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Thoughts from an MOH

My best friend is on her honeymoon right now. I didn’t text her to check in to see if they’d made it safely to their destination but she sent me a message once she arrived. Not a message to necessarily tell me that they’d made it. She sent me her thoughts from a plane. 

I’m not sure who started doing thoughts from a plane. I want to credit her with it because I feel like she was the first one who came up with it. But, it may have been me. I’ll have to confer and get back with you on that one. 

Anyway, thoughts from a plane are literally just that: your thoughts about what is going on around you while on a plane. Maybe we started doing it because it can get terribly boring being cooped up in an airplane for a long time. Or, it could’ve been because you’re in such tight quarters that you can hear and see everything that everyone is doing. Either way, it’s funny to us to share our thoughts from a plane with each other. I wrote about it one time, if you want to read about it here

As I was saying, Jordan got married last weekend and part of my Maid of Honor duties were to write a speech, which I then relayed at her rehearsal dinner. 

I’m not a great public speaker, but I’m generally not terrible. I don’t think I did very well with this speech for two reasons

1. I wasn’t quite sure what emotions were going to be going on, so I was a little apprehensive about being overly emotional. I made it through just fine though.

2. I wasn’t sure what crowd size I’d be speaking to, so I’d made my speech more for a little bit more intimate of a gathering and there were quite a few people there. 

I feel like I’m generally better when I’m conveying thoughts through writing rather than speaking. It just comes more naturally. Even though I tend to write exactly as I would think/speak a thought. 

So, since I’d written the speech anyway, I thought I’d memorialize it in blog form. Because this seems like an official place to memorialize something of magnitude, right? 

Here they are: my thoughts for my best friend on the evening before her wedding: 

When Jordan told me that I would need to make a speech tonight, I wasn’t really sure what a Maid of Honor speech should be like, so I just wrote what came to mind. 

Jordan and I have been friends for a long time. Our families have been friends for over 100 years, so we technically have a long history together. But, I didn’t grow up with her, so I never really officially met her until we were around 14 or 15 years old. 

I remember the first time I heard about Jordan. I had just switched schools and some of my friends were hanging out by my locker, talking about this girl and her shoes. I have never cared too much for fashion and as an 8th grader, I cared even less. But, there was apparently a girl walking around in pink stilettos. And it was Jordan. 

It’s ironic that my first memory of hearing about Jordan has to do with shoes, because I swear, the girl currently owns about 500 pairs. 

I really got to know Jordan in high school. We had a class together and the first day I walked into class, there she was, seated in front of my desk, crocheting. She had her yarn spread out and could care less what anyone thought about it. I thought maybe during the lecture, she would take notes, but she continued to crochet. 

We did our classwork together, probably mostly because I was the one with the notes, and also because we were two of the only girls in that class. I’ll not bore everyone with stories of our youth, that most likely only the two of us would find funny. But, we began a friendship that has personally enriched my life a lot over the years. 

We are pretty much opposites when it comes to most things, so I think we both stretched each other in different directions in a way that causes so much growth as people.

Jordan wouldn’t let me have a slide show, but immediately, when I first started thinking about this speech, there was one picture of us that immediately came to mind. It was a picture of the two of us, on our last day of high school, right before we graduated. 

I had tried like everything to convince her to go to the University of Arkansas with me and she had likewise tried to convince me to go to OSU with her. But, both of us knew that the other place wasn’t where we were meant to be. So, we were going to be parting ways and on the last day of high school, that reality was sinking in a little bit more. 

You can tell in the picture that we had been teary eyed saying bye to all our friends. And, I know it seems a little bit childish now, but it was a big deal to us then. We were, in a tiny way, embarking into the unknown. We weren’t going to be full fledged adults by any means, because what 18 year old can really be considered an adult? But, we were striking it out on our own. 

We had no idea the people we’d meet or the new friends we’d gain, most of whom for Jordan are seated here tonight. We had no idea if we’d still be friends after it was all said and done. And, we had no idea the lives we’d eventually lead. So, the tears were understandable. 

But had we known then what we know now, how even though this step from high school into adulthood was a bit daunting at first, how it lead to so many great things, we may have still been teary eyed, but not because we were sad for moving on, but because we were overwhelmed and happy for the new things to come. 

And, as I’m writing this, I’m expecting that there will be some tears as Jordan and Jade now prepare to enter into a new, exciting phase of their lives together. But now we know that if we get a little teary eyed, it’s not for sadness of what Jade and Jordan are leaving behind, but for joy for the life that they’re about to walk into. Congratulations Jordan and Jade! I am so happy for both of you and can’t wait to see what blessings marriage brings to your lives!

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First Friday

I’ve got two instructions: 

1. pay attention to the time

2. no public sleeping

The second one is a legitimate concern because right before the instruction was given to me, I was trying to devise a way in my mind to sleep on top of my luggage in the airport so that if anyone bothered it, I would wake up. Guess I won’t be doing that. 

This isn’t my first time traveling alone, but I guess it’s my first time going this far and for this long by myself. So, it’s a little bit of a first.

A girl in the airport bathroom asked me if this was my first time to fly. I was in the middle of brushing my teeth (and trying to decide if the tube I’d squeezed onto my toothbrush was full of toothpaste or hand soap) so I felt like that was maybe a good indication that I wasn’t new at this. Or possibly that I was completely new at this and didn’t have a clue. It could go both ways, really. 

She needed help with her boarding pass because it was her first time flying. She handed me the paper and asked me where she should go. She thought her gate was 952A. We’re at a small airport, so I knew she must’ve been confused. I explained to her that she was leaving at 9:52 am and her gate assignment would be on the board. 

To which she responded: where’s the board? 

I’m not good at giving directions, we all know this. So, I gathered my things, having happily decided that I did, in fact, use toothpaste and not hand soap, and went outside with her to see what gate she needed. We found it and she told me that she was flying by herself and was going to visit her boyfriend in North Dakota and she had no idea how to navigate everything. 

I can very much sympathize. Not because I have a boyfriend in North Dakota that I’m going to see. But because I’ve been in her shoes, traveling by myself for the first time.  And, because navigation is not my strong suit either. 

Which is why it was surprising to be asked for help in finding something. And even more surprising that I was able to help. 

Looks like there’s a first time for everything. 

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What Did You Say?

Jake is redefining the meaning of window shopping. We’re sitting in the window of a hotel lobby (not even our own hotel, which is an explanation all itself) and I’m not paying attention to him. But, I notice he’s making motions, so I look up and what do I find? A little Vietnamese woman out on the street, carrying a board of bric-a-brac (nail clippers, fans, bookmarks, bracelets, lighters, sunglasses, and so much more. Essentially, a walking convenience store.) And Jake, motioning to her from the window. She’d hold up one thing and he’d shake his head. He’d point at another thing and she’d hold that up. Nope, not that one. After about 5 minutes of this back and forth, Jake decides on a map (which he has somehow already bargained and agreed upon a price for) and leaves the lobby to go settle up with her outside. Ridiculous.

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We’re doing clinics at “stations” right now which means we’re traveling around Vietnam with a bunch of med students and government officials to government clinics and doing some outreach. They’re very good with us, keeping up with who we are and how we’re doing. This guy is even so nice as to carry my passport picture around just in case he needs to remember my name.

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That’s me.

So, after our first clinic station, they informed us that we had been invited to lunch. Where at? We didn’t know. But, our bus dropped us off at the entrance of a gate and we walked in. To this.

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I’ve seen some full tables before but nothing quite like this. We were seated with some of the Vietnamese medical students and were joking about having to put bowl on our heads because there was no more room.

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Hospitality is great but also kind of terrifying. Because you don’t know what you’re going to be served. You just know you’ll have to eat it. And when I sat down, I knew it was going to be one for the story books.  I also happened to be seated right next to the main “translator”, who is in charge of our group (she requested the seat next to me), so I knew I was in for it.

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Stuffed bitter melon, which I had decided not to try

We started with a table full and you automatically start looking around and wrapping your mind around what you’re going to have to try. You mentally prepare for battle. And you bravely dive in. But, then the war changes. The battle you were fighting is over and you think: I’ve made it. Then, bowls are changed out and people scurry around and all the sudden, a new fight begins.  This was a tough one, guys. Mostly, I had no idea what it was. My original plan was to stick with the fruit and some corn and see if I could make it. But, two seconds later, a lettuce wrap was being made and handed to me with whole shrimp in it (legs, head, shell, everything) dipped in fish sauce and ready to be eaten. And, when you’re handed something, there’s no escape.

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My “translator” feeding me the bitter melon five seconds later…

(PSA: If you haven’t ever traveled to third world countries, greens are one thing they advise not to eat because of the water they’ve been washed in)

I should also tell you that halfway through this meal, one of the Vietnamese students leaned over to Jake and said: “you’ll need to take a pill after this meal.” I had already guessed that, but I’m glad she felt the need to go ahead and tell us.  I’m not sure if Jake will need the pill though because at the beginning of the meal, the man of the house came around insisting that the men at the table take a shot of “banana wine”.

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Jake happened to be the first one he approached and after some insisting, he took it. So, he got a dose of medicine early.  Halfway through the meal, I began to question where we were at? It seemed to be a home, but more like a mansion. It had a waterway in the middle with rooms and stairs going off in different directions. I was informed by our “translator” that we had been invited to the home of the former Vice President of Vietnam. So, this was a big deal. Who knew?

Our lettuce wraps and fruit and corn and other various concoctions were only the appetizers. The meat dishes came out later, along with this soup, which they called “black chicken soup”.

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I asked what the meat dish was and she said “duck”. Okay, I can do duck. I took some, put it on my rice and ate it. It was good, a little different than the other duck I’ve had. It was darker and chewier and had a lot of cartilage. But, it was fine.

 

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My duck and rice and what I think may have been a potato.

After lunch, they took us on a tour of the gardens, as most of the fresh things we had eaten were from the garden. And, they were kind enough to give us sun hats to wear.

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My “translator” friend gave me and one of our other guys a little bit of a private tour, explaining what the different plants were and how they were prepared. We went by a cage with a dog and some chickens in it and the guy with me commented that it was surprising to see a dog so well behaved in a cage alongside chickens and how we wouldn’t see that on our farms in America.

We were asking her about the things we saw and as we were going along, the guy said, ask her what these greens are?  I recognized them from our table and so I called her back to have her tell us the name, but she didn’t know. The gardener happened to be nearby, so she called him over to ask and he spoke to her in Vietnamese. She said, this is the plant that you eat with the “duck”. I said, oh, yes, duck, because we had it at lunch. And the gardener said, “no, no, no, not duck! Dog, woof woof!” Only then did it dawn on me why the dog was in the cage with the chickens. And why that meat at lunch had been so dark and chewy.

Where’s that pill they were talking about? I think I might be needing it.

{post blog update: no one in our group got at all sick from that meal, in case anyone was wondering}

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Keep Calm & Carry On

I’ve already gotten a lecture this morning on my baggage. I got new luggage recently. My suitcase is currently weighing in at the heaviest: 59 pounds. It’s really not that bad though, because I did pack gifts for some of the families we’ll be visiting. I also packed approximately 32 jackets/sweaters/cardigans. So, maybe it is kinda bad.

For my carry-on, I figured it was time to retire my backpack and get a more adult looking tote.

My old backpack says I may or may not be going to a place where I’ll be living outside for a period of time and hitchhiking the dusty backroads of Cambodia. Which isn’t too far from accurate.

 

My new adult-ish tote says I’m probably going to a place that atleast has a front desk and maybe a gym. And, running water. I’m trying, guys.

My whole “adult” vibe is probably being thrown off a little bit by the fact that I’m carrying my quilt around, rolled up in my yoga mat carrier. I can’t travel without my quilt and I had no place to put it. So: stroke of genius and I’ve got a new kind of carry on.

My family thinks it’s slightly ridiculous that I carry it with me. My dad likens me to Charlie Brown. (Don’t worry, I corrected him because, as we all know, it’s Linus who carries the blanket, not Charlie) You just never know when you’re going to need to sleep in an airport.

 

Sleeping in Paris

 

My tote is currently about to bust at the seams. I told Jake when I got it that it would keep me from packing so much. Famous last words. It’s so full that the buttons won’t stay closed and the flap barely fits over it. See below.

So, after checking every five minutes to make sure I haven’t lost anything out of it, I’m finally on the plane. And, fortunately, the guy loading on behind me puts my carry ons to shame. He’s wearing a cowboy hat and carrying a boom box.

Yes, a full on stereo.

With speakers and everything.

And he’s trying to put it in the overhead compartment. I’m just hoping he brought some cassette tapes for that thing. Looks like we’re gonna be having a party! Let me just unroll this quilt and I’ll be good to go!

  
Note: after writing this, we happened to be going the same direction, so I managed to snap an extra picture. You’re welcome.

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Old Saint Nick

You know what one of my pet peeves is? On cooking shows, when they make something and don’t fully scrape out the bowl. That drives me crazy. I realize they probably don’t want the hosts wasting precious air time scraping every last particle out of the bowl. But seriously, they leave half the batter in the bowl.

Sorry, I got distracted.
Anyway, it’s been awhile since I’ve written. How is Christmas already done? Wasn’t it just the Fourth of July? My favorite part of Christmas is caroling. This is a long standing tradition and I love it. Singing to people just brings so much joy.

Unfortunately, it was raining cats and dogs on the day we were scheduled to go caroling at church. So, we cancelled. And I was sad. However, never fear. My college ministry group carols too, so disaster averted. We all loaded in a van and drove around Fayetteville to houses and a retirement home to sing. My friend, Jordan, who is a grad student at OSU, went with us and it was her very first time to carol.

At our last house, one of the ladies was greeting us as we left and said to us, are you ladies freshmen or sophomores? Hmm, neither. We kindly informed her that we had both already graduated from undergrad and that Jordan was in grad school. Sadly, she’s not the only one who has questioned my age lately.


24 is an odd age. Are you old? Are you young? Who knows?

Literally, no one knows.

On a recent flight, my brother and I were seated in the exit row. He boarded ahead of me and the lady informed him of his “exit row duties” and let him on. As I stepped forward, she told me I was seated in the exit row as well. When I told her that was fine, she looked at me a little puzzled and said, you are 15, right? Apparently, you have to be at least 15 years old to sit in the exit row.

Yep, I’m over 15. By 9 years.

Then, I went to the movies with some friends this past weekend and the movie we happened to choose was rated R. They went first, gave the girl their tickets and walked through. But, when I stepped up behind them, the girl said: I need to ask you, how old are you? Confused as to why she was asking, I said I’m 24. She looked embarrassed and let me go. I forgot that you have to be 17 to see anything R rated.
15, 17, 24, who cares at this point? Age seems pretty relative anyway. To my delight, caroling was rescheduled with our church group and we got to sing to Santa! Literally, one of the little girls thought it was really Santa’s house.

But, as we all know, the real Santa lives in the North Pole.

Wait, how old am I again?

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More

They always say that as a teacher, you learn more than your students. Which I never really thought about until I started teaching.

Let me preface this by saying that I never wanted to be a teacher. It’s not really in my nature. I have friends (a lot of friends actually) who are teachers. They are all talented, beautiful people and are brightening the futures of our children every day.

That’s not me. A classroom full of little minds to mold was never my dream. However, sometimes we are put into roles in life that we aren’t necessarily called to and that’s how I found myself teaching at church. I’ve taught the younger kids for a long time, but recently, I moved up (or down, depending on how you look at it) in the rankings and I’m now teaching our Wednesday night youth group, which consists of jr. high and high school.

I feel the need to mention that while I was moved to this position, I was still not given van driving privileges. My brother told them that I didn’t need to be in charge of driving a van full of kids, so they put him on the list instead. So, I promptly planned a youth trip to the corn maze and made him drive us.

Back to teaching, though. I don’t know who seemed to think I was qualified for this. I rarely have lesson plans and spend most of my time talking about what I want to talk about. So, they just listen to me ramble. The cool thing about not having lesson plans is that you can truly experience the Lord speaking through you. That’s such an abstract idea, until it happens and then you know, without a doubt, what that feels like.

Last week, I was worn out. I had just gotten off work, rushed over to church (late as usual) and had absolutely nothing to teach about. I didn’t have a Bible story in mind, no wisdom to impart. And I had 15 crazy teens who were loud and rambunctious and I just didn’t really think I could handle it. But, once I got them calmed down, we started talking.

It’s kinda magical when you get teens talking about serious subjects and hear their ideas. (Almost) all of their goofy, awkward, wild personalities fade into the background and you can see who they are as people.

We’ve been talking about our relationships with God. About what we’ve been told about God versus what we really know and believe for ourselves about who God is in our lives and what roles He fills for us.

I told them that I had always been told that God was faithful. I was raised in church, I’ve been told and taught a lot of things about who God is. But until I experience that for myself, do I truly believe that or is it just an idea in my head? Until I experienced God’s faithfulness, I didn’t really know what that meant.

The night that I had nothing to teach, we began by talking about how we view ourselves versus how God views us. A lot of the kids that we have at church come from hard situations, where one or both parents aren’t really in the picture. I had read a quote earlier in the week about how kids become what they are told that they are. So much of who we feel like we are or what we feel we’re capable of is based simply on what we’ve been told we are, what we’ve been told we can do.

As I began talking about this, I shared with them from Psalm 139, where David is talking about how the Lord knew us before we were born, how He planned out all our days before we even existed. That sounds like a God who loves us quite a bit. But as I looked at the faces of these kids, I knew that some of them were hearing this for the first time. I knew that some of them hadn’t been told that they were loved very much. We went on to talk about how if God knew us before we were born, that meant that none of us were accidental. Whether our parents had planned for us to be here or not, we had a Heavenly Father that planned out every single one of our days. The looks on a few faces made my heart hurt a little bit. To feel unwanted or like an accident is tragic. But, how much greater does the love of the Lord wash down over that situation?
These were definitely not my words that were being poured out that night. I can’t take claim to any of that. I showed up as an empty, tired vessel with nothing to give. But, the Lord always supplies.

They say you learn more as the teacher than as the student. Yes, I’m learning the differences between a concert trombone and a marching trombone. I’m learning about soccer, the lifecycle of lice, and about ninjas (yes, all real conversations, I can’t make this stuff up). But, really, I’m learning so much more. More about myself. More about them. And more about God and how very much He loves us. Way more than I ever bargained for.

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A Bushel and A Peck

What is it with me and ovens? I cannot keep from burning myself. I made sweet potato fries for my friends the other night and accidentally left a fork in the pan. Put it in a 350 degree oven, checked it thirty minutes later, saw that there was a fork there that didn’t belong, and what did I do? Promptly reached in the oven and grabbed it. Do you know what forks are made of? Metal. Do you know what the heat conductivity of metal is? Really good. About .825 seconds after I grabbed the fork, I remembered that too.

Speaking of sweet potatoes and remembrance, do you remember those little delicate baby sweet potato slips I grew in the spring? I planted them in the soft soil, watered them and kicked them out of the nest, metaphorically speaking, of course. And, here we are.

The picture below represents 2 plants. Remember, there were 108 planted. So, only 106 mounds like this left to harvest. Think I went a little overboard?


I planted them on May 5. I’ve never grown the purple ones but the variety I got from the store were tiny and uniform. So, you would assume that they grow like that. Wrong. They’re huge, just like the orange ones.

 

The three pounder

 

I’ve mentioned my dead apple tree before, right? Well, I’m currently in the process of picking out three new ones to replace the tree that died. So, my apple harvest was non-existent this year.

Luckily though, my friend is giving me a glimpse into my apple picking future because she has seven apple trees that were loaded with fruit. And I scored a harvest invite. (And, yes, a harvest invite is a real thing in my life and not only a real thing, but a prized treasure. Cherish it.)


I went to pick apples with her which, if we’re being honest, mostly consisted of me standing around gabbing while she picked. But, I got a bushel basket full at the end of it. Literally, we weighed it. It was 40 pounds of apples.


What do you do with 40 pounds of apples, you might ask. Jake decided we should make apple chips (AKA nature’s donuts) with our fancy dehydrator. So, we did.

We also happened to accidentally wear the same shirt. Sadly, this is not the first time this has happened and leads me to be about 93.7% certain that we share the exact same brain.

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