Letter #684: Europe Lessons


Dear Europe,

Four weeks is a long time. A person can learn quite a bit in that span. Being in foreign countries adds even more layers to the lessons.

Being months removed has made me even more thankful for my time visiting you. I honestly don’t know if a day goes by where I don’t look back fondly on my trip, think about a site I visited, laugh at a hilarious moment or reflect on something I learned. I am the greatest advocate for people to save up and go see the world. There are things you will learn that you just can’t by staying here in America. Here’s a quick list in no particular order:

This is not a green screen, I promise! Go to the Swiss Alps…it will instantly be your favorite spot in the world!
  • Nobody speaks English, what are you going to do?! Trust me, you figure it out. You have to.
  • You have no option to pull out your phone in lull times (unless you want to pay astronomical fees, and we already know I ain’t about that life!). I learned to do other things in moments of waiting. I grew to become more purposeful, but I’m already fighting falling back into this trap on the reg.
  • If something goes wrong, you are completely responsible. There’s no blame-shifting, calling home or getting out of it; you have to own it and figure it out. Decisions must be made in confidence and awareness of your safety at all times is vital. An intangible layer of responsibility is gained here. In other words, you just grow up.
  • Follow the local transportation rules precisely. You’ll pay for it (literally) if you don’t. I left a 50 euro donation fine in Paris! In all seriousness, it’s easier to take a train from Italy to Switzerland than for me to drive from Missouri to Oklahoma.
  • I think I learned the healthiness of a sabbatical at an early age! Time off and getting away is a win. We should enjoy life along the journey. But if we’re honest, it’s hard for us to truly ever shut off completely. A week off, and it takes 3 days to unwind and by day 5 your mind is preparing to get back again. A week of vacation is valuable, but I tasted something I had never experienced before. I was truly able to step away from work. I couldn’t pick up the phone and make a call. I only had Wi-Fi access occasionally. I tasted rest like most Americans never will, and I will do ‘vacation’ in a different way from now on because of it.
  • Clear vision casting to the right people can make dreams come true! This trip started as a pipe dream, but a little over a year ago I crafted an email that captured people’s attention and created buy in in a way that I’m now looking back at photos and telling stories from the trip of a lifetime.
  • Never let fear dictate your decisions. There are a million reasons I shouldn’t have gone. Safety, money, work, responsibility, the unknown. I could have believed them, but if I had I would have missed out on one of the greatest experiences of my life. Fear wants to win. Let’s not let it. Life’s way better when I don’t live in fear. I have pictures in front of the Eiffel Tower and in the Swiss Alps to prove it!
  • Stop waiting to live your life. If I’m honest, I waited for years before I made this trip happen. I’ve wanted to go since I was in college, but in the back of my head I knew it would probably be cheaper and for sure safer to do Europe with my spouse…it’s just easier to travel with a male, you assume a different level of risk. I never verbalized this but it was in my subconscious. Well guess what, I’m not married and it’s not on the horizon. So why in the world was I waiting? Not sure, but I’m done waiting to live my life.
Such a fun day! If you go, take a Fat Tire Bike Tour while you’re there! Pretty surreal to see this area on tv now, but may we not live in fear.

Europe, you were good for so many reasons, but these simple and practical lessons were for sure eight of them. I will live life differently because of my choice to visit and travel you. Thanks for a great adventure, the trip of a lifetime. Thanks for all you taught me that I just wouldn’t have learned in America. And in the same way I refuse to operate in fear, I beg you not to either in the aftermath of Paris and the refugee situation. May fear never paralyze us, but rather may fear remind us to face them, to make the right decisions rather than the safe ones and to rely on the One who brings hope despite circumstance.

Until next time Europe,


Letter #330: Stitches, Scars, Stories

Dear fear,

Yesterday, you were conquered. Conquered might be an overstatement, but for the first time in more than a year I rode the Teryx. You see, the last time we met was the day after camp a year ago. A few of my friends from the Kanakuk Institute and I stayed the night at a family’s house we had gotten to know during our time in Branson. To this day, they are two of my favorite people and are unbelievably gracious to me.

After a good night’s sleep, we decided to get a morning of four-wheeling in before we all made our drives home. Off we went. Two girls on two four-wheelers; Jack in the Teryx. What a day?! Perfect ending to a great year at the Institute and a great summer at camp.

This pretty well sums up the morning!

About two hours into the adventure I decided Jack needed some company, so I hopped in the Teryx with him. Not two minutes into my Teryx ride, a fluke of a deal happened. Jack was taking a turn, the wheel got stuck in a hole and the next three seconds of my life seemed like an eternity.

Two minutes before it all went down...

The Teryx quickly went from four wheels to two, and we were tipping. I felt as if I could have yelled, “Jack, we’re tipping. Shift your weight!!!” Our fate had already been sealed. We were flipping.

As the Teryx landed, my right side served as the door because Teryx’s are doorless. We skidded on gravel for a bit and finally came to a stop. This entire process lasted maybe seven seconds. Praise the Lord I had my seatbelt on for it could have been much worse. Jack was suspended above me in the driver’s seat, got himself out and proceeded to help me.

Look closely in the left corner...see the bloody hole in my arm?!

I was completely overwhelmed, adrenaline racing and simply processing what had happened. Jack’s trying to get me out, but I’m clenched to what I like to call the, “Oh crap bar’…you know the handle that’s above your head in a car! I finally release, crawl over the Teryx and start to walk off the wreck. At this point my friends are on the scene with the regular four-wheelers. One’s laughing and taking pictures, one’s in overzealous go mode and the other is medically knowledgable and making sense to me in the situation.

I decide I’m completely fine and just need to shower to clean out my leg. It just looked like I slid into home times 50. It wasn’t that seriuos. Probably the adrenaline talking, but Laine quickly informed me I needed to sit down…I had a hole in my arm. Hmmm…It started to hit me that this was maybe a bit more serious than I anticipated. If you remember, I was holding the “oh crap bar,’ so when the Teryx landed my elbow nailed the gravel. Bone was visible.

A man heard the crash about half a mile away, came to check on us and finally convinced me to let him take me back to Jack’s house. Brooke rode with me, we threw all my camp laundry out of my car to make room and she quickly drove me to the ER. I still wasn’t convinced this was necessary…my arm was swollen, unbendable and I couldn’t see the damage.

Post cleaning...I would be smiling in the midst of this!

The second I walked in Skaggs, a sweet Puerto Rican nurse rushed me to the back and started gently scrubbing all the rocks out of my leg. She didn’t even make me fill out paperwork until after this!!! If I remember right, her name was even Angel! At this point the adrenaline was wearing off and the stings were more evident. After getting cleaned up, I filled out paperwork and waited to get stitches.

The hole after cleaning, pre stitching...

Thankfully stitches and road rash were all the ramifications. In my opinion the “oh crap bar’ saved me from a broken arm. A couple hours and 12 stitches (3 in my leg, 9 in my arm) later I was put back together.

Doc said he'd never seen an elbow so mauled...a hunk of skin was gone, so he had to get creative!

To this day, this was still one of my favorite days of life. So I have a few scars; it could’ve been SO much worse. Not to mention, what is life without a few bumps in the road in order to gain great stories to share?! This is a story my friends and I will never forget!

So yesterday, a yearish later, I stood before the Teryx again prepared to conquer you in any way necessary. I’ve been kidsitting this week. He’s 12, and I thought four-wheeling would be something a 12 year old boy would like. So we went. You were conquered…I even let him, a 12 year old, drive! No accidents occurred. Fun was had.

This was our view yesterday!!!

As we were driving to Jack’s to begin our adventure, Josh, the 12 year old, says this: “Didn’t a K-West girl flip a four-wheeler with Jack last summer?!” I simply raised my arm, revealed the scar on my elbow and said, “Yup, that was me!”

Grabbin’ you and life by the horns,

Knock me down, but you can’t count me out

{Special thanks and props to Brooke for taking all the pics even when she probably wanted to puke!}

Letter #151: Fearing the Future

Dear future,

As much as I want to say I don’t, I fear you. There, I admitted it. I’m not hiding behind my “I’ve got it all together’ and “it’s all going to work out in the long run’ facade anymore. A common question in our society is “What’s your greatest fear?’

Sure, I’m afraid of snakes (seriously, I’ve been known to scamper the opposite way after blood curdling screams and an occasional profanity slips from my lips), but this definitely doesn’t consume me. The thought of being attacked or my house getting broken into freaks me out, but I really never dwell on this. Failure seeps in every once in awhile, but then I remember I’m not going to fail as long as I am putting my best efforts forward.

So, we’re back to you. All I know about you is for the next two and half months I get to prep for summer followed by three months of living in Lampe, MO at the Westside for my sixth and potentially final summer. K-West 2011 will have a different feel for me this summer regardless of it being my last or not. I’ll have added and different responsibilities and will be coming into the summer already having some sort of relationship with each staff girl. I don’t know if I’ve ever been more excited for a summer.

After these six months, I have no idea what lies ahead for, well, my entire life…exactly why you freak me out. My possibilities are limitless. I could potentially remain in Shady B. I could move back to good “ole Oklahoma. I could honestly live in any city in the world. I could do business; I could work for a church; I could be a teacher. Literally, the possibilities are endless. Too endless. I have nothing tying me down, yet, somehow you seem too broad.

Snakes, criminals and failure don’t keep my head spinning. It’s you I lay awake at night thinking about. It’s you I’m continually processing. I long for more stability in you.

Then, I happened to watch a LifeChurch.tv sermon while cooking what turned out to be really good chicken tortilla soup…yes, as my friend, Brooke, mentioned, Saturday nights look very different as an adult!! It was called “I Quit Living in Fear’ and was exactly the reality check I needed. Craig pointed out “what we fear reveals what we value most and where we trust God least.’ Hello, wake-up call!

You’re exactly what I fear most as well as where I trust God least. I want to know answers. End of story. This has led me to a lack of trust in my God.

Then Craig pulled out this John Wesley quote: “I have never known more than 15 minutes of anxiety or fear. Whenever I feel fearful emotions overtaking me I just close my eyes and thank God that He is still on the throne reigning over everything and I take comfort in his control over the affairs of my life.

My goodness, may this become my perspective on life. Regardless of my unknown you, God is still on His throne and in control. Thank the Lord because that might be the only constant regarding you at this point.

My favorite verse in the Bible is 2 Tim. 1:7: “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity (fear in some translations), but of power and love and discipline.’ I know this verse by heart, but it so easily fades away. I forget. I allow myself to be consumed by the fear this world says is normal.

Today, I’m acknowledging my fear of you and striving to have Wesley’s mindset.

May I be consumed by Christ and His sovereignty today,

Fear shaker in your realm