Jehova-Jireh: The Lord Who Provides

יְהוָה יִרְאֶה

The Lord who will see to it that my every need is met. 

By now, many of you who are close to me may have heard that I will be interning this summer in Washington, D.C. with International Justice Mission. Many of you may also know that this has been a dream of mine for several years.

Last summer the Lord taught me a huge lesson in trusting him. It’s a lesson I’ll always be learning, but last summer was especially miraculous. Having just helped start an IJM campus chapter at Appalachian, I applied for an internship at IJM headquarters. I didn’t even make it to the first round of interviews. I also applied for an internship with Compassion International…and didn’t make it to the first round of interviews. My last and final option was a summer in Guatemala with Adventures in Missions (AIM), which I quickly clung to after being rejected from both internships. Looking back, I know I was holding on out of fear. In my arrogant mind, anything short of a wildly adventurous summer wasn’t good enough for me. So I started making payments and plans to go to Guatemala.

About a week later, I got a call from AIM that shook things up a bit. There had been a miscommunication about the payment schedule, and I had over $1,000 due by the end of the week. I didn’t have the money, and I didn’t know what to do. The lady from AIM prayed with me on the phone before we hung up and I immediately prayed with my mom and my friend Kristin as well. Then I cried a little. When asking God to show me what to do – try and come up with the money or back out – it didn’t take long to receive an answer. I knew in my heart that Guatemala was not where I needed to be – that I was only pursuing it because I didn’t know what else to do. It’s bad business to do something in Jesus’ name without consulting Jesus about it, so I withdrew from the Guatemala trip, losing the money I had already paid. I had no other plan, but I knew I was being obedient and that God would be faithful.

A week later I had a job lined up at the Boone Cracker Barrel. This was (clearly) not the glamourous, adventurous summer that I’d imagined for myself, but the Lord had provided a job and a place to live and I was ready to see what his next move was. I bought my tacky non-slip shoes and oxford uniform shirts, gearing up for a summer of chicken dumplings and sweet tea. I stopped caring about my selfish ambitions and started thanking the Lord for giving me clarity and peace about my summer plans. I was content to spend the summer living and working in Boone.

Then I got a phone call that turned my world upside down. The Office of International Education wanted to send three students to a Global Leadership Summit in Bloemfontein, South Africa that focused on human rights. Even sweeter: the trip was completely funded by the university. I had a panic attack (not really, but kind of) and applied. I was driving a carload of friends to a Needtobreathe concert in Boiling Springs a week later when the Lord told me I was going. The same quiet voice of peace that told me not to go to Guatemala affirmed that I was, in fact, going to South Africa. I told Amber, who was sitting next to me in the passenger seat, that I was going to South Africa. She looked at me with wise Amber eyes and said, “Good. Cool.”

A week later, I got the call and started making plans. During our first trip meeting, the director of the International Office told me that if I wanted to stay in South Africa longer, just to let him know when to book my return ticket. I’m sorry…WHAT? I wrote a separate blog about my trip to SA, but for this one I’ll leave it at this: it was the adventure of a lifetime. I was discouraged after being flat-out rejected by other internships and steered away from an adventure in Guatemala, but God had something else up his sleeve. That something was better than anything I couldn’t planned (or imagined) for my summer.

Needless to say, I was prepared for anything this summer. I’ve prayed since the beginning of the school year that my selfish ambition would be put aside and that I’d be ready and willing to go wherever the Lord wanted to send me. I desperately wanted to remember his faithfulness in the past, and be ready and willing for anything for the future. If I had learned anything from the previous summer, it was that I had no idea what was best for me. My mind was open to all things – to living at home and working at Dad’s restaurant, for taking summer school, interning abroad, interning or working in Boone, anything. I again applied for several internships, and was again rejected by Compassion International without making it to the first round of interviews.

But – surprise! I did make it to the first round of interviews for IJM. Interning with Samaritan’s Purse was another option that was looking promising. The internships with Samaritan’s Purse are paid with free housing, so they were the most practical and therefore quite attractive…especially after I backed my car into my apartment complex and was slapped with a hefty insurance deductible. Internships with IJM are unpaid with no housing.

Since I go to an expensive school, I harbor considerable guilt and worry that I’m making my family bleed money. With that always in the back of my mind, I’ll admit that I was almost afraid of getting the IJM internship because I had no idea how I would afford it. Things got tricky when I did, in fact, get the IJM internship and had to make a decision before I was going to hear back from Samaritan’s Purse.

You could say that I was between a rock and a hard place at this point. I had dreamed of interning with IJM and had been offered a position, but it couldn’t have come at a less financially-feasible time. I had less than no money of my own as I was (and still am) paying off an insurance deductible. When I first go the news of my acceptance, I was weirdly sad. I had worked so hard to get to this point both academically and through our IJM campus chapter, but hadn’t saved appropriately for it.

I asked my parents and close friends to commit to a full week of praying for me. I had exactly one week to make a decision, and although I was leaning toward “no” I wanted to commit it to as much prayer and counsel as possible.

When you’re looking for direction, sometimes it’s hard to know when things are from the Lord and when your mind is playing tricks on you. The following Tuesday at Bible study, we watched a short video on praying bold prayers and trusting God to provide for our every need. This video was based in none other than our nation’s capitol…good ol’ D.C. The first place it showed was a place called Barrack’s Row Theatre, which is where I took Bryant to see Josh Garrels in December. Oh really? Of all places? Then the camera zoomed into a book authored by someone named “Barnett”. I’m sorry…?

I wouldn’t say that the above paragraph describes signs and wonders straight from God, but it was one of the first gentle pushes toward IJM that God used to begin softening my heart toward the idea. Over the next week, my heard and my mind (and therefore my attitude) took a 180 in regards to interning with IJM. After being encouraged by my parents, my friends, and other family who were faithful in praying for me, I accepted the IJM internship. I believe that God wants to glorify himself through this opportunity – prove to me and to those around me that he is a God who provides. I jumped in headfirst, full of faith and peace.

The response has been overwhelming. Within three days of accepting the position, I had already found a free place to stay. A young family in SW D.C. is opening their guest room for me. Their home is only seven miles away from IJM’s offices and has free parking. Seven miles translates into about a 30 minute commute, but that is pretty fantastic by D.C. standards.

Opportunities for me to work more hours have also come available, which has been a huge answer to prayer. I picked up an extra eight hours at my law office job as well as a few shifts at Dad’s restaurant. I am hoping and praying that I will be able to pay off all my debt before leaving for the summer, meaning I need to make $1,000 before June 3rd.

The response from people has also been overwhelming. While waiting tables at Harbor House (my dad’s restaurant) on Monday, a family from my church came to sit in my section. They graciously gave me a $50 check to support me in my internship and left me a $20 tip! I was floored! Thank you Whaleys! One or two others have also expressed their desire to support me financially, and I am amazed. Most of the financial burden was lifted with a free place to stay, but I am still trusting God to provide for transportation costs.

I have not asked for any money and will not be sending out support letters – which makes it all the more astounding how much the Lord has already provided over the past two weeks. I am beyond thrilled about the opportunity to follow this dream and overwhelmed that the Lord is letting me do so.

If you’ve made it this far, I hope you’ll join me in prayer.

– Pray that I will continue to trust in God to supply all my needs. (Philippians 4:19)

– Pray that I will be a diligent worker, and that God will use this summer to equip me for whatever he has planned for my future. (Psalm 18:39)

– Pray that I will learn more about Biblical justice and be better able to articulate it to those who are searching for truth and hope. (Psalm 33:5)

– Pray for favor in the work that IJM does to bring rescue to victims of violent oppression around the world.

– Pray for the students that I will be working with as they seek to educate their college campuses on issues of violent oppression.

If you’d like to learn more about my involvement with IJM, this is a good interview:

http://www.hercampus.com/school/app-state/meet-madisson-barnett-president-ijm-app-state

If you’d like to learn more about IJM at App State, check out www.ijmappstate.com

If you’d like to support me financially, click this link and choose my name from the drop-down menu – https://secure3.convio.net/ijm/site/Donation2?idb=1515869785&df_id=1261&1261.donation=form1

Spring Break 13 – Guatemala Part 1

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The above are the property of Jacob Nall (www.jacobnall.com)

Check out the whole set here:

Guatemala I-ASE Appalachian State, a set on Flickr.

ACT (Appalachian and the Community Together) is a wonderful organization on our campus that provides dozens of service experiences for the students of Appalachian. One of their most popular programs is ASE – Alternative Service Experience – which provides students with the opportunity to take service trips during university breaks.

I spent Spring Break 2012 in Costa Rica, doing the hardest manual labor of my life on an organic farm in San Isidro. This year I had the opportunity to lead an ACT trip with my dear friend Jacob Nall, Guatemala being our destination. We started planning in April of last year, so this thing was a long time coming!

Other than a brief time where we were fairly sure that our trip wasn’t going to get filled (and therefore cancelled), I’d say the planning went off without a hitch. We ended up with a full crew of 15, which consisted of 13 students, Jacob and I, and Dr. Catherine Fountain, AKA my favorite tri-lingual person. The woman is brilliant – has a PHD from UCLA, speaks Spanish, Portuguese, and English fluently, and is just an all-around rock star when it comes to traveling. The woman brought ONE JANSPORT BACKPACK for the whole week and left nearly all of her clothes behind when we traveled back to the US. And y’all thought you knew how to travel light…

Anyway, we ended up with the most beautiful and cohesive group of people that I could have ever imagined. I’m getting ahead of myself, but there was never an ounce of conflict between group members the entire week. The majority of us were strangers before embarking on this little adventure, but we gelled so well. I can genuinely say that I enjoyed each person’s company during our time together.

Personally, I didn’t find myself getting excited about the trip until a few days before. I had so many papers and midterm exams the week before break that I didn’t even realize what was actually happening until we all met the night before our 7:00AM flight. HELLO that’s early – and meant getting to the airport at 4:30. We had what seemed like a shirt journey to Guatemala with a 45 minute layover in Atlanta and all the excitement making time fly. When we landed in Guatemala City, we were given a royal welcome by employees and volunteers of Service for Peace, our partner organization. They had a big sign and big smiles for us and gave us a Spanish welcome before herding us onto a school bus.
I wasn’t sure how my Spanish would hold up – I haven’t really tried using it conversationally since last Spring Break – but my brain was apparently ready to do WORK because I felt more confident than ever. Conjugating on the fly was tough, but I was so eager to get to know the five Guatemalans that were spending the week with us that I put my embarrassment aside.
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Two of the Guatemalans that we were with spoke English pretty well and translated for the group. Each had a very strong, unique personality that came through even with a pretty thick language barrier. Juan Pablo is the in-country director of Service for Peace Guatemala, and was very eager to make sure things were running smoothly. He has a baby boy in Nicaragua and wore an undershirt with the baby’s face on it EVERY DAY. Roxana is a medical student and Mario is her 17 year old brother who loves Limp Bizkit and takes culinary classes on Wednesdays. Dulce, as her name suggests, was one of the sweetest, meekest, and most kind-hearted people in our group. Sergio and Andrea are adorable childhood sweethearts that genuinely enjoy the company of other human beings and are always laughing. They were an unforgettable group.
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Guatemala is one of the most dangerous countries in the world – ranked 12th for it’s violent crime rate. Large-scale drug and illegal alien smuggling are a constant issue, and the percentage of missing persons has increased 156% since 2009. This was, to me, more intriguing than frightening. Our accommodation in Guatemala City was a bunk room in the basement of a church – primitive but safe and gated in a community that was also considered safe. We had an incredible view from the back porch/courtyard looking over a small valley. Directly across from us on the other side of the valley was a shanty town – aluminum and cinderblock huts stacked on top of each other with trash spilling down the hillside. I never saw anyone moving among the houses, but each day music would echo off the walls of the valley and reach us in our bunk rooms. When they weren’t pumping the latin jams, someone was usually shooting off bombas, or fireworks without the fancy pyrotechnics. I had no idea this tradition existed, but based on my experience it is very popular in Guatemala to shoot them off for any occasion whatsoever – birthday, anniversary, engagement, baptism, just cause it’s Tuesday, etc.
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Our first day and a half consisted of getting to know Guatemala City. We rode the most temperamental mini school bus I have ever encountered in my short life into the city center, grinding the gears and lurching up hills all the way. We took a stroll through the packed streets and observed several processionals for Holy Week, which were beautifully symbolic when considered in their purest intention. The processionals we saw were for children, so tiny kids carried around large sculptures of Christ carrying the cross or other Biblical images and walked a route through the streets, regularly walking through intricately designed sawdust alfombras (rugs) that were intentionally placed along the path. Above all, it is a really important part of Guatemalan culture that I’m so excited we could experience.
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Truly, we felt like part of the “show” as we stuck out like sore thumbs with our pasty pale Boone-winter skin. Especially since there were 15 of us all in Service for Peace t-shirts, we drew some serious attention. After wandering around, visiting a beautiful cathedral, and wandering around some more, we made a pit stop at a ice cream parlor that offered flavors from oatmeal to beans…to cheese and avocado…and finally reaching a lot point with fish flavored hand-dipped cones. Negative ghost rider, I am all about some adventurous eating but setting thyself up for failure is neigh a good idea.
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Alright folks – if you’ve made it to the end of this post, I’m impressed. I’ll stop here and pick up with another post since we’re already at 1,000 words. Thanks for sharing the journey.

Stewardship With a Side of Entitlement

I really love to write. Many of you may know that I love to take notes, love to make outlines. If I’m reading a non-fiction book, I like to take it slow and make outlines so I can better retain what I’m learning. This has produced some sort of reaction in my brain that I like – when I’m reading something that catches my attention, I automatically start digging deeper into it. I guess you could say that as I read, I sort of “think in outlines.”

I am trying to do a reading plan to read through the entire Bible in a year. I’m about fifteen days and fifteen blogs behind my train of thought, but Matthew 25 really caught my attention like it never had before.

Verses 14-30 tell of the parable of the bags of gold. It goes a little something like this…

The Parable of the Bags of Gold

14 “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. 15 To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16 The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. 17 So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. 18 But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

19 “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them.20 The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’

21 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

22 “The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’

23 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

24 “Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you…

I’ll end the passage there, but I should say that the master wasn’t happy with the last servant, who didn’t do a thing with the gold other than bury it. He called him wicked and lazy. Whoops!

What struck me most about this passage is not the “be faithful in the small things and I’ll give you big things”, or “don’t be lazy”, or anything else that I’ve heard in teachings on this passage before. What struck me was dialogue between the master and the first two men – the men who received five and two bags, respectively.

I can see the scenario in my mind… First man gets five bags. Second man gets two bags. Cue first man teasing second man because he got more gold than him. Cue second man whining because he didn’t get as much gold as the first guy. 

But hey, I didn’t notice that in the passage. I know it’s a parable, but it sure sounds like these two men just went to work with intentions of pleasing their master. Without grumbling. Without complaining. Without comparing, even though man #1 had more than twice the gold to work with that man #2 did.

Both men worked hard, and when their master returned, they had worked hard to double the amount that their master originally left them with. And although one man had five (now ten) bags of gold and the other had two (now four bags of gold), the master’s reply was exactly the same to both of them.

His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

I believe that God wants to – longs to – be gracious to us. I also think that often times he is, but our sense of entitlement tells us that we should have more. Thoughts of comparison enter our minds and we aren’t grateful for what we have because it’s not as “big” or as “cool” as what our neighbor has.
Entitlement is the idea that we are owed something by life in general; that we are owed something just because we are who we are. I just really want us all to reject that idea and wave goodbye to it FOREVER. I think it weakens us as humans, it weakens us as a country. I love the quote from Henry Ford – “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”
Every good and perfect gift is from above. I believe it. But I’ll also dare to say that, unless we are willing to work hard – meet faith and spirituality in the middle with a little hard work and practicality – we will never be ready to receive everything God longs to give us. 

SoCal #1

To continue from my last post, Kristen and I went to sleep in Reno at about 3AM and woke up to catch our flight to LA at about 6AM. The sunset was gorgeous. Reno is surrounded by hills and mountains that were covered in snow and incredibly colorful as the sun made its appearance.

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Maybe it was the lack of sleep, but I was an absolute rookie when it came to airport security, failing to have my laptop ready for screening, a full water bottle, and just a general lack of organization with all my coats/jackets/bags. Kristen waited on the other side and laughed at me while I struggled along and the TSA lady said, “Aw, is this your first time flying?” #amateurhour

One might say that we caused a scene on our short flight since our sleep-deprivation made us delirious and everything funny. So we hopped off the plane at LAX with our dreams and our cardigans, knowing it was the land of fame and excess and thinking WOAH are we gonna fit in? Then Grammy picked us up in her Honda Pilot and we headed for Burbank. My first impression of LA was a good one – I couldn’t believe how gorgeous it was. I guess I was expecting a concrete jungle, but was amazed at the amount of greenery. We drove about an hour and ended up at Nana and Papa’s house, Kristen’s paternal grandparents. Nana and Papa are originally from Egypt but have lived in California for years and years. They are fluent in Arabic, French, and English and have probably the best sense of humor I’ve ever seen for people of their age. Their house was on a hill with an awesome view of the surrounding area.

Nana and Papa let us borrow their car to explore SoCal for the next four days and explore we did. Our first day consisted of Hollywood Boulevard, where we did the star walk and stopped at Grauman’s Chinese Theater, where all the hand and foot prints of stars are. We didn’t know what Grauman’s Chinese Theater actually was, so we approached the young girl up front and said, “Hi, um, what is this?” Her reply – “Uhh, it’s the most famous theater…ever…”

OH LOL SORRY!

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We got out of there and headed to Universal Citywalk, where we rested our tired selves by seeing the worst movie ever at a really nice theater and just explored around like usual. One thing that cracked us up in a this-is-kinda-sad way was the foreign family with young children that we “met”. They couldn’t speak English, but we asked them to take our picture and they sweetly obliged. The funny part, the kids were wearing glittery glasses and hats with marijuana leaves all over them. I’m pretty sure they had no idea what they were, just thought they were pretty hats.

Day two was Disneyland, which we never would’ve been able to afford but Grammy + Nana & Papa, who are ever so generous, bought us tickets. We were absolute children the entire day. I screamed my guts out on every ride, mostly for fun and then out of sort-of genuine fear on Space Mountain, where I promised Kristen I’d keep my hands up the whole time but instead sat there screaming with T-Rex arms.

My favorite parts of the day were 1) Jedi Training and 2) The California Adventure. As a life-long Star Wars nerd, I cannot being to explain to you the joy I felt when I turned the corner and saw about 30 little kids in Jedi robes with little lightsabers about to fight Darth Vader. I literally ran to the front of the crowd of parents and started snapping pictures with my iPhone. Where was this when I was a child?

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The California Adventure is a little car ride where you drive wimpy go carts on a set track. We made it fun by pretending we weren’t going five miles per hour and harassing seven year old boys who didn’t know how to react when we said, “Passin’ ya on the inside, sucka!!” as we “sped” past them.

Other favorites had to be Pirates of the Caribbean, Indiana Jones, and a pirate/irish pub band that we encountered in the New Orleans part of the park. It was a dang good day.

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The Great Snow Disaster of 2013

Reuniting with Kristen was wonderful as well, and when she got off work we headed to her family’s cabin in Incline Village, just a few minutes from the lake. We were all exhausted and went to bed after catching up for an hour or so. The next morning we rose pretty early to explore the area before Kristen had to go to work. We went to Squaw Valley, site of the Winter Olympics in nineteen seventy-something, which (naturally) put every ski mountain I’ve ever seen TO SHAME. There was a high wind advisory, so we weren’t able to snowboard and our plan b, dog sledding, was thwarted when we realized it was $110/person.

I would like to pause for a moment to acknowledge the crying babies on this very turbulent flight from LA to Atlanta. Their volume and lung capacity is worth recognition.

Lake Tahoe was lovely and snowy and as beautiful as you can imagine. Hailey and I laid around watching movies and talking all afternoon while Kristen worked. It was pretty perfect – a cabin in Lake Tahoe with a wood burning stove, blankets, pillows, tea, books, and plenty of windows to see the snow. We checked the weather at about 7PM and saw that a decent storm was going to hit around midnight, so at about 8PM Hailey decided she was going to head back down the mountain to Reno before the roads became slick.

Now begins the great snowy disaster of January 2013.

We opened the door to go to Hailey’s car and were greeted by at least two inches of already-fallen snow. “Uh oh” we said, and loaded the car. I went back inside because my original plan was to wait for Kristen and ride down with her, but Hailey called me about 3 minutes later to tell me that she was still stuck in the driveway. She drives an Acura TSX that has front-wheel drive, so it’s not the worst car you could drive in the snow but it’s far from the best. She had some snow chains that neither of us had ever used, but we tried to put them on anyway. We thought we were pretty successful in getting them on tight, and were excited when we were able to back out of our parking spot and begin pulling up the driveway. We didn’t make it 10 feet before we started spinning, and finally stopped to assess the situation when it started smelling like we were burning rubber. I stepped out of the driver’s side door, looked at the front wheels, and my face probably looked like this:

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The snow chains had been turned completely sideways and were tangled all up under the car, squeezing the tires so tight (the wrong way) that there was NO chance of us being able to get them off. So there we were, stuck in the middle of the driveway/road, freezing in the snow, with no one to help us. Thankfully, Hailey got AAA for Christmas, so we called them. At first, they told us that they couldn’t help us because they didn’t do any work with snow chains. Thankfully, Hailey is the absolute best person to be with if customer service isn’t letting you have your way, so I listened with pride as she absolutely gave them the business and demanded to speak to a manager. In the meantime, I called the cops (what else was I supposed to do?), who came to our rescue and helped us convince AAA to send a tow truck to help us out. Hailey also managed to talk AAA into towing us all the way down to Reno (or so we thought) for free because she was so awesome/irate.

When Sasha the Romanian Angel (my affectionate name for the giant Romanian man who came to our rescue) finally arrived with his tow truck, he said, “I will NOT tow you to Reno and I will NOT drive you around this town. But I help.” At first he also said that he wouldn’t remove our gnarly snow chains, but quickly realized it was the first step to any solution. He jacked the car up, pried out the snow chains, and loaded it onto the bed of  the truck while Hailey and I warmed up in the cab of the largest tow truck I’ve ever seen. We still needed the snow chains to get down the mountain, so we spent the entire ride to Kristen’s work begging him to put the snow chains back on the right way but he never budged. He was afraid we would sue him if they messed up again. FAIR ENOUGH, Romanian angel. He dropped us off at the Hyatt Resort, Kristen’s workplace, where we paid the valet boys $30 to put on the snow chains on correctly.

Of course, as we started to drive Hailey’s car away, every brake light on her dashboard came on…PERFECT. The valet guys checked things out and assured us that the snow chains had messed up the sensors, but the brake cables were still in tact. Just what you hope to experience right before driving 50 miles downhill in a snowstorm. One of the chains broke on the way down, but we finally made it down to Reno at about 2AM.

SF to Reno!

Written on 1/15

I would like to start this blog by saying that my mother, the most organized and put-together woman on earth, went out with a bang in San Francisco by almost missing her flight home. We were sitting in the bed in our pajamas about 9PM last Monday (we love the nightlife) talking about going to the Farmer’s Market before leaving the next day. Dad called Mom to hear about our day, and then said, “Wait, aren’t you supposed to be home tomorrow morning?”  So mom double-checked her e-mail and we freaked out upon realizing that her flight was supposed to leave in two hours.

She threw her stuff together, got dressed, and repeated, “I cannot believe I did this…” as I called a cab for her. She ended up making her flight so I feel comfortable saying that it was hilarious.

I did a little exploring by myself the next morning before catching a (free – thanks Uber!) cab to the Greyhound station at about 3:00. After a brief incident involving my iPhone, a homeless man, and the security guard that I had thankfully befriended, I was on my way to Reno. Greyhound is not exactly the most luxurious mode of transportation, but it was certainly the cheapest at just $15.

I wondered if I would feel safe, but our bus driver was such a large and sassy lady that I was confident she could kill a man without even pausing to pump the brakes. I read for about an hour until it started getting dark, then my neighbor and I turned on the overhead reading lights so we could keep reading. Apparently sassy bus driver didn’t like lights, because she said, “TURN THEM LIGHTS OFF,” which we obeyed without question. My iPhone was dead, so I ended up just sitting there for about 4 hours since I can’t sleep on a bus/plane/train/anything but a bed. I didn’t mind too much, though – after 8 or 9 days of constant movement it was nice to reflect and be still a while.

My (accidental) quest to rescue old people in their peril continued in Sacramento. We had a 15-minute rest stop and I was standing next to the sink in the bathroom to charge my phone, minding my own business. A very old and tiny Chinese lady came out of a stall, tripped over her backpack, and was sailing face-first for the corner of the sink when I caught her in my arms and stood her back up. She didn’t speak English very well, but she said “Ohhhhh you help me!” and had me help her with her backpack and make sure the straps were un-twisted. She then proceeded to try and exit the bathroom via the handicap stall. When this did not work, she looked at me quizzically and said, “Outside?” and I pointed her in the right direction.

We finally made it to Reno a little after 9:00PM. Hailey, one of my dearest friends from my semester abroad in Spain, picked me up at the station. It was so wonderful to see her after a year of trying to dream up a reunion! I spent barely any time in Reno, but I don’t have much good to say about the “biggest little city on Earth” or whatever it’s called. Hailey and I headed straight to Lake Tahoe; Incline Village to be exact.

To be continued!

Northern California – Days 2 & 3

Days 2 and 3 of the mother-daughter Western takeover were as wild as you’re probably imagining right now. Yesterday was our designated bike-the-city day, but when we were getting ready early in the morning I realized I accidentally left my athletic pants back home. This should not have been a problem since our hotel is supremely located between a Target, Ross, and Old Navy, but it was a while before I found something that I liked that was cheap enough for me to actually buy. Our plan was to rent some bikes near Golden Gate Park, so we rode the city bus about 4 miles, which translates to about 45 minutes across town, to get what we needed. Golden Gate Park was gorgeous – bigger than Central Park and very green. We rode all the way through it, stopping to check out some grazing buffalo and a giant windmill that looked straight from the fields of Holland. It was a blast, and everyone complimented our sweeeet matching Tennessee orange “comfort hybrid” bikes, so naturally we felt very chic and street smart (sarcasm).

bikes

We made it to the beach for lunch and locked up our bikes at a little place overlooking the water. We dined on some butternut squash soup, sourdough bread, and arugula salads with fresh avocado, strawberries, almonds, and feta. Not too shabby! I was pretty surprised to see how many people were out surfing – it was probably around 50 degrees but I guess you gotta go big or go home in the chilly Pacific.

The adventure really started when we headed back through GG park towards the bridge. The gradual downhill slope that was so leisurely on our way through was now a gradual uphill that got our heart rate going. It caused me to have post-traumatic flashbacks to the Creeper Trail incident of 2010, where Julia McAmis and I accidentally rode 30 miles in one afternoon on old bikes with no prior preparation (a whole other story in itself); an experience that still stands strong as the absolute most physically exhausting experience of my entire life. Anyways, we exited the park and rode through some pretty decent traffic, up past a giant Temple, and through some nice neighborhoods before hitting National Park land and encountering some INCREDIBLE viewpoints over the bay. We came around a corner and all of a sudden we saw Alcatraz surrounded by a dozen colorful sailboats, green mountains in the background, and houses stacked all over the place across the slopes beneath us. It was quite a sight! A strange little Chinese man reluctantly took our picture, then awkwardly chatted us up for a while before we could escape and continue our journey.

San Francisco is known for it’s hills, and our quads knew it too. We made it to the bridge vista and somehow our little strange Chinese friend beat us there although we’d left him behind at the last vista. After an awkward reunion, we rode another half mile down for some pictures at the base of the bridge.

ggbridge

Then it rained, and Mom said, “Aw heck no we ain’t ridin in the rain uh uh where the bus, we puttin these bikes on it.” (my paraphrase) I should point out that there was a 60% chance of rain but we failed to bring anything waterproof. So we did catch a bus to another bus to another bus, and I was completely soaked from loading the bikes onto the front of each said bus, but we made it back. The man at the bike shop even gave us an $8 discount for being pitiful (my assumption). We came back to our hotel and took some hot showers before heading out for dinner, where I learned for the third time this week that Uggs are not appropriate footwear for torrential downpours. The Japanese place that we found on Yelp actually turned out to be a really trendy sushi place that was blasting techno, didn’t offer forks, and maybe not sweatshirt-appropriate. This was not good news for Mom, as she does not prefer sushi and does, in fact, prefer eating with a fork. Still, we had a good time and Mom just stabbed her sushi instead of picking it up daintily. We were LOLing at our redneck ways and left after one roll each to which our waitress said, “Oh you eat so little!”

Day 3 consisted me waking up at 4:30 as sick as a dog, laying on the floor in the fetal position, and various other things I do when I’m feeling dramatic/miserable. After I finally slept for a few hours, Mom and I rented a car (Toyota Yaris) next door and headed across the Golden Gate bridge for some lunch at the farmer’s market in Sausalito. Everyone there may or may not have been a gypsy trying to steal all my money, but Mom and I were satisfied with the Middle Eastern combo plate and crepe we ate in the Yaris. Then it was on to Muir Woods (the mountains were calling and we had to go…) to see the Redwoods, but the parking was so far away that we just did a little drive by, saw a tall tree, and avoided the $7/person fee by saying “hola” and “adios” from the Yaris. Then it was to Tiburon, a gorgeous coastal town and on to Sonoma, Napa, and Yountville, which were all uneventful and beautiful.

It is always fun to make memories with Mom and explore new places, so this trip can’t really go wrong! We have a big day planned for Monday as well, our last full day. Much love from the West Coast!!

Atlanta to San Francisco: A weird day in the best way.

I am working on a big blog about Passion but I just need to chronicle the events of today. Most days are an adventure, and today was a travel day so it was an extra-special adventure.

I woke up in Atlanta, GA and my dear friend Laura drove me to the MARTA stop so I could catch a train to the airport. I am pretty proud of myself, because I packed for 15 days in 3 different climates in one backpack and one carry-on suitcase. Shortly after getting on the train, they announced that, “There has been an emergency at the Airport Station and no trains will be running to the airport.” Alright, good, cool. Luckily, I had left with plenty of time to get to the airport, so I hiked my luggage back up to the road and called a cab. The cab I called didn’t come, so I hailed another cab that was passing by. So I hopped in with an old, hard-of-hearing man named Oscar who was blasting Jesus music and had been driving cabs in Atlanta for 34 years. He was 12 hours into a 48 hour shift (is that legal?) and we set on our way. Little did I know, the cab I called was pulling up and the driver saw me get into the other cab. So he followed Oscar and I to the next intersection hanging out the window yelling “Aye yo girl, you got in the wrong cab!” To which Oscar said, “Ohhh he just want all the money,” and I smiled and shrugged like I was confused and had no clue what was happening.

So Oscar and I had a good chat on the way to the airport, we fed a homeless man with some snacks we grouped together, and giggled at other people with road rage. He loves the Falcons, the Braves, and doesn’t like the Hawks because they can only win on the road. It may have been $30 more expensive than my original plan, but the company was much better.

My flight was direct from Atlanta to San Francisco, and I was in the middle seat between Jill from Florida and ? from India/Palo Alto. We were the best of airplane friends and they gave me all kinds of suggestions about where to go around town…so much so that it was on the edge of overwhelming, and ? told me all about his recent engagement and Indian Wedding customs. I slept exactly zero seconds of our 5 hour flight, and spend most of my time trying to read but not being able to hold my eyes open, but not being able to fall asleep. We’ll call it sleep limbo.

I left the terminal to catch the train to the other train (BART) where I was meeting Mom, and as I was approaching the escalator I watched as an older lady about halfway up tripped backwards over her suitcase and started tumbling down. I dropped all my stuff and sprinted up to the Emergency Stop button and helped her up. Many people on/about to board the escalator seemed annoyed that they now had to carry their baggage up a large flight of stairs, but when she said, “Oh, thank you for saving me!” I didn’t feel too self conscious about the glares. She went on her way and I used the courtesy phone to call the non-emergency police line so someone could come turn the escalator back on. What I didn’t realize was that calling the police means you have to give them all your information (?) , so my, “Hey, someone just needs to come turn the escalator back on…” was met with, “Ok, but we’ll need to get some information first.”

Anyways, my mother and I finally reunited and after wandering around in confusion for a little trying to get on the right train into the city. The BART is by far the noisiest/squeakiest mode of public transportation that I’ve ever used and it was also where another incident of good citizenship happened and I helped a lady shove her giant designer suitcases out from under a seat as she panicked/almost missed her stop and lost her son on the platform.

We arrived at our hotel in Downtown San Francisco and the elevator was broken. We were on the third floor, so the man at the front desk said, “Hold on, we’ll get you someone to help with the bags!” Out came a TINY Chinese man – literally 4’11” and at least sixty years old. I didn’t even want him to pick up my bag because I thought he might get squished. I started to protest but he threw on my backpack and hoisted my luggage ONTO his head, and charged up three flights of stairs. I wanted to say, “You’re just like a little Sherpa!” but I wasn’t sure if that was offensive, so instead I just kind of stood their looking stunned.

We “yelped” for some cheap dinner as ? recommended on the plane, and ended up at little hole in the wall Middle Eastern place that reeked of weed (we think it was drifting in from outside). Sound charming? We made friends with the owner at as we were ordering she looked out the window and said, “Showtime.” Apparently from 4-6 in SF, in an effort to speed up after-work traffic, you can’t park anywhere or you’ll get towed + a $500 ticket, or something like that. We satt with her as cars were towed and a clever homeless man took a glance around before picking a parking meter with a paperclip.

The whole day seemed like some kind of weird but definitely scripted reality show. Tomorrow Mom and I are renting bikes and riding all along the Bay and across the Golden Gate bridge. Today was such an adventure and we didn’t even try to do anything fun, so I can’t wait to see what the rest of the week holds.

A Year in Review: 2012

I can be a pretty sentimental person. Yesterday as I sat around the breakfast table with my immediate family and my grandfather (Papaw), I asked everyone to name their top three best memories of 2012. It certainly wasn’t difficult for everyone to come up with three things, but we were all in agreement that it wasn’t our favorite year. Transitions are sometimes hard, busyness can take over our lives, money is a little tight, and we lost my Mammaw – holidays and Sunday afternoons are lacking without her. But this we all know – we are so blessed.

One thing I have learned well this year is that God seldom works in ways that are easy or comfortable. And I am thankful. Because the times when I’m stretched, challenged, overwhelmed, and weary are exactly when God molds me into the person he wants me to be. It is then that I really learn to trust Him and lean on Him. It is during those times that God is most glorified – because it’s just so clear that I can’t do anything without his strength and support holding me together.

By his grace I can take the hard road that leads to life. I can think on the sovereignty and goodness of God. Think on His promise that HE is able to work everything together into something beautiful. Yes, even this seemingly meaningless inconvenience might just be the hand of God at work to grow patience, kindness, and goodness in me…It’s complicated to reconcile a God who works through pain. It’s tough to trust in a Lord who allows suffering and inconvenience. It’d be a whole lot easier to mindlessly promise myself that Jesus always wants to make life easy, but I don’t think that’s how He works. If anything, Jesus uses dark colors when he paints. He’s into streams in the desert and life out of death. – 10th Ave. North “Overflow” Devo

This year I’ve done some incredible things.

  • Rang in the new year in Times Square, NYC with my brother and a million of my closest friends.
  • Visited a new continent.
  • Dug trenches in the Costa Rican rain forest.
  • Shook hands with Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
  • Chased giraffes through a South African field.
  • Co-founded an IJM campus chapter at App and pulled off (with lots of help) a 27 hour standing vigil to raise awareness for victims of violent oppression.
  • (Sort of ran) the Color Run – my first 5k.
  • Road tripped to D.C. & Jackson.
  • Chopped off a foot of my hair for locks of love.
  • Attended my first NASCAR race. #rebelyell #bristolbaby
  • Met Needtobreathe…twice…(stalker-fan.)
  • Driven all over Auburn’s campus in a white 15 passenger van yelling “Roll Tide” just because I can.
  • Driven 3 hours to see an 80’s cover band.
  • Started dating a wonderful man (again).
  • Watched Food, Inc. which essentially ruined my life.
  • Learned to love sushi.

Tonight I am at home with my family, enjoying a cozy night in after working all day. I may not even make it till midnight. Tomorrow, a new year begins. A new adventure. Tomorrow I head to Passion 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia. I fly straight from there to California to see San Francisco with Mom and visit friends from my semester abroad.

Here’s to a new year – a new start for those who need it, a new adventure for those who want it; just another day.

Adventures in the World’s most powerful city.

This past weekend my dear friend Kaity and I surprised our boyfriends with a trip to Washington D.C. to see the Christmas decorations and catch a Josh Garrels show at Barracks Row Theatre. Because we aren’t the most talented secret-keepers in the world (coughKaitycough), the boys found out we were going to D.C., but their best guess as to what we were actually doing was a hot air balloon ride…way off.

We began our 6 hour drive at 10PM. Always an adventure to arrive at your destination at 4:00AM. Kaity’s family lives 40 minutes outside of the city so we stayed there and enjoyed her parents’ exceptional hospitality for the 48ish hours we were around.

Kaity and John were much better at playing it cool, but Bryant and I felt so “urban” riding the metro into the city. I may have ridden the metro to class every day during my semester in Spain, as well as navigated my way around on public transportation in cities everywhere from Atlanta to Milan, but I still get pumped about it. Our first attempt to disembark at the Federal Triangle was unsuccessful, however, as Bryant thought he left his phone in the seat and we didn’t get out before the doors shut, leaving us waving “byeeee” through the window as they (and everyone else) laughed at us from the platform. SoOoO urban!

The first place we took the boys was to the White House to check out the National Christmas Tree. Our freshman year, Bryant and I (plus three other friends) were driving to Richmond, VA in the pouring snow to watch App play football. When we realized we were only two hours away from D.C., we decided the football game didn’t matter and drove the extra two hours to see our nation’s capital dressed in its Christmas outfit with snow only adding to the fun. This is another story for another time, but that responsible decision included riding the wrong metro line for seventeen stops, walking all over the city at night in the FREEZING cold, parking my car in a ridiculously sketchy location, and finally getting lost and coming incredibly close to running out of gas in the ghetto when we tried to head back to Richmond. Needless to say, it was a great adventure, and going back to the Christmas tree brought back fun memories for Bryant and I.

Image

Bryant and John are the best of friends, as are Kaity and I, so it was really the perfect group to enjoy this weekend with. Later that night, we went to dinner with Jaclyn, a sweet friend from IJM Headquarters that Kaity interned under this past summer. Then we headed to Barracks Row for an incredible documentary and show that was a collaboration between Josh Garrels and Mason Jar Music. Check out the link below for a two-minute trailer of the documentary. It was amazing.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lbPmXpvYdGM

Afterwards, all the people featured in the film came out to perform. The documentary + the gorgeous music + the company + the quaintness of Barracks Row theater made this an all-around amazing experience.

groupw:joshG

Monday morning we had the opportunity to visit IJM Headquarters and attend their daily corporate prayer. It was amazing and encouraging to witness a room full of people crying out to God on behalf of the oppressed, then going back to their offices and working directly with these issues. Gary Haugen, who is one of my heroes, led the time of prayer. It was crazy to be in a small setting with him because I’ll see him in a few short weeks at Passion 2013…speaking on a stage to 50,000+ students.