America, Culture, Family, Missions, Religion, Summer

WWJD? 

My grandma can now text. This is quite a novelty, seeing as how she was the type who swore she would never send a message when she could call. She finally came around and now she’s got an iPhone and an iPad, both of which she can competently send me messages from. Wanna know what I was doing on Wednesday night at 9:30 pm? Texting my grandma about a jello recipe and the merits of different paint brands. Welcome to the 21st century!

Unfortunately, someone updated her phone for her, wreaking havoc on her new texting skills. This resulted in a phone call that went something like “there’s all these little cartoon faces and I don’t know how to make them go away.” Those are called emojis, Grandma. 

One of the most recent texts I got from my grandma said: Brittney, I keep checking your blog and nothing! Please post more.

I have a bunch of posts written that I have lagged in posting. So, now, they’re not as timely as they once were, but still applicable. This was one I wrote after I got back from church camp at the very end of July. So, here you go, Grandma, enjoy! 

I’m unashamedly a 90s kid. I think everyone is at this point, seeing as how the 90s seem to be very “in”. But, I got the good part of the 90s. I was born in 1991, so most of my childhood was in that era. I knew every word to every Spice Girls song. I had a Skip It, a Tamagotchi, inflatable furniture, and a beaded curtain on my bedroom door (which was originally from the 70s, but made a brief comeback).

And, I had a WWJD bracelet. I’m not sure when these made their first debut, but if you were a Christian kid in America in the 90s, you had one. 

What Would Jesus Do? 

These bracelets were to serve as a reminder, when faced with day to day decisions, to ask yourself that question. 

Even though I don’t still wear my bracelet, I do still find myself asking that question quite a bit. It’s straightforward. And when I was young, I think it was a little bit easier to answer. 

Fighting with your brother? What would Jesus do? Um, well, I’m not sure Jesus would be fighting over who got to ride in the front seat of the car this time. But, I’m guessing if He were, He’d probably be nice and let His brother have it. 

Today, though, I asked myself that question. WWJD? Just what would Jesus do? Or better yet, what does Jesus want me to do? And you know what my answer was? Laundry. 

Laundry isn’t my favorite thing to do, but I also don’t hate it. The worst kind of laundry is the “I sweat in these clothes, then stuffed them in a bag and forgot about them” type, which is what I was faced with today.

There was a mix up on bags when we left camp and some of our bags got loaded with another church and to make a long story short, I was the one who was designated to sort it all out. Thus, the week old camp laundry that I’m now doing.


To be honest, I wasn’t even going to do the laundry. I was going to deliver it back to it’s owner in the condition I’d received it in and let someone else take care of it. But, a thought flashed through my mind. What would Jesus do? 

I know the owner of these clothes. I know the conditions she lives in, what her home life is like. And I know it may be difficult for her to access a washer and dryer. I also know that I have a washer and dryer at my disposal to use whenever I want to. I know that this is a fact I take for granted every single day of my life. I’ve never really stopped to think about what a blessing it is to have clean clothes. 

So, I’m doing laundry. 

Someone else’s laundry. Not because it’s what I want to do. But, because I know it’s what Jesus would do. 

I pray to be more like Him. I pray to be used by Him. But, I often look for the big things. “God, what do you want me to do? I want to serve You, I want to be a reflection of You.” These are the sentiments I often pray. And I envision God doing mighty works. 

What if all God is asking of me is to do laundry? What if He’s saying: “slow down, listen to me, look around, see how blessed you are, bless others in that same way”? 

We are all called to serve. But, we were never told what that service would look like. There were days that Jesus raised people from the dead. And there were other days that Jesus washed people’s feet. 

I don’t always know what my life’s calling is. All I know is that today, my calling was to wash clothes. 

“Whoever is faithful in little things will be faithful in much.” Luke 16:10

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Culture, Family, Farm, Religion, Summer

Running on Empty

I think I’m well on my way to becoming the Maysville Call Center. My grandparents keep walking in with phones that won’t work. Last week, my grandma walked into the office holding her flip phone that had finally died. It just so happened that on the same day, her wi-fi went out, leaving her completely unable to contact anyone. So, she walked in, needing to use the phone. Of which I was able to offer her 5 options. A few days later, my grandpa walks in. Carrying his own flip phone (haven’t all of these disappeared yet?) Says: my phone won’t work, can I use one of yours? I didn’t even ask any questions. I just handed him the cordless and let him make his calls.

VBS week has me feeling like the kid in the blue. I think I’m having fun, but I’m also slightly terrified and confused. Basically, I’m just rolling with life at this point. Should I mention that I took orders for 3,596 shirts last week? Actually, I didn’t. I took orders for more than that. But, I stopped counting there. Because I got a little too overwhelmed to even keep count any more.


I planned VBS in my usual fashion. We talked about it a few weeks before in May and decided that the second week in June would be good. So, I waited until the first week in June to remember that it was the first week in June and we had tentatively planned to start at the beginning of the second week in June. Everything got lined out really fast. AKA: other people took over and assumed their roles and I hastily put together our schedule and it came together.

Scavenger hunting


Treasure hunters

So, we’re in VBS week. And we’re printing 4000+ shirts. And, it just so happens, we don’t have water. Not in the Al Gore, global warming, type of way. More in the our well system isn’t really working type of way. Apparently, when you have a hole in a water pipe, it doesn’t matter how much water you have access to. The water isn’t getting from point A to point B. Calling a company to come out and fix it was helpful too. They said they would come, then called the next day saying that someone had an emergency in a tiny town in Missouri, so they wouldn’t be back in town for a few days.

I don’t know what this other person was going through or what constitutes an emergency these days, but I feel like me not having access to drinking water is a little bit of an emergency too. Not to mention that we have no water to make coffee with. I mean, that seems a little emergent. Yes?

So: VBS week + piles of shirts + no water. Don’t worry, I issued an emergency bulletin to all (3) of our staff that read: “Warning Notice: Skyline Printing and Merchandising is officially in a state of emergency as water levels are reaching an all time low. Please be advised that conditions may worsen. Updates will be provided as this situation unfolds.” I think I was the one who was the most amused with my antics.

Luckily, a different company came to the rescue and fixed the water situation the next day. We’re back up and running. Literally.

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Asia, Auto, Food, Health, Missions, Religion, Travel

Not of this World

I’ve done it, guys. I think I finally have mastered the art of riding side saddle on a motorbike. Hands politely in my lap, balancing carefully as we go around the corners. I’m officially a Southeast Asian lady. 
So far, I think I’ve had my picture taken about 73 times since I’ve been here. This morning, I saw one of the ladies in our nutrition training session trying to take a picture of me as we were preparing to begin. So, I stopped what I was doing and stood still to smile for a picture. Because, if you’re going to take my picture, I atleast want it to be a good one. Then, that opened the door for personal pictures, so some of the other women took pictures with me. 


I forget sometimes that I stand out here. I’m trying my best to blend in. I wear the Lao skirt. I sit side saddle on the back of the motorbike as we navigate the streets of the town. I know their greeting, so I greet the people that I meet in their own language. I fold my hands and bow politely when I meet someone. 

Today, one of the women brought me a Lao traditional basket of black rice (because I had asked some questions about it yesterday), so I took it for lunch. As we were walking from the hospital back to the motorbike, with my Lao skirt on, carrying my Lao basket of rice, I thought to myself, I am blending in. Adopting a few of the customs. Dressing like them. Eating like them. 


Then, I looked up, came out of my day dream, and realized that I am a blonde girl, who is about a head taller than everyone here, and people are still staring at me. Actually, they’re staring at me more than if I were dressed in my normal clothes.

Why?

Because they can see by the way I look, by the way I act, by the way I speak, that I don’t really belong here. Not that I’m not welcome here. I feel very welcomed here. But, by taking on some of their culture and adapting to some of their ways, they’re wondering even more: who is she and what is she doing here? She’s obviously different, why is she trying to be the same?

The Bible speaks about this phenomenon a little bit too. In Romans 12:2, the apostle Paul urges the believers to not conform to the pattern of this world. Again, in John 18:36, Jesus reminds us that His Kingdom is not here in this world, but beyond. 

As believers, we are called to be different. The way that Christ lived, the example that He gave for us to follow, doesn’t look anything like what this world promotes. Where we want to hate, Jesus said to love. Where we want to judge, Jesus said to forgive. Where we want to fight, Jesus said to make peace. 

Like me in a Lao skirt on the back of a motorbike, true believers stand out, even in the midst of the world all around us. Why?

Because we don’t belong here.

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Asia, Culture, Missions, Religion, Travel

Passport Pile Ups

There are literally 18 people on this flight. I know because I counted. This is my 4th trip (7th flight) on Lao Airlines, which I think should qualify me for Frequent Flyer status. 

Waking up from a jet lag induced sleep is probably like waking up from a coma. I wouldn’t know, but I feel like that’s maybe accurate. I slept really, really soundly and woke up in a dark, strange room by myself, wondering where I was at. I set my alarm for 9 am, to make sure I made it in time for breakfast. Which I did. A bowl of miso soup, a salad, rice, watermelon, and coffee. 

Breakfast of champions


Now that I think about it, I’ve had a salad for breakfast three mornings of the last ten mornings.. Strange. 

You always have plenty of time, until you don’t. I’m not the best at managing time, as noted in my number 1 instruction from my brother before I left: “Pay attention to the time.” 

I needed to leave the hotel in Bangkok to go back to the airport at 1:30 pm. That gave me the morning to work out, chill at the pool for a bit, then get ready to go. I made it to the airport perfectly on time, checked in with no problems, flight boarding at 3:15 pm. 


“Hope the lines aren’t long!” Famous last words. Security was fine, my bags only got searched once. Passport control: another story. I can tell something is going on as I approach the escalator to go down. Sure enough, I look down to see a sea of people. The passport control is so crowded that they won’t let anyone else go down til it clears. Looks like plenty of time just turned into running late. 


I’m at the front of the line to go down, so when I get on the floor, I go as far forward as I can and start trying to figure out how I can make my way ahead faster. This is where it comes in handy to be blonde. One older Chinese guy sees me looking a little concerned and yells at his friends to let me ahead. I take the small pass gladly and focus only on what’s in front of me. Which happens to be 300 other Asian tourists. 

I hate it when people start yelling in a crowd. But, add in the element of not being able to understand what is being yelled and it’s slightly terrifying. I’m in the middle of trying to elbow two Asian women out of the way because I was in line in front of them and they knew it, when I hear the yelling from behind. 


As I turn in the direction of the commotion, I quickly realize the escalator is going and people are still coming down, but we’ve run out of floor space. There’s a pile up at the bottom of the escalator, literally. People are just running into other people and falling down on top of each other. The ones coming down realize too late what’s going on and can’t turn around. The people on the floor have no where else to go. 

One American guy decides to bail off the side of the escalator as he gets closer to the bottom, which sends people into a panic, trying to get the escalator shut off. Which causes all the more yelling in about 5 different languages.

Finally, someone shuts down the whole operation, as people are trying to shove forward to make more room. My flight is boarding in 30 minutes and the line is still forever long. Causing me to panic. Because there is one Lao Airline flight per day. And I don’t wanna be stuck in Thailand. 

Somehow, I successfully manage to keep the Asian ladies from cutting in front of me, get my passport stamped and make it to the gate with a little time to spare. Check ya later, Bangkok! 

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Asia, Food, Missions, Religion, Travel

Time Lapse

I woke up at 5 this morning. There is something about waking up and realizing it will be around 30 hours until you see another bed that makes you kinda not wanna get up. 

Since I get asked quite a bit what it’s like to travel so far, I was going to detail everything from when I woke up to when I went back to bed. But, 30 hours is a lot to cover and I really don’t think anyone cares that much. So, I’ll (try to) condense it for you. Woke up at 5, picked all the raisins out of my bowl of Raisin Bran because I don’t like them that much, got to the airport, screaming baby, rain delay, gate change, fly to Chicago, 30 minutes late, rush to gate, early, grilled chicken salad 10:41 am, still early, last minute phone calls and boarding. 

Brunch


*note that all the time stamps are based on home time, since I don’t really know how to convert it in an understandable way across so many time zones.

11:47 am: got an aisle seat and both seats next to me are still open, trying not to glare at every passenger who walks by, silently deterring them from taking the seats I could sleep in. 

11:49 am: hopes dashed, other aisle seat taken, but middle is open, so it could be worse. 

12:11 pm: take off, settled in for the next 12 hours and 2 minutes

12:34 pm: scan movie selection, choose The Monuments Men

1:22 pm: decide to paint my nails, finish one hand and part of the other before a flight attendant tells me that nail polish is not allowed because of the fumes.. Mentally plan to finish when she’s not looking, nickname her Nailpolish Nazi. 

1:57 pm: receive lunch, which consists of chicken teriyaki, rice, vegetables, salad and a roll. Eat the dry lettuce and the roll (not pictured for obvious reasons) The rest looks less than appetizing. 


2:38 pm: start second movie (Spotlight), Nailpolish Nazi brings me some green tea gelato. I take it as a peace offering and decide maybe she’s not that bad. 


I get a little lost between 3 and 11 pm.. I think I alternate between movies, reading, and lightly dozing.

11:29 pm: “breakfast” meal, which I only get for the roll. My options are eggs or teryaki noodles. Also, note that the smell of this food is awful and want to tell Nailpolish Nazi that this is what shouldn’t be allowed to be opened on a plane. 

12:13 am: flight lands, it was right at about 12 hours total.

Tokyo airport: (12:45 am – 2:45 am) spend a lot of time waiting in lines, boarding pass change, takes forever. Long walk, where is everyone?, am I going the right way? 


Bright side: upgraded to EconomyPlus seating (whatever that means) for free. Lay down on a bench at my boarding gate and contemplate going to sleep. 

2:55 am: complete exhaustion setting in, board for Bangkok, another 7 hour flight.

3:03 am: realize that the EconomyPlus seating slightly reclines and I cease to care about pretty much everything else.


4:17 am: “dinner” meal, I get a “western” option and a Japanese option.. Choose western, but it looks Japanese anyway. Eat a tiny piece of spongy chocolate cake and leave the rest. Lean back and try to get some rest. 

4:25 am: can’t get comfortable, decide to watch a movie, pick “Pretty Woman” and realize I’ve never actually watched this movie before.

6:13 am: delusional, try to get comfortable enough to fall asleep, realize that I’ve officially crossed the 24 hour mark of no sleep. Feeling every minute of it. 

9:19 am: completely wake up, spent the last few hours flipping from side to side, restlessly, catching 30 minutes of sleep here and there because I’m finally so tired that I can’t physically go without sleep anymore.

9:42 am: land in Bangkok, passport control, bags, where am I?, airport shuttle.

10:48 am (10:48 pm Bangkok time): checked into my room at a hotel near the airport, 29 hours and 48 minutes since I’ve seen a bed, sleep. 

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Asia, Culture, Food, Health, Medicine, Missions, Religion, Travel

Be Nice.

The people here are really nice. The thing I fear the most is getting hit by a vehicle. Nothing is off limits. Walking down the sidewalk, I have people honk at me. No, not people from the street. It’s the people on motorbikes who got tired of waiting in traffic and decided to take a “shortcut”, which means nearly running me over on the sidewalk. I really did almost get hit though. By a van. While I was crossing the road. It was a very near miss. I didn’t see my whole life flash before my eyes, but I saw the highlight reel.

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One lesson it does you well to learn early in life: be nice to people. Because for the most part, they will be nice back. And also because being nice to people sometimes has benefits. Call it sucking up, call it teacher’s pet, or climbing the ladder, for better or for worse, it works. A smile and a kind word can do wonders.
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In the security line at the airport, they took out my tweezers and my fingernail clippers from my bag. I thought they were going to take them. But a smile and a nice exchange and he gave them right back to me. See, it works.

At the visa line, smiling gets you through more easily. In Laos, I was the last one because the 4 workers at passport control were teaching me Lao phrases to use, after I spoke the little I already knew to them. How nice!

But, sometimes people are just nice to you for no reason. As we were loading on the boat to go across the Mekong to visit a village, some health officials from the Public Health Office came with us and happened to be on our boat. One of the ladies seemed really concerned with me. She would look at me, smile, pat my leg. She took pictures of me and kept saying daughter. Then, when we were unloading on the other side of the river, she grabbed onto my arm. And we walked up the river bank together.

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I figured she just needed someone to hold onto because it was a steep climb. But, as we were walking, she said Mama Lao, Mama Lao and pointed to herself. So, she had decided I was her daughter for the day and she was my Mama Lao. Which was fine by me.

When we got to the top of the riverbank, she let go of my arm and took my hand instead. So, we held hands as she led us to the village. The rest of the group was straggling behind us, so it was one white girl plus a bunch of Lao ladies leading the pack. She told me about her daughter who is the same age as me and taught me some new Lao phrases as we went along.

 

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Once we got to the village, she introduced me to the tribal chief, then let me go to look around while she directed everyone else. I wandered around the school we were at, taking pictures of the kids and talking to them. A little while later, my Mama Lao came over to me with a cold water and said drink.
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Now, I have to do an aside: cold drinks are hard to come by here. Even in restaurants, it’s likely you’ll get something lukewarm, maybe cool if you’re lucky. But cold, not too often. So, to have a cold drink out in a village (in 100 degree weather, mind you) is a major luxury.

So, I thought it was strange and special that they had cold drinks for our group. A few minutes later, one of our other ladies came over and said: where’d you get a cold drink?! I looked around and realized I was the only one with a cold drink. Everyone else had regular bottles of water. Except for one person. I spotted her across the way: Mama Lao, with her bottle also condensating in the heat.
Looks like I scored rank. And the benefits are pretty nice.

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America, Asia, Missions, Religion, Travel

Giving Up

Jake says that my life is just one continual series of blonde moments. I think he might be on to something…

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Like this subway selfie I took right after I put on the public lip gloss tester in It Takes Two

Seriously though, I do (almost) everything with a reason and intention. I’ve just been noticing that my reasoning is different than everyone else’s.

On Wednesday night, we’ve been teaching about the Fruits of the Spirit and this past Wednesday, we were going to cover Patience. I was assigned the task of coming up with an activity that the kids could do that went with the lesson. So, I found a game that involves a team stacking cups with a rubber band tied with strings.

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I failed to realize that it would require more patience to tie the strings on to the rubber band than to play the game. I also failed to realize how much time it would take to tie the strings on. So, I was running late to church, as usual. In my rush to get on my way, I thought, I will put these rubber bands with the strings on my wrist so I won’t lose them! See, I was thinking ahead and realizing that it would be very likely that I would lose them between the house and church. So, I put them on my wrist and this is what they ended up looking like.

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Rubber band catastrophe

So much for thinking ahead.

I give up.

I’ve kinda wanted to give up on a few things lately actually.

If you’ll remember: I started this blog really because of a nutrition project I felt led to be involved in. If you’ll also remember: I felt a call to missions a long time ago. And, I committed to that then. I told the Lord I would do that. I would do what He wanted. And, in saying that, what I really said was, I won’t do what I want. Because automatically, when you say yes to God, you say no to self.

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First time in Laos

Lately, though, I’ve felt a pull to give that up. I decided I wanted to stay where I was, focus on work, and in essence, focus on me. Did I actually tell myself that I wanted to give up on what God was doing in my life? No.

What I did say was that I wanted to choose where God was going to use me and how I was going to be used. I still wanted to be used, I just wanted it to be on my own terms. Which is never a good idea. But, I convinced myself that it would all work out just fine.

I mean, surely this commitment to missions that I’d made had an expiration date, right? That’s the way to live your late teens and early twenties. But, eventually, you need to “settle down”. Isn’t that what society tells us?

Plus, God can use me at home, right? I hear people say that to me all the time. And, I believe that 100%. I told myself that He could use me more effectively at home than He could with me tracking myself around the globe. I reasoned it all out and it sounded really good to me. Just like the rubber bands on the wrist thing.

I think I ended up with some tangles in my plan though.Without fully realizing it, my new commitment to serve where I wanted and focus on me meant saying yes to myself and no to God.

The problem was: I decided I was done. The nutrition program was tentatively going to require traveling to Asia twice within a few months. So, I established in my mind that I couldn’t do that. Once, maybe. But, not twice. That was too much. That wasn’t what I signed up for. Those weren’t the terms of my contract when God called me to do mission work.

Then, I heard a word from God. Literally, one word.

Follow.

When Jesus called His disciples from their boats on the Sea of Galilee, He didn’t tell them how long they’d be gone. He didn’t tell them what they were signing up for. He said: Follow Me.

He didn’t continue that phrase with a timeline. He didn’t say: you can go back to fishing after a few years with me. And, it wasn’t a question. Jesus didn’t say: do you want to follow me? Do you want to try it out and see how you feel about it? He didn’t give them an itinerary or a list of terms and conditions.

It was a command.

Follow Me.

And, it’s still our command today. Without question. Without concern.

Follow.

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