Thoughts on going to Africa

I’ve been on exactly one mission trip in my life, to Chattanooga, Tennessee, when I was 14. I hated it. I cried myself to sleep every night in our little cabin because it was cold and smelly and I missed my family.

Later that year in school – my freshman year of high school – I took my first (well, my only) geography class. When we were learning about the cultures of Asia and Africa, I remember thinking just how big this world is. The things we were learning about were so far outside my realm of experience that they may as well have been on another planet, rather than the other side of my own. I knew at that point that I would like to travel to Europe someday, but I just assumed that I wouldn’t leave the Western world. It didn’t help matters that I didn’t personally know anyone at that point who had been to those faraway places.

I first started thinking about Africa as a possibility a little over a year ago, when I read Doing Life Differently, a memoir by Luci Swindoll. It only came across my radar because my mom sent it to me, and she did so because I was already doing life differently, having quit everything to move to New York City.

Among other things, in the book Luci describes her frequent trips to Africa. She started traveling there when she had retired, and as she talks about the safaris and the mission work, I started thinking, Maybe I’ll do that. Maybe once I’ve done everything else, and I’m retired, I’ll start traveling to Africa.

In November of last year, God challenged me to spend 2015 in obedience. Basically, He had some pretty big plans for me and wanted to make sure I’d go along with them. I laughed. For 2014, He had challenged me to be happy. Couldn’t we do something fun like that again? Nope. It was to be obedience.

In April, He told me I’d go to Africa this year. I laughed again. Please, God. I have a full-time job. I make very little money. I’m only 25. I just don’t see how this is possible. In May, my church announced they were taking a team to Swaziland in the fall. Of course they were. I struggled with it some more and finally went to an info session in June. Maybe this will be enough. Maybe I’m just supposed to learn more about Africa, get to know and pray for the team, and go myself some other time.

I booked my ticket the next day.

Somehow, it’s all worked out. My boss wasn’t amused, but he did eventually (two weeks ago) approve my time off. My team members turned their schedules upside-down to cover for me. I dropped a big chunk of my savings on airfare and fees, but there’s still plenty left. I started sponsoring a child so I’d have someone to spoil, and I already love her more than I thought possible.

If I could go back in time and tell my 14-year-old self, the girl who hated mission trips and couldn’t fathom a world outside the United States, that she’d be boarding a plane to Johannesburg at 25, that she’d be excited about it – well, she’d probably have a panic attack. But this is just a testament to how people change, and how God starts preparing us for our purpose long before we even have an inkling of what it is.

We leave tomorrow! I’ll hopefully be posting on Instagram as much as possible. I won’t be blogging until I get back mid-next week – thanks for understanding!

Lately on Instagram: 8/30/15

These posts were getting a little tedious to write every week, especially those weeks I don’t post as much on Instagram. Instead of scrambling every Sunday, I’m going to be posting whenever there’s enough content – probably closer to every two weeks – and supplementing with more Currently and Day in the Life posts. Sound good? That’s a real question – let me know what you think!

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Last week I was invited to an event in midtown where I didn’t know anyone. I’m a big advocate for saying yes to things, and it’s rare for me to be outside my comfort zone since I developed a close group of friends here in NYC. So I went, stayed about 30 minutes, and ducked out fashionably early (that’s a thing, right?) Luckily I was just a few blocks from my favorite part of the city – Rockefeller Plaza – so I wandered over to see it all lit up, read a book, and laugh at the fact that someone at the event called me brave. Would you ever have thought?!

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After over a year, I still can’t get over Bryant Park. It’s the most random park filled with suits and squeezed between skyscrapers just a few blocks from Times Square – yet it always feels like the most peaceful oasis.

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My church hosts quarterly gatherings for the whole team, and they’re always catered. Usually it’s mediocre Italian food but last week we had a taco truck! If you’ve read anything on this site at all, you probably know that tacos are one of my love languages. I made sure Emmie, Kelli and I got there 30 minutes early and didn’t even complain about sitting on the sidewalk. Because tacos!

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Brunch is forever my favorite meal, and one I indulged in twice this week – at Petite Abeille in Flatiron and at Colina Cuervo in Crown Heights. I’m partial to sweet, high-carb treats, as you can probably tell!

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Yesterday was a quintessential New York summer day, and it bums me out to think that summer is coming to a close. There was a rooftop barbecue in Hell’s Kitchen, followed by a spontaneous trip uptown (181st Street!) to see my friend Kelli’s place in Washington Heights. A solid hour away from my neighborhood in Brooklyn, it was like going on vacation – without even leaving New York City!

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Be Brave: Speak Up

This week marks the first week of a new season of church community groups! This fall I’ll be reading Let’s All Be Brave with a group of the strongest, bravest women I know. As we explore the concept of bravery, I hope to share some of my thoughts here with you all. Consider this the first post in what will hopefully become my Be Brave series.

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Last week we gathered in the Flatiron district to get to know each other and to begin discussing the idea of bravery. Mind you, this was a room full of women who all, at some point and for some reason, have dropped everything and moved to New York City. Not exactly a cowardly bunch. But there is always, always room for making improvements, taking risks and diving headfirst into what God wants you to do – what he asks you to do.

As we chatted, it occurred to me that the moment in my life that required the most courage wasn’t the one when I stepped onto the airplane to New York. It wasn’t the next day, when I bought my first subway pass and navigated public transit for the first time. It wasn’t the next week, when I walked into an unfamiliar office, sat down and began to work.

What I believe to be my bravest moment took place a year ago now, over breakfast (tacos, of course) with my parents during a trip to Dallas. It was the moment I first vocalized my desire to live in New York City.

In that moment, my perspective shifted from Maybe I could/should do this to I should definitely do this and I almost definitely canWhat was I so afraid of before speaking up? A couple things. First, I was worried no one would understand my dreams. My life in Phoenix made sense. I had a decent job, a one-bedroom apartment all to myself downtown, my brother in the same apartment complex and my grandparents a short drive away. I had a 401(k) and put enough money into savings to be able to travel quite a bit. Why would I want to put all that on the line, to trade it for sharing a smaller apartment, distance between myself and my loved ones, zero savings? I didn’t even understand the desire myself; how could I expect others to?

My second fear was that I wouldn’t be able to make my dreams happen – or that I would change my mind and chase a different dream instead. I was afraid of accountability, even though I needed it more than ever.

My parents, of course, were completely supportive and have remained so throughout this entire journey. They would have been even if I’d changed my mind. That support, and that of my friends, gave me the courage to take further steps, and ultimately to make the move.

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The tacos that started it all

This journey all began because I was brave enough to speak up, to vocalize my dreams, to seek support. I’ll always consider the start of my NYC adventure to be that September breakfast, even though I wouldn’t board a one-way flight for another six months.

So if there’s something on your heart, a dream that feels impossible, don’t feel like you have to fulfill it today. Just talk about it, and the rest will fall into place.