Wednesday, November 6, 2013

November?!

I keep putting off blogging. It's so odd; I generally love writing, and yet this semester I feel so drained and demotivated. Perhaps its the cold, rainy weather we've been experiencing. Or maybe it's the way the sun doesn't rise until 8am and sets at 4pm. Either way, my apologizes for the silence.

Last week we as a Study Abroad team traveled to Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia. It was such an incredible experience. We traveled by an overnight sleeper train (which was a first for me!) and that alone was an adventure! It was so much fun to fall asleep in Lithuania and wake up in Russia.

Our week was PACKED. Whether we were running to the Kremlin and the Red Square for a tour, or frequenting the first Starbucks we'd seen in two months, it was a constant blur of exhaustion and hilarity. I wouldn't trade a moment of it for the world. Perhaps my favorite memory of the trip occurred as we ran to catch our train to travel from Moscow to Saint Petersburg. After speed "walking" (I argue it was sprinting), running through one of the world's largest metros, and ramming our way through the hordes of people, we arrived at the station, only to have to take off all of our bags and put them through a security bag-checker. We sort of slammed things down and ran through, still hurrying. We quickly realized our mistake; the conveyor belt was moving faster than we thought (Just picture the infamous I Love Lucy episode where Ethel and Lucy are frantically shoving chocolate everywhere as the belt flies past....) and consequently, our bags flew out, jumbled and amassed. We looked like madmen, frantically grabbing at bags, all the while tripping and hitting one another. And, of course, the exhaustion made us all loopy, and we could NOT stop laughing. We did finally get all of our bags together and managed to run the rest of the way to train, but just look at this classic picture that perfectly describes us in that moment.

St. Petersburg was my absolute FAVORITE. I don't know what exactly it was about it, but it felt like home......More to come on that after I am back in the States. Right now, I'm just waiting to see what God does in my life, and how He connects the pieces. One thing I will say is that I am going to learn the Russian language completely. I am determined.

And now it's back to the usual schedule: classes, food, sleep, and coffee. Lots of coffee. It's incredible difficult to imagine that in six weeks the semester will have ended and I will be packing my things yet again and heading home. It's a bittersweet feeling, to be sure. I can hardly wait to see my wonderful parents again, and, of course, my sweet pup. But the people I've met here have changed me in so many ways. I've fallen in love with them, and it's going to be hard to say goodbye to yet another season of life. Still, He is in control through it all.

I miss each and every one of you, no matter where you are as you read this.

Happy No-Shave November! [Now, if only I could get the Eastern European men to understand this glorious tradition ;)]

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Oops!

Has it truly been over a month since I've been living in Eastern Europe?! Man, time flies! Honestly, life has been very routine and normal. It's beautiful, being at home anywhere.

I've finally adjusted to the time difference (ok, most days...) and the exchange rate. I've figured out the bus schedule, most items at the grocery store, and even sampled coffee from nearly every coffee shop in town. Yes, I am living a hard life right now.

Monday through Friday I spend my time in classes mostly, always allowing some breaks for a quick run into town or a trip to the beach. Monday afternoons I have blessed to volunteer at a baby orphanage outside of the city. I've only gone once so far, so I am very excited to see what the Lord does there! The children are so precious, but I for sure need to practice my Lithuanian so I can better tell them "No, please don't do that," and "Come here and play!"

Monday nights we have a beautiful worship service that has been my saving grace. It's such a great way to start off a week, singing in all different languages in His presence. I treasure that time.

Classes are a variety of levels starting from sleep-worthy to fantastic! The workload is manageable, but many days I miss Eastern! Crazy, right?

Meals are always interesting; I think the study-abroaders have definitely gotten into a rhythm of potluck suppers and hosting small dinner parties. I'm really enjoying sampling new dishes and foods. It's amazing the things I thought I never liked and now love.

Honestly, the Lord has just been reassuring me that not all seasons have to be radical and crazy. Sometimes it is enough to live, and not need to be awestruck every moment of every day. I don't need crazy revelations to keep my relationship with the Lord interesting. He is enough, even in the quiet, healing moments. He is good.

I'm sorry I don't have more to say. This is life; busy and [slightly] boring! :)

It's a beautiful thing to be living in the "ordinary". 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

"Achoo". "Thank you!"

I have lived in Lithuania one week. One week that has felt like the longest week of my life. It could be due to the lack of sleep, the effects of jet-lag, or even the amount of physical activity I've engaged in recently. Really, has it only been one week? I ask myself. Yes. One wonderful, packed week of learning and expanding my mind more than ever before.

Now I've been abroad before, so I was prepared for the stares, the unfamiliar packaging of food in the stores, and even for the lack of understanding where public transportation is concerned. But the thing I was not prepared for was the normalcy I've encountered.

I'm 5,000 miles away from home, and yet I'm still getting up, brushing my teeth, and heading to class. I'm going shopping, cooking food with friends, and reading from a variety of textbooks. I'm a normal, 20 year old college student. Except I'm not.

This week, I've seen some pretty eye-opening things. We visited the KGB museum in Vilnius- it was located right across from the hostel we were staying in. The horrendous activities that the building used to hold still seemed far too real as we toured the jail cells, torture rooms, and even the execution chamber. I encourage you to look more deeply into it: I'm ashamed to say I knew nothing of it prior to the tour. 

We toured the city, saw beautiful architecture and such. Visited the Presidential Palace. Sat in sidewalk cafes and ate crepes for breakfast. Toured castles and castle remains, viewed the "Old City" and the "New City". So much beauty is packed into one place. 

We attended Catholic Mass in a huge cathedral in a nearby town. It was all in Lithuanian and yet it was so incredibly powerful for me. As they gave out the communion, they played a song we frequently sing in my home church, and I listened as the words I know by heart rang out in a different language. I was struck by just how multilingual our great God is. Even when I am in my home church singing in English, He is with so many others around the globe, continuously loving His people at all hours of the day and night. 

Monday, classes started. And, as usual, I am overwhelmed by the amount of work and responsibility semesters always bring me! 

Normal, right?

But it's not! I know people who are three times my age who haven't been given the chance to experience half the things I have! I keep asking God over and over again, "Why me?" It feels almost like I owe Him something now. I know our God doesn't demand "reciprocity", and yet I can't justify why I get to see and meet people all over the world at this time. 

Part of my heart is still aching, still reeling from my experiences this summer. I don't think I ever fully grieved the loss of my beautiful season in India with my precious team, and now I am here, in yet another place with another group of wonderful people. I've been having some serious trust issues with the Lord, and already I'm angry at Him for giving me this place to love, only to ask me to leave it again in a few months time. I'm trying my hardest to tear down the walls I've put up towards Him and instead trust that He has a plan in mind. Please, pray for me as I try my hardest to navigate my feelings and thoughts during this time!

He is faithful, this I know so well. 




Thursday, July 25, 2013

Bye India: Cue The Sobbing

A few days ago we packed up our things, boarded a train for Hyderabad, and waited patiently for the sadness to set in. We said our final goodbyes to those we love in India, and many of us are returning to America with fragmented hearts. Waiting for us back at home are expectant families and joyful reunions with friends. And yet it's hard to shake the regret of leaving so soon. 

For me, returning home is so bittersweet. I remember the wonderful sensation of reuniting with the ones I love, alive with vigor and resolutions. But I also remember the sharp, painful emptiness from being away from the places I left behind. This next season of life is going to be so very interesting. 

I'm preparing myself for the questions people will ask. "How was it?" "What did the Lord teach you?" "Are you glad to be back?" "What did you do in India?" How can I sum all of this up in words? Words seem so inadequate at this time. I'm still processing it all, and I don't know if I'll ever understand what happened this summer. I've once again changed. I keep shedding layers of myself, slowly dissolving as time passes by me. It's a beautiful process, although it's a painful one as well. This summer the Lord captured my heart and attention in a new way. The old Samantha Joyce has passed away, and a newer, slightly more solid version is returning home to y'all. 

Guys, dying to your selfish wants and desires for His sake is the best remedy for a broken heart. When I live for Him and forget about me, I am so blessed by it. I get to experience new levels of peace and understanding. My obedience is exemplifying my undying an passionate love for my Savior. 

I'll be in America at 5:30am, Friday morning. Terrified to be standing on American soil once again. But if God fulfilled His promises to me exactly one year ago, how much more confident am I that He will do the same yet again? 

Jesus is so good in all seasons. 

See ya soon, 'Murica.  


Sunday, July 7, 2013

We Live, We Love

India, India, India. This land has been my every thought, my constant conversation, and my focus for the past several months. I planned, I packed, and I purposed in my heart to spend this summer without complaining and without counting down the days to be home. Honestly, I went into this summer with this attitude of obedience- “Ok, Lord, You’ve told me to do this, and so I will because I love you, and I want to be obedient. But I don’t think You’re going to teach me much of anything, and I definitely don’t think I’ll love it the way I did Thailand.” So I went to India, thinking it was just a teeny tiny bump in my life path.

Three weeks from now I will be back in the United States. I, physically, will be back in the United States, yet I know that my heart will reside here in India with this little boy named Sam who has opened my heart to love deeper than I thought possible. It wasn’t even supposed to happen- I was supposed to get in and get out, hug some kids and eat some spicy curry. Falling in love was not part of the plan.

I couldn’t tell you the moment it happened (although it was probably somewhere in between singing worship songs to him and just tickling him to produce a glorious giggle), but suddenly I just knew that even if I never saw this precious little boy again, I would never stop loving him from across the globe.

Now, Sam is a ten year old with cerebral palsy, epilepsy, and an intellectual disability. Although I wasn’t originally assigned to work with him, the Lord handed him to me one day, and I knew that he was a special gift to me. For hours, I would just sit with him, tickling him, singing songs, and reading Scripture.

For those of you who don’t know, before arriving in India, the Lord gave me specific instructions that after I graduate from college, I will be adopting my very first child. Yes, you heard me. A 22 year old, (mostly likely) single woman will be adopting a child, fresh out of college. The Lord has some funny and crazy plans for me, and as scary as they are, I am willing to embrace them and all they entail.

Something throughout this entire trip I have been passionate about is praying for my future child, whoever he or she may be. The one consistent thing I keep asking my Father for is a problem child. I know, I am crazy to be asking for more issues on top of an already logistically insane situation, but hear me out. I had prayed that the Lord would place a child in my life that had never felt loved by anyone, so that I could prove to that child that no matter what they did, I would love them relentlessly as the Father does with His children.

I remember sharing all of this with my incredible team here in India, and having them ask me questions and encouraging me to proceed in faith. One question stuck out to me: “When you say problem child, do you mean a disobedient child or a child who has special needs?” My selfish heart immediately constricted. Not a special needs child! That would mean I would have to give up so much in order to care for them. My entire life would be tied to their needs. No, I could never.

Let’s just say the Lord’s changed my heart.

It is entirely possible to give up “everything” for the sake of one individual. Jesus Christ would have gone to that cross knowing full well that only one person could have accepted Him. And still He did it. My “calling”, my “anointing” is not mine at all.  I can’t keep it in a little box and never allow myself to work outside of it. I don’t get to say yes to some things and no to others. I get to love blindly and take risks, and yes, I get to step out in faith and just go for it. I don’t need a plan: plans always fall apart anyways.

I planned to not fall in love with India. I planned to rush ahead in what I thought was my future, busting through the “bumps” along the way. I planned to obey God, but not with my whole being.

I fell in love this summer. Not just with Sam, but with all these precious children. It has reshaped the way I want to live my life. Nothing is too hard to handle with the Lord’s help. The possibilities are endless once you stop just living and start just loving.


Saturday, June 29, 2013

Sunday Morning Musings

Yes, I haven't posted a blog for quite a while. I was sick- an unpleasant type of sick- last Sunday, so I've given myself excuses for not writing. Quite honestly, I just have been enjoying myself in the moment and not even thought about technology. I think I was designed for a simpler life. 

These past two weeks have flown by! We've begun working with the children in the homes and it has become my favorite moments here. I have worked with a handful of young boys, all with varying needs, and I can't honestly remember the last time my heart was so full. The smiles I get, and the giggles, and the peaceful feeling of them just holding on to me as I rock back and forth makes me desire to be a mother even more so! (As if that were even possible!) 



I can hardly believe that I am halfway through with my time here. As much as I miss home and those I love, this trip has revolutionized my reliance on the Lord to show me the immense joy in each moment and not on what's ahead. Last summer I was so concentrated on the silly distractions at home that I missed out some days of loving fully those around me. With little to worry about at home this time around, I find myself thinking about today rather than next month. It's been beautiful. 

I've started mentally preparing for Lithuania while I'm here as well- I'm allowing myself to be excited that the Lord will provide the visa in time! I finally get to see Russia! (For those of you who know my passions, you'll understand that my heart is rejoicing at this fact.) Best of all, I get to spend another semester learning more about our Savior in an academic setting. I am so blessed. 

This month the Lord has been teaching me much more than I can write in a blog post. My mind has been transformed during this "sabbatical" and once again I've agreed to do things I vowed I never would. I really need to stop telling Him, "I'll never do that!" Because we both know, I always end up having to. 

Honestly, I want to encourage you, the reader, to do something radical today. Love someone you dislike. Help someone you don't know. People will know you by your love. If we lived like that, no one would go unnoticed, including you! 

Well, I'm off to the French bakery in town to get some cinnamon rolls and spend my Sunday loving my team. Yes, we are having SUCH a hard time adjusting. 

I love each and everyone one of you back home. Have a beautiful Sabbath. 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Chronicles of India: The Dog, the Trash, and the Tan-Lines.

This week has been a blur of heat and happiness. Sweating has become second-nature, and nearly everyone has adapted to the long skirts and sleeves. We've   even purchased our own punjabis and saris! 

Simple living has taught me so much. My Sunday morning consisted of hand-washing my clothes. I honestly have never been more content. 

We've frequented many restaurants and tried things we couldn't even pronounce. Granted, some of those experiences ended on not so happy terms, but I personally have loved it all! However, I've nearly consumed an entire jar of peanut butter this week. I don't even like peanut butter...comfort food, maybe?

We finished the adoption paper process and have begun sewing clothes for the children in the homes. The moments we snatch with the children are precious; they continually steal our hearts. 

This week has been quiet. 

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a sucker for dogs. Flea-bitten, dirty Indian pups are no exception. I made the mistake of calling over a cute pup on my way to the office one afternoon. Never in my life have I ever encountered a dog so desperate for love. It perked up at my touch, and then proceeded to rub its head against me again and again. When the time came to leave, it followed me and literally tripped me over and over again  as it lay beneath my feet. It was so desperate to remain with me even inside, that the men at the office had to send it away harshly. Safe to say, I now want to develop a mission strategy to love the dogs of India. 

Trash is everywhere. Literally everywhere. No exaggeration; nearly every picture I take has a small landfill in the background. We as Americans have been spoiled by paying others to take it out of our sights. Here, we throw our trash in the yard next to our house. We sneak outside at night to throw it away in shame. All environmentalists should never visit India. 

Our long skirts and shirts have become normal attire, no complaints. I've never been more modest; ankles are scandalous. Knees are a no no. Except for on men. They all wear mini skirts. Honesty, I can't even begin to understand. 

Yes, I am getting tan. That is, the three percent of my skin showing is getting tan. And my flip flop tan is real! (Initially I thought it was just dirt...)

The Lord is so wonderful. As I fly through the streets in the rickshaws or stand on the rooftop embracing the nighttime, I encounter this peace unlike anything I can describe. In the midst of chaos surrounding me, I know that the Lord has plans for me that don't require me to do anything. Right this very second, He is planning more secret gifts for me to discover along my life path. He's relentlessly pursuing those in my life who have rejected Him. He's positioning people to speak into my life both now and ahead. He is stretching and growing my future other-half, because He is steadfast in preparing my "man after God's own heart" of a husband to lead me. He is providing for me financially and spiritually. He's preparing to carry me through the hard times ahead. He's arranging a house for me to call home after I leave this earth. He is at work on MY behalf. 

The Lord is my Shepard. I shall not want for anything because He has already provided promises for whatever lies ahead. 

So what has He taught me this week? I suppose He just keeps guiding me along as I hesitantly step forward. I'm always worrying, fretting over the "what-ifs" in my life. I used to love to play out scenarios of "what-ifs" as a game, but not anymore. The unknown scares me. 

Well, this week I took a peek at surrender. I can't let Him do His work if I keep grabbing for the reins! 

I'm at my best when I can do my job and let my Dad do His. 

Happy Father's Day. 

This is our home here in India. Pictured is Koka (dog in Telugu) our "guard" dog.