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Iceland, Finally.

September 14, 2018

Guys…I know. It’s been 4 months since I got back from Iceland and all I’ve posted is 3 pictures. Who have I even become? If you follow me on instagram  then you’ve seen a few more. But I have thousands of pictures, obviously. Iceland is easily one of the most photogenic countries I’ve been to, and, well…you know me and my camera. We’re good friends. 😉

Iceland had always been a dream destination for me, even before the huge tourism boom of the last 5+ years. But the time was never just right to do the trip that I wanted to do. And then tourism exploded in Iceland. Wow air started offering cheap flights from more US destinations, and Wow and Icelandic Air started offering free layovers (up to 7 days) in Iceland. And then of course Instagram happened. Before Instagram started in 2010, people had to mostly already know where they wanted to travel. They had to do research, read books, or watch travel programs. Now, people just scroll through edited and filtered Instagram pictures and decide where they want to based on the pictures they see posted by their favorite Instagram influencer. As a proponent of slow, meaningful travel (when at all possible) , I’m obviously not impressed by the influx of insta-tourists that are flooding already saturated areas. So when Iceland travel really started taking off, I knew I had to get there sooner rather than later before everything became overrun and over-regulated.

And thankfully both the timing and the travel partners came together perfectly in May of this year. After planning for well over a year, we set off on the trip of a lifetime. This was by far the most challenging trip I’ve ever planned, and even with all the planning not all the details worked out smoothly, but it was still a really great trip and I would definitely love to go back someday.

 

These are just some of the hundreds of pictures I took on my camera. I didn’t expect to take more pictures on my phone than on my camera, but that’s what happened due to the weather. If I go back to Iceland someday I will take a waterproof case for my camera. With how unpredictable the weather is in Iceland, and after getting stuck in a downpour that lasted for a few hours, I decided to leave the camera in the car most of the time. But it was still fun shooting the times I did take it out.

When I look back on this trip, I am so, so thankful for it. It was an adventure, it was fun catching up with friends, and it was such a beautiful display of God’s amazing Creation. If you get the chance to go to Iceland someday, do it!

 

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New blog to check out

July 30, 2018

I just stumbled upon this blog today and have laughed my head off reading the few posts that are up so far. I always appreciate a funny writer and can definitely relate to some of her stories about life overseas. Don’t know who she is or where she’s from but check it out if you want a laugh. =)

Overwhelmed by God’s Goodness

July 21, 2018

Are you ever overwhelmed by just how good God is to you?

Tonight I took a quick stroll down memory lane (this is really why I post pictures on Instagram and facebook – they are great for holding and keeping memories for me when I want a quick peek back.) As I’ve gotten settled into American life again, I’ve been doing this strolling less and less as each month goes by. I’m not really sure why. But whenever I do look back I’m blown away by the life God has graciously allowed me to live. I mean really, really blown away. Typical American thinking inside the box doesn’t really look at singleness as a gift but oh how it has been. When you look at life through different lenses, you see things really differently. What if all the years He gives us to travel and live around the world and to volunteer and explore and to have are-you-freaking-kidding-me-this-is-amazing experiences before he gives the normal, routine, pay-the-bills, work 9-5, take care of the kids and change diapers routine are a precious gift? 

I wish I could wrap up and put into words all the incredible, awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping moments I’ve experienced over the last 5 years. All the moments where God felt so close in certain situations I almost felt like I could reach out and touch Him. The moments where I was so incredibly blown away by all His majestic beauty around me all I could do was smile and whisper “you are amazing.” And there have been so, so many of those moments. This is the kind of love and relationship and closeness with Jesus I wish for everyone. Once you have experienced that kind of closeness, that kind of overwhelming sense that He is completely in control of everything and He knows you, you won’t want anything less.

If I’m completely honest, finding that complete closeness with Jesus while being back in America has been challenging. Not impossible, but definitely more challenging. There are more voices around me drowning out His quiet voice. More distractions. More busyness and less stillness. Less time completely alone. Less time surrounded by a million stars overhead and the crash of waves on the beach. Less time immersed in His beautiful creation. I think that’s why I love getting away and getting out in nature now. It takes me back to seasons of a thousand conversations with God while living overseas. Those were good times and I wouldn’t change them for anything.

Sometimes when I’m surrounded by people, voices just chattering small talk, I slip away in my mind to a place where the friendships were formed simply because of a common language (English) and the conversations were deep and thought-provoking. Where conversations often turned to spiritual things as we all reveled in God’s love for us and what He was doing in lives around us. Where we shared funny and sometimes frustrating stories of expat life and the challenges that only we could understand. I don’t expect anyone other than another expat to understand these sentiments. I’ve written before on the challenges of coming back and reintegrating into one’s home country, I don’t need to rehash that here. That was a consequence of life abroad that I never could have expected  – I didn’t know I’d come back forever changed. And yet, even with all of that, I wouldn’t trade that season of life for the world. God knew what I needed and I’ll be forever thankful for those years. They were a gift that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

I recently read something by a girl who said she struggled with having an amazing life, traveling the world as a single person, knowing that someday she’d meet someone special who wouldn’t have gotten to be a part of those stories, those adventures. She was disappointed that all those special moments would be hers alone, not theirs shared. And I understand that sentiment completely. I wish I could play every single moment of my life overseas someday for someone special, so he would understand who I’ve become. So he would get to experience a thousand once-in-a-lifetime experiences and feel the same things I felt in those moments.

But you can’t put your life on hold waiting for someone to show up so that all your adventures can be shared ones. You have to get out there and live the life God meant for you, even if it looks different than you might have imagined. Go see the world. Live your life to the fullest. Dream dreams and chase those dreams. Swim in a hundred seas. Climb mountains and wish on a thousand shooting stars. Make friends on every continent and share Jesus with those you meet. Be daring and courageous. Be adventurous and curious. Keep pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, because at the end of yourself is where the true adventure starts. And that’s where Jesus can meet you and show you that He is enough for wherever you are.

Sometimes…sometimes I get the urge to run free again. But I don’t think the time is right for that anymore. At least not for now. I look back on those 4 years abroad with the biggest smile and the fondest of memories. They were a gift and the time was right. God’s plan was perfect and I’m so thankful I said yes to the great big unknown. The uncertain future. The long dark tunnel with no map. It was a crazy wild ride. It was the ride of my life and there’s no way in a million years I could have written a better plan.

And the God who perfectly orchestrated allll those details in my life, is the one who holds tomorrow. That gets me excited when life seems to be at a standstill. When it seems so mundane and normal. The same God who knew I would leave pieces of my heart in 54 countries on 5 continents, even when my 21 year old heart thought that just getting married and doing normal sounded like a pretty good plan (while simultaneously not thinking that was a good plan due to lack of stellar godly guys to actually marry) is the same God who knows what’s best for all my tomorrows and who knows that if He does give me a husband, I really hope he has beautiful brown eyes. 😉

Whenever I stop and focus on all the good things God has done for me, I’m overwhelmed by His goodness. How faithful and loving and all-wise He is. You can trust Him, friend. He is a good God. And the more you step out in faith, the more room He has to show you just how good He is.

A Year in the Midwest

June 30, 2018

It’s hard to believe that I have lived in Wisconsin for almost a year now. It’s hard to believe that I’ve been living in the states for a year now, too. I’m not actually even sure how I feel about that. When I arrived back in California at the end of 2016, it was only supposed to be a Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Years trip and then I planned to go back overseas again, albeit to a different country than before. But then God either closed all the doors or didn’t give me peace about any of the leads I was pursuing, and so I waited. To be honest, I didn’t wait very patiently, either. I tried to be patient, but it just felt like I was being lazy. Living in my brother’s house just….living. Oh, the time with family and being back in clean, comfortable America was amazing, to be sure. After a challenging year in Fiji, I felt spoiled rotten with warm showers on demand, constant electricity, air conditioning, all the different cuisines I could ever want, nobody trying to touch me as I walked down the street, not having to ride in sketchy taxis with drivers who only want to talk about your marital status, and all the time spent with my nieces and nephews. But I was also itching for direction. For purpose. It was a far more challenging time than I had anticipated. I have never been very patient, and I struggled with being patient and waiting on God because I felt like I needed to be doing something. Making progress in life. Growing and creating. I struggled with just enjoying the gift of quiet after such a loud, chaotic year. God must have known I needed it, but I was growing restless. And it wasn’t like I wasn’t doing anything. I did take three international trips while I was home. I subbed in my brother’s high school class for a few weeks and had a blast with those teens. I helped watch my nieces and nephews and thoroughly enjoyed all the time with them.

But I wanted a plan. I wanted dreams I was allowed to pursue.

And that’s probably the most ridiculous part of it because 5 years ago I told God I was giving Him all my plans and that He could send me anywhere and I would be willing to do anything. I wanted to live completely by faith. And through that, over and over again, He’s shown me just how incredibly amazing it is to live by faith. And yet, the planner inside of me never really completely died. She still pops up from time to time wanting to plan and scheme and know what will be in the future.

This living by faith thing is often a lot harder than it sounds. Thankfully, I’ve learned that it’s also incredibly rewarding.

But sometimes when God is quiet it can be tempting to think, “maybe this isn’t where I am supposed to be. Maybe I’m supposed to be somewhere else and I missed the memo.”

I know He sent me here. But I often ask myself, why? Why am I in Wisconsin? Why am I just living and working a job in America? It’s comfortable. It’s so easy, this American life. I don’t feel like I am growing much. I don’t feel like I’m making a difference. Not in any big way, anyway. It’s forcing me to look for little ways to make a difference. To invest in students’ lives. To seek out relationships I can pour myself into. It’s forcing me to choose contentment, sometimes on a daily basis. And that is a good lesson to learn. Living overseas taught me to appreciate all the little things, and I think I learned it well.

Now living back in America is teaching me to choose contentment when things seem slow, or life seems at a standstill. When my restless heart wants things to change. When I want to see meaning and purpose in the mundane and I just don’t see it. When I ask God “what is it that I am supposed to be accomplishing here? Why did you send me here? Am I learning the lessons I am supposed to learn, am I growing in ways I am supposed to be growing, am I fulfilling your purpose in sending me here? “

I don’t ever want to just live to live. I want to make a difference. I want to be stretched and challenged and inspired. And when I don’t see that, it’s so tempting to question God. Question my ability to sense His leading.

I don’t know why He saw fit to lead me to stay in America or to send me to the midwest. It’s been a beautiful adventure, and I am so thankful for it. I’m thankful for the new friends He has sent my way, and for the old friends He let me reconnect with. I might not understand yet exactly why I am here, but I will continue to try and learn the lessons He’s brought along my path. I will keep seeking out intentional living. And I will do my best to keep learning how to wait on Him. It’s not always easy, but I know His way is perfect and He does all things well.

Here’s to another year of adventures in this beautiful state. Who knows what the future holds, but I’m choosing to rest and be content for however long the path leads me through Wisconsin.

 

Iceland

May 28, 2018

I’ve been back from Iceland for almost a week now and things are finally starting to get back to normal. I think I’m finally over jetlag and back on a decent schedule. The unpacking and laundry are all done and I’m starting to slowly sift through the thousands of pictures I took over there. When I get a chance I will post more.

They really are the cutest

Sara modeling for us at Godafoss.

There are no words to describe what it was like here. So breathtaking.

 

Happy Memorial day, friends.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

April 19, 2018

Monday night I went to another Brewers game and they were playing Christmas music. Apparently local radio stations are mixing in Christmas songs. Students have been singing carols around campus. Last night we got several inches of snow (at least 7). I wandered around the neighborhood late last night snapping pics with my phone in the falling snow. This morning we woke up to a stunningly beautiful winter wonderland scene. It truly looks magical and I wish I had planned to go take pictures instead of going to work. I could have done a fabulous winter photoshoot for someone! Instead I’ve been snapping pics here and there with my phone. The phone doesn’t do very well at night, but I tried anyway since it was so pretty!

 

Apparently spring *isn’t* coming

April 16, 2018

Well, I had thought spring was on its way but with all the snow we’ve been getting this weekend (and into today), I’m not so sure. My car is currently stuck at home while I am here at work. And yesterday church was cancelled. So what did we do, besides watching livestream church? We walked down to Tivoli island and played in the snow. And took pictures. Of course.

By the time we got home my hair was soaked and dripping water everywhere. Our mascara was smeared. But we had fun. And we got lots of pictures.

Now if only winter would say goodbye for good.