Mexico Missions: Intentional Timing

June 7, 2017

This morning I decided to slightly alter my morning routine and wake-up earlier in hopes of getting in some morning journaling time. It was really refreshing to start my day off like that. Our breakfast was once again bacon and eggs. When I finished eating I grabbed my notebook and went out onto the balcony to keep writing.

The worksite today was slightly more cramped than it usually was since we already had most of our walls up. Once we unloaded the majority of our materials I got right to work with measurements. I had the manual with the information on what we were going to need, so I just got to work. The main material we needed was the wood for exterior and interior doors, as well as one more window. When that was done I hopped around, hammering some nails, and painting the home a vibrant green color. Everyone was ebbing and flowing around one another ensuring that everyone would get done.

Once we got the walls up, there was a lot of climbing around that had to be done. I felt like a child as we climbed all over the interior walls hammering various pieces of the home together. For painting, we had to climb to reach the top of the wall as well. At first, I tried climbing onto Drew, but since we so often had to re-fill paint we concluded that climbing on the rafters would be safer and more productive. The most climbing I had to do was at the end when I had to hold the outside of the rafters while Drew and his tall, lanky, self stood on a paint box in the middle of the house and hammered them in.

When we were done with the day’s work the final product was surreal. First off, we had an actual house—four walls, a floor, and even part of a roof. The second thing that was surreal to me was the idea that SEVEN people would be living in a house smaller than my bedroom at home. Chris was saying that even though there are seven family members, there would most likely be more relatives and community members that eventually more or less just moved in. They were so excited about this little box and it is something that we are able to give them through the power and grace of God. God has a very special plan for this family and by his grace, we get to be a part of it which is really, really amazing.

We got back to the orphanage later than usual and were all pretty hungry. While we waited for dinner to be served, Joe, Katie, Alex, and I began a game of Dutch Blitz. It ended until after dinner when all my brand new cards started blowing away. Dinner was empanadas—some with chicken, others with just cheese, and both delicious. As soon as we finished dinner we ran down the stairs to go get dessert round one at the ice cream store. I got one scoop of coconut and another scoop of cookies and cream. When we got back it was about time for chapel. Joe and I got everyone in the room to put their elbow on the arm of the person next to them. By the time we were ready to start worship everyone was doubled over in laughter.

Worship was really powerful. Everyone knew the words to the first two songs and I just really felt God’s presence within the group. We sang, “Indescribable” followed by “Lord I Need You.” Following worship, we had a chance to talk about how we saw God in each other, which was really cool and encouraging. My word of the day was intentional. I felt as though I had been more intentional today with my time. We were also at the point of the trip where the end was very much in sight. That meant that every moment we spent here, whether it be with each other or with the family at the worksite, had to be intentional and ultimately God-focused.

After we finished, Joe, Katie, Alex, and I finished up our Dutch Blitz game (which I won!). When the game was over I decided to go and take some quiet time before bed. I journaled a bit and then just let my mind wander under I drifted to sleep.

My Great Alaskan Adventure: MacLaren Wilderness Center and Backcountry

June 25, 2016

When we arrived at MacLaren Wilderness Lodge we received our room assignments and went to claim beds. My room consisted of me, Mackenzie, Edie, and Morgan- a great group even though, honestly, no combination of girls would be bad because I already loved everyone like a dysfunctional little family. After we unpacked and I stealthily stole the kettle corn, Kristen came in to see if anyone wanted to workout with her and Josh. Edie and I reluctantly agreed because up until that point the trip consisted of mostly just sitting. We ran up a massive hill (it’s almost as if we were in the mountains… oh wait) and did a mix of exercises before running back down. During our cool-down we had a randomly deep conversation about religion. I was designated the “sassy trouble-maker” of the group to which I replied, “impossible, I’m a good catholic girl,” motioning to the Kairos cross around my neck. Josh then asked me about my faith and I learned that he too was a Christian and seemed to have a strong basis of belief. This was a conversation that I hope to get further into at a later part of the trip.

By the time we returned to the group it was almost time for dinner. It was a “real meal” because we got to choose off of a menu and did not have to cook or clean-up afterwards, which was a nice change of pace. I sat with Morgan, Edie, Ethan, Leah, and Rory. I ordered a bacon-cheese burger and it was exactly what I needed. After dinner we gathered to play Cards Against Humanity. I won with about five black cards when the game ended. The game revealed that Edie, Breezy, Ethan, and I were the four most morbid people on the trip, which was honestly kind of what I expected. The game ended when Kristen came in to give us the run-down for the following day- we were going into backcountry for a night and had to re-pack our packs. After she finished talking to us, I left to begin packing Cheaper by the Dozen since there were twelve of us on the trip. After it ended Josh sent us to bed where I thought I’d just instantly pass out, but my room ended up staying up and talking until almost 1:00 AM.

June 26, 2016

Waking up in a “normal bed” this morning was incredibly refreshing in comparison to waking up mummified in my sleeping bag. Breakfast continued the good morning because we had once again a “real meal” and I was able to get a ham and cheese omelet with tomatoes, hash browns, and coffee. After breakfast I was able to take some time for myself and journal, which was incredibly important for my mental sanity. In order for me to keep up high-energy, I first needed to take time for myself.

That night we would be camping in the backcountry and we had to take a boat to the location in two shifts. I was on the second shift, so the girls minus Laura and Ann went for a walk to a nearby bridge with a great view while I sat on the bridge (sorry Dad!) and wrote. The boat ride was amazing and I could not stop smiling. Our campsite was on this breath-taking plain with the river to one side and snow-capped mountains to our other.

Once we had fully unpacked we grabbed our water-bottles and cameras then set off to hike a giant rock. This was our first active activity of the trip, which was a nice adrenaline release, The beginning of the hike was relatively flat, although we did have to jump a couple of rivers. Josh continued to show us his “tracking skills” from footprints that he has demonstrated earlier at lunch. He had dramatized the demonstration, but he was still surprisingly accurate in guess whose footprints were whose. Our guide for the excursion, Matt, was incredibly knowledgeable and entertained us during the flat part of the hike. The steep part was only about twenty minutes and the view at the top was probably one of the best of the entire trip. We took some pictures on these huge rocks and then climbed to the other side to take pictures of the glaciers and snow-covered mountains. I was terrified Ethan was going to die as he climbed further and further out onto the cliff, but he didn’t. Then the girls did really bad yoga while everyone else laughed and took pictures. Before we walked back down Josh had us take a few moments to just take in our surroundings and think. The walk down was quicker because we just bushwhacked and slid down the rock. Josh and Kristen talked to me about what it would take to be a rustic leader. They each individually told me they thought I could handle it and said they would write me recommendations- assuming I could stay out of trouble. Josh and I then talked more about faith and it was comforting to know that there was someone out here who had a similar a faith and similar beliefs as me out here. Right before we arrived back at camp, Kristin showed us how to clean water with a water pump.

When we arrived back at the camp we settled in for a relaxing evening. We played an incredibly frustrating game of Uno for at least two hours. Finally, dinner arrived with Matt, ending the game and probably saving a lot of our friendships. The dinner was lasagna and delicious warm bread and butter. After dinner we all just sat around the campfire and talked until about 10:30 P.M. We then moved into my tent for a dance pater. Even though we didn’t really dance much, it was still a fun time and we all spent the time doubled over in laughter. Once Kristin and Josh kicked everyone out of our tent, Edie, Leah, and I stayed about for probably at least another three hours talking, singing, and annoying the guys in the tent next to us.

It’s crazy to think that we’re already over a third of the way done the trip. I feel like the last two days has brought us all so much closer as a group. I am looking forward to the end to see where the trip takes us but I know it will be hard to say goodbye to everyone. I’m just going to take it all one day at a time.

***Oh, we also had an outhouse with no door and an amazing view, her name was Allison.

June 27, 2016

I made the first boat back to camp this morning that left around 8:00 A.M. Back at MacLaren Lodge there was an accident with an engine while trying to fix the big boat. Since the big boat was still broken, Matt had to take four river trips to get all of us and our stuff back instead of only three. Breezy, Jack, Kristin, and myself froze on the first ride. The warm breakfast followed by a hot shower made it slightly better; however, during breakfast I realized I had lost my wallet. I was sure it was not in my bag and most likely back at the mercantile shop in Denali. After I showered, I took the opportunity to FaceTime Dad and Zack quickly just to check in before Zack left for Costa Rica. I had time to journal too which was great because I was able to take some me time and relax. Overall I am very happy with my dedication to journaling throughout the trip so far.

My Great Alaskan Adventure: Denali

img_7682June 23, 2016

Today, instead of writing about my eight hour bus tour through Denali National Park, I listed interesting information and facts that our bus driver Bear told us.

Bear: we are pretty sure he got his name because he fought a bear and won, but we don’t know for sure

Denali Wildlife Sightings: moose, seagulls, hare, doll sheep (from really far away on a mountain), ptarmigan (Alaska state bird), caribou, more birds (there was this really annoying group of people on the back of our bus that liked to yell for Bear to stop every time he saw a soaring bird- every. time.)

Time of Departure: 7:00 AM

Park is six million acres.

We were park of the 33% club- the 33% of people that were actually able to see Mt. McKinley (Denali) because normally it was too cloudy.

Mt. McKinley has been reported by pilots from over four hundred miles away.

Teklanika Campground- last ground site that you can drive to in the park with a minimum three night stay.

Stop #1L Teklanika (8:20 AM)

Igloo Forest- spruce trees

Sub-arctic climate- can snow at any time.

Igloo Canyon Campsite elevation- 2940

2006: Found evidence of dinosaurs and some areas have so many dinosaur tracks they are called “dance floors.”


Sable Mountain has no off-road hiking because of wild-life protection.

Stop #2: Toklat (10:02 AM)

There are twenty-five species of mosquitos in Alaska, but only one amphibian- the tree frog- and no snakes other than people who have pets.

After our bus tour we went back to the campsite and began making camp-site enchiladas that were absolutely delicious. The night consisted of lots of different games- Mafia, BS, slaps, spoons, and others. The night was eventful because Morgan, Leah, Breezy, and I had to move camp and re-setup our tent. Once the boys finally left us alone and our tent was moved, we quickly fell asleep.

June 24, 2016

This morning Kristen started shaking our tent telling us not to leave because there was a giant moose and we would probably die. I wanted to look out of the tent window, but Breezy was still asleep and see was on the window side. It was okay though because the moose was still sleeping behind the bathroom. Right before we left the camp the moose and one of its babies crossed the road and we got some great photos!

We did a mix of busing and walking to reach where we would see a dog sledding demonstration. Even though I openly admit I am not a dog (or animal) person, the Alaskan Huskies were pretty adorable and the lighting at the sight was also pretty great for pictures. The most interesting fact about the sled dogs was that each litter had a theme for their names. For example, the volcanic litter had names like Lava and Ash. The demonstration itself was cool because we could learn how during the winter the dogs really served as “warriors to wilderness” and helped things run smoothly at Denali- the only park in the system that used sled dogs. We also learned the difference between the Denali dogs that were bred for strength and the Iditarod dogs that were bred for speed.

We then quickly stopped at the camp-site’s convenience store for snacks before we embarked on a bus-ride essentially to the middle of nowhere. The bus-ride included a couple food, photo, and bathroom stops where we received our first “potty bags,” a part of the “leave no trace” mentality. The highlight of the bus ride was our dance party when “DJ Logan” played middle-school hits like “Tik Tok” and “Dynamite”- songs that sent me right back to awkward, sweaty, Lawrence Middle School dances.

My Great Alaskan Adventure: Anchorage

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June 21, 2016

Today the long-awaited day arrived for my departure to Anchorage, Alaska. We departed for Newark airport around 5:30 a.m. so I could catch my first flight to Houston, Texas at 9:25 a.m. I spent my time playing killer Sudoku and eagerly awaiting another soft blue t-shirt to join me at my gate; however, when it came time to board I was still on my own. The first portion of the flight I do not remember much of as I was asleep in my window seat. Next to me sat an older man with a kind face who I could not help but notice was also social media savvy- checking both his Facebook and Instagram before we departed. The rest of the flight was marked with writing, reading Tuesdays with Morrie (trying desperately not to fly through the book, but nevertheless finding myself sucked into Mitch Albom’s pages as I had recently done with his Five People You Meet in Heaven), and occasionally getting lost in my own thoughts because planes typically give individuals a unique opportunity to do just that.

Flight two from Houston to my final destination of Anchorage was going to to be the killer- seven hours. I still had not met any other rustic students and had a momentary freakout that when I showed up everyone else was going to be best friends and I was going to be the “new kid” who was going to get bullied out of the state of Alaska. Clearly my freakout was entirely illogical. I finished reading Tuesdays With Morrie (STRONGLY recommend) and was trying to hold off from starting my next (and last!) book until at least hour five.

The first three hours of flight two were uneventful as I watched Star Wars: Episode IV (because the proper order is (IV, V, VI, I, II, III, and now VII) until I decided it would be fun to spill water down the front of myself. I popped open my brand new water bottle and all the water began spraying out the top because the straw got suction-cupped to the bottom. Thank goodness that my quick-dry jacket was actually quick to dry and water-resistant! It was a struggle to get napkins though because the flight attendant was too busy fawning over the “unaccompanied minors” sitting next to me and bringing them free food. I was staying positive though because of the beautiful mountain views outside my window.

With two and a half hours to go I would say we’re in the final stretch, but that’s kind of idealistic because that’s a pretty long stretch. My quick-dry shirt did in fact dry quickly and now is ready to once again be worn. While it was drying I started watching Dead Pool because Matt recommended it awhile back. Thoughts- it’s really good but also makes me want to vomit and pass-out at the same time.

Around seven o’clock we finally landed in Anchorage and I went to try to find both my bag and the other Rustic staff. At first I couldn’t find either and I began to panic until I finally caught a glimpse of the purple rustic shirts I had seen on SnapChat. The staff member came over to me and introduced himself as RJ from New York. He said we were waiting for one other girl- Julia, who I later found out liked to go by Breezy- and then Josh (another staff member) would pick up RJ, Breezy, Leah, and myself.

When we reached the hostel we’d be in for the night we met the third staff-member, Kristen, and another student named Logan. Breezy, Leah, and I went up to the girls’ room, but everyone was asleep and no one was very welcoming. We went back downstairs and got to know Josh and Logan over some not great, but very welcome pasta. Soon after, I showered and got ready for bed. It was around 10:00 PM  in Anchorage and 2:00 AM at home in Lawrenceville. I had already fallen in love with the state, the city’s fresh air and the spectacular landscapes.

June 22, 2016

Today I lost my favorite pen, but I guess that’s okay because I’m in Alaska and it’s completely and utterly beautiful.

Since it’s bright all the time here and there’s a four hour time difference, I woke up relatively early this morning. Leah, Breezy, and I were ironically the first ones downstairs at the hostel so we hung out, talked, and played a bit of chess before the rest of the group came down and breakfast began.

Today we journeyed to Denali National Park and it was about a eight hour ride total, but that included a break at a convenience store similar to Wal-Mart as well as a lunch break and some other scenic spot and gas breaks. The most exciting part of the trip was my idea to purchase a group mascot that took the form of a ram named Randolph Jr. Laura and I were incredibly happy with our purchase and so was the rest of our group.


When we arrived at camp in Denali National Park we set up tents and began unloading bags and making dinner. Our dinner was rice, chicken, and veggies which was delicious and once again very much needed. After a quick orientation we began packing the van with “smelly stuff” to avoid bears and other scary animals. Overall the day was a good start to my adventure in Alaska and I have high hopes for the rest of my trip.

Peaceful Chaos in Charlotte

I sit in Starbucks sipping my Venti Chai Tea Latte and observing people at the Charlotte, North Carolina airport on my way to Liberty University. Even amongst the chaos of people running to try to catch their next fight or scrambling to find enough change to buy a quick snack, there is a peace. Everyone has their own agenda and their own purpose for being here and everyone has their own story that makes them unique. Some people may be starting a new adventure, or even a new chapter in their life, while other people may be ending an adventure. You can learn a great deal simply by simply sitting still and observing those around you. Often we get caught up in our world and what we are doing and we forget to appreciate others.

On my way to this spot I encountered a woman. She worked in the airport bathroom, but she did not seem tired or upset to be there. Every person who walked into the bathroom she greeted with joy, directing them to the nearest empty stall with such enthusiasm you would think you just won the lottery. Her tip jar by the door was overflowing with change because she took joy in a job that many of us would be embarrassed to have or ashamed to do.

There is the woman with dark skin and her hair pulled back into a ponytail working behind the counter dealing with frustrated customers, grateful customers, and even some seemingly deaf customers to whom she has to repeat herself at least four times in hopes of them finally hearing. Throughout the entire thing she must maintain composure, not letting it show that there is probably a million other places she would rather be. For her, this is simply a daily routine.

I shift my attention over to my right and lay eyes on a businessman who, like me, is sitting in Starbucks with a laptop open in front of him. He is clothed in a blue and white-checkered button down, blue jeans, and sneakers. He is waiting. He tries to focus yet every couple of seconds he glances up and looks around. His distraction extends further as he reaches into his right pocket to check his phone. He does this consistently, most likely either checking the time or waiting for information from someone else. He stares at his computer for a couple more minutes looking frustrated before packing up his charger and laptop. After one last glance at his laptop screen he gets up and moves on from his spot in the airport.

For me, today is a beginning- an opportunity to go and visit a college that I may want to spend the next four years attending. The person that I am right now, sitting here, is probably somebody slightly different from the person that I will be a couple weeks or even a couple of days from now.
It is important to take time out of our own busy lives to observe others and learn from their actions. By observing others we can learn many things: how to be grateful for what we have and the opportunities we receive, an understanding that not everyone is in the same place we are, and that everyone has their own story.

Reflections From a Road-Trip Gone Wrong

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On August 3rd I packed up my car with everything I thought I was going to need and some things that I was not going to need for a roadtrip to Florida. I said goodbye to our families and took off on what we expected to be the highlight of our summer, the perfect beginning to Senior year, an unforgettable experience. As the ten days come to a close, the trip definitely surpassed all of my expectations, but not in the way that I had planned.

I am a planner. I plan everything down to a tee. I made an itinerary, a contact sheet, shopping lists, budgets, and other various lists that probably had no convenience whatsoever. I downloaded every single roadtrip related app that was under five dollars from iTunes. About five hours into the trip a situation occurred and I realized I needed to try to let go and let God.

Prior to coming on the road-trip my anxiety had reached a peak and I almost canceled the trip because of all the concerns swirling around in my head: my dad’s going to the hospital, my grandfather’s sick again, I have not been home, I have things to finish before Senior year, my training is going to be interrupted again. About twenty minutes outside of Newark, Delaware as I was finally relaxing and drifting in and out of consciousness as my friend drove, we hit a cone. The cone was not ones average tiny play-cone that was used during elementary school field day events. It was a massive, cylinder construction cone with a light on top and glowing white stripes circling around its body. In the battle of Acura versus cone the cone one and my sideview mirror took the damage. I tried to relax, but I was shaking and slowly losing control. Once we reached an actual house, I found the nearest room and broke down. After I regained control over my body and emotions to an extent I began to plan and make options.

Mental Plan of Action → pray → breathe → advice (three sources) → communicate → pray

Options: panic yell run away abandon ship modify trip relax explore discover

After going through the steps of my plan of action and deciding which of my options were sane and plausible I devised a new plan for the trip. We were staying in Aunt Nik’s Annapolis house- which gave us easy access to both the Bay and the downtown harbour area- giving us hundreds of things to do and discover. Since we were expected to be gone for a total of ten days, when we felt as though we were satisfied with Annapolis we would move down to Aunt Nik’s house in Rockville and spend our remaining days wandering the streets of the nation’s great capital- Washington D.C. Even though I had just finished living there for three weeks the city drew me in in a way that I had not experienced with any place close enough for me to keep going back to over and over again.

My travel partner was less than enthused with the new plan, but she felt as though she did not have much of a choice. My spirits faltered as I wanted her to be as excited as I was once again becoming, but ultimately that did not happen. As the next two days wore on while I expected things to get better they only continued deteriorating- God had more in store for me.

Monday Night: I was going to lose my travel companion on Friday.

Tuesday Afternoon: I was going to lose my travel companion on Thursday morning.

Tuesday Around Midnight: I was losing my travel companion in less than nine hours.

Another mini-meltdown followed each of these travel updates I received which each getting more dramatic and less attractive. I created another, similar plan of action and waited for God to tell me how to proceed next. He quickly came through for me as I knew he would and planted an idea in my head: have Zack come down and spend the week with me. Once I determined that this was the step God was calling me to take and He did not want me to abandon all hope and jump ship, I began to plan and make the necessary arrangements for his arrival.

At this point I could continue on and give you a play-by-play of what happened once Zack arrived and how everything was rainbows and unicorns, but that takes away from the overall meaning of this post and the meaning of my trip. The point was that I went into the situation having all of these expectations and a plan regarding how things were going to go down to almost the hour. God had a different plan for me and I got to see the way he wanted me to work through the situation and I ended up having a much more enjoyable and less stressful trip that could most definitely be considered a success.

July 17th, 2015: George Washington Summer Immersion

July 17th, 2015

This morning was our last breakfast together. Kyle and I were walking down together and Andrew ran to catch up to us. It was strange to think that in less than four hours we would all be on our ways back to wherever we came from and we probably would not all be in the same place ever again. After the Robotics people left for class I went to Andrew’s room until it was time for Carmen and I to walk over to Ames Hall for the last time.

When we got to class we started by reading and then writing our own “I remember…” pieces. After each person read their piece we all had three minutes to present one of our pieces to the class and get feedback. I read my piece that I wrote while on U-Street at Busboys and Poets. When we all finished Mel started to cry and we went to put together a booklet of writings that we all wrote. The next fifteen minutes were a blur of hugs and tears as we all said good-bye and exchanged contact information if we had not already done so.

All too soon it was time to head back to the dorm and say our final good-byes to Cole Hall. I first had to say good-bye to Matthew. Then Kyle and Andrew, but I knew that I would see the two of them the next morning when we went out to breakfast. Essi came over to say good-bye and even though I would see her in less than twenty-four hours, when I pulled away from her she had tears streaked down her face. Ana-Maria came up to me and told me that she had a present for me from Bulgaria- it was a little painted magnet. We hugged without letting go because we knew that the chances of us seeing each other again were slim to none. Her and Essi then pulled away. Next I walked James and Alex over to the bus so that they could go down to the Foggy Bottom stop and then part ways. Finally, right before Carmen’s mom showed up, I ran back over to Somers Hall and gave George one last hug. Then Carmen and I waved good-bye to our home of the last two weeks and pulled away in her parents car.