Dear You – You Were Made for More

Dear You,

You were made for more than to just be born and die.  You were made for more than working 8-5 and looking forward to Friday.  You were made for more than paying bills and living paycheck to paycheck.  Dear one, this is never the life that I had planned for you.  When you were breathed into existence, there was far more dreamt up for you than this.

You work so hard to do everything that you are told you are suppose to do that you completely miss the things that you are meant to do.  You are so busy following who those around you tell you to be that you silence the voice in you that says they want to be someone different.  Find that voice again.  Find your voice again.

You were made to struggle, to explore, to rebel, and to thrive.  You were made to live – in every definition that one can live.  You were made to laugh, and to go off on adventures.  You were made to take chances, and yes even to fail sometimes.  Stop trying so hard to survive that you miss every reason that you are alive.  There is so much that this life holds for you if you only stopped to notice, if you only believed you could have it.

I want you to do great things,  I want you to believe in great things, and I want you to fight for great things.  I want you to see the world as a beautiful place, and to see yourself as a beautiful person.  Life is too short to let you insecurities silence you.

There will be tough days.  Days that challenge you.  Days that make you want to hide and cry.  But on those days you will learn what you are truly made of.  You will push back because you are resilient.  You will not let the bad days ruin the good days.

There will also be good days.  Days that you laugh so hard you cry.  Days when you will make memories you cherish forever.  Days when you are brave.  Days when you are kind.  Days when you fall madly in love.  Those are the best days – the days that makes us glad to be alive.  On those days never believe that you are not deserving of this much happiness.  You are every bit deserving.

Life won’t be everything you have dreamt it to be, but if you let it, life will be more than you expected it to be.  Stop molding your life to everyone else’s expectations and go chase your life.

Feet.jpgPhoto Credit: Lori Rensink

Adventures Under the Hood of My Car

I don’t know anything about car maintenance.  In fact I don’t know anything at all about cars.  I am trying to not be bitter towards the society I live that does not teach girls how to know their way around a car.  Instead I am simply going to attempt to right this wrong.  My stubbornly independent self is determined to know how to take care of my car.

Which is why today I am going to attempt to peek under the hood of my car to check things like the air filter.  You know normal stuff that I am apparently suppose to check on a regular basis.  Who knew?  Not me.  I have done a minimal amount of research, and my never ending curiosity about how everything works can’t wait to get started.

That being said, if anyone has any helpful advice I will be more than happy to hear it.  Wish me luck, I am going to need it.

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Memoirs of a Prison Intern Part 2 – the Good, the Bad, and the Crazy

A weird thing happens to me in life.  People either don’t take me seriously at all (I blame the blonde hair), or they hand me the keys to an entire unit of inmates.  I wish that was just a metaphor, but no they literally handed me the keys.  Because why not put a 20 year old white girl in charge of a unit of inmates?  What could possibly go wrong?

One of the COs came to me to tell me that they were short kitchen staff.  It was apparently my job to walk into the commons filled with hungry inmates and tell four of them that they needed to serve in the kitchen line.  Don’t worry we will pay you a whole $0.25 an hour.  I don’t understand who wouldn’t love to do that.  I am of course oozing with sarcasm as kitchen duty is hated by all.

“I have to do that?”

“Well you are the big boss.”

Yes that is me, the big boss.  Watch out, big boss is on the move.  Don’t mess with me.  I mustered as much confidence as I could, and then walked into the commons.  I told the first four guys I saw that they were on kitchen duty and then left before anyone had the chance to argue with me.  I thought I had made it out alive, when the room erupted into whistling.  I was not in the mood for this today.  Well any day really, but especially not today.

One of my gifts is the ability to give someone a look that shuts them up faster than any words could.  I don’t really do it on purpose, nor do I have any idea what it looks like.  But my siblings have told me it exists, so I believe them.  This look came out in full force the moment I turned around.

For the first time since I started working there, I think I saw slight traces of fear in their eyes.  I had my finger up pointing it like a disapproving mother. I put on my big girl pants and yelled, “The whistling stops here!” and then turned around and walked out.  One inmate had the audacity to bark at me, but never again did they whistle.

Luckily for me, there were no more naked inmate fights.  However one day I would arrive at the scene of a fight to find that someone had already loosed their entire can of pepper spray.  Oh that burns, that literally burns everywhere.  My eyes, my lungs, everywhere.  I turned around and ran straight outside.  It didn’t help.  I was coughing up pepper spray for the rest of the day.  So were the rest of my co-workers.  Weirdly enough those were that type of mutual suffering were the things that bonded us together.

Needless to say, there was never a dull moment. Here is an example of a “normal” conversation:

Let’s call him Fred.  Fred was a nice guy in his 50s.  He came to my office first thing in the morning before my brain had enough coffee to wake itself up.

Fred looked like he was going to ask me about something, but then got distracted and said, “You look like you should be barefoot and pregnant somewhere.”

“Excuse me?”  My under-caffeinated brain was trying to process if I heard what I think I heard.

“I just mean that you look like the type of girl who shouldn’t be working in a job like this.  You should have a husband who goes to work for you as you sit at home barefoot and pregnant.”

It takes quite a bit to leave me speechless.  This was one of those moments.  I could tell Fred was not trying to malicious, he was just making an observation.  Fred was also old enough that he probably came from an era when that was normal for a woman to do.  I just stared at him for a while.  Once my brain caught up to what had just happened, I muttered something about female rights and how I wanted to be working.

Fred just said, “Well anyways have a good day miss Lori.”

Did Fred come into my office just to tell me that?  Yes, yes he did.

I survived all of it – the good, the bad, the crazy – all of it.  I am not sure how, but I know that I did.  During my first month there, one of the veterans told me that this place would change me.  I will never forget that conversation.  He was right, but it didn’t change me in the way that either of us expected it to.  It forced me to look at the world with eyes wide open, and I have always been grateful for that.  

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Photo Credit: Francois Delbar

**** I was talking to a good friend who I asked to give me feedback on my blog.  He told me, “Its good but I am left feeling like I want to know more about you.”  Huh I guess I didn’t realize people would care about that stuff.  So I decided to write a series of memoirs about my life experiences, because I some how find myself doing things like catching chickens in Africa or running to stop a fight among inmates.  

Up next is Memoirs of a Prison Intern Part 3.  I was only planning on doing two parts, but part 1 brought up some very good discussion on social stigmas of criminals.  This is something that I am very passionate about, and I simply could not fit it into this blog.  So Part 3 will be more serious, but something I believe is important for everyone to understand.  

Thank you for reading,  and please feel free to comment below.  If there are any stories you have that you would like to share, or any stories from my life you would like to read about please let me know.

Memoirs of a Prison Intern Part 1 – Jump In and Don’t Drown

When I was a sophomore in college, just barely 20 years old, I accepted a internship in a state penitentiary.  I had been a criminal justice major for all of three semesters.  Obviously I was ready for this (that is sarcasm in case you missed it).  Apparently my professor thought I was because he is the one who encouraged me to apply for the internship.

It all happened very quickly.  Within about a weeks time I applied, interviewed, and got the job.  I didn’t have a chance to stop and think about what it would be like to work in a prison.  I didn’t stop to wonder if this was something I could even handle.  I had absolutely no idea what I had just signed myself up for.  

Working in a prison was very hard.  One should expect that, but I didn’t.  I didn’t know what I expected, because like I said I didn’t have a lot of time to build expectations.  Still, I was naive enough to think that it would be easy.

That the job would be easy.

That working with inmates would be easy.

That it would be easy to walk away every day and just be fine.

How very wrong I was.  It was anything and everything but easy.  And yet working there was one of the best decisions I have made so far.

Walking through the prison gate is something that becomes normal very quickly, and yet is a feeling that you can never quite get use to.  The gate slams behind you as you walk into the prison, and the despair is palpable.  It hits you like a wave, and it is suffocating.  It is if the very oxygen you breathe has been replaced with every regretted decision and unheard cry for help.

And how can one naive girl walk into that feeling prepared?  The answer is, you can’t.  There is nothing that could have prepared me for something like that.  Just as there is nothing that could have prepared me for every hard decision I would have to face.

How to help those which you cannot help.

How to show mercy without showing weakness.

How to fake enough confidence that I don’t get eaten alive.

How to stop the whistling, the tears, the fights.

How to pick the black and white answer when everything around you seems to be a swirling mass of gray.

I walked up to the gate, and tried to very confidently hand them my ID badge to let me in.

They just gave me a look, “Who are you?”

I mean seriously, this happened about every day for my first month working there.  I know I don’t look very intimidating, but my badge says Unit Manager Intern.  So I would have to embarrassingly stand there (again) as they called around to confirm that yes, this girl is our intern.  Thanks for the confidence boost everyone.

Today was my first day actually working inside the prison walls. I had maybe been there an hour when a Code Red, Code 3  was called for our unit.  Which meant that somewhere two inmates had started fighting.

I headed towards the scene, only half running because lord knows I was not going to be the first one to arrive there.  Correctional officers were flying by me like lightening bolts, yelling at me to move out of the way.  Each time I tried, I would almost run into a different CO that was sprinting down the hallway.

When I arrived at the scene, I just saw a huge pile of men.  I am sure somewhere under that pile of COs were the two inmates that started fighting.  One by one they started to peel themselves off of the pile.  They handcuffed the two who started the fight, and started to walk them out.

And that is the moment when I realized, oh that man is not wearing any clothes.  He got into a fight naked, and now that very naked man is walking right towards me.  In that moment the only thing I could think was what the hell have I gotten myself into. 

I learned that life is 98% of having absolutely no clue what you are doing, but doing it anyways.  There are somethings  Most things in life are impossible to prepare for.  I learned to not be intimidated by those things, because those were the moments that I found out what I was truly made of.   Most of the time we don’t know what we are capable of surviving until we do.  However, this was only the first of what I would experience.  So until next time.

Wire

**** I was talking to a good friend who I asked to give me feedback on my blog.  He told me, “Its good but I am left feeling like I want to know more about you.”  Huh I guess I didn’t realize people would care about that stuff.  So I decided to write a series of memoirs about my life experiences, because I some how find myself doing things like catching chickens in Africa or running to stop a fight among inmates.  

Coming soon is part 2 of Memoirs of a Prison Intern. 

Thank you for reading,  and please feel free to comment below.  If there are any stories you have that you would like to share, or any stories from my life you would like to read about please let me know.

Frozen by Doubt and Fear

I am going to do it, I think to myself, I am going to start applying to both law schools and writing schools.  I have been putting this off for too long now.  Oh don’t worry, I had plenty of good excuses reasons.

I start looking at schools that are far away, because I promised myself that if I am going to do this then I am going to make an adventure out of it.  I have no idea where I will end up.  I am mostly hoping that if I throw enough things against a wall the right one will stick.

My throat starts closing up, is this what it is like to have a panic attack?  Don’t be ridiculous, I try to console myself, you have wanted this for a long time.   My sub-conscious has no empathy for me.  Which just leaves me feeling ridiculous.  For all of my talk of bravery and stepping into the great unknown, I am a big chicken. 

Don’t judge me.  It is easy to talk about going out into the unknown while you are safe in your warm bed.  It is a lot harder when you are dangling off the edge of a cliff.

It is hard to leave everything and everyone you have ever known to venture out all. by. yourself.   Oh it is easy to do for a couple weeks, months even.  That is manageable, because I know I will return soon.  But to leave for years, or forever – that is even harder.  To know that my 2 year old and 3 month year old niece might not even remember me when I return, well that is the hardest of all.

So I find myself torn.  Torn between chasing my dreams and seeing where life takes me.  Or staying in the place that I am surprised to say I have fallen in love with.  Then the panic starts in, because I think that if I don’t leave now then I never will.

It is hard to pinpoint what exactly I am afraid of.  I know I will be fine.  I know I will survive.  But knowing that doesn’t stop the fear from creeping in.   Knowing this is what I want should make it easier, but it doesn’t.

So we convince ourselves that our dreams our merely meant to be pretty pictures put on our shelf of someday.  Thought about and admired, but not something we ever dare lived.  Letting go will probably be terrifying.  Until it isn’t, until I am fine.  It can be terrifying to let go of our comfort, of our safety, of the life we thought we had wanted.  But what is even more terrifying is the thought that we can miss out on the best parts of our life because we were too afraid to let go.  

Suitecase Sarah Moldovan

Photo Credit: Sarah Moldovan

Cherished Blogfest

Our van pulled up to the marketplace in Livingstone, Zambia.  The air was hot and sticky.   The air was always hot and sticky.  It was the type of heat that makes you forget what it is like to be cold.

Within a few short days, the Zambians we had partnered with already felt like brothers.  They promised to help us navigate the market place, but there were much more of us than them.

With big eyes and Kwacha (Zambian Currency) in hand, I took my first steps towards the market place.

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Photo Credit: Michael Liedtke

They barter everything in the market place.  I would eventually barter my hair tie for a nice hand carved wood bottle opener for my brother.  Bartering is kind of intimidating to me in itself.  I am not a demanding, forceful person.  I could never work in sales.

So here I was trying to barter for my first time.   Of course it would be with a foreign currency.  Not that it really mattered since I had no idea how much any of this stuff would be worth in American money.  Add to that the fact that my white skin screams I have money and no idea what I am doing.  I was basically a moving target for disaster.

The marketplace vendors were indeed happy to see a van full of mzungas (white people) pull up.   I wandered off on my own.  True to their word, my Zambian brothers came to help me.  They helped the marketplace vendors take me more seriously, but besides that they were mostly there for moral support.

If I played confidant, maybe the vendors wouldn’t catch on that I had no idea what I was doing.  One thing I did have going for me, is that I can read people really well.  I could tell which vendors were trying to take advantage of me.

The first thing on my list was a chitenge (a chitenge is a long colorful piece of fabric that the women wrap around themselves as skirts).

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Photo Credit: Michael Liedtke

I know that I paid too much for it, but I also knew that I didn’t care.  The woman was nice and I had talked down the price enough.  Plus she needed the money more than me, and it felt greedy to pay any less.

I had bought my first chitenga.  Oh I would buy others.  In fact I cherish everything I bought in Zambia.   But my first chitenga would always be special to me.  It reminded me of a girl who was fearless, even when she had no idea what she was doing.  It reminded me of the girl who wasn’t afraid to jump in and get her hands dirty.

It reminded me of my last night in Africa.  When I stood barefoot in the orange African dirt looking up at the stars.  The wind was gently whipping my chitenga around my legs.  I scrunched my toes into the dirt and promised myself that this would not be the last time my feet touched African soil. 

**** Michael Liedtke is a professional photography that went to Zambia with me.  To see more of his amazing photos from Zambia, click here.

**** Thanks to everyone who stopped by to read my blog.  If you have a cherished object you would like me to read about, please put in the comments below.

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The Great Unknown

“You just need to push off and swing to the other side.”

The Just implied that it was easy.  A piece of cake.  What the experienced rock climbers, safely planted on the ground, were really telling me was that I need to let go. Obviously.  Just let go.

It was my first time rock climbing.  I felt a twinge of fear as I looked at what I was about to climb, but I silenced it.   I have always been good at climbing.  My family likes to tell me about how when I could barely even walk I would love to climb up the step stool we kept in the kitchen.  I would climb up, fall down, dust myself off, and climb back up.  I don’t remember this at all, either from being too young or from hitting my head each time I fell.  My point is that  I have always loved climbing things, as a child and yes still as an adult.  So my excitement about rock climbing quickly squashed any nerves or fear I had.

That is until on my first run up.  I managed the first half like a natural, and then I got stuck.

“You just need to push off and swing to the other side.”

Yeah okay, sure, easy peasy, I’ll get right to that.

I tried to use my unnatural long limbs to reach to the other side, so I wouldn’t actually have to let go and swing over.  I had half let go, but I was also half still holding on for dear life.  What sane person wouldn’t when they are that far above ground?  At that height you forget that you are being supported by a rope that will catch you.  At that height all knowledge that you are safe feels like a lie trying to trick you, and suddenly there is no way you are letting go.

Undeterred, I tried a second time on the second rig.  Once again I was climbing quickly and easily.  Look at me go.

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Then I fell.

I don’t remember how it happened.  I just remember one minute I was reaching, the next minute I was falling, the next minute I was caught, and then I was fine.  After that falling didn’t seem so scary anymore.  I took more risks, and yes fell many more times.  But each time I was fine.  The more I fell, the less I was afraid of falling.

My next attempt back on the other rig, I got stuck in the same place.  And you know what I did without even hesitating?  You guessed it, I let go and pushed myself to the other side.  Not only did I survive, but I realized that letting go was ridiculously fun.

Letting go can be scary.  Until it isn’t  Although that is easy to say in rock climbing (relatively) it is a lot harder when you are talking about something more personal and permanent.  Especially since in life it often seems like their isn’t a rope to catch us when we reach too far.  So we convince ourselves that our dreams our merely meant to be pretty pictures put on our shelf of someday.  Thought about and admired but not something we ever dare lived.

I have been a dreamer ever since I can remember.  I use think that when I grew up and finally started living my dreams it would be like running through a field of daisies as I easily glided into happily ever after.  Not even a little bit.  It is more like being stuck 50 feet in the air the first time I decide to rock climb.

Terrifying.

Truthfully,  I have found the moment when fulfilling one of my dreams is in my grasp to be some of the most terrifying moments of my life.  It would have been easier to stay in my comfortable shell only dreaming of my dreams.  Going to Africa has been on my dream shelf for many years.  Until one day I took it down.  The days leading up to me leaving was very surreal and very terrifying. I imagined the worst possible scenarios, and I had a few freak outs.  Not that I ever admit it to anyone when they asked.  “Aren’t you nervous to go to Africa,” they would ask me with wide eyes.  No of course not, I am tough, I am brave, I will be fine. And then I just let go, and got on a plane to fly to the other side of the world.

My first five hours is Zambia looked like this: Don’t drink the water unless you are positive it is safe,  oh and there are geckos staring at you in the bathroom, oh and watch out for snakes they are posionous,  oh and you have to use your hands to make this corn mush into a bowl so you can eat your veggies.  But that was the worst it got.  All of my freaking out and I had been fine.  Of course I knew that, otherwise I would have never got on the plane.  However just like rock climbing, it’s hard to be rational when you are 50 feet above ground; or thousands of feet above the Atlantic ocean.

For me right now, letting go looks like letting go of the life I think I should have for the great unknown of what I believe I actually want.  Which is scarier than rock climbing and flying to Africa combined.  When it comes to careers and education, I have always been practical.  In college I majored in Criminal Justice and Business (both of which I enjoyed), but if I had been truly honest with myself then I would have realized that my true passions lied in art and writing.  But I hadn’t allowed myself to want those things because they were not practical.

At one point I had a political science minor, for one of my classes I was going to take international affairs.  I was actually a bit excited for it (nerd alert), until I found out I would be one of four students with a professor I did not really like so much.  I dropped the class, changed my minor, and never looked back.  Until now.  Until now when I realize that Masters in International Relations has a nice ring to it.  Especially if it meant I got to meant people like this:

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And I thought – Huh – that sounds pretty cool.

I feel like the last three years of my life have been building for me to go to law school.  I have been putting law school on my someday dream shelf.  But I keep putting it off, and I realized that maybe it wasn’t what I actually want.  It is what the practical side of me wants, but it don’t know if its what I want.  My brain always gets this annoying idea in its head that I should do a little more, go a little further, live little more adventurously, and climb a little higher.  What I want feels a lot like this song . . .

Keep up your head up
Don’t take your eyes off the road
Oh, you’re never gonna change
By doing what you’re told
You don’t want let yourself down
So don’t be scared to stand out
There’s a thousand voices saying
The time is now

So let go
You’re on your own
There’s something waiting for you
There’s something waiting for you
So let go
Of the world
You know
There’s something waiting for you
In the great unknown
The great unknown

Read more: Jukebox The Ghost – The Great Unknown Lyrics | MetroLyrics

And maybe that means me letting go of my practical plan to be a lawyer for a much risky plan that I am not sure about.  Letting go will probably be terrifying.  Until it isn’t, until I am fine.  It can be terrifying to let go of our comfort, of our safety, of the life we thought we had wanted.  But what is even more terrifying is the thought that we can miss out on the best parts of our life because we were too afraid to let go.

Oh Brother . . .

Growing up with brothers.  I was so lucky (or unlucky) to grow up with three older brothers whom both adored me and tortured me throughout my life.  Honestly, I was lucky.  I came into this life with three loving older brothers who were ready to show me the world, and who would do anything to protect me.  Growing up with them was always an adventure, there was rarely a dull moment in the Rensink house.SCAN1246 I know adorable (I promise this isn’t just an excuse to show cute pictures of my childhood, well mostly). I also grew up with two older sisters who cared for me and taught me about living with grace, dignity, and gentleness; all of those wonderful things that I am still trying to learn.  I could spend a long time talking about the impact they had on my life, but right now I want to talk about my dear brothers.   I won’t bore you with psychological talk about developing schemas, but basically imagine a blank slate waiting to be written on.  As we grow up and our brains develop, we develop schemas based on the world around us, and that in turns affects the way that we view the world in our later adult years.  The interactions I had with my brothers were some of the first interactions I had with the world.  It wasn’t until recently that I realized just how far of a reach my brothers have had on my life.  I really have never given them enough credit for all of the wonderful things they taught me.  So I just want to take a moment to talk about these crazies and the life lessons they taught me.

Number 1: They taught me how to be a fighter.  Having older brothers is like having your own personal body guard of assaliantes ready to protect me should anyone try to mess with me.  Partly because they love me, but mostly because picking on me is their job, and no one else is allowed to do it.  I have been defending myself from being sat on and tickled since about the age I became ticklish. Whether it was a witty comeback, or a jab at the ribs, I became a pretty feisty person.  I still remember after baton training at the penitentiary one of my friends there told me about how dumbfounded he was that a girl my size could hit something that hard.  I get this type of reaction a lot, and I just tell people, “I grew up with three older brothers.”  Leaving it at that as though there is no further explanation needed, because well honestly there isn’t.  My brothers instilled in me this over eager confidence that even if someone was twice my size, I could still take them.  But that attitude goes beyond wrestling with my brothers as they try to tickle me.  They taught me a much more valuable lesson, never be intimidated by anyone or anything because you are “too small.”

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Number 2:  They taught me that if you can dream it, you can do it.   I mean seriously, my brothers had some of the craziest ideas you can imagine.  From turning our basement into a working carnival to turning our old granary into a skateboard ramp, there was nothing they couldn’t will into creation.  I spent many hours as the silent sidekick, in awe watching them as they built things.  I still remember spending a whole day sitting in the snow in our grove as my brothers dug one of the most elaborate snow forts I have ever seen.  My brothers taught me that you and only you have the power to limit what you are capable of.  I grew up with the belief that no idea was too crazy, and you know what, I have some pretty crazy ideas.  I recently ran one of my newest crazy ideas past my brother.  I meekly asked him, “Is this too crazy?”  His response, “Not crazy enough sis.” SCAN1253

(I apparently didn’t feel the need to look at the camera for this picture.)

Number 3:  They taught me to live fearlessly.  I swear my brothers were not afraid of anything.  I personally blame them for each of my mother’s gray hairs.  However gray hairs aside, they taught me that a life without a few risks is no life at all.  If you haven’t jumped onto a trampoline from your roof or let your little sister drive the go-kart into the ditch, then you haven’t lived.  Life is too short to spend it scared of what could happen.  As a young girl, I think we are sometimes taught to be more fearful because there is the belief that we are more fragile.  My brothers never treated me like I was fragile.  I don’t mean to say that they were careless but that they treated me like I was just as tough as them.  My brothers very graciously let me tag along in all of their shenanigans, never once telling me I couldn’t keep up because I was a girl.  For that I am grateful.

SCAN1251SCAN1236 Number 4:  They taught me that life is funny, laugh at it. I was quite honestly probably more serious as a child than I am as an adult.  This is all thanks to my brothers who quite literally probably taught me how to laugh.  They taught me that life is full of bad and embarrassing moments, but that you can’t let those things stop you from picking yourself back up.  They also taught me that life is full of really wonderful and hilarious moments, and they should be cherished as such.  I owe them what sense of humor I have.SCAN1254

SCAN1233 And just because I think this one is adorable. SCAN1229

My brothers taught me how to think outside of the box, how to view the world differently.  They allowed me to stretch the limits of what I believed I was capable of, allowing me to dream any crazy dream I could imagine.

So to my dear brothers, I could probably not say thank you enough, but I am going to try.  Thank you for being the first people to influence how I view the world, I love the world that you taught me how to see.  Thank you for letting me tag along all of those times and treating me like an equal,  you taught me to be strong and brave.   And thank you for helping me grow into fearless and sassy woman I am today. “There’s no other love like the love for a brother. There’s no other love like the love from a brother.” – Terri Guillemets.

Love, your lil sis.

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Catching Chickens

It was a beautiful morning in Zambia.  The thrum of life was so evident all around you that it felt as though it were synced to your pulse.  Such mornings simply do not exist here at home.  Africa has a vibrancy to it that is so distinctly well African.  But there is also this sense of community.  A dependency on life to continue life.

It was on that morning as I sat in this place,

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when a hoard of ants came past right in front of me.  Ants are bigger and scarier in Africa.  I just sat there frozen as they seemed to just. keep. coming.  That was the closest I came to death in Africa.

I am being dramatic because of course I didn’t come close to death at all.  The ants barely even noticed me as I sat frozen in fear.  Yet everyone keeps telling me how brave I am for going to Africa.  For some reason America seems to have this picture of Africa being a land where death lurks around every corner.  Which is completely an inaccurate depiction of a land filled with so much beauty and life.

In that moment, after my near death of killer ants, I couldn’t help but wonder what on earth am I doing here? I spent months preparing.  I spent three days traveling, crammed into airplanes and stuck at airports.  I had been ready to brave the huge spiders and the deadly snakes.  I had put up with months of people telling me I was going to get Ebola, or malaria, or death by those water flies.  Yet I came anyways.  Then I discovered this idea of Africa that I had painted in my head was not even close to accurate.  While in Zambia, I did not see a desolate or broken land.  Zambia is very much alive and filled with hope.  Life begetting life all around me.  Zambia doesn’t need me.  Not even a little bit.

So what on earth was I doing here?  

God tends to find us the most useful once we realize how utterly useless we actually are.

So that morning in the prayer loppa, I asked God to help me understand why I was in Africa.  Do you know what He gave me?  A chicken. Other members on team did really amazing things that day, like heal people and make a dry well flow with water.

I got a chicken.

Not that I’m bitter.

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We were talking with two ladies, Ceca and her mother Harriet.  Somehow it was decided that they would show us some of their daily life, and somehow that ended up with us at a cage of chickens.  They wanted us to feed their chickens.  An awkward silence filled the air as they waited to see which crazy American they would get to trap in the pen with the chickens.

I volunteered, and instantly regretted it.  I crawled through the tiny hole and prayed the chickens wouldn’t attack the first white person they have ever encountered. Don’t worry, I survived unscathed.  Soon Ceca and her son her were crammed into the tiny cage with me.  I am still not sure how we fit without squashing any chickens.  Ceca picked up a chicken by the wings, looked at me, and said, “Here hold it.”  Haha yeah no thanks.  But Cesa just kept insisting, and I got the feeling she wouldn’t let me out until I held it.

I grew up on a farm, I am not scared of chickens.  Much.  But I have never picked up a chicken by the wings.  That seemed akin to poking a bear and hoping it didn’t bite you. So of course I decided to pick up the stupid chicken.  Ceca and Harriet had a pretty good laugh at the ridiculous white girl holding one of their chickens.

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“God sometimes uses the completely inexplicable events in our lives to point us towards Him.  We get to decide each time whether we will lean in toward what is unfolding and say yes or back away.” – Bob Goff

Sometimes the biggest miracle we will see in our lives is that we said yes when a normal sane person would have said no.  I don’t think that God ever intended us to be spectators in life.  I think he intended us to do foolish things like try to walk on water or feed chickens.  I think he intended us to engage with the world around us.  Life moves fast.  If you don’t stop to catch a chicken every now and then you might miss it.