I can breathe again. 40 to go…

This is my 700th post on this blog. Give me a minute to let that sink in. 700. What? I can’t even begin to wrap my mind around a number that big. I want to thank everyone who has taken the time to read any of those 700 posts and all those who have stuck with me through so many good and hard moments over the past four years (I had my four year blog-aversary a couple weeks ago. Crazy right?) You’re all so wonderful.

So it’s already been almost three weeks since I’ve gotten back to school and they have been three crazy, exciting, hard, confusing weeks. I’ve found myself getting really homesick and really struggling to feel at home here. I found myself lying awake at night and just crying about the littlest things. I really wasn’t prepared to feel like this. In fact, I was really annoyed with myself for feeling the way I did. I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t just be happy and content where I was.

Well I had applied for a couple of jobs and this Tuesday I got an email saying I had been hired to work at the Telefund for my school, calling alumni and talking about the school. As I read this email I suddenly burst into tears. The sort of relieved, joyful tears that you just can’t stop. I just sat in my room and cried for hours. I felt the weight of the world lifted off of my shoulders. I knew that I had been stressed about finances and the thought of paying for college, but I didn’t realize how much it was affecting me. I didn’t realize how alone and stranded I was feeling.

One thing I really struggled with last semester and this summer was feeling like God had abandoned me. That he could hear me but didn’t care enough to respond. That he had somehow decided that I wasn’t worth his time or love. Things had begun to change at the end of the summer, but I think I was still dealing with the remnants of those feelings. This job did not come as an answer to prayers, because I’ll admit that I gave up on praying months ago, but it came as a gift: an answer to the terrified prayers I couldn’t speak.

Money has never been something I’ve concerned myself with, I just don’t typically worry about it. But since starting college every once in a while I will start to think about the amount of debt I have already and the fact that it is growing at this very moment and I want to throw myself in front of a train. I live in constant fear of running out of money to pay for school, rent, and food and having to drop out of college and die alone as an uneducated loser. It sounds dramatic, but these are the honest fears I have. These are the fears that are too real to talk about.

So as I’m reading this email saying I got this silly job and I’m sobbing I felt the warmest, gentlest hug I’ve ever felt in my life. I knew it was God’s promise to me that I’m not going to drop out and die alone, and that I’m not going to have to go through this alone. I know this year is going to be full of amazing and difficult things but I know I’m not alone.

I’ve been walking on air for the past couple of days. Everything has been beautiful and happy and I’m just so content in all areas of my life. It’s like I can breathe again. I’m so deeply blessed.

Love you always!

Abby

Big Break. 58 to go…

So I was at Big Break last week for Spring Break. I have no idea how to write this so we’re going to write it Haiti-Post Style.

Part 1: Communication
The school I go to has a large deaf community and the group I went to Big Break with was split almost in half, deaf and hearing. Now I happen to know very little American Sign Language (ASL,) before the trip my signing was limited to “thank you” “sorry” and “prude” and this meant that I essentially couldn’t communicate with half of the group. It was so frustrating, not because I felt like I wasn’t being understood but because I felt like I couldn’t understand. I wanted to be a part of the conversation and I wanted to feel included (this isn’t to say that my deaf friends weren’t trying to include me because they were, but it was a totally different language that just can’t be taught in a day.) However, I was really blessed to be living with my friends Quinny and Tina who were both very patient with me when it came to communicating and taught me a lot. In general, all of my deaf friends were very patient and understanding and I’m so glad that I got to know them. I learned a good bit of ASL but I also learned a lot about God from them all and we had so much fun together. So thank you Quinny, Tina, Jessica, Sam, Brian, Kemoy, and Dakota for being so understanding and teaching me so much. I am so glad that I got to know each and every one of you.

1010138_10152713096494972_763538187_nSome of the wonderful people I went with. Aren’t we all so cute?

Part 2: Pain
I wrote a whole post about this earlier in the week and you can check that out here. I got really bad sun poisoning which made this whole week really difficult. I was in so much pain and felt so sick for so much of the week. It was absolutely miserable.

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This picture doesn’t even begin to capture how terrible it was, but I thought it was funny and pretty fitting that my Golden Key was burnt into my skin. 

Part 3: Depression
I’ve been dealing with a lot of depression this winter. I had to deal with the emotional aftermath of that even in beautiful, Sunshine-y Florida. It was such a roller-coaster of emotions to go from the dark and cold of my college town to the brightness and warmth of Big Break.

Part 4: Homesickness
I was so homesick for so much of the week. I was tired and missing my parents and my siblings and my best friend. I was just wishing that I could be at home. As the week went on I felt more and more at home as I found myself better connecting with the people on the team. It’s been a really hard transition, going from years of going on trips with the same group of people and knowing them all really well and having them know me to doing things and going on trips with people who I barely know. Being new is foreign and scary, but it has been really good. It has stretched me to get out of my comfort zone, to try something new.

Part 5: Worship
I love to sing. I feel most full and right and complete when I sing and it is the easiest way for me to worship because it is such an emotional thing for me. The worship was so incredible at Big Break, so different. Sitting with our deaf friends meant that I got to learn a little of how to sign the songs which is such a beautiful form of worship to me.

This was one of the songs we sang all week and it is one of my favorite songs. I heard it for the first time a couple of months ago and haven’t stopped listening to it yet.

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me;
You’ve never failed
And you won’t stop now

These words strike something deep in me.

Part 5B: Prayer
I can’t explain the way prayer moved me during the week, but it was incredible.

Part 6: Sharing My Faith
I am really bad at sharing my faith. I just want to be liked by people and have a terrible fear of rejection and between these two things I find it so terrifying to share my faith with people. Especially the people closest to me. I was really challenged during the week to put aside the things that hold me back from sharing my faith and not be afraid to talk about one of the most important parts of who I am.

Part 7: My Story
I’ve realized that my story has changed so much in the past year. I’ve done a lot of things, some that I’m proud of and some that I’m not. You can never see the path you’re on while you’re on it, but looking back it is all so clear. I wish I hadn’t made some of the mistakes that I did, but as I look back I can see all the ways those decisions have shaped me. As I was sitting on the beach with a couple of friends I could see the contrast between how I’m choosing to live and how I was living and I was suddenly so thankful for the people I was sitting there with and for how far I’d come in just a few short weeks.

All in all I am so glad that I went. It wasn’t easy, but it was so so worth it.

Question of the Day- What did you do with your spring break? If you’re not in college, what have you been up to recently? I want to hear all about it!!

Mission of the Day- Go outside and dance for 47 seconds to celebrate spring!

Love you!

Abby

Pain. 59 to go…

I deal with a lot of pain in my life. I had been struggling with back pain for a long time before I found out about my slipped disk and that has been really hard for me to deal with. You see, back pain has always seemed like an “old person’s” pain to me. Not the kind of pain a teenager should have to struggle through. I had no explanation, I had no solution. I could only put up with it. Finding out that there was a legitimate cause for this pain was such a relief. I suddenly had a source, something to blame. I could start taking steps to healing. Physical therapy was so helpful and I could start to feel myself getting better. But there was still no clear solution for the pain. See, they can’t do anything to fix it. I’m just going to have to live with this pain for what might be the rest of my life. That’s one of the scariest things you can tell an eighteen year old. That there is a chance this pain will never end. That you’re never going to feel perfectly healthy again.

I have really poor eyesight so I am eternally jealous of everyone who can wake up every morning with perfect vision. I know that I will never experience that until I get so tired of my eyes that I get laser surgery. I will never know what it’s like to wake up and see the whole world clearly. This is what it’s like to live with constant pain. Never knowing what it’s like to sit for more than twenty minutes comfortably. Never being able to bend over and pick something without cringing. Never being about to run without clutching my right hip and hobbling along behind everyone.

I got sun poisoning on Sunday. That sucked so freaking much. I mean, I’m pretty white and I’ve gotten some pretty terrible sunburns in my life, but this was worse than anything I’ve ever experienced. I found myself lying on the bathroom floor in our hotel room on Monday morning just begging God to kill me because I was in so much pain and felt like I was going to vomit and pass out. I’ve been trying to stay positive about it, but it’s so hard to stay positive when I feel so incredibly helpless. I had only been outside for a couple hours and had reapplied sunscreen three or four times. The worst part has been how long it’s taking to heal. It’s been four days and I still get so tired that I can’t get up, my body hurts so much that walking is an almost impossible task, every inch of my body simultaneously hurts and itches.

I feel like I’m back in Haiti but in the worst way. I feel helpless and like I’m holding my team back. Between my back pain and my stupid sun poisoning I haven’t been able to participate in as many of the outreaches and activities as the rest of my team. I feel like a rock, dragging them down. Something they feel obligated to carry around and care about, but not something they want around. Don’t get me wrong, I love them all and they are so fun to be around and I’m learning so much from them and I do feel like they are including me and want me around, but I feel like I’m a burden on them which is exactly what I didn’t want to be.

Last night I felt one of the most intense pains I have ever felt in my life. I was with a group of people from my team and we were in a very intense time of prayer when I suddenly felt this incredible shooting pain in my shoulder. I’m used to pain, I’ve grown accustomed to my  everyday pains. But this was something I’ve never felt in my life. I found myself curled up just crying and praying over and over “please God, make it stop.” How do you deal with a pain like that besides just praying for an end? There is no other way. There’s nothing else I know to do.

Pain is so hard. Pain is so real. Pain is so unique. We each experience pain so differently and it is so hard to understand a pain that is not your own. I often feel like my pain is never going to end, that I’m going to be at the mercy of my body for the rest of my life. It feels like there’s no hope of things ever getting better. But I’m constantly reminded that I am not alone. As I lied on the floor sobbing and begging God for an end I was suddenly surrounded by friends praying for me. I couldn’t even make words to say what was going on, but they were there to pray and hold me until the pain passed. I have been blessed to have people in my life who care about me and I am loved by a God who does not let his people suffer in vain.

I do believe that everything happens for a reason and that the pain I feel from day to day is not a curse or a punishment. I know that it’s a part of me. An ugly, sad, dark part of me but still a part. It has taught me the power of prayer and has taught me so much about reliance on God. It has taught me patience as I wait for relief or as I try to understand the things that are happening to me. But mostly it has taught me how to stay positive. It’s so easy to just throw a pity party for myself and to block out everyone else, but there are still so many good things in my life. So. Many. Good. Things.

I wish I knew better how to wrap this up, but I don’t. I just have to continue to remind myself that there are good things left in the world and that there is always hope of healing.

Love you!!

Abby

19 and Crazy. 66 to go…

I turned 19 yesterday… That’s a feeling I’m still trying to grapple with. I don’t feel any different and I think that’s pretty normal. But it occurred to me that I’ll be turning twenty in one year. That’s the kind of stuff that freaks me out. I’m not ready to not be a teenager any more.

But enough of that scary growing up stuff. Let’s talk about this year.

This year has been so wonderful but also so difficult for me. It was full of incredible friends and experiences but also some hard times and pain.

I graduated high school, I went to senior prom, I bought a car, I brought an idea I had alive on stage, my choir won a singing competition, I went to Haiti, I chose a college, I found my passion, I made new friends, I lost myself in life’s little moments, I found myself in a song, I reached 10 thousand views on my blog, I sang the national anthem in front of 20,000 people, I passed Music Theory, I passed Calculus 2, I went to church by myself for the first time, I laughed, I grew, I learned, and I lived.

I want every year of my life to be the best year of my life and I know that while this wasn’t an easy year for me it was the best year of my life thus far.

I had a really hard time last semester, just trying to sort through who I was and what was important to me and even though I wouldn’t want to live through that again, I know that I am better because of it. I know who I am better than I have previously and I’m so ready to jump into this year head first.

It seems that every song written about being 19 are all about being young and reckless and carefree and about doing new things.

Sometimes I feel so alive 
Sometimes I see so clear 
Just like the way we always were 
So young and free from fear 

I want this to be my year. To be young and free of fear. But I also want to continue to learn and grow as a person. I want to be deeply rooted in Peace and want to flower with Joy. (All I want from life is to be a tree. No one understands.) I want to grow in Faith and in Grace. I want to be

Being free, being wild, being bulletproof
Back then we were rebels without a clue
Nothing in the world that we wouldn’t do

So here’s to being 19 and crazy,

Love you!

Abby

Dive in. 69 to go…

I would never consider myself an “artsy” person (mostly because I’m a terrible artist,) but I have a love for making things and and doing new projects.

I’m just a lover of the new and the exciting. I love to experiment and research and create. 

But here’s the thing, I don’t believe in easing myself into things. I believe in diving into projects head first. No room to back out, I don’t always think ahead, I seldom have a plan (just ask my parents about this one.)

So I’m jumping into something this semester. Not an art project or a silly whim, I’m jumping into my Faith. Cru, Bible Study, Church. I’m jumping in. I’m immersing myself. No testing the water. No making excuses. No backing out.

You see, if I’m not 100% committed to doing something then I can talk myself out of it.
I have too much homework.
I need to study.
I’m really tired.
I should clean my room.
There will be other weeks.
It can wait.

It can wait.

But it can’t. I can’t. If this means to me what I say it means to me then it cannot wait. I have to get involved and I have to do it today. Not next week. Not tomorrow. Today.

The friendships that we choose to prioritize in our lives are the ones that thrive and help us develop as people. They are the friendships that come to mean the most to us. This is how I need to approach my Faith. I need to give it the thought, the time, the energy it deserves. The key is to make it a priority.

We always have priorities. We can’t help it. We naturally put things above others.
Family
Friends
Comfort
Desires
Money
School

I look at my priorities from last semester and I know that I was putting myself and what I wanted above everything else. I was so selfish and self absorbed and I didn’t even notice. I felt the distance and the conflict in my Heart, but I couldn’t figure out why. I felt a deep sense of emptiness and dissatisfaction. I don’t know what caused me to realize it, it might have just been the time to rest and be with the people who know me best in the world, but I’m so glad that I did. I was so blessed by my time at home.

I went to CORE a couple of times while I was home and was reminded that I just don’t belong there any more but also that I miss it so much. I miss the laughter, the friendships, the growth. I visited Meesh and went to her Christian Fellowship group at her college. It reminded me so much of the friendships and experiences I had at CORE and gave me an idea of how relationships like that can be made outside of my group of CORE friends. It gives me hope for having friends like that at my college.

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Visiting Meesh

But I’m beginning to feel good. Really good. So good.

Random Fact of the Day- Crows can recognize human faces and hold grudges against humans they don’t like.

So here’s to diving in,

Love you!!

Abby

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Here are a couple of the crazy art projects I’ve tried over the years:IMG_20140122_211405
Wire working

406390_10150714404359972_1312150378_n  411705_10150714401294972_1901886633_o
Painting                                                 Making chalkboard paint

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Melting Crayons with a hot glue gun 

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Homemade eye makeup

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Fabric dying and painting

 

Faith. 80 to go…

This past Friday I went to Cru. Both of my parents were involved with Campus Crusade for Christ when they were in college. In fact, that’s how they met. That was the organization that sent my family to Turkey back in the day. It was an organization that had a large impact on my life as a child and continues to affect me, so when I was looking at colleges I really wanted a school that had a Cru movement. Well, I hadn’t gone to Cru since I’ve gotten to school until this past Friday.

It was fantastic! I had an absolutely marvelous time. We met in small groups and talked about the people who had the biggest impact on our lives (naturally, I talked about my fabulous and crazy best friend Meesh.) And then we sang.

If you know me, you know that I love to sing. I’m not great at it, but I love it. I think that Music points to our creator. It’s such a beautiful form of worship, to use what God has given you to praise him. And I just love to harmonize and sing with groups of people. It’s like letting your soul speak on its own. (maybe I’m just weird about it, but I just love it.) We sang one of my favorite songs which always reminds me of being at Challenge.

Your love never fails,
It never gives up
It never gives out on me.

In death, in life
I’m confident and covered by the power
Of your great love.

I love this song. I love the words, I love the melody and I love what it means to me and what it reminds me.

Then the speaker, Katie, gave an incredible talk about Jonah being a control freak. Remind me to write about her talk later, because it was fantastic. But today I need to write about something else. I was reading through old blog posts I wrote (I’m in the middle of tagging and categorizing all of my blog posts so that I can look through them more effectively. It turns out that three and a half years worth of almost daily blog posts is a lot to get through,) and I came across this post that I wrote after CORE Reaction this past year. This was something I had forgotten writing and forgotten feeling. But as I read the words that my seventeen year-old self had written I connected with them in a whole new way.

There was a reason I hadn’t gone to Cru until last week. There was a reason I hadn’t made it to church until my parents visited. It wasn’t because I didn’t have time, it wasn’t because I was busy, it was because I didn’t want to. I was so tired of feeling like I was stuck in this rut of going to church, like it was expected of me. I was running. Running from my parents, running from the tough discussions, running from the hard decisions, running from my fears, running from my closest friends, running from my beliefs and, above all, running from God.

I don’t know exactly why, but I know I was. I did a lot of things that I wouldn’t have previously because I was running so hard. I wanted to escape whoever it was that I thought I had been. I was doing what Jonah was doing, hearing what God wanted for me and taking off in the opposite direction. Not just avoiding God or hiding from him, but deliberately running away.

But here’s where those lyrics come back.

Your love NEVER fails
It NEVER gives up
It NEVER gives out on me.

In death, in Life
There’s NOTHING that could separate my heart
From your Great Love. 

There’s no running away from his unconditional, undying, unadulterated, unafraid, unapologetic, unending love. That is the promise. A promise that I cling to and trust in like no other.

Being at Cru reminded me of what it is I love about my friends and my church at home. It’s the community. The depth of relationship. The constant encouragement. Feeling like the people there care about you and get you.

I’m feeling my faith come alive again. Like I’m being reborn into something beautiful.

I want to thank you. My parents, Meesh, Anna, Gretchen, Emma, Cindy, Zach, Becca, Bethany, Sharon, Eyla, Tabitha and so many others. Over the past couple of weeks you have meant more to me than I could ever say. You’ve re-inspired my faith. You’ve supported and hugged and cared and listened and been better to me than I will ever deserve. And to Mike, Grace and Kelly: your support has been so different, but so important. You probably don’t even know, but just the little conversations we’ve had about faith have continued to strengthen my beliefs and have shown me that I couldn’t have picked better people to call my friends.

I love you!

Abby

It is well with my soul…

Haiti. 109 to go…

So I’m back… I don’t know how to put into words how I felt about Haiti, but I’m going to try. This blog post is going to come to you in at least three parts, probably more. We’ll see when we get there.

Part 1: The Cripple
One of the hardest parts of being on this trip was being the cripple. I have a slipped disk in my lower back which makes sitting, bending and lifting very difficult. There were a lot of times where I wanted to be helpful, but I couldn’t because of my back. I felt like a brick around everyone’s neck. Something that had to be dragged along. That was awful. I had a couple of really rough mornings and days but the worst was Thursday night. I had taken my meds in the morning and had felt so good all day that I didn’t take anything that night. I was sitting with my dear friend Anna and playing with her hair when suddenly my whole back seized up and didn’t let go. It was the most intense and terrible pain I’ve ever had in my life. I immediately started crying and had to leave the room. I hobbled back to my room to get my medicine and my beautiful friend Courtney followed to see if she could help. I just hugged her and sobbed “I just want it to go away. I want the pain to go away.” I have never felt so helpless or desperate than in that moment.  Courtney just held me and prayed. I struggled all week to deal with my pain and to feel like I could be a helpful member of our team.

Part 2: Being Content
On our last full day in Haiti we went to the beach. Let me tell you: Haiti is the most beautiful place in the whole world. The mountains, the green valleys, the clear sky and the beautiful sunsets. But the beach was absolutely stunning. The water was a bright blue and as clear as glass. We swam out to this island that was probably 150 yards from the shore and you could sit in the water and just see everything. It was the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. I sat in the water with some of my team members and drank fresh passionfruit juice (which tastes like the dew off of heaven’s lillies.) It was the happiest I’ve ever been in my whole life. I could have lived in that moment for the rest of my life. There would be moments on the trip where I would be completely satisfied. Moments where I was at peace and needed nothing. I don’t get those moments very often when I’m at home, or at least I thought I didn’t. I think those moments are more abundant than we imagine and we just fail to take advantage of them. Thats one thing I’ve learned: Live in the content-ness of life’s beautiful and simple moments.

Part 3: The Silly Things
Guys, Life, Stuff. These are the things that plague my mind, day and night. Often in that order. I’m so busy thinking about that cute boy who won’t notice me, or what I’m going to wear, or my family, or what I need for college, or any number of other silly things. I’ve noticed that even just since we got back. But you look at the people of Haiti: people with nothing left to lose, people living from day to day, people who own nothing more than the tarp over their heads and the clothes on their backs. You look at them and you suddenly realize how stupid you are. I’m counting calories to make my body “better” and they’re just trying to eat enough to survive. I’m stressing about that boy while they’re trying to decide who’s going to carry a 5 gallon bucket of water back to their house from the well. It puts our worries in their place. They are fully reliant on God to provide for them. What happened to my childlike faith that God could take care of me?

Part 4: My Team
The hardest part of coming home has been living “alone” again. Our team was the best. There was no drama, there was no weirdness, it was wonderful. I could have lived with them for the rest of my life. I miss our jokes. “IT WAS GOOD. IT WAS FUN.” I miss singing “Waka Waka” at random intervals and not really knowing the words. I miss making stupid comebacks. I miss showering under the stars and having someone to laugh with at the same time. I miss riding in the back of pickup trucks. I miss having carabiner time every evening. I miss the hugs. I miss laughing about bras. I miss trying to hit things with rocks. Mostly, I miss my team. So here are the things I didn’t get to say to my team.

Anna- It was an absolute blessing to have you on the team. I have been amazed to see how much you’ve grown over the past two months. You are such an encouragement to me and I know you’re always there for me. You have been with me through the hardest and happiest moments of my life. I couldn’t ask for a better friend than you.

Ashley- You are beautiful, kind, hilarious, caring and just wonderful. I have been so blessed to get to know you over the past couple of years and I am so thankful for you. I’m grateful for your honesty and your ability to be real. I could never truly say how much I love you.

Ben- You are so fun to be around. You’re always positive and always willing to help out. The way you listen to people is incredible and the way you interact with people is admirable. Watching you interact with the kids at VBS was so touching and it was a joy to have you around.

Courtney- Your energy is so amazing. You could brighten any situation with your humor, your smile and your hugs. You have no idea how much it meant to me when you just hugged me and prayed. I will never forget that. You are a bright spot in every day and I’m deeply blessed to know you.

Erika- We joke about being the same person, but it’s so true. You understand so much of what I’ve been through and you communicate that through the way you listen to people and encourage them. I can’t believe how old you’re gotten, but I’m so proud of how far you’ve come.

Monica- I am so glad you were in Haiti with us. You have such a bright and unique spirit that brings something new and important to every conversation you’re in. You were so necessary and the whole team benefited because you were there.

Nathan- I cannot say thank you enough. Thank you for being a senior guy worth looking up to. Thank you for being real and honest. You bring the sunshine with you wherever you go and you have a positive impact on everyone around you. You’re hilarious, kind, thoughtful and all around great. I can’t express how grateful I am for you.

Tabitha- You are so freaking amazing. You are such a trooper and your attitude is absolutely contagious. You have become such an amazing woman of God and I’m thankful for you every day. You have encouraged me more than you know and your hugs have made many days for me. Thanks girl.

All in all, my trip was amazing. I wish I was still there. But I think I’ve got so much to process and implement here. This week has changed my life.

Love you!

Abby