When words are difficult.

Dear friends,

I have been meaning to write for a while now, as a way to begin to reconnect with some of you I haven’t been in touch with in awhile . Too many times in the last couple months I’ve sat down to write a blog post, email, or Facebook message, and words are simply too difficult (this post took weeks actually – finished it a month ago but just now remembered to click ‘publish’). I write a sentence, and then it seems that I’ve exhausted all that was in me. I must admit, and only for the sake of background and not as an excuse, that the season I just passed through was really hard. Anticipating news, some troubling decisions, and an overall haunting of discouragement and fear that presented itself without explanation. Maybe you’ve also known a season of weeks or months or maybe even years that seem a bit darker the rest. A season when tears fall often and without reason, patience is always thin, and sadness often trumps gladness.

I’m not sure why these periods occur, but I appreciate that throughout them I never stop learning – the kind of learning that involves falling down, scraping my knees, and letting others help me up so I can be better the next time. While they are trying in every aspect of life, the hard seasons often bring the very best of learning. During the month or so that felt like a dark cloud was following me, I chose to wake up each day asking God to bring the sun back into my life. Days passed and nothing changed; the sorrow remained and words were still difficult. Each day seemed to be a bit harder to hope, yet desperation demanded increasing faith. But then one day, something changed. Prayers were answered, decisions came easily, and the world seems to have returned to its usual brightness… A reminder that He does not forget or fail me; healing comes in time.

I apologize that I have not been very present, but I hope to make up for it by sharing some of what’s going on in my brain.. I have this bad habit of receiving an email from Audible (a subscription service that allows you to buy audiobooks) telling me that I have credits to use and then immediately buying a book on a whim. I’ve found myself searching for titles of books that I know little to nothing about, and then clicking that ‘check out’ button before even reading the reviews. While this is probably not the best way to spend my monthly subscription, I must tell you that I think there is some sort of divine intervention taking place in this process. One of my recent acquisitions was Bob Goff’s ‘Love Does’. It is far from a theological text, but rather a conversation with a friend who tells countless light-hearted tales of God’s faithfulness. In this season, it is exactly the encouragement God knew I needed. Below is a bit I found to capture my heart pretty well.

Every day God invites us on the same kind of adventure. It’s not a trip where He sends us a rigid itinerary, He simply invites us. God asks what it is He’s made us to love, what it is that captures our attention, what feeds that deep indescribable need of our souls to experience the richness of the world He made. And then, leaning over us, He whispers, “Let’s go do that together.”

Just as this paragraph suggests, He is again delighting my soul with hopes and dreams and an attitude of joy. I am still far from understanding this crazy world we live in and the life God’s gifted me, but I do know that I am wholly loved by the Creator of the universe and that alone provides me hope. Every day I become more aware of my need for grace, and for God’s voice whispering to me that I am forgiven and that today is a day to do better, love more, and react less strongly. I am empowered by His voice overcoming my fears, telling me that I must trust that he has equipped me to take on this day and love the people he’s placed in my life .

I write today, not to make you concerned over my well-being, but rather to provide an encouraging word that I wish I had received a couple months ago. If you are in a season that is trying and seems endless, I must remind you that it will end and light will come. Maybe it will require time and help from outside sources, but do not lose heart. Perhaps you’ve never seen such a time, and for that I will send up praise with you! But maybe if you know someone in such a place right now, will you do me a favor and sit next to them as they pass through? Will you pray for them and provide love even when it’s not easy? I am so grateful for those in my life who provided that to me recently, and was reminded at how important it is to simply be present amidst pain. I pray that this holiday season, God guides you in determining what or who it is you are made to love and that you go do that just as Bob proposes. What a delightful season is ahead if we keep that in mind.

With love,
Molly

Defining passion.

Hi friends, it’s been a while and I hope you don’t mind me sharing a couple thoughts I’ve had lately. Recently I have been writing essays for some scholarship applications, and I have a team here at Purdue helping me along the way. One of the key pieces of advice they have given is to NEVER use the word passion in writing or in an interview. Apparently the word has become so commonplace that is has lost all meaning and substance to reviewers.

Perhaps my generation has overused it, but I see that as more of a positive than a negative trend. I certainly see more and more of my peers seeking purpose and passion in a vocation rather than a lucrative or safe career, and it is difficult to argue that it is a bad thing as long as there is a dose of reality. But why this talk of passion, you might ask?

Well, I would really like to introduce you to my friend Aaron who I have come to view as my own definition of passion. We met in Latin classes in high school (super lame, I know), and we have remained friends ever since. I have been following his journey through the years, and my respect for him has grown continuously – but particularly so in the last few months. You see, Aaron had a pretty kick-butt scholarship to Texas A&M coming out of high school, and he was quite business savvy heading into college. But once he got there, he started dreaming. He came up with a new way of farming, one that is far more sustainable than those we currently utilize. The idea has grabbed ahold of him, and he has given everything to it since then. He dropped out of college to develop a prototype (in his aunt’s backyard nonetheless), learn from his failures, work countless part-time jobs to save for this dream, and certainly understand the meaning of hard work.

2013-06-06 12.43.09-1

I took this picture of Aaron in front of his prototype farm in June 2013. It was not successful, but it taught him what he needs to do this time around to get things right.

After failed attempts, he is finally ready to make a big push and get this dream off the ground. Part of me thinks he is a bit crazy for sacrificing so much for something so risky. But the other overwhelming portion has the utmost admiration and respect for his perseverance, dedication, and faith. Would I have the guts to pursue something I feel so convicted of?  I realize that no, we aren’t all supposed to drop out of school and try something risky like the Steve Jobs’ and Bill Gates’ out there – but Aaron definitely was. He inspires me to find purpose and give it everything I have, despite the fears that might be present.

I know it seems strange to reach out to you and ask that you might consider putting your faith in an individual you have never met and probably never will. I brought up the idea of a Kickstarter to Aaron a few weeks over coffee, because at his current rate of saving through his job he would not be able to start his work on his dream for several months and this means the loss of a production season. He agreed to start one, and I am so hopeful for its success. This is not a typical mission trip or clothing drive, but it is a cause I believe so strongly in that I feel compelled to share. He has carefully planned a budget, which amounts to the $10,000 he is hoping to raise in his campaign. By investing in Aaron, you would be sending a message that it’s okay to be passionate – at least responsibly so. Even if we can’t use the word, we can live our lives in such a way that we echo it everywhere. I invite you to visit this site below and learn more of his story (the video is AWESOME), and I hope you will prayerfully consider ways you can encourage his mission (that might just mean a simple good luck email, for which I would happily provide Aaron’s email address).

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1308275489/overgrowth

On another note, I truly hope you are all enjoying these sweet days and nights of summer as this season nears its end! The sorghum fields will demand less of my attention after August, and so I hope to catch up with many of you soon :)

The little things.

Hello again. This post I realize is out of the blue, yet not unrelated to the purpose for which I originally created this blog. If you’ll remember, I mean for this to be a way for me to include you on my adventures.  I’ve come to believe that the journey at home is just as important as any international trip or project, because it is the one you and I are living every single day. And honestly, I’m realizing that it is harder than any travels I’ve taken. Since arriving home from the UK in June, I have hit the ground running with little time to look back. In some ways, the last six months have been everything I pictured, yet in others it’s been nothing like I could have imagined. That’s the extraordinary part of time, right? I’d like to share a simple story that prompted me to write this in the first place with a few added thoughts..

You see, this morning I visited an area in the library that consists of maybe 15 computers. When I came in, I observed with disappointment that my favorite spot was already taken and then proceeded to an open machine. I sat down and began to type my login information into the computer, noticing that the person next to me had purchased coffee at the same time I did just minutes before. I then got on my phone, listening to music and checking emails that had arrived overnight. A few minutes later, I looked up to see that my computer screen was still in the “working” blue mode. I figured the system was running a bit slowly and went back to my phone. Another five minutes passed. I looked up and my computer screen was still at the login phase. Frustrated, I got up to go to the IT desk. As I did, I noticed that all of the people at surrounding computers had blue screens too. I immediately said “Nooo you guys have the blue screens too!” They looked at me funny at first, but then recognized too that we all had been having the same problem for about 10 minutes without realizing it. We quickly went from strangers to comrades, figuring out if it was campus wide or if we could do something about it. While we didn’t solve anything since it turned out to be a campus issue, I think it made us all a little less frustrated to know that we weren’t alone in the slow computer boat. I’m not sure about them, but I felt a bit silly that we had all been so absorbed in our own worlds that we didn’t bother to look around.

While this experience was rather menial and didn’t even have a good ending, I feel called to share it. What this situation reminded me was that the people all around us, even the ones we don’t know – they matter. They are no different than you or me. Sometimes I do happen to notice that, like when I saw the guy who bought coffee when I did. However, most of the time everyone else is practically invisible to me, since they don’t seem to have a purpose or a role in my personal story. Think of all the times that this happens.. the grocery store, in traffic, department stores, the mall during Christmas season. I have to remember that they are living, breathing, stressed out, and heart-fully-beating individuals just like me and the people I love. If I believe that, shouldn’t I treat people differently? Shouldn’t I see them in a new light? Something as simple as a smile, letting someone know that I understand their situation, can make a difference – as cheesy as that may sound. I think that in doing this, we can not only improve others’ lives, but we can also gain comfort ourselves knowing that we have a strange sort of solidarity or connection to each human being that exists in our midst.

This nudging to treat people well does not stem from this experience alone. I’m reading the book “40 Chances” by Howard Buffett, and his father was responsible for the Foreword. In it, Warren wrote this about his late wife: “Every person she met — rich or poor, black or white, old or young — immediately sensed that she saw him or her simply as a human being, equal in value to any other on the planet.” What a beautiful model to strive for.. Not only did she have equal respect for everyone, but it was so strong that people could feel it.  I was also reading Romans 12 recently, where again this prompting arose: “Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves.. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer”.

So what does this have to do with an update on my last six months “back home”? Well, this time has largely revolved around this idea of finding meaning and joy in the everyday and simple interactions.  It has been a process of learning how to balance my desire to fulfill a professional purpose I feel so strongly about while not neglecting my close relationships and even the daily library-like interactions I just described here.  Of course, this has included a fair amount of growing pains and mistakes. There are items on my to-do list that have been on there much too long and prevent me from paying attention to those around me. There have been times when my problem of speaking before I think has gotten me in trouble and hurt people I care about. There are some days when I am scared to ask myself if I am truly embracing the lessons I’ve gained and written about here. But despite my failings, the challenge of  adjusting back to a life of emails and deadlines has prompted growth more than anything. The beautiful thing is that through this process, I am beginning to understand the true meaning of grace, the power of prayer, and the importance of treating people well.

In this short Christmas season, which includes a frenzy of parties, gift buying, and maybe even finals, I think this is a perfect time to be reminded that the little things and people matter. We get to choose how to spend our money, treat strangers, and approach stressful situations. Today I invite you to join me in improving how we do each of these, all the while remembering that if we fail, God’s grace offers us the chance to try again tomorrow.

2013-08-12 20.50.57-2

universal truths.

**I wrote this a week or so but am just now getting around to posting!**

The days until my return home have been ticking down, and so I am enjoying every last minute of this adventure! One of my dad’s friends who came to Scotland asked me if I would do the past few months again, and without hesitation I said absolutely. A year ago I was still rather skeptical about the whole semester abroad idea, so it surprises me that I initially reacted with that answer. While some may see studying abroad as a self-serving chance to travel (my original opinion) and sure, to a certain extent I’ll admit it is, I walk away from the experience entirely convinced of its worth. No, the developed world does not have the same physical and cultural challenges that the developing world possesses. And it doesn’t quite steal your heart, and I mean your whole heart, the way that Africa does. But the chance to learn, process thoughts, and communicate in an entirely different dynamic is unparalleled. I come home with a greater understanding, albeit still far from complete, of how the world operates and a better vision for where I would like to head in the future. I’ve also made friendships that I know will last a lifetime. If your friend, child, grandchild, etc. is thinking about study abroad.. please encourage them!

A while ago I started collecting, both on paper and in my head, a list of universal truths. Some of them you might have picked up on, as there are themes that flow throughout my words and what I choose to write about. But there are others still that I’ve been witholding. I wanted to be sure that they are indeed universal, resistant to changes in maturity, location, and mood. After being immersed in a range of cultures and groups of vastly different individuals, I have established the best set of truths that I believe. Over and over again, I am hit with moments where I just think wow, these themes are present all over the world. As a wy to wrap up this chapter of my international adventures, I’d like to share a few of these ingrained lessons with you now.

How I treat people matters. When I treat others well, they generally reciprocate. It is still an easy reaction for me to treat hostility with hostility or to disappoint people that disappoint me. However, the strategy of killing someone with kindness is almost always the best way to go. Sometimes friendships take time and effort, but they are always the best way to achieve success – especially in a work environment. I’ve also found that the tone of my voice has an effect on how people perceive my words, regardless of whether we speak the same language. A smile in an uncertain situation can make all the difference in the world.

People are good. This has to be the single most lesson I have learned in the UK. Going to a place where I know no one and no one knows me, I started fresh. It was up to me to determine if and how I would judge people, who I would associate myself with, and how I should act around them. I remember Mother Theresa saying at one point – “I see God in every human being. When I wash the leper’s wounds, I feel I am nursing the Lord himself. Is it not a beautiful experience?” This is truth. This is something I thought I had grasped before. But now I realize that previously, I only applied this thought in relation to people in need or the “least of these”. The reality is that there’s a glimmer of God in everyone, even the people that don’t treat me well or act in a way that saddens me or simply appear to be mean. It is up to me to find that glimmer and focus on that, because only then will I treat those individuals as I should – as children of God. When I remember to do this, I am overwhelmed with the goodness of the people that surround me. They are so full of life, hope, joy, and wisdom. I am more determined than ever to invest in conversation and quality time. Watch this–> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yQAq5JQsyfo

Time resolves all. I have a love/hate relationship with time. Sometimes it seems like whenever I want to slow down and savor every last minute, time starts to fly and the period of life I’m in disappears quickly. Or when all I want to do is hit the fast forward button on life while I’m in a tough stretch, the hours and minutes tick by at a snail’s pace. But at the end of the day, time is really a marvelous thing. Knowing that life goes on, unrelenting, can be the best comfort of all. The first week or two in a new place can seem daunting and overwhelming, but I thankfully remember that after an awkward stretch of transition all will be okay. During periods of uncertainty or frustration I know that if I stick it out, my uncertainty will turn in to understanding and frustration into peace. Answers are always revealed in time, and this provides a sense of comfort.

With all of these lessons in mind, I return home to a world of familiarity but a future of uncertainty. I think about life after graduation less than a year from now, and I have no idea where life will be taking me. Sure, I have about six different thoughts, and maybe only three and a half are realistic. Perhaps life will lead me down one of those 3.5 paths, or it will be something else I’ve yet to even ponder. I am trying not to let this scare me and instead embrace the fact that time will certainly tell.

Thank you for your kind words and prayers this semester. It is always nice to have some company on my journeys. You can breathe easy knowing that I will be in the States for the foreseeable future, but you can bet I’ll be back on here eventually. For now, my journey takes me back to Indiana (West Lafayette) for much of the summer, so I am sure I will be seeing many of you soon! Let’s set a tea date :)

Mountains and winding roads.

Last week I posted a picture of my dad on the Old Course in St. Andrews, but I realize that I did not provide a great background for it. For those of you who do not know, my dad arrived in Scotland last Friday to play golf with three of his friends. This is truly his bucket list trip, as he has been talking about this adventure for years! The group played 6 courses in 6 days, which makes them a wee bit crazy in my opinion! They had a blast though, and it was fun to hear their epic hole-by-hole recounts at the end of each day. It was also neat to show my dad around the town and even walk a course with him as he played.

Lighthouse at Turnberry golf course on the western coast of Scotland

Lighthouse at Turnberry golf course on the western coast of Scotland

Right before I met up with my dad at the end of May, I took a solo trip to the Lake District in England. I finished finals on a Monday and decided to take off for three days of hiking soon after that. It required three buses and three trains to get where I needed to be, but it was absolutely worth the long journey. Ironically, the youth hostel I was staying in was mostly full of 60+ year old hikers who came to the Borrowdale valley region for the same reason I did. I didn’t quite make the young friends I had planned for, but I did have some quality conversations with the most charming older folks. One of my motivations for visiting the area was to climb Scafell Pike, which is the highest peak in England. I was fortunate to have a perfect weather day for my climb and reached the summit in less than three hours. To do a big hike on my own was a bit strange, but I appreciated the time for thought and prayer along with a certain sense of accomplishment at the end. I spent the next couple days walking smaller hills, reading, and drinking tea. It was such a treat!

One of the people I met at the top of Scafell Pike.. notice that she summited the peak with her mini schnauzer!

One of the people I met at the top of Scafell Pike.. notice that she summited the peak with her mini schnauzer!

One of my favorite pictures from the Lake District. This is the Catbells ridge walk.

One of my favorite pictures from the Lake District. This is the Catbells ridge walk.

Fast forward to a couple days ago.. My dad finished up his rounds of golf, and the two of us set off in a rental car for a UK adventure. We made it to Wales yesterday after a long drive. The roads in this area are absolutely ridiculous, and my dad says they are the craziest he’s ever driven. In Snowdonia National Park (where we are) constantly winding roads lead through hills and mountains in a way that does not allow visibility of what or who is around the next bend. As if that’s not bad enough, there are centuries-old stone walls lining either side of the road that are completely unnerving. I was literally gripping the edge of my seat today with sweaty palms as we narrowly missed walls and other vehicles. Thankfully my dad is a beast and managed to get us to Mt. Snowdon safely. Mt. Snowdon is the highest peak in Wales, and my summit today marked the completion of my own version of the 3 peak challenge. (Some people do the highest peaks of England, Wales, and Scotland in 24 hours.. which is nuts, but I hope to do it someday) My dad opted to take the mountain railway, and we were able to time it in such a way that we made it to the top within 15 minutes of each other. I think it was good that I had a timed target to keep me motivated, because I definitely would not have made it to the summit in less than two hours without that push! While the final 150m was cloud-covered, it was great to have someone to meet me at the top and the rest of the walk was spectacular. You really can’t beat the high hills here. They provide countless breathtaking moments- literally and figuratively! We rounded out the day with a trip to a nearby castle and beach, followed by dinner at an Indian restaurant (his first!).  Tomorrow we head to England to continue on our adventure. We are so grateful for the memories being made and sights we are able to see. Please pray for safe travels, especially on these crazy streets, as we finish our road trip!

Walking down Mt. Snowdon

Walking down Mt. Snowdon

Penrhyn castle in northern Wales

Penrhyn castle in northern Wales