Sick.

I’ve been incredibly blessed to travel so much this year. All the different cultures and people I’ve encountered have changed me for the better. Spending hours and hours in airports, train stations, bus terminals, and cars has taught me the lesson of patience, especially when I was delayed at my gate in Chicago for 5 hours due to inclement weather. I’ve blown up my instagram profile with photos of Europe, New Zealand, Japan, and various parts of the USA. It’s been a great year!

But recently I’ve learned the more of downside to traveling, to having no roots. The night before my last day in Europe, I came down with something; food poisoning or the flu, who knows what. I was ridiculously, curled up in the fetal position, stumbling to the bathroom, sick. By the time my flight home came up, I’d not eaten or slept in 2 days and I was facing 16+ hours of travel.

I’ve always been fairly strong. Years of sports and good eating habits allow me to go hard all day if required. So to feel as utterly weak as I did was a new experience and I had absolutely no one to help me. I had a nice flight attendant who brought me tea and allowed me to move to an aisle of the plan that was unoccupied. It helped but not much. I was trudging to border control, barely able to comprehend the questions being asked me. By the time I arrived at the baggage claim, only to NOT find my bag, I felt completely defeated and blinked back tears as I filled out my claim form. The woman helping me barely commented when I put my head on the counter and fought the urge to sit down on the floor.

And I’ve been struggling to get better since I arrived at my parents’ home on the 13th. My mom and I decided to visit my uncle up in Minnesota for a few days. He’s the best chiropractor in the world, and I know I’m completely biased. He mostly chastised my boots that I ruined on all the cobblestone streets. I got worse before I got better and then a blizzard hit Minnesota, closing all the roads leading out of town. Our two day trip suddenly turned into a four day trip with me mostly lying on our hotel bed, reading the entire Divergent series while cocooned in all the hotel blankets they’d give me.

Eating is still touch and go and I still run out of energy when I walk up the stairs too many times, but I’m finally on the mend and over my jet lag. Thanks for prayers and patience with my radio silence since arriving back in the States. Sick Tricia isn’t fun to talk to anyways.

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A Month in Belgium

Thank The Lord for friends that send me gentle reminders to update my blog. When will I learn? Alright, BELGIUM! I’ve been just outside Brussels for my last bit of training before heading to Tokyo. My mornings were filled with classes that hit a variety of topics: culture preferences, culture shock, evangelism, justice and mercy ministries, conflict management, language learning through the PILAT program, prayer, personality types, and emotional intelligence. Yowsa! For all those wondering, I’m an ENTP. So, in the Harry Potter and Star Wars worlds, that makes me Sirius Black and R2D2. Sweet!

When I wasn’t in class, I was out in Brussels, working with the Evangelical Armenian church, doing ethnographies (observing and analyzing the surrounding neighborhoods/cultures for extended periods of time), and interviewing people from the area. When I wasn’t doing that, I was in community with my fellow trainees. It was like living in a hostel for a month with 20 other adults and 9 energetic kids under the age of 13. I shared a tiny room with two other single ladies which enabled us to practice conflict management and emotional vulnerability. I watched a lot of pixar movies with the kids and at the end of the day, a lot of the adults and I would head out to our new favorite pub, the Bru House, for a Belgian brew with the pub owner, Allan. He’s one of the most genuine Irishman I’ve ever met and a recent born again Christian. There were some rough patches while we all lived together but I miss it dearly now. True community is beautiful. If you want a good read on the subject, I highly recommend Life Together by the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, written while Bonhoeffer taught at an underground seminary in Germany before being arrested and executed by the Gestapo. It’s so convicting and encouraging at the same time.

The PILAT program focuses on listening before speaking, building up comprehension and thus improving accents. It’s sort of like when you learned your first language. You listened for 2+ years, understanding loads before you babbled a few words. My group learned the methodology with the help of an Indonesian woman. Apparently, of the other language being learned, Lingala from the Congo, Flemish, and Spanish, my group had it the hardest. However, I loved it and I was amazed how much I could understand after a couple of hours! I was having so much fun that I think I overdosed because my brain was SHOT at the end of the day. I forget how exhausting language learning can be.

On the weekends, I would do a bit of traveling. I spent 24 hours in Amsterdam and another 24 hours in Luxembourg City. I spent Sundays at the Armenian church, which will always hold a dear place in my heart. It is a rare thing to be so loved by strangers. At one point, an older woman took my face in her hands, kissed me and just beamed with joy as she smiled at me. There were no words, just love.

Last thought. I’ve been traveling a lot this year. I’ve been all over the world and the states and it’s been wonderful. Traveling has always had this romantic place in my heart but I’ve come to learn the value of roots, of home. As a traveler, I’ve only spectated and never dwelled. I struggle with missing people and fill the voids of friends and family with new friends and experiences so that I won’t feel lonely. But humanity was meant to DWELL in community. Why are we so quick to sever the roots that anchor us to life?

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It’s been a while…

Hey y’all. I know it’s been a while since my last post. It’s been a crazy, trying, hilarious, busy, frustrating, enlightening, emotional couple of months. I hunkered down into survival mode and wasn’t even communicative with people I saw everyday. Support raising is plugging along (72%!) but my lack of rest has taken its toll. There were lots of meetings and presentations and not a lot of down time. I also had to pack up all my belongings, moved all my stuff out of my 18th story apartment to a storage unit, and then flyhome to Indiana for the holidays. Fun fact: it’s not Christmas with my family until there’s an emotional outburst among the sisters. It seems to happen every year. And this year, it was my fault.

I’ve also had to prepare for my final round of training: one month in Brussels for a cross cultural ministry internship. I was all booked to head on January 6th out of O’Hare airport in Chicago. The day before, there was 18 inches of snow blanketing NW Indiana and severe winds drifting it across the roads. Rather than fight a losing battle, Indiana decided to simply close all the roads that lead into Chicago. Did I mention it was -15 degrees with a wind chill of -40? Against all odds, I made it to the airport on a shuttle and even had dinner with a friend on her way to Paris. I made it onto the plane, breathed a sigh of relief and then proceeded to wait at the gate FOR 5 HOURS. All the fuel pumps on the fuel trucks had frozen and we went through 3 trucks before we finally filled up the tank. Good thing I had that 6 hour layover in London before I hopped over to Brussels.

Last excuse. I promise. I’m not a tech savvy person and I have problems with my passwords. Simply put, I lost my password to log into my wordpress account and all the steps to recover it (don’t ask) discouraged me from taking the time to actually do it. I’m sure everyone can relate to this! Thus, updating my blog was always a task for tomorrow and here we are 2+ months later. I’m sorry.

So greetings from Belgium! Well, the outskirts of Brussels in the town of Zaventem at the OM Centre if we’re going to be nitty gritty. I’m here to learn how to live and serve cross culturally. The basic run down is that I’m in class in the mornings and then serving in a cross cultural church in the afternoons and weekends while also doing homework assignments. I’ve made it through my first week and I’m so glad I’m here. The classes are wonderful and challenging. The speakers are forcing me to really take a hard look at my own cultural preferences and assumptions and how that differs and can translate into other cultures. Fascinating!

My church that my team has been assigned to is an Armenian church in North Brussels. The other two teams are working with an Iranian church as well as an international church from Scotland. Thus far, I love the people at the Armenian church. They are so welcoming and affectionate. Their English was quite good as well!! One woman, who only spoke French, told me I had a face like the sun! Haha! I took a year of French in college so I’ve been reviewing in order to survive here. Belgium actually speaks Dutch as well in the northern part of the country so I see my last name all over!

Thanks for your patience and your prayers. This time in Belgium is also forcing me to take a hard look at my personality and my heart. I apologize if any of you were frustrated with me. If it’s any consolation, I’ve been frustrated with myself as well. But I’m constantly reminded that God is good and that He loves us when we are overwhelmed by our fears, slack in our responsibilities, and get distracted by the ridiculous details. He loves us when we fall short. And we will always fall short. There’s so much in life I can’t control and I’m learning that that is an extremely good thing. We all would be crushed by the responsibility of complete control. That’s why God says His burden is easy and the yoke is light; He bears the burden of control! And so often, I try to wrestle control from God by worrying or rebelling or complaining. Trust God. He’s got it. Sometimes, you can only take one step at a time because that’s all God reveals. Belgium is my next step. I know there are more coming and I can’t wait to share with how God is leading me.

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Autumn Butterflies

Autumn is my favorite time of year, and I’ve been very thankful for all my travels to parts of the country that have more autumn than Dallas normally does. However, Texas has surprised me with more color than usual this season. It’s been so beautiful that I cast my to do list aside and went for a walk today.  I’ve recently come to the conclusion that to plan a day of nothing is not quite as restful as having a day full of activity planned and then rebelliously chucking it aside to rest.

ImageI’ve been focused and overwhelmed with support raising, meetings, travels, and working. Remember that rant on not resting? Stress has a way of bringing up my bad habits. It’s been a while since I was able to go for a walk and enjoy fresh air and some peace of mind. Walking is my contemplation time. Yet, my thoughts kept being interrupted by the leaves. It all started with this colossal, yellow maple leaf that was very out of place among birch, elm, dogwood, and cottonwood leaves. I had to pick it up.

And then I inadvertently began a massive leaf collection.

I wandered all over, in and out of streets and neighborhoods and parks, carrying a bouquet of yellow, reds, and oranges. I may have also acquired some sideways glances from the dog walker that I passed twice. I picked up dozens of leaves out of the gutter that were blown there by the wind and noisy leaf blowers. Poor leaves. I’m always amazed people would want to blow away all that color. I’d at least wait until they had all dried up all crinkling brown paper like. There were all kinds of shapes and textures; some were vivid yellow, deep crimson, and an ombre of yellow, orange, and red. I found a few magnolia leaves that were the a very delicate, tannish, yellow and some elm leaves that were almost pink! There were so many and the seemed to be begging to be picked up and taken home.

ImageI have this memory from college that has made the deepest impression on my person. I was sitting in choir rehearsal looking out the windows at all the colorful autumn trees of Michigan. The wind was blowing and yellow leaves were dancing around. My first thought was, “Butterflies!” The image has stayed with me for years now and perhaps it’s the underlying thought that drew me to a yellow origami butterfly as my logo. Regardless, I’ve always thought that if butterflies camouflage themselves to look like leaves, it seems perfectly natural that leaves should “want” to be butterflies.

ImageWe all desire transformation, to be made new and beautiful. Autumn is all about the old passing away so that the new can come. I suppose it’s a bit sad to see the leaves falling. But it’s not the actual falling of the colors but the knowledge that this season is ending. People fear winters that linger longer than they think they can bear. In my own life, I feel a season ending; this season of selfish independence, of cultural comfort, of easy self expression. It’s a loss but I also know that it’s a season that has to end in order to move forward to new growth.

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Global Missions Conference!

I don’t know much about South Carolina. I’m a Midwest farm girl and I’m desperately in love with autumnal colors. I really didn’t expect Greenville to have such lovely colors! I’m here for the Mission to the World Global Missions Conference. Basically, hundreds of missionaries get together to visit with thousands of other people from all around the US. It’s a reunion of far-flung friends, it’s networking, it’s building partnerships, it’s education, it’s a big party. Last night, I got to see many of my friends from Japan and today many of the other missionaries that I’ve been training with all year will arrive. I sometimes wonder what these hotel personnel might think of this big gathering of missionaries that take over the lobbies. We’re loud (even the Japan team!) and gregarious, laughing and talking in dozens of different languages. Is it strange that this is normal for me? The whole weekend is going to be full of amazing speakers, worship, singing, prayer, and seeing what God is doing through broken people all over the world. Image

 

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Facebook Makes Us Relational Freeloaders

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Took some time to walk down Pennsylvania Ave. And living in Texas has made me a sucker for autumnal colors.

I just got back from a whirlwind trip to Washington, DC. I haven’t been in well over a decade so it was wonderful to visit again. I’ve had quite a few friends and some family settle in the area and it was great to see some of them. And I truly do have some of the kindest friends and relatives. It’s always a treat to see them. I also got the chance to explore a bit of DC in my spare 4 hours out of my 5 day trip. My art history spidey sense was going crazy! My friend took me on a “tour” of the Capitol but he’s only been on staff with a certain Texan senator for 3 months so names and dates were a bit sparse. Eventually, a Capitol policeman got wind of my incomplete tour and took over. It was amazing! He’s been at the Capitol for 25 years, had the best stories, and I bet he would put most American history professors to shame. I even got to see the Senate baths deep in the boiler room. Everyone should make friends with the Capitol policemen. They rock.

The Capitol is beautiful. But don't believe what the junior staffers say. All lies. That chandelier is not from the Titanic, thank you very much.

The Capitol is beautiful. But don’t believe what the junior staffers say. All lies. That chandelier is not from the Titanic, thank you very much.

But I’ve come to a conclusion that many people have already realized. Facebook has made me incredibly lazy regarding my relationships. I keep telling people that this whole process of missionary support raising is absolutely crazy but so rewarding because it pushes me to me intentional about my relationships. Yes, there’s a “motive” but I promise there’s no bait n’ switch. I’m asking people to partner with me as I go to Japan and partnership can only exist within relationship.

And in 3 years while I was teaching and secure in my situation, I never ONCE took a trip out to DC to visit people I love. I could have found time and bought the ticket but I didn’t because it requires a lot of planning with multiple people way in advance. It sounded like too much trouble at the time. Yes, it requires a bit of energy but now, having done it, it was completely worth it.

Many of these friends I haven’t seen since college, and a phrase that came up often was: “Well, I stalk you on Facebook.” Have our friendships devolved into cyber stalking? Looking but never engaging? In the end, we’re only isolating ourselves by observing mere façades of people. Our friends become characters in a children’s book with simple sentences and lots of pictures.  Talking face to face encouraged me to be vulnerable and honest in a way that Facebook can never allow.

Technology is wonderful. I LOVE looking at photos of my nieces as they grow up, but I wish I could rock out to the Backyardigans with them. I’m a sucker for pretty pictures of food, but I wish I could eat it with you. My travels all over the world may look like a lot of fun, but it would always be more fun to be stuck in the airport for hours with my friends and family. Well, maybe not my family. My sisters and I just might go crazy.

I hope that this encourages you to make that coffee date. They really are worth the time.

Dome of the Capitol. I swear one of them looks like St. Michael as Captain America.

Dome of the Capitol. I swear one of them looks like St. Michael as Captain America.

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Support Raising

Support raising has been going really well. Amazingly well. I’ve had some trips to Denver and the Houston area and they were great.  I have family in both places so it was also encouraging to see aunts, uncles, cousins, and sisters as well as old friends from college and new friends from Christ Church in Katy, TX.

I’ve checked the numbers and I’m currently at 57.5% of my monthly needs. Woohoo! God has provided abundantly and while support raising along with working is completely crazy schedule-wise, I feel so blessed by the relationships I’ve built thus far.

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Hiking with my Aunt and Uncle in Denver, CO!

It was a sweet time with my family in Denver. They even took me to see some of the beautiful state parks. I love hiking. It was one of my all-time favorite pass times. I’m not really a hard core backpacker by any means. I just love wandering and getting somewhat lost outside. Plus, it allows for real conversations with people. My aunts and uncles are so great to talk with over coffee, slurpy peaches, and mountain hiking.

I also spent the night with some ex-missionaries that go to Christ Church in Katy, TX this weekend. Ed and Donna were all over Africa working with The Rafiki Foundation that build orphanages to children left without family due to AIDS. I spent most of my time simply listening to their stories and feeling like a wuss since I’m off to Tokyo to live in a high rise for the next two years in one of the safest countries I can think of. Donna rode 2.5 hours through the bumpy backwoods of Africa to the nearest doctor with a severely broken leg. They finally left Africa because they got caught in a fire fight and barely made it out of the country. They had to deal with extreme poverty, starvation, political unrest, and constant danger on a daily basis. I’m the biggest wimp.

But it’s been so encouraging. Everyone I’ve met with, new and familiar faces, has been wonderfully uplifting.

Here’s to the second half of the support raising adventure. Cheers!

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