’t the initial intent. This trip, though structured for leisure, was something of a mini-vision trip for me. My “spiritual senses” were heightened, as I moved through places prayerfully, aware of the work of God in them. Before going, I skyped with people working and serving in most of the cities we visited, so my radar was up in terms of where God could be leading me.

In all the years that I’ve prayed about going overseas, Europe never really jumped out on the map. After all, I’ve been willing to go just about anywhere and Europe isn’t the first place people talk about there being need. My heart has been predominately for Middle Eastern people groups. Yet, as I’ve prayed, listened, and processed the past few weeks, there’s definitely something going on when it comes to Europe. I’m not jumping to any conclusions here, but stay tuned.

Third: I “vision tripped” in Turkey.

After some retrospective reflection, these were the four goals my sending coach and I came up with for the trip:

  1. Draw me closer to the Lord and give me an increasing sense of what He’s doing.
  2. Help clarify the kind of work that I want to do/where I feel led to do it/the people groups I feel drawn to do it with.
  3. Answer questions specifically about work in Turkey and more generally about work overseas.
  4. Give me the opportunity to pray for the workers, the ministries, and the people in the city.

This trip far exceeded every one of those expectations. I could not have planned more holistic answers to every one of those questions and prayers if I had tried. It was amazing.

AF9B8BD0-D3C6-41F5-997B-D6F0FF4F409DHowever, if you heard some of my initial talk about the trip and it didn’t seem to match a sense of “fulfilling expectations,” that’s because I came back a little unsure that it had. I was viscerally aware of the “vision trip” nature of the trip, and subconsciously assumed that meant I needed to come back sure of whether or not Turkey would be right long-term. I was hoping it would be the more encouraging of the two options; how fun is it to talk about a vision trip that clarified where you’re not supposed to be?

I’m not saying that I’m never going back to Turkey or that it’ll never be “right.” I’m also not making plans right now to move over there in a year. I’m still discerning, still putting pieces together. And that’s where this vision comes up strong – it has given me more pieces, more deposits of the Lord than I even realized I needed. There is a practical side to “discerning the will of the Lord,” as well as a spiritual one. It’s been amazing to watch the Lord walk me through both.

Also, the trip was just generally really amazing. I’m summarizing a week of watching the Lord do really incredible things into a paragraph on discernment.

Fourth: I’m starting my year as a full-time M.A. student

As we head into August, I’ll be finishing up the program I started as an undergrad, graduating in May with my M.A. in TESOL/Intercultural Studies. During the year I’ll be continuing tutoring and teaching refugees through World Relief and working as the youth director for middle school/highschool ministries at my church. I’m also looking into another part-time teaching opportunity, working with kids from Chicago’s inner city.

The focus of the year, besides studying hard and finishing up the degree that makes me crazy excited, is preparation. The Lord is clearly moving and opening doors, I’m doing my best to be faithful in walking through them. I’ll spend the year, particularly the next few weeks/months, continuing to talk with agencies, skyping with more cross-cultural workers, filling out applications, and praying hard into all that God’s doing. It’s the year where the rubber will meet the road on things that I’ve been praying into for a decade.

I’m not here to presume on how it’s all going to look in six months, a year, or four years. If there’s one mantra that I’m comfortable living by it’s: “His glory is His prerogative.” I’m just here to love and serve the Lord, however He sees fit to best work that out is up to Him.

And I’d love for you to join me.

If you’re partnering with me in prayer, here’s a few points to guide you (but, as always, feel free to pray into whatever the Spirit leads):

  1. Processed with VSCO with t1 presetPray for my time with the Lord. It’s been incredibly sweet and deep to just be with Him and hear all the things He’s speaking. Pray that I would continue to prioritize my time with Him and that my ears, eyes, and heart are opened to all He’s saying and doing.
  2. Pray for my awareness of the Holy Spirit. Something the Lord has been highlighting is my need to cultivate an even deeper awareness of the Holy Spirit and dependance on His power. Pray that I would be increasingly filled with the Holy Spirit and would live my life from that place!
  3. Pray for my leadership of my youth kids. I love these students so much! There are six students moving up, which is a lot for a small group with one leader! Pray that I would be sensitive to their needs and that they would grow to love one another and the Lord in deeper ways!
  4. Pray for continued discernment and provision, in regards to the future. There are so many things that need to fall into places, things I can’t control, for me to ever end up overseas. Pray for God’s will to be done, for my faith to be stirred, and for His glory to be magnified!

8 Things I’ve Learned About Refugees

This summer I have the privilege of interning at World Relief, in DuPage/Aurora, Illinois. I’m working with the new arrivals and volunteer coordinators to get a closer look into what the refugee resettlement process looks like and how World Relief is doing it as a Christian non-profit.

Suffice to say, the experience is doing more than building my resumé or further solidifying my desire to work cross-culturally. It’s changing my heart.

Despite having traveled to over twenty different countries and being passionate about serving overseas, I didn’t know a lot about refugees before this summer. I thought I’d share some of the deeply impactful and often eye-opening things I’ve learned in my time working with refugees.

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1.) There are 65.3 million people displaced worldwide; 21.3 million refugees. The UNHCR, or the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, has a myriad of terms to describe and identify the different situations of fleeing people around the globe. The UNHCR was only created in 1950, to help the millions of displaced Europeans after World War II. For someone to apply for refugee status, they have to flee from their home country due to a “well-founded fear of persecution” and life-threatening “war or violence” (USA for UNHCR).

2.) There’s a difference between a country that is hosting refugees and resettling refugees. Unlike internally displaced person (IDPs) who flee his or her home but stays within their home country’s border, a refugee crosses international lines in search of asylum. In countries where there is persecution and conflict, refugees often flee to neighboring countries. Turkey is currently hosting 2.5 million refugees, Pakistan has 1.6 million, and Lebanon has 1.1 million. There are 90 countries where refugees are seeking asylum; there are only 30 countries that resettle (RefWorld). Countries such as the United States, Canada, Australia, Sweden, and Britain resettle refugees, meaning the refugees go through a process to permanently move to a third country and pursue citizenship there.

3.) Refugees can come from any background, socioeconomic status, family size, or situation. They can come with anything from a backpack to several large suitcases. Some have good English, while others can’t read or write in their own native tongue. A refugee could have been a doctor, a businessman, or a farmer in their country. Refugees are as different as the culture and context from which they come. The reasons refugees fled their homes, their living situation in a host country, and their feelings towards resettlement vary dramatically.

4.) The refugee resettlement process takes years. Think about it: it’s years of dealing with persecution or fleeing your home country. Then it’s years of settling into a refugee camp and being registered as a internationally recognized refugee. Then it’s years of paperwork to apply for resettlement – after deciding there is no possibility of returning home. It takes years for that paperwork to make it through the pipeline and be processed: by the UNHCR, by IOM (International Office of Migration), by the government of the resettlement country, and by the local resettlement organization. You don’t go from fleeing your home, to moving into a refugee camp, to seeing your new apartment in Aurora, Illinois within the year. It can take between 5-10 years for all of these steps to actualize for a refugee.

5.) After all of that, less than 1% of all people who can be classified as refugees end up being resettled. The United States has a cap on the number of refugees that can be resettled. The current ceiling is 85,000 – which includes refugees of all ages and nationalities. The highest ceiling has been 200,000, the lowest was 20,000 after September 11. The individual resettlement cases are handled by nine government sanctioned non-profits. World Relief is one of these non-profits (of the nine, five are faith-based).

6.) After years of waiting, the refugee still has to undergo tests, checks, and examinations before they can be resettled. There is a misconception, often perpetuated by images of refugees fleeing to hosting countries or miscommunications after terrorists attacks, that the U.S. is resettling potential terrorists. Not likely. When a refugee applies to be resettled, they don’t chose the country they will ultimately end up in. Even in situations where they have a U.S. tie, they are not guaranteed to end up in that country or in a particular state. Refugees undergo federal background checks, in addition to numerous security checks by the resettling non-profit. They face incredible scrutiny at every stage of the long, tedious process. In addition, refugees also must wait for medical paperwork, security documents, and, in some cases, an exit visa from the host country. It is incredibly difficult to get all of the ducks in a row, at exactly the same time (most of the documents have delays in mailing and short-term expiration dates). The refugee resettlement process is not for the faint of heart – nor is it for people who might be on a mission to harm a particular country where they may or may not eventually be resettled. It seems not only ridiculous but unjust deny thousands of good, hard-working, caring people and families hope for a safe future because politicians and social media have perpetuated a relatively irrational fear regarding refugees.

7.) Refugees are hard working – in fact, they start out their new life with debt. The U.S. provides a small stipend for each refugee, facilitated through their resettlement agency. This often covers the first few months of rent in an apartment and basic living necessities. However, the cost of traveling to the U.S. is provided by a travel loan through the IOM (International Office of Migration). The refugees are expected to pay this loan back, as part of becoming self-sufficient within the first few months of arrival. While this may seem unfair, it is actually a very important part of a refugee’s transition to the States. The travel loan allows countries to resettle more refugees because it reduces the financial impact on the government (and consequently, the people who are taxed). It also halts cycles of dependance and victimization, by allowing the refugee to take ownership of their own life and ability to provide for themselves. Celebrating the final payment of a travel loan is an incredible experience for a refugee. They paid their way here and have begun to built a life for themselves.

8.) Refugees are people. The numbers are helpful for seeing the big picture and are necessary when looking at how many cases World Relief is taking in a month, how many mattresses the donations coordinator needs to buy, or evaluating the efficiency of systems dealing with insurmountable numbers of displacement. They can also be helpful to see just how great the need is and how small the part we play actually looks in comparison. However, whenever you introduce numbers you run the risk of devaluing each and every person that owns one of those numbers. It’s not just another family that I compile household item donations for – they are parents, and women, and children who are going to gather around a strange table, in a new apartment, and retire to beds with blankets that they didn’t pick. They are real people with real stories and real emotions surrounding their transition here. That deserves our attention because people always deserve our attention.

My Summer Faves

(Y’all, this post has been in my blog drafts since June. JUNE. I figured it was time to either delete it or finish it and get it posted. Since I didn’t have time to put all my recent ponderings into words, here you go.)

Remember when it was warm and sunny and the days were spent by the pool? Back when the sky and ground weren’t both permanently painted white. . .

Summer 2015 came and went. It was filled with lots of laughs, so much babysitting, small but wonderful adventures, many tears, and a crazy pack-up-and-move to Illinois. As I sit here under my heated blanket, I’ve found myself reflecting on the goodness of the Lord from the 102 degree Georgia heat of 6 months ago. I remember watching too much Netflix, building too many bonfires, and drinking way too much iced coffee. Somewhere between stops at Starbucks and corralling children, I found some new favorite things. Not that I necessarily think any of you care about what I found during times of heat exhaustion, boredom, and retail therapy, but it’s helping me bring some warmth into this brutal Chicago cold.

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1. Moleskine brown journals

It’s no secret that I like to write and journal. It shouldn’t be a surprise then to learn that I love moleskine notebooks. But I’ve been avoiding these little brown ones that come in a three-pack for awhile. I didn’t think they were big enough. I was pretty sure if I started writing in them, that I’d go through one a week. Not true, folks. They are the most beautiful little things. The covers are perfect for doodling some Scripture art. The lines are small enough and close enough together that a.) they keep my big ole handwriting super neat and b.) I don’t use them up super quickly. Big fan. I think I’ve already purchased at least two packs. Also they sell them at Target, so they are an easy purchase to just roll into my grocery bill.

 

2. White Sneakers from Target

Because obviously I’m obsessed with Target and I’ve been living in their white sneakers. Actually, until it snowed here in Chi-town, I was still wearing them. Honestly, if they weren’t basically irreparably stained, I would probably still be wearing them. Mine really can’t even be considered white anymore. Although, now that I saw they are cheaper online, I might just be ordering a new pair after I finish this post. They work with jeans, dresses, and, let’s be real, the athletic shorts that I wore everyday this summer. Part of the problem was wearing them to babysit and then having to chase the boys I watched through mud puddles in the backyard. Sigh. Either way, they might just be the best $16 I’ve ever spent on a pair of shoes.

 

3. YouTube Vlogging Videos

I guess this is what the kids are watching these days.  I’m not even into makeup, but somehow I found myself watching way to many tutorials on products to apply and how to properly contour your face. Not to mention all the haul videos. It all started because I had a gift card to Sephora from Christmas that I hadn’t spent. I was just looking for suggestions on things to get, because, lets be real, Sephora is a very overwhelming place to a concealer-eyeliner-mascara, wash-and-wear girl like me. I got way more than I bargained for when I entered into the world of youtube vloggers. Makeup tutorials turned into “what’s in my bag” videos which turned into watching outtakes and feeling like I had become friends with Zoella, Sprinkle of Glitter, Hannah Maggs, Essie Button, Colleen, and JoshuaDTV.

 

4. 94.9 The Bull, Country Music Radio

My family isn’t a big fan of country music, so I soaked it up every time I was in the car alone. Whether it was my middle of the day, sunroof down jam sesh or my past midnight, driving back from babysitting attempt at staying awake, this was my radio station all summer. Actually, it’s been my radio station for awhile, it’s just no one else quite appreciates the southern twang and lyrics about guitars, boys/girls, beer, trucks, church, football and fishing like I do. “Buy me a Boat,” “Kick the Dust Up,” “House Party,” “Young & Crazy,” “Break Up with Him,” and “John Cougar, John Deer, John 3:16” were all favorites from the summer that I’m still listening to with relative frequency. Also, 49.9 helped me realize a new obsession with Sam Hunt, so I’d say they killed it with the summer tunes.

 

5. Bai 5 Molokai Coconut Drink

I love coconut. I LOVE coconut. I’ve straight up asked for a coconut cake for my birthday before. Did I mention I love coconut? But, ironically enough, I can’t stand coconut water. Coconut milk, sure. Coconut creamer, definitely. But coconut water, no thank you. This drink is what I imagine coconut water should taste like. It’s a little sweet and very refreshing. I think it tastes like summer in a cup. Just pour me a glass with one of those little umbrella things on the side and I’ll pretend I’m sitting on a beach in the Bahamas. I feel warmer already.

 

6. Frosted Lemonades from Chick-Fil-A

Not going to lie, I get random cravings for things all the time. I don’t feel like I need to justify wanting rice pudding at midnight or a cold blue gatorade after class. My friend asked to get slurpees from 7-Eleven with me the other day and there was no judgement. The new Frosted Lemonades from Chick-Fil-A were my summer craving. Even though it’s 20 degrees outside, I’m still craving them. I went to Chick-Fil-A several times this summer (in general, I went to Chick-Fil-A ALL the time this summer) where other people got a frosted lemonade and didn’t like it so they gave it to me. I don’t really understand what’s not to like, but I’m not complaining. It’s Chick-Fil-A’s famous lemonade mixed with vanilla ice cream.

 

7. The Body Shop Honey Body Butter

Town Center Mall was a frequent hang out for my friends and I this summer. On the way out, you have to pass The Body Shop. The lady who works there has skin that literally glows and it’s impossible to not be sucked into the vortex when you just “stop in to look.” I think my sister and I spent over thirty minutes in there one day. They’ve got buy three, get three free kind of deals, so obviously you have to buy things because it’s like you are actually wasting money of you don’t (right?). And I told you, the glowing skin lady sucked me in. But honestly, I have incredibly dry skin and this is the only lotion I have found that actually locks in some amount of moisture. I’ve tried almost everything on the drugstore shelves and this is the best lotion I’ve found for my dry skin. Not to mention, it smells so incredibly amazing. Every time I put it on after I shower, my roommates comment on it. Quality product right here. (Also, looking up this links is making me wonder why I don’t shop online more. . .)

 

8. Brooks Ravenna Running Shoes

I told my sister I would do this 5K training program with her this summer, which basically justified buying an actual pair of decent running shoes. Don’t get me wrong, I love my Patagonia sneakers, but they aren’t exactly champions when it comes to supporting my weak arches when running. I think I took over 15 different quizzes about what kind of running shoes would be best for my feet. I finally settled on these beautiful things. They are very bright and very motivating, which is really what I need when it comes to running shoes. Also, they are super comfortable. They seem to make my feet hurt less after I run (or walk fast), so they are win in my book.

 

9. Essie Nail Polish (especially In The Cab-Ana)

I’ve always been a little obsessed with painting my nails. I honestly think I am more productive when my nails are painted. I don’t think I’m OCD until my nail polish starts chipping. One of my roommates says its not normal to paint my nails as much as I do, that it’s a southern thing. I think it’s normal. Either way, I rediscovered a lot for Essie nail polish this summer. My sister had this In The Cab-Ana blue color that may or may not have ended up in my suitcase back to Wheaton. It’s just so smooth and wonderful. And if a couple dollars on a nail polish motivates me to type a 10-page paper, then I’d say it’s done more than it’s job.

 

10. We Will Not be Shaken CD by Bethel

Oh my freakin’ word. This CD. I’m still listening to it during my quiet time. If you’ve never heard “No Longer Slaves,” “In Over My Head,” or “Ever Be,” you need to go buy this CD right now. There are not a lot of songs that can put my heart in a place of worship and rest in the Lord consistently. There are multiple songs on this CD that do. I’ve cried more times than I can count sitting with Jesus while these songs played. The prayerfulness of each of song is incredible; I’m so grateful for the worship of the Bethel people!

In the Stillness of Summer, He is God

My journal is sitting on the table beside our guest bed. It’s been mostly unopened all summer.

My Bible sits next to it. It’s not much better.

And there’s this tension, because it’s not that I’m running away from Jesus. But am I actually running toward Him?

There was something soothing about the busyness of this past year. Life was crazy but it was vibrant. Time with Jesus was sweet because it was specially carved out of everyday. This summer has been a beautiful contrast to that. And while the lull of summer is brimming with needed relaxation, it is also a breeding ground for the aches in my soul.

What good is this stillness if my heart isn’t being reminded that He is God and He is good?

It’s nothing deep. It’s nothing profound. It barely feels coherent. I don’t know that I’ve ever written something so short in my life. But it’s all I’ve got on this blistering summer day, as I decide whether to ignore or wade through the depths of my heart.

It shouldn’t be a choice really, between Jesus, His joy, His love and the kind of mental slumber that fosters the Enemy’s lies. But I make it one, everyday.

I’m choosing Him today.

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