Sunday, January 15, 2017

Some New Year Thoughts....

So here we are again, back at the start of a new year....

(NOTE PICTURES ARE INTENDED TO ENCOURAGE YOU TO REFLECT IN PEACE :))

I always find it interesting how some people (and cultures) make a major deal about starting the new year off 'right' with all kinds of focus on resolutions, re-setting priorities, 'making a plan', etc. Don`t get me wrong, I think these are all generally good and important things to do, but my question is why do we wait a whole stickin' year to look at our lives and re-evaluate?

Why do we not do this more often? I mean,  I think most people do this on a smaller level every day and in many cases ever hour or even more often. As we wake up, it is pretty common in western cultures to have a plan for the day (particularly a week day). In your job, I imagine you have a list of priorities in your tasks, and if asked, most people can list off their personal priorities such as family, health, faith, personal hobby, etc. in whatever order comes to mind when asked, weather it seem rehearsed or not.

But what if we actually created space for ourselves to think on a deeper level about not only our general priorities (which are often set and then not re-evaluate until something screams for our attention) but if our lives reflect what we say, or what we want them to show as our priories? I am of course coming at this from a very western minded perspective, where we count time as one of our most valuable resources and efficiency, planning, and other similar things have high value. It is often assumed that the same is true all over the world, but in reality it is not 'valued' / looked at in the same way as us efficiency focused cultures.
But anyway, enough of my qualifying my own cultural perspective, the point - my point and hope for myself is to do a better job of evaluating and making small adjustments all the time. This is not my plan for 2017, this is my plan for my life, for me, for my character growth, care for those around me, and to attain the larger goals of my life.

As someone once told me (or reminded me multiple times every time we spoke for several years - thanks dad) ' it is good to have margins' in life. Me. and you who I imagine are reading this, do not normally plan 'margins' into our lives. Sure, some of you are always punctual and you are good about planning enough in advance for the traffic to be somewhere on time (this is not me). But what about time 'away' just for the sake of it. To be with family, be outdoors, be with God? How often does this REALLY happen? Even for me, when I take a 'vacation' as a single person and hope to spend some time in solitude, one would think that all my times are full of meaningful reflection, right? HA! wrong.
To step away from the swirling world, stress, physical, mental, emotional state of living in a broken world takes intentionality and motivation. One or the other of which I am often lacking.

I am, and I imagine you might be as well, often full of good intentions - to take time for myself or to give of myself to others in hopes of making a positive difference. But really, is that what we were created for? Oh, sure, yes, on some level yes. But really, for me, if my heart is not right with the Lord, I have no hope of helping others. If I am drowning, how can I throw my life-vest to someone else. Only when I am swimming strongly, healthy, alert, with keen eye -sight can I really see who around me is drowning and how to give help that will actually make a difference.

This is the kind of person I want to be. I want to be solid. This does not mean perfect (though of course that would be great too.) No, I want to be able to throw out all the help lines needed to people drowning around me. There of course is no chance of me doing this as me, Jessica, amazing life-guard. No, no, I have tried that and I don't like the results (neither did others I tried to 'save').
No, it is only when I am solidly rooted in Christ and who I am in Him and what he has done for me, can I go to battle for someone else. Even in times of self-growth, I find I need to pull back from going to battle for others and deal with my own issues.

I don`t mean that we can`t do anything for other people until we are perfect (thank goodness this is not true), and of course God can use us when we are even 'pathetic' to minister to another. I simply mean that God is God and we are not. If we think we have to be giving giving and going going, without ever sitting sitting, I am thinking thinking it will not go as well as we might have thought. This blog comes out of a reflection on my own past 6 months.

As many of you already know (because I have made little effort at hiding it) I have really struggled over the past few months with my own outlook and attitude in my current environment. I kept on trying to reach out and help others, I wanted to make a difference, but I was not dealing with much of the issue which has been in my own heart. I knew it needed the work, but still struggled to focus on that internal problem instead of the problems I saw external to myself.

I dont mean there are only problems with me that I have control over or need to be improved, I simply mean that the external struggle was kinda set against me when I wasn`t able to get my own self in order. And of course, there in lies the struggle, because it is never me who can get my own self 'in order'. It is only when I am the right place with the Lord that things are ordered and I can stand and strike from a place of authority and strength.

I will spare you the long sob story, but I will simply say that even though all this time I knew it was my own heart I was struggling with (and am working for some resolution) I have only recently realized that that is ok. That it is ok to step back from trying to be the super-Christ - follower I like to think I can and should be able to be and simply be a Child of God and ask questions for myself and hear what He has for me.

This may be going a bit personal on you all, but I figured you could handle it, being the new year and all. :) I also just wanted to try to encourage you to receive the grace that has already been extended to you. To take the time to know your own heart and to hear the next thing that God wants to do with it. Yikes! That is scary. Ok, I might have just crossed the line with some of you. Yes, God wants to do more with you. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your current attitude, God is not yet done with us. The past few months I would have viewed that as an unfortunate inconvenience , but I think I have reached the place that I am eagerly looking for the next step, if only in order to move out of my current place.

Ok, ok, I suppose I have made my point....or perhaps not made any point at all. But let me leave it with the encouragement of new beginnings, a battle already won, and chance for improvement at each conversation with those around us. And with the challenge of finding balance between and within life's seasons and with serving, while being able to receive from the greatest servant who ever lived.


Happy New Year/month/week/day/hour/moment!

Philippians 4:4: 
Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice

Lamentations 3:22-23: 
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;[a]
    his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.


Ephesians 6:12:
12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.








Sunday, November 20, 2016

The life of an expat, good, bad, and whatever. The things you never knew or thought to ask....

The life of an expat, good, bad, and whatever. The things you never knew or thought to ask....

(And on a completely unrelated note, I have included some favorite pictures from over the years living as an expat....)

 Greetings to family and friends and random strangers who are unfortunate enough to end up here. As this posting/position in Antananarivo (Madagascar) has been particularly challenging for me, I thought it was a good time to express a lot of what I spend my time doing and thinking about which may not be what many of you expect. I imagine that one could write a book from the title I have given, and indeed many books have been written on many of the topics I will mention shortly. But I am not writing a book (at least not at this point) and thus, this will be more of a conversation starter posting, than deeply informative. But I still hope it will be somewhat informative nonetheless.

Let us start with what exactly I mean when I am talking about an expat. An expatriate is a person who is in a country not his or her own. So any person could be called an expatriate simply if he or she is living in a country not their own. Thus, I (or anyone) would be considered an expatriate in each new country in which I live and get established.  I suppose one could even call refugees expatriates, but it is likely that a more detailed definition and differences would become clear in that case, related to details based on choice to leave ones country of origin, and freedom to return, as well as ability to support oneself, and the temporary status of an individual in the country which is not his or her own.

Thus, the term 'expat' is a shortening of the word 'expatriate' and a common one used with humanitarian aid workers, as all of the above things apply. When one is an expat in a new country, the first order of business is to learn everything which a local person learns in that culture in basically the first 15 years of their life. (Or of course you can ignore the fact you are in a new country and the effort of engaging with the local environment and stay in a bubble of expats).

You think this is an exaggeration? Think again.


I will shortly give examples, but I will first add what might be included in 'everything learned in the first 15 years of life'; I mean more than how to get around in a particular city and how to enjoy different foods. I mean...what is considered socially acceptable behavior, what kinds of questions are ok to ask and what are not, how is acceptable to express/ display your emotions (or not), how do people look at money, how do people view or follow certain religions and all that goes with that, how various institutions are setup and what `they look like`(postal system, school system, retirement, insurance, etc.). Political establishments, elections, and how that impacts the society etc.

While many of these things are the grand-scape, there are of course the small things, like what foods are available, what is your body`s reaction to new foods, where can you expect to find a toilet, how to unlock a door, can you brush your teeth with the water from the faucet, can you /should you look who in the eye on the street, social behavior and respect given on all levels, are communications direct/circular/indirect/ implied, what clothes can you wear, hair styles/length/color/ display which is appropriate, what is considered attractive and unattractive for men and women, are animals pets, or food, or both, And of course this is all learnt and communicated via the context of a foreign language - if not for the expat then most likely for the local person trying to communicate about such things. For example, if they are sharing with me in English, this is not their first language either and thus may not always have the exact word or meaning to explain. They may also not understand what you are trying to communicate or ask of them as well as one might hope, expect, or think. Until you realize via the course of events that this indeed the case. (Examples to come.)

Ok, I think you get the idea, now for specific examples (be assured that any one who has been considered an expat at some point in their lives will have many, many examples to share with you.)

1. How to eat: US= knife, fork, spoon vs. India = with your hands
2. How to go to the bathroom: western world = sit on toilet use paper to finish (most of the time) Vs. may African and Asian cultures = squatting over hole, use water to finish.
3. Where to drive: right Vs. left side of the road
4. Where does the water come from: running water in the house all of the time Vs. running water some of the time which cannot be drunk directly Vs. no running water, must be carried, purchased, etc.
5. How to do your hair: free and down is great Vs. Muslim or other extremely conservative cultures must have hair tightly back or not showing at all.
6. How to eat an ice cream cone: US hold and lick the ice cream to eat it Vs. Morocco (and likely other countries) do NOT lick your cone in public. Nope, just don't do it. Get a spoon.

I think this is where I will leave it for this blog posting, hopefully with a little bit of laughter, and next posting I will go a bit more in to detail as to what some of these kinds of things indeed look like in the every day work and play of an expat - or actually of me.

So, many of you reading are currently or have been expats, let me know what you think? Comment or send me your funny example or story (and let me know if I can include it or reference it in my next posting(s)).

Lots of love hugs and Christ-focused greetings for the coming holidays (crazy how time flies!)

Until next time,
Jessica












Sunday, October 2, 2016

Annnddd........ I'M BACK!

Hello, hello, hello again blog world!

It has been awhile (as I had to modify my type and form of communication while in a particular -stan country the past 2 years.) As I am now in Madagascar my life continues (shocking, I know). So instead of writing ANOTHER email (which is what I already spend much of my life doing) I figured I would at least change the mode of transportation - I mean communication.





So, what to start with, to wow you back into spending a tiny portion of your life in to reading what I write......hmmm. Tough. Here are a couple of random thoughts from my day to start with, both the deep (at least I think so) and the ridiculous.....

- Getting older gives more opportunity to see things from new perspectives and the grace to work with people who have no ability to view things from another perceptive. (of course we know which person I AM!)
- I really, really like working out/ physical activities. They just make everything better or easier, that may have something to do with workout = Jesus talk time.
- It is definitely in the 'storms' of life where you find out who you are and what you can be.
- I would HATE being a celebrity, it is soooo tiring to be stared at and yelled at ALL the time! (Being a white person in a small African community this is what happens).
- It is really, really hard to press on when everyone around you seems to be expecting perfection or failure and no matter what you do it is misunderstood and you are looked at like 'why are you here again?'
- Thank you  America for letting me grow up playing indoor soccer. It is good to be back!
- Not thank you 'Merica for being in such a funk of an election and giving me absolutely nothing worth saying when every person asks me "what do you think about the candidates.....?"

Ok, I suppose I should give a bit more context to things, especially as this is my first posting in a while.

I am still working with Medair and enjoying it. As a relatively small NGO it is great to know people across the organization and globe on a personal level and interact directly with beneficiaries as well as national staff. This is my 2nd posting with them and I have made a big step up - though you wouldn't know it necessarily by the title change. I went from Project Support Manager to Program Support Manager. Shocking, I know. But really, in relief and development there is a known and significant difference between the words 'project' and 'program'. If you are not aware of this I will spare you the masters degree explanation and simply say that as Project SM I was over the support aspects of one base before, where as now I am over the same areas, but for a country, which includes 3 bases. The benefits of this are that I get to move around between bases. The negatives....my team is spread out and thus more challenging to manage. :)

I am based in the capital city of Madagascar, which like all other Malagasy words --(no, I am not making-up the word 'Malagasy',  that is what you call 'that' of Madagascar) -- Antananarivo is a very long, complicated spelling, multiple syllable word. For example, I cannot even pronounce a single full name of my staff! They all go by one part of one of their names, which is usually three names.

So I am head of logistics, finance, HR, IT, and security for the moment (which seems a bit...different, from my previous experience in security management). Our current work is focused on water and sanitation work, for those of you in the know, that would be WASH. There is also a bit of health and nutritional education thrown in the mix.

Some tidbits about Malagasy culture:
-people are highly sensitive, to most anything, but they are very gentle calm people (for the most part).
- Sometimes too calm. There is not an overwhelming amount of energy, motivation, loud voices, or going out after dark. All of this has its pluses and minuses of course.
-So far, coconut foods and vanilla season are awesome. I am looking forward to mango and avocado season in the coming months!
- Traveling around the country is challenging, options include ' taxi brusse' which are local taxi vans which carry a bus load of people in a van for many hours, smallish boats - in which all seats come with their personal barf buckets, moto (i.e. motorcycle) riding on the back of someone who knows how to drive in 2 feet of mud, Pinz (old army supply vehicle) which needs special training for driving because of the gears and the special axis, and of course cars, in the cities.
----------------


What's Next.......?

This coming week I will be headed to one of our field bases (my 2nd visit) to go for a deeper field visit. My next posting should include pictures from this trip. So keep watching for what is yet to come!!! I love comments and love hearing from you. Do you have questions or suggestions for me on what I should write? Let me know.



Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Ready, Set, Rest!

Happy Spring! Well, at least it is here in California. Though we are still in drought, there has been a recent dumping of rain to join our mostly warm weather leading to lovely green fields and lush trees and flowers. I"m so loving this sunny weather, but I don't plan to be around for the consequences of an early spring with hardly any winter.....a summer with a lot of fires.
In my last posting I let you all know officially know about the completion of my two programs and degrees. I"m so thankful to be done and to have time with my family before transitioning into...(que the dramatic music).....professional life!
In my time since Christmas I've been able to 'do' much. Unpack my loaded car, clean my room- which has been the dumping zone during my transitions for the last 10 years (yes 10 years- I was opening mail from years ago), cleaning/ reinstalling the operating system of my mal-functioning computer, meeting with friends in the area, dealing with insurance, credit cards, dentist and doctor visits, time to study French, and on and on it goes. Basically all the stuff that sits around needing to be done, but you use the excuse 'when I have time, I'll do it'. Well, I'm here to tell you, it is not that much fun to do when you do have time, but I'm trying to be thankful for the restbit anyway.
Above all, I recognize that this is a time unlike any other I"m likely to have, possibly ever. A time when I feel content in where the Lord has me to simply 'rest'. I am in a continual process of discovering what that actually even means. It is not as simple as coming home at the end of a long day or week to 'rest' for the evening or weekend. It is something much deeper and demanding.
Resting, in our society is not generally viewed as a big character building exercise. It is something that people are usually hoping for, and looking forward to, but then once people have their 'rest' or vacation or whatever they are wishing for, they often come back to ‘everyday’ life needing a rest from their rest. Does this sound familiar? Most of us are not good at sitting still, except perhaps when we reach retirement, and even then you hear about how people struggle enjoying this ‘rest time’.
The ability to engage with another human-being without a schedule and constant glances at our watches and/or interruptions from our phones is rare indeed. Can you think of the last time you did that?
The other day, as I was literally putting the suitcase lock on my bag to put in the car and drive to the airport with my dad to fly to Texas, we had a neighbor stop by the house. He had come only because he wanted to share some movies that he had burned on DVDs for me, on a subject he thought that I would be interested in based on a previous discussion. He held me at the front door for 15-20mins telling me all the details - names and places of the 2 DVDs he'd just given me, with seemingly no awareness that I was standing with wet hair and a luggage lock in my hand and half put on shoes on my feet. As I stood there listening (but not really hearing) my first thought was how rude this seemed to me and that he had no idea of his poor timing. My next thought was, perhaps I need to be more like that ....to have my focus on engaging with the person and sharing life together without being driven - no, without being controlled by the clock!!!
I'm the first to admit that our Western world is driven by schedules and planning, and to be honest I enjoy it to a degree and find it very beneficial in many ways. But I also know that I want to be a person living on Christ's timeline to serve other people, and that OFTEN will not be MY timeline.
This 3+ month long 'rest' that I am enjoying has had its challenges, the greatest of which have been building relationships and adapting to others' timing, both my family, friends, and Christ's timing. If I want to live my own life apart from others, I can control every second of my life, but if I want to live a life of relationship, character growth, heart change, service, and joy in all circumstances, then I must adapt my life pace to that of those around me and most importantly to that of Christ who sees all and knows all and will not waste my time the time He has allowed me.


To everything there is  a season, and this may not be your season to rest, but still it is worth taking time to recognize what season you are in and enjoy that for all it is worth. We don't know what will come tomorrow, but we know what is here today - enjoy it. There must be rain to bring spring and there must be a hot summer to dry the leaves for a cool fall.
Love well, lean on others, have fun, choose to be joyful.
Be blessed whatever your season might be,
Jessica
P.S. I still struggle to sit and read a book for hours- even one I've been wanting to read for years. To those who can do this in peace and tranquility, you are blessed - never lose that skill and practice it often.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-11
Common English Bible
There’s a season for everything and a time for every matter under the heavens:2     
a time for giving birth and a time for dying,
a time for planting and a time for uprooting what was planted,3     
a time for killing and a time for healing,
a time for tearing down and a time for building up,4     a time for crying and a time for laughing,
a time for mourning and a time for dancing,5     
a time for throwing stones and a time for gathering stones,
a time for embracing and a time for avoiding embraces,6     
a time for searching and a time for losing,
a time for keeping and a time for throwing away,7     
a time for tearing and a time for repairing,
a time for keeping silent and a time for speaking,8     
a time for loving and a time for hating,
a time for war and a time for peace.
What do workers gain from all their hard work? 10 I have observed the task that God has given human beings. 11 God has made everything fitting in its time, but has also placed eternity in their hearts, without enabling them to discover what God has done from beginning to end.
[Thank you Gateway Bible]

Friday, March 14, 2014

GRADUATION ANNOUNCEMENT

This is my official graduation announcement:

Jessica Mullins has officially completed her 
Master of International Development 
Major: NGO and Civil Society 
Master of Business Administration
Focus: International Organizations


So in spite of all the costs incurred at two different institutions of higher learning on two different continents, I did not get any real graduation celebration. Boo, hoo. Thus, I have decided to make my own.

This my friends, is how economical I am in sending out graduation announcements. Personalize the sample they send me and then take a picture of it !!!


Reflections of a Graduated Graduate Student...
As you grow, you think you know
You look ahead with enough anticipation to jump out of bed. 
There are always nah sayers, and lazy players, 
But growing up I started to push away the fluff and learned to be tough. 

School could be fun and easy, but that never seemed to be for me. 
I worked hard and played hard. 
But praying hard was always the key. 
Passing through undergrad, international work, and then grad school was in the cards. 
My passions became more focused and I began to see what I could be. 

Pittsburgh, Geneva....Switzerland that is
New homes, new friends, new churches, new studies...
Changing locations and degrees, intentionality and logistics were my biz. 
The winters were cold, but skiing was grand, and down jackets became my best buddies. 
I studied hard, and listened well, loving all the new info, true it tis. 

My final semester came at last, my classmates had finished their single degree in the past. 

They had their spring of big gowns and square hats, I went on to finish mid-year in just my low flats.
One degree, two degree, three, I thought someone said they'd become free. 
I'm so glad to have finished my MID & my IOMBA, you don't know what those are you say? 
No problem, as long as the HR managers answer my groans, I'll be able to pay my loans.

Here's to education, both in and out of the classroom, may we one day be free from all the bad legislation, to learn and to grow daily and never stop using our imagination. 


And thus concludes my formal announcement to you special people. Feel free to respond with all manner of gifts and checks and exciting encouraging notes. You will be honored with a non-electronic 'thank-you'. Just kidding about the gifts!---(kinda)

From my free wings to yours!
Jessica





Thursday, January 2, 2014

Starting 2014 off Right...



Happy New Year!

There - I said it...Now let's get this year going.

Personally, 2014 holds great promise as I transition from academics into my professional life. It has been a long time in coming, but I"m rather excited. As I look forward, it is easy to forget all that has gone on in 2013. As so many of you, I'd like to take the time to look back on all the Lord has blessed me with in the past year.

I was able to have my parents, grandparents, and brother and sister-n-law come and visit me in Switzerland. I got to spend time traveling with them and on my own. I was able to visit several new countries and return to previously visited ones. I was blessed with two internships while in Geneva and an amazing church community that contributed to my French skills and to my missing Geneva now that I"m gone. I moved back to Pennsylvania in September and then back to California via an 8 day solo drive across the country 2 days after I took my last final exam. I'm so thankful to now be in a rest period as I move toward a full time position with a relief or development organization, now that I have finally completed all my work for my Masters of Business Administration and my Masters of International Development.


But this year has  not been all fun and games. Getting through the work was more than a struggle at times, and my internships both had their times of trial. I can easily say that returning to Pennsylvania a week late for classes with no place to live, no car, an unset course schedule, and the expectation I would move my things from storage exactly 4 days after I landed, was one of the most stressful weeks of my life. (Yes, even more than finals weeks, moving abroad, etc.)

Anyway, enough of my year in review. To be honest, ringing in the New Year has never been a major event in my life. No big traditions and few parties. While I'm thankful for the turning of another year and the anticipation of all God will do with it, I find I'm much more thankful that I have a million more opportunities to make changes during any minute throughout the year. I find it entertaining, and slightly sad at times the way many people depend on the New Year to set new goals, higher standards (or lower) for themselves, change a behavior, build a relationship, etc.....what if we were doing that all year long?

I'm not trying to put down New Year's resolutions, I just find that I can never get into them because I find it is not about 'changing myself in the new year' it is about working on my attitude and heart issues long before and after the clock strikes midnight on December 31st.

I pray that this year will not be filled with unreasonable expectations, guilt, and doing things because we feel we are supposed to do them, rather, that our lives and hearts will be filled with grace at our own and others' mistakes, encouragement to challenge ourselves to do new things and grow from old way, fresh perspectives on the lives of people who are different than ourselves, and a passion for the path the Lord lays at our feet.

I do wish each of you a day and a week and a year filled with the Lord's blessings and wisdom and an ever growing heart with which to recognize and accept those blessings.

I'd be thrilled to hear highlights from your year and or set up a skype / coffee to catch up more now that I have a little time off. :)

Until Next time,
Jessica















Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Here I am, There I am....

Here I am, There I am....I'm simply loosing track of myself these days...which may also be reflected in this posting....
Hiking in Liechtenstein.
NOTE: the pictures within are unconnected to what I actually am writing about. Just wanted to share some good memories. 
Well, I failed to do an ending post for Geneva; I failed to do a re-entry blog for Pittsburgh; and I feel like I'm failing to be in touch with the world around me. You know that feeling of trying to slow yourself down in life, but not being able to? Well, I thought that taking fewer credits this semester would allow me a slower pace through my last semester of grad school (and possibly school forever!) It has been lovely to only technically have 4 courses, as opposed to my usual 5-7 courses. However, it has not proved an easy semester by any measurement.

A friend and I hiking Aletsch Glacier - on my Birthday!
Upon returning to Pittsburgh at the start of September, I arrived a week late for classes, with no car, no housing, (almost) no books, an unset class schedule and serious jet lag from going Geneva- CA, CA- Pittsburgh over the course of 4 days. While I knew all of that was coming well ahead of time, and did my best to avoid a lot of it (such as housing search, pre-register, book buying etc.) it somehow did not not seem to help.

Though I can list complaints, I can list endless blessings. The weeks have passed, I've gotten housing in a great location, my car driven out from CA by my awesome mom, started a new bible study last week, etc. and I'm now half way through the semester. While I could write all day about surprising things that have happened this semester, everything from my phone being stolen and getting it back, to being offered to join a training with an IO next week for a possible job, I'd rather comment on the future.


Classmates at my Birthday/ going away party in Geneva
I am constantly amazed at the different ways that the Lord leads people. Not bad, good, better, or worse, just plain different. It's a good thing He gives us all different passions and abilities, because there are a whole ton of things I can't imagine spending my life doing which others love to do and I'm thrilled to not have to do. I'm also reminded of this when time and time again people respond to things I have done or plan to do in my life with 'what a great opportunity', 'best to travel while you're young', 'good thing you are doing that now', etc. These comments continue to surprise me whenever I hear them, because they are simply incomprehensible to me.

The idea that 'traveling while I'm young' is what my life up until this point demonstrates to some people saddens me. Or their idea that the service work I have done is so surprising and is interpreted as a 'once in a life time experience' from which I'll draw fond memories for the rest of my 'normal existence'. My sadness and a bit of frustration comes from 2 sources;

A.) I wish for my life to be a reflection of Christ's leading and demonstrate themes He is developing for my life, such as serving in overseas locations and a heart to help others. (Mind you, I don't claim I'm doing this, just that these are ways in which I feel the Lord is leading.) I don't want people to see each piece of my life, but rather to see it all as evidence of Christ at work in this world.

It was an AWESOME Birthday hiking along the glacier.
B.) It also saddens me because I often get the sense from people that things that I have done are just not for them. I get the impression that they wish they 'got to do cool things' like travel, etc. My hope in this area is that others do not box themselves in. We are each capable of soo very much as the Lord leads us, and I think we often limit our view of where God can take us so we don't even start on that path. Service activities and living overseas is not possible, interesting, or desirable to everyone, but I think our amazement at how another lives his or her life should not be because we have limited ourselves to less than God intended, but rather because of His ability to empower each of us in different directions with different passions and skills.

So to those who are amazed or even jealous of something someone else has done or even their 'way of life,' I ask, 'Why not you?' Why don't you see what amazing things the Lord has laid ready and waiting for you to ask Him about?
Church friends at Birthday / going away party.

As for me...I'm amazed at accountants, electricians and people who have lived for 10+ years in the same city.

All that being said, I'm looking at 7 more weeks in my final semester to complete 2 masters capstone papers, and all my normal course work while job searching and talking 10 days out of the middle to return to Switzerland. On Friday the 1st, I'll head back to Switzerland for a week long training with an international humanitarian aid organization. I'll go through the week as a mutual check on if this is really what I want to be doing and if the organization thinks I can do it. After that, it's wherever the Lord leads, French speaking African nations are likely possibilities. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. :)

Thus, I end with the 'future' after dragging you all through some of my thoughts in the last few weeks at the reactions of people toward 'my future'. Now, being so very close to what I've envisioned doing for so long, I'm forcing myself to step back to be sure I'm not just 'doing this because it is the next thing to do. No,  I want to do the next thing because it is exactly what the Lord has prepared in advance for me to do.

Final hangout with church friends. 

My prayer is that each step and choice is lead by the Lord, that each of us do not walk down a path because it looks simple, easy, well worn, or with recognizable foliage around it. Let's choose to follow the singular way that the Lord leads us, and then when sharing with others we won't be surprised that theirs is so different or has unusual scenery when compared to our own. We will know that it is because we are walking on our path and no one else is seeing God like us, no one else is equipped to walk where you are walking, to touch the people you are touching or to reflect Christ's light, as you are doing.

As I struggle through my last semester, wanting to be in so many other places, with so many other people, doing basically anything else, I'm struck by the beauty of each day in which I consciously choose to recognize the blessings right in front of me instead of longing for the future. I'm learning and I'm growing and there are people near enough to influence for Christ. That's enough. Done.

May your days be sweet because you choose to follow Him.
Blessings,
Jessica

Amazin' views while hiking in Liechtenstein!!!