Oh the Places You’ll Go… Due to Delays and Missed Flights

So, if you have not heard… I am heading back to Brussels for another 3 months!

Sorry to not inform you earlier, this summer has been WONDERFUL, but insane!

By heading back to Brussels, I mean to say, I am there now. Or I will be shortly. I am writing this in  Zurich, Switzerland (but it will probably be posted from Brussels when we arrive tonight).

Trying to get to Brussels have been a test on my patience and trust. We started out with being delayed out of OKC, so right off the bat we had to reschedule ALL of our remaining flights. So I went from going to OKC – Chicago – Brussels, to having to to OKC – Chicago – Zurich – Brussels.

So we are delayed from the top, then again by an additional 30 minutes before we boarded, so we get into Chicago with 20 minutes to go to an entire new terminal (by train thing), get out of security, go back through TSA security, find our gate and board. I was thinking, “We can do this!” But then we hit the TSA line.. and it was long. We waited there for 10 minutes before I had given up all hope of making the flight. So as Jennifer (my Brussels Buddy for the next 3 months) and I are discussing going to get a Deep Dish Pizza, since we are in Chicago, we hear this precious angel saying “Anyone for Zurich?” So obviously I shout “US”, probably a little too loud. This precious heaven-sent TSA Angel whisked us through TSA, and the lines then onto our plane, absolute last second. Prayers of thanksgiving were happening for sure!

Then the plane we RAN for, literally, sat at the gate FOR AN HOUR! Literally. There was so much traffic that we could not get out of Chicago for an hour. We finally took off and Swiss Air took good care of us. We landed too late to catch our connection in Zurich (UGH!) but they rebooked up hassle free and we just have to hang for the next few HOURS until it is time for the flight home! At this point…. I just want to be in a bed!

Then, we finally get a gate for our plane in Zurich and decide to head to that terminal/concourse and we have to go through Passport Control. No biggie right.

WRONG

The super nice lady starts asking me all these questions about why I am coming and what we are doing and why did I go to Belgium 3 months earlier this year and when I am coming back now. So I am being all informative and vague and she informs me that apparently I have been in the EuroZone too much the way the Calendar and stuff works and I am not allowed to enter until a later date… which happens to be tomorrow. What?!?! Come again??!?! What is about to happen. Well, she calls one of the other security guys in and the talk (in Swedish – Thanks bros) and come to the conclusion that since I am a mere 7 hours early, they will grant me access anyway. PTL – I am still not sure, because by my calendar I should be good, but ya know… whatever.

The whole travel process was a mess, and I am just thankful that God was able to make it happen, because honestly, I am pretty sure that we would not have made it today if He was not awesome!

Quick Summary of the Things I Learned Today!

  1. Some people are just forgetful and needy, (me – as I forgot the material for our English Classes we are teaching this week) and others are AMAZING (My new roomie – literally have known her for a week – who drove the forgotten packets to the airport – 40 min drive one way – so I could have them for the trip!) Love the servants and amazing people in your life!
  2. Swiss Air is my favorite! The food was good, the movie selection was great, the staff was stellar and when we missed our connection in Zurich because the flight was late, they rebooked us and it was ready for us when we got off the plane, AND they gave us a voucher for lunch! Thanks for the Love Swiss Air!
  3. When you pray for patience and trust, the Lord grows those in you. He doesn’t just give them, He forces growth in them. [This isn’t “new”, but still reinforced today.] God is FAITHFUL!
  4. People who at first appear “too cool” are just as klutzy and normal as the rest of us. Case in point: On the flight from Chicago to Zurich I was by this Euro looking guy who come off “too cool” and was obviously irritated that I made the flight and he lost the opportunity to have an empty seat next to him. Well, after dinner, bro spilt his a cup of wine all over his shirt, pants and seat [Note: He was not drunk… just a klutz). I said, I’ll get some napkins, and jumped up and went to the back for napkins. When I came back, he was all like “I don’t even know what happened” [please include Euro Accent – Swedish I believe if you are being particular], and I responded, “No worries, I am surprised I haven’t spilt my drink on me. It’s usually me spilling stuff.” He gives me a strange look and goes “Really?” and I was like “Yeah, I am kinda a klutz” and laughed at myself. He looked at me for a second, the chuckled, said thanks and we went back to watching our separate movies. He was much less “cool” the second half of the flight, or just actually cool.
  5. Added As I’m Posting this… Coming back to Brussels felt like coming home. I know this makes some of you real sad to hear, but once we landed, there was a sweet familiarity and comfort of being here and back where I know things, especially after Zurich and Swedish and Swiss Francs!

So, from my Euro Home… I’m out! It’s time for me to go to bed! Much love and I’ll keep you posted of my adventures in Belgium!

Mo3RSVP 

(Répondez s’il vous plaît – Respond, if you please!)

What is your craziest travel story?

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Well Hello There. Haven’t seen you in a while!

What a crazy, I mean CRAZY, last few months.

And again… I am writing an apology blog. I am literally the worst. What happened was I was writing a book review for a very academic book, that was wonderful, but taking FOREVER, and I stalled out. I didn’t want to post until I finished it as motivation, and now 3 months later, it’s still not done.

So I give up. That stupid review will not be posted. BUT I WILL POST! Life has been an absolute whirlwind, and I am finally getting settled back stateside.

So here is a fly-by update of what I missed telling you all about over the last 3 months.

In Belgium:

  • April 4-8 – Camp with our Students
  • April 21 – Trip to Bruges/Brugge with Jennifer & Shawn
  • May 8 – A 9-Hour Romanian Wedding
  • May 21 – Lecrae Concert
  • May 22 – Surprise Party for me (the night before I left)
  • May 23 – I came back to the US of A (And got trapped in Tulsa overnight because of crazy storms)

In Oklahoma

  • May 29– My Friend leave for Nicaragua for a month with a bunch of my students!
  • June 1-5 – Middle School Camp with my students
  • June 4 – Broke my toe at camp… seriously.
  • June 6 – My BEST FRIEND got married!
  • June 15-18 – VBS!
  • June 12-14 – Weekend Retreat in the Woods (Processing Belgium and such)
  • June 19 – Started a week long temp Job
  • June 25 – Got hired on Full Time at my Temp Job (For the summer until I go back to Belgium)
  • June 26 – Everyone comes back from Nicaragua!
  • June 28 – July 1 – Volleyball Tourney with The Youths at church
  • July 4-5 – Good Times with Family in Stillwater.
  • July 10 – I quit being a loser and start blogging again.

Now you are caught up. Welcome to my life.

In all seriousness, the challenges that I have faced over the last 6 months has been exhausting. Some were expected, some caught me completely off guard. Things I thought were true, are not, and things I would have never believed are now concrete in my heart.

For I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.  – Phil 4:11-12

This has been made true in my life. Contentment and rest are trending as the theme for my summer, and as frustrating as learning these lessons are, I am enjoying the process. I am enjoying the freedom from feeling obligation and the depths of joy in resting and feelings rested. I am still working on not feeling guilty when I say no, and the feeling of needing to do more, but I have decided this is a fight worth fighting.

I will write again soon. I will post LONG overdue pictures from Bruges. I will reinsert myself in your lives. Sorry for taking so long a sabbatical. It wasn’t just you, I promise.

A Day in Paris

So late. So sorry. It has been a mad house around here and I have been beyond busy. I finally got around to editing some of the pictures from our day trip to Paris two weeks ago and wanted to share them with you.

Please enjoy, and know that I did!

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Monet!

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Picasso

But no Van Gogh, because they were on strike and that portion of the Musée D’Orsay was closed.

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More to come soon from a trip to the Royal Gardens and another day trip to Bruges.

Quick Photo Tour of My Day!

Bonjour mes amis!

Today I was able to spend some time walking around my town and enjoying some more of the town. Getting to traveling around and explore with the students last week motivated me to go exploring some more.

So I did.

Here are some of the results.

Enjoy!

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This was a beyond delightful cup of coffee! It was a Costa Rican Monte Brisas – Red Honey Processed! DELISH! Naturally sweet, smooth as can be, big flavor but still mild… Not really sure how that works but…

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Town 3_FotorI snagged the picture above real quick on the Metro because it seemed like a perfect representation of this city. A mix of what you would expect from Europe, with the infusion of Muslim culture, complete with the tension between the two. Had to snap it.

Shenanigans with my Students

I tried guys… I tried really hard. But the students were only here for 5 full days and we busy all week. Their schedule was packed trying to get everything in. One of them said he’s take care of the update for me… so here is his contribution for us all.

IMG_0951Hi this is Jackson I’m not going to use any punctuation during this because I just don’t feel like it. Except for periods because they are necessary. Blog finished. 🙂 have a fabulous day, you are all beautiful… almost all of you 😉 jk all of the pretty ones.

Well… Teenagers. Gotta love em. – Isn’t he great! ❤

Sorry for the delay in updating. I had been prepping for the student team and then they were here, and now they are gone! So I have spent the past week with 9 of my wonderful students. Having them here with me has been so refreshing and relaxing. IMG_7856Here is quick run down of all that we did.

Sunday I spent the day having lunch with women from the Food Bank and it was Moroccan style so delicious and non-stop eating for about 3-4 hours. This was such an amazing time of being invited into this amazing woman’s home and getting to struggle through French and just share love with these amazing women. The students did prayer walking in the city and just tried to stay awake to kick that Jet Lag.

Monday the Students helped up with English Classes and set up a Doctors Office, Train Station and then a Restaurant. Student Team 5It was really great to see them be so open with the students in the class and bold in speaking with them. We also spent time prayer walking in the city in a heavily Muslim area and in a red-light district. This was a really great time for me because I got to really see the students hearts and one of the students and I talked for a long time about what God has been doing in her life and how He has been calling her in different ways.

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Tuesday the students has an Amazing Race style scavenger hunt where they ran all over town and had to find their way without help. It was interesting to see them get excited about their victories and then struggle when they got lost or frustrated. IMG_7929 I am so bad at not helping, but Dr. Willie kept me in check. It is a valuable skill for them to learn to be able to find their way through a city, ask or help and learn public transportation systems. Then that evening we did some prayer walking and had a night on the town.

Wednesday we had our Youth English Classes and the students just killed it again. That evening was probably my favorite night of the week. We had all the students get together, Belgian and American, and we played games and just hung out, but then we had a great time of sharing testimonies and of the students telling about what God was doing in their lives. The honesty with which my students from home shared with was amazing, and truly, the Belgian students too. I was just so amazed by their transparency and honesty, and by what God was doing in their lives.  IMG_0987I was also beyond excited to see my two guy students maintaining relationships this night and really reaching out a friend of theirs who is not a Christian and being intention in loving him and speaking Truth to him. I am so proud of those boys.

Thursday we took them to a Arab Market and just let them enjoy that cultural experience. Then we went to the food bank and the students got to serve and learn to struggle through language barrier and communicate regardless. I was so impressed with their willingness to jump in and go for it. Then we came back to my apartment and prepared for Next Level with the Belgian students. It was crazy doing a study of the Word in French and English,but it was great.Student Team 10 All the students were giving their input and being involved. It was wonderful.

Friday, yesterday, they flew out early. Now all I have to remember them is the memories, picture (as you can see) and this one lonely bag that was left with me. IMG_1009

I’ll stop there, but I could go on for pages and pages about these kids and how great they were and how much fun we had. I just love them. It’s kinda crazy.

Beyond what’s been going on the student team, I am just trying to figure out all the things that I am supposed to be doing and just trying spend quality time with the Lord. We always need the Lord, but for me, it is beyond apparent for me when I am here. I need Him everyday when I leave my flat to be able to be effective and intentionally. Distractions lie everywhere. I am trying to phase out my social media back some, but kick it up here in Belgium with the students here. I finished my study of 2 Timothy which was a really great place to start when I got here, and now I am moving on to Colossians.

I’ll be updating again soon, hopefully.

Praises

  • This was such an amazingly refreshing week for me with my students here. I don’t think I can even begin to thank God for them and the joy they brought to me this week.
  • I am getting more comfortable trying to speak out in French and being OK with failing.
  • I have been getting some positive responses to wanting to hang out and study the Word together so that should kicking off strongly very soon.

Request

  • That the students would not just return to normal this week as they get back into school and life. That this experience and time here will draw them closer to the Lord and that this change they way they look at their ministries at home and the impact they can have on their schools and communities.
  • I will be teaching at Youth this upcoming Friday about a sensitive situation that has come up. They sought me out specifically because of my counseling experience. Please be lifting that up.
  • Always, always…. LANGUAGE. Especially with Youth Camp coming up here in a few weeks.

Question for you: (I am enjoying getting to know my readers more and more!)

What was the most life changing experience that you have ever had?

How did it change you?

Adventures in Bookstores and Lost Coffee Shops

Some days are just more adventurous than others…

Yesterday was a BEAUTIFUL 17 degree day (celsius friends… it’s like 63 F back in ‘Merica) here and so a bunch of the guys are going to go have a football (soccer) match. Kam and I decide that because it is so beautiful, we’ll go watch and relax in the park. That is when the adventure starts. They has already left so i was going to meet them where they we going. Then the location changed. And so I head for the new location, being given directions by Kam via text, and they change it again. So them I find a place I kinda know and begin to wait for them, because they said they’ll come pick me up in a car.  So I wait… and wait. Then BOOM, there they were. We then sped off for the park and run in circles a bit trying to find parking and the rest of the group.

Kam, Kelly and I take a wonderful little walk through a couple of parks near by. I am pretty sure the parks here are mostly connected to another park, so we walked through like 3 parks in a matter of like 30 minutes. The parks here are beautiful and there were so many people out because of the nice weather, so its was a really great time.

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Then, some of my dear Romanian friends came over that even and we shared a meal, caught up on life and played some Resistance, because what is a night with my Romanians without a couple a rousing games of Resistance. [For those who do know know… Resistance is a FANTASTIC game that is kinda like Mafia but way better. Check out the website if you wanna know more. http://www.indieboardsandcards.com/resistance.php%5D

Today turned out to be adventurous as well. I just wanted to go to a coffee shop I found online, but it was not that simple. I end up wandering all over this part of town trying to find it, only to realize that it was IN this mall right here. So I head into the mall, which I like just about as much as I like malls back home (not at all) and search all over the mall for this coffee shop. CANNOT FIND IT. Like for serious. Here is where the adventure comes in. I see a bookstore, and I am just naturally drawn to it. I have been wanting to try to read a book in french (keyword, try) and I thought, “Well, I if I cannot have coffee, I will at least have a book.” So i go in. While looking at the books, trying to decide if i think I am muddle through Hunger Games or Divergent, I see L’Élue, and read the back description and realize, it’s Gathering Blue, by my lovely Lois Lowry… I then realize I have to find The Giver! It would be a great book to read! YES! So I start looking for the book… falsely assuming that it would be called Le Donateur, because thats the direct translation. Cannot find it (it’s a theme today – Maybe I’ll call today Le Perdu). So I give it on The Giver. CoffeeCafeBook_FotorI then decided I want Divergent, but the copy I find is in Flemish. BAH! I gather my courage and decide to ask the sales women for a copy in french. Victory, I find myself with a copy of Divergent in French and I begin to feel confident. So I decide I really want The Giver, or maybe I just don’t want this book store to beat me like the lost coffee shop did. So I once again gather my courage and have a Franglish conversation, mostly French, with the sales women, determine that the first book in the series in French is in fact call, Le Passeur (which translates to either the Ferryman or the Smuggler… which kinda, maybe makes sense), and take my love Lowry book instead of Divergent. Mme Rule would be proud! Then I see an escalator that I did not see before, ride it up to an even further victory and find the coffee shop I was looking for. It’s been a good day.

Overall, I have been doing really well. Just getting into the swing of things in Belgium and forging my own schedule and plans. This week is going to be a good week for me a to do some really great planning done, as well as begin to meet with different girls in the youth group. Next week is going to be insane, but great, because my Youth Group kids from the States will be here. It’s going to throw a wrench in planning and trying to regularly meet with people, but its going to be nice to see them and teach them more about serving and doing life in a different culture.

Praises:

  • I am feeling really well adjusted and comfortable where I am. (This also means its think to kick things into gear with planning and get to work.)
  • I have been able to meet with some of my friends here and I have already seen good come from these times together.
  • I have been able to spend time with most of the people I have been wanting to see, so that has been awesome.

Request:

  • That the students I am trying to meet with and mentor will be excited about it and make time for study of the Word. School schedules can be demanding, plus just life in general, so pray that these students would make this a priority.
  • That my French would continue to improve. The more my language improves the more useful I am. Plain and simple. There is one girl now that I would love to meet with, but she does not speak English and my french is not good enough for mentoring yet so… I just need constant growth in language.
  • That I would keep restfulness in mind. I tend to struggle with this and it’s going to be easy to allow busyness to creep in as things progress.

Pushing Back Darkness

[Note: This was written back few weeks ago (mostly) and I thought it had been lost, then I found it… so it was finished and posted… so the time delays are weird. Sorry, not sorry.]

This weekend, and currently, I am with my middle schoolers serving all around OKC. We painted, cleaned, take, tore down, edged and prayed all over this city these past two days. We also invited an apartment complex to a carnival that we will be throwing at their complex. Here are some pictures from our weekend thus far!

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Then, this morning, we attended church at Frontline Church in Mid-Town.

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It was an excellent service on the difference between finding out identity in Morality and the law versus finding our identity in Christ. The difference in freedom between those two is insane and humbling.
A couple of great quotes…

The law doesn’t give you righteousness , it shows you that you don’t have any! — Andy Burkhart

“We are children of the promise, it’s a miracle that God saved us [all of us, not just the really bad ones]” -Andy Burkhart

We talked about how Christ was and is our only righteousness and that when we try to obtain righteousness in any other way, we devalue His works on the Cross, and we elevate ourselves to a status that we cannot begin to obtain. Thinking we can do anything to save our selves, that our works are anything more than mere “filthy rags” is absurd and defames our Lord. Our ability to follow rule and make things look good for everyone IS NOT REAL CHRISTIANITY. It’s a facade that stops us from interacting with others genuinely and limits our ability to look to others around us for accountability and strength. When we begin to depend on ourselves, I am reminded of Ephesians 2:3 where Paul talks about us following the “desires of the body and the mind” which leads to wrath. Ephesians 2:1-3 gives a pretty good idea of where we stood before Christ intervened. Legalism and self-righoutness can very easily fall into these desires of the mind. It’s far easier to be focused on doing the right thing and following rules than it is to humble yourself, admit you cannot do it, and follow someone else to step in and save you.

We are a proud, proud people. We includes me, but it also included you. We cannot stand to fail, or be wrong. We HATE being forced to be dependent or anyone else. Any true and honest Christian will tell you that learning dependence on God is the most painful, difficult process that we face,but one that is so well worth it.

Je vais en Belgique!

I have not been at this blog writing very long, and I do take long absence from time to time, mostly because my schedule is demanding, and free time is limited and cherished. However, I wanted to take sometime to share with you all something that I am very passionate about and something that I love. Belgium, and the wonderful people that I have met there.

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I will be spending 3 months in Belgium this upcoming spring and I am beyond excited for this unique and special opportunity. I will be coming alongside my friends that are already there teaching English Classes, as well as working with a local church and helping wherever needed there. I am also hoping to work with the Youth Group there, which is ultimately my passion. I love working with Youth, in Belgium and at home, so that will be just wonderful.

This will be my fourth trip to Belgium, but my longest stay yet. My first two trips were just shy of two weeks, my third trip was a little over two weeks, and now this trip will be 3 months. I have made some dear friends, some which I have been able to keep up with due to the marvels of modern technology (Viber and Skype are amazing), that cannot wait to see again and I look forwards to having the privilege of spending a longer and more intentional time with them.

So why am I telling you, my blogging audience about this? One, because this is why I blog, to vent, ramble and spew about the things I love, and two, because I am in need of help. I need prayer to help make this trip successful and effective, more then anything. So be lifting this journey up in prayer and me as well. But also, this is an expensive venture and I will need financial help to make this a reality.

Below I have provided a way that you can help, if you so desire. There is more information about my trip and my plans while I am there on this website, so please feel free to read up, and give if you can. Any amount is a blessing and I thank you for your prayers and your gifts.

http://giftforgood.com/campaigns/belgium-bound

Thank you so much for however you are able to support me and I’ll keep you updated as thing progress. I plan on blogging much more regularly while I am in Belgium, with slightly more free time than I currently have.

Much love!