Monday, December 13, 2010

What happens when you listen...

To be honest, last night was a rough night for me... My emotions hit me and I ended up on my knees crying out to God, but pretty mad at him at the same time. I guess that's my brutal honesty coming out... I was upset with God. And I didn't figure out why until today. Because a friend of mine listened. I actually had several friends listen to me today as a response of my facebook status last night. My friends displayed a huge reminder that God perfectly places people in our lives to care for us. So I get a call from a friend saying "God put it on my heart to call you", I hadn't heard from this friend in a few weeks and his timing was perfect. I needed his advice and I needed to talk to him, because what he said to me, he said because he knows my heart and loves me as a sister in Christ.

So what happens when we listen?
To God, to each other and to ourselves.
What happens when we answer a calling that God has placed on our hearts?
What happens when we are there for a friend in a time of need.
What happens when we stop and sit in silence and reflect on what our personal needs are?

I believe there are many answers, and my first instinct is to write the answers to the same questions I'm asking. But let me tell you what happened to me because my friend listened to what was on his heart, to call me.

He listened to God, and called me at a perfect time and we got to talk. I told him what I was going through and his advice was a reminder that God created me exactly how he wants me. This is what made me upset with God, because sometimes I'm frustrated with who I am, because I am a very deep feeler. I take other people's problems and I carry them on my shoulders. I take other people's disappointments and project them onto myself. And it wares on me. But my friend listened and reminded me that I need to be exactly who I was created to be. I need to feel for other people and care about them because people need to be cared for. I was created to be that person, just as you were created for a very specific and special person apart of God's plan for his creation.
So it comes full circle, because my friend listened to God and called me I was able to take the rest of the afternoon and listen to myself... To be reminded of my purpose and calling, which I am aware is not going to be easy. I may have many nights that end in tears and frustrations but I'm answering a calling to be the woman that God intends me to be. All I want to do is follow Christ, wherever that leads me is unknown to me now... but that's truly all I want to do.

The question is, what happens when you listen?
The answer, you'll never find out until you actually take the time to do it.

Thank you to my amazing friends who have been an incredible reminder of true love and beauty in my life.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


I don't know if any of you have seen this movie called "Fireproof", but it's definitely one of those Christian movies with pretty bad acting but a great story. I have seen it before and I watched it again last night. There is something about it that got to me... here's what it made me think about.
That in life, relationships are the most important thing.
We could have an amazing career, house, etc. but if we are lacking the relationships that remind us daily that we aren't alone, we feel lonely all the time.
What makes life beautiful is the people in it...
... I take that for granted way too often. Because a lot of the time I think that the people in my life are there to stay, and I've learned that people are given to us and they are also taken away from us and it's about opening our hearts to learn what the people currently in our lives have to teach us and what we can teach them.

It's about making sure the people in our life are better off than they were before we met them, it's about building them up, encouraging them, showing them they are a light and that there is something great in them, even if they don't deserve it and even if they have hurt us.
Because WE are unworthy, I am unworthy of the grace and love that God has showed me yet he continuously shows it to me, daily. I keep running away, trying new things, filling my time with everything but him, but he is always there.. making me better than I was yesterday through his love.
I want to be that light for other people. When I think about it I get really nervous that I won't live up to the vision and commitment I have for the person that I want to be, but if I trust that God has a hold on my heart than I can be the wife and mother that I know I can be one day.

God has offered me grace and forgiveness in this life because I believe in him, that doesn't make my life fireproof.... the fires are STILL going to come, I'm still broken, I'm still in need of grace and I still find myself on my knees daily in need of Him... But because I'm not fireproof, I learn every day to trust in Him more because the fires will come, it's about how I handle them.

People hurt people... that's the truth... It's when we fall short of the people that we are supposed to be, and allow other things to get in the way of the life we are supposed to live that bring destruction and break each other hearts. It's giving up on a commitment in the hard time that ends marriage, or friendship, or jobs. I wonder if we were the people we wanted to be, the kind, patient, steadfast, loyal people that we know we want to be, then how many relationships would be saved? How many less hearts would be broken? If we thought about the words that came out of our mouth before we said them and before we hurt someone else, how would that affect how people see us? If we gave up addictions to harmful things, would we feel more honorable?
Maybe what I'm coming full circle on is that it's how we see ourselves and the way we want our life to be lived often coincides with how we feel on the inside. If our hearts aren't right, our life isn't right and we keep missing the target.
I need to refresh my heart, to remind myself daily of the person that I want to be and sync it with the words and actions that I'm living today. Because it's all of our today's that make our tomorrow's good or bad. I'm choosing good. I want to be the person that I know God created me to be, even though I don't feel like that person at all sometimes. My life isn't fireproof, but I find myself in the midst of an ocean of grace, forgiveness and love.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Airplanes and shooting stars

Two nights in a row around midnight I reluctantly take my dog Rocky out for a walk, it's cold and I'm exhausted from being on my feet all day at work. But I've taken the time to have a conversation with God, nothing too big or special, just a conversation. At a point in the conversation I stop looking down at my feet and start to gaze into the infinite abyss of a dark canvass of a sky and just look at the perfectly clear starry night. I think to myself how often we spend life looking at our feet and talking about our problems or struggles and how we rarely just stop talking and sit in silence and just be in awe of creation.
And the moment I stop looking down and I look up, mid conversation, I see a shooting star.
What is so special about a shooting star?
Is it because it's rare?
Because they aren't really rare, it's just rare when we see them.
It's rare for us to stop looking down at our own lives and look up to the sky. It's rare to just STOP our busy lives for a moment.
But we love when we see shooting stars because we are usually in a place when we can just stop and be. Maybe we are sitting around a campfire, listening to the crashing waves on the beach in the darkness of night, at a Rascal Flats concert with your best friend, or maybe we are sitting in Africa or Cambodia just having a hard night and struggling through things and we don't have any other option except to just look up, because we are desperate to experience something more than ourselves.
Seeing a shooting star is rare, but not because the stars are rare, because when we look up and surrender the busyness of life, it's rare and then we see a glimpse of light flash across the night sky and we are reminded that we are not alone, that there is an entire universe outside of ourselves and we become thankful that we took that very moment to look up and that we didn't miss it.
It's why famous music artists sing about pretending that airplanes in the night sky are like shooting stars, because we can all use a wish right now.

Or maybe we can all use a minute to just stop what we are doing and look up, and see something special that takes our breath away no matter how many times we've seen it before, it's always different and it's always beautiful.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


Torn between the good and the bad, the old self and the new.
Is this a new struggle? No, it's timeless. Centuries upon centuries, people have struggled with what each and every single one of us are struggling with right now.
The old self, or the future "hope-to-be" self.
Let's take a toll.. How many of us are COMPLETELY satisfied with the EXACT person we are now?
C'mon, let's be honest....

ladies? Gentlemen? ...

.. Yeah that's what I thought.. Probably none of us.
Most of us, ( I won't say all incase there is ONE person that has insanely convinced himself that he/she is 'perfect') are not completely satisfied at the people we are at this very moment. Most of us strive for change.. not only in ourselves but in the people around us, in our settings (jobs, living situations, people, etc).

So what is stopping us?

I (we) am torn. Agree or disagree? Please, let me know if I'm the ONLY human being that struggled with us.

Here's my example... it's personal and isn't intended to be offensive to anyone directly.
Let's take men. (Ha~ here we go)

I have settled for men in the past, sorry if you are someone I've dated, but this isn't directly toward you and if it is, i'm sure you aren't reading this from the various places you men are and I strongly doubt one of you in particular isn't reading this from a local county jail. (yup, long story)... I've settled, and believed lies about how much you cared and wanted to be with me, and I settled because I was scared what it would be like to aim high and not receive what I desired. So I settled for the abusive, promise-breaking A-holes that screwed with my heart and my life. Yup, if you're reading this and you are one of them (which I doubt), you Suck.
But I settled because I knew that the good guys- the nice ones, the ones that open doors, pay for meals, answer your calls when you need them, worry or care about you, yes, those amazing guys who all women want... I thought that you were too good for me. (there's one in particular right now that I'm thinking of...mystery man with a name I won't reveal)... I got scared every single time I got close to you because I didn't think I was good enough for you. So I settled for the temporary and exchanged a great individual.
I battled my old self- the part of me that was immature and selfish and i'm battling (yes, present- tense) the person that I am currently, and the person that I am aspiring to be. So here's my conclusion. I need to stop settling. Whether it's for a job (which I truly don't think I'm settling for right now) or a man ( or anything in between)... I need to realize that God has placed very specific and amazing people in my life for a reason and I need to stop taking that for granted. Thank you for being you, every single person in my life that has meant the world to me.
I see you, I feel you... I'm not taking you for granted anymore, and I'm going to prove that nice guys, don't finish last.

All my heart and soul,

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A story about a girl...

I heard a story tonight about a girl in Sierra Leone... You may not think this effects you, but in some way it does.

A woman walked more than 30 miles in the hot humid summer in Sierra leone with a child in her arms that was not hers. She was walking for a purpose, to get to the closest medical treatment facility, which was funded and built by COTN (Children of the Nations) that is the closest facility within 100 miles. She walked because she held in her arms the baby of her sister who had recently died during child birth. The baby was sick and she was desperate. Not only was this woman grieving the loss of her sister, but was carrying for her new niece who was painstakingly dehydrated. The baby was in such a severe position that the newborn's head was beginning to cave in response to the lack of nourishment and hydration. The woman desperately sought the care of doctors and the doctors used COTN medical supplies and food packaging. Food packaging is what we do here in the states. We get together in groups and package thousands of meals to send to help orphans and widows abroad. The food is so nutrient filled that the COTN doctors were able to mix the food with water and give it to the baby, days later the baby was almost fully recovered and was gaining back all its strength. The woman was sent back to her village with several packages of COTN food for her and her new baby to

this food effects thousands and thousands of people daily...

There are several stories telling how far God is reaching to care for his people, and he is using us to do this work. I feel so honored and blessed to be apart of this work and I am excited to say that my position at COTN in the Orange County office is to be the food packaging coordinator for OC region. Together we can package food to send to Sierra Leone, Uganda, Malawi, Liberia, Dominican Republic and Haiti to create more stories of lives being saved with our help.

Thank you!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Lonely in a crowd of people

I know I'm not the only one that feels like I do, but I may be the only one willing to talk about it.
Even when I'm surrounded by a crowd of people I love and care about, I can still feel lonely. Because the people that I'm surrounded by don't necessarily know me or know my heart, and even if they do, they don't really understand me. I think it is a very special thing to be known and loved for being that person and it's a rare thing when we find it. Friends, family, spouses and various relationships often offer tid bits of that feeling of being known.
But those tid bits don't last long, I've noticed they go in phases and in between the phases I often busy myself to the point that I don't feel like I'm even missing something at all.

I just want to be known, accepted, loved for who I am and challenged to become the woman that I'm created to be.

Have you ever felt this? I would love some feedback on this and to unite in this. It's not that I don't have any friends, trust me I love the people that I'm surrounded by and feel very blessed. But there are moments when I feel lonely in a crowd of people.
Why do we feel like this?

Here's what I've come to think... that the only one that knows my heart and loves me the same is Jesus, and he's the only one that can fulfill me the way I need to be fulfilled. But when I take a look at my relationship with God and realize it's not what I want it to be, I realize I'm the one that's walked away. I'm the one that's left and I'm the reason I feel lonely. But to be honest... I don't always know how to be fulfilled through God because I'm yearning for the tangible and that's not always how God works.

I know the answer to the question "What defines me", I know I am defined as a child of Christ, a daughter of the king and that I'm saved my grace... but sometimes it's SO hard for me to believe and to live my life accordingly.

Are you having a hard time uniting what you believe to how you live your life?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Things change- faith and hard work

It's so easy to get caught up the plans we make for ourselves and forget that we aren't the ones in control of our lives.
The crazy thing is that after college you can do whatever you want, literally have all the freedom in the world. YOU choose whether you go to grad school, law school, or seminary. If you want to work right away at a desk job or take some time to travel. The choice is fully yours minus the social norms and expectations. I struggled with this because the boundaries of life are what kept me in check for most of my existence and the freedom scares me. It's like writing an essay to me, or even what it's like trying to pick a topic to right about for this blog, there are too many choices and I feel so easily overwhelmed.
I have been graduated since December and I've done my fair share of random jobs, always worrying about whether my next paycheck will cover my car payment or other bills. I've consumed myself with the worry of tomorrow and haven't learned how to live fully in today. But for some reason, I have to admit, it's always worked out. I have always had enough money to cover my payments and worrying isn't what got the money into my account. It was faith and hard work. So I believe that's what it takes... instead of worrying about what job I'm going to work or what career path I should take I am going to rely on my faith that I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be right now and I'm going to work hard in what I'm doing at the moment and trusting that it will lead me where I'm supposed to be.
You only know what road to start traveling on once you've started walking on it.

Monday, July 26, 2010

What's your story?

What’s your story?

For so many years I’ve had the dream of opening up a coffee shop in a city that had buildings with many stories. I picture an old quaint little building with window views on every story. I want to name my coffee shop “What’s your story”, and have each layer of the coffee shop provide a different way to express individual’s stories. For instance, floor one will be international- coffee sold from all around the world supporting local and international small farms. As well as a chance for people to talk about their travels, experiences abroad and lessons they’ve learned while traveling. The other stories of the building are very interesting but it just occurred to me to maybe not spill my life’s goals on the internet, who knows what will come back and haunt me.

Anyway, what got me thinking about my old coffee shop idea was a book I’m reading right now called: “A million miles in a thousand years” by Donald Miller. In his book he talks about writing a story, and it has made me think about how important each of our stories are. We often condemn ourselves for not having exciting stories, or not sharing with others because we actually convince ourselves that since our stories aren’t as dramatic as theirs, it holds less value. It couldn’t be more false. Each of our stories has significant value. Gandhi once said “What we do in our lives is insignificant but it is very important that we do it”, each of our stories may be insignificant to the grand scheme of worldly poverty, injustice and oppression but it does not make it insignificant in the lives that each of us leave a finger print in.

How often do sell ourselves short not because we fear to not be good enough, but that we fear to be great. We settle with “good” because we fear “great”.

In the book I’m reading Donald Miller says “But nobody really remembers easy stories. Characters have to face their greatest fears with courage. That’s what makes a story good. If you think about the stories you like most, they probably have lots of conflict. There is probably death at stake, inner death or actual death, you know. These polar charges, these happy and sad things in life, are like colors God uses to draw the world.”

I’m not saying that a non-dramatic story isn’t worth as much as a conflict filled story, but the stories that are remember is when the character steps out of their comfort zone and faces conflict with courage. How have you been doing this in your life? Is it as simple as talking to someone outside of your group of friends that doesn’t have a friend and eats lunch alone? How about someone at work who doesn’t know God, what does it look like to have a conversation with that person that isn’t easy? But it makes your story and their much more interesting.

I guess what I’m trying to say is the only thing we really own is our story, how will we allow others to experience our story? Because in the end our story is our lives.

I’m going to live like I’m telling the best story in the world.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Semester at Sea- Egypt

Egypt, July 30th- August 3rd, 2009

I have humbly procrastinated from writing this e-mail because my experiences in Egypt are ineffable. To attempt to put them into words will never do justice. The sites my eyes saw and the emotions my heart felt changed my life in a way I haven’t yet fully comprehended. I will however tell you what I saw and where I went, hoping that when I return home some of the pictures are able to reinstate the beauty I attempt to write. As well as to encourage each one of you to see for yourself the majestic history and beauty of both ancient and modern Egypt.

The MV Explored pulled into the port of Alexandria early morning on July 30th, I woke up early to prepare for my first Semester at Sea overnight trip. We disembarked the ship and immediately headed to the buses. I walked with my friend onto bus #10, and couldn’t have ever imagined how thankful I would be for choosing that bus. The bus pulled away from Alexandria and set off the 2-½ hour ride to Cairo. Our tour guide was named Mohamed, who is an extremely well educated, outgoing and fun individual who made our trip what it was, amazing! Mohamed gave us our group name of Isis- the goddess of love. We arrived in Cairo and I was frustrated because Mohamed chose to pick on me the entire time and every time I accidentally fell asleep while he was talking he woke me up by calling my name over the microphone. Once the bus pulled into Cairo and the pyramids were in site the cameras started flashing. We stopped at Hotel Meridian Pyramids, built in a direct view of the pyramids. After lunch we headed to tour, we pulled into the sandy desert horizon of the pyramids and stepped into the beaming sunrays (107 degrees). It was an instant swarm of locals aggressively selling their products, I have to say that it ruined the moment a bit, but I learned the more you fight against Egypt the more you hate it, you have to accept it for what it is and you will love it. We walked around the Great Pyramid, and the Second Pyramid, took tourist pictures.

I had to admit it is easy to get caught up in the whole tourist mess, to just take pictures without taking in what you are actually standing in front of. It wasn’t until I walked away from the group and squinted into the sun to stare up into the magnificent the structures built 3,000 years prior. It is an easy way to feel very small very fast. We loaded the bus again, and headed toward the Third and smallest pyramid. This is where we were able to ride camels through the sands of the Sahara with the Pyramids in the background. Following the visit to the Pyramids came the famous structure of the Sphinx.

The Sphinx is a coined term given by a Greek who visited the area, which means “bound”. The Sphinx has a body of a lion signifying power and strength and the head of a human signifying wisdom. The Sphinx lays towards the East, protecting the 3 tombs in the horizon behind. The Egyptians built such magnificent structures and honored the dead thoroughly because they believed the body was going to be used in the afterlife (hence the mummification process). The body is left with the heart (every other organ taken out immediately after death) and left for 70 days to mummify. The tombs are protected by statues and (originally) adorned with gold and precious jewels. The pyramids started being built the moment the king was crowned, built by 100,000 slaves, each stone weighing over a ton. The stone, which the Sphinx was carved, was from a stone that was tested for the pyramids but was not credible to be durable enough to withstand time. The Sphinx has withstood time, standing to stare into the horizon to watch civilizations rise and fall, great men (such as Napoleon) visit, Kings rest in the coolness of its shade, and now watched as I, like so many other tourists, come to snap a photo of admiration.

We finally got a break from the heat of the day as we headed to our hotel. An incredible five star hotel named “Conrad”. It was truly a beautiful hotel, which I hope to return to! We had dinner and headed to a “Light and Sound” show at the Pyramids. Underneath the night stars, beams of light were cased on the pyramids to tell the story of ancient Egypt and the incredible phenomenon and mathematical logic that presents itself in the pyramids. After the show, we headed back to the hotel to get 3 hours of sleep before out 3:30 wake up call to head to Luxor.

It was painful to wake up before the sun, but with sheer excitement we boarded the bus and headed to the airport. An hour flight later we were in Luxor, home of the Valley of the Kings, Temple of Hatshespsut, and the Karnak and Luxor Temple.

We arrived at 8am, immediately got on another bus and headed to Valley of the Kings. The lavish graves of the Valley of the Kings were switched to underground tombs so they would not be able to be targeted for robbers. There were no cameras or video cameras allowed. The sun’s heat was 115 degrees strong at 10am. We walked through the valley where in 1922 an English explorer named Howard Carter after 8 years of looking, discovered the tomb of Tutankhamen. This was the only untouched tomb ever discovered, when he entered the tomb he came upon the mummy and touched the flowers on the case and they instantly fell to dust. They had not been touched in 3,500 years. I visited tombs 3 tombs (not Tutankhamen’s because it was extra money and all the treasures were in the museum), and was amazed at how they were carved into the mountain and painted with beautiful colors. The heat welcomed an ungodly amount of sweat and dared the desire to complain. Others in the group wined, and I angrily opposed by reminding others how lucky we were to be standing on the ground that we were. I couldn’t believe or imagine how these tombs were designed and created, and still awaited discovery for 3,500 years. Like I said earlier, words can’t describe how truly incredible these sites really are.

From the Valley of the Kings, we took a short bus ride to the Temple of Queen Hatshespsut.

She was an ancient Egyptian Queen who ruled from 1473-1758 BC. Ancient Egyptian royalty passed through the female line, and sisters were required to marry brothers to keep royalty within the family. Women had the capability to become incredibly powerful. Queen Hatshepsut was a significant and very powerful ruler. She would not give the thrown up after her husband died and attempted to fit in by wearing a kilt, crown and false beard. Her temple is carved into a mountain with towering cliffs protecting the temple. We walked up the stairway to the temple, took pictures and headed back down to continuing our day of touring adventures. Following the Temple of Queen Hatshespsut we stopped for a quick view of the Colossi of Memnon, a statue of the pharaoh who ruled during the exodus from Egypt, let by Moses. A much-needed break from touring for hours was given with a nice lunch at hotel Nile Palace (our new hotel). The group loaded the busses after the break and headed to visit the Temple of Karnak and Luxor. To be completely honest, I had no idea what these were before I visited them. I would victoriously fail at properly describing these sites. With my insufficient words I will tell you that standing in the Karnak Temple, between the 132 perfectly and symmetrically created columns after walking through the valley of the Sphinx makes one feel extraordinarily little. The ruins stood strong after 4,000 years, with the original paint vibrantly illuminating the columns. Hieroglyphics carved into each column and wall, the detail is impeccable. Our tour guide explained each hieroglyphic, we were then able to walk around and attempt to interpret the ancient language written on the walls. I saw the name of the king repeated on each column, paintings of death, coronation of the King, walking into the eternal life, gods and goddesses, the images flash in my mind as I try to write it and it invites a respectful recognition of the mystery I can’t attempt to understand in this culture. For lack of a better word, it was magnificent. After the Temple of Karnak, we went to the Temple of Luxor. This is the only site where there are three religious united in places to worship. There is the temple, used in ancient Egypt for the polytheistic practices which then turned into a Catholic sanctuary as well as a currently used Muslim mosque. The call to prayer was called on the loudspeakers of the mosque as we stood on the grounds of the temple. Each of these temples was built by the Nile, which is known to be a metaphor for the crossing into the afterlife. If you cross the to the West side of the Nile, you are crossing into the eternal land. An interesting fact about the statues created in ancient Egypt of Kings, was if they are standing with both legs together, they were still alive when the statue was made. If the left foot is taking a step forward, it means they have died and they are taking a step into eternity, crossing the Nile.

Our long day of touring finally ended and we headed back to the hotel for dinner. Some of the members of our group including myself visited a papyrus factory. Papyrus was the very first form of paper; I witnessed a demonstration of how the ancient Egyptians made paper out of the papyrus plant. There were incredible portraits painted on this paper, which I purchased, they are beautiful! Exhausted and in desperate need of a shower, we headed back to the hotel for the overnight stay.

The first day of August began with a 6:30am wake up call. Breakfast followed by departure to the airport for a 9:15am flight to Aswan. Once we arrived in Aswan, we went to visit the Nile dam. Egypt prospered in the ancient days due to the dependence on the Nile’s waters, which flooded each year. This flood was beneficial to growing crops and bringing water to quench the thirst of the desert sands. The flood became a problem in modern days after the development of aqueducts to bring irrigation. Leading to the building of a dam, which has created the largest man-made body of water in the world (the size of Switzerland!). We visited the dam, is a strict military area, for a few minutes to take pictures and see the incredible invention.

Following the visit to the dam, we took a boat to an island where the Philae Temple. Which was relocated to in order to avoid the yearly Nile flooding. It took 8 years to relocate the temple, 2/3’s of it was under water for two years. Still, it was in incredible condition, paint still intact. This was a different temple, not one for worship or a tomb, but was a medical temple. People form all over came to receive medical help; this was easily distinguished because there were thousands of scratches in the sides of the temple. Mohammed our tour guide explained the treatment for their medical problems came form scratching out the temple wall, mixing the sand from the temple with water and drinking it. From the Temple, we went to check into our hotel, an absolutely amazing place, built on an Island in the middle of the Nile. The only way to get to the hotel and leave was by boat. The hotel had two pools and breathtaking views of the Nile and the Sahara desert. We ate lunch and explored the hotel for a bit before taking a Felucca ride on the Nile. The Felucca is an ancient sailboat, manned by Nubians- or darker skinned Egyptians. The Felucca ride provided peaceful views of the Nile and the surrounding villages, we sang and danced with the Nubian’s, so much fun! Following the Felucca ride, we toured the city by horse-drawn carriage. This is seemingly romantic, however the entire time my friend Paul and I were horrified at the beating of the skin and bones horse. I would not have participated in encouraging these actions if I would have had the choice. Before beginning the carriage ride, one of the local men had a seizure right in front of us! The carriage ride provided an unforgettable view of the city of Aswan, we walked by very impoverished communities, shop owners, men playing games and women peeing through the eye slips of burquas.

The carriage dropped us at the bazaar, local shopping and constant bargaining. What an experience! After a few hours at the bazaar, we headed back to the hotel rested for the next day.

August 2nd, 7am wake-up call, immediately followed by a bus ride to the airport to board a plane to Abu Simbel. A 45-minute plane ride later, we went to visit Abu Simbel Temple. The image of this temple (four statues carved into a mountain) is extraordinarily famous; I naively didn’t know where they were before this visit. We spent two hours walking around the Abu Simbel Temple. My time there changed my life in ways to which I cannot yet identify. The aspects of this temple were sensational, there are too many to list, but I will describe the most astonishing one. This temple was built for Ramsey’s II while he was still alive, it was completed after his death but the architect designed the structure of this temple to such an intricate depth that scientists and architects today still cannot figure out how he did it. The temple is carved into a mountain, but the mathematical calculations were so precise that on February 22nd and October 22nd, (the birthday and coronation of the king) the sun shines in on the 3 of 4 statues in the temple. The face which the sun does not light, is only inches away from the others but was intentionally designed not to receive light because it is a statue of the god of darkness, which shall remain in the dark. The 3 statues originally remained lit by the suns light for 46 minutes. The temple had to be raised (long story!) to avoid flooding, and now on February 21st, and October 21st, the faces light up for 28 minutes. Thousands of tourists gather to watch the projected images on the mountainside. The planning and execution of this phenomenon is unfathomable to me, I remain baffled at this glorious temple. Abu Simbel was my favorite temple of Egypt. After the visit to the temple, we boarded the plane and headed back to Aswan.

We ate dinner and a few of us headed to a local Nubian village. The visit was easily my favorite memory in Egypt. We took a small boat to the other side of the Nile shore and walked through dusty pathways and impoverished houses. The village is 100% Muslim, and the government provides one school and mosque for each village. The Nubian people are known for their generosity and hospitality. We were greeted by the locals opened their hands to ask for money. There was an enormous difference in the children I was with last summer in Malawi to these children. I’m not sure if it was because they were of different religious beliefs or a different part of Africa, but not one child ran to us to play, they only asked for money. We visited a specific woman who welcomed us into her house. It is communal type living; each member of the family lives in a house, which is dominantly outside. We sat in their living room, which was in the open part of the rectangle of their house. She made us tea and showed us her house. An interesting Nubian tradition is for each family to raise crocodiles! As we toured her house, we looked at the bathroom and in the bathtub was a baby crocodile! It was absolutely crazy, and scary! We spent time at her house, drinking tea, buying necklaces, and getting henna tattoos (a local tradition) we watched the sun set over the broken roofs and heard the call to prayer.

We returned back to the hotel for the last night, ate dinner and a few of us played cards and talked all night long! There are memories, adventures and laughter that will resonate in my mind of Egypt that will never be replaced. Since we never slept, we ate breakfast and rode the boat the last time from the hotel to the city of Aswan, I hope to return one day. We flew into Cairo and visited the Archeological Museum, which housed all of the treasures of King Tutankhamen’s tomb, and countless other impeccable artifacts, including the very first painting, wood carvings over 4,300 years old and so much more! Ironically, the museum was in terrible condition, it was hot and disorganized with hand-written descriptions of each artifact. There is a new museum being built near the pyramids, which will open in 2011! After the museum we ate lunch and spent the last 3 hours in Egypt on a bus back to Alexandria. It was extremely hard for me to say good-bye to Egypt; our tour guide became a big part of each one of our days and generously spread his knowledge to invite us to explore ancient Egyptian history. With tired eyes, I fell asleep back aboard the MV Explorer and dreamt of the mysteries of Egypt, which I will forever love.

Thank you for taking the time to read this if you has gotten to the end! I know the details probably don’t mean that much, but I hope that in writing for myself you all get something out of it. Thank you for everything! I anxiously wait to show you the pictures from this ineffable experience!

All my love,


Saturday, July 17, 2010

Semester at Sea- Bulgaria

Bulgaria, July 24th- 27th

The first time in 44 years of sailing around the world, the MV Explorer pulled into Varna, Bulgaria. The horizon was dominated with trees patched with small buildings and beaches. Many of us knew very little about Bulgaria, it’s not the central study in our history books. However, the foreign diplomat whom enters our ship before we debark was a 1988 Semester At Sea Alumni. She explained how SAS was a life changing and shaping experience. I personally spoke with her for over an hour, she pointed me in the direction of Foreign Service with the U.S. government. I have an interest in this line of work and the words she spoke that stuck in my mind are “The policies are only as good as the people who make it”, if we want to make a difference, we can’t wait for other people to do it, we have to do it ourselves. In one of my Orphanage visits, which I will tell you about in a minute, the 80-year-old founder said, “If enough people have the same dream, it will come true.”

The first day in Bulgaria we explored the city and then a few of my friends and I had a Semester at Sea trip called “Human Trafficking” this was a big event where over 150 SAS students, members of the Bulgarian Navy, many advocates for Human Rights, and even the mayor of Varna joined in a conference. They explained how Human Trafficking is the biggest, and least persecuted crime in Europe. Bulgaria has become the transport country for human trafficking. We were told of cases of sex trafficking into Western Europe of women, who then are found and taken out of trafficking but refuse to testify against criminals out of fear or emotional exhaustion. Human trafficking is a new and rapidly growing problem with a long road till its end. In my studies of the organization, International Justice Mission, I’ve learned that there are more slaves today than there were in the entire trans-Atlantic slave trade. Over 22 million men, women and children are victims of sex slavery and forced labor slavery. These statistics make it uncomfortable to learn about, but impossible to ignore. My commitment is to move myself to action, and move as many people as I can to face the reality of this oppression in the world.

The second day in Bulgaria, I visited a disabled home called Karin Dom. An 80-year-old man who thrives with an energetic and contagious breath of life started this house. We were lucky enough to meet him, and I was extremely lucky to hold a conversation with this man. His words of wisdom included the quote from above, as well as “Work with your heart and your hands, nothing is better than giving.” Holding the hands of children with disabilities reached deep to grasp the heart, it awakened my purpose on this voyage. We toured the facility, there are incredible rooms with therapy, and each child gets specific and necessary attention. Karin Dom is free for children who attend, and depends heavily on donations. There have been donations by nations around the world, including Japan. A funny story about Japans involvement is in the late 20th century a Japanese princess visited Bulgaria. She ate the yogurt and really enjoyed it, returned to Japan and urged Japan to send financial help to Bulgaria. To this day, Japan sends funds to Karin Dom. The economic struggle has affected every country we have visited; it hit Bulgaria recently but very hard. Funding for the two orphanages I visited have been halted, this leads to the inability to properly care for the children who are in need.

The third day I was able to receive a much needed rest day, to try to beat the constant sore throat and tiredness I’ve been trying to fight. That night we had our traditional “family dinner” at a sushi restaurant.

It was an incredible 3 ½ hour dinner followed with bowling, like I’ve emphasized before, I have met an amazing group of people whom I enjoy every moment I share with them. The last day, yesterday I went with Semester at Sea to an orphanage. There were only 8 other students and we went to a Roma orphanage, or gypsy children. These children are victims of domestic violence who have often gotten in trouble with the law and are put into the hands of the municipality system. Four boys and four girls temporarily live in the house while they try and find them a permanent home and there are about 20-25 children who go to the home daily for school lessons, showers, food, etc. I felt at home with these children, my time in Africa last summer set me up with a deep rooted love for children and playing with them in Bulgaria reminded me of that love. I am thankful that I am able to connect my experiences in these countries to the study of poetry. I have written about my experience at the orphanage that connects with the children I have met throughout the world. Semester at Sea continues to ignite my passion and purpose in life; I am amazed at the power it has to persuade.

We are sailing to Egypt now, two days of class and then stepping foot into one of the most exciting ports! I hope you are all doing well, I would love to hear updates and summer adventures that you are all experiencing!

All my love,



Innocent smiles behind troubled eyes

Your story is deep and painful

yet you smile, and through our smiles

we speak the same language.

Victims of violence, abuse and pain,

Please child, don’t let the abuser write the rest

of your story for you, because the ones who did this

to you are just broken souls

Rise up

and claim your life. Re-write your future.

Take my hand

For a moment and let me try to show you

How special you are, how loved you are

I see you through different eyes.

I see you and I love you

because you deserve to be loved.

You are a daughter

You are a son

The Creator calls you children, and your earthly parents

Broke you.

But Christ rebuilds you

You are His, so please, child

Rise up

And claim your story

Child keep smiling,

You are loved.

- Laura

Semester at Sea- Turkey


We only had one day in-between Greece and Turkey for classes, which is unexplainably exhausting. With my four classes and papers due every day while at sea sleep becomes a luxury that I don’t often receive. When we arrived in Turkey we were advised to wake up as the ship pulled into the port. People filled the decks of the ship as we slowly came closer to the incredible and unique skyline of Istanbul. Minarets of the 2,500 mosques in Istanbul fill the skyline, calling the faithful to prayer. The unique architecture and 18 million people population in the city invites a different feel from the other ports. Turkey is a 99% Muslim country, and its relevant through the 5 times daily call to prayer which resound on the loudspeakers of the mosques that can be heard at any point in the city. The call to prayers was my favorite part of Turkey simply because it is a reminder to stop and recognize where we are, it brought my actions into perspective and reminded me of the foreign lands which I stand.

Turkey is a place of contradiction in the sense of the people. There was an aspect of Turkey which was extremely hospitable, on several occasions I was invited into shops without the intention to buy anything but the locals just wanted to share tea with us. I spent several hours experiencing the culture as the Turks invited us to share with them. The other side of Turkey was the part where local men sent our cat calls, who yelled across the street in search for attention, and violated us on the bus with the slick and quick grab of a butt (which happened to all the girls in my group). I understand though, we ask for it, American women come into a Muslim country and are hardly as covered as the Muslim women who live there. We look much different as we wear tight clothing and allow our hair to fall freely, which is much different from the local women. The part of Turkey that I will always love and remember is the “Turkish Hospitality” which is an incredible aspect of this culture, to love and invite a perfect stranger into your family and business to share tea and good conversation.

I toured Mosques, went to the “Grand Bazaar” with over 5,000 shops, went to Turkey vs. Italy soccer game, went on a hike and enjoyed a Turkish bath. The hike was with Semester At Sea. We took an hour bus ride over the bridge into the continent of Asia side of Turkey. Four guides led us into the wilderness of Turkey. It was incredible, but turned ugly very fast when we realized that the guides were simply businessmen taking a break on a Sunday afternoon, and led to a 5 hour, 7 mile hike without water and on a very hot day. A girl even had to be taken to the hospital. We were lost and most of the group was complaining, we were over 2 hours late coming back. There was about an hour where I ran out of water and instantly was upset and angry that SAS would allow this to happen.

I was humbly awakened by the realization that insufficient water is the first cause of death in the world today. People die every 3 seconds from the same thing I suffered for an hour for, and what makes me actually think that I deserve water as soon as possible? What makes me different from them, what makes me think that I have special privilege to these basic human rights because of the place I was born. It brings my to my senses to realize the pain that people suffer daily because of this lack of resources. I only thought of it as I was out of water, as my mouth was dry and my stomach sick I come to think of these people. I wish I could remember them daily, every moment of every day and that it would come to life to ignite a constant passion to help. I think of the children in Africa that I was with last summer and the research that I have done that moves me to action. I must do something to help, and this hike was a reminder of my goal and purpose in life, even though the purpose was different than I perceive, but it moved me to remember and I am thankful for it.

If any of you ever comes back to Turkey, I fully recommend a Turkish bath. It was the most incredible and memorable experience. With two other girls, I experienced a relaxing time in a large sauna while getting a bubbly scrub down from a Turkish woman, a dip in the pool and a hot oil massage. What a day!

There are countless stories from Turkey, and I hope pictures to share when I return that are sufficient in explaining this adventure. There is so much to tell, and I thank you for reading this far! I would love to hear updates about everyone’s life, thank you for your support and love!

All my love from thousands of miles across the sea,


Semester at Sea- Greece


To say the least, it has been a busy time. We have all been non-stop and it’s nearly impossible to catch a minute to stop and think, let alone reflect on the amazing adventure that is happening. I did not send out my e-mail about Croatia, to sum the experience up in a few sentences hardly gives it the credit it deserves. However, I must attempt to reveal my experience in Croatia narrowed down to sunny days, banana boating, laughter with friends, conversations with locals, cliff jumping, and incredible food. We were there long enough to experience the life of a local in the “Old City”, and were there long enough to walk around comfortably knowing where to go and what to see. I absolutely loved Croatia.

Greece was overwhelming. We see throughout history, and our education countless pictures of famous sites and head the events that shaped history that took place at the places where I stood. The Acropolis is an incredible phenomenon and is definitely worth seeing. When I walked up there for the second time in my life, I noticed the hoards of people, construction scaffolding and blazing sun. I was hoping to feel humbled by these great ruins, imagining what took place there so many years ago, instead I felt very little. I wish so much to stand in these places and be alone, to sit in silence and take in the majesty and power of these places. It is often ruined with the groups of tourists traveling to these places without appreciation or understanding of what we stand in front of. The center places of history have become a checklist for tourists who wish simply to take pictures and add to their collection of travels. I am not without fault in what I am explaining. I stood there, took my pictures and unfortunately didn’t understand the importance or greatness of where I was and in my ignorance and naivety I felt ashamed of not being able to stand still in full appreciation at the history before my eyes. I look back now on these moments in my life as images of my days in Greece flash before my eyes and I take with me a humbling experience of how we often walk through life without understanding or appreciating the times or people we have, it takes moments when we look back and savor these moments in silence and gratitude which shape our memories and perceptions of these experiences.

After visiting Athens for 11 hours the first day, we got our rest and woke up the next day to catch a ferry to Mykonos. Mykonos was a very relaxing Island, known to be a vacation spot for locals and tourists. It had beautiful beaches and we stayed in a small, beautiful hotel. One experience out of the three days that I was there, which comes to my mind, is one night when we were sitting on our porch watching the sunset and chatting with 10 of my closest friends. There was a weird nose at the balcony a few doors down from ours breaks, and the man that was leaning against it falls 3 stories to the floor. The image stands out in my mind as I was one of the first to run down to him. I thought to myself that there was absolutely no way that he survived that fall and as I ran to him I thought I was going to see a bloody mess. This man was very lucky, he landed on his feet, breaking his ankles but not hurting anything else. It took the ambulance 30 minutes to get there and they said the man survived because he was drinking and as he fell his body was more relaxed. It was truly an eye-opening experience and since he did not get hurt, it makes for an interesting story!