The End All

It was a warm Monday afternoon with a slight breeze shifting the sun’s rays from beating directly down on my already sun-kissed skin. I was trying to figure out what I did to deserve the blessing of getting off work early on a Monday afternoon. I had two and a half hours to spend doing whatever I wanted. After stopping at the LifeWay store to check out good deals on books, selling a pair of old jeans to Plato’s Closet, and using my buy-one-get-one coupon at CoreLife Eatery on two healthy-as-all-get-out salads, I had a decision to make.

I could either go to my grandmother’s house and accompany her in her scorching living room and do nothing, or go to the Starbucks that I basically live at to finish, yet another, assignment for my graduate classes. I chose neither. Instead, I went to a park with a river. I wanted to just rest. I wanted to spend time with myself. I wanted to just breathe for one moment before I had to go to yet another commitment.

I got to the park, grabbed one of the books I just bought (and the free journaling notebook with my purchase!), a pen, and my aqua blue water bottle and headed for the shaded bench along the riverside. There were several dads walking along the river with their young children. It was so precious watching the little ones laugh and giggle while walking in the smooth river.

As I sat there, I breathed in and thought this is it. This is what I need. A moment for me. I opened my book and began to read, but only made it through the introduction before the wind sent goosebumps up and down my spine. I got up and walked to another bench in the sun. Perfect.

I continued reading and sipping my cool water. I was in such unbelief that on a Monday afternoon I could actually take time to just be. This was a moment I longed for more of. No rushing. No cell phone. No worrying. A moment of pure bliss, I would say.

I kept reading and observing the beautiful wildlife around me. God had such an imagination when He created. I had enough time to read through four chapters of this new book I just got (the chapters were less than 10 pages!). The book seemed to be exactly what I needed. It was like the words sprang right off the page and into my heart.

The book, An Intentional Life by Karen Stott began by talking about passion and pursing the things that God has called us to. Karen shares her own personal testimony to help readers relate. And boy, could I relate! The words that she probably put her heart and soul into were some of the most empowering words I have ever read.

Eventually, I put the book down because I needed to process what I had just read. You see, we all have so many hopes and dreams, so many desires, so much passion. She described this one moment where she was doing something she absolutely loved and she could tell it was what she was called to do because she was thriving and just at complete peace. Have you ever felt that?

I felt that once, when I was in India. I loved the work I was doing. I loved the people that I was surrounded by. Sure, I missed home, but this was it! This is what I was passionate AOAM0562 (1)about! Someone even captured a candid of my pure joy of me doing what I felt called to do. But now, now I am home. I am back in the States, living with my parents while I finish (hopefully) the rest of my education in my masters program.

There is not a day that goes by where I do not think about India or my time there. I miss it. Even though there were so many times when I was so frustrated and did not understand anything, I miss it. Because that was clearly where God had called me to. I feel like one day, hopefully sooner than later, I will be traveling back to those not-so-foreign grounds that I fell in love with.

Eventually, it was time for me to leave the peaceful moment and head to my church to serve at our summer sports camp outreach for children. As I walked to the car I had only one thought: this is not the end-all.

After getting home from India, an experience that changed my life and that could never be topped, I graduated college and did what any other college graduate does, I got a job (and started my masters program). I started working full-time, getting re-engaged in my church, catching up with friends, going to school full-time, heck, I even picked up Tennis as a hobby! But something was just not right. I was not happy. I was not happy with where I was career-wise, or several other areas of my life.

I had this aching and passion to do other things. I wanted to move to Washington D.C. and work for the International Justice Mission or move to New York and work for the United Nations (I still do!). But I couldn’t. Not yet. It wasn’t “my time” to do that. Even though those are my dreams and passions and goals for myself, they were not what God had in mind for me fresh out of college. God had something else in store for me. He wanted me to work and get this other college education and focus on bettering myself (maybe I should say “becoming” myself?)

This meant, once again, putting my dreams on hold. I even had to recognize that I had to put a really important relationship on hold, trusting that if it were meant to be, God would make a way. This is a time where God wants to transform me. God wants to lead me to still waters. God wants to plant a yearning so strong in my heart for the things that I am already so passionate about that I will not ever be able to give up on my dreams.

This is my season of growing.

I was talking to my best friend (my best friend for over half of our lives now). She is also in a season of growing. We talked about how difficult it is. We are both in places where we don’t want to be, but where God has ordained us to be. It comforts me to know that my closest friend is in this with me.

Before recognizing this (and even after), I realized that at some point along the lines I lost my fear of God. I lost my reverence and awe for the one who created me, the very thing that connected me with God on a level I couldn’t even begin to describe. My heart hardened. My well was dry. I was in a desert. I was so stubborn, that I did not even recognize this.

I was angry with God. I was confused at why I had just experienced something so incredible and so life-giving that I loved doing, but was brought home to something I was not passionate about. I was upset with him that I met an amazing man, but the relationship was put to a halt. I asked God if He was punishing me, but He did not answer. He was silent. All of this warped my thoughts and made me question if I should even continue pursing the dreams I have. Should I even trust God that if it is His will, He will make a way with this relationship?

I felt like I would be stuck in this rut for the rest of my life.

But after this moment at this park, I felt renewed. After reading a few words of encouragement from another sister in Christ, I felt that it is possible to get through this. Even though right now, in this day, I feel like I am getting no where, or achieving any of the goals I have set for myself, God is taking me everywhere and I am achieving the goals He has set for me.

So while I am not living the “perfect life” I thought I would be right after I graduated from college, I am living the life that God has called me to live at such a time as this. And in this time, come hell or high water, I want to be so immersed in what God has for me that I will never be distracted. I want God to mold me, transform me, prune me, make me new. I know it will be painful, but it will be worth it. He is preparing me for something mighty ahead. He is answering my prayers in His own way, in His own timing.

This is not the end all and the best is yet to come.

Now, it is time for me to allow the Holy Spirit to soften my heart and to submit to what He has placed before me. Are you ready to join me on this journey?

 

Like a Local

It has been a few weeks since I have written about my adventures in India. I would like to say that it is because I have been busy, but in all honesty, I have been just pure lazy. Not only that, but to find the correct words to string together that describe all I am experiencing here is just no task man can handle alone. Not only have I been too lazy to write, but unsure of what to write. Now… where did I leave off last? Oh yes, I ended my last post with something about God’s strength being what I needed to survive here.

Yeah, that pretty much sums up my last few weeks. Shall we proceed?

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We were excited to be on the train!

Before we jumped into our field placements, we went on a trip with the other social work students to the west side of South India. We took a train for 7 hours, then got on a bus for another 3 hours, and then walked for about an hour through hilly lands. We were staying with an NGO that worked with tribal families in the area.Throughout our visit there, we spent time meeting with, collecting data, learning from, and talking about the tribal groups. We learned that they are being exploited and had several debates on how we, as social workers, can help stop the exploitation. No, we did not come to a conclusion.

 

On one of the nights we went to a village deep in the Western Ghats and spent an19554622_1977734132465993_5330674345268272945_n evening with a tribal family. The other students put on a program for them. We slept on the cold hard floors in a school building (one room) with about thirty other people… and spiders. But let me tell you, it was rewarding waking up to the sun rise over the mountains. It was one of the most beautiful views I had ever seen.

Meeting some of the tribal families was at times uninteresting for me. This is mainly because of the language barrier. Not only did they speak a different language, but some also spoke a different language then the students I was with. This made it very challenging for me to do anything other than sit and watch. But then again, when else would be a better time than to practice the spiritual discipline of silence and to just observe and breath in?

I was expecting to leave there feeling very guilty about my choice of lifestyle at home, but honestly, I didn’t. Sometimes I feel guilty for not feeling guilty, but then I have realized something. I have realized that they are content with what they have. The tribal people don’t worry and fret about eating the next day and only worry about a single day’s wage at a time. They do not usually save either. I come from a culture that plans weeks, months, and sometimes even years in advance. I do not feel bad about it, but am learning to accept this cultural difference.

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Mysore Palace

To get back, we hopped back on the bus for a three hour ride. Then, we departed from the rest of the students that were heading back to the college campus. We were going to do some touristy sight seeing the next day and then head back. We went to a palace that was beautiful. Then, a few temples. We took a sleeper train back to Chennai the following evening. Now, I had never been on a sleeper train before, but it was so cool. There’s little beds everywhere and they hang off the walls, mostly bunked, and they give you a blanket, pillow, and sheet and you basically just sleep until they reach your stop.

Even though we slept on the train, we were pretty much exhausted when we got back. We took the whole day to recover. Then, the following day, I started my field placement.

I have chosen two agencies to intern at. One where I will be with four other students from the college and we will write grant proposals and create programs to help out the tribal groups just outside of the city. The second is with my classmate from home that is here with me, Abby. We will be teaching at-risk students life-long skills.

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Because Bae deserves a shoutout!

As the weeks have passed we have gotten into the routine of our placements and are finally getting a sense of what our lives for the next three months in India will be like. I am proud to say that I have successfully crossed the street and gone to the grocery store by myself. I am also excited to say that we have found the nearest Starbucks and it is just train ride, then an auto ride away. But if you know me, you know I’m willing to do anything for my Starbucks.

That’s exactly the thing though. I am learning how to do things and live life like a local. It is one of the hardest things I have ever done. I mean, I have never ridden a train before… or not been able to just get in my car and drive twenty minutes down the road to get my Starbucks. I have never walked from place to place more than I do now.

There are little things that I get frustrated about doing too.. For example, bucket laundry. My clothes hang drying  I cannot simply put my clothes in a washer and dryer. I 27067227_1977730349133038_3097089825883903070_nhave to make a bucket of water and then let my clothes soak for 30 minutes, then proceed to rinse. I’m not gonna lie though, I’m pretty sure all of my clothes still have laundry detergent in them because I am definitely not wringing them out enough. After you hang them to dry and turn, you can then proceed to take a bath in the same bucket. Remember when you were a kid and you would take a bath and to get the soap out of your hair your mom would dump a pitcher of water over your head, covering your eyes? That’s basically what you do, except Mom’s not here doing it for you. It just gets exhausting and makes you question how bad you need to shower… then you remember that your clothes probably aren’t very clean and see how the bottoms of your feet are basically black… so you shower.

one Sunday afternoon all I wanted to do was just do my work, alone, at a coffee shop. Can’t be hard right? I just needed a little introvert time. So, I got my stuff together and was planning to check out this little coffee shop called Cafe Coffee Day. I knew I would have to take an auto-rigshaw from the campus gate to get to the road near it, but that was only 10RS. I could handle it.

So, I flagged down one of the buzzing, yellow tuk-tuks and simply said “Camp Road” to the driver. He knew exactly what I was talking about26168885_1971790303060376_1410854462279996767_n and motioned for me to get in. Luckily, my program direction, Anu, who we have been calling our Mom of India, taught me that you don’t get into the auto until you know how much they are charging. And you always go to them with a set price in your head. So I asked the guy, “how much?” He says “10RS”. So, I got in.

I was trying to keep track of how far we were going in case I wanted to try to walk back. After awhile, however, I realized that it was further than I remembered. Then again, I hadn’t been there since my first day of being in India, so that was understandable, or at least I thought. He pulled off to the side of the road right at an intersection. I knew it was the right spot because of the giant green sign that said “Camp Road”. Some things never change between cultures…

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To be a local, you have to take a lot of selfies!

I knew I would need to walk a few minutes to reach a corner before I got to the little shop. I also had landmarks to look for. I was told there would be a KFC a little ways from it on the opposite side of the road and a Papa Johns directly across from it. I started my walk and kept my eyes peeled for these places. By now, I was ready to sit in the cool air conditioned shop and sip some type of iced coffee beverage while writing my field log and reflection paper.

After a bit, it seemed as if maybe it was taking too long for me to get there. I pulled out my phone and tried to type the shop into my maps app, but it said it was no where close. “This has to be wrong,” I thought to myself in desperation for a cup of coffee. But as I kept walking, there was still nothing. I was becoming more and more disappointed. Finally, I flagged down another auto driver, giving up and ready to return to the college to pout.

When I asked the guy how much, I realized he did not speak English very well. He showed me a “5” with his hand and I hopped in. I thought it was a good deal… but after I got out and I handed him the coin that is 5RS, he laughed and then signed “50”. I said “you mean 50?” At that point, I wasn’t going to argue. I pulled out a 100 and he gave me my change. I walked away not knowing whether or not I had been jipped. Either way, I just wanted to get back and figure out how to get to this coffee place next time. But, it’s been a few weeks since that point of utter frustration, and I still have yet to go. Instead, I made the trip to Starbucks.

It’s little things like trying to saree shop in a four level building and not knowing how to say what you are looking for so the store clerk just keep sending you to other levels of the store hoping you find what you look for or when you are in the Big Bizarre (a store very similar to Walmart) and all you want is marinara sauce for your rigatoni noodles, but have to get pizza sauce because this week they don’t have marinara sauce that you just have to remain calm, and even laugh at. In that same trip to the Big Bizarre, the Indian Republic Day, that is, Abby and I were just trying to find the right food so we could cook in our little kitchenette because the Mess Hall was closed for the Holiday.

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We created “Panoodles”: leftover paneer butter masala and noodles

We finally gave up on finding some things because of how crowded the store was. Also, there is no such thing as personal space, being rude by walking in front of someone while they are looking for an item, or even problems with cutting in line. When we were ready to checkout, we hopped in different lines to get out of there quicker. I was third in line and the first person in line was almost finished. Then, out of nowhere, a woman comes with a cart of items and cuts me. I realized that it was her husband in front of me, so she was just finishing up the rest of the shopping while he stood in line. Then, as if that was not bad, their daughter comes with yet another loaded cart of stuff. Abby and I looked at each other from across the checkout lines, her being the next in line, and we just can’t help but laugh. How humorous this was. Eventually, I switched lines and made it out. We decided after that to try to never have to go back to the Big Bizarre and to try to maintain our stopping at the Pik-N-Pak or Fresh, which were smaller, but much closer to campus.

So friends, as one who is learning to live in the country of India, let me tell you that it is not an easy thing to do. I struggle with it, most of the time. Not because I dislike the culture, but because of how foreign it really is. It becomes less frustrating and less surprising each day, but that doesn’t take the difficulty out of it.

Some things I have had a hard time adjusting to. One of those is food. It’s not that I don’t like the food… it’s just really spicy and I don’t like spicy food. I have my nights in the Mess Hall where I know it’s food I will like and I usually always have some rice with gravy. But I don’t eat nearly as much as I do when I enjoy the food. I can’t always have rigatoni 😦

On another note, I have never been more sick in my life than I have been this past month of being here. Between getting sick the second day and random times of exhaustion and this past week (I mean like Tuesday night to Sunday night) of being bedridden with two trips to the doctors and a full round of antibiotics and not eating anything but a slice of bread for four days… I think I’ve got the rest of my life’s worth of sicknesses while I’m here too.

The one thing I love, however, is how easy it is to see God in the small things. While I am living here, I am almost forced to live in simplicity in some ways. I am actually enjoying it and God is opening my eyes to see Him in a new light in the midst of it. It’s like no matter how bad something seems to me, like being sick and missing three days of fieldwork, I just cannot stop falling more in love with God. There is no limit to it. If the reason He brought me here was to show me that, then I am glad I am here. I am blessed to even have this opportunity in my life and God is teaching me to cope and live life with the things He has provided for me, not with the things that I think are necessary.

That being said, I know I am going to struggle with the rest of my time here. I just will. But that is okay. God has never failed to pull me back to Him and remind me of His all-consuming love. I even could not contain the idea of not having my guitar to worship, so I splurged a little to buy a new one here. I don’t want to live my life in India as if God is waiting for me back in America. I want to live it as if Jesus is walking with me daily. That means, living in confidence, freedom, and contentment in all circumstances.

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I hope some of my struggles may have been able to speak to you today. Maybe you are finding things difficult lately and you just need to bask in the presence of Jesus. Let me encourage you dear friend, do it. He is with you through that hard time. He is sitting with you while you are sick. He is making dinner with you after your long day at work. He is jogging with you on your morning run. Just know, that you can get through it because Jesus.

In His Grip,

Jenny

 

 

 

Breaking “Naan” Together

I haven’t even been in Chennai for a full week, but I feel like I have months and months of experiences to share. On our first day here, we met with a lot of people. We had to meet the director of our program and the director of our department and everyone else. I honestly do not remember everyone’s name or what their role is and why they were important for us to meet. They were all very kind and asked us how we were doing in26168935_1971788559727217_1560699438504207285_n regards to jet lag. Honestly, It was so hard for me to stay awake towards the end of the day. I could barely keep my eyes open through one of the meetings.

By the time we got back, it was only around 4PM, but I allowed myself to lay down for just a minute and ended up falling asleep. After that, we decided maybe it would be best to just try and wake up earlier in the morning. I had an apple and went to bed around 6PM and got up around 7:40AM. I did wake up at about 10PM and thought I must have slept for four days straight because of how good I slept, but I still had a lot of sleep left in me.

The next day we proceeded to meet with a lot of professors and other important faculty members of the college. We were even invited to have dinner at the Principles house. Before that, we spent the majority of the day shopping for “kurtas” to wear to our field placements. There were so many options and so many beautiful colors and designs. It was very difficult to decide which ones I liked and to stay within my budget, although we did find some decent sales!

We left in our nice new kurtas for dinner at the principle’s house a little early to take pictures of the campus and with each other. Unfortunately, as soon as we stepped outside we realized that we would definitely need to learn how to use the flash on our cameras because it was dark! It wasn’t even 7:30PM yet and it was dark. Now, I realize that at home right now it gets dark around 5PM, if not earlier. But I guess we were just thrown off by the heat and expected that because it was so hot out, the sun would stay out later. But we were wrong! It was fun trying to take pictures in the dark though!

At the dinner with the principle another group of college students from the states joined us. They were taking a class for their “Jan term”. I did not get to talk with them very much, but I did get to chat a little bit with a faculty member in the social work department and a political science professor from Appalachian State that reminded me of my favorite political science professor from home.

So now you’re probably thinking, okay that’s cool, but what about the food? Let me tell you about the food! Honestly, I was a little afraid of Indian food because I knew coming here how spicy it was going to be and how I do not tend to eat very spicy food. However, we have been full blown thrown into the Indian food and you know what? It doesn’t have to be spicy! I really enjoyed a cauliflower gravy that we had on the first day. Then again, if anyone knows me, they know how much I love my cauliflower.

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One of the most important drinks besides water that we learned about is the fresh lime soda (pictured to the left). You can get this just sweet, or sweet and salty. Ironically, most students from previous semesters have only liked it sweet, but my small group loves the salty one! I have some foods pictured about with captions on what they are. One of the most 26169676_1971789799727093_6834011385391681998_npopular food items is naan (pictured to the right). Now, if you have never tried naan, you better go find a place where you can because it is the best flat brad I have ever had.

What I have noticed about the culture is how important meals are to the community. You eat with your hands and split dishes when out to eat.

26168400_1971789489727124_456591246775005378_nThe picture to the left is chicken tendoori. The sauce in 26733962_1971789546393785_8065471813138728710_nthe middle of the plate is kind of minty, but I loved it! In the other picture, the rice dish is called biriyani and is basically rice cooked with a meat. Underneath all the rice is a giant chicken leg! The other dish is a gravy called paneer butter masala. The masala was my favorite as well. Lastly, the picture with the little silver bowl that has little white dots in it, is sauf 26219515_1971789943060412_594420738681354459_nsugar coated fennel that tastes like licorice. It is given at the end of meals, just as we would get our olive garden mints. People take them in handfuls! They were very good! At another restaurant they actually gave us mini sugar cubes too!

 

 

As much as I would like to say the food agreed with me and everything was fine, I simply cannot. You better believe that on the second night at 2:30 in the morning I was sicker than a dog. Actually, I don’t think I have ever felt so terrible before in my life. As I laid on the bathroom floor I found myself thinking, this is it. This is the end. I am going to die because I tried to be adventurous and go to India for a semester, but my weak body couldn’t handle the food.

There was also a point somewhere between laying on the bathroom floor and in my bed that I thought I would not be able to survive the full semester here. In fact, I was one Google search away from finding the cheapest flight home. It’s not exactly “whimping out” if I’m sick is it? I mean come on, health should always come first. However, despite the fact that I was letting these negative thoughts overtake my mind while I was ill, God helped me through it.

After feeling defeated (I will spare you the details), I felt like God was saying “that is what the enemy wants you to think”. I thought about this for a moment. Then realized that I shouldn’t let myself give up so easily just because I got sick within the first week. Despite the fact that it felt like I was dying, I had enough strength to recognize that God was trying to tell me that I cannot do this on my own.

I cannot just go day-by-day in this foreign land and expect to be successful. I simply do not have enough strength to carry on in a place where I have to try extra hard just to understand what someone is saying. I need a supernatural strength, a spiritual strength. It’s the same strength that God gave me to get through all of the other overseas trips I have been on. It is the same strength God gave me through all of my other college semesters.

It was like God had to take away all of my strength to show me that I need to use His to get through this semester.

I spent the majority of the next 24 hours resting and when I was not, I was in class (which was held in our room so that I could stay in bed). It was the reminder I needed to keep inviting God into my daily life. Sometimes we forget to do these things when there is so much change happening in our lives. But God wanted to remind me that despite all of the change, He is that one constant.

There is much more I can tell you about my first few days in India for the semester, but I think I will save it for the next post. What I want to leave you with is to just bask in the presence of the Holy Spirit. Remember that God is good. He is such a giving God. When we are weak, He is strong. When our lives are forever changing, He is forever the same. Where our circumstances seem to defeat us, God reigns in victory because of these truths. It may be hard, but as my best friend texted me this week “Don’t give up!”

 

The Journey

Two days ago I started this journey to an unknown land. Over a year ago I learned that I was able to study abroad and earn credits towards my undergraduate degree in India. If anyone knows me, they know I have a huge heart for this area of the world. Well, the plan was to study abroad spring of 2017, but it just was not logistical. So, I did what any planner would do, I planned to go the following spring.

Throughout the past six months I have been preparing for an adventure of a lifetime (I hope to be at least). There were countless email conversations with my resident director in India. I was filled with stress to make sure I got my student visa in time. And of course, the endless (and I do mean endless) applications for scholarships and five jobs I worked to pay for it.

And now, it’s here. I finally get to experience the very thing I have been dreaming of and raving about. On January first of 2018, I hopped on a plane to India for the next four months.

Before I get too carried away, let’s take a step back and look at the events that took place the past few days that got me to where I am now. . .

First, I did not start packing until Monday morning. Now, my flight did not leave until 8:30PM, but I still caused myself a lot of unnecessary stress. Then, as I was packing, I had to do some laundry to make sure I had clean jeans to bring. We all know that jeans take FOREVER (not just a normal “forever” but like a Sandlot “FOR-EV-ER”) to dry. Well, with my luck, the awful snow that has been sweeping across the midwest of the United States continued its course to ruin my plans.

Snow built up on our power lines, and the power went out. My jeans were still very damp AND I had to finish packing in the dark. Finally, I gave up the thought that the power might turn back on in time and hung them on an exercise bike in front of our coal burning fire. And of course, then, the power comes back on.

Yes, my jeans dried in time and I was able to pack them. Thank you for your concern.

NOW, the snow was still going strong, so we thought we should leave for the airport early to prevent us from being late. After trudging through the winter wonderland, we made it.

So we get to the check-in and get our boarding passes, then move on to give up our check bags. I somehow managed to heave my giant purple suitcase onto the scale. Fortunately, the Lord blessed and my bag was only 48 lbs, when the limit is 50. My friend that was traveling with me threw hers on the scale and it came to 49.5lbs. Then, the agent was worried she had too many batteries and we spent the next 15 minutes digging through her bag to find them… but then realized that they were not in there.

On the first flight I sat next to a guy that was pretty quiet. He only chuckled at some dad joke the pilot made about a famous person- or maybe it was when the flight attendant thanked us for flying Delta instead of American Airlines, when it was actually American Airlines. I just listened to my music and watched out the window for the 50 minute flight.

The next flight, form Chicago to London was a six hour flight. I had a window seat on our Boeing aircraft that would take us across the great Atlantic. Because our first flight was delayed, I was late getting on the second. Therefore, the people who were in the first two seats were already sitting. I immediately felt bad because I would have to crawl over them to get to my seat, and the chances of me getting up whenever I wanted were very slim. They filed out and let me in. The guy sitting next to me in the middle seat said,”Get in your prison”.

As the flight went on, this guy became very interesting. First, as I tried to rest after our meal he reached his hand in front of me and pressed the button to close the window. I opened my eyes and all I saw was his arm. Later on, after my first nap, I woke up to him digging through his bag with the reading light on. After that, I didn’t mind asking him and the other lady to let me out to use the restroom (I know, who uses the restroom on an airplane? Well, if you had a nine hour flight, you would too.)

One of the things I am trying to be intentional about throughout this journey, and maybe even a New Year’s Resolution, is to learn from other people, even strangers, and to be observant. Needless to say, I learned something from this man. I learned that it’s okay to not worry about disturbing other people to tend to your own needs. This all falls back on my other goal to not be such a people pleaser all the time.

On the next flight, I was in the middle seat between and Indian woman who lived in Montreal and an Indian man that was just on vacation in San Francisco. The man did not talk much, but the woman was very friendly. She seemed to know what she wanted in life and knew how to get it. She was also not afraid to continuously ask the flight attendant for water or ask the child sitting behind her to stop hitting the back of her seat.

One thing that I found myself doing on each of the flights was watch the person sitting next to me and observe how they eat so I wouldn’t eat the wrong way. The first guy was from London and I certainly did not want to offend him by eating the wrong thing first, or putting the wrong sauce on the wrong food item. In the middle of my meal, however, I realized that I don’t really care what other people think of me when I eat my meal. Besides, why would the man judge me if I ate wrong when I, myself, am not even from London?

I began my meals on the second flight with this newly found mentality. But as I was eating, I could tell the lady sitting next to me was watching me. She seemed to be very intrigued by how I cut my roll in half and put butter on both sides. I just brushed that aside and continued my meal while watching Ferris Beuller’s Day Off.

My journey was not that extravagant, but it was still eventful. I mean, I did not miss my flight or anything crazy like that. It was the little things that made it enjoyable to travel for three days straight into the future without getting a shower.

As I continue to recover from my jet lag and get settled in my home for four months, I am reflecting on how I can take these small lessons from the passengers that sat next to me into my semester abroad. I have decided that while I am here, I am going to practice simplicity (which means I may not wash my hair every single day), not people please (I may speak up about what I want to do), and most importantly, be myself.

I am hoping to continue to give updates and share about what else I am learning here and through my journeys. Until then, I am going to rest up and learn how to say my favorite food in Tamil.

In His Grip,

Jenny

Hunting for God’s will

{November 6}

Do you have a favorite pair of shoes? I do. They are TOMS brand Cordones. My mom got them for me for Christmas my junior year of high school (that was four years ago). They were not cheap shoes, even with the coupon I had for Journeys (one of the most popular shoe stores in the mall). This was my first pair of shoes that I had ever gotten from Journeys. This is the shoe store that all the cool kids shopped at. It’s the shoe store that when I was a kid I thought I would never be able to afford a pair of shoes from.

Well, my favorite pair of shoes have just about had it. There are holes everywhere, the inside soles have just about ripped out, and I cannot wear them on just any occasion anymore.. I have to wear them when the ground is not even the slightest bit damp or else I will have wet, cold (probably smelly) feet. That being said, last weekend I set off on an adventure to buy a new pair of shoes.

Now, I was not looking for anything too significantly expensive. I had a specific pair of shoes in mind, however. There is a pair of black, ankle high, slide on booties. I thought, those would be perfect for the upcoming fall/winter season. Plus, they would look adorable with my flannels and cuffed jeans. So, I began the search that ended up being the search for the impossible.

First, let me tell you how rainy it was. That automatically put a “damper” on my day (no pun intended). I thought that maybe I would get lucky and find a nice pair at a hand-me-down store before I went to a more expensive store. So, I started at Goodwill. Apparently, I did not read the sign, because when I walked in I looked about as lost and confused as a polar bear in the middle of Hawaii. It was a distribution center and I did not know how to “work it” or shop there. I did a quick loop and was on my way.

Next, naturally, I went to Plato’s closet. Surely, they would have SOMETHING. Well, I did end up getting a new pair of New Balance tennis shoes because my Nikes have also just about had it (if you are guessing that I probably hate shoe shopping you have guess right). I took that visit as a win.

There was a Burlington Coat Factory right around the corner, so I thought maybe I would stop in there and see what they had. As I was browsing the shoe selection, I noticed how anxious and anticipating I was. Everyone knows that you have to start at the beginning of your shoe-size section, look through every shelf and shoe, and then work your way down the aisle. I was just so excited that this might be the place that has the shoes I want. I wanted to peek ahead, but I didn’t want to spoil it for myself, and I didn’t want to miss anything.

Eventually, I got to the boots section. And low and behold, they had my shoe. But there was one problem, they were in the wrong color. These shoes were brown. I wanted black (because everyone knows black matches everything). So, it was a no deal there. There was a TJ Max next door and I thought, well, while I’m here I might as well look. Now, this store also had my shoes. BUT they were like $150. That was certainly well over my budget. So, again, another no deal.

I proceeded to go to Target, where I had done previous online research and knew they had a pair similar to what I was looking for. But once I tried them on, I was not impressed. This simply would not do. The price was right, but my overall satisfaction in the shoe was not. They were not what I was expecting. So, I continued on my hunt for the pair of impossible shoes.

I went to Kohl’s, which usually has every shoe known to man, but apparently, not mine. Then I went to the mall, where I looked at Sears, Payless, Journey’s (where the store clerk commented on my now drenched TOMs), Bath & Body Works (obviously I did not find shoes here, but I did get a new wallflower for my dorm room and a car air freshener that smells like flannel), Macy’s, and then accidentally stopped a skater store and almost bought a $15 hat and a long board for $150, but realized that if I did that, I would most definitely not get my shoes. I left the mall disappointed.

Then, I drove to 5-Below, looking for some type of hope that maybe they would have a cheap pair of rain boots that I would make-do with. But, again, I left in disappointment. That’s it, I thought. I had decided to go to a somewhat expensive shoe store. I looked at Famous Footwear before heading into DSW Shoes. They had nothing, so I proceeded to the store that I knew I would gasp at the prices, but I thought maybe, just maybe, if I found the right shoe I would be willing to put the money into them.

In DSW Shoes I was getting to the end of the aisle and getting worried, but then I saw them. In the flesh. The exact pair of shoes I wanted. Another lady was looking at them. Immediately, I marched right up to the shelf, pulled the size 8 off, found a seat and tried them on. I stood up, took one look in the mirror, and I gasped.

I did not like these shoes one bit. They did not compliment my legs like I wanted them too. They made me look shorter than I already am, even with a cuffed jean. They were what I was looking for, but they were $59.00 (on sale). I was not in love. So once again. I walked away empty handed.

Sad, full of disappointment, near starvation, and ready to give up, I thought I would give old faithful Walmart a try. But, that was a quick in and out. Now, my focus had changed from “get these exact boots” to “get the shoes that are going to keep your feet warm and dry”. I did not like Walmart’s selection of rainboots. So, just as I was about to give up and head back to campus, I thought it might be worth the slightly distant drive to the nearest Shoe Dept. I walked in, praying to our God who created all things, that they would have shoes I would like. Sure enough, they had a decent pair of paisley black and white rainboots. I was so content, that I even bought two pairs of socks to wear with them. Now, I could sleep at night.

SO, you’re probably like okay, is this post just a rant about your horrible shoe shopping experience on a rainy Saturday? The answer is no.

You see, shoe shopping is kind of like trying to figure out God’s will for our lives… except one is a little more important.

We might go out on this hunt, knowing exactly what we want and being willing to go to the ends of the Earth  (or for me Canton, OH), to get what we are looking for. We tell God that we are open to anything and willing to abide by whatever He says, but in the back of our minds we know exactly what we want to happen.

Sometimes, we want to peak ahead and anticipate anxiously what might be up there, but then we are scared that we might miss what is in the moment, or directly in front of us. We might find what we are looking for, but not be satisfied. We might think we know what we want and need, but then when we finally get a glimpse of it and see what it might be like, we are instantly dissatisfied.

I thought these booties would be perfect. I thought they would do their job and would mesh well with my style, but when I saw them, I was not happy. I was disappointed that I let myself get so carried away trying to find these “perfect” shoes that I didn’t even like once I saw them. But then, eventually, I found an alternative. I found a pair of boots that did the job. They were also satisfying when I wore them through puddles and a rain storm.

Sometimes, we think we know what we need/want in our lives. But then we might get a taste of that and not like it. If we are so open to go to the ends of the Earth to seek God’s will for our lives, then we need to be accepting of what the will might be, no matter what. We need to just give up control and trust the God of the universe with the outcome.

Because He knows just what we need. He knows how to fulfill those needs. God is all knowing and all powerful, so why not put our trust in Him?