Willkommen auf Deutschland… Finally!!!

After many struggles, I finally made it to Germany! Let me give you a little update into what all occurred on the trip over. It is definitely by God’s grace that I am here!

My flight was scheduled in Baltimore for Monday, May 5th at 5:30pm. The plan was that I would graduate in Anderson on Saturday, and Dad and I would drive part of the way to Baltimore on Sunday. Graduation went wonderfully. Dad and I and my brother drove back to York, SC, and had an AMAZING dinner at a Thai restaurant called Basil in Charlotte. All seemed like it was going smoothly. I thought I had everything planned perfectly.

Until (dun, dun, dun) I realized that I left my wallet in Anderson. Military ID. Drivers License… not okay. I wouldn’t be able to get on base in Germany. Dad saved the day and drove me back up to Anderson Sunday morning, and we turned right around and drove back to York. Whew!

With one crisis averted Dad and I made our way to Baltimore, a little later than anticipated but no worse for wear. Little Chloey Bears made the trip wonderfully, and Dad and I arrived in Baltimore on Monday around 1 pm. Dad patiently helped me build Chloey’s crate, and then helped me get signed in at the front desk. Then we said our goodbye’s and dad headed back home.

4 hours later, I made a friend in the airport terminal! So glad I did…. At 5:30 385 military personal climbed onto a plane ready to go to Germany for the next 3-4 years of their lives. 6:00 the plane is taxying down the run way. 6:30 we are headed back to the terminal… *sigh* Mechanical issues. An hour later they had everyone get back off the plane. We waited in the terminal until about 10:30 at which point they told us that they were giving us hotel and food vouchers for the night – we weren’t getting out of there.

Disappointed and tired, but trying to be positive, my friend Rachel and I got a hotel room and settled in. I am so thankful she was there – it would have been really difficult to take care of getting Chloey transported to and from the airport by myself!

Tuesday dawns and all 385 of us tromp back to the airport… only to find that because we have changed to a bigger plane we now don’t have a pilot to fly us to Germany. Pray. Pray. Pray. That’s all we did for an hour and a half! Thank the Lord, they did find a pilot! Everyone in the terminal cheered when he walked in. Probably the best he’s ever felt before flying a plane.

This time, no more mishaps! We took off. We flew. We landed. Boom!

I cannot tell you how great it felt to land in Germany. I will post some pictures and the like another time, but for now, Auf Wiedersehen!

Live Each Day Like You’re Moving to Germany

In the past two weeks I have spent every spare moment trying to get in time with my family and friends. I have scheduled coffee date after coffee date, driven 9 hours to visit my brother in Florida (who has lived there two years, and I never visited once before), and countless hours back and forth between my home and school so that I can spend evenings with my parents. While I know that part of the reason I haven’t been able to do this before now is that I have had a lot of school responsibilities, the fact still remains – I have wasted a lot of time that could have been spent building relationships. 

I am so grateful for this month that has allowed me to spend such a great deal of time with my family and friends. I am treasuring every moment, because in many cases I am not sure when or if I will see some of these people again. I hope and pray that I do! But it takes two people to keep up a strong and healthy relationship from a distance.

I say all of this to encourage you – live each day like you’re moving to Germany in two weeks. The reality is that we don’t know when our last day will be. Just this week my aunt’s father was diagnosed with cancer. There is too much at steak in this life to live alone. For the longest time I have been a huge proponent of my “me time,” and I have neglected friendships that I could have been building up. Please don’t make the same mistake. Even if you are like me and could easily spend five evenings a week alone, make the effort to reach out. 

For myself, it has been really beneficial to make appointments with people and keep a calendar. It may seem crazy to have to set up an exact time for a coffee date two weeks away, but it helps me to know exactly what I have going on with who in the coming weeks. It is also refreshing to know that in reality not all of my time is being taken up with scheduled events. Even with all of the things I have going on, I still have plenty of time to read a book and refuel my introverted side. In a book called Never Eat Alone there is a quote by Margaret Wheatly that says,

Relationships are all that there is. Everything in the universe only exists because it is in relationship to everything else. Nothing exists in isolation. We have to stop pretending we are individuals that can do it alone. 

If it is a huge challenge for you to break out of your shell like it was for me (and still is some days), start small. Make it a point to spend intentional time with a friend or family member at least once a day. When we take the time to speak into someone’s life, we are investing in God’s kingdom.

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! – Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 

The Truth About Flying

I have packed my bags many times, and let me just say that moving with the military has been so nice. There is SO much less stress to worry about with them coming to pick up all your stuff! When I was little, we moved back and forth from Africa several times. Each time we had footlockers full of books, boxes to ship, furniture to get rid of because we couldn’t ship it, etc… the list goes on and on and adds up to a lot of money. I love that the military just comes in and packs up all your stuff for you. 

With that being said, I also have a love/hate relationship with flying. Ever since I was little it has stressed me out so much. Everything about it is stressful up until you are sitting on the plane with your seatbelt on, taking off. Then I breathe and think,”Now the worst thing that could happen is a plane crash.” Because somehow the stress of missing my flight, my bag being too heavy, not having my ticket, and missing that little step in-between the plane and the terminal and falling into space are all much worse than the plane crashing. 

So I am here to tell you all the things that I do to minimize the amount of stress I have in the airport! I need this post as much as you do. 

At Least Two Months in Advance…

1. DON’T wait until the last minute. I know you are thinking about skimming this step as soon as you read that. Don’t do it. Read it. It is the most important step!!! Let it sink in. Yes, it is possible to get it done in the last minute. Sure, you can stay up the night before packing boxes to ship and shoving clothes into a suitcase (been there, done that). But take it from someone who has tried it both ways: my favorite way to spend the night before a big trip is curled up in my bed reading a good book. Is it possible? YES. But it takes *gasp*… planning! I know, take a deep breath.  

2. If you are questioning it… you don’t need it. It all starts several months before your trip… not a week before. You need to sort. You need to purge. Please do it for the sake of my eyes that burn when I stare at your Hawaiian shirt that Noah wore when he stepped off of the ark. I am all for waste not want not. But it is not wasting to take a bag to Goodwill. Right now I have so many boxes sitting in my room waiting to be shipped… SORT, SORT, SORT. I can not emphasize this enough. If I had not gone to Goodwill with all the stuff that I have not worn or kept because I didn’t know what else to do with it, I would have twice as much stuff in my boxes to ship with nothing  to do with it when it reached my destination. Hint: This is the absolutely BEST time to get rid of that gift that you really hated but felt obligated to keep… *oops… must have lost it in the move… darn.* 

3. If you are in the military and have the privilege of a TMO shipment… put as much stuff as you can in it!!! There are a lot of things that I kept out because I thought that I would need them, and now I am just having to ship them. And it is a giant pain in the pazootie. Just ship it. Take it from me. You can live without the lamp/tiny vase/high heels… etc. All things that I am getting rid of now *sniff, sniff* because it is not worth it to ship them. I will truly miss that lamp… alas. 

4. Use your “occasions” wisely! Birthday coming up? Ask for your bestie to pay for shipping for a box or two! Ask for a suitcase. Whatever. No shame. I know how you think, it is hard to ask for stuff you need when you want to ask for stuff that you want. I am here to gently tell you to put on your big boy/girl pants and start living in the real world. Money is money. And if someone is going to spend it one you willingly, at least put it good use, and not on ANOTHER thing you will have to ship. 

5. STOP buying stuff. Those heels? You’re gonna have to ship them. Those ten dresses that you just bought on sale? You just added five pounds to your suitcase. Oh a cute little do-hicky-ma-bobber that would look so cute in my new house overseas… Everytime you want to buy something extra after your TMO shippment has gone out, just think to yourself, “I am paying for the cost of this item plus a 17$ box to ship it overseas.” Just stop. You’ll save the money and you need the space in your bag. When you get to your location, shopping will still exist. 

One Month in Advance…

6. Check, double check, triple check, quadruple check that you have all your papers for flying… Keep them in ONE place all together. I suggest a bright folder labeled TRAVEL on the front. And yes, label it, because in the event that you leave it somewhere you can describe it easily to someone else. Print them out, on paper. I don’t care if you have an iPhone, iPad, whatever – I have that too. But something terrible will happen and you need a backup, I’m just saying. Your battery could die, you could drop your phone in the toilet, or just on the ground, or it could get stollen. You think I’m kidding, but you won’t be laughing when you are standing at the ticket counter with no ticket because your phone is dead. Who knows. Plan for disaster to happen and have a backup of everything

7. Address Change… Blech. If you know your new address, buy some little cards and get them ready to send out. Go ahead and address them and put stamps on them so that all you have to do is stick them in the mail. SO many people have asked for my contact information and rather than telling everyone individually, it’s easier for me just to send stuff out. If you have doctors that you go to, contact them and get a copy of all your records to keep. If you get any of those annoying magazines from companies you’ve ordered from, write “refuse” on the magazine next to where your address is and put it back into your mailbox so that the company will stop sending them. 

One Week in Advance…

8. Pack all your bags at least two days in advance. Why, you might ask? Well I shall tell you. DISASTER will strike. There is nothing like the horrible feeling of going to the airport and all you can think about is what will I do if my bag is too heavy. If you pack two days in advance, you have plenty of time to weight your suitcases. If they are too heavy, you still have time to take things out and ship them. Plus, what if you can’t fit all your stuff into your suitcase like you thought you could! I call it practice packing. You can unpack if you need to to get to your toiletries or whatever clothes you need. 

9. Final note about carry-ons: Pack a small blanket in your carryon, especially if you have a long trip. I don’t actually use it as a blanket. In addition to my neck pillow(which is cheesy and goofy looking and also amazing), I wad up the blanket and stick it on the seat on whatever part is inevitably poking me, making it impossible for me to sleep. Also pack at least one change of clothes. There is a huge possibility that your bag will get lost. It is a part of life. One or two clean pairs of unmentionables will save your sanity if it does happen. Don’t, on the other hand, pack your toothbrush and toothpaste. Just pack one of those little Colgate wisps (no this is not a promotion, they are not paying me in any way. I have used the product and I like it, that is all.). This way you don’t have to have that little ziplock bag in security and your teeth can still be clean on the plane 🙂 

The Night Before the big flight…

Charge all your devices. Then sit back and read a book, because all your bags are packed, everything is ready, and you are not stressed! Wooo!!! 

I’m telling you, SO much stress can be avoided if you just plan ahead. YOU can do it!!! It will revolutionize your life, this whole planning thing. 

The Military Life Chose Me

Ever since I started dating Jason, I have had many people tell me that they could never be a military wife. I know what they are trying to say, and I certainly don’t take offense when I know that they mean well. They mean it as a compliment to me, or they mean it to be sympathetic to the challenges that we go through. But one thing that I have realized in thinking today about what it means to be a military wife (or husband, for that matter if you fall into that category) is that it is often not something that we chose. 

I didn’t choose to be separated from my husband for months at a time. I didn’t choose to drive back and forth from college to his house every weekend for a year just so that we could spend the day together. Of course I don’t want that. But I do want to be married to Jason, and I did choose to fall in love with him. I opened my heart to the possibility of love, and with that vulnerability comes the possibility of getting hurt. 

The hurt of being separated is strange. But I don’t think that it is any more strange than the pain of a loosing a spouse, or the pain of a sick child, or the pain of financial hardship. 

Jesus tells us that in this world we will have trouble, but to take heart because he has overcome the world. Right now my version of that means being separated from the one that I love most on this planet. But you have a version of this too. If you don’t, then you have not lived long enough. It will come. When it does, remember that there is a reason that you are going through these challenges. 

So no, maybe you would not choose to be a military spouse. But I bet that if you fell as deeply in love with someone in the military as I have, you would think twice about it. If you felt like God was leading you to be with someone in the military, you would think twice about it. Just because you don’t spend months away from those you love, doesn’t mean that your strength is less than mine.

Don’t belittle yourself. You are strong. Your strength does not look like mine, but it’s there.  My strength comes from God, and I know that without him I certainly could never be a military wife either. But here I am! And I am blessed a thousand times over because of it.

Update on New Adventures!

I haven’t made a post in awhile and I wanted to update everyone on what is going on in mine and Jason’s life!

As many of you know, Jason is now in Germany. Like the fantastic husband he is, he has found us a wonderful house about 15-20 minutes from the base. He has been there since January 14.

I am finishing school at Anderson and will be joining him May 5! YES! We do have my plane tickets! I could not be more excited to be finished with our long distance relationship, at least for the time being.

Right now I am doing my student teaching and while it is challenging, it is the best experience I have ever had. I feel like after this experience I could set foot in almost any school and thrive. I am so excite to see what is next for me. Speaking of which, I have an interview tomorrow! Thanks to the wonder of technology, I am able to have an interview with a potential job in Germany via Skype. I don’t want to count my chickens before they are hatched, so more details will follow!

In the mean time I am starting on some small packing, and pinning, pinning, pinning house ideas until my heart is content! Fingers crossed that Jason won’t object to too many of my crazy decorating schemes!

Content in God’s Strength

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted, and I thought that I would share a little bit of what God has been teaching me lately. As many of you know, my husband is overseas in South Korea now. Many of you also know that my father in law is very ill and will not be with us much longer. I am also in the midst of pre-Clinicals for student teaching at a title 1 school. With all that is in my mind these days, it is very easy for me to react by either shutting down and simply going through the motions of my day without feeling anything, or by constantly complaining about my circumstances.

However, lately God has been impressing on my heart the idea of being content. I have been thinking a lot about the many ways that I am blessed, and I want to share them with you.

Unlike many of the children that I teach, I was born into a Christian home to parents who not only loved me, but counted me among their most treasured possessions. Many of the children at my school have abusive parents, and do not understand what it is to be loved.

Many of the kids at my school will never leave Anderson in their childhood. I stepped foot on 3 continents before middle school, 4 before high school, and 5 before the age of 22. I have been exposed to different languages, religions, cultures, and tasted foods from around the world.

I have been blessed with a loving husband and a promising future. Not only do I have the opportunity to attend university and get a degree of my choosing to enter a field of work that I have always dreamed of, but I have my soul mate to accompany me along this journey.
My husband respects me, and adores me.

I am blessed with a wonderful church family in Anderson who care about me and want to see me succeed. They uplift me and encourage me and stand by me.

I have never gone hungry, I have always had a roof over my head, and I have never been without clothing.

I am rich. I am rich beyond all understanding, and I am blessed far beyond what I could ever imagine or deserve. My God is so gracious.

I am encouraged today because I know that while my family is going through a difficult trial, God is with us. He has gotten us this far and he will not leave us or forsake us now. He is our rock and our fortress, and we cannot be shaken. The enemy may try to discourage us, he may try to weigh us down with grief, and he may try to cause us to fear. But he will never have our soul. He will never win. Our God is stronger, and though we are discouraged we rember the hope we have in Christ. Though we grieve over our coming losses, we rejoice in the fact that they are temporary. And we hold onto the perfect love of Christ that casts out all of our fears.

I Want to be a Mango Tree

No, I’m not crazy. Bear with me here. While listening to a podcast called Real Talk the Pod (Episode 43) I heard an analogy about a mango tree and a tomato plant. The tomato plant is easy. Once you plant it and take care of it properly, it grows fruit within a few weeks! However, the tomato plant will die off and have to be re-planted each year. The mango tree, on the other hand, takes anywhere from 5 to 7 years to bear fruit from the time it is planted. But once it bears fruit, it will continue to do so year after year for 40 years.

Now don’t be confused, I have nothing against home grown tomatoes. YUM. What I took away from this analogy was not that I should go plant a mango tree in my back yard (well… if I had a back yard I might…). This analogy taught me that good things are worth waiting for.

Although my husband and I may not have taken the easy route in our marriage, I believe that we will be rewarded with a deeper love for each other when we do get to spend time together. The time that we spend together now is so much more valuable because of the time that we spent apart. I want to be someone who can be patient now, and look forward the blessings down the road instead of seeking out whatever will make me happy in the moment.

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
– Galatians 6:9

Our God is a God who Provides

For those of you who may not know, I am back in the States! I wanted to share with all of you some of God’s provision for me on my trip back. 

Because of the high cost of return tickets, Jason and I made the decision for me to attempt to fly back home on the military version of stand by which is called Space Available. The way that Space Available works is unfortunately not in my favor. Once you sign up, your name is called based on category and the time that you sign up. Jason and I signed up as soon as possible, but of course we could do nothing about my category. I am a category 5 (out of 6 categories), meaning that I am a dependent who is not stationed permanently at OSAN Air Base. We had spoken to the employees at the terminal a few days prior to the flight, and they told us that in the past 3 months they had not gotten past a category 3. My chances of getting on a Space Available flight were slim, and even if I tried for several weeks there would be no guarantee that I would get a seat.

None-the-less, I packed up my bags and we drove to the terminal the morning of the first flight. Neither one of us had high hopes that I would get out that day, but we both continued to pray that God’s will would be done. We were really hoping that his will did not include us having to pay full price to buy my ticket home. 

I sat in the terminal and watched as one by one names were called and people got up to go get their ticket for Space Available. I was almost the last one in the lobby when lo and behold I heard my name called. It was a total miracle from God. This flight had the most seats available that they had had in months, over 40 seats. The price for my ticket? $29.00. 

This ticket got me all the way to Seattle, and once I landed I now faced the challenge of getting back home to Charlotte. Even as I stood in line at customs and wondered how much the ticket would cost to get me home, God was already at work to provide for me.

As it turns out, a close family relative who works for a popular airline was able to get me a stand by ticket into Charlotte for a mere fraction of the cost! Everywhere I turned, God was providing for me and my husband. I have nothing but praise on my lips for him and the ways that he continues to prove his faithfulness. 

Waiting Actively

When I was little, whenever I and my parents would have to stand in line somewhere or whenever I had to wait for my mother to finish talking before I could speak, my parents would always tell me to be patient. I learned that, “patience is a virtue,” and, “Good things come to those who wait.” But what does that actually mean? What does it mean to be patient?

I have thought about this a lot this summer since we have travelled a lot. Traveling, in case you didn’t realize, requires a lot of waiting. Half of our travel time is not actually spent on a plane, but sitting in a terminal, waiting in the ticket line, waiting in line for security, waiting in line for immigration, sitting on the plane waiting for it to take off…. the list goes on and on. And of course there are situations in life that require much more serious kinds of waiting. Everyday someone is waiting to hear back from the doctor about a diagnosis, waiting to hear from God about which college to go to or which job to take, waiting for a phone call from a loved one, waiting, waiting, waiting. I find myself constantly in a state of limbo and most of the time there is nothing I can do to speed up the process.

I believe that there are several options you have when it comes to waiting. One option is to complain. It takes up time, and if you can get someone else to join in it might make you feel a little better for the time. Complaining isn’t just verbal, either. You can complain with an expression, and you can complain in your thoughts. But the truth is that complaining doesn’t help. It makes you grumpy, and it makes the wait feel even longer. And if the outcome isn’t one that you hope for, it leaves you bitter. Another option is to do nothing, or to do something useless. You stand in line and stare off into space hoping that if you daydream long enough the line will move forward. Or you stare down at your phone refreshing your Facebook newsfeed even though nothing new is coming up. If your are dealing with something more serious than waiting in a line, it might mean that you are non-responsive to those around you or that you crawl under your covers and hide from the world. This option doesn’t seem all that bad on the surface, but it isn’t helpful either. This is still a form of feeling sorry for yourself, whether or not you are willing to admit it. Finally, you can choose to wait actively. This means that you take every opportunity you have to be an encouragement to others and to use the time you have for the glory of God. Who can you chit chat with in the check out line to make it go faster? How can you use this moment to teach your children a lesson? How can you be a light for Christ in your darkest moment when the world says that you should be running away? How do your reactions to your time of waiting encourage those around you?

Now I realize that there are some people out there dealing with really heavy things. There are times when you may not feel like getting out of bed, and it’s a good day if you can do that much. I am not telling you to suck it up and be happy. If you are dealing with something serious, me telling you to be a light for Jesus probably feels like I’m pouring lemon juice on a cut. Jesus did not call us to suck it up and be happy. BUT he did call us to trust in him, and lean not on our own understanding.

Psalm 62:5-8 says this: “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God;he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.”

Waiting actively means to rest. Does that sound like an oxymoron? It means that you are not worried about the future, and you are not stressed or agitated over having to be still for awhile. It means that you trust that God has everything under control, and you bless his name as you wait to see what he has in store. You continue to do what you can do in this moment to encourage others and to lead your family.

I know this post isn’t a fix all for all problems, but I hope that it is an encouragement and a challenge to you today.

Debrief after Thailand

Thailand, what to say. I didn’t exactly fall head over heals love, but it is a place that grows on you after awhile. When we first arrived, Jason and I were constantly afraid of being pick pocketed. You see signs everywhere warning you about protecting your belongings, and we had read plenty of horror stories online before coming! We were worried about the infamous “lady boys,” the taxi rip offs, the Grand Palace schemes, and being robbed in our hotel room. We were worried about not being able to get around the city, about our bank accounts being locked out, and about getting in trouble for doing something culturally wrong. Pretty much the entire first day there was spent constantly reminding each other about what we needed to look out for! We were the epitome of the conscious and safe tourist. Which also meant that we trusted no one, and we assumed that everyone who looked at us had the intention of harming us.
The second day was quite different. On our second day, we took a trip into the rural parts of Bangkok on a Canal Trip. Ahh the canal trip. Here we did not have to wade through large crowds, merely a peaceful river with the ocasional Thai on a small river boat selling fruit or a bowl of soup.

This is my favorite face in Thailand:
IMG_1640

Certainly, I don’t know much about this woman. Nothing that would lead me to trust her anymore than anyone that we saw in the crowds of Bangkok. I know that she sold us a wonderfully delicious bowl of soup, and I know that she smiled at me when I took her picture. I know that she has an adorable little boy who ran out to meet her at the pier (Butt naked by the way… I will not include pictures of him, in case you were wondering). I know that she had a spirit house built in front of her own, which means that she is a Buddhist. With such little information about her, how can I love her more than all the other faces I saw in the course of a week?

The reason is that for me, she represents all the other faces in Thailand. This woman means that even though there may be darkness in Thailand, there is still hope. If there is one thing that I learned from my week there, it is that there is so much work that needs to be done in Thailand. There are so many lost people, hoping to find peace by making the right sacrifice, meditating in the right way and for the right amount of time, doing good things, and thinking good thoughts. They believe that they are capable of eventually freeing their minds from suffering by concentrating on constantly and thinking what is good. And I’m not sure why, but when I saw this woman smiling her precious goofy grin on a hot Thursday afternoon, it reminded me that Jesus is capable of bringing the peace that they desire. The difference is that his peace cannot be earned, it can only be accepted. If only this beautiful woman could know how easy it is to be filled with peace.

Well. Now still have no idea what we actually did on the trip, but I’m sure I’ll manage to get another blog out soon enough with some more details. For now, lift a prayer to God and thank him for the free gift of grace that saves us and pray for those in this world who have yet to receive it.