America, Art, Beauty, Celebration, Culture

St. Valentine

I’ve always heard that “when you meet the right one, you’ll just know.” Or “when you know, you know.” And I’ve never understood that before. That certainty that the person you’re with is the person you’re supposed to be with for life. That sureness that this relationship is right. 

Everyone talks about these committed dating relationships and how they end in a pretty ring and a picture perfect wedding. But no one really talks about how they start. Oh sure, anyone will tell you their love story. You can trace it all back to the day everyone met. But, I’m talking about more than that. The part that they don’t tell you. The part that is unseen by the rest of the world. The inner workings. 

I am a person with what I hope is a good amount of resolve. When I set it in my mind to do something, I’ll work to get it done. That’s not to say everything that I set out to do works out. It’s also not to say that I’m invincible. But, the first step to getting anything done is determining in your mind what your goal is and going after it. 

This is what no one told me about committed relationships.

You have to be ready for one. 

Not ready in the: I wish I had a boyfriend to go out and do fun things with. Or the, I’m single and everyone else has someone, so I need someone too. Or the, I’m reaching my mid-twenties and society is telling me that this is the time for me to find my person.

I’ve never been in a serious relationship before. And I can blame that on not meeting the right person yet, not “clicking” with the guys I’ve dated, I could even blame them and say they weren’t ready. But in all actuality, I’m realizing I was never ready. 

And there is nothing wrong with that.

There is nothing wrong with not being ready to settle down. There is nothing wrong with having goals and ambitions that have nothing to do with a relationship. There is nothing irresponsible about living a happy, healthy single life. No one can tell you what your timing will be, when you’ll be ready or if you’ll ever be ready. There is no time stamp on when love has to come about. 

Because even if we’re ready, we can never really plan for love anyway. Sometimes, it just happens. 

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America, Celebration, Family, Funny, Missions, Summer, Travel

BFBFFL

It seems like every day the Internet is coming out with a new saying. Call it slang, call it an abbreviation, call it annoying, but I can’t keep up. I got the original ones: the lol, idk, idc, even the wbu, the ily, omw, I’ve got it. I got a little lost around the time when smh came about and I’m not sure I’ve caught up since then. But, I did catch the BFFL. 

Two things about this post to keep in mind:

1. I wrote this in November. Before they were even engaged. Because I knew. 

2. Jordan doesn’t know I’m posting this. Love you, Jorj! 

My BFFL (also known as best friend for life) just found her BFFL (a term recently coined by me, also known only by me as: boyfriend for life, which we can now call her fianc√©. Or, we could just call him Jade) My big question is: can I call him my BFBFFL? (Best friend’s boyfriend for life) 

I’ll probably just continue to call him by his first name and save us all the confusion and explanations. 

They always say when you find “the one”, you’ll “just know”. I’m not sure who “they” is. I’m also unsure of who my “one” is because I’ve never “just known”. I’m pretty unsure of a lot of things in life, but in this case, my uncertainty produces certainty in the fact that I don’t think I’ve found “the one” yet. 

I think sometimes maybe it takes a little while to recognize “the one”. Which is what your friends are for. Here’s my version of the saying: when you find “the one”, you may not know it, but your best friend certainly will. 

Which is where I come into play. I just need it to be universally known: I called this. 

Let us rewind and I’ll take you back to the exact moment. Let me set the scene.

We were at a sweaty, dusty, tiny little airport in southern Laos and I was anxiously awaiting Jordan’s arrival. We’d made plans in the preceding months that I would arrive in Laos a week earlier than her to begin teaching a nutrition program with a missionary there and she’d join me to finish up. She would’ve come with me, but she had the small matter of graduating with her master’s degree standing in our way. So, she stayed to graduate.


After impatiently waiting for an hour, I finally spotted her. It wasn’t hard, being that we were the only two blonde people in the airport and stood a head taller than most everyone else. 


She’d told me on the phone from Thailand the night before that she had a lot to fill me in on from her graduation week. I got the story on the ceremony, the festivities, family updates and the guest list. Then, she mentioned that she’d met someone. They’d gone out with a group of mutual friends and he was sweet. They’d had a great time together. She proceeded to tell me about all of his best attributes and we both agreed that a lot of his qualities were what she was looking for in a significant other. There was only one down side to the transaction: he didn’t ask for her phone number.

Jade, we may never let you live this one down.

Note to all boys everywhere: if you meet a girl and you are interested in seeing her again, ask for her number. It’s the universal sign of interest. It will also save her (and her friends) the agony of trying to figure out if you really do like her and allow us all to skip to the “but how much do you think he likes me?” conversation instead. 

So, that’s where 75% of Jordan and I’s conversation ended up at for the next week. We went over the meeting, the conversations, the background, the exact exchanges. A Facebook friendship had begun, which was a decent substitute for the lack of phone number exchange. We atleast had that established. 

But, even though he hadn’t asked for her number yet and even though we weren’t 100% sure he was even interested, the more and more I heard Jordan talk about this guy, the more convinced I became that he was “the one”. Remember, she’d only met him the weekend before and I’d never even met him at this point, but I “just knew”.

So, I told her that. 

We were both in our cramped little hotel room, in the air conditioning, in the hottest part of the Lao afternoon, laying backwards on our twin sized beds, talking about this boy from Texas and I said: “Jordan, I think he might be ‘the one.'” 

And, she laughed. 

Not just like a light laugh, like haha, very funny. But, a real laugh. I was pretty certain though. 

I called it, ya’ll. From the very beginning. 

I’ll fast forward for you: phone numbers were exchanged, dating ensued, followed by a relationship, and here we are. 

I officially have a BFBFFL. 


Congrats, Jade and Jordan! I can’t wait to celebrate you guys (and the fact that I was right) for the next few months! 

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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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Culture, Europe, Middle East, Travel

Say What You Need To Say

I know at first glance, I may look like a Helga. But, despite popular belief, I am not, in fact, German. Nor do I speak German.

Old Town Frankfurt

I actually don’t speak any other languages. I know a little Spanish and I managed to order us water at a restaurant in Korean, (a feat I was pretty proud of) and that’s about it.
So navigating Germany is a little bit of a task for me. There is almost nothing written in English. We went to a museum yesterday and about 85% of it was only in German. This is rare around the world. I’ve been to a lot of places and almost everywhere has things written in the native language and English. But, not here.

 

No real idea what’s going on here at the museum

We have a friend who lives in a smaller town outside of Stuttgart, so we decided to take a train to see her. Navigating town is a little difficult, but navigating the train system is hard. We managed to buy our tickets at a kiosk but didn’t realize that there wouldn’t be a direct train to where we needed to go. So, I found an information desk and the guy seemed to know what I needed and printed me out a schedule. All in German.


Five transfers at train stations out in the middle of nowhere in Germany. And, it’s the slow trains, which equals about 40 mph. On the bright side, it provides ample time to take in scenes from the German countryside.


At every stop to transfer, we have about a fifteen to thirty minute wait until our next train arrives. I noticed a couple of guys who seemed a little lost (join the club) and they approached us and said hello. They also had a schedule printed out in German and I could tell they weren’t natives either. Jake explained the schedule to them and told them we would be taking the same train and they could wait with us.

 

Train to Frankfurt

After listening to them talk for a minute, I realized they were speaking Arabic. I forgot to mention that I also know a teaspoonful of Arabic. Which means I know enough to say hi, my name is Brittney, how are you?

When the train finally arrived, they boarded behind us and sat down with us. So, I tried out my Arabic skills and found out their names were Mahmood and Mahmood. And neither of them knew much English or German.

So, let me explain this. They both know Arabic. Mahmood 1 knows some English and a little German. Mahmood 2 knows almost no English or German. Jakes knows English and some German (he took two years in high school) and I know English and a tiny bit of Arabic.

But, of course, I was curious so I toiled on. They weren’t related, as far as I could tell. I was able to ask if they were father and son, which they weren’t. They were both from Syria and came here as refugees. Mahmood 1 has a family (two boys, ages 16 and 10, and one daughter, 4 years old named Houda) currently living in Jordan. He’s from a town in Syria (Daraa) that some of the other refugees I met in Jordan were from. He worked doing tile and plaster in Jordan then came to Germany and hopes for his family to join him here.

Mahmood 2 was 20 years old and studies German twice a week. He was from a different Syrian town I didn’t recognize and lived in a refugee camp. He’s been here for five years and has no family here. Can you imagine having to leave your home country at 15 years old and go strike out a life in a foreign country, with your family relying on you to bring them out too? That’s a lot of weight to carry.

As we approached our station, we said our goodbyes, in various languages, and departed. But, I can’t help thinking how quick we are to judge. I could’ve been scared of these two guys. I could easily have ignored the fact that I knew they needed help. I could’ve even used the language barrier as a good (and very valid) excuse. But, aren’t we called to love all people? To be a light to the nations? How can we do that if we refuse to look past ourselves and into the lives of others?

I didn’t impart any wisdom to these two guys. I didn’t share my beliefs with them. But, I did express concern. I did take a minute to hear their story, to ask who they were and where they were from. It wasn’t a great task. It was small. But, there’s a quote that says something like we should do small things with great love.

And, I think that can speak for itself.

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America, Culture, Missions, Religion, Uncategorized

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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