Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Celebrating Life

Usually I'm not big on skipping class.  If you miss one class session, you may miss a whole lot of what you need to know.

However, at the same time - I'm big on celebrating life. (And probably even bigger on the idea after my year of "2011".) This weekend I am going to Disneyland!  Even though it's 4 months later, I am finally going to go to celebrate my 21st birthday!!  I am excited to go out of town to the "happiest place on earth".  I'll be going with my uncle, aunt, 2-year-old cousin, mom, and grandma.

The original plan was to leave tomorrow after two out of my three classes were done so we could go and spend the day at Disneyland on Friday.  However...My mind has been changed.  Instead, I am skipping classes.  The pull of Disneyland and having a good time with family won me over.

At least I'm doing well in my classes...Right?

Disneyland, here I come!

It's like having a birthday all over again. :-)

The Travelin' Chick,

PS: Or how I put on Facebook:

"Tonight I am declaring my tomorrow (Thursday) and Friday an official personal holiday. On this holiday I not only permit, but encourage, myself to skip all classes taking place at college. School work is not allowed to be a part of my life until Monday. I must laugh and smile a lot while having tons of fun this weekend...Making memories in celebration of my 21st birthday - even 4 months after the big day. Maybe I'll even meet my "Prince Charming" while I'm away this weekend. (A girl can dream - right???) ;-)

Disneyland, here we come!!!!!!"

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Memories from a Melody

There's a country song on the radio with lyrics that say, "Funny how a melody sounds like a memory".

Since arriving home from the U.K., I find this part of the song to be true.  There are songs I hear on the radio or on my own iPod that take me back to London.  (Although, even without music, there are days when I'm physically in California - but mentally back in London.)  There are songs that remind me of different people and different experiences.  The other night, a worship song we used in London a few times came on the radio.  Tears came to my eyes as I started to think about London and all that I was a part of, what God is doing, and when I started to think of my team and friends.

The other day I was really struggling with being back home.  I know I'm suppose to be home - there is no question about this.

As I was struggling, I decided to pull out my journal and write.  I've been a horrible writer these days by not writing much (as I'm sure as you can tell by how often I have been posting here).  I really want to write more, and hope to break this habit.  So, as I sat there, journal and pen in hand, I made a list.  Actually - I made two lists.

My first list was about "Things I Miss about London".  My second list was, "Things I don't miss about London".  I thought that this would help my mind sort out some of my experiences and how I am now feeling...To process things that had happened and are currently now going on as I adapt to live back at home.

The list of things I miss is WAY longer than the things I don't miss.  Here are a few of the things on that list...

  1. Having an unending amount of ways and chances to step out of my comfort zone.
  2. Learning a word or two in many different languages.
  3. Hearing people's stories from around the world - and what God is doing in their life!
  4. Teaching English to my flat-mates and others I worked with!
  5. Korean food. ;-)
  6. My flat-mates.
  7. Leaving post-it notes for my desk buddy!
  8. Flat game nights, especially when one of the married couples on our team would join us for dinner and the game time!
  9. Sunday mornings with on of my flat-mates.  She and I had the whole morning with just the two of us, being able to chat and catch up on a more personal level.  (We rode the bus together as we went to the same British church.)
  10. Swiss Chocolate
  11. The tube.
  12. The challenge of it all.  (It's a good kind of challenge.  A challenge of adapting, learning, and stepping out of your comfort zone.)
  13. The church I worked with on Sunday evenings.
  14. Big Ben at night time.
  15. Team Devotions!
  16. Inside Jokes.  (To bring up a few??  Knock-Knock Jokes, Peanut Butter Kit-Kats, Peanut butter, and mismatched socks.)
  17. Making videos and taking photos for my teammates. 
  18. British accents.
  19. Prayer nights where we all got together to pray for countries around the world and for issues such as human trafficking. 
  20. The work we were doing there.
  21. The free museums.
  22. Being involved with sharing people's experiences, stories, and what God was doing during my time there, with supporters and prayer partners!
  23. London's variety of Haagen Das ice cream (best brand EVER).
  24. The mannequin in our building that we would occasionally put in someone's room.
  25. Learning of British Culture.
  26. Old, gorgeous, British churches!
  27. Learning British English - verbal and written forms.
  28. All the laughter from living in an international community and having a good, tight-knit, group of friends.
  29. Introducing international friends to Butterfingers and Corn Bread!  (Thanks the the many  care packages I got from home!)
  30. The whole experience.

This is less than 1/5 of my list.  A list that could have gone on, and on, and on, and on...

I still think of London at least once a day. Then, there are days when I can't get the city, the work, and my friends out of my mind.  Again, I know I am meant to be home.  However, 6 months of my life was spent in this city with this team...With a team that became very dear to my heart.  I came home changed because of the whole experience.

Although I miss London and my friends, and everything taking place there, I remind myself on a daily bases, "Crystal - you are so blessed.  You are so blessed to have a group of friends and an experience that you miss so have people and memories so dear to your heart!!  Not everyone is so lucky to have the chance to miss so many people and memories to reminisce about."

If you want to keep me in your prayers still, please do!  You can pray for me as I sometimes feel like I'm still readapting and find ways in which I've changed.  You can pray for me as am back in school, hoping to finish college in the next 2-3 years.  Pray for me as I discover God's future plans for my life.  (Which I've recently started to have a little understanding of, but do not want to post publicly, as things can always change.  After all, I still have to finish college in the next few years - and anything can happen between now and receiving my diploma.)

Also, pray for London.  Although I have returned home, I am still in prayer for this city- and I hope you are too.  Pray for the continued work in the city...pray God will use Christians in London to love their neighbours around them, and as they share God's love and Message!

The Travelin' Chick,

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

What's Next??

I've been home a little over a month now.  I took time to heal from whatever mystery illness I had overseas (from my hospitalization in Norway) and from jet lag.  I gained my energy and strength back and went to youth camp with our church's teen girls as their counselor. (Which is always a highlight of my year!) Right after camp, I did a presentation on my time in London at my home church.

Since returning home I have been asked many times, "So, what is next?  What is after London?"  Well, here is an overview...

Before leaving for London I was still attending college.  I knew when I returned home, I would also have to return to college.  Today I started back in my classes.  I got lucky in the fact that I don't have any classes at all on Mondays or Fridays, and only one night class on Wednesdays.  Tuesdays and Thursdays are pretty much filled with three classes.

The different thing about this semester is...I am excited.  I am excited to go to classes again, to hopefully meet new friends, and just to be back in school.  The last time I was excited about college was around the fall and spring semesters of 2009/2010.  (And this has to do with many different reasons...going to a new school after attending a Christian college, family emergencies and struggles, etc...)

It really does feel good to be back in classes.  A month filled with "nothing to do" is a bit much for me - especially after 6 months of going, going, going!  I think I've been missing interaction with peers, having some kind of challenge in my life, learning, being more productive, etc.

Being in London also gave me a taste of what life can be like once I am done with college.  It gave me the motivation to finish what I started and more of a desire to get my degree.  While going to college is normal, college isn't really "normal" life - unless you are a career student...and I'm ready to be done with this phase in my life.  (Not that I want to wish my life away...That's not what I mean at all.  I've been in college for a few years and am ready to move onto other adventures for God that can be longer term vs short-term, like my time in London.)

On top of college, I also am planning to speak to churches about London and the ministry they helped support.

Some of you may also remember that I had to have ankle surgery before going to London.  Some of you may know, but some of you may not...But I need to have another ankle surgery.  I'm pretty much a candidate of an ankle replacement, but for many reasons, I am avoiding that option at all costs.  Tomorrow I will be having a phone appointment with my doctor to discuss options that I have that will give me the best outcomes...and I am hoping to do this within the next couple of months.  (This may only require one surgery, but it also may require more.)  Funny thing is...I'm also excited about this too.  I suppose most people dread surgeries, but I'm just ready to have a better functioning ankle that I can rely on.  It's been an ongoing issue for a few years and I am ready for it to be dealt with.

As a summary, my main things that are next are:

  1. Finish college!
  2. Ankle Surgery...
  3. Speaking at churches about London...
  4. I didn't mention it above - but my parents put their house on the market!  Hopefully it'll sell soon and we can move!

There are a few other things I'm also praying about and strongly considering for my future.  I'm not really sure where God is guiding me, but that's all part of the adventure of life!  Most of what I am praying about would more likely take place once I finish college (or possibly during a summer for one of the things I'm praying about)...We'll see where God leads!

So...What are YOU up to these days??

The Travelin' Chick,

PS: Did I mention that I am also going to Disneyland to celebrate my 21st birthday?? :-D

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Beautiful Norway

I've been home for a week now.  I've fallen behind on blogging, and have so much I need to write (at some point, but probably not today).

Most of you know that before I came home, my mom came to see me in London.  As I ended my time working she came to see where I had been living and to meet those that I've been working, living, and building friendships with during the last six months.  We spent a week touring parts of London, partaking in parts of team life, as well as packing my two suitcases to come home.

My mother and I then had a vacation planned.  However, this vacation?  It did not go as planned!  We ended up going on our own adventure that was completely unexpected.  Long story short...I ended up really sick (I've never been so sick in my life!) and hospitalized in the country of Norway.  (Being hospitalized in Norway...That's something to kick off the bucket list, right??)

From what I could see out of the ambulance, Norway looks like a beautiful country!  I'd actually like to return one day to visit and to see more of the country outside of the hospital walls.  In my hospital room, I did have quite the view though!  The sun didn't go down until nearly midnight.  At one point in the morning, I remember waking up (probably around 4 a.m.), and the sky was literally purple.  I've never seen anything quite like it.  It would have made quite the picture had I not been feeling too lousy to take one!

All my doctors and nurses were really nice.  They were all tall and blonde...and they spoke English really well!  I can't remember how long I was in the hospital...If it was one night or two...But I remember a nurse coming in my room in the early hours to check on me.  I hadn't met this nurse yet, and when she woke me up she said something.  Being half asleep and confused, I couldn't understand her.  My response was, "huh?"  She repeated herself.  Once again, I said, "Huh?"  She then repeated herself again...and then it hit me.  I told her, "Oh, I only speak English!"  I had forgotten I was in another country where English is not their first language.

Apparently hospitals in Oslo (the city we were in) rotate every month on which one takes the foreigners.  Again, they on I ended up was really great and the doctors were wonderful.  (The hospital I was in is actually a Christian hospital.)  Someone asked me, "Were you scared?  Were you scared to be in the hospital, sick, and overseas?"  I told them, "Honestly?  No...I wasn't."  I think I was too tired and feeling too horrible to be scared, but I also somehow knew there wasn't really a reason to be scared.  After all, God was/is in control - even if there was a problem that had required surgery.

Really, any energy I had was spent on wanting to go home.  The funny thing is, I told God, "I just want to go home...California or London!"  After I said that, I thought, "Wait - when did I start considering London home??"  I knew that it had become in some ways, but didn't realize that it had become home even in these kinds of moments.  (Maybe it had to do with the comfort of knowing I had friends who would be there if anything was truly wrong...I'm not sure...But I think that had something to do with it.)

Not only was I not scared because I lacked energy, but I knew that I had family and friends praying for me!  I got messages from friends around the world telling me that they were praying for me.  Messages ranged from California, the Philippines, London, Japan, Tennessee, Spain...The list goes on.  God has blessed me with really great friends, family members, and prayer partners!

For those of you who prayed, thank you so much!  You are a blessing.  I am home now and have just about gotten back to my normal self.  There wasn't anything wrong found that concerns the doctors here in California, or in Norway.

Now I'm working on adapting to my home in California.  If you'd like to continue to pray for me, pray for the adapting process.

Until next time!

The Travelin' Chick,

Monday, May 14, 2012

...And I smiled.

Today was a rainy day in London.  (Go figure.)

We had planned to have a book table and to pass out portions of Gospel literature.  Due to the rain, and because we had a small team today, we decided to spend time in a mall where it was dry.  While in the mall our goal was to talk to people we saw sitting on a bench, or in a store looking at that really cute purse (which, I totally just wrote as "person" instead of "purse" know it's late when...).

While in one of the stores I was in the check-out line to purchase a very British and slightly discounted book for my baby cousin.  As I got to the front of the line, I said to the cashier, "Hello!  How are you doing today?  How is your day?"  A few silent seconds went by before she responded to me.  Looking up from the register with a puzzled look on her face, she looked up at me and asked, "Are you talking to me??"

Shocked at her response, I told her, "Of course!  How is your day going?"  She told me, "Oh...It's going okay.  I just started work.  But...Customers never ask how my day is going...I wasn't expecting that."

During the day I didn't get into any "deep conversations" about God.  However, I think that's okay.  As my friend said today, "Sometimes it's just about showing up for duty and being willing to be used for God."  God will take care of the rest if you show up.

Plus, I think days like this are okay.  Sometimes I think it's about showing people God's love by just a simple smile and a question of, "How are you doing today?"  or, "How is your day going so far?"

How many people go through the day without receiving a smile?  Without being asked if they are doing okay?  Without a person to show that they care - even just a little bit?

Yes, we should speak about God's love.  There is no question about that!  But days like today?  We didn't speak about God's love, instead, we showed it.  We let our lights shine for His glory.  I may have asked a simple question or given a 5 second smile, but who knows what God can do with a few simple caring words or friendly facial expression.

Today I didn't get into any deep conversations about God...But I showed up for duty, and I smiled.

Who are you showing God's love to today??

The Travelin' Chick,

Friday, May 11, 2012

British English Vs. American English

Recently I had a conversation with a British friend who is part of our group for a month.  As we were talking, I asked her, "Are you fixin' to leave?"  (Yes, I am from California I said "fixin to"...I sometimes surprise myself when I say that phrase.)  Looking at me with a confused facial expression, she said, "I have no idea what you just said.  What does that even mean?"  Then I had to translate my momentary Southern American English to "normal American" English.

A few weeks back I was talking to my mom on Skype.  I told her how I had some left over chips, so I put them in the fridge to eat at a later time.  Confused, she asked, "Why did you put your chips in the fridge?????"  Then I remembered - chips in America are not the same as the chips in England!

What are some other differences between American and British English?  I've started a collection of words and phrases that differ and thought I would post some for you to enjoy yourself!

(Left word will be British, and the right word will be translated into American.)

  • Mate - Friend
  • Flat - Apartment
  • Tea Towel - What you use to dry your dishes
  • Nappy - Diaper
  • Lift - Elevator
  • Jumper - Sweater
  • Jim-Jams - Pajamas (I think this one is my all time favorite!)
  • Crisps - Chips
  • Chips - French Fries
  • Candy Floss - Cotton Candy
  • Finz - Gold Fish (You have nooo idea how excited I was to find my favorite snack!!)
  • Straight Away - Right away (For example, "I need to do my homework straight away/right away!)
  • Mobile - Cell Phone
  • Mum - Mom
  • Rubbish - Trash
  • Courgette - Zucchini
  • Trolley - Shopping Cart/Buggy
  • Queue - Line
  • Trousers - Pants
  • Pants - Underwear (Often I use the phrase, "Put on your big boy/girl pants and deal with it!"...I guess either translation works with the word "pants", but I work really hard to remember to say trousers instead!)
  • Cinema or Film - Movies (Apparently this word is very American.)

Some of those words I've noticed myself adapting to, but also the words, "proper" (Example: "Do you have the proper book for this assignment?")  and "brilliant".  And just like my British friend had to tell me, "I have no idea what you just said"...There are times when the situation is reversed.  Sometimes I look at my British friends with the same confused look with the question of, "What does that even mean?"  Sometimes figuring out what food products are called here are even an adventure (such as the zucchini being called a "courgette").

I hope you've enjoyed your first lesson on British English Vs. American English.  If I remember, I'll try to share more with you another time.  I only wish I could tell you how to pronounce words that America and England have in common.  The only one I can explain easily on my blog and in written form is the word "idea".  Many British people I've heard use this word say, "idear" instead.  A lot of their "er" parts in words also turn into an "a".  For example, "Jumper" would sound more like "Jumpa" ("Did you bring your jumpa?").

Now that you've learned some of their phrases and words, it is time to start practicing your British accent.  Maybe you can do better than me!  Apparently, I am "rubbish" at imitating how the British speak! ;-)

The Travelin' Chick,

Friday, April 20, 2012

Anger with God

“I can’t…I can’t love or forgive myself…I just can’t.”

Sitting in a local café in London, I was talking with a lady from Romania (that we will call “Valerie”).  Before I even met her I could tell she was hurting and broken.  By her facial expressions, body language, etc, I could tell that she carried a heavy weight of pain in her life.

Valerie already knew on of my Korean friend whom was also a part of the conversation in the café.  In fact, my Korean friend talked to her all day and I was only able to talk to her for two hours, as I was committed to be at our book table and couldn’t stay the whole time. 

During the two hours I spent with Valerie I couldn’t help but notice how my heart ached for her obvious pain and hopelessness.

If you read my last blog entry, you know that my goal and prayer was to be able to use my testimony while out on the streets meeting people.  Truthfully?   In the first month or two I don’t think I was quite ready to share my story with a complete stranger.  My wounds were still raw and stinging with pain.  In fact, I struggled enough sharing my story with people I had known for month (or longer) without starting to cry.  But now?  Now I was ready.

While talking with Valerie, God prepared and opened a way for me to share what He has been doing in my life throughout the last year.  (My Korean friend also got to share her testimony as well!)  As she spoke, Valerie said something such as, “I shouldn’t be angry at God.”

I don’t know the cause of her pain nor do I know what past action she is trying to forgive herself.  What I do know, and what I can relate to is anger.  I know what it is to be angry with God.  (I’m human…what can I say?)

Once she finished speaking, I spoke up saying, “I know what it’s like to be angry with God.  This I year went through at least two months where I literally woke up and went to bed angry.  There were days when, while I still believed in God, I really just didn’t even want to talk to Him.”

Giving me a curious look, I continued.   As I told her my story I told her everything in the order that each event took place.  But in summary, I shared with her about the heartaches of 2011.  I shared of my dad’s three illnesses that lead to three hospitalizations, nearly taking his life each time.  Recalling back to my year, I also told her of my niece, Ashley, and how she died while I was in Japan, but was able to hold her for the first and last time before we buried her.  Then I told her of my grandmother’s second round of cancer, as well as other family cancer scares…Not to mention my own ankle injury and surgery, and other family illnesses/emergencies.  If you’ve followed my blog, you know most of my story as I wrote as it all took place.  (Although, my blog doesn't cover my whole if you ever want to know the full edition, feel free to ask.)

After I told her of all the heartaches I went through, I also told her, “I was angry about my life, my situation, and eventually realized that ultimately, I was just angry at God.  I was angry for what seemed like a lack of protection and for Him not healing my baby niece in a way that would let her live.  Once I realized I was angry and admitted to God of my pain and emotions, God was able to start repairing my brokenness, pain, and fears.  But even now, just four months after everything took place, I am still learning from God about this issue.

“I’m learning that I can’t always change the ways of my own heart as much as I attempt to do so…I have to pray for God to change what I can’t change on my own – like my anger I held towards Him, as well some of the bitterness that is still stored in my heart…And sometimes, that’s a daily prayer.   It’s not always a prayer we pray only one time in our lives.  It’s not always that simple.  We have to remember to continually go to Him and rely on Him, not ourselves.   

“No matter how we feel – God knows.  If we’re angry with Him – He knows.  We might as well tell Him and start repairing the cracks in our relationship with Him that our anger and bitterness causes.”

Throughout telling her my story and all that I had to say, she seemed like she was focused.  In the end she asked me many questions. Granted, there is the fact that she’s from Romania.  English isn’t her first language and there were some miscommunications through some of what was said.  (For example: I was telling her of my “baby niece”.  The first time I said that she said, “You’re baby??”  Since I have no children of my own, I quickly explained that it was not my own child but my sister’s.)  

I’m praying that God was able to use my imperfect words and testimony for His glory regardless of communication barriers caused from our two very different languages.

I told Valerie that she could always start by praying to God to help her find a way to love herself and to forgive herself for whatever she has done in her past…To change her heart in a way she can’t change on her own.  She told me that she couldn’t and wouldn't do that.  In reply, I asked, “Can we pray for you?  Can we pray that God will show you a way to forgive and love yourself – even if you can’t?”  She told me that we could.

I told her, “If our Great and Might God can still love you and forgive you, then it’s okay for you to do the same.  You might not be able to forget your past, but that’s okay.  God can help you learn through your story and use to help other people who can relate one day in the future.”

As we ended our conversation (at least, the first two hours that I was apart of...My dear Korean friend stayed with her to talk for a few hours more) I shared with her Jeremiah 29:11, and how it reminds us that God has a plan for our future.  Just before leaving the table, I told her, “I just can’t help but imagine God looking down on you, His child, His daughter, thinking to Himself, ‘My precious Valerie, I love you more than you will ever know, and I have forgiven you.’”  I also told her of how God must ache for His own hurting daughter.  (Knowing how much my heart aches for her, I can't even begin to imagine how God must feel when He sees how much she is hurting.)

If Valerie comes to your mind, please pray for her...
  • Pray that she can love and forgive herself.
  • Pray for God to change her heart in a way she cannot change on her own.
  • Pray that she finds peace and joy through our one and only God.
  • Please pray that regardless of my imperfections and our language barrier, that the important parts that God wanted her to hear she not only heard, but also listened to them as well.

The Travelin' Chick,

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


Where have the last two weeks gone?  It never ceases to amaze me how fast time goes by here in London.

Before I get into some of details of the last two weeks I want to share this story with you.  If your sense of humor is similar to mine in anyway, prepare yourself for a moment of laughter...


The joys of living in an international community!  In our flat lives seven girls (formerly 8, but my German friend was only here for 7 weeks.)  Only two of us are native English speakers.  Last night we went for a prayer meeting with another group here in England and we got back late last night at half past 11 p.m.  The following basic conversation took place between three of us girls:
English Speaker: I'm tired and grumpy.
Korean: Grumpy?  What does that mean?
Me: Grouchy.  Unhappy.  Or, like when you wake up and haven't had your coffee yet.  Grumpy.
English Speaker: Have you seen "Snow White and the 7 Dwarves?" 
Korean: No...What means 'dwarves'?
English Speakers: Ummm...Dwarves are like little people.
Korean: Oh, like smurfs??!?
English Speaker: No...Not exactly...
Needless to say, I was laughing really hard towards the end of the conversation.  I knew exactly where my English speaking friend was going with the movie, "Snow White and the 7 Dwarves" - and eventually she did get to explain that there were some by the name of Happy, Grumpy, Dopey, etc, etc...Sometimes it's pretty much impossible to keep a straight face during moments like this. 

During the last two weeks I've been keeping busy with many things.  Our work of having a book table and distributing free Christian literature to people we meet on the streets, with my communications internship, living with 7-10 people (depending on who is here, who isn't...), taking classes, etc, etc...The list is never ending.  While it has been crazy busy I am still learning a lot and soaking everything in to the best of my ability.

Recently as we distributed the free Christian literature, within an hour I had at least 3 or 4 people walk by the table telling me and my friends/coworkers, "You're young! One day when you're my age and you see all the rubbish that goes on in this world, you'll know that there is no God!!"

To be honest, my first reaction (internally) was frustration.  It drives me insane when people look down upon others because of their age...Not to mention before getting to know a person and their story.  When the first person looked down on us for our age I was okay...but after the third and fourth one, that's when the frustration came.  (It also didn't help that it would be said by people who walk by the table without stopping, not giving us a chance to talk with them to learn more about them.)  In my mind I couldn't help but think, "Who's to say we haven't seen 'rubbish' in our own personal lives or in the lives of others?  Why are they judging our lives because of our age?  They don't know us!"

Then I realized, after my frustration calmed down (as I am not perfect by any means!), the sadness that came over my heart for them and their lives.  What had these people been through to make them disregard God?  What's happened in their lives?  What is their story??  What are their struggles and heartaches??

It's really saddening to think about the hopelessness their lives must hold.  Sure, I have heart aches.  I have struggles.  But one thing remains the same through all the different circumstances: I still have hope in God.  It's like what I recently posted on my Facebook account.  Often I'm reminded that it's not about showing people that I'm stronger than anyone else, but just as broken as they are. The difference between myself and some of the people that I meet? In the midst of my brokenness I still have hope in God...and that makes all the difference. And even though I am still healing from brokenness from my year of 2011, and healing can be a painful process in itself, I also remember that God has a purpose for my life and my unique testimony.   What are the people that I meet on a regular base putting their hopes in??  Do they even have hope of any kind???  (And if they do, I cannot imagine how little hope they truly get from something other then God.)

1 Timothy 4:12 also came to my mind:
"Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity."

Yes, I might be younger then many of the people that I meet on the street.  Yes, it's true that my story might be different then those that I meet, but I still understand what it's like to go through the rubbish of life through illnesses, death, fear, and anger.  I may be young, but I'm not living in a bubble protected from the storms that life brings. (As, if you read my blog on a regular basis, I don't need to tell you that!)

Instead of letting my frustration take ahold of my mind, next time I hope and pray that the people who say these kind of statements will slow down and talk with us.  I want them to see that we truly care about them and who they are and the struggles that they face.   I want a chance to hear their stories and to share my own in return...To share my testimony and what God has done and been doing in my life...To set an example. 

We always try and set goals before heading out.  Wheither it to be that we pass out a certain amount of literature, to use a certain Bible verse in the day, to get into a good conversation, etc...Sometimes the goals are met, sometimes they are not.  But often, God has something incredible to show each of us who go out for the day regardless of if they were met or not.  My next goal?  To have a chance to get into a good conversation with someone.  I really want want to be able to share my testimony and what God has done in my life and what He continues to do....I want my testimony to be used for His glory, to help make a difference in someone's life for God...I want to connect with someone and to show God's love to them.

Soon I'll be sending out my next newsletter.  If you didn't get the last one and you would like to be included on this upcoming one, please send me an email and let me know.  I've only done one so far, but I do go into a little more detail of the work I am doing here through the newsletter verses on my blog postings and Facebook posts.

Oh yeah!  After praying about it and thinking about it for the last few months being away, I've extended my time to work here until June 26th instead of leaving in late May.  This adds one month to my time here.  I feel as though this is where God has called me to be for this period of my life and that I am meant to be here through the additional month.  Please be in prayer for funding to come in quickly and easily.  Where God guides, God provides - and I firmly believe this!

The Travelin' Chick,

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

"This is awkward, let's go..."

The other day I was helping a local church with a book table by passing out literature about God, DVDs, and information about the church.  This is something I do at least two times a week.

While performing this community services over the last several weeks, I have struggled within my heart.   You may be asking “why”.  I'm not sure of the exact answer.  I do know that it has to do with the fact that I've never passed literature out to strangers in previous experiences.  I also think it has to do with the fact that I feel like I'm not educated enough.

Yes, I finished high school.  Yes, I've been in college for about three years now - one year even being at Bible College.  However, while part of me feels like  I know a good bit about God and the Bible, I have realized that I don't know enough.  What if an unbeliever asks me a question I can't answer?  What if I am not clear enough in my answer?  The way I answer a question may impact someone's life, either for good or bad.  

On Monday, we were out once again out doing this service.  It was a very cold and windy day here in London.  (Let me just state, cold is normal here, but it is not usually that windy!)  I usually pass out the booklets provided, but for some reason, I felt lead to pass out DVDs about the history of Jesus Christ.

As I was passing out the DVDs, two young women walked by me.  They looked like they were about my age.  I asked them, "Would you like a DVD?"  They asked me what it was about and I told them it was about the life of Jesus.  By their attire, I could tell they were from a different belief system.  However, they were curious and said, "Sure", as they each took a DVD into their own hands.

As we were standing there, I tried to strike up a conversation.  I told one of the girls, "That is a beautiful scarf you have on!  That's a really pretty color."  She and her friend agreed.  Then one of the girls said, "Okay, this is awkward, let's go."  They then turned away and started to walk another direction.

Thinking this conversation was over, I thought to myself, "Man, Crystal, you should have said more!  You should have tried harder to hold a longer conversation!"

Watching the girls walk away from the place where we had just had our brief conversation, I saw them look towards our book table.  Something on the table must have caught their attention because they stopped to take a look.  Before I knew it, the two of them had a short conversation then turned around headed back my way.

Once they returned, they looked at me and said, "Okay...we have a LOT of questions."  With a smile on my face I replied, "Okay, great!  I cannot promise that I can answer all of your questions but I do promise to do my best."

These two girls indeed had a lot of questions!  We stood there talking for about 20 minutes and they must of asked at least 15 questions that afternoon.  Some of those questions included:
  • Why is the cross the symbol of your belief system?  Isn’t it ironic?  Shouldn't you hate it and shouldn't it make you angry, if God's Son died on the cross?  Why do people wear it and seem proud of the cross?
    • No, we shouldn't hate the cross.  In fact, it's a good reminder for us of Jesus' love for us as his people.  He willingly came down to this earth to save us from our sins.  God sent Jesus knowing that he would be mocked, beaten, and hung on the cross to die for us in a painful death!  How can this not reminds us of God's love for us??  It not only represents His love, but it also represents the new life we can have in Heaven one day if we believe and follow him, because He also came back three days later!
  • Why would God let his own Son die on the cross?
    • Again, for His love for us!  He knew that the perfect offering had to made for us to be able to join Him one day.
  • Do you believe all the stereotypes of our religion?  Do you believe we're all bad people?
    • No, I do not believe all of the stereotypes.  What I believe is that we all have stereotypes no matter what our religion nationality, gender, etc.  Some people will fit those stereotypes, but the majority does not.  I believe that we are all people.  While we all come from different beliefs, language, culture, etc, we are all people of emotions.  We all have a story to tell, emotions that are felt, pain, anger, sadness...We all experience life and death.  We have families, and many other similar situations and emotions.  We are all people who need love.
As I mentioned earlier, there were a LOT of questions.  I did my best to answer them.  Even though this was my first time talking with people of their belief system, I feel like I answered their questions well.  Honestly, I firmly believe that God put the right words in my mouth.  They kept asking question after question...I would answer one, they would ask another right away without even two seconds to pause.  Every question they asked, I had an answer for - and I know that's only because God was supplying the words!

In summary, we talked for about 20 minutes.  They both took home a DVD about Jesus and His life.  With God’s help, I was able to answer at least 15 questions that they asked.

My prayer?  In the end, I hope and pray that they not only heard what I had to say, but listened as well.  I pray they soaked in what I had to say about God, Jesus, and Christianity.  I pray that a seed was planted in both of their hearts throughout our conversation.

Please pray with me.  Pray that they watched the video and that they end up with more questions that they want answered.  Pray that a desire to learn more was planted inside their hearts and minds.  Pray that the right people will soon cross paths with these two beautiful girls and that they can help them learn more and help guide them.  Pray that someone will see them as people who need to see and understand true love - the love only God can give them.  That it's a person whose actions and words reflect God’s love.  Pray one day that I can meet them again, even if it's in Heaven.

The Travelin' Chick,

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Learning Lessons

Since I've left home I have learned a lot.  I think it's quite impossible to travel, live overseas, and to live with many people from different cultures and to not learn anything.  I've learned not only about other cultures, but also about myself, God, and general life things.  What are some of the lessons I have learned thus this far??

About Other Cultures
I learn something new about other cultures, countries, and states daily.  Korea, Switzerland, and Germany are some that I learn a lot about, as those are the countries where my housemates are from.  Obviously I am also learning a lot about England, as this is where we are all living. There are many other cultures represented in our groups but those are just to name a few.  We learn about customs, languages, traditions, and cultures of the countries.  Some of the things that I've learned have either been told to me verbally or I've just picked up on some customs with my senses of hearing and vision, as I interact with my new friends.

To Laugh
Leaving home and our hard year of 2011 I have learned to laugh again.  This might sound silly to some.  But when you have one hardship after another, you sometimes just forget to laugh.  I mean, I laughed when my baby cousin did something silly or at a funny line in a movie.  However, it was a different kind of laugh in comparison to the one that I am referring to.

I remember a point when I was in Germany and I was laughing.  Not only was I laughing, but I was laughing hard.  In the midst of the humor and laughter, I had tears come to my eyes as I realized, "I don't know the last time I've laughed like this.  I forgot to remember to truly laugh."  

It's been said many times around our flat, "I love your laugh!"  Thinking my laugh was no different than anyone else's I was confused.  No one has ever told that I have a great laugh.  Curiously I asked, "Why do you love my laugh??  It's just an average laugh - or so I thought."  Answering me my friends told me, "Your laugh comes from your heart.  It's a real and true laugh."  This is something I had never been told before.

Ecclesiastes 3:4 comes to my mind as I realize that this is a season of laughter for me.  I mean, don't get me wrong, being in London and living here has had both it's up and downs - but in it's ups and downs has been many moments of laughter.  True, deep, side aching, tear inducing, pure laughter.  (Luke 6:21 was also a verse I recently read.  I was weeping, now I am laughing.  Yes, I still mourn during some moments or days as mourning is not a stage but a process…but there is MUCH laughter in my days, over powering the moments of tears.)

I love grass.  I love trees.  Pretty much?  I love nature.
London is a city.  One, very big, historical, beautiful, city.  The only time you see trees and grass is if it's in a park.  While the parks are gorgeous, I've realized that I miss trees and grass being naturally placed around me.  I'm not a big nature girl but it has hit me that I am living in a very big cement city.  This has made me realize my likings of grass, trees, flowers, and nature.  It's something that I think I've taken for granted.

Who I am...My identity...
This truly could have a blog posting all on it's own.  I’ll save what I have to say about this one for a later date.

I Speak with a terrible British Accent
My British friend recently challenged me to speaking with a British accent.  I had mentioned one day that I had dreamt all night long with a British accent.  From that, he told me, "Ok.  On February 22nd I expect you to speak a total of 20 words and two sentences with a British accent."  A couple of days later I challenge him back, "I'll do the British accent if you do the American accent."  We had a deal.

A couple of weeks later, on the 22nd of February, I had him do his American accent (Which I had to bribe him in the end with trying an American candy, Butterfingers.).  I then did the British accent.  This was the conversation that followed:

"How did I do?" - Me

"Better than the first time." - My Friend

"Did I do the accent for you in a previous attempt?" - Me
"No..." - My Friend
"Thanks for trying to make me feel better anyway." - Me

Soooo...At least I tried?? ;-)

To Speak Slowly
Living with an international group that does not speak English as their first language, you learn to take your time as you speak.  I never realized how fast I sometimes talk.  Since leaving home my speech has slowed down and I have learned how to explain words and phrases when I am not quite understood.  My friends are learning English, and to an extent so I am I.  (Learning to focus on the meaning of the things that I say, why I say things, etc, etc…)

To Cook
At home I LOVE LOVE LOVE to bake.  Cooking?  Not so much.  I've not had much expierience with cooking.  

Here in London we all have to take our turns to cook.  I'd say I cook once about every 10 days.  (There are eight of us in the flat, and we schedule people to cook during the week days.  The weekends are completely up to us.)  I've only cooked twice, but the girls have survived so far!

Not only am I learning to cook, but I am learning to cook with what I have.  Working on a budget different than my parents, and living in a culture that is not of my own, we have different resources.  There are some dishes I know how to make at home.  To make them here, I would have to be more creative in the creation of these dishes.

To Tell My Story, My Testimony
Most of the people that I work with here in London don't know my story.  There are a few who do know my story, but again, that number is few.  

The other day we had a class to learn how to tell our testimony well for certain situations.  During the class we were to write out testimony/story out, and then to get into groups to share what we had written.  This way we could help one another tell our stories better and to tweak it a bit if need be.  One of my closer friends here in England that I met while in Germany told me, "Crystal, you know, I've never actually heard your testimony before.  I am intrigued."  He knew that I had a rough year in 2011, as it was mentioned in passing, but I hadn't really had the proper opportunity to share my story - especially since it's not the happy-go-lucky, put a smile on your face, type of story.

Before coming to Europe I never had to tell my story.  Or, at least, the portion of 2011.  Even Facebook and my blog haven’t “heard” the complete version of my story.  However, when traveling, people often ask, “What is your story?  What has brought you here?”  

On my blog and through Facebook I’ve been able to summarize portions of my story, one chapter at a time, as I was living through the difficult year.  Now I am being asked to share my story in a summarized version.

I love to tell and write stories.  For some odd reason, though, my own story is a story I struggle to write and to tell.  I know that this portion of my life is an important part of who I am and my testimony, yet I struggle to find the right words and way to describe my story.  God brought my family through a lot.  And while we are not in the middle of an emergency, I still feel as though God is showing me things from last year and that I am still mourning some things time to time, and am definitely still healing.

While I struggle to figure out a good way to tell my story, I do know that my story can be a powerful one.  The first time I told my story in Germany, I made a girl cry.  I mean, my own story made me cry while in the middle of it, and I even cried while telling my flat mates a summary (which, for me, crying around others is a rarity, and I hadn't ever cried before while telling story…but again, I guess this has to do with the fact that I am still healing...and ever since the first time that I cried while telling my story, I've had to suppress my tears from falling when telling my story.), but I never realized the impact it could make to another person until she had tears flowing out of her eyes.  Since then, my story has brought tears to at least two other people.  It's interesting how when I feel like I am terrible at telling my own story, God still uses it to move other people.

I know my story is a powerful one.  It is my goal to use it and to learn how to tell it well.  It is my goal to be more willing  and open to share my story, pain and all, and to even be vulnerable.  My story is an emotional one and I need to learn that it's okay to shed a tear or two when telling it.  It still affects me, and it's okay to let people know that with a drop of a tear.

To Heal
Being in London I am keeping busy working and doing many things.  Although I’ve come to work, I’ve found that leaving home and the situations behind me has become a great way to heal.  Community with others, leaving things behind me, laughter, time with God, worship…It’s all playing a part.  My views on certain things have been refreshed and I am seeing some things from different and clearer perspectives.   I’m still healing, but since leaving home I finally feel as though healing is occurring.  (Different people, surroundings, and fewer reminders are around me of the deaths and illnesses.)

Being here there have been ways I've seen how some healing has taken place.  For example?  Today I held a 7 week old baby.  This baby is less than 10 pounds, probably closer to 7 pounds.  This is the first baby I've held since holding my 14 ounce niece, Ashley, in July.  Honestly...I thought it would be a hard thing to do, to hold a living, breathing, precious baby once again...Knowing the last baby my arms held was my deceased niece.  I've been here for about 6 weeks and it's taken me these six weeks to muster up the energy to hold him.  Don't get me wrong - I've wanted to hold him, but mentally, emotionally, I just couldn't yet.  Today was a good day emotionally.  His mother asked me (as she was going to go get herself some tea), "Do you  want (to hold) a baby?"  Instantly, to my surprise, I said, "Sure!", realizing it was a really good day for me.  

There have been some days I definitely couldn't of said "sure!"  There are some days in the future I am sure I won't want to hold a tiny little baby, but for this being my first time since holding Ashley, I think I did well.  I wasn't sure if I'd cry or how I would react.  Shockingly, I didn't cry.  I was just in awe, soaking it all in.  For the most part it felt really good to hold him.  It just put me in awe to have this little baby in my arms.  It put me in awe of how much my niece did look like a baby, just much smaller (and developing).  God's creation of a tiny little child...That put me in awe.

To Live in the Present
I don’t want to live in the past.  I don’t want to completely dream about the future.  I don’t want to mentally live back home in California, living off of homesickness. I want to live now, in this moment, in this place.  I want to focus on the present, my current location, the tasks and people in front of me.  If we don’t live and focus on the present, we’ll miss out on a lot.

I Enjoy Games
I've always liked to play games (board games and card games).  However, I've not really spent much time playing games in the last few years.  Recently I've rediscovered the enjoyment of playing games with others.  My list of games I'd like to own has been growing since I've left home!  I'm learning a lot of games, but am also fascinated that you can have five different people from five different countries playing a game that is familiar to all five of us from different countries and cultures.

To Pray
Don't get me wrong: I prayed before I came here.  I prayed during my application process, choosing my location to go to, etc, etc.  I prayed for other things as well before coming.  For family, friends, and prayers of thanksgiving and praise.  However, since being here my prayer life has grown and is stronger.


Those are just some of the topics that I am currently learning about.  Some are topics I’ve learned, some that I am still in the process of learning.

The Travelin’ Chick,

Monday, February 20, 2012

"You're SO cute...So adorable!"

Living in an international community is quite interesting and at times very entertaining.  In our one flat alone we have eight girls people from four different countries...And, again, this is just in our one flat.

Being a native English speaker, those who don't use English as their mother tongue often ask me questions such as, "How do you say that?  What does that mean?  Did I say that right?  What is the word for...?"  Since English is my first language I have automatically become an English teacher to aid those who are trying their best to learn all that they can so that they can understand and speak the language better.  (Although, sometimes I jokingly say, "Don't ask me - I'm American!" ---  That's usually my way of admitting that I don't know the answer.  Sometimes that answer even works if it ends up being British English that they are referring to.  In this case, this is also helps me learn my British English words and phrases.)

Dinner time is often a time of laughter.  Why?  This is usually when our funny language lessons take place.  We will talk about our cultures, homes, foods, our cultures.   This would include things like the other night when we taught each other what different sounds animals make in different countries.  For example, Americans say a cow will "moo".  In Korea they say that the cows "Maa".

One day I realized that my Korean friends often used the word "cute".  Actually, it wasn't often.  It was more than often - it was a very frequent!  Everyday they say things like, "You're voice is so cute!  You're so cute!"  Jolly Ranchers and the noodles for American Craft Mac and Cheese?  Yeah, they're cute too.

Noticing they used the word cute a lot (aka: for everything), I decided to teach them a new word so they would have more options in their word choice.  To go along with cute, I taught them the word "adorable".  

The other morning I was really sick and I slept a lot.  At one point, though, when waking up I saw two of the Korean girls standing over my bedside looking at me saying multiple times, "She's so adorable!"  (At least I know I still look good when I feel my worst??)  I'm starting to think it's time to teach them a third option for more variety.

For the last two weeks (at least) everyday, at least once (if not twice), I am still told, "Your voice is SO cute...SO adorable!"  After leaving here any girl should have wonderful self esteem and confidence.  ;-)

I really enjoy helping them with their English.  Not only are they learning, but I am as well.  When they ask me, "What does that mean?" sometimes I realize, "You know, I've never actually thought about the meaning and why we say that word or phrase..."  This has helped me come to realize that in America, we use some really odd phrases for some things in life!  I've also come to realize how many American idioms and slang I sometimes use.  My British English vocabulary is also expanding.

It's also remarkable to see how hard they are working to learn to speak another language.  I know they have their days of frustration and discouragement, but they leave me impressed everyday.  Here they are, from different countries and languages, speaking a foreign language (my language) all day, seven days a week.  They work so hard.  I cannot even imagine how exhausting that would be to listen and to speak an unfamiliar language all day, everyday, translating everything in their mind to process what is being said.

What American/English phrases do you recommend we teach our international friends?

The Travelin' Chick,

PS: Another phrase we have tried to work on is with the word "deserve".  One girl was telling someone, "You deserve to be my roommate."  We understood what she meant but had to help her find a better English way of phrasing her feelings about her excitement of being roommates together.  Now that is a joke in our flat.  "You deserve to be my partner", or, "you deserve to be my friend."

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Life in London

What is life like in London, you wonder?  Let me fill you in on what my life here looks like by schedule.

I've been in London for three weeks as of tonight.  Wait...Three weeks?  Where has the time gone??  Earlier today I was writing an email to a friend who I met in Germany.  I realized I hadn't seen her since the day before arriving here.  It amazes me how fast time has flown.  If I've been here three weeks, that means I left home a little over a month ago!

The first two weeks here in London we had two weeks of Orientation.  During these two weeks we looked over a manual of things to expect, what we'd be doing while here, rules, helpful information, etc, etc.  We had a whole two hours spent on fire safety information as well as a whole day dedicated for child protection.

 I knew some of the people I'd be working along side with, but not many before arriving here in London.  During these first two weeks I really had a chance to get to know many others much better.  I also realized that I never knew what the word "cold" meant until moving here.  (I'm a Valley girl from California, what can I say?)  My first week and a half here I literally LIVED in my jumper (hoodie/jacket). I slept with it on (some nights I even slept with my gloves on), I walked around the flat with it on, I went to orientation with it on.  Now I am going some without wearing it.  I'm either adapting to the colder weather and buildings, or it's warming up a bit.  That, or, it's a combination.  (I will say that it did snow TWICE within a week during this time!  What a nice surprise!  It has now snowed three times since I've left home!)

Within the first two weeks I also tried to pay for a bus with some Pounds AND Euros.  Oops.  Talk about awkward!

This week we started our normal week.  Sadly, I missed most of it being sick in bed.  Monday some of us spent time out in the streets of London meeting locals and passing out free literature.  Tuesday I worked on my internship with the communications department.  Wednesday and Thursday I was suppose to be in a classroom to learn about other cultures and religions, but Tuesday night is when I started to get really ill.  Friday was my day off this week, and today (Saturday) I was suppose to go out to pass out more literature with our group.  (Usually Saturdays are our days off, but this week it was flip-flopped as that will occasionally happen.)

Pretty much...That's what my week will look like:

  • Monday: Spend time in the streets of London, meeting locals, passing out literature.
  • Tuesday: Internship (which, can sometimes change with Mondays)
  • Wednesday: Classes
  • Thursday: Classes
  • Friday: Same as Monday
  • Saturday: My Usual Day off
  • Sunday: Church
(There is other stuff to my schedule, but those are just during the regular day hours from morning until 5:30...each night is also different.)

Being sick has really bummed me out.  I was slightly getting homesick before I actually physically got sick.  But being around other people, keeping busy, working...My homesickness would come in rare waves but would quickly leave.  However, once I was sick?  After two days of being really sick, it hit and it hit hard!  I started to miss home and the comforts that it brings to my life.  I missed my own bed, my own room, my dog, usual foods, and of course, my mother!

The night my homesickness was the worst my flat-mates came upstairs with a box in hand.  My mom had sent me a package - and with PERFECT timing!

Opening the box I found items such as:

  • Gloves
  • Scarf
  • A spice I love to cook with!
  • Butterfingers
  • Reese's
  • Goldfish
  • Jolly Ranchers
  • Converter/Adapter (Did I mention here on my blog that my last one died in Germany due to a hair dryer?  Yeah, the hair dryer is no longer living as well...Oops!)

There were also a few other things included, but those are to just name a few!  I was so thankful when it came in the mail.  While it didn't take my homesickness completely away it certainly made me smile!  Even when my mom is many miles away, she still has a way of making me feel better!  It was a reminder of how blessed I am to have such a supportive family back home.

Thinking about what to write next, I've realized that the topics and stories could take up a whole blog entry of their own.  Since I don't want this specific entry to end up too terribly long, I'll end this one here.  Who knows, maybe I'll post more then one tonight...or at least start a second entry!

Thanks for tagging along the journey and for the prayers thus this far!

The Travelin' Chick,

PS: While I have been really sick, I am starting to feel MUCH better!  Tomorrow I plan on going out for the first time since Monday.  Hopefully my body will feel it's 100% tomorrow morning!