Saturday, December 31, 2011

Themes of 2011: This Little Light of Mine

Today on Facebook I asked all of my friends, "If you year of 2011 had a theme, what would it be?" So far I've gotten about 11 responses from friends located all around the country. Many were different, some were the same, and some were rather similar. Answers (so far) have ranged from:

  • Drama
  • A Circus
  • Is it over yet?
  • Change
  • Challenges
  • Foreign Exchange
  • Full of Excitement
  • Roller Coaster

Many people couldn't list just one theme.

As I started to think about the responses and about what my own response to would be to my own question, what I found interesting is that while we have all lived a completely different year...Leaving 2011 we all have different stories to tell. Our themes are similar. Our emotions, levels of fear, joy, excitement - for some of us, they again, were similar to one another.

What is my own life theme to 2011? I, like many of you, can't list just one theme. If you've been following my blog or Facebook page you can tell my themes very well vary from one another. When watching a 2 hour movie, even in just two hours of one story, the producers and filmmakers don't usually keep it to one theme either. In a two hour movie you see action. You see drama, humor, and often you see a love story playing out in the mix. The actor's also go through a wide variety of "emotions". They play the part of anger, happiness, joy, sorrow, and fear. All of this is in just a two hour film. Two hours verse a whole year filled with 365 days, 24 hours in each.

Thinking about my own list of 2011 themes, and recalling many memories of the year, I think I would have to say that most of my themes consists of:

  • Trials
  • Change
  • Challenges
  • Family
  • Bonding
  • Sickness, cancer, infections, illness
  • Fear
  • Loneliness
  • Death
  • Hopeless to hopeful
  • Anger, Depression, to Bitterness
  • Strong to Weak
  • Weak to being Stronger
  • Shattered to Fragile
  • Comfort
  • Travel
  • Missions
  • Adventure
  • Following God
  • Operation Mobilization
  • Helping Others
  • Humor

Even in my different list of themes many of them mingle together.

Trials, Challenges, Sickness, Cancer, Infections, Illness, Death...
There were a lot of trials and challenges. There were many (and I mean many) sickness and trips to hospitals as loved ones were in the ER or being admitted. Death took my niece. Death tried to take my dad - three times. Three times in one year. Three times with different illnesses. (To read the summary of my story, check out: My Cardboard Testimony.)

I have a friend who often states that they have never been through am major trial. They've never lost a loved one, been sick, or had an ill family member. In a way that is a blessings for that friend and their family. However, until this year I never actually thought about how unfortunate that would be. I never realized what a blessing trials bring to your life and the perks of going through them. Yes, they are hard. Yes, they take you to the dark places of being lonely, depressed, anger, and bitter. But they also make you stronger. They can make you trust in God more than you had before the trial (this, although, is only if you do so on your own free will. It can make you run closer or father away.) You also realize what is truly important in your life.

The way my mom said it to me one time earlier in the year, "Throughout the last few years the life that you have known has been completely turned up-side-down." For a brief summary just going back only to 2009: Throughout the last few years I finished high school through home schooling. I went away to college in TN. In TN I thought I found where I belonged. I had wanted to attend there to Study missions. While there I did just that as well as making loads of precious treasures of friends. I went from having my own room to having a roommate. Things were different going there. God took me there for a reason and I thought He was guiding me to stay. Instead, after my first year at FWBBC, I turned back around to head back to California. I went from a Bible College filled with friends, encouragement, and love, to my home state where friends my age are very few, back to my own room, and I went to a secular City College. (There is nothing wrong with secular schools at all. They are just extremely different than Bible colleges. The atmosphere and make up is just very different. Both schools have their perks.) 

This year My sister, brother-in-law, and there fury little animals moved into our small little house with us. There was less space in the house, more people, more animals, it became a crowd at times. Within the last few years dad's health has declined. Now I'm preparing to live out of the country for 4-5 months. The life as I know it has been "turned up-side-down". Although, I think my life is meant to have one change after another. It makes life more of an adventure and change isn't always bad. In the last few years change has brought me a precious baby cousin, a brother-in-law I enjoy pestering, golden opportunities, friends I'll always cherish, love, and enjoy, as well as many enjoyable and unforgettable moments. Change can be scary. But some changes can be good.

Anger, Depression, to Bitterness, Fear, and Loneliness
With all the trials and challenges I became angry. I went through my weeks of bitterness and depression. There were many countless sleepless nights filled with enough tears to fill a river. I went through a dark journey, feeling all alone. I had the realistic part my mind telling me, "God is with you! You are never alone! You have those that love you, who are praying for you and your family. Just looking at Facebook you can see a glimpse of just a few who are praying. You're not alone. You're family is also going through all the same things - just through different perspectives and different ways."...Regardless of my realistic mind telling me what I should of listened to, I still went through the dark tunnel of negative feelings and emotions. My emotions took over my usual mellow, calm, and realistic mind. I was overwhelmed with these emotions and with fear. Fear had me asking, "What's going to happen next?"

Strong to Weak, Weak to being Stronger
I thought I was strong. I was wrong. When the waves of life hit I broke. I emotionally shattered. I became weak, and even on this New Year's Eve I still feel weak from this year. I'm still working on getting back on my feet and regaining certain levels of confidence. However, in my weakness I became stronger. I've started to regain some of my levels of confidence. I still live on edge, fearing our year of "2011" isn't over yet. However - in a way I am stronger than when it all began, even in my weakness. I'm stronger in the fact that I know my family can make it through anything together. I'm stronger in my relationship and trust in the Lord. My testimony is stronger, because, while I am weak and it will take time to be able to get back on my feet a little more and gain the ability to fully tell my story, my story has grown. I can now help others that I was never able to help in the past. In the past I couldn't relate to those who lost a baby niece. I wasn't able to reach and help those who went through trial after trial.

Hopeless to Hopeful, Comfort
In my dark moments of depression, anger, fear, sadness, bitterness, and times of feeling completely alone I became hopeless. I literally hit rock bottom. At times I thought, "I don't even remember what it's like to be happy anymore." Then there were thoughts of, "Where are you in all of this, God? Why have you left us?" I never lost my belief in God. Let me just clarify this fact right away. I did, however, question Him. (But if you recall back to Matthew 27:46 you see that even though Jesus still knew God was there and that God had a plan, Jesus questioned why God had forsaken Him - His own Son - as He hung on the cross.) I questioned his plan for our lives. I questioned where He was in this story-line. There were many nights where I thought, "God, the Bible says you can do anything...You have the Almighty power! You could of saved my niece. She could still be alive today. Why didn't you save her?? Why won't you stop these storms?" I was hopeless in my deep dark pit thinking thing wouldn't be the same. Ever. Storm after storm would just keep coming our way.

The storms haven't completely stopped but they have calmed down. Even when the storms kept raging through my life there were times when instead of calming the storm, God calmed me. (Check out the song, "Sometimes He Calms the Storm".) God brought me comfort. Through His comfort I began to feel hopeful once again. I became hopeful for a better future. A future with less trials, sorrow, pain, and traded in with more joy, happiness, and blessings. I became excited for 2012 as it became a symbol of hope of a better year.

Shattered to Fragile
Throughout the time of trials I became emotionally and spiritually broken. Then I would put myself together again, re-breaking at each new trial. Eventually instead of just breaking - I completely shattered. Now as we enter 2012 I am no longer shattered. I'm no longer shattered but I am fragile. I'm tender. I'm still in a process of healing. And the thing about being fragile? That's not always such a bad thing. Becoming shattered and broken has opened my eyes. It's one thing to hear about an event or experience. It's another to go through the experience. When you hear about the experience you can feel sympathetic. You feel emotions for those who have gone through the trial or time of joy. However, once you go through it yourself? You relate. You put yourself in their shoes. The story might be different and you may not know 100% about how they feel or felt, but you understand the general concept of the situation and emotions as a whole. Being fragile and tender isn't always bad. It helps you feel deeper than ever before for something. It keeps you aware to those around you in similar story-lines.

Family and Bonding
My family went though a lot together. What most people go through in a life-time, we went through in a year. Things we went through together can either pull family together or pull them apart. Our family got closer. We bonded more. Our love for one another grew deeper. We spend more and more time together each week. Instead of seeing each other every Sunday at church with the occasional lunch or dinner throughout the week, there are some weeks and months where we easily see each other 2-4 times a week. One of my biggest blessings of 2011 was hearing many people say, "You have the most unique family. You guy are so close. Your family is special." Being in the storms and trials I saw pain and brokenness. Others on the outside saw our reactions. They saw how we responded. They paid attention to what we said and what we did. Other's saw our family stick together through it all pushing through the storms hand-in-hand.

A close friend once told me, "I don't know how you do it. I don't know how you've managed to make it through all of this still standing." There are the obvious reasons how my family and I made it through standing. We have one another, we have friends, prayers coming from around the world, God, and God's comfort. We had hope of a future. At the same time, humor was my cooping mechanism. When dad was in the hospital I would crack as many jokes as I possibly could to keep myself smiling and laughing, but also to keep my mom with a slight smile her face. Nothing feels better during a hard time than laughter . After all, laughter is the best medicine, right??

Travel, Missions, Helping Others, and Adventure
Boy, was my year filled with adventure! I was blessed this year to travel. I've done a bit of traveling in my 20 years, but never this much within a set of 365 days. In January I was able to visit friends in Nashville, TN. In May I started my traveling to Seattle to board a ship going to Canada and Alaska. From there I went back to Nashville to help my sister and brother-in-law move to California. I then had 26 hours at home before heading to Mexico to help build a home for a family living with a dirt floor and a leaking tarp above their heads (read: Carmen's New Home). After two weeks of resting, I went to Japan to help with Disaster Relief Work from the tsunami. I had to return home early, but had about two weeks off again before heading to youth camp to be with our church's girls for a week. Throughout the year I've also been able to go to the coast a couple of times and our family (grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc) took a weekend to go to the lake after my niece died. Traveling is always an adventure. I'm honored that I was able to hear the stories of the Japanese tsunami survivors...What stories they have to tell!! Fact is, I'm honored anytime I get to travel and experience another person's culture and the willingness they have to embrace foreign travelers from another land. While traveling I was able to meet other's of whom I will never forget. They've impacted my life more then they will ever know. I'm thankful for Facebook and email, as they help connect some of us over the miles.

Following God and Operation Mobilization
Throughout the year of 2011 I've been working on going with Operation Mobilization (OM) to Germany and London in 2012. I applied, I was accepted, and I've been working on fundraising. We purchased my ticket to leave for Germany the morning of the 16th of January. I will arrive in London about 10 days later after being at the "GO Conference" that OM holds every year. The trip is right around the corner! I am excited. I am nervous, and I am scared. I'll be gone for several months overseas. This will be an adventure that is sure to be life changing and a growing experience. Often I wonder what God has in store for my time in Europe. Soon I will be finding out!! (As an update, I have about $1,000 more to raise. If interested in learning about my trip, or how to donate, check out the pages listed at the top of this blog!) No matter what He has in store I am doing my best to follow where He has been guiding me. I only pray that I will be willing to be used in any way He can use me in this world. (Why do I do what I do? Because God's guidence and His calling on my life. Read: How Great is Our God (World Edition) for more detail.)


What will 2012 hold? I can't help but wonder. Many themes of the upcoming year are a mystery. While many of the themes will be a mystery, there are a few that I know of in advance:

  • Adventure
  • Travel
  • Following God
  • Change
  • Culture
  • Missions
  • Trusting God more and more Everyday

No matter the themes, I'm going to live my life to the fullest this year and for the years to come. Above I posted a video. Wherever my adventure of 2012 guides I am going to carry my candle with me. It will be one of my theme songs. I'm going to do my best to embrace what comes my way through my adventure with my candle's flames brightly glowing. This little light of mine? I'm going to let it shine!

The thought of 2012 truly does excite me. This is a year my whole family has been looking forward to as we leave 2011 with dreaded remembered memories. It is a year of hope of many blessings, moments of laughter, smiles, and good memories.

What are you looking forward to leaving behind in 2011? What are you looking forward to in 2012? What did you learn this last year and what were your life themes?

The Travelin' Chick,

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


In my last blog posting I wrote about my dad going to the hospital.  I wrote about sitting in the ER, him getting sick, and how that is a normal at this point in my life.  It's becoming normal as it has happened many times this year.  My dad has been the ER about 5 times, hospitalized three times.  The illnesses are becoming normal...the doctors, the ER, the hospitalizing...

My dad went to the ER on Thursday but was sent home.  My mom and I went to the coast for the weekend, the whole time both of us concerned for my father.  We were hesitant to go, but he, however, urged us to go as it would be the last get-away chance we would have together before I leave for London.  He would also have my sister and brother-in-law to help him if anything occurred, as they currently live under the same roof.

When we returned home, dad wasn't doing well.  In fact - he seemed worse.  I won't go into detail here on my blog, but it was all quite concerning.  The symptoms and signs were not good.  Seeing my reality in front of my eyes made my mind flashback to March.  I flashed back to his past illnesses when he almost died.  I flash back to when mom had to call the 911 hotline.  It was not a good feeling.  It was almost like living it all over again.

Sunday night, right after mom and I returned from the coast, dad chose to go back to the ER because he wasn't feeling right.  When he got there, they automatically hospitalized him as he came down with double pneumonia.  His oxygen levels were so low his doctor's were amazed he hadn't started turning blue.

Here we are.  Back in the ER, back in the hospital, back to our reality...all to what is becoming our "normal".  I'm still thinking that the hospital needs to buy some VIP recliner seats for each member of our family.

While all that is starting to become "normal", there are things that will never be normal.  The seriousness of some illnesses will never be normal.  Once the seriousness hits, it is a terrible and worrisome feeling.  Having my father almost die?  That will never be normal and it never gets easier.   It's not normal to be able to say, "Yeah, my dad almost died three times this year.  Each time from something different, but each time from a type of infection."  Living a life that inconstant in regards to his health?  Again, not normal.  When dad gets sick again (really bad kind of sick) and I start to have flashbacks and start reliving past experiences?  That may be normal...I'm not sure...But I know it doesn't feel good.  It doesn't feel like it's normal to have to experience any of the experiences and then to also relive them every time an illness occurs.

If you read my last blog entry (Normal to Feel Normal?), you may be asking, "How are you doing now?"  I've been better.  To summarize it...It's been a rough week for our whole household.  It's stressful, worrisome, and tiring.  We thought we were though the worst of the year, hoping and praying things were looking up, and here we are...right back to the starting point of our rough year.  (Maybe it'll end where is started??)

Dad is still in the hospital.  Yesterday my mom said, "He is still in the woods, but the trees are thinning."  Today the trees have "thinned" even more.  The doctors have been running tests and are impressed with his progress.  It feels good to know he is hiking out of the woods and I pray that dad continues to do so.  Thank you for praying with us and for us.  Please keep the prayer coming our way.

The Travelin' Chick,

PS: If you missed my Facebook status update yesterday, I have made decision.  I've decided and realized why my family is in the hospital so much this year.  My theory?  I must be destined to meet and marry a good-lookin', kind, and single doctor.  We just barely keep missing one another in our paths...Not that being a doctor is a must for my future husband...but this theory...It's possible, right?? Although, I think it would just be easier to join a dating site and require only doctor's to respond to my profile.  It would save a lot of heart aches, fear, energy, time, and money.  Ha ha ha...Kidding.  ;-)

Friday, December 9, 2011

Normal to Feel Normal?

This evening my mom called me as she was out and about as she often does.  This time, however, was different then her, "How are you doing?  What did you do for dinner?" type of phone calls.  Instead she broke out of our  usual conversation and told me, "Your dad called me from work.  He told me to come and get him - he is sick."

Before I continue, let me explain something.  My dad is a strong man.  Even when feeling ill, he finds some hidden strength and pushes through.  Only once in my life do I recall him calling in sick for work - and that was within the last month or so.  Never has he called my mom to leave work early after driving himself to the location of his job.  While feeling well or ill...he pushes through and holds on to his responsibilities, even if it requires working double shifts.

By sharing that bit of information you now know that my mother calling with that news was unusual.  After talking to me, she went and got my dad taking him directly to the ER.

The hospital actually got him in rather quickly.  If you were going to have an emergency that requires the ER, tonight was the night.  Once I got to the ER there was at least an hour's time of which I was literally the only body in the waiting room.

Turns out dad has another infection.  The first decision was to hospitalize him.  They don't know the type or location of the infection, but they do know it's a serious one.  (Although from what they can tell, not as serious as one he had in March of this year.)  When I left they were talking about releasing him to go home.  (Which they've done that before but made him come right back a few hours later after getting test results.)

I got to the hospital around 9:45 PM and left around 1:30 AM, getting home around 2:00 AM.  When I left mom was still there and dad was still in the back as they still have yet to determine what they want him to do...Go home, or stay.

While being in the waiting room my mom let me play with her iPad.  Doing what a typical young adult does, I got on the free WiFi of the hospital and got on Facebook.  While on Facebook I chatted with 4 or 5 friends to give me something to do as it was too late to text "my usual people".  I can't remember which friend asked me first, but they asked, "How are you doing??"

That's when it hit me.  How am I doing?  That was a good question and one I didn't quite have a quick answer for.  I hadn't yet thought about how I was doing.  Thinking back to March, I could tell you how I was doing then when 911 was called and dad was taken away from the house in an ambulance.  I was a mess.  Thinking back to March I can recall the emotion of fear flowing through my veins.  Once the ambulance left and mom followed in her car, I remember being home alone taking the whole scene in (before leaving myself), soon to be followed by being doubled over in tears in the middle of our hallway.  There were countless tears I shed that night before heading to see my dad.

How am I doing?  This time around it is different.  At this point it seems almost routine and normal.  I've seen about as many movies in the theater as times my dad has been hospitalized this year - if not less than the times he was hospitalized.  If you look at how many times our family has visited the ER (not cancer diagnoses, surgeries, hospitalizations, or the death of my niece), we have been to the ER at least three times the amount of movies we have seen this year.  We've been there enough times in 2011 alone that I've just about decided they should have V.I.P. recliner seats for each member of my family.

This time when mom called to tell me she was taking dad to the ER, I started to shed a tear or two thinking, "Not again...", but stopped myself to ask my mom, "What do you need?  What do I need to bring you?"  (Granted, my reaction this time may of also been different than in March because in March I saw how bad my dad was, which was worse than tonight.  From what we know right now, the situation in March was a lot more severe as we would of lost him that night had we waited just one more hour to call 911.)

To actually answer the question, "How am I doing?"  I still don't know.  This is routine and normal now.  I'm not sure if I've either numbed this part of my brain and heart for it to hurt less, if it's just that I've become stronger through all that I've been through this year, or if I've not completely taken it in that he's back in the ER.  I'm not sure if my mind is waiting to react until we know more details of the infection (severity, type, etc) or if God is just giving me a peace about the whole situation.  Any of those are possibilities.  In fact, it could be a combination of all of the above, or a mixture of certain ones.  

Is this normal for this to feel normal?  For it to feel as though it's part of our life and routine?  Is it natural to numb myself to the situation?  There are other questions that come to mind but those are to just name a few.   I've had a few unique situations in my life where it's hard to find people who have been in similar situations. (Example: The death of my niece.  It's hard to find people who have experienced the lose of a child from an aunt's perspective.  In the past I've even Googled support groups for the aunt/uncle perspective and there are none that I could find.)  However, while I know there have been unique situations in unique combinations, I do know I must know people who have had a sick father or sick mother in their lives.  It's a more common situation for people to experience and yet I have no idea which of my many friends have gone through a similar situation.  (And although common, it doesn't make it any easier.  Having a sick parent is a tough thing, and I imagine that goes for a child of any age.)  It's amazing what you learn about other people when go through different trials and situations.

Although it feels routine and normal I can't help but ask myself, "When did this become our way of life?  When did ER visits and dad's ill health become so normal to me?  Is this really our life now?"  And although it feels normal and routine, I still do have emotions, fears, and dreams attached to the situation that I've had since being 15-years-old when his bad health started.  I dream my dad will still be here to see me graduate college.  I dream he'll be here to meet the man I fall in love with, that he'll be here to walk me down the aisle as I stand next to him dressed in a beautiful white gown.  I dream he will hold my future children, his grandchildren. At the same time I fear my dreams are truly only that - a dream and not reality. 

I'm not much of an emotional person.  Okay - I take that back.  I'm not an openly emotional person.  If I want to cry, I usually wait until I'm in private and am all alone.  I let myself break when no one else can see me or hear my cries of pain - whether it be physical, spiritual, mental, or emotional pain.  Even when my niece died I was like this with family.  My grandfather, of whom I love dearly, asked me, "How are you doing?"  Instead of telling him the true burdens and pain on my heart I hid from him the honest cries of my emotions telling him, "I am fine."

This is something I am really trying to work on as I realize it's unhealthy.  I know of a few reasons in some situations, but I'm not 100% sure why I hide and ignore what I feel, especially around others.  I'm trying to be more open with my feelings and to be honest with family and friends that I know genuinely care.  (Obviously I'm not going to tell a random stranger how I feel, but when friends or even family ask, I want to be more honest and to not feel ashamed or as though I need to hide the feelings I experience and have.)  For me this blog is a start.  While I don't open up about everything on this blog (as that is not what is for as some situations, emotions, or feelings, are meant to be private), I want to open up some.  

How am I doing??  Ask me tomorrow (which I guess is technically now today).  Ask me once I get some sleep and once my dad's third infection of the year sinks in deeper.  Ask me when we know more to the situation.  My answer may be different than my repeated answer of earlier tonight, "I'm okay.  This almost just seems like it's routine and  normal."  Once sleep is in my system and we know more details, it may not feel as routine and normal.

What is your story?  Please share with me via message, comment bellow, on FB, text, or call me (there is a "Contact Me" page above).  I would love to hear your story and your experience.

Tonight was an eye opener.  Even if my family is currently done with cancers, tumors, and most surgeries, my dad's weak health and ER visits are and more than likely will forever be apart of our life and routine.

Oh, and is he hospitalized or coming home?  I've already posted this blog, so this is an update, but as of Monday, December 12 - He was taken to the ER once again.  This time he has been hospitalized with double pneumonia. 

The Travelin' Chick,

PS: Thank you for the prayers for my dad, me, and my family!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


This is my baby cousin, Rayna (of whom I blogged about in the entry Our Village).  I taught her to say "London" at age 12 months, but here she is at 14-months-old saying the name of the city I'll be living in for four months on my mission trip.  Isn't she precious?

I've already taught her, "Jamba Juice", "London", how to give high-fives, the song "The Wheels on the Bus", who Curious George is, and what Santa says ("Ho Ho Ho")...Next word??  I think I'll try for Germany.  ;-)

The Travelin' Chick,

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Mixed Feelings

It's official!!  Thanksgiving has come and gone as Christmas quickly approaches within this month.  I keep asking myself, "Is it already the time of the holiday season?  How'd we get back to this season so quickly?"  As they say here in America, "Time flies!" - and it sure does!!

The holidays have started, the cold weather has arrived here in California, and it has hit me.  In LESS than a month and a half, I will be leaving my home state and my country.  I literally leave NEXT month.  I even got my new passport this week. Wow!

I will be leaving my home, family, the life I know, routine, and my usual comfort zone.  Obviously I've known since about March (or was it April?) that I was leaving for London in January of 2012.  In March, the trip, however, was still months away.  (Even now I'm not quite sure it has fully hit me that the trip is so close!)

It's odd to think I'm leaving the country NEXT month.  While I have known it was coming it still slightly feels like it has been sneaking up on me.  Ever since finding out about my acceptance (and even before being accepted) I was in prayer about the trip.  It's been in my mind for months as I have prayed and worked on fundraising.  However, at the same time, I haven't had much time to actually sit back and think about the trip itself in a complete sense and the fact that it is near.  Throughout the year I have been busier than usual and I've had to really focus on family.  I've had to grieve loss and other situations in life, go to classes for college, and have made other travels for other shorter term mission trips.  My mind has been on many things and my focus and energy has been divided among many things.

As I think about the trip with OM to Germany and London I get excited.  I think to myself, "I can't believe where God has been leading me and where I'm about to go."  In all my life, until this year, I honestly never saw God leading me where He is leading me for the upcoming year of 2012.  I never thought that God would open doors and have the ability to take a semester off college to go and serve Him overseas in whatever way possible.  In my mind I always thought of longer termed mission trips being after college once I had a degree.

I'm excited to see what the months overseas hold for my life.  I am excited for the experiences, to meet new people, and to see what God is doing in England.  I'm excited to see how God is going to guide and use me while I am there and to be able to take part in His plan for London.

At the same time of being excited I am also nervous and scared.  For the most part it's a good kind of nervousness and fear.  It's the type of fear and nervousness that comes with the unknown and not knowing what to expect.  It's the type of fear and nervousness of temporarily living in a culture and country I've never even visited.  I've lived in one house all my life, in one state, in one city.  Well, except my one year in a dorm room in Nashville. (And the main culture differences about California and Nashville, Tennessee?  Pretty much greener grass, humidity, more rain, more fried foods, and a southern twang.)  The longest I've ever been overseas was for 10 days or so at a time.

There are a lot of things to fear when traveling.  You can fear getting lost, losing your luggage (or the airport losing the luggage!), adapting to cultures, making friends...etc...etc...But for me, while some of those issues make me slightly nervous, the other part of my fear comes from leaving my family for so long after such a time of craziness (read My Card Board Testimony).  To a degree it terrifies me.  It's taken me a while to stop constantly think, "What's next??" or, "Something else is going to happen.  I just know it."  Once many things happen, one illness and sickness after another, it can leave a girl feeling frazzled and on edge of thinking something else bad is right around the corner.  These feelings and thoughts burned on my brain for months but have finally slowed way down.  I have much less paranoia that danger is lurking around the corner.

All that being said...It's a scary thing to leave family and the ones you love the most for any length of time in general.  I think out of all the things that make me nervous, this is the biggest of them all.  While the feelings of danger being right around the corner have calmed way down and I'm not nearly as paranoid, I have my fears of more possible trials to come my families way while I am away.  In particular, my father's health.

Life is a journey.  Sometimes the journey is easy and sometimes it is hard. We all take different roads and trails and have different stories to tell.  Life is a fascinating thing and mixed emotions and feelings are expected to come for any given part of our life's journey.  There are moments of laughter, sadness, tears, joy, happiness, and excitement.  There will be some friends of whom will come and go, helping you become who you are along the way. The journey I have taken in my last 20 years had definitely been an interesting and unique one to take.  I cannot wait to see what God does with the next 20 years, let alone the next 6 months!  I am glad you are tagging along with me through my blog!

The Travelin' Chick,

PS: As a financial update, I should have only $3,200 left to raise for my mission trip!  I'm more than half way there from the original $7,000!  If you feel led and able to give check out my donations page.  You can donate via PayPal or by mail.  Or if you want to know how to pray, check out my prayer page!  Or, if you're completely in wonder about what I'm doing and where I'm going (or maybe even about who I am!) there are pages for that too here on my blog.  Check them out and be in touch with any questions and/or comments!! :-)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Intentional Integrity

Intentional Integrity, by Dr. Garnett Reid, is a book focusing on the life of Job and the lessons that can be learned from Job's life and story.  The book covers many aspects of his life ranging from worship, loyalty, purity, confession, compassion, as well as other topics that deal with real life situations in Job’s time, as well as our own.

This is a book I highly recommend.  It deeply looks at the life of Job and at different angles I know I personally have never looked at for Job’s life.  It was eye opening and I learned many lessons throughout the book.  Dr. Garnett Reid’s book makes you question the type of life you currently are living.  It challenges you to ask yourself, “Am I living a life of integrity?  Am I living a life I am meant to live in front of others as well as hidden behind doors at home?  Am I living the life I am meant to live for God?”

Living a life of “intentional integrity” is a day-to-day challenge.  Not only is it a challenge now, but it was a challenge in Job’s world as well.  Job was not perfect but yet he was still able to live his life in a way that pleased God, regardless of the tragedies surrounding him. 

Living a life of integrity is something we should all be working and striving for, to be the best we can be for God and to live for Him.  We all struggle with different topics of life.  When you pick up the book “Intentional Integrity” and you start to read what is in between the pages, Dr. Garnett Reid provides not only examples from Job’s life and lessons to be learned from Job. He also provides examples of ways we may struggle in today’s world and ways to help you stay focused and that help you in your weaker areas.

Pick up and buy “Intentional Integrity” today.  Let me know what your thoughts are on the book and the lessons you were able to learn as you read through the chapters.  Bellow is a link to Amazon where you can purchase your copy today.  (It would even make a great Christmas gift for those that you know love to read!)

To Buy The Book, Click Here.

The Travelin' Chick,

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thankful in 2011

It's easy to be able to dwell on events and things that we're not thankful for in life.  It's easy to focus on negative events and things that have taken place within the last year.  From sicknesses, to death, to more sicknesses - it's easy.

Lately I've actually done pretty well remembering to think everyday of at least one thing I am thankful for or how I was blessed within that set of 24 hours.  It's a habit I want to use for the rest of my life for everyday that I am breathing and am conscious.  Now, considering the fact that it's Thanksgiving week here in America, I feel it's appropriate to take a few minutes to focus on what I am thankful for from this last year here on my blog (with pictures!).

Here we go...(There are a LOT of things I'm thankful for so I know odds are, I won't get to cover them all in this entry.  I think the list would be endless.)

  • My Family -  (My parents, sister, brother-in-law, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents...You get the idea.  The whole family.)  Not only am I thankful for the people God has blessed me with to share some of the same DNA, but I am thankful for the tight-knit group that we are together.  We compliment one another really well in many ways.  When hard times do come, we aren't broken apart.  We grow closer together and can trust one another through everything.  Oddly enough - I've always known I was blessed to have such a cool family.  However, I never realize how blessed I am until this year and how unique my family is.  It's crazy that it took me 20 years to figure that out.

  • Ashley Elizabeth (My Niece)  -  Not once did we ever get to make eye contact.  She never even took her first breath or created her first cry.  There's a lot of hardship that has come at the mention of her name.  However...There are a lot of blessings that even an unborn child can make or be.  She was a blessing in the time we had with her before she entered the world.  She created happiness, smiles, laughter, and excitement.  And while my time with her was short while she was out of the womb, I am thankful for the chance I had to hold her before completely saying goodbye.

  • Rayna -  I'm thankful for all my family, like mentioned above, but I am specifically thankful for Rayna.  She's blessed me in ways she'll never completely know in many much needed times.  She lights up my life...makes me laugh and smile.  Just being with her has helped heal part of my brokenness from the year. Oh, and nap times?  They are the best when cuddled with her!!

  • Humor -  I love wit, irony, sarcasm, and I love cheesy.  I love anything that makes me laugh. (Even if it's not always intended to!! Ha!)

  • Doctors and the technology they have within the hospital walls.  They have saved many family member's lives this year and also have helped with issues that aren't life-threatening, but still in need of attention.

  • Traveling -  I was able to visit many places this year ranging from Nashville, to Japan, to Mexico.  It's neat to see the different cultures, people, and ways people live and do things.  It's a blessing to know people from different parts of the world too.

  • Ability -  There are a lot of abilities I have and can go towards and direction.  However, I specifically am referring to the ability of physical ability.  Yeah, yeah, right now I have a bum ankle from injury and surgery...But usually I have a good range of ability so I can go and help people when I travel.  For example: Disaster relief work in Japan.  Building houses when in Mexico.

  • My Dog Miss Ruby Ann - Out of all the things I can write about my dog definitely makes the list.  She is the best dog I've ever had.  She makes me smile through her goofy moments, excitement when she sees me, when she follows me around, or just goes to bed with me at night.  She's a cool dog.

  • My Dad - I am thankful he is still alive and with us today.

  • My camera -  And the ability to capture a few minutes of joy and happiness for a lifetime.

  • Pen and paper -  Or, electricity, keyboard, and screen.  Being able to write and tell stories to others through my writings via email, blog, or even just for my own personal records in my private journal.

  • Things I Accomplished from my Bucket List - Like riding a jet ski!!

  • Friends - local and distant...Old and new.  Friends who are willing and able to call and check on me from time to time.  Friends that make me laugh and smile.  Friends who laugh when I laugh, cry when I cry.  Friends who are uplifting and encouraging.  Friends who say they are praying for me, who do pray for me.  Friends I can be open and honest with while being myself.
    • There are some other specific friends I am thankful for...However...When thinking about who to post a picture of for this section, Josh and Alicia were the first to come to mind - and quickly at that (pretty much instantly)!! They fit the description above 100%. When I've cried they embraced me, and they cried. When I laugh, they both laugh - often being a source of laughter. I am thankful for my dear friends!! I am thankful for their friendship, their support, encouragement, and the time we had together in Japan in July. (The list could really go on why I am thankful for them!! But if you read the blog and you read the general list, you get the idea of the type of friends they are (AKA: The awesome kind! Ha!).) While the time in Japan was short and in a crazy crazy time, it was sweet all the same. I love you, guys!!!

  • New Experiences and Memories -   Everyday is a new self-building adventure.

  • My home - A home with windows, doors, locks, floors, and a roof.  A home with warmth and an AC, a home with a kitchen, electricity, and a bathroom.

  • Education - whether it be from life experiences or from a classroom.  Whether I am learning myself or teaching someone else something new (which in itself can be a learning experience while teaching!)

  • My Life -  Through it all, I am thankful to be alive.  I am thankful for my experiences, lessons, blessings, stories, family, and friends.  I am thankful for my life.

  • Operation Mobilization -  I am thankful to be able to have my upcoming opportunity to go with them to London.  While I haven't gone anywhere with them yet, I am thankful for the chance, the excitement it brings, and the experiences I've had locally while preparing to go.

  • Support for OM - The support has been uplifting, encouraging, and at times quite eye opening!!  I still have about $3,300 to go...I still need a lot of prayers...But the support that has been shown in both areas has been amazing...and I thank God and you for that!

  • God - I'm thankful for all that He is and all He has done in my life.  He is my Comforter, Healer, Shepherd, Light, Purpose for Being, Father, Encourager, Provider, and SO much MORE.  He is my EVERYTHING.

  • Prayer - Being able to pray...Praying for others...Knowing that I'm being prayed for!  Even by those that speak with a different language!

  • Creativity - My creativity, other people's creativity.  Creativity for photography, writing, scrapbooking, etc, etc, etc!

  • For 2011 - It was a bittersweet year.  While there was a lot of "bitter" and bad/hard times, there was a LOT of sweetness to my year as well.  A lot of trips, laughter, time with family and friends, encouragement, prayers, excitement, and more.  The year of 2011 was a hard year...but also a good year.

This is just a summary of things and people I am thankful for...I don't know the kind of year you've had.  You may of had a GREAT year, or a terrible year.  While I don't know the type of year you've had, but what I do know is - even in the worst of years there are blessings.  There are things and people to be thankful for.  What are YOU thankful for this year?  Feel free to leave a comment!  I'd love to hear from you.

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Travelin' Chick,

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Our Village

They say it takes a whole village to raise a child. I completely agree with this statement. From an early age a child is easily affected by those that surround them in their life.

My aunt, Felicia, had a baby (Rayna) in September of 2010. She is the cutest kid I have ever met. She literally lights up my life like nobody else can. When spending time with her my family members and I can all see ourselves in her in the way she acts and in the way she talks. Granted, Rayna does have a BIG vocabulary, she can't talk in sentences or in very many phrases yet, but we know what we've taught her and shown her.

For example: My mom can see herself in her niece when she gives us Eskimo kisses or when she calls her toes "pigs" or "piggies" (This little piggy went to the market...This little piggy stayed home...). My dad can see himself in her when she says, "Rawr!!" when asked, "What does Uncle Jim say??" Grandma sees herself in her granddaughter when she says the words to "Jack and Jill". I can see myself in my cousin when she gives me a high five (she learned this at 7 or 8 months!), says George (Curious George), "London", or "Jamba Juice". We can all see what we've taught her this far in her life.

Tonight mom, grandpa, and I watched Rayna as my aunt took my grandma out to eat for her upcoming birthday. My baby cousin is currently 14 months old. She is as smart as can be. She knows all her colors, she can count up to about 10, knows some of the words to "Jack and Jill", knows what an oval is, all her animals and the noises that they make, and the list goes on! This kid can even spell "baby" and her own name without any help. She is super smart. If they had college scholarships for super smart babies she would make the list of receivers!

Not only is she very smart, but she is also very silly. Tonight we danced together. We sang songs (A repeated song of the night: The Wheels on the Bus go round and round...round and round...round and round...By the end of the night she had some of it memorized!). We read books. I built her towers that she knocked down. She gave me lots of high fives. We shared my cookie together. (Okay, she ate most of my cookie...) Tonight I was even able to put her to sleep with her bottle, switching in her binkie at the perfect moment before she woke up.

As we danced and sang together, a thought hit me. During our fun time I smiled and thought, "I would have been an awesome and fun aunt." It was a moment when I missed Ashley very deeply. I missed the moments I desired and had once planned to have with her. My heart ached, knowing she should be about a week old this last Saturday.

I often feel like I am carrying along with me lots of extra love...Love that I know belongs to Ashley (while she isn't with us physically, I still have love that consumes my heart for her), but don't know what to do with it or how to spend it. Had she lived I know how my love would of been expressed. It would have been expressed in kisses, "fighting" for my chance to hold her next, giving her a bottle, changing her diaper (you know it's love when you change a kid's diaper!)...and even in later years it would have been expressed by hugs, sending her a text, calling her, having fun crazy photo shoots, inviting her over to spend the night, etc.

While I miss her like crazy and my heart aches daily when her name comes to mind...I am thankful. I am thankful for my baby cousin. I am thankful to be in Rayna's "village". I am thankful that there is a child in my life that I can share my extra "aunt love" with that I carry around with me everywhere I go.

God knew what He was doing when He placed Rayna in our lives when He did. He knew how much joy and happiness she would bring to our family even in times of hardship.  Rayna is a physical example of God's perfect timing. She is a blessing to us all in more ways than one. It's a joy and honor to watch her grow up over time. In our lives she creates laughter...She has created laughter in my life when no one else was able. She daily creates smiles that are almost too big for our faces...Even making me smile in moments when all I've wanted to do is cry. With her, fun and unique memories are created. Rayna turns our moods up-side-down. While I can't completely speak for everyone in my family, I know of at least a few who will agree with me when I say: She has brought light into my own life when all I've seen is darkness. She creates healing in areas only a child can help heal. In just 14 months Rayna has affected my life for the good in more ways then she will ever know.

Rayna is only 14 months old. She has no way of understanding what happened to Ashley, or the fact that there should even currently be another baby in our family. At the same time, she has no idea how many broken hearts she has helped glue back together piece by piece each times she laughs or each time she gives us Eskimo kisses. My heart is extremely fragile and breakable. It often breaks many times throughout a day or week...While it's going to take a while for my broken heart to heal as much as it can (as I've heard hearts never stop breaking after a loss like this...instead they just get easier in time), Rayna has a way of fixing some of the breakage. Rayna has no idea about Ashley, but she does know that she is loved. She knows she is special. She knows she is the center of our world.

Not to sound big headed, but yes, I know I would have been a great aunt. There is no doubt in my mind about this fact. Until that chance arises again, I do my best to be a great cousin. A cousin Rayna can look up to as a role model...A cousin Rayna can come to for advice or help...A cousin that can make Rayna laugh and goof off with...A cousin that loves Rayna with all my heart - with an extra dose of "aunt love".

The Travelin' Chick,

Sunday, November 6, 2011

A Busy Sunday

Today I had the opportunity to speak at two churches about my trip to London. The church I spoke at this morning was a local church in my hometown. The other church was in Bakersfield, about two hours from where I live.

It was a joy to be able to spend time with both churches and the people that attend them! I love being able to see people from other churches, meet new friends, hear their stories, etc, etc. If you attend either church: Thank you to all of you for your prayers, encouragement, and support - and thanks for having me! It was a joy to visit with you and I hope to see you around again soon. I can't wait until I return back from London and can tell you all about what God is doing in England. (Until then, I hope you are able to follow the journey through my blog!) :-)

Being in Bakersfield I had the honor of visiting with a friend and an OM prayer partner, Amberly. (She was also the Retreat Speaker this year for our California FWB Women's Retreat...I've said this before, but if you need a speaker, I highly recommend her!) Mom came with me so she could make the drive easier for my foot. We were able to visit with Amberly as well as meet one of her dear sweet friends and wonderful family. It was really nice to be able to catch up and to share some laughs together!

While in Bakersfield, after lunch with Amberly and her clan, an interesting situation occurred. I was standing outside Wal-Mart waiting for my mom to pull the car around to pick me up. (We had to park a ways away, and my foot was weary from walking.) Standing outside I noticed there was a guy running a booth. I'm not 100% sure what the booth was for, as I didn't go take a look. All I know is it had to do with Jesus and a mission.

As I was waiting for my mom I heard the man running the booth say to a woman, "May God bless you, ma'am!" Two seconds later I heard him say something like, "...No, not you! I was talking to the other lady! May God bless her!"

The comment definitely took me by surprise! I wasn't sure if I should laugh or be in shock...So I ended up doing a little bit of both. It is my prayer that God blesses both of the women he talked to today!

Oh, and if you've read my "Who am I?" page here on my blog, remember how I spent a year in Nashville, Tennessee, to go to the Free Will Baptist Bible College? Well, apparently the southern slang is still embedded in my mind and is mixing in my vocabulary. Here's where I admit: I used the phrase, "I'm fixin' to..." unintentionally tonight in my OM speech. Yes, I lived one year in Tennessee. Yes, I was born and raise in California...and have been home from Tennessee for a year and a half. I guess I embrace and cling to different cultures??

How did you spend your Sunday??

The Travelin' Chick,

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Weak and Broken

Recently I was able to talk to a friend on the phone that I haven't talked to in a while. It was a good conversation that I really enjoyed. It was a joy to catch up on each other's lives. While it had been a while since we last talked, it felt like no time had passed between our last conversation.

One of the first things she told me excitedly was, "Guess what!! I'm going to be an aunt!!!" My first question was, "Do you want a niece or a nephew?" She told me, "I'm cool with whatever...but a niece would be really cool."

I am truly excited for my friend. I remember being in her shoes, finding out about a siblings wonderful news. It's an exciting feeling and one that should be celebrated!

In my excitement for my friends, a thought keeps coming to my mind, "This week I should have become an aunt." I think, "I should be calling her in a few days to say, 'I AM an aunt!'"

My nieces due date has arrived. This upcoming Saturday was the day doctors estimated her arrival into our lives. Little did they know that they were a few months off, and the time of smiles and excitement would instead be a time of sorrow and tears.

This week I am reminded that grieving is a process and not just a phase. During the last month or so I've been mostly doing pretty well. Like I've mentioned many times before, each day is different. Each moment is different. But in comparison to the first few months, I've felt pretty strong and emotionally well. I've been replacing my anger with happiness, my tears with laughter, and my sadness with joy. I've been thankful for the change in emotional scenery thinking, "I am finally getting back to my usual self!"

Then this week came. Before I even found out my friends news I started to struggle. (And let me just add: It's not that she's becoming an aunt that makes me struggle. I am truly joyful about the addition to their amazing family and am SO glad she called to tell me!! What hit me was just the phrase, "I'm going to be an aunt"...) I started to struggle more around Saturday, literally the week before she was due. I struggle when I see my sister get an add for Babies 'R Us, I struggle when I see my sister's heart breaking, when hearing someone crying down the hall, when recently hearing the song they play in the hospital ER every time a baby has been born...I struggle.

I've been fighting my sadness and tears once again. During my grieving process I previously struggled with flashbacks of everything...The text messages of my mom wanting me to call her, the call of the news, the long flight home, holding her for the first and last time, looking into the ground where her casket would forever lay...Memories I wish I could erase have been embedded in the front of my brain. Not only have I been fighting my sadness and tears again, but my flashbacks as well.

Grieving isn't something you can just be done with, like a phase. Grieving is a process. Just like in any process some steps are easier than others. One part of a process can be hard, then easy, then to hard again. Just like my grieving.

This week is a reminder of how weak I still am. It reminds me that while I don't feel shattered like I did in the beginning, I am still so very broken and still healing.

If you know me well enough you know that I am usually not an emotional person. I usually do well suppressing the "negative" emotions that I feel. While I know that's not the healthiest way to handle emotions of that type, it's how I often cope. This week I've been in control of my emotions pretty well from the outside perspective. I've been "myself" as I put up a wall and mask of being completely calm, smiling, and happy. Most who have interacted with me or that will interact with me probably can't tell my current internal battle. On the inside, sorrow and sadness are tugging at my heart. Tears have almost started falling from my eyes many times for no reason at all, except for just the reason of feeling sad.

When you read my blogs describing my grief, please don't feel like you have to walk on egg shells when you talk to me or while you're around me. If you're a friend of mine becoming, and aunt, tell, me! I will celebrate with you. I want to celebrate with you!! While I've never gotten to experience the usual part of being an aunt, I fully remember the part of finding out the news, the excitement, and the shopping in expectation. It's a wonderful joyous time.

This whole grief thing in the aspect of death is new for me. While I've dealt with personal grief due to serious sicknesses in the family, I haven't really dealt much with death in a way that is so close to me personally. You may wonder, "How can I help? What can I do? What shouldn't I do?" As I have been grieving death and sicknesses from this year, here are just a few thoughts that have come to my mind from my experiences and perspective:

  • Pray. Let a grieving person know that you are praying. (Just don't forget to actually pray.)

  • Facebook comments/messages and e-mails are nice...however, a card, or even a phone call is even better.

  • Don't be afraid to call...especially if you've been in a simlar situation...and even if haven't been in a simlar situation. It's okay if you don't know the words to say...There isn't a script for tough situations. Sometimes a grieving person wants to talk to someone but doesn't feel comfortable calling another person to share their burdens (even if they've been told to call anytime). And even if they don't open up share their burdens, it feels nice knowing that someone has called to check on them as it is an encouragement.

  • When you're talking to a person who's family has been going through a hard time and a storm, don't just ask, "How is ____ (Fill in the blank) doing? And how about ______??" Remember to ask, "How are YOU doing?" If someone is the daughter of a sick father, or the aunt of a a child that now spends her time in Heaven, she is also affected - even if she isn't the parent of the child or the spouse of the sick. While this person may not mind updating you, this person is not just a reporter for their family. She (or he) too have also been going through the storm and more than likely been struggling as well, needing and wanting a pair of willing and listening ears.

Grieving is a process. It's a process where I learn and experience new feelings, thoughts, and emotions. My family has already been told many times, "You're going to be grieving the loss of Ashley for all of your life, especially with milestones and holidays. You will always love and miss her. However, with each year that passes the pain just gets more bearable and you learn to cope."

Often I've prayed, "Lord, break my heart with what breaks Yours." This year I've truly been learning what breaks His heart. It breaks his heart to see His creation hurting, for His people to lose those that they love, and to see us struggling. While going through these experiences hurt, I know that I have changed in some ways. I'm not sure exactly how yet, but I know that God has given me a tender heart in areas where while it was tender, it wasn't nearly as tender as it is now. Going through certain experiences I can now relate to many who are going through similar situations...While I am still hurting, I will be able to reach out to those that I before wouldn't be able to just because of my innocence in regards to the situations. God has given me a bigger vision for new passions I wouldn't have without my experiences.
My vision has expanded, new passions have grown, interests have increased, and my heart has been broken and in turn has made me more tender. Grieving is a process...and with this process I am growing as a person and trying to learn what God can show me through this experience.

I am weak and broken...But I am not letting this pain go to waste.

The Travelin' Chick,