#covidproblems

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I just spoke with my father, who is currently in China.

I am impressed with his patience, his respect for authority, and his witness to his co-workers. For those of you who don’t know, my father is an electrical engineer. He works on many of the safety systems, special effects, and ride controls for various theme parks around the world. About a month ago, he was put on a team of engineers who would be sent to Beijing, to work on various projects for the new Universal Studios there.

Here is what that meant for him:

-He had to put together a lot of paperwork and rush to obtain a visa. My parents were out looking for a Fed Ex during vacation, so that they could meet his deadline.

-He had to quarantine for two weeks, only able to leave his house to go to the grocery store or pharmacy.

-He had to get tested for COVID 3 days before his flight, which meant going to a special location by the airport to have a deep nasal swab and blood test.

-He then had to wear an N95 mask for over 22 hours of travel, only removing it to eat and drink.

-Upon arriving in China, he was taken to a special hotel (outside Beijing) where he has been in quarantine for 2 weeks. He has not been able to leave his hotel room. All of his food is brought to him by someone in a hazmat suit.

-This morning, my dad was given ANOTHER test. This time, it was a throat swab and he said he was thankful that it didn’t hurt as much as the other two tests.

-Tomorrow, he will be escorted by a special shuttle to a hotel in Beijing, where he will quarantine for another week.

-Once quarantine is over, he will be involved in various projects at Universal Studios until October. Daily, he and the team will be picked up and dropped off by a special shuttle. He will have no freedom to leave work or stay longer.

His only complaint has been that the internet in the hotel is slow. Understandable.

This morning, I’m thinking about what his compliance says to his coworkers. He has worked for his current employer for almost 30 years. Everyone knows his beliefs. He has the great opportunity to exemplify peace in the midst of complicated working conditions. He has the opportunity to share joy (not necessarily happiness) when there isn’t an external reason for it.

Glenn McNair has always been a hard worker. He is a fantastic employee and father. I have learned a lot from him. Among many important lessons, he taught me about being considerate. Currently, he is being considerate of his co-workers, employer, his family, and those whom he comes in contact with. I am proud of him and I thought his actions were worth documenting. I will think about them every time I start to get uncomfortable in my mask during my 30 minute tram ride.

Scooters, Urine, and Bank Errors

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I don’t know anything about laughing in the face of danger, but I can testify to laughing in the midst of the perfect storm. Well, I should probably call it a harmless storm of perfect circumstances. I find myself there often, but I just have to find the humor in it or I will cry from frustration. Most parents reading this will think “yep, I’ve been there before.” Stop. It’s not your turn. This is a missionary story!
I’m starting to collect these stories of stupidity and circumstance, but today I thought I would share the details. Why not? You could use a good laugh. I’m certainly not looking for sympathy. So, here’s some insight into my world:

I wake up in the middle of the night every night. Why? It’s not because I have a baby to feed. (Yes, I know my mama friends are midnight/morning warriors). No, my brain is just active. I can’t seem to shut it down. On this particular morning I kept thinking about how weird it was that I had to give my doctor a urine sample from home. How would they know that I didn’t pay someone for that?! It could be counterfeit urine! Joke was on them, because it sort of was. I had been drinking tons of water for two days to get that color clearer. Anyway, I began to have urine sample nightmares. No joke! I dreamt that I didn’t have any urine to give and that I wandered all over the city trying to convince my body to dispense some. But hey, that’s the normal stuff. Who can’t identify with that?
I crawled out of bed around 7 and peed in a glass jar I dug out of my recycling last night. Then, I had to use a syringe to fill the doctor’s tube with my “sample.” I was so relieved that I was able to give a sample that I took my time getting ready. At 7:30 I remembered that I had to pay my doctor in cash. I don’t have regular insurance. I have an American Health Savings Account. I have to pay my doctor (in euros) first and then reimburse myself (in US dollars) later, from the HSA. This office only accepts cash, because the Germans all use their insurance to pay. The office isn’t set up to take any kind of card. My bank, however, is a 10 minute walk away. I could take the bus, but it only comes every 20 minutes and the last bus left at 7:27. So I located an electric scooter and scooted on down to my bank.
Upon arrival, I realized that I had a problem. Wells Fargo had some kind of security issue and had to reissue my ATM card. It went to my home address, in FLORIDA, of course. It will take a month to get to Germany. Luckily, Jeff (my boss) convinced me to get a Charles Schwab account to avoid ATM fees. Not having my Wells Fargo card hasn’t been a problem because I just transfer the money to the other account and use THAT card to withdraw cash. My problem this morning was that I only had $50 in that account and my transfer from a day ago wouldn’t be active for another 3 days. My next option was to pull money from my German bank account. Unfortunately, I only keep a couple hundred euro in that account at a time. In this case, that would be fine. I only needed 100. So I put my card in the machine and entered my code. However, I entered it wrong. I remembered my problem (I thought) and then entered the code again. Still wrong. I tried one more time and this caused my account to lock. In Germany, I have an online code, an app code, and an ATM code. I typically do banking through the app and my tired brain was trying to use this code at the ATM. Now I have to talk to the bank, which wouldn’t open until 8, about re-opening my account. Unfortunately my appointment was at 8.
I had no cash. All I had was a urine sample and the hope that the doctor would just issue me a bill for my visit, which I could pay later. So, I hopped on the scooter and arrived at the doctor just in time for my appointment. I explained my situation in panicked, broken German. The nurse told me to have a seat and she would ask the doctor what I should do. When the doctor became available, she asked me to reschedule my appointment.
So now I have a new syringe and a new appointment. Woohoo!
I still have to talk to the bank about re-opening my account. I’m not looking forward to that conversation. It’s bad enough that I have the speaking level of an elementary student. Talking through the fact that I made a dumb mistake and locked myself out of my account, while speaking like an elementary student, is pretty embarrassing. I’m getting used to the humility.

This whole ordeal, in fact, was quite normal for my life. I just thought I would take the opportunity to share the hilarity of my circumstances with you. I needed some sort of feeling of productivity, in the midst of failure. So there you have it.
I know that my mama friends can offer more complicated tales. I don’t imagine that my life is more complicated than yours. I just find my issues entertaining. I hope you have also been entertained. Maybe I will put forth the energy later to write out some of my more elaborate stories.

Purposefully Thankful

I went to school yesterday, skipped lunch, had a pizza for dinner (alone) and couldn’t be happier about it! Truly. Instead of misery, I chose joy. This is what I have been waiting for. Moping yesterday would have been a harder task.

I exchanged texts with friends and family yesterday, smiling all the way through. It was fun to see their enjoyment and I didn’t feel left out. I kept thinking about how my life was different now.

I’m thankful for this phase of life. It’s challenging, but most great things are. I’ve turned a corner in my perspective. I walk unfamiliar streets with excitement and wonder. My mistakes make me laugh. The dark weather doesn’t depress me. It only makes my apartment feel brighter, cozier.

One thing. One small thing made a huge difference… Purpose. I had a taste of it and it filled me.

A few days ago, I arranged an outing for my language class. It was easy, but it had not yet been done. This was our first attempt to hang out, outside of class. Half of our group met for dinner and a movie. The outing was a great success!!

We all enjoyed each other’s company and started planning our next outing at the end of the night, because we were having so much fun. By the next class day, strangers had already begun to feel like friends. Our break times were filled with conversation, instead of the typical silence.

Due to a German holiday, which is only celebrated in this small portion of Saxony, we didn’t have school the day after our outing. Though I could have wasted my day watching movies and sleeping, I was very productive. I was energized!! This small success reminded me of my purpose for being here. This encouragement was all I needed to get through Thanksgiving without any kind of self pity.

Thank you for all of your messages and prayers. I am thankful and content.

Gains and Losses

This morning, I thanked God for something I have lamented for the past 3 years: that I didn’t get here sooner. I wonder if my Father in heaven was comforted by this moment each time I cried to Him with impatience. I wonder at His wisdom and love every time I begged Him to provide for the task He had asked me to do. This is one moment, of many, in which I have seen that His way is always best. The richness of His grace has overwhelmed me.

I have been raising funds to return to Germany, as a long term missionary, since February of 2015. My belief was that I would make the switch to long term missions and move overseas again in less than 2 years. I really had hoped it would only take one year. Being in Orlando longer than a year would inevitably lead to new relationships that I would have to part from. I was very aware of this and content to avoid it.

For a year, I was able to focus on the task at hand. I spent 3 months doing little more than seeking the Lord’s will in the mission field I should join long term. I began missionary dating. No, I didn’t date a non believer. I wrote emails and Skyped with missionaries around the world about their fields. My heart had decided on Germany, but I wasn’t sure that God was the one leading my heart at that point. I had to be sure.

After submitting to the plan God had already put in motion, to lead me back to Germany, I began the process of becoming a career missionary with The Evangelical Alliance Mission. This process became time consuming. I had much to do before I could be accepted and much more to do after I was accepted. The only people I spent time with were my family, small group (made of people I already knew), and friends of my mom. I wasn’t interested in making any new friends of my own.

When I moved away from South Carolina, in 2011, I was unaware of what I was really giving up. I knew I would be back in the summer, so my goodbyes weren’t hard. Yet, I quickly learned that I was sacrificing much. I missed weddings, births, and funerals. Most importantly, I missed out on every day life with the ones I loved most.

My “little sister” must have gone through 3 casts, from broken bones, while I was gone. I missed the opportunity to talk to her about her boyfriends, to take her to youth group, and to process her complicated family relationships with her. Skype could not replace the every day. I wasn’t there for dance recitals or dates to homecoming dances. I missed the every day and she continued to grow up without me.

I can barely speak of the one person I am most sad about missing… Madelynn Curtis Nelson. Tears have already made typing nearly impossible. This beautiful soul only dwelt among us for a few years. The few years that I missed. Amanda Jo is one of my dearest friends and I missed the entire life of her precious daughter, taken by a terrible cancer. I had a few opportunities to visit this beautiful girl in healthy and also terrible stages of her life. Yet, I never got to hold her, love on her, and become her buddy. I missed her life completely.

The mission is the only thing which eased this pain of loss. I quickly gained relationships with students and staff of The Black Forest Academy. These relationships were/are beautiful. They felt fated. As soon as I met my small group, I knew they were one of the most important reasons for my sacrifice. The friendships I gained with teachers along the way were/are special, but they were a bonus.

Yet again, these relationships became hard to move away from in pursuit of God’s calling. The only thing which helped me move away from those I loved (as much as people I had known much longer) was the fact that they would also be leaving Germany. My closest friend remained in Germany, but she and her husband were only among a few that I knew who were staying. I was glad they remained, because I hoped to be reunited with them after a year of fundraising. However, they ended up moving back to the US a few months before I moved back to Germany. Again, I missed being a part of their little girl’s life. I am a stranger to her.

Building relationships which I would have to leave was not part of my plan for the fundraising process. It was a pain I wished to avoid. Yet, two situations changed my resolve. First, I realized that the fundraising process would take longer than anticipated and I would need a steady job to support myself in the process. This led me to Publix, where God convicted me about loving others around me in the moment. I couldn’t expect to be successful in building relationships with strangers in Germany if I couldn’t first do the same in my home country. Second, a need which I could not ignore arose in my sending church. Westwood needed a student pastor for a short period of time, while they looked for someone to fill the role long term. I tried to put on my blinders and charge ahead toward the mission field, ignoring the job I knew I could fill. My God given heart for teenagers stopped me dead in my tracks. I had to take the job. I had to give up my resolve to leave Florida without new relationships to sacrifice.

God knew best, of course. My time at Westwood was challenging, but more rich and rewarding than I could have imagined previously. I moved back to Germany with a solid support system from a church I truly consider to be my family. This post would fill many screens if I took the time to describe each relationship I gained during this period of waiting I endured/enjoyed.

I gained relationships with teenagers who will lead the church. I received wisdom and instruction from pastors and mentors. I gained sisters in Christ. I spent time sharing with young women who also plan to join the mission field. I also gained many young friends. These are the new relationships which hurt very much to leave. Yet, I am so much richer.

This period of waiting for funds changed me. God used relationships to eradicate sins which had permeated my life. I had believed they were in my past, but their effect lingered. This period of time also taught me much about love, friendship, and evangelism. I had always struggled to obey God in evangelism because I was simply focused on obedience. During this time, God increased my heart for those who didn’t know Him exponentially.

I lost time with loved ones the last time I left for Germany, but I gained time in this period of waiting. I was present for weddings, births, and funerals which I may have missed if I had moved earlier. More importantly, I gained time in the every day life of my family and new close friends.

None of these relationships were lost. They are all a part of the glorious riches God promised in Ephesians 1, which He lavished upon me. However, I am eager to see which relationships and lessons I gain in this sacrifice of time with others.

I apologize for the lack of pictures and video. This blog was hard enough to write without including them. If I had begun to dig those up, you may never have read these words.

Depressed, but Happy

*I am well aware of what clinical depression is and the seriousness of it. This blog is meant to be a personal expression. It is NOT a guide for how to heal depression. It looks different, with differing severity, for each person who suffers.*

I’m depressed, but I’m happy. It’s possible. Depression is physiological, as well as psychological. Physiologically, it runs in my family. We tend to be on a different page psychologically though. For some members, it’s externalized in anger. Others have trouble controlling tears. For me, it usually manifests itself in a mental fog. On the worst of days, it’s debilitating for any of us.
I have a list of ways to combat this state of being. Truthfully, I tend to start with indulgence. I eat comfort food, watch comfort tv/movies, and retreat from responsibility. When that doesn’t work (because it never does), I move on to the advice I give others. I get on a regular sleep schedule, I spend time in the sun, I find small ways to be productive, I spend time with people (extrovert), and I regulate my anti-anxiety meds better. This helps a little, but nothing improves my sad state like these two things: thankfulness and selflessness.
I’m currently typing this blog with one thumb, while I look out on a beautiful lake. The other hand is steadying a delicious cup of coffee. Bethel is passionately singing the truth of God on the iPad beside me. It’s not hard to be thankful while I’m enjoying the sun AND a cool breeze, as well as the things aforementioned.
Being thankful always begins with truth. A depressed person, or any unhappy person, may read the last paragraph and think to themselves: “Well of course she’s happy! Who wouldn’t be with that kind of morning?!” There’s almost always someone looking on to our life who feels they have it worse though. Without having to go deep, I can tell you that almost any person reading this blog is a fortunate person. Why? Well, because it means that you have a device on which you can read it, as well as internet. That’s pretty great. That doesn’t mean you can’t be dealing with something terrible. Rich people have real life problems too.
Even when I feel that I have nothing and that my life circumstances are bad, I know that I have Christ. I repeat scripture to myself over and over again, like a chant. Psalm 145 (sung by Shane & Shane), Romans 8, and Ephesians 1 (as well as the rest of the book) are the first places I go to for a reminder of the great love that I have in my life. I make lists of the blessings I know of. Sometimes I find myself writing without real appreciation. I know that it will take awhile, but I push through. Eventually, I am overwhelmed by the love that God has lavished upon me. Trust me when I say that I know that my life is great and that I have nothing to complain about. Depression isn’t about logic.
The second step on my road to recovery looks different from day to day. I won’t pretend that I am good at being selfless. In most cases, the things that I do for others are MUCH more gratifying for me than they are for them. In fact, I couldn’t even say that these acts of kindness were in any way selfless. I usually anticipate the pleasure that comes from doing things for other people. At the root of my deeds, I typically find a desire to be liked and needed. However, I do try really hard to put this aside. Romans 12:9 convicts me daily- “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good.” If that wasn’t enough, Philippians 2:3,4 does the trick- “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.” What I’m saying is that the apostle Paul really knows how to kick my butt.
Each of these steps is accomplished best through prayer and meditation. I cannot say that thankfulness and selflessness heal my brain, but they always help my heart. Thankfulness helps me find joy in the Lord by reminding me of truth. Selflessness gives me joy through expressing love and truth. I haven’t found the energy to be productive today, but I found the emotional energy to write this blog. That’s something.

BONUS
Are you in need of some truth today? Music speaks to my soul. It’s a gift from God. These albums usually lift my spirits, even if they don’t clear my mental fog:

 

 

Sisterly Love

 

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I have had 4 best friends in my lifetime thus far. Each person has contributed to my life in a special way, but one will always stick out among the rest. Laura did something special for me that I was only able to articulate through grief counseling, after her passing. I found this truth in an old journal I came across recently. My therapist thought it was profound enough for me to write down.

“Laura and I helped free one another from (the bad bits of) our past. We enabled each other to become more whole. We gave each other the ability to live life more fully.”

I realize that my time with Laura was life changing for 3 reasons. Our friendship came at an important period of growth- college. My time with Laura was limited, so it remains a precious memory. Laura also reflected Jesus better than any other human I have ever known.

In retrospect, I have learned most of what I know about friendship from my time with Laura. However, I have found many principles in scripture which have deepened what I remember of her. She wasn’t original. She just exemplified these things in my life.

1 Peter 1:22- You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters. Love each other deeply with all your heart.

The word “deeply” sounds romantic. The greek word there is ektenos. It means earnestly, fervently, and intensely. None of those words sound less serious than the other. Peter, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, commanded us to intensely love one another with our whole hearts. Laura did that for me and now I can’t help but do that for others. I’m not perfect. I’m far from being selfless. I do tend to be accused of being intense though. I got that from Laura, who lived this passage well.

John 13:34- So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.

This is an impossible task. How could anyone love another person the way Jesus loved us? It’s only with God’s help. We cannot do this in our human nature. We can only love each other with a holy love when we are possessed by the holy one. I won’t pretend that Laura was perfect, but I have a hundred stories about how she loved me with a holy love. I am challenged to do this for others daily.

1 Peter 3:8- All of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tender-hearted, and keep a humble attitude.

Being tender-hearted was a great challenge Laura pushed me through. I came to college with many walls. I wanted to be tough and unaffected by the feelings of others. Instead, I came out of college more empathetic than I could have dreamed of being. Laura taught me compassion for my fellow brothers and sisters. Sometimes I wish that I could reverse this life lesson, because being cold feels like winning. Being tenderhearted means being vulnerable. I’ve only learned how vulnerability is true strength since her passing.

Romans 12:15- Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.

In this chapter, Paul commanded us to love each other genuinely, rather than pretending. I believe verse 15 is part of the practical application of that command. This is what was modeled for me through Laura. We laughed and played together when we were happy. We held each other and wept together when we were sad.

When I think back on this God-given friendship, I am reminded of David and Jonathan. 1 Samuel 18 says that their souls were knit together. I have never heard one man say that about their friendship with another man. I haven’t even heard a woman say that about her relationship with another woman. It seems too intense. Yet, it was true of a pure friendship in the Old Testament. After Jonathan’s death, David describes his love as being deeper than the love of a woman.

I strongly believe that biblical friendships would clear up some of the sexual confusion our world faces today. We’ve made love sexual because we do not understand deep brotherly love. I have much more to say about this, but I will save it for my next blog. For now, I will leave you with a challenge. How are you doing in the friend department? Are the truths in these passages a goal of yours? They’re a goal of mine. I’m far from achieving them, but I’ve got them in mind. I’m hoping you will keep them in your mind as well. A little brotherly love could go a long way in today’s hateful world.

Out of Place

Have you ever thought about another place in the world continuing without you? Places you’ve visited, homes you’ve lived in, or people you once knew? In your mind, they remain frozen as a memory. Yet, they continue outside of your presence.

Sometimes I think about the fun sites I’ve been to. Places like Florence Italy are discovered by new visitors every day, but it stays with me like a favorite movie. It’s still there, existing without me.

Revisiting favorite places can be comforting, but it can also have the opposite effect. I have felt lost in familiar places before. I remember visiting the dorms of Columbia International University after Laura died. A place which formerly felt like home left me feeling sad and empty.

I am experiencing that lostness again. Home doesn’t feel the same. My church doesn’t feel the same. South Carolina barely remembers me. Black Forest Academy is a different school. Dresden moves forward without me. It’s all different and I feel out of place.

I don’t think I should be here, but I am. I can’t figure out why. A small amount of money stands between me and Germany, yet it feels insurmountable.

I’m ready to go, but I can’t.

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I’m 34. Is there a cute pop song for 34? Switchfoot had some great coming of age songs. I think Jon Foreman stopped making those songs when he turned 25. Is 25 the beginning of the end of youth?

What should one have accomplished by this age? I don’t own a home. I don’t own a car. I’m not debt-free. I don’t have a full-time job. I have no husband. I have no children. These are things my culture values. I don’t have them.

I measure accomplishment differently. I’ve had different experiences. Different life lessons. I’ve earned my gray hair by different means.

These are the adventures through which God has given me wisdom and instilled some semblance of maturity:

2 countries lived in

10 countries visited

10 homes

14 roommates

4 years of undergrad

9 years of seminary

3 years as the Associate Youth Pastor of East Lake

3 years full time at All American Imaging

3 years of teaching at the Black Forest Academy

3 years of fundraising for a long term mission to Dresden

(Publix employee and Westwood youth pastor mixed in there)

Things I can’t count:

Friends

Students I have known and loved

Ikea furniture I have purchased and assembled

Life has been grand. No matter what I don’t have, I could never complain. I didn’t really pursue the American dream, so I didn’t achieve it. Instead, I received opportunity. I have had an opportunity for education, for travel, and for friendship.

What’s next? I can never know for sure. I’m eagerly waiting for my funding to come through for a move to Germany. The project I am joining is long term. I know that is where God has called me. As much as I love where I am and what I am doing, I must go.

If I can stay in one place longer than 3 years, I will achieve something new. In the past, God has used previous pieces of my life to prepare me for the next part of my journey. I hope and believe that this next part of the journey will recall ALL of my life lessons and experience.

I look forward to what is ahead and how God intends to shape me. 34 isn’t an exciting number, but this will be an exciting year. God is stretching me and making me into something new. I look forward to seeing how I’ve changed by age 35. Maybe I’ll write my own cute pop song.

Lexi’s Favorite Things

I’m not Oprah. I don’t have the money to buy everything I could possibly want. This Christmas, I can barely afford the Christmas cards I just ordered. I do, however, have a few favorite possessions to share with you. By sharing these items with you, I hope to expose what is most important in my life. I’m also hoping to give you a few ideas for your own Christmas list. We all know that presents aren’t what Christmas is about, but it would be great if the gifts that we shared brought us closer to Christ, in one way or another.

20. Handmade Mugs

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BUY HERE

I have an absurd collection of mugs. Ask my parents about my collection if you are interested in seeing the hardest eye-roll of all time. I don’t pay enough rent for the space my precious pieces of art occupy. Yes, it’s an addiction. Really though, you haven’t had the full coffee (or sub-par hot beverage of your choice) experience if you haven’t enjoyed said beverage in a handmade mug. 

19. Double Wall Stainless French Press

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BUY HERE

Why rush the morning experience?! Make quality coffee and take as much time as you want to enjoy it. I hate when my coffee gets cold and I hate bad coffee. This beauty is the answer to both. Don’t let the french press intimidate you! If you can work a plunger and patiently wait 4 to 5 minutes, you can handle this complicated mechanism. 

18. Fine No Bleed Sharpies

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BUY HERE

Secretly, I’m a nerd. I like to read and write stuff. Sometimes I use technology for these hobbies, but I often prefer the sensory experience of real paper. I also like to combine these hobbies. After years of suffering pencils and weak pens, I found these bad boys! This incredible tool is fantastic for writing in Bibles, books, and nice notebooks. 

17. Classic Moleskine Notebook

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BUY HERE

Neither masculine, nor feminine, this notebook is perfect for all! As I get older, I find that I forget just about everything. Google and my iPhone are the tools I turn to most often as a solution. I reserve my important thoughts, however, for a worthy writing space. These notebooks are sturdy and last forever. They don’t fall apart. Do yourself a favor and get a few!

16. Dry Sacks

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BUY HERE

The great Texas Pete fiasco of 2012 has led me to invest in dry packing sacks like these. There I was, in the handicapped bathroom of the Heathrow Airport, trying to decide which possessions could be salvaged. A bus driver, who obviously hated his job and/or my heavy luggage, had carelessly thrown my duffel bag to the curb. My large bottle of hot sauce broke and poured all over the contents of my luggage. Thankfully I had intentionally chosen to pack the bottle in a waterproof duffle. Bags like these have made packing simple and mess free since then. I only have one set now, but I plan to buy a couple more sets and a few sets of packing cubes before I move to Dresden. 

15. Passport Wallet

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BUY HERE

This item may not interest very many of you. I’ve found that it’s hard to juggle multiple forms of currency, important IDs, and my passport. I opted for a large, stylish wallet from Target a few years ago. I haven’t been disappointed. If you don’t have a passport, start with that! It’s important. You may not have the finance to travel luxuriously, but you never know when you might need it. 

14. Scarves

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BUY HERE

Don’t get hung up on the fringe. Any scarf will do. This is an essential for all females and most males. Unless you live in a hot place, like Florida, you should have at least 2 really great scarves. I own about 35, but whatever. Scarves are the best way to stay warm and dress up a simple t-shirt. They also help provide variety when you’re stuck in the same coat all winter. I live in Florida for now and only have about 2 days of the year in which I can get away with wearing one. The scarf becomes a sweat rag otherwise.

13. Gap Utility Jacket

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BUY HERE

Everyone’s style is different. Don’t worry, there are lots of different utility jacket styles. They are all, however, available in muted tones. These jackets are light, easy to pack, and perfect for travel. Maybe they aren’t your style. That’s what the scarves are for silly! 

12. Shoes: Sperrys, Airwalks, Crocs

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BUY HERE

Remember when breaking shoes in was a thing? If this isn’t a familiar concept, you should buy a new pair of shoes and then wear them to a theme park for a day. You’ll learn. Anyway, these are the kind of shoes that really need to be broken in. They are, however, the most comfortable shoe I’ve ever owned. If you can get over the idea of having visually fresh shoes, you need a pair. These shoes go the distance!

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Like a pair of Chucks, these shoes are classic. I love them because they are inexpensive and come in a variety of colors. I own 4 pairs myself. I wait for a good sale and buy a new color.

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Don’t hate! I know America has cast these aside as the ugly duckling of footwear. Crocs make excellent house shoes though. You don’t wear house shoes? Point at my ugly footwear all you want. At least my feet are clean!

11. TOMS Bag

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A friend gave me this bag for my birthday. It has quickly become one of my favorite possessions. It’s a great day bag. I’m transient. Always on the go. Whether going to the gym or a short trip, this bag fits it all. It’s easy to sling over the shoulder, like Jason Bourne’s fancy bank bag. If only I had the currency to go with it. 

10. Leather Messenger Bag

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This was a Christmas present from my brother. He gave me the cash and let me have the pleasure of doing the research. That’s not sarcasm. I love researching a good deal! After weeks, I settled on this bag. I didn’t expect this bag to be the highest quality, but I have been pleasantly surprised. I would recommend this dealer to anyone. I LOVE this piece. I carry my favorite Bible, journal, sharpies, wallet, and iPad mini in it daily. 

9. City Maps 2 Go App

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If you plan to travel ANYWHERE outside of the US, you MUST purchase this app. Sure, download the free version to try it out. Get the real deal before you travel though. I believe that I paid 2.99 when I purchased the app in 2012. I’m not surprised that the price has gone up. It’s totally worth it! The app is essential because it allows you to download maps that are searchable offline. Internet is not easy to find abroad. You may have internet where you stay, but it’s not common to find open wi-fi on the street. This app has guided me through Paris, Vienna, Split (Croatia), Amsterdam, Prague, and many German cities.  Within the app, you can save locations, take notes, read Wikipedia information, and even see lists of locations by category (hotels, restaurants, public transit, etc). 

8. Spotify Premium

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I love checking out new bands and making playlists. The short preview clips on iTunes don’t always give me enough to know if I want to purchase a song or album. Through Spotify, I’ve been able to check out new music more easily. They also have an incredibly extensive catalog. I’ve been able to find everything I’ve searched for. You can even share playlists, which is a fun bonus. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that you pay $120 a year for music. Get on a family plan. You can put 5 people on a $15 a month plan. Yes, it’s totally worth $36 a year. 

7. Amazon Prime

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I pick the cheapest shipping on all websites EVERY time. This does not exclude Amazon. Technically, I would only have to have 25 items shipped to me, within a year, to add up to the $100 annual fee of Prime.  I’ve had 35 items shipped to me, through Amazon, since July. I got lazy and stopped counting. Let’s just double that number and say that I’ve had 60 items shipped to me this year. That would have cost me $240. Would I have shopped that much if I had to pay for shipping every time? No, certainly not. This isn’t the classic coupon addiction though. Amazon almost always has the cheapest price on just about everything I would be buying anyway. Not only that, but having Prime also gives you access to Prime Video and Prime Music. 

I was smart enough to dive into this concept when I was still in school. So, I have a Student Prime account, which is only $50 a year. Students, I know $50 is like $5,000 to you. Make sure you do this while you can though. If you get locked in at this rate, you can always renew the membership at that rate. I haven’t been a student for a couple of years now, but I still only pay $50. As a bonus, I get $10 for anyone who signs up using my link. 

6. Sony Camera

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I’m a Canon camera person. Why? Trey Love and All American Imaging. That’s all. That’s really the only reason. I used Nikon cameras at BFA though. I like them too. This camera is very special though. First of all, it’s small. It has all of the features of a DSLR, but it’s the size of a typical point-and-shoot camera. Second, lens attachment options allow the user to pick between lenses for both Canon AND Nikon. Third, it has a wide ISO range. I love this camera because I can travel easily with it and take high quality photos. The price isn’t bad either. I purchased mine through a Black Friday sale last year. For me, it was a tax write off.

5. iPad Mini

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I never thought I would own one of these. Ipads used to be very expensive and non-essential. They were merely a luxury for people who had money. That’s how I saw them anyway. THEN a generous person gave BFA enough money to buy iPads for all of the staff. That was the beginning of my addiction. I used the iPad like a mini computer and a small television. Unfortunately, that iPad fell on concrete and broke. I saved my money, like a responsible person, and purchased a smaller version with a much higher storage space. I wanted something that was easy to travel with. I also needed something that I could store a lot on. Since I travel, I mostly buy digital books. I also wanted to use my ipad for photo and video editing on the go. My Sony camera sends photos to my ipad through bluetooth and I have an SD card adapter. Ipads have been around long enough now that used and refurbished models can be purchased for a really great price.

4. ESV Journaling Bible

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This would be #1 if it were smaller and easily searchable. The next three items have one thing in common: they are digital. Therefore, I have them with me everywhere I go and they are easily searchable. However, THIS. This is worth every penny. Why would I spend money on anything else on this list, but not invest in a great Bible? I wouldn’t do that, so I wouldn’t recommend that you do that. 

The leather binding is aesthetically pleasing as well as useful. I am particular about keeping my Bible pages crisp. This does the job without being ugly, like the Bible cases of yore. I’m only building to the best part though… the journaling space!! I LOVE writing in my Bible. I’m a journaler, as you have seen earlier, but I go through journals pretty quickly. When I discover something amazing in Scripture, I want to write the note where I will see it the next time I read the same passage. 

Don’t be cheap. If you’re going to invest in anything, invest in a good Bible. Yes, anyone can download a free Bible app. Wouldn’t you like to say that your most prized possession is the Word of God though?

3. Systematic Theology (ebook)

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I won’t try to convince you of a particular theology. I like this book because I think Wayne Grudem does a pretty good job of outlining multiple viewpoints of most theological topics. Having the iBooks version of this book is VERY useful. I do searches in this book all of the time. I don’t use it as much as my journaling Bible, but the digital version of any book will inevitably outlast any physical copy. That doesn’t mean that I like Systematic Theology more, but I do enjoy the utility of it. 

2. NIV Archaeological Bible (ebook)

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Again, I love owning the digital version of this Bible because I will always have it, I can take it with me everywhere I go, and I can search it easily. More importantly, I love that I can count on this resource for cultural context. As I grow older, I feel like I am filling in the blanks of history. When I fill in the blanks, I get a better understanding of what I knew previously. This Bible shouldn’t substitute commentaries completely, but it’s easy to use and it doesn’t require a Bible College degree. Having one probably entices me to buy resources like this though. 

1.  NASB concordance app

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This is hands down my favorite thing. I use it every single day. It’s worth FAR more than 6.99. This app enables me to see the Hebrew and Greek for most words. Not only does it show me the word, but it gives me extra definitions and lists every other verse where the word is used. This app allows me to do word studies every time I read Scripture. I still enjoy a physical concordance, but they are large and quite heavy. They also provide limited information: Scripture addresses and brief definitions. Please, this resource is often eye-opening and it’s cheap. 

If you’ve read this far, you know that coffee, travel, photography, and Bible study are the most important hobbies in my life. If you really know me, you didn’t have to read this blog to know that. Anyway, I hope that this blog was more than an insight into my life. I hope that I recommended something that you will find useful. Everyone has their own style. Much of this is my style. I’m hoping that studying Scripture is everyone’s style though. Take advantage of the resources I’ve presented and share some of yours with me! I would love to open a conversation with each of you about our favorite things.

The Calm and the Storm

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I went on a prayer retreat a month ago. Three days in the woods, off the grid. Obviously I was not without technology. I did, however, avoid iMessenger, Email, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Otherwise known as “death,” to the common teenager.

Behold, my supplies for a successful “come to Jesus” meeting:

Yes, all of the essentials for a few quiet days in the woods. It was lovely! Really, all I needed was coffee and my Bible. Everything else was icing. I had everything I needed for a trip that would renew my strength and refresh my vision.

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My time alone with Jesus began with a realization. I had not been drawn to a place of seclusion so that I could sleep and take long baths (although I did both, a lot). I was there because God was ready to speak and I needed to listen. If this wasn’t hard enough, it soon became clear that I was brought to that very place for a little bit of introspection.

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Tenderly, God began to remind me of His goodness. He reminded me of a very specific moment in time, when I worked in Germany. It was my first year and I was seriously under funded. I had little to live on, but it almost never bothered me. I would have lived on the couch in my classroom if I had to. For the most part, this only limited how often I was able to purchase a Döner kebab (look it up). However, the issue became much more serious at the end of the year. I quite literally ran out of money. I had nothing in my mission account and I had very little in my bank account. A TEAM (The Evangelical Alliance Mission) finance member warned me that my account was low, but I only had a short period of time to do anything about it before the money was gone.

After a couple short weeks, TEAM contacted me to let me know that I was out of funds and had to return home. I informed them that this wasn’t an option. The yearbook project I was in charge of was far from complete. More importantly, I didn’t have money to purchase a plane ticket either. I had nothing. Leaving was the worst option, but I couldn’t even afford that.

My dependence upon the Lord became obvious. There was NOTHING I could do for myself. So, I prayed. I fell to my knees and then to my face. I prayed long. I pleaded. I cried. I knew it was in His hands, but I was desperate.

In about a week’s time, many people stepped in and donated enough money for me to finish the school year. One donor in particular, who means a lot to me, provided a large chunk of the funds that I needed. Yet God was making Himself clear. He was my provider.

This wasn’t the last time I had to learn this lesson when I lived in Germany. The same thing happened twice more. By the second time, I had learned to choose joy. I very publicly told all of my friends, family, and supporters that I was out of money but I would be ok. I praised God and I waited to see what He would do.

God always came through for me. This is what He reminded me of, when I first began to meditate, on my retreat. There was more though. God reminded me that I was ALWAYS just as dependent upon Him. I have nothing apart from Him. Any thought of “earned” wealth or talent was an illusion. Everything was His. He could provide the funds I needed to return to Germany at any moment.

The next morning, God reminded me of His grace. I flipped through scripture and meditated on sweet promises from the Lord. If I had access to a tattoo gun, I would have made these passages more permanent. I was overwhelmed by the truth God was putting before me.

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I didn’t know where to go from there. I had so much on my mind. Many things were unclear about the position I was in- finances, relationships, and ministry. I had already made decisions that I was unsure about. I had more decisions to make that I needed clarity in. I needed so many answers. I wished God would just write everything out for me. He didn’t do that, of course. He did, however, tell ME to write. As I wrote, thoughts started to take shape and God’s message to me became very clear. That’s when God brought this passage to my attention…

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In that moment, my prayers began to change. I began to ask different questions. I had no doubt that the Spirit was leading my voice. I had the courage to ask questions that I didn’t even want the answers to.

First, God reminded me of the way I longed for Florida when I lived in South Carolina. When I lived in Germany, I longed for South Carolina. When I spent holidays away from friends and family, I longed for both homes. At that moment, I sat in Florida discontented. I longed for SC and I certainly longed for Germany. No place would satisfy me. God’s first rebuke was that I needed to be content where I was for the moment.

The second rebuke was much more harsh. God called my attention to the fact that my prayers had been egocentric. I had fooled myself into thinking that I was being selfless, because I was choosing obedience. As an obedient servant, I had committed to returning to Germany for long term ministry wholeheartedly. Since that initial step in obedience, I had spent little time in prayer about the spiritual condition of Germany and a LOT of time in prayer about my financial condition. I lost sight of the purpose for which God was calling me. He made it VERY clear that He did not need me to save the lost in Germany. Only He could do that. My presence there was not essential in His plan for the salvation of Germans. He could accomplish His purposes without me. Therefore, it was my roll to remain in prayer on behalf of the Germans and on behalf of those who were already being used by God in that country. He won’t move me until that becomes consistent in my life.

Third, and harshest of all, God showed me that I did not truly love lost people. Even now, I am ashamed to type this. What kind of missionary doesn’t truly love the lost? I have spent time with people that don’t believe what I believe these last 2 years. My lack of love for each of them was put before me, all at once. I have been apathetic.

My obedience to share the Gospel and to love people had led me down the right path. My actions were not coming from a place of desire though. They were instead coming from obligation. I have liked all of the people God has placed in my life and I have wished them well, but I did not truly loved them by God’s standards. I was fooled into thinking that I had, because my actions were different from those around me.

These revelations and rebukes led me to a few different courses of action. Most importantly, I decided to spend my time focusing on praying for Dresden, instead of raising funds to move there. This requires more work in keeping up with my team leaders, the news, and current events. This wasn’t meant to be a challenge that I would take on by myself though. I felt that I should ask others to stand with me in prayer. For this would be the most effective way to reach Germans for Christ.

I’m sure I will have a great deal to share soon. For now, please join me in praying for Germany and for the spiritual condition of Europe. God is at work there and I’m excited to be a part of it in any way that I can. Are you?